Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Water…The Broad Museum

  
First off, The Broad is pronounced like “Road” with a B in the front, not broad…the tasteless label for women which is all too common to the female ear. I am not an art buff, nor do I pretend to be; However, I am a lover of most things new, exciting and different. While I would never choose to live in LA, I do enjoy a weekend jaunt down south to the City of Angels. LA, being what it is, there is definitely a “scene”. A friend of mine, who is by the very definition and look a hipster, used to live in the hipster Mecca neighborhoods of Echo Park/Silver Lake and Downtown Los Angeles. So, I was confident that she would manage to navigate us successfully through the chaotic Downtown streets that instantaneously bring back the traumatic memories of learning to how to drive for the first time.
  

The Broad is LA’s newest hot spot that is a free contemporary art museum. While at The Broad, one will experience many wonderful installations and engage with a variety of challenging and thought provoking art pieces. Although, I’ve taken a few introductory art classes, and have extended family members who are successful artists, not much of it has rubbed off on me. Luckily, thanks to being in the midst of the information age, I knew just enough to make it through the floors of the museum to make it interesting. I appreciated how this museum does not assume that you are an art history major or have any idea what you’re looking at. I used my Sociology degree to deduce what story each artist was attempting to convey. Most of the time, I felt I had a pretty good grasp and other pieces, I was left questioning. Admittedly, thanks to a little friend called ADD, I have a history of attempting to see how fast I can make it through an art museum. This time, I found myself actually savoring and being still with a majority of the collection.

As you enter the museum, you are immediately overcome with awe with the architectural design of the building. The rounded cave like stone walls that surround you, along with the two whimsical art pieces that greet you, immediately evoke feelings of being somewhere special and unique much like an amusement park. Prior to entering the museums first floor of art displays, my friend and LA tour guide, insisted that we put in our names into the electronic queue so we could be notified by text message when it was our turn to enter the ever popular Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama. The Broad’s collection is quite impressive. I was surprised to see many works of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Up until this point, I had only seen their works on greeting cards, coffee mugs and uta bags. The brilliant colors bursting from the canvases are exactly why they are successful graphic design choices for consumers. The next memorable stop was the large-scaled work by Robert Therrien. His over-sized table and chairs display, Under the Table, allows visitors to revert back to childhood when they could move about under the table with the feeling of ample room and seeking a special space. My temptation to climb the chairs and table was overridden by my desire to complete my rounds at the museum without being asked to leave. After all, I was still 105 in the queue (about an hour and a half wait) until it was my turn to step into the very popular Infinity Mirror Room. 

Jeff Koons’ metallic structures of balloon animals, was another pause in my journey. Again, my urge to touch the structures was curbed by the ever-present museum staff and my friend who gave me the raised eyebrow look of death as I leaned a little too close to the balloon dog. One of the more ear opening, jaw dropping moments for me was Ragnar Kjartansson’s film, The Visitors. As you walk into this dark room, you are met with 360 degrees of nine different screens. Each screen captures video of various musicians located in different rooms of one Victorian home. Incredibly, each artist is playing/singing simultaneously and in harmony to a simple, but catchy chorus. We eventually found a cozy corner in the pitch black room so that we could catch the video from beginning to end. The music lover that I am, I was caught up in the melodious hook of the harmony longer than the average visitor. This audio visual work is worth the trip to the museum alone. 

In the meantime, I checked my iPhone and saw that we were only 33 in the line to see Kusama’s work. It got a little chilly for me in the building; I’m assuming they must keep this crisp temperature to offset the body heat of the onlookers and preserve the mediums chosen for each work. Conveniently, right outside the museum there are a few places to get a cafe latte to warm up and rejuvenate for the remainder of the tour. By the time I finished my latte, my phone was alerted that we needed to report to the installation. I could not wait. 

I began asking my friend as many questions as I could think of. She explained, “it’s as big as a small office and lined with mirrors and LED lights.” While patiently waiting in line, there were two people in front of us that I overheard mention “water.” I asked my friend, “Is there water?” “Yes, I didn’t tell you; there’s a swimming pool in there.” She said with a smirk and the most smart ass yet funny tone. I didn’t know what to expect. When it was finally our turn to enter, the last thing I heard my friend say was, “make sure you walk to the end of the mat.” This rubber walkway was the only thing I could see which was something I was sure was not an optical illusion. My eyes had not yet adjusted and my balance was a little off. I was following what I thought were her instructions, and suddenly felt myself drop into a pond of ankle deep water whilst wearing my huarache sandals. I grabbed for what I thought might be an anchored object, but nope I ended up clinging to one of the LED light chords, which I hit on my way into the pool. By the way, the whole floor of the room is a shallow pool except that rubber walkway. I began yelling, “What the hell?! I’m in water; there’s water in here. Why didn’t you tell me there was water?” She quipped back while laughing hysterically, “I told you to stay on the walkway; don’t go to the end of the walkway. I didn’t know there was water.” Meanwhile, our 45 second visit to this room had dwindled down to about 15 seconds. I regained my balance and could see the mirrors, the dark mirror of water below me, the glass mirrors encasing the room, and the black strings of LED lights hanging from the ceiling…some of which were still swaying from my fall. 5 seconds remaining and I was able to take in a short breath of all the wonder that this instillation bestows. Time was up, the staff opened the door, and I attempted to stomp the water off my feet before exiting in order to cover up the evidence of the incident. The surprise of how much I enjoyed myself made me want to plan my next museum adventure. 

