Thursday, April 30, 2009

Idol in Exile

Anoop and I Arriving sans entourage, ousted Idol Anoop Desai dropped by El Ocho today for more than a few minutes of morning show merriment. It was the last stop on his American Idol Exile Tour. Ever since Seacrest showed him and Lil Rounds last week, Anoop been descending the showbiz ladder... L.A., New York, High Pockets! No worry, he'll climb back up real fast when he jets back to Hollywood to prep for the big live finale. For now, the Chapel Hill grad student seemed content to chill with his Piedmont peeps before vanishing for a week of attempted anonymity. Good luck with that...

As for the ex-contestant in question, he's every bit the well-mannered college boy he played on TV. No doubt exhausted from the emotional wood-chipper that is the A.I. process, Anoop radiated nothing but composure as a whole bunch of locals asked him the same seven questions he's been answering for the better part of a week. Classy guy. Ya know, we've seen a lot of fallen idols come through the studio... Fantasia, Bice, Pickler, Bucky and some hairless cat by the name of Daughtry. All have brought their own verve with them; one chick even schlepped in her own stylist. Anoop rolled up in a hoodie and a play-off beard. RUH-spect.

Better yet, he's the ONLY Idol wannabe I've ever met who's given to use the word 'tangential' in casual conversation. I especially enjoyed our freewheeling conversation about barbecue, early Stevie Wonder and the soul-free suburbia that is current-day Cary (my words, not his). Sure, he's got a funny name and he sounds a bit like Bobby Brown when he sings, but this is one hopeful vocalist you wouldn't mind being marooned with at some company 'pig-pickin'. 'Pig-pickin'? That's Southernese for 'let's stay up all night and dine on some swine'. Maybe it's just a Tarheel thing... You'll ask to ask Anoop. He's the one studying cultural anthropology. Or at least he WAS. After the Idol summer tour, he'd love to embark on an R&B career.

Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Smiley in a Riot

Now I ask you, is THIS a face you could lob tear gas canister at? I couldn't - even though I've never even met the Midwest news shooter know on-line as C. J. I have, however, clicked on her site for years, marveling more than once at how criminally cheerful she always seems to be... (Unbridled optimism: not a trait you see a lot of in the photog ranks.) So, you can imagine my concern when I heard she got sucked into covering a riot the other night. I myself, have never shot an official riot, but I've covered enough ECU Halloween celebrations, KKK marches and American Idol auditions to know how quickly crowds can go stupid...

Case in point: Saturday night at the University of Minnesota. Lost in the grip of something called Spring Jam, hundred of students dealt with the cancellation of a concert by pouring into the street and setting random things on fire. Thing is, a paid college tuition is no license to be an irrational asshole and before anybody could cue up Rage Against the Machine, the PO-leece arrived in riot gear. But it wasn't just the chubby blue line. News crews rolled up as well, including of course, our happy heroine. We spoke on the phone today, and while she admits dodging foam bullets for the better part of the evening, she can't decide whether it was a full-on 'riot' or merely a 'melee'.

Either way, it ain't the kind of gathering they issue press-passses for. When C. J. arrived on-scene, she found other members of the media idling on the edge. Wisely, they banded together, forming a unified force of assorted logos most news executives wouldn't understand. What followed was a nail-biter of a night in which cops flung flash-bangs, students flipped parked cars and assorted drunks hurled invectives and spittle at passing camera crews. In the end, only twelve people went to The Pokey, but hundreds more probably deserved to after destroying private and public property for no particular reason at all. Looo-sers! At least down South, if we're gonna torch the public square, we find some mindless sports victory/crushing loss to blame it on. According to C. J., this latest fracas can be blamed on a simple lack of icicles...

"It's kinda crazy what alcohol and some warm weather will do"

With perspective like that, no wonder she's so damn happy all the time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hubris Illustrated

The Photog Knows
Who knows what E-E-E-VIL lurks in the heart of bored assignment editors? The Photog Knows! So does Amanda Emily, whose recent release from affiliate servitude has freed her up to indulge a passion we both share: Old News Crew Photos. I'm just an amateur, really; some long-winded lout who likes to drape adjectives on found objects. But Amanda - she goes deep, uncovering gems like the one above faster than I can come up eight dollar words to cover them all. Luckily for me, Miss Emily's a talented web developer. Why, just the other day she sneezed on her keyboard and a whole website was born: Feeding the Beast. That's where Amanda's now amassing her gallery, her scrolling exposure of hubris illustrated, her treasury of retro-tech. Check it out and see why the more things change, the more they stay the same. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to crawl on top of my Ford Freestyle. Hopefully, the roof won't cave in.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


“And this is Mr. Caswell..”

