Thursday, July 28, 2011

Piqua native looks to play in the Land of Lombardi and Starr

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

It looks like our Piqua Indians logo may be in need of a modification. I wonder what he looks like sans head dress, in order that he may don a cheese head?

As most of you know by now. One of Piqua's favorite sons is now a Green Bay Packer. Brandon Saine left for the Land of the Cheese Heads and is now hard at work learning the ways of, "the next level," the business of playing football in the National Football League.

Watching a former Indian mature into an NFL-caliber player is not a first for Piqua. Under the guidance of Head Coach Bill Nees and his staff, several players have been able to combine their God-given athletic ability with techniques and ethics taught at Piqua High School, build on them in college and play football at, what many would consider, the ultimate level of professional sports.

Saine is the most recent of those former Indians to put on the uniform of a NFL team. Make no mistake about it, Saine still has a way to go. He still has to make the team. Given the talent and work ethic that he has shown throughout the high school and college level, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that if a 110 percent effort is needed, Saine will be on the field with a 115 percent effort.

As we watch the next few weeks play out, most everyone in Piqua will be a Cheese Head. No matter what NFL team is close to your heart, we need to support Saine as he takes the field wearing the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers.

Stop for a minute and think about it. The team that chose Saine, and vice versa, is the defending Super Bowl champion. Not only that, but few NFL teams are as steeped in history as the Packers — the Packers of Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time, the Packers of Bart Starr ... the list goes on, and on.

In case you haven't taken the time to check the Packers pre-season schedule, they play in Cleveland on August 13 and in Indianapolis on the 26th.

Wouldn't it be nice if a large Piqua contingent were in the stands in Indy to show their support for Brandon?

Saine was back in town for an autograph show at the Miami Valley Centre Mall this spring. Four years removed from the turf at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field and fresh from a solid career as a Buckeye, Saine patiently signed hundreds of autographs as fans turned out to welcome him home. He had grown some but still possessed the same easy smile and manner he had in high school.

We talked then about him playing in the NFL. As always, he was very unassuming. He knew that his talents were known to teams around the NFL but he was making no assumptions.

They say that good things come to he who waits. Saine's wait on the call that most just dream about, ended Tuesday when the Green Bay Packers called to tell him that they believe he has what it takes to play football for one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NFL.

They are just acknowledging what most of us have believed for years.

Brandon: best of luck in your quest to play football in the NFL. I believe that I can say with confidence, all of Piqua is behind you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Media Day at air show a real experience

It is air show weekend in Dayton. If you don’t believe me, just walk out your front door. It is 90-plus degrees with 90 percent humidity. Yep, it must be air show weekend.

Anyone who knows me, is aware that I am nuts about aviation photography. I have been taking photographs of airplanes and pilots for many years. In doing so, I have been fortunate enough to attend and photograph some of the biggest air show events in all corners of the country. 

A number of these have been for the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Others have been to shoot images for Rolls-Royce and NASA. Heck, I’ve eaten dinner, on several occasions, with the Thunderbirds inside their hanger at Nellis AFB.

I’ve also grown to feel that those who view my images have a certain expectation of quality. It is my job to deliver images of a quality that can appear in any publication, anywhere in the world. It is also my job to deliver images of equal quality to our readers of the Piqua Daily Call.

Almost everywhere I’ve been, photographers and members of the media have been treated like gold. Sure, there are restrictions but most are reasonable and most organizations go out of their way to assist members of the media.

Perhaps that is why I am so puzzled by the treatment given local members of the media at our hometown air show.

All of this came to mind on Friday when, at the Dayton Air Show media day, I experienced the things that just make you wonder how some air shows manage to operate.

First, after being scheduled for a specified time to go on a media photo flight with one of this weekend’s acts, I was bumped from my time slot. A “VIP” from the governor’s office was told she could go. 

Then, (and this is where it gets good,) this particular group of aircraft fired up their engines and …. sat there. After about five minutes, they shut down their engines, one of the guys got into a golf cart and headed off toward the air boss tent. He came back about ten minutes later and instructed his team as to a different radio frequency. Again they waited. Off went the pilot again. He came back and was talking to several other pilots. It seems that, at least, some of the people on the air show side were not even listening to the radio.

Trust me, when you are about to get into an airplane and fly, that kind of behavior from the ground control people at an air show doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Finally, they managed to fire up and take off. They flew in a six-plane formation that would make for some great photos, if I wasn’t on the ground watching a representative from the governor’s office make her impact on the world of aviation.

When they came back, after basically once around the pattern, we finally got to get aboard for our media flight. Instead of six ships, we were a flight of two. Instead of photographing five planes I had a target choice of … one.

We spent as much time taxiing as we did flying but once in the air, it was great to be in the air with a World War II-era aircraft.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by attending the big air shows where people treat you with respect, like out at the Piqua Airport – home of the best flying in Ohio.

