A Not-So-Lonely Planet

Ten years ago, a cheeky-faced British man stole the heart of a young girl in Delhi. Enamoured by his charm and wit, 12 year-old Richa Yadav would spend hours glued in front of her television to watch Ian Wright host “Lonely Planet.”

Discovery Channel had just made its way to India’s airwaves, and its factual entertainment documentaries fascinated Yadav. Watching that first program was the spark that set her on the path to journalism.

The now 22 year-old student laughs as she pulls out her mobile, which has the “Lonely Planet” theme tune on it.

“I was obsessed with this show! I loved that it was all about travelling and exploring cultures around the world. It’s what made me want to pursue this career.”

22 year-old student, Richa Yadav

22 year-old student, Richa Yadav

Coming from a family of doctors, she was the first to pick a career path in the humanities.

“My dad was so mad when I first told him!” she recalls with a nostalgic smile.

“But now I’m the guinea pig for the family. They give me the freedom to do what I want, and they watch and see how I do.”

The support from her family has helped her achieve many milestones in her short career as a journalist.

Before the age of 20, she already had two documentaries under her belt, including an expose on public displays of affection.

“I would hide behind trees to film people kissing! My best shot was filming a couple making out in their car, from the view of their rear view window. They had no idea I was filming them!”

Discovering Her Path

Her documentaries, which appeared in an inter-college film festival in India, landed her a job as a bulletin producer at NDTV, a news station in Delhi.

“My boss had seen my documentaries and offered me a job that I hadn’t even applied for,” she says with the same shocked expression usually reserved to lottery winners.

Despite working for a television station, she felt that she needed to explore a new path in life.

“I’d always wanted to come to London, and I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere in my job so I decided to study here,” she says.

Since coming to London, she feels that it’s more important to experience life and culture outside of school, rather than sticking to the books.

“The course is good, but I don’t feel like I’m learning anything new,” she admits. “I think a big part of being a good journalist is to explore and meet new people.”

And how do her parents, who are funding her education, feel about her relaxed attitude?

With a cheeky grin of her own, she says, “My dad tells me to go out more! I’m just like, ‘what happened to you dad?’”

Guest Blogger: Robert Van West

As far as holidays go in the U.S, Thanksgiving is right up there with Christmas. Food, family, friends, more food, television specials, more food, passing out: basically, just like Christmas, but without a bearded, obese man handing out presents.

This year was my first Thanksgiving away from home. However, a piece of home came to me in the form of my older brother, Robbie.

He took a few days off from his teaching program in Spain to spend some time with me in London.

Robbie and I celebrating Thanksgiving in London, 2009

Here are some of his thoughts on life and culture in London:

You came to visit me in London over two years ago. What was your perception of London then? Has it changed after this visit?

My first excursion to jolly-old London was marked by a subcultural curiosity fueled perceptions based on music and film.

I expected to encounter cockney gangsters, boisterous soccer hooligans, dirty punk rockers on the dole, ace face mods on scooters and suit clad Jamaican rude boys.

After that first visit, I realized that the subcultural glory of London’s past exists only in London’s past. The upper class international hipster elite have taken over the streets of London and gentrification has taken its toll.

At least there are still good old fashioned Victorian pubs.

My view of London has become more realistic. I’ve realized that the best thing this city has to offer is its Victorian pubs and free museums.

London is as globalized and gentrified as any big city in the west. Almost anything I would want to do in London, I could do in San Francisco, New York or LA.

What are some differences between where you live in Spain and life in London?
London is modern, fast paced, expensive, global and multicultural – whereas rural Spain is rustic, slow paced, inexpensive and culturally homogenous.

Do you think London is one of the top cities in the world, in terms of cultural events going on?

Definitely. London is up there with San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Most everything that can be done in London, as far as cultural events go, can be done in any other big international city.

