Smile Tunes Night

I admit that the only reason I went to Club Cafe last night was that my favorite man in the world (my big brother) was singing as an opening act in their late show. But since I'm obviously biased about how talented he is, I'll limit my discussion of his crew and try to focus on the main act, The Ragbirds.

Brother Eric jammin.
First, Eric Oliver & The Brain Festival tore shit up. Possibly the best I've seen them do since this trio formed. Eric and I are often told that we are complete opposites because I'm obnoxious and he's reserved but let me tell you that I would never have the guts to get up and sing songs that I wrote, time and time again in front of a bar full of people I do not know. Eric's voice opened up so much last night and was a clear mixture of Fergie and Jesus. (Those of you who got that little movie reference, I salute you.) Also, Joe and Kevin, who Eric's been friends with since junior high are the perfect mixture of talent, considering all three of them each play at least five instruments I'm sure. My favorite moment though was when Eric was playing banjo and tambourine at one point of a song and then walked back and killed it on the drum set. (Alright, alright...I'm a proud little sister, get over it.) Anyway, in a world of the Rebecca Black's taking over the music industry it's so refreshing to actually see musical talent displayed on stage. It's also refreshing to see such a quality friendship last over a decade and watch them come together to put on a kick-ass show.

Erin being awesome.
Speaking of talent, The Ragbirds are oozing it as well. The female-led, five member band rocked my entire world and I didn't even stay for their whole set. The lead singer, Erin, made me stand in awe while she sang (with her gorgeous-soulful-folky-angel voice) and when she played violin, mandolin, banjo, accordion and percussion during different songs. Girl = talent. Her little band of brothers behind her were also immensely talented in their various instruments but I just cannot get over her leading the way with each song. I also very much appreciated the feel of the music. It created such a fun-loving atmosphere...leading some to dance...including the band with some in sync movements, that was cute. But above all, I loved the soul of their sound. Their lyrics were heartfelt, the beats were ethnic and even though they would be considered folk, if you can imagine what the soundtrack of a sunny day at a great fair, cotton-candy included, in the middle of New Orleans would sound like, I bet it would be a very similar sound to The Ragbirds. I would definitely check them out in the future and look forward to them returning to Pittsburgh.


Why I'm supporting #stopkony

I know that everyone has their own opinion on this subject and in light of recent events, I thought this would be a good time to let the world know about why I am still on the "Kony bandwagon." But let's get some things straight first. The number one reason why I support this campaign is because I am more than blessed to be an American and I take that for granted everyday. I truly believe that just because some child was born anywhere else, doesn't mean they shouldn't have the same freedoms I've been given, just by being born.  And number two, there is no denying that this was/is/probably will always be the absolute greatest use of social media and the best viral campaign ever created.

On a professional level, I am currently earning my masters in Public Relations and Advertising and social media has completely transformed this industry. Now, thanks to the KONY 2012 video and the rest of the campaign that is being supported by Invisible Children, anyone can see how important social media is in being able to get free publicity, wide access to your audience and a long shelf-life for your ideas since the Internet keeps track of them forever. Why does this matter? Because it is the main reason I'm writing this blog, and as mentioned above, the second greatest reason why I'm supporting this campaign. But to really get into this argument, lets look at what most of the critics of the campaign are saying and why they think we shouldn't support it.

1. Jason Russell is a/an (insert any degrading comment here).
All I have to say to this one is "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone." Now, I'm not one to throw Bible verses around at people because most of the time I think it's being pompous, but I think this is well deserved in this case. Do not tell me not to support a cause because the leader is a "douche bag," "criminal," "liar," "self-righteous," or because you think he could easily be labeled as "that guy." Shut. Up. When you are able to create a video that gets over a billion views in one night that talks about helping anyone besides yourself, then we'll talk. However, until that time, I do not wish to hear any more negativity about a man who is just trying to do what he thinks is right, in the best way he can think of. My main man, Gandhi said "be the change you wish to see in the world," and Jason is being that change. Granted, no man is perfect, but I would like to see how anyone else would react to the attention that Jason and his crew are getting right now, I'm sure any of us would have some issues with that much positive and negative attention being thrown at us. (As a side note: leave his kids out of any arguments you may try to say against this, they are children and shouldn't be put up against adults with nothing good say.)

I have no rights to this poster, use at your own risk.
2. Only 30% of the funds Invisible Children raise actually helps the cause
Then support the way the video asks you to for the first 20 out of 30 minutes...through spreading the word. Sharing the video and the progress of the campaign through social media, make your own posters for the event on April 20th, and if you want a t-shirt of KONY, get some iron-on letters from WalMart. The only thing the video asks you to do, until about the last 10 minutes of it, is spread the word and let Kony's name be known to the government and celebrities, and the only way to do that is through sharing of the video, keeping the dialog about Kony open and if you feel the need to, writing or tweeting to them, all of which are free for you to do - especially if you do all of that through the Internet. Imagine that, not spending a dime of your precious money.

