clevermynnie: (see us waving)
This weekend was the first weekend I had been at home in a month, and as a result it was NUTS with things going on.

It started off amazing, getting together with friends for drinks after work on Friday and then going with my improv troupe to do karaoke. Not everyone was completely comfortable with the idea of karaoke, but everyone got so into it; we started with all group songs, then duets, then solos, and I got to go out with Oh Darling which is one of my absolute favorites songs to belt out melodramatically. And then after singing for three hours, we went to a loud pub and shouted over background noise for three hours, so it was extremely fun even though my voice was a bit messed up on Saturday.

And actually, Ben had tons of plans for us on Saturday: brewing, having friends over, going to a barbecue with his coworkers and then a screening of Macbeth. I was initially kind of zonked, but managed to pull through the day, and had fun seeing everyone. The Macbeth screening was cool; it was a simulcast of a production at this festival in Manchester, starring Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston, and it was just so well done.

On Sunday I managed to squeeze in a short run before heading to brunch, tea, and then an improv jam for Dublin area improvisers. These were all pretty good though in general on Sunday I just felt low-energy, so actually the best part was probably after the improv jam, heading to my friend Nancy's house to help her re-dye her hair purple, watch Father Ted, and mess around on an accordion.

show!

Jun. 7th, 2013 11:49 am
clevermynnie: (smile)
My improv show was amazing!

Read more... )
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
So, heh, I am not going to run that 50 mile race in the Mourne Mountains this weekend.

My shins are still bruised but okay for walking, so I tried a short run! It felt like someone was poking my bruises with every single step, and I only did a mile. I guess the harder impact of running compared to walking just jostles my legs more, and right now I can still feel it and it is painful, and there is just no way I am going to do that for 10+ hours. Plus there was the weather fail in what was supposed to be my 40 mile practice race, and on top of that I have a cold right now! Running an epically long race on bruised legs, without having run much in the last month, while getting over a cold, just does not sound fun. I'm sad to miss out on this race, which was so gorgeous last year, but I can go back next year, and I'm still going up with friends for the weekend. So it's fine, really; again I am surprised by how not guilty I feel about backing out of this. It is just so obviously not a good idea! Oh well!

And if you are extra attentive, yes, I am getting over a cold right before my improv show! Great timing, that! Four days of a very sore throat, which probably would have been fewer days if there hadn't been a six-hour improv practice at my house in the middle of that. But I think I'm to the point now where decongestants are all I'll need to get through the show Thursday. Decongestants and COURAGE.

showing up

May. 27th, 2013 10:13 am
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
My second improv class has come and gone, and was even more fun than the first, so now ten of us from the class are planning a showcase. The showcase is alarmingly soon, less than two weeks off, and what's more, the instructor's first choice of venue (which was an uncrowded pub in a back alley) was booked so instead we're in one of the main venues on Dame Street, high traffic and possibly a lot of tourists too. And I mean, I haven't been at all nervous doing improv in class for awhile now, but that's in front of my classmates and not random punters, so I bet that's going to be an experience. We've had one rehearsal since class ended, which went well, and we're supposed to have three more before the showcase. I'm really excited!

Part of being excited is reading resources my improv friends are sending on. There was a nice short book that had a lot of useful tips, kind of pointing out some crutches beginning improvisers tend to lean on (and I've noticed myself leaning on as well). For example, justifying action too much instead of being comfortable with it happening, by saying things like "this is my first day..." or "every time we..." or "I love/hate..." or "this is the best ever..." or "... is really fun". The focus of the book was all about being unafraid and decisive as an improviser, even while listening to your scene partner and supporting them a lot.

And, someone sent out this anthropology master's thesis on improv which I actually could not put down. It had a lot of history and culture of improv that was interesting, but then the coolest part was about improv as a constructed liminal space and why that makes people both less constrained and more likely to bond to each other through a shared creative process.

So yeah, I like this a lot, I'm hoping the showcase goes well enough that we keep doing it.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
My improv comedy class wrapped up while I was in Philly, and I was pretty sad to have to miss the last class. But, the instructor is offering a second-level course which starts next week, and I am signed up for that! It's another six-week course, and I'll have to miss a day of that too, but I'm excited because the first course was such an enjoyable experience for me. It was interesting and fun and surprisingly, a lot less stress than I thought it would be.

