Bizarre and Kind.

Either dance well or quit the ballroom.

Writing Samples

Posted on 22 Mar 2011 | Comments Off on Writing Samples

These first two articles were written for the Washington Times Communities when I was doing a weekly column for them;

The final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows, was released this week.

Technically, it’s not the last movie- it’s the first part of the last movie – it is the beginning of the end. An end that is bittersweet.

With 315,000 Google responses to the search term “Harry Potter” it is safe to say that there have been more words written about Harry Potter than written by J.K. Rowling in the books. At first, critics and teachers were happy to have books that inspired reading in a digital age. Then, as the books become longer and the plot more complicated, the conversation turned to their universal appeal.

For us fans the Harry Potter saga kept us enthralled from the first word to last sentence- for seven books. Young and old, male or female the books popularity has not seemed to wane despite the final book’s release over three years ago.

In my own experiences, I can only think of one or two people I have met who have read the books and didn’t like them. Including my teen daughter. We have found something to bond over in the Harry Potter-Hogwart’s universe.

Harry Potter has become a cultural touchstone, a shared experience the world over; this last movie is a goodbye to the Harry Potter era in film even as the books continue to be read. I have all seven books, of course, and guard them with my life. I am known to read and reread them every time a new movie comes out. Every read is new experience; every book yields a new detail I missed before.

Why? Because Harry’s story is as old as time- a downtrodden hero who overcomes all odds to save his corner of civilization. We readers cheered him on in every battle, and cried with his losses. How could a book, meant for kids, become the all-ages phenomenon it has?

Rest easy, this column isn’t going to try to answer that question. I firmly believe you could earn a doctorate exploring that question. I only know that Harry has been a large part of my life, and Daniel Radcliffe brought him to life in a way even my imagination could not. Soon it will be time to say good-bye to the actor’s continuing portrayal of the characters as Daniel and company move on to other roles.Yet, how many of us, when reading the books, now picture Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry in our minds keeping the actor forever a young Harry Potter? For that purpose, these last two movies are a bittersweet moment.

There are no more books to be released, no more movies to be made, no more plot twists to play out during an English school year. Not for Harry Potter, anyway. Some of us still hold out hope that there will be a new series from the Harry Potter world, and JK Rowling has hinted that it is not out of the question.

So I am left feeling like I owe Daniel, as an actor, something- a thank you maybe, for giving flesh to the character in the book. And to Harry Potter, the character, for seven wonderful books, for letting me into the world of a magical and timeless England, and many wonderful hours not spent in front of a computer screen, but with your tome in hand.

But most of all, thank you for being something my tween daughter and I can talk about- there are few things out there that fall into that category.

Walter Cronkite or David F. Murrow may have never directly told anyone to “F**k Off” during their news pieces (as Stewart often does), but their reporting spoke to their generation.  They spoke the language of my mother’s generation, they made news relevant for their listeners. The power of newscasters is never in doubt. But what about a ‘fake’ newscaster on a comedy channel?

Recently, a lot has been made about the role that Jon Stewart has played in getting the  James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (the bill commonly know as the 9/11 first responders bill) passed. Using his influence as a “most trusted newscaster “he bullied, goaded, and shamed lawmakers into passing a very important piece of legislation. It is a watershed moment for Daily Show, and it seems to have taken some pundits by surprise.

The story of the bill and Mr. Stewart’s involvement in its passage can be found here. Once reading it, you realize that he simply shined a light on a bill that seemed destined to linger in the congressional black hole that sucks up so much potential legislation. Newscasters and pundits alike seems to have woken up to the fact that Daily Show now controls a very large, very influential demographic. But why is it a surprise? Did they miss the report where Jon Stewart was named the most influential newscaster? The rally where he amassed more people than Glenn Beck? Or his ability to get sitting leaders of nations to sit down on his comedy show and discuss important matters of state?

Where have these pundits been?

One imagines that they have been staring at their own plummeting ratings with puzzlement. News has not ceased, important stories remain untold, yet newscasters on both cable and networks have started to look pale in comparison to a half-hour show on the Comedy Channel.

There are many theories about why this is the case, and I have even been asked personally why the I love the Daily Show. And the answer is simple- because he presents the news in a way I wish every one did.

Imagine for a moment you are a lawmaker, any kind of lawmaker- party is irrelevant to this example. There are a couple of ways you could end up on the Daily Show.

