Saturday, July 25, 2009

Too Much Girl Talk

Excuse me while I stand on my media literacy soapbox for a moment.

I can't tell you how many times I seen the same plot line delivered over and over again. You know exactly what I mean:

Boy meets girl.
Girl is high-strung and works as a [fill in glamorous career].
Boy must "tame" her to win her over.
Girl realizes error of her ways and falls madly in love with boy.
The end.

Here are a few variations on that plot: 27 Dresses, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 10 Things I Hate About You, When Harry Met Sally, The Wedding Planner, You've Got Mail, 50 First Dates, The Holiday, Made of Honor, The Devil Wears Prada catch my drift.

I will openly admit I own several of these movies. But what do they offer? A brief escape of reality. Unrealistic expectations about men. Guidelines on how men and women should behave in a relationship.

If I took anything away from MDA245 - Media Literacy it is this: movie companies will continue to write the same "formula" of movies because it sells. Not because it is original.

The chick flick/romantic comedy is one such formula.

I fault myself for not being more adventurous in my movie screenings. But when you gather with a group of gal pals, it's so easy to choose the classic "chick flick" because it seems like something "everyone" would like.

Watching a chick flick is equivalent to making Easy Mac. You're too lazy to try anything that might be too challenging or might not taste the same.

A series of events emboldened me to write this particular post:

1. "Confessions of a Shopaholic." At a dinner party, the entertainment was "Shopaholic," a movie based a popular novel. I had vaguely recalled seeing previews and thinking: "We're in a recession. What a time to promote credit card debt." The movie appeared to portray women as ditzy and focused only on shopping endeavors. The movie did have a good message in the end, but went about it all the wrong ways.

2. "The Proposal." At the invitation of a friend, I agreed to see one of this summer's chick flicks. Was I expecting too much because I'm a fan of Sandra Bullock? Yes. Same plot line, different actors. Must a woman always be type-A, control freak and devoid of any romantic history in order to find her one true love?

3. This movie review. This put the nail in the coffin. NPR called "The Ugly Truth," very simply, "not a pretty picture." I couldn't agree more. I haven't seen the Katherine Heigl movie, and I certainly don't plan to.

So why must I stand by and accept the movies advertised to me? While movies - and entertainment in general - are essentially a form of escapism, this does not mean we have to be fed the same story over and over again. I know I won't.

Carolyn McCulley wrote in the webzine Boundless: "The tool or the medium is not the problem. The content or the message — and the way our hearts respond — is the problem."

Consider Proverbs 4:20-27

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27 ESV)

So how about going for something different the next time around? Try an independent film, foreign film or just a different genre altogether. Fireproof does a great job of demonstrating the real "work" (read: romance) that goes into a relationship.

I'm going to bet it will taste better than the Easy Mac.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interns Spur Discussion

"What is the future of journalism?"

The summer interns at National Public Radio wanted to know.

And after three years of journalism and media arts classes - including law, ethics and literacy - I felt like I had a lot to say. So yesterday I submitted an essay in an attempt to answer this question.

To my delight, the essay was published this morning at the "NPR: Intern Edition" blog under the section "Consider This Journal".

But I'm not the only who had something to say. As of today, almost twenty aspiring journalists have posted their thoughts. They have posted theories, business models and rationale for attending graduate-level journalism programs.

The NPR interns also post their experiences on the blog site, and produce an entire multimedia show that is set to 'go live' in about a week. Want to keep up with these cool kids? You can also follow them on Twitter (You have an account now, ever since you read my last post, right?), @NPRinterns.

And while we're talking about NPR, check out their Web site on Sunday. That's when they reveal their new redesign.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twitter Turmoil

Ever feel left out of the digital conversation? Stumped by status updates?

Status updates are used on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But what is their purpose? Sure, it's a way to "keep in touch" with friends and family. But then updates can turn into mini snippets of bragging material. "Laying out in Mexico! This is the life!" or "Headed off to an awards my honor." 

And then there's a different kind of update. I'll call it the "members only" status.

You read a twitter status and can almost hear the Twitterer saying, "Oh, sorry, guess you had to be there. You missed out. How can you not know that [insert clever, obscure factoid or joke here.]"

