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Paying attention: Not just for the classroom

16 Oct

Today I got on Twitter, as I do every day from my phone, to check up on news, daily quips and to update the world on my own livelihood. But unlike every other day, I saw a tweet from TheBestManager that spoke to some issues I’ve personally been focusing on in the past year or two.

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The tweet, shared by Sargent House – a record label for bands such as Fang Island and Tera Melos – touches on quite a few sore subjects in the music industry.

Where do I start? There’s the obvious one – talking and taking pictures during a concert, ensuring that everyone around you is distracted from the performance. Then there are the less obvious ones – never listening to albums in full, skipping through well-written articles to get to links and videos of performances, and my favorite, the decline of magazine sales.

The truth is that the addiction to electronics and quick results has created such a big disconnect that there’s no rug large enough to sweep it under. In an age where you can do almost anything from your phone, people have forgotten how to be interesting without one.

Are we really having trouble retaining all of the information thrown at us, or have we just stopped paying attention? Do we really need to take pictures to remember a concert or prove that we were there, or have we stopped placing importance on how great the band was in exchange for likes on Instagram?

The truth is that I’m not immune to wanting to share my experiences with the world, but I’ve learned to set limits for myself. I’m writing this blog in hopes that a few of you will realize it, too. And really, it’s not hard to make the change.

Instead of snapping pictures throughout the concert, take a few during the first song. After that, stop trying too hard to get the perfect picture and focus on what you paid money for. Instead of talking to your friends in the back of the venue, actually listen to the opening acts. You’ll probably like them, and it’s a great way to find new music. When you get on the internet, don’t just start link-jumping. Read it, comment and share it with people if you like it.

To me, it’s all about making an effort to respect those around you. The music industry is a community, and you have a hell of a lot more power as a fan than you think.

Most importantly, try to minimize your dependence on technology – even if it’s only for a few hours during a concert. Or a movie. Or dinner with friends and family.

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Is HBO’s newest comedy, Girls, racist?

12 Apr

If you have premium cable and frequent HBO, you’ve more than likely caught a commercial or two touting their newest comedy, Girls.

In short, Girls is the brain-child of writer/director/actress Lena Dunham, and follows the lives of four early twenty-somethings throughout the transitional period between college and being an adult. Yet while it’s filmed in New York City and covers topics like sex, having an identity crisis and a slew of shit jobs, it doesn’t seem to be this decade’s Sex and the City, even if that’s how HBO is looking at it.

With executive producer Judd Apatow behind the wheel of the train, Girls looks full of promise. So, why then, does it seem like the show is getting a bad wrap before it even airs?

Most critics aren’t bothered by the content, the acting or even the dialogue. What’s got everyone talking is the fact that Girls‘ main characters are all – wait for it – white girls.

As someone of mixed ethnicity (I myself am half White, half Hispanic), I’ll be honest when I say that even I didn’t notice it. And why is that, you might ask?

In the year 2012, I have grown up watching television shows that feature casts of mixed ethnicity, as I have also seen casts that revolve around an all-White family, an all-African America family and an all-Hispanic family. I’ve seen this in movies and even commercial advertising.  Hell, HBO’s recently-cancelled series Bored to Death featured a mainly white cast, and it was shot in New York City, but I never heard rumblings about “not enough minorities.” Sure, Jason Schwartzman is Jewish and comes from the Coppola blood-line, but does that make him any less white? And what about his co-stars, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danza? Are they not considered white?

So, why then, is Girls getting such backlash?

I honestly can’t answer this question. Many people are saying that it’s because they feel “under-represented,” or because, like Sarah Seltzer of The Jewish Daily Forward said in her article, “if Girls ends up being as good as the hype, then we shouldn’t be afraid to offer strong, but loving suggestions about its racial makeup.”

But do we really need to coddle the audience for them to “get” it? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but people don’t like music, television, or art because the creator is the same shade of tan. People attach themselves to ideas, and they laugh at jokes or cry when the curtain is drawn because it moves them and they relate to it.

Maybe Girls does need a dash of color thrown in to the mix, or maybe we need to stop criticizing everything put in front of us. I’ll admit that I’m always worried to discuss the topic of race, but that’s not because I’m afraid people will gasp at my racism. In fact, I don’t know anyone that’s a bigger advocate for equality across the board, but even the most accepting position on race can be the most complex to explain.

The way I see it, claiming that there is a certain formula that must be followed in order to “properly represent” minorities is still a form of racism. Characters shouldn’t be written as an after-thought, nor should the only reason they were created was to make sure nobody was left out.

It sounds to me that Americans are still putting too much emphasis on a person’s ethnic make-up in the name of being politically correct, and if that’s the case, I’d rather not be. It’d be one thing if Dunham had stated she intentionally left minorities out and then proceeded to give a reason based on racism, but she didn’t. The truth is, minority representation isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a math equation. Additionally, Dunham isn’t racist for having four White leads, just as Tyler Perry isn’t racist for having all African-American leads on For Better or For Worse.

Nona Willis Aronowitz, Associate Editor at GOOD said it well, that “if we acknowledge that the semi-autobiographical details are what make Dunham’s work great, we shouldn’t be demanding the show to appeal to and reflect every girl.”

