Thursday, October 28, 2010

Color and madness turned happy

Did you know the color brown is associated with humility?

Did you know VanGogh drank himself to death?
Actually, there are a number of theories on what drove him over the edge. And by "edge", I'm talking about a serious drop-off into the deep end--I mean, who cuts off his own ear and then paints a picture of himself all bandaged up?
But did you know he was also a preacher for a time? And maybe the lack of care for the poor around him, for whom he was so compassionate, is what drove him mad.
Or maybe it was the paint he wouldn't stop eating.

Theories, all of them.

And color theory is what we talked about today. VanGogh was a color genius.

Today I avoided telling children that VanGogh was a drunken kook, and we focused on the product of his pain--beautiful paintings.

Pain inspires art.
Beauty inspires art.
And for us today: art inspires art.

This is some of what VanGogh's still life paintings of flowers in vases inspired in my students... with smiles...
...vases with faces...
...analogous color schemes...
...and even a triadic harmony.

I may have gone a little deeper into the fascinating topic of color theory than I intended for my young audience--but, hey, it's really interesting stuff!
And I think they got it. It showed up in their work, anyway.

I love it when they leave saying to each other, "That was fun."

And to me: "Thanks! Thanks for teaching us, it was fun."
Thing is, they really mean it.

Art inspires happiness, too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seaweed Restoration

Oho! It's the seaweed eating machines.
I find it interesting that of all the many things that need fixing in this area, this is the one that gets taken care of.
Maybe it's morale boosting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Inspired by Matisse

I was studying up on the artist Matisse this week.
Lying in bed for long stretches of time changed his life.

The first time was when as a lawyer he had appendicitis. Stuck in bed for a year (sheesh! what a recovery period) his mother gave him some paints to help pass the time.
Lo and behold, turns out he was pretty good at it.
So he left the law profession behind and took up art.

Then again, after surgery later in life, he could no longer stand at an easel. Instead he developed a technique he called "painting with scissors". He cut out shapes and was a master at putting them together to achieve balance, contrast and movement on a two dimensional surface.
He was pretty good with a scissors, too.

Matisse has inspired me to get back to painting that wall in the guest room I never finished.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Women's platform diving

Ten meters above the water, these women were doing handstands.
It was pretty amazing.

Even the "plain" dives, the ones where you just balance on your toes at the edge of the diving platform and drop off into spinning and twisting before hitting the water--that's pretty amazing, too.

Men's springboard diving

Diving is a cool sport.
This is the event in the games that I most wanted to see.
And I was not disappointed.
The Canadians and Australians pretty much ruled the board, but they did let the others have a turn.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The hurdle specialists

You might think that by "hurdle specialists", I mean these people: the ones who jump over the hurdles.

No. I do not.
I mean these ones:
the hurdle judges and the set up guys.

The judges were very serious and reminded me of Men In Black.

The set up guys were a little less serious. As seen in the video.

But there was something distinctly India about it in the latecomer hurdle collectors, the wobbling line formation and the not-so-perfect queuing.
A very fair effort, though. "A" for at least trying.

Men's discus throwing

I think one of the coolest things I saw during the games were the moments when India won medals.
It was unexpected, for me anyway, because I am not a sports fan and I do not follow what happens in the world of sports.
So anyway, when I think of discus throwers, I think of great, big Scandinavian men. Lumberjack types.
India does not come to mind.
I consider myself to be of average height, but here I am taller than a lot of the men.

So discus throwers.
Great, big guys who can spin and throw things.
I know there's technique and all that, but frankly, it was a huge auditorium and they were all the way on the other side. Difficult to see what was going on.

I would be watching something else and all of a sudden a cheer would erupt at the other end of the stadium.
What was going on over there?
Oh, the Indian discus thrower.

Well he was pretty good at throwing that discus, because he took silver. And then as champion, he took a victory lap.

The birds

There were hundreds of birds, mostly kites, flying around the stadium. Kites like to eat fairly large prey (for birds), so what was the cause of the invasion we wondered--surely they weren't after the athletes.
At dusk it became apparent that the air was also filled with large dragonflies, large grasshoppers, and extra, extra large cicadas.
Why were they all congregating at the stadium? Did they come for Commonwealth Games, too?
At least it wasn't mosquitoes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


What is the steeplechase?
It's running around the track (3000m worth of running around) and jumping over these hurdle-like things.
Wikipedia gives a much more comprehensive explanation
than I do, but I will quote the interesting name-history here:
"The event originated in the British Isles. Runners raced from one town's steeple to the next. The steeples were used as markers due to their visibility over long distances. Along the way runners inevitably had to jump streams and low stone walls separating estates."

In the modern steeplechase, one of the obstacles is jumping into a pool of water, like this one.
That's no small feat. Just look how deep the water hole is when there's no water in it:

The Kenyan women were super good at it. They owned the steeple chase.

The determination of this Indian athlete deserved respect.
Early on she fell behind the others, but she kept on and didn't tire in her graceful leaps over the hurdles.

