Friday, August 29, 2008

So Much Work

It's Friday. If I make it through the next few hours, I will have completed my longest continuous stint at a TV station in three years. Four days. When I got in this morning, the news anchor said, "It's Friday! You made it through the week."

"Not yet," I replied. "Ask me again in about five hours. I can celebrate then."

I got to bed by 9 p.m. last night. After yesterday morning's show I went to play golf with my father and I skipped the nap I'd taken Tuesday and Wednesday.

It's probably a good thing that I won't get this job permanently. Someone asked me if I was having any fun. Not exactly, I told her. But the abject terror I had that I would either fail to answer the alarm clock and miss a shift or that I'd do something once I got there that would earn me infamy forever on YouTube has mostly abated.


Maybe when I get more comfortable (read: don't stink so much) it will get more fun. It's pretty boring work, actually. How many different ways can you describe a shot of traffic backed up at junction of I-4 and I-275? It is mindless enough that even the "bubble-headed bleach blonde" from the Don Henley song "Dirty Laundry" could do it and I don't blame Ch. 10 if that's the "new direction" it decides to go.

But it's good on-camera practice and something broadcast-related to do while I try to build up more freelance business. Speaking of which, I have a potential new client and I'll have to complete a list of story pitches this afternoon. I'll fill in details if something comes of it.

Millionaires Story Airs

It doesn't take a lot of money to become a Sarasota Millionaire. But it requires a passion for football that lasts long after most people have played their last game. See the world of difference between semi-pro and pro football. Meet the players whose love of playing won't let them let go of the game. And hear the story of the couple who want to make the Sarasota Millionaires an invaluable part of the Gulf Coast.

That was the blurb I wrote summarizing my most recent -- I was going to say "last" but I hope it isn't -- story for WEDU-TV's A Gulf Coast Journal. You can watch in the window below. It comes about 12-and-a-half minutes in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WTSP Interim Traffic Reporter

I promise that the bloodshot eyes result from too little sleep rather than too much drinking. Maybe I'll get to sleep before midnight tonight.

Thanks to the lovely Vanessa in the studio crew for taking my pictures. If I'm going to be there a while, I'm going to have to learn the other crew members' names.*

I did meet the station's GM today. As I walked the hall to the make-up room (they have such a thing) to wash the TV mask off my face, a man walking toward me from the other direction said, "Traffic was terrible today." For some reason, I didn't immediately presume he was assessing my performance but was talking about actual conditions on the road.

As we got closer, he thanked me for filling in on short notice and complimented the job I was doing. I expressed my appreciation and mumbled something about being a little out of practice. I still didn't know to whom I was talking.

"Tell me your name," I said.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I should have introduced myself," he said. "Sam Rosenwasser."

I should probably make a note of his name too.

*That's not quite right. I know some of the others -- John, Scott and Marie -- and I'm now listening closely to anyone addressing anyone else by name so I can add to the list of people at the station whose face I can match with a name.

Florida's Number One!

Turns out that screwing up elections is not the only thing in which Florida ranks first.

The Sunshine State is home to the nation's top party school, the University of Florida. The Gators have won recent national chammpionships in football and basketball but now the school really has something to brag about.

Maybe the news is good for recruiting some kids. It didn't work on me back when I was searching for colleges way back when. UF offered me a partial academic scholarship and I loved the idea of living in warm weather. I considered the school seriously enough that my dad and I drove to Gainesville to look over the university in person.

I remember meeting with an admissions officer in a hopelessly cluttered office. Not an attraction. But my lasting impression came later as we drove around campus.

Going past a fraternity house, I remember seeing a shirtless fat guy on the roof of one of them. With him was a bottle of Jack Daniels so big I could read the label from the street. I didn't have a lot of ideas about my future but I knew that I didn't want to look that in four years.

I ended up doing my post-high school beer drinking education at the University of North Carolina.

It's 4:30 a.m.

And I should still be in bed. I thought a good workout -- 50 minutes of cardio! -- would tire me out enough to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Yet, there I was, at 10 p.m. lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.

By 11, I gave up and got the Randy Wayne White novel that had gotten me through my stints on the stationary cycle and the treadmill and opened that. Sometime after midnight I finally fell asleep.

