Thursday, June 29, 2006

Me am really enjoying this.

Yup, I'm really working hard these days. All these tough days at the office are killing me.

I hope you caught the sarcastic tone there.

It's been a dry season for breaking news and my current shift has me sitting on breaker patrol almost every day.

Since nothing interesting has been happening, I'm posting a few pictures from my Flickr favorites just keep things visual.



I believe these pictures are mostly new to the blog. You'll have to pardon me if I'm wrong about that (or if I babble a bit), I'm actually half-asleep and I'm kind of looking forward to being surprised when I read this in the morning.

Yeah, I'm climbing the walls at work. I guess it would be worse if there were some news happening and I was missing it, but it's slow for everyone.

My biggest fear is that I could get used to this.



With the schedule I'm on, I'm not working very late and I get to spend more time with my wife and family. That's pretty cool. It's also the motivation for me to keep quiet while I wait for the pace to pick up.



It's just really difficult to not complain when I'm used to leading a much more active life. I remember when I first started this blog and joked about being the "Action-man" because of the adventurous assignments I was getting.

Boy, I miss traveling. Well, I miss seeing other places. Getting there really isn't half the fun.



Wednesday I did one liveshot from the San Fernando courthouse. I never even pulled out my still camera. I was just positive I would be getting another assignment.



It was my last day at work for the week. I'm taking a long weekend to get some chores done (mostly pondwork) and Murphy's Law in these matters is pretty clear.

If it's the last work day before taking any sort of time off, I will get the assignment that takes me the farthest from the station that day. I will work overtime and will absolutely have a liveshot in the last newscast of the night.



That's the way it works. I'm kind of surprised it didn't happen like that and it just feels like I'm living in a bizzaro universe.

(Bizzaro was one of Superman's enemies. He was an imperfect duplicate of Superman and did the opposite of everything Superman did. Kind of a brain damaged clone)

I'm sure I'll enjoy the next couple of days. Working in my yard will give me a chance to relax and recharge. That way, when I get to work on Monday, I'll be ready for anything. Just to be on the safe side though, I'm going to bring a book to read.

I know you're out there news, come and get me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bad rabbit.

Grrr. I was working on a post, but it was so bad that I bailed on it. Sometimes that happens, but I usually never mention it.



The bunny rabbit was involved. That's all I'm saying.

Okay, I was in Gorman covering the water supply contamination and there were all these rabbits running around and I was trying to squeeze in a "Watership Down" reference.

(sigh)

It just wasn't working. It might have helped if I'd read the book or even seen the movie.

I'm going to try again later, but I think I better just let this one go.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I'M CHEERING AND I DON'T KNOW WHY!

Ronald Reagan library on Friday before the big speech by Senator John McCain.

I've been to the Reagan Library before. The atmosphere is different there. It could be my overactive imagination, but there seems to be an almost spiritual nature to the place. People talk in softer tones.

I've only been there for special events when security is tight. I always see lots of guys walking around with curly corded earpieces and I get the feeling I'm being watched all the time.

Kind of creepy.



Still, I felt more at ease when the room was empty. Could be just me being paranoid, but it's also a strange feeling to be one of the few people in a room not clapping and cheering when everyone else seems to be completely enthralled.



McCain spoke. He was charming and actually pretty funny at times. I'm not trying to speak in support of him or speak against him. I'll leave that for other people who can argue their point from a more informed position.



I just noticed nearly everything he said got a cheer. There was a point where he spoke in support of nuclear power and people clapped and responded just as they had for everything prior.



It was the lack of hesitation that threw me. After the applause, I considered yelling from the back of the room.

HELLOOOO! He said, NUCLEAR POWER! That crap is dangerous!

That would've been cool. I'm sure it would have been gotten me escorted from the room by the Secret Service. Would have made for a fun post.

Anyway, I don't know what scares me more. The large groups of people who don't vote, the group that votes without thinking or the lunatic being escorted out of the room.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The difference between night and day.

Yesterday I swapped shifts with another photographer. Right now I have no idea what he did during my regular night shift working hours, but I covered a press conference in South Los Angeles at the LAPD Southeast Division during his dayside shift.

