Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Small Museum with Big Ambitions Opens in Liberty Station

Here's a piece that I wrote for the Peninsula Beacon for the opening of the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station. The whole area seems to be growing into a great cultural center.

Ronan Gray, The Peninsula Beacon, Thursday June 25, 2008:

A tiny museum with big aspirations opened its doors to the public in Point Loma this past weekend. Seven years after Deborah Szekely founded the New Americans Museum, it finally has a place to call home at the NTC Promenade in Liberty Station. Intended to be a center to celebrate the contribution that immigrants – the New Americans - bring to the United States, the 4000 square foot museum will include a gallery, a learning center and a story-booth where visitors can record their own family’s immigration history. “Our mission is to be a catalyst to celebrate America,” says Szekely. “We aim to foster public awareness of the values and strengths that immigration bring to our commonwealth – their new energy, their values, their hard work”.

While relatively small compared to the larger museums of Balboa Park, the location of the New Americans Museum in the blossoming Arts and Culture district of Liberty Station allows it to host large groups, exhibitions, conferences and lectures. "We are lucky to have found a home at the NTC Promenade” says Executive Director Galye Hom, a third generation Chinese-American and daughter of the former San Diego Councilmember and State Assemblyman Tom Hom. “In addition to our administrative offices, exhibition gallery, community meeting/educational multi-purpose room, and intern/volunteer center, we also have access to a state-of-the-art conference center, event center, and beautiful outdoor venue." The outdoor space behind the museum is a patchwork of pathways, grass lawns and a large pond surrounded by palm trees. More than six-hundred guests, musicians and dancers found plenty of room to mingle there under a beautiful San Diego sunset during a special VIP Opening Preview on Friday June 20th. In its seven year history the organization has already hosted two seminars and one conference with over 500 attendees at other locations in San Diego.

The New Americans Museum Galley will feature immigrant related art. The opening exhibition includes a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition titled “Becoming American: Teenagers & Immigration” that features the work of photographer Barbara Bernie. Bernie’s black and white photos of teenage immigrants to the United States include short captions with commentary by each subject. Also currently on exhibition in the gallery is “A Contemporary Story: Perspectives by Immigrant and Refugee Artists” a product of the work of a San Diego based non-profit called the AjA Project that runs an after-school program for local refugee youth. AjA is an acronym for "Auto-suficiencia juntada con apoyo" which translates from Spanish as “supporting self sufficiency” according to AjA Executive Director Sandra Ainslie. "AjA Project runs participatory photography programs for refugee youth that empower youth to think critically about their identities thereby helping them create better opportuniti4es for their futures", says Ainslie. The New Americans Museum Gallery currently features photography by some of San Diego’s immigrant and refugee children in that program.

The San Diego City Commission for Arts & Culture and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors both provided funding for the current exhibitions. The gallery, which is open between 11am and 5pm, Wednesdays to Sundays does not charge admission. Hom says that the museum does have some funding at the moment and plans to reach out to local community groups that share their mission to help bring other exhibitions and events to the museum. The gallery shows planned for the rest of the year include “The Alvarado Project : Through my Father’s Eyes”, a photographic exhibit by Filipino American Ricardo O. Alvarado and “Between Cultures : Children of Immigrants in America”, another Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition. Although none of the dates are finalized, Ho`m expects that the two exhibitions will make their respective debuts at the museum before the end of the year.

San Diego community interest also includes a possible collaboration with the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of San Diego. A proposal to use the museums recording studio to document the experience of some of San Diego’s Somalian refugees may come to fruition when the studio is ready later this year. The facility is located within a soundproof vault that may formerly have been used by military personnel when the building was part of the NTC Command Center. The soundproof feature may well prove to be indispensable during recordings as aircraft leaving Lindberg Field roar over the building on a regular interval, forcing a pause in conversations all over Point Loma that locals have euphemistically referred to as the “Point Loma Pause” for many years.

There are similar themed museums in France and Australia and one in the US in New York at Ellis Island. There are few places like San Diego though, where so many immigration-related topics co-exist in one place. Twenty miles south of the New Americans Museum, is San Ysidro, site of the busiest international border crossing in the world. The southwestern most point of the contiguous United States is just west of San Ysidro in Border Fields State Park where a series of stark metal girders rise out of surf and across the beach. It is the start of the controversial 10-foot-high welded steel border fence that stretches eastward from the Pacific Ocean for miles across much of San Diego’s South County. To the East of the Museum, neon lights mark the location of Native American Casions on the local tribal lands and symbolize a new transformation in the lives of the areas original natives that is both vast and contentious. Standing at the door of the museum at 2825 Dewey Road, parts of the bay that was once overflowing with the great tuna fishing fleets of Portuguese and Italian immigrants is visible. In the far distance this past Friday night, the orange light of the sunset reflected off the tops of the tallest buildings of San Diego City. In more recent years, refugees fleeing from poverty, economics and violence from places that include Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq have made a fresh start here and now call San Diego home.

