Thursday, December 14, 2006
Yes, yes, the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Since my last post, sweeps has ended and I finally got to take a long overdue vacation. As the Ole 'Polisher pointed out, I did turn out a majority of the month's media, which left me quite drained. Add to that the amount of time off I've taken this year (two days at the end of June), and I was in the throes of a serious burn-out. Luckily I had already scheduled a good chunk of time off this month, nearly all of it. The only day I've worked this month was the sixth, and I go back to work on Monday.
Whereas the 'Slinger would dedicate this kind of time to some serious soul-searching, I chose to recline in reclusive reticence. Actually that's not exactly accurate, but sounds really good. I spent the first day looking at my future offspring. If I haven't mentioned it before, we're expecting...twins, and everything seems to be going well. The next week was spent editing the yearly blooper tape and readying the homestead for the newsroom christmas party. This was my first chance to use my PC for editing, and I turned out a classic, with an assist from 'Polisher. I'll save the superlatives for others to post, but I do feel the best part is the memorial montage for T-boy Richard. Both the party and the tape seem to have been a success.
Today I spent with a visit to my Grandfather in Abbeville, which also went well. Tomorrow will be a me day.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Click here for part 1.
The second one has some good shots, but falls off at the end. I think we'll just call this a TCS.
Click here for part 2.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I'm happy to say that my prediction about the first story being the best is turning out to be wrong. With two stories aired, another airing tonight, and two more on Monday, it's going to be a good month.
Click here for the story.
Another week on call, and I'm wondering how much sleep I'm going to lose out on this time. It should be a slow week for call, since Ken Brumfield had a busy week last week. I'm really glad we switched weeks.
I'm fully expecting to be called out early Wednesday morning, because severe weather will be coming through in the wee hours. Tornado watches are in effect until daybreak. It's not until 7:00 am that I'm called to travel to Hillsdale damage. Ok, but where is Hillsdale? After four years in this market I've only traveled to about half of its out-of-the-way towns and communities, and Hillsdale isn't on any map I've got in the XTerra.
C-squared gives me some directions over the Nextel, and I'm off. An hour later I run into Deputy Ricard and he leads me on a tour of the damage, starting with the scene of the only death in the state caused by last night's weather. Ironically the man had left the travel trailer he usually lives in to stay in the house. Ironic because his trailer was untouched, and the house was destroyed. As I take in the damage and fire off shots, I notice that I seem to be the only media here. I might have been beaten by a town paper, but I beat all the major outlets by nearly two hours.
Kenny B and Chatty are on their way with our combo truck, so I grab the rest of the damage I can get to and meet them back at the scene. I switch to truck op and beam our live shots back to the station via satellite for the rest of the afternoon, with one brief interview with the Governor at 5:30 pm while Ken edits the package for six.
The story lead Noon, Four, and Five, and we were live at Six with a VOSOT at Ten. The best part is that we beat all the Baton Rouge and New Orleans media to the story. Oh, and that other Baton Rouge station didn't even show up. While we were live at Noon, they were reporting AP wire copy.
Click here for the Noon live shot.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I once had a passion for video games that could not be quenched. The frequently fluctuating images held me enthralled for hours on end. When I was younger, nothing could get me up earlier than the new game in the living room that I had either just bought or rented. Five A.M. is an early wake up on a school day when the bus doesn't stop until 7:30, but it was a small price to pay for two whole hours with no distractions. The worst offenders were the games that didn't have passwords to continue, or batteries to back up saved games. Some of these could be left on the shelf, but others, such as Blaster Master, feel like the one that got away.
Lately I haven't found a game that could get me up before work. It could be that I find it easier to stay up late than get up early. The last game that kept me wanting to play was Halo. Anyone who has played this game knows that it's superb gameplay is backed up by an exceptional plot, and a healthy dose of physical comedy. The week that I rented Halo was an exercise in sleep deprivation, because I was only getting about two hours of sleep before going back to work. It played like a good book: just one more chapter, then I'll go to bed.
I'm not sure if it is the choice of games on my shelf, or the lack of time management, but I haven't touched a game in at least two weeks. I think of them often, because many of them are highly regarded titles, but when I do, I can't decide which one to play. I've also played on the good system in the living room, and it's hard to go back to the cheap system in the spare bedroom. I set the cheap system up as a late-night haven to crawl into when my night-owlishness takes hold. It's a place where I can make noise without waking the Mrs., but it's barely half the quality of my main system. In fact, I'm spending good gaming time right now to get these thoughts down. Lack of proper seating also diminishes the gaming experience. I need a decent chair to slouch down into while immersing myself in the worlds displayed before me by the flickering phosphors.
I guess you could call me a game-oholic. I've got an itch that could use some scratchin', but life has gotten in the way. On the plus side, I've started reading a lot more. That's really where my spare time has gone lately. Of course some books can keep me up into the wee hours of the morning, too. I guess I'm just helpless in the throes of my addictions.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Who am I? I know who I am, but how do other people see me? I try not to think about it too much. After all, I'm just the guy behind the lens who is trying to be as non-descript as possible. I consider myself somewhat shy. Meeting new people is not high on my list of favorite activities, because I have a horrible time remembering names. Seriously, it's nearly instantaneous, unless I make a concentrated effort, then it might last until the end of the day. The news business is not for someone who suffers from social paralysis at the thought of meeting new people, but I thought, "Hey, I'll just make pretty pictures, I won't have to talk to anyone." Oops. I found out the hard way that I have to do just as much talking as the people who get paid to do it, sometimes more.
This is where my recent ruminations begin. A certain blonde reporterette and I were cruisin' FEMAville. We were looking for someone with a wind vs. water claim from the storms, and our sure-thing interview had fallen off the radar. We soon discovered that most of the people you find at 11:30 a.m. on a weekday in a FEMA park are not homeowners. We were adrift on a sea of people, so Cassie began dialing for a lifeline.