I can't say it was fun.

Larry Watson, a young father of two boys was shot and killed in front of his apartment building on June 4th.



I'm amazed at how routine this is. Where's the outrage? How do you get away with this?

There were witnesses, but nobody has been able to identify the killer. It's obvious that nobody wants to come forward and I guess that's part of the environment of fear that allows this type of atrocity to go unpunished.



If I knew who did it or I could point the police in the right direction, I really want to believe that I'd have all the courage it takes to do the right thing and make a completely anonymous phone call.

I do have to admit, it's a scary neighborhood.

While I was getting my tripod and camera to shoot the scene where Larry Watson was shot, I was actually kind of worried that somebody might decide to take a shot at me.

We didn't go live from the scene.



We got the video we needed for the story and went back to the cop shop.

I hear it every now and then about the media or the police treating murders differently if the victim is a person of color. Right now, I'm wondering why does it matter? If an innocent person can be gunned down in front of his own home and nobody cares enough to step forward, why should anyone from anywhere else care?

Okay, I realize I don't live there, so I can't fully appreciate the fear the residents might feel. It's still difficult to understand why, given the opportunity, people don't see how little it matters what someone else will do or not do for you.

They need to stop asking for a better world to live in.

They need to make the world they live in a better world for themselves.

If you know something about the murder of Larry Watson, coming forward would be a pretty good step in that direction.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Anybody missing a briefcase?

Wow. I was just driving around the corner to grab a cup of coffee.

BTW, from now on I'm gonna call that Plan "B".

Plan "A" is to go out and cover a major news story (and we'd like that to involve celebrities, right?). Haven't had a lot of Plan "A" days lately.

Anyway, I was pulling up to the Borders Bookstore at Sunset and Vine in my newsvan. Across the intersection I see cop cars in the middle of the street. Their lights are flashing and they're blocking traffic. My spider sense is tingling.

Something's going on. Four people stop and ask me about it. I can't tell them anything because I don't know anything yet, but I can find out.



I call the desk. They're not aware of anything going on, but they'll make some calls.

You know what's cool right now? I don't have to wait for the desk to make calls. I grab my camera, walk across the street to one of the cops and I ask him about it.



Okay, seems a suspicious package was left near the entrance to the FedEx Kinkos.

Cool!. . .uh. . .I mean, that's a terrible thing.

They're setting up a command post on DeLongpre. That's the street that runs parallel to Sunset, one block South. This could be some serious news. I skip back to my van. The desk calls and tells me the cops got a report about a suspicious package.

Heh-heh, I'm already on it.



Sure, it could be nothing, but it could be a bomb. It certainly does look suspicious. The cops don't take chances with these things. Me? I'd vote to go ahead and put a couple of bullets in it, because everything I learned about police work, I learned from Clint Eastwood.

That probably explains why I'm not a cop.

Somewhere in all this, I move my van twice. The first time, I was setting up in the middle of the command post in the McDonalds parking lot at DeLongpre and Vine. In the eleven years I've been working news in L.A., I've gotten food poisoning there twice. I don't go there anymore. . .much.

At one point I look around and realize it's pretty lonely in the McDonald's parking lot. All the cops have decided to move about fifty yards further away for safety.

I have a front row seat, but I'm feeling just a tad bit exposed. I move the van to the KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and I just have time to get a salad before they evacuate the employees.



The bomb squad comes out and sneaks up on the package. It was a briefcase by the way. Can't we just call it a briefcase? Does it have to be called a package? Anyway, they slowly check it out. Really slowly.

It was empty.

Two hours and no BOOM. I have to admit I was a little disappointed.

As I was putting away my camera and dropping the mast, the bomb squad guys came over and chatted a bit. Earlier, while they were approaching the suspicious package "slash" briefcase, one of the command guys had asked that I turn off my microwave transmitter. Microwaves can apparently sometimes set these things off. In the interest of not blowing up anybody, I was okay with shutting it down.

They wanted me to know my cooperation was appreciated.

These guys who walk up on stuff that might blow up thanked me. I thought that was pretty cool, but I thanked them right back. My job isn't always safe, but we rarely get blown up.

