Thursday, August 31, 2006

Come on down!

The balancing act that I perform to snap a shot of what I think is cool or interesting about my job isn't always easy. Hmm, actually I wouldn't want it to be too easy. Once in a while though, I like a day when it's almost just a matter of point and shoot.

Like today. This post could practically write itself.

I'm not expecting anybody to care about the details, but today was the taping of the first show of the 35th season of the game show "The Price is Right".

We interviewed the distinguished Bob Barker himself on the set after the show taping was over. Come on, that in itself was pretty cool, but I don't think anyone is going to care.

See, I got pictures of the girls who point at stuff during the show. Yeah, they point at stuff during the show.

Man, what a cool job. . .um, I'm actually talking about mine, but I'm sure their job is cool too.

Darn, I know there's an official title for the girls. I just can't remember what it might be. I do know their next job application is likely going to need something more than just, pointed at stuff on TV, under previous employment.

I think they've also got a nickname. Like "Barker's Beauties" or something like that.

See, the thing is, I don't think anybody is still reading. At this point you're all just looking at the girls. I could be writing anything here and it wouldn't matter.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Blah, blah. I'm not wearing pants!

Yup. I'm thinking I could be writing one of the most riveting commentaries of my entire blogging career, but nobody will ever know.

Oh look, now you're reading again. That's just wrong. Can we focus for just a moment and consider the. . .hey, scroll back down here!

Forget it. I'm just going to walk away and try again tomorrow. You can't fight nature.

BTW, my sincere congrats to Bob Barker (and the girls).

Gameshows might be dismissed as a pretty basic form of entertainment, but it serves a purpose. It's a simple thing that makes people happy. Good on them, I don't want to find fault in that.

Shucks, as a blogger I don't want to be that guy in the glass house throwing that stone.

Hey, I'm still writing! (sigh)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's duck season.

Keep your head down.

Every time I see a bullet hole in something that's not made out of flesh and bone, it freaks me out a little to know that somebody intended (and was trying really hard) to put those holes into a person.

Now, if I got the story straight, the guy who fired the shots that made these holes is dead. Killed by the undercover officer whom he was trying to ventilate.

The whole story involves a house in Northridge where people suspected of being involved with illegal drugs were living.

Makes you kind of believe maybe there was some truth behind that particular suspicion. Very rarely do innocent people just suddenly start shooting at undercover cops.

Very rarely.

You know, I'm getting a lot of assignments lately involving officer involved shootings. I'm kind of outraged. It's so stupid that these suspects are willing to kill (let's assume they're not just firing warning shots) and risk their own lives over a nearly insignificant amount of monetary gain.

Our streets are full of these idiots.

There is nothing noble or admirable in their actions. There is nothing to be respected in their lives thrown away.

Why aren't more people outraged? Well, maybe they are.

It's easy to understand the reluctance of decent people to step forward and condemn the glorification of the gangster lifestyle. It's difficult to fight (let alone win) against someone who has no hope and nothing to lose. In the end, the best way to deal with it sometimes is to let the foolish keep playing their game. They'll either realize eventually how little there is to gain and make a change in themselves or they'll keep playing until their luck runs out.

Then I'll have another assignment, but I'm honestly not that desperate for something to do.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Babylon? Say, CHEESE!

The trauma of covering a major awards show is over for now. I've properly medicated myself and gotten a couple hours of sleep.

I've got a few errands to run this morning (return one unused rented tuxedo), so let's quickly see if you missed anything by watching the 2006 Emmy Awards at home.

See the white tape on the carpet? The white tape marks off our designated position on the arrival line.

No it's not a lot of room. Yes, it was uncomfortable to stand in that cramped space for three hours in the blazing mid-afternoon sun.

At least that's what they tell me.

I got truck duty this time around. It was just luck of the draw, but to be honest, I hear I didn't miss much. It was pretty miserable out there this year. One news person actually passed out (likely from the heat), so it wasn't too difficult a thing for me to sit in the air conditioned microwave truck and handle the pool feeds and liveshots.

The amazing Scott Mackie handled the tuxedo'd side of the operation.

I think I owe that man a beer (memo: beer as currency).

Even though I had nearly zero chance of getting a celebrity shot prior to the show, I managed to snag a few shots afterwards.

Dennis Leary from "Rescue Me". I don't know if that's his wife, but I had the urge to warn her about him.

Come on, don't you think he's sometimes a little too convincing in his roles?

Angelina's dad was there. I think he and Samuel L. Jackson should do a snake movie together. Coming soon: "Anacondas on a Mother_______ Plane!"

