Monday, December 31, 2007

All Years Leaving

Well, 2007, the time has come for you to be on your way. I know you had a fine time, causing as much mayhem as you possibly could. Your most recent path of destruction was particularly horrible, and just proved how sociopathic you've been.

You were a nasty, unforgiving, brutal fucking year, and frankly, we're glad you be rid of you. So off you go, then. You can leave the three or four good things you did and take the rest of your awfulness with you. We don't want 2008 to be influenced by its violent older brother.

Don't bother coming back. You're dead to me. I've saged the room, so be warned.

For a recap of anything good that happened in 2007, everybody should just go watch "Best Year Ever." But I'm wondering if, even in fun, they can call it that and not burst into tears.

I thought I'd wrap up any old 2007 comments, so we could all start with a fresh slate. Sure, we'll all be talking about the same old shit next year but at least it'll be shined and buffed by the promise of 2008, and not the car crash of 2007. Is it just me, or do the aughts feel like the 90s, only more expensive and with slightly better music?

Come on, 2008. Prove me wrong, sweetie.

Tim W.,

I appreciate how moderate you're trying to be, and I don't want to beat this pony any longer, but just a comment on the following:

Now as to the negotiations themselves, I understand completely that the AMPTP walked away, and I also understand they are not exactly being fair, to put it mildly. But if the other side starts to walk in one directions, you don't walk in the other just to spite them. And no one, outside of the negotiating committees really knows what's going on behind closed doors. Both sides are trying to spin things to their end. Sure, I'm more likely to believe the WGA, but in a situation like this, you take what either side says with a grain of salt.


The right answer to "What do you do if the other side scampers off in a different direction?" is not "Why, run after them, of course!" The WGA is not becoming more militant. The deal the guild just signed with Letterman's company was the December 7th offer, not some new, radical offer that the AMPTP had never heard before. The WGA looks militant because the AMPTP is trying to make them look militant.

And you, my fine friend, are drinking that particular fruit drink.

Jake,

I'm telling you that the AMPTP is out to ruin everything sacred and good, including the Dodgers. and putting in Mazin as "the voice" would just about kill me...


Most. Frightening. Thing. EVER.

Now I read that Craig is "apologizing" for his words and actions being turned against him? Say, what?! Like his words and actions weren't damaging to those of us out on the lines everyday?


I'm a little late to this one, but yeah. I'm still puzzled as to what was taken out of context because the LA Times article seemed entirely consistent with what Craig said on his blog. Now, he may not have intended that to be the case, but that's how it reads. And it's pretty sad if a professional writer can't make his intentions clear.

Back to the Dodgers: only 66 days to catchers and pitchers report for spring training. Which means Vin can't be far behind. Yippee.


With ya there. Looks like they felt bad that all the Dodgers-turned-drug-pushers are not longer Dodgers, so they signed a backup catcher who was embroiled in that scene. Nicely done, my lads. But is there any better time than spring training? For me, it's the promise of baseball entwined with the promise of the Derby horses. A totally awesome time. I'll warn y'all when the racing posts are coming up. I don't do it to torture you guys.

Much.

Who knows, maybe there'll be a signed deal by then. And a good one for the WGA.


That would be phenomenal. I think the Letterman deal is a good thing; it shows the WGA can make a deal, and it puts pressure on the other late-night shows. Not just the writing, mind; but the guests. Now, it's incumbent upon the WGA members to picket the hell out of these shows. Let's see who crosses the picket lines.

Anonymous (LOVE the name! So bold!) had the balls to post this:
Wanna knew why Christmas sucks this year? Stop scratching your heads in wonderment, stop feverishly outwriting each other on screenwriting blogs and Listen Up --


Ironically, Anonymous is trying to outwrite everybody on screenwriting blogs. But let's see what he/she/it has to say:

the WGA is getting laughed out of the negotiating room by the Producers for bringing Reality to the table and here's why. Verron and company made the attempt to organize reality a awhile back and it flopped like a dying fish and the writers of America's Next Top Model all lost their jobs. Why did it flop? Not because the Producers brought the hammer down -- of course they brought the hammer down! No, it flopped because the WGA rank and file, despite their current red t-shirt, little red cookbook, coal-miners, Norma Rae, power to the people rhetoric, didn't support it.
Yes, I know a few real writers came out and walked the lines with these folks (this is your cue to chime in if you were there, I have no doubt you will), but face it, it was overall a pathetic show of support. The rest not only didn't support it, most pretended they didn't even know it was happening. Hands over ears La-la-la-la-I'm busy on a spec, I'm busy on a pilot, I have a meeting for a big job.


First of all, you don't understand what constitutes a negotiation. I am sick to death of belaboring the obvious, so go look it up.

Why was it a pathetic display of support? Here's why. And brace yourself: because the rank and file of the WGA (most, I'll venture an opinion) don't consider the people that make Survivor, Amazing Race, Top Chef or any of it, real writing. They are an elitist organization, pure and simple. Now, I'm sort of OK with that. Elitist suggests elite. Elitist often works (Harvard, MIT, anyone?) But it's true. Go to artfulwriter.com, find the thread on 'reality campaign is dead' and read it. Read Josh Olson's oh-so-witty rants about how it's not real writing. He makes a damn compelling case for Reality not being written. Find how many WGA members include laaa-ser quotes around the word writing. It's all there. Pre-strike Truth. Of course now they want reality to stand up en masse and walk out on their 3000 week Survivor” paychecks (not writing) so the folks on According to Jim (writing) can get their fair share. Now they need reality writers for the cause. Welcome 'writers'! They say. But see it reeks of desperation and hypocrisy.


I don't have to read what Josh wrote, because I read it back then and I agree with it. I think there are reasons it would be good to have the reality folks in the WGA, but they have nothing to do with writing. I want to make those fucking shows as expensive as possible to produce, and I want our pension and health funds to grow as fat as possible. Yes, it's purely selfish on my part. But whether or not I think what they do is writing is, frankly, irrelevant. They deserve and desperately need to be organized. They are being treated horribly and unfairly, and I believe the labor board is looking into the conditions under which the reality folks work.

As for being elitist, fuck you. Just because I worked my ass off to become a part of the WGA doesn't mean I went to Harvard. I didn't. I went to a state university, and not UCLA. I don't have family money, okay? And many of my writer friends didn't even fucking GO to college. Learn something before you get all het up.

I do find it ironic that you're all pissed off that the WGA members were too busy decorating their second homes to support the ANTM dispute. While there have been a smattering of reality folks out there on the lines, the majority are working feverishly on the reality shows that are going to replace scripted programming. If they really, truly wanted to be a part of the WGA, shouldn't they be out on the lines? I think they need to get their organizational shit together before they can join a guild or a union. But should they be organized? Without a doubt, yes. If it's the WGA, fine. If it's something else, great. But people should not be treated this way.

It's also interesting that you don't seem to feel strongly about the animation writers, and their plight is a real crime. The studios are making assloads of money off the animation writers, and they are actual real live WRITERS.

The Producers see it as much as I do. Yes, the reality writers/editors (preditors, they are called, and they can create a compelling story out of a close up of a stick of butter and a soundbite from Mother Teresa -- they are storytellers, folks) need coverage, they need benefits, they work too many hours. Fo sho. But many of the ones I know would rather continue working that way, and find their own way through the dark woods of show business than run after Shawn Ryan's WGA bus (it's a tour bus, actually, very sleek), hoping it will slow down to pick them up. Then, of course, take a welcome seat...in the back. I support the WGA 100 percent and hope they bring these crusty old billionaires to their crusty old knees. But stop being such obvious opportunists. Your enemies are not idiots. They see the game that's being played out and are laughing at the obviousness of the strategy.


More irony. Because you don't seem to understand the strategy at work here. Just think, for a bitty moment, about the structure of a negotiation. Just THINK about it. And then understand that jurisdiction is not won during a labor negotiation. Seriously, this isn't hard. And tell your reality show friends to fucking ORGANIZE, even if they do it amongst themselves. They need to do that FIRST.

