Beauty and the Beast: Bringing a Tale as Old as Time to Life

“Winter turns to Spring, famine turns to feast, nature points the way, nothing left to say, Beauty and the Beast.” – Mrs. Potts

Disney could have hardly chosen a better time to make and release a live-action adaption of the beloved Beauty and the Beast 1991 animated classic.*

Winter’s cold, snowy and lethargic presence has been exacerbated by a long, polarizing and turbulent political season, leaving many of us desperately longing for a ray of spring sunshine and a rebirth of our depleted spirit.

While I suspect the film would have been a record-breaker** regardless of its release date, Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast was all the more enjoyable and uplifting for the contrast it provides to the current mood and political climate permeating our country.

Whisking us away to a magical world of rolling green hills, a picturesque French village, and a hidden castle in a menacing forest, Beauty and the Beast not only masterfully captured the animated classic’s storyline and spirit in live-action – largely due to exquisite performances by the whole cast of characters – but was a true joy to watch, lifting our spirits and reminding us of the timeless wisdom to find beauty and goodness amidst darkness.

Honoring the lyrical songs written by Howard Ashman and the beloved, whimsical characters, who are just as vibrant and endearing as they were in the original, the film’s greatest strength is imparting subtle changes, with an air of freshness, into the original’s costumes, songs, characters and plot.

Tackling one of the most celebrated Disney classics – without overdoing it or taking too many liberties – is no easy feat, not to mention a bold undertaking. But, striking the perfect balance, Disney has shown it possible to truly bring a tale as old as time to life in a beautiful, enriching and imaginative way.

Watch the trailer and check out some ‘of interest reading’ below:

Of interest reading:

  • The New York Times review of this year’s Beauty and the Beast, which writes: “Its classicism feels unforced and fresh. Its romance neither winks nor panders. It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.”
  • The New York Times review of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast 
  • Emma Watson’s (Belle) feature in this month’s Vanity Fair
  • Dan Stevens (Beast) interview in The Australian

*The 1991 Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture (it won two Oscars, for original song and original score).

**This year’s Beauty and the Beast has broken the record for the biggest opening weekend ever for March with an estimated $170 million, had the biggest opening ever for a PG-rated movie, and is now in 7th place in all-time opening weekend grosses, surpassing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2).

‘Originals’: A Surprising Truth about Entrepreneurs

“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice.” – Adam Grant

When people think of entrepreneurs, they tend to see them as the ultimate risk-takers: people who unabashedly take a chance on something they believe in. People who enjoy going out on a limb, taking leaps into the unknown and thrive on uncertainty.

Originals book reviewBut, it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, entrepreneurs are more risk-averse – and much more calculated – than you think. The proof is in Adam Grant’s latest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Utilizing data and studies from across industries, Grant shows how entrepreneurs are fueled less by risk and more by the opportunity to try something new, pursue a passion and see things in a new light.

This doesn’t mean that risk isn’t involved, Grant explains, only that it is offset with careful considerations, experimentation and back up plans.

“To become original, you have to try something new, which means accepting some measure of risk,” Grant writes. “But the most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look. They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case.”

A great example of this comes from the online eyeglass maker Warby Parker, the founders of whom approached Grant in 2009 about becoming an early investor. But, because they weren’t working at their startup full time (they were students), Grant assumed they weren’t committed and declined the offer.

“They weren’t serious about becoming successful entrepreneurs,” writes Grant.” They didn’t have enough skin in the game. In my mind, they were destined to fail because they played it safe instead of betting the farm.”

He continues: “But in fact, this is exactly why they succeeded.” (As of April 2015, Warby Parker was valued at $1.2 billion and was named the world’s #1 most innovative company by Fast Company in 2015).

Just one example of many, Originals is well worth the read for anyone looking to leave a mark on the world – because as Grant encourages us all to see: anyone can.

Enjoy a few thought-provoking quotes from Adam Grant below:

1. “Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”

2. “The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists…[t]he starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.”

3. “If you’re risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it’s likely that your business will be built to last. If you’re a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile.”

