give it up hartford

Finally, I find some time to blog about the So You Think You Can Dance live tour show we had the great pleasure of attending Sunday night in Hartford, CT. In a nutshell, I'd have to use the f-word and say...it was so much fun! The drive back from Hartford that night and getting up early the next morning...not so much, but it was worth it.

We left for Hartford around 4, getting to Monte Alban Mexican restaurant, about seven minutes from downtown Hartford, around 6 p.m. It was perfectly acceptable Mexican cuisine, but not terribly exciting (which isn't surprising for New England). But that's neither here nor there. From the restaurant we drove downtown to the Civic Center, and by the time we stood in line to use the restroom and then pass on overpriced schwag, only had about ten minutes to wait before the show began. During those ten minutes and again at intermission, the screens displayed trivia about and featuring the SYTYCD top ten, as well as music videos from former American Idol contestants. I think this is Carrie Underwood in this one:

As we waited, I contemplated briefly trying to capture an image of each spread in the $20 program.

And then the wait was over and the show began.

It was so strange to experience live something I'd seen so many times on t.v. Here's the entire group assembled to get the show started. It was all a little Disney-esque, I have to admit.

During intermission I happened to catch a glimpse of some of the images the woman sitting next to me had taken and her zoom capabilities put my little Canon PowerShot to shame. But now that I'm home, processing it all, after some time has passed, I rather like these painterly images.

Anyway, moving right along, here's Sara doing a bit of announcing.

She was in the show a lot, actually, which isn't surprising since, well, she's so great, and considering how often she performed in the t.v. finale, which was really a dress rehearsal for the live show. Here she is dancing the disco routine with Neil, who was also a highlight of the night for me (again, I was disappointed they chose not to include Mandy Moore's suspenders routine choreographed to Queen's "Body Language").

The group dances were all pretty great, including this Matrix-y routine:

Some surprises that weren't in the t.v. finale included this breaker routine featuring Sara, Dominic, and Hok...

...and a fiery Cha Cha with a little Samba thrown in featuring Anya and Pasha.

Here we are at intermission...

...which seems to be when my picture-taking slowed. I'm not even sure who's dancing in this one.

In addition to popular couple routines and some group dances, each of the top ten got to do a solo routine. Here's Sara doing her's:

Rounding out the night, here's the entire group again, bidding fond farewells to the oh so hospitable city of Hartford before performing the Hairspray routine and disappearing into the stage.

Overall, I was surprised that this year's winner, Sabra, wasn't featured as prominently throughout the night as some of the other dancers. As lovely as she is to watch on t.v., I don't think she has as strong a stage presence as, say, Sara, or Jaimie, who did a lot of announcing herself. Of the guys, I'd have to say Neil and Dominic really stole the show, not surprisingly.

At any rate, that oughtta tide me over until next summer...


reality check

It's been a busy couple of weeks. As usual, I find I have less desire to blog when I have more to blog about. In a nutshell, the semester has gotten off to a good but busy start. The first week of classes was deceptively calm, I think in part because my first class was not until the second week. But because things went so smoothly that first week, I was feeling far from the well oiled machine I usually try to be the second week, when we really hit the ground running with lectures, meetings, etc. Of course, because of that rocky second week I've since prepared as much as possible for the rest of the semester, filling out forms in advance, putting together presentations into November, that sorta thing. Probably a bit of overkill, but this thesis thang is making me unusually scatter-brained.

Anyway, what I've learned is this: Teaching is exhausting. A blank stare is a frightening thing and I'm never quite fully prepared. But I still feel like I've finally found my niche. As for my own work, I've realized that I tend to approach every idea very literally and logically. After a pre-thesis-meeting meeting I realized that I'm at that point in my project where I need to abandon my source material a bit. I need to treat this project, to a certain extent, like creating a painting from a photo. Even if you're going for photo-realism, which I'm not, at some point in the process it's always a good idea to abandon the source material and let the painting have a life of its own. One more pre-thesis-meeting meeting and one official gallery meeting later and I'm feeling a wee bit closer to a solid plan. I even made some sketches and mock-ups today, and requested material samples, so I'm feeling somewhat ready for my first thesis committee meeting on Monday.

