Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Update 12A

Trauma & Therapy

Sewing & Crafts Therapy
Busy Hands, Healthy Mind

Compiled & Narrated 
by Anthony Servante

Dr. Bobue Horaguchi, Priest of the Buddhist Temple where Painting Therapy is held, introduced me to some patients who have begun a Crafts & Sewing group. So far, the group consists of only four people, two teen girls and their mothers, but they shared their creations with Priest Horaguchi, and he was kind enough to share this new therapy with me for this column. I took it upon myself to further investigate how the therapeutic community is using arts in their patient sessions, and decided to write something up on the topic for today's column. Hopefully, I can gather examples of these craft projects and other relevant materials. But that's for later. Let's look at the therapy of arts and crafts and see if we can define its components.

Arts Therapy
Laura Johnson wrote an article of Crafts Therapy based on the findings of Timothy J. Legg, PhD, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) that were published May 19, 2017. The piece, titled, "Crafting Helped My Grandma Treat Her Depression", offers a personal look into into the grandmother's history with depression. Laura writes, "I noticed the green felt birds piled in a trashcan as we cleaned out my grandparents’ house. I quickly pulled them out and demanded to know who’d thrown away the sequined (and slightly gaudy) birds. They had been the only decorations on my grandparents’ Christmas tree for as long as I could remember. After a few awkward glances and whispered conversations, I learned the sad history of the birds: my grandmother had made them while dealing with depression in a psychiatric facility." It turned out that the mental facility where her grandmother was treated was using crafts for therapy with patients with depression.

Therapists at the facility found that "painting pictures, making music, sewing skirts, or creating cakes can have the following positive benefits for mental health". Creative outlets that occupy the mind and hands were believed to reduce anxiety and depression by refocusing the patients' attention from their obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Laura gathered a list of activities used at the facility. Here they are:

1. Join a knitting group. Not only can group members help you improve your skills, they can also become friends and keep you from feeling isolated.
2. Bake and decorate a cake.
3.Color in an adult coloring book.
4. Paint a picture.
5. Make a door wreath.
6. Create a seasonal centerpiece for your kitchen table.
7. Sew a dress or pillow cover.
8. Get out in nature and take some photos.
9. Learn to play an instrument.

So, thanks to Laura's Grandmother's love for birds, she found the right outlet to refocus her energy, thus depriving her depression and anxiety the attention that lead to a negative attitude.

In Harnessing the Mental Health Benefits of the Creativity–Spirituality Construct: Introducing the Theory of Transformative Coping by Dagmar A.S. Corry, Christopher Alan Lewis, & John Mallet, "creativity and spirituality" help a trauma patient to cope with the obsessions brought on by negative emotions. The process from working with crafts to dealing with overwhelming feelings of helplessness is called "transformation". By this, the writers point out that "practical applications" that can be measured empirically is the best "component in modern healthcare". In other words, a patient that learns to crochet a sweater cannot obsess on anything while their mind is occupied with a repetitive activity that ultimately creates a garment of clothing. The patient sees this creation as positive, and the doctors have a mechanism and product to measure results and success. The patient is happy while busily working and satisfied emotionally when the work results in a finished product of clothing.

In another article that deals with anxiety and coping, The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study by David Alan Sandmire, Sarah Roberts Gorham, Nancy Elizabeth Rankin, & David Robert Grimm, a study was conducted on 57 undergraduate students during the stressful period leading up to final exams. The control group were allowed to study for their examinations while the "art-making group" was assigned various activities, including "painting or coloring pre-designed mandalas, free-form painting, collage making, still life drawing, and modeling with clay." The study determined that the art-making group measurably reduced anxiety levels, while the control group showed no difference. Based on their findings, "art therapy programs" help offer coping mechanisms with stress.

Although I'd like to say that my writing helps to reduce anxiety, I can't say that tapping away on a keyboard is the best remedy to help to cope with stress. As I have often shared on Facebook with my friends and colleagues, writing, in fact, often adds to my stress. Perhaps it's the crafts and arts that do not require editing or grammatical perfection that keeps one's mind off one's problems and allows a carefree mind to help relax the body; perhaps sewing a new dress or knitting a sweater is a stress-free activity where the activity is the goal rather than a perfect result, as we have with writing. 

Although I have found that free-form poetry writing can be therapeutic, it still requires much thought to choose the structure and form of the words. In arts and crafts, the action of doing is the goal in itself. Whether the end result is a sweater with one long sleeve and one short sleeve, it does not matter; it was the knitting that mattered; the activity reduced stress. And that, in a nutshell, is the goal for any good therapy. 

In Update 12B, we will visit with the participants at Priest Horaguchi's arts therapy group and hopefully share some stories and crafts samples with you readers. Until then, we thank you for following this series. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Meta Adventurer

Mombasa Madrigal and Other African Escapades 
by Rhys Hughes

A Review by Anthony Servante

Click Here to Purchase


"A collection of stories introduced by a novelette that is a fusion of memoir, travelogue and speculation. 'Mombasa Madrigal' charts a modern voyage to that city of crumbling equatorial grandeur. A thoughtful, pulsating, intuitive text, it is something new in the somewhat conventionalized universe of contemporary narratives. The short stories that follow complement and amplify the impact. Outrigger canoes with crab claw sails ride the currents of the Indian Ocean into oblivion, the mountains of Kenya loom high over grounded ships miles from the sea, pirates dream impossibilities and scheme them into reality along the Swahili Coast. And always Mombasa, the gateway to East Africa, pulsing endlessly in the heat of the night."


"I am a writer of Fantastika and Speculative Fiction.

