Friday, September 28, 2007

Single Track Atonement

Single Track GrimaceEgged on by cycling convert Chad Tucker, I dug my own neglected Trek out of the garage yesterday and took it for a spin. Or it took me, I can never decide. Either way, the cathartic value of mounting said velocipede was well worth the throbbing ass I find myself with today. No bother, I’ll just relive my two wheeled glory with a fevered post on the joys and contusions of the mountain biking in central North Carolina. I’m no expert, mind you - just a former flatlander with a sore keister and a thesaurus. So strap on the helmet I can’t seem to find and hold on - for I ride the exact same way I write: in orange day-glow biker shorts.

ShocksLuckily, my bike remembers which way to go - even when traversing unfamiliar soil. That was the case yesterday, when I perched atop a path I'd chosen at random; a dissipating groove through a root-filled ravine. I paused at the lip for a moment, hunched over my handlebars and weighed my lack of melon protector. So I took it slow, clicking into my pedals and leaning forward, the fat tires digging in and rolling slow along the narrow, twisty trail. Lake Higgins Trail, it was- a moderate enough route that still featured gullies, switchbacks and ill-timed climbs. Not wanting to impale myself on any severed branches, I stuck to the middle and tried to chill. But then the tunes kicked in...

View from Below'Love Me Do', I think it was. Or maybe it was 'Devils Haircut', I dunno, it could have been one of those wretched BeeGees tracks the Missus made me load onto the mp3. Whatever it was, it did the trick, for soon most of the world melted away. All that remained was the brown forest floor strobing beneath; a sun-dappled course fraught with knobby obstacles and skinny escapes. No longer engaged in linear thought, I jerked the handlebars to accomodate the gut-wrenching bends and suddens ascents this narrow passage afforded. With my feet locked into the pedals, I could bunny-hop; pop rear wheelies when needed and otherwise milk momentum for every ounce of forward energy the nature has to offer. Done right, one can earth-surf over improbable topography. Done wrong, one can 'endo' and hurl ass over tea kettle into the void...

Tree LeanBut there's more to it than open-ended stuntman plunges. Just as important are those idle moments spent leaning on a tree - if only so you can toss up your Pop-Tarts in peace. I'm never afraid to simply stop, whether pausing to catch my breath, taking in the leafy cathedral in all its splendor or taking a hit off that water bottle I never seem to bring. No, you ain't gotta be moving on a mountain bike to get somewhere, though it sure does help when you're filming a Mountain Dew commercial. (Everyone know saturated God-shots of a middle-aged insurance adjustor hikin' his biker shorts by an oak tree don't move sody-bottles.) Still, take your time there in the shade, Mr. Myfreakinsidehurts. Then hand in your man-card tyo the nearest woodchuck. Otherwise, unhand that trunk and get to pedalin'!

Tire RootOh yeah ... that's better. Now pick up the pace a little and you'll look all manly as you roll back to your pick-up truck. If you're lucky, a Soccer Mom will be there to help you lift your bike into the bed. Me, I'll be out here on the open trail, gliding over sunbaked ruts in the mud and trying not to scream like a girl when gravity wraps me around that sticky Pine tree in the sky. I'll even be up for another two-wheeled thrill real soon, never again placing my Trek in a vegetative state. And Yes Mom, I'll go buy a new helmet - right after I pick up some Preparation H. Do they sell it by the vat?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fire Station Baby

Okay, so nobody's gonna hand me something shiny for this story. An interview driven piece with pretty slim visuals, it's a minute-twenty exercise in missed opportunities. Given the chance to do it again, I'd have shot the younger firefighter in a different setting, made the older one show my camera around the station more and insisted Dad joined Mom and me on the couch for the official sit-down. Alas, there was a language barrier, time constraints and the general malaise of a shooter on the verge of a three day weekend. Still, it turned out less than wretched - if only because the story at hand was so highly unlikely. Give it a glance if you get the chance. You won't need a hanky or anything, but you'd all do well to stow those ironic hipsterisms before we get started. So please, feel free to proceed - once your cliche-meter has been returned to the upright position. Careful, though! Production snafus aside, this may still very well be the feel good piece of the week. Consider yourself warned...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Requiem for a Vet

