Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Home Remedies for Sleep

Don’t Get Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“At night I cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. But in the morning, I cannot wake up or stay awake.” If this describes your sleep pattern, you are not alone. Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia. And now there is mounting evidence that sleep deprivation causes more than just grouchiness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Studies have shown that chronic insomnia can increase our chances of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and possibly even cancer.

Although we are desperate to get a good night’s sleep, many of us do not want to “pop a pill.” This leaves us feeling as though we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The good news is that there are a number alternative methods that may work for you.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: Home Remedies that May Help You Get Your ZZZ’s:

Aromatherapy Although not a cure, stimulating our olfactory senses can possibly help us fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Part of the process of drifting off to la la land is calming ourselves and slowing our activities through bedtime routines and rituals. The fancy schmancy term for this is “sleep hygiene.” One possible way to “clean up” our sleep routine is to place a few drops of lavender, sweet marjoram, chamomile, sage, or jasmine essential oils on your pillow at bedtime. These scents are believed to evoke calming, soothing, relaxing, and warming feelings.

Melatonin “Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Oh dear, oh my, I really hate mice.”  Correction…I really hate not being able to fall asleep. When we hear people speaking about their internal clock, they are referring to melatonin. This naturally produced hormone coordinates our body’s physiological rhythms that help set the brain’s biological clock. Light inhibits its secretion from the pineal gland whereas darkness has the opposite effect and signals for increased melatonin secretion. That is why it is sometimes referred to as the “Dracula of hormones.” Normally, melatonin levels start increasing in the mid-to late evening, remain elevated throughout the night, and then taper off in the early morning hours. As we get older, our melatonin production decreases and can contribute to insomnia. If you are suffering from insomnia and want to avoid anything addictive, taking an over-the-counter supplement at bedtime may help you get your ZZZ’s.

Chamomile tea Among all non-prescription sleep aids, chamomile is one of the most popular. It is believed that this tea contains a chemical that provides anti-anxiety effects. However, not everyone is convinced that this is a magic bullet for insomniacs. Some believe that whatever sleepy effect it has is due to either being a warm liquid or having a placebo effect (we think it relaxes us, so it does!). But when counting sheep is not cutting it, this may be a safe, non-addictive alternative.

Valerian There has been a lot of recent buzz about this natural herb’s potential to help us fall asleep. It is believed to increase GABA levels—a neurotransmitter in your brain that has a calming and anti-anxiety effect. As a result, valerian appears to increase deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. But before you decide to pop a pill of Valerian root, speak with your doctor and pharmacist for possible interactions with your prescription drugs. Herbal supplements may have unwanted interactions with your medications.

Turning to home remedies may force us to find better ways to sharpen our math skills. Afterall, when we have difficulty sleeping, we often find ourselves calculating how much sleep we will get if we could just “fall asleep right now.” In addition to these remedies, try to “turn down the noise” by creating a sleep hygiene plan that works for you, and your health. Sweet dreams. Dulces suenos.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.


Artist Spotlight: Audios Amigos

Interview conducted by @KralTunes

A band that blends instrumental surf, country, latin, soundtrack and garage music (all while wearing mariachi-inspired attire, no less) can be a tough sell for us rock and roll-leaning individuals, but when that band is AUDIOS AMIGOS, consider this guy sold.

Having released several E.P.s of original material mixed with faithfully covered classics,  Audios Amigos is a band that can get your booty shaking one minute, than transport you to the set of ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ the next (it’s enough to make composer Ennio Morricone well up with pride).

Band members JT Halmfilst and Eric Baldoni were more than gracious enough to put up with my nonsense and answer a few questions.  Read along as they reminisce about the origins of their name, the beginnings (sot of) of Red Fang, talk about future projects, and discuss the current state of Portland sports clubs.


KralTunes: First off, GREAT name for a band!  Do you ever feel like you guys hit the  jackpot in coming up with it before some crappy, NICKLEBACK style band could?

