Tag Archives: David Dunn

Staring At My Ice Reflection

There’s a little spot outside of my grandparent’s house in Chicago, IL, a white little gazebo that rests quietly by the lake in the park. I walk to it every year when I visit, usually in December. As I traverse through my personal winter wonderland, where snow cakes over the fields like frosting and the snowflakes brush against my face, I always stop at that spot and look at the frozen layer of ice staring back at me below.

I always feel a temptation to jump over the ledge and onto the ice, but I never act on this impulse. I imagine, of course, that the ice would collapse under my weight and I would fall into the frozen lake below, the cold water stabbing the nerves in my body, paralyzing me, and sinking me into the deep abyss where I would surely meet my end. But there’s a part of me that wonders, maybe even hopes, that the ice would be strong enough to hold me. That I could skate and slide all over the ice as happily as could be, enjoying and exploring a little more of my own winter wonderland.

That feeling I get when I look over that lake is the same feeling I’ve been having for the past few weeks now, ever since my college graduation. I feel like there’s a large sheet of ice that I’m looming over right now, and I don’t know if it’ll be strong enough to hold me. I have no choice whether or not to jump, of course, but after I jump… what is next? Will I be able to stand on it confidently, or will I collapse, fall in the frozen lake, and drown to death?

I would be lying to you if I said that it hasn’t be a strange five years for me. At this same time in 2011, I went through my high school graduation and faced the worst panic attack of my life so far. I remember my eyes darting from left to right frantically, looking for danger that wasn’t there. Tears kept streaming down my face, even though I didn’t know where they were coming from. And my right hand wouldn’t stop shaking, even hours after the attack had ended. The nerves in my body were so shot that I don’t think they knew how to process the things that were going on with my body.

Whenever I go through a panic attack nowadays, I’m usually able to get control of it either through deep breathing or distracting myself with other priorities. But back then, I had no control over it. As a result, I faced the full onslaught of my emotions, not knowing how to respond, react to, or process any of it. I’ve went through a lot of traumatic memories in the past few years, from heartbreak to getting fired from my job. My high school graduation remains to be my worst memory by far, hands down.

From there, I went through my first few years of my undergraduate, which was a very difficult transition for me to say the least. I started off my college career majoring in film, and the art department quickly proved how useless they were in my academic development. For one thing, the film professors that I had built curriculum mostly around film theory, which wasn’t very helpful when it came to my personal training. I needed technical help, instruction on how to operate a camera, white balance, frame, focus a shot, operate a boom mic, construct a lighting kit, etc. The help they were offering was in explaining the rule of thirds, the 180 rule, linear editing, and many other techniques which would take too long to explain here.

Note that I am not criticizing film theory as a whole. I am criticizing their teaching of film theory. Theory has an important place in film education, and that is in forming a general basis where filmmakers can start from to build and form their own ideas. Film theory is vitally important to the film industry, but at the end of the day, film theory is just theory. Artists have twisted, adjusted, and even straight-up broken numerous rules of film as the industry further developed, and in most cases, those breaking of the rules worked because it was for the narrative of those particular films.

The problem that I, and many other students, were facing in that department was that my professors were focused too much on theory and not enough on application. When I finally left the department, I still didn’t know how to operate a camera, I didn’t know how to use most of the editing software, and I developed no technical skills beyond what I already learned in high school. It was a wasteful education for a wasteful degree, so I left the department looking for help in other areas that I could find.

I soon transferred over to the communication department to major in broadcast journalism, which soon proved to be an immeasurably better education choice for me. I became the film critic for my newspaper, The Shorthorn, and soon moved to manage my own staff as a section editor. I worked as a radio personality for UTA Radio and hosted my own radio show, “The Talkie Tuesdays with David Dunn.” And this past year, I worked as a reporter, producer, and anchor for our broadcast station, UTA News. That last job in particular was special to me because it combined two of my passions: filming and writing.

The most unusual choice I made while I was in college was to join a fraternity. I never thought much of Greek life: I always imagined that it was filled with a bunch of egotistical, facetious hooligans that were more interesting in drinking and hazing than they were in academics and career-building. But the young man that I met in my advertising class back in 2013 demonstrated otherwise. He showed me pictures of his brothers working with the Boys and Girls Club down the street, talking about how Kappa Sigma was the leading philanthropy-based fraternity in the nation, and that they were on their way to coming back onto campus. He encouraged that I speak with the chapter’s rush chair and president, which I begrudgingly agreed to.

