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Archive for January, 2012

As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I think about coordination a lot. What does good coordination look like? What does someone who is organizing him or herself well look like?

In Alexander Technique school (and in lessons before and after my training), I spent a lot of time unlearning some of my habits of thought and movement based on a system of sound principles discovered by FM Alexander. In spite of this, I spend a lot of time in my old habits and patterns of thought and movement, not all of which are particularly healthy. I slouch at my computer; sometimes I gasp for air when I am in front of a group of people either singing, speaking, or acting; I may take a step on a mountain hike without considering the relative position of my hip, knee, and ankle joints as I bear or shift weight. UNLESS I stop and take time to slow down, think, and coordinate myself in order to choose what I really want, these old habits rule me much of the time.

What I love, and many of my fellow teachers love, is looking at footage or photographs of good coordination. However, we are also often cautioned not to present what “good use” looks like. Many (or most) of the people in these photos have good overall coordination, but they may not know a lick about the Alexander Technique. What could AT do for someone with a natural ability to coordinate oneself with a minimum of tension, a lack of overusing what isn’t necessary? For one, in the case of an athlete or performer, once a person is injured, they often don’t know how to get back to the state they had formerly “perfected.” AT’s principles, the 2 major ones being Inhibition and Direction, can put one back on track after injury. AT can shed light on the means whereby one does what one does.

I realize I’m throwing some unfamiliar terms at you. If nothing else, this post should bring more questions to your mind than it answers and when it comes to the AT, that’s okay. It is about questing, about what FM Alexander termed going from the known to the unknown. It’s a beautiful thing.

Today, I will share with you some great examples of what we in the AT world  call “good use.” Use is a term which Alexander Technique teachers and students use to describe how a person does what they do with themselves. Sounds goofy, I know, but if you spend a bit of time reading about the Technique or even taking lessons, this term will begin to have meaning.

Okay, readers, let’s have at it!

Watch the way the old man (Uncle John Scruggs) and woman move out of the cabin and come to sit in the chairs. Neither of them slouch while sitting. The chairs are not places to “park” and collapse their bodies. The man has an overall upright and balanced coordination in his head, neck, and torso. If you go about watching musicians, you will rarely see this level of unified attention to the whole self and apparent lack of tension throughout a performer’s whole being.

It becomes tricky to post photos and videos which illustrate what we call “good use” because it can lead to a misunderstanding of the Technique, what it is about, how to get where you want to get in being a more unified whole. We can look at examples, study them, but ultimately, we cannot simply “copy” good use or coordination. In fact, the Technique is about peeling back the layers of our own unconscious habits of thought and movement so that we can replace them with new thinking that will hopefully lead to better coordination, regardless of how it looks to an outside observer.

Still….

ashley-lodree-run-swm

Look at the poise in Ashley Lodree’s head, neck, and back and her obvious focus and lack of overall tension, even in the face of getting ready to race.

Baryshnikov, a paragon of good use (although if you catch him when he is not dancing, he is often slouching and in what one might describe as a “collapsed” state):

he can be equally stunning in a still photo

young

or older

Poise and balance

in a life before sitting in chairs becomes habitual

examples of “good use” abound in times before photography

open and free even in a complex coordination

Steven Shaw, Alexander Technique teacher:

“multi-tasking”

I also began to look for images of African women walking. The more I looked, the less I wanted to stop. It is ridiculous how many examples of beautiful balance and poise one finds. You can do this yourself–search google images for Mozambique women walking, Ghanian women walking, South African women walking, etc etc. As Michael Gelb, author of Body Learning, says (I paraphrase here), the kind of presence you find in people in many traditional cultures lies dormant in most Westerners.

What do you notice?

In the above photo, the woman in the foreground is about so much more than her size. One wonders if an American woman (or man) of any size could comport herself with this kind of presence.

And this, in which the child exhibits perfect balance throughout the head, neck, and torso, even while turning her head and taking a step. Notice the full contact of her right foot with the ground and the flexion in her left knee. Ah, if only we could hold onto our birthright–our natural poise!

(You may have to copy and paste this link…for a while, the actual photo appeared directly on this post, but I think once someone clicks through, it reverts back to the URL with no image)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebsylvester/2408941449/in/set-72157602574849955/

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this song is like

like  like

like heaven

like sex

like sex which my acupuncturist has forbidden me from having for at least 5 days, oh my god, not only penetration, but orgasm itself (really, it’s not so bad, 5 days. I’ve gone longer, much longer.* C’mon people. But having promised not to, I am more focused than I otherwise might have been, absence making the heart grow fonder and all)

like Richard Ashcroft’s lips and face oh my god

which are a good imitation of Jagger’s lips and face, don’t you think?

who cares if nothing else they ever did was any good? If you could write one song in your life and this was it, you’d have been successful for that one moment, that thing, that thing you shared with the world

unless, of course, you didn’t really write the song and then I wouldn’t care anyway because I love it and I can listen and dance and sing along without thinking about any of that

I even looked up how tall Richard Ashcroft is–5′ 10″–but he does look taller I suppose because he’s so lanky and if you say lanky enough, or even once, it starts to sound and feel pretty much like sex

He probably looks like shit now, even though he’s younger than me. I am sure if I ran into him on the street in London, like in the video, he would be recongnizably celebrity, even though that’s not a real word or phrase; you know, an aura of fame and beauty swirling around him, but he also might not be so beautiful as one likes to think, because isn’t that what persona and charisma, good camera work and lighting are all about?

just one drink from this song or maybe multiple drinks until I get my fill…..

