Gurus, Rock Stars & the Men In Between invites you into my world from my years as a monk in India, to my life as a punk rock diva and beyond, peppered along the way by the men I've loved.

My blog features both excerpts from the book, and what I currently deem hot in realm of love, art and spirituality from the streets of New York City to beaches of Los Angeles, two cities I affectionately call home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dylan Ratigans Greedy Bastards… American traitors exposed

Washington TImesBy  Sri Keshavaspecial to  Omkara World
Venice, Ca. January 31st, 2012- Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC thinks the current economic situation is dire. Three years after the financial crisis, the economy is growing, and boasting 200k new jobs, but Mr. Ratigan says the economy remains bleak. His new book, Greedy Bastards: Corporate Communists, Banksters, and other vampires who suck America dry, explores his ideals. 
Many believe the economy has improved since 2008, but Mr. Ratigan questions that perception and the tools we use to measure economic success. For example, if observers measure the stability in the credit market and whether large ventures can receive funding, the situation today is vastly improved from 2008 when financial institutions cut off this type of lending. Likewise, investors are funding the global economy by investing in emerging nations. 
Are the right tools being used to measure the U.S. economy?
But are we using the right tools to measure the quality of the US economy?  Specifically, are we differentiating between extractionary growth-slash-activity... that is a function of removing capital then skimming rent off that capital removal, or growth? Growth that is a result of people investing, such as those who have an idea to create and sell a product and work together to achieve that goal. 
If we look at the percentage of America in poverty and the collapse of social mobility, the picture is not rosy. Our social mobility is less than the populations of England and France. Americans often look down on Europe as a classist, monarchist society, and yet American’s social mobility has decreased at a far greater pace than Europeans’ mobility. Ratigan argues that although we have the optics of growth, those who measure GDP fail to differentiate between production and extraction. Therefore, GDP gives the illusion of growth, while in reality, individually, we are losing value. 
The 6 Vampires sucking America dry
Ratigan talks of six vampires or systems sucking America dry. The financial sector, an obvious target, is one vampire. But he also names trade, health care, education, defense, and energy as vampires. 
His premise is remarkably simple, and permeates across the board. Using finance as an example of a vampire, if the interests of an investor and an entrepreneur or customer are not aligned, the investor will seek to do transactions that are not in the entrepreneur or customer’s interest. Ratigan says this happens because of the lack of capital requirements in the financial system, whether it is the lack of down-payment requirements or whether it is the lack of collateral put into the credit defaults swaps market by triple-A financial institutions. That same misaligned interest (a huge problem in a $700 trillion swaps market) is a similar problem at different scale in every industry. 
Ratigan believes the interests of the government, the employer, the individual and the medical and health professional are not aligned. Using the medical profession as an example, he believes doctors harbor a distorted incentive. Doctors are incentivized to do three or more tests per patient to avoid the potential of a lawsuit, an incentive that far outweighs their Hippocratic oath. It is these sorts of misaligned interests that create recurring biases in decision-making that we are all suffering from in America. 
The goal of Greedy Bastards is to help identify system breaches and create a forum for discussion. Dylan Ratigan has enjoyed an illustrious career at Bloomberg and CNBC. He has met and interviewed numerous bankers, capitalists and entrepreneurs. Ratigan cherishes the positive lessons they taught him: Capital aligns with entrepreneurs; they collaborate; they create value. The role of the financial press is to facilitate a public debate about what is the best thing to do with money and which idea garners the most merit, to facilitate money infusions into in the financial system. Ratigan considers that central to creativity, to innovation, to the very culture that we aspire to.  
But there was a moment in Ratigan’s career when he realized something was amiss.  He realized that this incredibly noble debate of how to allocate capital, ideas and development is little more than a thin layer of icing on top of a hollow core consisting of the central bank, the reserve currency, the triple-A financial institutions and their explicit ability to issue or invent money as if they were the federal reserve (such as AIG, inventing money without having to incur their own financial risk). That was the moment he realized the urgent need to expose the greedy bastards at their game.
Ratigan hopes to inspire people with the knowledge that we hold the keys to our system. We have been through these problems before. They are not as insurmountable as they appear. We have restructured our debt in the past. We have restructured our healthcare system. If we can put a man on the moon, we can have energy independence. It is easy to obsess about the problems. But on the other side is an opportunity to improve our education, our health and the way we manage energy efficiency. People do have succinct plans to solve these problems. He hopes Americans will participate in helping them. 
For greedy bastards, it is much more profitable to take money out of America than it is to invest money in America. It’s not a matter of American ingenuity or willpower. We have that. It’s a matter of Americans coming together to confront unpatriotic greedy bastards whose goal is profit with no regard for America, our people, our resources and our way of life.
For more information on the Greedy Bastards book, click here.
For more information on Dylan Ratigan, click here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Forget Occupying Wall Street: Mom and Pop investors make a difference