Don't laugh. You think it couldn't happen?

Maybe not everyone would agree, but I'm thinking that no single person represents quality television performance like Ron Jeremy.

Shucks, he could be in the snake movie too, if you know what I mean.

Great. So I recognized the male porn star, but I don't know who this person is. She was being interviewed by "E", so I'm almost sure she's someone famous. A little help would be appreciated.

By the way, I know it's not Teri Hatcher.

I remember that I didn't recognize Teri Hatcher two years ago.

Moving on.

I only managed to snap one shot of Sandra Oh. Really liked her in "Arli$$" and "Sideways". Dellis is the big "Grey's Anatomy" fan. I've caught a couple of episodes and I like the show, but I didn't get hooked this season. Maybe in the fall they'll reel me in.

I'm surprised you don't see more autograph signings at these things. There must be some unwritten rule. Unlike the rule that says the media isn't supposed to take snapshots.

That one is totally written.

Also totally ignored for the most part.

One new thing this year, they confiscated most small digital still cameras. Our producer had to surrender hers and wait until the show was over to get it back. Same for a lot of other people.

I couldn't tell if they wanted to cut down on the number of people snapping pictures during the show or if they wanted the news media to knock off snapping stills out on the red carpet.

I've never worried much about anyone making a fuss over me snapping a few still shots. If they decide to really crack down, I might have to stop volunteering to cover awards shows.

Gee, standing for hours in the sun on a small crowded spot on the red carpet? As appealing as it sounds, I'm not sure I'd miss it.

Not to be mean to the entertainment industry, but I think I can find something else to write about.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Everybody put one dollar in an envelope. . .

Milestone coming up. While I don't get the quantity of regular viewers that the average porn site records. . .

Photo by Joel (Iron Chief) Fallon

. . .it looks like this weekend I'll be crossing the 150,000 hit mark.

Thank you. Let's keep going.

If anybody wonders why I blog, it's because I like being able to write about life and what I do. I like doing that and being able to do it in my own voice.

Plus, it's still fun.

I think a beer is in order.

I'm sorry for. . .uh. . .Line!

Hey, did you watch "CSI" last night?

I tell you, crime and punishment makes for cool TV programs. Sure, over the years, we've gotten pretty comfortable with the routine. The good guys mostly win and the bad guys mostly lose. It's tough to come up with anything new.

Even so, we still get our little adrenaline rush. We picture ourselves in the lead role with a snappy comeback or a bullet for the bad guy. Either way, swift justice.

Real life police work isn't generally all that exciting. No, really. Plus, crime happens everywhere, not just in the cool cities like New York, LA, Miami, Pomona and Chicago.

I spent a good part of Thursday afternoon fighting traffic on the 10 freeway. My reporter, an intern and I were driving out to Pomona to interview a police detective about an unsolved murder that happened back in January.

Andre Laurent was shot and killed at an ARCO gas station. The suspects in the murder were never found. We interviewed the detective handling the case. They're still following leads and might be for quite some time unless someone comes forward with new information.

It was unexpected, but after the interview was over, we drove to Mary Laurent Barela's home (the victim's mother) and also interviewed her.

Seven months later and you can still see her pain. The tears don't flow quite as freely, but her voice cracked at times during the interview.

This was her only son that was killed. Does it need to be said that it's been a difficult year for her?

She talked about her loss and she talked about closure. Yeah, closure might come with the capture of her son's killer, but that won't bring her son back.

We offer our words of condolence, but the words seem so small compared to the loss.

After the interview, I shoot some b-roll of the photo memorial that Mary Laurent Barela has set up (for us?) in her living room. At one point while I'm shooting the b-roll, the reporter goes out to the van for a business card. I talk to Mary Laurent Barela about the landscaping in her backyard and about her small dog.

She got the dog after her son was killed.

I fold up my sticks, pick up my run bag and camera, then follow the reporter outside. It's quiet and maybe just a little awkward. We leave and go on to the scene where the murder took place. That's where the liveshot is going to happen.

I don't believe there's any harm in television programs using police work or crime as a basis for their storylines. Much of life is routine, uneventful and kind of unexciting. Doing my job covering the news, I see a reality that most people watch on TV to escape reality. For me, after these types of interviews, I probably won't watch any cop shows on TV for a while.

In real life, pretty often the good guys don't always win. The bad guys rarely get caught within an hour and I really wish I had better dialog.

"I'm sorry for your loss?"

Come on, who writes this crap?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Put another quarter in.

