Friday, January 14, 2011

Smells like ... Freedom!

Into the Presser
In the latest Darren Bailey print, The Artist explores the desperation felt when an individual takes on the media elite. Bailey's use of light and mechanized depth sets the stage for an eery encounter, as the nameless citizen shimmers into existence with ethereal splendor. Note the canyonesque wall of cameras Bailey uses to build the barrier represented by the formidable Fourth Estate, a chasm accentuated by the laissez-faire posture of the vultures at bay. Why, one can almost smell the dread washing over the lone interloper as the carnivorous cameras begin to whir-- What? That's just gas?

Never mind.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gunning for Rubbish

Rainy Day Stakeout 5When's the last time YOU chased a garbage truck? It had been many months for me, which meant I was falling behind on my QPR's. That's Quarterly Photog Requirements for the uninitiated - a strict regimen of unsavory assignments I must complete if I'm to retain the title of Cameramanthropologist, let alone find business cards long enough to accommodate that imaginary appellation. Why, it's right here in the handbook:
QPR Sec.4/Para.3/Line 1 - Each and every licensed lenslinger must within ninety days of last such assignment follow but not accost a mobile-based lower level public works employee for the purpose of education, enlightenment and any all possible promo material. Said pursuance should serve to realistically portray working conditions and never interrupt the subject's flow.
Ah, but there's the rub, for any schlub can stop a road crew in its tracks as he fumbles with his fish-eye in the middle of the road. That's inherently uncool and a waste of taxpayer cabbage to boot. More importantly, it's an inefficient time-suck that left to rest could very well delay the most important part of the news-gatherer's day: Lunch. Besides, gumming up the public works sucks whatever sliver of soul a story like this could hope to have. Let's face it: this ain't exactly Watergate. Rather, it's a scintillating glimpse of planetary conditions and their effect on sanitation engineering, or to put it in TV news parlance, it's a buck-fifteen of fluff that should keep a few commercials from bangin' together.

Of course, where and why my half-mangled masterpiece will hang in the newscast is the least of my concerns. I only know that my day won't end until I've tagged and bagged enough refuse to pile up neatly between Weather and Sports. But I'm not just making slot. I'm making friends! Namely, one Darryl Poole, who dropped none of what he was doing long enough to cart me around the 'burbs. Sure, I could have driven myself, but when the guy who knows where ALL the trash trucks are at any particular moment offers you a ride, you wipe your feet as you crawl into his cab. Which is exactly how I rounded up every bit of footage I needed without once leaving any tell-tale news unit tire tracks on Shadow Ridge Meadow Bluffs or wherever the hell the scent of rotting food and dirty diapers took us.

But enough about MY trademark scent, let's meet the players! Er, trouble is I'm not really sure who's who. The one homeowner who made it through Final Cut wouldn't give his name. Even more tragically, I never even identified the star of the show! That's him, about thirty seconds in. Yeah, the guy who sounds like James Brown choking on a pair of nylons. Though I only caught every third syllable, I enjoyed every word he said - even the ones consisting of only two letters! In fact, some of the fellow's best stuff came as simple punctuation. Here a 'Heh!', there a Hmph!' Yes, I dug this working man's verve long before I managed to lay a lens on him. When I did I made sure to feature him one last time toward the end, lest I not find a better example of the bold and noble proletariat.

And you thought I was just chasin' flies...

But That Trick Never Works...

Moose on the Loose
Hey, remember when the game warden popped that moose with the tranquilizer dart and we all took turns taking pictures with it? Yeah, neither do I - but when you run around with a camera in tow, vamping with some animal just goes with the territory. Don't believe me? You've never watched a volunteer fireman try to corral a runaway steer using nothing but a garden rake and his own beer gut. I have and I can tell you it is the kind of thing that sticks in your craw. In fact, the memory of that afternoon is something I plan to chew on long after I've traded in my own teeth for a pair of dentures, some high-waisted slacks and one of those fancy new iLid implants. While I'm at it, I'll probably cue up the time I dropped gallons of sweat over a 300 pound lion named 'Pacino' Did that really happen? By then I'll probably wonder but for now I can tell you the experience ranks right up there with feeding ostriches from the back of a pickup truck. For some forgotten reason, it seemed like news that day... And the moose? He wandered into Salt Lake City recently where officials promptly drugged him, called our friend Darren Bailey and put it all on the news...

