Thursday, August 10, 2006

ConvergeSouth, Be There...

While the act of writing an online journal is by nature solitary, I for one, do not blog in a vacuum. Instead, I join you from that pinnacle of push-button publishing: Greensboro, North Carolina. That's right, Greensboro. Don't ask me why, but this somewhat sleepy burg boasts a cyber-life that is both diverse and boisterous. Professors and politicos, columnists and cartoonists, techies and truck drivers - all slather their wit and wisdom across a local blogosphere that rivals even the stretchiest metroplex. Though only a peripheal member of this teeming scene, I knew enough to attend last year's inaugural ConvergeSouth conference - a gathering of thinkers, geeks and vagabonds hellbent on exploring the vast series of tubes that makes up our area's internets. As profoundly dorky as all that may sound, the whole weekend was a stone-cold jam.

Which is why I'm happy to plug the upcoming 2006 edition - a slightly scaled back summit that still promises to be a swift series of kicks to the cerebral cortex. Going down at NC A&T State University in mid-October, this gathering of laptop addicts will focus on Web use and the future of journalism - two subjects I could blather on about for hours on end. As a session leader last year, I did just that, addressing a room full of stern-faced journalism students on matters blogging and broadcasting. Having never been a stern-faced journalism student myself, I found I enjoyed the sensation and as always tried to leave a few news unit skidmarks up and down their cloistered halls of academia.

This year I'm not scheduled to take the floor, but I will play a small part in unveiling a mysterious figure, a blinding light, if you will. Even if you won't, ConvergeSouth 2006 will be well worth its free admission price. Where else can you hob-knob with the architects of a place they call Blogsboro and still look at yourself in the morning? See you there...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Schmuck Watch: McKinney's Goons

File this one under Sore Losers. Minutes after being summarily drummed out of office, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and her aides made their way through a crowded press pack. When a boom microphone struck a of member McKinney’s entourage on the head, one of them went all Kenny Rogers on 11Alive News photojournalist Gary Stillwell, punching at him and pushing his totally tricked-out Hi-Def TV camera to the ground. That, ain’t cool. After the initial incident was caught on tape, WXIA staffers had to call 911 when one of McKinney’s goons followed them to their satellite truck outside to continue his rebuke. Security guard Steve Muhammad, who has a history of entangling himself with the press, claims photog Stillwell ’threw the camera at him’. The aforementioned fancy-cam - whose worth probably rivals either man’s yearly income. Yeah, those things get tossed around all the time. In the end, equipment was damaged, contusions were bandaged and a couple of new viral videos were born.

I wasn’t there, of course. But I’ve wrestled with the body politic a time or ten and I can tell you it ain’t always pretty. When telegenic newcomer John Edwards drove Launch Faircloth out of office, I spent the evening at the defeated Republican’s campaign headquarters. It started out a gala event, but as the precinct results poured in, it became obvious the grandfatherly incumbent was being swiftly trounced. A pall fell over the dance floor. As the vote margins widened, I began to feel most unwelcome. Old ladies who’d flirted with my lens all night picked through their hundred dollar plates and eyed my lens with open disdain. A few red-eyed fat cats, dizzy on cocktails, rubber chicken and fresh defeat, blocked my camera as Faircloth was wheeled out to the ‘concession stand’. No one took a swing that night, but the buzzkill of the event was palpable and it gave me one more reason to abhor politics.

As for former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, she escaped last night’s melee unharmed. No stranger to bellicosity herself, the defeated politician took to the podium with her usual delusional bent, proving to all that her maniacal ego and false sense of entitlement remained intact. Schmucks!

Monday, August 07, 2006

No Rest for the Sweaty

Sun WeaverI love North Carolina - the mountains, the beach, the fact that so many people I know live here. But if I could change one thing about the land in which I reside, it would be the insufferable heat and humidity that sucks the very breath from my lungs each summer. I know, I know, I’m tilting at windmills here - but the supercharged heat molecules currently suffocating my native state are making it hard to focus on anything else. And I focus for a living - a tricky feat when the viewfinder before you is a shimmering curtain of falling forehead water. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I earned my paycheck inside, scribbling figures or pushing units while ensconced in the splendor of modern-day air conditioning. But that, dear readers, simply ain’t the case. I, like many others, venture out into the sweltering thicket on a daily basis, often leaving puddles of photog sweat in my wake. For irrefutable evidence, refer back to that picture of me and the lion. Then remember, I’m a lot better looking in my mind’s eye. Hey, who ain’t?

But I didn’t log in to mine the depths of my own vanity, I came to bitch about the heat! Let’s get started, shall we? I grew up in Eastern North Carolina, a region known for it’s scrub pines, lack of hills and triple digit temps come summertime. Funny thing, though - I don’t ever remember succumbing to the scorching conditions as a kid. Guess I was too busy reading, daydreaming or being ostracized by my peers to ever notice. Boy has that changed (the noticing, not the ostracizing). These days I can soak through the finest in cabana wear just by thinking about the heat. By the time I actually step outside, I’m sweatin’ like an escaped convict at a prison guard convention. And that’s before I even get out the parking lot! Maybe I’m just getting old, that or my interior thermometer is stuck on perma-sweat. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m a furry mammal pushing forty who still slings an oversized fancy-cam in an ugly shirt. Mom was right... I should’ve tried harder in school.

Oh well, too late for that now. The best I can do is slather on the deodorant and keep an eye on the calendar. Pretty soon, the seasons will change and I’ll find myself huddling with others in shiny logo-wear as the crime tape flutters in the clutch of a delightful Autumn breeze. I’m pretty sure I’ll find something to whine about then, but it damn sure won’t be the weather. Not that my brethren will mind. You see, those of us who squint for a living are intimate with unease - bouncing along in a cramped police car cockpits, jockeying for shots in a swirling press-pack, backpedaling down stairs with twenty five pounds on your shoulder and one eye glued to a tiny screen. It can be a blast, but it’s not without it’s bumps, bruises and unfortunate pit-stains. All of which should serve as a warning to those considering my career path. Unless you’re a restless gadget-freak with attention-deficit disorder, a student of the moving image who‘s not afraid to get smelly, and a well-balanced contortionist with an elevated threshold for discomfort, you might wanna reconsider taking up the lens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hafta go towel off...