Saturday, December 30, 2006

Observing high-profile deaths

The United States and the world have witnessed various observances of the deaths of three famous and infamous men in the past couple days. I just think the reaction to the passing of James Brown and Gerald Ford and the execution of Saddam Hussein are fascinating.

Brown's death brought out some of music's biggest stars sporting their best moves, and Ford's meant continent-wide preparations for his body to lie in state. Saddam's brought pre-hanging taunts from foes and parades from supporters. (Check out the links for more.)

I think the very manner in which each was memorialized or killed also shows something -- that we all live on the same ball but in very different worlds. I'd like to see what feelings for each man overlap in those worlds. Did anyone who lowered their American flag to half-staff for Ford also smile as they recounted the lyrics of "Papa's Gotta Brand New Bag?" And did they secretly wish to see Saddam dangling from that rope, too?

Whatever you feel about these men, each has left a mark: one as a stutter-stepping legend with a lengthy arrest record, another as the unelected leader of a world superpower who pardoned Nixon, and still another as a modern Hitler who used to have the favor of the U.S. government.

We won't be forgetting any of them soon.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Don't forget the I-Bowl, at least not the coverage

Joel's there now covering it. I'm out of town myself, but you can catch blurbs on the blog -- -- as well as news updates on The Times homepage.

I may hate Bama during conference play, but I'll have to support the SEC team in this case, of course. Maybe I'll see some of you at that bigger bowl game in NOLA next week.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Huh? Beyonce nominated for a Golden Globe?

What’s going on?

How did Beyonce Knowles get a Golden Globe nomination for best actress for her performance in Dreamgirls?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say I only went to see the movie to see if she actually gave a Golden Globe worthy performance and didn’t expect a good show.

I mean, come on. This is the girl that was in Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Austin Powers: Goldmember and The Fighting Temptations. In none of those movies did her acting convince me she was anybody other than the lead singer of Destiny’s Child. And Dreamgirls was no different.

The only times I thought she was good in the two hour musical was when she was performing on stage and, hello, that’s no stretch considering that's what she does for a living.

I will be shocked, and lose the last little bit of faith I have that these awards are truly based on talent, if Beyonce beats out Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada, Renee Zellweger for Mrs. Potter, or others in the category.

I did think Jennifer Hudson, former American Idol finalist and best supporting actress nominee, did an awesome job. While her acting wasn’t the greatest (though much better than Ms. Knowles), her voice was great. If anyone from that movie should have been nominated for best actress, it should have been her, in my opinion.

And, I enjoyed watching Eddie Murphy, especially since he hasn’t been seen on the big screen since he discovered the world of animated children’s movies. The greatest thing about his part is he actually sings! During his first number, the entire theater erupted in laughter. (Think of “Party All the Time” to the 10th power.)

There are also some unexpected appearances in the movie including Jaleel White (better known as Steve Urkel.)

I think nothing explains how bad this movie is more than the fact that about halfway through, my friend was ready to forfeit the money he paid and leave. And I swear he can sit and watch anything. We did laugh a lot at the movie, but I’m pretty sure it was not a comedy and we were laughing at parts that weren’t supposed to be funny.

My friend did make a good point though: People are going to think this movie is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I mean, other than Beyonce and Hudson’s nominations, the movie is nominated for best motion picture for a comedy or musical, Murphy is nominated for best supporting actor and the song “Listen” is nominated for best original song.

As for Beyonce, I’ve got her last two solo albums and if she comes out with another one, I’ll get that too. But she won’t be able to get me in another movie theater again.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

While we're still in that giving spirit

Ashley already blogged her Junior Achievement classroom experience. Mine was a blast, too. Rather than bore you with similar stories, I thought I'd post a picture. On this particular day I got to indulge my nerdy love of maps while helping Ms. Fuggin's first grade class learn about using a helpful tool.

But while I have the chance, I want to encourage everyone out there to GIVE something sometime. Check out Junior Achievement online if you're interested in helping schools. Let me or Ashley know if you want to hear more from us. But there are endless opportunities: hospitals, churches, civic organizations. You might not even have to go through an organization -- just look around. I'll bet you see someone with a little less than you who could benefit a whole lot from a little boost.

One to remember ...

I was up Christmas morning with my family, laughing and dancing to some old school Christmas tunes, including the passionate squeals of James Brown's "Let's Make this Christmas Mean Something This Year." It was on a mix CD of much-older-than me Christmas jams given to me from one of my co-workers (Thanks Mary Sharon!)

That song is easily one of my favorite songs on the CD because y'all know how bad James Brown is and he's especially baaaaaaaad on that song. I mean how else can you describe the Godfather of Soul anytime he performs. (If you want, check it out.)

Sometimes, his songs had an empowering message. Sometimes, he didn't have a whole lot of words to say. Either way, he could scream and wail those lyrics to the point to where you felt it in your bones. Then, when he danced, he made you wanna move those bones.

On this particular song, he goes in and out of song, talking about how much Christmas means to him and then breaks into song during the chorus. It's so funny because one minute he's screaming his lungs out and the next minute he's talking so calmly and sweetly.
"That's just James Brown. He can do all that and hardly break a sweat," my dad said.

Yesterday morning, the song had just ended when my sister turned on the computer and we read in pure shock that the Godfather was gone. On Christmas Day. I mean, how ironic is that?

Rev. Jesse Jackson couldn't have put it any better:

"He was dramatic to the end — dying on Christmas Day," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a friend of Brown's since 1955. "Almost a dramatic, poetic moment. He'll be all over the news all over the world today. He would have it no other way." -AP

Now, that particular Christmas song is the only thing that keeps playing in my head whenever I hear mention of his death: Let's make this Christ-mas mean some-thing, this year.

Even in his death, I guess Mr. Brown did just that for his fans everywhere.

(Photo provided by AFP)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka!

Surely you know that's merry Christmas in Hawaiian. Then there's feliz Navidad in Spanish, of course. I guess those two seem pretty obvious since they're both in popular songs. But wherever you are and whatever language you speak, if Christmas is a tradition you and yours observe, I hope you're sharing some cheer.

And if you want to pick another language, look here. I thought it was cool.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An early Christmas gift

Less than 24 hours away from Christmas, I've already had my Christmas miracle! It was unexpected and totally life-changing.

See, as long as I can remember I've been terribly afraid of dogs... and cats... but mostly dogs. The cat thing was just an addendum to the long-held phobia files. It all started with being chased by a neighbor's rottweilers at the age of 5. The rest is a blur of scary dog 1980s movies like Kujo and Pet Sematary (Not 100 percent sure if I actually saw Pet Sematary - like I said it's a blur.)

No, this is not just a simple distaste for pets. No, it's not one of those "all-you-need-to-do-is-to (fill in the blank) and-you'll-be-over-it" kind of fears.

I mean I've jumped on top of chairs, in bushes and even on strangers in mid-interview whenever I'd spot one running around. I know it's funny and I've even told these various stories to make people laugh, but it always run deep for me. It may seem simple or crazy to many folks, since this is obviously a pet-loving world. But for me, and those who know me, the phobia is as real to me as anyone else's fears.

Yesterday everything changed, hopefully forever. I was in Monroe attending the funeral of my best friend's dad.

Afterwards, I was heading to her grandmother's house where all the family was gathered.
My best friend was already at the house, because, as most funerals go, the family all rode together in the limousine. So her boyfriend and I rode together and as I headed toward the house, a familiar panic button starting going off in my head: They may have pets! I need to warn these people that I'm afraid of pets!

I looked nervously at her boyfriend, whom I'd just met earlier that day and I said "I don't know if my girl told you about this, but I'm TERRIFIED of dogs! Do they have any pets?!"
He laughed and mentioned that her sister had one. Time to go into my routine: "I'm sorry, but I'm sooo afraid of dogs," (insert nervous, friendly smile here) "So would you please keep your dog away? Please? I'm so sorry, but I'm just really afraid." (Insert sincere, nervous expression here.)
Fortunately, the sister knew me and knew I was being sincere and assured me she would hold on to Sebastian, her Yorkshire Terrier. Whew! No embarrassing scenes today, I thought to myself. After all, I was meeting alot of these people for the first time in my life and I'd hate to leave a humilating first impression like that.

But then I get in the house and hear everyone laughing at this dog that's just barking away. It was in another room, and sounded like some huge dog, but actually turned out to be a chihuahua. That didn't do anything relieve me though, big or small, they're all predators waiting to attack me, that's the way I always perceived it.

But I felt like I would be safe. I mean, it's in a whole 'nother room and my best friend had warned everyone of my "special situation." Well, as most pet owners and lovers do, they didn't take me seriously. "Oh she's not going to bite you!" "She's so small." "She's not going to bother you."

