Sunday, October 31, 2004

One for the road

A bottle of Dos Equis and a Whopper from Burger King. With all the stress, hard work and long hours, it's very important that I try to eat right while I'm travelling.

Found myself on the road to our nation's capitol by way of an overpriced airport bar out at LAX. The flight to D.C. was bumpy, but at least it wasn't crowded.

Sorry about the low-res photo. It's out of my cell phone. I carry on my news camera and really didn't want the extra weight to deal with.

We're actually staying at what looks to be a trendy place just a few blocks from the Capitol building.

The room itself ain't much to look at. . .

. . .but the bathroom's got a little style going for it.

How cool is that? It's about 1:00am local D.C. time. I had to run out and grab this shot. Through the front door of the hotel and not even half a block to the spot where I snapped this picture.

I got goose-bumps standing there looking at it.

Last shot of the night. Just me fooling around on the hotel elevators. Big day tomorrow and I've got to puzzle out some of the logistics for our coverage. I still have it in mind that I'm going to get my NaNoWriMo work started, but before that I'll write Dellis a nice e-mail love-letter to start her day. I don't think I'll be running out of interesting things to shoot, so get some sleep.

We have a long day ahead of us.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

beFrank goes to Washington

Lock and load, people. I'm about to go off-roading all over the political landscape.

I'm checking out gear today and packing for my election coverage trip to Washington DC. I wasn't expecting this trip, but I am excited about going. Make no mistake about it. It's gonna be some long days this week. My only hope is that I'll have internet access from our broadcast location and I'll be able to easily update the blog. I also haven't forgotten the NaNoWriMo commitment I've made. If I stop and think about it all, I might see where insanity has taken a hand in my decision making process. Anybody wondering why I'm going?

It's just what I do. There's nothing more exciting in my job than to jump on a plane and go to an unfamiliar place and face the unknown. To somehow make sure we succeed at each complicated step in the electronic news gathering process. Through our skill (or luck) we somehow manage to send back an image on TV and make it so other people get a sense of what it's like where we are.

Those cases weigh a ton and this is just the work gear we're taking with us. Everything we might possibly need to put a couple of reporters on live TV. Keep in mind, it doesn't even include the luggage for our clothes and personal items.

It's frustrating, because I never get to travel light. My carry-on items include the news camera, my digital still camera, fanny pack, pda, cell phone, my laptop computer, pager, and a good book if I can find one. I'll be looking for the latest from Robert B. Parker.

I guess the attraction for me also includes the idea of witnessing history being made. I can't go everywhere and see everything, but on Tuesday night when the final vote is counted, I'll have as close to a front row seat as an ordinary guy like me is likely to get.

I'll take lots of pictures, because I'll never want to forget what it was like on November 2nd, 2004. . .or November 5th or December 28th. You know, whenever they settle it out this time.

Everybody, bePatriotic.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Sorry, I needed to get that out of my system.

I never set out to live anything like an adventurous life. It was a happy side benefit to a career that suited me well. This is our oldest child, Jannon J. Frank (No, not the guy with the grey moustache).

When he was younger, I called him Son-Boy a lot. It sounded cute back then, but it's probably past due time for me to come up with a better nickname. (How about J-Bird?)

As you can see, he's the real Action-Man of the family. I think there's always a "thing" between fathers and sons. I don't know what you call it, but it's that Oedipal/psychological/mumbo-jumbo "thing" where sons grow up and seek their own path. Fathers, for whatever reasons, are hesitant to let them.

I hope I've never been like that. (We could call him Action-Man Jr.)

He could write a book on the life he's led and it amazes me that he's only in his mid-twenties. He's studied abroad in Japan, travelled through Europe, spent over a month in India and graduated from Stanford. To say that we're proud of him is so much of an understatement, I'll leave it un-said. . .aw, heck. . .Son, we're proud of you.

But you knew that before you got on the plane. (How does Adrenaline-J sound?).

Please, shoot me if I make a bird. . .wings. . .flying analogy. I think for all the things we did for him while he was growing up, the thing that made the most difference in his life? Dellis and I loved him and made sure he knew it. (Adventure-Son? Say it again, ADVENTURE-SON!)

We didn't always agree with him (we are parents, after all), but we supported him in all the things that mattered. Maybe that's the secret. Be firm, but supportive and let your children know that they're loved.

