Desk cat

Mar. 12th, 2010 10:14 am
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Desk cat, originally uploaded by Focal Intent.

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What is who?
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The other night I went to the dna lounge to go see Psyclon Nine and Imperative Reaction play (photos coming soon). I took videos of a couple of the songs to play around with video on the 5d mk II. I learned that I need to get a better mic for it, for one. I also learned that this video thing could be something fun to get into. Also learned that while in-lens image stabilization is nice, more support would be better. Also, also - focus can be an interesting project. Finally, I learned that the software at vimeo that chooses a "preview frame" for your video has a great sense of humor, or just luck - as it chose the frame just before an overzealous fan body checks the lead singer of Psyclon Nine down into the crowd :)

(apologies for how noisy the video is. Some of it is because the builtin mic on the 5d2 sucks, the rest of it is because Psyclon Nine are a bunch of screeching, loud, noisy motherfuckers)

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Yulia turns 30, originally uploaded by Focal Intent.

Testing the bouncy castle in our place prior to tonight's 30th birthday party for [ profile] elvendoll. Looks fun, no? : )

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Bouncy castle in the house, originally uploaded by Focal Intent.

No, really it's in our house

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(N.B. I'm spending a year with a Leica M6 and a single lens, inspired by this post. While I'm sure some posts documenting that year will end up over here, like this one, the bulk of them will actually be over on a blog that i've set up to focus on my photography - Focal Intentions)

Leica m6 w/Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4The UPS man showed up earlier today with this, my Leica m6 with a Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 lens. Over the course of the morning, in between working (hi, boss!) I shot off a roll of BW400CN film as a test. Some of the shots were actual, you know, 'shots', while others were test strip type shots - e.g. meter a shot, then shoot all up and down the range of apertures or exposures to compare results. I then, over lunch, gave the film to my friendly neighborhood walgreens with a "rush, please, and gimme on a cd!"

I have to be honest, here. I have zero interest in shooting 35mm film. All of my film shooting up over the past 10 years has been 120 medium format or 4x5 large format. Digitally, I shoot with a Canon 5d mk II, and shot with a 5d for over three years before that. My thought process was something along the lines of, "I have a digital camera that beats the resolution one gets out of 35mm film, so why waste my time with it?"

I think I now have a reason to waste my time with it. Before I go into some of the shots from that first test roll, I have to say, shooting with this camera was a dream. Everything just fit in my hands and flowed very naturally for me. The only bit of awkwardness was the initial film load, though even that became natural when I swapped out the first roll and put the second roll in. The camera has some heft to it, it's heavier than I thought it would be, but still lighter than anything but my WWII era folders. When I hold it in my hands to shoot, I feel like my fingers can reach everything without having to reach - focus, aperture, exposure, film advance, even the adjustment lever for the framelines.

I think I'm going to enjoy living and shooting with this camera.

2009-06-02-R1-03The first shot that I'm grabbing from my roll, over here on the right is a sculpture that's in my apartment complex made from the old fire control system that was in place when the building was a warehouse/factory. This sculpture has been on every first test roll of every camera that I've gotten over the past 3 years. It's practically a tradition, at this point.

I'm already comfortable focusing with this system, even though I've never used a rangefinder before today. Partly because I use a split image finder on my medium format cameras (a Hasselblad currently, and Mamiya 645 and RZ67 cameras before that). If you've never used one before, it can take a little bit of getting used to, but once you do it's great for rapid manual focusing of a scene. The short version is, you find a vertical line in your scene, and center the rangefinder on that line. Through the center of the range finder, you'll see that the line is broken, a small segment floating off on its own. You adjust the focus on the lens to bring the floating segment of the line back in line with the rest, et voila! You have a focused image!

While I liked the responsiveness and immediateness of getting my film developed at walgreens, unfortunately they scan their film at a sickeningly low resolution (and I suspect they may be scanning their prints, not even the negatives, but don't quote me on that). I need to find someplace that will develop my 35mm film -and- provide me with decent scans. They don't need to be massive, but I'd like something in the 6-15megapixel range - not the mere 2 that walgreens gives me.

More random shots from the first roll )

There are a few more images in the Flickr set for my first roll.
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So last night, somewhere around 4:45 I was lamenting the fact that The Glitch Mob had opened for the previous night's Prodigy show in LA, and was also opening for that night's show for the prodigy, but weren't going to be up here for the SF show. Yulia asked me what time the LA show was, I told her, and the following conversation ensued:
[ profile] elvendoll: You know, you could totally catch a flight and make the show tonight
Me: No way! Way!
Me: No way!
[ profile] elvendoll: Why not?
Me: Way!

