13 July, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actually use!) - HEALTH

I discovered Oil of Olbas within my first few days of drama school— my Voice teacher (spoken Voice teacher extraordinaire, Jean Moore) casually mentioned Oil of Olbas like it was as ordinary as cabbage and… I had never heard of it. What was this magical oil? Where did it come from? What was it used for? Jean Moore’s voice was so hypnotizing and her RP so immaculate and and and and “Oiiiil of Ollllbaaaas” whatever. I needed it.

I promptly reported to the CHEMIST, and purchased my first beautiful glass vial of the product that would thereafter be the product (before it was widely available in the USA) that I would beg my British friends to buy and bring to me in bulk, perpetuating our own personal Oil of Olbas drug cartel. What? No shame.

This product is that trans-formative. Okay okay so what the heck is it?
“This 100% pure essential oil formula has been a European household favorite for almost 100 years. Applied to the body, Olbas Oil naturally increases circulation at the surface of the skin, opening up the pores and providing a warm feeling of relief in muscles and joints. But Olbas is also an inhalant; it readily diffuses into the air, providing extraordinary relief and sensory benefits to nasal and bronchial areas, cooling and invigorating dry, inflamed nasal passages due to colds, allergies, sinusitis, and hay fever.
Benefits of Olbas Oil. Inhalation: Olbas Oil is a completely natural essential oil formula that delivers invigorating and soothing sensations to the nasal and bronchial areas. Massage: Applied to the body, Olbas Oil tends to stimulate circulation at the surface of the skin.

    •    Instant Relief from colds, Sinus & Allergies
    •    Massage on Aches & Pains for a Warm Feeling of Relief
    •    Powerful Olbas Formula contains only Pure Essential Oils and?
    •    Cruelty-Free”
I am prone to sinus infections (partially my auto-immune disease, partially my small skull—years ago I would say I used to get one infection per month!) and only Oil of Olbas could relieve immediate symptoms before I had to turn to medicine. I have subsequently gotten he whole sinusitis thing under control, don’t you worry, reader. It appears to be “pricey” for the size of the bottle, but a little goes a long way and it is well worth the investment for the preventative and almost miraculous healing properties.

I use it in every single bath I run (I add a few drops to the bath water and mix with epsom salts for the ultimate detox/relaxation before bed), then if I am feeling “stuffy,” I rub a few dots into my temples, on my nostrils (if needed), on my chest and throat (my sinus infections always give me swollen glands), and sometimes if I’m really feeling frisky, I’ll dabble a few drops on my pillow to just be totally surrounded in European herbal voodoo. (CAUTION! KEEP AWAY FROM YOUR EYES! YOU WILL INSTANTLY REGRET IT AND WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME!)

It is also the only thing I will ever use to muscular pain. I mix several drops in with lotion to help with absorption, and within 10-15 minutes the blood is circulating, your muscles are relaxing and the pain has markedly diminished.

I am also a huge fan of the Olbas PASTILLES, which I exclusively use while singing, if I am making singing sounds, you can guarantee there is literally, always one in my cheek.

Last year, I got Samantha Massell (my Hodel on Broadway, and roomie of @dressingroom51, duh!) HOOKED on the stuff, and we got so enthusiastic Olbas got in touch with Samantha (because she’s just one of those people who gets lots of free stuff? You know those people?) and they sent us a GIANT box of goodies from the Olbas line I had NEVER even heard of!  Inhalers! Diffusers! Tea! Cough syrup?!  Who knew?

I am so happy they are in the USA now, and so are my generous criminal British drug cartel pals who no longer have to smuggle the stuff into the Land of the Free for their crazy friend.

Olbas? ....Will you MARRY ME?

Despite the fact that the founder /inventor/guru guy of NutriBullet is a little MUCH, wears a lot of crystals and has an intensity that sort of scares me: THE GUY INVENTED A MACHINE OF PURE GENIUS. Sorry

Okay okay I get it.  “A blender is a blender” right? Wrong.
This little guy is compact, simple to assemble and clean, and does not merely “mush up” the food you put in, but has one-of-a-kind technology that extracts the nutrient ingredients on a cellular level, so you get the absolute most out of every single scrap of food you put into your body— every vitamin, booster and delicious taste.
“The Creators of Nutrient Extraction
What truly sets NutriBullet apart from the rest is its incredible extraction abilities. The NutriBullet is the original nutrient extractor, transforming ordinary foods into extraordinary nutrition. With its exclusive Bullet cyclonic action, specialized blades and powerful motor, the NutriBullet converts whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other superfoods into exceptional liquid fuel for your body. To get the most out of your life, you need to get the most out of your food.”
That makes it the ideal tool for health-conscious people (like myself) who are looking to efficiently fuel our busy and energetic lives.

Also, as a Paleolithic eater (briefly: meaning I eat a LOT of organic fruits and vegetables), the NutriBullet is the most incredible way to fuel myself in the morning. My day begins with my cup of tea ritual (in my adorable and perfect tea pot given to me by Lara Pulver thankyouverymuch), followed by a NutriBullet delight with a base of green veggies. My auto-immune disease means I am almost always fighting anemia, so starting my day with “nutrient extracted” leafy greens is ideal.

Power through the weirdo infomercial and buy it, or, just save yourself the creep-fest and go to their website and buy it today.

PS. Oh yeah. Also? Dear Nutri-bullet, Sorry but you reeeallllly need a new infomercial and I’ll totally do it for you if you want.


GAME CHANGER ALERT! I had been using a Net Pot for years, and enjoying the slightly squeemy but totally refreshing sinus-cleaning system from days of yore. But when Alkolol was introduced to the regime? KAPOW. It was a new dawn. The natural formula made entirely of herbal magic stuff, takes the level of cleansing and clearing up to the next level. Breathe free EVERMORE!
“Alkalol is a unique blend of natural ingredients developed over 100 years ago as a nasal wash and mucus solvent. Today it still provides drug-free relief from nasal congestion and irritation caused by sinusitis, allergies, colds and post-nasal drip. And it helps dissolve mucus and clear blocked nasal passages. During nasal irrigation and while using the Alkalol Nasal Wash Cup, the Alkalol mixture flows through your sinuses clearing irritants such as dust and pollen. It also helps improve overall nasal hygiene by preventing mucus from gathering in your sinuses where it can become the breeding ground for bacteria.”
According to the Journal of Family Practice, “Daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation improves quality of life, decreases symptoms and decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis.”

It is formulated to be used as often as needed (I use a small amount in my Neti Pot daily as a preventative measure and to maintain sinus hygiene, but even more when I feel a cold coming on.) If you have chronic sinusitis or are an allergy sufferer who is increasingly looking to over-the-counter and prescription drugs, Alkalol should be added to your health regime. In fact, buy it in bulk.

So secret: I do not have perfect skin.
Oh WAIT? You too? Whaddya know. No-one really does. It's okay.

My skin-perfections have come in the form of what is called cystic acne (acne that never really comes to a head, but lingers under the skin in large and painful cysts—ouch!) and it was totally the pits until I found ACZONE.
And then?
Clear skin. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Aczone cleared my skin in about 10 days and I’ve never gone back. I should do their commercial. I want to. I want to make a YouTube video and explain in depth how painful and isolating acne can be even as an adult, and how our faces is what we all present to world, what is perceived of by others, not just performers! This product is the only thing that ever brought me consistent results, and it more than cleared my skin, it cleared my psychology regarding my Self. That’s powerful stuff, and it is can’t be purchased in a bottle.

Aczone actually has a new formula that you only have to use once a day (whereas previously you used it twice), so is even more convenient than before.  It is very affordable (there are also a lot of fantastic coupons available online if you are paying out of pocket), it lasts forever, is fragrance free, smooth-as-silk and basically perfect.

This is of course, a prescription medication that you can only be prescribed by a doctor, but if your skin plagues YOU, ask your doctor and I wish you the best with your skin journey. We only get one skin! It is invaluable to care for it with love.

Happy health you all!

10 July, 2017

Adult-ing - Part 6

Dorothy girl: delegate!
1.  Delegate.
When it comes to tackling big projects, you can try to do everything yourself and have an aneurysm or…not! Why not? Because you can also choose to reach out and find the right people to help you— sometimes people that are (gasp) even better at certain tasks than you are. The former will raise your blood pressure; the second choice will raise your effectiveness.

Someone else always knows how to help.  Find and engage them.

Example: remember that episode of Golden Girls where the ladies want a fancy new toilet, and decide that the best way forward is to read a giant book on plumbing, then install the toilet themselves? Yeeeeah. Through a series of (hilarious) mishaps, they ultimately end up calling a professional plumber, who has to charge them even more than he would have in the first place, to not only install the toilet, but to clean up their DIY plumbing mess. …This is obviously a fictional example, but, you all know how I love a show about senior citizens, and also, it is an apt metaphor.

I am not a bad business woman, but I’m certainly a better singer than I am at talking about money. That’s… why I have agents and mangers. I delegate the business talk to them so I can do the stuff I am best at! Additionally, if your website is suddenly having glitches with a new web browser, why read a giant book on web design? Delegate. Hire a professional web designer. Just do it. Don't hem and haw, don't worry about the cost. Think of the Golden Girls and their giant plumbing bill.

See every stressful problem as an opportunity to delegate. You’ll get great results, and you won’t grow a tumor. Life is trying to teach you that most long-term, worthy endeavors are team efforts, and if you think about it, so much more palatable when shared with others.  Every unexpected tension in life is a lesson in disguise, especially solvable with the right team of people.

2.  Know your “Myths.” 
There is a popular phrase in contemporary psychology: “TELLING YOURSELF A STORY” or “WRITING A STORY.” What does that mean, exactly? I am not a psychologist, but I personally define this phrase thus: that it is not necessarily what factually happens to us, but how we choose to interpret and psychologically take on what happens to us, that defines our experience of life. “Writing stories” is a term that gives a name to why and how some people with terrible childhoods live forever in victim-hood, and others overcome the mindset and can even end up experiencing extraordinary gratitude for their adversities, if they even view them as adversities at all! It is not the facts, it is the manner in which we approach, interpret, internalize and identify with those facts.

I like this term, but in my own life, and in my teaching, I use an alternative: “Know Your Myths.” Why do I alter this? Firstly, the word myth insinuates instantly that the story is in some way not to be entirely trusted as fact, but is allegorical, and absolutely up for interpretation, like the mythic tales of yore. Second, I like that the term “myth” insinuates something ancient and older-than-humanity— something of great significance to be addressed and not ignored. If you were bullied as a youth, outright ignoring that adversity is not evolved— addressing, processing, and truly moving forward from the adversity, IS.

In her brilliant book Rising Strong, Dr Brené Brown says whole-hearted lives have the goal to “rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes , and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.” I shall regurgitate her wisdom here, but only because it is peerless and can’t be bettered so why try? (Now do yourself a favor and go binge-watch her videos and buy her books.)

Brené Brown’s process includes 3 elements:
    •    The Reckoning.  Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
    •    The Rumble.  Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.
    •    The Revolution.  Write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.
But knowing your myths is an not only an important part of being a healthy human being, it is an important part of self-identity. In my own personal narrative, for example, I know that my father passing away when I was 18 is a fact, I have long moved into the acceptance phase of the grieving process, but? My myth is that I shall, no matter what, always in some way be an 18-year-old whose father has died. I will always be a fatherless daughter interpreting the world through that specific lens. Okay, that is the truth: I can't change it. Thus, knowing that, without getting all in a wah wah waaaahhhh tizzy victim-mode about it, owning that myth and making space for it is a responsible part of being in the world.

Haven’t you ever walked into a film or play or started reading a book, only to discover that the subject matter was WAY too close to your own life for personal comfort? If you’d known your myths going in, you might approach engaging with that piece differently, all of which can have a positive effect.

Everyone has myths. They must be incorporated in to who we become, not extracted, dissolved, or ignored, Knowing your myths means you can plan around and benefit from them—the way one would with anything else. If you know you are an introvert that prefers quiet holidays to jam-packed adventurous ones, you book a peaceful event-less retreat in the country, not a trip to Tokyo Disney. If you broke your ankle as a kid, and it still gives you a little trouble, you know going in to a day walking around the city to bring your walking shoes. We must know, and work with our myths just like anything and everything else. 

3.  See the world.
There are plenty of things one can gain from exploring different places. When you start exploring new places, you get a better understanding of the people living there including their culture, history and background, but you also get to know yourself— how you specifically fit into a pluralistic worldview, and it can both alter and strengthen your beliefs and values.

Further, studies show that traveling can improve your overall health and enhance your creativity. Therefore, it is recommended that you need to take time out from your daily tasks, office responsibilities, hectic schedule and everyday pressures at least once in a year. You don’t have to actually travel a geographic distance— there are plenty of cultural opportunities in our own backyards— sometimes just across town! Plan a tour with an open schedule and let life present you with the numerous opportunities that are waiting for you.

Travel improves social and communication skills, helps you get original and creative thoughts, boosts up your confidence, provides you with a real-life education, enhances your tolerance for uncertainty, and broadens your horizons.

You’ll realize how little you actually knew about the world, you’ll make new friends,  you’ll appreciate your home more, realize your “home” is much more than the place you grew up, and you might even find a new purpose, and create lifelong memories.

