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Univision Interview on Airport Security Screening

Before flying last weekend to Washington D.C. for Public Media Camp 2010, I had trouble deciding which of the new TSA screening procedures would be worse.

  1. Nathan Gibbs
    nathangibbs Flying tomorrow. Can’t decide whether I want them looking at or touching the #junk.

Leaving San Diego was uneventful. There was no scanner at my checkpoint. They did do a quick pat-down of my upper body, but didn’t go below the belt. Leaving Dulles International Airport, I was diverted to a line that had the new scanners.

I decided to try both options. First, the scanner. Hands raised and feed spaced apart, I stood for my X-ray glamor shot. It was quick and silent. The agent directed me to step out and stand in line for pat-down. “Belt,” she said to the other agent. He asked me to remove it and to send it through the standard conveyor. He then told me he needed to check my waistline by running his fingers inside the belt line.

As I put my shoes on, I watched an older, pot-bellied gentleman get the more rigorous physical search. Standing behind the man, the agent spoke in his ear, “We can arrange a private room for screening if you would like.” He didn’t respond, so the agent knelt down to begin. The gentleman’s pants were falling down in absence of his belt, so the agent struggled to hoist them up. He checked up and down one leg, then hitched up the man’s sagging pants again. “Can you pull up your pants, sir?” The man obliged as well as he could with his curvature. It was sad to see this gray-haired traveler with his pants half off in a crowded airport. “He can’t hear out of one ear,” said the man’s wife.

After arriving in San Diego, Rosario and I headed to baggage claim. Yaoska Machado, a reporter for Univision San Diego, heard us speaking Spanish and asked Rosario where she was coming from. Rosario indicated I was the traveler so Yaoska directed her questions at me. She extended the mic and the videographer aimed his camera. I stumbled to answer her questions, suddenly nervous speaking Spanish on camera. But after the interview, I knew which clip she would use. It was the only usable sound byte I gave her.

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‘Embracing Ambiguity’ Exhibits Self-Portrait, Race Cube, Crayola Monologues

Three of my pieces (Self-Portrait, Race Cube, Crayola Monologues) were included in the group exhibit "Embracing Ambiguity: Faces of the Future" at the Cal State Fullerton Main Art Gallery from January 30 to March 3.

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Cascarones – Confetti Eggs

Rosario surprises her nephews with a few cascarones, hollowed out eggs full of confetti (luckily these weren’t full of flour!). This is a great example of the innocent play and spontaneous laughter that fills our time in Tijuana.

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Guide to Shooting Video or Taking Photos at the Polls

I’ve taken my camera with me to vote for the last several elections resulting in both good and bad experiences. When San Diego used touch-screen machines for the first time, I was able to get a shot using my digital SLR. On another election day, I was stopped and aggressively questioned by a poll worker for trying to take a cellphone photo.

Here’s the problem. The legality of cameras inside polling places isn’t black and white; the laws vary state by state. Plus, some poll workers have only received basic training and will apply their own judgement. The Citizen Media Law Project suggests four things to avoid getting yourself into trouble: follow the rules, be discreet, don’t interfere with voters or the process, respect the buffer zone.

In California, election codes aren’t particularly clear. They prohibit recording within 100 feet of anyone entering or exiting the polling place with the intent to dissuade others from voting. This is where the above guidelines come in; stay low-key and they’ll likely leave you alone. I spoke with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters and they said photography and video will be allowed up to 25 feet away.

While inside the polling area, California Elections Code says you must be in the process of voting (i.e. not using a camera), are limited to 10 minutes, and can’t show your vote to others (i.e. not documenting your vote). While it doesn’t specifically state “no cameras allowed,” legal precedent hasn’t cleared up the specifics. Government officials err on the side of caution. The California Secretary of State’s office says it has “historically taken the position that use of cameras or video equipment at polling places is prohibited, though there may be circumstances where election officials could permit such use.” When I spoke to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, they said they won’t allow cameras inside the polling place except for credentialed journalists.

From a certain angle, this all seems very oppressive. This is a free country and I should have the right to video my vote, right? Yes, but other voters should also have the right not to be surveilled while voting. Poll workers are commissioned to protect the vote and can kick you out, even calling the police if you cause enough of a disturbance. This can all be avoided by sticking to the suggestions mentioned above. Pay attention and be careful not to record other people unwillingly.

Publish Your Photos and Videos on Election Day

  • YouTube and PBS have partnered with Video Your Vote to gather first-hand accounts on election day. They’ve arranged the videos on a map to note voter intimidation and other problems at the polls.
  • The New York Times’ Polling Place Photo Project collects images to create “an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.”
  • Video The Vote is a watchdog group organizing people to document voter suppression and other problems.
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How to Make Tequila: Tour of Casa Herradura

On our last trip to Guanajuato (November 2006), we took a detour from Rosario’s home state and headed to Amatitán, Jalisco for a tour of Casa Herradura, makers of Herradura and Jimador tequila. Rosario shot the tour with her new video camera while I took photos.

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Flash Lamp Photography: Behind the Scenes of an NPR Interview

I met Race Gentry standing with his antique camera and vintage flash lamp outside his mother’s home in La Jolla. I was there to record audio for an All Things Considered story and shoot video to accompany the interview on NPR’s website. Race is one of the few people around who uses the 100-year-old technique.

Screenshot of NPR media player

In typical tape sync fashion, Robert Siegel spoke to Race by phone. I stood next to Race, holding the mic six inches from his mouth — my recording of his voice would later be combined with the host’s voice by NPR editors, giving the conversation a higher quality, natural sound. Unfortunately, we had to stop the interview every few minutes because of the military flights going in and out of MCAS Miramar. We were also interrupted for trash collection. And again for recycling.

Race explained the process of pouring the powder in the tray, setting the percussion cap in place, pulling the trigger to ignite the cap, and the explosive flash that follows. The first flash lamp he demonstrated with wouldn’t fire. He was using toy paper caps, but the humidity or bad luck kept it from firing. He switched to another flash lamp that uses rare, original percussion caps. That definitely did the trick. The massive smoke cloud was pretty impressive.

Take a look at the final video, listen to the interview and hear the flash lamp sound. Race Gentry also has his own flash lamp videos on YouTube.