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Friday, January 20, 2012

Remembering Etta James, Stunning Singer

The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta's name and reversed it: Etta James.

Her talent was discovered when she was 14 — the same age her mother was when James was born. Within three years, the foster-home runaway had her first hit, with the girl group The Peaches. Back then, "Roll With Me Henry" was deemed too racy for radio, "roll" being a sexual euphemism.
Etta James was still a minor when she toured with Little Richard. Then, she signed with leading blues label Chess Records and bleached her hair platinum blond.

"What I was doing was trying to be a glamour girl," she told NPR's Fresh Air in 1994. "Because I'd been a tomboy, and I wanted to look grown and wanted to wear high-heeled shoes and fishtail gowns and big, long rhinestone earrings."

Darkness Beneath The Joy
James had grit in her voice that could melt like sugar or rub like salt in a wound. Between 1960 and 1963, she had 10 records on the R&B charts, including "Something's Got a Hold on Me."
Darkness runs beneath that joy — as does anger, says David Ritz, who wrote a biography of James.
"It isn't like she sings that song," Ritz says. "Sometimes, you feel she was going to war with the song."
By the mid-1960s, James was into hard drugs, and her career hit the skids. She bounced checks, forged prescriptions and stole from her friends. A judge finally gave her a choice: prison or rehabilitation. In 1974, she spent months in recovery at a psychiatric hospital.

"I was around nothing but a lot of white kids," James told Fresh Air. "They were all younger than I was. I remember on Saturdays, they would play rock 'n' roll records and I would say, 'That music is really happening.' My song, 'I'd Rather Go Blind' — they had a version by Rod Stewart, and they kept saying, 'This is the song you wrote!' And I'd say, 'All right!'

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones sent James a letter while she was in rehab and invited her to tour with the band if she stayed clean. In 1978, she joined the Stones on tour. By the '90s, she'd reached a new generation of fans and won a Grammy. The next challenge was jazz.

"[Jazz] was too disciplined and too confining," James said on Fresh Air. "I thought you had to be bourgeois to do that. I was a sloppy kid, wanted to be just wild. I think it took me maturing."

James said making her tribute to Billie Holiday, 1994's Mystery Lady, also honored her mother, who loved both Holiday and jazz. She said it helped make peace with the woman she idolized, and who had abandoned her.

It's often said of Etta James that you could hear her whole life in her voice. James told NPR in 1989 that that made sense, though she mostly sang for herself.

"When I sing for myself, I probably sing for anyone who has any kind of hurt, any kind of bad feelings, good feelings, ups and downs, highs and lows, that kind of thing," she said.
Etta James went to extremes, and owned them in her life, and in her music.

NPR's All Things Considered Tribute, click here.

Apple Steve Jobs The Crazy Ones - NEVER BEFORE AIRED 1997

Star Wars Most Expensive Game of All Time. American Idol on the decline. Happy Birthday COMCAST/NBCUniversal (official name, no kidding). Pirates Win the Series (at least until next week).

Star Wars The Old Republic
 Photo: Jeff Hollis, left, his wife Deirdre, and David Moore are co-founders of TORWars, a fan site devoted to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the lastest industry news.
An very very record setting expensive galaxy far far away. It cost $200 million and took six years to make. No, we're not talking about James Cameron's next movie. We're talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic, the costliest and riskiest video game ever made. The Los Angeles Times looks behind the scenes at the making of the game and what it will have to do to be a hit.

With a price tag approaching $200 million, Star Wars: The Old Republic is likely to be the most expensive game of all time to produce -- and a colossal gamble for the game's publisher, Electronic Arts Inc.

BioWare, the EA studio responsible for the online game, had spent close to six years on the title, hiring hundreds of programmers, writers and artists, as well as a legion of contract workers. The hope is that The Old Republic will attract millions of players, each willing to spend $60 to buy the game and $15 or so a month to play out their fantasies of being Jedi knights or Sith warriors.

But creating an online universe that can satisfy the demands of both hard-core "Star Wars" fans and players of multiplayer online role-playing games is an epic undertaking, as our story in the Times describes. 

"It's the single largest bet of J.R.'s career," said P.J. McNealy, a game analyst with Digital World Research in Boston,  referring to EA's chief executive, John Riccitiello, who plunked down $860 million in 2007 to buy BioWare and Pandemic, a Los Angeles game studio that EA shut down in 2009.
EA declined to comment on the amount it spent to create The Old Republic. That hasn't stopped Wall Street analysts from pegging the game's production costs at $150 million to $200 million or more, a figure that people knowledgeable with the game's budget don't dispute.

Unlike films, whose budgets are routinely reported, game development expenses are closely guarded secrets. As a result, cost comparisons are difficult to come by.

