Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I need another word for "inspire"

My job keeps getting in the way of my life of adventure.

I worked a dayside shift on Monday (who don't love a Monday morning?). I had to re-train on one of our satellite trucks. The icecream truck has gone through a major overhaul in the last few months and my bosses agreed with me, it might be a good idea if I learned how to run it.

I know, I know. . .zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. So much for being an Action-Man. It's okay though, the day turned out better than it sounds on paper. I wound up out at Whiteman Airfield in Van Nuys.

See, the plan was to do a live test of the SAT truck by doing a real satellite shot. We had a crew covering a story out at the airfield, so I got to piggyback on their assignment. The other crew was covering the first solo flight of Carlana Stone Lawson.

If you don't know anything about her, you might wonder why getting her pilot's license ranks as a newsworthy story.

Why cover this story?

I've been getting that question a lot lately.

Carlana has accomplished a few things in her life that's worth reporting about. She has a blog and a web page (Carlana's blog and Carlanastone.com) that tells more of her story and you might want to take a peek at them.

All I'm doing is trying to get a few words out about a person I met briefly and got to share a little bit of a day that meant a lot to her.

The sad thing is, I just don't feel like I can do this story justice. I want to say how inspiring it was to see her accomplish something no other paraplegic woman has done in the United States.

I'm finding it difficult for me to write this. I just can't get the word "inspiring" out of my head. In the short time we were at the airport, I don't feel like I got to know Carlana well, but I feel like at least I got to know her a little.

She was funny and happy and the fact that she comes from Louisiana goes a long way in explaining her accent.

It was a "wow" moment. I think it was just amazing to see her fly solo and the word "inspiring" doesn't even begin to describe it.

It was great to be there and get a chance to witness someone achieve a dream.

I mean, we're news. We cover a lot of stories where people have just given up and taken the easier roads in life. The newscast is never short on crime and suffering. Lots of people just seem to believe it's easier to take from someone else rather than putting in the effort to achieve on their own.

I guess, I accept that news covers the events that are out of the ordinary. In our day to day, 9 to 5 lives, what interrupts our routines and disrupt what we do are the events that are more likely to wind up part of the newscast.

She didn't screw up traffic and she didn't cause anyone to suffer. Carlana's flight didn't take away anything from anyone else in the world. This is just one of those rare events that's also out of the ordinary, but in a good way.

It gave us inspiration. It showed what determination and effort could accomplish.

I don't know if at some point this particular dream may have seemed out of reach. I don't know if Carlana had time to think about her situation while she was flying. I don't know if it would have meant any more or less if her situation was different.

All I know is that I saw a woman fly an airplane solo yesterday. It meant a lot to her and I didn't really need to ask how it felt. You could see it in her face. She was happy beyond words.

You could see it in her tears.

Yesterday, people died and were hurt and bad guys were out doing bad things. There were a lot of stories that needed to be told yesterday.

I'm glad this was one of them.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Small Changes

I'm actually tweaking my template today. Pardon me, if things misbehave for a bit.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ring, ring!

I got the call around 10:00am on Friday. Start an hour early at 1:00pm and head over to the LA Airport Hilton for a press conference.

Sketchy details, but Michelle Kwan was going through her trials to secure her spot for the Winter Olympics. This presser was where they announced the results.

I was eager to do the shoot, it was Friday and you know how slow my month has been.

Turns out, I was lucky to have gotten there early. Instead of running cable for a whole block, I only had to run it for half a block.

Also, there was an incident on the 405 that I believe involved a suicide or attempted suicide. That screwed up the normally pleasant Los Angeles traffic situation (ha-ha, sarcasm).

The photogs coming out to help me were on their way. With the traffic problems, I wasn't going to hold my breath.

Tell Oprah, I could write a book on all the little details of what we go through to put any given event on TV. Some of it might actually be interesting (but I swear, it's all true).

I'll try to keep it simple.

I walked my tripod in and secured a spot in the room where the press conference was being held. Popped the mast and linked in the microwave signal. Since I was good to go on getting the shot out, I put on my gloves and ran the cable from my truck, down the alley, through the doors, up a short flight of stairs, down a hall, through another set of doors, into the room, and finished the drop at the location where I had set up my sticks.


I taped down the cable in the places it posed a potential risk. The heavy lifting was done by the time the calvalry arrived.

