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Posts Tagged ‘Cynthia Kuni’

My new website is up and running!  www.cynthiakuni.com

I have long worried that my professional site on this platform, which started as a humble blog, has been looking more and more like somebody’s middle school project. I want to thank the endlessly patient tech support people at Bluehost for helping me start fresh.

I will continue to blog here and occasionally share posts on my Facebook page. See you at cynthiakuni.com!

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The thing is, I don’t have an inferiority complex or social awkwardness, or any of the usual excuses for being camera shy with regard to playing harp. I just get so distracted from music when a camera is around. Why?

It may be that my amateur-photographer mother insisted on full smiles and total cooperation from her four children as she snapped away on her Graflex.  We were polished, posed, and portrayed, her four little angels of photographic perfection.

There was little resistance. My brother stuck out his tongue in a couple of shots (mild enough to be adorable rather than mutinous), and in one glorious instance my oldest sister leaped in front of the camera just as my other sister and I were to be immortalized in our Halloween costumes. We were hobos. Oh, the irony.

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“Okay. Now lean in and pretend to whisper… Nooooo! Laura!!!!”

Then there is the pinky thing.  When I was 12, there was an accident involving my left hand, a gold fish bowl I was cleaning in the back yard, and a bit a concrete. Eight stitches and a monstrously bandaged month later, I was left with a pinky refugee, never to return normally to its sisters. It won’t fold flat, it won’t go where I want it to go, and (yes, I know that only I and a handful of other harpists would notice) it doesn’t do Good Hand Position at the harp, preferring instead to curl up as if I’m sipping tea at a bloody cotillion. Normally I don’t think of it much, but put a camera in front of me and The Voice of Dysfunction whispers in my ear, “cream or sugar?”

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So, for whatever reasons, I have never been comfortable playing music with a camera on me. But I am determined to overcome! I may never be able to smile perfectly (or even speak) while playing, but I will make more YouTube videos!

How? Snippets! For the past few weeks I have been recording small portions or shortened versions of songs on the harp as a sort of conditioning therapy. I am calling them “Saturday Snippets” because I have a weakness for cutesy alliteration. I have been posting them on my Facebook page rather than YouTube; I suppose it seems less exposed. After all, the snippets are not always my best work. And it’s just me, my harps and an iPhone. There are little mistakes, the cat starts meowing, my pinky goes out for tea… Nothing polished. Sorry, Mom.

But it’s a start. And I really think it’s helping.

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We interrupt our regular Harpist’s Output of Sweetness & Light to bring you:

  • explicit language
  • unpleasant truths about what you probably ate for breakfast
  • an unpopular point of view on exercise
  • stuff I like about one guy who is saying what I already knew but with more blushing (me, not him)
  • lots of bullet point lists, exclamation points and italics! Sound fun? Let’s go!

The Background:  I’m not sure I have ever mentioned this, but I have strong opinions about what I eat.  I switched to the Paleo Diet in 2006 and added low-carb to it a couple of years after that.  The benefits I have experienced from this switch could take up an entire post. “Eat this way!” is at the top of the list of things I would tell my 18 year old self if I could go back in time.

I will admit that I have not been completely faithful, because you do not walk away from decades of consuming something more addictive than cocaine overnight.  I struggle. I fall and get up again. But I have no doubts.  Like Gary Taubes says, “Just because it took me 19 years to give up smoking doesn’t mean the body ‘needs’ cigarettes.”

The Discovery: So there I was, Low-Carb Paleo True Believer, running down the street while listening to podcasts, and I hear this guy, Vinnie Tortorich being interviewed.  To be honest, my first reaction was not positive. His macho-Italian voice made me think unkind thoughts.  But everything he said was brilliant and I soon shed the prejudice.

Another day, another run, another interview on a different podcast I like – there he is again!  This time I’m listening well right from the start… more good advice and sound reasoning.  Now, I spend a lot of hours running (yes, without sugar), and I am always interested in new books or podcasts to occupy my mind.  That afternoon I subscribed to Vinnie’s podcast and downloaded a number of the older episodes as well.

Before I continue, if you are sensitive to bad language, crude and vulgar jokes or you’re just easily offended in general, this is not a show you will enjoy. Or a blog post for that matter.  Don’t apologize; I respect your sensibilities and often feel that way myself.  Stick with Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf  and you will get a lot of the same information without the hot sauce.

I often want to swear and tell people off myself.  But I was raised to be a lady.  By the way, it is said that one of the foulest mouths belonged to one of the world’s finest harpists ever, Alice Chalifoux.  I sat across from her during lunch at a conference once and heard her refer to a group of people as “those bastards.” Mild, for her I’m told. She was in her 80s at the time.

Getting mad: Vinnie (may I call you Vinnie, Mr. Tortorich?) is  “American’s Angriest Trainer.”  He calls himself that because “your good intentions have been stolen from you.” So true.  Ask me about an entire year spent being hungry every day on Weight Watchers, long ago.  Or the fat I gained trying to eat like Ornish.  Or the “cheat foods” I tried to work off by running.  I had good intentions too.

