September 27, 2005

Doll Makeovers. For Real.

Who knew Ken was Mandy Patinkin in the Princess Bride as Inigo Montoya!?

September 26, 2005

Contortion Training

I woke up super early, drove up to vermont, and spent 3 hours with three other girls in a private contortion training lesson with Bill Forchion of Nimble Arts ( ). I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!!!!!!! First, I was excited to be in Vermont where it was more rural and like Kentucky (ahh, breathing room). Second, I was happy to be with other contortionists (Phoebe 17, Lauren 18, and Morgan 23) for the 2nd time in my life (the first time was meeting them). Thirdly, I was excited to be in a random old mill building with huge old elevators that ran on pulleys that was being used (and not abandoned) by, of all things, a circus school. Fourth, it was neat to meet Bill, an amazingly down to earth, encouraging, funny and enjoyable guy who used to perform with both Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. And it was neat to have his wife Serenity (that's them in the picture) and her twin Elsie, both trapeze artists formerly with Cirque du Soleil and Pilobolus (amongst others) teaching their private lessons on the other side of the same room while we trained.
But most of all, it felt AMAZING to work with my body in this way! As you know, I am not used to feeling good stretches because, well, I stretch so easily to the positions that most people consider lofty goals. But MAN did I feel stretches! Is that what most people feel when they stretch?!!!???!!! Bill was really really good at tweaking stretches so that it would wake up a new part of my body that I hadn't felt in a particular way before (he called these "yummy stretches". I agree!), and then he was also good at pressing you further into stretches for minutes at a time (that felt like FOREVER) where I nearly felt like crying: ow!. At the same time, he was uber concerned with building strength and not injuring oneself. I was happy to find that I had no bad habits to break and that I hadn't been doing anything that was dangerous to my body--phew! We worked on static and dynamic stretches, on correct/strong backbends, on some tumbling things like handstands and back limbers, but also did some things like "contortion rolls" where you go into a backbend, and then walk your arms through your legs and lift the legs off the ground and let yourself roll from your chin to your toes on your belly, and then we did a few partner things.
One of the most amazing things is that even though I knew I could do some pretty cool things with my body, Bill was able to help me realize that there are so many MORE things that I can do--things that I wouldn't have dreamed of--that are sometimes a simple matter of weight change. And what I appreciated most about the day is that for the first time ever in my life there was nothing that was "weird" or "wow" or "eww!"--I mean I was at a circus school, so my flexibility was just accepted as a matter of course and encouraged and then pressed further. The "wow"s were reserved for the excitement of each of us as we attempted and accomplished a new goal. The funny thing was that my height and age WERE considered rather abnormal. Tee hee! Afterward, I felt better than I have ever felt after a massage, a chiropracter appointment, a dance or yoga class. I felt SO loose in all my muscles, all my joints, and strong at the same time. Nothing pinched, nothing felt sore. I felt so invigorated. It lasted, too! I dreamed about being tweaked into perfect stretches, and then I woke up 40 minutes before my alarm went off this morning, ready to go at 6:30am.
I just gotta say, it was truly RADICAL.

September 22, 2005

Who Am I?

Googling "alyssum" turns up some interesting things. For instance, an extreme close up of sweet alyssum, aka Lobularia maritima, with a tiny bug and some dew. A pollen crumb. A gymnastics studio in Argentina. A picture whose caption said "horny alyssum" but is really HOARY as in "frost". Linneaus's notebook page with pressed alyssum and botanical notes. Some brilliantly hued flowers called midnight alyssum. My name in several languages on a seed packed (Alysse, Alyssum, Aliso, Alisso, Acafate, cyrillic and arabic. I found it elsewhere in German (Duftsteinrich or Steinkraut) and Polish (smagliczka nadmorska)). Some earrings with pressed white and lavender alyssum. A French children's book called Alyssum et Lobelia.
An amazing electron micrograph of "one of several peltate trichomes (hairs) on the surface of a leaf of the nickel-accumulating plant Alyssum lesbiacum (Cruciferae). The spreading form of peltate trichomes in this group, and also in bromeliads, is thought to reduce water loss from the plant surface. They may also be associated with accumulation and excretion of toxic materials." And finally,--YES! I KNEW I could count on the Japanese for this! My very own beauty product line! (click on title)

Beautiful Handwritten Books Online

This is one of the most amazing Books Online sites I have ever seen because it includes amazing handwritten/hand illustrated copies of Classics...Alice in Wonderland, Da Vinci's notebook, and so on. Wow.

