Archive for February, 2012

Truth Glows

Saturday, February 18th, 2012
Darkness and Lightness: Flow

Darkness and Lightness: Flow

Big difference between the darkness of a Lie and brightness of Truth.

Seth Godin absolutely nails the job description of the Creative, in this blogpost he titles Transparent or Translucent.

Below is a fascinating story taken from an internet hoax of sorts where someone twisted the TRUTH and did it to their own benefit.

My Colleague and friend, Shawn Alladio injected some light into it. This is the true story! Glowing.


Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL)
Michael Anthony Monsoor
April 5, 1981 ‚Äď Sept. 29, 2006
Petty Officer Second Class Michael Anthony Monsoor was born April 5, 1981 in Long Beach, Calif. ¬†Michael grew up in Garden Grove, Calif., as the third of four children of George and Sally Monsoor. He has an older brother James and older sister Sara, and a younger brother Joseph.Michael attended Dr. Walter C. Ralston Intermediate School and Garden Grove High School where he played tight end on the Argonaut football team and graduated in 1999. An incredible athlete, Mike enjoyed snowboarding, body boarding, spear fishing, motorcycle riding, and driving his Corvette. His quiet demeanor and dedication to his friends matched the ‚ÄúSilent Warrior‚ÄĚ SEAL mentality that was to become his calling in life.

Michael enlisted in the U.S. Navy March 21, 2001, and attended Basic Training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill.¬† Upon graduation from basic training, he attended Quartermaster ‚ÄúA‚ÄĚ School, and then transferred to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy for a short period of time.

Petty Officer Monsoor entered Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, Calif., and subsequently graduated with Class 250 on Sept. 2, 2004 as one of the top performers in his class. After BUD/S, he completed advanced SEAL training courses including parachute training at Basic Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga., cold weather combat training in Kodiak, Alaska, and six months of SEAL Qualification Training in Coronado, graduating in March 2005. The following month, his rating changed from Quartermaster to Master-at-Arms, and he was assigned to SEAL Team 3 Delta Platoon. He deployed with his platoon to Iraq in April 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was assigned to Task Unit Bravo in Ar Ramadi.

From April to Sept. 29, 2006, Mike served as a heavy weapons machine gunner in Delta Platoon, SEAL Team 3.  During combat patrols he walked behind the platoon point man with his Mk 48 machinegun so that he could protect his platoon from a frontal enemy attack.  Mike was also a SEAL communicator.  On 15 operations, he carried a rucksack full of communications equipment in addition to his machinegun and full ammunition load-out.  Collectively it weighed more than 100 pounds.  He bore the weight without a single complaint, even in the midst of the 130 degree Western Iraqi summer.

Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor recieved the Medal of Honor posthumously in a ceremony at the White House April 8, 2008, for his actions in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on Sept. 29, 2006. On that day, Monsoor was part of a sniper overwatch security position with three other SEALs and eight Iraqi Army (IA) soldiers. An insurgent closed in and threw a fragmentation grenade into the overwatch position. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest before falling to the ground. Positioned next to the single exit, Monsoor was the only one who could have escaped harm. Instead, he dropped onto the grenade to shield the others from the blast. Monsoor died approximately 30 minutes later from wounds sustained from the blast. Because of Petty Officer Monsoor’s actions, he saved the lives of his 3 teammates and the IA soldiers.
Though he carried himself in a calm and composed fashion, he constantly led the charge to bring the fight to the enemy. His teammates recall his sense of loyalty to God, family, and his team.  He attended Catholic Mass devotionally before operations, and often spoke lovingly of his family Рhis older brother, a police officer and former Marine for whom he held great respect; his sister, a nurse; and his younger brother, a college football player.Mike was one of the bravest men on the battlefield, never allowing the enemy to discourage him. He remained fearless while facing constant danger, and through his selfless nature and aggressive actions, saved the lives of coalition soldiers and his fellow SEALs.  He was a loyal friend and exceptional SEAL, and he is sorely missed by his brothers in Task Unit Bravo.

He is survived by his mother Sally, his father George, his sister Sara, and his two brothers James and Joseph.

