Saturday, April 30, 2005

Birth of the Blogcaster

Via the most excellent portal Lost Remote, news of a Nashville TV station hiring a full-time blogger.

WKRN has hired long-time blogger Brittney Gilbert to bring her considerable skills to their already impressive web presence. This excites me on a number of levels, not the least of which is opportunistic. Currently, TV station websites vary from the grinning postcard to the encyclopediac broadcast atlas. Where the local blogeratti figures into all this is still being formed. With Gilbert's hiring WKRN places their station at the forefront of this movement. I'll be eagerly reading her dispatches, curious to see how she'll meld her punk rock verve into the Nashvile affilliate's station mantra. Now, how do I get a gig like that?

Hercules and Robot

The quirky photog who blogs under the moniker Little Lost Robot never fails to slay me. Here he reacts with subversive glee at a used-to-be-Hercules Kevin Sorbo photo op. I swear if a fellow lensman shot me a look like that in a camera scrum, I'd drop my Sony from laughing so hard. I can't wait to meet this guy someday...

I Want My Blog TV

Ever since launching this flimsy craft into the blogosphere several months ago, I’ve yearned to televise some of the trip. Why? Well, it’s what I do for a living. Also, I enjoy pointing the big end of my lens at things that interest me. Mostly though, I think its newsworthy. Citizen journalism is changing more than the media, it’s bringing vibrant voices to digital town squares everywhere and extrapolating the global export of information in the process. That’s more than enough reason to feature it on the local news.

But how to make it interesting for the casual viewer? As riveting as I and others find these sites, they’re still just computer screens - not the most exciting things to aim a TV camera at. To get to the core of the local blogosphere I knew I’d have to visit the people behind the pages. No problem. There are enough self-publishing virtuosos in Greensboro alone to warrant a series of special reports. Knowing I’d only be able to skim the surface, I gathered my tools and called for back-up.

Enter Bob Buckley. The veteran reporter agreed to captain this voyage into cyberspace and wrap his thoughts around the material we gathered along the way. So off we went together and separate, rendezvousing with writers and meeting minstrels, all while covering the news of the day. A few weeks and half dozen optical discs later, we had the footage and findings we needed to fashion a Buckley Report on the Piedmont Blogosphere. While I returned to my litany of feature pieces, press conferences and breaking news, Bob banged out a script, a highly-detailed three and a half minute opus we editors not so lovingly describe, as a ’Buckumentary’.

Thus, I find myself ensconced in the edit bay. For all the physical effort that goes into gathering images with a hefty TV news camera, twice as much energy goes into the art of slicing and dicing. Whereas that used to involve the whirl and growl of synchronized tape decks, I now find myself hovering over a non-linear timeline and hurtling editorial thunderbolts from on high - all with the click of a mouse. I love it. Editing has always been one of my favorite parts of The Job; it’s a (mostly) delightful process of folding reality, enhancing images and bending time. So as I search for nuance and cadence in this sea of footage, mark your calendar for Monday night at 10:00 pm, as that’s when the Buckley Report on the Piedmont blogosphere will air on FOX 8 WGHP. If I get in done in time, that is...

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Big Link

This week on The Big Link thrill to the nihilism and death metal stylings of one Patrick Eakes! There is none higher...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Of Murder Trials and Survivors

It was a gorgeous Spring morning - what better time for a grisly murder trial? The April Greer trial certainly qualifies. Ten weeks after the eight month pregnant woman disappeared two years ago, a farmer found her dismembered body floating in an Alamance County creek. Police arrested her boyfriend, Jerry Stuart and charged him with the heinous act. All in all, it’s a pretty horrid affair. If Jerry Stuart didn’t kill his girlfriend, then the person who did still walks free. If he did do it, well, I personally volunteer to pull the switch and send this cretin to the Great Beyond.

But my business cards don’t read ‘Executioner‘. Instead the tattered rectangles at the bottom of my desk drawer bear the title ’Photojournalist’ - a sticky label indeed, but one I begrudgingly committed to more than fifteen years ago. Since then, I’ve covered my fair share trials, from accused child molesters to corrupt televangelists to addled hostage takers. As a chronic purveyor of feel-good fluffy features, it ain’t my favorite gig. But a man’s got to pay his bills, and in my world that means doing what the bosses say - even if it means spending the day listening to the kinds of horrific details they don’t even talk about on CSI.

