Friday, January 30, 2009

"Klunkerz" - The Evolution of Mountain Biking - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney


Charles "CK" Kelly, Billy Savage, Gary Fisher & Mark Schulze





This turned out to be a great day. Mark and I took off early from work and traveled north to the sleepy surf town known as Encinitas where "Klunkerz" was showing at noon, at La Paloma Theater. Now coincidentally enough, Mark and I met each other while standing on the balcony inside that theater, on Valentine's Day 27 years ago. So everything about our experience there today was magical.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we spotted Charles "CK" Kelly and Gary Fisher getting out of their car, and we indulged in a major hug fest. The last time we saw these guys was in 1994 when we were producing "Full Cycle: A World Odyssey," and videotaped interviews and a ride with them at Mt. Tamalpais, where mountain biking first began. These are the guys who played a major role in pioneering the sport.






CK and Gary introduced us to Billy Savage, the man who produced "Klunkerz." We all hung out in front of the theater for a while, and then filed in to view the show. It really was a nicely made piece all about how the sport of mountain biking started, and the evolution of the mountain bike itself. It was cool to be sitting next to Gary Fisher as we all watched; his interviews pretty much dominate the show, as he has some pithy points to make.




Afterward, we all headed next door into a conveniently located saloon featuring some tasty beers on tap (including CK's choice, "Fat Tire Ale.") And you know, that is what mountain biking is all about... You ride your heart and soul out on those amazing trails that lead up, down and around the luscious thighs of Mother Nature, and afterward, it's time to share an ice cold beer with some excellent friends. Makes life worth living!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nuclear Power - One of Humankind's Biggest Mistakes - by Jim Bell



Nuclear Power was a mistake and remains a mistake. If the human family survives it, our descendants will wonder what we were thinking to justify leaving them nuclear power’s toxic legacy -- a legacy they will be dealing with for hundreds if not thousands of generations

And why did we do it? To power our lights, TVs, radios, stereos, air conditioners, etc. and the tools we used to make them.

Our creation of nuclear power will be especially difficult for our descendants to understand because they will know that in the nuclear era, we already had all the technologies and know-how needed to power everything in ways that are perpetually recyclable, powered by free solar energy and which leave zero harmful residues in their wake.

On its own, nuclear power’s toxic radioactive legacy should be enough to give any thinking person sufficient reason to want to eliminate it as quickly as possible and do everything to protect our descendants from the radioactive wastes already created.

The human family has been at war with itself for the majority of its history. Human history is full of successful, advanced and sophisticated civilizations that utterly collapsed. To the informed, even our current civilization(s) don’t feel very solid. Plus there are earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, severe weather, terrorism, and just plain human error. This given, who can guarantee that anything as dangerous and long-lived as nuclear waste can be kept safe for even 100 years much less the hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years it will take before some of these wastes are safe to be around.

And even if an insurance company did guarantee its safety, what is their guarantee worth? What could they do to protect us and future generations if San Onofre’s spent fuel storage pond lost its coolant water? If this happened, an almost unquenchable radioactive fire would spontaneously erupt, spewing radioactive materials wherever the wind blew for weeks if not months -- rendering Southern California a dangerous place to live for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.

Notwithstanding the above, the nuclear industry is lobbying the public and the government to continue supporting them politically and economically so the industry can expand.

Its latest rationale is that nuclear power will produce fewer greenhouse gases than what would be produced using fossil fuels to make electricity. This is true if one only looks at what happens inside a reactor. It’s not true when accounting for all the fossil fuel energy consumed during nuclear power’s fuel cycle, and what it takes to build, operate and dismantle plants when they wear out. Additionally, even if nuclear power was ended today, fossil fuel energy must be consumed for millennia in order to protect the public from the radioactive residues that nuclear power has already generated.

An increasing number of former industry and non-industry experts are saying that at best nuclear power releases slightly fewer greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than if the fossil fuels embodied in it had been burned to make electricity directly.

In his 2002 book, Asleep at the Geiger Counter, p. 107-118, Sidney Goodman, (giving the industry the benefit of the doubt on a number of fronts and assuming no serious accidents or terrorism), concludes that the net output of the typical nuclear power plant would be only 4% more than if the fossil fuels embodied in it had been used directly to produce electricity. This means, best-case scenario, replacing direct fossil-fuel-generated electricity with nuclear-generated electricity will only reduce the carbon dioxide released per unit of electricity produced by 4%. Goodman is a long-practicing licensed Professional Engineer with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Other experts believe that nuclear power will produce about the same amount of energy as was, is, and will be consumed to create, operate and deal with its aftermath. This case was made in an article published in Pergamon Journals Ltd. Vol.13, No. 1, 1988, P. 139, titled “The Net Energy Yield of Nuclear Power.” In their article the authors concluded that even without including the energy that has or would be consumed to mitigate past or future serious radioactive releases, nuclear power is only “the re-embodiment of the energy that went into creating it.”

In its July/August 2006 edition, The Ecologist Magazine, a respected British publication, featured a 16-page analysis of nuclear power. One of the conclusions was that nuclear power does not even produce enough electricity to make up for the fossil fuels consumed just to mine, mill and otherwise process uranium ore into nuclear fuel, much less all the other energy inputs required This is not surprising given that typical U-235 ore concentrations of .01% to .02%, require mining, crushing and processing a ton of ore to end up with 1/2 oz to 1 oz of nuclear reactor fuel.