Movement at the periphery of my vision drew my focus, and I turned to see a kindly woman strolling toward my window with a hopeful, questioning look on her face. A push of a button lowered my glass barrier while I fervently hoped that Cassie would end her call before I had to do too much talking. No such luck.
Long story short: her sound makes the whole package work. To hear Cassie tell it, the woman didn't have a chance once I turned on the charm.
This week one of my glass-toting bretheren suggests that I would make a good news director. He says that I would be a natural, since I'm a fair person and have a good way with people. I must admit that I've kicked around the notion of dropping back a few markets and giving it a shot, but I don't currently feel that I've got the experience to take the helm of a newsroom in this sea of information.
Sure, I can get along with just about anyone, but I don't feel like it's anything special. I just keep my mouth shut until I have something relevant to say. Apparently I've always been that way, because my mother says that I didn't speak until I could form complete sentences.
So, if others perceive me as a decent human being with an easy smile and natural charm, I guess I'll have to live with it.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
You can see our story here.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
My sister has been living in self-imposed exile in the Great Northwest. A few years ago, as she was staring down the great unknown of a life after college, she answered the calling to become a missionary. This could have meant travelling to remote destinations, devoid of civilization or even running water, but she became involved in domestic missions and was assigned to the campus of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Her mission was to help start a Baptist Collegiate Ministry on that campus, which is no small feat in an area where organized religion doesn't define the culture as it does here.
A large part of her request to be stationed in the PDX is the familial history of the city. When our parents got married, they moved to Vancouver, Washington, just across the river. A few years later I was born, and two years after that the three of us moved back to Louisiana and the rest of the family. So now we have a reason to visit, other than just to go.
In her two years of service, she grew to love the area, and it really is a perfect fit for her. She came to the conclusion that it was part of The Plan for her to stay there and continue to spread the Good News in whatever way she could. Hurricane Rita gave her an opportunity to bring some of that work home.
Relishing the chance to negate the impotence of being two thousand miles away, she got a team together and flew to the coast. Blessing were bestowed all around, and the small group attacked the problem with gusto, and copious amounts of DEET. Apparently Northwesterners suffer greatly from the bites of our mosquitoes, as I witnessed welts woefully oversized for our common annoyances. The heat was also a sore spot with them, with the man of the group usually being the first one up so that he could start the truck to get the A/C going while they ate breakfast. Their mornings consisted of cleaning up my parents yard, while their afternoons were spent teaching Vacation Bible School at what was left of the First Baptist Church.
For their troubles, they were rewarded with a trip to the beach with complimentary fire and mosquitoes, and an old fashioned shrimp and crab boil to end the week. While here they got to experience some of the best and worst environments the parish had to offer. Through it all they kept smiling and toiling away, reveling in the new skills they were learning and the young lives they were helping to shape. I hope their lives were as touched by this trip as the lives they touched.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Long ago Lenslinger got fed up with the assignments he was handed, and took matters into his own hands. I don't want to take on that much responsibility, yet, but I do plan on taking a more active role in deciding what stories I cover. It could have something to do with the mediocre story ideas coming from the morning meeting.
Three weeks ago I did a heat story with Scott. Last week I almost did another heat story with Scott. After wringing our grey matter for the first one, what could we do to make the next one different? Seriously. It's August, it's Louisiana, and it's hot. It was hot 10 years ago, it was hot yesterday, and it will be hot again tomorrow. In fact, it'll be hot until October. It's nothing new, and it's not news until something extraordinary happens.
The final straw, though, was our coverage of the officer's funeral one week ago. When he died, I knew his funeral was going to be the top story for that day, unless someone more important was killed, or a local refinery exploded. Somehow, the decision was made to only have one crew cover the event, and do a noon live shot. Ten minutes to noon, the producers have thier collective panties in a bunch, because the procession is leaving the church and heading to the grave site. The only problem is that the crew is stuck doing the live shot at the church, and the shot we can't miss is about two miles away from them.
So it falls on me to somehow get ahead of the procession so I can get the shot of the hearse rolling in under the giant flag suspended by two of the fire department's ladder trucks. By the way, I'm all the way across town at the station, where I have been for the last hour or so, with no assignments on my plate that would have conflicted with getting to the location ahead of schedule. Someone should have realized that a funeral that begins at 10 AM will probably end at 12 PM, so we might need another crew to cover the other end of the procession while the first crew does the live shot and makes its way there. I would have gladly gone in a live truck to set up a second shot, to be used in the second half hour of our noon show, to properly honor the fallen. Instead I have to drive like a man posessed, but I got the shot.
After all of that, I resolved that I would now attend the morning meetings. Maybe I can be the voice of reason, providing some insight on how things might actually happen in the field. If nothing else, my story ideas are just as mediocre as anyone elses!
Monday, August 14, 2006
In my personal world, everything is fine. I woke up this morning, went to work, turned a decent story and came home safely to my wife, who is cooking what promises to be an excellent dinner. One can't ask for more of a blessing than another day of life, and all the experiences it brings.
The story I worked on today is a happy story, filled with smiling faces and fun. It isn't the story that has me blogging tonight. The family of Cpl. Christopher Metternich is on my mind, and also the family who lost their home this afternoon to a fire. His story can be found here. The short version is that he died in the line of duty. He was riding his department issue motorcycle when someone pulled into his path from a side street, and he broadsided their car.
