St. Pete music: a love story

I’ve been in love with St. Petersburg since I first started coming to State Theater for whiny pop-punk shows when I was about 15. Nearly six years later, though my music taste has changed, my adoration for this spectacularly quirky town has only grown. It’s truly the only place I want to be.

The cultural burst we’ve seen in the last year alone is astonishing. Every weekend is packed with events, from two-day music festivals to community chili cook-offs. Areas that were once barren and seen as seedy, such as the Grand Central District, are now bustling, giving way to new businesses and new life.

The St. Pete music scene is perhaps the city’s greatest treasure. Though largely untapped and, at times, completely raw, it’s full to the brim with talent. Pick any local restaurant or bar offering live music. You can be almost certain the band won’t suck, and the chances of finding genuine musical artistry are high. It’s a scene deserving of more than it receives, yet I’m selfishly thrilled to have it all to myself.

I’ve recently been overwhelmed by my love for the scene, as I’m beginning to write for a new local music blog, and am longing to shed light on every corner of it. I’m happy to have the outlet to do so now.

I can see my idols play free shows, at super-hip yet comfortably friendly venues, any night of the week. And I can have casual conversations with these people afterward without feeling starstruck or insignificant. I’m a member of this community serving a worthy purpose, just like they are. They even read my reviews. It’s sort of circle of life-ish scenario. They use their talents to make beautiful music, I use mine to tell people how beautiful it is.

The genres and styles are vast — anything from hard fast punk to earthy instrumental might be played at the same show. I want to experience it all.

I’m so excited to keep going to shows, keep meeting new people and make new friends who share my interests and passions. It’s also an amazing feeling to know that some of the musicians I’ll be covering are already good pals, and that I’ll be at least a small force in their development.

Most of all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to give the St. Pete music and arts scene the recognition it deserves, and to keep showing people why this city is the only place I want to call home.

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Is brand journalism really the only way to succeed?

I have trouble believing it, but that’s what my professors and nearly all the speakers they’ve invited to our classes are telling us. Us journalism students must define and capitalize on our “personal brand” or we’re never going to make it in the biz.

Essentially, we’re being told to start a blog — a really, really popular niche blog — and dodge the whole newspaper reporter thing altogether. I imagine that’s easier said than done …

My senior seminar class, which is supposed to prepare us for a job with a professional publication, might as well be the entrepreneurial blogging course my school also offers. It makes sense for those who made it through four years in the program only to realize they aren’t cut out to be journalists, but what about those who are? What about those who have worked their asses off with internships and running the school newspaper — all while remaining at the top of the class — and have proved themselves worthy of this field?

Reporting for a newspaper and being at the forefront of print journalism innovation has been my dream for a while now. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up just because the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s worth it. Should I give up and live off the cheap online ad sales from my blog while working part time at Starbucks to pay the real bills? It seems like that’s what I’m being encouraged to do.

Even Andy Barnes, former chief executive of the Times Publishing Company and chairman of the Poynter Institute noted the importance of brand journalism when speaking to one of my classes. A man who has a room named after him in the Poynter building told us self branding is the only way. It’s hard to deny someone like that.

Perhaps I’m in denial. Being told your desired profession is futile isn’t easy to hear after putting years of work and thousands of dollars into it. I’ve been ignoring the suggestions and warnings for the most part, choosing instead to keep believing in my fantasy land where I become a Pulitzer Prize winning education reporter for a mid-size Florida newspaper. The fantasy also includes me rolling in cash, not being overworked, having time for a family and being generally happy, which are all probably less realistic than the Pulitzer thing. Regardless, I’ve been holding on to the dream.

So, when at 4 a.m. last night, in the peek hours of my insomnia, I felt myself wanting to start a hyperlocal news blog, I surprised myself. The blog in mind would fill a niche no one else has really stepped foot in. It has potential to gain a following, and more importantly, collect revenue (though I’m not willing to delve into details here in case there are any other jaded journalism students reading this and needing an idea).

