Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Place of Tattoos

I'm a pain wuss, and so I'm just never likely to get a tattoo. Beside, Patrick has enough for both of us.

However, I am supremely tempted by a couple of things in place of one…

This state necklace, because Minnesota really does have my heart:



And these awesome book temporary tattoos, wonder how long they last?


Friday, February 13, 2015

She is Too Fond of Books, and it Has Turned Her Brain

(attributed to Louisa May Alcott)

I can't remember a time I could not read. Literally can't remember not being able to pick up a book and get lost in the story; I started reading at 2. I made a specialty of rushing through my schoolwork so I could have free-reading time. I knew every book on the shelves of the Lower School library. When I was young I would finish a book, and then immediately flip it back around and read it again. Books were always scarce — not because my mother would not buy them for me, but because it was hard to keep up with my book-a-day habit.

Wherever I lived, my library card was one of the first things I obtained. When I travelled the world, my backpack was always heavy because it was half-full of books, and I eagerly exchanged the ones I had just read with other travelers. The cafes where people left free books — nirvana. And I remember standing in the Hampstead Waterstone's, looking at all the tables of books and feeling an endless sense of possibility.

It's different now, somewhat, and I give both the blame and credit to my kindle.

I got my first kindle in the hazy first years of Beatrix's life, where I spent a lot of time pumping. It was one of the only ways I could make it through and keep my sanity. One of the first things I loved was that, at that time, I could buy pretty much any book for $9.99. You have to understand; I had almost never (as in I could count on two hands and maybe have fingers left over) purchased a new-release hardcover book before then. When you read a lot, paying close to $30 for something that will only last a couple of hours is simply not sustainable. Having a kindle brought me into a new world of reading all the hot new titles.

Since then, although prices have jumped, I have become extremely savvy with Amazon price-watching and with navigating my library hold list, to the point where, of the 60-70 books I read a year, almost all of them are relatively new releases.

I like the thrill of the new, don't get me wrong. But I am not sure that this is actually a good thing.

When I look over my Goodreads list, and awful lot of them have only 2-3 stars. There are probably only about a dozen truly exceptional books I read in any given year. There are a lot of mediocre ones.

What's the reason for this? Have I simply already read most of the amazing books, the truly life-changing ones? Are newer titles just inherently weaker than the classics? Does the electronic format, while giving me more access, make me less discerning? Or would this have happened anyway, as larger stores like B&N become the norm (I'm guessing not, since the print copies I buy still usually come from indie stores.) Am I just paying more attention to it?

Is more less?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sundin Samba!

For the past couple of years, I have been working with a world music series co-produced by Minnesota Global Arts and Hamline University. It has been a fascinating look into world music and traditions, with everything from gamelan to klezmer. Music is by far the art form I am weakest in; I can't play an instrument, and don't have much musical background. But I have especially enjoyed this series (and loved taking Beatrix to it!) because of the way it has tied together music and folk dance.

This year's series is South of the Border: Traditions, focusing on Latin America. As usual, there are  a lot of related events: a concert, a family-friendly dance party, school presentations, workshops, etc. I have been especially excited about the Carnival celebration on February 22, because I thought Beatrix would especially love the masks and face painting and samba.

This afternoon, I stopped by the campus to take some pictures of the concert artists as they held a workshop with the Hamline band members — and that got me SUPER excited for the concert. They got the kids up on stage and drumming and really picking up the beat, right away. I can hardly see what they do with choro music!

What I especially liked about today is seeing the reach of these events. They are very multi-faceted, reaching all kinds of people that might not ordinarily experience world music, fem the kids at Hamline school to these university students, who started out really nervous and then really got into it as they picked up the samba beat. Definitely unexpected!

So, highly recommended to put some warmth into your cold February. Tickets at the door, or online in advance through Brown Paper Tickets (if you order online, you can go ahead and order with the ACTC discount as your "in" for knowing me, so only $5! from the regular price of $12).


Monday, February 2, 2015

Coya Come Home!

As many (ok, well, all) of you know, we have been desperately looking for a new keeshond;  Geronimo's passing left  a big hole in our life. In doing so, we started with the usual methods — searching Petfinder and the Animal Humane Society. WE then asked friends to keep an eye out. We *almost* got 2 keeshonds from Midwest Animal Rescue, but both feel through at the last minute. We registered with every place we could find. We found some breeders in the area, and even attended the Land O'Lakes dog show, which is an interesting world all in itself. Recently, I have become active in a few Facebook keeshond rescue communities, especially one very active with 101 Keeshonden Rescue: Free the Kees, working to shut down an infamous puppy mill in upstate New York.

The site has become active with other keeshond rescue as well, and on MLK Day two Minnesota members drove to Wisconsin to rescue a keeshond there. Lacoya had been owned by a backyard breeder, who apparently decided to get rid of her because she was not making enough money on the keeshond puppies. From the sounds of it, Wendy (and Bill, with Sapphire - a 101 Kees) got there just in time.

They brought her back, and Wendy was incredible at giving this shy girl a new take on life. In just a few days, this poor dog, who had never really known love or concern, started to bloom. But her landlord was not big on a dog, and so Lacoya needed a new home, which is where we came in.

I had first reached out to Wendy when she rescued Lacoya, to thank her for her work and dedication. She knew we were looking for a new kees, and so asked if we wanted to foster, or foster-to-adopt her. We immediately said yes, and Wendy brought her over this weekend.