The other photogs weren't surprised I'd gone ahead and gotten the job done. They'd have been just as happy to help, but I know they would have done the same in my shoes. It's always better just to get the job done.

The nuts and bolts might be a little bit interesting, but I know the real attraction in this post is the brush with celebrity. Michelle Kwan came out after the official announcement was made that she'd succeeded in making the team.

She answered questions for about fifteen minutes and we were live on the web the whole time. I was running camera, but managed to snap a couple of pictures from the back of the room.

There's no good or bad that goes along with a press conference like this. Nothing controversial that might require soul searching or Flying Dog therapy later. She seems like a nice person and I'm happy her investment in working hard is paying off.

There's always a lot going on in the world and sometimes people are critical of the news media for choosing to cover something like this rather than a story that shines a light on pain and suffering or corruption and injustice.

I think it's the rare person who dedicates their entire life to helping others. By all means, I think everyone should do all they can when the opportunities are there to help someone else, but I don't believe there's supposed to be a final solution to the problems of the world. There is no perfection, just a constant struggle to make things better.

In the course of this, life should be enjoyed. I think athletes, performers, anyone and anything that brings happiness into the world should be appreciated.

Everybody has their own opinions and you're welcome to share yours here. I just think every story doesn't have to have crime tape and a coroner's van to be important or worthwhile.

Come on, how about one more shot of Michelle Kwan. I think she brightens our day and inspires a lot of people.

By the way, anyone know how that possible suicide on the 405 turned out?

Friday, January 27, 2006

The BIG announcement!

Okay. Go over to the CBS2/KCAL9 website and look at their blog section. After that, come back here and scream like a cheerleader.

Photo by Francisco Alferez

I have to go to work now. With two blogs to feed, I've got to put in some overtime.

Rocky, eat your turkey.

Lots of people who live in Los Angeles have never been to City Hall. It's cool to have that opportunity to see the architecture of the older buildings in Los Angeles. I've been there before and I thought I was going there yesterday for a press conference.

The press conference was actually set up in City Hall East (doh!). I know it's silly, but it feels like I'm being discriminated against when I have to go to the East building (the one on the left).

Not in a racial way. More like coming home from college at Thanksgiving and having to sit at the kid's table during dinner.

Yeah, I know. It's silly. Anyway, I was there for a press conference. Our City Attorney Rockard J. "Rocky" Delgadillo was announcing a huge lawsuit, The City of Los Angeles -vs- the folks responsible for the videogame "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas".

Seriously. Dude, what's up with the name Rockard? (Sorry, let me focus.)

I can't imagine anyone reading this on the internet and not being familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series of games. I'm going to also assume you've heard about the explicit (computer animated) sex scenes hidden in the game.

It's ancient history to most people, but apparently there's been lots of legal action taking place behind the scenes.

Yeah, I know. It's just a video game, but when you hear "Rocky" talk about the reasons for the lawsuit, it kind of makes sense.

It's against to the law to sell pornagraphic material to minors. The makers of the game violated the law when they included the material in the game and did not warn people of the content. (minors have purchased the game).

Pretty good chance that I'm past the point where pornography is going to affect my sense of decency (it's too late for me, save the children).

Personally, I agree that parents should have every right to know what type of material is in a product that's marketed as a game. Especially if it's available for minors to buy and I don't think it should make a difference if the material is hidden.

Come on, I think we all know an average four year old these days who can find this hidden "easter egg" type of material.

It just feels to me like, maybe we're missing something. With all the lawbreakers out there, should this really be a very high priority?

My opinion? The game and the hidden content isn't going to ruin the life of most of the kids who play it. On the other hand, I also think it's too difficult to tell whether someone might be negatively affected. Some kids play these games and can separate fictional from what's real, while other kids might be scarred for life.

You may or may not think this is silly and a waste of time. We're all entitled to our opinions. This legal action isn't based on an opinion. It's based on the law. The City Attorney is just doing his job in pursuing this. If we don't think this is what he should be doing, then we have to change the laws (or gosh, change the City Attorney).

Either way, if he stops fooling around with video games, maybe then they'll let him out of City Hall East.

You know, so he can have an office in the adult City Hall.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hmm, maybe it's kryptonite?

Woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty miserable. My beautiful wife Dellis has been fighting various colds, coughs and assorted flu-like symptoms since before Christmas. I'm worried she might have ultimately proven to be too tough (don't mess with teachers) and I'm now the easier target.