I had no part in covering that story, but it touches me just the same. It forces me to realize what can happen to my own father, who also wears a badge, but it also forces me to look at what I do. I worked on one other newsworthy event today, which was the house fire I just mentioned. We arrived on the scene shortly after the fire department, and I proceeded to get great video of the firefighters working to get the blaze under control. I can't say they were working to save the house, because it was beyond saving. All they could really do was keep it from doing more damage to the homes around it. That phrase I just used, great video. That is what I said when calling the station. "I don't know if anyone is hurt, but I've got great video!"
This family has lived in this house for 30 years, and it has been reduced to charred rubble and ten seconds of video in a newscast, and all I have to say is that I have 'great video.' One family has lost all their posessions, but fortunately no one was hurt. Across town another family is greiving the loss of a husband, father, brother, and son. His loss is also felt by his extended family, his brothers and sisters behind the badge, for whom this is the third officer killed in the last two years, and the second one within a year.
These are the events upon which my job is based, but what does it cost me, as a human being, to do this job? How long can I keep working without losing part of my soul in the process? Heavy questions, for which I don't currently have any answers, but I know they will be provided for me. All I have to do is listen, and treat each day as if it is a gift, because it is.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Burton Coliseum is the first landmark visitors see after landing at Lake Charles Regional Airport. Standing watch in front of this structure is a statue erected in honor of the man for whom the building is named. For years people have passed this statue as they entered to attend graduations, basketball games, and rodeos, but I wonder how many have seen the secret.
I don't know Mr. Burton's history, but he must have been quite generous for his name to be so prominently hung. At some point a statue was commissioned, to show the man in as favorable light as possible, I'm sure. He is represented as a smiling man, wearing a rumpled fedora at a rakish angle, and carrying a newspaper. This feature is the key to the secret.
I have no knowledge of the artist's intentions, but one naturally envisions the sculptor critically reviewing this piece from every angle, assuring that each detail is perfectly rendered in harmony with all others. If that is so the result cannot be an oversight, but an intentional double entendre.
From most angles the statue seems innocent enough, just a kindly gentleman, casually surveying the landscape. All it takes are a few degrees of movement to reveal Mr. Burton's Endowment, and the Secret of Burton Coliseum.
Friday, August 11, 2006
The first is one I've been waiting to write for a while, about a certain statue that many McNeese graduates know very well.
The second is about a recent trip back home. I think I've run out of photo space on Blogger, so I've gotta figure out which web host I want to use for the Cameron pix.
Y'all come back now, ya hear?
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
It seems that all I've had the energy to do lately is comment on other's blogs, leading my own to collect dust in this corner of the World Wide Cob-Web. Well, I'm back, for a while at least.
U2 fans will recognize the title of this post, which has become one of my favorite songs. Weather has always fascinated me. It could have something to do with growing up in the swealtering heat of Southwest Louisiana, where the roiling black clouds rarely meant dangerous weather. Instead they held the promise of relief from the heat with a chilly downdraft and cool rain. The most special part of the storm would be the lightning. Nothing man can create can compare with the awesome power one experiences watching the best show money can't buy.
My favorite bolts crawl among the clouds, streaking along from one end of the sky to the other. I hope to one day capture a still image that truly conveys the majesty and wonder I experience every time I witness one of these works.
All of these photos were taken from my back yard during a recent storm. Gotta love digital for learning how to shoot something like this. I'd have wasted a whole lot of film.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
With Monday's rain the Free State of Livingston parish lifted the burn ban issued several weeks ago. When it comes to crisis events that begin with a 'W', our Wildfire/West Nile reporter extraordinaire, John Pastoreck, is on the case.
As a special shout-out to the "Ole 'Polisher", I managed to fit in a closing shot to bring a tear to his crusty eyes.
He has a link to it on his page, but you can also find it HERE.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
It's a great day here in Baton Rouge. The sky is filled with clouds, bulging with precipitation. If that seems like sarcasm, it isn't. Since the hurricanes of last year, we've only seen rain a handful of days. That's not good, since it's been nearly a year.
The parishes on this side of the state have been fighting wildfires for the past few months, so todays downpours are more than welcome, even if they interfere with a few cook-outs.
It's great having a holiday off for once, and I would like to thank those men who help cast off the shackles of England 230 years ago. This has been the greatest country in the world, and it can continue to be so, but it won't just happen. The citizens of this nation need to be involved in the running of their government. Don't just sit there and complain about nothing being done, take action. Ordinary men did just that nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.
Tomorrow the rockets' red glare will have faded, and the bursting bombs will have echoed their last for another year. I ask that, as citizens, you take the intiative to make a change in your community. Those government officials that actually do something can't do everything themselves. They need everyday people to do their part as well.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Unfortunately the anchor, Cynthia McFadden, had to add her own commentary at the end of the piece. Instead of saying something intelligent and giving the viewer some extra information, she chose to disparage the game featured in the story, and also the people who play it. She commented that 'Certainly none of us would endorse such a game, or allow our children to play it.'
Many of the people who play it aren't children. Most are probably in the vaunted 18-54 demographic to which broadcasters are increasingly trying to appeal. I'm sure attracting that demo is part of the reason for the current format of the show.
A Reuters article from a few weeks ago reported that the gaming industry has an $18 billion impact on the nation's economy. What does the gaming community think about the news media? Gamers feel they have a target on their backs. Publicity seeking zealots like Jack Thompson villify their hobby so he can make money. What's worse is that he exploits greiving families to do so. Gamers are not the anti-social gunmen-in-training that the national media make them out to be. The sick individuals who perpetrate these killings would do so anyway. Their parents have failed them by not being involved enough to teach them the values they ought to have, or see the direction their lives are taking.
