COLOR YOUR FASHION RUSTON RANTS
READ ABOUT ONE OF NORTH LOUISIANA’S MOST CONTROVERSIAL FACEBOOK GROUPS AND THE PEOPLE BEHIND IT
GET TO KNOW FOUR OF OUR FAVORITE LOCAL MAKERS AND WHAT INSPIRES THEIR WORK
WINTER 2018 | LOUISIANA TECH UNIVERSITY
ARTS+CULTURE 4 | How Horror Happens Take a look behind the scenes to find out how horror film creators craft the chill-inducing thrills their fans seek.
8 | Maker’s Spotlight Get to know four of our favorite local makers and the inspiration behind their work.
14 | Adventures in 3 hours or less If you’re looking to get out of town for a day and explore somewhere new, take a look at three locations within three hours of Ruston for a fun day trip.
16 | MAD Festival Mapping out your 2018 festival lineup? Read about the latest music festival to hit the South, El Dorado’s MAD MusicFest.
2 | SPEAK magazine
28 20 | Bullet Journaling Learn how to organize your life in a way that fits you by creating a customized planner tailored to your needs.
FOOD+DRINK 24 | North LA Cocktails Check out SPEAK’s favorite specialty cocktails in Ruston, Monroe and Shreveport.
FASHION 28 | Color Inspired Fashion Check out these color-inspired outfits from a local clothing boutique.
34 | Capsule Wardrobe Find out how to organize your closet for a simpler, easier wardrobe that will make getting dressed one less thing to stress over.
FEATURES 36 | ‘Later, Gator.’ Follow Tech student Chase Allen’s 500 mile journey through the Colorado Trail.
42 | Ruston Rants Read about one of North Louisiana’s most controversial local Facebook groups and the people behind it.
From the Editor
his is my last publication as editor-in-chief of Speak magazine, and I have to say I think it’s the most proud I’ve been of one of Tech’s publica-
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Rachel Maxwell
tions in the three years I’ve been
involved with Speak and Tech Talk.
MANAGING EDITOR Jenna Price
With a changing budget, pay structure and location, we had to do a lot of adjusting
WRITERS Stormi Verret Cecile Jennings Kristyn Miller Joshua Kilgore Kallie Crawford Victoria Houston
this quarter. Additionally, we had to start practically from scratch when it came to the writing, photography and design staff. Everyone on the Speak team this quarter exceeded my expectations and did a great job rolling with the punches and figuring out
FASHION COORDINATOR Dakota Dupont
how to bring you fantastic content. Inside this issue you will find fashion inspiration, organizational tips, vacation ideas and some of my favorite feature stories Speak has included so far. I learned so many interesting things while working on this issue, and my hope is that as you read the magazine, you will too. As I step back from my position as E.I.C so that I can focus on school as I near graduation, I feel good knowing that we have found such an enthusiastic and flexible staff that I believe will continue to bring you new and interesting stories in issues to come. Of all of my experiences in the past four years at Louisiana Tech, working on the school’s publications will be what I look back on the most. For the memories, the friendships and the lessons I’ve learned, I cannot overemphasize this department’s impact on my college experience. I cannot thank those that I have worked with over the past few years enough. For your unending patience and guidance, thank you Mike. You have shown me so much about what a
PHOTO EDITOR Brian Blakely PHOTOGRAPHERS Kallie Crawford Katelyn Fajardo Victoria Houston Stevie Iseral ADVISERS Michael LeBlanc Dr. Judith Roberts T. Scott Boatright PRODUCTION MANAGER Michael LeBlanc
leader can be, and you were there with wisdom and kindness as I stumbled through mistakes and challenges. Jenna, thank you for bringing a new perspective and renewed enthusiasm to the table, and thank you for keeping me sane this quarter. You are a gem, and I’m so glad I got to work with you this year. You will do a great job as E.I.C next quarter, I have no doubt. There are so many others that have passed through the department with me and made my time here the best that it could be, and I’m grateful for every single one.
@LATechSpeak speakmagazinemedia speakmagazinemedia
RACHEL MAXWELL Editor-in-Chief
©SPEAK Magazine is published quarterly by students in the journalism concentration in the department of communication and media studies at Louisiana Tech University. Views expressed in the magazine do not necessarily express the views of Louisiana Tech University. SPEAK Magazine welcomes letters to the editor. However, we reserve the right not to print anonymous letters. We also ask that each letter be accompanied by a telephone number, address, and classification or title. We will not print the telephone number or address. Direct all letters and inquires to email@example.com
Louisiana Tech University is committed to the principle of providing the opportunity for learning and development of all qualified citizens without regard to race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or veteran status for admission to, participation in, or employment in the programs and activities which the University sponsors or operates. For Title IX information, see University Policy #1445 at http:// www.latech.edu/administration/ policies-and-procedures/1445.shtm.
WINTER 2017 | 3
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HAPPENS Find out how horror film creators craft the chill-inducing thrills horror fans seek WORDS JENNA PRICE
ILLUSTRATIONS MATTHEW PETTIT
WINTER 2018 | 5
girl runs through a forest while dodging low hanging tree limbs. The rhythmic pound of her feet on the ground synchronize perfectly with her accelerated heart rate. Small puffs of breath erupt from her mouth, and her lungs scream in agonizing pain. But she cannot stop, not if she wants to live. The camera shakes as the producer follows closely behind the girl. Horrific screams echo off the trees and fade into the background. The music begins to pound in the ears of the audience like the pulse of the girl’s heart beat. Sweat falls off her face, and her whole body aches to rest just for moment. But she cannot stop, not if she wants to live. This opening scene of Matthew Ramsaur’s horror short film, “In Between,” contains a classic example of how to use suspense as a way to intrigue the audience. Moviegoers flock to theaters with the motive of sitting on the edge of their seats. “The first couple minutes need to hook the audience,” said Ramsaur, who makes short films in addition to his wedding and commercial videography business. “You can get into a film in the first ten minutes because of the pace. You can continue that pace with camera movements. I was running in the woods when the girl was running.” Suspense is created through a film’s pace and development of only a couple of characters. Within minutes, an entire story must be conveyed to an audience through relatable characters about a conflict, its climax, and how it was resolved. Short films do not have the time to fledge out numerous characters and subplots in contrast to a two-hour film. Although characterization has to be limited, it does not mean it is ineffective. Audiences are still able to connect after minutes of knowing the character. “You want to structure characters in a way so that the audiences know them in that moment,” Ramsaur said. “So that
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the audience knows the situation and how nerve racking it is for the characters. The audience follows the characters up to the climax, and you fall in love with them.” Suspense contributes to the audience’s engagement of the action on the screen. When the audience can also feel the emotions and terror of the character in that moment, the addictive desire to be frightened is satisfied. “I think people are attracted to horror films because they like the scare,” Ramsaur said. “They like the jump scare. You know it is coming, but you do not know when it is coming.” Phillip Brooks is a Centenary College graduate who later became a location manager in Los Angeles. Previously, he produced “Nobody But Her” and filmed it in Minden. He attributed majority of the horror short film’s action to the gradual build of suspense. “In horror films, it is more about the anticipation of the bad thing happening rather than the bad thing itself,” Brooks said. “With ‘Nobody But Her,’ the slow suspense is created through a time lapse and an interrogation which adds doubt to the character. The music is one big crescendo.” Where Ramsaur’s opening scene has a frantically rushed pace, Brooks’ film has a more hesitant and wary pace. Although the pace differs, the content framework of both short films follow the same simplified format. “With the short film, the goal is to keep everything minimal,” Brooks said. “You want to keep them simple. You do not want a lot of dialogue. You want to get in and get out.” Short films build suspense and, then, release the tension in the resolution. When audiences experience the release of tension, relief fills the theater. People, often times, laugh during a horror film because the tension has been released. The rollercoaster of the suspense build
and tension release is to be viewed with psychological caution. Birgit Wolz mentions in her book, “E-motion Picture Magic,” the therapeutic benefit and discretion when watching horror films. “Because many films transmit ideas through emotion rather than intellect, they can neutralize the instinct to suppress feelings and trigger emotional release,” Wolz wrote. During a film filled with these kinds of builds and releases, the audience can emotionally engage in a similar ebb and flow. Their emotions, which were once stifled as a coping mechanism for traumatic incidents, are potentially left unguarded. The subconscious can have free reign to expose the memories the audience is not prepared to deal with. A tension release at that right moment can allow the audience to be spared of the psychological horror of these memories and, instead, participate in the fictional horror on the screen. “If you never release tension, it becomes tough for the audience,” Brooks explains. “You can release tension through humor, someone dying or surviving, or through revelation. The suspense is broken in moments like the cat jumping out instead of the monster.” Heath Lemme encounters similar psychological effects as an actor for horror films. Yet, for him, it is all part of the process of creating suspense. The line of reality and fiction is sometimes blurred on set so that the audience can buy into its authenticity. In order for the suspense to be real, according to Lemme, the actors must be believable. “I like genuine fear,” Lemme said. “I can tell when certain spots are marked out or the actors had seen the monster costume before.” Lemme previously acted as a supporting
role in a short horror and psychological thriller titled “Cold Fried Chicken.” Within film, the main character is under a hex and spends majority of the film struggling between giving into the murderous impulses and resisting the urges of the hex. “When acting in this horror film, the director kept the cast in suspense until the day of shooting,” Lemme said. “You get better reactions when you do not know what will happen on set that day. It was such an intense role in ‘Cold Fried Chicken’ that I had to take breaks.” The transition from the set to reality is a psychological struggle many actors have difficulty handling. Suspense is released so that the actors can also experience a breath from the tension. For Lemme, excessive amount of gore used on set can offer this relief. “This might sound weird, but I prefer gore in a horror film,” Lemme said. “As an actor, I want to be as far from reality as possible.” The breaks in suspense remind the audience and actors of how the film was meant to be entertainment and a break from reality, not a substitute. CNN released an article in 2016 in their health portion of news concerning a link between horror films and mental health. The fright generated during a horror film, the article claims, is a fear that the audience can control. “Even if the fiction lacks a happy ending, the movie does end, and we can escape from the horror and leave the theater unlike in real life,” Jen Christensen writes in the CNN article. Unlike the true horrors in life, for the duration of a horror film, the audience has the power to control the fears that they feel control them. The suspense is able to resolve and subside, and the audience can leave the film knowing there was never anything to be scared of after all.
