Kaiju Big Battel – Brawl in the Family

On July 2oth of 2013 I crossed another item off my bucket list when I attended my first Kaiju Big Battel! I’d been wanting to do this since the late 1990’s, so I was delighted when my friend, Brian, gifted me with a trip to Brooklyn’s Stage 48 to attend the battel for my birthday.

Before we go any further a description is in order, since most people have never heard of Kaiju Big Battel. I’ve included some links at the bottom of this post so you can watch some videos and read about it. Basically, though, Kaiju can be thought of as a mixture of professional wrestling (WWE style), and Japanese monster movies referred to as ‘tokusatsu kaiju’. It’s a live performance with regular characters and continuing story lines in which four separate factions of Kaiju characters fight each other for world domination.

Description from the main website: “Kaiju Big Battel is a modern conflict of epic proportions. Planet Earth is under threat: scattered throughout the galaxy is a monstrous mob of maniacal villains, menacing alien beasts, and giant, city-crushing monsters that are waging war against one another. Presiding over this mayhem is the Kaiju Commissioner, an enigmatic human-arbiter appointed by a clandestine cadre of world leaders to regulate Kaiju rage. If the Kaiju Commissioner doesn’t do his job perfectly the entire world could get caught in the crossfire.”

In the style of classic Japanese monster movies, the Kaiju monsters also destroy buildings,(made out of cardboard and glue) which are placed around the wrestling ring as if the fights are playing out in a real American city. People, let me tell you how awesome this is. If it sounds silly, that’s because it’s supposed to be. In fact, it’s hilarious! I especially love the abundance of literary humor found in the Kauju world. For example, Silver Potato (one of my favorites) has a number of signature moves including the au-gratin style kick, the tuber terror, and the spudsault. Another favorite of mine, named French Toast (also known as The Awful Waffle) can crush his opponent with his signature attack, the french press. When Los Plantanos (also known as The Plantain Brothers) get in the ring, watch out for the Cuban clothesline.

The show at Stage 48 was some of the best live entertainment I’ve experienced so far. We arrived early and claimed a spot right in the front, and I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing for the entire show. In fact, when it was over my cheeks were in pain from so much grinning, but I didn’t mind. This was not only my first time attending a Kaiju Big Battel, but it was also the first time that French Toast spoke! As he had his opponent pinned down, he called over the MC, Loudon Noxious, and motioned for the microphone. The crowd fell silent as we waited to hear French Toast’s very fist words – it was very exciting! As Loudon held the mic up to French Toast, The Awful Waffle counted to three in French. It was so funny that Loudon broke character to join the crowd in  a big grin laugh out loud.

Here’s a video I took at the show. Things get really good at the 7:13 mark.

Here are all of the pictures I took at the show (click to enlarge)

Links for your Kaiju entertainment and education
Kaiju Big Battel, Main Website: http://www.kaiju.com/aboutkaiju.htm
Kaiju Big Battel, Official YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/KaijuOfficial
Kaiju Big Battel on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiju_Big_Battel

50th Post-iversary for Wellness with Gina Marie!

In my other blog, Wellness with Gina Marie, hosted on the Albany Times Union website, today’s post is the 50th one!   If you’ve been enjoying this blog (Getting Personal with Gina Marie), but haven’t yet seen Wellness with Gina Marie, please take a look at this 50th Post-iversary edition by CLICKING HERE. It’s a sampling of the material that’s been covered since the blog’s debut.   If you like what you see there, please subscribe to Wellness with Gina Marie, in the upper right hand corner of your screen while you’re on that website.

I would like to reach a point where I’m posting to this blog as regularly as I do the other.  Thank you very much for reading.

My first published poem

I recently decided to enter my writing in a number of contests.  It was a way of branching out and trying different genres, while having some fun.  The first contest I entered is Open to Interpretation:Fading Light, a juried competition of photography, poetry, and prose.  The selected works are compiled in a beautiful art book, which can be purchased online.

Once the theme is announced, photographers submit their work interpreting the theme.  The photographs selected for publication are posted online, then writers submit their work as inspired by the photographs.  In the book, there are two written pieces to accompany each image.

When I saw Bedscapes No. 9 by Lisa Blair, I wrote Sanctuary in response.  I was thrilled when I received word of it being chosen because, not only had it been my first poem since high school, but it was also the first writing contest I’ve ever entered!  It was a great confidence booster while venturing for the first time into genres unfamiliar.

