Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An Ode to Gear

After months of playing the field, I'm finally going steady with Unit 3.

Some people work from home, others have a cubicle. Photogs have an office with a 360-degree view. Our news units are more than a conveyance from calamity to catastrophe. They also serve as our shelter from the elements, a mobile dining room, and a quick place to catch a cat-nap while the scanner mutters sweet nothings in our ears.

For the last several weeks I've been assigned Unit 3 for my entire work week, which makes it officially my responsibility. Poor Unit 3, she's one of the oldest steeds in the fleet. It's a dirt-brown Chevy Blazer with bits of door-seals flapping like streamers in the breeze - a breeze that becomes a roar at highway speeds. Until I got her, she'd been worked hard and treated even harder. The floor was covered in a layer of dirt that I'm sure would have produced fossils if one were to look, and one reporter even remarked that she felt the need for a bath every time she got in the vehicle.

That was it. Unit 3 might be a broken-down piece of crap, but it's my piece of crap, and its condition is a reflection on me. Now she's been through the carwash for the first time since before I started here in April, and I can actually see the carpet. Who knew there was a hole worn in the driver's-side floor mat?

Along with the car comes the camera, mics, tripod and other assorted gear. All of it is in relatively good condition, since no one really wanted to use it. I even have a dream light kit that I don't even have time to look at, except when I'm beginning my shift. With a little time I'll get it all into shape, except for that dead pixel on the camera's imaging block. It only shows up in darker scenes, looking like a lone star in an overcast sky.

I guess you could call it the bright spot in my nights.

A Man Named Suh

A couple of weeks ago I got to work the dayshift for three straight days.

It was a time filled with wonder and amazement. I had heard that other news crews worked in this city, but I rarely saw them, and so began to think they were an endangered species. In those 24-plus hours on the clock, I saw many of them twice or more! It was a familiar feeling, being able to talk to someone and continue a conversation from the day before, instead of not seeing them for weeks, or even months, at a time.

The first day found me at a YMCA, locked, loaded, and stalking Ndomukong Suh, who was there with three other nominees for the Lombardi award. They were there to run some local kids through some drills. All four of these guys seemed genuinely happy to be there and enjoying themselves. I interviewed all four, and managed to get some good stuff from each of them, specific to each man. A casual observer might think I actually knew something about college football, but these guys were all great interviews.

My 6'1" frame usually means that I have to lower my camera and hunch over my viewfinder while interviewing, but I found myself actually stretching my Sachtler to meet the eye-level of this football player, who easily topped me by several inches. One look at him and I felt sympathy for the poor guys who've had to line up against him all season. They never stood a chance.

After bagging my bites and b-roll, I left with an honest feeling of joy. Each nominee seemed to have their heads on straight, and all of them seemed like they could go on to be good leaders of their communities.

The next day found me at a plant fire where no one was seriously injured, and the last day I got to interview a French sculptor, Bernar Venet. I'd have never guessed his true age (70), because he's got a light in his eyes that rivals my two-year-old daughter's. Throw in a free lunch at Reliant Stadium while waiting to interview the Texans, and I'd say it's the most fun work-week I've had in quite some time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muppets - Bo. Rhap.

Bohemian Rhapsody done by the Muppets. Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flu Shots and Hurricanes

Hello everybody!

Happy Thanksgiving! For your perusal, I'm throwing down some of my recent work. I feel like I'm finally getting my feet under me and learning how to turn better stories within the daily constraints. I've even edited one pkg, not seen here, in the Avid Newscutter suite, and hope to spend more time in there to better familiarize myself with that system.



Housing Assistance Day in Galveston


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It's a photog beat-down.

On an early Sunday morning, firefighters are responding to the most recent catastrophic conflagration soon to hit the Houston airwaves. They find flames leaping through the roof and a man in the front yard. This man turns out to the uncle of three children yet to escape the emergency, and he's brandishing a pistol while berating these brave souls for not charging into the fire faster. One of the kids makes it out with burns on her feet, but two younger children are lost.

