Summer reading standards: reflections

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Cormoran Strike is a struggling private detective who is hired to solve the death of supermodel Lula Landry – a death that has officially been ruled a suicide, but her grieving brother is convinced she was murdered. It was a bit slow to get into, but once Strike realizes that Landry may have not committed suicide after all, you can’t put it down.

Rating: 4 stars

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The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

In February 2014, I saw The Vagina Monologues performed for the first time at my school. As I was reading these hilarious, empowering, devastating monologues three years later, I was transported back to sitting next to my then-roommate in a packed Jesse Hall watching women dressed in red moan in pseudo-arousal a la When Harry Met Sally and scream about their pissed-off vaginas. The standout line: “I want to taste the fish. That’s why I ordered it.”

Rating: 4 stars

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Published just two months before her untimely death, Carrie Fisher recounts her experiences making the first Star Wars film and entering the realm of fame, but what dominates the book is her affair with co-star Harrison Ford. This was the first book I’ve read by Fisher, who writes with whip-smart wit that often had me scoffing and laughing out loud.

Rating: 3 stars

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Room by Emma Donoghue

I saw the movie at a little indie theater in CoMo last January and cried snot the entire time. Now I finally read the book and cried just as much (if not more). I devoured Room in less than three days, something I haven’t done to a book in years, and I believe everyone should give this a read at least once.

Rating: 5 stars

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

I had more than a few nightmares reading this (including one particularly strange dream that my boyfriend invited his “good friend Charlie” over to dinner) but it was one of the most riveting books I’ve read in a long, long time. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t believe it was nonfiction. The story of how Charles Manson built his “Family” and maintained such a strong, Christ-like influence over each of its members is astonishing, bizarre and terrifying.

Rating: 5 stars

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Strangeland by Tracey Emin

Emin is one of the most well-known artists from the Young British Artists of the ’90s, and my personal favorite ever since I learned about her and saw her piece “My Bed” last summer. Like much of her workStrangeland offered brief glimpses into moments of her life. It was written simply and sparsely, no-nonsense and never deviated with unnecessary details of each scene. It offered an interesting look into her life and psyche, but did lag as much as it engrossed.

Rating: 3 stars

‘BoJack Horseman’ interweaves past with present for poignant season four

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It’s been a year since BoJack left his Hollywoo life behind and, subsequently, left us to wonder how the show would follow the genius of season three, which pushed our favorite antihero to a new devastating brink with his costar’s overdose. But season four does the seemingly impossible – by intertwining the past with present, BoJack Horseman produces its most searing season to date.

When we last saw BoJack, he was fleeing Hollywoo in search of…something. Happiness. Acceptance. The ability to feel good about himself, perhaps. His search leads him to The Old Sugarman Place, which belonged to his grandfather and where he and his mother both spent their childhood summers. He fixes up the rundown house as flashbacks of a particularly life-changing summer during his mother’s childhood play, often interweaved with the present day as ghostly images. This is the first demonstration of this season’s peculiar relationship with time – the season covers the longest time span of any other, leaving each character drastically changed by its end.

BoJack meets Hollyhock, a teenage girl who pulls him back to reality and out of his self-deprecating cycle of needing help, looking for help and rejecting help. He’s still haunted by his part in Sarah Lynn’s death and the harm he caused Penny and Charlotte, but Hollyhock gives him a reason to be responsible, to be present, to simply be. It’s not the first time BoJack has shown promise, but it is the most hopeful I’ve been that he will, somehow, eventually, one day get better.

And since BoJack Horseman isn’t just about the titular horse, each member of the gang goes through their own hardships. Season four picks up in the midst of Mr. Peanutbutter’s campaign for governor, which puts a strain on his marriage to a less-than-thrilled Diane. Todd is coming to terms with his sexual identity and meets with other asexuals. Princess Carolyn is still trying to have it all – career, relationship, family. BoJack’s mother Beatrice, a scathing secondary character despised by fans since season one, is the most present (er, physically, at least) she has ever been, much to his chagrin.

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It is Beatrice, of all people, who is the most devastating character of the new season. Through the show’s manipulation of time, we learn how she became so coldhearted and cruel toward BoJack. Episode 11, “Time’s Arrow,” is dedicated solely to Beatrice as we jump between scenes of her childhood, adolescence and marriage to BoJack’s father Butterscotch and is one of the most poignant episodes of the series – I’d equate it to season one’s “Downer Ending.”

