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...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Schmuck Alert: Spit and Rinse!

Dr. SpitHey, what's worse than being stuck in a live truck with a gassy engineer? Getting SPIT ON down at the courthouse. That's what happened to WCBS photog Don Collins recently, when a man accused of practicing illegal dentistry dug deep and flung lung-butter on him. Now, I don't know how that plays in Jersey City, but down here in the South we consider that Justified Ass Whoopin' in the First Degree. Of course we're not advocating violence. We here at the Lenslinger Institute for Better Camera Management are far too droll (and cowardly) for that. We're just saying what a shame it would be if Dr. Spit and Rinse there woke up to find his New Jersey co-op flooded with the guts of the Port-A-Pottie fleet leftover from outside Neverland. Maybe then he'd learn to keep his felonious DNA to himself. Schmuck!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mascot or Not

Dignity free we three...
Bloated torsos, extreme tunnel vision, halftime flatulence ... you'd think photogs would have a lot in common with the average mascot. Not. So. Sure, there's a few decent sorts 'inside the head', but for every mutant turtle who simply wants to fist-bump the cameraman, there's a Styrofoam pirate who wants to jab with me with his dagger, a felt hillbilly with a hundred gallon hat and hemp on his whiskers or some deranged cheeseburger who won't keep his pickle to himself. The kids may go nuts when these lumbering icons bum-rush the cheap seats, but me - I don't like 'em. Perhaps I've rubbed up against too many in packed, pungent locker rooms, could be I've caroused with a giant chicken across the wrong county line, maybe I was just dragged to Chuck E. Cheese a few too many times when my kids were little...

Oh, who am I kidding? My distaste for corporate mascots goes back a decade and a half, to a lovely Spring afternoon at a swanky country club where I got totally dissed by a certain churlish clown...

It was the mid 90's and I was till producing promos. Most were smarmy anchor profiles, 'teeth and hair' pieces I called them. But amid the hometown hero poses and super-duper Doppler spots, I was occasionally tasked to shoot a P.S.A. Public Service Announcements, that is, those unpaid segues urging you to donate blood, save the clock tower or stockpile water for the coming apocalypse... we've all seen them, and three out of four of us tuned them out. Which is why I really wasn't sweating it the day I met two household names on the back nine of a high dollar golf course outside Greenville. VIP #1 was an NFL quarterback who will remain nameless, a lump-shouldered cretin coming off a stellar year who counted among his many vices expensive cigars and cheap women. He was a handful himself that day, but the real putz of the hour was VIP #2, a grumpy, vaguely chubby Ronald McDonald.

The plan was simple: Captain Quarterback would lob the old pigskin at everybody's favorite carnivorous clown, who'd catch the pass with a modicum of flourish before delivering his line. It was not to be; hours passed before we got the shot. The sun, the gear, the fact that my NFL guest was more concerned with the relationship status of the country club's cocktail waitress than fulfilling his charitable obligation that day ... each contributed to the lack of progress that afternoon. In desperation to finish my mission, I began to work the crowd of PR flacks and hangers-on that turned out to watch tee-vee not be made. At one point, I ended up standing beside Ronald, who exhibited a good deal more facial tics than I'd ever seen on those Saturday moring cartoons. Wondering how one came to embody the globe's burger joint of choice, I leaned over and asked that clown what felt like an innocent question...

"So, what, do they have a Ronald for every state or do you like work the whole Southeast region?"

McDonald's head swung as if on a swivel, a ghastly sneer stretching across his heavily made-up face as he looked at the local TV schlub in disgust...

"Man, I cain't be tellin' you that!" he sputtered in a high, Southern drawl before spinning on the heel of one incredibly big red shoe and flopping away in indignation. As he did, the quarterback looked up from the digits he just scored from his new waitress friend and chuckled through the haze of overpriced stogie smoke and I vowed to never again give a walking logo so much as a passing glance... Now if you'll excuse, that creepy Burger King guy is at my rec room window again and this time he swears he scored some special sauce....

