Monday, April 30, 2007

I gave him $2 cash

I decided to take a few minutes to eat my brought-from-home dinner this evening in The Times side parking lot. As I ate my microwaved vegetables and piece of chicken breast while trying to read our paper and a bit of The Wall Street Journal, a man approached me.

He said he had come from Dallas to make some store deliveries and that his partner had left him at the Bossier City Wal-Mart. He called the police there, and they had taken him to the Salvation Army shelter last night to sleep. He was trying to make the 8:35 p.m. Greyhound ride back to Dallas and was walking around looking for work to get the rest of his fare.

This isn't the first time I have been approached by someone in need. And he didn't ask for money, only work. I'm not really allowed to let other people write my articles and I didn't need my car washed, so I just gave him 2 bucks. He thanked me and kept walking.

I saw him speak to a man who had been walking around picking up garbage in nearby parking lots. The man gave him some directions, and it looked like the fellow who needed to get back to Texas helped clean up trash for a few minutes.

As usual, I wondered for a minute if I'm dumb for just giving out cash. I thought, "I could've gotten some dessert out of a vending machine with $2." But really, that stuff is probably slowly killing me and everyone else who eats it.

Then there are those who say the guy just used my benevolence to go by drugs or liquor. But he told me directly that he "was not some bum." And he really didn't look like a bum. Maybe he bought a hamburger.

It was definitely my loss to his gain. But was it really much of a loss? I would miss $20, but I'm not going to miss $2. As a reporter, I can be skeptical enough as it is. So sometimes I just want to believe people will do what they say. Maybe it wasn't really a loss for me.

What would you do?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

No more excuses...

Ashley, our new co-worker Velda and I were at a popular downtown nightclub Friday when we encountered something we’ve come up against many times before – a Caucasian girl doing her best impression of a black girl. Or at least, what they think all black girls act like.

As we were leaving she stopped and said, “Oh no, the sistahs are leaving.”

I braced myself for another ridiculous situation. And I say another, because this is something we all encounter all the time.

“The sistahs can’t leave. We gotta show these white boys how it’s done. Shoot, some of these white girls too. But I swear my momma must have been black.”

As she’s saying this she starts doing some type of dance, popping her butt.

When we get down to the valet she stops and adds “OK, well let me slap a sistahs (butt) before I go.”

Wow. Really?

As always, I excused her. Told myself she meant no harm.

But I’m tired of that. They always get excused. Always.

That took me back to high school when my friends in marching band would ask me to teach them how to step or do the dances they’ve seen on videos. And to all the conversations about why “we” – as in black people – had to put grease in our hair, etc. etc.
Shoot, that even took me back to a few situations earlier in the week where I had to excuse some folks.

So, here’s the deal.
Talk to me like you’ve got sense and I’ll talk to you the same.
Talk to me like we’re all alike, because we are. We’re all humans and contrary to popular belief, the color of my skin doesn’t automatically dictate my interests, my level of education or how I talk.

As Ashley said, BET, MTV and all the other sources of "entertainment" that have commercialized our culture and created these stereotypes have ruined it for us.

Now, to others outside of our culture, it’s cool to talk slang and shake your butt to the beat. It’s all just a fad to them while it’s a way of life for others.

But I guarantee you we’re not all like that. We do more than figure out ways to butcher the English language, come up with new dance moves and aspire to more than owning an Escalade we can put on "dubs."

Never met someone like that?

Hello, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Janelle…

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's get viral

I recently came across my friend Jimmy Greenfield's video "Evolution of a beard." It is a hoot. (That doesn't sound to hip, huh?) Jimmy is a reporter for RedEye, the Chicago Tribune's young reader pub. I was an intern there in summer 2005.

So watch it! Help make Jimmy a worldwide rock star. (That would be what "viral" means. I don't know if it gets heavy usage here in the Port City, but let's start that, OK?) If you ever need a hand-picked cool Internet video, check out Jimmy's blog, Video Gaga.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oh, our dogs

These pics probably speak for themselves. We love dogs, don't we? They have just sort of been on my mind since I covered the Shreveport Kennel Club's 106th All Breed Dog Show this past Saturday.

OK, actually this chihuahua belongs to me, and Chi Chi was not in the show. She was actually ignoring me here, as I told her it was time to go back inside. But I kind of wanted to practice taking cute pictures of pooches before I had to do this for the paper.

Here's my favorite from the show. This chow was just so big but his face was so squished.


Check our more at this slide show. (Sorry, I couldn't make the link go straight to this show, so look under News Galleries then click on Kennel Club Dog Show.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Maybe I'm worrying for no reason...

After nearly two years of being single I'm starting to think something's wrong.

I'm not sure if there's something wrong with me or if there's something wrong with the dating scene.

My grandmother heckles me constantly telling me that if I don't get a boyfriend now, I'll never be married nor will I have any children. My mother tells me that I'm young and I should be happy dating around. My father doesn't get involved in my relationships because he says the men are never around long.

When I have these type of conversations with my family I normally find it funny. But I'm starting to get worried now that I'm set to be a maid of honor at two weddings early next year and several of my other and not-so-close friends are either engaged, living with a significant other, or having babies.

But not me. And I'm almost 24.

I mean, I've had "friends" for the majority of those two years. And I've had fun most of the time.

I guess I'm close to the age when most folks are talking marriage and kids and co-habitation. I'm not even close. Although I do have a few friends who are older, single and child-less and some that are closer to my age an in the same demographic, I'm really starting to wonder about myself.

Should I be worried?

Weekday night lights

At some point, after they realize they'll never be the next Barry Bonds and before their joints tell them they're too old, young men turn to softball.

They get together with work/church/neighborhood buddies and order matching T-shirts, sometimes with secretly crude nicknames on the back. Some of the guys played college ball. Some haven't picked up a glove since T-ball. They whack the ball as hard as they can and sprint (which might look more like a fast jog) down the baselines. At then end of the game - win or loose - there's beer waiting in the parking lot (they long ago outgrew Capri Suns). It's the perfect, all-American, and for the most part, family friendly evening.

