Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lightning Strikes Again?

Holy crap! What's that!?

We've gone and done it again. Ann is pregnant again and expecting to deliver a bouncing baby Jordan during the first week of July (fireworks, anyone?).

Back at nine weeks, the 'lil gummy bear weighed in at 24mm with a heartbeat of 174bpm. By today, after twelve weeks, the heartbeat had dropped to 157bpm. The grandmothers are following the flux in the heartbeat with bated breath, expecting that its speed or sloth will tell them if they'll have a granddaughter or grandson next summer. But they'll have to wait another two months to know for sure.

Truth be told, neither Ann nor I are known for being kid people. Ann once joked that she'd sooner eat her own baby while JD often runs to the far end of a house or office to avoid kids. But Jack has been phenomenal—and being his mom and dad has been an experience far more enjoyable than either of us ever expected. So why not have two?!

What could possibly go wrong?

The gummy bear at six weeks

A close up of the gummy bear at 9 weeks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jack's Visit to the Evil Man in Red

Hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's Santa-fiasco, Ann took Jack on his annual Christmas pilgrimage to visit Santa at North Point Mall. JD was out of town on business, but JJ and Big John were able to attend.

Jack was happy and charming while waiting in the long line, patiently posing for Big John's camera and insisting that JJ and Big John take turns holding him. But when we were second in line, performance anxiety set in. Big John carried him over to Santa's lap for the big moment. After prying Jack from his arms and depositing him with Santa, the banshee screams began in earnest. Santa kept him in his lap long enough for 2 pictures, then returned the very upset toddler to his mommy. Once back in Ann's arms and a safe distance away from the evil man in red, all was once again well with the world.

Oh well...there's always next year!

Enjoy some pics of the ill-fated visit to the evil man in red:

Big and Little Johns

Jack introducing JJ

The "Good" official picture

Santa looks so "done"...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing about Edward Said and September 11

When I was in the UGA history masters program I wrote two articles (about Edward Said and September 11, respectively) for the Encyclopedia of the Culture Wars: Issues, Voices, and Viewpoints. Well, the voluminous encyclopedia just came out on October 30 and I got my free copy today. Wooo!

And for the low, low price of $147, you can get yours too!

According to booklist: "This specialized encyclopedia groups a tremendously wide range of topics under the general rubric of “culture wars." Among the more than 600 entries will be found coverage of the American Civil Liberties Union; Barbie doll; Coulter, Ann; Fur; Gangs; Hispanic Americans; Moore, Michael; and Smoking in public. Each entry includes see also references and a bibliography. A "Topic Finder" helps readers find like articles under loose groupings such as “Activists and Advocates,” "Ideologies and Movements," and "Social and Moral Issues." The contributors, virtually all academics, display a rarely bland, sometimes quirky, and usually engaging style of writing. Entries do a good job of explaining why the topics they address are part of the culture wars, and many lay out opposing viewpoints as well as providing context and background. For example, Drug testing explains how the practice began and has grown and outlines the arguments and strategies on both sides. Longer entries, such as Globalization, Health care, and Right to die, offer useful historical summaries showing how various debates have evolved. Statistics, important court cases, and books and other documents are cited throughout the entries, bolstering their authority and objectivity. Culture Wars makes for interesting reading and is recommended for collections in academic and large public libraries.

My contribution is just a small part of this huge work, but any byline is a good byline and I'm thrilled that I had the chance to write on two topics close to my academic interests. Now, on to the next writing project!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Oh, Mommy!"

This fall was an odd season. JD was traveling for work almost every other week to the far ends of the country—Vermont, Massachusetts, Indiana, Arkansas—while rain mellowed what could have been an otherwise gorgeous fall. But we had a blast, just hangin' out at home or at the park (and everywhere in between).

