Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Photo Challenge: INTERRUPT

I have been interrupting myself all week. All month maybe! It's not a terrible thing but it keeps things from going in a straight line. Sometimes that's good, like when we're interrupting racist assumptions. Sometimes it's not great, like when we're interrupting an explanation before the important part is revealed.

Be a good interrupter.

After you check these pics out and see the new prompt below, of course.

Our Cindy INTERRUPTed herself! I think this would have made a spectacular poster for Girl, Interrupted.

I love to take candids but when you're taking portraits the candid part can't be the focus. That's why I love the outtakes of Our Sara's portrait session.

Have you ever seen something so fascinating? I follow Our Janet on Facebook and it feels as though she see 6 things this fascinating before breakfast every day!

Oo, oo! I've got one! SAVOR. Even though I don't get the summer off like a kid I still count it as my favorite season and one that I hate to see go. The man-made end of summer, Labor Day, approaches. Let's SAVOR what we have left in photos.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday September 8th for posting on September 9th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and SAVOR. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Centering the Conversation

This was written over a week ago. All time references are therefore skewed. 

Up until a few days ago I hadn't found myself at odds with anyone I know about the political things I post on social media. Ok, not with anyone who engages about that information. Then some folks from the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted Bernie Sanders at one of his political rallies.

In the last 2 days I've discussed race, racism, Black Lives Matter, US History, and the way they all intersect more than I have possibly in my whole life to that point. Not because I'm good at it necessarily but because I wound up in a place where it felt like I couldn't not speak so I did.

Someone I like and trust. Someone I wouldn't think would ever disagree with me (perish the thought!) politely asked me to cite my sources. At first, I'm not afraid to tell you, I felt a flush of anger/fear/panic. I madly slammed my keyboard grabbing links before I took a break and realized, "You have sources. You're not bullshitting. Why so defensive?" I gave links and kept talking and we're not precisely on the same page but we're definitely in the same classroom now and I feel good about it.

Like a floodgate suddenly more people were asking me about my sources and since I felt less defensive I was able to have conversations. However, I was spending half of those conversations hopping around the internet pulling up the sources. I'm going to put them here in case I need them later. You should feel free to use them, too, and to add more in the comments.

I've been starting with this piece by Ijeoma Oluo because it's short, simple, and the people who are asking me for information often come back from it saying, "Those are a lot of the things I was wondering about." My friend, Sarah, has been starting with this Facebook post by Dominique Hazard which addresses the same blocks people are putting up.

The reason I'm not asking those questions this week is because I've been following Elon James White on Twitter for about a year now (since Mike Brown's death) and he's been very clear about how he's not jumping on the Bernie Sanders bandwagon. He's also been generous with his reasoning behind that so it's been an opportunity for me to learn.

White interviewed one of the interrupters on his radio show. I have not listened to the show but I'm told she addresses the interest in her previous backing of Sarah Palin and her religion.

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter responded to many of the concerns surrounding the interruption even though she was on vacation.

This article by Imani Gandy is more strongly worded than most of the things I've posted so far. You might find it difficult to read. It is well worth it for her words and for the many links she provides for further study. Consider this one of many vital quotes in it, "The bottom line is this: #BlackLivesMatter activists simply do not have time to deal with white fragility. It may sound harsh, but Black lives matter more than white feelings. We are dying in the street. 314 of us so far since the killing of Mike Brown on August 9, 2014. Our community is in crisis."

Here's Heather Barmore chronicling the way her feelings changed as she learned more about the Seattle Sanders Interruption.

If you wonder why I keep using the word "interrupt" you should read my friend, Aaryn Belfer's, viral post about how to be an interrupter. That is her white person's guide to activism.

Now this is new writing so the timeline changes. Surprise!

Aaryn wrote another piece and I got into more conversations on social media about that! Keep your eye on Belfer, she'll help you stay informed, too.

