Tag Archives: OffBeat Magazine

My end of 2010 homework

A short while back, Jamey gave me some homework. She said (a loose quote here), “I don’t think you realize how much you’ve done and accomplished this year. I’m assigning you homework. You have to make a list of everything you’ve done in 2010.”

So, finally, I’m doing my homework. Here it is, 10 things I accomplished in 2010:

1. I’ve worked on five movies

In January, I worked for 2 days on the set of Legendary (Brother’s Keeper) and then went on to work on three more WWE Studios movies, up till October. Currently, I’m working on So Undercover. That’s five and that’s a lot in one year, as I’m realizing.

2. I watched a lot of football

I’ve always been a Saints fan, at least in theory. I became a fan in practice during 2009, but in the aftermath of our Super Bowl win (that could be its own entry on the list – I witnessed the Saints winning the Super Bowl!) and now, in this new season, I’ve been watching a lot of football. I’ve only missed one Saints game this season.

3. I started a major revision of my novel

I haven’t finished, but I began (and progressed pretty far) with what I hope will be my final draft before I finally send this baby out into the world — to agents first and then to editors at publishing companies, and then to actual real people who read, complete with hardback gift wrapping.

4. I had major surgery

And came face-to-face with the realities of physical recovery. And asked for help. And forced myself to rest.

5. I had a public disagreement with OffBeat Magazine

I, and several others, publicly and loudly disagreed with the image on OffBeat Magazine‘s March cover. This brought me a great deal of stress and frustration, although there was a bit of a surge in traffic here on my blog and I was quoted in the Huffington Post.

6. I escaped from the Book Section

I had the chance to write a piece for 225 Magazine that started out being a review of The Dictionary of Louisiana French and ended up being about so much more, including the grim situation at LSU lately. Not only was it longer than most of my published pieces, it was in the front half of the magazine, which was a personal first.

7. I published more than ever

And there’s nothing wrong with the Book Section (at all!), as I had more pieces (mostly book reviews) published in 225 Magazine this year than all the previous years I’ve written for them – combined. I continue to be honored and challenged and inspired in my work with this phenomenal magazine. Additionally, my web presence was stronger than ever, between my growing blog, my continued work with PureSYTYCD and a few posts I did for Write or Die.

8. I hung out with rock stars

Halfway through the year, I got the chance to interview Eric Ronick, the lead singer of the new band Black Gold during their New Orleans concert, I danced a little bit with Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls after their show at Tipitina’s and more recently (though I haven’t blogged about it yet), I met Mark Growden when he invited me out (via Twitter) after I mistook the date of one of his New Orleans shows and went out in the cold, only to be disappointed. I also went to Jazz Fest for the first time.

9. I started reading for Narrative Magazine

That one probably speaks for itself. I started out as an intern earlier in the year and was promoted to assistant editor around September.

10. I won NaNoWriMo

I managed to write 50,000 words during the month of November – despite my crazy hectic job, despite Thanksgiving and my parents being in town, despite not having a solid story or characters I was passionate about or interested in, I won!

Somehow, throughout the crucible that was 2010, I managed to (mostly) strike a balance between my consuming work in the film industry and my identity as a freelance writer and everything that entails. I grew my blog and spent a lot of time bragging on my amazing friends and family, something that makes me extraordinarily proud.

The balance isn’t perfect, of course, and there are still quite a lot of things I’d like to finish (my novel!) work out (my finances!) and do (travel!), but Jamey was right that I needed to sit down and reflect on everything that I have achieved this year. I feel much more prepared to tackle 2011 now!

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Filed under bragging on, family, freelance work, Friends, movies, music, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, pop culture, writing updates

offBeat Magazine hits the right note

I was so satisfied to see the selection of letters to the editor and the “Strange Fruit” item on page 8 of April’s issue of offBeat. Their response is, finally, exactly what I could hope. Maybe better than I hoped for.

It begins: “On our March cover, we demonstrated a remarkable lack of judgment and sensitivity when we matched a photo of a young band hanging from monkey bars with the headline ‘Strange Fruit.’ The combination of the phrase and the hanging image was far too close to the subject of the Billie Holiday song first recorded in 1939–lynching–and we’re profoundly sorry for our mistake.” And it ends, “We regret treating such a history so casually, and we’ll make an effort to do better in the future.”

In between these well-expressed statements is a history of the song, “Strange Fruit,” highlighting a haunting story of a woman following Billie Holiday into the powder room, screaming at her, “Don’t you sing that song again! Don’t you dare!”, ripping her dress and then tearfully explaining how it reminded her of a lynching she’d witnessed as a child. Wow. Powerful stuff.

