the effect of embarrassment on the teenage psyche

Many moons ago, in this very classroom, I happened to have open on my desktop two photographs – one of a popular pop singer, and the other of some weird baseball player from my school. I don’t recall what their names were exactly, but the whole point of the exercise was to examine the similarities in their facial structures and their overall looks.

It was determined that they look remarkably similar.

And JUST as this experiment was winding down, my Journalism teacher called my name from the back of the classroom in a rather alarmed and concerned voice, obviously confused, and I shrieked at the top of my lungs and immediately darkened my screen. My friend sitting next to me, who had suggested the experiment in the first place, buried her face in her arms and started laughing – most probably at herself – out of sheer embarrassment and shock. I joined her moments later.

Since then, both of us have been extremely careful as to what we let our teacher see on our computer screens during class. All because of one little incident that said teacher probably doesn’t even remember. Surely, a more mature adult student would not be deterred by such an occurance and would continue as they normally would, browsing fandom blogs on Tumblr and tweeting their favorite celebrities.

But not a teenager. We are, for some strange reason, more emotionally fragile than our elders – more fragile, perhaps, than we let even ourselves believe. Such a thing as embarrassment still has a surprisingly strong effect on us, though we are almost adults.

My question is this: WHY?

What is so powerful about embarrassment? Why does a single embarrassing occurance from our first day of third grade stick with us for the rest of our lives, but not our first A on a science test? Why do we remember when Jimmy put glue in our hair on the playground when we were eight, but we forget how awesome it felt to make a new friend in middle school?

In fact, why do the negative memories of our lives stick with us while the positive ones fade away relatively quickly?

I’m sure a psychologist of some kind will comment on this post with a scientifically accurate answer to that question, but while I’m waiting for that to happen I am going to put forth my own answer.

I think we remember the negative stuff in life more vividly than the positive stuff because it’s the negative things that define us in the end. How we responded to Jimmy putting glue in our hair is more important than the glue attack itself. The sadness we felt when a loved one died changes our lives forever, and affects how we react to future losses. We might pray as hard as we possibly can for something bad not to happen, and it will happen anyway if it’s meant to happen. The universe makes no exceptions; it corrects itself.

Maybe this makes no sense. But I’m thankful for all those unanswered prayers. Because without them, I wouldn’t be me.

Why Italian Food is the Best

If you know me at all, you know that I have somewhat of a particular palate – and by “particular”, I mean “minuscule”. I’m a picky eater, always have been, always will be, and this unfortunate trait of mine is perhaps the one thing keeping me from being a food critic. For while I may not like most food, I am fiercely passionate about the foods I do like. And I definitely like Italian food the most.

There are many reasons for my bias towards this delectable category of Mediterranean cuisine – the texture of it, the flavor, the way it looks – and I could write about it for pages and pages, I’m sure. But perhaps the thing that blows me away the most whenever I sink my teeth into a slice of Pizza Margherita or twirl a forkful of spaghetti out of a bowl is this: the simplicity of it all.

I mean, look at this picture:

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This is bruschetta, an Italian appetizer. It’s usually served heaped on slices of toasted, oil-soaked bread, and the main ingredients are as follows: diced tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. That’s it. And it’s just about the tastiest thing I have ever had the privilege to consume. You probably don’t believe me for a second, but it’s the truth.

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Just look at it. I can almost taste it if I close my eyes. It’s positively irresistible; if you own an Italian restaurant and you’ve got great bruschetta, I’ll fork over any amount just to get a plate of 4 slices – I don’t care if the rest of your menu consists of nothing but calamari and shrimp, I will be your loyal customer for as long as I am able.

Also, there’s this stuff:

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Pasta. This stuff is amazing. All it is is flour, water, and salt, but even if you scoop it right out of the boiling water and into a bowl without adding any sauce or anything, it still tastes amazing. And the Italians – the brilliant, inventive, fantastic Italians – have the power to make it fifty times better by adding just four times the toppings: vegetables, olive oil, cheese, and herbs. Even though it’s the same basic ingredients as bruschetta, it somehow manages to taste completely different when coupled with the floury, mildly salty taste of pasta. It’s astounding.

