Saturday, July 09, 2005

Scoring with Jorge

New to the CyberLounge, a sardonic stranger checks in from the hills outside Hippieville. Please welcome Jorge Guapo to the Viewfinder BLUES Experience. This twisted lenser has mastered the form in just a few short posts, firing up dizzying screeds on independence, crazed felines and his ongoing fascination with the gamey layabouts that roam his fair 'burg. When he stumbles into work, things get really weird. In short, Jorge's blog is sticky, potent stuff. Dig it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Grifters at Ribfest

Friday afternoon live shots are rarely a choice assignment, but when it’s Ribfest, it ain’t so bad. So after a full day of processing reality into bite size chunks of sight and sound, Charles Ewing and I made our way over to the Jaycees parking lot on Greene Street. On the way over I phoned the wife to apprise her of my delayed ETA.

Don’t eat! I’m cooking!” she said in a gleeful, slightly threatening tone.

No problem, I thought as I searched for a spot to set up the live truck. A few laps and a pissy rent-a-cop later, I squeezed in to the make shift media lot behind the cooking tents. Pulling in behind a competitor’s live truck, I waved to a familiar face through the windshield. That’s when Charles opened the door and the most savory aroma known to Southern Man wafted into the cabin: the smell of pork on fire. The scent overwhelmed us, halting our Beavis and Butthead impersonation in mid-chuckle. Suddenly it was game time.

Tumbling out of the live truck, Charles and I performed the acquired tasks with rigid precision. Hitting switches, pulling cable, dialing a signal and erecting the tripod - by the time the truck’s mast extended to it’s full height of fifty feet, a primitive TV studio stood in it’s shadow. Charles fished an earpiece out of a pocket as I connected coaxial cables to patch panels with lightning speed. If our exact plan was yet unspoken, our motive was understood: set this puppy up as quick as safe as possible, saving ample time to troll for hand-outs. Neither of us were about to beg for food, but if some friendly grill-master wanted hook up a silly grinning news crew - well then, who were we to turn down such charity. Besides, you can’t fully explore your research subjects without collecting a few field samples. This is science, after all.

A few minutes later, we found our mark. Huddling by the tent’s edge, I stared at a mouth-watering slab of ribs through the chilling blue of the camera’s viewfinder. But the lack of chroma couldn’t stop the technorama orgy of culinary lust going on in my mouth nose and sinuses. Just before a pendulum of drool could make break from my lip, sounds in my earpiece broke my stupor. “Go!”, the tinny voice inside my head commanded. Charles must have heard it too, because he started chatting with an unseen anchor about the crowd gathering in downtown Greensboro. Panning off the rack of ribs, I focused on our smiling weekend weather man and tried not to think about the cornbread cooking in a deep fryer to my immediate right. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a tent full of festival goers biting into ribs with wanton fervor, the bar-be-cue sauce dripping from their forks in delicious slow-motion. When it hit the tabletop and held its shape, my knees almost buckled.

Still, we labored on without so much as a hushpuppy offered our way. After half an hour of deliberate loitering by a grill full of ribs, we were beginning to wrestle with questions of principle. Maybe we’re wrong to expect freebies, we said, even something as innocuous as a heaping paper plate of expertly bar-be-cued spare ribs. Call it an epiphany or just sour grapes, but when the director in the earpiece cleared our shot, we didn’t want any stinkin’ ribs - we had our integrity! Gathering our tools, we began walking back to the live truck, our heads just a little higher than before. That’s when we saw her - esteemed colleague Tera Williams, tearing off a shred of tender rib meat between her perfect teeth and rolling her eyes in ecstasy for the lens. After a few seconds of frozen silence, Charles and I picked up our jaws and shuffled off to the idlling live truck, an important truth hanging in the warm evening air: sweaty news crews may have to beg, but pretty reporter ladies will never starve.

I guess that's the way it should be.

