Saturday, June 23, 2007

Axes, Bullets and Jelly Beans

Mal James, Bad AssWhile I dig my toes into the Carolina sand, Mal James navigates far more treacherous terrain. The Middle East, to be less than exact. Operating out of a Jerusalem bureau, this Fox News Channel International cameraman works a beat we domestic lensers can only begin to imagine. Thanks to UNHOLYLAND NEWS, we don't have to. That's where Mal posts a flurry of danger-ridden posts, winking missives full of security checkpoints, bellicose gunmen and less than trustworthy fixers. It's enthralling stuff, even when he's merely waxing poetic on the therapeutical torture of running triathlons. My favorite posts though, are when Mal hits the street in his armored TV car, dodging roadside peril with a veteran's sigh as he chases the deadline in the distance. Check out his latest, a somehow funny tale of thrown axes, spent bullet casings and Russian refugees. Or go back one for a surreal encounter with a swaddled posse of savvy gunmen any TV news shooter can identify with. But if you're like me, you soon begin to wonder why Mal James does what he does where he does- when he could most obviously succeed in less hazardous climes? Bring in the jelly beans...

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Time to Chill

WARNING: The following post has little to do with TV News and should be avoided by all readers leery of vacation slide shows and other meandering screeds....

Happy FeetWe're Back! After six days, four boogie-boards, three books and a couple of grains of sands I can't talk about, the Pittman clan has returneth from the shore. As always, the continent's edge has left me refreshed, rested and as tan as the son of a redhead can ever hope to be. Think Howdy Doody with dermatitis. Or don't - I wouldn't. Just know that as I stumbled through the surf, muttering platitudes, I thought not of cameras or deadlines but of you, dear reader - for I am a man possessed, an otherwise well-adjusted suburban Dad who's found a way to pound his every other frustration into highly therapuetic late-night keyboard sessions. There was no such release mechanism down at 'Cain's Eden' and though it took some getting used to, my new batch of family memories is the fresher for it. Now that I'm back in the Piedmont however, the floor is mine. I have no great news of import to share, but that's never stopped me before from yammering for a few too many paragraphs. So kick back while I clear my head, would ya? I'll be back to bitchin' about smelly live trucks in a day or two...

Sunset Beach BridgeMind you, we didn't just go to any beach. We went to Sunset Beach. North Carolina's southernmost shore, this small barrier island is just a short drive from Myrtle Beach, but it's several worlds removed from that comparatively garish blight. No head shops here, no strip clubs, no chain-smoking mothers with faded armband tattoos. Just pristine shoreline, enchanting wildlife and a veritable buttload of family cottages. But the quietest of the South Brunswick Islands is known best for it's rustic ingress - its aging pontoon swing bridge. One of the last of its kind in operation, The Sunset Beach Bridge is a pleasure to watch and an honor to cross. Sure, traffic backs up to Iowa every time it opens to let a boat through, but dammit it's a monument; a clattering marvel of old school ordinariness that's served as a gateway to vacations since 1961. I'm no weeping preservationist, but the day it's replaced by a gleaming, high-rise span will be the day I stop raving about this three mile stretch of sand and sanity.

Sand DollarThing is, once you cross that rickety bridge, there ain't alot to do. That's fine by me and the Missus, but we got tweenagers, don't ya know? I've feared for years they'd grow tired of searching for sand dollars and demand to be driven to the hipper confines of nearby Wilmington, or the neon-soaked squalor that is Myrtle Beach. So far though, not a word. Last summer's foray into the lesser of the Carolinas left them stricken with the Zen-like qualities of Sunset. That will change someday, but until it does I'll drag my nuclear brood here every June and spend the week people-watching ... Dads in bermuda shorts and knee socks, hefty moms in clingy swimwear, great uncles in flesh-colored speedos - there's one hell of a coffee table book waiting for anyone who wants to document the Great American Unwashed on Holiday. Why, I myself squired about the island clad only in electric blue surfer shorts and a mangled straw cowboy hat. I was eyeing one of those nifty seashell necklaces when my rather urbane 13 year old informed she would no longer acknowledge me in public if I insisted on dressing like a frat boy on Spring Break. I suppose she's got a point...

Dunescape Then again, I always knew my girls were smart. They get it from their Mom, a spitfire of a woman who's withstood my dark moods and silly demeanor for the better part of twenty years. Why exactly, I'll never know but I think her secret is in never taking me very seriously. That's probably wise, as I too often dwell in melancholy. Maybe that explains why she only rolled her eyes when I launched a hard-target search for neighborhood wi-fi, only to return to the cottage with a fifth of contentment from the ABC store. That's a good woman, one that will no doubt be up for another reach for the beach this time next year. Where else can a family of four entertain each other by merely walking? Where else can offspring wince at the lobster tank and order a veggie burger while their parents gorge on southern fried shellfish and sweet tea? Where else can an insatiable communicator come to grips with his internet addiction merely by knocking back shots of Makers Mark? I'll tell ya where: The Beach. It certainly took the edge off this embittered lenslinger...

Don't worry though; I'll be disgruntled and numb by lunchtime Monday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Deep Cuts

6 005A dearth of posts can only be expected as I use this week to muse on other matters. It’s nothing personal, mind you - just a much needed reprieve from linear thinking. I’m not saying I wont check in over the next seven days, just know it wont be the normal volume of web flotsam I bring your way. While I’m away, check out the many other fine photog-bloggers available on the internets - or, if you’re really desperate for my particular strain of drivel, do peruse the following deep cuts; a half dozen handcrafted passages I pretty much selected at random:

Long before YouTube made every suburbanite a web-video demagogue, I predicted the rise of citizen-lensers in Birth of the Personal Journalist. Since then, bad camera management has become all the vogue and a million pundits have taken up the cause. Hmmph. At least I called my shot.

Somewhere among the many books I’ll never get around to writing is a turbulent saga of a reluctant sailor; a coming-of-age tale detailing one latter-day slacker’s split second decision to join the Navy. What followed couldn’t be called heroic, but if you liked M*A*S*H, have I got a sea shanty for you. I call it Crazy on a Ship of Tools.

As a licensed camera anthropologist, I often work alone. This disappointments a few interviewees and I kinda see their point. Here they are expecting a dashing news crew and I show up in wrinkled cabana-wear. That’s central to Hillbilly Hoedown Morning Jam, an otherwise ordinary tale of line dancing, time travel and fire departments. Typical, I know.

A TV news camera can score you access to many an aircraft. It’s something I mined tirelessly in my formative years - coppin’ a squat in lots of cockpits. I disclose most of them in Lens Aloft - from rickety crop dusters to attack helicopters to the GoodYear blimp. Did I mention I hate to fly?

Not sure what selling insurance feels like, but committing television news can be a lot like battle. Impromptu footraces, ornery hardware, maddening edicts from a clueless HQ …war IS hell. A shell-shocked G. Lee reaches the limits of his endurance in the cautionary screed, Perfecting the Improbable.

Some people give off bad first impressions. Others are assholes at every turn. Such was the case with the most unlikable lass I’ve ever toiled beside, an arrogant little shrew named after a mermaid. In Jasmine at the Tragic Factory, we chauffer this heartless winch to calamity and beyond. You’d better buckle up…