I didn't get a news story out of it, but nobody got hurt and I got a post for the day.

What's that, strike four?

Monday, June 19, 2006

I put in more time than I blog about.

Not that people can't get enough of me, but I posted this morning on the CBS/KCAL website. You can find out what I was doing In the Field last week to fill the time between my more productive assignments.

Do you know where your children are?

I do, but for my older two, I'm just taking their word for it.

Father's Day is wrapped and I'm putting some thoughts together as I get ready for my work week. It keeps popping into my head. Man, I could use a little more weekend.

I have to be realistic.

Two days is all most people have to work with and I did the best I could. I'm not ashamed to admit the lawn got watered and some of the pruning got done, but otherwise I took it easy. I hope all the other fathers on the planet had a great day.



We didn't go out to dinner. The family offered. I just wasn't in the mood for going out. Don't laugh, but I had a taste for a simple home cooked hamburger.

My youngest daughter looked at me like I was crazy (well, that's actually how she always looks at me). A hamburger and a Fat Tire beer made for a pretty perfect Father's Day dinner.



I also spent part of the day printing up the second half of the pictures from the formal at Dellis' school. The trauma is still pretty fresh in my mind. I know I'm getting older, but it was tough for me to get past the fact that a lot of the dancing and how some of the girls were dressed seemed way too mature for 8th grade students.

There wasn't any real crime being committed, but it was still disturbing to watch. It doesn't feel like I'm that far removed from dealing with the age group of my wife's students. Our youngest is eighteen and these were probably mostly fourteen year olds. It's just that I see the results of the sexuality these kids were displaying. The poverty and hardship as a result of teen pregnancy just feeds a terrible cycle.

Yeah, I know it's a pretty big jump from dancing to pregnant, but it's like watching a wreck while it's happening. You'd do something to prevent it if you could, but you can't. It's a helpless feeling.

Maybe somebody can help me with the statistics, but I'm sure it's a safe bet the teen pregnancy dropout rate in that area is substantial. I don't expect the diligence of the dance chaperones is going to go very far. Probably no children were conceived on the dance floor, but I doubt these kids have that level of supervision in their life away from the school.

I wonder if the parents know how sexually explicit their kids behave?

I bet they don't. I can't imagine any parent not reacting to seeing their teenage daughter practically giving a lap dance. I'm also pretty sure kids are still adjusting their behavior when under parental supervision. If I remember correctly, I sure did.

So what should be done?

I rarely see parents take responsibility. It's always the outside influence that gets the blame. Parents point to violence and sex in materials marketed to minors. Nobody is willing to look to themselves as a cause for the erosion of morals in the younger generation. The thing is, the availability of inappropriate material isn't going to stop. Especially if it turns a profit.

Parents have to be aware and they have to take responsibility for how their kids behave. Anybody can point fingers at the media, video games, music, and movies, but I think what makes the biggest difference in how a kid grows up is the level of parental involvement and supervision. The presence of outside influences aren't going to change. They never have, for any generation.

Okay, I'm going to take a deep breath and count to ten.

I almost went back and deleted most of what I wrote. It started out as a simple post about Father's Day and kind of became a rambling rant. I'm going to cut it short. It's frustrating and I don't see much changing. Granted, the world isn't going to end and society won't crumble because of the dancing of a few 8th grade students.

All of them are going to start high school soon. I think they deserved to have a special event and to be be shown that their hard work was appreciated.

I really just hope this doesn't turn out to be the best night of their lives.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Swing your partner!

It's not always about gathering the news.

Mrs. Dellis Frank, (aka: Action-Wife) is a middle school teacher. Yesterday, as a favor to her, I took a day off and snapped still pictures at the 8th grade formal dance which she helped organize.



Sometimes you get so far away from childhood, I think we adults need to remember what things were like at the tender younger ages.

Do you remember what it was like to just dance and be happy?



It was an insanely busy day and there's a few observations that I'd like to share.

I'm going to have to rest up a bit first.

For now, just know that I'm even more amazed how teachers deal with these kids on a daily basis. I was around them for less than half a day and I swear it was tough to resist the urge to strangle most of them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You'll get it back later.

