28 August 2010

spotlight: open source photographer

Street photographer Eric Kim is a recent UCLA grad who is devoted to what he calls beauty in the mundane; for him, the ordinarily beautiful is found on streets of Los Angeles, South Korea, and Europe. Eric also has a blog loaded with his insights into photography including his feelings on the open source movement and how to conduct social breaching experiments. His upcoming manual "Street Photography 101" is set to be published online and include tidbits like "Ways to take candid photos without being creepy." In line with his commitment to accessible art education, "Street Photography 101" will be available for download for free: "It’s kind of childish of me, but human nature is about sharing."

"If you’re a street photographer, you don’t want to shy down from people."

"One day, you’re going to buy a bowl of cereal and it’s going to have a camera on it."

"Photography is probably one of the most pervasive artforms out there; the lure is so strong."

21 August 2010

An Interview with Priya Pandya, Founding Partner of Dhoonya Dance
by Arton Gjonbalaj

A: Where does Bollywood dance originate?

P: Storytelling—through dance—has been a part of India’s rich culture dating back centuries. Classical Indian dances, such as Bharatanatyam and Kathak, originated in the temples as an artistic way of conveying religious tales and epics. Folk dance styles such as Bhangra originated as a way of passing time in the fields of Northern India while harvesting crops.

A hallmark of the Bollywood, a portmanteau that refers to the Hindi language movie industry, is the lively song-and-dance numbers that pepper almost every film. There’s a certain escapism and joy in these songs that I think everyone can relate to and appreciate as an outlet, even if they can’t understand the language.

As a reflection of popular culture, Bollywood dance fuses elements of classical Indian dances and traditional Indian folk dances with Western dance forms to create a genre of its own. Basic Bollywood steps rely on the relationship between the leg and hip, what often takes students the longest time to master. Once the hip movements become natural, each progressive step is much easier to learn.

A: Could you please give a little description about your interest in dance and why you decided to start Dhoonya Dance?

P: It has been a lifelong mission of mine to bring Indian-inspired arts to the forefront of global and local communities. Kajal Mehta and I started Dhoonya Dance in 2005 as a way to educate others, with respect to our culture and what we love to do, to enhance the already diverse options of dance styles available to students, and provide a fun yet rigorous exercise regimen.

It has been amazing in these five years to see the growth of our school Dhoonya Dance grow into two metropolitan areas—Washington, D.C. and New York City. We have also been afforded some incredible opportunities, such as dancing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the CBS Early Show, and the Smithsonian Institute. We are excited about continuing to serve as ambassadors of Indian arts and culture!

A: What does dance mean to you, and what makes Indian dance particularly fascinating?

P: There are so many forms of Indian dance that it would be difficult to describe Indian dance as one facet. However, Bollywood dancers in specific are usually noted for their grace, a certain subtle sensuality of expression, as well as fluid hip movements.

Bollywood dance sequences—often noted for the colorful costumes, gorgeous backdrops, and overall spectacle—tell a story through each and every song. So as you work on the technical aspects of the choreography, you are also playing a character, and it is important to convey those expressions and emotions, whether it is the joy a bride feels on her wedding day or the anguish of a lost love.

A: What sort of techniques or concepts do Dhoonya instructors use to keep students motivated? What makes Dhoonya unique?

P: Dhoonya is unique because we have developed a specialized, technique-driven curriculum to a style of dance that is not traditionally rooted in technique. All of our instructors undergo a rigorous training program. In terms of keeping our students motivated, we look to introduce new styles each session, and add variety to the songs we teach. For example, if one class we teach a more folk-based number, then the next class might have a more contemporary or classically rooted song.

A: Where do you see the trajectory of dance a few years from now?

P: I hope that with increasing globalization making the world a smaller place, we will see greater cultural appreciation and awareness that would influence dance as well. I hope that people everywhere will become aware of and integrated into the many global beats and movements that they might not have had access to before.

A: How do I learn more and get involved? Where do I sign up?

P: We offer classes for all ages and levels. No dance experience in necessary. We hold classes in NYC, Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland! Sign up for the newsletter and get updates by emailing info@dhoonyadance.com or visit our website at www.dhoonyadance.com!

11 August 2010

spotlight: blog in vogue

Writer Christina Brown is getting all kinds of attention for her savvy content on fashion for the fearless everyday woman. By day, she's the twenty-three-year-old editorial assistant for Honey Magazine with content posted daily at Honeymag.com. When she's not getting celebrity interviews or running to industry events, Christina moonlights as popular fashion blogger at LoveBrownSugar.com; her fresh content has been featured on the likes of The Fashion Bomb, Clutch Magazine, Style & Substance Mag and Lovelyish Blog. Before studying Marketing and Retail at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Christina interned at BET and Saks' midtown headquarters. Although it's obvious that Christina lives and breathes designer, you might not guess that she's true homegrown talent: she made her start sewing with her friends in high school; her outdoor photo spreads on LoveBrownSugar are shot by her brother-in-law; and her blog just sort of happened: "I did it because I thought it would be fun."

