Sunday, October 23, 2011

Philosophical phonderings phrom Phoenix

Well, Tempe, actually, but I couldn't pass up the chance to use the "word" phrom.  And really, it's just the next town over.  Though I'm sure my friends in Tempe would take umbrage to such a flippant dismissal of the differences, as I'm wont to do when airline pilots tell me that we're landing in Fayetteville, (city 25 miles south of more than 70,000 people) instead of in a former pasture in Highfill, AR (population just under 600).

Yesterday ended a series of travel adventures, some for work, some about but not for work, and others for fun, and all I have to say is thank goodness.  It seems this happens every year around this time; I have trips left and right, and the result is that home, couch and dog take on a rosy glow.

Speaking of rosy glow, I was visiting ASU-Gammage, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed performing arts center that was large, round and orange.  But interesting, that's for sure.

The conference was about marketing, and there is always immense comfort in hanging out with other marketing folks.  They understand, frankly, that the statement made by the Gammage CEO (in jest) - "You all know that, if a show is a success, it's a great show, and if it's a failure, it's your fault" - isn't entirely untrue.  I'd also add that everyone in the entire world thinks they know how to market something, and it's one of the great tests of a marketer's personal fortitude if he/she can graciously accept every idea and "I just want to help" that gets tossed out.  I'm not very good at this, I will admit, but I'm trying. It just feels GOOD to sit with others who know exactly how you feel.  

What doesn't feel so good is our insatiable need to share our great ideas, to prove to the room that we are smart and know what we doing.  I can handle that for about 2-3 hours, then I start to fade off.  I start to do things like idly browsing the photos on my cell phone, looking for those I can delete since I have over 1000 on there and I can't update my aps.

And here we arrive at the most remarkable thing that happened to me on this trip, and it had absolutely nothing to do with work. 

While browsing my photos, I came across this photo of myself.

The odyssey of this photo is interesting, at least to me.  It's from my brother's wedding in July, and until two days ago, I couldn't bring myself to post it, because all I saw in it was a curly haired gal who had her hair straightened and now wonders if everyone will say "gee, Jodi should straighten her hair more, she'd look so much better if she did," or a fat, single spinster at her younger brother's wedding.  No doubt it will hurt some people to hear me say that, but it's how I felt. 

Then the other night as I came upon the photo, I saw it with different eyes. I'm not sure what happened, but my attitude about myself has changed lately.  Maybe it's because I've been able to fit into some old jeans, and notice some of my clothes hanging a little looser.  Maybe it's finally getting some clarity on some things in my life that were weighing on me.  Or maybe it's finally figuring out how to be proud of who I am while also striving to improve.  I think that is really, really hard, because how can you "love yourself" when everything you are doing implies that who you currently are (physically, at least) isn't ok? 

The other night, when I saw this photo, I found myself thinking "What the hell, Jodi?  This was a beautiful night, a happy memory.  So you're not as skinny as you want to be.  Get over it, and keep working on it." But I also saw what a pretty picture this is, really, with the ocean and the colors. And I also found myself saying "You know what? I don't look half bad.  Am I bigger than I want to be?  Sure.  But I've always been bigger than I want to be, and it shouldn't keep me from sharing a decent photo, for crying out loud."  So up it went onto facebook, and the kind and complimentary comments came after.  Genuine or not, they did warm my heart, and give me even more incentive to keep working and struggling, so that maybe after the next wedding, I won't have to wait months to post a photo of myself.  

So a shout out to the dogged marketers at the conference for a bunch of great marketing ideas (I was listening even as I was photo-browsing), and for the discovery of this photo.  If I hadn't tuned you out, I would have missed this great insight into myself.  And for those who prefer the straight hair, tough luck; within 2 hours of this photo my hair was curling again.  :)

From Farm Art to Football - a weekend in Madison

I seem to recall, around this time last year, writing a similar post about my adventures in my beloved Madison, WI.  This time (over the weekend of 10/13-10/16), I was back in town for a board meeting; doesn't it sound terribly impressive that I serve on the board of my super-awesome graduate program at the Bolz Center for Arts Administration?