"You hear about RockStar Games as having the richest budgets in the business and spending over $100 million on a Grand Theft Auto game," said John Taylor, managing partner with Arcadia Investment Corp. in Portland, Ore. "Star Wars seems to have gone way above that."

The good news for EA is that the Redwood City, Calif., company has already absorbed those costs into its finances, expensing them as they were incurred.

"It's all sunk costs," said Atul Bagga, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.

Not quite all. EA must continue to devote significant amounts of resources to keeping the game running. That means maintaining a vast network of computers, a dedicated staff to deal with customers who have technical or billing issues, as well as a core team of developers constantly adding new content to the game to keep players interested.

EA has said that covering the game's operating costs will require 500,000 paying subscribers. At $15 a month, the figure implies that the game costs at least $7.5 million a month to maintain, including an undisclosed royalty fee to Lucasfilm, which owns the "Star Wars" license.

"Very few companies can afford to make this sort of bet," Taylor said, "And EA is one of them."
EA executives insist the company, with about $3.6 billion in annual revenue last year and about $1.5 billion in cash and short term investments, will not collapse should Star Wars fail to hit its marks.
"We're not betting the company on Star Wars," said Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, which oversees the Star Wars game. "While it's a major undertaking, it's one aspect of a larger strategy to transform EA from a company that sells discs to one that derives the bulk of its revenue from digital games and services."

The upside, however, is undeniably lucrative. Should the game win 4 million subscribers -- compared with over 10 million for World of Warcraft, the big Kahuna of the genre -- EA's operating profit rises to $395 million a year, representing a 50% margin, according to Doug Creutz, an analyst for Cowen & Co.

Endemol makes AMC's Hell on Wheels
Photo: Endemol's "Hell on Wheels," which airs on AMC. Credit: Chris Large / AMC

AMC producer to financially restructure. Television production giant Endemol, whose future has been the subject of speculation, said Thursday it has made a "significant step" toward restructuring its balance sheet. Dutch-based Endemol, which primarily makes game shows and reality programs like NBC's "Fear Factor" and ABC's "Wipe Out," and the AMC drama "Hell on Wheels" (pictured above), said more than two-thirds of its creditors have struck an agreement in principle regarding the company's capital structure. The company has been struggling under a debt load of $2.75 billion.

“We are delighted that the majority of our lenders have in principle agreed to the proposed commercial restructuring terms and we can now enter into the final part of the process. A solution that puts Endemol on a strong financial footing for the future is now imminent," Endemol Global President Marco Bassetti and Chief Financial Officer Just Spee said in a statement.

The news that the creditors are on the same page may put a damper on Time Warner Inc.'s hopes of acquiring Endemol. Last November, Time Warner made an unsolicited bid of about $1.4 billion for the company. Endemol has said all along that it is more interested in fixing its books than in selling the company.

Don't let pirates sink our entertainment industry.   
Photo: Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd.

Can't we all get along? The battle over proposed bills to fight piracy continues to rage on. Hollywood is furious that its efforts to curb theft and piracy have been overshadowed by Silicon Valley's claims that the laws will hurt innovation and free speech. In the meantime, an activist group has been hacking into websites to protest the bills and some sites went dark for a day as a form of protest. Of course, if Hollywood and the TV networks shut down for a day for political purposes, they'd hear about it from regulators and consumers. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cancelled the vote on one of the bills. Meanwhile, on Thursday the feds shut down the site Megaupload for violating piracy laws. The latest coverage from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Variety.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision on Friday to put off a vote on the controversial Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate next week was hailed by Silicon Valley but brought a stern warning from Hollywood's chief lobbyist.

"As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves; American jobs will continue to be lost; and consumers will continue to be exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals,'' Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said in a statement.

The MPAA strongly backed the the bill intended to crack down on foreign websites engaged in piracy.  But the legislation, along with a similar measure in the House, has encountered enormous opposition from Google, Wikipedia and other tech companies that led an unprecedented Internet strike on Wednesday to protest the bills which they view as misguided and damaging to the Internet economy. The protest prompted several senators to back off their support for the bills.

"With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property,'' Dodd added. "The threat posed by these criminal operations has been widely acknowledged by even the most ardent critics.  It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.”

Bloomberg Remembers Anniversary of COMCAST NBC/Universal Take Over. 
Business media giant Bloomberg LP is marking the upcoming one-year anniversary of the government's approval of Comcast Corp.'s acquisition of NBCUniversal to remind regulators that it thinks the cable giant is disrespecting the feds.

Bloomberg, parent of business news channel Bloomberg Television, thinks that Comcast should be required to put the Bloomberg channel near its main competitor CNBC on its cable systems. Bloomberg has argued practically since the day Comcast announced its deal with NBCUniversal that it feared the cable giant would favor NBC's CNBC financial channel over Bloomberg on its systems, which reach more than 20 million consumers.