She wasn't the only one who had difficulty. Apparently a Papau New Guinea steeplechaser was so tired he had to use the potted plants to help him climb over the hurdle.

How to cheer

I'm going to submit the idea that India needs lessons in how to cheer.
As we were sitting in the stands, my friend said to me, "Shall we start the wave?"
"If anyone else around us knew what we were doing, we could," I answered.
'Cause, seriously, we would have been the lone wavers, entertaining those around us.

But really, I'm not talking about entertainment.
I'm talking about supporting these athletes who are dedicated to excellence in what they do.
Yes, it's true there are others in the world who are better at running, jumping, swimming and other feats of athletic prowess, but if India wants to be the choice for Commonwealth Games and (can you imagine) Olympics, then it requires more than big stadiums.
It requires a shift in thinking and respect for athletes of all types.

There were Indian runners in almost all of the athletic events: the 400m races, the hurdles, the relays.
But they weren't usually the fastest.
Like this girl who fell so far behind her fellow runners that when she came by, the people sitting next to me were actually laughing at her. At first they had been loudly cheering her at the beginning of the race.
Until they saw she had no chance to win.
This happened more than once, to different athletes in different events from spectators around the stadium. When it did, you could see the runners loose momentum as the cheers died away and they realized they were failing the crowd.

Come on, India!
It's not always about who is the biggest, and most powerful. Every one of these athletes has worked hard to get where they are, and they deserve some respect when they are giving all they can.
Sometimes you cheer for the underdog and sometimes the unexpected victory over the favored champion makes for a more heroic story. But those heroes don't get born if there's no one to cheer for them.

If you want to see this happen more often (the Indian flag raised and carried around the stadium), and hear the anthem of India played for athletic champions, you have to cheer them on ALL ALONG the way.
Even if it seems they're losing.
They won't always loose. Sometimes they'll win. But it may be a very small victory, which you'll miss if you're only looking for the super big winners.

Men's flying--I mean, long jump

The men's long jumpers are pretty amazing. Those guy's fly!
They must be about six feet in the air before they come down at a distance around 9 feet.

The guy from Australia who could fly the furthest won, and he and the silver medalist took a victory lap around the track.
The press loved it.
Australia and England smiled.
They posed.
And then they walked off like super heroes--well, yeah, they can fly, right?

Shotput's strong women

We had a good view of the women's shot put. Which means we could see how tall some of those women were.
The gold medalist, Valerie Adams from New Zealand, is 6'4". And really buff.
That's her in the center of the second picture, towering over the others.
She blew those others away, and then was really excited jumping up and down when she did well.
Tough, competitive and tall, but still all girl.

We exist

These little flyers were passed out and lying around in the big stadium.
I think number 7 of what to do in an emergency gets a thumbs up:
"Ladies, children and persons with special need to given preference while existing."

We exist, so give us some preferential treatment. At least don't trample us on the way out.

Strategic signage

There are new Commonwealth signs all over the city. Some of them are very clever, like these Delhi ones:

Some of them are funny. A silent Delhi? Road code? Ha ha ha.

And some of them are strategic.
You see, Delhi was not finished with all the preparations in time for the games. Things are not quite as clean as hoped. So what I have noticed is that there are rows and rows of bright colored new CWG signs lining the streets. I used to see piles of sand, stacks of bricks, broken car parts, unfinished construction, and gutters full of trash in these same places.
It's not that it has all been cleaned up, but it is hidden behind the new signs.
Interesting strategy.

How long do these signs stay up, I wonder?

I hope that those in charge of this particular "clean city" move keep in mind that a white-washed sandcastle is still made of dirt.

Track and field in the pretty stadium

I finally got to go into the pretty stadium. I've watched the construction happening for over a year, and now I got to see it for myself.

It is a big stadium. Seating 60,000
At night it's all lit up pretty. It changes color and everything. That was what I really wanted to see.
Though the athletic events were cool, too.

It's hard to know what to watch when so much is going on.
Throwing things.
Medal ceremonies.

And it's also where the opening and closing ceremonies take place. With fireworks that I can see from my roof.

Lawn bowls

Isn't that a funny name?
It doesn't mean bowls set around on the lawn for some mysterious sporting purpose, but it's what you might know as bocce ball.
That's what I call it when I play, anyway.

Greens one through four were set up with their fake grass outside the stadium. And the Commonwealth volunteer was really excited to show us to our seats and tell us who was playing.

India vs. Malta, that's the match we chose.

Malta was an intense opponent, but this picture is evidence of India scoring a point.

No, India did not win this set. Maybe next time.

Indian Railway commercial

This commercial for the Indian Railways keeps showing up on the big screens at the games.
I like it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The medal presenters

When the CWG events are over and the athletes are presented with their medals, some VIP comes out and presents it to them. At both of the ceremonies I saw, there was something amusing about this.

First of all, did Milton Bradley's parents do that to him on purpose?

And in the second photo: no, that does not say "horrible" (what I first thought) ministers of Sports and of Housing, Urban Poverty and Tourism--though the irony is, no one would question it if it did.