Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shutdown Showdown

I believe it was Socrates who said it is good to live in interesting times. Although Wikipedia says it's a Chinese curse, I can't that seriously because I've seen them run some misinformation on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for three years, notably that his oil and natural gas lease business was based in Oklahoma instead of Arkansas.

Regardless of who said it, this past week was a very interesting time in our nation's capital, and if you get to be a Washington Center intern, then certainly you may experience such interesting times.

I intern for Voice of America, which is an arm of the federal government. It's not like the Social Security Administration or some of the other bureaucratic agencies in Washington, but it still would have had some employees furloughed because of the government shutdown. In my case, I didn't know what was going to happen because I was an intern. Although I wasn't being paid, my transit subsidies could be considered payment and for that reason, I might have been furloughed. I didn't want to be; I wanted to keep coming to work. I love working on VOA 60 every day and get disappointed on days that I don't. So, if the government shut down, I was going to keep going to work until the security guards drove me away.

Of course, even if that would have happened, I still would have been figuring a way to better my career. I would have devoted more time to finding material for my radio show and building my portfolio. I wasn't going to sit around and wait to die of Dutch Elm Disease if the government shut down.

Some of the other interns at federal agencies were looking forward to it. You know, they could take their time off and go sight-see or whatever they do. I wouldn't know; I actually wouldn't know. I'm so engrossed in my work here in Washington, D.C. and also with graduating that I am numb to a great many things. I'm so focused on getting out of college that I can't feel anything right now.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the city isn't an exciting place to see. It is, but I saw it before when I was 12, 13 years old. So, I'm not missing out on anything, and what I did miss out on when I was 12 and 13 can be supplemented in a relatively short amount of time when I break on through to the other side of this capstone project.

Did I tell you about that? Yeah, I did from last week. Well, the good news is this week I was able to round up my final panelist. He's not from a think tank, but he is a well-read professor at George Washington University and I think he matches the credibility of the conservative panelist I chose. So, everything is fine on that front. My capstone project will be completed when conduct the panel discussion at Voice of America's radio studios this Thursday the 14th. I can't wait; I'm very excited.

It almost didn't happen because of the government shutdown. If the government would have shut down, I'm not sure what would have happened to my studio time because I'm not sure if I could have gotten into the building. But that wasn't stopping me from carrying out my capstone project; I called around town to see if there were any free radio studios I could use for thirty minutes. I wasn't going to let my capstone project get swept up the political machinery.

But let's do a recap of last week. On Monday, we had programming and Dr. Lawrence Korb, a former administrator in the Reagan administration, spoke to us on foreign policy, notably Libya. I liked the guy's approach. He stood out in front of the podium and engaged us like a Pentecostal preacher. I mean, look at these photos I took. Parts of them are blurry because the guy wouldn't stay still.

Of course, I was sitting next to the same crazino who told me to put my camera away, even though I cleared it with one of the supervisors of the event. Remember that one? Remember the photographic fief from the last discussion panel three weeks ago? Oh, he looked over at my camera phone like your best friend's crazy cocker spaniel when a 1991 Chevy Caprice would drive down the street. He was ready to strike; I can guarantee it. That's why I made sure to snap a few quick pictures and put my camera away.

And, like always, they opened up the microphone to ask questions and some people gave lectures instead. TWC really ought to invest in a vaudeville hook. I don't want to knock on the foreign students because it really takes a lot of moxie to ask a question in front of 100 students in a language not your own. So, I accept their rambling. I don't like it when homegrown students get up there and do the ol' two-for-one. Oh, and another one they did was right when we thought the last of the students had asked a question, another one would jump up to get in line. This happened about three times. Finally, the administrators cut 'em off and we could leave.

What does that make me? A mean guy for telling you about that? No, I think it's what you'll feel too whenever you become a student at The Washington Center. There will be days when you're interesting in the programming and the lectures, but you really don't have the patience for the questions because A) they're the final event before you can leave, B) you're hungry enough to eat a boot, and C) you're tired enough to beat the band.

Anyway, whatever.

So this week was all about the cherry blossoms. Actually, the past two weeks were. This weekend, I had a chance to go out and see some of them across town:

I also got to see people enjoying the temperate weather out on the National Mall. There was some kickball tournament going on.

I don't know about you, but just witnessing scenes like this makes me feel more patriotic and proud of my country than any piece of legislation Congress passes or executive order the President signs. There's just something reassuring and timeless about scenes like that. The day you don't see scenes like that on the National Mall is the day you know America's in trouble.

Good gravy -- I don't mean to sound like a prophet of doom! I don't know. Maybe it's the work; it's getting to me. I'm just so focused on graduating and getting out of school that I've become numb to certain things and I'm starting to revert back to my sarcastic self. But I don't know if it's even my sarcastic self that's seeping through. It's more like a chilled logical persona that has no time for games and frivolity. I just want to bust through this week like a brick wall and come out the other side ready to bust a move. I'm so ready to get this capstone project over with.

