Gossip

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Dear friends, I have a confession: Today I shared a piece of gossip to over 100k people about a group of people I don’t even know.

I didn’t realize the error until hours after I had pressed “post,” but in that short time, my vision of social media and its potency was forever changed.

Let me explain.

This morning while scrolling through my timeline I came across an image of a black woman, fist in the air, standing in front of a group of people who seemed to be marching for a united cause.

The caption read: One Woman vs. 300 Neo Nazis.

I clicked on the link and saw a 70 second video showing the same single image cut together with an explanation that she was protesting a “Neo Nazi march.” The video labeled her an “anti racism activist” and compared her to the famous peace leader Nelson Mandela.

I was immediately moved by the video. I hit “share” on Facebook and proceeded to post the link to my twitter feed.

I am sure many of you might be questioning the error I speak of. Likely you have seen, and maybe even shared, the same video. It evokes historical images of heroes fighting for a noble cause, people standing for what’s right beyond any adversity! Inspiring, right?

Upon greater examination, I realized that I wasn’t looking at an image of Nelson Mandela or Gandhi, and that sharing that video supported the same prejudice and short-sightedness I was naively attempting to address in the first place. I was alienating and judging a whole group of people with no data, no context, and no understanding of what they were marching for in the first place. Now, clearly I do not agree with what I understand to be the philosophy behind the Neo Nazi party, but that’s not the point I am making. And interestingly enough, that’s not the point the video displayed either.

From an objective standpoint we simply saw a group of people, in uniform, marching together for a united reason. There was no violent action happening, no attack – there weren’t even clear signs posted or statements being made about the intent of the group. If not for the caption, I wouldn’t have known what was going on.

But because of my own prejudicial perspective and desire to jump on the bandwagon of a “righteous cause” I directly supported the very issue I so strongly oppose.

There is a quote, sometimes attributed to Voltaire or his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, that goes something like: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I thought I believed this, but what I demonstrated was not that. It was prejudice, gossip and trial by media.

Without thought, without data, without any valid or founded reasons to back my accusations, I vilified a group of people to deify a single woman.

I believe this happens more than we like to admit. But seeing it is the first step.

Prejudice, violence and hate cannot be overcome using the same process in another form.

Drawing unfounded conclusions and supporting biased propaganda no matter the context is the downfall of civilized communication and just evaluations.

It is so, so tempting to confirm our beliefs through what we think we see, but true ethics comes from the clarity to question all sides and uphold a principle equally in all cases.

I apologize to those I affected. Given the nature of my work I have earned a certain platform of influence. When I impulsively voiced my opinion, I abused the privilege of this platform. The sacredness of the trust placed in me by others demands thoughtful consideration of voiced opinions. From now on I vow to honor your support and attention with the responsibility and care it deserves. I will do all I can to learn from this mistake and spend my time and energy in support of what I truly care about: peace, compassion, honor and justice – in the most noble sense.

If you agree with what I’m raising and want to help increase awareness about these issues, please share this letter.

xo,

A

There is violence that exists within all of us….

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There is violence that exists within all of us. Turning a blind eye from ourselves is the thing that is the most destructive.

I went to see a play last night. It is called Nirbhaya. I left the theatre shell shocked.

The play outlines the story of the brutal rape and murder of a woman called, Jyoti Singh Pandey on December 16th, 2012. I remember hearing about this event. My friend Kamaraj called me weeping. “How does this happen?” I heard him say on the end of the other line.

“How does this keep happening?” I asked myself.

The show illustrates violence everywhere. Six women share their stories of abuse – supported by one male actor.

All of the performers are brave. They stand on stage and bear their souls like warriors for vulnerability and peace.

But I was most impressed by the man… who subtly and quietly supported all six stories. He took on the most heinous of all traits that exist in people and fearlessly represented the part of humanity that wants to tear, rip, rape and destroy another person… because he can.

The play was a beautiful, simple and profound depiction of honest stories. The women expose all parts of themselves with an astonishing level of commitment.

