Monday, May 24, 2010

Seen enough or too much?

"I've seen enough to know I've seen too much," so said the baseball announcer in
the movie A League of their Own. Perhaps. When exactly does one realize that they have seen enough?

Apparently that time is now for Reality TV. This according to blog entry at today that reported only 2 of the 36 shows in the works are for the fall season are of that genre. "
There must be reality show burn-out among viewers and advertisers," writes West Coast Editor Wayne Friedman.

Gee. Ya think?

Friedman goes on to state that advertisers want better story telling, and I can't help but wonder why. Could it be that shows that are essentially produced for their voyeuristic qualities attract the most passive of audiences?

Maybe we have turned a corner!

Maybe, we as a society are ready to re-engage! Imagine it. No longer will we sit back at home watching other peoples lives while forsaking our own. We will actually be out there doing those things, making things happen, initiating dialogue, interacting with each other on a regular basis. Forget tanorexic over-privileged bimbo wannabees who despite everything they have are increasingly dissatisfied with life. Forget exaggerated opportunities used to induce contestants to seek their 15 minutes of fame by showcasing both real and perceived talents. Reality is not on TV, it's what you do every day! This is life baby and you are going to be part of it! Your ideas matter! Your participation makes a difference! You can change the...

(from the article)

"The key for many TV advertisers hasn't changed: They still value a new reality show at a discount to a scripted show. And with a suddenly strong TV advertising market, networks seemingly made the easy call: go for the bigger ad money."


Well, maybe that means there will at least be something worthwhile to watch?


I've taken a great interest in how the market has changed in the past year. I noticed for instance, how quickly advertisers picked up on the new national mood. The message went from gross indulgence to value for your money in less time than it took for my cell phone to be outdated. And although I joke, action and innovation continue to be the sentiment du jour. Suddenly, major companies like American Express, Pepsi and even Absolute Vodka are introducing campaigns that focus on people's ability to make things happen.

So, maybe it is a good sign that Reality TV is out and creativity is back in, and not for the reason you might think. It could be that Ad Men know something we don't: that it really is much more fun to be a part of the game than to stand on the sidelines and cheer. Then again, they are counting on their message reaching me as I sit on my ass.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dare to Hope, Hope to Persevere

Another day is done, and once again I’m moving both forward and up and down as the ferry I’m on traverses a northwest current. The days have grown longer and my rides home are now through fading hazy sunshine that reflects across the water as I look across the bay, past Angel Island to the Marin peninsula that gobbles up cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Spirits are up despite the recent week of horrible news: oil drilling catastrophe, floods, terrorism attempts, and locally, a steady increase in violent crime and another dead whale floating near the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

I don’t know if it’s that we’ve grown accustomed to these stressful times that we are in, or if maybe there is a glimmer of hope that we might come out OK on the other side of our national financial fiasco. A generation was sold on the idea of wealth, an idea that it seems was never truly intended to apply to them. And now it feels as if nobody wants to jinx whatever cusp we are on. The awkward balancing act is wearing, but at least we haven’t fallen off the deep end. For the moment it seems that most of us have learned to be practical, but I can’t help but wonder if it will be a lesson that sticks.

There are incidental signs though that the economy is improving. Retailers continue to display Help Wanted signs, parking at the Ferry Terminal is just a little more crowded, and I’ve noticed an increase in lunchtime lines at eateries near my office. Tourists have also returned to San Francisco unwittingly participating as voyeurs of our everyday life as they pass by in double-decker busses and rented bicycles. It feels good to work in a place and a community that others travel to, to marvel at.

It’s an odd predicament we have come to be in, where we dare ourselves to hope, hope to persevere, and wait for whatever comes next. At least for the moment, I have sunshine on my way home where garden gnomes wait patiently for my arrival.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Am I gentrified?

Gentrification, a term typically used for the takeover of depressed neighborhoods by those who “see the potential” was injected into panel discussion I attended recently about community based media.

Community Based Media or Citizen Journalism as it is sometimes called is typically that which is produced from within the community, and from the community’s perspective. I’m a big fan of the trend. I think Community Based Media contributes to richer dialogue that helps better our practice of democracy. This, despite the fact that in some cases citizen dialogue adds to phenomena such as the Tea Party and militant militia groups. Overall I believe dialogue is a good thing, and the more voices added to it the better.

But this idea of the gentrification of media really bothered me. One of the panel members openly attacked anyone who was not of the 'Hood, for lack of a better term. In fact even those who live in depressed neighborhoods but were educated he felt was fair game, because obviously those persons were “privileged” enough to go to college.

Although I knew these comments were based in fear and anger more than in fact, I had to ask myself, “Am I gentrified?”

So I went down the check list: Catholic high school, check; college education, check; property owner, check; idealistic notions about social justice that may or may not apply to my specific living situation, check.

It wasn’t looking good, but despite this, I continued down the list and added some qualifiers: first generation working class family that started out working in the fields, check; GI Bill earned after 9 years of military service which paid for college and made home purchase possible, check; ten plus years working in community based organizations and projects, check; a deep commitment to honor the history and legacy of communities, check; nonprofit career that will keep me eternally overworked and underpaid, check.

So yes. In many, many ways, I am privileged. I have a house, a car, a job, and a rarified instance where my work is the same entity as my job. And I won’t deny that I can be an intellectual snob. I can’t help it. I like smart things, smart people and stimulating conversations. But I know enough to know that a) I don’t know much, b) that there is a big difference between having an education and being smart, and c) I know my own conscience and intentions, and they are not to capitalize on the potential of a property or an idea. I’d rather capitalize on the potential of people and their tenacity to survive despite all odds. In fact I want to celebrate it. Thus, my opinion is that there's a big difference between looking for someone to blame for a problem, and looking for ways to solve it.

I think there’s a difference between exploiting a situation for personal gain, and genuinely wanting to improve a situation for all those involved. Like all things, Community Based Media has players on both sides, with conflicting intentions. But we mustn’t paint with such broad strokes, as the panelist I saw last weekend did. Education, although often skewed to the mindset of the rich, does not leave us all with that notion. Many of us see the injustice and want to do everything we can to change it.

Us and them mentality won't yield cohesion...only discord.

Check out Community Based Media sites here: