Thursday, November 19, 2009

Artist Jeanne-Claude

So sad to hear of the death of Jeanne-Claude. Her husband, Christo, is perhaps the more well known name, but together they've created amazing things. I was fortunate to see both The Umbrellas in Southern California in 1991 and The Gates in New York Central Park in 2005. Check this YouTube link, for a short video of my experiences with both projects:

Their projects sometimes caused controversy, but I was always amazed, first of all, how they even came up with such bold, inventive ideas, and then, how well executed the projects were. Before The Gates opened in NYC, I read an interview with Jeanne-Claude. I may not have the quote exactly right, but here's how I remember it. She said when asked, about The Gates, "What are they for?" she replied, "They are not for anything. It is art. That is all."

Both The Umbrellas and The Gates made me smile. Inventive, playful, bold ideas, for art, for beauty, to make people smile. What can be wrong with that? It's very right-brain thinking.

I hope Christo will continue to create the inventive works he's known for, though I'm sure it will be difficult without his life and art partner.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Maybe We Should Outsource Some Executives

Corporations are saving money by finding workers in other countries who work cheaper than American workers. Well, here's an idea... I bet we could find top-level executives in many other countries who will work much cheaper too. Think of how much money corporations could save if they started outsourcing some top-level management positions!

I heard a statistic that at one time, top-level executives were paid about 30 times more than the average worker. Now, apparently, those top positions are often paying 300 or 400 times as much as the average worker. Or more.

And it's not like the executives are taking any big risks either. Just think, even if an executive completely fails and destroys a company, somehow his buddies at other corporations or on other Boards just hire him somewhere else. And we've seen that when some companies fail, they came crying for a bailout. Oh boo hoo, we failed, now save us. Privatize the profits, but socialize those losses. They screwed up, but we're all bailing them out. It's so wrong. Even when they're failures, most top executives don't suffer any consequences. They're not worth the multi-million dollar salaries and benefits they're receiving.

Another way they "save" money is by firing the experienced workers, so they can hire newer, younger, cheaper workers. (I think Circuit City did that.) Hey, I bet that works for executives too! Don't hire that $40 million Exec. I will run your company for only $1 million per year! I bet I can screw it up as easily as those more experienced and more expensive executives! I may not have the experience, and I don't have the highest level of what seem to be the most prevalent personality traits for high-paid Executives and Wall Street types... They seem to be mostly greedy, stingy and selfish... as long as I get mine, I don't care what happens to anyone else.

Look at the investment groups that buy companies, and dismantle them by selling off real estate or other short-term plans. They personally walk away with millions, while a company is destroyed, and thousands of people lose their jobs. Just look up what happened to Mervyns stores. I guess destroying an entire company and thousands of jobs doesn't matter, as long as you got rich. I got mine, screw you guys! It's pathetic. Do these people have no conscience, or any sense of fairness? Destruction is so much easier than creation. Any idiot can destroy things. It takes skill to actually create, build, or make something.

And if the numbers about executives making 300 times the average worker are true, just think, a company could layoff only 2 top executives, and keep 600 workers. Doesn't that make more sense? And heck, if the laid off execs are so skilled and valuable, they shouldn't have any trouble finding another position.

Maybe this doesn't actually make sense, but... it makes as much sense to me as anything that's happening these days.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dolphins off the coast of Newport Beach

Learning how to edit videos on my Mac computer is fun. Time consuming and challenging, but fun.

In April, 2009, from a whale watching boat off the coast of Newport Beach, CA, dolphins were playing in the wake of our boat. Take a look on You Tube. I made the music on my Mac too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The National Parks

While I always enjoy spending time at the beach, after watching the Ken Burns film "The National Parks" on PBS last week, I am ready to plan a trip right now, and try to make it to every one of America's beautiful National Parks.

It's a fascinating story of how these parks were established, and set aside for the enjoyment of all people. It wasn't easy, there have been many struggles, and history has shown that we humans aren't always careful about what effect we're having on the natural world. But I'm thankful that there were (and still are) people with the foresight to protect the amazing examples of nature these parks hold -- the stunning geography, amazing wildlife and variety of trees and plants. How could humans even consider that we could improve upon what only nature can create.

It's hard sometimes to find and keep a balance between the progress of our modern world, and the beauty of the natural world. But it's an important balance to maintain. We need to spend a little more time in nature, and be sure it's still available to the generations who will come after us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Beach Therapy

Is it the feel of the ocean breeze, and the sea air? Is it the light on the water, even on a cloudy day? Is it the sounds of the waves and their rhythm? Is it the calls of the seagulls, the diving pelicans, the occasional visit by dolphins?

