Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Most Hideous of Tendrils

It was a cold January day and I'd somehow convinced my mother, a pediatrics nurse, that I was sick. Once she left for work, I commandeered all three tiers of the keyboard -sized cable box, it's thick brown cord draped over the flowered ottoman and my 18 year old feet. Pushing the La-Z-Boy all the way back, I worked the clunky, spring loaded buttons of the old school remote. That's when I realized it was launch-day and sat up with a snap.

Even an overgrown delinquent like myself knew about the Space Shuttle Challenger, the shuttle with the teacher on board. I'd even put in a rare appearance at a school assembly where our librarian told the story of applying for the Challenger ride and being denied. Sitting there in the bleachers, I tried to hide my fascination under a wise-ass sneer, but my frontal-lobe was secretly engorged. Civilian space flight had always intrigued me, as evidenced by the tattered Robert Heinlein novel in my book bag that day.

So it was with great adolescent satisfaction that I flipped through the previously unfathomable number of TV choices recently installed at my parent's home. Twenty five in all, counting UHF. After punching several clunky buttons I settled in on CNN, the rookie network that was forging a new, 24 hour news-cycle. With the countdown itself just seconds away, I chewed my lip and leaned into the set, eager to drink from its 19 inch glory.

The unknown achor droned on as the director dissolved between two shots - a wide shot of the new astronaut's students and a long shot of the great bird simmering in the distance. In 1986, TV news didn't get any better than this...but then the hideous tendrils appeared, crazy columns of billowing smoke that had just seconds earlier been a nation's highest-soaring dream. I watched alot more that day, stunned that a mighty spacecraft could actually crash on live TV.

Little did I know then that twenty years later I'd observe the grim anniversary by interviewing one of the fallen astronaut's brother at a crowded book signing. Carl McNair and I made small talk before he told my lens a little bit about his brother Ron. I'd have like to spend more time with the affable author, but the room was small and competitors were clamoring at the door. You know how photo ops are.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sack in the Baddle

RoadwatchHaving spent far too long slicing footage of vocalists both local and hopeful, I almost grinned today as I slid behind the wheel of Unit 4. It's been a couple of weeks since I twisted my ankle in an impromptu display of clumsy Dad dexterity and since then I've thought alot about how I wanted to spend the rest of my days behind the lens. It ain't editing 'American Idol'. Hey, I'm thankful for the diversion - but after countless days of cutting tape of caterwauling milkmen, I'm glad to get out and do some driving of my own.

LeadfootNot that my mission was all that compelling. Instead, my appointed rounds consisted of the mediocre and the mundane: a press conference here, a burned out apartment building there. For once I didn't mind though, I was just happy to escape the shadows of the edit bay - even if it did mean traversing the farthest reaches of two seperate counties for news items that would make up all of eighty-five seconds on their respective newscasts. Who cares? For every eight hour shift of newsgathering misadventure, there's easily three or four days of skull-numbing errand running, days spent filling TV screens with so much processed cheese. I'm okay with that.

Back in the SaddleI just wish it made for a more interesting blog-post. Truthfully, the only moment of intrigue came at a Rockingham County stoplight. There I was, staring at the windshield and listening to Jim and the boys rip through 'Alive She Cried', when the bleating of a fellow motorist's horn invaded my cockpit. Looking over, I saw a young man positively bouncing behind the wheel of an idling Chevy, grinning madly as he flashed me and my familiar logo an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Of course I returned the gesture, glancing only once to make sure the door to Unit 4 was securely locked. Apparently happy with the exchange, the young man sped off at the first hint of green. And that was about it. I'd like to tell you the fellow asked me if 'that thing had a Hemi?', or dragged me back to his lair for a mystical transaction of ideas and petty cash - but after watching clips of Oprah (rightfully) raking beleagured memoirist James Frey over the coals, I may never embellish again...

Monday, January 23, 2006

American Idol: Greensboro

American Idol LineI don't normally like to plug the things I help put on the air, but in this case I'm making an exception. On Tuesday January 24th, American Idol: the Greensboro Audition will air on FOX. Readers of this blog may remember my coverage of the A.I. machine's visit back in September. Since then, I've spent w-a-y too much time stuck in an edit bay with the resulting footage from those five days, culling reports that will air locally over the next several days. Thus, I'm eager to see what the big boys did with their network fare. This much I do know: the Idol executive producers and celebrity judges did nothing but rave about the Gate City from the moment they exited their limos. Some of that I'll chalk up to flattery, but they must have meant it - as the Greensboro show weighs in at a full two hours.

Kellie PicklerNow, I'm not here to champion the merits of the globe's silliest talent show and I dan sure don't want to make this an American Idol blog (even though it does send my site meter through the roof). However, A.I. is a part of my gig and I'd be less than an honest blogger if I refrained from mentioning it. So, it is with professional pride and just a little bit of indigestion that I donate a small amount of space to my involvement in this bastion of indignity - especially since I may soon enter a pressurized tube to witness the ensuing drama up close and personal like. Besides, the unwashed masses that showed up for the Greensboro auditions brought it all: talent, delusion and enough body glitter to choke a transvestite. What could be more fun to blog about than that? Don't answer, just tune in Tuesday night for an episode of American Idol with a southern twist. If nothing else, tune in for Kellie Pickler, a young lady with a great voice (and even better backstory), who smiled for my phone-cam mere minutes after wowing Randy, Paula and that dude in the muscle shirt.

You Know You're a Photog When:

My buddies at b-roll are reviving an old standby, and I couldn't resist:

You Know You're a Photog...

...when you're totally at ease in crowded, tense situations - as long as you've got your gear to hide behind.

...when you identify landmarks by the odd calamities that happened there, "You know, that statue where the Amish kid got stabbed?"

...when you're totally cool with going in like gangbusters, but you far prefer to be invisible.

..when impromptu pools of natural light spilling through half-closed window blinds excite you on a visceral level.

...when you dream at night, you find yourself analyzing its shot-composition, before noticing the dream-you is carrying a tripod.

..when you've attended grow-room take-downs, hot air balloons launches and formal Governor luncheons - all wearing the same wrinkled Hawaiian shirt.

...when the smell of a structure fire reminds you of umpteen other such occasions.

...when you're no longer surprised where the voice on the other end of that 3 AM phone call wants to send you to.

...when you can identify individual fast food franchises by the silhouettes of their buildings.

...when you're on first name basis with the Chief Surgeon AND the security guard who lets you park in the doctor's lot.

...when a random fire truck screeches by, your conditioned response is to whip a U-turn and gun engines after it.

...when the very best and absolute worst workdays you've ever experienced both ended up as ninety second masterpieces.

...when your hands are scarred by tripod bruises, your lower back kinda hurts and you have a deep, unabiding pocket fetish.

...when your collection of press-passes is surpassed only by your stash of free t-shirts and logowear.

...when you'll accept just about any absurdity in life as long as it's presented to you at the end of a tube, on a tiny black and white screen.