I'm no lawyer. I'm just a small town news photographer who loves to witness events that shape the world. Smarter folks than me have weighed in on the conflict between the "bad-guy rich land developer" and the "good-guy poor farmers" down in South Los Angeles.

From early on, the farmers had my sympathy. I'd gone out there last year and I saw that the farm was a benefit to the people who were making use of the land.

My support for the farmers has just about gone away completely.



I've seen the cultural benefits of the farm. It does fill your heart to see families doing work that is so basic to our nature. Surviving by putting their efforts into the land is special and fighting to preserve that opportunity is probably a very worthwhile battle.

Has anyone stopped to think about what else you're teaching here?

The protestors make good points in their arguments, but I've heard enough rhetoric. Nobody is considering how much damage is done to our society if we pick and choose which laws we should obey. We'll fight for our individual rights and be outraged if anyone tries to restrict our rights of expression.

Why does it end there?

People seem to be willing to support our system of laws only if it favors the outcome they'd like to see. It's happening again. Outrage and a willingness to break the law when the system favors the opposition is the path that supporters of the farm seem to be taking.

That's a horrible message to send.



I was out at "the farm" Tuesday night. I got a chance to see for myself the protest being mounted over the decision by the owner of the property to evict the farmers who have been using the land.

Earlier in the day, people were arrested for not leaving the property when ordered to vacate.

Is this the way it's supposed to work? Follow the legal system and obey the law as long as the law gives exactly what's wanted. If the legal system doesn't favor a popular cause, write it off as being biased and prejudiced and then ignore the law.

Is that how it's supposed to work?



I don't think so.

If you just want what you want, that's childish. You're supposed to look beyond that and want what's right. I'm not seeing that from the protestors. Part of the responsibility of living as an inter-dependent society is the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

Right now, that's not what I'm seeing.

It seems like advocates for the farmers are starting to outnumber the farmers. With so many advisors and organizers, I wish more of them were advocates of the legal system. I can't understand why adults with common sense, good moral judgment and a shred of legal knowledge would allow themselves to take sides.



I'm not trying to insult anyone's intelligence, but something keeps coming back to me from my childhood and from raising kids myself. If you have something two kids want, but they're unwilling to share and they're fighting over it, you take it away. You put it up in the closet and don't let either of them play with whatever it is.

Most of the time the two kids will find other individual things to play with or they'll forget what they were fighting over and just go back to playing nicely together.

I know this situation is too complicated for that solution, but it makes at least as much sense as what's gone on so far.

Yay, I got some news!

No, no, not from me. I'm just happy I have an assignment.

Let me just calm down.

Okay, everybody knows that it's been slow for me lately. I admit that I haven't blogged as much and for that, I'm pretty sorry. My days at work haven't been all that inspiring. It's been nothing but slow news days.

Nothing to do, but ride out the current wave. The pace should eventually change and then you can be sure I'll be wishing for an easy day.

With yesterday, it looks like things are starting to looking up.



I got called in early. Woo-hoo!

It gives me a rush just thinking about it. I can't tell you how long it's been since I last got the call. I'm thankful, there was no major news tragedy (but, hot damn).

A photog was needed for an entertainment shoot. No liveshot and no editing. Just interviews, a presser, and b-roll.



I was happy even before I knew who was going to be there.

This was all related to a benefit concert being held to help raise awareness about the need for working class families to have access to after school programs.



Yeah, whatever.

I was just happy to have something to shoot. This could have been a concert to raise awareness and promote the promotion of promoters as far as I was concerned. Again, just happy to be shooting.

It was just the rehearsal, but there's still a lot of activity that happens behind the scenes at these types of events. I stayed moving all afternoon. Surprisingly, lots of access to the celebs and all the free bottled water I could drink.



Sara Evans rehearsed a performance with 3 Doors Down.

I was up near the stage, right near that empty chair. the concert is going to air in the fall on CBS. I'm going to watch just to see if anyone finally moved it.



I'm not used to being free-range at these things. They usually let us shoot one song (or part of a song) and then a media wrangler will show us the way out. We had the run of the place.

We shot one song, then had to get set up for the press conference. Darn.

