Thursday, January 31, 2008

Debate: PART II!

I'm as tired as I can get and still function. This is day two of the debate marathon and I'm really looking forward to sleeping over the weekend.

I sure wish tomorrow were Friday.

Carl, Monica, Joe and I did everything we could to make sure our reporters, CBS Newspath, and CBS affiliate KPIX from San Francisco all got first class service from us.

Don't even ask me what happened during the debate. I couldn't focus my attention enough to follow along with the activities.

We're one liveshot away from putting this day behind us. Yeah, this day put up a good fight, but after all is said and done, everybody out here kicked ass.

We can't say that every day.

I don't want to jinx it, but that's how I'm feeling right now.

Also tired.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rockin' Around the Clock.

Yikes! I just noticed I hadn't posted since the weekend. I'm sure you understand. After five days away from home, things got a little piled up.

I probably should have worked on trimming down that pile, but mostly I've tried to catch up on sleep and well, shucks, beer doesn't drink itself you know.

I'm pullng SAT truck duty today and tomorrow. Big debates. Yessiree, lots of talking. Hey, maybe it's just me, but instead of a debate, I'd like to see a cage match. I'd watch that. Who's with me?

Yesterday, after a morning training session, I tagged along with the Chief on a walk-through for the Democratic Candidates Debate that's going to be held at the Kodak Theatre on Thursday.

The whole purpose of a walk through is to hammer out technical issues to make sure all the media outlets play nice with each other.


Before the walk-through we had a pretty good idea how things were going to be set up.

The high point of the walk through was when one of the LA Observed guys recognized me.

That was cool.

They're serious bloggers over there and it kind of gives me a warm fuzzy that they even know who I am.

We're coming up on the last liveshots of the night. After we're done here at the house that Ron built, I'll be driving the SAT truck over to Hollywood Boulevard for the 1:00am load-in.

It's shaping up to be a pretty good news year. I don't hope for anything bad to happen, but I'm feeling pretty good about being back out on the front line. I'm sure I'll be fried by the weekend, but I still feel like I was overdue for assignments I could sink my teeth into.

While you're sleeping tonight, I'll be questioning the wisdom of volunteering for most of this. I could be the poster boy of "be careful what you wish for".

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Codename: SNOWMAN

It's now Saturday evening and I'm watching the sky. The next storm should be hitting us soon. I'm ready for the most part, but the hotel has had some plumbing problems and we are now without hot water.

That's certainly not good and on top of that, there's no room service.  I can't have a couple of cheeseburger and a beer sent up.

Most of my fellow crew members had other plans for the weekend or they got shifted onto other stories. Dellis and I didn't have anything major planned for the weekend, maybe knocking a couple more movies off my list.

With the weather the way it is, I know me.  I wouldn't have been overly motivated to get out in the yard.

The station wants me to be available if things get bad up here around Fraizer Park. It was good to be here when things were happening. Now I'm feeling a little antsy as I watch other crews covering the news.

It could be worse. I can't go home, but I'm still being paid (KA-CHING!). Believe me, that takes a lot of the sting off of things.

The biggest complaints I have right now? No room service and no hot water.

Yup, everyone probably wishes they had my problems.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Shifting Gears

A lot can happen in a short period of time. That doesn't actually include me going home or anything, but still, lots of stuff happens.

Just today, I've been up since 2:00am.  I went on the clock from 3:00am and ran one of our SAT trucks until 1:30pm.  Last I checked, Fraizer Park is still covered with snow.

Rapidly melting, dirty, mushy snow, but still snow.

A week ago I was cold and tired, but on assignment in Las Vegas.  For everyone living for the karmic balance that was bound to hit me sooner or later, here you go.

No fancy steaks or oysters on the half shell at the Flying "J" truck stop.  Dinner on Thursday consisted of the fresh catch of the day seasoned with the finest cajun spices.

I know how bad that was, but I ate at the truck stop diner on Wednesday night and learned my lesson.  Trust me on this one.  The tuna was the better meal.

I'm not complaining.

I lost track of the number of times we hit during our first day up here.  It was snowing heavy almost every time we went on the air.  If we could have done the liveshots from inside the van, that'd been sweet.