Thank you, offBeat, for listening to your readers and using the opportunity to bring the important thing back in focus — the music. Thank you for being, once more, a magazine we can be proud of, as New Orleanians and lovers of music.

Serendipitously, a friend posted a related image on Facebook, which I found on the Internet, here. I think it sums up the entire month for me.

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Some offBeat Progress

I had a great conversation yesterday with Eric from My Name Is John Michael. This is the band that’s featured on offBeat Magazine’s March 2010 cover – both of them. Eric said that offBeat was working really hard to print a second version of the cover in time for SXSW, which I was very, very glad to hear. The new cover is featured on offBeat‘s website and here, below:

This action, to me, satisfies offBeat‘s responsibility to the band they honored with a cover. I’m glad offBeat was willing to take this step for the band and everyone featured in the March issue.

I still feel that offBeat has an unfulfilled obligation toward their readers and I recognize this is a matter of opinion. I think the apology posted online and Jan Ramsey’s comments after the fact were pretty disrespectful to their readers. So, it’s with this in mind that I’m looking forward to seeing this addressed in next month’s issue (or in the 2nd March issue, if I can get my hands on it). But the re-issue of the March magazine has given me a lot of hope.

Most of all, I was gratified to hear from Eric that everyone’s been very supportive of My Name Is John Michael. The band was on tour when the controversy broke out last week. Driving from Athens to Asheville, the band listened to “Strange Fruit” together in the car. I loved imagining that scene and how that must have felt to the band members to experience the song together at that particular moment.

I suspect that a few more people listened to “Strange Fruit” in the past week than ordinarily would have, and some may have heard it for the very first time, and if so, that is music to my ears.

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Filed under music, New Orleans

The offBeat “lynchings” and apology

It’s so ingrained not to speak up. Don’t make waves. Don’t rock the boat. But despite the waves of anger, disappointment and frustration since yesterday after seeing the offBeat cover, I can’t regret talking about how this cover makes me feel and what it makes me think.

Today, it feels really good to see the outrage is shared. In the microcosm world of my coffee shop, I knew we all had negative, visceral reactions to the cover, but now the response is coming from other New Orleans media, from other cities and it’s so good to have company.

Jamey, of course, responded last night.

Today, I saw a response from the wonderful Missy Wilkinson in The Gambit. The comments here were fascinating.

[3.11.10: Recently, I heard privately from a musician friend and after our discussion, I’m not sure I was clear about one point here on this post. The phrase “offBeat lynchings” is not my own, though I used it in full knowledge that it would probably grab attention. “Offbeat lynchings” was one of the most popular search trends people used to find my blog and, I can only assume, other discussions of the March offBeat cover. I thought that might’ve been clear by the tweet below, where I addressed offBeat and let them know about the search trends I’d seen about the controversy. Sure enough, I believe it did encourage a response.]

After noticing the search trends on my stats page today, I tweeted offBeat (one of several tweets since yesterday):

@OffBeatMagazine: I think you should know people are searching “offbeat magazine lynchings” and “offbeat magazine racist march” today. about 2 hours ago via web

Around the same time as this tweet, offBeat linked to an online apology in three back-to-back tweets:

Please see our apology about this month’s cover: http://bit.ly/dgLXfw about 1 hours ago via web

@emofalltrades please see our apology: http://bit.ly/dgLXfw. we’re really sorry for the insensitive decision we made with our cover text about 1 hours ago via web in reply to emofalltrades

@jameyhatley please see our apology here: http://bit.ly/dgLXfw. we’re very sorry for the insensitive decision we made about 1 hours ago via web in reply to jameyhatley

offBeat‘s publisher and editor, Jan Ramsey commented on my first post about their cover today:

Everyone here realizes we made a huge mistake. But we have way too much respect for music and musicians to have run this cover as a means to create controversy. That’s just disgusting. Being accused of being racist is blowing this faux pas so out of proportion, it’s ridiculous. I resent OffBeat being labeled as racist by anyone. It’s obvious to me that you’re getting a big kick our of keeping this bullshit going. Ah, the venality of our public. For 23 years, I’ve busted my butt trying to create someting positive about local music in OffBeat…way before any other pub into town took music seriously. So dismissing what we’ve done with a quickie label of racism is taking a lot for granted and is just plain stupid when you consider 23 years of work. Too bad you’ve never written for us Emilie, as I am sure you would never make such an egregious error as this one, right? Our “black eye” (oops, was that racist?) is certainly generating more traffic for your blog, now isn’t it? Why don’t you let us apologize and get on with your blog?

Still dissatisfied with both the apology and Jan’s comment because neither address what the intentions behind the “Strange Fruit” title were, I responded:

Dear Jan,

Thanks for writing.

