Category Archives: Men

Elaine Walters: Fear and Age at 50

 

. Text by Elaine Walters, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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Fear and Age at 50

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I feared the idea of turning 50. That number just began to hover over me around the age of 45. I sailed through my 30’s and early 40’s as if I was still a 20 year old. Those ages didn’t slow me down in the least. I felt like I had my entire life ahead of me and I had so many ideas about who I wanted to become. I lived passionately, pretty carelessly, and a bit on the wild side. I was a slave to my heart and quite impulsive because of that. But I had time, so much time make it all happen.

Then, before I knew it, I was looking in the mirror, seeing the changes. The person staring back didn’t quite look like me anymore. Then came the realization that nothing in this life is forever. I think we know that, but it’s different when the time actually comes. It’s definitely a stop and pause moment. It’s scary, the impermanence of everything, health, family, friends, careers, and the seemingly simple gift of movement. To quote a friend, “the correlation between age and loss is not unfounded.” It has definitely been a turning point in my life. A lot of reflection and “what will my legacy be, what have I done that’s important, and what happens now?”

So, here we are ~ midlife. I’m still scared, but you know what? I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone a TON in this last year. I joined CrossFit after debilitating back pain when everyone told me not to, I started a business (at fucking 50!), and last week I got in front of the camera for this photoshoot.

The photoshoot was a big one. For as long as I can remember, maybe as far back as 9 or 10, I have been hyper focused on my body’s every flaw. Every dimple, every roll. Where I’m too flat and where I’m too full. I got into bodybuilding because that’s where I was going to reshape everything that was wrong with me. I worked hard, as I always do when I want something, but the harder I worked, the harder I was on myself and my shape. The closer I got to being on stage, the more my imperfections were magnified. Then, came a moment where I thought, this isn’t what this is supposed to be about. I do this because I want to be strong, I want to feel powerful, but mostly, I want to love who I’ve come to be.

This is when my original no, I’m not comfortable enough with my body to be photographed changed to, yes, I love who I’ve become, I want to do this. I couldn’t have been more comfortable being photographed on this lovely farm. The horses, the sun, the beautiful barns. These are things that have always brought me peace, a deep connection to my soul, and all that is important to me. All of the curves that I cursed were no longer even a thought. I was at home. Maybe this is what midlife brings, realizing the things that truly matter in life, finding where beauty and strength truly exist.

In retrospect, I think I’ve lived chasing my future so intently (where will I be tomorrow), that I’ve never actually been present. I’ve never loved the moment. I’ve never loved ME in the moment ~ this moment. And the deeper truth is, I’m not sure it was my future I was chasing at all. I was chasing a better version of me. So maybe my 50’s needs to be less about fear and more about what is now, who I am now, and just loving her, in this very moment.

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About The Author: Elaine Walters lives and works in Wilmington, Delaware.  Outside of the office, all of her time is spent riding horses and running her nutrition and fitness business where she coaches clients that are fed up with the diet industry.  This is Elaine’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.

She can be found on Instagram @elainecoale

Also posted in Art, Blog, Erotica, Glamour, Hetero Love, Lesbians, lingerie, Models, Nudes, Obsessions, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraits, Women

Artwork by Thomcat23

DO RIGHT, WOMAN! – A TRAVESTY IN TWO ACTS

BY

A.H. SCOTT

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ACT ONE

If you don’t like this country, you can leave” – President Donald J. Trump

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Progression or regression is a question to ponder for the man in that ultimate position of power which controls the shifting scales that can shape people’s lives.

Now, words have meaning, as anyone who is reading this right now knows. But, that alignment of callous words to calculated actions leads to the parallel pummeling of the powerless.

The hidden position papers and policy prescriptions which have been neatly drawn up and folded in the breast pockets of those who have been salivating for dismantling of many laws and governmental guidelines have now exposed their transparency into the full glare of their gluttonous ambitions.

With this Administration and their acolytes, one can focus on the entire panoply of corrosive policies; which would definitely be quite lengthy.

Yet, for the man at the helm of this chaotic cyclone veering towards 2020, that added pep in his step, scathing scowl upon furrowed brow, and rip of a remark seems to always be directed towards a certain kind of person.

“Such a nasty woman” – Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump, October 19, 2016

Hey, people back then said he can’t be judged by this remark to a political opponent. After all, that was only a one-time thing, of him saying something like this right? I mean, after all he was only a nominee saying something off the cuff. Besides, if he were President of The United States, he wouldn’t be saying things like this.

