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Bread and Hummus

July 1, 2011

“Take a journal and write down everything and anything that inspires you. Remember it.”  -Fiona Anderson, BBC Reporter

As aspiring journalists, we are constantly hearing people stress the importance of keeping a journal, and writing about what you see and hear, and how they might interest you. I know that my mom has been telling me this since I was in middle-school, “Write that down, you’ll use it in your book someday.” And I would usually just laugh, nod and agree while thinking, what book?

Well, I’m figuring out that there are a lot of things that I notice and think twice about. Things that I wish I remembered, people I met and places I visited. These are things that inspire me. There are the cliché things, like sunsets, calm nights that follow it and a beautiful sunny day. Then there are the nostalgia-induced  moments, like that warm and comfortable feel of being “home,” the smell of double chocolate fudge brownies, or even seeing the loving interaction between a father and his little girl. Lastly, of course, there are the inspirational moments that take your breath away. These are harder to come by and explain, but they exist. They can be found in the chills from the voice of an amazing singer, or witnessing the pure and uninhibited happiness of someone else and sharing in their joy. Maybe it is a delicious meal, or that realization that you just met someone who effortlessly and unknowingly just changed your life.  All of these things can be considered inspirational, along with millions more. Inspiration is different for everyone, so there really isn’t one way to describe it. But I think sometimes it’s beneficial to question why you do things, and I feel that at its core, inspiration is simply motivation. A motivation to keep thinking and keep doing. Inspirations are all around and can be found in the simplest things. I believe that pure inspiration is found in experience, spontaneity and open doors.

Oh, he must be late for class

May 31, 2011

photo credit: Jamie Kamen

 

Sometimes I watch people on the tube and wonder about their story. What kind of job do they have? Do they have pets? What song are they listening to on their iPod? What game are they playing on their phone? Did they play a lot of videogames when they were younger? Do they have kids? Do they want kids? Are they visiting, or from London? Maybe, they’re here for a football match? Did they ever play football (soccer)? I could ramble questions for days; it’s just crazy that I may never see this person again.  I’m sure it’s the same in any big city, but this is my first experience being immersed into such a large population of diverse people. At school in Bloomington, I see familiar faces every day. Here, I see similar faces that are not familiar at all.

Is it weird to say “hi?” Is that acceptable in the realm of British social norms? Speaking of which, I’ve referenced social interactions and formalities a couple time, but I think that it’s time to discuss some perceptions I’ve had in my almost four weeks of “being British.”

First of all, it is no surprise that people in America are fast-paced. We like our food fast, our cars fast and our internet fast. However, the Brits put our fast-paced lifestyle to shame. Take for example someone bumping into you. It is common courtesy and normal to stagger/stutter/ stop for a second to face the person you just collided into – maybe even say a half-hearted, automatic, “oh sorry!” In London I have realized that usually when someone is speed walking they are on a mission and if you are in their way and obstruct their mission…man down. They want to get to where they are going and if you are in their way – literally in their path – they will run you down. It is almost like you are invisible, but it’s not a lack of sincerity or compassion for others, it is a complete autopilot.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that in the Brit’s fast-paced lifestyle, there does not seem to be the constant need to be on a cell phone. Walk around any mall in America and you’ll find 12-24 year olds, phone in hand and attention completely focused on texting, BBMing or e-mailing. Walking around London, I don’t see that. People don’t seem to use their phones like we do in America. The weirdest thing about that whole concept is thinking about actually having my “real” phone again back in the states. I’ve become so used to my Barbie-inspired go-phone, and the fact that we all rarely text or call each other because it uses too many minutes (and minutes mean pounds), that I feel my mentality towards my phone and consistent, and sometimes useless, communication will have severely changed. I guess we’ll see, but it’s definitely not a negative change. As much as it pains me that I can’t text, call or send funny pictures to my friends and family of life here, it is also kind of freeing. I’m able to focus on people more, on the reality and the actual conversation I’m having without thinking of a text or mindlessly logging onto Facebook on my phone.

