Friday, November 28, 2008

Star Wars, The Turkish Sequel

A long time ago (1979) in a galaxy far, far away (in central Turkey), Murat and Ali crash land on a desert planet.

Murat: Begin to your famous whistle which no women can resist.
Ali: [Whistles]
Murat: You whistle it wrong
Ali: Why?
Murat: Skeletons came instead of woman

So goes "Dünyayý Kurtaran Adam," "The Man Who Saves the World," considered the "Turkish Star Wars" (because of the bootlegged "Star Wars" clips edited into the film) and possibly one of the worst movies ever made.

Just the kind of thing you'll find in the Lost Media Archive (featured on a
Fresh Look on Life

Blair Sterrett, an aspiring comic book artist from Ogden who's attending the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, says he was always interested in unusual music and sounds and started collecting them to bewilder friends and someday, he hoped, play them on the radio.

His radio dreams came true, but he says his play list was so odd, he was kicked off the air.

Tyrone Davies of Salt Lake City started collecting unusual movies for his found-footage filmmaking.

Together they have filled a storage unit and their homes with Super 8 movies, high school filmstrips, LPs, 8 track tapes, homemade records, telephone answering machine tapes, and all the obsolete technology to play that obsolete media. The kind of stuff that ends up at Deseret Industries, the Salvation Army and the dump.

"These are little niches of our history and our culture that just get thrown out," Sterrett says, and he and Davies are trying to save from extinction.

∙ "Kure Kure Takora," "Gimme Gimme Octopus," stars a man-sized candy red octopus and his friend, a somersaulting squash with the ability to cough up coins for vending machines.

Kids love surreal Japanese children's programming featuring violence and antisocial behavior.

∙ There's "Captain Hook and his Christian Pirate Crew," a biker who lost an arm and a leg in an accident and began a TV ministry.

The Captain used metal appendage to hook converts.

"I'm interested in things that cause question marks in my head," Sterrett says.

"I like things that confuse me."

∙ Sterrett leafs through piles of dusty LP's. "Music to Make Housework Easier," "Chant for Your Plants," "Songs for Safe Driving" (Is it safe to operate a record player while you're driving?), "Music to Knit By," and a recording of Jayne Mansfield (that great classical actress) reading Shakespeare.

"We're big fans of the 'so bad it's good," Davies says.

My favorites have been some of their corporate musicals, recordings of industrial shows produced to boost worker moral and business.

Like GE's "Got to Investigate Silicones."

You feel your product's not enough
You feel it isn't up to snuff,
Silicones! Silicones!
What it may need may not be much,
What it may need may just be a touch,
Silicones! Silicones!
They can wash you products’ problems away.
They're very good at saving the day.

And who doesn't love dry cleaning songs?

Turkey, in the midst of political upheaval, couldn't easily import American films, so Turkish filmmakers remade them. "The Wizard of Oz" and "E.T." both have their own Turkish remakes.

But, no doubt, none is better (or worse), than their version of "Star Wars."

A soundtrack stolen from "Moonraker," "Planet of the Apes" and "Silent Running" and dialogue worthy of a Jayne Mansfield dramatic reading.

Ali: What's on the menu?
Little Boy: Fried insects, and boiled snake.
Ali: Yuck! I won't eat that!
Murat: Come on man! If you don't eat, your handsome looks will deteriorate.

And now there is a trailer for a sequel, "Dunyayi Kurtaran Adamin Oglu" (The Son of the Man Who Saves The World).

You know that if it's good enough (or bad enough), it'll probably end up in the hands of Blair Sterrett and Tyrone Davies.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dear Feature Reporter...

The following are questions that viewers might have asked me.

Why did you become a feature reporter?

For the free food. It's an unwritten rule of feature reporting. If you produce a food story, you must eat the food on camera.

My short list has included tamales, ice cream sandwiches, cookies with crickets and ice cream with crickets. (The crickets add texture and crunch.)

And, thankfully, I don't have to declare those meals as income.

You do such an extraordinary job in such a noble profession. What's your secret?

Dog stories. I produce as many as I possibly can. Especially stories about goofy little dogs in costume. They make news directors and promotions writers salivate.

Can I become a feature reporter?

Sure, why not?

A wise man once told me I had no future in broadcasting and I should get out of the radio business. A couple weeks later, after years and years as a morning news announcer, he was fired during a station housecleaning.

And he went back to his original job as a welder.

Now, come to think of it, I did get out of the radio business.

Are there any training films for prospective feature reporters?