We worked around the clock that first day.  Well, we went off the clock after midnight, crashed for two hours, then got up and went back out to cover the morning news.  I managed to grab a bite for breakfast right after our last live hit.

Rocky's coffee shop?  Good food right across the street?  Who knew?

The capper on these last couple of days came this afternoon when the Monte Carlo hotel was burning.  I called the assignment desk (mostly kidding) and pointed out that I could take our SAT truck and be in Las Vegas in a few hours.

They told me to do it.

Bat out of hell?  Shoot, that bat couldn't keep up with me.  I was out of here faster than the folks back at the station can change their minds.

But just barely.

I grabbed my crap from my room, tossed it in the truck and hit the road.

Right away, I called my lovely wife Dellis and let her know I was still going to be away from home, but maybe just a little bit further.  We talked about her possibly meeting up with me over the weekend, but that's as far as the planning got.  Sadly, I was no more than ten miles out when I got the call.  Change of plans, turn it around and head back to Fraizer Park.

The snow story is great.  It's a challenge and I'm stoked to be out here.  It's just that for a brief moment, it was all that and an adrenaline filled exciting time in news.

Pass the hot sauce, I'm going to be here for a couple more days.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spelling Police!

I know. I spelled it wrong (no, I'm not pointing it out). I will change it and I certainly apologize.

Sent from my BlackBerry

What do you mean?

Snowed in? I'm not familiar with that term. You see, I live in Los Angeles.

No, it doesn't ever EVER snow where I live.

We're up here at Fraiser Park, doing satellite liveshots in the snow.  A rare weather by-product of the current storm.

Gee, it's cold. Just so you knw, I'm only getting out of the SAT truck to knock the powder buildup off the dish.

These shots are all from earlier today.  We are fully buried now and I don't expect to see sunshine, civilization or clean clothes until Spring.

Okay, I'm stretching the truth just a bit.  We are covered in snow and will likely have to spend the night up here.

I'll have to knock some ice off the dish before stowing it after the last liveshot.

We'll just have to remember that cannibalism is a last resort, not a first one.

BTW - My sincere apologies to the folks who live this every year.  You know, you're welcome to move out to California.  That seems like a smart thing to do.

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Happy Birthday Dellis.

You know that game working couples play? The one where they compare their day at work and the one with the crappier day wins?

I am so gonna win that one today.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Rats. Dellis and I are out to see the stage play version of "The Color Purple".

The only camera I have with me to document the evening is Dellis' phone.

I'll do what I can.


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Las Vegas Wonderland

It's late. I want to stay up all night and write, but dang, I really have to get some sleep. I've been trying to get some work done around the home office. You know, paying bills, working out computer issues, reading movie reviews on "Ain't it Cool News".

Important stuff.

So, needing my beauty sleep, I don't have much time to make a point. This is the fountain in front of the Palazzo Hotel last Friday morning.

Yes. Those are freaking icicles hanging from the edge of the fountain.


I didn't know it got so cold in Las Vegas. I mean, sure, I knew, but daaaaaang. I wasn't expecting it to be so cold last week.

I'm going to get some sleep. I'll tell you about the interview I shot with the Miss America contestants tomorrow.

Uh, I mean later today.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Movie List

I'm not sure if it's because I wasted more time seeing a lot of crap movies this year, but when I saw this list in Entertainment Weekly, I decided to make it a goal to see as many of the Oscar Contenders as I could squeeze in before the (maybe) big Oscar night.

No Country for Old Men
Michael Clayton
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild
American Gangster*
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sweeney Todd
Charlie Wilson's War
The Kite Runner
Away from Her
Eastern Promises
La Vie en Rose
I'm Not There
A Mighty Heart
Gone Baby Gone
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Lars and the Real Girl
3:10 to Yuma*
The Savages
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Here's a couple more that I think should be on the list.  I'll try to sneak them in if I get a chance.

Lust Caution
The Host

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oscar Buzz

Right now I'm pretty content in life. I don't have everything I want, but I have pretty much all I need (and some of the things I want).

There's a bar being carried at Costco right now that I'd like to see sitting in my living room. It costs about a thousand bucks, but I'm trying to save up for a vacation I'd like to take this year.

The bar? It's just not going to happen.

