Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012: What a Ride!

Greetings friends, family, colleagues and assorted well-wishers, and happy holidays!

I began 2012 in the Magic City, and I sit here today writing this Christmas letter from my new home in the Cream City. As I look back on the events between Point A and Point B, I realize there's no way for me to condense them into a coherent narrative that anyone would want or have the time to read! It suffices to say that it was eventful, and to borrow a sports cliche, I "left it all out on the field" this year.

My move from Miami to Milwaukee late this year marks the beginning of a new chapter in my career, and my life. I feel incredibly blessed with the opportunities and challenges I've enjoyed, and just plain lucky for the great friends I enjoy them with. That means you. Thanks for making 2012 one for the ages.

I hope the end of 2012 finds you and yours in good health and even better spirits. I hope your holidays are full of warmth and love. And I hope like heck the Green Bay Packers can get healthy in time for the playoffs and push on to the Super Bowl--but you'll be able to read about that in 2013's letter.

Here are a few of the highlights from my year, the moments I've cherished the most, and many of them part of the reason that looking back on 2012 makes me feel just plain exhausted, in a good way!

"Who puts a shirtless photo in a Christmas letter?" I hear you asking yourself. Well I'm illustrating a point, and not JUST that I actually had a passable tan for the first fleeting instance in my life. Living in Miami was an absolutely alien experience for a kid from smalltown Wisconsin, one that challenged me and helped me grow as a person and a professional. There were also moments, like Ben's New Years visit, that were just plain fun. Pictured here, two Sconnie boys looking about as out of place as it's possible to look on South Beach.

As much as I loved the winter weather in South Florida, I made sure to find the time to visit Joe and Emily in their temporary home of Colorado. I have to say, these two took to the slopes like ducks to water. By sheer luck, my sister Katie, her boyfriend Tim and his family happened to be in Breckenridge at the same time. You can't have a good trip without good people, and as a result, this was one of the best.

Walking the red carpet is the last thing I expected to do this year. But when Starz's new series "Magic City" staged its World Premiere in Miami, I was fortunate enough to receive an invite, and luckier still to have the lovely Leti Cavalieri (down in front) in town for a visit at the time. As a former film student, I'm not ashamed to admit I was a little more giddy than professionalism would have dictated.

Speaking of professionalism, mine received the test of of a lifetime as I covered the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin in central Florida. As a "reporter on the ground" in his hometown of Miami Gardens, I found myself thrust into the lion's den with none other than Headline News's Nancy Grace. I survived. That's about all I can say. The video's online, but don't ask me for a link.

Mom and Dad welcomed a new furry face into the family while I was visiting in April. Barney is part beagle, part basset hound and all unbridled affection. Needless to say, he's fitting in well with the family.

I'll never pretend to be a Miami Heat fan, or even much of a professional basketball enthusiast. But I will say that WIOD sports reporter Andrew Julian's unfortunately-timed vacation plans worked out pretty darn well for me. Covering Miami's title win from the floor and the post-game locker room, the excitement was more than contagious--it was inescapable.

Among the other great perks of working for WIOD in Miami was the occasional availability of helicopter rides with our hardworking team of traffic professionals. For only about the dozenth time in 2012, the eight-year-old kid deep inside my heart was jumping up and down with giddy enthusiasm.

The hardest thing about accepting my new job in Wisconsin was leaving behind the passionate, dedicated and downright FUN colleagues and friends with whom I worked at WIOD in Miami. Every day's a battle in the newsroom, and these were my brothers and sisters in arms. Folks like Mike, Andrew, Nathalie, Patty, Jason, Erica and all the rest--I miss them something stupid.

I saw my fair share of sunrises running down to the beach in South Florida. It never got old. This was among my last as I packed up my life, yet again, to head back home to the Midwest. The Budget Truck drive home with Cam Klein was the kind of adventure that transcends words, and I can think of no one better to be locked in a truck cab for 24 hours with. Thanks buddy.

My new home is pretty great, too. This is my new office. Completed in 1895, Milwaukee City Hall is one of a kind. As Public Relations Supervisor, it's my job to help all 15 members of the Common Council and the City Clerk interact with the media and keep the public informed. Like being a reporter, it is NEVER boring.

I'm also called upon to host interviews and programing on City Channel 25. Being on TV is a little weird to me. Having to wear a suit is weirder still. But it's growing on me.

My triumphant return to Wisconsin means that getting to a Packers game with Dad and Grandpa no longer necessitates the purchase of plane tickets. Nor does seeing the family. And that's really a winning proposition. It is really good to be home.

The couple of months since my return to Wisconsin have been a whirlwind. There have been weddings. There have been concerts. There have been events like Cheese Days in Monroe with two of my three favorite BKs (Bryan and Ben). It seems like every week I find another reason I'm glad to be home.

