Saturday, April 23, 2005

Tavern Time Running Out...

Don't miss the Midnight Deadline for The Tar Heel Tavern, a floating compendium of blog offerings from around North Carolina. Simply comb through your freshest postings and e-mail me (lenslinger at northstate dot net) the link to your favorite. I'll rise early, get all jacked up on the wife's good coffee and publish early Sunday. Help your neighborhood Lenslinger extend the fine work of this burgeoning blog carnival by submitting some of your on-line brilliance. Otherwise don't complain if I stack the Tavern with excerpts from my vast collection of multi-lingual mattress tag warnings. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Big Link

This week on The Big Link, a blogger whose undying passion makes me question my own crusty cynicism.

Bass-Zapping at Salem Lake

From the fatal fire to the kindergarten classroom, I never know where I’ll spend the next news shift. So it was no surprise yesterday when I found myself along the banks of Salem Lake as state biologists zapped a good portion of the Wide-Mouth Bass population with electrical current. You heard me - they’re shocking fish with electricity. Sure it sounds like fun but these Wildlife Resource Officers actually had a good reason for doing so. By stunning the Bass until they float to the surface, these scientists get a better idea of the size, weight and health of the many floating trophies who call Salem Lake home.

All was going well aboard our small craft as the Wildlife guys dropped the zapper into the drink and fired up the generator. For about three minutes, dazed fish with X’s in their eyes popped up all around us. As they scooped the Bass into our boat, I followed the action in my viewfinder, trying my best to stay out of the way and avoid dropping my high-dollar fancy-cam into the water (been there).

Three minutes into what was to be an hour on the lake, an acrid odor filled the air and my two on-board hosts began scrambling wildly toward the generator. By the time one of them reached the kill button, blue sparks were flying from the roaring machine. Now, I’m no scientist, but even I know blue sparks and a burning smell on a metal boat in the middle of a lake ain’t good. After a few mumbled curses, the Wildlife guys sheepishly explained their generator had just gone to that great electric field in the sky. Suddenly, the show was over.

As we turned back toward shore, I reviewed the footage in my head. Though I had most of the shots I needed for my story, it wasn’t the collection of pristine images I would have obtained given more time. But news is news, so I resigned myself to working with what I had on disc. As the boat sped back toward the Marina, I sat back and enjoyed the view of a lake I’ve biked around many times.

Overall, not a lousy way to spend a Thursday morning. Wonder what I’ll do today?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Tavern Beckons...

With only twenty four hours until the submission deadline, the entries for the ninth edition of The Tar Heel Tavern ARE POURING IN! Okay, maybe that’s a but hyperbolic. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say entries are trickling in. No - that’s still a bit of an overstatement. Truth is, I’ve yet to receive a single story for the floating compendium of blog-offerings from around our State.

But why? Has the whole blogosphere dried up? Have the angry politicos packed up their on-line screeds to concentrate on their collection of bipartisan cookbooks? Have all the pet lovers destroyed their photo spreads of Fido and Fluffy and chosen to focus on their investment portfolios? Have all the would-be media darlings set fire to their seething epistles and decided their bosses truly do a better job of speaking for them? Will I become known as the guy who shut down The Tar Heel Tavern? You know - the same way people blame George Clooney for bringing the Batman film franchise to a screeching halt...IS THIS THING ON?!?

Ahem. You alone have the power to ease my strife and help breathe new life into this burgeoning blog carnival, simply by submitting your favorite post of the week to your friendly neighborhood lenslinger (lenslinger at northstate dot net). Do so and I’ll add your brilliance to the on-line repertoire that comprises the Tar Heel Tavern - a publication destined to be read by at least a half dozen North Carolinians. It’s easy, just e-mail me your post, blog title and any other information you deem pertinent. For more info on the Tavern itself just click here to read the fine print. You could even sign up to host a future Tavern! Then you too could savor joy of checking your inbox hourly for submissions only to find reams of unwanted spam.

Speaking of which, it says right here for only three payments of $19.95 I can increase the size and stamina of my… well, never mind that - just do me a favor and shoot a submission my way. Otherwise I’ll be forced to fill this week’s Tavern with twisted episode of my life behind the lens. You know, like that time I chased a young Bigfoot through the woods with my Mom’s camcorder. It was a brilliant summer evening back in 1980, I was just a boy with a viewfinder and a thirst for adventure...

