Ayyyy, It’s National “Hug A Newsperson Day”!!

All over the world, journalists are dedicated to providing you with accurate and timely news to inform you of the happenings of where you live, the next state over, or across the world. Journalists work hard, often long and varying hours to get the news to your lap (or text for your phone). Today is the day where we nationally recognize newspeople for all that they do…

It’s National Hug A Newsperson Day!

Are you a journalist? Give your team a hug! Do you work solo? Give yourself a hug! Hug, hug, hug!

There are thousands of journalists nationwide who cover everything and anything. Between the local newsperson giving you information about the events happening in your town, or the national correspondent keeping up with the White House and everyone in between, they’re all important. Without them, we wouldn’t know about everything going on around us.

Not only do journalists supply information to the public, but they also have an important role as a watchdog of sorts. Many things would otherwise go unnoticed without journalists and their passion. According to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of Americans believe that news organizations keep political leaders from doing “things that shouldn’t be done.”

This is especially true in today’s political climate, where shouts of “Fake News!” spout from Twitter fingers.

The lettering style of this image looks deliciously like the “Mocking Spongebob” meme, which was a dream find come true :’)

Despite the danger journalists face, they continue working regardless of the potential consequences. According to the Associative Press, from January 01st, 2018 to December 19th, 2018, 53 journalists were killed in “retaliation for their work.” The Associative Press (AP) also said that the imprisonment of journalists in foreign lands is on the rise.

Current journalists exist in a changing world due to the increase of technological advances and the ease of access of getting news on mobile phones and other small devices. As a result, they are continuously adapting to the advancing world around them to ensure that news is still out there, whether you choose to watch it on TV, read it on your phone, or pick up a copy of a newspaper.

Look for some huggers. You deserve it 🙂

April 04th is each year’s date to give a simple “Thank You” to the journalists who go above and beyond for coverage. Even if you can’t find a journalist to hug, extend a virtual thank you for all that they do.

Let’s show the newspeople around the world that they’re appreciated, that their hard work is being noticed, and that we care.

EVERYONE Needs Mental Health Breaks

The term “mental health” seems to be predominantly used to describe a series of disorders that directly affect the mental state: anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, narcissism, PTSD, and others. As a result, the concept of a mental health break is often used to describe a state of those suffering from mental illnesses taking time to themselves in order to lessen the effects of their illnesses.

While this is important…we all have brains. And, like any muscle, our brains need breaks.

This is your brain. This is your brain on overdrive.

Japanese men boast the highest suicide rate in the world, with an average of 70 people committing suicide each day and 71% of those being males. It is a crisis, and it is the leading cause of death for Japanese men between the ages of 20-44. Why? Societal pressure.

Japan boasts a nationalistic society, rather than the individualistic society of the United States. Sure, people in the US scream out, “Ahhhh, for America!!!”, but in reality, their daily goals are set in order to best suit themselves and possibly their families (which also benefits themselves). Japan is the opposite; your daily tasks are done to benefit the country of Japan, and this is drilled into kids’ heads from a young age. If you fail, you are scorned.

All of that pressure… No wonder the suicide rate is so high. Studies show that 65.3% of suicides in Japan are attributed to losing jobs, while 34.3% are caused by hardships in life, and only 7.1% stem from depression. Suicide due to stress is so common in Japan that seppuku was coined by samurai warriors as an honourable way out after losing a battle, and suicide forests like the Aokigahara exist for douchebags like Logan Paul to watch for tragedies to occur.

Dick.

While Japan may own the highest suicide rate, suicides related to stress plague every country. The developed world is very time-centric, where “time is money” and “the early bird gets the worm” and “you’d better get all of your stuff done on time or you’re going to be living in a box by the end of the week”.

And really…that’s not the way to live a life.

As someone who suffers from zero mental health issues other than an obsession with Pikachus and penchants for procrastination and non-punctuality, I still need mental health breaks. And if I need mental health breaks, then I know the rest of y’all certainly do.

My most recent mental health break is the reason why this is my first article in over a month, and why my Twitter went dead for a bit. After procrastinating majorly on finishing Reaper’s Creek, I found myself with back-to-back excruciating deadlines. I had to finish the book, finish the first edit, do a second edit, and a third, and submit it all within a matter of weeks. As soon as this was in place, it was time to rush off to OhayoCon, and then to immediately launch into writing–not one, but TWO–new books!

