Lift Your Spirit in 8 Minutes

vass-flower

I grew up with an aversion to religion. My grandparents were not religious, and my mom detested Christianity.

As we all know, religion has a bloody history. And in many ways throughout the centuries its various incarnations have detracted from authentic spirituality. I probably don’t need to name all the physical and political atrocities for you to understand what I’m talking about, but the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, pedophilia, FGM, stoning, and religious barbarism of all kinds and creeds are just a few of the assaults on the human body, mind, and soul that have always turned me off.

And my mom always half joked that she’d probably been burned at the stake in a previous life.

With all that, oddly enough I was sent to a Catholic school for a couple years as a child. When I was about 7 I was moved from a particularly shitty public school and into a Catholic school because it was thought that perhaps I’d get a better education there.

The environment was intensely alien to me. Especially because I was a child, and especially because I had no context, I didn’t get any of it.

The school had an underground tunnel, which bore fallout shelter signs, and led first with flickering fluorescent lights, and then with no lights, over to the church on the next block.

I remember once standing in a single-file line in the classroom on our way to the tunnel, and one of the kids asked me if I believed in God.

“Which one?” I asked, because I didn’t understand the Trinity. Did he mean the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? And why did you cross yourself in four directions when there were only three kinds of people to cross yourself in the name of?

I’ve been sarcastic since I was born, so they didn’t take this the right way. I was genuinely confused. But they thought I was blasphemous, a heathen savage, which, I suppose, I was and am. Perhaps if Dr. Bronner had been there to tell me that God Is One! All Is One!, I might have understood the Trinity concept and had a better answer. Though I’m sure I would have considered it and said, probably, that I didn’t think I believed because I didn’t know. I had no knowledge of God. At all.

When I was a teenager, I became enamored with the word agnostic.

Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of telling you that if you have an aversion to religion too, you should still check out the song in the video below.

When you listen to this, don’t play it on your phone. Don’t play it on your laptop. Turn your stereo on and listen to this fucker loud.

Do you hear those drums? Those keys? Do you hear that bass? That rhythm? Do you hear the soul in the rich voices of the choir? The joy in their clapping?

Shit like this is what many of us are missing in a culture-deprived society.

Soul.

I recently learned that clapping is one of the healthiest things you can do. In ayurveda and Chinese medicine, clapping is recommended to stimulate blood circulation and open blockages in the energy centers in your hands, which flow throughout your body to feed all its systems. Qi gong teaches that clapping helps you develop your healing hands:

I imagine that clapping also balances the left and right hemispheres of your brain, just like prayer pose. In fact, I’ve been thinking of clapping as an active prayer pose. There’s a reason they’re both universal gestures.

Singing is also healthy. It massages your thyroid, strengthens your lungs and diaphragm, and releases endorphins.

If you’re into yoga, you know that mantras and chanting are based on primal sounds that connect you with energy. Kundalini yoga teaches that as you vibrate sounds, “the universe vibrates with you.” I’m a big fan of chakra chanting, where it’s taught, for instance, that the seed syllable lang balances the root chakra and feeds the three main channels of the body. It’s probably no different from Gregorian chanting or any other kind of chanting, really, where the aim is similarly to meditate and commune. It’s quite soothing. [BTW, here’s the Radha Krishna Temple album I grew up with, produced by George Harrison. Because of The Beatles, I knew slightly more about Krishna than Jesus.]

I’ve noticed that singing “hallelujah” in Nobody Knows has a soothing effect too. Singing every word of that song with the Youth for Christ Choir feels fantastic because of how long they project each sound to let all the sorrow out. And it feels fantastic because as weird as “hallelujah” is for this heathen, there is magic in that word.

Sing this song and clap your hands for 8 minutes, and feel your spirit rise.

Also check out my playlist of Gospel music on YouTube. I keep adding to it anytime I think of another song I love. And let me know in the comments what I’m missing. I’d like to add Bob Dylan’s Man Gave Names to All the Animals, but there’s very little of studio BD on YT.

Image: My friend Mr. djvass

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A Weird Ingredient to Make Margaritas Healthy

collagen-margarita

I don’t often drink booze, but when I do, I make it tequila.

And I like margaritas of all kinds. I like ’em plain lime and I like ’em berrylicious. I like ’em on the rocks and I like ’em blended. I like ’em classic and I like ’em ridiculous.