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Glamour Be Damned

(Photo by Daniel Kovach)

Meaningless awards, urine-soaked fish heads, free t-shirts, the ass-end of a cadaver dog. Work in TV News long enough and you'll experience them ALL. It's not the kind of thing they cover in J-School. (Actually, I haven't the funkiest what they cover in J-School; the closest I came to any hallowed halls was once pretending to be an ECU student after being caught in a woman's dorm after hours.) But ask anyone who's chased news stories for more than a fortnight and they'll tell you: local television is about as glamorous as a really good mail postal route. Sure, I've clamored at a few Hollywood red carpets, dodged sheet-metal as hurricanes slammed on shore and was even yelled at once by that jackhole Rusty Wallace - but those kind of encounters featured far more manure than allure. Don't believe me? Take my American Idol ordeal: Seacrest and Simon may be playing grab-ass over a catered buffet - but I'm usually stuck in the next room with a beefy dude from the mountains who thinks all the world really needs is a rapping lumberjack. Or take the time at the beach: Chad Tucker may have gone LIVE(!) from a hotel balcony while winds lashed his backdrop, but I spent most of my time downstairs, hunched over in a funk as sea-spray and bird spit soaked my granola bar. Yes, it all seemed so glitzier when I simply watched it from my couch...

I'm reminded of the CSI craze of the recent past. On all those awful chows, the crime scene team is usually an attractive couple in chiseled cheekbones, matching trench coats and designer shades (which they inexorably rip from their temples mid-sentence). In real life the mobile crime lab consists of a heavyset dude in a brown jumpsuit who rolls up in a county-owned van and eats his lunch out of the same tackle box he keeps the Luminol. The only time you'll hear Roger Daltrey scream in his presence is when he forgets to eject The Who's Greatest Hits cassette from the dashboard of his Ford Aerostar. You know, the one he sleeps in when there aren't any body fluids to sop up. Yes, like so many bad hour long dramas, the local news appears far more enchanting from the safety of your living room. Rode with me and you'll soon discover that Live, Local and Late Breaking are code words for 'You're gonna be sucking live truck engine fumes all night, no matter WHEN they find that fisherman'. It's just as well, really. Were this business as fabulous as it's portrayed in the movies, this blog would be written by a far more handsome sort who'd insist on appearing on web-cam shirtless. As it is, I'm fully dressed - and not just because I gotta take the dog out for his midnight dump.

Now, where DID I leave that leash?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shööting for Brüno

Sure, that dude Brüno's got grapes, but so too does his crew. Of course, I've wondered about the hearty souls who follow Sacha Baron Cohen into those cringe-worthy incidents since before he was Borat. Maybe it's because I've escorted hundreds of reporters (and a couple of real clowns) into many an expert's offices over the past two decades. Most often I'm permitted to daydream - as long as I keep it in focus - but there have been a few times where I've wondered whether or not I was being Punk'd. Alas, Ashton Kutcher never once lept from the curtains to envelop me in a bear hug of insincerity, so I have to assume the stupid questions, awkward pauses and moronic non-answers I've recorded over the years were straight. Still, it doesn't make me want to vanish any less when the toothy news-reader I've so carefully lit mangles the college professor's name because she was too busy penciling in her eyebrows on the way over to do A LITTLE FREAKIN' RESEARCH!

But I digress. What I logged in to talk about was the near genius of Sasha Baron Cohen, the reckless satirist who's been cracking me up since he first bumrushed the scene as Ali G. His toilet humor I'd happily flush, but Sasha's habit of saying unthinkable things to gladhanding tight-asses often makes me expel food matter of the plasma. What can I say? I enjoy watching authority figures shift in their seat. I just wouldn't want to be in the same zip code when Cohen shows up for the interview in butt-floss and a bad accent. Does that make me weak? Perhaps. Southern, certainly. No, the photogs who drag glass behind Bruno must have pokerfaces onn their chins, running shoes on their feet and not a lot on their bladders. How else could they capture the kind of tape being played in the latest trailer? Don't ask me. It'll be nine months or so before I catch it on pay-cable...

(Oh, please know that the moon-eyed shooter pictured above has ZILCH to do with Bruno, Borat, Ali G. or any other future Cohen creation. He' s actually a journeyman lenslinger some call 'Spike', who - according to Senator Robert Hollins - is a nat sound master craftsman. Here's hoping he's got a sense of humor. Sure looks like it...)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Walkin' on the Sun

Lens and the LightJune is history, Independence Day has come and gone and it's about to get wicked HOT. Longtime blog visitors will tell you these ain't my finest hours, as I'll no doubt be heaping scorn on the elements well into September. What can I tell ya? Despite being a Southeastern biped covered in fur, I have the core temperature of a tuxedo penguin. Thus I suffer mightily when the summer sun begins to slur, when the mercury shoots past ninety by breakfast time, when a photog's underwear gains mass and volume before that first frantic phone call of the day hurls them into the humid void. Soooo, to reinforce just how much I detest the heat, I give the Top 5 ways I'd rather spend my lack of summer vacation...

