Censorship Gone Bad

November 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm (Uncategorized)

To a certain extent, I can understand censorship. Parents want to protect their innocent children from the cruelties of the world. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, along with swearing and blasphemy, are not elements of life that young people need to be exposed to.

This being said, it is not possible to shelter children forever. Eventually they are going to step into the real world, where people swear and deny religion, and all other manner of censorship-worthy acts.

I can understand wanting recording artists to make two different versions of a CD, a clean one and a vulgar one. It is right to give people the option of whether or not they want to hear cursing and bad lyrics. As long as it is not forced upon people, and the artists don’t lose any of their creative rights, I cannot see anything wrong with this. I would never buy the “clean” version, but that is a choice people should have.

There is one censored item that concerns me more than anything else: books. There have been countless examples throughout the past century of school districts trying to ban certain books from being read. In the case of Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451,” the book was censored because it had words such as “damn” and “hell” in it. Any middle schooler who has not heard these words lives a sheltered life indeed.

In Eighth Grade, I read “The Giver.” This is yet another book that angry parents have tried to get banned, because it shows unfavorable treatment of children in an indifferent fashion. As an 8th grader, this never even crossed my mind. I loved the book, mostly because it portrayed a society that was so clearly far from reality that it fascinated me.

This censorship is never a good idea. For one thing, America is supposedly all about freedom of speech. What kind of example are we setting for younger generations if we tell them that they can say whatever they want, but be careful because if people don’t approve, you will get in trouble? For another thing, banning and censoring books just makes people more likely to want to read them.

Just because a book is banned, does not mean it is going to just disappear. The only way to effectively ensure that no one reads books is to physically destroy them. How is this done? By burning them. Isn’t that what the Nazis did? Censoring books brings us very close to the level of Nazi Germany, which is an unfavorable parallel indeed.

Any book that has negative content should not be censored. The educational content of the book is what counts, and so what if there are a few swear words here and there? So what if the book was written by an alleged Communist? This is the year 2008. You can’t hide anymore.

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What’s in a name?

November 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm (Uncategorized)

For this week’s assignment, I looked at the New York Times science section online.  The article I read was titled “Now: The Rest Of The Genome,” and it was written by Carl Zimmer.

The article was about how the definition of DNA as we know it might not be entirely accurate, and how this might affect the future of the Human Genome Project.  For years, students have been taught in high school biology class that a gene is, according to the article, “a single chunk of DNA encoding on a single protein.”  DNA makes genes, and genes are passed on from parent to child.  This was generally accepted as the truth.  However, scientists are beginning to question the validity of this definition, saying that perhaps it is not the DNA that plays the most important role in genetics.

The coverage of this subject does not seem sensationalized.  The writer presents straight facts, none of which seem aimed at grabbing the reader’s attention.  While the contents of the article are controversial and innovative, they are not presented in such a way as to make them seem more interesting than they actually are.

The research in the article is straightforward and clear.  The analysis is not biased or sugarcoated in any way, and the main goal seems to be to help the reader understand all the scientific terms, rather than get a subjective point across.

The reporter did a very good job of answering questions about the topic.  When I first started reading the article, I was skeptical as to whether there could be logic behind the claim that DNA isn’t the main component of genetics.  I also was confused by some of the terminology, but by the end of the article, both problems had been solved.

The sources quotes in the article seemed very credible and I had no trouble believing them.  Three doctors of various subjects were quoted about different aspects of genetics, and what they had to see seemed perfectly believable to me.

Because the story was about such a controversial idea that shakes the foundations of what we know, it was important to me that the writer qualify what he was saying.  He did a good job with this, least of all through the research he cited.  Also, he made it very clear that even though all these new discoveries are being made about the genome, there is still so much that we don’t know, and that we as readers need to keep that in mind.

Even though I am not a huge fan of science, and I struggle to understand it, this article was very interesting to me, and I thought the writer did an excellent job of presenting his work in an un-sensationalized manner.