For me, it's the combination of all these sensations that makes a solo visit to a quiet beach so refreshing. It's my beach therapy. Sit and watch the shifting sunlight in the changing clouds, the rippling water. Calm my breathing, quietly getting in sync with the waves' rhythms. Breathe in the ocean breezes, listen to the seagulls, feel the sand on my feet, between my toes. Something for all the senses, a calming meditation. Even if it's just for a few minutes, you can leave the troubles of the world behind, enjoy being in the present moment, soaking in the beauties of nature, to breathe deeply, relax and recharge, before returning to life's routines.

I'm lucky, I live near enough to an ocean to enjoy occasional beach therapy sessions. When I haven't been near the ocean, I found that looking out on a lake or a river works, too. Even without the large ocean waves, watching the ripples in the water can have a relaxing, calming influence. For some people, being up in a mountain or standing amongst the trees in a forest is their favorite place for quiet contemplation, or a calming meditation. For me, it's sitting in the sand on a quiet beach, watching the ocean. Not always easy to find a spot like this, but worth it every time. I highly recommend a little Beach Therapy, whenever you can find it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Free Art, Museum Day, Sat. Sept 26

Sponsored by Smithsonian Magazine, a selection of museums nationwide will be open for free this Saturday, Sept. 26. Go to their website:

Search for the list of participating museums (listed by state, or zoom the map into your area and check the marked locations). Then complete some basic information, print out your Museum Day Admission Card, and take it with you to the museum of your choice.

Enjoy a free day at a museum near you!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Murder Suicides

On a somber note, when anyone commits a murder-suicide, I wish they would do the suicide first.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Project Runway

Now that Project Runway has moved from Bravo to Lifetime, fans wondered if the show would change. Except of course, that the show was filmed months and months ago, while their eventual place of broadcast was still being, uh, let's say debated. (that's what lawyers do, right? debate...)

So it looks very much the same as it did on Bravo. They're in LA instead of NYC, but since most of the action happens indoors (the sewing room, the runway set, their apartments), what's going on outside the window is not as noticeable as one might think. I keep forgetting they're in LA actually.

Project Runway episodes are fun to watch twice. The second time, it's interesting to watch the creative process, as they struggle with the design and execution, all the while knowing who ended up winning and losing. It does appear the judges this season are quickly disposing of the ... how shall I say... the more avant garde, more wacky designers rather quickly. These designers might not be as commercially viable on a broad basis if they were to eventually win, but they sure can be fun to watch.

I always counted on Bravo to rerun episodes so I could either catch up if I missed one, or catch it a second time. To be fair, on Bravo, I often accidentally found the repeats, was never quite sure when they would be on. Still not sure how Lifetime is handling their repeats, hopefully fans will be able to catch episodes that we miss or want to re-view.

The biggest change now, I think, is that both Project Runway and Top Chef have just started their new seasons. Bravo used to rotate them, so they were usually either airing one or the other. Now we're getting to know both the new chefs and the new designers at the same time, figuring out who we love and who we love to hate. Well, at least they're on different nights, so we don't have to choose a favorite. ... Wouldn't it be nice if these were the biggest problems we had to face in our daily life? It's true, they're just TV shows ... but they are fun to watch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top Chef Masters

As a fan of television, and having worked in the industry, I do enjoy watching TV. I worry that scripted dramas and comedies are becoming too scarce, and hope that we can achieve some kind of balance, so both scripted and reality-based shows have equal airtime opportunies.

That said, there are a few reality shows that I really enjoy. Top Chef and Top Chef Masters are both fun to watch, as skilled and talented chefs compete, using those unique skills.

Top Chef Masters has often been such a love-fest among all the chefs. It's nice to see experienced professionals, in a friendly competition, earning money for charity. They obviously respect each other and love what they do. Not as much conflict as on other shows, but, really, do we always need to see so much conflict? I realize it is the key to drama, but it seems like there's plenty of conflict in the world as it is.

As successful Chefs become more well-known through television, it must help their restaurant business. Personally, since Top Chef Masters, I want to go to San Francisco right now, and splurge on a meal at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller's restaurant. And I would love to have a meal by and/or with Art Smith, he has so much joy in what he does. And I want to try the Mexican cuisine so carefully prepared by Rick Bayless. It's interesting to see how people's personalities come across on television. Some people are so likable, you just want to sit down with them over a beer and chat. Others... not so much...

A recent episode had a bit more tension, as one of the Masters seemed to question if the regular Top Chefs from past shows were really qualified to assist him. It didn't show him in the best light, but it seemed to me that perhaps he had never watched Top Chef in the past, or he would have known that all the contestants had, at the very least, basic chef skills.