I apologize profusely for a lapse in entries.  Though I did write another article a month ago about Occupy Wall St, the "we care" Washington Post felt that topic was no longer news worthy.   This alone however, does not justify my months of absence.  I've been absolutely run off my feet.  The following article in the Washington Post is my best explanation... basically the real estate market on the Westside of Los Angeles has woken from a two year sleep - and girlfriend gotta eat!

FORGET OCCUPYING WALL ST: Mom & Pop investors make a difference

LOS ANGELES, December 4, 2011— Speaking with a new acquaintance in May of this year, I asked, “So, where do you think the market goes from here?”
We’d enjoyed 26 months of a bull market with some modest pullbacks, all of which bounced perfectly off a delightfully ascending trendline. Without any tangible improvement in the economy, Wall Street had nonetheless decided stocks were worth a full 100% more than the lows hit back in March 2009. “We’re going up,” she said, leaving no room for debate.  “At least till the end of the year.”
“Really?” Like a horoscope junkie, I love checking what the so-called pros think. “Yep. Up.  Definitely up.”  Click here to read rest of the article

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Indian Sean Connery with a long white beard - excerpt Gurus, Rock Stars and the Men In Between

Kulu valley
Sitting in a bus at the back of a convoy, at the front of which is God knows what causing the hold up, all I know is this is stop number five in as many hours.  Lets face it there are only so many chais you can drink and only so many wees you can take.  It is however, a stunning place to be stranded… high in the sky surrounded by mountains, a river meandering below, an infrequent house with thatched roof, a small isolated temple and roaming livestock.  There is no litter and the air is clean and fresh.  This is India to the north towards Kashmir, and it’s breathtaking.  I’m in very good spirits considering I’m in the middle of a banked up convoy, how much I need to pee yet again, and the level of Indian bureaucracy I endured to be on this bus to Kulu in search of Swami Brahmaraja.  There’s a shepherd boy serenading his cows with a flute making the story of Krishna, the doe-eyed flutist God of love remarkably tangible.  The Kulu Valley, "Valley of the Gods," is famous for a seven-day festival celebrating Lord Rama's victory over the demon Ravana.  I’m in time for the festival, quite by accident.  I want to continue north to Srinigar to find the fabled burial site of Jesus, then travel further to Kashmir, but every day I hear more stories of bombs and attacks in this much-contested region.  Just recently a couple of tourists were kidnapped and held ransom. I couldn't do that to my parents.  They’re livid enough I’m traveling alone.  I wish I were more fearless, or at least my complexion and hair dark.  My ‘ice-cream’ features are like a neon light erroneously flashing, "Come and get the money!”   I may not be white trash, but sadly I wouldn’t fetch much of a ransom either.


