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Saturday, August 10, 2002


the piriformis is connected to the. . .

heads up, gentle readers -- tomorrow i'm going to a yoga workshop that will focus the hip and knee. long-time readers will remember that i've had to contend with a couple of injuries in the last 6 months -- a strained piriformis and then a tweaked hamstring.

i've modified my practice a little compensate: instead of doing a hard vinyasa 6 days a week, i've droppd back to 2 days of vinyasa and 2 of viniyoga. the viniyoga is great for developing that floating, graceful quality everyone admires in advanced practitioners. that quality's my current focus while my hamstring sorts itself out. the only way to achieve it is to be less goal-oriented and rigorously synchronize every motion to the breath, which is exactly way viniyoga teaches you to do. it lets you get out of your own way so the yoga can really shine.

the workshop, appropriately enough is on the hip's anatomy and poses that help you work with that anatomy more safely. i hope to learn from this subtle methods for continuing to progress in yoga with fewer injuries! the workshop is being taught at yoga people here in brooklyn by noted senior iyengar teacher francois raoult of open sky yoga.

you'll hear all about it tomorrow afternoon. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:11 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, August 09, 2002


paradox

isn't interesting that as coffee sizes get larger and larger, clothing sizes get smaller and smaller?

it was several years ago that starbucks eliminated the "short." now "tall" is the smallest advertised size, and other coffee chains have kept up; this is old news. at the time i thought it was just a marketing ploy: those extra few ounces they give you cost them 2 cents (plus another 5 for the extra whipped cream on top!), but they charge you 75 cents more. the washington post reports that this so-called supersizing is spreading through all beverages.

when i was a teen, clothes came in 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. now if i breeze through the juniors department, i see 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. 11 and 13 have vanished! but it doesn't seem to be a case of simple re-labeling: the garment tagged with the new 9 isn't just the old 13 re-marked to assuage vanity; it seems to have stayed the same dimensions. a similiar magic act has happened in the misses department. i never saw a size 2 in a major department store until i was in college.

today if i walk into a snooty boutique, even 0 is considered too large. barneys new york actually sells clothing in the negative sizes: imagine -1. these high-end, designer clothes appear to be downsizing; what used to be 8 is now called a 10. which means a size 8 dress now has the dimensions of a garment once called 6.

it's a peculiar trend, because as we all know, americans are following the coffee cups, not the clothing. . .another reason we yogis and yoginis should strive to educate more people about the benefits of yoga. . .

as i noted the day before yesterday, here in the u.s.a. fair-trade coffee sales appear to be slowly growing. but fair-trade's really taking off in the u.k., where this coffee is the 6th most popular brand in the supermarket. while this means it's still only about 2 percent of the u.k. coffee market, that's still quite a leap from the 0.8 percent here in the states. and according to a recent article, more and more large coffee purveyors are getting on the fair-trade bandwagon in the u.k., meaning sales will continue to grow quickly. an interesting development, doncha think?

posted by fortune elkins | 6:18 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, August 08, 2002


must read

let me direct your attention to your local newstand. there you'll find master coffee roaster don schoenholt of gillies coffee, with a spectacular article on the recent coffee price depression i've written waaay too much about. it's in the summer 2002 whole earth review. while i don't always agree with don, understanding his expertise and point of view is a crucial part of being an informed coffee lover.

to change the subject radically, yesterday i had the great privilege to speak to that fascinating yoga teacher, mark whitwell (here and here). he was calling to say that he liked what i had written here about his recent viniyoga workshop in brooklyn. for those of you who missed it, mark is returning to new york oct. 12-13 at yoga zone. since his workshop at yoga people was such a success, i know that wendy, the owner, plans to beg him for another appearance there too this fall.

the best part of my conversation with mark was when the subject turned to krishnamarcharya, the master yoga teacher from whom 90 percent of the yoga taught in the u.s.a. today derives. no matter whether you are doing ashtanga, iyengar, vinyasa, jivamukti, viniyoga, power yoga -- it's all basically krishnamarcharya's yoga. i asked mark whitwell about some of the mahadevi mantras we had chanted, where they came from, how he had come by them. this is how we got onto the subject of krishnamarcharya, who chanted such mantras for as much as three hours a day and apparently felt a personal devotion to the mahadevi in the form of lakshmi. this surprised me somewhat because it is often said that krishnamarcharya had a famous ancestor who a well-known saint devoted to vishnu. not that one would necessarily determine the other, of course. it's just a curious factoid.

as i have said before, yoga itself is nearly empty of any religious content. particular deities or the concepts they represent are at best footnotes to the overall practice and philosophy. it's just interesting to learn more about the roots of the yoga we all practice; and certainly the majority of the 16-18 million americans who now pratice yoga have little if any knowledge of krishnamarcharya or the general history of yoga.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:30 PM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, August 07, 2002


caffe umbria

even before i've finished this current half-pound, yet another seattle coffee roaster has emerged for my growing list of coffees i must try. caffe umbria, run by the bizzarri family, who made waves with their torrefazione italia coffee before they sold it to a conglomerate a few years ago. even zoka praises their coffee.

