Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Days of 2010

I'm still feeling the last twinges of being sick with a cold (maybe flu, I dunno, I'm no doctor).

I was up and down most of this past week, but I can't remember really being this sick much at all this past year.  Yeah, I'm sure I was, but I just don't remember it.



This week (on a day I should have been at home working on getting well) I managed to drag myself into the station and found myself covering a press conference in South Los Angeles.

So much sadness around the holiday season.  A mother was shot and killed at her car.  Her 8 year old daughter was sitting in the back seat.



Ed Lawrence, John Vincent and I did early hits for the afternoon/evening newscasts.

The sadness and frustration was almost like a physical weight just hanging in the area.  I was already feeling pretty low from being under the weather.  This just added to that.



My thoughts and prayers go out to the family.  I did my job that day and helped to get the story out about a reward being offered for the suspects in this case.  It just leaves me feeling kind of empty and just a twinge of fear for all of us.  This is the world we live in.

I know this is just a typical day is this city.  I don't kid myself.  I'm not directly involved and can only imagine what the victims, family and friends go through. 

For not being directly involved, I still see these stories closer than most people.  I know random violence like this is never all that far from any of our lives.



I hope things are better in the coming year. Even though I can't even imagine a world where people don't suffer from this kind of violence, maybe things at least could be better.

Be careful.  Be safe.

See you next year.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cold and/or Flu in this Holiday Season

Somehow I managed to come down with something over the Christmas week.  With two very full days of holiday festivities planned over the weekend and no way to cancel, I had to man up and muscle through.

Yes, that is an upside down Christmas tree and that is the Holiday Yule Log burning bright on the TV.



Christmas day started out rather peaceful.  The most difficult part of the week was behind me.  I'd been out in the bad weather in Highland covering the mudslides.

Pretty sure that's where I picked up whatever it is that's got me on the ropes.



It might have happened later in the week, but the steady rain soaking I got Monday through Wednesday just seems like the likely culprit.



It wasn't until Friday afternoon that I really felt like I was coming down with something, but the previous two days of covering the last minute shopping at local malls kept me busy enough that I didn't pay much attention to the warning signs.

Scratchy throat, aches and pain, slight cough and I still remember the dampness from the rain.  Yeah, I was making it too easy for the cold and flu season to add me to the stats.



Complete collapse happened around 11:30pm on Sunday night.  The last of our holiday company (son, daughter, two nephews and family friend) was playing XBox with the new Kinect motion thingy.

I laid down on the floor near the TV and I can remember someone throwing a blanket over me.  I also remember people suggesting I should just go to bed.

That was Sunday.  I slept through most of Monday.

Today, the sun is out and more rain is expected late tonight.  I'm going to head into work, but only because I'm stubborn.  Sure, I expect there might be more mud coming down late tonight, but with any luck, I'll be home and snug in my bed before it hits.

I hope to be over being sick before the new year.  Have a wonderful day, I'm going to go stock up on my meds.






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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Weather Fearless

There was a time when I loved getting behind the wheel and driving "Big Blue" for any old reason. Back in the independent KCAL days (back when I was first learning to operate SAT trucks) it was all about mastering new skills. I liked the challenge and I loved the fact that not everybody was trusted to be a SAT operator..

Tuesday night this week before Christmas during the heaviest rains of the year, I just wasn't feeling it.


Photo by Suzanne Marques

Honestly, I've been working long hours at work and at home and another long tortuous drive in Los Angeles traffic wasn't nearly as appealing as I make it sound.

My only comfort was in knowing that I work for a living and I would likely be fired if I didn't load up and go do my job. Wait. . .you know, maybe "comfort" is the wrong word.

My adventures in news that night lead me to Wrightwood, California. That's a popular ski area (if you didn't already know) just North and East of Los Angeles.



It was lightly raining when I left the station. It had been a while since I last drove our biggest satellite truck. Maybe a year. Certainly far enough back that I can't remember.

If I'm going into a questionable area, my preference is to take one of the smaller trucks. None of them were available. That left me with no choice, "Big Blue" and I were heading out to cover weather.



Ski area often means SNOW. Snow equals chains for the SAT truck tires. That also meant, I'd have to find somebody to put them on or put them on myself.

If you live in a part of the country (or world) that experiences snow on a regular basis, snow chains might be an expected and necessary part of driving.

I've put snow chains on a vehicle once before during my news career and never in my personal life. I didn't find it to be easy or fun that one time.

No, I wasn't looking forward to the possibility this time.



Reporter Suzanne Marques and Photographer Steve Medina were going to be doing all the heavy lifting on shooting the story and cutting the package.

I'd be lending my assistance if needed, but as always, my job as the SNG operator (in a nutshell) would be to make sure they got on TV.



The weather was pretty bad going up to Wrightwood. Fog had settled in on parts of the route along Highway 15 and 138.

The last ten miles or so into Wrightwood had nearly zero visibility, but I was lucky. The weather hadn't gotten so cold that it was snowing and the light rain had washed away what ice and snow had previously formed.



