Racism against south Asian students on Campus

Racism has always been and will be a controversial and delicate issue. But when international students on campus are consistently offended and inappropriately talked to because of stereotypes, is that still racism or a more intense form of ignorance? Who is to be blamed? Parents, education, society?

“As soon as I say I’m Indian and a Sikh, I’m asked if cows are holy to me. No, they’re not. I’m Sikh! All life is holy to me— including and not limited to cows,” says Jasmine Mann, a Politics major at New York University. “This doesn’t really offend me, it’s just ignorant. (Cows) are a religious thing but to others, it applies to all Indians. But there are many religions within India!” NYU prides itself as a liberal institution and a global university. The global network is what attracts international and domestic students alike, but this does not mean that cultural barriers are that much easier to break.

Curiosity and learning is always encouraged, but some questions and comments come off as more racist and ignorant than genuine interest. “I was once asked if Sikhism is a sect of Islam,” states Mann, as she shakes her head. “I tried explaining that it wasn’t. I was definitely very upset when I was asked, but didn’t show it. I just tried my best to get rid of this misunderstanding.” After the 9/11 attacks, Sikhs living in America were targeted and bullied, attacked and even killed because they were thought to be a part of Islam. “It is because of assumptions like this, that Sikhs are victims of hate crimes and horrendous murders,” Mann continues. “I was also once asked if Sikhs are a Native American tribe and honestly, I was so dumbfounded to even respond to that coherently.”

According to the facts and statistics published by NYU, international students make up about 20% of NYU’s student population, and 90 countries are represented within this 20%. This year’s freshman class alone has about 21% Asian Americans and Asian students. While the exact percentage of South Asian students has not been published, they are an established minority within the NYU community. There are numerous groups and student organisations on campus that are centred on fostering a community for south Asian students and holding events that are unique to South Asian culture which are open to all NYU students. Organisations like the Indian Cultural Exchange, Shruti and the United Sikh Association host events often with food, dance and performances all related to South Asian culture so as to educate the rest of the student population about where their peers come from.

There isn’t a lot of friction or tension between south Asian students and the rest of the NYU student body, however this issue of ignorance is more noticeable at a personal level. Some south Asian students have just encountered with uncomfortable situations where they’ve been asked by peers and sometimes even friends, jarring questions like, “So are you a dot Indian, or feather?” or rather, “Are there Muslims where you come from? Are they just as scary as they are here?” and sometimes, students are met with comments like, “Why are you speaking in your native language? Speak English. This is America. You need to learn.”

Mallika Shah, a sophomore student at SUNY in Geneseo, New York has had a similar experience. “I live with three south Asians and one American girl and we’re all friends. A few weeks ago our white roommate came up to us and told us she’s uncomfortable when we speak to our parents over the phone in our native languages.” Shah and her roommates asked their friend why it bothered her. “She said it was because she thought we were planning something… like a terrorist attack. I was appalled and frustrated.” While this sort of racism stems from homogenous societies in rural America and the representation of terrorists and other religions in western media, it is still inexcusable for such generalisation.

International students are actively recruited and pursued by American universities to generate revenue in difficult economic times. Not only do they generate revenue for the U.S. economy but also increase diversity on campuses and are a great source of cultural exposure for domestic students. In 2011 alone, international students contributed $21.8 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. 70% of this primary funding for international students comes from outside of the United States. Shouldn’t this mean that these universities should provide a safer experience especially since they’re increasing the diversity on campus and helping the economy. If such ignorance spreads more and if it turns more violent and more racist, international students will be discouraged from applying to universities in the United States.

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Bro, do you even roast?

Coffee makes the world wake up and power through the week. For NYU’s student population, coffee is a drug on its own; different roasts are priced differently, single source or blend— the options are endless but important.

There are plenty of coffee places around campus populated with students and faculty alike. Two coffee shops on campus have emerged as the biggest suppliers—Madman Espresso and Stumptown Coffee. “I like Stumptown and Madman, but if I had to choose, I’d go for Madman,” says sophomore Matt Russell. “I’ve been going to Madman for longer, since it was closer to where I lived. Also, you don’t need to buy 10 drinks to get a free coffee, unlike Stumptown.”