Games are not the problem. I play them and consider myself a gamer. I am also a journalist nearing the age of 30. Playing video games hasn't caused me, or millions of other gamers, to attempt to take out a building full of people. If games had that kind of power, gamers would have already taken the country by force.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I must have been feeling the effects of that celestial combination on Monday. After spending the morning watching the mud fly in committee, we were directed to do a story on sex offender IDs. Since the ole 'Polisher left, I have taken residence in Huey's Habitat. Surprisingly I have found that I actually enjoy the time spent there. My great-grandfather was a representative in these same hallowed halls, and maybe some of that blood runs in me.
Grumbling about the lost opportunity to provide our viewer (do we have that many?) with the proof that LA politics have changed for the better, I steered my steel horse onto River Road. "Let's go to a park and grab some MOS," says Cassie, earnestly trying to stay positive, but not quite feeling it. "How about City Park Lake?"
As we make our way along Dalrymple Dr., we spot a lone blanket with three people on it. At this point we didn't know the treasures this blanket would hold for us. As we pull into the parking lot, the trio becomes a quartet. We can see two women and two children, what luck! One of the women is a lawyer, and her brother-in-law, who is a pediatrician and father of the two kids, is on his way. The whole family is a gold mine of sound and we walked away with a tape full of the mother lode.
We shoot a killer stand-up and head back to the station.
Hands down, this is the best package I have ever put together, thanks to some excellent teamwork in the field and back at the station.
Check it out.
Friday, June 02, 2006
In reading some responses to a Gamespot article, I feel the need to clarify some points. The bill only restricts minors from buying these games. If a kid wants a game they have to get their parent to buy it for them.
Basically it adds video games to a pre-existing law concerning material that is harmful to minors. It has a good chance of passing constitutional review, since it follows the same idea of keeping children from buying tobacco, alcohol, and pornography.
Grand Theft Auto wasn't the only game they had samples from, but all the samples were from games that put the player in the role of a criminal killing police officers and other people.
I thought the discussion that took place in the committee was fair and both side made good arguments. The only problem that may arise is that it makes it a felony to sell or rent these games to minors, instead of a misdemeanor, which one of the senators questioned. Because the law is somewhat vague, the standards might apply to more than just M-rated games, putting the retailers in an uncomfortable position. Unfortunately the bill couldn't use the ESRB ratings system as the standard, because it is a private system and not subject to being changed by a vote of the people.
As a gamer I not comfortable with having Jack Thompson sitting in a chair, five feet in front of my lens, railing against my hobby. As a journalist I couldn't allow my personal feelings to get in the way of objectively covering the story. In the end I came to the conclusion that nothing in this bill would prevent me from enjoying the games that I want to play.
Unfortunately it does nothing to help the children whose parents lack the skills necessary for good parenting. It also won't prevent some kid whose thought processes are so screwed up that they want to kill everyone in sight. These parents don't care what games, movies, music, or magazines are available to their children.
I don't think a parent should totally shield a child from the world; it's rough and they will need some knowledge to survive, but children should have a chance to see the world with innocent wonder and experience the beauty in nature and people before they come to know ugliness and cruelty.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
HB 421 passed a House of Representatives committee in the Louisiana Legislature today. It deals with the sale of violent video games to minors, specifically banning such. The man behind it is Jack Thompson. Thompson has been a leader in the fight against violent games and feels that they represent a threat to society. He has been trying in several states across the nation to ban the sale of violent games altogether. We had an opportunity to interview him on the bill, but missed out on the committee meeting, because the governor was speaking in a Senate committee around the same time. I would have liked to hear his testimony so that I could have asked him better questions about why he felt this is necessary.
To be honest I don't think a six-year-old should be playing Grand Theft Auto, or some of the other games on the hitlist, but I believe that a parent's responsibility is to know what their kids are doing. That means they should know who they're hanging out with, what activities they are involved in, and the content of the media they are viewing. Parental involvement is what made me the person I am today, not the games I have been playing for the last 20+ years, but many parents aren't taking an active role in their children's lives, which I feel is the leading factor in the Columbines, etc., not video games.
This bill will next go to the House floor, and then to the Senate, if approved. Thompson feels that HB 421 is the bill that will fulfill all the constitutional requirements that other bills have failed to meet, and doesn't forsee any problems with getting it passed into law.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Silent sentinels stand along Staring Lane. Many have been here as long as the homes they herald. In the near future they may be gone, along with those homes, to make way for more lanes.
Joan Herke is one of the residents in the wrecking ball's potential path and has been for the last year. She and other residents would like to know who will have to move, but the city isn't talking. She is also worried that she won't be able to find a new home, much less afford one, because nearly everything available has been snatched up by relocating refugees.
She tells us that some have told her it's the price she pays for living on a main thoroughfare, but it wasn't much more than a horse trail when she and her husband moved here, 42 years ago.
For now the neighborhood waits. The mailboxes maintain their watch, standing unflinchingly through drenching rain, blistering heat, and numbing cold to one day receive and deliver the notice that ends their obligation.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
HD - I got the set on the last day of the Shedran Williams trial. It's great and I got to see some NCAA Tournament games on it, which were awesome. Which leads me to my next item...
NCAA - I was only able to enjoy my new purchase for a few days before jetting off to Indianapolis for the Final Four. We were late to the dance, so we only had ourselves to dance with.
Look for more in the coming days.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
As some of you may know, the Deuce decided not to cover the men's tournament. Instead of hyping the hi-jinx on the hardwood, I'm spending my time in criminal court. Actually, I'm not in court, but sitting outside. Last week I was covering a child molester who was married to another child molester and they were molesting children together. This week I'm covering a murder trial in which a police officer was killed while working extra duty at a Wal-Mart by a guy who was shoplifting disposable cameras.
Between these two gripping sagas, I spent the weekend at home. I took a trip down to Cameron to see how the clean-up was progressing, and to help my parents for a day. We didn't do any work on their house, but one of God's houses instead. The First Baptist Church of Cameron got hit pretty hard. The sanctuary is a total loss, but it's sacrifice saved the other two thirds of the building. Dad and I reclaimed the A/C units that were recently installed, and were spared a baptism by floodwater.
