The Next 10

Three years ago, I wrote a 4,600-word post about my 50 favorite albums. While 36 months might not be a long time for most people, for a music lover, it’s a very long time. Our tastes are constantly evolving as we discover new music and go through experiences that make us connect more intensely with certain artists whose songs just didn’t impact us as deeply at a previous time in our lives. That’s why I decided to revisit my list and add ten new entries. Some of these records nearly made the cut the first time around, others have grown on me since then, and others might not have even been out in 2014. The format will be the same as last time: albums will be grouped thematically and in chronological order, and no greatest hits compilations or double albums are allowed. Enjoy!

The Satirists

  • Jamsha – Cafrería Épica
  • Füete Billēte – Música De Capsulón

Anyone who has ever visited a major U.S. city (or subscribed to Netflix) knows that this country is not short on comedians. But those of us who were raised somewhere else will always need a bit of our native country’s humor in our lives, and sometimes music can do the trick even better than comedy. As a Puerto Rican living in the United States, no one fills this void for me better than Jamsha and Füete Billēte.

Jamsha is a multi-talented rapper, producer, and director who grew up during the height of reggaeton’s popularity in Puerto Rico, but felt disappointed by the direction the genre was taking in the late 2000s. No longer a highly sexualized, underground style of music that mixed Jamaican dancehall and American rap, reggaeton became an international phenomenon by watering itself down with pop, dance, and electronica influences. Its most famous artists (Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin & Yandel) strayed from their roots and were now rapping and singing about “love” instead of sex. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this shift, but in practice, it came off as fake and contrived. Anyone with half a brain could tell that these artists had not “evolved” at all; they simply chose to abandon subject matter that was guaranteed to limit their international appeal and commercial success. Their lyrics are just as exploitative and misogynistic as before, but now they can fly under the radar by being sugar-coated with cheap verbal innuendos and poppy musical arrangements. It is an ongoing, sinister way of duping listeners into believing that they are reformed, mature individuals.

Jamsha was having none of this, and he decided to take the genre back to its roots. Like American rock band Steel Panther (whose over-the-top antics are both a send-up of and a tribute to 80s hair metal), his lyrics are extremely sexually explicit, as his shtick is taking the sound and themes of early reggaeton to an extreme by removing any possible traces of subtlety. Most people are aware of the joke, but his hilarious songs and idiosyncratic videos (which he writes, directs, and edits) are so well-crafted that it’s impossible not to sing and dance along (if you can somehow avoid laughing hysterically.)

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Jamsha – Cafrería épica (“Epic Vulgarity”)

After spending most of the 2000s in Ciencia Fixión—one of Puerto Rico’s most respected underground rap crews—Dr. Who? and Don Severo Canta Claro rebranded themselves “Pepper Kilo” and “Baby Johnson” and reemerged in 2012 as Füete Billēte, a trap trio that brilliantly spoofed southern hip-hop’s clichéd rhymes about sex, drugs, and crime in a uniquely Puerto Rican way. That they managed to win the hearts of hip-hop heads and hipsters alike is hardly a surprising feat when you consider their previous musical history: aside from Ciencia Fixión, Severo collaborated with Calle 13 and Intifada, and Dr. Who? was a member of indie rock band Dávila 666.

Anyone vaguely familiar with these guys knows they are not pimps and drug dealers, but they perform with such conviction that regardless of how absurd their boasts get, uninformed listeners will surely believe their outlandish tales come from experience. Sadly, “Musica de capsulón” was not a mainstream success, but Füete Billēte’s ingenious raps and elaborate production paved the way for the popular “trap en español” movement currently dominated by artists with weaker rapping skills (Jon Z) and/or poppier sensibilities (Bad Bunny).