There is more conflict in the regular Top Chef. Those chefs aren't as established as the Masters, and they're competing to personally receive money and to advance their own careers. It's not usually quite as friendly, they all take it a bit more seriously, as they have a more personal stake in the outcome.

Bravo TV does a great job with this type of show. I enjoy quite a bit of Bravo's programming.
I'm also a fan of Project Runway, and most fans realize that Bravo lost that show to Lifetime in a somewhat strange and drawn out legal battle. I'm still not sure how that happened, but it does appear that Lifetime is trying to expand their programming beyond just replaying Movies of the Week. Project Runway also involves competition between people with a certain set of skills and talents (fashion design).

I think viewers enjoy playing along at home, let's see, what would I make, using only ingredients or materials from a grocery store or a vending machine? Then the pros come up with things that we would have never thought of, and we think, wow, what a great idea! Creativity and inventiveness at work.

Tonight the new season of Top Chef starts, as well as the final episode of Top Chef Masters. I will be watching, cheering for my favorite Masters, and getting my first impressions of the new chefs. Also this week the new season of Project Runway starts, first time on Lifetime. It will be interesting to see if a change in networks (and the change from NY to LA) will change the show.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Woodstock, 40 years later, this time with prizes

In my last post I remembered Woodstock. Over the weekend I won a Woodstock prize package from a radio station! Woodstock was certainly in the air this weekend, so I guess I tapped into something. I certainly tapped into the redial button.

In addition to winning some DVD's, CD's, and a movie screening, this weekend I will be attending a concert with several of the original bands who played at the original Woodstock. Let's see, 40 years ago, so it will be a bunch of 60 and 70 year olds, playing rock and roll! Sounds about right... don't trust anyone under 50, right?

And remember, stay away from the brown acid ... reflux medicine.

Don't most concerts start at 8pm? This one starts at 7. It's the Woodstock Early Bird Special.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock - 40 years later

Amazing that Woodstock was 40 years ago. I was a bit too young to even consider going, and I don't remember if I had heard about it before it happened. Wheaton, Illinois was a long way from Woodstock (or Bethel), New York, so it wasn't exactly a local event. But later I listened to the album a lot, and remember the movie and the music so well. Can't wait to hear it again this weekend.

New York Times has some great coverage. Look at the slide show of photos by James Estrin, now 71, who was a Life Magazine Photographer at the time, and covered Woodstock. In the slide show, he talks about the experience, how he was accepted by the crowd, even though he was a member of "the establishment" (Life Magazine). And let's see, he would have been 31 ... and, remember? ... you didn't trust anyone over 30!
(Now we don't trust anyone under 50, right?)

There are PDFs of the original news articles from 1969, which are fun to read. And they asked readers who had attended to submit their photos... Some sent in pictures of their ticket stubs ... $7 admission to the festival.

This page has links to lots of the stories, articles, and photos ...

From Woodstock's 3 Days of Peace and Music in 1969, to Playing for Change's Peace Through Music in 2009. Maybe someday we will figure out how to use music to move towards peace. It's a nice thought.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing For Change / Peace Through Music

If you haven't heard of Playing For Change, or seen any of their videos on YouTube, I highly recommend you check it out. Great musicians around the world, playing together, even though they're miles apart.

A few years ago, a music producer recorded (audio and video) a street musician singing and playing guitar in Santa Monica. Then he and his crew started traveling around the world, recording other local musicians, playing along with each other, using headphones. I may not be explaining it very well, read all about it on their site:

I'm not involved in the project, I am just a fan. I first saw their story on Bill Moyers' show on PBS. Apparently this month (August) PBS stations nationwide will air their film, "Peace Through Music". Their website has a link so you can search the PBS schedules to see if it's airing on your local station. Check it out.

It's a great idea, with wonderful music by amazing musicians, all playing together from different countries around the world. Uniting the world through music. And what could be wrong with that?

Ceramics at the OC Fair

The Orange County Fair in Southern California is in its final week, ending August 9. I have volunteered a few days at the Ceramics area, in Crafters Village. There are people throwing pots on the wheels, but since I don't know how to do that, I'm demonstrating hand-building, and have worked on some small sculptures. Here's a picture, (not my best look, but oh well) on a night when I worked on a tree, a tiny bust, and in my hand... is a clay hand. The hand looked a bit creepy actually, looked kind of real... Now I have to decide if I will have these fired to make them permanent.

