Monday, May 29, 2006

Did you hear?

That's the big question you get hit with coming into the newsroom on a day like Monday.

Yeah, of course we talked about the CBS News crewmembers injured and killed in Baghdad. By the time I'd shown up at the station for my shift, I think much of the shock had worn off. Still, there were moments when it was the 800 pound gorilla in the room.



If you haven't heard, two CBS News crewmembers were killed by a car bomb. Reporter Kimberly Dozier was also severely injured. Last I checked, she was in critical, but stable condition. It's a horrible tragedy and I'm sad about the loss of life. Here it is a couple of days later and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

On Monday, I seemed to key in on parts of past conversations where people claimed they'd never go over there (or any war zone) to work at this point. People who know I've considered volunteering for assignments in Iraq, asked if I'd still be willing to go.

I don't know.

It's an unwritten rule that no news story is worth your life, but that's a little too broad of a statement and I don't think it's true. I have a family and I understand how unacceptable it would be to risk my life for a story that won't change the world. I'm not taking a bullet for Dr. Phil or CSI (maybe for Paul Magers, we did win the 11:00pm). The fact remains that we have people willing to go to the war zones in the world and report the news. I doubt they see it as volunteering for the possibility of being injured or killed. To do this job to the best of our ability, I think we have to discount the personal danger. We have to go to where the story is happening. That includes the bad neighborhood in our own cities and that includes the war zone on the other side of the world.

I'm not sure it's appreciated.

I know a lot of people who work in news and see it as just a job. It's their way of putting a roof over their head and food on the table. There's nothing wrong with that and most days, it is pretty much what we're all doing. I'd never blindly put myself into harm's way, but is it so inconceivable that there are members of the news media who see value in what we do? Obviously, there are journalists who consider the loss of life a risk that's worth taking. It's difficult to even type it, but I wonder if they look at it as an "acceptable" risk?

It's scary to think about being harmed or killed in the line of doing my job. Especially when the value in what I do can vary so greatly day to day. Just know that it is something I think about. As much fun as I have doing what I do, the nature of my day can change very quickly. The line between covering the lead story and being the lead story is not that difficult a line to cross.

All it really takes is a willingness to be good at this job.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Me and the ACMA. . .

. . .not to be confused with the CMA.

Maybe I don't look like the kind of news photographer that might get a kick out of covering a Country/Western Music Awards show. In fact, you'd probably be surprised at how eclectic my tastes in music have been over the years.

Just don't ask me for specifics. Eclectic hasn't always meant "good" and I still can't bring myself to buy the CD of several albums from my misspent youth.

Just don't kid yourself, I bet you have an lp embarrassment or two gathering dust in your parent's garage. Maybe even on cassette (or 8-track).



It's been a few days and I'm finally catching up with my posts from the road trip to Las Vegas I took this week. It was mostly SAT truck duty, but I still managed to squeeze off a few shots of the celebrity arrivals on the "orange" (red) carpet.

You know, I'm not terribly star struck (you get over that pretty quickly), but I've got to admit it's a kick to being just arms distance from so many famous (and sometimes talented) people.

Let's face it, you've seen the weird beenie/hat/cap thing that Billy Gibbons of "ZZ Top" wears constantly. Don't you wonder what it looks like up close?

Kind of like a rug.



I nearly always get these wrong, so don't count on me identifying these people correctly. That's the group "Little Big Town" and they were nominated for Top New Duo or Vocal Group.



Don't ask me if they won.

I was on the carpet until the line to get backstage through the metal detectors had died down. Once that happened, I had to finish cabling our decks to record the backstage interviews and the parts of the show they were feeding to us.

Someone else will have to clue me in on whether Carrie Underwood walked away with any of the awards for which she was nominated.



I just don't know.

After the backstage gear was mostly ready to go, I had to leave the show completely to go back to our hotel (The Monte Carlo, right across the strip). I needed to move the SAT truck into position. I couldn't tell you who won anything, but then again, I was at work.

I wasn't there to enjoy the show. I'm just glad I got to see Vince Gill. . .