To put this in perspective, the typical 1,000 MW nuclear power plants use around 33 tons or over 1 million oz of nuclear fuel each year.

As a teenager I saw a TV program that showed a man holding a piece of metal in the palm of his hand. He was saying that if what he held was pure uranium it would contain as much energy as the train full of coal that was passing by him on the screen. I became an instant “true believer” in nuclear power. I thought if something that small can produce the same amount of energy as all that coal, there will be plenty of energy and therefore plenty of money to address any dangers that using it might pose.

Unfortunately, to get that level of energy from a small amount of pure or near pure uranium it would require that it be exploded as an atomic bomb. Of the uranium used in a reactor, only a fraction of the energy in pure uranium gets used. That’s why we are left with depleted uranium and other long-lived wastes.

The nuclear industry says that nuclear power is safe, a big net-energy producer, and that it will be cheap and easy to keep its wastes out of the environment and out of the hands of terrorists.

But if these claims are true, why has an industry that supplies only 8% of our country’s total energy and 20% of its electricity consumed hundreds of billions of tax dollar subsidies since its inception? The 2005 Federal Energy Bill continues this trend. According to U.S. PIRG, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Public Citizen and the Congressional Research Service the recently passed 2005 Federal Energy Bill includes “a taxpayer liability of $14 to $16 billion” in support of nuclear power.

If nuclear power is so safe and wonderful, why does it require the Price Anderson Act which puts taxpayers on the hook if the cost of a major radioactive release exceeds $10.5 billion? According to a Sandia National Laboratory analysis, this puts taxpayers on the hook for over $600 billion to cover the damage that a serious radioactive release would cause. Another Sandia Laboratory study focusing just on the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York, concluded the damage caused by a serious release from that plant could cost up to a trillion dollars. Needless to say, any serious radioactive release from any U. S. plant would wipe out any net energy gain by nuclear power if -- there ever was one.

Realizing the potential cost of a serious radioactive release, manufacturers, insurers and utilities, were unwilling to build, insure or order plants. They only got seriously involved after the Congress assigned these costs to the tax-paying public. On page 7 of a report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research titled The Nuclear Power Deception, they included the following 1996 quote from then NRC Commissioner James Asselstine: “Given the present level of safety being achieved by the operating nuclear power plants in this country, we can expect a meltdown within the next 20 years, and it is possible that such an accident could result in off-site releases of radiation which are as large as, or larger than the released estimates to have occurred at Chernobyl.” Bare in mind, a meltdown is only one of several things that could happen with nuclear power to cause a serious radioactive release.

As I said in the beginning, nuclear power is a mistake. Especially considering we already have all the technologies and know-how needed to make us completely and abundantly renewable energy self-sufficient. Solar energy leaves no radioactive residues for our children or future generations. Additionally, although not completely environmentally benign yet, solar energy collection systems can be designed to last generations, be perpetually recyclable and leave zero toxic residues behind.

If San Diego County covered 24% of its roofs and parking lots with PV panels, it would produce more electricity than the county consumes. This assumes that 3 million residents use, on average, 10 kWh per capita per day after installing cost-effective electricity use efficiency improvements. For details read my free books at http://www.jimbell.com. They are also available in most local libraries.

For ourselves, our children and future generations, let’s move into the solar age.

Guest blog by Jim Bell

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Prophetic Dream of My Grandmother - by Patty Mooney


My Grandmother, Salome (pronounced Sa-Lome' and not Sa'-La-May) was a very strong-minded and religious woman born to Polish-German parents on a farm in Alpena, Michigan. The only book she ever read was a little Polish missal she had with a photograph of her mother on the front leaf. She was an active censor of any books I happened to be reading when I was a child, and there were a few that ended up getting thrown away. Once I remember I was reading a Nancy Drew mystery, "The Ghost of Blackwood Hall," I believe, and when she spotted it on the dining room table, she picked it up and asked me if it was about the Holy Ghost.


"Um, uh, yeah," I said, "Yeah, the Holy Ghost." So I was able to save that one from the flames. But she didn't even want us reading the Holy Bible, as the Old Testament was filled with such shameful behavior.


I later would think how ironic it was that her name was Salome, and my grandfather was John, as in Salome the dancer who called for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Grandpa died when I was still an infant, so his early demise somehow paralleled the Bible story. Grandma Salome would rather have been a nun; she made that very clear to everybody.


There are quirky things about her that I fondly remember. She used to bake this extraordinary bread that had cherries in it. The scent rising from the oven would titillate and intoxicate everyone in the house. A warm slice of that bread with a big slab of butter on it certainly overrode any negatives feelings I ever harbored about Grandma; in particular, the time she literally washed my mouth out with a bar of Ivory soap for talking back to her when I was 12 years old.


She was a big fan of Johnny Cash and Billy Graham. She also adored spooky movies and let me stay up late to watch them with her. She prayed on her rosary constantly. I'm not talking worry beads here, where you mindlessly meditate on "God is great" or something. I'm talking about every small bead calling for the full "Hail Mary" prayer, and then the five big beads (spaced between every ten small beads) demanded the full "Our Father." She would spend hours praying on her rosary and if you were anywhere in the vicinity, that meant you would be corralled into kneeling down and joining her. (Looking back, maybe all that time on my knees is what sowed the seed for the Total Knee Replacement I would need forty years later......)


