Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Soccer Mom Zombies

Harry Potter CamYou ever cover one of those Harry Potter Midnight Parties? Neither have I, but as the parent of a thirteen year old, I have attended a few. That of course includes Friday night’s hallowed event; a big box bookstore filled with middle-aged wizards, soccer mom zombies and enough shrieking ‘tweens to make New Kids on the Block mull over a comeback tour. Actually, it wasn’t so bad - but then again I was plodding about the place in flip-flops and a coffee buzz. While my daughter chatted up her friends and compared costumes, I headed for the History section, hoping to find an antiquated yard that didn’t feature Muggles and such. Unfortunately, my beloved aisle was playing host to a Hogwarts beat-down, a coming-of-age ritual in which three underage Harry Potters beat the crap out of a fourth. When my shadow fell over the melee, a beefy kid with a lightning bolt tattooed on his forehead looked up, muttered something about ’Five-Oh’ and returned to ratcheting his young victim’s wedgie. Knowing street justice when I saw it, I turned to go browse the Biographies. That’s when I saw him…

Interviewing the bookIngram. Brad Ingram. Wedged into a corner by the front of the store, he and intrepid reporter Eric White stuck a lens into the grill of anyone willing to answer in complete sentences. Knowing my offspring’s propensity for ten dollar words, I launched a hard target search for the one Hermione present who shared my DNA. Finding her immersed in a raging Snape debate, I laid low for a minute before extracting her from the pack. As I did, a tired voice overtook the intercom and announced the further lining of J.K. Rowling’s pockets would commence in fifteen minutes. This proclamation caused much joy among the gathered masses and as the volume of their voices rose, I began eyeballing the exits. You see, I don’t trust crowds. Having skittered along the perimeter of so many summits over the years, I’ve seen mobs form where reasonable people once stood shoulder to shoulder. For that reason, I nudged my firstborn toward the door, not to block the exit mind you, but to escape unscathed should the room suddenly go stupid.

Whitey Interviews MalfoyI need not have worried, for in the end, the cross section of Potterheads refrained from rioting - though I did wonder for a moment when the final countdown began. One minute! The crowd pushed forward at the news of impending midnight, reminding your by-then-delirious lenslinger of a certain Who Concert. Forty-five seconds! To my right, Ingram popped up on his wide-angle lens and began sweeping the crowd, his thousand yard stare firmly in place. Thirty seconds! Behind the check out counter, costumed booksellers ripped the paper off a stack of Potter boxes and the crescendo thickened. Fifteen seconds! I swear, a lady in a purple cape genuflected at the sight of the unadorned boxes. Ten…Nine…Eight! Pressing forward against a line of jumpy looking police officers, the mob screamed each syllable with evangelistic fervor. Seven…Six…Five! Laying eyes on my oldest, I saw that, unlike the Rent-A-Cops stationed outside, she was having a ball. Mission accomplished. Four…Three…Two...

Ingram's had enoughAt the count of one, bedlam overtook the bookstore. IT guys high-fived each other, girls in striped neckties twirled and Muggles hugged. As the whole place went slow-mo I scanned the rapturous crowd and was surprised at how many familiar faces stared back. Piano teachers, main anchors and a local blogger or two - all locked in frozen ecstasy over the unsheathing of a book. Granted, I’ve never read a word of Rowling’s mythology, but with a daughter who holds a Doctorate in all things Potter, I never felt I had to. As for mass allegiance to sheer fantasy, I could claim ignorance, but I got half a squadron of Lego Stormtroopers back home that would no doubt beg to differ. With thoughts of my domicile in mind, I grabbed my offspring and headed for our place in line. Before I did though, I sidled up to Ingram and said Hello. I’m not really sure how he replied, but it sounded an awful lot like lines from ’A Clockwork Orange’. Hey, that’s cool. Even seasoned lenslingers like Brad get rattled when two thousand lunatics are vying for your attention, be it teenaged wizard wannabes or truly delusional American Idol hopefuls...

