11.25.2007

This place is turning into fucking Russia (2)

Yeah, yeah, I know it's Canada. The point is that increasing we seem to have split the difference on the Cold War.

11.17.2007

Signs of the times

How to profit from a 'police state'. Great quote:

"There are ways for cynical investors to make a buck off the new world disorder, and that is by considering investments in companies that supply security guards, build and staff prisons, and run psychiatric hospitals. It is an unsavory business, to be sure, that has had run-ins with the law, politicians and common sense. "

11.16.2007

Brush with greatness

Today, while chatting on the line at Universal, Harlan Ellison upbraided me for using "like" too much.

I was too afraid to tell him about my sentence structure.

I don't even know

What to say about this Zizek piece:

"One of the clearest lessons of the last few decades is that capitalism is indestructible. Marx compared it to a vampire, and one of the salient points of comparison now appears to be that vampires always rise up again after being stabbed to death. Even Mao’s attempt, in the Cultural Revolution, to wipe out the traces of capitalism, ended up in its triumphant return."
Yes, well, it was certainly a tragedy that the Cultural Revolution didn't work out quite the way it was expected.

One might say that since, like the laws of gravity, it is here to stay, but, unlike gravity, we can change it, then we ought to tame the beast, do what we can to make us ride upon the railroad and keep the railroad from riding upon us. But that's not Zizek's answer. His answer is -- Hugo Chavez!

It is striking that the course on which Hugo Chávez has embarked since 2006 is the exact opposite of the one chosen by the postmodern Left: far from resisting state power, he grabbed it (first by an attempted coup, then democratically), ruthlessly using the Venezuelan state apparatuses to promote his goals. Furthermore, he is militarising the barrios, and organising the training of armed units there. And, the ultimate scare: now that he is feeling the economic effects of capital’s ‘resistance’ to his rule (temporary shortages of some goods in the state-subsidised supermarkets)[Ed. note - !!!], he has announced plans to consolidate the 24 parties that support him into a single party. Even some of his allies are sceptical about this move: will it come at the expense of the popular movements that have given the Venezuelan revolution its élan? However, this choice, though risky, should be fully endorsed: the task is to make the new party function not as a typical state socialist (or Peronist) party, but as a vehicle for the mobilisation of new forms of politics (like the grass roots slum committees).
Yeah, yeah. Even if you think Chavez gets demonized a little too much in the American press, you can see where this is going, can't you? A Revolución Cultural!

And they say intellectuals have no common sense. Is it me, or does this essay give you a craving for Starbucks?

(h/t: AL Daily.)

Our methods

I was writing a big long post about various strike criticisms and abandoned it. Not just because I was as usual sick of my writing; but also I felt myself getting in the weeds a little bit. This is what I get for thinking too hard about stuff left in a comments section.

However, let me pull out one little thing: that our striking methods aren't sufficiently badass, what with the kids and the gays and the people playing guitar. To that I say: we can only be who we are. And we are people in the entertainment business. We're all looking at our finances and getting scared. We all realize that the crew people are also out of work (although not if they work on movies, not yet). We all realize -- well, most of us do -- that fighting for our fair share is going to move the Social Justice meter* a little less than janitors getting their fair share. But we're in the entertainment business. We deranged our personalities to be this way.

And besides, the Teamsters are the only people who we can really keep from crossing, and that's going to happen even if the "line" consists of two wispy guitar dudes. Although if the Teamster happened to run over the dudes' guitars while backing up, that wouldn't be a tragedy at all.

11.15.2007

11.12.2007

More from United Hollywood

Via Artful Writer:

LA liberals not so green after all

So years ago I signed up for the LA DWP's Green Power program. I pay about 5 bucks a month more for power and they say it comes from dams and wind and shit. I just got my "annual report" on it (printed, naturally, on offwhite recycled paper). Guess how many customers are willing to pay a surcharge to grow green power:

22,860.

That's less than 2%. Granted, if giving the power company extra money isn't a luxury good, I don't know what is, but still -- it's not that much, and it can't be that much of a scam, or DWP would be promoting it more. Sheesh.

11.09.2007

The rally

was awesome, by the way. I've been working out here a long time, and I saw people from every show I've worked on, and then some. Even actors from shows I've worked on. I didn't hear any speeches or anything, I was too busy schmoozing -- but that did as much for my morale as any speech. Even the bitterest, most cynical people I know are determined and ready for a long haul. It was quite inspiring and fun.

When things go well in this business, we have the greatest jobs in the world. But the more we allow the studios to disrespect us financially, the more we'll be disrespected creatively. And the jobs will start to suck. I'm perfectly willing to make a money-for-freedom trade -- that's what it is to work on a cable show. But I want to share in success. That's all we're asking.

Plus, there were free bagels and coffee from William Morris.

So my copy of Entertainment Weekly comes

and naturally they've got their lead on the writers' strike. The pictures in the lead spread are:

• Tina Fey, with some kind of crazy come-hither look on her face. It's not quite come-hither, though. I don't even know how the hell to describe it. Anyway, Tina Fey.
• Julia Louis-Dreyfus, shouting.
• And the back of a writer. How would the people in Entertainment Weekly react if they saw the face of a writer? Although now that I pose that question, good call, EW. You don't want to lose votes in the heartland by showing them the face of our (frequently rootless-cosmopolitan, or urban, or just snotty in general) guild.

Also note: no disrespect to T. Fey, who is obviously an awesome writer, or J. Louis-Dreyfus, who I saw today at the rally just standing in some shade like a regular person. And in fact SAG has been great. I've heard some sneering about how these stars are only doing it to get on TV, and maybe there's some truth in it, but there's more truth in this: when you work on a TV show (as opposed to a movie), the actors and writers get to know each other. And there is team spirit. It's mostly TV stars out there, partly because the movie stars are still working, but also because the TV stars have seen us bust our ass for them (as they have for us, frequently bailing us out with excellent acting on our off-days). Good on you, SAG. It's okay that your random members come to my line with their hair done.