But in true BoJack fashion, there is still the “loosely related wacky misadventures.” In episode seven, “The Underground”, the main characters (plus Jessica Biel) become trapped underground for days after a fracking accident and must build a new society in order to govern and survive their underground world. It’s reminiscent of season three’s “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” (a personal favorite of mine) and season two’s “Chickens.” Todd is still finding new ventures to pursue, this time in a terrifying dentist/clown mash-up business that goes terribly awry.

In season four, BoJack Horseman challenged itself. Its ambition and gusto have solidified it as one of the best seasons of 2017 TV and leaves us all waiting impatiently for season five – when this damn horse cartoon will make us cry yet again.

I’m a designer?

This semester I took a design class. I had a bit of Photoshop and InDesign knowledge, but I had never touched Illustrator before in my life and was the least qualified person to know what how a “good” design differed from a “bad” one, so I came in very hesitant of my capabilities. But as the semester went on, I discovered that I wasn’t as bad at design as I originally thought I would be, and that designing was ~fun~.

One of my favorite assignments of the semester was to create a feature spread of the San Antonio Express-News piece, “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity.” The photographer, Lisa Krantz, spent years following Hector Garcia around and documenting his daily battle with his fluctuating weight. The photos were beautiful and I was so stoked to try to bring this beautiful piece to life.

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It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m really proud of how my amateur design skills pulled through.

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Check out a PDF here: hector-photo-design

Surviving the Missourian

This blog post comes to you from my very last GA shift. I wrote about a sodomist/rapist/kidnapper/robber before 10 a.m. (what a way to start the day) and now I’m waiting for another story to come up while I cram for my final History of American Journalism exam.

It’s pretty unbelievable that the semester is drawing to a close. After today, I will no longer be a reporter at the Columbia Missourian. I’ve done a lot of work I’m really proud of, made great friends, and got to work with experienced editors who helped me identify my weaknesses and work to improve them. This semester seemed never-ending at times, but now that it’s done it has flown by.

I never wanted to come to the Missourian. I resented the publication because I had to pay a ton of money to practically be used as free labor, and it was mandatory. I put my heart and soul into The Maneater as a writer, columnist and editor because I wanted to be there, not because I was forced to. But honestly, working at the Missourian has been an experience I’ve come to value. It wasn’t like I thought it would be.

Here are some things that surprised me:

  1. Your fellow reporters become your support system

I would say I’m a competitive person. Ever since I was little I wanted to be the best at everything. As I began working at the Missourian, I thought my fellow reporters would be competing against each other, that those lagging behind would be envious of those who were doing well and that those leading the pack would be full of themselves.

Turns out, I’m also a very cynical person.

The community of the newsroom was one similar to what I had experienced at The Maneater — everyone supported each other, helped each other out with stories and contacting sources, vented to each other about journo struggles, invited groups to the Heidelberg to destress after covering emotionally challenging stories. Instead of pitting people against each other, the Missourian brought us together.

2. The editors are sometimes scary, but they’re also really cool

Ever since my freshman year I had heard horror stories about some of the editors that turned out to not be true at all. Yes, sometimes they’re harsh and intimidating, especially when it comes to editing, but they’re also pretty great humans. Sometimes they’ll do yoga with you in the newsroom after a long, hard news day. Sometimes they’ll open budget with a bad joke or two or six. On Halloween, they might have witch cackling contests.

3. Big breaking news stories are exciting

Mizzou made national news this semester with the hunger strike and #ConcernedStudent1950 that ultimately led to the UM System President and MU Chancellor resigning in the same day. For baby student journalists, covering this was just about as exciting/stressful/scary/daunting/fun as it could get.

The newsroom was bustling, free food from alumni cluttered desks, phones were ringing, journalists from the New York Times and CNN and ESPN and the LA Times were flocking to campus. People were working on several stories, contributing and collaborating with one another to sort out the chaos. It was the time of my life.

4. Alumni send food

Getting three free meals a day from proud alumni = the happiest of days.

5. You will definitely cry

Please, please, please, don’t forget to take care of yourself and put your health first. This is very important.

You’ll be tired and stressed and there is a 100 percent chance that you will cry when your editor tells you your story is all over the place or a source doesn’t get back to you and you miss your deadline, but remember: the Missourian experience is what you make of it.

Don’t take the critiques you receive personally. If a story doesn’t work out, it does not mean that you are a terrible journalist. All of us are still learning. If you go in positive, open to learning and looking to grow as a journalist, you’ll do wonderfully. And to those who will be entering the newsroom next semester and next fall, you will be okay.