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Füete Billēte – Música de capsulón (“Hotbox Music”)

Even though I legitimately love Jamsha’s and Füete Billēte’s music, perhaps the main reason why I cherish these two albums so much is that they remind me of home when I’m away. While studying abroad in Madrid, Jamsha’s songs and videos provided a very Puerto Rican form of entertainment that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I’ll also never forget visiting Los Angeles last year and driving through Hollywood with the bass from Füete Billēte’s “Iron Mic” rattling the fuck out of my friend’s car. Blasting this on the Sunset Strip with the windows down was my own little way of letting the people in L.A. know that I was there, that Puerto Rico was there. This might seem trivial at best and juvenile at worst, but when you live in a foreign country, anything that reminds you of where you come from is incredibly valuable.

The Minimalists

  • The La’s
  • Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Few things are as American as rock & roll, but any objective and rational lover of popular music has to admit that the greatest rock bands of all time come from England. From The Beatles and Pink Floyd all the way to Blur and Radiohead, British rockers just seem to push the envelope more in terms of sonic exploration.

However, not all British bands are obsessed with musical experimentation. Some prefer to strip rock & roll down to the bare essentials (guitar, bass, and drums), and to be honest, my personal tastes lean more towards a straightforward, minimalistic style. This is why The La’s and the Arctic Monkeys’ classic debuts are among my all-time favorites.

With the exception of the haunting yet touching closer “Looking Glass,” every song on “The La’s” is under three minutes long (and impossibly catchy). Their jangle pop style can be traced back to fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles’ mid-1960s work, but Lee Mavers’ distinctive voice and aggressive strumming of his acoustic guitar were so original that they seemed to have no precedent.

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Mavers is a tortured recluse that has never released another record because of his dissatisfaction with the sound of his band’s lone album. He is likely the only person on the planet who feels that way, because “The La’s” received universal critical acclaim and influenced countless musicians (Noel Gallagher has spoken extensively about his love of the group, and American band Sixpence None The Richer scored a hit with their cover of “There She Goes”).

About 15 years later, a group of teenagers from Sheffield became the fastest-selling British band ever with their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” A sort of concept album about being young and going out, the Arctic Monkeys actually sounded like a much older band due to their technical precision and lyrical maturity (“Mardy Bum’s” breakdown of a relationship gone sour is almost Rubber Soul-ian in its attention to detail).

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All grown up with zits and all.

Musically, the album combines The Jam and the Buzzcocks’ pop-punk energy with early Oasis’ swagger and British lyrical themes, but the crisp production and inventive guitar interplay of American band The Strokes are the key elements of their sound. The Arctic Monkeys have since moved away from this style, but this record rightfully remains their most revered creation.

The Hard Rock Classics (Part II)

  • Van Halen
  • AC/DC – Powerage

Of course, any conversation about bands that grind rock & roll down to its core would be incomplete without mentioning AC/DC, the quintessential bare-bones rock group. Everyone and their grandmother has been exposed to “Back in Black” at some point in their lives, but not enough people are familiar with the masterpiece that is “Powerage.” It should come as no surprise that this is Keith Richards’ favorite AC/DC album: Malcolm Young himself called it their most underrated record and the one that “real pure rock & roll guys” respect the most.

Why would Malcolm say that? A brief overview of the tracklist will tell you all you need to know. “Sin City” is Joe Perry’s favorite AC/DC song. Eddie Van Halen called “Down Payment Blues’” guitar riff one of his all-time favorites. “Gone Shootin’” is Brian Johnson’s favorite Bon Scott-era AC/DC song and “Beavis and Butt-Head” creator Mike Judge based the theme music for his show on its unique riff. The intensity of Scott’s venomous vocals on “Up To My Neck In You” is only matched by Angus Young’s ripping 83-second guitar solo (the best one he ever recorded, in my opinion). “Riff Raff” is possibly AC/DC’s fastest song, and album closer “Kicked In The Teeth” is one their most aggressive. Opener “Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation” is the most commercial track on here, but it’s still rawer than subsequent hits like “Highway To Hell.”

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#TeamBon all day.

Now that I mentioned Eddie Van Halen, let’s talk about his own band’s groundbreaking self-titled debut album. Angus Young himself called Eddie “an innovator like Hendrix,” and frankly, anyone who disagrees has no idea what they’re talking about. There was nothing that sounded remotely similar to his guitar work in 1978; everything from his “brown sound” and blazing speed to his finger tapping and “dive bombs” spawned legions of imitators and changed rock music forever.

