Friday, May 31, 2013

In Sickness and Health


The enormity of the task of taking care of oneself is astonishing.  The world is riddled with opportunity for indulgence and bad behavior but sorely lacking in instant gratification for the making of good choices.  It seems that many if not most of us wait until some kind of crisis, either in our own lives of in those of a loved one, to make fundamental changes to our way of life.  I consider this a kind of health and lifestyle rock bottom, in which none of us knows how bad it really has to get before we decide to change our behaviors.  For some of us, an annual checkup revealing high blood pressure is enough to cut back on salt or those long overtime days.  For others, we need to gain 150 pounds or be put on oxygen before we budge from our norms.  In this respect, I hope for the wisdom to make good choices long before the warning bells and whistles begin to sound.  I want a long life for I have many things to do.

Whatever it is, that thing you do that is no good for you at all, put it down and walk away.

The leading causes of death in the U.S. according to the CDC:

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

All in the Family II


The production of Swiss Family Robinson I wrote about here a few weeks ago is set to open July 9th at the Pershing Square Signature Center.  At last update they were beside themselves with glee talking about the enormous amount of talent coming in to audition.  Part of what is exciting about the New York Musical Theater Festival is that once these up and comers are chosen, there's a race to complete the show in time for opening night.  For the audience it means getting a behind the scenes look at the creative process and enormous amount of collaboration and hard work that goes into a production such as this.

What it means for the talented and enthusiastic creators is that they need not only to get the thing done and get it done well, but they also need to generate an enormous amount of support in a very short period of time.  So check it out, send them a contribution or just like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.  

Everyone deserves their shot.

New York Musical Theater Festival Website:

Swiss Family Musical Website:

Swiss Family Musical Facebook:

Swiss Family on Twitter:

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Summer Bounty


Today I opened the last jar of jam from summer, just in time.  I am surprised it lasted us the year. The strawberry season was short and the berries less tasty than they might have been but out we went anyway to pick, to begin the harvest season with an abundance of sweet.  

I love the ritual picking, mashing, and preserving that comes with summer.  I love opening a jar of summer jam on a cold December night and breathing in the sweet smell of warmer days.  I love tucking a cool jar of jam in next to warm pies and cookies as winter presents.  I love the way in which a jar of jam contains all my sensory memories of happy, simple days of abundance.  The sweet life in one last jar.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The War Dead


While it may be a lauded American tradition to take to the woods with our RV's, barbecues, and beer over the Memorial Day weekend, this year, according to the AAA three percent less of us actually did so.  Perhaps it was the weather, the high price of gas, or simply our 21st Century disconnect from the outdoors, but AAA was right, the campgrounds were ghost towns this weekend.  What were hopping though, were the  postage-stamp sized cemetery's of our rural communities.  This weekend those tiny memorials overflowed with blooms, family's, and babes in arms being taught to pay their respects.  I saw clutches of older men in lawn chairs circling the grave site of a lost war buddy and mothers and daughters standing silent at the foot of their solider husbands and fathers.  

We are a military-driven industrial complex.  For whatever reasons we have, as a culture, become decidedly and increasingly violent in our approach to globalization and the procurement and protection of our way of life.  We pay for these things in people.

The American Military War Dead:

Major U.S. War CasualtiesU.S. DeathsWoundedDate
Iraq War4,80031,9652003 – 2011
Afghanistan1,8039,9712001 – Present
Gulf War2588491990 – 1991
Vietnam War58,209153,3031955 – 1975
Korean War36,51692,1341950 – 1953
World War II405,399670,8461941 – 1945
World War I116,516204,0021917 – 1918
Civil War625,000281,8811861 – 1865
American Revolutionary War25,00025,0001775 – 1783
All U.S. Conflict CasualitesU.S DeathsWoundedMissing
Grand Total1,343,8121,529,23038,159


Friday, May 24, 2013

Hang On Tight


There are so many things we cannot prepare for, anticipate, or control in our lives.  The truth is, we do not know the hand we will be dealt or the things that may conspire against us.  But what we can do is cherish one another, be present in the lives of those we love, and make as many good choices as we can along the way so that when something does happen, we can face it and hold strong.  Be good to yourselves.  Practice gratitude and peace making.  Take comfort, for these things too, shall pass.

