Monday, April 29, 2013

He Fell From a Star

Read the Printed Word!
This month marks the 70th anniversary for the publication of The Little Prince, by French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. St-Exupery’s life, writing, and death have fascinated people for all these years: the story behind the story is just as interesting as the plots of his most well-loved works.

“St-Ex” was a little too old to be a war pilot (although this didn’t stop him) when the Nazi regime swept across Europe. Born in 1900, St-Exupery learned to fly with the generation of pilots who sought to fly longer distances, faster, across large sections of the globe. These pilots – including Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart – flew more with guts and intuition than with instrumentation. St-Exupery was a pioneer of international postal flight—-the original “Aeropostale” for all you modern mall shoppers. Through the late 1920s, St-Exupery innovated and developed these mail routes connecting Europe, Africa, and South America. While participating in the Paris-to-Saigon air race in December of 1935, he and his mechanic-navigator crashed in the Saraha Desert and miraculously survived.

In the beginning of World War II in Europe, St-Exupery joined the French Air Force, but exiled himself when France surrendered to German occupation in 1940. The author-aviator-aristocrat spent the next three years in the US., encouraging Americans to enter the war, and writing some of his most famous pieces – including The Little Prince.

The Little Prince is one of the best-selling books of all time, making the list of the few titles that have sold over 100 million copies (current stats put it at about 140 million copies sold). Although there are many book series that have sold between 50 and 100 million copies, there are very few single titles that populate this esteemed list. Part of the reason for these staggering numbers of sales is that The Little Prince has been translated into more than 250 languages and dialects. Furthermore, in many countries, The Little Prince has gone through several translations – there have been six English translations, fifteen translations in Japanese, and more than fifty translations into Chinese.

Strangely enough, The Little Prince was not well-received by many of St-Exupery’s contemporary admirers. He was known for his tales of life as a pilot, in such books as Wind, Sand and Stars, for which he won the U.S.’s National Book Award. Though The Little Prince is the story of a pilot who crashes in the Saraha Desert, it was marketed as a children’s book, with its fantastical plot of the little prince from a far-away asteroid who meets the downed pilot in the desert. The strange mix of parables, talking animals, and pessimistic commentary on adult behaviors and cultural mores, didn’t appeal to the audience that St-Exupery had built. Nevertheless, it was published posthumously to growing acclaim, and, obviously, continues to charm generations around the world.

Though superior officers, friends, and concerned colleagues tried to permanently ground St-Exupery several times, citing his age, his health problems from earlier crashes, and his tendency to focus more on musing above the earth rather than on flying, St-Exupery continued flying missions for the Free French Air Force from 1943 through 1944. Adding to mystery to his legend, he took off from the southern coast of France on a reconnaissance mission in July 1944, when he was to gather information about German troop movements in the Rhone Valley, prior to a planned Ally invasion of that area. St-Exupery and his “war-weary” plane disappeared in stormy weather over the Mediterranean not long into his flight. There were no further clues to the mysterious end of an author who has himself become an icon of France until 1998, when a fisherman found a silver ID bracelet engraved with the names of St-Exupery, his wife, and his French publishing house – known to have been on his flight suit. In 2000, a diver found parts of the same make and model as St-Exupery’s, spread on the Mediterranean floor near the location of the bracelet.

I can tell you “the story behind the story”, but the question remains, why is The Little Prince so beloved? For decades, authors and publishers have wished that they could repeat the formula, that they could somehow bottle the charm, the lessons, the inspiration, that comes from less than 100 pages of a “children’s story.” Ultimately, to solve this mystery of the life and impact of Antoine St-Exupery, you will have to read The Little Prince for yourself.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Massage for Dummies

Kevin Coolidge

Have you ever had a massage? My first massage was from a girl friend. My back was stiff and sore from too much overtime and not enough sleep. She had gotten one of those how-to videos in the mail, and wanted to try some of the massage techniques. I’m not sure of the right word to use, but incredible will suffice. I could feel my stress drain away.

She wasn’t a professional massage therapist. She didn’t have a lot of training, but I felt the relief of muscle tension right away. Massage has many benefits. It increases circulation, which helps promote the healing of tissues and raises immune efficiency, reduces levels of stress, and can greatly improve your health and wellness

If you’d like to learn how soothe stress and reduce pain, you can read Massage for Dummies, written by licensed massage therapist Steve Capellini. This book has numerous step-by-step, hands-on photos and illustrations. You too can learn the basics and give and receive a therapeutic massage.

There are hundred of types of massage practiced around the world, from using wooden spoons to hit pressure points, a specialty of the Mongol hordes, to Rolfing, a form of structural bodywork that is quite intense*. These different styles of massage are called modalities, and most massage therapists today are trained in several.