I have one more shift to work, this Friday afternoon, August 7. It's been fun, chatting with fairgoers about art and clay and various things. It's interesting how many people stop and say, "I used to do that, back in high school." I have encouraged them to try to find time for creative projects, but everyone seems so stressed about finding time. It's understandable, but it's a shame. Kids like to stop and look, since it's basically playing with mud. One boy asked me, "What if you make a mistake?" I said, "That's okay, it doesn't matter. You do make mistakes, and you just keep going." He looked a little shocked, actually. I guess we're so focused on doing things "right", whatever that is, that I think it keeps people from doing creative things. Somewhere in my readings about art, it said you had to be willing to do a lot of bad art, so I try to remember that and just keep going. I think it is the key to doing anything creative, to not worry about everything being perfect... or even good... but to just keep going. It's often easier said than done.

Working on art at the Fair in front of people can be difficult. It's intimidating, especially when you're just starting, and you have a blob of clay in front of you. People pause and look, puzzled, trying to figure out what on earth you're making. Another lesson I learned at some point is that in a situation like this, you have to just not care. And I mean that in the most positive way possible. You can't worry about what people are thinking, you just have to keep going. Even if, as happened the other day, you're working on a sculpture of a woman dancing... and several people think it's a chicken.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm An Infomaniac

Information. I like having access to lots of information. I like to know stuff. I keep reference books around, so I can always check facts and answer vital questions that come up... What's in a Mudslide again? When was that movie made, and who is that actor?

Of course, now that we have the internet, information is everywhere. With internet access, you can google anything, and learn lots of new stuff, from lots of different, worldwide sources. I love this and use it often.

But what about our time? Weren't computers supposed to make our lives easier? (or did I dream that?) In addition to googling anything we want to know, we have to keep up with our email (more new messages in the Inbox?), and our old-school mail, and our Facebook page, and I can't even think about Twitter, and now it appears I have gone and started a blog. Where are we supposed to find the time to maintain all of these new communication and information pipelines?

In some cases, we're now doing things for ourselves that, in olden days, companies used to do for us, like printing out our own airline tickets, and bills, and paycheck stubs. We now spend our own time, ink, and paper, printing for ourselves. Where are we finding the time to keep up with all these new duties? Our lives are already jam-packed.

I'm curious to see how we will face our time management challenges in the 21st Century. With all this access to all this computer-based information and communication, what will fall by the wayside, just because we no longer have the time?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Women on the Court

Another interesting article from the New York Times Magazine. An interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "The Place of Women on the Court".

She talks about being in law school in 1956 (one of only 9 women in a class of over 500); being a woman on the Supreme Court today; men's and women'
s roles, in court and in life. She's fascinating. It's a nice interview.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whales and Humans

There is a very interesting article from the New York Times about whales and their interaction with people. "Watching Whales Watching Us".

It starts out talking about whales stranding themselves on shore, and whether human-generated sounds (like sonar) could be affecting them. The author discusses what we've learned about whales throughout history, "this ever-evolving relationship between humans and whales." And a marine scientist says, "At precisely the time when you'd expect them to be the most defensive, they're incredibly social. They'll come right up to boats, let people touch their faces, give them massages, rub their mouths and tongues."

It's several pages long, so give yourself a little time to read it all. I thought it was fascinating and well worth a few minutes.
Click on this link to the article:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bad design

Why is there so much bad design in the world? I am puzzled by the design of some new shopping centers/malls near me.

Giant shopping centers with only one way in or out, not enough parking, streets that don't make sense and take you around in circles, stores in a mall spread out so far apart you literally have to drive from one store to another, and if you do try to walk, you take your life in your hands, because they have no areas for walking. You shouldn't have to go a dozen times before you can figure out the best way in and out of the place.

Maybe the design looked nice on paper, but I wonder if the men who designed them (I'm guessing men... may not be fair, but that's my guess) have spent any time actually shopping in any large malls. They're not designed for convenience and ease of use, that's for sure. After a try or two, I now avoid going to these places, (as do others I know) which I'm assuming was not their goal, at least from a marketing standpoint... let's make it so difficult and irritating, that no one will want to go there!

Certainly not the most important problem in the world, but, if you were designing a shopping center, wouldn't you try for convenient ... instead of annoying?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Paul McCartney makes me smile

Okay, that title makes me sound a bit pre-teenish, but I can't help it. Like many other girls my age, Paul McCartney was my first crush many years ago, and the Beatles played the first music I took note of... and loved.

It was great seeing Paul on David Letterman last Wednesday. Good interview and fun to watch Paul and his band play on top of the marquee at the Ed Sullivan Theater, a mere 45 years after the Beatles first played inside that theater in 1964! Wish I could have been there in person this time, back in my old neighborhood... well, one of my old neighborhoods, there have been a few. Go to for their extended 20 minute video clip of Paul's band playing 5 songs outside on the marquee. Here's the link to watch the video:
** Update... sorry, this link is no longer working. I can't find the video anymore, it looks like CBS has removed it. If you can find it... let me know.