I spent many childhood summer nights in the stands at these games "watching" my dad play. That often really meant reading a book or climbing under the bleachers and playing with the other kids while our mothers yelled at us not to wander too far.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've found myself back at Cargill, watching my boyfriend and his buddies play. A book would hardly be good form at this point, so I chat with the other significant others and play with the kids, whose mothers yell at them not to wander off. And, actually, I watch some of the game so we can critique the umpire, fielding and hitting afterwards.

Funny how life seems to go in circles...
Photo: Times file, since my pictures of the Iron Fist turned out too blurry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

So it's been a year

I'm sure that's not long to some of you sixtysomethings out there, or maybe even you thirtysomethings. But for a 24-year-old guy who still misses the college life, one year is a long time.

And that's how long it's been since I started working at The Times. I woke up this morning trying to remember what day it was. (That's really not unusual, but not for any crazy reason. Newspaper people are just always labeling files with the next day's date--for print--so it's easy to get a little confused in the wee hours.) But when I looked at a calendar, it hit me.

Some days it feels like I've been here longer than a year, and on others it seems like I just started. But missing that college life style means expecting a whole new schedule every three or four months. That just doesn't happen out here in the working world.

That's OK, I guess, and part of being a bona fide adult. Or wait, would that be mountainous debt? (Another topic, I know.)

I've certainly learned a lot since last April. I know my way around parts of Shreveport I'd never visited before. I go to the Caddo Correctional Center almost every day of the work week (didn't know where that was either). I've seen dead bodies that weren't in a funeral home. I've been reminded of the responsibility we journalists have by controlling the flow of information. And that part may be the scariest or most disturbing of all the things this year has taught me.

So here's to being an adult and trying to keep track of all the crime-related happenings around these parts. And to good journalism. And to the Buckcherry show I'm missing to have a working anniversary celebration.

What's next on the list?

So in an unexpected twist - especially if you watched Oprah’s two-day town hall meeting episodes last week - hip hop mogul Russell Simmons called for the removal of the words “bitch,” “ho” and “nigger” from the recording industry Monday.

I’m curious about how this will transpire, but I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction for music.
However, I’m not exactly pleased with the timing. I hate that this comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Don Imus because I feel that the two issues are completely unrelated.

I also hate it because my thing is this, I've said this before and I’ll scream this until I’m blue in the face – the ONLY reason CBS, NBC, ABC or any major media outlets, publications and talking heads even bothered to cover this issue is because members of the black community and womens’ group decided to take aim at Imus, a white man, for his racist, sexist, plain ol’ stupid comments.

And, as one friend pointed out, instead of getting mad with the action, in a crazy twist, it seems like most folks got mad with the reaction. Particularly the reaction of the black community. Said it was their fault for accepting hip hop lyrics that use similar words.

First of all, I didn’t know the black community was the keeper of all things hip hop. Last time I checked, it was way more than black folks buying hip hop music. Last time I checked, it was also way more than black folks running the music industry that OKs derogatory music lyrics.

Where were all those major media outlets and talking heads and self righteous, finger-pointing folks during the past seven annual State of the Black Union addresses in which thousands of blacks, and several panels of black philosophers, health professionals, religious leaders, financial analysts and pop cult figures gather annually to discuss many topics concerning issues in the black community, including ways to promote more positive images in music and society?

Where were all those major media outlets and talking heads and self-righteous, finger-pointing folks in 2004 when Spelman College students led a protest against the appearance of rapper Nelly for his controversially misogynistic “Tip Drill” music video?

Where were all of those major media outlets and talking heads and self-righteous, finger-pointing folks when Essence magazine held rappers and label heads to the fire in 2005 for their overload of degrading, negative messages and images toward black women?

Where were these folks when Al Sharpton called for a ban on violence in hip hop music in 2005?

And I honestly could go on and on and on with more examples.

Yet these same folks couldn’t move fast enough to take attention away from the stupidity of Imus’ racist, sexist comment and instead put the content of hip hop music in the national spotlight.

I’ve long been against derogatory rap lyrics, or any music lyrics for that matter, and from that perspective, in spite of the late notice, I’m glad that it at least appears that the music industry is FINALLY taking action.

But what are we going to do as an American society to ensure that everyday civil rights are upheld and not violated or taken away?

What are we going to do as an American society to ensure that more children have the right to proper health care and quality education?

What are we going to do as an American society to ensure that the inherent, but subtle attitudes of racism, sexism and class discrimination have no place in the workplace?

Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that spouting racist, sexist comments, especially the kind that degrade women in any way - particularly from members of the media - is wrong, unacceptable and should be dealt with promptly and responsibly (see "Say What?!" from April 10.)

But now that we've gotten your attention, what about the other remaining issues that plague our communities?

After all, these aren’t just black issues. These are American issues.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What have we learned in a week?

Thinking back on the Virginia Tech atrocities of Monday a week ago is sort of surreal. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach that day, once it hit me that so many people were dead on a college campus.

Today, I know it's still sad, but it's a different feeling. I know most of us tend to get used to living with something uncomfortable given enough time. That seems to be one of the ideas expressed in a memorial service in Blacksburg today.

We've all taken a lot in during the past week. We learned the name of the young man authorities say is behind the deadly shootings: Seung-Hui Cho. We've learned he was angry, if not disturbed. We've learned authorities in the area may not have been prepared for such a tragedy.

Part of me wonders if what we -- that would be the media -- do is what makes the stronger emotions we feel eventually give way to indifference. Not too many of us are talking about it anymore. Even my friends who live throughout the country, those I may only talk to once a week, weren't talking about it by this past Friday or Saturday. The day it happened we were sending shocked text messages to one another.

So I started trying to remember what really hit me when I realized what was happening up there.

I remembered signing on to AOL and seeing a headline that said something to the effect of "More than 20 die..." I immediately thought, "Oh, there was a car bomb in Iraq," and I almost clicked the next arrow to find the following news item.

Then I realized this was in the United States. And then I felt guilty for apparently feeling jaded about massacres elsewhere. Would I feel like that if there was less coverage?

