Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ambushing Gustav

YOU may be enjoying a long holiday weekend, but a friend of mine's nursin' a hurricane. Yes, none other than Turd Polisher left his beloved Baton Rouge hours ago, aiming his station's satellite truck at Grand Isle, where he'll lay in wait for a killer named Gustav. Enthralling as it may sound, it's not how Rick Portier would choose to spend his Labor Day. He's covered many a storm before, including a marquee wind that's still headlining his homeland - Hurricane Katrina. That cured everyone's appetite for tropical weather, silly live shots or not. But with a Class 4 storm headed for his native state, this mild-mannered family man is once again racing toward that furious shore - just to get an electronic look-see. Makes sense to me.

If it seems illogical to you, count yourself among the normal. Making a logo'd bee-line for the beach as backed-up traffic staggers off the island can be downright erotic. It's also incredibly uncomfortable as civilization quickly breaks down around you. Power goes out, businesses close and sensible people disappear. As your live shots multiply, menus choices dwindle. Tobacco habits reappear, recording gear falters and sand rubs everything raw. And that's before the first shard of sheet metal even takes flight. Yes, rushing to continent's edge under such conditions sucks beyond compare. Thank God I've got a job that lets me do it anyway. As for Rick, he's a pro; I expect him make the best television of whatever Gustav throws at him. While he's at it, he's obligated to blog, both for his station and for the solace it provides him. Check 'em out and while you're at it, pray for their safety. I am...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inbreds at Eleven


Understand, I don't put these costumed rubes on my site without a little trepidation. But what better way to introduce you to the career of one David R. Busse, news photographer, sat truck operator and sore-shouldered witness to the last thirty years of history. I've been aware of Busse for some time; he's a veritable legend at KABC-TV in Los Angeles and a constant contributor to b-roll.net. But it wasn't until he shared his personal photo spread with me that I began to grasp just how much this journeyman photog has eyeballed in the name of news. His collection of snapshots reminds of a montage from Forrest Gump - in which a likeable everyman wanders in and out of our nation's most important frames. He's been gracious enough to allow me to display a few of those photos here - provided I don't drool over any of the pixels. So, let's begin with the above image, captured by Gail Fisher - now a National Geographic photographer based in DC. It was October of 1981 - at the very center of Fontana, California...
The Klansmen decided they would march down Sierra Ave., the town's main drag, in a show of strength. The march drew plenty of publicity and the Klansman were outnumbered about 50-1 by outraged townspeople, cops and media. The mill closed in 1983 and Fontana's rough edges were worn down by the transition to bedroom community in the growing Southern California economy. Today, people of all races and kinds live in the tract home communities of Fontana, there's little left her to suggest bikers, steel mill workers and the Ku Klux Klan. So be it.
So be it, indeed. Next time, a few candid snapshots of young David hamming it up with a then unknown Bigfoot. Well, not really...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

High Water and Hell Hounds

Flood Watch
With what's left of Tropical Storm Fay currently drowning central North Carolina, it was a lousy day to chase news in the Piedmont. But chase it we did, with every hour bringing a new Tornado Watch, a new flash flood warning and yet another bleating cell phone ring. Tough duty for a guy whose idea of proper rain gear is to simply stay inside. But for all the copperheads, gas leaks and scanner traffic we endured today, one non-weather peril stands out. It happened early in the day - just moments before spot news specialist Caron Myers snapped this shot of yours truly shooting off the deck of a Greensboro domicile...

We'd barely pulled into the flooded neighborhood when a most helpful gentlemen offered us an unfettered view of the ravaging runoff from the relative safety of his deck. Actually, he just said "C'mon!" and motioned us toward his front door. Being media weasels, we jumped at the chance to get closer to the action and set off sprinting across the man's soggy yard. (Why we were running I don't know, the six feet of swirling floodwater was quite literally, going nowhere) Even still, Caron and I bounded up the steps of the man's humble home like a hopped-up SWAT team. Caron was the first one in, her microphone and rain slicker disappearing into the darkened front room. With my tripod and camera in tow it took me a nanosecond longer to breach the man's threshhold, and as I squeezed through the doorway a small part of my brain absorbed the handpainted sign on the porch urging me to Beware of the Dog! Inside, heavy drapes covered every window and as my eyes struggled to adjust, I thought about that night vision scene from Silence of the Lambs. In the distance, some kind of power tool idled roughly; it wasn't until I'd picked my way past a sofa-shape that I realized what it was...