Now, what I keep thinking about is “How does this continue to happen?” and “How do we heal this?”

In my opinion we need to get humble. We need to look for our own violence and start caring for one another.

We need to educate ourselves. I recently finished the fifth of seven courses with the women’s organization I work with. The organization is called “Jness”. The course exposed the lack of understanding and compassion in a way I have never experienced and as a result I have gained a profound understanding of not only “why and how” this happens but “what” needs to happen to make this stop.

It is not simply more rallies and more awareness… we have got to change our internal process. We are animals right now… primitive creatures who lack awareness. The only way we will stop this cycle of violence is though maturing and evolving. Which demands education.

I feel blessed to live at this time. I feel blessed to have found the Jness education. I feel horrified this exists. I feel determined to make it end.

If you live in NYC or close to it, do not miss Nirbhaya. It is astonishing.

And if you want to know more about Jness check out our website. It seems simple at first blush, but it is not complexity we need to make this change, it is tenacity and commitment.

xo,
Allison

Watchers of the Sky

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This morning I re-watched a movie that was screened by my friend Kathy during the weekly Movie of Honor; a ritual I go to as often as I can. It’s a regular Saturday night gathering where we screen films that expose human nobility. They are films with a purpose, and that purpose is to tell a story that moves life forward. It is one of my favorite weekly events.

This Saturday we watched a documentary called “Watchers of the Sky”. It’s about genocide and the International Criminal Court. It follows the story of Raphael Lemkin, Luis-Moreno Ocampo, Samantha Power, Emmanuel Uwurukundo and Benjamin Ferencz: all leaders in the fight for human rights against genocide.

The film is profound. It’s intensely moving and clear in the way it exposes the lack of focus on the section of law called “Crimes Against Humanity”. The International Criminal Court (ICC) exists to address such crimes and continues to fight an uphill battle.

I was struck by several things in the movie.

The tenacity and passion of all the leaders profiled.

The beauty and artistry in the way the stories were woven together by watercolor paintings.

And finally, the devastation of what we have done and are continuing to do to one another.

Images of bodies piled on top of each other like pieces of garbage. I kept thinking to myself, “These are people. How is that happening? How does this keep happening? These are people.”

I am disturbed, and I am glad for that. I want to be more and more disturbed every day so this never becomes, “just something that happens”. It doesn’t take long to get used to something that was at one time abhorrent. Apathy is the latest narcotic.

I never want to give in to apathy. I always want to feel disturbed and inspired and moved and terrified and hopeful.

Don’t miss this movie. It’s that good.

xo,

A

Imagine!

I used to love my imagination. I used to spend hours and hours and hours in the backyard pretending a stick was a magic wand. I used to dream. I had idea after idea bursting out of my mouth with fervor and enthusiasm that would not be suppressed. I was a dreamer… I think that’s why I loved acting so much. Then I got older and I learned about “the rules”. I learned to fall in line, not ask too many questions and stop pushing the envelope.

I had no idea the my attempt to be a “good girl” was killing innovation. I learned my magic wand was better used for kindling in a fire and I incinerated it. I sought out normalcy.

But then I met a couple of dreamers.

At first they frustrated me. I was uncomfortable with their constant desire to change plans and re-evaluate. They were always coming up with something new and it was just so inconvenient.

Then it scared me. I didn’t know what to expect with all these new plans. I couldn’t predict the outcome of anything!

But then….it clicked. Like when the broken chain on your bike catches the tire… it became invigorating. Instead of gripping my familiar plans with white knuckles, I started to loosen… and what I found was a sense of freedom I cannot describe.

My life has opened up. I am doing things I never thought possible. Working with a crack team of brilliant journalists and analyzers on a media start up company that will transform the news industry (ethicalmedia.org), building and teaching an unbelievable acting curriculum that uses the craft I am most passionate to teach empathy, compassion and love. (stay tuned for this website 🙂 ), and helping to lead a movement for women that will change the way human beings relate with one another forever (www.jness.com).

