The Beginner’s Guide to True Crime Podcasts

True crime is everywhere. It seems as if ever since the hit podcast Serial and Netflix series Making a Murderer, people have been fascinated with the nonfiction genre. True crime, in essence, studies real life crime, mostly in the form of murder. Though gruesome at times, it can be highly addicting, with consumers asking questions, wondering how someone could commit murder and, above all, why someone would do such a thing.

For those looking for the next Serial, it can be overwhelming with the high amount of true crime podcasts available today. So, here are some podcast recommendations for all of the truce crime fans out there.

With the topic of true crime, it should be mentioned that there is content in each of these podcasts that might be a trigger for some individuals. In many of the podcasts listed, there can be instances that might be too graphic and, just plainly, hard to listen to. Due to this, be extremely cautious around the subject and take care in choosing what you choose to hear.

My Favorite Murder // Weekly Minisodes on Mondays and Full Episodes on Thursdays // 131 Episodes // 30-40 minute Minisodes and 60-120 minute Full Episodes // Website

Taking a more relaxed approach to true crime, the comedy podcast, “My Favorite Murder,” is a great starting point for those who are just beginning to listen to true crime, as they don’t necessarily go too deep into the facts. Though it might be bothersome to those who would rather go in-depth into a story, the hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are charming and, just plainly, hilarious, making the podcast definitely worth the listen. Coming out with episodes every Tuesday and Thursday, Kilgariff and Hardstark tell stories about murders, both cold cases and solved cases alike, and produce a commentary on the case at hand. Not only that, but they also discuss their personal lives and share their love for the subject by recommending other true crime media, wanting to be interactive with the mass audience around the world. In fact, every other episode is a minisode, where they read emails from fans about their hometown murders. The community around the podcast as a whole is truly great and interacting with fellow “murderinos,” as fans are called, makes the entire experience worth the listen.

Where to Start: Episode 10 – “Murderous TENdencies,” Episode 23 – “Making a Twenty-Thirderer”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts 

Dirty John – Completed Mini-Series // 6 Episodes // 40-56 minutes // Website

This podcast just ended its six-week run but binging it is more than worth it. In collaboration with the LA Times, Dirty John tells the story of a woman who starts to date a mysterious man from a dating site. Though he appears to be the man of her dreams, her children are suspicious and immediately worried for their mother’s well being. What unfolds is a crazy, unpredictable true story that can be classified as an online dating horror story. In an attempt to not include spoilers, that’s all that can be said, but the series is, arguably, one of the best of the year with it captivating story-telling and, ultimately, unbelievable series of events.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, LA Times, Wondery

Sword and Scale – Biweekly on Mondays // 101 Episodes // 60-75 minutes // Website

With its declaration at the beginning of each episode, “A show that reveals that the worst monsters are real,” Sword and Scale takes things to the next level by producing haunting true crime events that can shake anyone to the core. While each episode varies in content, one thing is certain: there are truly terrifying people in this world. With many instances of extremely serious subject matter, it can truly be a hard podcast to listen to; however, what makes Sword and Scale stand out is that it’s more than just a commentary-style podcast. It goes deep into the case of the episode by including evidence like 9-11 calls, interviews, press conferences and more, and the host Mike Boudet even sometimes holds his own personal interviews with those affected by the crime at hand. With each unique episode, you never know what you’re going to get, and you never know what kind of horrors are lurking through your everyday life.

Where to Start: Episodes 33 and 34

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Sword and Scale Website

Stranglers – Completed Mini-Series // 12 Episodes // 50 minutes // Website

As another completed mini-series, Stranglers follows the Boston Strangler. Though the case is 55 years old, the case has never been fully solved. This podcast attempts a new investigation into the mysterious circumstances of the crimes of the infamous serial killer. It’s extremely easy to get addicted to the podcast, with its professional and sleek production and its intriguing interviews. Instead of only focusing on the suspects and the case itself, Stranglers also goes into the journalists who broke the case and the victims themselves. The new take on the familiar format is refreshing, despite the case’s old age.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Earwolf, Google Play, Stitcher

Honorable Mention: Lore – Biweekly on Mondays // 71 Episodes // 30 minutes // Website

Though not necessarily a “true crime” podcast, Lore still produces the same kind of fascinating stories that any true crime lover can listen to. Every episode, host Aaron Mahnke spins a tale of folklore with subjects ranging from creepy creatures to haunted houses to suspiciously dark unsolved murders from places around North America and Europe, but primarily around the New England area. (Fun fact: Boston is a frequent location and the podcast even mentions Emerson in Episode 55.) Lore has received tremendous praise for its beautiful writing by Mahnke and the haunting score that plays in the background, creating a wonderfully mesmerizing podcast. In fact, Lore is so popular that the show has its own anthology series, which is now available on Amazon Prime. The production is incredible from episode one and, so far, Lore doesn’t cease to impress.

