Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hills on the Grill

You know the scariest thing about this photo? Dude's shoes. Few photogs rock a flip-flop on the job, mostly because tripods like to step on your feet. So when I stumbled across this most recent beFrank masterpiece, it was the gentleman's decision to go open-toed that troubled me the most. No pro wades into that kind of battle with his toe-knuckles exposed. The fire encroaching on this guy's live shot must be close. to. HOME! West Coast Jedi Bryan Frank confirmed my stirrings...
Jeff Mailes is one of my fellow photographers...They had a small fire going on up there and it was just ever so slowly creeping towards the populated parts of the area... It was exciting and then boring and then it got exciting again. Like a movie, but with the added risk of people actually losing their homes and all their worldly possessions in a blazing hellish inferno.

Also, somebody baked cookies. Now that's so much more friendlier than what we can usually expect. I kept asking Jeff if he'd like to turn the sprinklers on us.

I wouldn't have minded.
What neighbor would have?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Schmuck Alert: Ma and Pa Crazy

Holy Hemorrhoid! I blow out of town for a few days and the nation's elderly goes bat-shit crazy! Isn't there a Stephen King book where old folks begins lopping off the heads of everyone under fifty? If not, there should be - for the maniacal glee displayed by these two seniors rivals anything dished out by a certain homicidal clown...

We begin in Florida, where two not so nervous news crews climbed the porch of a troubled teen's home, with fancycams shouldered and rolling. But before either reporter could ask their first vexing question, an old woman in an even older housecoat appears and unleashes a brand of profanity that makes even an ex-sailor like myself tense up. If that weren't nasty enough, Granny then emerges with a digging implement! But she ain't on her way to the garden. She's about to whup ass first and scrape dirt later. The ensuing moments have to be seen to be believed and while there's no excuse for violence, we at the Lenslinger Institute wince at the situation that sparked it. Simply put, on-camera door-knocks are dangerous, unneeded and generally suggested by those who never leave the newsroom. I've done it myself more times than I wish and while I've never had a grandmother try to cleave my head in two with a garden hoe, I've more than while as a door creaked open before me. End On-Camera Door-Knocks NOW!

Gramps Hates CamsNext we head North to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where an idling pack of TV cameramen waited outside the sentencing of a woman accused of staging a fake abduction. Sure, it's lousy duty - but it's nothing any of us haven't done a hundred times before. Which is why it was so surprising when the father of the accused - no spring chicken himself - bursts from the courtroom and bum-rushes the awaiting scrum. First he clubs the nearest lenser with arthritic fury before turning on another photog who had the audacity to intervene. By then Gramps was operating on pure adrenaline and administers a rest-home beatdown for the ages. It may have gone on forever (or at least until the old guy was winded) had it not been for the actions of photog number 3 - who manages to grapple the patriarch with his one free meat-hook. Bravo! By then, others peel the old man off the Fourth Estate and he's soon shuffled away by a rather girlish deputy. AT press time, charges had yet to be pressed.

So what drove these seniors to act like savages? Is there a bad batch of Geritol going around Are there violent subliminal messages in all those Lawrence Welk reruns? Is it just built-up angst now that Bob Barker's stopped feeling up his lovelies every day at eleven? Ya got me - but one thing's for damn sure. I'm keeping a close eye on Granny the next time I'm forced to film a family reunion. Schmucks!

Life by the Drop

A scrawny kid 'borrows' his big brother's guitar and begins to mimic the sounds he hears on old Blues albums. Unable to read a note of music, he somehow coaxes unknown emotions from his older sibling's axe, his young, big hands displaying a muscular finesse grown guitarists would kill to possess. As the kid matures physically, much about him remains stunted, save the mastery of an instrument he never seems to put down. Soon he finds himself slinging his weapon on the local scene, sweating it out in club after club as he slowly re-wires the Electric Blues. When an overseas gig astounds the millionaires in attendance, he's recruited to play on a rock star's comeback album. The album goes platinum; the kid's gritty licks lauded by the press, his new set of peers and an adoring public.

But when the rock star invites the kid to join him on a world tour, the near destitute guitarist turns him down. He'd rather finish the crude recording of his own debut album, a nearly live rundown of his road-tested set list. That album exceeds all expectations and launches a career that introduces age old Blues masters to a new generation. Hit singles, silly videos and world tours follow; soon the kid is jamming with his childhood heroes and being held as The Blues' answer to Jimi Hendrix. It's heady praise for a young gunslinger and either despite or because of it, the kid fosters of habit of self destruction. Through it all, he rarely fails to blister the stage, though whiskey and coke are never out of reach. Predictably, it almost kills him, but just before it does, the kid does something few tortured virtuosos do: he sobered up.