GGGRRRZZKKKGGRRZKGRXKGRXKGGRRRRRZKKKGGRR!!!!

Somewhere in the small home a great, miserable beast coiled on its haunches, lusting for the blood of the new intruders. I slowed my roll not one iota, but I did wonder for a second if the homeowner owned some sort of fire-breathing gargoyle. When nothing lept up for my jugular I pressed forward, rounding the corner to follow Caron through the kitchen. The sound inside that small room was deafening; the beast's tortured growling bounced off the old linoleum, making it sound like we were stepping inside his very stomach. Still, we pushed toward the filtered sunlight peeking through the back door, trying to ignore the fact we were about to be eaten. Caron was the first one through the door and as I squeezed past what I thought was an oven range to follow her, I came crotch to snout with the owner of that homicidal growl. Insode his crate, the hound from hell just about came out of his fur as the Grade-A Cameraman slid past his prison. Punching through to daylight, I shot Caron the appropriate eye-roll before throwing my camera on its sticks. and getting busy. Looking back, it was well worth it - but I do wonder who would have carried on this blog had the latch of that trembling crate failed.

At least I know how mail carriers feel....

Soul to Soul

For a non-guitar player, I'm pretty fanatical about the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Maybe that's because he saved me from buying into the New British Invasion of the 1980's. While my classmates thrilled to the spangly swagger Duran Duran, I fell under the spell of one Guitar Hurricane. Possessing brute strength, ethereal finesse and the kind of tone that makes lead guitarists weep, Stevie singlehandedly changed the course of my musical journey. His love for the Masters, coupled with Hendrixian energy, opened the eyes of many a young white neophyte when it came to the Electric Blues. Though he died tragically eighteen years ago today, his music and message continues to shape my tastes: from the Albert King CD's in my news unit to the title of this very blog. I used to say I wanted to write stories the way Stevie played guitar. I'll never come close, but his career and canon do continue to provide a soundtrack for my interior monologue. So bear with me as I pay tribute to my guitar hero with a few paltry words and an encore performance of Texas Flood. Here's hoping you have an artist who speaks to you, who enflames your imagination and soul no matter how many times you've heard it all before. Life's too short to go 'round uninspired...

Schmuck Alert: Dimwitted in Denver

With so many souls and lenses squeezed into Denver, it was inevitable that a few schmucks would surface. Since my aversion to political pageantry precludes me from submitting a comprehensive list, two cases do come to mind:

I like cops. My favorite blog of the moment is written by one. But it's hard to pony up a donation for the Policeman's Ball after watching a couple of Denver officers rough up an ABC producer. To be fair, Asa Eslocker was standing on a public sidewalk. Hey, they may allow that kind of thing in Manhattan, but such scofflaws won't be tolerated in the Mile High City. Why else would officers shove Eslocker into oncoming traffic - curse, threaten and eventually wrestle him into custody? Was he peddling dope to passing hippies? Distributing Obama's hotel room number? Preparing to change into Borat's bikini bottom? No... he and a crew were taking pictures of Democratic Senators and their powerful donor pals as they left a swanky hotel. Guess he had it comin', after all...

In what may be the stupidest blog post I've ever read (that's saying a lot), Kevin Puppos of Colorado Indymedia is urging protestors to block the media's satellite dishes with homemade signs made of aluminum foil (how better to promote Freedom of Speech?). Not only would such a tactic incur the wrath of burly truck ops, but deflecting the path of said dish transmission might very well fry your insides. Depending on just how much you hate FOX News, it really doesn't seem worth it. Of course, we media jackals have made great hay of such an assinine suggestion, with some offering to give the Great Unwashed a boost on their way to sterilization. Me - I don't want to see anyone get hurt. More importantly, I don't want to smell all that Patchouli Oil and body musk sizzling in the midday sun.

Say it with me ... Schmucks!