*Photos provided by ©Felicia E. Rueff
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3 C’s for Choosing an Eldery Care Facility in California

According to the California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF), There are as many as 300,000 Californians being cared for in the many 1,260 licensed long-term care nursing facilities in California. CAHF further reported that, In 2014, the “average cost per patient a day for a skilled nursing facility was approximately $238 ($86,815 annually).” With so many alarming stories today of elder abuse and loved ones being left to fend for themselves, I wanted direction from one of the most experienced care managers on the Central Coast, Angela Ettinger. 

My friend, Angela, invited me over for breakfast in the comfort of her Southern California home. Not only did we attend the same private college in Montecito, California, but she shares the same passion of caring for others. Angela is the Care Manager for Channel Islands Fiduciary Group, which provides conservatorship/trust administration and care management. Having been in the medical field for nearly twenty years, Angela was the first person who came to mind for tips to seek out-of-home placement when a loved one can no longer can care for themselves.  Ms. Ettinger gave me 3 essential principals to secure the best care facility possible. 

1. Contact a Fiduciary

Ms. Ettinger relayed that fiduciary firms are the best resource for selecting a care facility, because they have a working relationship with the facilities, the employees, and are experienced navigating through the process of placing someone at the appropriate level of care. When asked how she chooses a care facility for her clients, Angela responded, “My rule of thumb is asking myself ‘would I place my mom or dad here if I had to?’ They’re not just a client, they’re a person. My job is to make sure they are comfortable and safe and well-taken of.” 

       

  

 2. Call Care Facilities using Online Searches

Angela recommended searching the internet for a thorough list of care facilities in your area. These websites will contain all the information required to locate the proper placement for your loved one: cost, level of care, services, programs offered, and if they are a Medicare provider. If you do not have a fiduciary, you will want to schedule an appointment to take a tour of the facilities. Do not be afraid to communicate and specific needs or concerns. Therefore, it is best to have a list of questions prepared prior to your tour. This will make your visit more efficient and you will have a chance to address the topics of most interest to you and your dependent adult. Also, ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers if they recommend a care facility which they have been satisfied with placing a loved one. 

3. Characteristics of Quality Care

In order to assess a satisfactory level of care, Ms. Ettinger indicates one should observe if the following characteristics are present: Continuity and longevity of administrators, management and caregivers. She also mentioned that the presence of activities and programs for residents is important and something to look for when selecting a care facility. Along with that, look to see if the staff are attentive to the residents and appear receptive to open communication with the family members in charge of the patient. Next, Ms. Ettinger said once your loved one has been placed in the appropriate residence, be sure to observe if the staff is attentive to the resident, daily needs are met, and good hygiene maintained. Also, check in to make sure that your loved one is present at meals, and participating in activities as desired. Ms. Ettinger ended by saying, “Ultimately, you want to find a facility where your loved one is comfortable with the environment, with the staff, and where open communication is encouraged.”

If you or someone you know has further questions concerning care facilities, Ms. Ettinger can be contacted at angela@cifiduciarygroup.com or visit http://www.cifiduciarygroup.com

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Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease

 
I’m enjoying my iced tea a few weeks ago with a friend and her colleague on a sunny southern California day. My friend, Courtney Desoto, mentioned that June was Alzheimer’s Disease awareness month. She knows this because her firm serves and coordinates care for the elderly and dependent adults, many of which suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. She shared with me what this disease looks like in a real life scenario. Desoto told me a true story about an elderly man who suffered just the beginning signs of the disease: change in personality and irrational behavior. This man’s family was unaware of the onset of the disease and the gentleman fell prey to a scam which convinced him he was the winner of a $30,000 car. The man was persuaded to handover $100,000 from his retirement in order to secure his “winnings.” By the time the bank caught on to the multiple bank transfers, there was nothing that could be done, because he did not have proper protection such as conservatorship or trust. This now frail elderly man, who had worked hard his whole life, was left without any savings and not able to make ends meet for basic living necessities. Courtney’s tender heart and intellect fuels her passion for her work. I asked, what I can do to help out since I missed Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Courtney encouraged me to buy a ticket to the local Alzheimer’s Association Blonde Vs Brunettes all-female flag football game this summer on July 18th. She put me in contact with the Brunette’s Team quarterback, Felicia Rueff, #3. 

