#TheBestOf2017

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Oh, 2017. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema. This year may have been a rough one for some but in 2017, the world of pop culture dominated (hello, #MeToo movement).  Listed below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

Hello gentlemen…

MOVIES   Please note that I haven’t seen “Get Out” (I know, know…), “The Big Sick,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “The Shape of Water” and so many other future (hopefully) Oscar nominated films. And can we reminiscence about one of my favorite moments of the year- the Oscar fiasco (Go”Moonlight!”)?

Trainspotting 2:” Hands down, my favorite movie of the year (and not just because I’ve had a massive crush on Ewan McGregor for most of my life). Sequels usually don’t hold but man, this movie… “T2” wraps up loose ends in a neat, plaid bow and has a lot of fun doing so. Also, THE SOUNDTRACK  (take a gander at “Silk” by Wolf Alice). Also, SCOTLAND (take me back to the U.K….).

Dunkirk:” The sound. “Dunkirk” must win Best Sound Editing at the Oscars next year. It is deafening (in the best way, of course). Christopher Nolan knows how to make a movie- TEACH ME YOUR WAYS! The stakes are high and he plays with the timeline of war in an interesting way. (My only compliant is there wasn’t enough of Tom Hardy’s lips.)

Girls Trip:” Sometimes you need something stupid to watch and this is it (okay, stupid is the wrong word). The female friendship woven throughout the movie is heartwarming and feels real. I first saw “Girls Trip” at the theater when I was having an off day- I left with a cramp in my side from laughing so much. Tiffany Haddish absolutely kills in this movie and the other actresses play well off of each other so well.

Wonder Woman:” Finally. Finally, finally, finally. We HAVE “WONDER WOMAN!” Gal Gadot is bad ass yet adorable. Patty Jenkins is a bad ass and a genius. This movie was sweet. It was fun. It was funny. And there wasn’t any cheap shot of certain female anatomy (that is important! Take note, male filmmakers!). This movie inspired me to start writing screenplays again- 2018, you better watch out for ME!

TELEVISION  Please note that there was simply too much good television made this year- “Big Little Lies,” “The Deuce,” “GLOW,”  “The Crown,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…”  But I’m finally watching “Game of Thrones” and am finally caught up with “The Great British Bakeoff!”

Master of None:” Give it up for brown people. In the middle of the new season of “Master of None“, there is this beautiful love letter to New York City and its residents. It’s refreshing to see stories about the little guy- the elevator operator, the girl who works at the corner bodega, your taxi driver. The entire season is fantastic (the Thanksgiving episode!) but this episode proves to the world that there’s no one like New Yorkers. (Netflix)

The Handmaid’s Tale:” I love this show even though it hurts to watch. The United States no longer exists. The majority of the world’s women can no longer get pregnant. Those who can are raped and force to to bare children to term. With everything politically that happened this year, I watch this show and wondering if the premise of “The Handmaid’s Tale” could eventually become our reality.  Nevertheless, the show is compelling and leaves you wanting more. I can’t go enough of this show and am I so excited for the next season. (Hulu)

Stranger Things:” I waited all year for the new season of “Stranger Things” and binged it within two days. With the exception of the seventh episode (you know which one I’m talking about, this season was perfect. Give me anything with Samwise Gamgee and cute guys named Steve. Bitchin’. (Netflix)

This Is Us:” The feels. Ugly cry. This show. It’s so, so good. (NBC)

James Corden also killed with his “Carpool Karaoke” segments this year. They are always so much fun to watch. (CBS and iTunes)

MUSIC Yes, yes… I still need to listen to DAMN.

(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by Sampha:  It was a cold day in the beginning of February when I first heard this song. I was drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop when the barista played this song over and over again on the loudspeaker. I was hooked. Sampha wrote this beautiful tribute to his mother and their East London home  right after she passed away from cancer. You can feel the emotion seeping from his pores as he sings about childhood memories. This is my favorite song of the year.

Praying” by Kesha: I have to admit something awful. Despite my fondness for glitter, for the longest time I hated Kesha’s music. I was never a massive EDM fan and the bass in her songs would give me headaches. Flash forward to this summer. I intensely followed her legal battles against Dr. Luke and was curious to about her new album, especially when she still had ties to him. The first time I heard “Praying,” I cried. It has real power. Raw power. It is intense with filled with grace.  There is a kindness in it that I don’t think I could ever give anyone if I was in Kesha’s shoes. This song has taught me about forgiveness and finding the strength in yourself.

Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles: My friends know me as a die hard One Direction fan (I wouldn’t sing anything else at karaoke). OD went on a hiatus this year and each member branched out, moving and shaking with their solo careers. While his bandmates followed the pop route, Harry Styles took another direction (haha… puns) and made a record that, when I first listened to it, thought was a David Bowie album. “Sign of the Times” has this gorgeous sweeping chorus, with beautiful vocals and drums. I want to live in this song and in its music video.

Despactio” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. How can you not love this song?! Okay, it took me a while to fall in love with it but after hearing it for the millionth time, the song stole my heart (and makes me want to live on a Puerto Rican beach in a teeny bikini). Props for being the most YouTube video of all time and helping to raise Puerto Rican’s tourist interest.

One More Light” by Linkin Park. 2017 was a sad year for rock and roll. The suicide of Chris Cornell was tough to process but Chester Bennington’s death felt like a repeated punch to the stomach. Linkin Park was a staple in my music rotation during my formative years, a band that I literally grew up with. Reading about Bennington’s suicide this July brought up some unsettling memories. The band released the video for “One More Light” a few months after Bennington’s death in memoriam. It’s with footage of a smiling Bennington interacting with fans- both the video and song just hauntingly gorgeous.

Rest in peace, Chester

WRITING  One of my resolutions for 2017 was to read more books. Despite my weekly visit to the local library, I would spend more time on Buzzfeed rather than flipping tangible pages. Quite frankly, I can’t remember the majority of things I read this year but I do remember this piece of journalism. The photos alone tell a heartbreaking story but dive deeper into the text and learn how the Syrian people  continue on despite the war around them. The music flows over the ruins of Aleppo and through the crevices of our hearts.

What are your favorites of 2017, dear reader?

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#WhoRunsTheWorld (Or #NowWhat)

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“Who runs the world?” -Beyonce (Women do, duh.)

Saturday’s global Women’s Marches scattered expectations, supporting various causes that included women’s rights, immigration reform, health care reform, environment protection, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, workers’ rights and to give Donald Trump the finger. A reported 673 marches took place worldwide, and in my hometown of Reno, over 10,000 men women and children took to the main street with signs and chants, positivity and hope.

So,now what?

My biggest fear is this movement will slowly fade as the year progresses. Where do we go from here? Despite my admiration for the high turn out of this weekend’s protests, what will be most impressive is what we do by putting our words and feelings into actions. Movements are not just about dramatic marches- they’re everyday acts of resistance, creating the positive change and seeing growth with issues we marched for.

First off, VOTE! Vote in your upcoming city, county and state elections! That is the biggest way to have your voice be heard. Support who and what what you believe in. Call, write and email your city’s and state’s representatives about the issues that you are concerned about the most.

Start by donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, the ACLU and the National Lawyer’s Guild. Also, support media outlets like NPR that provide the public with reliable journalism.

I also understand if you’re broke (you and I both!). One of the simplest thing you can do is not be a passive observer if you see someone being mistreated. Stand up when you see someone being teased or harassed. Tell the abuser that they are wrong. One of the best way to support women, people of color, the LGBTQ, etc, is to stand up for them and never be complacent on something you believe will advance their position in society, as well as their happiness and safety.

If you are more community orientated, volunteer at one your local non-profits. Organize a toiletry drive for a local women’s shelter (shelters often need sanitary napkins and tampons the most). Spend some time at your local animal shelter- kitties and puppies need love, too. Get involved with political and advocacy groups in your area. Get off your couch, step out of your comfort zone, meet some cool people and make plans to change the world!

Remember that the resistance doesn’t stop with the march- we need to keep the drumbeat going and the pressure on from all sides and state. There is no “right” way to get involved- you simply need to get out there. Figure out what works for you. Then do it. JUST DO IT. Fight on, dear reader!

A Slice of Courage: Peter Jennings

Ten years ago, a man that I loved since childhood died. I’ve been into Peter Jennings since I was a toddler. My mom tells me that I’d frantically ran around the living room, exclaiming “Petah Hennings! Petah Hennings!” when he appeared on the TV screen (I had a terrible lisp then). Other than being my very first celebrity crush, I think Peter is the reason I got into journalism. Many have their own opinion of who is the voice of our generation- for me, it’s Peter. When he died of lung cancer in 2005, I cried for two days. I lost a friend and trusted source.

Thanks to YouTube, I’m able to watch old clips of Peter. There is something about him that still moves me- his tone, his cadence, his reporting. Jennings existed in a time where journalists didn’t sensationalize, time where the only requirement to be a reporter wasn’t just to be a pretty blonde (looking to you, FOX). He was respected (and still is).