Before I list a few other folks I follow on Twitter I want to lay out what I've learned from them. The color of one's skin does not automatically require them to teach you about the equality movement and their experience of it. If someone is generous and able often they will teach but do not go charging over to these folks asking questions like your education is their responsibility. Be kind and realize where your points of privilege lie. If you are a member of a marginalized group (like me, I'm a chick) do not play that card as if it's going to win you the World Series of Inequality Poker.

So, people I'm learning from every day are Feminista Jones, Karnythia, Nettaaaaaaaa, Deray, Bev Gooden, A'Driane Nieves, Kathryn Finney, Ava DuVernay, Ms. Packyetti, Colorlines, Antonio French, BrownBlaze, Vandalyzm, Kelly Wickham, and Prison Culture but to name a few.

While you're at it you can always check out these hash tags, too. #YouOKSis, started by Feminista Jones. #WhyIStayed, from Bev Gooden. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, by Karnythia (Mikki Kendall). #BlackLivesMatter.

Lastly, if we come from a place of privilege (and if you have time to sit around reading a blog you probably do to at least some extent) we're going to get this wrong once in a while. It's inevitable. If we learn from that and try to keep our stumbling to a minimum while staying in the game I think we can count our efforts as good.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

5 Years & Forward

Today is what Mimi has dubbed our Ed-iversary. Five years ago today I was eavesdropping on my colleague's calls to her husband about a lost dog and around 3pm decided I had to act.

I was going to recount that whole day for you (AGAIN) when I got a message from Karen requesting a Treats for Everyone post. What better way to commemorate a day when I'm so grateful to have been found by my Little Lord Fauntleroy than to honor the end of another family's commitment.

This is Rudy.

He lived in a family with four other greyhounds and, from what I hear, held his spot as the class clown.  He fell and broke his leg, revealing cancer and was gone soon after. That is almost exactly how Teatown Jenny left us. Such a terrible shock. While we can be glad Rudy's suffering was short we know that his people's suffering has just begun. I'm glad they have other hounds to keep them company through this loss.

In accordance with tradition, please give your pets some extra special love, attention, and food today in Rudy's memory. Just for a little while don't make them work for it. Consider breathing, standing, napping, smiling, walking beside you enough to warrant the gift of something delicious.

I'll be treating the heck out of this guy as I wonder what our next five years can possibly bring.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Photo Challenge FRESH

Apparently this one was inspiring! I think the photos we got in response are inspiring, too. Enjoy these and scroll down for the inspiration of a new prompt.

Our Alisun provided the only photo (that I chose, check the group for other examples) not of food.

I don't know what this is but Our Sara says it tastes just like poppy seeds!

Two of this week's photos are from the same photo walk a few weeks ago. I remember watching Our Cindy take this one.

The true art of Our Bethany's shot is that she's somehow managed to upstage the bacon with peaches. How I do not know.

Our Janet's shot looks like fresh paint to me. I love the crispness of the entire composition.

This is the other shot from that photo walk. I interpreted the prompt somewhat more sarcastically.

In honor of my friend, Aaryn's, recent viral article I'm going to say let's use INTERRUPT. I don't know what the heck that's going to look like in pictures but I want to find out.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday August 25th for posting on August 26th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and INTERRUPT. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

6 Reasons that Dog Training Is Like Acting

Unknown dog on Mt. Hood
I have, arguably, been studying acting since I was 4. During a bravura performance as the classic character, The Wronged Child, I passed a mirror on the way to be comforted by my father and took a moment to use it to check out my crying technique. Rookie mistake. I got better, though, went to a prestigious drama school, built my own performances, and continue to learn by doing as often as possible. Here, look at my recent videos!

I began studying dog training 40 years later. There, too, I have made some rookie mistakes. In order to improve as quickly as possible I'm reading, watching, and thinking about the subject almost all the time. I spend countless brain-hours rethinking the very best analogies and explanations for any dog training-related conversation I've had.

Last week while perambulating my pooch Chekhov popped into my head. It happens. The more we walked the more I was able to flesh out the idea that, in many respects, dog training bears a strong resemblance to acting!

