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Archive for the ‘WGA Strike’ Category

Scabs

I keep up with the latest in WGA Strike news by reading a few online update sites. I’ve been increasingly aware of just how bizarre the state of modern unionisation has become. The latest controversy is that a few days ago Jay Leno returned to work with The Tonight Show, saying that 160 people shouldn’t lose their jobs just to get the writers what the writers want. Leno (a WGA member) wrote that show’s monologue and now there’s a debate at some LA paper as to whether or not the journalist covering the strike should have called Leno a “scab” in the article covering the story.

I didn’t grow up in a union household. The closest I came was my dad’s brother, a member of the UAW and an employee of International Harvester. The UAW struck against IH around 1978 or so, I remember my uncle and a few men at our church being out of work for a very long time. The men at my church got different jobs paying a lot less money after several months of striking. My uncle eventually went back to work, but had to move out of state to do so. I remember them struggling for money and being grateful when The Union dropped off a bag of groceries. My dad was ticked because he thought The Union should be ashamed at keeping my uncle–a father of four–out of work for months and trying to buy him off with a sack of food.

So that’s where I stand with unions, I guess. In reading that scuffle in the LA paper though, something struck me about the strike.

I wonder if the people inside unions realise that most of the country is now not unionised.  I suppose there was a time in our country where calling someone a scab or accusing them of strikebreaking was a dire thing akin to calling down fire from above.    Now, though, it’s sort of the equivalent of calling someone “four-eyes” or “Irish” or one of the other supposedly-perjorative names that are now just harmless statements of fact.

Frankly, I admire anyone who will Be A Scab or Cross  A Picket Line if that means that more people can go back to work.   Leno’s show had 165 people who were going to lose their jobs for the sake of 19 writers on the show.   I’m not a whiz at math, but 165 is (I think) bigger than 19.   Having just watched a family member be out of work for 7 months, I’m not eager to see anyone else live that drama.

So toss around arcane names like “scab” all you want, but I’m betting that a majority of Americans see it my way.  It’s not 1919 anymore.

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In a conversation about the WGA Strike (no,this post isn’t about that…) a few days ago, Jackson Miller said that the true future of revenue in television was most likely in product placement. I’ve been re-reading that statement in my head over the last week, and I have to tell you. I think Jackson is dead-on. And I have to further tell you that I think I find product placement in my shows both entertaining and memorable. For the most part, that is.

I was watching NCIS [shut up! It's a good show!] last night, and the Diet Coke product placement was both subtle and entertaining, but I remembered the product. Arrested Development‘s tie-ins with Burger King were hysterical and left me craving BK for a week afterward.

All of that being said, I am sick and tired of the product placement in the reality shows I watch. I’m not big on most reality TV because I just don’t find it all that entertaining, but I will cop to both Little People, Big World and Deadliest Catch. After last night, though, I’m about ready to cancel my season pass to LPBW. It’s been obvious for awhile that Matt Roloff is gaming the popularity of the show to cash in on endorsements and product placement. I started watching the show to see how someone with a unique condition faces the obstacles and challenges of daily life. I kept watching because I liked the family dynamic. But now? I can’t help but think all of the strategic product placement is ruining the show AND the kids. On the last episode there were 4 minutes devoted to watching Amy Roloff and two of the kids play with a new Wii. We even got a close-up of the box and a mention of the product name. A recent episode mentioned “Mountain Dew” about 11 times. [Don't even get me started on all of the underwritten trips and home improvements that I initially whined about a year ago.]

I guess I don’t mind seeing products crop up in a subtle way when the show works them into the plot. But when the entire point of the show is diverted to such mindless pursuits as “watch us play with our Wiis!” then I feel like I’ve been tricked into an infomercial.

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Fight Your Own Battles

Oh please, Damon Lindelhof. Get real. You sound like a buggy whip maker outside the first Ford plant.

If television truly dies, you all are euthanising it with this strike.

But that’s not the point I want to make. The point that the libertarian in me is dying to make right now is that this is one of the stupidest statements I’ve read in a long time:

Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made.

But I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip.

Honestly, this glory-hallelujah talk about future generations of writers is, frankly, absurd. It’s an arty extension of “do it for the CHIIIILDREN!” and it’s a naked quest to impart one’s life with meaning beyond his own temporal existence.

I find myself agreeing with the writers in the abstract. They do deserve fair remuneration for their work. I like to see merit-based pay scales, and that’s what residuals translate to–the better the show or film the more viewers it has and the greater the residual payout.

But all of this high-flown gab sounds increasingly like a large passel of drama queens who, very deep down, wish their life was more interesting than it is. It’s the same sort of reaction that drove me nuts about the whole Jena 6 thing. Many people currently have pretty comfortable lives. They aren’t faced with any direct hardship; we don’t even have a problem with strawberries being out of season anymore.

I suppose it’s natural to crave a bit of excitement and to want to feel as though you are part of a larger force for change. It’s why people go to church, volunteer for charities and wear ribbons and (red). I shouldn’t also be surprised that a bunch of television and movie writers have a tendency to speak in narcissistic hyperbole.

But, really, this is an argument over how many pennies the writer gets for a download of “Joanie Loves Chachi.” It’s hardly manning the barricades.

