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 -- www.ibowl2006.blogspot.com -- 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 d├ęcor 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.

What?

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

Wow.

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."

Wow.

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 TMZ.com'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.