No, people, none of that works here. Understand this, I'm TERRIFIED of dogs, period! A-F-R-A-I-D! That's whatI tried to express as the loud barking in the room got closer and closer but before I knew it, the chihuahua was in the room I was in and was headed straight for me!

Normally this would be the time when I'd transform before everyone's very eyes. I change from the sweet, composed, seemingly normal young woman into a panicked little child with sheer terror in her eyes.
I would break into a run or jump on top of the nearest, large stationary object amidst everyone's yells to "Don't run!"
But amazingly, that didn't happen this time! I only grabbed my chest and said a quick prayer as the dog got closer and closer, and then I just....sat there!
"Donecia, I think you're cured!" my best friend yelled out in amazement. I think I was still in a daze, but I felt like I'd won the lottery!
Then, it happened again as we stood outside about to leave. The little chihuahua ran straight toward me again and while I was screaming in sheer panic on the inside, on the outside, I just...stood there! Incredible! I still can't believe it!
What's even more incredible to me is that I think I could do it again... At least with small dogs... For now.
It's like I'm finally free from a lifelong fear. Yeah, I couldn't ask for a better Christmas gift.

Yep, I'm Christmas shopping today

I'll be one of those crazy people buying last minute gifts around town. I've bought most of the presents I'm giving, but there are just a few I didn't manage to pick up by yesterday. Good luck to any other late shoppers out there! Be nice!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

This can be my stocking stuffer

The new dark chocolate m&ms. I'm lovin' 'em! Apparently they've been around since summertime, but this joy has only recently found me.

I was like a little kid the other day in the Super 1 on Airline Drive -- except that I had to buy the candy myself instead of my mom doing it. That purple bag on the shelf at the checkout line hooked me.

I was a little afraid it would be hard to tell the difference between the dark and regular flavors, but that old milk chocolate doesn't stand a chance! These are the best.

Admittedly, I'd have a hard time choosing between the dark chocolate and the peanut butter.

But if someone who loves me reads this, maybe they'll give me a bag or five. I'm going to need them since I have to work Christmas Day!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Some funny sports quotes for 2006

I like year-end lists. Here are some from Kevin Hench for Fox Sports. Check out the rest, but this is No. 5 from him and my favorite on the list: "Jay's a piece of (bleep) ... he's a garbage and he's always be a garbage and he always will be a garbage." -- from Ozzie Guillen, White Sox manager He's ranting about a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times named Jay Mariotti. Some official types are tough on reporters.

To be fair, the writer and the manager have had some hard feelings for each other, and Guillen apologized this year for using a much more derogatory term that I won't republish. (But a google search would find it, of course.) Mariotti has said Guillen has even threatened him with physical harm.

But back to this quotation in a vacuum. I've just always thought the term garbage was funny. It's not like calling someone trash, which would be demeaning their very existence. Garbage usually means they do some action terribly. When my high school basketball teammates would call someone garbage because of their lopsided jump shot or clumsy crossover, I always laughed. I mean, it just sounds better than saying someone sucks.

(And no, they weren't talking about me. I don't think.)

Bah humbug!

Deck halls with boughs of holly? Oh shut up! Tis the season to be jolly? Go sit on an egg!
I admit it - I’ve evolved into something of a Scrooge around the holiday season.
I don’t hate it, I just don’t really get hype for it. Just not my thing, for a variety of reasons.
I wasn’t always this way, but I can remember first feeling a twinge of this around 1995. That was the first Christmas after my paternal grandmother died. I was around 14, just coming into adolescence, fresh out of braces, smack dab in the middle of teen angst and swirling in the confusion of boys, first kisses, crushes and stuff. And she was the one I could talk to about all of the changes, fears and frustrations I was going through when I didn’t want to worry my parents about it. We were very close. I still miss her.

Then, there was Christmas 2000. My maternal grandfather had been diagnosed with lymphoma earlier that year. He was always so strong and positive, a gentle man. And through all of the chemo and radiation and everything else, he still remained strong. But as we all stood around the kitchen that year, saying what we were grateful for, we all knew it was probably going to be his last. It was. I still miss him too.

And ever since, there’s just always been some kind of melancholy surrounding the holiday for me. Some years are way better than most, but for the most part, there’s always this underlying hint of sadness for me.

Two years ago, the weekend before Christmas, I lost a dear childhood friend who was robbed and killed. He truly was a good guy. Never been in trouble or anything. A hardworking husband and father. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This past Sunday, on the anniversary of his death, I was comforting my best friend. She’d just found her father suddenly dead of pneumonia the night before. I’m going to that funeral Saturday.

This is not a happy post and I realize that. This is the point where my sister would promptly insert “Thanks Donecia Downer,” a take on the Saturday Night Live character Debbie Downer who always seems to find the negative in everything. That’s not me. I just want to express that sometimes it’s hard for people to get into the spirit of Christmas cheer. The reality is, we all experience pain and loss.

Fortunately, every year, like a Christmas miracle I’ve always been blessed to end up having a merry Christmas, but I know there are plenty of people who don’t. Plenty of folks who’ve suffered much greater pain and loss, terrible experiences and memories than what I’ve mentioned.

But we all walk around with smiles attempting to make it a joyous celebration anyway. Some of us focus on the actual true meaning of the holiday – the birth of Jesus Christ – to get through. Some of us cling close to loved ones. Some of us overload on Christmas décor and food. Some of us opt for holiday shopping ourselves into bankruptcy. Many probably do all of the above.

But know that there’s always a Scrooge among us. So if you spot him or her, don’t be so hard on him or her when they don’t feel like joining you in yule-tide carols. Don’t force it down their throats. Leave ‘em be. Just don’t leave them alone.

And in case you happen to be one of those Scrooges with a serious humbug, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Maybe this is just one way to help you get started.

The *real* story

At church meeting this week, one of our members spoke about how clean our view of the Nativity is. In the standard creche, Jesus never cries, Mary is all serene despite natural childbirth surrounded by sheep and Joseph looks confident in ability to care for the child they believe to be the Son of God.

For those who need a reality check, go see The Nativity Story. Sure, the movie tweaked the timeline of the Bible to fit movie time and left out the presentation in the temple, which I think is a great story. But it does a remarkable job of juxtaposing what Christians see as the supernatural act of God becoming man and the messiness of real life. One day Joseph is building a house for his fiancee and the next he's being visited by angels. Mary helps with the harvest while pregnant with Jesus. They are shunned by friends and visited by kings.

Regardless of your faith, if you're a believer in some higher power, I think you could appreciate this idea of God in the everyday stuff of life. If anyone out there has seen it, what do you think?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Farewell, Bentley the Beta

I feel kind of bad. I was talking with Donecia a while back about what a pain it has been to take care of my sister's adopted pet, a Beta (aka Siamese Fighting Fish). She left him under my care when she recently moved to Alexandria. Well, I saw Bentley floating today, and I've never seen him swim on his back before. His shimmering blue scales had turned gray, and he looked a little swollen.

Yes, I'm afraid he was, as the police categorize certain people, deceased.

He (at least I think he was male) just needed a couple flakes of store-bought fish food a few times a week, but I sort of resented sprinkling them into his watery home. I think the worst part of taking care of Bentley was cleaning his bowl. It eventually got sort of slimy, and the water would turn from clear to cloudy.

But I did it. I don't think his death came from neglect. In addition to feeding him and cleaning his manmade habitat, I made it a point to check the temperature of his water (because Betas live in warm water in their natural Southeast Asian habitats -- though I think he came from Wal-Mart or a pet store).

You obviously couldn't pet Bentley, but it was kind of funny to see him stalk and attack his fish food. My sister and her college roommates had him for more than a year-and-a-half before he began his four-month and fatal stay with me. So he was at least 2, which apparently falls into the average life expectancy of a Beta. I think he was pretty healthy for most of his underwater life, even though he seemed to be having trouble swimming in a straight line the other day. I guess that comes with old age when you're a fish?

My tiny bit of remorse over my Bentley-care animosity is probably silly. I'm giving this fish the same confessional tribute I would give a dead person. You know how we sometimes feel bad saying mean things about someone who has recently passed away? So we throw in some nice things, too. (I'm not talking about historical figures here.)

Anyway, I figured this would be the closest thing to a proper, animal friendly eulogy. Even though animals don't use the Internet. But neither do dead people – that I can tell.

Riding in Cars with Janelle

If you think you've ever heard of road rage, I'm here to tell you that you haven't...unless you've ridden in a car with my fellow blogger Janelle.

I drove her to the airport today so she could be with her family and friends in Virginia for Christmas. Most of her time in my passenger seat was spent with her cutting her eyes at cars that changed lanes without signaling or yelling at cars that were driving 40 to 50 mph on the highway.

One of the things that irritates her most are motorists who drive too slowly.