Last June, Bloomberg filed a complaint against Comcast at the Federal Communications Commission arguing that the conditions of the government's approval of the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal require Bloomberg to be moved closer so it can be in the same "neighborhood" as CNBC. The FCC is still reviewing the matter and no timetable is set for a ruling.

"Marking yesterday's one-year anniversary of the FCC's Order approving Comcast's blockbuster acquisition of NBC Universal, it's time for Comcast to live up to the bargain it accepted to secure its merger," said Greg Babyak, head of government affairs for Bloomberg LP. "Rather than continue to watch Comcast thumb its nose at the FCC and the American viewing public, the FCC should immediately require Comcast to stick to commitments, and implement the plain language of the order, including the news neighborhooding condition."

Comcast has countered that the FCC's conditions do not require it to move Bloomberg closer to CNBC.

"If Comcast were forced to do what Bloomberg is asking the government to mandate, millions of customers would be subject to disruption and confusion required by massive channel realignments to benefit a thriving $30 billion media company," a Comcast spokeswoman said. "The FCC carefully crafted its moderate, forward looking condition precisely to avoid this type of upheaval.”
And no, Comcast didn't thank Bloomberg for remembering the anniversary.

American Idol ratings fell in its season premiere

 Photo: "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Associated Press.

Out of tune? Fox's "American Idol" returned Wednesday night and only 21.9 million tuned in to watch the season debut of the show's 11th season. Yes, the number is the lowest for the show since Season 1. But it is also an amazing number for a show that old. In my opinion, it is a little too early to start playing Taps for "American Idol." More on the numbers from the Wall Street Journal.

Jump ball. Reading the stories about the box office this weekend and it seems to me that there is not going to be any dominating by any movie. "Underworld: Awakening," Sony's latest chapter in its vampire series (is it sign of how out of it I am that I have never heard of this franchise?) is expected to end up on top. I am no expert but I predict "Haywire," the action movie starring Gina Carano, is going to do better than people think. Projections from the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter.

Secrets of phone hacking. Earlier this week, News Corp. settled a bunch of claims having to do with phone hacking at the company's now-closed tabloid News of the World and its still up-and-running paper the Sun. While the company has tried to say that settling is not an admission of guilt, that's a hard sell. In the meantime, the Guardian, the biggest thorn in News Corp.'s side, offers up its story on how the media giant hid and misled authorities about the scope of the scandal.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Betsy Sharkey went crazy for "Haywire."

-- Joe Flint and others

Follow me on Twitter. Even when I'm not there, I'm there.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the lastest industry news.

CSN's Angel Required for All Course Work in Communication


Although this is not an online course, it is a hybrid. We will be using the online classroom portal ANGEL throughout the term to access your grades, communicate with your instructor and classmates, check the calendar and read the syllabus and printout course documents.   This handout will give you the basics, but it is up to you to read the Quickstart Guide and navigate through the portal. 

To Access Angel Online Learning Classroom for our Class and the Angel Student Quickstart Guide

  1. From the CSN Homepage ( click on “Online Campus/Courses” link on left side window
  2. Click on “Login Now” blue bar on top right side  under “CSN Online Campus Course”
  3. Follow Login Instructions.  Username=(your C number) Password=(same as you use to login to CSN)
  4. This is your Personal Angel online campus portal Homepage.  From here, click on to the link for our class
       “Com 101” – This is our CLASS PAGE
  1. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Resources”
  2. Click on the + sign under “Useful Links” to expand a list of class related links
  3. Click on “Angel Student Quickstart Guide” link

To Access the Course Syllabus:  From your Personal Angel Homepage (See #4 Above)

  1. Click/Select our Class Page – “Com 101”
  2. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Resources”
  3. Click on the blue link “Course Syllabus”
  4. Print the syllabus and complete the information on the “Student Information Sheet” (will print with the syllabus), submit that sheet to me next class meeting.

To Access Class Documents and Information: From your Personal Angel Homepage (See #4 Above)

  1. Click/Select our Class Page – “Com 101”
  2. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Course Content”
  3. Click on the needed document

To Access Class Schedule and Assignment Due dates: From your Personal Angel Homepage (See #4 Above)

  1.  Click/Select our Class Page – “Com 101”
  2. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Calendar”
  3. Clicking on the link in the date box will take you to any additional information about the assignment or activity for that day if any additional information is associated with that date.

To Access Your Grades: From your Personal Angel Homepage (See #4 Above)

  1. Click/Select our Class Page – “Com 101”
  2. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Grades”

To Check Your Angel Email/Communicate with Classmates and Instructor:

  1. You can access it right from your Personal Angel Homepage
OR From your Personal Angel Homepage (See #4 Above)
  1. Click/Select our Class Page – “Com 101”
  2. Now click on the white tab along the top that says “Communicate”
Note: You can automatically forward your email from Angel to your regular email account by clicking on the “preferences” link in the upper right side of the “Inbox” page under the “Communicate” tab.