When I arrived at the Graham courthouse around mid-morning, my partner for the day was already ensconced in the corner of the balcony reserved for the media. Jeff Varner is best known as a contestant on the second season of ‘Survivor’, but since joining our news team, he’s tackling challenges of a different sort - a daily gauntlet of seemingly-impossible deadlines. When I checked in, he barely looked up from his scribble-filled notepad. As in most trials, the judge only allowed one camera in court - forcing the rest of the media pack to gather around hastily-arranged monitors and records the proceedings from the most uncomfortable far corner the bailiffs could come up with. Logistically, this arrangement can be a nightmare. If I said I wasn’t a little concerned about my new colleague’s ability to handle this grim blend of reality television, I’d be lying - and that’s something I try really hard not to do on this blog.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. Throughout a very long day, Jeff proved himself more than capable, from digesting a glut of acidic testimony to writing under the tightest of deadlines to scoring an exclusive with The Accused’s chain-smoking mother. When the judge dismissed everyone for lunch, we sped off to a key location in the case and shot Jeff’s on-camera stand-up. After that, we grabbed a couple of bags of fast food and headed back to the courthouse, whereupon Jeff disappeared into the hall of justice as I began setting up a stripped-down TV station on the sidewalk outside.

When he emerged from the courthouse an hour later, crunch time was on. Sequestering ourselves inside the live truck, we took part in the age old newsgathering tradition of writing, editing and the occasional expressed profanity. Ninety minutes later, a director named Carl punched a button back in the control room and Jeff’s face popped up in living rooms across the Piedmont. As I tweaked the focus ever so slightly, I nodded in agreement as this veteran of a half dozen Tribal Councils related the sad facts of a sensational murder trial with the appropriate gravitas. When the first of two remotes was over, Jeff leaned on the live truck and caught his breath for the first time all week.

“Man”, he said, flashing his trademark grin, “I thought laying around bored in the Outback was tough…this is hard!”

Welcome to my world, Jeff. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

News Unit Time Travel

I was drifting off behind the wheel yesterday morning when the cell phone ripped me from my slow lane stupor.

“High Point P.D.’s chasing a bank robber off Hasty School Road. Scanner’s goin’ nuts. Where you at?”

”85, just shy of 109...” Now I was awake, hurtling down the interstate and late for a date with inconvenience. No longer drowsy with b-block feature fodder, I leaned into the wheel and pressed the accelerator, my marked news unit weaving a taut thread through the mean streets of Thomasville.

As I negotiated the gauntlet of stoplights and city buses, I thought about what lay before me. Covering the immediate minutes following a bank robbery was never easy. While the violated building wasn’t going anywhere, a growing contingency of law enforcers would no doubt be scrambling after the brain surgeons who’d staged the robbery in the first place. Since neither parties gave a damn about the TV cameras that inevitably joined the chase, it could be a bitch to cover.

But before I could cover this latest foot race fiasco, I had to get there. Doing my best to get through town without braking too many laws, I gunned the engines to close in on an old Caddy up ahead. As I did, three unmarked Crown Vics fell in behind me. Through the rearview mirror, I could see the jug-eared silhouette behind the lead car’s steering wheel. Studying the outline, I recognized the breed as small town detective - from the angry flat top haircut to the unfortunate clip-on tie holding everything intact. Wishing they were ahead of me instead of behind, I punched the gas to give them space….and almost slammed into the Cadillac in front of me.

The knuckles and blue hair gave her away, though both were barely visible above the Caddy’s front seat. Through her side view mirror I could see the stoic face of a family matriarch who was in no rush to get to the grocery store, or church, or quilting bee. Whatever her destination, she held three cars full of law enforcers and one grumpy news photog hostage as she poked along on the two lane road. In a scene reminiscent of the slow speed pursuit of O.J.’s white Bronco, we reached speeds of 34 miles an hour for an excruciatingly long ten minutes.

Mercifully, the road eventually turned four lane and I happily let the law-dogs behind me be the first to blow past Granny. Once they did, I followed and the rolling countryside outside my news unit’s window turned back into a bright green blur.

By the time I reached Hasty School Road, life had amped back up to spot-news speed. Up ahead, the unmarked units turned down different side streets, joining the roving fleet of squad cars that was combing over every inch of the rural stretch. The law was also on foot - everywhere I looked sheriff deputed were sprinting across yards, knocking in doors, interviewing farm wives. With a curse and a shrug I whipped into a gas station’s gravel lot and threw the Ford Explorer in park. Outside the news unit, two women in NASCAR t-shirts watched slack-jaw from the store’s doorway as a Dukes of Hazzard episode unfolded before them.