The fall got off to a big start with the kid upgrading from the infant day care room at school, where he spent three days a week, to the curriculum-driven toddler room, where he now spends five days a week. At first he resisted the change, of course, but within a few weeks he began to love the new class. It's good for him to hang around with older more advanced kids and he's learning a lot from them and his new teachers. And the changes we've seen in the kid have been enormous! The improvement in his self-confidence (at home, in public, and on the playground) have been the most impressive. But his advances in language and behaviors (especially his new tendency to pick up after himself) have been equally welcome and surprising.

And when it wasn't raining like the end times, we even had time to get out of the house. We had a blast at the Oakland Park Victorian Festival, introducing Jack to his first bubbles, his first horse and his first horde of Zombies. And we also got back to Monkey Joe's, solo or with Haley and the twins in tow.

But highlights of the fall were certainly our trip the New York for our sixth wedding anniversary, Jack's first costumed Halloween, and Thanksgiving.

We were fortunate to have some holiday options this Halloween—an orange NASA spaceman suit GrandMary got Jack for his first birthday and a Darth Vader outfit Uncie Ed got him for Christmas last year. Ultimately we went with the Darth Jack option, matching his costume with some black Chuck Taylors and a plush red lightsaber. And while the 'lil sir was a little overwhelmed by all the festivities and older kids in costume (at least three of which were also representing the Anakin/Vader theme).

As for Thanksgiving, we were thrilled to get Ann's whole family up from Florida for a big multi-family gathering at JJ's house. And while Jack decided to reject all the fantastic Thanksgiving food until they made it home as leftovers, we had a blast just having everyone together (and letting the other six family members take their turns chasing Jack around while Ann and JD relaxed on the couch with a beer).

And, of course, the 'lil sir had some big firsts for this fall:
  • Jack went up to the toddler class at school.
  • Jack started using new two word/syllable constructions a lot. In addition to his previous "all done" and "hot dog" he now drops "big boy," "out-side," "one more," "up stairs," and more.
  • He's also trying out some long words, like "ambulance" (ambu-ba-du-ba), "elephant" (ele-ba-du-ba), and "buttercup" (be-de-be-de-be-de-be-de).
  • He's begun using the phrase, "Oh, Mommy" instead of "uh-oh." Ann regrets this trend. JD encourages it.
  • He's knows his farm and zoo animal sounds. Especially "oink."
  • He's developed an unhealthy, all-consuming obsession with trucks.
  • He's also developed an unhealthy, all-consuming obsession with hats.
  • He's begun sitting at the kitchen table to read his book.
  • And then he puts them away!
  • He used his first booster seat at a restaurant.
  • His first candy—Kit Kats and Oreos. He loved them.
  • His first ride on a tricycle. He's getting' the need for speed!
  • He played the Wii for the first time with Uncie Ed.
  • Jack started using the big slides at the playground—this is especially entertaining since he still clocks in at only about 30lbs, so he catches some killer air on the bumps and turns. But he LOVES it!
  • And he knows his name!
Enjoy some pics from the season!

Ann introducing Jack to his first horse at
the Oakland Cemetery Victorian Festival.

(Apparently, this horse was really a big dog in disguise)

Space Captain Jack!
(Jack's welcome to be anything he wants when he grows up
so long as he's a space captain)

Rockin' the big cart at Home Depot.

Darth Jack in full costume!

Darth Jack lookin' a little bewildered at
the 'hood's Halloween party

Still a little overwhelmed...

But back in the safety of his own home,
Jack was all about the kids coming out for candy.

Mounting the tallest slide at Riverside Park...

...and the payoff.

Ed and Jack playing Wii.

Jack and GrandMary reading their favorite story.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Iran Hostage Crisis and the Media, 30 Years Later

It's been over two years since I slipped out of grad school after having written my masters' thesis, Shooting the Ayatollah. But on this anniversary of the seizure of the embassy, I can't help but offer up this reminder and shameless plug.

