Wednesday, July 27, 2011

National Stick Fighting Competition

It was the roughest crowd of people that I had to deal with since I started recording events. The people appeared to be as tough as the stick fighter themselves. They will get mad if someone gets in their way of viewing the fights, especially photographers with built in flash like me. I was told that a year before, someone flashed a picture of a stick fighter that was about to win until the flash entered his eyes as his opponent attacking them, leaving him blind in one eye. Getting in a fight aboard was clearly the last thing in my agenda. Regardless, I moved my way out of the top bleachers and maneuvered my way around the dangerous crowd to get as close to the ring as possible. Luckily for me, I have my official carnival pass to grant me access into the ring. Much to my chagrin, I am a lot more close to danger than standing on the bleachers with the crowd pushing against me.

I met up with the petite Trinidadian and the older photographers as I was relieved seeing them again. It was difficult trying to get to close to the stage as possible because you never know how hard the stick fighters compete with each other. The fights were as dangerous as I expected. I got hit in the back of the head by a flying boui which intended to dive into the crowd. (A boui is the staff used by stickmen to compete with each other) The cameraman sitting right next to me got a lot more damage when his flash attachment was completely smashed and he was bleeding from his forehead. I guess I could say that he took a “boui” for me. The bright side from this event was the Moko Jumbie (stilts walker or dancer) kids that came out to perform during the halftime show. Later on, I met an Indo-Trinidadian man who encouraged me to take pictures at the International Soca Monarch the next day. The odds to this idea were quite slim (5,000 to 1 chance). He also is a fan of Nikon cameras and I could see why he prefers the company over Canon.

However, I still think that Canon does a better job in terms of bringing out the colors in pictures. Who cares, both do the same thing, you know. One of the stick fighters that played nasty with his opponents fathered the same stick fighter that we met with Milla on the second night I was in Trinidad with her. I wonder how he had the opportunity to meet Milla Riggio. Unfortunately for the young man, he could not compete because of his leg injury. Anyways, his father played nasty throughout the competition and was greeted with boos and jeers plus disqualifying defeat due to his fighting style. A younger stick fighter was victorious, despite his victory by default. I tried to get as many good pictures I could, despite lack of lighting in the arena, no use of flash, and the quick motion of the stick fighters. I guess that the Trinidadian photographers are absolutely right of needing to upgrade my still – picture camera if I ever wanted to be a more serious photographer. Or figure out which camera setting would get me the results that I wanted to see. P. See you soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trinidad and Tobago: A shortcut home

I want to write about my adventures based on the trips I had the opportunity in attending, the wonderful encounters I had with Trinidadians and other people from diverse Caribbean nations, and some of the cultural behavior and mannerisms in which I find delightful, shocking, humorous, and interesting all at once. I always wanted to study abroad ever since I started looking for colleges to attend back in high school days, but I never expected to travel to Trinidad. It was the luck I had Trinidad and Tobago in mind during my freshman year when I changed my majors to International Studies and Film Production. I met Milla Riggio my freshman year and reminiscence sitting in her office, gazing the amazing amount of Trinidadian artifacts, books, and ornaments in her room. For some reason, I also remember how often Milla suggested that I should go to Trinidad.

The field trips I had in Trinidad are perhaps the best experiences I have had in my life. I have not been to the beach for almost a decade, but I do not think I seen a waterfall in real life. I often filmed concerts when I was at Trinity, but the experience of becoming a photographer is far different. I never forget sneaking backstage of the International SOCA Monarch to take pictures with professional Trinidadians photographers of the competition, which is watched by millions of people around the world and tens of thousands of people in the crowd. I did not expect to witness a live crowd so large and filled with energy, as if I was watching a regular concert on TV. I never forget the look of my internship director’s face when I sat next to her after sneaking in the media area and offered her water I bought.

I also had a similar experience taking photography at Panorama Finals when I met up with the same Trinidadian photographers who were actually one of the friendliest professionals I have ever encountered. I believe it was a good thing that one of them was familiar with Milla and asked to see her again. I would always remember reuniting the two as the Trinity group was slightly puzzled of the person I brought from the Media area of Panorama. Not to mention, the lecturer for my editing class was working the event at that time and suggested that I should do my first video about the pictures I took in Trinidad. My editing class was surprised that my Trinity in Trinidad program gives me the opportunity to take pictures in stage for some of Trinidad’s most prominent events such as Kings and Queens Preliminaries.

