Friday, May 2, 2008

It's a good thing he didn't order the lamb!

I'm really not familiar with Mexican food. All we had in Regina was Taco Time.

North Carolina had some great Mexican restaurants, but I never had the brass to go much past the Carne Asada and refried beans.

So tonight, I let Bradien order for me, and I was away from the table when he did it.

Turns out he ordered the "Mojarra".

Mexican fried fish.

The entire fish, Mexican fried.

It was delicious, but I didn't dare show Adam.

It would have terrified him.

As it likely terrified the people sitting next to us.

Miss B at the Districts

Here is Brenna figuratively raising the bar ... by literally jumping over it!! (Minutes later, two guys literally raised the bar.)

She finished a fabulous seventh place in the multi-school district competition!

April 8th, 2008 ...

This is the first season that BMK has ever played baseball.

Here's his second at bat ... ever!

(Listen for a proud mother's squeal near the end.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My next new favorite band has actually been around longer than me ...

Every couple of years, I manage to stumble across a some type of hidden musical treasure: the musical equivalent of finding a ten spot on the street! They're usually hiding like the Velveteen Rabbit in garage sales and thrift stories.

This time, it's the gold mine of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, better known as Sparks. They've been going strong for almost 40 years, recording pretty consistently too.

Describe Sparks? What about a mixture of Cole Porter, Queen, Supertramp, and the Pet Shop Boys? Maybe it's more like Elvis Costello at a Euro disco? Or Spinal Tap with pianos? Or an all-male, all-Dutch version of the Go-Go's?

What makes Sparks so amazing is that they seem to predate everything. New wave? They beat the skinny tie crowd to the bank by almost half a decade. Same with power pop, dance music, electronica, and big band.

Best known for their 1974 U.K. hit, "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us", Sparks looks, sounds, and sings like they're British. They're not. Instead, they're two brothers from California.

Older brother Ron, complete with thin a mustache that makes him look an unfortunate cross between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hilter, writes a lot of the material.

Younger brother Russell - a dead ringer for Jeremy Irons in his younger days - is the singer and often sings in a faux European accent. His constant use of falsetto makes him sound like a young Brian Wilson singing Monty Python songs.

Along with their witty lyrics and their great melodies, the brothers' secret is that they do everything absolutely straight faced.

Most veteran bands tend to slow down in their waning years. Not Sparks, they have a new album coming out soon.
You can find them just about anywhere on Youtube - as long as you're willing to weed through the six thousand postings of Jordan Sparks' "Tatoo"!
Tips for Teens
I Predict
This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us
Get In The Swing (And yes .. that's one of the Bay City Rollers introducing the band.)
Behind the scenes
Beat the Clock
Big Surprise
Wonder Girl & Do Ri Me (Yes, that Do Ri Me.)

A Day at the park: Regina 2005

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Regina Years Part One - "The Studio Camera Doesn't Lie" or "A slap's as good as a wink to a Best Man."

It's been two-plus months since I've dusted off the computer and conducted some business, so it's time to get yakking once again.

Spring is a time for new growth, and 'round here is no exception.

Adam spent a day "job shadowing" in the Kindergarten classroom for his Fall debut; Brenna had her 1st multi-district track meet, and finished a fabulous 7th in high jump; and baseball has been very, very good to Mr. Braiden! (Last Friday night, he went 1 for 1 with 2 walks, 2 RBIs, and 3 runs scored - this is first season that he's ever played the sport!!!)

Kristin and her best friend/step-sister will be off on a free Mediterranean cruise, while my Mom and I are taking a bus trip to Seattle to catch a 3 game series with the Jays at the end of June!

Things have been going excellent. (In the words of Borat - very niiiice!!!)

I got a fevered and passionate request to detail my time in television news -during what can only be described as "The Regina Years". (Okay, so it wasn't really all that passionate of a request, and "The Regina Years" was more like "The Regina 16 and-a-half-months"; but what's a little hyperbole?)