“Hey ladies,“ I said as I pulled my tripod and camera from beneath the tailgate. “Where day at?”

The one in the Intimidator shirt unfolded her beefy arms, revealing an old, oversized cell phone and lots of jiggly arm-flesh,

“All da law’s headin down thar…”

I followed the direction of the woman’s outstretched hand and saw more blue twinkling in the distance. Instinctively, I leveled my lens and hit the Record button. Through my viewfinder I could see police cars pouring into a subdivision. Zooming out, I followed the sound of a thunderous engine and caught a perfect frame of a tinted-window Crown Vic thundering past me.

“Scanner’s saying they caught one of them! Back in some neighborhood…” I was back behind the wheel, the cell phone jammed in my ear and barking instructions.

“Left on Century, Right on Peacock, then it should dead-end.” I could hear my assignment editor’s map book rustling in the background. But by that time I had to drop the phone to grab the steering wheel, whereupon I quickly parked my news unit in a cockeyed driveway. Leaping out of my ride, I grabbed the camera and ran toward the cluster of cops cars and uniformed officers down the block.

I was halfway there when the police cars began pulling out. Skidding to a stop I shouldered my camera and brought the first black and white into view. Half out of breath, I had to brace myself to steady the shot. Hitting the VTR button with my thumb, I followed the approaching cars on a tiny screen an inch from my eye. The first zoomed by in a huff of but several large men with walkie-talkies were holding the third one up.

With my sonar pinging, I kept the car in frame while I jogged toward it. When I did the deputies stepped back from the car and it began inching forward. I zoomed out and stepped closer. Through the car’s window and my lens I saw a handcuffed figure with sandy blonde hair trying to become one with the floorboard. I smiled inside, glad to have bagged my quarry. But just as the suspect’s image embedded itself onto my disc, the deputy driver hit the gas and my video trophy shot out of sight.

Police radios cracked in the distance as I stood there, breathing heavy and reviewing the shots in my mind. Quite certain my footage would consist of no more than thirty seconds on-air, I caught my breath and tried not to think about the appointments I was now late for. Still, as I trudged back to my idling SUV, I quietly savored the flavor of a job that still occasionally gets my pulse going.

Of course that was all forgotten two hours later when I found myself stuck at a press conference, half-listening to the German CEO of a Chemical plant prattle on in heavy-accented deadpan about how excited he was to be coming to the Piedmont. There’s a clock stopper for ya.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Isabel and Me

Okay so it's not a flattering picture but a guy's gotta have something to blog about. Besides, I have a pretty good reason for not looking my best here. When the picture was snapped, Hurricane Isabel had been raining up my nose for a good ten hours. The dirty weather with a name came on quick, turning our pleasant parking spot by the fishing pier into a seaside encampment under seige. Still, that's what we came for, so as the swirling malestrom descended upon us, we dug in and went LIVE! The rest of the week stretched into an aching blur of soaking wet electronics, damp catnaps and too many granola bars. It was GREAT!

Or at least the memory is. It certainly makes for a good Top Ten list. Isn't that what life is all about? I think so - that's why the next time a malevolent cyclops bears down on our coast, I'm throwing my packed bags on the bosses desk and soon heading East thereafter. Because when you're huddled in a seedy hotel doorway before dawn, lashing down electric lights as flanks of seawater whip across the parking lot and a flimsy fishing pier trembles in the distance....well, that's story fodder you can't find at the office copier. So rest assured I'll be back for more - and this time, I'm taking YOU PEOPLE with me...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Tar Heel Tavern (#9)

Hello and welcome to the 9th edition of The Tar Heel Tavern. Submissions were slow to arrive at first, but after a little shameless begging the floodgates opened and entries from around the state poured into the Viewfinder BLUES home office, (which is really just a spare bedroom in my suburban High Point abode). Now that I have a respectable number of screeds, editorials and commentary, I can respectfully open the Tar Heel Tavern:

Melinama over at Pratie Place kick things off with an enlightening essay on appreciating what life gives you, including a brief rundown of intriguing experiences and images she’ll take all the way to grave. She calls the act of savoring what comes your way fighting ‘kiasu’. I call it common sense.