I’m not exactly sure what I’ve stumbled upon, but it may just be the magic I’ve been seeking.  In a fairly modest room sits a Swami.  He looks like an Indian Sean Connery with a long white beard – weird but accurate. 
See where I'm going with this?
The room is filled with Westerners and conspicuously few Indians. He’s talking about ananda, bliss.  This ananda is what all living beings seek, though only in the human incarnation is this recognition and endeavor possible. Our outer designation: doctor, lawyer, homemaker, is irrelevant.  Rich or poor, Indian or white, whether we know it or not, we are seeking a state of perpetual ananda.  It is our birthright and the goal of this human form to cultivate it.  Ignorant of our true calling we pursue fleeting sensual happiness, all the while fearing death.  We mask the fear by seeking outer trappings of wealth and security, but no matter what accomplishments we accumulate, nothing can save us from death and rebirth.  Only self-realization, knowledge of our true self can end the cycle of samsara, the cycle of birth and death.  The magic, the bliss we seek is the knowledge of our true self.
Okay.  He’s got my full attention.
As I sit in this room full of strangers, all the reasons why i left Australia are being validated.  Here is someone who is espousing a set of priorities that feels right.  He is not telling me to give up mundane work, only to put it in perspective and pursue the highest goal.  We instinctively feel when something is good and right, just as we feel when something is not, regardless of what others would have us believe.  And right now I am picking up what the Swami is putting down. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Practicing Tantra with a seventy year old man - excerpt Gurus Rock Stars & the Men In Between

My home was filthy at first, but once I got through with it now sparkles and smells of the familiar iodine concoction for which I’ve developed a bizarre affection.  It’s home.  It’s my space and it’s private.  But it’s lonely.  While I appreciate introspection, there are moments when I feel I could live or die and no one would be the wiser.  And I’m not simply being poetic.  Coming home one day, bathing away the dust and grime of an Indian summer I emerged from the bathroom and most definitely dry, I switched on the light as dusk fell.  I was immediately thrown by what felt like a thousand bolts of electricity pulsating through my body.  In absolute shock and some physical paralysis I fell back onto my bed, still wrapped in my bath towel.  I laid there not sure if this is the right thing to do, but I could feel my psyche switching over to that almost feral primal sense, where the body becomes all-knowing, silently demanding I stop thinking like a modern creature.  Both terror and ultimate calm jockeyed for first place.
“Be still,” I told myself. 
“Oh fuck, this is it!   I’ve finally done it.   I’m going to die alone, without anyone knowing where I am and how I died.  It’ll be days, maybe weeks before they find my body.  I had no idea it would end like this.  This sucks!” 
“Sssh,” my better self responded.  “Be calm, let your body heal.  It knows what to do.” 
I drifted off to sleep or death, I wasn’t sure which.  Hours later in complete darkness I woke with a gasp like the first breath of a newborn.  I was alive.  My body had indeed known what to do.  I wanted to tell someone.  I don’t even know what time it was, but I could tell it was the middle of the night.  The world was dark and silent, something rare even in rural India.  Used to the almost daily blackouts I have candles and lighter by the side of the bed.  I found my clock, four a.m., and decided the best thing I could do was to give my body as much time for sleep as possible.   The next morning I told the young boy at reception.  But it’s India and nothing will be done.  Ever since, when about to touch the switch I can be found sporting rubber soles and gloves.  Madam is looking very sexy these days.   If there can be an experience worse than death, perhaps it’s broaching the subject of tantra with a seventy year old man.  This aspect of Vedic culture intrigues me.  I’ve been hoping Dadaji will broach it, but as of yet he hasn’t and my days here are numbered.  It’s been a month and I’m leaving soon to continue my travels, and in particular to meet a Swami in Kulu.  I have to approach the subject now or never. 
“Dadaji, um… there is something I’ve been wanting to learn.  I don’t quite know how to say it…” 
After much prodding I continue, “I want to understand… to learn how to do tantra*.  I feel like it is an important part of life.” 
I can hardly describe the look in his eyes, which if I take a stab is some diabolical combination of disbelief and absolute glee. 
“Oh my, what do you want to learn about it?” he probes in his antiquated but flawless upper-crust accent. 
“Well, you’ve covered other aspects of Vedic lifestyle and philosophy but this is a huge part too.  I want to be trained in that aspect of my life.  I’m only young and I want to know how to do it properly.  You know… sex.” 
“You really want to learn this?” 
“Yes, I do!”  
I’m relieved to finally expose the subject, grateful that he’s taking it in stride.  Without another word, and with a look in his eyes that might just remain forever tattooed in my memory (no matter how many showers I take), a rickety old man complete in grey Neru suit lurches toward me like a zombie in a horror movie, lips open, intent on teaching me firsthand the secrets of tantra.
“Oh God no!  No, no, no.  I don’t mean that.” 
He stops in his tracks, “What do you want then?”  
He’s truly perplexed.
“I want to learn the philosophy of tantra, that’s all.  God no!  It’s actually late, I should go.” 
I almost admire his optimism.  Almost.  One thing do I concede looking at it from his point of view… a young blond literally landed on his doorstep one month ago, completely unannounced.  Why not a young blond that wants to be his tantric mistress?  
It’s time to leave.

