Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fires in the Mirror Review

A few weeks ago we read and watched Fires in the Mirror, a play written by Anna Deavere Smith. I thought the play itself was just okay, but the performance was awesome.

Anna Deavere Smith
In class, we briefly talked about how some of us didn't like the ending of the play because it doesn't give the audience hope like many other story endings do. When the play closes, there is no evidence that the two groups (the Jews and the Blacks) will get along. However at the end of the performance we saw, characters from both groups walk into the center of the theater holding lit candles. They are spread out evenly and diversely and then they all blow out the candles at the exact same time. I wonder why the director did that. Did she want the audience to think that maybe the groups would get along eventually? I really hope we get to speak with the director about these things.

I'm excited to talk about the play more in class because I really want to know exactly what everyone thought of it. I can't assume we all have the exact same opinions. One thing I really appreciated about the play was the lighting and stage design. It looked really great. And the transitions between each character's monologues was very well done; the music definitely added a lot to it. Also, the actors had incredibly convincing accents. Still, even though the performance was amazing, the play just did not really do it for me.

In The Role of Theatre Criticism, Ran Xia says that literary critics' words "can partly decide the life or death of a piece of art." I definitely agree with this. Critics provide various viewpoints for people to agree with or disagree with, which helps them form opinions of their own about something.

Here's an example: Miley Cyrus's performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards (which you can watch right here). This may not be a typical piece of art, but it is a performance nevertheless. So Miley goes out on stage after carefully planning and rehearsing and performs her set. Robin Thicke joins her, then she exits the stage as he continues to perform. No big deal, right? Wrong. The media BLEW UP. People reacted to it in many ways. Some absolutely hated it, calling her racist and inappropriate, and others believed in her vision and had no issues with Miley doing her own thing.

The point is that people agreed with or disagreed with what the critics said about the performance and because of the

Miley Cyrus at the VMA's
words they used when critiquing it. I personally agreed with this one the most:

"What it all comes down to is that America as a whole—white, black and everything else—is subject to a jolly, messy and multiracial cult of openness, informality and raunchiness. Everybody seems to find that just luscious when describing Harlem 90 years ago. More recently, we have accepted this in rap—to diss the vulgarity is considered elderly, and grumbling about white rappers like Vanilla Ice as interlopers is yesterday’s conversation; Eminem is one of the boyz. But let a little white girl spin her posterior in open-hearted celebration of the “uptown” culture she has grown up drinking in and she’s a white man corking up and playing dumb sometime during the McKinley Administration. Sorry–this is people too caught up in yesterday’s battles to perceive the nation moving ahead. I believe you, Miley Cyrus." John McWhorter, The New Republic 

To conclude, critics do play a large role in the life or death of a piece of art. I already have my own personal feelings about Fires in the Mirror; however, reading some criticisms about it or speaking with the director may alter my opinion.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We Got Honorable Mention!!

I'm excited to finally share a short film I made with my friends for Ithaca College's Golden Doorknob Film Contest. We received honorable mention for the film and I'm so proud of everyone who was involved in the making of it. Enjoy!

Special thanks to my friends Taylor and Dana, the T and D of STD Productions. None of this would be possible without them. <3

Thursday, October 10, 2013

We Need Music!!!

Music is as necessary to human life as helium is to make a ballon float. We need music to stimulate us physically and psychologically. Especially music that is new to us.

I care a lot about music. Which is weird since I don't play any instruments. I like all different types of music: pop, hip-hop, country, dance, electronic, R&B, indie, alternative, dubstep, rock. I will pretty much listen to anything. Except screamo, because it scares me a little bit. 

In Why We Need Music, Andrew Ford says that although music is abstract, it defines our humanity. "Music is society's soul," he writes, "In one or more of its various forms, music is present in most of our lives and, at some level, essential to our cultures." Making and performing our own music is how we engage with our musical traditions and how we preserve, critique, and nurture them.

Ford discusses three steps to understanding music:

1. Find music that you like. This will lead you to other music you like.
2. Find music that you don’t like or understand. Then learn about it until you understand it.
3. Play, sing, improvise, and compose music.

