Saturday, February 15, 2014

Funny Plastic Helmets

"Ya know Schmoe", a slightly fuzzy Willie Wines said to an even more fuzzy Joseph Schmoe, "there's one thing I have never understood."

"What's that Willie?"

"Why is it that you guys in California always wear those funny plastic helmets?"

I don't remember my answer, but it was probably something about that most of us have never worn anything BUT those funny plastic helmets. The fact is, most of us love our funny plastic helmets and really have no desire to switch to leather. There are departments out here that wear leather, but plastic is the rule rather than the exception.

 My first helmet on the left, my last on the right.

Before any of the leather forever crowd sends me any nasty e-mails, please understand that most of us don't have anything against leather and wouldn't get too awful bent out of shape if our department went to a leather helmet. But, as much as leather is a tradition  in many fire departments, plastic (thermo-plastic to be exact) is as much a tradition for us.

I was very fortunate to meet Ray Russell, the founder of Phenix Fire Technology, early in my career. We served in the same volunteer fire company, located in Home Gardens CA. Ray was a Volunteer Captain with the County F.D, who oversaw us. He was also our training officer.

We wore Phenix helmets, marketed as First Due Firefighter Helmets by Western Fire Equipment. As we had an "in" with Ray, many of us had our own. I still have my very first helmet, it sits proudly on my "I Love Me" shelf.

The On-line edition of our local rag, the Press-Enterprise recently ran a photo essay on Phenix Technology, showcasing some of their products and giving an overview of the company.  IT CAN BE FOUND HERE.

I was happy to see the article and photos, Ray and his family have worked really hard to develop the company and it's products.

With the exception of two shifts in February of 1993, from June of 1981 until this very day, Phenix thermo-plastic helmets were the only helmets to grace my head.

The exception occurred when our sometimes knucklehead equipment manager got into a beef with Phenix and then purchased a few grossly inferior Morning Pride Lite Force IV helmets. As I was getting promoted to captain, I was issued one of the new helmets. I hated it so much, I went to see Ray over at Phenix and purchased a shiny red captains helmet. I wore it for many years nobody noticed but the sometimes knucklehead equipment manager. He may have said something, I may have told him to F*#@ himself. A short time later, the beef was resolved and we began buying Phenix helmets again. The Morning pride helmets, with at least one exception, likely ended up in Mexico.

Even though I no longer fight fire, the department requires me to wear a lid when photographing emergency scenes. I purchased my last department issued lid when I retired and the chief was kind enough to allow me to still wear it when it is needed. It's kind of ironic, but my very first helmet and my last helmet are both Phenix First-Dues with the number 13 on them. What goes around comes around.

Good luck to Ray, his family and the rest of the folks over at Phenix. While thermo-plastic may not be considered traditional by many, it is our tradition.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Oscar's Bitches

Starting in the holiday season and ending at the Academy Awards ceremony, The Saint and I try to see all of the movies nominated for best picture. We really don't care who wins the Best Picture Oscar, but it's always fun to discuss the nominees with our friends and be able to say that we saw all of them.

We don't always make them all. As we start the attempt before the nominees are actually announced, we sometimes see films that we THINK might be nominated. This year, Saving Mr. Banks is an example of that. As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanded the number of nominees a few years back, sometimes we just run out of time and don't get them all in. Last year we missed two.

Yesterday, after a two film double header, we can say that we saw all of the movies nominated for the 2014 best picture Oscar. We deserve a freaking medal, or at least a free t-shirt or tub of popcorn.

They were all good movies, but there at least one that didn't deserve a nomination and a couple more that wouldn't have been nominated had the number of nominees been limited to five.  There were a couple that we didn't like, despite being brilliant movies. Just because a movie is good, doesn't mean I have to like it.

Click to enlarge. I have the order in which I think the voting
should be cast and the actors who I think should win for their

As you can see, I really liked Nebraska. Philomena was a real close second. Both of these films were superbly cast, shot and directed. The writing was excellent as was the editing. I think Bruce Dern's performance put Nebraska just a tad over Philomena.

As you can also see, I didn't think much of Gravity. To me, the whole film was contrived. Though entertaining, it was not worthy of a Best Picture nomination. Sandra Bullock doesn't deserve a Best Actress nomination either. This movie was more about hype and special effects than it was quality movie production.

Her was one of those movies that was a brilliant film, I just didn't like it. It was deeply disturbing on many levels. It is a statement on how detached some of us have become and how detached we could become. I might have missed the final message, but I don't think so.

The Wolf Of Wall Street was a great movie, one about excess. Everything about it is excessive, including it's length. Leonardo Dicaprio deserves the best actor for his role in it, though Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club is only very slightly behind for it.

The Saint pointed out that of the nine best picture nominees, six were at least partially based on true events. That has to be some kind of record, I just don't feel like doing the research.

We really aren't Oscarphiles.  We don't host Oscar parties, nor have we attended any. We do like movies and we like seeing them on the cheap if we can. We like seeing movies that we wouldn't ordinarily see and occasionally are very pleasantly surprised. Our plan of catching all of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars allows us to see great movies and provides us with a lot of entertainment - even after the Oscar winners are announced. 

Win Win for us.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Town From The Upside

I worked with a guy named Eric. We weren't real close, he worked at the USAR station and I worked up the hill at the healing place. I'd see him once in a while at the USAR building and on fires when the second tuck company made it to my scene. I knew that he liked to surf and that he liked to shoot video with a GoPro camera.

I had also heard that he had purchased a type of Quad Copter drone, one that can carry a Go Pro camera and shoot video. I didn't realize how cool it was until Saturday, when we ran into each other at a USAR search dog certification test. Frankly, that set up is pretty bad-ass.

I don't know all of the technical details, but I know it has a radio range of a couple of miles and that the video is down linked to a screen on the controller. This enables him to fly it when he cant see it. The drone also remembers where it was launched from and if radio contact is lost, it will return to that point. Like I said, it's pretty bad-ass.

Eric has been busy with his drone. One of his projects was to shoot some of the landmarks in the downtown area of my city and make a video of it.

Upside Downtown Riverside from EP5 Productions on Vimeo.

As I have lived here almost all of my life, I really enjoyed it. There are some views of the new Station #1 as well as Mt. Rubidoux park, the tinderbox that the city launches fireworks off of every Fourth of July. The City manager was so impressed, he wants Eric to make one showing views of all of the neighborhoods in the city. Though that is quite an undertaking, it will be something to see.

Eric did a great job with this, not only the drone work, but the editing as well. I hope that you like it as much as I did.

Thanks for reading,