JT Halmfilst: Yeah, I feel like we’re pretty lucky, band names are kinda hard to come by, they’re either taken or terrible or both. I had actually used the name (Audios Amigos) for a one-off benefit show featuring members of Dusty Santamaria & the Singing Knives and Dramady. Months later when we were forming this band, I thought it was too good to remain in obscurity and it fit our m.o. You know, “Sound Friends”. It does unfortunately get misspelled often, which is the price we pay for being so clever.

Eric Baldoni: I was pushing for “JT and the Skankin’ Yankees”, but apparently that last part is already taken. It’s generally a good thing no one listens to me.

KT: Whenever I think of the Pacific Northwest music scene, hard rock bands like Red Fang spring to mind. Is there a Portland surf rock movement the rest of the country all are being deprived of?

JT: There are a great many instrumental bands in and from the Northwest, one of the greatest being The Ventures! Others include Guantanamo Baywatch, Don & the Quixiotes, The Boss Martians, Satan’s Pilgrims, Surf Trio, The Diminished Men. We like to play with an array of bands, mixed bag shows and whatnot. Not even I who happens to love surf/instrumental music wants to hear an entire evening of it! Every once in a while we will share the stage with our surf rock arch rivals, the aforementioned Don & the Quixiotes, but usually prefer to play mixed bag shows, variety being the spice of life and all. Funny you should mention Red Fang, we’ve actually opened for them! Technically
we opened for the comedian Ian Karmel, who was followed by Red Fang. That was great, their fans were really nice to us.

EB: We’d most likely be an anomaly anywhere. Incidentally regarding those Red Fang rock stars, I knew Bryan way back when we both played in “punk” bands in Tucson (late 80s). Not only is he a great guitarist, he also is the original Buckethead. I say this because he once was featured in a performance by the incredibly obscure yet monumental band Slo Deluxe, wearing a metal bucket over his head equipped with a contact microphone into which he was instructed to scream. Come to think of it, that sort of encapsulates his guitar style…so the world owes the existence of Red Fang to Slo Deluxe.

Meet The Guys
Meet The Guys

KT: I love the moody spaghetti western feel of your music. What drew you all to this sound?

JT: I’ve just always loved cool sounding guitars, 50s & 60s
instrumental, cinematic/soundtrack stuff. The way they made things sound is so evocative and imaginative. In a song without words or singing, you kind of end up making up what it’s about or creating your own imagery. This band is a great opportunity to show our influences by playing songs by them. Joe Meek, The Ventures, Link Wray, Ennio
Morricone, the music of David Lynch and Angelo  Badalamenti, Davie Allan and the Arrows. There is also South American music from the 60s called Chicha that is similar to cumbia, but played with wah wah pedals and Farfisas that is real fun to play, or try to! This is the first band of this kind for me and I’m happy to finally be playing
these styles that ive loved for so long.

EB: I like everything odd and weird about the Morricone compositions…he used so many strange instruments to create mood. Our influences, inspirations…geez just too many, especially with the internet making available so much old music that otherwise would have been impossible to find. Personally I started out playing in weird punk bands, then a complex short attention span instrumental combo, then some country, then some post rock…recently though mostly I listen to old Latin music, it’s all about the rhythm sections.

KT: Have you been playing together for a while? How did you all meet?

JT: Dan Lowinger (guitar), Eric Baldoni (bass) and Andy Bacon (drums) were all in a band called The Love Lasers with our friend Lana Rebel (Last Of The Juanitas, Juanita Family, Broken Promises). When she moved back to Tucson, the boys wanted to keep something going. I, JT Halmfilst (guitar), jumped at the chance to play with them. We’ve
all been around the block a few times, seen and admired each others bands. It was a pretty quick fit.

KT: You guys are apparently big on 432hz!