And, I signed up for a jazz improv course on Coursera which runs for six weeks too, starting in late April. I am pretty stoked about that. I tried to learn some jazz improv skills on the piano early in grad school, on my own from a pretty decent book, but I found it a huge challenge. This is probably thanks to 20+ years of rigorous classical piano instruction, but I love jazz piano and would like to be able to do some of it myself, and I certainly have the technical ability. After signing up for the course I sat down with that book again this morning, and actually, making stuff up is less difficult than I remember it being! Thanks, grad school! I mean... thanks improv?

Also somehow I have a race in less than three weeks. Ohhh yeah. I'm not where I wanted to be mileage-wise, because of backing off when I was having Achilles tendon pain last month, and then travel and processing so much stuff. I do have enough of a base to run, though, and maybe PR since my 50k PR is kinda soft, but there's also the possibility of this being a more leisurely race later on. So I'll get my runs in beforehand, and during the race just try to focus less on results and more on having an open, accepting, and positive attitude. Which is basically what I'm working on in life at the moment.

status

Feb. 18th, 2013 05:29 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
One of my biggest behavioral pet peeves is when people use criticism as a way to try to gain status. The implication is that if someone shows you something—a place, a work of art, an idea—and you can tear it down, you must understand it better than the person who showed it to you to be able to pick it apart. There’s a respectful way to disagree with another person’s assessment or value system, to present your own reasons while showing an understanding of theirs, but then there are ways of criticizing that are all about showing who has the upper hand. I think I am exposed to this especially in science, where so much of your standing in the community is about not just the validity of your ideas, but also your quickness in either grasping or poking holes in new ideas that you’re exposed to. And while I do appreciate spirited discussion and interplay about interesting things, I kind of resent when conversations start to feel like a battle that one person is intent on winning. To me it’s more enjoyable as well as more productive to take a collaborative approach to the whole thing.

So, in my improv class we had a few exercises about status, discussing how to portray status differences in a scene and what sort of status combinations or changes can be funny and why. We had to do scenes with assigned status levels, and in one scene I was supposed to have the highest status. I really shocked myself by defaulting to criticism to show that I had high status! The class talked about the scene afterward, and described my behaviour as very aloof and impossible to please, but successfully high-status. It made me physically uncomfortable to act that way, and I felt kind of horrible afterward hearing people describe how I'd acted (in a scene!). But that’s what I went for as the most obvious way to demonstrate status. Some of the people after me who were highest status in their scenes were nicer about it, delegating and being gracious while being obviously dominant, and we also talked about how a person can confer high status onto others. It also made me think about softer forms of power, the sort that don’t involve constantly asserting that you are the one in charge.

The day after we did these status exercises, I went with a friend to eat lunch in the college’s faculty dining room. I thought it would be really cool to see, but then as it turned out a lot of the scene was older white male faculty members all trying to assert status. Wow. I signed up for this improv class with a friend and she had warned me that I would be seeing improv everywhere afterward, but yes, so much of what we do is about status! Or to be more precise, so much of what people do that I dislike is about status.

And in science, the criticism as status thing really bothers me in part because I feel it quashes a lot of creative scientific endeavors. Sure, it can be quick and easy to find fault. But that’s also the safest and most conservative route, which ignores a lot of clever and interesting stuff. I think scientists also tend strongly to dismiss things that are non-quantifiable as unimportant, which is how you end up with so many poorly communicated papers and talks, and also is a big part of why scientists are quick to trash science communication and outreach. If you exert status by fact-checking and criticism, why bother with anything else? Obviously, I think this is a very limiting way to approach things and total bullshit, but it has a lot of traction.

But if you are actually interested in contributing to something worthwhile, this is not the way to do criticism. I love to criticize in the sense that I love analysing things, trying to see them as a whole whole from all angles, trying to get where they work and where they don’t. Which means that when I give feedback, I like to emphasize the stuff that seems to work along with the trouble spots I have found. It’s very rare that I find a theory, a piece, an idea that I disagree with every part of, so this balanced approach to criticism is the most natural one for me. But I will say, when I realize that someone else is viewing discussion as a competition, I can have a hard time not trying to win. Which is to say, I sometimes buy into the status values that other people put on things, even though I don’t really want to, because of my own ego. I’m hoping to get better at this, in science and in other contexts. In improv as in life.

physicality

Feb. 7th, 2013 11:48 am
clevermynnie: (and then?)
It's becoming apparent to me that I rely on physicality when I feel mentally out of balance. In grad school, I was certainly aware that I was using running as a way to process complex emotions and stabilize my mood. But endurance running especially has the effect, for me, of shutting down some of the more analytic parts of my brain while flooding it with 'YOU ARE GREAT, THIS IS GREAT' messages. Which is kind of avoidance, a little bit, but when in a complicated morass with no easy way out, it's a big help.