It’s all about the location and the atmosphere. Stumptown Coffee is on MacDougal Street behind Washington Square Park, a prime location for NYU students. Madman Espresso has a few branches but the more popular ones for NYU students is the shop in the East Village near 2nd Avenue and on 14th street. However, they just opened another branch on University Place, right in the heart of the NYU campus. “Yeah, now that (Madman) is on campus I go there a lot more!” says Russell. However, both of these coffee shops don’t sell their products for cheap. While the quality of their coffee is commendable, it isn’t good enough to cough up $5 everyday for a single source large coffee. Madman Espresso’s regular brew starts at about $3.50, while espresso-based drinks go up to about $5.20 depending on the size. Stumptown’s regular brew starts at around $3.50 and goes up to $5 with their espresso-based drinks. They also sell cold brews packaged in little glass bottles and milk cartons at a steep price of $4.50.

“Well, as long as I can afford it, I’ll go to Stumptown like twice or thrice a week. Their coffee tastes good and that’s what matters,” states Neuroscience major and coffee connoisseur, Ariel Hairston. “The atmosphere at Stumptown is what makes me go there over Madman. Both have excellent coffee, but Stumptown has more seating, is more open with big windows and I especially love their tables outside. Madman Espresso is just so tiny and packed so tightly!”

Matt Ninivaggi, coffee explorer and an Urban Design student at NYU, is a loyal fan of Stumptown Coffee. “I’d say that I prefer Stumptown over Madman Espresso not only because I like the actual coffee better, but also because the coffee house itself maintains a lively yet intimate atmosphere,” says Ninivaggi as he pours his cold brew in a cup. The space is filled with people most of the time, reading, chatting, and working. “The layout of Stumptown makes you feel like the same people are always there sitting at the tables, when in reality, customers are constantly coming and going.”

According to the New York Times, New Yorkers sought after the Portland based Stumptown Coffee, a premium coffee roasting company, for years. Now with Stumptown opening roasters and coffee shops all over New York, the demand for a great roast and a good brew is higher than ever. Madman Espresso only serves single source coffee roasted by Seattle’s Caffe Vita, a farm direct coffee roasting company. Caffe Vita however has a roaster in the city so Madman Espresso receives freshly roasted beans every other day. “Both places have great roasts and the coffee is pretty good. They don’t taste the same but that’s because their roasts are just different. You can’t compare them. You can literally taste the difference!” says Hairston, as she sips on her latte from Stumptown. Conversely, “I don’t really care about the roast,” says Russell, shrugging. “As long as the coffee tastes good, I don’t care about where the coffee is from, how it’s been roasted and so on. I think that’s kinda snobbish.”

Student discounts are very important to keep sales running. Madman Espresso barista, Joan A. said, “Our student discount is what keeps these kids pouring in every day. While 10% may not be that much, it does make a difference when a cappuccino is about $4.50,” Lowering prices in general is certainly not an option. “We can’t lower prices without incurring losses because we get our coffee directly from farms and the quality is so high that we have to charge that much to break even.” However, the loyalty cards at Stumptown and Madman Espresso are another bonus that students take advantage of. “I sometimes go to Madman Espresso over Stumptown only because their loyalty card needs five drinks to be eligible for a free drink, but Stumptown needs like 10!” says Ninivaggi, as he fishes out and lays out both loyalty cards on the table. Stumptown also doesn’t offer a student discount.

The employees at both these places are admired for their efficiency and their memory. Constantly serving coffee to hoards of sleep deprived students, they can still remember people’s regular orders. “The employees at Stumptown have also come to remember my order, which is a fun bonus,” says Ninivaggi. “They remember that the curly haired hipster kid is going to ask for their premium cold brew in a nice little bottle. It’s pretty cool.”

stumptown-loyalty 1417624606 8836382903_596bed45dc_b download

NYC’s 19th Precinct!

Crime shows set in New York always have a murder to solve every week. Fortunately, the 19th precinct doesn’t live up to these absurd depictions and hasn’t seen such action in the past few years.

Set in the beautifully cultivated Upper East Side, the 19th Precinct has over 200,000 residents and in the past year– zero murders. While the rest of New York experienced over 300 murders or charges on manslaughter, this precinct seems squeaky clean in comparison. Police officers patrol the area consistently throughout the day, either in police vehicles or on foot. The relationship between the police and the rest of the community seems to be more than cordial.