Edgar Allen Poe's the Raven:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hold Your Tongue


Sometimes there is altogether too much talking.  Perhaps today is a good day to neglect our words and try to simply be, at peace, in the world.

The Tibetan Monk Throat Singers, listen:

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And Now The Dancing Boys


Tribal Fest 13 will stand in history as the year of the men.  Paige Lawrence and Frank Farinaro's (among many others) Uru Tribe became the first all-male belly dance troupe to perform at Tribal Fest, and they brought down the house.  This was not a one-off, and the performance was not ground breaking just because of the novelty of gender.  What Frank and all the other men of Tribal Fest are doing is defining a new and decidedly male aesthetic in an art form that has been centered around feminine beauty standards for over a hundred years.  That men are capable of the same isolation and fluidity of movement as their female counterparts is obvious, but what they brought to this years event was a masculine fierceness true to many tribal dance forms.  And it has been a long time coming.  The enthusiasm and support for these ground breaking dancers is a testament to the tribal belly dance community's commitment to embracing movers of all kinds and the concept of dance as a living, evolving form.  

In their own words:

 "Sisters, this is all your fault.  We are here because you have shown us the kindness, acceptance and encouragement we need to pursue this dance as a life path.  You are the ones who made us feel welcome, who taught us to find our own unique voices and we are here today sisters because we stand on your shoulders."

To Watch the Uru Tribe:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

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Jeffe Weil

Tribal Fest is a registered trademark.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Keeling Curve


The Keeling curve is the data plot used to keep track of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  The Keeling curve data has been continuously collected from the top of Hawaii's Mauna Loa since 1958.  Prior to the industrial revolution atmospheric carbon dioxide levels had not reached above 300 ppm in over 500,000 years.  Climate scientists for years have found consensus on one point, that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in excess of 350 ppm will begin positive feedback loops that will place climate change, and more importantly, it's reversal, well out of our control.  Two weeks ago the Keeling curve crossed 400 ppm.

It is time to start preparing for drastic and irreversible environmental and climactic change.  


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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Show Me Your Belly


One of the most amazing things about the annual belly dance festival Tribal Fest is the body art.  The dancers at this event, if you were to line them up, would constitute one of the most amazing living works of art in the world.  It certainly stands as the most epic display of body art, tattoos, piercings, henna, and adornments that I have ever seen.  I think that this speaks to the role of individuation, personal expression, and the body as art in belly dance culture.  That everyone is accepted and celebrated at this event is part of what makes it special.  Dancers that may seem unusual or outside the norm in their daily lives are suddenly a part of the flock at Tribal Fest.  And this is important.  Having a place to authentically be oneself is a rare and precious thing in the modern western world, it promotes positive self esteem and empowerment, and provides dancers with a sense of acceptance and legitimacy that they can carry with them into the rest of their lives.

Dance on my inked boys and girls, dance on. 

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Carolena Nericcio


An amazing interview with Carolena Nericcio, the inventor of synchronized group improvisation and the most important dance innovator of the early 21st century.  Carolena is the artistic director of Fat Chance Belly Dance, a professional belly dance troupe that has been performing for more than 25 years.  That Carolena chose belly dance for her innovations in dance making speaks to the modern resurgence of the folkloric form.     That modern concert dance still refuses to acknowledge this important and popular dance form mystifies me.  