We moved back to Regina in 2004 to be closer to family.

Leaving North Carolina was tough. It's a great place and things were rocking personally and professionally. Good friends, good job ... and especially good eats! If you ever get a chance to binge on Lexington Barbecue and hush puppies, it's well worth the bloat! Once, while on the South Beach diet, I ate an entire pound of the BBQ'd pork!)

Professionally speaking, moving back to Regina was also tough. I had to start all over again. My first job back was at CTV. I knew I was in for an ego-blasting when the HR lady interviewing me was worried that I didn't have any studio camera experience!

Despite her concerns, I still managed to get the job ... as a part time studio camera operator. Here I was, with a college degree, 5 years big market experience, and a couple of awards under my belt, and I was setting up the weather camera at 11:15 at night.

On paper, I was probably the most over-qualified part time studio camera operator in the history of part time studio camera operators. Here's the irony: I absolutely sucked at studio camera! (Ask Kevin McKay about the time I set up the sports studio cameras backwards ... and had to change them around live on the air!) I felt like Donald Trump, suddenly being stuck doing his own taxes, and not knowing what the hell a 1040 was! (Imagine the Donald saying, "Am I 'Married 1' or what?".)

However, I grinned and bared it. I was lucky to also get on at Global Regina part-time also. This was a little more news and a lot less studio camera. "Thank God!!", said fans of quality studio camera work.

Eventually, a full time news photographer job came open at Global and I quit CTV. The folks at CTV were really nice and I really appreciated that humbling experience because I was ready to start kickin' @ss again! Come on, I've met Regis for fricksakes!!! Chew on that, Ikegami studio camera!

For those who've never shot a professional TV camera, it's a lot like operating a car. At first glance, all cars seem the same. A steering wheel is a steering wheel, whether it's in a Porsche or a Dodge Dart, right? But when used at high speeds or under dangerous conditions, that's when you find out the difference, and sometimes --- you also find the ditch.

Well, video cameras are the same. Every one has a lens and a record button. But every individual camera acts differently. The ergonomics, the color balance, the sound, the iris and the focus ring are never the quite the same.

So when you transition to a camera you've never used before, you suck initially. (This experience is similar to getting into the Wood family car after Kristin's driven: the seat's pulled so far up I nearly impale myself with the steering wheel. One these times the seat back is going to break and I'm going need the Jaws of Life.)

The cameras at Global Regina were DVCPro: the Laser Disc of professional digital video cameras.

(For those who don't remember Laser Discs, they were basically DVDs that were the same size as record albums. You could only watch half of the movie before you had to switch it over to continue on the 2nd side. My brother convinced my Dad to buy a Laser Disc player. It still sits in my Mom's basement today, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Maverick, and Diggstown.)

With the DVC Pro cameras, you ended up with all sorts of interesting colors. If you ever wondered what a person would look like through poop-colored glasses, these cameras made your dreams come true.

The problem is, video cameras are expensive. And to get good ones costs upwards of 50 grand. And good ones break just as easily. 50 large is a lot to pay to drop one in the Gulf of Mexico. (Ask the guy from WFTX in Florida how it felt to drop two in one shoot. One was Fox's; the other was borrowed from CNN.)

Thankfully, the people at Global Regina were much better than the cameras: although they each had their own entertaining quirks.

The first person I met at Global was the assignment editor, Doug Tabak. Technically speaking, Doug was the first person I heard. I had called originally from North Carolina, and I immediately recognized Doug's voice from years in Regina radio.

Doug has that low key Ben Stein droll comedy thing. To call Doug laid back would be an understatement. Doug reading aloud the Canada Post and Doug on fire would likely sound the same.

Doug was also consistent in how he delivered his assignments. The less glamorous VOs and VOsots were given to you with the accompanying phrase, "go ahead and swing on by ...". I can't help but wondering if Doug's wedding vows included "go ahead and swing on by ...". Even typing this makes me smile.

