Monday, April 12, 2010

The Dood.

A birthday post from a good friend triggered some nostalgia. "The Dude abides." - The Big Lebowski.

Over the past few months, I've been catching up on content generated by one Wil Wheaton. He's a terrific writer and stories like his are what I hope to one day commit to the bits and pixels that make up this blog. He's a few years older than I, and as I read his work, I see his footprints on the path to maturity that I am walking. It could be the same for all 30-somethings of our generation, but I find it comforting that someone else has had nearly the same feelings and been able to express them in such an eloquent way.

He has also been blogging for a few years longer, and has a rich catalog of prior material to troll through for inclusion in his podcasts and books. I have little doubt that he will find himself, in his later years, with the extraordinary undertaking of culling from scores of missives, those stories to include in his memoir. His children will also have the gift of a written account of who he is and why. I would like the same for mine.

Remember Spin-jas? I guess their closest corollary would be Bakugan or something like that. They were these little tops with ninja torsos that loaded into handheld, spring-loaded, launchers. In a small arena, the two gladiators would whirl like the Tasmanian Devil, gliding toward each other to impact briefly and fly away, with the winner being the last one remaining in the ring. Today I found this to be a metaphor for my experience with D&D, which was the subject of the Radio Free Burrito episode I was listening to at the time.

Throughout my formative years, I would have fleeting encounters with Dungeons and Dragons, which were just enough to make me aware of it, but I had no way of getting into the game. I remember nights at my grandmother's house where my uncle and his friends were gathered around a folding card table, the intensity of their focus and enjoyment drawing me to them the way a gas giant attracts a new moon. I think I was in first or second grade at the time, and way too young to play with teenagers, much less grasp the fundamentals of the game. I can still see my uncle's character sheet, a jumble of numbers and words in a format that made no sense to me then, but in which I would now be able to see a fully realized character. It's like 'The Matrix,' where they look at the symbols crawling down the screen and see a blonde, brunette, or redhead.

The next flash is watching the D&D cartoon on Saturday mornings and cheering on the party in their struggle against Venger. Again I'm in my grandmother's house, but this time in the den, and I have not a care in the world.

A third instance is the movie 'E.T.,' which to this day can still crit against my will stat to sell me a bag of Reese's Pieces, but didn't have a lasting effect on my wisdom where D&D is concerned.

When the Third Edition Ruleset came out, my group of friends began to get together to play. Two of the guys used to play all the time in high school, but for the rest of us, it was our first campaign. Andy was the Dungeon Master, and he made it a great experience for all of us. I wasn't able to make it for every session, and I missed out on some fun nights, from the sound of it.

One of those nights had a twist thrown into it. Andy had created a drinking game tailored specifically for us. He took each mannerisms unique to each person, and certain group interactions, and made up some cards with each one. Each person that night was required to pull one from the deck, which would be their secret drink trigger. I wasn't there to play, but I have heard tales of this night that had me in stitches, and still bring a smile to my face as I think of them. The greatest card, from my point of view, was the one based on me. It is called the Curse of the Cajun Surfer, and is based on my overuse of the term 'dude', which sounds more like 'dood' when I say it. I consider this the greatest, because even though I wasn't there to trigger it personally, everyone in the group had picked it up in the half-mocking way of close friends.

I don't remember who exactly pulled "The Curse," but they got hammered that night because it had become such a part of our everyday lexicon. One of the guys even wrote a song about it. It's hard to believe that all happened nearly ten years ago, because it is still so fresh in my mind as to have happened ten months ago. It has achieved near legendary status among us. As testament, to this day, when making a call to one of these friends, the first word spoken is not "Hello," but "Dood."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Days of the New(s)

So, it's been two months since I dropped my last crumbs, and I need to get my writing groove back.

It's like a muscle, and I feel that if I neglect it any longer, it'll atrophe and become more of a vestigial appendage. I got to reading some of my earlier material, and I want to connect with that same gonzo columnist style I tried to emulate then. It could have something to do with reading an issue of Car and Driver while waiting for a vehicle inspection to finish. The guys writing that magazine have ways of making words talk. Another inspiration has been Wil Wheaton's work, both on his blog and in his books, which has been really great to read. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to his podcast, Radio Free Burrito, right now. With that out of the way, let's get to the real post.

The new year has brought about new changes to the 39 Newsroom. In the first month of the year I was working a dayshift on Saturdays, but the dayside reporter was taking her leave to complete the gestational cycle of her progeny. Instead of assigning someone to cover that shift, the powers that be decided it would be better for me to turn natpacks on those days. In those four weeks I did more of those than I had in the entire nine years of my career. I shared one of them in a previous post, and I'll collect the rest of them here.

Bringing Ice to Life

Sprite Step-off

Cirque Dreams Auditions

U.S. Marshall’s Jewelry Auction

Maybe I should embed those, but it's the quickest way for me to get this done, right now, so that's what you get.

In the weeks after doing these stories, I got into a funk, which took me a while to figure out. What was happening during this time is that everyone was getting new equipment as we transistioned to our HD workflow. This rollout was kind of slow, and I was one of the last to get new stuff. That was fine, but what was getting me down was that, with the new HD gear, all the SD video I was shooting was only good for that day's story. Here's a little inside baseball as to why this bothered me.

We in the news business have a saying, "You're only as good as your next story." The work I do today pretty much has no point past it's final frame of video in the newscast. That's our blessing and our curse. If we do a great story, we want that moment to last forever, but if it's just a cluster of a day, assuming I didn't destory the newscast, we get to do it all over again tomorrow. For me as a photojournalist there was a subconcious caveat to this. The video we shoot today becomes the file we pull for years after. Need a shot of kids in a classroom? Pull some file. What happens when a station moves to HD is that SD file becomes less useful, only to be used if doing an update to an old story. What was happening is that I was shooting video that wouldn't even be considered for file, because it was SD, so it had no life past it's airing in the newscast.

As I said above, this was subconciously affecting me, and it only clicked when someone asked if the great video I shot that day (of kids in a classroom, no less) was HD or SD, because they were looking to build the HD file library. Once I figured it out, I was able to shake it off and life got back to normal.

Then I got my new gear. I traded in my large Sony Beta SX for a babycam, a Sony EX3 XDCAM. For the next couple of months I would figure out how to bend it to my will, and I can do most anything I want with it, except zoom into something a block away. I also was able to divest myself of the DNE-700 edit system, and take delivery of a new 17" MacBook Pro, loaded with Final Cut Studio and unlimited creative potential. Now my limitations are the lack of training on the system and time.

I've not become an Apple devotee, but damn if that sexy slab of silver hasn't become as natural for me to use as my camera. I want one of my own, to be sure, but don't know if I can justify the expense. I'll have to start my own business, I think, just so I can have an excuse to buy it. As for those people who say Macs 'just work,' though, you are all a bunch of damn liars. I've had stories miss slot because Final Cut Pro went into Not Responding mode, and lost precious minutes to getting it working correctly again.

This week I got a new piece of kit to assist in our Web first intiative. The station also replaced my work phone, which had developed a large blemish on it's LCD screen. These two items are embodied in one device, the iPhone 3Gs, in the 16 GB capacity. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the cacophany of tweets that followed the past month of silence. This is indicative of what might have been if I had a phone with either a data plan or unlimited texting. Expect more.

It's been a while, but I created something today, and it felt good. Also, I'm thinking about a podcast, but that would require more work, so I don't think it'll happen, but I have a title. I'll let you know if I get it off the ground. Thanks for reading.