The book is gorgeous and after reading it and looking at the photographs, I must say, I’m awfully proud to be included.  Photographers and writers from around the globe are represented on its pages, and the works selected are evocative and stirring.  When looking at the book for the first time, I noticed that one of the photographers lives in my town!  I reached out to photographer Michael Bach to congratulate him and say isn’t it neat, and we met over coffee.  Soon we discovered that we are both fine art models, and we’ve worked with some of the same artists!  I love it when stuff like that happens, don’t you?

The local newspaper printed a nice piece about it, in which you get to see Michael Bach’sselected work.


Interview with Lenore Flynn, of Solid Ground Center for a Balanced Life

Lenore Flynn of Solid Ground Center for a Balanced Life(click here to view the main article at Wellness with Gina Marie at the Albany Times Union)

Gina Marie:  What is mindfulness meditation and mindfulness practice?

Lenore:  Mindfulness practice is learning how to be present to whatever is happening in your life without a lot of reactivity, judgment of our selves or others, and with an openness to what it is to be a human being.  Human life is fraught with ups and downs, happiness and unhappiness, suffering and joy.  Our inclination is to push away the things we don’t like or are painful, and to want to hold onto the things we perceive bring us happiness and love.  Many of us experience challenges and have had difficult childhoods.  If we don’t acknowledge it in a way that is mindful, we can’t learn anything from it.  If we push it away, suppress it, or pretend it didn’t happen; it doesn’t make it go away.  Whereas if you can open yourself up and create some space around the pain, maybe something will happen.  That’s what we teach people to do in a skillful way.  Opening yourself up to the bad experience is hard for people because our conditioning is to move away from things that hurt and move towards things that feel good.

Gina Marie:  What kinds of people come to Solid Ground and why do they come?

Lenore:  Very much a mix of folks from all walks of life.  We have people who come from very pragmatic backgrounds who come here; professors and teachers, psychologists and social workers, house wives, students, etc.  People come for a variety of reasons.  People who have a stressful situation in their life, people who are changing jobs, who have had children returning home, people who are caring for ailing parents, people who have had some sort of difficult challenge in their life such as an illness or a chronic pain problem.  People who are self identified as depressed or anxious and they want to be able to handle that a little bit better.  Sometimes physicians will refer people to us.  Age doesn’t matter, gender doesn’t matter – we’re all facing the same issues and struggling with a lot of the same things.  We encourage people to see it that way because that is one of the first steps to being able to be more self compassionate; to recognize that you’re not alone in your suffering.  Everybody can feel a little sad or a little unsafe, or judgmental about themselves, or inadequate in some way.

Gina Marie:  Let’s talk about the 8 week program.  Is it of your design?

Lenore:  The 8 week program was designed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Over the years we have added more self compassion practices, only because we feel people really need it, but we basically stick with the framework of the original program because it works.  We begin with body awareness, then we move into sitting meditation practice.  We work with practical, every day tools that people can use.

Gina Marie:  Do participants of the 8 week course have a universal experience or is it different for each person?

Lenore:  Always in the beginning of the 8 weeks we say to people that the amount of effort they put in will be directly proportional to the benefit that they derive.  This is a time commitment.  We’re going to give you some things to do in between classes.  You’re not going to have to report back that you meditated five times this week or you only meditated once.  It’s really for you to reflect more on why were you not able to make that time for yourself.  Almost universally at the end of the 8 weeks, people report feeling calmer, happier, less stressed, more aware of relationships and the good things in their life.  We focus a lot on that.  We work on recognizing gratitude for the things that we have – if we have good health, if we have family that loves us and we love them, if we have a good job or a safe place to live.  There are many studies that have been done, there’s the neuroscience studies that show the change in the structure of the brain that have been found at the end of the 8 week program.  Happiness and depression improves, so all of that is a lot of empirical evidence that this is a good program.

At the end of the 8 weeks people recognize that it’s just the beginning and they always express a hope that they are going to be able to sustain the practice.  That’s why we offer the opportunity to come [to monthly Meditation and Mindfulness Practice Group on Thursday nights] and we don’t charge people for that.

Gina Marie:  At the end of the 8 weeks do the participants report that there’s been a change in their relationships?

Lenore:  Some people more dramatic than others.  I had a woman who lived over an hour away and came to one of the winter classes.  She came every week and she really worked hard and at the end of the 8 weeks she reported a dramatic shift in her ability to be happier, less anxious, a whole bunch of really nice things for herself.  Sometime after that Steve and I had a table at a fair and she came with her family from Vermont and her family thanked us.  “Mom is so much happier and so much easier to live with” and generally enjoying her life, which is what they really want.  They wanted to see her that way and not getting herself all anxious.  We do have couples who come occasionally and take the course together.  Steve and I encourage people to practice together.  We’ve had mothers and daughters who have come in support of one another and have benefitted from the ability to support one another.  People who live alone report more satisfaction with that, they become more comfortable with living alone.