The 3 a.m. alarm came at what felt like 20 minutes later. Boy, is that going to grow old fast.

But I'm here at WTSP. Carry on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democrat's Nominee

I saw it written that way on a local newscast's graphic. The anchor on WFLA was reading a story as "Democrat's Nominee" stuck on the screen over his shoulder for what seemed like forever.

In the station's defense, I didn't hear the story. I was at the gym and saw it on a monitor as I was sweating my way through a cardio workout. It is possible that the story concerned an individual Democrat's nominee for something. That's what "Democrat's Nominee" means: one person, presumably a Democrat, has nominated someone for something.

But I doubt it. It's more likely that a grammatically challenged graphics person or newscast producer simply doesn't know how to use an apostrophe properly.


I almost forgot my youngest brother's birthday. I never forget the date. I even know his wedding anniversary date. The trouble is that I rarely know what day it is.

I did send him a brief e-mail but it's too late to call and -- with my 3 a.m. wakeup call tomorrow -- too late to write a longer letter.


New Direction

I've mentioned that I'm not a candidate to become the permanent morning traffic reporter for WTSP. I know this because the operations manager at, which provides the traffic service for the station, told me so. "They want to go in a new direction," he said.

This is the sort of cover-all statement that answers a question without saying anything, which, of course, is the whole idea. It usually means one of two things:

1. The station wants to hire someone who is younger, of a different gender or a different race. Or just blonder.

Hiring for TV news programs is essentially casting just like for any TV show. I don't blame them for not hiring me for this job. When I'm in good practice, I'm a decent on air talent but my skills are writing and telling stories with video. Traffic reporting requires little more than knowing the area, using the computer and being able to stand in front of a camera and speak reasonably coherently without a teleprompter. Even Don Henley's "bubble-headed bleach blonde" can do that.

This kind of discrimination is technically illegal, however, so when it's the basis for a talent change, the explanation is usually, "we want to go in a new direction." The resulting hire will usually tell you that the direction was almost invariably younger and whatever ethnic and gender mix fits best with the rest of the anchor line-up for a particular newscast.

2. The other reason for the "new direction" line: Station management doesn't know what it wants to do; it knows only that ratings are going in a bad direction and it's got to change something or management's own job status is going to change -- for the worse.

The talent is not the only reason for the ratings -- good or bad. The shows leading-in and following the newscast, the traditional viewing habits of a market and how well the newscast is produced all factor into it.

Reshuffling the anchors looking for a quick fix usually does more harm than good. The changes alienate anyone who has grown attached to the people now gone and the new talent hired in a panic will unlikely draw new viewers. But if you're a manager in a job whose average tenure is two years, you probably don't have time for a long-term plan. A station that makes changes for changes' sake will cover its own lack of direction by explaining the switches as "going in a new direction."

The "new direction" was the same reasoning given to the now-departed traffic reporter whom I have replaced for the time being. An oblique reference she made to it on the air Monday may have sparked her sudden ejection nearly two months before the scheduled end of her tenure. Someone complimented a new hairstyle and she said, "I'm going in a new direction." The WTSP bigwigs apparently did not appreciate the joke. Thus, the call to me in the bullpen a few hours later.

Good Morning

It's just past 7:30 a.m. and I've survived doing my first day of traffic reporting "until further notice" on WTSP-TV's morning news show. We still have the local news inserts into the CBS Early Show to do so maybe I shouldn't announce my survival just yet but so far no major mishaps.

I can report that I got out of bed on time, which is the first of the many potential horrors of the morning.

Doing the show itself is easier now than it was last year at this time. Then we had traffic reports -- some maybe only ten seconds long -- at the beginning and end of each news block.

Now I appear only four times an hour. That makes life a lot easier. I'm not getting paid by my screen time so I'm happy to go on as often or as little as they want.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Traffic To Come

Just got a call from the operations manager for the Tampa office of asking if I can do the morning traffic reports for WTSP-TV "until further notice."

I knew that the current traffic reporter was being let go in October and stations often send people on their way (with a check for the remaining time on their contracts) but this comes as a surprise.