4.  Kindness is the supreme intelligence.
Kindness is one thing we all have the ability to share. It’s free, it feels great, and it’s within our control. Yet it asks a lot of us— it requires us to suspend our own selfishness, our primal instinct to survive over another species, it requires discipline, empathy, compassion, and above all, it requires us to suspend our sociological apathy. Thus, it is precisely this sacrifice of our laziness and judgements that proves kindness is the supreme intelligence. When you are kind, and engage with Kindness as a daily practice (like any other kind of practice from yoga to meditation to baseball), you not only feel the world as a more beautiful place, but you are provided with evidence that it is. Kindness breeds kindness in return. So says Jesus, Martin Luther King, The Buddha, Karma and ya know, PHYSICS. So dig a little deeper, suspend your jerk mode, put away your middle finger and be nice. Give it a try. It certainly can’t hurt.

Countless scientific studies, newspaper articles, religious texts, and self-help books have tried to help us become kinder people, but how often do we really put that advice into actual practice? We've all heard popular sayings like, “Do unto others” and “Do not judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Here are some actionable tips to take these tropes and sentiments, and literally apply them to our daily lives.

- Open your eyes - notice where Kindness is in need!

- Offer help. Once you’ve kept your eyes open for people in need (or even is not especially for people who are just being jerks because they are frustrated) and say “Can I Help You?” It is amazing what can come from interactions like this. (In fact, the other day I guided a lovely blind man from the D to the E train at the labyrinth that is West 4th Street station, and it made MY day!)

- Smile. So easy.

- Walk a mile in their shoes. There are always people who bother us and situations we try to avoid due to our selfishness. What if we had to do their job? Could we be kinder to them in the future?

- Don’t beat yourself up. Self-kindness is, ya know, also  thing.

- Confront yourself. Um...are you a jerk face? Do you have pedestrian or road rage or react rather than respond? If so, and you don’t like the effect this negativity has on your life— deal with it! What ever you need to do from getting a mantra to getting some rage therapy. Commit to Kindness!

- Kill 'em with kindness. As a woman who has recently dealt with some SERIOUS hospital rigamarole: Let. Me. Tell. You. You throw honey at the poor receptionists who are being yelled at all day? They’ll do anything for you. Even though I was frustrated as hell with the situation, I never lost my temper, and I made certain the people helping me felt appreciated when they finally did help me. Ever since I took that little bit of extra energy to make the hospital staff feel seen and appreciated, they gave me the same back in spades.

- Be kind to Auntie Em - Why do we always seem to neglect the people who we are closest to? Select one special person in your life who you might constantly neglect and do something especially kind for them.

- Pay it forward. “Paying” doesn’t necessarily mean financially, but energetically! That said, if you do have a little cash to spare, is just so easy to add an extra dollar to that tip when the service really is great, or to buy a stranger a coffee. But energetically, it is absolutely free to pay it forward with your heart: to take 3 minutes to speak meaningfully with the homeless man who just wants to talk, or to hold a door, help someone with a heavy suitcase on a stairwell, take a photo for a family of tourists (so they whole family can be in it!), or to compliment an outfit to a stranger on the street. I try to consciously do one of these at least once a day. It has changed my life.

Give these a try. I’d love to know how they go.

5.  Ladies always curtsy.
Trevor Nunn taught me that, so it must be true. I recall so vividly the first time we staged the curtain call of The Woman in White, and I instinctively curtsyed, and he shouted “GOOD GIRL!” from the back of the house. Then, explained later, that ladies always curtsy, and that he was pleased to know I was a natural lady.

6.  Nothing stays in Vegas.
Trust. This is coming from a woman who dated a cirque clown. …Trusssst.

Read More:

Adult-ing - Part 1
Adult-ing - Part 2
Adult-ing - Part 3
Adult-ing - Part 4
Adult-ing - Part 5

Yay Adult-ing!

02 July, 2017

NPR: All Things Considered

July 1, 2017, 5:34 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Michel Martin

If you know any musicals at all, then you probably know the beloved Fiddler on the Roof. It tells the story of the dairy man Tevye and his family, and it's set in the town of Anatevka in czarist Russia. 

In the musical, and second eldest daughter, Hodel, makes the bold decision to leave her family and everything she knows to find her fiancé, who has been sent to a labor camp in Siberia. As she boards the train, Hodel says to her father, "God alone knows when we shall see each other again." 

That's how Hodel's story ended — until now. Actress and author Alexandra Silber has written a sequel to Fiddler on the Roof called After Anatevka. Silber played Hodel in a West End production of Fiddler on the Roof, and she also played Hodel's sister Tzeitel on Broadway. She says, "My journey with Fiddler began as a sophomore in high school when I gave the world my Golde, who was the mother of the family. So I've always, always loved this story." 

Silber is also Jewish and a descendant of people from the Pale of Settlement, the only part of czarist Russia where Jews were allowed to live. She says Fiddler on the Roof has "always been a very personal story, but also a very universal one." 
With unending thanks to Matthew Schwartz.

30 June, 2017

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

27 June, 2017

"She Enters The Room" from After Anatevka in Concert

Ryan Silverman
"She Enters the Room" from AFTER ANATEVKA in CONCERT

based on the novel AFTER ANATEVKA read and written by Alexandra Silber

Music by Joe Thalken
Lyrics by Joseph Amodio

Performed by Ryan Silverman (Dmitri)

Chapter 44: The Book of Dmitri

    Dmitri Pavlovich Petrovsky had been born with twines of music lodged tight about his heart.  Like a rusted barbed-wire, it clutched at him and the harder he struggled, the deeper the barbs would cut.  The wounds festered, encased in the pus of his dead imagination. 

    Coming from a family of folk musicians in a city as bright as Petersburg made no difference whatsoever to a boy so innately fraught by the simultaneous demands and admonitions of a world in which he felt he did not belong. Depression blanketed the boy from the time he could remember, though his family was quick to dismiss it all as “family flair” or “histrionics.”
    “Mityushka!” They cried, “Nyezh-naya Mitya!” They did not, they could not, know what to do with him. Nor did he know what to do with himself.

    Dmitri’s personage had always been a shroud of mystery—broad shoulders hunched over a lanky body as if to protect the heart that ached within. His face beautiful, but tender and surrounded by a mop of dark, messy curls. Large expressive hands with long fingers worked up into fists plunged deep within his pockets, or else wringing, itching to be used to play his cello. His small but ferociously intelligent eyes held all the world at arms length, shielded further by the spectacles he’d worn since childhood. 

    If the truth of a man lies within him, then it stands to reason one might then be able to simply open him up and grasp at that truth the way one carves into a carcass to extract the tenderest cuts of meat.
    But there are certain men whose inner truths are far too delicate, and whose constitutions far too strong to penetrate. In such a case, one must simply wait for the truth within to creep out of its own accord, like a creature that may break apart if pressure is put upon it. Perhaps it was so with Dmitri.
    But how could the shackled heart, and the poetry that mocked within him; how could the stench of fear,  the cacophonous clamor of uncertainty, and the darkened depths of spirit; how could any of it ever be expressed?

