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, May 15, 2009

In Other News...

At the officeNever fails: I get into a good blogging groove and everyday life slaps me back into reality. How real writers foster their muse I don't know, but I'm guessing it doesn't involve forty hours a week of overland recorder portage. No bother, I've been push-button publishing long enough to know when to force it, when to chill and when to turn the damn thing off lest the Missus turn my upper lair into a sewing room. Thus, my output will always fluctuate - or at least until I figure out a way to make a living off dispatches both snarky and maudlin. In the meantime, forgive me if I go missing now and then, for as much I love this time we share together, I live with three females and greatly enjoy sleeping inside. So while I attempt to make this space as nifty as it appears on the dirty windshield of my news unit every morning, take heart in the fact that I think of you dear reader far more often than you think of me. If that creeps you out a little, I understand. Just promise you won't sit there in awkward silence as I rid my lid of residual squibs...

Anyone who wants to know what it's like to be a TV news photographer in a faltering economy should immediately flee this place and read a most prescient post by the great John Dumontelle. Yes, the photog known as 'Lensmith' has a couple of years on me and none of the high-dollar word addiction - all of which makes his latest manifest sad, noble and needed. Newsrooms the world over should display his post where all can see it - at least until half of them go semi-dark.

'What the hell are they looking at?" I thought as an elderly couple gaped and grinned at me during a recent red light. That's when it hit me: the news unit I'd borrowed for the day was festooned in look-at-me logos. It's been less than two years since I joined the ranks of unmarked news-gatherers. In that short amount of time I've totally forgotten what it feels like to pick your nose in a rolling billboard. Can't say I really miss it.

They say a sailor can sleep anywhere and they're right. Back in the Nav I learned to sack out in the ship's empty spaces, during on-deck inspections and while pretending to stare at a glowing radar scope. For better or worse, this ability followed me into civilian life; today i can catch wide-open shut-eye at long stoplights, short press conferences and - most tragically - my oldest offspring's orchestra performances. At least the houselights were dimmed...

I must be slipping. Today I let a fresh-faced photojournalism intern shadow my every move and I enjoyed most every minute of it. That's a real switch; I'm as adept at losing newbies as any other lenslinging lifer. Don't believe me? Hold this empty tape box while I low-crawl to the parking lot. Better yet, believe me when I say that teaching comes easy when your source material is etched in what's left of your soul. The wife is right, though: I come off pretty bitter. It's really just sarcasm soaked in twenty years of met deadlines...

Whenever I grow too satisfied with something I've scribbled (damn seldom as of late), I go back and read a little Rick Bragg. The Alabama native doles out his sordid family tales with Southern aplomb, twisting haunting narratives from everyday skeletons. All Over But the Shoutin', Ava's Man, and Prince of Frogtown make my heart ache and head thrb. Mostly it reminds me of the kind of writer I want to become when I grow up. Now wonder he's got a Pulitzer Prize...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Theaters Then...



Forget the new Star Trek, I wanna see THIS! Considered by some to be the best film ever made in Australia (Up YOURS, Mad Max!), Newsfront portrays political turmoil, the birth of workplace feminism and a whole bunch of dudes in suspenders and fedoras! What's more, producers made use of a then revolutionary technique: seamlessly editing old black and white newsreel footage into their 1978 feature fill-um. Your chocolate's in my peanut butter! Anyway, I've yet to find a real plot synopsis, but judging from the poster alone it involves a romance, some car chases and enough pleated slacks to fuel a Mens Wearhouse. Best of all, there's no CGI effects, no black-shirted hipsters dripping in sarcasm and not one cursed live truck in sight! Awwww, the good ole days...

UPDATE: Having secured her very own copy, archivist extraordinaire Amanda Emily posts her own review. Should the Lenslinger Institute ever truly materialize, I'm putting Amanda in charge of the library wing...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nuthin' But Bungee

Leave it to my Surly Editor® to post photographic evidence of the apocalypse now upon us... Okay, so it's just a picture of a handycam hog-tied to a tripod from the Reagan Administration, what's so globe-splitting about THAT? Well, plenty if you happen to sling a lens for a living. Even if you don't, it's hard to excuse the incongruities of a camera the size of a baked potato resting on this launch pad of a pedestal. The yellow and red bungee... eh, it's like noticing that banged-up Hyundai with the spinning rims has duct tape on the door handle. It's a sign of the times, all right; one that troubles News Blues' own Mike James:
The jury-rigged contraption, we think, represents perfectly the current state of local TV news.
No argument there, but from my admittedly low spot on the totem-pole, things are actually looking up. Nooo, I didn't bang my head on my news unit's open tailgate lid. I'm well aware good people are losing their jobs, just as I recognize the drop in overall quality that downsized gear and untested newbies will bring... but as someone who's learned how to turn vague story ideas into ninety second epics without any of that pesky glory, I can tell you: more of the same is on the way. That's fine by me, as I'm convinced TV news would be a lot more watchable if we removed the thick layer of sheen we've let build up on our sets all these many transmissions...

Now I'm not saying we should all sell our tripods, don black turtlenecks and mumble into the microphone like some newspaper hack imitating his favorite NPR host. No one wants more of THAT. But in the name of all that's banal, have you watched a commercial newscast lately? Even the good ones, like those I toil for, follow the same tired architecture forged back when Mary Tyler Moore was on the air. What led to this industry-wide case of arrested development? Consultants? Monopolistic technology? Those fuzzy cheese crackers in the break-room vending machine? Sure, they all played a role - but with staffing down and story count UP, who has time to place blame?