Many questions remain as to why the parents left this man in charge, and how did the fire start on his watch, not to mention what kind of man looks out for himself, leaving three children to make their escape? Before the scene would clear he would perform one last act of schmuck-like behavior; he would assault a photog.

The shooter is employed by a local stringer agency who covers the overnights for most of the stations in town. While waiting for the heat of the fire to wane, he draws the ire of the hot-headed uncle, who isn't pleased with the presence of our soon-to-be plaintiff. The photog turns away to remove his camera from the tripod and gets cold-cocked as he turns back to face the man.

In today's story meeting, the powers-that-be were trying to decide on a second story for our crew following up on the fire and the uncle's arrest. I floated the story of the photog, and they found it fitting. The crew who did the story even thanked me for the idea.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Four on One

No, I wasn't in a fight; it was an interview.

I strolled into work last Friday with little thought for what the day might bring. It makes going to work more fun if you have no idea what might happen. In the afternoon meeting I discovered that I would be flying solo for the day, which is a nice change of pace from the grind of turning out two stories daily. Then I found out what I would be shooting.

A certain multi-platinum artist was staging a concert in The Woodlands, and they were going to webcast it live in HD, for free, to the world, but mainly for the troops in the Middle East. They were also attempting to gain a Guinness World Record for the most cameras used to record a live event. The record they were trying to break was 43, which was earned by a Justin Timberlake concert at Madison Square Garden. This production was going to obliterate that record by using a slightly higher number - 239. What they recorded will be part of the live DVD that will release almost one month after the album.

Who is the band of which I speak? After a rough split, these four guys have been kicking around for six or seven years, doing seperate projects. They decided to get back together and try to recapture the lightning they once held and bend it to their will. This tour is to promote their new album and re-introduce them to their fans, both new and old. They are Creed.

I've actually owned all three of their CDs, though I've lost My Own Prison in my many moves, so I guess you could say I like their music. I wasn't worried about interviewing these guys because they were hugely successful and popular musicians. What had me freaked was that I was going to have to interview the whole band by myself. My dedication to the craft wouldn't let me just set the camera on a wide shot of all four guys and roll, but I was having trouble figuring out how to talk to all of them at the same time and still make it look good for TV, and keep myself from looking like a total jack-leg at the same time. For those who don't know, pre-show interviews are usually pretty short, so I wouldn't have much time with the band to move a mic from one to the next.

Our Senior (don't call her chief) Photog suggested that I shoot it off the shoulder in an MTV fashion. I gave it a shot and it kind of worked, which is good because it's the best I could have done without four more cameras and mics. As for the band, they were all pretty cool guys. They answered my questions, which I'm sure they've all heard about a thousand times now, but if it bothered them, I didn't notice. I also kind of lost my head and only focused on the dynamics between the four of them, instead of the other questions I had, like if they think their fans will forgive and forget. When I got the last question signal, the only think I could come up with was "Do you like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and could there be a Creed version in the works?" They all chuckled and the drummer said they had thought about it a little, and that he can't play the drums in the game very well, because is isn't quite the same. He did say that he could shred on the guitar, though.

After I got back to the station, I was able to watch the webcast because we put some of it on the air to go with the sound bite. The webcast looked like a DVD, and I was blown away by the production quality. The only problem was that Scott Stapp, the lead singer, sounded like his voice hasn't aged well. I don't know if it was just this show, or if he hasn't taken care of it, but it was quite flat. It didn't take away any of the energy from his performance, though, and I couldn't look away from the monitor for long without being drawn back by the quality of the show.

In all it was a great show, and one of those experiences I will remember for a long time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More Stories

Here are some new stories for you, dear readers.

It looks like my current station doesn't have the server space my old station has, because stories that I'm linking now are disappearing. Hopefully that can be remedied in the near future.

Speaking of linking, the first story up today was shot last weekend on the anniversary of Hurricane Ike; the storm that kept its pimp-hand strong by slapping Galveston around a year ago. The woman featured hasn't been in her house since she evacuated, but not because she didn't want to be; it's being renovated by a locally produced, but nationally televised, PBS show and a local church. This is her homecoming.


