Monthly Archives: November 2007

lithium? more like Jiffium!


Oh my god, this is too good not to share. I hope Jiffer doesn’t mind me copying from her email, but I’m going to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission. In her own words:


A week ago I got an email from my Peace Corps friend Moya, that read, “Um, this might seem a bit strange but I guess it’s published so… um, are you on the cover of this book?”

To which I replied, “No – not to my knowledge…” and then I remembered…

Three-and-a-half years ago, my college friend Jim was visiting Hamburg and Berlin. He works for National Geographic online and does a bit of amateur photography. He took several photos on his trip, including a few of me, and told me he planned to put them in the National Geographic photo image bank/database. He explained that people could go image shopping and buy his photos if they choose. Thinking I was helping a friend and his fledgling career as a photographer, I agreed to sign the release form and let him put the photos of me in the bank….

So when Moya sent me the link to the book that she saw ….. sure enough, it was ME, staring out from the cover of THIS book:

[removed by request – but I promise, it was AWESOME! – ed.]

Oh yeah. That’s right.

Now you know what my mom is getting for Christmas!

I mean, it could be worse… the photo could have ended up in an ad for herpes or erectile disfunction, right? So, just a little lesson… probably best NOT to sign that release form…

Love from your favorite bipolar poster girl,

jif x



it’s a solidarinosc life for us


Dispatch from the Front Lines (by Tessa):

While Ian has been dealing with wretched dental surgery (bone graft? yuck), I have been walking very slowly up and down Pico Boulevard carrying a large red sign all week. Lucy came with me two days and proved an irresistible photo op for the press. What’s cuter than a striking toddler?


that’s Larry David behind us!

Ian made us super cool t-shirts. If only he applied himself, he could be a real t-shirt talent one day!

Physically, picketing is harder than it looks. My hips are totally locked up. I keep threatening to start Protest Yoga on the sidewalk. I have to believe that 30 people doing sun salutations in front of Rupert Murdoch’s empire would cause some kind of psychic tremor.

Emotionally, it’s a mixed bag. When you’re there it’s kind of cool. You run into people you haven’t seen in ages. You make new friends. You wave like crazy at the nice people honking in support. You’re part of something.

But everyday after I leave, I wither. It’s such a David and Goliath fight. These companies, these mega-machines of entertainment, they just refuse to share the wealth. They’re big and mean and ugly. I am proud to be standing up against them but I hear their cackles of indifference through the ether and it makes me sad.

A number of commenters have asked questions about the strike. Here’s Ian and Tessa’s STRIKE FAQ (feel free to ask more):

How long do we expect this to last?

A long time. Everyone has their prognosis. Here’s mine: Late January/February.

While lots of productions have shut down already – The Office, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men – the networks still have enough in the can to last into December. And then they can fill the airwaves with reruns, reality, sports and holiday hoo-hah for a while.

But because TV works on such a tight schedule, the networks will start to panic in earnest over the holidays. Usually, they would be reading the 100 scripts that were turned in (by, um, you guessed it, WRITERS) and they would decide which 15 to shoot. Sure, they have some completed scripts on hand but they can’t give any notes, and they can’t make any changes. So, I’m betting they’re not going to be willing to spend 3 million dollars on a script that hasn’t been polished.

And then they’ll start thinking about the “up-fronts” in May – that’s when they bring their dog and pony shows to the advertisers in New York – and realize that they have neither dog nor pony.

They’ll start thinking about their export market. “24” is big money in France. “Desperate Housewives” is huge in China. And you can’t export reality shows.

(And while we’re on the subject of reality, I read a fantastic analysis some time ago claiming that reality programming had hit its saturation point. People who watch reality have plenty to watch. People who prefer scripted are not going away. The networks will only dilute their own reality market by programming more reality.)

This is all to say, the producers WILL feel the impact of the strike, but not for a while.

In the meantime, the people who will suffer the most are the crews. This is not their fight. They don’t get residuals. They are astonishingly hard working people who are being laid off. And that sucks. I really wish that were different.

Aren’t the networks dinosaurs anyway?

And the answer is… I don’t know.

We’re in an uber-capitalist juggernaut now in America in 2007. These guys are worth gajillions of dollars.

For some perspective:

Peter Chernin, President/COO News Corporation, parent company of FOX:

Salary, Fiscal Year 2007: $ 8,100,000

Other Compensation ’07: $25,885, 578

TOTAL Salary, 2007: $33,985,578*

*Not including holdings of 10,137,500 stock options.

They have a huge stranglehold on a vast sector of the economy. I am totally happy to entertain that they are dinosaurs but they are not dying any time soon.

And right now, they’re the only game in town. My strike captain (the astonishingly talented Pippen Parker) sent us our strike team list. I had two reactions. One, I was deeply moved to be in such venerable company. And two, wow it’s hard for playwrights to make a living as playwrights, huh…

If you want to write dialogue and support your family, you’re working for one of these big guys. We would love more options and more avenues (and xuxE, under strike rules we can definitely work for the web channel you described and, if our contract demands are met, we can still work for your channel as long you meet the Guild minimums). But until then, we’ve got to negotiate with Fossils.