During the funeral, as the coffin was moving from the hearse to the grave site, Navy SEALs were lined up forming a column of twos on both sides of the pallbearers route, with the coffin moving up the center. As the coffin passed each SEAL, they slapped down the gold Trident each had removed from his own uniform and deeply embedded it into the wooden coffin. For nearly 30 minutes the slaps were audible from across the cemetery as nearly every SEAL on the west coast repeated the ceremony.
The display moved many attending the funeral, including U.S. President George W. Bush, who spoke about the incident later during a speech stating: “The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten
Medal of Honor citation

Michael A. Monsoor’s Medal of Honor pictured with the Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) Trident.
“The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to




For service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent-held sector of¬†Ar Ramadi¬†Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element’s position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy’s initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Silver Star citation

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy as Platoon Machine Gunner in Sea, Air, Land Team THREE (SEAL-3), Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, Task Unit Ramadi, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 9 May 2006. Petty Officer Monsoor was the Platoon Machine Gunner of an overwatch element, providing security for an Iraqi Army Brigade during counter-insurgency operations. While moving toward extraction, the Iraqi Army and Naval Special Warfare overwatch team received effective enemy automatic weapons fire resulting in one SEAL wounded in action. Immediately, Petty Officer Monsoor, with complete disregard for his own safety, exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to provide suppressive fire and fight his way to the wounded SEAL’s position. He continued to provide effective suppressive fire while simultaneously dragging the wounded SEAL to safety. Petty Officer Monsoor maintained suppressive fire as the wounded SEAL received tactical casualty treatment to his leg. He also helped load his wounded teammate into a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle for evacuation, then returned to combat. By his bold initiative, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty, Petty Officer Monsoor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

 Bronze Star citation

“For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as Task Unit Ramadi, Iraq, Combat Advisor for Naval Special Warfare Task Group ‚Äď Arabian Peninsula in Support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from April to September 2006. On 11 different operations, Petty Officer Monsoor exposed himself to heavy enemy fire while shielding his teammates with suppressive fire. He aggressively stabilized each chaotic situation with focused determination and uncanny tactical awareness. Each time insurgents assaulted his team with small arms fire or rocket propelled grenades, he quickly assessed the situation, determined the best course of action to counter the enemy assaults, and implemented his plan to gain the best tactical advantage. His selfless, decisive, heroic actions resulted in 25 enemy killed and saved the lives of his teammates, other Coalition Forces and Iraqi Army soldiers. By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Petty Officer Monsoor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Regards,Shawn Alladio
K38 Rescue

Be not just hearers of the Truth, but doers also. Matthew 7:21


Respect for the Subject

Friday, February 17th, 2012
Home Base

Home Base

Respect narrowly defined, is examined here in this Wiki link.

One of the key elements for a creative in a study of any sort, is respect of subject. But here is the twist. One has to respect one’s self first. If that aspect is not nailed to the floor of a soul, the oft times hidden elements of a subject, may never reveal themselves to an artist.



But once those things do become apparent, it is self knowledge that allows for us to pick accurate lanes whereby we may expose, illuminate, and from where I stand as a human being, elevate our chosen subject, for all the world to see. It is in our own self discovery that there lies great success in communicating people, places and things that frequently, are so special and precious, a more casual observer, in this hectic, ” rush to see what lies over the horizon, modern contemporary culture”, would completely miss otherwise.



So how does this tenet come to abide within us? How do we learn to walk in respect, while still getting our probing and often intrusive job done? Easy really. You put SELF, last.

For those of you who know me or my life and work very intimately, you get that I have complete disdain for selfishness, especially within the realm of basic Commercial Photography. I truly believe what we do to be simple. So if that is the case, we ought never to be on stage. But ALWAYS out of sight. Our job is about servitude.

Chumash Maiden

Chumash Maiden

I learned something very important working in Motion Picture as a set stills photographer. Always stay out of the talent’s eye line. Of course, that is easier for me, being 5’5″. I dress for the background we shoot in. Blimp my camera, or use longer lenses if it is possible for me to stay out of the set’s staging area. I just follow the DP, and the shooting script.¬† I do my job. Document. Iconize the peak moments of a scene. Simple really. For some people.

When I came into Photography and Film making, I had a conversation with Editor Jeff Divine after he had given me my first cover. At the time, I had closed my rather high profile Company and stepped out of both Radio and Television Broadcast work, having just turned down the opportunity to be a co host on a Nationally Syndicated talk show. I was done being looked at. So I figured, what better place to hide than behind the camera?



