Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Moving on

Since I moved to Louisiana, several interesting things have happened to me.

My mail kept getting returned to the sender because my apartment complex didn't put a lock on my mailbox for a month after I'd moved in.

The deposit check and application fee I spent $16.53 to overnight to my new landlords never made it there.

Half of the towels I owned were stolen from my complex's laundry facility after I walked back to my apartment to get a coke.

My neighbor leaves me love letters on my car.

Another neighbor leaves chicken bones on the walkway we share with two other tenents.

And I'm not allowed to sit in my computer chair on the patio. I'm told computer chairs are not acceptable patio furniture.

Friday marks the end of all that confusion. I plan to start the new year with a new apartment.

What are your plans for 2008?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

For Christmas, some happy stories

Since we journalists are known for spreading doom and gloom, I thought MSNBC's list of 10 happy stories was kind of cool.

As one of the reporters who helps put out arguably some of the most negative stories (I usually write about crime), I can see the value of lighter fare. So check out the lists, where you will read about twin moms giving birth to children on the same day, a stolen wallet turning up decades later and a man waking from a coma after 19 years.

Merry Christmas... and will it all be sad tomorrow?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reality television

Is there no limit to what they’ll put on T.V.?

I will admit, I’m a reality television fan. But this morning I turned on the television to find that R&B singer Mario has a documentary on MTV called, “I Won’t Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom,” and was a little disappointed.

Apparently, Mario lets the cameras roll as he confronts his mom about her heroin addiction, checks her into rehab and works to keep her sober.

I mean, I watch a little bit of everything in the unscripted genre nowadays. America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and even I Love New York (yes, I’m ashamed), but I was sad to see Mario pimping out this very personal situation.

I then started wondering how this show came about. Did someone from Mario’s camp call MTV and pitch the idea? Or did someone with MTV hear of Mario’s troubles and pitch the idea to him?

Let's imagine someone decides to hold an intervention for you. Not only is overwhelming that these people that know and love you are begging you to get help and change your ways but SURPRISE!...sitting next to your crying, pleading loved one is an unknown man holding a camera, preparing to broadcast your pain and embarrassment to the entire world.

Some could say that all reality shows exploit someone – the weak, the sick, the unintelligent – but I really felt like Mario’s situation was one that should have been handled privately.

With all of the reality shows these days, I keep wondering what they’ll air next.

I almost feel like there's no such thing as reality television anymore because these participants are becoming more and more like actors, playing the roles established by some of the original shows - i.e. the mean girl, the smart girl/guy, the extra religious girl/guy.

Do ya’ll think reality television has gotten out of hand or is it just a sign of what viewers want to see?

(And so I don’t feel so ashamed, what are some of your favorite reality shows? Or better yet, what are some of the more ridiculous ones you’ve seen?)
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

“Passing the Cheer”

So, I got a free cup of Joe, today. Really. The guy in the vehicle in front of me at Starbuck’s paid for my drink, and the lady at the window told me she “I guess they’re doing some sort of thing.”

Some sort of thing? Maybe it’s called “Passing the Cheer,” like the cup sleeve says. I remember this happened on Oprah once, but this had never happened to me before this morning.

So I handed my debit card out the window to her and told her I’d like to pay for the next order. She said “the next order is two drinks” and she told me what they were and that the total came to $5 and some change.

Her supervisor or another coworker, over her shoulder, told her just to offer for someone to pay for one drink rather than the full order behind them.

“That’s how it stops, usually,” she said. “One person behind someone will have 8 orders of coffee and the person doesn’t want to buy that many drinks.”

Okay. That makes sense. Depending on my sensations of holiday joy and giving, I may or may not want to pay for 8 other people’s cups of coffee.

Then I got selfish. I thought, "what if someone doesn’t have somebody behind in line? Like the last guy at the end of the line?" I guess he would get a free cup of Joe but not have anyone else to buy for. Well, I guess it's then his choice as to how he chooses to further, “Pass the cheer.”

So, ‘tis the season for giving, even among strangers in line at the local Starbuck’s drive-through.

Notable quotables for 2007

I didn't pick 'em, but I have to say Mr. Shapiro did a right nice job. Following are some of the most mocked, banned, hilarious and telling comments from this year.

The 10 most memorable quotes of 2007, according to Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations:

1. "Don't tase me, bro." — Andrew Meyer, a senior at the University of Florida, while being hauled away by campus police during a speech by Sen. John Kerry.

I've heard this one called out at ball games, parties and bars as a joke, and it's been seriously discussed in our newsroom and in personal phone calls with my friends throughout the country.

2. "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us." — Lauren Upton, South Carolina contestant in the Miss Teen USA contest, when asked why one-fifth of Americans cannot find the U.S on a map.

You can't help but feel sorry for her.

3. "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at Columbia University in New York.

This is shocking and believable all at once.