Don’t dream it, be it

“Journalism is dying/journalism is hard/you’re not going to make any money/why do you do it?”

Like every journalism student, I frequently get these remarks from my friends and I often wonder exactly why I’m pursuing journalism. I’ve always loved writing, but am I sure about reporting? Journalism is a demanding field. As I mentioned before, I am terrified of burnout that I can already feel lurking around me. I’m tired. Sometimes, particularly in the moments I’m working on multiple stories and have five interviews in a week and a draft due tomorrow and an hour long interview to transcribe etc etc etc, I question if this is what I should be doing.

Then you find a story that reminds you why you chose to go to the first and best journalism school in the world.

Getting to know Mark Chambers, who has been religiously emceeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for 36 years, was the most fun I’ve had while reporting in a long time and I’m so happy with how it turned out. Mark was so nice and so hilarious and it was a joy to get to work with him.

When I arrived at the “Rocky Horror” showing Thursday, Mark was in the front lobby and pulled me past the line into the theater and said, “Ma’am, I just have to say, I’ve been interviewed a lot, but this is just a whole other side of Rocky that people don’t get to see.” He told me that the interviews I did with him were the best he has ever had, thanked me for telling his story, and gave me a hug.

This. This is why I want to be a journalist. I love getting to know nice people and talking to them about the things they’re passionate about. I love telling people’s stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told.

After the story and Beatriz’s video were published yesterday morning, Mark sent me a text message thanking me again, saying that the story and video would be “treasures” to him for the rest of his days, and that he was almost in tears by the end of it.

Making Mark happy made me feel so good, and reinforced that journalism, particularly narrative features, is what I’m meant to do.

Read the story here

Women in media, sexism and the threat of burnout

I was never really interested in women’s issues and feminism until I entered college. I thought I’d been fortunate in my life and thought I had never experienced sexism or discrimination based on my gender. But as I spent more time in college I began realizing little ways in how I was being treated differently because I am female — the catcalls I’d receive when driving in my convertible, the men on the street who would tell me to smile, the older men (often residing in positions of authority or who were sources I was interviewing) who would call me “a nice, local girl,” when they learned that I’m from Missouri.

Before college, I never thought of myself as a feminist. I thought sexism was largely a thing of the past and I wasn’t interested in the topic. Now, I go on tangents about women’s issues and the patriarchy and male gaze. I listen to Beyoncé’s “Flawless” at least once a week on full volume and have a Rosie the Riveter poster hanging in my room. Last night I was watching “National Treasure” with my roommates (don’t judge) and it bothered me that someone like Diane Kruger was cast as Nicholas’ Cage’s love interest — because, really, when would that ever happen?

Today I went to the Women in Media panel as part of the Missouri Honor Medal celebrations and classes. I was immediately interested in the topic and as soon as I heard that Jacqui Banaszynski was the moderator, aka a goddess badass journalist and everything I want to be, I made the decision to skip my Ancient Western Philosophy class and go.

Jacqui immediately threw out a statistic that terrified me — she said, about 70 percent of journalism students are women, but there are only about 25 percent of women in newsrooms.

So, what happened to all the women?

The answers vary. Sexism, internet trolls, and the demands of the job tend to drive women away. The panelists talked a lot about how journalism isn’t a regular, nine-to-five job. “Journalism is your life,” they said, and that demand is hard on a lot of women.

Burn-out is something that worries me. I can see how women are especially affected, since many women want to have families and it can be difficult to be married and have children while you’re working a job as demanding and unpredictable as journalism. Personally, I don’t know if I want to get married and have kids, but one thing I have always been adamant about is that I refuse to let a job rule my life. I don’t want journalism to be the main focus of my life. And sometimes it worries me that it will be.

A fellow student asked the question that has been burning in my mind for the last year — when your career is affecting your personal life in a negative way, what can you do?

The answer: “Cry and drink.”

Tbh that’s how I coped with the stress of journalism and personal issues all last year, and I can’t say it worked out well for me. Yes, journalism is a hard job, but I think that I and other women can find that balance. (Insert obnoxious: “Can women have it all?” question. What the heck is “IT”?).

What happens when a words person and a design person make a multimedia package

Multimedia assignments have always freaked me out. I’m a words person. I don’t know how to operate expensive video cameras and audio equipment. I’m barely capable of editing clips into something coherent. I hate being so reliant on technology and I have often fallen victim to dead batteries and off white balances. So when I found out that I had to put together a multimedia project yet again for the Missourian, I was heartbroken.

