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“Body Ritual Among the Nacirema Tribe”

22 Feb

Can you guess which culture the Nacirema Tribe represents?


Where have we gone wrong?

22 Feb

Blame Justin Beiber, Twitter, and texting all you want, but whatever the reason, the current generation of high school student ages 15-19 do not have their facts straight. Worse yet, the facts they do not know are not esoteric, they are about simple events in our nation’s own history. Try not to cringe or punch your own computer screen out of frustration as you watch this hilarious, and embarrassing, video.

The Underground

3 Dec

Heidi Niemen enters a Bradenton, Florida, strip club in a white button down, Levi’s, and ballet flats. She and four other women proceed to the dressing room with mild trepidation. In the reflection of the bulb-lined mirror they catch a glimpse of a dark-haired woman in her twenties fastening her brassier.  Her lashes and liner are thick so that you are can see the vibrant green color of her eyes, but not her emotions. A second woman leans over her to touch up her lipstick, a third straps on her stilettos from her perch on a barstool in the corner. Niemen has only been at this club for a few days, but she is still an outsider to its culture and its unique beat. She says that every club has its own vibe and its own way of receiving her.  Niemen is not a dancer; she is one of the leaders of The Underground, an outreach for women in the strip club industry affiliated with Bayside Community Church.

When the women are either on break, in between shifts in the dressing room, or without a client, Niemen uses that as an opportunity to share God’s Word with them. “The most important thing is just to let them know they are truly loved and valued,” she said. Usually, Niemen’s team just talks to the girls about their lives outside of the club, which can usually lead to much deeper conversation, which many of the girls have come to embrace.

“The girls are very open. We never try to force our beliefs onto them, but many have ended up asking for us to pray with them,” said Niemen.

The Underground was originally the idea of a male pastor at Bayside who thought this could work well in Bradenton as a women’s outreach. Niemen said that he had a heavy burden in his heart for women to band together and help girls who worked in clubs realize their self-worth. After much prayer, he was approached by Niemen. She has been leading the group for two years now.

“I started by bringing in some of the women from the 6:30 p.m. services and it grew from there. I was honestly not anticipating to be so well received,” she said.

When they first started, Niemen had to contact club managers far in advance and was limited on the time she could spend talking with the dancers. However, as the club owners and managers developed a relationship with Niemen, they gave her more flexibility and have even thanked her for all her time and effort she has spent being involved in the lives of their employees. She started by “adopting” one club, but she has added an additional three to her regular circuit.

“We bring food and cards to the girls, leave little gifts, and one time we even re-painted their dressing room, so that when they came back they would be able to see something new and would have something to look forward to besides their shift,” said Niemen.

On Valentine’s Day, Niemen has made it a tradition to bring roses and cards to each of the girls.

“It is a very special day, and it warms my heart to see a genuine smile on their faces. For some of them, it is the first time they had ever received flowers,” she said. “Most of the clubs love how we hand-deliver them to the girls when they are in between shifts, but one club still only allows us to leave our gifts with the bouncer.”

Niemen always has her arms open to women and young adults who are interested in becoming involved in The Underground. However, there are some requirements. Participants must be female, over 18, attend Bayside on a regular basis, and go to a weekend woman’s retreat.

“The retreat is a small cottage where women break into small groups and spend some time learning more about themselves as well as deepening their own relationship with God. It is ver important for a woman to be strong in her own faith and esteem before going into a ministry such as this,” said Niemen. “In the meantime, we have a prayer group for The Underground that anyone can be a part of, and we greatly appreciate it when people participate.”

Niemen and her team leave a business card for Bayside Community Church and tell the girls about services available online while they are ministering in the clubs. Since beginning her work with The Underground, Niemen has gotten the opportunity to see positive changes within the club employees’ lives. A handful of girls have given over their lives to Christ and attend churches in Bradenton, and one attends Bayside. Two girls have volunteered their time to work the church’s annual Easter egg hunt for children.