With that, the Senior Nurse led her newest assistant into the patient pod, leaving the Med-Droid to hover alone in the hallway. Inside, the older woman stopped just across the thresh-hold and whispered over her shoulder.

“This one’s usually sweet,” she said, pointing to the slumped figure in front of the hologram stretched across the far wall, “but you never know…”

Turning back to the small room‘s only occupant, the Senior Nurse spoke loudly, slowly, liltingly. “MR. CASWELL, HOW ARE YOU TODAY?”

The slumped form didn’t move. Squinting in the low blue light, the Nursing Assistant strained to make out a few details. The back of the patient’s head was liver-spotted and bald, except for a few coarse white hairs corkscrewing upward. A gentle breeze emanating from the pod’s enviro-bot swirled the errant hairs back and forth, their rhythm free dance backlit by the glow of the floating molecule curtain. Looking up, the Assistant watched the slow-motion loop of Polar Bears shimmering there on the dust motes before turning her attention back to the old man in the Velcro Snuggie.

“Mr. Caswell‘s one of Sunset Vista‘s longest staying guests.” the Senior Nurse said. “Been here since 2042. That even predates me. ISN’T THAT RIGHT, MR. CASWELL?”

Mr. Caswell didn’t respond, so Senior and the Assistant squatted on either side of the centenarian to look him in the eye. There wasn’t much there. Focused far past the virtual screen in front of him, his bloodshot orbs stared out at a past only he could see.


Assuming his lack of answer to be a positive reply, Senior stood and motioned the Assistant over to the pod’s control hutch.

“Here’s his file“, Senior said, running her thumb over a sensor in the countertop. When she did, green hi-def letters grew out of the surface. The same scrolling display also showed up on the inside lens of both the women’s iGlasses.

GARRET LEE CASWELL” said Senior, reading aloud the green font floating just out of eyelash reach. “Age 103, Widowed, Highly Arthritic, Signs of Dementia. Says here he was a TV news cam-era-man for more than forty years. Remember when they showed news on TV?”

The Assistant didn’t, so Senior turned back to the words floating on her corrective lenses.

“Well, they did. Surely you’ve seen those old holograms with the men carrying the big cameras on their shoulders, haven’t you?“ Looking back at the pod’s silent occupant with one eye, Senior scanned his medical records with the other.

“I guess that explains the lopsided vision and carbon-fiber clavicle.” she mumbled. “At any rate, Mr. Caswell’s rarely ever a problem. Seems his son is a Homeland Security Cadet. I’ve never met him but they say he’s very nice. Mr. Caswell doesn’t get many visitors, but he does LOVE his data-pack. We don’t let him watch current events though. It always seems to upset him. Still, you won’t find many patients as easy as him, ISN’T THAT RIGHT, MR. CASWELL?”

At that point, the green lettering on the Nurses’ iGlasses turned to red; the new bright color throbbing with an urgency punctuated by a shrill ringing tone pouring from the spectacles’ tiny speakers. Wheeling around, Senior saw her longtime patient’s head cocked at an awkward angle; a sight that thrust her into action…

“MR. CASWELL, CAN YOU HEAR ME? MR. CASWELL?” She grabbed his wrist but the sensors in her own fingertips detected no pulse. Searching the red letters scroll in her peripheral vision, the Senior Nurse made a few furtive movements with her own eyeball and dug deeper into the old man’s records until she found the nickname his late roommate used to use…



“G. Lee? Yo, dude, you awake?”

Garrett rolled over with the bedside telephone lodged in his ear. He didn’t remember answering it, or even the sound of it ringing.

“Yo, Gee? You up?” The sound of police scanners crackling in the background registered somewhere in Garrett’s mind and he opened his eyes to see the pitch black apartment bedroom around him.

“Hey man, I know you’re not due in for a few more hours, but a semi full of stuffed animals just jack-knifed on I-40. Cops say there’s toy polar bears all up and down the highway. Can you check it out? You got time?”

“Yeah,” G. Lee said, blinking away the dream and wondering if he’d put his camera batteries on the overnight charger, “I GOT TIME.”