Thursday, July 31, 2008

Accidental Outings and Minor Annoyances

The day started out normal (like this post), but it took a strange turn towards the end. I'm just warning you.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I was at Dodger Stadium (walking around the same track where I had driven my news van a couple months back, heh-heh) to cover a presentation of the officers who had been recently awarded the Medal of Valor.

Photo by Scott Mackie

It's been ages since I had a second man on an assignment. Also, I'm often running the satellite truck or being the techie trouble shooter.

I was getting to be a news photographer again and I was having a blast. Plus, it was cool that my second, Scott Mackie, does still photography and was capable of handling my camera.

Photo by Scott Mackie

He said what? Even though I'm writing up about my assignment yesterday, I'm going to have to address the elephant in the room comments made today by Chief Bratton. Here goes.


That's all I got. Celebrities and their orientation (preferences?) isn't a big deal for me. If it's any more than a gossipy curiosity for anyone, I think they have too much free time.

Photo by Scott Mackie

I just really wish the Chief had made his comment when we were interviewing him yesterday, because that must have been jaw dropping for the people who heard the comment.

Myself, I'd gotten that tid-bit of gossip from our entertainment reporter last year.

Photo by Scott Mackie

The LAPD folk got the star treatment (without the whole outing thing) and watched the game from the luxury boxes.

Scott Mackie and I paid $5.00 to eat in the Press Box. Of course you're wondering, well, what about Dodger Dogs?

Photo by Scott Mackie

Yeah, free Dodger Dogs for the credentialed media after the 5th inning. I've had my share in the past, but we hiked back to the van instead of waiting. I had a package to cut and Scott had a few more shots to take.

Photo by Scott-- no, wait, I took this one

This is where it gets weird. We had one hit in the 10PM newscast and we managed to get through that one with only a small bit of drama with a drunken midget fan (wearing an oversized Dodger baseball cap) whom I'm almost convinced was a leprechaun.

I should have taken his picture (do they even photograph?), but it got serious pretty quickly. Not that we felt threatened, but we had a liveshot approaching. Plus, it was still kind of difficult to believe that the leprechaun sized guy wasn't going to simply get bored and go away.

We quickly exhausted our nice-guy bag of tricks and were about to take his gold (I think that's how you get rid of them), but Hal Eisner who was set up for his own liveshot a few yards away, snagged a stadium security guard who chased off the leprechaun (apparently that works too).

Our midget tormentor grabbed his hat, hopped on a sweat covered troll and disappeared. He was yelling what sounded like celtic curses at us as he vanished.

Scott Mackie, but I took the shot

Our thanks to Hal Eisner. We made our slot and wrapped up the evening without any further bizzaro incidents.

I think at the next APTRA Academy (Hal's the main guy for those), there should be a workshop on dealing with mythical creatures. Maybe combine it with the "Oops, I didn't mean to say that on camera" workshop.

Gotta run.
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In the Field? Updated?

Holy smokes!

Even back when I was experimenting with time travel (don't ask), I had a difficult time keeping two blogs updated on a regular basis. My work activity has become a lot less adventurous and the software wasn't exactly "beFrank style" friendly.

Things change.

A little while back they made some adjustments in the software used to update the blogs on the CBS2/KCAL9 web site and my year of living less dangerously is (mostly) done. I've been back in the field a lot more and it's now very easy to post updates (with pictures).

Photo by Scott Mackie

I can't promise anything, but I've slipped a couple of posts in when nobody was looking. Nothing major, the content is similar to what you'd find here (of course, I'll be using a lot less foul language there, gosh darn it).

You can find it in the usual place on CBS2/KCAL9 dot com. I'll try to give a heads up here when I have something to share over there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We What?

Somebody yelled at us the other day. I was working a hate crime story in Santa Clarita with Reporter Suzie Suh and we were scoping out places for lunch near where somebody had spray painted swastikas and some choice racist sayings on cars.

You never saw the story on our news. I know because the people who make that call pulled us off the story. None of the main elements were available. The cars were gone, the victims didn't want to go on camera and the investigating law enforcement agency was cooperative, but didn't have much that they could tell us on camera about the crime.

We had lunch while they made the decision, (chili-cheeseburger and fried zuccini) then drove back to Studio City after getting the call.

We sat on the lot waiting for a breaker.

