Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leap Tall Buildings to See "Waiting for Superman"

Ok so this is a little delayed.  My work blocked blogspot (a serious crime) and with the holiday I have been really blog lazy.  But despite this I still can't stop thinking about this movie so I wanted to share my thoughts.
Three weeks ago I went to see the documentary, Waiting for Superman.  I loved it so much I went again the following week.  So this will be a 2 part post of sorts (2 in 1).  I wrote my first reactions to the movie as me, myself and my opinions (three weeks ago).  The second reaction is posted after I went to the movie with my mother who is an educator.  I value her opinion as someone who has experienced the "system" for a long time and I wanted to see how her expertise would influence my opinions and besides who doesn't need some good old fashion mother/daughter bonding.

First Viewing
We all know we have a bad public school system.  We hear about it in the news, from parents, we even went through it ourselves.  Waiting for Superman delves into some facts about school system including drop out factories, per student spending, test scores and more while it follows 5 students who are living as part of the system which will shock you. (just asked the crazy blonde who sat in front of me gasping).
The movie makes some very interesting points I had never thought about.  One, how teachers unions may actually hinder the progress of public education.  The very groups that should be fighting for reforms in the public school system are it's biggest mill stone.   The teachers unions have too much power and they are not allowing the changes necessary to improve our educational system.  For example the chancellor of the DC school district (surprisingly one of the worst districts in the nation) proposed a new contract with the teachers union to raise teacher salaries under a merit based salary program.  The union found it so threatening they didn't even allow it to go to a vote.  I think they realized that if teachers were paid on merit and not a standard yearly negotiation, their role would eventually dissolve.  Power is hard to give it up, even if it is in the best interest of the whole. 

Waiting for Superman also pointed out some success stories in the organization of charter schools.  Let me state here that I do not believe the movie was trying to portray charter schools as the solution to the public education problem, but simply showing that charter schools work outside of the system, outside the rules of teacher's unions and therefore have the freedom to make changes to the system to make necessary improvements such as extended school days and paying teachers higher salaries.
Ultimately, after my first viewing I felt inspired to be part of the process.  To stand up, to demand and to take action to see reform in our public school system.  I think teacher's unions are no longer necessary.  Bad teachers should be fired.  And teachers should be paid more.  I don't think it will happen quickly or that it won't be without some miss steps.  But a few miss steps is no worse then doing nothing at all.

Second Viewing
Wow! What a reaction you say.  Well, after seeing it the first time I had to go back.  Just ask some friends.  I could talk of nothing else.  But this time I would go back with a little "education"...my mom.  My mother has been a teacher and school administrator for over 20 years, I value her opinion and pretty much my mom is super smart and pretty much she rocks (what can I say she supports me through everything, I am bias).
Anywho.  We had a lovely dinner at Eva based on the recommendations of Brunette.  We discussed a few life topics and of course the movie we were about to view.  My mom has a really interesting viewpoint of the school system and teacher unions because she works with children who have special needs.  She sees a lot of the "exceptions" that many educational laws are created to protect.  We discussed teachers unions which I felt were a huge part of the movie.  We also discussed the "No Child Left Behind" program of President GW Bush.  She had very interesting viewpoints on the program and pointed out many of its weaknesses.
Overall, our opinions of the movie and its conclusions were very similar.  She brought an enhancement to the movie and her knowledge and ideas for reform were the mark of a master teacher.  I thought that with a more educated opinion my views would change, but I really think the movie hit it home for me.  I won't be solving the education system problems, but I will be making sure I stand up for good educational legislation and supporting those who I feel can make a difference.

Waiting for Superman is the documentary of the year.  It left me passionate about education and trying to help create a solution or be involved in any little way.  Maybe I'll even start a Redhead scholarship fund. Must be a redhead to apply.  GO see this movie.  It is worth the $8.50.  Grab hot chocolate after and discuss it.  Spread the excitement and be part of the solution.