My earliest surviving short story dates from 1989, and since that time I have embarked on an ambitious project of writing a story cycle consisting of exactly 1000 linked tales. Recently I decided to give this cycle an overall name -- PANDORA'S BLUFF.

My favourite fiction writers are Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, Boris Vian, Flann O'Brien, Milorad Pavic, Milan Kundera, Alvaro Mutis and Jorge Luis Borges, all of whom have a very well-developed sense of irony and a powerful imagination. I particularly enjoy literature that combines humour with seriousness, and that fuses the emotional with the intellectual, the profound with the lighthearted, the unfettered with the precise.

My first book was published in 1995 and sold slowly but it seemed to strike a chord with some people. My subsequent books sold more strongly as my reputation gradually increased. I have been told that I am a "cult author" and I'm pleased with the description, but obviously I also want to reach out to a wider audience!"
Rhys Hughes


"Magic realism" is not a term to banter lightly, and I won't do it here. Whether you're riding with "Don Quixote" on his quest to rescue maidens and conquer dragons, or flowing down the Congo River along with Marlow in search of Kurtz in "Heart of Darkness, or riding "On the Road" with Kerouac at the narrative steering wheel, magic realism falls short to describe the meta narrative in "Mombasa Madrigal, and Other African Escapades". 

Let me explain. 

There is fable about the blind men and the elephant, and how each man touches a different part of the big beast, describing their section as the true form of the elephant, because, being blind, they could not see the totality of the animal. The man who touched the truck said the elephant was like a great snake, the man touching a leg said that it was like a tree trunk, and yet another lay his hands on the elephant's side and said that the beast was like a wall. This is the problem of the critic reviewing the works of Rhys Hughes'--we are like the blind men, for we cannot see the totality of his work. And so is the problem presented with a reading of his latest book, Mombasa Madrigal.

We find similar problems with "Ulysses" by James Joyce and  "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. In the former case, the narrator strings together sentences from stream of consciousness while in the latter, the narrator calculates the chaos of structure. In both forms, however, we are merely receptacles, and not passengers, for these vehicles. The experience of the writing gets dumped into us. On the other hand, Rhys Hughes is talking to his audience; he is filling the readers' heads with information both fictional and nonfictional, taking us from point A to point B, but without ever telling us when we left or when we arrived.   As our fable of the elephant implies, the readers select the part of the book that makes the reading comfortable for them, whether it's the nonfiction observations, the narrative escapades, or the introspective travelogue. Without seeing the totality of the book, we are like the blind men. 

Thankfully the book as a whole does include the reader, even if only from a meta distance. The realism, of course, is the tourist examining the Equator like a child's first trip to Disneyland; the magic is the adventures that spring from this tourist's imagination. And that's as close as we get to magic realism, for Hughes uses his meta voice to split the two in halves (fiction and nonfiction) to lead us into his Ecuadorian adventureland via his ironic narrator. 

I enjoyed the irony in the narrator's digressions. When Shelley eulogized his friend Keats, the poet spoke more of how the death affected his own person rather than remember the life of John Keats. Here, too, John Rhys shows us more of himself than he does of Mombasa, but you might argue that it depends on which part of the book you select. I, myself, would select the book as a whole. Don't be like the blind men and pick just one part of Mombasa Madrigal. Pick up a copy, read the entire book as one total experience, and then you can decide for yourself what it is. Magic? Realism? Fiction? Nonfiction? Or Meta Narrative?

Or maybe the book is like a great snake.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Zombies, '60s Rock Music Icons, 
Inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Twenty years after first becoming eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and four nominations later (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019), The Zombies finally were inducted along with Roxy Music, The Cure, Def Leopard, Radiohead, and Stevie Nicks. The 1960s band featuring Rod Argent on keyboard, Colin Blunstone on vocals, Paul Atkinson on guitar, Chris White on bass, and Hugh Grundy on drums were honored alongside the current line up of Tom Toomey on guitar, Steve Rodford drums, and Soren Koch bass.

Their hit songs "She's Not There", "Tell Her No", and "Time of the Season" were being played on radio stations in the UK and the USA, but the band were unaware of their success and contemplating breaking up the group. But once the band discovered their popularity, they toured and put out a second album, "Odessey and Oracle" (1968). In 2015, The Zombies toured with former and current members to play their second LP in its entirety, a first for the band. Recently, they've just wrapped up a tour opening for Arcade Fire, whose members are big fans of the 60s band.

The Servante of Darkness Blog congratulates The Zombies on reaching this milestone in their career. Tom Toomey sent me these photos from that memorable night. I am most glad to share them with you readers and music fans alike. 

The Zombies, members past and present on stage

Colin Blunstone & Tom Toomey

Tom with Rod Argent

Hugh Grundy (original drummer) and Tom

Chris White, original bassist with Tom

Cindy Da Silva Rocks Management and Tom

Chris Tuthill Rocks Management and Tom

Tom with Helen Atkinson, 
representing the late Paul Atkinson

Paul Atkinson, (1946-2004)

Cory and Pam from Rocks Management

Bonus Clip

Tom Toomey also shared this video clip from Rocks Management administrator Chris Tuthill. In it, you can see Rock and Rock Hall of Fame Induction celebration on a cruise line with Norman Greenbaum singing a karaoke version of "Spirit in the Sky". Check out his back-up band.  

"My surreal life is now complete. Not did I only meet Norman Greenbaum, but I got to hear him sing “Spirit In The Sky” karaoke on a Caribbean cruise ship. The chorus includes The Zombies’ own Tom Toomey, Linda Bassick of Mellow Yellow, and 2 of Pink Floyd’s background singers!" Chris Tuthill