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T (1655 posts)
September 22 was the Autumnal Equinox, when day and night will be the same length for one strange day, before we slip into that cozy-or-depressing-depending-on-your-perspective darkness of autumn and winter. Every year the equinox inspires a 50/50 night and day of mixed emotions, too. I mean, don't you just love fall, with all its appley-pumpkiny-leafy crispness and opportunities for sweaters? And then there's Halloween, basically the only holiday worth celebrating. And yet there's always that dark, cold, mucky winter-chaser to gulp down afterwards, about which most of us feel less enthusiastic. So what do you do on the equinox? It must be something slightly mysterious, I think, slightly odd, in touch with nature in some askew way. Like, maybe, silent dancing?
Allow me to explain: a friend of mine recently shared this video, AKA the most beautiful, strange, haunting "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" report in the whole land of Facebook. She explained that she was strolling along on a hot summer night in Lisbon when she came across these people silently dancing the tango outside a church. The result is a dreamy spectacle, captured in a hazy camera-phone movie that I've since watched approximately 80,000,000 times, wishing I were one of those dancers. Something about the silence and the darkness make them seem not like individuals but like a force of nature.
So why not dance silent tangos at midnight in the week after this equinox? You don't need a church, just any sacred-ish space will do -- a backyard, or a courtyard, or a roomy fire escape -- and the will to give yourself permission to dance to the moon even when there is no music. Or at least watch this video a few times, while contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Happy Equinox.
The Making of Oprah's Flash Mob
A Democracy of Dancing
Who knows why we all keep saying ridiculous things like "I'm too old for that," when this is proven to be nonsense again and again? For example, say you're past your 20s (or 30s) and looking to take up a new, non-old-ladyish hobby. "I always loved gymnastics as a kid," you might say to yourself, "but that's impossible now, so I guess I'll take up crocheting." If you're German athlete/grandma Joanna Quaas, however, you resume your former gymnastics habit, and by 86 you're winning a Guinness World Record for oldest gymnast alive. And the unofficial Life Lift blog award for awesomest gymnast alive. You absolutely must see the photos and videos of her performing -- in her granny-glasses and all (and, bonus, the video also features a female sumo wrestler):
Of her world record, Quaas told The Daily Mail,"I hope the record inspires others to realize it's never too late." She also explained that her exercise routine includes running up and down the stairs, yoga, and running. She is in much, much, much better shape than I have ever been or ever will be, but that's okay. She reminds us all that in a world more than ready to discourage a lady, or a senior citizen for that matter, we might as well encourage ourselves to try. Besides, I have a couple decades to attain my inner athletic greatness. And to find the perfect crushed-velvet leotard of my own.
Happy Friday everyone! Here are a few more things to be grateful for:
Ben Folds Five teams up with Fraggle Rock for one of the happiest music videos around
In an art installation in Melbourne, 10,000 books glow in the streets (and makes one beautiful walk in the city) [via Thrash Lab]
Happy 30th birthday emoticons! Here's a brief history of the icons :) [via ABC News]
"All that matters is what you leave on the page." Zadie Smith's 10 rules of writing [via Brian Pickings]
San Francisco Chronicle TV Critic David Wiegand asked several Emmy nominee what they do to calm their pre-award-show jitters, and their answers ranged the gamut, from drinking "buckets"-worth of alcohol to drinking "small children's pools"-worth of alcohol. Mood-altering substance aside, some of the actors had some great advice to share.
-Mayim Bialik, of "Blossom," whoops I mean, "Big Bang Theory," said, "Music soothes the savage beast," recommending Adele and The Decemberists.
-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel reminded us quite sensibly that actors are used to being nervous, but conceded that she "would just drink a glass of water and take a deep breath."
-And finally, her fellow "New Girl" actor Max Greenfield dispensed some advice we could all do to follow, every day: "A case of presence. Yes. Not 'presents.' Presence. Yes, we want to bring ourselves into the present moment and say, 'Hey! Look at this. Look what's happening. Let's be grateful for this moment and take it all in.' You know what I mean?"
Mr. Greenfield, we do.
More relaxation tips -- and drink ideas! -- from the stars at SFGate.com.
Meditation for Beginners
Three Unexpected Ways to Relax
It's no secret that I love a good cry. Why else would I keep that darn copy of the bittersweet kid-growing-up-mist-maker Knuffle Bunny Free around? I can't even get near the end of that book without welling up, which my kids find exceedingly bizarre. And don't get me started on Toy Story 3, the consumate mom-mascara-melter. What is it about those stories? Kids grow up, they give up their toys. Those of us who have to wade through Lego minefields every day should rejoice at the promise of a teddy-bear-free living room, right?