Say something crazy on the House floor? Expect clips of it to be on the Daily Show with Mr. Stewart’s commentary that you are off your rocker. Contradict yourself either with a House vote or an offhand remark, expect your contradiction to be on at 11pm on the Comedy Channel, with many sound bytes to make sure everyone can see you hang yourself with your own rope.

Try to get of a tricky situation with some PR spin? You, your spin, and your situation will reach new levels of ridiculousness on The Daily Show- all for the entertainment of the viewers.

The more serious newscasters like to dismiss The Daily Show as a half hour comedy show, and it is that. However, perhaps the real comedy is the bland fare that they serve up on the nightly news program and call, well, ‘news’. Cable and broadcaster news has become some sanitized and innocuous that it with amazement that the audience watched the half hour of news and walks away knowing that they did not learn anything.

Then there are those stations that make no bones about the fact that they are on one side or other. They routinely show up on The Daily Show where the correspondents take turns pointing out all the flaws and inaccuracies in these newscasters. Of course, the mocking involved is hilarious, and serves to punch out the fake levity Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann bring to their respective circuses.

So invested are we, the audience, in this show that the hiring of a new correspondent (Olivia Munn) became a matter of intense debate. We believed we deserved better than this former playboy bunny as a ‘correspondent.”

The Daily Show disagreed and stood behind its hiring. A reminder that while the audience yearns for more serious turn to The Daily Show, it remains committed to its comedic roots. To this day, some of us still have to turn off the TV when Ms Munn appears on the show, but the fact we did not turn it off permanently is a testament to its power and reach.

Newscasters influence over the opinion of America is a known fact, so much so that this power has reached mythic proportion. Don’t forget that Cronkite was so influential that a myth started to makes the rounds that when President Johnson heard of Cronkite’s comments, he was quoted as saying, “That’s it.  If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

Again, the story is not likely, but it speak to the power the Cronkite wielded as a newsman. Jon Stewart and his half hour news program wields the same power. The speculation has begun as to whether he will run for office, or increase his political media presence. That is for Mr. Stewart to decide, but where ever he goes, he will take millions with him. Dismiss him as a comedian? You do so at your won peril.

This piece appeared on Sisarina;

Remember that part in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy was finally going through the last tests to reach the Holy Grail. One of the tests was ‘walk with faith’ (I’m paraphrasing). He stands over a deep canyon and he needs to get to the other side. With no other means to get there he must step out over the precipice on faith. And there’s that moment there, that one moment while his foot is outstretched and he is taking that first step where you wonder if faith will be enough to keep him from plummeting down the canyon.

That moment there? THAT’s what it’s like to start a business.

In the movie, the moment is but a few seconds of screen time. In real life? That feeling can last for weeks or months on end. And where Indy gets to move on to the next challenge, the small business owner can find themselves at the precipice moment again and again.

I started my business a month ago. I am still working issues such as logos, branding, state paperwork, website, subcontractors, etc. – all the while trying to network for clients. It can be exhausting. It can be frustrating. It can be exciting. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I’m doing the right thing, but then I have to capture that feeling that caused me to start a business in the first place.

That feeling was frustration. For three nights in a row I was fixing someone’s blog, someone’s code or answering emails about social media strategy and branding. All for free. It was clear that I had the skill sets that other people needed, and it was time for me to earn money for it. I have a passion for blogging, WordPress, and social media. I have knack for it, a vision, and now, finally a company for it.

I have been in the corporate world for over six years. In the corporate world other people go out and win the work, deliver the contracts. In your own business, it’s up to you. No clients? Didn’t network enough. Lost out on a bid? Your work wasn’t good enough or cheap enough. Running out of money to pay your creatives? You’ll have to put off buying a piece of software, because you must honor your contracts.

In addition to all this, I will be competing for business with other blogging friends. Everyone wants to feel like they are offering the best product, that yours edges out the competition, but now I have to say I can do it better than someone I know. It doesn’t do much for friendships.

All of this sounds like a headache, a headache I don’t need. So why do it? Because I believe in my ability to do it, and to do it better than most people. I know that I can carve out a place for my company and my services in here Maryland. In the end I can become reach my goals, all by believing in myself.

This is a company still in its infancy, my clients still few, but I have taken that step off the edge, and I have faith in my ability to make it a success, each and every time.