And yes, I've already gotten in some broomball. Our team fought our way into the final eight at the Milwaukee Broomball Classic before we were eliminated earlier this month. Kevin, Steve, Laura, Catherine and the rest were fierce competitors. And once the darn lakes freeze, you'll find me out on the ice again, living proof that even after you've taken the boy out of Wisconsin, you can't take Wisconsin out of the boy.

Here's wishing you only the best, and plenty of adventures, in 2013. Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gone for Good

I have abandoned Google's Blogspot for a new writing home at . Please follow me there and update your links and RSS feeds accordingly.

Dustin Weis

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Things Afoot

And ten days into July, I still haven't touched the blog for the month. I apologize. There's a lot I want to write about, but I've been scheming, and it's likely I'll have a couple of announcements to make on Monday.

Thanks for checking in.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The L Word


I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that another media outlet in town is going to axe some more hard-working folks this week because of the GlobeEcDown (and thanks to the newest member of the Madison-area media, Christie Taylor of the Baraboo News Republic, for introducing me to that delightfully tacky abbreviation!). The rumor mill got to churning today that Channel 3 has scheduled staffing meetings for later this week, and around a half dozen people aren't expected to make it back from those.

Even when you're talking about a direct competitor, you never like to see a bloodbath in someone else's house. But in this case, Channel 3 is our "media partner," a concept that's helped understaffed newsrooms in radio and television stay abreast of all the news of the day by counting on each other to catch what might slip through the cracks. I've collaborated with a lot of the staff at 3, and I hate to see any of them catch it in the face.

If the rumors are indeed true, a few folks will pack up their desks this week in that already bare bones news room, and the harried remainder will be left to shoulder those work loads.

Then, for the next several weeks, the city's newsies will spend every spare moment looking over their shoulders for that axe it seems is chasing after every one of us. When meeting each other in public, conversations will begin, "Hey, how are you holding up," and end, "Well, good luck. Hopefully we'll see each other soon." Journalists will cross their fingers and hope that their numbers people, holed up late at night trying to eliminate the red in the budget, don't happen to glance over at a headline about media layoffs and get any bright ideas.

For once, I hope the rumor mill got it wrong.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekend: Accomplished

They say idle hands do the devil's work. I don't know who "they" are, but they'll get theirs eventually.

At any rate, I'm finding myself shocked more and more often at the declining amount of the devil's work my own hands are doing. While I'd like to write that off as a growing degree of maturity, I think it would be more honest to say I'm just keeping busier than I've ever been. And while there's a lot of work in there, both in the job and the blog and the band and whatever side project has captured my fancy, I find that same crippling work ethic has now affected the way I play.

Take this weekend for example, which consisted of non-stop enjoyment spanning three distinct regions of Wisconsin and approximately a half hour of idle time that was not spent asleep. The weekend started at 3 PM Friday, when I snuck out of work early (to make up for accrued overtime) and swung out to my friendly, locally-owned motorsports shop to pick up the bike, which now sports a brand new set of tires and brake pads (in preparation for Cam and my planned "motorcycle odyssey" later in July, which will take "motivated recreation" to a whole new level).

I rode the bike to my buddy Ben's, where we loaded up the car and booked it out to Miller Park watch the Brewers beat up on San Francisco. While I've seen the Brewers play in other venues, it was my first trip to Miller Park, so we didn't exactly hold back in terms of enthusiastic tailgating. I was duly impressed by the stadium and its amenities, and plan to make a few more trips out this summer if possible.

We ducked out of the stadium, drank another beer in the parking lot, and embarked for Madison. I got home, cleaned up, and passed out in short order.

Seven hours of coma later, I was up and prepping for a trip on two wheels to Shawano. I figure if Cam and I are going to ride cross country later this summer, I'd best start getting my motorcycling muscles into shape (yes, you have them, no you don't know you do until you use them and they hurt like the dickens the next day). I also wanted to get a good idea of the bike's overnight cargo capacity, so I packed very light... only what I could fit in the saddle bags.

I dodged stormclouds the entire 150-mile journey to Shawano, where I was promptly drenched as I entered town. Unfazed, I polished off the final half mile of the trip and pulled up at my buddy Tim's parents' house, where a hot shower and some good people were waiting for me.

We didn't hang around the Lundt household for long, as we had a movie screening to get to. Yes, that project I stressed my balls off on intermittently for three years finally hit a big screen at the Your Signs world premiere in Shawano, Wisconsin. Give it time, there'll be a screening in Madison. We debuted to a packed house and some positive feedback, and then it was time to celebrate the occasion in healthy Wisconsin fashion -- with a backyard cookout.

We ate, we drank, we were merry, we ate some more. We got a campfire going and sat around rehashing old war stories until the dead of night. Then we passed out wherever happened to be convenient. We woke up, made some breakfast, and I got a chance to spend some quality time wrestling with my Godson (he's a half-grown black lab puppy that will be able to take down a zebra when he reached maturity). Then it was back onto the bike for the return trip to Madison.

It was after I returned that I finally took the first breather of the weekend. After I unloaded the bike and collapsed on my couch, I watched some PGA golf while I caught up on the news. But the respite was short-lived, as I mounted up again to hit the south side for band practice.