Isn’t the business model about to change so much that all these negotiations will look dated before they’re over?

Much has been made of the internet being a competitor to television: you know, “as internet content grows, television will become irrelevant.” But when I hear this I get confused. Is television the box… or the show… or the commercials… that drive the industry? I guess I feel like the delivery mechanism will change, but we’ll always have all those things – a screen with original programming and, god love us, advertising. I’ve begun to feel like the distinction between television and internet (2.0 or otherwise) is false.

Also, am I the only one who knows 18 year-olds? They watch TV while surfing the net. Hell, I watch TV while surfing the net. These are not mutually exclusive mediums.

Film was supposed to kill Theater. Television was supposed to kill Film. Now the internet is supposed to kill Television? Not buying it.

How does this strike affect you?

Hmmmm…. We have a script that we’re really proud of that is sitting in deep freeze at Big Guy Studio in valley. We have producers that we respect that we can’t really talk to. We have projects that we should finish but we feel kind of hopeless. After stumbling around for a couple of years, we have a great new agent and a fantastic manager and cool lawyer, all sitting on their thumbs.

That being said, we are a lot better off than a lot of folks. We’ve been hedging our financial bets for a while, so we can weather it. Ian has always kept his journalism contacts, and is working in that arena again. I’m doing some real estate. And overall, we believe in our work. So, all we can do is put in our time at the picket line and hope for the best.

What can I do to help?

Donate to MercyCorps. They do incredible work in Africa, the Middle East and all over the world fighting famine, helping agriculture, even saving victims of Hurricane Katrina. They’re the best. In other words, we get it… this WGA fight is very important to all of our livelihoods, but we haven’t lost perspective.

But if you’ve become remotely engaged in what we’re doing, here are some ideas…

Educate other people. Tell them that the writers just want eight cents for every time you watch their shows in any medium and the companies don’t want to give it to them. This video sums up everything perfectly.

Sign this petition.

Write letters to your editors.

Read this other stuff to keep informed…

The WGA East Strike Blog

The WGA West Strike Blog

The BEST info/gossip site

If you live nearby (LA or New York), come join us! We welcome everyone. Come for five minutes or a couple of hours. Bring cookies. Honk when you drive by. Let me know when you can make it and we’ll meet you!

fun having breasticles


Someone called me out last week about dressing up for Halloweeen, demanding to see proof that I’ve dressed up every year and that “my joints are still elastic.” Well, consider this entry as good as I can give you.

2007 – Supposed to be a lion, looked like a dog:


2006 – Secret Service Agent on Bunny Detail:


2005 – Member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock or The Left Banke:


2004 – I went as my dad, a Symphony Conductor:


2003 – Tessa was a disgruntled housewife, I was a Fat Fucking Tenor:


2002 – I went as Tessa. I also had the flu:

with our friend Karmen

2001 – I was a young William Henry Harrison, our 9th President, thus Tessa and I were “Tippecanoe and Mary Tyler Moore Too”:


2000 – John Lennon:


1997-1999 are the lost years because I was depressed and living in Beachwood Canyon and decidedly un-elastic. In ’98, I was a Murdered Mandolinist but no pictures exist.

1996 – John Lennon in 1964, here with Jon, Lindsay and Matt as the other Beatles in 1969 (guest-starring Dana as Yoko and Cheryl as a swamp creature!):


1995 – Beethoven (no pictures exist, but the party invite does):


click for big version

1994 – Chapel Hill Alternative Chick. Sage (standing next to me) showed this image to her mother, who famously said “Oh! That unfortunate woman!” This pic prompted me to lose 25 lbs:


1993 – The entire cast of “The Dukes of Hazzard” with me as Uncle Jesse. After being assaulted by some drunk freshman at Linda’s, I knocked him out with Cooter’s toolbox.


Clay as Bo Duke, Matt as Luke, Jon as Waylon Jennings, me as Uncle Jesse, Shay as Daisy Duke, Frisch as Cooter, and Lindsay as Boss Hogg. Not pictured: Ted as Flash the Dog

1992 – I was The Dead Baron. Clay always loved this picture:


1991 – The infamous Humours show, where we all showed up dressed as babies. We wore adult diapers (leading to this story) and my shirt said “Li’l Stinker”. No pictures exist of this, which is in itself a national tragedy.

1990 – I was a woman, which was easy, because my hair was about two feet long. No pictures, alas.

1988-89 – Beethoven’s Bastard Brother Ed:


1988 – Heatmiser from “The Year Without a Santa Claus”:


previous to 1987 – okay, so I was another woman when I was a freshman, and before that it was high school, and then childhood, where surely I don’t have to explain myself.

