AOM – Individual Project #5

Okay, so after four weeks at home, I’ve finally almost finished my individual project made up of 6-7 Storify projects. I had so much fun making them and reading them that I definitely think I’m going to keep on using the site. Curating social media to make a story is such a good idea, and one that I think can be very useful.

I’ll admit I didn’t do as much research as I probably should have but there was a reason for this. There didn’t seem to be many ‘professional’ Storify’s out there that I could base mine on. A lot of them looked very amateur and although that is kinda the point of Storify, I thought some users didn’t have any finesse when it came to bringing stories together.

The Guardians Storify was quite good, and I particularly liked the one they posted last week on the Tottenham Court Road bomb scare. This brought together photographs people had tweeted, interviews people has conducted and tweets that informed me as to what was happening. With me not being in London at the time, I found this very informative – more informative than reading a plain Jane article from the BBC.

One thing I wanted to avoid on Storify was what Metro UK did when they released their Storify on the new Dark Knight trailer. Simply titled, The Dark Knight Rises Twitter buzz, the Storify just dumped a handful of tweets together from people that had commented on the trailers release. I didn’t feel that by doing this Metro UK achieved anything. I could go into Twitter and search ‘Dark Knight trailer’ and bring up more results than that. The Storify had nothing interesting about it, whereas with most of mine, I tried to incorporate pictures, videos where it was necessary or my own writing to give each story some backbone.

So I have done six Storify’s in total. The first one I made was on Sport Relief when I was getting to grips with Storify’s features. The second was focussed on the Sonisphere Festival cancellation which shocked the music industry and festival goers all over the UK. After this, I did a shorter project called ‘Can you see the stars?’ based on an article that not many people in the world can see the stars due to light pollution. When Pottermore got released a few weeks ago, Harry Potter fans all over the world rejoiced so I did a Storify on this pretty much straight away as Pottermore was taking over my own Twitter feed. The response to Pottermore was massive. The other small Storify I did was on the Man City v Wolves match a couple of weeks ago which left Wolves relegated to the Championship. Lots of football fans were tweeting and commenting about this so I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about something I don’t usually do. The most recent project I have created was on the new Disney Marvel film, Avengers Assemble which has been a long time coming. The press and public were very excited about this release, so on my Storify I discussed the run-up to the release.

So that’s all I’ve got for now! I might create another Storify when the winner of the London Mayor elections are announced.

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AOM 2012 #5 – Time Out

“Your guide to what’s happening in the most exciting cities on the planet.”

Time Out is obviously one of the most influential review sites known all around the world as it covers all of the big cities, however, with regards to the UK, it only has reviews from London. Because of this, there are no reviews for restaurants from other towns and cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool or Glasgow, which for my proposed application on Facebook, would be no good, as the whole point of it would be to help people in certain areas find new and exciting places to visit without having to travel very far.

The good thing about Time Out however, is that all of its reviews are written professionally which means that they are all of good quality. Even though having good reviews is important, having critics and professional writers feature on my Toptable application wouldn’t really work. It would take away from the UGC feature of the app and one of the main points of it is that a lot of the time, recommendations from friends and family mean more to people than the opinions of a random stranger who people don’t know. This is going to be one of the USP’s of my application, rather like the share feature on Spotify. Music recommendations from your friends is better than a robot churning out information on what you should be listening to.

S’no good

Yesterday evening was one of the worst I have ever experienced since moving to London. I always thought times of trouble were supposed to bring camaraderie within the British population, but last night, the lashings of snow that fell seemed to bring out characteristics of many people that were unwelcoming.

