So this is why they build museums

I’m not one for museums. That’s odd for an artist, don’t you think? I don’t know what it is but I just don’t gravitate toward them. You have to drag me almost kicking and screaming to go to one.

This week a new friend I met at a training session wanted to go to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and she asked me to join her. I didn’t have an excuse not to go other than just not wanting to. And when I thought to myself, “I don’t want to” it sounded pretty lame. So I went.

This post is about a painting and an experience that should forever remind me Continue reading

18 people die in one week of Tennessee’s record setting winter

I have joked about the weather weenies here in Nashville, but I overlooked just how dangerous these conditions can be — and have been — when they occur as rarely as they do in Nashville.

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

Good samaritans Kristi Clark and her son, Carter Oakley, 10, were killed Monday night as she tried to help passengers of an SUV involved in a crash on I-65 in Franklin. (Photo: Courtesy Chelsea Mattocks)

According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency 18 people have lost their lives in the past five days. As of this writing the entire state is in a Level III state of emergency, with severe cold, snow, freezing rain and rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

I’m a native Iowan who has dealt with snow and sub-zero temperatures my entire life. So to hear that 18 people have died this week is a bit hard to understand. So I went in search of Continue reading

Music City knows how to party — until the snow starts to fall

NAS-Tuesday-weather

Icicles hang from a railing over a highway overpass in the metro Nashville area on Tuesday. (Photo by Jae Lee/The Tennessean)

Nashville is in the middle of an historic winter storm. Now, having said that you might think it’s something of Boston proportions.

You’d be wrong.

Nashvillians are in a tizzy over some ice and a little bit of snow. By a little bit I mean about ¼ inch of ice. In the places I’ve lived — Iowa, Chicago, upstate New York and even Missouri — this is not that big of a deal. But Nashville never gets weather like this so they simple don’t have the equipment or the practice to deal with it. And they have hills here — because they didn’t have to think much about how they were going to navigate those hills when they were snow- or ice-covered. Most of the homes here don’t have garages. They don’t have shovels. And they don’t have ice scrapers for the car.

Here’s a little more perspective on Nashville’s winter weather:

  • From 1981 to 2010, the Nashville area received an average of 6.1 inches of snow each winter.
  • The region hasn’t even seen that much snow in four years combined.
  • The biggest single snowfall was 17 inches on March 17, 1892 (we got 16 inches in Columbia, Missouri, just a few years ago.)
  • The largest snowfall of this century was 7 inches on Jan. 16, 2003.

One of the good sides of all of this is that they are scared to drive in this and they stay home, getting out of my way as I head in to work. I was able to buzz down the interstate and a steady 45 mph, leaving people in my wake. (Yes, I know how cocky that sounds.) One of the down sides is they are scared to drive in this so those who are out are going about 20 mph on that same interstate.

You'd never catch me using my circular saw to chip away at the ice. I own a shovel.  (Photo by Jae Lee/The Tennessean)

You’d never catch me using my circular saw to chip away at the ice. I own a shovel. (Photo by Jae Lee/The Tennessean)

It’s also a great opportunity for residents of the Volunteer state to volunteer and be good Samaritans. Yesterday I helped my neighbor scrape the ice from his minivan because all he had to use was one of those old-time wooden folding rulers. He was very grateful for the help. Unfortunately, a pair of good Samaritans were killed yesterday. But please don’t let that stop you from helping your neighbor.

Many were already off for the Presidents Day holiday then they got a bonus day today. Now, because bitter cold weather is predicted for Thursday, many schools have closed for the rest of the week. (Yes, you read that correctly — it’s Tuesday and they have closed for the rest of the week.)

But it’s a great time for sledders and photographers of all types. The Tennessean photo staff has been cranking out the pictures and those home-bound viewers are taking advantage of our website being free until we can start delivering again. We’re also posting pictures from our readers — they’re getting a kick out of this unusual weather and want to document it as much as possible.

Speaking of delivering, calls about undelivered papers have been flowing to the newsroom instead of circulation. Today I handled a couple of those calls, including one from a sweet-sounding older woman. She said she’s been a subscriber for 30 years and didn’t get her paper yesterday or today. Something about this call tugged at my heart so I took down her address (but forgetting to get her name or phone number.) I scrambled around to find the two newspapers and went so far as to sign up for Uber to have them delivered. I didn’t get to deliver them, but we did get those papers to her. The Tennessean — like many American newspapers — has some very loyal print subscribers.

Well, I gotta go. Another aspect of Nashville homes is that they aren’t well-insulated for winter weather. I’ve got to go turn on a faucet so that my pipes don’t freeze tonight.

I hope you enjoyed these photos by Tennessean staff photojournalist Jae Lee.

Stay warm, my friends.

 

Saturday morning Nashville

020715 Nasville morning loThis morning I went to a volunteer event in North Nashville. I wanted to go to it for a number of reasons:

  • I wanted to learn about the group sponsoring the event, Dogs Deserve Better, a national organization with a chapter in Nashville. I left Columbia vowing to get more life in my life, and this might be an organization I give some time to. They work to free dogs from a life being chained up in yards. Today’s event was a fence build, the group builds a fenced-in area in a residents yard so that their dog can roam freely, unchained, in a safe area.
  • I hired a freelancer to cover the event, a guy I’d hired before but had not yet met in person. This was a good time to meet him. And lastly,
  • I had not yet been to this area of the city and I couldn’t recall any stories we’d done out of that neighborhood.

I accomplished all of these goals with this picture as the cherry on top. As I turned the last corner on the way to the homes for the build I saw this. The light was wonderful in the way it silhouetted the kids who were playing both football and basketball in the street. The light also played off the power lines and reflected off the cars, which lined both sides of the streets. It struck me as a classic urban scene. Just a few hours later that beautiful light was gone. And so were the kids.

