Tag Archives: 5 things friday

5 things friday: unfortunate art

Art can inspire; it can wake up a room or invigorate aesthetic satisfaction in any viewer. But it can also colossally fail.

I remember going to a museum with my father. (This happened completely by accident. My mother and brother were at a birthday party, my father and I dropped them off at it, and the museum was somehow attached to it.) In said museum was an enormous white canvas with a single green square on it. That’s it. I’ll never forget the dismay on my father’s face. “This is famous?” he said. “Anyone could do this.” I wasn’t sure if he said it to me or to himself, but I replied: “You should’ve thought of it first.”

Ah, youth.

In the spirit of “you should have thought of it first,” here are 5 extraordinarily surprising pieces of… art. Or garbage. You decide.

5. According to news.arilook.com , South Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa created this 10-story building by recycling 1,000 doors.

Image via news.archilook.com

Image via news.archilook.com

4. Nestled in the English countryside of Devon is a sculpture made of approximately 2,500 tan cans. It protests the amount of carbon monoxide created with the disposal of one tin can. Go figure.

Chris Downer [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Downer [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Patrick Bateman would j’adore this one. London sculptor Jill Berelowitz (whose name I had to triple-spellcheck, by the way — I need more sleep) created this spinelike sculpture for the Westminster City Festival by layering 24 female torsos made from resin. I can only imagine the amount of symbolism this piece has garnered.

Image by mira66 via Flickr

Image by mira66 via Flickr

2. The Gaga and I have two things in common: our love for Vogue magazine and a hip labral tear. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if Gaga actually loves Vogue , but I do. Fashion central.) Where we differ most strongly is in the fact that a meat dress makes me cringe in the deepest parts of my soul.


1. Because I’m full of contradictions, I’m including one that I like. My friend Jackie sent it to me. This is located at Museum Meermanno in the Hague, which is devoted to books. It catalogs manuscripts and all that accompanies them: manufacture, restoration, research, oh my. They’ve got stuff as old as 1501 but make sure to stay in the now by collecting books up through present day. Artist Alicia Martin designed her “Biografias” sculpture, which is displayed here (and, I’m guessing, won’t be moved). Must be a play on “word vomit.”

Image by Inhabitat via Flickr

Image by Inhabitat via Flickr

Like any of these? Hate ‘em all? Let me know in the comments!

5 things friday: athletes who overcome the odds

There are thousands of stories swirling around the Internet as Boston becomes a post-Marathon world. One of them is detailed in this article about Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dance teacher at local Arthur Murray Studios, who lost part of her left leg in the aftermath and has a positive attitude going forward .

Perspective, people.

I’m guilty, as we all are, of sometimes having a fuzzy perspective. Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows that I’ve spent a solid 20 months of my life on crutches due to three pretty major sports medicine surgeries. From fifth to sixth grade, I was on crutches for 9 months in a row. I’ve shattered bones, snapped ligaments in half, and had my own ankle bone betray me by spontaneously disintegrating when I was 10. It was tough, and I spent some time pretty angry as a teenager.

I consider myself to be very lucky because I’m still able to train through (years, now) of pain, physical therapy, and setbacks. And that puts new meaning into the phrase “pales in comparison” with what Haslet-Davis must be feeling. I can only imagine a fraction of the frustration and anger she’s feeling, but I find her determination and drive so inspiring.

Athletes everywhere will connect with what Haslet-Davis told CNN. She says that dancing “is the one thing that I do, that when I do it I don’t feel like I should be doing anything else.” She’s also planning on running the Boston Marathon in the future.

Todays Five Things Friday is pure admiration. Athletes with prosthetics. It’s dedicated from one dancer to another. We’re in your corner, Haslet-Davis.

5. Dancer Miranda Cochran (age 12 at the time of this video) was born without a left foot. This a 15-second clip of her tapping is so brilliant and well-executed.