I think it's cool that you've tried sky-diving, but what did I tell you about jumping out of a plane?

(Until something better is suggested, I believe I'm going to stick with Adventure-Son.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Comments on Carmen

The quiet before the storm.

It's no secret that I feel down and blue sometimes covering the news. The best way I've found to keep a handle on that is to do the things that make me happy. Working on my house, gardening, and going out for a night on the town with my wife are some of the things that work for me. I'm probably oversimplifying, but sometimes the answer to feeling blue can (should?)be a really simple thing.

(If you're wondering, yes, there are happy people in the world.)

Last night, Action-Wife and I braved the rain and downtown rush hour traffic to see the Los Angeles Opera production of "Carmen". Dellis had bought the tickets months ago, which is scary. It's always hit or miss when we try to plan things out in advance. My job sometimes needs to come first. Don't get me wrong, it wouldn't make me happy to have to cancel a date with Action-Wife because of a big story. We just have no complaints. My work provides for us a good life, so we can accept sudden interruptions to our plans as a fact of the life I lead. Thank you for understanding, AW.

I love, love, LOVE going out at night with Dellis. Even more in the rain. There's something about the light reflecting in the puddles, the sound of the rain coming down, the brisk clean air, all of it. It just charges the evening and gives me a reason to look forward to the winter months.

Now, about "Carmen".

We enjoyed the opera (my first), but just between me and you? We could have gone to a movie, dinner or done anything together. I enjoy my wife's company, we enjoy each other's company. Probably now, more than any other period in our life, we get to have time together. My wife's beuatiful smile, spending time with her and my family, having an appreciation of art, music, and literature. This is what it takes to get me through the day. . .

. . .well, that and my new hat. I don't think it's too much to ask.

For the record, I liked the opera. I didn't love it, but I might need more exposure to build my appreciation. Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe what was happening on the stage just seemed to pale in comparison to what I feel for the woman I married.

Anyway, it was a good night to be out and a great night to beFrank.

(That storm I mentioned? I'm headed to Washington DC this weekend for election coverage. Bring it on, baby!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Going to the dogs

The news gods had mercy on my tortured soul Sunday. No reporter to work with and no big news. My one story was about as far from serial killing as you can get.

Halloween dog show in Burbank. The proceeds go to a worthy cause and the people who came out seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I take my job seriously (no, really) and try not to feel too deprived if I don't get the top story of the day. There's always happiness and laughter somewhere in the world.
Sometimes it's sad pathetic embarrassed laughter, but I'll take what I can get.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Mark Twain Library and High Bodycounts

I remember when I started my love for reading. It was when I was in the second grade and I could walk around the corner to the Mark Twain branch of the Los Angeles public library all by myself. In the world we live in today, it seems insane that people ever felt that safe. I was reminded of that more innocent time on the story we covered. We had to drive through a part of the neighborhood that I felt safe in as a child.

The guy in the center picture is Charles Dwayne Turner. He raped and murdered the twelve women in the photos that surround his picture. Not pictured is the unborn child of one of the women and also not pictured are the other murders he's suspected of committing. These are just the ones discovered through DNA testing by the Los Angeles Police Department.

He's in jail and the families of the twelve women have some closure. Our chief of police thanked his detectives. The family members of the victims spoke about their pain and they also thanked the detectives.

I'm often asked how I can cover these types of stories and not be affected. There's something to be said for having a professional detachment. It's fascinating to see Figueroa Boulevard, the street where this serial killer mainly prowled. A bit chilling to also see that he killed in an area that holds fond memories for me. I know the feelings I have are minor compared to the pain felt by the family members who actually lost someone to this murderer. As we interviewed them after the press conference, I looked these people in their eyes. I saw the tears and I heard their voices crack when they spoke of missing their parent or sister or daughter. I could tell that the closure they felt might lead to them someday being able to put away their pain.

That day wasn't yesterday and it may be many years from now.

Who says I'm not affected?

Put me in coach

Didn't want to forget this. Friday night I covered a book signing by Phil Jackson. It was interesting to meet him, but I don't know if I'd stand in line for eight hours for the opportunity.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Let's do lunch

Thursday was a fairly slow day. I got sent out to get shots of a grade school in the Eagle Rock area. Didn't get a chance to snap any digital still pictures related to my assignment, but since I wasn't the main photog on the story I got a chance to take a full lunch. It's always a part of our daily work life, but it's not always a benefit. We get to know the menus of fast food joints in detail. I'm partial to salads and I've been on the low-carb bandwagon for over a year. Compassion, innocence, my keys, I can lose a lot working in news if I'm not careful. It's too bad weight isn't one of the easier things to be lost.