The fact the word “immigration” has become so synonymous with “illegal immigration” is one reason that the board of directors of the New Americans Museum voted to leave it out of the name, even though. Another sign that perhaps, a place to “celebrate the richness, that diversity brings to American” - as Hom puts it - is long overdue. The wealth of evidence that shows that richness in San Diego should keep this small museum a very interesting and a very busy venue for many years to come.

For more information visit the website www.newamericansmuseum.org or call (619) 255 8908

Copyright Ronan Gray, 2008, 2009. All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior written permission.

TV Show in OB

Here's one of the first articles that I wrote for the Peninsula Beacon. The show that I write about below has been re-christened "The Ex List". I have one more article on it that I will post later.

Ronan Gray. The Peninsula Beacon, Thursday April 17, 2008:

Steve Mallory sits with his wife Teresa on a sofa inside the doorway of his store in Ocean Beach and watches as six attractive young women emerge from the back of a long black limousine on Newport Avenue. Each one of them is tall, beautiful and decidedly not dressed for modesty. They amble across the sidewalk towards the business next door, laughing raucously and chattering excitedly until a booming voice calls “Cut”. A mass of people descend upon the scene and begin rolling cameras back into position, adjusting lights, and checking the microphones on the six actresses from the TV show, Mythological X.

Similar scenes have unfolded all over Ocean Beach during the past two weeks as a Twentieth Century Fox crew recorded the pilot episode for the new CBS show. Mythological X was created and written by Diane Ruggiero, one of the writers and producers of the Veronica Mars show, which was also filmed in San Diego. Sound Mixer, Trevor Black says that the story revolves around a young woman living in OB. A fortuneteller tells her that she will either marry her prefect match within a year or never at all. The twist to the tale is that she has already met and broken up with the right man. The episodes will revolve around her quest to discover which one of her ex’s is Mr. Right.

Black and roughly ninety percent of the crew working in OB on this Friday night are San Diego locals and veterans of Stu Segall Productions. The TV shows Silk Stockings, Renegade, 18-Wheels of Justice and Veronica Mars were all produced in San Diego at the production company’s studio on Ruffin Road in Kearney Mesa. The prospect of having a TV show based in OB is good news for Black and the one hundred-plus crew members working on Newport Avenue this Friday evening. Steve Mallory on the other hand is not so sure.

Outside Mallory’s furniture store on Newport Avenue, SDPD traffic officers are standing in the intersection, directing traffic around the film crew as they prepare for the next take. “All the money ends up in permits that go directly to the city” he says. On a typical Friday he says that he would expect to do a couple of thousand dollars in business. Tonight though, the production company is paying him to stay open and to rent the large parking lot attached to his building. He says that they have bought some furniture from him for props in the past too so, he admits, it’s not such a bad thing to have the production in town.

Rob Dunson is Deputy Commissioner of the San Diego Film Commission, a city, county and port funded entity that works to attract film productions here. He says that after the Veronica Mars show ended, there was little work left for the crewmembers here in town and most of them had to look north to LA for work. Dunson is exasperated when I mention the permitting issue. “San Diego does not charge for film permits”, he says. The only time that there may be a fee is if the film activities will incur a fee, such as when Cal Trans has to shut down a freeway. Then the production will pay the cost incurred by whatever agency is involved says Dunson.

Businesses along Newport Avenue seem to be operating as normal on this evening despite the fact that many of the parking spaces on the block have been taped off. If the pilot is successful and the show goes into full production, many of the locations will be recreated at the studios, minimizing the impact on OB. There will still be times when a scene requires the beach or pier for instance, and some local businesses were used as sets during the pilot. Dunson says that the producers kept the original names of those businesses in the show and that it should prove to be quite a promotion them if the show becomes a hit. The spectacle of a film crew at work has certainly brought plenty of foot traffic to the area on this evening. The sidewalks are lined with onlookers, straining to see if they can recognize any of the cast members.

One of the most recognizable faces on the set this evening is a former OB resident: Director Tim Bushfield (Thirty-Something, Field of Dreams, Stripes, Revenge of the Nerds) lived on Narraganset Street while he was in the US Navy. Narraganset is actually still in OB despite the UT’s recent assertion that it is in PB (see Behind the Scenes Star, Business Section Sunday April 20 2008). Sitting behind a row of monitors just outside the Mallory’s furniture store Bushfield calls for the next take to begin and the set falls silent again. Only time will tell what the overall effect on businesses in the area will be if the show goes into full production but as the black limousine pulls back up to the curb, music blares from the Irish pub just a couple of doors down, cars pass by and people walk down sidewalk and it seems that the businesses along Newport are doing just fine. Steve Mallory watches the cast go through the scene again and is content to sit and watch the spectacle, for this evening anyway.