Let me anticipate your well-formed, well-written come-backs: 1) I'm aiding and abetting right now because in wartime, dissension is Morally Wrong or at the very least just Not Cool. I Disagree. 2) I have no stake in the fight. I definately do.
My suggested solution? Just be elitist, for chrissake! Embrace it. Stop painting yourselves Blue Collar or Red T-shirt. Stop confusing the issues. Stop giving your enemies ammo. They may be rich, but they aren't stupid. Just be writers! Forget Reality. It's too late to make that case. You had your chance. Besides, nobody ever apologized for going to MIT, and they certainly wouldn't bring Bowling Green alumni to help them in a crunch. Or is it Bowling Green. At the very least, be consistent. Your leadership doesn't understand how you feel. They might actually think that Reality writing is ...writing. Most of you, based on the past facts of your union ...don't.


Man. You are ALL over the place, aren't you? I don't take you seriously when you say you have a stake because I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU FUCKING ARE. So that point is moot. You can disagree with anything you want to, and I can disagree right back. But because I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU FUCKING ARE, YOU COWARD, even your disagreement is negated. Your terror at the reality show thing and your obvious reverse snobbery concerning writers tells me what you DO, but not specifically who you are.

Basically, you don't get it. So I'll urge you to just take a deep breath and calm down. Think. Use your cabeza. Your noggin. Your melon. And have a nice, relaxing New Year. Okay?

Bill wonders what I think about this article
from the LA Times.

While I think it's good that writers are looking to the internet, one thing we must be cognizant of is how we're doing it. The internet isn't simply TeeVee on the computer, and it shouldn't be treated as such. Look at QuarterLife. This is a show that was developed for network, and not much has changed since it went to the internet. If all we're going to do is take failed and/or unproduced pilots and put them on the internet, we will not succeed. The potential audience on the internet is a new generation of viewer. Networks have already been freaking out about how the way people are watching TeeVee is changing. Now, audiences don't have to wait for anything. Want a song you just heard on the radio? You can buy it from iTunes moments later. Miss an episode of TeeVee? iTunes, or Bittorrent. You don't even have to be present to record your favorite shows. Just one push of a button programs a Season Pass on your TiVo or cable/satellite DVR. "Spoiler" has become a part of our lexicon. In the far-off past, you had to watch something when it was on, or you missed it for good. But now, you can watch TeeVee at your leisure, so there's no longer any such thing as a water-cooler show. People don't gather to watch shows, not nearly as much as they used to. We used to take it for granted that after watching something on Thursday, we could safely talk about it on Friday. But that's not the case anymore, so it's a lot harder to build a phenomenon. You don't have to rush home to find out who shot J.R. anymore. You don't have to watch commercials (unless you're at the movies, in which case you PAY for the pleasure).

And, most importantly, we're living in an instantaneous society that moves so quickly, it gives everything potential meta value. Was the "Leave Britney Alone" guy being serious, or ironic? Doesn't matter. He's now a celebrity. We treat the Lindsay Lohan trainwreck like a sitcom, because it appears alongside the Britney guy. We don't know what's real anymore because reality and meta-reality exist next to each other. The creators of Lonelygirl15 understood this and although the show wasn't entirely successful on a story level, it was insanely important on a meta-cultural level. The debate became less about the plot and more about the question of whether or not it was real. If you turn on the TeeVee and there's a living room with a laugh track, you know you're watching a sitcom. There's nothing the writers can do to make you think otherwise, and the network wouldn't let them even if they tried. "The Daily Show" may approximate a real news show, but you know it isn't, no matter how prescient it is. The act of turning on the television puts you, the viewer, into a familiar box.

The internet isn't like that, which is a large part of why people are fascinated with it. Anybody can shoot video and put it up. You don't see a "created by" credit. There isn't that familiar "let us entertain you" vibe that most of us are so used to with television. But the real point is, there's an entire generation that is growing up with MetaLife and it's our stodgy old TeeVee viewing habits which are confusing to them. The reasons they watch have changed. They DO watch with a different point of view.

They aren't passive observers. They are involved and invested in their online, "web 2.0" experience. They make anarchist videos from clips they find on the internet and post them on YouTube. They create fake social profiles on Facebook. They buy virtual gold from gold farmers so they can power up in WOW. They create whole worlds of machinimas INSIDE the already virtual world of Second Life. Simply putting a TeeVee show on the internet isn't going to be of any interest to them, unless you speak their language. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay understand this a little bit. Although FunnyOrDie.com is obviously a haven for comedy sketches, the outrageousness of some of the films shows me that they get that the internet is a different animal. They'll do faux "outtakes" from "Knocked Up" that mimic real-life shit that's been on the internet. The viewer knows it's not real, but it's so meta that he doesn't care. So far, comedy has worked much better on the 'net than has drama. But then comedy's always been the first to break the fourth wall.

So yes, it's good the writers are turning to the internet. The strike videos have been numerous and, for the most part, really fun and enjoyable. But we have to WANT to go the internet. And right now, it feels like we're being pushed there because of the strike. We need to take a step back and really ask ourselves, How do we do this and make it a great experience for the viewer, as well as for us?

My take, anyway.

I wanted to leave you, gentle readers, with my favorite moment from the 2007 TeeVee season. It's Don's Kodak pitch from the season finale of "Mad Men." This moment barely edges out Andy Milman's confession on "Celebrity Big Brother." It does so because it's the perfect example of how quietly unexpected and brilliant "Mad Men" could be. To set it up without giving anything away, Don's suburban life is perfect only on the surface. His family is going to go on their Thanksgiving trip without him, and this pitch is Don's realization of how much they mean to him. The pictures, for those of you who haven't yet seen the show, are of Don and his family.

This is brilliant, simple storytelling. It's story threads being woven together to fully illuminate Don's realization, while also staying true to the period and to the plot elements of the show -- Don as a high-powered ad exec for Sterling-Cooper, trying to win an important account for a product that's stumped everybody. Even if you haven't seen the show, PLEASE watch this clip. It sums up what I hope to accomplish with everything I write:

The Carousel.

Happy New Year. Thanks for reading the blog, and I hope to have a new post up soon. That is, of course, my first New Year's resolution.

np -- Middleman, "Good To Be Back."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Christmas Shoes

Us writers have spent the past seven weeks trying to figure out how the AMPTP monolith thinks. The theory is, if we can grok that, we can bring this strike to an end. And what better time to see the good in everybody than the holiday season?

Much to my surprise, I have learned that the favorite Christmas song of the monolith is Bob Carlisle's "The Christmas Shoes." I know, right? The most intractable, emotionless pod people have fallen for the definition of Christmas treacle. I found this out when surfing the interwebs. They had even put up the lyrics on their website, as a testament to their resolve and their Jesus-love.

Now, I'm no fan of the song (us writers are a Godless, cynical lot, after all), but I listened to the song several times when it was released so I could make fun of it. So I was a little surprised to find that they'd altered the lyrics. Sort of like they altered the bargain (pray they don't alter it any further). Luckily, I saved the rewrite because they were hastily removed from the website. Afraid of writer blowback, I assume. I leave it to you, gentle readers, to judge for yourself. Are they evil, or just misunderstood?

The Christmas Shoes


It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in Payless Shoes
Can't afford Brunos, stupid writers made me blue
Standing right in front of me was a little boy, blond and cute
Looked like a gaffer's kid, definitely crew
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

He wore a Chuck tee and a House cap,
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick since the writers went on strike
And I know these shoes, she would very much like
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama used to work on House
But the stupid writers made us go without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

My Grinch heart grew three sizes,
His hair was gorgeous and so were his eyes-es
So I laid my Visa down,
Did he need to go downtown?
I hoped he'd take the bait.
I'll never forget how his angelic boy-face glowed when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick since the writers went on strike
And I know these shoes, she would very much like
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
We went to my car, he didn't feel the shove
Or the chloroformed cloth
Over his mouth, as it frothed.
He jerked once then twice,
Then he was still.
And I started to feel that familiar old thrill.
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To fill me, the AMPTP,
With the misery of true Christmas joy.
This feeds my mogul soul,
I thought, as I unhinged my jaw and I swallowed him whole.

Happy holidays, gentle readers!

np - Nada Surf, "Lucky."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marching On

There's going to be an actual blog post soon, but I didn't want this to be seven thousand million pages long, so to some comments first.