In addition to Eddie’s innovations, the songs themselves are terrific, and they are probably the main reason why this record has stood the test of time. Let’s face it; if its sole claim to fame was Eddie’s guitar playing, “Van Halen” would have only been a success with music nerds. Instead, it is a certified Diamond album that is consistently ranked as one of the greatest of all time.

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Eddie Van Halen in 1978.

The Weirdos

  • Edan – Primitive Plus
  • Murs – 3:16 – The 9th Edition

Other than the fact that he produced my favorite song on Mr. Lif’s “I Phantom,” I didn’t know anything about Edan in the summer of 2004. That’s when I stumbled upon his album “Primitive Plus” while browsing the rap section of a small record store in New York, and buying it was one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I have ever made.

Edan is a hip-hop triple threat: a rapper, producer, and DJ whose multitasking ability makes him a kind of hip-hop Paul McCartney. Everything about him is unconventional: he’s a white guy from Boston who usually wears a tie during his live performances (in which he raps and cuts records simultaneously), a young guy who worships old-school and golden era rap (and this record is full of references to past MCs), and a satirist who masterfully pokes fun at the most ridiculous aspects of a musical genre he clearly adores.

Edan’s production–which somehow sounds both retro and futuristic at the same time–is certainly top-notch, but his rapping is what sets this record apart. It blows my mind that he never appears on “best white rappers ever” lists, because few MCs of any race can match his vocabulary, wit, and passion…

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I’d take him over Eminem any day.

…which brings me to Murs, a 20-year rap veteran who has released almost 30 albums and EPs.

One of the most creative MCs you’ll ever hear (as well as one of the best live performers in rap), his topical diversity is second to none, as his first collaborative album with producer 9th Wonder demonstrates. Just peep the songs “The Pain,” in which he laments his lack of romantic success (which he attributes to being “more Coldplay than I am Ice-T”), and “Freak These Tales,” in which he wistfully and joyfully talks about his various sexual partners while avoiding the hypermasculine persona that lamentably permeates through hip-hop culture.

Murs’ self-deprecating humor is one of his most distinguishing characteristics, but he’s also an incisive social critic (“And This Is For…”), a gifted storyteller (“Walk Like A Man”), and an introspective thinker fully aware of his numerous contradictions. All these attributes make him come across as an extremely relatable, fully-fleshed out human, something that not too many rappers in the mid-2000s were particularly keen on.

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Murs and me in Boston last year.

The Musical

  • Hamilton

Ok, so I kinda broke my own rule about double albums. So what? “Hamilton” is so good–scratch that…LIFE-CHANGING–that I left the Heartbreakers’ “L.A.M.F.” out of this list just so it could take up two entries (And since I’ve given serious thought to having those iconic letters tattooed on my arm, I’d say that’s a big deal).

Raised on a steady diet of hip-hop and show tunes, Nuyorican playwright, rapper, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda created a revolutionary work of art that condensed the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (and the early history of the United States) in 46 highly memorable songs. Originally conceived as a hip-hop concept album, Miranda debuted the show’s mesmerizing opener at the White House in 2009 and spent the next six years turning it into a play that would win 11 Tonys, 8 Drama Desk awards, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer.

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Oh, and did I mention that its main cast members are POCs? That’s pretty revolutionary in itself (especially considering the play’s subject matter).

The sheer amount of emotions that one is sure to experience while listening to “Hamilton” is overwhelming in the best possible way. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as you go through an orphaned immigrant‘s struggles to change his new country for the better while navigating around a complicated love trianglefighting in a war, debating the merits of the financial system he created, falling victim to sexual temptation, dealing with a close friend’s betrayallosing his son under tragic circumstances, and having to accept his own premature death.

