Friday, April 26, 2013

RA Real Scenes - New York

A few months ago I watched and reviewed a short documentary by Resident Advisor that was about the Detroit music scene, part of their 'Real Scenes' series.

Earlier today RA released another short documentary that focuses on the music of a city, and this one's about NYC. I thought this latest effort by them was quite revealing in many ways. First, what I liked most was the beginning where subjects are talking about how hard it is to make it in New York; how hard it is to get by and make ends meet while still trying to find time to be creative and make things. I can relate to this 1000%, as that's my life. I've been in NY for nearly 4.5 years now and I'm still struggling just to survive here, while also trying somehow to be creative and make films and things. Being a creative person and trying to make films/music/art is hard enough, add on top of that struggles to pay rent and bills and spending most of your hours at a job instead of on what you really want to do, makes it all immensely more difficult. This RA video is one of the few things I've seen where people really discuss these things in-depth.

Another aspect I liked about the video is that it discusses gentrification a bit. I'm not a clubber and party-goer (for all sorts of reasons) but I've been to some clubs and parties out in Williamsburg, which is kind of where the latest club scene has been for the last few years. The film talks about how lots of places got shut down in Manhattan due to extremely expensive and ever-increasing rents. An article I happened to also come across today (which for some reason is in the NY Post), talks about this, in which I learned venues like the Bowery Poetry Club are now shut down. I've been there a couple times, and I just think, what's gonna replace these places, and where are people going to go now? At the end of the RA film the subjects are optimistic about cycles of change and how there's always new things. However, Dope Jams shut down at the end of January, and I of course had just learned about it a couple weeks beforehand but wasn't able to get to it before its doors closed. I was so excited to learn about a record shop selling loads of house but now its gone, and as these spaces disappear, its a huge loss to the city and to communities. But I guess the folks in the RA video are right, there is always something new around the corner.

One thing that did bug me about RA Real Scenes: New York is that almost all the subjects were white males, save for a couple of brown men. I think we all know that NYC and the house scene is certainly more diverse than that. I guess this oversight by the filmmakers however is also reflective perhaps of how the scene is seen.

Well, here's the video, and the original link.

- cross-posted on The Ashraf Obsession

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Reading Sherman Alexie

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to read books in which I didn't share a similar background with the characters or authors. I've read a lot of books about Muslims, and about South Asians, and a few about the Middle East, and I wanted to expand and get to know characters who really aren't like me in most ways. And so a lot of the books I've read so far this year have been from all over the place. :-)

A few weeks ago on facebook, a friend posted up a cartoon drawing from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 

I was quite intrigued and looked into it and the author, Sherman Alexie. I had never heard of him but it turns out that he's pretty popular.

The first book I read by Alexie was Flight, which has a teenage protagonist but isn't a YA book. There's a fair amount of swearing and violence, and the character, Zits (as he calls himself) is a really troubled kid, and goes on a metaphysical journey through space and time, landing in different people's bodies (like that show Quantam Leap from ages ago) just as something big is about to happen. A lot of it is insightful commentary on the war between settlers and American Indians, and through this time-traveling Zits realizes he needs to make some major changes in his life.

I liked the book overall but there were some things that disturbed me. Unfortunately, Alexie doesn't have any female characters who are fleshed out and they all get objectified. There are also major characters who are white saviours. Alexie also has a Muslim character who says he's not a terrorist, then turns out to be one. I tried to see the nuance in this but I just feel that Alexie fed into Muslim stereotypes, which baffles me since he's attempting in some way to break down stereotypes of American Indians. It's unfortunate that Alexie has this Muslim terrorist character because when (some) people read Flight, horrible notions of Muslims will be reinforced.

However despite these faults I was fairly blown away by the book in a good way. A book hasn't made me cry in a long time, and this book did, when I read this: "I know that children will always be targets".

The next Alexie book I read is the one that has the cartoon above,
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This is a YA book, unlike Flight. I liked Part-Time Indian, but not as much as I liked Flight, even though Part-Time Indian appears to be Alexie's most popular book. Perhaps that's because its about a high-schooler going through high school and that's something I can't really connect with now, I'm not sure. The writing was fairly strong, and I liked the cartoons as well, but I wasn't as into the story as I was when I read Flight. In this book Alexie did do a better job with the female characters for they were more three-dimensional, yet there were again white saviour characters. I'm not saying white characters in a story about American Indians have to be absolutely terrible (and what do I know anyway), but in both novels the main characters, who are American Indian, find their way by getting guidance and help from white characters. I'll have to do a bit more research and read some more reviews to see if other readers feel the same way about his work, and I'd especially like to know what American Indian readers think.

So, those are some of my thoughts on the Sherman Alexie books I've read so far. Though I'm not a huge fan of what I read, I'm glad that I did read some of his work. I think I'd quite like to read some American Indian poets as well, who I think were mentioned in Flight. 

The return

If you're reading this, welcome to my blogspace. After a hiatus of almost 3 years I decided to re-start this little blog. I initially stopped blogging because I got quite self-conscious about it and honestly, became a bit paranoid, and wondered who was reading the blog. But now, I don't really care about any of that. I also have been itching to write about my thoughts on films, filmmaking, technology, literature, languages, Islam, Muslim communities, South Asian stuff, politics, music, etc.

Basically I have a lot of thoughts and notes and I'd like to get them out there and see if people want to engage in discussions about these things. Also I think my friends might be getting sick of me constantly sending emails about stuff I find interesting so it might better for me to get my thoughts out here instead. Though now of course my friends and family will be getting emails asking them to read this blog. Sorry guys.

And I've got a fair amount to say because unfortunately, I'm into a lot of things, and can become quite nerdy about them. It all bubbles up and makes me want to write! I emailed a popular website recently (which shall remain un-named) and I asked if I could write for them, and pitched about the neat and interesting things I want to write about. I didn't get a response of course. So instead of waiting around, and despite the severe lack of time I have, I decided to go back to this old blog and get my thoughts out here instead. I do have a website ( which I've written posts in previously, but I wanted to keep that as a website. When wondering where I could put up my meandering thoughts, I had completely forgotten about this blog since its been so long I've used it or even looked at it. And once I remembered, I decided, what the hell, let's just open this up again.

This blog is old, for the blog-world. It was started in the summer of 2005, after my cousin prompted me to start blogging (thanks Bastardly). So, there are posts here that are written when I was 19 years old (!). I combed through and took some posts down if they were too embarrassing or too irrelevant to who I am now. But most of the old stuff is still up there. Feel free to browse through and laugh at my pretentious writing. Perhaps you will giggle at some old comments written by old friends, as I did when I re-read the entries. Or you can go ahead and laugh at me and the silly things I wrote. I've realized that this blog is a document in a way of things I thought about, cared about, things that happened to me, and I can tell you that I've changed quite a bit. In fact I'm constantly changing, and that's something I've come to accept in recent years, and also, expect. This blog documents many different versions of me and I will showcase my current state a bit, through blogging again. And I'm sure in months and years from now I will look back at see how much I've changed since writing this post and the posts that I'm about to write.

So, thanks for joining me! I hope you come back and see what new things are up. Comments are welcome and if you really like what I wrote, I'd love it if you shared the blog. :-)