False Immediacy

We see it all the time, so often, in fact that we hardly notice it. I suppose, in the grand scheme of media ethics, it's no big crime. Television news providers using the physical location of a reporter to convey a sense of authority, even if none exists.

A good example, if there is a ten car pile up on the interstate during morning rush hour, odds are, at least one of the local stations will have an ENG crew on the side of the road when the nightly news airs at eleven pm.

The report normally begins with the words, "I'm (name of reporter) here at the site of a deadly accident that happened earlier today on (name of highway)."

Which is all great except for the fact that it happened fifteen hours ago. The wounded have been taken to the hospital. The roadside investigation is complete. The vehicles have been hauled away and the emergency services have all packed up and left. There's nothing there to see. There is no journalistic reason to have that person deliver their story from the side of the road rather than have the anchor read the copy in the studio. That person is standing on the side of the highway simply to underscore a false pretense of immediacy and authority, to make you think that they and their station are more on the ball than they would otherwise seem. After all, what good is it to have a reporter say, "I'm here on the side of the highway where absolutely nothing is happening."

This isn't just a local phenomenon. Several times I've seen CNN, when reporting some issue in Atlanta, have a correspondent standing in Centennial Olympic Park. They never seem to address the fact that metro Atlanta is nearly seventy miles across and that Centennial park is, likely, nowhere near what it is they are reporting.

Do you know what Centennial park is very close to? It's across the street from CNN headquarters. A reporter and a camera person strolled out of the CNN studio, across the food court and walked across Marietta Street. They make very sure to face north so that the Atlantic Plaza, formerly the IBM building, Nation's Bank Tower and the Westin Peachtree, all iconic Atlanta skyscrapers, are clearly visible. Were they to face south, of course, you would see the giant CNN logo on the front of the building they just left. Daryn Kagan, or any one of the Atlanta based anchors will then chat with the correspondent who is "live in Atlanta" without mentioning that that correspondent is less than two hundred yards away.

I'm not suggesting any sort of malfeasance on the part of CNN. They're not lying. That reporter is, in fact, in Atlanta and they're probably well informed on the issues and well qualified to bring that information to the public. All they're doing is playing with the set dressing a bit so that their news might seem a touch more appealing, a bit more legitimate, than a rival's. This is the logical outgrowth of the marketplace of media.

It is something we need to watch for, though. These subtle manipulations, while mostly harmless, have a cumulative effect on our credulity, our skepticism and on the ways that we unknowingly make decisions about media-ized data.

Point being, pay attention to the set dressing, understand how the questions are being asked, think about the bits of interviews that don't make the final piece, contemplate the audience that each news program is geared towards. Moreover, write to the news provider to which you ascribe the most authenticity, no matter what organization that is. Make them know that they are accountable to you and that you are wise to the tricks they use when selling your eyes to advertisers.

This is essential to keeping the accounters accountable.



I'm Told I Need One of These, so Here it is.

What is this Blog All About?
My original blog, celebrateyourtomness.com, presented me as a mock celebrity. Originally I had grand designs for it but I could never get it to work quite the way I wanted. It never quite looked right. The name was cumbersome. Most people just didn't get the joke. I let the domain expire some time ago in favor of something a bit more serious.

BadassBard has no particular theme, it is a showcase for my essays and commentaries on a myriad of topics. Most posts are analysis of recent experiences or of incidents from my past. I also post about my career as a film and television professional and I give the occasional political opinion.

What is this Blog Not About?
I pledge that I will not post idle internet memes, gossip, minute to minute accounts of my vacation, pictures of celebrities, jokes, reposts of news stories, intellectual pissing matches with other bloggers, linkfests or commentaries on other articles in which most of the post is a cut and paste from the article followed by two sentences of vacuous commentary.

We see these things far too often on other sites. Generally speaking, they are the product of intellectual laziness or of the erroneous presumption that they substitute for actual content. I will only post things that I would actually want to read.

How Did You Get Your Name?
I have a habit of doing theatrical renditions of classic stories and narrative poems at Pagan gatherings around the southeast. As a result, I am often identified as "Bard Thomas" to delineate me from the half dozen or so other folks named Thomas in that same community. Several years ago a close friend of mine gave me a pin bearing those fateful words "Badass Bard." Given my penchant for storytelling and for doing things other people often consider risky, the name seemed appropriate.