SPRING 2018 2014 || 73 WINTER
MAKERS SPOTLIGHT FEATURING ZACH HANNIBAL of Citizen Design Co. LINDA DWYER of Joy Works ALEX MILFORD of Quirky Crochet MORGAN POTTS of Granarly
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Citizen Design Co. Zach Hannibal PHOTOGRAPHY VICTORIA HOUSTON WORDS STORMI VERRET Which Greek goddess personified victory? Honestly, most people probably have no idea. But, does a name come to mind for the prominent checkmark on a runner’s shoe? Almost anyone could guess that one–Nike. This phenomenon is due to branding, a pervasive element of modern culture. Branding is exactly what led Zach Hannibal to his career as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, and media coordinator. Hannibal graduated from Louisiana Tech University, currently does freelance work and is based in Ruston. His interest in graphic design started when he became a graphic design major at Tech on the recommendation of his then friend, now fiancé. As for the source of his creativity, he credits his childhood. Hannibal was often told he had a creative touch, and he reveled in tactile and artistic endeavors as a kid. “My family always told me I was creative, which I guess reinforced that in me,” Hannibal said. His creative streak expanded once he was in college. It developed into a fascination with the idea of company branding and the dynamic within modern culture that branding creates. Now, he draws inspiration from other artists such as Kendrick Kidd, Aaron Draplin and Nick Slater. This fascination not only drove Hannibal’s professional career but it also resulted in an interesting hobby: the creation of Citizen Design Co. Due to his interest in “how brands are identified visually,” Hannibal decided to create his own to see how it works and to distribute some of his own designs. His goal is not that people will see his work and think “oh, that’s Zach,” but, instead, he hopes they will recognize the
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brand and think “that’s Citizen.” As a freelance graphic designer, Hannibal primarily creates logos for small clients across the United States. This allows him to spread his work across the country and helps him accomplish his goal of allowing his work to stand alone outside of himself. As for Citizen, the products are primarily apparel, including t-shirts and hats, which can be found at citizendesign.co. But, harkening to the first item Hannibal ever sold, stickers are also a prominent part of Citizen Design’s merchandise. When asked for his favorite design, Hannibal warned he had a somewhat “weird” answer. “Whenever I make something, at some point I’m always frustrated,” Hannibal said. “Either I start off and I can’t get that idea down or … I’ll go to sketch it, and I can’t get it to look right digitally and that frustrates me. But with the gangster Santa Claus thing, from start to finish it was just really fun, and I felt like it just worked out.” Hannibal does not plan to expand Citizen but instead hopes to use the company as a creative outlet alongside his career. In his own words on his connection to Citizen, Hannibal said, “I enjoy it so much because it’s not a big deal.” In the future, Hannibal aspires to become a creative director. Creative directors are typically the creative heads of marketing or advertising companies, overseeing everyone involved in the creation of the brand. According to Hannibal, in such a position he would be able to take his personal skillset and lead the “whole creative feeling of a brand.” He aims to find a brand or business whose mission he honesty believes in, whether that mission is spiritual or secular.
Joy Works Linda Dwyer WORDS JOSH KILGORE Inspired by her faith and searching for a renewed purpose in life, Linda Dwyer was drawn to painting. A year later, her hobby has become a business: Joy Works. About a year ago, Dywer’s oldest son had moved out, leaving her home an “empty nest.” During a trip to New Orleans, Dwyer was visiting art galleries and said she fell in love with a painting by Susan Morosky. Newly inspired by the paintings she had seen in New Orleans, but also feeling lost in her now-empty nest, Dwyer said she prayed “God, what is my purpose?” She said she felt Him put in her heart that he wanted her to paint. Dwyer posted her first painting on Facebook and noticed some friends liked her work. “By the third one, people were asking if I was selling my work and so I started painting more and more and more, and whenever I sit down to paint I just sense [God’s] presence and it’s so powerful. I just feel like everything just comes together,” Dwyer said. “At one point, I was doing maybe some eight paintings a night and it was crazy.” Dwyer’s subjects include flowers and religious symbols such as angels, doves and lambs, as well as landscapes and some non-representational pieces. She sometimes
partners with Live Love Lettering to add inspirational words or bible verses to her paintings. Dwyer recounted an afternoon during which she was talking to her son, Sean. “It’s such a joy when I sit down to paint, and I felt like I was in another world and he said, ‘Mom, you ought to call it Joy Works.’ That’s how we became Joy Works.” With an official name behind her growing body of work, Dwyer’s business was created. Dwyer said her religious inspiration has been carried through each piece of art she creates. She said she prays over each canvas before she actually starts painting. “I ask God to bless it,” Dwyer said. “Also, whoever gets the painting that God will just bless them through it, so that when they look at it they’ll experience his peace or his joy or whatever it is that he wants to give them.” Dwyer’s main avenue for advertising her paintings is through Facebook and Instagram. Joy Works pieces can also be purchased in a number of local stores around Ruston, such as Avenue Christian Bookstore and Vintage and Vogue and the Ruston Makers’ Fair. Additionally, Dwyer has been given her own show, which will be held at the Dixie Theater in Ruston by the North Central Louisiana Arts Council (NCLAC). Plans for expansion are in the works, but for now, Dwyer is just focusing on filling orders.
