The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part II)

Natty befunky.comMy friend Natty concludes (for now) guest-blogging this week. More about the man in my introductory post.

Things were going well in May.  The late spring in San Francisco sees plenty of sun light which always makes me feel more chipper, more productive, more optimistic.  I had just finished a fun set of performances and was heading into the summer, which meant that I would be making more money serving fried shrimp to tourists.

I had spent a couple of weeks out of the gym after a very bad groin pull and everything now seemed aligned (finances, art making, weather, health, and time) to focus on myself.  I even stopped dating a lovely gent, with his blessing, so as to keep this time all about loving myself.

I spent several hours composing the email that I shared in Part I of this blog.  And then I got to it. Read more The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part II)

The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part I)

nattyMy friend Natty is guest-blogging this week. More about the man in my introductory post.

The self-help industry alone is a testament to the common experience of struggling to change, but in May of this year I had a moment of clarity that motivated me to set out on a self-improvement experiment that defied the very phrase, ‘self-help’.  Filled with an energizing optimism I sent an email to 10 of my closest friends, a supportive dream team.

Read more The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part I)

Natty is my guest blogger this week

nattyNathaniel “Natty” Justiniano is a friend I knew only briefly in Nashville, but we’ve stayed in touch for almost three years in different parts of the country. He is one of those people who has an attentive ear and a genuine concern for people – even the ones he has just met. Last year, he founded the Naked Empire Bouffon Company in San Francisco, an ensemble-based theatre company dedicated to the training, research, and performance of bouffon.

He has agreed to share some of his recent life experiences and philosophy – right up my alley. Look forward to a couple of posts this week from the Artistic Director of NEBC… starting with:
The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part I)

9/29 UPDATE:
If part 1 grabbed you, part 2 will really get you thinking. He is a pleasure to read, and it is an honor to have him share his thoughts here.
The Thriving Natty Dream Team (Part II)

How a hellish climate change meetup taught me to find my own way

J. R. and J. J.I met J. R. less than a year ago through The Great Michael Vine. J. R. shares my burden of saving the world. He is a lab rat and freelance journalist and writes for Scientific American and LiveScience. His book about the universe was published in 2009. Follow him on

Hello, readers!! Are you ready to rock?! ‘Cause I am. This is my first ever stint as a Guest Blogger, so big ups to J.J. for knowing quality when he sees it. If you like what you read here, check out my blog A Fistful of Science. Now let’s get down to it.

I’ve become increasingly interested over the past year in playing a more active role in my community. The big watershed for me was the death of Pops Minkel (my dad) in 2009. I realized how much of my grumpy attitude had come from him, and faced with the prospect of turning to “shit and dust,” as Michael Vine likes to say, I decided I wanted to spend my remaining days on Earth making as much of a difference as I could. I’ve since come to realize that being the change I want to see is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Read more How a hellish climate change meetup taught me to find my own way

Chris Fedora: Guest Blogger

Chris FedoraThe first guest blogger for is a fellow cookie lover. I met Chris Fedora at a four-week French immersion program in 1998. This Nova Scotian (now living in Nevada) is sharing the following inaugural post on his new blog, A Tip of the Hat to You. Without further ado, I’m proud to present “Love of Hate”.

Well, here it is, my first submission to the blog universe. Look out folks! Check your sensitivities at the door, because this promises to be a bumpy ride. Actually, to be fair though, I have attempted blogs in the past, back when it was first becoming cool to say “Hey, you should check out my blog.” Back then, I was in university, so all I really had to talk about was where I was going to drink that night (I ran a pub, so there wasn’t much question about that). I also attempted one while I was teaching English in Korea a few years ago. It was going well…for a while.

It was a great outlet into which I could vent my many frustrations during the cultural adjustment period that most foreigners go through whilst adapting to a new country. I was able to use humor to keep my friends up to date on all of the day to day happenings that drove me slightly bonkers, which they were unfortunately missing out on. It was short lived however, once I eventually adjusted and settled in and found I was having less and less to vent about. I didn’t seem to want to update them on the plethora of amazing food, sites, and activities in the country, just the annoying kids who ran onto an elevator because they thought it would make it go faster, or the general fear of the Korean population that fans would kill them in their sleep if left on overnight.

