Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Open Letter to 'Lensflare'

You there - the young TV photographer in Ontario, Canada who's stealing from me. We need to talk. Better yet, I'LL talk; You copy and paste (you obviously know how):

Morning SilhouetteYou ... got lucky. When I first discovered your site, I was out of town on family business; too entrenched in important matters to give it the attention it so deserves. When I did stumble across LENSFLARE, I figured it was yet another photog-blog. As this always piques my interest, I perused the latest entry to see what this nice young fellow had to say. Imagine my surprise when I recognized the story as my very own. Sure, you changed the titles, replaced the pictures and altered the names to fit your own life, but every other syllable mirrors my own most recent post. 'How very odd', I thought, scanning the page for the disclaimer, punch-line or link that would explain such pilferage. I found none. What I did find were months and months of entries; all exact copies of my own work, save a few face-saving alterations. I have to admit my jaw dropped a little. Hey, I've been stolen from before - but never in cyberspace. I guess such a thing was inevitable, but the amount of energy it must have taken to make my words your own still astounds me. Vowing to give the matter my full attention when I returned to my upper lair, I bookmarked your site and logged off - but not before making a tactical error. I tipped you off with a hasty message I now regret.
"Who are you and why are you stealing my stuff? If you're going to be a thief, at least be clever about it."
Now, you've robbed me again. By quickly hiding your site behind a password, then moving it entirely, you have deprived me of the opportunity to expose your (far from) petty larceny. That's a shame, as I was really, really, really looking forward to your evisceration. Truth is, I still am. See, I'm of Irish descent and vengeful bent. I currently earn no coin from my writing, but I sure plan to someday. That said, you have absconded with my intellectual property and that is an ass-kickin' offense. But even as I sit here, plotting your utter destruction, I have to wonder WHY? I spotted no advertising on your site, so money can't be the motive. Is the hollow acclaim that turns you on? The few comments I saw appeared to be from people you know in real life. One in particular expressed surprise at your 'great writing'. That must just fill you with pride. It fills me with trepidation, as manhunts really aren't my syle. A good buddy of mine said I should be flattered at being plagiarized in the first place. I say, Eff That. I work too hard to let a coward like yourself co-opt my late night labor. You may have escaped with your identity intact, but I'm about to make you famous. Stand by... sleep tight, but know this:

You have robbed THE WRONG PHOTOG.

Of course, you could do yourself a favor and come out of hiding. Man up and explain yourself. I promise to listen - and answer.

I'm Stewart Pittman and I approved this message.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Praising St. Thomas

Thomas Effin' Cormier
That's no ordinary mortal perched atop that live truck; that's the great Thomas Cormier. Who's that, you (didn't) ask? Only the man who first allowed me to shoulder a fancycam, who patiently taught me how to edit tape to tape, who accompanied me to my first (of many) used car lot shoots, who regularly fed me from his very own crockpot, who once roped me into shooting three straight days of dance recital performance, who held the camera and behaved himself while I leeringly interviewed lingerie contest finalists, who rolled his eyes but his tongue as I butchered a series of early live shots, who convinced me to strap on a parachute and jump out of a rather rickety airplane.

Yes, Thomas and I had many a misadventure back in the day. He was a steady, reassuring presence; I was the consummate punk-ass. Without his guidance, I wouldn't have lasted more than a fortnight in local television. Normally, I'd make the standard joke about not knowing whether to thank him or punch him in the crotch - but I got too much respect for the man. He was my very first broadcast mentor; I was the shaggy little brother he never really wanted. Under his homespun tutelage, I learned how to compose, slo-mo and avoid serious jail time. These days, I don't see Thomas very much - but the next time I do, I'm gonna turn him on to this humble little website. Come to think of it, you can blame that on him too.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Natural Born Dee-JAYS

Though I've yet to hammer out any contract, I consider Two Guys Named Chris the official morning show of Viewfinder BLUES. The reasons are many: Chris Kelly and I worked together briefly during his own turgid TV career. I once chased Deidre James through a Piedmont living room as she bestowed Christmas presents on an unsuspecting family. Having broken into broadcasting via radio myself (and summarily sucking at it), I have a heightened appreciation for Natural Born Dee-JAYS like Chris Demm. Mostly though, they brighten my morning commute. Unlike the piped-in platter of some faraway station's hard-drive, Rock 92's a.m. show is live and local; a tough act to pull off in today's syndication-heavy radio universe. But pull it off they do - with recurring characters, local media sleazebags and humor of the penile variety. What more can you ask for on your way to work?

I'll tell you what: competition. Every morning, the erudite Chris (Demm - not that dopey oaf Kelly) puts his rock-and-roll acumen on the line, taking on a new challenger each morning in a music trivia showdown of biblical proportions. Most days, I'm only a mile or two shy of El Ocho when the call for contestants goes out and most days I lunge for the cell phone like some Pavlovian dog. I rarely get through, but when I do I'm treated like a welcome guest - a strange sensation for a photog used to folks in handcuffs hocking logies at him. Lack of spittle aside though, Demm offers no quarter, routinely crushing my own trivia reservoir with his preternatural knowledge of everything rock-n-roll. You'd think the guy worked in radio all his adult life! Oh well, like being nominated for an Oscar, losing to Demm is something of an honor.

