Monday, March 30, 2009

TV is Dead, Long Live the New TV



Maybe you hadn't noticed, but gee there's a lot of television programming on the interweb now. Between YouTube and Hulu I never watch conventional television anymore. When our area recently converted to digital TV, we lost our ABC feed completely. Normally this would not have even registered, but since we'd invited friends over for watching the Oscars, it was crucial. We switched back to analogue just for the evening. We used to have Direct TV but ditched it about a year ago when it was evident that we had better things to do. Why pay $75/month for nothing? So as a backup we got the digital converter box. We've barely used it.

Harry Shearer's Le Show this week talked about the DTV conversion and it got me thinking about how my own viewing habits have changed completely in just 2 years. Before, I watched more DVD's or on-demand cable than TV. When I moved, I ditched cable in the process and watched even less television. I listened to the presidential debates on NPR or watched live on CNN on my laptop. I watched the Inaugural in a room full of strangers at a MoveOn.org event in my neighborhood via video projection. The last time we had the TV on at home was for the Oscars.

Now when I hear about shows from my friends, I figure I can catch them online or on DVD from Netflix when I want to see them. The idea of rushing home to see a TV show, or even carving regular time into my life for watching TV seems crazy to me now, though we've all done it in the past. Remember "movies of the week"? Television was an "event". I supposed I've saved money by not having a Tivo device. Why would I need one now anyway when the Internet IS my Tivo?

I'm making a list of things I want to see on my new TV: old shows I never saw or missed somehow (thirtysomething, 21 Jump Street) shows I've lost touch with but want to catch up to (The Tudors). I like that I can choose to see what I want, when I want. And frankly I'd like to be able to search for programming in a Google-like search engine, maybe coupled with IMDB, so I can find all the 21 Jump Street episodes I never saw Johnny Depp in. Or any number of those BBC costumers of classic literature with great character actors in them who are big stars now (Hugh Laurie). I know they're out there somewhere.

In conversation with a friend the other day we were discussing marketing and television. It suddenly dawned on me that there now exists an infinite number of "channels" available for viewing - that anyone with a webcam and Itunes can become a TV programmer. Perhaps there will be websites like blip.fm which will allow me to veejay my own channel lineup. Efforts to market our creative content will have to reach out to those channels with the most viewers or those who have the viewers that will best spark to our product. Conventional TV is dead. We are the new TV.

Thanks to Kevin Steele's Flickr photostream for the photograph of the TV and recycling bins.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Twit Pic

Mrs. Dogger greets me at the door. on TwitPic

Wish I knew the HTML to change this so it's upright... but this is me learning to use Twitter to send photos.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When life gives you garbage, make some compost


About a year ago we began an herb and vegetable garden in the backyard. It started out as a bit of fun but over the course of the year this Victory garden (though not intended as such) has proven to be a terrific resource for fresh and (dare I say "organic"?) herbs, vegetables and salad greens.

I figured with all the fresh kitchen scraps we should begin composting, so an old plastic garbage bin was quickly recruited. I drilled holes in the sides and bottom then we loaded it up. Now the original bin is getting quite full and we're pondering starting a second. I open it up to add more scraps and marvel at how what was essentially garbage, is becoming something useful again.

Kind of like our job situation here in Hollywood. There's not much work and what does seem to be around are the scraped together kinds of jobs. I have colleagues who are working as production assistants, cleaning houses, and babysitting. They are basically odd-jobbing to get by. One of my friends furtively admitted to me she was using the local food pantry and applying for food stamps. It's not pretty out there - it's all egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds and yard clippings. There's flies and slugs and spiders nesting in the bin lid. But at the bottom of this schei├čehaufen is good dirt. Stuff will grow in it, good stuff.

Maybe this prolonged defacto SAG strike/work stoppage combined with SAG's own internal meltdown and the schism between AFTRA and SAG will create a single actors union. Maybe this is all just a way for the AMPTP to union bust? When I talk with friends and colleagues about this lack of work one of the things I hear most often is that the only reason they stay in their union and continue to pay their dues is for the healthcare benefits.

What if we had a European style healthcare plan in this country? Would unions loose their structural cohesion and disappear? It seems they have already lost significant power in the past 20 years. What would blossom in their place? Would the collective become a participatory panopticon using social networking tools to publicly report on the misconduct of employers by taking them into account for their transgressions?

When a union cannot guarantee you a basic wage rate, when you are asked to work more hours to qualify for your health care benefits yet the opportunities for union work are shrinking -- can the restructuring or dissolution of unions be far behind?

This situation has forced us to reassess our jobs and careers. I know several people who have left or are planning to leave the business and even LA. I know others who are using this time to focus on a better work/life balance. We hike more, we cook and eat at home more, we spend more time with our loved ones. As a result we're healthier and possibly even happier, arts workers.

I don't know where the next check is coming from, and I admit I sometimes lie awake at night wondering what will happen if I run out of unemployment benefits before I get a job. Can I afford to pay for COBRA coverage should my motion picture health care benefits expire because I've not worked 300 hours to maintain it for another 6 months? Should I look into taking some classes to learn more software to make myself more "employable"? I'm considering it, but how do I pay for that? I don't know and I don't have an answer. I see some folks sitting around waiting breathlessly for an Obama Wirtschaftswunder to "save" us all. I'd rather be part of the solution than wait for it, life's too short to wait. I can remain positive because I know people still need us. They want to be entertained. So I wake up in the morning and focus on what I do have, my ability to make compost out of garbage. When summertime comes, there will be some fantastic fruit on the vine.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Snowboarding



This is my second season snowboarding. I started last year on Super Bowl Sunday at Mountain High here in Southern California. It was hard. The wind blew me down every time I tried to stand up. I would take lessons, hang out on the Bunny Hill and keep trying to get over my fear of standing on something that moved while I stood still.

I never skied, surfed or skateboarded as a kid so many of my friends thought I was slightly insane for suddenly taking up such a "dangerous" sport. It looked like fun and I thought, why not?

Last year after 4 sessions on rental boards, I invested in an Arbor. It was on sale, I was working, I wanted my own board. Then C very sweetly gifted me Flow bindings, suddenly I had not only a kick-ass board, but top of the line bindings as well. I HAD to get better.

This season I was lucky enough to get 3 days over the Christmas/New Year holiday in Tahoe at Mt. Rose. On my last day, I finally started to get it. I am off the bunny hill. I'm no longer taking lessons and while I'm still "working on my dismount" from the chairlift (otherwise falling on my Po every time and crawling away) I'm having FUN! I can do falling leaf more or less all the way down the run. This may not sound like much, but for me it is a little victory. Yes, I'm covered in bruises, and it hurts, and I'm often cold, but knowing that I kept trying and stuck with it is incredibly rewarding. I'm miles away from being able to do boxes or rails - and I'm not sure that it's even something I would ever try - but who knows?

Some things I've learned are:
Point the board downhill and lean in.
Good boots are important.
Falling in powder hurts a lot less.
Sometimes a face plant is kind of fun.
Everyone falls if they catch an edge.

I'm hoping to get to go a few more times this season. Would like to try Mt. Waterman and Snow Summit again, visit Mammoth and possibly somewhere in Utah. And yes, I've begun lusting after more comfortable boots that are easier to deal with.

See you on the slopes!

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