January 10, 2008

Dance Dance

My town has a new annual contest in a format vaguely similar to Dancing With The Stars. A local school (with an annual dance revue performed by students) has local "celebrities" dance with a high school student at a big event to raise money. The "celebrities" are supposed to be well-known in the community. Naturally, people in the media are requested to participate.

Working at a newspaper, it was only natural there would be a request for a volunteer. One of the editors participated last year, and the contest was looking for another willing body. Because I happened to enjoy learning the few steps and moves of the Lindy Hop for a class presentation, I decided to volunteer.

The program recently held its first meeting, and I was introduced to the dance revue and several of its student/dancers. I met my dance partner, and we spoke briefly. An instructor suggested we might be able to do a fun and entertaining west coast swing routine. As I was unfamiliar with the dance, I said I'd be willing to give it a shot.

Naturally, later that night, I decided to look for performances of west coast swing. I must admit that I feel slightly intimidated.

This appears to be one of the simpler professional performances I've found. I'd be more than happy if I could come anything close to that.

A more complicated and technically difficult performance can be seen here, and a performance showcasing acrobatics and flexibility can be seen here. A performance that just amuses me greatly can be seen here.

This entire process is still in its early stages. I might not even do this style of dance, but I am curious to learn if and how fast I could learn this style.

Posted by Randy at 03:20 AM | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2007


An open letter to a certain local political candidate:

Dear sir,

I appreciate the fact that you believe you could do a great deal of good by running for this certain county office. I'll even concede you have impressive experience and at least one great recommendation for the job. I have no problem with speaking with you about your intentions, and I am grateful for your decision to send out a press release that will surely save us both time in the future.

However, I must object to how the release was written.

I understand that you are most likely excited about running for office, but writing a two-page single-spaced press release entirely in capital letters is a bad thing. It's a bit harder to read, and it slightly frustrates me. It almost gives me the impression that you are resorting to yelling to get your point across, and I know that isn't what you are doing. If this release doubles as your campaign literature, I can only imagine what others might think.

We all make mistakes. Hopefully, this little incident won't stand in the way of future professional interactions.


Posted by Randy at 12:50 PM | TrackBack (0)

November 20, 2007

NYC Bound?

Is it bad to choose what graduate programs you apply for based on the city the schools are in?

I've decided I really want to go to grad school in New York City. At least three universities in NYC have journalism/media graduate programs, and I think I'd be more than happy with a degree from any of them.

Sadly, because I am only deciding this now, I definitely won't be attending any Fall '08 classes. A cursory look at program schedules suggests I wouldn't be taking classes again until Fall '09.

Posted by Randy at 11:50 PM | TrackBack (0)

November 07, 2007

I Swear to Drunk I'm not God

I never know what to do around people who are seriously intoxicated.

I have no problem with drinking. There are, in fact, a few drinks that I quite enjoy. I enjoy certain wines. I'm a big fan of mixed drinks and other things that don't taste like pure alcohol. (I still can't stomach beer, though. Blech.)

While I enjoy those drinks, I've never enjoyed them enough to become plastered. I restrain myself partially because drinks are expensive, partially because I'm afraid of what I would do or say if I lost my inhibitions and mostly because I have to drive.

It's still a relatively new experience for me to be around friends (and others) who not only do not share my restraint but also regularly exhibit that lack of restraint.
As such, I start to feel slightly uncomfortable when speech begins to slur and random laughter titters across the table.

Usually, once my companions are clearly no longer sober, I just sit back and watch. I will talk with them if they try to talk to me, but it's difficult enough to talk in a noisy bar without the added liquid barrier. I try to prevent them from doing obviously stupid things, but I mostly relax and enjoy the (metaphorical) ride.

Posted by Randy at 01:19 AM | TrackBack (0)

October 18, 2007


Surreal Moment of the Week: Watching three attorneys argue over two plastic bags filled with 24-year-old fingernail clippings taken from a dead woman during an autopsy.

Posted by Randy at 07:39 PM | TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2007

Life or Death

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch a man die. I did not take it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It isn't a secret that I am an opinionated person. From the "War on Terror" to abortion to the Trans-Texas Corridor, I have an opinion. I'll gladly share those opinions with my friends if they ask me for them, and I even sometimes give them without prompting because I need to vent.

