Monday, July 30, 2012


This year the Olympics are taking place in London.  What an amazing city that is!  Haven't been there since I was in high school, but always dream that someday I'll go back to visit.  I was really looking forward to watching the Olympics this year, because I avoided watching them the last time.  I had a real problem with Beijing being the host city.  Not that this year isn't controversial, especially since the uniforms that our US Olympians are wearing were made in China! COME ON AMERICA, get it together!  I was so disappointed when I heard that, it made me want to avoid the games again.

But I didn't.  I watched the opening ceremonies, and a few events.  I have some opinions about some of the things, and I don't want to get too negative.  After all, to me, the Olympics really are about coming together, putting your best foot forward, and really kind of celebrating humanity!  I mean, right???  Every time the Olympics come around I do really get excited.  There are some amazing human interest stories, the dedication to the training, and even the attitudes expressed by some of the athletes (I'm talking about you Michael Phelps!)  It's pretty amazing.

One thing that I always keep in the back of my mind, though, is how other countries view the Olympics.  If you watch the opening ceremonies, you seen all the countries parade through with a variety of clothing.  You see everything from the very sporty Italians to traditionally dressed Nepali people.  You see the scores of athletes that come from Europe and America, and then the countries that only have 2 people as a representation.  It's pretty amazing to see some of the African countries come in full traditional dress, draped in gold, but then see the Americans come in berets (umm....France?).

All in all I really wanted to like the opening ceremonies.  It was a dream of a British Hollywood director.  He definitely had a point of view, but it lacked some clarity.  I mean, he did tell a story, but it was sort of choppy and odd.  I mean there was a really scary giant baby, and all those health care workers, and then the very disjointed technology appreciation love story?  Umm--- what about GB's connection to the Olympics, or heck--- world domination???

And the music.  I love British music (at least what I thought was good British music).  I was not overly impressed by the music choice,  umm...."Firestarter"?  Really?  If you were going for anger and fast paced, why was there no punk???  I mean really.  Music was a huge part of the opening "play".  They were clearly going for a timeline in the music, but I thought they missed most of the 80's.  At least the good parts of the 80's.  But who am I? Not a famous director.  Just a simpleton Yank, really.

I am glad I watched.  I loved the torch.  I thought that was pretty amazing, the bike doves were cool.  And I did like the grass everywhere, I thought the coordination for the pastoral period into the industrial revolution was pretty cool.

I've been watching some of the events, and it doesn't really matter who I cheer for, I like seeing everyone.  It always amazes me to see people pushing their bodies to do so much.  It's incredible to see the twisting and turns of diving, the power and speed of swimming, and the strength and grace from the gymnasts.  It's really amazing (can I just say that over and over?).

I have given the Olympics a bad rap for many years, and I still feel a little uneasy about some parts of it (professionals playing in the Olympics - of course everyone does it now).  But all in all it is a story about the human spirit.  The way we deliver ourselves everyday to reach our own potential.  It's a great place to begin being inspired about new things in your own life.  Whether you watch them to just see who's the best, watch for the stories, or look with amazement as someone completes an event with a world record, it is something to behold.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is it Art?

Fair warning this link contains images of an artist who uses animals in her artwork.  It was disturbing to me, but it makes for a good discussion about the moral value art carries, and is it art?  Is it ethical?  You decide.  I have my superficial opinions about this type of art, not practicing it myself.  I don't know a lot about this artist, I've looked on her website and read this article.  It brings up a lot of interesting questions.

I am a vegetarian, who leans towards veganism.  However, I am not an activist.  I try to follow what I believe it good for me, and try to just do my best to make changes to my own life.  I don't persecute people for wearing leather, sitting on leather, or eating meat.  I have my opinions, I do own shoes made from animals skins, and I eat cheese.

So look at this with whatever perspective you like.  Activist?  Artist?  Innocent bystander?  What do you think???

Here is the New York Times article.

It's all subjective... but I do believe that it is the responsibility of artists ( as with any other profession) to act and create with regard to the value of life.

Practicing Yoga Teacher!!!