On top of this, things are in full swing for my new media company, HareBrained Entertainment, and I was busy trying to balance constant updates for the website and the social media channels, along with my own books, jobs, and social life.

And by the first week of March…I was drained, y’all.

This is what procrastination, personal, and societal expectations did to your Chu.

I stared at the pages for Beneath A Mountain Moon (Book #3 in the Belle Âme Chronicles, which will be released May 2019) and wondered if it was even worth it. Although I’ve heard great reviews on the series so far, did people even really care about the book? Did the plot even make sense? I’d then switch to work on Bad Con Adventures (my first tellall/help book, due out in two weeks, eek!) and struggle to type the words in a pleasurable fashion, although it’s all true life and stories that I lived through and have told one millions times.

I missed an episode of True Crime Tea. Then another. Do people even listen to the podcast? Do they care that the episodes were missed?

Another photoshoot completed, and I suddenly had one-hundred photos to edit by St. Patty’s Day.

My brain was just fried.

So…I ignored all of my deadlines.

Swiggity swooty, I came for that nonchalant booty!

I didn’t work on either book for weeks. I slept until 2pm on weekends. I ignored the photos. I didn’t write. I didn’t catch up on my Twitter timeline or schedule new posts on Hootsuite. I even dropped from 5 days a week in the gym to 2-3 per week.

Instead, I purchased a new copy of South Park: The Fractured But Whole on my Switch (so that it’s portable!), and I spent March replaying a fun game that I’d already played once before on another console.

Four weeks later, and I feel like a new Chu. I am behind in everything, but I feel strangely okay about that. I am excited to finish the last edit of Bad Con Adventures and to dive back into Beneath A Mountain Moon. I spent this weekend finishing my other unfinished projects and charting out all of my book releases for the rest of 2019 (including a new series, whahahaaaaa…more on that in the coming weeks). I got approved for a few convention tables to sell my books. My brain is flowing with creativity once more!

My brain looks something like this on scans right now, which is its normal state. It’s my “text your bestie at 3am with HEY WOULDN’T IT BE COOL IF WE–” every night state.

For the first week of my little video game sabbatical, I was plagued in the back of my head with thoughts: “You lazy piece of sh*t; why are you replaying this game? You know how it goes. You have so much to do. Get off the couch and be productive.” But I knew in that moment, in order to deliver the creative projects I want in the level of quality that I want, playing that video game was productive. And necessary.

And because I went down to South Park and had myself a time, you guys now have a tidal wave of new content coming to you all soon 😘

Counteract Stress With A Few Positive Habits

According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America, an estimated 85 percent of adults reported feeling overwhelmed by something they have had to do in the past year. Stress can have two effects: it can break someone down mentally–sometimes physically–, or it can wake someone up to perform better. I work great under stress. It helps to prevent procrastination, and it increases my focus. However, that productivity only emits from a manageable amount of stress. A little stress is beneficial. A lot of stress is not. Too much stress breaks your body down, killing all productivity and tanking your mood at the same time. Too much stress causes you to need an “off-day”, which eventually leads to more stress from now being even further behind in your activities. There is a reason that stress is a killer.
So, how does one relieve stress, particularly while still being plagued by a lengthy to-do list? The following tips are the methods that I have used through my adolescence to relax my mind and get me back on track.
  • Meditate. Sit on the floor and listen to your favourite music on a speaker. No one else in the room. No distractions. Just music. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out, repeating “in…out…in…out” to yourself as you breathe. Alternatively, stand before a mirror and recite a positive mantra like “I love myself,” over and over, staring yourself in the eye as you do so. Perform either of these meditations for a minimum of 5-10 minutes.
  • Reach out to friends. Let everything out on them. Friends and family are great for you to talk to and garner advice from. My friends function as my counselors, and they are great at keeping my mind on balance. Your loved ones are there to support you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. If they will not…are they really your friend at all?
  • Tune in to your body. Lie on the floor on your back and breathe deeply. Mentally scan your entire body, starting by visualizing the crown of your head, and traveling your visualization down to the tips of your toes. Focus on any random aches or injuries as you pass them in your visualization. Envision them relaxing and healing. Let every part of your body relax and go free. You’ll be amazed at how well this works.
  • Watch a funny Youtube video, movie, or TV show. Laughter is really the strongest medicine, and it is super effective for releasing stress. Pull up your favourite light-hearted or dark comedy show, relax on the couch with a snack, and allow yourself to veg out for a few hours. Let yourself laugh. If you cannot laugh initially, force the laugh. After one or two forced laughs, they will start to come naturally and will help you to start feeling more refreshed.
  • Exercise. Exercise releases cortisol, which aids in relieving stress. As those feel-good endorphins begin flowing through your brain, it will help your body feel less tense and your mind more focused. Not a fan of cardio? No worries. Strength-training has been proven to be just as beneficial in relieving stress. Plus, using exercise for stress reduction could be the first step on the path of true physical health 🙂
  • Journal your thoughts, frustrations, and worries. Great men across history such as Thoreau journaled. It’s a great way to deal with your problems. There have been many a day when I have furiously typed out a rant that I never published. Why? Because by the time I was done typing, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. All I needed to do was to get those feelings out of my head and put them onto something physical. Reread what you’ve written. Reread it again. Comprehend your rant; it will help you to make sense of your emotions and to break them down analytically. Don’t feel like posting it publicly? Send it to one of those trusted friends and family members, and ask them for advice.
Do keep in mind that these tips will not work for everyone. Sometimes, people need counseling, and that is totally normal. Most counseling centres even have tables with colouring sheets where people can colour pictures like they used to do in elementary school, before adult obligations and responsibilities consumed them. Need help finding a counselor? Most college campus’s counseling centres have walk-in appointments, where anyone can come in and talk to someone. Many churches offer the same, even to people outside of their religious beliefs. You may think that counseling isn’t for you, but think of it as a place to get everything off your chest. These tips are also not a solution for clinical mental illness. If you are (or suspect that you are) suffering from a mental illness and are struggling with stress, please contact your therapist and/or your doctor for further advice. They will help!