Though she doesn't tell me (the driver) how to drive, she does yell at everyone else. And she yells at them for the right reasons. Some drivers just aren't defensive drivers. They drive 30 mph in the fast lane or the interstate or constantly press their breaks seemingly for no reason. Some drivers do change lanes, cut in front of you, or turn without signaling. All aren't safe ways to drive and could potentially cause an accident. I know, I've been in my share of car crashes.

I've also rode in a car while Janelle was driving. She doesn't drive extremely fast and she is very conscientious about looking both ways before she turns, using her signals, and coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. It's kinda weird to watch her in action as she gets so worked up about people who don't drive safely. When they do something she doesn't like, she leans forward and screams at the top of her lungs so that the veins in her neck pop out.

I imagine that Janelle fancies herself a vigilante driver--yelling at those who don't follow the rules of the road.

She looks crazy yelling at cars that don't know she exists but at least she drives safely. Now when it comes to Janelle and parking....that's an entirely different thing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just got back from Hawai'i

I was really hoping to be able to rub in my recent trip to visit family in Hawai'i, but it's a little tough now that it's warmed up. But Dec. 9 -- the day before I flew out -- started below freezing here. So you better believe I was enjoying the islands' more-or-less 5-degree fluctuation in temperature that didn't dip below 67.

Most of my isle 'ohana lives on Hawai'i, aka the Big Island, which loans it's name to the to state. (FYI: Honolulu is not on this island. It's on O'ahu.) I spent my time cruising in a rented Mustang, talking story with my aunties and uncles and even attending classes at my cousins' charter school, which focuses on hula and Hawaiian woodwork in addition to the more traditional U.S. subjects.

The trip was great for a break, even though it was funny to see the Santa Claus decorations showing his belly hanging over flowered board shorts. But aside from the fact that I got to spend a lot of time on tropical beaches, I got to hang out with some cool kids who happen to be kin to me. We don’t look or talk alike. I can’t get a tan, and they’re brown year-round. I have a Southern accent, and they talk Hawaiian pidgin. The combination raised a few skeptical eyebrows there, just like the picture below may do.

It’s fascinating the way people of dozens of ethnic backgrounds have migrated to Hawai'i, and it’s made for some pretty interesting genetic combinations – and surprises. (A Native Hawaiian with red hair?)

So here’s a picture of just how some of those family combinations have turned out. That’s me with my 4-year-old cousin, Kaimalu, on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Yeah, it was about 70 degrees when we took the picture. And yes, he is an adorable little kid. Be jealous!

Female Chauvinists?

Growing up, NPR was always something of a nuisance to me, not because of anything even related to the station itself really, but moreso because of my dad. He’s the biggest news junkie I’ve ever known in my life, and that would be one of the many news stations he’d always have blaring in the house after he’d come in from work, blaring in the family van during those long are-we-there-yet road trip vacations or just blaring, period.
I mean, seriously, if you want to watch my mom or sister instantly cringe in agitation, just start playing the theme song to “All Things Considered.”

Ironically though, I guess the older I get I inherit some of his habits because I’ve actually grown to love the station and am somewhat of a regular listener. I mean, they always have some of the most intriguing stories and interviews and a couple of weeks ago, there was one that especially got my attention.

It was an interview with this young writer named Ariel Levy and her latest book “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.”
Now, to me, the title says it all. Levy takes a look at post-feminist society’s, especifically women’s, attitudes toward and perceptions of sex in contrast with previous attitudes and perceptions held 30 years ago during the women’s lib movement and the sexual revolution.

To make a long story short, it proposes that today’s culture is more hyper-sexualized and unlike 30 years ago, women are mostly doing it to themselves. She examines the whole spectrum and studies women of all ages, including teens who think it’s cooler to aspire to be on Girls Gone Wild than run for Congress. And this isn’t just some talking head or something. I mean Levy actually hung out, talked with and interviewed these people.

Of course I'm planning to purchase the book, once I get past this holiday shopping hump and then I'll have even MORE to say.

As I continued to listen to this interview, I just kept nodding my head like “Yeah! That’s so real!” My mind wandered back to a concert I covered several years ago when the Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera tour came to the CenturyTel Center.

The show nearly sold out. Justin and Christina shined. But what I remember most was how many hundreds of pre-teens and teen girls I saw donning skimpy halters, skin-tight shorts and mini-skirts trying to reveal stuff they didn’t even have. I mean, seriously, I didn't know sexy now came in the form of a 10-year-old body.

Pop culture, to me, is a clear indicator. It was only like 10, maybe 15 years ago when Janet Jackson was one of the hottest stars out there, period. Fully-clothed, dressed in black from head to toe dancing and singing about a “Rhythm Nation.” And if it wasn't her, it was Debbie Gibson, Tiffany or Whitney Houston (Yeah, I took it waaaay back.) And the most you saw them in were denim outfits and fun head bands.
Fast forward even 10 years later and you got Britney Spears scantily clad, sweating and panting about how “I’m a Slave 4 U.”

I’m not saying sex or sexiness is bad at all. Come on now, let's keep it real. All I’m saying is that I think Levy makes a valid point in saying that society is definitely more hyper-sexualized, women are definitely more objectified, and amazingly, it’s largely us women doing it to ourselves.

Look, Levy can explain it much better than I can. Check out this excerpt. Or listen to the NPR interview here.

Now can I get a “Amen”…or a “Hell naw”? Men, you’re welcome into this discussion as well.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Better left unsaid...

This was my weekend to play Designated Driver for my boyfriend and a couple of his buddies. I must say listening to married guys (their wives were out of town) talk about relationships is fascinating.

One of them mentioned that his wife got upset when he made some comment about another woman. Go figure. His rationale is that he's a man and he's going to notice other women and he's better off being honest about it. I figure that she knows he's a man, and just like she notices other men, she knows that he looks at other women. She just doesn't want that confirmation. So when he talks about it, of course she gets upset. In other words, I told him some of those thoughts are better left unsaid to your partner.

What do you think? Is it better to just leave some things out when talking to your significant other? Or is uncensored honesty the best policy?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Zoom Away!

We had some comments and questions about this Christmas lights photo I made last night at the American Rose Center.

Its a pretty simple technique that requires an SLR camera with a wide angle zoom lens and a flash. You need to set your camera in manual mode to shoot a long exposure like a 1/3 of a second or more and have a flash attached. Then hit the shutter button and zoom smoothly during the long exposure. The change in the zoom causes the lights to streak across the photo while the flash "freezes" the unlit subjects. Because the lights are so bright they continue to show up in the photo during the zoom. You can zoom in or out, twist the camera in a circle or just wiggle it around during the exposure for different effects.

Here is another example shot in a bar in Downtown Baton Rouge.

For a solid crisp exposure for our paper I set the camera on the ground to keep the streaks perfectly straight. You just have to experiment with the light and see what you can come up with.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Please save the puppy...

A one-month old baby allegedly got some of its toes chewed off by a pit bull puppy.

No one knows for sure if the puppy is responsible for chewing off the child's toes, but whether the pit bull did it or not--the child's parents should be jailed forever. They claim they were sleep while the child's foot was brutalized (that's questionable--wouldn't you have heard a baby crying if something was eating its foot?).

And during all the hoopla created about this incident the public responds by saying they want to save the puppy.


For real? The puppy? The same puppy that has chewed off someone toes and could potentially be a threat to the community?


What about the maimed baby?

It's been reported the animal shelter that's housing the pitbull has received several phone calls from folks wanting to know if the animal can be saved. But I bet the state department of children services hasn't gotten any phone calls about the one-month-old baby.

I can only imagine its hard to take care of a baby. Lord knows I'm not ready to step up and do it but am I the only person that thinks its a little weird that most folks are more concerned about saving a dog than they are a human?

Looking for a re-Pete...

It's been nearly a week since the owners of the Pete Harris Cafe filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, forcing them to shut the doors for the immediate future.

But the question remains: is there a future for the celebrated, family-owned restaurant in historic Ledbetter Heights?

As a relative newcomer to the area, I've seen a handful of restaurants close over the past few months (Pete Harris, Semolina's and Santa Maria Barbecue) and one that appears headed for similar trouble (Caliente, according to its manager). To me, that's more disturbing than the arrival of P.F. Chang's, T.G.I. Friday's and Logan's Roadhouse, all in southeast Shreveport, is exciting.

Don't get me wrong: I love national-chain restaurants and southeast Shreveport; I'm no snob in that regard. To me, a chain restaurant is simply a replication of a successful eatery. But on some level, I'd like to see the chains and the smaller, family-owned restaurants co-exist prosperously.

Without being a party-pooper, that should mean: no more development along Youree Drive until other parts of Shreveport prove they can handle it. The survival of places like Pete Harris and Caliente are integral to any effort at revitalizing Shreveport's dying inner city.