Gina Marie:  What are some common apprehensions of people who are thinking about learning mindfulness meditation and mindfulness practice?  What are their fears and concerns about what might get in the way?

Lenore:  The time commitment is a big thing.  We do tell people that for this 8 weeks, we ask them to make a commitment to carry it through and at least try all of the things that we introduce.  We have ac couple of people with very demanding jobs and moving parts in their lives, and we say try it for 8 weeks and see what will happen.  Open yourself up to the possibility that this can be something that can be useful or you.  Most people can do that.  Some people are worried about the meditation part of I – that we’re going to make them sit on the floor or do some funny things.  We’re very casual and very open here.  Some people will sit on a cushion because that’s what they’re used to.  Many people have said that in the past they tried and failed to start a meditation practice on their own by listening to tapes, but there’s no substitute for the live experience, for having the interaction with a teacher, and also the group dynamic of hearing other people’s stories.  People open up to each other a lot over the 8 weeks.  We try very hard to create a safe environment but people won’t know that until they come into the environment, so I think people are a little worried about that.  We do screen people for mental health issues, which is a justifiable concern for some people.  If they have some sort of attention deficit disorder or anxiety disorder, being able to sit for long periods is difficult, so we address that and work with them on that.  On our intake form we ask if they are going to therapy, if they have talked to their therapist that this is a good thing for them to do.  We ask them if it is OK with them if we talk with their therapist if we feel we need to (in all of the time we’ve been doing this, that has only happened once.)   A lot of people come because they have read about the benefits of it.  We always encourage people to come and meet us.  The [monthly Meditation and Mindfulness Practice Group on Thursday nights] is a nice opportunity for that.  It doesn’t cost them anything and they can get a sense of what it’s like.  We want people to be comfortable coming here.  Come meet us, come see the Center, we’re happy to talk with them.  Sometimes people are concerned that we may have an agenda, but we teach from a very secular perspective.  Sometimes people associate meditation with Buddhism, and that’s not what we teach here.  Some [8 week course] groups have a little more inclination to it, so we might include a little bit more of it into the course, but that’s not where we come from.

Gina Marie:  Is there anything else you would like people to know about Solid Ground Center for a Balanced Life and the work done here?

Lenore:  People can come here and test it out at the Thursday night practice group without a commitment, and inquire and talk with us to find out if the 8 week course is right for them, or any of the other programs we might be running at the time.  People can come here and see that this is a nice place without any weird things going on.  We offer other educational programs, too.  We keep our prices very affordable and we offer a lot of scholarships.  We don’t turn people away.  If they can’t pay us, we work with them in some way.  For example, students who have limited income.  People who come to our programs make donations and we use that money to support our scholarship program.

For more information, please visit Steve Flynn and Lenore Flynn at the Solid Ground Center for a Balanced Life, 148 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206.  Phone (518) 339-9443.  Email solidgroundny@gmail.com.  Website http://www.solidgroundny.org

Solid Ground Center for a Balanced Life

Interview with Dan and Nacole Smith, of Universal Sounds

Dan and Nacole Smith, of Universal Sounds

Dan and Nacole Smith of Universal Sounds

(click here to view the main article: What in the world is a gong bath?)

Gina Marie: Please talk about the gongs.
Dan: The Planetary Gongs are made in Germany by just five men and they’ve been spreading around the globe for about 10-15 years now.  We had seen some players in Connecticut five years ago and they had the same instruments.  We were so enamored and impressed by what they were doing and the experience we had, so we came back and talked and literally started doing some prayers, and decided this is what we want to do.

Gina Marie: Please explain how the gongs are tuned to different planets.
Dan: [The gongs] came from a gentleman named Hans Cousto who is a Swiss mathematician and musicologist.  He was credited with discovering the literal vibrational frequency of the sun.  Through his work and his understanding of how the classic Tibetan Singing Bowls are made with different metals and alloys that were in the original recipes, he took those metal recipes and, with his scientific measurements of those vibrations of the sun,  was able to craft all the other Planetary Gongs.  Each gong is the sound of that planet as it would make one orbit around the sun.