Would he?

Hmm…..

“It was nasty, I thought it was an inappropriate statement” – President Donald J. Trump, August 21, 2019

Geez, it’s a funny thing to know that a snake don’t change his skin. And, what is even funnier to know is that female leader of a demographically approved country (by his own bleached standards) even tosses around the word ‘absurd’(1) when it involves him.

This man’s rancid rabidity when it comes to speaking about, of, and towards women directly goes to that stern adage of a perverse thirst to make a woman behave.

Specifying it in more blunt terms: Do right, Woman!

“Do right, Woman!”, seems that silent scream of a command from the lips and attitude which seeps from corners of those feeling their maintaining of control upon the expression and expansion of all which is a feminine rising is slipping from their patriarchal grip of displeasure.

Schoolyard bullying is taken to that extra level of verbal taunting with his miserable mocking that he constantly and ever so consistently uses.

Before going any further, I guess you have to go back a bit to the cornerstone which Donald J. Trump himself used to get a foothold on his campaign to achieve the Republican nomination in the first place.

This is way, way, way before the downward escalator in his gilded tower with his Missus next to him and broad-brushing Mexicans as being ‘criminals and rapists’. Uh-uh, this is his inane obsession with promoting that conspiratorial lunacy of ‘birtherism’, like some backwater carnival barker who drools with satisfaction at hearing his own mouth run like the Mississippi River.

Just to touch on this subject for a moment, I wanted to touch on the ramifications to the crumbling civility in the public sphere and also a lack of giving any compassion to the personal toll taken on a family.

A former First Lady of the United States of America opened up in her memoir on how Donald Trump’s asinine antics put her family’s safety(2) at risk.

“Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.” – Michelle Obama, 2018

And, instead of taking a road a bit higher than the sewer in not responding to Mrs. Obama’s candid concerns, he mustered up the cesspool’s tide with venom in going after her(3) and the former President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Now, that nexus of race and sex goes to the pulse of who this man is when he gets going after women; with an added emphasis of erratic teeth-mashing on specifically those of color.

Maxine! Maxine! Maxine!

Outspoken and unbroken by the barrage of being called ‘seriously low IQ’(4), ‘crazy’, ‘extraordinarily-low IQ’, and ‘unhinged’ by him; United States Representative from California, Maxine Waters is the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee. In other words, this besmirched woman has the investigative instruments and the power of subpoenaing documents from one, Donald J. Trump.

Wow, I guess her IQ is high enough to go deep beneath his house of cards and pull the weeds that lay at its’ crumbling foundation.

In his line of verbal fire no woman is safe, including the highest ranking female politician in the United States of America. By the way, this phenomenal woman is also third in line of Presidential succession.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi from California has been vicious tagged by him as being Crazy Nancy, Nervous Nancy, MS-13 Lover Nancy Pelosi, and High Tax/High Crime Nancy Pelosi.

Foolish is the man who demeans the person holding back the people in her own caucus who wishes to begin an impeachment inquiry upon him. Yet, HE is who HE is.

United States Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, a woman of plans and substance; has been chided by the man of vile intent and villainous grin with ‘goofy’, ‘the Indian’, and as commonly as he huffs and puffs, ‘Pocahontas’.

Not to mention Senator from California Dianne Feinstein hurled with belittlement of being ‘sneaky’, and Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand being stained with his sexual innuendo of doing ‘anything’(5) for a campaign contribution.

Candidate for Governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams is referred to as ‘crime loving’(6) by a man who still has not apologized for taking out a full-page advertisement(7) in the New York Times calling for the death penalty surrounding an event in New York City in 1989.

Although he may deny there is no correlation in adoption of the death penalty as a punishment for those five young black and Latino men who are collectively referred to as “The Central Park Five”, the largest-type font usable (view the image for yourself) in the newspaper advertisement(7) read the following words: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY”; the timing of Trump’s ad buy was not coincidental. 

“You have people on both sides of that,” – President Donald J. Trump, June 2019, referring to his lack of apology concerning the Central Park Five. (Not to be confused with another statement about ‘both sides)

Wow, ‘both sides’, that sounds familiar in his description of another event on a Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

But, even further with his own past history (8) of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice filing a lawsuit over racial discrimination (which is a crime after all) in October 1973 against Trump Management Company, his father Fred, and himself; Donald Trump still carelessly tosses a racial grenade in the direction of a woman of color with a sense of obliviousness in describing her as being ‘crime loving’.