The next person I remember was the news director, Les Staff. While the joke's been done to death, I still find it entertaining that a manager's name would be Les Staff. Sounds like bad comedy from an HR convention.

When you think of news directors, usually Ed Asner comes to mind: wrinked, frumpy, old, crusty dudes with rolled up sleeves and gruff exteriors that mask hearts of gold. (Insert CTV joke here.)

Not Les. He's the best dressed TV person I've ever met. He had an amazing collection of suits and shirts. Honestly, I was jealous. News photographers tend to dress in shorts and T-shirts, and look like roadies for rock bands. (Like one cameraman who met the Queen of England dressed like this. "Greetings, your Majesty. (Pause.) Yeah, I'm with band. You want a toot?" More on Liz and Philip later.)

Les was great to work with; he was always up for new ideas. He was a cool dude, too. And with the exception of one time, I never got into trouble with him.

The Canada Games Feel Good Incident. (No one else remembers it by this name, but it's my blog.

In TV news, your story is expected to make it into the newscast in a specific order. If it doesn't get there when it's supposed to be, it screws everything up. Some of your less humorous and more embarrassing TV mistakes come when the story's not ready, and they have to tap dance until you get it there. I've never been on a news desk, but I can't imagine the angst of being left to twist in the wind because fat boy news photographer didn't get his work done in time.

The phrase for it is called "floating". I think it's called "floating" because it's the TV equivalent of passing gas during church.

This was during the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina. I was working with reporter Ross Neitz, and we pieced together a really great story about some of the feel good aspects of the Games. I spent a lot of time on the sound and unfortunately, the story didn't get done on time.

The problem was, there were other stories running in the cast that night that weren't as "feel good" about the Canada Games as our piece. So, they had to run the more negative stories first and then push our piece to an entirely different segment. Basically, it made the newscast look like the "Canada Games sucks" newscast. Not good.

So that was bad enough. Next day, I made it worse.

I was late.

Everybody was in the morning meeting when I arrived. When I came in, Les yells, "You're late!" This was not good. Turns out he had read everyone the riot act already. Somebody else who was less later than me had already suffered the initial public rebuking! So I'm late, and I floated yesterday, so imagine how much deeper I'm going to be in the crap hole!

Naturally, Les proceeds to give me the verbal business in front of everybody! I'm mortified. What could I say?

(It reminded me of my friend Chris's wedding. He was married in the Catholic church. I was the best man. I really only had one responsibility: provide the rings. That's it.

Now I was raised Catholic too. But the thing is, I never once paid attention to the ring transfer-portion of a Catholic wedding. It's not like passing the baton in the 4X100 metre relay.

It comes time for my ring passing and the priest lifts the plate of rings towards me. And I try to grab them off the plate.


As I put my fingers on the rings, the priest slaps my hand! During the ceremony! In front of everybody!!!

He says, "pass them the plate!".

I hear laughter coming form Chris's entire family.

After the ceremony, the priest is talking like this is the funniest thing he's ever done. Eleven years later, I'm starting to wonder if he set me up. Like this was some priest comedy thing. I'm imaging him, pre-show, telling the alter boys, "Okay boys, today we're going for the old grabby-grabby naughty fingers routine ... ten bucks says Mr. Glad Hands there goes for the rings barehanded.".

I'm thinking, "Why did we not go over this sooner?!!!" This was definitely dress rehearsal material! This should have come up.

I guess I should have asked. "Is there any reason, in advance, that you can think of, where you might have to strike me, in any way, during tomorrow's ceremony? I'd really like to steer clear of being slapped, if at all possible.". I guess I never thought I'd have to worry about being slapped on my hand during the happiest day of my best friend's life.)

Needless to say, Les's heck-giving wasn't as timeless as that.

Overall, Les was a great guy, and would play a major role later on. More on that later.

Join me next time when I tell you more about the parade of characters from Global Regina. Some of them were right out of a sitcom, I swear.