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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Off for a long weekend

OK gang, I'm calling it an early week. With a spare vacation day in my pocket, I'm taking tomorrow off to put up my Christmas tree and take some extra time off to enjoy the wedding of my friends Carie and Travis.

Tune in Monday. More good stories to come.

Oh, and in the meantime, send your party pictures to

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google some giggles

This week's edition of Entertainment Weekly has given me 10 perfectly good reasons to waste an hour or so of my day. The magazine features "the 10 viral videos that kept our focus off work."

I spent some time "researching" and found some of these videos funny, some slow, some strange. Check it out:

1. The Landlord - A young Pearl threatens to put Will Ferrell on the streets if he doesn't pay his rent. Hearing young children say bad words makes me nervous, but lots of people have found this one funny.

2. Alanis Morissette's "My Humps" - Alanis answers the question first posed by the Black Eyed Peas. "What you gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside your trunk?"

3. Miss South Carolina Teen USA - Pageant girl fumbles through her take on, like, geography.

4. Filipino prisoners perform "Thriller" - Now we really know what goes on in the yard.

5. Backstreet Bird - Snowball the cockatoo is coo coo for "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)."

6. Dramatic Prairie Dog - Someone get this prairie dog an Oscar for drama.

7. Keepon Keepin' On - I have no idea on this one. But people get some joy out of watching a yellow squishy thing dance around.

8. Clark and Michael - a mockumentary series starring Clark Duke ("Greek") and Michael Cera ("Superbad"). The pair makes nerdiness look cool.

9. Gilbert and Sullivan's "Baby Got Back" - Rear-themed video makes its second visit to the countdown with this Sir-Mix-A-Lot remix. Oh and it's performed by the '80s TV adaptation cast of "The Pirates of Penzance."

10. "Star Wars" trumpet solo - Another bad pageant moment makes the list with this '93 contestant ducking invisible lasers, in a leotard, between instrumental solos.

All I want for Christmas is shoes

I was flipping through my J.Crew catalog last night when this little insert jumped off the page at me. I thought, "There is a Santa Clause and he knows I wear a size 7. "

Shoe obsessed? Absolutely. Just ask former Times staffer Dan Turner. Each day I'd walk into the office and he'd check to see what pair I'd put on my feet. And after each weekend I'd report my addiction to him.

"How many pair this week, kiddo?"

"I just bought two pair. They were on sale. ... Well, maybe they weren't but aren't these cute?!"

He'd laugh and shake his head and we'd move on to discussing his equally bad golf addiction. But when I saw this ad, I stopped dead in my tracks. A brand new pair of shoes will arrive on my doorstep each month? Really? You mean it? Oh golly!

Sadly, the reality is that no matter how much I beg I'm not getting an $1800 gift from anyone I know. And even if some giving soul decides to make this extravagant purchase for me, where would all the shoes go? My closet is at capacity. Shoe boxes are stacked four high, eight across at the top of my closet. The boxes that won't fit there tower waist high on the side walls of my closet. Hey, but a space problem is something I can easily resolve.

I know $150 each month could buy me several pair of shoes. But there is something special about coming home each month, on any given day, and finding a shoebox on your doorstep with a beautiful pair of shoes that you've never seen picked out just for you.

My heart flutters at the thought!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frankly, I'm disappointed

Since the debut of "Frank TV" last Tuesday, Frank Caliendo has proven one thing -- a faux show is about as good as faux fur. It ain't real and it ain't pretty.
Caliendo is the cream of the crop when it comes to impressions, but the jokes on "Frank TV" fall short. His Michael Richards is tops, but the sketch was lame. Another sketch features Caliendo as President Bush talking to his daughter Jenna on her wedding day. Great concept until Bush sends in Dick Cheney to have the father/daughter talk. I'm not all that familiar with Cheney's speech and mannerisms, so when Bush walks out the door so do the funnies.
It was 30 minutes of not-so-funny jokes that most people didn't stick with for the entire 30 minutes. And the show's format is all wrong. Caliendo opens as himself for a show that's about him pretending to be other people. He sits in a living room, invites an audience member on stage and bores the heck out of them.
If anyone wanted this show to thrive it was me. While watching the first episode, I caught myself giving Caliendo pity laughs. I didn't think it was funny, but I laughed to try to make myself think it was funny. Talk about disappointed. Remember this post?
A month or so ago, I was introduced to Frank Caliendo during a commercial break from post-season baseball on TBS. Endless tears of laughter followed the commercial. This guy does the best impressions I've ever seen. DeNiro, Madden, Dr. Phil, Robin Williams, President Bush -- he nails them all. It's not just the voice, but his facial expressions (especially President Bush) are dead on. The show will debut Nov. 20 and I'm counting down the minutes.Every now and then I'll go to You Tube to watch the Frank TV commercials. My reaction is always the same -- tears and uncontrollable laughter.
As much as I hoped this show would be good, it's just not and it saddens me to say so. I really feel sorry for Caliendo. He's the best, but unfortunately his show is the worst.

