Friday, September 30, 2005

BRACING


Day 47. Forgive me for disconnecting lately. The CBC pie may be branded on my skin, but I’ve been taking this time to do some healing. Get away to an imaginary tropical beach where I rub aloe on my wounds, and try to forget about my tangled work-life. And so far, it’s working. There is still anger and determination, but a spirited clarity in my step.

I liken it to being the high school geek, liberated by summer break. No, this lock-out is not a holiday – but it is an opportunity for some down and dirty naval-gazing – which some bloggers engage in daily, to my delight.

Moons ago, I heard our own Ian Brown make the high school comparison to CBC. We have the geeks in braces, the-do-good-band-kids, the popular and pretty, the grouchy goths, the apathetic but influential jocks, and the people that nobody notices at all.

Like high school, we get caught up in tribal politics, and forget the name of game.

We are there (when we are there) not to impress each other, but to broadcast to the public. But if you listen to many tribes, they’ll say that broadcasting to the public equals programming that pleases only themselves and their CBC bubble.

But on summer break, the bubble is popped. We don’t have to sit through meetings and pretend to care about ideas that no one we know is interested in. We can be media civilians, and through it, become supremely better story tellers.

I’ve done much work in Vancouver with a show (with an alphabetic name) created to target a narrow, elite audience. I support the idea, but not for us. It’s television aimed at the politics of pleasing annual mandate, development and regionalism reports. But BROAD casting, it ain’t. Most of the people working on the program(s) don’t watch. Yet they are the first to defend the ideas and principles of what we are doing. There must be a connection between viewing (listening/reading) and mandate. And we have to get back to that place (in TV, we’ve rarely been there).

Most of us are dreading the return to work. But I sense that if we rally, our momentum will continue to power our ideas forward – from the bottom up. Summer break will be over, and we can forget about the on-air cool kids with self-serving ideas, the geeks with elitist story streams, the jocks who slug through the season with beefy apathy – we have to come together and remember what it’s all about. Programming for real people – created by real (professional) people.

Let’s start bracing for a tide of relevant ideas that wake up our management and viewers. Let’s prove that even after all this – it’s not CBC matters that matter – it’s our audience.

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Financially – I haven’t posted because I confess to being in stable condition. Thanks much to my wife’s pay and a tiny music gig I picked up. I won’t give the details – but most coin goes to food, and still, way too much booze. But hey, it’s summer break?

Bank Balance: $2,046.31 (but rent and childcare are due in days…)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Goodbye Ian?


I'm a TV guy, so tonight is a pseudo holiday. Even though I can see the Mary Hartness of it all through Emmy's brass rings, I can't help but be satisfied when stellar risks (Deadwood, Arrested Development) are applauded. I'm all for risk, but this? Interesting round-up (free to read from yesterday's Globe) about Radio-Canada television trends in Quebec. I have heard the words pour from Stursberg's mouth that ETV should be more populist like our Radio-Canada colleagues. Some find this prognosis frightening - public broadcasting suicide. I'm supportive of risk, but only if it maintains the mandate of the CBC, which seems quite irrelevant to them these days anyway. So if we follow their lead and ditch CNOW, is it goodbye Ian, hoping for hello Emmy?

Daily Debits:

$3.62 New toothbrush. White glue for crafts with the kiddo. Shoppers Drug Mart

$18.19 Pellegrino, nachos and organic milk. Safeway


Bank Balance:
$1521.83

Saturday, September 17, 2005

CHINS


(A long overdue financial statement today.Busy week. Locked out life is somehow exhausting and break-neck busy.)

This week was full of new psychological lows for me. My sense of journalism and the future of the CBC feels even more bleak. I distracted and drowned myself in what many would consider CBC kryptonite: THE MULRONEY FAMILY. Between clips and reviews of Newman's book and the grand finale of Canadian Idol - I took in all of the chins I could get. Of course, like a tub of ice cream, I feel worse after consuming it all. I have never watched so much CTV in my life - I feel like a Red Sox fan hollering for the Yankees, and not feeling nearly as ashamed as I should. CBC isn't only losing regular viewers and listeners, they have lost the most loyal audience they have: US. It is all so incredibly fucked up (to borrow a "colourful" word from Mulroney's "secret" recordings).

Weekly Debits:

$91.56 Various groceries - cheese and portugese bread (Santa Barbara Market)
$25.00 Gas. That's half a tank. We are just trying not to drive.
$62.00 Credit Card payment. It could be worse.
$136.77 ICBC car insurance payment.
$25.00 Pre-authorized monthly GREENPEACE donation.
$316.59 Car payment.
$27.25 Beer.

$26.05 Various fresh produce (local Korean market)
$26.12 Pet food and cat litter.
$25.49 Groceries (yoghurt, juice, all-purpose cleaner, garbage bags, bagels) Safeway.
$21.18 Wine.
$19.34 Groceries (local Korean market) mostly fresh fruit, vegetables and EIGHT avacadoes. Making guacamole tomorrow.