Well, it's official, I will be working at the Radiance Yoga studio as a sub for Gentle and Yin yoga classes.  I'm really excited to begin this phase.  It's a little nerve-wracking because I know that there is a lot I still need to study up on and get comfortable with before I can teach many things.

Everything seems to have gone really well yesterday.  There were about 10 people there and everyone had a smile on their face, and looked like they were relaxed as they were packing up and moving around.  The owner of the studio even said to me, "I'd definitely take that class again!"  What a compliment.

So, I know there are things to work on, sometimes I get stuck with my words.  Even though I'm a teacher, I'm not used to speaking and directing and demonstrating for a full hour.  I usually do my demo and instruction in the beginning of class, and then go around for the rest of the class giving personal attention.

It's hard.  I think I said the word "nice" a lot.  And I forgot to tell the students I wasn't mirroring them.  And I also could have phrased a few things differently.  Choosing words carefully is key, because I don't want to make anyone feel that they can't do something, or make them feel like the should be doing something.

On a positive note, I think I paced the class well, made some really good sequences, and reminded the students throughout the class that this was their practice.  I know it will get easier as it goes a long.  I have a long way too go....  But I'm really excited, a year ago I didn't think I would be doing this!  I even said, "  I won't ever teach in a studio"...probably out of fear and inexperience.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yoga audition: tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day I audition for Radiance Yoga, the studio I attend almost every day.  I'm excited but nervous.  I think I can handle the instruction and the demonstration... It's just the speaking.  I can be very soft spoken sometimes, and I hope I can find it somewhere in me to project my voice, but still in a soothing way.  When I get nervous the voice seems to just disappear.

My sequence is going to be a a gentle flow with a yin influence.  I've come into contact with yin yoga just this past year and I love it.  It's not the usual type of flow class where you are linking a lot of movements together at a certain pace.  That is actually a yang practice, where you are building heat in the body.  Yin yoga is a "cooling" yoga.  Each pose is held for a significant amount of time, and the goal is to let the body surrender to the pose.  For example, staying in child's pose for 3 minutes.   Yin is an amazing practice that helps me balance out the rest of the week.  This style works on the fascia muscles or connective tissue.  So it actually helps circulation a lot and promote growth.  Also energetically it can release blockages.  Many times during this style of practice a lot has come up for me... being uncomfortable, but then being with that feeling and trying to lean in to it, to let it go.

I know lots of yoga stuff there.  Yin is also based in Taoism and Chinese medicine.  The focus is that the body is constantly producing new cells that are replacing old cells,  so this kind of yoga basically focuses on the fact that healing and improvement is always possible for the mind and body.

Almost all the postures take place in the lower part of the body.  That is usually where we hold all the tension right?  All from sitting!!!  Yeah, before taking this class I had no idea how bad it was to sit.  Now I try to stand all the time, or sit on the floor where I can stretch.  But sitting actually tightens up everything in the hips and legs.

So tomorrow I'm working a lot on the lower body.  We'll be doing a lot of "cooling" poses like child's pose and some inversions, but I'm also going to do a lower back sequence (for slight compression), hip series (using the number 4 stretch), and closing it out with a supported bridge series.

I hope I can remember all that!

Here's the list of poses, if you want to try at home:

Releasing Lower Back Tension to Find Ease (really most of these poses could be done by themselves to release the back- especially child's, spinal twists, happy baby, and bridge poses)

Sukasana (comfortable seat)
Hand and wrist circles
Arms overhead stretch (fingers interlaced)
Side stretch over head
Spinal Twists
Child's pose
Table pose
Thread the needle
Anahatasana (melting heart)
Sphinx/Seal pose
Forward Savasana (relaxation)
Child's pose
Knees to chest
1/2 happy baby (both sides)
Number 4 stretch
Intense #4
#4 twist
Legs up to sky (point flex feet, roll the ankles)
Full Happy baby
Pelvic tilts
Supported bridge
Supported bridge each leg extended
Supported shoulder stand on block
Windshield wiper legs
Knees to chest
Supine twists


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New classes

Wow, I just signed up for two graduate painting classes for the small semester.  One is just called "painting" and the other is "mixed media and painting".  So excited to get going on this.  I know that this is what I need to start making art again.  I feel like it's been hard to even sit down and start something, or stand in front of the easel.  Then when I finally DO sit down, it's a mess.  I have tons of ideas swirling around in my head, but keep finding lots of excuses not to try them out.