For those not aware:

“432hz vibrates/oscillates on the principles of natural harmonic wave propagation and unifies with the properties of light, time, space, matter, gravity and electromagnetism”.

 Are you some kind of undercover nerds?? What drew you to this cause?

JT: About 432hz, I heard about it a few years ago and started tuning to it in my band Thee Headliners. We were a guitar and drums duo so the transition was easy. We noticed a different feeling and quality to the sound. Different things vibrated in the room we’d been playing in for years. The difference is subtle and was physically relaxing. I convinced AA to tune this way as well citing that we shouldn’t let the Nazis dictate how we tuned. The tuning is popular in the New Age community so maybe that makes us undercover hippies. It feels good to know that we are in harmony with the vibrations of the universe when we play!

EB: It’s complete hogwash, but we love JT unconditionally so we humor him.


KT: What are your plans for 2015, and please say its more music?

JT: Given everyone’s busy schedules, we are adding to our personnel roster, incorporating Ben Cosloy (Bad Assets, Lord Master) on guitar and Frosty Davis on percussion and additional instrumentation. We hope to have a new t-shirt soon and would like to have an album recorded
within the year.

EB: I try to only plan things about a month in advance. This month we are playing a wedding gig…our first wedding gig ever. More people should hire us to play their wedding, we look pretty pimpin in our best digs. It will really impress your guests and convince them that you are cooler than they are…which is the goal.

KT: Will this band ever tour further east?

JT: Being a two car garage band, touring isn’t an option as of yet, but not out of the question. A van hopefully looms in our future as well. How far east are you?  KT: Northern Jersey, so it looks like my options are kinda slim. 

EB: Think positive thoughts and it might happen. Hell, you should come out here and see us, why are you people always putting it on us musicians to do all the traveling? You don’t have to haul around piles of antiquated fragile musical equipment (not to mention actual flesh and blood) in vans that generally speaking, are nothing short of unregulated carnival rides in gross need of repair. KT: You sold me…now to convince the wife to travel across the country to see a surf rock band live.  I’m liking my chances.

Now for the real reason I wanted to talk to you guys:

 KT: In all seriousness, is anyone in the area regarding the PORTLAND TIMBERS serious as a legit sports team?? 

JT: I did heard the Portland Timbers scored 3 touchdowns before the 5th inning of the sportsball meet.

EB: I tried to get a response to this from our resident sports expert Ben Cosloy…but he seems unwilling to share his opinion, which is quite rare for him…

Stop the presses!! Last minute edition from the Audios Amigos sports desk –

Ben Cosloy: The Timbers are the only other pro sports franchise in PDX. In comparison to the Blazers they are an upstart club that plays its games in the heart of downtown and they have a non corporate vibe, not to mention a mascot with a freaking chain saw cutting wood rounds every time the home team scores. The Timbers are a fair to middling team that wins an inordinate amount of home games due to the raucous fans who in other walks of life stare at their shoes at concerts and drive passively. Also, their timbers Army rooting section is so rowdy and downright foul-mouthed it is not suitable for children under a certain age. Yes, the Timbers are 100% for real. KT: I like this guy!!


5/30/2015-The Secret Society  Portland, OR


Official Site                     Facebook                   Bandcamp


Other Spotlighted Artists:

Monocle Stache       Howling Giant       Arms and Sleepers       Wyldlife      Whores        Sky White

Published: Montclair Film Festival

Published Montclair Film Festival photos and articles:

Richard Gere. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
Richard Gere. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival

Hollywood Reporter: Photograph of Richard Gere speaking with Stephen Colbert.