Tossing things is nothing new for this President; from barbs of sarcasm to paper towels tossed like he could only wish in his most delusional fantasies were a three-pointer.

Even in the middle of past and oncoming natural disasters, the man bloviates with contempt and non-concern over fellow citizens in the path of devastation in calling the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico Carmen Yulin Cruz ‘incompetent’(9).

To disparage Mayor Cruz in one tweet and then praise himself as a heavenly savior in another  displays the essence of heartlessness from this man.

“I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!” – President Donald J. Trump

When talking heads kind of offhandedly say that California Senator Kamala Harris has been ‘fortunate’ for not having a ‘pet name’ given to her by that person of pith; does anyone really believe that in private that he doesn’t call her something starting with the fourteenth letter or second letter of the alphabet, when talking about her.

And, when he says Kamala; it comes out of his mouth sounding like he’s uttering Ebola. Check it out for yourselves the next time he has a rally and listen to his syllabic pronunciation of her first name, because of course he never calls her Senator Harris or even says her last name barely at all.

Going further, even during those solemn moments of giving honor to one of America’s fallen heroes the level of sniping can never be curbed by the occupant of that hallowed office.

When the body of a fallen American soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson’s body returned to The United States and a person spoke on behalf of the heartbroken widow, Myeshia Johnson (10) as to the lack of empathy or courtesy from the man in the Oval Office; he just had to twist the knife once more in battling with the retelling of a specific event.

United States Representative from Florida, Frederica Wilson just wasn’t some wayward Janey-on-the-spot politician speaking off the cuff for the family of the fallen soldier, but, a woman who actually knew the dead soldier and his loved ones for many years.

Most persons would be the bigger person, while taking the criticism and taming their tongue.

But, that didn’t stop the President of The United States of America, Donald J. Trump from labeling her as ‘wacky’(11).

And to think, this boorish back and forth with a widow was within the ten months of the Trump Presidency in October of 2017.

(Author’s update: In ceremonies performed across the United States in August 2019, The United States Army has posthumously honored three valor awards to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright (Silver Star)(12), U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson (Bronze Star)(13), and U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson (Silver Star); for their valiant service during an ambush in Niger on October 4th, 2017)

In an awarded citation for the late Sgt. La David Johnson, it noted his ‘courage and dedication to his team’(14).

From where I stand, maybe if Donald Trump truly wanted to ‘make America great again’, he’d pay attention and selfless tribute to those who have made and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. This includes those that are left behind among those living when heroes are laid to a final rest.

Now, moving from one appalling aspect to another is his current rage focused against The Squad (15), a quartet of Congresswomen. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlalib, and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar are his latest targets of disdain.

Trump’s wraith towards the first two Muslim women elected to the Congress has been almost unspeakable. But, for what comes out of his mouth, it’s just another day, another slur, another lesson in cruelty.

Nothing is sacred to this man of cruel intentions, including a twitter jab at the grandmother (16) of Representative Rashida Tlalib and scoffing at the Congresswoman’s tearful regret at not visiting her.

“The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!” – President Donald J. Trump

All four of these women of color ARE citizens of the United States of America. Three of them were born here and the fourth was born in Somalia.

Oh, by the way, Somalia is in Africa. The way President Trump has spoken of countries within Africa as being ‘shitholes’, it is obvious of his feelings towards anyone born or emigrated from there.

For this man who came into office and made a Muslim travel ban and immigration his hot-button hallmarks of a tornado’s tirade, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is the perfect storm.

She is a physical symbol some may see as being ‘the other’, based on her shade of skin, her religion, and sadly to say it, her hijab.

Oh, and I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of chasing down her words or starting the strain of condemnation. That would be letting the man who leads campaign rallies filled with sycophantic fervor and name-calling off the hook.

Trump tramples everything in his wake, as a baseline criticism of a Congresswoman who is a woman of color has to be taken over the edge and down into the vitriolic valley.

Damn straight! That is where I’m going.

When supporters at his campaign rally started the “SEND HER BACK!” chants aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, he stood there for over 10 seconds and took in those cheered words. Okay, so he didn’t say that hateful chant, but after a few days of responding to journalists asking about his reaction, Trump let loose with the xenophobic trope(17) which is always used to deflect against any verb or noun of criticism. 