. . .Cowboy Troy (whom I mistook for Will Smith at a distance). . .



. . .Billy Currington. . .



. . .uh, this guy. . .



. . .maybe Hannah Storm. . .



. . .and Carrot Top.



Hunh, what?

Yeah, I guess it was all part of the Las Vegas connection. I never knew Carrot Top to be closely associated with the whole C&W scene.



It was also bizarre to see the Carrot Top "gun show" that looks suspiciously like a steroid assisted condition. Now, I won't be asking that particular question if the situation ever comes up. Heck, he might take a swing at me and if I got "clocked" by Carrot Top, I think I'd have to leave the country.



So, as always, there were lots to see and in a fairly dry stretch of news road, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to go and witness as much as I could first hand.



I spent a chunk of my afternoon troubleshooting the SAT truck. It was the first time I'd taken it out for some real work since the final recent upgrades it had gone through. Wish I could say that everything went exactly as planned, but gremlins in the machine made sure I'd have no time to make any casino donations while waiting for our satellite windows to open.

It's Sunday night and I'm going to spend a little time relaxing and getting ready for the coming week.

I still have a couple of items on my todo list, but they can wait until the morning. This is about as caught up as I've been in the last few months. It's never far from my thoughts that I'm only a phone call away from being sent out almost anywhere in the world.

I have my passport and a travel bag ready to go. I'm not hoping for anything, but you can bet, I'm ready for anything.

A few more shots are posted on Flickr. Enjoy the holiday. You can be sure I'll let you know where I end up.

I'm late, I'm late.

It's May, why do I feel like the March Hare? I'm late and rushing for every appointment. At least I still get a chance to witness the parts of life that are just slightly past the boundaries of ordinary and mundane.



If you caught my Friday post, then you know about the bomb scare. While performing the routine security check on one of our microwave vans, a suspicious object was found underneath near the tailpipe.



It didn't look like a bomb. It looked like a flashlight or a power screwdriver.Turned out to be a flashlight. The bomb squad guys didn't look too amused. I think the CSI season finale was on that night.

Without a reporter or a story. I could have waited all night. Actually, I could have waited the hour or so until the end of my shift.

Did somebody ask about the ACMA photos?

I'll try to get my head out of my rabbit hole and get it posted. in the meantime, feel free to take a look at them (sans commentary) on my Flickr page.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Code4

All clear. Just a flashlight from the auto mechanic who serviced it a couple days ago.

Sent from my BlackBerry

Hmmm.

Okay, this is different. Right now the bomb squad is on their way to the station. A suspicious object was found under one of our microwave vans. They're checking it out now.

Sent from my BlackBerry

I should have stayed in Vegas.

I'm not complaining. Really, I'm not.

I understand the luck of the draw and that's the only reason I was up on Mulholland Drive yesterday instead of attending the big ratings win celebration being thrown back at the office.

Darleene of Darleeneisms has posted some party details (oh, my).

This is what I was doing while my co-workers were sipping champagne. I was being denied entrance to a gated community where I was trying to get ground shots on a story.



Behind the iron gates of this private community, a woman (probably a resident) crawled into a ventilation duct at the site of a new home construction. Nobody was willing to give us any particulars as to the woman's identity or her motivation.

Security guards asked nicely that we leave the area (yeah, right), but we were happy to park off the property and wait for the Fire Department's PIO to come out and give us a brief statement.



If they really knew the woman's identity, they weren't releasing it, but they claimed it wasn't anyone famous.

That was all I did yesterday and I don't think anyone followed up on the story. That means we may never find out who she is and why she crawled into the duct. Hmm, maybe she'll turn out to be half of a Hollywood power couple.

Feel free to speculate.

I was told homes in that community run about (cha-ching!) $30 million and up. You know, I keep hearing money doesn't buy happiness. I find that debt and poverty isn't all that uplifting either.

(sigh) Darn it, now I've gone and depressed myself.

I hope mystery woman works out her issues. I'm going crawl into my ventilation duct and sing the blues until the Fire Department comes and hauls me out. I have a feeling I may actually be there a while.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What's cooking?

