Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fumble

TRENTON -- I didn't take a photograph until late August 1995. It was at a men's soccer game at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont. I used a 35mm camera with film. It might have been a Canon or a Nikon. Maybe a Ricoh, I really don't remember. But I do remember that the first photo from the first click of that camera made it into the Bennington Banner sports section the next day. I've been hooked on photography ever since. It feels like I've taken a million-plus photos since that sunny day in Old Bennington, maybe two million. In my case, a picture comes with an unlimited amount of words. I have TONS of photos on rolls undeveloped and thousands and thousands of other shots on discs that I have not seen since moving from Vermont to Trenton. One day I'll get to them. For now, enjoy these. Soon I'll start posting my Trenton shots, among my favorite.



Three players in this picture who have three distinct stories.We'll start with the kid on the far left, Adam Boghosian. He was the quarterback-safety for Hanover High, not particularly fast or tall or strong, but a warrior who stopped at nothing to succeed or conquer. In other words, my kind of player. The best story about "Bogo" is that days before the 2004 New Hampshire Division IV championship, he was told he was going to be the starting quarterback because the starter went down with mono. Most high school kids who had never taken a varsity snap at QB might have soiled their jocks. Bogo thrived under that pressure. He didn't so much rack up big numbers, but he led the offense -- not so different from Trent Dilfer with the 2003 Baltimore Ravens, who were so good that Dilfer just needed to manage the games, including the Super Bowl, which he did. Who cares if Dilfer wasn 't "great"? He did a great job not making mistakes. Bogo did the same thing at QB in the title game, not to mention he played defense the whole time, too, in a 12-0 win over St. Thomas.

Bogo was a year older in 2005. Savvy and polished, and he led the Marauders to a repeat. But on the play in the photo above, Bogo was background material. I just wanted to give you a little background on him. Super kid. The main players in this picture are another Hanover safety Tyler Dodds (2) and Jeff Spratt, the running back from Lebanon High via Iowa.

Jeff Spratt came to the Upper Valley -- which is the unofficial name of the Greater Dartmouth region spanning both sides of the Connecticut River -- from Iowa in the fall of 2005. No one knew much about him other than he could run faster than just about anyone. His dad took a job in the area, and the family followed in tow. Leb was two seasons removed from making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. That's a whole other story I could wax about. The '03 team was loaded with seniors and a dictatorial new coach named John Gonsalves, and that team probably should have won the state title; don't let the 32-0 semifinal loss at Milford fool you. Leb should have won that game. If two or three things go differently in the first quarter, things that had gone Leb's way all season, the Raiders win that game on a very cold and sunny afternoon, on a waterlogged, chewed-up field that was choppy and chunky like peanut butter, in South New Hampshire. But anyway. Leb lost its firepower to graduation, so 2004 was a down season. There was optimism in 2005, though. The young kids from '04 were a year older and wiser and stronger and had been in Gonsalves' system for three years. And, here came this blazing fast kid from Iowa named Jeff Spratt. No one knew a thing about him, but all of a sudden the Raiders had a feature back. Or so it seemed. It would be unfair to say Spratt didn't live up to the hype. He had some nice moments and a nice game or three, but he fumbled at times, while at other times he was prone to injury. The preseason math wasn't adding up, and the Raiders were just middling along. But it wasn't Jeff Spratt's fault.

Tyler Dodds is one of the 10 best athletes I've ever covered, from one of the coolest families I've ever covered. One week I wrote an extensive feature on the Dodds clan of Hanover. I wish I had a link to it. There are three Dodds families in Hanover and a lot of Dodds athletes -- fathers and sons and daughters. What they've achieved in sports is Upper Valley lore.