Grandma had this dream once which she shared with me. There was a flood which rose up and swallowed up all the people of the world. Then the river and all the people began to turn black. She prayed on her rosary and just before everyone had turned black, the tide changed and everyone turned white again, and the floods receded. I don't believe this was about race whatsoever. This was a religious dream which is actually pertinent to today. Our economy is the flood that is about to drown everybody in negativity. People are losing their livelihoods, their homes, "turning black."


In Salome's dream, all it took was the positivity of one person to start a paradigm shift, turning the tide, and making life worth living again. One person today who energizes people with hope is Obama, our new President, who is using his energy to help us all. I see this paradigm shift as the one way that We the People of the World can use our collective energy to rise out of these economic and environmental floods. We must not let ourselves get sucked into the mire, like that horse in "Never Ending Story" named Artex, who could not lift himself out, and thus perished. We must learn how we can help each other as a community, and if we need to go back to the way things were before corporations, technology and space travel, then so be it.


We have to learn to be a love-based society and not a fear-based one. Election Night 2008 made it very clear that the majority of Americans, and the world, want to dispense with the fear-mongering. We elected not just a man, but a family who brings us hope. With hope we can accomplish anything.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nuclear Power is Not the Answer - by Patty Mooney


My family and I went to see Helen Caldicott speak at the University of San Diego two years ago inside the new Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Looking around before the speech began, I noticed that the room was filled with about 150 people, some of whom were activists I had seen at peace marches and vigils throughout the past few years.


I had read articles by and about Dr. Caldicott over the years, and both my husband, Mark, and I were excited to see her. Mark’s dad, Rolf, and Rolf’s wife, Jane, had also decided to come, so it turned out to be a good family event.


According to the program, “Dr. Caldicott will be making the case against nuclear power as an alternative source of energy. Come decide for yourself!”


From the moment Dr. Caldicott took the stage, everyone in the audience listened in rapt attention. She is a fit and attractive woman from New Zealand in her seventies, with a commanding knowledge of her topic, one that she has taken on as a lifetime task, ever since seeing “On the Beach,” a movie directed by Stanley Kramer in 1959, about how the residents of Australia must come to realize after a global nuclear war that all life would be destroyed in a matter of months. This movie, which starred Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins among others, had a very chilling effect on Helen Caldicott and still informs her work to this day.


She spoke for about an hour and a half about the dangers of nuclear energy, citing many statistics about how much energy it takes to create nuclear energy, which manufactures huge piles of nuclear waste with half lives ranging into the millions of years, depending on the radioactive element concerned.


Dr. Caldicott asked the audience, “You have some nuclear reactors nearby? In San Clemente? And how old are they? Built in the 60’s?” She went on to say how there is tritium leaking from the reactors which affects the nearby agriculture and of course the steam that rises out of the reactors heads right for the ocean, so the surfing there is not safe. She said “You need to close those reactors down tomorrow.”


She is vehement about closing down the 180 reactors that dot the United States and says that there is a real terrorist danger with any of them, in that anyone with a plan and a desire could cut off power to a reactor, causing a China Syndrome.


Mark’s dad, Rolf, who prior to seeing Dr. Caldicott, had thought that nuclear energy might have some merit, learned that it’s probably the worst form of energy in existence that poses great danger to humans. We have not found a safe place to store nuclear waste materials; that alone should convince people to close down and dismantle these reactors.


Caldicott said we should be switching to wind and solar renewable energy, turn down the thermostat, wear sweaters, dry clothing on a clothesline, and do everything we can to stride forward onto a better path for all of us.


I left the speech feeling both helpless and hopeful, and bought her book, “Nuclear Power is Not the Answer.” Mark and I plan to contribute to the organization Caldicott started, “Physicians for Social Responsibility” and do our part to say no to nuclear energy.

First Day of School Five Years From Now......


Monday, January 26, 2009

Week of the Hotties - Part Two - by Patty Mooney



Carmen Electra, Patty Mooney, Kim Kardashian, Mark Schulze


Christopher Judge & Amanda Tapper, Stargate "Continuum"


I was lovingly reminded by a few of my guy friends that the term "hotties" MUST include women, so we will call this blog entry "Week of the Hotties - Part Two."

The San Diego Comic Con is the biggest convention of the year for San Diego, and has even prompted a proposal from our mayor, Jerry Sanders, to enlarge our existing convention center. This is a show that grew from a few hundred attendees when it first began 40 years ago, to over 125,000 in 2007. Naturally, Hollywood plugged itself in and Comic Con has become an important venue for many celebrities, especially if they have anything to do with sci fi or fantasy.

Over the years our crew has had the opportunity to meet such gorgeous women as Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Kirsten Dunst, Lucy Liu and the bridesmaids from "Wedding Crashers."

This year, during the Week of the Hotties, I had an opportunity to interview Carmen Electra and Kim Kardashian (for Extra) who spoke about their film, "Disaster Movie." We also interviewed the lovely Amanda Tapper from Stargate "Continuum."

Other beauties whom we focused on and committed to video were Mila Kunis and Jennifer Connolly.
But Hollywood talent is clearly outnumbered by the costumed, feathered and winged wonders (of both sexes) who show up for the San Diego Comic Con. I'll bet they're working on their costumes right now! Can't wait to see what the 2009 show will bring.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Stabbing of David "The Water Man" Ross - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney


After learning on the news that our friend, David Ross, had been stabbed - again - I left a couple of messages on his phone to see if he was okay. Dave is known as "The Water Man" because he has brought water downtown to the homeless for over three years out of his own social security check. He is also known as "Ghandi of the Ghetto," as the majority of his days are filled with bringing hugs, blankets and sustenance to the "invisible people" whom motorists and pedestrians don't want to see.