The “real” London is something that exists under the radar, and is something that most visitors, and even most Londoners, won’t be able to experience

Do you think there’s a greater appreciation for arts/music in London than in other big cities you’ve been to? Why or why not?
This is a tough question. London is a hard working city and it is also a gentrified city.

A lot of mainstream Londoners listen to the same crap with the same feigned appreciation as other people from big cities.

London has a glorious musical past, but it hasn’t been able to recreate what it did in the 60s and 70s.If anything, it has used the imagery of those times in order to pull in more tourism.

How does the music scene in London compare to the scene in San Francisco? Barcelona? In Berlin?
London’s music scene, because of its historical role in the music industry, has a lot more hype than a lot of other cities.

England is also a real small country, so a mediocre London band could get a lot bigger than a superior band from Liverpool, just because the media spreads things faster from London.

Any contemporary music I listen to is underground and independent, so to me it doesn’t matter where the band came from so long as they rock my trouser pants off.

What are the similarities and differences between how people our age behave/socialize in the U.S, Spain, and Germany?
Generally (key word), Americans are more superficial when they socialize; Spaniards are louder and more animated; Germans like to talk a lot about intellectual mumbo-jumbo; and the English seem to fall somewhere between the Germans and Americans.

They enjoy having intellectual conversations with a few pints, but they also know how to get completely wrecked and retarded-drunk.

Do you think the attitude towards Americans in Europe has changed at all since the last time you came here?
No. The English I’ve met always judge Americans the same as anyone else. In my experience, the English are often the most receptive to Americans.

What’s your favorite part about London? Least favorite?
Favorite: Victorian pubs serving hand pumped ales. Least favorite: Helllla fucking expensive assed town, dude.

How did you enjoy Thanksgiving, London-style?
It was the dog’s bollocks.

What was the best part of your trip here?
Seeing my lovely little sister happy and flourishing her new habitat. Ed note: awww

Thanks, Robbie!

Robbie, Brownie, and I: circa 1987

A Blast To The Past

Since recently moving into our new home, my housemates and I have been living… without internet (dun dun DUN!). The horror, the horror!

The only time we have access to the internet is when we’re on campus and, even then, it’s limited to the times that we’re not in class.

Our culture has become one that is so dependent on internet usage. We use it as a means of communication—from writing a quick Facebook comment, to receiving e-mails from professors, to keeping up with friends and family halfway across the world.

We use it for entertainment. We use it to stay informed with things going on around the world. We use it for academic purposes. We use it for the convenience of looking up directions.

We use it for everything. Moral of the story: without internet in this day and age, we’re all gonna die.

Luckily my housemates and I are survivors in this battle, and have (re)learned to function without it.

For those of you with limited internet access (which, if you’re reading my blog on your limited amount of internet time, then a big gold star goes out to you!), here are some of our top tips to keep yourself informed, entertained, and sane during the hard times:

*Cooking: Put down that takeaway menu! Step away from frozen meals! Preparing a meal with fresh ingredients, completely from scratch, is not only healthy, but it’s a fun way to spend an evening after a long day of working. If you’re like me and not much of a cook, then get a friend to help out and learn their techniques.

*Games: Lately my friends and I have taken to playing traditional party games, like charades. You can also pick up a deck of cards or some cheap board games in a charity shop, and do a whole game night.

*Reading: You know that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for months, just waiting to be cracked open? It’s calling your name! It’s saying, “leave that internet hussy and come back to me, baby!”

The same goes for newspapers. I’m sure the big wigs at The Guardian will be happy to know that there’s still a place in people’s lives for actual newspapers. And those people are poor students who didn’t realize that it takes a long time for internet to be set up…

*Flaneuring: Good ol’ flaneuring, always a great way to pass time!

*Face-To-Face Conversations: When I first started working for Ustream, I thought it was odd to be IMing your co-worker, sitting right next to you, instead of just speaking out loud. However, it quickly became the norm and I adapted accordingly.