4. Pictured here is Marine veteran Cpl. Sebastion Gallegos at the 2013 Marine Corps Trials. He lost his right arm while on deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

Image by USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, via Flickr

Image by USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, via Flickr

3. Australian Olympian Don Elgin, who, according to Wikipedia , “was born without a left leg and a left thumb, with small toes, and webbed fingers on both hands; his malformed left foot was amputated shortly after he was born and he had open heart surgery at the age of three.” Check him out from the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

Image by Australian Paralympic Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Australian Paralympic Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

2. It’s unclear who this is, but it’s a pretty amazing shot.

Image by s_mestdagh, via Wikimedia Commons

Image by s_mestdagh, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Last, and certainly not least, is this ridiculously inspiring ballet, “Hand in Hand,” performed by Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei: a man with one leg and a woman with one arm.

For more on Adrianne Haslet-Davis, read: here .


Today’s post chronicles my five favorite movie villains of all time and introduces my very first writing contest.

Most literary novels, which by definition are nearly always character-focused, will take on a social crisis or hot button issue in order to have a driving force at work. In movies, there’s usually a villain character – whether it’s comedic genius, like Regina George, or downright terrifying à la Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal. Today’s 5 Things Friday chronicles 5 of my favorite movie villains of all time. And at the end, check out next week’s #WoW Challenge contest.

5. The Comic : Shooter McGavin, played by Christopher McDonald, Happy Gilmore.
(Runner-up: Gordon Gecko, Wall Street )
The name “Shooter” aside: Anyone with a signature golf move (“pow-pow-pow!”), the necessary contacts to hire a stalker during a sporting event, and the gall to steal the gold jacket is a winner in my book.

4. The Cartoon : Hexxus, voiced by Tim Curry, Fern Gully
(Runner-up: Scar, The Lion King )
I’m not sure what it is about the “oil-man,” but this guy used to make me hide in my couch fort way back in 1992.


3. The Actual : Amon Goeth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List
I will never, ever forget watching this man portrayed in this movie for the first time. Nothing screams villain like a real-life historical figure brought to life on the big screen. Amon Goeth, SS captain, commander of the Płaszów concentration camp, and more, was responsible for tens of thousands of lives lost during the Holocaust. The movie clips are far too disturbing to post. Fiennes was nominated for an Oscar after his portrayal of this figure:

Amon Goeth, via Wikimedia Commons

3. The Insane : Michael Myers, Halloween
This guy was born to kill people. Two words: Intentional silence.

1. The Psycho : Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, The Shining
Readers of Stephen King’s beloved book disagree on whether Jack was possessed by a demonic spirit or whether he descends into a personal mental hell. My opinion lies in the latter. I believe he’s the perfect candidate to star in MTV’s adaptation of True Life: I’m the Victim of a Mental Psychotic Break .

And finally… the contest! Here are the rules for the #WoW (Week of Writing) challenge.

Next week, on April 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19, I will be posting one writing prompt a day. Writers who take on the prompt and submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat.

What do you win? One of two prizes! (If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A A Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers . This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and truly just thinking.

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

I’m going to go ahead and call the coherency of this post into question, because my insomnia kicked up into high gear last night. Despite being physically in bed at 11 p.m., which I almost never do, I was wide awake until at least 4:35 this morning. When my alarm went off at 7:19, I was furious. And now I’m cross-eyed.

On the plus side, I did a lot of thinking about this new novel I started this week. After writing 1100 words in about an hour yesterday, I was feeling good – and I had a great idea somewhere around 2:45 this morning.

One thing I’m thinking about, though, is the oft-repeated concept of “making a protagonist likable.”

I completely understand this concept, especially as a reader. I root for the characters who I like. Right? If a character is whiny, or annoying in some other way, then you’re not going to particularly care where things wind up.

But sometimes, the most successful books have really unlikable characters. I’m sure I’m not alone on this, but I can’t stand Holden Caulfield. He is petulant and narcissistic, and I don’t care if he succeeds or fails.

It should go without saying that what makes one character likable for someone isn’t going to cut it for all readers. For example, when a character is very sweet and kind, I immediately dislike him and become suspicious of his motives.