Jeff knew what I was working towards. I confided to him that I disliked the attention I had received from the latest cover shot, and like a distressed and somewhat selfish child of a budding imaging creative, I complained. “You know Jeff, I only chose Photography because I reckoned that I could become anonymous. I just wanted it to be about someone else finally, and not be at the head of everything” Jeff looked at me and with that soft smile of his, shook his head and said “It is going to be far worse than anything else before in your life David. What were you thinking?”

Well he was sort of right. But just sort of. I doubled down on my efforts to remain anonymous. I even went into stock Photography production in signing a contract with burgeoning Commercial giant Corbis Images, where I figured that surely in a stable of great names, alive and dead, whose work was being pushed to the fore, I could just disappear. But all that did was raise the bar.

Having been a competitive athlete and businessman, I found myself just slowly one upping my colleagues. And they liked that. In fact, I think we all shoved each other along. Great names in stills and motion picture imaging. People who I had read of and whose  works I had admired all my life.

But in being around those great creatives, I noticed something about them. They NEVER let it be about THEM. They walked in respect, for themselves and as a result, elevated the myriad of subjects which comprised their daily lives. I will never forget the day that Steve Davis, Corbis VP, looked a bunch of us in the eyes in a meeting, and said something which changed my perspective permanently. “You all have the opportunity to chose anything in the world to shoot and communicate. We will even help you do it. There is nothing or anyone that is off limits. However, choose very carefully, because your choices will become what you are.

I have thought about that meeting often over the years. It is pretty amazing what I get to film, and who I get to live with on a daily basis, and what the world reveals to me.

But none of it would ever have meant a thing really, were it not for respect.

I read something recently, said by Duke Kahanamoku about himself. It resonated for me.

“Out of the water, I am nothing. ”

As creatives, we all need to realize that aside from what we examine and build, that without the flow and respect which comes from an intimate understanding regarding the nature of our subject(s), ALL of our work is nothing. It should be something. But more than that, what we do should elevate our subjects, and motivate, and propel all forward.

Creativity is Love is Creation.

Go do that.


Watch what happens.

That is your job. It is life to a Creative.

Indonesian Dream

Indonesian Dream


As an aside. Each one of the images in this blogpost is an abject lesson on Respect and has a great story behind it. Feel free to ask me about any of them some time. You may be surprised at what you learn.

USCG K 38 Rescue boat operator class

USCG K 38 Rescue boat operator class

Aloha oe.


The Percolative Effect of Mike de Gruy

Monday, February 13th, 2012


Mankind in Nature

Mankind in Nature

“Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Oft times I will awake with my soul in what could be described as a jumble.

Ever use one of those old percolating coffee pots? The type which, when the water boils, it spews forth, on to fresh dark ground coffee, and the rich aroma of it will fill an abode with such a heady fragrance, that it pulls you from sleep? Well of course you have. That is where the social axiom arose from: “Wake up, and smell the coffee.” Well my position, is that our soul grasps the scent and composition of a thing while our bodies are in repose.

Today was a good example of the percolative effect. I woke with this in my heart. 5 am. Percolating. Effervescing. I could not rest. Out it came, onto the ground as dawn broke.

Yesterday was the Memorial Service for a colleague. Mike De Gruy.

Watch this TedX talk.

The phone in my little MS3 rang through the car’s bluetooth as I wound down Coast Hwy 1 on a stunning Santa Ana late afternoon recently. I was on my way to do a camera test of a recent repair by Canon on my 5DM2. Dr. Andrea Neal’s pleasant voice echoed out of the car’s speakers as I rounded Mugu Rock and saw the plate blue glass of the Pacific, extending forever in a windless, haze free, rare gem moment.

“David, Mike DeGruy died in a helicopter crash in Australia today”. My immediate response was: “Oh shit!”. The words hung in the air. It was as if I were a cartoon illustration, and the bubble scrawled on paper with the words, stared back at me. We rung off.