My biggest worry turned out to be just the low visibility. I'm not sure people get that being fearless in doing my job is so not the case. I'm really pretty often amazed that I don't get killed covering the news and I believe I certainly have genuine reasons to be concerned about my safety.

I've covered enough accident scenes to understand it's not just about my ability to be safe.



There are other people on the road. Sure, their driving skills could certainly (and easily) be better than mine, but you know, maybe not.

I traveled on narrow mountain roads that night. Sometimes I couldn't see what was coming around the bend and maneuvering off of the road was absolutely no picnic in the dark.

Funny to say, but I almost got the SAT truck stuck in a ditch twice that night. It just seems lucky that it was simply "almost" (and only twice). I did run over a small boulder (stupid boulder), but (fingers crossed) no damage was done.

We only had a 10:00pm liveshot. Kind of glad they didn't tell me ahead of time.

That was a long way to go for one hit.

Some nights are like that.

Thank goodness, most of them aren't.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weather Shot

SNG duty on Buckwheat Road in Wrightwood, California.

Lucky to be in the lull before a big storm.  Just trying to get through my windows and keeping a good thought in mind for getting back before any of the bad hits.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fatal Friday

Don't play out in the rain.

That's something I think to myself every day I'm out covering the news in bad weather. It doesn't help.

Yesterday was pretty intense. I had no reporter, but multiple assignments all over the county.



Even though I started out in Sherman Oaks (doing rainy weather video from the corner of Sepulveda and Ventura Boulevard), I was pulled from that and sent over to Highland Park for a fire with a possible fatality.



Possible turned into definite. After shooting video of the still smoldering home, I finally got confirmation that there was a body found inside.

I linked in the microwave and fed the video.

It depressed me a little to think about the loss of life, but not seeing any signs of a body, it wasn't particularly difficult to put it out of my mind.



Friday night, cold and wet, I was calculating what my chances would be of getting off work on time.

It turned out to be no chance at all. I got a call to shoot video of a gas station price sign and just when I thought for sure the desk would be sending me towards my eagerly anticipated weekend, I got my last assignment of the night.

Head out to the 210 Freeway (just past the 57) and shoot video of the fatal big rig accident.



Two deaths in one night.

Gee, I'd like to say that I'm a professional and it doesn't bother me.



That's not the case.

Okay, No More 7-11 Hot Dogs Ever!

George Ward was caught on security camera flashing two little girls (ages 4 and 7) in a 7-11 in Murrieta. That's what had me driving two hundred miles (round trip) on Thursday.

The first 100 miles was in rush hour traffic by the way. Yes, it was very much grueling. Driving in traffic is probably the toughest part of my job.



We weren't expecting an arrest to be made and we really weren't expecting a perp walk, but that's what happened.

Just after our interview with the Murrieta Police, they let us know that the suspect had been apprehended and beaten-- no, wait, that's just my wishful thinking.

They caught him and allowed us to shoot him. . .er, record video of him being taken from the patrol car and walked into the police station.

Oh, by the way, one unusual part in all this was that he was holding a toddler while he was flashing the two little girls.

Now, I'm all for innocent until proven guilty (he did it), but I think we can all agree he needed to be locked up.



Maybe also beaten a little.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Do You Want To Play Some Football?

Covering a press conference at LA Live announcing designs for a new football stadium.

I wonder if I get to vote on it.

Posted via email from beFrank's posterous

Hugh Hefner Gets Honored (and another guy got hit by a train).

I had this long post started that covered the last couple of weeks, which have actually been pretty cool as far as my news assignments go.

I was writing and it was getting way too long winded.




With my short attention span and lack of free time, it seemed better to just cut to the most recent assignment that seemed worth mentioning.

I was at (okay, covering) the los Angeles City Historical Society's annual dinner where Hugh Hefner accepted an award for his generous donation which helped preserve the Hollywood sign and the land around it.



Hef is getting up there.  You know, I can't help but think that most people just want to know if he had any arm candy with him.



Yup, he did.  That's Anna and Chrystal.  Chrystal Harris was the Miss December 2009 and is one of Hef's current girlfriends.



Anna Berglund is the magazine's Miss January 2011.

Interesting to me is the fact that I went to this assignment after covering the Metro subway train accident at Hollywood and Vine.

A guy got hit by the train and was in pretty bad condition.



I hope he's okay.  It seemed like a miracle that he survived at all.  Hmm, I suuppose I could post at least one picture from that assignment.



There.  That's the entrance to the Hollywood and Vine Station where the accident happened.  We weren't allowed to go in, so there wasn't a lot to see.  We had one live shot for the 5:00pm newscast.

Not too bad of a day at the office.  I wouldn't mind getting another day like that one.  Just maybe without anyone getting hurt.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Okay, Maybe Just One Picture.

I "tweeted" earlier that I wasn't going to crash the premier of the film, "How Do You Know?" taking place in Westwood.

