What about small-time journalists?

While I was home for Thanksgiving my dad and I had a few discussions about journalists and journalism. My house has always been a place where heated discussion is not considered disrespectful, so although my dad and I disagreed on a lot of points (namely, the role of journalists, whether or not they should (or can be) be objective and whether or not the media has a liberal bias), it wasn’t a full-blown argument.

My dad is a very intelligent man, and although we disagree, he typically has informed opinions. (I can’t say always, Dad. That would be admitting defeat!) Even though he believes that the “biased liberal media is in the pockets of the government,” he’s not your typical ill-informed crazy who purports ignorance. This blog post is not in any way meant to disrespect my father, as he is one of the people I respect the most in life (I even let him read this post before I published it so he knew what was coming). However, I could not let one thing he said go unaddressed.

While making a point about how the “biased liberal media is in the pockets of the government,” he brought up the story about Crystal Mangum. Mangum falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape. According to my dad, the media jumped all over the rape accusation because the three men are white and Mangum is black. Also according to my dad, the story got much less media attention after the allegations were proven false, and even less media attention now that Mangum was found guilty of murdering her boyfriend. (Here is where he got this evidence.)

“No one reported on the fact that she was convicted of murder,” my dad said. And yet, he had heard of the story. He read that she was convicted because a journalist wrote a story about her conviction. Otherwise, he might not have known about it. (Dad, just to prove that people did report on it, here’s a story from The Huffington Post, and one from USA Today by the AP. The AP brief also ran in the New York Times, and here is a story by CNN.)

I told my dad that, obviously, someone did report on the story, because he read about it. His point, however, was that the current story (and the revelation that the accusation was false) didn’t receive the national media attention that the rape accusation had received.

All of this is just background, though. What I really want to talk about happened next.

“Dad, obviously someone reported on the story, because you’re telling me about it right now.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter because it didn’t receive national attention.”

I took that to mean that since the story he read didn’t receive national attention, and since the journalist who wrote it doesn’t work for a publication that would have a large national audience, the story he/she wrote doesn’t matter. I also took it to mean that it didn’t matter that this journalist did his/her job since the story wasn’t far-reaching. (That could have just been my emotional response, though. I was very shocked and indignant when my dad said this.)

My dad is only right in that publications like the New York Times have a larger audience than a local publication. Whether or not stories at small publications “matter,” though, that’s where my dad is wrong (sorry, Daddy).

I’m not sure where my dad read the story about Mangum, but the journalist who wrote that story probably works long hours, has tight deadlines and has faced furlough days. All for not very much pay. Nor for much recognition, by my dad’s standards, as he/she doesn’t work for a national newspaper.

And yet that journalist continued to do his/her job.

Journalists at the New York Times work hard and produce excellent work. But so do the journalists I worked with this summer at Macon, Ga.’s local paper. They matter, and the stories they tell matter, because they serve their community (Take for example, this recent story on corrupt cops, or the Macon in the Mirror collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting and my university).

Local journalists work diligently every day to report on the day-to-day goings on in small cities and towns. And let me tell you, county commission meetings are long and not nearly as interesting as breaking a story about NSA surveillance. But local journalists keep going to county commissioner meetings because it’s their job. And even though they might complain about their job, they really love it (I think).

Doing something that you love, or doing something important, for minimal reward is what matters. Caring about a small town or city enough to dedicate yourself to telling its stories is what matters. Caring about a small town enough to want to improve that town is what matters.

What I think lies at the heart of the issue is a local vs. national way of thinking. Don’t get me wrong, national issues/stories matter a lot. But Macon is where I live. I’ve only lived here for two-and-a-half years, but it’s my home. And before I want to focus on the nation, I want to focus on my home. My home has important and interesting stories to tell, and telling those stories matters.

So, did the Mangum story receive a lot of media attention (some would say sensationalism)? No. Should it have? Perhaps. Journalists are people too, and sometimes we don’t do our jobs as well as we should. However, does that mean that the Mangum stories that did run, and the journalists who wrote those stories, are unimportant? Absolutely not.

Maybe I’m just an overly-idealistic j-school student, but there has to be some reason that we do our job, right? And that reason certainly isn’t pay or recognition.