Pardon my grogginess this morning. I stayed up late because I had to see the "Lost" season finale. Don't ask me anything about it or why I watch. I just sit in front of the TV every week and scratch my head like everyone else.

I'm behind in posting and my writing, so I'm gonna try to catch up with everything today. I'm going to post here, on my company blog and then I'm heading to Starbucks and get some of my regular writing done before work. That's the plan, so I better dig into it.

You want to know what's going on here?



Reporter Suraya Fadel and Photographer John Vincent were covering a cooking competition being held last Friday at Trade Tech College near downtown Los Angeles.

That was the day I was driving around town searching for a crew to put on TV. That was part of my efforts to test out the satellite truck I'd be taking to Las Vegas for the Academy of Country Music Awards.

It was a fairly odd situation, it kind of felt like panhandling for liveshots.



Plus, I didn't get a chance to actually test the sat truck while there. Too many obstructions and parking issues.

I did help John and Suraya get on TV. I ran camera on their first liveshot and that gave John extra time to work on their package in the microwave truck. They would have made slot even if I hadn't pitched in, but my help gave them some much needed breathing room.

Being around the cooking competition reminded me of the segment I used to shoot with Chef Mario Martinoli. He's moved on to bigger and better and you might recognize him as the commercial pitchman for the Smart and Final stores.



Yeah, we often get to taste when we cover food stories. Even though that isn't a reason why anyone would ever want to get into the news business. . .



. . .a yummy treat every now and then is a nice perk of the job. For experience junkies like myself, that's always been some of the best days at the office.

I never got to do a complete test of the SAT truck on Friday, but everything worked out in Las Vegas. The food there was pretty good too.

With the better class of food I've been getting, I'm worried that my body might not be able to take the shock when I go back to my regular photographer diet. Woo, maybe I'll be in an area with a convenient bacon-wrapped hot dog or corn on the cob vendor.

Gosh, I sure hope none of this is going to affect my life insurance premiums.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Las Vegas: Day Two (or is it Three?)

I was talking to the "Iron Chief" on the phone yesterday morning. You know, just complaining about how difficult it is to be on the road, eating out at Las Vegas restaurants, and staying up late laughing and talking in the hotel bar with former KCAL reporters.



I hear this loud BOOM. The windows rattle, heck, the whole building shakes like there's a mini-earthquake. I go to the window and see this cloud of smoke rising from the construction site next door.

Actually, I cussed loudly and then went to the window.

They had set off an pretty big explosion and a large cloud of dust was still visible. I grabbed my camera and got a couple of shots. While I explained to the Chief why I was ranting like a maniac.



For a town that never sleeps, you'd think they'd do this kind of demolition in the middle of the night when everybody is losing money at blackjack.

Maybe that's just me.

Maybe I'm just bitter.

Hmm, maybe nobody has any sympathy for me because I'm still in Las Vegas.

I think, maybe I'll just quietly check out and head for home.

Our coverage of the Academy of Country Music Awards went fine yesterday. I'll post some pictures later after I get home. I say they went fine, but that just means we got on the air. One or two bumps in the road popped up during the day.

At least nothing blew up (other than the construction site). We'll talk. I'll see you later.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Las Vegas: Day One

On the road to Las Vegas yesterday, I had some concerns about the satellite truck I was driving. Last Friday I spent the day running through the basic operation operation of the truck. I ended the day scratching my head over a couple of quirks in how the truck was operating.

Maybe it's just me, but I like to be able to depend on my gear. Double that if I'm going out of town.



It's not as if I had no confidence that the truck would get the job done. It's just that we were going all the way to Las Vegas. If the truck didn't work (or I couldn't make it work), I'd have to justify my decision to take it instead of another truck.

You see my dilemma?



This was going to be my first trip in this particular truck since they upgraded and reconfigured much of the gear. Yeah, I waffled a bit. I just didn't want to put off taking the truck out.

See, that's my ego talking. I have common sense, but it doesn't always get a say in these decisions.