It’s getting warm in Wisconsin, so this afternoon I started thinking about the blueberries on my counter and the tequila in my cabinet. And I thought, “What if I pop all that in the blender with tequila and lime … and add some collagen powder?”

I’d put collagen powder in a smoothie, so why not a margarita?

The idea is ridiculous.

The result was delicious.

Here’s why you should try it, and the recipe I threw together.

Why you should try it

You might know that we don’t get as much collagen in our diets as our grandparents did, or as much as people in other cultures do. We have this idea that if we eat meat it should just be flesh. But the fact is that some of the deepest nutrition is in the bones and the succulent drippings of bones and skin.

I have a friend whose dad from Hungary sucks the marrow out of chicken bones. Does that sound barbaric? It’s a cultural (and instinctive) remedy for what ails you. And maybe it’s why he can go skydiving at 70+. He’s got collagen in his body and nutrient-rich blood in his veins. Sure, he’s got good genes–and his muscles, joints, and tissues are strong AF to boot.

Unless you make bone broth or suck marrow, you’re probably lacking collagen. But you need collagen–for your skin, bones, joints, muscles, and gut. Dr. Axe tells you all about it right here.

I’m not saying it cures everything, nor should you take medical advice from me. I’m no doctor. But I am saying that when I make bone broth and when I put collagen powder in my drinks, my skin looks better, my hypermobility is less painful, and my gut is happier.

So while you’re enriching a liver-crushing tequila indulgence with the antioxidants of blueberries and limes, you might as well top it off with the goodness of collagen!

Here’s my recipe

  1. 2 Tbl. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  2. 1oz. Cointreau/triple sec, or another orange liqueur*
  3. 1 shot of tequila
  4. 1 cup of blueberries
  5. 1 Tbl unflavored collagen powder**
  6. Ice
  7. Lime wedge

Blend and serve. But don’t blend the lime wedge. Slice that puppy and stick it on the rim of your glass.

Cheers!

* What I had lying around was orange Bittercube Bitters made here in Milwaukee. Good stuff.

** What I had lying around was Arthroben by Designs for Health. I prefer Dr. Axe’s collagen because it’s a third of the price. Well to be precise, it’s $71.39 for 240 grams of Arthroben vs. $42.79 for 454 grams of Dr. Axe’s mix. I put little effort into my math skills, especially when I’ve had a few collagen margaritas, but that probably boils down to roughly one-third the cost.

DFH has a couple extra awesome flavinoids added in to their powder, and also a couple extra additives. Dr. Axe does not top off with additives. Both brands are nonGMO, but Dr. Axe goes the extra mile by letting you know that he sources his beef collagen from grass-fed cows who are raised to roam free in pastures with no antibiotics, hormones, or other nefarious shit.

Mix up a collagen margarita and let me know how it goes! It’s weird, but it’s worth it.

Posted in Food, Natural healing | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Dinner [Movie Review]

pretentious-tart

I just saw this movie for the first time so I can’t put my finger on what it was exactly about the opening credits that piqued my enthusiasm, but they clued me in immediately to how good this movie was going to be.

Part of it, I know, was that the actors’ names were placed against a montage of preposterous haute cuisine, and I think there were gruesome sounds, especially when a chocolate sauce liquified some ice cream. It set the tone for a psychological thriller filled, necessarily, with suspense, foreboding, and unease.

Cut to a typical teen party with kids drinking, smoking, making out, and just looking generally like children experimenting with adulthood. Soon enough, the cops bust the soiree, and three boys stumble out, looking for something else to do.

Next scene, Steve Coogan and Laura Linney are getting ready for the dinner. Steve’s character is a misanthrope who doesn’t want to have dinner with “the apes,” his politician brother and latest sister-in-law. “I can get behind this,” I thought, because I hate politics.

Laura’s character starts out as sympathetic. She’s smart, supportive, and she loves her husband and son. One of many great details is that while she’s gorgeous, the pants she wears to dinner are out of style, and her eye shadow technique is lacking. She’s naturally elegant, but she lacks the chic that defines her younger sister-in-law, played by a pitch-perfect Rebecca Hall.

The story is nonliner, cutting between the present dinner and the past acts of the diners’ sons. As Richard Gere’s character notes, the boys committed a horrific crime. And only the viewer knows how much delight two of the boys took in their monstrous depravity.