This week is flying by. I should be pacing myself, but forget that. I'm all for cranking my inner soundtrack up to eleven and trying to make the week hit lightspeed.


On a job that's always been full of adventure, I've been doing a slow trudge too often lately. When things are cranking like it has been this week, I'm more inclined to try and keep the ride going.

The Iron Chief is back in the big chair (hallelujah), and I'm back in the field. The second in command is still out on vacation though, so I'm still helping where I can.

For example, the Emmy awards are this Sunday and I volunteered for a little overtime to work them so it only made sense on Tuesday morning that I attend the media walkthough. That's where we meet the major players that run the big productions and ask any nagging questions we might have for them.

How we get our job done on the day of the show is largely determined by the people met at the walkthrough.

We like be on their good side.

This was the first time I'd done a pre-event walkthrough on this scale. It was very interesting, but it was scheduled to last a lot longer than the time I had available that day. I fired off my questions, got them answered, then hit the road within fifteen minutes after they said, "Good morning."

Thanks. See ya' Sunday.

Why rush?

Well, the big story of the day was happening at the Criminal Courts building downtown.

Tuesday was the extradition hearing of John Mark Karr. Pretty close to an "all hands on deck" situation, but without the factor of surprise.

The hearing was brief and way over by the time I got to downtown. It didn't matter.

Well, heck, maybe a little to me because I was hoping I might get a still shot of him for the blog. Sorry, wasn't going to happen.

Still, I was needed to help put people on TV. I made my way past the courthouse metal detectors and up to the media room where the Iron Chief and some of our people were getting ready to go on TV.

The media room was put together during the days of the O.J. Simpson trial. We rarely use it, but it's nice to know that it's there.

It's supposed to make it easier for us to put people on TV and sometimes it does. I like that it gives us a good alternate camera location when we have multiple reporters covering a major court story.

Sometimes we don't have a choice and we have to put everyone in nearly the same spot on the street outside. Not my favorite alternative.

I mean, we'll take what we can get. Let me tell you, that downtown sidewalk real estate can be scarce when everyone wants the story.

I'm just glad everything worked out. It's okay that I didn't get everything I wanted out of the day. Our station got everything it needed. The reporters made it on TV and the viewers at home got the story.

Later we moved over to the Twin Towers Men's Central Jail and did a couple more live hits.

My day started at about 8:30am and I finished plugging up the van at home about 7:30pm. There's a lot that I didn't get to do on Tuesday. I didn't shoot or cut a piece, but I helped set up a liveshot and helped coordinate the crews out in the field. I attended a meeting where the Chief wasn't needed and that let him be downtown where he was needed.

I stayed busy. I helped put people on TV.

It felt like I did things I was supposed to do and I enjoyed my job. Cool.

I'm watching the clock. In a little while, I get to go back today and do it some more.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Clueless me.

Monday I was sent out to an O.I.S. (officer involved shooting) incident on Exposition Boulevard in the area near USC.

Well, I'm at a complete loss for the day.

Most of the time I can figure out what happened with a couple of questions to people from the neighborhood or maybe get a statement from a PIO.

The police shot a suspect (non-fatal), but I don't know why he was shot. I don't know what he was suspected of doing. I don't really know why the group of people in the picture are being held.

There was the usual reluctance of residents to talk to the media. A few didn't mind talking about us loud enough so we could hear what was being said, but nobody wanted to talk to us directly.

I felt a lot of anger from people who questioned why we showed up on that day for that incident.

I took the question as being rhetorical. I'm pretty sure nobody really wanted to hear my answer.

I don't doubt that the people who live in this area want better lives for themselves. I'm sure there are people of intelligence, heart, and character who call this neighborhood home.

Seeing the scene on Monday, I wonder if they're just outnumbered or do people really find things to be acceptable.

The problems of this neighborhood are so complex that I can't even begin to get a handle on what should or could be done to make things better.

Seeing a group of people in handcuffs and not seeing outrage doesn't make any sense to me. I rolled tape on the scene and got a statement from the PIO.

The assignment desk cleared me to return to the station.

It bugged me while driving away that I didn't know much about what had happened.

I was relieved to be leaving an area where I wasn't feeling welcome, but it didn't feel like I was leaving with much of the story. I'm sure that's part of the problem.

We don't understand that area. It shouldn't matter that we weren't born and raised in that exact neighborhood. I'm not speaking for the news media, but just as a person. I don't think we're there long enough to understand or make any real difference in changing things for the better. I'm not saying the people of that neighborhood should be able to turn to someone else to solve their problems. I'm just saying that it's frustrating.