I would recommend "Kent Cares #47" by cartoon anchor and feature reporter, Kent Brockman.

"Hear that? It's the sound of children's laughter... silenced. That's because tomorrow, this old carousel, which has delighted young Americans for lo these past six years, will be torn down, to
make way for the future: a store that sells designer mouse pads."*


As a feature reporter, will I have to ride an elephant?

No. Small-market weekend anchors are required to ride an elephant when the circus comes to town. But not feature reporters.

You will, though, have to do a stand-up with a potbellied pig. Several times.

What has feature reporting taught you?

Everybody's much smarter than me. And many are a lot crazier.

*Excerpted from an animated TV series on another network that may or may not be Fox.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coffee in the Key of E Flat

Not all coffee cups are the same. Some are in the key of C. Some are in E flat.

We aired a Fresh Look at coffee competition. Yiching and John Piquet, owners of caffe d'bolla (across the street from the Salt Lake City Main Library) were headed to Denver for the Mountain Regional Barista Competition.

That's right, baristas compete.

They make twelve drinks -- four espresso, four cappuccino and four specialty drinks -- in 15 minutes and are judged on technical skill, cleanliness, presentation and, of course, taste.

And people watch.

At last year's World Barista Championship in Tokyo, three thousand people showed up.

To watch somebody make coffee.

No doubt, really good coffee.

I thought this story needed a soundtrack, and so I played one with coffee cups.

Paper cups for rhythm.

Ceramic for melody.

And this is what I learned:

-No matter what you think of Starbucks, their carry-out cups have a nicely rounded tone.
-It seems like most ceramic cups are tuned to C or B flat.
-If you walk into a thrift shop and start wacking coffee cups with a spoon to find the best-sounding ones, people will give you a little extra personal space.
-And when you bring home a plastic box full of thrift store cups, especially the ones with goofy pumpkins and golf sayings on them, your wife will laugh. At the coffee cups, of course.

I sampled my cup collection (my thrift store set and the to-go cups I've been hoarding in my closet), a coffee drip or two, and, of course, the obligatory espresso machine steam burst and played it on a keyboard.

I needed a bass line, so I strung a rubber band across a cup to make a miniature washtub bass and processed it with a simulated guitar amp.

And I learned one other thing.

Maybe I should reserve my coffee cups...for drinking coffee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lose weight instantly! Read more here...

Sometimes people picture things a little differently than their cameras.

And that's Mark Long's business.

He runs Hollywood Foto Fix, a Lehi business that restores and retouches photographs from around the country. They were featured on 2 News at 5 because of their restoration of Katrina-damaged pictures.

But they do more than remove mildew and water damage.

"Our phrase," Long's son, Austin, said, "is people want to look the way they think they look."

So they remove braces and blemishes from yearbook photos. They remove wrinkles and extra weight from family pictures.

They scan the photos and rework them in Photoshop and the pounds just melt away. If only it was that easy.

They've altered a low-cut wedding dress for a Utah customer.

They extract ex-wives and ex-husbands. "We call it 'x' your ex," Mark Long said.

They strongly suggest that boyfriends and girlfriends be left out of group portraits at family reunions.

"We remove so many boyfriends or girlfriends from family reunion photos, it's not even funny." Well, actually, it is.

I asked Long what has been the strangest request.


He knew the answer instantly but wasn't quite sure if he wanted to say. Not to a TV reporter.

The employee behind him working at a computer was laughing. He knew the answer, as well.

Long thought some more.


And then he told me.

And I'm not sure if I should tell you.

Let's just say-


Let's just say a customer wanted a little...enhancement.

Like the Longs said, everybody's got that self-portrait in their head. And if they want it in a photo album, no doubt, Mark Long's all too happy to take their money.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Please Don't Eat the Furniture

I try to take TV journalism seriously. I really do.

But sometimes I can’t help myself.

The local chapter of the International Interior Design Association was holding its annual Edible Chair Contest. Professional and student interior designers had fabricated furniture from food. Contest rules specified the entries should not only be in good taste but also mostly fit for human consumption.

This was the recipe for a good laugh.

3 tablespoons margarine
10 oz. marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

The night before I whipped up a batch of Rice Krispie treats and attempted to mold the raw material into a Barbie-scale armchair with M and M accents

The next day at the contest there was a Cheesy chair upholstered with sliced Swiss and set atop a shag rug of a blend of fine Italian cheeses, a Top Ramen student chair, and a red fruit leather chair with a jellied lemon candy pillow.