Made the call early. Sorry, but beFrank is taking a sick day. Please save any interesting news until Thursday.

It's not unusual for me to be absent from the blog for a couple of days (come on, I'm posting something at least), but if you just gotta have it, there's a couple of new additions to my blogroll I think people might like.

A lot of you might already be familiar with Black Rat and Someone Else's Life. He's a freelance journalist and photographer based in England. As I was catching up on my lurking recently, I skimmed through his year in review and was once again floored by his work. I'm always happiest just being me, but I have to admit, he leads a life of adventure on a whole different level.

The second new addition is The Surf and the Fury by Surf-Sister, whom you may recognize from comments she's made here on occasion. I don't surf, but I enjoy her enthusiasm for it and I guess I just appreciate what she shares from her life.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Lots of interesting things going on behind the scenes this week, most of which not particularly blog-worthy. There's one BIG announcement I really want to make, but it probably won't be ready to share until the weekend.

I'm feeling better today, but I'm still medicating. If i can just make it to the weekend, I think I have a pretty good chance of survival. If I don't make it, well, that BIG announcement isn't going to be all that important.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Learn something new every day

In all the excitement of the past couple of weeks (sarcastic, but not bitter), I forgot one aspect of my job that makes up for the adrenaline withdrawal I'm forced to go through from time to time.

In my world of "been there and done that" annual weather/traffic/travel assignments, every now and then I get to see something that I've never seen and probably wouldn't ever see if I didn't work in broadcast news. It's kind of like a grown-up field trip and I get to sign my own permission slip.

My story yesterday was about Ceradyne. That's a company in Costa Mesa, California that has recently received a big whopping huge government order (yeah, baby! $70 million dollars huge) of their boron ceramic product.

Hunh? What do you make with ceramics?

Their product is used in communications, aviation and even dentistry. The government wasn't looking for dental work. Nope, the government was specifically interested in military applications. The ceramics that Ceradyne manufactures is used in body armor.

Also commonly called the bullet proof vest.

I'm really not interested in this post about politics, morality or anything to do with the arguments for or against the war. I'll be happy to do that some other time.

Right now, I'm just saying it's pretty fascinating to see how this stuff made.

The ceramic plates don't look like much. It's hard to believe they can stop a bullet, but that's what they do. Watching their promo reel, I saw it stop the hell out of some bullets.

The factory is running 24/7 to get the product out the door and the place was rumbling the whole time we toured through.

Trucks were being loaded and pallets of the armor is going out as soon as it can be manufactured and boxed up for shipping.

I was hoping to maybe put a couple of bullets into something while I was there, but we didn't get a live demo of the product. That's too bad. I was also thinking we could have let the reporter take a couple of rounds while wearing the product during the liveshot.

I guess being disappointed in that is a lot less important than feeling like the military isn't getting what it needs to fight the war. I'm glad the soldiers are getting the things they need.

You know what would be better? It's probably obvious, but the only thing better would be if we didn't need this stuff at all.

If Mr. William "Buzz" Snyder's computer based education class in Arizona is reading today, I hope they understand that the world is an interesting place. There's lots to do and see and I always want to encourage people to look beyond their routine daily experience. Have patience and discipline and go out eventually to see a lot of this crap for yourselves.

That's what I did. It's what I do.

Say, hell yeah, if you think it's kind of cool. Okay, Mr. Snyder (heh-heh, Buzz), you take it from here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The BIG picture

I've been busy. Not NEWS busy, just kind of getting my head on straight for the coming year. Yeah, I'm running late on that. I usually take care of it all in December and hit the ground running in January.

Boy, am I'm running late this year.

Not that you've missed anything. It feels like a slower month for news and I also keep forgetting to mention that I've been handling some training duties. So, I know I've been missing some of the bigger assignments (hellooo, like the fires this week). It still feels like a slow month.

Yesterday (yawn) I shot some b-roll out on Sunset Boulevard for another crew working an assignment on the nice weather we've been having.

Anytime I pull my camera and sticks out of the van I know I'm doing my job, but (YAAAAWWN!) some stories kind of do just feel a bit more exciting than others.

It's a bit difficult to compare yesterday to just an average day in January 2003. I was shooting sweeps stories for our Special Projects department and I had assignments like shooting an interview with the "Girls Gone Wild" guy. . .

