Category Archives: Media

Opening Philosophy on Filmmaking

It has been a few years since finishing Considering Democracy. After the screening tour, for various reasons, it has taken a few years to recover from the process. The path that I’ve taken has been one that has allowed me to meet some fabulous creative people, along with the chance to see incredibly movingdocumentaries. I’m always struck by the irony of experiencing powerful stories on the screen in the theater, yet as I look around, I often find myself wishing that more people could experience such a story.

As the process of filmmaking has become more democratized with the advent of digital filmmaking, likewise, the internet’s functionality and reach has also been growing in rapid leaps and bounds.  I’m fascinated by and have gravitated toward Open Source web development platforms and communities. WordPress and Drupal are CMS communities that rely on a the work of developers that voluntarily give resources within the development of plugins and modules and as well as within its core. Because their source code is open, anybody can make modifications and contribute to its development.  While I feel that filmmaking and storytelling is a vital and important part in contributing toward our humanity, I have been wanting to make the leap into creating web-based frameworks that harness individual stories.  I’ve been watching interactive media online and have been watching different filmmakers trying to make the transition to the online world with some heartache and frustration.

The internet is an amplifier of information.  Information can quickly spread over social networks and articles and individual tweets and posts retweeted and posted to become viral.  Indeed, revolutions have been spurred by social media.

Yet filmmakers are often caught between the desire to tell stories and the desire to protect the story that has so often painstakingly created.  With the recent swell of creators of media fighting for money that can be gained from selling it, the filmmaker is in a dilemma.  On one hand, it is almost flattering to have others upload and spread one’s creative work.  On the other hand, it hurts to see your work that took years to create, be so easily and willingly copied and given to others.  (One does want to eat, have a place to live, and we do this within a capitalist society – which I’m fine with, but it does create some dichotomies.)  I’ve seen this happen over and over.  With a film, there is the marketing desire to create demand, yet protect it to go through the usual channels of distribution.  Typically, it has been film festivals, theaters, then to digital viewing like Netflix or iMovie.  Yet very often on the web, many of the technologies that we benefit from every day are iterations of open source code that many people have contributed toward, and very often without any pay.

I recently went to Mountain Film Festival in Telluride.  Besides being in a beautiful area, being exposed to truly inspirational stories and people,  I was also struck by how passionate individuals  telling a story.  Some, while passionate, are seemingly shouting into the wilderness.  A person wrote a book where she interviewed people to see how they have been affected by fracking.  She had left her books, signed, in a pile on a table that had other informational material associated with the festival.  I asked if it was okay to take them, as it was a book – something that obviously took a lot of time and work to compile, and the volunteer relayed that it was okay, and that she left them there on the table for people to take.  I was struck by a thought that has been echoing within my mind – that there are now more efficient ways of getting these important stories out to audiences.

Part of this is that I’ve shifted in my thinking and have moved toward openness for the sake of getting information out to a greater public.  Today I changed the copyright on the bottom of a web-based magazine Green Passive Solar from my copyright to one that utilizes the Creative Commons designation.  And I will do the same to Considering Democracy.  I do want to willfully designate creative works that have information that is important and has value to others.

I’ve been thinking of remaking Considering Democracy and updating the stats, but if I were to do so, I would do it in a way that was web-based.  I recently showed Considering Democracy to students.  One student said that if he had a copy of it, one of his friends would translate it into Spanish.  It made me think that it would be more efficient if it were online – then it would be shared and made into any translation – by anyone who wanted to make one.

That’s part of the thinking behind making Considering Democracy under the Creative Commons.  I do want to put more work into it and it will be on its way and will happen soon in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, if you want a copy of the DVD, I’ll send you one.

 

Media Coverage of American Healthcare

As I read articles on healthcare in the United States, I’m amazed at the lack of comprehensive media coverage on the topic. There is a lot of discussion about American health care, yet it is all very similar in its surprisingly (if you have been outside of the United States) blatant consistency in how views on healthcare are presented. I’ll give an example.

I love reading the paper on Sunday morning and on one day as I was browsing around through the different sections, I saw a write up on healthcare in other countries around the world. (SpryLiving.com, February 2010, p. 18, insert in the Denver Post.) The amazing omission of information was that many of the other countries all have a type of healthcare that gives universal coverage to all citizens, and in a lot of cases, this extends to all people. This is an amazingly simple and humane concept. If a person is hurt, he or she should be helped. When Americans travel to other countries and get hurt in a first world country like Germany or Australia, they get taken into a hospital and receive care. Simple. Nice. When they go to pay, they are often amazed that either they pay a small co-pay amount, or they don’t pay anything at all.

All the developed industrial countries do have a universal coverage for their society. Yes. This is a type of socialism because it benefits everyone. In the United States, and in any society, there will be elements of socialism as a tax is collected, then redistributed to benefit society, hence the label of socialism. In the United States, we have schools (thank goodness) that benefit society. I personally, think that it is a very good idea to be literate, read, and have a common language of communication. Likewise, we, in the United States, like other developed countries have roads and an interstate transportation system (thank goodness) that allows all people to drive on the roads, regardless of the state that they are from. The United States, however, is vastly different when it comes to healthcare. While the American people voted for change in 2008, has it occurred?

One would think that this topic of health care and how the media covers it would be a very important and worthy topic to discuss because it affects everyone. It is a major topic. Health care is also an important topic in the light that our statistics, the difference between the U.S. and other developed countries are widening, while the American health care statistics slide toward being more in line with third world countries. Is corporate profit really that important to dominate over the societal or common good for all Americans?