4. “When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them.”

5. “The greatest presidents were those who challenged the status quo and brought about sweeping changes that improved the lot of the country. But these behaviors were completely unrelated to whether they cared deeply about public approval and social harmony.”

6. “The drive to succeed and the accompanying fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history…[i]f a handful of people hadn’t been cajoled into taking original action, America might not exist, the civil rights movement could still be a dream, the Sistine Chapel might be bare, we might still believe the sun revolves around the earth, and the personal computer might never have been popularized.”

7. “In every domain, from business and politics to science and art, the people who move the world forward with original ideas are rarely paragons of conviction and commitment. As they question traditions and challenge the status quo, they may appear bold and self-assured on the surface. But when you peel back the layers, the truth is that they, too, grapple with fear, ambivalence, and self-doubt. We view them as self-starters, but their efforts are often fueled and sometimes forced by others. And as much as they seem to crave risk, they really prefer to avoid it.”

8. “Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward…their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.”

Please note: this post also appears on Treehouse Technology Group’s blog.

A Post-Lenten Reflection on the Practice of Self-Denial

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’” – Vince Lombardi (football player and coach, 1913-1970)

It has been a little over a week since I ended my 40-day chocolate and “things I like most” fast in observance of the Lenten Season – the first time I have willfully committed to “giving up” something since I entered full fledged adulthood nearly five years ago.

A tradition that I gladly embraced at the start of Ash Wednesday during my childhood years, it became significantly less appealing as the demands of adult life made the idea of giving something up seem nearly unbearable.

In fact, it was only during these last 40 days that I came to a greater realization of just how challenging the practice of self-denial is – and how much truth exists in the age-old saying that life’s most valuable lessons are best learned through times of difficulty, struggle and discomfort.

Indeed, sacrificing pleasure or desire in many ways opposes the very principles that substantiate our existence. From the man in the cave to the hunter-gatherer, our survival has largely demanded that we prioritize our interests and needs, and protect ourselves from any physical or emotional obstructions that threaten our livelihood.

In an increasingly secular world, with a culture that caters to the glorification of instant-gratification and self-aggrandizement (“if it feels good, do it!”), the idea of self-denial can seem particularly inconvenient or disruptive to a lifestyle of “personal fulfillment” that infiltrates every aspect of our existence.

Its practice, however, can be a valuable exercise in seeing ourselves not just as living creatures, but as moral beings.

English historian and novelist James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) once wrote:

“That which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low order of man, that which constitutes human goodness, human nobleness, is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which men pursue their own advantage; but it is self-forgetfulness; it is self-sacrifice; it is the disregard of personal pleasure, personal indulgence, personal advantage, remote or present, because some other line of conduct is more right.”

Far from being a self-preserving necessity, the value of self-sacrifice lies in its ability to give meaning to our preservation – to recognize the capacity of human beings to attain virtues that can thrust the human race forward in decency and civility.

Unlike the animalistic nature of self-indulgence and pleasure seeking, self-denial and self-discipline are conscious acts that require effort and energy, often leading us down a path of personal transformation and growth.

self-sacrifice quotesYou might even say that what separates us from our fellow living and breathing creatures – and what lies at the heart of acts of self-sacrifice – is the ability to grapple with a simple question: what is the “right” – the moral – thing to do?

Will I pursue my own happiness at the expense of others? Will I selflessly support others’ achievements without receiving acknowledgement myself? Will I be there to listen, help or support a friend or family in need when it is inconvenient for me?

The challenge of Lent – of self-denial – affords us an opportunity not only to experience an elevated existence, but to gain a more natural access to the spiritual world, whatever form we believe that world to take. It is in those brief moments, when our spirit overcomes the flesh, that we become fully aware of our humanity and can cultivate a greater awareness of our moral existence on earth.

As Scottish historical novelist and playwright Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) once wrote, “Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime that ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer.”

It’s not that “giving up” something we enjoy for 40 days will transform us into virtuous beings. Or that sacrificing our temporary happiness for someone else will make the world a better place (though it might be a good start). It’s the practice and exercise – the willingness to endure a struggle and to recognize our agency – that befits the capacities of human beings to achieve a higher mode of living.

