The Test of Time

hourglassAugust 19, 2016 – This month marks the 77th anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” As a fan of old movies, it is one of my favorites. I can quote from it and sing along with its upbeat tunes as if I were performing it myself.

A true classic appeals to all generations. Here are a few other entertainment vehicles stands the test of time.

Movies:
There is abundant of movies to choose from, but the first two that pop into my mind is “Casablanca” and  “Citizen Kane”, although the latter isn’t one of my favorites. And, of course, “The Wizard of Oz”. Honorable mention goes out to anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 1960s, such as “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. My own personal favorite, “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, makes me stop flipping through the channels immediately.

Television Shows:
Classic TV shows are readily available to new generations now that so many cable channels broadcast them. However, classic and stand the test of time do not always go hand in hand. “Seinfeld”, for example, is relatively new, but it can stand against any classic now and probably in years to come. Others include “Bewitched”,  my personal fave from childhood, “MASH”, “Cheers” and “I Love Lucy”. They are examples from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. I’m not sure any television show beyond that (at least so far) qualifies.

Singers/Bands:
How about Frank Sinatra, or anyone in the Rat Pack to start? They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan in the mix because all of their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs were recorded 50 years ago. I wonder how many people will listen to Kanye West or Justin Bieber in 50 years. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say not many.

Songs:
Funny how Led Zeplin didn’t cross my mind as a band, but their song “Stairway to Heaven” certainly makes the cut for songs that stand the test of time. At least it continuously makes top five of every classic rock list. “Hey Jude”, “Let it Be” or anything by the Beatles is also a qualifier, and it’s the same for any hits by the Stones or The Who. Let’s reach back a little further and consider those romantic ditties from crooners past, such as “The Way You Look Tonight” or “Fly Me to the Moon”? They are still making present generations swoon. Or,  how about the most popular song ever—“Happy Birthday”?

Books:
This is probably the easiest category because schools will always push the classics on students, although they probably won’t really appreciate them until they are adults. So, what books stand out? How about “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, and “The Bell Jar”, to name a few? I would be remiss not to mention Judy Blume because I know that young girls in the future will still likely be captivated with “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?”. And something tells me the Harry Potter books will stick around for a long time, too.

I could add more, but this post might end up as long as a Marcel Proust novel, and I’ve been working on knowing my limits.

 

Bloomsday is coming!

Bloomsday-On-BondiJune 10, 2016 – “How can you call yourself a writer if you’ve never read Ulysses?”

It’s a question my son asks me on occasion as if there is a law against putting pen to paper without first succumbing to the words of James Joyce.

The question is meant to inspire me to read the classic novel and push myself to achieve a similar feat. I’m certain I’ll never write another Ulysses, but I visited my local Barnes and Noble anyway to page through a copy. With a cup of tea in hand, I sat in the café and began to read.

Next week, we commemorate the 112th anniversary of Joyce’s first date with his wife-to-be Nora Barnacle. Their relationship was the inspiration for Ulysses, a story that takes place all in one day on June 16, a day that will be forever known as Bloomsday in literary circles, named for the character of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses. It seems Joyce was not only a serious writer but also a serious romantic.

To honor James Joyce and his beloved Nora, Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library at 2008 Delancey Place will host their 24th annual Bloomsday celebration. Events will be scheduled at the museum, the Free Library of Philadelphia at 1901 Vine Street (on the Parkway), in Rittenhouse Square and other locations. Visit the website for dates and times.

To all the serious writers out there who have read Ulysses, I commend you. It may be considered a 265,000-word work of art written in a stream of consciousness style that was used by several writers in the early 20th century, but I wasn’t able to do it.

Fictional Intruder: How I’d like to spend my summer vacation

imagesJuly 18, 2014 – It’s the height of vacation season, and perhaps the best time to entertain the WordPress Daily Prompt that asks bloggers this question: If you could choose three fictional events or adventures to experience yourself, what would they be?

