Saturday, May 29, 2004

George Strait performs

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News
George Strait performs during a concert at Texas Stadium in Irving on Saturday, May 29, 2004. The concert featured Alan Jackson, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NYT admits errors

The New York Times has run an editorial apologizing for its coverage of Iraq's terrorist connections and WMD programs.

It doesn't repair any damage done, but it's an outward gesture acknowledging a problem. After many of their legitimacy problems this year, they're trying to regain their status as "the newspaper of record." If the record has flaws, it must be corrected. The NYT has accepted responsibility for its actions and is trying to rectify the problem.

Eventually, they must return to what newspapers do best. They must tell the complete story rather than a single-source breaking headline. News stories based on a single source are difficult to defend.

Even at my college paper, we required five sources per story. If nothing else, it rounds out the story and fills in informational gaps. Yes, some reporters complained when the story was about the new parking sticker design, but four of our readers got to publicly voice their views.

This is how newspapers in democratic countries should work. News is about those trying to control the flood, and those affected by the flood. It's also about how much it cost to hire people to control the flood and how to stop future flooding, etc...

Enough for now,

Pass on WinStar

If you're considering a mini-vacation trip to the WinStar Casino in Oklahoma, don’t. It is not a real casino. It is an over-hyped bingo pull-tab parlor. Save your money and go to Las Vegas. The Shreveport sharks are even better than WinStar.

The first hint of a problem upon arrival is the tent. When was the last time someone saw a casino in a tent? Granted, it is a nice tent. But no matter what anyone does, it’s still a tent.
Once in, it’s difficult to find an open "slot machine" (at least on Monday while they’re giving away a Hummer H2).

I also question the legitimacy of these video-screen slot machines. I know casinos are all about odds and the house will always win, but this takes it to a new level – a low level. The machines are Bingo pull tab machines without the paper tabs. The player places a bet. The machine gives the player a one-second visual joy-ride cartoon of wheels turning and viola, the casino made more money.

Wasn't that fun? Try it again.

There is no interactivity to the games. Players can choose the amount they wish to lose and how many lines to play (how quickly they wish to lose). Then - brace yourself - push the flashing button like a well-trained chicken and you're done. The player either wins or loses. Wow.

There are some video poker machines, but they aren't even real. After the initial draw, the machine is willing to auto-draw for the player (and picks which cards to hold), or the player can hold and lose. This is still more exciting as the player gets to press the chicken button twice.

I anticipate some social gamblers giving the same argument as me, it's cheap entertainment and free drinks. Wrong. No alcohol. Actually, they look aghast if you mention alcohol. They do provide free sodas in polystyrene cups (how environmentally friendly for "Native America").

If you're looking for the same excitement, do it at home. Here's how:
Lock yourself in bathroom.
Put a cushion on the toilet to simulate the uncomfortable, backless barstool and tight space.
Put a TV on a TV tray (simulates the video Bingo screen).
Unplug a keyboard or some other push-button appliance which is not connected to anything meaningful.
Light your garbage can on fire (for the smoky room feeling) and press enter while burning dollar bills.
Otherwise, Yahoo Games has some interactive games the whole family can play while you save up for a real vacation.

Enough for now,

Monday, May 24, 2004

How to get a PJ job

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Lifeguards practice their rescue skills in preparation for the summer season at The Colony Aquatic Park in The Colony on Friday, May 21, 2004.

Newspaper work for photojournalists actually offers a wide range of possibilities and challenges. Typically, smaller newspapers take the biggest chances on new-to-the-market photographers but also pay the least. The big metro papers don't take any chances. They recruit specific photographers to A) have the best images and B) keep the competition from having those same images. There is no "nice" movement of photographers at this level. Job offers are calculated, territorial and one-way (you can never go back to a previous paper).

To get a job in the field, you need to have a portfolio, know the market and bang on some doors.

Create a CD portfolio of your best 15 to 20 images. Don't make a portfolio of what you think the newspaper might need (i.e. mug shots, pet of the week, etc.), use your best work. Select images which show your technical and tactical abilities as well as your personal style. Technical images show your ability to use light and different lenses for maximum effect. Tactical images show your ability to talk your way into difficult situations. The photo immediately makes the editor wonder how you got access.

