Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Minutes of Rapture

We all love Anita Baker, right? It wasn't like getting to see the entire show, but I did get to see her two opening songs at her Wave Fest performance at the Greek Theatre on Friday.

At concerts, if we don't get a audio/video feed backstage, it's common practice to let us shoot parts (maybe up to a minute) of the first couple of songs in a musical performance. They obviously just don't want the entire performance recorded.

I'd show you a still picture of the concert, but boy they were watching me like a hawk. I managed to sneak a quick shot before the curtain came up, but was turned down flat when I asked to get a keepsake shot.



Strangely, I saw dozens of cell phone cameras and quite a few pocket digital cameras as I was being escorted out after getting my two minutes of video.

Well, I guess fuzzy recordings are okay these days.



But I'm sure nobody wants to hear me gripe about my working conditions. Especially when I'm covering events where people wouldn't mind trading places with me. I just wanted to point out that Friday was cool. Not a difficult day at all, just setting up Christina McLarty with a couple of liveshot and being the second man for my fellow photog, Dolores Gillham



Last year we covered the same concert and had fun. Got invited into the VIP lounge and felt like we were well taken care of by the PR types.

Sure, I understand that "fun" really isn't guaranteed as part of my work day, but pretty often I do get to have fun covering the news.

Maybe I need to admit to myself that it had been a difficult week. Lots of murders and violence. The day before had been pretty cool with the whole James Bond car and Bond Girls event.



Usually after a cool day like that, you want to keep your head down because the assignment desk sometimes likes to balance out the karmic harmony of the universe and really won't mind sticking it to you with a suck assignment.



Wave Fest and the James Bond stuff would be considered by most people to be the exact polar opposite of suck assignments. . .of course, now I'm worried about what's in store for me today when I go into work.

Maybe "worried" is too strong of a word. Any day I go to work, I have a pretty good chance of getting assigned to a story that will put a smile on my face. Even when I have a bad day, the next day always has the potential of being something better. Not a lot of people can say that.

I haven't been able to say it much this past year, but I love my job.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Dead News

I'm certainly not falling to pieces, but being involved in so many stories that feature death and violence makes me appreciate the break from it all of the weekend.

This morning I had to pull up a tree from our front yard that had died. I don't know what killed it. It seems like suspicious circumstances.

Maybe I just need a real vacation.
--
Sent from my BlackBerry

Friday, September 26, 2008

WaveFest

I got to see the first two songs of Anita Baker's performance. They shuffle us out pretty quickly.

Beats covering a shooting.

Mostly.
--
Sent from my BlackBerry

The Quantum of beFrank

It's Friday and I've seen and done a ton of stuff this week, but I've got no time to write about most of my experiences.

Just a little Friday rant. Gee, maybe we'll call this a regular feature.

I think I'm still touchy about my van getting hit with an egg a week ago. You're welcome to your opinion about local news. The criticism isn't going to crush my feelings. Heck, a lot of what you might have to say could very well be true. I'm willing to keep an open mind and consider outside points of view.

Just don't expect me to agree with you on every point and don't expect me to stop doing my job because you don't approve of the stories we're covering.

I'm just a bit fed up with people who never watch the news, never bother to vote, never try to improve their own lives and never take responsibility for their own circumstances telling me the media is the source of their problems.



Four of the last five stories I've covered have involved violence. First the shooting at Washington High School last Friday night.



Nice weekend. While suffering through a cold turkey caffeine withdrawal, I watched our friendly neighborhood hawk kill a pigeon and eat it in my backyard.

Some of the feathers are still back there.



Monday found me South of downtown Los Angeles covering the story of a woman who was killed and set on fire. I don't think the police have had any luck in even identifying the woman. The only clue left was the name, Carlos, tattooed on the back of her neck.

I had a burrito and a horchata drink for lunch from a place that used to be a McDonalds a couple of blocks from where the woman's burning body had been found.