Speaking of which, Ogre thinks it may makes no sense that the dire predictions of the lousy economy are in the air when North Carolina exports SO MUCH STUFF around the world, especially everyone’s favorite walking state delicacy, the lowly pig.

One of my favorite IMPORTS is good coffee; in fact I’m pretty wired on a nice Guatemalan blend as we speak. Over at Josh Staigler’s site, he’s listed several of his favorite coffee shops in the Raleigh area, proving high quality bean doesn’t always have to start with ‘Star’ and end with ‘Bucks‘.

In the first of several TV news related entries, Chris Weaver at TV Photog Blog reveals the truth: Not EVERY day behind the big lens is an exercise in breathless adventure, in fact some shifts are a prolonged lesson in loitering . And here I thought I was the only who catnapped at stoplights.

While we’re wallowing in all this inaction, let’s take a look at Dirty Greek’s offering - a sobering post on how quickly we're depleting the Earth’s resources. The stats and links he provides are indeed scary - especially considering there’s no spare planet floating just off shore.

Closer to home, Terri-Lynn at Nearest Distant Shore checks in with what she calls ’a tale of bad parenting’, but to me she just sounds like a loving Mom who happens to be human. Read her pain-filled post and you’ll agree, little Liam is in good hands.

No, for real dunderhead behavior, check out Phin’s blog, who offers a tale of adolescence, alcohol and the Emerald City. I commend Phin for submitting this particular anecdote, as epic tales of bad decisions aren’t always easy to share. Having staged my own orchestras of stupidity in the very city Phin speaks of, I can relate.

Something else I can relate to is chasing newborn celebrities with a face full of viewfinder. A ludicrous assignment, yes - but it’s one of the many thankless tasks that falls on the weary shoulders of the TV news photog. But don’t take my word for it. Read this post from Colonel Corn and you’ll never look at a live shot the same way again.

But let’s turn off the tube and focus on deeper matters. Over at his site, the ever-admirable Ron Hudson provides a thought-provoking post on what we can do in life if only we try. Whether its translating Spanish poetry or dealing with his own mortality, Ron continues to educate us along the way. Read Ron Hudson. You’ll come away a better person.

Speaking of better people, the eponymous operator of Sue’s Place checks in with a delightful expose on the real Amityville Horror. As a child of the 70’s I grew up intrigued by the Long Island house with the funny windows. Now Sue’s debunking all my youthful misconceptions and providing a few laughs along the way.

While we're on the subject of real-life horrors, TV meteorologist Eric Chilton is being haunted by too much technology. From too many computer passwords to all those damn acronyms, Eric yearns for simpler times, when banks were crowded on Friday afternoons and blue tooth was something you used to convince the kids to brush their teeth. And you thought he was just a weatherman.

I’m told the weather was good for The Masters, but since what I know about golf could be spray painted on the surface of a micro-chip, I turn to the Grunkle Guru for all my links-related news. This week Grunk checks in with a rundown of golfdom’s premiere event, and explains why Vegas is a lousy place to blog. Who knew?

Back in North Carolina, Alex Wilson submits the latest entry from his audio book project at Telltale Weekly - an interview with Cary-based publisher and writer Jason Lundberg. It’s A 75-minute candid and informative exchange for anyone interested in their own publishing venture. I’M listening…

I’m also reading. So is Bora at Science and Politics. In fact, he recently raced to Raleigh to attend a book signing. The Good Father is a tome about being a Dad and what that means, particularly when the society is sending mixed messages about what it means to be "a man". As a father of two little girls, perhaps I should check it out.

Kent Bates also reads, and not just glowing letters off the teleprompter. At his burgeoning blog, he breaks down just who is to blame for soaring gas prices and why they look a lot like that person staring back at you in the rearview mirror. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go gas up my Hummer.

But before I leave broken pavement in my path, let’s check in with my favorite rapscallion of all time, William Teach. No longer terrorizing the Carolinas Coast, Teach holds up in his Pirate’s Cove and launches regular salvos of conservatism across our cyber-bow. This week the uber-blogger drops the politics for something we can all agree on; the beauty of a goose in a mall parking lot.