Yes, my response to your “faux pas” is driving traffic on my blog. As well as your website, your Twitter account and etc. While I regret giving so much attention to something so ugly, I had so many negative reactions to your cover that I felt I had to say something. As I state, part of the reason I was so offended is that I have always appreciated the quality of offBeat Magazine and I felt that you have let yourselves, and us, down.

While I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt that the cover was a “faux pas,” I find it really hard to believe that among the educated editorial panel, no one suggested this may be a problematic, controversial juxtaposition. I am happy to hear you say your intentions weren’t to incite controversy. I’d merely like to know what the intentions were.

Thank you for the link to your apology on Twitter, as well. I appreciate the thoughtfulness in the response. However, I’m still left with questions.

First, you say in your online apology, “We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter. This was an error in judgment for which we apologize.” I’m still left wondering what you wanted to evoke with the phrase “Strange Fruit,” and what connection you felt it had to the article inside?

Second, will there be a printed apology? Would you consider re-issuing the March issue with a less offensive and more appropriate headline? I believe that retracting and repairing a “faux pas” of this caliber should require a genuine and, if necessary, costly, effort to demonstrate good faith to readers and everybody associated with the magazine, including contributors, the musicians profiled and advertisers. Please tell us with your actions, as well as your words, that this will not happen again.

Again, I thank you for your response.

Emilie

As I’m writing this, a table of students at the coffee shop are talking about the cover, outraged. One guy stands up while the others sit, waving the March issue and explaining the song “Strange Fruit” to the others and its imagery about lynching. I hear one girl say, “How could they be so stupid?!”

Since I saw the cover yesterday, I have managed to work on my book and write a more light-hearted bragging on post. I tried to distract myself so that it wouldn’t consume all of my time and mind. But, as I told Jamey today on Twitter:

@jameyhatley: I had to keep a notebook by me till about 5 a.m. this morning b/c my mind was whrrrrrring. about 1 hours ago via web

I have never mentioned the band pictured on the cover by name, purposefully. I don’t want to contribute to their name popping up side by side in search engines with charged phrases like “offBeat lynchings.” The band has tweeted today about the cover and the apology.

@emofalltrades @jameyhatley I hope you are understanding that we are as equally perturbed as you are about this unfornuate situation. 6 minutes ago via Tweetie in reply to emofalltrades

Me to them:

so glad to hear from you! and so sorry you’ve been associated with this. you’ve been put in an untenable position. rock on! less than 10 seconds ago via web

I would like to, as Jan suggests in her comment, “get on with my blog,” which does not usually take on this tone. When my stomach stops churning from anger and frustration, when it somehow feels more appropriate, I’ll post the bragging on post because I enjoy celebrating rather than condemning. I hope this is my last post about this ugly matter.

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I’m still angry, you’re still wrong – a second letter to the editor

Dear offBeat Magazine,

It is 1998. I am a teenage girl visiting an elderly friend of my father’s with my family, visiting him at his home (north Louisiana) from our home (just north of Atlanta). I have grown up “color blind” (with the luxury to be color blind, as a black friend later tells me) and am shocked when my father’s friend makes a racist comment. Children are supposed to respect their elders and be seen and not heard. I am silent, but I lose respect for my father’s friend.

It is 2008. I am an adult, at a house party in New Orleans, where I now live, when a teenager from my hometown (just north of Atlanta, where I grew up “color blind”) eyes the all-white audience and tells a racist joke. I suppose she felt that because she was not among “mixed” company, it was safe, somehow appropriate. And no one tells her differently. I am silent. I have lost respect for her for telling the joke and I have lost respect for myself for saying nothing.

I’m speaking now.

offBeat – I am your reader. I am a citizen of New Orleans. I am white. I love music. And I find the cover of your March 2010 issue offensive and reprehensible. Not only have I read your magazine, but I’ve pitched you stories, hoping to write for you. When my lucky musical friends have been featured in your prestigious pages, I have celebrated them and supported the magazine. But I refuse to let you make me implicit in your ignorance, your racism, your utter disregard for your words by using none of mine. I will not allow you to implicate me by remaining silent.

Why do I object to the cover of your magazine?

The headline “Strange Fruit” when paired with your chosen image of the profiled band is incendiary. Had the article inside been somehow racially charged or had the band covered the song “Strange Fruit,” I could almost understand the use of the title. I might have thought you were trying to provoke discussion and thought. Even if I disagreed with your method and what you were saying, I would have respected you for trying to say something. But “Strange Fruit” refers to nothing within the article and, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the profiled band.