Before I forget, I want to warn you about the vast size of the National Mall. It's something that gets lost when you're down there in the National Mall or looking at a map planning your Saturday afternoon with the blue fanny pack and the white sneakers and the Polaroid camera from 1993. You think it's all so close together, but you really don't know until you've walked a good hour and a half to get to these sites. So, let this picture instructional for you:

Look to the houses on the right, just above them. That's the Capitol. Now, look over to your left before you get to the air traffic control tower. That's the Washington Monument. DO YOU SEE HOW FAR IT IS BETWEEN THE TWO SITES? That's an incredible distance, and you really do put a burden on yourself and that chick in the floor above you that you try to impress every day by timing your "coincidental" meetings in the elevator when you two get off work. So, don't be afraid to take a cab or the Metro. You know, there won't be a Needles there to call you a chicken.

All right, before we get out of here, let's close up shop with another one of my dad's famous sayings:

"like a fat girl at a fricassee"

Definition: a natural pairing

Usage: I'm always working on VOA 60 like a fat girl at a fricassee."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

By Inferno's Light

I know; I know. It has been two weeks since my last blog post. And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm not that committed to this thing anymore or that I'm running out of ideas or that I'm not fascinated by my blogging opportunity anymore.

Well, you could take it that way, but you would be totally wrong. I have been so immersed in my duties here in Washington DC that I don't do anything when I get home but sleep. I don't feel like talking to anyone or doing anything. And it's exacerbated on the weekends. I don't feel like doing anything but lying around and catching up on some sleep. My bosses at Voice of America can tell that it's Friday because I come into work beaten and fatigued. It's true. By Friday afternoon, I'm ready to take a big nap.

So the more this semester continues, the more tired I'm going to feel on weekends. See how that works out? That's why I haven't been blogging, not that I haven't had anything to blog about.

Take this for instance that happened on Tuesday, March 22nd. In my "Press, Power, and Politics" class taught by Professor Marjorie Kline, we got to go on a field trip to "The Kalb Report" yet again. This time, Diane Sawyer was there on his show at the National Press Club.

Of course, the auditorium was full by the time we got there with all of the lummoxes and the seat-grabbers-from-behind and the old fogies. Somehow, I got separated from the group, so I went and sat elsewhere. The first place I sat was perpendicular with the stage. As soon as I did that, some woman with her hair in a bun to rival the leaning tower of Pisa sits right in front of me eclipsing my view. Then, some geeky guy crowds next to me on my right. I almost have a breakdown with that and the typical cacophony that fills an auditorium before a presentation that I left the seat and went elsewhere.

I went way in the back; I didn't care. I was already separated from the group and any seat I chose was going to be crap anyway. So, I decided to go sit way in the back where no one would touch me. Well, as soon as I did that, and enjoyed myself for 9 minutes, some guy comes and sits next to me again.

It's the same thing on the Metro. I don't get this. Why do I get guys that sit next to me? For once, I'd like a female about my age to crowd next to me on a Metro or in an auditorium instead of another guy with spiked hair and a trick jacket he lays across the three seats to his right to save a seat for his friends. You ever notice that? You ever notice how men wear their trench coats and women their minks when they go to big events like that? They do it because they can take it off and save a seat and then you look like a schmuck after you barrel over seven people across the row to get there and find that out.

When the guy set down his jacket, I took of my suit coat and put it over my chair. I left the room to take a few deep breaths. Everything was a disaster to this point. I was cut off from the group, so I couldn't make smart aleck remarks. I couldn't see, not only Diane Sawyer, but not even a monitor because it was blocked off by the Marge Simpson brigades in front of me with their cartoonish tall hair. Then, I was going to have to be pestered the whole time with some lame-brain texting the sequel to "War and Peace" on her Blackberry.

Oh, I didn't tell you about that? Yeah, after I came back from catching my breath, I was instead sitting next to some petite brunette with glasses texting the whole time during the hour-long "Kalb Report." And she wasn't some nineteen year-old dingbat with a PR Facebook account that she never updates. No, this was a woman of about thirty years texting furiously on her phone. It sounded like a baseball team with cleats walking down the tunnel to get onto the field. "Click clack. Click clack. Click clack." I couldn't believe how ostentatious she was with her texting.

Now, I tried not to let it bother me because I figured, "Hey, with all of this bad stuff happening, something's got to give. Maybe I'll get my picture taken with Diane Sawyer."

Let's speed up the tape in this VCR of a blog and see what happened:

Nothing. You can't even tell that's her. It looks like the Old Man in the Mountain from Franconia, New Hampshire. But that's what I was dealing with. She was mobbed by the crowd as though she was the Messiah and she could heal the sick, and so you had to be on your game when you wanted to get your picture with her. Just my luck, I had a stranger take my picture. I had some middle-aged woman who probably knew more about souvlaki than photography snapping my picture. After she took this god awful picture, she hands the camera back to me and says it was great. Yeah, sure.