3. People from Uganda should be leading this movement
This one I agree with. Now that the word has been spread a good bit and the public is well aware of what is going on, now is the time to get people who know the area, the traditions and the culture of Uganda to the front of the movement. I agree that the children are only invisible because they are covered up by the organization, now that they are in the minds of billions of people, it's time to bring their voices to the forefront.

4. The video lied about the numbers
Usually I hear this in reference to the fact that the video makes it sound like 30,000 children were forced into Kony's army in one year when actually it has been over the course of about 30 years. To be blunt, if you think that it is better that this has been happening to children for the past 30 years, which averages out to be about 10,000 children per year rather than the 30,000 in one year that the video makes it out to be, you are a moron. ONE child forced into an army led by a brutal, senseless leader is more than necessary to start a movement for peace.

5. Stopping Kony will stop nothing
Kony, by not even trying to make the effort, we, not only have failed the children currently in his army, but we fail the generations and generations to come after us. By not trying to end the evil we know about in any way we can we are openly allowing for it to continue into the future. We are saying that the lives of those children do not matter and that Kony is right.

News flash everyone...Kony is not right. And though this campaign might not be right either, it's the best we've got for right now. The only way to bring peace to the world is to support it and live it. If everyone did that, we wouldn't be having this argument, Kony wouldn't exist. But since he does, and since so many children knew about him long before two weeks ago when the video was blasted around the Internet, we must do something now that we know. This won't be the end of the fight for justice, but it's a start. If we ever want anything to change, we've got to start making it happen. KONY 2012 is giving us that start.



Chatting it up with Freud and Lewis

One of the many perks of working at the Pittsburgh Public Theater is the ability to be able to "sneak in" to see the show once in awhile and I was very thankful to be able to do so tonight, to see the performance of Freud's Last Session. The play, which was written by Mark St. German, is based on the novel, The Question of God by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. Both of which imagine what it would've been like if Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis ever met in person.

Until April 1st at the PPT.
The play takes place on September 3, 1939 in Freud's study in London. During that time, Freud would have been 83 and nearing the end of his career, and life (he died 20 days later), while C.S. Lewis was still in the beginning stages of his career at the age of 40. Prior to tonight's performance I read the script to be able to get a better grasp on what to talk to patron's about if they would ask me about the play before seeing it (which they always do). But before reading the script, I have studied Freud in college and have read some of Lewis' work so I knew what the play would basically be about already. For those of you who don't know, Freud was a neurologist who founded psychoanalysis and was an atheist and Lewis was a writer, literary critic and a Christian apologist. So you might see where this play is going.

As a whole, the production was fabulous. Each actor was more than believable as their characters and they were passionate about their lines, which makes me wonder what they personally believe to be the truth. The set is gorgeous and when there was little or no talking going on I caught myself staring at the vast bookshelf and wondering what each of them are. Every little detail down to the lighting showing a faint window outline on the floor (since the play is set during the day and the sun would be shining through these large imaginary windows) to the specific artifacts scattered about the study were all perfectly represented. But I was glad that I read the script prior to seeing the show because certain parts were hard to understand because of the accents each character has and the fact that Freud's character is supposed to be in his final stages of oral cancer, which although makes some of what he says hard to understand, it makes his character more real.

Aside from the play, as you should be able to know from either knowing me personally, or by reading the "Bio" section of my blog, I'm on team Lewis. I am a Christian and believe that Jesus died on a cross for me and everyone else in the world, even those who don't believe He did. But going into the show, I tried to put those beliefs aside to be able to get a full grasp of the ideas each character presented. And I must say, they both (of course) made some great points. They were both brilliant men, how could they not? It would've been unfair to let one of the character's "win" or "outsmart" the other in the play, considering we as the human race, don't really know who is right. Though I personally don't believe that, I cannot speak for our species as a whole. The conversation between the two men in real life probably would have played out very much like the performance does with each one getting an edge and a set back in their arguments over and over until they finished their conversation...with no real winner at the end, and probably neither of them a changed man.

Jonathan Crombie as C.S. Lewis and David Wohl as Freud
Even though I tried to put my bias aside to watch the show, I still agreed with Lewis' character at the end of the play. Many times throughout the performance I found myself wanting to add to the discussion...that's good acting. A fictitious conversation is happening in front of me - yet I want to join in? Well done, Public Theater! However, Freud's character makes a great point during the early moments of the play, the dialog goes like this...
Lewis - What if it isn't a lie? Have you considered how terrifying it might be to realize that you were wrong?
Freud - No more terrifying than it would be for you.
This interaction is so striking to me because I feel that it is the most basic question that everyone, no matter what their beliefs, must face at some point in the journey...what if it isn't true? One of my roommates who is a devout Christian always likes to say "I'd rather be safe than sorry when it all comes to an end." Which, I'm cool with thinking too on my more questionable days; even though usually I know, that I know, that I know, Jesus is not a lie.