Colbert’s site: Photographs of Mavis Staples speaking with Stephen Colbert

NorthJersey.com via The Montclair Times:

Black Voices in Film. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
MFF Powered by Volunteers. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
David Crabb and "Storytellers in Session". Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
David Crabb and “Storytellers in Session”. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
Film: "Peace Officer" (Photo from the film's website)
Film: “Peace Officer” (Photo from PeaceOfficerFilm.com)

Click here for more photos and information on the Montclair Film Festival.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Meditation

There is a Zen statement: “If you don’t have half an hour to spare every day to meditate, then meditate for an hour.” While many of us can agree that we need to create breaks in our schedule to relax, the idea of dedicating thirty to sixty minutes of our already overly busy day may scare us away from even trying. The good news is that we do not have to be a master yogi or spend hours meditating. Anyone can do it and benefits can be seen after just a few minutes.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Meditation

What is meditation?  It is a mind-body practice that increases mental and physical relaxation. In doing so, it can enhance our overall well-being; creative thinking; perspective; and ability to cope with stressful situations.

Specifically, the goal is to refocus our attention away from everything else. There is a saying that: “Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight.”

Are there different types of meditation? Yes. In fact, meditation has been described as “an umbrella term” for the many ways to achieve a relaxed state of being, inner peace and balance. While there are many types, most share these elements: a quiet location with minimal distractions; a comfortable position (e.g. sitting with legs crossed, lying down, or within  our home or garden or favorite chair); concentrating in order to cut out all distractions (e.g. focusing on a word, a key teaching or saying, an object, our breathing).

Can meditation help me decrease the stress I deal with?  Yes! We all know that when stress becomes chronic and is not properly managed, it can wreak havoc on our minds, body and spirit. We also know that relaxation is the opposite of stress. As a result, meditation decreases the release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) and changes the frequency and amplitude of our brain waves. Meditation helps to provide perspective, calm – and aids against those storms of life on the outside from coming inside.  In doing so, it can have a number of health benefits.  

What are some of the health benefits of meditation? While we need to understand that it may not replace many proven treatment modalities, meditation can be used as part of a multi-faceted approach for a number of ailments with compelling benefits.

  • Decreased blood pressure. The American Heart Association has released a statement that meditation may be considered by clinicians as a form of treatment for high blood pressure.
  • Better sleep. When our minds are racing, it makes it difficult to drift off to sleep and stay asleep. By quieting our thoughts we are more likely to wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Decreased depression and anxiety. Meditation has been shown to change not only our brain waves, but also the way our brain cells make connections, its actual structures (thickening some areas while making others less dense), and even molecules that send signals.
  • Dealing with chronic pain. While it is not clear how meditation decreases the suffering of people who experience chronic pain, studies have shown some surprising results: relief can be achieved by beginners and much quicker than expected.
  • Improved immune function. When our bodies relax, our immune system has the opportunity to prepare for battle against germs, foreign invaders, and cancer.

When is a good time to meditate? One of the beauties of mediation is that we can make it as formal or informal as we like, and thereby adapt it to our needs. There are centers, groups, and classes that are led by trained instructors to teach us advanced techniques. And because meditation does not require equipment or formal training, it can be done on our own, at any time. So, whether we are at work, sitting on an airplane or train, ready to go to sleep, or just feeling anxious or stressed, all we need is a few minutes to achieve our inner peace.

How can I meditate in just a few minutes? If we are seated, sit up straight, plant our feet on the ground, close our eyes, and repeat a mantra. A mantra can be a word or phrase that is religious or secular, such as “Om,” “I am at peace,” or “I love myself.” It helps to tune into our breathing as well. Take a deep and slow breath in from our nostrils and exhale gently either through our nostrils or mouth.

If we are on the go, slow down the pace and focus on each movement of our legs or feet, forget about our destination, and repeat a mantra.

If we have a faith we follow, consider engaging in prayer, praise or a spiritual precept, the most widely practiced example of meditation. It can be saying or reading our own words or verses, or listening to sacred music.