I know that many will say, “Well, at least you got to go for a ride.” That is true. A ride in anything that flies is always a treat, and much appreciated. 

I have just grown to expect a “media” ride to be something that air show performers took seriously. It is not “giving a ride,” it is publicity for your group. It is publicity for the air show in which you are flying. 

I’ve flown with class acts like Sean D. Tucker and the Aero Shell Squadron. They fly as sharp and as tight on a media flight as they do during a public performance.

Today reminded me of someone wearing a worn-out t-shirt to portrait day in school. Yeah, they showed up, but mom and dad aren’t going to be happy with the finished product and it ain’t the photographer’s fault!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Casey Anthony verdict is in ... live with it

Casey Anthony. Now there’s a name that we haven’t heard in …

Okay, bad joke. Her life is still being microscopically explored by every news organization in America.

I have a number of observations concerning the Casey Anthony saga.

First of all, I want to know what all of the hubbub is about. I don’t mean to downplay the murder of a toddler but, why this particular murder? I am sure that the month-long denial that anything was wrong had something to do with the fascination in the case.

Could the fact that Casey Anthony is a nice looking young woman have anything to do the public’s almost fanatical trance with all things Casey-related?

Another possibility - did this fascination with the case really begin with the public or was the public force-fed Casey Anthony investigation and trial by obsessed media organizations? I sometimes wonder if the public would be so fired up about many things if media organizations didn’t force-feed the frenzy.

One of the most important points that I feel needs to be made is that, in spite of what each of us feels on a personal level, Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. I repeat … not guilty.

It does not matter if you, I or anyone else feels that she did murder her daughter. The only thing that matters is that following the legal principals set by our American Justice System, flawed as it may be, Anthony was found not guilty.

It is over. It is done. Leave. Her. Alone!

I feel the same way about O.J. Simpson.

I also feel that O.J. should not have been subjected to the civil litigation. He was found not guilty. Case closed.

Either we follow the rules of our justice system, or we don’t. Thanks to a bunch of attorneys who want to pad their own pockets, these types of shenanigans take place daily.

I also want to know why we feel that we have the right to know the names of the jurors who sat on the Anthony murder trial. I temper this with the suspicion that the “we” in “we have the right to know,” means the media.

I don’t see the media, or the public, clamoring for the names of jury members on other cases. Would the same request be made if Anthony had been found guilty?

Many here in the United States have developed a sense over the years that our “rights” include the right to know everyone else’s business.

I will admit, if one, or more, of the Anthony jurors decides to write a book, or in any other way profit from the case, all guarantees of anonymity are off. Until that time, each and every one of them has the right to privacy. They have served a valuable public service to their community.

Ask yourself, would you want to have your life turned upside down because you sat on a jury?

The trial of Casey Anthony is over. She is not guilty. It doesn’t matter if we like it. We need to learn to live with it.

Let Anthony get on with her life and we get should get on with ours … until the next “trial of the century.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Annual celebration an embarrasement to many in Piqua

Our country celebrated its 235th birthday on Monday. Many communities ended the day with a fireworks display.

Piqua was typical, I suppose, of cities across America. A day-long festival in Fountain Park was followed by the annual fireworks display at Hardman Field, at the northern-most end of Fountain Park.

There were many good things about Piqua’s celebration. The route toward the park, along Nicklin Avenue, was lined with United States flags, thanks to local realtor Kathy Henne and a few area residents.

Sadly, at least in my eyes, the day America celebrated her birthday was an embarrassing one for many residents of Piqua.

Here are just a few examples:

Soon after my arrival at Fountain Park on Monday evening, my second trip of the day to document the day’s events, I set up my camera next to the trunk of a large tree. (This was done in order to least impede the vision of those behind me.) The time was about 8:30 p.m. The large crowd was growing larger by the minute as the 10:00 p.m. start-time approached.

The first thing that caught my attention was a lady chatting with another lady about her relationship with some guy. It is not like I was trying to eves drop. She was speaking so loudly that I, maybe 30 feet away, and many others, could clearly hear her every word. Her mouth was as foul as the proverbial sailor, the “f-word” spouted loudly in about every other sentence. Meanwhile, small children were sitting nearby with their parents.

Others gathered around the area. A group of men, probably in their late ‘20s or early 30s, showed up on bicycles. They proceeded to drop their bikes in a heap in the middle of the park before walking to a group of friends. Several children nearly tripped over the bikes, left thoughtlessly in the middle of the park, as the sky darkened over the area.

At the conclusion of the fireworks show, viewers quickly gathered their belongings and headed for home. It took me a few minutes to take down my tripod and pack equipment. As I gazed through the haze left by fireworks, sparklers and thousands of cigarettes I noted hundreds, yes hundreds, of empty cans, bottles and other assorted items left littering the park.