The greatest line I think in the whole play is one of Lewis' last lines, and basically sums up what I think many Christians actually feel everyday.
Lewis - My idea of God; it constantly changes. He shatters it, time and time again. Still, I feel the world is crowed with Him. He is everywhere. Incognito. And His incognito - it's so hard to penetrate. The real struggle is to keep trying. To come awake. Then stay awake.
This line is so poetic to me because of it's massive truth. Once you think you've figured God out, He does something to mess up all your thoughts completely. There will never be a full grasp on Him, never a complete understanding and anyone who says they can do so is the biggest liar of them all. The constant chase after Him is tiring sometimes, but worth it in the end I'm sure. I like that this line says that the world is crowded with Him, because I think that people have a tendency to ask where God is in the everyday or in the problems of the world. But I think that's part of the struggle, part of the humbling, like you become closer to Him when you really realize He is everywhere and in everyone, even the people who don't want Him there.

To come awake. Then stay awake. No one said the journey would be easy, but it will be worth it.


Mixture of dance and science

On Saturday, March 3rd I had the opportunity to attend Armitage Gone! Dance: Three Theories at the Byham Theater. The Pittsburgh Dance Council presented this one night only show and it was breathtaking. I have always considered dancers to be the most supreme of all athletes and this show proved why.

Now like most dance shows in today's time, this performance was not for the average attendee. A prior knowledge of dance in general as well as an appreciation of the cultural of the dance world and how it is changing would be ideal to have before attending a show on this level. This certainly was not a recital-goer's cup of tea. The performance was based off of the pillars of 20th Century theoretical physics - Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and the String Theory and the dance movement was derived from basic scientific principles which showed three different dance styles that reflected the fundamental nature of the universe. The program for the performance said, "the ultimate purpose of the dance is to create beautiful and symbolically meaningful movement that quickens our sense of the world." Which I think the performance did because Karole Armitage choreographed smart and beautifully.

Outside of the dance itself, I loved that there was such variety among the dancer's appearances. Only two of them looked slightly similar to each other. But it was beautiful to see men and women of different races, height, weight, hair color and facial features; each one had such a striking look compared to the next, but they all flowed together seamlessly through the dance. Which reminded me of the "many parts, one body" Bible story. I also loved the simplicity of their costumes. For the first third of the dance everyone started in simple black shorts and black bra-tops for the women and then slowly throughout the next third of the show, they each changed into white shorts for the men and white leotards for the women, which they all finished the final third in. I love when the costume is not distracting and these were perfect. But more than anything, I loved that not a single dancer looked like the stereotypical stick skinny ballerina. Each one of them had obviously strong and beautiful bodies for their height, they were all obviously healthy and had sculpted (athletic) bodies.

Masayo Yamaguchi with Marlon Taylor-Wiles.
Although every dancer was fabulous at their parts and worked cohesively as a troupe, Marlon Taylor-Wiles stole the show in my eyes. Each time he came on stage my eyes were drawn to him because he was so excellent with each movement. I also enjoyed that Karole Armitage choreographed couples in a way that the men were able to shine just as much, if not more, in some areas than their female counterparts, which I haven't seen a lot of since so many people  believe the male dancers are there for support of the females only. I liked that, that stereotype was broken too and Marlon Taylor-Wiles, along with the other men, were able to be focused on more than a typical male in a dance would be, and they were that way throughout the entire performance. Overall, I liked that this dance, showed off the bare-bones of dancing (so to speak) by the simple costumes, strong dancers and obvious technique but I loved that it broke free of the typical or traditional and gave the audience a show that was not only beautiful, but timeless.


Penguins on Parade

For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with penguins. If you need me to rattle off a few fun facts and various movie references that include them, a favorite being from Good Luck Chuck, I can. So you can imagine the excitement when about a month ago, my brother posted this video on my Facebook wall:

Right after I watch the video, about 362 times, we made plans to go to Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to see the penguins parade first hand. Today was that day. I asked weeks in advance to have this day off and we were set to go. After a little pre-trip drama of my alarm clock not going off, and me speeding from downtown to East Liberty to pick up my brother (somehow getting that far, in decent traffic, in only 20 minutes) we made it just in time to join the rest of the crowd, what seemed like everyone in Pittsburgh, to watch the cute wittle waddlers. And although we weren't allowed to touch them even if they came close to us, this was a dream come true. I cannot explain my love for these little guys without sounding like a total moron.

Wittle friends parading!
The littlest friend!
Posing like he's on the red carpet!
Also, PPG was really thinking when they decided to hold the Penguin Parade every Saturday and Sunday from February until March...what other activity would bring this many people to the zoo when it's not the greatest weather to be outside in for a few hours? The penguins waddled from their house inside the aquarium to the end of a looong line of people and then back home, what fun! And the penguin handlers seemed really friendly and pleased with their little buddies, which it's always nice to see happy people working with animals. Great job to all involved and if you have free time tomorrow or for the next two weekends in March, go see the "March of the Penguins" in real life.
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