Archive | March 2012

Stress Management

Stress, is such a common thing we could frequently encounter in our daily life. How to deal with them properly is absolutely related to how good your life quality could be. If you search through the inernet, you could find tons of information that teach you how to deal with your stress and how to manage them. I have learnt a lot from both my classes and my readings outside classes. Here, I would like to conclude severl ways that I think are effective in my personal practice.

1. Talking to your family and friends. Love is the basic support of everything, I believe in this, and also believe the power of love. My aunt is a psychologist, who has even told me that a person should have at least two or three friends or relatives he/she could trust to tell what he/she think inside his/her heart. This way could partly gurantee one’s psychological health. I have tried this way and found it is very helpful. Everytime, I feel depressed or have something inside my heart that I could not deal with, I would talk to my parents or my dearest friends. And, I also find speaking out timely does you much good than holding the story inside, which is especially applicable when you and your beloved ones have problems, such as you and your parents, you and your lovers, you and your close friends.  Bravely telling out your feelings and listing out the problems, and then communicating with each other would make your life go into sunshine quickly.

2. Eating more fruits and drink more water. I find fruits could make me happy when I am in the low mood, my mother (who is a nutritionist) told me that, it may be because fruit and water could provide vitamines and help recyclying your bodies. Once you are “physically” refreshed, your mind would become clear and calm so that you could think of a way to deal with your problems.

3. Exercise. I think finding a proper way of exercise is very important in handling stress, for example, if you asks me to run, I would even feel more bored and exhausted, so I usually choose dancing as my way of exercise. Everytime I dance ( such as doing some latin dances or waltz), not only I would feel refreshed physicially, but also spiritually. The music in ballroom makes me relaxed from inside.

4. Putting yourself in the arm of nature. This is one of the relaxation ways I like best. Because I believe in the relationship between nature and humanbeings. We are the children of nature, and our root is in the nature. The famour chinese poet Zhimo Xu says: the reason why we humanbeings always feel bored and depressed is because we are gradually away from nature. I believe in this sayings, and believe that nature could always enlighten people and bring peaces to them. I am enjoying involving myself in nature, and the ideal thing I would do in my vacations is to travel as many places as possible to be close to animals, plants and nature, to appreciate the beauty and creatures of nature.

5. Relaxing yourself in your own ways. I think everyone has a way that could make them achieve the maximum relaxation. As long as the way is not illegal and does not bring more harm than good,  I think we could be “addicted” to it a little bit when our stresses really trouble our life.

The above are my opinions about how to deal with stresses, and whenever I encounter stresses, I always remind myself that life is a process more than a result, and the key is to live the life, to feel the life and to enjoy the life. So it would be wise if you control the stress to an degree that allows it help you achieve something while not hinder your steps of enjoying a good life.

Dirty Job

   The series of Dirty Job in Discovery channel is another shinning point that draws a lot of audiences’ attentions and interests. The program “profiles the unsung American laboreres who make their living in the most unthinkable-yet vital ways.”(quotes from the video website) And the host Mike Rowe uses a vivid and interesting way to narrative stories of dirty job workers who overcome fear, danger and sometimes stench and ickiness to finish their daily tasks. For me, this program sucesses in two aspects: first, it draws audiences’ attention to those rountine, dirty but vital jobs and let people know more about the dirty job workers’ life and show respect to them; second, this program is a good example of how to apply humors to stories so that it could turn boring topics to an interesting ones.

   I kept laughing when I saw the first two stories “Sheep Shearing” and “Animal Magnetism” from the program website http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/dirty-jobs/. And since then, my smile did not fade until I finished the whole series. The program makers are really good at cutting good pieces of videos, employing background music and composing them in interesting ways. For example, when you watch the first two stories, you could notice that the program makers use operas and classical music to accompany the actions of animals and humans, and the rhythm of the music is similar to that of the actions. Operas and classical musics usually give people a sense of solemn and serious feelings. But when they are connected with the funny actions of animals or people who met unexpected things when doing dirty jobs, the resulting effect is very funny and interesting.

   As one could imagine, dirty jobs are usually exhaused and bored, and this topic should not be as interesting as other programs in discovery channel, such as adventure stories, mysterious stories (like “Psychic Detectives”, or strange animal stories (like “River Monsters”). But Dirty Job series are obviously beyond one’s original expectation, and the reason also lies in the humanized hosting style of Mike Rowe.

   In every episode, Mike Rowe wears the same uniform as the job workers and tries to do the dirty jobs under the help of the workers. By talking to them like friends, working with them like colleagues and revealing the hardest parts of each dirty job, Rowe makes audiences feel like being on the spot and close to the scene and also close to the feelings of those dirty job workers.  Moroever, Rowe’s host style also involves some dramatic element, which to some extent is similar to an actor. For example, in the story of “Drain Cleaner,” Rowe went down the drain and cleaned all the rubbishes to a place, then used a large vessel, which is quite similar to the vaccum cleaner, to take aways those rubbishes. In order to show how powerful the vessel cleaner is, he put severl objects under the vessel, which included a travelling case. Of course the travelling case wont get into the vessel, it is stuck under the bottom of the vessel, and Rowe then tried very hard to take away the case, but after he took awary the case, his working cap was take in the vessel. Here, one could see the dramatic effect being used, which creates humorous sense to the boring story. Also, in the “Blood Worm” story, Rowe even put the worms on his arms in order to see how the worms bite people, which makes audiences feel real and attracted by the scenes.

For me, Dirty Job is an good example that tells me the importance of the sense of humor to story-telling, and how much color the humanied hosting style would contritue to creat a wonderful story.