Gee, we didn't really have to wait long. We were sent to a shooting in a neighborhood near Pacoima. We rushed over and found helicopters overhead, flares lighting up the street and police and firemen were on the job.

By the way, not that I'm bitter, but I was parked on the other side of the flares where that fire unit is parked in above picture. A fireman (might have been a Captain) asked me to move.

Well, he didn't so much ask me. He ordered me to move.

I moved. As far as confrontations go, that was pretty benign, but see I'm just a teensy bit miffed because they could have parked anywhere (even much closer). That was a primo spot for me and it would have been an excellent spot for my truck if we had gone live.

Yeah, if.

The suspect gave himself up. The story made air, but they just took it from the helicopter. Also, either side of the flares didn't matter much. We were still around the corner and two blocks away from where the suspect had been holed up.

We packed it in and headed back to the station.

Sooooo, earlier while we were getting out of the van to "haz" a chili-cheeseburger for lunch up in Santa Clarita, a woman riding by in a car yelled out of the passenger seat window.


We get that on a fairly regular basis, so I was fighting the urge to flip her off. Then I realized she had said, "ROCKS" instead of "SUCKS". We don't get "ROCKS" nearly as often.

Not the complimentary verbal cheering kind.

Boy, I'm glad I didn't flip her off. That would have been inappropriate under any circumstances (and so unlike me). On this particular day, even though I'm usually full up on job satisfaction, it ended up feeling like the cheer was misplaced.

It didn't feel like we rocked. It felt like that other thing.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Us and Them -vs- US

Twice last week I was down in Inglewood covering the officer involved shooting of Kevin Wicks that happened early last Monday morning.

Really can't say I felt welcome either day, but that's not surprising. Just personally frustrating.

I live in Hawthorne, a city that borders Inglewood to the South and where I live, it isn't much different demographically or economically from Inglewood. I grew up mostly in Gardena, which is another Southbay city that probably has more in common with Inglewood than it does with other Southbay cities, such as Torrance and Redondo Beach.

If I'm in Inglewood outside of work, I normally feel at home. After all, this is where I grew up and this is the area where I've raised my family.

Too bad I'm a news photographer. There seems to be a dividing line and my job puts me always on the opposite side of the line that separates "Us" and "Them" when we actually talk to either "Us" or "Them".

The thing is, I'm a journalist and I'm not taking a side. Personal feelings might lead me to be sympathetic and I certainly like to think I'm compassionate about how I approach my assignments, but I'm doing my job and I have a pretty serious responsibility to cover the story to the best of my ability.

That doesn't make things easy for me or for the people who might already be experiencing grief and suffering.

Do I understand the meaning of the word, NO? Sure, but we still have to ask.

I appreciate the cooperation I get from those involved in the story, but that doesn't mean I'm taking a side. I'm getting a bit frustrated that people don't realize this. I mean, I could be on the verge of tears myself (it did hit me in the gut that the victim's photo reminded me of my brother who passed away last year), but that doesn't mean I'm going to do any less of a job in covering the story.

I can't stop rolling when the tough questions have to be asked. If there's a truth to be told, I only know how to get to it by asking people involved. That might come from friends and family or that might come from strangers who just happened to bear witness.

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I can see the difference between the crush of paparazzi surrounding a hard partying celebutante and a group of reporters and photographers asking questions at a crime scene.

When I walk away, I'd like people to understand that no matter how difficult it is, I'm doing my job. We're going to question victims and we're going to question suspects.

It's not really funny, but pretty often we've done our job so well that everyone involved, both the "Us" and "Them" sides might agree on only one thing.

Everybody hates the media.

Well, okay almost everybody.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

GLOW Recap

It's kind of a scattershot week for me, but I'm finally kind of getting into the groove of things. The weekend was almost completely taken over by artistic and cultural pursuits. Plus, I'm changing gears at work this week, rocking a dayside shift (in addition to sitting in the big chair while the "Iron" Chief takes a few days off).

My lovely wife and I left the Shakespeare by the Sea performance of "A Midsummers' Night Dream" on Saturday night feeling pretty good. It was a fun performance and we could have just gone home fully satisfied.

Could'a, but didn't. Even though we had mentioned we were thinking about trying to catch the very brief art and performance exhibition on, under and around the Santa Monica Pier, I don't think anyone really believed we might go.