Most cultures heap loads of stuff on their pasta until it’s just a mountain of fish, leaves, potatoes, chicken, broccoli…and a teensy bit of pasta, drowning in different juices and marinations at the bottom of the plate. But not the Italians.

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They manage to do so much with so very little, and it’s enough to make me feel like crying when I find that I’m on my last forkful of fettuccine.

Finally, there’s the desserts:

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flourless chocolate cake

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Tiramisu, gelato, flourless chocolate cake…ugh, it’s almost too much to handle in one group of photos.

Tiramisu is a fairly common dessert, and flourless chocolate cake is pretty self-explanatory (chocolate cake without flour, topped with powdered sugar and served typically with strawberries – it’s so rich that even a piece as small as the one pictured is difficult to finish in one sitting), so I’m gonna explain the concept of gelato to you.

Gelato is ice cream, but it’s just…not. There’s something different about it that is impossible to explain, really. It tastes fresher, creamier, and generally better than American ice cream. This is because every gelato shop in Italy makes their own supply of the dessert, so the chocolate from the shop near the Trevi Fountain tastes completely different than the chocolate from Mariotti’s outside Piazza Navona (which just so happens to taste like melted chocolate chips and fairy dust). Fruit flavors are pretty popular, and the chocolate strawberry happens to be my favorite. Also, as you can see from the pictures above, the Italians sure know how to display their desserts in such a way that you will be hungry for them even after a huge meal of pizza and pasta.

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that the Italians have a knack for taking something ordinary – like a basil leaf, a tomato, or a scoop of ice cream – and turning it into something positively unforgettable. How a simple combination of herbs, olive oil, and diced tomatoes can taste so good on top of a simple slice of toasted bread is a mystery that I will ponder for the rest of my life.

Or perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps I should just stop wondering and accept Italian cuisine for what it is – divine.

One thing’s for certain, though – when I walk through the pearly gates, I’m gonna strut right up to God’s throne and thank him right there for that little boot-shaped country in the Mediterranean. And then I’m gonna ask him where I can find Heaven’s best tortellini.

BLOG OF INTEREST #2: “not a blog” by Josh Riebock

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“not a blog” is the comical name given to public speaker and author Josh Riebock’s inspirational, thought-provoking, and rather intense blog. It doesn’t really have a single main topic – he mostly just asks important questions that we should all ask ourselves. He does this by implementing both fictional and real stories that he writes himself, and the imagery he uses is incredible – which is good, because he doesn’t typically post pictures. All 5 of the most recent posts stay consistent with the theme of figuring out what life means. There actually isn’t much mention of God and Christianity by name, but the things he says are distinctly Christian-esque. 

I would definitely read this blog again. There’s something about Josh and his writing that just entices me. I would definitely recommend this blog to anyone who is looking for answers on life, love, and anything really. I don’t thing you even necessarily have to be a Christian to appreciate this blog and everything it is.

Josh is amazing. And he proves that yet again with this insightful blog.

BLOG OF INTEREST #1: Car and Driver blog

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The title of this blog is, quite creatively, called “Car and Driver Blog” and it’s the official car news blog of the popular motoring magazine Car and Driver. Most of its columnists contribute to this blog, and it’s not really controlled by one specific person. 

The main focus of this blog is news and reviews relating to the newest cars being produced. The last five entries are all about car news, and therefore are consistent with this focus. The writing style of these columnists is professional and informative, with occasional integration of humor to keep the reader interested in the article. The only pictures in the posts are pictures of new cars and car concepts (prototypes or illustrations of pending designs), and they are there to draw the readers’ attention to the cars they are reviewing or to provide a more solid, visual representation of the car they are describing in the article. 

Also, most of the cars are gorgeous, so of course they’d put a picture of them in the article.

I have read this blog before and will most definitely continue to because cars interest me, and that’s that. I would highly recommend this blog to anyone who is a fan of cars and wants the latest scoop on new models and developments within the industry.

