This chubby little kid in madras plaid pants is so excited to hold a real microphone in his sticky little hand that you want to squeeze his cheeks till they pop.
"This is breaking, breaking news action!" he says, looking at the camera with all the intensity of a young Edward R. Murrow. "A car accident! Well, the road was wet. The brakes locked up, they skidded the road, came over, hit the telephone pole there, up there, spun out, hit that dirt pile and that's the way it ended. The cops was here, everybody was here, a lot of lights ... And, uh, that's the way it was."
That footage, from the short documentary Greetings from Lanesville, is just one sample of moving imagery on mediaburn.org, a Web site featuring 30 years' worth of television and early independent video archived online. Culled by filmmaker Tom Weinberg, the collection is like the Library of Congress meets America's Funniest Home Video without the drooling babies and stupid pet tricks. Watch footage of the 1972 Democratic National Convention and early films by well-known Chicago filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, but nothing beats the really obscure stuff, such as the town gossip that Lanesville TV news station records from the side of the road in the Catskills: Bubba just bought two cows, a brown one and a white one, explains one nonplussed, gangly teen on camera. As Bart Friedman, strolling anchor, puts it: "Sometimes peanuts, sometimes shells. Sometimes you get nothin'. But it's worth trying, you know?'"Rebecca Mazzei is the arts editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]