Monday, May 19, 2008

Lowry Park Zoo - Again

I buy more equipment. I take more pictures. And I get worse instead of better. The picture above I took the first time I visited Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo last July, ten months and $2,700 worth of lenses ago.

Sunday the zoo had another $5 admission day. Just like last time everybody and their brother was there. Except my brothers, which is a good thing because they would not have enjoyed the lengthy walk from the parking lot across the street.

I didn't handle all the walking all that well, myself. That means I have something else I have to practice besides shooting before Jim and I venture to the Grand Canyon and other points west next month. That's right: Everybody and my brother will be there.

I don't normally shoot vertical pictures so some of these have been heavily cropped to make them fit into the slide show. Some needed the cropping to disguise the exceedingly poor framing of the originals. Some of these are OK but none comes close to the best of shots I got on my first trip. Perhaps an unusually long streak of beginner's luck has finally run out.

Freed to Freelance

I've been working for a real estate developer at a time when that business has basically fallen off a cliff, especially here in Florida. Our company has had numerous rounds of layoffs and has continued to hemorrhage cash. After a recent round of layoffs, I was in a company-paid computer class at a local community college. Among the students were two people who had just lost their jobs. (The company had already paid for the class so it let them attend anyway.) When one of them mentioned the severance package he got, I thought, 'I'd take that deal!'

In the epitome of "be careful what you wish for," I got that severance deal last week.

I’m a little nervous but I’ve been too occupied with freelance work to digest the news fully. I haven’t even read the paperwork that the HR guy went over with me when it happened Thursday morning. That afternoon I spent contacting people I’ve done freelance work for to let them know of my increased availability. Friday I transcribed tapes for a story I’m producing for a show that airs on the local PBS affiliate. Saturday I had to go into the station to supervise editing of another story for the same show. After that I wasted an hour shooting crappy photos at a local botanical garden then went to visit my parents. They asked what I had done that day.

"I had to edit a story for WEDU. Can you believe that? Unemployed and I still have to work. What’s up with that?"

Speaking of WEDU, the station has posted the April edition of A Gulf Coast Journal on the web. This includes the story I produced about Venice's song-and-dance man Eric Watters. It's the second story in the show roughly 8-9 minutes in. That's early for one of my pieces. So accustomed was I for stories I produce to appear near the end of the show that when this one first aired I missed it because I had tuned in too late!

The episodes debut the last Thursday of the month then re-air the following Sunday afternoon. I caught the Sunday re-run. Through the magic of the Internets, you can watch it below.

It was last December that I got an e-mail asking if I could cover this story. Eric was about to go through his now annual rite of playing Scrooge in the Venice Little Theatre's production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The story, to air in the spring, wasn't to be about that performance, I was told, but it was important for us to shoot it and -- I presumed -- include it in the story.

I apparently presumed wrong. Not one frame of video from the play appeared in the final cut of the story. Unfortunately, a stray soundbite from the play's director did survive and I'm afraid it confuses more than it illuminates. Out of nowhere someone pops up unannounced and un-introduced, says something very flattering about Eric, then disappears with no explanation of what qualifies him to comment.

Stories will almost always face cuts for time reasons. A segment producer's job is to fall in love with the story until he or she thinks a viewer cannot possibly see too much of it. The overall show producer's job is to judge the reality of how much a viewer wants to see. Here is an instance in which I wish they had cut about 8-10 seconds more.

The story I produced for the May episode should air in a form I recognize. I got to supervise the editing of a story about an adaptive golf program now nationally headquartered in Sarasota. Prior stories had edited during the week when I was occupied by full-time employment. This time the regular editor was on vacation and Drew Duncan, the freelancer filling in, was willing to work on a weekend.

The good thing about watching the editing process as that I can see when something that looked good in the script doesn't come across as well on the screen. I can have the editor chop down a soundbite or cut it out altogether to improve the pace of the story. When we finished, I also made sure to leave a second version that came in under four minutes. If a cut-down version was to air, I wanted to be the one wielding the hatchet.