City Councilman Joe Shyne, who was a lunchtime regular at Pete Harris, is mounting a 13th-hour effort to save the restaurant, recently meeting with a few interested investors. "It needs to be saved," Shyne said. "It means too much ... it's history."

We can all agree there's a place in the future for historical landmarks like Pete Harris, right? Is it the city's job to look after inner-city institutions, albeit a private one, like this? Is this solely the responsibility of owners who couldn't handle the financial burden? Or do we, the paying customers and economic engines behind the city's increasing sales tax revenue base, share in the blame for the death of Pete Harris and restaurants like it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"And Rent-a-Center..."

Last week I was a Junior Achievement volunteer at Cherokee Park Elementary. It's a school in a high mobility district and the student body is comprised almost entirely of minorities.

I loved it. And, they loved me.

My first grade class was so in tune to the things I had to teach them. I taught them about families and neighborhoods and the difference between a "need" and "want." I told them about my job and I even taught them what "skills" were and what businesses were.

They caught on really quickly to the concepts. When explaining to them what businesses were, the kids yelled out things like "Mc Donald's" and "Brookshire's." It was great. They understood. Then a little girl said "the check cashing place is a business" and some other kid said "And rent-a-center is too."


I've never even been inside a "check cashing place" nor have I been inside a "rent-a-center." The teacher said that it's different teaching kids like the ones at Cherokee Park and other poorer schools in the parish because they have to face different realities than kids in suburbia.

That really stuck with me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Question from a Worry Wart

I just need to know if this is only me...

I just got off the phone with my momma a little bit ago and she told me she has a doctor's appointment tomorrow.

It's weird, but over the last couple of years I get terrified when my mother goes to see a doctor. I mean, a lot is that I don't have the greatest trust for the profession and I just feel like when people go they're most definitely going to get diagnosed with something. Stupid, I know.
But my mom's appointment isn't really for anything major. She's just been having some pains in her leg that she has diagnosed as a potassium deficiency. (Yes, with the help of the Internet, she is now Dr. Rucker)

I guess we're both at an age now that I think many people start losing their parents and I can't help but to think what the doctor's going to tell her this time. But, I guess I need to calm down. I do tend to overreact and worry too much. She exercises, stopped eating meat a few years back and I think is generally in good health. But I know I'm no doctor.

Does anyone know what I'm talking about or is it what I thought - that I'm going overboard with the worrying?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's not funny ... and neither are you

Oh, to be a middle-aged, d-list celebrity.
Andy Dick, the semi-famous, sort-of comedian (does he do stand-up? Is he funny?) made a complete fool of himself last Saturday (Dec. 2) during an incident at L.A.'s Laugh Factory.
After an exchange with the comic on stage, Andy (don't make me call him by his last name) grabbed the microphone and signed off, a la Michael Richards, with a racial slur.
Of course, he quickly had to apologize, but the real question here is why did he do it in the first place?
Andy says it was an attempt at humor, but I'm not so sure.
Andy, who's starring in "Blonde Ambition," which is filming in Shreveport, isn't majorly famous. Despite the recent incident, he's failed to make's front page list of names (even Anna Nicole Smith is on there); he's yet to have a starring role in a movie; and two of his biggest breaks have been MTV "reality" shows supposedly about his life that actually just seem to be reasons for him to act crazy on camera.
I think this is a case of a media whore at work. I guess it's better than being famous for being famous, but it's still kind of bottom-feeding to me, and especially bothersome in this case.
It's one thing if you want to make yourself look like a blazing idiot in a sad grab for attention. It's another to do it by being blatantly offensive.
If Andy didn't know this wasn't going to get him a laugh, he's a worse comedian than I thought.
Michael Richards' rant boosted sales of the "Seinfeld" season 7 DVD, which I'm sure put money in his pocket.
What's Andy Dick getting out of his moment?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Don't forget Pearl Harbor Day

I know it's late already, but I just wanted to leave a quick note. Our generation will always be shaped by 9/11 because of its cultural effects – from national security to a new awareness of ethnicity and religion. But this nation experienced an equally harrowing attack 65 years ago today.

More than 2,300 Americans died Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor in what was then the territory of Hawai’i. Considering just fewer than 3,000 died in the attacks Sept. 11, 2001, these thousands also certainly should be remembered.

Don't forget about them.

Is making friends with co-workers a bad idea?

I had a long conversation this weekend with my friend Ellis about a seminar he went to dealing with tips to help you succeed in the workplace.
One of the most interesting topics speaker Harriette Cole, an author, life coach, and president of profundities inc., discussed was forming friendships at work.

Cole said that work is not the place to make friends, only strategic relationships that will help you with your ultimate goal – to succeed, Ellis said. He also reported that Cole said those who feel the need for work friendships don’t have a strong enough support structure outside of work.

Ellis, a program manager for a large defense contractor, agreed whole-heartedly with this and it even sounded like he was going to do away with a few of the friendships he had formed at work. It felt like he was urging me to do the same.
I totally understood what Cole was saying and why Ellis felt the way he did. But when it comes to me, I enjoy having friends at work.

I think our newsroom environment is very different from Ellis’ in corporate America. Everyday is another battle for him to win the attention of his bosses, to stand out above the rest. Here, we battle everyday, but it seems more like we’re battling those on the outside than eachother.
I think work would be much more difficult for me if I didn’t have the few friends I’ve got here. I feel like they understand what I’m talking about when I’m mad or frustrated and they can also relate to and are happy about my successes.

I sent out a quick e-mail to some of my co-workers just to see their take on this and there were mixed opinions. Most thought like me, that friends at work are more helpful than harmful and in some cases a necessity. Some partly sided with Ellis, stating that when those friendships go bad they can cause stressful work relationships, not just for the two involved but others around them. Another good point was that forming friendships at work can create cliques, alienating other co-workers.

What do you think? Do you strive to make friends at work or does it just happen? And do you think the whole friendship at work issue differs from industry to industry?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas -- two weeks early

On my usual rounds to local police headquarters tonight, I couldn't help but be distracted from armed robberies and stolen credit cards. I was thinking about tomorrow -- the beginning of my family's Christmas.

Some aunts and uncles will be staying at my grandmother's in Doyline for the celebration. Their (adult) kids -- my cousins -- will be with them on Dec. 25 at their houses in Indiana and South Texas, so we're just doing this a little early.

It sort of seemed weird at first. This side of my family normally gathers at Granny's house on Christmas Eve to open a few presents and shoot some fireworks. (That's legal out in the country.) We probably won't have as much of that in the next three or four days.

But that's not really what it's about, is it? We'll still be together. We'll probably make some long-distance phone calls to family members in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. We'll say some prayers. Eat good food. Look at some twinkling lights. Maybe we'll sing a song or two. Perhaps drink some wassail (and eggnog)?

So who's got thoughts on Christmas tradition -- and breaking it? I'm not sure the specific date is that important. It's a season, right? Besides, do we need to even get started on whether we know what day Jesus Christ was actually born?

I'm just glad it's Advent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Interstate issues

Most days we get on I-20 or I-49 and just zip across town or across the state to get where we're going.

But as two articles in Wednesday's paper will show, the path an Interstate highway takes is not always easy -- espeically in the beginning.

I-49 north to Arkansas will likely cut through the struggling neighborhood of Allendale here in Shreveport. Some think it will add life, others think it will just drive out what little life is left.

Then there's I-69, scheduled to connect El Dorado, Ark., (and eventually Mexico and Canada) to the Shreveport-Bossier area. But the highway folks have run into road blocks (literally and figuratively) in Webster Parish about dividing communities such as Growing Valley and crossing Bayou Dorcheat, which is on the state Natural and Scenic Rivers System.

Seem like people grumbling over nothing? Maybe until they talk about cutting through your back yard. The highways will be built, but it's up to us -- voters -- to help determine the details.

The other us involved would be journalists. Our job is keeping everyone else informed. I know I'm trying to do my best to let people know the issues. But sometimes it's tough keeping up.

So let me -- and everyone else -- know if you've got any thoughts on projected Interstate paths or otherwise. We're busy, but listening to you, following up on information -- and also filtering it -- are parts of our job.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A dream deferred...maybe

I read this on the wire today and I immediately emailed one of my friends from college who still lives down there.

Though I have mixed feelings about the leadership and recovery process in New Orleans, I felt like this was a sign of hope. A much-needed, long overdue one.

However, when it comes to examining and discerning any kind of news and information about New Orleans, I like to get the perspective of native residents, like my friend, who's well familiar with the machinations of the system down there and are well aware of what such news will really mean to them.

My friend grew up in Marrero, a Westbank suburb of New Orleans, located right over the river, in Jefferson Parish.

We graduated from Dillard University together and she’s remained there ever since.

Like many residents of New Orleans and its surrounding areas, she’s fiercely loyal. Always talking about ways to make it better, to overhaul the economic and political barriers that have held the city back long before Katrina’s floodwaters.

