‘SPASE INC.’

March 20, 2013

Presenting a compile of music video clips of DJ Spase. All the video’s were filmed and edited by myself in Los Angeles. ENJOY!!!

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Justin B. O'Brien & DJ Spase

Justin B. O’Brien & DJ Spase

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‘MY BEST MATE’S DAD’

September 28, 2012

 

Jess Maldonado Gallegus

Great Grandfather, World War II Veteran, National Guardsman, Career Barber, and among the last of The Greatest Generation.

Jess was born in 1922 in Newcastle, California to Mexican parents, one of 15 brothers and sisters. As a child, he was a hardworking member of the family,

CLP Jess Gallegus

CLP Jess Gallegus

traveling and toiling across California’s farm fields, picking grapes, prunes, apricots, and cotton. He always said it was a difficult time, and never forgot those early years.

At 17, Jess joined the Civilian Conservation Corps., cutting trails and chopping wood in the Klamath National Forest. It was there where he first tried cutting hair. He was good at it. Barbering would become a skill that would support him through his military life, from his days at Mather AFB through his time as an Army Corporal during the war in Europe. He even bragged that he once cut Eisenhower’s hair.
In fact, at 35 cents a haircut, Jess came home from WWII, lucky to be alive, and with a pocket full of cash. In 1945, upon returning home he told the captain, “I’ve got a lot of money here, what do I do with it?” And the captain said, “keep it.” It was enough to jumpstart Jess on the postwar road to prosperity.
Jess, Michael, Manny and Jimmy

Jess, Michael, Manny and Jimmy

Being a barber, and the owner of many different shops and salons over decades, would support his family for a lifetime. Generations of men and their sons knew Jess. He cut hair for 60 years, a million haircuts, by some estimates.

Jess married the love of his life Helen Valencia in 1946. They met as teens a few years earlier at a Valentine’s Day dance. They are survived by three children, Susan, Jim, and Manuel, six grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.
Jess was clever, charming, corny, cantankerous, eager and wise. Everyone he met it seems, liked him, and wanted him to succeed.
His military service was very important to him. Like many from his era, he experienced more by age 24 than many men would in a lifetime. He carried a wisdom and maturity with him, and never took his success for granted.
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VIDEO OF JESS GALLEGUS’ MEMORIAL SERVICE – SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2012.

‘THE MURDER CAPITAL’

June 16, 2012

My cell phone rings. I answer and it’s a good mate, Mike Amor – the Seven Network Australia Bureau Chief. “Jay .. What are you doing?”, Mike says. “I’ve got a little trip to Mexico I need your help with. It’s a few days filming and producing at a resort. It’ll be fun, there’s a pool – bring your shorts!”

(Video Courtesy of Seven Network Australia)

Johnny Varga and Justin O’Brien standing on the Mexic0 border side of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte).

Immediately the image of drinks by the pool at a five star resort spring to mind and without hesitation I say, “YES .. Great .. When are we leaving?” “Next weekend”, Mike replies. “I’ll get Kimmy (the travel agent) to send you the flight details”.

Two days before our departure Mike comes clean. It’s not a Cabo San Lucas resort we’re heading to, but the 2010 ‘murder capital’ of the world. A Texas-Mexico border town called Ciudad Juárez. Mike’s joke was good, but the destination change made no difference. My answer would have been ‘Yes’. In journalism, there is an unwritten motto – never say ‘NO’. Plus, it was an adventure, a chance to see first hand Mexico’s ‘Drug War’ and at the same time hangout with two good mates, Mike (Reporter) and John Varga (Cameraman).

Johnny and I flew into El Paso, Texas. It was midday Saturday when we landed and stinking hot, around 101 degrees (38 degrees Celsius). Gustavo Ortiz, our driver for the next three days met us at the arrival gate. For safety, we hired a driver in El Paso, Texas. Our major concern in Juarez was being kidnapped by a local driver and transported into the waiting arms of a drug Cartel!  