Every Tuesday he appears at weekly City Council meetings during which citizens can stand before the council and speak for three minutes on any topic. Dave, who refers to himself as the "CEO of H2O," has been dispensing his three minutes every Tuesday for over two years now, begging the city for porta potties and water fountains for the homeless. Five months ago, the city finally installed two porta potties which have, according to Dave, collected over 36,000 pounds of fecal matter that would otherwise have been left on the streets and under your car at the Petco Stadium parking lot. He says he has been maintaining "his" porta potties, supplying toilet paper every day, and that it is not unheard of for 250 people a day to use them.


Dave has a wicked sense of humor and usually by the end of a long phone conversation with him - and they are always inevitably long, as Dave is a teller of tales, and I am a hopeless addict - I am laughing so hard, I am in tears. He has a gift of creating comedy out of the most sobering of topics.

He related the story of the stabbing. In 2007 he had gotten stabbed by a deranged homeless woman who pretty much shredded his right arm, requiring surgery at Scripps Mercy Hospital. For the full story on Dave's first stabbing, go to http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2007/aug/02/get-out-my-emergency-room/



What happened this time, Dave said, was he had gone late one night to a part of downtown where he doesn't usually go, to bring a blanket to a homeless woman. This area surrounded by condominiums was about a block from where the "usual suspects" sleep on the sidewalks. So one might assume that this was a "safer" neighborhood. Wrong. Dave said he had double parked and was bent into the back seat of his car to toss in an empty water bottle, when he was attacked from behind, and stabbed in the left arm. "I may be old, but I worked out my right arm pretty good after the first stabbing; I hit a thousand tennis balls a day," said Dave, "and I got a couple of strikes in." He said the man, whom he never saw and who never said a word, kicked him, then crushed Dave's face against the car window, breaking his nose. But Dave believes that he proved too feisty for the assailant, who eventually fled down the street, leaving Dave to pick himself up.

Dave thought about calling an ambulance but opted against a "$900 cab right to the hospital." He then drove down the street to Scripps where after the first stabbing, they had actually tried to "dump" him the very night of his surgery. You may have heard stories of how homeless people have been "dumped" out of hospital vans on "skid row" in nothing but a hospital gown and dragging a colostomy bag or some such equally horrific scenario. Well, it almost happened to Dave, except a kind doctor intervened. Anyway, remembering that, and seeing that the Emergency Room was filled to the brim on Friday night at 2AM, where even his excessive bleeding from the face and arm did not stimulate any action from the triage nurses, Dave then went to an all-night pharmacy where he purchased a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. When he got outside, he poured it on the arm wounds, which he said "hurt like a mo-fo, even worse than the stabbing." He dressed the wounds himself when he returned to his apartment, and then he fell asleep knowing he was going to be okay, as there had been no head trauma.

When I asked him if his attacker had been a homeless person, he said, "I don't know. But the police think, and I agree, that it was an attempted carjacking. Look, you're in a neighborhood filled with condos where people live. It's 2 in the morning. You see an old guy parked outside the condo, you figure he's going inside, that all adds up to money. There's a bigger piece to this picture, you see? A desperate guy without any money is going to do what it takes to get what he wants, including mug someone. A guy like that is going to go where he can find people who he thinks have money. There's a tsunami coming. This is a heads up for everybody."

This incident has not stopped Dave from making his appointed rounds. His street work is what keeps him going.

He said, "I look like Jake La Motta... Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Damn, I look like Keith Richards' father!"

"A face made for radio," I said.

"Yeah," he laughed. "It's a face to be reckoned with at those City Council meetings."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Children of Mockingbird Call Him "Atticus" by Patty Mooney


The election of Barack Obama, our first African-American President, brought to mind the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the great actor, Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his role as Atticus Finch in 1962.


Gregory Peck plays a widower with two children in a small Southern town during the Depression. He is an attorney and decides to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman.


Atticus Finch represents the highest ideals of a human being, someone who is not only handsome and charismatic but a decent, courageous man of action. Those are the kinds of roles that Gregory Peck primarily played throughout his acting career.


He was born Eldred Gregory Peck on April 5, 1916, in La Jolla, California. "My mother found 'Eldred' in a phone book, and I was stuck with it," he said.


In the spring of 1939, as he was graduating from Berkeley with a B.A., Peck sold his Model A, and, with $160 in his pocket, he took a train to New York to seek his fortune as actor. On the three-day journey, he changed his name to Gregory Peck.


Peck missed World War II military service because he ruptured a disk in a dance class with Martha Graham, when she put her knee against his back and pulled, trying to help him bend.

Because most of Hollywood’s leading men were at war, Peck became popular as a leading man. In the years to follow, he would play many roles, including that of a priest, combat heroes, westerners, King David, sea captains, F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of the short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and Abraham Lincoln.


But the apex of his career came in 1962, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”


Peck said: “I put everything I had into it – all my feelings and everything I’d learned in 46 years of living, about family life and fathers and children. And my feelings about racial justice and inequality and opportunity.”


Here is part of his speech from “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The defendant is not guilty. But someone in this courtroom is… Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this man to his family. In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson.”


Tragically, even with all the evidence in Tom Robinson’s favor, the jury ends up convicting him, and he is shot to death while trying to escape from prison.


Gregory Peck seemed to embody those qualities that made Atticus Finch such a beloved character.