It's true, I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to making art.  I start and stop all the time, and even destroy many of the things I try to make.  So I'm going to give it a try.

Today is actually the first day, my entire summer vacation month, that I've sat to create.  The classes will give me a reason to get down and get busy... I have to-- I'm paying for the classes and need those classes to keep my teaching certification.

Yep.  Sounds like good motivation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quick Art Trip to Pittsburgh

So what a whirlwind that was. I think I'm still recovering from all the driving.  It was worth it though.  Not only was it nice to be away from the DC area once more, it was nice to see some much needed green space a long the way.  Pennsylvania basically has 2 cities:  Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Everything else in between in farm land.  That's why my family and I generally refer to PA as Pennsyltucky.  I mean, it is, really.

That being said, Pittsburgh definitely has a different culture than Philadelphia, and is influenced a lot by it's history.  Obviously Pittsburgh is one of those cities that has seen money come and go.  And you never forget that.  On this trip I really noticed the stages of the city.  It was very vibrant in some places, while others were clearly still working class and struggling.  I saw many boarded up homes and places of businesses, but then I also saw the commercialism for Shady side (once you got a gap, you know it's over).  But I also saw great many homes being rejuvenated.  Things have changed, and some things stay the same.

One thing that I had forgotten about was the elite society.  I guess you could call them the "founding" families:  Heinz, Mellon, Carnegie, Westinghouse... to name a few.  Well you can tell that it exists. For instance, Friday night we made it over to Shadyside for some dinner.  There were a couple of places we wanted to check out for dinner.  So we made it to the restaurant, and it was nice.  I mean, I don't think we were really under dressed.  I was wearing a sundress, and my friends looked fine.  We were also a little earlier than usual for dinner out.  The first question they asked was if we had a reservation.. umm no.  And besides, it was Thursday.  So they offer us a seat outside.  Meanwhile, we're looking around and the place is completely empty.  Maybe you do need a reservation?  So we go up, and we actually have a perfectly nice experience.  The waitstaff was friendly, although they got my order wrong.  The food was good, and the cocktail superb.  So we finish up and on the way down I notice that this crowed IS dressed up.  I am actually in shock.  Not just a nicely, but like button down shirts, dress pants, strapless shiny dresses.  And then it hits me, there are people with money in this town, and they do like to let you know it.

I'm also reminded of the first week in college, when girls were showing me pictures of their debutante balls!  WHAT?  Debutante?  Oh wow...  There is a certain elitism in Pittsburgh, but if you look past all that, there is a genuine city.  These families do all sorts of things to give back to Pittsburgh, whether it's through the arts or schools.  One thing that Pittsburgh is not short on, is art.  And it takes money to make that happen.

This was an art trip after all, so let me show you some of the pictures.  We went to the Mattress Factory and the Andy Warhol Museum.  We also spotted some other art along the way.

We stayed at a strange bed and breakfast.  On the outside, it appeared to be a grand old house, but on the inside it was littered with dingy antiques, that might not have even belonged to the house.  It was clean - sort of, and the bed was ok.  The funniest thing about it was that this bed and breakfast had you make your own breakfast.  It was not good.  Pre-measured pancake mix (not homemade), grocery store pastries, old hard boiled eggs, and some slimy fruit.  Not even fresh brewed coffee, but instant.  Yep, not what I think of when I think bed and breakfast.  The guy was nice, but charged an awful lot for not a great experience.  Still the neighborhood was convenient, and I guess that is what we were paying for.

If you didn't stop at Breezewood, this would be your next best bet off the PA turnpike.  As you can see by the sign!

It's your Western PA diner chain.  With smiles!


Who can resist all these smiles?

Oakland, The Cathedral of Learning, Pitt Campus. 

Cathedral of learning, Pitt Campus

Scary mask next to our bed at the B and B.  At least there were no dead animals, that was the room our other friend stayed in.