Even if the answer is yes, I can't encourage that idea. I was sympathetic when I read that Virginia Tech student government asked the media to stay away from campus once their electorate got back in class.

But discussing this less, whatever form the dialogue takes, can't be the answer. I know readers/viewers/media consumers get tired of doom and gloom, but the point of covering this is to strike a chord of humanity somewhere inside us.

Maybe instead of just glancing at the headlines and passing them off as typical, we should examine ourselves. What are we doing to help?

And I'm not going to just put this off on people who read. We writers need to think about what we're doing, too. How is what we put out there really affecting the world? Could we do a better job?

I hope we all can.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What if ...

That's the question on everyone's lips. Now that the numbness has worn off and the true depth of loss is beginning to set in, all those who witnessed the massacre at Virginia Tech, both in person and through the media, are asking what could have been done to prevent this tragedy.
On the campus, some are asking if they should have, or could have, done more. Professors wonder if they could have reached out more. The response by the campus police is being questioned. Students wonder if they could have stopped the carnage. And all the while, the public is putting in their two cents, while experts offer their opinions, some based on psychology, others resting on the power of societies ills.
In their own way, all of these questions and all the speculation is worthy. When the unthinkable happens, I think it's human nature to try and make sense of it. But maybe some things can't be reasoned away.
I believe everything happens for a reason, but that doesn't mean every event will eventually make sense.
Life, every fleeting day of it, is a gamble. On Wednesday, NPR's Michele Norris interviewed the University of Virginia's director of counseling, Russ Federman. After all the talk about what the school could have done to help Seung-Hui Cho, Federman closed his interview by talking about the seeming randomness of life.
He talked about how, everyday, we believe we will go out into the world and will be safe from harm. But in reality, every day spent safely in the world can be thought of as another day we have pressed our luck. Yes, it's morbid, but for me at least, it could also be thought of as a call to action to live every day for all it's worth. Yes, it is cliche, but that doesn't mean it can't be good advice.
And last week was a good week to heed that advice.
Though it might have gone relatively unnoticed because of the Virginia Tech tragedy, this week also marked the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing (Thursday) and the Columbine school shootings (Friday), and closer to home, the death of The Times' own Tim Greening.
So, in honor of those lost and those remembered this week, go out and do something fun for yourself, or nice for someone else, or a little of both. (And for those of you brimming with ideas, tell us about your favorite life-affirming activities and give some inspiration to those less creative.)
Hopefully time is on your side, but just in case, make sure you're making the most of what you've got.

Just in case this blog needs a little more gun control controversy

You may have missed this, but Kennesaw, Ga., requires heads of households to own a gun.

This law passed in 1982 but got a lot of attention last week after the Virginia Tech shootings.

I don't know even know where to get started with this one, but I bet someone out there does. Tell us.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Revel may not be a Hot Band reunion

I just so happened to run into Shreveport's own Rock and Roll Hall of Famer this afternoon.

It was at a house fire. James Burton's son, Jeff, lives next door to a home that went up in flames in Highland. No one was hurt, but Jeff did kick down a door to make sure no one was inside. He got in the newspaper for it, and no, it wasn't just because of his big time musical connection. He tried to do something helpful. But Mom and Dad Burton were around after the blaze.

As the elder Mr. Burton approached me, I felt kind of funny. When I'm not in reporter mode (and am not wearing this Times badge to set me apart), I rarely have a problem coming up with something to say. Today's issue was not nerves at all, it's just that the reason we were in the same place was that there was a big fire, not a concert or music store or even a press conference.

Fortunately he was really down to earth (as a fellow Webster Parish boy should be -- he was born in Dubberly) and wasn't reclusive with a pesky journalist around. We started chatting it up. There are lots of questions I could ask a true piece of musical history, but I really don't think they would've been too original. (The guy played for Elvis and undoubtedly has been asked thousands of questions about the King.)

So I asked him something I wanted to know, but probably something any good music fan around here really wants the answer to: Will he be joining Emmylou Harris onstage when she plays the Revel?

Sadly, he probably won't. (I think Teddy Allen will join me my glumness.) Burton told me he thinks he will still be in Europe. And that's what the schedule on his Web site says. He was in her legendary Hot Band in the '70s.

It was fun to see an accomplished musician outside his element. He was actually really grandfatherly. He said "God bless you" twice, and offered this advice about being around fire trucks: "Don't run over those hoses when they're in the street. You'll get a big ticket." Who would've thought I'd pick that up from James Burton?

Fortunately for me and Teddy, either way, Emmylou is still coming. (Sept. 29 -- yeehaw!) I really can't wait.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Remembering Tim

My dad always has this saying: “Life is full of swift transitions.”

Well, yesterday, I along with the rest of the newsroom were faced with the monumental task of accepting one of life’s hardest transitions: the sudden death of one of our own.

As many of you read this morning, Times columnist Tim Greening collapsed and died yesterday. For those of us that knew him, his death seems almost impossible to comprehend.

I had the privilege of first getting to know Tim when I joined the The Times’ Living team in 2003. At that time, the Living team included Tim, Lane Crockett, Margaret Martin and Kathie Rowell as editor. And it was quite intimidating for an inexperienced youngster like me to join a team of well-established veterans.

And, as with any new job or task, getting adjusted to a new position and learning its rhythm always involves growing pains.

But Tim always had a way of making me feel like everything was going to be OK. I was the youngest in the crew and for me, the Living team at that time felt almost familial, well, about as familial as a workplace can get. And in that way, Tim was sort of a big brother to me.

We spent many days and evenings trying to make - and a lot of times missing - deadline to crank out stories. Most of the time he was pulling double duty on the copy desk, too. But during those times, we also shared many laughs.

He had a way of making me smile on even the craziest of days, whether it was with a funny e-mail or a hilarious quip.

And through those times, we formed a unique camaraderie. We didn’t talk everyday or hang out much beyond the newsroom, but anytime we saw each other, we always had something encouraging to share with each other.

The best part about Tim is that he was always the same whenever, wherever.