Bien faire et laisser dire,

Emily

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Learning Mandolin

I suppose I’m on some sort of journey. What kind of journey, I don’t yet know. All I know is that I ended up with a half-mental, half-physical list of habits, skills and/or accomplishments I want to master. It will probably end up being this great existential journey of self-discovery and -improvement that I will write a book about one day. Or, the journey will end up forgotten and I will stay the same. Un-discovered, un-improved and without a book deal.

I think it’s a reaction to change. Being a “twenty-something” means being in between childhood and adulthood. I want to be an adult, but I’m technically still in school and don’t know how to balance a check book. I’m not expected to be a child, but in some cases I’m not expected to be an adult either. I’m expected to be a “twenty-something.” Which means nothing.

Whatever the cause of my journey, “learn to play the mandolin” is one of the entries on my list. I’m not just learning. I’m teaching myself. It wouldn’t be existential if I didn’t teach myself.

The mandolin looks easy to play, at first. It is small, with only a few strings. I thought the smallness of the instrument would make learning easier for my small hands. I tuned the instrument and looked up YouTube videos that quickly taught me a few simple two-finger chords.

My fingers hurt. They ached and stung after only 20 minutes. I couldn’t touch anything without needles going through my forefinger. I looked, and angry, red blisters began forming on my fingertips. It wasn’t just my fingertips, though. My joints burned as I contorted my fingers and strained to reach strings I thought would be easy to reach.

I put the mandolin down.

Typing at work the next day was hard. The pain pulsed through my fingers with every period. And when I wasn’t touching anything, my fingers throbbed as if screaming at me Why did you do this to me? Don’t do this ever again. It hurts.

For a day or so, I did not pick up the mandolin. My fingers needed time to heal. I looked at the instrument, small and pretty. Dainty. I did not realize it could cause pain.

My drive to master this instrument, to make music, eventually lead me to pick up the mandolin again. I had to keep going, though my fingers screamed in protest.

I learned the major scale, new chords. And my fingers screamed. I learned a new method of strumming, and my fingers screamed.

I developed my first callus on my forefinger. My middle finger was not far behind. Soon, I’ll have a callus on my ring finger, too.

I also had to cut my fingernails. My long, girly fingernails are gone, replaced with stubby, short fingernails. The calluses look strange on my fingertips.

But it doesn’t hurt as badly, now. My fingers had to hurt before they built calluses, before they began hurting less. And now, I can make music. Halting, unsure music, but music nonetheless.

With every new callus the mandolin gives me, with every painful chord that serves to strengthens my fingertips, I make more music. I make better music.

One day I will make beautiful music. One day it won’t hurt. But first I have to endure the pain and build the calluses.

Il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l’amande,

Emily

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I feel your pain, Star Wars generation

I went to see Monsters, Inc. for my 9th birthday. My friends and I sat in the front of the theater. We were too young to realize that the front row is always a poor life choice. But despite our indiscretion, I loved the film and have always loved it.

Almost 12 years later, Monsters University, the “prequel” to Monsters, Inc. came out. My roommates and I went to see it the other week.

It was a very different experience the second time around. For one, we sat in the middle of the theater, because 12 years has taught me that the middle is the ideal place to sit. It also wasn’t my 9th birthday, we didn’t eat at CiCi’s Pizza before the movie, and no one gave me any gifts. And rather than being the target audience like I was for Monsters, Inc., I was a good 12 or more years older than the majority of the theater.

Once I noted how much older I was than the rest of the audience, I realized, These children weren’t even born when Monsters, Inc. came out. They weren’t even a thought in their parents’ minds. Were their parents even married? I felt so extremely ancient in that moment.

And then, the most glaring atrocity passed through my brain: HAVE THEY EVEN SEEN THE FIRST MOVIE? And if they had seen the first movie, will future children watch Monsters, Inc. first, before Monster’s University, or will they watch them in “chronological” order?

That is a travesty of the highest magnitude. Who would even do such a thing? How would that ever make sense?

And then I remembered that time I thought, I think I’ll watch Star Wars episodes I, II and III first, since they will tell me the back story.

I wish someone had up and slapped me in that moment.

So, Star Wars generation, I now know how you feel. Children are so naive and ignorant, aren’t they? Though I will say the crime of watching episodes I, II and III before the originals is WAY WORSE than watching Monsters University before Monsters, Inc.

And with that, I feel like a crotchety old man.

