The Stress Test

by | Jun 27, 2023 | 0 comments


Everyone has a story. No doubt I’m not breaking new ground in that statement. Whether it’s a commercial/private client, or a test shoot, I’ve got to get the story, their story, generally because I’m curious about people and even more so of who’s in front of my camera. That and it’s usually the no. 1 topic people like talking about, so it eases most people into the portrait. Cliche, possibly, but there’s a reason why artists personify themselves as storytellers. Personally I’m over it in it’s overly abundant everyday usage. That being said… this is the story of Garnett. 

Originally I had just planned on taking some  snaps with G and testing out the lighting setup in my remote studio. I’m always testing. Older and younger generations have vocally expressed their displeasure of having to test, let alone do it with any regularity. 

There’s a reason why painters test and sharpen their skills with fruit still lifes. For me and my team, it’s no different than any other engineer testing for system weaknesses. Imagine if test pilots didn’t test the conditions of their aircraft? Artists are always testing so when the moment arises, those issues of the past are readily adaptable and are able to deal with the stress of the present issue.  

Exploring what to try next with the light while staying in the moment, life unfolded and I found myself immersed in what the Zen master’s story. His story is as riveting as the thousands of stories that have come before his in my life. Here a quick test portrait of Garnett’s journey featuring Kevin’s Study No. 10, Amanda’s Experiments in Silence, Nicole’s Just Breathe, Jeff’s Stress and Fashion Connection, Craig, the Nutty Professor and Ozempic, and finally Kat’s Stress, Cake, Steel and Glass in this month’s edition. 

Test it. Tease it. Try it out. Delight in what awaits. Desire you. De-stress with KARJAKA.

Kagami With Garnett Strother

Kagami is the mental martial artist approach to communication, a way to yield the power of language and hone it as a skill, training your mind the same way you would train your body. When we’re little, we’re taught how to read words in order to understand what they mean but we’re never really taught how to decipher the deeper layers of language. The way to do that is through the art of listening, listening is the gateway to the kind of communication that unifies our world with that of others, helping us understand the people around us, as well as ourselves.   

How did you embark on this journey?

As a life-long martial artist and personal trainer who has worked with a variety of clients over the past 20 years, I’ve learned that we all really just want two things: to better understand who we are and to be understood by others. I wanted to offer this book as a set of tools to help others take a look within their inner selves by examining what lies beneath the surfaces that we show others. 

What can I expect to learn from Kagami?

Kagami touches on many aspects of communication but focuses mainly on listening because it’s the most powerful phase of communication. I break it down into five pillars, each packed with a set of tools that teach the reader how to be a masterful communicator. The five pillars are: openness, mindful listening, mindful feedback, recalibration and coalescence. Each of those pillars prepares you to achieve the ultimate goal of communication: creating a harmonious, unified world. 

Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?

Absolutely. Most trainers and coaches were former athletes who can no longer compete so they settle for training rich people for money. I have always wanted to be a sensei. When people ask me what my favorite ninja turtle was, I would lean towards Mikey like everyone else but in my heart of hearts I’ve always been splinter.

How did your upbringing impact your writing of this piece?

I was a very sick child growing up. I had bad asthma that would attract viruses, whenever I caught a cold, it would go down to my central nervous system, leaving me paralyzed from the neck down. Being that sick does something to you when you’re young. It’s not something many people understand, so you spend your life doing one of two things. 1. Become a hero that makes sure that no one goes through what you have gone through. 2. Become a villain that forces everyone to go through what you went through so the world finally “understands” you. I chose the first one because I wanted a better world for my kid Ares.

How did being a parent impact you and your body of work?

Nothing commands you to listen like being a dad. I’ve been a dad almost longer than I’ve been anything else. I had my daughter when I was 17 years old so I’ve been on the self improvement/ personal development tip for quite some time. That’s what you have to do in order to become a good role model. 

Kids do as they see, not as you say, so it was important for me to show my kid what was possible despite being from a single parent household myself, dropping out of high school to support her while being homeless. But I refused to give up and I was able to provide her with a better life, that has always been my main sense of motivation.

What is your goal for this book?