No, the big ticket items have been bought and I'm okay if that ship has sailed.

Instead of making a luxury purchase, I'm going to spend a much smaller amount of money on taking my lovely wife out to see as many good movies as I can squeeze in before the Academy Awards takes place.

I'm typing this on my Blackberry while we wait for the last showing of "Atonement".

It's on the list. I have a list of 25 movies from Entertainment Weekly that should all be contenders. Check back later and I'll share the list with you. That and my considered opinion of the movie.
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Proper Care and Feeding of News Media

What burns me up is that everyone thinks it's all eat, drink and be merry when we're on these assignments out of town. Most days we're working from sunrise to well past sundown and often through the time in between.

Of course, that wasn't the case yesterday.

Nosirree, hot damn we tied one on last night. Whooped it good.  My brain is going "weeeeee" just thinking about it.

Okay, maybe I'm embellishing here.

Keep in mind I only had as much fun as legally allowed by the lovely Mrs. Frank. That severely changes the entire definition of "whooped it up", which is okay, because you have to realize, my idea of a good time doesn't exactly follow everyone else's.

We had a great meal. It was actually a "good" meal, but we spent so much money for it, I feel compelled to bump it up a notch so I don't feel stupid for paying such insane prices for food.

Okay, food and a couple of beers.  I had a half dozen fresh oysters to start and also a Chimay beer (to start).  I ordered the boneless short ribs. . .

. . .with creamed spinach.

Marvin had a steak.  New York Strip, if I remember right.  Cooked medium, but he would have liked it a little more medium than it was.

He was drinking Corona and had a side of pommes frite.  That's just fancy talk.  We call them french fries.  The thing is, you can't charge eight bucks for them if you call them french fries.

Hmm, did that Freedom Fries thing ever catch on?

The frites came with a truffle mayonnaise and that made them better somehow.  Why the restaurant didn't have a truffle ketchup is beyond me.  Seems like a natural.  It's sad to think we live in a world where ketchup technology still hasn't reached the same heights as our mayonnaise technology.

I like mayonnaise, but ketchup and I have a history.  We're tight like that.

Also, not pictured but thoroughly enjoyed, the Salmon with lentils, carrots, and 'shrooms that Reporter Christina McLarty investigated for connections to, or associations with the red house wine.

(I think it was a Merlot)

My apologies to all the sweet toothed chocoholics.  No desserts.  We were stuffed (In my case, also broke).  The meal (and drinks) set us further back than I was expecting. 
There went the overtime from this trip.  Be free!

Lucky for us, the hotel provided a spread in the Media Lounge.  We news types need a quiet spot to relax and unwind when they've cut us off at the bar.

Food is good, but "Free" makes it special.

It was a nice trip.  We're almost done and we'll head back to Los Angeles early tomorrow.  I don't try to speak for any of my fellow photographers.  Any time you can relax with your fellow crew members, break bread and enjoy a few laughs at the end of the day, well, that's rare.

I'm going to go and try to put the reporter on TV one more time.  You folks have a pleasant evening.

Hmm, I wonder what time they lock the door to the Media Lounge?

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Where am I?

Oh, yeah. The Palazzo in Las Vegas.

That's pretty much the first thought I had when I woke up this morning. When I'm traveling, that's pretty much always my first thought. Sometimes there's a flashback to my college days and I'll have that panicked thought; uh-oh, I gotta get home.

For the next couple of days, this is home.

Pardon me for a second, I'm playing with the remote control for the motorized drapes. Gee, I want remote controlled motorized drapes for my house.

I can't help but wonder, is this a regular room? It's a bit more than I expected, so I didn't think to ask when I checked in.

It's pretty safe to say, I am so not staying at the Luxor ever again.

The only downside is that parking for oversized vehicles is really ridiculously far away. I left some of my gear in the satellite truck. That gear is going to stay in the satellite truck. At least until I have to move it for the liveshot tonight.

Map courtesy of Google Earth

Being the satellite truck operator, I really didn't have anything to do once we arrived yesterday. Sure, I could have done the dead man's walk and carried my luggage the ten miles from the satellite truck to my room, but it seemed to be the better proposition to hop into the microwave truck with the reporter (Christina McLarty) and her photographer (Marvin) and head immediately over to their first shoot.