D0min0-a-g0-g0’s New Album “End” Invokes A Reflective Experience For Listeners

Producer and rapper D0min0-a-g0-g0 released the album End on January 12th, 2019, a lo-fi and hip-hop fusion that’s been well-received since its release. I sat down with the Indiana native to learn more about End, its collaborations, and what she has planned for the rest of the year.

 

A: First of all, congratulations on the new album! What was your inspiration for the album, and how long did you spend working on it?
D: It started early last year as a hip-hop project. I used to rap and wanted to get back into the scene. Well, the rap idea went into a lo-fi direction, and as life stresses went on, it became my only outlet… Needless to say, the inspirations came from a dark place.

 

A: It’s been awhile since your last album was released? How is End different than your previous work?
D: Lucid Instrumentals are very aggressive, and actually not meant to be an album. It was just what my skills as a producer had evolved into. With End, I wanted to take those skills and make them mean something. The meaning changed through its progression, and that’s how End became what it is today.

 

A: End has a great lo-fi feel to it. What are some of your favourite songs on the album?
D: Each song has a meaning to me. Each one invokes a different feeling, so it’s hard to choose… If I had to choose, it would probably be “Dragon Gone”. It was originally a lot longer and didn’t have the same feeling as it does now, but after working with it more, adding certain instruments, and making it shorter, it finally reflected the emotions that I had been holding back.

 

A: What was the most challenging song to write and/or produce on End, and what made it so challenging?
D: “Last Call”. It was the first song that I made for the album, and I spent the longest time trying to make it perfect.

 

A: You had collaborations with John Blackriver and Harmon Warhol on End, two great artists that you’ve worked with and produced for in the past. What was it like working with them again, and can we expect to hear you on John and Harmon’s respective upcoming releases?
D: John and I went to high school together and have very similar tastes in music. So when it came time to sit down and write new music, we were on the same page. It was one of the few days during all the stress that felt like a blessing.
I’d wanted to be a producer since I was young, and it wasn’t until I met Harmon Warhol that I started taking it seriously. Working with him is a pendulum; it swings back and forth from laid back to ‘it’s time to put in work’. He pushes me every time we work together, and every song we finish makes me feel like a stronger producer. I said “Last Call” was the most challenging. Harmon didn’t make it harder; he set the bar higher for me, and I can’t thank him enough for it.
I know John has an arsenal of songs just waiting for me to produce, and as soon as things calm down in my life, we’ll be back to work. Harmon likes to surprise me with his releases. The last time we had a long talk, he mentioned that he has a new project in the works. In the meantime, you should check out his group Rebel Activity.