* An indepth science where sexuality is practiced as a sacred ritual.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My ticket is booked destination mocha, to a saffron-soaked India - excerpt Gurus, Rock Stars & the Men In Between

Several months and as many countries successfully checked off my list, I think I’ve got the gist of what most Western European countries have to offer.  If you don’t mind me saying the Dutch are organized; the Italians and Spaniards have freshly-squeezed orange juice at gas stations and quite possibly the hottest men; the Swiss are O.C.D. and the Portuguese may or may not eat dogs if the carcasses in their butcher shops are any indication.  While mostly pleasant, (well except for the slaughter of man’s best friend), my experiences have been so… pedestrian.  Whatever treasures may have once been hidden have already been plundered.  Not that I imagined otherwise.  In a moment of brilliant abandon I hopped a boat in Portugal for Morocco.   Leaving the large cities in favor of the Sahara Desert and colorful Berber tribes, it only took ten days of hair-raising adventure to confirm what I already suspect.  The mystery I seek is not in Europe.  And while exciting, nor is it in North Africa.  I just finished Autobiography of a Yogi, devouring it from cover-to-cover, unable to put it down.  It confirmed where I must go.  Where I’ve always known I’m headed.  I just needed to earn my travel-stripes, and more money.  
 I saved for a year’s worth of shenanigans yet only a few months in, found myself nearly broke.  All those croissants aren’t cheap.   After Morocco I headed to Switzerland where I’d heard rich Genevois like to hire undocumented nannies.   The backpacker grapevine was right and I landed a back-to-back stint as a jeunne fille* for two aristocratic families in the French-speaking city of Geneva.  Both boasted the illustrious Baron and Baroness title, and both were challenging.  The first family was lovely, but their anti-Christ-like child was hell-bent on slaying the post of nanny.  He wasn’t a bad kid.  All he wanted was his mum, a not totally unreasonable request.  The children of the second family were a delight but the Baron was an old-school ‘noble’ who thought the hired help wouldn’t object to him importing his mistress into the family home the moment his wife and kids took off to Spain en vacance.  Sorry.  That’s not how we roll in Australia.  I most certainly did mind.  And I let him know it.
This only makes my forthcoming trip all the more exciting and timely.  I’ve seen how the other half lives, the half with titles and castles and towns named in their honor.  The half that takes the Nanny down to Monaco to meet up with the Baroness and les enfants, and threatens her life should she whisper a word about the mistress in the wife’s boudoir the night prior.  I don’t want a part of it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like me some money and I’ve no aversion to prestige. But shouldn’t it stand for something?  If we’re all going to die, there has to be more to life than material success.  Right?  I do want to achieve great things, but before I break my neck climbing the proverbial ladder of success, I want to make sure it’s leaning against the right wall.  Perhaps more than anything I want to reclaim a sense of magic; something that disappeared with the rude awakening of adulthood.  As a kid I experienced great synchronicity with the world around me, a rich spiritual connection.  I felt I not only belonged in this world, but that I was loved and celebrated.  I realize how lame that sounds, truly I do, but I sensed reciprocation from the universe.  I actually sensed it.  I want it back. 
I don’t profess any one spiritual path superior to another.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Jesus since my schools were denomination-based in a saccharin-vanilla Christian sense. Regardless of cultural origins I’m convinced we remain unique and the innumerable available spiritual paths exist to accommodate our many flavored needs.  Though raised on a blond blue-eyed Savior, I’ve booked my ticket destination mocha.   I am seeking my flavor, my reason and my answer to life’s question in a saffron-soaked India.  I don’t plan to abscond for life, but I do want to learn the one thing my religious school never taught.  I want to learn about the elephant in the room.  The one we pretend isn’t here.  I want to know what it’s all about Alfie.  I want to know the meaning of life.