The NYPD is very active in this precinct. “The officers come by every other day and ask me if I’m doing okay, or if I’m being bothered in any way,” says fruit vendor and resident, Ravi Dalal. “They look out for us vendors. It’s nice. I know some officers by name and a few are even my friends!” Attesting to their successful attempts at community outreach, their presence on social media is admirable. Their twitter page is updated daily with information about missing persons, crime suspects and hotlines residents can dial if they have any information or suspicions.

Deputy Inspector James Grant, Commanding officer and the rest of the team have been trying their best to protect their residents and the community. With new safety initiatives underway and their very informative Twitter page, their determination to be active in the community is commendable.

Reporting over 1,000 grand larcenies in the past year however, the NYPD’s work to stop crime is far from over. To be fair, a lot has changed since the 1990s. Auto thefts have reduced drastically from over a 1000 two decades ago, to just a mere 82 in 2014. This could also be accounted for by better security technology in cars or the perhaps, the lack of privately owned vehicles by New Yorkers. The Upper East Side is also ostensibly an upscale part of the city, with wealthy residents and luxury shops and buildings—like the Trump Palace on 68th street and 6th Avenue. Therefore, grand larcenies are seen as a nuisance crime. This is perhaps why there are police patrolling the area constantly. It is their largest crime, according to statistics. In the last week of March this year, there have been 17 grand larcenies but also a lower number than 22 in last year’s week to date.

There have been a few other mishaps over the past year, however. The police failed to inform the community that the prime suspect of a set of fire-escape burglaries took his own life in custody. In a community meeting, officers informed the members that the crime was solved but did not pass on this crucial part of the case. Community members did know about a suspect dying in custody but did not know it was the culprit of the burglaries in question. “I was at that meeting,” states local children’s boutique owner Christina Calise. “I remember someone asking about the man who was found hanging in a cell, and I was shocked. There could be a number of implications.” Calise continues to speculate about how the suspect could even have had the tools to take his own life. “(The police) need to be more careful about this. Clearly, the man must have not been stable. This could have been prevented.”

In January this year, an armed man robbed a young woman at around 2.30 a.m. on 80th street. He held her at gunpoint and stole her belongings. While children hardly walk about at such hours in the early morning, it rings some alarm among the community about letting children walk anywhere when it is dark. Magazine stall owner Hari Grover says, “I read about the armed man in the papers and after that, every time my 17 year old daughter leaves home after dark, I’m worried!” Grover is a long time resident and lives just at the edge of the precinct, near the East River. “There aren’t that many reported crimes in the area so I can’t stop her from visiting her friends down the block, but as a parent, I obviously worry.”

A few churches, Hunter College and chic steakhouses and cafés occupy the area around the police precinct. Most of the residential buildings in the area are high-rise luxury buildings with doormen and tight security. The neighbourhood isn’t crowded with tourists, and the sense of community here is quite strong. The monthly community meetings conducted by President Nick Viest of the community council have large turnouts, according to local pizzeria owner, David Canzano. “I’m also a part of the Community Patrol. We basically act as the eyes and ears of the community in a way. It’s a great way to get the community and the police working together,” says Canzano. “In a lot of precincts, especially in downtown Manhattan, residents are so scared or wary of their local police squad. They’re seen as some sort of overlords and not always a helping hand.”

Sources:

http://maps.nyc.gov/crime/

http://manhattanda.org/community-event/19th-precinct-community-council-meeting

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/crime_mapping/nyc_crime_map_statistical_and_technical_notes.shtml

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs019pct.pdf

http://www.yelp.com/biz/nypd-19th-precinct-new-york

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140307/upper-east-side/man-who-hanged-himself-police-custody-was-suspected-serial-burglar-nypd

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140617/upper-east-side/burglar-dresses-as-construction-worker-steal-from-apartments-police-say

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/analysis_and_planning/historical_nyc_crime_data.shtml

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/precincts/precinct_019.shtml

https://twitter.com/nypd19pct

Aggressive Bus Drivers and Passive Aggressive Students – NYU Quality of Life

A student waits in line for the NYU Route E bus outside her dorm. The bus was supposed to be there at 10.35 a.m., however it’s almost 15 minutes late and the bus is still 4 blocks away. The bus finally arrives but the driver snaps at the students to be quick about getting on the bus.