“If you don’t like this country, you can leave” – President Donald J. Trump

Well, well, I guess from zero to a zillion his rage has to go. Not just silence does he want, but also obedience to his own unitary view of patriotism.

It is a blind man’s folly to follow any leader without qualm or questioning them; for, it might not be the brighter horizon that they may take us all towards, but off an unseen cliff of catastrophe.

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.” – President Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

And, of course the insults don’t stop at the water’s edge, as one of his few favorite words of calling women ‘nasty’ was aimed at Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle Windsor.

For him, there’s always another insult via twitter-tornado, rah-rah rally or seated huffing with folded arms of non-concern.

His interactions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been so rundown they are actually physically dismissive, as when she was visiting the White House and seated next to him; Trump wouldn’t fake being a gentleman and shake her hand.

When (former) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May responded to Trump’s retweets from a far-right group in Britain with a slight rebuke for the President being wrong for doing such a thing, he roared back with a tart tweet in the mode of an adult admonishing a child for even making a peep of disapproval. As he also did in a backhanded slam lobbed at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, when she recounted President Donald Trump telling her she ‘caused a lot of upset in her country’.

No woman; be it a Democrat or even a Republican is out of bounds for such repugnant reflection from him. Republican Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina was smeared and snickered by someone who would never be considered having the face a pretty-boy with a figure of Charles Atlas or Adonis.

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” – Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump

Giving just another small smattering of the women his treacherous tongue has battered are journalists Maureen Dowd, Megyn Kelly, and Mika Brzezinski, who he labeled as ‘crazy’. As for a duo of high profile women with the names of Omarosa Manigault-Newman and Stephanie Clifford, they have been demeaned with the insult of being ‘a dog’ and ‘horseface’.

Well, you might think of why you should care or even give the words spoken by an angry man a second thought, for you are not Hillary ‘the hated’, Maxine ‘the moron’, or any other name near or far listed above. Those women aforementioned in this article are not like you, or women like them are not a part of your life as family or friends.

Hmm, I invite you to read further and I think you might find a reason why you should wake up from a clownish, comb-over coma.

DO RIGHT, WOMAN! – A TRAVESTY IN TWO ACTS – ACT ONE

Notes:

1-Trump: Danish Prime Minister’s Comments Were ‘Nasty’ and ‘Inappropriate’ –

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/danish-pm-says-she-was-surprised-learn-trump-canceled-trip-n1044771

2-In Revealing New Memoir, Michelle Obama Candidly Shares Her Story – https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/in-revealing-new-memoir-michelle-obama-candidly-shares-her-story/2018/11/08/

3-Michelle Obama: ‘I’d ever forgive’ Trump For Promoting Birther Conspiracy -https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/11/09/michelle-obama-trump-birther-978810

4-Trump’s Tactic to Attack Black People and Women: Insult Their Intelligence – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/10/trump-attacks-twitter-black-people-women

5-That Special Place in Hell Is Getting Crowded – https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/that-special-place-in-hell-is-getting-crowded/2017/12/12/9ac489a6-df89-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html

6-How Trump Tweets About African-Americans – https://www.npr.org/2018/09/10/645594393/low-iq-spectacular-dog-how-trump-tweets-about-african-americans

7-Trump Will Not Apologize for Calling for Death Penalty Over ‘Central Park Five’ -https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/18/nyregion/central-park-five-trump.html

8-FBI Releases Files on Trump Apartments’ Race Discrimination Probe in ’70s -https://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/02/trump-fbi-files-discrimination-case-235067

9-Trump Reignites Personal Feud With San Juan Mayor as Puerto Rico Braces for Tropical Storm Dorian –

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-reignites-personal-feud-with-san-juan-mayor-as-puerto-rico-braces-for-tropical-storm-dorian

10-Donald Trump Just Hit a New Low in The La David Johnson Fiasco – https://www.cnn.com/cnn/2017/10/23/politics/trump-johnson-call/index.html

11-President Trump Continues Feud With Congresswoman Hours Before Sgt. La David Johnson Funeral – https://www.deadline.com/2017/10/donald-trump-frederica-wilson-feud-la-david-johnson-funeral-1202192468/amp/

12-Family of Green Beret Killed in Niger Ambush Receives His Silver Star – https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/08/14/family-green-beret-killed-niger-ambush-receives-his-silver-star.html

13-Special Forces Unit Member Killed in Niger Ambush Honored for Bravery -https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/08/13/special-forces-unit-member-killed-niger-ambush-honored-bravery.html