Ce n’est pas aux vieux singes qu’on apprend à faire des grimaces,

Emily

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I am not weak

Someone once told me that I’m not strong. I cry too much, the person said, and I need to be stronger.

This blog post is about why it is not weak to cry.

I’ve written about my emotions before from a comedic perspective. I am not overly emotional; I’m actually a pretty rational person. Neither do I struggle with depression, but I do cry easily, and I have a lot of feelings.

Sometimes I cry because of good feelings, like an inspiring story. Sometimes I cry because of sad feelings, like losing someone or something I love. Sometimes I cry because I’m angry, and sometimes I cry for no reason.

But crying does not mean I am not strong.

Crying is open

Crying, rather than being weakness, is openness. Being so open with people as to cry in front of them takes great strength and bravery. Crying in front of someone leaves no doubts as to what your passions, fears, failures and faults are. When you cry in front of someone, they know instantly what or whom you care about and how much you care about it.

Letting people see those things is scary. We don’t want to be seen as vulnerable or afraid. We want to be seen as heroic and strong, and we think it is strong to hide our emotions.

It is never strong to hide. Hiding is not brave. Bravery is standing in the open, letting people see you, know you. Bravery is giving people your heart, and people find your heart through your tears.

Crying is human

We are lying when we act as if something does not affect us. Humans are meant to feel; we are meant to be relational. We are meant to love and we are meant to care. Crying simply shows our humanness. It shows that we are not robots.

Loving people and caring about people enough to cry over them is one of the most beautiful human responses I can think of. It reveals the depth and strength with which we can love. It shows that we are selfless, that we can love other people more than we love ourselves. It shows that we can conquer human nature.

Human nature can be ugly. We are selfish, violent and proud. Crying over the evils we see in the world means we have the strength to recognize that there is evil in this world and that we cannot ignore it. Crying over injustice means we care enough hopefully to do something about that injustice; it means we have the strength to recognize our faults and fix them.

And crying when we see goodness and beauty triumph over evil is simply beautiful. It shows that we appreciate the strength of others to move past difficult or hopeless situations. It shows that we do not take for granted the beauty in the world, because a lot of the time there seems to be little beauty in the world.

Crying when we are angry means we are strong enough to admit that we’re human. Humans get angry, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong reasons. Admitting that you’re upset reveals where your passions or insecurities are, and crying is the most public way of admission.

It is OK , in fact it is strong, to cry when we are sad or happy or angry because it is our human response. It is real. Being real with people is hard; it takes a lot of strength to show people just how human you are.

I think people consider hurting a weakness. They think it’s strong to be stoic — to act as if they don’t care. I think that’s why crying, or revealing your hurt, is considered weak. But it is natural for humans to hurt. Hurting is part of what makes us human. Crying is one of the most human things we do, because it admits that we are hurt and need help. It takes much more strength to admit you are hurt or afraid or angry or over-joyed than to act as if you are unaffected.

Crying is healthy

I think it is healthy to deal with our emotions. Bottling our emotions up is not healthy. Crying is a way to cope with whatever situation we are facing and then move forward. Suppressing our emotions just means we aren’t strong enough to deal with them. It means we are afraid. It means our bad feelings will linger and we will never heal.

We can’t be sad or angry forever. We can’t cry forever. The way I deal with my emotions is by crying, and when I’m done I feel better. I am stronger because of it, and I know myself better because of it. The important part is learning to move on, and I believe that suppressing emotions hinders us from moving on. It is easy to dwell on our “poor” circumstances, but it takes tremendous strength to move on. Crying is a means of moving on.

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. — Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Not everyone deals with their emotions by crying, but those who do should not be considered weak. I am not weak because I cry. I am strong, because I am not afraid to show my heart to people, and I am not afraid to confront what I’m feeling.

Après la pluie le beau temps,

Emily

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British Television, According to Emily

It’s better than all other television.

photos from bbc.co.uk

photos from bbc.co.uk

I almost ended this blog post with that sentence, but I thought I should explain why I think this (even though I know you won’t disagree with me). British television is the best, and that’s a fact. Steven Moffat changed my life, and if he hasn’t changed yours, you need to get your priorities straight.

Now, when I say British television, I primarily mean my three favorite shows: Doctor Who, Sherlock and Merlin, but older (and probably less-well-known-in-America) shows such as Keeping Up Appearances, The Vicar of Dibley, Midsomer Murders etc. are also included. I probably mean Downton Abbey, too, but as I’ve only seen one episode I can’t speak to its true merits.