I had upwards of 17 professors who warned against making a protagonist a “damsel in distress.” I agree, completely. But then, characters like Bella Swan of Twilight fame and Anastasia Steele of the Fifty Shades trilogy rule the bestseller lists; thus, I become bewildered. (Sidebar. The last names in this series are Steele and GREY? Are you kidding me? Steel grey?) In one scene, Bella is actually carried by her supernatural hero because she is so tired.

So for today’s 5 things Friday, I asked myself what my favorite characters possess – and how that makes me like them.

5 Things Friday: Likability Edition

5. Humor.
I could do a million 5 things Fridays on my favorite characters in movies, but honestly: why do I love Forgetting Sarah Marshall so much? Scenes like this.

4. Jerks who do nice things for people.
I suppose this is really just a form of redemption, but when a jackass does something nice, it’s worth way more than when an already-kind person does something fantastic. It’s like brushing your teeth. Everyone does it twice a day, so it’s pretty routine, but what about someone recovering from a traumatic brain injury who brushes his teeth on his own for the first time? Heart becomes warm.

3. Innocent people who are doomed by the world at large.
In a literature sense, it’s easy to think of this as the Lennie complex ( Of Mice and Men ). These characters break my heart into a thousand sad pieces. The #1 soul that takes the cake is John Coffey from The Green Mile.

2. The presence OR absence of self deprecation.
In real life, I love self deprecating people. For example, Jennifer Lawrence describes her first meeting with Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence as follows: ”Our first conversation was on the phone. I was in the bathtub, and I had to tell him that I was in the bathtub because I was afraid he would think I was, like, playing in the toilet when he heard water swishing around. [...] Then we had breakfast in Santa Monica, and I spit egg inside of his mouth when I was talking. Like, it went in. Into his mouth.”

In characters, I LOVE people who take themselves too seriously. Case in point: Rex Manning, from Empire Records. Best quote by far (with accompanying hand gestures) is: “Why don’t you all just… fade away.”

1. Intelligence.
In Shawshank Redemption , Andy Dufresne is the Ultimate Victim. Framed for the murder of his adulterous wife, he spends the majority of the movie in prison, where his naked intelligence is so admirable I almost despise it.

What do you like in real people, or in characters?

Today’s 5 things Friday post counts down my top 5 songs that get me ready to rumble.

Part of being “ unplugged ,” you might recall, is doing work wholly distraction-free. There’s plenty of research on what’s called “state-dependent learning,” where the consciousness in which you learn material is the state in which you should test. As in: if you study with music on, you should take the test with music on. A 1969 scientific study even found that when people learn information while intoxicated, they will remember it better while intoxicated. (It’s definitely worth noting that grades are better for those who study, and test, sober.)

That being said, though: sometimes, I need to pregame for my workday. When I eat breakfast, or give myself a 15-minute break before going into a major writing frenzy, I boot up some music that does one of two things: , or inspires me.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

5. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, “Home.”

(Side note: this song was the background to our wedding Same Day Edit, shot by Leonard Hasemann and his team of professionals through Cinematic Wedding Story.)

4. R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition.” Brings me right back to high school.

3. Jamie Cullum, “Please Don’t Stop the Music” (original released by Rihanna). This version is so much better.

2. Elton John, “Your Song.” (I’ve loved this song forever – which made this moment of my life that much more surreal.) I also love all covers of this song.

1. Beyoncé, “Love on Top.” Instant feel-good. Maybe it’s the 90s choreo; perhaps it’s Bey’s Sasha Fierce-flawless face. Either way, this one’s going to stick around.

BONUS: Mentioning 90s choreo and NOT including Backstreet Boys: “I Want it That Way” is probably illegal. So, here.

What are some songs that you just can’t quit? Let me know in the comments!

5 things friday, special edition: dance

“When are you going to get a real job?”

I’m sorry. Does this not look like the product of a “real job” to you?

I am always polite when I get this question, although I do seethe inside. My husband always cringes when he hears it being asked of me. I respond with a smile that is definitely a little too wide.

Today’s special edition post goes out to all of my dance students, and fellow faculty.