Anyway, long story slightly shorter, I'm in Las Vegas in the truck. I set it up on a strip of dirt in front of a construction sight between the Monte Carlo and New York, New York.

The camera position was on a driveway behind us. Our reporter, Rick Chambers, is a tall guy, but the driveway's elevation was intended to give him a little additional altitude over the foot traffic. We had a little concern over folks just out to have a good time. The concern being they might try to make their TV news debut.



You know, we don't really like it when people do that.

It was a little shocking, but we got one drunken Vegas vacationeer who offered to flash her boobs on camera. I'm almost ashamed to say I nearly tripped when I scrambled out of the SAT truck to snap that picture.



She was bluffing, but we told Photographer Robert Pastoriza that she really did it. He'd been away from the truck "taking care of business" when this little non-incident happened.

We did the liveshot and the truck worked fine.

After the liveshot we had a late dinner with a good friend and former co-worker. Yup, that's Tricia Kean of KTNV hanging out with the crew.



We spend a lot of hours in the field working with people. Sometimes they move on. It's just the way life goes that you often lose touch. Working in news, you just eventually get to know people all over the place. I'm sure it's the same in other occupations (heck, life in general), but it's a big part of how we live.

Every now and then we see each other in the field and we have the opportunity to catch up with our friends. Friends who now have lives and careers away from where we first met them.

It's a small thing, but I hope people working in news realize that friendships and laughter carries a lot of weight. That's a little part of what tips the scales into positive favor when we question why we do what we do.

I'd better go ahead and make some moves to get ready for work. We've got another day in Las Vegas and we'll be covering the Academy of Country Music Awards. Everybody go, Yee-haw!

We had a good day yesterday. Shucks, I can't see any reason why "what happened here" has to "stay here".

Monday, May 22, 2006

Uh-oh!

I just called my oldest daughter. I always try to leave word with her when I'm going to be away from home.

I don't think Vegas should count.

Oops, I dropped my Blackberry. I knew that was going to happen.
Sent from my BlackBerry

Still rolling.

Stopped for additional snackage near the factory outlet center close to Barstow.

Mmmm, chicken.

About 150 miles to go. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to stop at the state line casinos.

Sent from my BlackBerry

At least the rain stopped.

So far, so good. I'm in the slow lane heading up the hill on the 15 in the Cajon Pass.

Not too exciting, but I'm happy for some blue skies.

CHP just pulled a guy over.
Sent from my BlackBerry

Hitting the road.

It's Monday morning and I'm already soaked from the unseasonal and (for me) unexpected rain.

I'm also gearing up for a three day sat truck trip to Las Vegas. I'm going to towel off when I get there and hit the buffet at Mandalay Bay.

Once again the karmic balance of the universe is having a good laugh.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 19, 2006

It didn't blow'd up good enough.

Whoa. This was the scene in October of 2004 .



I got an assignment on Thursday last week to pick up a statement from the Burbank Fire Department regarding the arrest of two men for arson.

The fire involved a recording studio that burned down under suspicious circumstances almost two years ago. That recording studio was part of the smoldering crap that's all over the street in the first photo.



It didn't click at first. As I sat waiting for the sound bite in the lobby of the Burbank Police and Fire Department (yup, both in the same building), I gave it a bit of thought. It dawned on me that I'd actually covered the fire and had posted about it back then (Building go BOOM!).



It's not uncommon that we don't see the final outcome of the stories we cover. It's part of the job for us to move on to other assignments. We rarely have the opportunity to revisit the smaller stories that don't involve the kind of elements that gain national attention.



I think rule number one in the arsonist's rule book should be to leave the fire insurance alone if you intend to commit arson. That's kind of a red flag.

Trust me, when the policy involves millions of dollars they look at things pretty close before they hand over that check.

Don't bump up the fire insurance just before you torch the place.



This is the building as it stands today.



This is how it looked on the day everything happened.

Other little tidbits that I found interesting? There were multiple points within the building where the fire started. Uh, accidental fires don't usually start in multiple locations within a structure (duh!). A buildup of natural gas caused an explosion that blew the roof off the place and scattered debris all around the neighborhood. Apparently the gas pipes were disconnected. They didn't show signs of being stripped or damaged, so the gas was probably intended to add to the fire.