Of course, taking breaks now and then also helps. I tuned in to the Big Brother finale and the America's Next Top Model premier, both this week. I wasn't too surprised that Dick won BB8. He was fairly mean to a lot of house guests but he was pretty honest throughout the game, which is a helluva lot more than can be said of any of the "good people." Amber needs help, that's all I have to say. As for ANTM, Tyra is off to a predictably obnoxious narcissistic start. You have your summer camp, your reality television show, your talk show (at least I think that's still on), somebody actually let you sing and dance in a music video or two, why can't you let the center of attention fall occasionally on someone else every once in awhile? It would be so hilarious if one season, when Tyra makes her grand entrance to the 30 hopefuls aboard the cruise ship or wherever, they just clap politely instead of pissing themselves with excitement and feeding Tyra's ginormous ego. Otherwise, I think there are some gals worth watching, including Lisa, Ambreal, and Chantal. I like Victoria a lot, actually, but I fear she may just be too raw for the 9th cycle of the show. They'd have to whip her into shape real fast. And then, looking at the website, there are a couple of girls I don't remember seeing at all in the premier, like Sarah and Janet. That's never a good sign.

And then of course, there's the SYTYCD live tour show on Sunday. That's right, as an early birthday present I got tickets for the September 23rd show, in Hartford, Connecticut. Boston ticket pairs sold out on the first day, but the Hartford Civic Center is a mere two hours by car, and my brother-in-law is, apparently, the best, so we'll drive there and back on Sunday, still giving me much of the weekend and Monday morning to finish any last-minute prep work for my class and my meeting. I'll have a full report next week...



The working proof I blogged about a couple of months ago can now be seen in full wallpaper format in the MFA's Courtyard Gallery (that's like a "garden level" apartment...not that I'm complaining but, like the Education department, it's pretty much in the basement). The show's called Rerun: The Relation Between a Symbol and a Symptom, and features wallpaper printed by eleven students at the Museum School. Most of us did screenprint but one guy did woodblock and another did letterpress.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the show. I'm not sure why they did the "key" (since they couldn't exactly squeeze in the more traditional wall labels next to the work) in two columns instead of say a grid of four by three or so, and some little blurby wall text might have been nice, but considering one of the curators is also doing her thesis show in just over two months, I think they did a pretty stellar job.

There's even a gallery talk with about half of the artists next Wednesday, September 19th, at 6 p.m., if you're local. You won't even miss the premier of America's Next Top Model later that night!


hey yo teach

I watched Mona Lisa Smile this weekend. It had been on my Netflix queue for ages and with Neal out of town I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a total chick flick. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. And the timing was perfect as I officially begin my teaching career (having graduated from TA to GTF, or Graduate Teaching Fellow) tomorrow. I had visions of myself as Katherine Watson, standing stunned in class as all the students shout out titles to the images in her slides. Except my class isn't an art history class, I'm not teaching in an all girls college in the mid-1950s (although I am in the same state), and I only have twelve students (the student-faculty ratio at the Museum School is insanely small...my class is full, believe it or not).

There's a class blog, of course. I've been on the other end of class blogs before and while I blog a fair amount myself, I've never found the class blog to be all that successful. But seeing as how this class is about connections between the Mail Art Movement and digital technology (like the pre-existing platform that is the 'blog), I thought it was appropriate to at least give it a try. So I can't promise it'll be an exciting read...but you can download my syllabus if you're bored!


solaris v. solaris

The first of four artists visiting the class I'm TA-ing for next week suggested we watch Solaris, the 1972 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. When I found out we were watching it I remembered I'd seen Steven Soderbergh's much more recent Solaris with George Clooney, and subtly threw out the option of watching my DVD of the 2002 version.

My brief campaign was unsuccessful and we watched the older version in class, but I was intrigued so I watched the 2002 version the night before (well, about an hour of it...I finished it the next night, after I'd watched the older version). As you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I've got a thing for copies. I don't necessarily always think they're better, but I have a little bit of a pet peeve when, conversely, the older, "original" version of something is automatically elevated above any copies that come after it.

