Saturday, February 07, 2009

No Rhythm Required

Princess HugI don't care how many bodybags you've shot, there's redemption for the taking at the Father-Daughter Dance. Thrice now, I've capped off a February workweek with a visit to The Empire Room - where attorneys, airplane mechanics and the occasional TV cameraman can be found leading their princesses through the first tentative steps of The Macarena. I didn't say it was pretty; just redemptive. Don't believe me? Check out the Sales Executive over there - the one with his hands in the air like he just don't care. Ninety minutes ago he was clutching a letter opener while fighting the urge to sink it in a client's neck. Now he's pumping his fists to a Kelly Clarkeson song his high school freshman knows by heart. Where is she, anyway? There she is - hiding behind that drink cart.

Daddy JamTruth is, the little girls are the most fun. There's just something intrinsically life-affirming about a conga-line of kindergarteners snaking through a crowded ballroom - no matter how bad your feet hurt in those damned dress shoes. Besides, where else can you see a forty year old Pharmaceutical Rep 'stir the soup' to an old No Doubt song? They don't sell pills for that. And that guy who looks like he should be head of the I.T. department at a Insurance Agency. Someone tell him if you're gonna even attempt The Robot, you gotta commit! No wonder his little Princess is sobbing uncontrollably. I'd cry too if my old man shook like that.

As for my girls, they're here somewhere. Except the occasional slow dance, the don't want to be anywhere near, should the lack of rhythm hit me. At ages 11 and 14, there's little they can come to terms with. Missing remotes, borrowed earrings, stolen glances - it doesn't take much to spark a backseat insurrection. But on the following they wholeheartedly agree: Daddy Shouldn't Dance. SO I float, drifting from wife at the refreshment table to the deejay booth to that putz from the cul-de-sac who thinks my company car means I want to discuss local politics all the time. I could give a rip. I'd much rather wander the floor, looking for white man underbite and red-faced 'tweeens. Plenty of that here...

The Sibling SwingStill, the smile that spreads across muy furry mug every year this time has little to do with the attempting The Worm over there. No, the fact that I'm here at all - the father of two wonderful daughters who are actively pursuing a lifestyle I hand't yet perceived at their age. Those two carry a piece of my soul in their purses - along with more lipgloss than I want to think about. I'm pretty good with words but I still haven't imparted upon them the depth of my affection. Hell, lemme tell 'em now, tear them away from their friends for as much Daddy Hug as allowed in public. I bet they're on opposite sides of the dance floor, spreading rumors about each other they don't really mean. I bet they're formulating putdowns even as I speak. I bet they're - over there, barefoot, hand in hand, dancing together like only young girls can...

Redemption, I tell ya.

Hernias of Yore

Long before live trucks were lacquered in logos, industrious souls dashed after deadlines in late model sedans. Okay, so they didn't so much dash; with a car full of plug-in luggage, it was more scientific expedition than journalistic jaunt. That, of course, was before the DuMont Portable Televisor debuted in 1941. Developed and built in good ole New Jersey, this radical rig signaled a streamlined approach to mobile broadcasting, one that would eventually lead to the garish sat truck encampements of today. Now, strong men in skinny neckties could wheel about the naked city, confident that if news broke out - they'd be along in a hour or so to pull a groin muscle. I'm serious, have you seen the equipment manifest? I've seen jam bands with less gear...

DuMont Iconoscope Camera 45 POUNDS

Power Supply Unit 45 POUNDS

Video Intermediate Amplifier 37 POUNDS

Intermediate Amplifier Power Supply 52 POUNDS

Line Amplifier 45 POUNDS

Video Monitor 54 POUNDS

Synchronizing Signal Generator 38 POUNDS and 43 POUNDS!!!

ALL THAT in Bryl-Creem and pleated pants! And YOU whine when you gotta drag out a couple of lights...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Occupational Knowledge

...Other than lopsided shoulders, I can't really say what a life under the lens will bring you. The following, however, I DO KNOW...

When desperately searching for kids playing in the (half-inch of fresh) snow blanketing sparse portions of your viewing area, proceed straight to the worst neighborhood you can think of. Out in the ‘burbs kids are laid up inside, playing Guitar Hero on their Wii as Mummy readies the hot-chocolate. In the inner city however, youngsters are rolling Frosty out of gravel and cigarette butts, riding trashcan lids down ill-advised hillsides and lobbing snowballs at passing cop cars. I ain’t sayin’ it’s right, just that it makes for better tee-vee.

Academians are as obsessed with status as any network news anchor. When they agree to be interviewed by the local TV station, they fully expect a locally famous face to show up and validate their newsworthiness. Thus, they're taken aback somewhat when a scruffycrew of one shows up. Often miffed, they proceed to answer the on-camera questions with dripping derision for the lowly camera monkey before them. I usually play dumb (like that guy from Cash Cab), then hit them with a twenty dollar sentence, replete with eloquence and insight. Then I silently pass gas while they stammer.

Three minutes after agreeing to wear a wireless lapel microphone, the average bloke forgets all about it - especially in a crowd. This of course can be great source of entertainment, for very often the bugged-subject will ignore the fact the cameraman is wearing headphones and proced to mumble profanities, trash talk the media, hint at past peccadillos or - best of all- excuse themselves to urinate. Kinda explains the fruity behavior regularly showcased on reality TV, don't it?

The apex and nadir of the human condition are as difficult to predict as the last few snowfalls. Could the conduct of we thinking apes truly be forecast, ALL news footage would be perfectly centered, in focus and gleamingly coherent. Alas, it is not to be. However, should you neglect to gas up your station vehicle, charge those camera batteries or check your stash of discs or tapes, you can guaran-damn-tee that something of value will fall from the sky, the Mayor will call a press conference and cop to that affair or Osama Bin Laden will get popped shoplifting at the Wal-Mart.