Remember, last Call for The Tar Heel Tavern is Midnight on Saturday…

My Life with Motley Crue

Motley Crue is playing the Greensboro Coliseum tonight and I’m not going. No surprise there, as my musical tastes run a tad deeper than their populist metal fare. These days I’d much rather sit back and groove to some acoustic Blues than pound my fist in the air at all that simulated bombast. But I must admit I’m still intrigued by this rogue foursome with the hair-metal history. Sitting here now, I think I know why.

In my senior year of high school I took part in one of those embarrassing rituals unique to pep rallies and adolescence: The Air Band Competition. Flattered at being chosen yet worried about making a complete ass of myself, I took to the gymnasium floor and played my best air guitar to the Crue’s remake of ‘Smokin’ in the Boys Room’. Luckily I wasn’t down there alone. Instead I was flanked by two righteous buddies who’s just joined me in a little boys room smoking’ of our own. We may not have been cool as we shook our mullets in head-banging unison, but we were damn sure rock and roll.

As with many landmark events in my life, it was captured on videotape, thanks to the steady-handed efforts of a well-off buddy and his early camcorder. We used to cue that puppy up and watch it all the time, but as the years wore on we thought better of sharong the tape’s contents with others. That musty beta-tape now lives happily in the Embarrassment Relocation Program.

Several years later I found myself a reluctant member of the U.S. Navy. While stationed din Norfolk, some squid buddies and I scored tickets to the Motley Crue/Whitesnake show at The Scope. I wasn’t a huge fan of either band but looked forward to getting off the ship and maybe even seeing some girls in the process. All went well until the night of the show, when I somehow lost my ticket between the car and the Coliseum. To this day I don’t know how I lost that ticket but it may have had something to do with all the ‘losing juice’ I’d been drinking that afternoon. Whatever the case, I was absolutely crestfallen as my buddies left me in the parking lot to fend for myself as they went inside to soak up all those pyrotechnics and drum solos.

Suddenly, I wanted to attend that concert more than anything. As the first chords of Whitesnake’s opening act wafted outside, I trolled the grounds of the Coliseum’s complex, bummed out, broken and bereft. But my luck changed after I spotted a disheveled figure sitting on a park bench. For a homeless guy he sure was popular. After a few more minutes of watching the casual traffic around his bench, I approached the old guy and soon bought my first scalped concert ticket. My last too, come to think of it.

Thanks to the old man, and willingness to sell me a ticket at only double the face-value - I rawked with the Crue in all their cocksure swagger. More accurately, I hung back and watched individual audience members as they shimmied and genuflected to their own-stage gods. To this day I can still see a rotund fellow in a wife-beater t-shirt pumping his chubby fists in drum solo supplication. Perhaps therapy would help erase that.

Instead of erasing memories, let me hit the fast-forward button to, oh …about twelve years. No longer a high school poseur or drunken sailor, I paced the spaces of an underground parking garage and shifted my betacam from shoulder to shoulder. Two flights up, a bailiff readied a courtroom for the arrival of one Nikki Sixx, due in court to face charges related to an earlier concert turned near-riot. Loitering in the subterranean darkness, I no longer gave a flip about the misadventures of a spoiled millionaire. But since Nikki Sixx’s mug on tape was what my bosses demanded me of that day, I was once again following the Crue. I was trying to remember all the words to ’Dr. Feelgood’ when my cell phone rang.

“Eugene Street Side! Eugene Street!”

The slight panic in my co-worker’s voice told me Mr. Sixx was on the property. As I ran out of the garage and into the sunlight I caught a glimpse of my fellow photographer chased in man with long, impossibly black hair. I tried to join in the pursuit but by the time I leveled my own weapon, the tattooed pseudo-bass player had slipped into the courthouse and out of sight. Left with nothing but empty tape and rock star vapor, I huddled with my co-worker and exchanged notes. After a brief strategy session, I took position to await Nikki Sixx’s inevitable egress from the Guilford County justice system. As clerks and lawyers took their briefcases for morning walks all around me, I sat on a low wall and thought about my role in life and that of a globe-trotting eighties metal icon. Whatever lay ahead, I was glad to be nearing the end of my interaction with one Motley Crue.

And here I sit writing almost 900 words about them. Sheesh…

Hovering Over Contraband

What began as a simple seatbelt violation traffic stop led the Randolph County Sheriff’s department to well over one million dollars in drugs and cash. What better time to hold a press conference? Sheriff Litchard Hurley did just that on Wednesday, taking questions from the media as he stood before wrapped kilos of cocaine, bundled pounds of marijuana and enough cold hard cash to make Donald Trump feel at home.