Gustavo Ortiz

Gustavo grew up in Juarez. Married with two children he made a living buying used cars in Salt Lake City, then selling them at a car yard he owned across the border. But three years ago, unwilling to pay a US$1000 a month bribe or be kidnapped, Gustavo packed up his family and moved to El Paso. “That’s just the way it is in Mexico”, he said. “I am lucky, I can cross the border legally and keep my family safe”.

Researching this assignment, I ‘Googled’ Juarez. The first Google results was an August 2010 CBS News story about the US border town and the deadly violence engulfing it. At that stage 28,000 people had been killed in the four-year-old drug war. Crossing over the US-Mexico border, I expected to see roadblocks manned by heavily armed soldiers and police on every street.

Two hours after landing – Gustavo, Johnny and I were driving through Juarez on our way to the hotel. There wasn’t a roadblock in sight. Women with small children sat at bus stop outside an ‘S Mart’ grocery store and banners above bars promoted the ‘Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley’ boxing match, screened live from Las Vegas Saturday night. Juarez looked like any Mexican Baja town I’d seen many times before. The streets were dusty, rundown buildings stood desperately waiting for owners to reopen businesses closed long ago. But, it wasn’t the war zone I had expected. There were people on the streets.

Waiting for us at the hotel was Jordi Lebrija. A Reuters journalist who’d flown in from Tijuana to be our

Jordi Lebrija

fixer/translator. A trusting extra set of eyes and ears we could rely upon. Again, we feared hiring a local fixer who for a few ‘pesos’ wouldn’t hesitate to ‘sell us down the river!’

Checking in, the clerk laughed at John’s surname (Varga) when he handed over his identification. Varga pronounced in Spanish sounds like ‘verga’ which means cock or dick! So, we added ‘pequeño’ which is Spanish for small and for the next three days Johnny’s nicknamed became ‘pequeño verga’ – ‘small dick’! 

That’s the great thing about travelling with mates your trust. Nothing’s too tough, you ‘take the piss’ (joke around), have fun and you lookout for each other.

The ‘Mercado Juarez’ (City Market) in Juarez is now a ghost town. Several years ago it was impossible to find a car park because of all the tourists.

Back out on the road we headed to the ‘Mercado Juarez’ (City Market). Hoping to film a ‘lively bustling’ market, we en-counted a ghost town. Shuttered windows greet anyone willing to visit. Gone are the mariachi bands and the outdoor dining areas that used to feed hungry visitors who made the short border crossing from El Paso, until the Cartels and the drug war killed off Juarez’s tourist industry.

‘Sunglasses .. sunglasses’, said a 70-year old man in Spanglish. ‘Good price for you’. Three years ago he made US$50 a day selling sunglasses, now the old man said he “was lucky to make 50 pesos”.  

It’s a catch-22 situation. Tourists won’t return until they know it’s safe and locals can’t prove Juarez is safe until the market is again filled with tourists.

Across the road, is ‘the Ladies Bar’. A sign written in Spanish

‘The Ladies Bar’ across from the ‘Mercado Juarez’. The bar is now open only two nights a week.

on the door reads – “wanted .. pretty girls of 18-25 years .. good presentation .. thin and willing to flirt”. Jordi translated the sign for me and commented, “things are so tough in Juarez, that even the bad girls have left!!!”  

But it wasn’t all-bad. Jessica Simpson Meraz, a close friend in Los Angeles grew up in El Paso. Jess spent her teenage weekend’s visiting Juarez, eating and shopping. Her assignment to me was find a restaurant called ‘Barrigas’ (‘bellies’) and order the ‘Tampiquena Arrachera’ (a Mexican spiced skirt steak). The fresh crushed lime margaritas were great and the food was amazing. Just as amazing were the half dozen tables full of men and women in their 20’s dressed in prom dresses and tuxedos. Jordi said they were celebrating their graduation from College or University. Not the sight I expected to see in an alleged war zone. They were putting the ‘street’ troubles behind or at least saying – ‘we are going to live our lives’.

