Never Lose Your Voice

Maintaining or creating originality in a world full of it

It’s been awhile since my last written blog.

Certainly, if you read my breakdown of the last Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer, you’d know why. But, this isn’t about that. Well, maybe it is.

In a lecture today for my Reporting Class, we discussed how a room full of writers still have to refine, adapt, and pioneer their writing styles. For it being a college course you’d think, “Well, why is it so crazy that writers are learning how to write in a reporting class?”

It’s a solid question, sure. My issue with it is that if a room full of people journalists need to be taught how to have a voice, we’ve failed. I observed the lecture hall and people were frantically scribbling down what came on the screen. The senseless sycophancy made me step back and think about originality and voice.

I brought up my Star Wars blog earlier. I didn’t write that blog and breakdown that trailer because I had to. I did it because I wanted to. I wanted to generate thought about what the scenes, sequences, and spoken words meant for the Star Wars saga.

This blog became a small forum for thought. Whether many people were going to see my breakdown or not, it didn’t matter to me. I just made sure my voice was out there in case anyone was listening.

An E.B. White quote was given in that lecture today and it really struck a cord with me. White says, “To achieve style, begin by affecting none.”

I even used it in my daily #AttackTheDay post:

White’s quote is significant to me because it opens up understanding about voice. You can’t change the world immediately with just your own voice. It’s unfortunate in that manner. But, White isn’t saying stop because of this. He’s promoting originality and style by starting small.

Nothing starts large. An idea can turn into a larger conversation and that’s the goal for us writers. Generating conversation through our style and words is what can change the world.

Understanding that your voice alone can be one that creates change is the first step to originality. Your style and your voice become topics of conversation once read. It’s a chain reaction from there.

I think a lot of people are worried about the judgement of others or the social barriers of voice. This past July, I made a change in my life: I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Since I began the show, I’ve become less concerned about what people will think about the things I say or do. I just make sure to not lose my ability to say the things I say or do the things I do because that’s what makes me who I am.

Larry David is someone that embodies the inside thoughts of many. He may be considered an asshole but to me, he is the master “Social Assassin.” He says what he wants to say regardless of what people will think or say back.

For example, this scene from the latest episode perfectly embodies Larry’s ability to speak his opinion in situations when people usually wouldn’t.

Everybody should say they don’t like tap water if they don’t like tap water! Speak your opinion! Write your opinion! Put your voice out there without hesitation from judgement!

That is how originality and unique voices stand out in this world. So many people want to pick sides on things nowadays. Try making your own side. Stand in the middle and create a unique voice whenever you can.

There’s no excuse not to speak freely as a writer or as a human being. Be honest with yourself and the world. Have remorse but don’t let anything go unsaid.

If you’ve done this, great. You have a voice and you can start generating conversations to make a name for yourself. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to generate your voice into a mass conversation.

Insert your voice into society. Speak loudly and clearly without hesitation. Generate conversation and most importantly of all, let out your inner Larry David.


My Breakdown of the new “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” trailer

Because sometimes, the fate of the Far, Far Away Galaxy is more important

Well folks, as journalism is something that is very important to me, I must admit that the story of the Star Wars saga is almost as important.

When this new trailer aired during the Bears-Vikings game last night, I found myself more concerned with the wellbeing of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and the Resistance much more than the wellbeing of Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears offense. Which, being from Chicago, is a dangerous thing to say considering the Bears future lies on the shoulders of Trubisky.

Regardless, this trailer has a lot to unpack and I’m sure it concerns many other journalists in this galaxy or in a galaxy far, far away.

So, let us begin:

Firstly, this brand new poster was released yesterday afternoon and it began discussion of what could happen in the trailer. A lot is going on here and the thing that stuck out the most to me was Luke Skywalker’s face being half blue and half red.

