Monthly Archives: December 2010

bell hooks wisdom


Some wise thoughts from sister bell hooks to close 2010 with on the blog. Listen and think critically. Click through to parts 2-6 as each segment ends.

The “Man-Box”

Excellent talk by this brotha. The horrendous violence, subjugation and irrationality of patriarchy, machismo, and male supremacy are immense chains not just for women, but for men like me as well. These things become invisible to men who are thoroughly institutionalized and acculturated into their proprietary, objectifying and domineering attitudes towards women, all over the world. Women are also conditioned in numerous ways to in some cases expect and/or tolerate much of this nonsense. But any thoughtful person, anyone who analyzes the situation and struggles to humanize women and men, will instantly realize that the institutions and cultures of patriarchy also enslave men, preventing them from being fully human, almost as much as they rob women of their humanity, freedom and security. Thus I fully cosign on the sentiment shared by Mr. Porter: “my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.” Indeed. Human freedom is not freedom for men to dominate women. Human freedom begins with full equality of opportunity, possibility, security, and agency of male and female alike, worldwide. As a civilization, we have so far to go yet to realize gender equality, and Mr. Tony Porter illustrates just a tiny piece of the dilemma and the challenge. Let’s all get to work on our attitudes, institutions, behaviors, customs, and so on right away.

video spied at Racialicious.

Notes of a Militant Pedestrian

I wish all of the inhabitable world and all its streets were safely and comfortably navigable on foot. Even in the close-in suburb of New York City where I live, this is far from the case. It is as car-centric as American cities come. Yet I defiantly take to the streets in nothing but my old worn sneakers most of the time. I ride a bike and take the train to work/ school as well, but the vast majority of my movement around the world occurs on foot for me, and it occurs often, year round and with pleasure.

Of course around here I am a highly visible oddball for it, the only chronic African pedestrian in this Asian-American city without enough sidewalks for one man, let alone the 100,000 that live in this town. I know that on many of the routes I take, on minor sidewalk-less arterials paved too narrowly for the comfort of most through the woods and under railroads, most people would not choose to walk. It takes straight boldness to do it, since I don’t think I’m more courageous than anyone. But boldness should not be the prerequisite for living as if one’s community were built to human scale. In fact, take away the unfriendly roads and my town would appear to function at human scale – train station with express service to Manhattan, numerous produce stores, grocers, a major shopping mall, schools and more are all within 1-3 miles of my crib. If the streets were “complete streets” (sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming engineering, bike infrastructure and so on), it wouldn’t be only the bold that walked them regularly.

Seasons don’t change this condition of the streets and the local civilization’s transit patterns. To the die-hard pedestrian who lives standing up on his or her feet no matter what, human beings are hard to find in the streets of my town come summer or winter alike, but cars are always everywhere. I sometimes forget that human beings are even in those cars, in part because they are so rudely and aggressively operated. My conviction is that even the streets of my car-centric town are meant to move humans, whether they be on foot, on bicycles, in cars or buses. This means I don’t blink when the drivers honk at me for walking on the side of the road. At choke points where cars, cyclists and pedestrians have to share a narrow lane under a bridge, I don’t run when the motorists honk or speed by dangerously. I make them slow down like they’re supposed to. I don’t run in crosswalks either. It’s the law in New Jersey to stop “and stay stopped” as a motorist seeing pedestrians crossing streets. In fact I usually slow down to make sure the motorist knows he or she can’t intimidate me. I am always engaged in this sort of spiritual combat, testing the wills of impatient motorists and quietly thanking the ones that still have a sense of decency and humanity.

I am obviously of the opinion that automobile reliance is rather dehumanizing, both to the motorist who fails to realize that he or she is at some point also a pedestrian, and to the pedestrian who is often forced to move with trepidation and paranoia. But I do challenge myself to acknowledge and remember the humanity of drivers. It is not easy. I only wish that more motorists remembered that pedestrians are dignified humans with their own right to the safety and their few feet of breathing room on the road. We’re all human beings here.