Show your portfolio to your friends, family and any pro PJs you know. If your goal is a 15 image set, include 20 and ask which five should be eliminated. This process should cull the worst images from the set and let you know which ones are next on the chopping block as you acquire better images.

While you prepare your portfolio, research the newspapers available in the geographic area in which you wish to settle. Familiarize yourself with these publications and their editorial and graphic style (the Web made this so easy). Choose newspapers which run images similar to those you currently shoot. They will be more receptive if your style matches theirs.

Once you have found some visually like-minded newspapers (completely ignore the editorial page), find out the specific name and title of whomever hires PJs (photo editor or managing editor). Call to verify spellings and find out more about the photo department.

Two critical questions are:
How many staff photographers are employed? Do the photographers take advertising and/or real estate photos as well as editorial (a non-starter for many PJs)?

Once you're satisfied, send your portfolio CD to the specific hiring person at each newspaper you've identified. Include a hard-copy resume and an availability date along with all your contact numbers, specific Web sites and e-mail addresses. Let them know if you are willing to start as a freelance PJ (stringer) and work your way in or if you only want a full-time staff job.

Two weeks after you send your resume package, send a follow-up e-mail or call. Find out about the status of your portfolio review.

Don't take anything personal. Newspapers are businesses. They hire when they need someone. Smaller papers always spend time on their established customers before they spend time on anyone looking for a job.

The long-term goal for most photographers is to be recruited by the big metro dailies. This requires talent and tenacity. Mostly, it takes winning contests or some other means of separating yourself from competitors.

Getting "known" is the great mystery all of us must find at our own pace. Mostly, it starts with publication. The best image in the world is absolutely useless if it's sitting in a shoebox or on a CD in your office. The goal of photojournalism is publication. The terms each photographer is willing to accept sets the outlets for the photographer.

In the meantime, research magazines which report on events in your area. Try to get freelance gigs with them now. Each byline gets your name known in the community. You need to use the same method to get a foot in the door with both newspapers and magazines.

Many professional photographers must supplement their income with freelance shoots for magazines. The Photographers' Market by Writers Digest Books is an outstanding starting point for professional photographers. It lists the exact image specifications, pay rates and terms of each publisher. It also has helpful articles about the biz, interviews with working pros and business forms you'll need.

Even with this major tool, there are two ways to approach the market. You can either work on speculation (self-assigned shoots with no guarantee) or you can work on assignment. Most publications won't offer or accept the assignments unless they're familiar with a PJ's name and style. Therefore, PJs wishing to crack the market need to do some spec work.

Once a PJ has some clips, s/he can enter more competitions and refine her or his clientele. This becomes the cycle until the PJ's knees and back are too damaged to do the job anymore, the PJ moves to the editing desk, or the PJ becomes a little pink cloud on a battlefield somewhere.

Once you get a job offer, be picky. Newspaper jobs aren't like normal jobs. Many PJs change jobs and move up the chain early in their career. However, most simply don't have time to look for a new job once they start. Some newspapers offer take-it-or-leave-it $250 p/week (hint: leave it). Others may suggest the 40-hour job may include occasional non-paid overtime (hint: they abuse it).

Because it's so difficult to break into the market, I again stress the importance of internships. The right internship can save a PJ five years of financial and emotional suffering as well as avoiding the initial job hunt and some possibly humiliating freelance conditions.

If you don't have a journalism-related degree, I'd also strongly encourage a media law course or at least reading a related book. Although the right to publish is protected by the 1st Amendment, the actions of individual journalists are not. Know your rights before you go on the streets.

Enough for now,

Friday, May 21, 2004

Graduating PJs need these toys

John Dabkowski blows against his tassel to pass time during the Carroll High School graduation at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Thursday, May 29, 2003.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Currently, many people are graduating from high school and college. With their freshly printed sheepskin, they go to the graduation party, get drunk, wake up the next morning with a headache and wonder, "What am I gonna do? What do I need to do it? What was I doing for the last four years?"

I can answer the middle question at least for photojournalists. The other answers are up to you.