Come on, this was totally the kind of thing Dellis and I would do. You know, I'm also just giddy over the fact that I have a wife who is game for doing something that "normal" people might find just a bit odd.

We had a lot of company in that.

Although we never got a full estimate of how many people were thinking along those same lines. It was a lot. I tried counting them. I got bored, lost count, started over, but just gave up after a while.

I know there were way more than eight people and I know I could have counted more, but that's just me and my television raised attention span.

The pier was packed. For a while the police weren't letting any more people on and there was a huge stream of people shuffling off the pier like late night zombies.

Dellis and I walked out to the installations out on the sand, but we were disappointed when one of the biggest works, a huge light show against a large spray of water, shut down just as we were getting near.

After that, it seemed like the people watching was a bigger draw than most of the remaining art works. Lots of weirdness, quiet a bit of intoxication, but surprisingly very little nudity and violence.

Dellis did take a swing at me for something I said that was probably inappropriate. I don't remember what it was, but it was very late and my feet hurt, so I know I was being a little surly. Come to think of it, maybe it had something to do with my remark about the lack of nudity (I really need to remember when to just think some things instead of saying them out loud).

Apparently, not everybody has my same sensibilities when it comes to art.

We wandered around until 3:00am, before giving up on the big piece that had stopped working. We don't know if it ever started up again.

I'm hoping they get a few more artists next year or maybe move things a little closer together. It was fun to be out there so late in the night and witness something that was so fleetingly seen by relatively so few people.

(More than eight.)
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If I Don't Manage To Post. . .

. . .a proper account of what I've been doing at work, then at least you'll have a different picture to greet you.

It's probably going to be a late night (lots of research), I'll catch you up on the good stuff from the week in a bit.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Joker

There's nothing funny about the story I'm covering, but I've got some time on my hands. Here's a better shot of the "spaceship" (as mentioned by Dave Goodman).

The Joker is an HMI light. It's a type of lamp that provides brighter illumination and better matches sunlight than our quartz lighting.

Why, yes. Yes, it does cost more.

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It's bad enough that life is as difficult as it is for so many people in the world. I mean day to day, just to survive is truly more of a struggle in other parts of the planetco. Survival is never a guaranteed thing anywhere. We live in an unforgiving dangerous world.

It just seems like we should be able to expect something more. Don't ask me what. I sure as heck don't have an answer.

Just something.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

To "be" or . . .

Night at GLOW

I'm not sure if anyone picked up on the obscure "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" reference in my last post. Probably not, but that's what G.L.O.W. stood for back in the mid-eighties.

Now it's all about the light show/art exhibit put on for 12 hours in Santa Monica last night.

Even though Dellis and I were pretty full up on culture from our awesome evening at the Shakespeare by the Sea performance of "A Midsummer's Night Dream", we braved the late hour and (way) larger than expected crowd of art aficionados/partygoers for bragging rights to say, we were there.

I don't know how many people showed up for this thing, but they were still hanging in there at 3:00am.


I'm not seeing the conection with wrestling.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Polliwog Bard

With just the slightest chill in the evening air, wife, family, friends and I are enjoying another culturally awesome evening.

Yay. Shakespeare and a beer. I'm playing to my strengths.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

In The Field, Again.

There's two things I want to mention while I'm zipping through my morning routine.  I posted a modest little account of my returning to a regular tour of general assignment duty on my work blog.  You can find that by following this LINK

I've been promising to update and see, I eventually have kept my promise.

Also, I wanted to point folks in the direction of an entertaining little bit of web video.  Joss Whedon, the guy behind geek favorites "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel" and "Firefly" has produced a three part comedy web series, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog".

No, really.

The first two installments are available to view now and the third part will be posted on Saturday.

You can seriously increase your geek street cred just by watching, but you'll have to move fast.  It's available for free until Sunday 7/20/2008 and then it will be pulled and only be available for purchase after that.

Don't ask me why. 
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Keep Moving. Don't Look Back.

Rats. one of the hazards of posting from my Blackberry is that I really get one shot at putting the words together in a way that make sense and getting the spelling right.

The words? Okay, but the spelling wasn't pretty. Nothing for me to do, but pull the post until I could get to a computer.

So, how was your day?

Mine started with a whimper. I had to go shoot some exterior video of a Washington Mutual bank.

That kind of assignment always makes me a little apprehensive. You never know if they might feel my videotaping of their building may be the precursor of a terrorist attack.