I didn't ask what the reason was for the sudden change. I'm sure if there's a story, I'll hear it when I go in to the station tomorrow at 4 a.m. I'm sorry for the woman I'm replacing (if only on an interim basis -- I've been told I'm not a candidate for the job) but the work will do me good.

Get Out of the Kitchen

I have to find a new place to shoot sunsets. "The Kitchen," the county-owned preserve area along Tampa Bay where I usually go, is simply too mosquito infested. I go there because it's the closest place to me where I can get an unobstructed view of the horizon.

However the mosquitoes seem impervious to bug repellent. The many stagnant pools of water provide perfect breeding grounds. And the time to shoot the cloudscapes that happen around dusk happen to be the time when the blood-sucking disease spreaders are most active.

At one point last night I thought they were simply going to lift me up and carry me back to their nest (or lair or den or whatever you call mosquitoes' homes) where they could pick at me at their leisure.

That's not the worst part. The worst part is that I got there just after the best shots were available, despite sprinting lumbering at top speed from the parking area to the berm that overlooks the bay (or the mosquito-breeding marsh that borders it, anyway), and I didn't get any shots that justified donating two pints of blood to the local mosquito population.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Safety Harbor PhotoWalk

I drove through intermittent rain to get to Safety Harbor then walked several blocks down Main Street through a steady downpour to the meeting place. But I made it to the Scott Kelby Worldwide PhotoWalk in Safety Harbor. Luckily for the 50 or so people gathered under the gazebo at John Wilson Park the rain stopped before we set off to document down Safety Harbor.

I had an idea in my head that there would be some guidance involved but the only instructions we got were to meet at Crispers restaurant at 7 p.m., that whining was not allowed and to take care not to get hit by a car.

I didn't shoot anything prize-worthy but I didn't drop my camera off the pier at the marina so I'm calling the day a success.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Butterfly Porn

I don't have much to show for my time lately. That includes photographs. I did sign up to join a group of photographers on a "photowalk" in Safety Harbor where, as you might surmise from the name, we'll walk around clicking pictures from 5-7 p.m.

Last Sunday (or maybe the Sunday before, I can't remember, it's just the way time's going right now) I did venture out to a county nature preserve area near me called The Kitchen. It had been months since I'd been there and that meant treading through months of unchecked vegetation. They don't mow nature preserves?

I didn't see much of interest and for a while it looked as though all I would have to show for the trip were the mosquito bites. Unless, of course, all that ivy brushing against me turned out to be poisonous. I had slathered bug spray on my bare skin, which meant only that the mosquitoes would have to access my blood through my clothing. The itching on my back told me that this was not much of an obstacle.

Off a tall blade of grass I saw what looked like debris blowing in the breeze that comes off the bay. A little closer it looked like it might have been a butterfly. If so, it was probably dead, hanging limply as it was.

When I went up to it, I saw some movement. Then I noticed something else: It wasn't a butterfly; it was two of them. Together. Mating. I took some pictures before the pair flew off. Actually, only one of them flew; the other merely hung on for the ride.

They didn't go far before landing again. I approached slowly and snapped some more shots. The following image may not be suitable for younger viewers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ashes to Sand Traps

The cremated remains of the average human weigh between 6 and 8 pounds. I learned as I watched my parents meet with what you could call a "cremation counselor" at their house this morning.

My father decided that he would pre-pay for their cremations so that I and my two brothers would not have to worry about making funeral arrangements upon their demise. Unlike when my parents signed their living wills, my attendance was not mandatory but my father thought it would be good for me to be there for this, too.

The entertainment never ends.

They opted for the barest bones cremation available -- and it still cost $3,000 for the two of them! Whenever the end happens, we call a phone number and the cremation company takes it from there. The other benefit is that now that they've paid, the price can't go up. My father was satisfied that the company, part of the largest funeral home company in America, would outlast my mother and him.

My parents didn't specify what they wanted us to do with their remains. "You can dump them in that pond over there," dad said. "I don't care."

That taken care of, my dad and I went to play golf. Other than a birdie on the par-5 11th, I didn't so much as par a single hole. I'll spare you a more detailed description of the carnage. Even dad played poorly, for him, with an 86. I watched him shoot a 74 on the same course last week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Meandering Storm

Just when we thought we had dodged Tropical Storm Fay, the forecast track from NOAA offers the possibility that the storm will loop back into the Gulf of Mexico and try again.