I’ve discovered a few things about myself in last year as editor of my school’s paper — I write pretty well, I possess strong leadership skills, I thrive off non-stop schedule, I have an entrepreneurial mindset and I quite enjoy being my own boss. Added up, these qualities could serve me well in my brand journalism blogging mission. But in order for me to actually go for it, it’ll have to become more important to me than being a newspaper reporter. Right now, I don’t think it is. But it could be, eventually (or, like, if I don’t get a job after graduation).

When speaking to my Florida media class the other day, Peter Schorsch, of SaintPetersblog.com, compared our current era to the 20 to 30 years after the invention of the printing press. Sub the printing press for the Internet, and we’re in a highly volatile and experimental age. In the grand scheme of time, we’re just figuring out how to digitalize the journalism world. And there are still masses of unexplored territory. In 20 years, journalism may look nothing like it does today. Newspapers may be delivered to us as holograms; who knows?

What I do know is, media is changing and I want to contribute to its development. So, maybe creating my own entrepreneurial hyperlocal blog wouldn’t be such a bad place to start. Maybe. Stay tuned, ya’ll.

Why just “being you” will never be good enough

6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

In the link above, I feel I may have found the middle-aged, male version of myself. In this piece for Cracked, comedy/horror writer David Wong, explains why simply “being you” isn’t good enough.

Oh, you’re a nice guy? You’re an honest person? You have an inherent sense of empathy? Well that’s all good and dandy, but no one gives a shit about who you are — they only care about what you do and what you can do for them.

As Wong puts it (and apparently also Jesus): who you are “is the metaphorical dirt from which your fruit grows.” And no one cares about your dirt. Wong argues that our self worth is measured only by the things we produce to satisfy the needs of others — our fruit. If you have no fruit, you have nothing, and to the outside world, you are nothing.

Wong takes the complaint “being good guy isn’t good enough” and utterly destroys it. No one cares how good of a person you are or how pure your heart is or how much you “care.” What are you doing in your life to prove you possess all these self-proclaimed character traits? What are you doing to prove you’re a “good guy” other than sitting on your ass in your crap apartment and not being a nuisance to society? Being a “good guy” should never be enough for anyone. No one should sell themselves so short. Also, a note from me, not Wong: If you actually have to tell yourself you’re a good person, you’re doing it wrong.

Another key point Wong makes is that misery is comfortable and happiness takes effort. You hate yourself because you don’t do anything, but you don’t do anything because you’re scared of rejection, of failure, of putting yourself out there at the risk of being shot down. Doing nothing is easier. Being miserable and cursing at the mirror every morning is easier. This is why you dig for excuses not to change. This is why you criticize the work and accomplishments of others who are clearly happier than you. This is why you suck and need to make a change.

*note: If you lack the attention span to read Wong’s entire article, skip to No. 2 on the second page.

SeaWorld’s Popularity Tanks As ‘Blackfish’ Documentary Makes A Splash

SeaWorld’s Popularity Tanks As ‘Blackfish’ Documentary Makes A Splash

What’s more assured is that, in an era of increasing corporate dominance, a low-budget investigative work can still send shock waves through an established corporation with a once pristine reputation. “SeaWorld used to be the darling of the media,” said Kirby.

“Blackfish” seems to have taken its place.

 

Gabriela Cowperthwaite is one of my heroes. One day I hope to make an Earth shattering documentary like “Blackfish.” 

Happy tears

I have experienced more fear, sadness, stress, confusion and hopelessness in the last week than I have in my entire life. But today, my feelings of hope and joy are surmounting all of that.

Since Dec. 23, my family and I have been dragged along a devastating emotional journey that led to us cherishing every short moment we had with my dad. We didn’t think we had much time. At one point, I didn’t think I’d ever get to speak to him again or even see him open his eyes.

The news that came today changed everything. That one infinitely minute outcome — so minute it hadn’t even been listed as a possibility — was ours. And though my dad still has a long battle against cancer ahead of him, at least now we know he’ll have time to fight it.

In the 11 days my dad has spent in the hospital, I felt like I was hit by a train at least 11 times. Even today’s good news has left me exhausted. The idea of my dad having less than a month to live sunk in so deeply that the opposite seems almost impossible. But I’ll take it.

