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Staff Editorials

It’s OK to not be OK

“It’s not normal. It’s not normal to feel like this.”

These words will never leave the mind of Madison Holleran’s sister. Because just a few weeks after Madison uttered them over Christmas break 2013, she  leapt off a nine-story garage deck in Philadelphia, killing herself. 

Holleran, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, had gone from a superstar high school athlete and academic at her Pennsylvania high school to running track at Penn, an Ivy League school. In just one semester, the 19-year-old went from star to struggling – at least in her mind. But no one watching her social media feed would know the inner struggles of this larger than life kid.

Madison was a star athlete in high school, first with soccer then in track. She was the NJ State Champion in the 800m in 2013. She had a seemingly perfect social life – she was popular and kind by all accounts. She succeeded at everything. And maybe that was the problem. 

In her new book, What Made Maddy Run, ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, details Holleran’s heart-breaking story and along the way reveals the struggle of many young people as they transition from high school to college. 

Maddy’s story is one of a battle with sudden depression as the move from high school to college became overwhelming. She missed her family and found the intense academic and athletic demands, things that had always come so easily, unbearable. Madison was accustomed to being a high achiever in the classroom and on the track. By most peoples’ standards Madison’s performance at college was still stellar, but she wasn’t meeting the demands she placed on herself. 

In her book, Fagan does a wonderful job of showing the pressures young people, particularly college athletes, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless social-media.

Although she committed suicide in January of 2014, Madison Holleran’s Instagram feed is still up (maddyholleran), and shows the last photo she posted of the Philadelphia skyline just one hour before she jumped. The image was filtered, Fagan points out in the book -- meaning that before committing suicide Holleran took time to touch up the last image so it would look better than it really was.

Since her death, her family has started the Madison Holleran Foundation. The purpose is to let kids know “It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.”

Depression can happen to anybody at any time, even people who seem to have it all.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults. Estimates show there are over 40,000 suicides each year, 4,500 of these are young people. 

In Maddy’s case, she was a perfectionist who struggled when she thought she wasn’t the best.  And it made things more difficult when she looked at social media. In her book, Fagan writes: “They scroll through others’ Instagram accounts and say, ‘This is what college is supposed to be like; this is what we want our life to be like.’ While her friends told her they too were struggling, the images on social media trumped the reality they were privately sharing.” The life we curate online is distinctly different from the one we actually live.

A little over a year before she died, Madison posted on Instagram a snapshot of a quote from Seventeen magazine: “Even people you think are perfect are going through something difficult.” That image too had been put through a filter. 

Fagan’s book is a must read. If you’re a parent of an athlete or an academic or just a parent whose child may be facing a transition in life. And if you are a young person, find this book if you feel you are struggling to measure up. 

And when we see those perfect images on social media, remember they likely have been put through a filter.

 

Point- Counterpoint: The Eclipse

eclipsenasa

 

photo/NASA

 

Once in a lifetime event

 

By Angela Reinhardt, Staff writer

When I found out school had been cancelled for the August 21st eclipse I was thrilled because it meant my kids wouldn’t have to miss a day of school. 

Yes, I’m one of the geeks who booked a hotel room in the eclipse’s “path of totality” way back in January. I decided to let my kids play hooky because a total eclipse - where the moon passes directly in front of the sun and casts a shadow on earth - is an extremely rare occurrence for our area. I’m 35 and I’ve never even seen one. In fact, most people I know have never seen one. My logic was that my kids could give their science class a full report, and even though it’s not an “excused absence” I could explain it away as educational.  

On the surface it sounds ridiculous to cancel school for a three-minute event, but a total eclipse messes with one of the only constants in our lives – the sun. The sun, this thing early civilizations saw as the source of all life and created entire mythologies and gods around. The sun, one of the most widely used symbols in literature, music, arts, and scripture.

“As surely as the sun rises, he will appear.” Hosea 6:39

“Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun. And I say it’s all right.” - George Harrison

“The sun will come out/Tomorrow/Bet your bottom dollar/That tomorrow/They’ll be sun!” – Annie

Or, in the great words of Steve Martin, “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”

Not this time, Steve. Not this time. This time it’s going to be daytime but only appear to be night. That’s pretty epic. 

A big concern from administrators is student safety and I think it’s warranted. Our own library has invited a professor of Physics and Astronomy from Dalton State to give a lecture on August 8th on solstice viewing safety, which says a lot. So order those eclipse glasses or learn how to make your own sun viewer (there are tutorials online) and get in on this fun once-in-a-lifetime event with your kids if you can. 

 

In the dark on all the excitement

 

By Dan Pool, Editor

The moon is 238,900 miles away. The sun is 92.96 million miles away. Both are too far away for me to care much about their doings. Sure, I’ll be bothered if the sun finally explodes or goes out as that would affect us on earth and in scientific terms be very bad.