The trial is still pending, so I probably shouldn't characterize the two suspects as arsonists. They aren't really arsonists until actually found guilty of arson. I'm thinking it's only a matter of time.

If you read my original post, you'll probably notice I was somewhat skeptical of this being an accident. It's been quite some time since then, but I feel fully justified and not immature in the least in reminding everyone; ha-ha, told you it was arson.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

If only they would cane people.

Did somebody tell me to be careful what I wish for? I've been busy the past couple of days at work. No kidding, "me" actually out covering the news. What a concept.

Nothing major, just the day to day grind that for some reason I've been feeling separated from for the past couple of months.



That's Scott Torrens in the sun glasses. I had the reporter with me, but Scott was the early shift guy. He had the camera and tripod outside of the Torrance Courthouse.



We were covering the arraignment of a woman who had tried to kidnap a baby in Redondo Beach.



This is the woman here. I'm no expert, but I'm inclined to think she's nuts.

Come on, tried to snatch a kid from a nanny on a public street with people around. She didn't even come close to getting away with it.

Yeah, thank goodness.



Scott covered the comments made by the prosecuting attorney in front of the courthouse.



I dubbed the pool footage of the arraignment on my camera from the KNBC photographer.

The woman, Monica Rubin, objected openly in court to having the news camera videotape the arraignment. Funny, I can't think of a good reason why we shouldn't roll tape on her.

I don't know, but I kind of think the whole public humiliation aspect of the criminal justice system has been getting ignored for too long. There's probably a darn good reason why we don't put people in the town square anymore, but I don't know what it is. Maybe the people who make the laws were winding up in the town square too often themselves.

Sorry, I'm just ranting.

Monica Rubin is probably going to be found unfit for trial because of her mental state. I'm thinking Court TV would hit some mega-huge ratings if more people were to get on board with the public humiliation band of justice. Let's put it on pay-per-view!

Okay, there's also the whole notion of "innocent until proven guilty".

I'll just stick to covering the news. Somebody else can try to work on the taggers and baby snatchers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

One lump or two.

Good morning, from the back of unit #19.

I'm on a scheduled early shift, so I picked up coffee and donuts (2 glazed) on the way in to the station. I came in early to get a few minutes of writing (and blogging) in before work.

Hmm, I think I should be honest. That's an empty cup. I already ate the donuts and drank the coffee.

Sorry.



If you're wondering what happened to the low-carb diet, well, I've been feeling a little muddled lately. The low carb diet kind of does that to me. Since I'm actively writing again and I feel sharper with the carbs, I've added some back into the daily menu.

I know, I know, exercise was helping out, but my schedule isn't making it easy to get everything done. Plus, I think three nights of falling asleep in front of the computer (with nothing productive to show for it) is telling me something.

I'm going to have to cut it short this morning. I'm about to start my shift and I need to check out my van. I had to swap out last night to a satellite truck. Yeah, it pays to be versatile most of the time.

I didn't really mind swapping out, but it's better to work out of my regular unit. Kind of feels like home. . .uh, maybe not home (no TiVo). I guess it just feels like a nice comfortable office that I don't mind wheeling through traffic.

I wonder if I can get an intern in here to answer the phones and get me fresh coffee.

It feels like a Monday, but happy Wednesday anyway.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bryan Day Seven Hundred Thirty(ish)

Quite a month for me (I'm just saying).

As long as I'm rolling, I think I'll keep going.

Thanks.

Yeah, I can already taste the bacon wrapped hot-dog.

It was a good Monday for me. I got assigned to cover the reactions to President Bush's speech about immigration yesterday.

Having missed the big protests, it feels pretty cool to get the opportunity to meet and interview some of the main organizers behind the large demonstration.



Nobody got violent, but they weren't happy with Bush's message. There was a real air of disappointment and some anger over how the President plans to proceed.



There was talk of more protests and voter registration drives to keep the pressure on the politicians to change the way things are being handled.