Clearly, there are some implications there about where Luke stands on the Dark side and the Light side of the Force. It also adds context to Luke’s line from the last trailer where he says, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Luke stands in the middle of whether he should or shouldn’t train Rey in the ways of the Jedi and the latest trailer shows us that. I’ll bring this back up later.

There’s also a heavy focus on Leia; something I’ll also bring back up later. Then, we also see a lot of Red and White in a vehicular battle on the new planet, Crait. Crait, according to director Rian Johnson, is “very remote. It’s uncharted. It’s a mineral planet and so there are mines on it. [There are some] beautiful design elements and I hope some really unique ones that we’re able to bring into it.”

And of course, we have an unmasked Kylo and other supporting characters (Poe, Finn, Captain Phasma) which again, I’ll bring up later.

Now, let me really begin:

Here, we see Kylo Ren observing the construction of First Order AT-STs and AT-ATs. For the uninitiated, AT-ATs are the robot camels from Empire Strikes Back and AT-STs are the two-legged ones (apparently non-Ewok resistant) from Return of the Jedi.

To many, this is unimportant, but in the next shot:

BOOM. Big-time front line of the First Order’s AT-ATs ready to fuck shit up on Crait. While this is going on, we receive narration from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) about presumably, Kylo Ren. He says, “When I found you, I saw raw, untamed power; and beyond that, something truly special.”

We see quick flashes of Kylo and his troopers invading something that looks like a mine, so I’m going to assume it’s Crait. Then, we see a helmeted Kylo, which I’ll also assume is early on in the film, because later in the trailer, we see Kylo smash this helmet:

But, Snoke sounded like he was giving Kylo the lecture of a lifetime. He’s got to be chewing Kylo out for getting slashed in the face by an inexperienced Lightsaber dualist like Rey. Which, speaking of Rey:

PALE-BLUE GRAFLEX LIGHTSABER IGNITION FROM REY. Something I noticed during The Force Awakens was that Luke/Anakin/Rey’s Lightsaber looked a little too dark. So, to see it look like this again was a very lame nerd thing that I got excited about.

Then, we see the sweet reunion of Luke’s hand and the Graflex Lightsaber:

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 2.30.29 PM.png

This is nice, because the last time, it didn’t end too well:

Next, these flashes of scenes are being narrated by Rey:

Rey hiking to see some Jedi relics, which I assume is what she is reading or having visions from in the first trailer [link above].

Jedi training looks fuckin’ sweet by the way. But, Rey says, “Something inside me has always been there. But now it’s awake and I need help,” clearly indicating her use of the Force in Episode VII.

But then, shit gets real:

Rey’s powers are literally groundbreaking. We see Luke Skywalker nervous for the first time in a Star Wars movie since he was training with Yoda on Dagobah and saw this:

But, we see Luke’s flashbacks of a Jedi temple burning after an attack on it, by presumably Kylo and the Knights of Ren, whom we still know nothing about. Luke then says, “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me then, but it does now.” Summed up in one picture:

Boom. Luke is nervous. He’s seen this strength once before: if it was a pupil of his, he’s clearly talking about his nephew, Kylo Ren. But, if we wanted to get deep into Star Wars
lore, maybe he saw this strength in his father or the Emperor back in the day. But, it’s probably and most definitely about Kylo.

But the craziness doesn’t stop there folks. The next thing we see is a mask-less Kylo, flying around in a TIE Fighter and narrating. He says, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.”

He says this as we see this:

Will he go the ultimate evil route and kill his only remaining parent, Leia? Maybe. But, I think this is our first instance of misdirection by this beautifully edited trailer. I think Leia might be in a different location at this point in time, but, what do I know? Kylo might be very ready to take out his mom in this very cool-looking space battle.

Let me say this though: I really don’t think Leia Organa, one of the strongest and most iconic Star Wars characters ever, is going to die in a space explosion. I truly believe that she won’t. It’d be really lame if that happened and it certainly wouldn’t be an honorable death for her character. But, if Kylo has to “become what [he is] meant to be” then he really could be killing Leia here or anywhere throughout the movie. We really don’t know folks, this is one where we’ll have to wait until December 15 to see.


