Friday, August 29, 2008

beFrank Rides Again

Maybe I'm getting old, but I remember when I was a lot quicker with a literary or biblical quote to punch up a conversation.  Lately, if anything occurs to me at all, it's been more likely in reference to an obscure television show or movie.

I'll tell you what happened on Wednesday night, feel free to fill in your own theme song.

My shift was over, but I had gotten a call from Scott Mackie who was working out of my now semi-regular news van, good old Unit #19.



Scott was having an audio issue, but was working one man with a reporter and needed a quick fix to get through a crash edit session.  We've all been there.

My Vulcan Jedi troubleshooting skills were being clouded by the evil Sith Aurora training that I had been assigned to that day, but I managed to help Scott with a work around.



By the way, guys I work with have joked that they have my cell phone number on speed dial.  I'm usually good for a quick answer to a lot of the mid-range tech and computer questions that randomly pop up.  Actually, come to think of it, I don't think they were joking.  Hey, I bet it would be cool (not Diddy cool, but cool for me) to get the Mighty Mouse theme for my ring tone.

"Here I come to save the day!"

That was playing in my head as I walked up to the news van.



Scott and Reporter Mary Beth McDade were set up for their liveshot at a location that was very near my route home.  It seemed like they were going to get through the night and the maintenance engineers would fix whatever was wrong first thing in the morning.  Yup.  Much better to leave it for the professionals.

Hmm, but you know, part of the reason I'm well suited for a job in news is my unnaturally strong sense of curiosity (we like to call it being nosey).  So, even though I was partially motivated by my own curiosity, you never know, every now and then I've actually been able to fix things.

We joked about me coming in to save the day and also where'd I park my white horse?

The work around was working, but it felt to me like it would throw off the rythm of the edit session.  I did a quick (maybe five second) scan of the truck and found the problem.  Come on, this van was my partner in news.

It was a button.

In defense of Scott's abilities, it was a hidden button that switched power on and off to a hidden piece of equipment that doesn't exist in all the news vans in our fleet.

I keep hoping the karma points I rack up might buy me an inside line on a good set of lottery numbers.

When Polly's in trouble I am not slow, it's hip, hip, hip and away I go.



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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Agoura Hills (again)!

Being a semi-responsible adult, it's nice to come home after a long day at the office and enjoy a beer at my bar/desk while working through the nightly computer routine. You know, check the email, download digital pictures to the hard drive, upload digital pictures to Flickr, try not to fall asleep while I write about my day-- Wait, that's not entirely true. To be honest, the beer didn't actually make it to the desk, let alone last through my nightly computer routine. Gee, must have been a rough day.

Anyway, the beer is done, the email is checked and I'm surfing the web to find out if the world has changed any for the better while I was at work.

No surprise, it hasn't.

Is it any wonder the beer I might occasionally have after a long day at work kind of used to last longer.



After my microwave liveshot "issues" the other week (don't ask me what, I just blogged about it), it was cool to be back in Agoura Hills during the day and seeing where the good spots for liveshots can be found.

This time I was running a satellite truck, so I didn't actually care about the microwave liveshots, but, hey, good to know for next time, right?



The fire seemed to be a respectable blaze, but I think it was unofficially out just as I drove up.

A part of me was happy for all the people who weren't going to suffer any loss, but a tiny little voice deep inside me was cussing like a sailor because we weren't going to get any flames.

See, it's not about never having bad thoughts. It's about keeping them suppressed deep inside and not letting anyone know how evil and demented you-- uh, oh. . .too much information for a public forum.



For a couple of hours, starting around our 3:00pm newscast, it was pretty hectic. We managed to get the story on, but there's a lot of story the folks at home can't experience from in front of their TV sets.

Heck, I can't even blog about some of it.



As always, Carl Stein did an awesome job mostly single handedly keeping Reporter Randy Paige on TV when he was supposed to be on TV.

Some days we have it pretty easy. Days like yesterday tend to balance things out. It was pretty hot. Carrying around fifty pounds of gear (while dragging a couple hundred feet of cable) isn't anywhere near easy. Working alone while doing multiple live hits doesn't leave you much time to take a breath, find some water or set the camera down.