During the taping of the story, I quietly removed my unofficial entry from a shoebox (left in the freezer overnight to keep my furniture from melting) and placed it on the display table.

The camera followed the feature reporter as he inspected the entries and then picked up a chair and took a bite out of it.

Judges heads turned.

An interior design student approached. “You can’t to that!”

“I can’t?” I said.

Alas, my fabulous furniture design did not place in the contest.

But I was not disappointed.

It’s always a good day at work when you can expense breakfast cereal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to Get on TV

I try to use my feature reporting powers for good, not evil.

To discourage reckless behavior.

If someone's attempting something dangerous, perhaps we might videotape it. But, as you know, the camera makes people do things, and we don't want them to do it because of us. (For the record, I didn't ask the then-mayor of Springville to hot dog it on his motorcycle in his fine Italian suit on his driving range and, anyway, he was in reconstructive surgery for only four hours. But that's another story.)

One big snowstorm many snowstorms ago, photographer Charlie Ehlert and I were producing one of those stories that informs the public that snow has fallen. So much had fallen, in fact, that snowboarders waiting at a bus stop in the Fort Union neighborhood couldn't get to the ski areas because public transportation was immobilized.

So we interviewed them.

And then one asked if we wanted him to jump off the roof.

We said, ‘no.’

He meant snowboarding off the roof of the restaurant next to the bus stop.

We said, ‘no, don't do that.’

We bid them farewell and crossed the street to take pictures of cars slogging through the snow and slush. Five minutes later, we heard someone yelling at us.

It was the snowboarder. On the roof.

Ehlert instinctively turned his camera in his direction and rolled tape.

The roofboarder slid off the restaurant and disappeared in a puff of snow.

Back at the TV station, the raw tape changed hands and was fed (by satellite uplink) to the network (at the time, NBC), which aired it during its evening newscast.

He jumped off a roof and went national.

So my point is-


I'm not sure what my point is.

My point is, if you're going to try to hurt yourself, please don't do it when I'm around.

The news crews might show up later.

They call that "breaking news."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Boys Get Paid for Doin' This?

It would be difficult to write an accurate job description for a feature reporter. There would be the usual things -- reporting, writing, smiling on camera. But there would be the unusual -- playing the tuba, jumping into a pool while wearing coat and tie, and desecrating a rubber chicken.

Photographer Charlie Ehert and I were shooting a story about Loftus Novelty. For more than sixty years, the Salt Lake company has sold joy buzzers, whoopie cushions, stink bombs...true Americana. The focus of our story was the rubber chicken. At the time it was believed, and probably still is, that Loftus was the world's leading distributor of rubber chickens.

Charlie had an idea. (And I'm just as responsible because I went along with it.) To ask Loftus owner Gene Rose whether his rubber chickens could "take a beating." I did and Rose said they could. So -- and this was the idea -- we put that to the test.

It was nonsensical and pointless and that was the point.

We took a rubber chicken to the Great Salt Lake Gun Club and convinced a member to shoot it full of buckshot.

And we went to Sapp Bros. and asked a North Carolina trucker to run over our rubber chicken with his big rig. He was a bit confused but agreeable. And he flattened our chicken.

And then his wife, in her melodious North Carolinian drawl, asked us, "You boys get paid for doin' this?"

"Yes, Maam, we do."

It's all part of the job.

(The story spawned a brief rubber chicken infatuation among some members of the photo staff who look the silicone critters with them on assignment far and wide, speading strange humor and good cheer.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Speed Debating?

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Poetic Ending

Often it is asked: Where do you get your ideas? Sometimes, there's a great story right in front of you. And it's impeding traffic.

Spring of last year, while photographer Matt Gephardt and I were returning from a story about the Moab Mountain Unicycling Festival, Matt made note of the two in front of us: a longboarder surfing down the winding hill, followed by a chase car driven by a man in a neck brace.

There was a story there, Matt said, and he thought we should shoot it. I agreed.

The story was about cousins Jared and Tyler. We took pictures of them longboarding through traffic. And they discussed their previous injuries.

They were enjoying a weekend break from college. And it turned out one was studying to become a lawyer, the other, a doctor.

It was simply poetic.

And so the story went...

It's not like the boys hadn't thought well ahead.
Jared's pre-law, and Tyler's pre-med.
So, down the road, if things break, or are found..(ahem)...out of compliance,

They'll have each other. As friends...and as clients.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Viva La Zombies!

New York City writer Max Brooks never expected to be standing on a Salt Lake City street corner helping a television reporter pick zombies out of the crowd.