How could I eat?

Well, it was really a pretty good burrito.



The family and friends of the college student killed in the Tuesday hit and run accident in Northridge probably doesn't take much comfort in knowing the police were able to quickly track down the suspect.

I can only imagine the impact the sudden loss has had on their lives.



Such a random accident and one of my greatest fears is the loss of someone close to me through a random accident.

this was only Tuesday. I was feeling like I was on a roll for hard news. No problem, though. This is what I do for a living. Sometimes it is fun. Covering these stories? It's not fun.

It's just part of what we do.



Wednesday I was in Century City on Century Park East in a loading zone outside of an office building. We were interviewing a lawyer about his client, a suspected serial killer.

The Lawyer told us, he didn't believe his client was guilty.



Really.

After the interview, we had to drive all the way across town to do our liveshot in front of the Men's Central Jail. That's how most of the week went.

Last night I got to drive an Aston Martin DBS. That's the car Daniel Craig as James Bond is going to be driving in the movie "Quantum of Solace." I was covering the launch party of the video game based on "Quantum of Solace" with Rich DeMuro.



The title for the movie comes from a short story in the Ian Flemming book "For Your Eyes Only" (which was obviously the title of another Bond movie).

I read a few of the original Bond Novels, but I never read that particular collection of stories. God bless the internet, a little research revealed that the short story "Quantum of Solace" seems to deal with the differences between the actual lives people lead and the perception we might have of them.

The dealer representative smiled and asked if I'd like to drive the car.

I looked at her. "You ever hear of Eddie Griffin?"

"Who?"

"Yeah, I'd like to drive it."

I started it up, released the racing brake and put it in gear. It died when I didn't give it enough gas. I restarted it and pulled forward all of three feet. I backed it up three feet, turned off the ignition, folded myself into an origami dinosaur and got out (without bumping my head this time).



That was cool. I even got a still shot of the faux Bond Girls hired to add a little sex appeal to the launch party.



I had a point to make, but again my time is running out and I have to get ready for work.

Really, I have no idea what kind of night I'm going to have. I just show up for work and go wherever the assignment takes me. I'm not done here, but it's going to have to wait until later.

Have a good Friday.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Un-Welcomed to the Neighborhood.

Ouch.

That was me for most of the weekend.  I was feeling the caffeine withdrawal coming on late Friday night.  By the time I start feeling it, it's too late to coffee-up at Starbucks and I may as well just ride it out.   By Saturday morning I was feeling the Gustav level pain and Advil was only taking a small bit of the edge off of it.

Enough about me and my lame excuses for not posting since Friday.  You don't know it, but I sort of left you hanging.  Things got a whole lot more interesting after I shot that Emmy worthy b-roll of the iPhone plug.

There was a shooting at Washington High School.  My reporter, Melissa McCarty and I were assigned to it.  We left the station after 5:00 and we were on the go until after the 10:00pm newscast.

Breaking news sure makes the time go by quicker.



It's all kind of a blur, but I do recall a few high points of the evening.

Right out of the gate, rush hour traffic from Studio City to South Los Angeles on a Friday night sucked the life out of me.

The Sheriff's Department decided their PIO would only speak on camera from their substation on Imperial just South of Normandy.  That was only a couple of miles away from their command post and the scene of the crime.  It sure seemed odd to send us away from the area just to get an official soundbite. 

Frustrating and a waste of time, but I'm sure they had their reasons.  We'll never know what they were, but I'm sure they had them.

We drove over to the darkened sub-station twice because nobody was there.  Sure, we got the assurance that somebody would be there eventually, but they could have just as easily met us at the front of the school where we had all circled the wagons.



Their spokesperson drove up, got out of his car and gave us the interview.

Not a lot of information was released.  McCarty confirmed facts we already had  gathered from witnesses and filled in a couple of blanks.  Not a complete waste of time, but still time was wasted driving back and forth.