That meeting proved to be fruitful in more ways than one. The young men that I spoke to seemed a lot like me: young, ambitious, always looking ahead, eager to make a connection and have an impact on their campus. When I started the meeting, I told the them that regardless of how the meeting went, I would have to go home and discuss it with my parents. Yet by the end of that meeting, I decided to pay the registration fee and sign up right there on the spot.

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That spur-of-the-moment decision proved to be the best one I made. Not only did I get the opportunity to work on my chapter’s executive board as secretary: I also got to travel to Virginia, work in headquarters as an intern, and even won a national award for my term in office during 2015. My college years were a very strange mix of good and bad things. Kappa Sigma was easily the best.

I’ve gained a lot, yet lost a lot in the short five years that I’ve had. I’ve had four amazing internships in my last year of college, yet I was fired from a job I really cared about at the end of 2015. I feel deeply in love with someone in 2014, only to have my heart broken by this same woman later in 2015. I’ve built friendships with people I thought I’d never connect with, only to have some of them eventually abandon me altogether. I neither judge nor feel harshly towards these people. I’ve come to learn that friends make life worth living, and yet, they come and go as frequently as the wind. I hope a few of them stick around, but I won’t be surprised if most of them don’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this has been a trying time for me, but it has also been a worthwhile one as well. I’ve been asked this important question before: “If you died tonight in your sleep, did you feel like you lived a happy life?” Five years ago, my answer would have been no, because really I didn’t have much of a life to live. But after going through the highs and lows of employment, heartbreak, academics, friendship, and the pursuit of happiness, I can confidently say that my answer has changed. Yes. Yes I have lived a happy life, although I highly doubt that it ends here.

So to the people who have entered and left my life, I want to say thank you. Thank you to my dear friends Connor and Warren, who have impossibly been by my side since my traumatic high school experience. Thank you to Jayme, who has both healed and broken my heart. Thank you to Laurie, Andrew, and Julian, who has given me leadership and guidance in areas where others have ignored. Thank you to Nick, Magnus, Steven, Erick, Izzak, Davis, Dylan, Mitch, Sir, Micky, and many, many others that have given me a second family in Kappa Sigma. Thank you to my loyal readers who have kept up with this website since its creation in 2012. There really are no other words major enough or appropriate enough to say. Thank you.

 

I don’t know what’s next for me. Who would know? But as I plunge into the ice lake beneath me, I hope that it will be strong enough to support my next step. And if it isn’t, I’ll learn to swim to the next one. I’ve drowned once before. I’m not so afraid to be drowning again.

Merry Christmas.

– David Dunn

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Living On The Autism Spectrum

I think it’s time I made a confession, although I consider it less of a confession and more of a confirmation. I have Asperger’s syndrome.

“What’s that?” you might ask. Asperger’s is a mental disorder that has extreme irregularities with social development and nonverbal communication. Think of Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network, Steve Jobs or Michael Burry from The Big Short, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the disease is like. It’s a condition that exists on the Autism spectrum, and many doctors consider it a high-functioning form of Autism.

In a way, I guess you could say I’m half Autistic.

I’ve known this for a long time. In many ways, I’ve always known. Ever since I was a child, I struggled to understand my peers and to talk and communicate with them. I couldn’t read facial expressions. I couldn’t interpret sarcasm. I couldn’t tell whether someone liked me or if they were afraid of me. I said things in the wrong way, or used the wrong tone of voice. I hurt people’s feelings and I didn’t even know I was doing it. I’ve always felt like an alien inside of my own body, and I sometimes wondered if everyone else was clued in on some big secret that they were all intentionally hiding from me. It was a very lonely, confusing experience, and most of the time, I didn’t know what was happening with myself or the people around me.

When I was 12 years old, my dad pulled me aside and told me that I had Asperger’s syndrome. Like you, I didn’t know what it was at first. Then my dad read to me all of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. That kids displaying traits of Asperger’s were socially inept. They couldn’t read nonverbal cues. They were hypersensitive. They could spend hours over subjects or tasks they found interesting. They could hyper-analyze on anything they wanted to focus on, even to the point where it hurt them to keep thinking about it.

I had listened to all of these symptoms, and wondered if they were writing about Asperger’s or if they were writing about me.

