Friday, February 27, 2009

The Language of LIVE(!)

Ahh yes, spot news at dusk... it looks the same everywhere, doesn't it? A shiny fleet of logomobiles parked askew, hazards flashing, masts slowly poking upward... The city lights twinkling in the distance as desperate citizens yearn for the skinny on that propane spill on the edge of the desert. (SNIFF!) Why, I can smell the gas fumes, birdshit and hairspray now. Smells like...WORK. Then again, I'm just a Southern-fried cynic, staring at a photo I found on the internets. Perhaps Daniel 'NewsRover' Kovach, the Salt Lake City photog responsible for the shot, could fill me in. No doubt he'd speak of cable-pulls, the trajectory of his dish, how long this piece of television delayed dinner. I'd nod, pretend I knew more than I did, then ask about my old pal Fields Moseley. At that point, he'd probably lose me with a lot of local call letters and I'd confuse him how we fill hours of East Coast airtime with less than half a foot of slushy snow. Then I'm pretty sure we'd seek out an adult beverage.

Some things are universal.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cue the Hubris

In her latest discovery, archivist Amanda Emily has stumbled upon two of my passions: retro tech and vexed exploration. Indulge me, won't you?

I don't know squat about cameraman Lawrence Darmour, but that cat on the left is none other than Frederick A. Cook, one of the most polemic figures of polar pursuit. As a young surgeon, Cook distinguished himself on Robert Peary's 1891 expedition to North Greenland. From there he launched his own forays into reconnaissance, racing Peary and others to the few blank spots left on 19th Century globes. Trouble was, Cook was one sloppy documentarist. That, or he was a stone cold liar, for his claims of scaling Mt. McKinley and locating the North Pole have long been thought to be fraudulent. Locked in a lifelong battle with his rival pioneer Peary, Dr. Cook yearned for glacial immortality. Instead he forged a new kind of infamy; a hearty soul whose thirst for adventure and unquenchable ego overshadowed his earlier feats. If the above photo was indeed taken in 1909, it captured an explorer in the throes of controversy. Before the year was out, would see his cherished reputation as Explorer with Capitol "E" dashed upon the rocks of ostentation. A decade and a half later, he would map the interior of a prison cell, convicted of defrauding oil investors in Texas. All in all, a spectacular fall from self-appointed grace...

I've often thought that Dr. Frederick Cook's sordid life story would make one hell of a cinematic venture. Then again, the annals of Polar exploration are rife with heroes, cads and villains. Think sweeping vistas, epics of deprivation, ill-equipped patricians in bad mustaches dying slowly from exposure on drifting ice floes. Even within our most distant history, lies the promise of endless blockbusters. Meanwhile, Hollywood greenlights a remake of Get Smart. Maybe that's why I haven't joined Netflix yet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Urge to Spill

DSCF0117AAASure, I strike a stoic pose, but I'd much rather run my mouth! Just ask any co-worker who's chuckled in passing at one of my lame jokes, only to have me stand over their desk dribbling out schtick. I can't help it! I come from a long line of smack-talkers - from my prodigal Father ( a gifted raconteur) to my Mother's brother, who never met a smart remark he didn't share with the room. It's biological, I tells ya! In my first crack at tenth grade, I was voted 'Wittiest' in the yearbook - before dedicating my high school years to the pursuit of truancy. When I did make it to class, I often entertained, but usually blew it by never knowing when to simply. shut. up. Yes, I've grown more adroit at controlling my tongue over the years, but the times I've driven home asking myself, "Why, WHY did you say THAT?"... well, I don't wanna talk about it. Now that I'm well into my 40's I find that I'm better about censoring my speech - even if I care less than ever what people think. Credit my Mom for raising me Southern...