That’s it, people - The Tar Heel Tavern is closing down for the week. But before I chase all you drunks into the breaking daylight, I must issue an appeal to all who’ve made it this far. The tenth edition of the Tar Heel Tavern is currently homeless. Won’t one of you fine barkeeps step up and host it next week? The duties involved are far from taxing and the dense blogosphere that clings over our state will be a better place for it. Click here to add your name to the role and I’ll forever sing your praises. Until then dear reader, this is your friendly neighborhood Lenslinger hoping everyone’s upcoming week will indeed be something to blog about...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Tavern Time Running Out...

Don't miss the Midnight Deadline for The Tar Heel Tavern, a floating compendium of blog offerings from around North Carolina. Simply comb through your freshest postings and e-mail me (lenslinger at northstate dot net) the link to your favorite. I'll rise early, get all jacked up on the wife's good coffee and publish early Sunday. Help your neighborhood Lenslinger extend the fine work of this burgeoning blog carnival by submitting some of your on-line brilliance. Otherwise don't complain if I stack the Tavern with excerpts from my vast collection of multi-lingual mattress tag warnings. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Big Link

This week on The Big Link, a blogger whose undying passion makes me question my own crusty cynicism.

Bass-Zapping at Salem Lake

From the fatal fire to the kindergarten classroom, I never know where I’ll spend the next news shift. So it was no surprise yesterday when I found myself along the banks of Salem Lake as state biologists zapped a good portion of the Wide-Mouth Bass population with electrical current. You heard me - they’re shocking fish with electricity. Sure it sounds like fun but these Wildlife Resource Officers actually had a good reason for doing so. By stunning the Bass until they float to the surface, these scientists get a better idea of the size, weight and health of the many floating trophies who call Salem Lake home.

All was going well aboard our small craft as the Wildlife guys dropped the zapper into the drink and fired up the generator. For about three minutes, dazed fish with X’s in their eyes popped up all around us. As they scooped the Bass into our boat, I followed the action in my viewfinder, trying my best to stay out of the way and avoid dropping my high-dollar fancy-cam into the water (been there).

Three minutes into what was to be an hour on the lake, an acrid odor filled the air and my two on-board hosts began scrambling wildly toward the generator. By the time one of them reached the kill button, blue sparks were flying from the roaring machine. Now, I’m no scientist, but even I know blue sparks and a burning smell on a metal boat in the middle of a lake ain’t good. After a few mumbled curses, the Wildlife guys sheepishly explained their generator had just gone to that great electric field in the sky. Suddenly, the show was over.

As we turned back toward shore, I reviewed the footage in my head. Though I had most of the shots I needed for my story, it wasn’t the collection of pristine images I would have obtained given more time. But news is news, so I resigned myself to working with what I had on disc. As the boat sped back toward the Marina, I sat back and enjoyed the view of a lake I’ve biked around many times.

Overall, not a lousy way to spend a Thursday morning. Wonder what I’ll do today?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Tavern Beckons...

With only twenty four hours until the submission deadline, the entries for the ninth edition of The Tar Heel Tavern ARE POURING IN! Okay, maybe that’s a but hyperbolic. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say entries are trickling in. No - that’s still a bit of an overstatement. Truth is, I’ve yet to receive a single story for the floating compendium of blog-offerings from around our State.

But why? Has the whole blogosphere dried up? Have the angry politicos packed up their on-line screeds to concentrate on their collection of bipartisan cookbooks? Have all the pet lovers destroyed their photo spreads of Fido and Fluffy and chosen to focus on their investment portfolios? Have all the would-be media darlings set fire to their seething epistles and decided their bosses truly do a better job of speaking for them? Will I become known as the guy who shut down The Tar Heel Tavern? You know - the same way people blame George Clooney for bringing the Batman film franchise to a screeching halt...IS THIS THING ON?!?

Ahem. You alone have the power to ease my strife and help breathe new life into this burgeoning blog carnival, simply by submitting your favorite post of the week to your friendly neighborhood lenslinger (lenslinger at northstate dot net). Do so and I’ll add your brilliance to the on-line repertoire that comprises the Tar Heel Tavern - a publication destined to be read by at least a half dozen North Carolinians. It’s easy, just e-mail me your post, blog title and any other information you deem pertinent. For more info on the Tavern itself just click here to read the fine print. You could even sign up to host a future Tavern! Then you too could savor joy of checking your inbox hourly for submissions only to find reams of unwanted spam.

Speaking of which, it says right here for only three payments of $19.95 I can increase the size and stamina of my… well, never mind that - just do me a favor and shoot a submission my way. Otherwise I’ll be forced to fill this week’s Tavern with twisted episode of my life behind the lens. You know, like that time I chased a young Bigfoot through the woods with my Mom’s camcorder. It was a brilliant summer evening back in 1980, I was just a boy with a viewfinder and a thirst for adventure...