That’s one interesting oddity about the human race: people are more inclined to write about things when they have something to complain about rather than when everything is peachy. Or maybe it’s that people are more inclined to pay attention to things that are sensationalized or expressed in a rant. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all we see is an inundation of hateful musings from thoroughly unhappy individuals on a constant basis. In fact, there are plenty of heart smothering pieces of literature jammed down our throats and dangled in front of our faces every day. Everything from those love poems of the Romantic Authors, to the news story about the little pet lobster who can snap his claws to the tune of My Fair Lady, to every episode of Sesame Street, all the way to the Facebook comments congratulating you after seeing that your status says “Made Tang.”

It’s just that writing tends to be a very emotional pastime. That is to say that emotion spurs creativity. And, while happiness is a more powerful emotion than pain, anger, or frustration, it is not something we necessarily wish to be rid of, as we wish to be with the latter three. Writing, for most writers throughout history, has been an emotional outlet through which they could express that which was consuming their heart and soul. Those romantic poets, they were just trying to ease the pain in their hearts caused by the immeasurable love that they felt for some milk maid. Since they needed to get rid of this pain somehow, they chose writing as the means to do it. With every quill stroke, the pain in their hearts subsided a little.

In school, we were introduced to some of the most beautiful pieces of literature the world has ever known, written by men and women hundreds and thousands of years ago. This is a great example of people writing about feeling happy, right? No, I discount this group from participation in my exercise because the love expressed in most of those writings is wayyy over the top, and thus must be overly exaggerated. I mean c’mon, some of those people still used leaves to wipe their butts…if a moderately attractive girl gave them a nipple twister they’d do cartwheels. Life was hard then, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. With plagues and wars decimating the population, good women were at a premium. A lot of these things were the modern day equivalent to a well executed pick up line. Good on them for having such spirit, but times have changed and these days, it is highly suspect if you claim to have found such happiness (if no one else can be happy, neither can you). While Hollywood still pumps out those romantic comedies like the Octomom pumps out babies (I had to get at least one reference in before it got old), it is generally accepted now that that premise is nothing more than an unattainable dream.

I don’t know how we became so cynical and jaded (I mean, we even have toilet paper now), but something has seemed to rip that desire for happy literature right out of us. These days, we don’t trust anything that is presented without some sort of dark side. If there is a happy story on the evening news, it’s usually just viewed as filler, or some attempt to not look like the earth is going to hell in a hand basket. Instead, we thrive on tabloid news about this celebrity or that one getting their new adopted pygmy brother-in-law drunk while dangling them out a window and punching their boyfriend, and we oddly don’t feel safe and satisfied with a news report unless it’s delivered with some heaping morsel of terror (whether real or fabricated… see Fox News).

No, these days, we don’t regularly write a letter to the makers of the chocolate chip cookie we just ate, to let them know it was delicious and that they should keep up the good work. We would be typing one up at a thousand words a second though if we didn’t like the way the cookie crumbled (do not pardon the pun) into our beer when we tried to dunk it in there.

I guess this sort of fad explains the popularity of people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glen Beck. These guys live pretty high on the hog thanks to America’s incredible appetite for sensationalized news (Instead of saying Bernie Madoff was going to get life in prison, CNN’s headline: “Madoff will DIE in prison”). And it’s not just the right wingers keeping these guys employed. People from all sides tune in to see what they have to say (some because they agree, and some because they want to see what’s going to come out of their mouths next). For that matter, folks like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Chris Matthews also do quite well thanks to the same group of people.

While Stewart and Colbert are comedians and present the news in a satirical way, they still end up in the mess with the radical news thugs. I am a fan of comedy. I think it allows us the ability to look fear, hate, and evil in the face…and smile. It helps us prove that so many things that we are told are important in life are actually quite trivial. It reminds us that life has a lighter side; a side that we need to focus on more than the negative. Because, after all, as a famous saying goes, “Hate begets hate.”

Now, I’m not saying that the news should be all kittens who can rollerskate and chimpanzees who build orphanages. I’m not saying we should all go around and thank each other for everything that goes right for us every minute. I am just asking the question: Why do we thrive off of the sensationalism and negativity? I really hope to hear back from people who have an interesting point of view on this topic, and hey, if you can throw a little humor in there too, we’re all better for it.