A Letter to Mr. Rush Limbaugh

I’ve been driving across the U.S. screening the film “Considering Democracy”. It’s a large country and at times, I’ve turned on the radio to take a break from the music that I’ve heard over and over again. I listened to an AM conservative radio talk show and was really amazed by what I heard. So, I’m writing a letter.

Dear Mr. Rush Limbaugh,

I was listening to your radio show as I was driving across the country. As I listened, I realized that you are very good at creating divisions in the American public. Some of the political advertisements were also spinning information in a misleading way, while other information consisted of lies. I love America and I think that you’re twisting the use of the U.S. Constitution and using the love of country against those who questions unconstitutional actions by the Bush administration and speak out about it. Please stop, because by creating emotional, hateful divisions, you’re hurting and dividing the United States. America is filled with good, hardworking people who are being misled by what you say. I know that you’re getting paid a lot of money, to be more exact, 38 million dollars a year ($38,000,000) or 400 million until the year 2016, but please stop dividing us. In essence, you have benefited by increased media consolidation because your show is syndicated on Clear Channel. You also benefit by the Bush administration tax policy because really rich guys like you aren’t paying as much tax as a high tax bracket used to pay, and really, should pay. I did some quick math, because it’s really hard for me to comprehend making $38,000,000 dollar a year. If you take the weekdays and two additional weeks for vacation, that’s 50 weeks, times 5 weekdays per week. That’s 250 work days, to be divided into $38,000,000, which equals $152,222 dollars per work day that you make for doing what you do. Interesting.

I hope that you’re healthy and no longer taking the prescription drugs OxyContin/Hydrocodone/Vicodin. If you’d like specifics about how you create divisions, spread fear, hatred and lies, I have some written down, but would also listen to more of your programming and give you examples.

Thank you,

A loyal and concerned American

Your Media Sources

How do you receive your information? What portion of your information do you get from the TV, radio, newspapers, internet and/or other sources? Do your friends, or those that you associate, get their information from similar sources?  Do you have good friends that believe very differently?  If so, what do you talk about?

On a slightly different note, do you think certain topics and questions are avoided on the news? If so, which ones?

Questionable Media Reporting

I was fortunate to see Don Hewitt earlier this month when I was at the Washington State University Progressive Conference. When I first heard his name, I had to say, “Who?” in my ignorance. But when I learned that he was the man who envisioned, created and was the executive producer of 60 Minutes, I simply had to go see him speak. Currently retired and in his eighties, he still had a quick wit and spoke with both intelligence and charm. He hired and worked with Edward R. Murrow, the respected news anchor (who was the main character in the movie Good Night and Good Luck.) Hewitt produced the CBS news show in what can now be perceived as the golden era of television as he lamented the loss of investigative journalism in current broadcast TV news. Many people have recently talked about the increase of news anchor banter and how it really bothers them. It seems that news anchors currently spend a lot of time talking about what they like, if it makes them happy, if it gives them chills, if their pets like the warmer weather, commenting on what might be good for dinner, etc…perhaps some news, please.

It’s also telling of the times when it was recently revealed that the Bush administration, under their guidance and watch, perpetrated the acts of torture in the Guantanamo prison in Cuba. After pictures of heinous acts turned up in the international media, the administration’s immediate response was to send a team of retired officers to give an objective analysis of the situation. Only it’s revealed years later, in a patterned presidential administration action, that the retired generals couldn’t have been objective because they were or are direct representatives of government contractors, defense and security lobbyists, executives, board members or consultants for military contractors.

Also keep in mind that some of the media outlets – corporate conglomerates are also U.S. government contractors. (The number of government contractors in Iraq surpassed the amount of U.S. troops in July 2007, and get paid an astounding 4-10 times as much!) Doesn’t this serve as a direct threat and menace to American democracy? Remember to be empowered by information! Don’t let it get you down. Let’s start talking about it and figure out as an American empowered society about what to do about it, because really, their using our taxes! I’m not so sure that paying Halliburton large amounts of money (who is now based out of Dubai – partially in order to evade U.S. taxes) is a wise investment for U.S. policy. Let’s talk about where else could we shift the U.S. funding? Perhaps we could put a few billion toward education, or healthcare, or toward enacting legislated vacation time. (Why don’t you think I’m serious?) If we pulled out of Iraq, or at least banished the private contractors from siphoning U.S. dollars for questionable activities there, we’d have hundreds of billions of dollars to reallocate to other perhaps more socially beneficial areas of spending. Perhaps the media would like to do an investigative story on shifting some U.S. funds from the defense budget to universal, single payer healthcare. Would it happen? So then, is the U.S. media conservative or liberal? Just something to think about. And discuss!

The Media and Health Insurance

I was looking at the paper this morning and saw that the Denver Post is looking for a right wing blogger on the subject of health insurance. How does this strike you? Here’s a little more background information. I live in Colorado where the two major dailies, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, are owned by the same company. They have also been buying up smaller community newspapers and are attempting to take the place of smaller community papers with their insert of something they call “YourHub”.

They had a short article about how the insurance lobby was giving more funds to the Democrats this year, therefore, the Denver Post wanted to find a right wing, conservative blogger on insurance. Let’s think about this for a moment. What entity has the most power within the society: the newspapers, the insurance companies or the people reading the newspaper? Think about who is giving the most to the politicians and think about where newspaper revenue is coming from. Who wins?

Just something to think about. Considering Democracy!