14-Special Forces Team Mechanic Killed in Niger Awarded Silver Star –https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/08/16/special-forces-team-mechanic-killed-niger-be-awarded-silver-star.html/

15-Trump Tells Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to the Countries They Came From -https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/14/us/politics/trump-twitter-squad-congress.amp.html

16-‘May God Ruin Him’: Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s Grandmother Reacts To Trump’s Tweet – https://www.businessinsider.com/rashida-tlaib-grandmother-israel-palestine-trump-tweet-visit-barred-omar-2019-8

17-Trump Goes on Unhinged Rant: ‘If You Don’t Like It Here, You Can Leave’ – https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-goes-on-unhinged-rant-defending-racist-tweets-if-you-dont-like-here-you-can-leave

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To be continued…..

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here: http://tonyward.com/a-h-scott-tatianas-theme/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraits, Travel

Robert Li: Acro Yoga

 

Text by Robert Li, Copyright 2019

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Acro Yoga

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Ikigai. Have you heard the term before? It’s a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Essentially, it’s a reason to get up in the morning. There is a sense of purpose and a reason to enjoy life.  If you take four elements – That which you love, That which you are good at, That which you can be paid for, and That which the world needs – and put them in a Venn diagram, your Ikigai is the intersection of all four. Someone told me that I found my Ikigai in Acro, and I believe she was right.

I came to the US from Taiwan when I was 11 months old and grew up in Huntingdon Valley before attending Drexel University, though I studied abroad in Berlin while working for the German government. I majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in Chinese and German, and minored in Business Administration and History.

After college, I was a professional party promoter and professional cheerleader for the Philadelphia Soul as well as the Philadelphia 76ers while becoming familiar with the point of sale industry. The combination of food and tech seemed like a perfect place.  Food has always been a passion of mine, so it was great to work with staff, managers, and owners all across the country.  Still, I was either working or on call from 10am to 3am every weekday and on call every other weekend.  There were a lot of perks, including working from home and free food when clients insisted I eat, but I felt like a slave to my phone because I had to answer at all hours, no matter what.  When I discovered Acro, something clicked. I wanted to do it all the time.  I realized that the other aspects of Acro align with what I enjoy in life as well: travel, meeting amazing people, and potential for beautiful photography.  At first, Acro was a hobby, but by the time my thoughts, actions, and even dreams involved Acro, I knew a life-changing decision was coming.

With the #ridetherob project, the timing was right. When I started Acro four years ago, I didn’t know what to wear. I figured others must have the same problem. Why not create something that could fill a need? The concept of creating a clothing line became more than a fleeting thought. As my passion for Acro grew into a full blown love affair, I knew I had to take actions instead of just thinking about it. My heart and mind shifted focus from my job to the possibilities of what I could do with Acro. The #ridetherob project was building a lot of momentum, and studios started approaching me to teach. With so many amazing opportunities knocking at my door, I needed to answer the call and see what adventures await. Here was a big step towards the unknown, comforted by the thought that I have a whole community of amazing people supporting me in this adventure.

I wanted to create quality apparel for active lifestyles, and I had no idea where to begin. The first step was to make my intentions known and to make the time for this endeavor. Leaving a stable job with steady income was necessary to see this through. I was a motivated and knowledge-thirsty sponge, soaking in every piece of information and detail. Then I started making moves and developing my brand and products. Active Elixir was born (www.active-elixir.com). It’s the “perfect solution for people of movement.” I would address issues people have with apparel in various movements and provide solutions for them. My focus would be on all the various niche markets, starting with which I was familiar – Acro. Now I am developing Pole Wear, Swimwear, and in the next year, Belly Dance Wear and Social Dance Wear. Items are designed with ideas I’ve had, recommendations from friends, or random inspirations, and once they were realized, I test the prototypes on people who are actively involved in the practice. I listen to what they want, gathered feedback on the piece, made changes, and try again until it’s perfect — functional, comfortable, well-made, and stylish. I offer a direct line to someone who can make the changes you’ve always wanted to see in apparel, especially for your practice. I just hope that when all is said and done, I don’t end up with an absurd amount of women’s clothing in my apartment; I want to give them happy homes. In the near future, I’m looking towards fashion shows and collaborating with yoga studios.