But don't take my word for it. Watch the piece Brad Ingram and Eric 'Hot Chocolate' White put together - an enjoyable enough ninety seconds in which my daughter waxes philosophic and I nearly get trampled by a trio of pre-teen readers. Well worth a few viewings...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Children of the Hunt

Children of the HuntWhat better place to enjoy the soup-like humidity of a Carolina summer than d-e-e-p in the jungle of Randolph County? Okay, I could give you a list - but that's where I found myself today, stalking a tribe of independent filmmakers as they attempted cinema amid the chiggers and the ticks. Not that I minded. See, film shoots offer the kind of repetitive action and location control that make for easy television. Take today's feature for instance, a futuristic tale of human pursuit called Children of the Hunt. In the ninety minutes that I was 'on set', a roving patrol of jackbooted thespians staged histrionics under the shade of a few stately Elms. By the time they mastered their plastic weapons and were finally ready to roll, I'd bagged enough shots to flesh out the storyboard forming in my head. Precious visuals on board, I scanned the perimeter for unauthorized sound.

Mercs Close-UpBoy, did I find it. Unlike other film sets I've crashed, the crew behind Children of the Hunt were more than happy to chat. Perhaps that has something to do with the nature of Independent Film, where the leading lady may very well double as second assistant to the make-up chick. Okay that's stretching it, but only a little. Director Matthew Moore, an affable enough chap, even stopped multi-tasking long enough to answer a few not so esoteric questions. As a result, I got what I needed quickly, a good thing considering the shots I was cobbling together were due to air in a hundred and sixty minutes. (Top that, 48 Hour Film Festival!) With that in mind, I bade my new friends adieu and skulked off the mountain. On the way down, I promised myself I'd try to catch Children of the Hunt, just as soon as I checked out Dr. Undead's Frightfest. For now though, all I can do is view my own finished product, a profile in brief I'd give a reluctant one and a half thumbs up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Through a Lens, Gladly

News Photographer MagazineA big dip of the lens to the NPPA's Donald Winslow - for seeing fit to include a story of mine in the July edition of News Photographer Magazine. Indigestion, insomnia and interloper's guilt first led me to write Through a Lens, Darkly in June, 2005. After that, I promptly forgot about it. But for reasons unknown, this confessionary tale scores more steady web hits than anything else I've ever posted (with the exception of my uttterly shameless Chris Daughtry smotherage, of course). Why that is I'm not sure, but I suspect it has something to do with people googling a time-worn phrase. Even still, I'm quite stoked to see it committed to print and hope that you will forgive me for this gloating footnote. Oh, and special thanks to Jerry Wolford - who schlepped his gear to Lenslinger Central in an all-out attempt to not make me look too dorky. Nice try, anyway...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Myth of the Gifted Hippie

Exactly three weeks before I was born, Jim Morrison and The Doors released their debut album. Sadly, it took me fifteen years to catch up. But catch up I did, for as soon as my boyhood pal Scott Bargoil put on Morrison Hotel and told me to shut up and listen, I have been a willing disciple of this most mystifying combo from Venice Beach. Blame their frontman. With the looks of Adonis and the soul of a poet, James Douglas Morrison was Greek God reborn. But instead of hurling thunderbolts from on high, Jim could be found warbling over one syncopated dirge to another, twisting in leather pants and a narcotic frenzy as his earthbound bandmates pounded out the soundtrack from some psychedlic carnival camped out on the edge of the desert.

Charisma aside, Jim's love of language and penchant for self-mythification held me wrapt long after the stilted music died. I still remember being allowed to visit a base PX while still in boot camp. Forgoing all thoughts of smokes and beef jerky, I bought a paperback copy of Danny Sugarman's definitive Doors biography and savored every salacious syllable. When I purchased my very first CD player, I tried my best to melt my brand new copy of 'Alive, She Cried'. To this day, when given the task of testing microphones before a live remote, I instinctively recite the preamble to Texas Radio and the Big Beat. I'm telling you, my allegiance to The Lizard King knows no bounds. Which is why the new details surrounding Morrison's death don't bother me one peyote. See, I never believed that old yarn about Jim passing peacefully in the tub. Such a placid demise ran counter-current to the way he lived his life. Reckless, delusional, self-destructive: these are not the qualities I try to instill in my offspring. But they're the exact traits I look for in a Sixties shaman and no sordid tale of bathroom overdose can spoil the legacy of this deeply troubled yet richly gifted court jester.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put on Peace Frog and crawl in the tub...