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Quirky Crochet Alex Milford WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY
VICTORIA HOUSTON From Amelia Earhart-inspired raccoons to festive candy corns with smiley faces on them, Quirky Crochet has all the adorable crochet stuffed animals one could dream of. Alex Milford, a Louisiana Tech alumna, established Quirky Crochet in July of 2016 but has been selling consistently since January of 2017. She was 16 years old when she was first taught how to crochet by her grandmother and learned the rest from watching YouTube videos. “Crocheting is really interesting because there’s like five or six stitches you need to know, and if you know those than you can do anything, literally anything you can think of,” Milford said. “So if you get the basics down, it’s literally repetition.” 12 | SPEAK magazine
Over time, she said she had made so many stuffed bears that she was a little overwhelmed with them all. She said that being a college student and in need of more money, she decided to try to sell them on an app called Storenvy. After a while she moved the business to Etsy, where it has grown over time. When choosing a name for her business, she wanted to pick something fun that would be remembered easily, when she remembered an ongoing inside joke between herself and her friends about how, “quirky” she is. Initially, she only wanted to sell a few items for a few extra bucks, but since then, she has participated in the Ruston Maker’s Fair, Railroad Fest in Ruston and at the Riverfront in Monroe on the Fourth of July. “I like selling locally at the Maker’s Fairs and Farmers Markets because I like to see the customer’s reaction to something I made,” Milford said. “Like I give it to them and they get really happy. It makes it a lot more special.” Recently, she has gotten many requests for custom birds that bird owners order to look like their pets. She said that this has really helped her business grow. With these custom-made
birds, she makes other custom items for her customers along with her own original items. From pokemon plushies to coffee cozies, Milford makes a variety of gifts and knick knacks. Milford said there is still room for Quirky Crochet to grow and for her to find a specific style that she would want to stick with. “I’m looking into expanding a bit and possibly adding buttons, pins and journals to the inventory of my shop,” Milford said. “Something that isn’t quite crochet, but still has my brand and style incorporated in it.” Milford said her five year plan includes possibly writing a pattern book and publishing it through Amazon for people to buy and learn from. Milford’s advice for local entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses is to not be afraid of starting, because it is hard to start, but always have a financial backup plan. “This is the best time to be a entrepreneur in Ruston, or even an artist. Ruston is growing at an exponential rate and we have a lot of great people in the city government that are helping it grow,” she said, “so my advice is to do it, do it now, but have a backup plan.”
Granarly Morgan Potts WORDS KRISTYN MILLER A unique twist on a basic snack and breakfast food has led Morgan Potts, a Louisiana Tech alumna, to a business operation that is growing by the minute. With a dream, some granola, and a lot of determination, Potts has dived headfirst into the world of business at the age of 24. Potts describes herself as being very entrepreneurial and creative – qualities that followed her from her childhood. “I have never loved business. I love creating,” she says of herself. “I was the girl that had a lemonade stand and sold cups of water for $8.” Potts was born and raised in Jonesboro, Georgia, but has several family connections in Ruston. When it came time to choose a university, she had her sights set on many different schools, none of which included Louisiana Tech. “Tech was the last place I wanted to go. I really wanted to go to California,” Potts says. But with a family full of loyal Tech graduates, Potts decided to give Ruston a try and made the move from Jonesboro in 2011. After graduating in 2015 with a degree in Animal Science, Potts was preparing herself for veterinary school when something happened that would change her future forever. As she went to sleep one night, she said she dreamed of a new and inventive way to create granola. In the dream, she saw herself mixing granola with whiskey and calling it “Granarly.” Though she was excited about her idea, she had a tough decision to make in light of pursuing it. Coincidentally, the same week she experienced the dream, she also got accepted to a prestigious veterinary program at St. George’s University in Grenada, an island in the Caribbean. Torn between continuing on in her veterinary education or risking it all for a (literal) dream, Potts allowed herself time to weigh her options. In that time, she visited St. George’s University on the island of Grenada, where she learned that the island was commonly known as ‘The Island of Spices.’ “I didn’t know this, but the island is literally known for its cinnamon, nutmeg, and other really cool spices,” Potts says. She took this as a sign that she was meant to pursue her dream of Granarly rather than attend veterinary school on the island. After the trip, Potts returned to Ruston and
Photos submitted by Kyle Hadley
began shaping her business from the ground up. Granarly became a legal business in January of 2016 and has been growing since. Now, she incorporates each of the aforesaid spices into Granarly. What makes Granarly so different from other granola brands, though, is its secret ingredient: honey whiskey. “It tastes more adventurous,” Potts says of her granola. Granarly is currently available in four different flavors. Louisiana King Cake and Dark Chocolate Espresso are among the available flavors of Granarly, as well as The Original Granarly blend and an all-new, all-vegan recipe called Skinny Jeans. Granarly is sold online and in 70 stores across North America, including Delish in Shreveport, Uptown Downtown and Social Bites in Ruston, and a variety of other stores ranging from Colorado all the way to the island of Turks and Caicos. In the near future, Potts plans to open up shop herself in Austin, Texas in her own food truck, Oatis on Wheels. As for the future of Granarly, Potts says she would love to one day open cafés and small shops specific to her brand. She is currently working on getting her product in stores like Whole Foods and Target, as well as food chains like Chick-Fil-A. Potts also has dreams of her brand partnering up with other adventurous companies like Patagonia. For now, though, Potts is content with where her business stands and is simply enjoying the ride that she is on. “I’m doing what I love and I get to be me,” she says. Potts wants her customers to understand that Granarly is about more than just a business; it is about the message. “I want to encourage people to really think about the things they enjoy and then make a living out of it,” Potts says. “That’s what Granarly is all about: going against the grain and chasing your dreams no matter what people say about them.”
I HAVE NEVER LOVED BUSINESS. I LOVE CREATING. I WAS THE GIRL THAT HAD THE LEMONADE STAND AND SOLD CUPS OF WATER FOR $8 - Morgan Potts
RUSTON, LA VICKSBURG, MS
NATCHI TOCHES, LA
Need a break from studying? Want to take a trip with your friends and family? Explore some new places? It does not take driving across the country to have some adventures; they can be found right around the corner.
WORDS CECILE JENNINGS ILLUSTRATION CAROLINE KINDER
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Crater of Diamond State Park Murfreesboro, Arkansas 156 miles from Ruston
Vicksburg National Military Park Vicksburg, Mississippi 109 miles from Ruston
Natchitoches 69.8 miles from Ruston
What might just seem like a 37-acre field in the middle of a state park is actually one of the most profitable public diamond mining sites in all of North America. Located just south of the small town of Murfreesboro, Crater of Diamond State Park has yielded an estimated 75,000 diamonds since the first was found in 1906. Since becoming a state park in 1972, people have come from all over the country to play prospector, and sometimes it pays off. The Uncle Sam diamond, the largest ever found in North America at 40.23 carats, and the Strawn-Wagner diamond, one of the purest diamonds ever found, were both unearthed here. Other gems can also be found in the park including amethyst, quartz, calcite and jasper. The park also includes hiking trails, camping sites and a water park, so visitors can stay longer to look for gems. There is a $10 entrance fee, but once inside you can keep anything you find. Tools can be rented on site, but visitors are allowed to bring their own into the park. No special equipment is required as most diamonds can be found in the few inches of topsoil. For more information on this adventure visit www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com.
The battle for Vicksburg was one of the deciding fights of the Civil War over a key stretch of the Mississippi River. The 47-day siege ended on July 4, 1863, with the Confederates’ surrender. Since it was established as a military park in 1863, more than 1,400 monuments have been dedicated to the sacrifices of both blue and gray soldiers. The park is also home to one of seven gunboats, known as The Seven Sisters, that survived the war. The U.S.S. Cairo was found just north of Vicksburg in 1956 where it had been sunk by a torpedo. It was recovered and can be seen, along with its contents, in the park’s museum. During the summer, live-action battles are re-enacted using the weapons and tactics of the era. Historians and tour guides offer visitors a unique educational experience on the culture and history of this pivotal point in America. Walking trails wind through a field which Congress established as a cemetery in 1866. It is now one of the oldest national cemeteries in America, with more than 17,000 Civil War soldiers buried there. For more information on this adventure visit www.nps.gov.
Established in 1774, Natchitoches is the oldest settlement of the Louisiana Purchase still in existence. Nestled along the Cane River, this historic city is rich with Native American, French, Creole, and Cajun heritage. It is not known for certain what the word ‘natchitoches’ means or where it was derived. However, some historians point to the native word ‘nacicit’ which was used to indicate a place where the soil was red. The city began in what is now called the National Historic Landmark District: 33 blocks of some of the finest Louisiana cuisine and shopping. Guided walking tours and buses bring visitors around this historic district. Several Creole plantations surround Natchitoches, including the Melrose Plantation, home to the famous folk artist Clementine Hunter. Visitors also have access to historic sites and landmarks, parks, art and culture museums, galleries, and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. All of these are within the city limits. Paddle boards and kayaks can be rented on the Cane River. Festivals, farmers markets, and arts and craft shows happen year round, with the Natchitoches Christmas Festival drawing crowds from all over the country. For more information on this adventure visit www.natchitoches.com.