‘Barrigas’ Restaurant – ‘Tampiquena Arrachera’

After dinner we headed to a bar called ‘Tabasco’ to watch the ‘Pacquiao and Bradley’ fight. The bar was packed. I smiled at several woman in their mid-20’s sitting nearby, they smiled back. I then looked at the Rolex wearing, gold chained, slicked back hair middle aged men sitting with them. My eyes instinctively shot up to the big screen showing the ‘Pacquiao’ fight and I never looked back! Were they Cartel? Maybe, maybe not. I didn’t plan on finding out!

An hour later Johnny, Jordi, Gustavo and I were across the street at a bar/cantina called ‘San Martin’. All the seats and tables were full, it was standing room only as the crowd moved to the tunes of duelling mariachi bands! The atmosphere was great. It was as if the locals had said ‘enough is enough’ .. ‘we are taking our town back’. At one stage a couple came over and wanted to have their photo taken with us. Obviously they hadn’t seen foreigners in a while. Did I feel safe? Yes. But, Johnny and I stood-out. We were the only gringo’s in the bar. An easy target.

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Our ‘real’ assignment in Mexico, was to profile an Australian priest whose Corpus Christi Parish sits in the poorest area of Juarez. Father Kevin Mullins stands out. Not just because of his Aussie/Spanish accent or the reflector aviator sunglasses he wears, but the adulation thrust upon him by locals who flood to his Sunday service.

“I think about 200 parents have named their son’s Kevin since I arrived here”, Father Kevin Mullins said. “But .. I told my superior don’t worry. None of them have blue eyes!”, Father Mullins said jokingly.

11-years ago 30 people would turn up to the Sunday service. Now it’s more like 400 and people flow out the doors. Before we started filming, I asked Father Mullins how long the service would go for? He replied with a smile, “An hour and a half to two hours. They like a song and dance here”. He wasn’t wrong!

A father and daughter attend a Sunday service at Corpus Christi Parish, Juarez Mexico.

I was struck by the number of families – husbands, wives and children in their best clothes jammed together, sitting on pews. Then when given the opportunity, everyone was jumped their feet singing and clapping. I couldn’t help compare my own life in Santa Monica, where it’s all about what car you drive and eating organic foods. These Juarez locals have nothing, but at the same time they have everything.

Outside, we spoke to several locals about the drug violence. “Yes it’s very bad, but we have no choice .. we live here”, said Juan Lara. Drug related deaths have dropped 70% in the past three years, down from between 13 to 20 murders a day to one every second day. “Right now it’s going down the violence .. no it doesn’t stop, the violence still .. the kidnapping, it is coming now”, said parish assistant Gregorio Soto.

We head back to the hotel. Travelling in Gustavo’s Ford Explorer we discuss past assignments – Libya, Iraq, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina – we decide Juarez is not as bad as what everyone says. Talk quickly turns back to girlfriends. Jordi’s 23-year old girlfriend keeps calling to say ‘she loves’ him. While Johnny is ‘coping it’ for giving up his apartment to move in with his new girlfriend. “You’ve got the ‘furry handcuffs’ on mate”, says Mike when suddenly Gustavo points out a ‘Policia Federal’

Filming a Mexican Policia Federal (Federal Police) Truck loaded with balaclava wearing heavily armed police.

(Federal Police) Truck loaded with balaclava clad armed officers dressed in dark blue fatigues.

Gustavo speeds up. Chasing the cops so we can get close enough to film them. The sight of the Mexican Federal Police, their identities hidden and holding American made M-16 assault rifles is a reminder, all is not as it appears in Juarez. The local police chief Colonel Julián Leyzaola, who successfully battled corruption in Tijuana, is credited for reducing Juarez’s drug related deaths. But locals fear it’s just a lull in the violence, hinging upon who wins Mexico’s Presidential Election next month. “The Cartels just want to be left alone to do business”, a Juarez resident told me.   

Late Monday afternoon, we headed back across the US-Mexican border and into the safety of El Paso. Driving East along Interstate 10, there is a twinge of sadness as we look back across the US border towards Juarez and the ‘dusty’ suburbs we’d spent the past three days. It was a shared adventure and a fun time. Would I go back? Yes. Would I let a woman I love go to Juarez? NO WAY!!! 