    It was the cello, in the end, that set him free. That gave him peace. Inside the chords and notes and arches of melody, he found an expanse of space where all of what he longed to be could fit— that unnameable, unknowable self.
    He tagged along, of course, to play in the city venues with his family— folk songs soared and crowds cheered as his father lead with accordion, his mother on balalaika and sisters on violins.
He was grateful to his family for the instrument itself (handed down from his grandfather), and for the ability to play it. But his family, however musical, could not hear his music at all.


    Once in Nerchinsk, no cold, no labor, no punishing treatment, no single thing could mar him more than the love that raged within his breast for her. The love he felt but could not utter, which he knew with every scrap of his being to belong not to him, but to the only man he admired, the man he respected above all others. If only he could say what everyone already knew to be true.

    Everyone, that is, but her.

    He felt that ancient barbed twine unravel itself and come between them, it lodged itself into Hodel without her knowledge, and once enmeshed it yanked and ripped at his already riled heart, and made it throb in agony. One moment he would revel in her scent, the next he could weep with guilt.

    When together, the three of them were such a happy triangle. But Dmitri recognized he was the  hypotenuse in a shape perfectly right without him—an attachment, not at all unlike a third wheel on a cart— excessive, unnecessary for it to function, but somehow with its presence the entire structure had better balance. Countless times he nearly spoke, nearly moved to kiss her; Tell her! His mind bawled, Take her in the arms you know were designed to enfold her within them! But every time, he thought of what would happen if he did. Crippled by loneliness, fear penetrated his love—the alchemical result was aloofness. Or often, viciousness.

    He knew that he could never be alone with her without wanting desperately to touch her. Could not touch her without wanting to posses her, to make her his own. So he barely spoke to her at all. He would waste his life away beholding a painting upon the wall of a locked house he would never be allowed to enter…

There was nothing to be done.
Nothing he could do but play, of course.
Every strand of aching music, every forlorn concerto, for her. 


20 June, 2017

ASK AL: Best Acting Books

Dear Al,

What are some standard acting books everyone should read?

David S. ‏


Dear David,

Wonderful question!

Of course acting books, like all books, are very subjective. Sometimes one can read a certain book and get very little out of it, whilst someone else can read the exact same book and have their perspective changed forever.

The lesson – you have to peruse them all.

Often, the exact same person can return to a text at a different place in their life, and have a mind-explosion they could not have had when they first picked a text up. Life is like that—I’ve had books be “blah” in college that changed my life in adulthood, or sometimes even just understood completely new things I was not privy to internally in the previous version of my self that resonates more distinctly in my present.

Because The Art of Acting is created from the only clay we have—ourselves—we must continually re-visit the craft, look inward, and tune up where our skills are matched with our new personal growth. The more we fully marry and utilize our personal growth with an ever-sharpening skill set, the better actor and human being you will continue to grow to become.

While some of these are practically biblical, some classics and others contemporary classics, each offer differing ideas and approaches to acting; from the practical, to the more theoretical, to the gosh darn spiritual. As you have probably experienced with acting, sometimes one small insight can completely shift the way you think about your art, and how you practically approach it.

I’d like to recommend these All-Star must-haves for students, aspiring and professionally working actors alike.


1. An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski
The be-all godfather of contemporary Naturalism-based acting techniques, and without a doubt THE most famous acting teacher in the world, An Actor Prepares is the Bible of acting books, and thus not only must be included in this list, but deserves to be Number 1.

In this very readable handbook, Russian-God-of-Actor-Training Constantin Stanislavski explains general acting exercises, and and illuminates what acting actually IS, which thus serves as foundation to every actor’s further training, and creation of roles.

The book is beautifully-translated and is an enjoyable read for any actor with a passion for the craft, as wellas for the history of actor training.

Homorous at times, this book takes the actor through Stanislavsky’s self-developed system which helps the actor to master his craft as well as stimulate creativity and imagination. The book includes a variety of exercises and some brilliant autobiographical experiences that focus on relaxation, concentration, and techniques that will help get the actor into character.

Titanic acting pillars such Emotional Memory and the “Magic If” are taught and explored in this book, all of which lay the groundwork for the majority of the great acting we bear witness to today.
I have lived a long life, was rich, got poor; seen a lot of the world, had a wonderful family, children, that life has scattered all over the world. I have longed for fame, found it – been honored young and now I am getting old. I know my time on earth is running out. Now ask me wherein we find happiness? It is in knowledge and understanding art and the labor of cognizing it. While learning about oneself, one can learn nature and the meaning of life – We can cognize the soul. There is no happiness above all this.” – Constantin Stanislavski

2. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen (with Haskel Frankel)
This book is the heart and soul of my own personal technique as both an actress and a teacher. It is the backbone of my classes, and could not be more practical and straightforward. It also, incidentally, comes in audio format which I love to listen to from time to time!

Straightforward as it gets, Uta Hagen’s p r o f o u n d book has helped multiple generations of actors hone their craft. (I will quote my student Alphonse who, multiple times in his journal wrote in all caps "YAAAAAS UTAAAAA" and just... leave it at that... Great actors do not perform effortlessly, or merely through learning the appropriate tricks and cheats to manipulate an audience.

Her theory is simple and true: dancers have the barre, singers have scales, but waht do actors have to "practice" their craft? Here, she answers that. Uta introduces series of Step-by-Step exercises to help the actor re-familiarize themselves with their humanity; to connect to the moment, fellow actors, and the audience.
     “Who am I?”
     “What do I want?” and
     “What is my relationship?”
are three of the nine questions explored to define a specific character’s role, and Hagen also adds in some invaluable sage-like wisdom about nerves, how to stay fresh in a long run, and priceless anecdotes from her own career.

3. Acting, The First 6 Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky
I will admit that this was my first ever acting book, given to me by my first ever acting mentors Lucy and Jimbob Stephenson. It arrived one day in a beautfiful care package as I was about to perform in Our Town (a play, incidentally, Jimbob performed for wounded veterans alongside Thornton Wilder himself), and came with a beautiful book inscription I shall treasure always. For this, and many reasons, it is my favorite. 

Richard Boleslavsky's knowledge of the theater was based on an impressive depth and breadth of experience. A member of the Moscow Art Theater and director of its First Studio, he worked in Russia, Germany, and America as an actor, director and teacher. He was a leading Hollywood director in addition to producing plays and musical comedies on Broadway.

In his beloved classic, master acting teacher Richard Boleslavsky presents his acting theory and technique in a lively and accessible dramatic form (meaning, he literally writes it as a play, starring himself and his student known as The Creature). Boleslavsky's slim volume has long helped all artists better understand the craft of acting, but above all,  what is truly required to to grow as a lifelong artist.