When I found out through his column that his grandmother died this past February, I immediately contacted him to share my condolences. Just a few weeks before, I had gone through a similar situation when my own grandma died. I just wanted him to know I was thinking of him, and was praying for him and his grieving family.

We ended up chatting for awhile, catching up on each others lives. He was still the same ol’ Tim. Still making me laugh. Still encouraging me to aim higher. But he also did something really special after that conversation: he honored the memory of my grandma in his next column.

That meant so much to me and my family. That’s just who Tim was - one of the good guys.

I was so glad to be able to share my gratitude when he dropped by the newsroom a few days after that, something he would still do occasionally after his full-time departure from The Times.

But I had no idea that was going to be my last time seeing him. Even as I write this at this very moment, it just doesn’t feel real.

My prayers go out to his family, his girlfriend, his friends.

I’ll miss his kindness. I’ll miss his brilliant humor. I’ll miss hearing about The Girl. I’ll miss hearing his “Manchild” greeting exchange with Teddy. I’ll miss Tim.

We all will.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blown away....

Today's my day to blog.

But I just looked at Cho Seung-Hui's video to NBC headquarters.

I can not process my thoughts.

Maybe I shouldn't even be writing but its my turn.

A part of me feels sorry for him. He was obviously dealing with some demons that he couldn't handle appropriately. His anti-rich diatribe makes me feel sorry for his dry-cleaning store-working parents who probably worked hard to maintain life in their Washington suburb.

I feel bad that Cho felt it was necessary to cause this magnitude of pain to absolve his own.

But another part of me is upset...so upset I can't even begin to articulate my feelings. He didn't have to kill and injure all those people.

I can not even believe he had the audacity to compare his dying to Jesus, as if someone crucified him. He killed himself, no one murdered him.

A part of me thinks he's slightly arrogant. He took the time to mail his half-baked reasoning to a national news corporation. His intentions were clear: he wanted to make headlines. He wanted to be known. He likened himself to a martyr...

I've been quiet on this blog for the past couple of days. I'm just overwhelmed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

At least one person is just mailing that return...

It's 11:15 p.m. I am trying to clean up my desk (only a little) and pack up to leave the office. I just got off the phone with someone who called here to get an IRS mailing address.

Now I certainly don't mind helping. I'm glad someone out there values this newspaper enough to know that we might have access to information that can help. (Although a quick google search and a glance by just about anybody would've done just as well.)

But dang. They are cutting it close, and I told them so. They've got to be mailed by midnight. Click on the link above if you're the ultimate procrastinator waiting until the last minute to file your taxes, too.

I hope everyone who reads this gets some money back. And then you need to go put it in some kind of savings!

A solution for the murderous among us

While reflecting on the almost unspeakable tragedy at Virginia Tech on Monday, I couldn't help but wonder if our country's obsession with gun possession wasn't a major problem.

A disgruntled senior at the school has been identified as the killer, according to a report this morning by The Associated Press. Possessed with an inexplicable fury, the gunman killed 32 people at the school before turning the weapon on himself.

Here's a particularly chilling line from that story: "One law enforcement official said Cho (Seung-Hui) was carrying a backpack that contained receipts for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol."

I must admit, I'm nothing of an expert on guns (or much anything else), but a cursory Internet search shows that Glocks are most often used by cops or hunters trying to fend off large dangerous animals. For what reason would anyone without a badge ever need such a weapon?

Around the globe, many people today are rightfully questioning our country's gun culture, from the lax controls to the unfathomable availability of guns to some groups' unrelenting quest to arm seemingly every able-bodied adult.

For once, maybe we - as a country - should listen to reason from other, safer corners of the world.

Example: Britain, with about 53 million people and a place where handguns are illegal, recorded only 46 homicides in 2006. By comparison, New York City - a city of roughly 8 million - had 579 homicides.

The difference, at least to me, seems apparent. No one should be able to buy a gun as easily as they can purchase a car or a stereo or a cell phone. If certain drugs are off-limits to our citizens for their own protection, why wouldn't guns merit the same sort of restrictions?

We apparently need to protect ourselves from ourselves more than ever. Rolling back some of our gun rights would be a good place to start. How much tragedy could be averted throughout our country, let alone Virginia Tech, if we prohibited gun ownership?

For starters, maybe Cho Seung-Hui would never have had his chance to pick up a Glock.

When bubbles burst

When I, along with several other Link222 members, roamed local college campuses yesterday to get reactions to the deadly massacre at Virginia Tech and I saw the shock and questions in those students’ eyes that I interviewed, I saw something else.

I instantly saw myself and what I probably would have looked like had this happened when I was in college.

It’s something about college life, especially when you go away to school, that makes you feel like you’re in some kind of bubble. Your college campus becomes something of a home away from home. Friends and professors become your extended family.

It’s almost as if college is your safe haven from all of the craziness going on in the real world because, despite the partying, despite the fun and everything else, mostly everybody there, from the faculty to the students, has one ultimate goal in mind: ensuring your future success.

So what happens when a madman or madwoman suddenly storms in and bursts that bubble?

I’m sure that will be revealed in the coming days, weeks, months and maybe even years following this tragedy.

When I finally had a chance to actually sit down and watch recap of the shooting on NBC’s Dateline last night, I was struck by something else.

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed as though the students interviewed hadn’t really emotionally absorbed what had happened yet either.

I mean several times Brian Williams and Matt Lauer said how they noticed that students were so shocked to even see them on their campus. Asked them why they were there. They had to inform several students that this was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

The people they interviewed were not just random students, but folks who were actually in the classroom or nearby where at least 20 people were killed. They each had miraculous stories of survival and yet, as they told their stories, they kind of appeared as though the reporters were asking them questions about a sports’ team loss or something.

I’m more worried that it could be a sign that society has gotten to a point to where young people have become numb to massive violence like this. It’s barely more than 24 hours since the shooting, so it’s extremely too early to hypothesize on something like that.

I just hope my assumption is wrong.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sad way to gain perspective

While I was driving to gather mugs for Scott Ferrell's lacrosse story in today's Times, I called my brother who is in school at the University of Rochester studying for his second Master's degree.

