Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who'll stop the news?

Okay, I mentioned how all the media was booted out of the church parking lot when the armed forces realized that we were in the way of their practice for the President Ford memorial service. Clearing out wasn't a big deal.

Finding another local spot to set up for our liveshots was.

It's not the only truth, so try not to immediately jump all over me for being honest. I tried to pick a spot that wouldn't upset the business owners in the neighborhood. I scouted the streets around the El Paseo shopping district for a while before I found a spot.

In a less affluent part of town, finding an alternate liveshot location might have been less of an issue. It's not that I'm less considerate under alternate circumstances. I just find that higher property values sometimes equal a greater expectation of control over the environment by business and property owners.

There's courtesy, there's right and wrong and there's the law.

I parked our satellite truck on the street in an open space and I managed to avoid parking next to any of the many restaurants in the area. The other photographer and our reporter arrived and parked their microwave truck in front of Big Blue in a green loading zone. This was about 10:00am for a 11:00am liveshot.

The building next to where we parked houses a dry-cleaner business. We had one liveshot to do at 11:00am and we completed it without incident.

As we were breaking down the gear, someone from the cleaners came out and told us to move the microwave truck. Move the truck? Most of us had been up since 2:00am, so give me a break. We're rolling up cable, dropping the mast and packing away gear. Did this guy wait until we were leaving?

Also, I could be wrong (so feel free to correct me if the law is different in other places). In most areas, as far as I'm aware, it's legal for news media to park in green loading zones.

We continued to pack away our gear and nobody responded to the guy. He came back out after a while and said something else, but I was too far away to hear what it was exactly.

I'm glad we avoided letting the situation escalate, but it took a lot to just walk away. There's plenty that could have been said and maybe we should have pressed the issue. It just seemed pointless to even have the conversation.

Maybe next time a news crew parks in front of his business, the guy will come out sooner and discover nobody was actually doing what he told us to do. We were only doing what made sense.

Friday, December 29, 2006

On the road again (again).

I've got to be at work at 8:00am this morning, so I don't have a lot of time to blog. Yeah, I know. That's what I always say.

This is what 3:00am looked like yesterday morning outside of the church in the desert yesterday. It was cold and we were all choking on the carbon monoxide fumes from the microwave and satellite truck generators.

Mostly mine.

Later in the morning, we got to see the military honor guard practice their moves for the procession into the church. By that time, I was already feeling a little woozy. From the early morning wakeup and not so much the generator fumes.

I had shut Big Blue down and was working on replacing it with one of our smaller SNG trucks, but the wind had really kicked up. Even our noxious output wouldn't be hanging around long enough to cause concern.

Right around that time, the military must have decided we were getting too much under foot. They booted all of us out of the church parking lot. It wasn't quite that abrupt. They may have allowed one or two more liveshots.

But they meant business (and were armed). Our crew had already gone to shoot at another location and I hadn't redeployed the dish on Big Blue yet, so it was easy for us to relocate.

We found a spot in the Paseo shopping area. I think that's what it was called. Right now, I don't remember much, just seeing stores like if Rodeo Drive were moved out to the desert.

Woo. I'm not done yet with this post, but if I don't drag myself away from the desk, I'm going to be late for work.

A lot happened in the past two days and it felt really good to get out of town for a story. I'm telling you though, every one of our liveshots had technical issues. It took a lot more effort than usual to pull them off.

I think we were getting on TV mostly by force of will.

Happy Friday. Let's chat some more later.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This used to be fun?

Just kidding. It still is.

The phone rang about 10:30pm. Dellis answered it and handed it to me. It was Jeff Mailes from work. President Ford had died and they needed someone to come in to help with the morning shows.

Can I do it? Was I up to the task? Would I come through in my station's hour of need?

Crap, crap, crap. I'd just fallen asleep and really (reallllly) needed the rest.

You know all the complaining I'd done in the last few months about not getting my share of the news pie? That was sure coming back to bite me on the "be"hind.