Many critics have called it a “hip-hop musical,” and while its rap credentials are certainly solid (the album was executive produced by Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots and it’s the first cast recording of a Broadway to musical to top the Billboard rap charts), this moniker is severely limiting. Just like in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s personal life, a vast array of musical styles coexist peacefully with hip-hop in his play (sometimes in the same song). You want Beatlesque pop? You got it. How about boogie-woogie? It’s here, too. Have a thing for early 2000s R&B? Lin’s got you. And of course, like any good musical, it is rife with dramatic singer showcases whose grandiosity somehow doesn’t make them any less moving.

In 1999, the New York Times called HBO series “The Sopranos” “the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century.” I agree with this statement, and I’m going to go ahead and declare “Hamilton” the greatest work of American popular culture since “The Sopranos.” Incredibly original, deep, funny, and inspiring, it truly did change the game.

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I’m a fan.

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Lessons from #Bernie2016 and the 2012 Celtics

The science is in: we love to root for the underdog. When people we like accomplish things few thought they were capable of, it makes us much more giddy than if we had seen it coming. How else do you explain Rocky V earning $120 a million at the box office and Buster Douglas getting his own video game?

New England’s own Bernie Sanders and the Boston Celtics are no strangers to the underdog role. Interestingly, Sanders’ bid for the presidency is peculiarly homologous to the Celtics’ improbable run to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Now that the Independent Senator from Vermont conceded defeat and suspended his campaign, let’s take a look at some of those similarities.

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Both Sanders and the Celtics ran into imposing juggernauts of their respective fields. Hillary Clinton — a former Secretary of State, former Senator from New York, the First Lady during the 1990s economic boom, a millionaire several times over, and one of the most famous people in the world — was being talked about as the presumptive Democratic nominee long before the Sanders campaign was even a concept. A CNN poll taken a month after Bernie announced his candidacy shows just how far behind he was in the beginning: he polled at 10 percent — a far cry from Clinton’s 60 percent, and even Vice President Joe Biden’s 14 percent. As we all know, Biden never even entered the race!

The Celtics’ situation wasn’t much better. Heart conditions cost key bench players Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox their seasons, and former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal and impactful second-year man Avery Bradley also suffered season-ending injuries. As if their decimated roster weren’t enough, they had to get through “The Heatles,” an impossibly stacked “super team” that boasted three of the top five picks of the historically great 2003 NBA Draft: a three-time MVP universally recognized as the best basketball player of his generation (LeBron James), the 2006 Finals MVP and 2009 scoring leader (Dwyane Wade), and a 27 year-old seven-time All-Star (Chris Bosh).

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It should come as no surprise that pundits didn’t give the New Englanders much of a chance. The New York Times politely called the Sanders campaign a “long shot,” and some media outlets even went as far as declaring his candidacy “symbolic.” Just as basketball analysts thought the Celtics would be lucky to win a game or two against the Heat, political analyst Noam Chomsky opined that Sanders’ most likely triumphs would be to “press the Dems a little in a progressive direction” and to become “a thorn in the side of the Clinton machine.”

If they were truly that hopeless, why did so many people support them? Perhaps the major differences between them and their opponents made them more relatable to the average person. Hillary and the Heat were respectively derided as “corporate” and “Hollywood,” while Bernie was hailed as a populist who genuinely cared about working people and the Celtics as an unselfish, hard-working team that stayed away from the limelight. The feeling that they might have been operating within the confines of a rigged system determined to see them lose could have also created sympathizers. Remember how the Wyoming, New York, and California primaries provoked the ire of Berners everywhere? How about the alleged favoritism of the officials in the Heat-Celtics series? Not even Rocky had to deal with that kind of adversity.

Despite their comparable uphill battles, the most significant parallels between #Bernie2016 and the 2012 Celtics were their results. A team whose first two scoring options were a 36 year-old with a balky right knee and a fourteen-year veteran with a sprained MCL had no business beating LeBron and D-Wade three times in a row. Similarly, no one could have envisioned a self-identified socialist winning 22 states in a United States presidential primary.

The Celtics inspired aging weekend warriors everywhere to confidently challenge cocky young ballers, and Sanders emboldened American youth to participate in the political process like no other candidate before him. Even if you’re not the biggest hoop head or political junkie, only good things can come from following the precedent set forth by Bernie and the Celtics!