In the words of the Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing (1780-1842):

“I call that mind free, which masters the senses, which protects itself against animal appetites, which contemns pleasure and pain in comparison to its own energy, which penetrates beneath the body and recognizes its own reality and greatness, which passes life, not in asking what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering, thirsting, and seeking after righteousness.”

So often we look upon self-sacrifice as an undesirable “thing”, an experience more fitting for others that we can view admirably from a distance. And from that distance, we might subconsciously and quietly hope that we are not called away from our earthly pleasures to the higher and more uncomfortable challenge of living life as accountable human beings.

We are inclined to think of self-sacrifice as limiting, something that imprisons us, obstructing our hopes and dreams and preventing us from self-fulfillment.

But, is it not the opposite? Do we not become freer, our will more bolstered, from conquering the very confines of our nature?

There’s a Saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte”…

Walls for the wind, 
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire

Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire!

– Irish Blessing

In many ways, it was like a scene right out of a movie. We had entered into a small local pub, tired and hungry from a long day of traveling in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. We had stumbled blindly through the dark, a five-minute walk from our hotel along a narrow, winding road set amidst rolling hills.

There were just two other people in the pub, visitors, like us, evidenced by the large, worn backpacks towering next to their table. The bartender greeted us warmly and we asked if he had a menu for food.

“We do, but the kitchen is about to close,” he said. “We only have homemade beef stew and seafood chowder.” We ordered one of each, two pints of Guinness and sat down at a tableside fire for what was to be one of the most memorable stops on our two-week long journey.

Doolin accomodation
Inside McGann’s, Doolin’s local pub

Situated on the west coast of Ireland, and nestled just a sort distance from the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s most visited natural attraction – Doolin has become world renowned for its traditional Irish music, attracting thousands of international visitors each year. A seaside village with a population of just 500 people, its rustic landscape makes for a cozy, tranquil getaway, particularly in the off season, and even in the harsh, whipping winds of winter.

But, one needn’t be there long to fully understand its appeal. Its most distinguishing feature can be found by stepping foot in a local shop, restaurant, hotel or pub – as we did into McGann’s that first night (and as we would again for the following two nights) – and witnessing a most authentic display of Irish hospitality that seems to reveal itself more naturally in the Irish countryside.

Indeed, having arrived in Doolin after spending three days in Dublin, we were reminded of what some might call a universal principle of traveling: that the most authentic experiences are often found not in the lights and glamour of a city center, but in rural encounters with lifelong natives whose customs and behaviors portray a more accurate reflection of the people and character of a country.

Hotel Doolin
Fisher Street i.e. “Main Street” in Doolin

There was no one defining moment, however, that formed such a lasting, memorable impression of Doolin; no grand, sweeping gestures or calls of attention to the benevolent. In fact, the beauty of Irish hospitality was more in its subtlety and humility than it was in any specific act itself.

It was the bartender who introduced himself with a smile, took an interest in who we were, informed us of local happenings – i.e., that there was a “concert” at our hotel later that night – and suggested pubs for us to visit in Edinburgh, the next stop on our trip.

It was the two local men, standing outside the pub as we left, who excitedly shouted out, “See you at the concert!”, as we headed back up the winding road to our hotel.

Irish music doolin
The “concert” at Hotel Doolin

It was the palpable sense of camaraderie among a group of people in Hotel Doolin listening to local musicians play some of the best Irish music I’ve ever heard.

It was the local group of young friends who engaged us in a conversation – playfully challenging us to spell different Irish names – and invited us to meet them at McGann’s the following night for a dart tournament.

It was our shuttle driver who asked us about our lives, offered us tips on where to begin our hike, and made us laugh with his quick Irish wit as he sped over the hills to drop us at the bottom of the trail.

And it was the hotel staff who presented us with a freshly baked loaf of bread upon our early morning departure, knowing that we would be traveling all day.