Bank Balance: $1542.63

Friday, September 09, 2005

WHY STRAINED MUSCLES GROW STRONGER




If they wanted to knock us down, make us feel every nerve-ending, deflate our hopes, and slap our sense of reality in the face, they've done it. I feel vulnerable, somewhat lonely, and overwhelmingly frustrated. I'm over the freedom. Time compounds my simmering anger and doubts. And I'm tired of no one in my life really understanding how this feels (non-CBC friends, family, etc.). People don't get it. And I didn't either until that padlock was chucked at my temple, knocking me to my knees.

But the dark fuels the light. I've never felt more professionally and intimately connected with my colleagues. I carry my union card with more pride than ever. And the more I doubt the quality of what we've been doing at the CBC, the more determined I am to get back and prove that solid ideas and rigorous work is only limited by fearful managers and lingering meetings.

There is more muscle, creativity and strength between us than ever before.

Watch out.

To that point, an interesting study (pdf) on how the 2001 lockout at the Winnipeg Symphony deflated staff morale, but strongly empowered unity and unions.

Daily Debits: $4.50 Took the bus back and forth today. $4.38 Slice of pizza. $6.22 Movie rental for the week. Bank Balance: $975.87

Thursday, September 08, 2005

THE LOCKOUT GUIDE TO A RICHER, SEXIER, THINNER, SMARTER YOU!


This is starting to sink in. The fears extend well beyond the financial for me, as they do for all. If this extends to January, what will we face when we return? It won't be remote control cruising ladies and gents - we are in for a possible round of cuts in the spring, and some drastic (though maybe needed) programming "adjustments." Amid the fear, I am trying to live life day by day. There can be a naive ground-hog day quality to imposed blinders - I just wake up, and try to pretend that everything is curious and temporary.

I have dark dwelling moments, but today is unabashedly bright, sequined and sunny. Blame the ample trashy celeb-self-help mags littered along our lockout line, but when life tosses a lemon at you...duck.

I have a mildly freakonomic theory that there is a mathematic correlation between the number of channels someone receives on their TV, the mileage on their car, the number of books they read in a year, and the size of their ass. The bigger, the longer, the wider, etc. So I present this lickity-split lockout list so it doesn't happen to you. You'll save money, fire-up brain connectors, tone your tush, and get some action to boot.

1. UP IN ARMS. All that lockout walking is hard on knees and feet, so focus on upper body in the evening. Walk to buy groceries (make 'em heavy ones) and hoist the bags up and down as arm curls on your way home.

2. DON'T DRIVE. Just don't do it. You'll save money on gas, lose weight from whatever walking you need to do, and spark brain cells to calculate distances and times related to walking to destinations. Attention suburb people: it IS possible. You just have to PLAN PLAN PLAN - but it's the price you pay for living in communities with cheaper housing prices.

3. A NOVEL IDEA. You work at the CBC - so you either have an ego, a talent, and/or a holy obligation to let the world hear your story. Take the time now to write that novel that's dying to spill out of your veins. Remember - every good story needs an evil villain that has caused harm to roughly 5,500 people.

4. LOCKOUT LARD. Work on that ponch in the evenings. A strong set of abs provides better posture, and less strain on the back and legs. In the evening, while complaining to your partner about the state of your life, grab something heavy, get on your back, and gently crunch foreward holding the object over your head. I use a small child, but animals and large bottles of water may work.

5. LOCK FROCK. We are creative folks - so to show off our newly toned bods, we must reconfigure the drapy locked-out T. Cut the arms off. Show those lock-out lats. Ladies can belt at the waste, and do the lock-out mini. Way to stop traffic and garner support.

6. THE PICKUP LINE. With your new body and free time, have an affair. Lots of hot properties to pursue, and hey, it's fun, cheap and a great way to continue news integration while locked out. And all that lying and secrey is leads to complex brain activation.

7. COUNTRY CANADA LINE-DANCING. Keep on the move, for free, burning fat, bonding, protesting, all in one. Best to groove to "These Boots Are Made For Walking," and my own diddy, "I May Be Broke, Bothered and Blue, But My Soul's Still In My Shoes."

8. FREE READING. Don't buy books. Don't pay for papers. Banish magazines. Troll the line for free material. Key is to arrive late morning, and feel no shame digging through trash. An extra challenge is to find a fully read paper, without the crossword and Sudoko completed, or the Doyle column torn out.

9. PICKET POUNDS. Strap an eight-pounder to a picket sign, hoist over your head, and watch those lockout lats emerge.

10. ALL HAIL HULL. Before bed, settle in to watch the train wreck of Rae Dull reading the news. Instead of shaking your fists in the air, clench a five-or ten pounder. It's a free passage to exercise and expression.

Daily Debits:

$11.36 Lunch for the fam damily on Monday. We gave in and ate out at a deli. Argh.
$63.50 Various groceries (produce, fish and cheese) at Granville Island (which is NOT more expensive, you just have to be careful).
$18.40 Groceries from SAFEWAY that I couldn't get at the Island.
$57.14 Liquor Store. Forgive me, we are entertaining tonight, and have two parties to attend on the weekend. It's my only pleasure these days.
$17.24 Diapers for the monkey.
$7.00 Bank service charge.
$171.16 Dental bill. I already received the claim before the lockout, but still hadn't paid it. Ouch.