Dr. Phil was there. He was serving as host of the concert and we interviewed him briefly. He was nice and had a big ol' firm Texas handshake.



I'll admit there's sometimes a bit of anxiety when the interview subject is important to the people who sign my paycheck. It kind of feels like I'm sticking my neck out and I could see myself getting a cease and desist letter.

I'd be publicly outraged.

You know, I think I've built a good reputaion for being fair in what I write. I don't gossip (much) and I don't gripe about my employer. I'd be surprised if anyone famous would even notice my blog, let alone take offense.

If I did get a lawyer"ish" type letter, again my "public" outrage would be huge. On the inside, I'd be thinking it was pretty cool.

Shucks, then they'd have to send me another letter. I'm pretty sure I'd blog the first one.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coming soon: A NEW POST!

That's Sarah Evans in the chair. We talked to her at rehearsal for a benefit concert she's performing in tomorrow.



More to come later, I just wanted to be able to say I posted something today.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It should have come with free popcorn.

I like to think of myself as a pretty down-to-earth guy. I guess it surprises some people to know that Dellis and I will sometimes go to the opera.

Don't ask me why.

After last week's performance of "Grendel" at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion, I'm scratching my head and wondering that myself.




I don't want to go into a whole big thing about what was right with the performance and what was wrong with it. I'll leave it to the real opera critics to dish. It was entertaining for the most part, but the entire production had a strong "Disneyland" feel to it.

I know that people who worked on "The Lion King" musical were involved in this opera, but there was a whole mechanical element that I found distracting.



I wanted to be impressed by the vocal talents of the performers, but none of them could compete with the overpowering presence of the "big bad" mechanical wall.

You might have heard about the trouble they were having in the previous week when the wall shut down the opening night of the opera and forced them to juggle the schedule.



The wall never let me forget that I was watching a very expensive production and nearly commanded as much attention as the opera's lead singer guy.



Check us out in our opera attire.

See, I'm just a regular guy. Well, yeah, I wore a Hawaiian shirt to the opera, but it was a matinee. Dellis and I enjoyed the experience, but that had more to do with us spending time together.

The night before the opera, we went out to a movie. It's probably less surprising that we went to see a summer film. Guess what? They were about equally entertaining (at least to me).



Heck, now that I think about it, the X-Men movie was about an hour shorter than the opera and the tickets cost a lot less.

If you were thinking about catching "Grendel", you might want to go see "X-Men" instead.

I'm not bitter, but the LA Opera isn't getting any more of my money. I'm just going down to the carwash and picking up the next opera on bootleg DVD.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Everybody pony up a couple of bucks.

It wasn't my assignment. I just had to drop off a tape and some info for the crew covering a vigil and march around the community garden that's become a popular cause.



Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Hollywood celebs lending their face clout to deserving causes. I applaud Darryl Hannah for coming out and speaking on behalf of these people.

They place a great value on the green patch of land situated out there with the warehouses and train tracks of South Los Angeles.

Common sense tells me they're right, but the law is likely on the side of the property owner.



Sometimes it has to be about more than the money involved and this is one of those times.

Nobody is getting rich off the things that grow here. I don't think anyone is surviving solely on the crops. I do think what's being taught to the kids who come out here to help their families is more valuable than what the owner can get from selling the land.



We spend so much of our money on programs to make society better, how come we can't work something out here?

I don't have all the facts of the matter. I know the land is owned by someone and that person should be compensated fairly for it. In comparison to some of the social programs we fund, we're not talking a huge amount. What's the hold up? Cut a check.

Do you need me to vote on it?

I vote, "YES" on spending the cash to save the farm.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Dog Bites Man" bites.

I've got all of four and a half minutes to kill before tackling some early morning chores out in the yard. I thought it might be worth mentioning that I caught the first episode of "Dog Bites Man" last night.

I'm wondering if anyone else tuned in.



I might be just a teeny bit biased. Hard to believe, right? After all, they're poking fun at broadcast news media.

Gee, that never happens.

No, I'm fine with comedians taking shots at us for the many things we do in the course of our job that shows us in an unfavorable light. That doesn't bother me at all. I like that better than the random person in the street delivering their critical assessment in the form of a middle finger or a "you suck" comment as I'm trying to concentrate on my liveshot.