Sweet.

I dig the fact that I'm getting an opportunity to see up close the workings of a group organized for political change.



Not that I believe it should matter, but I'm much more comfortable with interviewing political activist leaders.

The big mobs of people who are passionate about their cause are fun to shoot for other reasons, but I get more information and slightly less rhetoric from the leadership.



The crowds just seem to repeat a lot of the recognizable themes and opinions without the thoughtful knowledge of the people who have actually studied the problem. Sometimes we can find the person in the crowd who has a considered opinion on the subject, but that's always a needle and haystack situation.

Really, I don't know if we're anywhere near coming up with a suitable answer to the issue. It still feels like both sides want their way with no compromises. All I can do is cover the story and try to keep an open mind.

Yeah, right.

You know, every time I say that? I just get bashed from both sides.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Twofer Friday

Just to remind everyone (and myself) that I still work in news, I posted to my CBS2/KCAL9 blog today. Please feel free to comment here.

Eat, drink and be married.

If anyone is wondering, I generally miss the writing on the days when I don't get a chance to post anything to my blog. Wednesday couldn't be helped. Dellis (Actionwife) and I celebrated our 19th Wedding Anniversary that day.

I'll say it for you, WOW!



If I'd written on Wednesday, you would have gotten a heartwarming sentimental post, but come on. Nobody wants that. Everyone would rather just hear about the latest crime scene or see a picture of a celebrity. Right?

Pretty much a moot point, since I never quite got around to posting anything.

Dellis and I both played hooky from work. We had a late breakfast at Marston's in Pasadena (macadamia nut pancakes!) and goofed around on Colorado Boulevard for half the day. It probably goes without saying that I did most of the goofing.

Later, we had a couple of late afternoon drinks (mango amaretto smoothies) and just blissfully enjoyed relaxing in each other's company at home for the rest of the evening.

It was one of the few days where I was okay with turning off the phones and being off-line for a while. By the time the weekend rolls around, I'll still be playing catch-up on what I did at work this week.

I was pretty well rested after my vacation, but it was still great to have a day where even though the whole world kept moving, my lovely wife and I got the chance to hold hands, take deep breaths of each other and realize that 19 years isn't such a very long time at all.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The bear and the rabbit.

Not only am I back at work, but on my first day back I got assigned to the "Crash Team" for the day. That's the nickname somebody has given to the early afternoon reporter and photographer.

I like it.

Most days recently have leaned more towards dull for way longer than makes me comfortable. Coming back after vacation yesterday, I couldn't have been happier to get the assignment. The "Crash Team" is all about the breaking news.

Five minutes after my shift started, we had a breaker. Yay!



It seems a bear (not the one pictured) had wandered down from the Tehachapi Mountain area. Nobody knows why, but it was wandering around the desert brush in an unincorporated area just outside the City of Lancaster.

I don't know if it was carrying an unpublished manuscript, but that was my thought when I was told about the assignment.

We hit the road.



Sure, there was absolutely no chance of getting there before the bear was captured, but a news stringer was in the area. He had some great footage of the animal control authorities chasing the bear.

We got a copy of the tape and started doing liveshots at 4:00pm. Our last liveshot ended after the top of the 10:00pm newscast.

We packed it in and hauled ourselves back to Hollywood.



It was a good first day back.

I wish I could have shot some footage of the bear (he really reminded me of the bear from the Kotzwinkle novel), but it was good just to actually be back in the game.

No telling what today is going to have for me. heck, it only matters a little.



For all my impatience, I'm still reasonably aware of the fact that we have news to cover every single day. What I get assigned is often just the luck of the draw. So, I'm just happy doing what I do and pretty thankful that I'm a very lucky man.

You know, not everybody can say that. They also can't say they saw a bunny yesterday while at work.

I did.

Now, I'm gonna go count my blessings. Hey, happy Tuesday.

"The Bear Went Over the Mountain" is a favorite book of mine. Funny and quirky stuff and I recommend it. I don't know if everyone will like it, but it tickled my funnybone.