Perhaps, until “complete streets” are unveiled everywhere, driver’s ed lessons should stress slowness. Slowness must become a virtue for prospective motorists, and motorists must be drilled and drilled with the notion that the road is for all human beings. It is not only for those operating the heavy, speeding, polluting and overly-deployed, overly-relied upon heavy machinery embodied in automobiles.

People would do well to rely more on their own bodies for transportation, simply because it’s natural. Am I living more like an ancient paleo-human just because I do this in this car-centric North-American wasteland? To admit as much would be amazingly silly – I’m just an ordinary man and far from a primitivist. But it seems like radicalism to be the hardcore pedestrian that I am. I embrace the radicalism – people always tell me they saw me walking here or there around town. But it shouldn’t be just the special eccentric character that some people take me for who walks a lot. And it shouldn’t require an exercise in boldness or radicalism to be hyper-mobile on foot.

My train station is a mere mile away from my home – 15 minutes on foot at a healthy pace. I would never think of doing anything but walking or biking there, and I’ve had that mindset as long as I’ve lived around here. But to many folks around here, including folks I live with, that’s an unwalkable distance. That’s partly a result of the unpleasantness of sidewalk-less roads and highways one might take to get there from here (unless one knows the shortcuts through the woods and neighborhoods), but I think the conceptualization of acceptable walkable distances is pretty warped out here. In high school I ditched the school-bus so I could walk the two+ miles to get there – loved every minute of it. My concepts were already broad enough to embrace walking around several miles every day even back then. If I could have that mindset as a young teenager, it can’t be impossible for others. I think that the culture at large would do well to begin to condition itself that it’s okay to walk a mile or two and it is a healthy and pleasurable discipline to give oneself the extra time to do it.

Walking is among the most natural expressions of our humanity. Bipedal creatures like us were literally born to walk upright. When humans spread across the continents from Africa, much of it was done walking. Why should walking be seen as an abnormal, radical or undesirable behavior? I live to walk. For those of us born with two good working legs, walking is our birthright, our native activity. It’s unfortunate that I am writing today to call upon the culture to re-remember this essential truth and normalize walking.

I hope Manhattanites and Newarkers feel me too. You have side-walks and hella foot traffic compared to where I dwell, but you also have hella shit-heads and car-centric road design and behavior. It sucks almost as bad sometimes when I’m over there, but at least there’s a critical mass of people moving at human scale over there too.

I’m not saying all of society should completely slow down, that all of the uses of automobiles are illegitimate, or that pedestrians should have free rein on the New Jersey Turnpike. But I do adamantly advocate for the complete streets and human-scale infrastructure necessary for more people to come out and feel safe to walk. I also demand a serious moderation and mellowing of the culture surrounding the automobile, along with a rethinking of how motorist attitudes are conditioned for speed, selfishness and callousness.

Too many motorists are engaging in straight-up asshole behavior out there. Your antics will never stop me from walking these streets. I will not apologize if my bipedal presence on the streets, my actualization of our common native activity, offends you and forces you to slow down. Homie, do slow the fuck down! The streets are for human beings! Remember, you are one of them and so am I!

Fellow humans, resume walking as your natural-born tendency. The lead foot is best used to pound pavement, not burn rubber and gasoline.

Hotep.

Fruitarian Musculation and Philosophy

I’m moving towards adding a fruitarian fitness and body-building page to this blog. Until I launch such a page, I thought I’d again weigh in on my dietary philosophy with regard to basic well-being. For me, all I eat is fresh raw whole fruits (including non-sweet fruits) and vegetables (leafy greens). It is my conviction that fresh fruits and vegetables are the ideal foods for humans, and that they also make the most ethical sense to eat. That’s all I eat. What I eat is that which I see in front of me at farmer’s markets and produce stands and which suits my palate and hunger. No dried fruits or nuts – they don’t interest me. Nothing exploited or ripped from animals – they are cruel to animals and human physiology alike.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, and by far mostly fruits in proportion to the greens (why I claim “fruitarian” now) – that’s my whole game and song. Historically, I grew up on rice and occasional fish and chicken and milk and cereal and such in a Nigerian household in North Jersey. I went vegan in 1999 (at age 15) and started with soy-based milk and meat replacers, moving in time towards more and more fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and less stuff that was reminiscent in any way of the old animal-based regime. I went raw-vegan in 2007 in a regime both fresh fruit/vegetable heavy and nut heavy, including exotic stuff like hemp-seed, cacao, trips to pricey raw restaurants for nori-rolls and nut patties, and so on. Since the start of 2009, I’ve been all about just fresh fruits and veggies that are in season and accessible from farmers markets and produce stands where I live.