A committed liberal and defender of human rights throughout his life, he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights and almost ran for Governor of California against Ronald Reagan. I wish he had, as Reagan almost single-handedly dismantled social services for people who truly need it and now many are homeless who should be treated in mental hospitals.


In 2003 when Peck was 87, he died in his home. Almost 3,000 people attended Peck’s funeral. Let me conclude with the eulogy which Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson, gave at Gregory Peck’s funeral:


"In art there is compassion, in compassion there is humanity, with humanity there is generosity and love. Gregory Peck gave us these attributes in full measure. To this day the children of Mockingbird ... call him Atticus."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Message From Robert Redford


It's Inauguration Day and all of us are focused on the historic proceedings in Washington. But I wanted to share a fantastic piece of environmental news because I know it will lift your spirits even more. On Saturday night, a federal judge ruled in our favor and blocked the Bush Administration from proceeding with the lease sale of 110,000 acres of Utah's Redrock wilderness to oil and gas companies.


This is a huge victory for our nation's legacy of public lands -- and a final rebuke to the Bush Administration as it slinks out of town. As you know, Bush's Bureau of Land Management auctioned off our Redrock wildlands on December 19, and was determined to close those transactions before the Obama Administration could take office. But thanks to your outpouring of financial support, National Resources Defense Council and our environmental partners raced to federal court and asked for a temporary restraining order.


This weekend, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted that restraining order, saying that "the development of energy resources...is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment."


The case will be heard later in 2009. Until that time, the government is prohibited from cashing the checks that industry issued for the contested wilderness. Of course, we're hoping that President Obama's Interior Department will act quickly to reverse Bush's attempted giveaway of our natural heritage. Indeed, this terrific court victory, combined with President Obama's inauguration, should herald a new era in which America strives to secure a clean energy future without destroying our birthright of public lands.
Sincerely,
Robert Redford

The World Has Changed and We Must Change





Inauguration Day was an emotional day for many around the world, including me. I found myself in a state of disbelief that the last eight years of an uncompassionate presidency have finally come to an end. Now we will see the difference that passion and compassion can make.

Obama understands that he has been voted into office to "serve the people" and not the other way around. We have already seen the entire Obama family serving food to the homeless on Thanksgiving, and rolling up their sleeves on Martin Luther King's birthday to aid the underprivileged.

The American people appear to be experiencing a paradigm shift in that 1) we have proven to be better judges of character this time around by electing a President who cares about We The People; 2) he is the first African American President ever elected; and 3) the turnout in Washington DC for the Presidential Inauguration shows that we are ready to bring about change.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Week of the Hotties - Part One - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney

Getting Kevin Spacey miked up for "Sunday Morning ShootOut"
(Apologies on the blurry shot; no flash photography was allowed on set.)

Mark Wahlberg, Max Payne

Keanu Reeves, The Day The Earth Stood Still

Kiefer Sutherland, 24 The Movie

Hugh Jackman's Surprise Appearance

Richard Dean Anderson, Major General Jack O'Neill (and flustered publicist), Stargate Continuum, USS Midway, San Diego

Christopher Judge, Teal'c, Stargate Continuum, USS Midway, San Diego

Ben Browder, Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, Stargate Continuum, USS Midway, San Diego

Beau Bridges, General Landry, Stargate Continuum


I love to recall the "Week of the Hotties."

As you know, I am a video producer. On occasion, I also play audio technician. We have been covering the San Diego Comic Con every summer for the last decade. Over these last ten years we have seen this convention grow from a caterpillar to Mothra. Hollywood has turned the Comic Con into a vehicle for its A List of celebrities (not to mention B & C, of course). We have interviewed Jude Law, Toby Maguire, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the list goes on. Coming into such close contact with celebs has made me realize that they are human, just like me, although a few do think of themselves as living on a higher cloud.

Anyway, for the first few years, we served as a crew hauling heavy video equipment from one end of the convention center to the other, chasing down Spiderman, Batman and Orks, setting up the equipment for interviews, then hauling it back to the other end of the convention center until our "dogs" would "bark.

But last year was different. last year our cameras were stationed at panels where we covered Keifer Sutherland ("24 The Movie"), Keanu Reeves ("The Day The Earth Stood Still"), Hugh Jackman, Kevin Spacey (Sunday Morning Shoot-Out), and the cast from Stargate Continuum. While Keifer, Keanu and Hugh appeared on stage far from the cameras, we did get a chance to talk to the guys from Stargate. Christopher Judge who plays "Teal'c" was very funny and Beau Bridges was quite handsome. I really wanted to ask Richard Dean Anderson what he thought of the take-off that SNL does on him called "MacGruber" which cracks me up every time, but never did get the chance. We did, however, have a very interesting interaction before his interview began. His face was really beaded with sweat, and I happened to have a clean paper towel tucked in my sound mixer, so I offered it to him. He accepted it gratefully and mopped up his face. Then I put out my hand for the crumpled wad, as though I planned to sell it on EBay. He seemed a little mortified at first, then he got the joke. I do believe that loosened him up. Still wondering what he thinks about MacGruber.

While shooting interviews at the San Diego Hard Rock Hotel, I was standing in the hallway and spotted Zachary Levi who plays "Chuck" walking by. I pounced on him and asked if he would pose for a photograph with me, which he so kindly did. About five minutes later, there was Simon Pegg (Shawn of the Dead). I pounced on him, too, for a photograph and voila! How could these guys resist me?!