At the Silverton Casino and Lounge.

That's fancy talk for BAR.

Well, it's more than a bar, but we were there to talk to them about bourbon.

This really brought back fond memories for me. Back in the day, I used to shoot a regular restaurant segment for our newscast.

This was just like that, except instead of food, this segment was about bourbon. I'm not really a bourbon drinker, but you may see me (and my atomic watch) make a cameo appearance in the story (I'm just holding the glass).

Actually, we did step into the kitchen for a minute. The head chef whipped up a quick signature dish to include in the story. Foie Gras anyone?

I'm not going to lie to you, I tasted it. It was really delicious, but kind of hard to fully enjoy after I looked up how it's made.

Sorry, no foie gras for me. . .well, maybe just another nibbl-- No, no, really, no more for me.

Hey, look. The sun is up.

I think I'm going to run and grab something light for breakfast and maybe take a walk around. I'm not super hungry. We ate dinner at Morels here in the hotel last night. If we have the time, I can usually afford one fine dining meal when I'm out on the road. That was it. I'll be looking for the buffet line today or trying to find the cheap eats at another casino.

I'll give you more later.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This is more like it.

We haven't even checked into the hotel, but we're here in Las Vegas and I'm tagging along to help on a shoot.

It's in a bar.

This totally makes up for the drive.
Sent from my BlackBerry

Slightly less fun.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pretty happy that my job sometimes takes me to Las Vegas. That's cool. Even if you're not a gambling man (I'm not).

It just takes a little bit of the happy/fun edge off the trip if your transportation is the biggest satellite truck we own.

"I'm heading to Las Vegas in "Big Blue".

If the sentence stopped at ". . .Las Vegas", then I'd be okay with that.

The "Big Blue" part really takes the edge off.

I know I'm probably not getting much sympathy. I'm just saying, that's all.
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Without a Trace

Annabelle Guadez had been missing for most of the week. I was taking off on Friday just to take it easy. I don't expect January to always be a difficult month for me, but I don't mind saying, it is this year.

What you want or need is often the last thing you're likely to get. That's how luck plays out in the newsroom. I wanted to get off work on time, so naturally the desk hit me with the assignment that required the best of anyone's sensitivity and understanding. Also a long drive, late liveshot and overtime. I was given an out and could have taken my chances on another assignment, but that's not a wise thing to do (it could always get worse).

Covering a missing person assignment can be emotionally difficult. Honestly, I wasn't really feeling up for everything that goes along with interviewing the family of a missing person.

From experience, I know how seldom these stories end in a positive way. Still, there's always hope and I try to stay focused on that.

It's not always enough.

If the shoe were on the other foot, I couldn't imagine a stranger with a camera being able to console me if one of my kids were missing. I don't expect there's anything I could have said that might have comforted the family of Annabelle Guadez.

I believe it's important to remember to always try.

Maybe regardless of the way it's said, the comfort comes from the attempt. Maybe in trying to console, it's possible to succeed even when the words in themselves feel so clumsy and inadequate.

I don't know.

I've never had the opportunity to ask the friends or family of a missing person if that is true.

Annabelle Guadez was found the next day. I don't have any details. It was reported that she was found in a psychiatric care facility in Orange County.

Wow. It's very rare that these stories end in anything other than tears and anguish. I'm curious to know how she got there and what prompted her admittance to the facility. I'm pretty sure I'll never know anything more about this story. With some reservation, I'd still call this a happy ending. After having seen the tears and the blood of the typical missing person story, I'll take it.

After finding the person, any other questions seem somewhat less important. Maybe next time when I'm struggling with what to say to a distraught family, I'll be able to tell them these things don't always end badly.

Maybe next time, it'll be easier to sound like I mean it.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Going Fishing.

Wow, I forgot how fast time flies when you're having fun. Well, maybe not fun. Nothing I did in the last two days was exactly fun, but it was way better than being stuck in the office.

Being out in the real world and seeing interesting (if not historical) things gives me hope for a better news year in the new year.

First assignment on Wednesday?  Car into a wall.  Been there and done that before (not personally, just an assignment).  Really, I don't think any veteran photog even gets excited about a scene like this.  Come on, the car didn't even go all the way through the wall.