One can’t just watch British television. British television is part of one’s life. It’s a kind of cult–a subculture incomprehensible to outsiders. Even if you know nothing else about a person, an unbreakable bond forms when they say “I like BBC shows,” and you become friends for life.

“People who try to pretend they’re superior make it so much harder for those of us who really are.” –Hyacinth Bucket (www.bbc.co.uk)

We anglophiles reference Doctor Who in most conversations (There’s a Time Lord reference in Star Trek Into Darkness); my family quotes Keeping Up Appearances to each other (It’s my sister Violet. The one with the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony.); we worship Benedict Cumberbatch; and we consider the bromance between Merlin and King Arthur as equivalent to that of Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins.

I love American shows like The Walking Dead, but not with cult-fascination like I love my British shows. So, why do I (and other people) love British TV with religious devotion?

I have a few theories, and my friends on Facebook have been so kind as to offer some of their theories as well (thanks, friends!).

Perhaps it is British humor. The British aren’t afraid to be silly. Probably because they are so confident that their culture, language and way of life are superior to all others. Or probably not, but in my mind they’re superior. Their TV comedies are silly, but also a little wry. It’s a refined silliness. Silly humor plus intelligent humor. Take this sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus:

It’s both silly and clever (No it isn’t. Yes it is). The way they blend the absurd and the intelligent is just brilliant, if you ask me. Other shows such as Doctor Who, Keeping Up Appearances and The Vicar of Dibley combine silly and intelligent humor, too.

Perhaps it is their slang and turns of phrase. “Clever” seems to be one of their favorite words (probably because they’re so clever), and I love when they add “done” onto the end of certain phrases:

— Did you take out the trash?

— No, but I should have done.

Perhaps it’s because British TV is different, therefore interesting. They’re accents are different, some of their words are different. The scenery is different from what we’re used to in America (for beautiful countryside/small village scenery, I recommend Midsomer Murders). British television seems special, because it doesn’t come on any old American TV station. It’s not something we grew up with, or something we see every day. It’s something that has to be sought out.

I watch British TV now. British TV is cool. (www.fanpop.com)

Perhaps it’s the hipster effect. Because British shows aren’t widely available, or widely consumed, its the TV equivalent to “bands you’ve never heard of.” It’s cool to watch British TV. It’s even cooler to watch British TV no one else who watches British TV watches. Even if you watch a British show with more silly humor than intelligent humor, the moment you tell an outsider that your favorite shows are all BBC shows, they think, “Oh. Well they must be very cultured and intelligent.” Or, “Oh. I’ve never heard of that. They must be very cool, because all cool people like things no one else has ever heard of.”

Or maybe Steven Moffat and Benedict Cumberbatch are just superior human beings.

Thank you again, Facebook friends for giving me your thoughts on British television. Shout outs to Meg Donahue, Amanda Stables and Patrick Hobbs, whose opinions on British TV helped me write this post!

À bon vin, point d’enseigne,

Emily

P.S. Do you watch British TV? What do you watch? Do you love British TV? Why or why not?

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Why The Great Gatsby Film Was Good, But Not Perfect

(Wikipedia.com)

I first read The Great Gatsby my sophomore year of high school. It was one of the few books I enjoyed that year in American literature. When you’re 15, it’s not cool to enjoy good literature, so for the most part I didn’t.

Now, five years later, the second film adaptation of “the great American novel” has hit theaters, and you can bet I went to the midnight premier. I even wore a cool vintage dress I had bought a few weeks before.

Holy horrible Instagram photo, Batman! (I’m at the right, on the very end)

But before I did that, I reread the book. I wanted a refresher on the plot, and I wanted to read it with a more mature mind (I was a silly 15-year-old whose favorite book was Twilight. Let’s just say I most likely did not pick up on Fitzgerald’s themes or symbolism).

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose captivated me. His writing was beautiful. I had to practice the utmost self-control while reading The Great Gatsby so I didn’t blow up Facebook or Twitter with quotes.

Reading the book this second time made me realize how much thought Fitzgerald must have put into crafting every sentence so that it not only sounded like poetry, but also conveyed the plot, the culture and attitudes of the twenties, and the bankruptcy of the American dream.