My other pet project is #Ridetherob.  Funny enough, the idea for it came in the shower.  I recently got into Acro, and I wanted to show people how much fun it can be. I didn’t know this little project would evolve into something more and inspire others to create challenges and personal goals beyond expectations. At first, it was to show the world what Acro was, and then it was to make people feel good and happy while creating a deeper connection between human beings. At least, that’s what I observed the first couple of years. Now I realize it shows that people can learn and do things they thought was impossible. I’m also working on adding a philanthropic element to this project as I collaborate with various charities and other events.  My current count is 5,323 people I’ve lifted up on my Journey to 10,000.  The heaviest person I lifted while on the ground was my former rugby teammate who is 360 lbs. The heaviest individual I lifted standing was 250 pounds and almost 7 ft tall. I’ve also lifted a family of 6 at the same time and did a Triple Cupie with 3 flyers standing on my hands.

The Philly Mag article was great.(https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2018/02/13/rob-li-lift-acro/) It was the first published article about the project. Being on Good Day Philadelphia and lifting the anchors as well as just about everyone in the Fox 29 office was also a lot of fun.  When CBS3 asked me to come in, I lifted anyone that wanted to be part of the project, and it seemed to make everyone’s days seeing how happy they were. (https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/video/4121404-local-acro-yoga-instructor-on-mission-to-lift-as-many-people-as-possible-to-spread-teaching/?fbclid=IwAR0sqCjL4QA5dneLLk4BaJO3qCCljjCwiYJeDAIBUSQOpWp0yTsD-1W57x4)

Growing up, I was quite chunky. I would eat everything in sight. Then I got into sports one summer. I lost about 20 pounds unintentionally and just have been active ever since. I played football, wrestled, ran track, fenced, did cheer, and played rugby.  I coached Temple Co-Ed Cheer because the head coach wanted to bring back a co-ed stunt team and asked me to help out. It’s amazing seeing the cheerleaders progress in their skills season to season.   

I am so thankful that I did cheer. I did not know that people tossing would be such a valuable life skill to have. Having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of standing Acro has helped me achieve a variety of skills. It also led me to teaching Acro. One of the people I lifted had her own yoga studio, and she insisted I teach an Acro workshop. I told her I wasn’t certified and have just been doing Acro for a couple of years, but she told me that the way I instructed her into her pose was evidence enough that I would be good at teaching. I taught my first class and really enjoyed it. Having about 20 years of cheer experience also helps out. Because of this foundation, I was able to learn skills in 20 minutes that people work on for a year or more.

Even though I have a strong personal practice, teaching people who are trying Acro for the first time has been really rewarding. Sometimes I find myself in random situations– I’ve been invited to a number of Bachelorette parties, and I would come in and lift everyone. One of my personal goals was to hit a Rewind, which is a dynamic cheer stunt in which the flyer essentially does a back tuck while the base tosses her in the air and then catches her feet as she comes out of the tuck. I was so thrilled that I even did a Happy Dance while holding the flyer in the skill. Unlocking new skills is such an amazing feeling, especially when you work for it. Some other stories include me lifting a flight attendant while 34,000 feet in the air. I’ve done Acro on top of bars at clubs and lounges. In the kitchen or counters of restaurants. At a few gentlemen’s clubs. On stage at a gentlemen’s club. On boats and yachts. On paddle boards. At hospitals. In offices. Every day is an adventure, and I’ll do Acro wherever. The pose depends on who is flying and what feels safe and what I call concrete-ready. 

Acro has even led me to perform and compete in one of the country’s largest competitions of this kind. When I went to see Diamond G a few years ago to support my friend, I saw some Acro in one of the performances. My thought process quickly went from I can do that, to I should do that, to I will do that. For a whole year, I was thinking about who should be on the team and what I should do. I recruited very talented acrobats, aerialists, pole dancers, and exotic dancers to compete for the coveted Diamond G-String title and $15,000. Despite being new to this, we came home with the title and prize money, and I met some amazing people in the process and have the utmost respect for anyone that puts on a show of this magnitude. 

It was a challenging and exciting endeavor, much like starting an apparel company, and I’m learning more about the industry each day. Almost every night before bed and every morning when I wake up, I am talking to my contacts in Asia. There has been no shortage of delays or mistakes that needed to be addressed in a timely manner. My search for reliable manufacturers that can take my ideas and create quality products has led me down some interesting roads. For those who might be thinking about embarking on a similar project, do your research. Be prepared for a lot of things to go the way you don’t expect them to go, and learn how to overcome those challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge to future situations. Take lots of notes. Make sure you have money put aside because you will be spending more than you think. Believe in yourself. Take calculated risks and put yourself out there. Be kind to everyone. You never know who you’re going to meet who can help you in some way.