Since most of the comments deal with opinions about picketing, I'm not going to address each one, but a personal shout-out to Tim W. I appreciate your politeness, Tim, but you really have no idea what's going on. You are not directly involved in this strike, therefore your opinions are uninformed. If you can't see how your even-handed dissenting friend is creating a problem, I don't know what to say. But I think some of the things you've said need to be addressed. I do find it a bit ironic that you say this:

One thing that bothers me is that wanting to compromise is seen as going against the WGA. TO me, not wanting to compromise is going against worse. Negotiating IS compromising. Focus on the things that matter, and if the other side still won't budge, THEN stand firm. But refusing to budge on issues like reality television is stupid.


But that you then say this:

Quite frankly, other than calling Craig hypocritical, I haven't really seen anyone attempt to debate the actual thrust of what Craig posted. TO me, he's being a lot more even-handed about the situation than a lot of people who criticize him. He seems to be the one of the few who understands that the AMPTP will not negotiate on certain issues and keeping them on the table is hurting YOU GUYS. If they were important issues, I could understand it, but they're not.


Think about it for a minute. Then go read Josh's posts and cgeye's post. Then think about it some more.

The WGA has been on strike for over a month. I would say it's pretty much time to cut to the chase in the negotiations. Wouldn't you?


Strike forever! Actually, you need to realize that the AMPTP walked the fuck away. There ARE no negotiations because THEY WALKED AWAY. I don't think it can be made any clearer.

Mazin is saying what he feels, and banned one person who pissed him off. Let's not overstate things here. To me, and others, he has a point. I am amazed that people truly think that he is trying to screw the writers. I've looked over his posts and many of his comments, and all I see is a guy who simply has a different opinion on how to get what the WGA wants in this strike. He's still on your side. He still wants the writers to prevail. He just thinks there is a better way to go about doing that.


I really don't want to talk about Mazin anymore (feel free to blow off that particular steam all you want in the comments), but since he's positioned himself as the loyal opposition, I have to respond to this. You state "He's still on your side." See, Tim, you don't have a side. You're an interested bystander, nothing more. So you don't really know which side he's on, and if a goodly number of WGA members -- people who are out there every day picketing and supporting the leadership -- draw the same conclusions from Craig's words, maybe they have a point, dig? Maybe they see something that you don't see, because you don't have the same point of view.

Craig can say he wants us to prevail. He can say he's on our side. But then he posts something that's directly contradictory. He purports to be a writer, but he isn't using words very well.

From my vantage point, Craig is seeing how the negotiations are going and feels the need to try and change their course. That doesn't sound like someone who is against the writers. It sounds like someone who is very concerned for the writers, and doesn't just want to sit back and do nothing. You call it undermining. He calls it activism.


No. Activism is picketing. Activism is going to locations and talking to crew and locals. Activism is letting the late-night hosts know that if they do go back, it may not be easy for them. Activism is hearing Harlan Ellison speak about how far you have to go to get what you deserve, and what that fight really means.

Craig is concerned for himself. But let's not lie -- I'm concerned for myself, too. As Josh said, however, being out on the line has made me concerned for every one of those people I walk with every day. I'm concerned for the showrunners who walked away from their shows as episodes are being shot and posted. I'm concerned for the staff writers who are new to the business, and the assistants and future WGA members who will be affected by this contract, and who are out there picketing with us. I'm concerned for the animation writers who aren't getting residuals even as their properties -- the characters THEY CAME UP WITH -- adorn the wall of the fucking studio.

Now, you say that Craig wants to change the course of the negotiation. Any idea as to how? Or where to?

I thought not.

I know you don't realize or intend this, but offering your outsider advice is unbelievably insulting. I don't know how to make it any plainer than that.

However, since I said I would not censor this blog, feel free to comment on it however you like. I just can't respond to it anymore because that brick wall's really starting to hurt. I'm sure there are folks who will pick up the comment torch but I'm asking you to really think about what you're saying, and what you think it's achieving. Because honestly, I have no idea at this point. This isn't just about a labor negotiation, it's directly affecting US. I ask you to just keep that in mind. Because on other sites, it IS a more removed discussion. That's just not how I feel.

Anonymouse,
You'll always have a home here, my friend.

Anonymous,

Please forgive me if my comment about being difficult in the room angered you in any way. I rewrote the question three times to make sure there was no offensive language. I understand completely that your blog is not the room. I visit your blog, Jane Eppenson's and one called What It's Like. I don't visit Writer Action because, frankly, and this is lazy on my part...it's just too wordy. Anyway, maybe I used the wrong phrase but I just wondered in this internet age (when everything follows you around) if you think there's a possibility your own words could be used against you. Again, sincere apologies, if my original question angered you. I tried to be as benign as possible. I hope I succeeded this time.


I wasn't angry, I'm just a little confused about which words could be used against me. So if I answer based on what I THINK is on my blog -- nah. When in meetings, I still haven't seen any evidence that the internet matters at all. Hope that helps. And thanks for reading the blog. Hopefully, I will not always talk about the strike. But I keep getting pulled back in...

Jake Hollywood,
4. Must agree in principle to be the new voice of the Dodger. Scully out. Mazin in? OMFG!


NOT cool, man. In that case, I say STRIKE FOREVER! In the interest of full disclosure, however, I would say that about anyone replacing Vin.

John Beck,
Apology accepted. Don't worry about it.

Bill,
Pulp RULES!!!!!!

RDJ,
Stay strong, man. And thanks for posting.

np -- The Jakpot, "Throw Away Culture." How appropriate.

Apocalypse Please

Everybody remembers the Swiftboating of John Kerry, which brought us four more interminable years of you-know-who and the verb "swiftboating." When the attack began, Kerry had two choices -- deny and condemn it, thus lending voice to the lies, or completely ignore it, which would (hopefully) make it go away. The Bushies have been fucking rock stars at derailing and sidetracking the real discussion. Masters, actually; who else could get people talking about a non-existent "war on Christmas" in the midst of an invasion, lying to Congress, the outing of an undercover CIA officer, the destruction of a major American city, and Blackwater?

Kerry, obviously, chose poorly. He should have come out swinging against those asshats, but he remained silent and as a result, scores of idiots believed he was a coward. The worst thing about that was, there's filmed evidence to the contrary.

So now we have the AMPTP Borg cube walking away from negotiations, calling the WGA leadership "radical organizers," and putting out the word, via one of the sloppiest LA Times article in the history of mushmouth journalism, that there's a schism within the WGA membership. A "number" of "high level" showrunners are losing their fucking minds. Way to go, LA Times. And when you choose a writer to talk to, make sure you only choose a writer who's recently gone public, via his blog, with his dissent. Yeah, that's a great move. Let's make us a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Because the AMPTP would never hire stooges and shills to go repeat its talking points all over writerly blogs, would they? That sort of thing has never, ever happened in the history of the world. My favorite attack goes like this: "I can't believe writers would quell dissent." That's a good one. That's a trick the right-wing nutjobs like to play.*

*I say "right-wing nutjobs" to distinguish them from actual Republicans.

Because the internet has the appearance of giving everyone an equal voice, people think everything they post is fact. Their opinions are just as valid as the opinions of others. Anyone with half a brain knows this isn't true; an INFORMED opinion is valid. Some dude vomiting spackle onto a website is not. A website doesn't automatically indicate validity. Take this blog, for instance. It's MY blog, therefore these are MY opinions. I try to make them as informed as possible, because that's important to me. I'm the authority on my opinions, and because I'm actively involved in the strike, my opinion carries some validity. It is, as we like to say, informed.

And now we're in the middle of a strike that's in its seventh week. The only bright shining light for me is that at least we don't have to picket on my birthday. I mean, seriously, how much would that suck?*

*If you have had to picket on your birthday, my sympathies. I hope you at least got a free meal at Bob's.

Anyway. The internet's good for a lot of things. It serves to keep people informed and connected. But then there's that irritating equal voice thing, and the most damning quality of all -- immediacy. You're pissed off, you can spew it out into the blogosphere or other interweb delivery systems, and the object of your ire can read about it almost instantaneously. You can hurt somebody almost as quickly on the internet as you can in real life. You can punch them with your words and not have to face the same consequences you'd face if you really punched them. You know. With your fists.

