Growing up a first-generation Mexican-American, I always felt there was a lack of representation in the media for people like me. As a creative, there was always some hesitancy to pursue any type of career in visual arts, music, or tv and film because there was nobody like me doing it. It wasn’t until now, in my mid-20’s, where I finally grew the confidence to follow my dreams of working in a creative field because of musical artists like Omar Apollo and Era.
Omar Apollo and Era are both musical artists that share a similar upbringing to mine, but what’s refreshing about these two is that they incorporate their culture into their sound and visuals. They implement elements into their work that’re staples to our culture, such as foods like Maruchan and Jarritos and television shows we saw our parents watch like Sabado Gigante and Destilando Amor. Furthermore, social media has made it easier for artists to express themselves in more ways than just music; social media users now make it easier to give us a glimpse of their lives.
The social media presence of these young artists is what really solidified the deal for me. Not only were they fearless in representing kids like me through their music, but they also weren’t afraid to show that part of themselves in their everyday lives. It taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to be me and hide who I really am and where I come from. I know that they have also opened the door and paved the way for future generations of first-generation, Mexican-Americans.
There is an old theatre saying, “The show must go on!” And let me tell you, during this pandemic, we have all had to pivot to finds ways to keep going in this “new normal.” Storytelling, performance and art is an import part of lives and with the stress of the pandemic, the arts have never been more important. The pandemic is not going to keep Ventura Pirates away from the stage.
During the 2020-2021 school year students performed in two unique staging’s of musicals: Angel’s Bone by Du Yun and Monty Python’s Spamalot were presented as virtual productions. Then in December of 2021 the students were able to perform, outdoors with a live audience! They presented The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In addition to the production having a live audience that got to vote on how the murder mystery will end, there was a live orchestra. After a year of being away from live performances, I’m sure it was a treat for all involved: the performers, musicians and audience members.
I had an opportunity to ask Ventura College Costume Designer, Abra Flores, about her experience creating theatre during the pandemic and she said this, “Though I felt it was important to continue offering performance opportunities to our students during the lockdown, I felt the loss of community that usually develops around a show. It’s normally a social and very collaborative activity, but during the lockdown it felt very isolating, as if we were all working in a vacuum.” It looks like, with COVID restrictions being lifted somewhat, that we all will continue to get that chance to attend live performances. There is an end to “working in a vacuum” as the students come back onto campus for classes. And we should be excited to attend live performances once again.
In my first blogpost for VCSocial I wrote about the future of Ventura College’s New Media Gallery. It was my vantage point looking through the windows at a gallery that had weathered the global pandemic essentially by shutting down. In this post, I get the chance to share with you the insight of Cara Lasell Bonewitz, the artist whose work hung in the gallery, in the shadows, for over a year.
Cara speaking to Ventura College students about her process in creating Current in the Shadows. Photo by Gallery Director Jesse Groves.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Cara one on one in the gallery that has now opened its doors to the public. She was preparing to take down her exhibition after a brief but well-deserved re-opening of her collected works that embodied Current in the Shadows. Below is the audio recording of that conversation.
“(The shadows)…the most ephemeral part of this show…have ended up being the constant.” -Cara Lasell Bonewitz
As the art world grapples with the complications of a post pandemic future, the questions are many and difficult. The conversation you’re about to listen to shares Cara’s insights as an artist, reflecting on her work and her experience with an exhibition that opened as the world shut down, hung in the shadows in a closed gallery for over a year, and then reopened for a final viewing as the world reopened its doors to a reality we never expected to face.
In today podcast, I talk about Streets of Vintage Flea Market and how shopping local can not only help the community but most importantly our earth! Take a listen and follow Streets of Vintage for updates!
For the past 30 years William “Bill” Hendricks has been teaching photography to Ventura College students, helping them hone their skills and learn to see the world through their artist eye. His work has taken him on many adventures around the world, including Cuba, Northern India, and South Korea. His work has been published in titles such as the Cosmopolitan and People Magazine and most recently he completed PROOF, a 15 year project with Cuban writer Orlando Hernandez, set to be released in 2021.
The Mysterious Case of Edwin Drood is coming to Ventura College this December. Brought to you by the VC music department, this musical is one you won’t want to miss!
Brian Hotchkin is co-directing the show along with Brent Wilson and said, “We’re so excited to do this really fun story. It actually got put up here at Ventura College 10 years ago and we had so much we’re bribing it back.”
Hotchkin gave us some insight and let us know the show is actually a play within a play:
“In real life Charles Dickens wrote this mystery novel with a murderer and then Charles Dickens unfortunately died before he could finish it and we never found out who the murderer is. So we’ve taken this unfinished play and in the musical version it’s set as a play within a play and we have a quite looney, wacky theatre company where everyone wants to be the diva star and they’re putting on this unfinished play.”
