Friday, March 16, 2007

Daughtry's Coming 'Home'

On a lighter note, how about that Chris Daughtry? At last check, his debut CD had gone double-dog platinum, a mean feat for anybody these days - let alone some dude who was scribbling service orders at the local Honda dealership a year or so ago. But that was before American Idol made him a household name - a not always pleasant process we documented in sardonic detail last year here at Lenslinger Central. I have many memories of Chris from that twisted ordeal, but my favorite involves this picture I snapped in Hollywood last May. Some spastic lounge singer by the name of Hicks had just been coronated 2006's American Idol and young Mr. Turbo-Throat couldn't have been giddier. At the time I thought he was just super-stoked to be done with the Great American Cheesefest, but I realize now he was already plotting his world domination - or at least one hell of a run on VH-1's Top Twenty Countdown.

So, why am I bringing all this up now? Other than the fact that any mention of Chris Daughtry sends my site meter spinning? Simple - he'll be here in a week! In a most ambitious attempt to raise its Tourney Town profile, Chris' alleged hometown is hosting one mother of a free concert, smack-dab in downtown Greensboro. Having stolen a peek at the set-up and the plans, I hereby predict incredible success or ab-so-lute bedlam. Either way, it'll be a Friday night to remember as South Elm Street explodes with Soccer Moms, crackpipe owners and a host of poseurs in black sequined peacocks t-shirts. Best(?) of all, I'll be there - shooting Chris, the crowd and avoiding any impromptu beer-showers that might come my way. Who knows how much of the show I'll actually see, but I do hope to witness the mob's reaction to a video I'm putting together for the montage intro on the JumboTron. But don't feel left out if you choose not to attend (trust me - choose not to attend!), I hope to post clear photos and blurry impressions of the inevitable melee.

Until then, I'll be practicing my Metal God falsetto, should the recalcitrant rocker decide to skip town at the last moment. Can't say I'd blame him...

Check out my UPDATE!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Scurry, Schlep and Scorn

I came to work in TV News quite by accident, you know. Sure, I'd honed my broadcasting chops in the Navy, but there just wasn't much of a market for seaborne deejays in my part of the Carolinas so I wandered into the local CBS affiliate and proclaimed myself versed in all things television. At the time I was barely getting by selling cars and I've come to believe it was my polished pitch that got me that magnificent job and its minimum-wage paycheck. Not that I cared. I was just happy to be in the game, egregiously stoked not to be sitting in the middle of the ocean and taking hair-metal requests from the fellas in the mess-decks. Unshackled and not wholly sober, I sequestered myself in that small market station and learned all they would teach me, secretly convinced the whole time I was one stipend away from being dismissed as the broadcast fraud I truly was.

Imagine my shock when that sudden dismissal never happened. Instead my new employers fed my ambitions with all manner of in-house chores: lightbulb maintenance, soundboard babysitting and the finest in studio camera slow-dance. After a year or so I got bored, started poking my mullet into other departments and scored a gig writing copy for local car lots, pawn shops and more high-dollar dress boutiques than I ever wished to know existed. Soon I was accompanying the commercial photog on out shoots, where I learned the power of the cue-card, the glory of the second-take and the pitfalls of drop-cord origami. Once I proved I could hold a camera without dropping it, the chiselers upstairs pronounced me a prodigy and curtly dispatched me to helm another shockingly bad thirty second spot all by my lonesome. Suddenly I was an auteur - albeit one whose reel consisted mainly of used car salesmen in chicken suits.

There I would have probably stayed had it not been for a scared frat boy, a SWAT team and a plastic gun. That encounter has been much covered in these pages so I'll spare you a re-cap. Let's just say I stumbled away from my first stand-off punchdrunk and giddy. Never before had I pointed a lens at something so dangerous, so unplanned, so damned intoxicating. I wouldn't wish that day on anybody, as a friend of mine suffered before she was released. I, however, found religion that day. Not the kind you find in church, but the type practiced at courthouses, crime scenes and sat truck encampments. With great relish, I traded my brand new production van for a second-hand news unit that reeked of old french fries and excess street cred. Confident I already knew more than most, I proceeded to profusely suck at my new position.

But I was lucky. With nowhere to go but up, I gradually got better. Much of my improvement came from sheer repitition. Coem back with blue video enough times, and even the numbest among us begins to realize he'd better start white-balancing. That and a slew of folks I now consider mentors helped me stay employed while I learned to craft nuance from crap. To be sure I was a punk-ass at times, but the competitors and colleagues that held my hand back then earned my undying love because they helped me shake any vestige of sheltered house cat from my broadcaster's repertoire. No more would I puff up in the newsroom and crow about the stories being served on a silver platter. No more would I profess to grasp something I'd only learned about secondhand. No more would I confirm my immaturity by dissing people who'd been making hard deadlines before I'd ever learned to make my bed.

Now that I'm older, I'd like to say the favor of respect had been returned. But alas, it isn't always so. Sure, the people that matter know what I do and count on me to do so on a hourly basis. For them I do my damndest to bend space and time, to twist the daily dribble of everyday life into easily-digestable newscast nuggets. It can be silly, fruitless, soul redeeming work and I love it more than I hate it. What tips the scale however is brazen contempt from those still wet behind the ears; easy scorn for those whose specialty demands physical labor on top of critical thinking. I'll chalk it up to youthful stupidity but it's just bad mojo - the kind that causes some people to pound furiously on their computer keyboard while others toss and turn 'cross town, wondering if, for once, they've pissed on the wrong photog.

Sleep tight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quest for Excellence

No sooner had I pinned my microphone on the park ranger than he whipped out that damn hat. You know - the kind Sergeant Carter wore in those priceless old Gomer Pyle episodes? These days, you usually see these face-light deprivers wedged on the heads of robotic State Troopers, equatorial brims cloaking their every expression in official silhouette. That may match the Sergio Leone movie playing inside your head, Ociffer - but in looks damn silly on the evening news. Still, the Highway Patrol must like it, since they apparently train every recruit to jam it down to their earlobes at the first sight of an approaching TV camera.

But today’s Smokey Bear headwear encounter didn’t for once involve twisted sheet metal. Instead of clinging to a ditch-bank while a highwayman waxes pragmatic, I was gathering sleepy soundbite on a copperhead scare at the Military Park. Not one to intentionally put crap on-the-air, I fiddled with my sticks until my hefty-cam was perched oh so precariously high. Reaching up, I stabilized my shot (and my piece of high-dollar gear I’d willingly catch with my face) until three quarters of the uniformed historian’s weathered face was appropriately sunlit. As unfocused squirrels frolicked in the background, I asked my first question secretly proud I’d conquered the elements for all of what would be an eight second shot.

That’s when the air-conditioning unit outside the Visitor’s Center kicked on, obliterating most of whatever Ranger Bear said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We Interrupt This Delay...

Forgive me dear reader, for I have fallen a bit behind on the blog as of late. I could blame my kids; those two have an itinerary that would out-flank most Secret Service agents. The only way I can keep up with them is to run beside the car and yell instructions into my sleeve, which oddly enough the pre-teen set finds embarassing. I've also been immersed in an off-line project: the assembly and tweakage of my long-delayed self-published anthology. I'd like to report great progress, but then I really would be delving into the world of fiction. Lastly, I've spent w-a-y too much time debating the state of on-line video with the Ornery Ink Brigade. Vitriol aside, I think we're making progress, but - should I go missing - check the dumpster behind every local newspaper in America. Avenge Me!