Even with close friends, a lot of interaction is done through the internet. Facebook, Twitter, IMing, e-mailing, Skype—there is an endless source of ways to communicate online.

Now, it’s been nice to spend more time having long conversations with people. Each person has so much to offer, we can all learn loads of information from each other.

When you look up something on Wikipedia, you can’t ask follow-up questions or opinions. If you want to know something and ask a person to their face, a simple question can turn into a long and meaningful conversation, or an intellectual debate.

It’s easy to take all of these simple things for granted. That being said, I know I’m going to go back to using the internet a lot more once it’s set up. It’s something that is an integral part of our culture, and is here to stay.
However, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of value to be had in logging off sometimes.

So go forth and close those browsers! Turn off your router! But leave a comment before you do… ☺

Concert Review: The Specials, Hammersmith Apollo, 24/11/09

A swarm of beer-bellied, balding white men were packed together. Plastic cups filled with overpriced beer were clenched in each hand. There was a notable buzz of excitement in the air.

What could have been a typical scene at a football match was, instead, the setting for The Specials concert at the HMV Apollo Theatre in London.

But the uniform of choice for this nearly-homogenous crowd was a Fred Perry t-shirt and cuffed jeans.

And instead of chanting “You couldn’t score in a brothel!” they were chanting, “Rude boy! Ruuuddeee booyyyyyyy!”

Photo Courtesy of Deepesh Patel

I’ve been to my fair share of concerts, but never before had I been so hyper-aware of being a female in a typically male-dominated scene.

The majority of the concerts that I’ve gone to have been in the United States, and the crowds are usually varied in terms of gender, race, and age. I’ve never gone to a concert and felt like I didn’t fit in.

However, at The Specials concert I was all too aware of being a young, mixed-race female.

San Francisco, where I come from, is an extremely diverse city. And in London, my course consists of students from 26 different countries.

It’s funny how you don’t usually notice your differences until you’re in a situation in which you’re the minority.

Considering The Specials’ music in itself is a mixture of different influences—1960s Jamaican rock steady and 1970s British punk—it was unexpected to not see this diversity reflected in the crowd.

The Specials Bring Rocksteady Beats

That being said, all thoughts of this quickly dissipated as The Specials opened up with a vigorous rendition of “Do The Dog.”

From that point on, the crowd became a dance floor of every type of move imaginable—awkward head bobbing; forceful fist-pumping; and old-school skanking.

It no longer mattered how old you were, what your gender was, or where you came from.

We were all there for a common goal: to catch The Specials on one of their rare reunion performances, and dance and sing along like mad people.

Because, in the end, “It’s Up To You”…to “do the dog (not the monkey).” And have a cracking good time in the process!

D’oh! ‘Simpsons’ Creator Curates Music Festival

The cartoon world and the music industry have come together in an odd twist on convergence. Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons”, will be curating the next ATP music festival.

While browsing ThisIsFakeDIY, I came across this unusual piece of music news.

ATP, which stands for All Tomorrow’s Parties, is a London-based group that promotes concerts. Most of the big music festivals that happen every year are usually sponsored by huge corporations.

For Harry Hipster or Sally Scenester, this means paying exorbitant prices for tickets, being subjected to corporate branding at every turn, and line-ups based on everything but the music itself.

One thing that sets the ATP festival apart from other festivals, however, is that it’s always curated by important people in the music industry. 2009 was curated by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

So why was Matt Groening, not exactly known as a key player in the music industry, chosen to curate a day in 2010?

The Simpsons has always featured various acts from the music industry.

One iconic episode that stands out in my mind is when Lollapalooza came to Springfield. The Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers were among a few of the 90s alt-rock bands to be featured in the episode.

The show has always incorporated special appearances from artists spanning all genres of music. Perhaps its impact on pop culture, and how music has been incorporated, is a reason why Groening was chosen.

No matter what the reason Groening was chosen as a curator, it’s nice to see two of my favorite forms of media coming together.