Despite their stern denials, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians love to be on television - preferably doing something heroic. As a vagabond of the Fourth Estate, I'm happy to oblige one way or the other - be it a car crash, stand-off or heated exchange outside the battered woman's shelter. What's most taxing however are undercover vice cops, who will interrupt the meth lab takedown to tell you they cannot be shown on-camera, at which point they flex and preen center-screen - often while dressed like that little squirrelly brute on Dog the Bounty Hunter...


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Epiphany Not Included

There's not a lot I can say about this photograph by the great Bryan Frank besides the obligatory "Damn, LOOK at that shot!" Ya know, it's just the kind of image that got me all hot and bothered about news in the first place and- after all these years - one that reminds me how very cool it is to sling a lens for a living. Strip away the tripe, the bad actors, the tea-leaf interpretation that is the overnight ratings game and you have a dying profession I'm still quite proud to be a part of.

In theory, anyway.

Monday, February 02, 2009

25 to Life

God knows I tried to avoid the meme that ate Facebook, but when so many friends demand you reveal 25 random things about yourself, you tend to pony up a few bons mots. So, without any further adieu, I give you two dozen or so useless factoids about yours truly - in hopes you never ask I do so again...

1. I was born Stewart Lee Carney. L-o-n-g story.

2. Garth Brooks laughed out loud when I asked him if he ever got tired of singing ‘that Achy-Breaky song’.

3. Long fascinated with exploration in the Age of Sail, I can prattle on for hours about Sir John Franklin’s doomed pursuit of the Northwest Passage. But I will NOT discuss Shackleton’s voyage. Shack is Whack.

4. Once upon a time, only my wife called me ‘Stewie’. Now it seems everyone does. I don’t remember authorizing that.

5. I have a pathological aversion to pompous dickheads - which makes working in local TV News awfully difficult sometimes.

6. I fully plan to self-publish a book of short-stories this year, and am more than willing to sell all 4 copies.

7. I have imparted upon my children a reverence for reading, a love for early Stevie Wonder and a wicked Frisbee hurl.

8. A mild case of acrophobia has never stopped me from hopping into every cockpit my fancycam would allow: rickety Cessna two-seaters, attack helicopters, hot air balloons, the Goodyear Blimp. I’ve even jumped out of reasonably good airplanes without freaking out -- but little sleep, lots of liquor on board and one very tall Vegas building can still reduce to me rubble. Right, Portier?

9. I HATE to re-write - and it shows.

10. I’m as equally comfortable in a crackhouse or Governor’s Palace, provided I have a brightly-logo’d Sony on my shoulder.

11. A fairly stable student through middle school, I took off my sophomore year to pursue truancy and pharmaceuticals. It did not end well and Tenth Grade Revisited forever taught me the value of compartmentalizing frivolity.

12. Not all that materialistic, my most prized-possession is the battered pair of eyeglasses that lives at the end of my nose - for without them, you’d have to drive me home.

13. Twice now I’ve escaped great peril with a high dollar videocamera in my hand - ONE while break-dancing in the Atlantic Ocean, and TWO while running from a remotely-uncontrolled moving truck. You can better believe I’m always looking over my shoulder for the inevitable number THREE.

14. I celebrated my 21st birthday out to sea.

15. One of my wife’s nicknames for me is ‘Professor’ - a strange thing to call a guy who barely scraped through high school.

16. I can turn a three word story description into ninety seconds of fairly powerful television - but ask me to change the oil in the lawnmower and I go all Caveman.

17. I’ve committed much of Jim Morrison’s drunken poems to memory and used to test microphone levels with laborious exhortations from the Lizard King collection. These days, I usually beatbox.

18. I knew from a young age I would one day write about my working life. Thank God I didn’t take a job cleaning septic tanks.

19. Rusty Wallace once yelled at me for shining a light on him. Eff Rusty Wallace.

20. Back in 1989, I spent several months successfully selling Beamers, Volvos and Jeep Cherokees to yuppies - despite not even knowing at the time how to spell B-M-W.

21. I’m forever grateful my two daughters were not born sons - even when the estrogen levels get so bad in my house that I have to excuse myself to the garage and gorge on warm beer and beef jerky.

22. I’m usually neat and most always distracted, gregarious in a stand-offish way, capable of both comedy and callousness. I’m apathetic yet weirdly ambitious. More than anything, I’m a hard guy to buy a Hallmark card for.

23. I married Up. Way UP.

24. I can shoot a house fire with my eyes closed, move through a crowded ballroom like a master assassin and knock on a widow’s door while still feeling pretty good about myself.

25. I’m not at all upset with Michael Phelps.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Thighs Without a Face

Springsteen Slide
Not since a certain nipple-slip electrified the nation has one celebrity body part so dominated the Superbowl Halftime Show. I'm talking about The Boss's ill-advised power slide, an impromptu knee-ride that ended with a violent manhump right there in front of God and everybody. Those who missed it can watch it here, just understand if I avert my gaze out of professional courtesy -- LOOK OUT! That canned bombast may fly down at the Stone Pony, muscles, but this here's the big time! Try and act like you been there before! That includes keeping your top on and your junk off the glass, ya know. Otherwise you'll have to slip all future residuals from 'The River' to the cameraman in question, lest his neck seize up from that face full of millionare mid-section. And while you're at it, drop by my rec room and pick-up all this popcorn I spilled; you nearly bowled me out of the beanbag!