Most of the upperclassmen dorms are more than 10 to 15 blocks from campus; therefore there are a few thousand students who rely on the NYU shuttles for their convenience. Alas, the transportation services have caused more grief than happiness for a certain percentage of the NYU student population. The top concerns, or rather complaints, are that the drivers can be rude, rash and unconcerned about time.

“I’ve been yelled at a number of times by drivers if I don’t have my NYU ID out as soon as I step on to the bus,” states Tisch sophomore, Shelby Slauer. “I get that sometimes I’m holding people up but it honestly just takes an extra 3 seconds. I don’t understand why some of the bus drivers have to be so rude! They’re the ones who’re late already! I’m already 5 minutes late to class, so I can’t care about those 3 seconds.” And like Ms Slauer, a number of students have taken it upon themselves to express their discontent of the buses being late and behind schedule. Students have tweeted about the buses being late during weeks of midterms or finals. Some have tweeted about having to take cabs because the buses are late. One female student clearly expressed her discomfort about being late to class saying, “How do NYU bus drivers think it’s acceptable to be 15 minutes late on their route? Do you want to write a note to my professor for me or…?” (https://twitter.com/colleen_gordon/status/561186743228329985).

What students do not know is that they can submit complaints to the Transportation department at NYU. Further yet, the IRHC (Inter-Residential Hall Council) hosts a ‘Town Hall’ meeting to air grievances about campus life. The Town Hall meeting includes a panel of managers and Greg Rivas, the Manager of Transportation Services is on this panel. If a student wants to complain to him directly however, it isn’t easy to find his name as it isn’t on the webpage of Transportation Services nor does it show up on a simple Google search. Residential Assistants have been spreading the word about this event, as the bus system is a common topic of dissatisfaction among students.

NYU has a set schedule for these buses. There are about 6 bus routes, out of which 5 run on weekdays and 1 on weekends. The schedule can be picked up from any dorms and is also available on two different apps- the regular NYU guide app and a specific NYU bus tracker. Both maps show real time locations of the bus and when the bus is supposed to arrive at every stop. However, students complain that half the time, the buses don’t even leave from campus according to the schedule. The NYU bus tracker app can account for this. “I check the app and it shows that the Route F bus that I want to take hasn’t even left, even though it was supposed to like 5 minutes ago,” says Matt Russell, a sophomore as he stands in line outside his dorm on 3rd Avenue. “Most of the time, I end up walking to school but if it’s raining like it is today, I just wait. I don’t want to spend money on the subway and I definitely don’t want to get ill walking to school.”

Social media, especially Twitter, has proven to be a widely used platform for students to convey their bus dilemmas. Ranging from drivers skipping stops to drivers almost running people over, students are not afraid to express their disappointment. One student tweeted in February about almost being run over by a bus— “.@nyuniversity A #NYU bus almost ran me over at Morton & Greenwich bc she ran a stop sign. Driver waved her finger no at me. #baddrivers” (https://twitter.com/boldsubtleties/status/562987284795240450).

Katie Semple, a Therapy major complained about how some drivers skip stops- even if the bus is not full. “The drivers are supposed to stop at every bus stop shown on the route—no matter if someone requests the stop or not. I’ve seen many people miss their stop, especially the one on 14th street and 3rd avenue and I’m sure it’s quite frustrating. I’ve even seen people run after the bus at times at the 14th street stop and the driver just dismisses them.” Another tweet by a student said, “watches the nyu bus drive past my stop” (https://twitter.com/pavaal/status/560837578069647360).

Yet another common complaint is that if a bus is early at a stop, sometimes it leaves early too and doesn’t follow the schedule. John Panzures, an Economics major recalled how he missed the bus a few times because he followed the schedule but the bus arrived early without warning and left before it was supposed to. “By the time I could get into the elevator and rush to the exit, it was 3 blocks away. I wasn’t that late to class but who wants to walk all the way to campus at 7.30 a.m.!”, stated Panzures. Someone on twitter had a similar problem as well tweeting, “Dear NYU bus system if you’re going to run early at least wait until the time you’re supposed to be at the stop before leaving #disgruntled” (https://twitter.com/mamabearjer/status/572566418916556800)

Birdland – review

It’s been really fun doing this but I don’t think I’m cut out for the vlog world.
While reviewing via a vlog may be a relatively new thing, I do think that with the right skill and refinement, it’s very possible to achieve this.