I remember, way back, during at a peak time in the Beatles' popularity, when some people burned Beatles records because they thought the music was bad, or evil, or some bizarre nonsense like that. Even at my young age, this seemed odd. How can this amazing music be considered dangerous in any way? It made no sense. How could they be so close-minded to this music just because it was new and different? Ever since then I always try to give the new and different a chance, not to automatically dismiss it, even if I don't like it at first. That's where the inventive, creative ideas reside, in the new and different, so be open to it.

It's amazing that The Beatles created so many new and different songs, and so much beautiful music in such a relatively short time. I'm glad I lived through those Beatlemania days. We didn't realize it was anything special at the time, but it was a unique and special time. Thanks, John, Paul, George and Ringo, for the music and the fun. I still enjoy listening to all the Beatles music and their solo work. It holds a special place in my heart and makes me feel good. It always will. And... Paul's still cute, too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good Friends, Good for your Health

Over the years, I've realized that my friends are very important to me. We meet so many people through life and we lose track of most of them. But I've lived in many places, and worked at many different jobs, so I have friends scattered all over the place. Even if we don't talk for weeks or months or years, we can still usually pick up where we left off as we try to catch up on all our latest news.

I have always thought that friends were a valuable resource, but now, according to this story from the New York Times (click on link below), it seems our friends are actually good for our health! One quote from the story says, "Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships."

So, whether it's with a phone call, an email, or an old fashioned letter (remember those?) get in touch with an old friend. It's good for you!

What Are Friends For? A Longer Life.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

Leave it to The Onion (America's Finest News Source) to offer the perfect counterpoint to my previous post, where I expressed my concern for all the drugs that treat depression.

Here is a video from Onion News Network, reporting, "FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful". Funny. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Drug ads on TV

There is a commercial which says that 2 out of 3 people being treated for depression still have symptoms.

Isn't that saying that for a majority of people -- 2 out of 3 -- the drugs they take for depression don't work?

Their solution? Take more drugs on top of the ones you're already taking... which aren't working.

Am I the only one who finds this slightly troubling? America, we have a problem.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Art

Today I'm feeling Overwhelmed and All Alone... hmm, I should write a country song.

Having recently been laid off from my office job, it is time to regain my own balance. I have escaped from the cubicle! Now what? Will I end up back in the cubicle world? One never knows. Honestly, it was beginning to feel like I was living in a Dilbert Cartoon, so maybe in the long run, it's good to be out of the cubicle... at least for me. Perhaps I can create something new, by creating some new things... those right brain activities of creation and invention.

In the meantime, while I search and rebalance, it's good to see what others are creating, and it's even better (when one has no current source of income) if you can do these things for cheap or for free!

Here are 2 weekend tips for free art in Southern California. One in LA, one in OC:

Saturday and Sunday, there's a craft fair in downtown LA, called the Renegade Craft Fair. I have nothing to do with this, and apparently it's the first Renegade Craft Fair in LA (looks like they've done this in other cities.) I don't know if I'll get there this weekend, but it looks kinda cool. And.... it's free!

Also, the Orange County Museum of Art has their Target Free Second Sunday on July 12. Thanks Target for sponsoring arts organizations like this one, giving us free admission to the museum for the day. For more info, the museum website is

If you go to a museum free admission day, it's nice to donate a little something while you're there, if you can. I think even a dollar or two, if that's all you can afford, would be appreciated. Support the Arts! ... even a dollar at a time will help.

Those are your Frugal Fun tips for today. Get out and see some creativity in action!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is Cafe Marian?

I'm all over the map, racing to keep up with the creative monkeys who are spinning around in my head!

Okay, that starts to sound like some sort of psychological problem, but there is so much in the world to see, fascinating new things to learn and interesting new places to explore. I've never been very good at concentrating on only one thing for very long. The world seems to want us to specialize, but that's hard for me. I get bored and restless.

After years of living in my left brain (that practical, rational, analytical, logical place where most of us reside), I'm working to spend more time in my right brain (creativity, inventiveness, intuitiveness, empathy and joy). I believe the key to it all is balance. Balance seems easy enough, but the trick is finding the balance point that works for you. And beware, that point is constantly moving, so when you lose your balance... and you will... readjust and keep on going.

So, here we are, at Cafe Marian, a gathering place where I can write and share the stories I find that are interesting, smart, amazing, fascinating, genuine, amusing, impressive, clever, inventive, creative and fun.