Also, somebody had some anger issues with the news vans in the area that night.  One crew got their van hit with a bottle as they drove on Imperial and we got bombed with an egg.  It sounded like a brick from inside the van.  Scary and a bit surprising, but until they start throwing bullets, my attitude is always about the same.

It could have been worse.

We cut the piece in the safety of the media circus and did our liveshot for the ten o'clock show.

Shooting into a crowd and injuring two people or the iPhone plug?  I'm not torn at all.

I wish we had done the iPhone story (but only if the shooting had never happened).

Happy Monday.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

The iPhone Plug Story

This is my story today. It's a worthwhile story about a--

(Sigh)

I can actually hear people laughing.
--
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gregory Mcdonald (1937 to 2008)

"What's your name?"

"Fletch."

"What's your full name?"

"Fletcher."

"What's your first name?"

"Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch."

"Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, never tell anyone we talked. Fair enough?"

"Is it criminal? I mean, what you want me to do?"

"Of course."

"Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to murder me."...

Fletch said, "Sure."

Wow.

I'm nearly speechless and at the moment, gotta tell you, I'm feeling down and depressed. The man who wrote the words copied and pasted above, passed away earlier this month. I've been too wrapped up in other things to have even noticed he was gone. Yeah, I know it's not like I lost a friend or a family member, but the passing of Gregory Mcdonald at the age of 71 is making it difficult for me to get anything done today.

If you only know Irwin Maurice Fletcher from the movies starring Chevy Chase, then you really don't know Fletch.

Nothing against Chevy Chase or the movies based on the character, but what people saw in the theater was almost a crime. The plot (at least in the first movie) was there, but the tone was substantially different from the book. It was quite a letdown for me and a lot of Gregory Mcdonald fans. The books were recognized as a greater literary accomplishment than the buffonery in the movies lead moviegoers to believe.

For what they were, I enjoyed the movies. Nothing against the movies, but man, the books were so much better.

I admire the work of many writers and artists. I've followed the up and down careers of a few favorite authors. There is a short list of people whose work I admire and I admit, inspires me.

Gregory Mcdonald was (and is) a hero of mine. He will be missed, but I'm so glad he left us his words to remember him by.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Would Spenser Do?

If Robert B. Parker was writing the dialog, I would have cracked wise.  Unfortunately, this is real life and that might not have gotten us the information we needed.

Anyway, two days in a row I've felt as if people with seemingly preconceived ideas of how the media operates have reacted way, way, waaaaaay too strongly to our presence.

I was working with Suzie Suh again.  We're down in Cypress, CA putting together the story on the theft of bunch of bronze plates used on grave markers.  The Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cypress is where the theft happened.

We interviewed an officer from the Cypress Police Department and put in a call to Forest Lawn.  Crews from other stations were in the area, also working the same story.

We (always) have a deadline.  That means we have to be proactive in searching out the elements we need to put the story together for air.  No sitting and waiting for us.  Nope, we drive to the cemetery (just a couple o' miles from the police station), park and walk into lobby/flower shop at the main building.

We explain our situation and the person at the front desk calls for a supervisory type person.

While we're standing in the front office waiting for that person to come out, this guy from security. . .



. . .comes in and stations himself in the back of the room.  Double take and WTF?

He never says a word to us.  He just stands there until the supervisor comes out and gives us a direct number for the corporate office.  Because of corporate policy, they can't help us.  We leave.  Crisis averted.

Security?  For us?  Really?

Well, at least he left the dog in the car.

It's only Wednesday, but I need a weekend.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Release the Hounds!

I'm a news photographer and my job can be dangerous. It's not supposed to be dangerous, but there's a lot of things in life that should be different, but aren't.

Here's my assignment from yesterday, the engineer from the Chatsworth train accident once lived at an address in the City of Crestline up in the San Bernardino mountains. I was sent along with reporter Suzie Suh up top Crestline to try and find a relative, friend or neighbor who might be able to tell us something about this man who might possibly be responsible for accidentally ending his own life and also the lives of twenty-five other people.



