Saturday, November 28, 2009

And ... Action!

Because my reporting and writing has generally been limited to print media, interviewing people for stories has always meant taking notes while wearing a hardhat on a construction site, sitting in a fancy conference room, or while talking on the phone, bribing children of varying ages to be quiet with Popsicles and lollipops. Unbeknownst to most interviewees (hopefully), I've changed diapers, made pancakes and breastfed babies while conducting phone interviews.

I like to think I've gotten pretty good at focusing on listening and getting good quotes while all hell breaks loose around me.

But up until this past year, I'd never tried to conduct an interview while surrounded by lights and cameras.

I am a freelance writer for a lovely publication called "Seasons," which publishes three regional magazines four times a year. Last spring, Publisher Jim Tulley came up with this great idea to tape a cable show to accompany each issue, and run the 30-minute program on local cable stations. Cable channels are hungry for content, and Simsbury Community Television offered to help us produce a quarterly show. I'd be the show's host, he said. Gulp.

While I'm hesitant to refer to myself as either old or a dog, I have to admit it's been hard teaching this old dog a new trick.

I've got to think that if I did this kind of thing as a 22-year-old college grad, attempting to speak and breathe and think simultaneously wouldn't be so difficult. But it is.

For the most part, when I interview someone for a newspaper or magazine article, I give probably .01 percent of my attention to my appearance. My energy goes towards writing down complete quotes and thinking towards the next question.

Even when I've filled in for radio dude Colin McEnroe -- who, coincidentally, finishes each episode of the show with a diatribe about butternut squash or postage stamps -- I've been able to relax and groove during interviews.

But watching the first two episodes of "Seasons Up Close," it's clear that I'm ridiculously nervous. Those hot lights turn on and I'm like Cindy Brady in the episode when she freezes in front of the cameras on the quiz show.

The third time -- we can only hope -- was the charm. We just finished taping the winter episode, which, thankfully, featured five friends from my book club -- there to talk about, of all things, book clubs -- and began with a visit to Plan B in Simsbury, where our fantastic waitress kept our glasses full and our spirits high.

Here's to hoping that a bit of experience, a bit more Chardonnay and good friends will equal 30 minutes of watchable television.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Sign of the Times

Most of the lawn signs have been pulled from the ground and tossed in the back of somebody's pickup truck. The fall landscape is much prettier now, and I sure hated seeing those political pleas muck up our town as much as the next guy.

But because my candidate -- for whom I made phone calls, threw a fund-raiser, passed out fliers, knocked on doors and waved like an idiot to potential voters -- didn't win, the absence of the signs is adding to my sadness.

Or maybe it's not the signs. I think what's really pushed me into a post-election funk is my disappointment in the way Farmington voters clearly chose not to think about each candidate before filling in those little bubbles, but instead voted along party lines. My unproven theory is this: Because the Democratic challenger to the incumbent Republican Town Council Chair ultimately became a formidable opponent and a serious threat to the 60-year GOP monopoly in town, the Republican party mobilized. As it should have. They organized, they worked hard and they got out the vote. Fine.

What's irking me is this: Despite the fact that one particular Republican candidate for town council who has been called a racist, a sexist and an embarrassment by his own Republican colleagues, was voted smoothly back into office. He's got "ethics issues" and a tendency to say inappropriate things at inappropriate times. I can easily say that despite the fact that I'm a registered Democrat I would not have voted for him if he was on our Democratic ticket.

But Republican voters came out to fight and they won. I don't begrudge them their win. I do, however, take issue with supporting a candidate for no reason other than the letter R that follows his name. This was not a case of choosing the lesser of evils, which we've all experienced in higher level elections. There were plenty of good candidates from which to choose.

How divided are we to become?

On election day I sat next to the teenaged daughter of a former Republican council member for a three-hour "unofficial poll checker" shift. We both knew we were on opposite sides of the day's battle, but we worked together as a team, helping each other check off voters on our respective lists. We chatted, made each other laugh and made the tedious job go by quickly. As one Republican candidate said to me later in the day, when I was telling him how much I enjoyed hanging out with my Republican counterpart, he said "You were both there for the same reason. After the election, we've all got to work together as a team."

He's right. But it seems like some of us keep forgetting that. Do the politicians making daily statements to the press about health care reform understand that we don't care which side of the aisle they're on? We want them to work together to make things better.

I often get very emotional when I vote. I feel a sense power but mostly a sense of gratitude. I am grateful to the women who worked so hard almost 90 years ago to make it possible for me to cast my vote for the candidates who best represent me and my ideals. It sure would be great if every voter would take that right -- that privilege -- as seriously every time they fill in those little bubbles.