Posted by: Lauren Mastro | December 9, 2010

The end of the year is finally here

Actually, this semester went by astonishingly fast. And yet, so much transpired over the course of only 4 months. I embarked on the stressful process of applying to graduate programs, I wrote and edited for the “Creightonian,” I finally completed my monstrosity of a research project for political science and I bought a fish (who is still alive and happily swimming in his bowl).

Above all, my life has started to take on a direction. Over the summer, when asked what my plans were for after graduation, I would just toss my hands up in the air and look to the sky while exclaiming,”Well, I’m just going to apply everywhere and keep all of my options open and see what pans out.” Well,  still have applied everywhere and I still want to keep all of my options open, but I have realized how much I enjoy writing and delving into the ideas and perceptions of others. Journalism is really a fascinating art, and in very few other fields can one learn about such a wide range of topics in such an in-depth way. Through my feature writing class, I have learned the many styles and techniques to gain insight into the lives of others, as well as the most effective approaches to sharing those insights with others. Journalism is a discovery process that requires several steps, with each step having the potential to take the writer in a completely new direction. Preconceived notions are defied, expectations are shifted and, at times, the world seems to be tilted on its head. That’s the pure ingenious, and beauty, of journalism.

Of course, there are certain ethical standards and contextual structure that journalists must adhere to, but the profession itself leaves much room for creativity and interpretation. When I am investigating a story and reporting, I do not feel confined to a rigid box. I can weave my own style and voice into a story, while simultaneously telling the story of someone else. As I’m writing this right now, I am smiling to myself because the idea of having my own personal “watermark” subtly integrated into each of my stories is just so neat, and makes me feel as though I am leaving a piece of myself for others to see.

As I spread my wings and venture out into the real world (man, does that sound cheesy or what?), I realize I want to stay connected to journalism in some way. I love the freedom to explore all angles of a story and the creativity involved in actually composing that story. Most of all, I love that discovery process of journalism, which, although immensely unpredictable, is thrilling and, in the end, rewarding. I love being a part of something bigger than myself–of capturing glimpses into the larger world in which I live.

I can’t predict where I will end up five, ten or 20 years down the road. But, then again, journalism is unpredictable.

My little pal, Dutch. His four-month birthday is one of many milestones I celebrated during this semester.

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Posted by: Lauren Mastro | December 9, 2010

Reading, writing and arithmetic?

Perhaps 5 days of school a week is not enough. Perhaps 3 months of summer vacation is too long. And perhaps our expectations for the education system are too low.

A recent study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicated that many Western countries were beginning to fall behind the education race. The Program for International Assessment, or PISA, identified countries like China, Singapore and South Korea as containing the strongest education systems based on the criteria used. The countries were graded on a scale based on the average of their students’ academic performances.

Compared with results from previous years, the gap seems to be widening between the Far East and the West, particularly in math. Great Britain has fallen a couple of spots in the rankings, while Germany actually rose a couple of spots.  The United States came in at number 17, behind other Western countries like Finland, Australia and Canada.

Some experts attribute this growing education gap to the increase in social media usage among youngsters. Children are receiving cell phones with texting plans at younger ages, and many have even entered the world of Facebook by the age of ten. Some experts argue this preoccupation with communicating in “nontraditional” ways has diverted students’ attention away from studying, and does not encourage expression in an academic context.

Personally, I do not believe that the elimination of social media is the cure-all for this growing void in the education system. If anything, social media should serve as yet another avenue for people to communicate and express themselves. Yes, the language used by teens while texting is very informal, but it is not the reason to blame for weak academic performance in the classroom. Just as Americans are expected to be responsible consumers of the news, they should also be expected to be responsible producers of news. With the growth of social media, just about anyone is now capable of reporting and providing news to others. If someone chooses to blog about his or her favorite brand of cereal, that may not be so beneficial to others. But, if he or she chooses to blog about interesting life experiences or share reflective insight, then such material is valuable to others. We can’t just eliminate something because there are weaknesses associated with it; if we did so, we would be curtailing a lot of the institutions and technology that have allowed us to progress as far as we have.