The story I was covering was about a 6th grade teacher who's been accused of molesting his female students. It's difficult, but not impossible to stay objective and allow the legal process to take it's course. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. What feels different to me is the realization that it's not shocking anymore. I've seen it before and more often than not, the allegations prove to be true.

This type of story isn't supposed to be as routine as lunch, but it happens often and often goes without being reported by us or the victims. There were five or six girls who have come forward and this is the sencond time the teacher has been investigated.

I've gotta go to work. Maybe I'll bring my lunch from home today. Have a beYootiful weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Calamity clouds the horizon

Traffic is an occupational hazard and driving in it isn't any fun. For me, even when the weather sucks, it's great to be out on the open road.

I managed to end up about two hours outside of Los Angeles in Wrightwood, California. That's where the Mountain High ski resort is located. We'd gone up (like in my Monday trip to Big Bear) looking for the first snow of the season. Didn't find snow, but we found a mud covered bridge that almost completely cut off the mountain town from the rest of the civillized world.

Tons of mud and rock washed over the bridge during the rain earlier that day. I admit it was a little embarrassing when people kept coming up and asking if we we're covering the road closures (of which there were two) and we kept telling people, no. We we're there to cover the snow (of which there was none).

The assignment desk had us move to the bridge and make that the focus of our story. Folks from the town who saw us out there were glad that we were getting the word out about the problem. If it doesn't affect them directly, most of our viewers in Los Angeles probably won't care too much about this story. The folks who live in the area seemed to appreciate the coverage, even though it wasn't the original reason why we were there. We were lucky and none of the other stations bothered to show up. It was just luck of the draw and being in the right place at the right time.

Even though we're all usually very mature about this type of thing and yeah, I know it's petty, but ha-ha.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Failure is not an option. . .

. . .well, maybe not a good option.

It's never easy to admit, but no matter how hard I work, sometimes I'm going to fail. It's arrogant, but easy to kid myself into thinking I'm good enough to overcome any problems. Remember, I'm the "Action-Man" and I've just always been the guy that comes through when it's crunch time. I work miracles. I make it happen.

Not last night I didn't.

My reporter and I had a simple assignment. Drive up to Big Bear and see what types of preps were being made for the coming rain and potential snow expected within the next 36 hours. I've driven to Big Bear in a news truck during all types of weather conditions. I know how long it takes to crawl up the mountain when you can barely see the road in front of you. It's scary and you have every right to be afraid of oncoming traffic as well as the slippery roads.

This was in the fog as we gassed up in Running Springs, about 17 miles to Big Bear.

They wanted us on the air for 10pm and 11pm. We left the station about 5:00pm and dove directly into rush hour traffic. It's a two and a half hour drive to Big Bear with no traffic and we'd still need to actually shoot the story once we got there. The traffic stayed heavy. There was a freeway closure (we heard it involved a suicide attempt). We took an alternate route and that was jammed. We had a second photographer following. We lost him to backed up traffic because of an accident. It was just going to be me and the reporter. I'd have to shoot, edit, setup for the live-shot and operate the SNG system. I can do that. I've done it before.

The fog hit us near the base of the mountain. We were lucky it wasn't cold enough to snow or form ice on the roads, but visibility was zero or close to it through much of the drive up.

Pardon me, but I'm going to get all "techie" here.

We didn't reach Big Bear until 9:40pm and they wanted us for the top of the show. Instead of shooting video and cutting a package or VOSOT for the first hit, the station decided to just take a straight liveshot of the reporter. Most businesses were closed or closing, there was a light rain, but it wasn't going to snow on us. "Showtime" and I did my thing.

I popped the dish and got the satellite system going, then set-up the camera and connected the cabling for the live-shot. With personal cell phones, we've got about six phones between us and I think they were all ringing. The station relayed my satellite transponder coordinates (IA6 transponder 1J from 10:10pm - 10:25pm) and IFB assignment (IFB #8) through the reporter. I made the phone call to access at 10:07pm and put us on the "bird". As I dialed up the IFB at about 10:08, I noticed the picture on our return had no chroma (it was black and white). I checked settings and made a call to our station. They were seeing the same thing. We couldn't go on the air like that. The producers were notified and I tried to track down the problem. We only have two minute to air at this point and I knew we weren't going to make slot. The best I could hope for is that they would "float" us and give me enough time to track down the problem.