If it's frustrating for me, I can only imagine what it's like for the people who live there. They didn't get to hop in their newsvan and drive away like I did.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ignore me!

That was certainly one of the most exciting nights of my life. It's now the morning after and all my family is still asleep.

I'm hungover, but still grinning. Gee, I'm thinking, boy I must have really had a good time.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last night was the artist's reception at the NoHo Gallery LA. I have four photographs on display as part of their current "The Art of News" exhibition. By itself, that's a huge honor and really a mind blowing experience.

Quite a thrill to see pictures I've taken on display in a gallery show.

I'll get to some of the details, but let me say off the top, the biggest thrill of the night for me was having my wife and kids there. Our older son and daughter drove down from San Francisco and it just felt great to have my whole little group together.

In a day where every time I turned around, there was another great moment for me personally, this was a gift that nothing else could really touch.

Photo by Victor Webb

Not that I want to take away anything from every other mind blowing moment of the day, but I was also interviewed by Cary Berglund for KNBC. I'll link to the story on their web site after they post the video later today.

I used to work with Cary when he was with KCAL and it was a blast to suffer on the other side of an interview.

Gosh, it was also a funny coincidence that our new Business Conduct Statements were distributed on the same day that I do an interview with one of our competitors.

After I had done the interview, I found out that some people were just slightly alarmed that I hadn't ran it past our corporate-guy-in-charge-of-this-kind-of-stuff (swear to goodness, I think that's his actual title).

I went to one of the people I trust the most in the newsroom (hi, Paul!) and asked if I was going to get fired for doing an interview for KNBC. I don't recall his exact words, but it came down to "probably not".

My thought? Okay, good enough for me.

He pointed me in the right direction to get a final ruling on the situation. It was fine, no violation of policy.

But, I digress. The show was packed through much of the evening. Over the course of the evening, I had a pretty large group that had fought through a lot of traffic to be there.

Some of my best friends from periods of my life as far back as grade school showed up.

Photo by Daniel C. DeBevoise

I think everybody liked my shot of the Vatican the best of my four pieces. I got a lot of great compliment from everyone, but there was really good work from all the artists on display.

I also wanted to point out that CBS2/KCAL9 did cover the event also. We couldn't send a reporter out, but I still really appreciated them sending a photographer. No worries. Remember, I was filling in for the Chief Photog this week. I worked on the schedule and the crew assign and I know how tight our resources were on Friday.

I don't know if it was the promise of punch and pie or the implied threat of sending me completely over my normally comfortable perch on the edge of sanity that prompted people who know me to show up. I do know it was in part the love, support, and threatening undercurrent of fear of my wife that kept me from behaving too outrageously in public.

I think my friends and family got to see a different side of me.

Photo by (aw heck, I forgot who took this one)

It's not all that unusual that I find myself at the center of attention. The nature of what I do for a living often finds me with an opinion or perspective on the world that others find of interest. Most often those moments are random and spontaneously at my discretion. It's extremely rare that I spend so much time in a spotlight (microscope) position.

I thank Dan, currator of the gallery for inviting me to be a part of his show, but I enjoyed the day for reasons that go beyond the art of mine on the wall.

You could easily see it in their faces. Different friends of mine who haven't seen each other in long time (or never knew each other) had the opportunity last night to connect. It felt as if the bonds that tie us together were strengthened.

I feel like a group of the folks I know from different parts of my life, well, we're all of us more of a family now. It's really kind of humbling to recognize myself as the one of thing people I invited had in common. As cool a thing as it was to see my pictures in a gallery show, it was cooler still to see the happy faces of everyone I claimed as mine mingling with each other and enjoying life and the day.

Trust me, it's not a lack of anything (self-esteem, ego, ambition, yadda-yadda), it just kind of how I look at things. Really, with nothing but great affection, thanks to everyone for coming out.

Just know that there's a small corner of my mind where I look at the evening and say to myself.

It's really not about me. I'm just happy we had the time togther.

Although maybe you could all chip in and you know, like buy something next time?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Burn rubber on me!

I'm still chained to the desk, but I can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Yay, Friday!

My tour of duty ends tomorrow and I can look forward to a week where I at least have the potential for going out and covering the news.

I almost forgot that last week when the terrorists were rounded up, we had a day out at LAX that rocked.

The early morning crews had been there and done liveshots for the 5am and 6am shows. I was working a dayside shift and had driven to our station in Hollywood. LAX is only five minutes from my house and it would have been much easier for me to go straight there.

