Friday, November 30, 2007

Singing in Caracas

More of the same today; broadcasting from the patio of the hotel and staying away from the massive rallies downtown.

We watched President Chavez’ speech on Venezuelan television this evening. It was surreal in some respects. He spent the first fifteen minutes leading the crowd of tens of thousands of red-clad supporters in song, singing national songs as well as Christmas carols. It had to be one of the oddest things that I’ve ever seen.

The rest of the speech was spent bashing the United States, the King of Spain, Colombia's President Uribe, CNN, and other assorted interests. I fear that he has a sort of elevated idea of his country’s importance in the grand scheme of the world.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Room Service Please

Student protester getting ready for a confrontation with government security forces.

Today has been full of adventure. We were set to cover the massive opposition rally in downtown Caracas this morning but in the end we pulled back and chose not to broadcast from that location. Instead the day has been spent “shooting lives” from the roof of our hotel in an effort to remain impartial to the political fight that is bubbling around us. International media has been accused of taking sides and has come under some “scrutiny” from the Venezuelan government. We’re trying our best not to be culpable in any way.

I’m happy. I’m not getting gassed or shot with a water cannon, and we can get room service up here on the roof.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Protests 101

The first rule of covering any protest is that the security forces always win. At the end of the day you want to be on the winning side no matter whom you are cheering for. I failed to adhere to that rule and paid for it this afternoon.

We covered an illegal student protest just outside of the one of the major Caracas universities. Hundreds of students marched out from the campus gates and blocked a busy highway, all in full view of the awaiting and ultimately well prepared Venezuelan National Guard.

The security forces, after watching the students rant and rave for an hour or so, decided enough was enough and let fly several volleys of tear gas followed by blasts from a mobile water cannon. At that particular moment I was standing on the student side of the protest and got severely gassed and then hammered with stream of water.

I made my way back to the ranks of the police only then to be pelted by large rocks and bottles being thrown by the offended, albeit hastily retreating students. I’ve had better days.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back To Venezuela

Heading back to Venezuela today to cover the country's referendum vote. This time I'll endeavor to bring all of the correct gear so that I can post photos.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Contemplating one-ness

We are all under this misconception that we are somehow separate from everything else. It’s something that's programmed into us from our very early days, and we continue on down this road for the rest of our lives. It’s a falsehood, and a mirage.

We are not separate from anything, quite the opposite. We all breathe the same air, drink from the same water, and enjoy the same sunshine. Our bodies take all of this in and then cast it off again for others to use in the same manner. The molecules that make up our bodies are traded by the hundreds millions every day, with everything in a constant state of change. We're never the same from moment to moment and we are sharing the entire universe with each other. How could it be any different, that we are not all joined together in this swirling mêlée of existence and non-existence?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Demonstrating For Democracy

We spent yesterday covering the student demonstrations taking place here in Caracas. These are marches that are considered illegal by the Venezuelan government because they do not have the necessary permissions, and subsequently are not tolerated very well by the security forces.

The students from one of the universities decided to march along (in) a major highway that cuts through the city. I stood there in horror witnessing these kids with hastily painted signs scurry about in four lanes of high-speed traffic yelling unfathomable slogans. The story here looked as if it was going to be the demonstrators getting flattened by speeding trucks.

We stood off to the side and filmed the students as they rallied support for their side of the upcoming referendum. Hundreds of these kids were marching for a pro-democracy movement, against a Socialist government that was demanding even greater Socialist reforms. How times change.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What's In A Name?

I spent yesterday walking around some of Caracas’ poorer neighborhoods shooting pictures and video with our cameraman. It was a great time working next to a professional and seeing what he’s looking at and how he frames his shots.

Later in the day he relayed a funny story to me about Venezuela’s President Chavez. Apparently El Comadante believes there are just too many peoples’ names in Venezuela and wants to pass a law (decree) that would make it illegal to name a child anything other than what is on his approved list of 200 or so names. I’m pretty sure “Hugo” made the list.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome Back

I feel at home in Latin America, much more so than the Middle East. I think I’ve spent most of my adult life kicking around the countries down here, and when I arrived I felt a great sense of familiarity, almost a relief in a way.

Caracas is a city in turmoil right now. Both the city and the country of Venezuela as a whole are facing an election on a constitution amendment that would give current President Chavez almost unlimited powers. The streets are littered with “Si” or “No” propaganda as the people head towards the referendum. There have been marches both for and against, with more than just a little violence.