Just about the time we finished that project, a semi arrived from Kentucky. The four guys who climbed out of it had just completed a 13 hour journey, but showed no trace of fatigue. That was, of course, before we began unloading the 53-foot trailer packed with pews and chairs. Twenty-five pews and 50 chairs later the truck was empty and we were just about spent. I gave the guys the abridged walking tour of the newly-abridged town on the way to the newest restaurant, the Hurricane Cafe.
We might not have been in paradise, but that cheeseburger was as flavorful and filling as any that I've had before. After we ate the guys climbed aboard their trusty steed and set off for home. We tacked up some blue tarps to make it a bit less inviting for anyone looking for some new furniture, and made our way back to my parents FEMA trailer. I was surprised that I could straighten my six-foot three-inch frame inside, with about an inch to spare, which is plenty of room compared to the cramped confines of a news truck in a hurricane. The only place I wasn't comfortable was in the shower, which has four or five inches less clearance, but I wasn't in there long.
After a good night's rest I bid adieu to my folks and headed back to the Big City. Not only did I get to do something real, but I also came back with a couple of killer story ideas that might do more to help than I can do on my own.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I hope this doesn't discourage any of you from reading, and I promise not to use it too often, for fear of it losing its charm. What am I thinking? If my post schedule (or lack thereof) hasn't sent you packing, I don't suppose anything I write will.
So here you have it. You can call yourselves what you want (all three of you), or you can adopt this name. Just know that in my mind I will always refer to all of you this way.
Let it be known far and wide, that on this day, I, Oreo, Lord of Crumbs, dub thee, my readers, the Crumb-snatchers.
I'm open to any advice as to the correct way to write that. Otherwise consider it canon.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Monday heralds the demise of the weekend, but brings with it the potential for a week full of stories into which a shooter can sink his creative teeth. A certain orange cat sees Monday as a day better spent at home, because it is usually the worst day of the week. I stroll into the station somewhere in-between. My recent stretch on-call was quiet, and it is with glee that I return the pager to the assignment desk, where it will wait until the next hapless soul takes on its burden.
As the weight lifts from me, I fell my shoulders straighten and my spine lose the bow it had assumed. Unfortunately the pistol shots sounding from my joints give away my position to the Assignment Editor, who happens to be looking for a lens-jockey to send to an apartment fire. No one is home or injured, so I arrive back at the station in short order, wondering what fate is being assigned to me.
A few months ago, Ace Reporter Scott Satchfield and I did a story on the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Along with LA State Police, they were creating a database of the vehicles that had fallen victim to Katrina's floodwater. Now some of those vehicles are showing up on car lots in other states, from sea to shining sea. We've got an interview set up with the NICB guys, but it's not for a couple of hours, so we head out to see if any of the used car lots in town are checking the cars they take in. As expected, none of them want anything to do with this story, but it was worth a shot.
Lunch is next on the agenda, and where the day starts to go downhill. Short on cash, and time, I decide to eat first and hit the ATM after the interview. It's a quickie, as promised, but then we have to follow the guys to another location to get b-roll and a stand-up. I'm a little dry, but I can wait until we get back to quench my thirst.
Our arrival at the station goes horribly wrong. I'm met at the door by the Ass. Ed.(sic) and told that I will be leaving soon with another reporter. Her photog is out shooting something else. The one and only V soon informs me that we are off to shoot a package on the PD's Fallen Heroes Golf Tournament. Hmmm, it's 3 PM and my first story is in the 6 PM show. Since I'm picking up this shoot, I'm sure the desk will just assign the other photog to edit my package. Not the ideal situation, but it happens often here.
The shoot goes well, except that I still haven't had a drink since the milk from my cereal bowl. To top it off, everywhere I look is a golfer with a frosty beer in his hand. A longing look lingers on every can, but I'm on the clock, and unfortunately the only water I see is the condensation clinging to the cans. A-thirsting I must go.
At five o'clock the Nextel squawks out a request for my ETA. "About ten minutes," is my reply, to which I'm told that my package is ready and waiting at the desk! After picking it up, I learn that it is also the lead. I throw it together and walk out the door with my shift over and the show open rolling; thoroughly disgusted at the inablility of The Desk to properly allocate resources. A caffeine deficient photographer is a dangerous thing, and luckily no one gave me cause to haul them out of their car and beat them, but a few came close and the mighty Titan roared away from every stop sign in the last five miles of my trip.
I guess my truck will get to drink heartily at the gas pump.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Alterman Audio is the new guy in town. The company has a couple of stores in the New Orleans area, but while they were making repairs, opened a new store in Baton Rouge. Several Big Easy businesses have made the same move. I first heard about them from a reporter who had done a story there and told me they were willing to bargain with their customers.
It turns out that the owner opened his first store in February, so every year brings a big sale that month. Being the new store, they are cutting the sale prices as well. To give you an idea, my first visit was the second to last week of February, and they were offering the 50-inch Sony SXRD for $3000. MSRP was $4000. Most prices have come down since then, but they are still at least $100 less than anyone else in town. I almost forgot: they also double the original warranty, up to five years, for no extra charge.
Friday I dropped in with the intent to purchase. Everything was going well, until they asked if I was planning to take it with me. I had coordinated with the Mrs. for her to pick it up, since I was in the company vehicle until Monday. They told me that they were waiting on a shipment, and that the smaller sets, like the one I wanted, were popular and sold through quickly. It wasn't a deal breaker, since I wasn't going to be home much on Saturday, and I'll be gone for the later half of this week, following LSU in the Big Dance.