If I’m being fair, in comparison to the majority of my friends, family, and peers, my “work life” might be categorized as being very much that of an artist. I both adore and resent this concept, because I am neither painting canvases nor am I starving or chain-smoking. And because I do a lot of working from home, I can go to the gym at 9 a.m., or 3 p.m., if I want to. I can schedule a doctor’s appointment right in the middle of the day. That doesn’t mean I don’t work my tail off, though; I’ve got a full plate between instructing online creative writing and English classes, choreographing dance, teaching it at a wonderful studio, and trying to launch my author career. I am most grateful that I’ve been able to strike this balance, because it affords me the opportunity to keep pursing the things that make me who I am.

At the risk of sounding self-important, one of the most vital and rewarding parts of my life comes in one particular position: that of being a role model. And I wouldn’t quit that “job” for anything.

And so, for a special 5 things Friday: here are 5 things that I want all of my dance students to know.

5. Humility
I went to college with a girl who went to a local studio right here in Massachusetts. She would go to dance after school and her instructor would pinch her midsection through her leotard and ask her if she ate a cheeseburger before coming. Most dancers were shocked I kept in touch with my old teachers. Other ones mentioned the anxiety disorders that they developed as a result of their time spent in the studio.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big believer in health and fitness. I run races. I lift weights. But promoting body image issues is not the lesson I want my dancers to learn. I choose to lead by example. I want them to clap for other teams. I want them to be great people first, and unbelievable dancers second. I want them to kill it onstage, and most of the time, they do.

photo credit: Steve Basara

4. Charity
If my students are anything like me and my other dance teacher friends, it’ll probably take them until their college years to realize what kinds of lessons dance instills. Confidence, public speaking, and teamwork can become second nature to those with great training. We also raise money for Relay For Life (our goal this year is $10,000) and work together as a studio to . We’re beginning to think about benefit shows. Connecting performing with helping others is a real-world lesson.

3. Honesty
Above all, our competition students are a team. We want to win. Our dancers are talented, but we don’t win every time. No studio is going to take home everything every time they go to a competition. The way that so many of these competitions are structured now fosters the “everybody wins” mentality , and that’s the wrong lesson to teach to kids. As choreographers, we want a great score just as much — if not more — as our students do.

Our girls always have fun onstage at awards. They joke, laugh, and dance together as a team. It is one of our favorite things to watch.

But what lesson I really want my students to learn is honesty. Because “winning” when you’re the only team in a category, or because you’re entered at the wrong age or level… that’s not winning.

36 dancers, 1 stage. This is winning. photo credit: Steve Basara

2. Accountability, or: You get back what you put into it.
I want them to know that I found success as a dancer in college because of the background I had at Dance Express . Non-dancers probably will not understand this, but I grew up in a school that teaches tricks only after technique. We foster the most positive environment that we can. We motivate. We encourage. We might yell — okay, we do yell — but we do not act like Abby from Dance Moms. I think. (Disclaimer: I have never seen an episode of this show.) It takes more than hours of work inside the studio to become the best that you can possibly be. This relates back to being honest with your work, too. Have you put in as much as you possibly could have?

photo by Ariel Mandeville, digital file held by J. F. Smith

photo by Nicole Chan; digital file held by J. F. Smith

1. Friendship and teamwork can go hand in hand .
Our team of teachers cares about the students first. I find joy in their successes, whether or not it’s through dance. I think back on my own experiences. I am who I am today because of my childhood role models, who have taken on a blended friend/mentor/boss role in my life now. The second phone call I made, at 2 a.m. on a Monday night after the police came to my childhood home when my father died, was to one of these very people. How many other people can count themselves so lucky as to have had role models like this?

Some of the best friends I’ve ever made have been through dance. I love seeing how strong my students’ friendships are.

You know that saying about how you can’t choose your family? Here, you can. I did. We are a family, which is why our alumni come back, year after year.

When you’re onstage this weekend, girls, think about this stuff. And throw that “dance like no one’s watching” mantra out the window. We’re all watching you, and we’re proud.