Vinnie rants a lot.  Honestly, I love the rants…  Biggest Loser starvation nonsense, clueless “trainers” at gyms, the tip jars at Starbucks, and whatever pisses him off — I love it.  The INTJ in me craves truth and justice, and I sometimes wish I could say “go fuck yourself!” like Vinnie does, but for the aforementioned lady-like upbringing.   Vicarious venting, that’s what it is.

Anna: Anna Vocino, Vinnie’s cohost,  gets me laughing so hard with her vocal impressions (she does a great Paula Deen).  She contributes in so many ways, keeps Vinnie on track (or tries to), and looks up information on the fly during their discussions.  And how cool is it that her name is “Vocino?” Doesn’t that mean “shout” in Italian? Go, Anna!

Content: Vinnie knows his stuff — except for the moments when Anna has to look it up.  Just kidding – he is a well-educated man and has decades of experience coaching people.  But unlike 99.9% of the coaches you meet, he questioned the low-fat, low-calorie paradigm, that monster born of the McGovern commission’s decision to put wheat profits above human health in the early 70s.  Vinnie was taught that dogma, but he eventually questioned it, and he embraced an unpopular truth – with bared teeth.  There is a great value in the polite, scientific voices you will see in my bibliography, but Vinnie is the first bulldog, in-your-face, you-wanna-piece-of-me? warrior for the cause.  Bravo.

By the way, if you are scratching your head over that reference to McGovern, take a moment to watch this:

Here are some of the things you will learn about on Vinnie’s show.  If you just want read about these things without the vitriol, see the bibliography at the end of this post.

  • Successful weight loss will come from 95% diet, 5% exercise.
  • Avoid sugar and avoid grains. (Personally I also avoid potatoes, legumes and other high-carb foods, but most people will experience a dramatic change in their health if they only do these 2 things.)
  • “Put life into living.”  Occasion treats will not harm you if they are really occasional.  Total deprivation doesn’t work well for most people.
  • You cannot undo the damage of whack-load of sugar with an hour or two at the gym. Hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin) rule.
  • Cutting carbs is important, but what people really have a hard time accepting is increasing the fat in their diets.  Not seed oils.  Olive oil and saturated fat (especially from pastured animals) are good for you.  The cholesterol theory of heart disease is founded on politics and economics, not science.
  • There are no fitness shortcuts.  No gadgets, no 20-min-a-week programs, no pills that will make a lasting difference to your fitness.
  • Sometimes people aren’t right about fitness. They just seem right because they are young, or “naturally thin.” Ask yourself whom they have helped and how long the help lasted.
  • There are right and wrong reasons to exercise.  Which reason you choose is going to determine your success.
  • Juice is worse than soda. Don’t make it, don’t buy it, don’t drink it.
  • Skinny does not equal healthy.
  • Getting older is no excuse for poor fitness.
  • A “cheat day” is a bad idea, if you haven’t already figured that out.
  • Olive oil, yes. Energy gels, no.
  • A very small percentage of the population can sustain an extremely-low-calorie diet for life. Very small.

Connections:  Vinnie, on the off chance you ever read this, I want to explain the real reason I love your show (besides the ranting) and eventually came to feel like you were a close personal friend: connections.  (Yes, more bullet points!)

  • Los Angeles – I love hearing you mention places in LA, around where I grew up. Not that I ever want to live there again!
  • You are an endurance athlete. I’m not sure if you know this, but among the Paleo-diet crowd there is sometimes a bit of an anti-cardio attitude.  They call it “chronic cardio” and blame various health issues on running, while completely ignoring the fact that the running culture is a sugar culture.  Although you are not advocating the Paleo diet, what you say is pretty close, and I am always so happy to see those two worlds “collide.”
  • You are over 50! I am over 50!  [Insert secret handshake here.]   How many role models can I look to for inspiration, when it comes to staying fit and feeling younger than my years? Damn few.
  • Ok, this one is just jaw dropping to me.  You talked about Dr. Sarno’s book on your show.  Nobody talks about Dr. Sarno!  I even stopped mentioning him to people because I got tired of being unjustly pitied as some kind of quack-follower.  Someday I’m going to write a blog post about my experience with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome), but for now let me just say that this information saved my running and changed my life.  It is real and true.  I am living proof.
  • You are friends with Genie Francis!   No, I am not also friends with Genie Francis.  But long ago, for a short time in my life, I was her double.  I lived in West Hollywood, and I could not go anywhere without someone asking me for an autograph.  In spite of repeated correction, the two elderly Russian women next door ambushed me almost every time I came out of my apartment. They would take my hands and pat them and gaze at me, smiling, muttering to each other in Russian.  “I’m not Genie Francis.”  “Yah, yah…”

Here are some pictures. You be the judge. And tell Genie “Hi” from me.

