Category Archives: Culture

Not Happy? Maybe It’s Your Culture

Another fascinating documentary, “Happy,” entered my consciousness yesterday. It talks about what makes for happiness. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “flow” — if not, the movie is an excellent primer. But beyond flow, the film also provides research about how little social status and money (above a certain basic minimum for health and safety) really have to do with happiness. Parts that were particularly intriguing were the descriptions of Co-housing in Denmark, and how people there report record high levels of happiness and contentment. Co-housing exists in America, but not at all to the degree it does in Denmark. It might be an interesting model for Americans to allow into their field of vision, now that we have suffered a massive economic downturn and many people have lost their homes to foreclosure. Maybe we could even try a co-housing development with the bond money that will be on the Rhode Island ballot this November.

Please Joe, Say it’s The Onion

Joe. My. God. reports that Fifty Shades of Grey is a magazine.

Ew, I say. This is scarier than Marabel Morgan answering the door in Saran Wrap.

SIGHTING: There it was on the magazine rack at the Stop and Shop. I don’t get it, but I didn’t get Martha Stewart Living either. I guess it’s a phenom.

Donna Summer at Karate Camp

My memory of Donna Summer is from the 80′s– a class at Special Training, an annual women’s martial arts camp. The teacher, a charismatic and beautiful black woman named Tonie Harris, talked about living in the projects, and finding inspiration in a Bruce Lee film. She wanted to do that too, and fought her way up the belts to the respected title of Sensei.

It was a buzz for me to take lessons from a female sensei. That honorific title had only applied to men in the dojos I belonged to.

Tonie was an inspiration, and very much admired. She mentioned that she was engaged to a man and I heard a sound like ice tinkling– lesbian hearts were breaking all around me.

In my previous experience of karate school, warm-up for classes was an endurance contest. Push-ups on wooden floors to the sound of grunting and Sensei barking in Japanese (with a Rhode Island accent). The female senseis at Special Training were more innovative and inclined to add music to workouts–a new thing for me. Tonie was a big fan of Donna Summer. She played Donna’s hit song, ‘Love to Love You Baby’ to the class of about 100 gathered in an athletic field outside a college gym.

My fellow elderly will understand why I had always found that song embarrassing. But that day I discovered the power of context. I already knew that Donna Summer was a very smart and sensitive woman, from hearing her interviewed on the radio. ‘Love to Love You Baby’ may have meant one thing in the disco. In a room full of powerful women doing kata, Donna Summer’s song was an anthem.

I am sorry for the passing of Donna Summer, but she was a diva. She really lived. She left something beautiful to the world. We should all hope to do as well.

Kiersten Marek:

Upcoming workshop!

Originally posted on Therapy with Kiersten Marek, LICSW:

UPDATE:  This workshop starts tonight!  Looking forward to it!

Innocent ❂ Wounded Child

Warrior  ❂ Caregiver

Explorer ❂ Soul Mate  ❂ Destroyer  ❂ Artist

Leader ❂ Guru ❂ Healer  ❂ Fool

“Creative Writing Through the Archetypes”

a 6-Week Writing Workshop

When:  starting Thursday, April 5th, 2012, from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Where:  William H. Hall Free Library,

1825 Broad Street, Cranston RI

To Register:  Contact Kiersten Marek at kiersten.marek@gmail.com

This workshop will use the archetypes as inspiration for writing exercises. Each week we will review two archetypes and do two writing exercises. We will end with sharing and discussion. This workshop is free and sponsored by The Newport Review and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Participation is limited to 14 members.

About Kiersten Marek:  Kiersten is a psychotherapist, blogger and fiction writer living in Cranston.  She has written fiction for print and online publications and has…

View original 43 more words

Urban Legends and Knowing What to Do in a Crisis

Your Kmareka correspondent is one of the few with the courage to say it out loud. I hate Christmas. I would gladly skip the whole thing for adults. Children should not be cheated out of their presents and Christmas joy of course, but let’s buy them some toys and the rest of us have cocktail parties and eat samosas. There, I’ve said it.

But as Scroogy as I am, I don’t totally buy into the flip side of American Christmas –bemoaning our greed and materialism. Although this story is true, I sense a touch of the Urban Legend…

Family and friends were stunned by the loss of a West Virginia man who died while shopping on Black Friday as fellow bargain hunters reportedly walked around — and even over — the man’s body.

Family members told WSAZ-TV that 61-year-old Walter Vance of Logan County, W. Va., had become ill and collapsed while shopping for Christmas decorations inside Target in South Charleston. He later died after being taken to the hospital, family said.

Witnesses told the NBC News affiliate in Charleston, W. Wa., that shoppers walked around and even over Vance’s body.

It’s a fact of human nature, and cause for much anguish after the fact, that we tend not to understand or deal well with the unexpected. I have witnessed people collapsing in public, only to be surrounded by concerned bystanders within seconds. The crucial requirement is that the bystanders recognize a crisis and have a script for how to respond. Mr. Vance had the misfortune to have an emergency out of context. I think that most of the crowd of deranged Christmas shoppers simply did not recognize what they were seeing. But Mr. Vance was helped by some people who knew what to do…

An E.R. nurse who also happened to be shopping at the store tried to administer CPR. She and an off-duty paramedic tried to help Vance while he was on the floor.

I’ll be the first to say, ‘Bah, humbug’ to Black Friday. But I think the tragic demise of Walter Vance was more a stroke of fate than an American morality tale.

Celebrity Debris

After running around to three libraries in the freezing cold all last week your Kmareka correspondent has been struck down with a sinus infection.

