Saturday, January 01, 2011

Dominant Hominids

Late 90's Weaver and Me
There's nothing terribly provocative about this archival photo, but it does go to show Chris Weaver and I weren't always the best of buds. Sure, we've long been cordial, but back in 1997 when this picture was snapped (by a non-digital camera, no less), our relationship was a lot more ... competitive. Just check out dude's body language: right knee drawn up, arms folded, shades in place. Why, he looks like he's about to pounce! Or at the very least, sidle up and steal my best camera battery while I wasn't looking. Luckily for me, I was well armed with a shiny new Leatherman and a space age device called a "pay-jur". (Remember those? Didn't think so.) These days of course, we're thick as thieves: stealing away for lunch, plotting photog domination, exploring the outermost reaches of self-aggrandizement. Okay, that last part's mostly me, but the fact remains that Weave and I eventually put aside our differences and formed something very close to a partnership. I just hope now that he's all skinny and fly he won't dump me for a younger, less distracted news shooter. Might have to pummel him with dead nine volts if he did. That, or simply sneak up and cut the brakes on his news unit...

Provided I could find the Leatherman, of course...

Friday, December 31, 2010

Schmuck Alert: OH N-O-O-O!!!

Schmuck Alerts were once reserved for crimes against the video community, but as technology grows so too must the wisdom and vigilance of the Lenslinger Institute. Thus, I submit the first ever Schmuck Alert issued solely for still photographer abuse...

Macon SchmuckWoody Marshall was doing what you might expect a newspaper photographer to do at the scene of a press conference: taking pictures. That was until a lumbering oaf took issue with his technique and tried to wrestle the camera from his hands. Or maybe 28 year old Malik Brown had another reason for rolling through the lobby of Macon, Georgia's City Hall like some evil Mr. Kool-Aid bent on ripple and vengeance. OH Y-E-A-H? Oh shit. The evidence is on the tape. It begins with Malik Brown pinning the smaller Mr. Marshall against a wall, then attempting some kind of do-si-do maneuver before exiting the building with all the grace of a buffalo in his death throes. Once outside, Mr. brown grapples with another snapper, pushing and pulling the man while imploring him to relax. "Better calm down, better calm down..." the concerned citizen is heard advising. Hey, I got an idea. Keep your beefy meat-hooks off me and my pulse will slow. Until then, I'm gonna do everything to distract you until some bailiff decides to man up and hit you with his Taser. Or tranquilizer dart. Schmuck!

2010: The Best of Viewfinder BLUES

Sure, Twenty-Ten is all but finished - that doesn't mean I can't milk it for (at least) one more blog entry. Pathetic, I know, but we all have our little tics. Some folks wipe down each doorknob they touch; I drape the day in platitudes. If that sounds obsessive, it really isn't. Most nights, I forget what I've written before I ever hit the pillow. Still, there were a handful that didn't make me cringe too bad the following morning:

The Unforgiving Scrum 2When it comes to still cameras, I'm little more than a tourist, but on a totally frozen February One, I snapped a frame I'm still quite proud of. The scrum was thick that day, my friend and I was determined to bring back something for the blog. When one mother of a mosh pit formed around scissors and a ribbon, I saw my chance and risked missing the snip for a shot of The Perfect Swarm. The rest, I believe, was history.

Gerald K. Hege, Esquire 2For a brief shining moment this year, it looked as if former Sheriff Gerald K. Hege might actually pull off his comeback. It was not to be. But when the fallen lawman swaggered before the cameras looking fabulous enough to both win back his jurisdiction AND drop-kick Steven Segal, well - the fashion critic in me swooned. Black jeans, a matching Henley, a high-waisted motorcycle jacket... this gas-bag has panache! In an instant, I knew how to cover the controversial constable, not for his hillbilly-ninja history, but for his Back in Black apparel and para-military flair! I'm just glad he didn't win his constituency back. Johnny Cash fashion aide, dude's a loon...

Weed SafariJust when I thought I'd mined my past for every possible parable, an old mentor appeared out of nowhere and dropped a time capsule at my feet. Woody Spencer has always been an American Bad-Ass. Through his tutelage, I sharpened my street level news gathering skills early, long before I assumed the position of curmudgeon in the making. In Scenes From A Pot-Pull, I actually got to see a younger me in action - and thanks to my lack of balance , I can honestly tell you, it was a trip.

The Late Great Roy HardeeWe all have individuals in our past who left us better than before. In my case it was Roy Hardee, legendary News Director of WNCT-TV. Gruff yet lovable, this pioneering newsman took me under his considerable wing and infected me with his wisdom. I've been chasing current events ever since, though it took me years to process all that Roy taught me about guts, hustle and chopper struts. When he succumbed to illness early in the year, I felt compelled to Remember Roy Hardee. When his son Lee asked me to share my impressions at Roy's memorial service, I was honored. To be honest, I still am.