It’s hard to age gracefully with a TV camera on your shoulder. Not only does it physically make you lopsided, long term exposure to all that news can be corrosive to the soul. So can auto repair I guess, but I don’t think I’d be nearly as world-weary had I spent the last seventeen years puttering about some under-oiled engine. Instead I’ve logged endless miles with a lens in the back; racing from happenstance to disaster and back again - all so Joe Bob Bunyon might give it a glance while he irons his socks. I do still very much dig what I do. The henchman’s ingress, the distillation of daily events and the unexpected dependability of spot news still holds me in great sway … in theory, anyway. Just don’t tell me we’re making a difference, would ya? I’d rather focus on making deadline; for that, in essence, is What We Do.

But fill that slot for more than five years in a row and it will all strobe out of focus. Flea markets morph into four alarm fires, stand-offs coagulate into frothy potboilers, protest rallies march down long dark alleys. Most stories I forget before they even air, but untold images still seethe and fester inside my head, at least until I write about them. For others, that insider's vista never dims; instead it distorts the horizon until said veteran is at the end of his tour, the owner of a bad lower back and a drawerful of faded station logowear. If that seems dark, see the Complaints desk down the hall. It's just past the photog's lounge - that seedy little room where the shooters stew in their juices. That's not discontent you're smelling; it's the scent of arrested development.

Which is why so many photojournalists opt out halfway through their careers. TV news is a young man's game and growing old is ill-advised. Whereas reporters become anchors and producers become managers, photogs simply become disenchanted. That's what happens when your career ladder is a lowly stepstool held together by gaffer's tape. Sure, the gear gets lighter but the pace only quickens and all that running and gunning never really gets you anywhere. Which is my incoherent way of saying another hearty soul is bracely leaving the rat race. Photogguy's been shoving life through a tube for 19 years. That's alot of broken news. Very soon, he'll log his last logo'd mile, before escaping to a life of community college projects. No shame in that game. Nor is their any dishonor in returning to the fold, should reasonable working conditions prove too difficult for a self-admitted deadline junkie. Congratulations, Brian...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charles in Charge

Charles in ThoughtThose who think TV news reporters spit out those stylized sequiturs non-stop are only partially right. Most times, they gotta stop and think about their lines first. Such was the case today, as Charles Ewing paused to reflect outside Simeon Stadium today - giving me enough time to grab my headphones from Unit 4 and take a pic or two on the walk back. I don't know why I botherered really (other than being rather desperate for material) but once I got back to my upper lair, I realized I had more than just a couple of random snapshots of a co-worker at rest... I had an exciting behind the scenes peek into the world of TV News!

Summoning BrillianceOkay, maybe not - but these simple frozen frames do represent a side of broadcasting most young people don't think about when they sign up for that first Mass Comm class. Those who do would do well to realize a life in front of the camera is more than neckties and winking headshots. It's work. See, not every assignment's a scintillating trip into the unknown; most are tepid jaunts into the predictable. But whether it's intrigue or pablum, an on-air reporter must forge a decent narrative, albeit in a highly fragmented manner. Master that and you'll do fine. Otherwise you may find yourself perched upon an incline, wishing for brilliance while your photog exploits your mental constipation for any and all possible blog fodder.

And who'd want that?

Apoplexy in Orange

As a heterosexual Southern male who still doesn't get society's fascination with organized athletics, I don't shoot alot of sports. But even a Philistine like myself has covered an after-game press conference or two. Usually they're pretty routine; someone sweaty in a bright costume laments or jubilates his team's performance as assorted reporters hang on his every cliche. From where I squat, it's quite drab duty. Unless of course, one of the coaches in question gets a little testy - a common enough occurence in the world of arrested testosterone and matching outfits. Mike Gundy, however, has taken the post-game tantrum to a whole new level, and I salute him. Outraged over a newspaper article criticizing one of his quarterbacks, Gundy cast aside all decorum and turned anger into performance art. The inevitable clip of his wrath and spittle quickly hit the internets, attracting the attention of even the most ardent non-sports fans (like me). Thank you, Coach Gundy. Not only have you provided a nation of laptop addicts with infinite giggles, you justified my derision of team athletics and allowed the entire writing staff of Saturday Night Live to take the rest of the week off. For that, you deserve some time off yourself - or at the very least - a deep tissue massage. For all I know, your rant was more than just - but at this point that hardly matters. What does matter is you've snapped me out of my funk, for there's nothing more entertaining than a grown man dressed in orange on the verge of defecation. Now, hit the showers. Please.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Riffing an Existence