“While it is such a blessing to see positive changes in the lives of the girls I get to know, I also enjoy working with newcomers,” said Niemen. “They are a bit leery of me and my team at first, but when they see we are not out for anything but to share love with them, be a shoulder to lean on, and to be their friend, it is an incredible feeling to see them relax and put their guard down and to see the other girls encourage them to speak with us.”


Carri Dials: An Officer and a Lady

14 Nov

Photo Credits: Heather Rathbun

Carri Dials walks into her Parisian themed apartment and puts a new bowl of milk out for her kitten. She selects a dress from her wardrobe that she will wear on a date the next day. Then she washes the blood out of her uniform. Dials is a police officer with the New Orleans Police Department who prides herself in being a female in the field.

Although judged by her long blonde hair and fashionable dress, Dials braves night shifts in one of the most dangerous and violent cities to work as an officer. New Orleans is not only a precarious place for a woman to be working at dark, but it has become one of the murder capitals in the nation.

“Halloween weekend we had 15 murders alone,” said Dials. “We also deal with everything from simple intoxication charges all the way up to murder and aggravated rape on a daily basis.”

The French Quarter has always been a center for heavy partying, but lately it has become a higher center for crime. While crime in New Orleans is nearly year-round, there are seasonal spikes. According to Dials, murder and rape happen most in the winter time. Then there is Mardi Gras, which, as can be anticipated, is a high time for arrests.

There are some cases that can be frightening. Last July, Dials and her team received a 9-1-1 call for back-up. A woman had been pulled over by a man with red flashing lights affixed to his car claiming that he was an officer pulling her over for drunk driving. He then frisked her, and when Dials arrived he had a gun pulled on her. Although he had a shiny badge displayed on his hip, he was actually a professor from Kentucky. When Dials’ team searched the vehicle, they found a bundle of military weapons in his car, including a 308 caliber Remington Rifle with a 10×40 scope, a 12 gage Mossberg shotgun with laser light and flashlight attachments, four knives, and a total of 446 live rounds.

“Police [work] has always been second nature for me. I am still girly in my own time, but it has always been in my nature. I have always loved protecting people,” said Dials. She is not sure whether or not police work in a violent city can desensitize people, but some cases shake her emotions more than others.

“The fact is I don’t show any reaction at all to an adult that overdoses on drugs or one that commits suicide, or even an old person that dies in their home. However, I always cry after work when something happens to a child,” said Dials.

One call was for a two-year old girl who had been put into the hospital after being violently beaten and raped. Almost every bone in her body was broken and she was placed in a full body cast. Her father’s DNA was removed inside her vagina.

“We arrested him, and the officer I was with and I went to the chapel in the hospital. We cried together, and we prayed for the little girl. These are the type of stories that most people don’t know about the police,” said Dials.

At times, Dial’s self proclaimed girly-girl side works for her benefit.

“My bubbly girly girl works best with my blonde hair and big boobs; criminals assume I’m stupid. So, when I’m interrogating a criminal I raise my voice to that similar of a little girl, and I play stupid. Then when they get comfortable I flip the switch on them.

Also, women try to get away with things with the males.  As a female officer I know the tricks of the trade when it comes to being a female. Female criminals hate it when I show up on scene,” said Dials.

Dials’ personality changes on and off duty.

“On the job, I am an aggressive take-no-crap cop. I will fight, use my tools on my belt (taser/spray/baton/gun) with the best of them,” said Dials. “In fact, the citizens in my beat, which is high drug and high crime, call me, ‘The Country Bitch.’ I take pride in the name, because it means I am doing my job right.”

However, one would never guess this by visiting Dials in her home and watching her straighten her hair, apply her mascara, and sort through her jewelry collection. She is a sweetheart who loves shoes, shopping, and vacations.

“I actually cook and clean for my lovely man, and I am very much a domesticated lady. I also love to wear dresses and skirts and dress nice, instead of my made-for- a- man uniform.”