Bank Balance: $998.77 (but still have to deposit this weeks whopping lockout cheque).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

100% AMERICAN





Long before this lock-out, I cut off our basic cable. It was, as my wife describes, the ultimate cheap sk8 idea. I figured I could save about 19 dollars a month and live without the scandalous distraction of Dancing With The Stars. The savings are helpful these days. But TV programming on the four fuzzy stations I can receive with bunny ears is quite remarkable. In a pure sense, I am a Canadian TV viewer, because it is all I can see. And while I appreciate some American distraction (sucker for a good C.S.I. and Arrested Development), I want my CBC.

Maybe they can explain to me why primetime programming last night was 100% American content from 7pm until midnight (Splash and Gangs of New York). While CTV kicked our Canadian butts with 100% Canadian content during the same time (W-Five, Cold Squad, Comedy Now and CTV News). It's bad enough that we are locked out, but CBC still has the Broadcasting Act to up hold. It's shameful.

Maybe Richard Stursberg is reading his Sunday Times with fawning admiration. Today's magazine profiles CBS honchito Les Moonves - a man with some curious declations about mass television consumption and the commerce of news programming.

It's confirming to read that media isn't all about mass pander in this LA Times article. Long before Katrina hit, read about the work that rigorous journalists did in the civic rather than commercial interests of their readers. A reminder for all of us, when we are back, to pitch what matters.

Weekend Daily Debits:

$13.67 Yoghurt, black beans (and chips and pop for the baby sitter) - Safeway.
$40.00 Baby sitter. (We went to a rolicking party).
$6.78 Pet food.
$6.37 Bread, juice and dish detergent - IGA.
$3.99 Full-week rental of The Lion King DVD - our monkey is really into animals right now.

Bank Balance: $1,336.98

Friday, September 02, 2005

PARALYZING


Call me Paris, I've been out all morning spending up Main Street. Two movies for our fourteen-year-old babysitter (tomorrow night.) What do teenagers watch? I tried to choose movies I would normally be embarrassed to rent. Hitch and The Pacifier. Then a hit at the liquor store. We have three parties to attend over the weekend and can't arrive empty-bottled. Locked out does not mean we can abandon our guestiquette. Can I bill the CBC? They seem to have cash. They sent out management propaganda packages to all of our home addresses this week. I estimate in printing and postage, it cost them $6,500.00. Times must be really tough.

Why don't they send $6,500.00 to the Hurricane relief effort. If they can't provide proper coverage, they could at least do something. So as broke as I expect to be in the coming weeks, I gave a few bucks. The images and stories are filling us all with desperation and anger. I just know that if we were back at work, we'd be at the front of the pack with hard questions and compassionate story-telling. Paralyzing on so many fronts.

Daily Debits:

$19.68 Assorted cheeses and fresh pizza dough from the Italian deli.

$16.67 Fresh produce and organic milk for our monkey.

$11.41 Two movies from Blockbuster. Heck, at least no late fees.

$59.22 Two bottles of red (both Argentinean), one white (B.C.), and a bottle of Absolut.

$1.75 Slice of emergency banana bread for my hungry anxious monkey.
$40.00 Hurricane Katrina Relief via Canadian Red Cross


Bank Balance:
$1,453.40

WHAT WOULD BERTUZZI DO?


First of the month. Big bills to pay, as a dark empty corrider stretches ahead. Makes me feel great empathy for those poor guys in a mildly similar situation last year. Just how did they make ends meet? I should get together with some of them for beers - compare financial plans, and hug over our six buck pints. I bet Bertuzzi would be particularly sympathetic, striking out and being kicked out. We could bond. Everyone likes a comeback kid.

Aside from the two biggest payments of the month (rent and childcare - see below), today was intended to be a cost free day. I had the car for a change, and slipped my way into a free cozy parking spot around the perimeter of the CBC, saving myself a minimum of seven bucks with pay parking. It was all too good to be true. When I went to leave after four hours marching on the line, I peered through my car window to see my keys still in the ignition. All doors locked. I intentially don't carry cash these days for fear that I will lose control of my hands and end up gripping a four dollar soy chai latte, so I had to trek to the nearest bank machine, pay the buck fifty in a service charge to take out cash, then find change to hobble down to the bus to get to my wife's office to get the second set of car keys. CBC has taken away our cell phones so I couldn't even call her. There I was, shuffling along Granville Street, down and defeated. I didn't even know what bus to take to get to her. $4.50 in bus fare, an embarrassing parade through my wife's office, and an hour later, I retreived my car. Sucky. In the same situation, what would Bertuzzi do? That's why we need our NHL heroes. Guide us, men of steel on ice.

Daily Debits:
$1,150.00 Monthly Rent.

$640.00 Childcare for our monkey.

$17.07 Subscription to the paper.

$42.50 Gym membership. Yes, I use it.

$1.50 Bank service charge to take out cash.

$4.50 Bus fare.


Bank Balance:
$1,529.29