Unfortunately as I type this I have been mentally counting all the times here where we have complained about wanting “our real phones” when we see someone on the tube with a Blackberry or an iPhone. However I’m just going to consider that homesickness and not an unhealthy obsession with technology.

photo credit: Jamie Kamen

Bedtime for the Young Ones

May 22, 2011

After being in London for over a week, I feel more educated regarding the culture we are quickly assimilating ourselves into. Along with the wisdom we are slowly but surely gaining, usually from personal mistakes and insights, we’ve all become curious about characteristic of the Brit lifestyle (“What are in the backpacks people wear while running?” or “Is ‘cheers’ a salutation or a brush off?”). Personally, I’ve grown quite curious about cable television and any regulations that might surround it. An incident that really sparked my interest was an unusual commercial which began with an adult man lying on a couch in his underwear, and facing a webcam on top of a television. The commercial ended with a full nude shot of his backside, as he faced doctors on the TV screen.

I was so surprised. My flat mates and I gawked in amazement. I could not believe that nudity would be allowed on cable television. It was 7:15PM. The following day, a woman I intern for questioned out loud, “What is Zoloft?” Without thinking I blurted, “Oh, it’s for depression.” And when I looked up and saw the inquiring looks, I added, “Oh, I just remember from all of the commercials with the stick figures.”

The two women both looked at each other in the same kind of awe we all did the night before. They explained that British cable would never air commercials, or “adverts,” about anti-depression medication. This seemed pretty ironic to me, since the previous night I saw a man’s bottom on Channel 4. This led to a discussion about the differences with cable and television in the United Kingdom versus America.

Though television shows in the U.S. are becoming more open, liberal and much less modest in content, the v-chip and Children’s Television Act are still alive. The CTA requires “educational” programming on cable channels until 10PM and the v-chip was introduced in 1996, creating “Parental Guidelines” and ratings for parents to monitor what their children watch.  Well, through my brief lesson on UK television I learned that after 9PM, basic channels can show, say and do whatever they want. It’s as simple as that, other than the fee that a person has to pay to have a television in their home.

In conclusion, along with the many factors that separate the United States and the United Kingdom, television is an unexpected difference. However, I’m not sure if it’s a case of Britain being behind the times and vulgar or just more progressive. Maybe children really do go to bed at 9PM?

Chips are Crisps

May 15, 2011

 

photo credit: Sarah Thacker

 This week has been a week of firsts. My first time traveling internationally. My first time enjoying high tea on the River Thames (pronounced “Temps”). My first time navigating the Tube. My first time getting lost while trying to navigate the Tube. My first time hearing a computer mouse being referred to as a “rodent.” My first time watching British reality television. My first time being completely independent.

This concept of independence is a new one for me. I have always associated “independence” with being away from parental supervision. Freshman and sophomore year of college I kept feeling like my independence was growing, even though I still talked to my parents at least 3 times a day (by choice) and lived in places that provided me three meals a day as well as the comforts of a home. My perspective on independence has shifted quite a bit this past week. Real independence is being cut off from your comfort zones; No phone, limited internet, thousands of miles away from family and friends, and truly thinking for yourself – that’s independence. Don’t get me wrong, I do still have great friends with me here, and talk daily to my family and friends in the states – it’s just a new level of independence. It’s like I am going through a test run of being an adult. I am grocery shopping for myself, cooking dinners, and going to my internship in the morning alongside hundreds of normal work-goers. I’m beginning to feel like a grown-up, slightly.

Yesterday we went to Oxford Circus, the “Times Square” of London. Across one street was a three story H&M, and diagonal to that was a Top Shop. Top Shop is the best store I have ever stepped foot in, so much so that I feel weird calling it a “store.” It’s where glamorous meets grunge, vintage meets modern, casual meets dress-up, and 70’s hippie-chic meets 50’s dainty and feminine. A fashionista’s dream all jam packed into a three floor concrete safe haven.

Later that evening a group of us went to a comedy night at a local bar in Angel. It was free and worth so much more. Each act with their own style of humor, they were all honest and open – using truth as a consistent dynamic to their sets.

The bold fashion I saw earlier that day, mixed with the personality the comedy club exuded, left me feeling very cultured. Sure, I could have gone to museums all day to muster up a true feel for the place I am in (and I do plan on many museum and gallery trips) but I think that today provided me with the strongest connection to this society. Obviously America and Britain aren’t much different (just with a couple minor contrasts in the realm of social interaction), but it is natural for anyone to enter a brand new environment and make it out to be more foreign than it actually is; we are only human.