Journalists are allowed to have opinions. If they weren't, nobody could be a journalist. Everybody knows this. The trick to being a journalist, then, is not sharing that opinion with the "public." Once one's opinion is known, claims of bias suddenly are given weight. The written words in a story might not change, but the perception and interpretation of those words might. This is why I try not to share my opinions at the office or with people who I interact with professionally.

Even when a journalist has a strong opinion on a subject, he or she should be able to write about it as objectively as possible. In the past, I've written stories about people who I thought were idiotically wasting everybody's time and energy, but a reader would not be able to tell that by what I wrote. I could write about a drunk driver's arrest or conviction without revealing my opinion. I can write about a school bond election without sharing what I think.

I also believe every journalist should know his or her limitations.

I have a very strong opinion about the death penalty. I do not have a problem writing about the penalty as a possible punishment or as the sentence of a trial. At this point, it's an abstract idea. It might happen, but it might not.

I do have a problem, however, with attending and writing about an execution. I am afraid I would unintentionally reveal bias in the story. Therefore, at this point in my career, I believe it would be irresponsible of me to take on such a story. Thus, I declined the chance to attend.

What do you think?

Posted by Randy at 10:53 PM | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2007

R.I.P. Six Feet Under

It's hard to say good-bye. Once any emotional connection has been established, it's painful to watch it end. That's true whether it's with a person, a pet, or even a television show.

Three years after stumbling upon Six Feet Under, it's finally time for me to say good-bye. And it is not easy. In fact, I found it so difficult the first time that I couldn't finish watching the final season. Watching it with a friend forced me to confront the truth that doubled as the final season's slogan: "Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends."

I first encountered HBO's series about a family of funeral directors when I was interning in DC. One of my roommate's had brought most of the first season with him. I sat to watch an episode from the second season with him on our first night living together that summer. I knew nothing about the show, but I was hooked before the opening credits could end. He didn't have the first season with him, though. He told me his partner was coming to see him that first weekend, and I asked if he could show up with first season as well. I spent the first month of that summer working in time to watch the twenty-six episodes of the first two seasons.

The series traces several years in the lives of the Fisher family. The viewer is introduced to the family mere moments before the patriarch (Nathaniel) dies when a bus hits the new hearse he was driving. His wife (Ruth) and his children (Nate, David, and Claire) are forced to cope with his death and with each other. Federico, a "restorative artist" with the funeral home, has his own family, but he owes a great deal to the Fishers. The viewer also meets Brenda, who Nate meets and sleeps with shortly before learning of his father's death, and Keith, David's secret boyfriend.

To understand why this show captured my attention and imagination, one really should watch an episode. The premiere would be best, of course, but any episode would serve the purpose. The stories are infused with raw, emotional frankness. The actors fill their (somewhat heavily) flawed characters with an almost uncanny power and grace. It is, at times, almost too much to watch.

The story arcs, the characters, and even the settings can be intense. The characters make stupid mistakes and foolish decisions. The series embraces the fact that these characters are human beings. The viewer, or at the very least I, could not help but to cheer for them when things go well and to hurt when their lives fall apart. They feel like a second family to me, and this is the only show I have ever seen that has caused me to want to actually comfort more than one character.

The series finale, while brilliant, hurt. It is easily the best ending I have ever seen. It, and especially the last seven minutes, were absolutely perfect and breathtaking. I wanted to cry, both from happiness and sorrow. And I can't say anything else without potentially ruining it for others.

Six Feet Under has impacted me more than I can possibly say or explain. It immediately struck a chord within me, and it hasn't really left since.

It's time for me to say good-bye to the Fisher family. Although I own the entire series, I will no longer be able to experience their lives with them. I only have my memories and what is essentially a moving photo album.

And, to paraphrase Nate, that sucks, but it's a part of life.

Posted by Randy at 03:02 AM | TrackBack (0)

August 10, 2007


Accidents Wrecks do happen.

Today, I was sent to my first real accident wreck as a reporter. I won't go into much detail, but three-vehicles were involved and (by the time I left work) two people were dead. I arrived in time to see two people removed from the scene of the accident wreck on stretchers. I'm fairly certain one of those people died at a hospital later in the day, but I can't say that with full confidence.

It's an odd thing to write about something like that, especially when what is written is less than four column inches of text (about 120 words). It's one of those things that will permanently and dramatically affect those who knew the deceased, but it isn't "big" news because car accidents wrecks happen all the time.