“It’s a pretty good lick, allright” said Hurley, which is sheriff-ese for ‘I’m pleased with the outcome of this investigation‘.

He should be; his aggressive Drug Interdiction Task Force has consistently scored big hits along the bustling corridor of Highway 220, closing down many a drug dealer’s mobile office in the process. I’ve chatted with these seasoned deputies and found them to be fascinating creatures. At first glance they just seem to be good ole boys in uniform, but don’t let their laid-back demeanor fool you. Using their well-honed sniper’s eyes, bad-ass driving skills and a surprising grasp of human nature under stress, these are NOT the guys you won’t leaning through your car window - especially if you got enough dead presidents on board to make a rap video and a half dozen kilos of Peruvian Marching Powder in the trunk.

Back at the cop shop, I gathered shots of the 92 pounds of pot, 11 kilos of coke and countless bundles of ten thousand dollars. As far as shwag shoots go, it was pretty typical. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve hovered over such contraband in the police department conference rooms and sheriff’s department’s garages. It’s enough to make a couple of rookie cops exchange giddy high-fives while a weary cameramen shelves any future plans of life as a drug mule. Who would dare - when the open highway is riddled with lawmen who don’t mind standing in the rain for hours as they scour every crevice of your car for that elusive sunflower seed.

Amazingly, people continue to try and smuggle drugs up the 220 corridor, despite the unsavory odds of spending a good many years in the Pokey. Its this fact that keeps the Drug Interdiction Task Force so enthusiastic, for they know that the next shifty-eyed drifter with out-of-state plates they pull over may be their next million dollar hit. A pretty good lick, indeed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My Own Mount Trashmore

Every time the International Home Furnishings Market hits High Point, city workers round up 300 tons of cardboard boxes, packing material and those damn Styrofoam popcorn balls. As one who’s about to drag his own recyclables to the curb, I really feel for the city workers who have to separate this mountain range of refuse by hand. Truth is, there are days when I’d gladly trade my camera and laundry list of assignments for a pair of rubber gloves and a chance to hear smooth R and B that has emanated from the Waste Materials Warehouse’s loudspeakers every time I visit.

Which brings me to this picture. I was merely trying to illustrate the size of the trash heap, but the image I came away with reminds of those Demotivation Posters I’ve seen on-line. But in the hustle and bustle of an incredibly busy week, I’m having trouble coming up with a caption. Any suggestions? The person with the best line wins a Viewfinder BLUES virtual t-shirt...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Calling All N.C. Bloggers!

Written anything good lately? Sure you have. There was that screeching indictment of the cat litter industry you penned in the mensroom a few days ago. Or how about that ode to beef stew you’ve been noodling with on your laptop? Need I mention the flower garden photo-spread festering in your flickr account? That’s top shelf stuff, people, and its high time you got more eyeballs on it.

Just hurl the URL of your best blog post from this week to your friendly neighborhood Lenslinger (lenslinger at northstate dot net). I’ll add it to the vat and let it simmer 'til Sunday. Then - on the Seventh Day, I’ll fling open the doors of the Tar Heel Tavern and serve a sloshing, frothy swill to binging blogaholics from the mountains to the coast. Why go out of state for watered-down wisdom when the Good Stuff’s right here on cyber-tap? Not to mention the bar nuts...

See ya on Sunday. Until then, conjure up some brilliance and shoot it my way. Be sure to include the permalink to the post, along with your name, the name of your blog and whatever else you want to share with this bleary-eyed barkeep. If you’re a simple caveman and these types of blog carnivals confuse and frighten you, simply visit the Tar Heel Tavern homepage, where our crack staff will initiate the de-thawing process with a few stiff shots of blogger’s rotgut.

Just remember, Last Call is Midnight Saturday.

Monday, April 18, 2005

In Other News...

With the May ratings period looming near, a blogger’s meet-up scheduled for Wednesday and a Tar Heel Tavern to host, its shaping up to be a busy week. So you’ll have to forgive me for not having a fully formed treatise tonight. Instead, allow me a quick glance around the immediate blogosphere...

Colonel Corn is adding to his burgeoning blog with two recent posts of note. The first dispatch reveals how he obtained that lofty rank to begin with; a dusty epic stretching from the newsrooms of America to the battlefields of Iraq. Back stateside, the Colonel drops into a hot landing zone to free footage of friend-of-the-show Fantasia at her ghetto queen homecoming live shot showdown. Remember, many men suffered to bring you this message...