That's the way it is on some stories. Your shoulder and back aches at the end of the day and that's even when the story doesn't turn out to be all that big.



Like I was saying, the fire was under control and things had actually started settling down shortly after I arrived on scene.

We had a five or six microwave trucks and a second satellite truck in the area, but the station started pulling crews back since it was no longer a very threatening blaze.



I'm thinking it has got to be scary to see a raging fire approching your home (Probably even worse to see it on TV). I'm glad they brought it under control quickly, but I'm also glad I managed to squeeze in a couple of actual liveshots.



After we were done with the dayside newscasts, we regrouped and the crews were pared down further to one reporter (Lisa Sigell) with a photographer and a second man for help. They decided to keep me and the satellite truck in the area, but the nightside liveshot was easily microwaved in.

Our camera position was set up in the backyard of one of the homes that had been threatened. It was extremely nice of the owners to allow us access. It was also nice of them to offer us a cold beer.

Sweet Jebus!

I didn't see the name, but it looked like one of the good premium kinds of beers that I'd buy.

Yeah, I know, but let's not be ridiculous. Character isn't determined by what you do when the whole world is watching, it's what you do when nobody is watching (that's right, I'm looking at you, China).

We all declined.

There's a time and place, but anywhere while on the job isn't it. Sometimes it's easy to do the right thing.

Even if you have a little voice inside screaming and telling you otherwise.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

These Boots (and cameras) Were Made for Walking

Aww, you missed it.

Even though I've been making superhuman efforts to ease up on weekend activities, CBS2/KCAL9 Reporter Dave Malkoff talked me into participating in the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk.

Amateur and professional still photographers from all walks of life were organized into groups of no more than fifty in cities all over the planet and set loose to shoot whatever pictures they dang well pleased.



These are some of my shots. Dellis (who just got a Canon Rebel XSi) is going through digital photography bootcamp and made the walk with me along with several of my co-workers.

We had a blast.

I'm hearing they intend to make this an annual event. I hope you can make it next year.

Piece of-- Hey, What's the Opposite of Cake?

It's not that I'm out of ideas. Oh, man, far from it.

My muse (or what I like to call, the voices in my head) have definitely not settled down. No, they're screaming writing ideas at me constantly. With so much less "newsie" action and adventure landing in front of me, after four years it's kind of difficult to judge how much of the daily routine the news junkies reading this thing still want to hear.



By the way, since I'm just kind of rambling tonight, I'm going to throw in a few random shots of Reporter Sharon Tay. Pretend it's sweeps. I was way too busy on the night that I worked with her to actually snap a few new pictures.

You might have noticed, I've been back in the field more in the past several weeks than I have for most of this year and you can bet, I'm pretty happy about that.



It's not like I haven't had any excitement. On a recent night when I was actually working with Sharon Tay, I needed to establish a microwave link to the station.

Piece of cake.

That's how we go live. That's what we do every day. The only slight little problem, we were in an area that's notorious for being a difficult hit by microwave.

Off the 101 Freeway in the City of Agoura Hills, we were working on a story that brought some closure to the family of a couple who had been killed by a hit and run driver 16 years ago.



We drove out, shot the interview and then I started looking for a likely spot to park the microwave truck for the liveshot. No rush, no worries, plenty of time to get the job done.

Just another day at the office.

Rats, I couldn't hit from the first location. We didn't have the elevation to clear the hills surrounding us. They don't call it Agoura Hills for nothing. No worries. I dropped the mast, hopped in and drove to a "better" spot.

Microwave signals used in TV news are line of sight. We have to be able to "see" the reciever that typically sits on top of a tower on a mountain peak and we have several around Southern California.

I whistle while I work. It takes more than a little time to raise and lower the mast and after you factor in the drive, well, I had chewed up a good chunk of my "plenty of time" very quickly and now the phone was ringing.

Folks at the station were getting nervous.