We talked about Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech, which held a little different meaning for him. See, my brother is a former VT grad student. He only spent a semester in Blacksburg, but, as many of you former grad students know, he served as a teacher's assistant (TA) for a professor.

That same professor taught a class in an auditorium in Norris Hall, where the majority of the dead were killed. As we talked, he brought up his professor and then it hit me. So much of the time in school shootings like VT or Columbine we as a society tend to focus on the students. At least that's the first thing that pops into my mind.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. But we tend to forget about teachers and professors in instances like this. Everyone probably remembers the Dave Sanders stories from Columbine about the coach who was killed, but how long was it until Sanders' name was released?

For his sake, hopefully that Virginia Tech professor was one of the lucky ones who escaped a dark moment in American history.

I can get you a date...

If you need a date, I can get you one.

At least I can guarantee you'll have at least three dates in one night. And if they suck you wouldn't have to worry because they'd only last about six minutes each.

If you haven't heard, Shreveport's speed dating scene is new and growing. It's a fun and safe way to get connected with new people.

Most folks think its a bunch of weirdos who can't find a date elsewhere signing up for speed dates. But I can tell you its not. Most folks are very attractive (which I'll admit was a surprise to me) and have decent jobs.

They are just ordinary people (like you and me) who are sometimes too busy or new to the area looking to meet new friends.

I host events at least once per month. Most of the time they are at Bistro 6301 on Line Avenue. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m.

I'm the coordinator. I can hook you up. I ring a cute bell to let you know when your date is up.

All you have to do is visit cupid.com and sign up for the event.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Remembering the Holocaust

Today is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
(Did anyone know that? I had no clue until I found myself at an assignment for work.)

Today, I was able to listen to one survivor tell a small piece of her story and was astounded. It's amazing the things that some people live through.

It makes me wonder how I'd handle such a trying situation and if I'd live to tell my story. I often think that there's no way I would have survived it.

Sterilization experiments, death marches, concentration camps. I just couldn't have done it.

And to think similar genocides are going on in other places in the world while you sit and read this blog is crazy.

Today was definitely one of those days that made me stop and think of things others have gone through. To hear the atrocities directly from someone who experienced them left me in awe of some peoples' spirit and others' hate.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A fading memory may return

Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, but in some cases, it just breeds forgetfulness. But every once in a while, one's memory can rebound.
Such is the case with one of my favorite pop culture features, "The Boondocks."
Earlier this week, I wondered where my favorite cartoon for grown-ups and the smarty-pants comic strip had gone.
For those of you not in the loop, The Boondocks comic strip first appeared in 1999. The strip follows two young brothers, Huey and Riley Freeman, as they leave their neighborhood on the south side of Chicago for suburban life. The strip was smart, snarky and unapologetically liberal. I loved it.
Then in late 2005, the cartoon version of the strip appeared and I loved it just as much (though I will say the fact that main character Huey was voiced by Regina King was a little disconcerting considering she does voice-overs for Always feminine hygiene products). (By the way, I don't have verification for that, but it sure does sound like her.)
But about the time the first season ended, so did the strip. It was just supposed to be a six-month hiatus, but now the buzz is it may not be coming back.
The strip, though controversial, was well-read and the show recently won a Peabody Award. But that doesn't help me.
About a month ago, I stopped reading rerun strips on MSNBC.com because I was tired of reading jokes I hadn't even forgotten yet.
In theory, I could go and get the DVD of the first season of the TV show, which aired on Comedy Central, but quite frankly, I'm cheap and have a bad habit of buying DVDs that I never watch, so I kept my money.
But as I was researching this blog entry, I found an answer to at least one of my queries.
November. That's when the show will be back. There's still no definitive answer on the strip.
This makes me a little sad. I'm a big fan of smart comedy, which I think there's too little of to begin with, and "The Boondocks," to me, qualified for that designation.
Am I the only one that misses Huey and Riley?
What are your favorite, but now unavailable, pop cultural goodies?

The Katie Couric issue -- and not her new boyfriend

So if you didn't hear, CBS fired a producer who plagiarized a video essay Katie Couric read. Anytime there is any sort of deception in this business -- even another medium -- it's bad for all of us. It makes people wonder if they can trust what we write online or in the paper or read or say on air.

I'm sorry for all of you and all of us. It's embarrassing, especially since most of the this was apparently lifted directly from the Wall Street Journal.

A mistake is a mistake, and we all make those. But these sort of things are deliberate, and that's more than a mistake. There is the question of how much research Couric should be doing for her own work, but I figure she has to read a lot that someone else pulls together. Thoughts on that?

But do a quick google search and you'll see there are a whole lot of articles about Couric's new (and younger) boyfriend. Priorities, priorities.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What's your favorite airline?

Here's a recent AP article about a survey on airline performance, focusing particularly on two important issues to travelers: lost bags on delays.

I probably fly 5-10 times a year. (Yes, this can be tough on a rookie reporter's salary, but we make sacrifices sometimes.) I've been pretty lucky lately and haven't had any of my bags that have been checked through to Shreveport end up in Detroit. (Really happened a few years back.)

Something interesting about the survey results from 2006 is that a lot of the airlines that fared well are the ones with a little personality. Southwest Airlines, whose playful staff often sing "Happy Birthday" and tell jokes on the PA system to passengers, had the fewest complaints.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance and fewest bag-handling issues. (Plus they serve those awesome, island fruit juices, and heck, you're probably going to Hawai'i when you're flying with them.) Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which operates flights for Delta (and is the first airline mentioned in this blog that actually flies to Shreveport), was listed as the worst in both of those categories.

But the survey makes me wonder if the fun airlines are better or if they're just so good they make you forget the irritating stuff. I recently flew on Alaska Airlines from Spokane, Wash., to Portland, Ore. I was sitting right by a prop that was really making my seat shake, but they offered a free, Oregon-brewed beer (of which I got at least two plastic cups full) and I sort of didn't mind. It was tasty, but unfortunately I can't remember what kind it was. I found this Portland Beer Blog, and it might come from one of the breweries these seemingly fine folks write about.