You’ve got a friend in me (or do you?)

Last weekend, I saw the critically acclaimed movie “The End of the Tour.” Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel, the film is about the few days in 1996 that Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky spent with writer David Foster Wallace, whom he was interviewing for a story to be published in the magazine. Aside from being a superbly acted, scripted, and directed film, its existencial and philosophical discussions are guaranteed to make anyone think. However, what really made me think was the way the journalistic profession was depicted on screen.

For starters, I was surprised at how unglamorous the Rolling Stone office was; it looked exactly like the office of the small newspaper I used to work for in Puerto Rico. Aesthetics aside, the film also touches upon classic issues in journalistic ethics. When Lipsky goes to his editor to try to convince him to write about David Foster Wallace, it’s clear that he greatly admires the novelist’s work, perhaps even envies him. His wide-eyed enthusiasm about the writer is not disimilar to that of a teenager and his favorite rock band. When Lipsky finally meets Wallace, however, he changes. He has a job to do, and he doesn’t let himself get too close on a personal level. This was surprising to see, because from the way the character was presented in the early moments of the film, I figured that he would stubbornly seek Wallace’s approval at every turn, or even try to befriend him.

This scenario brings up a dilemma that I’ve encountered many times while interviewing people: how friendly should I be? I am very sociable by nature, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to not try to establish some sort of human connection with the person I’m talking to. I addressed this issue with my Enterprise Reporting professor last semester, former Boston Globe reporter and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Kurkjian. He told me that even though I was a “nice guy with a friendly face,” that I could not be afraid of getting under someone’s skin with a question I had to ask. This does not mean that I have to be rude, but being overtly friendly is not conducive to getting the type of responses you want. This is also addressed in the movie when Lipsky’s editor insists that he ask Wallace about his alleged heroin addiction – a subject that he had been avoiding so far, perhaps out of respect for Wallace.

A few days ago, The New Yorker published a marvelous piece on the way the film presents the journalistic profession. I was glad to see that it described some of the things Lipsky did as “creepy,” because I felt the same way as I saw his character rummaging through Wallace’s bathroom drawer and casually flirting with his female friends. However, what I liked most about the article was its description of “the curious artificial intimacy that can arise in the process of interviewing, at length, the subject of a magazine profile.” Like I said before, this is an issue that I still struggle with. It’s important for journalists to know the difference between being someone’s friend and being friendly, as well as the difference between being rude and being assertive. I’m happy that such a successful movie is shining a light on these complicated yet fascinating themes.

Final Paper: The media’s coverage of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Somali author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a polarizing figure in modern American politics. Championed by some as a defender of secular, liberal, and feminist values and derided by others as an intolerant bigot, her criticism of Islam has ignited controversy on many occasions.

While she does have ardent supporters, a simple Google search shows that the most pervasive opinion of Hirsi Ali is a negative one. Articles published in Time, Salon, Slate, The GuardianAlterNet, and The New York Times have strongly criticized her and her views. This is somewhat perplexing due to their reputations (warranted or not) as left-leaning publications. One would think that they would side with a person who risks her life to support traditional liberal values: human rights, gender equality, freedom of speech, and secular policies. The problem is that most news outlets and journalists are not aware of what she truly stands for.

In her latest book (“Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now“), Hirsi Ali cites numerous verses in the Qu’ran that advocate violence, but whenever she is interviewed, no one seems willing to acknowledge the fact that these texts are riddled with outrageous barbarism. More often than not, journalists seem more interested in debating or judging her than in actually listening to what she has to say.

If I were interviewing her, I would ask her why does she believe that religion itself (instead of the perversion of religion) is the problem, but in all honesty, this question should not even need to be asked. Hirsi Ali addresses the issue directly in “Heretic”:

If the Qu’ran or the hadith urges the believer to kill infidels (“slay them wherever ye catch them” [2:191]) or to behead them (when ye meet the Unbelievers [in fight], smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly [on them]” [47:4])—or to whip adulterers and stone them to death (Sahih Muslim 17:4192), then we can not be wholly surprised when fundamentalists do precisely those things. Those who say that the butchers of Islamic State are misinterpreting these verses have a problem. The Qu’ran itself explicitly urges pitilessness.