The warning of snow gracing the UK with its presence had been broadcast throughout most of last week, and although I had planned to go to a gig in Kentish Town, I left my Harrow house fully prepared (with the exception of sensible footwear) for problems to occur when I was on my way home. What I didn’t expect however, was for TFL to be so obtuse and abrupt with me when asking for help…

While waiting on a held Metropolitan line tube at Baker Street station, the announcement came to passengers that the line was now ‘suspended’ and we had to ‘find another way home’. This news was, of course, not good and the only thing I could think to do was to get off and find a worker that would hopefully be able to direct me in the best way to get to Harrow. When asking two members off staff for their recommendations, the first told me he didn’t know anything, wasn’t going to find out anything, no TFL services were running and that we should just stay in the station and wait for information, however, the second guy told me to head quickly to Marylebone as there was a Chiltern train waiting there to go to Harrow-on-the-Hill or we could try and find a bus. How can two people who work for the same company and receive the same information tell me two completely different things?

After running (very unsuccessfully) in the snow to Marylebone, I finally boarded a train that was due to leave at 23.57. I had never seen a train so crowded before as this service seemed to be the only way of getting people who resided in north west london anywhere near their homes. At around 23.50, seven minutes before the train was due to depart, problems started occurring in the form of agitated people trying to board the train when it was already full. People began banging on the windows, yelling instructions to me and people around to squash up and, to use their terminology, ‘get fucking closer together so we can all get on the fucking train.’ As a northern girl of 20 who shies away from confrontation and tries her best to please everyone, this was too much, and I started getting worried. I literally couldn’t move anywhere. The people that were seated around me were bunched up so passengers could gather in the middle, and there was no room for anyone to go in between them. When one of the rowdy youths eventually pushed his way on the train he started shouting, aiming his anger to the people stood in the middle… ‘I told you I could fucking get on. Didn’t want me on this train did you? Well I’m fucking on it now.’ I kept looking down at the floor wishing three things; the guy didn’t have a weapon, the guy would not single me out in any way while he was shouting and that I could just get home without anymore trouble. A lady who was sat with her husband and two other couples on the six seats next to me tapped me and gestured, ‘come in here dear, you look frightened’. Her and her husband made room for me and spoke to me so kindly and tried to make me feel better. They kept me company the whole ride back to my house, asking me about where I was from and why I had moved to London. They were reassuring and as I went to alight from the train, wished me the best of luck with getting home along with luck for all my future endeavors. Having somebody, even though they were strangers, to look after me, was very uplifting, and I found myself smiling as I walked, again unsuccessfully (the shoes I wore were a terrible choice) to my house on the hill.

Now I have had chance to reflect on the evenings events, I can’t help thinking ‘why can’t everyone behave like that in testing times and situations that are out of our hands?’ Shouting at people who were already making others claustrophobic from practically standing on them did not do anything for the angry guy except make a few passengers very wary of him and the TFL workman who told me there was no way I could get home didn’t achieve anything other than this angry blog post written about him. I understand that in certain situations, TFL can’t magically pull a bus out of their arse and set it on a route to get me home, but all I was asking for was a little bit of guidance. TFL, like the rest of the nation, knew there was going to be heavy snowfall this weekend, so my question is, why wasn’t anybody prepared for it and why could they not have a plan of attack ready and in place? If they helped the passengers and worked with them instead of against them, surely the frustration and anger that came out in some people could have been suppressed…

Advanced journalism long-form feature.

For one of my journalism projects last semester I had to write a feature on a topic of my choice. This piece could have been an interview, participatory piece or trend piece. For my article on burlesque dancing, I feel I incorporated a bit of all of these pieces and ended up with a finished article I was very proud of. Please, have a read and let me know what you think… 

“Everything you dream of but never can possess, nothing’s what it seems, welcome to burlesque”. Cher’s opening number to the 2010 film ‘Burlesque’ means a lot more when you can actually appreciate the concept behind the dancing. Before I delved into the world of showgirls, show tunes and sparkles, I had no idea what a burlesque dancer consisted of or what they really did. My skeptical mind always led me to believe it was in the same league of pole dancing and stripping, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Performance is the essence to this specialist form of dancing in which women (and some men) practice the art of tease in a dignified, over-the-top and glamorous way.