I do have this habit of coming to Madison in the fall, when it's pretty much the best place on earth, with crispy fall New Englandish air and more arts, culture and amazing food than you could want.  And friends, let's not forget those (more on them later). I choose to conveniently not wax poetic about Madison in mid-February (my last trip there when it rained/sleeted and there was a huge, jittery protest going on as the state had a non-violent civil war). 

This trip involved a board meeting, true, but mostly the weekend was about art, football and food.  For art, we enjoyed a unique project called the Farm Art D/Tour, a 55-mile loop through the Wisconsin countryside with random artworks and "culture stands" placed at intervals along the road.  It was amazing, more so when I managed to get ahold of the wheel and thus prevent myself from getting carsick in the back seat. Coincidentally (and familiarly) my friend Jen (my compadre for the Grand Colorado Adventure) was in the front seat navigating as I rounded sharp curves. This time, however, if I'd gone off the road, I would have run into a corn field, not over a cliff to our untimely deaths.

Here is one of my favorite photos from this adventure:

We also visited some artist studios and later in the weekend, a dance/theater/multi-media/haunted house/installation piece that was indescribable, but cool.

Football was awesome as well, especially since we trounced the hapless Hoosiers, and the UW Band looked especially awesome.  

And the food.  Wow.  Madison is a on a local food binge these days, or maybe it's just the friends I hung out with.  But we ate well, from cheese curds to salted chocolate ice cream to Jen's incredible tacos that featured microgreens instead of lettuce.  I wonder if they even sell microgreens in Arkansas.  

And speaking of friends, it was a different group this time.  A few of my fellow alums, one I'd never met, one of a different generation, and the occasional interloper from Germany/England who added some color commentary to our adventures.  But it was still great, because for some reason, I feel safe and comfortable with these friends.  There's not a lot need to censor myself, which I have to do a lot in my public life.  And we all had that "go-with-the-flow" mentality that is so essential to extended visits; I didn't feel like I was imposing when I spent 4 nights on my friend's couch.

I also got some work-related goodness as well, but that's not for this forum; just suffice to say it was another chance to realize that, hey, I might know what I'm doing, and I might be appreciated more than I think.

It was another great trip.

Of course, waking up to this view probably impoved my outlook on life considerably:

On Wisconsin, indeed.

My good mood will not be defeated

Originally written on10/8/11

Since I came back from my awesome adventures in Colorado, I have felt in better spirits than I can remember in quite some time.  The heavenly fall weather doesn't hurt, that's for sure.  I find myself in the strange position of feeling good about work, my progress in getting healthier and my hopes for romantic entanglements, along with a real, invigorating sense that I am seeing and appreciating the beauty of my world in more ways than one.  This is a heady, awesome feeling.

However, I also know that it means that the other side of the coin, when and if it comes, could be seriously crappy.  So in an effort to head off any impending grumpiness, I am going to allow myself a little mini-rant, fully realizing that I may offend, annoy or other otherwise implicate some of you. (or maybe not, since I'm not sure I even have any readers anymore who aren't bots) So, let us commence.

What the eff is up with these moronic drivers these days?  I swear, I have almost been in a wreck at least 6 times in the last two weeks, and I was NOT at fault; I've been cut off, veered in front of, nearly rear-ended, and narrowly avoided a multi-car pileup on the highway.  It's been a variety of offenders, too; the redneck in the pickup, the teenager texting and the perfect blond in the giant SUV.  I wonder why so many people feel it's their right to drive like idiots?  Oh, I forgot, it IS their right.  Super.

I am singularly, seriously tired of our "cover your ass, take no responsibility for my mistakes, blame others" world.  And I am not just talking about Congress.  I know a lot of people, near and far, who need to, to quote Book of Mormon (the Musical), "man up."

