Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who's it For?

I have a new hobby. More on this in a minute.

Isn’t the internet great? It’s great. It is probably the greatest media invention ever. Well, maybe not. It’s more like mortar. I mean bricks were a great invention. They were better than building with rocks, but they didn’t become way better than rocks until the invention of mortar. Hell, mortar was such a great invention it even made rocks better for people who couldn’t afford bricks. The internet is the mortar of media. It takes all the other bits we use to build our understanding of the world and not only connects them and holds them together, but forges them into a stronger cohesive whole. Damn I love the internet.

Which brings me to my new hobby; as soon as I finish watching a movie I head to the computer and look it up a wikipedia to learn more about it. I was looking up “The Hurt Locker” recently and the thing that stood out for me was the section detailing Iraq War veterans’ impressions of the film. Unsurprisingly they basically panned it. They also seemed to feel it was the best movie about the war to date. So there it is, it’s unrealistic to the point of being absurd, but it’s also the best one yet. What struck me about this perspective is how familiar it felt. It’s the exact same sentiment the rugby community had about “Invictus.” It’s roughly the same reaction people from Berkeley have towards NBC’s “Parenthood.”

This is when I had this month’s “aha” moment. These works aren’t made for “us” they are made for “them.” Who the “us” and “them” are depends on what who we are and what we do. Confused? I didn’t think so. For “The Hurt Locker” “us” is Iraq war veterans and embedded journalists. For “Invictus” “us” is the rugby community and South Africans. For “Parenthood” “us” is people from Berkeley. See where I’m going? It thought you would. The thing is, making movies and TV shows that resonate with the demographic depicted is almost impossible. The people who are the real people who are being fictionalized and depicted in popular media are too close to the subject matter to ever really be satisfied.

Even “reality” can leave a bad taste in the mouths of the “us.” In 1994 PBS spent a year at my high school filming a documentary about race relations called “School Colors.” Whiff. It was terrible. The filmmakers clearly had an agenda and ignored anything that didn’t fit the narrative they wanted before they arrived. The documentary depicted Berkeley High as completely racially segregated in every way resulting in a powder keg of race related tension and violence. I don’t know anyone who attended BHS at that time who had the experience depicted in “School Colors.” Yet everything in the film actually happened so I guess in a way it was real. It just wasn’t real enough for “us.” (For a much more resonant depiction of BHS in the mid-1990s check out “Yellow Jackets” by Itamar Moses.)

Here’s the truth that the “us” has to embrace, if these works were made with an eye towards resonating with “us” they wouldn’t appeal to “them” or anyone else. And there’s a lot more of “them” than there are of “us.” Media made for “us” is so specific and has so much potential to get caught up in little details while making assumptions about shared knowledge that the vast “them” would feel lost and left out. Besides, the “us” is already in. We’re already invested. We get it. The goal of the creators isn’t to draw us in, it’s to draw everyone else in. The goal is to provide a glimpse of our world to the masses. In doing so it’s going to change, sometimes to the point of seeming foreign to “us.” But if “Invictus” got a few people interested in rugby, or social justice then the film will have accomplished the goals of both the filmmakers and the rugby community. If “The Hurt Locker” helps people understand the stress and chaos of war then it’s served its purpose. Even “School Colors” was right in that Berkeley is not the race relations nirvana people dreamed it would become back in the 1960s. The point is that the “us” need to be satisfied with the details. The Bravermans from “Parenthood” are A’s fans, it’s a nice touch. The show is still pretty detached from the Berkeley I know, but they have drinks from Peet’s so I tolerate the inaccuracies. I think that’s the most we can hope for in service of the greater goal of bringing our passions exposure to a wider audience. So maybe it’s time for “us” to take a new tack and appreciate these works for what they are and what they bring to “them.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

Talkin A's Baseball 2010 Opening Day Edition

Concept and original lyrics by Terry Cashman, 2010 lyrics by Berto
(Need help with the tune? The song was featured in the video accompanying this post.)

The Mac Men were dominant
when derby hats were prominent
legends filled Athletic uniforms

Homerun Baker and The Chief
Double X brought pitchers grief
They broke up the A's and thenthe darkest days were born

I'm talkin baseball
Simmons, Grove, and Dykes
A's baseball
Pete Sutter and Black Mike
Ferris Fein and Chance both had their day
Then a stop in Kansas City along the way
I'm talking baseball
baseball and the A's

They were scrappers, they were tusslers
And Finley was a hustler
Three series in a row for Charlie O

A perfect game by the 'Cat
Reggie Jackson at the bat
Williams and Dark just came to the park and let 'em go

I'm talking baseball
Sal Bando, Vida Blue
A's baseball
Campy, Gene, Alou

Rick Monday and Rudy had their say
Darrell Knowles and Rolly saved the day
I'm talking baseball
baseball and the A's

Hey when you're talkin Oakland baseball
there's Rickey and Billy the Kid
Eckersley, and Welch and Dave
Tim Hudson he was once the rave
Those brothers bashed it over the wall
Now we're playing moneyball

2006 was another year
the Athletics had their game in gear
streaking towards the classic in the fall

Mark and Crosby both were gone
but Scutaro carried on.
The Big Hurt was on fire and we had Loieza so we played ball

I'm talkin baseball
Nick Chavez and Street
Oakland baseball
Dan and Zito brought the heat.
Kendell, Joe, and Bradley and Kotsay
There's DeAngelo, The Duke, and Rich and Jay
Talkin baseball
baseball and the A's

Well twenty ten is finally here
Forget about the last three years
The team is young since Taylor got the call

Ben Sheets is on the mound
There's new grass on the ground
Cust got the boot but we still got the Duke so let's play ball

I'm talkin baseball
Barton, Zuke, and Cliff
Oakland baseball
Mark Ellis is no stiff
Davis and Coco run all day
Ziggy's underhanded but OK
Talking baseball
Baseball and the A's

Happy Opening Day!