And when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina scattered her and her family throughout Texas and other areas of Louisiana, it was no question that she would be one of the ones to return.
Just like most other American cities, (probably even more so) Lord knows New Orleans needs her kind: Twenty-something, college-educated, professional, mid- to –upper class income. She’ll have earned her graduate degree in May.

She’s often shared with me just how hard it is to get adjusted to her post-Katrina city. How life is so much different, much more challenging and how bleak the future looks. Through conversations with her and some of my other friends who live further into the city, I feel like I have almost a daily glimpse of the devastation that continues to go on there despite the sunny ads that indicate otherwise.

However, she’s always had hope as well. That trademark Big Easy loyalty always rings through her conversations. “It’s going to get better. We have to stay here to make sure of that,” she would say.

That is, until I got her response to my email today.

While she was happy about the news, I was disheartened to read the next part of her email “I think I am giving up on N.O.”

It’s sad to know that after having endured so much already, she, like so many others are throwing their hands up in defeat. I mean what’s the point of hanging around when, besides a parade or football game here or there, there’s just not much sign of things of any real change?

How can you feel that you won’t continue to be overlooked or neglected when commercials are airing everywhere saying that everything is OK, that things are returning back to normal? I can’t say that I blame her at all. In fact, I told her she did good to hang around as long as she did.

Amazingly, even though my friend’s given up, she hasn’t quite thrown in the towel just yet. Like a good relationship gone sour that you’re just not ready to end yet, my friend said she’d give it another try. About four more years.

Then came that familiar resilience of hers peeking through at the end of her message: “But I still have a plan, DP, and I still have hope.”

I hope she’s not the only one.

What would you do? If it were your hometown would you return? Do you think New Orleans is coming back for real? What do you think the new New Orleans should look like? What do you think it will look like? What do you think it will take to keep the ones who have returned there?

Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Meet the neighbors

For months now, I've been watching the comments posted on news stories. Really what started my interest was the Shreveport mayoral election.

I worked on election night and watched as people told us what was really on their minds, and quite frankly, I was disappointed with a lot of them. Many of the posts had nothing to say but what a tragedy it was a black man had been elected as mayor and how the city was doomed. Some of the posts were so offensive they had to be pulled from the Web site.

But I've sensed a bit of a shift since then. As the political furor has died down, it seems the story comments have become a bit of a neighborhood.

As you scroll through the comments, you see familiar names. Some folks offer serious insight and heartfelt feelings while others visit to offer a little joke and add their two cents.

Comments are now my favorite part of a story. I like to know what people think about the work done in this office and what's going on around town.

So if you've got something to say, feel free to join in. There's always room for one more.

For Jake and that guy's daughter

When I arrived in Memphis for the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon this weekend I was out to prove a point to myself (and my friend, Tom, who bet me a steak dinner). But the folks there had this crazy idea that I was running it for them.

The people from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital welcomed us and many of the families lined the streets with the names and pictures of their sick sons and daughters. The family and friends of a little boy named Jake were everywhere. He was an adorable little boy with blonde hair and an engaging smile. Judging from the signs, Jake lost his battle with some terrible illness, but his family has faith that St. Jude's can save the next one.

At about mile 5, a man stood by himself with a simple white poster board cheering the runners on saying, "My daughter is alive because of you!" Several of us looked at each other and agreed that would keep us going. One woman near me said: "How can you run with tears in your eyes?"
I didn't do any particular fundraising for the hospital. I just paid my entry fee for a chance to say "I did it." But this weekend taught me a lot about overcoming obstacles and about what this hospital means to the families who depend on its care. And I learned that running really is a lot easier when it's not just about me.

This race is about proving the seemingly impossible can be achieved. That applies to me finishing the 13.1 miles - here's the medal for proof -- and even feeling pretty good when it was done more than two hours later. But more its about Jake, Stephen, Ethan, Emma Grace, and that man's daughter who is alive today.

In case my fellow LSU fans are totally out of touch...

... our team is heading to the Sugar Bowl to play Notre Dame. Hmmm... the No. 4 team faces the No. 11 team while Nos. 7 and 9 miss out totally? Bummer for Wisconsin and Auburn. See ya'll in New Orleans?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Get off that computer and go see Losing Anna

I hope this blog will be of comfort to my grieving sister, Sarah, after tonight's show. The guys in Losing Anna are playing their last gig together. I'm still at work as I type (a crime reporter's work is never done...) but plan to head on to Flannigans as soon as I can get done.

So if you're not at work, go on out there! Comfort my sister and our friend, Saige, and all the other young ladies I have a feeling may already be crying... And, of course, wish Losing Anna good luck as its members go their separate ways.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How could we have avoided... a Borat?

I meant to say something about the Borat movie right after I saw it two weeks ago. It's slacking at the box office now that it’s been out for a while (like most movies). But it started pretty strong, pulling in $67.8 million in its first 10 days. So people were watching it, and I know my friends are still talking about it.

Normally I don't watch movies when I'm out of town, but I finally had to give in and see Borat in Louisville, Ky. I was visiting my buddy Chris, who works at The Courier-Journal. We had quoted enough lines from the trailer, and we had to find out if the whole movie was actually that funny.

A lot of it was. Let's face it: anytime there are exploited linguistic nuances (i.e. "not" jokes), farm animals in fancy hotels and Pamela Anderson stalking, you should expect some laughs. The gratuitous male nudity probably got more uneasy squirms than chuckles in the theater I was in. It really was pretty gross. (You'll just have to see it.)

But as funny as it was, I can definitely see why some would be offended and why others who are in the movie are embarrassed. There are people saying racist and sexist things - which, for better or worse, many people do find funny.

Now, feeling so sorry for the saps who went in front of the camera is another story. Many of them, including some University of South Carolina students, seem to think we should. I don't. I can't say much about the legality of their challenges because there apparently were release forms and alcohol involved.

Journalists like us (not that I'm calling Sacha Baron Cohen a journalist) would consider the situation when recording what an impaired person says.

A good rule of thumb for those less experienced with the ways of being observed by someone who makes videos, newspapers or books: If you don't want anyone to know you're a closeted bigot or even willing to joke about sensitive topics, keep your mouth shut when someone with a camera or a notebook is around!

See Alex's blog for an AP article about a TV producer from the Jackson, Miss., station featured in the movie.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

We're not the only one

The recent mayoral election featured lots of talk about attracting and retaining young professionals. According to the New York Times we're not the only ones.

Competition for us is particularly fierce, the story says, because "by 2012 the work force will be losing more than two workers for every one it gains." And they really want folks before they turn 35, when they become much less likely to move.

One of the most interesting points the story makes is that young people choose cities like Austin, Atlanta and Portland less because of what the city has done and more because ambiguous attitudes and word of mouth.

So instead of asking what can we do as we've done so many times before, my question for y'all is why are you here? And what keeps you here?

Shreveport-Bossier has some great and often overlooked assets like low cost of living, limited traffic and friendly people. Maybe if we promoted those things we could find ways to attract young adults.

Why talk when you can e-mail?

Sounds silly, but that's the way a lot of us end up if we work in an office. I know most members of this blogging group loves to send e-mails: to make lunch plans, to pass along funny notes or to occasionally make a cutting comment that would seem less appropriate if blurted out in the newsroom. We do this with text messages, too. Obviously.

Now that we’re such an e-mail friendly culture in the office world and beyond, some are starting to rethink our use of it. It used to just be a convenience. But is it a crutch?

A few months ago I got chastised by an editor for sending out an e-mail to the whole newsroom asking if anyone had Super Glue. I didn’t think twice about it because I figured it would be the quickest form of communication to fix a broken part of my cubicle.

The editor did not think so. He told me I should have gone around and individually asked my coworkers to find the sticky stuff because it would help me get to know them.

I see his point, but I wasn’t trying to avoid human contact. Granted, I would certainly not ask for something more important, like an organ donation or anything, over e-mail. But I have to wonder if I might know a few more people better if I wasn’t able to just send out questions like that to the masses.

What about this? When I was a freshmen at LSU I lived in a dorm. Every now and then, when my roommate and I would both be signed on to AIM we would actually send instant messages to each other from 10 feet away in the same room… Now this was usually as a joke, but it just goes to show how little two people who live together or across the hall or street would actually have to communicate verbally if they so chose.

On a freezing night like this, though, I might not cross the hall -- much less the street -- just to chat.

Any thoughts?

A call center in suburban Atlanta has actually institued a no e-mail rule for Fridays. Whoa. Sorry about this long link, but blogger's link function is not working correctly right now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Say cheese

Here's some more pics of Link222 and fellow Times staffers glitzing it up at Tuesday night's inaugural ball:

The Times "Power Team": Rod Richardson, managing editor; Pete Zanmiller, publisher and Alan English, executive editor.