Porgs are about to be the hottest toys of Christmas 2017 and maybe for the rest of time. They are absolutely adorable. This little guy only proves that. Regardless, this seems to be in a mine on Crait.

Could these crystals in here though, bear with me for a second, could they be Kyber crystals (the crystals that power lightsabers and the Death Star)? Probably not, but there aren’t many crystals in the Star Wars saga. But, a bit later in this trailer, we also see crystal foxes of some sort with Leia:

So maybe that’s just how everything on Crait is.

But, in these next few shots, we hear Poe Dameron saying, “We are the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.” While he, in his badass X-Wing, is trashing First Order ships like it’s his fucking job:

As a Resistance Pilot though, it is his fucking job.

Then, we see some more flashes of Finn fighting Captain Phasma:

This is what I’m really excited about. Phasma was the lamest character in Episode VII. She did nothing. She is now getting a huge chance at redeeming herself in this film by fighting one of the best characters from Episode VII, Finn.

Finn is also holding that electrocuted, bullshit thing that TR-8R (TRAITOR!) guy fought him with in Episode VII:

So, if you didn’t think this trailer was dope yet, then here. we. go.

Some battle-scene flashes lead to this:

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 3.03.14 PM.png

MY BOY LUKE HAS FALLEN IN THE RAIN. He narrates, “This is not going to go how you think.” This is without a doubt the entire theme of the trailer.

Judging by this line, The Last Jedi is about to be one of the craziest movies we’ve ever seen. My sister wants to believe that it could be better than Empire Strikes Back. If this movie is even close to Episode V, then I will be amazed. I’m just ready for a crazy-awesome Star Wars film. If it’s better than V, good. If it’s not, just don’t be as bad as The Phantom Menace.

Back to the conclusion of this trailer:

BOOM. We see Snoke(not as a hologram for the first-time) with the Force-chokehold of a lifetime. We thought Vader’s chokehold was impressive; Snoke literally has Rey screaming for mercy in mid-air.

Then, as Rey narrates the end of the trailer with the line “I need someone to show me my place in all this.”

She’s speaking to someone off-screen but then, these two scenes are spliced together:

IS REY REALLY ABOUT TO JOIN KYLO ON THE DARK-SIDE? In my opinion, fuck no. She’s the hero of this story. The giant prediction of her being a Skywalker is still left unanswered. Another Skywalker going evil is something the franchise can’t afford. Whether she’s part of the family or not, I really don’t think she’s going evil.

If you want more proof, look closely at the lighting and backgrounds of the two gifs above. Watch it again in the trailer if you want. They’re in two different places I think. Kylo is somewhere in a hellish environment with fire and hell falling behind him. Meanwhile, Rey just has a softer glow on her face with a plain background.

Also, remember this:

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 3.15.17 PM.png

Luke’s Jedi School burns to the ground and he consoles with Artoo. Kylo’s face also isn’t bandaged in this scene:

like we saw earlier in the trailer:

Therefore, it is my belief that the Kylo-Rey conversation is one of a figmented, Force-vision. Or, Kylo reaching out is during a time where he is destroying and overthrowing Luke’s Jedi school. I think it’s another case of clever editing and scene-splicing. The editors of this trailer are excited about trying to fool us. This movie is about to be insane. Whether these two shots are connected or not, this movie is going to be insane.

We still have so much to see. Don’t forget: Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, and Kelly Marie Tran are all in this movie and they haven’t appeared in any of the trailers yet.

Rian Johnson and other Episode VIII execs apparently branded this trailer with *Spoilers*. I think it’s all part of the misdirection ploy. I don’t think the Rey-Kylo scene or the Leia-Kylo scene are connected. I think they were cleverly spliced together to get our nerd juices flowing.