45 minutes later I was boarding southwest flight 3395 from Oakland, CA to Burbank CA. About 90 minutes after that I was in Burbank, picking up my rental car. About 30 minutes later, I was standing in line for the show :)

The opening act was some dj - destructo, i think? He was pretty good, but his beats were mostly uninspiring to me. Much of the crowd felt the same way and I felt pretty bad for him - it must suck being the opening DJ and being on before 90% of the people have even shown up and basically doing warm up.

Then came the glitch mob. Only 3 of them up there. What can I say? It was a fantastic set - looks like they had a bunch of Lemurs up on stage, as well as laptops and an akai MPC to do their magic. It's not quite spinning/mixing, it's also not quite live musical performance. It's this weird mix of performance, mixing, live remix, live cut-up and editing.

That said, I don't think I was still for the entire set. Now I can't wait to see them again, and hopefully they'll hit the bay area sooner rather than later. (I should also keep an eye out for individual performances by edIT, Kraddy, Boreta, and Ooah).

Next up was prodigy. I should point out that this is not the first time that i've travelled hundreds of miles at the last minute to see the opening act for prodigy. First time was about 10 years ago - it was a tuesday, Jon Whitney called me up and said, "hey, wanna see Meat Beat Manifesto in NYC tonight?" - I figured sure, why not? He picked me up from work, we hauled ass down to NYC's Hammerstein ballroom, hung out with jack'n'co for an hour or so, saw a kick-ass MBM set, stuck around for a song or two of prodigy, then drove back to boston that night :)

Last night almost makes me wish we had stuck around for the rest of the show. Holy shit, prodigy on stage are great. To say that they had the crowd moving would've been an understatement - almost the entire dance floor was turned into one massive, writhing, bouncing, jumping, borderline violent pit, complete with a 2-6 crowd surfers going at any given time. My ears are thankful for the earplugs I had in during the show, and my body is still sore today.

It is tempting to go to the SF show tonight just to get another round in the pit :)

How was your evening, last night?
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Strangelove tonight - it's all about the skinny puppy - who's going?

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Our time in kyoto was full of late starts and much relaxing. Our first day there, Esther helped us out by helping us make reservations for a place to stay in (er, ended up being near) Naoshima. What's naoshima you ask? (hush you, in the corner there, you've been there already!). Well, that's for a future post to fill in the details on!

We then went over to this delightful little cafe near her house where I had a great little curry/rice dish. Afterwards, Esther went on to teach her class, leaving Yulia and I alone for a few hours to wander around. We were pointed at this massive outdoor, but covered, shopping area. It was very very shiny there. Alas, there are no pictures.

From there, we wandered through the Gion district until we came upon Yasaka Shrine at night which had, amongst other things, a couple of random art/sculpture displays inside that were very pretty and, once again, no pictures to provide the proof :) Finally, we met up with esther for dinner, great food in a back alley restaurant, and then back to her place for sleep.

Old imperial palace gates

The following day we got up, had breakfast, and made our way down to a tour of an old house, probably 400ish years old. The tour was nifty, with Esther providing us a rough translation of the guide. This was made easier by the guide's tendency to drift off into anecdote.


From there we went to the old imperial palace. Some absolutely gorgeous woodwork there. Some beautiful gardens around the palace and grounds as well. After a quick tour around the castle and the grounds, we made our way back to Yasaka shrine.


The shrine grounds were nearly as gorgeous during the day as they were at night, though some details on the structure were easier to see. We made our way around the shrine grounds, and then up and around a temple that was behind the shrine.

Prayer wheels

I loved how close shrines and temples tended to be to each other, sometimes right on top of each other. The one downside to this is it could make it confusing to track when you went from one site to the other. We made our way through another complex or two, finally ending up in a parking lot, looking out over kyoto as the sun set.

Sunset over Kyoto

This, however, was neither the end of our evening, nor the end of our templing adventures. There was one last temple to visit that night, a massive wooden structure built on the side of one of the hills in kyoto. It was kind of hard to miss it, as it had this massive beam of light shooting out from behind it.

Giant temple at night

Afterwards was more good food and then, predictably, back to Esther's for that little thing called sleep. Next up, rivers and gardens and monkeys!