WINTER 2018 | 15
Ludacris singing his hit song, “My Chick Bad”.
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MAD FESTIVAL Grand Opening of the Murphy Arts District in El Dorado
WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY KALLIE CRAWFORD
magine a sea of more than 7,000 people waving around flashing light sticks and phone flashlights all in unison with each other singing along to X Ambassadors’ hit song “Renegades.” Imagine that many people singing along and enjoying the fun. That is what is was like the last weekend of September in El Dorado, Arkansas. The Murphy Arts District, otherwise known as MAD, had its first annual music festival Sept. 28-30. The arts district has been in the works for ten years. The town of El Dorado brought in a professional city planner, Roger Brooks, from Seattle, Washington. He did an analysis of the city and told the community that their old theme “Arkansas’s Original Boomtown” was old and outdated. Some of the members of the community disagree with Brooks because they believe the city is only there because of the oil. Even though the city is known to be the original boom town, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Mike Dumas, said, “I’m excited
about the fact that there will be more to do in El Dorado. We’re looking forward to bringing people in, spending money and helping the businesses.” El Dorado has had a music festival for 30 years. Jay Heln, a local resident, said, “I’ve experienced concerts here for thirty years, and I love the unity here.” The town’s music fest usually has local bands performing their music and a few food vendors selling on their main street each year. “We always look forward to music fest. It’s a tradition,” said Bruce Butterfield, a local man working at a booth. Erin Detherage, lead singer and guitarist for Mary Heather and the Sinners, said she has always enjoyed the festival. “Music Fest is one of our favorites to perform at,” said Detherage. Though many have enjoyed the past festivals, others thought it was in need of revitalization. The grand opening of the Murphy Arts District accomplished that this year. In addition to
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their annual music fest, they also had their grand opening of MAD. El Dorado celebrated the grand opening with A-list artists such as Train, Natasha Bedingfield, ZZ Top, X Ambassadors, Hunter Hayes, Brad Paisley, Ludacris and others. With the addition of new, A-list acts, the festival still features Mary Heather and the Sinners and other local groups. “It’s an honor to have my name next to Brad Paisley in the lineup,” said the lead singer, Mary. Thursday, the first night of the festival, which featured Train and Natasha Bedingfield, was completely sold out with more than 7,000 concert-goers. Friday night was ZZ Top with X Ambassadors, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and Ludacris. Although it was not sold out, the fans were loud and cheered on the acts. The fans went crazy when ZZ Top started singing their famous song “La Grange.”
Sam Harris, lead singer of X Ambassadors playing saxophone.
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Another rock music group of that night was the X Ambassadors. The concert had an older crowd compared to their usual mid 20s fans. There was a more matured cluster of fans because ZZ Top, an older band, had brought the fan base in. “It felt great, even though it was a more chill crowd than we’re used to. I always look forward to playing new stuff and seeing how the crowd reacts,” X Ambassadors’ leader singer, Sam Harris, said. The crowd was swaying to their song “Unsteady” and someone in the crowd said, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t know they sang this song. I love this song!” Later that night, Ludacris took the stage. People were cutting loose to some of his music and dancing the night away. His fans were yelling and cheering for everything Ludacris said. The fans seemed to be enjoying themselves, but Dumas was not a fan of the performance.
“IT FELT GREAT, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A MORE CHILL CROWD THAN WE’RE USED TO. I ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYING NEW STUFF AND SEEING HOW THE CROWD REACTS.” – Sam Harris, X Ambassadors
“People did not like the nonsense profanity,” said Dumas. Saturday night’s lineup featured more country artists including Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes, Chase Bryant and Ashley McBryde, along with hip hop trio Migos. The crowd went berserk as Hunter Hayes and Chase Bryant joined Brad Paisley on stage to help with one of his greatest hits, American Saturday Night. Fans held light sticks and phone flashlights waving them around while being engulfed in the music. Hunter Hayes, a Louisiana native from Breaux Bridge, said, “the audience was awesome and them singing along was the best part.” That night Brad Paisley took the stage like all the other artists, but he did a few things differently. Paisley honored the military by having three men that were in uniform on stage. He proceeded to thank them for all they do and have done and said, “Nothing I could ever do will begin to be enough to repay you, so take a seat and have a beer on me!” Not only did he honor the U.S. military, he also started to sing a song and suddenly just stopped. Many people were confused as he started
walking toward the end of the stage and swiftly took off his guitar and handed it to a child that was on their dad’s shoulders. He got back to the mic and said, “Well kid, you better learn how to play it.” While attendees gave positive feedback about the MAD Festival, the community was not completely on board with the building of the district. After asking Dumas what the community input was, he said, “A section of the community thinks it is a waste of money and a waste of time. They’re not going to have anything to do with it.” The city decided to build and go along with the phases they had previously discussed. They will be building several different things in the district. One of those structures will be a waterpark. “Even those folks when it is all said and done there will be things they go
to,” Dumas said. “You know the moms and the grandmas are going to take the kids to the water park.” In fact, El Dorado is betting on this so much the city has invested 12 million dollars in the project, not including the 70 million they have raised with outside investors. The goal is to reach 100 million dollars before they start the next phase. The town and owners of the MAD district have decided to build in phases. The first phase was to build the venue for the music, which was still not finished two weeks before the grand opening. Dumas was also vocal about the slow construction. “It was a rainy season, and we had guys working late into the evening seven days a week,” Dumas said. “We weren’t quite ready, but we had it anyway.” Also a part of the first phase is building a farmer’s market and the
water park. They are planning on renovating an old theatre downtown called the Rialto. The newly renovated Rialto will be a Shakespearean theatre. In addition to those changes, they are going to be building an art building with a gallery and residency for the artists to live. They are also going to build a hotel and a five-deck parking lot. “Right now there is not much to do in El Dorado. If you are a hunter, we have a good duck season and the deer is the largest harvest in state,” according to Dumas. Although they do not have many fun things to do for everyone, they are hoping the Murphy Arts District changes that. Dumas said, “We want this to be the first step in building El Dorado and people staying here. I think MAD will attract more people. The challenge is getting them to stay.”
WINTER 2018 | 19
WORDS STORMI VERRET ILLUSTRATIONS CAROLINE KINDER
Everyone needs to get their life together at some point or another. People often turn to copious numbers of pre-made journals planners often to organize their lives. Bullet Journaling is an alternate solution. The creator, Ryder Carroll, envisioned the bullet journal as an alternative method for condensing organizational systems using a simple “rapid logging” technique within clearly labelled modules (or sections).
Bullet Journaling is an incredibly easy way to consolidate all your other attempts at organizing your life—from to do lists, to planners, to sketchbooks, to diaries. It relies on Carroll’s rapid logging system and wide-open personalization options so that, whatever your needs are, it can meet them. The rapid logging system simply requires users to label and organize pages by giving them a topic and a page number. Sound like you could use this in your life? Here’s how to get started:
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Decide if you want to dive in 100 percent or just test the waters, then acquire supplies accordingly. It can be as easy as purchasing a simple dot grid notebook and an extra fine permanent marker. Alternatively, if you are hoping to motivate yourself by collecting all the bells and whistles, the most commonly selected basic items are the Leuchtturm1917 (sturdy binding and cover so it can put up with daily abuse) and Staedtler Fineliners (you can go for a simple black or every color in the rainbow and still not bleed through your pages. Plus, you can bring any fun extras to the table (such as stickers, highlighters, and washi tape) to make the bullet journal suit your unique style.
Create a notation system that you can stick to. For example, use:
for tasks for events - for notes > for items that have been
< for items that have been
for tasks started but not
completed X for completed tasks for deleted items
Now that you have all your supplies and a basic framework, where and how do you start? The best thing about a bullet journal is that you get to decide what goes in it based on your organizational needs. However, most people opt to begin with the four core modules outlined by Carroll: the index, future log, monthly log, and daily log. Decide what other things you might want to include before starting, such as habit trackers, a
WINTER 2018 | 21
Create the index. The index simply needs to include the topic of your pages (eg. November Daily Logs) and the corresponding page numbers. Leave about 2 empty pages after your first index page so that it has room to grow as you use your bullet journal.