All of which makes this evening something of a victory, for I remained mum when a younger me would have spouted bromides at length. It came late in the day, when - covering for a fellow photog who'd contracted the funk - I telephoned a young, attractive reporter to tell her I'd be taking over for him on tomorrow's franchise shoot. "Ooooh," she paused on the other end of the line, "We usually try to fancy those pieces up. Maybe YOU can shoot it and HE can edit them." Her words hung there in the car as I sped homeward, thinking of all the different kinds of local news I'd cranked out over the years, the half hour specials I'd produced on the subject at hand, the cheesy re-creations and melodramatic editing techniques I'd set aside when she was unpacking her sandwich in some junior high lunchroom...

"Yeah, that's fine." I said before bidding her adieu and dropping the phone in my lap.

Some conversations, I've (finally) learned, just aren't worth having.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Proving he's got too much time on his hands, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is demanding the media GET OUTTA HIS GRILL! Actually, he's just asking journalists to hang back a bit as they do that whole 'afflicting the comfortable' thing. Seems Canadian camera crews have a habit of bumrushing His Premiership as they pummel him with those pesky questions. It reportedly makes him 'uncomfortable' - and in a time when all of Ontario is in the grips of recession, what could be more important than their leader's comfort? Apparently, not much, for McGuinty has joined the Prime Minister and premier of Nova Scotia in asking that reporters and photographers keep a distance of five feet between themselves and any elected elite. That way, decorum is preserved, inquiries are repelled and no politicians ever have to smell what their local news crews had for breakfast.

Okay, the second paragraph is usually where I'd crank up the snark, but you know what they say: As goes Novia Scotia and Ontario, so goes the world! Hmm? You're right, no one ever said that, and as long the ruling class of those scenic places pretend they're royalty, no one ever will. Not that I'm pro-scrum, mind you. Truth is, I hate that pack mentality crap, but when a haughty lawmaker or some lecherous peasant is making a run for the elevators, it's no time for tea and crumpets. And mind you: I don't even know what a 'crumpet' is. That's because I'm an American; a uncivilized, boorish type who's traded elbows with competitors of every stripe - even when the subject of the hunt was that feckless worm Clay Aiken. Sure, it's dignity-free - but the best parts of journalism usually are. Everyone knows that, just like everyone knows the last thing you tell a bunch of nosey news crews is to 'back off'.

Which is why we can all expect footage of the Premier's spleen to pop up soon on a television near you. Ain't Democracy grand?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sty of the Beholder

Is that a gleam in your eye or just a rerun of 'Weeds'? It's a question you may soon ask your office mates, assuming futurologists have a clue. Ian Pearson - fresh from his parents' basement - envisions a day not so far from now when we'll pop in a pair of contact lenses and tune to our favorite TV show. If that's not immersive enough, there's even talk of digital tattoos that create impulses in accordance with the character's emotions. You know, so when that red-headed guy on CSI: Miami rips off his sunglasses, you'll know what it feels like to be an overacting tool. Those in the know say wafer-thin screens laid upon the eyeballs shouldn't interfere too much with your day. Onlookers may note the wearer's eyes look a little tinted, but I'm sure it's nothing that state trooper will mind too much when he pulls you over for driving under the influence of, say, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

Truthbetold, there's more ramifications to this theoretical quantum-leap than I got time for on a Monday morning. I mean, not since the holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation has a piece of non-existent technology held so many implications for the couch potato in your life. Think that football fan in the living room ignores you all season? Wait until he can slap his favorite player on the virtual-ass. Does you Mom get a little wigged out during her afternoon court-shows? That's no potted plant she's gyrating on. In her mind, it's a bailiff named Rusty, and yes, you will be needing some therapy... And you Mom, ever wonder what your teenager's doing watching The Hills in that darkened closet? Now - more than ever- you don't wanna know. And what pray tell, is next? All the world's collected cinema available on a wi-fi temple implant? Yuppies on the subway, mouths agape and palms upturned as they watch that Olbermann eviscerate O'Reilly on their candy-colored iLids?

Yes, social norms will indeed suffer from this eventual breakthrough. We've ALL stood in the checkout line and winced as some nimrod with a Bluetooth wedged in his skull held a raucous conference call with half his fantasy football league. Wait until you have to watch that same crew take in a fresh episode of SportsCenter. Or worse yet, Dancing with the Stars...