And I leave you with a picture of the new Corvette. Enjoy. 
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Bias Analysis: Al Jazeera article vs. Fox News article: Coverage of Attack on Pakistani Christians

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Al Jazeera: “Pakistani Christians Rally Over Lahore Attacks” by Associated Press

This article was published on the website of the news channel Al Jazeera English on March 10, 2013, and was written by the Associated Press. This article is brief and does not include many details about the attacks, but it does include quotes from witnesses that kind of evoke some emotion and make the piece more personal. I think this could be because this news organization is based in the Middle East and therefore could have some bias towards those living there, leading them to present a more heart-tugging, emotional picture of the event than another paper would. Also, there is some information about the Middle Eastern culture in this article as well – blasphemy is explained to be a “serious crime” there when committed against the Prophet Muhammad. 

Also, this article makes it seem like the Christians are the victims of the attack, describing how they fled from the area because they “feared for their safety” after the ransacking of their homes. It also talks about the lack of protection that the Christians were receiving from their government in Lenore, making them seem even more victimized. The focus of this article is primarily put on the tragedy of the robberies and less so than on the riots afterwards – they even call it a “rally” instead of a riot. The picture attached to the article is one of the Muslims attacking the homes of Christians.

Overall, the tone of this article is almost strictly factual and to-the-point, but there are some evocative quotes thrown in from witnesses that add to it rather well. I am fairly certain that the next article will not be anything like this one…

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The Next Article: Fox News: “Hundreds of Christians Clash with Pakistani Police after Homes Burned by Muslim Mobs”

This article was posted on Fox News’ website on March 10, 2013, and was written by the Associated Press.This almost leads me to believe that this could possibly be the same article in two different places, but the one on display on this site is significantly different. Not only is it much longer than the one on Al Jazeera, but the focus is put more on the damages that the Christian protesters did to others’ property than the damage that was done to their own. The rally is described as a “demonstration” and a “clash” against local police. It almost makes the Christians seem like they were the ones who did something wrong. No mention is made of the lack of protection that Christians got in Lenore, while the previous article did mention that. Also, the series of pictures attached to this article are all of the rallies that the Christians did, not of the ransacking of their homes.

The overall tone of this particular article is pretty factual as well, but the things that are not details – like quotes and numbers – make it seem like the Christians were the evil ones for protesting the attacks on their homes. It’s kind of disconcerting. Clearly Fox News just wanted to make an exciting story full of violence and destruction that people would want to read, while Al Jazeera seems to only be focused on presenting a more honest picture of the events.

Bias Analysis: World Magazine article vs. Variety article: Reviews for “Jack the Giant Slayer”

World Magazine: “Jack the Giant Slayer” by Alicia M. Cohn

This article was published on the website of the Christian magazine World on March 8, 2013, and was written by Alicia M. Cohn. This article is rather short and concise, but there are still some elements of Christian bias. Near the end, the author remarks that the movie “sadly” ends in a battle, giving the impression that she is against violence and “peril”, as she puts it. Also, she talks about the parallels between the fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible.

Overall, the tone of this article is rather neutral. If it weren’t posted on this particular magazine’s website, you might not even be able to tell that it was written by a Christian journalist. The author gives the movie an overall good review, as well.

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Variety: “Film Review: Jack the Giant Slayer” by Justin Chang

This article was published on the website of the secular magazine Variety on February 26, 2013, and was written by senior film critic Justin Chang. Since he is a “senior film critic”, he has probably seen most of the movies to come out in the recent past, so he can probably tell the difference between a good movie and a flop more easily than the independent writers for World magazine. He calls this movie “rushed and unattractively animated”, and for the reasons previously stated we can probably take his word for it. This article also has more of a summary of the movie than the previous one, but it’s also a bit more harsh. He also goes so far as to call the film “pretty dumb”, though he seems to like the jobs that the actors did.