Yes, I am still acting…and I always will…I love it…but with this new found permission to imagine I am seeing myself as so much more. And if this is possible for me? Imagine….what is possible for the world.

xo,
a

You know those days….

You know those days when you just feel like it would be a good idea to be anyone but yourself?

Like you wake up in the morning with a laundry lis of things to repair, redo, rewind? Those days when you think it might be best to disappear and start a new life, only this time with no intimacy? No closeness? Just a way distant existence where no one gets close enough to see the cracks in your sidewalk.

That was this morning for me.

I got in my car and decided to drive. On my drive I saw my friend. He was out for a morning walk. Usually I rush to say hello…This morning I wanted to speed by. But he caught my eye and waved me over. It would have been rude to accelerate away, so I made a u-turn and drove over to him.

“Good morning,” he said sweetly.

I melted.

Tears streaming down my face he held my chin and told me he was proud of me. Then he wished me a good day and kept walking.

A little later I had a virtual meeting with a very special group of friends I have met with weekly for over 2 years. We are all a part of the women’s movement I speak about, Jness. we have been though births, deaths, weddings, break-ups, and some pretty impressive arguments over the last 24 months and yet we still meet every wednesday morning at 8am EST.

I felt raw, apologetic and challenged. I was late to our meeting and the ladies were sitting quietly in my honor when I arrived.

Without punishment for my tardiness they asked if I was alright, then proceeded on with the meeting.

My fears were addressed, inadvertently. My fears were addressed in the form of love. They did not pressure me for answers nor ask me why I was so weepy. They simply held space for me to be vulnerable and upheld love.

Now, after the call, on my train my to NYC, I feel filled up. Wiping the dirt of my knees I can see that we all fall down, and sometimes all you need is a loving group of friends to stand by you as you figure out how to pick yourself up.

I am so grateful to my dear friend, Keith, on his morning walk and my beautiful friends Julia, Sara, Kim and Nati. Your gentle but unwavering hands really held me up this morning.

I am so wealthy in love.

xo,
a

After a Year….

After a Year

 

I see your name in my inbox.

 

My chest gets tight and my cheeks turn red. Flush. It’s been over a year and still – I feel excited to see your name.

 

You tell me you are coming to Albany. Instantly the sweat on my palms dampens my keyboard.

 

What am I going to wear? What does he want? Should I sleep with him? Should I kiss him? What’s best? Oh, Jesus, what’s best?

 

It’s been over a year and still-

 

Secretly, I am counting down the days to your arrival. I casually mention your visit to my friends more than once. I hint at the importance of it. I spend every morning thinking about that afternoon.

 

Where will I take him? What will we do? What do I do if he tries to hold my hand? How do I be most loving without giving him the wrong idea? What? What? What?

 

It’s been over a year and still-

 

The morning arrives.

 

Oh God. 

 

I change my clothes three times. I want to be pretty, show off the weight I lost. I look in the mirror, wearing a dress and boots.

 

No, I don’t want to give him the wrong idea.

 

I change.

 

Tight jeans and a baggy t-shirt.

 

No, still too much. I don’t want to give him the wrong idea.

 

I change.

 

Baggyjeans, boots, a t-shirt and a vest… cute, casual, and off-handed. Like I wasn’t trying too hard. Like I didn’t spend 45 minutes changing and looking and changing and looking and changing again.

 

I’ve changed.

 

A ponytail is casual and cute, I’m not going to wash my hair. My way of saying, “I don’t care.”

 

Slapping on mascara as I drive to the airport.

 

Ok, I do care a little.

 

I park. My body vibrates. My chest is tight. I don’t know what seeing you will be like.

 

My mouth is a cavern of barren dryness.

 

God, what I wouldn’t give for a piece of gum or a glass of water.

 

There is no time. There you are. Early… and on your phone.

 

“Hey you.”

 

I play casual.

 

I wish I hadn’t worn the vest… too late now.