So, I'm sitting in my comfy chair at home with hopeful expectations that they'll pull this off. Bring on the funny, I say. Make me laugh.



I watched the entire episode. Sure, it had moments that made me chuckle, but it mostly just left me disappointed. I really wanted this show to be better than what I saw in the first episode.

People who work in news? We laugh. We laugh a lot during the work day. Even when it might not be appropriate.

I think parts of the episode got it right. They did some research, but I wanted to see more of my day in there. I wanted to see the highs and lows of working in news. Come on, I want to see the panic of meeting a deadline, the fatigue from lack of sleep on the road, the carnival freaks we randomly deal with out in the field.



Maybe it's one of those shows that needs time to build.

Sometimes a comedy show doesn't quite find the right tone in the early episodes. I'll give them one more chance (patience is over-rated).



It's no problem for me to catch shows that I think are worth my time (bless you, TiVo!), but I don't have the season pass space to waste on mediocrity.

I suppose raising the bar on the quality of programming, makes what I do subject to similar scrutiny. Similar, but please, not identical.

Care needs to go into the job we do. It doesn't matter how important the story if it's not watchable, but what we put on the air isn't a form of entertainment. When I talk about standards of quality, I'm talking about the effort that goes into the work being done.

Right now, I'm giving "Dog Bites Man" a C- for their first episode. I'm willing to consider extra credit, but they're going to have to show me some real effort in next week's episode.

That might turn out to be their final.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Not what I was looking for.

I've been complaining for a few weeks now about how slow my days have been at work lately. That all changed yesterday when I got the call to head over to Venice High School in Culver City.
I didn't have a lot of details, but I was able to monitor the two-way radio for info from our helicopter which was flying over the scene.



A student had been shot on campus and the police were searching the area for the suspect.

Traffic seemed to be in my favor and I got across town (from Parker Center) quickly. I was told to set up for a liveshot, another unit would meet me with a reporter. I parked and established the microwave link.

I shot a few ground level shots of the patrol cars and the scene and waited for the reporter.



There were a lot of spectators around and people kept asking me for information.

Sorry, I didn't have any facts and didn't know much more than the people walking past on the street.

A high school aged girl and an adult (I thought it was her father) walked by. I asked if they knew anything. The girl was a witness to the fight and the aftermath of the shooting.

Jackpot!

I asked the man if I could get a statement from the girl on camera. Before he could answer, a car pulls up and the woman driving yells for the girl to get into the car. It's her mother. The man is only an uncle.



I didn't do anything wrong, but the attitude from the mother made it clear she didn't want her daughter talking to the media. Speeding off punctuated it.

That's when I found out from the man that he was only an uncle. Uncle chuckled and walked away.

Soon the other photog and the reporter arrived. They stayed for about a hot minute, then took off quickly, following the search for the suspect. I stayed at the van waiting to do the liveshot when(if) they came back. They never came back for the late afternoon shows.

After the anchors signed off from the 6PM show, I powered down, dropped the mast and packed everything away. I drove through good and bad Venice, California neighborhoods to a secondary location where the search for the suspect was still active.



From that location, we fed tape, shot a press conference and that was a wrap for me.

I was at the end of my shift. The station had another photographer available to help with the later liveshots. Sometimes I feel like I'd rather stay, even on my own time (a clear union violation) just to find out what happens next.

I felt a little of that last night, but I was also conflicted. The senseless waste of life disgusted me and I also just felt like going home.



I'm amazed at how little regard some people have for life. Again it's here that I have to stop myself from trying to make sense of the situation.

There really isn't anything that's going to make sense.

The suspect will be caught. It might not be today or tomorrow, but he's no criminal mastermind. Murder someone on a school campus with dozens of witnesses? You're a fool and you pretty much are just asking to be put in jail.

I can only imagine how the people directly involved feel. It's frustrating for me witnessing the parts that I see covering the story, but really, also pretty ridiculous for me to feel anything.

I'm not involved. It didn't happen to me.

At the end of the day though, I can't help being a little melancholy. It was pretty often in recent times that I was eager for something to do.