Following three hours behind the drum kit, I could have called it a night, but a few of the bandies and I agreed it would behoove us to catch the (lucky for me) rescheduled Rhythm and Booms fireworks show. Of course, I wasn't about to ruin my weekend by getting stuck in traffic on the north side, so we watched from the pier behind our keys player's apartment on Langdon Street. Not surprisingly, Jeff wasn't the only resident to have had this idea, and I'm pretty sure we were just a few hundred pounds away from sending that pier and the forty or so people on it into the drink.

So here I am, and the clock on my computer reads 11:08, and I honestly can't think of anything else I would have liked to have accomplished this weekend. Plans are already coming together for next weekend's holiday, and they sound every bit as enjoyable and exhausting.

The problem is, I'm beat from having relaxed so hard. With a full week's work to accomplish in four days, when do I make time for resting up?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Man Pants

It's not often, but there are times when I finish reading a press release from the Madison Police Department and I just have to throw my head back and laugh.

We're lucky here in Madison to have a former reporter of Joel Despain's caliber working as a spokesman for our police force. One of Joel's greatest strengths is his knack as a story teller, and there are times when it shines through in something like a police press release, which is generally intended to be bland and to the point at best. I've seen some from other departments come across my desk that almost require a cryptographer to decipher.

But the Madison press corps got a good chuckler from Joel today. As with most of them, you have to read between the lines to get the joke.

Incident report for Case#2009-182844
Released 06/24/2009 at 11:51 AM by PIO
Joel DeSpain
Incident Type
Injured Person
Incident Date
06/23/2009 -
3:08 AM
400 block West Doty Street
Female, white,
5'6", 115 lbs., with curly, red shoulder-length hair, slender build, wearing a red sundress.
Male, age 21, MadisonVictim suffered multiple
abrasions to his back, including two cuts requiring 11 stitches. He also had a bruised chest, a cut lip, and a sore nose.
On Tuesday, a 21-year old Madison man came into the Central District to report a battery that happened around 3:00 a.m. that morning. He said he was at a downtown house party, sitting on a porch, when a woman started dancing and taking her clothes off. The victim said he - and others - laughed as they watched the disrobing. As he chuckled, another woman, clad in a red sundress, slapped him across the face, saying, "You don't know who you're dealing with." The man backed up, sat on a railing, and continued to guffaw at the striptease. Suddenly, the woman responsible for the slap "rushed" the victim - knocking him off the railing. He says he fell more than six-feet onto concrete. The woman descended with him, landing on his chest. Friends cleaned him up, and he discovered his back was bleeding profusely. He ended up in the emergency room, and wishes to pursue charges against the assailant. She has not been located.

By the time I finished reading this story, I had nearly fallen out of my chair. I have no idea how the police officer that took this report was able to keep a straight face.

If this 21-year-old "victim" has any motive other than getting a phone number in wanting to file charges against this "assailant," I'd like to sit him down and have a talk about finding him a decent pair of man pants. I mean that. I don't know any self-respecting member of the male gender that would come forward to police to admit he'd had the crap kicked out of him by a girl.

Based on the "victim's" description, we're not talking about a bruiser here. Girls that are 5' 6" and 115 pounds don't play for the women's hockey team. With the red hair and sundress, guys should have been lining up around the block to get cracked in the jaw by this young lady.

Let's face it, there's a fair chance this guy got exactly what was coming to him. As a member of the male gender, I'm realistic enough to admit that 3 AM at a house party is not when most guys are at their most gentlemanly, and I find it hard to believe this guy was half the "victim" he makes himself out to be. I say good on this mysterious red-clad firebrand for being able to lay down the law with the punk.

But for this guy to take his pitiful, fabricated story to police is an unprecedented level of weak. There are certain unspoken rules all men should abide by. You never hit, push or otherwise lay an ungentle hand on a woman. If a woman takes a swing at you, you get out of the way or you take the hit. There's no excuse for fighting back. And if a woman gets the upper hand and bloodies you up a bit, you sure as hell don't tell anyone!

That's what I find so baffling about this story. So the guy needed a few stitches and will probably be the butt of a running joke among his buddies for a while. Dragging police in the matter won't solve either of those problems. In fact, it will likely prolong the humiliation, first when his buddies see the police report, then when some media attention is paid to it. If they actually catch the young woman, that will reopen the wound, as will any court appearances to follow.

I can just picture this guy, tears streaming down his face, describing to a jury the "brutal beating" he sustained at the hands of the five-foot-six pixie in a red sundress. Call protective services! He's going to need protection from this monster!

I've got to think that this guy was just a little concussed when he made the decision to take his story to police, and didn't think ahead to the guffaws that would follow any time one of his buddies mentions "that time Jimmy got his ass kicked by a girl."

So let that be a cautionary tale to any young men who haven't learned these lessons yet. Fiery things can come in small packages, and while there are times they will bruise your pride, you're just going to have to man up and get over it.