Peter: Is that guy a zombie? Max: No, because he would be coming for us and trying to eat us.

Brooks wrote "The Zombie Survival Guide." Just for fun. The kind of thing you'd expect of a former Saturday Night Live writer and the son of Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, The Producers, Young Frankenstein) and the late, great Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate).

Peter: Is that guy a zombie? Max: No, because he's waiting patiently to cross the street instead of trying to eat us. That's your litmus test.

"I sat down and wrote this really for me," Brooks said, "I never expected it to be published and really, logically, why would you? It's a book about how to realistically fight something that isn't real."

The book plays it straight. Discusses in great detail the various techniques and power tools available to fight off the undead. Actual fact-checking was involved.

"I never thought anybody besides me would be interested in this."

The book is now in its seventh printing. Hollywood producers have called. There was a movie option.

But it wasn't just the book sales that stunned him.

It was how many people took the book so seriously.

Lecture audiences asked genuine zombie defense questions.

Gun bloggers, he says, took offense because the guide favors the Soviet AK-47 over the US Army M16. (For the record, neither assault rifle is recommended for killing the living dead.)

Europeans complained about the book's "American" perspective. Too much talk about guns and SUVs.

Wait, wait. This is a book about zombies.

Perhaps, he said, he could rewrite for the foreign anti-zombie audience.

Brooks mused aloud what strategies he'd include in the French edition.

"We surrender! We surrender!"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Breaking News from the Furniture Showroom

I got my start in television in a furniture store in Washington, DC.

Graduating from college and overcome by feelings of financial dread, I answered an ad and took a job with a cable show. An old-time radio broadcaster had decided to buy some airtime on The Learning Channel and produce his own newsmagazine. He hired me for 50 dollars a week to field produce and write the stories. He had little TV experience and I had none.

We had two photographers. One made his living shooting music videos. The other hired out his body for medical experiments.

The most memorable piece of this production was the set. My boss anchored the show from one of those fake living rooms in a furniture store on Wisconsin Avenue. He did this while the store was open for business. Whatever studio audience he had, was actually looking for La-Z-Boys.

I never intended to work in television and eventually left to work in radio until, a few years later, returning to the fold.

Now we don't anchor our shows from a store. We've got our own furniture.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Barking Parrot

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From Nazi Propaganda to TV Feature Story

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
-Albert Einstein

I was swimming laps at the Steiner Aquatic Center when I glanced up at the high dive and experienced a flashback. A memory of a movie clip from a college documentary film class.

A black and white vision of a diver twisting and turning through the clouds.

I was watching the line of hyperactive ten year olds plummet from the high dive and remembering a few minutes of Olympia. The propaganda-flavored documentary of the 1936 Olympics directed by Leni Riefenstahl and funded by the Third Reich.

The final diving sequence is considered a cinematic masterpiece. Riefenstahl celebrated the human form by isolating the diver from up and down. By turning film upside down and backwards. So the athlete appeared to soar through the sky.

This, of course, was the same director who created the infamous “Triumph of the Will.”

She was a brilliant filmmaker who hung out with the wrong crowd. To say the least.

So, watching these young high divers, I decided to make my own Olympia.

Shot by shot, Photographer Randy Casper and I analyzed the original sequence. And then recreated it at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center.

At the last minute I departed from the original storyboard by donning a tie and jumping into the pool. Not something Riefenstahl would have done. But it was a pretty hot day.

Wanting to set the piece to Olympia’s original score, I contacted a couple of video distributors to research music rights.

One distributor told me Riefenstahl, at the time still alive and scuba diving in the tropics, did.

The other said the US confiscated the film during World War Two. It was now property of the National Archives. As an American citizen, I owned a piece of that movie.

The Nazis killed a few of my distant relatives from Poland.

I figured they owed me.

So I used the score.

And it became a popular TV feature. Occasionally dusted off and replayed for photographers and high school students.

And, no doubt, few of them would guess that a playful video of ten year old belly flop artists cooling off on a hot summer afternoon, was originally inspired by, of all things, a Nazi movie.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

One of my Favorite Quotes

Several years ago at a Layton golf course, we asked Sam Gallegos what went through his head as he watched his son, Kurt, perform eye-popping F-16 maneuvers at Hill Air Force Base airport across the way. Kurt Gallegos had defied his family’s financial circumstances and his height, to become a successful rodeo athlete, high school football player and then an F-16 demonstration pilot.

We thought Dad would speak of awe. Of a father’s pride.

Instead he said, “I think…’Son, pull up, pull up, pull up.’”