Then, as we were stowing our video equipment into the vehicle later, we looked up to see the entire cast from "The Mummy" walking out of the back door of the hotel. There was Brendan Fraser and Jet Li. I was standing there with my camera in my hand, but they moved so fast into a limo bus that I was too slow, and they hadda go.

Jet Li looked smaller in person than on the big screen. He was dwarfed by Brendan!


I found a great site with all the MacGruber episodes. For a laugh, check it out:
http://www.hilarious.net/the-complete-macgruber-snl-video-collection

Mourning the Chargers Loss - Photo and Story by Patty Mooney


Here comes another Sunday around the corner and "the gang" is suffering post partem blues. No more Charger games! Yet again, the Chargers will not be playing at the Super Bowl. They have gone to the Super Bowl twice in their career, but have never won a Super Bowl.

The Quest for the Super Bowl - This has been our excuse to gather on Sunday afternoons huddled around the widescreen television and yell out instructions to the high definition football players, while indulging in snacks, barbecued delights and tequila shots. This tradition of clan-gathering began last year when we began inviting friends over to watch the games with us.

Last week's game between the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers really put a crimp on things after the Chargers lost. Well, no matter, we are still going to have fun watching the Super Bowl, surrounded by great friends and good food. Who do you think is going to make it to the final battle? And what's with all the birds? Arizona Cardinals? Philadelphia Eagles? Baltimore Ravens?

Well, as my fellow San Diegans like to say, "At least the Manning brothers are out of it."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rocket Fuel in Your Drinking Water??? - by Earthjustice


From Earthjustice:


"Don't Worry," Says EPA

PERCHLORATE, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, has contaminated drinking water supplies in at least 26 states. It's a thyroid toxin that in tiny doses can cause developmental and nervous system problems in pregnant women, fetuses, newborns and young children. Yet in the final days of the Bush administration, the EPA announced it would not issue safety standards for perchlorate in drinking water, saying there is no "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction."

Tell that to the ten million or more Americans whose drinking water is contaminated with this toxic legacy of the Cold War.

For decades, the U.S. military and defense contractors simply dumped waste rocket fuel in the ground. The Pentagon and contractors like Lockheed Martin have fought safety standards that would force them to spend billions to clean up polluted water supplies.

Earthjustice plans to challenge the EPA's decision in court, representing the Environmental Working Group and other groups, as well as communities whose water has been contaminated.

"EPA's decision has industry's fingerprints all over it," said Earthjustice attorney George Torgun. "Weapons makers will benefit at the expense of millions of Americans' drinking water spiked with rocket fuel."

A 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office found that of the more than 200 chemical contaminants associated with munitions use, most remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. For a GAO report with a state-by-state list of drinking water supplies contaminated by perchlorate, visit www.gao.gov/new.items/d05462.pdf - BW

For everyone who does three-day walks to fight Breast Cancer, or who rides a bicycle 50 miles to fight Lung Cancer, or who plays games on Facebook to fight Cancer in Children, this is where we need to focus our attention. It's really a fight for clean water and food, which are our birthright. We are ingesting poisons planted by the very people who are supposed to be protecting us. It seems obvious that the EPA needs a thorough overhaul, that our government needs to work FOR the people and not against us, that the practice of naming Acts the opposite of what they are, must stop. (i.e., "Safe Drinking Water Act" and "Clean Air Act" are really not at all safe nor clean). No more excuses, we all need to get our heads out of the sand and start working together as a community. Teamwork is our one hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Adventures at the Landfill - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney

Allied Waste's Johnnie Perkins (L) produced the Landfill Operations show which features and is narrated by Neil Mohrs (R).


Prior to producing an award-winning video featuring two local landfills, my concept of the town dump was that it was a big stinking pile of garbage dumped someplace far from human view. When Allied Waste Services called on us to help them create a video about their landfill operations, I had no idea how fascinating the topic would turn out to be.

AWS was going to line a site at their Otay facility, south of San Diego and wanted to have it documented. We set up a time lapse camera in a wooden box the size of an outhouse, perched over the site. For six weeks the camera recorded the excavation and lining, even capturing smoke from a fire that scorched the nearby area.

We interviewed Neil Mohrs, Chief Engineer, about the installation of the liner. He spoke about the environmental awareness that goes into the preparations for a landfill. The site is excavated so that it slopes in a way that they can capture the methane gases and use them to power at least 3,000 neighboring homes. Rocks are hand-plucked from the site so that the liner is not pierced. The liner is comprised of huge rolls of thick black plastic that are rolled out and then seamed together with a special machine.

Once the liner has been laid out, with proper methane gas collection apparatus, the garbage trucks can then start rolling in.

I asked Neil what was the most interesting thing he had ever found at the dump. He said "A diamond ring." The second most interesting thing, along a similar theme, was a wedding dress. How in the world had they found the ring, I wondered. He said that the wife had apparently been wiping down the kitchen counter and removed her ring. Her husband somehow swept it into the garbage. The next day, she called the waste service in a panic. The crew were able to locate the exact truck which had collected garbage from her neighborhood, and they isolated it on grounds where they could sift through the garbage. Neil said he himself spotted the ring and as soon as he did, he realized why the woman had been in such a panic; it was a huge diamond surrounded by emeralds a la Elizabeth Taylor. I told Neil, "Wow, I believe you probably saved that marriage!" And the wedding dress? How could that have possibly happened? A bride had taken the dress off after her wedding, and put it into a plastic bag in her hotel room. The maid had mistaken that bag for trash and dispensed with it. The waste services crew once again were able to isolate the truck and amazingly enough the dress was still intact.