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The Office

November 4, 2008 at 6:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I am a television junkie. Well, maybe not that bad. It started at a young age, when I would get up early every Sunday morning to watch “Magic School Bus” and “Wishbone.” I watch “The Office,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Entourage” religiously. I’ve also seen every episode of “Veronica Mars” and dozens of episodes of “Gilmore Girls.” “Veronica Mars” was canceled a few years ago, as was “Gilmore Girls.” However,the rest of my shows are still on air. and come every Thursday and Sunday night, I sit in front of my computer and watch my favorite shows online.

“The Office” in particular has an amazing website to keep me tided over until the next episode. The website has is laid out with a bunch on manilla folders, giving it an office-y feel. There are sections and activities for each character on the show, as well as behind-the-scenes interviews and footage.

The show is focused on an office branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper, with about ten or so employees. One of the main characters, Michael Scott, is played by the wonderful Steve Carrell. He is the boss of the Scranton branch. His character likes to make up his own words, and one of the things they have on the website is a dictionary of all these Michael-isms.

Two of the other characters on the show, Andy and Angela, are engaged to be married. Recently, the people who run the website put up an interactive gift registry for the wedding, so fans can see what king of presents Andy and Angela want. When you click on the registry, it takes you to a whole new website devoted to Angela and Andy’s wedding. There are tabs for the actual event, the honeymoon, the meal, the dress, the reception, the bachelor party, and many more. There is also a part of the site devoted to their relationship so far, including how they met and how he proposed.

Yet another character, Meredith, is like the synical, unappreciated member of staff. She kind of slips under the radar. Her part on the website is a blog, where she goes into detail about her personal life and things that go on in the office, and offers her opinions on them.

Finally, my favorite character is Dwight. He is the paranoid and irascible third in command at the office. He also has a blog, but unlike Meredith’s, it is more a list of complaints that he has rather than information about what’s going on in the office. He writes a new blog every week. The most recent one was about is ancient uncle invading his house and demanding that Dwight let him stay there.

The interactive Office website is a highly entertaining way to interact with one of my favorite shows. It keeps me, and countless other fans entertained during the week, making sure that we don’t lose interest. I know a little time spent on the site each week always convinces me to tune in.

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I Am Not Afraid To Keep On Living

October 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I am a huge fan of music, specifically of the live variety.  I go to concerts every chance I get.  The Bay Area, which until recently was my home, is a Mecca for live shows.  I’ve seen all my favorite bands multiple times.  My all time favorite band is My Chemical Romance, who unfortunately have earned themselves an “emo” label by those who don’t really know any better.  Their last album was about living, and beating death when it came calling.  I’m not really sure how that fits into the emo mold, but there we go.  So for this week’s assignment, I jumped at the chance to write about a mass medium that could send undesirable message.  I take this topic personally, because my favorite band is quite frequently blamed for the suicide of young people, who just happen to listen to their music.

Based on my research, I am confirmed in my belief that music does NOT have a negative effect on people who listen to it.  There are plenty of articles everywhere I look that loudly proclaim how negative emo music.  However, the arguments are weak.  One website I visited claimed that violent music could be a sign of a violent teen.  This was their opening argument.  I’m sorry, but this just isn’t very convincing. Could be.  That is not something I say when I want people to take me seriously.  This argument came from the Media Awareness Network.

A survey by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said people are labeled as emo due in part to the music they listen to, which can then lead to further problems, such as bullying.  Again, not true.  The music I listen to is definitely under the category of what many people consider emo.  However, I am one of the happiest people I know.

JSTOR had a study of music on anxiety.  One of the researchers’ finds was that music can minimize frustration.  This is true.  For me, when I listen to “emo” music, it helps to know that there are people who experience pain and sadness just like I do, and this in turn helps me feel less frustrated with everything going on around me.