My dad should be coming home from Moffitt tomorrow or next the day. Not with Hospice, but with hope. The Christmas present I never thought he’d be able to open is still waiting for him under the tree. And I can’t wait to watch him tear the paper off.

Nightmares

This blog is taking a more depressing and ominous tone than I originally intended, but as a writer, it’s my best form of therapy right now. My dad’s condition has worsened and things are looking bleak. Vocalizing all the thoughts that are swirling through my head and leaving me with a constant migraine is impossible to do without breaking down and hyperventilating. I might keep doing this, I might not. But I need to express my thoughts right now and the only way to do so coherently is from behind my keyboard.

All of my nightmares are about to come true — things I’ve entertained as possibilities but never actually thought would become reality.

I always thought that if my dad died before I got married, I’d have my brother walk me down the aisle. It was comforting to know I had that option. But with the realization that it soon may be my only option, the thought is not so comforting anymore. It’s just the opposite.

So much is going to change.

I keep thinking about all the petty problems I will now have to solve on my own, which is immensely selfish, but somehow easier than thinking about the bigger picture of losing my dad. Who is going to make the internet work when it’s being dumb in the house? Who is going to moderate silly fights between my mom and I? Who do I ask about finances and bills and jobs and other things required of a functioning adult? I know I have so many other people supporting me in my life but my dad is the first person I would go to with all of these problems — no matter how petty or significant. He always has answers, and if he doesn’t he helps me find them. I’m scared no one in my life will have answers for me the way he does.

In worrying about these little things, however, I realize what it is I truly fear. I’m scared no one else will be able to make my mom, brother and I laugh every day and fill our hearts with so much happiness. I’m scared no one else will be able to show us so much love.

*note: as I read over this, I notice it sounds as though I’m referring to my dad as if he’s already gone. He’s not. This is just how I’m viewing the situation at present. Not sure if it’s a coping mechanism, pessimism or just realism.

A very Moffitt Christmas

My dad, who has been battling cancer for the last four years or so, suffered a seizure the other night from which the brain-melting side effects will not let up. Instead of starting a new drug trial yesterday, like he was scheduled to, he was shown to a hospital bed and put through a series of tests and scans. Thus, our family’s Christmas will be spent in a tiny, sterile room at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Aside from these occasional epileptic episodes and a few trips a week to the treatment center, my dad’s illness is not extremely present. It’s easy to forget he’s sick. So, when things like this happen — when my dad space’s out in the middle of the Chinese gift exchange at our family Christmas party and consequentially ends up hospitalized — I tend to freak out.

Not once have I accompanied my dad to Moffitt for treatment. He hasn’t had to spend much time in the hospital, but the one time I visited him, I lost it. Instant anxiety attack. Seeing him in that atmosphere, with a IV and who knows what else hooked up to him, makes it too real for me. When I see him like that, his cancer is present and the reality of one day losing my dad to his illness sinks in.

If tomorrow was any other day, I’d continue avoiding the reality. But tomorrow is Christmas, and since I I’ve never been one for religion, Christmas to me is about celebrating those I love. So tomorrow, I will be there with my dad.

But back to religion, times like these also make me reconsider my choice to not identify. When I find myself crying in the shower, praying for my dad to come home, it feels natural — reflexive almost. But it also feels dirty and hypocritical to ask a “God” that I don’t usually believe in to solve my problems. I can understand why so many people turn to faith in times of need and despair. It makes us feel less helpless in desperate situations. While we may not be able to do anything here on Earth but sit, wait and text mom for updates, the thought of a higher power swooping in to save the day is comforting. I’m not about to kneel down in at chapel pew, but for now, I’m willing to accept that comfort.

If my dad doesn’t get to come home tomorrow, we may be lugging his new sound system through the hospital for him to open. Really, just having the ability to do that, with Moffitt being but a twenty-minute drive from home, is a gift. Well wishes and positive thoughts are appreciated. Thanks to everyone who has already been supporting my family. Merry Christmas.