Category Archives: creativity

Breaking open doors I’ve sealed up before

When I am stressed out about something, my creativity completely tanks. I don’t really know if that’s a normal thing for most people – or something that only yours truly deals with, but today my friends, I am stressed. In hindsight, I should have seen this coming, but even so – when the words are just put out there to the universe, it makes it all real.

On Sunday night, my oldest came downstairs to talk to her dad and I. Both of us knew something was up just by the way she walked into the room. She sat down on a chair and told us that she’d been thinking it over, and has decided that she’d like to return to her “home” high school for her junior and senior years, rather than continue to attend her school of the arts. On one hand, I should be thrilled. I hate that drive every single day and anything to keep me off the freeways of Southern California should be applauded. On the other hand, I am very sad. I have tried extremely hard to remind myself that this is her life, not mine, and her dreams are just that – hers. There are a lot of parts to this story, a lot of subtle things that I really can’t get into here on the blog, so I will just say this: she is growing up and I think that she is changing her mind about a lot of things. It is extremely difficult to sit back as a parent and be supportive of choices that you’re unsure about, but I trust my daughter implicitly. She has a good head on her shoulders, and if she really feels that her current school is no longer the right place for her, I have to remember that she is the one who has to be happy with what she is doing, no matter how “great” the school looks on paper.

I know that for most of you, this is probably something small. Who cares, right? If you knew my daughter (and a few of you have known her since she was seven!), you would understand just how big of a deal this is. While most young kids in our neighborhood played outside with friends, had slumber parties and did fun things during elementary school, my daughter was at dance class – a decision she made all on her own. She was a competitive dancer from the time she was five years old, dancing a minimum of 10 hours a week, up to her maximum of about 20 hours a week when she was twelve – doing everything from ballet to hip hop. At that time, she was injured while training and had a hairline fracture on her L5 that sidelined her for about six months while she was in intensive PT to help heal the injury and combat the curvature of her spine that was taking place as a result of the fracture. This is all going back a bit – but she has had lingering back issues ever since, and she had to quit dancing competitively, it is just too hard on her back, and to think that at one point they thought she’d be in a brace for ten months with possible surgery, I think overall she’s done very well. She never once complained, choosing instead to start doing musical theater. She worked her butt off to be accepted to the school, even more so to change from Commercial Dance to Music & Theater, and now she’s ready to leave it all behind. Truthfully, the news didn’t surprise me. She has had a difficult time this past year – the very nature of the school is such that kids travel from all over Southern California to be there, and so your friends might live an hour or more away from you.There’s not much getting together on the weekends, and “after school” is nearly non-existant, so it’s a tough life with little chance to make long lasting friendships, in her case. Lately she has been spending more time with her friends here at what would have been her regular high school, and I have always told her that if she wanted to return back to her regular school, the choice was hers. I didn’t want her to have regrets, or to blame her dad and I for missing out on the high school experience (her school doesn’t have football, cheerleaders, spirit days…that’s just not what it’s about). Of course, I never really thought she’d take me up on the offer. Funny how that happens. Naturally, this isn’t the end of the world, and she can still act, sing, dance and do all of the same things she is doing now – just in a different place with a set of friends that is truly supportive. I just have that normal parental worry, and now, rather than having one child to register into school next year, I have three. (One in kindergarten, one in a homeschool program for high school, and one in regular high school.)

So, I’m stressed. When I’m stressed, I have a tough time writing (and making SENSE).  My inspiration seems to be completely drained, and I’ve only been writing for a short time.  It makes me wonder how the band does it. What could possible inspire them after 30 years??? In the past, I’ve never really thought much about how the band writes an entire album.  I think the blank space, the “empty air”, would drive me crazy. The thoughts of knowing that you’ve got to come up with a good 15 songs, out of thin air, would be a constant source of anxiety. There are some mornings when I come downstairs, sit down, and there’s absolutely nothing.  I wonder if that happens to the band? I can’t really live my “real world” behind – I have no studio to step into or a door to close, but even if I did – I wonder how they get themselves going each day. Does Simon have as much difficulty writing lyrics when he’s stressed as I do writing this blog?