Last word.

A tourist’s perspective

May 10, 2011

 

We quickly want to emerge ourselves into the British culture, since we will be here for another 7 weeks. AKA, we want to be British, not tourist. Many things are going to help us achieve this. For example, buying tights and scarves, brushing up on slang by watching British reality television, attending all the free things we can possible attend, successfully navigating the Tube, and having high tea at a fancy restaurant. There are many other things among the list but these are the main ones for now.

Until then, being a tourist isn’t too bad.

I mean, making a British Royal Guard smile and wink…not too shabby ladies, not too shabby.

And I’d say that watching the Liverpool soccer team (sorry, football team) play on a pub’s big screen and cheering alongside 50-year-old men is a great start to assimilation.

Welcome to London

May 9, 2011

Summer in London 2011 has finally arrived – two months of culture, accents, travel, writing, tea, the Tube, tea with milk, fish ‘n chips and adventure. Not to mention an amazing opportunity. My goal for the next eight weeks is to learn and to experience. I want to take full advantage of the opportunities I am given because I don’t know when I will ever have this chance again; to be in this place, young and carefree.  I’m not trying to “Eat, Pray, Love” you all, but my plan is to start every day with a goal and try to learn something new throughout the day. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, but also that there is no set plan for our lives. Instead, we are presented with situations that allow us to make a choice and create/construct our own “working plan.” I cannot wait to see what paths these create and what lies behind every door. Robert Frost suggested that we all take our own path and make our own trail. I am so ready to start. Cheers!

——

So, day one was actually two days. After a long and bumpy 7 hour flight to London, the group and I had to endure an amusement-park long line to get through the border and customs. Upon realizing that my blackberry did not even get any signal and I had no internet connection I had an inner and mini panic attack. I was in a foreign country without any means of communication, and worrying every second that I forgot my passport somewhere or that it fell out of my backpack.

However, once we drove out of the airport area and began to pass all of the Privet Drive-esque houses I couldn’t help but smile. All of my worries faded once I realized, I am in England. The area we are in is not quite Privet Drive, but better. It is posh and cosmopolitan, and feels exactly how I grew up believing England (and Europe) would feel – especially the street fashion and bold, trendy and hip statements of the 20-somethings. I will be taking notes. And our flat is adorable and quaint, and having our own kitchenette makes me feel so “grown up.”  Oh and we have a pull flush toilet, with the chord that hangs from the ceiling. How British is that?!

Exploring the city the first day (about 6 in the morning our body time, but noonish in London) I acquired two necessities: a UK go-phone and an Oyster card. After both of those accomplishments, I felt so comfortable in this foreign city.

Everything here is also so close together – the adorable townhouse flats, the boutiques, the sandwich shops, the coffee cafes, and the roads in general – that it really is a community, and one of such a diverse culture.

The jetlag finally hit around 8pm London time. We picked up some necessities from a grocery store (so many organic things!), like Special K cereal, peanut butter, milk, fruit, bread and Nuttella.

So after my first afternoon and night in London I have learned some important things:

1. Street fashion is awesome.

2. The traffic flow is so efficient, there are barely any stoplights.

3. It would be so challenging to drive here, mainly because of the double-decker buses.

 3. When walking on the sidewalk, the rules of the roads still apply (right-hand side, not left-hand).

 4. It is so Green. There are recycle units and bins conveniently located all around.

5. There are not a lot of “neighborhoods.” Townhouses and flats in the city are so tight together but it works!

6. The Indian cuisine is supposedly amazing.

7. Sandwich shops and cafes are everywhere. The amount of Petit a Mangers rival that of Starbucks in the states.

8. Band-aids are called Plasters and the Cockney way of saying thieves is tea-leaves.

9. The “Tube,” underground subway that travels throughout the zones of the United Kingdom, is the exact hustle and bustle of the ministry of magic.

Many more Harry Potter references to come and it is only the first day!

I promise I don’t really believe in the magic world…but I do wonder sometime…

Time for some quality late-night, British “reality television”: The London version of The Hills.

Hotfox

January 12, 2011

At 19 years old, not many college students have a grip on life like the members Hotfox.

“Everything’s relative. Everything we write about now, and base our music around, is just the sum of our life experiences,” vocalist and guitarist Oliver Hopkins contemplates and after years together, Hotfox has a good amount of those to choose from.

