Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
I decided at the beginning of the year I need to reconnect a bit (well, kind of a lot) with real life. My whole life is online and while I love that to an extent and enjoy communicating through that medium, last year I just felt that something was missing. I really just felt an intense need for reconnection to the real, if that makes sense. So, to me that means getting tactile and exploring different avenues of inspiration and creativity. Having a pin board as a visual stimulus was one of the first logical steps for me to start experimenting with that.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
I love my readers. I really do. You guys send me some wonderful emails and tweets and I’m so glad that you include me in your lives in that way – it’s connecting with people that I enjoy about blogging the most. Just over a week ago, I got the email below from a reader named Larysa. I’d been in communication with her because she designed our wonderful Team Bangs on the Run T shirts (woo hoo!) and I found her pleasant and upbeat, with a wonderful spirit. This email made me cry, mainly out of happiness for her. It was so good, I wanted to share it with you. With yesterday being International Women’s Day, I think it’s only right to celebrate Larysa for her wonderful achievements.
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
This is James. He’s part of a crew that does Parkour with my friend Brian Appiah Obeng. Brian is a Parkour fiend and photographer who throws himself into whatever challenge life throws at him 100%. He is currently doing a project called ’365 Degrees’ where he posts one of his pictures every day this year. He posted the above one of James last week and the description he posted with it moved me and inspired me so much, I asked Brian if I could post it here. He agreed, so here it is:
It was the spring of 2008, and PK Gen were up early to train on a chilly morning in Vauxhall. Stephane had been leading the challenging session and to finish it off, on this day he came up with a very simple gem of an exercise: He looks up at the scaffolding bar directly above our heads, and says that to finish the session we’re going to work on muscle-ups…
(Now, for those of you that don’t know what a muscle-up is, just imagine doing the upward motion of a pull-up, then in one motion getting your palms on top of the bar and completing the manoeuvre with the upward motion in the way you would for a dips or a push-up. Suffice to say that, its not what I’d call easy).
…but that wasn’t it. The thing about this was, we were going to grab the bar and do the muscle ups, but we were not to let go until we could literally do no more. This wasn’t about counting. This wasn’t about sets or reps. This was about giving it everything you’ve got, and going on until either your mind or your body failed.
Now, when it was James’ turn to step up, I witnessed something that I hold with me and mentally refer to often. He grabbed the bar and he did his muscle ups. Like with any exercise that you train, the first few are always the cleanest, neatest. He continued. Still keeping a good technique he’d move up to the bar, manoeuvre above it and push upwards, then lower himself ready for the next one. He continued. His technique wavered a little, but the rhythm was still there. He continued. I could see that he was beginning to put in more of an effort and that the true work was beginning. He continued. I could see the exertion on his face now, but he persevered and continued the motion, and while it was a little less fluid than before… he continued. He got to a point where it was now less of an exercise and more of a fight: it was now more of a clamber on his way up, and almost a fall on his way down, but he’d never let go of the bar. He’d never let his feet touch the ground. He continued. James, time after time would pull himself up. If he couldn’t pull himself up, he’d will himself up. If he had no will, he’d just grit his teeth tighter and force the damn laws of physics to change in order to get himself above that bar. Every single time I thought I was seeing his final turn, he’d squeeze out just one more. He’d pull himself back up to the bar, arms shaking, shoulders twitching, but it wouldn’t stop him… he’d use his chin, his forearms, his waist, his very life blood if he had to in order to squeeze whatever last drop of effort he could…. and then, when he got to that point that he knew he had nothing left… where it looked like he was ready to pass out – where I, as an onlooker, was beginning to feel out of breath… he continued. I wasn’t watching James training here, I was watching an historic Championship Bout. Seeing the underdog going up against an opponent that the world knew was going to beat him to a pulp. An absolute certainty. But just… when… you think he’s going to go down… he looks deep within himself and unleashes the last gasp of a combination that floors his opponent and leaves him standing victorious.
Maybe I’m overstating it. That being said, I honestly don’t know how many times he completed those muscle-ups on that day, and emotionally I don’t think I had the capacity to count. All I could do was encourage and will him on, whilst just gazing around at the group, who were all as dumbfounded and amazed as I was.