Now, throw sports out the window, and Tyler Dodds is a great guy, quiet and courteous, respectful, and a guy all the girls swooned over. Like all of the Dodds student-athletes, Tyler excelled in the classroom. And then you add in his athleticism: a football star who ran for a 20-yard touchdown and made an interception in the 2004 title game; elite ski jumper; and, a roadrunner with wings in track and field. He played other sports, but those were his best three. He turned in his ski bird gear in the 11th grade for indoor track spikes and won several titles; his little brother Cooper won the New Hampshire ski jumping crown that winter, which is to say he won the national championship, as only the Granite State offers ski jumping as a sanctioned sport. Anyway, in his final two years as an outdoor sprinter and long jumper, Tyler Dodds won 8 Class I titles -- in other words, he swept all four events he was entered in both years: 100, 200, 400 and long jump. The guy in the photo on the top of this blog with an "H" on his chest? That's Tyler Dodds in one of the most thrilling races I ever covered, the Class I 200 final. That's another story because the guy two lanes over is a Leb kid, and that rivalry is worth another couple thousand words, not to mention the rivalry they had with the kid in the middle. So let's get back this photo, where Tyler attacks Spratt and lowers his left shoulder and plows the running back's right arm in which the ball is tucked. Was, anyway.

Leb v. Hanover (in anything) is like Hamilton West v. Steinert. Granted, Hamilton and Steinert are in the same town, but Leb and Hanover are less than 5 miles from each other, so it's a wash in that respect. Hanover has the whole "Dartmouth thing" -- in other words a stuffy, upper-crust, elite mentality, although it's not really fair. Only a few folks exude that mentality; I didn't run into too many during my 4-year tour in the Upper Valley. And while you can't separate "Hanover" from "Dartmouth," Hanover is a cool little Ivy League town with a ton of cool families and people who feed into the Dartmouth mystique. Yet the general consensus in the Upper Valley is that Hanover looks down on Leb, which is a fun little town full of blue-collar families. Leb has its share of money, sure, but the socio-economics are fully understood when you say Hanover and Lebanon.

So, Hanover went 5-4 in 2003 and missed the playoffs after winning the state title in 2002. Hanover won the state title in 2004 -- the Bogo Game! -- and was dominant again in '05. This Hanover-Leb game at Hanover was mid-season. The game they play is called the Principals' Cup. To the winner goes a silver pale full of potting soil and flowers. While Hanover was again a title contender and Leb was again middling, it's Hanover-Leb, Leb-Hanover. Harvard-Yale, USC-UCLA, Eagles-Giants, Yankees-Sox, etc-etc. A hearty, beefy rivalry. Still, Hanover should have won this game by 2 or 3 touchdowns. To its credit, Leb played one of its better games of 2005 to keep it close.

Why was the moment I captured in this photo so important? Because Dodds smashed Spratt so hard that the ball popped loose. The hit took place at the goal line, and Hanover recovered the ball. The play in the second quarter maintained Hanover's 7-0 lead.

The final score was Hanover 7, Lebanon 0.
 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: "Freedom" Episode 2

TRENTON -- The graphics didn't stick to the recording, again. I strive for perfection on projects like this, so anything less disappoints me like no other.

But, the victories in today's episode by far outweighed the one loss. Freedom engaged his guests Bruce Boyd and John Harmon with much more vigor, gusto, enthusiasm. Enthusiasm. And, he looked Boyd and Harmon in the eyes as he spoke and asked questions. Last week, Freedom didn't look any of the three guests in the eyes -- at all. And he heard about it from his fans. Freedom and I had a quick pep talk before going live, and the only big thing I told him was "look them in the eyes." The two conversations flowed better because of that. I felt Freedom's enthusiasm rise as he and his guests dove deeper into their conversations, and they were quality conversations. THIS is Trenton, when strong minds deliver strong ideas.

Boyd works for the State of New Jersey and also runs B.O.Y.D. -- Building Our Youth Development.




Check out the website HERE. Boyd was born and raised in Trenton's Donnelly Homes. He remembers when "community was community" and "neighborhood was neighborhood" -- when you borrowed sugar and thanked the gesture by returning some flour. His is another refreshing voice in a city that's suffocating. He's trying to change the culture of "family" by influencing behavior and habits.