Over time, I’ve learned to live with the both the good and bad of Asperger’s. On one hand, thanks to my intense interest in certain subjects (like movies), I’ve become very knowledgable on the ins and outs of certain fields. I don’t know many people that can recall most best picture, director, screenplay, and acting winners at most awards ceremonies. I can, and that’s a small thing about myself that I’m proud of.

On the other hand, the negative effects of Asperger’s has been obviously detrimental to say the least. In terms of building relationships, it is a never-ending battle of interpretation and understanding, and usually, I’m always on the losing end.

I’ve recently had the motivation to publish an opinion column on The Dallas Morning News about my struggles with Asperger’s. There was no particular reason behind this. I’ve just felt that the disease has been something that I’ve been unintentionally hiding for some time, and it wasn’t something that needed to be hidden. Like most kids with Autism, they don’t have a choice in hiding what they have to the people around them, and it subjects them to insults and cruelty. Since they don’t have a choice in being Autistic, why should I have a choice in having Asperger’s?

Yet, I’ve learned to cope with my illness not in negativity, but in practicality. In one of my favorite stories I’ve ever reported on, I profiled a college student that had dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, and attention deficit disorder. I don’t know how he does it. Asperger’s has been enough of a struggle for me. How does he deal with struggling to read, hear, write, and keep up with daily tasks?

The thing that had the most profound effect on me while interviewing him was how casually he saw his illness. He often laughed about it and smiled about the funny things he did, not drowning himself in sadness over what he could or couldn’t do.

He didn’t see his dyslexia. He saw himself.

“Someone with dyslexia is no better or worse than someone without it,” I remember him saying. “They’re just different.”

I listened to this statement, and pretended “dyslexia” was replaced with “Asperger’s.” I have since chosen to see myself in this same light, and I encourage other people to do the same. We all have struggles in one way, shape, or form. Mine just comes with a diagnosis. In realizing that disability does not define, I give power to the fact that I am David Dunn and I am not Asperger’s syndrome. I hope others choose to pursue their identities over their illness as well.

To read my piece in The Dallas Morning News, click here

 David Dunn 

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“SPOTLIGHT” Review (✫✫✫✫)

“Shine a light, and let the whole world see.”

In the Boston Globe story on the 1990 Church abuse scandal, the Spotlight team reported that there were over 130 sexual assault victims from just one Catholic priest. In the film Spotlight, we eventually learn that over 80 Boston priests were sexual predators, and were being continuously circulated from parish to parish. If those numbers are consistent, how many victims of sexual assault does that spell out for Boston? My math came down to over 10,000.

I don’t know if that’s accurate because I haven’t dug much further into the Boston Globe’s reporting, but I don’t think that matters. What matters is that Spotlight made me think of those victims. It made me think about the people that you don’t normally think about, the problems that you don’t think exist, and the secrets that you don’t think are being hidden behind prayers and confession booths. Like any great piece of reporting, Spotlight brings importance, urgency, and truth that needs to be known about. If Spotlight isn’t the best film of the year, it is definitely the most important.

The Spotlight team consists of lead editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) and reporters Matt Carol (Brian d’Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo). The team is specifically reserved for investigative reporting, previously breaking stories on transit mismanagement and political corruption in Massachusetts. At the time when they were given this assignment, it was not as a follow-up to a news story, but to a column written and published by one of the Globe’s staffers.

At first, no one really thought much of the project. When originally pitched, it had to do with the Catholic church finding out that one priest had sexually assaulted children in six different churches, and did nothing about it. But when the team kept digging, they found out that it was bigger than they anticipated. Much bigger.

While watching Spotlight, I was thrusted upon an early memory of one of my first major news assignments. It was a story called “Seconds Away,” and it was about a university alumna who was just seconds from crossing the finish line before it blew up during the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The story wasn’t that she survived. It was that she went back the following year to finish crossing the line that she never did.

While getting ready for our interview, I was excited, nervous, and petrified all at once. This was a woman who had survived a near-death experience. She had faced something few other people have had to face, myself included. I didn’t know how to approach it. Was she comfortable with me talking to her? Would I be insensitive by asking serious questions? Would I be disrespectful by asking what was going through her mind? What would that say of me as a person, by asking her to relive something traumatic that she already went through?

The reporters and editors behind Spotlight face these same questions and concerns of morality every day they step into the office. Yet, they handled this difficult subject in the same way that the movie does: with grace and respect.