11.07.2007

Why we fight (3)

I have been asked to forward this three-minute video on what our issues are:

Where is the FreeDarko of hockey?

The fact that Free Darko can claim an Yglesias makes me wonder. Theory of Ice has some nice theory, but it isn't pop enough. Of course, hockey isn't particularly pop, either.

On the line

Nikki Finke chronicles all the nice things that stars and agents are doing for the striking writers. Will the cookies still be coming six weeks from now? Twelve weeks? Twenty? Because that's what it's going to take, I'm afraid.

11.06.2007

Quis custodiet etc.

The Agonist:

"While all mass conscription societies aren’t democracies (the USSR, for example), few democracies aren’t societies where mass military manpower has been used. The US has been and continues to move away from that model, while having a military that self-identifies with one political party, is trying to reduce its reliance on manpower, uses mercenaries and foreigners extensively and shows greater and greater restiveness at laws that restrict its ability to operate in the US or engage directly in politics. The culture of civilian control over the military has been waning as well, with the deliberate cultivation of the attitude that those who haven't served have no moral right to so much as criticize anything the military does, let alone tell it what to do

Great nations, great republics, are rarely destroyed from the outside: they almost always rot from within or are destroyed by their own defenders."

Why we fight (2)

Variety:

"Another senior agent estimated that current studio residual payouts are around $55 million, and that if the studios upped that 20%, the writers would be overjoyed.

'Even if they doubled that figure, when you share that cost between signatory companies, it would be less than they spend on a G-4 jet or even what they spend to redecorate the offices of top executives,' said the agent. 'Studios are being piggish, and when you look at the spillover effect, and how many businesses from messengers to florists will be decimated, the cost just doesn't justify the pain.'"
That's what makes me think this strike is to break the union.

Writers Strike FAQs

(Ed. -- I wrote this and sent it into the paper, but they passed, so I'm posting it here.)


WRITERS STRIKE FAQs

So you Hollywood writers are on strike, huh?

Yes. Our demands concern residuals –that is, our share of revenues from the content we create – and how, with the Internet a growing --

Right, right. So, what does a Hollywood writer do during a strike – switch to domestic wine?

Nice try, smartass. Writers Guild members, prepared for the producers’ intransigence, have been stockpiling inexpensive Chilean vintages. More to the point, the producers’ lawyerly definition of “promotional use” –

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

Maybe it’s because we’re in BMWs that we’re grateful to our union for having stood up in the past.

Dude, don’t get preachy.

Sorry. It’s just that residuals are a kitchen-table issue to us during times we’re not working. The producers are looking for ways to end that system, so we’re touchy. Go ahead, ask your question again.

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

“Until you’ve been on strike in Dolby Surround Sound, you haven’t really been on strike.” Is that better?

Come on, Preachy Q. McRighteous, you admit that millionaires on strike is pretty funny, right?

The standard disclaimer is that the average writer makes far less, but there are some who own one-bedroom fifth-floor walkup apartments in New York City, so yes, some of us are millionaires.

And yes, I know that writers on a picket line is funny and incongruous. It’s like the way politicians look when they’re trying to pretend that they like to kick back on Sunday and enjoy the NFL, when we know they’ve spent every Sunday since high school laying out their clothes for the week and reading about our troubled aquifers. But this is a negotiation, and you don’t have leverage in a negotiation unless you can walk away. In our case, that’s a strike.

You’re not going to try to make a larger point, are you?

I was going to – about how, in an era of gigantic media consolidation, there ought to be some support for Galbraith-style countervailing power, or about how unionization might be a good idea in other incongruous fields (how else are doctors going to stop HMOs pushing them around?) or how the producers’ proposal is symptomatic of the overcompensated managerial class’s contempt for anyone outside of that class. But instead I’ll just write the following jokes:

• My carpal-tunnel wrist brace will come in handy carrying the picket signs.

• I hope the production assistants’ union isn’t on strike, or who will get me coffee?

• We have to picket outside? The “outside” is exactly what I became a writer to avoid!

• To boost morale, there will be a benefit concert performance of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

• Although we are disgruntled, we are willing to accept a fair deal even if it only offers partial gruntlement.

Well, those are going to be the cleverest picket signs ever, right?

No. In the words of a more famous cranky writer, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

11.05.2007

Bad ethanol!

CIP is always blunter than I would be, but yeah, ethanol is bad -- not as bad as coal, but still. Think of all the fossil fuel it takes to make ethanol.

If there's a better way, like some say there has to be, ethanol isn't it.

11.04.2007

I'm starting to get nervous about some of this strike shit

I was at the WGA building today, loading stuff up on the vans for tomorrow's picketing. And I learned that there are chants. You know, like "What do we want? [Insert demand] When do we want it? Now."

Oh no. On the other hand one must do something to pass the time, and I'm sure none of us know the "Internationale".

Otherwise it feels weird. For us, the tribe of writers, this is a borderline-existential confrontation, and yet the rest of the world -- while hearing about it because, what the hell, it's entertainment news -- could give a shit. So, although I feel a little apocalyptic, I think that the rhetoric isn't really justified except when I am among my own. So I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho/Overheated rhetoric has got to go."

11.03.2007

Green envelope

I got one today. It means a residual -- in this case, for a show I worked on eight years ago. Talk about "show 'em what you're fighting for" -- there couldn't be a better reminder of how important the residual system is. Especially when you're unemployed, as I would have been either way, strike or no strike.

Aux armes, citoyens!