It will be interesting to see how this polemic comes out, but for the time being we’re covering various stories associated with the elections, and are getting plenty of opportunities to travel around the city to visit neighborhoods, both pro and anti- Chavez. The scenes are frantic with highly politically charged emotions that can only be experienced in Latin America. I had forgotten how passionate Latins are with their politics. Welcome back.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I’m currently in Caracas, Venezuela covering the opposition rallies to the Chavez-proposed constitutional amendments. We spent the morning filming from within one of the rallies, but I didn’t have the opportunity to take any photos because I was busy doing what I get hired to do. Thousands of people milling around, shouting, chanting, and just being generally chaotic. We got what we needed and called it a day once the rally broke up.

When I got back to the hotel room I realized that I had left Atlanta in such a rush that I didn’t pack the USB cable that I use to download pictures from my camera to the MacBook. As a result the blog will be photo-less for a couple of days until I can get back to Atlanta.

Friday, November 9, 2007

... A Warrior's Life For Me.

A wee warrior just back from a battle with a paint brush

I received an email from a friend of mine, who also grew up in the military special operations community. While no longer serving in the military he wrote that he still considers himself a “warrior”, and opined that one doesn’t need a weapon nor a war to carry that moniker. I couldn’t agree more.

Being a warrior is a state of mind; cliché, I know. It’s nonetheless having the courage to do what’s right in the world, making hard decisions, and tackling life’s obstacles with determination, humor, and honor. You don’t have to dress in a uniform everyday to meet that definition, and I can assure you that there are plenty in the military that don’t.

Things that I consider and feel free to add some of your own:

- Try to improve upon everything that you do. Seek perfection in even the smallest and mundane of tasks.

- Have patience and empathy for those around you and even yourself.

- Practice self-control and discipline. Listen to your inner-voice. It knows the difference between right and wrong even if your ego doesn’t

- Concern yourself with small matters. The large ones will take care of themselves.

- Treat everyone as if they are your mother, father, son or daughter. Give respect to everyone and don’t demand it in return.

- Live softly. Be gentle, graceful, and humble.

- Laugh at yourself. You are a constant source of great humor.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Replica of an ancient Japanese stone lantern stands against a backdrop of autumn leaves.

Everything that has a beginning has an end. Autumn is the perfect season to highlight this and that’s why I think that I really enjoy it so much. Much like the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, this time of year displays the impermanence of life and all things within it. Perfect.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What's Dat For?

Today’s a banner day. My three year-old son just now entered into the “What’s dat?” stage. He’s discovered interrogatives, which is now driving him to ask about everything and anything, affording my wife and I the opportunity to explain the entire known universe to him. Joy!

I wonder what the world is like for him, existing without any of the baggage that comes along with learning definitions, purposes, names, etc… A three year-old is a blank slate and happily wonders through life knowing that an apple is good to eat, and that’s about it. He doesn’t care about photosynthesis, organic farming, supply and demand, or migrant labor. It’s just an apple, and he’s happy with that. What a great way to look at the world.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Art Of Youth

Aside from youth being wasted on the young, so is a lot of art. When I was young I endeavored to understand and appreciate art, literature, music but it wasn’t until I had learned a lot of life’s lessons that some of art’s emotions began to settle in.

Highland bagpipe music for example; the young are fascinated with rapid-fire jigs and hornpipes requiring lightning fast fingers. As I’ve gotten older I find myself emotionally drawn to Piobaireachd, the ancient, classical music of the bagpipes; a lone piper fingering a wailing lament to some fallen chief or loved one. I contend that this type of musical expression, like other similar arts, requires a certain amount of emotional scarring before it can be expressed or enjoyed fully. Maybe it's just that my fingers aren't as "lightening fast" as they used to be.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


One thing that ALL members of the military do when they hang the uniform up for good is to grow some sort of facial hair. After years of having to adhere to strict grooming standards it’s almost a rite of passage out of the military. If you ever see a forty-something year-old man with really bad facial hair, you can bet that he’s a recent military retiree.

I started a goatee the day I stepped away from the Army and have kept it ever since. When it first came in I was shocked to find that it was more grey than I had remembered from previous departures while on leave. I’m going with the “distinguished” description.