Friday Five

1. Shake your groove thing. This week I was invited to a performance of the legendary Alvin Ailey Dance Company at the Apollo Theater. I don’t know much (okay, anything) about professional dance. In fact, when I was a kid, my mom signed me up for tap dance lessons and after a few sessions, the teacher gently suggested I find another extracurricular activity. Let’s just say graceful movement is not my strong suit. But I digress…

The Alvin Ailey Dance Company started in 1958 with a group of African-American modern dancers. They have toured around the US and 71 countries, worked with Duke Ellington, and have a dance school for the young ‘uns. There is something about the energy of a live performance (be it music, theater, dance, etc.) that makes a recording pale in comparison. Maybe that’s because there are no “do-overs.” You’re there with the performers who have trained for many months, probably years, likely decades, to bring you this one-of-a-kind show. They show up and put it all out there every night, and I admire that.

Ailey at the Apollo

The Apollo is notable in its own right. Opened in 1934 in Harlem, the theater has hosted legendary performers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder. Aretha Franklin won the Amateur Night at the Apollo competition and was paid $25 for her efforts. Can you imagine watching young Aretha perform from these seats?

Box seats at the Apollo

Box seats at the Apollo

I couldn’t take any photos during the performance, so I took one of my program.

This leaves me speechless on several levels.

This leaves me speechless on several levels.

Here is a short video featuring clips from different performances. Don’t they make it look easy?

Have you been to any live theater lately?  

 

2. Platform Diving. This mosaic adorns the wall of the subway station near my office. It’s one of those things that I look at but don’t really see every day. Then, for some reason, I took notice of it last week. Check out all of those tiny glass tiles that create the picture of whales swimming on the subway. I wonder how many tiles are in each mosaic. There are seven mosaics in Deborah Brown’s installation along the platforms. Some have turtles, manatee and octopi. Brown was inspired by the way underwater creatures navigate in passageways and tunnels just like subway commuters.

Is there anything that you pass every day but don’t really see? 

Subway mosaic

Platform Diving by Deborah Brown

 

3. The danger of a single story. In my first novel set during World War II, the main character, Rose, questions the US propaganda machine pumping out horrifying images of the “Nazi devils.” She figures that there must be German wives and mothers, much like herself, who are concerned that their husbands won’t make it home alive. From there, a sort of compassion develops for her counterparts on the other side of the war. When I submitted these pages to my workshop group, a woman derided the scene. “This would never, ever happen,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “You make it sound like Rose doesn’t support her country. You make it sound like she’s changing sides.”

“You don’t think that a person in her situation might consider the opposing point of view, especially when the goal is the same on both sides?”

“No. A person with Rose’s background would not have been open-minded enough to consider that possibility.”

Ironic, no? I was a little surprised by this woman’s vehemence. Then I realized that she had developed a single story of an entire generation and clung to it without reservation. It didn’t occur to her that in every country and culture, past and present, there are many stories. While there may be a pervading opinion or situation, to say that everyone believes this or everyone lives like that leads to stereotype and critical misunderstanding. Some of this is reinforced through literature (and media, but that’s another post!). Which is why, I think, we often find “truth to be stranger than fiction.”

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie discusses this beautifully in her TED talk as she relates how, time and again, she has misinterpreted others or been misinterpreted by others due to the single story. A wonderful reminder for everyone to stay open in the face of pervading evidence to the contrary, especially poignant for those of us who are writers.

“The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar…Stories matter. [Having] many stories matter.  Show a people as one thing — as only one thing — over and over again, and that is what they become.”

 

4. A tree grows in Brooklyn. A mural in a community garden near my apartment where I sometimes stop to read a book with a cup of coffee.