Remember, last Call for The Tar Heel Tavern is Midnight on Saturday…

My Life with Motley Crue

Motley Crue is playing the Greensboro Coliseum tonight and I’m not going. No surprise there, as my musical tastes run a tad deeper than their populist metal fare. These days I’d much rather sit back and groove to some acoustic Blues than pound my fist in the air at all that simulated bombast. But I must admit I’m still intrigued by this rogue foursome with the hair-metal history. Sitting here now, I think I know why.

In my senior year of high school I took part in one of those embarrassing rituals unique to pep rallies and adolescence: The Air Band Competition. Flattered at being chosen yet worried about making a complete ass of myself, I took to the gymnasium floor and played my best air guitar to the Crue’s remake of ‘Smokin’ in the Boys Room’. Luckily I wasn’t down there alone. Instead I was flanked by two righteous buddies who’s just joined me in a little boys room smoking’ of our own. We may not have been cool as we shook our mullets in head-banging unison, but we were damn sure rock and roll.

As with many landmark events in my life, it was captured on videotape, thanks to the steady-handed efforts of a well-off buddy and his early camcorder. We used to cue that puppy up and watch it all the time, but as the years wore on we thought better of sharong the tape’s contents with others. That musty beta-tape now lives happily in the Embarrassment Relocation Program.

Several years later I found myself a reluctant member of the U.S. Navy. While stationed din Norfolk, some squid buddies and I scored tickets to the Motley Crue/Whitesnake show at The Scope. I wasn’t a huge fan of either band but looked forward to getting off the ship and maybe even seeing some girls in the process. All went well until the night of the show, when I somehow lost my ticket between the car and the Coliseum. To this day I don’t know how I lost that ticket but it may have had something to do with all the ‘losing juice’ I’d been drinking that afternoon. Whatever the case, I was absolutely crestfallen as my buddies left me in the parking lot to fend for myself as they went inside to soak up all those pyrotechnics and drum solos.

Suddenly, I wanted to attend that concert more than anything. As the first chords of Whitesnake’s opening act wafted outside, I trolled the grounds of the Coliseum’s complex, bummed out, broken and bereft. But my luck changed after I spotted a disheveled figure sitting on a park bench. For a homeless guy he sure was popular. After a few more minutes of watching the casual traffic around his bench, I approached the old guy and soon bought my first scalped concert ticket. My last too, come to think of it.

Thanks to the old man, and willingness to sell me a ticket at only double the face-value - I rawked with the Crue in all their cocksure swagger. More accurately, I hung back and watched individual audience members as they shimmied and genuflected to their own-stage gods. To this day I can still see a rotund fellow in a wife-beater t-shirt pumping his chubby fists in drum solo supplication. Perhaps therapy would help erase that.

Instead of erasing memories, let me hit the fast-forward button to, oh …about twelve years. No longer a high school poseur or drunken sailor, I paced the spaces of an underground parking garage and shifted my betacam from shoulder to shoulder. Two flights up, a bailiff readied a courtroom for the arrival of one Nikki Sixx, due in court to face charges related to an earlier concert turned near-riot. Loitering in the subterranean darkness, I no longer gave a flip about the misadventures of a spoiled millionaire. But since Nikki Sixx’s mug on tape was what my bosses demanded me of that day, I was once again following the Crue. I was trying to remember all the words to ’Dr. Feelgood’ when my cell phone rang.

“Eugene Street Side! Eugene Street!”

The slight panic in my co-worker’s voice told me Mr. Sixx was on the property. As I ran out of the garage and into the sunlight I caught a glimpse of my fellow photographer chased in man with long, impossibly black hair. I tried to join in the pursuit but by the time I leveled my own weapon, the tattooed pseudo-bass player had slipped into the courthouse and out of sight. Left with nothing but empty tape and rock star vapor, I huddled with my co-worker and exchanged notes. After a brief strategy session, I took position to await Nikki Sixx’s inevitable egress from the Guilford County justice system. As clerks and lawyers took their briefcases for morning walks all around me, I sat on a low wall and thought about my role in life and that of a globe-trotting eighties metal icon. Whatever lay ahead, I was glad to be nearing the end of my interaction with one Motley Crue.