One other cool factoid about the Otay Mesa Landfill was that during excavation, the rib of a rhinoceros was found, along with the jaws of two whales that swam in the area three million or so years ago. An entire skeleton was also unearthed belonging to an unknown species similar to a dog. The man who found it was invited to name it. He decided to call it a "yato", which is Otay spelled backwards.

Not only was our landfill experience amazing, but it was a nice reward when the finished show earned a Pegasus Award of Merit as well as a Gold Ava award.

Nice going, guys!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Desperate People Do Desperate Things - by Patty Mooney


"Teens Kidnap, Torture Elderly Woman" - This is the kind of headline one hopes never to read, and yet this happened here in a neighboring town shortly before Christmas. Three teens are now incarcerated pending trial.

The charges against them range from robbery, kidnapping, forced imprisonment of an elder, physical abuse of an elder and torture. If convicted of the torture charges, all three could face life sentences. The 3 were arrested late Wednesday when a Sheriff's deputy spotted them and pulled over their car for running a red light. The victim, Natalie Sandy Vinge was discovered in the back of the station wagon. She was bound, gagged and had been savagely beaten. She told investigators one of the suspects was a salesman from a carpet company who sold her a $2,000 vacuum. She said he came back later, choked her until she passed out, tied her hands and feet and gagged her mouth with duct tape. When she woke up she was in the back of her own car, officials said. Vinje chewed through the duct tape and yelled for help when the car was parked at a gas station, but, no one heard her. Investigators said a man and woman then beat and punched her in the face several times. A shovel was also found in the car, indicating that Vinje "may have been on the way to her death," according to San Diego sheriff's Lt. Dennis Brugos.

A shovel was found in the car? What were these kids thinking? A 75-year-old woman deserves honor and respect, not elder abuse. When I think of the number of organizations and opportunities out there that cater to children and teens (far more than when I was growing up), it makes me wonder how these three simply missed the boat. And where were their parents?

As the economy plummets, we expect to see more stories of this nature. Wherever you go, especially if it is by yourself, be aware of your surroundings. Do not open the door to strangers. Even someone in a uniform (city worker, delivery person, etc.) is suspect, unless you recognize them or are expecting them. If possible, get a peephole installed in your front door. Have a motion detector mounted outside your front door, and your back door. You may want to adopt a pet dog, for companionship and "burglar alarm" capabilities.

We need to start thinking of ourselves, our neighbors, friends and family as a community, and work together to improve our lives. We need to make sure that everyone who wants one, can get an education. If these three kids had been in college or trade school, they probably never would have come up with this heinous scheme. As it is, we, the taxpayers, will now be footing the bill for their incarceration, food and shelter.

We need to be vigilant about how we raise our children. If a couple cannot spend enough quality time with their children, teaching them respect, social consciousness and a positive mental attitude, then maybe they should rethink the whole procreation thing. It's expensive to raise kids in this day and age and not everyone SHOULD have kids. We already have 6.5 billion people on the planet - and growing exponentially. Society does not need any more Luis Osbornes, Jeffrey Edward Nelsons, or Antoinette Bakers (the miscreants who tortured and kidnapped Ms. Vinge).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Adventure on an Aircraft Carrier - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney


About a year ago I awoke from a very vivid dream. I was swimming in San Diego Bay and was plucked out by the crew members of an aircraft carrier. They treated me like visiting royalty and gave me a stateroom with a porthole. As I gazed out the small window I noticed that we were steaming out to the open ocean. I felt panic mixed with exhilaration. This was one of those dreams that sticks with you, and I mulled it over for days, thinking, “Yeah, that was amazing… Now why would I dream about heading out to sea on an aircraft carrier?”

I’m the partner at a local video production company called Crystal Pyramid Productions, and too old to join the Navy! So the dream faded as my world filled with various shoots, some mundane and some special. We interviewed Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Thomas Hayden Church about Spiderman 3. We interviewed J. Craig Venter, the man whose team was the first to map the human genome. We interviewed Hillary Clinton for Extra at the peak of her race. We shot at the U.S. Open for IBM.

Then, sometime in June, we got a call from a broadcast production company in London looking for a sound recordist to accompany their crew aboard the U.S.S. Stennis. Suddenly I remembered my dream. I said, “I’m your woman.”

I have worked sound at some challenging locations, including the San Diego Comic-Con, Miramar and even the NAASCO Shipbuilding yard. But none comes close to the gig on the Stennis. Imagine F18’s screaming to an abrupt landing on the flight deck, one after another. And the coning tower sending out major RFIs (Radio Frequency Interference). But I’ll get to that…

After meeting the three Brits (let’s call them Britney, Chaz and Harry) at the North Island Naval base, our guide, Lt. Denise Garcia, the Public Affairs officer, escorted us to the airfield where we prepared Britney to be videotaped as we flew on the Grumman C2A Greyhound to the Stennis which lay 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. Since we would all become “Trap One” members - that is, our plane would come to a severe landing from 160 mph to zero in five seconds, and be trapped by a “wire” on the flight deck - we were all briefed, re-briefed and briefed again about what to expect and what was expected of us. Safety first.