Now THIS is what I’m talking about. Anyone who has trained for anything in their life understands this. The dedication and absolute refusal to give in. When people ask me about running and tell me how hard they find it or that they can’t do it, I simply tell them ‘it’s mind over matter’ – and this right here, what James did, proves it. He wasn’t in a competition or a race, so why didn’t he just take it easy? Why did he push himself to that limit? Because if he didn’t, the only person he’d let down is himself, and that’s the worst kind of let down there is.
I’ve never met James but I’d like to thank him and Brian for this story – at a time where I’m finding my own training for a half marathon very testing, I’ve read this passage every day and it has motivated and encouraged me to go on.
Friday, February 1st, 2008
At age 11, like all good catholic girls, I started my first year at catholic high school. Six months into it, my interest in dance had become so strong that I wanted to be somewhere I could dance all day, every day. So, I transferred to a school with a specialist performing arts course.
It was quite a distance from where I lived and in a pretty bad area.
This scene from Fame (“Hot Lunch”) is what I imagined my new school would be like.
The kids who took Performing Arts got to take dance, drama and music in lieu of other subjects and participate in any number of additional classes on offer (piano or singing lessons, for example).
So, only 30 kids from each year were on that course. The other 200 or so kids in each year were regular ruffians from the local neighborhood who spent the 5 years of high school thinking of new and improved ways to kick our asses.
It was a very pronounced divide in the school. Us “P.A” kids (as we were known), were hated by the regular kids, presumably because of the special privileges we had. If I had to leave my fifth period science class to go to a singing lesson, I could feel the eyes of the non-P.A kids burning through me like daggers until I left the room.
P.A and non-P.A kids never socialized together. While the non-P.A kids smoked in the bathrooms and had sex behind the corner store, the P.A kids spent their break times rehearsing a play, choreographing a dance routine or composing a five-part harmony for the song they just wrote.
If we threw down an impromptu ‘Hot Lunch’ at that school, we’d have been eating our hot lunch off the floor while nursing bruises and broken bones.
But when it was just our tortured creative souls, together in the drama studio, we could get lost in our world of improvisation and pretend we were at a school as open and accepting as Fame.
Though, there were certain similarities. I think the fat lunch lady ‘Shady Sadie’ served lunch at my school too.
Friday, January 25th, 2008
There are so many great dance sequences in this film that it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to, I’d go with the opening.
Obviously, the fabulous score has a lot to do with how well this piece works. It ebbs and flows at all the right moments and draws you in so well. I honestly don’t know how you could sit through that routine and not want to watch the rest of the movie.
I think this flick is one of the things that kick started my obsession with New York. Between this and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I couldn’t imagine anywhere in the world I wanted to be more. When I was younger, I really thought West Side Story was an accurate representation of New York. The aesthetics of it at least; the corner stores, the playgrounds, the fire escapes.
I wasn’t so absorbed in it as to think that if a fight broke out in NYC, rival crews came pirouetting and finger snapping out of alleyways, but damnit – wouldn’t it be great if they did?
It also reinforced my theory that disputes should be settled with a dance off. Granted, it didn’t work so well in this case, as three people ended up dead, but if they lay better ground rules, there’s room for improvement there.
And now Daddy-O, watch the Sharks and Jets in action.
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
If you are unfamiliar with The Nicholas Brothers, you’ve been missing out.
When I was 13 or 14, the BBC showed a great documentary about them. Their story, in and of itself, is inspiring, but this routine (from the 1943 film Stormy Weather) blew my mind.
I can watch this clip over and over and never get bored.
I defy anyone to watch this and not want to get up and dance.
It is sheer perfection.
Every time I watch it, I notice something new.
The opening song (sung by the great Cab Calloway) is catchy enough, but when The Nicholas Brothers chime in and start tapping, they set the place on fire.
Their interaction with each other, the band and the set and the way it all flows so seamlessly is breathtaking.
The piece crescendos and just when you think it can’t get any better, it does.
You know how everyone says Chris Brown’s dance style was influenced by Usher, who was influenced by Michael Jackson, who was influenced by James Brown? Well, make no mistake – The Godfather was jacking straight from these cats.
If ever I’m feeling a little glum, I always seek out this clip. No one could have performed this better than The Nicholas Brothers. I find the experience of watching it to be nothing short of joyous.
With that said…enjoy.