Monday, February 21, 2011


Part of the reason I was chosen to write for The Washington Center was so I could give my perspective on my experience here as part of an orientation to prospective students. Well, I think that it would be unbecoming of my objectivity if I were to simply present only the good about my experience here in the nation's capital.

Don't worry; I'm not going to offer some scandalous story. It's nothing like that. What I'm trying to do is prepare -- 

Let me preface this with my philosophy. I think those born in the television age have a propensity to act like weenies. Let me be clear. I think we're deluded into thinking issues can be resolved in an hour or the next day and that you're supposed to have a happy life. The fact is small pockets of excitement or achievement come your way, and then the rest of the time is boring or tedious. That's it. That's the reality.

So I'm headed out tonight -- Sunday night -- to an informal get-together with my Media and Communications program. I live in Braddock Station and the meeting place is in Clarendon, Virginia on the orange line. In my opinion, this should take thirty minutes at the most. However, if you ride the Metro, it could take an hour because the trains run whenever they want to. And Big Sis forbid if you ask what time certain lines run where because that's suspicious. You know, you're OBL's new limousine chauffeur all of a sudden because you dare ask what times the yellow line train runs past Braddock Station. So, if you want to be anywhere on time, you must plan a minimum of 40 minutes.

There weren't any blue line trains going to Rossyln, from where I could catch and orange line and go to Clarendon, at Braddock Station within the next 30 minutes. I decided to take a yellow line train to L'Enfant Plaza and then catch an orange line train going to Clarendon.

The Metro cars were relatively empty, but there's something I've noticed when I'm riding the Metro. If there's a younger, attractive female sitting alone in a seat, invariably, an older man will go sit by her, even if there's other seats available. It's kind of icky. So, in order to prevent this from occurring, I selflessly and chivalrously sit by the young, attractive females on the Metro just so this kind of thing won't happen to them. See how nice and caring I am of my fellow woman?

That didn't occur tonight because the passengers were sparse. When I got off at L'Enfant Plaza and went down to get on an orange line train, the station attendant told me that they were having construction this weekend and I was going to have to go back upstairs, exit the station, get on a Metro Bus, and then take it to Metro Center where I would have to get on an orange line train there. This was impossible.

The whole time I'm swiftly walking towards the exit, my heart is hardening against the whole idea of public transportation. The whole idea of an automobile is an extension of the "pursuit of happiness." It truly is American freedom because you are not bounded by where you can go or when you can get there. Public transportation seems to curtail my transportational freedom -- that's how I see it. Now I'm Archie Bunker because I prefer to drive a car than ride a subway and hold onto a rail touched by hands I don't know. I secretly listen to Richard Nixon tapes as I'm sleeping, you hear.

By the way, here's the kind of car I drive:


The bus ride took slower than Christmas. We stopped at two stops in between L'Enfant and Metro Center before we reached our final destination. My toes were curled inside my shoes at this point from all of the anxiety. I have dreams like this; I do. I have dreams where I'm either going to meet one of my ex-girlfriends that I care deeply about at a restaurant because they're in town for a little while and I don't ever make it for some reason. Or I have a dream that I'm trying to make it in time to one of my high school basketball games and I'm always late or something. The anxious dreams like that were playing out in my reality at this moment.

It was six o'clock by the time the orange line train headed for Clarendon arrived on the platform. At six o'clock, I envisioned myself seated at a table in a restaurant with my fellow program pupils, not seated on a crammed Metro with a middle-aged woman with a Judge Judy haircut seated to my right.

There were two reasons why I was even going to all of this trouble. Of course, I didn't know it would be this troublesome, but there was a point to all of this trouble. The first objective was to spend more time with my program advisor and network a little more with her and the other pupils. The second objective was to "network" with a couple of girls in the program as well. You know, I could offer my services to guard them from old men on the Metro that might sit next to them.

When I got there to the restaurant, there weren't any girls there. There wasn't anyone there, except for one of the international students. So, it was just the three of us: my program advisor, the international student, and me. We didn't sit in ashes and tell sad stories for two hours; we had a good time talking about career goals and objectives. But it wasn't what I was anticipating for the evening. It did not meet my expectations when I RSVP-ed that I would attend some three days ago.