Listen to Carolena discuss improvisation, call and response, and the making of a belly dancer.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Domicile Unknown


I can barely have a conversation about the environment anymore.  It usually ends with me illustrating ten ways humans are doomed because of our own bad behavior and whomever I am talking to in a huff because I will not let them think that recycling more and driving a Prius is going to help.  Global environmental change, climate and otherwise has been fast and devastating since the early 1980's.  Much of it is irreversible on human timescales.  See for yourself:

Google Time Lapse Images of Global Change:

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hard and Steady


I have a hard time expressing to even those that know me well just how hard it is to dance and train day after day.  Typically, people are over-impressed when they first hear that you dance all day and treat you like an invalid, only to assume later that since you do it every day you must not be tired at all. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  From the archives of Life Magazine, "The Hard and Steady Work of Dancers"

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Camper Van


My father refuses to even think about getting an RV or camper of any kind, regardless of how much he might enjoy himself with it, because he thinks that only Republicans use RVs.  I myself should hate RVs because I come from a long tradition of outdoors roughing it types that preach about sleeping on bare ground and haul our own waste for miles through the back country.  But I am getting old and where I was once able to sleep in comfort in my tent I now just really want an air mattress.  In reality, I do not think that I was ever really comfortable, I think that I was just young and tough and determined not to look like I could not handle it.  Funny how we can let a stereotypes limit even such simple things as comfort and recreation.  When really, who cares?

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Of Gods and Men


Here is an excellent example of exactly how twisted American culture and perspective has become.

At a stadium speaking event with the Dalai Lama recently at which I could only look around and think, "This is why we can't have nice things."

Concession stands open, selling a steady stream of corn dogs.

Sorority girl with high heels, mini skirt, and giant tub of popcorn.

The University President choosing to make "branding" the first interaction with the Dalai Lama.

Every Catholic priest in attendance, presumably in an attempt to not be outdone by the Dalai Lama and his monk brigade in their red robes, dressed in full white and green vestments.

Upset Facebook conversations when the Dalai Lama reveals himself to be exactly what he is, human.  Especially strange as he specifically discussed his own need to be seen as just another person, that being seen as the Dalai Lama can only create loneliness.

Ten thousand white, middle class liberals jumping up and down, waving their arms and yelling at the Dalai Lama, because that is what Americans do when they get excited.  This too, was something the Dalai Lama had just said we could stop doing so much of, suggesting more moderation of behavior.

Perhaps we all need to accept the idea that, just like us, the Dalai Lama is no more than a simple human being, and should be treated as such.  To expect a message more groundbreaking than that from a Buddhist monk is certainly missing the point.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Friends and Benefits


My mother always told me to be careful how you treated people because while you never know what they carry on their plate, you can be sure that it is full.  I always thought she was talking about strangers but sometimes we need to be aware of how this plays out with people closer to us as well.  Some notes on friends:

If they are busy, keep calling.  If you are busy, keep calling.

While friends are great sounding boards, remember to also use them to celebrate the best of your life, not complain about the worst.

Assume that as friends they mean no harm and approach discussion, disagreements and misunderstandings as such.

If you know you do not agree on a topic, choose someone else to discuss it with.

Assume you know only what they choose to show you, and consider the possibility that life has its ups and downs for everyone.

Thank them, often.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Curiosity and the Cat


On December 6, 1917 the people of Halifax were drawn to their windows by a large fire on the river.  a French munitions ship had collided with a Norwegian ship and burst into flames.  When the munitions finally caught fire the resulting explosion was the largest ever recorded prior to the nuclear age.  Every building within a half mile of the blast was destroyed and over 2000 people were killed.  So much water was vaporized from the heat of the explosion that the floor of the harbor was temporarily exposed.  A tsunami related to the event destroyed an entire native fishing village.  Among the most common injuries to survivors and perhaps the most complicating part of the immediate response: blindness.  They had been drawn to the windows to watch the fire.  The shock from the blast shattered glass panes for close to a mile around the site.  How fragile we are.  What a delicate grasp we have on our tranquility.  The reach of our own innocence can be astounding.

