Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You can take the Hobbit out of Washington, but you can't take Washington out of the Hobbit.

And sometimes, SOMETIMES, Washington hunts the Hobbit down.

I covered Bush's speech at K-State for the Collegian on Monday.
It was like 11 straight hours of deja vu.

My day started a little before seven when I forced myself out of bed after a night of not-enough-sleep and begain my old daily ritual. I showered. I shaved. I put on my suit, the same one I wore to the State of the Union Address last spring.

I'm happy to say it felt a little loose on me.

I left the house at about 8:15 a.m. and made my way north on Tuttle Creek Boulevard and turned west on Kimball Avenue. This took me to Bramlage Coliseum, the speech's venue.

I got past the parking dude with ease, I just showed him the letter of introduction I got from the Collegian that was to identify me. In the old days, I'd just use my credentials, but they had expired and that was two employers ago.

I parked a ways from the coliseum in a spot that would allow me to leave quickly when I needed to, and noted the time. It was 8:30. I thought about sitting in the car and listening to the radio but decided to go stand in line with the other newsmedia and await my credentialing.

There were about 25 reporters in line when I got there. We'd been told they'd start admitting us at 8:45, but when we got there that changed to 9:00. I didn't mind it, it's was 40-50 degrees out in January, which is good, and I was in a wool suit. Of course, a few other reporters complained, but that's what our job is, sometimes. Thus, reporters are the best complainers in the world.

I chilled out with a few friends from my days with the Manhattan Mercury, good people, and awaited the door-opening.

Then... it happened.

I looked behind me, it was the news crew of a local TV station, all in matching outfits. There was about eight of them in the gang.

I wanted to start snapping my fingers and bending down like in West Side Story, it could have been a gangfight!

And you know us South-Side Scribblers (Print Media) could have taken those East-Kansas Broad(caster)s.

I should also note it was funny as hell when the Associated Press reporter assigned to the speech showed up. He filed a report by dictation, saying it loud as hell and moving about in what I like to call "The AP Strut." Yes, I dared to mock him.

He was the same reporter who showed up on the doorstep of our newsroom once like a little lost puppy. He needed our help in finding members of any Christian group on K-State Campus.

Apperantly, he didn't have time to swing a dead cat, which would have gotten him three, at least.

But I digress. I got my credential without even showing my ID (way to go, White House security) and went for a brief walk. I passed the protesters (not many at that point) and checked out a few other things before making my way back to the press entrance to get inside.

Only then they refused to let me in. Turns out I'd been given a faulty press pass that lacked the necessary sticker. I was not amused. I got myself a working pass, got through security without a problem (I am a former naturalized Washingtonian, you know). And then, another thing happened that did not surprise me one damned bit.

We were required by security to stay in the press area on the coliseum floor, any time we wanted to leave, we had to have an escort with us. As I said, deja vu.

I got myself an escort to take me to where people were coming in through the metal detectors. I noticed quickly that few of them understood how to remove metal from their persons before going through the arch, for the beeps from the machines happened so rapidly they formed a melody.

I went back to the press area on the floor of Bramlage, and I did not leave it for several hours.

I walked about the area, spotted some friends in the stands, some of which took my picture, and then I got down to business.

It was at this point that I began that lovely thing reporters do when there's enough of them in one place: I jockeyed for a position. The press area was a gated community on the floor of Bramlage with an elevated platform for cameras and not nearly enough seats for the many media members present.

I deduced that we would all wind up standing near the front of the press box, where there was som open concrete between the fence (they fenced us in, they actually fenced us in) and the plat form. Based on this, I took up a nice spot at the fence from which I would be able to see Bush directly and be able to interview folks in the VIP section.

I held my ground for about an hour, during which I did a few interviews and almost met Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline. He was there as a VIP and got swarmed by a bunch of reporters.

I also spotted my little brother Drew, who took forever to spot me there at the front of the press section. I smiled at him, and he took my picture. Mom must be so proud.

