Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Armenian Media Roll Call

Dear newspapers, bloggers, and television channels;

Dear musicians, artists, and writers;

Dear influencing-motivators;

We are now a nation of followers who preaches of leading. When a project is to be done, five men will supervise while one man does the labor. We are now a nation who 'turnt up' and 'turnt down' for what? We weren't always like this.

I spent my 11th or 12th birthday in Mosul with an Armenian organization called Homenetmen. The year was before the 2003 Iraq/US war, so July of either 2001 or 2002. We stayed in a church, a "der," for a week, and we became friends with the town's children (both Christians and Muslims). The church was built in the year 640, and it felt great seeing such a historic place in person. Mosul, like Baghdad, had a great number of Christian groups living there for generations. We ate, drank tea, sang patriotic songs, and being 11, played games.

Today, there's a major campaign against the Armenians of Iraq because of their Christianity. Christians are being forced to go by the Islamic law of "Convert to Islam, pay taxes, or meet the sword." That literally translates to give up, pay us, or die. Mosul is already under that law, and many churches are already destroyed. Homes and businesses owned by Christians are spray painted with the letter "N" in Arabic, for "Nazarenes," for their army of terrorists to know. They're publicly planning to head to Baghdad.

Three years ago, I started a major #armeniangenocide hashtag campaign on Twitter, it did alright the first year - as it trended in Los Angeles. We got the US the second year. The world got a new trend the third year. Do you know what your contribution for this campaign was? Do you know what you used the world trending genocide hashtag for? Promoting a for-profit shirt in the name of "x% goes to charity," missing the sentence "and the rest is profit." after it.

It is unfortunate that the only way you'd serve our cause is by branding it. If a rapper didn't mention it, it didn't happen. If a gossip website didn't publish it, it's not important.

If in 1915 we were the ones fighting back, the 1,500,000 Armenians killed might have been 2,000,000. We had honest reporters, photographers, and men. We had men who fought for so long to make sure that the villagers left safe by the time the enemy took over our territories. If we were put in these soldiers' shoes, with today's mentality, we would have caused a bigger genocide.

Genocide is going on now in Iraq by the same group of people to the same group of people. They're still burning and beheading people with swords. Not 1915, but right now, as you read this. What are you doing for your own race that you blamed others of not doing for you back in 1915?

Apo Avedissian

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wake Up Call: Deep Thinkers United

I spent the first 23 years of my life thinking. My favorite thing to do is to create. I create things. I imagine visual scenery and I make them happen whether through photography, film, or incredibly amateurishly painting.

Why are people either so into thinking or so out of it? We live in a time where innovation is at our hands, yet we push it away. I come from a world where in order to study, you needed to light candles, because you almost never had electricity provided when needed. We created.
We were not allowed to have any satellite dishes, cell phones, or the internet. We created.
We played outside and built things. We learned how to tie ropes and change car tires. We learned how to make a closet out of wood. We learned how to plant a tree, water it all the time, watch it grow, then eat its fruit. We learned how to climb and jump walls. We fell down, hurt our bleeding knees, and stood up. We learned how to defend ourselves, and most importantly, how to act in order to avoid a fight. We experienced nature. We lived through and saw Darwinism without reading about it in the third grade.

I now see mothers who get so into their texting sessions that they forget about their kids running in the street, while they themselves slowly cross while staring into their phones. I see those same mothers yell at their kids for being kids in a safer environment - running towards colorful toys for instance. Those same mothers even sue the company for having colorful toys, and for their kid to be gravitated towards them would be labeled as an attention related mental disorder.

I'm growing up in a world that is scared of calculated risks, but has no regard towards actual, damaging, high risk situations. I meet grown people who do not understand what the concept of time management is. There are people, to this day, who cannot handle tasks you assign them to. Those are people who pay for their own rent and food, by the way. There are grown people, to this day, who cannot add two - two digit numbers together if they don't end in zeros. I've met people adding 5 and 7 on a calculator, and doing it again to double check that they added it correctly. Those same people miscalculated larger amounts because they chose a shortcut version: Thinking. If you needed a calculator for 5+7, how did you think you can get away with bigger numbers?