The truth is that, nobody really knows whether or not Hispanic or African American women (or men of any ethnicity!) will appreciate this television show, because it doesn’t even air until Sunday, April 15. So here’s my suggestion: let’s wait and see how the audience really reacts to the show before we start pointing fingers in the name of “racism.”

Until then… Congratulations, Lena Dunham. I can’t wait to see what Girls is all about.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Live Show Attendance

18 Apr

As an avid concert-goer, I’ve seen been in my fair share of live show audiences. However, as a life-long Houstonian I’ve seen more than my fair share of horrendously bad concerts, mainly brought on by the fans themselves.

I won’t say that Houston as a whole is a bad place, but I will say that we have more than our fair share of bad eggs. And anyone who knows anything about a bad egg knows that once you get a taste of something sour, you’re not likely to return to the source for another bite.

That being said, I’d like to share my own thoughts and advice on being in the crowd at a live show. Some of this may seem like common-sense, but sadly, I’ve grown to learn that not everyone was handed down even the most basic concept of what is socially acceptable.

1. Don’t talk during a song.
The people around you didn’t pay to listen to you talk about your job or relationship, they paid to listen to the band on the stage. Additionally, the band didn’t leave behind their bed, family and sense of normalcy to stand on a stage and play in a crowd of people that were talking through their entire set.
In 2009, Jenny Lewis was performing her beautifully bare song ‘Trying My Best To Love You” at Warehouse Live in Houston. Mid-song, Lewis stopped singing and refused to finish after her own vocals were drowned out by the crowd’s chatter. Band-mate and long time boyfriend, Johnathan Rice, came on-stage and interjected with his own thoughts on the situation before the band continued the set.

If you’re going to a concert with a friend you haven’t seen in a while or you have something important to tell them, grab dinner before you head to the venue or stand toward the back of the room and bars where you’re less likely to bother those around you. It’s okay to talk between songs or have a few words, but if you’re doing this more than you are listening, you’re most likely becoming a bother to others – and the band.

2. Do practice good hygiene.
Smelling spit is gross, but smelling someone’s obvious body odor is absolutely foul. It’s understandable to get sweaty throughout the duration of the concert, but if you’re going to simultaneously invade someone’s personal space and dance with your arms up, apply some deodorant. If you’re going to head-bang, wash your hair (and don’t slap people in the face with it). Get my drift? Let’s hope so.

3. Do dance and sing along.
It seems a no-brainer, but it isn’t always. I can’t count how many times I’ve been to a concert where people absolutely refuse to respond to the music – even after the band prompts them to. You won’t become uncool if you clap and sing, nor will you be black-listed from the club for dancing. This is especially important for opening bands, who are mainly in the early stages of their career and generally unknown. Just remember that a song is a musician’s art, and just like you want positive reinforcement, so do bands. It’s okay to not like everything you hear, but even if you’re not feeling the music, applaud at the end of each song. And please, at all times, refrain from screaming out rude comments.

Sadly, this White Stripes recording from their show at a club in Houston in 2001 only reinforces what I said earlier. (Skip to about :38)

4. Do skip out on a drink or two and spend your money at the merch booth.
Unless you’ve been under a rock since rock and roll was invented, you know that there is no such thing as a band without merchandise. If you’ve been following my blog long (yes, this includes my old blog), you know that I support musicians as much and as often as possible.
For those of you who don’t know, buying albums, shirts and other merch from the bands at the concert gives them the most profit possible. Not only is it their main income while on the road, but every single cent made from selling merch goes directly into the band’s pockets when they most need it. So if you liked the opening band and were planning to go home and download their album, skip out on a few drinks and spend the $5-10 it costs to support the musicians you’re there to see. Even if you planned on picking it up at Best Buy the next day, I can almost guarantee it’ll be cheaper at the concert and the band will appreciate the money a lot more. And chances are, the band will have deals (like two CD’s for $15) and rare or out-of-print merch that will be gone once they sell out.
(My merch of choice are silkscreen posters. They’re usually limited edition and the one-size-fits-all souvenir pays for itself when you don’t have to worry about buying paint or wall decorations.)

5. Don’t be inconsiderate of those around you.
There’s nothing worse than standing next to someone who has had far too much to drink, behind someone who towers over you, or in the vicinity of a couple that is indulging in over-the-top PDA. It’s hard enough standing for hours in a dark, hot room where people are smoking (even though they shouldn’t). Why make it worse? I’ve seen cops and security alike come into crowds to fish out those especially drunken idiots who were already asked to leave, and I can assure you that nobody around you thinks it’s fun when you’re falling over drunk. Additionally, I can’t count how many inconsiderate guys have pushed their way through a crowd and stood in front of people whose view they’re blocking.

And then, there’s this….

Like people who talk way too much, it’s pretty annoying to stand behind or beside a couple who are more worried about showing affection for one another than appreciation for the band. I’ve got too many horror stories to share, but I’ll just say that the worst one was when I could smell the couple’s spit that was covering each others necks. I’m not against a kiss or holding hands, but full-on making out isn’t okay. If you wouldn’t do it in front of your parents, you shouldn’t do it at a concert.

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