Death by Presser?

TentsideRibbon cuttings don't usually pack alot of peril, discounting of course death by boredom. But today I was anything but lulled to sleep as a late afternoon thunderhead parked itself directly over the rent-a-tent I was sharing with a hundred or so nervous strangers. I forget why we were all there exactly; it was one of those obligatory back-patting sessions that looks good on a corporate calendar but makes for abysmal television. Thus, I wasn't too concerned about the keyote speaker's motivation as I steered Unit Four toward my last shoot of the day. I was too busy studying the engorged stormfront forming over my North Greensboro destination.

Steve HofbauerWhen I arrived, I found I wasn't the only lenslinger glancing skyward. WFMY's Steve Hofbauer was already on scene, eyeballing the darkening horizon and shaking his head at the idea of joining an oblivious throng of business people under a tent in the middle of what was most certainly about to be a gully-washer. But like myself, Scott don't call the shots. Instead, he hits his mark (every time!) and if that means braving nature's wrath amid a sea of power suits, so be it. Besides, Steve's a big strapping dude with a winning grin. If God Almighty was gonna strike a photog dead, surely it would be that little surly guy in the Hawaiian shirt, right?

Rain off RoofDon't answer that. Just know that halfway through the opening remarks the pregnant clouds' collective water broke, unleashing a summertime deluge that triggered flashbacks in three out of four Vietnam Veterans sitting on the back row. Even an ex-peacetime squid like myself couldn't stop scanning the crowd, wondering which audience member was most likely to stampede over the nearest cameraman - should our thin covering shirk its berth and take flight over the Greater Piedmont Googleplex. Eyeing a row of hardhatted fellas by the shelter's edge, I analyzed their footwear and wondered what a steel-toe'd workboot might feel like when pressed against my face. Not so hot, I'm guessing...

Wet LegsIn the end, no one stepped on my beard. In fact, the podium jockeys did little more than laugh off the steady thunderclaps, the sideways rainbands, and the way El Ocho's cameraman was texting his Last Will and Testament into a beat-up cell phone. In an effort to further stoke the crowd's imagination, one nespaper photographer kept triggering his flash, sending white-hot strobes ricocheting off the dancing canvas and reminding everyone of the more unfortunate episodes of Rescue 911. Mercifully, most of the speakers cut their witticisms short and together the panel lunged for the pile of giant scissors. As they finally sliced the cermonial sash, I looked down and realized I was standing in three inches of roiling rainwater, right beside a loudspeaker plugged in to a fully submerged power strip.

That's well worth thirty seconds of forgettable TV, don't ya think?

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Evolution of ConvergeSouth

Astute readers of yonder blog will notice the ConvergeSouth logo to the right. What is ConvergeSouth? Good question. Organized by key members of Greensboro’s vibrant blogging community, this free conference first explored the digital revolution in October of 2005. It was great! Local schmoes like me with homemade sites rubbed elbows with Rock Stars of the still burgeoning blogosphere. Congdon, Rosen, Winer and Wales - just some of the names that traded HTML and devoured Hoggard's famous bar be cue with the local blogeratti. A year later ConvergeSouth 06 returned for a one-day stint, but the shortened form did not dilute the roster. Local web satirist Jim Rosenberg shed his solar persona. Tech blog God Robert Scoble accepted the keys to the city and webheadt/first lady in waiting Elizabeth Edwards charmed most everyone in the room. I even sat in on a promising session led by N&R Editor John Robinson that to ervyone's dismay, devolved into a heated exchange of newspaper gripes. Y-A-W-N. That aside, ConvergeSouth 06 was a rousing success and I left looking forward to gatherings in the future.