One of the triumphs of this movie is its insidious portrayal of how insidious mental illness can be. As the movie in general fills you with discomfort, a flashback to Coogan and Gere visiting the Gettysburg battlefield heightens the tension. To the degree that during a montage of Civil War iconography, I almost thought about leaving. Flashes of red and purple assault the eye behind layers of statues and monuments and blaring tourist narration and sounds of war–and the style seems almost out of place–but it is very much in place in its aim to show you the reality of one of the men–and to prepare you for the flashbacks and the denouement to come.

As things unfold, you can see things from all sides. But no one’s right, and there is no ideal solution. Gere wants his family to come clean and his son to pay for the crime–because it was so grisly that the boys can never be healthy knowing what they’ve done. The other three adults aren’t thinking about the depth of the crime. They don’t know–or they don’t admit–the savagery, and to protect their kids, they want to let the whole thing blow over. Their reasons vary, but they’re understandable too. Because in what way would the system not make the kids’ futures worse?

The way the movie ends struck me as outstanding. There’s chaos in front of the politician’s house, with one of the kids possibly hurt, and one of the men on the ground with a broken rib, and the resolution unclear, as resolution so often is in life. Because of this–the ambiguity, the catch-22–the sudden cut to nothing was so good that I actually clapped.

Which was not embarrassing, because I was alone in the theater. Partly because it was midnight in a barren suburb, and partly, I think, because the movie has not gotten good reviews.

Before seeing it, I Googled enough to know that it’s gleaned an average of two and a half stars. I saw snippets like “This ‘Dinner’ is spoiled before the appetizer even arrives” [Pat Padua] andThe Dinner’s strong ensemble isn’t enough to overcome a screenplay that merely skims the surface of its source material’s wit and insight.” [Rotten Tomatoes consensus]

The latter in particular I found hard to believe, because it’s not often that Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, or Chloë Sevigny go wrong. I’m sure it happens, but the likelihood of all three ending up in something bad is slim in my mind. Plus director Oren Moverman did I’m Not There, which is a movie that, among many things, got me to think of Richard Gere as someone much more than a star of dipshitty rom-coms.

I think the reason this movie is not well liked is that it makes you as uncomfortable as something by Michael Haneke. But if you like movies that blend the elements of Cache and Funny Games with What’s in a Name?–not to mention heavy-hitting family explorations like A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof–this movie is for you.

What makes it uncomfortable is what makes it satisfying. What makes it both is its authenticity in portraying the human experience–for better or for worse.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Dutch and Italian film adaptations of the book by Herman Koch.

Top image: Pretentious Tart by Holly Gramazio

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Tess Parks: Blood Hot [Album Review]

If Spacemen 3 and Mazzy Star smoked an opium-laced hookah and conceived a flower child shod in pointy genie boots, it would be Tess Parks.

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Her album Blood Hot sounds like how this must feel:

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If heroin’s not your thing (and I hope it’s not), my friend Dan put it like this:

But seriously that guitar tho…cruising down the road in the summer going 85 with a sarsaparilla on the seat next to you…

Yeah, a cool glass-a sarsaparilla.

I wasn’t sure about the album right away, but it grew on me fast. The opening song, Somedays, is a catchy stomper with poppy percussion, a top-drawer guitar hook, and Hope Sandoval-y vocals. I like the way it builds, and though the cymbals get a little clattery, I think the drums really make it.

The second track, Gates of Broadway, is a sultry slow-burner with melodic vocals. The guitar tones evoke Spacemen 3, thick with doped-out bluesy psychedelia. The entire album is like that, and when you listen to it loud, it can seem droned-out and maybe monotonous for a sec, until you wake up and realize that you’re being moved by alluring rhythms and solid musicianship. I’m intrigued to learn more about her bandmates on this album: Thomas Paxton-Beesley, Anthony Nemet, and Andrew McGill.

I will say that Blood Hot gets me so good partly cuz it evokes for me so many of my favorites. (Spacemen 3, The Darkside, Mazzy Star, Opal, Brian Jonestown Massacre, even a bit of Bowery Electric.) I’ll admit that it doesn’t quite reach their heights, but I admire it for taking their sounds and those of their influences and making it into something different and delicious. I’ve read other reviews that say the album is “a bit pre-owned” and “formulaic and predictable,” which is 5% true, but largely I disagree.

I’d also like to point out that sometimes, when someone’s playing from their soul, they channel influences that they don’t even think of as influences. I remember reading, for example, that Wooden Shjips’ Ripley Johnson wasn’t even into Loop or Spacemen 3. When you hear their Loose Lips after Loop’s Be Here Now, it’s surprising, but then again, it’s not. Sometimes great minds think alike independently.