Copyright Ronan Gray 2008, 2009. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission

SWAT Article wins National Award

I'm going to start posting some of the articles that I've written in the past year. This first one was a surprise in a couple of ways. First of all, it was a spot news event so it was an unplanned surprise assignment. I was working quietly in my home office when I heard about it and ran over there to cover it. I got right up front due to knowing some people on the scene. The second surprise came when Larry Harmon, the editor at the Beach and Bay Press called me one day in October to say that it had won an award for the newspaper at the Independent Free Papers of America (http://www.ifpa.com/) annual conference. This came as a great surprise to me as I had no idea that it had been entered in the competition! The paper got a nice plaque and I got a meal out and beers on the editors all thanks to Larry who was the one who had submitted it to the judges in the first place. Here's the article as it appeared in the paper.

The Beach & Bay Press, Thursday June 5, 2008:

When Marlene Pernicano stumbled into the kitchen of her family's restaurant on Turquoise Street Friday night her father - owner John Pernicano - thought that she was wearing some sort of costume.

Marlene was ashen, covered in blood. One of her forearms was badly broken - allegedly the result of a severe beating with a claw hammer at the hands of Walter Cordell, her ex-boyfriend.

Cordell, 52, was supposed to be moving out of the house at

724 Wrelton Drive, across the restaurant's parking lot, where he lived for a short time with Marlene.

"He told her, 'Close your eyes and turn around. I have a surprise for you,'" said Marlene's older brother Johnny. "Then he started hitting her with a hammer."

Despite her serious injuries, Marlene was able to make it to restaurant for help after Cordell fled, leaving her for dead.

Firefighters and paramedics from Station 21 in Pacific Beach responded to the call and quickly transported Marlene to the hospital.

John says that she has already received more than 100 stitches in her head and will undergo surgery to perform a bone graft on her broken arm when she is strong enough.

According to police reports, Cordell fled in a green Landrover.

Early the next morning, a neighbor noticed that the Landrover was back in front of the house next to Pernicano's Family Restaurant.

Police arrived and the situation soon escalated into a full SWAT operation.

Turquoise Street was taped off between La Jolla and Mission boulevards, traffic was diverted and negotiators began communicating with Cordell via bull horn and "throw phone" - a two-way communication device that the SWAT team threw into the house after the power, water and phone lines were cut.

Inside Pernicano's Pizza Restaurant, John and Johnny stood watching the operation in disbelief as they fielded calls from relatives and customers.

SWAT officers on the scene described Cordell as "a determined individual" because he continued to resist ever-increasing doses of non-lethal gases that they were firing into the house via windows, vents and doors.

After each assault, one of fire station 21's trucks would pump water into the house in case a fire had been started by one of the gas rounds.

At about 10:30 p.m. - approximately 11 hours after the standoff began, a police K9 unit was sent into the home. Cordell walked outside and surrendered a few minutes later.

John Pernicano was standing a few feet away and took a photograph of Cordell being arrested and handcuffed.

“I can’t conceive of someone who would do that to my daughter” says John Pernicano. “Everybody knows Marlene. Everybody loves Marlene” he says. She has worked at the restaurant most of her life like the rest of the Pernicano children. “I started her at nine years old, dishwashing. Standing on a milk crate so that she could push the button and run the dishes through”, says John.

Front Page of PhotoShelter

I got a nice email from Rachel at PhotoShelter this morning to say that they had picked an image from my Archive to be in the rotation of images on the main PhotoShelter home page. I was honored and delighted of course. Here's a screen grab:


Here's the gallery that the original photo was in:

Its the second time this year that they have done it. The first time was back in April, here's a screen grab of that one:


The original is in this gallery (towards the end):

Photo Assignment : Bird Rock Surf

Here's a Gallery of images shot last Friday for a piece by Alyssa Ramos in the La Jolla Village News. To see the images full size in full screen mode, click on the second to last icon on the bottom right of the viewer (it looks like a square with a line coming out the top). Hit the ESC key to return to normal mode.

The two brothers (Matt & Ben Murphy) own the shop. Pat is the store manager and Cooper the dog is the store mascot.

I spent waaay more time than anticipated on this job. I was hoping to be in-and-out in twenty minutes but it took over an hour. First my WEIN IR remotes started acting up. Then my Lumedyne batteries died (they are old - a friend who was clearing out old equipment from storage gave them to me). I had charged them a few times and tested them around the house and outside over the last week or two. But lo and behold, when it came time to use them on an actual job - the buggers failed big time on me. In any case, I had to switch to hard-wired hot shoe flashes mounted on stands.

You can tell from the first two shots that the background strobe is gelled (3x LBs). The key light is a bare (unmodified) Canon 580EXII zoomed in to about 70mm at 1/16 power just out of camera right - about 36in from Matt's head.

I used a small Photoflex dome to light the group for some of the long shots. The store is huge and I had hoped to use two Lumedyne classic heads to provide some more interesting lighting. That was before the #!$&&#!! batteries died! The building was built to be a bank and that is how it spent the first few years of it's life. More recently it was an electric car rental shop - now Matt and Ben have it.

There is one room with a 25ft vaulted ceiling and nice wood finish. The middle two shots were an attempt to show the scale of the place by shooting the three guys and the dog in the big room and showing the rest of the store in the background.