There's a point to my telling of this story. The point is there are going to be moments during your internship here in Washington DC where things don't go like how you expected or they are disappointing altogether. That's the way it is. It's not about the one moment in time. It's about the in and out point of the time itself. I've had a really good time here in Washington DC. I don't care if a night like tonight happens every week from here on out (It won't). This is an invaluable experience and I would do it all over again.

Of course it's going to seem like Heaven when you get out here. You know, your roommates set up the X-Boxes and you all play Call of Duty together. Or you and a couple of other yentas in your program go out and walk down to the convenience store on the corner, all the while doing "The Sammy Maudlin Show" and telling each other how pretty the one looks. But there are going to be days when the Department of Transportation gives you a Metro pass with exactly $1 on it and you have to spend $10 of your precious money to buy a fare for the day. There are going to be days when you don't see the mud puddle and get your light, pointy shoes dirty and feel the wet panty hose between your toes the whole day. If you expect that, along with the good times ahead, you'll have a realistic, comprehensive experience in DC that will be preparational for the rest of your life.

Like this, for instance. Earlier this week, I got a chance to interview my Congressman as part of A) my radio show, B) my capstone portfolio, and C) my real portfolio. That's a great opportunity I couldn't have had without The Washington Center.



Now we come to the part in the blog where you learn one of my dad's phrases. Here's the new one:

"like a hen on a june bug."

Definition: to whole-heartedly endeavor. SEE "gusto of a hound dog"

Example: "My program advisor told me there's a Washington Center alumnus that's an on-air reporter at a TV station in Cincinnati. I'll be on that contact like a hen on a june bug."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Picture-esque Post

Well, I figured out what was wrong with my posting pictures on this site. Apparently, you can only post pictures up to 1 megabyte and all of my pictures were above that limit due to the high resolution setting I put on my camera.

But I figured away around it.

If I took a screenshot on my computer while I had the pictures open and then saved it as a jpeg file, I could upload it because it would be about 900 kilobytes instead of over 1 megabyte. So, that's why you'll see the time in the top left corner of the picture and my Mac dock to the left. Now, you can steal my identity or something. Then I'll get emails from my older readers warning me EXACTLY OF THAT.

I love this. Don't you love it when your middle-aged relatives or friends advise you over a medium they can't figure out? Who is asking whom to program the VCR? Them or us? Who is asking whom to make the Microsoft logo quit bouncing on the screen so they can get back to Freecell? Them or us? Yet you hear who gets onto whom for being irresponsible on the innerwebs.

All right, enough editorials. Let's have some pictures that I've teased you with for two weeks now:

This is the Capitol. I figured I'd take pictures of the National Mall while the snow was still out.

This is the escalator into the Federal Center SW station on the Metro. This is what I look at when I get off from work. It looks like I'm going down to Sheol or something.

This here is the Jefferson Memorial. I hope to visit it sometime while I'm out here.

This here is the Lincoln Memorial and I have been to it. It was back in January 2001 when I was thirteen years old and scared to death of girls.

This is the Washington Monument. I haven't been up to the top because I was afraid the elevator would get stuck. Now, I can't find the time to go.

This here is what you would call The White House and that's where my friends think I'll end up someday. Little do they understand that I'd rather just criticize the folks that live there than ever live there myself.

All right, so there you go. I just turned my blog into the cyberspace equivalent of when your Uncle Ralph would show the slides from his trip to Florida that he went on that summer as you, a kid of eight years old, wished to get out of the room and play football on that Christmas Eve night with your cousins, despite the admonition of your mother that you would stain your khaki pants, but you couldn't get out because you were pinned between the table and the wall and your uncle's white sheet and projector were in the only doorway out of the dining room.

Oh, what was I going to say before I got interrupted by my own train of thought? I'm looking at this here from my course syllabus on page 7. I have an assignment that's due Monday entitled "Professional Reflection #2." I'll do it tomorrow. No, listen to the questions they ask you:

"Describe your relationship with your supervisor. Are you comfortable approaching your supervisor with questions? Why or why not?"

Answer: She thinks I work too hard. I'm comfortable approaching anyone because I turn all business-like beforehand. Why? Because I'm the Dez Bryant of Voice of America: I may be a rookie, but I'll still give such awesome output.

Next question:

"Describe your relationship with your coworkers. Are there particular individuals you work well with? Why do you think this is?"