4. "That's some nappy-headed hos there." — radio personality Don Imus, referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

An oft-blogged quote on this blog. He's back at work now.

5. "I don't recall." — former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' repeated response to congressional questions about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Haven't we heard this from accused criminals in local courts?

6. "There's only three things he (Rudolph Giuliani) mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11." — Sen. Joseph Biden, speaking during a debate for Democratic presidential candidates.

Dang. That's funny and hurtful at the same time.

7. "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.


8. "(I have) a wide stance when going to the bathroom." — Sen. Larry Craig, explaining why his foot touched the foot of an undercover police officer in an airport men's room.

Dirty mental image. No matter what was really going on.

9. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man." — Sen. Joseph Biden referring to rival Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Biden makes the list twice? We'll see if no publicity is bad publicity.

10. "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." — Former President Jimmy Carter, referring to the Bush administration.

Strong stuff.

Anybody got some quotations that didn't make the cut?

(This list comes courtesy of the Associated Press and Reuters.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Reducing hunger, building vocabulary

It's the week before Christmas, when charities are sending out more requests for help and you probably don't feel like working. Alleviate both issues with this website

I heard about it on NPR this morning and I've already killed a few too many minutes doing "research." (The highest level I've made it to so far is 41 out of 50.) The website is set up as a vocabulary quiz. For every question you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice to a UN World Food Program. Have fun.

Ode to John Legend, Verse 1

There’s no better way to make a holiday Scrooge-ette, i.e. me, smile during the holiday season like a concert performance by John Legend.

Most folks who know me know of my endless love for John Legend. When he first hit the mainstream music scene in 2005, that’s all I talked about, that’s all I was listening to. Period. I mean his CD “Get Lifted” stayed in my CD player for a solid year and six months. Even my editors and co-workers witnessed it because I had him on my computer screen wallpaper for just about a year as well. I was in love, and not so much with his aesthetic good looks, but with his artistry.

Before the hating and “clownation” begins, I must give this disclaimer: NO, I’m NOT a groupie. I just think John Legend’s music and his voice are like a beautiful breath of a fresh air that makes me swoon like I’m a teenager or something…(Ok, maybe that sounds slightly groupie-ish…)
I’ve had the pleasure of inhaling that cool breeze in person at two previous live shows (I even met him once! But that’s for another post…) And I got a chance to inhale it again last night when I saw his performance on TV One, in which he also introduced his new label Home School Records.

And just when I thought my love was dying for the man (I mean, is it me, or did he just kinda fade off the scene after his last album, “Once Again”?) I watched this show last night "Get Together with John Legend" and fell in love all over again.

Thanks to a text message from my friend and columnist Monica Carter Tagore, I tuned in just in time to catch him in action. And then, of course, I instantly text messaged all of my fellow friends who are John Legend fans.
It was pretty interesting, especially when he introduced a new artist who happens to be his little brother Vaughn Anthony. (Their vocal similarity is almost eery.)

Anyway, I should stop here before my friends, particularly my hating guy friends, clown me yet again for my latest ode to Johnny boy. However, if you’re a John Legend aficionado and you missed this show, catch it again Thursday at 9 p.m. CST on TV One. It’s a cool pre-holiday treat.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It takes a connection

Sometimes it seems like human brainwaves connect in ways I just never expected.

This week Ashley and I am some other Times staffers are volunteering at Shreveport’s Cherokee Park Elementary with the Junior Achievement organization. Each grade level learns something about free enterprise.

I am teaching fourth graders. The first day I was really concerned that having these students get a grip on revenues, expenses and capital resources might be kind of tough. But after today, I feel a lot better.

We were talking about economies, and the word interdependence came up. When I asked the class to define the word, I got blank stares. So I asked if anyone knew what independence meant.

“It’s what those guys signed.” One student said. I was happy the young man knew a little about the Declaration of Independence, but recognizing a word is not quite understanding.

Then I hear a little singing on another side of the room. The teacher, who stays in the room to help with any disciplinary needs, laughed and asked if I heard the song. I said no and asked the girl to sing it louder.

And she did: “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T. Do you know what that mean? She got her own house. She got her own car…”

I couldn’t let her sing alone, so I leaned and rocked a little bit to uncontrollable laughter. (I didn't join in on the vocals, however.)

The song is “Indepdent” by Webbie featuring Lil Boosie & Lil Phat.

All the lyrics are not necessarily appropriate for fourth graders to sing in class. But at that moment I was just so happy that there was a connection. Fourth graders throughout the room started saying independent means standing alone. Not needing anyone. And from there, we moved on to interdependence’s opposite meaning and how many businesses need each other to thrive.

I couldn’t have planned that if I tried. And if I had, I don’t think it would’ve worked out as well. We got some good laughs, but more importantly, we had an understanding today in Ms. Thomas’ room.