4. The Art of Acting by Stella Adler (with Howard Kissel)
"Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one." - Stella Adler
Of course Stella Adler, uber-quotable diva extraordinaire, one of the first membrs of The Group, who is one of the most important teachers of acting.

In 1931, Adler was a founding member of the revolutionary Group Theatre, which took Broadway by storm with a series of naturalistic productions of socially relevant plays, such as Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing" and "Paradise Lost." In 1934, unsatisfied with Group Theatre co-founder Lee Strasberg's teaching of Konstantin Stanislavsky's techniques, the determined Adler traveled to Paris and studied with Stanislavsky himself. She returned to the Group with her own understanding of his work and offered acting classes to other members, including Sanford Meisner, Elia Kazan, and Robert Lewis.

In this book editor Howard Kissel has taken tapes, transcriptions, notebooks and other sources to reconstruct Stella Adler's acting course in 22 lessons, which turned into one of the best ever books on acting techniques.

5. Strasberg’s Method
 by S. Loraine Hull
Arguably the most comprehensive book for anyone interesting in Method Acting, Hull very clearly lays out all the ideas of Lee Strasberg’s innovative and deeply culturally misunderstood teachings.

It’s also a very easy read, with understandable exercises that should benefit greatly every actor Method or not, who never had a chance to train with the man himself.

If Stanislavski is the Bible of Acting books, consider Strasberg's Method the New Testament, and this a really terrific prayer book, it contains everything you ever wanted to know about this approach.
Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The make-up of a human being – his physical, mental and emotional habits – influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized.” – Lee Strasberg

6. Sanford Meisner on Acting
 by Sanford Meisner (with Dennis Longwell
Meisner or Strassberg's The Method? Well, it is not truly an either/or, as both teachers were at the heart of the new American acting movement, and their approaches are not siblings, but rather, cousins. It’s often insightful to be familiar with both.

In this beautiful gem of a book, Meisner gives it to you straight on how not to act, but to live; to live truthfully, in the moment, under imaginary circumstances. KAPOW.

I will also add that this of all books gives one a real sense of being in the actual classroom with "Sandy" as he is called, and you feel a level of personal relationship with him as a both a luminary titan, and as a human being that seems to be speaking directly to you. 

Your library is not complete without this one.
"An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words." - Sanford Meisner

7. To The Actor: on the Technique of Acting by Michael Chekhov
Nephew to the greatest-of-the-great-Russian-playwrights Anton Chekhov,  and a student of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov left Russia and Stanislavski behind, forming the first in a strong "anti-movement" of theatrical actor trainging. He went on to pursue a career as an actor, teacher, and director in Europe and America.

While he was an early advocate of Stanislavski, Chekhov differed from the great teacher in several key aspects: particularly in his insistence preference of physical creation and activation versus the psychological, and on the use of imagination as opposed to memory in creating a role. (In a famous anecdote, Chekhov once performed a “sense memory” exercise in which he broke down over the tragic death of his aunt. When complimented on the truthfulness of his emotion, he admitted that his “aunt” was entirely imaginary.) Both of these schools of thoughts were the burgeoning theories behind American Method Acting in the 1940s and 50s.

One of Chekhov’s innovations of technique is one of my favorites, and something I teach my first year acting students in our second semester: the “Psychological Gesture,” in which a repeated external action leads to an internal revelation. Due to his insistence on the importance of the physical rather than the simply intellectual, Chekhov’s book is as focused on following its series of exercises as it is in study; acting, he would remind us, is always fundamentally a verb. For actors who feel “hemmed in” by an over-insistence on “feeling” a part or in drawing from their own experiences to feed a role, Chekhov’s focus on the primal and limitless nature of imagination and physical experience is beyond liberating, and I believe an essential tool in every actor's toolkit.

8. Audition by Michael Shurtleff  

I consider this book to be the contemporary classic for aspiring actors. (Re: If Stanislavski is the Bible, this is East of Eden / Atlas Shrugged / Invisible Man).

If you are just beginning your acting adventure, this is a really excellent place to start, as it covers everything from craft to practically "getting the role." Shurteff’s 12 (now famous) Guideposts have influenced my own work, my teaching, direction, all with the aim to help actors learn how to empower, direct and guide themselves.

From relationships, to actions, objectives, opposites, to finding the love and humor in any scene, Shurtelff’s Guideposts will help you focus in on the kernel of the scene or audition material every time.


The Actor’s Art and Craft
 by William Esper (comprehensive guide to Meisner's techniques)
Michael Cain: Acting in Film
The Intent to Live by Larry Moss
A Dream of Passion: The Development of The Method by Lee Strassberg

Translating Shakespeare by Dr. David Montee (my personal mentor! There's a photo of me as Rosalind)
A Shakespearan Actor Prepares by Michael York 
Playing Shakespeare by John Barton

The Actor Speaks by Patsy Rodenburg
The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg
The Actor and The Text by Cicely Berry

Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater
Speak with Distinction by Edith Skinner 

The Lucid Body by
The Moving Body by Jaques LeCoq

The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart
The Empty Space by Peter Brooke

06 June, 2017

Ask Al: Vocal Health Part 3: HEALING

Silly sicky bear. Shoulda taken his Airborne.
Dear Al,

Following up on your Vocal Protection and Vocal Maintenance posts, I’m wondering what you do once you are sick or under the weather,, your voice is damaged or in crisis without too much worry?




Dear Jonathan,

Fantastic follow up question!
Before delving in to any tips and trick, I will begin here [by *healthily* yelling]:

If your issues are persistent you MUST seek medical advice. 


[*Chugs Gatorade*]

Okay now here we go.




•    Nasal Emollient
such as Ponaris, Dry Nose, or other such emollient from the health food store or pharmacy.
    If you can't find the emollient, in a pinch you can use very light olive oil or other light vegetable oil.  At bedtime and again first thing in the morning, rinse each nostril with the saline mist and then blow your nose. Then coat the lining of each nostril with a very small amount of the oil/emollient using a Q-tip very carefully or your finger. Sniff the emollient up as high as it will go. It helps you sleep, breathe, and eliminate dry, scaly, nasal tissues that contribute to mucous, drainage ,and inflammation. 
•    Nasal Saline Mist/Spray (Ayr, Ocean, etc)
and the…
•    Neti Pot
Game changers! I love a good nasal spray on-the-go, but day-to-day, I could not recommend using a Neti Pot more. I use mine twice a day to lubricate, cleanse, and naturally clear my sinus passages (which, because I have a small skull, are highly prone to infection). Follow all the instructions carefully and know that it can take a few trys to get your Neti-system down (I will admit, it feels a little creepy at first, but after a few trys? TRUST ME—you’ll be hooked). It is well worth it the experiment. It has been a total game-changer for my overall health, not just my singing. If one part of your body is in any way inflamed or fighting infection, the whole organism suffers.
•    I also add a dash of a product called Alkolol to the NetiPot, which aids in thinning mucus and encouraging clearing. (It also doubles as a terrific gargle!) 

