February 27, 2011

a CLASSIC book

"Mocking birds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
-Miss Maudie Atkinson to Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird

I recently finished reading the book To Kill a Mockingbird.  I had always heard good things about this book, and, looking back, am surprised I didn't have to read it in high school.  Regardless, I knew it was something I needed to read.

I now understand why it is considered a "classic."  It was absolutely amazing and the best book I have ever read.  I dare say it is my favorite book.  I completely loved it.  I am not one to read books more than once, but as soon as I read the last page I was tempted to start reading it all over again.

As I'm sure most people know, this novel is about a young girl living in the South during the 1930s.  I loved that the book was told from her point of view because her attempt to make sense of her world, the social injustices around her, was very enlightening and profound.

The book is written beautifully, the characters are strong and unforgettable.  I will be surprised if another book tops this one.

Read it if you haven't already!

February 25, 2011


When I was 19 years old, I had the amazing opportunity to go to China with the Weber State Symphony Orchestra.  I played the violin (still do actually) and was attending college on a music scholarship. The trip was scheduled for March 2000, my second semester at college; however, I found out about the trip months before I even began going to school.

When I heard about the trip, my initial reaction was not to go.  I didn't know anyone in the orchestra (yet) and worried I wouldn't have a good time because of it.  Thankfully, my mom, in all her wisdom, told me I should go.  So, I went.

When the trip finally arrived I had made some good friends, and while I was nervous to travel so far from home I knew it would be a good experience for me.  The 15 hour plane right wasn't that bad, but traveling with one of my most prized possessions, my violin, made things somewhat complicated.

The plan was to stay in Shanghai for 8 days.  We had three different concerts scheduled in that area, one of which was combined with a Chinese orchestra.  Due to limited stage room, only half of my orchestra was able to play with the Chinese performers, and fortunately for me I was able to play.

After our stay in Shanghai, our plan was to fly to Beijing and tour the area.  No performing.  We planned to see The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square just to name a few.

Shortly after arriving in Shanghai, it was evident that us Americans stood out, especially those of us with blonde hair.  Young people, probably college students, who spoke English would run up to us on the streets just to talk.  People were so excited to see us, were so curious about us for no other reason than that we were from the United States of America.

My best memory of China was along these same lines.

I was walking around the streets of Shanghai.  I was not alone, but I don't remember who was with me.  A Chinese man and woman approached me.  There was an obvious language barrier, but the man pointed his camera to me, so I assumed he wanted me to take a picture of him with his wife.  As I reached for the camera, the two shook their heads and I soon realized that they wanted a picture of me.  I stood next to the man, his wife took one picture of us together and another of us shaking hands.  And that was that.

They wanted a picture of me because I was an American.  As long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

My trip to China was amazing.  Not only did I see and experience amazing landmarks, I gained a greater appreciation for being an American.  I was grateful for my freedom and was happy I didn't have to live in a city flooded with soldiers carrying machine guns.

It is really easy to get caught up in our differences.  There are so many sides to each story.  Tolerance for different opinions and lifestyles is steadily decreasing.

But, hopefully, no matter what, we, as Americans, can always appreciate what we have.

February 1, 2011

SOCIAL networking

"Whether in rekindled romances facilitated by Facebook friendship or outraged ventings of opinion on a blog, offline selves are being influenced by online personae in ways society has yet to fully comprehend"
-Carol  Haggas

I went to Barnes & Noble last night to waste some time.  I wandered around until I found my favorite sections:  Psychology, Relationships, Dating/Marriage.  You get the idea.  I skimmed over all the titles until one caught my attention:  Virtually You:  The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.  I was immediately drawn to the book and started to read the preface.  Unfortunately, I was only able to read a few lines before I had to leave the store.

I thought it was interesting I saw that book at that time because for the last few days I've been thinking a lot about social networking and technology and how it has impacted the way we interact with one another, how we portray ourselves and how we respond to the portrayal of others.  I'll warn you, my thoughts on this are crazy, so this might be a long post.