Similarly, Tess has her influences and predecessors, but her stuff stands on its own.

And most importantly, she knows how to rock ‘n roll.

Check out Blood Hot on iTunes or Amazon.

In the meantime, I’ll go see what she got up to with Anton Newcombe.

 

 

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5 Musicians Who Rock As Actors

guitar

People who are primarily musicians sometimes show up in movies as actors.

I was reminded of this when I was just listening to Seven Nation Army, and it occurred to me that Jack White was in Cold Mountain, which, if I remember correctly, I think I liked. He and Meg were, of course, also in Coffee and Cigarettes.

Here are some of my favorites.

1. Tom Waits Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola)

When I think of musicians who rock as actors, the first thing that comes to my mind is Tom Waits as Renfield.

“Oh, yes, A KITTEN!!!!!!”

Tom Waits absolutely rules this scene with gripping groveling drama and hilarity.

2. Iggy Pop Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch)

I think Johnny Depp and Billy Bob are the funniest in this scene, but Iggy Pop makes a hell of a pot of beans, dressed up real perdy in a dress and bonnet.

3. Cher Mermaids (Richard Benjamin)

This is one of my favorite movies. I love it because I love coming-of-age stories of all kinds, and this one dives into the complex dynamics of mother-daughter relationships and unconventional lifestyles. Why have I never read the book?????

Well, I will.

This is definitely a two-way street: Winona Ryder is dynamite here too.

Another of my favorite movies is Moonstruck with Cher. This scene from Moonstruck has nothing to do with musicians, but it’s a hell of a performance.

(BTW, if you think Nicolas Cage is a piece of shit blockbuster hack with blinding white caps, you need to see Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Hooooooooooly shit is that a good fucking movie.)

4. Bob Dylan Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah)

This isn’t a Cher-level performance or anything, but it’s a helluva musician and a helluva director.

5. Jim James & Calexico I’m Not There (Todd Haynes)

Speaking of Bob Dylan, this isn’t acting, exactly. It’s a cameo. But this performance in the Dylan biopic is one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire film. Which is 135 minutes of beautiful scenes.

1 + 2 = Bonus: Pop and Waits Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch)

I love this scene because it’s so hard to stay quit. I’ve said this all: “Since I quit, I feel awesome” and “I feel sorry for those fools who still smoke” and “Now that I’ve quit, I can have one.” And what Iggy says at 4:22….

I’m both forgetting and unaware of a ton. What else? Please share your favorites in the comments.

Top image by Judy van der Velden

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Allah-Las Turned It On at Turner Hall

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In a previous life but during this lifetime, I once ended up at a Brian Jonestown Massacre show early enough to catch the opening act. We’d long felt that the opening bands we happened to catch the tail end of often sucked, so we were blown away by what we heard. It was the Flavor Crystals, and their set was one spectacular jam after another.

Soon after that we saw Sonic Boom/Spectrum, and I believe it was they who had Blank Dogs, who are interesting, opening for them.

So then I stopped assuming and started getting to shows in time to see the opening bands’ full performances.

Last night I was especially excited to see Allah-Las’ openers, The Babe Rainbow, because I love their Planet Junior song. Absolutely love it. That song is catchy and lovely with a mild, heavenly vibe. Live, their set was similar, though mildness reigned. The Babe Rainbow are good musicians and they brought love to their performance, but it wasn’t red-blooded. I think they’ll easily get there in time, though.

And they’re funny. At one point one dude told the audience, “Just so you know, this guy doesn’t have a girlfriend…” And the dude without a girlfriend said “So if you’re sick of doing yoga all by yourself…”

That’s my kind of humor.

After the perfect amount of time to admire the crumbling majesty of Turner Hall Ballroom and get a second round of drinks, the Allah-Las eased onstage with effortless cool. Nothing showy, no hipster shit, just chill talent showing up to bring some solid tunes.

For one second before they started I thought everything might go to hell cuz a bro rushed the stage doing an almost-heckling whoop, but the bro chilled just as the band got to work. Dunno where he went, cuz after that it was mostly bearded/glasses dudes in high risers swaying to sonic bliss.

Allah-Las played songs from all their albums, and everything was good. One thing that’s great about them is that every member sings and plays guitar. While each has their forte, no one monopolizes anything, and no one seems overcome by ego or ownership. On one song the bass player does lead guitar; on another he sings; on one of my absolute favorites the lead singer and the drummer swap roles.