•    Apple Cider Vinegar and Raw, Local Honey: In a cup of warm water dissolve two spoons of the apple cider vinegar and two spoons of raw local honey if available.  Gargle each mouthful and swallow it. Repeat once more in the middle of the day, before bedtime and again in the morning if needed. Honey kills germs.
•    Salt Water: During the day, gargle with warm salted water and then later, alternate with the apple cider vinegar/honey gargle. Obviously DO NOT swallow the salt water ew ew ew. Salt also kills germs.
•    Alkolol http://www.alkalolcompany.com/: I am a big fan of this product and use it both in my Neti Pot as well as a gargle. Here is what their website says:
“Alkalol is a unique blend of natural ingredients developed over 100 years ago as a nasal wash and mucus solvent. Today it still provides drug-free relief from nasal congestion and irritation caused by sinusitis, allergies, colds and post-nasal drip. And it helps dissolve mucus and clear blocked nasal passages. Alkalol helps you breathe easier.
Throughout history herbal extracts and essential oils have played an important role in healing. From the moment you open Alkalol you breathe in its invigorating scent, which comes from its natural ingredients. And it works. Alkalol helps you breathe easier.
Alkalol’s blend of natural ingredients helps dissolve mucus from your nasal passages. During nasal irrigation and while using the Alkalol Nasal Wash Cup, the Alkalol mixture flows through your sinuses clearing irritants such as dust and pollen. It also helps improve overall nasal hygiene by preventing mucus from gathering in your sinuses where it can become the breeding ground for bacteria.”

IMMUNITY (repeating from Part 1, but crucial)
•      We all get run down, and singers are the first to get colds in the chest, ear, nose and throat. I have benefitted hugely from the use of Zinc, as well as Airborne and also Wellness Formula available at most pharmacies and online. These should be used as soon as you experience symptoms of a cold or a sore throat, or prophylactically if there is a risk of being exposed to a myriad of new germs (such as on an airplane, subway, or with children).

•    Be cautious about taking Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin, etc), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), and Naproxen (Aleve) within two weeks before very demanding singing, especially if you are prone to vocal cord hemorrhage. These medications encourage the blood to thin, and can make it more possible to bleed and have a vocal cord hemorrhage.
•    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not a blood thinner, and thus, at least I believe is a better EMERGENCY pain relief option.
•   Do NOT take decongestants and then sing. OMFG: Decongestants do not REMOVE the mucus! They cause dry mouth and dehydration. They only remove the watery fluid FROM the thick mucus which then still remains, making it even more sticky, thick, and very difficult to navigate. This can cause more vocal fold friction, swelling, and vocal fatigue. Yuck. Healthy mucus production is necessary and protective of vocal function and lubrication as long as it is thin and fluid and not thick.
•    Never try a medication for the first time on a performance day.  Plan a trial period to observe your own individual response, and then adjust the dosage if necessary or discontinue if appropriate.
•    If you have an “emergency” where there is no trial period possible, you will have to evaluate the the entire context as well as the relative importance of the performance versus the risk of vocal injury.  Singing demanding music with a pre-nodular swelling, inflammation, or an upper respiratory infection, for instance, can cause serious vocal fold injury that may not heal for weeks or months.
•    “As natural as possible” is always best. Full stop.

•    Avoid foods which create acid indigestion. For some people this is coffee, tea, citrus, chocolate, hot spices, tomato products, or any food which you note causes digestive and acidic indigestion.
•    Certain foods have been know to cause reflux laryngitis, inflammation, and swelling of the arytenoid muscosa and posterior vocal folds. It is very personal body to body so take note of your own body’s responses.
•    Many people also have dairy and/or wheat intolerance causing indigestion (especially since the advent of excessive use of GMO’s, hormones, preservatives, pesticides, and toxic fertilizer which is a whole other post of terrifying what-is-happening-to-food but I digress). Avoid them.
•    In addition, be sure not to eat or drink anything two-three hours before bedtime. You will find that your reflux and your sleep both improve dramatically.
•    It is much better to solve this without medication since all medications have side effects such as dehydration.
•    Know yourself.  Know what foods cause this response, which can vary a lot from person to person. 


•    Don’t sing while flying on an airplane, and keep your talking to a minimum. The background noise is 30 to 60 decibels. It is  an extremely loud environment.You will absolutely fatigue your voice speaking over the noise!
•    The humidity on an airplane might drop as low as 3%—drink one glass of water per hour on the plane, and do everything to avoid singing the same day you fly.
•    Go straight to the hotel after getting off the plane and take a 20-minute steam shower.
•    Call ahead to hotel and ask concierge put a vaporizer in your room so it’s running when you arrive. Most of them have them for guest use , you just have to ask ahead!
•    If they do not, BYO vaporizers. I know I know. It seems bulky, but it is so worth it. Warm or cool mist-at hotels where the recycled air is also very dry.
•    Use only plain water in your vaporizer – no additives or fragrances.
•    Always use saline nasal spray or your a travel Neti Pot to keep membranes moist.
•    If your hotel has a steam room— use it!


•    Vocal fatigue requires vocal rest and sleep.  Noooooot complicated.

Read More:

Part 1: Protection
Part 2: Maintenance

02 June, 2017

"Let Love In" from After Anatevka in Concert

Ron Raines
"Let Love In" by Matthew Sklar and Amanda Green

Based on Alexandra Silber's AFTER ANATEVKA from Pegasus Books

Read by John Cullum and sung by Ron Raines (Chekhov)

at Symphony Space, NYC,


Chapter 29, The Man in the Bar

    Perchik had always been driven by other forces, just as he had in the winter of 1903 when he stumbled into Moscow before he ever met Hodel.

    University was not the dreamworld Perchik had imagined, and thus, he had unceremoniously found himself to be expelled. The crash of his fantasy destroyed him. He felt at times as if it were a death fight between his ideals and the truth of the world. The people of academia were no less disappointing, no less competitive, duplicitous, judgmental, or small-minded. It was only their vocabularies and the landscape that differed. The world belonged to his horrible uncle, and to every man like him.
    What was the point of modesty? To hell with brilliance, Perchik thought, clutching his head harder still. This so-called gift had kept Perchik from everything he had ever desired in his life.

    He had boarded a train, awoke along the outskirts of Moscow, and stumbled into a bar as fetid as his spirit where he was now committed to stupefying himself into oblivion.