My goal has always been to help as many people as I possibly can while I’m still here. Trauma by definition is a stuck point caused by an event that  drastically changes a belief we once held. I believe my book will help people move past these stuck points and empower them with the ability to understand themselves as well as be understood by others.

When can we expect Kagami out?

It will be available by the end of the summer.

Garnett Strother is New York City’s top personal training and life coaching professional.With over 20 years of martial arts and personal training experience, Garnett brings a refreshingly unique take on the approach toward getting in shape and leading a better life. He is passionate about introducing clients to how fitness is more than a fixture, more than an hour a day. How each move is interconnected to your daily life and instrumental to your mindset. Every client that walks through his doors gains an upgraded perception of what personal training is. Together, you will create a grounded, disciplined, personal technology that is coded to you.

Experiments in Silence


i answer your
tight-lipped disapproval with



as you parallel yourselves in slow-moving
rows these few minutes feel


and silence

composes my complacency.
your thick-skinned composure



while the assessment
continues to



rests in the seconds between
sound when we validate silence and

return to eternity.

– Amanda Deboer Bartlett

Just Breathe with Nicole Vitale

I woke up in the middle of the night, my heart racing as I gasped for air. I’d just had a nightmare that jolted me out of an otherwise sound sleep. As I lay on my back in an attempt to coax myself into a return to slumberland, my mind raced with only the low buzz of the ceiling fan above accompanying. A few hours passed with no relief, until I decided it was time to turn on my AM/FM radio (bear in mind, it was the early 2000’s). In the dark, I fumbled with the dial and adjusted the antenna to alleviate the static until I found an AM radio station playing classical music. Almost immediately, I felt the knots in my chest unwind and the tension I felt ease. Enveloped by orchestras and pianists playing Debussy, Greig and Liszt, I was lulled into a slumber. To this day, I can always count on Clair de lune to calm me down. 

It should come as no surprise that music has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Specifically, music can lower cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone” and can affect so many parts of the body. Not only does cortisol increase glucose levels in the bloodstream, but according to Mayo Clinic, it “alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes”. So essentially, increased levels of cortisol can negatively affect the body from aiding in unwanted weight gain to increasing risk of anxiety, depression, memory and concentration impairment, heart disease, and sleep issues…and who the hell needs any of that in this economy? You can do a few things to decrease your cortisol levels, including exercising and limiting caffeine consumption. But even if you’re a self-proclaimed couch potato or certified coffee fanatic, I have great news for you: music can help! 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information cites a study where 60 healthy female volunteers average around age 25 were exposed to stressors and were given music, sounds of running water, and rest without acoustic stimulation. Their findings concluded that “music listening impacted the psychobiological stress system. Listening to music prior to a standardized stressor predominantly affected the autonomic nervous system (in terms of a faster recovery), and to a lesser degree the endocrine and psychological stress response”. The science behind how music works can also help us see on a more granular level how it benefits us. Music comes to us as vibrations. As these vibrations pass through the inner ear, they’re translated into electrical signals, which make their way via neurons to the cerebral cortex. We have multiple regions of the brain that translate these signals (tone, frequency, rhythm) and the different parts of the brain work collaboratively to mash all of these signals together, resulting in decreased stress and increased endorphins and dopamine. That’s the lab coat and goggles explanation that can help us understand why we feel the impulse to scream at the top of our lungs at rock concerts; Why the thump of the bass at Brooklyn Mirage or underground EDM clubs that ripples through our bodies provides comfort and spine tingles. Even something as simple as singing along in the car during a road trip, the sun streaking the windshield, feels like therapy. It’s because, well, it basically is. 

One of my personal favorite ways to mitigate stress is by listening to binaural beats. A binaural beat is an illusion created when two slightly different tones are played in tandem (usually in headphones), and the brain perceives a third tone to exist, the frequency of which fits snugly between the two tones being played. According to Psychology Today, “In order to produce a binaural beat, the two tones sounded in the ears must both have frequencies below 1,500 Hz with a difference of no greater than 40 Hz between them. The effects of the binaural beat will depend on its frequency and the corresponding brain wave”. You can test out binaural beats on YouTube using noise canceling headphones, or attend specialized meditation classes that utilize binaural beats. In my experience, I was able to reach an incredibly surreal transcendence at a binaural beats meditation, and I’ve been chasing that feeling of absolute solace ever since. 