Link222 girls: Janelle, Ashley, Me (Donecia) and Stephanie with Mayor Cedric Glover.

Pic 1: Link222 members Adam, Janelle, Me(Donecia), Ashley and Joel with The Times pre-press manager Clarissa Harris.
Pic 2: Link222 with legendary Times journalist Margaret Martin a.k.a. "The Face of Scene & Heard."

Here's a quote from good ole Faulkner

Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner (1897-1962) gets a lot of credit for his fiction. Today I want to praise him for his philosophy.

Here's a quotation from him that was reprinted on the Nov. 29, 2006 entry of the First Amendment calendar from the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.

"Man is immortal... not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."

Faulkner hits on what is most beautiful about us. As a crime reporter, I get to see and hear about the ugly side a lot. It's nice to have a reminder of what's good now and then.

This Southern master of the written word made this statement in 1950. If "Light in August" and his other works didn't show us, words like this should prove he really knew something about himself and the rest of us mere humans.

Dancing feet

I knew it was coming.
It had to.
There’s no way an inaugural ball for the first black mayor of a city can go by and not have it.
The electric slide.
As I was getting dressed I kept thinking, “I hope they play the electric slide. They have to play the electric slide.”
And they did. Here's Donecia, Ashley and I enjoying the line dance.

Why am I so hyped on the electric slide, also known to some as the Harlem shuffle? I mean, what other dance that came out more than 10 years ago can still be performed today with no shame? It’s a dance that everybody can do, regardless of how much rhythm and coordination they have.
I mean, the electric slide is like the universal family reunion dance. I thought it was very appropriate for the occasion of ushering in a new mayor and maybe a new beginning for the city.
I had a great time.
Most of Link222 got dressed up and headed out to the event, either for work or play. We mingled, we networked, we developed some sources and we even hit the dance floor.
The highlight of my night, other than the electric slide, was seeing our executive editor join the dancing crowd with moves only he could make work.

Welcome to office Mr. Mayor and thanks for throwing an awesome party - complete with my favorite dance.
Here are some other folks who showed their fancy footwork for Mayor Cedric Glover...

Last night ...

If you ever wonder what journalists are like after hours, today you'll see.
Many of us are dragging in this morning from last night's Inaugural Gala celebrating Shreveport's first black mayor Cedric Glover.
Shreveport got all dolled up, the food was plentiful and so were the drinks - if you had cash. And boy did everyone get down with their bad selves.
So, stay tuned. There's much more to come today, including posts and pics from last night's affair, along with our regular rants and anecdotes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All prettied up and no where to go but in a casket

A girl from Bossier City died in Memphis over the weekend.

She wasn't just any ol' regular girl either.

She was pretty.

And the news of her death has been all over the news in Memphis and in Shreveport. Maybe its because police think her husband may have killed her. Maybe it's because she makes another local person who the local community is having to grieve among the many soldiers, airmen, and other victims of random violence.

Or, maybe it's because she's a pretty girl.

At least that's how the people that knew her described her to me. When they remembered their lost friend, all of them said the same thing: "she was so pretty--a beautiful girl."

She was a beautiful, blond-haired girl with blue eyes. (Blond hair and blue eyes automatically makes you gorgeous, right?) She was a good student and had a winning personality, say those that knew her. She had a lot in common with me, we have the same name and we even have the same college major. She lived less than three hours away from my hometown. She even had the job of my childhood ambition.

But because people that look like me--dark, solid, reasonably attractive--die everyday I don't think I'd make news in Tennessee and Louisiana even though people say I've got a great personality and winning smile. My mom would even say I'm the most beautiful girl she's ever seen. I still don't think I'd make the news in both states, even if my non-existent husband bludgeoned me to death.

What does this say about us? What does it say about my job? Hundreds of people die everyday all over the country and very few of them make the news, let alone news in two states. Tamika Huston or LaDarius Smith and even Keshia Lewis get shot, killed, beaten, robbed, stabbed, bludgeoned and even come up missing daily. Where's the outcry for them? Where are the news articles with people remembering them? Where are the folks that say they're "beautiful" too?

Check this out for another perspective:

Think about it: Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, and now our friend here were all pretty folks. And guess what? They keep on making news.

Monday, November 27, 2006

In memoriam: Bebe Moore Campbell

I just stumbled across this in an email and am just floored. Shocked. Heartbroken. At the risk of sound like a tired cliche, Bebe Moore Campbell truly was one of my favorite writers.

I've read so many of her novels including "Your Blues Ain't Like Mine," "Singing in the Comeback Choir," and "Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad." However, it was in college when I first discovered her. I read "Brothers and Sisters" a fictional story set in the aftermath of the L.A. riots in the early 1990s that explores the internal and external struggles of several characters in corporate America who vary in race and class. I was immediately captivated by her ability to humanize each of these complex characters and how they were affected. It was that book that got me hooked on her novels.

When I wasn't reading her fiction, I was enjoying her stories and profiles of celebs in the pages of Essence magazine. I was even surprised to learn that she was a sorority sister of mine and that her daughter is the young actress Maia Campbell from the defunct sitcom "In the House."

I know it's a reality that people die everyday. However, it seems like we're suddenly losing a lot great ones at an alarming rate.

But maybe there's something that can be gained. If you haven't heard of Bebe Moore Campbell, this is as good a time as any to get familiar with her contributions to the literary world. Visit Amazon and check her out.

Til death us do us part?

OK, so I'm skimming the entertainment news and I come across this and all I have to say is "Are we really surprised?" Even the question feels redundant.

I honestly don't understand the machinations of Hollywood marriages and relationships. In fact, actually, to me Hollywood marriages see more comparable to real-world courtships/relationships at the rate many of these celebs seem to change out partners.

I mean, Pamela Anderson was only married to this dude for 4 months. They dated longer than that. And, honestly I could care less, but it's just always funny to me to see the formation of such unions and measure the length of time involved in their demise.
I mean, remember, this is the same couple who not only had one wedding ceremony, but decided to make it a traveling show of sorts, holding several more ceremonies around the globe. If that isn't a divorce in the making...

Anyway, to each its own. However, it is kind of baffling to me when folks like Pamela Anderson are able to continuously wear and discard marriage after marriage like the latest designer dress while some folks never even get the chance...

I know we don't have all the answers yet, but this story just doesn't leave a good taste in my mouth at all. And it's so heartbreaking. I mean can you imagine all the dreams, anticipation, preparation and celebration that went into their Big Day, only for it to end in a nightmare before it even began? What do y'all think? Is this another case of racial profiling and police brutality at its worst? Or do you think the police were merely protecting themselves? Or was it a wrong-place-wrong-time kinda thing? Who's at fault? I hope at least the family gets answers and soon.


The hard work is done. With much difficulty, I finished my 11 mile run yesterday (turkey must slow you down), and I'm ready for the real race. Saturday I will join thousands of other folks in the Memphis Half Marathon to run 13.1 miles.

It feels pretty good for this non-athlete to say that. I've got all my gear: just broken-in shoes, new leggings and a super-cool GPS watch (yes, my arm is connected to satellites). I'll do a couple of short runs this week, and then I'll tack on 2 miles to what I've already done. As a friend likes to say: "I can spit two miles."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Clearing my head to remember

Shreveport-Bossier City may not be quite the bustling scene that is, say, New York, Chicago or D.C. But roadwork, traffic and crazy holiday shopping are not reserved only for big cities.

That’s why I was so glad I got to kick back in rural, south Arkansas for Thanksgiving (and my birthday). And believe me, when the nearest town in the county is Smackover – I love this place, by the way – the greater Port City area will seem a lot bigger.

My mom’s side of the family gathered at my aunt and uncle’s camp at a gorgeous bend in the Ouachita River. The camp sits atop a bluff with a great view. You can only get there (by land, at least) by taking a narrow, gravel road through a hardwood forest. This is the kind of road where you have to creep along – say 15 mph – even in a truck or SUV.

Getting to and staying at this place is not for the impatient. Along with its isolation, you can’t drink the water from the pipes (so we carry it in) and cell phone reception is sketchy.

So we did what you should do at a camp: Told stories around a fire while eating potato casseroles and apple pies brought in from the outside world. You drink straight out of the can, which comes out of an ice chest. For me, there is nothing like being with my extended family of about 50. Even when we’re repeating stories that might have been retold to us for years and our parents for decades, they still feel vital.

We talk about how my great uncle used to help my grandmother sneak out of her mom’s house on Hawai’i (before it was a state) to meet my grandfather when they were both young. Or how my mother and her seven brothers and sisters used to sleep on pallets in the back of Papaw’s truck on long rides from northwest Louisiana to his West Texas hometown.

They might seem boring, but they’re about where we’re from. That helps make us who we are.