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

You can find Vinnie’s podcast on iTunes under “Vinnie Tortorich”, or at his website: www.vinnietortorich.com

Almost forgot the promised bibliography!  I have decided to borrow one, which you will find here, because 1) it has a lot of the books I would have listed, and 2) he has a really cool site you ought to see.     Update, December 2016… I see my link no longer works. I have written a new bibliography in this 2016 blog post which you will find at the very bottom of the post.

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As some of you will recall, I have been playing for brunch at The Black Dog cafe in Snoqualmie on second Sundays this summer.  (The last one scheduled is Sept. 8, but I hope to continue on after that. Please Like me on Facebook with the widget on the right to get updates.)   It is a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere in which to play, and I enjoy it very much.

The Black Dog is more than a cafe, and more than a music/theater venue.  There is always a variety of art, antiques and crafts to peruse and to buy, and always a friendly, talk-to-the-folks-at-the-next-table kind of atmosphere.

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Occasionally it gets quiet and slow…

Slow moment

At other times, I wonder if I can be heard above the happy sounds of food and friends.

It is so relaxed and laid back at The Black Dog that I have to force myself to get into proper clothing (not pj’s and tshirts, Cynthia!), and maybe even do my hair.  Which, it turns out, is hopeless. The Black Dog is a hip, hap’nin kind of place, but I seem incapable of looking even remotely hip and always seem to end up looking more like Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island.

Mary Ann

Despite groovy earrings and leopard skin dress, just not hip.

Chronically unhip

Despite cool earrings, I arrive at the Black Dog looking typically un-hip.

But I don’t play the Black Dog to feel like I could look good in leather. Nor do I play the Black Dog for the money, which is minimal. I play there because I love the musical freedom and the warm reception.  (And the coffee.)  Last week as I looked over at the little tip jar between tunes,  I thought, “I don’t need that.” And then I thought about my true reasons for playing there and decided to add one more.

Once upon a time there was an innocent creature, a donkey named Pasado, who was hurt, and hurt, and hurt some more until he died.  Do you remember?   I cried when it happened and have cried over it many times since.  Just writing about it, I am crying now.  That unfathomable event summed up the worst of humanity.  The sanctuary that was created in response to it sums up the best of humanity.

Pasado's Safe Haven Sanctuary

When I was a little girl, our father died and our mother went to work while we were in school. Working moms were not as common back then.  During the day, whenever I was not at school, I remember feeling like there was not a soul on earth who would protect me if I needed it.  I remember every danger, every close call, and a few incidents where I did not escape harm. A psychologist might stroke her chin and theorize that my tears for Pasado are tears for my own vulnerable young self.  Surely there is some truth to that.  But I survived and grew strong whereas Pasado did not.

Starting with my next visit on September 8, 100% of the proceeds from my music at The Black Dog will be sent to Pasado’s Safe Haven animal sanctuary.  I really hope you will come to The Black Dog on a second Sunday morning, enjoy the food and some harp music, and leave a few bucks in the jar for animal rescue.   Thank you!

harp at The Black Dog

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I guess we all have a secret fantasy career wish. I actually have several: meteorologist, audiobook narrator, Supreme Court justice, Op-Ed writer, and… backup singer.

Oh yes. I would love to be part of a little trio of singers off to stage right, wearing cool outfits, choreographed down to the tiniest twitch, smooth as butter, providing that crucial musical element through our handheld microphones.

My bizarre aspiration probably began very early in life, as my two sisters and I watched music and dance shows together on TV.   And it began in spite of some pretty dreadful productions; a child doesn’t always notice things like “those ladies forgot to put on any pants,” or “why are those orange traffic flags stuck on top of music stand tripods?”  — both of which atrocities can be seen in this little number:

I do remember that we all wanted those boots.  (They were sometimes called go-go boots, but I remember we also called them “carriage boots,” pronounced like garage but with a “k” sound. And we all wanted white ones.)

But I digress.  I recently was encouraged by a friend to sign up for the harp ensemble that will play one piece in the upcoming Seattle concert of Julia Kay Jamieson.  Signing up this late, I don’t know for sure that they can still use me, but I received the score and it is fascinating. There are a number of sound effects and wonderful rhythmic elements.  (Did you know the harp can make sound effects? That’s a topic for another post.)

I don’t know whether Ms. Jamieson will play on the ensemble piece, or conduct it, or just take composer’s bows. I was kind of picturing her on stage with us, and then I saw this:

Well, bee bop a doo wap!  My imagination went into overdrive. Do we get handheld mics?  Do we get matching outfits?  Do we get boots?

Later, when I came back to reality, I was hunting on the internet to see if any recording of the piece has been made public. I did not find anything. But in the course of searching for the title “Between My Balloon and the Moon,” I came across quite a different balloon themed song.  Check out the plastic dress!!

I showed this to my teenage daughter, whose only response was “I am scarred for life.”  So no plastic dresses for my backup singer career I guess.

In concert: Julia Kay Jamieson, Sunday November 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM. St. Dunstan’s Church, 722 N. 145th St., Shoreline WA

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