A few years ago I found music that I didn't understand: EDM, or electronic dance music. People in my town went from listening to what was on the iTunes top ten to this fast-paced dance music I had never heard before. The music had barely any lyrics, and I had issues with this. I wanted music I could sing along with--not music that was a repetition of beats, climbing until a singer would say an ambiguous line, and then the base would drop. Dubstep music has a similar format, so I didn't quite understand that genre either. I thought, why would people pay money to watch a guy push play on a laptop, turn some knobs, and then jump up and down. (Like this.)

But as I kept listening to more EDM and dubstep, I started to like it and appreciate what the artists were doing. Skrillex makes songs on his laptop on the road using computer software and I think that is the coolest thing. That means that maybe I, with no musical talent, can be a musician. 

My favorite female DJs, Nervo.
This summer I went to Life In Color, which is large concert where DJs perform while vibrant colored paints are splattered at the audience. "What initially began as a college tradition has transformed into a world-renowned live concert, featuring spectacular DJs, soaring aerial acts, stilt-walkers, contortion acts, fire shows, and cannons to deliver the famous “Paint Blast,” along with many other unforgettable live performances" ( I was a little hesitant to go at first; Life In Color and similar "rave" concerts get a bad reputation because a lot of people that attend them go drunk, on drugs, or both. But I wanted to see what it was like, so I went anyways. 

It was so much fun. The energy was insane. People were dancing and cheering for hours. It made me want to become a DJ like Nervo. I got a little taste of what it's like to DJ when I DJ'd a party last weekend. Everyone was on their feet, dancing and singing. It felt awesome to know that I had done that for them. I hope I get the opportunity to DJ again soon because I had an indescribable amount of fun. 

Afrojack, David Guetta, and Nicky Romero at Tomorrowland.
Things get a little messy at Life In Color. 
Ok, very messy. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why Didn't I Learn to Play an Instrument??? (Ugh)

The orchestral concert was really cool. I was super excited to see the students perform from the very start, since I've never attended an orchestral concert before and they blew me away! We've got some very talented musicians at IC.

My favorite part of the concert was when the female bassoonist played her solo. She was wearing a jet-black leather dress with leggings underneath and matching black sleeves. And she had BLUE HAIR. She looked like a superhero!! First, she walked to the center of the stage like she owned the place; then she played her solo on the bassoon with the orchestra accompanying her. She killed it! And I loved seeing how into it she was when she shook her head back and forth during the fast parts or slowly swayed during the slow parts.

Yay Creativity and the Arts!!!
The concert made me wish I had learned to play violin, viola, or cello back in the third grade with the rest of my class (those were our three options). I had no interest whatsoever. I liked pop music, and I only listened to Top 40 radio stations. My third grade brain thought that the violin could only play classical music, and I just wanted to listen to songs I could sing in the shower. 

Now that I'm doing radio at WICB and taking an audio class, I wish I knew how to play an instrument (any instrument) more than ever. I asked my audio teacher if knowing how to use Pro Tools (which is an audio editing software) would make me a musician. She said yes, but I still don't know how to use it... It's a work in progress.

And now here's a poorly shot video of that kick ass bassoonist/superhero: 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Know My Strengths

Last night I took the online test for Tom Rath's StrengthsFinder 2.0 and the results I got were exactly what I had expected.

I like to think that I know who I am pretty well. I've know who I am for years actually; probably since seventh or eighth grade.

My top five strengths were:

1. Woo
2. Maximizer
3. Adaptability
4. Positivity
5. Communication

In the book, Rath describes Woo as follows:

"Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say. You don't. Not only are you rarely at a loss for words; you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection. Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in. In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet--lots of them" (Rath 169).

How I look/feel when people like me.
This describes me perfectly. Like spot on. As I said before, I knew who I was since I was about thirteen years old. I knew that I need to be around people and I need people to like me. If I went to college, got a degree, and spent the rest of my life trapped in a cubicle typing numbers into an excel spreadsheet for my stuck-up boss who hates me, I would literally die.