Problems:  Make sure you are allowing PopUps.  OR For assistance with other questions about Angel please call the CSN Helpdesk at 702-651-4357 or call the eLearning Office at 702-651-5619.

The next week and a half is key in the Merger process...

This weekend I will be in Los Angeles reading and asking questions about proposed SAG Merger Documents. Nevada Branch President Barbara Grant has been invited to view the proceedings over a secure web link.

Then a week of phone meetings followed by four days of meetings to debate and decide if the package should be sent to the membership for a vote.

There have been at least 16 attempts to merge or form a joint union since the Guild's formation in 1933, two previous attempts in my 17 years of board service on behalf of the Nevada membership.

The need to merge has never been greater.

AFTRA and SAG are competing for contracts in digitally shot television (replacing film for most production), digital films, and new media. While we work closely together, each union has to attract business to keep its members working and its' pension and health solid. The bills must be paid.

At the same time management has merged both horizontally and vertically, formed alliances, and found the loopholes of digital and new media production.

Each year it is increasingly difficult for most SAG members to earn any money, much less a middle class income within the trades.

So the deck is stacked in favor of a merger. We need it, even if it means giving up things that until now have been sacred to the elected leadership, staff and membership of each union.

My primary concern is the survival of the Nevada Branch as a branch, with an on the ground staff member and with a voice on the National Board of Directors. There is no indication we will lose any of those key elements, however going into this weeks, there is also no guarentee that we will continue to have an exective here, a branch or local, and a direct political voice.

Let me know how important those are to you, or if the overall future of our professions and unions within the entertainment industry are more important, as most in New York and LA believe.

Again I will learn more this weekend, over the course of the week and over next weekend.

I may not be back in time for the SAG Awards Party next Sunday the 29th. Please pass on my support for those who put it on and who put so much into this branch...and remember we should continue to be a branch of what will be the largest trade union in Hollywood.

Art Lynch

This is not an official Guild communication. It is written as a member and an individual.

Read this before you condem SOPA and its companion bills!

If you critique SOPA, read the text. If you read the text, read it right.

Earlier this week Eriq Gardner speculated in a tweet that less than one tenth of one percent of folks have actually read the SOPA legislation. I bet he’s right.

It’s good to read the statute. 

But what might be worse than not reading it is reading it wrongly and thereafter propagating misunderstanding.

One of the motifs that has permeated the SOPA discussion is this idea that evil (usually corporate) interests could shut down entire, innocent sites based on one piece of user generated content on that site that is, or links to, infringing material. Simply not true!

Some commentators, such as the usually astute Khan Academy in the video embedded below, have gone so far as to say that one little transgression by one user could bring down all of Facebook, YouTube, or Vimeo. (That discussion begins at about the 5:00 mark where the narrator purports to parse the language of Section 103 of SOPA.)

We are fortunate to have the means and motivation to rally around an issue like SOPA and make it a topic of worldwide discussion. But it turns unfortunate when some of the loudest criticism is based on misinformation. That’s happening now.

It is silly to think that one person could bring down Facebook and leave its almost a billion users in the dark. It is silly to think that Congress would enact legislation making that possible. Those thoughts are silly because they are not based on reality. One user could not cause Facebook to be shut down, and SOPA does provide content owners with a way to accomplish that.

If you take a close look at SOPA, ( and of course you should) you see that this “one person taking down Facebook” conclusion is not supported by the language of the statute.

If a federal judge is convinced that a site is “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property,” then he or she can enter an injunction (according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and all the case law attendant thereto) shutting down that site’s domain name.

The present misunderstanding comes from a reading of SOPA’s definition in Section 103 of what it means for a site to be “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” That definition is much narrower than what other commentators would have you believe. Among other things, the site has to be:
  • primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering goods or services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates infringement, circumvention or counterfeiting,
  • have only limited purpose or use other than offering goods or services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates infringement, circumvention or counterfeiting, or
  • be marketed by its operator or another acting in concert with that operator for use in offering goods or services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates infringement, circumvention or counterfeiting.
A less-than-careful reading leads one to think that the definition brings in any site that enables or facilitates infringement, circumvention or counterfeiting. Read the definition again. Is Facebook primarily designed to rip off US property? Is it used for only a little more (i.e., does it have a limited purpose) other than to enable or promote piracy? Does Mark Zuckerberg say that is what it is for? Because the answers to these questions are no, no and no, a federal judge would not conclude that Facebook is a site dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.

If that federal judge were to so conclude, then he would likely be smoking dope. And if that is the state of affairs, then our problem is not SOPA, but federal judges smoking dope.