Meditation is a rich moment or collection of moments that we escape the noise and demands of our world to focus fully in the wonder of stillness and a knowing.  There are healthy benefits in “being still” and meditating that will have positive affect on our body, our thoughts and feelings, and our behavior.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

Artist Spotlight: Sky White, Founder of Wendigo Tea

Interview conducted by @KralTunes

Question:  What does the member of an alternative, glam, post hardcore, hard rock band do to occupy his time when said band decides it’s time to pause?! If you’re Foxy Shazam’s Sky White, you become an importer/exporter in the fine tea biz. I needed a conversation with the ‘Art Vandelay’ of tea.

Frustrated with tea shops and vendors that routinely price gouge their customers, Sky started to buy tea straight from overseas sources.  The problem? When ordering tea from exporters overseas, you have to order quantities that are “not suitable for the average private consumer”.  Thus, like anyone else would, Sky’s solution was to establish a business. He asserts that Wendigo offers a square deal on tea that “beats the world’s most strict organic standards or complies with EU regulations which have much more strict pesticide control standards than the US”.

Not only does Wendigo Tea offer some of the best tea that I’ve ever tasted, but he is spicing up the centuries old biz by developing a line of fine tea leaves named after world-famous cryptid beings (e.g. Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster)!  Sky White graciously took time to share his love of tea and he company he has created.


Sky White, Founder of Wendigo Tea


KralTunes: What’s the more glamorous lifestyle, hard rocker or tea importer/exporter?

Sky White: I’d have to say tea importing is more glamorous mainly because there is no way to have a pile of rock dudes working hard all day on tour and have it not smell real bad. Also the usual way that people want to show appreciation for musicians they like is buying them a drink… As CEO of Wendigo Tea Co. I get tea sent across the planet packaged in what looks like an ancient scroll from a farmer talking about how this tea has never been on American soil and that his family has been guarding these tea trees for a thousand years.
KT: I am a big fan of tea, (green tea, specifically).  I first got into green tea on a trip to Japan several years back (couldn’t stand it at first…the real, unsweetened deal is certainly is an acquired taste).  That trip really opened my eyes to the world of green tea and the variety and complexity behind it.  When did you realize that tea was your go-to beverage?

SW: I may have a cup of some nice coffee once a month but made a pretty strong transition to tea about 10 years ago. Not sure if it is a coincident or not but that was the same time Foxy started heavily touring.

I’m jealous of your trip to Japan. I have to get so much stuff shipped here to try to find the best available from a region. I tried maybe 100 different high-end Japanese green teas before finding my Wendigo Green Tea. KT:  Speaking about the tea, the free stuff they give guests in the hotel rooms is 10X better than any store-bought brand here in the U.S.  Just sayin’.

KT: To quote you from your ABOUT page:

Most American tea drinkers LOVE TEA but don’t know that America is the dumping ground of the world’s bad tea. Many store-bought tea bags are filled with ground-up old, bad, or dead bits that fall off of the good tea leaves, then are scented or flavored with fruit or herbs to improve the taste.

Why do you think America is the dumping ground for the worlds bad tea? From my experiences, people do find it arduous to have to seek out quality products and would rather settle for the inexpensive alternative.

SW: There are a ton of reasons that help explain why we have poor taste in tea. One of the biggest is our geography. We happen to be on the exact opposite side of the planet of where most of the world’s tea has always been produced. And until very recently, it had to be heavily oxidized or fermented as to not spoil before it gets here. You just would never do that with a good tea. So there was no way to avoid that bitter taste for generations unless you overpowered it with some sort of scenting or flavoring.

As for modern times, we can get the best tea in the world shipped here in a few days but it for some reason is still appealing to most people to buy really bad tea that has been flavored with flowers, extracts, and chemicals. I can order from China a garbage bag of the stuff that fills your tea bags for a few bucks. But never would because it doesn’t deserve to be anywhere but in that above stated garbage bag.  

Wendigo Tea Sampler Art: Matthew Franklin

KT: I notice you regularly use mason jars for drinking tea. Are mason jars the optimal tea drinking vessel, or is it a personal preference?