Anita Shreve brings the events of the Halifax explosion to vivid life in her novel A Wedding in December


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sabotage Cat

Since the beginning of the 20th century the black sabotage cat has been used as a symbol of direct action related to workers rights movements and anti-industrialism.  While there are few modern convictions using Federal sabotage laws, they were an important step in the progression of the American legal system towards the erosion of free speech, personal freedoms, and the collective agency of the 99%.  But our colloquial understanding of the term is far afield from its original use or application

Merriam Webster defines sabotage in the following ways:
1  : destruction of an employer's property (as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers

: destructive or obstructive action carried on by a civilian or enemy agent to hinder a nation's war effort
a : an act or process tending to hamper or hurt

b : deliberate subversion

What I think is interesting about these definitions is that the term is so evidently related to the workplace and the relationship between the worker and the employer.  I also think that the emphasis on destruction in the modern definition is interesting as there is little historical evidence to support destruction as an integral element of sabotage.  Sabotage was,  in fact, the first step towards progressive direct action, modern non-violent confrontation, and collective bargaining.  I think about terms such as terrorism, homeland security, strike, and occupy and wonder how their definitions will be changed in time, and if they will still serve their purpose.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fear of No God


Living in the shadow of the United States has taken a toll on Mexico, especially in the drug-addled North where cartels rule the streets, the economy and even the prisons.  Mexican prisons are not like the ones in the States, they are worlds unto themselves.  They have stores and apartments frying pans and wives.  While the perimeters may seem to be controlled by the guards, the interiors of Mexican prisons are large, lawless housing complexes with stores, amenities, and well-established pecking orders.  Mexican prisons are worlds unto themselves, and filled with desperate, hopeless, and powerful men.  There is so much wrong with the Mexican prison system that I am unable to articulate my objections.  I just think that it is really scary and not at all a place for people.

Damien Cave wrote an amazing article describing the Mexican prison system through the eyes of one brave Catholic priest:


Monday, May 6, 2013

Wait and Watch (III)


I love the simple act of hope that is the filling of a new bird feeder.  I love the idea of this modern ritual of offering, with no expectation of ownership or relationship.  There is something exciting about the anticipation of a new feeder.  I remember over the years the feeders at my parents house changing, morphing over time in accordance with their waxes and wanes of time, energy, and interest.  There were seeds for finches and sparrows, suet for nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers, and sweet nectar for hummingbirds.  Each feeder was carefully placed away from harm and visible from a window.  On sunny spring days my parents would finish their cup of coffee in silence, watching together the gathering of the neighborhood flock.  Now I too, sit and wait, watching for the world to notice my simple gift.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Rinse and Repeat


Some dances are their own beasts.  They stay somehow just barely out of reach or shift so as to make you lose the grasp of one phrase just as you master some other.  This is especially true if they push against tempo or cycle rather than repeat.  Sometimes even a dance that you yourself have created can elude you in its particulars of timing and execution.  

And sometimes you find it.  Sometimes you simply set yourself comfortably into the movement, listen, wait, and find the timing.  

Donna Mejia, Midnight in the Studio:

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Love Me


It is easy to get caught up in the drudgery of daily life; perhaps even unavoidable.  Things, in fact, do need to get done.  But we need to remember that life happens in real time and we only get to do it once.  Take time, enjoy the people you love, practice gratitude.  

Here Comes the Sun:

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Put Em' Up


Are arguments about conflict or resolution? My experience is that it depends on who the argument is with.  You boyfriend or boss? Probably about resolution.  Some random guy in traffic or a no-name classmate?  More likely conflict.  For the former:

1) Breath.  Your emotions have already gotten the best of you, it is part of what defines arguments, so take a moment.

2) Be nice.  Once you have said it you can never take it back.  Is it worth causing long-term damage to a relationship because of a disagreement or a bout of grumpiness? No, it almost never is.

3) Own it.  Whatever it is, just own it and say sorry.  If everyone takes a little bit of responsibility then no one feels entirely to blame and everyone's feelings are validated.

4) Forgive. Otherwise put as; do not pout.  Also, do not do the extended version, bringing up old arguments during new arguments.  Focus on the issue at hand, have your feelings, be heard, and then let it go.

5) Laugh.  Go out of your way to ease tension after an argument, crack a joke, smile, let the other person know that you are moving on.

Smile kids! It's all gonna be okay.

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