Am I right? Maybe. Maybe not. What I do know is this: Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes to theaters on December 15 and that day can’t come soon enough. We will all find out then. Thank you for sticking with me for this crazy-long blog.

May The Force Be With You.



Food and the Feeling of Togetherness

Sharing food and good times will make us remember togetherness

I’m feeling a bit sentimental today. When I thought about the idea of this blog post and what it truly means, I was hungry.

Now that my appetite has been satisfied, it’s time to think about why the food I just ate was important. We can talk about its nutritional values, its price, etc. But, I ate that buffalo chicken sandwich all by myself in a crowded sandwich shop.

How could I feel so alone in a crowded place? How can that be possible if food is a comfort to the hungry?

Well, it’s because recently, I’ve changed my eating habits. Not in a nutritious way, mind you; in a way that allows me to share my food and my experiences with my friends.

Every Sunday night for the last month, my friends and I come together and create gigantic feasts to share amongst ourselves and our close friends. We’ve made fajitas, ribs, fried chicken & waffles, and we’ve even made our own crawfish boil.

This isn’t a brag fest about my friends and I being able to cook these; anyone can cook these. What I’m trying to relay is the togetherness of the dishes we make.

Before our guests arrive, my roommates and I prepare the meal while listening to music that relates to the dishes we are serving. For example, when we made the crawfish boil, we listened to old, New Orleans style jazz. When making the fajitas, we listened to Hispanic flute and dance music.

It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had. With the fun preparation of the food and the bond of friendship, it makes the end product that much better(it tastes delicious anyway).

After the meal is cooked, a handful or two of friends swing by for good times. The last dinner we had, I finally took a step back to appreciate the culture we’ve created for ourselves. I can’t call myself a southern chef or a boil master and neither can a lot of people that prepare meals for their families or friends. We leave those titles to the professionals that cook.

But who are the professionals? No matter where they come from, no matter the ethnicity, and no matter the food they cook, these professionals are all just people who want to make everyone feel good through food. They want to bring together people of all shapes, sizes, and colors to share food and experiences.

When I took a step back this past Sunday and felt what hopefully anybody who has prepared food for others before, I figured out the togetherness of food. Food satisfies us all.

I’ve said it before, of course food satisfies our hunger. We need it to survive. But, love and togetherness can also keep a suffering world alive.

I urge anybody to try to replicate this feeling of togetherness and love. Take a step back with loved ones and friends of old and new to share food. Prepare a dish from scratch and bring together the aspects of your life onto one plate and in one place.

Food and togetherness are both experiences that should be served alongside one another. Although you may want to sit in a sandwich shop by yourself, just try once a week to share a meal with someone and appreciate it.

Appreciating the time spent over food makes the meal that much more memorable and much more satisfactory.

I hope that everyone can experience togetherness in a time of divide over a meal with friends.

(My friends and I are making a rum ham this Sunday…..I hope it’s good. Regardless, we’ll be doing it for the experience and the togetherness).


Social Media Profiles and the Ebb and Flow of Life

What cleaning up your social media profiles can do for you

I haven’t updated my blog with my first published story yet because I don’t have a published story yet. This is of course, no one’s fault for things don’t happen until they do.

I’ve hit my first speed bump as a journalist though. I’ve had sources gone quiet for a bit and it’s starting to be a gigantic pain in the ass. But there’s nothing I can do except try and be a pain in the ass back without being creepy.

There are a bunch of questions that run through my head as I try to focus on my first story and getting that going while other events and stories go soaring over my head. I feel behind though I’m all on top of my feature idea. I find myself slinking back onto social media and I see other people publishing works while I feel left in the dust.

I don’t see how much more I can do but I’ve got to do something. I guess I just have to re-evaluate myself and try to refresh my outlook on being a journalist. It’s my priority and I should stop feeling like I have a promise held down to one story. I should get going on other works and maybe toss aside my pride behind my first story.