You will not be any more surprised than I was to learn that the senior producer chose the shorter version of the story. That's the one I would have gone with too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Self-Aborbed Am I...

...if the soundtrack to my commute to and from work today was a CD of songs that I composed, performed and recorded myself?

Is my level of self-involvement mitigated at all because I did not sing along with my recorded self*?
Baby I**

* Not today, anyway.
** Yes, that's mine. I'd put a copyright notice on it but is that really necessary? I may be self-absorbed -- not to mention retarded*** -- but I'm not delusional.
*** With the usual apologies to retarded people offended by the unflattering comparison to me.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

In the Mail

Last week I sent my malfunctioning lens to Sony's Laredo, Texas repair center. Yesterday I got an email stating "Sony Service has received your product for repair." Today I go to the Sony site to track the progress expecting to see the same message I saw yesterday about how it usually takes 10 days to fix the problem. Instead it read:

    The Sony product that you have inquired about was shipped back to you.

    If you do not receive it within 5 business days, please call:

  • 1-800-222-7669
  • 1-800-476-6972 (PC products only)
  • 1-800-847-7669 (VHS Products only)
  • 1-877-646-6582 (Konica-Minolta Film Products only)
  • 1-877-462-4464 (Konica-Minolta Digital Products only)

I'm thinking: "This can't be good. They must not have seen the problem and they're gonna screw me." So I call the repair center's number. A guy with a strange accent answers and asks for my work order number. I supply it. He says my flash has been repaired. "It's not a flash," I say.

"Oh, right," he says, "The flash has..."

"It's not a flash," I interrupt. And on the third try the guy tells me that the focus on my lens has been repaired and, yes, it has been sent back to me.

What are the chances I'm going to get a flash?

In other news, the lock on my mailbox has broken. Until I get a new one, I have to retrieve my mail from the Post Office. Today the mail included checks for two WEDU stories and my last effort for the Dodge High School Sports Report. The checks really were in the mail! There was also a new catalog from B&H Photo/Video. I'll try not to spend the entire largess there.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Rising food prices that have sent people looking for bargains have also sent food product makers looking for ways to give people less food for the same price without them noticing.

That brings us to the folks at Peter Pan. They're the ones whose peanut butter disappeared from store shelves for months after a massive recall of tainted product. They came back with new packaging and even a new product -- whipped peanut butter. "Easier to spread," it says on the label. True enough. It has the consistency of cake frosting. Add some sugar and it would be better suited for icing cupcakes than making a PB&J.

Here's the genius of the product. The whippped peanut butter sells for the same price as its comparable sized jar of regular Peter Pan. But the jar that holds 18 oz. of regular contains only 14 oz. of the whipped variety. That means I got about 22% less peanut butter for the same price. (Sort of. I bought the whipped in a buy one get one free sale.)

Clever, huh? Peter Pan raising its price by 20% might anger people. Instead, it found a new way to market the product so that people won't notice that they're paying the same price for 22% less peanut butter.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

New Fitness Craze

I saw a woman killing time outside the gym before going in to work out. She had to finish her cigarette first.

Correct. Before the huffing and puffing came just the puffing. Kind of like those people who order the triple bacon cheeseburger with the supersized fries then ask for a Diet Coke.

Yeah. That'll save you. Good job.

And how much peanut butter have you wolfed down with those carrot chips lately, Mr. Virtuous?

No more than required to make me forget that I'm eating carrots, Mr. Heckler inside my head.

And what have I been doing when not enjoying the company of imaginary friends? Trying to design my new web site. There's not much there yet so it might make you wonder why it's taking so long.

(I was going to type out the explanation but I got bored just thinking about it so I'm going to spare you the details.)

The short answer is that the effort stretches the limits of my artistic, web designing and Flash skills.

Like that takes much doing.

So if you know anything about web design, or even if you don't, feel free to throw your two cents in. Mr. Heckler here hasn't offered much help.