The first question is the hardest. For high school students, they should be performing summer internships until they are out of college. Each internship should be at a larger and more prestigious newspaper or magazine. At this point, it is probably too late to get into a major paper this year, but apply now for next year and try the smaller markets to get your feet wet (they love FREE or cheap help).

I can already hear the pros banging their heads on their desks. They get really upset if anyone works cheap. Get over it, we are talking about high school kids. They will learn after a summer of poison ivy, insect bites, sunburns, no money and no time that it sucks and will get a decent internship next year.

For the college folks with their B.A.s, B.S.s and masters degrees, I’m hoping y’all thought ahead. Otherwise, y’all are seriously scratching your noggins about right now. I have a blog entry already written for you, but I promised to hold it until Monday (yes, I am giving someone in the military a head start).

In the meantime, here is some information of use to all aspiring PJs. Here is what you will need to do the job. If you have an extra $20K, get this stuff over the weekend and meet me here on Monday for the rest of the info you need.

Fast lenses (f/2.8 minimum) are a must. The only f/4 lenses I use are a 70-180mm micro and a 600mm. Everything else is f/2.8 or faster. I call myself a "low light, fast action specialist." This happens only with the f/2.8 and/or some huge strobes.

The problem with photography is the expenses involved. If it's not too late, ask for these things from your rich relatives as graduation presents. Otherwise you are basically toast.

Our freelancers are required to provide their own equipment. The assignment editor knows what system each one shoots and assigns accordingly. Those with digital cameras, laptops and wireless transmission capabilities get the most assignments. They can deliver enough images on time without additional expense to the company (we have our own film processors, but maintenance is expensive).

A normal shooting rig includes the following:

2 professional digital camera bodies
17-35mm f/2.8 lens
80-200mm f/2.8 lens
50mm f/1.8 lens
70-180mm micro lens or 55mm micro
300mm f/2.8 lens
400mm f/2.8 lens
(optional, mainly sports shooters)
2X extender
2 flash units with wireless connections or TTL cords
electronic plunger or IR remote
flash/ambient light meter
gaffers tape
cell phone
pager (preferably two-way)

chamois (to dust/dry lenses)

reliable car
Mac G3 or higher series laptop with WiFi or cellular card
car power inverter
towel (to dry everything else)
rain suit
hard hat
flat spool of nylon cord
gloves or trigger mittens

Most of us also have a major strobe system with Pocket Wizard remotes, heavy-duty light stands, softboxes and snoots. Although strobes are clumsier than flash, the results are dramatically better.

I also have a closet full of gizmos and gadgets I use for special shoots. Most of them were a waste of money.

Enough for now,

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Medici romance

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Chris (left) and Nancy Tanner (right) of Denton kiss at Medici, a private lounge for Nick & Sam's customers, in Dallas on Friday, May 21, 2004.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

PJs are initial responders webmaster Bill Young sent me a link to the U.S. DOS Crisis Awareness and Preparedness site. It had further links to the University of Illinois Extension Disaster Resources page. They have a PDF file, which would be a good idea for photojournalists to print out multiple copies and keep in their cars. It has the telephone number and a pre-call checklist for Federal Disaster Relief.

PJs are often the initial responders on location after a disaster. Because we cover the actual floods, tornadoes, fires, etc., we're often the first "official looking" person (i.e. outsider) the residents see after it's safe to look for help.

Before the police or firefighters arrive, we're already on the street with the people looking at the damage and trying to help whomever we can while documenting the first few moments of turmoil. As a result, we better have some helpful advice and some answers for these people. Otherwise, they'll direct all their newfound rage at us.

In addition to the wonderful hand-out sheet above, let people know the city, county, state and even federal law enforcement officials (depends on size of disaster) will come to secure their property within the next few hours. Additionally, the American Red Cross will arrive and offer food and arrange temporary shelter (motels) for the following few nights.

In the meantime, they need to make sure all their neighbors are accounted for and safe. If the area smells of natural gas, remind people it needs to be turned off and not to smoke or start any kind of fire. Let them know you're documenting their good work. Tell them it'll help get additional assistance and donations from the community in the coming days.

Get people busy doing those things they should be doing rather than directing rage at and creating problems for the local PJs. Although the PJ may have covered 50 bigger natural disasters, this is probably this victim's first time having their whole life ruined. Be professional and considerate, but mostly be helpful.