Answer: Everyone likes me. I get along best with the woman in charge of my division and also the Indian video editor because he's all business like me. We both come from the Max Weber school of thought where work is about work. I think we work well for that reason. He's also very high energy and I like to respond to that behavior.

There you go. I have to make 1-2 pages out of this. That's easy to do for me because I'm a verbose fellow, as evidenced by this here blog.

So I'm walking in the door of my apartment the other day and I take a look at a calendar with a list of events put on by The Washington Center. It had a list of events for the rest of the semester; I almost got melancholy. I was thinking, "Oh, my gosh. Pretty soon, it's all going to be over. I worked so hard for this opportunity and now it's going to be in the past. Something that was once in my future and is now my present will soon be my past."

See, that's the thing I don't like about the college experience: everything is only for a semester. Think of all the classes you enjoyed. Do you realize they were only for a semester? Even if you took the "Part Two" to the course, the professor might not have been the same, and certainly there was a change in your fellow pupils. I wish some classes COULD continue to the next semester or beyond. You know, sometimes I wish I could walk back into that dirty classroom in Prep Hall on the first floor, back into News Reporting and hear Mr. Real World give another lecture or watch my fellow classmates give their packages for the week. See, that was fun, and that doesn't last forever, kind of like your patience with this blog so I better throw something flashy at you to keep you on track:

That's what I did on Wednesday last week. I think it's the best one I've done yet, and that CERTAINLY is going into my portfolio.

All right, now, before we close up shop, we have to have one of my dad's colloquialisms so your lexicon will expand. Here's this week's phrase:

"bark like a fox"

Definition: to master the secondary functions of a machine or process

Example: "By being able to post pictures and videos, I can make this blog bark like a fox."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Like all of us, I often compare myself to characters in the media or have been compared to such characters by my friends. My comparison filmography would include characters from Luke Skywalker (mine: the hair, stature) to Michael Corleone (mine: the suits, stature, third son) to Adam from "Blast From the Past" (family: the naivety) to Elliot from "Bedazzled" (Bran Flakes: the moral perplexities, or maybe just my current hairstyle at the time we met) to a sort of anti-Holden Caulfield (mine) where instead of finding out the bad about everyone, I seek out the good.

Well, after spending my first complete week here at Voice of America, I think I would like to add another one to the comparison filmography. I know it will definitely seal my fate as a geek or a dork, but I don't care. Following Polonius' advice out of "Hamlet," I have to be true to myself; I don't care what the poll numbers say.

Anyway, so, I think I'm a lot like Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." He was that yellow-skinned android. And I'm not throwing that comparison out there because I'm jaundiced, but because I have completed tasks so far with the same diligence and speed he often demonstrated.

We all know by now that I edit a daily web video called "VOA 60." Well, the rest of my day from about 2PM to 5PM has to be spent doing something, so I always maintain that I'm engaged in some task so as to not cheat them out of their time. You know, I don't want to spend the last three hours on Facebook with another tab open lambasting some coelenterate on a Dallas Cowboys message board that wants to trade Tony Romo while having another tab open hitting F6 to keep giving my Youtube videos a boost in the viewing counter. You know, I want to be an honest worker.

So my supervisor will find tasks for me to do. For instance, on Wednesday, she gave me a Macbook Pro with some video files on it and wanted me to redo a video package on theSchool of Rock in one of the Chinese services. Well, I had the English script right there; I didn't need to write the thing. You know, they weren't counting on me to write a script AND edit the thing. They wanted me to edit it. So, I open up Final Cut Pro, import the clips, trim them according to scripts, add the necessary SOTs and NAT sound, and it was all ready to go, save for the voiceovers.

They couldn't believe it. A project that they figured would take weeks or even a month was done in an afternoon, save for the voiceovers.

Now, why do I keep mentioning these voiceovers? Well, because they're important. They want someone from Special English services to do the voiceover. I wish I didn't have laryngitis right now or else I would make a strong case for having me voice the thing so it can be done. I don't like things to sit around in suspended animation. I never liked to get up in the middle of a chapter. I squirm when folks put movies on pause more than two times during the movie. I don't eat or go to the bathroom until AFTER a task is completed because I don't like to be bothered. So, yes, you can also deduce I'm one of those weirdos that eats each separate group on his plate before moving on to the next; it's how I am.