I recently perceived the effects of my Twitter updates (which are automatically forwarded to Facebook). My Facebook friends responded to one of my updates with mass confusion.

A few days ago, I was participating in a live chat with the Poynter Institute, a non-profit that trains journalists. I was excited to ask questions, which could be submitted via Twitter. So, employing my clever Twitter abilities, I posted a question that looked like this: "#poynterchats What the best way to keep in touch with former internship contacts?" 

If that looks like a foreign language to you, read on.

In my example above, "#poynterchats" was a search term I created while doing a live chat with the Poynter Institute. Poynter suggested I add this prefix to my twitter status so they could search for my status and then post it in the live conversation.

That day two Facebook friends who commented on the post because they were confused. "I never really understand what your status is about. Is that normal or am I just being really stupid?"

Yay for reality checks. It reminded me that not everyone uses Twitter, and therefore not everyone knows why @, #, and RT are used in sentences. 

One follower, @copyblogger, said in a post, "How about you add value instead of engaging in veiled "conversation" you mistakenly think makes you look good?"

Well gosh darnit, he's right. The Twitter elitist in me needs to think more carefully about the "conversations" I have with others in the so-called Twitterverse. It may make sense to me, but not to others. And then, this vehicle created to help with communication, is actually putting up walls.

Duncan Alney, of Firebelly Marketing in Indianapolis, posted some social media etiquette tips on his company's Web site. Not a bad thing to review. 

Brief Twitter Jargon Decoding

@ - place this symbol in front of a person's Twitter name. Use this when you want to mention something to that person. It's a direct, but public, message.

# - place this symbol in front a word. Then if you search that word in the search box, your update will be included. This helps define "trending topics" which are the most tweeted about subjects on Twitter. 

RT - means "retweet." I use RT when I see a status I like (usually with a cool link) and want to share the info to others. 

Links - when you post a link into Twitter, it compresses (remember, there's a 140-character limit), so the URLs look funny. For example:

And there it is, in a nutshell! Feel free to post comments or other questions you have.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite: The End of Era

Just minutes ago I turned on my very own WISH TV to learn that Walter Cronkite passed away today. Although I grew up watching Dan Rather (I was an 80's baby), I would not be a journalism student if I did not acknowledge Cronkite's accomplishments in the field.

He bridged the gap between radio and TV. Some thought TV was just a passing trend. Advances in technology made way for a new storytelling format. Wait - where have I heard that before? That's right - the Internet! He is an example to today's journalists who facing the "scary" transition and adaptation of the Internet. 

Journalism does not equal the medium. Journalism is not the same as the Internet. Rather, the Internet presents journalism, and writers must work within the limits of that, until the next thing comes along. Some say journalism is dying; I say it's adapting. If Walter Cronkite can do it, then so can we.

 And that's the way it is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blessings, Cursings

There's something annoyingly paradoxical about learning the most when life is the hardest. For example, I think back on some of my toughest classes. Yet those are the lessons I remember most vividly (i.e. my freshman year philosophy class). 

In today's Beth Moore bible study lesson, I love her take on this idea. She references a psalms commentary which states:

"Biblically, one is pronounced blessed when God is present and involved in his life."

When God is present in our life, Beth says, he is ACTIVELY directing his affairs for a divine purpose. God has a purpose for me to be in Indianapolis this summer. He has a purpose for my sister to be a camp counselor. He has a purpose for you to be reading this blog post right now. And in the tougher times, his presence is to comfort us. (Matthew 5:4)

And here's a passage from Beth that I've broken down and analyzed. Her words are in bold:

Blessedness describes the condition of a person who reveres God, steeps her life in Him, and follows his Ways. 

We are blessed when we respect and put God first. If we allow him to seep into every aspect of our life, he will reward us. This means exposing everything - all sin - and laying it at his feet.

She doesn't just look to God in spiritual or religious matters. She looks to Him in every matter. He's not just the most important part of her life. He is her life. 

What percentage of your life is for God? 25 percent? 80 percent? He wants it all. After all, the Bible states that our God is a jealous God. He doesn't want just some of our attention. If we can't be engaged with Him, then we don't allow him the space or time to do good. 