But one chunk of the cosmos cutting the other one off in traffic doesn’t warrant much more than a look at the window, certainly not a special trip or cancelled school days. Yes, I know that the moon will not actually come close to the sun on August 21 only getting in the way of its sunburn and cancer causing brightness for a few minutes.

I’ll admit the science explaining an eclipse is mildly interesting, ranking somewhere about the level of Braves’ trade rumors. 

But eclipses have been documented since 3340 BC in Ireland and the Chinese recorded in 2134 BC that "sun and the moon did not meet harmoniously” so they are truly nothing new. And except for possibly  a few members of Congress, no one believes it’s the moon eating the sun any longer.

Nor are they that rare; in fact solar eclipses happen about 60 times a century. This one just happens to be best viewed from our region.

The eclipse will only last a couple of minutes, being a mini-version of what happens every single day, it gets dark.  During that time, remain calm and remember we all have lights and headlights even flashlights so talk of disruption sounds like nothing more than a replay of Y2K hysteria or wishful thinking for those who still have bunkers stocked from the last global case of overreaction. 

Sure I’ll go take a look, careful to not look directly at the sun, but the idea of planning a whole day around it is going too far. In fact, if I had a choice between the eclipse viewing and a new Star Wars movie that would only show for one day, I’d be in the theatre.

 

Protecting small town feel crucial for future of county

“Here we are now, 

entertain us” – Nirvana

Rarely in a single survey do you see two paths so clearly defined as with the  743 responses to the community survey that is part of the Comprehensive Plan Update. 

In one place the public said what they most like about Pickens is our small town feel and then what they most wanted to see are more entertainment, shopping, restaurant and career opportunities.

The vision if the views were combined would be a plan to merge Andy Griffith’s Mayberry with Atlantic City.

Facilitators from the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission said that 100 responses from a community the size of Pickens is what they normally see -- the response  here was seven times that. It’s admirable that so many people voiced their two-cents-worth and understandably there were diverging views. 

There were also many who likely hold a subtler view that gets distorted in survey results – we like the small town, but need a few more restaurants and places to work.

We encourage those seeking more entertainment/shopping/growth as the highest priorities for our Comprehensive Plan Update to reconsider.

The pro-entertainment advocates are no small group. “Lack of entertainment for all ages” was the top gripe about the county, followed by the related response of “lack of local stores and restaurants” as another area that needs improvement.

The first problem we have with mixing business and government planning is those who seek more growth force bureaucrats to overstep their place. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it indicate the government has any business entertaining people. The idea of governments providing entertainment went out of fashion when the Roman Empire collapsed under the weight of too many events at the coliseum. Those hoping the government will provide entertainment should find new hobbies.

We would further argue that the idea that government needs to develop stores and restaurants is also a tenuous proposition. Businesses are solely the decision of entrepreneurs with capital looking to make investments.

It is government’s duty to provide solid infrastructure, good roads and police and fire protection so that the businesses can open and thrive. 

That being said, if the city of Jasper created tax abatements or incentives to get entrepreneurs to choose Jasper over the surrounding areas, it  would be money well spent, particularly if it filled some of the empty buildings. 

Following the old wisdom that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, we encourage our community to follow the second path chosen on the survey – maintain and enhance the pleasant small town atmosphere here.

We are already doing well at this as Pickens County is a great community to call home. Rather than trying to become something we are not, let’s polish our image and improve what we already are.

Like guys who put on hipster clothes to impress friends, going in a new direction is hard, especially when this community has a very pleasant button down image that works for many of the residents.

Eventually we may find that marketing this community as a quiet peaceful place to live is also a successful business model for those who want to see growth. Attract people by touting our great community and some, but hopefully not too much, commercial growth will follow.

For those still hoping the government will create entertainment, we would point out  Atlanta is a short drive away or perhaps they should take up bird-watching.

A journalist’s list about what-not-to-say lists

By Angela Reinhardt

Staff writer

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“How to Talk to Artists at Art Festivals – The Do’s and Don’ts (Warning: You’ve probably been guilty of at least one of the don’ts…)” 

This article popped up in my News Feed over the weekend and reminded me of the hundreds of other “What Not to Say to a (fill in the blank)” lists on the internet. The general tone of most of them is snarky, but it’s snark veiled as an informative piece to educate people about proper etiquette.

Here are a few examples if you’re not familiar:

•From the “How to Talk to Artists at Art Festivals” list of what not to ask:

How did you make that? 

“There is a fine line with this one,” the author responds, “as it’s all about the context. Often, this question is asked with the intention of, ‘I’ll go home and make one just like it!’ Which is obviously not good for the artist. Inquiring about the artist’s process (i.e.: ‘Tell me about your process.’) is ok.”

•From “15 Worst Things You Could Say to Your Bartender” list:

I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I don’t want anything fruity. I don’t like beer. I’m allergic to wine. What do you suggest?

“Water. They sell it by the bottle at the gas station. Go outside, to the left, and keep walking.”