That's why I promised myself right then and there that I would get a job where I can talk and interact with people every single day. Young people, old people, normal people, unique people. Interacting with any person makes me happy. I need to be social to enjoy my life.

Elvis Duran and the Z100 Morning Show in the studio.
That being said, I'm studying Television and Radio. I want to communicate with EVERYONE. I started my shift at 92 WICB last night (well I guess it was the morning) and even though not many people are calling the studio between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., I have to start somewhere, right? I hope to have my own talk show one day, similar to the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, which is a show I grew up listening to every single morning in the car ride to school.

I need to constantly be interacting with different people, yet I struggled with this my senior year of high school. Well, I didn't struggle, but many people around me struggled to recognize this fact of my life. People in my town are very, very clique-y. If you don't have a defined, exclusive group of friends, people look down upon you. And I didn't like that. I had a group of best friends in the beginning of the year, but as I became more and more involved in extracurricular activities, (volleyball, track, yearbook, volunteering) I started to grow apart from those friends. Sure, I always had a few best friends, but I was no longer part of that specific group. I didn't mind, because I liked knowing a ton of different people. Being able to walk through the halls of my high school and know 80% of the people I saw was comforting. Not being invited to hang out with my old group of friends however, was not. I don't think they realized that I had to be involved in many different things. It was the only way I could get to know everyone at the same time. The athletes, the artists, the nerds, the philanthropists. I couldn't be a part of one group and get to know all these different types of people. In my hometown, that was impossible.

Wow these silhouettes are soooo social. 

When people around here say "Ugh I can't wait to go home!" I just sit there and say, "What? Why would you want to go home?" The people at IC are so much more open to each other than in my town. Maybe it's because we have to be, since we're all new to school and everything. But hopefully it's because people are ready to be open-minded and connect with each other as much as they possibly can. (Or that could just be my positivity kicking in...)

Dustin and me. (Buddies for life yo).
Last year, I did what I had to do to make myself happy, even though I grew apart from some friends along the way. I have no regrets. Don't worry, I still always had a few best friends; people I'll always be friends with, no matter what. The reason my friend Dustin and I are so close is because we both would rather be friends with everyone than just a few people. Also, we're both going into communications, so we know just how important it is to make connections with as many people as possible--with the friends I haven't met yet.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interrupting that Creative Flow: Please Stop

In Composing a Symphony, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky talks about how a creative person is always working. Even if he is not inspired, he can't just sit around and wait for a good idea to be bestowed upon him. And once he does get inspired, it is extremely annoying when someone breaks his creative flow.

This used to happen to me all the time in high school. I'd be writing a paper for a class when I'd hear "Samantha, dinner!" And I would scream back, "I'm in the zone, Mom. I can't eat now!" So I got used to reheating the dinner from that night.

It happened a lot in my Creative Writing class as well. I would write continuously for the entire period, and then be forced to stop by the screeching bell commanding me to go to my next class. I can't leave now!! I thought. (And then the song "I Can't Stop" by Flux Pavillion would start playing in my head).

I'm always thinking about what my next idea is going to be for a project, or a story I'd like to write one day. Which is why I have so many random notes saved in my phone. When I'm bored I'll look back at the notes and edit them, add to them, take things out, etc. Tchaikovsky talks about the creative process, saying: "The process is something more than copying; it is actually a critical examination, leading to correction, occasional additions and frequent curtailments.” A lot of my ideas never take off, yet some of them develop and become realities. 

I think part of the reason why my group's Golden Doorknob film is working out so well (thus far) is because no one interrupted our creative flow. Dana, Taylor, and I literally sat at a table in the campus center dining hall for hours just talking. No one had to go to class or finish writing a paper. We developed and wrote a storyboard for the project that day. Then we began searching for other people who wanted to help us out, and would be just as excited as we were about the video. That helped our creative process as well. When people aren't constantly belittling your ideas, you get stuff done. "Teamwork makes the dreamwork," my senior year English teacher always used to say. 


Dana and our amazing editor, Andrew in post-production.