Spotlight CalendarWhere, oh where, hath September gone? The last time I looked up it was late August and I was sweating buckets. Now suddenly it’s almost October and still pretty damn hot. But you didn’t come here for a weather report and my Doppler’s on the fritz, so I’ll dispense with any attempt at a catchy opening and get right to the angst-ridden self-involvement you’ve come to expect here at Viewfinder BLUES. Hey, at least I’m consistent! Anyway, tonight, we find our hero returning from a brief sojourn to find the ninth month of the year all but gone! That’s normally not that big a deal, as October’s a delicious month in the Piedmont, but doggone it - there’s something dude’s gotta do soon and as always, he’s ... put ... it ... off. He’s probably sitting around right now with a tumbler of Makers’ Mark; writing about himself in third person and feeling all smug. That should last another five seconds or so - as even his rusty synapses will fire off a reminder of a certain October obligation right, about --

Holy Hemlock! ConvergeSouth is, what, twenty-five days away? Usually that means nothing more than endless bemusement as assorted smart people wax prophetically on all things internet. Who doesn’t love that? I sure do. In fact, I look forward to this gathering of geeks and madmen every year, for it gives me a chance to connect outwardly appearances with internal voices, mannerisms with manifestoes, unibrows with agendas. If that don’t sound like fun to you, then, you don’t read as many local websites as I do. If you did, you'd know my adopted hamlet of Greensboro is the home of a vibrant, fractured, raucous blogosphere - one that only grows more intense when experienced in 3-D. It’s why I attend every year, usually as a nodding audience member and nothing more. This year, however I’m scheduled to lead a session - on what, I cannot imagine.

Don’t get me wrong. I willingly signed up for said act last year, following my pseudo-involvement in a well-meaning session that quickly devolved into a heated round of ‘Let’s Bash the News & Record‘. Hey, as a card-carrying cameraman, I’m all for poking fun at the local rag - if only because they’re such a stuffy bunch. But if I wanna hear insults hurled at the ink-stained wretches, I ain’t gotta give up a Saturday, I just gotta go to work. That I get more than enough of, which is why I impulsively pitched a session of my own to organizer Sue Polinsky, knowing I had a good eleven months or so to assiduously avoid even thinking about it. Well, many moons have passed and, as predicted, I find myself scratching my chin-cabbage and asking myself, “What the &%$& was I thinking?” It’s not that I’m afraid of public speaking; I actually kind of like it. It’s like doing stand-up comedy where no one expects you to be funny. That, I can do. No, the problem is…. I ain’t got a lot to talk about.

Sure, I got opinions. As someone who’s web-published random thought for going on three years, I got lots of ’em. But I sort of doubt the ConvergeSouth crowd wants to hear me expound on the travesty of oversized microphone flags, the undeniable beauty of a stuffed bookshelf or my extended treatise on why Albert King outranks B .B. King in the pantheon of grizzled Blues Men. No, they’ll want something timely, technical, relevant. That’s a tall order for this five foot ten photog, for not only am I of average height, but I am infamously noncommittal. It’s the kind of practiced insouciance one needs when covering daily events. How else can you successfully interview Side A and Side B in the scope of an hour without quickly mastering the art of not giving a rat’s ass? I’m sure there are other approaches but I just can’t work up the juice to investigate them. Nor can I look you straight in the computer screen and say I’m gonna do much more than wing it come October 20th. That way I‘ll feel comfortable as I never really do know if I‘m rolling up on a symphonic performance or an absolute train wreck. All Aboard...