Nothing I could do, though. If I pass up an opportunity, I might miss something.

So, that's how I found myself loading up Big Blue for an early morning shift out in the Palm Springs area. For the sake of safety, I took a short nap before leaving home and I'm glad I did.

The drive out was rough, even with a Red Bull energy drink to caffeinate me.

I made it to the location without any trouble. I'd thought I might have to "coffee up" one more time on the way out, but didn't feel the need.

We set up on a small street about a block away from the gated compound where President Ford lived.

I've been out here a couple of times in the past. Always to the gate, never inside the property. This time they really put some distance between us and the gate. I think they must have been expecting a media circus.

. . .and they got one.

The residents of this street tolerated a lot of noise in the middle of the night. That kind of surprised me. It didn't really strike me as a very tolerant neighborhood (older and very well-to-do). We got a few inquisitive types come out in their robes, but no threats or sprinklers turned on us (well, the automatic ones, but that wasn't personal).

I just hope we're done with that area and can go live from somewhere else tomorrow morning. It was nice not to have anyone trying to chase us off and I'd hate to use up all their hospitality.

We hit in the early morning shows, the 11:00am and the noon show. We're staying overnight to cover the early morning shift tomorrow. That means I'll be up around 1:00am.

Quick, somebody tell me why I've been missing this. I'm sure I've got my reasons, but my brain is just too fried to recall any of them right at the moment.

I'm hungry and tired. As I type up this post, I have no idea which one I'm going to take care of first. I just know that the wake-up call is going to come a lot sooner than I'd like. It's been a while, but here I am in a hotel room on the road and wishing I were at home with my family.

Yup, good times.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Let's revisit: Forgive? Sure (but prosecute).

Has anybody been following the comments on this post? Kind of interesting and I'll leave it at that. Here's a link to the original post. Check the Haloscan comments.

beFrank: Forgive? Sure (but prosecute).

I'm curious to hear what other people have to say.

Santa brought me a liveshot!

. . .that's just what I wanted.

It's quiet right now in the Frank household. We had a great Christmas. I was home for the entire weekend and Christmas day.

Three days off for Christmas? That never ever happens.

Newspeople know how that goes. Most often we're working on the holidays. That just shows you how strange this year has been. At least this bit of bizzaro happend in my favor.

Ask me how strange things have been. Go ahead, ask me. See the newsvans? We're all used to seeing one (mine) in the neighborhood. There were four more set up outside my house last night.

For real.

It's okay, nothing bad happened. My neighbor across the street is part of a charitable organization that works with inner-city kids. (Shame on me, because I didn't know that.)

Over the last several years, they've organized trips for kids to get them out of their regular environment and show them other parts of the country. This year, they're traveling all the way to New Orleans to help hurricane Katrina victims.

It's a good cause and could easily be the biggest "nice" thing to ever happen for some of the kids.

My neighbor had given me a heads-up that the local FOX station had shown interest in covering the event. I'd planned to grab my camera and shoot a VOSOT (kind of under the table) for my stations. No way was I going to sit back and watch another station get an exclusive in my front yard.

Nope, I wasn't gonna let that happen.

So, I was ready to do my thing. It was just a mutual surprise to go outside and see another CBS2\KCAL9 newsvan parked in front of my house.

The stationed had decided to send out a crew and put a reporter on the story. They were just as surprised to see me and my van sitting in the driveway.

It was Anchor/Reporter Dave Clark and my fellow photographer Lou Varella on the job. They'd arrived a bit early, so I invited them in out of the cold.

Of course, they didn't want to intrude on our holiday, but I got them to come in to meet and greet my family. My in-laws were visiting us and that was a pretty big thrill for them.

KTLA and ABC7 had also sent crews out to cover the story. It was quite the little media event. Dellis and the kids watched the liveshots on TV. I wasn't going to shoot anything, but I still couldn't sit inside while there was news happening in my front yard.