And who are we kidding, newer is usually better, right? I'm sure there are scores of folks who would disagree with me, but I think the 2002 version of the film is far superior. For starters, if I hadn't seen the newer version the night before, I wouldn't have known half of what was going on in the older version (I had to look on IMDB to find out who Nikolai Grinko's character was supposed to be), despite the fact that it's over an hour longer and just about everything in the story is explained by one of the characters. The newer film, for example, begins with the main character, Chris Kelvin, in a group therapy setting and then on the phone booking an appointment. So you have a pretty good idea that he's a psychologist or doctor of some sort, without having been explicitly told so. In the older film, however, after about 45 minutes of unnecessary and confusing Earth-based plot development that was pretty much skipped over completely in the newer version, he surprises Dr. Snaut (Snow in the newer version), who apparently had no idea he was coming all the way from Earth to Solaris or that he'd even landed or whatever, or who he is, even, and introduces himself as a psychologist. Now that's innovation.

And the whole outer space thing is pretty much just a set for the story, which is fine because even though the newer version is more slick and believable in that way, it's really still a love story at its core. But when Kelvin's dead wife appears in the older version, the Russian actor barely emotes! George Clooney, on the other hand, is believably shocked, jumps out of bed, tears up a bit, asks questions, etc., all the things one would probably do if one's dead spouse materialized right beside them in bed one night. And when she materializes the second time, after Kelvin sends the first copy out to space, and becomes suicidal, we have absolutely no idea why, no flashbacks to her real-life, Earth-based suicide, no clues as to the kind of life she and Kelvin shared or why he would remember her in such a way. Nada. Just a waifish girl who's young enough to be the Russian guy's daughter, convulsing in a see-through men's shirt after she drinks liquid oxygen.

And Dr. Sartorius is replaced by Gordon in the newer film, played by a female actress, Viola Davis. I love when male characters become female characters thirty years later, like Starbuck on Battlestar Gallactica.

I will give the older film credit for being pretty rich, visually. The planet in the newer film, while lovely, is pretty much the same shot after shot, while in the older film, there's all sorts of crazy, meditative visual stuff going on. Hence the duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes. If I wanted to meditate, I would have gone to yoga class. And there are some random, quirky details in the older film that kind of grew on me, like all the debris, including a sheet torn from a book or magazine with illustrations of dogs on it, randomly. And Kelvin's monogrammed PJs. You don't want to go to space without those!


defending the Parthenon

There was a family discussing the dedication plaque outside the Parthenon in Nashville. I wish I'd just gotten over my shame and recorded them and for the life of me I can't remember what they were saying. So I recorded Neal's take on it instead.

The funny thing about having to defend this particular replica is the redundancy of this kind of architecture. Obviously, a couple of columns on your front porch is not the same thing as a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, but the whole neo-classical thing is huge! There are columns and pediments all over this country! Why doesn't anyone describe the White House, for example, as kitschy?


summer days driftin' away

My two summer flings collide in this video, where Big Brother contestants Eric, Jessica, and Daniele discuss So You Think You Can Dance. I'm surprised how much they were able to watch (and retain) before they entered the BB house.

In other news, today was the first day of the fall semester. As a 3rd year grad student, I don't have to take any classes, but a combination of teaching, TAing, work study, library runs, and the occasional thesis committee meeting will require me to spend three days or so on campus (if you can call it that). So far I'm quite liking this student-with-no-classes status.

My drive home, however, was completely anxiety provoking. I drove a lot this summer, but my commute, while sometimes a bit longer than I'd like, from Dorchester to Brockton, about 25 minutes or so south of Boston, was usually pretty chill. My cross-town commute to school, on the other hand, is anything but (did I mention I've witnessed two shootings along this route, both of which occurred during my first year here?), and today Roxbury drivers were in rare form. A lot of crazy Boston driving I've gotten used to. Even the common practice of letting the first person turning left go in front of you when the light turns green. I don't mind that and it's certainly come in handy here and there when I've been on the other side of things. Usually the one car goes and then good ol' right-of-way returns. However, occasionally the second and third cars will try to squeeze through as well, or a driver will sense the smallest gap approaching and decide to take the risk, pulling right out in front of you. This happened to me twice today and both times, even though I came to a screeching halt to let the driver finish what they'd started, they flipped me off. Came to a stop, mid-turn, to flip me off. Excuse me?! I don't think so...