Enough for now,

Monday, May 17, 2004

Paintball is good training for combat PJs

I finally found a hobby other than photography. Photography is a miserable hobby for professional photojournalists (PJs). I ask myself why I am working on a day off or playing when I should be working. It gets confusing.

I played paintball for the first time on Saturday and had a blast. I’m hooked.

Louis DeLuca, William Snyder and I were on one team against six punks (their teenage kids and friends). Louis had played before, but this was a first for William and me. Even though we were old and fat (a consensus), we kept kicking their butts in the jungle.

William and Louis eliminated attackers while I was able to sneak to their fort for the flag. I think if we could have seen through the goggles, we could have done better in the “Speedball” phase (short-range, rapid-fire area with tires and barrels for shields).

I wonder why PJs would be good at aiming, shooting and dodging gunfire? Hmmm...
Anyway, I also got to use all the old Army training. It felt good to sneak up on people and kill them again. He he he...

I had to leave early for my shoots, but it was great while I was there. I did twist a knee and had a bit of a limp for the rest of the day, so it might not be a wise decision for others to try this on a workday.

Some of the other photo staffers expressed an interest in playing, but they had to cover the Byron Nelson golf tournament, the Fort Worth Air Show and other assignments on Saturday.
If our department ever gets a team together, I think it would be a dangerous team. It would be fun to take on the other Belo groups. I can see the photo department destroying the reporters, management, advertising department, circulation, etc.

It would also be fun to challenge the “beautiful people” on campus (WFAA News 8, and TXCN). I doubt the on-airs would be willing to play though (the bruises look pretty nasty). It would still be fun for our photo department to take on the cameramen from the two stations though. Possibly other media groups might want to challenge our department as well.

I keep thinking about the training potential for photojournalists. I think anyone considering going to a hot spot should try to photograph a few paintball games.

Each paintball game (where we were) is timed to 15 minutes. Consequently it is not too boring for the people who are eliminated early in a round. This allows PJs to try several levels of difficulty.

Until the PJ gets accustomed to the idea, the combating teams could agree not to deliberately shoot the PJ. Although everyone agrees not to shoot the PJ, it doesn’t mean the s/he is safe from stray rounds and mistaken identity. It is still a difficult environment to concentrate on proper exposure, composition and timing.

Although the PJ is avoiding incoming fire, s/he must remember the story and images are about the people who are being shot and how they react. It’s too easy to photograph the people shooting, or those who have been "killed." But those images don’t tell the story. The story is the second of impact and possibly the 10 seconds of immediate reaction time while people writhe on the ground and scream, “Stop! I’m dead!”

If the PJs are really paranoid on the first outing, they can wear an orange hunting vest. The belligerents may still get the PJ with stray rounds, but the odds of a mistake are minimized since the officials are wearing orange vests.

If the PJ makes it through the first test, s/he can then pick a team and be “embedded.” The objective could be as simple as staying alive and getting some images, or as complicated as moving up to photograph the opponent’s fort. Watch out for friendly fire though.

This challenge should be enough for anyone. However, if a PJ is preparing to go to an actual hot spot, it would be most accurate to play “dragon.” In other words, the PJ is neutral and a legitimate target for both sides.

I honestly don’t think there will ever be another “civilized” war where journalists are allowed to work without being a target for one or both sides. In many of the latest conflicts, both sides take more pride in killing journalists than opposing soldiers. Therefore this would be the best real-world challenge for a PJ.

If anyone can emerge from the woods with great images while both sides were aiming for a kill, they are almost ready to go into the real heat (nobody is ever ready to go into the real stuff – it sucks).

Enough for now,

Friday, May 14, 2004

Mirror editor is fired

Piers Morgan, editor of The Daily Mirror, was forced to resign over faked (or mislabeled) photos. The preponderance of evidence supported the British government's assertion the disputed photographs weren't taken in Iraq.

Morgan previously refused to resign. Instead, he said the photos "accurately illustrated the reality about the appalling conduct of some British troops."


Photographs - real news photographs - aren't "illustrations." They're not "art." They aren't "similarities." They're frozen facts. The second an editor believes otherwise is when problems occur.

