Wednesday, November 28, 2007

strike this post!

Happy endings? Those are for the movies.

Strikes. They are boring. Anyone who's walked a picket line for a week knows this. Strike pay? It's donuts and a refresher course in juvenile delinquency. That said, if one is reasonably assured that the strike won't carry on for a month or more, and that both sides are serious about negotiating, and if you got this months' rent covered along with pleny of food in the fridge and more in the pantry, then walking the picket line can elicit a certain sangfroid. This is especially true when the strikers are typically held more captive by a keyboard than the boardroom. Producing a couple of paragraphs of exquisite prose is enough for most writers to imagine they've been martyred in the process. It's rough business.

There is only ever one issue in a strike and that is MONEY, although there are several variations on the issue (i.e. salary, benefits, residuals). For some reason both sides frequently go to great lengths to insure us that "it's not about the money". Bathroom breaks may still be a problem in junior high and prison, but in the work place, money is more pressing. So after the issues have been discussed and with 7 hours and 45 minutes of picketing left in the day, it's easy to see why strikers develop novel ways to get even with the man. Besides, the MAN needs an occasional ass-whupping. If only we were better at it.

Back when KC was a union town, which is about as long ago as it was a jazz town, I was a member of the Retail Clerks Union which for those of you who live in a right-to-choose state or the 21-st century, means that when I belonged to this union and worked in a grocery store checking, bagging, unloading trucks, stocking shelves, working staggered shifts, nights, weekends, and most holidays, and generally providing you dear reader with the food and staples that you consume weekly, AT LEAST then as a union member I actually made ENOUGH money to rent a modest 1-bedroom efficiency apartment, pay my bills, take night classes at the local university, and plot my escape from said drudgery. My current status as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists indicates that the plan did work, even if the execution was somewhat messy and interrupted by numerous work stoppages. After 6 months as a labor union member, I was allowed to obtain health insurance and after 1 full-year of working was entitled to a paid 2-week vacation, at which point I discovered that there was more to life than working. That was over 25 years ago. We've made so much progress since then.

In 4 years as a trade unionist, I walked 3 picket lines. Once as clerk. Once with the meat-cutters. Once with the teamsters. Before these unions, excepting the teamsters (who just had one of their balls and/or ovaries handed to them) were crushed by bar-code scanners, factory farms, and mindless Republicanism, the careful staggering of union contracts coupled with the duty-bound honor code of not crossing another union's picket line meant that a combined strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters could seriously jeopardize your ability to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk on your way home from work. Americans take bread and milk for granted, just as they do the nightly network offerings. The work around for the absence of all three is easy in theory and difficult in practice because it involves self-restraint from the American consumer, a curious creature so misinformed that it thinks beer shouldn't have carbs and that reality can be discovered in an island off the coast of Borneo.

So with energy to burn, members of the Writers Guild of America are throwing their creative efforts at the new (read, now old) media of the internet which is at the heart of the labor disagreement. And WGA is finding it simultaneously easy and excruciatingly difficult to mine the medium. It's easy because they tend to have the basic tool, intellect, that made the internet interesting in the first place and they are adept at stringing together cogent sentences, complex thoughts, and tweaking your emotions. As their web presence indicates,they do these things for a living .

They also know when to pull STAR POWER (as frequently as possible!) because most of America and this includes the media really think they might have a chance with Laura Linney (or Don Cheadle), if only they could just have a few minutes with her/him over a glass of wine and a nice dinner. They, if anyone, would see us for who we really are. If the opportunity doesn't arise this week, well then, perhaps a short video (shhh! no talking, I want focus on the physicality of it!) is the next best thing to sex with a movie star. Maybe it is sex with a movie star.

It's difficult for WGA because the worst foil in the world in one that does nothing in response. The silent ogre in the battle is AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which in reality stands for Giant Soul Sucking Machine. Unlike the military, but almost as powerful, Hollywood has never been good with acronyms. AMPTP has more people, world-wide, addicted to their products than Big Tobacco and Big PHarma combined and they are just as benevolent. They make twice the money and have ten times the global influence, and much of it is not in our best interest. None of this is the fault of the writers.

It's also difficult for the WGA because the internet is full of the same wildly addicted personalities that can't get enough of CSI, Access Hollywood, Dancing with the Stars, Lost, 24, and the NFL on CBS pre-game show. As long as there's product that's reasonably entertaining and less stale than yesterday's bagel, many viewers (and much of APMTA) are happy enough. Product sells. Salvation does not. Silky Kumar was a shill. For a while no one knew. Now it doesn't matter. He's a star!

In a few short weeks WGA has been able guide about 60,000 people a day to their website, United Hollywood, which might be described as a sort of multi-plex of strike-related blogs. Sixty-thousand unique hits sounds like a lot until you discover that some unicycle dude has had a quarter-of-a-million page hits, your daughter loves Phil DeFranco more than Raymond, and more than 5 million people have seen the greatest hockey fight ever. Like sex for most Americans, these experiences rarely last more than 10 minutes uninterrupted, but unless you're fond of Masterpiece Theatre or have Showtime, nothing on your tv does either.

Soon. Hopefully. Eventually. The writers will get their 8 cents worth, that's all they're asking for and they deserve every penny of it and more, but this is Hollywood, not Disneyland. AMPTP doesn't give a damn dime when a nickel will do.

Once a deal is struck they'll be shouts and murmurs enough for wall-to-wall coverage for a week on all the networks. Star reaction to follow. Unless of course, it coincides with the onset of OJ's latest trial and we all know that story, ABSOLUTELY, will be the lead. Why? Because content providers don't own the medium. Content providers only have a tiny say in the medium. The one medium content providers do (or did?) own by proxy or sheer numbers, the internet, is quickly being purchased by those who want to sell it back to them. That rogue television channel, YouTube, now offers scrolling add bars. In the interest of truth-in-advertising can we change the tag line to Broadcast Someone Else or has that web site already been taken?

elsewhere:
united hollywood
speechless: the vlogs

and even farther away:
the greatest unedited fight in the history of motion pictures


an in another galaxy altogether:
Giant Soul Sucking Machine

m.o.i.:strike this post!

1 comment:

John "Jerk" LaPointe Navarre said...

haha, tony jaa is the most excellent martial arts actor i've ever seen. all of his movies are jaw dropping.