Thirty years ago today, a group calling themselves the Muslim Students Following the Imam's Line captured the US embassy in Tehran. For the 61 Americans working caught on the embassy grounds, the charge d'affairs and his two aides held at the Foreign Ministry across town, and six other Americans hiding in the Canadian and Swedish embassies, their hostage crisis had begun. A 444-day ordeal defined by isolation and mistreatment lay ahead for most of the hostages. A nightmare of torture and abuse lay ahead for an unfortunate few.

But this is not how the Iran hostage crisis began for most Americans. As the students broke into the embassy buildings, and as the hostages were blindfolded and paraded across the grounds, camera viewfinders focused on them. Photojournalists covering the demonstration, or alerted to the seizure of the embassy, rushed to the scene, snapping off iconic images of William Belk, a towering communications and records officer, blindfolded in front of a small group of marine and diplomat hostages. Film crews recorded footage of Jerry Meile, a communications officer hiding in the interior vault, led blindfolded from the chancery between grim-faced militants. For most Americans the hostage crisis began 11.5 hours after the surrender of the chancery when CBS's Bob Schieffer, NBC's Jessica Savitch and Dick Schaap, and ABC's Sam Donaldson began another 444-day ordeal – an ordeal defined by images of angry Iranian demonstrators, a scowling ayatollah, a powerless president, and the ordinary faces of Americans held hostage half a world away.

Shooting the Ayatollah: Photojournalism, the Press, the Foreign Policy Public, and the Iran Hostage Crisis quantifies the volume, type, and tone of images used by the mass-market newsweeklies – Newsweek, Time, and U.S.News and World Report – to depict Iran and the Iran hostage crisis in an attempt to characterize related media coverage. In four chapters, this study's quantitative approach describes the entire life cycle of hostage crisis media – from its creation in Tehran and Washington by news service reporters and Iranian photojournalists, its communication on the pages of the American news magazines, a statistical examination of news media consumption by various strata of American society, and a comparison of the American press and its Arab analogue. This thesis also tests a number of core assumptions about hostage crisis media coverage that dominated the contemporary press and continue to linger in the current historiography, providing a new, more accurate image of the crisis's cultural impact.

Looking back on when I wrote this thesis—Fall 2006 through Spring 2007—I am reminded that it was the result of three happy accidents: The first is my background in graphic design and marketing – experience that taught me the invaluable vocabulary of imagery, content creation, and marketing statistics as well as the means to render that data in a meaningful graphic way. The second and third are my accidental discovery of the hostage diary of Robert Ode in the Carter Presidential library archives and my unplanned meeting of former hostage Chuck Scott at a Burns Club of Atlanta dinner.

Of course, the story's not over. More research can be done, certainly, on the effects the coverage of the crisis had on America's perception of Iran. Even relating to the work in Shooting the Ayatollah, new content quantification techniques have become popular, such as tag clouds, which might help reveal more of the truth behind the story. And, of course, there's the coverage since the crisis, often as vitriolic as that during the crisis—perhaps more so when concerning Persia's most recent leader and the radical transformation of the Iranian-American story. Why, even today, as students gathered to protest outside the defunct US embassy in Iran, their chants were transformed from "Death to Carter" to "Death to the Dictator"—a reference to the current ayatollah.

Read Shooting the Ayatollah: Photojournalism, the Press, the Foreign Policy Public, and the Iran Hostage Crisis

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ann and JD storm the Big Apple for the Big Anniversary

Well, I don't know how big the 6th anniversary is supposed to be, but for us it was a biggie—we took our annual anniversary trip farther afield this year and jetted north for a long weekend in the Big Apple.

We got a fantastic room at the corner of 7th and 57th, just a few yards away from the notorious Carnegie Deli. And we escaped most of the first day's rain inside the MOMA. But it was on the morning of our anniversary that our trip really got going. Ann got me up early and dragged me to church at St. Patrick's on 5th, across from Rockefeller Center.

After church, we got our first great surprise of the trip: The Big Onion's eating tour of the Lower East Side. It was a great walking multi-ethnic eating tour that served up fried plantains (Dominican); kosher pickles (Jewish); halva (Yiddish); sweet and spicy tofu (Chinese); dried rose petals and dried plums (Chinese); soppressata (Italian cured meat), fresh mozzarella, and parmesan reggiano (Italian cheeses); and finally canolli (Italian). Yum!

