Friday, May 20, 2011
It ain't all sturm and drang at the office. On regular occasion, puerility erupts. Take yesterday, when I rolled in from a shoot only to find the house-cats gettin' their Glee on. Seems a local weather legend is coming to El Ocho and his name is the same of a certain third banana. The promo gang got to thinking and before anyone in the newsroom could duck and cover, it was lights, camera, wise-ass. And while it's hard to write a news story with five of your favorite coworkers butchering Journey at top-lung, it's part of the fabric of life inside a television station. I wouldn't have it any other way. Frankly, some of your workplaces scare me. I visit all kinds, from the toothpaste factory where the staff is wrapped in gauze to the executive secretary's antechamber, where everyone is polite, quiet and clearly miserable. Give me a room full of goofballs any day, a crack squad of trivia buffs and karaoke champs who, when not distilling the travails of an entire region, are more than happy to trade in their dignity for a few seconds of face-time. That, my friends, is what makes America great, which is why you'll find me at full salute each and every time the room goes stupid. These are my people, hear them roar. I just wish I could say they're acting....
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Just as soon as I can remember how to turn on the TV, I'm going to watch Freedom Riders, PBS's potent tale of a bus ride into Hell. It's been fifty years since a caravan of activists gave Jim Crow the finger, traveling deep into the South to protest the segregation of the day. Recently I backpedaled before a group of young people retracing that dangerous journey and because I wasn't careful, learned a thing or two along the way. Mainly, check your equipment before diving into history. Seems a would-be auteur borrowed my gear and switched enough internal settings to offset space and time. This in itself is a violation of the cameraman code, but by the time I stumbled across the crime, I was deep into the International Civil Rights Museum. You remember the old Woolworth's building in my adopted hometown, the very store where four college students once plopped down at a lunch counter and helped bring a generation of bigots to their knees. A couple of Februaries back, the former five and dime reopened as a shrine to the sit-ins that followed that courageous act and though I was inches away when the ribbon was cut, I'd yet to venture inside. Too bad I had to do it under duress.
But how else do you describe the mounting frustration at a camera that doesn't work as advertised? Never once suspecting sabotage, I ran through a series of system checks but couldn't figure out why the pixels before me seemed so grainy, so dim, so... orange. Turns out it was someone's idea of Cinema Verite, a shallow fixation that hosed me at the worst possible time. Sure, you'd hope I'd focus on more noble goals while backing up through time, but when you're paid to caddy history's first round, mulligans aren't allowed. Thus, the grimace on my chin in the above photo has less to do with the injustice at hand and more to do with the out of tune instrument in my face. If that makes me a technician, so be it. At least I know how to return tools like I found them! Yes, halfway into the museum's 'Hall of Shame', I was in a pretty good lather. That's when I noticed all the stark images around me: African-Americans scorned and tortured solely for the skin they were born in. Suddenly, my umbrage seemed so out of place and before I escape that corridor I had more on my mind than a simple lensman's revenge.
Guess the museum works, after all.