I do believe, however, that we do need to be more responsible with how we use social media, and younger generations need to be educated on the benefits of using social media to connect with others. Social media can be a very powerful tool that can supplement traditional education by exposing younger generations to the ideas, cultures and insights of others throughout the world.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | December 5, 2010

Places I would like to visit before I die (or go broke)

I have been feeling a little nostalgic lately. It is going on two years now since I last visited Europe, and I am feeling this overwhelming urge to go back. And then I realized, there are so many more unique places in the world that I have yet to explore. Some I have read about in books, others I have drooled over in glossy magazines, and still others I have never even heard of. So, I have decided to create a kind of “bucket list” of places I would like to visit before my time is up.

1. Montenegro– my great-grandmother came over to Ellis Island when she was only 16 years old, and I was always captivated of her stories from her homeland. Of course, things were not all that rosy when she left during World War I, and she experienced more of the cruelties of war and poverty than most will experience in their lives.Nonetheless, she was proud of her culture and took every opportunity to share those Montenegrin traditions with me. In a way, a trip to Montenegro would be a tribute to her, since she was always reluctant to ever return given the situation she left in, but she always wanted me to understand the real beauty of the culture.

2. Austria– The Sound of Music. That pretty much sums it up for me. Yes, the country is gorgeous and full of rich

history, but, in all honesty, that movie will forever remain my all-time favorite and is the reason for my desire to visit such a remarkable country. I want to feel the hills come alive for myself.

3. Northern Africa– Well, specifically Casablanca. Yes, you guessed it: this travel plan was largely influenced by the movie of the same name. After studying Middle Eastern history, I have become intrigued in its role in the changing political landscape over the last several years. I also heard they make high-quality cotton.

4. Argentina– Buenos Aires symbolizes the modernization of many South American countries post-colonization. However, many indigenous people still reside in the foothills and are representative of the country’s mix of new and old. The country also offers opportunities for hiking, biking and exploring its diverse plant and animal species. Besides, it would give me a chance to shake some rust off the ol’ Spanish.

5. Tanzania– As much as I would love to conquer Mt. Kiliminjaro, I think it would probably just be best if

I admired its majestic peak from afar. Its unique demographics would also make for interesting interaction with the local people. The country is host to many different religions, ethnicities and tribal groups. It is also the site of Jane Goodall’s observations of chimpanzees, since it is home to many wildlife refuges.

6. Thailand– This Asian country, which is the only southeast Asian country to never succumb to colonization, has very ornate architecture and an equally ornate history. Monarchs and royalty play a major role in Thai culture, and you can see their influence all over Bangkok. Besides, I heard street vendors sell pretty interesting snacks…caterpillar a la crunch anyway?

7. New Zealand– If ever you wanted to travel back to the 1300s and see what places like Australia were like before

all the surfing and tanned bodies, New Zealand would be your best bet. The country is home to the Maori peoples, who migrated from East Polynesia and share a culture with natives in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. After experiencing a period of demise during the 1800s, they began a period of revitalization in the 1960s and have since gained national recognition and political rights. The Maori youth have embraced modernization, including African hip-hop and rugby, while still celebrating Maori traditional dances and arts.

Well, this is definitely not a complete list, but these are the places that spring to mind when I consider my next international excursion. For now, I will continue to longingly glance through travel guides and blogs, hoping one day I will be able to experience these places for myself.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | December 1, 2010

Never leaving a Marine behind

Jim Sheeler’s somber piece “Final Salute” details one of the most difficult, yet least recognized, positions in the Marines: a casualty assistance officer. Sheeler focuses on one officer in particular, Maj. Steve Beck, as he guides families through the process of grieving and funeral arrangements after losing a loved one in battle.

When I think of a Marines soldier, I picture a stoic, almost robotic individual that has learned to block out all sense of emotion. Sheeler’s piece peeled away the years of rigorous military training and revealed the underlying human emotion that still resides within the soldiers. In fact, Beck’s duty to assist grieving families requires more from him emotionally than is required of most humans. He not only bears the pain of losing a fellow Marine each time he accompanies one home, but he also bears the pain of the Marine’s family.

Remaining externally strong for the families takes its toll, as Sheeler reveals that Beck often cries in the dark and stands on porches staring at front doors prior to notification. The tradition of never leaving a Marine behind is so thoroughly engrained within Beck that he internalizes each death as if it was one of his own loved ones. Sheeler describes how, each time Beck turns on the news, he is saddened by the tragedy of another lost Marine. The Marine is not just another statistic to be added to the long log of Iraqi war battle deaths; it is a dark void in the lives of a hundred people who will be forever changed.