I know ignorance is bliss. But choosing to be ignorant is not the option to take. If you happened not to know, you just happen to be out of luck. But, if you have the option to know, why do you choose not to?

I met people in college who wanted to major in arts. They bought a bunch of books that had titles like: "From the best selling filmmaker of so and so, How to Write a Screeplay." If you wanted to learn how to write a screenplay, is a book with that title really the first thing you read? How uninformed are you about writing, that the first thing you do is buy a book with that title? And this is only for an example. I've seen all of these "how to paint," "how to rap," "how to photograph," and other books in those students' hands. I still see people Tweeting about reading things like that, proud, showing off that they're reading something, I guess.

Look, I love how our society is fully into data and learning numbers and knowing which artist is ranked number what from which album on iTunes, but we need to chill out with over-analyzing things. We don't need every person on this planet to read 6 books simultaneously. Some people are great at that. Most people aren't meant to do that. Reading books is great - Pushing reading books onto people who are not naturally fit for that is not. There's already so much doubt and insecurity in people's minds - add 6 other people's opinions on top of that, and you have a recipe for a lost kid.

Be creative. Put time into what you do. Learn how to treat people with respect and how to have a conversation with a stranger. When you slip and fall, laugh. Don't focus on which leg feels a little hurt. Focus on what caused you to slip and how can you avoid it next time. When you have the option of watching a sadistic drama or a comedy show, watch the latter. Life is too short for you to not have any problems and to watch other people's imaginary problems. Watch and listen to comedy. Appreciate it. You're not going to be on this planet for too long anyway. Wake up and let it be. #IDontLikeTheBeatles #ThereISaidIt #OMGDidIJustHashtagOnMyOwnBlog? #GreatIJustHashtaggedAQuestion

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hip-Hop is Dead - Hip-Hoppers Killed It

A few days ago, a rapper who barely made it into the mainstream for the past 2 years released a verse on a track he's on that seems to have caught every single 12-50 year olds' attentions. Kendrick Lamar is of course who I'm talking about, and the track being "Control," fellow rapper Big Sean's.

The problems (hype) seems to be that Kendrick Lamar attacks many other rappers and calls them out by name, disrespecting (dissing) them while praising himself, soon to call himself the king of rap. Of course, Facebookies, Tweeters, and even Instagramites have been going crazy over this verse, and you see thousands of posts mentioning how Hip-Hop is based on exactly what Kendrick Lamar just did, and Big Sean announces that it's just a competition play, and you have people going crazy over the entire thing.

First things first, Hip-Hop is dead.
Rap and Hip-Hop started disappearing a long time ago. What you're listening to on the radio today is in no way a part of that culture. Yes, this is very cliche, but I'm sick and tired of people associating the wrong things with each other. The other day a sixteen year old tweeted me comparing Banksy to Picasso. Now if that was ten years ago, and Banksy was as unknown at the time as the media never made him to be, this kid might have sounded like a genius, although at just six years old almost anything is genius.
However, it's such an irritating question because Banksy entered the mainstream media only recently as well (a few years now), and Picasso was just remembered recently because of Jay-Z name dropping every artist you've ever (or never) heard of over and over again for the last three albums.
What this entire thing ends up at is how easily pushed a crowd of people are.

I have studied a lot about hip-hop, although once a former-friend still-rapper dared to tell me that I did not know as much about hip-hop so I should keep my thoughts to myself when he wanted to switch towards more "hip-hop". The sad reality was this low self-esteemed guy grew up on Drake. I could have countered, but I chose to let him be the Hip-Hopper he wanted to be. I think he's quitting now.

This post, in no way, is a diss to what "hip-hop" music is today. This is made to tell you that what you hear today is not what you would've heard when hip-hop was coming up. I'm talking about community struggles and abuse. I'm talking about hardships and social science. I'm not talking about what car and what type of drug the rapper (even fake most of the time) are talking about. That is not hip-hop, even if the beat follows that genre. Hip-Hop was a cultural storytelling machine. The culture hasn't switched as much, it is just separated. The old school still exists, but is rarely put in the spotlight anymore. Those who rapped about the low-riders actually drove low-riders. Those who mentioned basketball actually played basketball.