The greatest thing that can be said about Spotlight is its transparency: in how its characters charge towards this groundbreaking story and the emotions and conflicts they experience while doing their jobs. Writer-director Tom McCarthy, who was raised Catholic, juggles this behind-the-scenes story with real people’s traumas and emotions in mind. The result is a portrait that is genuine, astounding, mind-blowing, and heartbreaking all at once.

Take the interview scenes as a demonstration of this. During the film’s first scenes, Spotlight reporters sit down with a few sex abuse survivors, their brokenness and vulnerability made evident on the spot. The interesting thing you’ll find in between these intercut scenes is that it’s not Rachel McAdam’s mannerisms we’re noticing. It’s not Mark Ruffalo’s reactions or face of shock we’re noticing. It’s the supporting actors playing these victims, whom I can’t even identify off of the film’s cast list. Every detail of them is absorbing and introspective.

We notice the gay man in a coffee shop as he twiddles his thumbs nervously on his coffee cup. We notice the skinny drug addict sweating, entering the room cautiously, seeing scars up his arms from when he injected himself with heroin. We notice that while their testimonies are overwhelmingly tragic, they talk about it casually and on a whim; like it’s a scar that has already been healed, but will never go away. We listen to their silence as they quietly relive their traumas, the quivering in their voice as they slowly speak, the tears building up in their eyes as they come to once again realize what they are. I find that so compelling, that one of the best things in this film are the actors that I can’t even name.

The rest of the film is like that: finding value in the areas that you can’t exactly point out, but you know they are there. For instance, who’s the main protagonist? You could argue Rezendes, because he has the most visible reaction from working on this story. In reality though, this story is impacting the entire Spotlight team and more. It impacts everyone, in ways that nobody realizes until it walks right up to their doorstep.

This movie takes time and dedication to build up its story and collect the necessary information, just like Spotlight’s reporters do. In doing that, this is undeniably a slow film, but the pace doesn’t matter as much as the payoff. Spotlight deserves to be sought out. It is one of those rare films that not only makes us better viewers, but also better human beings.

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Dear Twitter: I’m Sorry

Dear Twitter.com,

Hi. I know it’s been a long time. How have you been? Good, I hope. I know things haven’t been the same since, well, you know. I know we’ve been through a lot together, I know that you hold some things against me and I’ve equally held some things against you, but for at least the next few moments, I want to put that behind us just so I can talk to you.

I remember the first time that we met each other. It was August 2012, when my entertainment editor at the time told me that I needed to get a twitter account. The idea infuriated me. “Twitter?!” I thought. “Who wants to deal with that bull4#5+?!”

But I remained open to the idea. I knew for my new job as the film critic that I had to build a social media presence that would help me in my audience syndication, similar to how Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper developed their presence and identities on the blogosphere. But the idea intimidated me. I was never a sociable guy in high school and I wasn’t much better in college. How could I possibly succeed at being social on a site I knew nothing about?

Then I met you. Boy, was my world turned upside down. I was instantly attracted to how neat and clean your format looked, how bright and colorful your pages were and how each tweet was as legible as a line of text messages. But it wasn’t just how you looked: your assets were tantalizing, your tutorial simplistic and ideal and your interface user-friendly. I knew from the moment I met you that we had something special, something that no other blogger could ever match. You and I were more than a team; we were star-crossed lovers, taking down the blogosphere one tweet at a time.

At least, that’s what we both thought. It was good the first few months, with you filling up my feed with content and with me tweeting out stories and pictures as if I knew what I was doing. Soon though, we both started doing things that set both of us on edge, and I don’t think we’ve been the same ever since.

For instance, you would always punish me for writing a tweet longer than 140 characters, and always asserting me with the answer “No” when I told you to publish it. I would yell at you for telling me no and shout at you about why the hell it was 140 characters instead of 140 words. You said that the tweet would be long and unappealing. I told you that your rants were long and unappealing.

We said hurtful things to each other, and our passion and love for each other was all but gone. In short, the reality of the romance quickly set in, and while we kept trying with each other, things just weren’t working out between us.

You remember how things went from there. After talking for a long while, we decided to go our separate ways and see other tweeters.

I’m not going to lie to you, the experience really hurt me. Do you know what bothered me the most though? It wasn’t the fact that you were mean to me. It wasn’t the fact that you were strict or stiff about the boundaries of our relationship. It wasn’t even the fact that you criticized me for any tweet that was over 15 words. It was the fact that you never let me know how you truly feel.