Publications catching up and the importance of Social Media.

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 Newpaper publications, the broadsheets specifically, like the Guardian and the Telegraph have started online blogs that are updated by their theatre critics. They don’t review the performing arts on the blog but they do talk about current hot topics in the theatre world. Since it’s online, I’m guessing they do have a lot more freedom with how much they can write. But it’s still quite uniform in a way because it IS a part of a newpaper publication, so they have to edit their writing to fit the standards and boundaries of being a part of a bigger image. While Matt Trueman can basically write what his heart desires on his blog since he is a freelancer and has no permanent or official ties to publications, Lyn Gardner of the Guardian may have more trouble doing so. She not only represents herself, but also her newspaper. Thus, she may not be able to say certain things that could harm the reputation of her employer. There is that fine balance she must maintain. But it is admirable that the British press is trying to keep up with the trends and is doing so quite well. While it may not be the same as the Whingers, these blogs are quite interesting and are very up to date. I particularly like Gardner’s and you can find her blog on the Guardian website  (http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog). While this doesn’t really make its way into the critical landscape,I feel like it is an important extension of it. It gives you a very up to date view of the world of the performing arts – something that is very important for a critic. Especially, a performing arts critic. You have to be constantly on alert for new productions, rising actors, falling actors, etc. To be a good critic, you have to have a thirst for knowledge and a nose for a story. This will not only help a critic show his/her followers that they’re quite caught up with the current topics, but it also gives some depth to their blog. Mark Shenton and Matt Trueman don’t only write reviews – that would be too boring, I think. They write or comment on anything interesting that may be happening in the world of journalism and performing arts. They diversify, but not to a large extent.

Speaking of being caught up, social media is becoming more and more important. Newspaper publications have an official twitter page, a Facebook page, etc. to promote their articles and stories to people so that their circulation may increase. Similarly, as a blogger it’s important to do the same. I was told the Mark Shenton’s quite interesting on his Twitter, which I must say he his. He’s quite active and at over 21,000 followers, he’s doing quite well for himself, I must say. Through twitter, he gains more followers and this is also very useful for networking. As a blogger, networking is key, isn’t it? You make connections that may help your blog gain more popularity, may help that one article on that one play be published in a newspaper or you may be lucky enough to be sponsored.

Publicity is the key.

I realised this makes me sound like someone who is completely supportive or narcissism and self – promotion in the most obnoxious way possible.

But this is what the world has come to, hasn’t it?

Mahak Morsawala.

Language and Style – Y iz dis important?

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Language is very important in all aspects of a student’s daily life. Academically, socially, culturally, you always have to mind your p’s and q’s, your “its” and “it’s” and your “your” and “you’re”. I believe having a blog doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from these rules. Especially in the critical landscape, it’s important to maintain a certain level of eloquence and consistency with which you interest the readers not only in your writing, but the performance you’re talking about. You’re basically giving the production publicity, if you’re talking about it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve given the production a bad review, it’s still being talked about. That is why it is essential for the language in a review, whether it be in the Times or on a sketchy website, to be professional enough to be considered as a serious article with the right amount of simplicity that could pass off as a blog post. It doesn’t have to be a dry and detailed technical analysis of a production. It can be riddled with jokes, sarcasm, metaphors, as long as you maintain the integrity of a critic, and more importantly, a journalist.

An example of this would be fellow blogger and critic, A West End Whinger (http://westendwhingers.wordpress.com/), formerly the West End Whingers. There were two of them and for classified reasons, one of them stopped contributing to the hilariously witty blog. I suspect the MI6 equivalent of the theatre world scared him off. Those drama enthusiasts can be really threatening when they want to be. These Whingers caused a real stir in the London theatre world and the British press certainly, if not the rest of the world. They are amateur critics who created a blog on WordPress. Since they are amateurs, they don’t receive free tickets to watch the shows they review. They pay for the tickets themselves. Or atleast they used to. Tom Wicker of the OffWestEnd, an online publication (http://www.offwestend.com/index.php/news/view/115) conducted an interview with Mark Shenton on the changing role of theatre criticism. Shenton talks about the Whingers saying,

“The West End Whingers have acquired authority, indeed global notoriety, because they write well and interestingly. But because they don’t go the theatre as much as we do – by and large, they have to pay for their tickets – they don’t have the same overview of the theatre world that we do. They do what the public does: see the productions they’re interested in.”