It also helps to listen, and I mean really listen to what women (and male consumers too!) have to say.  I’ve learned so much about bras and boobs. It’s still very confusing though. There are many body types and preferences to consider. I’ve learned about various tests women try when deciding which pieces of apparel they purchase—squats, jumps, and inversions. Learning from women firsthand means that I can develop clothing that fits their needs directly. I’m also studying shopping habits and learning about marketing through social media. This is a lot for someone who basically posts twice a month on Instagram. Yes, I’m working on that.

The support from my friends and various Acro communities has been tremendous. I am so grateful for the amazing people that have helped me and believed in me in realizing my vision. It’s heart-warming to see how happy people are with my products. They tell me stories about how great they feel and the amount of compliments they’ve received from wearing my clothing line. It’s really rewarding to hear that after putting so much time, energy, and money into such a huge endeavor.  It can definitely be difficult at times, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

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About The Author: Robert Li grew up in Huntingdon Valley, PA and resides in Philadelphia. He majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in German and Chinese and Minors in Business Administration and History at Drexel University. He is the Founder of Active Elixir, a clothing brand focused on creating solutions for people of movement through apparel. With his experience as a cheerleader for Drexel University, the Philadelphia Soul, and the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Cheer Coach for Temple University, he is also an AcroYoga instructor teaching at various studios in Philadelphia and Acro festivals across the country.

www.active-elixir.com

If you want to get in touch with Rob, you can find him on Instagram – @themojoshow and @activeelixir or email him: activeelixir@gmail.com.

Also posted in Art, Blog, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel

Bob Shell: The Loss of a Fine Photographer

In Memorium: David Bogen Brooks

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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THE LOSS OF A FINE PHOTOGRAPHER

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When we get older there comes a time when we have to update your address book regularly because friends have died. I’m seventy-rwo now, and I’m having to do this more often than I like.

The world of photography lost a shining star recently, and I’d like to tell you about him..

My first interaction with David Bogen Brooks was in the early 1970s, when he rejected an article I’d sent to Petersen’s PhotoGraphic, one of the best of the photography magazines of the day. I was running a photo shop in Salem, Virginia, called Camera, Inc., in those days, and decided I wanted to write for photo magazines.

I’d written an article on closeup photography with bellows illustrated with some of my photographs, and hopefully mailed it off to PhotoGraphic. A month or so later it came back, but not with a form letter saying it was rejected. Instead there was a personal letter from Brooks, complementing me on my photographs, but saying the article just wasn’t right for them at that time, and encouraging me to try again with other articles in the future. For some reason I never did, though.

Run the clock forward to the 1980s and I’d succeeded in getting my foot in the door at Shutterbug, and was their Technical Editor, but acting more like the Editor, since the rest of the staff, although very good at their jobs, were not photographers, so they relied on me to select and assign articles. I bumped into David at one of the photographic trade shows, maybe the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in Las Vegas or Photo+ in New York. He was between jobs at the time and looking for work. That was an opportunity not to be missed, so I brought him aboard to write for us, and over the years of working together, we became close friends. If I assigned David a product review, I could rely on getting not only a good article, but excellent photos to illustrate it. David had gone to college studying design in California after serving in the Air Force. Even though he was Canadian, he was able to join the U. S. Air Force and later become a U.S. citizen. After college he got a job working for Elektra Records and went on tour doing photography of The Doors and other Elektra artists. He told me once that he didn’t like working with Jim Morrison and considered him a dangerous sociopath.

David had what I call the “photographer’s eye.”. He could find the right angle and cropping to turn an ordinary scene into an extraordinary image. He worked with 35 mm cameras up to large format, mastering all, becoming an early adopter and expert on digital imaging.

Once, in the early 1990s, David and I met up with photographer Wayne Collins in Las Vegas for a photo shoot with model Roxanne, a featured Playboy model, and took her to the Valley of Fire State Park. We spent a day photographing lovely Roxanne nude among the orange-red rocks, which cast a warm glow on the skin of our model.. No question, David’s photos from that day were the best. Not only was he a master of composition, he had a manner that put models at ease and got the most out of them.