All this information fits most closely wit the “Spiral of Silence” model.  The four steps describe perfectly the difficulties faced by “emo” people every day.  They then turn to the music of people such as My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco to escape that fear of isolation described in the model.

These grounds are relevant because emo music is just that: music.  Ultimately, if a child is going to suffer from depression and perhaps become suicidal, chances are they would be so with or without the music they listen to.

Readers might argue that the anger in and despair in emo music encourages people to go and slit their wrists and other such harmful things.  The My Chemical Romance fan-created tagline is “MCR saved my life.”  Countless fans can give testimonies of almost losing it, but listening to their favorite band put them back on track and made them realize that perhaps life wasn’t so bad after all.

As I sit here writing this, the lyrics to one of My Chemical Romance’s songs fill the room.  “I am not afraid to keep on living,” proclaims the lead singer.  If this isn’t positive and anti-emo, then I don’t know what is.

References

alterophobia@gmail.com.  (2008, May 28). Expert study shows how accusations of being “emo”
are tied to being bullied.  Message posted to
http://alterophobia.blogspot.com/2008/05/expert-study-shows-how-accusations-of.html.

Media Awareness Network. (2008). Negative Effects of Music.  Retrieved
Fromhttp://www.mediaawareness.ca/english/parents/music/inappropriate/negative_effect
s_music.cfm

Peretti, Peter O. and Swenson, Kathy.  (1974). Effects of Music on Anxiety as Determined by
Physiological Skin Responses.  Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/3344765

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Just a spoonful of sugar.

October 21, 2008 at 2:09 pm (Uncategorized)

This week’s assignment led to a rather interesting discovery on my part: politics aren’t just for adults. Young people can get involved too, and upon further examination, I found out that what my generation has to say is actually pretty interesting. My assignment was to monitor an alternative media source and a mainstream news source, and then compare them. I chose to look at CNN.com, since I used it last week and am somewhat familiar with it already. My alternative media source was Wiretap, which was the source that led me to see that my generation cares about politics.

Wiretap’s tagline is “ideas and action for a new generation.” This in itself is comforting. Its articles are clearly written with a younger audience in mind. There is little on the site about issues like the stock market and taxes, because they don’t affect my peers and me. The headlines on Wiretap are things about voting myths and sports activism, both of which are current issues, interesting to my generation. However, CNN is ALL about the election right now, with a few other headlines mixed in. While CNN is probably more factual, I know I personally struggle to get through each an every article. I understand that the election is important, but it is not the only issue facing America today.

This being said, if it is straight election coverage that you want, then CNN is the right place. There is a section for the election on Wiretap, but it is less election coverage and more side stories that vaguely relate to the election. CNN is probably also a little more reliable, seeing as it is a professional news site. Professional reporters write for CNN, whereas Wiretap seems mostly to be like FUBU- For Us By Us. The latter covers what might be deemed as less “important,” much as I hate that distinction.

I think it is likely that serious news-goers would frown down on a site like Wiretap, and perhaps they have that right. Since it is clearly geared towards younger people, it glosses over some of the issues that older people find very important. However, young people, like me, feel the same way about CNN. It is almost too news-based, with little analysis. It is also daunting. I am a words person, so when I log onto CNN.com and I see a ton of numbers, I get a little scared. Wiretap puts everything into a perspective that I as a teenager can understand. No number crunching or stock-market analysis. I can’t say that one source is better than the other, because both are so different. They both offer such different views and even different types of stories. So in conclusion, I recommend a dose of both CNN.com and Wiretap to maintain a healthy and balanced news diet.

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Debates and Role Playing

October 14, 2008 at 10:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Politics have never really been my thing. Up until this year, the election never really held any interest for me. Perhaps this was because that until recently, I wasn’t a United States Citizen. This meant that I couldn’t vote. Hence, my complete disinterest in any and all things political. Plus, I wasn’t old enough to vote anyway. This year, everything changed. I still didn’t really care about politics very much, but the election now holds some interest for me. Then, last week, I watched the most recent of the Presidential debates, and I decided that perhaps politics aren’t so bad after all. This week, I am going to take it a step further. My assignment told me I HAD to monitor three days’ worth of election coverage. Not just that, but I was told to look for specific roles fulfilled by the media, based on Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman’s book “The Press Effect.” Toulmin’s model is the basis for my argument.