And here I sit writing almost 900 words about them. Sheesh…

Hovering Over Contraband

What began as a simple seatbelt violation traffic stop led the Randolph County Sheriff’s department to well over one million dollars in drugs and cash. What better time to hold a press conference? Sheriff Litchard Hurley did just that on Wednesday, taking questions from the media as he stood before wrapped kilos of cocaine, bundled pounds of marijuana and enough cold hard cash to make Donald Trump feel at home.

“It’s a pretty good lick, allright” said Hurley, which is sheriff-ese for ‘I’m pleased with the outcome of this investigation‘.

He should be; his aggressive Drug Interdiction Task Force has consistently scored big hits along the bustling corridor of Highway 220, closing down many a drug dealer’s mobile office in the process. I’ve chatted with these seasoned deputies and found them to be fascinating creatures. At first glance they just seem to be good ole boys in uniform, but don’t let their laid-back demeanor fool you. Using their well-honed sniper’s eyes, bad-ass driving skills and a surprising grasp of human nature under stress, these are NOT the guys you won’t leaning through your car window - especially if you got enough dead presidents on board to make a rap video and a half dozen kilos of Peruvian Marching Powder in the trunk.

Back at the cop shop, I gathered shots of the 92 pounds of pot, 11 kilos of coke and countless bundles of ten thousand dollars. As far as shwag shoots go, it was pretty typical. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve hovered over such contraband in the police department conference rooms and sheriff’s department’s garages. It’s enough to make a couple of rookie cops exchange giddy high-fives while a weary cameramen shelves any future plans of life as a drug mule. Who would dare - when the open highway is riddled with lawmen who don’t mind standing in the rain for hours as they scour every crevice of your car for that elusive sunflower seed.

Amazingly, people continue to try and smuggle drugs up the 220 corridor, despite the unsavory odds of spending a good many years in the Pokey. Its this fact that keeps the Drug Interdiction Task Force so enthusiastic, for they know that the next shifty-eyed drifter with out-of-state plates they pull over may be their next million dollar hit. A pretty good lick, indeed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My Own Mount Trashmore

Every time the International Home Furnishings Market hits High Point, city workers round up 300 tons of cardboard boxes, packing material and those damn Styrofoam popcorn balls. As one who’s about to drag his own recyclables to the curb, I really feel for the city workers who have to separate this mountain range of refuse by hand. Truth is, there are days when I’d gladly trade my camera and laundry list of assignments for a pair of rubber gloves and a chance to hear smooth R and B that has emanated from the Waste Materials Warehouse’s loudspeakers every time I visit.

Which brings me to this picture. I was merely trying to illustrate the size of the trash heap, but the image I came away with reminds of those Demotivation Posters I’ve seen on-line. But in the hustle and bustle of an incredibly busy week, I’m having trouble coming up with a caption. Any suggestions? The person with the best line wins a Viewfinder BLUES virtual t-shirt...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Calling All N.C. Bloggers!

Written anything good lately? Sure you have. There was that screeching indictment of the cat litter industry you penned in the mensroom a few days ago. Or how about that ode to beef stew you’ve been noodling with on your laptop? Need I mention the flower garden photo-spread festering in your flickr account? That’s top shelf stuff, people, and its high time you got more eyeballs on it.

Just hurl the URL of your best blog post from this week to your friendly neighborhood Lenslinger (lenslinger at northstate dot net). I’ll add it to the vat and let it simmer 'til Sunday. Then - on the Seventh Day, I’ll fling open the doors of the Tar Heel Tavern and serve a sloshing, frothy swill to binging blogaholics from the mountains to the coast. Why go out of state for watered-down wisdom when the Good Stuff’s right here on cyber-tap? Not to mention the bar nuts...

See ya on Sunday. Until then, conjure up some brilliance and shoot it my way. Be sure to include the permalink to the post, along with your name, the name of your blog and whatever else you want to share with this bleary-eyed barkeep. If you’re a simple caveman and these types of blog carnivals confuse and frighten you, simply visit the Tar Heel Tavern homepage, where our crack staff will initiate the de-thawing process with a few stiff shots of blogger’s rotgut.

Just remember, Last Call is Midnight Saturday.

Monday, April 18, 2005

In Other News...

With the May ratings period looming near, a blogger’s meet-up scheduled for Wednesday and a Tar Heel Tavern to host, its shaping up to be a busy week. So you’ll have to forgive me for not having a fully formed treatise tonight. Instead, allow me a quick glance around the immediate blogosphere...