By the time we got home I had 6 examples.

Bu in Chewing Heaven
1. You Cannot Perform A Negative - In acting you must be clear about your "action" in a scene. Your action is what you want out of that moment on stage. It was always one of the most difficult things for me to articulate* when I was in a class because your action cannot be negative.

For example, you can't work with, "I don't want to leave the family estate." You can work with, "I want to stay here." Not wanting to leave some place isn't active. It doesn't tell you what to do. Staying  gives you options. You can sit down, you can hide, you can point a gun at the people trying to move you just to name a few.

One of the dog training questions I've been fielding a lot lately is how to most effectively tell a dog no. Here's the thing, dogs don't speak English. They don't have any concept of what any word means until we teach it to them. No is a tough concept to teach under ideal conditions and damn near impossible when you tell your furry ESL student NO! when they're on the couch, greeting someone at the door, chewing on something, or walking. How can they possibly know that NO! means get off the furniture, don't jump on granny, that's my antique table, and don't walk so fast.

It's so much clearer if you teach them, one thing at a time, what you'd prefer that they do and pay them handsomely for doing so. I work on polite greetings with almost every client. We reward their dogs for sitting (or at least standing with 4 on the floor) when a guest arrives. We never have to use NO! In fact, it only confuses things.

Which brings me to the next important similarity.

Ed's Rocking Recall
2. Be Interesting - There's a game called Audition that improv instructors enjoy. Half the class plays the audience and the other half spreads out on stage. At the teacher's signal everyone on stage has X minutes to BE INTERESTING and at the end the audience reports who they paid the most attention to.

The anecdote from my college days is about a Grecian God of a classmate who stood stage center among his screaming and cavorting counterparts and slowly, silently took off all his clothes. He won the game.

Dogs are a tough audience. They take in a lot more information than humans generally do. They have more scent receptors in their noses and keener hearing so when giving their attention they have a lot more choices of targets than we do. This means that every time we need our dog's attention we're participating in a cut-throat game of Audition. We have to know our audience (he likes hot dogs, she likes a high squeaky voice, the little one only comes over if I stand still) and play to their desires.

While I don't suggest taking all your clothes off in the dog park I can tell you that having some high value treats and not being afraid to look and sound a little silly will be more likely to catch your hound's attention than following them around getting angrier and angrier. Remember, your best human friend wouldn't be very likely to sit next to you if you were acting so grouchy either.

Dogs Love It When Batch Visits
3. Do Something - In acting your Activity is different from your Action. An activity is whatever you're physically doing at the time. Chekhov is full of these. His characters are always dealing games of solitaire, pouring tea from the samovar, or packing enormous trunks with all their worldly possessions. This is because real people are doing things most of the time.

Dogs need to do stuff, too. Sure, they like several more naps than I could schedule in a day but between naps they want to get physically and mentally tired so the next nap will be satisfying. I tell you what, if you don't give your dog an activity they'll find one on their own and it might be something you don't like very much.

If you have the time, money and interest this could mean taking up a hobby with your dog. You might find that you both like agility or coursing or or nose games or even search and rescue. When they're home alone they could have a kong to chew on or toys to play with. It doesn't have to be elaborate, though.

For instance, my dog has a few store bought food puzzles but lately I've been making some for him. They aren't complicated at all. I'm saving up toilet paper rolls and egg cartons and little things like that to hide treats in. I close them up, maybe stuff a little paper in there to make it trickier, and let him have at it. He's a pretty delicate puzzle solver, he'd rather figure out how to open something than tear it apart to get inside fast so he gets a lot of enjoyment out of one little toilet paper roll and I get a dog who is dialed down enough that we can enjoy each other. Also my garbage isn't all over the kitchen.

Aunt Rena's Favorite Dinner Companion
4. Choose the Right Outfit - Stella Adler's acting method has you build your character from the outside in. My mentor, whose method was similar, found that if she put on the right shoes for the character she'd understand how the character walked and from there much of her acting work flowed easily.