I enjoy reading fiction, but gravitate to mainstream, and not action, adventure, or fantasy, so this question used a few brain cells. Coming up with great novels is easy. Three of my favorites include “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb, “White Oleander” by Janet Fitch, and “The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells. However, I may not be strong enough to be a character in any of these stories, and endure what they did to entertain me, so I came up with a few lighter choices:

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
This Dickens’ novel is one of those perfect stories because it’s full holiday spirit, forgiveness, and second chances. The characters are richly developed, and although I can’t actually relate to any one in particular, I’d like to be a fly on the wall who tags along with Scrooge as he embarks on his Christmas Eve journey. I’d be  a better lurker than participant in 19th century London, anyway.

Still Life with Woodpecker – Tom Robbins
As the description on the book jacket states, “This is sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes.” In reality, the story ponders the big question: “How do you make love stay?” I would love to be a character in the wacky world of any Robbins novel, but this one has my heart because it is how I discovered him, and because of characters like heroine Leigh-Cheri (her idol is Ralph Nader), and hero Bernard Mickey Wrangle (who isn’t a criminal, but rather an outlaw). What an entertaining way to spend a summer vacation.

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
The Anne Shirley series of stories by L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorites, and I have always wanted to visit Prince Edward Island in Canada, so the combination of the two would be perfect. Anne could show me around Avonlea and the rest of the Island, introduce me to her adoptive family, and allow me to take in what life was like at the turn of the 20th century on their quaint island town. I’d bet the weather would be perfect.

Pop art in Philly, part 2

MagicGarden_R.Kennedy_12-587July 7, 2014 — Last week, this blog highlighted Philadelphia’s pop art sculptures in the downtown area. Today, we’ll venture over to South Street, to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

In the 1960s, local artist Isaiah Zagar (pictured) began decorating South Street with mosaic tiles, producing more than 120 displays during the 50 year period. His amazing work is also featured at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, located at 1022-1024 South Street, a display that took 14 years to create. For the Magic Gardens, Zagar used mosaic tiles, along with folk art statues, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, mirrors and china.

The display is definitely worth the trip to see in person!

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Pop art in Philly, part 1

June 30, 2014 – Pop art, or art based on modern popular culture and mass media, is alive and well in Philadelphia. In this two-part series, we’ll explore some of the pop art sculptures around the city in its downtown district.

The Clothespin; location: 15th & Market Streets
This odd sculpture, commissioned to commemorate Philadelphia’s Bicentennial celebration in 1776, is the brainchild of artist Claes Oldenburg. I’m not sure what a clothespin and the 200th anniversary of American independence have in common, but legend claims that if you look at it from the right angle, you can see a “76” in the steel springs of the pin. I can clearly see the 6, but the 7 escapes me.

clothespin


LOVE Statue;  location: 16th Street & JFK Blvd.
Robert Indiana’s LOVE statue, created in 1970, is showcased in a few American cities. In Philly, the statue sits in JFK Plaza, appropriately nicknamed “Love Park” in honor of the pop art sculpture.

love statue


Your Move; location: Broad Street and JFK Blvd.

In the pop art world, even the most common items can be interesting.  Giant game pieces, including dominoes, Parcheesi pieces, Monopoly pieces and chessmen, can be found scattered about the Municipal Services Plaza, also known as “Game Piece Plaza”. “Your Move” is the work of artists Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis, and Roger White. The group assembled the pieces in 1996.

parcheesi piece

chess pieces

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Franklin’s Kite and Lightning Bolt; location: 6th & Race Streets

This stainless steel sculpture of a kite and a key by artist Isamu Noguchi was created in the 1950s in honor of Philly’s own Benjamin Franklin and his electricity research. Supposedly it sits at the same site where Franklin actually conducted the experiment.

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Next Monday, we’ll highlight the wonderful works of art in Philadelphia’s South Street area, known as Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.

What is your creative outlet?

creativeJune 6, 2014 – The tasks we complete each day to maintain our living standard can become routine, and anything routine can suck the life out of us. To re-energize, it is important to find outlets that keep our creativity flowing.