Where to Start: “Episode 8: The Castle,” “Episode 27: On the Farm”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Google PlayLore Website

With the amount of true crime entertainment, it may be worrisome that creators haven’t run out of content. Nevertheless, the fascination is still apparent and ever-present. Whether listening during a long commute or doing errands or getting ready for the day, the podcast medium can be a great way to soothe that addiction for the true crime lovers out there.

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Halloweekend 2017: Celebrating the Best of Horror

Let’s face it. Horror movies have a bad reputation. Recently, the genre has consisted of either a remake, a sequel, or, just plainly, an unoriginal, uninspired horror flick. In that way, it’s easy to forget how impactful horror films really were to the industry. Horror filmmakers weren’t afraid to break barriers and cause controversy. Because of these achievements, they have inspired countless horror films to this day, but, at times, it’s hard to find those original ideas.

So, this Halloween, celebrate the old and the new. This year, since Halloween is on a Tuesday, the “Halloweekend” is October 28-30. Each day represents a different horror subgenre and brings two films: the horror movies that have influenced many, and the newer horror comedies that prove that horror can still be original.

Friday, October 28 – Slasher Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The slasher film is probably what most people think of when a horror movie comes to mind. With so many out there, there are many patterns that far and few have been able to break. However, all of those – now redundant – patterns can be traced back to one film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Before even classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th, Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the film that shocked and scared audiences everywhere – and still to this day. Not only does the killer himself terrify, but also the ambiance of the film. The direction of each element made a perfect horror film and still holds validity today. Without this classic, the genre would be entirely different – maybe even unrecognizable. Until then, not many took the risk of adding the immense amount of gore and intensity that Texas Chain Saw Massacre possesses. It definitely didn’t hold back on its general grotesque nature. Its mark is definitely seen in a numerous amount of films, including the next pick: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. This movie, in a word, is absurd. There is no denying that this is a goofy, unpredictable, crazy film. Even the title is questionable. Nevertheless, the hilarity is undeniable. Each and every turn the movie takes is absolute insanity, but that’s what makes the film great. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a satire of the “cabin in the woods” slasher film but doesn’t rely on overused jokes that can be seen in any Scary Movie comedy. Though not the greatest in the world, it’s still a fun watch, especially after viewing a film so gory and menacing.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available on Amazon Prime and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is available on Hulu and Netflix.

Saturday, October 29 – Gothic Horror: Nosferatu (1922) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The next day centers around a creature that has been, perhaps, over-utilized over the past ten years: the vampire. Though the Twilight and True Blood series have made the monster into a love story, there was a time when people thought the creature was utterly horrifying – that time, of course, being in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Nosferatu is nothing short of a groundbreaking horror film in the silent era. Though it may not be everybody’s first choice for being on a horror movie list, the film still has its qualities that can get under a person’s skin. The film has inspired not only horror films but the film industry in general. Its ability to still be recognizable today, despite being made nearly 100 years ago, shows just how iconic the film really is. There are even elements of it in the other pick of the day: What We Do in the Shadows. Not only is it hilarious, but it is, arguably, one of the most underrated horror comedy films in recent history. The New Zealand film is a mockumentary on three vampires and, though it’s set in the modern world, these vampires are still stuck in the past. While still being able to have its fair share of scares, What We Do in the Shadows uses its smart wit and charm to its advantage, creating a fantastic balance of horror and comedy that not many are able to achieve. These two vampire features break the mold of the now repetitive vampire film and instead allow more originality in the genre, both with a classic and a dark comedy from 2014.