When I think about my own career, I hope to have one like Jennings (reporting from the war front and all). He too was a drop out (he dropped out of high school, while I left college) but he proved that hard work pays off. His integrity and determination to deliver the evening news each night is still incredibly admirable. With each time I write a piece, whether it’s for my blog or a serious story, I ask myself if Peter would approve of my story. Each I time, I think he will.

Thank you for always inspiring me, Peter. I hope you’re resting in peace.

20 Journalists Have Died This Year

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I’m walking in Sub-Saharan Africa, sweating and carrying a reporter’s notebook in my hand and a large pack on my back. I have a digital camera around my neck and a tape recorder in my back pocket. I just interviewed a family who sent their little girls to school for the first time. I felt welcomed in their home, in their village. Welcomed and safe. That image I just described is the kind of journalist I want to be. Trekking through Africa is one thing, but being safe is another.

Journalism and safety have been on my mind this past week, thinking about the shooting at the French satirical, Charlie Hebdo. According to Reporters Without Borders, 20 journalists were killed this year, only 15 days into 2015. Last year, 61 journalists were killed around the globe. These journalists covered everything from politics and policies to war to human rights watches. The countries, Syria and the Ukraine, are the top two deadliest countries for reporters. In the United States, reporters may not be dying, but they are constantly harassed by police and other individuals. When the riots in Ferguson first began, and the media started to cover the protesting, many reporters were seriously injured and wrongfully arrested. “Just cuffed and searched as we said we were leaving,” tweeted out Niel Munshi of the Chicago Financial Times. Robert Klemko with Sports Illustrated tweeted, “About 25 minutes after the gas attack, with the smoke cleared and the area secure, we attempted to go back down the street to report. When they cut cuffs off minutes later, I held onto it. Missouri Highway State Patrol captain, Ron Johnson, tried to take it…”

Reporters get a lot of hate from the public. People don’t like what they read and see on the media. While I agree that a lot of reporting is sensationalized and filled with unwanted opinions, there are genuine reporters who want to get the truth out there and they work hard to do so. If we didn’t have good journalists like that, we would never know what is going on in the far corners of the world, or even in our own country. We wouldn’t know about the Ebola epidemic, who is dating who in Hollywood nor let alone, the shooting in Paris. We need to protect the writers, photographers and editors of the world and show them respect- or we will lose our sources of information and entertainment.

Hate and Free Speech

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

By Tome Toles, The Washington Post

On Wednesday, gunmen entered the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and shot 12 dead. Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed. Paris and the rest of the world are shocked and in mourning. The journalism community is completely flabbergasted- yes, plenty of newspapers and magazines have received death threats before but no one has stormed into a publication office with guns, killing people who are only expressing their right to free speech.

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A little less than a month ago, the film company, Sony, pulled the theatrical release of its movie, “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a television crew assigned to kill the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. After the North Korean government threatened theatre goers who watched the film and hacked the movie company, Sony made the pull. Fans roared. Hollywood tweeted (my favorite tweet was written by Steve Carrell: Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul). Sony released the movie anyway, on YouTube (I paid for it and watched it- the movie is hilarious. That James Franco…), and has reported that it has nearly made all its money back (good job, Sony).

By Dave Brown, The Independent

By Dave Brown, The Independent

We, Americans (as well as the French), have the right of free speech. But what happened when that right is threatened? Are we supposed to keep our mouths closed? Online today, I’ve seen cartoonists from all over the world pay their respects to the staff of Charlie Hebdo. It’s comforting to see people who are giving their middle finger to the gunman- they are doing what they love to do and they’re not letting the negative bring them down. I hope that more cartoonists contribute their respects to Charlie Hebdo and the gunman will see that their hate is counteracted with messages of love and recognition.

Long live to Charlie Hebdo and I look forward to reading you in the future.

Thoughts from Your Local Journalist

Today was a hard day; not only as a journalist but as a human being. I went to Sparks Middle School to cover today’s shooting for the Sparks Tribune to talk with students and parents about the incident (for those who are unaware of today’s event- a student brought in a handgun to Sparks Middle School this morning and shot at several people. A math teacher and former Marine, Michael Landsberry, was shot and killed while protecting a student). As much as I tried to be stoic and professional, I wanted badly to drop my notepad and camera to hug these individuals. The amount of tears I saw this morning was overwhelming but at the same time, I was happy to tell these people’s stories.

A lot people criticize today’s journalism as being insensitive and callous. But my journalistic peers and I strive to tell and show the truth. After reading various media sites, where people commented on how terrible people we journalists are for reaching out at the scene for stories, I want to remind everyone that we are people, too, and we do feel for our story subjects. My heart breaks for the students and staff at Sparks Middle School. As thrilling of a news day it was for me today, I hope to never report on such a tragedy again.