I transform myself from a person that only does videography to both a videographer and photographer for my obligation to take photos at nearly every event scheduled for the Trinity group ended up with having at least 100 pictures to over 1,100 pictures at a given time. Ironically, I have not done photography before until I came to Trinidad. Luckily, I submitted my photographs at Trinity’s CUGS (Center for Urban and Global Studies) Photo Contest and I was placed in the top 20. Not bad for a beginner. I cannot express in detail of every event and field trip I have experienced with the Trinity group, but when you have the opportunity to look at my photo albums online, photography captures my expression by thousands of words.

If a picture is worth a thousand words and I have a few thousand pictures that means I have millions of words to write on my essay. Thank goodness I do not have the time to write a million-word essay. However, I do want to show my photographs online and perhaps in a power-point presentation of my memorable field trips. Moreover, I do want to talk about the interactions I had with the Trinidadians and other people from different Caribbean nations. I think these interactions are one of the most important scenarios I had in my time in Trinidad. It was also the reason for convincing me to return in Fall 2011.

Link to my favorite Trinidad Pics:

Summer Wishlist (RANDOM)

There are many things I want to accomplish this summer, since I only have one month left, then TRINIDAD! Before I jump to the nearest plane. Here are some of the things I wanted to do beforehand.

1) Read at least 5 books
-I read "Inna di Dancehall" by Donna Hope, "Factory Girls" by Leslie Chang and "The Other Side of Paradise" by StaceyAnn Chin

Currently reading Run to the Roar by Paul Assaiante

2) Be able to do 100 proper pushups
-So far I can do 40 proper pushups

3) Buy the Canon 60D Camera with 18-135mm lens
-So closeeeee...Get it this week?

4) Fix my video site

5) Polish my photography site

6) Cover at least one music festival
-I let you know how that goes

7) Watch at least 6 movies in theaters.

8) Visit home to meet with friends I haven't seen in ages
-And play with Benz

9) Reconnect with Japanese and Igbo
-Bought my Igbo language app, need to be back in Nigeria in T-Minus 5 years to amp up the Nollywood scene!

10) Do at least one music video
-Any takers?

11) Continue Blogging :P :P :P :P :P

Just saying.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Working as a Maury Show Intern

Sorry if I have not put this blog in actual date (in order) from the events occurred since I finally got into this "blogging" thing and I really wanted to write about some of my experiences from travelling and working in interesting places. Before I start my blogs about studying aboard to Trinidad and Tobago and my summer in China, I worked at the Maury Show in Stamford, Connecticut. I found myself fortunate and unfortunate that I lived in Hartford, Connecticut. Fortunate that getting to Stamford was about 90 minutes by car. Unfortunately, I do not have a car nor much money to commute more than twice a week. Thank you...Free Trinity U-PASS. Commuting to work on a CT transit line means I have to wake up at around 5AM in the morning to finally get to Stamford at around 8:45 AM. At least it was free commute until I reached New Haven. My first day of work was full of surprises. At first the old, gray, brick building in Stamford, Connecticut happens to be studio where the show was held. Worth waiting in the cold to figure out if this place was in fact the Maury Show studio. It was!

When I got to the Maury Show, I was greeted by the secretary and was given a few duties as a intern. They range from answering phone calls, listening to voicemails to jot the most important segments in a notepad, and doing errands around the city of Stamford. While some phone calls are prank calls and phone drops, I wish I could say that the majority of the stories are NOT fake. I repeat, the stories you see in Maury are NOT FAKE! I also get to run around Stamford to get items for the producers (I personality think its not all that bad) and eventually know my way around Bedford Street area. I guess my favorite memory was actually getting to work on set. It was the REAL deal. You get to see hands on of what it takes for Maury to be aired in front of Millions. The multiple cameras pointing at many angles at the audience and at Maury, how the guests prepare for the show, the countless amount of monitors in the control room, ETC. Plus, Maury is quite hilarious with witty jokes I heard from afar. (Learn from the craziest guests, I guess) Overall, yes it is unpaid, but the people you meet, whether they are fellow interns, your boss, or the guests made my 5AM droning mornings worth it each time!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Coolest Things About Meeting Celebrities

Okay guys,
So I have encounter a good amount of celebrities in my life since I left high school. I remember the first official celebrity I met was AJ Calloway from BET 106 and Park when I was still in middle school, if you still count him as one. But nonetheless, here are some of the things I learned when encountering celebrities in life.

