Tag Archives: travel

Celestial noses

Yesterday I shared a recovery room with an 18 year old girl who had gotten a nose job and a boob job for her high school graduation present.  I had just finished getting an operation on my spine, and we were put in the same sweltering room. 

She was less than three feet away on the other side of the curtain, hacking and moaning and making weird strangled cow noises.  Her mom was by her side, murmuring and telling her to take deep breaths.  After one particularly bad episode of angry mooing and bed thrashing by the girl, the mother said, “No pain, no gain, right sweetie?  Just think how pretty you are going to look!” Now I am not a mom, but her words gave my fuzzy brain pause.  Is this just a California thing — giving your young daughter the gift of a new face and body?  I find it unsettling, mainly because at that age I was positively radiant with ignorance.  I had absolutely no idea of who I was or what I wanted do with my life, and certainly no sense of what I was capable of.

I don’t know many teenage girls who have their self-esteem all sorted out by the time they graduate high school.  I DO know that If my mom had let me, I too would have gotten a nose job at 16.  I hated my nose when I was growing up!  Kids on the bus used to make fun of it because it was so pointy.  The nerdier ones said it looked like an isosceles triangle.


(I see your point)

Somehow I made it through junior high and high school and out of my small town and around the world.  The more I traveled, the more I started to like my nose.

Italy was a revelation!


(Where my girls at?)



(So pointy yet so noble)

I truly believe that travel is the single best gift you could give any kid, including teenagers.  It opens your eyes to other definitions of beauty, and it gives you a sense of perspective that you can’t get any other way.  It forms your character when you are young, and then keeps you young when you are old.  Plus, isn’t Italy the best??  All that food and art and wine and sex and passeggiata-ing.  For all I know, maybe sharp noses are the reason that Italians make such excellent wine.

It’s a little weird that these thoughts are at the forefront of my mind the day after getting surgery, but I guess it’s just my brain wandering around while my feet can’t.  

Along with a lifelong love of travel, I inherited a bad back and this nose from my dad.  So I’m perfectly happy getting the back fixed and having my pointy nose lead the way to the next adventure.image


Heli crash: trying to understand

There has been a lot of talk about safety in reality television lately, for the saddest of reasons: five people have died within the past two weeks while filming Discovery Channel projects.  Yesterday the NTSB released its preliminary findings regarding the fatal helicopter crash on February 10, 2013 which killed the pilot, camera operator and talent.

The report is eye-opening but still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

It sounds like there were efforts made to minimize the risk of an exceptionally dangerous shoot.  The pilot scouted the area and conferred with the director prior to filming, which is good.  He held a safety briefing.  Also good.

But two big pieces of information jumped out at me:

1) The pilot requested lights put in at the landing zone.  He was aware that he would be flying into a pitch-black area and would have no sense of where the ground is.  He also knew that there was a dangerous plateau that he would have to navigate.

2) There was an LED panel light mounted on the windshield behind a GoPro camera.

As anyone who has ever driven at night on a dark country road can attest, the minute a light is turned on inside the car your night vision disappears.  A panel light would have thrown light in all directions in the cockpit and would have diminished what little ability he had to see the ground.

Somebody made a very bad decision, but who?

Ultimately, it is up to the pilot to let the director know that it is not safe to fly under those circumstances.  And it’s certainly up to the pilot to refuse to fly with a light in his face.  But we should also be asking whose decision it was to set up this ridiculous shot in the first place.  Why would such chances have been taken for a scene which would have essentially amounted to 15 seconds of mediocre footage for a cable television program?  And I would love to know how long that pilot had been on the controls by the time the final scene was to be filmed.

The pilot picked up the aircraft at 4:45pm, which means he would have been on site about 4pm to hold the briefing and prepare to fly.  The crash occurred at 3:30am — almost 12 hours in to his shift and very close to the end of his duty day.  Sketchy, but still legal within FAA standards.  He got a catnap in and so hopefully he was rested.

My conclusion, based on my own experience and from discussing the circumstances with PCA (as a helicopter pilot who has been asked in the past to participate in dangerous filming) is that the pilot crashed shortly after ascent because he was not able to gauge where the ground was.  He was navigating a dark area between two lit sources and lost perspective.  Whether the light panel played a part in the crash is yet to be determined.

The NTSB has retained the video equipment and so there is the sickening possibility that the GoPro was rolling when the accident happened.  I never want to see that footage.  But, like so many other crew members, I want to understand how this happened so that I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Just two weeks after the helicopter crash, another director / camera operator and his pilot were killed while filming a Discovery Channel Canada project.  The circumstances surrounding the crash are still vague, but one thing is certain.  It’s time to start holding networks and production companies accountable to overall safety and standards practices.

We — those who are on the front lines climbing into helicopters, boats, cars to get the footage — need to know that we are being considered and protected on these shoots.