So the internet knocks the corners off reality and, sometimes, the truth. It lends legitimacy. It can be used to attack and to foment an agenda. And now, it's being used to intimate a split in the WGA membership. The skirmish has been brought out into the open, courtesy of the LA Times. It's one thing to have both sides doing the battling press release posturing. It's another entirely to lend credence to the idea that the guild is fracturing, that showrunners have had it and want to go back to work, that big-time writers want the leadership out and the agenda changed. To what, they have no idea; they just want things to be different than they are now.

You know how they say that if you see one cockroach there are likely thousands hiding in the walls? The internet is NOT the same thing. But that's how it's perceived. If one person loves or hates a thing, it's assumed that millions will follow suit. Maybe it's just a function of the outmoded Nielsen system, or the American Idol voting. They used to say, "A thousand million people voted" but they finally realized that votes cast do not equal how many people actually voted. Or the Fox lawyers realized it. Whatevs.

So even if you see twenty people spewing rhetoric, it could be one insane asshat in his cabin, with twenty IDs and passwords who's rockin' his neighbor's WiFi. You simply can't go by what happens on the internet. And that seems to be what's going on here, because the press (and, by extension, the AMPTP) is not internet savvy. It's one cockroach speaking for what they presume to be thousands. And that's not cool.

But back to the original question -- do you lend credence to it, or not? If you do, you're battling anonymous screennames and it becomes death by a thousand cuts. And you've been taken off message. So what you hoped would get out there never will, because you've engaged with a movement that can be perceived to be growing but in actuality, probably doesn't even exist.

I can only go on what I've heard from actual people. Writers like to be working, believe it or not. Or maybe we're just used to it. So all of this picketing and then sitting and surfing the interwebs isn't doing a bit of good. We try to learn shit (we're writers, after all) and we get drawn into discussions about strategy and minimums and residuals and percentages. We're trying to tell the story, so we need to know what the throughline is and how it will end. We're trying to make sense of things. If you're too invested in your own story and get thrown a curveball, like "we're striking over reality and animation," you might freak out. But if you really sit back and fucking THINK, you'll see why that isn't true.

It's hard to think when you're in it, and apparently it's just as hard to think when you're not in it. Everybody has an opinion. I suppose, from the outside, picketing looks ridiculous. I mean, WTF, right? It's clearly not working. So give up.

Give up. Yeah, we'll give up. And the AMPTP will go, "Excellent. Goodbye, resolve." Then they chip away, and they win something that isn't designed to have a clear winner -- a labor negotiation. See, we need to be resolved. We need to be unified. Even if it's an act, people. IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. Fuck your opinion if you're an outsider. Fuck your opinion if you're a WGA member who isn't picketing. Fuck your opinion if, deep down, you're scared your sweet deal will be force-majeured*.

*REALLY fuck you if that's the case. Fuck you a thousand times, in many different languages. Pussy.

And me saying that we need to be unified and resolved does not also mean that I'm going to pitchfork you if you don't agree. But I will pitchfork you (with my words, remember) if you disagree all over the internet. Know when to hold 'em, guys. Seriously. I hate explaining this third-grade shit to actual fucking adults, but sometimes it's necessary.

I'm not going to explain why I think picketing has been effective, because if you aren't doing it, you will never understand. That's been made clear from the exhaustive "You should stop picketing" bullshit. And this goes back to an informed opinion -- you don't get one if you're not in it. You just don't. So stop, okay? Stop blathering about something that is not personally affecting you. Stop insinuating that we just don't understand how the Real World works. Yes, Daddy, we're sorry for being emotional cripples. For fuck's sake. Just stop.

Last week, there was an indie rally at Paramount and there were several speakers -- Howard Rodman, John August, Bill Condon, Robin Swicord, FOB Josh Olson, and Harlan Ellison. There was some poetical speech about how we're waiting outside the castle gates for the king to some out and talk to us, and then Harlan said we should grab Nick Counter by the throat and pull him across the table and scare the shit out of him.

Two completely differing opinions on the situation, and neither contained the slightest whiff of dissent. Resolve and unity is in the air at these events, and they give us -- the lowly picketing fools -- the strength to continue with our goal, which is to get what's fair. So we do things. We talk to people, especially members of other unions and guilds. The WGA strike teams have been shutting down location shoots. And we're learning that there are other creative ways to make our voices known. When the other side dunks your head in the toilet, you bring out the anarchy.

This is what anarchy looks like.

There are many who condemn these actions, and marvelously, some are not AMPTP stooges-for-hire. But if a location picket results in a dialogue between the picketers and the crew and locals (which happened this past week), we've won that inch of ground. Simple as that. And if you're not in it, YOU DON'T GET A SAY. Remember? Your opinion doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter to the location picketers, and it doesn't matter to any WGA member who's doing what we are required to do -- support our fucking guild. This isn't the primaries. You don't get a vote.

There's a sense of community out on the line that is indescribable. Those of you -- AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE -- who haven't been out there the majority of the time, who don't really understand what we're doing out there, are so disconnected that you can't see it. So it's like alien gibberish to you. You're bored, and tired of not making money (even though some are performing other duties, so their lives go on the same), and you don't realize this, but voicing your discontent to those of us who ARE committed to this is beyond insulting.

The press wants to divide us just as much as does the AMPTP, because as all writers know, drama doesn't exist without conflict. The press doesn't write about the great shit that goes on every day. They write about how there's a growing faction of writers that wants to break away from the leadership. Do you really think cutting a deal (which doesn't currently exist, by the way) in a hurry, before the DGA, will result in something we're happy with? THEY DO NOT WANT TO NEGOTIATE WITH US. Isn't that obvious? Hey, public dissenters, what's your great fucking plan?

The feeling in the press is that we're fracturing (feelings have replaced actual journalism). This feeling is driven by egocentric asshats who aren't fucking THINKING and are doing what is their God-given right -- spewing their agenda onto the internet, and then hitting "send." Once the press fastens its lamprey-like jaws around that, it won't let go. And suddenly, we're fracturing. That other sound you hear is Peter Chernin cackling with glee, doing the fly hands.

And if the notion of disagreeing with an opposing viewpoint is confusing to you, keep it to yourself. One person says, "You're quelling dissent! CENSORSHIP! CENSORSHIP!" and I will hunt you down and kill you. While intent does mean something, actions mean much, much more. "I didn't mean to kill that guy." But he's dead, and you killed him. That's the reality.

I'll get to some comments next time. I especially want to talk about all the "big-time Hollywood writers approached the advertisers and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" news. And, you know, other shit.

np - The Jessica Fletchers, "You Spider"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Common People

I've resorted to Pulp, because right now, we need us some Jarvis.

Today at Paramount was Star Trek day. Hordes of folks who've worked on Trek through the ages were there. I wanted to post less about the strike and more about good stuff and this post is an attempt to begin that transition. There is a love that people have for their entertainment that is simply unquantifiable. And TeeVee is unique. The viewer can choose to invite these characters into their living rooms. And if a show lasts long enough, the viewer's life changes, as do the lives of the characters. Casts of TeeVee shows are inevitably called families, even when they aren't traditionally that. But these are characters who choose to be together, or who are thrown together, like a family... and it's this above all else that the viewer identifies with.

Star Trek is the Aslan of television. Its rich history and its real history have intertwined and created an alternate universe (VERY Trek!), and that's what we saw at Paramount today. It was packed with Trek luminaries. And there was something so cool about fiction not only bringing so many people together but binding them together as well, whether it be as writers, producers, actors or fans. This is the awesome power of drama and once again, I was reminded of why we're in this strike. Once you've suckled at the teat of drama, you can't go back again. You can't escape it. This day was a reinforcement of that feeling, and for it to be happening right in front of the Melrose gate at Paramount gave me the historical goosebumps.

I wish I could say all this stuff was just... stuff. Going into the office, writing some shit for actors to say... that that's all it means. But unfortunately for those of us who can't do it at the moment (currently 100% unemployment in the WGA!), it's painful to be away.

I'd love to see a Star Trek family tree, with all the writers, actors, directors and artists who have been involved throughout and what they've gone on to create and work on. I'll bet it would be one impressive family tree.