It didn't happen.

Sometimes the problem is simple, like a cable with a loose fitting or something obstructing the satellite dish. The last resort is powering down the system and bringing it back up. That cycle takes ten minutes or more. It no longer mattered. The station cleared us from the show and dropped us from the 11:00pm show. Over four hours on the road, insane hustle to get the shot up and at the end of the night, nothing to show for it.

Another day at the office and the best that can be said? At least nobody died. My streak continues.

(hmm. I better check on that suicide attempt)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Hmm, something I don't see every day. . .

Those new submersible vehicles?

Not working real well.

Big rain in SOCAL over the weekend. Doing my job during actual weather often puts me where the unexpected has happened.

The people who live in this apartment building probably didn't expect this.

An underground parking structure flooded in the Anaheim area and around 30 cars got soaked inside and out.

I got the impression that there would be a lot of finger pointing going on today. I understand that this has happened here twice before.

As terrible as it is for the people directly involved, I'm just glad that it was ONLY property damage and nobody died here. Check it out, I went the whole weekend and didn't cover a story that involved a corpse.

In fact, nobody has died in the stories I've covered since last Monday. I'm on a roll. I expect that it won't last, but let's try to keep it going. Please?

It's going to be wet and dangerous on the streets around Los Angeles while it's raining. That's different from the usual "just dangerous". It's my Friday and I expect after I get home tonight and over the next few days, Dellis (Action-Wife) and I will be cuddled up together watching TV (Farscape, Law & Order, Lost, Venture Brothers, NYPD Blue, Third Watch. . .) and maybe I'll be doing a little writing on my computer. I also have a 25% off coupon for Border's (score!), so my weekend outside of Mr. Mom type work around the house is going to be pretty low on "Action".

I can't wait. Everybody beCareful out there.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

. . .do you want your money back?

Another train crash. This time in the city of Pico Rivera. Nobody was hurt and property damage was minimal.

The LAFD was all over it. It took us two hours to get there. The South-bound lanes of the 605 Freeway was shut down.

It just feels great to cover a story with this much potential for destruction and nobody died.

Hug someone with reckless abandon. I'm in a really good mood.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Moore the merrier!

Again, this is why I love my job so much. It's the coolest thing in the world for me, that I get to witness little parts of history.

I found myself at USC last night. Michael Moore was speaking at a political rally that was supposed to encourage college students to get out and vote on election day.

It really was more of an "anti-Bush bash". Most of what he said in the time that I was there, was just a very entertaining stream of anti-Bush statements. He spoke to a group of, oh. . .

. . .I don't know, you count them. Anyway, it was a lot of people. Especially to be in one place for so little music involved.

Now, what I need is a favor. I need people who have seen his movie to stop looking at me like I'm making a political statement for not having seen it. It's making me uncomfortable. Anytime it's brought up, the people who voting Democrat look at me (and hiss) like I'm one of "THOSE" people, the evil ones.

People voting Republican are quieter about it. When the Democrats stop hissing and turn away, the Republicans kind of wink and give a small nod. One guy even made a funny gesture with his thumb and eyebrow. Maybe he was just wiping his face (some of the Democrat hissing gets out of hand).

From what I understand of Michael Moore's position, I'd probably get something out of seeing his film. Maybe I'd be better informed and at the very least, I'd be entertained. It's just difficult for me to want to go out of my way to see a film that feels anything like propaganda. Even if I'm inclined to agree with it. Even if I suspect the content to be true (or mostly true).

I'm finding far too many reasonable people completely focused on supporting their candidate, while much of what I see as the reality of the situation is ignored. There are important issues that get little or no attention from either side. I know who I'm going to vote for and why. I'll see the movie at some point, maybe on DVD or maybe on TV. For now, I just want to cover the news and encourage people to be a part of the process.

You can't make a change without taking action, but if going to a movie is the course of action you decide to take, go see "Shaun of the Dead". It's a comedy about brain dead zombies.

(sigh) That wasn't a political statement, I really just liked the movie.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I need coffee!

It's Monday for me and I feel like blowing off some steam, but I only have a few minutes before I have to leave for work.

