Tag Archives: UTA

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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He’s Not Fat. He’s Fluffy.

Out of all of the celebrity interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of going to, I don’t believe I’ve ever had as much fun as I did speaking with comedian Gabriel Iglesias. Iglesias, who also goes by his comedic identity as “Fluffy” was born 1976 in California, which is also his current place of residence. After we introduced ourselves, he talked about how he’s been up since 6 a.m. promoting for his new movie The Fluffy Movie, in theaters July 26, and how he just got to eat.

That’s when I noticed his shirt, which sported a logo of a famous autobot that I loved from a series featuring transforming robots.

“Can I just say that I love your shirt?” I told him.

“Man, I love it to,” he replied. “Even though they don’t want me to market with it. They’re like ‘You should be wearing your old shirt!’ I’m like ‘Man, come on. Really?'”

As we sat down at got ourselves comfortable, me and the other journalists at the table starting asking him questions regarding his early beginning as a comedian. Before becoming the highly-popular comedic phenomenon that he is, Iglesias worked as a salesman for a company called LA Cellular, which would later merge with a company called AT&T.

“We call them the cancer phones, the ones where you put them against your head and you can feel like you’re talking with a microwave,” Iglesias said. “Like, you could use your phone as a weapon. If you dropped your phone back then, you could throw your phone, it was fine, it was industrial, it was meant to last. Not like now, you dropped it off a table, you’re like ‘Oh shoot, there goes 800 bucks.’”

Iglesias took his chance at comedy when he went into a club late into his career as a phone salesman. He even remembered the date that he first performed: April 10th, 1997.

“There was somebody  in the crowd that saw me and he goes ‘Hey, you’re funny. We got a comedy show at this nightclub next week. I’ll pay you $20,'” he said. “So after my first night performing, I already got my first paid gig.”

When I asked him about when he hit mainstream attention, when he became “Fluffy”, he corrected me, saying at how those were two different things.

“I was always known as the Fluffy guy, ever since I started,” he said. “That was always a nickname. In the beginning, people wouldn’t remember ‘Gabriel Iglesias.’ After the show, it’s ‘Hey, good job Fluffy!’ I’m like ‘Ugh, come on man, half of my name is already famous, work with me!’ I would be like, really?”

Iglesias said his career took off once he learned to use the name “Fluffy”.

“I just started embracing it so much that I started marketing it,” he said. “Now its to the point where years later, if you type ‘Fluffy’ in Google or Bing, I’d beat everything. I’m number one. I’d beat out bunnies, cotton candy, quilts, you name it. It works for me, and I’d rather people call me Fluffy than mess with my name. It’s one word, like ‘Cher.’ If I dropped Gabriel Iglesias all together and I just started going by Fluffy tomorrow, people would totally take it.”

Iglesias said that the key to his success has been through networking. That networking has been the key to everything.

“I know a lot of funny guys, guys that are hysterical, that will floor you, leave you bent over just laughing hard, but you know what? They’re really bad at returning phone calls,” Iglesias said. “They’re bad at social networks, they’re really bad at just dealing with people one-on-one, and you know, just negotiating and simple basic things that they’re crippled with, but they’re talented on stage. So someone like that, they need really good management, someone that’s going to be patient with them, somebody that’s going to understand them and speak on their behalf.”

After a journalist mentioned how Iglesias manages all of his own social media, Iglesias said handling it himself has been a big deal to him.

“I don’t want someone speaking on my behalf that’s going to say something I don’t want to say,” he said. “You can tell it’s me that writes the stuff because the grammar is so f—– up. I write everything with an ‘r’ instead of ‘a-r-e’, or a number two instead of ‘to’, I still don’t know how to spell ‘there’ the right way. I always jack that one up, people always correct me, and I’m like ‘Really? Why’d you got to correct me? You let the number two fly, you let the letter U fly, you let everything else fly,’ but I use ‘there’ the wrong way, and I spell ‘there’ instead t-h-i, uh, whatever. It’s so messed up.”

Man, my copy desk chief would be having a fit.

After talking about a time when he was drunk and cussed out his management team on a comedy club stage, Iglesias was asked if he felt like he got too open with his audience sometimes.

“Yeah, like right now,” he said, as the room erupted into laughs. “Probably shouldn’t have said that stuff.”

“But sometimes I do open up a little too much. But if I don’t open up to the crowd, man, I’m not even talking to you at home, I can’t vent about certain things at the house. It’s not the same. At home you get judged. On stage, people are like ‘You know what, I’m messed up like you. I get it.’ And again, at the end of the day, that’s one of the things that people can relate to, it’s like ‘Man, that guy, yeah he’s successful, but he’s still got s— going on.'”

As I conversed with him, I could tell through his speech that his audience was the thing he cared most about his career; about taking pictures with people at the airport and talking to fans as he sat down to order at the Pizza Parlor.