This is where credibility and accountability come to the forefront. An image is only as accurate as the photographer (and eventually the publisher) wants it to be. In this case, someone obviously had a vested interest in discrediting the British military and/or its government. In the process, it also damaged a questionable tabloid newspaper.

I think in a broader view this is a major difference between American journalism and British journalism. In America, truth is always a defense in court. It isn't a defense in British (and possibly other commonwealth countries) courtrooms.

Defamation of character is part of the British tabloid newspaper system. Even if the defamatory information is true, the British papers are still held liable (a slap on the hand and a fee) for the infringement.

Consequently, they have no incentive to be particularly trustworthy or report accurately.

At least in the American justice system, journalists check everything to make certain the facts reported are true. This keeps us out of the courtroom and doing what we should be doing: reporting the news.

These particular faked images would still be problematic in America if the editor honestly thought they were accurate. However, the quote above shows he knew (or was later convinced) these images weren't what they were originally purported to be.

Enough for now,

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Images have power

There are some really rough images from both sides of the battle in Iraq. Neither is pretty. All are important.

Although none were taken by trained photojournalists, there is one undeniable fact from this week: photographs are immediately understood by everyone around the world.

Photographs also come with consequences as well as responsibilities.

Morning newspapers will not run the most horrendous images because we understand this is not something people want to see during breakfast. This is the newspaper’s responsibility. It must balance the role of record keeper against the right to read without offence.

These images are available online. Someone always wants to increase traffic to their Web site and will stoop to whatever base level is necessary to achieve this goal. Letting readers know these images exist will need to be enough for the morning newspapers.

Understand however some newspapers will present these images as a pure, painful truth about the world in which we now live. It has always been brutal. It is now more visual and accessible than ever before.

This is an election year. Unfortunately, these images will be used as political currency. I am sure the images will be shown time and again to support each side of the Washington argument. All will point fingers and shout, but the images will shout the loudest of all. Images have this power.

As each image screams, I hope our readers will not lose interest from the din. Images also have this adverse side effect. They are numbing. Horrific images burn into the mind. It is immediate, and it is permanent.

If the images are too horrible, they will force viewers to develop defenses against their own anxiety and make shock more difficult to attain. Ghastly images then become common. The “been there, done that” complex works.

As these images are slowly ruminated and absorbed, don’t become numb to the realities presented by powerful images.

Enough for now,

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Butterflies rest

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

Butterflies rest on a flower during the Kiwanis Butterfly Festival at Town East Mall in Mesquite on Saturday, May 15, 2004. The event benefits Children's Miracle Network and the Kiwanis Children's Charities.

These were the only kind of butterflies left in the tent after a few days of tromping children. The Kiwani-in-charge said they lost hundreds the first day because children stepped before looking. Possibly it's best to run a string through pieces of watermelon and hang them at 3-year-old eye level by the flowers rather than placing the fruit on the ground. Just a thought.

News is like water

News is like water.
An essential ingredient keeping us all alive.
Information is like a raindrop.
It starts so small and delicate –
Condensation around a speck of dust.
Crashing to Earth with a wet plop.
No ceremony, just fact.

Next searching and filling each nook and cranny.
Looking for something similar to join.
Gathered together it gets weight.
Sometimes a flood, it surges forward in a gush.
It expands beyond its boundaries
Destroying everything in its path.
By the end, it’s all part of a slow-moving mass
Pushing debris into the ocean.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

I want WiMax (or something like it)

The L.A. Times has a story about WiMax. It is a 30-mile version of broadband WiFi. I cannot begin to say how much I want this to happen.

In the last three weeks alone, I have wanted to throw my laptop during transmissions due to slow dial-up speed. Each time I was on a super-tight deadline, I was also at very accommodating venues. Two years ago, it would have been considered heaven to have a dry, climate-controlled area with a power outlet, working dial-up and a working surface.

Now, I want more. I’m spoiled. I want WiFi. I want it everywhere.

I find myself wondering why these extremely nice professional and college sports and performance venues with multiple public relations flaks don’t have a darn WiFi connection. Not for the media specifically, but for themselves and their skybox clients. The answer is 300 feet.