With a big smile on my face, I called the folks in the newsroom "bastards" and headed out to the airport.

I don't think anyone took offense. It was meant in the friendly way.

Supply your own favorite motivational soundtrack. My preference leans towards the Gap Band or Stevie Wonder.

I had to help get three liveshots set up and that took coordinating between the two reporters, their photographers, the assignment desk, our technical operations center (TOC), the producers, and the Iron Chief. Not all questions were easily answered, but options were available and I just needed to keep moving towards the goal of everyone being on TV when we wanted them to be.

Don't panic. Communicating is critical. That's where we usually have the most difficult time. Again, don't panic.

The Mayor (Dude!) and other officials were coming out for a press conference and our station wanted to carry it live. Three microwave paths out from one general location. Two for reporters and one for the press conference (that was the most important). Parking was limited, but our trucks were all in position and we had over two hours to get everything cabled.

Rock on, baby!

About an hour before the start of the press conference, we get word from the station that an updated press release from the Mayor's office has conflicting info regarding the location. It says the presser is going to be in another location.

That seems wrong.

It makes no sense to anyone that they'd move the location. We've done these before and everyone knows where to set up. The morning crew was also told where it was going to happen.

I check into it. Yup, we're screwed. They've moved the location.

Cue the music up full.

This is what you have to know right now. Our job is pretty easy pretty often. The way that I look at it, we don't earn our money or prove our worth doing what's easily done day to day. Almost anyone can punch a button and remember to white balance.

We're who we are because even when we shouldn't be able to get it done, somehow we do it. We make it happen.

When they come to our camera, the people at home never know that the last cables were connected thirty seconds before the liveshot. The folks at home don't have to know that the cable run for the live press conference was probably close to 100 yards away and dropped down to the ground level from the upper level roadway. It wouldn't even occur to the average viewer that we were feeding the edited package and had to switch to the live camera view and bring up the reporter's audio while the producer was yelling for our live picture. They don't know how much mad scrambling was done to swap out trucks and camera positions so we could make all the live shots happen.

All this and the cell phone never stops ringing. Hello? Are we going to make slot? Yeah, maybe if we don't have to keep answering the cell phone.

Somehow we got it done. Cussing? You betcha. Like sailors in a bad mood, but we did get it done.

Both reporters made it on TV and the press conference ran a good twenty-five minutes or so. It's week old news now, but at the time it was pretty interesting to see all the products that were going to be banned from air travel.

The station sent out pizza and drinks for the crews.

It was one of the most frustrating and difficult days I've worked this year. It might sound sick, but I loved every painful minute of it. I don't expect everyone to feel like I do. I'm sure there were a few grumbles over having to do so much last minute hoop jumping.

The complaints were minor.

The rewards were all in the satisfaction of knowing that we did what we intended to do. We put the news on TV. Sometimes this is what it takes and we were up to the challenge.

I thought you might like to know.

Music down and fade out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Save the King!

Been thinking a lot about the accident from last Friday and I think I need to lighten up.

I've had to do some juggling this week and it started to feel like I wasn't being very productive. Usually when that's the case I start making lists in order to stay focused. I made a quick to-do list last night after dinner. After finishing it, I fell asleep. Posting was pretty high up on the list.

Going to bed early wasn't on there at all.

I'm actually sorry I missed posting yesterday. It's okay though. It's not like I had anything major happening.

That's mainly because I have the honor of sitting in for the Chief Photographer again.

Does he have a sweet deal? Heck yeah, he does! The way I'm counting, it's possible he has something like three years of vacation time.

Anyway, welcome back to the exciting world of crew assignments, OSHA reports and scheduling.

Most folks might not believe it, but enjoying this job is really a lot in the attitude. If I approach the job of "fill in-acting-second assistant-emergency backup chief" like it's an adventure, it'll kind of seem like something exciting.

Granted, it can be a challenging job at times, but I do have a pretty active imagination for when it isn't.

Like this morning as I was refilling my fourth cup of coffee, I asked myself a simple question. Wasn't Aramark one of Dumas' Three Musketeers?

Well, that's pretty much all I got going creatively. I think those OSHA reports are killing my brain cells.

Hmm. Just thinking about it, Aramark is kind of my hero. I mean, who isn't, "one for all and all for coffee!"

Photo by John Vincent

So far the week in the big chair has been uneventful. I'm going to keep the caffeine flowing and try to find something interesting to do.

The NoHo Gallery LA artist's reception is coming up on Friday. I'm looking forward to it and I think I could actually stay awake until then.

Does anyone else hear a buzzing sound?