I'm in the habit of putting my titles first, before I write an entry. Sometimes I end up going in an unexpected direction, and change the title accordingly. Or sometimes the unexpected direction is the result of seeing the title written down.
So I had an idea in mind for this entry, and decided to call it (not too imaginatively) "Counter." I dutifully typed it in between the H1 brackets. My intention was to talk about how I am obsessed with counting at the moment: counting the days and hours remaining until I have to get this next draft to my advisor (less than 2 days, at this point); the words and pages I've written so far (50,575 and 212 respectively, plus 31 pages of references); the days I've been given to review the copyedited book manuscript before I have to get it back to my editor (15); how much time I have in which to finish cleaning my data, laboriously formatting, analyzing, interpreting same and come up with a poster to present at a big international conference (40 days); weeks before my advisor needs a completed draft (9); months before I allegedly move across the country, assuming all of the above takes place in the allotted time (less than 6).
I think I've made my point. Counting: big part of my mental landscape these days.
On the other hand, once I've set out the list like that, there's not a whole lot else to say. I could end this entry right here (and probably should; see above about the work I have to do). But as I typed out that title, I realized it reminded me of something else that's occupying a pretty significant portion of my mental energies at the moment: the WGA strike.
If you haven't been following along, Nick Counter is the
ringleader president and chief negotiator for the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. In case my not-so-subtle phrasing didn't give it away, I am 100% behind the WGA on this strike, not just because they deserve decent residuals for their work distributed via the so-called new media, but also for the "controversial" clauses regarding reality and animation writers. The reasoning behind all of these items is the same, in my mind: the media landscape is changing so rapidly that lines are blurring. Today's categories are not going to be meaningful tomorrow. Where does the Internet end and television begin? Where is the line between reality and scripted programming? What about animation and "regular" writing? Some of those boundaries may seem clear now (although I don't think they're particularly well defined, myself), but they are changing. Locking out any of those aspects during these negotiations is going to mean significant lost future income for somebody down the line. Lots of somebodies. Not to mention lost protection to ensure decent working conditions and benefits.
I grew up with parents who were Nixon Republicans, and (thus?) violently anti-union. I'm not sure I understand why, since my father worked at McDonnell-Douglas in a non-managerial position; starting when I was in about fourth grade, he went onto the third shift, from midnight to 7 a.m. I'm pretty sure that most of the benefits he received were not testaments to the selfless largesse of Messrs. McDonnell and Douglas, but were hard won by union negotiators who had come before. But my parents were firm believers in the American Dream, even though it never really worked out for them. Maybe the dream alone was enough for them to get by. Who knows?
The point is, I grew up not thinking much about unions or labor, and if anything with a vague idea that unions were bad and violent and kept hard-working people from doing their jobs.
Then I grew up. I did some traveling at a formative time of my life, and ended up in a very different political space from my parents. I also spent many years married into a very blue-collar family, in a country that is frequently paralyzed by strikes of one kind or another. (Right now, as a matter of fact, truckers and gas stations are both on strike in Italy.) I had lots and lots of arguments with Dario and especially with his father, who started working back at a time when there was no such thing as vacation time or pensions or health care. He also knew about the situation from the other side of the table, since for a few years he owned a factory with two partners. From them, and others, I learned an awful lot about rights, and what it means to have to fight for and defend them.
Do I automatically agree with every strike, every union policy, every negotiating tactic? Uh, no. It's not a knee-jerk response. I no longer dismiss unions and strikes a priori, though. I like to find out what they're all about. In the case of the WGA, I've been obsessively reading everything from the trades to United Hollywood to Nikki Finke, and bloggers from Craig Mazin to Kay Reindl to Ken Levine to Jane Espenson (who I read anyway, even before the strike). Plus miscellaneous other stuff. That's a lot of different viewpoints. And based on my reading, I conclude that I hope the writers can stay strong and stick it out for as long as it takes to negotiate a fair deal. I miss my shows, but for me it's just entertainment. For the writers, it's their livelihood and the future of their profession.
So here are some more counts, for Nick Counter: number of days the writers have been on strike (37); days since the AMPTP unilaterally broke off negotiations (5); revenue lost by WGA members since the strike began (over $106 million); time until I expect it to be resolved (unfortunately, this one is measured in months). I'll keep counting--when I'm not counting that other stuff, that is. Because, at the risk of making an awful pun, this strike? Counts.