Friday, July 02, 2010

Crazy from the Heat

THIS JUST IN: Summer is here and it's even HOTTER than Spring! I know, I know: it seems pretty obvious, but apparently the nation's TV viewers have a hard time wrapping their heads around this increase in heat and humidity. Why else would local affiliates lose their collective cool as they alarm the populace over this shocking change of season? I dunno...but I can tell you that Hell hath no fury quite like that of an overheated meteorologist. So, while I french-kiss this old water bottle I found in the floorboard of an abandoned news unit, please review the...

Top Ten Signs Your Station is Overdoing its Heatwave Coverage

10) The one guy still left in your Art Department spent the whole day rendering a seventeen second 'Exploding Sun' sequence - that will never air.

9) Worried their many reporter-photog teams were close to perishing in the midday sun, the managers got together and threw an ice cream party for the studio crew.

8) In a morning news satellite interview with Al Gore, the busty weather girl veered away from 'crazed sex poodle' talk long enough to ask a few questions about global warming.

7) The latest WeatherCenter promo looks like the egg-eating scene in Cool Hand Luke.

6) Officials with the local water park AND the nearby homeless shelter have taken out restraining orders against your field crews.

5) By replacing 'Apocalyptic Computer Glitch' with 'Spontaneous Pet Combustion', the Promotions Department people are pretty sure they can rework all those leftoverY2K pamphlets.

4) One of your more senior photogs got caught having carnal relations with the sat truck's air-conditioning vents.

3) The logo'd wifebeaters arrived!

2) The intern blamed for breaking the oversized prop thermometer was indeed forced to 'spend a night in the box'. Charges are pending.

And the Number One Sign Your Station is Overdoing its Heatwave Coverage...

1) Temps the Weather Pooch is sporting a new Brazilian.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Patti Gets Paid

Normally, when someone receives more than a million dollars in damages, it's customary to kid them about buying the next round. But one gets the feeling former photog Patti Ballaz would just as soon do without the money- and skip May 1, 2007 altogether. That's the date members of the LAPD lost their collective minds long enough to assault a group of journalists covering an immigration rally in MacArthur Park. Patti was wearing press credentials and wielding a KTTV fancycam when helmeted officers, apparently worried the Rodney King legacy of years past was fading from the nation's memory, went medieval on the Fourth Estate . It made no sense then; three years later, it makes even less...

Which, in my not so humble opinion, is why a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Patti $1.732 million in damages - after a single day of deliberation. Sound excessive? Apparently, you've never been struck repeatedly by police batons and threatened at gunpoint just for doing your job. That job is one Patti has not returned to. Having received severe physical and emotional injuries from the attack, she opted not to settle her civil lawsuit and went to court instead. Now she has a million dollars to show for it, but even that amount won't render Patti whole...
“May 1, 2007 is a day that I will never forget, it is a day that has changed my life forever,” continued Patricia Ballaz. “My genuine hope is that this trial and its verdict will serve as a strong reminder to the LAPD to think twice about using excessive force in any kind of situation. Our free speech and civil rights are precious and if we can’t rely on the police to protect them, who can we trust?”
Good question, Patti. Should you ever get an answer, let us know. Meanwhile, I'll be respecting you from afar and reminding the official whiskey of Viewfinder BLUES is Maker's Mark, or if you insist, Knob Creek.

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nuts and Bolts

Cops, firefighters...hell, even mailmen have plenty of figurines etched in their likeliness. But TV News photographers? Not so much. Perhaps it's our portly profiles, or sordid contortionism or less than noble motives... Whatever it is, something is preventing your local Hallmark shopp from stocking up on tiny dioramas featuring the many adventures of Cecil the Intrepid Cameraman. Yes, if you're a photog looking for a pocket-sized doppelganger, I damn sure hope you like Legos. I sure do, but every once in a while I'd like my effigy with a little less square-face...

Which is why I kinda came unglued the other day when I walked by Weaver's desk (Yes, Weaver and I both have desks in the newsroom) the other day to find a most clever conglomeration of nuts and bolts posing as a neighborhood news crew. In a flash, I grabbed a still camera and framed the metallic 'talent' out of the shot, capturing instead the fierce concentration on the shooter's face. But then Weave got all grabby and the kind of tug of war that would embarrass nine out of ten grown men quickly ensued. I don't want to disclose who won, but let's just say there's a certain Emmy award winning photog who's not above kicking his bestest work buddy in the spleen -- even when said pal is tucked into a fetal position clutching a occupational tool sculpture...

I just wish he hadn't tased me.


UPDATE! As requested, a wider shot of said sculpture...

Anybody know where I can get one?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Soggiest Watch

Hey, I'm no alarmist. Most mornings, I spring out of bed like a Ninja, snooze button unmolested. Okay, so I more closely resemble one of those wretched Geico cavemen before breakfast, but that's not what I logged in to discuss. No, I want to talk hurricanes. God knows I'd wish one on no land, but the harsh reality of it is WE. ARE. DUE. Yeah, I know the Gulf Coast is the current poster child for beleaguered regions (and rightly so), but I'm enough of a North Carolinian to remember when our own shores acted as magnets for every other storm with a nickname. Could 2005's Ophelia really be the last hurricane I covered? That seems impossible, but once you've spent a few days surviving on granola, Gatorade and gumption they all seem to blend together....