There was good, bad and really incredibly outrageously insanely bad aspects to this assignment.

The good? I was working with Suzie Suh and she's an absolutely great person. Through mainly (bad) luck of the draw, I've rarely gotten to cover stories with her.



That was the only positive thing about the assignment. Wait, maybe I'm exaggerating. Let me check.

Nope.

It was a pretty suck assignment, but here, you be the judge.

At about 4:00pm I was told to meet Suzie somewhere between Hollywood and San Bernardino and head up to Crestline. I live South of downtown Los Angeles and expected to be heading towards the O.C. for my shift, but not a big deal.

We change gears all the time. It's not always fun, but it goes with the job.

In Pasadena I met up with Suzie Suh and got more details on the story. We were going to Crestline because that's where the engineer lived until recently. Crestline is a mountain community up near Lake Arrowhead. It's about 82 miles from Hollywood, but if you convert it into Los Angeles rush hour traffic miles, then it's about double that.

Suzie and I were on the road at 5:00pm and naturally we were hitting traffic (but still making pretty good time). My dashboard GPS isn't the smartest one on the market. It serves me pretty well, but it couldn't find the address. It found Crestline, but it didn't even give me the option of entering in the exact address.

Between the Thomas Guide and Suzie's iPhone (which I kept calling an iPod), we made it to Crestline.

"Hey, do you hear banjo music?"



It was already dark.

We were both cracking jokes and laughing, but it was nervous joking and laughing. After we found the right street, we parked and got out of the van. With the van headlights off, we could barely see the road and needed to use a flashlight as we walked around in the dark.

A couple of nice people confirmed we were in the right area, but they didn't know the engineer and couldn't tell us anything.

The reaction to us got progressively worse.



One neighbor pointed out the house, but didn't want to talk to us. Another neighbor came to the door, told us to get off her land and threatened to call the Sheriff.

At the next house we approached, a couple came out on the porch. The guy had two Rottweilers on leash. Suzie made introductions from where we stood out on the street. The woman whispered something to the man.

He then told us, "No comment."

I felt sorry for the dogs.

About the guy? I'm sure in his mind, he was standing up for his rights and maybe making a statement about his feelings towards the media. Somewhere in his anger towards us, I wish he would realize how foolish it would be for him to actually let his dogs attack us.

He looked like a dork.

Since his posturing was so very pathetic and ridiculous, I don't think either Suzie or I felt particularly threatened by the dogs. Suzie tossed one more question out as we walked away. The woman answered this time.

"No comment."

Do people think the minute they talk to the media, they're going to be mobbed and hunted by paparazzi photographers? We ask a question. You answer (or not). We move on. With or without the dogs, the outcome would have been the same.

It was about 82 miles back to the station. We stopped for lunch in Pasadena and I met a street artist.



I like that the world is actually full of people who can manage to get their point across without threatening or posturing. I'm going to remember that the next time I'm knocking on doors after dark.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Chatsworth Train Wreck.

We always do well to expect the unexpected. I mean "we" being the folks who work in news. You know, maybe you should probably expect some of the unexpected too.

The train wreck on Friday caught me by surprise. I hate that. I don't know if I had just relaxed and fallen into a pattern where some much of nothing happened, that I stopped expecting anything at all to happen.

When the news of the train wreck hit the station, I was just starting my shift. My plans for the weekend were going to work out really well if I was able to "lunch out" early. It was a training day, so there was pretty good chances that I'd be doing just that.

Famous last words.



That plan got shot to hell about ten minutes into my shift.

Kerry Maller was moving crews. He canceled the training and had me take a SAT truck to the accident scene. Of course "to" really means "near" the accident scene. None of the media was getting any closer than a maybe a quarter mile and most were setting up shop about a half mile from where it actually happened.