It'll be my luck that it arrives while I'm gone, but they offered to deliver it to me for free, and set it up, so it all evens out. At least I know that I'm getting a fresh one, almost directly from Japan.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Since grade school a personal goal of mine has been to own a big-screen television. What red-blooded, American male hasn't wanted one? A larger than life window to another world is what the movie theater experience is to me, and to be able to bring that home is thrilling. When I began building my home video library, I chose to fill it with widescreen versions. Watching them on a small screen wasn't the best option, but it was the only one I had. I have a good imagination, so I could scale it to match. I also hate pan-and-scan viewing.
Years of waiting have brought me to a thrilling point, because the technology now available was unthinkable when I was younger. I can now buy a widescreen monitor to match the film, filling the entire screen with some selections. The age of HD is now upon us, giving a clearer picture than ever before. Don't forget the other half of the experience. Sound doesn't just fill the room, but now transforms it into an extension of the world on the other side of the screen.
Uncle Sam has been holding on to some money for me, and now I'm going to put it to good use. The beginning of the Olympic telecast, showing breathtaking shots of the beauty of the Italian countryside, looked amazing, even on our stadard definition set. Images so powerful that the Mrs. wondered how much better they would look in their proper resolution.
Ah-ha! I had an opening. A small chink in the armor that I have been able to work into a fissure, leading to this week and purchase approval. I'll update later, after the purchase has been made, but it looks to be a 42-inch Sony Grand Wega (Vay-guh). It should be just the right size for our living room, and just right for me.
It's too bad I'm on-call this week, and possibly covering the NCAA tourney next week, or it would be sitting in my living room right now.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
My compatriot for this excursion is Big Easy reporter extraordinaire, Scott Satchfield. We've been three times in the last seven days. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one of the biggest parties a person can be a part of, and definately overwhelming if you've never experienced it. I have, once before, and now I've got to cover it. After a little over an hour on the road we reach a point where the highway curves and arches away from us, leading to downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. Suddenly I feel a sensation in the pit of my stomach that I haven't felt in nearly four years. It's that feeling of fear mixed with anxiety and sprinkled with a dash of panic. To this day I have no idea why I felt it. Maybe it was the light traffic coming into the city and our relatively hassle free trip, but it was there and didn't go away until we had parked and gotten to work.
Believe me, it was work. After pulling into one of the paid parking lots, (cash only today, hope I can find an ATM) we gather up only the essentials to haul to our workspace. We're heading for the Royal Sonesta, a landmark in the 2oo block of the infamous Bourbon St., and the local HQ for CNN, who will beam our stories back to Baton Rouge. We drop off the portable editor and hit 'The Street'. We're tasked with finding people for and against having the celebration while some people are still homeless after Katrina. On top of that, we also have to get video of the Zulu and Rex parades. Unfortunately Zulu won't reach us until noon. Oh, did I forget to mention that we have to feed look-lives for the Noon and Four shows at 11:35? We then have to put our package together for Five, but the evening crew is coming, they have a package for Six, we're sharing the editor, and both have to be ready to feed by 4:30.
Of course we got it all done, but not without a few hitches in the plan. Our end was fine, but the night crew didn't get to the city until 3:30. Then the photog couldn't find a parking spot, so I had to pick up the slack and shoot and edit the package for Six in an hour to make the feed window. After all of that, it was time to leave. A phone call to the missus found an ATM right around the corner, on the way to the Jeep. That's great, since the prices for parking get bumped up for the party, and we've been parked there for 10 hours or so. With my wallet having gone on a binge and purge of $30 I begin leaving New Orleans. I say begin, because it takes me an hour to get to the interstate, and the freedom of the open road. That's right, just getting to the on-ramp took as much time as the whole journey from Baton Rouge.
While it may sound like I didn't have a good time, it really wasn't that bad. Our room opened out onto the third floor balcony, and there is no better place to be on Fat Tuesday than a balcony on Bourbon. While Scott was writing, I was hanging out, observing the mass of humanity that had grown throughout the day. The street had been transformed into an undulating sea of color with the pavement no longer visible under the potpourri of partygoers. Someone thrust a handfull of beads into my hands, and suddenly I went from casual observer to participant.
Hmmmm. I worked miracles for the pod-people back at the station, captured the spirit of the people in my story, and got flashed because I had a camera.
Not a bad day's work, especially with four-and-a-half hours of overtime for the day.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
I hope that everyone enjoys the crumbs. Thanks to those photograbloggers that have linked me on their sites. For all those who have written a kind word and sent a good-natured wish this way, thank you. I wish I could read them all, but who has the time? I don't even keep up with this site the way I should.
Also, thank you to those that put up with my irregular posting. I'm not going to resolve to fix it, because I think I'm allergic to resolutions, at least the ones that don't have to do with Hi-Def, but that is another story for another time. Suffice to say that anything I resolve to do rarely gets done. Could be that it seems too much like work when that happens.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Tuesday found cub reporter Scott Satchfield and I on location of an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The blue crew is restoring a church on Carondelet St., so we're going to feature that for the last couple days of sweeps. I was actually looking forward to going, because I watch the show and have always wanted to see what the production is like. For those wondering, Ty wasn't there that day, but Michael and Paige were. The first story airs tonight, and the second on Tuesday.
The other trip to New Orleans is the real focus of this story. After getting to work on Thurday, I find out that I'm paired up with Scott again and headed south. We've scored a one-on-one interview with this Royal Hershey Highness, Ray Nagin. Others may have done this, but it's the first for the Baton Rouge stations, so I'm a little pumped. I even brought a second camera to hopefully up the production value.
We arrive at City Hall and I haul out all the gear I've got to make it in one trip. Doing my best pack-mule impression, I exit the elevator on the second floor to find a press conference in progress. That's not us, we've got a one-on-one, so we head for the receptionist's desk, to be met by an exuberant field producer for Fox News Channel. It turns out that our one-on-one was actually going to be shared time with FNC.