B.O.Y.D. takes students out of Trenton to expose them to a world beyond these borders, to a slave plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia, to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to see what it's like to live with zero electricity, to the spot where Malcolm X was murdered. Boyd said he teaches students about the importance of the Black Wall Street. Those are just some of the field trips and ideas.

The organization preaches "360 degrees" of education between "us, the student and the family," Boyd told Freedom. "We're going to fix the family."

Just like Trenton School Board President Rev. Toby Sanders a week before on the debut of "Freedom," every word Boyd spoke was full of vibrancy. Amid the stink of the city, you sometimes forget that there are guys like Bruce Boyd making it their life mission to lead Trenton back to prosperity through education. Everything he said was terrific, but one line stood out the most when he talked about parents and their kids and sports. "You have to practice reading as much as dribbling the ball. The parents cheer them on (in sports) but do they cheer their kids on for education?"

Freedom and Boyd agreed that the family dinner -- where "table talk" was part of the feast -- is a distant memory in Trenton.

Harmon, meanwhile, touched on a series of economic issues that every Trentonian -- renter and homeowner -- should listen to. He and Freedom spoke about the Marriott's troubles, Doug Palmer's failures as mayor for 20 years and how it carries over into Mayor Mack's term, as well as lost opportunities and reinvestment and job creation in Trenton, the New Jersey African-American Chamber of Commerce's collaboration with Steadman Graham (yeah, Oprah's Steadman).

"When things are going wrong, people who have the resources, people who have the wherewithal tend to step up to help people, and here in this city, people stay quiet," Harmon said. "Here in this city -- a city headed to hell in a hand basket -- we can't coalesce 12,000 signatures in 6 months (to recall Mack, when one million Wisconsinites signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker). When are you going to be sick and tired of being sick and tired of being hoodwinked and bamboozled?"

All the while, I was on the ball with the graphics, making sure to hide the names as I activated the screen-in-screen to show Facebook or web pages. I forgot only 2 or 3 times this episode. There weren't any broadcast blips that might have made the replay stutter, either, so it was a one-piece, 62-minute show, and I was excited about the finished product -- only to be disappointed after seeing the graphics didn't stick. But, I wasn't terribly disappointed for long like the other day because the conversations are always full of life. The value in these conversations to the community is not the sizzle of the graphics, but the meat of the ideas Freedom and his guests deliver. THIS is what Trenton must be about moving forward.

As for a few critiques of Freedom, he improved his delivery this week and didn't act like he was too cool for school, which he kind of did last week. But, he continues to wipe his face as others speak, which makes me think that his guests are thinking that they're not all that exciting or compelling. Freedom said he wouldn't rub his face during conversations.

Freedom has delivered 5 top-shelf guests. He said he has calls into Sen. Shirley Turner and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman and former Trenton City Councilwoman Annette Lartigue. I hope all 3 of those women appear on the same show. We also hope to book Barbara Horne, a Trenton native who owns Liquids and Eats and once worked on Wall Street. The live audience continues to grow, but I have an idea that live broadcasts at night will attract more of the masses -- so next Monday's show will begin at 7 p.m. Spread the word. Till then, here's the replay of Episode 2.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: Tracey Syphax book signing

TRENTON -- In a nutshell, this is Trentonian TV's studio:



It's a pretty nice laptop with a pretty nice webcam. With it, I am a mobile one-man TV station. I took Trentonian TV to the Trenton Marriott on Friday night to cover Trenton entrepreneur Tracey Syphax as he signed copies of his new book "From the Block to the Boardroom." The Marriott was buzzing, dozens and dozens of Trentonians socializing and beaming with excitement and pride for Syphax, which was nice to see.

THIS is how Trenton should look and feel. Amid the hubbub a few things came to mind: 1) It's great that Trenton has a Marriott, and this Marriott is nice and clean, but 2) how is THIS Marriott ever going to survive amid Trenton's socio-economic climate? Trenton DOES need this Marriott, but how many more times is the city going to bail the joint out with $500,000 dole-outs? That's what makes the energy at Syphax's event bittersweet because there aren't enough of these gatherings year-round to make the place a viable commodity. Sure, the masses came for a few hours, but they didn't spend the night, where the real money is made, although the bar made some nice coin for the night.