A tree was planted

 

 

5. Search Term-apalooza! It’s time, once again, to play Search Term-apalooza! This is a fun game when we take a look at the search terms people have entered and found themselves, for better or worse, at this blog. Here we go:

  • Clown car min-van
  • Cangro mating (I’m feeling a little exposed)
  • Numerical reasoning (clearly they are in the wrong place)
  • How to be a captain at a party
  • Inflatables
  • Help me come up with a rhyme for my sales pitch
  • Wash your dishes
  • Raising worms cinnamon
  • Hiding under desks
  • Creamed in fishnets
  • Bubbling in wall
  • Nutella crepe hangover (my favorite!)
  • I’m crazy about you

Are there any usual search terms that have led people to your blog? 

Have a great weekend, everyone!  Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating this weekend. 

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32 comments

  1. Recently someone found me looking for “comments by hippy on the weather”. It sent me in search of George Carlin videos.

    Nutella crepe hangover is my favorite, too, but I wonder if you felt compelled to at least try to come up with a rhyme for the sales pitch. When I get terms like that, I feel sad that I wasn’t able to help the searcher.

    I like and agree with what you did with Rose.

    The subway mosaic and the Apollo picture and program photo are fantastic.

    And finally, your Friday Fives have given me another reason to look forward to Fridays. Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. I also wonder if people were disappointed when they got to my blog and realized I really didn’t have any good tips for how to be a captain at a party. I do want to investigate fully the Nutella crepe hangover. You know, as a public service.

      I’m so glad that you enjoy the posts! Have a great weekend.

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    1. Oh dear. I’m concerned that someone is looking for golden retrievers sporting clown-type red noses. 🙂
      I found your lovely ETSY site! Do you think you’ll be posting note cards for sale? I’m excited for you!

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      1. That’s so kind you’re excited for me! thank you 🙂

        My cards should arrive in the post by this time next week. I won’t be putting them on Etsy until after my fayre on the 27th but I am more than happy to reserve some for you? I really have no idea how well they will sell!

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      2. Wonderful! Please let me know when they’re available on Etsy. Then I’ll dash over and pick up a few. I love notecards. They are more personal for birthdays / holidays than generic store cards.

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  2. I have noticed the art in the subway in New York. I would love to investigate more on my next trip there.
    I agree with you that there must have been people on both sides of the war who had compassion. In our little area of Italy many of the local people risked their lives to help partisans and prisoners of war on the run. Nothing is black and white…except perhaps that woman.

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    1. There are so many marvelous art installations on the NYC subway platforms. I’d love to share photos of the one at Prince Street. It’s quite dynamic.

      It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who figured that there were people who considered the opposing viewpoint during the war. I also hope that my story can offer a glimpse into an alternative perspective.

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  3. The photo on the program at Alvin Ailey leaves me speechless as well. Sometimes you just have to marvel at what the human body is capable of, given enough raw talent and hard work. Thanks for this lovely smorgasbord going into the weekend!

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  4. The reaction to Rose seems odd. I’m still trying to figure out how fiction writing and I intersect, but it seems to me that fiction is an exploration of what could be. Perhaps a majority of Rose’s contemporaries wouldn’t have thought as she did, but I can’t imagine no one would…or did.

    People are quite good at equating their opinions with “everyone’s”.

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    1. I love your description of fiction as an exploration of what could be. (I hope you don’t mind if I use that when I teach my next writing class!)
      I’m drawn to fiction because it lets me travel to places I couldn’t otherwise go and meet people I couldn’t otherwise meet. Fiction should be a portal to opening minds. In which case I’d rather not read about the popular opinion, but the unpopular one.

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  5. Have a beautiful weekend, Jackie! It’s always a pleasurable eye-opening experience to read your Friday Five.
    Oh, and by the way, “armpit porn” is the new bizarre search term to land on my blog. Apparently, it’s a thing, so spread the word if you know anyone who may be looking for a career change. 😉

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    1. I’ve decided to put the program under my pillow at night. 🙂 You know, just in case there’s a such thing as osmosis for dance.
      Hope your book launch is doing swimmingly!