Anyways, the title of this post had social media within it and I did mean to discuss social media and my adapted feeling towards it in the world of journalism.

I’ve recently had my profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and iTunes peer reviewed for the first time by somebody who I’m not friends with and it was actually an eye opening experience. To what I thought was a profile clean up before college, I had made my profiles readily appropriate for basic purposes.

Basic purposes being, not looking  weird to girls who wanted to slide into my DMs. But, now that I’m an official reporter for a news organization, I really have to step up my game.

For instance, all those pages I liked in seventh grade that are inactive on Facebook now can still be seen by the social media hunters that want to see who’s interviewing them. I’ve got to do a total revamp of all my profiles big time if I want to actually be considered for a job somewhere.

Though, my YouTube, Twitter, and iTunes profiles are all sound. I still run my “Nerd News” gaming page on YouTube. My Twitter page is the best form of myself online. Meanwhile, my iTunes page is where you can find “The Creatively Challenged Podcast” which is the podcast my friends and I discuss movie and entertainment news.

There’s a time and a place for everything in real life and in your social media life. Once you become an adult in the working world, it’s time to clean up the profiles. Unless your job depends on you being a wild and spontaneous personality on social media, it’s time to grow up.

So don’t be mad if you don’t get the job you wanted or if somebody doesn’t want to date you because you’ve got videos and likes on your profile that indicate you plow beers like water and want to post about it. Well, it’s still pretty impressive, just leave it off of social media.

Through the emotional rollercoaster that was this post (which mimics my life at the moment), remember, clean up your social media profiles and be professional when you can be. Also, straighten out your priorities and make sure your life is the one you want to be living.


Working: Journalism Begins Now….and Later

How Coping with Stress in Journalism and Life is the Ultimate Concern

IT’S HAPPENING! Everybody stay calm! I’m actually working.

Funnily enough, it doesn’t feel so strange to be doing actual pre-reporting work. It’s not anything I haven’t done before. I’ve prepared emails and I’ve researched players and stats; but it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary.

Last week, including the days leading up to today, I was a bit nervous about getting started. From my previous post, you might not think I was that worried to get started, but in all truth, I was.

I was scared to get that first phone call out of the way. I was scared to send an email, to report, and to put my name on it. It seemed a lot more daunting than it should have. But, I have gotten through that barrier and I feel relaxed once again.

But can a journalist ever be relaxed? In certain terms, yes and no. Yes, because it’s ok to be the connection from people to pages and it’s ok to feel nervous about that. But, news never stops; nor does life.

A journalist should not miss an opportunity to report due to lack of care or want. Time must be divided to provide to work for all necessities. But, when you are hungry, you must eat. When you are tired, you must sleep.

Don’t kill yourself over journalism, rather kill the bad habits that threaten yourself and prevent journalism.

A video of a professor teaching his class comes to mind when I talk about juggling stress.

Enjoy this video as much as I did. It taught me a lesson that really hadn’t been taught to me up until this point in my life. It’s ok to be alive. Stuff happens that we can’t control and life can get stressful. Though once we relax, choose our battles, and choose our happiness, life becomes balanced.

I admit, this became a lot more about stress coping over my first feature story. But, I want to spread a lesson I’ve only recently learned to those who might not have or needed a reminder. Limit your stress, don’t limit your life.

Coming soon will be my first featured story as a reporter. Stay tuned and stay calm.


The Return of Incredibly Average, yet Amazing Adventures from Me

My long awaited return to written internet blogging has arrived.

“He’s Back.”- Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge

When Fudge said this, he wasn’t describing my return to blogging of course. He was announcing the return of Lord Voldemort.

In no way am I similar to Lord Voldemort but I digress. The reason I’m back is because I’m now officially a Big-J Journalist at the University of Missouri after two hard years of work.