“Strange Fruit” is a famous song that immediately invokes a powerful, horrifying image of lynched black bodies hanging from trees–strange fruit. An image that your cover visual seems to mock, with the six white guys smilingly hanging from monkey bars/jungle gym. I can see no reason or intention for the title to be paired with this article except to incite response. Yet, it seems you expect to get off the hook (off the tree, offBeat?) with nothing more than a limp Twitter apology. Back to business as usual?

If your audience knows what “Strange Fruit” refers to (and what serious Southern musician or listener wouldn’t?), the juxtaposed image can only offend. If your audience doesn’t know the song or its context, the headline wouldn’t grab their attention or make any sense, in which case, it simply fails.

At best, offBeat, you are guilty of an ignorance of musical history a self-described “Louisiana and New Orleans Online Music Resource” can’t afford. At worst, you are intentionally inciting offense, shock and outrage in an unprofessional and intolerant gambit for more readers. For attention.

An action that shocks and offends and outrages has no meaning without intent.

In your “apology,” you claim that your intentions were benign, which admits to intent, not ignorance, in your presentation of your most recent cover. What was the intent? I fail to see one that merits my attention or respect. If your intentions were benign, defend them. If there was intent in the design of your cover, reveal it.

offBeat, I was your reader. You have disappointed me. I demand and deserve an answer. As long as you remain silent, you have lost my respect and my readership.

Sincerely,

Emilie Staat

To my readers: If you have something to say about this cover, please speak. offBeat Magazine prefers letters to the editor to be mailed. Their address is: 421 Frenchmen St. Suite 200 New Orleans, LA 70116. You can email the editorial staff at the email addresses I list in my first post about this cover. A link to their Twitter account is listed above, in the body of the letter to the editor. If you have anything to say to me, please speak in the comments below or at emiliestaat@yahoo.com. As always, I’d like to hear you.

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Filed under music, New Orleans, politics

This is not funny or appropriate

Below, I’m posting my letter to the editor of offBeat Magazine, the preeminent New Orleans music magazine. They’ve recently shown such a tragic lack of sensitivity and journalistic responsibility and awareness, that I simply have to remark upon it. I will not post the cover of the most recent issue on my blog, as I find it repulsively offensive. But Jamey has it up, along with a bit of her response, on her blog and I will link to it, so you can join the discussion. And I hope you will. Loudly.

From: emiliestaat@yahoo.com
To: offbeat@offbeat.com
Cc: janramsey@offbeat.com, eslahahne@offbeat.com, josephirrera@offbeat.com, alexrawls@offbeat.com

Dear offBeat Staff,

I was shocked, shocked and offended, to see the “Strange Fruit” headline on an image of six white guys hanging from a jungle gym. Whoever designed and approved this cover – what were they thinking? Were they thinking? Or worse, did they have no clue what they were referring to? “What’s in a name, indeed,” a friend said to me as we discussed it today. I fear that this offensive cover threatens to overcome any good the story was intended to do for the band.

The song “Strange Fruit” refers to the bodies of lynched black people hanging from trees. I’d expect a music magazine to understand the history of a song like this, as it’s not exactly obscure, as well as the implications of using this song title as a headline over the image of white guys hanging from a jungle gym. But perhaps that’s too much to hope.

Shame on the entire editorial staff.

Emilie Staat

It’s an even more horrifyingly ironic note that this comes right on the heels of Black History Month. I honestly don’t know how this cover passed any sort of editorial review and why anybody imagined “Strange Fruit” was an appropriate title for this cover.

7:12 p.m. Update:

offBeat had this to say on Twitter: @KAMMsTheACE intentions were COMPLETELY benign, but it was poor choice of words. we understand if we offended, and sincerely apologize. about 3 hours ago via web in reply to KAMMsTheACE

And I had this to say to them:
@OffBeatMagazine: I’ve been beating round the bush. Your cover is not just irresponsible. It’s racist. https://emiliestaat.wordpress.com/ 3 minutes ago via web

@OffBeatMagazine: You say the intentions were benign & I think you owe us an explanation. What WERE your intentions? 1 minute ago via web

@OffBeatMagazine: You let the band, your advertisers and your readers waaaay down and I want to know why. What response did you want? half a minute ago via web

Unfortunately, after the “Twitterversy” that the Publisher’s Weekly “Afro Picks” cover may have caused, I’m afraid that a rabid, viral offended response might have been what offBeat Magazine was going for. We’ve seen time and again that it doesn’t always matter these days what people are saying about you, as long as they’re talking. Yuck.

I haven’t seen a response from the band on their website or on Twitter. I wonder how they feel about the cover image and headline.

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Filed under New Orleans, politics, pop culture, random rant