Which is fine by me.

Fact is, I got more hurricane stories than Jim Cantore on a bender (including a certain unplanned swim I'd sometimes like to forget). Huddling in stairwells, racing sheet-metal down empty beach boulevards, standing in sideways rain while some producer tells the talent to 'keep it short': why the memories are as fresh as a slicker-induced heat rash. Come to think of it, if I'm not careful I'm gonna break out in hives, for no matter how cool a war story that storm coverage will one day make, actually being there is an exercise in suck. Sleep deprivation, hotels that kill the power moments after you check in, gas station food. And that's before the headlining wind ever blows on shore. Once it hits, the real work begins. And with hollow-eyed homeowners standing in line for water, nobody gives one plump shit if the logos you're wearing are less than fresh.

It's almost enough to make this aging photog duck for cover the next time the meteorologist gets weatherection that lasts more than four hours. Almost.

But who am I kidding? I'm certain I'll be among the fools angling for marching orders days before the next storm threatens our coast. Why? Hard to say; it's thoroughly miserable business. In fact, the only thing worse than dodging trash can lids on deadline is watching from afar as your friends and enemies do so without you. Besides, who wants to stick around town and shoot bloodmobiles when the real action is on the coast. Not me - which is why my runbag is already packed. I just wonder what all that continuous storm team smotherage will look like in the age of Twitter accounts and flip cams. Will a new breed of iPhone warriors join the stoned surfers and prickly paramedics out there in the rising surf? Will the current generation of reporters be able to go live continuously - withOUT constantly updating their Facebook pages? Will all those hi-def lenses make the reporter's ass look fat? Or just really, really defined?

Lemme get back to you on that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Wisdom of Distance

No doubt about it, what passes through your lens leaves a residue. Just ask Norman Lloyd, the legendary CBS News cameraman who spent thirty years dragging glass into battle all over the globe. He'd tell you about Bravo Company. In fact, the retired combat photog has just completed a documentary about the American soldiers he followed into Cambodia in 1970. "Shakey's Hill" tells the story of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry regiment's search for a massive North Vietnamese weapons cache; a merciless lunge into the jungle replete with leeches, chopper wash and enemy fire. The interviews are new: Lloyd coaxes many of the men who so long ago buried details of those days to open up. The footage is old: forty years old to be exact, but four decades in the can doesn't diminish the power of Lloyd's incredible combat camera work. Fifty eight seconds into the trailer, a shot pops up that nearly liquefied my bowels. I simply can't fathom the guts it took to acquire that footage. But what would you expect from a 26 year old loner who bought a one way ticket to Vietnam? Lloyd did just that and while he didn't plan to come back, he ended up finding his life's purpose in those fields of fire.
"I would go out for three days, sleep in the jungle, shoot action, take notes, and give the film to a reporter who would then do the story. I'd get paid $50 for three days' work."
But Lloyd's courage didn't dry up after the fall of Saigon. He kept taking assignments others wouldn't; traveling to Tehran, Belfast, Nicaragua, Beirut, Somalia and Iraq. Along the way, he cemented his reputation as a combat photog who didn't flinch under fire. He also made lifelong friends; his partnership with a young Ed Bradley helped the late correspondent distinguish himself early. They continued to work together for 35 years. But during all that time, Lloyd kept thinking about the young men he chased into Cambodia - especially the battalion's youngest soldier, a stammering teenager nicknamed 'Shakey' who never made it back from the hill his fellow soldiers eventually won. Carrying a camera into a scenario where everyone else is armed to the teeth calls for a certain kind of youthful courage. Going back to examine the scars requires a wisdom only distance can bring. Norman Lloyd doesn't need to look at old film to understand the horrors of Vietnam...

But the rest of us could use the history lesson.

(Special Thanks to John Dumontelle for source material.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Last Action Hero

Nooo, it's not another vacation slide. It IS however the latest day at the office for lenslinger at large Council Bradshaw. Seems El Ocho's favorite expatriate is keeping busy enough with his slicker than thou production firm, dejaviewmedia. Recently he was even spotted in Oregon, hanging off the back of a new John Deere Gator and no doubt getting paid for it. The nerve of that guy, succeeding in a lens-centric arena that doesn't involve live trucks. I knew I should have stayed in Promotions. Maybe then, I'D be the one hanging on for dear life as two wiser souls strapped into a mini-jeep and commenced to slingin' nasties. Hey, I've seen just as many Dukes of Hazzard episodes as Council and I ain't even got a promising rock band to gum up the works. Still, the former longhair looks good there back behind the lens. I especially like how the driver and passenger are wearing helmets, while my former mentor is rocking little more than a hunter-orange ballcap. It's probably got some cool logo on it too, kinda like the one he made me wear the day I tumbled into the drink. Oh well, I wish him only the safest of returns , for knowing Council like I do, the only thing he'd do if that Gator did stop suddenly is clear the rollbar and land on his feet - maybe take home an Emmy for his efforts...

Dude's annoying like that.