Hip-Hop still exists, but it's gone so underground, and the artists are not prodigies of any actual hip-hop artists, that you now have a mix of those who want to follow their idols who have gone out of the mainstream radio for two decades. That's sadly the case.
The genre is no longer alive because that mentality is no longer alive in the masses. A few people have it and believe it, while most are following what the radio is playing now. I listen to Lil Wayne and Jay-Z when I'm not listening to Outkast and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I can't defend my taste, but it's to show you that I am including myself in this formula.

A major thing I need to mention is that Hip-Hop got around the same way Drake or whoever I mentioned got around. So, again, there is no diss towards anyone from me here. It's a genre of music that disappeared, and will no longer come back unless by coincidence, where a kid starts a whole new style without studying the old, and copying everything Hip-Hop did by accident. Chances are that none of that will happen anytime soon. Cough, Macklemore.

So, the next time you hear a rapper call other rappers (or any people) out, think about the attention they want, before reading about their excuses and defending themselves with an interview after the release of the track saying "It was all for the sake of competition. I don't mean to diss any homeboys." Do you know what was for the sake of competition? Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. I can go as close to modern times to mention 50 Cent and Game. That's a rivalry that shakes up the community and makes everyone take sides and compare points and hits. That is Hip-Hop because respect is still there, but there are man vs. man fights that end in handshakes and respect, no matter the loss. Putting two lines in your verse calling people by their names and telling them you're going to eat them alive isn't rivalry, it's exactly what Drake, J. Cole, Tyler, and Big Sean (whom he took shots at) rap like. The only way Kendrick Lamar would've made that sentence actually honest was if he had mentioned his name in that very sentence.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

C'est la Vie: Six Months of Los Angeles

Good morning everyone,
If you follow me on Facebook or Google+, you'd know by now that I released a bit of a hidden project called C'est la Vie: Six Months of Los Angeles. With a self-explanatory name, this project came after a long period of inactivity on my end. I had been shooting pictures around L.A. for a while, without really sharing them. Now is the time to release them.

I've been sharing a picture per day starting from June 1st, 2013, and will continue doing so until the end of this year.

Street photography is something I've always loved, and it's one of the main genres I really got into photography because of. Not only do you get to see a city frozen still in time, but you also get to see it in high resolution (cut Facebook some slack) with a lot of emotion and soul of people you've never met - which makes any biased opinion unbiased and better. Open each of these pictures in full-view and look into the photos - not at them. You'll notice things you'd never notice if you just look at a picture and "click like or ignore - because that's what we do on Facebook".

June has been a great month so far, with a lot of interaction starting to come in from people of different ethnics and countries of the world. Funny enough, that's exactly what L.A. is today.

I've been posting black and white street work this month, and I'm planning on making each and every month special, so the style you see this month won't be happening in July. That should not only make it entertaining, but also interesting.

Give the work a look, and let me know what you think!

Apo Avedissian

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wearing Black Inbetween Angelenos - Los Angeles

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa - Los Angeles, CA I visited downtown Los Angeles a couple of months back and did something very tourist-y, in a city where tourists, although in thousands, still look and act like aliens in an Angeleno's point of view.

I took pictures.

I hadn't gone to downtown for almost a full-on year before that, so I decided to head back there and shoot some pictures and meet people.

The thing about street photography, which makes it so great yet so tough, is that it truly involves emotions. It has such a beautiful side to it when the emotions are beautiful, but when the emotions themselves aren't as good, the experience will follow.

I always find it funny how people whom you face your camera to try to avoid it, but those whom you never intended to shoot tend to want a picture of themselves. I don't think it's a personality type. I just think it's the way you approach them.

I usually wear a lot of black and I move quickly. I don't talk. People tend to not stare at you, and instead they ignore you and not notice whatever you're doing. There's nothing better than that!

I love noticing the needy taking care of the more needy. It's the basic right of a human being to live and breathe positively.

I love Los Angeles. I really do. There are so many different types and races of people here, that you start to not notice race anymore. I've always believed in equality, but practice isn't as easy because every now and then you catch yourself being a little racist (most of the time to your own race). But L.A. makes things much better and I'm thankful for being here.