Anyway, the production for this one-hour show was better than I thought it might be for several reasons. One, the overhead lighting in the room Syphax used to sign copies of the book was dim, even with a lamp a Marriott staffer brought me. And yet I was pleasantly surprised by how well you could see Syphax and the book buyers. The low lights added a nice ambiance. Secondly, Syphax played the song and video "From the Block to the Boardroom" on a continuous loop, loudly, so I was worried that whatever he was saying in the plug-in microphone would sound totally garbled to viewers unable to differentiate his words with the song. But again, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the replay. Syphax has a great voice that booms and resonates, and you can hear and understand him perfectly even with the song playing on the speakers. One viewer @whataimeewants tweeted "Tracey has an awesome voice. Give him a show." But she also tweeted that she had a hard time hearing some of the folks talking while Syphax signed their books signed because they were standing at the edge of the table and the mic wasn't picking everything up. Tracey was cool to lower the volume a few times. On another note, I won't get Big Ooh out of my head for a while. He's the rapper in the song "From the Block to the Boardroom," and I must've heard it 100 times during that hour. Whoever wrote the song did a nice job with the underlying message.

There was another minor issue: Tracey got up after every book he signed to shake hands with, or hug, a fan and take pictures with them. That meant I had to keep adjusting the monitor, and when you do that you get the motion effect before the webcam settles back into focus. After a while I stopped moving the screen. It didn't matter if you saw Tracey's head or not during these instances because you knew what was happening. Plus, it was kind of cool to see the different ways people would put their arms around him.

The biggest issue is that Livestream -- the service Trentonian TV uses to bring you live events -- recorded the event in pieces, which is bloody frustrating. Sometimes, the whole show records in one piece, and you drag it over into the replay loop. Other times -- and I don't know why -- something will record in several pieces and you have to do production work to patch it all together, which takes time and energy. The Syphax event recorded in 4 or 5 pieces. The main one was 47 minutes long, so I just used that one. I could've patched everything together in Windows Movie Maker, but the other pieces wouldn't have added much. Plus, it's a pain in the butt to make a finished product outside of Livestream then upload it back into Livestream's library. Another technical difficulty you'll see early in the replay: it sticks or skips a few times. Not sure if that was an Internet connection or Livestream Procaster thing. Will have to resolve that.

The show was a success, and not just because I was pleased by how it looked on Trentonian TV. Socially, this was an important step in Trenton's evolution back into the real world. Plus, Tracey said a lot of important things during the first 5 minutes of the broadcast.

Below is the main thrust from the first hour of Friday's book signing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: El Latino TV en Vivo! Episode 4

UPDATE: Some of the rage is creeping back in. I uploaded the Livestream recording into our Trentonian player that wraps it with an advertisement, but now the graphics don't show up. I also uploaded the video to my YouTube page and again, no graphics. But the graphics clearly show up on the Livestream recording.

UPDATE 2: What a complete fustercluck. Apparently, Blogger.com strips the graphics from the recordings, too. See below. 

TRENTON -- I was ready to blow a gasket less than a minute after El Latino TV en Vivo! had completed Episode 4. The Livestream Procaster asked me to save the recording, which I did, but what appeared in the storyboard library was an empty case meaning no recording.

I was about to go nuts. For five minutes I searched Livestream's library hoping like hell that the previous 51 minutes hadn't been a complete waste of time and energy on my part, but more importantly, on the part of El Latino Expreso Editor Carlos Avila and his guests. To make a long story short, Livestream's record button hadn't been turned off even though I hit stop on the Procaster record button; I never had to turn off the Livestream record button, though, so I can't explain why it happened today. It happened a few weeks ago when I couldn't find the recording from a live broadcast with Jeff Edelstein.