The fervent opposition to SOPA leads one to be reminded, like David Newhoff was in this piece, of the “death panel” hyperbole that surrounded the healthcare debate. It might be the same part of the brain at work that caused all the irrationality in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup. I’m just sayin’.
Principled and reasonable debate is awesome.

Misguided arguments waste everyone’s time. 

By Evan Brown (@internetcases) | Posted January 20th, 2012


Ancient Rome from fellow OPRF Grade Rob Cain...Check it out!

There will be two things available on the Ancient Rome Refocused blog soon.

1. PODCAST - "Nothing New under the Sun. Get over it." An interview with Natalie Haynes who wrote the book: THE ANCIENT GUIDE TO MODERN LIFE. The episode will start out with what can be called a chicklit with a nod to the Aeneid.

2. BLOG POST -- The script to an unaired television show called THE TIME CAFE. The show is hosted by someone called Rob Cain with the following guests: Julius Ceasar, Cleopatra, Paris of Troy, and the last emperor of the western empire Romulus Augustus.

The Choice (from the LA Times)

Who writes this?

In a polarized society there is also the trend for people to assume everyone else is as set as they are.

Natural and understood.

But wrong.

The purpose of this blog, of challenging discussion at the college level, of balanced and academic research, of learning to listen and developing needed critical thinking skills is to open up to contradictions, develop empathy for the other "side", investigate new things, see things from different angels, develop tolerance and be able to compromise or build in toward a less one sided dictatorial future.

I do not write this blog.

I do write some of it, but more often I rewrite, paraphrase, quot or provide leads to links to views that may or may not be mine.

I respect opinions from others that are not mine, and as long as they are reasoned, make an effort to be balanced and are not one track, I will post them.

The difference between a blog like this and the numbers generating blogs used in the media, is that I am not obliged to let the constant bombardment of one sided views, responses that show that the poster did not read the material they are responding to, or responses that do not directly address the material in the original post or someone elses' response, be published.

I admit my bias, as a fifth generation unionist who is in his 17th year on the National Board of Directors of a union, the Screen Actors Guild. On Wisconsin I am solidly on the side of collective bargaining as needed for the advancement of the poor and working class against the sizable money and power represented by big business and industry supported special interests groups. That does does not mean that unions do no harm, that they are Lilly white and pure.

As an educator who does this as a service and passion for the community, the field and students, I earn under $18,000 a year. Even teachers who earn $36,000 to $70,000 year earn every dime in continued education, experience and passion for that they do.  Arguments about bloated educator incomes do not fly, despite there being a hand full of educators who do earn salaries well above what some may think warranted (usually due to seniority, dedication, costly education and expertise). So I am less open to Tea Party claims that education can be cut, or that social services are not needed in our modern society.

My wife is an MSW Licenced Social Worker, dedicated to her clients, who sees the need for social services each and every day in a way that those slashing budgets seem to blind to (again those with the funds seldom even see those who are in need). She helps others at relatively low pay, working long hours and with all of her heart and passion (as a result of and as a graduate of the Social Work program at UNLV that is now on the chopping block under the governor's budget).

I do believe in the need to provide low cost or free educational, health, mental health and other assistance for low income and even working class individuals and families. The cost of not doing so is far higher on the back end than the cost of preemptive service. Plus all human beings deserve a right to no starve, to shelter and to basic assistance (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).

I am well read enough to know that the society we live in is not a barn raising, live close to Grandma, live off the land society. That went away with industrialization. The land of the founding fathers is not our country today, although the principles of liberty, democracy, an educated electorate, peaceful dissent and a legal system remain strong and close to my heart and beliefs.

I am a union democrat who is pro-life, who is resistant to much but not all that is "politically correct", and whose best friends have all been Republicans or Libertarians.

So yes, I have bias, and the right to reflect it in this blog and its postings.

But the blog is intended to make you think, to get you to understand other sides, for you to open yourself to the structure and challenges of communication and the social services. That means learning how to listen as well as present your case, how to compromise or at least offer olive branches from time to time.

Ask questions. Feel free to discuss this in e-mail or class.

And thank you for your understanding.

But keep in mind that not everything in or on this blog is my opinion or my work. It is a collection for the purposes indicated.

Use the links and continue to suggest new links and ideas.