Yellow crime scene tape to a journalist is like a cross to a vampire.



We were pretty lucky. All the crews somehow managed to make air by way of microwave. It worked out great for me. I was able to hike around and try to find a vantage point for ground video of the scene instead of being stuck in the SAT truck for hours.

It was difficult to find anything worthwhile. The shot of the rescue workers on ladders climbing around on the overturned train cars was worth the walk while it was still early in our coverage.



If you squint, you might be able to make out the SAT truck just to the left of the tree in the center of the photo. That was a pretty long walk with the camera just to grab a quick shot through a fence and some trees.



There were lots of small stories that weren't big enough for air, but I think deserve to be mentioned.

I let a guy make a call to his pregnant wife who was helping in the triage area. She never picked up. I can only hope she was okay.

A guy threw himself in front of my van to block me from crossing through a dirt field which he claimed was private property. He was waving police and rescue vehicles through. It would have only saved me about five minutes, but it was way more important to him than it was to me.

The Boy Scouts of America were there handing out water and bananas. That banana was the only thing I had to eat until after ten o'clock.



Right around 10pm, I got sent on a mission to find a guy who had shot some home video of the crash nearly right after it happened.

It took a small amount of jumping through hoops, but I finally caught up with the guy at his apartment a couple miles from the crash. He gave me a DVD of the footage he shot.



The SAT truck doesn't have a computer edit system, so I had no direct way of getting the footage off the DVD. Lucky for us, I carry my laptop with me. I was able to at least run the video and shoot it off my laptop screen.

You'll probably never see the unedited footage. It was far too graphic for airing on our channels.



Until I saw the home video, I have to admit, I felt mostly disconnected from the story. That happens when I'm half a mile away and can't see much of anything other than the cops keeping us back and the rescue workers as they trudged in and out of the area.

Seeing the raw video did a great job of pulling me in.



We are very fragile beings and it does hurt to see that for a fact. Not the kind of pain that you might feel if you were crushed by a railroad car. I can't imagine that sort of physical pain and I don't have any way of actually knowing how that feels. I only wish I didn't have such a clear view (on video) of what it even looks like up close.

Stories are still being told from the crash site. I may be involved in following the story today, but and all I can do is accept whatever I'm given for my next assignment.

For now, I'm on guard. That's the best way to keep from being surprised by unexpected emotions that pop up while doing the job we do.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Who Doesn't Want To Talk About Cars.

Rats. I was going to do a whole political rant, but I'm never going to finish it in the time I have before my shift starts.

Things have been building for a while and since I've been putting up with a lot of half-wit, ill-concieved, moronic, justifications for why "your candidate sucks" and "my candidate is Jesus come back to earth in the body of a black man or hocky mom."

Boy, just don't get me started.

No, I haven't been on the front lines during this year of politics, but that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. It's just not all that interesting for me to geronimo into a pointless political discussion. Plus, people really seem to take even a simple free exchange of ideas way too personally.

Ease up. If you don't discuss things with an open mind, you really aren't going to hear any of the important stuff when it gets said.



Wait.

Gee, I have to remember that I'm supposed to be trying to give folks an insider's view of the things I do as a broadcast news photographer.

Here, I'll meet my mission statement.

See the car pictures? The car pictures are from the story Christina McLarty and I covered on Wednesday night out in Santa Monica.



Margie Petersen, the widow of Robert Petersen of Petersen's Automotive Museum, donated $15,000,000 smackers to St. John's Hospital.



We covered a reception/presentation at the hospital and Petersen's Museum brought over a few multi-million dollar star cars to spice up the event and--



Hey, you know what?

The attack on the journalism by politicians doesn't really bother me. Approaching their accusations and concerns calmly, it's easy to see they mostly just want to use their exaggerated attacks on journalism as a means to push through their own agendas.

Both sides are much better off for having less scrutiny by the media.