Here's the synopsis in case the story isn't there. A local furniture store filled the house with donated furnishings, since she lost everything. The most important item she saved was a pocket-watch, which belonged to her father, who bought the house nearly a century ago. The designer on the show put it in a shadow box to hang on the wall in the living room, where it is practically the first thing you see when you enter. Oh, and one last point, dad's name - was Ike.

The next story was actually shot the day before. We thought we might have a good story about local people helping eleminate some blue roofs, but when we got to the location we found the weather had cancelled the work day. Our last chance was to drive to Kemah for a class on animal rescue. Thrilling, right? When we got there it was almost time for lunch, and they would be doing the mock disaster the next day, so all seemed lost, until we spoke to the owner of the kennel hosting the class.


Like many who have dealt with the physical destruction of these storms, she is having problems with her insurance company. It's not stopping her, but the frustration is clear. She also had to evacuate with her one-year-old, and the stress of that memory brought some surprise tears during the interview. The Bed and Biscuit she runs is a pretty nice place. The pet suites even have their own televisions, but I can't figure out, for the life of me, how dogs not more than a foot tall can watch a set that's five feet high in a 2'x4' space.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quick and Dirty

A story edited in 18 minutes.

I really would have liked to have more time to edit this one. I think it should have been later in the show, but it was scheduled as the second story in the newscast, and we didn't get back from shooting it until almost 7:30.


Before leaving for that story, I offered to help a coworker out with Twitter video for his story.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Radio Missions

Saturday found me rising with the sun for a trip to Galveston.

I was headed to the island for the re-opening of the emergency room a the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital. It was a lack-luster event, but we were also assigned a story about some local folks helping in the post-Ike recovery.

It turned out to be a decent edit, but I ran a little short on video and time to finish.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Thunder Moon

What happens when a car and a motorcycle meet? Usually it's never good.

Sunday finds myself and LJ, comfortably buckled into Unit 2, rolling north to Conroe. A man named Rex had been killed while riding his scooter the night before, and those who knew him are both mourning his death and celebrating his life. Sounds like the same old story, except Rex was the proprietor of Thirsty's Ice-House, which is where we are headed, and the gathering place of his extended family of fellow two-wheelers.

The bar is busy with bros and their old ladies who have nothing but praise for the man who presided over their chosen watering hole, and to hear them tell it, his heart was bigger than he was. Rex organized charity rides for children and got big, burly bikers to bring teddy bears to seniors for Christmas. The dichotomy of that imagery calls for a story to be done.

While we're wrapping up our second interview, the final response is drowned in the concussive rumblings of more motorcycles arriving. This group literally brings the thunder, revving their engines in a throaty tribute as one rider ruins his rear rubber in a cloud of smoke and heat. Those looking on alternately cheer and cry for the life of the man they've lost.


What didn't make it into the story is the shot of the full moon, plus rocket, which I can only assume was one guy's tribute to Apollo 11. Also left out were the racist comments being liberally thrown about regarding the illegal immigrants accused of the hit and run. LJ had to bite her tongue more than once as some of the guys said really nasty things, without realizing her hispanic heritage. To say we made short work of it would be an understatement.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hot Story

Last week I was getting back into the swing of things after the vacation and ended up with two stories to shoot concerning the local dry spell.

The first was about fireworks retailers preparing to open for the July 4th sales season, and the second was just on the dry conditions. We didn't get anything develop until 5:30pm, and it was the fireworks story, so by the time we were done with that, we didn't have much time to shoot the second one.

We drove into a neighborhood, looking for dry yards and sprinklers, when we found a house with a sprinkler and people sitting around, enjoying the evening. The following story was shot in 30 minutes, split equally between b-roll and interviews.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Free Floats

Two years ago Sonic's free float night heralded the eve of the worst week of our lives, though we wouldn't know it until the morning.