And every time lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian did one of his brief sweet solos, Milwaukee said “Fuck yes.” Fans of under-the-radar bands are often intensely mellow (I think it’s U2 fans who save the screaming for the arenas), but last night the crowd was lively, into it, stomping the floor for the encore.

The band is touring with two support members: a second percussionist laying down extra rhythm, and a Clint Eastwood cat in a cowboy hat on keys and slide guitar. I liked the poncho he had covering his table.

One of the best songs of the show was “Tell Me What’s on Your Mind.” That’s the first Allah-Las song I ever heard, and as much as I liked it, it actually turned out to be my least favorite song on their first album, because that album is packed with fantastic feel-good songs that make you long for the coast, long for the past, and thank God for the present. Live, “Tell Me What’s on Your Mind” was less poppy and more badass. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with poppy, but badass is, well, badass.

They ended with “Long Journey,” which is really pretty much the song to end everything. It caps their first album, and it signed off a rapturous performance.

Top image courtesy of my phone

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Little Fox in the Forest [Book Review]

LittleFOX3

Stephanie Graegin | Schwartz & Wade

This is one of the most wonderful picture books I’ve ever read.

But I didn’t actually READ it.

The story in this wordless picture book is told solely and seamlessly through its illustrations of remarkable tenderness.

On the first page, a girl of about 7 is cozy in bed with her favorite stuffed animal, a little fox. Though her room is very tidy, it reminds me of Eloise’s room at The Plazabecause it’s fun to pour over the page and look at all her stuff: two shelves of books, drawings of unicorns and leaves hanging on the walls, a fishing net drying at the foot of the bed, an easel with a painting of a fox carrying flowers.

The next page shows the girl getting ready for school and then meeting up with her friend, a little boy with glasses. Though no names are given, I’m convinced that this nerdy, sweet, and cool boy’s name is Simon. I just feel it.

Cohesively the illustrations convey that the next day is show-and-tell day at school. The girl goes home and gets her fox ready. She looks through old pictures: Her fox has been her constant companion since she was a baby.

Show-and-tell goes well, and then the girl and her friend stop at the park to play after school. A real fox spies them from behind the bushes.

And then he absconds with the girl’s fox!

The drawings of the real red fox’s flight are a deep delight. All of the drawings are bliss to behold, but this little fox dashing away with his coveted prize is heart-lifting. The girl chases after the red fox, and as they race through the forest and down the hill, you can feel how happy he is to have his own stuffed animal, and how frantic the girl is with worry for her beloved playmate.

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The boy joins the girl in her pursuit. They meet a squirrel who has a little red door at the bottom of a tree, a mouse who lives beside a white-spotted red mushroom, and all kinds of creatures who evoke fairyland and magic.

They then enter “a wondrous and magical world,” and I won’t tell you the restexcept to say that when they find the furtive fox, there is, in his room, an intensely tender and beautiful portrayal of his emotion.

This book shows empathy through pictures. And how the young characters resolve their problemon their ownhas got to be enormously encouraging for young readers. What’s especially cool about the graphic novel format is that children and parents can narrate the story themselves, pointing to the pictures, figuring out what’s happening, strengthening their bond.

Stephanie Graegin’s Little Fox in the Forest is tactile and real, earth-grounding and soulful.

The best children’s books have deep emotional atmospheres where kids are safe to feel a range of emotions through the characters. And they have primal tones that immerse kids in coziness and warmth.

This book has all that.

And for some reason it smells fantastic, like Cray-Pas and art supplies. It smells like coloring when you were 6, and playing with toys, and reading books, and taking naps.

When I finished it I sat with it in silence for a while. Because the little fox’s forest is a place where words are not necessary.

LittleFoxForestJACKET

Images from Stephanie Graegin’s website and Amazon.com

PS. A cool thing about the little fox is that while I assume he’s a boy, it doesn’t matter. What he is is just a wonderful fox.

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Killer Creamy Broccoli Soup

broccoli

I saw this recipe 50 years ago on Hell’s Kitchen or some Gordon Ramsay show or another.

4 ingredients:

  • Broccoli
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Steam some broccoli, then blend it with the cooking water and salt and pepper.

Simple, and crazy good.

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Shen Yun: Not What I Expected

Last year a friend went to see Shen Yun, and she told me it was one of the most uplifting and life-affirming things she’d ever seen.