Regardless, episode 4 of El Latino TV en Vivo! was a success. Carlos engaged his guests like the pro he is, and on my end the production mistakes were kept to a minimum. To help you better understand the way Livestream works, look at the photo below.


Under the pink bar with the right-pointing arrow are 5 tabs: overlays, full screen, ticker, branding and chat. I don't utilize branding and chat, and rarely do I use the ticker. I mainly use the overlays and full screen. The overlay is used to show a person's name, and if you want to, the person's title or organization on the second line. The overlay activates left to right, which is why I tell guests to sit next to me. If you're looking at the picture, Harry Luna is on the left. I'm sitting to his right. Next to Harry is Carlos Avila. The only bad thing about the overlay function is that it doesn't activate right to left, so when I show Avila's name, it will show up under Luna or whatever guest is sitting there. I was happy to see that the overlays had stuck to the recording today. They didn't stick during L.A. Parker's show "Live with L.A." on Wednesday, and I'm still not sure why.

Another source of my frustration is that for the first 5 minutes or so, Livestream runs banner ads at the bottom of the screen, and the banner ad covers the overlay graphic. I get that those ads make it so basic services are free. You can bypass those ads by paying $350 a month, but that's a ton of money.

Anyway, between guests shuffling in and out of their seats in the studio -- read: my desk -- I utilized the full screen function today with "El Latino TV en Vivo! En Contacto con la Comunidad" because Avila thought it was an important message to convey to the audience. That graphic stuck to the recording, too. As far as the overlay and full screen graphics, I was on the ball. I did a much better job hiding guests' names before activating the Procaster's 2D screen-in-screen function -- I think it was less than 5 times that I forgot. For the next show, I want that number to be zero. Part of the issue is that my desk sits in the middle the Trentonian newsroom, so there is always traffic behind me, and I have to focus a big part of my attention toward making sure people don't make too much noise. We're in the process of cleaning up a room in the photo department. It will become the studio for live shows on Trentonian TV and El Latino TV en Vivo!

Avila's guests were community activist Evelyn de Leon, Luz Maria de Leon, sports impresario Alex Maldonado and businessman and former Trenton School Board candiate Harry Luna. All of them spoke loud enough and didn't wiggle in their chairs too much and made great eye contact with Avila -- and vice-versa. And while I took 3 years of Spanish in junior high and high school, I had no idea what they were talking about unless they said certain words or mentioned names. Avila must have asked Evelyn de Leon, the first guest, what she thinks of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and his efforts within the Latino community because she stopped and laughed then said, "Are you kidding me?!" That was very funny. Luz Maria de Luz wasn't on the original guest list, so I'm not sure what role she plays in the community. A native of Guatemala, Maldonado spoke about soccer, and every so often I showed photos of Guatemalan soccer players -- two of the times I forgot to hide his name were when I activated a picture of the Guatemalan flag and of a Guatemalan futboler.

Below is Avila interviewing Luna.



Luna, also from Guatemala, was the final guest. He and Avila had plenty to talk about, including Mayor Mack. I got the sense Luna talked about how Mack doesn't care about, or engage with, the Latino community. Great conversation, and it's one of the reasons I was so angry minutes after the show ended because I felt the entire process went for naught. And then Evelyn de Leon said it's too bad because Luna "said very important things." And that made me a thousand times angrier, though I didn't let her see the volcano erupting inside my mind. But I calmed down after I restarted the computer and returned to the El Latino TV en Vivo! Livestream studio to see that the record button hadn't been switched off. That didn't make any sense, though, because it's not the button I use to hit record. But I really didn't care this time because after hitting the stop button the clip appeared in the library. All was well in Kulkville.

El Latino TV en Vivo! gets 3.5 stars out of 5 for content, production and execution. Below is the Livestream recording in full, without. Below that is the recording uploaded to my YouTube account, also without the graphics. It is infuriating. The only place to see the recording with graphics is at The Trentonian's website HERE.