The Mayor of Los Angeles, Mr. Antonio Villaraigosa, was a great mayor, doing a lot in the 8 years he was in office, and I was most fortunate to see him live speaking of a cause very dear to me: the Armenian Genocide recognition, in Montebello, CA on April 24th, 2013. I hope our new mayor follows Mr. Villaraigosa's footsteps.

All in all, this is Los Angeles, and I love it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Wasn't Just A Kid

A decade ago, I was twelve years old. I played soccer. I had a German Shepherd Dog. I liked to take pictures. I enjoyed technology and technological advancements.

A decade ago, a statue fell in the city I was born and raised in.
A decade ago, Saddam Hussein's statue was brought down by the U.S. Troops and the Iraqi people around Baghdad.
A decade ago, we celebrated.

A decade and a day ago, we had no satellites. A decade and a day ago, we had no cellphones or the internet. A decade and a day ago, media was fully controlled. In fact, the media was almost entirely owned and ran by the government, otherwise a relative to a royal family.

I've lost family members to the Iraqi government before the war. I've lost good friends to the U.S. war after.

Not much changed.

I'm thankful for my safety and my family's. I'm thankful for a lot of families' safety.

Iraq was, is, and will always be a mess.
I'm not a sell out. That's where I was born and that's where I was proudly raised.
That's where I learned my manners. That's where I learned almost anything and everything.
That's where I met every good person. That's where I met hard working people.

That's also where I met, sadly, uneducated people.
That's also where I met the sick, the poor, and the depressed.
Matter of fact, 85% of the people there were depressed, and they have every right to be after what they've been through.
They were proud that almost the entire country knew how to read and write, but no one had taught them critical thinking.
They were proud of their honor and loyalty, but no one had taught them that they were ants ranting against elephants.
They were almost all good people, but they were guided by the evil ones.

Locked in small cities, with no movies or new books, with no cellphones or satellites. With no Internet or even electricity at some point. No one knew of the real world. No one knew where we existed. There was no choosing, but instead, things were chosen for you.
People are now free-er on that end.
People die as much, if not more, today, on that end.

Is it a blessing? Is it a curse? I don't know. But as long as the non-Iraqi neighbor can still get in Iraq and cause more shit, that country will be in war till my death. From the Kuwait war to the Iran war and then the U.S. war, I was born in war, grew up in war, and left the country in war. I was fifteen years old when I left. I wasn't just a kid. I saw what was happening, and it hurt.

I'm in Los Angeles now. I love soccer. I have a German Shepherd Dog. I love photography. I absolutely enjoy reading about technology.

Babylon is cursed. Yesterday, Babylon was burned by foreigners on horses. Today, Babylon is burned by Apache helicopters. Tomorrow, Babylon will be burned by other technologically advanced, unmanned drones.

Baghdad's feel is still heaven to me. Not many deserve to live in it today. Not many deserve to be forced out of it today. I'm not one who wishes upon going back, because my memories aren't going to come back just by traveling back. Just leave that poor place alone, whoever you are, where ever you're operating from. It's been a long decade, and those are human beings caught in the middle of it all.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Art 101: The Art of False Sense of Importance

I don't give out a lot of compliments.
I've been raised in a more tough-love environment than a fake-supportive one. Moving to Los Angeles, I started noticing how life is full of senses. All of your senses are excited to be in this town (except for the 'sense of driving,' of course.) I noticed a flaw in that formula, however. People easily label things the wrong way simply because they have no other words to compensate for them.

When I walked to school in Baghdad daily, got shot at every once in a while (not targeted, just a random spray party drive-by some idiot thought he should do because he can get away with it) and walked back home safe, and then studied and went back to school the next day and aced a test, that is amazing.
A cricket walking past you and then flying is NOT amazing.