Another time we turned a hotel room at the Rio into an impromptu studio. David was also a master of lighting (and wrote a book about it), and we both brought studio flash for the session. I have some large prints he gave me from that session that are among my most prized possessions.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-learning-photography/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Blog, Film, Photography, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: Insanity Reigns in America Today

Deep Hate: Illustration by Thomcat23

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Illustration by Thomcat23, Copyright 2019

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INSANITY REIGNS IN AMERICA TODAY

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Many years ago Mark Twain said that America has no native criminal class except for Congress. Will Rogers said the difference between death and taxes was that death didn’t get worse every time Congress was in session.

What put these comments into my mind is that our government has devolved to the point that partisan bickering keeps it from accomplishing much, but what it does accomplish is usually bad. The ancient Greeks had a word for what we have today, kakistocracy. That means “government by the worst.”. And I think most of my readers will agree that we couldn’t get much worse than the current bunch of Bozos. No, wait, that’s an insult to Bozo the Clown, and these clowns aren’t the least bit funny.

But bad government is only part of the problem. We seem to be degenerating into a fractionalized society in which some fractions are always seeking to be offended by what other factions do. Nowhere in our constitution is there a right not to be offended. In fact, in earlier times Americans lived by the maxim, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Freedom of speech/expression is the most important right guaranteed by our Constitution. But many people obviously don’t believe in it. I’m sitting in this prison cell right now because twelve small town jurors were offended by my erotic photography. If they’d paid attention and done the job they pledged to do, they would have noticed that the prosecution never proved the key elements of its case against me, and none of my photography was illegal. But they ruled based on prejudice,, not fact, and were offended by the small sampling of my photos that the prosecution projected up to giant size on the courtroom wall, and those were personal photos never intended for publication.

This was brought back to my mind last week by a news story that I read in my favorite magazine, THE WEEK. To celebrate America, the Nike company planned to introduce a new shoe with the original United States flag, as designed by Betsy Ross, with a ring of thirteen stars, on the shoe back. Nike was forced to withdraw the shoe when people protested that the original United States flag was a symbol of slavery. Sounds ridiculous, iduotic, like someone’s idea of a silly fake news story. Something you’d see in THE ONION. But this really happened.

Now I could understand if Nike had used the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederacy, but the original U. S. flag? And so what? If Nike had any guts they’d have ignored protests from the ignorant and produced the shoe for those proud of our country to wear proudly. I’d have bought a pair if I was on the outside.

Certainly, there were things wrong with this country as first conceived, and slavery was one of them, but there were more good things than bad. Our history is a history of fixing what’s wrong incrementally, striving toward the impossible goal of perfection.

Women were repressed in this country far longer than any ethnic group, and in many ways still are, but we’re making progress on those issues. I didn’t hear women protesting Betsy Ross’s flag.

Communist regimes invariably try to rewrite history when they come to power, but history has a way of surviving to re-emerge when those regimes topple, as they invariably do. In the old U.S.S.R. they renamed everything, thus you ended up with cities named Leningrad, Stalingrad, etc., but when the U.S.S.R. collapsed the old names were restored because people had not forgotten them. The attempts nowadays to rewrite American history and wipe out all memory of the Confederacy are similarly due to fail. Knocking over statues revered by many is nothing more than vandalism, and is just another example of thin-skinned people looking for something to be offended by. Removing names of prominent Confederate generals from schools, highways, towns, etc. is more lunacy.

In Germany, they tried to wipe out the history of the Third Reich. They knocked down statues and monuments and renamed things named after Nazis. They went so far as to purge swastikas from the decal sets of plastic model kits of WWII airplanes, tanks, ships, etc., and banned the display of Nazi symbols. What did this accomplish? A generation ignorant of the history of European fascism, and the many skinhead neo-nazis and holocaust deniers.

Will we have deniers of slavery in our future? I’m sure we will.

In Italy, busts of Mussolini are illegal, but I could have bought an many as I wanted ranging in size from a few inches tall to larger than life size in San Marino. Who buys them? Italian tourists, of course, who take them home to display inside their houses. I could have bought Hitler busts, too, if I’d wanted such a thing. Was I offended that these things were for sale? No, I was not, because I know the history of the German Nazis and Italian Fascists, and that history must not be forgotten. The history of the American “Civil War,” similarly, must not be swept under the rug, but must be taught, and taught accurately.

Those who forget history are destined to repeat it. We must never forget the truth of that statement. If we want a future free from the evils of the past, we must remember them, and our children must be taught them honestly, even if the truth offends them. Not all history lessons are pleasant.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-objectifying-and-exploiting-women/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Politics, Portraits, The Tease