One of her harshest critics is The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur, who called her as a “neocon maniac” who says that “we are in a military war with Islam.” Uygur’s wide reach as an online news host and political commentator means that has the power to influence other people, and such misrepresentations are disingenuous at best and criminal at worst. After all, journalists are supposed to adhere to a code of ethics that obliges them to minimize harm to other people. Using a platform as wide as The Young Turks to smear a person (who already lives her life under constant death threats) just because you don’t agree with her views (or what you think her views are) is, therefore, extremely unethical behavior.

This is even more problematic when one actually reads her books and articles. Hirsi Ali believes that Muslims “must critically evaluate their sacred texts in order to reform their religion.” The types of reforms that she advocates are strictly ideological, but the mainstream media seems hellbent on presenting her as a violent radical ironically similar to the ones she’s trying to stop.

In Heretic, she states:

For years, we have spent trillions on waging wars against “terror” and “extremism” that would have been much better spent protecting Muslim dissidents and giving them the necessary platforms and resources to counter the vast networks of Islamic centers, madrassas, and mosques which has been largely responsible for spreading the most noxious forms of Islamic fundamentalism…We have not bothered to develop an effective counternarrative because from the outset have denied that Islamic extremism is in any way related to Islam. We persist in focusing on the violence and not the ideas that give rise to it…We cannot fight an ideology solely with air strikes and drones or even boosts on the ground. We need to fight it with ideas—with better ideas, with positive ideas.

If that’s not a far cry from the policies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama (who despite his fondness for drone strikes, no one would ever describe as a neoconservative), I don’t know what it is. Sadly, when someone has respected as Obama refuses to acknowledge the troublesome aspects of religious texts by insisting that violent acts are only committed by those who corrupt the tenets of their faith instead of adhering to them, Hirsi Ali’s words are seen by many as nothing more than unchecked hostility.

If whoever is interviewing Hirsi Ali wants to make sure that viewers and/or readers understand her message, they need to make this abundantly clear from the beginning. A journalist never judges; he or she informs. There are multiple ways of doing this, but aside from the obvious (reading her books would be a good start), the best one would be to just let her speak for herself. This approach guarantees a better outcome for all: the journalist would gain credibility by being impartial, Hirsi Ali would be given a fair chance to articulate her views, and the audience would get to hear the ideas straight from the source.

This final point is an important one because one key aspect of journalism is presenting the facts and giving news consumers the opportunity to formulate their own opinions. It is worth noting that these opinions are unrelated to facts; that is, someone might not agree with Hirsi Ali’s perspective, but they will have a better idea of what she really thinks if journalists avoid injecting their own opinions about her and her views during the interview.

In a world rife with Islamic fundamentalism, the possibility of offending the wrong people is a reality that those who cover these topics confront every day. However, it seems that some journalists take this fear of displeasing others to a dangerous extreme. Giving too much importance to not angering other people might interfere with your main responsibility as a journalist: providing accurate and truthful information. It is not our job to sugarcoat inconvenient truths, and it is definitely not our job to attack those who have the courage to express them.

Spoiler Alert!

While surfing the web yesterday, I decided to look up reviews of my favorite movie of all-time, Before Sunset. I’ve read more about that film than anyone I know, but since I love it so much, I can never get enough. This led me to a piece that came out in The Daily Telegraph in 2004, the same year that the film was released.

From the first paragraph, I was drawn in to the article. Not only because of my obvious affinity towards its subject, but because of how well-written it is. However, as I kept reading, something started to bother me. It had way too many details about what happens in the movie. I couldn’t help but thinking that if someone who has not seen it yet ends up reading it, he or she will miss out on the surprising developments of the film and it will ruin their entire viewing experience. I found it criminal that the “review” gave away what happens in literally the last 10 minutes of the movie – as I watched the film for the first time, I had no idea what would happen, and I could not take my eyes off the screen for a second or let my mind wander because of how captivating it was.