I don’t eat organic much, both because of the expense and because where I can get produce – family-owned produce joints in my corner of North Jersey – there are few “organic”-labeled varieties. At the chain supermarkets, everything is 30-50% more expensive. Organic varieties (which I can only find at the big franchises) are way past even those aggressive markups. I’m not gonna bother for now.

But all in all, it’s a simple food regime. I eat fresh – stuff that’s not in boxes and packaging, stuff you have to pick and bag yourself – including bananas, watermelon, oranges, mangos, apples, tomatoes, spinach, okra, cucumbers, bell peppers, pomegranate, guava, zucchini, etc. It’s simple, yet quite satisfying.

I don’t count calories. I don’t supplement for micronutrients I’m supposed to fear deficiencies of (i.e. pressed oils or protein powders or B12 – haven’t knowingly had any vitamin or fortified source of that in my body for years and have never been anemic in my life, and haven’t been ill in any way in years). I eat when I’m hungry. I drink water (the only drink) when I’m thirsty. I sleep when I’m tired. I wash with black soap and moisturize with unprocessed raw shea butter. I floss and brush with a soft toothbrush and non-fluoridated toothpaste, I squat when I shit, and for now I don’t shave or comb my hair – just wash and go proudly. Fresh fruits, leafy greens, sunshine, fresh air, exercise, good humans, good rest, good work and a simple, straightforward, natural swagger sustain me.

So, having laid down my general philosophy, I simply hope to share the idea and experience of good fitness and physical culture through simplicity, abundance, hard work and sincerest interest in the growth of others. I don’t have anything to sell – no books, powders, recipes. I would just hope that the plant-based diet becomes more normalized in this world and less denigrated by the ignorant and those with whole industries and cultures of violence to defend.

Getting strong is about weight-bearing, cardiovascular and stretching exercises, with actual muscular hypertrophy and strengthening most dependent on the first item. Getting strong is not about killing and eating animals, ingesting soy powders, etc. Weight-bearing exercise includes simple body-weight exercises like push-ups, squats, burpees, etc. It can be as straightforward or elaborate as one likes or can afford.

I am personally interested in strength and power (as opposed to hypertrophy/bulk alone). Hence my current workout regime alternates full-body speed/power days with full-body strength/muscular endurance days. I.e. in a five day campaign, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are about speed and power. Tuesdays and Thursdays are about strength and endurance. My cardiovascular workouts [aside from ballistic kettlebell work] are based on bicycling and walking and occur throughout the week (partly included in practicing active transportation/ body-reliant commuting) and especially weekends (I run less only because I don’t have the best right knee in the world). In the past my regime included regular martial arts practice, though of late I could no longer afford/ find time to do this, and I expect to resume some time in 2011.

My tools include kettlebells, a pull-up bar, chairs (for dips), a mat, a chin-up bar, my bicycle, my body, and the world. Speed and power exercises, which are among my favorite, come courtesy of the kettlebells and the wide variety of power-lifting one can do with them – cleans, [time-interval] jerks, snatches, high pulls, Turkish get-ups, swings, and so on. One can invent exercises with kettlebells and of course use them for all the general weight-training techniques known to humanity – [pistol] squats, lunges, shoulder and chest presses, curls, [renegade] rows, etc. Calisthenic and body-weight workouts combine with non-ballistic weight-training on strength days.

It’s all pretty simple. It’s all pretty cheap. And most of it’s in the attitude. It’s about embracing intuition, cherishing simplicity, shunning cruelty, not fearing, and being oneself. The plant-based diet is in my experience the nicest, having done me over eleven years (some 40% of my life as of my 27th year at present) of good. The physical culture of an active lifestyle and exercise produces endless soldier-soul juice. Especially in the mornings before work, when one deploys military discipline to practice physical and mental strength before the work day and commute, so that body and essence remain in tact and strong in this debasing world.