Keep in mind, it's night. I can't see the past the hills, but that doesn't mean I don't have a clear shot. I drive a few miles to a likely spot, but I'm quickly frustrated by the lack of available street parking.

Gee, this isn't going well.

I pop the mast as quickly as the compressors let me and dial into our technical operations center. It takes a few minutes to make the attempt, but son of a-- well, let's just say, they still don't see me.

I'm rushing now and I usually work pretty fast, but it's normally at my own pace. Now I'm crashing and I have to hustle if i want to make slot.

Pack it in and drive. The margin for error is over and I've still got to get a signal set up, camera and lights, and we have to edit the packag. The only way to insure we can hit is to drive even further and set up in a location that I've gone live from before.



My hands are a little sweaty as I spin the dish. We're in a shopping center parking lot. I don't want to jinx it by sayng, the third time's a charm, but we manage to link in. Most nights, that's the simplest part of the evening.

I throw a tripod and the live bag out in front of the truck and cable everything up. Did I mention lights? Yeah, not when we're crashing. The light on the camera is going to have do it for this liveshot.

We cut a quick piece. The station has to drop some video in that was shot at the scene of the accident by another photographer and--

We're floated. They bump us to later in the show.

The package is finally ready and they take us for a live hit. We feed back tags for the later show and take a deep breath.

It wasn't the end of the world and I'm not sure if the people at home could tell the difference in the story, but I know what it feels like to try your best and win. This wasn't a win.

The best I can say is that we got the story on TV.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Spunky SNG Operator

The evil comfy chair got me.  It used to just be called "the comfy chair", but I'm convinced it's developed with some pretty wicked intentions towards me.  Not anyone else in the house.  Just me.  I don't know why.

I sat in the chair when I got home this evening and, well, long story short, woke up just before midnight.

Going to bed would probably be the best thing for me right now, but I really need to get a proper post up on the blog.  It's been quite a few days since I last managed to update.



Lots going on this week, not the least of which my schedule changed.  I'd been doing the nightside 4:30pm shift, but I'm working during the dayside shift this week.

Yes, I scream a little bit to myself when I go outside and the sun is shining.



Seems like I remember mentioning I was doing SNG work all week, but that's not entirely accurate.  What I'm doing is coaching my boss on all the changes and upgrades our four satellite trucks have undergone in the last couple of years.  At the beginning of the week, he might have had a difficult time putting a story on TV.



Not that we really had to worry about that this week.  The closest we came to a news story was the fire that "raged" out in the Santa Clarita area.

The Chief and I would have been happy to actually fire up the truck and put a reporter on TV, but it wasn't meant to be that day.



Sure, it was interesting to drive out to an area that I've never been to before, but the fire was pretty much out by the time we got there.  We passed crews and SAT trucks from two other stations as we drove into the area (yup, they were leaving).

We were set up and ready to go on TV, but the story got killed.  The reporter was given another assignment, we packed up and went to lunch.

I know there's news out there.  I'm just not catching any of it.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

They won't leave me alone!!!

I was out working in the satellite truck, minding my own business. Just for a minute, I step into the station and Darleene (of darleeneisms) forced me to scarf a brownie.

I tried to resist.

Really.

Hey, you look like you don't believe me.

--
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Photog's Lament

I'm not terribly out of shape, but having a Krispy Kreme donut shop on my route to work is, well, challenging.

I buy a dozen when I can't resist.

If I'm going down, I'm taking someone with me.
--
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Reversal of Fortunes

Behind the scenes in the Chief's office, I'm waiting for the Chief to put out all the Monday morning fires.

We're going out to brush up his SNG truck skills since all of our trucks have been reconfigured since he was last a regular presence out in the field.

Ahh, the student has become the teacher. The Chief trained me on "Big Blue" way back in the day.

It was on the Robert Downey Jr. trial out in Palm Springs.

Good Times.

Happy Monday.

--
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maybe I should Take a Holiday?

I love my job.

