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, May 15, 2010

Drunk on the Funk

Doppelganger 2When last we left our Introspection Action Figure, he was sucking dust in an upper room; spent of energy, crippled by his own misgivings. Okay, so the doll was just sitting there but he's been giving me stink-eye for the better part of a month now. There I'll be polishing off a paperback, staring out the window or trick-clipping my toenails into a distant shot-glass and I'll catch the little bastard eye-gouging me from across the room. Noooo, he doesn't talk - but with a molded plastic countenance, who has the face muscles needed to speak? No bother - I know what he'd say anyway...

"You there - with the thinning hair and thwarted ambition - weren't you gonna be somebody? You know: the thinking man's photog, unrequested pundit, self-appointed scribe for lenslingers at large ... what up with that?"

So far I haven't answered. It's easy when you don't know what to say. But the questions my hobbled doppelganger wants to ask are the very same ones I've been quizzing myself with lately: "Where is all this drivel leading me? How long should a blog continue? Shouldn't at some point I go back and re-read it?" So far no mystical messages have appeared written in my sausage links, no holographic elders have popped up in my peripheral, no speed limit epiphanies have driven me off the road and into a better frame of mind. So where am I going with all this? Apparently, nowhere.

Once upon a blog, I was on fire with The Word, blasting out dispatches well after midnight, hitting the POST button and stumbling off to bed without so much as halfhearted spell-check. As a result, I have five years of rambling screed, an ever-swollen thesis complete with purple prose, run-on puns and a stash of stolen notions. In many ways, that hasn't changed - but what was once a torrent of forehead fodder has turned into a trickle. This bothers no one more than me - for like it or not I'm one of those flaky writer types who has to bleed all over the screen just to feel normal. Lately though, I've managed to sleep just fine without my litany of opinion emblazoned in pixels the web over and it's the exact kind of slumber that keeps a creative soul like me up at night. I LOVE to write - almost as much as I love to read. In the half decade that I've given it a shot, the rewards - while a bit intangible - have been much more than I deserved or expected. So before I go much further, lemme thank you. If you're reading this entry, chances are you've been here before. I appreciate it more than you know - especially considering the fact that...

I'm not stopping this blog any time soon. I can't. Every time I'm tempted to chop down this repository of thought, I lose all strength in my index finger and my temples tingle with story ideas I never got around to tackling. There's still time, I guess. See, unlike the news beast I feed everyday, a blog comes with no set deadlines. I can (and will) add to it when I'm inspired and I'm willing to fake it the rest of the time. No. Problem. Just know that I haven't forgotten my mission statement: to spotlight the plight of the TV stevedore. It's a task I'm oddly qualified for and until my eyeballs run down my face I'm going to continue adding to this web address. But don't be alarmed if my output wanes once in a while. It'll come surging back when I can least contain it and if history is any indication, I'll gladly get it all over ya. Meanwhile, let your eyes glaze over this mea culpa, for I was reluctant to write it in the first place. I'd love to be implacable, but twitchy word-nerds like me can rarely pull that off. No, I share this lack of progress report with you with the sole hope that it somehow gets me back on track - which is the last place I spotted my quickly diminishing train of thought.

So don't cry for me, Lower Archdale. I'm fine. And if you promise to click back here and there, I'll keep adding my blather. In the meantime, a 'slinger's got to find a way to cope - which is the only reason I bothered you at all. Just be glad I'm not fixating on my action figures, or posting fresh pictures of them on the web...

...'cause that would be weird.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Usual Suspects


When is a train wreck the social event of the summer? When you know more cameramen than debutantes, that's when! Moments after an Amtrak passenger train derailed in downtown Mebane yesterday, a predictable scrum began forming around the wreckage. I was in Raleigh at the time, battling field trip kids at the North Carolina Museum of Art. As impressive as that place was, my heart was on the edge of Alamance County, for I knew a number of my friends were convening there against their will. Thus, I couldn't help but stop by on the way back West - if for no other reason than to count the crews who suddenly found themselves stranded by those buckled tracks. My timing was off. The noon newscast had just wrapped up, another press conference was hours away and even the looky-loos who'd canceled the rest of their day were getting bored by the debris. Those crews I did encounter were a little hollow-eyed, mumbling in half sentences about impossible deadlines and a glaring lack of dining options. I offered to get food but most of them stumbled off to their live trucks in a zombie-like daze. No worries. I took a few more looks around, realized I couldn't reach El Ocho's sat truck on the other side of the tracks without a congressional escort and beat feet out of town. Later I was forced to glean details of the disaster by staring at a glowing screen in the corner of my den...