Full set of photos from in and around Kyoto.
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The next stop on our trip was going to be Omihachiman for a festival that our friend Esther was involved in. Our day started out with breakfast, and grabbing a train from Osaka to Kyoto. At Kyoto Station we dropped our luggage off in lockers, met up with some of esther's friends, and jumped the train to Omihachiman.


We arrive at the station in Omihachiman and hopped a bus to take us to the festival site. I wasn't entirely clear on everything this festival involved, for many reasons, but I think I began to get my first hint when we got off the bus. We were quickly rushed out of the street by a giant crowd being led by this:


a giant float, being carried on the backs of drunken (or soon to be drunken) folks. Each year, for this festival, the various parts of the town build floats representing their section of town. These floats are then carried around in a parade style through the day's celebration. Floats, parades, etc... I'm familiar with all of that courtesy of living in SF. Right? Wrong. See, they don't merely march these floats around. They do mighty battle with them - charging each other head on and locking horns, so to speak:

Battle floats locked in battle

Of course, as often happens when drunken crews of people charge each other with multi-hundred pound floats, the floats would get locked, and stuck together. This would lead to each team rocking their floats back and forth, to try to get them unstuck, and hopefully have their float be the one left standing.


We wandered around, watching battles (including floats manned by children! Yes, those mini-floats fought as well - sometimes even taking on the adult floats!). We finally met up with Esther and her team, watching a battle they were in for a bit. Somehow, the conversation ended up me cracking some comment about loving the idea of taking part in manning one of these floats for a battle and next thing I knew, esther was taking me back to her float where one of the men there gave me an extra jacket putting me on their 'team', effectively!


Alas, before my first battle Esther and I were whisked away, taken into a back room of the shrine the festival was dedicated to where we were introduced to the old men of the festival, who gave us sake, and chatted Esther up in Japanese. Finally we made our way back outside where I was given a chance to take part in a battle of my own.


It was fun - but holy shit are those things heavy. I took part in two battles, spinning the float around, charging the other float, trying to rock our float and unlock it from our victims. After the second fight, the sun was starting to set, and so we had to bring the float back to its garage for some fixing up before the evening's festivities. On our way out of the shrine, we stopped for a pair of small battles against a children's float. Those children our vicious! Our float was crushed not once, but twice by those kids ;)

After dropping the float off, we went off to get dinner, and relax a bit before coming back for the evening's festivities. See, it's not just battles and charging. No, it's also drinking, and spinning, and burning!

Once repaired from the day's combat, we shouldered the float again, taking our place in line outside the shrine. There was much drinking, and spinning the float around in circles while various people took turns jumping on top of the float and shouting at the crowd. We went into the shrine with our float, where more drinking and spinning ensued, as well as an impromptu battle (that may have been a bad idea), before our float was finally set on the ground and light on fire.

Fire, sweet fire. There is nothing like ending a day of fighting and drinking and spinning and hauling and fighting and spinning with setting things on fire. As our float burned itself into embers, Esther, Yulia and I made our way back to the train station and headed back to Kyoto for another day and more adventures.
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The first in an N-part series of posts about japan, accompanied with photos. No promises on the on the frequency of these coming out, or the density or quality of text involved. It all depends on my mood at any given moment.

Our flight to Japan was mostly uneventful. [ profile] elvendoll slept for most of it, I slept for some of it. We arrive at Osaka after our 12ish hour flight, get our luggage, go through customs, and make our way to the Japan Rail station to get our passes. I will say in advance that having a JR passing for running around Japan was great. I loved the trains there - made getting around so much easier!

Yulia at the museum

We took a short train ride from the airport into Osaka, and changed trains to get a subway that would take us closer to our first hotel. We checked into a little room with two twin beds and a mini kitchen, then set out into the night to find our first meal in Japan. We wandered a bit, ending up in a small restaurant. Somehow we managed to order food as there was no english to be found in the restaurant. The food was good, the first of many sushi meals we'd have in Japan.

Raven landing

The next day we got up, and wandered down to Osaka Castle. The grounds around the castle were gorgeous, the walls had some insane stones in them. The castle itself was a reconstruction of an earlier, long since burned down castle and was a museum giving the history of the Osaka Castle. The exhibits were a mixture of your traditional museum "stuff and descriptions", quasi-3d projections (video projected into models to make things look more 'real'), models, and such. The grounds were full of ravens flying around and above us, letting everyone know they were there.

walls and moat

We got lunch on the grounds of the Castle, discovering the joy of the cabinets of plastic food and pointing at the ones that looked most interesting. After lunch, we went across the street to the Osaka Museum of History. This gave more of a general history of the city of Osaka itself - again with many models.