While I was never the hugest fan (I know them, though), my life has always had Star Trek in it. I watched it in re-runs, saw the movies, watched TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. And there's really only one other thing that's always been there, always present -- my family.

So you see what I'm saying.

We all aspire to duplicate that feeling, and give it to others. Because there's nothing cooler than inspiration, gentle readers. People may deride all of this as fluffy nonsense, but looking at all the people whose lives have been directly affected by Trek, people who are lifelong friends and never would have met otherwise... it means something. And we need to remember that in the face of this strike. Because if you can't get some juice from cast members and writers of all Treks marching with WGA picket signs, you've got some issues.

Speaking of issues.

You know how I said in my last post that I wouldn't respond to Mazin's site again unless he posted something I objected to?

Guess what.

I don't want to go through Mazin's entire newest dictum because who has time, but I thought it might be helpful for y'all if I translated some shit out. Because sometimes, it's tough to see where he's coming from.

This issue of dissent is a tricky one, and I have to give Patric credit for managing to find a new way to discredit anyone who disagrees with him.


At least he doesn't ban them. Look, everybody has a different opinion about dissent during the strike. I happen to believe that unity is important. Craig, for reasons only he knows, does not. But based on the resentment that seethes out of this post, he really, really wishes he was in control of the negotiations. I for one am damn glad he's not.


Yes, I’m trying to influence and persuade. Yes, I think my perspective and the perspective of those that think like me is one that’s more likely to get us a deal we can accept. You may agree or disagree. Nonetheless, neither you nor I nor any dues-paying member of the WGA has a responsibility to silence and complicity if we think there’s a better way of approaching things.


But Craig, how can we trust you to do such a thing when you fucking BAN people from your website simply for disagreeing with you? Honestly. Hypocritical much?

I’m editing my movie in an office building that hosts a good number of reality productions.

Place is a frickin’ beehive.


I don't need to go into detail about how ironic this is, right?

That’s not to say that unity and picketing aren’t important. I don’t discount the positive feelings writers have taken away from the last month. That feeling of community and action is surely real.

But it’s a feeling. And you can’t fill those green residuals envelopes with feelings.


Remember when the first Bush was called out of touch because he didn't know what a supermarket scanner was? Craig diminishes every single one of us who've been out on the line every fucking day with this.

First, I think we should probably stop picketing. It didn’t work. I don’t think that’s going to change, and there’s that old saw about repeating the same thing and expecting different results. That’s not to say that we should stop acting as a community. There are other ways we can support each other through a difficult strike. Picketing is one of them, but it’s not a particularly efficient use of our time or our energy.


Well, Craig, you need to do something before you can say this -- remove the "we" from your first sentence and replace it with "you." Because WE have been picketing. YOU have not. And thanks everso for telling us that we've been wasting our time. Because you've got your finger on the pulse, baby. You, Craig, are NOT a part of this community -- the community that has been out on the line, picketing and marching and showing actual physical SUPPORT for the cause. I know, I know, I'm a Fascist asshat who's been drinking the Koolaid. Whatevs. Just STOP claiming ownership in something you have not invested. Picketing has not really been a drain on your energy, because even the few days you've been there, all you've done is chat and get your picture taken. So excuse me if I don't taken your fucking advice.

I’ve always said, our union’s strength isn’t in its quantity, but its quality. Our best show of strength is not a turnout of 4,000 members of our union, but a turnout of 400 of our most coveted members. Those are the writers the companies fear losing, and those are the writers the companies hope will turn coat.


The Mazin Translator says, "Hi! The picketing is lame and doesn't work. The monolithic companies will never care. You have been wasting your time. I hate picketing. I should be running this thing. I hate the guys who are. I hate all these people who aren't me or other famous people like me. The famous people are the only ones who can solve this. The rest of you don't matter. You're only the herd. I and the others who are famous are the true geniuses of the Guild. Stupid other untalented fucks."

What's funny is, Mazin had previously said that he is most worried about how the strike will affect "the rest of us." Because of how easily he separated the WGA membership into little groups, I didn't believe him then. And now we see his true colors.

By the way, this isn’t me asking for the gig. I don’t belong in that room for a lot of reasons. But others do, and I think recomposing the NegCom at this juncture is a smart idea. We need fresh horses who aren’t saddled with the emotional baggage of the last year.


Craig, your whole blog is you asking for the gig.

The kicker is that Craig has been selected/lobbied for an LA Times exchange where a writer debates a producer. I'm thinking he should really have said executive, though; producers are different cats. But the funny thing is, out of ALL the well-spoken, capable, informed writers the Times could have chosen, they pick Mr. Dissent. Like Craig is going to somehow be able to fully understand the Guild's position when all he does is oppose it.

Ridiculous. I don't know about the rest of you, but it's moves like this that make me feel hopeless, and NOT the strategy of the WGA's leadership.

There were way too many comments to respond to, which is cool, but a few caught my eye.

An anonymous comment:
Do you ever wonder (whether it's true or not) if this blog would give the impression to showrunners that you would be considered "difficult in the room." I am not (and I stress it) being nasty in any way, shape or form. I'm just curious because sometimes the written word doesn't have the humor, voice inflections or facial expressions that go along with the spoken word. I don't think you should bite your tongue or ever censor yourself but is there a part of you that wonders if this could end up being a problem?


Because I'm not all rainbows and ponies? If a showrunner is going to somehow find a way to use my blog against me so they don't have to hire me, they weren't gonna hire me anyway. And I've not gotten jobs for muh more ridiculous, insane reasons. Perhaps you could be more specific about what you've seen here that would indicate I can't do my job, because I'm sorta at a loss here! "Difficult in the room" is not something that comes from any other place than, well, THE ROOM in question. Since this isn't the room... see where I'm going with that?

Another not-so-anonymous says,

I worked in the room on a deeply dysfunctional show with Kay and her partner and found them to be consistently respectful, good team players, and levelheaded, even when the stupidity level in the room rose to epic proportions. And hey, I still get work, even when on one occasion I had to be physically restrained from fistfighting the showrunner's best friend.


Ah... old memories are the best, aren't they? I shall never forget that fine, fateful, deeply necessary day... thanks, BTW. Blush.

Matty,

Second, reading the thread in question, (assuming I'm on the right thread), I don't see anyone insulting you. I see people criticizing your position, which is a big difference, and I'm surprised that you can't see it. And I gotta say, I think the point is valid: that if being critical of leadership is a bad idea during a strike because it might undermine their bargaining power, than it's just as bad to criticize leadership during a negotiation when the *threat* of a strike is the main leverage, since that also might undermine their bargaining power. Of course, you disagree, and that's fine, but, again, I don't see the personal insult you detect.


Then you weren't reading too closely. When somebody uses who you are to argue their point, it's a personal insult. I've got a pretty thick skin online and that crossed the fucking line. As for my stance that I think we need to support our leadership, I will fight you tooth and nail on that any day of the week. I believe the only time to criticize IS before. It's a lead-up to war, man. And now we're in it. Things change. I don't know why that's so hard to grok. And although Mazin believes we need to kneecap our leaders, I don't. And I won't post propaganda like that in a public forum. I honestly don't think Craig realizes what he's putting out there, and what effect it's having.

As for the selling-a-pilot thing, you didn't just say *you* had a bad year and didn't sell a pilot, you said just about nobody who didn't have a deal or staff position sold a pilot. So (again, assuming I'm on the right thread), if people are pointing out that you might be over-generalizing and shouldn't be taken as a credible source, well, you probably disagree, but that doesn't make it a personal attack on you.


You don't think, for a second, that that's a little disingenuous? "Just about nobody." D'you think that could possibly refer to PEOPLE I KNOW AND TALKED TO? I talked to producers, agents and studio executives as well as fellow writers. As somebody who sells a pilot every year, the atmosphere this year was off, and that was confirmed by the other people I talked to. Seriously, do you need to be led down the path on this? Because that's rather disappointing... and also why I don't post on Mazin's site anymore.

If you think I wasn't being attacked, it doesn't matter. Because you are not me. If you have anything else to say about this, I'm sure they're still trashing me over on Mazin's site and they'll be happy to answer your questions.