Polite leash walking is near the top of most dog handlers' list of desired behaviors. There are so many choices of equipment to bridge the gap between dog and leash - back clip harness, front clip harness, flat collar, martingale collar, choke chain, prong collar. The one you choose can have a big impact on your dog's character choices while you're walking.

Personally, I prefer a front clip harness. Most dogs love to walk. Moving forward is the goal so pulling forward is self-rewarding and fun! With a front clip harness when the dog pulls forward they are urged back by the connection to the leash so it's less rewarding and they are less likely to pull.

Did you see what I said there? Less likely. Even the most perfect costume doesn't do the acting for you. You have to take the information those ruby slippers give you and build on it. Same for any piece of dog walking equipment. You need to seize the moments where your dog isn't pulling to insert some training and make walking next to you more rewarding than pulling ahead.

Sadie Opens Her Birthday Present
5. Dress the Set Carefully - I rarely see a big time NYC show more than once. It's so expensive and there's so much to see that I usually opt to see something new. I made an exception in the case of Fun Home. A friend urged me to see it with him at The Public and it was so moving and thought-provoking and downright beautiful that I lit a fire under a couple of other friends so we could see it when it moved to Circle in the Square.

The move involved changing from a proscenium theatre to one that was three quarter round. You might think that would be more of a technical problem, just making sure everyone in the audience can see properly, than anything else but it turned out to be much more than that. I found the play to be more emotional and clearer about those emotions in the new setting. It was a beautiful and elegant set in the first incarnation. It was another character, propelling the show to greater heights, in the second.

But my dog doesn't perform, you're saying. I know. Except that all the training we do with dogs is tricks to them and your home, your neighborhood, your car, your local park are their theaters. In order to get their best show we need to set the scene for their success. Have a dog who chews shoes? Put your shoes away and give her lots of practice chewing on legal items like kongs and marrow bones. Have a dog who lifts his leg when he gets startled? Maybe a belly band or some crate training will protect your furniture. Have a dog who is still working on his polite greetings? Have him on a leash when grandma arrives for Thanksgiving dinner.

Sometimes it seems like a lot of work to redecorate your house from a canine perspective. I've even heard people who were offended that they were supposed to change the way they live for a lowly dog. The way I see it, if you're constantly buying new shoes or cleaning up pee or apologizing to your grandmother you've already changed your life so why not change it for the better instead?

Bobby Catches Air
6. How Do I Get To Broadway? - A young man is wandering the New York streets consulting a map and looking confused. He approaches an older man sitting on a bench and asks, "Excuse me, sir? How do I get to Broadway?"

The older man replies dryly, "Practice, practice, practice."

It's true for actors, for musicians, for athletes, for actuaries, for dogs, and even for the people who train them. We all do better when we practice even if it's only a few minutes a day.

I might modify the advice just a little and urge you to practice well. If you're not reaching your goals consult a book, a knowledgeable friend, or a qualified trainer (preferably progressive).  Sure you can do it yourself but often a little change in perspective can open up a lesson and move you closer to success.

Just the other day I met a new dog who I'd been told knew loads of tricks. I had just breezed into the room and immediately wanted to play with him. I didn't take any time to set myself up I just barreled on over to the guy, grabbed some treats out of my pack, and asked him for a down. Nothing. I waited. Nothing. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, a colleague  said, "Put your treats behind your back!"

Now, I knew that. It's standard operating procedure. In the heat of the moment I blew it. Having a little help to practice well gave me a jump start into a fun, productive session with this fabulous dog.

When I commit to something, whether it's a training goal or an acting goal or something else, I try to log at least 15 minutes per day on it. That may not seem like much but it adds up. If you can put even 15 minutes a day into training with your dog I bet you'll both be more comfortable than you were before.

Send me a photo when you collect your first Oscar, will you?

*Much gratitude to Todd Van Voris, a marvelous actor and friend, for talking me through this one to get the acting terminology right.