Chloe and Claire were two weeks old and it was the first night of the NBA Finals. Erica and her mom were out and I was settling down to eat dinner and watch the game between feedings. Looking back on that night, I wish I had spent more time with the girls, but I don't know what I might have done differently.

It was time for them to sleep, so I moved them to their room where it would be a little quieter. Looking back, I'm sure that Chloe was already ill by now, but a call to the doctor's office resulted in a wait-and-see response, because she had no symptoms other than not eating well. Would I have noticed anything sooner if I had kept them in the living room? Probably not, but I still feel like I didn't do my job.

These are the thoughts that were the first to spring to mind when I heard the ad on the radio. I ought to think, "Free root beer float! Mmmmm, I know where I'll be tonight." Instead I knew where I wasn't going to be. I didn't have the heart to go, and couldn't even get excited about tasting one. It's strange how something as insignificant as free float night is now inextricably linked to such a significant time in my life.

Claire is now two years old and knows that going to Sonic means she's going to get an ice cream cone. She would have loved to get a float last night, but we didn't go. I have such pride in her when I look at her and realize that she's learned something new. We're actually able to have conversations. Admittedly I usually have to lead her through them, but she responds with a confident 'Yeah' to my questions. Now she's trying to use full sentences. Her face scrunches up as she's trying to get the words from her mind through to us. It's great, but I can't help thinking about how much better it would be if I could see it twice as often.

That worries me also. I don't want her to feel inadequate because she's the only one here. I hug her as much as I can, but I wonder if she's beginning to realize that something/someone is missing. Hopefully she'll tell us when she's able to communicate better. Yesterday she and I went to CiCi's Pizza for the first time. It was a good trip and she was well behaved as ever. I didn't even have to cut her pizza. I showed her how to hold it, and she learned and did the rest. Hopefully it's just the first of many daddy/daughter lunches.

Maybe we'll even get a chance to talk over root beer floats.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Driving Notes

Wil Wheaton narrowly avoided a wreck the other day, and he wrote a blog post about it.

In the first few comments I found this link with some sobering insights on the world of highway driving, and how best to not get killed in an accident. Since I've been to a few fatals myself, I try to do my best not to become one, but I do have my lapses at times. The link above is a well-written must-read, though it has some salty language, just to warn you.

I suggest reading both Wil's post and the second one, and please try to drive as aware as possible.

*edit 6/5/2009* Last Sat. I saw a semi with no trailer lock his brakes and spin out on dry pavement. He did a 180 degree turn, across 3 lanes of traffic, heading towards the I-59/I-610 interchange, and didn't hit anything. It's the most amazing moment of divine intervention that I've ever seen. Looked just like Optimus Prime in Transformers, except a lot more uncontrolled and scary.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Shot

Everyday as a visual storyteller comes down to one goal - besides getting the story done.

No matter the subject matter, we are all looking for that one, specific, moment that crystallizes what the story is about. Yesterday I spent all day driving from the Galleria, to Downtown, to the Woodlands, for one story. When 8:15 rolled around all that work became a weekend hold due to a jet with a case of hot foot out at Hobby airport.

We were the second to last crew to arrive, but found one man who had been standing in baggage claim for about an hour, waiting for his wife and six month old child who were on the plane. Surprisingly we were the first crew to talk to him, which led us to the exclusive video of his reunion with his wife and child. You can be sure that the other crews were quite upset that they missed out on that video. I did what I do best and caught the emotion of the moment.

Not a bad night, especially since no one was hurt in all the commotion.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Job

I've mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, but I seem to have forgotten to blog about my new job.

I recently joined the crew at KHCW Ch. 39 here in Houston. You can find us online at 39online.com. We're working our way up in the ratings, but the people seem happy to come into work, and we're still hiring. I can't name another station that is doing that right now.

Now that I've updated that, here's the brand new blog of one of my new reporters, Andrea Nguyen. Try not to judge our stories too harshly right now. We're a bit understaffed and having to crank out two stories a night to feed the beast. I'm trying to make them the best I can, but I haven't found a story where everything comes together yet.