Many times, readers have asked Amanda and I how we do this each day (write the blog).  They think we’re nuts for ever calling it Daily Duranie. They want to know if we worry about ever running out of things to say. The thing is, Amanda and I are just like anyone else. We both have lives outside of what happens with Duran Duran, or what goes on here online.  Part of the point behind the blog is just to talk about what it is like to be a fan, and for me that includes the rest of my life and family. That alone gives me a lot to say, although the challenge, especially at times like this – is finding how it possibly relates back to the band.  One thing that I can say (and if I could just remind myself of this every morning) is that it’s only when I stop to think about having to write every single day that I start really worrying about what to say, and about whether or not I’ll run out of things to say. It is sort of like this: I sit down each day and just think about that one blog, that one day. If I start considering about the entirety, it’s only then that I feel daunted by the challenge…and never fear, we’re probably not going to run out of things to say just yet, even if writers block occasionally hits me in the face!

-R

The difference between a wildfire and coals

Does innovation really count for much these days?  After watching what seems to be countless hours of mindless reality “entertainment” on TV these days, one might start to believe there’s just nothing new to be seen. It’s all about the flash, smoke, mirrors and creating good gossip.  This morning I happened to run across a video that is likely to go viral purely due to it’s innovation. (nearly 50,000 views since posted on May 18th, 2012)

This video, done by a group named j.viewz entitled rivers and homes, is a stop-motion video.  The original video was shot just as an ordinary video, and then the post-production team cut that video up into 2000 individual pictures that were then held up by fans during a recent tour of Israel.  Then those photos were put back together to create a stop-motion video.  The song itself isn’t particularly mind-blowing (although its actually very peaceful which in my house is a definite plus these days), but the video is fabulous.  Funny, I seem to recall a few other bands using innovation in video a few years back….and they became the greatest thing (in MY world anyway) since sliced bread.  Huh.  Take a gander for yourself!

So many times I catch well-intentioned fans discussing Duran Duran and wondering what they can do to re-create the 80’s. Granted, those aren’t the words that the fans use, but the intention is all but spoken. They want to spread the word, they want the band to succeed, to sell as well as they did before, to live a life that was a remarkable accomplishment the first time, much less have that same lightning strike again. Words such as “viral videos”, social networking, promotional fan-based organizations are thrown around in such circles, assuming that any one of those things will once again ignite the band into the stratosphere.

Truth be told, none of us have the magical answer(s).  All we know is that for the most part, we saw it all unfold once and we’d love to see the band reach that point again.  It’s my belief that those times weren’t all that they were cracked up to be, but I do understand the sentiment. (The idea of having to fight tooth and nail just to get a ticket to a show, much less attempt to try for the floor sections under the same circumstances of the 80’s doesn’t give me much of a thrill.)  It took a certain sequence of events to unfold in just the right way to account for the happenings of the 1980’s, and while I still have all of the faith in the world in the band, I also believe that it happened at the time it did and the way it did for a reason.  If we had the answers though, we’d be making the big bucks, wouldn’t we??

I suppose the moral here is that we really can’t ever go back.  I can’t count how many times the band has mentioned that they try not look back very often.  I’ve heard and seen the murmurs amongst some that this last album was a sad attempt to capitalize on Rio for a second time. I can’t and won’t agree.  Sure, the intention may have been to go back and use some of the techniques used to create that album – but make no mistake – All You Need is Now is all about the NOW.  For me, this album was a great lesson given at the precise time.  Call me crazy, but I needed this album, and I suspect that a good many of you out there did as well.  Is that not success?  Innovation??

As many of you know I live in Southern California, a place that is well-known for it’s wildfires. (and earthquakes, but that’s another blog for another day) The smallest of sparks can ignite a raging wildfire in the dry brush that resides on nearly every hill or mountain in our area.  The fires tend to move incredibly fast, and swallow everything in their paths.  Wildfires tend to burn everything around them until there is nothing left, and then simply die on their own.  Coals are entirely different.  Coals stay white hot, long after the flames themselves have died down.  They lay in wait until the time and circumstances are right, and once those needs have been met – flames can ignite nearly instantly.  While the wildfire gets instant notoriety and attention (and nearly non-stop news coverage….), coals can go mostly ignored, and then surprise everyone when the time is right.