My source, CNN.com, did a fairly decent job during my monitoring over the past three days. However, it could have been better. I read a total of eight articles about the election. None of them fell under one of Jamieson and Waldman’s categories of press; they all filled at least two roles. Most of the articles were mainly press as soothsayer, although they also had elements of press as storyteller. These stories told the stories of what had happened, and then switched gears completely to focus on what was going to happen next. The last article focused on what “The Press Effect” calls “press as custodian of fact.” It broke down the race for the White House, changed as it was by the last debate. Honest facts were given both for and against McCain as well as Obama. It used the history of the presidential election to show whether or not McCain and Obama are doing “well” in the race, and whether or not the current polls will hold true.
This last role, the custodian of fact, is perhaps the most difficult and the most important. Jamieson and Waldman describe the custodian of fact as one who corrects factual inaccuracies, defines key terms, gives a sense of history and biography, explores probable impact, and offers analysis, not description. This role is the most difficult because it is incredibly difficult to cover an election without subconsciously using some kind of bias.
It is important to me because as a relatively uniformed voter, I need to know the straight facts, and all of the facts. I don’t need someone sugarcoating the bad stuff and glorifying the good. I also need the honest analysis of what’s going on, not someone who is using selected facts to prove a point.
If I have taken anything out of an assignment, it is that finding a piece of honest, unbiased reporting is very difficult. I will now be on the constant lookout for what I define as “good” reporting-the use of the role of custodian as fact. Not to mention that I am now that much more interested in the election and politics. Hopefully with a few more assignments like this, I will go from indifferent to interested. Hey, you never know.

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Rookie Story

October 6, 2008 at 12:58 am (Uncategorized)

Before I attended my first J201 class, I couldn’t have cared less about blogging. It was a big deal over nothing, I thought. However, I have since changed my tune. On my first day of class, the wonderful Tiffany Derville informed us that we would have to keep a blog for the next ten weeks. I inwardly groaned. But, like any good college student, I gritted my teeth and began looking into the world of blogging.

I still have no idea what I am going to write about, or from which sources I will claim inspiration. I have no background in journalism or writing for anyone other than my English teachers. I am, in all senses of the word, a rookie. I am coming into this with a fairly successful minor league career, which translates into good grades in high school English. However, now I play in a whole different ballpark. Some of my peers are rookies, while others have been playing in the majors for a few years. My first few at-bats are almost certainly going to be strike-outs. You never know though. Maybe before too long I’ll catch a lucky break and hopefully by then end of this class I will have hit a homerun. Are the baseball references a little cliché? Probably. But when diving headfirst into the unfamiliar, no one can blame me for wanting to bring along something familiar.

So why this blog? The obvious answer would be because I have to. But thinking about it, I begin to see that this might actually be fun. It will be difficult. I do love to write, but I spend most of my time in my world, created, managed, and inhabited by me and only me. Keeping this blog is going to force me to leave my world and venture into the real world. As a college student, it’s probably about time this happened anyway.

How about a little bit about me? Music is my life. I love singing, and I have been in choir since the age of six. I also love going to concerts. I pay close attention to the music scene. This includes not just the current gossip, but also things such as various artists’ political views. Do you see where I am going with this? I am going to speak freely for a moment. Politics bore me. However, add music and pop culture into the equation, and it’s a different story entirely. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you see some future posts from that angle.

I am a little bit anxious to see how the blogging world operates. Will I be able to keep up? I hope so. One of my favorite bands, Cobra Starship, wrote a song with a chorus that begins “Oh, I’m ready for it. Come on, bring it.” And now, I am ready. Let’s do this.

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