Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tournament of Champions. Grand Central Station.

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If you get the chance pop down to Grand Central Station in Manhattan’s midtown this week for a sneaky peep at the top professional squash players of the whole world. If you have not already seen a match played at world-class pace you NEED to see this. A entirely glass court has been constructed in Vanderbilt Hall, just off the main hallway (you know the one. The big clock bit where people do flash mobs like ALL the time).

Tournament of Champions 2012. I think you will see why squash absolutely deserves to be an Olympic Sport. Wait…. it isn’t an Olympic Sport? What? You are kidding me right? No seriously. Why is that?

Amr Shabana (EGY) [5th seed] versus Mohd. Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)

Photo: Elizabeth Wainwright

Am I the new Tina Fey?

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Errr. No probably not. So sorry to disappoint you all. I know you are all eager to hear that I have finally broken into the world of showbiz. And no this is not a post detailing a new extravagant rouse for finally getting too close to Alec Baldwin either. I promise. This is simply a tale of Sunday night improvised comedy.

My new passion.

Always keen to try something strange and wonderful in this city of endless offerings, I bundled up against the bitterly frozen air that has besieged Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, and made my way across town to an Upper West Side improv free for all.

For a mere $10 one can partake in an improv class, performing to one’s peers, and then follow that up with tickets to an actual show done by the professionals. A bargain on a Sunday night.

Class began promptly at 5:30pm. I particularly enjoyed the opening introductions where we were invited to outline any previous experience. Actors, improv pros and regular showmen announced their credentials and then our teacher turned to me. “Little” old pipetting me.

“Erm…. I was in a play once. I was 9 years old. Had a singing role in fact (although that was soon nipped in the bud). Other parents commented on my convincing portrayal of an elderly woman tasked with taking in some city evacuees during WWII. Some believed the singing to be in the comedic style. That was unintentional but by that I likely mean subconscious. I was channelling my true calling. Stand up.”

Silence, as they swallowed this information and probably tried to decipher my accent.

“Australian? No Kiwi right? Well darn it. She doesn’t sound like the Queen?”

I digress.

Yes my dear readers I was the only novice. And I was about to be thrown in the really deep end. The deep deep end where, if you are unable to swim, you almost certainly will drown, and struggling for air as your lungs fill with chlorine treated water, you die. Slowly and painfully. On a stage.

First off we were enlisted to stand in a line, facing our experienced peers in a game called “Yes, and…” In this way your positive approach to the improvisation would ensure the story keeps rolling and doesn’t falter at the hurdle that can only best be described as me. Cue our coach. He heralds a story opening line and we must take it on. Each individual, beginning with “yes..and…”, adding an extra dimension to the narrative. I took the story to new levels of bland.

Next up and we were encouraged to work on our justifications. As you can imagine, a story soon becomes dull if the background detailing is not filled in at some point. Using the very useful word “because” we all had to justify a statement made by our predecessor. “He picked up the knife…. because he intended to slay his wife with it after witnessing her pitiful display of carrot chopping.” Simply picking up the knife would be boring I am sure you would agree.

Again I added a dimension of dreary to the proceedings as my fellow classmates pranced and acted all over the room, I tugged on my jeans frantically trying to think of some ideas. It is truly amazing how a blank a mind can be in times of forced improvisation.

Our final exercise was to perform in small groups of one or two under the instruction of our master. He would offer a storyline and point at us and we would rush up on stage and improvise a scene. I was Rosalind’s daughter. (Rosalind is a pro. She was in the show afterwards.) We were to go on a walk, mother and daughter, with the aim of building a relationship plot for the audience.

“Nice weather for a walk daughter?”

“No it’s raining,” I exclaimed and little else.

Distractingly my colleague was a veteran improviser and took the scene along nicely and almost single-handedly. Dragging me through kicking and screaming.

And then we were done. Tonight we had learned to listen. And yes…. add on. Create back stories for our relationships and justify all our statements to ensure depth of interest. Yet now I am fully warmed up and raring to go but instead I was to sit still and watch the show, concentrating hard to reign my hilarious comments in. Not wanting to blurt out improvised gems mid show.

Because I will say it now and again if noone stops me, “Don’t offer me a stage as I will be incapable of exiting it”

Motivation Thursday

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reblogged from kqedscience:

Athlete Aimee Mullins

“Born without fibulae in both legs, Aimee’s medical prognosis was discouraging; she was told she would never walk, and would likely spend the rest of her life using a wheelchair. In an attempt for an outside chance at independent mobility, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee on her first birthday. The decision paid off. By age two, she had learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and spent her childhood doing the usual athletic activities of her peers: swimming, biking, softball, soccer, and skiing, always alongside “able-bodies” kids.”

New Year’s Eve in the Big Bad Apple

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I must admit from the outset. I didn’t see the dropping ball. And I apologise for that. I feel like I have failed in my “all-action” professional tourist endeavours. But first let me explain.

On the eve of 2012 I was travelling back from the other side of the pond and as you know.. it takes a little while. So by the time I extracted myself from my economy seat, after what can only be described as a long haul, and made my way swiftly back to my island, I was rather under-motivated to sparkle myself up and venture back out into the dark night. However, plans had been made and so after a swift unpacking and a shower to awaken my sluggish self I made my way to Korea Town for a sing song.

Korea Town is centred on a section of 32nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway officially titled “Korea Way”. A business hub by day and food extravaganza by night we were booked into an altogether different activity. Tonight we were not going to be indulging in Korean barbeque (although that is on my To Do list), we were going to perform to a packed out room (mainly due to it’s size) in the singalong pursuit known as karaoke.

For the more avid readers this will resurrect memories of one of my earliest adventures in the city. An event that culminated in me jumping on stage, in the Stonewall Inn, in front of a small to medium sized incredibly camp audience of wannabe performers to squawk out a sort of rendition of the Funny Girl classic “Don’t Rain on my Parade”. The room was stunned in utter amazement that I had tackled such a feat. It left some speechless and others desiring that I too disengaged my vocal cords for fear of broken glass or the like. However, never a quitter, I took this New Year opportunity to reawaken my ambitions of Broadway musical stardom and proceeded to destroy Billy Joel masterpieces, strain my voice box through the best of Whitney Houston and perform, for the children not in attendance, a wonderful interpretation of Disney’s “Under the Sea”. My pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the near perfect execution of Chicago’s ‘When you’re good to mama”. For this number I was on my feet. I was dramatic as if on the Ambassador Theatre stage and was truly loyal to the award winning screen production where Queen Latifah made her mark on that great work. Another great staging was my take on Tom Jones’ “It’s not unusual”. Oh boy I let myself loose on that one despite lacking the typical dulcet tones the Welsh are so renowned for. In fact, rumour has it that there is a recording of said performance circulating the internet but that is simply cheap gossip and must be left well alone.

In conclusion, I was lost in my own singalong world and despite being minutes away from the famous NYC action I was probably croaking away as the clock struck midnight. Hello 2012 in the Big Bad Apple.