The show is coming to VC December 3-5 and will be taking place outdoors. Show times to be announced soon.
In this week’s episode, hosts Alexander Shaw, Jace McDonald, and Juan Lopez sit down to talk about the music genre known as “punk rock”. Alex and Jace have both listened to punk for a large part of their lives, while Juan is a relative newcomer to the genre, having been given a hand selected playlist of both their favorite songs. Together they sit down to talk about music, passion, and the human condition.
Vid. Gunnþra. Gjoll. Leiptr. Elivagar, Elivagar. A well-taught purveyor of norse mythology would recognize these terms as a handful of the eleven rivers associated with the Élivágar, or “ice waves” that existed in the primordial void at the beginning of the world. A connoisseur of the new and experimental, however, may recognize them as lyrics to the Heilung song also titled “Élivágar”, with text from both old norse texts and the poetic edda and set to music in a chant meant to be felt down to the bones. Heilung, meaning “healing” in German, is an experimental folk band founded in 2014 by Kai Uwe Faust, Christopher Juul, and Maria Franz, describing themselves as a music journey. When asked about the name, Faust states “The listener is supposed to be left at ease and in a relaxed state after a magical musical journey that is at times turbulent”. So why am I talking to you about this?
Music has always been a big part of my life. I have a music note tattooed behind my ear, have studied a variety of instruments throughout my life, and even my stories are meant to sound like the songs that are constantly going through my head. It was the first thing my mother introduced me to that I fell in love with, and the thing we have always bonded over. So in 2018, she sent me a video, believing that the music as well as heavy themes of nature, spiritualism, and culture older than almost any country around today would be right up my alley. It was by a band called Heilung, one I had never heard of before, and the song was called “Krigsgaldr”, roughly translating to “war chant”. The lyrics were pulled from the Eggja Runestone, sung in proto-norse, with a music video created from the Tanum Petroglyphs of Sweden. I was immediately in love. I found a full recording of a live concert on YouTube and watched the entire thing when I got off work, and as soon as tickets were announced for a show in Los Angeles we were in queue to buy them. I painted our faces, and that night we went to a show that began with a smudging ritual and ended feeling more like a ceremony than a concert. It was the last concert I went to before COVID started, and it is the best show I’ve been to.
Heilung is a band that stems from spiritualism. The founding members have all embraced paganism and/or shamanism in some shape or form, and their instruments are made from bone, ash, and pelts. They wear elaborate outfits on stage, partially based on the traditions of the Eurasian circumpolar populations as well as reproductions of Nordic bronze age attire. Their beats are built to induce the same trances that would have been attained during these ceremonies. When performing in the US they invited representatives of local tribes to participate with them, beginning their shows with “Remember that we all are brothers. All people and leaves and trees, and stone and wind.” Their music gained immediate traction from their release of “Ofnir” in 2015, having tied for the World Tradition Award in the 18th Independent Music Award for their song “Norupo” and been selected to compose the soundtrack for “Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II”. It is also a band that, in a few short years, has come to mean much more to me than ever thought it would. I’ve never been a person who says any song is “just music”. Music is powerful. It is meaningful. It is one of the things that connects us across time and space. In the case of Heilung, most of all, it is a healing.
Have you ever had an experience where you play a game or watch a movie that leaves you so fulfilled that you would dare to call it your favorite? Playing The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles left me with such a feeling. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is the latest game in Capcom’s long-running Ace Attorney franchise. The series began on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance back in 2001 and this new installment features many gameplay refinements from the many generations of games that have come before. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles contains both The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve which originally was Japan region exclusives that were released in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Finally, four years later we now have a fully translated game that has been unreachable to those in the west for many years until now.
First, let’s talk about the story. The beginning of the story is set in Meiji-era Japan and follows the main character acting as the defense for his own trial. After proving your innocence with the help of your best friend Kazuma Asogi, you as budding defense lawyer Ryunosuke Naruhodo visit Victorian England where you set up your own legal consultancy. The consultancy is located on the top floor of 21B Baker Street and your housemate is renowned detective Herlock Sholmes.
Herlock helps you with your investigations and provides you with vital clues to help you get your clients their acquittal throughout the game’s many cases. With each new case, you meet a variety of colorful characters, based on real-life people or that originate from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own Sherlock Holmes stories. Examples of which would be Soseki Natsume based on the real-life novelist of the same name and Gina Lestrade based on Inspector Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes Novels. Even the cases themselves are based on actual Sherlock Holmes stories. All this combines into an extremely fun romp that contains hours of fun dialogue exchanges between characters as well as a compelling story full of many surprising twists and turns.
