Other Side Drive
On The Other Hand
Gustavo Arellano believes that journalism comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable which is the journalism the publication he works for, OC Weekly, practices. “In other words, we celebrate the good and we go after the bad with a hammer, and a hammer, a baseball bat, and a nuke, or whatever. There’s a lot of bad in Orange County. There’s a lot of good in Orange County and as long as there’s good and evil, I’m going to have motivation.” Arellano was invited to speak during Texas State University Mass Communication week on Tuesday. He says it was great. “It’s great because usually I’m talking about Mexicans or Mexican food.”
Arellano writes a weekly column for OC Weekly called “Ask a Mexican.” People are invited to ask him anything, no matter how obscene. He says the purpose is to debunk, deconstruct and destroy the stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Mexicans through a satirical, but fact-based manner. He is also a food editor at OC Weekly, which was also his first journalism job. He says he’s a food nerd and it’s the best journalism in the world, because not only are his meals reimbursed, he also gets paid to do it. He’s been on tour for his recent book Taco USA since it came out in April and recently made an appearance at this year’s Texas Book Festival. The book provides a history of Mexican food in the United States such as how tequila became a multi-billion dollar industry. To him, it’s a book he loves to do not because he loves eating a lot of food, but also as a reporter, he did a lot of research. He did gumshoe reporting where he knocked on doors and drove around to find the pioneers of Mexican food that he says were ignored by the history books if they were even acknowledged. “So to be able to talk to these stories, I thought to me, it’s something I’m proud of more than anything is getting these families, these names, bring them out into the limelight so people can finally know, like hey, these were important people. These weren’t just some Mexicans who whipped up your combo plate for you. There’s a history behind that combo plate. There’s a history behind these families.”
He started this history, but he says it’s up to us to continue it. However, with today’s world filled with social media and the Internet, Arellano says journalists still have to dig for facts. He is a huge fan and fully embraces the Internet, but says you will not find facts from 1850s or 1860s on Facebook or Twitter. Journalists still have to go through university archives and talk to people. “Social media is just one tool now in the arsenal that all journalists should already have, knowing how to fill public records requests, of being brave, of not taking no for an answer. It amplifies it. And if anything what social media does nowadays is takes your work and bust it out into a bigger, larger, even a worldwide audience.”
Arellano also says that it amplifies any reporter’s voice and in some ways makes their work that much more influential. He has fans now that probably would not have heard about him without social media. But with the good also comes the bad. “Of course, I get negative feedback, especially with a column like Ask a Mexican. You’re inviting the haters to come after you.” But to Arellano, that’s the whole point of the column in some ways. It’s to ask him anything. He says when you’re a reporter who takes no prisoners, you’re going to get enemies. He has gotten death threats before and gets negative comments on a regular basis, but he says that makes it fun. “If you’re not pissing people off, if you’re not making people feel something, whether it’s love or hatred towards your work, then you’re not a good reporter. All reporters, we want our work to be read. Not just read but we want people to feel something, and honestly for me, the fan letters are just as great as the hate letters because at least I got to someone. I got to someone in that way.”
What’s interesting about his career path, though, is that he had no aspirations to be a reporter. He says that he used to steal newspapers to read the sports section and comics, but what got him into journalism was a mock letter to the editor he wrote in college. The editor who received the letter saw something in Arellano that Arellano didn’t know he had in him. “Namely, love, really an obsession with journalism. This editor was able to see that just in my little 150-word letter.” It was that editor that he says coaxed out of him journalism and has been doing it since. He says he share his story to journalism students such as the students at Texas State because he thinks it’s remarkable. “It’s one that I tell to students all the time because I tell them if I was able to do it, me with no media training whatsoever, then surely you folks can do it with given that you’re going to a great school, given that you’re already committed at such a young stage of your life.”
California Natives and Bedroom Pop craftsmen So Many Wizards released their latest and first full-length album Warm Nothing this past August. With a sound similar to Beach Fossils, Fleet Foxes and Real Estate, So Many Wizards are on their way to the land where Indie Pop dreams come true. This album is a simple, laid back arrangement of songs with a short runtime around half an hour. With the exception of one track, each song is less than three minutes long, but where time is lacking composition makes up for it. Front man Nima Kazerouni is the prime example of a pop song-writer, creating fast paced, fleeting tunes that you can enjoy without all of the muss and fuss. The melodies are sunny, the guitars are buoyant, and Kazerouni’s voice is warm and sincere.
As soon as you hear the rising and falling of cymbals, ringing guitar and Kazerouni’s soft, slouchy voice on “Never Wake Up,” you’ll get a general feel of the album’s overall chill out theme. “Lose Your Mind,” the only song on the album that exceeds three minutes, is a thoughtful tune aimed towards anyone who has a hard time letting go of the everyday stresses that bear a heavy weight. In a reverbed falsetto, Kazerouni pleads “Lose it, lose your mind/Slowly, it takes time, it takes time/So don’t worry so much/Yeah, you worry too much.”
Album highlight “Inner City” is bubbly and mellifluous, the kind of song you can listen to over and over again without getting bored. The track starts off in a very precise manner, with high pitched vocals and consistent guitar strumming, and then suddenly shifts into Kazerouni sentimentally singing “Whatever happened to the way we used to be” backed by pulsating drums, easygoing guitar and faint background accent vocals. So Many Wizards possess a certain charm that comes along with successfully creating short and sweet melodies. Though Warm Nothing may lack the diversity some listeners seek in an album, there is definitely potential for a longer, and grander second release.
More info at somanywizards.com