    So bitter was the wind outside that all inhabitants of the bar felt its sting as it whipped the ragged glass panes in the walls of the basement locale. The skins of the prostitutes were pimpled with chill; their still, predatory gaze only faintly unsettled.
    In an abrupt swirl of wind, a man entered, shivering as he made his way to the bar—a cough from the depths of his lungs rang out as he moved toward the stool beside Perchik. The man sighed, eyes watering, and hands with ink-stained fingers began clearing the cough-induced tears away from beneath the wire rims of his round spectacles. As he gained composure he brushed snow sharply off his long black coat, which hung loosely over his suit.
    Perchik lifted his eyes. Light streamed down through the windows from the bustling street above, casting a kind of celestial glow behind the man as he settled. When the drinks arrived he raised his in inquiry. “What brings you here tonight, comrade?”
John Cullum
    “Comrade?” the stranger stated with recognition. “All the young people in the cities are using that word nowadays!” He laughed, nestling down farther into his long coat. “Ah, thank you for the drink, comrade.” He smiled. Perchik lifted his glass to the stranger and nodded before downing its contents in a single quaff.
    “Love,” the stranger answered.
    “What brings me here tonight? Love. For every reason that is good and bad, love always seems to bring me to the bar!” He threw his head back and laughed, then smoothed his beard and adjusted the frames on his face. “I love this city; I love a woman in this city. What about you, comrade? What do you love?”
    “The vodka, of course,” Perchik lied.  “Tell me about your love.”
    The man’s gaze shifted from his ink-stained hands to the dancing lamps along the peeling walls.
    “Well, I am no great lover, my friend. I have come to Moscow with a love letter of sorts, hoping I will see its potential realized.”
    “A girl!”
    “No—a real woman of such culture and refinement. She speaks several languages, plays piano. I have, thus far, loved her only through letters—which is how I know she is also a wonderful writer.” His eyes glimmered.
    “I see,” replied Perchik, though he did not.
    “I did not love her at first, you know; it took time.  The feeling was foreign to me, but now, two years later, I cannot help myself! Better late than never, eh, comrade?” He laughed. “Would you believe I used to be a confirmed bachelor?”
    “Ah, my friend.” Perchik chuckled wryly, eyeing the vultures in the corner. “I’m afraid I know all too well about that.”
    “Indeed—as any good young man should. Well, I’ve had many professions in my life. But one role I never expected to play was the romantic lead. I’ve searched all my life for meaningful work. But I have found that love—for a cause, for an art, for another living soul—is purpose enough. I’m so pleased to have discovered that at long last. The heart, you see, is a muscle; if you make no use of it, it atrophies. And I would know,” he finished, smiling broadly. “I’m a doctor.” 

31 May, 2017

‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver

‘THE JOURNEY’ by Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, Volume 2

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

©Emma Mead

29 May, 2017

The Death Bed

(7 weeks on)

A week or so after the incident with the cat Grey headed home for Thanksgiving, slated to return to his creative den as soon as possible to continue work on his model for NIDA[1] .

Left alone to our own devices, Kent suggested it might be time to start thinking about changing The Death Room— to look forward.

    “A new bed, for sure” he said, “perhaps some paint, a little classic Cath-ay DIY?”
    “Great idea” Mom said, and three hours later, Kent and I returned from grocery shopping to find that mom has discovered beautiful solid hardwood floors beneath the early 90s carpet, ripped all of it up, rolled it up and taken it out to the curb. By the time we got back she was already hard at work on the hallway, breathless, sweating and determined. All of this served to reaffirm a notion I already knew about Mom: once you put an idea in her head— there’s no stopping her...[2]

The three of us spent the remainder of the night ripping up that hideous death-beige carpet and hauling it out to the curb with the bathwater. By 3am we had disposed of the detritus of our former life upon the lips of our lawn filled with an odd sense of higher purpose— we were not scavengers rummaging through the ruins of a fallen city. We were excavators! Like Heinrich Schliemann! Below the carpets lay new, undiscovered Troys and we would be the team to peel away the rubble, reveal the past and simultaneously, the future, just like the anthropologists of yore![3]

When we woke the following morning, the artifacts were gone— taken to the same unnameable place all life’s mysteries disappear to.

But we were not empty, we were lighter somehow.

The top floor of 1367 had been stripped bare to make room for new life, and we dressed that morning with a purpose— we were going to buy a new bed.


Art Van on Woodward at 14 Mile was the first and only thought that sprang to mind. It was constantly blaring its name on radio and local television commercials, and besides, it was on the same strip of Woodward as Dairy Deluxe, which gave it street-cred, not to mention 0% financing til 2004... Word.

Art Van as it would turn out, was above a Mercedes dealership, to be entered by sky-scraping escalator which crested onto a cavernous warehouse of fluorescently lit sofas, dinettes, media stations and bed frames (ostensibly, a well-furnished piranha tank).

Mom, Kent and I were each splayed—snow angel style—on a series of mattresses,
     gazing upward at the humming lights.
No, this was not a party at Elton John’s house— this was Art Van.

    “Too firm over here—” Kent called out.
    “S’okay. A bit squishy.”
    “I’m on one of those individual coil ones over here,” Mom said, “the one from that commercial with the glass of wine and the bowling ball.”
    “Oh yeah!”
    “How is it?”
    “It’s great. It’s just right," she pronounced, “It’s a Sealy...

Just then Mort, a start middle-aged gentleman whose comb over, jacket, smile, and every gesture indicated that he was an Art Van salesman, leaned over into my vision, blocking my view of the fluorescent lights like a malevolent dentist, and, hands clasped behind his back, chimed,
    “Anything I can do for you?”
He smiled a slow motion smile like a cartoon drawing from the 80s.
Nobody moved.

    “We were just waiting for our porridge to cool” I said.

Mort’s smile was as frozen upon his face as our extremities were to the mattresses, only our eyes shifted, locking on him.

    “We’ll take this one” Mom said.

Throw in three bowls of porridge and a blonde girl and we’d have had ourselves a fairy tale ending.

   “Excellent” said Mort, straightening upward, eying us still. “You’re certain of the Queen?”
    “No doubt about the Queen” Kent smiled at Mom. Plus downsizing from the King-sized Death Bed felt right.
    “And we’ll take this frame” said Mom, “I like it— it looks like a sleigh.”

It did—a chestnut, caramel-stained Queen-sized sleigh.

    “I’ll draw up the papers” said Mort, as he turned on his tiny feet, hands still behind his back.

As Mort trotted away, comb-over blinding us, we turned to Mom, who was deep in thought.
    “A new bed…” I said.
    “Yes” she said, running her hand along the hip of the frame.
    “Happy?” Kent asked in a low voice.

Mom thought a moment before answering. Of course she was not happy, her one and only love was gone— gone almost as callously as the upstairs carpets. Our family was evil and the government unhelpful. She was lost, abandoned once again, and living in Detroit with a gaggle of equally lost teenagers. It all crossed her mind, you could see it in her face, and in the thoughtful hand still caressing the chestnut bed frame.