Colonel Corn is adding to his burgeoning blog with two recent posts of note. The first dispatch reveals how he obtained that lofty rank to begin with; a dusty epic stretching from the newsrooms of America to the battlefields of Iraq. Back stateside, the Colonel drops into a hot landing zone to free footage of friend-of-the-show Fantasia at her ghetto queen homecoming live shot showdown. Remember, many men suffered to bring you this message...

In a pleasing bit of blogger synergy, Interiors trend analyst Michelle Lamb answered my essay, Lordess of the Armoire with a posting of her own, My One Minute and Fifteen Seconds of Fame. The senior editor of The Trend Curve was one of the most easy-going people I’ve ever met at Furniture Market, a global gathering not widely-known for its niceties. Mrs. Lamb defies that trend, writing:

"I liked Stewart right away. He was casually dressed (he would stay off-camera) and pleasant. And what a pro! He made me feel so comfortable that all my fears about being on-camera just melted away as he asked questions and I answered."

Funny, she never mentioned the imaginary parrot on my shoulder.

Oh well, someone who’s NOT the least bit deranged (at least clinically) is the ever quixotic Little Lost Robot. This week the wandering android is on a Vegas Bender, prowling the concourse at the Television Industry’s biggest shindig of the year, RTNDA-NAB-LMNOP. At last report, LLR was seen spilling out of a limo at dawn and demanding cognac. You know how he gets when he travels. Somewhere between euphoria and rehab we should get a few solid reports. Oh, sign me up for next year.

Lastly, here’s a chance for me to plug a blog I truly love. Few other sites I visit drop my jaw as regularly as the phenomenal mountain photography on display at Blue Ridge Blog. Dubbed the life and times of a hillbilly photographer, it’s a pleasant enough journal of a Mountain Mom who just happens to take mind-boggling photographs. There is none higher!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

We Interrupt this Live Shot...

Since we last caught up with this elusive crew of electronic jesters, the Newsbreakers have been quite busy. From Rochester to Phoenix to Manhattan and beyond, this Merry Band of Idiots has bum-rushed a number of TV news live shots, interrupting transmissions and trains of thought with well-planned acts of random stupidity. Led by Senior Political Correspondent Buck “Lucky” Owens, this shock-squad of digital interlopers is ripping media criticism out of the drowsy lecture hall and into the street-level live shot. Grinning Grim Reapers, egg-smashing fry cooks and some dork in an Invisible Suit have all wormed their way into the background of the local news live remote. I guess everybody needs a hobby...

In their most recent hijack of public airwaves, the Reverend Utah Snakewater attempted to exorcise Clear Channel demons from a Rochester, New York live television broadcast. The televangelist’s spirited sermon spurred the level headed reporter to abort said live shot and quickly throw it back to the desk with only the perfunctory eye roll. Still, the resulting clip is quite funny. In fact, I’ve giggled at each and every one of the live shot liberations I’ve watched on-line. Call it a guilty pleasure of the cynical lenslinger. Or don’t - it’s a free country! Just know that while I might chortle from afar at the Newsbreakers’ shenanigans, I’d have a lot different opinion were it MY live shot they were invading. Then IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME! Or is it?

So far this ’firebrand media watchdog group has been damn lucky. Their on-air rampages have been met with only odd stares, general befuddlement...and well, there was that one Vulcan Death Grip. Personally, I'd never advocate violence, but there are some surly shooters I know who'd beg to differ. After all, we field rats are volatile types working under constant deadline and intense conditions. We’re all pretty civilized, but cross the wrong loopy clown with the wrong bitter photog and you got big trouble in Sat Truck City. I’m not predicting a duel will break out or anything, but I do know that different people have different ideas about reasonable discourse. One man’s detached tripod leg is another man’s velvet glove. Stand by for the slap...

Until then, I’ll be keeping a squinty eye on the Newsbreakers. Their strange approach to media reform and street theater deserves nothing less. I just hope I never run into one of the clowns in person. I’m all for lampooning the shrill nature of modern-day newsgathering and am generally open to debate. But it’s hard to take a thesis seriously when you got a face full of camera, a blaring earpiece wedged in your brain-stem and some joker in a giant rubber chicken suit is singing show-tunes at your lens. No sir, that’s one flashback trigger I can do without.