September 7, 2005


My father's best friend, a wonderful, optimistic, intelligent, inventive and very funny man, Paul Elsey, had esophageal cancer which metastasized to his liver. Against all odds, his chemo and radiation therapy was effective against the esophageal cancer, and hepatic surgery seemed to have done well too. Until recently. His liver has flared up with a vengeance and dear Paul is bravely suffering through more chemotherapy, enduring terrible pain. It makes me very sad to see Paul, his wife Annie, his parents Robin and Carol, my dad and stepmother Neville and Kate, and others have to go through all this.
This week as I copied all my CDs to my iPod, I came across a CD that was one of my favorites nearly ten years ago. It was the Grand Concert of Scottish Piping that I bought in Edinburgh when I was in Scotland/England as a 16 year old (the trip when I first met Paul's parents, actually). The man in the music store brought this CD out of the back room with pride and a sly bit of secrecy. I had asked his recommendation on bagpiping music, and since I was wearing a kilt, he must have thought I was worthy of his particular favorite. It was a good suggestion, and I fell in love with a song played on the small pipes. It was winsome and bittersweet. The small pipes, as opposed to the more familiar highland pipes, have a sweeter, darker, less blaring sensitivity to them and the piper was clearly attuned to this, and was able to milk the air for shudderingly beautiful drones and riffs.
Fast forward to 2002 when I happened upon an amazing CD called Bothy Culture. The artist, Martyn Bennett, hailed originally from Newfoundland, moved to the Isle of Skye at age 6, learned the pipes, studied classical violin and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, mixed dance music at raves on the side, studied scottish culture and jazz in his own time, and then incorporated all of it into a perfect album. For my exit exam of the Gaines Fellowship, I wrote about this album and how it tied together so many wonderful aspects of our world. I talked with my exit interviewers about how marvelously this man, Mr. Bennett, was able to sew together a seamless tapestry of his interests and the myriad cultures from which he hailed. His pots of influence seemed deep and limitless and yet he was able to skim the best off the top and put it all together in these few songs.
As I was going through my CDs this week, I realized that the young piper from the Grand Concert of Scottish Piping was the same Martyn Bennett that I knew and loved through Bothy Culture. It made sense somehow that I was unknowingly as profoundly impressed by the same person twice at very different periods in my life. I decided to check up on what else I might have missed in his creation. I found his website (click the link of the title of this entry), and was greeted with the terribly sad words, "Martyn died on 30th January, 2005 following a long struggle with cancer." Struck dumb, I could barely enter the site to read on. I knew that he had battled testicular cancer successfully, but his bout with Hodgkin's had ended fatally and I hadn't even heard of it yet. I felt I should have known, somehow, since I had been such an unwitting double-fan of his. As upset as I was, I learned that he had created a testiment to human will and passion is his final work, a CD called GRIT. He said of it: "GRIT is a serious artistic attempt to bring my own Scottish heritage forward with integrity. The obscure title means many things to me personally, however it is tied up in my ideas of where Scottish culture lies: GRIT can be seen on road signs anywhere in the world, it is an expression of determination, an onomatopoeic word: it reflects the contrasts found in its music both course and fine." The grittiness of it certainly came not a small amount from his personal grit against the cancer inside him.
I am sad.
And yet joyful that he shared so much courage and creativity with the rest of us.
My love and encouragement to Paul.

Starting off well

Well, I got an 85% (a B) in the first exam of the year. This in a class where--no matter how hard, long, or intensely I studied-- I could not get even a C on the exams last year. Whoo hoo! The material is review for me, and having a better, whole picture of how the body works, I find myself putting information into drawers where they fit rather than just memorizing it. Ahhh...