Deep Freeze MeIt was damn near the hottest day of the year when I came up with a little counter-programming. 'Hey, I know - let's go find the coldest job out there! How about those cats who pack boxes at the ice cream factory?" The Bosses bit and before I knew it, I was headed over the dairy with visions of wide shots in my mind. Too bad I didn't have a parka in the trunk. At Twenty below Zero, I could have used it. But then again, I wouldn't have come up with Frosty the Moron had I properly prepared for combat that day. Three weeks later, my spleen finally thawed.

Presser Stupidity 3Ever had life jump up and slap you silly? It happened to me in August, when, while wondering what I might blog about next, I noticed the answer forming before me. Some companies have a dastardly habit of blocking the sun. No sooner have the dogs and ponies been unpacked, than they usher everyone underneath one of these rented Tents of Resentment, where a little show and tell with what looks like gangsters on the run plays out far from the glare of that oh so shiny sun. Meh - it may make for comfy CEOs, but it results in lousy television. Made for a good post, though.

Small but heartySpeaking of dark spots, things looked pretty bleak back in May, when the El Ocho elders ripped the Fancycam from my grip. In its place they gave me a slimmed-down Panasonic that shot glorious Hi-Def, yet felt like an empty shoebox on my shoulder. If that weren't enough, they also upgraded our edit suites with the tough but clunky Final Cut Pro. What followed were a few painful weeks in an old dog learned to make TV by turning a few new tricks. Wracked with uncertainty, I eked out a thesis Questioning my Weaponry. Since then, I've grown to love Final Cut, but the FetusCam still feels like something ripped from the womb too soon.

I didn't do it.Luckily, I was still rockin' a full sized rig when tornadoes turned High Point into one Twisted Vista. Good thing too, as I needed every inch of glass to capture the madness of Guilford County's newly dented motor fleet. 148 mile an hour winds will stir-fry even the nicest of neighborhoods, which was certainly the case when an EF3 tornado skipped over the trailer parks and took a not so righteous dump on the suburbs. Moments after this picture was taken, I flew counterclockwise loops around the planet until everything wrecked was once again upright and whole. I don't like to brag, though...

Bill Cosby Death StareHey, ever had America's favorite Dad dismiss your on-camera query as 'fundamental'? None other but The Cos himself did that very thing to me back in the Summer and I still wanted to high-five him for it. What can I say? The man had a point and obviously I didn't. Chances are I was still chuckling over his presentation. He'd just told a room full of Bennett College belles not to act like a bunch of hoochies and, being a dad of daughters myself, I was kinda taking notes. Who knew when I finally got a chance to bend his ear, he wouldn't really dig my MushMouth impression?

Me and Betty LynnSpeaking of celebrities, you're better off NOT meeting them. All too often, they disappoint, never living up to your delusional ideals. A glaring exception is Betty Lynn, that national treasure better known as Thelma Lou, Barney Fife's faithful date. When I first met her a few years back, I was taken with her gift for gab a good half hour before I realized who she was! So you can imagine my displeasure when I heard some jackhole stole her purse. He's already been caught by the time I caught up with my favorite septuagenarian - so I smeared his ugly mug across the airwaves and stopped for a hug with my favorite gal-pal. Yep, that's Betty and Me...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reality Bytes...

Yellow Tape Babysit
“Ya’ll here talkin’ about that murder?”

G. Lee glanced up from his camera and took in the beefy mailman. He seemed older closer up. A few minutes earlier, the postal carrier had been but a distant silhouette in G.’s viewfinder screen.

“Not really. Cops released a study saying they cleaned up the neighborhood. Called last week’s murder a, uh...”

G. Lee turned to the pretty blond mumbling to herself underneath the street sign.

"Hey, Cammie, what did the chief call that murder?"

"An anomaly," she replied, never looking up from her narrow notepad. "First homicide in a year and a half. Says community policing is to credit."

G. Lee noticed the mailman's eyebrows rising. "What's the real deal?"

"Off camera? This whole street's a shithole. There's not as many prostitutes walkin' around as they're used to be, but the kids from the high school over there come over here and smoke rock in the middle of the street. Suck on them pipes like their Popsicles."

The mailman's voice trailed off as he stared off into the distance. G. Lee couldn't help but stare at his thick neck straining the man's blue uniform collar.

"There's an abandoned house one block over the city needs to bulldoze. Last week I watched eight Mexican girls crawl out from under the porch. Told 'em I was gonna call the law if I saw 'em there again."