They were small, thoughtful acts that not only confirmed the truth behind what has long been heralded as one of the Irish’s most venerated traditions,* but also reminded me of man’s yearning to feel welcomed and comforted, acknowledged and appreciated, by fellow man, no matter where we may find ourselves on life’s journey.

Doolin pubs

Washington Irving once wrote, “there is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease.”

Nearly 3,000 miles from home, hailing from the disparate world of New York City, the people of Doolin had every right to consider me a stranger – an “American” or a “GDY” (God Damn Yank), as our Irish bus driver told us jokingly.

But, as much of a stranger as I was to them – and as much as the people of Doolin were “strangers” to me – I have never felt more at ease than I did during those three short days of my visit. Their genuine hospitality, exhibited in the most humble of manners – a warm welcome, a genuine smile, a thoughtful question, a deliberate acknowledgement – was enough to replenish and restore my soul, fulfilling the mission of my two-week long European adventure.

There’s a saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte.” Its literal translation is “one hundred thousand welcomes”, or “you are welcome, a thousand times, wherever you come from, whosoever you be.”

If ever there was a place to experience authentic Irish hospitality, to offer whosoever you be a thousand welcomes, Doolin – a village of just 500 people – must be it.

Please note: this piece was also published in The Huffington Post.

Doolin accomodation

*In ancient Ireland, hospitality was mandated by law via the Brehon Laws, which contained rules such as, “Whoever comes to your door, you must feed him or care for him, with no questions asked” and “All members of the tribe are required to offer hospitality to strangers.”

*Galway, just 45 miles northeast of Doolin, was named Travel + Leisure’s 2015 “friendliest city in the world.”

In Other Words: Life Lessons from Peyton Manning’s Retirement Speech

Peyton Manning retirement speechThere are many reasons to applaud football icon Peyton Manning for the speech he delivered earlier this week announcing his retirement from the NFL.

Delivered with grace and humility, it stands in stark contrast to the dastardly dialogue and vindictive language that we continue to hear during what is bound to be one of the most significant presidential elections in American history.

For football fanatics, his speech was a testimony to the greatness of the game and the ability of any player to rise, against any and all odds, on any given Sunday. For Peyton Manning’s fans, it was bound to confirm their fervent admiration and respect for an athlete who has role modeled hard work, dedication and integrity throughout his 18-year career.

But, for the every day man, for people who don’t necessarily follow football, nestled within his speech were tidbits of wisdom that we all can apply in our own lives, no matter the position, job or title we may hold – on or off the field.

Subtle and unassuming, they are important reminders of how to cope with challenges and setbacks and how to evolve into the person we aspire to be. They are nothing new or revolutionary – in fact, we hear and read variations of them all the time – but coming from someone whose actions have aligned with his words, they somehow seem more potent.*

After all, such messages require not only for us to understand and acknowledge them, but to act on them.

They are outlined below:

1. In the beginning of his speech, Peyton Manning remarked: “There’s a saying that goes, treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be and he will become what he should be.”

…in other words, challenge yourself not only to do more, but to be more.

2. He went on to say: “Grateful is the word that comes to my mind when thinking of the Denver Broncos” (he used “thank”, “grateful” or “gratitude” eight times in his speech).

…in other words, be grateful for the people and things in your life and commit to giving thanks each day.

3. Later, he said: “Football has taught me not to be led by obstructions and setbacks but instead to be led by dreams.”

…in other words, persevere through all challenges and obstacles with determination, hope and faith.

4. He continued on: “Our children are small now, but as they grow up, we’re going to teach them to enjoy the little things in life because one day they will look back and discover that those really were the big things.”

…in other words, make a conscious effort to live in the present and treasure each and every moment.

5. Toward the end, he said: “Life is not shrinking for me, it’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities.”

…in other words, with every new or unfamiliar situation comes an opportunity to learn something that can help you grow in unexpected ways.

6. And, finally: “There were other players who were more talented but there was no one who could out-prepare me and because of that I have no regrets.”

…in other words, hard work, preparation, discipline and commitment pay off and will always help propel you to success and achievement.

Read the full transcript of Peyton Manning’s retirement speech.