Making my first ever burlesque acquaintance was something that I expected myself to be very apprehensive about but after exchanging a few emails and watching Christina Aguilera perform over and over again on the ‘Burlesque’ movie, I found a girl called TeTe Bang and I was actually rather excited to meet her. While I sat and waited in the little Costa coffee we had agreed to meet in, I imagined a girl full of make-up, dressed in elaborate clothing walking in in stiletto heels. The thought of this made me feel rather underdressed as I was the total opposite of elaborate, dressed in a Hollister jumper with tatty Ugg boots. When she arrived though, I was slightly surprised by the fresh face that greeted me. Thinking back now I feel rather stupid having the image of a girl in full burlesque costume walking around Baker Street. If nothing else she would have been a bit nippy exposing that much skin at 9am on a cold December morning. However, dressed in a fitted military coat and kitten heels, she looked no more outlandish than the next person.

“Hi I’m TeTe Bang,” she said, sitting down opposite me with her gingerbread latte. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I had to nurse a burn from a performance last night.” Learning that TeTe was a fire performer was impressive, but the fact that she learnt to do it when she was only 12 years old was totally unexpected. “Yeah I trained in Thailand with my mother, but I still make mistakes sometimes.” She directed me to the scars on her face saying, “I do fire eating and fire breathing but I use fire fans as well. It’s quite scary I’m not going to lie.” Regardless of the danger, it certainly doesn’t phase her during her performances in Proud Cabaret where she is a resident. The subtle way in which the costumes direct the audience to her assets combined with the fierce fire blowing is something you can’t help but marvel at from the crowd below.

Playing with fire is TeTe’s, ‘gimmick’, as she puts it. “You’ve got to have a gimmick,” she explained to me when I asked her if anyone could become a performer. “People want you if you’re untouchable, if you’re something that not everyone else is. You need to look the part, play the part and not be an average everyday girl”. Seeing performances in different clubs means that the suggestion of a ‘gimmick’ becomes apparent. Wherever you go there is always an array of different performers with some weird specialties and some regular ones. There are plenty of different ways you can go with it from playing with things such as water, fire or bubbles, to focusing on specialist arts such as fetish, ballet or mime.

“My mother has always been a fetish performer,” TeTe announces quite off-hand when I ask her if she ever considered going into the more ‘risque’ part of the dancing. As soon as she said the word ‘fetish’, my innocent mind heaved a big sigh and I felt myself shift uncomfortably in my seat. “She always said she didn’t want me to do the same as her but she knew I would eventually because we are very similar. I love what she does though, it’s amazing.” I began to imagine watching my Mum prance around on stage in bondage gear, harnessing whips and chains – I don’t think at any point I’d be able to call that amazing. You would think that being brought up with the world of fetish being practiced in the next room would be weird for any child but TeTe said she found it an excitement and always viewed it as a good thing. “I was kinda brought up around half naked women, and I always told everyone I wanted to be a performer like my Mum. When I used to tell teachers at school what I wanted to be when I grew up they looked at me with disbelief and told be me to be serious.” I don’t think that sort of attitude would have went down well at my catholic comprehensive!

Observing the way girls carry themselves on stage with an air of unattainability is admirable and something you wouldn’t observe in strip clubs. The careful way they mix seduction techniques on the stage while holding back their ‘goodies’ so that the audience is always left wanting more is something I thought would be risky in front of hundreds of horny men, but that seems to be what makes burlesque so desirable to be a part of. “People just walk into some bars expecting to be able to get on stage and strip, but that’s not what burlesque clubs are”, TeTe further explains when we get onto the topic of clubs where you’re required to remove clothing before you get any money. “The bars I have performed in and the upstanding bars in London like Cafe de Paris, Madame JoJo’s and Proud are more than happy for you to show a bit of skin, but that’s not what it’s all about.” Stripping isn’t an essential part of burlesque but being confident and flaunting your assets on stage is vital.