1) There are normal people, but some can be alot more egotistic than others
I learned that the hard way when dealing with people such as Fabulous. So disappointed that he only cared to get out after a concert at Trinity College. At least Juelz Santana was alot more of a genuine person when I interviewed him a few years ago. But everyone else that I met as celebrities seemed to have struggled from some point in their lives and push to get to where they stand today. My advice is that not all celebrities appear to be egotistic. However, some like Stan Lee would indulge you with many conversations and stories of his work, before I was asked to leave by the manager.

2) The star-power we give in the United States may not exist in other countries.

I was in Trinidad and Tobago for Spring 2011 and I was impressed with how famous Trinidadaians such as 3 Canal and Kes the Band could walk freely around their native country without being chased down by adorning fans, compared to the United States. I never forget how Kes was enjoying the Panorama Finals and only took pictures with fans instead of being chased down by girls. The same goes for 3 Canal when one of the students in my study abroad group to Trinidad got the chance to work with one of the members of the band. Crazy, huh?

3) How passionate they are in real life than in television, especially if they have written books.
Stacey Ann Chin was perhaps the first celebrity I ever met that would ever make me late for any class since her writings are so interesting, personal, and deeply honest that I forgot about class for a second and thought about my life. The Other Side of Paradise by Stacey-Ann Chin is currently my favorite book as of today. KRS-One's "The Gospel of Hip-Hop" is the philosophical masterwork of KRS-ONE set in a similar format as the Christian Bible. I was fortunate to get both books signed as well as read them.

4) By any means, if your lucky, party like a Rockstar with celebrities!!!
Just make sure you eat lots before you do. Partying with Kinetics and One Love was perhaps the coolest thing I did on campus. After filming on stage with them for a while, they invited me back to chill with them. I never knew that I could finish a flowing cup of Jack Daniels in less than 5 minutes. Jesus Christ, thank god my video equipment was safe and sound. The Cool kids are cool too!

Without further ado, here my list of celebrities I met/ would like to meet!

So far I met...

1) Juelz Santana
2) The Roots
3) Lauryn Hill
4) Ne-Yo
5) Stan Lee
6) Mario
8) Kes (Trinidad)
9) Elephant Man
10) Kinetics and One Love
11) The Cool Kids
12) K'naan
13) AJ Calloway
14) 3 Canal (Trinidad)
15) Maury Povich (for a quick second)
16) I kinda met Fabolous, but he only stopped when he gave George an autograph
17) Stacey Ann Chin

Would Like to meet:

1) Lady Gaga
2) Deadmau5
3) Tiesto
4) Armin Van Buuren
5) David Guetta
6) Netsky
7) Arnej
8) Chinua Achebe
9) Oprah
10) Genevieve Nnaji

2010 New York Comic-Con/ Anime Festival

Wow! What can I say, this is truly one of the coolest events I have ever filmed. This not like I filmed in a Lady Gaga concert on stage, but to me is as excited. I always been a fan of Anime and comic books for as long I remembered. I even undergo a punk/goth stage in high school where I would wear my spike wristbands, indulge in heavy black eyeliner, and listen to some heavy metal bands such as Slipknot. I still love that kind of lifestyle as of today, although I must admit that going to a preppy ass college like Trinity College did not give me much room for my attire. It sucks to be labeled "scary", you know. Nonetheless, I still study Japanese and watch Anime at my own time. Luckily for me, I had the chance to obtain official Comic-Con passes for myself and four other people. Unfortunately, only the two out of the three people came to comic con with me. Not to mention, I guess I did most of the filming. Sigh, lugging around heavy equipment in the middle of New York City. It was a three day event from Friday to Sunday. Lucky that I found a place to stay with a friend, thanks couchsurfing! The first day was Friday and it was quite more intense than I expected! There was so many people in cosplay, I did not know where to begin shooting. I was fortunate to run into a group of cosplayers to take me to the Jarvitis Center. The wait to get my press pass was relativity short...but the room for press people was so nice! Thank god I can escape the masses!