Photos are of the five children who are followed during their pursuit of a good education.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Musician Spotlight: Carrie Scott

If you didn't notice, last week we were missing our Musician/Artist Spotlight. Due to technical difficulties and the holiday I decided to hold off until today so that our local talent could get the attention it deserved. So without further ado...welcome to this weeks Musician Spotlight of the ultra talented and sultry sounds of my favorite soul sister Carrie Scott. I had the lucky fortune of living with Ms. Scott for a few months and let me tell you, to wake up to the belting of this beautiful babe is perhaps one of my favorite life memories. Imagine for yourself the tunes of Aretha Franklin or Ella Fitzgerald echoing through the walls of your apartment sung by your own personal minstrel. That's my kind of alarm clock. I bet you are now all oozing with jealousy, I can tell. Oh and FYI we totally paid her to say stuff about us. We are shameless like that. :)

Where do you draw the most inspiration?
I'd definitely have to say from the A Blond, Brunette, And A Redhead blog, hands down.  Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly uninspired, I just sit on their doorstep and try to soak in the mixture of pure awesomeness and creative energy emanating from that house. I just sit and sit, looking wistfully at my hands while giving them a pep talk about their creative potential. Sometimes I picture James Earl Jones sitting there with me, and that's pretty cool. Me and James. Aside from that, I try to stay as connected as possible with my higher power. I feel like all my good stuff comes from Him.

Tell us about your writing process.
They say that in writing music there are three stages: the madman, the poet, and the editor. My madman stage usually includes getting ideas from all over the place- a zill rhythm from my belly dancing class, a song title from a phrase in a book, a concept learned from an encounter with another person, and so on. Then I try to do some free-writing and brainstorming. If nothing comes, I ask myself, What would Hamlet do? And maybe foam at the mouth a bit. I hear madmen do that from time to time.

I like to have structure in the poet stage. I figure out what genre I want to write in, usually based on the title I've chosen. I determine the song form, the rhyme scheme and construction. Maybe map out some scenes for the verses so the song has progression. Once that structure is established, it's easier for me to write.

Sometimes the editor comes out a little too early and tries to step on the toes of the poet. I give him a talking-to and try to reserve him for the third stage. It's too easy to throw out the baby with the bath water if he's allowed to have his say prematurely. Once I've edited it to my liking, I try to get feedback from other people whose musical opinions I respect. It's typical to do multiple versions of a song before it feels complete.

What are your go-to tools? What does an average day in the life of Carrie Scott look like?
I really like working with VST instruments (virtual studio technology- like Apple Loops, Virtual Guitarist, Groove Agent, etc.) along with recording software to get musical ideas down. Like a lot of songwriters, I also like using a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus when I'm writing lyrics. An average day includes going to my day job as a cook for teenaged girls in a residential treatment center, spending time with friends, going to band practice or gigs, and saving the world- one blog entry at a time.

How do you keep the creativity juices flowing? What happens when you have a block?
I read a great book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that has some great ideas about that.  Two of her ideas that I really like are called Morning Pages (basically a brain dump of all the informations swimming around in your head, first thing in the morning) and an Artist Date (where you do something with just yourself to nurture the creative muse- going to a concert or museum, spending time in nature, etc.) If you haven't read that book, I highly recommend it.

Also, like David mentioned in your interview last week, spending time with artistic people is a great way to prime the pump. I like to read blog entries by my creative friends (see question #1), go to concerts where local artists are performing original music, find out what recent projects my visual artist friends are working on, or just talk about the creative process with like-minded people. And collaboration always feels like a synergistic process to me.

I was listening to a podcast on creativity the other day and they were interviewing the singer, Alex Boye. One thing I like to do that he also recommended was to spend time doing something artistic in a discipline that isn't your area of expertise. For me, that includes taking dance classes, coloring, working on the book I want to publish, taking out my camera and trying to capture some decent shots, and other things like that.   

What are some of your favorite songs you've produced?
I haven't "produced" much besides the music on my album, in the sense of being a producer. But from that album, some of my favorites to do were "Mystery" and the title track, "Segue", which I'm working on a music video for right now. It's also been fun to produce (in the sense of bringing something into existence) music for the soul band that I currently sing with... they are some talented and fun guys to work with.

Who do you look up to most in the music world?
Anyone who has the guts to put their own music out into the world... especially the people who have the commitment to make it their full-time job or who move to a music center to pursue their dreams. That takes real chutzpah.

Other than making music what else would you say defines you?
My magnetic personality and irresistible charm, of course. Ha ha ha... Actually, I'd say that my faith defines me. I generally try to make the world a better place, help people I encounter know that I care about them, and all that other Hallmark-esque stuff.