Wait 'til Squirrel finds out...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Schmuck Alert: Pole Dancer

Sigh. You know, just because took a solemn vow to to spotlight camerabuse everywhere doesn't mean I enjoy it. Not when such bad reactions are reaching epidemic levels. Okay, it's still a little early to use the "E-Word", but at this rate 2011 may very well go down as The Year of the Schmuck. Case in point: the latest crime against innocent recording equipment, this time on the streets of San Francisco. Stanley Roberts was the operator in question. Since 2006 the burly journalist has earned the admiration and ire of viewers by turning his lens on people behaving badly in a series he calls People Behaving Badly. With the entire Bay Area at his disposal, Stanley's rarely ever at a loss for victims, er viewers, er violators. Such was the case just the other day when a gentleman took exception with the KRON-TV lens pointing his way. Soooo, 25 year old Israel Marron Castro did what any lucid bystander would do to escape notice. He shoved two ski poles into the rolling camera and babbled something about being high - 'cause Hey, that's how you lay low in San Francisco! Or not. Soon, however, a cameo on the news was the least of Castro's problem as cops moved in and determined he had outstanding warrants - not to mention fresh new charges of assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism, battery, and resisting arrest. As for Stanley, he's fine - though like one Chris "Call the Law" Weaver, he's still scratching his head a bit.
"I really thought the guy would back off but he just kept coming ... had I gotten hold of one of those ski poles I would probably have been put in jail!"
Why bother, Stanley, when such esteemed organizations as the Lenslinger Institute are around to watch your back. Now if you'll excuse us we have an important message for Mr. Israel Marron Castro.... "SCHMUCK!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Turd Surfaces...

a turd and his sewer
When last we saw Rick 'Turdpolisher' Portier, he was helping us bury evidence in the desert outside Vegas. Since then, he's really laid low. But recently, the veteran photog as seen rising from some Louisiana sewer. Hey, Batman's got his cave, Rick's got his cesspool. They both wear tights. But that's not important right now. What is important is that we get to the bottom of Rick's subterranean homesick view. Turd?
"It ain't easy serving up the fecal buffet. Don't believe me, spend a few minutes with any Assignment Manager. These hearty souls have an entire newsroom to please: interns who want to be stackers, stackers who want to be reporters, and reporters who want to be anchors not to mention wrangle photogs only concerned with where their next free meal is coming from. Throw in a cacophony of scanner traffic and the chaos of CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and the competition's newscasts blaring in the background, and you can see why your average Assignment yearns for calm, and thrives on symmetry.

For someone with a crappy handle, symmetry means your name is at the top of the shit-list every time the word 'sewer' poops up on the menu. So when a few industrious rednecks decided it might be profitable to swipe the iron sewer grates in a spiffy new neighborhood, I grabbed my rubber boots and a change of clothes and headed to the land of milk and hayseeds that is Livingston Parish.

You know the not so old saying, "You gotta get dirty to polish a turd"? It's true -- especially when your reporter wants a cool looking stand-up for her escape tape. That's how I found myself wedged into a place too small and too nasty for Mike Rowe. But the joke was on the Assignment Guy, because after all that work, the local constable who phoned us about the story backed out, and our mas"turd"piece never graced the flat-screen.

Now if you'll excuse me, I know where there are scanners that need their volume knobs removed."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Numb from the Scrum

First Press Pass 2Thanks to a series of fresh press passes, my twenties were pretty intense. Since then, however, the sudden rush of understanding felt when golden shovels break topsoil has subsided a bit. Don't get me wrong. I still feel a thrill when the rent-a-cop wants to pat me down and loitering outside a burning meth-lab never does lose its buzz. But the less glamorous aspects of news-gathering haven't aged nearly as well. Neither, for that matter, have I. Back when I was a neophyte with good intentions and a wicked mullet, I tackled every assignment with hustle, gusto and a really rad jean jacket.

These days, I rarely ever go double-denim. But as my wardrobe has evolved, so too has my attitude. No longer do I volunteer for all-day stake-outs. Where as I used to fall in behind each and every passing siren, I usually now drop to the floor and hide under my desk. And that three part consumer investigative piece? I'd rather pretend I watched it than shoot a single miserable frame. How did I get to be this way? Overexposure to all manner of inanity, I think. Truth is, I don't really know. See, I was just a pup when I wandered off the street and into my very first newsroom. Thus, I can't tell if I'm half-bent and cynical because I've carried a camera everywhere I gone for more than two decades, or if it's the other way around. I don't suppose it even matters. One thing's for sure: I learned to work the knobs pretty quickly, but it's taken me years to gain even a little perspective.

What IS that perspective? Hard to say. All I know is twenty years behind the lens has left me half-convinced I've seen it all. No doubt that comes from repeating myself so many times over the years. Example: I've produced more 'Back to School Shopping' stories than I can shake a three-ring binder at. Somewhere at the North Carolina Zoo there's a cage with my name on it - not because I'm so damn furry but because I've showcased every species that place has to offer - including the veteran janitor dude who'd rather dry-scrape the monkey pit than clean up after one more third grader. I don't blame him, for that kind of time in office can only lead to scandal, graft or petulance. For we 'slinger types, a long career manifests itself in a kind of practiced aimlessness, an urgent insouciance, a feeling of being well connected yet utterly detached...

Now if you'll excuse me there's a drive-by shooting I gotta get to. Seems they're fresh out of knock-knock jokes and it's my turn to bring the fondue set...WHAT?!?