Now, I know I'm being exceptionally cranky about this whole ordeal, but it did turn out great in some regard. The girl featured in this picture is -- well, I don't know if I can reveal her name. We'll call her "Yankee Girl" because she comes from Michigan and sounds like it too. She's in my class, in my program, 20 years old, and claims Diane Sawyer was the reason she got into journalism. So, before the event, I told Yankee Girl that I would take the picture.

And it was no ordinary feat, we both had to swim through the crowd at different points and converge on Diane Sawyer. But it turned out okay:

And what's my reward for it? To still live out the role of Chief O'Brien's duplicate in the Deep Space Nine episode "Whispers."

You want me to talk about that? No, I don't think I will. I forgot I wasn't in a cafe', so maybe I'll save that for my most devoted fans.

I don't know if Facebook videos have the capability of being embedded here, but here's video evidence of The Washington Center students totally owning the Q&A process:

We'll see if that gets embedded or if you can even watch it after you click the link. But it's just more indisputable evidence of how awesome you have to be to make the cut here at The Washington Center.

I did get to have my picture taken with someone of significance at "The Kalb Report," ol' Frank Sesno of CNN, Associated Press, and PBS fame. I wanted my picture taken with him because he hosted a show entitled "The Future of News" that we aired on RSU Public Television, the place where I got my first job in the media as a master control operator.

Good gravy! Look at my tie. I look like a snickerer that belongs on "Red Eye" with my tie all crooked like that.

The next Tuesday, things were better as far as getting pictures with celebrities was concerned.

Let me talk about that for a moment. I only do that for this blog. I do it to show how far you can go with your internship here at The Washington Center. You think I care if I get my picture taken with some of these people? Not really. In fact, I don't like to be part of the crazy mob that surrounds them, only a few cloaks from a Draco moment in Ancient Greece. I mean, let's think about this: how does my life change if I get my picture taken with a celebrity?

A) Do my sick relatives regain their health lost by disease? No.

B) Does the sum of my personal fortune rise as a result? No.

C) Do they ask me if I want to join them in a Hummer limousine ride that night? No.

D) Do I become a celebrity because of this picture? No.

So, I mean, what's the motivation to fight through a crowd for a photo op? I don't know; it's just my stoic way of looking at these things.

But I got to meet Kevin Eubanks, the former band leader on "The Tonight Show." He was doing a show with Larry London on Voice of America's "Border Crossings."

Being a Dallas Cowboys fan, I tried to talk to him about the Philadelphia Eagles since he's a big fan. You would see him on "The Tonight Show" with the guitar laughing at Jay Leno and wearing an Eagles hat or something. Anyway, he didn't even know the Eagles were trying to trade Kevin Kolb. So there you go.

That afternoon, after work, it was a nice day out on the National Mall. I walked around clearing my thoughts so I could prepare my mind for my radio show that evening:

Since it was so nice and I wasn't so tired, I walked to the Supreme Court:

Yeah, with nice weather like this, I'm sure you'll get more pictures of Washington DC from me.

It's difficult to comprehend that I only have one month left. I'm so pulled in sundry directions by my capstone project -- oh, did I tell you about that, Mr. Overachiever? Did I tell you what my capstone project is? Instead of mailing it in and doing a video or something, since I'm in Washington DC and I want to get into radio, I decide to do a radio pilot on health care reform.

I have done everything I can and appealed to as many think tanks in this town to make this possible. Now that I have one panelist from the think tanks, it's really going to be easy to get the other panelist for my show because now I can tell them who they will be debating.

So, I mean, that's ADDED STRESS on top of all of the other Washington Center and Voice of America assignments and projects that are all converging about the same time that I present my capstone. Of course, I'll do well. I'll do such a great job that it will be the academic equivalent of this:

Let's just hope when I remember to pay my jewelry and rent bills.

If I would have had it to all over again, I would have carefully planned my semesters and never taken less than 15 hours. I think I would have still had to do my capstone and my internship in my final semester here, but at least I wouldn't be hampered with history and public administration along with it. The way it all shakes out, I'm actually taking 18 hours this semester, AND I'M NOT EVEN ON CAMPUS AT MY HOME UNIVERSITY!

But the thing with me is if you never tell me how hard it's supposed to be, I won't get discouraged. And that's how I've treated it. I just want to get through this. After it's over, then I'll go look at the statistics to see how hard this really was. But I'm telling YOU right now that the best thing you could do is take care of all of your obligations so you can really enjoy this experience and not feel so rushed as I do.

Would I trade this for something else, say, a 12-hour semester of tranquility back at Rogers State University? Not hardly. This is where I have to be. This is where I belong. This is what I have to do to advance my career. "I'll take dat."

Let's conclude things with one of my dad's famous sayings and get out of here:

"more ________ than Carter has pills"

Definition: to have an unparalleled quantity

Usage: If I Dez Bryant doesn't pay off his bills, he'll have more lawsuits than Carter has pills.