But those toys, they are childhood. Every parent watches with wonder as toddlers go from chewing on their lovies to making them dance around and tell stories; as your kid bestows a particular personality on a stuffed monkey you start to play along, and soon you're as attached as the kid. Maybe this is why this YouTube viral video Ah-Ah's Back is such a tear-jerker: Here we have the story of a family living through the lovey nightmare -- their kindergartener's beloved monkey Ah-Ah, who went with him everywhere, was lost on a vacation. THREE YEARS LATER, the mom found the monkey inexplicably for sale on eBay, bought it, and realized it really was Ah-Ah himself. Here, the boy's reaction:
to have that beloved monkey back, but nicest of all must be the lesson of the mysterious ways the universe can work, the feeling this kid will now have, his whole childhood, his whole life, that anything is possible.
Class Ring Found After 33 Years
Good Samaritan Returns a Lost Purse
Finally I discovered the locus of these zany strollers: the no-kill animal shelter nearby, which uses volunteer dog walkers to exercise animals awaiting adoption. Of course! No wonder the people were so psyched. There was the whiff of infatuation about them; the pure satisfaction of doing a good thing. The volunteers, in the simplest way, were being a blessing to those dogs, and it was lending them a glow that transcended the orneriness of their assigned mutts.
Today, another one: a 20-something guy with a rowdy lab mix. The dog spotted something -- a squirrel, or a rabbit, or a Ghost of Milkbone Past -- and took off sprinting. The guy struggled to hold the dog back and I thought, "I hear that, brother, I know what you're going through." I've had dog walks like that, but I've also had life moments like that -- when it's all zooming away and you're trying desperately to hold it back. Then the guy gave the dog a big, goofy grin, and did what we should probably all do more more often: he took off running. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like the man and the dog shared a knowing look, and then, barking and laughing, they raced down the street.
Insanely Nice Things You Can Say to Anybody
Making Joy a Goal
In 2010, eight years after Carson sold his trash company, an artist friend in the billboard industry mentioned that the massive ads, removed from their boards, made great drop cloths for painting. The wheels in Carson's head began to turn. He found a few billboards for sale, and put out feelers to friends in the agriculture and construction industries to see if they had any use for them. Thanks to his intervention, the billboards were reborn as tarps to cover hay and building materials. "We quickly ran out," says Carson, who was so encouraged that he started reaching out to more industries—from bowling pin manufacturers to poultry farmers—to inquire about purchasing hard-to-recycle items.
Soon he'd founded Repurposed Materials, a company that turns would-be trash into valuable commodities. Torn-down billboards become pond liners, projection screens, even makeshift Slip 'N Slides. Synthetic turf from football fields is refashioned into cushioning for egg-laying chickens. And when one customer intuited that street-sweepers' brushes, stood on end, could be back scratchers for livestock, Carson sold two to the Bronx Zoo for its rhinoceros pen. "We're helping industries pool their knowledge," he says. "And our customers spend far less than they would buying similar products new."
Carson now spends his days devouring trade magazines and visiting businesses to examine what they're throwing away. "This is my second foray into the waste stream of America," he says with a laugh. "Round one, I was burying things in the landfill. Round two, I'm trying to keep them out."
In an approximately one-by-two-foot box, Elly MacKay constructs tiny, delicately detailed scenes—mermaids frolicking, a child's hand shadow puppets coming to life, a skulk of foxes traversing the woods—out of little more than paper and imagination. Once these soft-focus flights of fancy are arranged to her liking, MacKay carefully lights them and experiments with various camera filters and lenses to produce an effect of dreamy immediacy in the resulting photograph. "I try to make the work feel intimate, like you're inside it," she says.
MacKay begins each diorama by layering parchment paper, dollhouse wallpaper, Yupo paper (a synthetic, semitranslucent material), or Mylar against the backdrop of the box; she might use several sheets for an opaque nightscape, but only a few for a glowing daylight scene. Then MacKay sketches images—a cherub, a sailboat, an endless sea—with a vintage calligraphy pen, colors them with ink, cuts them out, and carefully hooks these shapes into the diorama using wires and adhesives. Once the stage is set, "I usually take about 50 pictures," she says, "each only subtly different, and then choose the one I like best."
As a teenager, MacKay was fascinated by Victorian paper toys—tunnel books, zoetropes, acrobats that tumble down a slope—and by the age of 15 had begun creating dioramas that adopted the same colorful, playful aesthetic. By 16 she was preparing for a degree in art studies. "In university the attitude was like, You have to stop doing this stuff! It's silly, childish." But giving birth to her daughter, Lily, in 2008 and son, Koen, three years later, only solidified MacKay's love of the nostalgic world of childhood. "Sharing their new experiences is so inspiring," she says, "and capturing that feels like real magic."