WiFi only works for 300 feet. I want it to go further. I want to transmit 1 or 2 Meg images from anywhere at a reasonable speed. I am willing to sit in the dust at Will Roger Coliseums (I know what it really is, but humor me here) as long as I can transmit NOW.

Currently, I prepare images on location. Once I’m done, I drive to the nearest Hot Spot to transmit. Once the images appear to have been sent properly, I call on my cellular phone to verify images are received and proper noun spellings.

I shouldn’t need to drive to the closest Hot Spot. Once the images are ready, I should be able to open the airport and send.

During a tight deadline in Waco, the images were taking 7 minutes each on a phone line. I transmitted the best three primary-deadline images from the location (21 minutes), then packed up and drove across town to find a WiFi connection to transmit second deadline images. Images over the air took less than 45 seconds each for eight more images (6 minutes).

I’ve sent as fast as 6 seconds before (keep your hands inside the compartment at all times).

As always, the ability to have WiMax (or something like it) will boil down to money. Will the return on investment be worth the risk. Intel is in favor of others taking the risk because it means LOTS of new laptop computer sales. The real question is whether Intel or any laptop manufacturers are willing to shoulder some of the start up WiMax costs to convince the buyers to invest in the laptops.

If the new laptops are only useful in developing countries – as proposed – then there is no incentive for Americans or Europeans to buy. If the computer manufacturing industry wants to get some of the money spent at the ballpark or shopping mall, then they must make the laptops useful at these same places.

Enough for now,

Friday, May 07, 2004

Matilde's camarones

Matilde's Mexican Restaurant offers Camarones a la diabla at the restaurant in Dallas on Friday, May 7, 2004.

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

I'm not a shrimp guy, but this image goes out to all those Texan ex-pats who can't enjoy a decent sizzling fajita anymore. Everytime I left Texas, the first thing I wanted when I returned was Tex-Mex food. After three short years, my pet Iraqi is addicted too.

Wear a hat

When outdoors, wear some kind of hat. Even people with a lush, beautiful mane (unlike me) still need something between them and the sun. Hats keep heat stroke at bay and take the brunt of stray baseballs and hockey pucks (instead of hair tufts and chunks of scalp).

No matter which style hat or cap is chosen, avoid logos and go for the darkest colors.

Photojournalists cannot appear biased. A Viagra cap may send the wrong message some places. Likewise, nobody wants a conflicting cap with an event sponsor or subtle problems may arise. For example, I would never advocate wearing a Washington Redskins cap to cover a Dallas Cowboys game.

Dark-colored hats absorb more light and heat. However, the darker shades won't reflect off subjects. It also helps camouflage the photojournalist. Even if the camo ability of the hat only works for one frame, it was worth it.

Overall, I suggest a boonie hat. It keeps the sun and rain off our necks while it shades our eyes.

You'll need to know your hat size at your typical hair length. Small, medium, large versions are made, but sized hats with military tags are best.

A huge advantage to a boonie hat is brim flexibility. It moves out of the way to allow us to shoot with our forehead pressed against the flash. Then we flip it back down to shade our eyes and keep our eyes from reflecting off the eyepiece.

Cleanliness is another great advantage to a boonie hat. A boonie hat can be machine washed. If you've ever covered a rodeo in the wind, you'll immediately welcome this idea. However, don't put it in the dryer. Instead, flatten the brim while it's still wet and lay it on a counter to dry.

The down side is the "dork factor." If we forget to put the brim back down after the shoot, we look a little intellectually challenged.

Enough for now,

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Scientific Method applied to kolaches

As a photojournalist, I have a Bachelor of Science degree (instead of a B. of Art). Therefore I understand the scientific method. Also, photojournalists have insatiable curiosities. Therefore we want to test concepts for validity. As a dieter, I also have an occasional insatiable binge feeding frenzy.

This time, I used controlled science to predict the results of a really bad sugar fest. I knew exactly how much weight I would gain. This takes playing with your food to the next level.

This week I didn’t have time to eat. When I did, I limited it to salad and oranges with one can of tuna per day. I kept my calories under 700 and ran more than two miles each morning for three days in a row and lost more than a pound per day.