 

You look up. Your hair cut is “high and tight” and you wear a black cotton t–shirt with writing that claims you are something you are not. Half surfer and half 1940’s good old boy soldier, your style is consistent.

 

 

You breathe from the top of your chest. Blue eyes look up and down instead of in.

 

You are nervous too.

 

You hug me. It’s awkward.

 

“Hey you. It’s good to see you.”

 

“Yeah,” I say as I tremble. “Ready?”

 

“I think so.”

 

The automatic sliders part ways and we walk to my car.

Collecting Heroes

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I have started a practice of watching at least 5 minutes of my heroes every morning. It’s a really cool thing. One of my greatest heroes is my teacher and friend Keith Raniere and he once told me to spend time every morning thinking about the way I want to be that day. He spoke about predetermining my character so I can live with purpose, intention and deliberation. I love this.

So watching my heroes helps me refine this vision. I build my ideal woman of strength and dignity: Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Oprah, Audrey Hepburn, Cate Blanchet, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nandita Das, Mariane Pearl, Francis McDormott, Eleanor Roosevelt… just to name a few… Women of strength, focus and integrity, women who don’t apologize for what they believe in, and women who know what is right and good and true in them. I aim to carry myself through out my days with the same intention.

I asked my friend why I get so nervous when I speak to people I perceive as being strong. He told me if I knew who I was when I was talking to who I think they are, I wouldn’t worry so much about finding myself in their approval. Profound? I think so.

So what do I like in the heroes I collect? It is an ever growing science experiment with the world as my lab and my life as the result. The more I see the clearer I become and the ambition is compounded.

Check out the video I watched today. Katherine Hepburn… a classic. 

Life & Death

My friend is dying.

She’s not the kind of friend I would call on the phone.

She gets along great with my mom when she comes to visit.

She is wise and has given me advice that has helped me change the course of my life; She is someone I want to know better, but I’ve never quite figured out how to start that conversation.

She is small. As in height and stature, a slip of a woman with a strong jaw and a voice like Katherine Hepburn. She wears big hats, and for the longest time she had the most hair of anyone I knew.

After they shaved her head, I knew it was downhill.

Like Samson from Delilah, her mane was a big part of her identity. So when she lost that first battle and her hair came tumbling down, I knew it wouldn’t be long until her body followed.

Our mutual friends got married this weekend.

I sang with my band. We drank champagne, listened to their homegrown vows and danced to The Jackson 5.

It was like everything was normal…except there she was, giving a speech – no long mane, ashen skin, and only about 80 pounds of flesh and muscles wrapped tightly around a skeletal frame.

We could see she was dying.

What do you do with that?

How do you handle that?

What do you say?

The truth is, you don’t say anything.

You dance.

You cry.

You wait.

And you wait.

And you wait.

And then you let it sink in.

And then you hurt.

And then you hold on.

And then you get busy living.

Xo,
a

My Global Museum Tour, Museum #2: The Neue Galerie

klimt“Noy-ah!, like Goy-ah! I think that’s how you say it.”

His head is freshly shaven so his beard bleeds right into his sideburns. I have never seen him so tidey.

I have a glass of white wine sitting in front of me, and I’m finishing the last of the Chinese green beans. A typical Vancouver evening: it’s raining outside. The street lights reflect off the puddles on the concrete, and when I squint my eyes I feel like I’m living in an impressionist’s masterpiece. We’ve become a staple here at the Shanghai Bistro over the past few years. I’ve learned about Shakespeare, good wine, sexual innuendos…and now, art.

Thanks to him, I have a list of “divine places not to be missed,” in my journal. Before him, I’d never heard anyone use the word divine. It’s now my favorite word.

“Divine.”

I want to be like him when I grow up. Decadent, curious, eternally youthful, yet wise. My mentor, my friend, John Glover.

johnThe Glove of Love is his name on the set of the show we both work on, but I like to call him Big Daddy. He subtly puts me in my place when my head is too big to fit through the door, and he shows me the beauty in all things dirty, messy and downright unkempt.