Sheeler’s story structure walks readers through the process of notification and burial, but the testimonies of those involved in the process, from family members to fellow Marines, add a depth of humanity to it. Sheeler opens the piece with a scene in which a pregnant widow is accompanied to meet her husband’s body on the airport tarmac. The anecdote is interrupted by a description of a casualty assistance officer’s duties. The duties are very formal and precise, resembling other duties held by Marines officers.

Sheeler’s addition of Beck’s childhood demonstrates those extra qualities demanded by a casualty assistance officer- namely the ability to bear other people’s pain. Beck is no stranger to tragedy and providing comfort to those in need, which Sheeler suggests is the reason why he is so good at what he does. These families require continuous, genuine support, and Beck is one of the rare officers capable of providing of such support.

This story was extremely difficult for me to read since I have a lot of respect for our men and women overseas and I have family members that have served as well. I could never imagine the amount of courage and strength necessary to shoulder the pain of losing a Marine time after time. On top of dealing with his own loss, Beck is also a pillar of strength for families grieving losses as well. Often, the families’ initial reactions to his arrival are heart-wrenching, and I personally could not muster enough strength to witness such reactions time and time again. I commend the men and women who serve in the battlefield, but I have a new-found respect for the men and women that must accompany them home.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | November 22, 2010

A Tribute to Christiane Amanpour

This was bound to become a topic of one of my blog posts eventually. I probably would not have the aspirations I have, or be involved in the things I am involved in, if it was not for this remarkable woman. Her conviction in reporting, fearlessness in delving into stories and genuine concern for the people she reports on make her one of the greatest international journalists of all time. With her recent induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I felt it would only be appropriate to share how her successes have inspired me to pursue journalism.

I first started watching Amanpour in high school when she was still an international correspondent for CNN. There was something so captivating about her presence on camera, and she was always so well-versed on the issues she reported on. She has covered several hot-button regions, including the Middle East and Africa, and I always admired her ability to evoke honest responses from the world’s most important, and even notorious, leaders. I have learned more from watching her reports on Middle Eastern affairs than I have in course-issued textbooks, mainly because she focuses on more than just political technicalities; she focuses on their impact on civilization as well.

Growing up in Tehran and spending time abroad in other countries, Amanpour has seen a lot of the world and different cultures. There is one documentary in particular that I have probably watched close to 6 or 7 times about her return to Iran. She visits with old friends and family, and also speaks with political leaders about the current political situation. Her conversations with some very traditionalist Islamic clergy reveal the unfortunate reality that women’s rights are not a top priority for the current regime. Amanpour also visits her old home and neighborhood, which reflect the economic decay and backwards culture that has been imposed since the Iranian Revolution. It is evident Amanpour feels a sense of nostalgia for the Iran she once knew and loved, and her documentary illustrates the need for reform.

I do not have the same global background as Amanpour but, if someone told me I could have any career in the world, I would pick Amanpour’s career. Part of her job description is to interact with people from all corners of the world, and share their experiences on air. She has met everyone from British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat. She has covered every major event from the Gulf War to Hurricane Katrina. She doesn’t just report on the people and events; she lives through these moments and takes viewers with her. Just turn on one of Amanpour’s documentaries or broadcasts, and I can guarantee you won’t be able to turn away.

As I set out now to accomplish my own professional goals, I can only hope to find the same amount of reward and honor in what I do. Amanpour has not only received several major broadcast awards and academic accolades, but she has found passion and intrigue in everything she does as well. That, for me, would be the best career of all: one that carries both personal fulfillment and a greater benefit to society.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | November 10, 2010

The day Joshua Bell played and no one listened

When I was in high school, my AP Lit teacher had a giant poster of the world-famous violinist Joshua Bell plastered on one wall of her classroom. All of the orchestra kids knew who he was and admired his extraordinary talent. I had even heard some of his renditions of familiar classical pieces, and I was moved by the smooth elegance of his strings.

In short, Joshua Bell is a big deal, both in the music world and in the world in general. Which is why I was so surprised that so few people stopped to listen to him play during the Washington Post experiment described in “Pearls Before Breakfast.” Bell was positioned on a busy metro platform, exposed to thousands of passers-by during the morning rush. And he came away with only a handful of looks and barely enough grocery money.

The author, Gene Wiengarten, did a fantastic job of painting the platform scene. He noted the plain attire Bell sported, as well as the premise of the experiment itself. Wiengarten also supplied part of the dialogue he had with the music director, which is a common technique Wiengarten uses throughout the piece. The conversations break up the descriptions nicely, and add more personality to the piece.