Sheesh.

Josh and I had the pleasure of checking out the Strike A Deal rally on Sunday. Most below-the-line folks understand what the stakes are. I get that they're nervous and worried. I'm right there with them. I wish mightily that I had a ton of money socked away in the bank because I'd love to do something to relieve some of that stress. But I'll wager that I'm worse off than a goodly number -- let's call it a majority -- of crew. A lot of the people at that rally had no clue what the issues are. One woman had a sign that said, "We don't get residuals." You do, lady. 55% of your health and pension comes from residuals. I'll bet she still thinks Saddam had something to do with 9-11.

There were also a lot of signs about how we, the WGA and the AMPTP, are Grinches who stole/ruined Christmas. The only conclusion I can draw from that is, "I can't buy my kid the PS3." Well, you know what? I can't buy anyone anything, either. But that doesn't make it Christmas. I said this elsewhere, but if your only criteria for a good Christmas is how much money you've got for toys, your priorities need more help than I can give.

But hey, at least the WGA and the AMPTP are lumped together on that one. Because as we all know, the WGA didn't walk away from negotiations.

I also found it ironic that virtually everybody had on show swag. Awhile back, we hadn't worked in almost a year. We were skint. We got on the back nine eps of a show, which was going to let us eat for a few more months. A few weeks in, we get a bill -- for the crew gift. A thousand bucks. Did I mention we'd been out of work for almost a year? So I have to put a thousand fucking dollars on my credit card, to pay for a gift for people I didn't even know. I still haven't paid that off. So you're welcome, people who don't get it. I hope you enjoyed the gift and wore it to the anti-WGA rally.

Speaking of the rally, here's a photo. I invite you to play Seriocity's newest game, "Where's the Oscar nominee?"

Go here.

Jake,

Right is right. Standing up for ourselves is the right thing to do. And until this ends with a fair agreement, an iron clad, signed, sealed, and delivered deal, I'll be walking that picket line.

And all the Mazin-like negativeness and the anti-WGA comments won't effect the goals of the writers. United we stand, divided we fall, right?


Amen, brother.

And I'm the bitter, cynical, negative one? Really?

Working AD,

I still don't understand that Google/Blogger thing. Lemme know if posts don't show up. This goes for everyone. Some seem to have slipped through the cracks, and I am NOT censoring them! So keep trying to post if your post doesn't show up.

Back to Warner Bros tomorrow. I miss my gate! There's gonna be a sci-fi girl writer thing in the morning. I have to go rest up so I can be a good Gate 2 ambassador to our friends from the south.

np -- "Eyes on the Highway," Saybia. Almost done with the year-end best of. Another two-disc set, but the thing WAS six CDs long, so be grateful.

Regarding Andruw Jones and the Dodgers -- I think it's awesome. I was just surprised, because the Dodgers needed an arm in center and a power hitter. Then they went and actually got one. Who knew a team could just DO that? Not this Dodger fan!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This is the Last Time...

An ultimatum, but also a song.

Because this IS the last time I'll comment on Mazin's site, unless I'm commenting on one of his posts. But the array of clowns posting comments? No more.

Michael Sterling asks,

Not that I want this site to be the Rebellion to Craig's Empire, but could you give a primer or something on what exactly your problem is with Craig and what's the deal with the whole Josh/Craig thing. I read his site, but not the comments. So while I agree and disagree with various things on his site, I feel like I'm missing a lot. And then I come here and you seem really pissed with him. Unreasonably so based on what he's posted. So what's the deal?


A lot of what has happened on that site did happen in the comments. The short version goes something like this. Up until a few days ago, Craig was not involved with what was happening on the strike lines but he felt compelled to post erroneous rumors and, what looked to me and others, like anti-guild propaganda.

He has every right to post whatever he wants, and I have every right to disagree with it. For example, I don't think it's appropriate to do anything right now but show support for the leadership and unity to the guild. I was critical of the lead-up to the strike. So was Craig, but for different reasons. Craig has not changed his position. I have. This, in part, led the tinfoils on his site to eviscerate me. These aren't stupid people, and I think they were being maliciously disingenuous to not understand the difference between the period prior to the strike, and the actual fucking strike.

Craig sat back and let it happen, after maintaining over and over that he wouldn't allow attacks. Then he banned Josh, but the tinfoils stayed. So what that looks like to me is, Craig fosters a certain opinion on his site. That's fine, of course; it's his site. But he should be honest about it, and he wasn't.

I thought honesty was sort of the point of having a blog, but maybe I'm just naive. Craig's tinfoils don't seem to understand what constitutes honesty. In fact, they think honesty is only positivity. These two statements are both honest:

"I sold a pilot to a network, and the executive loved it. This year rocks."

"So I didn't sell the pilot. This year sucks."

The latter statement, according to the tinfoils, is seething with bitterness. So yes, honesty will get you killed. But I'm not going to turn into Craig and be aggressively disingenuous and, well, dishonest. My agenda is not to convince people that things are rockin' along quite nicely if they aren't. That was never the point of starting a blog.

Apparently, Wednesday was "Blogger Day" at my gate. Writer/bloggers were contacted via e-mail to show up and... I dunno. Meet, I guess? Talk to fans? I really don't know. Craig is a part of that community, so he showed up. I think it was his second day on the line. I, on the other hand, picket at that gate four days a week.

It was fucking PACKED with people, mostly people who wouldn't pay attention to the #$%&%## light, but lots of people nonetheless, and that led to a lot of honking. Yesterday, the celebrity writer/bloggers who ARE picketing every day -- like Jane Espenson -- went back to their regular stomping grounds. Those who just picket when there's a photo op weren't out there today. There were about eight of us -- the same core group who usually pickets every fucking day. And a Smallville fan named Jim came out to picket before going in to work. There's nothing cooler than being supported by the fans and the public. Nothing. Every wave, every smile, every tap of the horn... it makes a difference. It strengthens our resolve, which IS important. It's hilarious that the same people who equate my honesty with bitterness are so cynical and robotic that they don't think anything one person does makes a difference.

Irony is indeed lost on the masses.

Craig doesn't understand this, because he only pickets when the muse wants to take his picture. I watched him do this the other day. I watched him solicit the photo ops, and then -- lo and fucking behold -- he posted about it on his blog. It's self-serving bullshit, in my opinion. And as someone who's out there every fucking day, it's infuriating.

So anybody who wonders why I take issue with Craig, I'm only going to say this one more time and then that's it: he's surfing our waves. He can pretend that he's out there every day. He can pretend that he acknowledges the people who honk for us. He can pretend he's grateful to see people other than writers out there on the line. He can pretend he understands what it's like to be out there, picketing in week five. He can pretend he stood in the rain at Sony.

But he didn't, and he doesn't understand. And it's really infuriating that this is the spokesmodel for our cause.

As for what happened with Craig and Josh, I won't speak for Josh. But I'm not very impressed with the way Craig has handled himself as a human being.

So we're done with Craig now, right? Because next time, I want to talk about TeeVee I love, and other substantial things, like... Andruw Jones to the Dodgers??? How the fuck did THAT happen???

Little Miss Nomad wonders,

You know what I wonder? Who came up with the word "asshat"? I have a post about the possible meanings/origins of this neologism here, but I'd really like your thoughts on it...


I believe it was coined, as was the lovely 'jackhole,' by the World Famous KROQ's Kevin and Bean. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember then making up not-nasty curse words. And anybody who knows who called KROQ "The World Famous KROQ" in the first place gets my two cents from my next DVD sale (I don't get four cents; I have to split it with my writing partner).

np -- "My Biggest Thrill," the Mighty Lemon Drops. From Rhino's four-CD orgy, "The Brit Box."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Short Enz

Hello, gentle readers! I wanted to get to some comments. The quickness of this post will shock the crap out of Deric.

Heh.

Alex,

I disagree that the studios are playing this as a business. If they were playing it as a business, they wouldn't cut off their hundred billion dollar industry to spite the writers to the tune of a few million bucks.

I think the studio greedheads see this as a pissing match. They wanted to treat the writers like dirt, and they're mad that the writers aren't standing for it.

