Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cell Transfer

Outgoing Cellphone Not since I rocked a Motorola the size of a shoebox have I been so smitten with a cellular telly-phone. It’s just an old LG, really - a battered slab of scratches and plastic that’s ridden my hip through deadlines and drive-thru’s for three years. Sure, it’s an electronic leash, but this half-scorched Tricorder allows me to span the cosmos - or at least keep up with my peeps while I go where every other cameraman has gone before. Was a time I squawked ten-codes into two-way’s, talkin 'bout drive-by's and fender-benders like I was calling in air-strikes. But that G. I. Joe shit fell out of favor as cell towers started popping up over strip malls everywhere. Soon bag-phones began appearing in floorboards and paramedics, news crews and pizza guys could be seen hunched and mumbling into glowing handsets, using more minutes than ever to convey the particulars of their fruitless pursuits. I myself have had a half dozen station-paid models in that time, an ever shrinking parade of handsets that no longer require their own car battery. With my latest cell phone I reached a comfortable plateau…. It lodges in my watch-pocket, ha a damn good memory and sports a picture of my beloved Grandmother. What’s not to love?

New RIdePlenty, I'm told. It won't let you text without knowing some wretched thumb-fu they only teach twelve year olds. It doesn't have the foggiest idea how much I should tip the delivery guy and without a few accessories won't make the first french-fry. And they call that a PHONE? PFFFT! They ain't sen my NEW rig - a cranberry-colored comm-link that will spit out dispatches in all eight flavors, not to mention launch a satellite or two. I've only had it a week and already I'm learning which button to push whenever it starts to levitate. The other day I ignored it for a few seconds... it triangulate my GPS position with my most recent Tweet and when I showed up at my shoot an army of dorks with clip-boards and zombie voices asked if 'I could hear them now?' ... What's up with that? I use to roll up on house-fires with nothing more than two cans and a string on my side. Now I can't gut a simple ribbon-cutting without a few new avatars flashing at me? What's next? Wi-Fi in my windshield?

Hang on. I gotta take this call...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Far Side of Crazy

John Hinckley and Network Shooters
I was taking the clicker around the horn this evening when I stumbled upon this National Geographic special on The Shooting of Ronald Reagan. I dropped the remote. It's the same reaction I always have when I see footage of John Hinckley's misdeed, for it never fails to bring me back to that March afternoon in 1981 when the network suits broke into programming and unfurled a fresh historical document at thirty frames a second. I was but a 14 year old punk that day, not yet a news junkie. But the unbelievable images radiating from every set left me positively thunderstruck. I simply couldn't imagine watching the world change through a viewfinder.

Today, I have a slightly better idea of what that might feel like - though certainly I've never recorded anything that cataclysmic. No so for ABC's Hank Brown, CBS's Charlie Wilson and NBC's Shelly Fielman. They were the three network photographers waiting outside the Washington Hilton that day when a misguided drifter tried to impress a movie actress by spraying the President and his aides with gunfire. Twenty-eight years later, it still makes no sense - but if ever there was a definitive breakdown of that afternoon, this National Geographic special is it. I can't recommend it highly enough, if for no other reason the above photograph. In it, the three network news crews smile happily, minutes before Reagan emerged from the hotel. A closer look reveals the would be assassin himself (third from the left) standing idly by, contemplating madness.

Chilling, no matter whose lens you sling.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Lack of Happenings

Flea Market Hell
"Honestly you have a much more interesting job than just about anyone I know."

My friend meant it when he said it and I didn't argue with him. But I'd be remiss in my self-appointed duties if I let anyone believe the life of a photog is one of unbridled adrenaline. It ain't. Just ask any news shooter who's tried to claw their own eyes out at the back of a County Commissioners meeting. Or wandered through a flea market five days before it opened. Or wished for death as some expert prattled on about matters the chick with the microphone is only pretending to understand. Yes, like any field of study, Cameramanthropology has its drier chapters. But those of us who have been doing this awhiel have learned to savor those doldrums, for the News Gods are a pissy, vengeful bunch and they can smell complacency from three states away. No sooner than you curse the times for its lack of happenings, some jackhole in the hood stabs his whole family over a Playstation dispute , Mother Nature takes a dump on the tri-county region or Bigfoot gets caught shoplifting at the Circle K. Then suddenly your pulse is pounding through your viewfinder as the live truck throws a rod and your cell phone melts in your pocket. So the next time you hear a news photographer complain about a slow news day, ask to see his press credentials. Chances are the laminate is still warm...

Hmmm. I guess it is pretty interesting, after all.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Word of Turd

Sure, I've TALKED about it - but the Louisiana lenslinger known as Turdpolisher up and DID it. He wrote a novel! Ten days ago or so he sent me the first three chapters. I was staring at my own blank screen when it arrived; before I knew it I was racing through words I wish I'D written. Halfway past the first chapter, I set it aside. Jealousy demanded I stop reading immediately - lest my very melon explode. Now that I'm older (by about a week and a half) I willingly revisited Rick Portier's manifesto and despite my newfound maturity, I'm still a little green with envy. WHY?

Because, Writing is HARD and anyone who sits down to do it on purpose is more than a little misguided. This I know well - and I mainly just peck around in cyberspace. To actually commit to a long project like a novel is to fend off self-doubt at every syllable - with no visitor's comments to lift the spirits or buoy the soul. So far, the grind of such a protracted slog has left me questioning if I had any business stringing words together at all.

And now this hairless Cajun has delivered on his threat to complete a manuscript and he had the nerve to make it freakin' readable! Where Turd goes from here I don't know, for literary success is foreign ground to me. I just know that the three chapters he sent me is a taut plunge into the world of Louisiana news, complete with ghetto preachers, obnoxious hotties and a bruised and battered photog who's pretty sure he's shot it all. Over the top and wholly believable, profane yet elegant, Portier's latest leaves me proud, defensive and a little mad at him for making so good on his promise. I guess at some point, I'm gonna have to tell him how I feel.

Perhaps I just did.