Monday, December 19, 2005

Thanks a Lot, OJ... 

Once upon a time, right before OJ Simpson was arrested, he went on an inexplicable low-speed chase in his white Ford Bronco, and the news media followed with their helicopters -- at least the ones that had them. And the rest of the news directors said to themselves, "Hey, we need a chopper so we can follow stuff like this live." And most local news stations traded their bureaus in the State Capitals for the shiny new toys.

Hey, who needs to report the important but boring news about what your State government is trying to do to you when you can get a neat aerial shot of something?

Last week, here in LA, someone on an airplane at Burbank airport said the word "bomb", and the plane was evacuated. I happened to be Christmas shopping right near the airport and saw all five local media choppers hovering. I wondered whether something had blown up. Nope. Just a bunch of people getting off a plane. Oh, wow. Yeah, that image is really worthy of the attention.

The helicopter thing is getting ridiculous, as silly as the "Reporting LIVE! from..." stand-up where the reporter is in front of a building at 10 p.m., talking about something that happened six hours earlier. What's the point of the live shot? There is none. Of late, we've been treated to aerial shots of accident scenes after the clean-up, high schools after the evacuation, broken fire hydrants. I expect to see a kitten in a tree any day now. Fluffy, meaningless, unimportant crapola.

This morning, though, KABC-7, LA's local ABC affiliate, really went way over the line. I've already fired off an angry missive to them about it, but anyone else in the neighborhood who went through the same should complain as well, and tell the asshats to cool it with the shiny toys unless they're really necessary.

Here's what happened. At about 5:30 this morning, I'm rudely awakened by the sound of a helicopter that sounds like it's right outside my window. This thing is loud, louder than usual, and the rotors seem aimed for maximum noise. I try to go back to sleep with no success. When it's still hovering about forty minutes later, I figure, "Okay, it must be the apocalypse." I get up, turn on the TV and flip the channels until, finally, there's a traffic report on Channel 7. Overturned car on the Hollywood Freeway, and yes we've got to show it to you well before the buttcrack of dawn (it's not even the chode of dawn yet). Ohmygawd! Traffic in LA! Two lanes closed! STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES!!!

Except, right after the four seconds of oh-so-important aerial footage, traffic guy cuts to a map that (wait for it) GIVES US EXACTLY THE SAME INFORMATION. Sorry for the screaming. But I was sorely tempted, were it not a felony, to go outside at that moment with the laser level or a large throwin' rock or... something. Anything to make the roaring, hovering assclown just go away.

So... nothing important at all. Nobody's life is in danger, the neighborhood isn't being evacuated, there aren't armed and dangerous felons hopping through backyards. It's an absolute non-story, but that doesn't make any difference to the moron who demanded, "Get a chopper on it, now!"

For what it's worth, I could tell by the sound that there was only one helicopter in the area. That, and KABC-7 was the only channel showing news (er, "news") at that hour.

So, an open letter to all news directors and chopper dispatchers at TV stations everywhere: ask yourself, "Would it be worth having a droning, thrumming noise-machine parked over my house at fuck-all a.m. to see this story?" Hell, forget about the time, even. If no one is in imminent danger, if there's no reason people need the eye-in-the-sky view, then stop it.

Otherwise, you can just sit on your whirlybirds and spin. The whole lot of you useless twats. And, special message for KABC-7, from the LA Noise Ordinance:
(a)Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. of the following day, no person shall operate any lawn mower, backpack blower, lawn edger, riding tractor, or any other machinery, equipment, or other mechanical or electrical device, or any hand tool which creates a loud, raucous or impulsive sound, within any residential zone or within 500 feet of a residence...

(I)t shall be unlawful for any person to willfully make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any loud, unnecessary, and unusual noise which disturbs the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitiveness residing in the area. The standard which may be considered in determining whether a violation of the provisions of this section exists may include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) The level of noise;
(b) Whether the nature of the noise is usual or unusual;
(c) Whether the origin of the noise is natural or unnatural;
(d) The level and intensity of the background noise, if any;
(e) The proximity of the noise to residential sleeping facilities;
(f) The nature and zoning of the area within which the noise emanates;
(g) The density of the inhabitation of the area within which the noise emanates;
(h) The time of the day and night the noise occurs;
(i) The duration of the noise;
(j) Whether the noise is recurrent, intermittent, or constant; and
(k) Whether the noise is produced by a commercial or noncommercial activity.
This morning's little helicopter adventure went on for damn near an hour, with a repeat performance just before seven a.m.. And no doubt there are police witnesses, since the thing would have been just as audible from the police station down the street.

'Cause, it's the police who handle complaints of this nature.

Suck on that, ABC...

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