He once revealed to me that the secret to good acting is that all characters are looking to get laid.

“That’s what every human being wants: to feel good… connection, ya know?”

A true gentleman, he always opens my door and puts his napkin in his lap; but then he launches into conversations that unlock the raw, gritty and spinning humility I’ve been so afraid of exploring.

Both sides of the same coin.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman

He says the most embarrassing things in the most wonderful way, and the natural reddening of my cheeks in his presence has become a reflex. He likes the smell of sweat and his life lessons make me cringe.

Tonight, he is teaching me about art: Egon Schiele, and I would soon discover, a side of myself I never knew existed.

We split the bill, and I go home to pack my bag. I try to picture what it would’ve been like when John was living in his loft in TriBeca, just after the height of the civil rights movement and long before the AIDS crisis. Manhattan was filled with bohemians, bums, and artists. I picture parties, brawls and free love; Woodstock 24/7… at least in my head. I see my Big Daddy hosting dinner parties and rehearsing Brecht. I wish I was there with him now, flowers in my hair, dresses to the floor, hairy legs, bare feet and sun-kissed shoulders.

Finished packing, I take the list scribbled on the back of my Shanghai Bistro napkin, fold it into my journal and slip the whole package carefully into my purse to carry on a Jet Blue red-eye. This is precious cargo.

Wheels touch down as the sun comes up. I arrive just in time.

I jump into an infamous New York City yellow cab and direct the driver to The Gramercy Hotel. The hotel is swankey to say the least. I feel like a little girl in my mom’s high heels. It’s more than I can take in. I need to caffeinate and find a smaller, more enclosed space to wash my face, brush my teeth and prepare myself for the three days I have here. I will see the city a la John and report back. I hope I do a good job.

Once I finish ingesting the most caramely cup of coffee from 71 Irving, I begin my walk.

I walk from 18th and Park South to 86th and 5th Ave. It’s half the island, three and a half miles, and the bottom of my feet feel like they’ve been burned with a branding iron. I refuse to take a taxi or a subway. I want to stay above ground and feel the whole thing. I am getting New York City stamped into my soul.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 5.41.19 PM When I approach the Neue Galerie — “Noy-ah!, like Goy-ah!” — I am taken aback by the size.

It’s so small.

Once I walk in I see there’s a plaque explaining the collector’s obsession with all things Viennese circa 1890-1910. The whole museum is dedicated to three things: Viennese culture in the turn of the century, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

I’d heard of Klimt before and his work was always inspiring. So when I found Schiele in a little room tucked away from the oversize Klimts, I was shocked by the wave of emotion I felt.

Schiele has all the bold lines and porcelain skin of Klimt, but more soul, grit and pain than Klimt could ever share or capture. Schiele’s art had a peculiar freedom due to his poverty. Because he had no dignitaries telling him what he could and couldn’t do or portray, he had no boundaries and no rules. He painted as he saw, he painted what he felt, he just painted.

nakedAnd in that moment, standing in the center of the small room that is considered an off-shoot of the real museum, I embrace the bitter, dirty, sexy and sloppy parts of me. I see beauty in the murky, and I finally understand why John has been pushing me to admit when I am horny or hairy. He, like Schiele, loves the rawness of human beings. I didn’t know what he meant by the “appeal of an untweezed eyebrow” until I was standing in a room of the most gruesome and yet striking portraits of the underbelly of Vienna. Through each canvas I see more of me… I let myself go.

xo,

a

My Global Museum Tour, Museum #1: The Barnes Museum

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Part of what I love about seeing art in museums and galleries is pretending I am the collector. I love imagining I was the one having conversations with Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, discussing lines and textures with Modigliani, and sharing my opinions with Vincent on his newest, bluest piece. This is precisely why the Barnes Museum has made the top of my list of museums I love.

Last Saturday I took the train into Philadelphia to be with my best friend of 20 years. We rarely spend time together so when we do, it is sacred. We clear our daily diaries, turn the phone to airplane mode and sink into one another. I love disappearing with her in different cities around the world. This weekend we would take on the city of brotherly love.