Sadly, with today's trends, no-obligations and no-commitments seem to be the trend. Yes, that, unfortunately, includes marriage. Do you know how two people choose to get together, sleep together, and then have kids together without getting married? That's what I'm talking about. The fact that those people truly believe that marriage has no value is the exact same thing as these bunches of artists that can't seem to control their emotions and just scream out "I'm an egomaniac and I'm broke!" There's nothing wrong with not getting married, but there's a lot wrong with not doing something and then turning into a professor about it, and then leaving a partner hanging in the end, and totally forgetting the first time they were so defensive about their whole "new-age" plan. Excuse my old-school-ness, because it barely exists in the first place, but I grew up seeing and believing that marriage was one of the most important steps in life - and where I'm from, divorce is not a very popular thing. Throughout everything, couples stayed together. Unlike today, where your partner wearing the wrong color flip-flops results in a divorce with lawyers nastier than a gang fight about the wrong colored flip-flops.

Two nights ago, I attended an art show. For the sake of the good people hosting it, let's call it an art show. I had a few good friends, very loyal and very humble, who were invited to showcase their work. With that, I visited to see some new pieces since I haven't been to a show for a while (I hate crowds). I was looking around when I met a young man who came by me as I looked at his work, and explained his biography, well, autobiography since he's telling it. Well, technically, it wasn't written so it wasn't either (excuse me while I go and punish myself by standing by the wall and staring at its corner. Just kidding. That isn't a punishment. That's one of my hobbies.) Okay, so this guy ends up talking and talking about why he changed his major and how he's so lucky to be showcasing his work that night and why his first major was bad and how the new major makes him more excited when he wakes up. I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up. I'm blunt, but not rude. So I simply reminded him that I never asked. He seemed shocked. I'm sorry but I'm here to see art. I understand that you need to sell your work, but for you to shove your work down my throat and expect me to be appreciative of meeting your holiness is a bit ridiculous, especially when it starts feeling like a hostage situation more than a conversation.

All of that, sadly, comes from people who walk around, even on this gallery day, that aren't there for art. "Hey, nice work!"ing everyone and everything in front of them, they tend to boost a false sense of importance in these poor artists, who not only suck at what they do (at least for now, I hope,) but also take your words VERY seriously when your words are positive. Now, I know you weren't lying when you said "nice work," but you also need to understand that the same person you told that to needs that attention so much that they probably went around telling people HOW MANY PEOPLE LOVED THEIR WORK AND HE/SHE HAS POSSIBLE COLLABORATIONS WITH SAID PERSON AND WILL SOON DO THIS AND THAT. It's sad but true. A major part of the reason that happens is because they tend to put a good label on the things they want to hear. Just like when you read "low battery" on your phone you don't panic as much as you'd panic if your car battery died on you (not both at the same time, hopefully). That's because although the two are the exact same thing, their results are quite different. Don't give people anything to push their false sense of importance, or even entitlement at times, to that limit. Based on the information this guy provided me, I also know that he has a student loan the amount of a new house and he's here trying to sell his pieces, talking about his accomplishments in life. 0 sales, by the way, if you wanted to know the results.

I met another artist who didn't even act as if the work was his, and I had to ask if the work actually was his, and he nodded smiling. We had a small conversation and a very genuine one, might I add, that clearly showed his professionalism and humbleness. When I told him it was nice meeting him and tried leaving, he asked if I had any criticism for his work. An obnoxious girl replied from behind us "I wouldn't take a picture of a rusty train next time," to which I held myself back from saying the good-ol' phrase of "shut the fuck up, seriously, now!"

People need to hear about their flaws to keep going. Artists are supposed to listen to criticism and accept it and work it out. I'm not saying that every criticism is true, but it does deserve your attention. When you ignore the bad and keep going with the good, you're doing nothing but filling that hungry, hateful side of you with joy. That, just like salty chips, will fill you up, have you feeling satisfied, and then give you high blood pressure and a heart failure later on. It's neither a good meal nor a healthy one.

I'm an egomaniac by choice when it comes to my character. That's what I try to sell as the "Apo" character. Those who've seen me and talked to me know where I stand on that topic, though. In a very sarcastic manner, I tend to joke about my greatness, and within two sentences the jokes are gone and we're having a normal conversation. When it comes to false senses and people feeling like they're something they clearly are not because they bought a camera or a paint brush, however, it is a sad, sad thing our generation has to go through.

To your enjoyment, here are most, not all, of my favorite works of art showcased at this gallery event in downtown Los Angeles.