The overall tone of this piece is pretty snide and almost a little unforgiving at times. Perhaps writing for this more secular magazine gave the author more courage to be a bit more blunt and honest, while the columnist writing for World would probably not be so harsh.

Bias Analysis: World Magazine article vs. Sojo blog post

World Magazine: “Control Politicians, Not Guns” by Cal Thomas

This article was published on the website of the Christian magazine World on January 15, 2013, and was written by Cal Thomas. However, of you jump ahead to the very end of the article, it says that it was originally published by the Chicago Tribune Media Services. And as you read through this article, there is no mention of Christianity at all (besides the comment about Joe Biden being a Catholic). This could mean that this article was full of enough Conservative viewpoints and opinions that this Christian magazine thought it would fit in with the rest of the content on their site.

The fact that Thomas is a Conservative is evident in some of the sources he references and the phrases he uses. For instance, in the third paragraph, he quotes Rush Limbaugh, a staunchly Republican radio personality. Near the end, he quotes the Russian communist magazine Pravda, saying it “makes sense” in this situation. Also, he places certain things in quotation marks as if to discredit or mock them – like in the fifth paragraph when he says, “Biden calls his gun control effort a ‘moral issue’.” He proposes that Biden “suffers” from “selective morality” and almost insults the Vice President when he says that his views on abortion go against the views of his Catholic faith. Thomas refers to supporters of President Obama and VP Biden not as Democrats, but as “Radicals”, which in some circles has a very negative connotation.

Overall, the tone of this article is very snide and demeaning to those who oppose the views expressed in it. It is not a persuasive piece, nor is it trying to suggest a change of mind – it is simply stating why those who want more strict gun control are idiots and shouldn’t be listened to. You almost feel like you’ve been slapped in the face when you’ve finished reading. Thomas made this a strictly Conservative opinion piece and nothing more; whether or not he meant to do this is a mystery.

Sojo Blog post: “Guns…According to Jesus” by Kristen Marble

This article was written by Kristen Marble and published on the Sojourner magazine’s website, a Christian blog/news site with many different contributing writers and editors. This article, as opposed to the previous one, makes references to Jesus and Christianity as a whole in almost every paragraph, and quotes scripture on a few different occasions. This would lead people to believe at first that there would be an extremely Conservative bias in this piece, but as you read on your mind is changed.

The tone of this article is calm and mildly persuasive, using words like “perhaps” and asking rhetorical questions to make the reader think about things that perhaps they hadn’t thought about before. Marble points out the opposing views and takes them into account rather than completely ignoring them, as Cal Thomas did in the previous article. Marble admits that perhaps what she is suggesting – that we look to Jesus and the Bible for answers on what to do about gun control and other freedoms – may not even do anything, but she puts it out there anyway. I think there is definitely some Conservative bias here, and definitely some Christian bias as well, but I’m getting more of a Moderate-Conservative vibe from the writing, really.

The overall tone of this piece is not harsh and degrading like the previous one, but rather calm and gently persuasive. Marble makes good points – “True Christian freedom isn’t about doing whatever we want” – and addresses the opposing viewpoint on this issue rather than ignoring it. You feel after reading this that you haven’t been slapped in the face, but have rather been handed a Bible and kindly asked to read through it. Much better writing, in my opinion, than the last article.

Person I would listen to: Marble.

Person I think should also listen to Marble: Thomas.

Person I think needs to re-evaluate their “persuasive” writing: Thomas.

Analysis: “Should illegal immigrants become citizens? Let’s ask the founding fathers” by Elizabeth Cohen

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This article is an opinion editorial published in the Washington Post, written by an associate professor at Syracuse University Maxwell’s School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The fact that the author works at this particular school could give her some bias as to whether or not she believes illegal immigrants should become citizens. This article is basically a history lesson describing the founding fathers’ views on immigration and things like that, and the author states that she thinks their “clear answer” is the right one: Anyone who stays in this country long enough and serves to help make this country better through work/service/etc., deserves citizenship. Personally, I agree with this.