Wiengarten provides some background on Bell for those not as familiar with his accomplishments. He talks about how Bell was drawn to music at a young age, and the monumental impact his playing has had on audiences. Readers can picture the handsome, boyish Bell casually sipping a cup of coffee as he ponders his next big performance, which readers still secretly hope will be a success.

The scene on the L’Enfant Plaza is anything but complementary with a “standard” Bell performance. A shoe shine chair and magazine stand, which displayed less-than-classy titles, were to be Bell’s main backdrop. Wiengarten even notes the irony of the lotto ticket purchasers, who were about to get more than they could have ever bargained for–and they didn’t even know it.

And yet, amidst all of the chaos, ignorance and even annoyance, Bell played beautiful movements in much the same way he does during performances in symphony halls. Bell was taken out of that grand element and transplanted into everyday American life which, apparently, is too hectic to notice such beauty. I am not saying that I would necessarily recognize Bell, but I would at least recognize his masterful playing. I was so surprised that, given Bell’s noticeably intimate connection with his music during performances, more people did not at least stop to listen for a while.

What I found most interesting was that the Brazilian woman who shined shoes gave notice to Bell. She said that in her country people would have stopped to listen to the musician because such an activity is embedded into their culture. So, perhaps this experiment is a demonstration of the lack of an appreciation of culture and the “simpler” things in life in America. It isn’t about the fact that Bell was the musician; it’s about the fact that a person was providing a complimentary cultural experience and very few people actually stopped to listen, let alone speak to him. Some people were skeptical of whether he was just doing this to make money, others felt badly about not giving him money and still others were just too busy.

As Wiengarten points out by citing observations made by historical figures like de Tocqueville and Kant, Americans are so driven in life and so committed to improving their own lives financially, that they neglect to improve their lives culturally. A sense of culture provides freedom from the stresses of work and family obligations, and makes people realize there is more to the richness of life than just surviving each day. A well-rounded life is so much more fulfilling than a one-dimensional one, and I think that our values as a society do not emphasize this enough. I know I am guilty of “putting the blinders on” and forgetting to appreciate some of the simpler, although equally as rewarding, pleasures in life. I think this is something we can all work on, and I firmly believe we will all be happier and more productive in the end.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | November 7, 2010

Electing for change…and not receiving it

The election craze is now over. We know the results, we know what this means for the balance of power in Washington and we know that the candidates elected will be taking their offices come January. Most importantly, we know that we the people chose those candidates to represent us.

Myanmar also recently held elections, but its polling places were practically empty and civilians did not feel that urge to vote. Thirty-seven parties ran on the ballot, and civilians had the opportunity to elect a 665-member, two-chamber national Parliament and 14 regional parliaments. But there was a rather big catch: 25 percent of the seats were reserved for the military, and several more military officers decided to run as civilians.

In addition, the military did everything it could to prevent victory from any parties that didn’t tow its line. They set high fees for candidates, restricted campaigns and even censored television political ads. Each candidate was given a pre-taped 15-minute spot on national television, but the spots were anything but original. The unwelcoming, militaristic style of the ads provided no spirit of optimism, let alone any promise of refuge from the military repression that has ruled the state since a 1962 military coup. A faint glimmer of hope reached the country during the last elections in 1990, when pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi garnered the most votes. Military generals then overturned the decision and the state remained in the hands of the junta.

All of this vote-rigging and intimidation in Myanmar has left many civilians discouraged and even fearful. Some brave ones cast ballots for non-military affiliates, while others just didn’t vote at all in protest of the futile exercise. It seems the country is headed into yet another suffocating period of military reign.

The Myanmwar people’s trust in the media has hit rock-bottom. Unlike in America, the media does not serve as a platform, and at times final resort, for freedom of expression. As much as we hate the candidate bashing and mudslinging in elections, at least it is allowed to exist. Freedom of expression carries with it both positive and negative consequences, but at least it is not subject to censorship by a military dictatorship. Civilians in the United States know who the candidates are, and are also instantly informed of voter intimidation or election controversy the second they arise, and are more than willing to openly express the need for action.