Fresh fruits and veggies and physical culture give one the strength to withstand Babylon and fight for truth and justice for time to come. Activists and freedom-fighters need to mind and sustain their personal wellness. Stay tuned for a fitness page to be added above soon.

And please comment generously on this missive.

Ode to Spinach (and to Better Ethical Judgment)

Spinach (raw) is easily my favorite leafy green, and I am not alone in this opinion. I’ve had conversations with friends about this, men who confirm how delicate the texture of spinach is, how rarified its flavor, how subtle its aroma, how nutritious to the human body. To those outside of the knowledge-base and experientially-received and confirmed wisdom of plant-based diets/ veganism/ fruitarianism/ etc., spinach can be declared a plentiful “obvious” or “overt” source of “protein” for when the question inevitably arises as to how certain of us thrive and excel on naught but fruits and vegetables. A casual look at its nutrition data here (check its glorious amino acid score), or a detailed discussion of its entire and excellent nutritional profile at whfoods, are offered to further bolster my claims.

But I need not only offer the substantive evidence of food analysts to extol the virtues of spinach. My practice of fruitarianism/ low fat raw veganism benefits from regular and plentiful sourcing of spinach in my palate, so I know my body is getting what it needs to build, show and prove. Wellness and vigor are my uninterrupted daily expressions and actualization in the world, not illness and torpor. Fruits and leafy greens in abundance let me express those characteristics so consistently and readily. They alone fuel the body seen here, the kettlebell tossing, martial arts doing, physical culture and active transportation loving author of this very blog. And they alone are sufficient.

And when I seek leafy greens, although there are many varieties, spinach is the one most likely to please. I chop it up into my raw okra stews – of whom the spinach-based type is always a favorite, both to myself and those I’ve shared it with. I cut it up and make it the plush green bed upon which a zucchini pasta dish lies. I make simple salads with it, mixed with cucumber, romaine lettuce hearts (my second favorite greens), and tomatoes (and sometimes carrot strips, red bell peppers, etc.).

Spinach is an excellent choice for those who recognize the brutality of any and all justifications for slaughtering animals for “nutritional” reasons, especially for “protein.” A high-volume balanced-variety whole-foods plant-based diet, primarily based on fresh fruits and supplemented by leafy greens, is all but incapable of causing “protein deficiency.” The nutrition links above demonstrate the high-density of “protein” in spinach, which has an exceptionally strong balance and concentration of the essential amino acids found in all edible plants (also read this). Trace amounts of essential fatty acids (and we don’t need more than daily “trace” intake of them) are also well-deployed in spinach. In a nutshell, spinach, and other whole plants and fruits, are all the “meat-replacer” you need. The spinach-based salads I mentioned above are an excellent replacement for the meat dish you want to now eliminate from your diet. You can get out of the blood and guts business and into the color and vibrancy of fruits and veggies with confidence. Your ethical consciousness will no longer trip over itself making rationalizations for murder, violence and pollution. Your body will thank the shining of your moral mind and logic, your palate will enjoy the flavor of freshness and life, and your body will provide the gift of wellness, lightness and stamina in the everyday world.

When I see clean, fresh loose spinach in the market, I recognize that the grocers selling it take their greens seriously. Too many supermarkets, especially in the ghetto, think they can get away with serving wrinkled, dehydrated, decomposing spinach and charge two bucks a pound for the compost-ready but unpalatable substance. This is highly problematic, because fresh spinach is both a delicacy and a potential staple in the plant-based, human performance-oriented kitchen.

For the perfect balance of subtle, smokey flavor and savory texture, I endorse spinach. For the male and female vegan body-builders and athletes, I endorse spinach. For the ethical people emerging from death-based murder diets and looking to get “protein” in the conventional sense, I endorse spinach (in balance with other fruits and veggies). For being a strong and thriving human with a robust immune system and fewer trips to the doctor, the beautiful leaf called spinach stands endorsed.

Go support your spinach growers (as opposed to butchers, soy processors, etc.). And it’s an easy enough to cultivate plant that you can grow some in your yard too, depending on where you live.

Eat some organic raw leafy spinach today – eat a pound of it.