Please don’t lie, it’s the truth. You never talked to me about why the tweets couldn’t be over 140 characters. You never talked to me about what was wrong with you when I had five bars of WiFi, or why it took so long to upload a small file photo. You never even talked to me about your needs, about what you wanted in our relationship and why I wasn’t satisfying you in the ways I was supposed to.

I was not hurt that you were seeing other tweeters. I was hurt because you never talked to me about why. Why did you never talk to me?

It doesn’t matter. I miss you, and I want to give this a second shot. I know, I know, you’re scared and you don’t want this to fail a second time. Let me assure you: I know my mistakes. We didn’t agree on the character limit or the picture space. So what? I don’t care about that. I want to make this work, and I’m willing to work on my mistakes if it means being with you again. This isn’t a joke, and this isn’t me pranking you. I feel like I can make this work. I need you.

If you want to give this a second shot, you can reach me at my twitter handle @dDUnn87. Funny, huh? Exchanging twitter handles just like when we first met.

I won’t pressure you with anything more. I just wanted you to know that I miss you and I want to give this a second shot. Please reach me if you want to as well. I hope you do.

Truly yours,

David Anthony Dunn

P.S.: I saw you online today. You looked lovely.

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Now I Have A Radio Show. Ho-Ho-Ho.

Perhaps I am a little untimely by posting this in late March, when in reality this has been going on since February. Nevertheless, a starkly different turn has been taken for me involving my recent broadcasting career. So here goes.

I am officially now a radio talk show host for the University of Texas at Arlington’s official internet radio station. I run my own one-hour show live every Tuesday at 10 a.m. where I discuss everything about movies, from news headlines, to upcoming releases, and a review of a new release coming out that week.

It’s called “The Talkie Tuesdays with David Dunn”, and it is everything that I have ever dreamed of it being.

My foray into radio started a long time ago, back when I was a new broadcasting student in Fall of 2013. After experiencing the penultimate failure and disarray of the film department here at the university, I explored other possible venues into the communications department, ones that would help improve my skills technically and help market myself professionally.

That opportunity started in UTA Radio. Having introduced myself as the film critic of the UTA Shorthorn, I pitched a segment idea to the station’s executive producer and manager, Lance Liguez. It was called “The Movie Minute With David Dunn” and it was literally a 60-second review of a movie that came out that week, either in theaters or on DVD.

I know, I know, 60 seconds sounds like a very short time. In radio, however, I can’t tell you how much time that is, and how inconvenient it is for the entire program if you run even a second over. Regardless, Lance was very helpful to me in introducing me to the profession of radio. He gave me pointers on how to have a better announcing voice, introduced me to the station and granted me access to the recording studios as well. He introduced me with my production team (my bosses), and the people I’d be working for as long as I would be contributing to the station. He paired me up with broadcaster Tracie Hill, who ran the news program at the time, and also introduced me to the station manager Charlie Vann, of whom I would send my recordings to so he can edit them into Tracie’s segments.

Fast forward to present day. As a part of Lance’s radio production class, I am getting even more experience than I did before. As I already stated, I was scheduled for a 10 a.m. Tuesday shift for UTA Radio. Originally, my shifted consisted of little more than playing music and coming on saying “You’re listening to UTA Radio.com”. When we were reformatting our shows, however, I couldn’t have been more excited to reformat mine into a talk show and do what I love most: talk about movies.

This new format started two weeks ago. I didn’t post anything on this yet because I was both nervous and I was afraid I would be ready for live announcing. After getting a better feel of it, however, I must say that I think this is working out for me and I’m ready to advertise it in the best way I know how: shamelessly plug it on my personal blog. Horray for bloated egos!!!

Long and short of this post, I would like to invite you to check out my show. If you didn’t read the previous seven paragraphs, my show is on 10 a.m. every Tuesdays on UTA Radio. It won’t be on any regular F.M. or A.M. band. It’s an online radio broadcast channeled through iHeart radio and can be accessed through http://www.utaradio.com

Thank you to everyone for your support and for your interest not only in my reviews, but in my constantly progressing career. The communication department here has been more than helpful with all of my skills that I’ve been developing, and I cannot wait to continue to develop it here at the University of Texas at Arlington.

I’ll see you, fellow moviegoers, at the movies.

-David Dunn

Post-script: I’ll give you one more chance: 10 a.m. Tuesdays at http://www.utaradio.com

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