Live Review: The Northwestern

December, 1970: much to the anguish of fans around the world, The Beatles officially split up. Hearts were broken. Tears trickled down onto scratchy copies of Let It Be. This was the end of a generation.

Ok, I may not have been alive when it happened, but I can empathize with what it must have felt like to the people who cited The Beatles as their favorite band.

In 2006, I had a similar experience with a band calledHope of the States. HOTS had become my favorite band since 2004, after seeing an incredible live show in San Francisco.

I was devastated when they split up.

But now, similar to a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new entity has formed from bits and pieces of the band. Some of the former members of Hope of the States, along with a new batch of troubadours, have come together to form The Northwestern.

The Northwestern
Sam Herlihy, The Northwestern

The Northwestern: Live In London

I had the pleasure of catching The Northwestern at a place called The Hoxton, in East London.

After getting lost and wandering around the Old Street area, trying to find the venue, I finally made it–and just in time to catch the band.

I had a brief chat with Simon (drummer) and Sam (lead singer/guitarist) before their set. I was flattered to find out that Sam has read this odd little collection of ramblings known as my blog!

It’s not everyday that one of your favorite musicians tells you something like that. What a nice, yet odd, role reversal.

Anyway, back to the gig: the entire band, plus a string and horn section, were packed onto the tiny stage. The set started off without a hitch, and the crowd seemed to really be into it. Each song flowed smoothly into the next.

Technical Difficulties

Much to the apparent frustration of the band, there were some technical issues at one point, and one of the songs had to be restarted after some tweaking.

Luckily Sam, skilled front man that he is, knew how to keep the crowd entertained with some light banter.

After order was restored in the kingdom, the rest of the set went exceptionally well. I truly enjoyed each and every single song that was performed.

“House Of Bees” was the song that stood out the most to be, though. It’s slightly subdued, but the melody is so melancholic and beautiful, with just the perfect amount of strings building up in the background.

They may not be Hope of the States: The Sequel, but I’m glad that they’re not trying to be. The Northwestern are a talented band in their own right.

Hopefully this new band will continue to flourish, and I can’t wait to come along for the ride.

Make sure to check them out here, or follow them on Twitter.

CeU: Brazilian Flavor in London

Although I love many different genres of music, I have a tendency to go to concerts that are more on the indie/rock/punk side of the music spectrum.

A Brazilian friend of mine, who was visiting family members in London, had an extra ticket to see a Brazilian singer-songwriter known as CeU. He invited me to go with them, so I took him up on his offer.

I don’t have a wide knowledge of Brazilian music, but I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve heard. When I was working full-time, I used to listen to the Brazilian station on Pandora.

The soothing, yet upbeat, bossanova-inspired tunes had the nearly-magical ability to keep stress levels to a minimum.

Not having heard CeU before, I had no expectations on what the concert would be like. All I knew was that she was a female musician, and that she’s fairly famous in Brazil.

CeU Is Pronounced “Cow”

Reading her name, I assumed that it was pronounced as “Soo.” At the concert, I learned otherwise.

I also learned that she’s an incredibly talented singer. Her voice has a warm quality to it, a tone similar to listening to an album on vinyl, versus a scratchy mp3 copy.

Her stage presence is confident, and she exudes a natural cool cat quality, shimmying sinuously to the seductive music.

Most of her songs are in Portuguese, the national language of Brazil. However, she did perform a song in English. It was a cover of the 1950s song, “Takes Two To Tango.”

This video was not from the London show, but you get the gist.

I’m happy that I ended up going to this concert, as it turned out to be a great show! It seemed as if half the Brazilian population of London was in attendance, so there was a distinct Brazilian flair to ULU, the venue of choice.

I may not understand Portuguese, but the music was enjoyable nonetheless. Not only that, but it was refreshing to see a female artist command a crowd with such confidence.

To listen to more of this ‘tropilectro’ artist, check out her website.