I'm supposed to be at work (cough-cough), but I'm taking a sick day. If I'm recovered enough later, remind me to tell you about how I pitched in and helped for half a liveshot.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rocket Science

Of all the days to get my reprieve from desk jockey work, this would not have been my first choice. I got Christmas stuff to do and the potential for getting stuck out at Edwards Airforce Base is not a really attractive possibility.

It's 1:22pm and I've been up since about 4:30am.

We're here to cover the shuttle landing, if the shuttle lands here at Edwards. We've gone the entire morning without knowing for sure where it was actually going to land. Florida and New Mexico were both also possibles. Don't get me wrong. Let me just say right now, I'm just happy to be in the field.

NASA is providing free internet access. Free internet access is a huge bonus and I'm keeping the parking pass and the media credential for souvenirs. I just wasn't keen on the idea of working late if the shuttle did land here.

It sort of goes against my normal work ethic, but it's Christmas for gosh sakes.

Hey, they made the call to land in Florida and we are out of here. I might hit the gift shop and pick up one of those nifty NASA hats like my reporter is wearing.

Two hours drive back to the station.

One more hour to put the SAT truck to bed and then it's the holiday. Merry-merry and all that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cool yule.

If you look carefully at the photograph below, you're going to notice two things.

1. Yes, I'm wearing new glasses.

2. Yes, I'm wearing a Santa hat.

3. Yes, I'm inside the building instead of out in the field covering the news.

Okay, three things.

Photo by John Vincent

If I my glasses are gone and they're missing for more than six weeks, I sort of have to admit that they might not be coming back. Keep hope alive and all that, but in the meantime I have books to read and write (and that's already an uphill battle). Saw my optometrist about a week and half ago. Been sporting the new specs since last Thursday.

I shaved my beard into a goatee and had kind of a Malcolm X thing going for a couple of days. It was working for me, but just too difficult to keep from grinning. I traded the goatee in for the moustache and stubble.

The Santa hat? What can I say? It's a bit of a tradition for me (and it keeps my head warm).

This is an artist's rendering of our new station. I'm going to wait for an official "okay" before I post some actual photographs. Just let me be the first to say, wow! The new place is really going to be something special.

My drawing probably only barely captures just how cool it's going to be.

Well, this was another quick post to let you know that I'm alive and well. I'm keeping busy, but I've been pulled to help on a project that relates to the new facility. That means it's a hush-hush deal. Can't talk about it without tipping our hand to the competition.

I'd be suffering full news withdrawal if I were missing anything major. The end of the year is usually pretty quiet. Is everybody okay with that?

How about it? Let's keep it quiet through the holidays.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let's hope this is a good omen.

It might not be news, but this is new. Dellis and I were about to leave to go Christmas shopping and I noticed this visitor to our backyard.

My first thought was, cool. Then I thought about trying to go outside and see if I might be able to lure him down from his perch with some food.

I took a look at the talons and reconsidered.

A handful of birdseed was all it took to get adopted by our cockatiel. Somehow I couldn't quite see that happening with "Avenger" here.

Uh, Avenger is Birdman's crimefighting partner's name. (Just "Google" it. I'll link it later.)

He was pretty alert to our movement. We were about twenty feet away, scoping him out from our bedroom window.

Dellis and I were asking each other, "Do you think he can see us?"

I seem to recall these things having extremely good eyesight. I'm guessing, yeah. He was probably watching us the whole time.

That was kind of creepy.

I managed to grab my camera and squeeze off a few shots (yay, proof!), but I was moving to another part of the house and missed when he flew away. I don't know what Dellis has been putting in the bird feeder, but we maybe should cut back on that.

More shopping and more shed work today. While I'm working out there with my tools, I'm keeping an eye out for our visitor. I think I've seen "Avenger" stop criminals by dropping a borrowed hammer on them.