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  6. The story of your workshop experience reminds me of something an early reader of my novel said. She didn’t believe any woman of the period I write about would think the way my main character does. I wish I had had the nerve to write her back about not assuming any time or place only has ‘one story’. Just as there are those who are very different from ‘the herd’ now, there certainly always have been. We assume too often we are the only generation with the ability for independent thought, but learning a little history quickly dispels that notion.
    Stick with your story, Jackie, I was intrigued by it as you told about it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that story about your workshop experience. It seems like we received very similar comments. It’s very easy for this kind of dissenting opinion to cause me to question my original intention and the character’s motivation. Still, I tend to think that, even if Rose wasn’t able to voice her thoughts, they would have occurred to her.

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  7. Love the subway mosaic and the garden quote. Nutella crepe hangover? I want one!
    A friend of mine has seen the Alvin Ailey dancers many times and loves them, but I’ve never been.
    So, she thinks not one person could have had an open mind during World War II? Wow.

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    1. I hope you get to see an Alvin Ailey performance sometime. I enjoyed every number they performed. The music, the costumes, the choreography. It was a terrific overall experience. They travel around the country quite a bit, so maybe they’ll be coming to your neck of the woods soon.

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  8. Sorry that I’m a little late to this party. In the past, I’ve joined a few writing workshops and I must say that it’s the opinions of the thick-headed that have turned me off participating. I just find that so counterproductive. I am not that much of a fan of Clint Eastwood-directed films, but back in 2006 he released two back to back depicting World War II from both the American and Japanese POV. The American POV one was okay, but the Japanese POV impressed me so much. For me, it was a fresh way of looking at that war. I thought that CE pulled that off well. If we only look at stories in one way, that’s so limiting. The less one thinks, the less one grows.

    In the past 30 days one of my sites key search terms has been “Ava Gardner blowjob”. Seriously. Yes, I’ve mentioned Ava in a post once, but the mention had nothing to do with her performing oral sex.

    Since I work in tile, I am very familiar with both mosaicists and subway tile, so I do notice tile all the time. Bad installations make my skin crawl. Each piece of tessera in a mosaic is individually cut and there are various kinds of cuts (waterjet, handchopped, straight cut) and finishes (polished, honed, tumbled). It can be made from many different materials including stone, ceramic, glass, porcelain, metal, wood, shell. Tile is so much more than 1″ hexagons on a bathroom floor. Some of the mosaic in NYC’s subway stations are truly beautiful works of art.

    I actually walked out on a play at intermission last night, something I rarely do. It might be my next Lame Adventure. It was lethally dull. I found myself continually nodding out and fighting to retain consciousness.

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    1. Funny you mentioned that Clint Eastwood flick. I was just talking about it this week. I had the same reaction to it that you did. It was so well done, in part because the film didn’t ask you to “choose sides,” only that you view it with an open mind and heart.

      I bet you’ll never look at tile the same way since you started working in the business. Do you have any favorite subway installations I can check out next time I’m at that station?

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      1. I have an insanely critical eye when it comes to looking at tile and have been known to emerge from bathrooms raving about the floor or walls when I see what I like. Over the weekend, I accompanied a friend on an apartment hunt. Some of the tile installations were hideous, but one was particularly terrific. Unfortunately, that place is not pet-friendly (she has two cats). The place she’s applied for has a lovely fireplace made out of 1×4 mini brick. I completely approved. There are a few uptown 1 stations in Manhattan that impress me, but I’ve been meaning to one day do a station tour for myself.

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  9. Can you imagine the pressure there must be in performing at a place with as much history as the Apollo? Wow – I mean, it would be an unbelievable honor, but at the same time… YIKES!!!
    I love the mosaic! I tried to make one once… only mine didn’t wind-up looking like that. Exactly. Or at all. Not even close.
    🙂

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  10. My mom signed me up for tap and ballet lessons when I was little. I think I lasted one lesson. My brain and body don’t communicate at all. Shame, I did love the sound of my tap shoes. Hope you’ve been well.

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  11. Wow! You’ve been busy over there. As for search terms, that always cracks me up! By far the term that brings people to me most often is “Pure Barre” or “Barre Minneapolis.” I think they probably enjoy (I hope) my two posts about it then feel disappointed that they have not landed on a fitness or diet blog!

    Like

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