3D cutouts of Osaka as it was

After lunch we hopped onto a train and headed down towards the aquarium, our last intended destination for the day. We took a small detour, climbing into one of the largest ferris wheels i've ever been on, the Tempozan Harbor Village Ferris wheel.. It took nearly 20 minutes to make a single rotation, giving us a gorgeous view of the city surrounding the aquarium.

Ferris wheel view of Osaka

The aquarium itself was fun. I only put up a small handful of the photos from there in the set on flickr for Osaka, I may need to go back through them again to pull out some more images. We saw some incredible sea creatures in there, though, as well as some not sea creatures :)


After we got out of the aquarium, we made our way back downtown. We had sushi for dinner again, this time at a random shop in a giant underground mall. Once again, was really good food (and in a mall, no less!). After dinner, we walked around the mall a bit more, then headed back to the hotel, as we had a bit of train riding to do the following day as we were heading off to Omi-hachiman.

Next up - our heros witness battle floats doing mighty battle, and one will get their drink on with the old men of the town!

flick set for Osaka.
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It's time for me to spread my musical wings a bit more and find more music. Tell me your favorite new artist of the past year and suggest an album to me. I don't want old favorites, i want to hear who you found in the past year that was new (to you) and fantastic.

What's my part in this? I'll buy/listen[1] to your recommendations and give back my thoughts on them - who knows, maybe i'll find some new favorite music as well in this! :)

[1] my bank account is already quivering in fear
[2] please to not be suggesting $100 album collections, kthx

ETA: For laughs, find me on
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So, yulia and I are going to embark on a 2+ week trip to japan shortly, and I'm trying to decide on options for dealing with photos while we travel, since I imagine i'll take a couple.

The first option, and least appealing, is taking my laptop with me. It's a fair bit of weight to lug around, and more than weight, it's space in bags that could otherwise be taken by clothing or camera gear.

The second option is getting one of these - and putting a 160GB hard drive in it. We used one of these when travelling around Costa Rica to good effect, though the one I had died shortly after the trip (hence the need to replace it). That would cost me $250.

The third option is an MSI Wind with an extra gig of ram and running OS X. We did something similar to this in Hawaii, with the sony ux280p (which I've since sold off because the inability to sleep the machine was massively frustrating). The wind may choke on the raw files off of the 5dm2, or it may not. This would also give us a small machine for access point hopping if we needed/wanted to - and if I could find a temporary gsm account w/data plan, I could even bring my HSPA modem. This isn't much more expensive than the hyperdrive option above, too.

The fourth option is to do none of the above, and just buy enough CF cards to last through the whole trip and then do one massive download when we get home.

Thoughts/suggestions on which way we should go with this?
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First time playing with some new toys. Had to completely tear apart and rebuild a trigger though, getting rid of the delay circuit. Just as well, as it was there was too much delay via wireless. A quick trip to radio shack should take care of that - and possibly allow me to rebuild the delay circuit as well.

messing around

messing around
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(background on how I ended up here This is fairly focused on things from the security perspective. In large part, because that's how I was there, and that's where my brain was much of the night. I think had I gone there as a participant, I would've had a different experience of it).

I got to the rally site at a little after 3pm. Music was already playing, and people were already beginning to gather and mill around. I saw police officers, usually in pairs, mostly just standing around, they seemed relaxed for the most part (which I took to be a good, hopeful sign). I checked in, passed off the radios to organizer types so they could be put to best use, and went over to the staging area for security.

We broke up into our individual teams, getting our assignments for the two rally points, and the marches in between them. Our group was 'team 6', and we were going to be the front line for the two marches (to and from the DA's office). We were to provide the line that the march walked behind, setting pace, and hopefully keeping things from rushing/surging.

We were going to have both motorcycles and the oakland scraper bikes along with us at the front of the line.

The rally began, with multiple speakers at city hall. We took up our position at the edge of the park, on the corner of 14th and broadway, and waited for the call that the march was going to begin. There were multiple introductions around our team, with me having my usual problems with names/faces - but it was good, relaxing. Some of our team members wandered back and forth between us and the park, wanting to hear the people who were speaking since we were far enough out that from where we were, the speakers sounded like a bad charlie brown episode.