As a woman, there is something empowering in watching women of all different shapes and sizes performing on stage. Seeing shows in which girls dress up in elaborate costumes and incorporate their talents whether it be singing, dancing or just showing off their amazing bodies, got me immediately in the mood to do it myself. “You should try it! Seriously!” TeTe said to me while I sipped on my hot chocolate and imagined myself head to toe in costume, prancing around on a stage. As I sat and thought while TeTe blabbered on about how I could use her costumes and she would help me, the angel in my head was asking me, ‘What would my mother say?!’ The devil shot the angel down by whispering to me, ‘She doesn’t have to know.’

The first step on this journey was looking the part, so the week after our meeting, I took TeTe up on her offer and arranged to meet my dancer at her house where she makes and customizes all of her costumes for her many performances. Her bedroom was decorated simply underneath the mass of sparkles and countless beads that graced every surface and her wardrobe was like a hanging treasure chest. Corsets, basques and jackets of different colours and styles hung before me. “I love making costumes, I love designing costumes, I love everything about costumes!” TeTe says excitedly whilst running her hands over the array of garments. “Pick one and you can try one on!” After carefully looking at all the outfits in her closet and half an hour sat in front of her mirror getting my hair and makeup done, I was finally ready. Standing in front of the mirror didn’t feel right in a black corset with a suspender belt attached to stockings and the biggest black stilettos I had ever seen before. My catholic upbringing definitely went out of the window when TeTe handed me a leather whip. Nevertheless, there was something empowering about having the whole package. “You look amazing! Now you just need to know how to dance,” TeTe said! I didn’t like the sound of that.

My first and only burlesque lesson was definitely an experience but I still cannot decide whether it was a positive or negative. With TeTe next to me to help and show me some encouragement, (I definitely would have ran away if she hadn’t been there to push me off the tube) we stood in normal gym clothes but with heels instead of our trainers. When we entered the bright, mirrored studio, I couldn’t believe how underdressed we were. We joined the group stood in the middle of the room and I began surveying the others that were there. A 30-year-old woman next to me was standing tall in fishnets and a short, tight, black dress and another woman seemed to be dressed in full costume. “It’s clearly their first time…” TeTe whispered as the instructor started getting us ready to dance. “Today we’re going to learn the bump and grind.” In my mind I was thinking ‘Oh my lord, what am I doing…?!’ and almost walked out when everyone around me started doing the ‘squat, roll and thrust’ movement. TeTe could clearly see the look on my face, but she nudged me and said, ‘Just let go. It’s only for an hour.’

I never would have guessed that at the end of the hour I would have been strutting around the studio, being flirtatious at the front of the class using the same move that I was rolling my eyes at 45 minutes before. The confidence that exuded from me as I walked out the door was one I thought would never leave, but next to the girls who perform every night who have miracle figures and amazing bodies, I still felt inferior. “If you kept on at it you would feel better.” TeTe said as we discussed the lesson in a coffee shop close to the studio. “I felt totally stupid on my first course but now I feel amazing when I go on the stage.”

I feel like I’ve tapped into something special after discovering the world of burlesque. Not only is it an exuberant, over-the-top art form, but it is also an experience you can share and enjoy with friends. A night at Madame JoJo’s or Proud in Camden includes a 3 course meal, an array of quality performances and a guaranteed night of laughter. If you think that a trip to a burlesque club would be an awkward and uncomfortable one, you wouldn’t be the first, but personally, I have never been more wrong in my judgement. As long as you enjoy a bit of cheesy music, a lot of jeweled costumes and can appreciate the female figure in all its glory, then there is nothing to be skeptical about. Like Cher said, ‘nothing is what it seems,’ in the fabulous world of burlesque.

Multimedia Journalism

So after much deliberation and contemplation over a theme, I’ve decided to base the video section of my multimedia journalism project on Passions.

I wanted to create a video that was closely related to The Satorialist, a video about the creator of a blog, documenting fashion on the streets of New York. I found this mini documentary really intertesting, therefore I have decided to focus on this theme.

I will be using one of my friends, Lauren Wilson, to create this documentary, and in this she will talk about her serious, overwhelming passion for music, and why living in London is helping her to fulfil her dreams. I’m going to finish this project off with a little video diary of myself, talking about what I’ve found out from making my video.