Category Archives: entertainment

We Walked The Line


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WGA Strike     Day 16     Hollywood Blvd. Rally

Who are these people, why are they on cell phones in the middle of the WGA strike rally in Hollywood, and why is JS smiling at Ray Romano?

Tuesday, Nov. 20, was day 16 of the WGA strike and thousands of WGA writers, producer/showrunners, and SAG actors showed up to march down Hollywood Blvd.  in support of the ongoing walkout.  Also there to lend some muscle was the Teamsters Union, who parked three enormous rigs on Hollywood Blvd. 
teamsters-trucks-_2-sm.jpg  It seems that lots of folk are jumping on the bandwagon (there was an actual band wagon, where Alicia Keys performed two songs) to support the striking writers. I even saw a small contingency of nurses, who arrived with their union signs and joined the march.  Lending culinary support were members of CAA who walked around with mountainous trays of scrumptious scones and provided hot cider.

So, who are my mystery people on phones and why was JS at the rally? I was invited to join entertainment professional Philippa Burgess, of Creative Convergence, pictured in the above left photo with the showrunner/executive producer of “Lost” Carlton Cuse.  Philippa and her partners were conducting a live teleconference with over 100 emerging writers around the country, letting them experience the strike first hand.  Philippa and I marched with the strikers and lent our support while we asked anyone we recognized within range to give the teleconference writers some words of advice and/or encouragement and answer the big question of the day “how can these writers who live far away support the strike?”  

 Besides Mr. Cuse, also joining the teleconference were Ray Romano (pictured above with yours truly) and, on the right, Jonathan Lisco, showrunner/executive producer of the new TV show “K-Ville“.  In addition, speaking to the cell conference was a showrunner from the Disney Channel and the very gracious and lovely Debra Messing.

Talk about a moveable feast! Or was that a moveable feat?  While marching with thousands of people shouting strike slogans, and the ever present choppers above, we could barely hear each other speak, yet somehow these notables managed to keep pace with the crowds and talk on the cell phone to the writers around the country. My hats off to them for a) being troupers and showing up for the strike with no fanfare or self-agrandizing and b) lending their impromptu support to strangers on a phone thousands of miles away.

The rally ended two hours later at Grauman’s Chinese Theater with some rousing speeches by the WGA and Teamsters reps and a heartfelt talk by Sandra Oh.  All left feeling well supported and pumped, and hoping for a happy Hollywood ending.  Soon.

Re: Greetings From Brazil


I was pleasantly surprised to get a comment from my post on The Brazilian Solution from Jose Murilo Junior of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. [See Comment on Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution].  He is also spearheading one of the Ministry’s innovative cultural programs, which uses web technology to reach low-income youths called “Hotspots“.  According to the description on Murilo’s eco-rama blog: “A hotspot is established with a broadband connection, infrastructure made with recycled equipments and, most of all, technical workshops of open-source software, allowing anyone to digitalize their creativity.”

I’d love to see programs like this in the U.S.  Also, I like the implications for these youths to be able to connect with people outside of their immediate environment.  Instead of sister cities, we could have brother/sister Hotspots.

The Brazilian kids already have a blog, flickr page and a video on YouTube. Unfortunately, for us, they are all in Portuguese. But the body language is loud and clear. These kids have something to tell us. And lots of creativity. Check out their flickr photos. However you say it in your language, you go, Brazil!  Greetings from America!

Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution


As promised, here is the second part of the Pirates 2007 saga.  Our story continues as a new hero of digital downloading emerges in the guise of international musical artist Gilberto Gil and now, Brazil’s new Minister of Culture.

As I’ve been absorbing the myriad media stories about piracy and such, a mantra has been repeating itself in my head: “the real problem is that we have an antique model for copyrights law, and we need a totally new system to address all the new technology and forms of distribution in the digital age of the 21st century.  I say just scrap the system and start over”.  

Sails into our harbor, Mr. Gil who recently spoke at the SXSW Music conference in Austin, TX.  As reported by Larry Rohter in The New York Times [sorry it’s a Times Select story, for those of you who aren’t subscribers to this service], Gil and Brazil’s Creative Commons movement, have done just that:  devised a new system of ownership and copyrights protection that looks like a real working model for the digital dilemmas we are now facing.

More elegantly put by Mr. Gil as quoted in the article: “I think we are moving rapidly toward the obsolescence and eventual disappearance of a single traditional model and its replacement by others that are hybrids…My personal view is that digital culture brings with it a new idea of intellectual property, and that this new culture of sharing can and should inform government policies.”

As the copyrights controversy heats up, I am now noticing other commentaries expressing similar thoughts. 

Here’s the Brazilian solution:

As Minister of Culture, Gil is working with the Creative Commons  movement, which has come up with a new system of ownership.  Creative Commons was started in 2001 to address the issue of all rights reserved copyright ownership. The movement is comprised of disparate groups, from “scientists and artists to lawyers and consumers” who believe that the “all rights reserved” system “impeded creativity and the sharing of knowledge in the Internet age”.

The Creative Commons movement has devised a three-tiered structure that retains some rights, shares some and gives some away.

For example, in the new system called “Copyleft” a musical artist would own all the rights on some songs, share the rights with a publisher on others and then have another group of songs with “no rights reserved”.  Those songs would be free and clear, to download, remix, copy, whatever.  One for me, one for you, one for everyone else.  The Copyleft system is already operating in Brazil with a huge database of registered properties.

The other thing Copyleft does is give all the rights back to the artist or creator.  Using this model, artists don’t have to give away all of their rights to studios or record companies. They get to choose which rights they want to keep and which rights they want to share.

This model makes so much sense.  You can control the mix and also the distribution.  Put watermarks on the copyrighted properties and none on the free properties.  

Let’s stop litigating and start creating copyright systems that work. For everyone.

Since the word “left” in America is so loaded, I propose that we call our new system “No Rights Left Behind”.

See my next post for why I think the U.S. should have a Minister of Culture.

To watch a few minutes of Gilberto Gil talking about music at SXSW go here (scroll down almost to the bottom of the page).

Does Viacom Suck or Rock?


Sucks, evidently, according to the people’s Internet, Yahoo Search API search engine and an amusing new website called sucks-rocks.com

As noted in my previous post on piracy, the Viacom v. YouTube controversy is doing a lot to damage the public image of both companies in the eyes of its customers and audience. When you take a boardroom fight to the streets, this is what you can expect. 

Sucks-rocks.com allows you to search any number of keywords to see how much they “suck” or “rock”.  The website gets its results from a formula worked out from the occurrence of negative and positive phrases regarding each keyword and reduces the results to a scale of 10-1, in which 10 Rocks and 1 Sucks.

According to info on the website, the phrases they measure by are: 
Negative:  “X sucks, X is lame, X is crap, I hate X”.
Positive:    “X rocks, X is sweet, X is awesome, I love X”.

Seems clear enough. So, I couldn’t resist applying this to the Viacom/YouTube controversy.  In my own personal campaign to prove that there really is such a thing as bad publicity, here are my search results for the following keywords:

My Search Term:

10 -1  rating 
Illegal Download 9.0 (Rocks)
Pirates 8.7  
Google 7.2  
YouTube 6.4  
Piracy 4.2  
MySpace 4.1  
Viacom 1.2  
GooTube 0.5 (Sucks)