If you could share a cup of cocoa with any person who would it be?
There are lots of people. If I had to choose one, I'd say my future husband... that guy is like a ninja! Very elusive.

Who are your favorite bands?
Locally, The Soulistics (I love those boys), Blues on First, Fat Soul, Kenji Aihara, Ryan Shupe, The Feel Good Music Coalition, and pretty much any of my talented musical friends.

Of all time, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Ray Charles Tower of Power, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Ella Fizgerald, Billie Holladay, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Jackson, BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janis Joplin, Lauryn Hill, Led Zeppelin, Ray LaMontagne, Susan Tedeschi, Joss Stone, The Temptations... are you still reading this? The list could go on and on.

Where can we find you?
My album is on iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, Amazon mp3, Napster, and CD Baby. My fantastic soul band, The Soulistics, can be found all over Utah. The website has specific gig details. You can also visit my website or check out my blog. If all else fails and you can't find me anywhere, try the front porch of the blond, brunette, and redhead.

Welcome to the Christmas Season!

Though there is no official start, many of you scrooges refuse to indulge in the Christmas spirit until after Thanksgiving. I, as a multitasker, have been glimpsing into Christmas here and there since September AND I celebrate the other holidays in between with no less fervor. My Christmas love knows no bounds and I celebrate when I want.

To help you get into the Christmas spirit, here are some of my favorite Christmas albums for a Christmas playlist.

For the Traditionalist
Christmas #1s by Various Artists
These are all the famous versions of the classic Christmas songs you know and love.
Favorite song: Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives, if this doesn’t put you in the Christmas mood, I don’t know what will.

For the Electronic/Dance Christmas Enthusiast
Christmas by Mannheim Steamroller
The dance mix of Christmas
Favorite song: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (the second one on the album)

More for the Traditionalist (I’m sorry, but if you haven’t noticed, Christmas is usually about tradition)
A Christmas Treasury of Classics by Avon (if your family is anything like my family, you have many many old Avon products that have nothing to do with skin care)
My family had this on a cassette tape growing up and we all loved it so much that as cassettes became an endangered species, my sister quickly immortalized our beloved Christmas music album in electronic form so that we could pass on the Christmas love. You can find it on ebay in 33rpm vinyl or the cassette tape.
Favorite song: oh gosh I love them all! But maybe Round and Round the Christmas Tree by Bing Crosby is a little more favorite than the rest.

Umm, I’m not going to try to put this one in a category
Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens
This is a 5 album set of old and new Christmas songs and all have a special Sufjan spin on them. I’m sure you will find a place for these in your collection as well.
Favorite song: Once in Royal David’s City (clearly played on the old piano in my Grandma’s basement, it sounds just the same)

For the Neil Diamond enthusiast
I added this for all you Neil Diamond fans (I'm not a non-fan, just not a fan-fan) But I know there are many who wouldn't have the Christmas spirit without a little Neil Diamond to go around. And if this Hanukkah celebrating crooner can croon us some Christmas songs, then I think we can all get along. Don't you?
Favorite song: Jingle Bell Rock (Neil Diamond energy and raspiness at his best)

This post is getting too long but is enough to get you started I believe. I will post again next week to add to your growing Christmas music collections.

Noteworthy side note: I’m pretty nondiscriminatory to differing preferences of Christmas Songs, but if you openly admit to me that you like the song Santa Baby in any form, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Cheer

Are you traveling for the holidays?
How would you like to be greeted by this aggreable aggregation?

I love that there are people in the world with more gumption than I. Look how happy it makes all the unexpecting onlookers. Those Brits just know how to have fun.

Watch Out Betty Crocker, Tina's Back

Tina has returned.  Tina the Cook that is, so you better watch out Betty Crocker.  What?!
When I was 4 years old I gave myself a chef name. Yes, you heard that right, a chef name. Don't ask me why I thought chef's had different names then their own, but I did and I called myself "Tina the Cook."  I made all sorts of concoctions in my Fischer-Price kitchen while I was watched Julia Child (PS this is before the days of Food Network).  Check out more of my love of cooking in this old post here.
Growing up I wanted to be a cook. And because of that, my family still calls me Tina whenever I am in the kitchen.  I always enjoyed cooking, but I am the sort that can get easily distracted.   Distracted by the time it takes to live your life and how much time it seems to take to prepare a home-cooked meal.
Over the last few months I have made some goals to eat out less, eat healthier and as a result I am getting bored of my typical quick meals (pasta and marinara sauce).  So I have been baking, cooking and creating delectable dishes.
Here are the recipes I have tested with varying degrees of success.