And therein the problem with modern entertainment. Someone–I think it was Joss Whedon–actually said that storytelling was a greater necessity for humanity than clothing or shelter. While that may be true on one level, I highly doubt that there are people out there struggling to put a story over their heads. No one ever says “come on! Baby needs a new pair of stories!” At its most basic level, storytelling is a part of all our legacies, and for many thousands of years it was–hold on to your hats–free. Mothers told stories to children, husbands told stories to wives. In the whole of human history, wealthy writers are a recently new development. Writers became wealthy because consumers were willing to pay for stories. This strike punishes the paying consumer, and killing that bird in the hand for some mythical future writers in the bush is a classically stupid move.

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They may be on strike, but the WGA folks are still amusing me. The “Why We Fight” video is everywhere these days, and the first few seconds of it never fail to make me laugh.

When an author writes a book, they get paid for every copy sold.

I’ve written a couple of (small) books. I was also a Licensing Administrator for a publisher, which means that I was the person who filled in the blanks on the contracts, made sure they were signed and then mailed out the checks to the authors for every copy of their book sold. I’m also currently writing my own fiction books, and am very up to date on the fiction publishing market.

Now, the WGA video shows a Harry Potter book cover when it’s talking about the money authors make. Trust me right now when I promise you that J.K. Rowling is one of a kind as far as book earnings go.

Let’s walk through a more typical author’s contract.

1. It starts with an advance. (more…)

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[I'm going to be writing a lot on this blog about the WGA strike because that's what's capturing my attention right now. I'm doing my best to tag them with "WGA Strke", so if you see that under the title and don't wish to read the whole thing, that bothers me not.]

In all of the talk about how the writers are being treated unfairly–and I don’t yet know if they are–and how we’ll all be watching Big Brother Survives The Amazing Kid Nation for the whole of 2008, I’ve yet to see much talk about the other people who are forced to go without work because of this strike. Bits and pieces are starting to crop up around the web, and make for some ponderous reading.
(more…)

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Yesterday at MCB I felt like I took a bit of a drubbing (especially from Andy Axel) for my position on the WGA strike. Not that I can’t handle drubbing–I’m fine with it–but I feel as though I didn’t clearly express myself.

Thank heaven for This guy who had nearly the same reaction to the Infamous Office Writers’ Video that I had…but said it better.

Writers don’t get paid for downloads! I’m not the first geek to say this, but, yeah. Duh. Welcome to the internet.


when writers’ work appears on the internet, they don’t get paid. And they’re saying this on YouTube, where millions of people post their original work, for free, every day. Am I the only one who sees a bit of irony in this?

The WGA is okay with using the ease of distribution on the internet to spread messages, so long as the message is to pay them for their other messages.


And I hate to break this to you, but none of us are making any money out here. I know, you heard the words “YouTube” and “Facebook” and “billions” in the same sentence a lot, but those are company valuations (and crazy ones at that). Even they haven’t figured out how to monetize the content yet.

(And, yes, that was the first time I’ve used the phrase “monetize the content” here. I feel as bad about it as you do.)

If you keep kvetching about people seeing your work online without you getting your cut, you’re going to stop sounding like writers who need our support, and start sounding like the RIAA which has made a business out of fighting new technology tooth and nail. And, personally, that’s where my support ends.

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It’s really hard being a libertarian sometimes. My parents were down here a couple of weekends ago and we had a long sort-of talk about how I’m wrong to be so, well, libertarian. It makes me feel bad because I like to please my parents and yet I like also to be intellectually and spiritually consistent. Libertarianism is the only way I can do that.

There are times I fantasise about going back to Republicanism, but then I think of how the Republicans in office are in many ways indistinguishable from the Democrats in office. As far as spending goes, that is. I’d also like to say there are times when I flirt with Liberalism and then I realise that, well, it just cannot happen. I can’t condone Forcing Your Way To Doing Good.

I suppose “libertarianism” is the best way I can think of to say “look, we’re all adults here.”

I’m not a pot smoker. Whether or not I’m a gun nut remains to be seen. But there are some other things about me on my mind tonight.

  • I have to have two procedures where they snake cameras down your throat and up your bum. I don’t mind the idea of that so much, as I’ll be asleep for the whole thing. Or so they’ve promised. What I AM dreading is that apparently I have to buy this nasty beverage stuff and drink it by the gallon. I’m quite terrified of that. I plan to spend the next 10 days dreading the thought of drinking that ooze. The doctor has promised I may take my phenergan, so there’s that anyway.
  • I’m supposed to be writing a 50K word novel for this National Novel Writing Month challenge. I’ve hardly written anything because I am just petrified and I don’t know why. In case you haven’t noticed I haven’t even been blogging. I’m like one of those guys who tells everyone he’s a poet but has never written a poem. It’s shameful.
  • I’m almost irrationally angry at the striking writers in Hwood. Intellectually I see their point, but functionally I’m just seething. I don’t ask much from these people. Just give me a couple hours two or three nights a week of something I can look forward to. Something which takes my mind of my world and transports me someplace else. We have an agreement. I’ll put my books down and step away from Age Of Mythology on the Mac [blast them for not releasing the Titans expansion pack for this platform]. You’ll churn out something at least PASSABLE. How hard is that? I know everyone’s fighting over what they think is right and that’s okay, but here’s the deal. I can just as easily go back to my books and my games and my knitting to Books on CD or whatever. Those few hours I gave you each week can become filled with something else pretty easily. It’s like how when I went to Florida my boyfriend took another girl to the Beach Boys concert with the tickets I bought him. I wasn’t there so he found something else to amuse him. If you all aren’t careful I’ll go to the Beach Boys with Civilization IV. That’s all I’m saying.

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