*Full disclosure: As a diehard Steelers fan, I have very little reason to support Peyton Manning (he led the Denver Broncos to victory against the Steelers in the playoffs this year). But, as a seeker of All Things Good, it’s hard not to give credit where credit is due or commend someone of such fame for their humility, grace and integrity.

A Blue’s Melody for the January Blues

Please note: This piece was also published in OnBeing.

Following the sparkling glimmer of a light-infused season, the month of January can sometimes feel as if a heavy, wet blanket of snow is descending upon us. It’s a time when the body can feel overindulged and earthbound, a time when we dispiritedly plod through the weight of winter days.

January Blues

Sliding from the high notes of the holidays to the low notes of mid-January, nature’s force ushers us unwittingly from the warm cheer of family and friends to a still and penetrating solitude. Even our music changes tune, as the festive good tidings of December songs give way to introspective, tranquilizing melodies that help carry us away from the sluggish, gray days of January.

As American pianist George Winston – whose instrumental music has been likened to “flakes of falling snow” – once said, “Every song I’ve ever heard, that has gone in and stayed in me, has always reminded me of a season. A picture and a place, maybe, but always a season.”

It might seem unfitting, then, to turn to the music of legendary blues icon Buddy Guy in the midst of a season known for plunging tired souls into the depths of “January blues.” But his song “Flesh & Bone” has done just the opposite, propelling my spirit onward and upward into a brighter sky of possibilities.

famous blues artists

Featuring rock & roll soul artist Van Morrison (an ATG favorite), Buddy Guy dedicated the song to the “King of Blues”, B.B. King, upon his passing last May – an apt choice for the hopeful message it offers:

It ain’t over the day you die
We all live on in the spirit by and by

With a poignant refrain that invites us to contemplate a life “more than” our fleshly existence – more than our human desires and temptations, frustrations and fears, tribulations and doubts – it simultaneously encourages us to transcend those very things; to “live higher”:

This life is more than flesh and bone
Find out now before you’re gone
When you go your spirit lives on
This life is more than flesh and bone

The message is a reflection of Guy’s religious upbringing: “‘My mamma used to say, ‘If you get slapped, turn the other cheek, so they can slap the other side,’’”, Guy recalls in an interview with the Rolling Stone. She ought to have been proud, then, when Guy took the high road after waking up one morning to an egged home. He explains: “‘[My neighbors] said, ‘A black man gets eggs thrown on his house, and he’s still plowing snow off everybody’s sidewalk, corner to corner?…we were the best of friends after that.’”

More than a religious ballad, however, “Flesh & Bone” also provides a welcome reminder of the importance of perspective – the perspective that we’re more than earthbound creatures of the here and now with long lists of “things to do.” During these cold days of January, days in which we feel so acutely our fleshly existence and so easily succumb to the instant gratification our flesh desires, we can find a more enduring kind of solace in embracing the perspective of a “higher” world of mystery and spirit that this song evokes.

Buddy Guy Flesh and Bone

So, perhaps it is fitting to turn to Buddy Guy after all. Considered the last of the blues legends, he is representative of a genre of music, which although has become rather marginalized in our culture, is known for eliciting heartfelt and soulful emotion – music that reminds us that this life is, indeed, more than flesh and bone.

Recalling what he told his producer while working on his 2015 album, Born to Play Guitar, which features the “Flesh & Bone” track, Guy says in a Billboard article: “Let’s play some funky blues like these older guys, the ones that taught me, and hopefully we can hit a note that will get people to pay attention.”

Well, he sure hit a note. And he certainly got my attention.

Listen to “Flesh & Bone” here and read the full lyrics below.

Daddy read the good book through and through
Said the Lord’s word is the only truth
It ain’t over the day you die
We all live on in the spirit by and by

This life is more than flesh and bone
Find out now before you’re gone
When you go your spirit lives on
This life is more than flesh and bone

Now I know my daddy was right
I read that good book and I’ve seen the light
Mama and daddy have passed and gone
They’re still with me ‘cause love lives on

This life is more than flesh and bone
Find out now before you’re gone
When you go your spirit lives on
This life is more than flesh and bone

The God I feed on is real as rain
More than words can ever explain
We’ll meet again some sweet day
Far beyond this world of pain

This life is more than flesh and bone
Find out now before you’re gone
When you go your spirit goes on
This life is more than flesh and bone

In keeping with the “Flesh & Bone” theme, check out our piece in Around the Table on “Bone Broth.”