Then all the reporters that had taken the same course of action as I learned something: we could take over the space that had been reserved for the White House Press Corps because they didn't need it. They all then proceeded to sit on the platform behind me, where they were all much more comfortable and I was blocking their view. So I went and sat down.

This was about half an hour before Bush came inside at 11:30. I spent this time contemplating the past year, how wild and crazy it was, and how my path had twisted and turned day after day to finally bring me to that point.

The crowd got impatient about then, and started doing the wave. An aide walked out to put a glass of water out for the President on his podium, and the crowd went wild for a moment thinking it was Bush. The next aide to come out to grab something was much more timid and stood in the doorway a bit before walking out.

And then, it happened.

It started with President Wefald's entrance, and ended a moment or so after Bush came in. People just clapped like crazy.

This is Kansas, after all.

I'll spare you the details of the speech, since you can read a transcript here, except for this: A female employee of the local Fox TV station clapped so damned much during and after the speech I thought she was a cheerleader who'd gotten lost.

But the real joy came during the Q&A, something I promise you was unscripted, which was a trip down memory lane for me. First off, my Arabic Teacher, Tara Mossa, lit off on a giant spiel of all the things she loved about what Bush did.

Then Jeremy Parker just had to ask that damned question about Brokeback Mountain. Parker was a colunist for me during my stint as Opinion Editor toward the end of 2004. Also, Altaf Karim, another of my columnist friends, asked a question but didn't get quite the coverage.

Anyway, Bush finished his speech and I must say, he did well. Several people have since asked me how I felt about Bush being here. Here's what I tell them: I disagree with many of Bush's opinions and decisions, but I was honored that the president came to my school.

I made my way up out of the stands, saw a few friends and tried to leave. It took some doing as human traffic was bunched up in the hallways and couldn't get out fast enough. I tried to get a few interviews but I couldn't find anyone willing to comment, some because of my paper's reputation for "taking quotes out of context." That hurt.

Street traffic wasn't much better, as the lecture got out during lunch hour and it took me an hour to drive home. While I was preparing an audio file for the Web site that my editors had asked for, one editor sent me an instant message around 3. That's when I found out that I didn't have the 7:00 deadline I'd set for myself earlier so I'd have plenty of time to write a really awesome story, instead they had to have the paper done and designed by six. I was not pleased. In my editor's defense, I must not have heard them tell me they decided to shake up the design scedule. Then again, it appeared no one else did because many stories got turned in late that night, much later than mine, which was done at 5:30.

I've gotten nothing but good opinions of my Bush Landon Lecture story, and for that I am grateful. However, I have trouble being happy about it because I know it could have been so much better. It's like getting a double when you know you could have made a grand slam if only you'd had a little more breathing room to get your things in order. But that is how it is.

With that, I wish to make an announcement: I have decided to take some time off from the Collegian. Three weeks, likely. This is because I've been burning out lately and I need to take some time away from regular reporting to get my sh*t back together. This doesn't mean I'm not a part of the Collegian, nor does it mean I won't be writing things for them in this time off. I plan on using this time to go after some special stories that have been evading me for some time now because of my hectic schedule; some investigative work, perhaps.

Also, I'm going to start on my novel, the one I've been planning for quite some time. No, no NATH. That was an excercise in character development. NATH is over for the time being, but out of its ashes a new work shall arise. It will likely borrow a lot from the characters of NATH, but it will have a completely different plot and setting. I am currently allowing anyone who desires it to submit their name for me to use for a character. Anyone, including people who submitted theirs for NATH.

However, I don't intend to make this one so publicly available. All I'm ready to reveal at this moment is the title:


Monday, January 23, 2006

NATH is new

I just published an installment a I wrote back in October but never finished. It's mostly so I can admit to the fact that NATH has kind of died in my mind and probably never continue. Sorry.

Here it is.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

President Bush

I'm covering President George W. Bush's lecture tomorrow at our college for the Collegian.

I've been covering it since it's announcement last week.

Yeah, I'm just a little bit stressed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Forgive me, Pulitzer, for I have sinned... Confessions of an obscenely arrogant reporter

I'm ashamed of myself. I've become one of "those" reporters.