There’s a chapter to help you choose the right style for you, learn some massage jargon, and how to choose a massage therapist. That’s right, one of the best ways to learn massage is to get massage. Most massage schools require students to have received a professional massage before applying.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, only about 20% of Americans have received a professional massage. The biggest barrier for most people is that they don’t know what to expect. I didn’t. I would have found the information in this chapter very useful before I received my first professional massage.

You will find you will get more out of the massage if you know what you are hoping to achieve. People generally decide to get massage to relax, to feel better, or to improve the body’s functioning. Often, it’s a combination of all three. Letting your massage therapist know this can help you get the most out of your massage.

You can also get more out of your massage if you do a little planning. It’s best not to eat a large meal or consume alcohol before. I also don’t suggest wearing a lot of jewelry. This can eat into your massage time. An hour massage includes time before and after the massage to prepare. It usually leaves 50 minutes on the table. It’s also impossible to perform a proper effleurage** with a necklace in the way.

If you want to perform massage, Steve writes about working with massage oils, if you should invest in a massage table, or just use the floor, and attending to the comfort of your recipient. Body temperature usually drops during a massage, even the most warm-blooded cool when receiving massage, and it’s hard to relax if you’re shivering.

In chapter ten you’ll learn some of the basic massage moves and how to put them together to perform an actual massage. Massage is more a series of techniques, but a flow in which you don’t concentrate on techniques so much as focus on the feel and the movement.

Did massage change my life? I did go on to experience several professional massages, and eventually I enrolled in the Boulder School of Massage Therapy and became a trained and certified massage therapist. Massage helped get back in touch with what matters. Life matters. Health matters. People matter…

*I personally have received all ten Rolfing sessions, and exquisitely painful might be a better word choice here.
** A fancy French word meaning, “to skim” It’s a massage stroke used in Swedish massage used to prepare the muscle for deeper work.

Get rubbed the right way? Or Thanks, but I don’t knead it? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Take a breath and relax. They are all available at Hobo is a CMF. Certified Massage Feline. Stop by and he’ll train you to rub him the right way. Don’t forget the ears…

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide

Kevin Coolidge

The rite of passage, the transition from boy to man—a Spartan would be torn from his mother and forced to make his way in the wilderness. The bravest Cheyenne warriors would rouse a sleeping grizzly and then outrun the bear, or be mauled to death. Today this transition is subtler, more often marked by ages than feats.

You can smoke and gamble at eighteen. You can drink at twenty-one. Alcohol, tobacco, and playing blackjack are considered manly things, but it won’t turn a boy into a man. How do we become men when there’s no test to pass? Despite the lack of rite of passage, every male strives to be a man.

There’s more to being a man than fighting, drinking, and fornication. There’s being a father, a husband, a good friend, and a citizen. It’s keeping your own counsel and knowing when to seek advice. It’s knowing when to keep your mouth shut, but not being afraid to speak. It means standing your ground and finding your path even if there is no guide.

Luckily, there is a guide and that guide is The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide written by Frank Minter. It’s a must-have guide on how to hunt, fish, shoot, survive in the wild, and everything else a man should know. Including the riddle that befuddles the most manly of men, “What do women want?”

Frank Sinatra, who had a Ph.D. on the subject of women, didn’t know, and the man who invented psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, never was able to answer it, but Minter knows. His chapter 6 titled “Romantic” is loaded with advice from women and the time-tested skills of ultimate romantics—such as Lord Byron and the Bard.

Minter divides his book into different parts labeled for modern archetypes*. In “Survivor,” there’s everything from fighting off a bear to meeting your water needs. In “Provider”, you’ll learn something about guns, shooting, and hunting, and in “Athlete,” you’ll learn how to throw the perfect pass and why a jab is better than a roundhouse.

A modern hero needs to be able to hold, feed, and change a baby, and to respond to a car accident. With this book, you can also learn how to buy and smoke a cigar. You can run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and be able to live to talk about it over a properly mixed drink. A drink slowly savored and not gulped, because a drink among friends should be a bonding experience, not drunken debauchery.

According to Frank Minter every male must learn to be a man as best he can. This knowledge isn’t written in our genetic codes. Being a man is not just courage, intellect, and brawn. Training shapes a soldier, a poet, and a boxer. Knowledge instills confidence. Understanding breeds self-reliance, and The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide packs a whole lot of assuredness between the covers of a book. Chances are you’ll learn something you didn’t know. So pick one up for yourself, your son, your nephew and your niece…

*An archetype is a universally understood symbol or pattern of behavior and is often used in myths and storytelling telling across different cultures.

Speak softly? Carry a big stick? Or Both? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? You can search them out for yourself at Hobo was a kitten who grew to be a cat. His journey is the hero’s journey, but it’s cute and short and colorful, and you can read about it in “Hobo Finds A Home” Hobo—warrior, king, fool…