This is never going to be a gripe blog, but I fully reserve the right to grin and grumble a bit. Being relatively recently evolved and not all that much into introspection, I tend to examine cause and effect and Monk out obsessively over small details of the world around me (and all while accepting myself at face value). My extended period of "slow and slower news" is ruffling even my quiet calm.

Wait, ruffling might be too strong of a word. I need a less intense word for ruffling.

Uh, not quite ruffling even my quiet calm.

There is news happening. Our world is changing quickly in powerful and historic ways. I'm frustrated because where I've been nearly always bearing witness to the big stories from a location "in the thick of it", for a longer period than I've seen in my news career, I've been covering the sidebar instead of the lead.



From over a week ago. . .

The spectacular launch party for the 2009 version of Madden for the XBOX 360 wasn't my cup of tea, but I can easily see how the people who get a bigger thrill than me from playing video games might have been stoked to be at the Rose Bowl to have a chance to be one of the first gamers to snap it up.



Playing video games? They're fun. I play (and have played) computer and video games literally since PONG. I've got nothing against games. . .



. . .or rappers.

I'm just in a slight funk because my limited time working out in the field is being spent on softer news than I'd like to be covering.

I have a buddy over in China right now (yo, Ali!) covering the Olympics. Really really very happy for him. Do I wish I were there?

Shuh, of course I wish I were there.



My goals in life have always been fairly modest (except for my innocently casual desire to take over the world) and it's sometimes difficult to reconcile the fact that the thrill I get from covering the big news of the day has often been parallel to someone else's great tragedy.

In my slightly less than ruffled state of being, I'd still never wish for anything bad to happen. A career of "warm weather" stories would be a better deal than some of the monumental grief I've witnessed, but death (and destruction) never takes a holiday.

Much in life is random.

Call it fate or a divine plan, but I get that. Again, I'm just grumbling a bit because the events that made for big news in the past seemed to happen when I was in a position to cover it.

(I'm looking at my watch. Gee, I could sit around for even more time sucking the air from an empty Starbucks cup through a green straw, but I better be heading home.)

One last thing. I found myself shooting over the shoulder of the cashier who sold the first copy of the Madden '09 game at the launch party. Across from me, a wall of still and video cameras was shooting the same scene from the front.

I don't know how many newscasts I briefly turned up on that night, but it was enough to give me a bit of a reason to smile. Having anything to smile about at work isn't all that bad. I'm lucky in that.

I'll take it until something bigger comes along.
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King of the Road

Yeah, I know I promised posts today and they (plural) will be forthcoming, but a small trip to the bookstore has graduated into a full on Metro Line adventure.

Boxcar beFrank is riding the rails again.

I'll let you know where I end up.
--
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's Not About Lunch

Bizzaro, but sweet story tonight that involves tacos.

Yum.

It's too bad every story couldn't have a taco angle.
--
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Betty White's Bucket List.

WHOOP! It's a writing day for me, so I have even less time to get something blog posted.  I'm going to rush to Hollywood and find a quiet table at Starbucks or somewhere I can grab a bite for lunch and fire up the laptop.  I'm still holding onto some hope that I might actually work out a routine that'll help me be a smidge more productive on the writing.

Anyway. . .

The TV Academy honored "Golden Girl" Betty White last week.  I covered the event with Entertainment Reporter Christina McLarty (who is now blogging for the station BTW).



I'm not one to gush, but I don't mind telling you I was quite impressed by the MTM cast.

Betty White is hilarious.  She, Ed Asner-- shucks, every one of the surviving leads (R.I.P. Ted Knight) seemed completely fearless and most were really funny.  That's not so surprising given the quality of their careers.

What was interesting to note, was that all were completely gracious and accomodating in dealing with the media arrival line.



There's a good possibility that other people didn't have the same experience I had, but to me, they were impressive in making us feel appreciated.  You know, that doesn't happen often.

I wish more TV and Movie stars had as much class.



They actually let us cross the velvet rope (or yellow tape in this case) to do one on one interviews with the stars in less harsh light.

That was nice.



Of course, a few cookies and maybe some bottled water might have also been nice to have available in the program pool feed room, but that's on the TV Academy.