Shockingly, that’s not even the worst part about this whole ordeal. The last line of this article just drove me insane: “Before Sunset opens on Friday.” The movie had not even come out when this was published! As I read the review, I thought, “maybe it’s not that bad, because most people who read reviews like this have already seen the movie,” but no! In this case, no one had seen it yet!

This made me think about the ethical guidelines of writing film reviews. I reviewed films for the newspaper I worked for, and I always struggled with how much of the movie I would give away. As a reviewer, you obviously have to talk about some scenes and characters, but my rule of thumb was to never give away surprises. Basically, if it was an important plot development that was not in the trailers, it was off-limits. This might seem like a minor issue to some, but as a film buff, I take it very seriously. Aside from the viewing public, producers (as well as actors and directors) should also be taken into consideration when writing reviews. These people have invested their time, energy, and/or money into a product whose main selling point is the fact that no one knows exactly what they are getting when they pay for it. If you take away the element of the unknown, the product loses most of its value.

Because it’s an opinion-based genre, I’m well aware that coming up with a universal set of ethical guidelines for film reviews is a challenging (if not impossible) endeavor. Nevertheless, journalists’ main purpose is to serve the public interest, and in my opinion, this includes allowing them to enjoy the magic and mystery of cinema to the fullest extent possible.

Operation “Correct that error” (continued)

On my first stab at trying to get a news organization to correct a mistake, I intented to have ESPN revise and update their article about basketball player Josh Smith. After commenting on the story (as well as tweeting and emailing ESPN), I never received a response. I knew I’d have to focus my energy elsewhere, and luckily, I found the perfect article to do so.

On August 6, The Guardian published a story about a new initiative to improve literacy by a Colombian cultural institute: a highly creative endeavor that consists of correcting spelling mistakes found on tattoos. Ironically, there was a very obvious misspelling of the Spanish word “fácil” (easy) in the article. The original text read:

One tattoo which has become notorious on the internet reads: “La Vida No es Fasil” (Life Isn’t Easy) emblazoned on a young man’s chest. The correct spelling is “facil”.

I immediately tweeted at The Guardian to let them know about the mistake – but received no response – and the article remained unchanged. A couple of days later, I followed up by sending an e-mail to their editorial staff, as well as the writer of the piece, Sibylla Brodzinksy. I explained to her that I was a graduate journalism student at Northeastern University (as well as a Spanish language purist and proud Puerto Rican) and let her know about “Operation Correct that Error.” To my delight, she responded quickly and graciously, and she also linked me to the corrected version of the article. Therefore, I am happy to say that my undertaking of “Operation Correct that Error” was a complete success!

Opinions and the Internet

While chatting with a friend last night, he let me know that he had started a new workout routine. He seemed quite thrilled – he’s following popular trainer Marc Fitt’s regimen and he thinks that it will pay off. I had never heard of Marc Fitt before, so I did some research and immediately stumbled upon this, an article that debates whether he is a “natural bodybuilder” or yet another athlete who has used anabolic steroids to enhance his performance and/or appearance.

Although the site that published the article isn’t a journalistic one, it made me think about the ethics of speculating on an individual’s private life in a public forum. Apparently, Fitt himself was not thrilled with the article’s ultimate conclusion that he is most likely “on the juice,” so he wrote a letter to the page to clear his name. The editors at nattyornot.com were kind enough to post said letter on the aforementioned article, therefore upholding the journalistic standard of fairness. By giving their own opinions and allowing Fitt to express his, they give the reader a better opportunity to come to his or her own conclusions.

Still, it made me think about a few things. What if someone is unaware that websites like these are writing potentially untrue stories about them? Is this “fair” or ethical to discuss people’s lives so openly? Does it make it all right to make allegations about someone if you explicitly state that it is only an opinion that is not based on facts or evidence? Should the ethical standards that we expect professional news organizations to uphold apply to any random website or social media platform? The age of the Internet and social media has made all these questions more difficult to answer.