Monday, November 26, 2007

See yourself in print

Shreveport, I'm asking you to show your face.

A few months ago we started a photo feature page in Preview called Click. All we want is to see your faces, know who you are and find out a little bit about what you and your friends do in Shreveport.

With the holiday season here, I'm sure you guys are attending holiday parties and spending time out mingling with friends. Maybe you've taken a trip, attending a football game, had some friends over for a game night. Take a few photos and send them to us at

We'd love to see you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So many reasons to say thanks

I thought I'd share some parting words before I pack it up for a long weekend of overeating and college football.

My anticipation is building for tomorrow's family feast. As usual, I'll gather with aunts, uncles, parents, brothers and more at my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. You can't beat my Nana's dressing, but you really can't beat the moments spent around our Thanksgiving table.

A lot of things have changed in the years we have gathered around my grandparent's dining room table. My cousin Casey has gotten married. My other cousins Michael and Donna are both enlisted in the Army and won't be able to join us this year. And we've added the most perfect great-grand baby to the mix. But when we get together our current surroundings melt away, and we easily drift back to the funny stories of our family's past. For those few moments each year, I can count my blessings because they're all around me.

Honestly, it's been a tough year for our group and tomorrow will carry more weight than usual with me. My granddad, my Big Mick, was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year. And as bad as that was, it wasn't even the worst news to come. During a CT scan, doctors discovered an aneurysm that had to be fixed immediately. Following that surgery, Mick faced more than 40 days of radiation treatment for his cancer. And as soon as that ended, just a few weeks ago, the area around his stint had to be patched because of a leak.

My cousin Michael was wounded in Iraq. The communication between military and family back home is sometimes patchy, so we didn't even know of his injuries until he was back in Baghdad. He was awarded a Purple Heart, but goodness, it's scary to get news like that even after the fact.

My point is that this Thanksgiving, I've got so many reasons to say "thank you." As people, we don't just overlook the small blessings we've been given, but we can miss valuing big things like family and friends. I'm thankful to have such a strong granddad -- we don't call him Big Mick for nothing! And I'm thankful that my cousin is back in the States even though he's not sitting at our table tomorrow.

I hope tomorrow finds you with many reasons to say thanks.

Give me s'more camping

If you know me, or even know a little bit about me, something about this photo may seem off. "Is that Stephanie, surrounded by wilderness and smiling?"

Yep, sure is.

Don't let the North Face vest fool you, I'm no wilderness girl. And if I'm going to be honest, I originally bought my vest to wear "outdooring" at Augusta National for the Masters last spring. Not exactly roughing it. And if I'm going to be really honest my cell phone was zipped up in the front pocket of my vest when this picture was taken. If this was Survivor: Central Arkansas, my little tiki torch would have been snuffed out for sure.

This past weekend I camped out at Lake Catherine, Ark., and really had a good time. I heard there was a waterfall, so after hiking over some rocky terrain, I stumbled upon one of the world's smallest waterfalls. No big deal. Dinky waterfall for a dinky camper. I still found it impressive. It was the perfect place to park for a mid-day turkey sandwich and a few minutes of rock skipping.

This picture just goes to show that sometimes it is good to try new things. Even something that may be completely out of character could end up being something you really enjoy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Takes one teeny bopper to know one

Wow, what a week it has been on the entertainment beat in Shreveport and it all boils down to one thing -- Hannah Montana. When the concert first announced several months ago, I couldn't tell you a thing about Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus. Even if you follow entertainment news closely, she seemed to be a phenomenon that captivated only younger audiences and their parents. You didn't see Cyrus in entertainment magazines or see her picture in popular tabloids and unless you were a Disney Channel viewer there's a good chance you didn't even know she existed.

But all that changed when her tour announced, Shreveporters found themselves caught up in the Hannah mania. It didn't take long for us all to know exactly who the young Disney star was, even though we may not know a single song she performs. The question soon became, "Did you get tickets?" Even if you couldn't name a single song, you knew this was the hottest ticket in town.

Thursday night, it all paid off for local fans. The CenturyTel Center was packed with youngsters who have likely counted down the days until this event. A huge preparty greeted those who arrived early. And as I stood there in the midst of young girls, whose hearts were likely beating out of their chests in excitement, I can't say I understood the mania.

I was sent to cover the story for the paper and all day fellow reporters expressed their sympathy, knowing the madness I would soon encounter. It was no less hectic than what everyone had foreseen. But I felt like some of the excitement was wasted on me. Before the concert, I set up my computer in the CenturyTel offices. As I walked down the hallway to exit the arena, my escort said, "Hey, that's Miley right behind you." I turned around and there she was. She looked like your everyday 14-year-old girl, which I must say is refreshing.