Finally, we're told that the march is about to begin. We're given some last minute instructions, and line up across 14th, on the other side of broad way. The scrapers and motorcycles start doing their thing behind us. As the crowd of people started moving from the green towards us, a group of about a dozen motorcycle cops came loudly down 14th, through our line, and continuing on down towards the DA's office, where our route was taking us.

The march down 14th was mostly uneventful. There was a lot of shouting, a lot of chanting, sometimes the front moved too fast, and we had to slow down, if not stop, to allow the rest of the crowd to catch up. People were angry, but focused. Yes, the officer involved had been arrested, but a trial/conviction wasn't the only thing we wanted. Bart police effectively operate without any civilian oversight, unlike other police organizations. People wanted change. They also wanted change, not just with the Bart PD, but also with Oakland PD, which itself has some history as well.

We saw some police along the sidewalks and in intersections during the march, but not a whole lot. Finally, we get down to oak, and turn towards the DA's office. Originally, we had been told there was going to be a stage right in front of the doors to the office, and we were going to take up a line between the state and the entrance to the building.

When we got there, the arrangement had been changed a little bit. The stage had been moved to crossing oak street itself, but we were still going to take up the line in front of the DA's office, leading the march there. Where there was a line of about a dozen police in riot gear standing ready.

I don't know how long the next bit was, my sense of time was thrown a bit. I just know that behind me, we had the cops in riot gear, stone faced and tense. In front of me, was a crowd of justifiably angry people, angry not only at the shooting of Oscar Grant, but at the other shootings that have happened over the years at the hands of Oakland PD. Angry at a society which still does a suck job of treating them as equals. Angry at a city government which seems to ignore them. Angry. And shouting. And pushing.

I remember feeling some sense of relief when things started on the stage, and the crowd backed off from us, and headed towards the stage. We kept our line where we were. Once again, I didn't hear much of the speakers, a combination of our distance from the stage, and also because I found my focus to be on the crowd. I was constantly watching. Looking for anything that might possibly set the cops behind me off. Don't ask me what I was looking for, I'm not sure I knew exactly, but I hoped I would when I saw it - since I wasn't convinced that we would be the first in line if/when the police moved in. To say that things were tense would be, well, a police understatement.

After a while, we got the word that we were to line back up in the street, as we were, once again, going to be the head of the march, this time back towards city hall. We lined up behind the crowd, which was still focused on the stage, and the speakers there. This time, our line was bolstered by people who had come from the labor unions to help out with security.

While we were standing there, lined up, waiting for the program on stage to finish and the march back to begin. A small marching band type assembly was tuning up in front of us, getting ready to lead us back. I saw news organizations film the event, their vans with the dishes rasied high in the air. I saw police officers, mostly uniformed, some in suits, casually standing around and watching. Some of them had cameras, video and still.

And then I saw them. Down 13th, towards the waterfront. A large group of riot police, waiting. They were staying mostly out of sight, probably to avoid drawing attention to themselves, and probably to avoid riling up the crowd, but they were definitely there - and again, our line of people were who they would have to go through first to get to the crowd if something went wrong.

The speakers wrapped up, and we began our march back towards city hall. There was a different charge in the air walking back. Almost an air of celebration. There was music, there was dancing, there were still shouts of "I am Oscar Grant" and "Fuck the Police" but there were also shouts of "These are our streets" and a pride and strength. We made our way back towards city hall - I was relieved when we got there, without incident. We took up a line behind the stage, as the last part of the evening's program began. More speakers, more music. Once again, I was limited in what I could hear because I was behind the speakers.

The scrapers were set up behind us, their bikes on the city hall steps. I wish I had my camera with me, both to catch the bikes, and to catch them just horsing around, and having fun. As the program began to wind down, there were still some concerns about police. Security was spread out in a large, loose circle around the greens, once again providing a line between the police and the crowd.

I think on some level the idea was to put a calm face before the police, and some distance, a buffer if you will. We were set up on one side of the green, and looking around, I only saw a couple of officers on bicycles, and a few officers standing against city hall. I kept scanning around, again not 100% sure what I was looking for, but hoping that if I saw it, I recognized it before anything happened.