Lacoya (or "Coya" as we know call her, after Minnesota's first elected Congresswoman and the "Coya Come Home" scandal of 1958 — we would not elect a second Congresswoman until Betty McCollum in 2000!) has settled right in. She is still incredibly shy, and can't always get used to being loved and snuggled and cared for. She's an amazingly good and sweet dog, just one who seems to think that she can't believe her good luck and it will all come crashing down soon. Our main goal right now is to teach her that she deserves to be loved and will always be a cherished part of our family.

She has "papers" of a sort, and we learned from the breeding world that all purebred kees are actually showable. However, show dogs cannot be spayed, and since Coya was a breeding dog, we have agreed to take care of that right away. Agility dogs can be spayed, so maybe we will look at that as she gains confidence.

We went into this looking only for another dog, and soon realized how much more fulfilling it would be to be part of a keeshond community. From there, we further decided we wanted to be part of a community that made a difference in the world. The people in the 101 Kees group are true heroes, and I am in awe of the work they do. I only hope that we can be worthy of them, and give Coya the wonderful life she deserves. I had known the value of rescue groups before, but had not understood their impact.

Coya, we are so glad you are home!



Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Night of Theatre

Last night (after a brief stop at a Crashed Ice party), we picked up out sitter and had a great night out of theatre events!

First, we used our Artshare memberships for the first time at the Southern Theatre to see Rehearsing Failure at Theatre Novi Most. Novi Most is relatively new in town (within the last few years), and had been on my radar, but I had not made it there to see anything yet. Then, over the summer, we saw Artistic Director Lisa Channer perform in a Skewed Visions piece, "3-Play," and we loved it. This began a new friendship with Lisa, and Patrick joined their board this fall.

The piece literally turns the Southern around; you are sitting in a small set of seats on the side of the stage (and opening night was sold out!) The show itself was fantastic — well written, a design that was especially strong on lighting and video, and some of the strongest performances I have seen in years. The entire cast — Pearce Bunting, Billy Mullaney, Annie Enneking, and Sara Richardson — was great, but I could not have been more struck by Barbra Berlovitz's spare and absolutely spot-on performance.

The owning moment of that show will stay with me forever. As Patrick and I discussed, I have issues with the ending, but all in all, I can't say "GO SEE IT" strongly enough. I'll go again and see it with you — I mean it. Plus it's only 65 minutes, so we can grab a drink at Sanctuary afterwards.

(They also have a HatchFund campaign going to pay the artists, and if you donate today, 1/25, your gift will double!!)

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After that, we headed over to Bedlam, to see Annie Enneking — who had just ripped up the stage with the Novi Most show — perform on another stage with her band Annie and the Bang Bang! Man, that woman is incredible! The event was the Minnesota Playlist party, and it was a great night of dancing, seeing people I love and respect and admire, drinking good beer, and hanging out. This is an incredible artistic community, and I could not be more proud to be part of it.

(and hey, we need to get out and get a sitter more often!!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Love Is Strange

One of my favorite things about working at IFP Minnesota is learning about film. I'm really an idiot in this area; I know very little about film production, and I don't seem to have that encyclopedic knowledge that everyone else seems to have about most movies ever made. But this isn't from a lack of interest, but rather a lack of experience.

For the third year in a row, IFP is screening the Independent Spirit Awards with the Walker Art Center. The awards, which are basically the independent film version of the Oscars, are shown in New York, LA, and here, thanks to Andrew making them a priority 2 years ago. I feel incredibly lucky to get a chance to see them, and they are FREE to IFP members! (and staff members, of course). Plus we get to vote on the winners, like an Academy member.

The part I love best is seeing things I likely would not normally see. Case in point — tonight's showing of "LOve Is Strange," with writer and director Ira Sachs in attendance for a pre-show reception and a Q&A afterwards. The film is absolutely lovely, with an amazing cast, and a plot that is part slice of life and part incredibly provocative. And I never, in a million years, would have likely seen it without this little nudge.

There's more information on the screenings here. There are no tickets for sale; the only way to get in is to be an IFP member (or Walker film club member, but the IFP membership gives you free master classes and other discounts and all kinds of great stuff and is cheaper!) And then you can join me to see another fantastic movie!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlotte's Web at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Beatrix is in a book club with her good friends Meara, Brogan, and Flannery. Each girl takes a turn choosing a book and hosting — they talk about the book, often have a little quiz about it, maybe do an activity related to it, and then talk and play. (really just like every adult book club, but with less wine).

This month, though, we got a special chance to have Flannery's family friend, David — who is an MIA docent — take us on a special tour. Apparently, the Institute does adult book clubs, where they read a book and then tour the art. David wanted to pilot a kids version, based on "Charlotte's Web."

We met under the Chihuly sculpture, which Beatrix thought looked a lot like an egg sac:


The girls walking up the stairs with David:


The first thing David showed us was a newish pop-art sculpture of a dog. He started with this because, at the beginning of the book, Wilbur is very small and the world seems very large to him.


We then saw a picture of a spider — but not just any picture. The Chinese artist painted this and several other pictures with his fingers, rather than the traditional brushes. He grew one fingernail to a point so he could do thin lines.


We then looked at a Chinese study which had been imported in whole, including its garden. We used this moment to discuss the power of words, such as what Charlotte wrote in her web.


Charlotte was a true friend to Wilbur, and the girls are good friends to each other. This is an Osage friendship blanket:


Here's Flannery displaying a Van Gogh that she is particularly fond of:


Our last stop was at a Picasso sculpture of a baboon, depicting motherhood. It's made of found parts, with clay added and cast in bronze.



But everyone's favorite was the dollhouse, brought over from the Burbank Livingston Griggs House:


It was a great trip to the Institute, and we look forward to going back!


Oh, and also, to celebrate their 100th anniversary, the MIA is making all memberships FREE right now! artsmia.org for more information.