Thank you;

Art Lynch

Xtra Credit for CSN Com 101 and 102

EXTRA CREDIT: Occasionally, the opportunity to earn a few points of extra credit may arise.  Please note that extra credit opportunities are scarce and are provided at the discretion of the instructor.  There is a cap on extra credit points that any one student may earn, up to a maximum of 50 points during the semester. Any extra credit points you earn will be added into your final grade at the end of the semester in a manner explained by the instructor.
Standard college paper requirements apply: double spaced, headers and footers, 12 point professionally acceptable font, spell corrected, grammar and other guidelines. Feel free to take advantage of the services in the writing center and communication lab in proofing your work.
There is no length or number of references requirement.
Grading will be based on the work you put in, the quality of the work, and the ability to identify and use the terminology of the course accurately and effectively. There is no page minimum or limit. A grade of 10 out of 50 is not a failing grade. It would reflect ten points worth of work.
You may submit multiple Extra Credit assignments during the term or on the last day of the term and each will be graded separately.
While a maximum of 50 points can be awarded, based on our 1,000-point scale, additional work will count, along with participation (including the blogs), to borderline or qualitative decisions by the instructor at the end of the term.

Opportunity One:
There have been many issues that rocked or shattered this fall's elections. Pick one and look at it from the perspective and prism of this course. As an example yhe current health care debate is historic in its scope and implications.  You may look at the entire debate, the evolution of the debate or at a specific speech and do the following:
1.    Use as many of the concepts of the course as apply (including persuasive and argumentation chapters) to review the rhetoric of the debate.
2.    View the debate from the perspective of other social sciences, again using the concepts of this and the other study area in doing so.
3.    Do a detailed study of the methods of persuasion used by either side in the debate (there are multiple sides once you start to look into it, so pick one and focus on that group or viewpoint). This study should use the terms and concepts of the course.
You must have references and links. Submit your paper electronically. You are also giving implied permission for the material to be posted on the blog or distributed to my three current COM 101 course sections.
Due date is open, however preferred while the issue remains topical and near the top of mind of fellow students and the media.

Opportunity Two:
Pick any specific speech on any topic and do the following:
1.    Use as many of the concepts of the course as apply (including persuasive and argumentation chapters) to review the rhetoric of the debate.
2.    View the debate or speech from the perspective of other social sciences, again using the concepts of this and the other study area in doing so.
3.    Do a detailed study of the methods of persuasion used in the speech or debate. This study should use the terms and concepts of the course.
4.    Show a full understanding of the speech or debate selected and of the concepts of this course.
You must have references and links. Submit your paper electronically. You are also giving implied permission for the material to be posted on the blog or distributed to my three current COM 101 course sections.
The speech may be current or historic, but I request you be able to critique the visual. There are links in the right hand column of my blog, in the textbook and in the chapter reviews located on Angel and on my blog. State of the Union speeches, TED or specific libraries are recommended. Work must be your own work.
Due date is the day of the final exam.

"A union for actors and actors alone": Screen Actors Guild

A Truly Democratic Union

By Art Lynch (c 1998) 

   Actors are a unique mix of artist, craftsperson and employee. They view their needs as unique. Actors move between jobs and employers, resembling casual labor or self employed consultants, yet fight to remain classified as employees working for a single monolithic entertainment and information industry. Performers shoulder the individual economic burden of their own training, wardrobe, and an almost constant search for work. They face an increasingly competitive work force. At the same time, they rely on their unions to negotiate and enforce contracts, protecting performers' wages and working conditions within the entire entertainment and information industry.

    The Screen Actors Guild was formed in an age when things were different. A few major studios with a handful of powerful owners functioned as factories, producing entertainment and information for a world wide public. SAG was formed under pressure of large pay cuts for all actors and performers. Even though this occurred at the height of the Great Depression, from a labor perspective it also occurred simultaneously to large expenditures by management on the new technology of "talkies" and on the purchase of and building of large ornate movie palaces for the theatrical exhibition of management controlled films. The 1930s and 1940s saw record growth and profits for motion picture studios and broadcast companies. Over the decades that followed, the Guild adapted to changes in economics, politics and technology. These changes reflect Prindle's evaluation of SAG as a "truly democratic union." (1988)

     The democratic nature of governance, geographic concentration of membership and flexibility of structure allow for rapid adaptation to changes in the industry and in society, although with all change there is resistance, and not all change may be to the benefit of the membership, the community or the industry.

     The Screen Actors Guild represents a membership which may not be steadily employed (an estimated 90% of serious full time actors are out of work at any given time, with as high as 80% of the SAG membership not employed in the field their union represents), may or may not be serious about their trade, and which outside of the craft remains a part of the myth of Hollywood. Most of society fails to understand what it is to be an actor, beyond the performances they witness.  Today 85% of union actors make under $2,000 a year at their craft, with fewer than four percent living their upper middle class to wealthy lifestyles solely on their income from acting. (Prindle, 1988, see also  Published reports vary, however most agree that as many as six out of ten members of the Screen Actors Guild go without any acting related income in any given year.  