I saw them again. I don't know if it was the same crew, or a different crew - but down an accessway, behind city hall. Two groups of riot police standing around. A few of us changed our position a bit, putting ourselves in front of that alley. As people began to leave the green, we would encourage people to go down another way, or at least alert them to the fact that there were the riot police down there. Just caution - but I still didn't want to see something set them off.

I guess it took about an hour for the grounds to clear out, I didn't have a clear view of the grounds from where I was. Eventually, it looked like it was just staff left, and they were beginning to clear up. I was starting to relax, relieved that it looked like the night had likely ended without incident. Then our team lead got a call, everyone on security was needed down at 14th and broadway.

A group of about a hundred or so people were still there - in the intersection. Security was lining up along the crosswalk where we had started the evening earlier, for the march. Once again, there was a line of riot police, a line of security, and a group of angry, shouting people - shouting over the shoulders of the people in security at the police. Multiple attempts were made to ask people to clear the intersection to let them re-open broadway - mostly ignored. One person was saying that "a group of anarchists took off down 14th, and the police were separating us from them, just like last wednesday". The OPD reps on the scene started getting more agitated, telling the heads of security that we had to get the intersection cleared or they were going to clear it. Finally, the rest of us joined the line, and moving slowly forward, we worked the crowd back across broadway, back onto the sidewalk on the two corners there.

We had a number of angry reactions to that, which I think I understand on some level. On the flip side, there was concern about OPD breaking out force if we didn't get broadway cleared and re-opened. The crowd was now divided into two groups - one near the bart entrance and the park entrance on 14th and broadway, the other group across 14th on the opposite corner. Across broadway, at that point, it was mostly just riot cops and press, and eventually the line of riot police disappeared.

On our corner, we had some guy with a giant "going to hell sign" and a bull horn shouting all sorts of crap, and generally agitating the crowd. A number of people made attempts to calm him down, as well as calm down the crowd around him. The crowd on our corner slowly dwindled down though, until it was just the bullhorn guy, and a small group of people around him, shouting back. Someone started up singing campfire songs to drown the guy out, and other people joined in.

The crowd on the other corner was still much larger, and some of us went over there to help out if we could. Here, things get a little fuzzy. The bullhorn guy and his entourage finally stepped down, and started heading off. A crowd of people followed him, shouting in his face, encouraging him to keep moving. They crossed broadway at a diagonal. Once they got to the other side, something happened. I'm still not entirely sure what, but next thing I know, much of the crowd makes a breaking run for it.

People in security went after them, tried to break up the situation going on there, which I think we did, calming people down, and separating them from the bullhorn guy. Things weren't done, yet, though. Further down the street, some people started in on jumping on a car. Once again, security went down to try to calm people down, and get things under control, let people breath. Someone started a fire in a trash can that security quickly put out.

We were now in the intersection of broadway and 12th, trying to calm people down, trying to keep things from getting out of hand. While this is going on, riot police are lining up across 12th on both sides of the intersection, as well as up and down broadway. People were still trying to calm people down, to keep things from going further, and then i heard the first glass breaking. A bus stop on 12th and broadway, was having its windows smashed in. People cheered, and ran over to the wells fargo behind it, and started smashing the windows there.

I heard something that sounded like a really loud 'thump' then saw the tear gas canister hit the ground about ... 20 feet away from me? Far enough away that I didn't react to it, and the wind was blowing it away from us. At that point, the heads of security made the call to pull us all out of there, and started gathering us all together and walking us back up the sidewalk.

I saw the riot cops in front of us taking off their helmets, and felt a sense of relief that they were standing down. Mental note, that is not a mistake i will ever make again. It took another few moments to realize that they were putting on gas masks. They shuffled some of us around the corner, and then the line cut us off from the rest of the security people. I don't know what happened next, there was some kind of clashing and rushing, and then things quickly calmed down.

It seemed like the security heads had worked out that we were going to be allowed to go down broadway to 11th, and circle back around to city hall, and we rejoined up and started doing that, and then at the last minute, we were told that no, we were going to go up broadway back to city hall. We were kept as a group, the riot cops opened a hole in the line to let us through (and anyone who wanted to get out of that intersection as well, it seemed like - including, I'm suspecting, some of the people who were instigators in this, unfortunately). We went back to the lawn in front of city hall, and had one last 'meeting', or gathering? I don't know what I would call it, before turning in our vests/radios, and heading out.