 

A: You and John released a music video for “Kissing Booth” back in September 2018, a song not featured on End but retaining a similar style. Can we expect more music videos now that the album is out?
D: Just to clarify, “Kissing Booth” isn’t my song; that’s all John. I just recorded him and made the music video. As far as music videos…right now, it’s all up in the air. I have this idea to make a short film out of the album, but the likelihood that I’ll have the resources and the time are not looking in my favor. But who knows! Maybe it will. No promises though.

 

A: I posted an advertisement for your album on my social media when it was released on Saturday (January 12th). A bit of controversy occurred when someone took offense to End‘s album cover, and a scuffle happened in the comments. Just to clear things up, can you explain why you chose that cover and how it relates to the album?
D: Oh yeah… The album art… There were three other pieces that I had made and considered using at first. However, during the production of the album, I read the manga that the album art is from. I don’t recommend it if you like being happy, so I’m not going to name it here. That manga was really powerful to me, like a knife to the heart. The moment where you have reached the lowest you can. The moment where you’re going to make a change. Everything is in place, and you’re in reach to bettering yourself…and life decides to send you through hell instead. That moment of relapse. I’ve gone through similar experiences in my life, and the album itself shows those scars within the tracks.

 

A: It’s fun to see how people interpret our art, but every artist has their own endgame for how they wish their art to be viewed. What do you hope people experience when they listen to End?
D: The genre of lo-fi gave me the vision to make an album that was a soundtrack to my life and how I feel. You can turn on a lo-fi playlist that reflects your mood and go take a walk, and it fits. With my album, I don’t expect every listener to feel how I do…but if it does, and the album speaks to you that way, then you know you’re not alone.

 

A: What’s next for D0mino-a-g0-g0 throughout 2019?
D: John Blackriver is definitely on my list. I want him to have an album out this year, and I’m going to work my hardest to help him achieve that. My solo projects come with life–when inspiration strikes–then the music comes naturally. But right now, I’m going back to my roots and forming a band. I’ve reconnected with some old friends who are helping me fight my demons, and we’ve been writing songs together. All I can say about it right now is that if you like Smashing Pumpkins and Gorillaz, it might be your thing.

 

 
D0min0-a-g0-g0’s latest album End is available now on Bandcamp.
You can keep up with her on Twitter @dominoagogo.

Where Is The Love? A Song. A Message. A Truth.

A bout of nostalgia led me to listen to the Black Eyed Peas’s Elephunk album recently. Elephunk was one of my favourite albums as a teen, and I still feel that it is the Peas’s best work.

I jammed throughout the album, driving to who-knows-where in my car. This was the album that introduced us to Fergie. This was the album that made its way onto The Urbz: Sims In The City (the best Sims game of all time). This was the album that launched the Black Eyed Peas into stardom.

Elephunk began with “Hands Up”, a feel-good jam. I giggled when “Let’s Get Retarded” played, realizing that the Peas would be done for were they to release this album and that song in 2018 and not 2003. I’d forgotten that the album version of “Hey Mama” differed from the music video staple. “Latin Girls” reminded me of why Taboo was always my favourite Pea and got me feeling some kind of way. “Anxiety” made me miss Papa Roach and wonder what they’ve been up to since the mid-2000s.

And then, “Where Is The Love?” began to play through my little Honda’s speakers.

You might remember “Where Is The Love?” The viral first-single off Elephunk featuring a young Justin Timberlake at the start of his solo career. It’s a song that I’ve heard time-after-time and always considered to be a “good song”. It’s a song that I also haven’t heard in a decade. And it’s a song that resonates much differently as a 28-year-old than as an 18-year-old.

The lyrics hit me hard. As an adolescent, I often felt like “Where Is The Love?” was out of place on Elephunk. It didn’t have the Peas’s “hard” vibe.

Little did I realize that “Where Is The Love?” is actually the “hardest” song on Elephunk. “Where Is The Love?” was written when Will.I.Am, Fergie, Taboo, and Apl.De.Ap were in their upper 20s, as I am now. They had experienced the things then that I have now. They had seen the things then that I did now. That song wasn’t meant for a teenager. It was meant for an adult.

The lyrics are honest.

Heartfelt.

Crushing.

I was shocked as I listened to “Where Is The Love?” for the first time in a decade.

And I cried.

The issues that the Peas witnessed in 2003 are still the issues of today. Have they gotten better? Have they gotten worse? Am I just more aware of them today because I’ve gotten more cynical with age? And–most importantly–why are these issues still issues fifteen years later?