G. Lee nodded but said nothing. He could tell from the mailman's clenched jaw that the riffraff really bothered him.

"Well, the Chief says it's nuthin' but butterflies and cupcakes up in here... You know that is."

"Yeah," the mailman said as he readjusted the strap on his shoulder. "Chief needs to walk my route."

G. Lee chuckled and found himself nodding. Three houses down, two grown men huddled on a porch and passed a bottle back and forth. One nudged the other and pointed at Cammie, who seemed oblivious to everything but the Blackberry in her clutches. G. Lee couldn't really blame them. She looked like a Playmate.

"Tell me somethin'," G. Lee said to the mailman. "News crews can go about anywhere and be left alone. What do the gangbangers say when YOU roll up?"

"Ah, they leave me alone, too" said the mailman, s smile creeping across his face for the first time, "but mostly 'cause I got their checks. Plus they know I'll go to that ass..."

With that, the muscled mailman turned to leave, then stopped for one more look at Cammie's short skirt and clingy top. "Speaking of which, you may wanna get her outta here before dark."

G. Lee laughed and told Muscles to be safe. When he turned his lens back on Cammie, she cleared her throat and nodded to no one in particular, before launching into her stand-up.

"Three-two-one... Police say if any one neighborhood's benefited from community policing, it's THIS west-side community, where violence was ONCE commonplace, but is NOW virtually crime free..."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last Man Standing

Stuck in the TruckHaving long voiced my loathing for logowear and live trucks, it's difficult to explain why I was recently spotted atop a snow overpass, holding forth on driver safety while swaddled in a station parka. In short, The Suits made me do it. Obviously, they've a sharp eye for talent. Obviously, they're embracing a whole new paradigm in solo journalism. Obviously, not another living soul was available. I'm cool with that; nothing like the occasional on-air appearance to put you in your place. As a younger photog I flirted with the spotlight, only to discover that to really succeed on camera you had to be A) totally comfortable in your own skin, or B)  a totally smokin' Hispanic chick! I was neither, so after a few years my career as a reporter ended as dimly as it began. Oh well - no more getting recognized by Holly Housecoat - something that only seemed to occur when I was either hungover or buying condoms.

These days, I enjoy a full life without thrusting my furry mug on the unsuspecting public. No doubt the Piedmont appreciates it. Most days, I do. But I've more than enough ego to want to do it well and while popping up on some frozen roadside once or twice a year isn't gonna help me get better, the bosses didn't have to twist my arm to try. The resulting chunks of television won't win me any Emmy's, but I did manage to climb down from that overpass without ever having said 'booger' on the air. Small victories, my friend. Just don't think I'm some kind of pioneer. At my shop, dirty weather always brings a few photogs to the surface. One by the name of Weatherly has shot his own live shots for years and most recently our own Chris Weaver did it very, very well. It's all part of becoming a dominant hominid, a free ranging species that shoots, writes, edits, hustles and yes, occasionally fronts their own stuff. Will it change the face of television? Naah, probably not. But it will make me more employable than that Barbie down the hall, though no one's going to fire some polished hottie to make room for a suburban father of two with thinning hair and thickening lenses. This IS television folks. Pretty people will continue winning.

Still, it's fun to make an occasional cameo, even if I have to do two jobs at once to make it happen. I just wish I could appear on camera without having to 1) constantly fiddle with a handful of dying Double-AA batteries that threaten to bring the whole show to an ignoble close, 2) don thermal underwear and suffer through a morning of snow blowing up my nose, or 3) keep a third eye on the steady line of homeless men passing by my unlocked live truck. Oh well, enough excuses. I should just feel lucky I didn't have to shovel all the snow off the blacktop as I warned home viewers not to do what I was doing. Come to think of it, I'd better shut up before The suits get any more bright ideas. Now roll that beautiful bean footage...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hunk of the Junket

Team Senator
Sure, fake vampires are all the rage right now, but for my (lack of) money the real celebrity in this photo is the guy behind the glass. Check him out: Drab dress, frozen pose, dead expression... What a bloodsucker. Wait a minute, that's no glammed-out parasite -- that's The Senator, a Louisiana lenslinger with immortality issues of his own. Legend has it he's knocked around Baton Rouge for years - haunting the Legislature, affecting the airwaves, propping up the walking dead. But unlike most ethereal beings, the good Senator doesn't avoid reflections. In fact, he excels at them. Since 2007, he's operated a blog that's won him legions of fans - myself included. I swear, one of these days I'm gonna wing my way down to the Pelican State and tip a few spirits with the many lubricated shooters that populate that not so sacred place. Until then, you'll find me here, avoiding those silly chick flicks and re-reading Queen of the Damned.