My day-to-day is pretty hectic but overall, pretty exciting. I work for Honey Magazine as a full-time editorial assistant. I'm in charge of all their fashion, beauty and lifestyle content, as well as a host of other things like celeb interviews, etc.I work with all kinds of people in the industry - I work especially close with editors and other freelance writers. I'm also constantly in touch with publicists and their respective clients from fashion mavens to music artists. Once I leave my job at Honey, I normally have an industry event to attend in the evening and after all that I head home to pen articles for LoveBrownSugar.com. My work is never over!

I've always loved fashion. I can remember being in love with vintage shopping all the way back in Junior High School when I first discovered a thrift store near my house in Queens. When I got to high school, I decided to start a "club" for other fashionistas like me who wanted to learn how to sew clothing and talk about fashion. So I started one, called SAS - "Sewing and Style". It's one of my fondest accomplishments though I never talk about it. We even had countless bake sales so we could buy our first sewing machine. It was a great time. Anyway, I went on to college and I joined a fashion-based organization called Dzine2Show, became a fashion editor for their first magazine The Walk and also started interning at Saks Incoporated in the buying department. After racking up a few more summers of internship work, I landed an editorial assistant position at Honey!

I think blogging is such a powerful tool these days. It's the perfect form of self-induced press and promotion. My blog even granted me access to Mercedes-Benz fashion week. There isn't much more you can ask for. It's a great way to get your name out there and develop a following. I did it because I thought it would be fun. I never really did it with the intentions of it blowing up as largely as it did. I absolutely love it. When I can initiate conversation and discussion, when I can give curvy girls confidence to rock their favorite outfits, or young aspiring writers the inspiration they need to do their own thing, it makes me feel accomplished. I started out doing this just for myself and it's grown into something I do not just for me but for my readers.

Everything happens for a reason. I live by this phrase. It's a constant reminder to me that each step I take, each opportunity I'm presented with, and each person I meet is part of the divine order and purpose in my life. Sometimes bad things happen, or you meet bad people. They were sent to you as lessons to learn from and build upon. Never a failure, but always a lesson.

04 August 2010

Read West, Young Men!

So there are times when it just feels right to be reminded how shitty the world can be. Modern readers love to read about suffering almost as much as modern writers love to write about it, but neither tend to have a stomach for unmitigated cynicism. The role of pessimism in fiction these days is as a backdrop against which the moral of the story shines, however feebly. Ann Lamott, in her seminal instruction manual Bird by Bird (which, partly by way of apology to Miss Lamott, I recommend to any aspiring writer) actually has the gall to ask why somebody who does not believe in the underlying good of humanity should bother writing at all. Should Lamott and an author like Nathanael West have ever crossed paths, I’d imagine the latter might ask why someone who does not believe in the underlying good of humanity should bother with anything but writing.

Which leads me, conveniently enough, West’s novella Miss Lonelyhearts, a fifty-eight page descent into Depression-era New York as seen through the eyes of the eponymous advice columnist known only to the readers by his humiliating nom de plume. In a lot of respects it’s darker than West’s later and better known novella Day of the Locust, largely considered the best novel about Hollywood ever written. We all know the quest for fame and riches is soul-eviscerating. But Miss Lonelyhearts surrenders the possibility of fame via its protagonist’s literal and ethical anonymity.

On the surface, it looks like the ingredients are all laid out for a nice Bukowski smoothie: Frustrated, chain-smoking wordsmith stuck in a job he’d rather not have? Check. Liquor by the bucketful? Double check! Frenzied, oversexed women after the hero’s soul? And how! You would think that all West would have to do is switch on the blender. But this isn’t that kind of book. Check out some of Miss Lonelyhearts’ mail:

“Dear Miss Lonelyhearts-
I am sixteen years old and I don’t know what to do and would appreciate it
if you could tell me what to do…I would like to have boy friends like the
other girls and go out on Saturday nites, but no boy will take me because I
was born without a nose – although I am a good dance and have a nice shape
and my father buys me pretty clothes…I asked Papa and he said that…maybe I
was being punished for his sins. I don’t believe that because he is a very
nice man. Ought I commit suicide?”

Or, on the end of the spectrum:

“Dear Miss Lonelyhearts-
I am in such pain I don’t know what to do sometimes I think I will kill
myself my kidneys hurt so much. My husband thinks no woman can be a good
catholic and not have children irregardless of the pain…I have 7 children in
12 years and ever since the last 2 I have been so sick. I was operatored on
twice and my husband promised no more children on the doctors advice as he
said I might die but when I got back from the hospital he broke his promise
and now I am going to have a baby and I don’t think I can stand it my
kidneys hurt so much…I can’t have an abortion on account of being a catholic
and my husband so religious. I cry all the time it hurts so much and I don’t
know what to do.”