I’m stuck in bed, reading a lot of Agatha Christie– mistress of distraction, storyteller extraordinaire. Her mysteries don’t actually make any sense, but who cares? I’m not up to anything that requires mental effort.

This week’s New Yorker has a short profile on Crystal Harris, the 24 year old almost college graduate who is engaged to the 84 year old Hugh Hefner. She gave up everything to be with him…

“I was a psychology major, and I didn’t want to be a psychologist,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to come up here and just, you know, hang with Hef. School will always be there, I guess.” Read more

Agatha Christie could have made this stuff up, and she’s a genre writer.

I wish Crystal Harris every happiness, and I want to give her some words of encouragement. Men are living longer these days.

I only see the old people who are sick, so you can extrapolate that there are more well people I never meet. It’s not so unusual to encounter a dude over 90 who still has his marbles.

Any man or woman who makes it past 80 in decent shape has a strong constitution and a good shot at making it to 100. The oldest man I ever took care of was 105, and feisty enough to demand that the items on his bureau be rearranged every ten minutes. How lucky that Hef is loved by a woman with the youth and energy to take care of such needs. And how lucky that his wealth can provide for the many necessities that consume the savings of a lifetime. Hef will even be able to try expensive and experimental cutting edge treatments for longevity. Dick Cheney, I have heard, is bionic. With any luck, it will all come out even and Crystal will not begin her middle age in debt.

If she survives her husband, Crystal will still be young enough to finish school. She’ll have learned so much about psychology by then.

I wish them a long and happy union.

Any more celebrity debris I can find to take my mind off phlegm and congestion will go into updates here.

IN RELATED NEWS: Sr. Cecilia Adorni celebrated her 103rd birthday by dancing a polka. She’s still working. They have her picture and she doesn’t look a day over 90.

You Can’t Take the Sky From Me

The Year of the Rabbit is off to a good start. Joss Wheeden’s ‘Firefly’, the only TV worth watching with the exception of some PBS documentaries and most episodes of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ has emerged from the black hole of series cancellation…

(EW.com) — Browncoats rejoice: “Firefly” is returning to basic cable — and Nathan Fillion has something to say about it.

The Science Channel has acquired the rights to the cult-hit and will air the series in its short-lived entirety, plus some new extras. Science Channel will wrap each episode with interstitial segments starring renowned physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, who will discuss the theoretical science behind the show’s sci-fi concepts.

Nathan Filion, Firefly’s Capt. Mal Reynolds, would love to star in future episodes. I vote for a script that pre-dates the timeline of the movie Serenity so that Alan Tudyk and Ron Glass can resume their roles without doing some hokey Star Trek back from the dead kind of thing. When Joss kills off a character, they stay dead, unless they’re undead.

I have a science crush on Michio Kaku, so I might locate where I threw my TV when Firefly was cancelled by the dastardly Fox and fire it up again.

Gong Hei Fat Choy

I’m just back from Vermont–celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, which officially began on February 3, but is a ten day festival, so you can eat a chocolate bunny on Valentines Day if you want.

Vermont has more snow than Rhode Island, and more fell every day. I learned how to make some Chinese recipes, which will cut my food budget and make several restaurants sad.

The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be more peaceful and people will be more engaged with their families. We’ve just finished the Year of the Tiger, so expect a different vibe.

I’m glad for good friends and two New Year’s parties every year.

Paul Di Filipo, Local Author

Just a short break from political spitball fights to praise a fellow Rhode Islander.

Paul Di Filipo is a science fiction writer whose clever disguise as a regular guy you see walking around the East Side conceals great literary accomplishments…

Paul Di Filippo is the author of hundreds of short stories, some of which have been collected in these widely-praised collections: The Steampunk Trilogy, Ribofunk, Fractal Paisleys, Lost Pages, Little Doors, Strange Trades, Babylon Sisters, and his multiple-award-nominated novella, A Year in the Linear City. Another earlier collection, Destroy All Brains, was published by Pirate Writings, but is quite rare because of the extremely short print run (if you see one, buy it!).

I have a copy of ‘Lost Pages’, a collection of stories set in the decades from the 20′s to the 60′s, riffing on what might have been. It’s very good. I’ve read the whole book except for one chapter, the one starring Anne Frank. Paul’s writing is so powerful I’m afraid of facing Anne in his fictional world.

I had no idea he had so many other books in print. I’ll look for them. There’s nothing more fun than discovering a new sci-fi writer.

Paul is a literary critic on Salon.com, a site that hires real writers. ‘Is Science Fiction Dying?’. See Paul’s answer here.

Good News for Inner City Art

It will be good to see the Black Rep space on Westminster St. open again…

PROVIDENCE — A nonprofit arts group, led by well-known Rhode Island storyteller Len Cabral, plans to use the former Providence Black Repertory Company building at 276 Westminster St. for a café and performance space called the Westminster Roots Cafe.

Cabral is board chairman of Providence Inner City Arts, which will operate the café. Cabral said the organization will present theater, storytelling, music, dance, poetry and community workshops in the new space, which he hopes to open sometime in March.

Part of the group’s mission is to showcase diversity within the city, he said, and he hopes to team up with local arts groups, libraries and educators.

Cabral said Providence Inner City Arts is best known for presenting the Florentine Faire and other community arts events throughout the city in the ’70s and ’80s.

I’m an admirer of Len and his gifted family. I think I saw him at the very first Florentine Faire, in a vacant lot on Thayer St. He was dressed like he walked out of a Shakespeare play, and he was wearing a sword. We roasted potatoes over a fire in a 50-gallon drum. It was cold.

If there’s anyone who can create something from found objects and inspiration it’s Len. The former Westminster Mall is becoming the city center it tried to be twenty years ago. Good luck, Len and friends.

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