Once Upon a Time…

ac perch tea room Long ago and far away, in the ancient city of Copenhagen – the land of fairy tales as imagined by Hans Christian Anderson – lived a man named Niels Brock Perch who opened a tiny little tea shop in the very old part of the city called “Christianshavn”, where ships from exotic places like China, Ceylon, India, Japan and Africa would arrive with goods to be traded and sold.

A man with great vision for opportunities that sailed into port, Mr. Perch couldn’t have known when he opened A.C. Perch’s in 1835 at Kronprinsensgade 5 that it would still be a purveyor of tea – from some of the finest plantations and gardens around the world – 180 years later.

Apart from a few fixes along the way, the addition of electric lights and a new family of owners who bought the business in 1894 (the Hincheldey Family, now 7 generations strong), the charming, old-fashioned shop has remained largely the same.

Considered the oldest teashop in Europe, stepping into A.C. Perch’s is like stepping into the long-ago past, with three generations of Hincheldey family members providing “service of the utmost quality and expert advice” on the noble art of tea brewing.

oldest tea shop in europe“It is our deepest wish that customers feel welcome here, and politeness and friendliness are some of our major deeds,” reads the website. Indeed, they greet you with a smile and offer a complimentary bonbon to go after carefully weighing, pouring and packaging your tea in a colorful tin of your choice.

That Queen Margrethe of Denmark’s Royal Family, daughter of King Frederik IX, is a loyal customer with her own blend speaks to the superior quality of both its taste and service.

Like a fairy tale with kings, queens and “White Dream Tea”, A.C. Perch’s is a warm and enchanting place that offers everyone who steps through its doors a little bit of happily-ever-after magic. After all, they even offer a “fairytale flavor” blend in honor of Hans Christian Anderson.*

Also, if you’re a lover of shortbread, the perfect compliment to afternoon tea, check out “The Shortbread House of Edinburgh”, a company that “prides itself on doing things properly”, for what is considered some of the world’s best shortbread. Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, it has received 59 “Great Tastes Awards” and is served and sold on ScotRail Trains and Arab Emirates flights.

*Perch’s offers 175 teas from black, green and white to oolong and herbal. The tea is weighed on the same brass scales and placed in a colorful tin of your choice (see below). The white teas seem to be particularly popular, with over 20 varieties and names such as Nepal White, White Dream Tea, White Symphony, White Persian, White Christmas, Pineapple Pai Mu Kin. 

ac perch afternoon tea
White Temple Tea, with a heavenly aroma, is one of A.C. Perch’s most popular tea

Also to note: The health benefits of white tea have been long known to the Chinese since the Ming Dynasty. Having been discovered in recent years in North America, it has become one of the hottest new food trends. Black, green, white and oolong are all plucked from the Camilla Sinensis tea bush, but their differences can be found in the way the leaves are harvested and processed. The leaves for White tea, unlike the other types, are plucked before the buds on the bush bloom and the unwithered leaves are then steamed. It is the least processed of all the other teas, which means that it is closest to its natural state and therefore contains more polyphenols that have powerful antioxidant properties. Of interest is the White Tea “Silver Needles” which is considered the “crème de la crème”  of white teas and is picked within a two day period in early spring. (Information taken from here).

Kronprinsensgade; the street where A.C. Perch’s is located (in the distance on the left)

Adele: More Than Words

Please note: this piece was also published in On Being.

Adele news articlesWhen it comes to Adele, it’s difficult to find something new to say. She has broken nearly every music record imaginable, received close to 100 music awards and has proven with her latest album, 25, that she is not just a one-hit wonder – that her talent runs exceedingly deep, touching something poignant in the hearts and souls of a fan base that increasingly defies categorization.