It only gets worse from here, folks.
The young producer, who is ecstatic with our arrival, fills us in on the latest developments. The interview has been moved to another location at a time to be determined after the currently running press conference ends, which is now several minutes past one o'clock. Nothing to do but lay down the extra hundred pounds of gear that I'm carrying and have a seat. At least the company is good and we all have a few laughs.
The conversation eventually turns to the crazy amount of gear each group brought up in the vain hope of actually using it. The other crew relates a story about their equipment cart, that while functional, is not quite shipshape. It has a busted wheel, so when it rolls down the hall, it wobbles and shakes, threatening to throw everything from it. It also has a lean, not unlike the three-wheel motion found in many '64 Impalas.
"So, what you're saying," I begin, looking them straight in the eyes, "is that your cart isn't 'Fair and Balanced'?"
It got a good laugh from all involved, except for the 'talent', who seemed to take it a bit more seriously than the others. While it could have degenerated into a shouting match, she tried to lord her 'Network' status over our lowly 'Local' heads, it was neither the time nor the place for such. As it was, I couldn't think of anything better to say!
Soon they scurried after the mayor who would give them a sound bite at the Extreme Makeover site. We, on the other hand, were not to be lead by the mayor's leash and were assigned to pick up another story. Several hundred suspects could possibly go free due to a shortage of public defenders. Ah, the life of a local news shooter.
Before leaving N.O., I discovered that the 'all-powerful' Network crew had suffered the same fate as their local counterparts.
As a good friend says, 'It's just the same circus, different city.'
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Unfortunately the pines in today's story aren't the evergreens I enjoy, but The Pines Motel & Lounge. Anyone who watches the Deuce knows, by now, way more than they ever wanted to know about this dive on Airline Highway. It has been the focus for many evacuee stories, as it is the locus of many, ranging from honest victims to relocated crack dealers.
The Ritz it isn't. I've heard suggestions that before it became a haven for hurricane helpless, it's rooms were used by the business people of that area to close deals, whether on their backs or otherwise. It's only gone downhill since.
Last week check-out time came for the Katrina evacuees who hadn't gotten an extension on their stay. This would be for those who are legitimately trying to get back on their feet, instead of lounging around all day in their room or the parking lot. The manager has a list in his hands with 17 names that haven't checked in with their new numbers. Thinking he might be able to start renovations soon, he knocks on each door. With each successive knock, he gets the same answer, and less optimistic about the future of his motel. They already got their number, or they're on the phone trying to get one.
I've got no problem lending a hand to the victims having to start over with nothing. All I ask is that they do something to help themselves. These people knew when they got their last number that they only had a couple of weeks, but they waited until they were about to get kicked into the street to make a phone call. These few bad apples are giving the other victims a bad reputation. Now hiring signs are posted on nearly every street corner in town, yet some people say they don't have transportation to get to work. How about the two feet God gave them?
Again, I'm not making these statements about all the victims of this tragedy. I'm only talking about the people I see at this one location, sleeping in their rooms all day, and drinking in the parking lot all night. These are the people I'm tired of supporting.
Friday, February 10, 2006
That's one of the slang terms we use in 'the business' to describe the huge throng of cameras and reporters surrounding a high profile subject. Being the last one to join that group means that you usually only get a bad shot of the vip's ear. This happened to me Monday while on a tour of New Orleans to kick off the second legislative special session since hurricanes Katrita hit.
After following the busses hauling legislators, aides, and media folk from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, we found ourselves in the Ninth Ward. Our slow paced trek through the ravaged neighborhood came to a stop, and through the open window I hear chanting. A protest in honor of the governor's visit to the area, how nice. Clutching my camera and mic I roll out of the passenger door and head along the convoy, following the siren's song. Once I've got the requisite video and sound needed to tell this part of the story I look ahead to see the busses negotiating a turn, possibly letting people out, about two blocks away. Since the Jeep is half a block behind us, we decide to go back to it. Three minutes later we're parking it in the same place it was because the military guys say they aren't letting any more vehicles down the street. Any other day I might have argued, but time and opportunity were slipping from our grasp, leaving us with a three block run as our only option.
Halfway to our destination we're stopped by another military type who wants to check our credentials, saying he has no way to know who we are. As we run the rest of the way, I tell my reporter they would know who we are if they had let us drive.
Abandoned tripods are our last obstacle as we reach the crush of reporters and cameras encircling the governor and I work my way into the scrum. Story shot we make our way to the convention center for our live shots.
One last note is this point made by Sen. Cleo Fields, who didn't go on the trip: The governor and FEMA can get busses to take people to the convention center and put on a huge dinner after the joint session, but they couldn't do it when people were dying there with no food and water.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who might still be checking for updates. Overhauling my computer was a fairly simple task which went well, except for a minor problem. Playing with all the new features like editing video and watching and recording TV on it have taken much of my free time. I did take pictures and will post a blog about the build, for anyone who would like to know how to do it.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Back in my college days, 1996-2000, I joined the Houston Federal Credit Union while working for Compaq as a temporary laborer. It was factory work, allegedly to build computers, but I guess they saw a 6'3, 200 lb., 20 year old and thought I'd be better placed in packing at the end of the line. This meant a 12 hour day of constructing boxes and filling them with computers. Not terribly taxing work, and it paid well for a college student with no debt and a full ride scholarship.
When I finished that summer of work I had a bit left in the account, so I left it until I came back next year to work again. My television career began the next summer and I never went back, so that money became a fall back account; mad money to pay for some unexpected expense. It's been eight years and I have finally closed the account. With my excess spending money I decided to finally upgrade my computer. It's been 4 years since I built it, why not?