SW: Yes there are proper size and shape tea cups. But I disagree with all of that so do the opposite. I like my tea to cool quickly so the large amount of glass of a mason jar lets more heat escape so I can get that delicious tea into my body faster. Tea cups are thin and delicate so the liquid stays hot as long as possible.

KT:  For me, A good green tea goes a long way.  What is the ultimate, most enjoyable tea leaf for your money?

SW: Honestly my Wendigo Green Tea is my favorite tea on the planet right now. I just tried a Japanese green tea that is 10x as expensive as it and don’t think it came anywhere close to being as enjoyable. I love the grassy taste of Japanese green teas but sometimes you get the “kelpy” taste in there too with a fine leaf tea. I enjoy Wendigo Green Tea so much because it has none of the unwanted flavors ( unless you brew it weird) and also has an unusual amount of natural sweetness. 

KT: Lets see if you can help me with this one. My local tea shop is run by a great guy, who offers a wide variety of tea leaves. As I was perusing the current tea catalog, I noticed a green tea (Uji Superior Gyokuro) that was priced at over $50 per 100 g. Now I like my green tea, but $50 for a few leaves!?! Im not asking if he is ripping me off or anything, but can tea really be that pricey and worth the money?

SW: I have had that kind of Uji Gyokuro, or at least one very similar, and it was pretty darn good. With tea I always say just go for it and see what it is like.

That example right there is one of the main reasons why I started this company though. I am sure that this tea place has 100 or so teas right? (KT: you would be correct) That makes a lot of shipping costs for the business and with that many to deal with it becomes easier to deal with american wholesale companies rather than import from each specific area. Which will double the cost of tea to the consumer. The business model for a tea shop really works a lot better for carrying many different kinds of relatively cheap teas. Otherwise if your one ridiculously high-grade thing doesn’t sell such as that Gyokuro you might end up eating a multiple thousand dollar loss or be forced to sell it long past when it is at its freshest. I bet I could nearly half that price if I were to get that exact tea just because of the difference in our business models. I only carry very good tea because there are so few people selling it because most business models don’t work well with them. But mine does…

Bigfoot Black Tea Art: Matthew Franklin

KT: As of now, you deal primarily with a small handful of teas. Do you hope to branch out with more of a selection? Any future products/teas coming soon? How do you decide which type of tea leaves to work with? Is it a long process?

SW: I only want to sell something if it is special. I don’t see myself carrying more than a dozen or so teas. The goal is to find, in my opinion, the best of every kind of tea and then a few just super unique or interesting finds along the way. I tend to fall in love with teas that have a natural sweetness and a complex flavor a bit different those of similar styles. I’m about to put in an order for some samples of stuff that I didn’t even know existed and seems like no one on the internet has heard about either… 

Nessy Jasmine Tea Art: Matthew Franklin


KT: Now, being a fan of Foxy Shazam, I had to at least ask one question, as I may never have this opportunity again.  You probably have been asked countless times, but fuck it..you guys are on a bit of a break at the moment.  Is there a future for Foxy Shazam (if the answer is not what I am anticipating, feel free to lie to my face and tell me everything will be alright).

SW: We think so.  

KT: Short, sweet, and under 4 syllables.  For now, I’ll take it!





For truly amazing tea, look here:      Wendigo Tea                  Facebook                   Twitter


Fuller, Green and Yo La Tengo

Written by Kimberly Cecchini

(Text reposted from the Montclair Film Festival site: Sunday, May 10)

Photo: Kimberly Cecchini for the Montclair Film Festival

Thursday night’s headline for the Montclair Film Festival was a film event that fit its subject; it was larger than life and totally outside of the box. The live documentary screened at the Wellmont Theatre was a tribute to R. Buckminster Fuller, who according to a television host, had been called a “genius”, “the Benjamin Franklin of the space age” and a “crackpot”.