Yet, for all the interviews and articles on her music, approach, style and personality, capturing the essence of Adele and her music is surprisingly difficult. To string together a list of adjectives, to make comparisons and analogies, to use memes, gifs, videos or quotes somehow seems inadequate.

Her music is soulful, heartfelt, rare and real – and is undoubtedly “once in a generation” material – but it is also so much more, forcing us to reckon with an unattainable, mysterious quality that only adds to its allure.

In a world where mystery is quickly dispelled by access to a portal of answers at our fingertips (“Google it!”) – where life’s pace is nothing short of hurried – Adele invites us to do something rare: to stop and think, reflect and recall, question and feel.

Speaking to the fragility and resiliency of human existence, her music propels us into the realm of consciousness, compelling us to connect (and reckon) with our innermost selves. She proclaims in “Turning Tables” from 21:

“Next time I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own savior
When the thunder calls for me
Next time I’ll be braver
I’ll be my own savior
Standing on my own two feet”

And in a “Million Years Ago” on 25, she laments:

“I know I’m not the only one
who regrets the things I’ve done
sometimes I just feel it’s only me
who never became who they thought they’d be
I wish I could live a little more
look up to the sky not just the floor
I feel like my life is flashing by
and all I can do is just watch and cry”

Adele sings of love and heartbreak, regret and nostalgia, fear and desire, insecurity and hope – universal feelings and experiences that have long defined man’s tumultuous journey in life – but she does so with a conviction and legitimacy that only comes from having turned inward to grapple with those very things.

And that takes time – and effort.

In fact, Adele’s latest album evolved after discarding a series of songs she brought to record producer Rick Rubin who told her, “I don’t believe you.”

“It was clear she wasn’t the primary writer — many of the songs sounded like they might be on a different pop artist’s album,” said Rubin in a Rolling Stone article.*

Having tried to write songs about motherhood, “it wasn’t until Adele turned the lens back on herself that she was able to make progress,” writes Sam Lansky in a recent article for TIME magazine.*

“That’s when I decided to write about myself and how I make myself feel, rather than how other people make me feel,” Adele says in the interview.

Adele certainly isn’t the only artist to sing her feelings – or touch upon the universal aspects of human existence – but there is something to be said for her not rushing an album. After all, as Rubin has said, “it’s not just her voice singing any song that makes it special.”

Adele 25 reviewThat Adele chose to slow down, take her time and remain true to herself – and her voice – proves that she is as real as the songs she sings.

That she recognizes the ephemeral, vacuous nature of social media only confirms her commitment to authenticity:

“How am I supposed to write a real record if I’m waiting for half a million likes on a photo? That ain’t real,” she says.

Indeed, it is only after making a diligent effort to reflect on ourselves – to quiet our own souls – that the most profound truths and insights are revealed; or, in this case, a song with meaning and depth is born.

Anyone can sing about love and heartbreak, regret and nostalgia, fear and desire, insecurity and hope, but what makes Adele an artist of enduring greatness is the conviction with which she sings.

“I’m not saying my album [25] is incredible, but there’s conviction in it,” she says. “And I believe the f*** out of myself on this album.”

I believe her, too.

And yet, there still remains a mysterious quality about her – an inkling that she could be an “old soul” born anew, someone too affecting for words. But, this somehow seems fitting for an artist whose songs have touched the very depths of millions of people across the globe, of various backgrounds and ethnicities, of generations old and new.

*Read the full Rolling Stone article, “Adele: Inside Her Private Life and Triumphant Return“, and the TIME article, “Adele Is Music’s Past, Present and Future.”

Please note: ATG is “traveling” along a rosy “ridge” in a distant “realm” of sparkling light. We’ll be back at the “table” December 7th.

“A meal doesn’t have to be like a painting by Raphael, but it should be a serious and beautiful thing, no matter how simple…[w]hat nicer way for a family to get together and communicate? Which is what life is all about, really.” – Julia Child, as found in “Thanksgiving, The Julia Child Way“, New York Times, 2015

Julia Child Quotes