Digging the Stories behind People

My fourth package tells a story about a TreeKeepers class, which is a part of TreeKeepers volunteer program and held on last Saturday. When I showed up in the class, I found that the class itself does not have too much information in it, in order to increase the news value of this TreeKeeper class and the interest of this story, I definitely have to find a central compelling character to focus on.

During this semester’s intense lab works, I have already been quite accustomed to talking to people and leading questions, which was a difficult thing for me to do several months ago. But donot get me wrong, I donot mean I am not good at communicating with or donot like talking to people, it is just because as a foreigner in both language and the major (my previous major and long years’ training is physics, and journalism is totally new for me), it takes time for me to communicate with people as freely as native journalists. And this time’s interview teaches me something more than just talking to people–I have learnt how to dig the stories behind people.

I still remember Greeley’s words when last time I talked to him about my package three and how far I could be cleared. Greeley said my package three has done pretty well, as for the news itself (about public forum), I have already done pretty good, but… the key is the “but”, he said but it is boring. Boring? If it is just a public forum, then how do I make it interesting? When Greeley said I could redo my package three to make it interesting, I feel confused and have no idea about how to make it interesting. So I finally choose to do a brand new story about TreeKeepers. But I didnot stop considering the “interesting” question along the way I am doing my package four.

Like I mentioned before, the TreeKeepers classes itself contain no much information, then after I took videos of the classes, I was looking for my interviewees. At this time, I met Ms. Deed, an elegant old lady who attracts me by her attentive attitude of listening to the classes and taking notes. Then, I talked to her. This time, I dont let myself talk to her as a journalist who talks to her as a job and keeps deadline in mind all the time. instead, I talked to her as a friend or  a person who wish to know her, because I am curious what makes her so attentive to the classes. Then, I got my answer, knowing it is one of her maples’s death making her come to this class and becoming tree volunteers, knowing that she owns  a large farm and backyard and buid tens of trees, and knowing her passion for trees and nature. Then, I went to her home and saw her beautiful backyard, her beloved trees and various kinds of small birds on the trees. It is definitely not my first time to visit a private farm and see such a large backyard, but it is really one of  a few moment I met before that makes me feel a kind of peace and  being close to pure nature. My curiosity and frank feelings make Ms. Deed tell me more about herself, and I know she is a skin cancer patient, but she is brave and optimistic, and she is also very kind, kind to trees, kind to small animals and kind to people.

On the spot of the TreeKeepers classes, there is one MU student telling me that the lady always provides free ride for her during weekend to somewhere she needs to go. After knowing these stories, I feel moved by Ms. Deed, and understand her passion for life and nature from a deeper level. At this time,  I suddenly understand the “interesting”questions–that is, telling stories from human angle, or humanizing stories, recording the moving moment relating to the story. That is also why everytime, we are required to do CCC. Because story close to people will make audiences feel more familiar with and easier to pay attention to. And another thing I have learnt is that interviewing is not just “interviewing,” if you do interview just for a routine job, then you get boring answers. But if you talk to people like friends, and pay your sincere interest on people, then you could dig the stories behind people, and really could catch the moving moments. I think this might also be one of the meanings behind news stories–informing people about life.

Stories on Special Topics

Well, I admit that I am a big fan of Discovery channel (and this is partly due to my science background), most of whose programs attract me a lot, no matter from the content or from the way that they tell stories. So, yes, you bet, this week I will talk about the programs in Discovery channel again.

“Psychic Witness” is one of the programs in Investigation Discovery, which could be seen from the weblink http://investigation.discovery.com/videos/psychic-witness-recovery-of-stacy.html. This series have six stories documenting real-life cases of situations in which police department have enlisted the aid of psychics  in solving difficult cases.

This series attract me, firstly because of the specialty of the  topic. Psychic witness, an interesting but controversial topic, has little scientific credibility from public perspective. Although psychologists, researchers, and other authors have posited a number of possible explanations for the belief that some can provide valuable crime information from psychic abilities,  but belief in psychic help still sounds incredible for most of the people, and the police departments also offer a few credit to psychic aid. A 1993 survey of police departments in the 50 largest cities in the United States revealed that a third of them had accepted predictions from psychic detectives in the past, although only seven departments treated such information any differently to information from an ordinary source.

For me, anything unable to be understood  from scientific angle now does not mean unscientific in future, and sometimes, it may be just because our today’s science does not develop that far to help people understand these phenomena. This is just like cellphone today should be regarded as something hard to understand if it appears in 1000 years ago. For those kind of things, if there is no evidence to completely turn them down now, I would rather hold a neutral attitude.  But, as a TV program relating to science, does this kind of topic seem away from science? How do the program producer balance revealing some true phenomena happening in reality and holding a scientific attitude so that audiences wouldn’t feel like it advocates something unscientific?

From the series, I find the way that the producers solve the balance problem  is that in the stories they involve voices from different sides, such as, policemen who believes the effectiveness of psychic aid and who is skeptical, and real feelings of psychics about their careers etc, which all contribute to  the neutral standpoint of the series.

Another thing that makes the series attactive is how the program develop stories. I notice that the six stories involve six ways that the psychics help policemen so that each story is unique and audiences do not feel boring. I also notice each story begins with a hook or a question that arises audiences’ interest to wonder what is going on in each case. And as the stories are going on, they involve hunmanized characters, and use lots of close-shots of people’s actions, facial experiences, and close-to-feelings background music, as well as natural sound bridges which vividly rebuild the scenes and make audiences feel real. Besides, I also notice whenever they use actors to rebuild the scences, they will label them as “damatization” to let people distinguish which is real document and which are dramatic effects.

StoryHouse productions have also produced a TV program about psychic detectives, which won  The Truly Terrible Television (TTTV) Award for peddling pseudoscience and superstition to its audience by the Independent Investigative Group in August, 2007.  And we could also see it as the success of telling this kind of stories.