Any thoughts from fliers out there?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A list is a list, but I can disagree with BET

You should be really careful about saying ugly things about dead people, right? I'll try to tread lightly. Granted, we're just talking about someone's opinion here.

I'm talking about BET's list of the 25 greatest dancers. Sometimes these lists just really make you go, what? (Maybe not like Don Imus, granted.)

No. 1 on the list is James Brown. I can't really argue with that. Even though he recently died (and even more recently -- by months -- was laid to rest), he probably deserves the top spot. None of us have ever seen anyone stutter step, kick and jump quite like him while still carrying a tune.

But to put newbie Chris Brown (who is great at doing flips but seemed to have pre-recorded his vocals on the Grammys this year), the laughable MC Hammer (even though I just put "U Can't Touch This" on my cell phone), and Jennifer Lopez (even in her best "In Living Color" Fly Girl days) in front of Tina Turner is almost sacrilegious.

Seriously, how can the Hardest Working Man in Show Business be first while the Hardest Working Woman in Show Business is relegated to No. 19? Even the late Aaliyah beat her by one spot. (And that -- yes, here's another part about dead folks -- may be just because she is late.)

Tina Turner has not been able to sit still since she began entertaining us in 1960. Whether it's choreographed moves with backup dancers or just some solo struttin', shimmyin' and shakin', I personally don't think anyone can hold a candle to her moves. She is a true original. The woman is electrifying. Just think about the way people scream when she sings -- and dances to -- "Proud Mary." Incredible.

But see for yourself. Tune in to BET tonight at 9.

One simple question...

Most of us agree Don Imus was completely out of line with his sexist and racist comments, but why hasn't anyone stepped up to take action against Bernard McGuirk?

Imus made his "nappy-headed hos" comment immediately after McGuirk, executive producer of the show, called the Rutger's basketball team "hard core hos."

I agree with Donecia Pea, so I can't write anymore than what she already has. You can read her reaction below this blog.

But I have a major problem with Imus catching all the heat and McGuirk skirting out of trouble when his comments were offensive and demeaning to women.

He needs to be held accountable too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Say what?!

Before Wednesday, I really never paid attention to who Don Imus was. I’d seen him a few times on MSNBC, while channel surfing, but that’s about it.
Heck, I didn’t even realize that was his name until last week.

But, just like many folks, I was outraged to hear his remarks concerning the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Let me make this clear: I was outraged, not surprised.

I mean, come on, I’m not foolish enough to believe that the strides and accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement wiped away prejudice and racism like a magic wand.

And I’m certainly not na├»ve enough to believe that America is just one big happy family.

I also understand everyone has a right to their opinion, and even their own brand of humor.

Whatever goes on behind closed doors - whether I agree with it or not - as long as it’s legal it’s not really my business.

BUT, when you’re so callous, so brazen, so bold to utter ignorant comments like Imus did in a public setting, when you choose to put your ignorance on display for the world to see, THAT’S when I have a problem. That’s when I get concerned.

Nappy-headed hos? Really?

I’m not sure which words enrage me the most – the nappy-headed part or the hos part. Both words have long carried such negative connotations.

And used together they denigrated an already-downtrodden group. No, I'm not referring to simply the Rutgers women's basketball team, but black women as a whole.

Hearing him say those words made my skin flush with anger as if he were talking about my momma … my sister … me.

And when did these words become acceptable language for public fodder or consumption?
The sad truth is that maybe they always were, and Imus, just like Michael Richards, just happen to let it slip out.

I just heard snippets from Imus' interview yesterday with Al Sharpton and of course, Imus played that role of the innocent-yet-defensive-one, claiming he doesn’t believe what he said made him a racist.

He wasn’t intending to be racist, he said. He was just telling a joke that went wrong. Blah, blah, blah…

I’m so sick of folks hiding behind everything but the truth. You can’t ever make me believe that Imus, a man who's old enough to have lived through segregation, the civil rights movement, the second wave women's liberation movement and a host of other milestones in human history, wasn’t fully aware of what he said or the ramifications of what he said when he said it.

Words rarely roll of the tongue without some thought behind them. Whether intentional or not, words reflect conscious thoughts held in your mind based on your own belief system and perception. They're ingrained somewhere in your psyche, waiting to be used.

And Imus' words were racist, pure and simple.

I believe it is the responsibility of MSNBC, as a nationally broadcast media company, to make a bold statement against this kind of attitude and behavior. Lines have to be drawn somewhere to say that this kind careless language is unacceptable in mainstream media, period. A mere suspension is nothing more than a slap on the wrist.


If you’re still not convinced, let’s play dumb for a minute and ask this question: Would Imus have ever referred to a basketball team full of mostly white females as nappy-headed hos?

I doubt it, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cookie addiction

I may have just hit rock bottom.

I just got off the phone with the local Girl Scouts Pelican Council on Southern Avenue... in search of cookies.

That move was the last in a desperate attempt to find some boxes of Do-Si-Dos somewhere in Shreveport-Bossier City.
I've gone past WalMart and some grocery stores where Girl Scouts are known to set up shop, but no luck.
I also have my mother in Alexandria, Va. looking around for me.

My problem was I didn't plan. Yes, I bought boxes when they first went on sale, but not enough.

I'm telling you...the Girl Scouts have got a lucrative business going on. This "only available for a limited time" gimmick creates a high demand for them every year, ensuring that cookie time is always profitable.

Can anyone help? Where can I find some cookies?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A funny little story and a lesson learned

Note: I was given permission and even encouraged by the embarrassed party to post this.

After a morning full of covering Easter activities for the paper, photographer Val and I were ready to eat, so we headed to a local IHOP.

Soon after sitting down the waitress came to take our order. After she wrote down my pancake platter with sausage she turned to Val and said, "And what can I get for you sir?"

Uh oh. Awkward moment.

I sat there and wondered if I should correct the waitress or if she would quickly recognize her mistake. I look at Val who is looking at me, completely red in the face.
I guess our silence made the waitress look up from her pad and realize her mistake.