* Jeune fille means “young girl,” colloquial for nanny

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My husband is a Rock Star - Gurus, Rock Stars & the Men In Between excerpt

These are the days of magic; days we travel the world performing for thousands of fans, running off to Greece for a post-tour romantic getaway.  Days we take spiritual sabbaticals in India, sharing both heavy austerities and the joy of fresh papaya dripping with lemon juice.  Days we invest in real estate, tend our organic garden, and sweat out summers convinced we’ve found the only masochist on earth who shares a disdain for recycled air. 
My husband is a Rock Star, a type personified by that affable and charismatic scoundrel, Bill Clinton.  He’s not as powerful as Slick Willy, and arguably better behaved, but he does enjoy Clintonesque fame in his own B-grade way.  Don’t get me wrong – that’s no slight.  B-grade fame is fabulous!  Jokes about B or C-grade celebrity suggest the status is easily achieved.  On the contrary, it takes hard work and B-grade fame enjoys advantages that most people underestimate.  As long as we’re talking about real artists and not the latest nasty-ass stripper with her own reality TV show on the Oxygen Network, the lower rungs of fame earn my utmost respect.  A-grade fame attracts the crazies and the stalkers, something I learned impressively on tour with A-list celebs, No Doubt.  Their fans are for the most part the loveliest a band could hope for.  Even so, I was regaled with horror stories of the sordid little things in innocuous little packages that make their way to Gwen Stefani on a daily basis.  She’s a down to earth Orange County girl who quickly learned to have security quarantine all incoming ‘gifts.’  Life’s precious privacies are exchanged for A-grade fame in ways one can’t imagine.  My gratuitous name-dropping serves as the perfect segue into another story where No Doubt invited us as guests to watch them perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  I look nothing like Gwen Stefani even on a good day, but with blond hair and apparently what must scream a skater-girl uniform, fans rushed our group as we emerged from the TV studio thinking I’m the diva herself.  We pushed through the passionate crowd and into our car, laughing at the madness of it all.  They love this woman so dearly they willingly overlooked my clear blue eyes in place of her chocolate browns, and my five-feet/one-inches over her five-seven.  Out of the studio grounds and into the labyrinth known as Burbank we five, clueless-in-L.A. New York City punks realized we were lost and made an illegal u-turn.  So did five other cars.  “Gwen” was being chased!  We set off on a high-speed pursuit that would make any Los Angelina proud, weaving in and out of traffic turning left then right, and slicing through gas stations on corners to avoid red lights intent on thwarting our escape.  Certain we were no longer being trailed (and quite enamored with our evidently amazing evasion skills) we abandoned the streets in favor of the 101 freeway back to our hotel.  Almost immediately we slowed to a crawl.  L.A. traffic! But we didn’t care. The sun was shining, and we took the opportunity to drop the top on our convertible Mustang rental.  No doubt (pardon the pun) friends back East weren’t enjoying such a warm April afternoon.  Within thirty seconds two fans jogged up to the car, huffing and puffing, risking life and limb begging me for an autograph right on the freeway.
“I’m not Gwen Stefani!”
“Yes you are.”  A pretty brunette countered defiantly.
“No I'm not!  Look at my eyes.  My God, listen to my accent!"
“But you signed a CD back at the studio!”
Oops, I did… but only because the crowd was so persistent, and the boys goading me on.  There’s no excuse.  I shouldn’t have done it.  It took several more impassioned declarations that I am not Gwen, noting absolutely all our physical distinctions to convince them.  I’m almost sad I did.  They were markedly happier five minutes ago.