Nosferatu and What We Do in the Shadows are both available on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, October 30 – Movie Monsters: Night of the Living Dead (1968) and An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Ending the weekend is a pair of cult classics that have made their marks in cinema history. Featuring iconic movie monsters, they both changed the genre and the icon of their respective creatures for years to come. To start, Night of the Living Dead revolutionized the horror genre with its gory spectacle and grisly depictions of the zombie. Similar to what Texas Chain Saw Massacre did to slasher films, Night of Living Dead not only rejuvenated and recreated the zombie creature but also made its mark on horror film history by influencing many horror films known and loved today. Though an independent film, it was able to reach to wider audiences and allowed a breakthrough for horror that continued for years to come. Director George A. Romero’s reimagination of the zombie is what the modern iteration is based on, proving his contribution to the creature as a whole. The second movie also benefited from the film in that filmmakers were no longer afraid to show the far darker and grislier side of horror. An American Werewolf in London epitomizes the horror comedy in that it perfectly blends the two completely different genres, but it is definitely creepier than what a conventional movie in the genre would look like. It’s dark and, at times, even a little uncomfortable to watch with its captivating creature designs. Being one of the few horror films to have won an Academy Award, this film is credited as being one of the biggest achievements in makeup in film. Headed by Rick Baker, it was the first film to receive the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar and was the makeup artist’s first of a record seven wins. The iconic transformation of the protagonist from man to werewolf is gruesome, yet utterly hypnotizing. It’s mind-boggling to think this was made 36 years ago with practical effects, making it, possibly, one of the best visual effects achievements of all time. The transformation scene alone makes it worth the watch, but the entire film deserves its spot because of its great impact on the horror comedy genre for years to come.

Night of the Living Dead is available on Amazon Prime and An American Werewolf in London is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Though horror does have a stigma for being cheesy or rudimentary, there are still gems that prove that the genre can produce legitimate films for critics and for audiences. There is no denying that horror films are still a staple of the film industry and should be celebrated as such. Yes, there are many bad horror flicks to choose from and, ultimately, laugh at, but, this Halloween, celebrate the ones that were able to change how people thought of the genre.

How to Escape Your Syllabus Prison

College. It’s supposed to be the time when you find yourself, when you make your lifelong friends, when you come to terms with the fact that you’re going to be in debt forever and you’d best get used to the taste of ramen noodles because that’s about as close to luxury as it’s going to get for the next couple of decades. Yes, college is all of these things, but college is also something else.

It’s a two-to-four year period when you have so much assigned reading that it feels like if one more word is transferred from the page to your brain you may explode. So how, pray tell, is reading anything not listed on a syllabus possible when every day is an increased risk to your body’s stability?

It requires sacrifice. But not soul-sacrifice, thankfully, because the ability to find time to read for pleasure would be a fairly mundane thing for which to sell your soul. Save that for the big leagues.

 

1. Prioritize Reading

Between homework, studying, essays, socializing, and some light witchcraft, free time can be tough to find for a college student. This is already horrible because free time is the best time, but it’s even worse because getting free time when you aren’t used to it is a weird amount of pressure. For me, it usually goes something like this:

I have some time! Sick. I’ll just check in on a few things on my laptop….Oh, three years have passed? I’m now legally missing? So much time has gone by that the motivation to search is fading in the hearts of those who love me? Right, of course.

To avoid this Rip van Winkle-esque experience, pick up a book immediately. Your phone can tear that book from your cold dead hands.

You may even have to pass on social plans in order to read, which is always weird. RSVPing “nah” in order to read is so profoundly dorky that the person you are politely rejecting may struggle to conceptualize just what this means. But the only way out is through, my friend, and if you just keep on being a full-on dweeb once in a while your loved ones will take the hint. And maybe even remain in your life if you’re lucky.

2. Carry a Book with You

There are approximately one million pockets of time during the typical class day during which you can read at least a couple paragraphs. Examples: arriving to class early, one of those weird breaks very kind professors occasionally grant midway through a class, when that one student who answers every question finally fulfills their dream of forcing two dozen sleepy young adults to listen to them for a few minutes. This can be prime reading time if you have a book, or an e-book app on your phone, if you happen to be a person who reads for the content and not for the experience of a physical book.

3. Traveling

One fact of life is that people go places. If you are ever going to a place and you are not controlling a vehicle or the movement of your own legs, this is a good time to read. If you live off campus and commute to class on a train or bus or whatever – boom, reading time! If you live far away and find yourself on a plane – that’s reading time, baby. Take advantage!