They never showed him bringing the hammer back.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Long Beach Fire: Part Three(ish)

Things are slow. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. It's almost the end of the year and I'm scratching my head over the strange turns my life in news has taken this year. I can't wait forever for just the big stories to happen. I actually needed to string words together, so here's an end of the week update post.

Since last week, I've been practicing on the new edit system and helping the "Iron" Chief Photographer (Joel Fallon) on a management project. I haven't hit the streets for any actual news work since the Long Beach Fire.

Yes, I am climbing the walls.

Let me stop and take a deep breath.

I try to be careful about how anxious I let myself get about going out to cover the news. It can really screw up my calm, zen center of balance and unbiased objectivity. Gotta keep things in perspective, because the last thing I want is for something bad to happen.

Plus, the real reason I'm antsy is that I rust easily. You don't want me to go a few days without shooting anything.

It's early Friday morning. I'm up to maybe work out and have breakfast with Dellis. One cool thing I want to share is that our youngest daughter is home from college. She's been gone for months and it's really nice to hear her laughter in the house.

If the weather works in my favor this weekend, I've got my shed project to keep me busy. It's coming along, but I just wish I had more chunks of time to work on it. On top of everything I want to do this weekend, I'm expecting to spend a few hours in a quiet corner of Starbucks writing.

Somewhere in there, I'll actually get into the spirit of Christmas and hit a mall for some shopping.

One of my brothers dropped off a CD of R&B/Motown Christmas music yesterday. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Fair warning to any reporters I work with, I plan to make it the theme music of my newsvan for the next week or so (and I really think it's time to break out the Santa hat).

So, life is good, even with nothing major to blog about. I'm on cruise control until something big happens and I wanted to keep everyone posted.

I hear breakfast calling me, I'm going to go start my Friday. Happy Hanukkah everyone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Long Beach Fire: Part Two

Great. Now that I'm awake, I can say a little more about the Long Beach Fire.

When I'm shooting someone doing their job, the last thing I want to do is get in the way.

I'm not sure how much or how often we actually do get in the way during these types of emergencies, but I notice sometimes we get treated better than others. Our access to the area affected by the Long Beach apartment fire wasn't completely consistent through the evening.

I spent at least an hour on my own shooting b-roll. Mostly I'm just trying to get a handle on what would be important for the reporter.

(By the way, that hydrant in the picture below was spraying a very fine jet of water right at me as I was taking this shot. I didn't notice it until it had soaked through the front of my jeans. I'll call it an occupational hazard. If anyone noticed, they didn't mention it. I'm just lucky it didn't soak any of my gear.)

I'm not sure if something changed, but (later in the evening) the fire department began assigning escorts if we wanted to shoot anything close to the building.

It was a little frustrating because I'm pretty sure most of the photogs on the scene at that point had already shot most of their b-roll. It was a little insulting when the escorts brought us across the street away from the building behind the yellow tape. They walked us into an area that the public was coming from and going to freely.

Good thing we had an official escort.

Photographers complain about this all the time, but it doesn't seem to filter through to all the people who should be concerned.

Too often we end up at odds with fire or police representatives who don't know or don't care about the job we're trying to do.

The policies (and laws) that determine what we can and can't do are pretty basic. It's difficult to understand how we can still get saddled with a person who seems to want to control our actions.

Sometimes it seems that we're being held accountable for the poor behavior of other media.

Sometimes it feels like there's an expectation is that we're going to behave badly.

Some of that baggage is rightfully ours and we should take responsibility for it. I've been around enough inexperienced or just plain bad journalists to know the difference.

Heck, I've been bad and inexperienced.

Woo. I've got to run off to work, but let me try to make a small point here. Trying to control us isn't going to make for better media organizations. Everybody needs to work under a common understanding. We all need to know and follow the rules.

I think I need to make this a three parter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Long Beach Fire: Part One

The fire was mostly out by the time I made it to Long Beach, but it was stubborn. Every now and then, smoke would fill the streets and firemen would begin rushing the building again.