. . .and hanging out until 1:00 in the morning in Las Vegas to grab a quick standup interview with Shakira.

Just a light sweeps entertainment piece and even though I wasn't hanging out with Shakira, it was still Las Vegas. Call me crazy, but that still feels like a bigger assignment than "nice weather" b-roll.

Plus, it wasn't all just the lighter stuff, I had my hard news days back then too. I was in San Francisco covering the search for Laci Petersen and at the time, I remember thinking her husband Scott looked kind of "hinky" to me. I'm glad nobody was buying his story about Christmas fishing.

Lots going on.

By the beginning of February, I was in Florida and Texas to cover the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

We were on the go for almost 24 hours straight and had only gotten a couple of hours sleep by day two and into day three.

Yup, newswise the year started well in 2003. If I remember correctly, January 2004 was kind of like 2006. If I'd started blogging at the beginning of the year instead of in May, I'd probably have been writing about wondering where all the news had gone.

I was handling more work in the satellite trucks, but I was still covering awards shows like the Golden Globes.

The big news stories (just in coverage, not importance) were starting to hit. I found myself hanging around on the road outside of Neverland Ranch.

The drama that became the Michael Jackson trial was beginning to shift from Santa Barbara and I was spending more time in Beulton and soon, Santa Maria.

The first major snowfall of 2004 and I was up at one of the local ski resorts struggling in the cold to help put the story on TV.

I think it was around this time that I was starting to joke about being the Action-Man.

It's really difficult not to get caught up in the excitement when a big news story breaks. Pretty often it's a struggle to keep in mind that as amazing as the story might be, the rush of adrenaline is very likely being provided through someone else's suffering.

January of 2005 (wow, a whole year has gone by), I was out at the La Conchita slide area for days at a time. I saw a lot of the people who lost much if not all in that disaster.

Our coverage of that story continued for weeks. While that was going on, somewhere in there we also had the Glendale train wreck. There might have been fewer major stories in January last year, but they were bigger coverage stories.

January 2006? Well, I've had a busy month. Since I got back from Louisiana, most of my time has just been spent taking care of my life's smaller details. It's probably better for me that this January has paled a little in comparison to the first month of the past three years. Even though I keep finding myself harboring feelings of nostalgia and wistfully hoping for something to happen.

I stop myself. I know I need to be careful of what I wish for. It doesn't take much to go from a slow news day to seeing the kind of action that almost blogs itself.

Even though I enjoy sharing the interesting parts of what I do. I really need to keep in mind that a good day at the office for me, might mean a pretty crummy day in someone else's life.

Take it as it comes. Take it slow.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wow, I can hear crickets!

Outside of my rantable days at work, nothing much been going on. I think it's safe to say, that's good. A slow news week just means a little less mayhem in my world.

It may not be newsworthy, but I think it's worth mentioning. The youngest has packed her pink luggage and said, "Aloha!" to us this week.

She's headed back to Hawaii Pacific University for the second half of her freshman year.

Action-wife and I are going to miss her. It's great to see our children all grown up and in control of their own lives, but it sure is quiet around the house without them.

As a parent, I worry sometimes about my kids. With all the bad things that happen to young people, it's a mystery to me how anyone survives to adulthood. The things I see and hear when I pick up my news camera can stay with me a long time. It might be different for other photographers, but the haunting memories of sadness that I witness just never completely goes away.

The sadness just becomes less important and the weight of it all either fades with time or maybe I just get used to carrying the load.

They aren't always smiling bubbling fountains of joy (let me tell you about the teen years someday), but I think my kids have grown up happy. Somehow, that really makes everything in life all worthwhile.

Good luck, little girl. I hope you'll always know, you make us happy just by being you. We'll see you soon.

Now, I don't want to offend anybody, but I think I should also address a fairly delicate issue. Apparently a lot of people have somehow gotten the idea that "beFrank" celebrates his empty nest by running through the house in his underwear.

That's just ridiculous and I hope everyone knows it's not true.

Come on. Underwear?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I got your "Bird-Flu" right here.

I've seen a lot of strange things out in the field and I think it really gives me an interesting perspective.

Calabasas is one of those nice newer cities in the outlying area to the northwest of Los Angeles. It's the kind of place where you could afford a huge home if you were smart enough to plunk down the cash a few years ago (and didn't mind the traffic along the 101 freeway).

We covered an item on their City Council agenda last night. They're considering a smoking ordinance that would ban outdoor smoking throughout the city.