At last the hand stopped, Mom paused and clutched the wood, felt its solid weight. She focused on the bed—her brand new Queen sized chestnut sleigh bed, with thick orthopedic mattress, box spring and 20% Thanksgiving discount, all fit for a Queen.

    “Happy...” she said.

This was a step.
A Baby Step, as Bob would say,
     toward the next stage of our new life,
and that made her happy. 
That fact.

[1] The National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia
[2] do not get between my mother and a power tool
[3] There was also an element of peeling off the used layer of a lint roller… But I’ll stick with Trojan excavation metaphor for now. However grand.

26 May, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actually use) - LIFESTYLE

1.  THINX -  @shethinx

Now don’t freak out: but menstruation has long been a taboo subject in society, yet, it is one of the oldest and most natural things in the history of the world. Long has “the period” been the butt of terrible jokes, totally normal hormonal fluctuations blamed for totally unreasonable female insanity, and the very practical, natural, and totally universal ins and outs of the PERIOD approached with disgust, embarrassment and taboo.

No longer. Not according to Thinx.

I won’t go on, but I will say: it is high time we all get over it and recognize that everybody poops, and half the world gets their period.

Thinx is a Brooklyn based company that is run by silly and ferociously intelligent ladies whom I have never met, but hope to because I own very single one of their products and ain’t shuttin' up about how much I love their mission statement, green vision, and taboo-bursting, general badassery.

Here is what their (super cute) website says:
We're guessin' you heard about THINX through the grapevine (Grapefruit vine? had to).
The humans behind THINX are smart and funny and a little bit silly (okay, a lot silly).
But we've been hard at work breaking the period taboo since January 2014. But our story starts like, way way back. (Three friends) + (some gnarly period accidents) + (100 million girls missing school just b/c of their periods) + (3.5 years of R&D) + (like, 30 badass team members) = the THINX you know and love and bleed into today.
We're givin' back across the globe with THINX Foundation (who run the world?! GIRLS). Join the revolution at thinx.org!

2.  URBAN EARS - @Urbanears

These headphones are not only comfortable, loaded with personality, and brightly colored (I own three pairs— seriously), but there is something about the brand: Urban ears possesses a profound understanding of how headphones are used, worn and WHY.

Urbanears is a collective based out of Scandinavia, motivated by a common interest in global relationships, a deeper connection to color, form and people, all while providing the freedom to transcend individuality and unify the sound *experience.*

In their words:
Our vision is to add a number of elements to the concept of performance. Beyond the obvious sound rendition we have a vision of making headphones that feel more like clothes than chromed plastics. We design headphones with respect to what they are expected to be, but with great attention to the details. An Urbanears headphone is always describable as a classic headphone, rather than a bold design statement redefining the product category. We spend much time making our headphones affordable. Still we want each product to always come with a little extra functionality you wouldn’t expect. And deliver great audio as well as ergonomics. Equally important, we work hard at making Urbanears available in a store near you. The evolution of music formats has allowed you to carry your full collection in the pocket. Music has migrated from designated players into cell phones. It just seems stupid not to add a microphone and a remote, allowing you to pick up calls and communicate. We try to make your Urbanears function with the most possible devices out there.

Quality. Color. Affordability. I’m sold time and time again. From Lemon to Red to Cobalt.

3.  MOLESKINE - @moleskine

THE LEGENDARY NOTEBOOK! I have been using Moleskin journals (and weekly planners, for that matter!) literally my entire adult life. Every time I branch out to another brand of notebook, I feel like I am cheating on my spouse, and I long to return to the ever-so-perfect weight, paper density, perfect proportions, line-width (or, on occasion, grid-size), and colors (my favorite being red).

“It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin.

A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

In 1997, a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life, and selected this name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Following in Chatwin's footsteps, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new and portable technology of today. Capturing reality in movement, glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experience on paper: the Moleskine notebook becomes a battery that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time.”
My moleskin has accompanied me from San Francisco to Glasgow to The Isle of Olkohn in Siberia (literally), and has ever let me down as my constant companion and vessel for my every thought, idea, whim, doodle and ventilation.


Investing (and not really even that much actual money, might I add) in air filters has been the single best addition to my healthcare regime in the last year, and after truly exhaustive research (also on the part of internet wizard MamaSilbs thankyouverymuch), this model rose to tippy top and has never let me down. I own three in my (very) large one bedroom apartment in Astoria— living room, bedroom and kitchen— covering the gamut of my entire living space.

Last year my doctor quite wisely pointed out that we fight inflammatory triggers not on a daily, but on a minute-by-minute basis, and turning on an air filter removes a huge part of that! If your body doesn’t have to fight air pollution in your home (where most people spend the majority of their lives, particularly the multiple hours they spend sleeping), then your body can use its resources to fight the more vital triggers such as disease! Why make your body work any harder than it has to when all you have to do is plug something in? No brainer.

Why GERMGAURDIAN (which sounds like a Transformer, amiright?)

Well because it has the following sexy attributes: a Pet Pure True HEPA Filter, a UV-C Sanitizer, an Allergen and Odor Reduction system (which works, my downstairs neighbors smokes like a chimney and I don’t breathe a whiff of it!), 5 speeds (including an ultra-quiet sleep mode), and a 28-Inch Digital Air Purifier.

Their words:
"The 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System is perfect for allergy sufferers. True HEPA captures 99.97% of allergens including pet dander, dust mites and pollen. The Pet Pure is an antimicrobial agent added to the filter to inhibit the growth of mold, mildew and odor-causing bacteria on the surface of the filter. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, doctors recommend HEPA air filtration to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers. More than just a filter, the UV-C light kills germs, while the charcoal filter captures odors. CADR Rated 125+ and standing 28 inches tall, it is lightweight and ideal to use in both medium to large rooms. The easy to use digital display panel includes UV-C control, a filter change indicator and an up to 8 hour timer. 5 speeds provide high speed allergen control down to ultra-quiet sleep mode."

Best money you will ever spend.

5.  LE PEN
The (currently MOST unfortunately named —because of the racist xenophobic French political Marine LePen naturellement) LePen pens have a smooth-writing, micro-fine plastic point and a sleek barrel design. The ink is acid free and non-toxic. Available in a bazillion fun colors (including some new Neon ones!).  Also really love that the ink colors actually match barrel colors.

They are travel-able, long-lasting, acid free, non-toxic, and smudge-proof. They are perfect for journaling (my favorite), letter-writing, business forms, notebooks, diaries, memo pads, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. I use them in my Moleskin... To write about my feelings, ideas and Tati and Angela Lansbury of course. Because I am nothing if not both obsessive, loyal, and consistent. 


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