*I googled** sexual frequency among women and some half-assed and/or conflicting info came up. My favorite was a graph that made no sense, but instead, hopefully to tickle your funny bone, I discovered these fabulous videos and even though this is Music Monday, I can’t resist sharing them with you on this very same day. Emily McCoombs is my new hero(ine)! I hope you get a kick out of her as much as I did! Exclamation point Exclamation point Exclamation point

I couldn’t choose my favorite, so you get to watch both, unless you don’t like to watch…..

**evil google, don’t you think? I do

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I’ve only got the energy to post a video today. However, it’s a good one, a family favorite, and if you’ve never heard of the series “Look Around You,” you are in for a treat! If you went to public school in the US in the ’60s and ’70s, you’ll relate even more….did those cheesy filmstrips exist even in the ’50s? One supposes the answer is yes–you are right, yes.

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(I hope you didn’t have to suffer through 5 seconds of a Ron Paul campaign ad before the video. Oh the irony!)

Much could be said about this song and video, but I’m not gonna go on about that. I do find it interesting that the amazing drum troupe, Olodum, featured in the song, champions of race and human rights, seem not to have any females in their group. Perhaps they are “allowed” to dance, but I don’t see any females drumming. Please educate me and tell me I’m wrong, or tell me the whys and wherefores. I can’t learn everything of importance on wiki….

Look, it’s not that I’m against all-male drum troupes or all-female drum troupes. But based on Olodum’s mission, as I understand it, it does bother me and strikes me as ironic that there are no chicks drumming. Again, help me. Tell me I’m wrong and why. All bloggers, including moi, are simply dying to have their ignorance exposed.

I’m not a fan of Michael Jackson, but I do recognize that he was a soul brother in spite of his creepiness. Was he a child molester? Was he smart (methinks, NO)? Was he mentally ill? Was he abused as a child? Was it just the drugs? One is still responsible for one’s actions and Michael Jackson was CREEPY and STRANGE and NOT RIGHT. Still, I’m glad he shared his talents with the world in spite of it.

I am sorry he’s still crotch-grabbing in the video. It’s unseemly, stupid, immature, and unnecessary. Do you think he insisted? Habit hard to break?

Anyway, here’s the whole slogan:

Just because you have one, doesn’t mean you have to act like one

But you knew that, right?

I’ve seen those words on a bumper sticker and I’ve thought, do I approve? do I agree? do I find this offensive?

I’ve never come to any final conclusion about the phrase except I think about it on occasion.

After taking my car for a repair on Saturday and after my ordeal with Dr. Old School Offensive Insensitive Reprehensible, I am a Male God Ruler of the Vagina and Uterus in the ER 2 weeks ago, it will not be too soon if a man is never a dick to me again in my life. I’m 48 and I’ve been treated unacceptably by men [for being female] on more occasions than you can count on ten fingers and ten toes and than anyone can count anywhere, anyways, and in any case (I’m guessing most of the women you would poll would come up with similar numbers). The worst offenders are certainly men who work in car repair, then male OB/GYNS, and finally, perhaps, home repairmen.

So fellas, can you please get your shit together?

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I have made miso soup 3 times in the last week.

I am sure it had been 7 or 8 years since I last made miso soup. My miso soup tonight wasn’t very good. Then again, it wasn’t very bad. I have forgotten how to make a more flavorful miso soup. I used to make miso soup more frequently when we lived in Ohio, before kids especially. It was never restaurant-quality or as good as a real Japanese cook (you can take that to mean a person from Japan OR a person trained in Japanese cooking) would make, but it was good enough.

The best miso soup I ever had was from a crazy Japanese-Chinese restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio). It’s not always a good sign, a combo Japanese-Chinese restaurant. ESPECIALLY if you are in Paris (France), c’est vrai!

Anyway, I used to love the miso soup at that restaurant (which had very dirty walls with built-up dust and grease, by the way), but I found out I loved it because it was pork-based and then I didn’t trust it so much.

Today, I am grateful for miso soup. Tonight, I made my miso soup with dandelion greens, garlic, toasted sesame oil, carrots and lemon zest, not in that order. Oh, and a good barley miso which came from a local producer, right in here in the Pioneer Valley. YES!

You may recall that I love the movie Big Night. I love the whole movie. The movie is about food, especially Italian food. And it is a little about New York City in the 1950s. And Italian immigrants in New York City in the ’50s.