Unfortunately, Myanmar is not the only country suffering from such repression of basic civil liberties. Civilians in North Korea and Nigeria, just to name a few, struggle with similar hardships every year. For them, elections are nothing more than a military ploy to reaffirm unpopular rule.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | November 1, 2010

Not another political ad…

With the midterm elections drawing near, more and more voters are becoming annoyed with the unrelenting flow of political propaganda that has dominated the air space. The pointing of fingers, misrepresentation of quotes and pull-at-your-heart-strings anecdotes have all been jumbled into one hot one mess, with the candidates’ “creative” campaigns all swirling together instead of setting themselves apart.

So, who do you choose if everyone is saying the same thing: “I have the most effective solutions to our issues and care about the people, but my opponent will only seek to marginalize certain groups and benefit personally from office. Oh, and there was that ethics violation they committed too…”

It’s the same song and dance every election year.  This is American politics; this is that whole freedom of speech thing in practice.  No matter how frustrated we get with these countless ads, they will never go away.

Now, there are some disgruntled voters who will say, “Well, I hate all of the candidates because they all give the same shpeel and they have yet to tell me their platforms.  In protest of this ugly tradition of mudslinging, I refuse to vote.”

Not voting, though, is probably one of the worst things you can do if you are unhappy with the American election culture.  It reminds me of the phrase,”Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”  Candidates for years have used these same techniques, and voters have responded in much the same way you and I do: with frustration and possibly a few angry outbursts at the TV screen.

We all have another option when it comes to understanding the candidates and, believe it or not, it does not involve actually listening to the candidates themselves at all.  Ignore those pesky ads (I know they’re all over but learn to tune them out) and start doing some digging on your own.  If they are incumbents or have served before, look into their past voting records in the House or Senate on pieces of legislation.  If they are attorneys (as most of them are), look into the type of clients and positions they have pursued in previous cases.  Look at their community involvement, family background and organizations they are affiliated with, both political and nonpolitical.  Trust me, as an intern who used to have to look all this stuff up, it’s out there (Try reading through 100 pages of financial disclosure records).  Sometimes it just takes a “Google” search, other times it requires the use of certain databases.

I know this all seems like a pain and something the candidates should be doing for the public, but they’re not.  To be an educated, informed voter, you need to do some leg work yourself, and not only rely on the candidates.  Yes, they should focus on the issues as opposed to their opponents’ personal history, but what can you expect so close to election time?  The stakes are high, the pressure is on and it is no secret that this election is bound to be a historic one.  The candidates are reacting as any one else would in such a situation: they are attempting to protect their dignity while eroding that of their opponents.  Politics is one cutthroat world, but you do not need to sacrifice your vote simply because you do not “like” the campaign ads, or the candidates are not “telling you anything.”  Their previous actions will tell you a lot more than they will ever tell you, and the stuff you dig up is probably the most telling stuff anyways.

So, do yourself a favor and exercise a right on November 2nd that is not afforded to many citizens in other countries. And do yourself a bigger favor by adequately preparing yourself for it.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | October 27, 2010

Weasels and Monkeys and Shrubs…Oh My

We see their ads every hour on the local TV stations. We watch them go toe-to-toe in debates that air on CSPAN. We may even have bumper stickers plastered on the backs of our cars. Looks like it’s election season again.

In recent years, however, voters have become more frustrated with politicians, denouncing them as artificial mouthpieces that will say and do anything just to get a vote. In “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub,” David Foster Wallace gives us a backstage pass into the exclusive world of the demanding, and often entertaining, political campaign trail.

Wallace engages the reader by relating the article to its target audience: young voters. He questions their interest in politics, and their faith in the political system as a whole. Wallace believes that many young voters are disillusioned by the seemingly empty promises and selfish motives of politicians these days.

He then attempts to turn this idea on its head by using a John McCain anecdote that demonstrates McCain as an exception to this generalization. McCain’s Vietnam War days were anything but rosy, but they suggest McCain may be a rare breed of politician that is, in fact, unselfish and willing to make sacrifices for his country. The author, who admits this anecdote has been told several times over in the media, challenges the reader to reflect and even internalize all of the hardships McCain endured during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Wallace then goes into the heart of the feature, in which he provides a detailed description of his surroundings and the behavior of fellow reporters and campaign staffers. The humor is subtle, yet it is brilliantly woven into the description and keeps readers engaged throughout the entire story. Just reading about the way things look can be dull, but Wallace is an expert at painting a picture for audiences. I could literally visualize the dangerous lavatory door swinging open on a newbie, while a bunch of sleep-deprived men, surrounded by boxes of stale doughnuts, erupted in laughter.