One thing that Dials finds unfortunate is the stigma surrounding female offers, and the fact many female cops live up to those expectations.

One common stigma is that female officers are lesbians.

“ About 92% of them are,” said Dials  “Many people also say that  female officers can’t handle themselves, amd unfortunately that is true as well, not all of us, but most cannot,” said Dials.

One of the most common stigmas that Dials hears is that female officers have something to prove

“That is true, because we do. We are not taken seriously, and criminals always test female officers,” said Dials.

Dials admits that at times she finds herself in situations  in which she is trying to prove herself as an officer and can be unduly aggressive.

“I am a sweet lady, but when I say ‘excuse me sir/ma’am, can you stop what you are doing?’ it does not work as well as ‘knock your f****** s*** off!”

At the end of her shift, she returns to her pink bedroom and retires from her uniform and slides into her dress and heels. Lipsticked and handcuff free, she blends in with the other girls in the Big Easy, but she is not afraid to fight.

Mind, Body, and Spirit: The Yoga Trend

27 Oct

The scene is similar in any yoga studio across the country. The lights and ceiling fans are on low, flute music trickles through the sound system, intermixed with sound effects of the ocean and a slight breeze.  Yoga studios are on the rise, and many participants describe yoga as relaxing, but first and foremost a good stretch and a form of exercise.  However, some take the courses much more seriously. What happens when the practice of yoga becomes an obsession? In May 2009, many debt-ridden yogitas found themselves in a lawsuit with the chain yoga center and retreat Dahn Yoga and its founder Ilchi Lee for manipulation and fraud. While some are calling the centers an alleged cult, other still faithfully shell out money and time in hopes to become a Dahn master.

Melissa, an owner of a Dahn Yoga center in Buckhead, Georgia who did not wish to reveal her last name, spent years of intensive study and practice to become a manager and instructor. She admits that some of the practice may sound peculiar to a newcomer.

“A main part of Dahn Yoga is brain training, a training of the brain vibrations that triggers certain hormones to make the participant in complete control of their emotions,” said Melissa.

According to Melissa, Ilchi lee had a strong interest in the human mind. The brain education classes he organized are divided into four categories, each involving meditation as a way to form a stress response.

“It is similar to the flight or fight response, except we like to think of it as ‘rest or digest,’” said Melissa.

Students are introduced to Dahn Yoga and brain training via an hour-long private introductory class that runs about $30. From there, they are placed into workshops accordingly, with prices and length rising. Melissa recommends practicing everyday to her students. Classes run from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and she encourages several students and trainees to attend as many as five in a row Monday through Friday.

As part of her training, Melissa trained at a camp and retreat in Arizona with a master, and she tries to talk her students who hope to become masters into taking the same retreats. According to the 2009 lawsuit, some students spent upward of $8,500 for these retreats. Some may say that the cost is worth the sacrifice for passion, but some participants found the retreat more degrading than rewarding.

Melissa described some workshops that take place in Mesa, Arizona that act as a “deeper experience.” She said that people would “lightly slap themselves” and repeat negative affirmations to release negative energy.

Prana Yoga and Healing Center in Sarasota, Florida also offers some seemingly strange practices, albeit for a smaller price tag. For the Fall Equinox session that took place September 23, an advertisement promised that participants would move in “Body, Mind, and Spirit.” Regina Owett, owner of Prana, takes much pride in the practice of the “spiritual trance dance.”

“We will be dancing with spirit in trance while blindfolded,” said Owett. However, participants are offered some reassurance.

“You will be protected by facilitators while dancing,” she said.

According to Owett, the trance dance was meant to be a fun activity in which participants could release some inhibitions and laugh a little while practicing a cultural tradition. However, some participants do not find some of the activities of yoga centers to be a laughing matter. While some students form strong bonds with their instructors, one even calling hers a “godsend,” many have had to rebuild their lives after becoming obsessed with the yoga phenomenon.