At least my professional career is humming along. Oh, wait.

I did get an e-mail from my former boss with a tip about a job opening in Tampa for a web artist. That was kind of him except that I don't think I'm qualified for the job. I know some Photoshop and Flash but I wouldn't call my skills at either professional grade.

And I'm torn. Do I get another job in a cubicle or do I stick it out and try to build a freelance business? It's been slow going so far on that front. The WEDU work has slowed down and the senior producer says she's reluctant to hand out too many assignments until she knows that the show (A Gulf Coast Journal) will be renewed for next year.

I do have one story about novelist Stuart M. Kaminsky upcoming but we don't shoot that until at least late next month and it won't air until December.

I haven't heard anything about the coming season of the high school sports show to which I've contributed in past years. The company that produces it has been difficult to work with and I had filed it into the "life is too short" category. It may behoove me to swallow my pride and weather whatever aggravation comes with the work.

The woman for whom I fill in as WTSP's morning traffic reporter is leaving in October. Her departure was not her idea. She does a good job but had the misfortune of doing it on a morning show that nobody watches. Management must feel pressure to do something so out go the weather and traffic anchors. One of the news anchors was demoted and later left a few months ago.

She's got some time off to burn before then so maybe I'll get some more work there. I am not a candidate to replace her. They're looking for someone younger and blonder rather than older and balder, I'm sure. But maybe the new person will take more vacation time and I'll pick up some more days there.

I still haven't gotten to shoot any more of the personal documentary demo about a friend's parents. I may have to break down and launch the service as it is now, once I add pages to the web site detailing some packages with prices that I'll offer.

Many video biography sites that I've researched don't list prices on their sites but I don't want inquiries from people who expect me to produce a professionally polished hour-long documentary for $500. These will cost thousands.

And they will be worth every penny.

Meantime, we're on storm watch here. I've got my water, canned food, and nutrition bars -- as well as some not-so-nutritious ones -- to eat. I have plenty of books and an acoustic guitar to entertain myself.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Contact Me

I got my second e-mail from the contact page of recently. It was a woman in Los Angeles looking for a voice coach. I some talent coaching but if you're looking for someone to show you how to breath or to correct a speech impediment, that's not my area. I e-mailed the writer a note to that effect, adding that if she's in L.A., you probably can't sneeze without hitting a voice or acting coach.

The first person to contact me through my web site was a woman who googled me after seeing me on WTSP, Tampa Bay's CBS affiliate. I did my first fill-in work for the station's traffic anchor in almost a year a couple of weeks ago. The woman's maiden name was McCuistion and she wondered if we might be related. I replied that it was entirely possible that both of us had descended from Clan Uisdean. "Mac," as I understand it, is the Scottish term for clan or family and if you say "Mac Uisdean" fast for 500 years you get McQuiston or McCuistion or one of its other offshoots.

You also wind up with a spillover of McQuistons into Ireland. That's where the boat that brought my great-grandfather to Philadelphia in 1904 originated. Apparently a Protestant of Scottish ancestry was not the thing to be in Ireland at the time and my great-grandfather decided to try his luck in the New World.

Now you're stuck with this McQuiston.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Irony is Alanis Morissette writing a popular song in which every example she gives of irony isn't ironic."

Quotation from a book called Ballpark Blues by C.W. Tooke.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Punjabitherium is an extinct Indian rhinoceros. I know that because I googled Bitherium, which was necessary because I named a song that and didn't want to publish it here on the blog before checking that it didn't mean something that could embarrass me later. The song itself will do that for me.

Where did I get the name? It's an abbreviated version of the guitar tone that I used with my Guitar Port to play one of the lead guitars on the track -- there are two; I'm getting fancy.

The bass is synthesizer courtesy of my Anvil Studio MIDI program, which I still can't get to work. However I discovered that I can buy a USB MIDI cable that I can plug into the laptop and use my old and beloved MidiSoft Recording Session program. The added benefit is that I can use my digital piano downstairs to record the MIDI files. It plays more smoothly than the synthesizer does.