What happened to all the brave people in the world? It's like evolution blinked and suddenly fighting for survival became killing over entertainment and luxury. I keep seeing more effort being put into selecting a pair of shoes or car rims than might be put into selecting the next leader of our country. Few people read or try to better themselves. Well, few as compared to the numbers of people spending hours playing video games or watching TV. I was feeling the other day that the candidates weren't representative of the average people in this country. I was wrong. They're representing exactly what too many people are all about. They want to win and how they win is less important than the end results. The rhetoric is too biased for me to accept as reasonable. Each side is proclaiming their candidate as being perfect in all things and the opposing side's candidate is perfectly evil or stupid or wrong in all things. Reasonable people should know better. The truth lies probably somewhere in the middle and isn't as absolute as either side would have us believe. Go vote and make sure somebody else votes.

I gotta' go.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Did you hear the one about. . .

First, let me thank everyone again for the kind words and support for Dellis (Action-Wife) as we get through the difficult and painful recovery period. Painful for her, but I fear for me because cabin fever is setting in. Any day now, I fully expect an axe to come crashing through the bathroom door and for AW to stick her head in and yell, "Here's Johnny!" with a big grin on her face.

Yeah, I tend to have too active of an imagination.

Some of you might remember, I asked everyone very nicely just a couple of weeks ago. Stop killing each other. You haven't stopped yet and I'm getting angry about this.

This is the front of a liquor store/mini-market where a stabbing took place. I'll get back to that in a minute. Let start at the beginning.

I was in a pretty good mood yesterday. It was my Friday and the story we were covering involved a murder with satanic ritual. Yeah, satanic ritual, that's always a nice little bonus. I'm all for freedom of religion and if you want to worship the dark lord of the underworld, more power to you. I just have to draw the line somewhere and killing high school classmates is really taking it too far. Hey, and leave my chickens alone. Okay?

The leads we were following on that case sort of dried up at an old address we had for the murder victim's family. Somebody else will run with that story today. The reporter and I got moved onto breaking news. A convenience store clerk was stabbed and killed during a robbery in the Hawaiian Gardens area.

When they told me where the murder had taken place, I couldn't help thinking, Simpsons (uh, the animated ones, not the OJ one).

That's evidence there.

The would be robber/murderer left the store on foot and ditched his bloody t-shirt about a block away. When they catch this guy, it won't break my heart if they rough him up a bit. I was a little put out that I had to walk a block away to get this shot. It really might have been more considerate if he ditched his blood stained evidence closer to the crime scene. Manners people!

I'm a little full of the gallows humor this morning (the word humor might be a stretch). I'm going to go for a run, take a shower, then get my weekend going. I'm hoping for a nice quiet couple of days. I haven't watched a lot of TV news on my days off, but I'm interested in these stories that I worked yesterday. My station will be following up on both.

I'm not going to dwell on it, but it's still in my mind that a family who I don't know really at all, is going to be spending the day making arrangements to put to rest one of their own. It's pretty impossible for me to know exactly how they must feel this morning, but it's easy enough for me to guess.

I'm sorry for their loss and I'm sorry if my tone this morning is less considerate than what it should be, given the situation. I don't know if the guy who got killed last night would feel the same as I do, but if something tragic ever happens to me and joking about it helps someone get through the day. Try to be nice about it, but go for it. Laugh it up and do not feel guilty. Life is short and there's always going to be something to feel sad about. Go ahead and let a little humor help you though the day.

Come on, that's what I would do.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Building go BOOM!

Caught a little bit of action in Burbank. See, that building over there? The one with the smoke rising from the top. It blew up today. It blew up good.

It WAS a post production facility and I have no idea what would make the whole building go up like the 4th of July. Well, maybe some idea. . .

Suspicious??? Yeah, it is. I can't make an assumption and really, it probably was a gas leak. Every now and then, it comes as no surprise that what seems suspicious, turns out to be suspicious for a reason.

That's always frustrating in my line of work. A lot of the time, we don't get to know what happened.

It was a great story to cover. Lots of visual elements. Not an important story, it isn't going to change many lives. Just one way or another, it will change the lives of the people involved in this building.

I need to keep that in mind the next time I'm out covering the news. It also might be a good thing for people to keep in mind the next time they're watching the news.

Every story doesn't change us, but it might be a change for the people involved.