Do You Really Work in the Movie Business?
Yes. I am a professional film maker and have been since I finished college. I have worked on more than a dozen feature films as well as a myriad of shorts, commercials, music videos and one television show. I work primarily in production and sound.

Have You Ever Worked With/Do You Know (insert famous peson here)?
I might. I've worked with quite a few people with varying degrees of celebrity.

Will You Get Me an Autograph/Tell Me About Them/Tell Them About ME?

Will You Get Me a Job or Audition?

You Write About Politics Often; What are Your Political Affiliations?
For the record, I am a registered independent and I have been since my eighteenth birthday. I do not associate myself with, nor have I ever been a member of any political party. I happen to think two party politics is a load of bollocks, innately corrupt and actively working against the interests of the citizenry and I think that both the Democrats and Republicans have their heads so far up their asses that they can probably lick their own tonsils.

I am a true liberal, something conspicuously absent from both major parties. Moreover, I feel the definition of liberal has been so tainted by thirty years of spurious rhetoric that I would pick a more appropriate word if there was one in the common vernacular. I have a set of political beliefs that are fundamentally different from those of either party. That having been said, I tend to vote for Democrats because they tend to act, ever so slightly, like the kind of people I want in office than do the Republicans, though often for the wrong reasons.

Or, put more succinctly, I don't vote for Democrats. I vote against Republicans.

What Does Pagan Mean? Are You Wiccan? Can You Teach Me to be Pagan?
We really don't have time for this and there are so many people that have explained this better than I have. No, I won't teach you anything. I'm the last person you want to be your spiritual adviser. Seriously, go to the bookstore. You'll find something.

Can I Ask a Question for the FAQ?
Yes, if enough other people ask it. Feel free to comment here or to send an email to icarusannolds at hotmail dot com.


M.O.S. is a Myth.

As the story goes, when acclaimed expressionist/noir master Fritz Lang of Metropolis fame, fled Nazi Germany and began making films in the United States, his professional success in his new country outpaced his mastery of the English language. His focus on purely visual film making, to the exclusion of the relatively new development of sync sound, combined with his habit of articulating his thoughts in a hodgepodge pidgin tongue of English and German let to the accidental adoption of the acronym M.O.S..

Supposedly, Lang was so in the habit of shooting "Mit out sound," mit being the German equivalent of the English preposition "with," that this expression became part of the industry vernacular. There are a number of such terms, "meat-bag," "Gary Coleman," "C-47," "Abby Singer" and "10-100" all spring readily to mind and they all have legends to accompany them. In this case, though, the popular legend is a myth.

When scenes are shot on celluloid film, as opposed to on video, the visuals and the audio are captured by two entirely independent devices and are then combined in post production. Because these are two separate elements, either can be run without the other. Sounds can be recorded without rolling the camera and picture can be shot without any accompanying audio. When we do the latter, it's called shooting "MOS." There are a number of reasons to do this, it's a static shot with no dialog, an insert of something that makes no sound, the creative decision to edit in music with no diagetic audio has already been made, contaminating sounds will make the sound track useless etc.

In the early days of sync sound film making, the late 20's and early 30's, sound was applied to film using an optical ribbon. On the bits filmed without sound, the script supervisor would label the shot, Minus Optical Stripe, informing the editor that there was no need to go searching for the audio component.

I have also heard that, before we had electrical motors as sophisticated as we do today, the camera and the audio machinery had to run off of the same 220volt circuit. If for some reason, the camera had to be run on a different electrical channel, matching up the two elements would become very complicated, if not outright impossible. Ergo, such shots were photographed without audio and labeled "Motor Off Sync."

It's my suspicion that both stories are, to some degree, true. Among location audio professionals the first is the generally accepted tale.

In either case, I do hope that this Mit Out Sound nonsense is put to bed.

You have thusly been enlightened.


Like Neon at Twilight

Not long ago I made the striking realization that I've been with my current girlfriend longer than I've been with anyone, more than two years now. It hasn't seemed that long, this particular helping of lifetime, but this realization has put my mind to my first serious relationship and to the scant gulf of the decade between that liaison and this one. That one didn't turn out so well and I find myself constantly thinking back to it even though that affair is an unlike this one as I think possible.