It's this dedication to completing work, supplemented by most of the work falling into my area of acumen, that make my supervisor say that she would need a full time job just to give me assignments. Now you see why I consider myself like Data.

 He could do it all, Data. I don't know what he would have to say about the proliferation of deep dish, soft pizza dough though.

Oh, did I tell you about how I went to a local pizza joint here in Alexandria and nearly had a Wendy's moment? I think I will right now in my own blog. I'll even mention this on "Free Association" this Wednesday because it's a good story.

So the apartment complex I'm staying in here in Alexandria has some sort of "VIP" card or whatever. You can take it to various places and get discounts. You know, if you take it to Moe's Minerals and More, you can get more for 10% off when you buy one or more minerals before sundown on odd numbered workdays only. Also on the card is the Metro symbol, and the concierge said that we got discounts on Metro passes. Well, after I explored that buy A) calling the Metro service who didn't know anything about it and B) asking the owner of the apartments here about it, it turns out the Metro symbol on the card meant only that the apartment complex was within walking distance of the Metro station.

That's borderline deceptive and unhelpful. That would be like putting a Napoli's logo on the back of every RSU Student ID and then it turning out it only meant the place was within walking distance (NOTE: You do get a 10% discount at Napoli's when you show them your RSU Student ID).

Anyway, so, another one of the places on there is a pizza joint that's about five blocks from the apartment complex. I give the place a call, and of course, I get some guy with an accent. Thankfully, he knew about the discount I was referring to, which was if I bought a large at $20, I could get two more larges ABSOLUTELY FREE. Now I could order my pizzas. I wanted a cheese, a pepperoni, and a beef.

Then, the guy says something about his cheese pizzas don't have a lot of cheese and "it would have to be extra."

Well, I didn't want "extra," especially if it was going to cost "extra." And in the five minutes I went back and forth with this guy telling him I'd rather have two pepperonis instead of a cheese, he says, "You misunderstand me. I'll see you in 15 minutes." And then he hangs up the phone.

He didn't take my name or my number. He makes that remark and hangs up the phone.

During the fifteen minutes it takes me to walk down there, I'm getting my war paint on. I'm ready to go off on this guy if he tries to come up with some baloney instead of two pepperonis and a beef pizza. So, when I get down there and show him the purple "VIP" card from my apartment complex, he says, "Oh, this old. This is six months old. We no longer do this."


As it turned out, the owner A) remember my order and B) decided to give me the discount anyway. I also examined the crust of the pizza right in front of him. I opened up the pizza box on the adjacent table to the counter and looked at the crust. It was thinner than most pizza crusts and we talked about it. The guy makes his own dough. I told him that was refreshing, and in light of this and his business honesty, I was going to transact all of my pizza business there.

I still don't think there's any better pizza in the world than at Geno's and Pizza Parlour back in my hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. And I'm not saying that to be parochial. It's an indubitable fact.

What else did I do this week that you should know about? Well, I interviewed Dr. John Grayzel from the University of Maryland about the uprisings in Egypt, only because he worked there for a number of years and because he's part of the school's department on Middle Eastern studies. That's another story in and of itself, how I landed that interview. I'll summarize it and then you can get to the videos: I approached him with the same bravado as though I were a reporter for CBS News. I acted like "Free Association" was as big as "Hannity" or the Spitzer show there -- no, the one on CNN, not Cinemax. And it worked. I thought Dr. Grayzel was informative and I hope to continue to do interviews with him and to also snag other informative, significant interviews.

Sorry I wasn't able to upload pictures again. I'm guessing it's my browser. I'll figure it out, and then I can turn my blog into the 21st century equivalent of when your relatives would force you watch their slideshows from vacations they took where they didn't get the famous sites in the shots with them. Instead of seeing St. Paul's Cathedral in London, you'd see a close up of your Aunt Margery and your Uncle Morty. You know, so, that was the precursor to blogs that show you photos of where folks have been. You want to see that? Really?

See, I would figure if I had a segment in the blog where I introduced some of my father's colloquialisms, that would be more fun and helpful too. We'll start out with this one:

"gusto of a hound dog"

Definition: to approach a task with tenacity from the onset

Usage: "We'll attack that leaky faucet with the gusto of a hound dog."

Yeah, kind of like how I approach my assignments with Voice of America.