She continuously apologized through our meal and even gave Val a free glass of chocolate milk. (As if that made up for anything...but Val was happy with it.)

We came to the conclusion it must have been Val's extra short and spiky haircut that confused the waitress.

It made me think of all the times I thought of cutting my hair short, just to do something different. After today though, that idea is out of the question.

Though Val handled that well, I just don't think I would.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I'm a little crazy ... or am I?

I've finally come to realize and accept that I'm fickle.
I hate the word. It sounds prissy and annoying and demanding and I don't think I'm any of those things (though I'm sure some folks would disagree).
But now that I'm preparing for my third move in the two-and-a-third years since I relocated to Shreveport-Bossier City (quite a trek of its own), I see that something might be a bit awry in my mind.
When I moved to the area, I settled into a perfectly nice apartment in a not-so-nice complex in Bossier City (I won't call names). Seven months later, post-Katrina and with a new, evacuee roommate in tow, I moved into a cute house in South Highlands.
All was well until some uninvited guests arrived (the kind that can scare a small dog) and my landlord was less than helpful, nor could he even muster up some sympathy (or pest control). After a few calls to city and state offices (rental laws are not on the side of renters in this state) and a large Terminex bill, I was on the move again.
Right now, I live in southeast Shreveport (I even get Southeast Voices) and quite frankly, I've started to hate it. The construction, the traffic, the fact that I can walk to Target faster than I can drive there, it all makes me crazy. My apartment is nice enough, I suppose, but getting where I need to go is a hassle at all hours except late a night and I'm tired of it. So I'm on the move again.
I'm trying to move to north Bossier City (I guess I'll get Bossier Voices). Yeah, it's trading traffic for traffic and it's not much cheaper than where I live now, but the Wal-Mart out there isn't as crazy and Target will be done soon and gas is a little cheaper and at least there's no construction waking me up at 6 a.m.
But the craziest thing is, now that I write it all out, I don't think I'm crazy (though I might still be a little fickle), the rental market here is just really lackluster.
Mediocre neighborhoods where you can hear the 18-wheelers careen down I-20 while you lay in your bed, rodents having their run of a poorly maintained house, and waking to the sound of birds and bulldozers is not the stuff of a happy home.
Where's the love for the single (or attached) professional who's not quite ready to buy a house? Why is it so hard to find somewhere nice to live that doesn't cost me half of my take-home pay (before utilities)? What's the deal!?
Am I the only one with this problem? Or am I actually crazy and just in denial?

What's with these Easter cold snaps?

Since I was born I think I have missed two Easter sunrise services at Lake Bistineau State Park, just south of my hometown of Doyline. I woke up early for it as a youngster and returned home from college for it. It's just a part of my family's religious tradition.

There have been a few funny times when the mostly Baptist churches out there actually didn't see the sun come up because we forgot to adjust for daylight-saving time or it was cloudy.

But one thing that seems to be consistent is that we have to wear jackets or take blankets every year. Even when weather has been spring-like leading up to this holiest of Christian days, it's always chilly on Easter Sunday. This is even one of the holidays that actually changes dates -- even months -- so how does Old Man Winter somehow creep back in?

I mean Easter is even the Christianized version of the old pagan holidays to celebrate the season: warmth that brings new life, even fertility. So what gives with the cold? Looks like tomorrow will be more of the same chill.

My whole family talks about this weird weather phenomenon. We know we're going to be shivering in our lawn chairs on the little hill overlooking the cypress-filled lake. We're going anyway, of course.

Obviously the weather is not our main concern, because we wouldn't tolerate it for something that isn't important to us. But we have to gripe a little bit, right? Besides, what else in life do any of us really talk about besides the weather?

Whether you're shivering or laying out in the springtime sun, I hope everyone out there has a great Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dang, downtown parking meter attendants do not play

I found that out all too well recently when I had to run into the Caddo Court House right before it closed.

Granted, I should accept some fault here. It was 4:28 p.m. when I parked in the 400 block of Milam Street. I didn't insert a quarter or a dime or a nickel in the meter because I thought, "Hey. It's almost 5 o'clock. Surely they're not checking these anymore."

Apparently I was wrong. As I rushed back to my car -- thinking more about my deadline than fearing a parking ticket -- I actually saw an attendant crossing to the opposite side of the street from where my car was.

And lo and behold was the citation, right under my driver-side windshield wiper. It was marked 4:53 p.m.

Only SEVEN minutes before this guy clocked out he was out looking for ways to make $10 off illegal parkers! I wasn't the only sucker; there were at least three others.

I didn't accost the man since I know he was just doing his job. People don't always like the way I do my job. But who actually feeds the meter when it's nearly 4:30 p.m.? I wish these ticketers would cut a guy some slack.

You know you can comment anonymously, right?

Hello Link 222 readers,

I've noticed many of you have stopped commenting on our posts.

Maybe your're too busy. Or maybe you hated what I said about Comcast or you dislike Donecia writing about the Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston divorce.

Or, maybe you love us but have never taken the time to drop us line.

But we want your comments. In fact, we need them. It's the only way we'll know how we are doing.

Blogger may make it slightly harder to post a comment on our blogs if you don't have an account with them. But its quicker and easier to do so anonymously. Of course we always want to know who's commenting, so you can leave your name within the text of your comment.

Tell us you love us. Tell us you hate us. But please, tell us something.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"And they said it wouldn't last!" and I guess they were right...

Well, I guess it’s official. The train wreck or ghetto love affair – depending on how you look at it – formerly known as Bobby and Whitney has ended and I must admit I never thought I’d see the day.

I mean when she raised that hand, showcasing that rock on her finger to the camera in various interviews throughout their marriage and declared: “And they said it wouldn’t last!” I really started to believe her.
When they let us take a peek into the insanity known as their marriage on “Being Bobby Brown” I actually started to think “Hey these folks are so crazy they HAVE to be meant for each other. I mean who else could live and function in such insanity day in and day out?”

I’ll never forget their impromptu dance routine in a parking lot somewhere in Atlanta where they broke it DOWN as only they could, lip synching, pop-locking and such to the Black-Eyed Peas hit “Shut Up.”

