People are always ready to tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about or what you’re doing. And while it’s true that sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees, nobody knows your situation better than you and in the end, you are the main one who has to make your choices and live with them.
People get passionate about the spillover, though. Maybe they’re really, really invested in your decision and your choice changes something in their life that they don’t want changed. Or maybe it’s a credibility issue; if you break away from their opinion or expertise, they lose their authority somehow, so their goal is to shoot holes in yours. But even the “experts” can be wrong, and the people who have the gut feeling can be right. I found this on the Wikipedia about the Monk TV show while researching the last post.
“During the first season of Monk, the series used a jazzy instrumental intro to the show by songwriter Jeff Beal, performed by guitarist Grant Geissman. The theme won the 2003 Emmy Award for Best Main Title Music. When season two began, the series received a new theme song, entitled “It’s a Jungle Out There”, by Randy Newman. Reaction to the new theme was mixed. A review of season two in the New York Daily News included a wish that producers would revert to the original theme. Shalhoub expressed his support for the new theme in USA Today, saying its ‘dark and mournful sound,…[its] tongue-in-cheek, darkly humorous side…. completely fits the tone of the show.’ Newman was awarded the 2004 Emmy Award for Best Main Title Music for “It’s a Jungle Out There”.”
Sometimes, the only opinion that matters is the person down in the arena who is actually fighting the lion.
I need me a Greek Chorus. Everybody great has had a Greek Chorus. I’m not saying I seek greatness, but I am saying I need three smart heads around me to keep me out of the ditch where I occasionally end up sometimes. There are lots of examples, especially in contemporary TV, where the power of three heads was better than two and a lot better than solo. To wit …
Dr. Gregory House: Chase, Cameron and Foreman. Are they his foils or his slaves or his torturers? Whatever they are, when he lost them, he went downhill. You can’t replace passion, reason and, uh … whatever, with an entire classroom.
Captain James T. Kirk: Bones, Spock and Scotty. Again, passion, reason and something in-between. You need that something in between that is part, “Jim, don’t do it” and “Captain, we don’t have the power!” Again, you’re not necessarily going to argue with three brains that know your one brain all too well.
Marshall Matt Dillon: Doc, Kitty and Festus (or Chester). A gritty brain trust from the mid 19th century that never steered James Arness wrong. Doc was old but feisty as hell. Kitty was a gravelly voiced barroom beauty with a mean sucker punch. Dennis Weaver as Chester was eager and loyal and was replaced by Festus who I just loved. Festus was a man for the ages. If you had a Festus, you had nothing to worry about. Newly never seemed to fit in the clique. Never.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs: For our more modern times, Ziva, McGee and DeNozo. Are you seeing a pattern here? The person with the Greek Chorus is usually someone with great responsibility. They’re almost a tragic figure in how the Gods have positioned them to do their duty in the world. Mark Harmon’s character drives his charges as hard as he deeply loves them and savagely protects them.
Colonel Robert E. Hogan: Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk. A passionate Frenchman, a methodical Irish con man, and an African American geek genius. Together, they advised, protected and beat up on Bob Crane’s cool concentration camp colonel. Although Hogan’s Heroes was comedy, Crane probably could’ve used a Greek Chorus off set.
Detective Adrian Monk: Randy, Sharona (or Natalie) and Leland. Tony Shalhoub’s brilliantly played OCD suffering character was best served by his chorus by their compassion for him. The totally understood this heroic figure that they saw shot down by the murder of his wife, and they did everything they could to clear the path for him so he could at least function. Eventually, their love for him led him to redemption and recovery.
Oh, and let’s not leave out many of the reality talent shows; The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance and of course, American Idol. Although most choruses are represented in threes, (American Idol had Randy, Paula and Simon for eight seasons, until the ninth, when they added a fourth judge), many other reality shows have four or more.
In many cases, the Greek Chorus foretold of impending disasters that would befall the hapless person they were singing about by pointing out weaknesses that would bring them down if they didn’t change course. Or, it represented the fears or hopes or rage of the main character that he or she could not openly express because to do so would jeopardize their position of authority. While I ain’t the boss of nobody, I wouldn’t discount the advice of three people who knew me as well as I knew myself. Think of the places we could go? Maybe I’ll put something on Craig’s List.
Commercials are funny things. The trend throughout the 70s and 80s was 60 second commercials. Then it dropped to 30 seconds in the 90s. Then, for awhile in the 00s, marketers experimented with 20, 15, 10 and even 5 second commercials on the thinking that people didn’t have the patience to watch long commercials anymore and that a quick, focused ad would stick in the mind better. It’s the same thinking that eliminated the black between commercials. Remember that? Commercials used to fade completely to black and the sound used to go completely silent. Then, after a second, the new commercial would start. But marketers started editing the end of one to the beginning of another because network bean counters realized that over the course of an evening, they might be losing as much as several minute of potential revenue to black.
Kinda sorta the same thing with program intros. I think of old school intros like Gunsmoke, or the Rockford Files or Gilligan’s Island. Maybe, more recently, Law and Order, as intros that were at least a minute. But Hawaii Five-O has an intro version that is less than 15 seconds long. CSI’s isn’t much longer. Again, the longer the intro, the shorter the time for commercials.