As I nosed the car down the sweeping turns made famous by a myriad of films and commercials, I rang my former Film Commissioner, and dear friend, Martine White, who was now back in the field working production as a Locations Manager.¬† When she picked up, the first thing that she asked, was if I had gotten her e mail? “Nope dear, on the road. Just back from Hawaii, and running a camera test before a Motion Picture shoot in SB tomorrow with Misa (My sister, a Santa Barbara Choreographer). Mike?”

I could hear the¬† sorrow in her voice. All of us in Production are close. We are soldiers in the battle of making a living in the field of content creation, which defines so much of what popular contemporary culture is. When one succeeds, we rejoice. When one suffers, we offer comfort. But when one dies….

Well, death is a process. We each as creatives need to figure out how to be. Because sure as the sun rising, someone will ask the question of us: “What do you think-feel about….”

“Mike died on a scout in Australia David” He and a pilot. The helicopter went down on takeoff. I am very sorry.” ” Ah yea, me too Martine. I just heard a moment ago. I am doing some work at the moment. I will get back to you in a bit.”

And there it was. A pebble had dropped into the creative blue pond of our lives, and the ripple created by metal to tarmac was spreading throughout the world. Mike DeGruy was dead. I had no words really. No feelings. Just a numbness. I have lost friends and colleagues to Helos before. It happens. As in much of what we do, there is an imminent signature of great danger beneath the facade of safety when we work. All of us recognize the potential risk. We prepare for it. Some of us train diligently.

I hate Helos. My aerial vehicle of choice is an overhead wing Cessna. I had a test pilot from the company explain to me how to ditch one at sea before. Unless you hit something, you will likely walk away from most incidents in a fixed wing small plane, or swim away. But sometimes, a Helo is the only tool for the job.

I did my camera test, and late that night I began my online research into the incident. A short search and I found a crash site photo which told me what I needed to know, professionally. This is what occurred to me on examination. I am guessing that both Mike and the Pilot thought that they could make it.

A chain of events occurred, which created a moment, that took their lives. All of us have those. Life is precious in it’s frailty, really. But in an incident filming, you plan, and never stop in your focus, till you return home, crew and yourself, safely to friends and family.¬† I was pretty sure Mike would have been expecting to pull it off, even as they hit the ground. I would.¬† None of us ever loses that focus. Ever. And Mike was good at this survival stuff.

Camera Test

Camera Test

My insides had begun to move regarding this.

Last night we all met in Santa Barbara at the Fess Parker Double Tree resort in a huge rotunda.

Donna and I were late of course. But we got there in time to hear one of Mike’s brothers tell Mike stories. De Gruy was one foking bright light. There was not one of us there in what was likely a crowd of multiple hundreds, who had not been touched by his passion and love for the Oceans, Mankind, and Community.

As the rotunda service ended, I stopped to speak with one of the guys wearing a mic doing security, who had asked me about the camera I held, as we walked in. They wanted to make sure no one was photographing. We had a funny moment when I had looked up at him and said, “We are at a service for a dead camera man” . He got it, and as Donna assured him we were not there to film it, he and I shared a laugh, in an intense instant of sorrow. THAT was de Gruy.

I shook his hand and thanked him for serving that day, it turns out he was a fan of Mike’s as well, and said he had really enjoyed Mike’s work. My response was this. “We all did. He made a lot of it. And it will be around forever.”¬† With a faint smile to each other we parted, and Donna and I walked to the beach where a soliloquy of sorts would occur.

In the course of all of us making a concentric circle around a big sand castle Octopus, and baskets of flower petals, I shot a bit and observed. What happened some may see as happenstance and a natural occurrence.



My relationship with Nature and God does not allow me that perspective.

As family and friends adjourned to the surf line, and a Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol boat sped near shore and let fly with it’s water cannons, and we all bid farewell to one of our own, I watched something develop almost instantaneously in the sky above. As the sun set behind the Santa Barbara Mesa and afterlight blossomed, I watched as one cloud became two, and a massive red exclamation point expanded over the Western Horizon.



In my native culture, we believe that the soul leaves here for the next plane in the West, it sort of follows the sun.

Some things and people never really change, but they do evolve. That cloud meant a lot to us all.

I would imagine he had seen friends and family gathered, and just then had caught a glimpse of what lay ahead of him. He was just like that. A living, glowing, exclamation mark.

Possibly one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen, that cloud. I think we all knew what he was saying.

Aloha oe.




© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.