We boarded the transport plane along with about twenty other VIPs including CEO’s of prestigious companies and other media people. I feel like I had the best seat in the house. All seats faced “backwards” towards the tail of the plane and away from the cockpit, so I was seated in the first row closest to the tail. Even though officers had apprised the women that they must not hold their purses in their laps because it could inadvertently release their safety belt, I was allowed to hold my sound mixer. I observed that from this moment on, all personnel bent over backward for this video crew.

Once in the air, the crewmen said I could remove my “cranial” – an aviation helmet with goggles attached – so that I could listen on my headphones to Britney as he walked back into the cockpit and pelted the pilot with questions. Unfortunately, there was room for only Britney and the camera operator so I did not get a look into the cockpit.

We then needed to prepare for our landing, so we stowed the gear and strapped back into our seats, in cranials, goggles and a life preserver. My hands were curiously sweating as I mentally prepared for our landing on the flight deck, which a friend had once explained as a “controlled crash landing.” The crewman seated next to me shouted, “Get ready, we’re coming in!”

And then suddenly we were slung onto the deck and the wire pulled us back like a rubberband. My heart raced the way it does spilling down a tall rollercoaster or a fast and steep mountain bike trail. And then the world of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis flight deck came into view as the Greyhound’s tail yawned open at my feet.

Like New York City, I would find that the Stennis never slept. There were operations of all kinds ongoing at all hours of the day and night. For the next eight hours, wearing a sound mixer and carrying a boom pole, I would scramble alongside the crew as a young officer named “Photo” escorted us from the radar room to the flight deck, from the officer’s lounge to the bridge, up and down miles of ladders and narrow corridors. It was a relief when the Brits begged to be taken to the “smoking pit,” a spot next to the flight deck where they could go out and have a “ciggy”. It was an opportunity to rest and for the reality of the environment to really sink in. As I looked out at the vastness of the surrounding ocean, I was happy about two things: that I was not claustrophobic, and that I was an endurance athlete. At 53, I still ride a mountain bike 25 miles or more every Saturday.

It’s been said that working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the most dangerous job on Earth, far more dangerous than catching crabs. For about an hour, we shot footage of aircraft landing and taking off, as two officers hovered about, herding us within the safety zone. I was attached to Chaz, the camera operator, by a “snake” – a cable from my mixer to his camera, so I had to follow his every move while trying to watch the levels on my mixer which I could hardly see as it was inside the fluffy white flight jacket I had to wear on the flight deck. The jacket along with the cranial made me feel like I was in a space suit. The display of power juxtaposed with the all-in-a-day’s-work routine of the flight deck personnel made this one of the most surrealistic times in my life.

After a twenty-minute dinner, an officer named John took over for “Photo” and we spent the next three hours gathering more footage of Britney as he explored the Stennis. We learned that she runs on two nuclear reactors and can go one million miles at more than 30 knots before refueling. The flight deck is 1,092 feet long and 257 feet wide. The height is 244 feet (equal to a 24-story building). She can accommodate 80+ tactical aircraft. My favorite factoid: If you lined up all the bed mattresses on the Stennis end to end, they would stretch more than nine miles.
Finally at 9:30 PM the producer said we were through for the day.

Even after a grueling day of production, I was not yet ready to meet my mattress. This was a Friday night, after all, and I am a social creature. After walking the boys back to their quarters, I told John that I wanted to return to the mess hall where I'd noticed the crew participating in a “Karaoke Night.” When he was certain that I knew how to get down there and then back to my room, he said, “I don’t see why not.” And away I went, floating down four flights of steps without any production gear.

The mess hall was packed and a young man was singing a Santana tune, “Maria Maria” beautifully as I sat down at a table next to a young crewmember. The singer finished and earned a big round of applause. Next, two men and a woman commenced to singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” as everyone cringed. It was a wonderful evening as participants sang their hearts out for better or worse. After a short internal conversation, I put in my request for a Grace Slick tune. After three more singers, it was my turn.

The emcee said, “We have a civilian guest aboard who wants to sing “White Rabbit.” The crowd greeted me warmly and when I had the microphone in hand, I told them, “I really want to thank you for your hospitality. You have been wonderful!” They all turned to watch me, some turning in their seats to get a full view, and I began to sing, “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…..”

The song went by too fast and then they were applauding me for a long time until I sat back down in my seat. They had not done that for the “Bohemian Rhapsodisers!” I could tell they were impressed. It was a bright and shiny moment that I will always treasure.

Two more singers regaled us, and then Karaoke Night was over. It was time to “hit the rack.” I found my way back to my room – with some help from a few people along the way – noted that someone was asleep in the top bunk with the curtains pulled shut, and then I crawled into my “rack.” There was a light on above the sink and I could not locate a switch to turn it off; I figured that maybe it was supposed to stay on all night, and so I began my toss-and-turn for the next several hours as I struggled to sleep amidst all the sounds, the motion, the unrelenting light. It was as if my body did not trust the surroundings enough to surrender to sleep. I believe it was about 5 AM before I finally nodded off and drifted into a heavy slumber.

At around 6 AM my roommate who’d arrived from Guam the previous evening gently roused me and informed me that “Photo” was waiting outside the door. I’d dozed through Reveille! It was time to eat in the officer’s mess and get our production day started. The guys wanted a couple more shots on the flight deck, and then it was time to pack up our bags and depart the adventure of a lifetime.

As we taxied for take-off, the young crewman seated next to me grinned and said, “I love my job!” And then the adrenaline rushed as the Greyhound roared and we catapulted together, off the deck into the wild blue yonder and back home to San Diego.