Innovation is a little like kindling.  It might not necessarily be required in order to start a good fire, but it is much more difficult to create more than smoke on a thick, dead and dry tree trunk than it is to spark a flame with kindling and then use that kindling to light the tree trunk aflame. Then eventually that tree trunk becomes the coal to keep that fire burning forever.

-R

All She Wants Is…

The universe works in mysterious ways. Yesterday was not a good day. I had traded emails with Amanda and she’d mentioned that perhaps it was a good idea to mention some good things the band does with regard to their fan community, as to create a better balance. My response was that I didn’t want to post a bunch of things that the band does well because we cover good things on a nearly daily basis, and that it wouldn’t feel genuine to me. I didn’t give the idea much thought and went about spreading my “good cheer” elsewhere.

It wasn’t much later that I began reading another book on fandom, this time it was a book on being a Bobcat – a Bob Dylan fan. I really had no idea or expectations when I started the book because, truth be told, I don’t know much about Bob Dylan beyond what I learned in college. (I took Rock Music history courses as part of my American Studies major – the beauty of pop culture!!)

One thing became crystal clear before I was even thirty pages into the book: Dylan does absolutely nothing with his fans. No fan community. No meet and greets. No Q&A sessions. No Facebook. No Twitter. No news. I’m not even sure he’s actually MET his fans before, and they definitely don’t go following him back to the hotel after the shows. The author even goes as far to make the assertion that Bob Dylan has family members he hasn’t even met yet! This fandom is absolutely 100% about the music. Admittedly, I don’t get it…which is why I’ve got to keep reading the book. You can bet I’ll be reporting back here soon.

As I made that realization, that yes there are bands and artists out there that do far, far less than what I know, I thought back to the conversation I’d had with Amanda via email earlier in the day and ruefully grinned. I knew what I’d be blogging about this morning. Damned universe making me say nice things about this band…

Here is the thing: Duran Duran isn’t the problem. The BAND is not the problem. John Taylor does do his part by coming onto Twitter and occasionally posting. Simon LeBon exchanges tweet with fans when he feels like it. I have to say that in both cases, I appreciate the fact that they aren’t slaves to Twitter. That really is not the point. Instead, they post when they wish to do so, and that feels normal, healthy and real. Sure, I wish that happened more often, but you know, we make due. I also don’t have time to spend on Twitter 24/7, and I would hope the same for everyone else. Roger does a decent job on Facebook, especially for someone who has a baby at home. I know Dom is in the middle of mixing his album with his dad…and Nick….well…Nick is busy! The fact is, we have a reasonable idea of what they’re up to, what they’re doing – and they tell us. I don’t really think it’s always been that way. I can say that at least for me, I would be listening to the radio back in the 80’s and be shocked and surprised to hear a new song from them after many months of what felt like crossing the Sahara desert! (meaning no news, no new music, no nothing)  We get a little more news today, so yes, that is progress.

My point in bringing the subject of fan communities to the blog wasn’t to bash the band. If you read our blogs, I think we’re pretty fair overall. I never wanted to be that fan…the one that  thinks every single thing the band does is fantastic even when it’s really not. I will never be the one to tell them that they are awesome (I know how much they “love” that California term, which is why I’m using it!) and that I love them and please follow me on Twitter…I’m the one that is going to tell it like I see it and hear it, even if if means sticking my neck out and feeling some bruises from the flogging I occasionally get from our readers when I dare to criticize the band or the machine that is Duran Duran.

I wanted to bring some questions and concerns forward.  There are plenty of South American fans – many of whom are not in the paid fan community simply because there just isn’t enough to offer them, and yet there is no attempt to reach out to those fans. Surely there must be a better way.