Bluedog and the Weather Woodie

I managed to escape yesterday's crazy weather chase by erecting a shelter of soft news to hide in, but my in-house colleague Bluedog Photog (pictured here tracking Hurricane Isabel a few years back) led the pursuit. While he and partner Brent Campbell didn't spot any funnel clouds, they did get sucked up into the swirling vortex that is a station-led weathergasm. Having run that particular gauntlet myself a time or ten, I find I greatly prefer reading a chronicle such as this, than eating all that sideways rain myself. Not that I've missed my chance: Hurricane season is just getting cranked up and it's only a matter of time before I join Bluedog in the insufferable hunt. Until then, I'll be under my desk in the newsroom, stockpiling canned foods and cruising my laptop. Remember, you never saw me...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Open Letter to Rosenblum


Thanks for getting back with me. I’ve been meaning to think about the questions I wanted to send you, but real life has kept me away from the keyboard. Once I did sit down to make a list, I found I could do no better than the many salient points being raised on This scintillating (yet one-sided) debate renders private correspondence irrelevant in my view; why trade cryptic missives when the matter is already being hashed out in the public square? Thus I invite you to join our discussion, to provide some answers that will erase the many misconceptions you speak of.

While I am wary of the newsroom model you favor, I do see merit in the solo journalist prototype. This denies me any real motive to skewer you; I seek only civil discourse and hope anyone in the b-roll nation who take part in this thread will keep their venom in check. Despite the vitriol currently being swilled about on our raucous message board, the majority of us are reasonable enough to hear you out. You might even win a few of us over. I understand in your in the business of selling your ideas - not giving them away, but if you hope to be embraced by the U.S. broadcast professionals who make it happen every day, you’re gonna have to cough up a few details.

Let’s start with the basics, distilled from a longer list of most excellent questions from John “Lensmith” Dumontelle.

1) How do you field thirty in your market. How do they get around? Who pays for that? Do the VJs use their personal vehicle or do the stations supply the vehicle (or bus pass). What about insurance and milage if the choice is personal vehicles?

2) What is the pay scale? Do all VJs make the same or do those who initially started as reporters continue to make their previous salaries? Do these reporters take a pay cut? Do the photographers get a raise?

3) Why would a small market really need thirty cameras in the field? Is there that much news or feature stories available? Where will all this material air? Do they really think they have enough news programming airtime available to broadcast all these stories or are they actually looking down the road to cut the staff to fit into their already shrinking budget?

4) Is this camera gear really robust enough to be operable for more than a year under regular news conditions? Will they really understand that the smaller cameras just don't last as long and accept they will need to have a continuous (think yearly) supply of cameras to replace cameras which have come to the end of their already short life expectancy? No, not all the cameras will need yearly replacement but a majority of them will.

Let’s start there, Michael. Let’s trade ideas instead of trading blows. Not ALL of us in the TV news photog world consider you an arch-enemy. It’s Kenny Rogers we really hate.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Schmuck Update: Rogers Apologizes

In a limp display of forced contrition, pampered simian Kenny Rogers finally gets around to apologizing for last week's unprovoked assault on a television photographer. The simple-minded Southpaw, who is currently appealing a 20 game paid suspension, read from a prepared mea culpa, but was too much of a coward to field any questions from the heartless media jackals that apparently haunt him so.

"This incident was completely out of character", mumbled the Moron Millionaire, "and I think without question you know that it will never happen again."

I'm not so sure. From what I've read on the matter, Rogers seems to harbor a dep hatred for the media, members of which toil at a workman's rate to help this 40 year old toddler line his pockets. Why we would assume his trademark tirades would suddenly cease is beyond me. I say we freeze Rogers in a cryogenic chamber so future generations can get an up-close look at early 21st century primitive man. That won't happen, but the very least Major League Baseball can do is disinvite him to the upcoming All Stars Game - unless Bud Selig and the boys still consider this hopped-up knuckle-dragger to be a suitable model for their beleagured sport.

Meanwhile, Larry Rodriguez, the cameraman at the business end of Rogers' inexplicable wrath, is recovering from the incident, weighing his legal options and showing his two sons what it means to be in control of one's emotions. Hopefully, they'll soon be discussing the matter in a pricey villa, paid for by the man who's done so much to malign The Gambler's good name. Schmuck.