Most of this article was historical facts and analysis of these facts, but there was definitely some opinion integrated throughout it. The author uses words like “unfair” and phrases like “We can learn from [our founding fathers]“. This is one key trait of opinion editorials, as is the fact that – instead of a lead – the author begins this article with a question: “Who deserves to be a US citizen?” This is a much more informal way to begin a journalistic piece of writing.

There is some clear bias in that this article is located in the “Left-Leaning” section of the op-eds, so that means the author is probably a Democrat – this also shows through in her saying that she agrees with the more “open-door” policy that the founding fathers had regarding immigration.

Paragraph Analysis:

The fourth paragraph on the second page of the article is much shorter than some of the other paragraphs, being only three sentences long. There isn’t much opinion in this paragraph, but there is the fact that the author considers the delay in giving immigrants citizenship “shameful”, as it was in the Colonial era. This paragraph pretty much summarizes the article’s main idea, and it does it rather effectively with relatively short sentences and powerful word choices like “shame”.

SOURCE ARTICLE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/should-illegal-immigrants-become-citizens-lets-ask-the-founding-fathers/2013/02/01/ec3cca66-6bba-11e2-bd36-c0fe61a205f6_story_1.html

Analysis: “Liability, Guns, and the Law” by Adam Schiff

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This piece is an opinion editorial from the LA Times website entitled “Liability, Guns, and the Law” and it is written by former federal prosecutor Adam Schiff. This article basically tells the story of police officer Matthew Pavelka’s murder by a gang member who acquired a gun from a street “dealer” of weapons, and he goes on to say how this kind of thing should never be allowed to happen. “No industry deserves the right to act with reckless disregard for the public safety”, he says in conclusion, and he’s absolutely right.

Most of this article was facts about the lawsuit Pavelka’s family carried out against the gun dealer that sold the gun to the murderer without checking his background first. However, he manages to sprinkle his opinion throughout the storytelling and more so towards the end, using phrases like “We need” etc. This is an attribute of an opinion editorial, as is the fact that the article doesn’t really start with a real lead, but it catches the reader’s attention nonetheless.

Some bias I see is the fact that the author is a Democrat and a former federal prosecutor, so that would influence him to maybe lean more towards gun control and away from freedom for the gun industry.

Paragraph Analysis:

The tenth paragraph consists of two sentences, one shorter and one long. It uses language that is usually integrated in op-eds, like “We need” etc. The author also mentions the fact that he passed legislation that helps gun victims, which also serves to show his bias and the steps he’s taking to assure people that his opinion is the right one.

SOURCE ARTICLE: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schiff-nra-liability-shield-20130205,0,7455985.story

Analysis: “I Yam what I Yam – but is it Art?” by Crispin Sartwell

This opinion editorial was published on the Los Angeles Times website today (february 12th) by Crispin Sartwell. The main idea of this piece is that people are becoming less and less able to think for themselves in today’s world, thanks to media and popular culture, and it uses a statue of Popeye that was purchased for $4 million at an art fair as an example – some people may not see this as a work of art because it doesn’t conform to their particular views of art, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t art at all. A majority of this article was opinion, with a few facts sprinkled in, much like the other editorials I have read through lately.

The tone of this piece is clearly subjective and informal, using phrases like “Alan Ginsberg sucks” and “There, I said it”. It refers to the reader as “you” repeatedly, giving it an almost conversational feel. This is one of the characteristics of editorials that I have seen lately. Some other characteristics I see in this piece are the lack of a definite lead, lots of opinion, and a clear bias – this man is a professor of psychology and aesthetics, so he would know more than a typical person about the effect that culture and media have on the way people think and view things.

Paragraph Analysis:

The eighth paragraph has only three short sentences and contains many of the traits of an editorial in itself. It expresses the author’s view on someone – he “sucks” – and it addresses the audience  – “Stop pretending to like Picasso.” The second sentence begins with the conjunction “and”, which is quite informal and probably wouldn’t happen in a formal reporting piece.

SOURCE ARTICLE: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-sartwell-price-of-art-20130212,0,2523689.story