that would definitely recommend it even if emanuele bizzarri hadn't uttered what has to be the quote of the day: "bread, wine and coffee -- those are the basic things."

this makes sense to me. what doesn't make sense to me is the continuing uproar over proposed coffee initiatives in seattle and berkeley: one to tax espresso to fund city-wide child-care programs; the other to enforce the sale of fair trade coffee. as i've said before, while the berkeley initiative has its heart in the right place, it would too difficult to enforce to be meaningful. as for the seattle tax, that seems primarily a local matter. why does anyone outside of seattle care how they fund their social programs?

why they need it is also confusing to me -- everyone i know in seattle has a dog, a kayak, and a gps system, not kids. . .still if the national coffee association, the trade group for the heavy-hitting multinationals that are ruining your supermarket canned coffee by replacing the good arabica with cheap robusta while still charging you top dollar, is against it, i'm almost instinctively for it. but i'm wacky. . .and a member of the good guys, the scaa, the association supporting local specialty roasters and coffeehouses who want to bring quality back into your cup!

still, as a prominent local brooklyn roaster said to me recently: maybe coffee is too small a thing to bear all this political freight. while fair trade coffee sales appear to be slowly increasing on their own, maybe it's because we american coffee-drinkers have a conscience or because we understand that what goes around comes around. guilt-based legislation, as proposed by in berkeley, is unnecessary -- people will do the right thing if they only know about it. thus i suggest the supporters of the berkeley intiative re-direct their energies to public education on quality coffee and fair-trade issues.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:32 PM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, August 06, 2002


please, don't drink & drive

naturally, as a new yorker -- we tend not to own cars since the subway is so convenient and costs less in a year than many people with SUVs spend on gas in 4 months -- it's no secret that this is how we new york chicks can afford all these fancy clothes -- we don't have to pay car insurance! frankly, it's just alien to our nature as borough-dwellers to spend all that money on something you can't even wear -- i mean, why have a car in new york when you know it will someday be inevitably rammed by a taxi and/or stolen? -- and also as the kind of person who even drinks coffee at the office from a decent porcelain cup because that nasty wax melting from the inside of office paper cups is disgusting, as is the smell of hot styrofoam. . .

what i'm trying to say here is that i was deeply surprised to learn today that drinking coffee while driving causes more accidents than cell phones. both the california highway patrol and insurance companies seem to agree: eating in the car is a terrible distraction and drinking coffee is the worst.

if this comes as news to me, dear readers, it may also come as a shock to you, even those from car cultures who have grown inured to the danger. . .please, instead of sipping your drive-thru sludge in the highway free-for-all, sit down in your local coffeehouse and enjoy quality coffee from a real cup, like a human being. i'm saying this only because i really care. . .

but in other news, a small chocolate mystery has been cleared up. who was cornering the market in cocoa futures last month? a london group, armajaro securities limited, was in fact buying up as much cocoa as it could in order to guarantee supply for its customers during a feared shortage later this year.

fortunately it's a win-win situation for farmers and consumers alike -- with a stable supply of cocoa, which is just 10% of the cost of a chocolate bar -- candy prices won't rise and african growers will benefit from higher prices.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:31 PM | top | link to this |


Monday, August 05, 2002


decaf re-examined

long-time readers know i personally am not a big decaf fan. however, i know some people have to drink it because they are allergic or very sensitive to caffeine.

the difficulty is that decaf usually just doesn't have the same depth of flavor and enjoyment as regular coffee. as a result, a cup of decaf can often be a disappointing experience. with this in mind, let me point you to a recent tasting of quality decafs by coffee expert and author kenneth davids that might be worthy of your consideration. . .the winner is a decaf sumatra mandheling dark roast from cc's coffee in baton rouge. since cc's website appears to be down as i write this, order over the phone. . .

accompanying this review is a nice explanation of the various decaf methods, which i think most coffee drinkers will find helpful.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:19 PM | top | link to this |


Sunday, August 04, 2002


but seriously folks. . .

from time to time i get email lamenting that i devote this august publication to trivia such as where to buy the best coffee online, recipes for chocolate, etc. some great minds feel i waste my fine literary style.

these people are probably tea-drinkers whose most secret sin consists of a carob-soy bar in the afternoon. . .

however, i try to respond to all readers, and in this spirit, i offer a link to a serious report on the most profound subject of the day: homeland defense. (adobe acrobat reader required). to show my open mind, this report was actually funded by a rather politically conservative think-type tank. in case, dear readers, you need references to aid in the understanding of this deeply thought analysis, consult here.

posted by fortune elkins | 8:00 PM | top | link to this |

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