I started shopping. My first stop was Newegg, highly reputed in the tech world for it's ease of use and customer satisfaction and support, not to mention low prices. A few clicks informed me that I had gotten a bit behind in my plan to upgrade a piece at a time. I could get a new CPU, but the one I wanted might not work with my current system. It would seem that a new avenue must be explored.
After searching around I settled on a new processor, motherboard, memory, power supply, and video card. Oh, and just because it was part of a combo with the processor, I threw in a DVD burner. Now I'll be able to capture and edit video, then burn it to DVD. I'll also be able to record TV to my hard drive. For those who got lost in this paragraph, I basically just rebuilt my entire computer. I have the technology. I have the capability to make it better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster, and it didn't cost me 6 million dollars.
Nothing like a simple upgrade for the new year.
Friday, January 20, 2006
The day started out well, then I got to the station. It actually wasn't that bad, but it would be the start of a half-day hunt for the ever-elusive gooose. Kenny P, who some might know from my trips to Cameron, informs me that I'm the lucky guy who gets to work with him, which is a dubious honor in our shop. It could mean a great story, or a really long day.
As we board our rusty chariot he tells me to head out of town. We're going to pick up a radar for a story on speeding in a local neighborhood where we covered a fatal accident last week. Actually seems like a pretty good story to me, since the residents say that people regularly speed through this area. The locals were wrong, at least today. So we get pulled from that story to check on a few other things. Does anyone hear that honking sound somewhere beyond my hood?
Two blocks from the station, and a chance to fill my stomach before it eats itself, the Nextel crackles to life. There's been a shooting in an all too familar area across town. For a little history, check out Turdpolisher's story. This murder happened 50 yards from the last murder a week and a half ago.
The rule I spoke of earlier is that I never leave the scene after the police. I see them preparing to leave and realize that KP hasn't attempted to talk to the greiving family members. "Uh, Kenny, I think we should be going now." "We've gotta try to talk to the family, first." I hate this part of the job, but it comes with the territory. "Make it quick." My photog sense is tingling. We do our interview, and now I think we can go. By this time I've got warning klaxons going off in my head. It could have something to do with the large crowd that is still in the street, and the two groups yelling at each other. Fists start flying and I start rolling, but I hang back just in case something else fills the air. Now Kenny is ready to go.
Twenty-four hours later one of my coworkers is looking at the video I shot while he cuts the follow-up package. In the video he sees one guy pull a gun from the pocket of another, which I caught, nearly perfectly framed. Showing this to KP I say, "This is why I don't hang around after the cops leave."
Thursday, January 12, 2006
As those who have read the archives here know, I grew up in Cameron parish, which was ravaged by Hurricane Rita. Because no one died in the storm and no one is publicly crying about not having a place to live, the residents of this coastal community, not to mention the storm itself, have been forgotten by the media. One week ago the evacuation order was lifted for the areas south of the Intracoastal Canal, so Wednesday we made the trek to southwestern Louisiana to illuminate the plight of its people.
Our first stop is the temporary post office in Calcasieu parish. Three ZIP codes come to this central location to get their mail. What they also find are friends and relatives that they haven't seen since their exodus began. It has become a place for many to begin the long process of healing wounds that cut to the core of their being, and whose scars will forever remain. From there we made our way south, toward the coast. These once familiar surroundings are now a desolate waste, my vision haunted by the shades of structures that no longer stand.
The town of Cameron is eerily empty. It takes and experienced eye to identify the progress being made, and only someone who has tromped these trails before can know how much work has truly been accomplished. On my first visit water covered these streets and I had to detour around demolished domiciles to find my parents home. Now those same streets are dry and cleared of debris, but still lined by homes that are nothing more than shattered shells and crumbling construction.
Our story can be found here: http://www.2theadvocate.com/wbrz/videos/2186347.html
Monday, January 09, 2006
Thank you for viewing, and if you haven't read all of my previous posts, please do so.
Friday, January 06, 2006
In one of my parents' recent expeditions to their former domicile, my father excavated some Polariods that had been unknowingly left in Hurricane Rita's tender care. For the most part these frozen moments came through with little damage. Their subject is me, with a few of my sister, in my early years. I was an amazingly cute child, if I may say so myself. It is a wonder to this day that my parents didn't exploit that by putting me in magazines and commercials. I could have sold a ton of products and be retired at the ripe old age of 27. Woe is me, right?
But I digress. Among these snapshots, captured for posterity, is my bare posterior, hanging out from under a t-shirt. Who's parents don't have one of those? What makes this one relevant is that I was too enraptured by my dad's stereo amp to worry about why I felt a bit more of the gentle caress of the wind than usual. And so began my infatuation with consumer electronics.
(Picture to be posted later)
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
As a beginning photog it was suggested to me to check out b-roll.net. I was told it would be a place where a seedling like myself would find the nutrients needed to grow in this career that I had chosen. What I found was an invaluable resource for new and old photogs alike. B-roll is a community where someone can ask just about any question and someone else will have the answer. It's also a place to share ideas and inventive ways of performing our craft.
I made my small contributions, and took the sage advice of the more experienced craftsmen to heart. I also began to look forward to reading the rollicking exploits of one particular lensman with a penchant for prose. After a while he began his blog and just posted teasers linking back to it. This became a model for one of my co-workers who was feeling a case of burnout, and he began his own blog as a place to vent.
After Hurricane Rita I needed a way to express the emotions I was feeling, so I started this one. It has been a great experience and an exercise in creativity that will continue for as long as the words come to me. My hope is that I can also develop better writing skills to delay my departure from this life behind the lens.
Thank you, Lenslinger, for following your dream of writing, and so inspiring one who reads, to become one who also writes.