The trip also gave me the chance to satisfy my twice denied (1999 and 2005) goal of mounting the Empire State Building. I was determined to hit the Empire State Building at my first sunny opportunity. And after a short two hour queue that snaked through the guts of the building we finally made it.

Then came our second great surprise of the trip. After the Empire State Building, we decided to walk back to the hotel only to discover that Times Square had recently been cleared of Broadway vehicle traffic, making it a great big pedestrian mall. Very cool! And on that particular Saturday, Broadway's pedestrian market stretched over seven blocks all the way back to our hotel.

The second day started with our third great surprise: a walk along the newly opened Highline from the Village to Chelsea. Then we rode the subway up to the Natural History Museum so Ann could see the dinosaurs and I could see the Hayden Sphere. And after a walk back through the park we stopped for the best Reeses and Oreo cupcakes ever and headed out to see the hilarious God of Carnage down on Broadway.

But I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention Ann's celebrity sighting's. On our way to the theater, we stopped and had the best burger in New York at Burger Stand in the Le Parker Meridien. While I ran off to the ATM, Ann ran into the Phillies arriving for the World Series. Just the night before she ran into Ashton Kutcher the night before in that exact same spot. One of these sightings made a slightly larger impression on Ann than the other.

And we closed the trip perfectly: a post-show hop up to the Top of the Rock to enjoy the view and a pre-flight morning trip up to one of New York's great unknown museums, The Cloisters (so unknown I had to give the driver directions).

It was a fantastic anniversary all around. Ann and I love New York and can't wait to get back there sometime soon. It'll be blast to introduce Jack to the city when the time is right!

Enjoy some pics from the trip:

A shadow of the Empire State Building

Ann and JD shooting each other in Times Square

Ann on the Highline

Some cool chairs on rails on the Highline

Being goofs on the Highline

Ann at the Natural History Museum

Ann relaxing at Central Park's Sheep Meadow

Ann and JD shooting each other (again) in the park

One of the cloisters brought over stone by stone from Europe

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Summer Ends at the Beach

To wrap up this past summer, we took a trip back to our new favorite beach, Carillon Beach near Panama City Beach. We were looking forward to properly introducing the 'lil sir to the beach and gulf (last time, he was a little young and the weather, a little cold) and to a relaxing week away from the hubbub in Atlanta.

We went with Patrick, Pam, and their one-year old son, Noah. It was great to see the kids playing (as much as two toddlers play with each other and not just near each other). Noah was on the verge of walking when we set out for Florida and we all agree that it was Jack's constant running around him (and into him) that encouraged Noah to take those first few steps while we were there.

But walk as the kids might, neither of them much cared for the beach. Both boys loved the water (though Jack didn't like getting splashed in the face) but at first encounter both Jack and Noah were terrified of sand. It took our 'lil guy a few days to warm up to the silicate stuff enough to walk down to the waterline hand-in-hand with daddy.

One of the best parts of the trip was Jack's introduction to the slide—an oft-repeated activity, since. His initial hesitation was quickly overcome by overwhelming joy. We released his inner dare devil, then. It hasn't come back in since.

The most surprising development, though, was the revelation that Jack is bilingual. He'd been handing us toys and asking us to "Abee" them. It wasn't until we saw him playing with his Spanish-language piggy bank that we put two-and-two together. Next time you see Jack, test him yourself. Ask him to "Abierta" something and he'll open it right up.

We had a great time. Sea. Surf. Good friends. Good food. Good books. Oh, and beer. Yummy.

Enjoy some pics.

Jack figured out how to climb into the rockers

Jack's got the strut

Playing on the Carillon playground

Slides = Awesome

Ann and Jack playing in the pool

Jack and JD standing in the surf

JD and Jack out at sunset

Gettin' some last sun