I wanted to look at how other bands handle their fan communities. Sure, there are great things about the paid fan community. I like Katy Kafe, and when we get exclusive video clips and things, they’re fun. Presales are great if you’re lucky enough to get good tickets at those presales. The paid fan community often has contests for members, and sometimes the prizes are unique. All of these individual things have the potential to make a fan community fun and worthwhile, no argument from me.

One thing I continually see from Duran Duran, specifically when it comes to the internet and the new marketing model is that they seem to be rushing to catch up.  That never used to be the case with the band. I always saw them as innovative when it came to music and video, but the truth is, when it comes to the internet I think they are pretty far behind. I am sure that some of this is the learning curve. The music industry today is not what it once was.  The rules are so different now, and yes – it’s really tough to adapt.  They need to have the right mix of people around who are not afraid to try new and “really out there” methods to get things done.  Not “understanding” the internet is simply no excuse. (and before someone sends me mail – take your hand off of that “reply” button – I might not be referring to the BAND when I write that!)

Perhaps the best thing I can do is give examples of creativity.  Yesterday one of our friends on Twitter sent me an article.  Thanks to @Jonfromspenny to sending this my way.

Pop Stars Work the Web

-R

Fanfic

Yesterday, a teasing John Taylor tweeted the following, “now.. a jacuzzi with Roger or a sauna with Charlie?  Such highly-charged homo-erotic options.”  Of course, the responses to this tweet came fast and furious. Some people responded with which choice s/he thought was best.  Other responded with some sort of “can I join you” question/suggestion.  Of course, there was at least one comment about how the fanfic was writing itself.  I laughed and thought about how we have never even come close to discussing fanfic on the blog and yet, for some fans, it is a big part of their fandom.


For those people not in the know, fanfic stands for fan fiction.  They are fictional stories featuring one of more band members.  In some cases, the stories are completely heterosexual in nature and feature the band member of choice in some sort of romantic and/or sexual situation with one or more members of the opposite sex.  I have seen many stories in which the main character is a fan or someone who could be a fan.  In my opinion and I’m by no means an expert as I don’t read much fanfic, these stories can seem like people’s personal fantasy regarding the band member(s) of her choice.  Now, there are other stories, which are homoerotic in nature.  In some cases, this is done subtly and left more to the imagination and, in other times, is pretty explicit.  Most of those stories focused on John and Simon as a couple but there were other ones representing every combination of couple possible. 


Now, again, I’m not expert in fanfiction, Duran fanfic included.  I don’t read much and have never written anything myself.  Yet, it seems like fanfiction has been around a long time and probably has been around for almost as long as the band has been around.  It wouldn’t surprise me, for example, if there aren’t many Duranies who had written some sort of story featuring Duran at one point in their youth.  Anyway, fanfic seems to have been or is very popular within the community.  For a long time, there was a section on the DuranDuranMusic message board dedicated solely to fanfiction and it was a very popular place.  The moderators, for whatever reason, decided to remove it.  This, obviously, upset a lot of people.  Frankly, I don’t even know if a reason was ever given to explain this decision.  It seemed like a lot of those writers and readers left the board quickly after that.  Maybe they found a new place to play.  No matter if the reason was stated or not stated, I still wonder.  Was it removed because the band didn’t like reading fictional stories about themselves, no matter if they are written gay, straight or bisexual?  What is removed because there were complaints about the graphic nature of some of stories?  Was it an example of what could be called homophobia because people didn’t like gay relationships or gay sex? 


Now, I’m left wondering what the status is with fanfiction in our community.  Do people still write?  Do people still read?  Where is this exchange taking place?  Is it the same type of deal in terms of types of stories?  I also wonder what the fan community thinks of fanfic as a whole.  Why do people write the stories?  What do they get out of the experience?  Why do people read them or why do people not read them?  Do people prefer the straight ones or the gay ones?  Why?  Is there a place in our community for this kind of creativity?  What do you, personally, think of fanfic?  


-A

Stress of (and) Contests!