Plus, I don't even know what the story was all about. I meant to ask, but I got sent out to a press conference and rushing over the hill at Laurel Canyon was the bigger attraction for me at the time. I'll check the video archives on the station's web page later.

Through the canyon, down to Melrose and across to La Brea-- I'm by myself by the way, the reporter, Suzie Suh, is meeting me at the Wilshire Division Station. I noticed Melrose has changed since the station moved over the hill.

No parking available on the street in front of the cop shop. KABC vans are taking up two spots and the rest are filled with regular vehicles. There's a spot around the side of the building in a wide driveway that leads to the shopping center next to the police station. We can use the driveway (even though it's a red zone) and I put the truck there. KNBC already has the pole position and another car is behind their live truck. I pull in third. If anyone changes their mind back at the station and decide the do want anything live, they'll have to send me a second man or we'll just do the liveshot next to the truck.

Other cameras are already set up, but I have a decent angle. Sometimes these things are so large, the end positions are nothing but profile shots. As always, we do the best we can with the hand we're dealt.

Set up sticks and mic the podium (that's my red cable), then color balance and get someone to do an audio check.

"Test. . .1, 2, test."

Scheduled for 4:00pm, there's a couple of minutes before the presser starts. I chat and catch up with some of the other photogs and reporters.

As soon as the LAPD folk start walking out, our talking stops cold and we all move to our camera positions.

Kind of an odd place to hold the presser. It's an open covered parking area between the old and newer building. The street traffic is pretty bad where we're standing and the reporters have a difficult time hearing things being said.

There was a double fatal accident on Hollywood Boulevard the night before. I'm surprised, but the people killed weren't carrying any identification and the police are asking the public's help in finding out who the victims are.

There's a few follow up questions the reporters ask after the press conference is done and that's the first half of the day also done.

After the presser, we followed up by driving back up to Hollywood Boulevard and looking for witnesses to the accident. We hit about ten stores before finding someone who actually saw anything (and was willing to go on camera).

Our witness was a young manager in a simple retail establishment. We approached her inside the business where she worked, but had to bring her outside because the handcuffs, lubricants, and other assorted sex toys might have been distracting.

The rest of the evening went pretty smooth. I lunched, we cut the piece, I handed off the reporter and the edited story to a nightside photographer who handled the liveshot.

Only recently I've been back in the field full time and everything has been mostly daily grind/matter of fact follow ups to stories that have happened long before I clocked in. Not all, just a good deal of it dark and dangerous, but still, very much after the fact. There's likely a breaking tragedy coming. I'm not looking forward to it, I just know it's part of the news.

Stuff happens.

Be safe.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hollywood Fatal

I'm feeding back the raw video from a press conference I just shot over at the Wilshire Division police station.

The story is going to be in the 5pm newscast, but it'll be read under video by the anchors. Right now, I'm working with a reporter on the story for the later shows, but you never know. We could easily catch a breaker between now and later.

It feels like Monday.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm with the band

After trying to make it happen for several weeks, Dellis and I finally made down to Long Beach for one of FlutePrayer's Municipal Band Concerts.

There's so much beautiful to love about life. Even dealing with the bad as often as I do, I try not to lose sight of the things that are so very worthwhile.

I gotta go take some pictures.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Party Favors

It was the Championship Gaming Series. Outside of that, I really, don't know what to tell you, because I just try to do the things that make sense.

Someone from the Santa Monica Airport (or maybe he worked for Barker Hanger) was positive we couldn't do our liveshot where we had set up just on the other side of the short chain-link fence you can see behind me.

We're talking a difference of maybe four or five feet and neither spot was blocking any vehicle traffic or presented any danger to the public.

It boggles my mind to think that someone actually felt as if it would make any sort of difference whether we were on one side of the fence or the other.

He never really made it clear why he felt we needed to be on the street side of the fence. He babbled some things about airport security rules, our lack of a permit and something else that sounded like blah-blah, blah-blah. It was easier to move the camera than to try and point out the ignorance of his concerns.

He sounded like he was making it up as he went along.

The Championship Gaming Series was fun to shoot. I wish I had gotten a quick still shot of the "booth babes" that were handing out sport drink swag. I'm kind of still getting back into the swing of things as far as being back in the field is concerned. Wouldn't want to screw up and I'm finding myself being even more careful about lugging the still camera around with me.