I couldn't help but think about the thousands of girls waiting outside the arena who would give anything for that moment and all of that excitement was wasted on me. At that point, I started to get it. I started to understand what the young star meant to the adoring fans ready to pound down the doors for this concert. It all boiled down to one simple thought for me -- New Kids on the Block.

My dad can tell you a similar horror story about camping out at the Fair Grounds to get me tickets to that concert. It meant the world to me -- and everyone else I knew. I sat among thousands of fans in Independence Stadium when NKOTB played Shreveport. The five members weren't much bigger than my pinkie nail, but the concert was so thrilling my dad had to take me to the medical tent for a few minutes to cool down. That's the embarrassing truth about being a teeny bopper -- something about it consumes you.

One parent at Thursday's concert said something along these lines too. Her teen favorite was The Osmonds. I guess every generation has a similar story to tell.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self-defense class has much to offer women

It may look like I'm playing mercy with one of the biggest guys in the Shreveport Police Department, but rather he's teaching me how to escape the grip of an attacker. He bruised my wrist during the training session, but I still managed to get away. He also tore the sleeve of my hoodie a little bit, but no real harm was done.

Times staffer Janelle Rucker and I attended the self-defense class at the training academy last week. We had a good time and each learned some serious self-defense tactics. It was fun even though we had to choke each other and pretend to hit each other. At some point, Janelle stopped pretending and actually popped me in the face -- on accident.

Women of all ages participated, and the techniques were extremely helpful. We didn't learn as much about fighting as we thought, but we learned some easy to remember skills to help defend ourselves. The officer explained that trying to fight a male attacker isn't always the best strategy. If a woman tries to fight back, her chances of winning are less than one percent. But escaping is much more likely and can be done if you know how. Another class will be offered in December.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Are you funnier than a fifth grader?

Kids are funny without even meaning to be. How many adults do you know can do that?

Friday afternoon I went to University Elementary School to speak to Mrs. Roberts fifth grade class. The students have been learning about newspapers so I visited the class to talk a little bit about what I do every day at The Times. I showed them different parts of the paper. We talked about the difference in breaking news, editorials, columns and more.

Mrs. Roberts had a surprise in store for me. A few weeks ago, I'd used the word "swanky" in a restaurant review on Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro. The word is one of Mrs. Roberts' favorites and so she decided to make it one of the vocabulary words for the week. The students each wrote their definition of "swanky" and used it in a sentence. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Someone who thinks they are funky. "A group of kids were acting swanky and weird." -- Kali Knighton
  • "My mom is swanky." -- Jon Falardeaux
  • "I ate a swanky for lunch." -- Breante' Love
  • "He is really swanky when he dances." -- Hunter Bryant
  • A baseball person that swings. -- Christine Mays
  • When you're happy or messy. "He is a very swanky person." -- Annie Brittain
  • Means horrible. "You are a swanky baseball player." -- Bryce Tolliver
  • Means crazy. "That swanky person almost got his hand cut off from a lawnmower." -- Stephen Rizzo
  • I think swanky is a type of something like a smell ... a very different, unusual smell. -- Katie Payzant
  • Music, jazz, hip, exciting and jumpy music. "That is some swanky music." -- Danielle A. Arnold

Friday, November 02, 2007

More to Preview

Whether you're an early bird or a night owl there are a few upcoming events to suit your schedule. In addition to events featured in today's Preview, check out the Coffee and Beignet Benefit for Martin Luther King Health Center at Courtyard Coffee, 7436 Youree Drive. The event is 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday and there's a $20 donation at the door. And did I mention there's an unlimited supply of coffee beverages and beignets?

The LSU Jazz Band will provide live music and locals like Sen. Sherry Cheek, Sen. Lydia Jackson, Barksdale Senior Airman Jermaine Miles and news anchor Sherri Allen will create artwork for silent auction. Proceeds from the event will go to the health center.

For you night owls, Phoenix Underground is hosting a celebration Thursday to honor its 10,000 Myspace friends. The event will feature several local DJs spinning in a custom lit DJ booth sent over from Dallas by Red Bull.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'You can't start unless you clack it'

This is the busiest time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Nov. 20. You may be asking, "What's the significance of Nov. 20?"

A month or so ago, I was introduced to Frank Caliendo during a commercial break from post-season baseball on TBS. Endless tears of laughter followed the commercial. This guy does the best impressions I've ever seen. DeNiro, Madden, Dr. Phil, Robin Williams, President Bush -- he nails them all. It's not just the voice, but his facial expressions (especially President Bush) are dead on. The show will debut Nov. 20 and I'm counting down the minutes.

Every now and then I'll go to You Tube to watch the Frank TV commercials. My reaction is always the same -- tears and uncontrollable laughter. My favorite is this DeNiro clip, but here are some others to check out.

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
Faux Movie Trailer
Frank TV promos