Little Bits of This ‘n’ That

the Unreliable Narrator: turns four in a few days. had an awesome time at his joint birthday party. willingly gave up a few gifts to be donated. refused, after his school’s diwali celebration, to surrender the dot from his forehead. (it finally lost its stickiness yesterday and had to be abandoned.)

the Unreliable Narrator is fixated on cirque du soleil and told me, “mama, i will save you good seats for my show.” the name of his cirque du soleil show, in which he is the star acrobat, is Gruyere. like the cheese.

the WGA strike: at a children’s birthday party, a friend mentioned to me the contrast she noted between day one and day two of the strike–she honked and gave a thumbs up enthusiastically each time she drove by (her partner belongs to the WGA and their family is directly affected). but on day two, she got tired, lackluster glances from picketers at the same line where she’d gotten energetic cheers and shouts the day before. we exchanged grim looks and said, they’ve got to have more resolve than that. it’s just one tiny anecdote in the midst of a bigger picture, but still. when you’re up against a deep-pocketed adversary, you’ll need every ounce of united resolve and fighting spirit you can muster.

when grocery workers went on strike in 2003 in southern california, they were out for five months, and in the end public opinion turned against them on the issue of company-paid health care benefits and they barely got concessions that put them ahead of where they started. (it was all safeway inc. P.R. spin, but in the end john and jane q. public decided they didn’t like how unionized supermarket employees had health care benefits that were 100% paid for by their employer, when many people who work elsewhere have to pay part of their own health care benefit premiums. so picket lines were crossed and for numerous reasons, the strike ended with a whimper.) in short, the grocery store workers paid dearly for tiny incremental changes in their benefits at great personal cost.

and non-hollywood folks who are also union will expect the same grit of the WGA as shown by UPS drivers, garbage collectors, and bus drivers who strike…and these are folks who don’t get celebs bringing them snacks on the picket line when they walk off the job. there’s a lot of goodwill out there, but there’s also suspicion of writing as not “real” work.

don’t get me wrong, i want the WGA to win. as someone sharp pointed out, probably on nikki finke’s deadline hollywood daily blog, writing our tv shows and movies is one of the few things an Enormous Multinational Corporation cannot “outsource” to cheaper labor in india, mexico, or china, as much as it’d like to. it’s just that public opinion can be dangerously fickle; the P.R. war is as least as important as whatever negotiations ultimately take place.

digital media and the year-old iTunes gift certificate: a year ago, my brother-in-law gave his daughters aged 14 and 12 an iTunes gift card to fill up their new iPods. their gift cards are unused but their iPods are full. why? they get whatever music they want from their friends.

the elephant in the room regarding media on the web and residual payments derived from that form of distribution is this–hardly anyone under the age of 24 pays for music, and likewise i’ll bet a declining amount pays for movies. this goes beyond business models and how huge corporations are trying to squeeze money from the downloading of movies or music (and squeeze writers out in the process). this is about a culture of consumer behavior: a whole generation of consumers of media is accustomed to getting high-quality music (at least) for free.

to bring it closer to home: i’m equal parts consumer and producer, and yet i still want freebies. my son and i watch Pingu animated shorts on youtube. do we buy the dvds? no. and yet i hope other people will pay money to see my documentary. i’m the definition of irrational behavior that would confound an economist. and yet i wouldn’t be the only one to behave like that. (another example: the tv writer who loves Tivo and fast-forwards through the commercials. who doesn’t hate commercials? but ultimately, who pays the networks absurd amounts of money so they can advertise around network tv shows, the same network tv shows that employ writers?)

overcoming the innate human desire for freebies is REALLY hard. and when something is available a click away on the internet and it’s free? well, how do we put the genie that likes its freebies back in the bottle?

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