It didn’t make me feel more at ease when I received an email informing me that my project was the first deadline in the class — nine days away. Me and my partner, Amy, scrambled to put together a one-minute piece of video for the Missourian Minute series in just one week, while every other group in the class had at least two weeks to do so.

And, as with all of my past experiences with multimedia, we hit a lot of bumps in the road.

Amy went out of town for three days, leaving me incapable to work without her. The two possible subjects wouldn’t return our calls. Finally we lined up an interview, but the subject wasn’t available until Friday — the day our final project was supposed to be filmed, edited and turned in. We met the source at a sketchy office below a parking garage downtown. As soon as we walked into the little office, my heart sank — we had nothing visually appealing about this interview. No available B-roll. The environment we were promised as we arranged the meeting was not delivered.

We conducted a quick interview anyway, unable to zoom and without a tripod. We left the interview in a panic. After explaining the situation to our TA, we were fortunate enough to get an extension and desperately scoured the interwebs for something new to cover and create a package on in under 24 hours.

Which brought us to DoDeca-Con.

I had no idea what I was expecting, but people dressed as Ewoks and anime characters wasn’t it. Colorful characters winded through the halls as they waited to participate in the costume contest. Vendors filled a convention room, selling everything from medieval swords to furry tails to comics and art. We approached one vendor, two women who sold steampunk-inspired accessories, and within moments we knew we had our story.

We ran back to Amy’s dorm and sorted through the video and audio clips. We spent three hours in the newsroom the next day finishing out final product. Everything worked out and it’s like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I know having these multimedia skills is important for being a journalist, but for now I’m happy to get to stick to words for the rest of the semester.

Welcome to Junior Year, the Missourian, and Eight-Hour GA Shifts

This week has held a lot of firsts for me. My first day of junior year. My first time getting a parking ticket. My first time taking a sunrise yoga class. And today was my first GA shift at the Columbia Missourian, Columbia’s city newspaper.

From the moment you step onto campus as a freshman journalist, the Missourian is this big, scary, impending obstacle that looms over you. You know it’s coming, you’ve heard how hard it is, and all you can do is practice writing at the campus newspaper and hope you can just get through the J4450 semester.

When I walked into the newsroom during orientation, I was, and honestly still am, intimidated.

It didn’t make things better when I realized that my first General Assignment shift would be held during a walkout demonstration by graduate assistants. After prepping for the day to come by reading through articles for hours the day before, waking up before dawn for sunrise yoga, and grabbing my favorite Starbucks combo — a grande white mocha with a chocolate croissant — I set out for GA, armed with my reporter’s notebook and pen.

After some early-morning live-tweeting, my GA shift mainly consisted of calling MIA sources and leaving voice mails from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Two stories fell through simply because nobody would respond to my messages, and a third story is looking like it’ll be dropped by tomorrow.

This wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go.

But even though the day was full of setbacks, I found myself enjoying the job. I love being in a newsroom. I love making friends with the other reporters, something I’m finding astonishingly quick and effortless to do. I love working with editors and ACES who take the time to help us newbies.

I may not have a byline just yet, but I’m excited for the semester and stories to come. Maybe the Missourian isn’t so scary after all.

Meet Me in Montauk

Today is the 11th anniversary of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s a film that’s very special to me for a number of reasons.

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I didn’t see “Eternal Sunshine” until my senior year of high school, almost exactly two years ago. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times since, and it’s become very near and dear to my heart. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” poster hanging in my room. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” phone case. If you know me, I’ve almost definitely made you watch the movie with me at least once.

I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey. I grew up watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Ace Ventura,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” When I got older, I loved “Yes Man,” “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” and “Horton Hears a Who,” all of which left me in stitches. I had never seen him in a serious role before, and I was captivated by his role as reserved, shy Joel Barish.

Instantly, I found myself relating to Joel. I can be quiet and introverted and, above all, awkward. I doodle in journals on a daily basis. I’m a romantic. I tend to let people have more power over me than they should. I often don’t know what to say. I, like Joel, would have run away from Clementine at the beach and been too afraid to walk out onto the frozen lake.

But I could also see myself in Clementine (a perfect as always Kate Winslet). Granted, I’m not spontaneous and I don’t dye my hair “Blue Ruin,” but she’s more than the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s irritable and erratic and, in her own words, “just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for (her) own peace of mind.”

The thing I love about “Eternal Sunshine” is how truthful it is. Every time I watch it, I learn something new about it and about myself/relationships/love:

You can try as hard as you can to make a relationship work, but sometimes…it just won’t. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Everybody has flaws, everybody has baggage. You’re not going to be completely happy all the time. Love isn’t easy, and “Eternal Sunshine” shows all of its complexities.

You can’t force a connection. When Patrick uses Joel’s possessions and words to make Clementine fall in love with him, it’s not right — the connection isn’t there. Clementine feels like something’s wrong. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and you have to accept that.

That being said, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. When Clementine and Joel erase each other from their memories, they end up finding each other again.

Past experiences, even the painful ones, make you who you are. If you erase all the memories of people who ever did you wrong, you won’t grow. We love who we love, and sometimes we love the wrong person. The good and the bad shape us, and (hopefully) we learn from the hurt. It sucks at the time, but going through rough times only benefits us in the future.

The first time I saw this movie, I was in the midst of my very first breakup and I had no idea what was going on. This movie made me feel so much less alone. Every time I’m going through hard times and boys are being stupid, “Eternal Sunshine” will always be there for me. The film’s universal feelings of love, loss, and loneliness are like a giant hug around your heart.

So happy birthday, “Eternal Sunshine.” Thank you for impacting my life.

Thank You, Joel Gold

Joel J. Gold was the founder and first Editor-In-Chief of The Maneater student newspaper. He died Oct. 14, 2014 at 82 years old. This week, The Maneater ran a column Gold wrote in 1985 about the meaning of the paper’s name on the front page underneath a special gold masthead as a tribute.

This issue is beautiful — not just because of the gold masthead, but it is also the MOVE Food issue that MacKenzie and production beautifully executed, the Veteran’s Day profiles my lovely writers worked so hard on these past few weeks ran in a double-truck, and one of my writers wrote a really cool feature story about an indie director that I’m really happy with (I sound like a mom bragging about her kids’ accomplishments, but whatever I’m proud of my beat writers, okay?).

With an issue this cool, I thought I’d write a letter to the one who started it all.

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Dear Joel Gold,

In 1955, you took over The Missouri Student campus paper and founded The Maneater, “the dangerous — bold, fearsome, watch-your-step-in-my-jungle tough” publication (despite learning later a tiger becomes a maneater when it is too weak to catch its usual prey).

You created a new editorial policy — “If you want to keep us out, better bar the door. And don’t try getting rough or screaming ‘libel’ when a Maneater reporter crashes your meetings. When The Maneater gets mad, all hell is going to break loose. You’ve been warned.” To this day, 60 years after you founded the paper, these words hang around the office (and above my bed in my apartment).

Joel Gold, thank you.

I began writing for the paper the summer before my freshman year. I was so eager to be writing for a college publication and I remember being excited and terrified that I had the opportunity to do so so early on. When I came to campus during Summer Welcome, my first article had already been published in the June issue and I couldn’t wait for the fall to arrive.

The Maneater has been, without a doubt, the greatest part of my college experience so far.

On a campus of nearly 35,000 students, it can be easy to be swallowed up. The Maneater has given me my own little niche on campus. Joining this paper has given me more than just a place to practice for my future career in journalism. The Maneater has given me a place to belong. The Maneater has given me a home and the friends I have made here have become like my family.

There have been times I’ve been overwhelmed with the late nights of editing in the office, the stress of stories falling through last minute or coming in subpar, and the struggle of finding interesting content. There have been times when I was tired of putting up with my other friends telling me “Nobody reads The Maneater,” or tweeting sassy #biasedjournalism messages about us. But, despite the bad things, I love being a part of The Maneater.

The Maneater gives me a reason to keep trudging through this bleak semester. Without the paper, I have no idea what I would be doing right now. Thank you so much for creating this place.

When I graduate and spend my boring nights of adulthood watching “St. Elmo’s Fire” and reminiscing about my college days, I’ll think about this paper. I’ll think about coming in for intern nights as a wide-eyed freshman writer dreaming of being on the #EdBoart, of odd staff box quotes, of interviewing quirky sources like the Seuss Man and an indie actor with the body of a Greek god, of being thrown into the fountain during Dead Editor’s Night and, of course, of the degenerate nights of Hoochfest.

Above all, I’ll think about the hours I spent hanging out in the basement of the Student Center with my friends.

And it’s all because you, Joel Gold, started a student-run paper 60 years ago.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sincerely,

Claudia