I’ve compiled a playlist for you to help you reduce those stress levels, decrease your cortisol, and help you reach mental and emotional relief. We can all use a moment of calm in our day; Remember to take time for yourself, breathe, and tune into a frequency that will help you achieve mental, emotional, and physical clarity…and remember that mental health is wealth! – NV

Stress and Fashion Connection
Jeff Karly

Stress – defined in webster

constraining force or influence: such as
one of bodily or mental tension resulting
from  factors that tend to alter an existent

/imagine: prompt – you’re stuck in an eternal traffic jam, your inbox is on fire with unanswered emails, and your to-do list is so long it could it looks like a CVS receipt. Suddenly, your heart starts thumping like a bass drum, your breath becomes shallow, and your palms start drippin’ like raindrops. 

In our fast-paced and demanding modern world, stress is an all-too-common experience for many people. It is like that ever-present companion in life’s rollercoaster ride. We’ve all been acquainted, right? That overwhelming feeling of pressure, like we’re juggling a dozen tasks while jump roping across a highway. The pressures of work, personal relationships, and other responsibilities can easily overwhelm us, leading to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Psychologically, stress can mess with our minds big time. 

Physically stress can come crashing in, like that scene in 8-Mile. Muscles tense up, heartbeat goes turbo, and your stomach feels like it’s doing a somersault. It’s like your body’s preparing for a sprint up a mountain while there’s a mudslide. But guess what? There isn’t a mountain or a mudslide, my friend. It’s just your boss wanting that report again, it’s you second guessing yourself or seriously trying to make rent and have no idea where that may come from. That’s real. 

For me, fashion can serve as a powerful tool for managing stres sbecause it allows us to express ourselves and shape our identity. When we’re stressed out, what we wear can actually make a difference. It might seem simple, but the clothes we choose can have a big impact on how we feel. When life gets overwhelming, taking the time to pick out an outfit can give us a sense of control and comfort. It’s like a little boost of confidence in the midst of all the chaos. Fashion is more than just looking good—it’s a way to express ourselves.

And let’s not forget about the power of self-care. When stress gets to us, it’s easy to let our appearance slide. But taking the time to groom ourselves and put some thought into our outfits can do wonders for our self-esteem. It’s like giving ourselves a little pick-me-up. Looking good on the outside can help us feel better on the inside, even when everything else seems out of control. Now, I’m not saying that fashion is a magic cure for stress. It’s important to tackle the root causes and seek support when we need it. But don’t underestimate the impact of putting on a killer outfit. It’s a reminder that we have some control over our lives, even when things feel overwhelming.

Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge the reality of stress that comes with paying rent and financially obligations.. It’s crucial in understanding the multifaceted impact it can have on individuals and communities.It’s a heavy weight that can dampen spirits. Partcualrly in our current time, it’s essential to strive to create a world that values accessible and affordable housing, providing everyone with a sense of security and relieving a significant source of stress in their lives.

Tying it back though, the connection between stress and fashion highlights the profound impact that clothing choices can have on our emotional well-being. It reminds us that fashion goes beyond aesthetics and plays a vital role in our mental health and self-expression.

I am no expert in this… just a thought. 

/imagine: prompt – I’m living my exact healthy life. 

Did the Nutty Professor actually invent Ozempic?
Craig Thomas

The Hollywood Diet 48-hour cleanse. The raw generation skinny cleanse. Dr. Kellyann’s 5 day cleanse and reset kit. The list of the overnight diet super fixes is quite long and infamous.  And the list of those who have advocated for it is just as long. But those were yesterday’s news.

Now we have a class of diabetes drugs that can help curtail appetite and make claims of losing vast amounts of weight in relatively short periods of time. Claims by famous actors and comedians have stated that semaglutide brands like Ozempic, Wegovy or Rybelsus have had life changing effects on health and appearance. And today these drugs have been in increasingly high demand and are being used recreationally all over—in no small part due to the celebrities advocating for its efficacy. 

But why have we—as a society—seen a huge spike in obesity over the last few decades?