I often have a slight worry in the back of my mind that our generation will see the end of this kind of family connection. We’re so driven to get jobs and make more money that I feel like we lose sight of what’s really important.

But maybe I’m wrong. I mean, look at these blogs. They may not be quite like campfire gatherings, but they are stories. I hope they’re at least sometimes about significant stuff – the kind of stuff our parents and grandparents would want us to remember.

Now, if only we can get wireless Internet at the camp so I can write stuff like this from out there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trying to be better

The other day my friend and I were watching TV when we heard the news that six Muslims had been put off an airplane for praying.


Put off a plane for praying? What would happen in school board meetings in Bossier Parish if everyone were kicked out for praying? They wouldn't even be able to hold a meeting--no one would be there, except for me.

My friend cheered when he heard the news. "That's right," he said. "If I'd been on the plane I would have wanted them off too. I would have thought they were planning to bomb the plane."

I sat and stared at him quietly. I didn't know how I really felt about the situation. "Don't people of that faith pray seven times per day?" I asked him. He said it didn't matter. He'd be suspicious.

"I'm stereotyping," he yelled. "And I'm black. I know it's bad but the world is too messed up to take chances."

If put in the same situation as those folks on the plane, I hoped I wouldn't act that way. I hoped I'd be understanding. Cultured. Considerate. Compassionate. But would I?

My friend, who is terrified to travel to New York, thought it was no different than what some people do to him. When they see him on the street ladies clutch their purses and lock their doors. And, he's a businessman. But some folks still get scared when they see his tall, black, figure.

He said, "If you went to Walmart at night and saw six or seven black men with their pants hanging down, you'd park on the other end of the lot and go into the entrance furthest away from them. If you saw a bunch of praying Muslims hanging around a Walmart at night you'd park your car and go in with no thoughts about it.

"Change the situation," he said.

"If a group of black men had their pants sagging in an airport, you would keep it moving. You wouldn't worry about them. But if you saw a bunch of them hanging around an airport, praying you would start crying and get scared."

I told him I wouldn't do that.

He called me a liar.

Maybe I am. I don't know. But I'm going to try to not feel that way. It's not fair.

My grandmama says you can find out a person's true character when put in compromising situations. My friend would have flipped out if he were on that plane. I guess his character is that of a racist.

I sure hope mine isn't.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A sign of the times

It's almost noon here in Alexandria, Va. and I've already wished every last one of my friends well this Thanksgiving without talking to any of them. How? Through the wonderfully convenient text messaging tool on my cell phone.

Around 10 a.m. my phone started vibrating on the bed side table about every 15 minutes, indicating I had a new text message. I got messages that ranged from "Happy Thanksgiving, I miss ya'll." to "Are you ready for Black Friday?"

I know some people feel that things like text messaging and e-mail aren't personal and take something away from the human experience. I don't think so. I guess you have to balance it out. I sent a text message to about 15 of my friends, but there are some of my best friends that I'll be sure to call before the day is through.

How many of ya'll sent out text messages today?

So, on to the turkey. And if I haven't sent you a text already...readers, fellow the words of my nephews Elijah and Bryan, "Happy Turkey Day!"

On a side note: I want to send a happy birthday shout-out to fellow blogger/co-worker/friend Adam Kealoha Causey! Happy 24th!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The real reason to be thankful

Well, it’s 5:51 p.m. and like a miracle that takes place only a few times a year, the newsroom is silent.
Or, rather, it’s as close to silent as it will ever be in this place at this time of day, on any given day.
Most of us have already begun the long trek home either by plane, car or just a few minutes away.
The remainder of us - three reporters, and about six copy desk staffers and editors - are still sitting here, still pecking away on the typewriter, still editing copy and still making those last-minute phone calls.
Some will be returning to work tomorrow to tell y’all all of the action that popped off on Thanksgiving Day. (Yeah, it’s the only day of the year that someone choking on a turkey leg might be considered for 1A.)
But anyway, as we all said our goodbyes, many of us took a moment to reflect on the many things we’re thankful for.
Sure, there’s the little stuff like life and health, and I mean family and friends are nice too, but there’s nothing like DVR, PlayStation 3, a week-old piece of pie that still looks fresh, or even finding an old pair of jeans you can still fit from 10 years ago to remind of you the important things in life to be thankful for.
So read below to see what we at Link222 are especially grateful for this year:

“For the third time in my life, I get to celebrate my birthday on Thanksgiving! It's great to hear Granny say that sweet potato pie is, oh yeah, also Adam's birthday cake. I mean, how can you compete with holiday about gratefulness?

But in a real winning move, I did tie for second place in The Times newsroom's potluck competition. I made my mom's potato casserole. I was tempted to give an acceptance speech. Instead, I quietly accepted my passes to Regal Cinemas!”
-Adam Causey

“I am thankful for having loud, obnoxious, bossy, and confrontational co-workers with whom I can report and blog. I am also thankful that I haven’t gained 20 pounds of fat this week while going from home to home and desk to desk searching for holiday goodies! But I am most thankful that I have the whole world for which to share what I am thankful for (sarcasm) :D.”
-Ashley Northington

“I’m thankful for straightening irons, keyless entry, alarm clocks backed up by batteries and a host of other things that make my life easier.”
-Diane Haag

“I'm thankful that I have been unleashed from the police scanner for the holiday and will get to spend half of my time off enduring the frustration, hustle and bustle of holiday travel. Yay!

On a serious note, I'm thankful that my youngest nephew Elijah, 4, was released from the hospital Tuesday after he went in with a high fever and really bad headaches. (I'd be even more thankful if doctors could figure out why he gets these high fevers and has had to make trips to the emergency room two other times before.)”
-Janelle Rucker

“I’m thankful to once again claim the seat next to my grandmother at the Thanksgiving table. Nana’s always full of life and fun, but you have to keep a watchful eye on your plate. She’s not bashful about taking the turkey right off your plate to feed her black and white spotted Shih Tzu Cookie. I know where I stand in the family ranks and that’s what I’m most thankful for.”
-Stephanie Netherton

“I’m thankful just knowing that my fantasy boyfriend John Legend will performing just hours away in Dallas and Houston this Friday and Saturday, respectively. I’m also happy to have two copies of his latest CD (and two copies of his first CD, not to mention his earlier recordings) to cling on to in case it’s the closest I get to seeing him perform this weekend. I'm glad that, thanks to my sister, I will be taste John Legend's special recipe for mac and cheese that he made on the Martha Stewart show. And most of all, I’m thankful that I’ll always have the memories of his first two concerts I attended last year. I love you John Legend!

I’m also happy to be filing my final business brief and story for the day with only visions of turkey and dressing, banana pudding and sweet potato pie – instead of deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines – dancing in my head for the rest of the week!

And even though my family will be experiencing one of the weirdest Thanksgiving Day settings ever - in a hospital room visiting my grandma who’s still looking fabulous and on her way to feeling that way too – I’m so thankful that it will be, once again, a day we will all share together.”
-Donecia Pea

“I’m thankful that it's football and not baseball season during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I’m thankful that the Houston Texans didn’t draft the highly overrated Reggie Bush.

I’m thankful that my girlfriend brought me into the 21st Century and bought me an iPod Nano, TiVo and Sirius Satellite Radio. She also bought me a book by one of my favorite pop culture critics, Chuck Klosterman.

And, in all seriousness, I’m thankful for the opportunity to live in a place like Shreveport-Bossier City. The people, more than the place, have made it a wonderful experience.”
-Joel Anderson

Happy Thanksgiving E’erybody!

Grown and Sexy, No. 1

To the fans of Link 222 or people who stop by just to take anonymous pot shots at the blog:

This is the debut of a weekly feature on the blog, somewhat childlishly dubbed "Grown & Sexy." Every week, we'll feature some of Shreveport-Bossier City’s most “desirable” young professionals, both men and women, on the blog. We plan to rotate weekly between the men’s and women’s picks, running the item on Wednesdays.

There’s not much of a selection process here. Just whenever one of us sees someone who would make a good G&S model and we happen to have a digital camera, we'll take their picture and a few notes.

Here's our first victim, er, choice. I met Melissa Dameworth through mutual friends, particularly since she used to work here at The Times. Unfortunately for us - particularly me, she's moved on to a better-paying job with better hours. But we still think a lot of her in here. Certainly, I do.