Oww! My neck hurts from when my head slumps forward and I snap back awake. I'm trying to get something written here, but I'm fighting to stay awake and not winning the battle.

It's almost 11:00pm. I'm going to take a short nap and come back a little later.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I always wanted an atomic dog.

Bow-wow-wow, yippee-yo, yippee-yay!

Would you believe the Navy let us take pictures of it's new top secret super stealth nuclear submarine? That's the submarine, right in the middle of the water. Can you see it?

Ha-ha, just kidding.

There is no super secret new stealth submarine (well, as far as I know). What we got is the Navy's USS Los Angeles' first trip to its' namesake city.

Driving from Hollywood to San Pedro through early rush hour yesterday, that first picture of the empty Harbor is all I thought I'd get.

Somewhere near 3:45pm I got the call. I knew what to expect. I hopped in my van jumped on the freeway and hit a solid wall of traffic congestion that didn't let up until I was halfway there.

Just before the traffic broke up I got another call to feed the station some tape for the 5:00pm newscast. It was just after 4:30pm and I hadn't even gotten there yet.

"Sure, I'll do what I can."

I made it to the Harbor and found the right pier (the one with the marching band, maybe?) and negotiated through two security checkpoints. No strip search this time, but they sure gave me the skunk eye for getting there late.

The soldier boys handling security looked like high school seniors. If high school seniors wore fatigues and carried guns and rifles. I'm used to being around people and guns, but when you put the two together I still worry about accidents. Even more when I'm in a rush.

No time to change the lens on my still camera. Crap, that means no full shots of the sub.

While I was there, I was eager to mention to one of the nuclear sub-mariners that I happen to wear a Casio "atomic" watch. It gets the time from the central atomic clock and sets itself. For some reason, I see a funny connection there.

I've been pointing out to anyone who'll listen since I got the watch, it's an "ATOMIC" watch. Okay, mostly I've said it to my lovely wife, Dellis (I don't think she ever found it funny).

It's probably better that I didn't have time to chat. People who keep us safe by skipping around underwater in nuclear powered submarines probably wouldn't get my sense of humor.

I quickly rolled a couple of minutes of b-roll of the sub and fed the tape back to the station. They had the footage for the 5:00pm show. I went back to cover more of the official ceremony, but got called with another assignment. Darn, and I never got the chance to get any more still shots of the sub.

The second assignment was a Christmas tree lighting in Watts. I was running late for that one too. You can't blame me, that's just the way life is in news.

Besides, I'm very accurate when it comes to timing. You see, I have an atomic watch.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Roaring good times.

Outside of the friends who remind me at work (Paul, Paul, and Paul), I know I'm really slacking on my writing when Lucky (our cockatiel) comes down and hangs with me. He'll swoop down and land on my head when I sit at my desk and just hang out for a while. I think he knows that irritates me when I'm writing.

It's been a light week for me (photographically speaking). My days have been filled with classroom work on our edit training. My brain is full up on keystrokes, short-cuts, and non-linear workflow. Add to that the traffic battle I've fought everyday to get home and it all hasn't added up to me being in a writing frame of mind.

I don't want you to think I'm trying to make excuses for not posting. Nooo, that's not what I'm saying at all.

Since my days have been spent sitting in a classroom, I haven't even had the possibility of covering anything interesting. That's okay, I love my job, but the stuff I do outside of my job also makes me happy. I can usually count on that for an interesting slice of life to write about.

Dellis and I went out on a date last Saturday. We finally caught "The Lion King" at the Pantages Theatre. I've been promising to take Dellis to see it since it's first Los Angeles run, but my schedule always kept getting in the way. That's kind of funny. It's been almost a full year, but I remember when news was seriously popping and I couldn't easily plan anything in advance because I might be called in.

Boy, times sure change.