There are many reasons. But the one I like to focus on is centered around how much and how long we work and how much time we spend on our mobile devices.  Constant stimulation via mobile phones with social media, news information and anything else that perks our emotional responses coupled with high stress levels of work equals a formula of sympathetic (fight or flight) response that doesn’t get enough parasympathetic (rest and digest) response.

But why the weight gain? High levels of anxiety and stress induce the body to produce adrenaline and cortisol to allow the body to stay alert and continue on the current course—despite a strong desire to stop. So the body and brain get no opportunity to take a break and get back to baseline; no time to heal. Add in a lack of exercise and two major responses occur:

—cortisol levels remain elevated and testosterone levels decrease.  

—cortisol stimulates sugar cravings and results in not-so-good eating decisions.  

Hamster wheel created.  A decade or two passes and we have lift off into the obesity class.

Enter the current Ozempic craze. It seems to be about as close to the Nutty Professor as there is.  And although I realize that many of us would give up most of our life savings to be first in line to go to sleep one night as Sherman Klump and wake up as Buddy Love, there is often a price to be paid.

I could go on to what semagutides do from a biologic and molecular standpoint, but it’s pretty boring.  Suffice to say that it initiates more sugar to be burned and tells the body it isn’t hungry (even when it is). Specifically, semaglutides are meant for the population that is clinically diagnosed as type II diabetic.  Are those who are not type II diabetic abusing it?  

As for side effects: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and other serious but uncommon major issues.  The list is pretty much garden variety for a major drug. 

But most damaging that I see is the unknown. It hasn’t been able to be studied in a long-term clinical analysis. Most of the studies encompass one year.  We don’t know long-term effects. Is it pernicious in its later effects?

It certainly seems safer than fen-phen (fenfluramine and phentermine). Fen-phen was a drug found in the early 90’s which was approved as an anti-obesity treatment. 

But fen-phen caused horrific complications in many and death for others. It was pulled from the market in 1997.  

While I do not see the same fate for semaglutides, I do believe taking shortcuts to get to a desired aesthetic appearance or avoid our relationship with food and exercise is a bit of a deal made with the devil. Ultimately, do semaglutides address our overwhelming inability to withdraw from electronic devices? Do semaglutides help us balance work and introduce more exercise and healthy living? 

To me, it cheats the reward for naturally improving body composition through hard work with exercise and disciplined decisions with diet and sleep. It cheapens lifestyle choices that become proof of respecting the bodies we live in. It also does not change our mental approach toward a cleaner and regenerative world.     

For as long as science has been tracking human physiology, drugs and shortcuts have always been at the forefront of ways to quicken results. But, there aren’t any panaceas or magic lamps. Usually the parable 

Ultimately, our bodies have responded best to nutritional diets that sustain muscle and lean tissue acquired through resistance training and challenging aerobic work. Concurrently, our brains work best when they are supported by physical work. Exercise produces the release of good feeling endorphins such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine that help combat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more.  

Our bodies are meant to move. Our minds are meant to feed off that ability to move. 

Medicine and drug treatments are meant to assist us in getting to our desired goals.  The big question is what are those goals?  I’m not here to say that there isn’t a place for Ozempic.  There certainly is. But a dependency on that to a point where we don’t address the problem?

The bottom line is our relationship with food has to improve. Our understanding of the benefits and love for exercise needs to be explained better and constantly reinforced. We must take some breaths and learn how to mitigate stress and anxiety and not simply act out to momentarily appease them only to have a bigger disaster looming. 

Leading a healthy lifestyle and a respect for the foods we put in our bodies should be incumbent on us to understand.  

Because our minds and bodies don’t need more 48 hour cleanses. We don’t need any raw cleanses. If we listen closely, all the mind and body want from us is to understand what their point of view is.  Only then can we slowly make changes that make us happy to be living in our vehicle and mainframe that we call our body and mind. – CT

Stress: Cake, Steel, and Glass with Kat Chan

Stress is a unit of pressure, which is defined in the field of physics (and engineering) as a force acting over an area. Usually stress is looked at on a small scale, like a specific point pushing down. In physics or structural engineering, it is kind of like the scale of a slice of bread out of a deliciously freshly baked full pullman loaf. Stress is usually looked at as a moment at a specific location across a greater element working hard to keep a building up. 