I've got an even better light kit than I had when I left 'BRZ, but I haven't been able to put it to use. I still feel like I'm treading water, so when I get comfortable, my stories should improve.

Thank you for all the well-wishes and prayers that allowed me to find this position so quickly. I think it will be a good fit, once I break it in.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Molding Update

*UPDATE Picked up the molding yesterday. Apparently it arrived on Thurs., but no one thought to call me.*

Here's an update. I'm still waiting. The piece I ordered came in about a week after I ordered it, but it was damaged beyond my use, so they refunded me the cost and ordered a new one. I am still waiting on that one.

I believe the store manager has a meeting with me in his future. To be fair these pieces are coming from another company, but he will be hearing from me, since I cannot contact them directly.

It's beginning to get on my nerves looking at that one last section of wall with the speaker wire that should be neatly hidden.

*Edit* GAH!!! I just realized that the previous post was made over a month ago. It looks like I will have to "strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger" those who attempt to delay and impede my order. For they will know, that my name is the O, when I lay my vengance through the BBB.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Molding Matters

Our new home needed a touch up, and I found an opportunity to try something new.

When we bought our new home, we noticed that crown-molding was conspicuously missing from our living room, even though it was already in the study and dining room. This worked out, though, because I needed to place the rear surrounds in my home theater, and needed somewhere to hide the wire.

I thought I could fish the wires behind the wall at the front of the room, but it proved to be just beyond my reach, so I had to call someone. I was trying to do it the hardest way possible, plus I had a Cat5e wire to run from an upstairs bedroom, and it wasn't gonna happen for me. Now the wires are neatly located in the wall and all I have to do is run the crown-molding.

My in-laws came to visit with Crumbsnatcher this weekend, and my father-in-law helped me with the installation. I also had the help of Tom Silva via the articles and vidoes on This Old House's website. They were very helpful, but they neglected to cover corners with angles greater than 90 degrees, and I have two. I also ended up just under 2 feet short, so I have to find another piece to be able to finish.

I could have finished today, but the big blue hardware and lumber retailer doesn't have the same molding in stock as the kind I special ordered from them. Writing that sounds wrong, but the only reason I special ordered is that they didn't carry 16' lengths. When we were trying to mock-up a corner we discovered that the piece I bought to finish one wall was slightly different from the rest. Hopefully I won't have to order more, because the pieces that I just got took nearly 3 weeks to come in, and I don't want to wait another 3 weeks for one piece.

What we did get done looks good, though I still have to finish it with some caulking and paint so it will match the rest of the house. I only had to cut a couple of small notches for my wires to exit the molding, which you can't see when the speakers are in place.

In all I'm proud of the work we did, and I did it much cheaper than someone would have charged me. Now I have a better idea of how to fish wire, so I can try it again the next time I need something like that.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Moving Expenses

Okay. It's been a while since I wrote a post, but I've got a good excuse. I've been busy with the job search and moving into our new home.

It's been a busy month. Two days after my last post we moved everything out of our house in Denham Springs. Three days later we closed on that sale. One week after that we closed on the new house here in Houston. That weekend we moved everything from the storage unit to the house, and we have been in the process of moving in since.

That has shifted the job search from my primary focus to making calls when I have time, but I had a phone interview a week ago that went well, and I'm now waiting for a call-back to a sit-down. In the meantime I'm working on getting our vehicles legal in the Lone Star State. I do have a small gig Saturday with the rodeo. I'll be filling in for someone who, unfortunately, has to attend a funeral, but I talked to him the other day, and I can feel good that my being here is a blessing to him in that he can now attend that 'home-going' for his loved one.

We got our Comcast HD Triple Play hooked up on Tuesday of last week, left for the weekend, and had to have it re-connected two days ago. Thankfully we are a little closer to the transmitters here than in Baton Rouge, and I was able to use my 15 year old pair of rabbit ears to pull in the local digital stations. While watching that Monday night, we must have seen between five and ten commercials for Comcast. I swear it was like they were mocking us with an ad in every other break! Comcastic.