It was an interesting assignment.  Not much on adrenaline, but nice.

Ed Asner's line about Betty White's only failing being that she's never slept with him made air in the package we put together.  Betty White's later comment expressing her preference in wanting to "do" Robert Redford didn't quite clear the decency hurdle.

I saw the look in her eyes and she said it with very convincing sincerity.  Ed Asner was probably kidding.  Betty White?  Uhm, she might not have been kidding.

I wonder if Robert Redford is, you know, like available?  I just think it would be so cool if she got her shot.
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Smile for the Camera

It was a cool shoot and I'm kicking myself for not sharing it sooner.  It was just a VOSOT, not a full package and no reporter involved, but the story was right up my alley.

I appreciate Kerry from our assignment desk throwing this assignment my way.



To be honest, it felt like we were playing catch up on a story that had already happened.  A new fine art photography studio has recently opened in North Hollywood.  We missed the red carpet opening gala.  All the festivities had happened the previous weekend.

Dang.



Well, really that didn't matter a whole lot to me.  Fernando Escovar, the co-owner/photographer whom I got to meet was kind enough to take some time out in the middle of a shoot to talk to me and give me a tour of the place.



Everybody knows I dabble in the world of stills.  I love taking pictures and there's something about still photography that satisfies my creative ambition.

I've been lucky enough to have some great opportunities to photograph people and places and I love capturing moments that have become part of history.



After the shoot, people asked me if I wouldn't rather be taking stills for a living.  That's a fair question.  I get that about writing also.

No, I wouldn't rather be doing either "instead".

It's never going to be a choice of what I'd rather be doing.  I love all of what I do.  I may someday pursue other options.  Shucks, I'd love to have the time and resources to spend my days writing and taking pictures (video and stills).

It's not that I'd choose one over the other.  I'd simply like to add more of things I love to the things I do for a living.

Speaking of which, I'd better get a move on.  It's time for me to go to work.


BTW - (I need a "dude" moment)  Not that it's important or anything, but "duuuude" they were taking lingerie shots when I first got there.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

He's still moving, Grandma. Shoot him again.

Some streets are darker than others, but I feel like I should remind people, you don't have to be traveling through the bad parts of town to have a reason to feel less than safe.



Late last week, I was working a story in the neighborhood South of the Westside Pavilion.  It's not Beverly Hills, but I got the impression this is a pretty expensive neighborhood.  Yeah, I know.  Everywhere in Los Angeles is pretty expensive.

I wouldn't mind living here.  It's not gonna happen.  I just wouldn't mind if it did.

It's just kind of hard to tell if I'd be able to relax and enjoy the area with the insane amount of home invasion robberies that have happened around here recently.

My job for the evening was to handle the live shots for Sharon Tay.  Easy gig.  Another photographer cut and shot most of the package.  By the time I got there, all I had to do was shoot some night footage, dial up the IFB, power up the microwave and stand behind the camera.




Lots of concerned neighbors stopped by and asked us about the story and about the condition of the elderly woman who was beaten by the robber.

What a piece of work.  The guy breaking into houses beat a woman who was probably old enough to be his grandmother (maybe great-grandmother).  Really, I'm not a vengeful person, but I don't know if any punishment could possibly fit this crime.

Hey and incidentally, here's a little tidbit that couldn't be in Sharon's report.  A neighbor who helped the elderly woman after the attack claims she was hurt, but still very feisty.  She made threats and boasted what she would have done if he hadn't taken her by surprise.

Yeah, she sounds capable of really giving a robber a tougher time.  I can only imagine what could have happened if she might happen to own a gun.  I'm not saying that's the best answer, but I'm not at my level headed best about this.

See, I wouldn't feel too terribly bad if we follow up this story to cover the shooting of a very surprised home invasion robber.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Good Call

My buddy Keith and I have found ourselves facing a long walk to the Metro to get home from North Hollywood.

Rather than face the walk stone sober, we are stopping for a beer at a really awesome Argentinian eatery called La La's.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single sip."

Or something like that.

Cheers.

--
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