Anyway, it was cool seeing the Pantages for more than the time it takes to drive past in my newsvan. It's only two blocks from my station, but the last time I was inside the Pantages was a couple of months before they reopened for the Los Angeles Lion King premiere.

The theatre had been completely refurbished and we did a behind the scenes story on the work. Scaffolding was everywhere. It was amazing how much detail and craftsmanship had gone into the building originally. They managed to preserve or recreate much of it and had made some interesting finds behind areas that had been built over in previous years.

I spent a full day shooting it in careful and loving detail. I think we ran thirty seconds during an entertainment segment on KCAL.

Oh, well.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see a show here back in the day. Dellis and I hung out a little and let the crowds die down after the performance and spent some time looking around.

By the way, we caught the matinee show. A lot of people had kids with them.

Nobody told me we were supposed to bring a kid. I was going to inquire about renting one (you know, like they do with binoculars?), but Dellis cautioned me against it.

Shucks, even without a kid, we had a good time.

After the show, we tried a new (to us) restaurant nearby. "Citizen Smith" is the name of the place and it's a mid-sized Hollywood spot with an eclectic menu.

We started out with an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes and I can't help seeing Cathy Bates in my mind every time I hear that.

Dellis had a risotto and peas entree (no protein, but very good) with an apple martini. I wasn't in a very trendy mood. I had a burger (bleu cheese on it to make it just a little trendy) and fries. Get this, here's a surprise, I had a beer with it. An "Arrogant Bastard" (not me, that was the name of the beer).

We laughed and ate by candlelight (and patio heater light) outside in the alleyway between buildings. No, really. They turned the alley into a cool patio area.

I love the time I get to spend with Dellis without having to be concerned about anything beyond the moment. It's nice to have that kind of time together at this point in our lives. Our kids will be home for the holidays and we're really looking forward to that. It's nice to have that kind of balance. We enjoy the time alone, but appreciate the family time with our children.

Whoops, I gotta run. I have an appointment at my optometrist.

Keep your fingers crossed. I have a regular shift today and I'm good on everything else, but I'm kind of hungry for a little action news.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

School Days.

Beautiful days outside and I'm stuck for my entire shift in a classroom.

Edit training on the new Grass Valley systems is underway this week. I'm picking it up well enough, but I won't be setting any speed records out the gate.

This isn't the first format change I've suffered through. With any luck, it won't be the last. Interesting times for us.

I'll try to keep you posted.

(Sorry about the brevity today. I have to do my homework.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Serious wood.

It's not like I don't have enough projects around the house to keep me distracted from the writing I should be doing.

Always room for one more.

With the loss of one of our dogs this year (thanks, but I still don't want to talk about it), our other dog (Kayla) is spending more time inside. The kennel area in the backyard has become just a holding area for her when the pooch has to be kept out of the way (for her own safety).

My garden and power tools take up all the working space in the garage. It's tough for me to get small projects done quickly because it's a major exercise to clear out enough space to work.

It seemed to make sense about a week ago to build a storage shed in the seldom used kennel. Yeah, lots of stuff makes sense when it's in the theoretical stage. I've never built a shed before, but I can follow diagrams and I come from a line of do-it-yourself kind of men.

That doesn't qualify me to operate a nail gun, but what could be simpler? Heh-heh.

I've got the hardware covered, but the job is going to take a few trips to Lowes for lumber. I can only carry about twelve to fifteen 8' 2x4 boards at a time in my jeep with the top up and I'm looking to build a 8'x4'x8' shed.

Hmm, this might involve math. I thought someone said, carpentry isn't an exact science.

After learning how to operate the nail gun, I managed to build the base this weekend. I'll keep you posted on the progress. It might be interesting. If you have any suggestions, feel free to offer them up. Also, if you see that I'm doing anything very obviously wrong, please don't wait until I'm a VO at the end of the newscast to speak up.

Next weekend I start the serious framing. I'm looking forward to it.