There are more. Needless to say, Miss Lonelyhearts’ paper, the New York Post-Dispatch does not publish these letters and that Miss Lonelyhearts is not required to answer them. All he’s required to do is shovel through them, day after day, all the while insisting to his faithful readers that “life is worth living.” Of course it isn’t long at all before Miss Lonelyhearts begins behaving as atrociously as any depraved Gonzo journalist or proto-Corso type we see wandering through twentieth century literature. If anything, West edges towards Brett Eaton Ellis in terms of sheer savagery. Before the novel is through, Miss Lonelyhearts puts an elderly stranger in a hammerlock, beats a woman with his fists for making sexual advances on him, and throws her crippled husband down a flight of stairs (to be fair, he takes the tumble with him and it is not at all clear whether either man survives). And yet Miss Lonelyhearts is no Patrick Bateman. He cares. God, he cares. And it’s carving out his insides.

It would be easy to say something along the lines of “It’s been seventy years since this book was published, but look! This could have been written today!” But that wouldn’t really be true. We don’t write books like this anymore. For one thing, novellas aren’t such a hot commodity these days, mostly because they are a losing proposition from the perspective of their authors. Novels are easier to sell. Short stories are easier to publish. When they do show up on our radar they tend to either be atmospheric affairs like Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster or Hard SF meditations like Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s True Names. Not the kind of thing you pick up unless you’re already looking for it.

But a contemporary Miss Lonelyhearts would have a bigger problem than its inconvenient page count. To be sure, modern consumers lap up books like A Long Way Gone, The Kite Runner, and We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed Along With Our Families. Memoirists like Mary Karr and pseudo-memoirists like James Frey also do well for themselves at the markets. In the realm of fiction, writers like Stieg Larsson and dominates our lust for violence, sex, and every conceivable combination thereof. Clearly, we like reading about murder, rape, genocide, drug addiction, and personality defects. We like living in a world in which such things are possible. Where we draw the line is living in a world where such things are likely or even certain. And if there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s living in a world where these problems are our problem. It’s enough to drive us crazy. Without a doubt, it drives Miss Lonelyhearts to a fever pitch of psychoses and even though Nathanael West gives us every chance in the world to distance ourselves from his unforgivable behavior…we don’t. Passing out drunk rather than finishing the Miss Lonelyhearts column makes perfect sense. Even smacking around Faye Doyle feels earned in the moment. By the time we reach the penultimate scene, in which Miss Lonelyhearts fiancĂ©e Betty informs him that she is pregnant, nothing seems like a worse idea than bringing a child into the world through which Miss Lonelyhearts skulks.

27 July 2010

spotlight: varsity model

Model Charlette Williams is a twenty-two-year-old Queens girl and learning the importance of balancing life and art in the city. Between modeling, part-time jobs, and a major in Media Studies, the beautiful life is a little messy. When she's not on commercial spreads and local fashion shows, Charlette is featured in the likes of fashion blog Refinery29 and Seventeen magazine. Right now, she is taking time off from Hunter College to work on her career and move into her East Village apartment, but she plans on resuming classes in the fall. After all, she says, "You are what you think!"

I think modeling is art. It's almost like acting. When you're shooting you become that character and the photographer has to capture a moment. It's absolutely beautiful; it is art!
[Modeling] is a great networking source. You meet a lot of very, very important people! Since I started, I got invited to these elite parties around New York City and overseas. I remember meeting a few celebrities here and there. A lot of the top-dollar jobs models book are due to their relationships. You are always being watched; it goes deeper than just taking pictures.

If you're not strong-minded, I suggest you not do it. Girls come into this industry weak-minded and get easily influenced. Only about 2 percent of the girls make it to the top and make it their full-time career. Only do it if it's your greatest passion. If not, you will probably lose your soul! (Haha)

Personally, I think the modeling industry is a mess. I'm sick of seeing 14-year-old girls lost in a big city and getting taken advantage of by older men. It's disgusting! There should be some standards against this!

true story.
At a young age, I knew I was to be a model; my mother told me almost every night. So it became second nature for me. Like I said, only do it if you truly enjoy it [and] always have a back-up plan!

23 July 2010

drink the young wine

last weekend, my old college roommate invited me to lost&found, an afternoon of "love, life and community" hosted by 88 featuring live art and music from the dc area.

i was most impressed with painter jeremy arn...

the outdoor/indoor party also featured 4traits, a team of artists that collaboratively draw your portrait in four 5-minute sessions. i started off chatting on one end of the "assembly line" with yen, a graphic designer; four dings and twenty minutes later, i was talking mastiffs with brad, a professional dogwalker, while he put the finishing touches on my face. while the concept was more a play on surrealist drawing games than highly innovative, there was something refreshing about sitting for a 4trait - sort of "exquisite corpse" meets speed dating.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Not much going on these past few weeks. We continue to read, read, read those submissions. Keep em coming. We started this business, so we could help discover emerging writers. Nothing makes us happier than reading something great from someone not yet known.