Saturday, June 18, 2011

staying on the sidelines

A friend was surprised yesterday to learn that I rarely vote, or even register, and am uncomfortable participating in advocacy events as anything other than a journalist. I feel out of place at such things without a notebook. It's not that I don't have opinions—I certainly do—but years of working to make sure my reporting is fair, and that my sources don't feel judged regardless of their stances, make me hesitant to express what I think in any public way. This meant, yesterday, that I disappointed my friend by not joining her at a gay pride march.

But this reluctance was justified twice yesterday. First, I met with a someone who asked for my help crafting a narrative of his story. He was uncomfortable and defensive as he related it to me, and I discovered that it was because he had never shared his past and his views with anyone before without feeling judged and defensive in the process. When he realized that he couldn't discern my views during our conversation, because I was putting aside any I may have had to plunge into his worldview, he relaxed.

Second: another friend, getting her journalism degree, was apprehensive about covering a touchy event and asked for reporting advice before she began. Here's my advice, edited to delete blatant identifiers:

friend: One of my weaker areas is approaching crowd members for interviews because i overthink what to ask themonce I dive in I'm all goodme: don't say, "can i ask you a question"
just walk up and introduce yourself and ask
  or chat and then intro then ask
 friend: k
 me: if they feel like it's a conversation it's smoother
 stupid questions like "wow what are they doing?"
and at first i usually just go with people, no matter what crazy shit they say, and don't challenge things that seem like bullshit til a bit farther on
  bc as you already know, people always have a point, even if we think they're nuts
friend: right
  plus I'm going to be talking to some real nutty people
me: you can say ... "so what would you say to someone who... to get their response w/o them feeling attacked
friend: oh yeah
  I like taking care that I'm presenting myself as neutral or kind
 me: you can also ask "who would be a good person to talk to" which i'm saying bc i often forget to do it
 friend: right
 me: bc then you have cred
friend: WORD
 me: "so and so suggested i speak to you  Yesterday evening, I got an email from said friend. (No, I can't figure out how to un-indent this text.) It read:
Ok so I'm good at journalism. I started an interview that was filmed and poached when I got someone talking about what they shouldn't have at the big media blitz, and I've embedded with some [folks] who think I'm totally great. I took your advice and it made me feel better about doing what I do. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

a bit about my dog

This is Kippy. He's an 11-year-old Tibetan terrier. He runs my parents' house with one paw tucked demurely beneath his torso. This photo doesn't do justice to his cuteness.

I've spent a bit of time there in scattered spurts lately, and it's made me want to share a few tidbits about the little jerk:

He's a neighborhood celebrity

Every time I've walked Kip recently—and I mean that: every single time—strangers approach us, grinning, greet Kippy by name, fawn over him and then depart without introducing themselves to me, the lowly human at the other end of the leash. He has a couple neighborhood friends that I do know. They keep treats in their houses for him, so he'll pull toward those locations during strolls. He only stops straining if you tell him that they aren't home. 

He only has accidents when he's sick, but then those accidents are only ever on my parents' sole Oriental carpet

The pooch has standards.

He knows that candles mean presents

Kip always gets birthday presents, but combining wrapping paper and candle lighting once a year is probably not enough to convince him that the strike of a match means he will be getting a package.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, has eight consecutive present nights. Kip gets presents on all of them. Over the years, this has led to a routine that a neighbor thought my parents were lying about until she came over one evening this past winter.

Mom strikes a match to light the Hanukkah candles and, as match hits matchbox, Kips comes flying from whatever corner of the house was currently serving as his chaise. He sits at Mom's feet, looks up at her, and starts a sustained whine that sounds somewhat like high-pitched singing. This is fortuitous, because prayers precede presents, so my parents consider that Kip joining them in reciting the blessings. Then, they say, "Happy Hanukkah!" and Mom brings in gifts for everybody. Somebody opens Kippy's first, as best they can as he noses the wrapping. He delicately accepts the toy or the treat, prances into the next room, and lies down with it between his paws, content.

He has us trained

Everyone is used to being uncomfortably contorted on their own beds so as not to disturb Kippy when he's sharing them. A couple who recently stayed overnight let him sleep between them on the full-sized futon in the basement, even though he snores.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

enlightenment, the hard way

Remember that last post I wrote forever and a day ago? I reworked the anecdote there into a much more polished essay, available here.