“Just common courtesy, a lot of basic things, they go a long way,” he said. “Any time I perform at a comedy club, talking to the staff, looking at people in the eyes, some people don’t want to just connect at all. You get off the stage, being like ‘Leave me alone,’ it’s like ‘No, why man?’ The staff, they’re the ones that are going to see people and be like ‘Hey, we saw a real funny show, you should come see him, he’s a real nice guy too.’ It goes a long way.”

Iglesias said that he tries to please everyone with his act, and when it doesn’t, he’s bothered by it.

“If somebody says a negative comment on Twitter, I take it so personal, and I care,” Iglesias said. “I care what people say and what they think, and sometimes I care a little too much to where I let it consume me. I’m learning the hard way you can’t please everybody, and that bothers me, because I just want to please everybody. I want everybody to be happy.”

After talking with Jeff Sewell, Improv Comedy Club General manager, for my Shorthorn article, I discovered that he has known comedian Gabriel Iglesias for years. He said that Iglesias hasn’t changed one bit, ever since he met him about ten years ago in Houston.

“He was totally down to earth,” Sewell said. “Everybody you talk to, everybody loves Gabriel. They never have a bad word to say about that guy.”

Iglesias said that despite some disappointments, he won’t change his act, because the Fluffy persona is what helped him sell out stadiums and arenas across the world.

“For people that don’t think I’m edgy enough, well that’s fine,” Iglesias said. “Go ahead, go enjoy whoever makes you laugh. I’ll have fun with my full house.”

To read more on Iglesias, go online at www.theshorthorn.com. My article has a whole slew of good little nuggets, including audio tidbits of some of Iglesias’ best stories that I couldn’t fit into my article.

Oh, and Gabriel also took a selfie with my cell phone.

Yeah. That happened.

-David Dunn

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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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“CANVAS OF SKY” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Paul Demer’s Canvas of Sky is a humble little soliloquy, a slight and pleasurable experience that takes you soaring through the clouds, into the heavens and then back to earth with more perspective on things than you’ve had before. It does more than highlight Demer’s talents: it makes him seem ahead of his years.

We open on a track that feels like it could be played in your car as you’re driving with the windows down: “Bound For Home,” which doesn’t waste time as it opens on a jamming rock ballad that just can’t help but make you feel like you’re in the ’90s. When Demer starts singing about a world beyond our own, you instantly know that he’s not regurgitating song lyrics. They’re personal, and they mean a lot to him.

“I still believe it’s true,” he begins at the chorus. “That every day we’re created new, and this life is not our own when we realize we’re bound for home.”

As the album continues, you continue to notice small glimpses of Demer’s values and of the things he holds closest to his heart.

“One year to 20, and I thought things would be different,” he sings in “Birthday.” “But my indifference is still turning a blind eye.” On “Open Your Eyes” he says “It’s hard to see the stars when your head’s down in the dirt, and when your heart’s ajar, the small things start to hurt.” He’s also admitted that he’s afraid of losing the things he values the most, saying “I get so scared of losing all I’ve gained, but the things I cling to keep weighing me down,” in “Soaring.”

The highlight of the album is easily Demer’s talents. If you look at the album credits, you’ll notice that Demer not only wrote and performed all of his own songs, you’ll also notice he did the instrumentals too, credited on most of the album as working on the guitars, bass, drums and even the viola. His voice also has great range, from his regular-pitched Adam Young-like voice to the higher pitches that he gives in the more impressive harmonies. Whether he’s jamming on his guitar or singing one of his own lyrics doesn’t matter. Every moment feels fresh, vibrant and new.

But it’s more than what Demer simply plays in the album, it’s also what he sings about, too. Throughout the album, you hear Demer constantly referring to a higher power that he can’t control, one that no one has ever seen but only some have ever felt.

It’s in “Maybe All Is Not Lost” where we most clearly understand who he’s referring to: God.

“You are turning this world around one day at a time,” he sings. “You are giving us eyes to see so we can find you.” He later says in the chorus that God comes to him when his strength is gone.

This is what I value most about the album: Demer can express his values and beliefs and it not be in your face or ham-fisted. It’s humble, serene and sweet, like he’s talking to a childhood friend and just modestly, but strongly, expressing what he believes in, not lecturing someone because they don’t believe in the same things he does.

There are a few instances where some decisions were made on the production side of things that didn’t quite make sense. In “Bound For Home,” for instance, there’s one moment where his voice track is significantly toned down for effect, and then it just suddenly juts into the regular levels in the middle of a lyric, instead of waiting for the verse to end to make a more effective transition. The album’s last track “Run” is mostly flimsy and forgettable, making me wonder why he chose to end the album on that track rather than “Constant” or “Open Your Eyes,” the album’s stronger tracks. The worst track, however, is easily “Neutrino,” where the instrumental track is as complacent as elevator music.

Overall, Canvas of Sky is a very noteworthy album. The small technical faults are there and the production can be better, but Demer has a gift that most other musicians do not have: genuineness. You can feel genuine passion and emotion behind the things that he sings about, and you can also feel that he genuinely believes in the things that he talks about.

Canvas of Sky does more than give you a good listen: it tells you that everything is going to be alright, and it will be.

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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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