But this new Oreo commercial is delightful in that it is a luxurious minute and a half long. That is crazy! That makes it longer than the intros to Psych, NCIS or the Big Bang Theory. And it’s full of animation that reminds me of Prince from his Paisley Park days, but with of robots and monsters and vampires. It’s totally fun. Could Oreo be onto something? Do they think that our culture has suffered enough blazingly short commercials and that now it’s time to swing the pendulum back? I mean, who cares if the local attorney or used car sales man has a 180 second ad on at 3:17 a.m. But, Oreo? That’s Nabisco, and Nabisco doesn’t screw around with its revenue. The Oreo cookie was the best selling cooking in the US in the 20th century, and is still the best selling cooking well into the 13th year of the 21st century. Let’s see what everybody else does. Expect down-and-dirty-in-a-minute-thirty copycats.
A new track on SoundCloud “Greg Palast Interview”:
Investigative journalist Greg Palast talks with Don Merrill about his latest book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse. He is best known in the US for uncovering Katherine Harris’ purge of black voters from Florida’s voter rolls in 2000. Palast’s last book is Vultures’ Picnic.
A new track on SoundCloud “Eve Ensler Interview”:
Activist, playwright, and author of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler talks with Don Merrill about her new book, “In the Body of the World”, a visionary memoir of separation and connection. The book ties together the work she did against the violence done to Congolese women while fighting Uterine cancer that was simultaneously doing violence to her own body.
A new track on SoundCloud “Manhattan Transfer Interview”:
Almost forty years of making music hasn’t made Manhattan Transfer any less daring. Their latest project, “The Living Room Sessions” reveal the quartet and how they make their music even more intimately. Don Merrill had the chance to talk with founding member Alan Paul about the group, the return of group member Sharon Bentyne after her bout with cancer and Paul’s feelings about the failings of some of today’s music making.
I’ve got plenty of stuff to do. I’m working on three interviews right now. I’m working on some long term projects with an organization dedicated to helping changes some of the negative messages targeted at black youth. There is the finding of new interviews, maintaining and updating my website, building transcripts for interviews, etc. And of course, I’ve got a dozen other projects that have nothing to do with interviews.
So why would I take on a monster of a task of trying to tell the story of a worthwhile non-profit that is rent from within, and wailing like a shot animal? And why would I do it with no clear audience or market?
I’ve been thinking about that question a lot. And when I find me being dragged towards a story, the first thing that compels me to tell it is I’m interested in it because I’m somehow invested in it. I care about it, or I care about the people associated with it. Or I care about the people innocently affected by it. In other words, I have a connection.
The next step is seeing the turmoil it is suffering but not understanding the turmoil that this place I care about is going through. I mean, if the people it serves can see it is in turmoil, and the people within it doing the work admit it is in turmoil, and the organizations that oversee it see it is in turmoil, and the organizations that work with it as peer organizations see it in turmoil, it’s in turmoil. So saying it is in turmoil is a safe assumption.
The next question to ask is is this a story that needs to be told for the sake of helping to end the turmoil or clear up the confusion associated with the turmoil? That’s not to say the people involved can’t tell their own story, but like I said, because I’m invested, and because the turmoil seems to be ongoing and is hurting it, maybe there is something I can do to help bring it to a quicker end by way of my attempt to explain it.
The next thing to ask is what do I really know? Not what I’ve heard, not what other people have told me or any over reliance on any snap judgments I might have formed. No, what have I learned or can I learn from primary sources; decision makers, legal documents, statistics, etc. And can secondary sources verify or corroborate other secondary sources? Do or have media reports documented actions or behaviors that are somehow connected to the primary information? I need to collect as much information as possible for as far back as I need to go.
Then, how do I organize it? First, I need to create a timeline, because everything follows the timeline. Once I can start associating events and people to the timeline, I can start connecting the people and the events, meaning, I start building a relationship map. How are people connected to events and each other? Are they connected by emotion? By self interest? By history? And once that’s on the way, the story starts to tell itself in a logical flow, from beginning to end and right through the middle.
Finally, the telling. And that assumes at least half of the people will agree with my telling of the story and move to do something about it. Of course, that also assumes they care as much or more about the place as I do. But it also assumes that the other half will vehemently disagree with me, call me part of the problem and attack me as an outsider, a bomb thrower, an ignorant third part with no understanding of the “true” nature of the place or the problem, or someone too loyal to one side or the other to be considered a fair arbiter.
That, though, is to be expected and not to be taken all that personally. People believe what they believe for a reason. Maybe the old way something works may not be the best way, but it’s all they know and any threat of change makes it a bad one. Maybe some people are getting what they’ve always gotten and talking about a change in the status quo or remembering stuff other people have forgotten is a direct threat to their influence. Maybe they think everything is fine and if it’s just left alone, it’ll fix itself the way it’s always fixed itself. Or maybe they really want to see a change because they can see that thing they care about circling the drain, but they just can’t stand up to the pressure of a dominant clique or group.
It’s that old American virtue and vice; things will always be better tomorrow. Fifty percent of the time, it’s a virtue, and fifty percent of the time, it’s a vice. Problem is, you never know which fifty percent goes with which circumstance. That’s why it’s always so sad when people wake up and find that thing they love, gone, destroyed, taken away by the authorities. Sort of like people who believe it could never happen because we just won’t let it, or we’ve never had tornadoes here. And then an F3 rips the roof off.
This kind of storytelling takes time and digging. It’s takes looking at my own assumptions and not being any easier on them just because they’re mine. It means being willing to go where the facts take me, even if it’s a dead end. And it means looking at everyone, those I care about and those I don’t necessarily care about, the same way. And finally, it means being willing to suffer the loss of the first group for a bigger purpose. That’s the part that sucks. Because sometimes, you discover you don’t give a damn about the bigger purpose out there. In the course of the work, you’re pointed into a direction that you kind of have no choice but to follow because the real bigger purpose isn’t outside you, but inside you.