Saturday, I covered the regional track and field competition in Waco. On my way home, I had to go through West, Texas (land of the dreaded kolaches).
All the way home, they sang “We’re kolaches, and we want to be eaten, we’re kolaches, and we want to be eaten...” (in three-part harmony). But, I was good and resisted.

The next day, I decided science required me to take action. If weight is lost by limiting the number of calories consumed, then weight must subsequently be gained by increasing the same caloric intake.

For scientific purposes, I ate the box of kolaches.

Then I went to the Cottonwood Art Festival and ate some gyros, funnel cakes, and drank some wine (another variable I’m testing). You know – just to make sure the hypothesis had maximum opportunity to succeed.

My theory was supported by the results of this highly scientific test. I gained weight. Now, I am back to the controlled phase of the experiment. I plan to continue this regimen until I achieve the desired ending weight.

Then, I will try the ultimate reverse process. A dozen key lime pie Krispy Kreme donuts. According to the theory, each donut is 330 calories. Therefore 12 would equal 3,960, and I should gain 0.3 pounds of fat for the day -- just from the donuts. Any additional intake calories (feeding frenzy items) are immediately calculable as fat before a nice nap. Mathematically, it is (2907-[total daily calories])/3500.

Then, I can start the process again.

Enough for now,

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Soldiers' jobs made more difficult

Disclaimer: This entry isn’t primarily intended for photojournalism students.

This week has been chaotic at best. Consequently, I haven't had time to address the current images coming from Iraq. With the latest images of Brit soldiers supposedly abusing Iraqi prisoners, I've a renewed impetus to comment.

The Salt Lake Tribune stated, "The American military in Iraq announced March 20 that six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad faced charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees."

These six sick people will be punished in court, but more unrelated, innocent, honorable soldiers will be punished in other ways.

I was an infantry non-commissioned officer (sergeant) in the elite OPFOR regiment at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert. I served honorably and received many awards including an Expert Infantry Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and even some lesser-known OPFOR-limited awards such as the Order of Hamby First Class.

So, when I say I hate that these "guards" have shamed the honorable names of those who died in this current conflict, I speak from a personal perspective as a veteran.

First, let's get one thing straight. These particular prison "guards" aren't soldiers. They're cowards. In this case, they're exceptions to even their own low life.

The blood of honorable American soldiers was shed to capture the Iraqi prisoners. Frankly, it's much easier to kill rather than capture. As a soldier, you aim, squeeze and they drop. There are no further questions or complications.

To capture a prisoner means the soldier must take responsibility for the safety, feeding, etc. of the prisoner – even if his own comrades are trying to kill him. Consider this a moment.

So, the front line soldiers risked their lives to get these prisoners. They also risked their lives to return the prisoners safely to a place to keep them off the battlefield. Each dead or captured enemy combatant is one less to worry about on the battlefield.

Instead of keeping the prisoners alive and well to demoralize the enemy, these morons violate UNIVERSALLY UNDERSTOOD international laws and even take pictures of it. Now, the front line soldiers must fight harder.

Few combatants (Americans included) are going to surrender when they think they'll be humiliated, urinated upon and worse. With no good option, they'll fight harder to avoid capture. Therefore, more American fighting soldiers will shed blood because of the actions of these few.

In America, we must accept the responsibility for the actions of the few. We can examine the problem and try to correct it, but we're all responsible for this act of massive stupidity and depravity.

Possibly this is a problem with using reservists to do regular Army functions. The standing military size should be increased. This takes higher wages instead of hardware purchases from the defense budget (tell this to your local politicians). It also takes recruitment of more honorable men and women.

Additionally, the "don't ask – don't tell" policy should be revisited. Apparently something has dramatically changed in the last few years. The images I've seen show a sick perversion that wasn't in the military during the 80s.

Even though I was in a combat unit with NO privacy, the images show something that would make most people uncomfortable. The fact that women are involved is even more disturbing and leads me to question why they even wanted to see these men humiliated in this particular manner.

I honestly can't imagine what kind of person (male or female) would do this, so I can only look outside my own knowledge to those who wouldn't find this as perverse as I see it.

Enough for now,

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Over the top

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News

North Garland's Jessica Moore vaults during the Class 5A Region II track and field meet at Hart-Patterson Track and Field Complex in Waco on Saturday, May 1, 2004.