How We Interact
The ways in which we interact with one another has completely changed thanks to the Internet and cell phones.  With the help of e-mail, we can take care of business, personal issues or even just say hello without uttering a single word.  And, to get around not hearing fluctuation of voices which can usually signal when someone is upset, being sarcastic, or joking, we've improvised by using smiley faces :), winks ;), TYPING IN ALL CAPS, ending sentences like this....., using strikethrough, and a variety of acronyms like LOL, my personal favorite.  Thanks to cell phones, we now have the ability to do all of this and more in the palm of our hand.

While all of this is technology is wonderful and useful in so many ways, is it costing us in others?  I think the video above illustrates my point exactly.  Are we completely incapable of having meaningful, face to face, one on one conversations?  Are we so wrapped up in our gadgets that, if we lost it, we, ourselves, would be lost?  Do we even memorize phone numbers anymore?

Personally, I hate verbal confrontation.  I'd rather do anything than confront someone and talk about something uncomfortable (wether it's delivering bad news or even expressing my feelings) regardless of how important it may be.  I'll admit, I am guilty of using e-mail and text messaging to interact with people about subjects that really should've been talked about in person.  Not only would it have avoided miscommunication (because of no voice fluctuation), it also would've been a good experience for me to get over my issues with confrontation.  Plus, depending on the situation, it most likely would've brought me closer to the person I was talking to.

How We Portray Ourselves and How We Respond to the Portrayal of Others
I first started to dissect my thoughts on this matter after I reconnected via Facebook with an old friend I met during college.  It had been at least 10 years since I had seen or heard from her.  I browsed through her pictures, learned that she was married, and had one daughter.  Her husband had even started his own business.  Her pictures varied from family gatherings to trips to Hawaii and Central America.  I thought to myself, "Wow, she's doing really great."  I envied all the many things she was doing and compared it to my own life.  Was I traveling enough?  Was I too cautious?  Was I not exposing my daughter to enough fun and new experiences?  Why couldn't I look like that, dress like, etc.?

Her husband's business interested me, so I visited the website to learn more.  I later sent her an e-mail via Facebook to congratulate her on all his success.  It was then that the rose colored glasses came off, and I learned more about her life, specifically that the business was very slow and her marriage was very rocky.  Overall, she was unhappy.

For some reason, I was really shocked by this news.  I wasn't shocked because her profile portrayed a very happy life (because we all know people only post their best foot and only their best foot on Facebook).  I was more shocked, despite my knowledge, that I had fed into it.  I didn't once wonder that she had to have some sort of issues.  I took what I saw and didn't think twice about it.  And worst of all, I let her seemingly success and happiness question my own life, my own happiness, my own success, etc.

I really should give Facebook a break, the same "happy-everything-is-great-in-my-life" personae can also be said for blogs.  People document their special days or everyday doings for their friends and family to see.  And I really think it is a great way to stay in touch with people, especially if you live far away from loved ones.  In addition, we can blog hop and view posts written by people we don't even know - people that are friends with a friend who is a friend of my cousins.  Like Facebook profiles, viewing blogs and blog hopping has more than once second guessed my own life.  It made me envious, sometimes even jealous even when it came to the dumbest things like the blog layout:  "Where did they get that fun font?"  "Why doesn't my blog look as fancy as this one?"  And so on.

One thing I have noticed with blogs is when people divert from the typical "this is what I did this weekend" posts and write about something more serious, like their faults, difficulties or feelings, they apologize for it.  They apologize because they think it probably wasn't an interesting post, or it was a downer post or a boring post.  I personally find those posts more interesting than anything.

On the Flip Side
I could be taking a mole hill and making it a mountain.  It is very possible that the things I described aren't the norm, and that I very well could be the only person that reads too much into blogs or profiles.  I tend to overanalyze things - a lot.

It's also possible that people aren't quite as candid online because they don't want to be.  They aren't necessarily hiding things, they just aren't sharing things that they deem too personal.  I have certainly omitted things from my online self that just wasn't anybody's business.

To Sum It Up
What do you think?  Is social networking is getting out of control?  Do we need to be spending more time in person together?  Are people's online personae's influencing how we see ourselves to a point where it could be dangerous, even damaging to our own self-worth?


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