That's exactly what happened today as Deidre and the Guys exploited the glaring lack of Journey data in my pea-sized brain. No sweat! At least I was able to drop some knowledge about my favorite U2 album (Achtung Baby!), not to mention that boozey crooner Sammy Hagar. In the end, I lost of course - but this time only by one (1) point! That ain't too shabby when you're playing Demm, who rattles off modern music facts like Dustin Hoffman deconstruced People's Court' episodes in Rainman. But once he handed me my ass on a platter, he did me a solid by asking me to plug this very blog on-air. Thanks Demm - maybe now I'll be monetize this little endeavor, instead of trading in my time and dignity for a chance at winning a little lunch money. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go reread Hammer of the Gods, lest there be a shark incident question the next time I make it past your screener...
(Still reading this? Wow - you must really be bored! Go kill a few more minutes of your miserable existence by listening to the aforementioned trivia showdown. Just go to the Two Guys Named Chris page, scroll down to the Put Up or Shut Up section and look for my name. Then ask yourself, "Should I be bothering with this while our country's financial woes drag us into the crapper?" Just a thought...)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Strictly Fictive...

“That’s not how he died!”

Cecile’s words hung there in the stale trailer air, slowly floating toward the pockmarked ceiling as the woman in the housecoat gaped at the once pretty reporter. Behind the camera, G. Lee dropped his head and tried to assume the shape of his tripod. That. Bitch. He could only stare at the frayed green carpet as he fully absorbed what his partner had just done. Why would she do that? Shaking his head slowly, G. Lee realized he already knew. Cecile couldn’t help it. Whether she was yakking uncontrollably in her cell phone, shouting intimate details across a crowded newsroom, or dredging up the name of her dead husband, the woman was physically unable to keep her mouth shut. He’d known this for years, of course. It’s why she was so damn effective. However distasteful, Cecile’s nosey nature and inability to be ignored made her a formidable reporter, the last person you’d want to see knocking on your company’s door if you were embezzling funds or diddling an assistant. But scandal was never enough for Cecile. She preferred fatalities. Why else would she volunteer to climb every widow’s porch that popped up in the Tri-City region?

Over the years, G. Lee had pointed his camera at scores of reporters. Beauty queens, policy wonks, circus clowns: to a person they’d approached grieving family members with a mix of resignation and dread. Not Cecile. She seemed to thrive on heartache, swooping in on hapless survivors like some overdressed angel of death. It was the same pitch every time. Barging in, she’d feign sympathy, drop a few details of her darling Nelson’s untimely demise and pronounce herself a sister in sorrow. More times than not, the families would relent instantly to the loud woman’s seduction; agree to wear a microphone, cough up a picture or two of the recently deceased. That’s when G. Lee’s stomach would usually turn; not just because of her unsavory tactics, but because she was so damn good at them. Mostly, he avoided her. But that schmuck Hoyle had called in sick this morning, forcing G. to load up in a live truck and accompany Cecile to her latest dayside atrocity. Now he was hunched over his rig in a poor family’s living room, as Cecile insisted on telling a blubbering mother that her son hadn’t perished on scene, but had suffered for hours at the hospital before the car wreck’s injuries killed him.

“W-w-what do you mean?” the woman in a housecoat asked.

“Well,” Cecile said as she glanced to make sure the camera was rolling, “the trooper told me Davy was still alive when they loaded him into the chopper. Said he lasted three more hours before - you know - the internal bleeding was just too much.”

With that, the room erupted. Mother collapsed in a heap of grief, wailing in a way that always reminded G. Lee of his very first drowning. He tried to console her, but before he could fully stand up, a beefy teenager in a Mark Martin t-shirt rushed in to the room, saw his Mama in pain and yelled something over his shoulder. Suddenly the room was full of men folk, each a head taller and a good deal wider than the news team combined. One of them grabbed G. Lee’s camera and tried to lift it off the tripod, but the heavy sticks came with it, slowing him down long enough to allow G. Lee time to grab it. Together they wrestled it toward the door, as more male family members poured into the room from the back of the mobile home. Cecile tried to placate the crowd, but too many people were yelling for words to have any effect. All G. Lee could do was clutch his gear to his chest as the angry cousins, brothers and kin bounced him from one beer belly to the next. Mercifully, someone opened the trailer’s screen door and he and Cecile were shoved down the rickety steps, their wireless microphone flying out behind them. The men folk followed, chests expanded, fists balled up and breathing fire. Still believing she could make everything right, Cecile begged the man to 'just listen' to her. But they’d had enough of the intruders and were about to further demonstrate their displeasure when G. managed to pull his reporter free.


Surprised at her photog’s tone, Cecile relented and stomped off toward the live truck. G. Lee turned and tried to apologize to the men, but reconsidered when he saw one of them fingering the snap on his Leatherman case. Bending to pick up the microphone, G. Lee shoved it into his runbag and trudged off after Cecile, hoping he’d make it to the truck before he was felled by any flying pocket knives. When he climbed into the driver’s seat thirty seconds later, Cecile was buckled up and fumbling with her precious cell phone. Snatching it out of her hands, G. Lee threw it into the floorboard and leaned uncomfortably close toward his on-air talent.

“I swear Cecile, you ever pull shit like that again and I’ll gut you like a fish and call your kin while YOU bleed --

G. stopped himself, suddenly aware he was threatening a coworker. Leaning back in his own seat, he cranked the key hard, dropped the lumbering beast into Drive and flung dirt as he left the trailer park. Beside him, Cecile only stared through the windshield, a shocked expression struggling to pierce through her Botox injections. They made the trip back to the station in utter silence, but G. Lee knew that would end just as soon as Cecile made it back to the news director‘s office.

After all, the woman just couldn’t keep her mouth shut.