Writer Sam Green Photo by Kimberly Cecchini for the Montclair Film Festival

Director and producer Sam Green narrated a series of clips and stills from the late Fuller’s archive in harmony with indie band Yo La Tengo’s original live soundtrack. From the other end of the stage, the music’s tone alternated between foreboding, hopeful, eerie and Space Odyssey-esque to follow the rhythmic loop of triumphs and failures that made up Fuller’s life.

In a soft, bedtime story voice, Green took the audience on a trip of the architect, inventor and author’s life with a mixture of humor, empathy and a bit of reverence. Green also smoothly went off script and reminded the audience that it was a live performance with a “bless you” to a sneezing ticket holder.


On script, Green first marveled at the expanse of Fuller’s archives; there is a wealth of telegrams, letters, photos, blueprints and anything else that “crossed his desk”. The audience laughed as Green gestured towards an image of Fuller’s Social Security card and grinned, “I love this s**t!”

Fuller’s life began ordinarily enough; he married in 1917 and had children. However, a series of misfortunes led him to the brink of suicide. Legend says “a voice told him he couldn’t take his own life, that he had to dedicate his life to humanity instead”. And, Green added, “In some versions of his story, he even levitated”.


Whatever happened in that mythologically tinted turning point, Fuller heeded the voice. He initiated his own design revolution with the creed of today’s environmental conservationists, “do more with less”. By applying this philosophy to invention, Fuller believed that peace would be created as humanity could circumvent fights over resources.

To illustrate Fuller’s vision, Green shared a number of his sketches and prototypes. Fuller dubbed many of these ideas with a blend of the words, “dynamic, maximum and tension;”: dymaxion.

Perhaps Fuller’s own term was the most apt title for his designs. After discussing Fuller’s futuristic car and mass produced house concept (both of which “went down the drain”), Green placed his most famous invention in context, “Alexander Graham Bell got a phone, Thomas Edison, the lightbulb, with Buckminster Fuller, its the geo . . . dome– he’s the dome guy”.

Yo La Tengo Performing. Photo: Kimberly Cecchini or the Montclair Film Festival
Yo La Tengo Performing. Photo: Kimberly Cecchini or the Montclair Film Festival


It was his first success. In the 1950s his dome plans were used for botanical gardens, aquariums, radar stations, churches, and, of course, Fuller’s home. Green identified this success as another turning point, “he was no longer a fringe figure”. Yo La Tengo highlighted that transition with strains of hope.

“Opposite of Soundbites”

In from the fringes, the “huge egomaniac” was pictured on a 1960s Time magazine cover and became a lecture staple. When it came to lectures, though, less was not more.

Not only did Green credit Fuller as “the most impossible person to edit I’ve ever come across” because he spoke in “the opposite of soundbites,” but he also shared that one of Fuller’s lecture series was entitled “Everything I Know”.

At 42 hours, that title might actually be the opposite of hyperbole.

Was R. Buckminster Fuller a genius or a crackpot? Or perhaps a bit of both? However you slice it, Sam Green’s project is fitting for either personas.

See more information about the Montclair Film Festival and all its great events at the Montclair Film Festival page. View more photos at the MontclairFilmFest Flickr.

Colbert Thanks Mavis For Being

Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini  @tonightatdawn  Facebook

(Reposted from the Montclair Film Festival site: Sunday, May 10)

Mavis Staple and Stephen Colbert sharing a laugh at the Montclair Film Festival. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival
Mavis Staples and Stephen Colbert sharing a laugh at the Montclair Film Festival. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival

Mavis Staples often starts out a performance with a whisper to bandmate Rick Holstrom, “I don’t have much tonight.”

But a few songs later she’ll turn around to him and exclaim, “I got it back!”

Staples didn’t need to get it back on Friday at the Wellmont; she brought it.

After cheering her performances on screen during the documentary, Mavis!, the MFF audience gave her a minute long standing ovation. She and Colbert then jumped right into a lively, crowd-pleasing banter.