The bart station was now closed, here, and so we needed to find other ways out of there. One person was driving to fruitvale, and offered to give me a ride there, which I gladly accepted. He was parked a bit down webster, so we set off to head down there. As we were walking down 14th, we could see the riot cops moving in down the street, though I didn't necessarily hear anymore firing.

We got to webster, and started walking down webster. On the way down the street, we passed by some cops arresting a pair of kids, who shouted to us that they were being arrested simply for calling out an earlier arrest of someone for no other reason than being black. We stopped, just to watch, which agitated the cops, who started shouting at us to keep moving. Two other cars of cops showed up, and they started moving towards us - I don't think i've ever seen such a threatening look from anyone before. We slowly backed down the street, watching, as we went down to the corner, the one kid asking us to "please watch," the whole time, the cops not directly involved in the arrest staring us down. I spent the entire time feeling like the cops there were just waiting for an excuse to arrest us as well.

We finally get down to his car, and start talking about where I live and such, and he tells me that he wants to go back and sit and watch the arrest, and would I mind waiting. He'd understand if not, and would drop me back off at bart, but he needed to go back and watch. At that point, I was spent. I don't know if it was everything in the evening, not having eaten much in the previous 48 hours, a fear of being arrested, or what, but I couldn't. I was done. He said he understood, and dropped me off near the bart station, which the cops near there said was still open. I'm not wishing I was less scattered, and had at least gotten his cell # so I could check in with him later on.

On the other side of the bart station there were two groups of people and two groups of cops in riot gear standing off against each other. I looked down the stairs, and realized the bart station was, in fact, still closed. I briefly thought about going back up broadway towards city hall, and seeing the multiple sets of cops there, and that things were still going on, I decided against that.

I turned around, and walked back down broadway, past 11th, thinking about how I'm going to get back home when I see an empty cab. I flag it down, and get in. He's driving up broadway, and i tell him where we're going. We end up back at the corner of 13th and broadway, and while he's waiting for the lights, I watch the cops go in swinging on the crowd of people there (maybe a dozen cops, a dozen people, give or take?). My brain has pretty much completely shut down at this point, I am at a loss for what to say or do, and while digging for that, the light changes and the cab moves on. I give him directions back to my place, and we take much of the ride in silence, my heart rate spiking every time we pass a cop standing on the street or sitting in a car.

I get home, yulia gives me a shot of vodka, and gets pizza for me for dinner, and then I pretty much pass out from exhaustion.

Story time

Jan. 16th, 2009 11:44 am
focalintent: (Default)
Wednesday night I was a member of the security crew for another rally and march in response to the shooting of Oscar Grant III by a (now former) Bart police officer. It was a roller coaster of an evening, and an experience. It has left me with more questions and thinking than answers. It was not something I would call 'fun', and falls into the realm of 'not something I would want to do again' while at the same time falling into 'something I would do again, if a call for help went out', if that makes sense.

I suppose I should back up a little bit here, and fill in how I got to this point. For me, this all started on New Year's Eve, with the shooting of Oscar Grant. We were hosting a NYE party that night, and we had someone come back from the Bart station, asking us for a place to crash for the night because something had happened there, and the station had been closed, and he heard screaming and crying and there were police. (Later, I heard from two other friends who had been there a few minutes earlier, and caught cabs to elsewhere. I believe we had other friends who had gone home through that bart station a few minutes before things happened).

Fast forward a week from there, and I come home to the fruitvale bart station from being in the city, and walk into the middle of a rally being held to protest the shooting. I had my camera with me and started taking pictures of the event. Things dispersed from there, and I wandered home, not realizing that a large portion of the crowd had moved into downtown oakland. At home, I watched the news (multiple live feeds simultaneously), as they marched on city hall, were addressed by Dellums, and then as groups of people broke off and started causing the problems that much of the rest of the country read about last thursday morning.

Much of the coverage angered me, because they were focusing on the rioting, not the peaceful (if angry) rally that had occurred before hand. This, among other things, fed a desire to be at future events, to photograph them, to document them in their entirety, the good and the bad. That was re-inforced by a handful of people who heard about either the shooting and/or the rally itself from my photos/writeups on them, and not the main stream media. It left me feeling that if I documented what I saw, even if it only informed a few people, there was some good coming out of that.

A conversation the next day went into what had gone wrong with the rally. One of the people involved in the conversation mentioned that at rallies they had organized/were involved with, they provided their own security to deal with problematic people before the problems exploded (I have some more thoughts on this whole dynamic that are probably better saved for a different post).