My sympathies to the person who was behind the wheel (also the owner of the wall), but the helicopter was overhead.  I didn't even have to roll video on it.  They pulled us to put the reporter on another story.

Apparently, we were looking for bigger fish.

The station had a possibility of getting an interview with the girl who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in South America.  A little challenge logistically, we'd have to go to where she was staying up near Santa Barbara.  Out of microwave range, I'd have to turn the reporter over to another photographer and hop in a satellite truck.

Not too big of a deal.  Sure, I always want to shoot, but I can't do everything.

(Hmmm.  Technically, I think I can.  It's just not practical)

About 75 miles to get there and amazingly, I arrived just in time to find out the family had turned us down for the interview.

Say again?

That was my reaction.  I don't know if we had, you know, asked before making the drive.  It wouldn't surprise me if we didn't.  Sometimes we do just show up.  Heck, sometimes people will talk to us.

Another photog said this to me, "When you go fishing, sometimes you get a fish."

Sometimes you don't.

No hard feelings.  I got a green tea latte from Starbucks (trying to cut down on the coffee) turned the SAT truck around and went back to the station.

I got there just in time to clock out at the end of my shift.  That was my Tuesday.  Not much excitement, but it still felt more productive than yesterday.

I got sent to the Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Carson.  I was assigned to stake out the hospital just in case someone might wander out and decide to talk to the news about the officer that was shot in Gardena.

Again, my sympathies to the injured officer, but five minutes in and I was going nuts.

It could have been a long night, but the desk pulled me after a half hour and sent me to get exterior shots of a pharmacy for another story.

Easy stuff.  I found the location, got the shots, drove back to the station, clocked out.

I think the story fell through.

I didn't get a chance to watch the news after I got home, but the last thing said to me before I left the station was, "I think your story is falling through."

Yup, someday I'm going to get a story on TV again.  I'm going to savor that day.

In the meantime, I'm going to do what I always do.  Keep working and smiling.  That's easy to do when I'm still struggling to suppress the trauma of sitting in for the Chief.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If I only had a camera. . .

. . .I mean, instead of the two I was carrying.

With the Writer's Guild shutting down awards shows left and right, somebody figured out the Critics Choice Awards might be the last red carpet event of this awards show season.

The Critic's Choice isn't usually our choice. Like a lot of the other news outlets, we mostly skip it.

Imagine my surprise. Last night I had to go out to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and try to get a spot for us on the red carpet arrival line.

Always outnumbered, always outgunned. I was actually surprised that they didn't release the hounds and chase me off the property. They allowed me to squeeze in at the end of the line.

The VERY end of the line.

This was also my first day back out in the field, so I was eager see something more interesting than a schedule worksheet or email memos.

You must know, I have this whole internal dialog thing and it was cranked up full last night with MLK going, "Free at last, free at last!"

It didn't matter that it was crowded. It didn't matter that it was two rows of photographers deep (and I was starting a third row). It was hectic, but very worthwhile.

My one real regret, it wasn't a good opportunity for still pictures. The stars were there, but I didn't want to risk trying to work the big still camera. A lot of the award shows are cracking down on that.

It was hit or miss with the pocket Casio. I got a fine shot of Queen Latifa. . .

. . .but Snoop Dogg? He was moving too fast to squeeze off more than one shot, so this is all I got.

In the mad dash towards the end of the arrivals, I got some major stars. . .on video.

Yeah, I know, but it's what they pay me for.

Stuck at the very last camera position on the carpet actually seemed to be a winner. It was quieter than the front positions and the stars were all stopping to chat with each other and make final adjustments before entering the auditorium.

George Clooney? Yeah, we got George Clooney. God bless him, he's such a classy guy, it's almost scary. He was rushing in, but stopped and gave us two sentences about the writer's strike.

DIng, ding, ding, ding, BINGO! That totally made our story, but my personal favorite moment of the evening was when I yelled out, "Hey, Brad! Wave!"

Brad Pitt turned and waved. I think he might have mumbled something after that, but he was too far away to pick up his audio.

He probably said something like, "Ha-ha, you'll never get a still shot of me with that dinky little still camera."

He was right.

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