If they treating this as a business decision, they'd have settled this long before a strike. The writers might have taken less, then, to avoid having to strike. The strike costs the studios a thousand times more than it costs the writers. It's just bad business to force a writer's strike.


I'm not business person, but it sure as shit doesn't make any sense. However, it seems to me that in this age of being able to shift funds from one place to the next, they must not really be losing any money.

Follow my cracked logic for a sec.

We're all acting as if the figures we see -- such-and-such corporation losing $21 million dollars a week or a day or an hour or whatever -- are cold, hard numbers. But it's not like this money's being taken out of some poor CEO's Wells Fargo account. The money, as actual funds, doesn't exist. This creative accounting is already happening with the vertical integration, which we were all initially exposed to with the David Duchovny suit against Fox. The one studio that routinely frets over budget is Warner Bros, technically a studio without a network. So that whole give and take thing that can happen between, say, Touchstone and ABC, can't happen with WB.

In my opinion, this IS about business, but it can't be about cold, hard numbers because they aren't really there. There's more going on. Or this is just me, trying to figure out their motivation because, as writers, this is what we do.

What does the other side really want?

BooM,

Why wouldn't one follow football? WHY? After all, tonight could be the night the Pats will finally get their asses handed to them. Current score: Tied.

I'll keep posting updates. On the football. No "hell" about it.


So mean!! I followed football many, many years ago, and I'm a much bigger baseball fan at the moment. The only football I even glanced at in the past large number of years was when the Patriots began their run, and the coach (a big racing fan) motivated the team by showing them the stretch run of Tiznow's second Breeders Cup Classic. I knew I could sneak racing in there.

Tim W.,

I love your blog, but I do have to call bullshit on your comment on Craig. It's gotten to the point where anything Craig does is going to be blasted by a portion of writers. People complain that Craig is not enthusiastic enough about backing the strike, and then he posts a very pro-WGA strike post and he gets called a hypocrite.


Feel free to call bullshit whenever you feel you need to! Are you referring to Craig's latest blog post? Because I found it rather self-serving, to be honest. Suddenly, Craig's a part of the strike machine. And he isn't demoralized. Well, no. He wouldn't be, because he has not been emotionally invested in the same way that the rest of us have been. Because we've been on the picket line every day. We've gotten Teamsters to honk for us, but we've also had people shout "ASSHOLE" and try to run us over with their cars. By my account, Craig swanned around for about an hour today. In my opinion -- which I will keep reiterating -- that doesn't give him the right to suddenly be all "We're in this together, my peeps."

In that post, Craig also dismisses the idea that Nikki Finke's been led around by both the studios and the WGA. But really, isn't it obvious that she has? Isn't it a better idea that with damning evidence of propaganda, the writers -- those of us who are out on the line every day -- listen ONLY to our leadership? Does Craig's post mean that we should continue to read Nikki Finke's site and give her ad revenue by refreshing every five seconds? I'm not buying into THAT, frankly. Nor am I buying into the propaganda that our leadership is suddenly going to be asking us to chant IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. I'm in this thing, I read all the bulletins, and I support our guild. Really, end of fucking story on THAT one. Or does it not disturb people that the AMPTP really IS recruiting Stooges to post on message boards?

So after Craig finishes with his thoughts about the morale of the troops, he puts up this laugher:

In other words, I think the reason the companies started talking like there was a decent offer on the table is because they actually believed they were putting a decent offer on the table.

This is bad news. We’re still tragically far apart, and with time running out before the television season can be salvaged, I think everyone has to turn their eyes toward the DGA and start wondering what the directors are going to do.


Oy. And that's supposed to be positive?

And since we're going there, I also want to comment on the Castle Park event, which is being given for anybody who isn't a writer and has been affected by the strike. First of all, a lovely idea. It really is. But what bothers me is how people like Craig are spinning it. To wit:

Meanwhile, let’s talk about some things that some screenwriters and television writers are doing for the below-the-line folks who have been hurt by our strike. It’s getting bad out there (I’m sure everyone read about the Leno staffers), and I would rather go without the donuts and pizza and horn honks and see if we can’t help funnel some relief to the laid off.


Craig HAS gone without the pizza and the horn honks, so who the fuck does he think he is? Craig's too caught up in his own head to see what he's saying here, so I don't think he meant the insinuation. At least I hope he didn't; I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on that one. This is a nice thing organized by someone who wants to help others. It's not a political opportunity. Nobody should use it for their own purposes.

I also have to take you to task for the comment about what you wouldn't be allowed to say on Craig's site. It especially looks bad when comments on your site are moderated. I think Craig is insulted more on his site than anyone, so it's hard to fault him too much, especially since it's his bloody site.


I moderate comments to keep spam and nuttiness off. Maybe you don't believe me when I've said that Blogger has eaten some comments; I'm not sure the anonymous fellow who posted something that was eaten believed me either, but I'm telling the truth. I'm not slanting the comments or trying to make myself look good here. I could, if I wanted to. Because like I said before, this is my house. But I'm not doing that. It's also a lot easier for me to respond to comments when they come to my inbox and I can put them into a folder.

What Craig is doing at this moment is not truly moderating comments; he's censoring them. As for being insulted, Craig and I had quite a tiff a few weeks ago, but issues seemed to be fine with both of us. Then he seemed to get annoyed with writers who didn't agree with his viewpoint, and he then began to ignore the hateful, vitriolic asshats who started attacking me and Josh, in particular. Seriously, if that wasn't a personal attack by an anonymous troll, show me what is. I've been on the internets for many years now, and I know it when I see it. It took him weeks -- no shit, weeks -- to take down a libelous post directed at somebody else. But the Swedish Meatball posts? Gone within the minute. And if you haven't seen those, you're missing out. They're truly hilarious and somebody with a background in comedy, like Craig, should appreciate them.

I haven't taken a shot at Craig's movies, and I don't know him personally. All I have to go on is what he says on his site, and I wish he'd think this stuff through better, especially given the visibility of his site. Craig puts his ideas and agendas out there, and he should expect to be challenged. But he doesn't like that. He wants sycophants in there, kissing his ass. Well, that's what he has now. And you know, that's fine. If he wants only acolytes, that's NO problem. But he positions himself like a muckety-muck, up-in-the-Guild kinda guy. It's a lie.

I don't agree with everything he says, and I'm not a fan of his movies, but when there are probably a hundred comments a day on his site, it's hard to expect him to be completely consistent in his moderating.


Agreed. However, the tide has definitely changed in the past week or so. If there's going to be that much traffic and things are getting out of hand, he could just be a blogger and close comments. He could pull the insulting personal attacks. He could apologize for letting things get out of hand. But he seems perfectly happy with where the site is now.

I really don't see how insulting Craig is helping anything. He's not directing anymore. He's walking the picket lines with the rest of the writers. It just seems like a vendetta, now.


If Craig continues to post what I consider to be wrong-headed propaganda, you bet I'll say something. As all us writers know, the internet is one powerful mother. Craig's is the only writer site that is out of whack, and his aura of self-importance is really hurting his site. Nick Counter even used one of Craig's comments as propaganda. That's damaging to me, too, so I take offense.

And by the way, if it was my site, and Josh was aiming his vitriol at me, I probably would have banned him, too.


I would really like it if you'd go back and look at Josh's posts. Josh is the toughest debater you'll ever run across. Maybe you see that as a personal attack, but REALLY look -- Josh doesn't go after Craig personally. He goes after Craig's thoughts and ideas, which CRAIG HIMSELF is putting on his site. As for banning Josh, I believe there was a lot more at work there. The timing was just really weird, because he didn't ban Josh for a specific post. And he lets that Stooge asshat stay? The guy who did nothing but insult me and Josh and anyone else who didn't agree with him?

Craig has the site he deserves.

So, Tim, I appreciate you reading the blog. I'm glad you like it, and I hope this comes across the way it's intended to -- as a reasoned disagreement.

In strike news, it was bloody hot out there today. Bloody. HOT.

WTF????

np -- Blackfield, "End of the World." Swoony goodness!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Human Sound

So that happened.

The studio conglomerate tried to have a go at the WGA membership this past Thursday, the way a bully repeatedly tells the skinny kid he won't beat the crap out of him, then lies in wait on the walk home from school, beats the crap out of the kid, and accuses the kid of asking for it.