But really, the movie is about people. It is full of interesting and likeable and well-written characters and that is my favorite kind of movie. The script is outstanding. The cinematography is outstanding. The acting is outstanding.

While all of the acting is very, very good, Ian Holm and Tony Shalhoub are the standouts. I really love them both in this movie. But really don’t I love Tony Shalhoub as Monk, too? And couldn’t a student of theater learn a zillion ways to act well by watching either of them at any time in any role? I think so. Who dares to bet me a million bucks (or less if you prefer) that Ian Holm has studied the Alexander Technique? I know it’s not that much of a stretch since he’s British and likely classically trained. Oh, well, for all of my wealthy, betting readers, it was worth a try.

For your pleasure (as is so often the case, you’ll have to excuse the blurry visuals):

Go see that fucking movie, okay?

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I am not crazy about the entire treatment of this old gospel song in the following video, but the opening bars are pure heaven. I don’t much care for the jazzy guitar and drums and no matter how much these two singers work together and love each other, I find the woman’s singing distracting.

It’s a great song in any case, and as I learned from Ysaye Barnwell, was used back in the days of the Civil Rights movement. It can apply equally to our times, to the Occupy movement, to the current current of racism, injustice, economic inequality, attempts at tampering with voting rights. The list goes on.

If you search around on youtube, you’ll find many a square, white version of this, which is a sorry thing indeed if you ask me (and this being my blog….)

This song deserves a full heaping of soul and knowledge of what the lyrics mean and where they come from. And I mean that aside from the Jesus sentiment. All the true Christians may disagree with me and think the lyrics can only be about Jesus in the afterlife, but I know I know what I know.

Happy Birthday, MLK! I am far too ignorant of your brilliance. We need you today and you are here in spirit.

Here you go. SIT AT THE WELCOME TABLE INDEED! (unfortunately poorly recorded):

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Likelihood that twinkly’s Index will have at least one photo: 100%

Chance that it will feature breasts: 0

Rank, in importance of kitchen rules, of not using the non-garlic-and-onion cutting board for cutting garlic and onions: 2

still life by Jeffrey Freedner

Rank, in importance, of not washing twinkly’s vintage glassware in automatic dishwasher: 2

#1 rule in twinkly’s kitchen: this is what keeps the mystery in the marriage; why should I tell you?

Mathematical equation by which twinkly calculates rank of kitchen rules: 6 kale leaves multiplied by number of maple syrup quarts left in pantry stock ÷ granola³

Maximum number of females in twinkly’s household at press time: 5

Maximum number of males: 1

Number of household members sleeping: 4

Ages of non-feline, non-sleeping household members, respectively: youngest, oldest

Rank among parents in twinkly household that Hubby holds for “funniest person in the house:” 1

Amount by which twinkly suspects other voting members were paid off to attain this rank: 1 Lindt chocolate each

Percent more absorbable heme-iron is than non-heme iron, according to twinkly’s Energizing Iron supplement: 33

How tired twinkly will be of frying beef in a cast-iron pan after the next 2 months as she tries to build back her iron stores (multiple choice: not at all; sort of; very; please don’t make me eat a hamburger ever again in my life)

Likelihood that Hubby, at any given hour of the day, is listening to yet another live version of Wilco’s Handshake Drugs: 29%

Amount of inward joy twinkly feels when she hears him listening to this song: unmeasurable

Minimum number of Julian Cope CDs in twinkly’s household: 23

Minimum number in which Julian is playing a Casio: 19

Likelihood that eldest teenager in house, given her druthers, will sleep past noon on any given non-school day: 98%

Likelihood that anyone has druthers to give: 7.4%

Non-heme iron sources found in twinkly’s kitchen at this time: appx. 5

twinkly’s favorite among these: kale

twinkly’s least favorite, though tolerable: organic molasses, straight from the bottle

enthusiasm twinkly has for eating roasted pumpkin seeds: meh

likelihood that she’ll eat them anyway in any given day until anemia is resolved: 87%

love that twinkly has for 20-year old Dualit 2-slice toaster, purchased with wedding money: ABUNDANT

love that other family members have for said toaster: appx .09% (one might say, an anemic amount of love)

Rank, among household appliances, of Dualit toaster and Sebo vacuum, in twinkly’s mind, respectively: 1, 1

Number of years pink Cuisinart toaster, which twinkly managed to purchase at the bargain price of $69, lasted: 2

Number of times, in 20 years, that Dualit toaster has broken down: 1

Price to fix by Ed of Ed’s Electric: $15

Original cost of toaster: $199

Price of toaster, adjusted for inflation while factoring in built-in obsolesence of all small-kitchen electronics produced by American companies but manufactured in China: -$199

Money twinkly has saved on bagels over the last 11 years by purchasing them on $5.99 Wednesdays instead of paying full price: 3 million, 211 thousand, 50 dollars and 22 cents

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