Gina Marie: Is there a connection between those vibrations and our bodies?
Dan: Yes.  [Hans Cousto] wrote a really neat book called “The Cosmic Octave” and he found there’s a harmonic signature that is found in everything (your shirt, the wood in this floor, your eyes, and the gongs…)  The suggestion is by the people who have been doing this a lot longer than we have, is that on the cellular level and just by hearing that vibration,  there’s a re-set, a reminder, of the harmonic frequencies of the universe which then on a subtle level, brings us back into harmonic alignment with life itself.  An attunement.

Gina Marie: Talk about this very large Quartz Crystal Singing Bowl I see over there.
Dan: According to those who make them, it is attuned to the third eye chakra but also is meant to help adjust the pineal gland, as well.
Gina Marie: Are all of the singing bowls tuned to the human chakras?
Nacole: Yes, that’s right.

Gina Marie: Why would you recommend Vibrational Gong Baths and Sound Healing Meditation to people who are new to it?
Nacole: The reason people keep coming back and the reason we keep continuing to play, is at the end [of the gong bath], seeing the people being touched or saying that they’ve been healed in some way, or letting go of some emotional experience they may have been holding onto.
Dan: For a long time I have practiced many different styles of meditation and there are some people who, for whatever reason, can’t get out of their thought process, and they get frustrated with breathing right or different techniques.  What we have found is that some people have a much easier time getting into that stillness of the mind, and that quiet state, through concentration on the gongs. That’s why we’ve continued to do so well and really bring some benefit to people.  The term used is Sound Healing and the gentleman who has been playing these for a long time since the 60’s, says a healing moment doesn’t have to be a physical healing.  A healing moment can be the first time somebody experiences the awareness of that gap between thoughts, and realizing ‘I’m not my thoughts.’  That’s why we like to do it, because it really can be a huge door for people to explore when they have that experience.

Gina Marie: I’ve heard of people with physical conditions finding relief through the gong bath. Can you share anything about this?
Nacole: My mom has Multiple Sclerosis.  She doesn’t sleep well and she has a lot of pain.  She loves the gongs. She actually gave us the loan for our first set of gongs. She loves the feel [of them] and when she goes home at night [after a gong bath], she can sleep, she has no pain.  It really helps her.

Gina Marie:  I understand you also do gong baths outside.  How is that different than being indoors?
Nacole: I love playing outside, my favorite is outside. Birds love it and they chirp so much when we play outside. You’re laying on the earth so you get the earth energy.
Dan: A couple of times we’ve been outside and the birds will flock to the nearest tree and they’ll be singing along the whole time.  It’s really neat.
Nacole: Sometimes we play at parties where we’ll be set up outside on the lawn and play all day long.  The people will go in and out of the house, laying with the gongs, then going back to the party, and coming back again later for more.  They love it.

Children enjoying a gong bath at the Peace Fair in Saratoga Springs, NY

Children enjoying a gong bath at the Peace Fair in Saratoga Springs, NY

Introducing “Wellness with Gina Marie”

I’m very excited to announce the launch of my newest blog,
Wellness with Gina Marie, a guide to practical wisdom and self-care!

It’s being hosted by the Albany Times Union, which is the main newspaper of the Capital Region in upstate New York.  Here’s a link to the very first post which explains it all: (click here)

And here’s a link to all of the posts: (click here)

I hope you like it!

UPDATE: My first “real” publishing

Open To Interpretation

A few months ago I submitted two pieces of writing to a competition. I’m pleased to announce that one of them was selected!  This is the first time any of my work is in a book.  And what a beautiful book it will be.  Open To Interpretation: Fading Light is a large, hardcover art book that will be published in June.

There was an open call for photographers to submit their work based upon their interpretation of the theme, Fading Light.  The photographs that were selected for publication in the book, were then released on the publisher’s website.  There was an open call for written pieces, as interpretations of the images.  The book is comprised of two written pieces for each photograph in a curated display of interpretations on the theme.

The piece selected was a poem, which is something I hadn’t done since high school.  In fact, I had only gone looking for writing contests to enter in order to win the cash prizes to help pay the bills.  Poetry isn’t a realm I feel comfortable in (at least, currently.)  So I was thrilled to find out that it was selected!

Click here to go to the website to see those books, and more information about the competition.  Anyone can submit photography or written pieces of any genre or an experimental style all your own.  Anything goes – it’s open to interpretation!  I encourage you to entertain the notion of letting your own creative juices squirt out a little bit.  The theme for the next book is Love/Lust and the photography submission deadline is February 12th.  The image chosen for the cover gets $1,000.  The photo and written piece selected for the Judge’s Choice both get $500.  When you go to that website (click here to go right now) you can see excerpts of the previous books, which shows you what was chosen in the past, could have maybe been taken by you!

When the book comes out I’ll share the poem.

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