‘SNAP SHOTS’


‘WHAT TO EXPECT’

June 9, 2012

Multimedia Journalist Justin O’Brien interviews Cameron Diaz, Chase Crawford, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrision and Rodrigo Santoro about their roles in the parenthood comedy ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.

Cameron Diaz discusses motherhood, Chase Crawford his taste for Diet Coke and Rodrigo Santoro on being Jennifer Lopez’s husband.

Runs:3’14           Video courtesy of ‘Sunrise’ Australia.


‘BURMA’

December 1, 2011

IN 2010 I travelled to Burma on holiday, to see for myself a country that had intrigued me for many years.

Riding in a ‘bicycle side-car’, Burma 2010

Growing up in Australia, viewers were lucky to see several minutes a month on the Government funded ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) nightly news devoted to coverage of Burma and the antics of its military rulers. The commercial networks, never touched it.

I decided to become a cameraman-journalist after reading a biography about an adventurous Australian journalist named Neil Davis. Davis was renowned for his coverage of the Vietnam War and filming the North Vietnamese tanks as they rolled through the gates at Saigon’s then Presidential Palace.

For me, the trip to Burma was in small part an attempt to follow in Davis’ footsteps. It was an Asian country, ruled by a military dictatorship and shut-off from the world. When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in 2008, flooding the Ayeyarwady Delta, killing thousands of people  and left two million people without shelter – the military Government prevented foreign aid agencies from entering the country. After seeing ‘Monk’ protesters brutally attacked in 2007 and now Cyclone Nargis, I knew I had to go and see Burma for myself.

I entered Myanmar via AirAsia on a direct one hour flight from Bangkok. With my occupation, ‘carpenter’ written in my arrival card, my passport was stamped and I walked out into a muggy Friday afternoon with $500 US cash in my pocket. Although it was 2010, there were no ATM’s or credit card facilities in the country – so budgeting was key.

‘Breakfast’ – Sei Taing Kya Teashop

As I say in the video piece above – it was like stepping back into the 1980’s. There had been no foreign western investment in the country for almost three decades and it showed. No Coca-Cola or McDonald’s – it was a rare sight.

I like a can of Coke just like the other guy, but it was refreshing to see the virgin landscape free of commercialism. The downside is locals pay for it. No foreign investment meant the average Burmese had no chance of improving their standard of living. I met many friendly Yangon residents who shared a ‘Burmese Tea’ with me and never once complained about their predicament.

Two months after my trip, an election was held and it was won by former military leaders who had simply removed they uniforms to become instant honorable civilians. A week or so later, famed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and as I write,

Crossing a river – near Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma 2010

Ms Suu Kyi in preparing to host a meeting with United States Sectary Of State Hillary Clinton.

In preparing for my trip to Burma I purchased a Lonely Planet edition about Myanmar (Burma). I was taken aback while reading a section called ‘TO GO OR NOT TO GO’ which suggested ‘you’ should ‘rethink’ your planned trip to Burma. The main argument was that it was highly likely 20% of your spending would go into the pockets of the military junta. What about the 80% which would go directly to locals? I’ve since folded that page in half.

A few years ago there was a travel commercial on local television promoting the Northern Territory of Australia as a holiday destination. The catch phrase was – “If you never never go, you’ll never never know.” That’s my advice about Burma – take a chance or you’ll never know.

Go have a look for yourself.

 

 

 

 

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‘NATALIE WOOD’

November 19, 2011

 

 

Los Angeles Sheriff Homicide Detectives announce they will be reopening their investigation into the death of actress Natalie Wood.

Wood drowned off Catalina Island in November 1983. Ms Wood was last seen alive onboard a boat called the Splendour. Her husband actor Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern the boats Captain were onboard at the time.

Dennis Davern now says he lied to the original police investigators almost 30 years ago. A coroner ruled Natalie Wood’s death was from accidental drowning.

The video news story was reported, filmed and edited by multimedia journalist Justin O’Brien.


‘GUILTY’

November 8, 2011

Multimedia journalist Justin O’Brien reports from outside the Los Angeles Criminal Court House on the Doctor Conrad Murray guilty verdict. Dr Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop star Michael Jackson in 2009.

Reported, filmed, written and edited by Justin O’Brien.