Very rainy day before we head out to Mattress Factory.

Mattress Factory installation.  Everything covered in terry cloth, animals, paddles,  bath mats, and other things.

Mattress Factory installation.  Umm, lots of creepy busts.  Drugs, religion, illness, addiction, skeletons, wasting away, rock and roll.  This installation was set up as if you were looking into someone's front living room off the sidewalk.

The neon dot room.  pretty cool

Vicki striking a picture taking pose.  Sorry for the blur.

Here I am!

The Orange dot room with some orange dotted ladies!

Vicki getting a little fresh with the ladies.

One more.

Books stuck in plexiglass

Pittsburgh from the MF

Red.  Permanent collection at MF

Hanging newspaper from one side at the MF

Little piece that scratches on the wall, connected below, uses morse code??? 

Nature on the inside.

Balloon room, add a wish to the ribbon.  Some deflated.

Mirrored wall? nope.

Rope room.  3 circles of room with a speaker in each center, breaks up the orchestral music to here each section distinctively. I liked this one a lot.  

Cut out circles around the room.  Drywall layers.

The flood room.

I love the facade of this building.  All the different brick patterns.  It's almost like seeing inside a doll house.  

Suspended wood  sculpture.

Side of the Mattress Factory, love the green ivy.

Down the street from the Mattress Factory some people paint the exteriors of the houses with messages and murals.  Some are poems. 

Shadyside homes.  Beautiful.

Pittsburgh is a city of bridges.  They're surrounded by 3 rivers, and this is just one of their bridges.  Right next too the Andy Warhol Museum. 

We weren't allowed to take pictures on any of the floors except the first one.  So here are a few from the first floor exhibit.  This is Andy!

Making his mark with POP art.  Celebrating American treasures of consumerism and fame.

It's true, after I left his museum, I started seeing everything how he might of seen things.  What would he be doing today if he were still alive?  

Painting from his school days.

On the first floor, just loved this origami inspired pattern piece.  Not, Andy Warhol...I forget who.

Being silly.

Pittsburgh, and a full bottle of heinz.  The bottle empties and then refills.  Love that sign.

Nice mural on our way to the Strip District. To see a special exhibit Factory Direct, sponsored by the Warhol Museum and local industry.

Walking to the Warhol museum.

Art under the over pass.

Sneak shot at the Warhol balloon room.  Shhhh... don't tell.

Just like being home!  This wall paper cracks me up on so many levels.

Stop in Somerset, PA, off the turnpike.  On our way home.  Had totally forgotten that this little town was made famous by the incidents of 9/11.  

Coke! It's everywhere.  The funny thing, they didn't serve coke products.  They had pepsi products. 

A really nice diner, highly recommend stopping here if you need a break somewhere along your journey across PA.  Friendly service, hot food, and play free songs off their juke box!

Home is that way.

Ok, so I'm a little out of order.  The next few photos are from the Factory Direct Show. I really wanted these parts to move!

Ok, so this artist, ORLAN, came to the Warhol museum to measure the length of the museum with her body.  You can see the video of it at the Warhol, and then come here to see this and her white dress.

The dress.

Really beautiful space for the show, who would have thought it was above a self-storage warehouse.  

You can buy one of these rubber objects for $100.  They kind of look like a top of a plunger.

Ketchup multiples from around the world!

Beautiful reflective multiples of female nudes in various positions.  

Newspaper multiples.

You can make your own!

Ok, back to Somerset.  Why an elephant?? Well, apparently they rescue elephants not far from here.  Although, I read that they try to mate them. Not sure how I feel about having elephants mate in captivity, how would they ever be released into the African wild.  I totally think it's great to take care of an animal until their death, but I don't think it's a great idea to increase the elephant population in this way.  Still love elephants.

The diner.

Yep, I do believe Andy would have approved of this picture.

I would love to see more wind power in more places... Just my little two cents.
Well, I'm sure your eyes are full.  I know I needed a day or two to recoup from my day trip.  One more week of summer break, so I'm going to go off and try to enjoy my last week of freedom.