Through interviews and performances, Director Jessica Edwards created a tribute to the master of soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, rock and blues. Mavis! tells the story of the Staples’ tightly woven family and their progression singing gospel for congregations and then follows their evolution through multiple generations of music. On screen, music industry heavyweights such as Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt praise the Staples’ influence and Mavis’ transformative voice.

And everybody loved ‘Pops’ Staples. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mavis’ father had experienced the brunt of segregation in his southern upbringing and on tour during the Civil Rights Movement, his family also endured it. After hearing King speak, Pops was inspired to write freedom songs and told his children, “I think if (King) can preach it, we can sing it.”

Today, Mavis carries his inspirational spirit in her voice and his familial love in her heart, “Pops taught me that the family unit is the strongest unit in the world.” These are not just words to her; older sister Yvonne always travels with her. Moreover, Mavis has expanded the definition of family to include her band and dear friends. She holds a similar sentiment for Wilco’s Tweedy as he has become a close collaborator in her renewed solo career.

Thank You For Being.

Mavis Staples after the screening of “Mavis!”. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival

Stephen Colbert warmly welcomed Mavis Staples into their conversation by simply thanking her “for being.” Having worked together in the past, there was an easy affection between Staples and her “friend and brother.” Over the hour, they fluidly transitioned from serious themes to cracking each other up to an impromptu duet of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking”.

After a spout of laughter from the audience, Staples teased, “What’s the matter with them?”

“They just love you, that’s all. They’ve never seen anyone make me quiet for this long.”

As few people can, Colbert broached topics with a mix of humor and reverence. He apologized when he brought out notecards for his questions, “I’m afraid I’ll forget because I’m too enchanted.”

Staples spoke about growing up with other musical greats like Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield in what they called Chicago’s “Dirty Thirties” between 33rd and 35th Streets. Colbert followed up, “Can you do gospel and be bad? Were you bad for gospel people? Because you sure were sexy; was it okay to be sexy and do gospel?”

Even on a more serious subject, Colbert made Staples giggle. He asked her how she had once “accidentally integrated” a laundromat in Mississippi, “Did you do a load of colors and a load of whites at the same time? That’s bold.”

Staples laughed, “Col-bert!”


It’s Still the ’60s . . .

Colbert and Staples spoke more about her having to walk a “fine line” in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. He paraphrased her father’s guidance to “not stir up any trouble,” but to “not let anyone push you around.”

At Colbert’s prompting, Staples also reflected on their freedom song’s contemporary relevance, “All the songs that I sing fit today . . . it’s still the ’60s as far as I’m concerned.” Staples continued, “When we first started singing protest songs . . . we thought we could change the world. Man, we did pretty good, but not everybody got on board.”


From freedom songs and gospel to the blues and rock n’ roll, Mavis Staples sings across genres without a day of formal

Mavis Staple sings after the screening of
Mavis Staples sings after the screening of “Mavis!”. Photo by Kimberly Cecchini/Montclair Film Festival

training. She said that when she works with a new producer she always tells them, “if it’s too high, bring it down; if it’s too low bring it up and eventually it’s right in there.”

Colbert quipped, “That’s the Goldilocks method of singing.”

Perhaps Staples crosses genres so easily because she doesn’t see a big difference between them. She demonstrated as the audience clapped along, “Jesus gave me water, Jesus gave me water,” and then she switched it up, “My baby, he gave me water . . .”

But even Staples had once resisted going to clubs because her hero Sister Mahalia Jackson did not perform in them. As always, though, Pops had a way of changing her mind by giving her purpose; “Ok, Daddy, I’ll take the church to the club.”

In appreciation, Colbert responded, “You’re taking the church to us.”

See more information about the Montclair Film Festival and all its great events at the Montclair Film Festival page. View more photos at the MontclairFilmFest Flickr. View posts from 2014 here.