For years I’d seen the green poster of the woman doing the splits in the air, so this year I decided to go. I love dance and acrobatics and ancient cultures, so I was excited.

The show opened with some skilled dancing, but to my surprise it was underwhelming. The dancing was certainly deft, but the choreography was not particularly engaging. It was even a bit bland.

So was the music.

After a three-minute dance, a young Chinese-American host and hostess came on stage. The guy wore what looked like a cheap black suit with a royal blue tie, and he greeted the audience with a schmaltzy inflection. The girl wore a pretty green traditional dress and translated the guy’s speech into Chinese. Their role was to recount the dance for the audience, and their performance was like something from a game show, rife with the cheese of Pat and Vanna. They introduced the next dance in a stagey cadence, and then the dude led the chick offstage with an affected, grandiose gesture of “ladies first” that was supposed to evoke the charm of yesteryear.

The second dance was pretty cool. A troupe of female dancers moved with grace and beauty, their long sleeves flowing like ribbons.

And then after three minutes young Pat and Vanna came back on stage. They recounted the ribbons dance and introduced the next.

The third dance was also cool. A troupe of male dancers moved with grace and elegance to a story about ancient warriors. There were even some impressive jumps and tumbling, where one dancer would do three or four flips with astounding agility.

This is what I was hoping for, I thought.

And then after three minutes young Pat and Vanna came back on stage. They recounted the previous dance and introduced the next, profuse with their hammy intonations and har-har jokes that the audience seemed to enjoy.

They did this every three minutes, after every dance, until after about five times I started to recoil every time a dance was about to end.

Meanwhile, the sets were getting more and more distressing. From the beginning they had been disturbing, because instead of being enchanting like this . . .

. . . they were digitized like bad CGI, and almost all of them were artless.

There are video games from 1996 that look more high quality and less cheesy.

And video games are clearly what the producers of Shen Yun were going for, because everyone loves video games, and no one can sit still for longer than three minutes.

Right?

I don’t know. I don’t have strong feelings about video games, and I think I could watch a continuous performance for at least 11 minutes.

Then young Pat and Vanna came out again–again interrupting the act; again interrupting the little video-game figure that shot up into the clouds of some high-mountain palace that could have been cool had it been designed well . . .

And pandering Pat said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have traveled from the Han dynasty to other worlds to underwater lands to the outer reaches of Mongolia and much more. And now we travel . . . to the bathroom.”

Ba-dump-bump.

The audience roared.

Well they didn’t quite roar, but they laughed. They clapped. They liked it.

Outside for some air, I apologized to my friend for dragging him to see this. We’d spent $90 each, plus $15 on parking.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I had no idea it was going to be like this.”

He shrugged. Because, as he said, “It’s what I expected. I figured it would be kinda middlebrow, sort of like Riverdance.”

Riverdance. I had never seen it, and didn’t even have a clear idea of what it was, but something about the word evoked for me everything I needed to know about the reality of this production.

“Why didn’t you tell me!” I said. “Riverdance! That’s all you needed to say! You coulda saved 90 bucks!”

“I thought you knew,” he said.

My friend who has highfalutin highbrow taste and knows I have highfalutin highbrow taste too thought I knew that this was going to be like Riverdance, and agreed to pay $90 to come and see the Chinese equivalent of Riverdance.

He’s so nice!

Well the dancing was good enough that we were both OK with heading back in for the second half. We conducted ourselves past the languid ushers in their burgundy polyester blazers, treaded over the 80s plush carpeting that clashed with the 1909 interior, raced past a woman in a fur coat and a man in a toupee, and made it back to our $90 seats in time for Pat and Vanna to introduce the umbrella dance.

This one had turquoise dresses and yellow umbrellas, and I love that combination of colors.

The dance was cool too. Like many of the women’s dances, it reminded me of the synchronized swimming in Esther Williams films.

Of course, as Pat and Vanna explained, classical Chinese dance is similar to ballet and acrobatics and synchronized dances of all sorts, but predates them by thousands of years.

They also informed us that Shen Yun is a New-York-based company, which makes a lot of sense. I’d assumed it was a troupe of acrobats and dancers based in China. (Turns out they’re banned in China, and often accused in the West of propaganda.)

One of the highlights of the performance was when the music happened to get good. The Western orchestra was momentarily quiet, and Xiaochun Qi played the erhu. There was soul in her music, and beauty in her strings.