Everyone is creative, even the most practical and analytical people. If you think you lack what it takes to take up a creative hobby, here is advice from some of the greats:

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” – Dr. Seuss

My creative go to has always been writing. I work in corporate communications, so I found a job that incorporates my passion, which is both good and bad. I get to write for business every day. That is good. However, my real passion is writing fiction, and because I spend most of the day writing business communication, I spend less time writing fiction. While I love to write, the process drains me, and it can be the last thing I want to do with my free time.

tree2Therefore, I looked for another outlet to keep me balanced, and turned to photography. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos, and last fall, after upgrading my plain digital camera to a Cannon Powershot, I grew to enjoy it even more. I’m not a professional, I have no experience, and sometimes my photos are blurry. However, it’s not about how good or bad they are; it’s about the creative process. Occasionally, I get lucky with a shot like the one on the left.

I also enjoy painting, a newly discovered creative outlet for me. The revelation came as a shock because I had no prior experience, and limited artistic ability. About a year ago, I visited one of those chain studios that turns ordinary people into seasoned artists, and it changed my perspective. I learned about mixing colors, and various paint stroke styles, and thoroughly enjoyed watching a piece of artwork develop as I progressed.noname

I had a difficult time at first, but with the instructor breaking each step down systematically, my first painting turned out better than I had expected when I first sat down in front of that scary blank canvass. As I writer, I know the pressure of the blank page; for an artist, it must be the same. It was fun to glance around the room and see how different everyone’s outcome was considering we all followed the same instructions. That is the beauty of art.

To the right is something I painted last Saturday at the studio during my fifth visit. It’s a very loose interpretation of Monet’s Water Lilies, and it has many flaws, but I think it’s beautiful.

While writing will always make me happy, photography and painting is a close second and third. It’s interesting that since I’ve incorporated them into my free time, I have more desire to write.

 

A new painter’s journey

May 12, 2014 — When it comes to the arts, I can hold my own in a writing class, and perhaps a digital photography class. I’m not bad with graphic arts, but don’t ask me to sing or dance — we’ll both be disappointed. Although, I may be able to handle a bit of acting thanks to a few years of high school plays and drama classes.

If you told me a year ago that my creative interests would extend to painting, I would have said it was unlikely. I can’t draw and had no experience outside of “paint by numbers”, which always turned out badly. I never liked to color within the lines.

About 10 months ago, however, I discovered painting could be relaxing and fun. I went hesitantly to my first “Painting with a Twist” party last July, where I painted “Fireflies”. The first image is my attempt, and the second is the painting we copied:

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Sure, my moon looks like a bowling ball, and my jar of fireflies like a cocktail shaker with some alien beings inside, but it was my first attempt, looking at it doesn’t my skin crawl, and I enjoyed creating it. It’s OK that the painting instructor (and my friends) told me I looked a little tense. The experience did bring out the type A in my personality, but I had fun. I swear.

A few months later, I stayed with the dark blue and black theme, and painted “The Park at Midnight”.

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the park at midnight

It’s not quite the masterpiece I expected to create now that I had a little experience, but there is improvement, at least enough to keep me interested in learning more.

Next, I aimed for something more colorful:

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partner

This was supposed to be a partner painting; he/she would do one half, and their partner would do the other. Our group decided to go solo and paint the tree on a single canvas. Again, the word alien comes to mind when I look at my painting, but I still enjoyed the experience, and I believe I continued to improve. At least you can tell it’s a tree.

With three paintings to my credit, surely I am ready to tackle one of the masters. Yesterday, I participated in a Mother’s Day morning class where we attempted Monet’s Waterlilies.

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waterlilies

Watercolors may be best for this painting since it’s supposed to look soft and muted. I need to be lighter with my brush stroke. My version looks different again, and I honestly don’t think this is better than my former attempts, but it was another enjoyable experience. I simply have to figure out why all of my paintings look like they came from outer space. I must have lived there in a former life.

Good or bad, I’ve become an artist, and plan to continue on the journey. I’m reasonable, if you want to make me an offer. 🙂