I met with Felicia to get more information about what Blondes Vs Brunettes Football Game. Felicia enthusiastically shared that each member of both teams is required to raise a minimum of $500 for the Alzheimer’s Association which benefits the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. Felicia mentioned that all of us know someone who is or was affected by the disease and that, as of yet, there is no cure. She said this friendly rivalry is also a fun way to get the community involved to settle the battle of who is superior…blondes or brunettes? Apparently, red-heads are a wild card who can play on either team. This event began in 2005 in Washington DC and has branched out to cities nationwide. This concept was designed to attract the spirit of young leaders in the community to get involved in a condition which primarily affects the elderly. The game will take place this Saturday, July 18 (11:00 a.m.) at the beautiful Santa Barbara Polo Club fields in Carpinteria, California. There will be a DJ along with promotional booths. There will be a tailgate party before the game and an after-party will ensue following the victory. For more information go online and visit Blondes Vs Brunettes act.alz.org . Let’s tackle Alzheimer’s Disease together!
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Taking a Shot at Photography: Professional vs Amateur

On a sunny Saturday in Southern California, I had a chance to meet up with a friend, Cherry Thomas, who was recently published in the Huffington Post. Thomas is a professional photographer who was honored with having taken one of the top photos in 2014 http://ow.ly/IEkOR. After congratulating her again, we both lamented that we had not been acquainted at the time of my wedding. We both laughed as I recounted the horror story of my wedding photographer who captured blurry pictures of the first dance, over exposed images of groomsmen, and stills of the wedding party with tree branches in their faces. I told her she can share my story whenever brides ask her, “Can I have a friend take my pictures?”

I then took our friendship to the next level and boldly asked, “So what exactly is the difference is between you and my friend who takes good pictures?” Thomas graciously answered my borderline rude inquiry, “Well, let’s look at the difference between hiring a friend, a photographer, or a photographer who specializes in weddings. Your wedding is a one-shot deal that you can’t recreate!” From experience, I had to agree with Thomas.

“Let’s look at the scenario where the hobbyist friend, with a nice camera happens to be in attendance.” Thomas began. “So why not have them take photos?”, I naively inquired. Thomas pointed out, “You’re expecting the person to show up and simply click the button. Have you discussed what you wanted captured? Did you let them know beforehand that there is a special detail/person/moment that they needed to capture? If you honestly don’t have any expectations for your photos and are fine with whatever they provide then this option is fine.”

Thomas then addressed the professional landscape/car/fashion/ food photographer and continued my ad hoc course in Photography 101. She enlightened me further saying, “All photographers and photography are not the same. Many studio photographers do studio photography because they like the controlled atmosphere, and they can spend as much time as they want setting up lights. Weddings don’t have that luxury; time is strict, and light is ever changing. Your photographer will be alternating between being a still/portraiture/photojournalist/ninja all day long. Not all photographers like to do that. Not all photographers are good at that.”

“Now, onto the friend who wants to shoot your wedding, and may actually do a great job. Great!” she exclaimed. “Understand the trade-offs. They’ll get potential portfolio photos and you’ll be happy. But, if you’re not happy with the photos will this affect your friendship? I have seen this happen a few times and it’s never worth it.”

Thomas went further, “Now compare the professional wedding photographer you’ve hired after proper due diligence. They will have consulted with you about images you want captured, family groupings decided, and locations will have been scouted. The photographer will arrive with backup equipment, the itinerary of the day, a vision of the photos, and ready to capture and anticipate moments; that is their sole responsibility that day. If you’re inviting a friend to your wedding, shouldn’t they be a part of the wedding and not experiencing it through the back of the camera?” Thomas pointed out. Couples who beckon their friends to “take photos but party with us are concocting a potential bad recipe”, she remarked. “When I have been the photographer for a friend, there is a specific cut-off time which is previously discussed. At that time, I touch base with the couple, and determine if there are any additional photos desired. If not, it is verbally agreed upon between us that coverage is over. And at that moment, my role as the guest begins!”

As if my first question was not brazen enough, I probed, “So how do I know if their price is fair?” and then pushed for insider’s tips on pricing. Thomas answered, “For most, keeping budget will be an issue. Don’t just look at price and make a decision from that. What’s the point of spending any money for photos you don’t like? Instead, ask yourself if you really love the photographer’s work. Look at their portfolio.” Thomas noted that many photographers are amenable when it comes to negotiating price and advised, “Many photographers are willing to be flexible with pricing if you let them know it’s out of your price range.” Thomas explained that rates for photographers can be less expensive depending on the time of year, day of the week, duration of shoot, and location (i.e.new venue they want to have in their portfolio, or better yet-a trip to the Bahamas!). And if you simply can not come to an agreement over cost with a photographer, ask them to refer you to someone else that they trust.

As if Thomas was not thorough enough in her responses, she sent me an article on a study conducted by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). The study found that viewers could decipher the difference between images taken by an amateur and images taken by a professional. The study further concluded that professional pictures were more memorable to viewers than their non-professional counterparts. In short, a pro can keeps your vision in focus, anticipates clicks, and make your memories stick.

Cherry Thomas is a professional photographer who is based out of Santa Barbara, California. In addition to being published in the Huffington Post, she has shot celebrity weddings and was the official photographer for Kim Phuc, who was featured in the Iconic Pulitzer prize winning photo, at the 40th anniversary of that photo.

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