That got me thinking about the next rally that CAPE was organizing. I thought to myself, I know of multiple groups of people who do security type things. Maybe not directly, but I know people who know them. I wonder if I could track some combination of them down, and ask them to help out for future events. My assumption was that CAPE themselves would be thinking about security for future events as well, but that more bodies/experience couldn't ever hurt.

For a variety of reasons, everything didn't come together for me (contact information on either side, names, etc...) until about 48 hours before the next rally, the one this past wednesday. I sent out emails to people, and I also reached out to CAPE, asking them if they'd be interested in me contacting the people I had contact info for. I also introduced myself to them, and my interest in photographing future events. I also, because I do these things, offered up server space/domain services for them.

They told me about an organizing/security training meeting for the rally. I decided to go to this, both to meet people, and to gather information to pass along to people that I was still hoping to grab for security. I sat in on the security meeting, listening to the training, listening to the questions and answers, asking my own questions. I went into the meeting planning on saying something like "Hi, i'm here to get information for other people I hope will help out, my focus at the event will be photographing."

As the meeting went on, however, it became clear to me that photographing this event was going to be the wrong contribution for me to make. They needed people on security, badly. Now, I have no illusions about my security background. I've done the "stand around" kind of security for random concert/event things in the past - where people are generally well behaved to begin with. I knew I would be a body for them, I also knew that my individual contribution to them would be minimal. However, for me, this was a case where the sum was greater than the parts. On some level, I felt that the more people who were there, the more visible they were, the lower the odds were of shit going down badly.

So, I volunteered. I was assigned a team, given the name of my team leader and a time to show up. I offered to grab a few grms radios to contribute - as they didn't have enough radios to go around to all the security team leads. The 'training' was basic. It mostly focused on things like our chain of command (you see something - tell your team leader, who will have a radio, who will get the professionals). It was some basics of de-escalating a situation. It was driving home the point that there were going to be groups of people there who were professional security, people who did this for a living, and that those were the people who would handle the most direct issues/engagements with people.

It was also made clear that our focus was on protecting the people attending the event: from people trying to cause trouble, from accidents, and from the police. We would be containing flash points before they turned into waves going through the entire crowd. We would be trying to calm things down before the police were given a reason to go in and take care of things in their own, erm, 'fashion'.

Some of my questions focused on the "after the event". I was curious how we would get people to head home afterwards, without dumping potentially thousands of people into the street/transit system at once. My questions here turned out to be more prescient than i would have ever expected.

After the meeting we broke out, and I headed home. Yulia guessed fairly quickly before I said much of anything that I ended up volunteering for security. I made some light jokes about it, emailed my boss to let him know i was leaving work early the following day, and we crashed out for the night. Thursday morning, I did my usual work stuff, and started getting some anxiety about the coming night. Nothing I could put my finger on, I think just some generalized concern that maybe I put myself in over my head. I saw the news about the Bart officer being arrested, and felt a sense of relief, hoping that would at least calm some tempers.

I went out to radio shack, grabbed some radios, parked the car, and headed to the bart station to go up to 12th street and on to the rally.

(continued in the next post - hopefully later today)
focalintent: (Default)
I had originally intended on shooting this protest, and put out a call for people to hep with security as I know they need bodies there. After going to an organizational meeting last night, with the intention of getting information to give to people I might try to pull in, I ended up finding myself signing up for security. So today i'm putting my camera down and hoping I won't have to put my arms up.

I have a lot of thoughts about this that may get written down at some point. There's a lot of brain churning going on right now though.

They are still looking for people to help out with the security side of things. If you're interested, they're meeting up at 3pm to do final organization/arrangement of people.
focalintent: (Default)
I've caught up with the organizers for CAPE's next rally tomorrow afternoon at city hall in oakland, and they've got a call out for people who are willing to help with security for the event. After what happened following last week's rally, there's an interest in having people who are focused on keeping an eye out for trouble brewing.

The rally is from 4pm onward tomorrow afternoon at city hall (14th and broadway) in oakland, check in for security is at 3pm. There's also a training meeting tonight at 6pm in oakland that they'd like people to attend if possible - drop me a line and i'll pass along details/info on that.

long shot

Jan. 10th, 2009 02:44 pm
focalintent: (Default)
I'm looking for contact info for Evan Shamar, the organizer of the fruitvale rally last wednesday


focalintent: (Default)

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