Yep, pretty much all smoking outside of your private residence.

The ordinance in itself is worthy of a lengthy discussion, but I found the attendance at the council meeting to be interesting in itself.

By attendance, I really mean the "lack" of attendance. The council outnumbered the people who attended the meeting.

Now, I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but let me rant just for a minute.

This kind of illustrates what I think is one of the biggest problems we face in this country. The success of our system of government hinges on participation by this country's citizens.

In a perfect world, we'd all pack the room at these kinds of meetings, but I know that's not going to happen. Really, I'm not saying the ban would be right or wrong, it's just amazing that an issue which is going to affect so many people is going to move forward so completely unopposed.

I see it all the time.

If you don't participate by expressing your opinions and preferences at least by voting, then you're going to get leaders who are going to be more responsive to the people who put them in office.

I think that's inherent in the representative aspects of our political system.

You can scream about the social disparity. You can be as critical as you want of the people who actually write and enforce the laws and policies of our society. You can blame the media and racism and family values and anything else that comes to mind.

It still comes down to each and every individual taking personal responsibility for the actions of their elected officials.

Maybe you disagree, but this is exactly what I see all the time. From what I see, most of the complaints stem from problems that are symptoms of the apathetic majority of our population. The endless debates serve as a distraction that prevents us from reaching the bigger goals of actually making a better world.

Now, I'm looking at all of this filtered through my jaded experiences. Me? I still believe anything (if not everything) is possible. I'm not looking for perfect, I just really want better and think it could happen.

So, if you feel like everything is going down the tubes, but you don't vote and don't get involved in the political process. Don't waste your breath complaining about it. At least, not to me.

Just sit back, close your mouth and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Do you even watch the news?

Out in the field, we get a lot of people who approach us while we're working. That's okay, but lately it seems like I can't turn around without someone telling me how much broadcast news sucks. If you're thinking this is critical information that's vital to me, forget about it. I'm good.

For example, I was parked near Sunset and Vine on Monday. The guy in the picture walked up to me twice and was quite agitated because he thinks "we're" making the whole "Bird-Flu" thing up. Probably not me personally, but people like me.

Right, and I'll be sure to pass that on to the department responsible for media scams (Bird-Flu division).

I'm happy and feel blessed to be able to face each day without dreading going to work. That's got to be huge by anybody's standards. I enjoy what I do for a living and my complaints are pretty minor compared to the people in the world who don't enjoy their work. Lucky me.

I'm not so enamored of the news business that I believe us to be perfect or infallible. We're human and we make mistakes. In regards to character, as in life, we cover the good and bad spectrum no differently than any other occupation.

I'm just not so cynical or jaded to believe in some hidden agenda being pushed by the media on our local level. No, really. I check every day, because I know there are people who live for that sort of thing and they're just waiting for me to come back and say, I found something.

So far, I got nothing. Don't worry though, I'll keep looking.

Sure, you could write it off as not wanting to bite the hand that feeds me. It's just difficult to take the level of animosity that gets directed at us. Not at the faceless corporate entity, but directly at the people working in the field. It's hard to reconcile the public perception, when I walk through the station and I mostly see a group of people who generally believe in what they do and want to do a good job.

So, why blame the media when there are so many other factors which have at least as great (probably greater) effect on the quality of our lives?

Why does it seem to be such a good idea when you see us out in the field to freely vent your frustrations over what you consider to be the world's problems (which are naturally primarily caused by broadcast news).

Sorry, I have a lot of questions, but I don't have the answers.

Just understand that in this day and age, if you start ranting at me (as people have done this week) or speak to me rudely (yup, got some of that this week too) I'm not going to enter into an intellectual or philosophical debate. There are way too many mentally unstable people who have access to dangerous weapons (eww, or spit). No, I'm going to call 911 and I'm going to try really hard to have you thrown in jail.

It's like I was trying to tell "Bird-Flu" guy, it's not illegal to talk to me (heck, go ahead and take a picture if you want), but I have a job to do and I don't always have time to listen to you vent your frustrations.

It's not that I don't care about your opinion. . .well, sometimes I don't. Just understand that I'm not obligated to agree with you. If I have the time, I'll answer questions and I'll even discuss your concerns.

Just try to accept that I'm not the industry scapegoat and I'm not interested in being hung for the mistakes or behavior of other people.

"The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."