Why I share cute photos on Twitter

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency.

One of the more adorable photos found on Cute Emergency, and it doesn’t even have a real animal in it.

There are a lot of people who hate the proliferation of cute animal photos that litter the Internet. For the most part I do, too. Then I discovered Cute Emergency on Twitter.

hood lifeThe first time a Cute Emergency tweet popped up on my screen I’m sure it made me smile. I know this because almost all of them make me smile. But at that time I wasn’t going to give it — I just smiled and went on with my day. Then on a particularly tough day one of those tweets popped up, mostly likely a puppy. I smiled as usual but instead of moving on I thought that others might need the same kind of lift I had just gotten. So I retweeted and didn’t regret it.

Most of my friends and colleagues have stressful jobs and work long hours. In journalism we deal in a fair share of news that makes us feel bad. So when a picture like this comes across my Twitter feed, I feel good, if just for a moment, and I need that moment of release. I need that reminder that indeed most of what happens in our lives is pleasant and wonderful.

a study in whiteI try to be frugal about what I retweet because I don’t want to clutter your Twitter or Facebook stream, causing you to unfollow or unfriend me. This is a situation where less is definitely more.

If you like a ton of cute animal photos in your day, follow Cute Emergency. If you want just a sprinkling of those cute photos, follow me.

The standards for showing grief vary, depend on many factors

There’s no easing into my job here at The Tennessean. After a relatively slow day of training on Monday, the past three days have been hectic, filled with news and lots of meetings.

It’s only been four days and we’ve already had a stimulating ethics conversation about a photograph of a grieving widow.

Thankfully these conversations don’t come along often and I’m grateful that my years at the Missouri School of Journalism gave me chances to practice these Continue reading

Packing up, letting go

Moving sucks. That’s a no-brainer.

Moving 11 years of stuff — some of which I never even unpacked — sucks even more.

I think I've always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

I think I’ve always been the only African American photographer on a photo staff. As such, I took pride in covering that community, to give them a much needed voice.

Some of the stuff was pretty easy to let go of, like a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn since I moved to Columbia. Other stuff is much tougher. A good friend here told me to purge my old things from my life.

“Remember with affection the part of you that used and even loved those things and those times in your life, and release her, too. I’ll be the first to agree it’s not easy. But you are on to new things, and you need to cut out the dead wood to make room in your life for fresh growth.”

But there’s something I have that I’m not sure I can part with, but not sure if I should keep, and I need your suggestions:

What do you do with more than 14 years of newspaper clips? (I’ve been in journalism since I was 19, so this includes my college years with the Drake Times-Delphic and about 10 years at Continue reading

I’m leaving teaching and heading back into the newsroom, back to Gannett

This is what I wore for my interview. I always wear earrings for important things.

This is what I wore for my interview. I always wear earrings for important things.

I imagine that headline may have shocked you a little bit.

Shocked that I would leave the teaching job I have loved.
Shocked that I would go back into a newsroom.
Shocked that I would go to a Gannett newsroom.

I get it. Here’s the short answer: I have a great job, unfortunately it’s in Columbia, Missouri. I’m not quitting the Missouri School of Journalism — I’m quitting Columbia. It’s been 11 years here and I have learned and grown a lot. But mostly at the professional level. My personal life has not progressed and it’s time for a little more balance in my life, balance I haven’t been able to find in Columbia. I wasn’t looking to move on at this time, but an interesting job came along in a much bigger city: Continue reading

Third year for China, Beijing and tennis, still a great trip

Mizzou students at the Great Wall near Beijing. From left are Jake Lutes, Jason Steimer, Jason Bredehoeft, Andrew Kauffman, Paxton DiBlasi and Daniel Shapiro.

Mizzou students at the Great Wall near Beijing. From left are Jake Lutes, Jason Steimer, Jason Bredehoeft, Andrew Kauffman, Paxton DiBlasi and Daniel Shapiro.

 

People leave offerings of food at Buddha idols at the Wall.

People leave offerings of food at Buddha idols at the Wall.

It took me a while, but I’ve finally put together a selection of photos from China. Getting back home is an exhausting 24 hours of travel, getting in late on a Monday night. I was able to take Tuesday off but right back into the thick of it on Wednesday. Getting back is the hardest part of the trip.

In my photography I tried not to duplicate what I’ve shot before but I was sick several days this year and didn’t get to do as much. (I went to the Great Wall again but was too weak to climb very far.)

For those who don’t know, the University of Missouri (where I teach) has a journalism class that covers the China Open tennis tournament, held in the Olympic tennis park in Beijing. The students write stories which are used on the English-language side of the China Open website. We also have several days available for touring, shopping, getting lost, etc. This is like the third time I’ve gone.

The tournament wasn’t as good this year for me because Serena Williams dropped out with an injury and Venus Williams dropped out due to illness. Djokovic won again, which was nice to see. He’s a really nice guy and is much loved in China.

I hope you find something here that causes you to smile or to wonder or the react. I try to create moments to share with others, not just memories that have no meaning beyond me. You can see other images from China in my posts from 2012 and 2011. Use keyword “china” to search for them.

Madison Keys, a player to watch on the women’s tennis circuit

Beijing — I took some time today to watch Madison Keys play. She’s practically an Iowan, born in Rock Island, Illinois. She’s currently ranked 32 on the women’s tour, is 19 years old and turned professional in 2009 — and beat Serena Williams . Today she was beaten by German Andrea Petkovic pretty handily. Keys didn’t play badly, Petkovic, ranked No. 17 and eight years older, played better.

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