Next, let’s talk about gameplay…
Where this game differs from the rest of the franchise though it maintains its visual novel format, investigation segments and courtroom segments is both of its new features being the jury system and the great deduction segments. The jury system is one of my favorite carried-over features from 2014’s Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, this system adds the ability to cross-examine jurors and combat their reasons for voting guilty against each other in order to sway their opinion toward not guilty. This provides extra action to the courtroom segments and provides much-needed depth to the standard ace attorney formula. On the investigation side, Sholmes’s Dance of Deduction lets you hear out Herlock Sholmes’s theory on the current case which is usually pretty far off the mark, and then change certain details of his theory so that it makes more sense by investigating in further detail. This is accompanied by fantastic music and wonderfully done animation that immerses you in the whole spectacle.
And speaking of the music, good gravy the music is fantastic!!! Yasumasa Kitagawa, Yoshiya Terayama, and Hiromitsu Maeba all composed such amazing tracks that convey all the emotions that evoke the personality of each individual character. They also use this format with the locations as each location has its own theme music that pairs nicely and immerses you into the world of a Sherlock Holmesesqe environment. One stand-out track is Gina Lestrade – A Blast from the East End which is such a jovial tune and has great swing orchestration with good accordion and flute instruments and a tango melody. Another is Nocturn which has really good Japanese-style orchestration with windpipes that give you the impression of a samurai’s return which I think is the feeling they were going for.
In conclusion, I give The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles a solid 10/10 and definitely name it as one of my favorite games of all time. The solid story, characters, and music as well as the extremely refined and fun gameplay both make this a must-have for any Ace Attorney or Sherlock Holmes fan’s library. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time for the next review… peace!
After much anticipation, public online beef with Kanye West, and a controversial album cover reveal later (seriously- what is that cover?), Certified Lover Boy is here for our listening pleasure. Full disclosure; I absolutely love Aubrey Drake Graham. I have been a fan since I was 13 years old and there is a Drake song for every major era of my life. So at first it was hard to put that aside and listen to this album objectively. But, after listening for the last month (I’ve listened all the way through at least 20 times) I have come to the conclusion that; it’s a really good album, but not a great one.
Drake is never going to make a bad album. He and his producer Noah “40” Shebib don’t have it in them to make a BAD album. But, for the last decade, Drake has been the innovator in the rap game. He’s genre bended, experimented with different music styles and sounds from all over the world, and gave us greatness time and time again. This album didn’t meet those standards, it’s a good album and I enjoy it, but he didn’t quite deliver on the expectations we had. CLB is regurgitated beats and flows from his previous works, but to be fair- his previous works are great. We got more of the same when we typically expect amazing and trendsetting newness from Aubrey. That being said, I love the album and listen to something from it every day. So here are my top five songs off of Certified Lover Boy:
5. Fair Trade– This should’ve been the album single. “I’ve been losing friends and finding peace” is a bar that many of us relate to, and will be captioning our instagram photos with. Also, “the dirt that they threw on my name turned to soil and I grew up out it,” is now one of my favorite motivational Drake lyrics. If that doesn’t make you want to wake up and crush the souls of your enemies with your success then I don’t know what will.
4. Champagne Poetry– What a great way to start such a highly anticipated album. The samples and harmonies are such a beautiful welcome to something we’ve been so excited to hear. The switch half way through is seamlessly done, two great songs in one.
3. Pipe Down– I love a good, petty, hurt, Drake song. He is a man scorned in this and he is not holding back. “If it was ride or die, you should’ve been dead right now,” wheeeeew! Who hurt you, Aubrey?! Beautiful production on this song as well. Solid beat, great melody. The best song on the album to scream-sing in your car when you’re driving alone.
2. You Only Live Twice– Rick Ross goes on a Drake song like pineapple goes on pizza (it’s delicious, I don’t care if you disagree.) Drake’s verse is great but then we get Lil Wayne with the best feature on this entire album. Drake and Wayne together create such a beautiful nostalgia for a time before many of us had student loans and unmitigated anxiety to deal with. The sounds of simpler days.
1. Race My Mind– This is the most underrated song on the album and it’s the best one hands down. The HARP??? That harp makes me feel like I’m ascending into the heavens while being serenaded by Drake’s vocals and honestly, if that’s not what happens to me after the sweet kiss of death then I want a refund on this life. This song is special. A singing Drake, pleading with his love to give him more time and affection. A classic Drake ballad. You all owe Race My Mind some respect.
What do you think of this list? What are your favorites? Let us know!