     The Guild has been called the one truly democratic union in the United States because it functions with freely elected officers who, even at the level of the national president,
are not paid or compensated for the time they invest. It is a union made up of actors working for actors, who in turn hire paid staff to carry on the day to day functions of the Guild, including legal counsel and financial consulting.  While this may sound altruistic, it is also true as a long list of presidents, officers and board members have had to put their careers on hold, spend time away from family and jeopardize their own relationship with agents, casting directors and management in the interest of what is good for the membership of the Guild (Prindle, 1988). 

    Screen Actors Guild Nevada Branch Treasurer Vickie Sutton summarized her view of why the Screen Actors Guild is unique:

This union is unlike any other union. Our union is so different. It’s about a dream, working in that dream, pursuing that dream. Members are much closer to their union and what it represents. The membership is so diverse, yet under one banner, able to vote on all contracts and be a part of every aspect of the union. I take great pride in my union (personal communication, March 2000).

Membership in the Guild differs from most other unions. In addition to full time actors, dancers, singers and other performers, SAG membership includes others who do not earn their living within the industry, yet are as proud of their union and their union card as any Hollywood star. The vast majority of SAG's membership are not ‘actors’ in the true sense. The Guild has among its members people who may have looked right for a part and were in only one movie for a few lines, actors and extras who work on movie sets more for the enjoyment than the paycheck, those who are more management in their political leanings than pro-labor, and many who never took their jobs on a movie set seriously. There too are the producer or director's friends, under the obvious influence of management, who were given a part or given a letter of intent to allow them to join the Guild. While representing professional performers, the majority of voting members of the Screen Actors Guild are not themselves full working professionals within the industry or the craft (Back Stage West, 1994).

     SAG is a national union, with a structure that centers on elected officers and a national board of directors.  Local branches assist in providing services to local members and recommending any local contracts or variations from national contracts to the national board. All funds are distributed through the national office, with general budgets and appropriate specific requests administered by the elected treasurer and voted on by the National Board of Directors (SAG, Constitution and Bylaws, 1996-2000).

A Sister Union: AFTRA
     As briefly mentioned in the review of the Guild’s history, a second union formed to provide work place protection for radio broadcasters and radio actors, later expanding to include a new electronic media, television. The American Federation of Radio Artists was formed in 1937. To reflect the inclusion of television, in 1946 it was re-named The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). This historic expansion into new media, while SAG remained a “film industry union”, set a precedence, which occasionally produces conflicts between the two usually cooperative unions.  SAG remains a performers union, primarily representing actors on film, television and in commercial or industrial presentations. 

 While AFTRA began as a performers union, it now represents a widening range of professional crafts within the broader scope of the communications and entertainment communities. AFTRA represents newscasters, sportscasters, disc jockeys, talk hosts, announcers, on camera actors, video background performers, voice artists, dancers, singers, musicians, recording artists, music video talent, interactive technology performers, a small segment of television and radio producers, a small segment of electronic technicians and professionals in specific writing fields.  While SAG’s membership moves rapidly from production to production and employer to employer, a politically powerful segment  of AFTRA’s membership hold regular ongoing jobs, most notably the on air broadcast talent who work fixed hours five or six days a week for a specific employer. AFTRA also represents another segment of the entertainment industry whose lifestyle and motivation is surprisingly similar to those of a Screen Actors Guild actor: recording artists. So, in effect there may be more in common between the unions than detractors admit (Harvey, 1996; and S. Scott personal communication, January, 1998).

    There are real issues to address if the two unions are to co-exist into the future. Will they cooperate or will there be a jurisdictional turf war?  AFTRA activists point out, with some degree of accuracy, that by rights of the original intent of the two unions, AFTRA should have jurisdiction over all video and most certainly have jurisdiction over the new digital interactive media.  A mutual agreement exists that provides case by case individual decisions on jurisdiction, sometimes decided by which union the producer / employer prefers to reach an agreement with. As an example, television situation comedies, which are produced on videotape and not film, are produced under Screen Actors Guild jurisdiction. Soap Operas, even if they are shot on film, fall under AFTRA contractual jurisdiction. Both unions agree that this scenario could one day pit the unions against each other on a grand scale (SAG Board Room, personal communications, 1995-2000).

    A major structural difference lies in the democratic concept of open membership, by which entry level membership may be purchased without meeting any work or professional credentials. AFTRA’s board and conventions have consistently refused to revoke open membership. It is referred to as an “open door” policy. (Harvey, 1996) To the actors in SAG, this means that anyone can claim to be an actor, simply by joining AFTRA. This process continues today despite pleas from the Screen Actors Guild and Equity.  It can be argued that AFTRA’s open door policy may make the broadcaster union flexible enough to adapt and survive changes (SAG Minutes, personal communication, 1998, and SAG Board Room, personal communications, 1995-2000).