This has been coming up in improv where I notice myself turning to physicality when I don't know what to say. I went so over the top with it this week that I lost my balance, literally, and staggered backward across a room into a wall onto a heater. This was a day after falling into a tangle of mud and thorns on a trail run, and I later ended up falling AGAIN, and basically feeling like when I don't know what to do I throw myself into the physical world in a pretty dramatic way.

But also, to go back to running, just to have a pursuit that provides a physical conduit for the endless striving that sometimes pours out of me is more valuable than I realized. When I am ensnared by thoughts and feelings, having a way to release the frustration that builds up is not only satisfying but provides a lot of mental clarity that I can take back to non-physical pursuits. After I fell in the mud, I ran another ten miles, and I went until my entire mind was consumed by telling my body to just keep going. And then I was able to rest and be still.

muddy feet and sea
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I was in a cafe with an American friend of mine, and an American sat down next to us and asked if we had come to Dublin "with Groupon". There are Groupons for that?! Uh, no, we live here.

One huge perk of living outside the US is that I no longer have to pretend to care about the Super Bowl. And, for local sports that everyone else cares about, I can plead foreign ignorance.

At improv recently we had a set of scenes with accents, which alarmed me since there are very few accents I can do convincingly. And then my group got given "northern Irish" as an accent, which I could probably pick out by now but I can't really do Irish, or Scottish, or the weird mixture that is northern Irish to my ears. So I did a terrible half-Scottish accent, and yelled "jayyysus fookin' chroist" when an imaginary gear fell on my head, and this went over well. Sorry, Ireland, for making a mockery of your swears.

flashes

Jan. 29th, 2013 03:29 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
The last week has been busy but mostly good. We had friends over to brew, saw live jazz at KC Peaches where I should just live from now on, played games with friends, oh and my improv class continues to be the best thing ever.

I'm back in the swing of running more regularly, after a bit of a break last November and December. It feels really good even though the weather at the moment includes things like strong winds whipping half-frozen rain into your face. But last week something bizarre happened, where I went on a nice group run, got home and sat down for 20 minutes to eat dinner and watch Parks and Rec, and got up to find I had intense and localized pain in my lower back, on one side of my spine. I hoped it would go away overnight but got worse the following day, which was alarming since I wasn't even sure what I'd done exactly to cause it. I kept flashing back to the last few weeks of high school swimming, where I suddenly got some sort of back injury while at dance team, which didn't get better for weeks, all while I was trying to qualify for state competitions in backstroke. Finally some "alignment" from an off-hours chiropractor my coach knew seemed to instigate my back getting better, but the whole thing was confusing and frustrating, and having sudden inexplicable back pain just took me back to that time! Fortunately it seems to be getting better, having improved a fair bit after two days of no workouts but plenty of ibuprofen and ice, with only a slight relapse when I did my weekend long run.

Also, pre-live-jazz I walked around Tradfest with some friends, this festival with a bunch of traditional Irish music on various stages. It was pretty cool, at least in places, and prompted me to look up more about uilleann pipes, the bodhrán, and the history of harps in Ireland. But also they had some dancers for some of the reels, and I just had such strong flashbacks to the last times I saw my grandmom, and the Riverdance DVDs she was always watching. I wish I could have talked to her about coming here.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
So last night I went to my first ever improv class! I heard about how fun it was from my brother-in-law, and then my friend Nancy here told me how much she had enjoyed improv in the past, and finally some encouragement from [livejournal.com profile] aphorisic led me to sign up for a 6-week course with said friend Nancy.

I was a lot less nervous that I expected to be, and found the whole thing just really fun. When I was writing before about wanting to feel open and connected, it feels like improv is a lot about doing that. I used to watch a lot of Whose Line, and I like to crack jokes, but this feels like a broader license to explore that and do whatever comes to mind without premeditation, which I find really enjoyable. I think it's maybe possible that I pursue one-liners a bit much, for the community spirit of making other people look good, but we'll see and I have more time to play around with that.

I definitely want to have parties with improv games now. Possibly musical dance improv games. This is great. I can't think of a single person I know who would not benefit from doing this.

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