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Create the future log. This is where you put big events such as vacations, birthdays, and holidays. Simply create a small section for each month and color code/label it any way you fancy.
Put in the extra collections. This space is where you can put whatever collection you need for the journal to suit your lifestyle. It can be a page detailing your exercise plan, an â€œideal timelineâ€? for you to organize classes and extracurriculars, or even a list of Netflix shows you want to watch.
Step Eight Step Nine
Create your first monthly log. There are two basic types of monthly logs: decorative and functional. Decorative monthly logs typically have the name of the month and occasionally a few goals or trackers to refer back to. Functional monthly logs tend to look more like traditional planners and tend to include a monthly overview of large events and due dates in addition to trackers and goals. Select whichever type you will be most likely to keep up with (or create a combination of the two). You will create a new one at the beginning of each month.
Create your first Daily/Weekly log. Daily and Weekly logs are simply labeled spaces for you to keep track of small, weekly events and tasks. Some people opt to include weekly or daily trackers instead of monthly ones (eg. how many cups of water you drank on a particular day).
Get creative and keep using it! Add different modules as needed. Group project? Make a page for it. Executive brainstorming meeting? Put it in the bullet journal. The point is that you keep using it. If itâ€™s becoming too tedious to use all the bells and whistles, go for a minimalist style. You can adapt the bullet journal to your life, that way you do not have to adapt your life to a bag full of planners.
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NCocktails North Louisiana is home to a variety of pubs, bars, taverns and restaurants where patrons can find a great specialty cocktail to sip. Whether you are enjoying a night in downtown Shreveport or having dinner in Monroe, we have compiled a list of five of our favorite cocktails in the North Louisiana area for you to try this winter.
WORDS RACHEL MAXWELL
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PHOTOGRAPHY BRIAN BLAKELY
Irish End Enoch’s Irish Pub, Monroe The Irish End won “Best Overall Martini” at the Monroe Symphony’s Martini Night in 2007, and for good reason. Made with Jameson, Vanilla Kahlua and Irish Mist Liqueur and garnished with a sugar rim, the Irish End is rich and delicious.
MODEL ABBY FUQUE SPRING 2016 | 5
Maple Old Fashioned Doe’s Eat Place, Monroe Doe’s made-in-house maple syrup puts this Old Fashioned above the rest. It’s the perfect cocktail to sip with dinner during the cold winter months, and the subtle sweetness of the maple makes it palatable to even nonbourbon drinkers.
The Blue Screen of Death The Queue Tavern, Bossier City The nerd-themed bar offers a variety of game and comicthemed specialty cocktails, but our favorite is the Blue Screen of Death, named for the infamous blue error message that appears when a Windows computer system crashes. Served in a potion bottle glass, this vodka-based punch is dangerously tasty.
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Peppermint Patty Beaux Vines, Ruston With a crushed peppermint rim and chocolate syrup drizzle, this festive drink looks as good as it tastes- and that is saying something. Made with vanilla vodka and peppermint schnapps, this creamy cocktail is the perfect holiday drink.
Good Time Fatty Arbuckleâ€™s Pub, Shreveport This gin, grapefruit and basil cocktail is made with fresh ingredients squeezed and muddled before your eyes. The result is a deliciously refreshing drink for your night out in downtown Shreveport.
WINTER 2018 | 27
PHOTOGRAPHY BRIAN BLAKELY STYLING DAKOTA DUPONT All clothing courtesy of Rodeo Boutique
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Jumper: Zsupply $56
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Toby Heart Ginger $57
MODEL ABBY FUQUE OUTFIT RODÃ‰O BOUTIQUE 34 | SPEAK magazine
Top: Do-be $54
Skirt: Cotton Candy LA $39
BB Dakota $56
FALL 2016 | 33
Jacket: Cotton Candy LA $75
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Jacket: Mustard Seed $74
Dress: Karlie $78
SIMPLIFY YOUR WARDROBE WITHOUT MAKING YOUR LIFE TOO COMPLICATED WORDS CECILE JENNINGS
n 1973, Susie Faux, the owner of the London boutique Wardrobe, coined the phrase “capsule wardrobe.” The idea did not become popular until 1988 when Faux’s book, “Wardrobe: Develop your Style & Confidence”, was published. From then on, the idea became the hallmark for the fashionable business woman of the day. But its return as a fashion trend in the past five years has shown that its relevance to any decade applies to more than just the
Your 4 Step Guide
“MY MISSION HAS BEEN TO GUIDE WOMEN IN CREATING THEIR OWN PERSONAL STYLE IN WHICH THEY LOOK AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, FEEL CONFIDENT AND SUCCESSFUL IN WHATEVER SITUATION
business woman. The wardrobe consists of a collection of 40 items or less per cycle or capsule of clothing— one for winter and one for summer. This includes purses, shoes, jackets, and any other accessories. The collection should be essential pieces that can be worn day to day and that do not go out of style. It can be difficult to get your wardrobe down to 40 pieces, and for those who don’t like to change up their style, it might not be the best fit. But for those who are willing to try, it can be a very rewarding experience.
Get rid of everything
(well, almost everything) Even if you are not very attached to your clothes, this is, by far, the hardest part and will probably take the most time to accomplish. You might want break it up over a couple days or at least set aside an afternoon. Take out everything you own (coats, shoes, scarves, dresses, everything) and separate it into three piles: keep, trash or donate, and maybe. Put aside the things you are set on keeping. Now take another look at your maybe pile. Ask a friend whose opinion you trust or ask yourself some questions. Does it actually fit? Is it in style/ do I like the style? Do I have something else that looks similar? Have I worn it in the last six months? Is it damaged in any way? Do I absolutely love it? Could someone convince me to get rid of it? Once you’ve sorted through your maybe pile you will be ready to move on to step two.
THEY FIND THEMSELVES.” – Susie Faux
Regardless, the capsule wardrobe is a way to spend less time and money on clothes while always wearing what you love. There are not any real rules for how the wardrobe is supposed to be set up, the main idea is to get 40 items or less in a style and quantity that works for you. The key is not to get held back by the details but to keep the main goal in mind. Remember, no one’s closet is perfect, so do not make that your goal. Here is a four-step guide to help you simplify your closet and create a style you are proud of.
Divide into Seasons and Kinds
Take out everything you are keeping and divide into two separate piles: one for summer and one for winter. These will be your two main capsules. The idea is to mix those two capsules for the in between seasons, spring and fall, but depending on the weather where you live, you could have a third or fourth capsule. Again, make it work for you in 40 pieces per capsule. Divide each capsule by each different type of clothing: a pile for shirts, a pile for dresses, a pile for coats, etc. It might be helpful to focus on one capsule at a time so you do not overwhelm yourself. Look at each pile. Do you have a lot of one kind of shirt? Do you have too many pairs of jeans? Make this an opportunity to re-evaluate what you are keeping. Remember the capsule wardrobe is about the essentials.
Establish a Base of Essentials
Your base includes four things: tops, bottoms, dresses, and shoes. As for how many pieces to keep in your base, the rule of thumb is 9,9,5, and 5, but again, determine what works for you. If you are having trouble choosing which pieces to keep, keep in mind two things: lifestyle and color. Think about your lifestyle and what clothes you wear most often that serve what you do every day. Do you dress up everyday to go to work? How many formal events do you attend in a given month? Once you have outlined the main categories of your lifestyle, narrow down your capsule to only what fits those categories. Then look at color. Outline two or three colors that dominate most of your essential items. Do you wear a lot of black and gray? Or do you stick mostly to brown and tan? If you are pretty true to a few base colors narrow your closet down to just those. But if see any specific trend in your colors, try choosing your favorites by color and getting rid of everything else. Once you’re set on your essentials, put them away.