Let’s just take a look at the first verse:

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all

How many days in a week do we see news articles about the latest celebrity brawl, stabbing, or murder? How many additional days in a week do we see local news articles about these same things? How many people have to OD before they realize that the “party hard, street cred” lifestyle is not a conductive one? Or one conclusive of a long lifespan?

Every time there is a mass shooting in the United States, why are people arguing over whether than individual was a terrorist or just “mentally ill”? Why is it so hard to use the term “terrorist” to refer to anyone who commits an act of terrorism? Why do only those of Middle Eastern descent get branded with the term “terrorist”, while those with brown skin are “thugs” and those with light skin are “mentally ill”? Why is mental illness seen as an acceptable label for genocide although it makes things that much harder for the millions of Americans actually suffering from bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and more? If we can call a spade a spade, why is it so hard to call a terrorist a terrorist?

Where did people develop this notion that the colour of their skin means they’re somehow superior to their fellow man? Why is this incorrect notion still acceptable and prevalent in today’s society? Why do people think that saying, “White is best”, “Black is best”, “Hispanic is best”, is a good thing? Why can’t we just see people for their souls and not their exteriors?

Most importantly…why are we so against love?

Love is the cure for all hatred, and I really don’t give a damn if you think that’s corny or not. Learning to love someone, love your neighbour, love a people, is what keeps you from hating them for trivial matters or from being indifferent to them as they suffer.

TED Talks exist because of the inspirational energies that they provide to the people who watch them. Vision boards work because of the inspirational energies that they generate within a person while they create, see, and live that board. Motivational quotes are found everywhere from Instagram posts to home décor because they serve as reminders to encourage people to be their best self and to never give up.

And while this motivational movement is occurring. So is one of hate.

People flippantly argue that TED Talks, vision boards, and motivational quotes are bullshit, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Motivational speakers are ridiculed and mocked. There are segments of the population arguing that it is “inappropriate” to kiss one’s own child and that it is pedophilia.

Again, I ask, why are we so against love? Why do we try to bastardize love any moment we get? Why is it “cool” or “edgy” to proclaim “I don’t believe in love”? What is so wrong with feeling, experiencing, and sharing LOVE?

This incomprehensible argument against love is what keeps these sorts of social issues alive. These arguments against love are why the lyrics of “Where Is The Love?” are still relevant today:

Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

Numerous scientific studies and psychology analyses have shown time after time that a lack of love is deadly. You might not be stabbing someone in the gut with a rusty knife, but you are stabbing them in the mind just alike. There is a reason why most foster and adoptive children suffer from RAD. There is a reason why psychoanalysists like Rene Spitz accurately documented extraordinarily higher infant-death-rates among babies suffering from neglect and emotional deprivation, as compared to their loved and cuddled counterparts.

There is a reason why heroes like Daryl Davis, an African American blues musician from Silver Spring, Maryland, have been able to convince dozens of Ku Klux Klan members to hang up their hoods and become reformed racists. Davis doesn’t spit in the faces of the KKK members. He asks them why they feel the way they do. He gives them phone calls. He jams with them on music nights. Through using love, logic, and history, Davis is able to educate racists on the errors of their ways and convert them into becoming more open, loving, and accepting members of society.

Hate is clearly not working. Indifference is clearly not working. It doesn’t take a genius to look outside or at a newspaper or at a social media feed and see what what we are doing, encouraging, and living is not working.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction

I feel these lyrics. I agree with these lyrics. I feel like people are growing colder as I age. I feel as though I am growing colder as I age, simply as a defensive mechanism of how I see people being treated and how I have been treated. Why should we have to shut down love to deal with hate?

There is something so beautiful about a child’s innocence: so pure and loving and accepting. Why do we have to lose that as we grow older? Why do we have to accept that the world is an “evil place” and live our lives in fear?

We don’t.

Honestly, we don’t.

If more people are willing to let go of that anger, that fear, that hurt in their hearts and give a new way of life a chance, then we don’t. If more people refuse to judge others based on the colour of their skin, the religion in their tomes, and the gender of the person they wish to spend the rest of their life with…then we don’t.

So many see love as a sign of weakness. But, it’s not. Hate is.

Hate is the weak emotion. Hate is the undeniable sign of failure. Hate is the father of all evil.

So maybe, just maybe, it’s time that we finally give love a chance?