Then there were more neat dances with handkerchiefs, fans, and bowls.

As before, the dances were adept, but the CGI got even more bizarre. There was a point toward the end where something exploded and virtual boulders burst apart in a digital corniness, which we weren’t sure was a volcano erupting or a nuclear bomb exploding.

I laughed, and then there was a skilled dance, and then Pat and Vanna thanked us for coming, and the show was over.

All in all, the dancers themselves were good, but everything else was lacking.

There were not as many acrobatics as I expected. Sometimes the dances were too consciously whimsical. Often they seemed to underuse the performers’ abilities. The music was flat. And the CGI backdrops were third-rate.

I guess I expected maybe 6 seamless vignettes (or one continuous story) with cool sets like this:

And rhythmic music like this:

But Pat and Vanna said that Shen Yun puts on a different program every year. So maybe my friend who recommended it really did see a great show last year.

And maybe there will be an awesome production next year where every element truly matches the talent of the dancers.

But really I think I’ll have better luck seeing a different troupe sometime, like the one in the video above.

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Natural Pain Reliever: A Killer Remedy for Advanced Pain Management

natural-pain-killer

You know that OTC and prescription pain meds are toxic. And sometimes they don’t even really work anyway.

So you’ve tried all kinds of natural pain relievers.

You’ve tried Epsom salt baths. Magnesium oil. Essential oils like lavender, wintergreen, peppermint, and ginger. You’ve taken omega-3 fatty acids and proteolytic enzymes to digest proteins like kinin and fibrin. You’ve tried collagen, chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM. You’ve made bone broth. You’ve taken turmeric pills, St. John’s Wort, white willow bark, cramp bark, arnica, you name it. You’ve had massage, you’ve been to PT, you’ve tried chiropractic, you’ve had Reiki, and you’ve sprung for acupuncture.

These things help, but the pain always comes back.

So it seems like you’ve tried all the natural pain relievers out there.

And nothing really works.

Yet your head is throbbing. The pain in your back wakes you up. Or your child’s suffering with a broken arm is causing your entire family pain.

And it’s so bad that the person who’s in pain can’t even do the therapeutic stuff that everyone says is good for preventing pain, like yoga and PT exercises and swimming.

Your pain acts up when you run too, or when you lift weights, or when you do Pilates, or whatever forms of exercise you’ve always LOVED to do.

So where do you go from here?

I’ve tried all that stuff too, and struggled for three years with back pain that wouldn’t go away. And it only got worse when I tried to stretch or rebuild all the muscle I’d lost from not doing my favorite exercises anymore.

And I’d already addressed my diet. I’d been gluten free for 15 years. Dairy-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free. Mostly paleo for all that time.

So the next step I took is I eliminated nightshades. Particularly potatoes. Also tobacco.

And around that time I also started Muscle Activation Therapy (MAT).

That all helped a lot.

A LOT.

And then I read about turmeric essential oil. According to DrAxe.com, it’s awesome for reducing arthritis and joint issues.

And I found that it’s spectacular for muscle pain too.

As a topical treatment, it’s a natural pain reliever that works.

Mix two drops of turmeric essential oil with a carrier oil or lotion, slather it on the site of your pain, and feel that pain dissolve.

I’m not kidding. It also improves your mood. Probably because it relieves pain.

Because when you’re not in pain anymore, you can enjoy life again.

I love Advanced Bio-Curcumin by Life Extension. It helps a ton when you take the pills.

But there is something about applying turmeric oil topically that really does the trick.

Young Living and Doterra don’t sell turmeric oil. And my favorite essential oil provider, Veriditas, doesn’t sell it either.

So I use this 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil by Healing Solutions.

A couple weeks ago my back got hurt again. For two days I had to work (remotely) in child’s pose. On the third day, the pain was starting to ease on its own, and it finally occurred to me to rub turmeric oil on the injured spot. The turmeric oil knocked the remaining pain out, and on the fourth day I was much better. I kept at it for several days afterwards, until I felt complete relief.

Now every body is different, so I’m not guaranteeing your results. I’m not a doctor either, so take my recommendation with a grain of salt. I know my stuff about firsthand natural healing, but I’m in no position to be regarded as an expert for you.

But if you go the natural route and you’ve tried just about everything, give turmeric oil a shot!

What have you tried for natural pain relief? What works for you? Let me know–I’m always looking for solutions.

Top image by Flickr user Steven Jackson

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