     AFTRA is structured as both a local and national union. AFTRA locals have widely divergent responsibilities, jurisdictions, dues and sometimes structures. They generate and manage their own treasuries while contributing to the national fund.  National officers and a national board of directors are responsible for negotiating and enforcing national contracts while an independent union congress of members at large, including proxy voting, holds the power to override the board and create national policy, including the nomination of a slate of national officers. Like SAG, AFTRA elected officials are volunteers, without a salary or benefit package (Harvey, 1996).

     While a percentage of AFTRA members have consistent single employer incomes, most do not. SAG and AFTRA have sometimes conflicting responsibilities in representing on camera talent in television commercials, on television programs, in industrials, on interactive entertainment and in most every category of voice over.  When the two unions formed, AFTRA’s work by its nature included the broadcast and recorded voice, while SAG’s workers were employed in projects recorded on film.  As audio recordings began to be used in film production and, with the advent of video, film began to be broadcast on television, both unions had legitimate arguments for claiming representation of workers who traditionally fell clearly under the other union.  Cooperation between AFTRA and SAG is common, however there remains the potential, and indeed in some cases the reality of producers playing the two unions against each other or seeking out the contract which is the least expensive or least restrictive for their project (R. Masur, personal communication, 1996).

      An example of how the interest of the two unions may sometimes be in conflict came in early 1997, after both union boards had voted with a strong majority in favor of moving forward on merger.  Concerns on the unilateral front of the two unions were raised over the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty (WIPO) and its 1997 ratification by the US Senate. AFTRA and its national board strongly supported the ratification of the WIPO treaty, while SAG National President Richard Masur (of Los Angeles) vowed that his Guild “would actively oppose it” (Robb, February 4, 1997, p. 1).  AFTRA National President Shelby Scott (who lives in Baltimore) fired off a letter to Masur saying that SAG’s opposition to the treaty “causes those of us who spent the past five years conceptualizing and constructing a new merged union to question whether the new union really is capable of understanding and addressing the needs of its diverse but contemporary constituencies” (Robb, February 4, 1997, p. 1). The WIPO treaty was drafted to protect the work of recording artists, including for the first time, protection
of their intellectual property rights from misappropriation of their work in cyberspace. 

    In addressing his membership, Masur wrote that “our sister union, AFTRA, seems to have made some headway in securing treaty inclusion of some protections for sound recording artists...however, the lack of any protections for audiovisual performers places us in a position where we have no choice but to vigorously oppose...ratification of this treaty. And we will oppose it until such time as it includes real protections for audiovisual performers”  (Robb, February 4, 1997, p.1). 

    Cooperation between the unions under Masur was never in dispute, in part because of his historic pro-merger stance and his friendship with AFTRA President Shelby Scott. Both were strong hands-on chairs, exercising parliamentary control under Roberts Rules of Order and interpreting those rules to gain the benefit for their presidential agendas. Both had been reelected by large majority mandates of their national memberships.

Hollywood unions blast Google and urge Senate support for PIPA

The tool is needed to battle off shore theft!

Protesters voice opposition to Internet anti-piracy bills
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As political support for the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills is waning in Washington, unions representing Hollywood talent urged congressional supporters to hang tough and took aim at Google and other backers of Wednesday's massive Internet blackout.

"We know the pressure that you are getting to renege on your commitment," the guilds wrote in a letter to Democratic senators from New York, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which will be taken up by the Senate next week. "We are the voice of thousands of individuals who thank you for your standing steadfast against this barrage and in support of the jobs of our members."

The letter, signed by unions representing more than 400,000 actors, directors, performers and crafts people, defended the bill, which has been blasted by major tech companies as an impediment to free speech that could force some legitimate companies to shut down. But the unions accused Google and other critics of distorting facts about what the bill would actually do.

"The Protect IP Act does nothing more than make it possible for the U.S. government to handle illegal foreign websites in the same manner it can already do -- and has been doing -- with illegal sites. It has no impact at all on the legal U.S. sites that people are being told will disappear.... We are greatly offended that our advocacy of this bill has turned into an implication that we promote censorship. Our commitment to the First Amendment is decades old and long established -- it is a matter of public record from long before the word "Internet" was part of our vocabulary."

The letter was written by representatives of the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the American Federation of Musicians.

Like many of her peers, Kathy Garmezy, associate executive director for government affairs at the Directors Guild of America, expressed frustration at how Silicon Valley has seized the debate over PIPA and the Stop Online Piracy Act. "They've been very successful in twisting the nature of the debate,'' said Garmezy. "It's always easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth. And if you have the full means of communication and are controlling that as a vehicle, it's pretty easy."

SOPA, PIPA backlash could hurt Obama in Hollywood
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White House voices objections to anti-piracy bills

--Richard Verrier
Photo: Demonstrators in New York protest proposed anti-piracy legislation that opponents say could lead to censorship online and force some websites out of business. Credit: Richard Drew / Associated Press