You know the type. They aren't just arrogant the way most reporters are. They're so arrogant and prideful they make the rest of the industry look humble.

And I've let myself become one of them. The size my ego reached the other night was so great I could have crushed a man with it.

I've been letting myself be a rude, abrasive person to a whole lot of people at the Collegian and I've been hurting more than a few persons' feelings along the way.

The way I've been acting lately has been bordering on lunacy, and if not for the sharp eye of one of the editors I've been abusing lately, a story of mine that's printing tomorrow would have a grievous innacuracy when it comes to a certain detective's name.

Thank God for people who keep a look out for you even when you've kicked sand in their eyes, figuratively speaking.

So now I need to work on this humility thing. No doubt it won't be pleasant, but just as much, no doubt it's necessary.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I came within an inch of losing my mind today. And my job. And several friends.

Actually, that's not accurate.

I came within an inch of throwing my mind away today. And my job. And several friends.

There's a difference.

Losing is when something gets away from you either by accident or negligence. What happened today was deliberate.

I think.

I'm not sure what the hell I did today, but whatever it was, it wasn't good.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bought myself a real domain name...

So I made a little trip today to godaddy.com and made a little purchase.

Type "www.lcaphoto.com" into your web browser now and have a look.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm a success!

It's official: Interview with Allen Murabayashi, founder of photoshelter.com

Q Can you share any success stories with us?

My favorite is Logan Adams, a small-town photographer in Kansas who shoots local youth sports. He's used PhotoShelter almost since launch and has made $42 for every $1 he's spent on PhotoShelter. It has provided him with both a marketing and distribution platform which has paid for his archive many times over, and it didn't require him to be a big shot photographer in a large market.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Enrollment Insanity

Here are the classes I was supposed to have this semester:

-Arabic 4
-History of American Agriculture
-Medical Reporting
-Advanced News and Feature Writing
-Ethics in Mass Communication

When I enrolled more than a month ago, my advisor, who teaches Ethics, thought I'd be just fine for the class. I took her word for it. This was my mistake.

There's a saying in newspapers: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

That is to say, never assume anything to be true. Well, in this case, I assumed I was OK.

And I assumed wrong. At least there weren't any grieving famileies that were hurt by my actions.

I discovered today that Ethics has two prerequisites that I lack, Senior standing and one Philosophy class. This became apparent when I recieved an email to let me know I'd been kicked out of the class.

I also found out that my advisor is a stickler for these prerequisites for her Ethics class students and never lets anyone in without it. That is, except me, whose entire schedule was set up around that class.

So I go to the professor who was teaching my Ethics class (another one seperate from my advisor) who hears my plea, but refuses to let me into the class.

It was at this point I got rather freaked out and started knocking on doors trying to find someone who knew something about finding classes for unenrolled students such as myself, and after a few coversations I found some help.

I found a class that I didn't really want but was willing to accept. I have a spot reserved in it for me and I am now attempting to enroll in it.

Only KATS , the online system we enroll with, has decided to suck.

What a day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Vader's been a lot more active lately. Posted by Picasa

Vader's been stealing Sissy's dog food, so he's been growing a bunch. He's also been a lot more affectionate to me lately, always rubbing up against me and wanting to be petted. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

It's two hours into 2006, and I'm sitting at my laptop writing.

At the end of 2004, I asked for a better year than the tumultuous one I'd just experienced. I asked for a year that would see me grow into a better person and a better journalist.

I got my wish.

I went to DC.
I came back from DC.
I worked all summer for the Mercury.
I started my photo business.
I returned to the Collegian.
I fell for a girl.
She used me.
Another girl walked back into my life.
It didn't work.
I finished the semester.

There were other things, but that's the big stuff. More interestingly, thanks to this blog, this entire year of my life was documented far better than any other.

As for the next year, well, here's what I hope for:

Great Writing.
Great Journalism.
Great Photography.
And, if things go right for once in this department, a real relationship. (You know the kind)