This means, I’m bringing back my blog not because I’m supposed to for my current class, but because I’m getting another chance to go over my weekly experiences in reporting once again. (And just a little bit because I have to.)

From previous classes, you can scroll down this blog and find earlier cases of my thoughts and opinions about reporting and get some information about what past experiences I’ve had as a journalist. You’ll be getting the same thing now generally, but hopefully you’ll see some progress.

It’s been just over a year since I last posted to this blog. I hope since then I’ve become a better writer and a better journalist overall. Since I’ve last written, my YouTube page has grown, I’ve started a podcast, and I have more journalism work underneath my belt.

I hope what I’ve learned and experienced will help me move forward as a sports reporter for the Columbia Missourian. 

Being a reporter is something I’ve dreamed of for a long time now and now that I’m finally here, some nerves are starting to set in. I’ve done the work to get to this point and I always thought this was what the peak would be, but it’s not. I’ve got a long way to go on my journey; I’ve only just completed the first leg of it.

For now, I am the official beat writer for the University of Missouri Volleyball team. Volleyball is a sport I have little experience with but now I’ve got to be the middleman for MU’s volleyball team and basically, the rest of the world. It’s crazy to think about, but it’s something I haven’t quite digested yet.

This is my doorway into one day being a household name like Woodward and Bernstein. Though it may be nerve-racking, it’s the doorway to the rest of my life and I’m very excited to get that started.

Welcome back to my journey.


NPR Report- Shakepeare’s Stays Local Final Mix

06/25/2016                           LOCALPIZZA0622               Stewart


Local Food Staple: Shakespeare’s Business is Booming



Fresh and Local ingredients have kept business booming for Shakespeare’s Pizza. Employees and customers alike believe that the pizza joint is a food staple in Columbia. Danny Stewart tells us why this pie is popping.


LOCALPIZZA0622                              TRT: 2:30    SOC: Danny Stewart


Location Super: Columbia, MO



College students and regular pizza goers have high-praises for Shakespeare’s Pizza temporarily on Eighth Street.

Manager Toby Epstein believes that their recipes have kept customers coming back for all these years.


TOBY                         TRT :08                                   OC: “recipe pretty religiously.”


“We established a recipe early on in our business and we’ve stuck to that recipe pretty religiously.”
Since 1973, Shakespeare’s has stuck to their great recipes and it has been dishing out what some call Columbia’s best pizza.

The recipes have been kept consistent and Epstein is a great advocate for them.

TOBY                          TRT :14                                               OC: “in our product.”


“The central part of the recipes has been the same. So, at all of our locations and in our frozen pizza department, everything is made the exact same way and so that’s how we keep a consistency in our product.”

Of course it is the ingredients in these recipes that make the pizza so delicious.

Epstein advertises that Shakespeare’s only includes local and fresh ingredients in their pizzas.

TOBY                          TRT :15                                               OC: “made by us.”


“What does make our pizza good is the quality of the ingredients. The fact that we don’t have anything frozen, we prep everything ourselves. We shred our own cheese, we make our own sauce, everything is made by us.”


Shakespeare’s must cater to a large audience in Columbia.

Student Todd Rogers believes Shakespeare’s fits into his appetite.

TODD              TRT :11                                               OC: “resonate with me.”


“When I first moved to Columbia, I’m originally from Chicago, I wanted a place that was good, that was tasty, that was cheap and Shakespeare’s does resonate with me.”


Speaking of Chicago: Epstein has an answer about his competitors in relation to “the best pizza”.

TOBY              TRT :10                                               OC: “competition with ourselves.”

“We don’t really try to make that argument. But, there’s lots of great pizzas out there, there’s lots of great businesses out there and we firmly believe we’re only in competition with ourselves.”



Shakespeare’s may be a college town pizza place but it has left its mark in the hearts of many.


Reporting for J2150, this is Danny Stewart.



The employees and the customers sure do keep the restaurant going strong. To find out more or order a pizza, you can go to