  • Chipotle Pumpkin Soup - Savoury.  And that is coming from a not so big into pumpkin fan.  The recipe tells you to add thinned sour cream (thinned with water), but I didn't want to, even though it made a really pretty design.  I helped myself to an excitingly large dollop of sour creamy goodness.  I have a slight sour cream addiction.
  • Smoky Chipotle and Black Bean Dip - Immediately, following preparations for the soup I realized I had a small, but surprisingly large amount of leftover chipotles.  I quickly searched my trusty recipe tool (the internet) and found this snappy dip.
  • Hazlenut Cookie Sandwiches - Maybe it was in the conversion, but these cookies which I was so desirous to share with friends didn't turn out.  I now have a large stash of Nutella (I couldn't just buy one container) which is begging for a new recipe.  Any ideas?
  • Apple Nachos - Fun and yummy.  I didn't have an apple corer and so we just did chunks, but still scrumptious.  This snack made me feel like I was a kid. 
  • Mini Quiches from Martha -  I felt so sophisticated when I made these.  Mini quiches are so sophisticated.   And really easy to ad-lib.  Oh and by the way, Martha and I are on first name basis.
  • Red Thai Curry - I can't find the link to the recipe that I used, but I am perfectly ok with that.  I checked and double checked the recipe, but there is no operator-error reason for why it was just so bland.  I am sure I will be attempting this again, but with a full arsenal of spices and curry powders.
  • Cranberry Creme Scones - I'm in the mood for scones what can I say.  These were the ones I wanted to make for my Dad's birthday, but my sister vetoed saying that there were more my Mom.  Which is very true.  My Mom actually asked for the recipe as soon as she heard the name.  These were perfection.  I even busted out my secret stash of vanilla beans (the real stuff people) to make the glaze extra special.  I recommend not skimping on the glaze.  I may have dunked my scone once or twice in the sugary liquid.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Etsy Shoes?! Yep found them

Yes, you get double duty from Red today.  Aren't you lucky.  I was just so in love with the Pantone stuff not to share it immediately.
Our friend over at The Shoeologist is looking for guest bloggers.  And even though I didn't apply for the job, despite my recent love for delicious heels, I thought, "Does Etsy have shoes?"  Well, yes, yes they do.  I found them in all their handmade/homemade glory.  And if you happen to be looking for something to buy me for Xmas I'm a size 8 and I'd take #3, #5, #7 or #8.

  1. A little extra cuteness for moccasins
  2. For tall leggy blondes gladiator leather sandals
  3. Rope never looked so good (on a foot that is) infinity sandals
  4. Pretty birdie hand painted vans
  5. If you love me you will get me these crocheted felted slippers
  6. Part of me (a big part) really loves these crazy vintage boots
  7. Deliciously divine Eco-friendly leather flats
  8. I love these designs of fiep custom made women shoes
  9. Show off a little toe cleavage keyhole flat
  10. Hipsters will love these modern moccasins

Pantone, For the Love of Color

For the color obsessed these are freakin' awesome.

And if that wasn't enough take a vacation to this swanky Pantone hotel where you eyes can ogle over color in every room.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Save the Words!

Words everywhere are dying off, and you can help save them. Just a little bit of effort every day, can make a difference. The most recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words in current use. Of these words, 90% of our communication only uses 7,000 words. Every year hundreds of words fall into obsoleteness and the world feels a vacivity and the shift to lol and ttyl can never fill that void.

The OED is campaigning to Save the Words. Though I’m not the pregnatress of this movement, I want to help put it in motion. Go to savethewords.org and use the interactive page to choose and adopt your own word to help save our world from kexy language.

I have started by adopting my own word. I am the proud mother of locupletative and it is now in my care. OED sent me the official adoption certificate and I set right away to making it feel at home with the rest of my vernacular. But, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so I hope you will all open your hearts to locupletative as well.