The result of this divine invasion is that the life operates overall at optimum earth-satisfaction, joy and purpose without the crushing burdens of self-glory and sin. In other words, her life actually works.

Know someone in your life who seems to never have a bad day? Granted, we all have bad days. But when you are living for the Lord, your perspective on life changes drastically. There is a hope for the future, and every encounter and conversation is an opportunity to bring glory to God. 

What does it take to be blessed? Fear God (respect Him) and walk in His ways. For example, it will allow us to love our enemies. 

Holding a grudge is like letting a wound remain untreated. Letting go of that grudge, however - and learning to forgive makes us joyful givers and value healthy relationships.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Being Green and the Livin's Easy

Living in a house full of interns means I've got a backstage pass to all kinds of Indianapolis events. Literally. 

Housemate @BUChristina is an exceptionally well-connected gal and has a passion for social justice and eco-friendly pursuits. So when she told me about a volunteer opportunity that could get us into a free No Doubt concert, I was quick to sign up!

We drove up to the Verizon Wireless Music Center, arrived early, and asked nearly every security guard in sight where the volunteers were supposed to meet. After a bit of searching, we found our peers - mainly young high school and college kids. The opportunity was through Helping Indy Online, a hub of information for people who just want to help out. 

The plan was to grab a trash-picker-upper... you know, one of those metal sticks with a claw at the end? I was ready to go, but then Christina astutely pointed out that no one was carrying plastic bottles or cans. The result was...we couldn't actually do the volunteer work. Bummer, because I was looking to earn my Girl Scout badge for community service. Just kidding. But I really did want to help out. The venue held 25,000 Gwen Stefani/ska fans...and as we left, I couldn't help but notice all the non-recyclable cups that littered the lawn -- cups, Christina pointed out -- that will probably remain in our landfills for thousands of years. 

But enough of that. One surprise bonus was running into Scott, "The Face" of MyIndy TV (that's channel 23 in Indianapolis). I first met him when I worked at the 500 Festival as an intern with WISH TV this summer. We scored a few pictures with him and he reminded us to stay hydrated. There was 'no doubt' (pun intended) - it was hot.

When the concert started, Christina and I ran into some Pi Beta Phi sisters. We all gathered on the lawn, and as the sun set over the hills, we all sang out "It's My Life!"- reminded of those junior high dances. Gwen's lyrics aren't all that God-glorifying, but she sure knew how to entertain the crowd with her eccentric dance moves and exotic hairdo.

This is really was summer nights are all about. 

PS - You can read Christina's POV on her Butler blog post about the No Doubt concert.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Swatting Flies

This week, my roommates recently discovered flies in and around our house. (I personally, had killed three flies in my room, two wasps and one cockroach.) Could it be the trash? Extra moisture in the house or crumbs lying around? Who knows! Needless to say, I've kept a sharp eye out for any other critters who wish to meet an unfortunate death. 

Last night, while I was working at the internship, my roommates had a bonding session during which they attacked every fly in sight. I'm told one even began using her bare hands to crush them. 

Today I still spotted a few. So I gathered up a magazine - ready to strike.

Which makes me wonder: How often am I ready to strike, or confront problems when they arise? I pride myself in good, thorough communication skills. But when something is bothering me, how often do I breach the topic with the other party?

Confrontation is scary. During my two years as a Resident Assistant, we were taught the method known as "care"-frontation. In other words, there are ways to approach a subject tactfully. Constructive criticism about healthy behavior will probably be taken more favorably to a freshman than a slap on the wrist. 

On the same vein, when we face personal trials, how ready are we to own up to our struggles? I recently told a friend about a personal problem. She was sensitive, understanding and even willing to go the extra mile to help me out. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says (The Message version here) 

So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

This week in church the pastor pointed out the word "spur." He first described it as a light feather worn on a cowboy's boot to tickle horse so that he moves. Wait, really? No, I was checking to see if you were paying attention. That was in jest, of course. Spurs HURT. At least, I can imagine they do. So if we - metaphorically - give our friends a sharp jab with a - metaphorical - spur, its actually biblical. How are we to grow in our faith and maturity if we don't get a dose of reality from the ones who love us? 

And sometimes, we need to "jab" ourselves when we know we're out of line. But that can be the hardest reality to grasp.