Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Phantom Grimace

Arm BraceAhh, the dreaded cross-lateral elbow clutch; makes my thorax throb just thinking about it. Now, I don't know about the guy in the green ( I don't even know who he is), but if you ever see ME slowly reach over and support my camera-arm, you can rest assured I'm about to A) pitch forward completely until I'm just a quivering mass of word-nerd there on the floor, B) gently set down the Sony and embark on a life of panhandling or C) demand the person being interviewed stop congratulating himself and get to the $#&@% POINT! Then again, I'm less than patient than most. (Twenty years of dragging around glass and mannequins will do that to a fella.) As for other phantom pains, I get 'em all...

Inflamed Scanner Acid Reflux - I get this in the afternoon a lot. There I'll be sitting at my desk in the newsroom and the bile in my throat begins to rise. That's when I look up and see three managers hunched over the police scanner and looking my way. Luckily, the hives don't break out until they start fondling their map books.

Live Truck Sleep Apnea - No sooner do I settle in behind the wheel of a parked TV truck for a little shuteye when it happens: My mouth hangs open and I begin to choke on a combination of exhaust fumes, Cheezy poof dust and failed ambition - until I've broken the reporter's wi-fi connection and train of thought. Pardon while I wipe this up...

Pavlov's Phone Call - There I am, spraying bird crap off my drive way when a familiar buzzing begins radiating off my right hip. Absentmindedly, I'll reach down to answer my ever-present cell phone only to realize it's upstairs on its charger. If I new it was gonna vibrate from afar like this, I'd pretend it's in my pocket

Widow's Porch Wooziness - That's the sour feeling I get in my soul whenever I have to climb some widow's porch and invite myself into her darkest hour. Try as I might, even hiding behind the tripod and staring at the floor offers no relief whenever her tears begin to fall.

Amateur Hour Migraine - What? You want me to drive around in circles while you decide who to call? Hold my breath while you spray on your face? Write your package while you think up new Tweets? Explain an issue so you can feign your way through yet another interview? Fine - but I'm warning you - my head is killing me!

...Good thing the wife's a trauma nurse.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God Save the Queen!

Don't tell the Missus, but there's a new lady on my radar. And would you believe it - she's Royalty! Or so she claims. Truth is, I don't know much about the Local News Queen - other than the fact that she's brilliant and most definitely a TV News reporter. Come to think of it, that narrows it down quite a bit - but hey, I didn't come to expose this Mistress of the Snark, but rather to praise her. From the moment Doug Richards hipped me to her regal decrees, I've been hooked. Perhaps it's due to her acidic prose, her trenchant opinions or the fact that her every other sentence is something I wished I'd written. Consider her entry regarding on protesters: a scathing take on the eternally indignant that tells me the Queen has covered a picket line or ten:
"Our local protests always consist of the same people. It’s like they toyed with the idea of becoming a Rotarian, but instead opted to start a disapproval club... My favorite is the anti-war protest. I’m just guessing, but I don’t think the President of the United States is going to pull troops out of Afghanistan because a bunch of unemployed hippies, who haven’t showered since the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, are waving their Spin Doctors knit hats in the July sun."
I read that this morning and have been chuckling over Spin Doctor hats all day. I've also thought about just how much I detest protesters, a deeply-held opinion resulting from years of pointing a camera at the same ten unwashed dill-weeds. Hey, I'm all for freedom to dissent, but your little demonstration would carry more weight if the guy shrieking about the evils of forced busing wasn't the same dreadlocked goober who threatened to chain himself to the golden arches if Ronald didn't bring back the McRib FOR GOOD this time! But I digress; something you'll never catch the Local News Queen do. She's way too busy issuing epistles at a rate she may one day have a hard time maintaining (Trust Me). In the meantime, swing by the Palace and give the Queen her due. Tell her some scruffy serf named Lenslinger sent ya...

Monday, March 22, 2010

I, Phobot

CameraheadSHHHH! Word has it The Pentagon is working 'round the clock to create a new race of ...(wait for it)... Photog-Robots! You heard me: autonomous camera-beings with enough spatiotemporal reasoning to interpret what they see; you know, tell a story about it! It's thought that such a sentient being would prove invaluable in combat zones, where a state of the art 'smart camera' could roam behind enemy lines unmanned - not just recording everything in its path - but using artificial intelligence to recognize scenarios, deduce possible outcomes and provide nuanced reporting --along with blistering visuals. Now, I'm all for national defense and I enjoyed the first Terminator film as much as the next pubescent, but there's just something about this latest quantum leap that leaves me a little jumpy. See, those old guys with the scrambled eggs on their hats got nothin' on the chiselers in charge of your average TV affiliate. One scintilla of success on the battlefield with these kind of 'Eyeborgs' and stations everywhere will fall in, until each and every overworked and underpaid human news-gatherer is replaced by a 'droid with an over-the horizon zoom lens and a penchant for similes. Sure, that might be a step up from the dreck your local station serves, but I ask you ... can it last?

Sure, you can create a machine that'll marry images with ideas, but can you design one that will regurgitate press releases in heavy mascara and hump-me pumps until they snag the eye of the area's most eligible bachelor? Well, yes - but it would probably be illegal in a few of the flyover states...

Okay, so you can probably teach a robot to aim, record and edit - but can an android find new places to hide in the same old building every day? Can it memorize whole fast food menu boards from three sperate counties? Can it sit around and brag about how cool they were back in film school? I guess you could, but why would you want to?

Say you did gussy up some metal cuss with an IQ suited for electronic news-gathering. What would it look like? Square jawed and overdressed? Scruffy and rusted? Curvy, flirtatious and vaguely Asian? Tattered and clad in a tropical top? By the way, do these metal chaps make my ass look fat?

Even if you could program some cyborg to shoot, decide and report, wouldn't it just compare everything to only the scenarios it knows,before boiling it all down to oversimplified tripe and delivering the data using only keywords, cliches and catch-phrases?

Hold that thought - The News is on...