I swear they seemed in tune, entangled in what appeared to be a blend of drug-induced highs, craziness and just plain ol’ ghetto foolishness that only they could understand. I mean, if it weren't for their union, we might not have had classic lines like "Crack is wack." and so on ...

And I mean who would confess on national television that they ahem, how shall I put this, “assisted” their spouse in excretory functions?
Come on y’all, either that was love or … well … a blend of drug-induced highs, craziness and just plain ol’ ghetto foolishness.

And apparently it was something closer to the latter.

Oh well, while the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Whitney as she prepares for what folks are speculating to be a huge comeback, I’m hoping the biggest benefactor of this dissolved union will be 14-year-old Bobbi Kristina.

It seems homegirl’s been through enough already and I just knew she was a scandalous autobiography waiting to happen, but maybe this will be a new, positive chapter for her as well.

Bless her heart.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A small tribute to my dying friend...

I remember reading the newspaper with Pop, my great grandfather. I sat under him while he sat in his old recliner. He read the paper from cover to cover and though I didn't know all the words and sometimes didn't fuly understand what I was reading at age 6, I looked forward to the time we spent together.

He read slowly. It took him nearly an afternoon to finish. But the news always kept my attention. By the time we were finished our fingertips were black; the edges of the paper would have our fingerprints all over. Our hands even smelled like paper and ink after an evening of reading.

I loved it.

But we can't do that anymore. And it's not just because Pop is gone. We can't do that because newspapers are no longer set up that way.

Today's newspaper strives to give readers lots of information in as little text as possible. More news is given in the form of briefs and short stories in exchange for long stories about Lillie May's 105 birthday party or some school board meeting.

People no longer have time to devote three or four hours to the paper anymore. They want their news fast. And we give it to them.

Some of that is good. But my old friend that taught me to read and be curious is dying slowly. It is stepping aside for blogs like this one and news that can be sent via text messages through cell phones.

I no longer work for a newspaper...not really. At least I don't work for the kind Pop was used to.

And although I like that newspapers are always changing and can deliver news as it happens, a part of me misses the way it used to be.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Looking for a cheap date?

I highly recommend packing a lunch/dinner and heading over to Norton Art Gallery to check out the azaleas.

Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but they're gorgeous and it's an easy way to spend time with your favorite person without doing the same old dinner and movie shtick. Plus, they don't last long so it has that special, limited-engagement quality.

Bring your camera and if you're lucky you'll get some fun shots like this one from The Times' Greg Pearson. (If I were this kid's mom, I'd have this one blown up poster-size).

Down with Shreveport Comcast

Since about two weeks before daylight saving time my digitial cable box had been on the blink--literally.

My box would constantly shut itself off and on and would flash various error messages. When I gave the box a slight tap, the box would somehow reprogram itself and act normal again. But since that routine wasn't normal I called Comcast's customer service center.

I spoke to a man who told me that I need a new box. I asked to schedule a time when a technician exchange my box. He told me that it would take over a month to do and suggested I take the box to their office on Quilen Road to exchange it myself.

Whatever, I thought. I figured that if I was paying THEM, then they should be able to accommodate me and sooner than a month's time. I tried but I could never get to the Quilen Road office.

Then March 11 rolled around, and BAM! No service at all. For like several days. Comcast attributed the outages to Daylight Saving Time and a bunch of other hoopla. But my box has been on the blink since. I rarely watch television but when I received my last bill I got angry because I was basically paying for a service I wasn't receiving.

I called Comcast again and spoke to a Nashville woman who told me that she knew what was wrong with my box and could fix it over the telephone. But since I was at work and wasn't near my box to do troubleshooting, she said to call back when I got off.

I did.

I was on hold for 2 1/2 hours.

I guess I wasn't the only one having problems. Finally I hung up...without speaking to a service representative. This was on Saturday.

I couldn't understand why I was having such a difficult time because I had Comcast service in Nashville and I never went through these problems. I still don't get it.

Amazingly I was able to actually watch television yesterday. Sunday night too. But I knew it was only a matter of time before my box would be blinking again so I called today.

I spoke to another Nashville woman who was very helpful to me. She credited my account for all of the time I was without service and since I told her I needed Internet service, she said my installation would be free and I could wait to be billed for the new service. I even got a special rate for Internet. She even persuaded me to keep digital cable though I originally wanted to downgrade the service. I was happy with her attitude and service. All I had to do was get to Quilen Road.

I went today.

You know what they did? Told me I needed to pay a million bucks for the new service and pay for installation. She said the Nashville rep didn't note my account of all the things she promised.

I told the woman behind the glass pane, who was too busy to even look me in the eye, that I'd be back tonight to return my box.

I am so done with Comcast.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Nickelodeon gone gangsta

First, there were the multiple fights that broke out at the Source Awards in 2000.
Then there was the 2004 stabbing at the Vibe Awards.
And now… This?
Who knew you’d need a bulletproof vest at a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards after party?
I guess kiddie parties these days can get so crunk that even the gangstas wanna be down. And I’d like to see the genius who figured opening fire on a party full of teenagers was a sure way to get in.
Moral of the story: Best way to stay out of the line of fire? Forget Iraq. Forget the ‘hood. Stay AWAY from those awards shows!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fools' Day

I started off my day wondering if someone was going to try and pull a fast one on me on this stupid day.

I really can't remember the last time someone played an April fools' joke on me. I'm sure it was nothing since I've been an adult. And the last time I remember doing it to someone else was my freshman year in college when we played a joke on my friend's boyfriend.

It was around 4:30 p.m. when I called one of my friends and she started telling me that her boyfriend dumped her. I know...pretty weak. She couldn't even explain to me why he did. But I had just left an assignment, my mind was elsewhere and I had forgotten what day it was, so I fell for it.

"April fools!"

Ugh. I hate this day. But my friend seemed pretty amused as she told me of some of the other tricks she pulled.

I guess I should consider myself pretty lucky. That was the extent of my April Fools' Day.

Check out what Wikipedia has to say about April Fools' Day and let me know what pranks, if any, you played...or had played on you.