Andrew and Phil, the Whingers, are quite witty however, as mentioned before. Reading through their reviews, I realise that their articles have the kind of dry humour that is very favourable to a British audience. For example, they reviewed Sunny Afternoon at the Hampstead Theatre  (http://westendwhingers.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/review-sunny-afternoon-hampstead-theatre/#more-20505) and were talking about the costumes and sets saying,

“The sixties costumes are wonderful and Mirian Buether’s impressive set of piled up loudspeakers wouldn’t look amiss in Tate Modern. A lime green catwalk juts out over the stalls, so fold your arms grumpily (as we did) if you don’t want to be pulled up to dance at the end.”

They are SO London. That is all I can say about them.

Many other such amateur critics have popped up, inspired by the Whingers. For example, response blogs have popped up, antagonising the Whingers. I came across a blog called NotTheWestEndWhingers (http://notthewestendwhingers.blogspot.co.uk/) with the tagline,

“Read any of these. They’re better than Phil and Andrew’s.”

The description of the blog states,

“No self-indulgent campery. No freebie tickets. No wallowing in the luvvieness of it all. No TV interviews. No being quoted in newspapers. No hob-knobbing with “celebrity friends”. Just decently written theatre reviews!”

This is the beauty of blogging. The anonymity, the freedom of speech to write as little or as much as you want. The internet really is a motivational space for anyone who needs the encouragement.

Are you hooked yet?

Mahak Morsawala

Make yourself a brand. It’s possible.

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Everyone trying to be someone is doing it. Artists, actors, writers and now, journalists. The world of journalism, as mentioned before, is a competitive one. Finding a steady job is difficult and nearly impossible. Rather, finding the job you WANT is nearly impossible to obtain. But journalists and especially, critics, today have found a way to make themselves known, individually for fame that eventually leads to work. Confused? Let me explain. 

A lot of critics these days, have made themselves quite popular in the world of the performing arts by creating blogs or starting websites. They’ve given themselves a name and have made their opinions known freely because they don’t have to fit these opinions in a tiny box on the right hind corner of the Arts section of a newspaper. These critics have created a brand for themselves, a stamp saying “THIS IS MY OPINION, THIS IS MINE.” They get readers and followers through promoting themselves on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. These individuals gain more and more popularity by reviewing different performances and by writing in a style that appeals to  reader. The blogosphere is quite vast but at the same time, easily accessible. A ‘good’ blog would be a blog that has a high number of page views and followers. A blogger will appeal to a certain set of people with his style of writing. Examples of famous critics of the British press who have been very active and popular within the blogosphere are Mark Shenton and Matt Trueman. Both these critics are actually very different from each other. From their audiences to their style of writing to how they started as bloggers is all very dissimilar. 

Mark Shenton is a contributor to “The Stage”, an online news website dedicated to the performing arts. His column, called “Shenton’s View” is actually a daily blog and Shenton is paid to update it. As someone who has been blogging for a few years, this is quite a feat. Of course, it helps that Shenton was also the head theatre critic of the Sunday Express before he left in December 2013. Thus, his style of writing is very professional, technical and detailed. While it is quite entertaining at times, his style and tone is appealing to a certain older and more experienced audience. He doesn’t really write like a blogger, he writes like a professional critic, which he is. 

Matt Trueman, who has his own website, writes reviews, his opinion on general things and so on. He is considered a professional and has been dubbed as one of the youngest and most talented writers in the UK at the moment, as stated by the Dabbler and the Guardian. He is very much a freelance writer and writes for newspapers like the Guardian and also contributes to the Stage, surprisingly. This is surprising to me because his style of writing is very different from Shenton’s. If you take a look at Trueman’s blog (http://matttrueman.co.uk/category/criticism), you’ll notice he writes very much like a blogger, but a lot more eloquently than a 13 year old girl talking about One Direction with a lot of “OMG”s involved. I would say he’s professional but with the tone and voice that fits very well within the context of a blog. 