Establish your Extras
Now it is time to fill in the rest of your wardrobe. Remember the magic number is 40. At this point you should be getting an idea of the style and color choices you lean towards. Keep in mind two things: color and coordination. Consider what goes well with the base colors you have chosen, what colors you have a lot of, what you like best, and what goes together well. The most successful wardrobes center around two or three colors that go well together. After all, the idea of the capsule wardrobe is the ability to mix and match to create as many outfits with as few clothes as possible. It might be helpful to try on outfits to make sure you are creating ones that you love. WINTER 2018 | 35
Coming from Calhoun, there were limited outlets for Chance Allen to explore. Last summer, he discovered Thru-Hiking which changed everything.
WORDS JENNA PRICE PHOTOGRAPHY KATELYN FAJARDO
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WINTER FALL 2016 2018 | 37
2 | SPEAK magazine
hance Allen increased his pace just enough to reach the highest point of the Colorado Trail before the storm. Snapping a couple pictures of the view, his timing was almost perfect. Almost. The peaceful silence was interrupted by the roll of thunder. His moment of triumph of hiking over 14,000 feet was short-lived. Lightning struck a peak nearly a mile away. Panic set in, and Chance knew he had little time to make it back to the tree line for cover. Stumbling, running and propelling himself down the incline, he made his way to a valley away from the highest point. His options dwindled as the tree line came closer, and lightning continued to strike the surrounding peaks and ridge lines. He needed more than just tree cover, and he was running out of time. Chance was on the Colorado Trail as a part of a thru hike. A thru hike is a long-distance hike. The Colorado Trail is 500 miles and takes an average 40 days to complete. Chance trekked enough miles a day that he was able to
“IN THAT MOMENT, ONE OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS, WHEN I WAS CAUGHT ON THE HIGHEST PEAK IN THE MIDDLE OF A STORM, THE LORD PROVIDED,” – Chance Allen
finish the trail in 25 days last summer. Chance said, laughing to himself. “There was an old mining cabin in that valley. I jumped through the window because the door was caved in.” There in the shadows of the cabin, two familiar eyes greeted him. A fellow hiker, a Frenchman Chance met in town three days before, sat curled up under the only patch of roof left in the old, rotting cabin. Before Chance was able to properly greet the hiker, hail fell
through the holes of the roof and onto Chance. He joined the French hiker under the little amount of roof there was. “I did not even know this man,” Chance said. “We stayed at a hostel one time. We were huddled together, soaked, under this tiny piece of roof as hail bounced all around the cabin for thirty minutes. We both said, ‘Man, this sucks.’” The sun came out after thirty minutes as if no storm had ever blown in and four inches of hail had not rained down. Without that cabin, Chance would have been alone, stuck in a valley somewhere along the trail, with hail pelting him from the sky. Every day, it rained just like that at two in the afternoon like clockwork. If he was not careful, Chance would easily be caught in a lightning storm away from the tree line, completely exposed. Getting struck by lightning, running low on food, and falling down a steep incline compose a handful of the most frightening moments of Chance’s solo thru hiking trip on the Colorado Trail. Flash forward to today.
WINTER SPRING2018 2014| |39 3
hance surveys for a table in the crowded and noisy cafeteria. He is unshaven with his jostled hair hidden under a backwards cap. He softly mentions, more to himself than anyone else, a series of meetings he has committed to that afternoon, one scheduled right after another. He waits in line for a cup of coffee before heading off to his part-time job as a student worker on Louisiana Tech’s campus. All the hustle and bustle of a college campus causes Chance to pause and say, “I like the primitive needs. Here in Ruston, I’m stressed out about a meeting, but out there, you are worried about food.” SPEAKmagazine magazine 240| |SPEAK
“Out there” to Chance means the thru hike trails. Thru hiking is squatting in the tree line during a lightning storm until it passes. It is the mile-after-mile, struggling journey to reach a majestic view. It is the days, weeks, and maybe months spent on a trail just to walk hundreds of miles. It is sometimes trekked alone, sometimes met with a stranger who turns into an unexpected friend. “When you are on the trail, it is really lonely sometimes,” Chance explains. “And the only people you know are the people you randomly meet. It’s not a completely empty wilderness experience.” A thru hike might begin to sound like a millennial independent film where the characters are trying to experience life. Millennials today are categorized by their experience economy
and their desire to store up memories instead of their consumption to store up things. But for Chance, that is not his sole reason behind his passion for thru hiking. “I’m not trying to find myself or find experience on another level,” Chance says. “I just love walking, not knowing what is around the corner, having nothing, and having uncertainty. Uncertainty is fun.” Where most college students spend their summer planning trips to the beach with their friends, Chance excitedly plans a trip to the mountains to walk 500 miles by himself. “Being from Calhoun is the core of why I got into thru hiking,” Chance says. “I was always out exploring. At the same time, I was always reading adventure books like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and play games like ‘The Legend of Zelda.’ In that game, you walk
across the lands with what you need to survive.” He strategically plans every thru hike weeks in advance. Chance packs a frameless, regular school backpack with a quilt and tent to serve as a sleep and shelter system. For food, selections are based upon the highest calorie count, so he packs plenty of Snickers candy bars, tortillas and Fritos, which has highest calorie per chip. “I pack ultra light so that I can have big miles everyday,” Chance explains. “I bring a 40 liter bag to force myself to pack light. People bring too much most of the time.” At times, Chance was alone and spent days on end by himself. He braved storms almost every day because it was monsoon season in the summers. Adversities like these add to why thru hiking is an escape for him. “I didn’t know hardly anything on my first hike,” Chance says. “My gear was all over the place, and I was minimalist by accident. It was a big suck fest, but it was awesome.” Since the “Back to Nature” movements of the 60’s and 70’s, long-distance hiking has gained an expansion in its community with the availability of smartphones. Smartphones with tracking devices and social media has allowed for hikers to feel more safe, to connect more with other hikers and to post more about the views they see. “People always know each other on the trails by their trail names,” Chance explains. “Social media amplifies that.”
The small community of thru hikers carries hikers’ stories from one trail to the next. Trail names are used interchangeably and are based on their stories. The names add a mystical factor to the stories and the hikers themselves. Chance says, “I got the trail name ‘Later Gator’ because I was always wanting to get big miles so I would say, ‘See ya later.’ I was one of the only people from Louisiana anyone would meet. So when I would leave, people would say, ‘Later, Gator.’” This tight knit community is what saved Chance from the loneliness of the trails. When the trail split between a west and east route, he ventured by himself for 80 miles on the more scenic and difficult west route. To finish quickly meant to frequently leave packs of hikers to travel alone with the danger of getting caught in numerous storms. During the loneliest part of his hike, Chance was again rained on with lightning striking around him. He was able to hastily find a camp after squatting in the tree line for an hour. He was soaked, chilled to the bone and walked back to camp of hikers he trekked with earlier. The coldest he had ever been, Chance began setting up his own camp. A hiker, who was nestled in his tent, poked his head out and said, “Hey, would you like some coffee?” “Yes!” Chance exclaimed. Coffee, the same drink Chance orders from Java City before going to his parttime job on campus, encouraged his travel-weary, lonely soul with a familiar face to chase the loneliness away.
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RUSTON RANTS WORDS RACHEL MAXWELL
With over 14,000 members, the community Facebook group has developed a presence in North Louisiana since its inception in 2015. As it continues to grow, group administrators, members and others have different ideas about what the role of the page is in the community.