Let's start with the Friday (October 8, 2010) of Comic Con. Friday was the official launch of the event as thousands of anime/comic con book fanatics arrive in New-York for latest releases of Anime, TV shows, movies, comics, and lots more! Although I did not do much today, beside filming Comic-Con folks in action and panels, the highlight of my day was meeting my friend for the first time in 2 years. She obtained a professional pass and its just blissful to meet up with her. Thanks Kiba Dratter for all the fun memories from Comic Con and beyond! Saturday was the main event for my time in Comic Con. Although I was an hour late, I still managed to attend more panels and filmed more people in costume. Much to my luck, being late is not all that bad! I happened to land in the same panel as International Comic Book artist Stan Lee and R&B singer Ne-Yo as Ne-Yo was ready to release his new album, "Libra Scale". The album is a mash-up of Japanese animation, superhero and comic books. Luckily for me I was able to take a picture with him after the panel was over, and an autograph! Lucky me. I later filmed other panels on display, including KidRobot. After filming the panels, I took a lunch break to meet with other members with my group. I also got front row filming the Cosplay costume competition. Uncle Yo was the host of the event and I find it cool that the guy that filmed next to me was his business partner. Good to get close with those in fame, at least sometimes.

After a hard day of filming, lugging around heavy, expensive equipment, and meeting other artists, I took the rest of the day off and watched a free concert by Mihori Chihara, a famous J-Pop artist. I find it interesting that not only my press pass got me early access to the auditorium, but the glow sticks that the fans used for the concert were all used in sync. I end the night with the concert. Sunday was another cool day for me and perhaps the riskiest. Stan Lee was the last part of Comic Con. I wanted to interview him, but I needed special tickets to get autographs from him. Unfortunately, I do not have the ticket to get it. I only have a press pass, a random girl helping me film the rest of comic con since I gave her my extra press pass, and some Nigerian-British unidentifiable accent. The press group behind me was in the same position as we waited outside the crowd. For some dumb reason, I had courage I never expected out of me. I walked up to the manager of Stan Lee and told him that all I wanted was to film the fan reactions of meeting Stan Lee. My accent came out and the girl and the press crowd behind me became slient. The manager gave me a weird look, but his face looked like I came too far to go back empty handed. He granted only me and my friend access to the room as I left the press behind.

After filming the Stan Lee fans crying, shaking hands, shouting "excelsior", there was a five minute break for Stan Lee. Although I was not allowed to film him directly, I asked for his autograph and talked to him during his break. I was amused that he does not want a break, although he is clearly over 80 years old and there were more fans outside. I also find it amusing that he was surprise to learn that Xmen was indeed popular in Nigeria as well. Even the camera man behind asked to snap pictures of Stan Lee with his camera since I was the only brave one. My welcome was overstayed as I was asked to leave the room. I was greeted with many warm smiles from the press group and was told best of luck in my media future. 2010 Comic CON/Anime Festival was something I never forget!

Why Couchsurfing?

Hey guys, now that I finally talked about the hip hop festival the next important adventure is the courage to finally travel by myself to a city. I always wanted to become a New Yorker since I was a kid since New York always excites me no matter how many times I visited the city. The diversity of the people, the infrastructure of Times Square, you know...the city life you see in TV. I always wanted to cruise around Central Park, sit at a coffee shop outside, attend plays, go to bars and nightclubs. However, I knew that if I wanted to stay in New York for the weekend, I have to find a place to stay. Unfortunately, I only had one friend at the time that lives in New York. Luckily for me, my amazing friend from Germany named Maria told me about this website where I could meet people from around the world and stay on their couches for at least one night. My initial thought? GO TO A STRANGER'S PLACE AND SLEEP THERE?!!! My mom will have my head!!!! After hearing about her successful weekends from couch-surfing and similar stories from my other international friends, I decided to first do couchcrash 2010 in order to check out the vibe of going to New York to meet with people. Much to my surprise, I am meeting many folks from around the world, including India, Germany and France.