Name: Melissa Dameworth.
Age: 30.
Hometown: I claim Albuquerque, N.M., but I was a military brat.
Occupation: Financial Aid Counselor at Louisiana State University-Shreveport.
Relationship status: Engaged.
What's your sign? Cancer.
If I Had A Superpower, it would be ... the ability to mind read. I think that would be an interesting power to possess.
My dream vacation would be ... to spend a few months traveling around Europe-Spain, Italy and Greece in particular.
How does a guy get your attention? I'm impressed by a man with tenacity. A man who isn't afraid to approach me on his own and hold a conversation with me is going to get my attention. If he has to send in his wingman to establish contact with me, then he shouldn't even bother.
Reality Show You'd Want To Be On: I think it would be fun to compete on one of the Real World-Road Rules Challenges because they get to compete in a variety of crazy physical and mental events.
If I'm on a deserted island, I'd have to take ... food. I don't want to have to hunt and gather my food.
Favorite Cereal ... Right now it's Raisin Bran Crunch.
I've Never Been Able To Say No To ... New Mexican food. I love it!
On a Saturday night, I'll Be ... going to dinner and a movie with my fiancé.
I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for ... my mom and dad. They are both retired from the Air Force and we moved a lot during my childhood. It's made me into a person who can adapt very easily to new people, environments and cultures.
My best friend would say that I am ... loyal, fun and like a sister to her.
Favorite childhood memory: I have so many... but we moved to Germany when I was in 5th grade and my sister was in 4th. Our house was three stories and she and I used to ride down the stairs in my mom's laundry basket. I remember getting in trouble for breaking the laundry basket, but we had fun.
If I had one more hour in the day, I would ... jog. It's already getting dark by the time I get home from work and I'm not interested in joining a gym, so I don't get to get outside and work out very often.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Richards has forever tainted memory of Kramer

My heart sunk and my stomach churned a little when I listened to Michael Richards racist rant taped at the Laugh Factor in West Hollywood. I heard reports on what Richards, who played the popular character Kramer on "Seinfeld," said this morning. But when I watched the video for myself, I was sickened.

Part of being a stand-up comic is being heckled. I've seen comedians fire back at audience members and it's just uncomfortable for everyone else. After all, we go to comedy shows to laugh. Richards, as a long-time professional, should have been able to handle the hecklers. Instead, he fires off the "n-word" over and over again and with enthusiasm remarks about a time when blacks were victims of civil rights abuses.

Since the outburst, Richards has apologized saying the attack was fueled by anger and not bigotry.

"For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I'm deeply, deeply sorry," Richards said during a satellite appearance for David Letterman's "Late Show" in New York.

As much as I love "Seinfeld" and Richards' character, Kramer, this changes everything. In this day and age, there really is no reason for such comments.

Times columnist Monica Carter also wrote about the incident, which you can read in Wednesday's Times. Or watch the video at your own risk, at

Happy Birthday to me

Today marks 28 years of life for me. 28. That's like a no-kidding, real responsible adult. Crazy.

You know who's really cool?

Jay-Z is cool. Really cool. Probably cooler than Miles Davis, who might have invented the concept of being cool in the early 1950s.

Today, Jay-Z released his ninth hip-hop album, "Kingdom Come" after a self-imposed, two-year retirement. And while it's a subpar album - by his standards, of course (it would be a masterpiece for someone like Lil' Boosie), Jay-Z could probably care less.

Maybe he got bored of directing the careers of no-names like Memphis Bleek and Freeway.. Maybe there's only so many times you can vacation in St. Tropez. Maybe he's really inspired by the challenge of knocking dudes like Unk from the top of the rap charts.

Or maybe he just likes making music, and doing so allows him to make guest appearances in the "Monday Night Football" booth like he did last night. That's cool.

He's the third-best selling rap artist of all time (behind 2Pac and Eminem), makes the kind of money that would have kept Hammer out of bankruptcy, owns part of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and gets to see Beyonce naked semi-regularly. That's really cool.

This is where I find myself feeling like a 13-year-old loser again, like Kevin Arnold in "Wonder Years." I like to think of myself as cool, but judged against Jay-Z standards, I might as well be the Screech to his Zack Morris. If its even that close.

This is inherently a sad thing. Being cool shouldn't be an issue now that I'm 28, but who am I kidding: everything I do is aimed at being considered cool. From the clothes I wear, to the furniture in my apartment, to the gym shorts I recently bought that hang to my shins, to the four-door sedan I bought in 2003. Cool is important, not just to me, but also to you.

Anyway, here's the point of all this rambling: who's the coolest person that you can think of? I mean a celebrity, too, not your 40-year-old uncle who still goes to Black-Eyed Peas concerts and drives an Escalade.

Someone asked me this a few years ago - very seriously, I might add - and I said Michael Jordan. But having seen him come out of retirement to play with the Washington Wizards and his corny Fruit of the Loom ads, I'm now ashamed that I ever thought that.

So, for me, it's Jay-Z. Long live the Hov. What about you?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stay tuned...This is not a test

It's been four days.
That's right four...whole... days...since we've talked on here.
No, it's not because we've abandoned this ship. Nor is it because this was just another one of those fun experiments that has begun to wane. (Much to our critics dismay I'm sure.)
And it's not because we don't have anything to say, because BELIEVE ME, there's plenty on all of our minds right now.

The main reason it's been so long since any of us have posted on here is because, believe it or not, we have lives. Very, very, VERY busy ones.
Like at this very moment, all you'll see around here is the frantic pace of folks trying to cram in five days of phone calls, interviews, photo assignments, stories, etc. into two or three days.
It's stress in the worst way because, unlike schools or businesses that shut down for a week or two during the holidays - this baby is a 24/7 operation.

That means even though some of us are preparing to fly, or drive home in a day or two and be off for maybe a day or two (if we're lucky) the news still goes on. The stories still have to be there for you all to read or sit your food on top of on Thanksgiving Day.

We're just like the name of one of my favorite po-boy stops in New Orleans - We never close.
But the good thing is since we're always here, that means we will be back. Sooner than you think.

So don't abandon us - keep checking us out daily, heck, hourly for that matter.
We're planning on delivering some fun (and funny) treats to tide you through the holidays and beyond.

And if you got a problem with it - let us know! We LOVE feedback (yes, even the mean, anonymous kind!)

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

See Janelle in action!

Just in case you wonder if we just sit around at a computer all day long... check out this photo of Janelle!

She'd be the first person squatting and holding up a camera on the right. This is at the groundbreaking ceremony for Safety Town today. (Thanks to the Caddo Sheriff's Office for the pic.)

Check out her story tomorrow!

Now I know some of you have some thoughts on Safety Town, too. So tell us!

Blue Man for Valentine's Day... sort of

Come on. You know you are ready to see the Blue Man Group in February at the CenturyTel Center splashing paint all over the place and beating on trash cans. Maybe they could fill the whole joint with toilet paper for us to dance in!

Now that would be some Valentine's date.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Planes, Just Trains and Automobiles

I usually take Clyde Fant Pkwy. into our offices here at 222 Lake St. and lately it seems like I always come up against a freight train on the Commerce St. tracks.
As you know from an earlier post, I’m not the most patient when behind the wheel and today I was running late for work so I was really on edge.
So instead of getting off the parkway at Lake I continue on down to Milam, where I’m usually able to get across. Nope.
I sat there for a minute before turning around and going further down Clyde Fant to Market Street.
Imagine my dismay, anger and complete irritation to find the beginning of the train just making its way across the tracks through the construction site of the new hotel.
I sat there for 15-20 min while the train slowly, oh so slowly, made its way across the intersection.

Note: I do see how my impatience worked against me here…had I just waited at Lake or Milam, I would have been able to make it to my destination a little quicker.

Anywho, what’s the deal?! It seems like the train tracks run across many major roadways in this city.
Market, Lake, Milam, W. 70th at its intersection with Hearne Ave. Also in Benton Road, Airline Drive and Texas Street in Bossier City.
It’s craziness. So if you miss a train on one route, you’re sure to catch it on another.

Via Bossier City P.I.O. Mark Natale, I found out that freight train companies don’t communicate with city officials as to the comings, goings or stoppings of their trains. He said Bossier City Police Chief Mike Halphen has even tried to talk with them about changing their schedule so as not to come through the city during rush hour. He got no response.

It seems that the railroad tracks and the trains that use them are just a part of Shreveport living. So, I’ll continue to be impatient and race to beat the train, keeping my fingers crossed that someone will try to find a solution to a problem that is felt by many in the community.

Confessions of a 27-year-old dinosoar

I may be risking my job by admitting this, but technology does not excite me.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm no Luddite. I appreciate the convenience and communication that has come with modern life: cell phones so I can connect with friends at a crowded festival, the Internet so I can keep track of news around the country, PDAs with my whole life in one convenient gadget. But that's not what gets me up in the morning.

I like people. I enjoy meeting face to face with a person, hearing their stories and telling them. That's what gets me excited to come to work.

But the news business is changing, and my "need to know" approach to technology is about to get kicked up a notch. Telling stories doesn't mean just a notebook anymore. It might be digital recorders, a still camera or a video camera. I'm sure I can learn the skills, and we as a newspaper already told some pretty cool video stories that never would have worked in print. It's just a little overwhelming.

Please tell me I'm not the only one...