Imagine trying to stack multiple cakes to create a tiered cake. If the cakes are too heavy, they will cave in! However, if you have a sponge cake (like the paper wrapped steamed ones from Chinatown/my childhood), it can spring back if the load isn’t too heavy. There is a delicious elasticity and delicate nature to that sort of cake. We love cake for how delicate it is – that light and luxurious mouthfeel is present in some measure across all types of cake.

Steel’s elasticity (the ability to bounce back) is why it revolutionized architecture and the building industry. Biting into a cupcake or a sponge cake can momentarily compress the cake, but how much physical force can we really impact with our mouths (assuming we’re not circus artists)? Steel can withstand an extraordinary amount of force in a small area (lots of stress), in both tension (stretching) and compression (squishing).

And unlike stone or concrete that can crumble relatively suddenly under tension, steel maintains its elasticity in both tension and compression. Looking at the American Museum of Natural History’s north facade, the Weston Pavilion houses the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Designed originally by Polshek Partnership (now an architectural practice called Ennead), this glass clad steel space frame facade was an extraordinarily innovative and impressive piece of architecture – light, airy, and shiny. It was particularly so, given the contrast to the existing West and South elevations. The south elevation is a 1897 Romanesque Revival project with a variegated pink and red granite facade designed by Cady, Berg, and See. The aesthetic and functionality of dimensional stone as I had mentioned previously is intimately tied with traditional monumental stately architecture historically associated with particularly distinguished institutions. It’s heavy, weighty, and shall we hazard – intimidating (much like the bureaucratic organizations these sorts of buildings house).

The north facade’s transparency creates this otherworldly awe as you can see the planets in the Solar System suspended within the glass enclosure – suspension of the same disbelief that enables us to expand our minds and understanding of the natural world around us, which fits in with the mission of the museum (AMNH) quite well. It’s inspiring to see the vastness of space and its educational representation as you walk past the museum. That’s the power of facades! And, the steel here is doing an extraordinary job withstanding the wind loading that acts on the glass facade and the weight of the glass itself. The slenderness of the facade support really wouldn’t be achievable by another material – for sure not stone or concrete. That minimal structural is allowed to wiggle – because we know it will wiggle back into place. In technical jargon, it is called deflection. When the wind blows, it will push against the glass which in turn pushes against the brackets that connect back to the steel elements. In that moment when the wind blows, the glass, brackets, and steel will move and even stretch or compress. But once the wind stops blowing, the system will go back to its original spot. It’s pretty freakin’ cool.

And, the transparency of glass makes this all the more inspiring. It’s melted sand that gets to congeal-ish…Glass as a material itself is actually neither a liquid nor a solid. It is an amorphous solid—a state somewhere between those two states of matter. And as science-fictiony as it sounds, it can further be strengthened by getting heated up and cooled, in a process called tempering, much like tempering chocolate. In this tempering process, the glass molecules get super duper stressed and in the cooling process those molecules get into this uber compression mode and its this uber compression mode that results in extra strength (up to more than twice as strong as your regular picture frame glass!). It’s this stuff that is on most buildings. Unlike humans, glass gets stronger from that constant stress.

While our capitalist society drives us to want to be strong like steel or glass, I would say it takes more strength to remain soft and formless like water. “Be like water,” Bruce Lee once said. Water can penetrate any building, given enough time and sussing out of vulnerabilities in detailing. So in a world that pushes us to constantly produce while stressed and stretched thin, remember that there is resistance in rest, and that while we use materials to build awe-inspiring buildings and facades that offer glimpses into the amazing world around us, we can maintain our essence as humans to be in awe of and curious of the world around us and to be like cake – delicate and delightful. -KC

Recent Issues

Down the Rabbit Hole

Read More
The Family of Music

Musicians, like all art discipline practitioners, are a special breed. Doesn’t matter where in the w…

Read More
Reflective Reflections

It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m spending it in the most glamorous of locations, Jenison  Michigan. Ev…

Read More
Light of Your Life

It’s Autumn in New York, and I couldn’t be happier. Not just because it’s pumpkin everything and the…

Read More