In the past three years, Hotfox has recorded two albums, won Fender’s 2010 National Record Store Day Battle of the Bands, toured around Indianapolis, and still maintained sanity at the end of their first semester as IU college freshmen.

Hotfox is an experimental, indie-rock band hailing from Indianapolis. The band is comprised of Marcus Tedesco (bass), Duncan Kissinger (guitar), Oliver Hopkins (vocals, guitar) and Michael Preuschl (drums). The evolution of Hotfox can be traced back to 2005 when Kissinger and Hopkins began jamming together in 8th grade. Their first band, Main Event, played gigs at coffeehouses around Indianapolis. Opting for a new name in 2007 led to the creation of Sanuk. In the Sanuk era, the guys released Honey I Have News. However in 2009, with the addition of new drummer Preuschl, came the name that stuck: Hotfox.

Hotfox’s most recent album, You, Me & the Monster  offers music ranging from eclectic mixtures of ambient new waves rock (“Tombstone Teeth”) to slower, nostalgic acoustic folk (“Esplanade”). Hotfox’s diversity can be attributed to their musical influences like The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, Pavement and Brand New. The band is very proud of the more mature and structured sound they created in Monster.

“We got louder, more confident and our influences grew a lot,” Kissinger explains.

The confidence Hotfox exudes not only sheds light on their progression as artists, it also allows them to test different guitar sounds like the track “5th and Mad.” Kissinger explains that their methods of recording have also changed with experience.

“The process for Honey I Have News was more drawn out. We went in to the studio for two songs at a time for a period of months. For You, Me and The Monster, we went in all at once for initial recording in June 2010 and worked on the album, on and off, until August 2010. We finished it all the weekend before we came to IU.”

That’s quite a load to carry, especially with college on the very distant horizon.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m less busy up at school,” Tedesco explains, leading Kissinger to quip, “You’re in the music school, everything’s easy!”

After the laughter dies down, Kissinger proceeds to explain, “Everything has changed a lot. For example, all of our things are in Indianapolis with our parents so it can be difficult to fully practice.”

“Oh, don’t talk about parents. That’s so uncool,” Hopkins interrupts jokingly, shaking his head. “We don’t have parents.”

The sarcasm doesn’t stop there. “In five years, I’ll be 24 and most likely at gas stations buying liquor for high school students,” Preuschl states, straight-faced. Laughter erupts along with numerous different sarcastic, hypothetical predictions of the band’s future.

There can be no doubt that these guys are more than just band mates, they are best friends. They easily exchange sarcastic remarks, call one another out for ridiculous statements yet still finish each other’s sentences without a second’s hesitation. Inhabiting the southwest neighborhood of Reed, the band spends most of their time jamming in open basement space and frequenting shows around Bloomington. However, making music is their number one priority. In the midst of the jokes, majority ruled that playing music they love will be their final destination.

“But for real,” Hopkins leans forward in his seat, “In five years we’ll be out of college and hopefully traveling, playing our music and just seeing stuff.”

 “Making money would be nice, but we don’t need it,” Preuschl adds, “It would be nice to say this was our job. That we could say we actually do what we love. I feel like a lot of people hate their jobs, and we wouldn’t.”

At the mention of money, a light bulb flicks on over Hopkins’ head. “We are starting to think of the merch situation though. We have stickers now!” He exclaims and begins digging through his desk to find an example.

The band’s dedicated manager and long-time friend, Chris Kauffman, has a similar but more realistic view of the band’s future. He explains, “In 5 years, I see Hotfox signed with a prominent record label, an extremely sturdy national fan base, and a national touring presence as well.” He continues, “They certainly put in the musical footwork that merits such successes.”

On the agenda for the next month, Hotfox has shows lined up on college campuses that include Miami of Ohio and Ball State University. They also have plans to expand their presence into nearby cities including Chicago, Cincinnati and Nashville by the end of the year.

“I’m just curious about what type of music we’d make with new scenery,” Hopkins looks around the room at his friends. “Like if we got up and left and settled somewhere else. I mean, like I said, everything’s relative and the sum of our life experiences so far. So how would it be if we were somewhere new and different? That’s what I’m excited to find out.”

-Anna Hershberger