I am 110% stressed.  I admit it.  Last week, I put in about 65 hours of work between my actual job and my volunteer gig.  This week will be much of the same as I have parent-teacher conferences Thursday and Friday, which means that I will be at work for 12 hours both of those days.  Then, I have meetings Monday and Tuesday evening and an all day conference on Saturday.  Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but we are leaving for the UK in little over 3 weeks and have SO much to do before we leave.  I spent my entire weekend just getting organized and getting things checked off for work, for my volunteer gig, for my household to keep running and for the upcoming tour.  Needless to say, there is part of me that is really looking forward to December 24th as I will be at my sister’s and just relaxing.  That isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to our trip because I totally am!  Once I’m there, I’ll be totally excited.  It is the getting ready part that is tough.  🙂

I feel like I’m struggling to keep up with Duranland, which is completely unacceptable.  I haven’t put my scrapbook together for the Chicago show.  I haven’t had a chance to listen to the Katy Kafe that was put up WEEKS ago in October with Simon.  I need some time to be able to watch the Girl Panic video on Tuesday and review it.  (No worries, Rhonda, it will get done!)  This personal craziness has led me to look back to about a month ago when DDM announced its latest contest, which is to design a t-shirt.  The winners would be able to pick out their show of choice to get VIP seats and a meet and greet.  Rhonda and I actually discussed some ideas.  Needless to say, we ran out of time with planning for the Chicago show, doing the initial travel plans for the UK and completing all of our regularly scheduled activities.  (Seriously, can someone find a means of extending the day?  Yes, I know that people in the States got an extra hour this weekend as we set the clocks back.  It isn’t enough.) 

Now, the t-shirt designs have been submitted and voting has begun.  Part of me, obviously, wishes that we could have done one but the other part of me is glad.  Contests in our lovely fandom scare me.  I admit it.  I have seen too many contests turn ugly and ugly, quickly.  There always seems to be concern that the same people are winning and too often it turns to a popularity contest as some members openly ask people to vote for their submission.  Obviously, I’m not judging these people as they just want to win.  I get that.  Yet, to me, this is problematic.  Aren’t the submissions supposed to be anonymous?  Aren’t the winner(s) supposed to be chosen on merit?  Yet, at least, to many within the community that this isn’t how it is done. 

This leads me to wonder why DDM continues to do contests like this.  Why continue to have members vote on each other’s?  Why don’t they take the submissions to the band and let them judge?  Wouldn’t that be better?  Yes, ideally, any community should be able to vote without any problem but that doesn’t seem to be the case, typically, in Duranland.  Then, I always wonder how the contests come to be.  The contests seem to be creative in nature, which, I can understand to a point.  Duran is a band and one that has sought out creativity in themselves and in others.  Yet, in most cases, this creativity is visual in nature and often requiring computers.  They aren’t asking for the finest painting using oils or watercolors.  They aren’t asking for things like writing, either.  I also find it fascinating that they don’t have contests surrounding the usual ways fandom, including ours, expresses itself.  They aren’t picking the best live shot, which many people in the community are fabulous at.  They aren’t looking for cool, new mixes, usually.  Stories that feature them as characters in the best fanfic isn’t a contest.  People aren’t chosen for having the biggest or best collection of ______________.  Knowledge and dedication aren’t chosen for contests, either.  Now, obviously, I don’t have a clue how some of those different expressions of fandom would be judged but it just feels to me that they are ignoring LOTS of members of their fan community. 

Then, of course, there is the question about what people get if they win.  It seems that the easiest thing now is to give tickets and a meet and greet.  That’s cool and all but what about people who don’t get shows close to them?  Are they going to get the people to the show?  Will they pay for the plane ticket, bus/train fare or gas?  At least, this time, people could choose their show.  I also found it interesting that this contest will end long after the North American tour did.  Is there their way of trying to do something for people outside of the US? 

What would you do for a contest?  How would it be judged?  Who would be judging it?  What do you think the winner should receiver?  Should there just be one winner or should there by lesser prizes?  If so, what would they be?  I would love to hear your ideas as I think there could be a lot more to their contests!

-A