Hey, you know, there was one more thing the guy said, that irked me.

"I'm just trying to do you a favor."

Trying to do me a favor? Shuh, right. You're not doing me any favors, buddy. The people who were putting on the Gaming Championship were the ones who might need your favor.

Anyway, this was a couple of days ago and it was handled in a pretty grown up manner.

We did two liveshots later in the evening. No arguing, no fighting and no name calling. . .even though the guy was a moron.

Sorry, almost no name calling.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just a Little More of the Stuff I Do.

Woo-hoo!  I've actually been on a mini-roll when it comes to actually doing the job that I intended to do when I got into this wacky business of news.  Forget all that educational and cerebral training assignment crap that absolutely noooooobody wants to read about.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been having fun just going out and covering the news.  Really.  Not just watching over other folks covering the news, but actually picking up gear and running trucks.

Me am back in field.

It really felt like I was getting back in action just before my week of mental health days (some call it vacation), but that long break seemed to put me back to square one in being comfortable outside around proper news folk.

It was good that the assignment desk sent me out to run the SNG truck on the missing monkey story.

Out in the middle of nowhere, I was able to get in touch with my inner photographer.  That little disgruntled voice that tells me how lucky I am to be doing a job I love.

That little voice also told me to snag a few desert rocks for the landscaping around my house.

Since I'm sketchy on how much anyone would care, let me assure anyone reading this, I'd never fill my newsvan up with rocks from private property (that would never be missed anyway) and just drive off.

Nope, that didn't happen and let's steer  your attention somewhere--

Hey, what the heck was up with the Goleta Fire?

I told you about taking the hand-off of Big Blue up North of Santa Barbara.  When I left, it looked like they had a pretty good handle on things.

Seriously, I would have been happy to go back if I had known it was going to take them a few more days to get it under control.

The roll was starting to get a little momentum going.  I had been getting stories and good honest field work, but then it screeched to a halt and I watched as everyone else was heading out on stories last Thursday afternoon.  The big man, Tim Kimball and I were benched and sat around the Chief's desk watching other photogs bringing in the news.

We didn't feel too bad to see crews in outlying areas.  Nobody (not even me) is eager to deal with fighting holiday traffic to get to a story (weeell, maybe me).

Yeah, we were gonna get shut out.

That's what we though was happening.  It was a little unsettling when Tim got a call from the desk to go out and take a hand-off for the late newscast.  Even worse, I got the call a minute later to do the same thing.

I've already forgotten where Tim was going that night (hmm, and I haven't seen him since), but I found myself working with Melissa Macarty and Robert Pastoriza out in the Norwalk area.  Again, I'm just there to do liveshots.  Robert had already set up the truck and was cutting the package.

With the truck already linked in, that's a good time to snap a few stills.

Let me set the scene for you.  We're were at a crowded gas station off the 5 Freeway.  A (charming) crack addict and his lovely Mrs. Crack Addict were pumping gas for spare change.

There's not a lot of foot traffic, but my photog sense is still tingling.  Maybe it's that I haven't been let outside much in recent history, but I'm kind of feeling like this might be a good night for someone to take a few shots at the news crew.

You know:

BANG-BANG!  "Your news sucks. . .oh, and we love Jackie Johnson!"

We get that a lot.  Well, without the gunfire, but still.

Of course, that didn't happen.  I've never actually been shot at by anyone while working (don't ask me about ex-girlfriends).

There's always the concern that we could be targeted.  The stories we cover often show random violence and we're not immune to those events.  We're just most often there after the situation has settled down.

I think we tend to ignore the possibility of danger to ourselves in order to get the job done.  Anything less isn't even a real consideration.

If you have a great fear of the things that might happen, you wouldn't be in this job.  There's always an edge of the unexpected that we face.

On the 4th, I was out at the Rose Bowl.  I didn't really expect there to be lots of food.  I was caught off guard and had lunched on a McBurger on the way over.

Damn.  You never see it coming.

It was a pretty nice day.  Carl Stein let me cut the package with Serene Branson and other than the unberable heat, it was a nice day.

That's my time for today, I'm going to have to keep rolling now.  This was meant to be a little bit of catching up and now I'm almost up to date.  Maybe I'll get an easy hand-off assignment and can spend some time writing another post later.

As always, I'll be expecting the unexpected.

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