This is me not doing what I said I was going to do.


I don't know how or why the cell phone picture didn't make it into the post. Better late than never, but here it is.


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D. M. Gremlin Open House: December 2010

Well, I know there are some people who read my blog and like my photography work that are going to question why I was taking pictures of a shirtless guy.



His name is Dave or "The Dave" (as it reads on his business card)

My answer is simple. Because he was there.



"There" being the monthly open house held at the D.M. Gremlin Studios sponsored by Wendy Levin.



Call it "camera" therapy. After a week of working long days covering the news, it's relaxing for me to be able to just point a camera and capture an image without the need for it to have a purpose beyond just being (hopefully) an interesting image.

I go to the open house because I've developed a very powerful love of taking pictures.



Wendy's studio is a place where I can spend a few hours talking (and shooting) with other people who share my interest.

Sometimes it's easy for me to do that.

Sometimes I just want to shoot first and ask questions later.



Because I never know ahead of time what sort of model might show up for the open house, there's always an improvisational factor involved.

I'm happy with that. Very happy.



I've gotten the opportunity to work with models I might not have been lucky enough to meet or select on my own. That's a challenge for me (and I do like to be creatively challenged).



I don't know if my photos would have any value to anyone else. I hope the models at least find them to be worth their time.

My time spent on them and the experience I've gained from having taken them, for me, really is priceless.



You know, this was an interesting year. I took a lot of pictures and I got to meet a lot of cool people.

This year was great. It might go without saying, but I'm looking forward to the next one.
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No, I Won't Scratch Your Nose For You.

It was just one of the high points in a week that included shooting an interview with Jane Freaking Fonda.



The story starts when I was called in early and drove directly to the City of Santa Ana. I have fond memories of my early post-college video days of working for Santa Ana's civic access cable TV channel. Paid far less than I am today for lugging around a 3/4" portable VTR, camera, tripod and sun gun (with battery belt)-- hey, come to think of it, that's not a fond memory.

Anyway, back on target here, I was working with Serene Branson and we were being granted a jailhouse interview with convicted murderer Paul Smith.



Paul Smith was convicted of killing a childhood friend and of attempting to place a hit on the case's lead detective.

Yes, it is a strange feeling to be locked in with a man who is believed to have killed another human being. That's weird enough, but I also had to mic him.



He wasn't Charles Manson weird, but he was still just odd enough that I was glad he was brought to us fully restrained.

He could have gone all Hannibal Lector on me and tried to bite as I ran the lavalier mic underneath his jail house scrubs. I felt pretty safe, but I was thinking he could have had a good laugh by just saying, BOO!



That would have been pretty funny (after the fact). Thankfully he behaved himself. He was even completely coherent during the interview.

CBS2/KCAL9 Video Clip

Crazy?

I'm not a trained psychiatrist, but yeah, I kind of believe that he might be missing a few marbles.

The sad part for me? He isn't the worst killer I've ever talked to.

Happy Monday. I hope this week is as interesting as last.


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Friday, December 10, 2010

Middle of Nowhere

Near Lake Casitas where a guy had a serious disagreement with a Sheriff's Deputy.

SNG Man puttin' it on TV!

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Let's Get Physical

Covering the re-launch of Jane Fonda's Workout at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood.

Just what I need to inspire me to go to the gym.

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Highway 138 Accident (People Died).

I can tell you it was cold out on the side of the road.

We were covering a fatal accident on Highway 138 last monrth.  Highway 138 is off I5 just before you get to Gorman if you're heading North from Los Angeles.  Most people wouldn't ever know that, but I do.  That's only because I'm pretty well versed in the area having worked for a little while in Bakersfield.



I knew snow was a strong possibility, but it was raining, but it wasn't quite cold enough to snow.

The road was closed because of the accident, so I didn't have to worry much about adding to the body count (getting tagged by speeding motorists is always a big concern for news phtographers).



It was a terrible accident.  A vehicle with one occupant drifted into oncoming traffic.  The oncoming vehicle was a fire transport carrying several fire fighters.



This happened right before Thanksgiving.  I just saw that I had only mentioned it in passing on my blog with just a cell phone photo.



It was a sad story.  There were people injured who are probably still recovering.  I can only imagine how the people who lost a friend or family member might feel as we get closer to Christmas.

My thoughts are with them.



It happened weeks ago and I've been on a dozen stories since then.  I don't remember all the details of that story or that night, but it's easy to remember a couple of things.

I remember driving the satellite truck very carefully on the way back.  When you're alone on a dark empty highway, you can't help but consider how lucky you are to be heading for home (as opposed to the hospital or worse).

The other thing I remember is, even without snow, how cold it was.  I'm chilled a little now just thinking about it.  Somehow-- and I could just be imagining it, but it always seems a little colder when people die.

I'm going to get ready for another day at work now.  I'll be bringing an extra sweater, because I never know where I might end up.
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