Why does our first love always haunt us? No matter how wondrous or how tragic the affair, that original lover is always there, looking over our shoulder on every first date, snickering secrets during every first kiss and making vicious comparisons over every first breakfast. We never get away from it.

I had been pondering this at great length, all the mistakes I made back then and all the things I've done right lately, when it dawned on me that this is not a unique property of love.

It's not just our first love that stays forever in the distance behind us, refusing to dip below the horizon even as the more recent events devolve into trivia with ever increasing celerity, it's firsts of all kinds. Our first car, our first job, our first hangover, our first great victory, our first great failure, our first brush with death and our first time away from home all sit at the back of our understanding, underlying all else that we do. It seems our memories are a pad of onion skin paper and the first time we write upon it we always press down too hard, leaving the impression of that inaugural scribble beneath every other bit of the record.

My first talent was bowling. It's still the only competitive sport I've ever played and I was among the best in the state when I was still in junior high school. At the age of fourteen a future as a professional bowler seemed like a perfectly reasonable and attainable career goal. I gave it up while still in high school, intent on pursuing other things.

Now, at twice the age, I go bowling about twice a year. I still do better than most casual recreational bowlers but I'm no where close to my competitive form of fifteen years ago. My ball doesn't fit my fingers and my shoes don't fit my feet. Even though it has been more than a decade since my last competitive game, everything I do I compare to bowling. I was so good, so young, that it sometimes seems that I've never been that good at anything else. This isn't true, of course. If there's any objective comparison to be made, I'm a much better film maker, puppeteer and, I hope, writer than I ever was a bowler. It's just that I was a bowler before I was anything else.

I'm glad I've moved beyond all of that, beyond all those firsts and onto other things, beyond my Camaro, beyond the IHOP I once managed, beyond the headache I had the morning after David's Bar Mitzva, beyond that accident that nearly cost me the use of my right hand and definitely beyond bowling.

Some people, it seems, never do move beyond their firsts and I can't decide whether I pity them or envy them. Some people keep their first job, marry their first lay and have a brand loyalty about cars that I'll never quite understand. Are they scared of change or do they know something that I don't? Might it be better to stick with the firsts and avoid the years of comparisons, the suspicions and the alienations that come from seconds and thirds? Did they learn to appreciate what they have in a way I never did? Is all of life like one's original go at cocain and we'll never get higher than that first time?

I don't know. I'm not that wise and besides, it's too late to try the first time again.

Two years and we're still together. I love you, Rawkstahr.


Welfare Christmas

The trivia question at the coffee shop was, "What is Bolognese?"

"Meat Sauce," I said, claiming my ten cents off. "Who doesn't know that?"

"I didn't." replied the barista, who was only a few years younger than I.

Without thinking I asked, "Don't you ever eat at Figo?" the trendy and fairly new pasta bar next door.

"Too expensive," he remarked, not looking up from the register.

Presuming that he had never stopped to read their menu and that he had only inferred the place to be pricey by it's looks, I told him, "It's only seven or eight bucks to eat dinner there." A paltry sum for a full meal, I thought.

He looked up and, handing me my change he shrugged and said, "Yeah, too expensive."

I mumbled something noncommittal, probably, "Fair enough," but I felt as I had just been kicked in the chest.

Thinking back on the decade I spent working in restaurants I remember too many times when I scoffed at other people's comments and pretensions of casual affluence. The people that would spend two of my days' wages on a weekly haircut or that would buy a car costing more than I might spend on a house, I found those people detestable. I presumed them corrupt and observed their ignorance of economic reality with just enough restraint to contain my contempt.

Here I was, though, the reflection of the very people I vilified to myself. Have I become, even in some tiny way, like them? I only assume eight dollars is a measly sum because I routinely have that much to waste. To the person opposite me it might be a fortune.

I want never to be one of those cafe people, arrogant in their wealth, ignorant of their privilege and contemptuous of others' industry. I would rather live and die with my hands dirty.