Amy Shipley, 25, claimed in her lawsuit that she felt coerced into staying with the retreats, feeling that the more time she put into it, the less she could give it up because of the amount of money and time she had already invested. One consequence was a feeling of isolation from her friends and family. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Shipley described a case at a Sedona, Arizona retreat in which her classmates were instructed to bow 3,000 times. As a form of punishment, she witnessed people being forced to lick each other’s feet. Shipley asserts that she emerged from the retreats as a “glassy eyed train wreck.” Accusations have also been made about Lee sexually preying on female students, although there has been no substantial evidence found to support those claims.

As far as remarks made about Dahn Yoga being a cult, Melissa asserts that students should never feel forced to spend money.

“We do not twist their arms behind their back, and we also provide many suggestions for practicing at home,” said Melissa. She says that Lee believes the main focus of Dahn is and will remain to be relaxation, flexibility, and balance.

Filers of the lawsuit received an undisclosed amount in early 2010, and hundreds of Dahn centers nationwide remain in operation in over forty states.

“The word ‘Dahn’ is the Korean word for energy,” said Melissa. “we should not be held responsible for people becoming addicted to the strength and energy gained from yoga.”

As to the allegations made about events at the Sedona retreat, Melissa had no comment and asserted that nothing out of the ordinary has happened at any retreats at which she was present.

“The purpose of Prana is to empower the student,” said Owett. “We hope that students may find peace and healing and even bring their friends.”

Pink ribbons and heavy metals

24 Oct

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink is in season. The NFL has been sporting the color, and over the years, the Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Research Foundation has bathed over 200 landmarks worldwide in pink light, including the Empire State Building, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Sydney Opera House.  Since the founding of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1985, both men and women have taken up a rose-colored crusade to find the cure and to educate others about the illness.

A sizeable number of families are impacted by cancer. Preventative measures are a concern among many people who fear that they or a family member may become another breast cancer statistic. Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Richard Boothby discussed diet.

“You can powerfully influence your body’s genes by what you put into it,” said Dr. Richard Boothby. “Processed foods increase your risk.” Sugary foods should also be avoided. “Your body gets no real energy from sugar.”

Many people consider going vegetarian or vegan to stave off cancer. If this is in your plans, it is imperative to still get the nutrients you need, which can be done through supplements. “Vegetarians and vegans who do not take supplements can become anemic,” said Boothby.

Currently, approximately 200,000 women in the United States are victims of breast cancer, and incidents have risen over the past three years. However, Boothby says that not every woman should obsess about getting cancer.

“Although rates are high, not every woman is going to get breast cancer, especially those with no family history,” he said. “We are also now able to detect it at a much earlier stage.

So what is done to treat breast cancer? The most common and for many years the most effective way was through chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to destroy the cells of the body that divide rapidly, including normal cells of the bone marrow, digestive tract, and bone marrow. The devastating effects of chemo on its patients have caused doctors to research alternative methods for treating cancer.

Chelation purges the body of dangerous metals and toxins, the most common being lead, arsenic, and mercury. One of the most common forms of checking for these metals is a urine test. A chemical is given through an IV that bonds specifically to the toxins, not the healthy cells, and the toxins and metals are excreted as water like compound. Patients typically undergo between 10 and 20 treatments. Each treatment lasts several hours, and patients may read or watch a movie during the session.   These patients may also undergo message therapy as an extra mean of releasing toxins.

Another alternative treatment plan is juicing. Holistic treatment centers strongly encourage their cancer patients to juice vegetables as a dietary mean of fighting their cancer. Patients are discouraged from sugar and most meat and instructed to create juices from specific types of vegetables to ensure their bodies are more alkaline. Meats cause an acidic environment within the body. Such a Ph balance causes a more favorable environment for cancer cells to thrive.