A Blogger's Lament

I am a creature plagued by introspection. Be it behind the lens or in front of a crowd, I sometimes think I think too much. This, of course, makes me no smarter than the next guy. One sweeping glance at my marginal high school performance proves that. But there something inside my head that won’t shut up; a wry monotone voice offering ceaseless commentary and half-formed idioms. Perhaps I read too much as a child (we non-athletes will do that), maybe I submitted to one too many head x-rays (what was a bored gurney-jockey to do?), perchance I shouldn’t have memorized all those cereal boxes at the breakfast table. Whatever the reason, the reflective mechanism within my skull is permanently set at 11.

Which brings me to my blog, a work-in-progress I’ve done more reviewing of than adding to lately. Ouch. Re-reading one’s own work is always painful, especially when its in the hastily-typed, unpolished form of a web-log. I’m not here to make excuses, exactly - but on perusing much of written over the past nine months, I’d like to take a third of it back. Not forever, mind you - just long enough to excise some of the navel gazing, omit a bit of the bitterness, maybe clean up a few clichés. But then I guess it wouldn’t be a blog, would it? After all, these wondrous creations are by nature amorphous chronicles, cyber diaries of the great unwashed, replete with invective, pet photos and the occasional misspelling. Judged by those standards, I guess I’m doing okay.

Still, a recent post by a fellow blogger got me to thinking: Why AM I doing this? Why do I cap off my days of frustration by spelling it out for the world (or at least a very small slice of it) to see? I can’t say I really know. When I began this endeavor, I was merely on the hunt for more eyeballs. Little did I know I’d stumble onto a revolution. Since first committing my thoughts to cyberspace, I’ve made scores of new friends, enjoyed surprising conversations with old ones and reluctantly joined something larger - a movement far more significant than my own tortured confessions. Along the way, I’ve written more than I ever thought possible, even when - like now - I didn’t have an awful lot to say. I guess that makes me the average blogger: a slightly addled, narcissistic wordsmith who merely likes the sound of his own computer keyboard late late at night.

So, motivations (and site meter addictions) aside, I hereby pledge to continue firing off epistles into the blogosphere. Though I cannot vouch for the merit of everything I post, I’m in way too deep to stop now. But please forgive me if I occasionally veer off from sordid tales of the road to indulge in a little curbside self-absorption. Allow me the mixed metaphor, the half-baked thesis, the rambling diatribe best left unshared. You see, I’m just a cynical photog fending off a mid-life crisis with the power of the written word. If that alone is the end result of all this compulsive effort, then I’ll deem this little experiment a success. As to my half dozen faithful readers, I thank you from the bottom of my crusty heart and promise NOT to highlight the past nine months worth of signature blather and hit the ’delete’ button.

Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Into the Wild

In an effort to pull myself from this mid-summer funk, I decided to go to work today (big of me, eh?). No sooner had I saddled up the old news unit when I remembered today's assignment... GEOCACHING! What? You've never heard of this latest high-tech craze? Actually, I was only vaguely aware of it myself until I met a group of local geo-enthusiasts at the always beautiful Salem Lake. Together we traipsed deep into the woods in search of a hidden ammo-can full of knick-knacks that only a gang of GPS-wielding pre-teens could appreciate.

But I'm not bitter! Fact is, I had a pretty good time picking my way through briar patches and poison ivy in the name of television news. It reminded me of all those Greene County marijuana extractions I used to specialize in - except today there weren't any helicopters hovering above the treeline. Instead there were only bloated draginflys and suffocating humidity to make the trip all that more special. What better way to shake off this professional slump?

Self-directed venom aside, I give the Geocachers a thumbs-up. With their hand-held gadgets, cryptic nicknames and endless war stories, I felt like I was hanging with my pals at the crime-tape! I may even look into this Geocaching myself - drop some coin on my own GPS thingie and get the whole family involved. But if it's okay - I think I'll wait until the fall when glorious color fills these rolling hills and heavy air doesn't suck the very breath from your lungs. Until then, I'll be right here in the A.C., sipping overpriced coffee and manning the laptop. You pick your hobby, I'll pick mine.