In a pleasing bit of blogger synergy, Interiors trend analyst Michelle Lamb answered my essay, Lordess of the Armoire with a posting of her own, My One Minute and Fifteen Seconds of Fame. The senior editor of The Trend Curve was one of the most easy-going people I’ve ever met at Furniture Market, a global gathering not widely-known for its niceties. Mrs. Lamb defies that trend, writing:

"I liked Stewart right away. He was casually dressed (he would stay off-camera) and pleasant. And what a pro! He made me feel so comfortable that all my fears about being on-camera just melted away as he asked questions and I answered."

Funny, she never mentioned the imaginary parrot on my shoulder.

Oh well, someone who’s NOT the least bit deranged (at least clinically) is the ever quixotic Little Lost Robot. This week the wandering android is on a Vegas Bender, prowling the concourse at the Television Industry’s biggest shindig of the year, RTNDA-NAB-LMNOP. At last report, LLR was seen spilling out of a limo at dawn and demanding cognac. You know how he gets when he travels. Somewhere between euphoria and rehab we should get a few solid reports. Oh, sign me up for next year.

Lastly, here’s a chance for me to plug a blog I truly love. Few other sites I visit drop my jaw as regularly as the phenomenal mountain photography on display at Blue Ridge Blog. Dubbed the life and times of a hillbilly photographer, it’s a pleasant enough journal of a Mountain Mom who just happens to take mind-boggling photographs. There is none higher!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

We Interrupt this Live Shot...

Since we last caught up with this elusive crew of electronic jesters, the Newsbreakers have been quite busy. From Rochester to Phoenix to Manhattan and beyond, this Merry Band of Idiots has bum-rushed a number of TV news live shots, interrupting transmissions and trains of thought with well-planned acts of random stupidity. Led by Senior Political Correspondent Buck “Lucky” Owens, this shock-squad of digital interlopers is ripping media criticism out of the drowsy lecture hall and into the street-level live shot. Grinning Grim Reapers, egg-smashing fry cooks and some dork in an Invisible Suit have all wormed their way into the background of the local news live remote. I guess everybody needs a hobby...

In their most recent hijack of public airwaves, the Reverend Utah Snakewater attempted to exorcise Clear Channel demons from a Rochester, New York live television broadcast. The televangelist’s spirited sermon spurred the level headed reporter to abort said live shot and quickly throw it back to the desk with only the perfunctory eye roll. Still, the resulting clip is quite funny. In fact, I’ve giggled at each and every one of the live shot liberations I’ve watched on-line. Call it a guilty pleasure of the cynical lenslinger. Or don’t - it’s a free country! Just know that while I might chortle from afar at the Newsbreakers’ shenanigans, I’d have a lot different opinion were it MY live shot they were invading. Then IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME! Or is it?

So far this ’firebrand media watchdog group has been damn lucky. Their on-air rampages have been met with only odd stares, general befuddlement...and well, there was that one Vulcan Death Grip. Personally, I'd never advocate violence, but there are some surly shooters I know who'd beg to differ. After all, we field rats are volatile types working under constant deadline and intense conditions. We’re all pretty civilized, but cross the wrong loopy clown with the wrong bitter photog and you got big trouble in Sat Truck City. I’m not predicting a duel will break out or anything, but I do know that different people have different ideas about reasonable discourse. One man’s detached tripod leg is another man’s velvet glove. Stand by for the slap...

Until then, I’ll be keeping a squinty eye on the Newsbreakers. Their strange approach to media reform and street theater deserves nothing less. I just hope I never run into one of the clowns in person. I’m all for lampooning the shrill nature of modern-day newsgathering and am generally open to debate. But it’s hard to take a thesis seriously when you got a face full of camera, a blaring earpiece wedged in your brain-stem and some joker in a giant rubber chicken suit is singing show-tunes at your lens. No sir, that’s one flashback trigger I can do without.

The Tar Heel Tavern

For a weekly compendium of North Carolina blog offerings, check out The Tar Heel Tavern currently in it's eighth edition at Pseudonymous UNC Student's blog. Do drop in and sample the wide variety of diatribes, reflections and screeds lovingly prepared by the many on-line thinkers from around our state. Next week, the traveling circus sets up camp here at my humble site, so I probably should pick up the place. Stay tuned...