Philly is covered in historic architecture, brightly painted murals and mosaic tiles. Art and culture abound. That weekend I saw the best production of Henry V by the Latern Theatre Company in one tiny theatre and I once saw three actors blow apart Tracey Lett’s play Bug produced by Theatre Exile in another. The city is unassuming, underrated and I love it. They even have vegan philly cheese steaks.

My friend and I woke up early Saturday morning. We walked along the cobblestone streets past old row houses and began brainstorming fun things to do together over a morning smoothie. The air was wet with leftover morning frost and the warmth of my scarf amplified the cold breeze hitting my nose.

I remembered hearing about a museum in this city from an artist friend of mine in Vancouver, Jay Senetchko, and at the time I had bookmarked it as something I did not want to miss. When I suggested this idea to my partner in crime, we both agreed it was perfect.

An hour later we approached The Barnes Museum. The outside of the museum is striking and unique: tall, angular buildings made of limestone, coated with an ivy frame and a peacefully still, reflecting pond. If the structure housing the work was this elegant, I could only imagine what was inside.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 6.36.45 PMI walked through the giant wooden doors doing my best to show some serious self restraint. I felt like a kid in a candy store on a sugar high; I couldn’t wait to see the art. On the inside I was bouncing off the walls, but I managed to keep myself composed and aloof for the sake of my own image as a “cultured and mature woman.” My friend and I shared a grin; art like this is yet another passion we share. Our steady stroll quickly morphed into a speed walk as we whisked past the gift shop and into the gallery.

We went right to the counter to collect our headphones. As a tried and true headphone junkie, I absolutely love having the wisdom of the world’s best art historians whispering knowledge into my ear. Suddenly the superficial pleasure of art falls away and I have an experience of a whole story, a history, a life lived. Gotta love a good curator.

I pushed the headphones into my ears and entered number 001. Up came whimsical, classical music which accompanied a friendly story about Dr. Barnes and his love for all things artistic. This introductory speech tells all about Dr. Barnes’s passion for Matisse, Renoir and Picasso, but what struck me most was Barnes’s interpretation of the word “art”.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 6.06.32 PMThis man considered art as “all things made by humans,” so the museum is riddled with door hinges, fireplace tools, lamps and chairs. He collected horticultural pieces with the same voracity and obsession as he collected Modigliani and Ciro. He was diverse and eclectic in what he chose to purchase, and because of this unique flair I really got a sense of him in his art.

I loved this part. The intimacy I felt with this collector made the whole experience of the art that much deeper. He was an artist himself, mastering the art of collecting art.

The collection focuses mainly on work from the 1960s. American abstract expressionists were in their prime at this point. This time period along with the turn of the century art out of Vienna are my two favorite eras. The artists seemed unafraid of creating a less than perfect depiction of what they saw in the world. I am of the opinion that art is designed to share your insides on the outside, so when artists open us up to their insides in a way that is so uniquely them I find it so exciting.

I walked slowly from one room to the next and marveled at the way the chairs were organized to complete the paintings above them and how the side tables housed vases that were selected specifically to pull together the Cezanne and Renoir on the wall. The collection vacillates from Modernism to Impressionism, and from the functional to the purely aesthetic. Barnes collected what he liked, not what was in vogue.

My friend and I reconnected at the end of the tour. Free from headsets we could share our experiences. We were so excited, talking over each other and sharing the things that moved us most. Another thing I love about art? It allows us to better understand ourselves and share those understandings with someone else. My friend and I were in the same museum, but what we we saw was totally different. Because of this, I know her better.

I wanted to spend a few lifetimes here. My only complaint was that I had to leave. Every bolt, door knob and painting at the Barnes Museum is an opportunity to see the ingenuity of humanity, the art in all that we create. As we pressed our way through the large wooden doors I couldn’t help but look at the previously mundane world with a little more reverence and admiration.

xo,

a