Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, July 22, 2021, or: Well, I DID Give it the ‘Old College Try’

This is me holding the Outstanding Contribution award from the Catalyst for my work during the 1985-86 academic year. Photo Credit: Bob Bailey, Miami-Dade Community College/Author’s Collection

Hey, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Currently, the temperature is 86˚F (30˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 51% and the wind blowing at 1 MPH (2 KM/H) from the west-northwest, the heat index is 97˚F (36˚C). It’s going to be hot outside today: the forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 94˚F (34˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 77˚F (25˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 38 or Good.

Once upon a time, I studied journalism because I wanted to be a reporter at a big city newspaper such as the Miami Herald (my hometown paper) or the New York Times, the “Gray Lady” of traditional print media (and one of the American right-wing’s go-to targets for scorn and hate, along with The Washington Post and CNN). Not because I had any illusions of becoming an investigative reporter a la Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward – I preferred the Entertainment beat to “hard” news, even though I learned how to cover every beat in my college campus’ student newspaper, including Sports – but rather because it would be a good way to use the only talent I have in a way that helped society as a whole.

Oh, okay. I also saw journalism as a steppingstone to a career as a novelist or screenwriter. It would, I thought, pay the bills and allow me to see more of the real world before I became a teller of beautiful lies for a living.

The story of why that plan did not go the way I planned is long, drearily depressing, and would take a series of blog posts to explore in detail. The TL;DR version is: Although I am reasonably smart, well-read, and intellectually curious, I can’t grasp mathematics or any course that’s highly dependent on that subject. Even remedial math, which I’m told a monkey can pass with ease, is beyond my ken.

But until the day that I wearily, dejectedly, and reluctantly dropped out of college in December of 1989 after four years of studies and with most of my major’s required courses under my belt, I was a damn good journalist.[1]

Before I left college at the age of 26, I could write:

  • Localized news connected to national or world events
  • Editorials
  • Opinion columns
  • Features stories
  • Humor columns
  • Reviews
  • Entertainment news

Here, for instance, is the first article I wrote for Catalyst in September of 1985 as a staff writer.

New records come in threes

Alex Diaz-Granados

Staff Writer

(Published in the September 25, 1985, issue of Catalyst)

They’re making both turntables and heads spin in the music department.

That’s the excitement created by the first plunge by this college into the recording business.

Three albums, which were recorded at Criteria Studio, are on sale at the bookstore and offer a choice of jazz or gospel or Broadway-style popular music.

According to Forrest McGinley, music department head, this is the first year that the music organizations have been of “such caliber that we feel they should be able to cut a genuine, high quality phonograph recording for the general public.

“Not only is this going to be a profit-making enterprise,” said McGinley, “but it should also add to the ‘Name and Fame’ of the music department.”

EOE Catalyst Student Newspaper, South Campus . This was the typesetting computer in Room 8215 (the “production room”). Although this photo was taken when I was still in high school (in 1982), it shows a corner of a place where I spent four years working and (often) playing with my colleagues. (Miami-Dade College Archives)

He may be prejudiced because he leads the Caravan Singers, one of the three groups that made the recordings. But he says, “Each album is unique. The albums are excellent.” He added, “We’ve always had quality performers, but now we’ve reached a stage where we can put our musical organization on a series of LP albums and share our talent with the rest of the community.”

Each record was produced with the help of Harold Harms, who has worked all the way with the two-year-old sound recording program.

The album covers are by Media Services of North Campus, which also designed a new logo for the Caravan Singers. These will be used on T-shirts and promotional posters.

The Juba album contains gospel songs with piano accompaniment by their director, Alexandria Holloway. Other instruments include synthesizer, drums, and electric guitar.

The Caravan Singers, directed by McGinley, is a 16-voice group with a combo. Their record contains classical, pop and show tunes.

Jose Lima, music major and a member of the Caravan Singers, said, “The recording was a challenge for all of us.”

He added, “Working together as a group was extremely satisfying for me personally, and as a group it was a growing experience.”

The music on the Top Secret album, directed by John Georgini, can be attributed to several composers. Of a total of the seven cuts, two cuts are by music major Amilio Valencia. Other arrangements were written by Bob Mintzer, Rob McConnell and others.

Both the Caravan Singers and the Jazz Ensemble have won the respect and top ranking of the National Association for Jazz Artists.

According to McGinley, the albums are being marketed by Johnny Mac Allen and will be available at the Bookstop and at music stores such as Spec’s and Peaches within the next few weeks.

“I’m pleased that finally our performances will be out there for students and non-students to enjoy. This is going to be a major boost for us in the music department and for the College as a whole,” McGinley said.

Here I am, a few years after I wrote this article, goofing around with Robert Tamayo (on the floor with his foot up in the air) and Jennie Ahrens (seated), the editor of Catalyst during my first semester on the staff. (Photo Courtesy of: Rogers Perez, taken by Jim Linn)

[1] By the time I left Miami-Dade Community College at the end of the Fall 1989 semester, I had been editor of every section of the student paper except for News and Sports, served as foreign correspondent during my Semester in Spain study abroad gig, and was the Catalyst‘s Managing Editor at the time of my “retirement.”

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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