Why do patients juice the vegetables rather than just eat them? Juicing creates a more concentrated form of the nutrients, and, as a liquid, the body can better absorb the nutrients. Juicing also allows for a more optimal amount and variety of vegetables.

Low acid foods include curry, guava, spinach, brown rice, honey, and fish. Foods that are the most acidic include soynuts, beef, lobster, processed cheese, and cocoa.

There are several cancer patients currently undergoing chelation therapy and other holistic treatments as an alternative to chemotherapy. One such patient is Erelda Waters, a victim of breast cancer who has had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy before turning to holistic treatments when the cancer returned. Although she   was a vegan from the time she was 16, she still got cancer. Chelation and juicing has helped her identify dangerous materials still in her body and discover the proper diet to keep her cancer at bay. Since beginning these treatments, her numbers have improved, though she has an exhausting schedule, spending hours a day juicing vegetables and making several trips from her native Florida to a treatment center in North Carolina .

“Sometimes it is hard to know what to do for someone that is suffering.  Many times there isn’t anything you can do but pray, but these treatment opportunities give people an outlet to help and encourage those that are suffering with this disease,” said Waters.

Waters hopes that other families can find healing within these treatment centers.

“Moms are important in every child’s life, and we need to save the moms. If there is something threatening the most important element of the family, we need to address it,” said Waters.

It is astonishing to both Waters and Boothby that there is not yet a cure for breast cancer and other cancers.

3 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked:

Myth #1: Sleeping in a bra, especially one with an underwire, increases your risk of breast cancer.

Reality: “This is completely false,” said Boothby. “Some women think this because it puts pressure on the breast, but such pressure will not cause cancer.”

Myth #2: Splenda or other sugar substitutes can cause breast cancer.

Reality: “I have not seen any data proving that sugar substitutes cause cancer,” said Boothby. “However, I do not recommend sugar substitutes to my patients because they contain chemicals.”

Myth #3: Soda products cause breast cancer.

Reality: “It is not the soda itself that causes cancer. It is the sugars you are ingesting,” said Boothby. “A diet high in sugar causes insulin levels to go up, causing many things, including a high risk of cancer or heart disease.”

Baby Gaga

4 Apr

The Icecreamist in London at first glance is a fresh take on the ice cream parlor. Make that an extremely fresh taste. With the tagline “lick your addiction,” The Icecreamist leads the way to get your chilled fix. “They tried to make me go to rehab and I said yes,yes,yes,” is another one of their taglines. The website warns that some motifs may be inappropriate for young children. In another words, it is an adult ice cream store.

Some of their “treatments” include alcoholic ice cream beverages. However, many are more controversial than that. One of their famous mixes is the Sex Bomb, and ice cream containing natural stimulants such as Ginko Bilabo, Arginine, and Guarana. It also contains a shot of the very high proof Absinthe, but even more shocking, it contains a bit of Viagra!

The 18+ London shop is obviously stirring up a lot of controversy, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. The Icreamist really landed on the map with the introduction of the Baby Gaga. The ice cream attracted international attention at its premier, and it goes for a whopping £14 ($22.50 US dollar) per scoop.

So what is the Baby Gaga? It is ice cream made from human breast milk!

According to the social blog Where the Girls Go, The Icecreamist founder Matt O’Conner says that the lactating women must undergo the same testing procedures used at hospitals when screening blood donors.

With customers being curious and intrigued and eager to get their hands on the unusual, the ice cream did not take much time to sell out. Lactating women were also waiting in line to sell their milk to The Icecreamist.

Of the smaller controversies, a law suit is taking place with the real Lady Gaga over the name.

More concerned about a restaurant food containing human bodily fluids? As it turns out, so are a lot of people.

While the flavor is not officially banned as of yet, samples of the ice cream have been taken away for testing.

London is known for its oddities, but this is definitely a few steps too far! At the same time, one cannot help but be intrigued about such an establishment (and they do have some more typical flavors that seem fun while remaining edible).