Couchcrash is a series of New York city tours, dinners, museum trips, art projects, bike rides, workshops, barbeques and parties. Best of all, these events are all either free or really, really cheap. They have an amazing rooftop art party at the end of the party. Not only I have met the world for a day, but it convinced me that from this moment that I want to be a traveler. I know that I am going to Trinidad and Tobago in Spring 2011, but I hope I continue from there. Couch-surfing has grant me more friends in different places around the world as well as a chance to find a place to stay when I do not have enough money to stay at a hotel, although I did was fortunate to stay at a New York Hostel for 40 bucks and my friends lovely ladies from the UK. I am amazed of how elaborate the couchcrash rooftop party was from last year, although I doubted I met the owner of the place. You meet some of the nicest, coolest, and the most hilarious people in the world and the guy who hosted a party for hundreds of people and offer his place to stay for complete strangers is extraordinary. Before I go to any country, I am sure to look up potential hosts to lend me a place to stay.

The best thing about couchsurfing, whether you are getting a free place to stay and the chance to explore newly discovered places is that you come in as a stranger, but you leave as a friend. Trust me, I am sure to fill my future summers with some time for couchsurfing.

2010 International Hip Hop Festival

Okay, so I have not responded from my first post in over a year but I would like to start my adventures with my first encounter of my series of events, adventures, and travels. My journey starts with the The 5th annual 2010 International Hip Hop Festival held at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. This is my second year filming the 3 day event and I must say that this year was alot more busier and challenging, but worth the experience. I remember filming the 4th annual Hip Hop Festival my freshman year as I solely filmed the 2-night concerts at the Austin Arts Center. Each night the concerts ran from 9PM to 1AM, but Saturdays are usually more packed since the festival featured the main act of the festival. 2009 was the year K'naan took the stage and wowed the Trinity crowd with his hits such as TIA (This is Africa, woot) and Wavin' Flag. I was lucky to grab an autograph from K'naan and talked with him for a sec after his tour bus broke down. I have no clue where I placed my autographs like many of the autographs I got from artists. (I put a list of artists I met/vs I would like to meet next time)

Fast-forward to 2010 Hip Hop Festival, shall we? This was a bigger task at hand since I was not only assigned to film the 2-night concert, but also in-class lectures, official b-boy battles, and talks from International artists. I had a pleasure with the opportunity meeting and working with Magee Mcilvaine, one of the pioneers of the International Hip Hop Festival. Usually, he works with people who are at least are upperclassmen from what I was told from people working at the Hip Hop festival, but as an underclassman I guess I prove to be reliable person in terms of doing videos properly. I guess, I was an exception? I never forget my weekend (April 2nd and 3rd of 2011) and it was such a dedication of putting some kind of effort in getting as much footage of everything festival-related as I could. However, I did not do this task alone. I had help from my best friend and partner in crime, George, Chris, and Malcolm, especially since both Malcolm and Chris was involved in the festival a lot more longer than I have been. Although filming the lectures, discussions, and talks was not that difficult, doing this the entire Friday (from morning to concert time) with little time to relax was daunting.

With fatigue, filming the b-boy rounds was alot more difficult since I was close enough to get my jaw and camera shattered and I had to be more careful. The contestants were spinning and break dancing at very rapid speeds. I did got slightly injured when one of the b-boys foot did hit my arm that was filming the event, so I jokingly pretended that I was missing a tooth (Note: I lost a tooth a long time ago) because a b-boy kicked my face. I was only kidding. Throughout the lugging the heavy camera equipment from one end of campus to another, running back and forth for tapes, stuffing any kinds of food I could get, it was all worth it in the end. The second night of the concerts playing was well worth it. I had the chance of filming the finales of the b-boy battle, until I was asked by one of the event organizers to interview the main act himself, KRS-ONE. It was a good thing that George followed me to the press room since I can not speak on camera if I were to interview him. The press room interview conversation was quite long, but it was so worth it! I was given his new book: "The Gospel of Hip Hop" and signed my new copy, although he took my sharpie marker and never gave it back. I never forget George gave the last question to ask KRS-ONE, his idol or the pats on the back for filming on stage. I guess this is my start to my adventures afterall.