I also obsessively watched every trailer and listened to every soundtrack sneak-peak in preparation for the movie. Everything I saw impressed me.

(filmofilia.com)

I was so excited for this movie. The trailers made it look spectacular, the soundtrack sounded great, and the cast seemed perfect.

And I have to say, I was impressed. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation was very good.

I was right about the cast: everyone was perfect for their role. The costumes were beautiful, and my-oh-my the soundtrack. I was captivated (Florence and The Machine’s song Over The Love is so very good).

The houses were gaudy, the parties were ridiculous, and the characters were hypocrites. It disgusted me, and I loved it. Luhrmann did a great job showing the shallowness of the characters and their destructive lives. He also stayed very true to the plot, which I appreciated. The movie even included most of my favorite quotes word-for-word.

I left the movie with a heavy feeling, and my friends and I didn’t talk for a while afterward. It was beautiful.

However, it wasn’t perfect. For a while, I couldn’t quite pin down why I wasn’t fully satisfied while everyone else I talked to was.

The most obvious plot point that bothered me was Nick Carraway’s institutionalization. Not. In. The. Book. It was also completely unnecessary. Nick could have narrated as if he were writing a book without being in an institution. He ended up writing a book anyway, so what was the need?

I also didn’t like the scene where Myrtle runs out to Gatsby’s car. The film made it seem like she was desperate to escape her abusive husband who had her locked in a room. But in the book, she thinks Tom is the one driving Gatsby’s car, and she’s angry that he won’t divorce Daisy. That’s why she runs to the car.

Those were the most glaring things wrong with the plot of movie. The others were more subtle. I realized during my second reading of The Great Gatsby that none of the characters are likable. Not even Nick or Gatsby. Tom Buchanan is an ignorant hypocrite, Daisy Buchanan is shallow and cold, Jordan Baker is arrogant, Nick helps his cousin commit adultery with another man, and Jay Gatsby is a mobster who worships a false image of Daisy who doesn’t actually exist. No one in The Great Gatsby is the victim, and no one deserves to be pitied.

However, in the movie, I didn’t hate everyone enough. Daisy seemed too much like the victim (though the last scene she’s in conveyed her cold-heartedness well), and Nick was just too likable. Tom, though, he was perfect. I loathed him.

I felt like I was being too nit-picky, though. So I kept thinking about what it was about the movie that wasn’t perfect, and I finally decided what it was:

The Great Gatsby can’t be a movie.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose shows the underlying themes and symbols rather than explains them. Everything he wrote was carefully crafted to convey some sort of deeper meaning, and for the most part, he didn’t reveal any of that explicitly with his words. The imagery did that for him.

But that can’t happen in a movie. A scene appears on the screen for a select amount of time, and you can’t mull over what it might mean. The movie had to explain the symbols and themes because it’s a movie. Nick had to say (over and over again) that Gatsby represented this great “hope,” the significance of the green light had to burn into our corneas, “the eyes of God” had to peer into our souls for minutes at a time (though I thought Luhrmann represented the ash heap well).

That’s what I didn’t like about the movie. There was too much explaining. But there had to be–it’s a movie. Eventually I decided that The Great Gatsby does not lend itself to movie adaptations. It’s not in the nature of the book.

I found this quote on Pinterest (don’t judge me) the other day:

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The Great Gatsby is a book which makes us think, and I almost felt like the movie thought for me. Not that it was a bad movie. As far as movies go, it was flippin’ fantastic. Movies in general can’t make us think as much as books can, and The Great Gatsby, though short, is a very “thinky” book.

Though I will say, Luhrmann’s movie made me feel The Great Gatsby like the book never did. I had an analytical reaction to the book, whereas I had an emotional reaction to the movie.

I think the job of a good book is to make us think (though I have very emotional responses to a lot of books), and the job of a good movie is to make us feel. Maybe that’s why movie adaptations so frequently fall short of our expectations. Even if they get the plot right (like the Gatsby film did), they can’t make us think like books can.

Because of the way The Great Gatsby is and because of how it’s written, it’s movie adaptation can never be perfect. The nature of movies and books are just too different.

Les livres font les époques et les nations, commes les époques et les nations font les livres,

Emily

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Montaigne On Suffering

We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and ill, which are of one substance with our life.

— Michel de Montaigne

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