In Theaters Everywhere

Dukes of High Point
When we initially interviewed Jamison Forst, he said nothing of a Photoshop addiction. But soon after the big fella began slinging our lenses, flyers started popping up across the El Ocho compound. At first they were great - expertly altered posters of movies and such - each featuring strangely familiar faces. As ar-teests ourselves, we encouraged our new photog's predilection for defacement, for what was lost in intellectual property was more than made up for in photog lounge morale (if we had a photog's lounge). Now however, the dude's gone too far. He's gone and slapped a few of our silly mugs on a Dukes of Hazzard movie poster (click to embiggen). As something of a Yankee, he probably didn't know - but this here's still the South and you simply don't go around blaspheming The Dukes of Hazzard (no matter how good I look in cowboy boots). So, after much discussion we've decided to dock his pay. It may sound harsh, but it could have been a lot worse. Weaver wanted to go Gillooly on him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On NOT Writing

Sore Hand CompanionAll eyes may be on Denver tonight, but I’m sitting here watching this infernal cursor blink. Its steady cadence mocks me; the silent vigil it keeps atop yet another blank page nearly drives me insane. Perhaps I should go to bed. It’s not like I’d toss or turn. Ask any reporter who’s spent an afternoon with me in a live truck: I can pretty much sleep on command. It’s something I learned in the Navy. Most everything else I’ve forgotten; what memories that do linger feel like scenes from a midnight movie I watched a couple of times but never really understood. Guess I should have written some it down. That way I’d at least have some notes to review, instead of a half dozen snapshots and a few buddies names I’ll take to the grave. But I didn’t log in tonight to reminisce. No, I came to purge. It’s something I’ve done for nearly four years straight, thanks to an understanding wife who tends to turn in early and an unlimited supply of Starbucks coffee. That’s right; this blog is artificially fueled. Were it not for the fine people of Guatemala, I might never have developed this silly habit. I don’t know whether I should contact their embassy or call in air strike. Perhaps I’ll just send a card…

I have always found solace in words. A voracious reader since I first learned to spell, it’s still the one thing I do the most. Don’t believe me? The other day Weaver and I were discussing the inanity of cable news and he asked me what one channel I’d choose if I could only have one. “That’s easy,” I said. “C-Span 2. They have Book TV every weekend.” If that doesn’t erase any cool points I’ve wrongly accumulated over the years, consider this: I couldn’t tell you what channel ESPN appears on if you put a gun to my head. Maybe that’s because I turn my back to my darkened Hi-Def set every night, choosing instead to share my evenings with you generous reader - when I’m not taking emptying the dishwasher, throwing Frisbee with the kids or pretending to clean out the garage, that is. Not that I’m doing this for anyone but me. One part ambition, two parts therapy, this humble site and its tiny core audience has afforded me something I’ve always yearned for: a writing discipline. Sure, I got it through false pretense, but it’s mine now and you can’t have it. So stop asking; you’re embarrassing both of us.

One thing four years of blogging has taught me: it doesn’t get any easier. Sure, I’ve learned to stretch the vaguest of ideas into a few fairly legible paragraphs each night, but I worry about repeating myself. There are, after all, only so many ways to describe the atrocities of electronic newsgathering. That’s why I review books on occasion, post dumb mullet photos and scour the internet for vintage cameraman photos to share. Call it filler; I prefer to think of it as ancillary blog fodder. Without it, I’d have a hard time maintaining any web presence at all, for not every shift is a mind-bending exercise in The Art of the Grab. Some are tedious as hell, forcing me to take to my upper lair with nary a clue on what I’m going to tell you. On nights like that, I really suffer - for it’s become important to me to feign prolificacy - even when I got nuthin’ to say. For I know that as soon as I decide there are no more themes to explore, I’ll stumble across an idea or event that will renew this compulsion to communicate. So hang in there, gracious visitor and know that I still consider Writer’s Block something of a privilege…

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Amani at Large

He may call himself The Urban Reporter, but lately Amani Channel's been traipsing through the Florida back country, as he and photog Mario Page chase a mother of a rainmaker around the state. But filing freelance reports for HDNews is only part of this Atlantan's arsenal. Having worked both sides of the local TV lens, he's now a prolific vloggerand regular guest contributor on NPR’s News and Notes. Holy Mother of Rosenblum, how multimedia can you get? Mmmmm, let me have my staff get back to you on that. Meanwhile, do peruse the life's work of this 'social media practitioner'. Dude's got views all his own, but for me his moxie eclipses his politics. As for his latest dispatches from the floodzone, why they remind me of my own time spent floating over Cadillacs. Not bad for a city slicker...