4. Keep a List and Read Good Stuff ONLY

This point really only needs to be the length of a link, and that link is goodreads.com. Learn it, live it, love it. Make a list of 500 books you’re excited to read and then realize you’ll never have time to read all of them.

5. Try Different Formats

Audiobooks are technically books, and you can do more activities while you read them. You can keep e-books on your phone or laptop or even an e-reader if you time traveled from 2007, and then they’re everywhere you are. Two win-win situations.

Really, finding time to read is a personal thing. This is my way of saying, “Do not blame me if this doesn’t work. You have to do this yourself, and also I just tricked you into reading this whole entire post only to find out that it may not help you at all.” But I hope it does. Happy reading!

How Musical Theatre Shaped Who I Am

I started theatre at the age of nine and continued with it until the age of 18. I always felt happiest up on stage in front of an audience. Theatre forced me to become comfortable in front of large amounts of people very early on which boosted my confidence more than I ever knew.

I never really had dreams of being on Broadway, my goal for each show was to do my personal best. I love going back and watching old DVD’s because my stage presence gets significantly better every show. Theatre is an amazing way to boost self confidence because the audience gives so much reassurance about what you are doing. It is not easy as a nine-year-old to remember choreography, song lyrics, and lines, but I have seen so many young kids perfect their performance in the end. It’s impossible to tell what you’re capable of before your first performance but once you leave it all on the stage you feel an instant wave of relief and accomplishment.

The Spring after my freshman year of high school I was nominated for EMACT’S (Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) Best Young Actress award which was a high point of my theatre career. It was for my role as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. The nomination came as quite a surprise to me and I felt elated to attend the award gala and see many other talented actors. 13-year-old Hannah did not exactly feel at place in a room surrounded by much older actors  who had been performing longer than I had been alive. Looking around me and realizing that I was being recognized side by side with so many other amazing people made me hold my head up a little higher and smile a little brighter. Although I did not win the award, being recognized for doing what you love is always an achievement in itself. The nomination showed me that what I was doing was meaningful not only to myself, but to others. I had always felt a little different being a theatre kid and never getting involved with sports so this source of validation made a big difference in my social development in high school.

Through the Easton Children’s Theatre I was able to perform for nine years as well as become an assistant director for about five years. I helped out with two musicals during the year and over the summer I was a counselor for a four week camp that resulted in a completed musical. This opportunity allowed me to choreograph many shows and help young actors between the ages of 9 and 15 sharpen their acting skills and gain confidence on stage. It is amazing how much a young actor can change between their audition and opening night. The amount of joy I feel watching a completed show has brought me to tears multiple times because I feel so much pride in the actors. I wouldn’t trade my theatre experience for anything in the world and I would do anything to relive every show I directed one more time.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I knew that my theatre career was coming to a close. My major was declared at Emerson and I wasn’t too sad about my final curtain call at my high school musical. Theatre was the right choice for me throughout high school and I did not regret any of the late night choreography sessions or stressful dress rehearsals. To all of the theatre kids out there, you are making the best decision by sticking with it and performing on a stage. You will carry the skills and confidence with you for the rest of your life and it will bring you many, many opportunities (theatre related or not) in the future.

Because of musical theatre, I am now able to speak in front of crowds, hold myself with poise, and watch young actors grow  with my guidance. When I start to reminisce on my theatre experience I miss it more and more. There is absolutely nothing else like live theatre which makes the feeling irreplaceable in my heart. I hope one day I will step foot on a stage because I really do still hear it calling my name.

Being a Non-Music-Major Pianist

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.

I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.

After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.

What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.

It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.

It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.

The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.

Taking Advantage of Boston’s Art Scene

Whether you are an art connoisseur or not, Boston’s art museums are a must see. Beautiful exhibitions are scattered all throughout the city and admission is free or discounted for all of them if you are an Emerson student! Here is a quick look at some of the great things these museums have to offer:

Museum of Fine Arts

Admission: Free with your Emerson ID

Must see: Egyptian Art Exhibit

One piece of advice: Plan to spend an entire day at the MFA…maybe even two. The MFA is the most classic museum experience on this list, showcasing a wide variety of artistic styles and classic paintings from different time periods. This museum offers art collections from all across the world to really put into perspective the vast array of artistic styles that exist. There are also photography exhibits, prints, drawings, musical instruments, and jewelry scattered throughout the museum.