Yes, we are greedy asshats who want to take precious revenue away from the studios. But we aren't stupid, and we didn't fall for it. In the last post, I said something about resolve and unity. Some people don't seem to think this makes a stick of difference, that whatever is going to happen will happen anyway. I congratulate them either on their adamant fatalism, or their invention of a time machine, which they used to go to the future to see that indeed, none of this made a stick of difference.

Because we can't beat the conglomerates. We can't wait them out. We'll never get even a portion of what we're asking for. They're willing to sacrifice this TeeVee season, next TeeVee season, and the 2009 summer movie season. This is a power struggle, and everyone's saying we can't possibly win.

Which is always said when congloms flex their muscles. Enron did it to California, and then laughed about it. Halliburton did it to the troops. Blackwater's doing it to -- hell, Blackwater's too scary to even contemplate. And now the media congloms are going to do it to the writers and the actors. Not sure about the directors yet, but how much fun would it be if there wasn't anyone to boss around?

Yeah, we can't win. So we shouldn't even try. We need to stop being all emotional about it and let our business heads take over. This is a BUSINESS, people! Let's treat it like one! Let's become them. The only way we can win is to join them. So fuck it. Let's put down those picket signs, throw away our Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Soles, and stop eating free donuts. Let's just tell the congloms that we're ready to deal -- whatever they want is fine with us. We just want to WORK. Since we know we can't win, we'll be their bitches, only it'll be more obvious this time. $250 for a whole year of streaming video? Glad to have it. Same DVD rate? Thank you very much.

Oh. Hang on a sec... I thought I was posting on Mazin's site. Oh, thank God. I'm not there. I'm here. Whew! What a relief. So I can say shit I wouldn't be allowed to say on Mazin's site. I don't have to either toe the line, or let people heap insults upon me (which, by the way, seem to be juust fine with the fucking moderator).

Craig's latest post is about how the action of the studios didn't demoralize anyone. And Craig knows that, because he's been picketing for two days. Sorry, gotta call bullshit on that one. What happened was, we didn’t buy it. The writers saw that offer and went, “Well, obviously we aren’t accepting THAT.” What’s demoralizing isn’t that the studios are using this highs-and-lows tactic, but that there’s no humanity there at all. Not just with us. With everybody who works for them, with all the people who have already been fired and laid off.

Insert “How corporations are destroying the middle class” rant here. We all feel it, and this is the most recent tactile example. I think these guys are evil, miserable mofos. However, I don’t picture them sitting behind their large oak desks doing fly hands. I think they’re such a part of the machine that it’s the machine that’s taken over. It IS only about money and the bottom line. It feeds itself. That’s not an emotional declaration; it’s just how I see it.

Those who say that we need to remove all emotion when dealing with these asshats are, in a certain sense, right. Of course we can’t appeal to them on a human level. Not because they’re not human, but because they spend most of their day feeding the corporate machine. What they do know, however, is that we ARE human. They’ll play on that, but then, just like in the best “Star Trek” episodes, they’ll have to deal with us on that level. We will have to get something that we want, and simply appealing to us on a business level isn’t going to work forever. Because if we DO settle for a crappy deal, we get to be angry. And although I have absolutely no interest in creating my own internet production company, other writers may go that route. The studios may not be happy with the result.

I can hear the chittering of the wonks as they bleat about my naiveté. “No, stupid writer,” they exclaim, “Put your business hat on.” And then they’ll vomit forth all these numbers – which, by the way, they don’t understand, either. And that, my friends, is called not seeing the forest for the trees. It’s classic obfuscation, and writers are starting to fall into that well. I do understand it. We all want to know what’s going on, and there’s precious little information. But arguing with idiots about what constitutes a residual is a waste of time, and it just serves to feed the idiot.

I’m in this business because I’m a creative type. Yes, it’s a business… but if I am not, first and foremost, a creative person, then what’s the point? I don’t want to lose that, and it’s easy to lose it in this environment. I’m used to exercising that creativity every day, writing scripts, coming up with ideas, outlining shit. Calling the agent, having meetings, doing other types of homework. But now, I picket every day. And then I try to fend off rumors, which are always coming because this business would die without it. But a rumor about who JJ Abrams is casting in “Star Trek” is quite a bit different than who’s feeding information to the unsuspecting Nikki Finke. The latter has a much stronger bearing on my ability to pay the rent in February.

Everybody’s having trouble writing, or even thinking. Because our world has been turned around, and all that matters is whether or not there will even be a TeeVee or a film business in a few months. Will the other networks follow NBC’s lead and just program game shows and reality? Sure, they certainly could. If all they care about is profit, it behooves them to save money by lowering production costs. So maybe they won’t even make drama or comedy anymore. Maybe they’ll stop programming Friday night altogether. Maybe all ten o’clock broadcasts will go away.

Maybe all of that will happen. And that will end the business. But I’m a creative type. I’ll just have to find a different venue to do what I need to do. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but all I can do to stave that off is go out there every day and picket. Get people to honk. Show solidarity with my fellow picketers, and support the leadership. If that makes me a fascist, then so be it. Those who need to survive by pretending to be ardent pragmatists can keep hammering the numbers and accusing the rest of us of being emotional girly things. Because I don’t care about them anymore, and with good reason.

It's ironic that we're talking about the New Media Landscape, with those interwebs and the series of tubes and the mp-whatevers and the iPods, while the internet remains scarily the same as it's always been. Because there's one constant -- people. Asshats. Anarchists. Trolls. Peacemakers. Troublemakers. Censors. Writers. The strike has driven all of us to various message boards, and each one is frightening similar. As the boards approach critical mass, the sensitivity to hurt feelings grows. And this inevitably ends in a small army of like-minded folks swanning around, pretending they're having a discussion when what they're really having is an agreement.

God help anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And in this climate, where there are suspicious AMPTP folks wandering from one message board to the next, censorship has become an issue, and the banning begins.

It would be nice if we all had our own little corners of heaven to go to, but that's simply not possible on the internet. If you, say, have a website where you trumpet a free exchange of ideas and you start banning people, what kind of a hypocrite are you? In my last post, which I was told got a LOT of negative play elsewhere, I said that there have been writers distancing themselves from the effort. If you don’t believe in it, fine. If you are a conscientious objector, I don’t agree with you, but whatever. But if you are positioning yourself as a voice for the Guild, you’re rather despicable to ban people from your website, yes?

So. To all the creative folks who are shellshocked from this thing, WRITE SOMETHING. Even if it’s only a paragraph. Write something every day. Scribble an idea down on a napkin. Write a novel. Because that’s the one thing that shouldn’t be affected by the business angles, the negotiating tactics, the numbness of picketing, the internet asshats, and the uncertainty. When you see Nikki Finke or Craig Mazin boast about how popular their sites are, let it roll off. When you hear the idiots on an actual decent radio station like, say, Indie 103.1 blathering the AMPTP talking points, just appreciate that they play The Fratellis. Some asshat with his kid in the car flips you off and yells “Fuck you” when you’re picketing? Let it go.

Write. Get inspired. Read books. Watch “Mad Men” again. Watch the movies that inspire you. Hell, follow football. Patronize (in a good way) the dry cleaners around the corner that has a “We support the WGA” sign in their window. Turn that frown upside down, little campers, and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. It’s easy to lose sight of it when the industry isn’t in complete disarray. So it’s gonna be a little harder to get motivated. But don’t fall off the bike.

Today, I’d like to appreciate the fans, who’ve been organizing quite impressively. The outpouring of support has been massive and unbelievable and unwavering. Fandom, for good or bad, has always been about passion, and your passion is serving you extremely well now, fans. It will not be forgotten, and I say that as someone who’s had issues with fandom. It’s a new day, y’all.

There's a comment that shows it was removed by me -- just so y'all won't think I'm not allowing comments, that was a private comment that I accidentally posted. So there.

In the next post, I hope to talk about something other than the strike. I’m going to do my damned best. It’ll be fun, a peek via the past into the future where TeeVee still exists!

Forgot – Carson Daly is an asshat. That is all.

Np – “The Ocean,” The Bravery. This song KICKS ASS.