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 scheißehaufen 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.
At the intersection of art and new media, a place where the convergence emerges.