Speaking of Congress, I get a newsletter from a local representative entitled "From the Front."  It's petty, but this bothers me.  I happen to have family and friends who are at or in "the Front." I'm pretty sure they are a long way from Washington DC.  I'd unsubscribe in protest, but I think it's important to hear how our representatives are spinning themselves, even if I don't agree with them.  So I'm relegated to complaining on the interwebs.  Oh, the power.

And speaking of power, there is finally some zany movement on the left to counter the crazies on the right.  Occupy Wall Street; I wish I knew what they stood for, but I have to admit I tend to believe that corporations with huge cash coffers and unlimited political influence are pretty dangerous to privacy and democracy.  Is Occupy Wall Street the solution? I seriously doubt it.  But I do appreciate that we're now considering that the enemy might not be teachers, union workers and immigrants. 

Why does there have to be an enemy, anyway?

Ah well.  I can't change any of these things.  It just feels good to say them.  Time to move on to better things, like sunshine, Broadway and film festivals.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Martha Graham is not a cracker

Despite my public statements to the contrary, I don't really have much use for terms like "important" when it comes to art.  When someone tells me that an artist or an artwork is important (thus implying that I'm ignorant or uncultured for not caring about her or it), I have to quell the urge to snark: "Says who?  Why?  Who decides what's important?"

So I feel no shame when I admit that I know Martha Graham was and is important to the world of dance (I can spout off the appropriate reverence when needed), but before tonight's show, I really didn't know why.   But I was by gosh not going to miss the performance by her company tonight, if only to see what all the fuss is about.
Graham in her iconic solo Lamentation.
Photo Credit: Barbara Morgan.

I think I get it now, and at the risk of being blasphemous, it's not because Martha's choreography is all that pleasant to watch.  Appalachian Spring, considered to be one of her most hopeful works, has ominous overtones that linger long after after the curtain falls. Her movement is interesting, weird, and highly symbolic, but it's not going to leave you significantly lighter of heart.  It's not going to leave you, period. 

It also helps to consider the context in which Martha began dancing and choreographing.  It was the early 20th century.  Women barely had the vote.  War was rampant, as was poverty and social injustice.  And from what little dance history I know, dance was about technique and presentation, about the beauty and lightness of a dancer defying gravity on a perfectly pointed toe.

So I can only imagine the knickers of the dance world getting twisted up big time by Martha's earth-bound, emotional, clomping, clapping, sarcastic, satirical dance.  There were so few leaps and lifts in this show that when they did happen, you filled your lungs with air because you knew there wouldn't be more for a while.  The dancers were strong, precise and compelling, but this night was about the choreography.

Blasphemy again, but the most interesting works on this program to me were the ones that weren't choreographed by Martha.  Three young choreographers, back in 2007, created works inspired both by the anniversary of 9/11/01 and Martha's iconic (eek, there's another of those words!) work, Lamentation.  These works reached into my gut and messed around, to point where, at the end of the third work, if the lights hadn't come up and the audience start to talk, I probably would have had a good old fashioned crying jag. Maybe it's because the memory of 9/11 influences me like World Wars I and II did Martha, or maybe I'm in a particularly sentimental mood; who knows.  But after a heart-wrenching sequence of the entire company performing on stage with no one touching, making eye contact or even acknowledging their shared grief, a couple finally comes together, and I told myself "well, at least they found each other."  And then, like wax melting on a candle, the woman in the couple sinks to the floor, leaving the man hugging nothing but a memory.  Cue the tears and get this girl a tissue, would you?

Martha sounds like, from what we learned tonight, a fiery, passionate - dare I say bitchy? - woman who was determined to be different.   So what surprised me most about tonight was how familiar the dances seemed.  And that's how I know Martha Graham was important to modern dance.  Her aesthetic has become part of modern dance, so that when I see a flexed foot or a strange bend of the arm, it doesn't look looks normal.   But it wasn't normal when she did it.  It was revolutionary.

So you go, Martha Graham.  I humbly admit that you were pretty darn important.  And I will hereby and henceforth do my best to make sure that you are not confused with a tasty cracker that goes great with marshmallows and chocolate.