These two are just examples of hundreds, if not thousands of critics, or even aspiring ones that have attempted to make a name for themselves. However, these two are examples of very few people who have gained such popularity and are actually being paid for what they do. Thus, this makes me think if the blogosphere is a good place for any critic to earn a livelihood. Certainly, making your own brand and creating something of yourself is important. Regardless, it is very rare for someone to be paid to blog. Having your own blog is a great way for your opinions to be heard, but it’s very difficult for you to live by. Which, in this economy, means is impractical to start a silly blog rather than searching for an actual job. Sure, you could try freelance, but there is no guarantee that you might get work. 

This is in fact, quite worrying but it does not mean that it devalues the influence your blog could create. Matt Trueman has quite a large following on his website and Mark Shenton’s column is doing quite well for itself. Ed Seckerson is another example of a critic who has created his own personal brand via having his own website on which he reviews classical music and opera. He isn’t paid to do so, but the freedom of writing whatever he wants must be quite liberating, mustn’t it? In a world in which the arts is being cut down and taken away from newspapers, blogs are the only hope. The Independent on Sunday recently sacked all their art critics, basically removing the reviews column. The arts are being attacked and the internet is our knight in shining armour. 

Still with me?

Mahak Morsawala.

 

The Evolution of ‘Reviewing’ and why it fascinates me.

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Journalists, aspiring and/or professional, have struggled over the years to find a platform to make their voice heard over their countless peers who are all vying to get the most attention by trying to write on the ‘hottest’ or the most ‘compelling’ pieces first. Of course, this could be attributed to the fast paced day to day running of newspapers, magazines and other such sources of print media. This is because all these publications attempt to be the first to report anything mildly significant. And within this vast and complex universe, there is a planet, getting tinier and tinier – the critics of the arts.

To be specific, I will be talking about the performing arts. I’d rather not touch upon fine arts because as a mildly inexperienced freshman in college with no artistic talent, I feel like I wouldn’t do the fine arts any justice if I decided to explore that distant galaxy. So spending an entire semester observing the performing arts culture in London by watching shows, reading reviews, writing reviews really did intrigue me about the  current critical landscape. Today, I sat close to a handsome couple sitting on the grass in Russell Square Gardens, enjoying the sunny morning. The young man was scrolling through the Telegraph on his smartphone while his girlfriend was leaning against him, reading Vogue online on her iPad. Another teenager sitting close to me was on her laptop, blogging on tumblr.com. Similarly, I was scrolling through the Times of India app on my phone, trying to follow the results of the Indian Lok Sabha elections. All of us, basking under the sun, were connected through this harmonious use of electronics and the internet. There have been many criticisms of the use of electronics killing social contact, but most of us have reasons to use them to keep up with the world. I can’t get a copy of the Times of India delivered everyday to my flat in London. I also got quick live updates of the results of the elections. I felt like I was back home, biting my nails with the rest of the billion Indians in this world. I was a part of it all. At the same time, I was keeping up with my family, friends and fellow Indian citizens. Maybe the handsome couple couldn’t afford to buy printed copies of the Telegraph everyday and subscribing to Vogue would be much more expensive when ordering the printed version. The teenage girl on her laptop was perhaps writing a creative piece to share with her followers,who would be notified immediately when she posted her work.

This is how most of us live today, don’t we? We’re all constantly on the move so carrying bulky newspapers and magazines is getting harder and more inconvenient when we’re surrounded by magical screens that turn out to be lighter and fit much more easily in our pockets and bags. This is why publishing reviews online turn out to be better, and much easier. Blogs allow you all the space you need. Newspapers do not. Why? Newspapers have issues with space. This is because of advertisements, other articles, other articles that may be considered more important or more ‘big’ than a random review of the latest revival of Chekhov’s play in an off West End theatre, South of the Thames. Publishing online makes it easier to ‘share’ your articles on social media and websites that are willing to promote your work.

And this is why I plan to explore this idea by blogging about it and later ‘vlogging’. These vlogs will help me and others see if vlogs would ever work to review a performance.

Who knows, maybe I’ll end up continuing this even after I finish up for the semester.

So, are you with me?

 

Mahak Morsawala.