It can be overwhelming how much content is inside the MFA, but each room deserves as much attention as the last.

Pottery at the MFA. Credit: Flickr.com

For all sports fans looking for something interesting…there is an exhibition all about David Ortiz that is open from now until September 4th. Tickets must be bought to view this gallery, but anything is worth it for Big Papi, right? Ortiz’s 2013 World Series MVP ring will also be on display, so get a close look while you can!

A rainy day is best spent at the Museum of Fine Arts, or multiple rainy days in a row!

 

ICA – Institute of Contemporary Art

Admission: Student discount with ID

Must See: Nari Ward: Sun Splashed

The ICA is a great place for college students to explore. The exhibits are fun, modern, and sometimes interactive. Each exhibit is important to view, many often presenting social and political issues in unique mediums.

This museum really makes you think about what you are seeing and how it can be interpreted to convey a bigger message. There is also a new exhibit by Dana Schutz being put up right now, set to open July 26th…even more new art to check out!!

ICA at night. Credit: Flickr.com

The large glass building overlooking Boston Harbor could not be more picturesque if it tried, and you could easily spend a whole day enjoying the incredible views. Aside from the amazing art, the ICA also holds outdoor concerts every Friday in July and August. These fun outdoor events feature new DJ’s every week and certain themed events to keep things new and interesting. The ICA always keeps me guessing, and I cannot wait to see what fun thing comes out next.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Admission: Student discount with ID (or free if your name is Isabella!)

Must See: Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is like something out of a movie. The minute you step inside the museum it feels like you are taken back in time, admiring all of the beautiful paintings and scenery. The inner courtyard is breathtaking, and visible from every angle of the museum.

What makes this museum unique is that Isabella Stewart Gardner actually used to reside in the building before it turned into a museum, and still resembles a home in many ways. The tall ceilings and wooden floors add a homey feel to the artwork which is something you do not see everyday.

I highly recommend reading up on the Gardner heist before visiting, as it adds excitement and a bit of spookiness to your visit.

A great addition to the museum is the modern wing, which is the only part of the museum with changing exhibits. Set aside from the original building, this modern room showcases beautiful artwork and sculptures to add a modern twist. Next to the modern room is also the Gardner Museum’s incredible concert hall, which must be seen in person to truly admire. Isabella Stewart Gardner had a passion for music and this hall keeps her spirit alive in a beautiful space. The concert schedule and ticket options can be found on the museum’s website.

 

The Museum of Bad Art

Admission: Free museum passes can be requested.

Must See: “Dog” By: Unknown

After you have admired all of the famous pieces in the previously listed places…why not lighten the mood with this fun museum?? The MOBA gallery in Somerville is a private institution that is committed to celebrating bad art. Located in the basement of a theater, it is not the most glamorous of exhibits. That being said, it is definitely a memorable experience. It is a one of a kind museum visit and every piece of art is sure to make you chuckle.

Can’t get enough of the bad art? Have no fear, there is now a book available for purchase, “The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks,” that showcases the worst of the worst, bottom of the barrel pieces of artwork.

Some pieces imitate famous works like the Mona Lisa, and with others it can be hard to decipher what is going on at all…

Quirky and humorous, the MOBA is Boston museum fun for all ages and a great way to lighten the mood after viewing maybe one too many gorey war depictions.

I hope this master list of Boston museum’s inspires you to view some new places and some very cool art.

 

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The Power of Wonder Woman

I’ll be the first to say that I thought I was Wonder Woman when I was younger. In preschool I had a red velvet ribbon that I would wave around as my Lasso of Truth. Nowadays, anyone who knows me knows how big of a Marvel fangirl I am. However, if you asked me which superhero movie has had the biggest impact on me, the honor goes to DC’s latest Wonder Woman.

I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League Animated Series, so I’ve been waiting for a good adaptation for a while. Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman didn’t do it for me. My worst fear was that these same filmmakers would ruin my Wonder Woman as well. However, with female director Patty Jenkins, I instead found myself crying three separate times during the movie.

From the start, Diana is a girl who wants to kick ass and take names. She wants to be able to fight alongside her people and protect those she loves. As she grows, her goals never change. She changes, seeing what the outside world is like once she leaves her homeland, but always her mission has been peace and protecting humans. The opening scene she runs from the cozy plan laid out for her and heads to the training grounds to imitate the warrior women she looks up to. Watching young Diana throw punches at the air like she’s one of the great women of Themyscira made me tear up. I could see her drive and her desire to be just as strong as everyone else.