Go ahead, save our language! Adopt a word! Let me know what words you have adopted in the comments so that I can welcome your new vocabulary additions.

I hope you found this post locupletative.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gasp! Penquin has done it again.

Blonde and I share a mutual love for classic literature. So when Penquin Books came out with their classic books recovered in an adorable and ultra modern foil imprinted/cloth bound versions we were in deep swoon.

Graphic and simple, fresh and contemporary, these books were designed by UK based Coralie Bickford-Smith and had me musing, "why didn't I think of that"? That's when you know you have found something good.  Her F. Scott Fitzgerald books are not just good though... they are so great.

Metallics.  Oh how I love metallics.

Coincidentally, after our discovery, Blonde and I purchased the EXACT same book for each other for Christmas. Now that's what I call good fortune.

The gifted gem

Anyways, like I said, Penquin has gone and done it again. Found via Anthropologie, these new versions of children's classics have me squirming in my soft cushy computer chair in anticipation. I just want to buy every last one and line them up on a shelf with a fancy little bookend and gaze at them while I go to sleep.

Not sure if they are the same designer though. Anyone else know? Still-utterly delightful.


Local Artist Spotlight: David Habben from HabbenINK

Welcome to this weeks Local Artist Spotlight.  We are joined today with the extremely talented illustrator David Habben. I have been friends with Dave for quite some time now and am continually blown, I mean really blown, away with the imagination, talent, and hard work that just exudes from his very core. With an eye for symbolism, a flair for the fantastic, and an extremely strong figurative foundation Dave shows that he is an illustrative force to be reckoned with. This man can draw. There is no doubt about that. Most recently David debuted the comic Beloved by Ben Phillipe and Victor Ochoa at the NYC Comic Con. Which I think is a pretty big deal. Read a great review here.

You can find more of David's work at http://habbenink.com/ or his blog http://habbenink.blogspot.com/.

Where do you draw the most inspiration?

I've always said music, but I think my understanding of how that works is evolving. The music brings clarity to my emotions, thoughts, relationships, memories, etc. It allows me an escape from all the distractions that prevent me from creating. 

Tell us about how your illustration work evolves.

I tend to be impatient with just about everything, including my artwork. Typically, I'll rush through an immediate solution and then return to it later to either add the necessary detail or trash it altogether. Over time, I've become more aware of that and try to slow myself down initially. It's taking concerned effort, but I think it's improving the technical quality of my work.

What are your go-to tools? What does an average day in the life of David Habben look like?

The majority of my work is digital now, so Photoshop is always running with the Wacom tablet within reach. I keep the sketchbook handy as well to give my eyes as many breaks as possible from the screen. The usual day involves as scattering of email exchanges between clients and maybe a blog update or two. Toss in a run, some good music and an evening with my ever supportive friends and you've got a pretty solid day. 

How do you keep the creativity flowing?  What happens when you have a block?

I find that most of the time where my creativity is impeded is do to stress or distraction. The best thing for me at that point is to take a break, go for a run, or put on some relaxing music. The variety of clients I have helps to gets me on my toes and also drives me to use my free time with more focus.  

What are some of your favorite projects you've produced?

The comic book ("Beloved") that I just finished is my first attempt at a sequential piece and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It was a new challenge and it really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. I've also really enjoyed the opportunity to create several posters for plays recently and I'd love to do more of them.

Who do you look up to most in the creative world?

Wow, that's a long list. I've had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing artists and am fortunate enough to call some of them friends. They've all influenced me in one way or another. I'll always have certain legends in mind that I look up to technically, but the artists I know personally are the ones who I look up to the most. We're all on the same team in a way, working to use our talents and interests to live life in the best way we know how. Anybody that can do that with honesty and integrity tops my list. 

Other than illustration what else would you say defines you?

I'd like to think that my faith defines me. Like anyone who sets a standard for their lives, I fail to reach it consistently, but I think having it there defines my choices and as a result, who I am. 

If you could share a cup of cocoa with any person who would it be?

If its a good cocoa, anyone will do. With a bit of cinnamon in it? You bet. 

Who are your favorite bands?

Where can we find you?

Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.

Thanks Dave!  As you can tell I am totally into his work and had to show as much as possible...