I certainly don't. Neither does my fellow photog Chris Weaver. Together (yet separately) we're cranking out finished pieces without much help from anybody. Got a three o clock event you want to lead your 5:30 show with? Yeah, we can do that. Wanna send one of us to go check out mysterious lights over the worst hood in town? Race ya. Need me to babysit a live truck while someone takes notes on footage I've already committed to memory? Are you HIGH? Don't answer that; just know there's a certain underclass of employee watching all this newsroom upheaval out of the corner of their eye. Remember that scene in Planet of the Apes when Charleton Heston awakes to find the monkey ON TOP of the horse? I'm pretty sure those saddles were held in place with bungee cords....

Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jesus, Take the Wheel

Pee Dee National ForestI don't mind hanging out in YOUR office, if it'll get me out of MINE. Luckily, I get that opportunity a lot. High-rise headquarters, mid-level partition farms, basement dispatch cages ... I've crashed 'em all. Today, however, I lounged about in my favorite kind of workplace: the kind that moves. J.D. Bricken was behind the wheel. It only seemed right; as manager of the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge he knew tons more about its 8,443 sprawling acres than some goofy-ass cameraman. Soooo, after a thirty minute commute and a ninety minute trip to Anson (where the hell is Anson County?) County, I gladly settled into the shotgun seat of a federally owned F-150 and let J.D. do the driving. But he didn't just drive. He took calls, put out paperwork fires and called out every species of fauna, flora and flattened frog we passed along the way. I tried to shoot 'em all - but with a manly man like J.D. at the helm it was tempting not to find my happy place, knowing that even if we toppled over into the rushing Pee Dee River he'd call out to the fishes, launch a few emergency flares and order up a helo strike l-o-n-g before I could pen my first polysyllabic ode to suffering. Whew! He even proved his readiness later in the day when somebody took an ant-bite to the hand and commenced to blathering about rogue crocodiles lurking in the marshes... Yes, it pays to have a well-equipped naturalist around when you're on safari.

The tranquilizer dart, I could have done without, though. My left cheek is still throbbing...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dashing through Discovery


With the May ratings period on the wane, these fluffy little travelogue pieces won't last long. Soon enough they'll vanish into the morass of 'general assignment' and I'll spend much of the day trained on something sedate. But as long as the suits keep sending me to not so distant spots on the map, I'll shut my piehole and hit my mark. Case in point, the above digest on Discovery Place: that Charlotte institution I admittedly rushed through the other day. Hey, YOU attempt cinema while being harangued by hyped-up middle schoolers. I can get THAT at home...

Wayne's World

ATTENTION: The following is NOT some pithy attempt to gain the favor of social media superstar Wayne Sutton. It only reads like one...

By the time we got to Raleigh, the Novocaine was beginning to wear off. Thus, what had felt like a sleeping caterpillar under my lip now twitched and throbbed like a wasp waking up from a three day bender. And yet still I had to grin upon entering The Edge, for there sat a cyber-wiseman the likes of which you don't stumble upon every day. Meet Wayne Sutton: technology evangelist, new data strategist, dude with an iPhone stuck to his face. When I realized he was taking our picture, I tried to smile, but the hour old filling made it tough. It didn't matter; Wayne seemed satisfied with the frame and sent it to Flickr before I could wipe the drool off the face.

'This geek's got game' I heard myself think.

Boy does he. 86 Facebook fans, 24,746 followers on Twitter, a longtime blog, gobs of podcasts, umpteen vlogs... this is one techie who likes to talk - be it via the laptop he packs, the fancy-phone he fondles or whatever babbling gadget Apple masters next. Whether it blows, glows or floats, Sutton is apt to early-adopt, provided it helps him siphon more disciples. Unassuming in person, this nattily-dressed nerd-star knows how to network. From Friendster to Linked-In to something called brightkite, this quiet cat lords over more dominions than a thousand creepy Burger Kings.

You can imagine how he'd intrigue a web-megalomaniac like me...

Still, I played it cool, occasionally thumping my upper lip to stun the grumpy arthropod within. Sutton didn't seem to notice as he answered Bob's on-camera queries. Instead, he dropped a workshop's worth of knowledge on the habit of interacting on-line. Making sure to record every word, I added to the inquisition with a few caveman like grunts and furtive motions. Luckily, Sutton spoke Spittle and we soon found ourselves lost in conversation. 'The Force is strong with this one,' I thought but did not say. Instead we stuck with the highly probable, like how pretty soon we'll be able to scan the interweb on our kitchen toaster - as it burns our bread to pre-selected perfection. I must admit, that more than butters my loaf - if only 'cause I likes to read.

How will I ever finish (er, start) that book if my waffle-iron comes with wi-fi?

You probably don't know and that's understandable. I myself have shifted visions, as it's hard to commit to building a hardback when soft-copy thoughts are so easy to share. Perhaps I should drop some coin on a fancier phone, pimp out my Twitters, make over my Facebook. Even if I do, I'll likely never gain the following of The Man from Wallace. Wallace! Last time I checked the only thing they had there was a Mad Boar Restaurant on the way back from the beach. Do the town founders there know they got a new media guru so transparent you can see through him on sunny days? Once I break down all this ole fashioned lights and mirrors, I swear I'm gonna tell them - in 140 mumbled syllables or less...

Maybe I'll wait until I can fully feel my face.