In order to keep a clear head at the scene and while writing, I think it is necessary to distance oneself emotionally from what happened. One can feel awful about what happened later. I think it is more important to share the story of what happened.

The big question to which this line of thought must eventually lead is at what point does a reporter (or anyone else dealing with this sort of thing) stop seeing people as people. That is not something I can answer, but I can say I have not yet met anyone guilty of that.

On a related note, I met the reporter from the Tyler paper who covered the death of my sister. We are both covering a rather important trial. When I told him I was from Mt. Enterprise, he asked if I knew any of the kids that were killed a few years ago because he wrote about it. It was a tiny bit awkward after I told him my sister was one of them.

Posted by Randy at 12:04 AM | TrackBack (0)

August 05, 2007

Can't Stop the Beat

It's no secret I love musicals. From Rent to Wicked to Moulin Rouge, I enjoy the stories, the music, and the meshing of the two. This love stays strong despite the fact my attempts at singing would cause ears to start bleeding.

However, I was not sure what to expect from Hairspray. The movie's primary selling point seemed to be John Travolta in a fat suit, and I just didn't find that image appealing. In the end, my Broadway fan-boyishness led me to the theater, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Although this film is set in the 1960s and looks at racial segregation, the obvious point of the production is to have fun. While Rent takes itself very seriously, Hairspray does not. For example, lead character Tracy Turnblad misses her school bus and is late for class because she is too busy singing and dancing for the first musical number. She is even pelted in the face with a dodgeball because of another number. Sight-gags and one-liners about the culture of the '60s can be seen and heard throughout the film. I'd share a few of them, but I think they are much funnier if you don't see them coming.

Because it also deals with race and racism, the film obviously has a few serious moments. And while racial integration might have been controversial in the 1960s theater, I doubt there are many people today who would disagree with this movie politically.

Even through the brief serious moments, the unabashed goal of the movie is to entertain. It wants to make people smile and laugh, and it succeeds. It has a strong cast with (for the most part) excellent vocal ability. The choreography is a bit weird, but so were the 1960s.

If you enjoy musicals, I'd highly recommend Hairspray. If I can't remember the last time I saw a PG-rated movie that I actually enjoyed and would recommend to others.

Posted by Randy at 01:04 PM | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2007

Weird Wacky Web

For the record, I am trying not to write about my work on my blog. Even though I doubt it would happen, I do not want a confrontation about my blog because of work-related posts. This post is one (and perhaps the only) time I will be breaking my unofficial "no-work-content" rule.

I overheard someone at work say today that the most read Sunday story this past weekend was about a local girl working as an intern for Fox New's website. Someone else responded that the story had been linked on a blog somewhere, and that link probably explained the higher-than-normal number of readers.

Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. (If you are wondering why, click the earlier link.) Once I arrived back at my apartment, I decided to find the blog that linked the story. Turning to Google, I searched for her name plus the word "intern," hoping to weed out links from the news channel's website that had her byline. Imagine my surprise to find not one but many links to the story within the first five pages of the search.

The first link came from Instaputz, a blog I had not heard before. The next link came from greenslade, a blogger for the Guardian, a rather large UK newspaper. It was followed soon after by a link from Romenesko, a news feed column at Poynter Online. The story somehow even found itself in the news feed of the Huffington Post.

The attention this little community story received was a bit shocking at first. Even though it did not (to my knowledge) get any commentary from big name bloggers, it did make a few rounds on the web. I must confess it's a bit shocking to stumble across words I've written on websites other than my own or the paper's site.

When I really think about it, though, it isn't all that surprising that this story got a bit of attention. It mentions Fox News, and it mentions an employee believing in God. For those who are truly against the FNC, that story is a gem. For the record, I dislike the channel quite a bit. I believe it is false advertising for it to use the slogan "fair and balanced," and I think it is very clearly tilted to the conservative side of the American political spectrum. That said, this girl is an intern. She doesn't really deserve the mocking she has received. She believes in God. She is, apparently, conservative. She and her family enjoy the FNC. She has not done anything wrong.

I wish I could say it is a new low to see bloggers mocking an innocent intern because she just happens both to believe in God and to work for FNC's website. Unfortunately, I know the blogosphere has sunk lower and probably will again.

Disclaimer (just in case): The views expressed in this post and every other post at the website you are visiting belong solely to the author of this and every other post and represent in no way the views or opinions of my employer.

Posted by Randy at 12:23 AM | TrackBack (0)