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“WE TRY TO DO GOOD FOR THE
“Let’s start off by stating the most important thing — RUSTON RANTS IS NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT. Just in case you skimmed over that or have a short attention span, let’s repeat — RUSTON RANTS IS NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT.” The legal disclaimers on the Facebook group Ruston Rants begins by letting readers know that the page might not be to everyone’s liking. With over 14,000 members, Ruston Rants has spread throughout North Louisiana and, for better or worse, made an impact on the community. While many write the group off as a conservative echo chamber or a hotbed for meaningless controversy, the group is multifaceted. With the new addition of a volunteer branch and the possibility of expanding into a news website, some impacts of the group can be seen offline. Defining the group and it’s purpose can be difficult. Chris Butler, founder of the group and one of it’s six current administrators, said Ruston Rants holds a variety of meanings to different people. “[What the group is] depends on the eye of the beholder,” he said. “People have their own interpretation of what it is.” According to the group’s description section, “Ruston Rants is a place for current or former Lincoln Parish residents to share local news or rant about local politics, local current events, local sports, local education, local religion, or whatever else as they pertain to Ruston, Lincoln Parish and/or north Louisiana.” To be accepted into the private group, one must have lived in the area at some point in their lives, and all posts must be localized to Ruston or North Louisiana. All posts are approved by an administrator before appearing on the page. The group has 10 rules that members must follow, or risk being banned. Posts have resulted in both positive and negative publicity for local businesses; and, according to the page’s legal disclaimers, members have been subject to professional and legal backlash for things posted on the page: “Several people have gotten arrested or fired from their jobs because of things
RUSTON COMMUNITY. WE ARE A BIT
UNCONVENTIONAL IN HOW WE GO ABOUT IT, WE HAVE AN
OFFBEAT, IRREVERENT KIND OF WAY” – Chris Butler
discussed or exposed on this Facebook page. Some people got passed over for promotions at work because of something they wrote here. Local employers now have a social media policy in place for their employees solely because of this page. Ruston Rants was even named in a federal court complaint after we revealed something that certain people of influence didn’t want exposed. Additionally, attorneys have used screenshots of things people said on this page against them in court. You may think we’re exaggerating our own self-worth, but we’re really not making this up. There are sometimes real-world consequences to posting on Ruston Rants.” Members of the group have a variety of reasons for joining. Preslie Taylor, a Ruston Rants member, said she uses the group to stay in the know about Ruston, but also for entertainment that can be found in the comments. “Seeing people get upset about the seemingly stupidest things is entertaining,” she said. “They also seem to always know what’s going on before any other site/forum.” Another member, Kelly Gore, cited the sense of community the page has created for many who regularly comment on the posts. “I joined Ruston Rants a couple of years – Chris Butler ago,” she said. “The plethora of subjects and diverse group of members drew me to the page, and the friendships I’ve developed with many of the members have kept me here. We don’t always agree on everything, but most of us are mature enough to respect that about each other.” Group member Jerry Martin said he appreciates the platform for discussion. “I feel that all views can be expressed on Ruston Rants without an explosion of nasty or vulgar comments,” he said. “I have seen many posts on here that I do not agree with in any way. I have made comments that my liberal friends do not agree with either. On regular Facebook postings, you do not see that. Many get irritated and therefore vulgar with their replies. You do not see that on Rants.” While the overall culture of the page is right-wing, administrators said they work hard to make sure that all viewpoints can be expressed, as long as members follow the rules. One of the group’s active members, Bruce Magee, said he comments and posts on the page to make sure conservative ideology is challenged in his hometown.
“WE TRY TO DO GOOD FOR THE
RUSTON COMMUNITY. WE ARE A BIT
UNCONVENTIONAL IN HOW WE GO ABOUT IT, WE
HAVE AN OFFBEAT,
IRREVERENT KIND OF WAY”
WINTER FALL 2018 2016 || 43 39
“I think the biggest benefit [of the page] is to allow people the opportunity to find out that there are opinions in the community other than their own,” he said. “I think a lot of times I come on there, they post stuff that when they say it around the house or wherever nobody questions it so they take it to be given truth, at least [on the page] they have the opportunity to know that not everybody agrees with that.” Butler said that while the group is heavily criticized by some in the area, he and the other administrators believe they are bringing a positive presence to Ruston. “We try to do good for the Ruston community,” he said. “We are a bit unconventional in how we go about it, we have an offbeat, irreverent kind of way.” The group has faced accusations of racism and other ethical problems that have resulted in attempts to shut the page down. According to the group’s legal disclaimers, “This page, like most of North Louisiana, tilts to the right politically. Politically correct and other left-of-center people in the area feel threatened by Ruston Rants and are desperate to get it shut down. These same people have reported the page to police and have organized movements to get Facebook to shut us down, according to a KNOE TV newscast. But we’re not going anywhere.” Zachary Huffman, one of the group’s administrators, said the culture of the page may offend some people, but nothing allowed on the page crosses the line. “PC means that you’re afraid to say something or write something because it might offend someone, when in America the First Amendment in general protects offensive speech,” he said. “We don’t allow personal attacks, we don’t allow the f-word. We allow people to have their varying opinions, however outrageous, as long as they don’t cut down somebody’s race, threaten them, things like that. And people are gonna get offended over little things, it’s surprising sometimes, but we like to keep that freedom on the page. That’s really what the page is all about. It really is a forum for people to voice their opinion pretty much anything they want as long as it’s a local topic.” Huffman said the perception some have of the group as racist is not reflective of Ruston Rants as a whole. “Since I’ve joined, I’ve maybe seen 1 percent of the population of Ruston Rants that will say something quote-unquote racist and by that I mean, the n-word or ‘cracker’ or something like that,” he said. While Huffman was not asked about the race of the people who had been kicked off 44 | SPEAK magazine
“People think if you don’t say the n-word you’re not being racist. That’s just living in denial. The racism we see across the country is here in Ruston” – Bruce Magee the page, he went on to say that in his time in the group, he has only witnessed black members being racist on the page. “I personally have only seen that happen in African American people,” he said. “Of course it doesn’t matter what race, it’s against the rules.” However, Butler denied that this was the case, and said they have kicked out several white people for racism. Butler said most of the accusations of racism have not met the page’s standard burden of proof. The page rules also forbid race baiting, libel and slander, so members can be kicked out of the group if they accuse other members of racism without evidence deemed sufficient by the administrators. “If you’re going to make an accusation you better produce some evidence,” he said. “I would say 99 percent of the time when we ask someone to produce evidence to substantiate what they’re saying, no one produces anything to back it up. And that one percent of the time, it’s so convoluted and it’s so bizarre that it doesn’t make any sense. We’ve kicked a lot of people out for racism on both sides, so that’s that. If you’re making an accusation of racism you better have some evidence to back it up and it better be logical.” Magee said that he does not believe the group as a whole is racist, but that racial prejudice is present on the page. “Certainly there is a lot of implicit racism,” he said. “I think the moderators do a pretty good job of taking down the explicit stuff. It depends on your definition of racism. People think if you don’t say the n-word you’re not being racist. That’s just living in denial. The racism we see across the country is here in Ruston.” Butler reiterated the message found in the legal disclaimers and said that the perception that the page is racist can also be traced back to differing political views. “Most of the admins lean to the right, and
if we don’t lean to the right we’re libertarians, and we allow for people with other points of view to have their say on the page, but in this day and age if you’re conservative or libertarian, that’s considered politically incorrect and wrong and people believe that racism is what motivates those political beliefs when it’s not,” he said. “A lot of people carrying on about the page being racist, it’s what I like to call a confirmation bias. People have their own preconceptions of who and what we are, and they strive to find anything they can to confirm their bias.” Administrators and other group members sometimes post memes or even videos mocking criticism of the page and those who get kicked out of the group. In the rules and legal disclaimers, those kicked out of the group are addressed: “A lot of them, according to records available to the public at the Lincoln and Union Parish courthouses, have a history of run ins with the law. They can’t abide by the laws of society — no surprise they can’t abide by the rules of a Facebook page. One woman who got kicked off this page for making violent threats later got arrested on charges of assaulting her child’s principal on school grounds. Sources in the know say other people who got kicked out have substance abuse problems, which may explain their behavior. While we can’t prove it, we suspect some of them also have untreated mental health issues. Maybe they’re just products of a lousy upbringing.” Magee said that while he stays on the page for the discourse about politics and local issues, he believes the attitude of group members can be negative. “There can develop kind of a gang mentality at times, which is certainly not healthy for people in our area,” he said. But there is more to the group than ranting and controversy; Ruston Rants has recently started a volunteer arm, which Zachary Huffman said was the brainchild of himself and another administrator, Dana Anderson. He said the aim of “RR Volunteers Local Community Outreach”, as the volunteer page is called, uses the platform provided by the group to organize the community. The volunteer branch got it’s start when the administrators were informed by a member that there was a local family in need of food and other household items. They posted on Ruston Rants asking for donations, and set up outside Lincoln Parish Library to collect. “In that week we held three food drives
for that family and we raised 1000 dollars in food, clothes, and appliances,” he said. “And we were hooked.” Huffman said the group has helped people in varying situations, including parents struggling to support their family after being laid off work, an elderly woman in need of yard work, and a cancer patient in need of rides to treatment sessions. Huffman said he and Anderson have developed close relationships with many of the people they have helped. “Everybody we’ve helped so far have become like family to us,” he said. “One couple we helped wants Dana and I to be their children’s godparents, we spoil those boys if we can.” Huffman said they are holding fundraisers to build up a fund for the RR volunteers to use in the future, but they are still unsure exactly what the direction of the community outreach page will be. “We aren’t officially an organization yet, we’re not sure if we will be,” he said. “Dana and I started it, but we don’t want it to be our show, we want the community to come together, that’s what we’re trying to build right now.” The element of the page that inspired its creation, though, is its position as a platform for citizen journalism. Butler, a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience in the industry, said his perception of the group is as a news source. “My interpretation is that it’s a watchdog on politicians, the business interests,” he said. “It’s a way for us to hold each other accountable, no matter what class, walk of life you come from, and it’s a way to get out news and information to the community quickly.” Butler, who has lived in Nashville for the past seven years, said he was inspired by a similar page that he saw in Tennessee. He said in that community, there was news going unreported by mainstream sources, until locals on the Facebook page took matters into their own hands. “The people on this page bypassed the newspaper and local media, and got this information out, and forced an investigation into something that something that needed to be investigated. It created a domino effect that even forced the city council to investigate the conduct of the local police chief,” he said. “This wasn’t the newspaper that did it, it wasn’t the news stations, it was a Facebook page that had 5,000 local people on it. For the longest time, I said to myself, ‘My hometown needs something like this.’”