What I thought was the most telling about Diana and how inspirational she is had nothing to do with her badass fighting. The first time Diana is exposed to the bombs and bullets of our modern world, her first instinct isn’t to take up arms and fight. Instead she tries to stop Steve, Chris Pine’s character, and insist that she help every single person she passes. The crying civilians and wounded soldiers clearly affect her and inspire her to fight to protect them from any more pain. Gal Gadot really brings this empathy to life and convinces the viewer that Diana has an investment in the lives of others. It hurts her to see suffering and she’s willing to lay down her life and leave her comfortable homeland to save the world.

Diana is the hero I need, the one who doesn’t give up even when the world seems to be a terrible place. The DC Universe right now is too dark and hopeless about the state of the world. The Marvel Universe is a bit lighter but there aren’t any female characters I can really look up to and say “That’s who I want to be like” (sorry Black Widow). The first female led superhero movie in some time has given me a woman with emotional intelligence and physical prowess. Personally, I can’t wait to see how she takes the Justice League to new heights and saves the world yet again.

Some Classics To Add To Your Beach Read List

Every summer, Barnes & Nobles crowds the shelves closest to the doors with piles of “beach reads.’” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I got tired of reading a bunch of different books with the same generic plot lines and characters. A few years ago, I swore off “beach reads” and decided to turn back to the classics ‒ and I think that others should try to do the same. If you have an interest, here’s a list of some literary classics that I recommend everyone read this summer:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This was the first book I chose when I embarked on my journey to rediscover the classics. It’s one of those books that, once you read it, you fully understand why it came to be so famous. A quintessential, albeit dated, coming of age novel, Pride and Prejudice is surprisingly relevant, funny, and self-aware (even in 2017).

1984 by George Orwell

We’ve all seen the headlines about the ‘sudden’ spark in popularity of Orwell’s classic dystopian fiction, 1984. But have we all actually read the book? Not all high schools require this book in the curriculum (mine didn’t,) and some even ban it (it’s consistently one of the top 10 most banned books in America). But it is an understatement to say this book is a necessary read‒by the time you’re halfway through, everything you think you know about government has flipped on its head in a thrilling, but terrifying way. And that may just be what we need right about now.

Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Technically not an autobiography, Tender Is The Night is Fitzgerald’s unofficial account of his life with Zelda. Closely mirroring their relationship, it helps the reader understand what went with one of the greatest American romances behind closed doors. It’s packed with Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose, love, luxury, tragedy and so much more. What else could you want to read about this summer?

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Something you need to know going into this book is that, at many points, it will be difficult to make sense of what is going on. But that is the genius of Woolf’s prose. In Mrs. Dalloway, what seems frivolous suddenly becomes serious (and vice versa).  Written in a stream of consciousness style, Mrs. Dalloway lets you get into the heads of all of the characters and understand them on an emotional and intellectual level. She subverts literary traditions about narration through this technique, solidifying this book’s role in changing storytelling forever.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I would be lying to you if I didn’t mention that this book is definitely on the longer side. It actually took me the majority of a summer to read the first time, but it was totally worth it. Forget Of Mice and Men‒this book is Steinbeck’s literary masterpiece (and my favorite book of all time). Combining multiple generations of a family into one story, by the end you’re left wishing that you had more time left with the characters.

Easy Tricks For Taking Better Instagram Photos

Despite how much we may deny it, we all know that we notice how many likes our pictures get on Instagram. Especially if a post we thought would do well, doesn’t. The standards for a good Instagram account at Emerson are high‒I mean, how are you supposed to compete with all the photography accounts, all white aesthetic pages, and modeling accounts? Well, I’m not saying that your page will get famous overnight, but I can assure you following a few simple guidelines will get you a few more likes here and there.

Always make sure your horizon line is straight.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone posts a photo of a landscape, and the line is crooked. It’s basically impossible to get a perfectly straight horizon line when you’re using your iPhone to shoot (like I do,) but there is an easy way to fix this before you post it. Go to your photos, click edit, and then the crop/straighten icon. Drag the image around until your horizon line matches one of the lines on the grid, and then you’re all set.