In light of this popular but frustrating online genre, I thought I’d come up with my own list to see how it feels. I’ll include plenty of snark and a few smug suggestions for the full effect.

Things You Should Never Say to a Journalist.

#1 - “Can I read the article before it goes to print?” 

No, you can’t read it. It’s against company policy and if you read it you’ll want to change all your comments, probably the good ones, and it’ll take me twice as long to finish. Try instead: I can’t wait to see it when it’s printed.  

#2 - You don’t have to tell me something is “off the record” if we’re talking about what you had for dinner last night. I’m not going to write a story about your pot roast.  

#3 - Did you get all that? Can you remember all that?

  Yes, I got it. Actually, wait. I’ll probably forget it by the time I get to the office and write something you’ll be embarrassed about.    

See. My list makes me sound like a jerk and the truth is those things don’t really bother me. It’s part of the job. Shouldn’t adults be able to handle people not being Emily Post in every situation? 

As for people not “understanding me as a writer” - like people may not understand the plight of the artist or bartender – I typically assume this is the case. I assume people don’t know how many hours I spend at meetings or doing research to get one 600-word story, because why would they?   

My suspicion is that these lists are like trade magazines and are read primarily by members of the niche group (artist, bartender) more than they are by the intended audience. But if I’m wrong, instead of keeping insensitive, obtuse comments at bay they create an atmosphere of fear. 

Instead of saying something insensitive, which may very well have been unintentional, people might decide not to communicate at all because they don’t want to offend. The last thing I want, especially as a journalist, is for people to be afraid to talk to me openly.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good list (grocery lists, to-do lists, playlists), and study after study shows that the brain responds well to them. 

Umberto Eco told The Atlantic the list “has an irresistible magic” and in cultural history has “prevailed over and over again.” Agreed. 

The problem with these “What Not to Say” lists is that people who write them try to make the world conform to them, rather than that person coping with the complex cast of characters in their daily lives - which includes jerks who say thoughtless things and who probably wouldn’t read their list anyway. 

 

Podcasts -- an addictive way to learn, be entertained

By Christie Pool, Staff Writer

I’m addicted to podcasts. They are the perfect companion while taking the dogs for a walk or on a long drive. Podcasts are a great way to learn things – whether news and politics is your thing or storytelling, history, comedy, true crime, health, sports or technology – any subject under the sun and tons of topics you didn’t even know existed. 

For those that don’t know, podcasts are essentially modern radio shows available online and they’ve become ridiculously popular, going from niche to mainstream following the phenomenon of the Serial podcast a few years back.

Google “best podcasts of 2017” and you’ll be shocked at the variety. 

One of the recent hits has been S-Town, a real-life Southern Gothic. What starts out as an investigation by a This American Life journalist into an Alabama man bragging about getting away with murder evolves into a haunting character study of John B. McLemore who gave the initial tip in the investigation.  

For true-crime enthusiasts there are podcasts like Up and Vanished, based right here in Georgia. This podcast examines the 2005 cold case of Tara Grinstead, a high school teacher and beauty queen who disappeared from her apartment in Ocilla, Georgia. The case was never solved and has become “the largest case file in Georgia history.”

Going to the “Top Charts” sections on the iTunes podcasts, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History takes top honors with a 5-star review among more than 11,000 people. The podcast re-examines “something from the past – an event, a person, an idea, even a song – and asks whether we got it right the first time.” 

NPR’s Invisibilia is another cool podcast. It looks at the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions by weaving narrative storytelling with scientific research that will make you see your own life differently.

Not in the mood to consider the deeper meaning of things? There’s no shortage of wonderful comedy shows, including Comedy Bang Bang, Last Podcast on the Left, and 2 Dope Queens. 

A good podcast is like sitting in on an interesting conversation. And like all conversations, some are better than others.

History buffs can try Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Many of the episodes last longer than the events themselves but go deep from multiple angles, dissecting events and thinking about them in original ways. 

One that recently caught my eye – or rather ear – is Ear Hustle, a podcast about stories of life inside prison. This isn’t a standard podcast where a journalist goes out and spends a week, month or years researching. This podcast is produced by those living inside San Quentin State Prison. The stories are sometimes “difficult, often funny and always honest, offering nuanced views of people living within the American prison system.”

Podcasts, like reading a newspaper,  enhance your knowledge and keep our brains working. But aside from that, they’re just interesting - and free. Do something for yourself and find your new favorite podcast today.

Suggestions:

• Ted Talks - Any topic imaginable. • Stuff You Should Know – A discussion panel whose name says it all.

• This American Life -  A weekly public radio show heard by 2.2 million. 

• Great Lives – The BBC Radio Four podcast remembers the great and the terrible.

• Saints of Somewhere – Cultural leaders name the people, places and things that inspired them.

• Lore - A podcast about the dark historical tales that fuel modern superstitions.