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“THINK OF US, NOT AS A REPLACEMENT FOR TRADITIONAL MEDIA, BUT AS A SUPPLEMENT TO TRADITIONAL MEDIA. WE TRY TO FILL THE GAPS THAT THEY DON’T.”
Butler said after the 2015 Ruston Peach Festival, some community members were upset that a confederate group marched in the festival’s parade. He noticed that complaints about this that had been posted on an existing community Facebook page were taken down by moderators. Butler said he took that as his cue to start Ruston Rants. “There’s nothing wrong with positive content, but I also believe in the importance of honest raw content and not being in denial of something,” he said. “I believe it’s important to be honest and forthright about the problems going on in the community and not try to cover them up.” Among the rants and political debates, news stories written by Butler and the other administrators can be found on the page. He said that while members are instructed in the legal disclaimers not to believe everything found on the page, he and the other administrators follow the same journalistic standards he has seen in his years working as a professional journalist. “Admins will rant on the page with our opinions, and opinions will vary as to whether or not our own opinions are correct, as is the case with anything you’ll see on a newspaper’s editorial page,” he said. “But if we’re presenting something as an original piece of journalism that we manufactured then please understand that we go above and beyond to get our facts straight.” Chris Mapp, a professor of journalism at University of Louisiana Monroe, explained the concept of citizen journalism, and said
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– Chris Butler
that with the rise of social media, it has grown. “It’s a type of user generated content that comes from what would usually be known as the audience participants of media,” he said. “That’s the readers, the viewers, the listeners, people who go out with their phones. You see it flourishing on social media because it’s easier to maintain.” Mapp said the internet has provided quicker access to information directly from the source in breaking news events like terrorist attacks or weather phenomenons. “People who are witnessing these events can get this information out, and the media has to compete with that,” he said. “The upside is accessibility of raw information and raw news. But, there comes a price in anything that is not vetted.” Butler said Ruston Rants was utilized in this way during the flooding that took place in Ruston in Spring of 2016. “When the flooding happened a year and a half ago, people were using Ruston Rants as a conduit to get out information about where to go, where not to go, what was dangerous, who was in need, and none of the other media outlets as near as I could tell, were doing that. They were not using social media to do that,” he said. Huffman pointed to a growing distrust in traditional media outlets as a reason why he and other members of Ruston Rants believe the group’s journalistic side is necessary. “People look at media to be the unbiased carriers of news,” he said. “When their trust
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in the media falters, that’s when they’re more likely to pick up a cell phone and go get the story for themselves.” To expand on the news aspect of Ruston Rants, the administrators have started a public page to circulate news from the page to people who are not members of the private group. “Whenever we have a story that we think might explode in the area, we wanted a means to get it out to the public without them having to join the group,” Huffman said. “It hasn’t grown as quickly as the group, but then it’s not the same thing as the group. Only admins can post on the public page, so it’s a megaphone for things we think might go viral or maybe a meme we put out [to promote the page.] If it’s a newsworthy article, Chris will always verify it or have us verify it.” Mapp explained that with the benefits of citizen journalism also come potential drawbacks. “Some welcome citizen journalists and other bristle at the notion because of the training and the background,” he said. “Can anybody be a journalist? Because [professional journalists] learn the writing, the editing, an understanding of news value, what elements of a story are the most relevant to the public, and journalists are trained to stay away from gossip, to investigate, to get multiple sources.” Butler said he and other administrators always verify the news they post themselves, and try to verify posts from other members before approving it for the page. “If we think that it’s something that could cause injury to a person’s character or reputation or business, we go the extra mile and we look into it,” he said. “Because, if we have a reputation as a website that goes out and smears people without evidence and without documentation and without facts, we do injury to ourselves and we also risk Facebook shutting us down. We try to be as professional as possible.” However, with what Butler estimates as about 20 posts being submitted per day, administrators admit that some things have slipped through the cracks. “As part of the legal disclaimers on the page, we tell people flat out to be skeptical of anything and everything you read on on the page,” Butler said. “We really try to drill that in there.” Huffman described a situation in which a negative post that contained a man’s name, business and phone number was approved and posted on the page. The situation had been something of a misunderstanding, and was quickly resolved by police. However, the member that posted the man’s information refused to take the post down. “It was approved to go on the page before being verified because we were not aware at the time that there were pictures of his business in it,” he said. “Whoever approved it, they did not 38 | SPEAK magazine
go far enough into the pictures to see that it had his personal information on it. We never put anything like that up and we were very sorry and apologized.” Butler said when there are factual inaccuracies or missing context, the members can step in and help correct the mistakes. “A lot of the group members are really good at holding people accountable,” he said. “I unfortunately, do have a full time job, as do a lot of the other admins, but when we have the time we do try to go out of our way to investigate the stuff on our own.” Butler said members often correct stories or present additional information by commenting. “That’s why we have the comment section so people can add context to a story if there was something going on before or after that the people need to know about,” he said. Butler said that because he believes news is going unreported in Ruston and North Louisiana, Ruston Rants has come in to pick up the slack. “Think of us, not as a replacement for traditional media, but as a supplement to traditional media,” he said. “We try to fill gaps that they don’t.” Butler said the future of Ruston Rants could go in a few different directions, but that they are considering monetizing the concept by launching a website with advertisers. Butler said that route, if they take it, could end with the page becoming something like “The Drudge Report.” “It’s been so overwhelmingly popular that we see opportunities to possibly capitalize on it, and nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “It’s had an impact on Ruston and North Louisiana. We’re tinkering with ideas as to how and where and what the page evolves into. What we’re doing now I would describe as a trial run. Just getting a feel for what the appetite is of people in Lincoln parish and all of North Louisiana, and if the appetite is positive we’ll expand upon the concept.” For better or worse, Ruston Rants is a multifaceted entity that goes beyond the standard community Facebook page. Butler said that though the page is difficult to define, he firmly believes he has brought something positive to North Louisiana. “Over the past two and a half years, it’s been an experiment, it’s been an evolution, it’s been trial and error,” he said. “I have made mistakes, things I’ve done a year ago, two years ago that I wish I could take back, but I learned from those experiences and didn’t repeat them, and it’s been a big success ever since.”
Disclaimer: Neither Chris Mapp nor Bruce Magee speak for their respective employers within this article. WINTER SPRING2018 2014 | | 47 3
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SPEAK Magazine is produced by students of Louisiana Tech University and is published quarterly by the Louisiana Tech School of Communication...