Weird.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Austin's Hour

Austin Saves the DayI don't feel good about everything I put on the air. It's hard to - when at any time I may be called upon to distill fresh misery. That said, this gig has its moments - and they're rarely where you might expect them. Take yesterday. By 2:oo PM, I'd yet to pull the trigger on my fancycam. Instead, I spent the morning furrowing my brow over Final Cut Pro - the stunning edit suite I've been studying thirty seconds at a time. It was a useful session, but it didn't change the fact that two minutes of the 6:00 newscast was sponsored by yours truly and 120 seconds of me chewing my lip over a candy-colored keyboard would not do. So I worked the phones, did the math and ended up driving an hour away from the station, deep into the kidney of a neighboring county.

That's where I found Austin Whitaker, a twelve (and a half) year old Burlington boy who was just happy to be done with his End of Grade testing for the day. Then again, it's been a tough week for this Alamance County seventh grader. See, late Saturday night Austin was lying in bed reading a book when he heard a strange crackling noise coming from down the hall. Imagine his surprise when he looked down the hall to see flames licking the interior of his family's mobile home. From here, this story could take a typically tragic turn - for trailer fires aren't known for their happy endings. But Austin wasn't going to go down that way, so he lept into action: waking his parents, grabbing his five year old little brother and generally saving the day. Not bad for a kid whose main motivation is achieving the next level in a bevy of video games...

Yes, thanks to Austin, his family escaped their burning home. Three dogs and a cat did not. Their modest trailer is now a petrified mess and Austin's parents still aren't sure how they're going to go about rebuilding. All that aside, the entire family welcomed me into what was left of their yard and miraculously, we had a few laughs. I left forty minutes after I arrived,with just enough interviews and cutaways to tell the story of a 12 year old boy who knew when to man up and the grateful Mom who still can't help ribbing him a little. My silly little TV story won't bring back their belongings, but I do hope the exposure will bring some charitable viewers their way and if nothing else, Austin might be hailed as the hero he is by his classmates...

Not bad for a late-day shoot in the middle of the sticks...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Clash of the Scavengers

Thanks to realistic movies like Up Close and Personal, Hero and Anchorman, the general public has a pretty good idea how news crews act. We go live(!) without any wires, talk over the sound we're recording and regularly challenge each others to knife fights. Okay, not really. Truth is, it's a small business, one rife with incest and peppered with assholes. Still, most people are pretty decent - regardless of what side of the glass they're on. I'm not saying every sat truck encampment is a Love-In, but for the most part, folks get along.

Sam ChampionWhich is why a recent riff between a FOX affiliate and an ABC crew is so perplexing. It happened in the Sooner State. With deadly tornadoes barely a memory, TV crews from near and far descended on the damage in and around Oklahoma City. Having not been there since the turn of the Century, I couldn't tell you the lay of the land (flat, as I remember). But it seems pockets of debris were hard to come by, as a crew from nearby KOKH-TV stormed a Good Morning America live shot, catching the normally chiseled Sam Champion looking a little confused around the edges. After pushing his clipboard into frame, Sam can be seen addressing the local lenslinger (who no doubt was just following orders)...

"You know where you're supposed to be ... so be there. It's alright ... it's all good ... so just be there."

AWK-weeeerd! Now, trampling over a visiting crew's newly secured spot isn't illegal. In fact, the sharply swung elbow is a sanctioned reflex of the body photog. But pointing a live lens at the other guy's talent is damn near taboo and as photographer John Biebrich found out, a great way to get stink-eye from a weather guy. While no mannequins were harmed (network OR local) in the making of this clip, it has gone viral - with web viewers weighing in with great vigor on the Network Bigfoot Syndrome, the ravages of live TV and the veracity of Chamipon's cheekbones. There's even a detailed post-mortem on display at b-roll.net - where most agree the network guys were for once, in the right.

Me, I can't help but think about a certain morning several weeks ago, when I was setting up an early morning live shot along a tornado-damaged patch of High Point. Soon after I strung up my lights, camera and tripod, a sat truck hired by ABC materialized. The driver stopped to chat, but soon drove past to a badly -damaged gas station in the distance. There, they broke out enough HMI lights to make that broken Citgo visible from the space station. It was so much light I was tempted to horn in on their cinema, but my cable wouldn't reach and besides, three minivans lay on their side just a few feet away. In other words, there was plenty of eye candy to go around, so I didn't have to risk life, limb and logo by wading into someone else's fray...

It's just bad form.