Wallace uses political shorthand to describe the reporters’ routine on the campaign trail. For example, “baggage call” is the term coined to describe “the grotesquely early A.M. time when you’ve got to have your suitcase back in the bus’s bowels and have a seat staked out and be ready to go or else you get left behind and have to try to wheedle a ride to the first THM (see THM) from Fox News, which is a drag in all kinds of ways.” There is also the “file and feed” mentality, which pretty much sums up every reporter’s mission on the trail. These terms, along with the use of military time, indicate just how robotic and grueling life on the campaign trail is. As evidenced by the lavatory door situation, however, many of the reporters find humor and camaraderie within their arduous schedules.

 

 

Wallace’s description of Senator McCain himself also paints a very lively picture of the campaign trail culture. He even describes the way in which McCain stretches out his legs in the bus aisle and twirls his coffee. He describes the politician as being somewhat playful and very personable, two qualities that are not usually associated with politicians. In fact, Wallace depicts McCain as HUMAN, which is not a label most people attach to politicians. Most people feel out of touch with politicians for the reason that politicians portray themselves as superior and capable of effortlessly solving the country’s problems if elected. Voters, Wallace implies, do not need to hear the same monotonous speech for the umpteenth time; they need to see a politician who is willing to relate to them on a human level.

As part of my internship with a political organization this past summer, I met several state and national politicians. I can attest to the fact that meeting them in person, and actually being able to interact with them, is a completely different experience than watching them on television or reading about them in the paper. The circumstances under which I met with these politicians was still professional, but the environment was less rigid and I felt like they were more loose and open in their demeanors. Politicians have to be extremely careful in the way in which they phrase comments and conduct themselves in front of the camera, since every little word has the possibility of being misconstrued or distorted. I feel this confinement erodes some of the politicians’ personalities, and makes them appear less human to voters. If politicians felt freer to expose more of their backgrounds and experiences that have shaped their desires to run for office, then voters may view them in a different light and realize that, beneath all of that hyped-up charm and cheesy smiles, lies a human motivation for their decision to run.

Posted by: Lauren Mastro | October 25, 2010

The Psychology of Social Epidemics

Free-read books are like a breath of fresh air from the more complex academic texts I am accustomed to during the school year.  Taking advantage of a slight lull in my course load (or perhaps just looking for an excuse to pick up such a book), I stopped by the local bookstore and roamed the aisles searching for that special book.  I finally settled on a Malcolm Gladwell best-seller called “The Tipping Point,” which provides psychological insight into social epidemics.  Its central premise is that all social epidemics, whether a fashion statement or the flu, occur when they reach a certain tipping point.  It supports the idea that little actions or a few people can have a tremendous influence in society, and even alter the status quo.

The author discusses 3 concepts that drive this theory: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context. The Law of the Few relates to the people (connectors, mavens and salesmen) that circulate, create and push ideas in society. A majority of trends are initiated by a very small portion of the population, illustrating just how powerful relationships can be. The Stickiness Factor relates to an idea’s ability to “catch on” and spread throughout a population. Sometimes, these ideas may not necessarily be inherently creative, but they are creative in the way in which they capture society’s attention. The Power of Context relates to the environment in which ideas are propositioned. It emphasizes that humans are a function of their external, as opposed to internal, conditions.

Photo courtesy of gladwell.com

As intricate as these concepts may seem, I knew to expect simplicity in his writing after reading another one of his best-sellers “Blink.”  I think that this is probably what makes his work so popular with readers.  I enjoy a mushy romance novel as much as the next person,  but I derive a certain satisfaction from reading books that reveal something I see everyday in the world.  Often, like with the examples used in “The Tipping Point,” I don’t even think about the ramifications of a certain phenomenon until someone points them out.  We live in a world of endless possibilities and social interactions and, at any point in time, the right combination of people, ideas and context could push through a social revolution.

Gladwell’s book has transformed the way I view the world and all the operations that occur within it. Sometimes, the most obvious solution is not the most effective answer to a problem. Experimentation and a little bit of digging can present alternatives that we may never have otherwise discovered. Finally, human beings are extremely sensitive to other human beings and their surroundings, so we have more power over our environments and others than we may think. If we can understand and properly harness this power, then the solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems may not be all that distant.

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