It's a Nice Day to Start Again

The speech that I mentioned In This Post seems to be of interest to some people.

Killyin and I shared concurrent adolescences in the existential wonderland that is east Marietta, Georgia. A few years ago he called me in the middle of the night, frantic in a way I had never quite heard him. "Tom," he stammered, "I've met this great girl. Well, actually I've known her for a long time but I only just realized... anyway, I need your help to show her how I feel about her."

"Sure," I said. He's one of my best friends, after all, "Anything. What do you need me to do."

"Well, first," he says, "I need you to come bail me out of jail."

Killyin, it seems, had been arrested for operating an industrial X-ray machine without the appropriate veterinary permits. That was all really an excuse, though, the authorities were much more concerned with his alleged involvement in the daring daylight heist of nearly sixteen tons of artificial sweetener and he had been arrested on a trumped up misdemeanor in order to question him and limit his movements.

So, I bailed him out of jail at about one in the morning and, as we drove through the deserted Chicago streets, all I could seem to do was glance at him and repeatedly ask, "An X-Ray machine?"

He didn't comment much on this but after ten or fifteen minutes of my prodding he did turn to me and say, "We need to stop by the shop." Few can understand how this statement filled me with dread. Those of you that know Killyin know that, several years ago he opened a combination homebrew store and topiary gardening academy that most people consistently avoided. I was pleased to find out that by this time he had converted that establishment into a combination tattoo removal studio and Peter Paul & Mary memoribillia emporium, in all a much more pleasant place than it had been.

Now, all jokes aside, I've always been kind of impressed by the postal service. This connects, I promise. They do a pretty good job of delivering millions of packages and letters to all sorts of places under all sorts of conditions. In this case, a good lot of these things had been brought to Killyin's shop. We stepped inside and I found that the entire place was stacked, from floor to ceiling, with post, with bits of mail. There were small envelopes and big envelopes and soft sided envelopes and hard sided envelopes, plain envelopes and fancy envelopes as well as all sorts of boxes from the tiny ones that come with jewelry to the giant ones that might hold a household appliance and no two quite the same size or shape. They absolutely filled up the room, obscuring everything, except the eleven foot high statue of Puff, the magic dragon, that filled one corner and that really did dominate the space.

I only had a moment to take all this in because Killyin led me out onto the enclosed loading dock were I found that he had acquired a brand new, blindingly shiny, fully equipped, four ton purple Hitachi dump truck. He then handed me a box cutter and said, "Let's get to work."

We spent most of the next five hours opening all that post: small envelopes and big envelopes and soft sided envelopes and hard sided envelopes, plain envelopes and fancy envelopes as well as all sorts of boxes from the tiny ones that come with jewelry to the giant ones that might hold a household appliance and no two quite the same size or shape and emptying them into the back of the brand new, blindingly shiny, fully equipped, four ton purple Hitachi dump truck.

And what was in them? Artificial sweetener, hundreds of thousands of single portion packets of artificial sweetener, enough to fill the brand new, blindingly shiny, fully equipped four ton purple Hitachi dump truck just to the top. I stood there for at least five minutes looking back and forth from the contents of the truck to Killyin before I asked, "Are you going to explain any of this too me?"

He simply pointed at the back of the truck and said, "There's no blue."

He was right. The tens of thousands of little paper packets that filled the truck just to the top were all yellow and pink with just a few green ones here and there. There was not a single blue packet among them. This observation forced me to ask, "How do you think that clarifies anything?"

He climbed up into the cab of the big purple dump truck, looked me in the eye and said, "Clean up all the boxes before the police come by, please."

As he cranked the engine I screamed, "What the fuck has any of this got to do with you being in love?"

He looked at me, confidently, with the eyes of someone who's known you for years. He smiled and said, "Love is a many Splenda'd thing and this woman has no Equal."

And with that he drove off into the rising sun, leaving me to clean up all of the postal refuse. Now, I don't know what he did with it and I have never asked. I don't know how one proves one's devotion to a woman with a dump truck full of aspartame but I know that since she's the kind of woman who obviously understood and appreciated it, then they're probably meant for each other.

And so, to the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Killyin, Salud, Nastrovia, Mazel Tov, Brightest Blessings, I love you both.