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If anyone in Greater Trenton wants to host a show on Trentonian TV or El Latino TV en Vivo! e-mail jkulkin@trentonian.com.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: "Live with L.A." episode 5

TRENTON -- I was back with L.A. for the first time since the second episode. The live show went really well, the best of the three with me in the producer's chair. In my absence the last two weeks, Joe D'Aquila did a great job running the show. The only negative today is that the graphics the audience saw live didn't stick to the recording. It's disappointing because I want the audience to know who is speaking at all times, so I've got to rectify that issue.

OTHERWISE, I was pleased with the audio levels, the lighting, the framing of L.A. and his guests and the ability to find appropriate pictures and web pages to display in the Livestream Procaster 2D picture-in-picture feature during each segment. There are several steps to ensure the 2D is done the right way. First you have to find the image or website in a separate browser tab and move the vertical and horizontal parameters to frame what you want the audience to see. Then you hit the "2D" button on Procaster, which activates the picture-in-picture. Whatever you want the audience to see pops up as the main window while the live screen window falls into the bottom-left corner. Only twice this episode did I not have the right tab open when hitting the 2D button, so the audience briefly saw a shot of the Livestream studio tab. But I quickly went back to the full-screen and clicked on the tab with the picture or website then hit the 2D button.

L.A.'S GUESTS were Christine Donahue of the Trenton St. Patrick's Day Parade, Ken Gordon Jr. of the Southern Burlington County NAACP and Bishop Earl Jenkins of True Servant Ministries in Trenton. Throughout the show, Pup Bolding picked his guitar. We even gave him a 2-minute solo between guests, and he closed out the show with another 90 seconds of soulful plucking. The guests spoke with appropriate volume, clarity and tone, and they stayed on point and enunciated their ideas while L.A. -- sporting his Terrance Trent D'Arby lid -- did another terrific job steering each conversation to prevent them from getting stale. Gordon brought the best energy and drove the conversation for stretches. He and L.A. spoke about the NAACP in relation to being black in relation to President Barack Obama being disrespected worse than any other president because of the color of his skin in relation to black culture on a whole in 2012.

L.A. ASKED GORDON if the NAACP is still relevant. Gordon said, "Absolutely it is. When you look at what's going on in the country now and take a look at some of the problems of race and lack of diversity, it's still relevant. We've made progress, but we haven't arrived. Can we do better? Absolutely. Can we come more into the times? Absolutely. Is there a different style that is necessary now? Absolutely. We cannot be that organization that's banging on the podium calling people racists. It's about collaboration and education and helping them understand why diversity is a good thing instead of telling them that they're wrong." Gordon is a well-spoken man, and the longer he speaks the more you think "leader."

THE NEXT FEATURE we hope to use in L.A.'s show -- or any show -- are questions from the audience via Twitter. We're also trying to rig up a phone system to take questions from callers. Do you have an idea for a Trentonian TV show? E-mail jkulkin@trentonian.com.

Below is "Live with L.A." episode 5 in full.


Monday, February 20, 2012

"Freedom" debut breaks Trentonian TV record

TRENTON -- City activist Darren "Freedom" Green debuted his Trentonian TV talk show on Presidents Day and smashed the record for a live audience.

Green's first three guests were Cameron Hunt (president of the Trenton Council of Civic Associations), The Rev. Toby Sanders (president of the Trenton School Board) and longtime Trenton entrepreneur Tracey Syphax, author of "From the Block to the Boardroom."

"Freedom's numbers were nice but not unexpected because he's a respected voice in the community," said Joey Kulkin, executive producer at Trentonian TV and The Trentonian's managing editor. "We're excited to see how Freedom will grow his show."

Green hopes his ideas wake up the downtrodden folks of Trenton. He feels Trentonians have been asleep at the wheel for far too long.

Kulkin encourages the Greater Trenton community to join the Trentonian TV lineup with their shows. Contact him at jkulkin@trentonian.com.

Here is the debut of "Freedom" shown in its entirety.