After an uneasy but ultimately successful rehab, the kid emerges amped and lucid, his trademark tone back with a clear eyed vengeance. The performances that follow hypnotize all within earshot and between stunning numbers, the kid begins preaching the wisdom of leaving the party while you can still walk.He then marshal his forces, settles some old musical scores and plots the many compositions he hears in his head. Asked to join the roster of guitar giants at a promising concert, the now sober kid plugs in and lays waste to the stage. When the last encore ends, it is he who is held up as the evening's real legend. But even before the crowd clears the lot, the kid's true fate plays out, as the chopper he boards soon crashes into a foggy hillside, killing all souls within it. The Kid dies in his stage clothes, the echos of the audience still in his ears...
Stevie Ray Vaughan's life was as cinematic as his music. Ever since he perished 19 years ago today, I wondered if the story behind the music would ever be truly told. Since then, I've pieced together parts of his soul by dissecting every track he ever laid down - as well as many, many live shows surreptitiously recorded by others. His life's work continues to consume me and I've waited for the day when he will truly get his musical due. Two biographies have been published and years ago famed director Robert Rodriguez expressed intentions to make a movie about the man known as 'Guitar Hurricane' . Alas, the once innovator of guerrilla cinema seems content to pump out CG laden kiddie fair and second rate Tarantino dreck. I hope he hasn't forgotten the incredible heft of his fellow Texan's legacy. I damn well haven't and until Rodriguez or someone else helms the project, I'll avoid all those other biopics and drown my joys and sorrows in the soothing blister of SRV.

Here's hoping you will too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Mermaid Never Showed

Buckley and the Sea
Okay, so our little Floyd follow-up didn't result in the kind of rollicking adventures that enrich the blog. Instead, it consisted of three long days scouring Eastern Carolina for witnesses of the water that was. We found 'em, but it wasn't easy. Luckily, Buckley and I know our way around Downeast and together we called in every favor, contact and drifter we know. Along the way, we (I) drove 865 miles - from the smelliest flood plain to the continent's edge (pictured above). Did I mention it was a thousand degrees? It sure felt like it. But what my home region lacked in autumnal splendor it more than made up for in solid citizenry. Old acquaintances, total strangers, extended frenemies - all made time for one sweaty news crew and a few goofy questions.

That includes a few folks we didn't put on tee-vee, for Bob and I couldn't crisscross the TV Land we once both toiled in without looking up a few of its superstars. Hoffman, Fox, Bailey, Cowell, Sawyer, Anderson - it was great seeing you ALL. As for that photo above, Buckley's the consummate reporter, see, and can't even enjoy a walk on the beach with his third-favorite photog without stopping to grill a few starfish. That, or he was just trying to hear the ocean. Either way, I told him he could get the same effect by holding a seashell up to his ear. That's when he launched into a soliloquy about grains of sand and the gritty nature of Copernicus. Gotta love that Bob...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Before I Go...

Lenslinger at the WheelLook for postings to increase, cease or become downright weird this week as I team up with seen-yore reporter Bob Buckley for a three day jaunt into the flood zone. Okay, so the flood zone's all dried up - but that's kind of the point. Ten years ago, Hurricane Floyd blew through Eastern North Carolina and brought it with enough rain toregister on the Biblical scale. I can't begin to tell you all that I saw while covering the flood caused by Floyd, but this tale of floating through dead cows best sums up the experience. While you read that, know that I'll be busy traversing the Eastern half of the state, gathering new interviews to go along with our old footage and as always, looking for things to blog about. Now if you'll excuse me, there's an ass-shaped indention in the driver's seat of Unit 4 (not to mention a fresh bag of Cheesy-Poofs) with my name on it. Updates from the road to follow. Hopefully.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mal Under Fire

Mal James in AfghanistanThose of us who gripe about tight deadlines here in the States should immediately cough up our man cards and mail them to Mal James. Then again, I'm not sure where we'd send them, as the Fox News cameraman tends to skitter from one global hot spot to another. Most recently he's been spotted North of Afghanistan's Helmand Province. There, he and correspondent Greg Palkot embedded with U.S. Marines as they chased the Taliban through land that bested even Alexander the Great. Along the way, Mal has ridden a convoy along 'The Desert of Death', marveled at the vanity of Afghanistan’s National Army and burned a wag bag or two. More than anything, Mal and Greg have endured conditions that would make most news crews spill their bowels into their boots. What they went through while simply trying to feed footage back to New York is the stuff of cinema...
The room we found in the compound had been stormed earlier and the dirt floor was covered in broken glass, window frames hang loosely, old rags and a frayed piece of rug were the only things in the room. And old tin box became my workspace out of the wreckage that existed.

First footage sent in and a live shot from the safety of the garden outside, every few minutes another volley of gunfire echoed around, to a bizarre extent you can become immune to the noise, as if it were just the norm.

The next phase for us was to edit a feature length piece for the Evening Primetime broadcast, and sitting in the shell of the room we were piecing together a spot, when all of a sudden there was a loud scream around the compound.

“Fire in the Hold”

What the F--! Every single person suddenly ducks down into a fetal position and puts their fingers in their ears. You close your eyes not sure of what are about to happen.

Boom !!!!
Now what was that you were saying about smelly live trucks?