I was struck by the contrast of where I was one week ago, in northern Michigan, where it seems that no one dares to litter, partly because it is the law, but mostly because of personal pride.

One week later, at the place I call home, I see the disgusting and vile evidence of people who have no pride in themselves or the community in which they live. Most importantly, they have no respect for others.

Add to this, the dozens of calls that the police department responded to in the wake of the fireworks, including people dancing in the streets and deliberately blocking traffic to reports of people throwing fireworks at cars.

Piqua has struggled for years to overcome a reputation as a community that may be less-than-desirable in many aspects. Don’t get me wrong, I love Piqua and know of the many great things the city has to offer.

It seems, though, that what I, and many others, witnessed on Monday, is like an anchor around the neck of attempts to promote Piqua.

Pride in one’s community begins at home. If you don’t have respect and pride in yourself, how can you expect your community to look any better?

And for those who look at this and say, “I don’t give a @#*% what others think of me,” I respond, lack of respect for our fellow citizens is one of the many things wrong with America.

You cannot; however, respect those around you, until you learn to truly respect the person you see when you look in the mirror.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Michigan trip yields great memories

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Everyone loves taking a vacation. My family is no different.

Last week, we packed our bags and headed north, destination, Traverse City, Mich.

The No. 1 goal for our vacation was to spend time with our entire family together, which as many of you know, as your children are grown and out on their own, is all too infrequent.

Like most families on vacation, we planned to get the maximum amount of fun into the few short days we would be gone. In retrospect, I wonder if the stress of attempting to cram several dozen events into a three- or four-day time slot can fairly be called “relaxation.” Actually, our oldest daughter, Carrie and her husband had laid out a great itinerary that left plenty of options for fun.

The trip was the thing that dream vacations are made of — family time, fun and adventure.

First, let me say that Traverse City and the surrounding area is my favorite place in the world. My mother was born and raised in Traverse City and I grew up looking forward to trips to “The Water Winter Wonderland,” to quote a decades-old Michigan motto.

Several things from this trip brought an air of nostalgia to mind, but not in the way that I would have expected.

First, our entire family, all four car-loads of us, spent an evening at the Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre. The Cherry Bowl, which has operated continuously since 1953, is about 25 miles southwest of Traverse City. We arrived just after the gate opened at 7:30, visited the concession stand, filled with photos and movie posters from yester-year, then enjoyed our meals to music from the “drive-in theatre era.”

The movie began when it got dark but for some time before, the screen was filled with promos from the heyday of drive-in theaters.

In case you are wondering, “Cars 2” is a very enjoyable movie. I’m not sure that I would have gone to see it on my own, but I can safely say that our grandkids loved the show. We did not stay for the second feature as this old fogy needs his sleep.

Another thing that caught my attention on the trip was, of all things, a grocery store. A grocery chain in northern Michigan, “Tom’s,” has a reputation for, what some might call, “old-fashioned” service.

Like many travelers, we made a couple of visits to the grocery store. Most of us have become so accustomed to big-box chain store grocers and their self-serve style that we don’t give it a second thought any more.

Many will argue, my wife included, that one pays more at the smaller stores. I couldn’t really tell you as when I make a trip to a grocery store, my goal is to pick up what I need, pay and get out the door, preferably in the time it takes an Indy-car driver to make a pit stop.

“Tom’s” was like taking a step back in time, service-wise. First, there are signs that no shopping carts are allowed in the parking lot. This seemed a little odd but I quickly put it out of my mind.

The check-out lines were what we would expect to see at any modern grocery, a mix of self and traditional check-out lanes. The first difference that I noted was that the traditional lanes were actually manned. This was a startling contrast to our local mega-stores, who have 30, or more, lanes, only two of which have someone to help you at any given time.

We chose a self-serve lane as we did not have that many items. As I was scanning our items, a Tom’s employee quickly moved to the end of our lane and began bagging our groceries. This is almost unheard of at big-box stores. The only time that you deal with an employee at big-box self check-out lanes is when the scanner malfunctions … which means that you deal with someone nearly every trip to the store.

After our items were bagged, the employee asked if we wanted to pull up to the curb and he would load our bags into our car. The reason no carts are taken to the parking lot is that all groceries are loaded into your vehicle after you pull up under a large covered area, protected from the weather.

It was a stark reminder that service is still alive and well in at least one part of the country.

Another thing that should be noted about the Traverse City area. Recycling is taken very seriously. First of all, it should be noted that Michigan has had a deposit on bottles and cans for decades. Most all major grocers in the areas that we were in have large recycling centers and area residents take great care to see that bottles, cans, plastics, cardboard, etc. is separated and put into proper containers so that it can be re-used.

It could be that living among some of the most beautiful natural resources in the world makes them more aware of the dangers of littering and careless disposing of used goods.

No matter what, we could all learn a lesson or two from our neighbors to the north.