It's just pretty sad that the accusations against us media types are working as well as they are. That's probably what we deserve for allowing our ethics and integrity (and common FREAKING sense!) to be compromised on so many occasions in the pursuit of ratings success.

Not us of course, I'm talking about those other media jackals.



But you know, we gotta pay the bills too. Nobody's forking over $15,000,000 duckets to us.

Yadda-yadda. I shot two interviews, cut the story on the Aurora edit system (woo-hoo), did one live shot at 10:00pm for KCAL9 and called it a day. I believe the story ran as a VOSOT in the 11:00pm newscast on CBS2, but I was getting the heck back to the station by that time.

You're welcome to your opinion on how well we do our job as journalists. I actually welcome the feedback.

If you want to dodge the tough questions, be my guest. Questions can't hurt you. Shoot, probably the only thing you can hurt with a question is maybe ignorance.

We'll learn something whether you answer or not.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Just Testing

. . .Or goofing around (as I like to say).

A video from my cell phone was supposed to be right here. I better read the instructions again.
--
Sent from my BlackBerry

While I Work.

Well, I'm not so much working as I'm just standing around. I'm out shadowing my most recent trainee on a shoot.

If he need's to ask a question, I'm right there, but otherwise I'm supposed to be invisible.

Cool. I'm the Hollow Dude.
--
Sent from my BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fry It Up, Baby!

It could have been a lot worse.  Last Friday night I helped out the crew covering the opening day of the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona.

I mentioned on Friday how alarmed I was over having to park the news van behind a beer vendor.  I'm not ashamed to tell you, it was through my own sheer willpower that there wasn't an unfortunate incident.



For their future safety reference, I let the Fair folks know how close to catastrophe they were cutting it.

The thing is, I really could have used a beer.  What with all the fried things I sampled.  That's what a fair is all about you know.  Getting to put away some stuff that's been fried.  I think the trend started with the deeep fried Twinkie, but that's pretty much just run of the mill in this deep fried day and age.

Here's a rundown of what we managed to sample (and keep down).

Fried avocado?  okay, I didn't try it myself, but my photographer brother, Dolores, managed to take a nibble.  She wasn't impressed, but I think this is the kind of thing you need to have as a side dish.  Not something you should try to make into an entree.



My very own first bit of greasy goodness came in the form of a deep fried White Castle cheeseburger.  Well, it sure needed ketchup, but otherwise edible.

 

Still, I wish I had caught it before they deep fried it.  That might have been better for me.

Having roots in the South, it's never been a matter of "if" I'd ever try frog legs, it's simply been a matter of "when".



The "when" was Friday night just after our first liveshot.  The healthy appetizing appearance of the fried food wasn't likely going to last until the next hit. We'd obviously need to restock, so all the visual aid snackage was up for grabs.

How was it?  Son of a gun, as a matter of fact, it does taste like chicken.

Next up, the deep fried Pop-Tart was sweet and gooey, but I found it swung too far into the OVER-SWEET range.



A tall glass of milk might have helped cut some of the sweet.  As it was, you could get the same satisfaction out of eating a handful of sugar right out of the bag.

Watch somebody steals the idea and has it for sale next year--  Oh, wait, isn't that what Pixie-Sticks are?

Okay, my hands down-blue ribbon-favorite deep fried thing of the night had to be-- drum roll, please. . .

 

. . .The Fried Oreo Cookies.

Similar to the Pop Tart, but they didn't send me as quickly into a sugar coma.  Also, they were bite sized and I could just have one. . .or two.

(It would have been four, but I wrapped them up and they actually made the trip home.  I split them with Dellis, who didn't appreciate me screwing with her healthy diet, but still ate them anyway.)



All together, a nice night in news.  I was worried that the fried medly of food might give even my photographer's constitution some trouble.  No worries.

I was able to keep everything down except for my colesterol.

Let's all be thankful the Fair is only once a year.
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