Don’t rely on pre-made filters.

Although it may be easier to upload a photo, click one of Instagram’s filters, and then post, it doesn’t always work out that well. You can almost always do a better job touching up the picture yourself (whether you’re using an editing app like VSCO or just the edit feature directly on Instagram.) There are a lot of options for what you can do to the photo, but I recommend sticking with fixing the brightness, contrast, the highlights, and the shadows. Play around with these for a few minutes and you can seriously upgrade the photo without making it look too obvious (like a filter would do.)

Be careful with vertical photos.

If you go out with your girls and you didn’t get a good photo, did you really even go out? Everyone’s natural instinct when taking a picture with a few friends is usually to take a vertical photo with the people filling the whole screen. Although this would look great printed out, or posted on Facebook, a vertical picture isn’t always the best choice for Instagram. Yes, Instagram made it possible to make the whole thing fit without cutting anyone’s head off, but it could still mess up your feed. On your feed, only a square version of the photo will appear, which means some heads or feet will still be cut off of your vertical picture. You can easily avoid this by either leaving some empty space on the top and bottom of the photo, or by taking a horizontal picture to begin with (which is my personal go-to). Trust me, your feed will thank you.

Take your selfies on the camera app, not Snapchat.

It’s so tempting to take all of your selfies on Snapchat, where the image doesn’t flip and you don’t have to wonder why your face always looks off when it does. But the cold, hard truth is that the quality of the camera app is just overall better than Snapchat. Downloading a picture from Snapchat (and then editing it) runs the risk of becoming grainy, while a camera photo usually stays sharp no matter what you do to it. My advice is to learn to love how you look in the selfies where the image flips because that’s how the rest of the world usually sees you, anyway. The only person that’s accustomed to seeing your face in mirror images is you, so while you may think you look better, everyone else may think you look just a little different. (And to piggy-back off my last tip, I also recommend trying horizontal selfies over vertical ones so nothing gets cropped).

Summer Writer’s Block

Summer is a time to relax and have a little more fun than you’re used to. For writers this can distract us from what we do best: writing. The activity of the summer tends to make sitting down and writing more difficult, but there are many ways to make your writing livelier and to help get you writing in the first place.

1) The Great Outdoors

Writing tends to get associated with hunching over desks in stuffy rooms, but taking your writing outdoors is a great way to start writing about something you haven’t tackled before. The sunny summer weather makes it perfect to sit outside for a while without being disturbed. You can sit on a park bench, at an outdoor Starbucks, or even just right outside your front door. When you sit down with nothing but a pen and pencil, there is plenty opportunities to notice something new and exciting that could get your creative juices flowing.

2) 1000 Words

I’m taking this straight from Stephen King. I believe he strives for more than 1,000 words, but for someone with writer’s block or with a busy schedule 1,000 words is a lot. Even grabbing a piece of scrap paper or typing a stream of consciousness exercise would work for this. It’s all about “shutting off the editor.” Giving yourself a little block of time to write the first thing that comes to your mind and running with it can lead you to interesting places, such as story ideas or maybe some key words and feelings to make up a poem. Keeping this minimal writing schedule helps keep a writer in practice and prevents them from going 24 hours without writing.

3) Take Your Writing on Vacation

Going on vacation is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of time to unwind and have a wealth of new experiences. This is the perfect time to break out some writing. What I’ve always done is take a small notebook with me everywhere I go. There’ll be little and big things to see and writing down basic observations or noting settings or characteristics of people can prove to be fuel for great writing. Experiencing different cultures and places, even if it’s only from one state to another, gives a writer more flavors to include in their work. It’s kind of like running an ice cream shop where you can take a scoop from each place and add it to your writing sundae.

4) Your Small Notebook is Your Best Friend

This goes along with vacation but keeping it in mind for everyday use is just as important. I work at a retail job and I have a post-it pad next to the register for when a customer says something that sticks with me,or when I see a cool outfit I’d like to remember. Inspiration can strike at any time, and having your tools available to you 24/7 is important. In today’s day and age this can be your phone too. Use the Notes app to jot down fun things you encounter this summer and maybe someday it can turn into an even bigger writing project.

Because the summertime is so different from the rest of the year, gathering observations and snippets of writing can be extra fun. Make sure to always have your metaphorical pen in your pocket at all times!