Our furniture made it through the move with minimal damage. Only a few items had noticeable scratches, but those were on the back or mostly out of sight areas. What didn't come through okay was our laptop.


This little notebook has made it through multiple trips across Louisiana, from Louisiana to Texas a couple of times, Houston to Cleveland and back, and all the way to Las Vegas and back. What it couldn't take was a five minute ride from my uncle's house to this one. Crazy.


Now I have to buy a replacement screen, but I found a company that is, surprisingly, located here in Houston. Screentek is down in the area around Reliant Park, so I should be able to make it down there to pick it up and save myself the cost of shipping. They have instructions with photos on their website, and it doesn't look too complicated to replace. It'll cost about $260, but that's cheaper than the cost of a new laptop, and I don't have to spend the time transferring files.

Through it all, though, it looks like we came out ahead. We were able to put 20% down on the new house and had some left over from our profit on the old house, so we can make some upgrades in the near future like painting, patio, and/or countertops. I don't know what everyone else is concerned about. The housing market has been very good to me.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

At Last!

Some of may think by the title that I may have finally found a job. Not quite.

To hear the radio these days, it seems as if the bloom may be off the rose where President Obama is concerned. His picks are coming under fire for unpaid taxes and his stimulus (or stealfromus if you listen to W&J) is getting bogged down in the senate, and bloating the longer it sits.

It seems to be a bad week for Democrats all around, as Nancy Pelosi is on record saying, for every month the stimulus package is delayed, 500 million Americans lose their jobs. That's a lot of people losing work each month - it's almost 200 million more than the U.S. population.

Most interesting to me, though, is what the talented Ms. Etta James had to say. She is most unhappy with the President's choice of singer at his neighborhood ball. In fact she's called out Beyonce for daring to sing the song for which she's known, 'At Last.'

Ms. James is old school, and you don't mess with old school.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vegas Voyage

It's been a while since we got back from Vegas, but I've been trying to keep tweets coming on at least a semi-regular basis on the Twitter sidebar.

So, to make up for it, here is a photo-dump from the past month.
We went all the way to Vegas, and the first place we eat is the Raisin' Cane's a block from our hotel. It's sad that we had to go there to find one less than a 20 minute drive from us, but such is the life we have chosen.
The Christmas decorations were still up at the Bellagio, and I just had to take this shot.
Of course the outside of the the Bellagio is where the real show happens, when the fountains do their thing.
It really is one of the best free shows in town.
We also got to take in the sights and sounds of the Sirens of TI.
It's a pretty good show, but I think they could use some more lighting. If you're gonna try to take pictures, you need a really fast lens. Also, I think they should look into heating that lagoon. All the men end up in the water at some point, and it was in the 40s and 50s when we were there. They actually had to cancel one show on Tuesday night because it dipped into the 30s.
In the Venetian we found the Gondoliers, but didn't take a ride, because they want way too much money to sit in a boat and take a ride.
They also wanted way too much money for one of these enormous candy apples. I don't care if they are as big as grapefruits, thirteen dollars is too high.
So that was our trip to Vegas. We saw Mystere, the Cirque du Soleil show at Treasure Island, and it was a good one. We've decided that, should the two of us ever go back, we should make it a trip to see all the shows.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Vegas, Baby, Vegas

First trip to Las Vegas. Looking to have fun.

The Mrs. and I are departing for our first trip to Las Vegas, which is the first time both of us have left the Crumbsnatcher behind with someone who is not us. We'll be back in a few days, but it's a big deal all the same.

For myself it's not such a problem. A year ago I was in New Orleans for the BCS championship game, and I had to spend a few nights there. For her, though, it's the first time she's spent so much as a night away from the munchkin. Separation anxiety is high, to say the least. I won't say that I don't have some butterflies myself, but this is a major step after all we've been through.

The Li'l One will be fine. We'll probably come back and she'll be spoiled rotten by my aunt, uncle and cousins. In the meantime, we'll try to have fun and not miss her too much.