Well, welcome to the future. Whether you call it Web 2.0 or the New Media Renaissance, the internets are a lot more user-friendly than they were two whole years ago. You don't have to be named Time's Person of the Year to know the way we share data has changed. Just ask your Aunt Hilda - if you can get off her YouTube account. She just ran a search for Polka Karoake and you know how she gets when Lawrence Welk starts to beat-box...

Cue up ConvergeSouth 07. Scheduled for October 19-20, the (still) free conference will once again overtake the campus of NC A&T State University. There the likes of Jason Calacanis, Dr. Abdul Alkalimat, Loren Feldman, Will Bunch and bunch of other folk I'm only tangentially familiar with gather for a deconstruction of what we like to call the Fifth Estate. But ConvergeSouth is more than just a Geek-Out! This year live music will return, with wide-ranging performances in surrounding venues. Most interestingly, the ConvergeSouth Film Festival debuts, under the studied tutelage of one Andy Coon, who, judging from his last vlog, has gone deep undercover in The Mob. Whatever secret oath you've sworn to, you'll find someone intriguing to take out at the knees this year, from street poets to PhD.'s, angry activists to serene City Council members, A-List web celebrities to that skeevy dude from your company's IT department. A lot of very smart people are gonna get together and wallow in what they know. There's only one problem...

I'm scheduled to lead a session. It's not that I'm skeered. Event architect Sue Polinsky didn't exactly have to twist my hairy forearm to get me to sign up to lead said session last fall, but I did so without much forethought as to what issues I might address. Now that we're only 94 days away from the blessed event, I'm still a bit flummoxed. See, I'm not one of these New Media guys. If anything, I'm Old Media, a veteran cameraman who fancies himself a tortured writer. Why, were it not for a shirtless Al Gore, I might very well still be tattooing my thoughts in coffee-stained notebooks, instead of purging my urge on-line every night. Outside of 'How to Blog About Your Job Without Getting Canned', there ain't alot I can offer. Yeah, I got mad video skillz, but in a world smitten with handheld confession-cams, my notions of tripods, layered sound and sequenced shots seem awfully out of vogue. Besides, I got about as much interest in making web videos as the average plumber does in fixing his mother-in-law's sink. Instead, what interests me is the therapuetic torment of all this overcommunication; living to blog versus blogging to live. Sure, I could fill the hour, but it all seems awfully esoteric for this techier-than-thou crowd.

So, even if you have no intention of atending ConvergeSouth 07, you're now free to experience it vicariously through the lamentations of your humble lenslinger. Look for sporadic updates as I suffer repeatedly over just how I might add to the Webhead Convention That Ate Greensboro. Or, if you're coming to this post late, simply jet ahead three months and see how I did. I'm curious to know, myself...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tokens of the Vaguely Talented

Press Pass StashMy ten year old really likes my collection of press passes, a fact that sometimes worries me. It's not that I don't want my youngest to pursue her interests; but a child of such promise shouldn't sell herself so short. You heard me: short. Three out of five days I still groove on what I do, but a life behind the lens ain't exactly the priesthood. Nor is it the equal of ten solid years driving for UPS. Come to think of it, I'm not sure who said 'Journalism is the last refuge of the vaguely talented'(Walter Lippmann? Truman Capote? Less Nessman?), but I wish it had been me - for it's very true. Anyone who tells you different either has a stack of term papers to grade or a teleprompter to read every night at 5, 6 and 11. But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, press passes...

They're shiny, they're notarized and they're rarely worth the cardstock they're printed on. Why's that? Because the mass majority of news stories don't come with golden tickets. See, there's no beefy doorman on the widow's porch. There's no one passing out backstage badges at the highway chemical spill. They don't even check for credentials at the courthouse, as long as you empty your pcokets fot the metal detector lady. No, the stories that stain your brain and scratch your soul rarely feature these laminated invites. Which is why, outside of sports photogs looking for serious rearview mirror adornment, most TV news folk dump their old press passes in a lump somewhere. To glossy and slick to outright discard, they're good for little more than impressing the offspring. Come to think of it, maybe I should hide all mine until the youngest discovers a more rewarding career path.

Like taxidermy.