I'd like to try my hand at Consultancy. You know, rock a black turtleneck and blazer combo, jet out of town on some poor legacy broadcaster's dime, hole up in a swanky hotel conference room and tell a captive audience of desperate executives how their livelihoods will be saved only if they destroy all video cameras weighing over five pounds and hire that pimply kid in the film fest t-shirt... I don't see how anyone could possibly break a sweat doing that...

Or perhaps I'll be an Ice Cream Man. Sure, I'm probably not pervy enough to be considered, but if I had the keys to one of those white box vans, I'd lock the door and crawl in the biggest freezer. First though, I'd unplug that damn polka music, for if there's one thing I don't need when I'm hibernating on ice is some snot-nosed crumb-snatcher demanding I pony up a couple of Klondike bars all because he found a wrinkled five spot in the family sofa! You know, come to think of it, I'm probably not cut out to peddle Push-ups..

I could always score a job as a Bailiff. No, two-tone brown polyester ain't exactly the look I'm going for, but have you seen how much rest those guys get in the heat of the afternoon? I once watched one dude sleep through opening arguments only to snap awake and yell at some skate punk for smackin' his gum! All I'd have to do is get a flat-top haircut, master the laser pointer and develop a deep seeded hatred of men wearing hats inside. I already despise cell phones! What? I'd have to tackle the occasional jump-suited jackal? Man, I'm a lover, not a fighter...

Maybe Marriage Counselor is the way to go. Granted, I've never stepped foot in any kind of post-wedding therapy, but I have been hitched for damn near twenty years. Throw in teh fact that I have two teenage daughters and I should be qualified to help husbands everywhere. I could teach them my favorites like "Yes, Dear!", "Of course you're right!" and the ever popular "I'd like to go to my room and think about what I said!"... Yes, with genuine lines like that, there's no telling what good I could do, whether I was in private practice or trying to ply my wisdom on the evening new-- Wait! THAT'S IT!

I'll be a Newscast Producer! From what the ones I know tell me, it's a pretty tough gig, but I dunno... I like to write, don't mind watching Ellen and am more than willing to scour YouTube for something to amuse my cubical mates. Then, later in the day, I could pound out a rundown, weave my stories together with spoken word cliches and douse the whole thing in promos, anchor blather and overwrought weather updates! Not only that, I could help shape young news minds, read tea leaves - I mean overnight ratings each morning and work hand in soft supple hand with returning news crew----

On second thought, I'll be lying under the live trucks should anyone need news story shot....

(Thanks to Erin Winking for the use of his photo.)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

...When People Stop Being Polite...

VJ vs. MTV
When word reached me that a cameraman from 'The Real World' clashed with a crew from WUSA, I asked the same question you probably did: They still tape 'The Real World'? Apparently, they do and this year producers of the groundbreaking reality show are following their cast of aspiring models, rappers and actors all over the nation's capitol as Washington becomes the backdrop for all that lusty teenage angst. Meanwhile, the denizens of D.C. are less than thrilled but more than curious about the 'reality' currently being contrived in their town. Enter Lindsey Mastis, a VJ from WUSA, who had the unsavory task of interviewing the crowd of bloggers and fans outside The Real World house. Soon enough she found an affable chap to chat with, but that's where MTV cameras tried to up the ante by sending their own cameras to interrupt the interview. What followed was a case of lens intimidation that has to be watched repeatedly to be believed...

Now I suppose the pasty guy in the Apple t-shirt was just following MTV's orders, but he so flagrantly blocked Mastis' shot, that he has to be classified a complete douche bag anyway. Sadly, Mastis didn't protest ( she did giggle) and even signed an MTV release so she her non altercation might pop up on the show. You know I guess there's no controversy here at all but at the risk of sounding sexist I have to ask ... Would Apple Boy have done the same with your garden variety news crew? In this case, all he had to do was crowd out a cute female with a baked potato-cam. What would have happened had he tried that with a 300 pound lifer with 20 years of experience and twenty-five pounds of camera? Hard to say, but I know some fellas who would have taken enormous offense and while I don't condone violence, it's not hard to imagine emergency medical technicians being called with great haste to remove a beefy photog elbow from Apple Boy's throat.

They wouldn't have signed releases either...