Do I look like a complete MORON in all these pictures? Yes, and THAT’S THE POINT. I’ve been looking stupid since Nixon was President, and all I’ve ever asked is that you all do the same.



the seventh house is in uranus


During hoops on Sunday, I ran up to block a shot under the basket and lost my footing – and my head slammed into the cinderblock wall so hard that I didn’t know where I was for about ten seconds. I’ve been listing to the port side a little bit ever since, and it sucks.

On Monday I went to the dentist for a regular checkup, and while in the seat, one of my crowns ruptured under the gumline. I was sent to the periodontist, who said I need a bone graft in my jaw to support a new tooth – surgery I have to get tomorrow morning.

Since any big town is a living organism, you can’t shut down an entire organ and expect things to go well. The writers’ strike has rippled through the entire city, putting the whole place into a mercurial retrograde. We have solidarity, and the public perception nationwide has tipped more in our favor, but the whole thing is still unbelievably sad.

Daylight Savings Time ended, and now it gets dark very early, and it’s feeling cold. I’m no sun-worshipper, but I think we all suffer from a little Seasonal Affective Disorder. Soon the streetlights will be on by 4pm. I’m a little bit down.

But seriously, how are you feeling? We haven’t talked in ages!

us vs them, round LXVII

[hey, Tessa actually wrote my blog today! YAY! – ed.]

I announced to Ian on Thursday night – after our big Writer’s Guild meeting – that I wanted to guest write his blog for the first time. First, I should say that I am not a natural blogger. I kept a blog for about three days before I realized that having an audience for what was essentially my diary forced me into a twisted mess of ponderous nuance.

But, damn man, this strike thing is intense. And you’ve put in your time here – you might as well hear about it from us.

Ian did a great job of making clear the central issue on Friday. Basically, we get 4 pennies for a DVD or permanent internet download and we’d like 8. My mother feels like our problem is that we’re not asking for more. We’re being too wimpy. Could be.

But here are a couple of other things worth knowing:

1) From what I can tell, the AMPTP just has not taken this negotiation seriously at all. There are a million examples – they took four-hour lunch breaks, refused to break into small groups in hopes of a more reasonable discussion. But, you know, he said, she said. Who knows what’s really happening in that room. I hope my guys are behaving themselves. But in the last day the AMPTP shut down the talks by saying that nothing could be discussed unless we pulled our four cents off the table. There was no counter proposal, no healthy haggling, nada. Every preschooler knows better than that.

So why are they being so belligerent? Either they’ve got some trick up their sleeve, or they radically miscalculated, or they’ll do anything to break the unions, or, well, you decide….

2) The producers are refusing to pay us residuals for all movies or tv shows streamed on the web because they consider that to be “promotional use”. Entire 2-hour movies with commercials. Sounds, oh I don’t know, a lot like television. And how cynical can you get – watching an entire movie is a promotion for the, um, movie you just watched?

3) The press has occasionally given this debate short shrift by saying that this is really just a fight between rich writers and rich producers. But, having parsed the income numbers, the WGA is overwhelmingly a middle-class union. Members have a 55% chance of working in a given year (because every year is a gamble). And in years they do work, they will earn about $100K. So, if you average out the years you don’t work with the years you do, you get about $55,000 per year.

Now it may be true that this whole system should be scrapped. Or that the smart decision is to work independently. Or some other savvy macroeconomic analysis.

I worked independently most of my life and I am really proud of what I accomplished. But it was always a financial challenge and, honestly, it got really lonely. I have been deeply gratified in the last couple years. I get paid for telling stories. It’s been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. And we’ve had the opportunity to work with great, smart people while we do it.

Which brings me to another thing… It feels a little ludicrous to go hold placards and yell at executives driving to work. For one thing, writers are far more comfortable holding court than holding signs. For another, I generally like those executives. Sure, we hated this one chick (and we’re going to her studio lot tomorrow in hopes of being able to lob a well-placed invective) but everyone else has been great. They’ve fought for our work, given smart notes, sent Christmas cards. They would give us those 4 cents if they could.

Look, we know that this is not the most important issue in the world. We get it. The financial fate of some 12,000 writers doesn’t stack up next to the very real circumstances of famine and war and crappy health care.

But people don’t become writers to get rich. And (most days) we have enough humility to know that inspired dialogue won’t change the world. Writers write for a million reasons – we hate it, we love it, we can’t help it. But we provide a service to the marketplace. A service I know many of you value. The people we work for make A LOT OF MONEY. Heck, on the day the strike was announced, Viacom reported their net earnings were up 80% to $641 million and revenue rose 24% to 3.3 billion this quarter.

So we’ll be out there tomorrow, wearing silly t-shirts and lots of sunscreen, because I want to show Lucy that are some things that are worth fighting for – even if that thing is four cents.

normal ray


I’ll try to keep this very simple, as it’s late in the evening, and god knows we’ve already been down this road. However… tonight was the big meeting of my union – the Writer’s Guild – and 3,000 of us packed the LA Convention Center to show solidarity, receive inspiration from unlikely sources, and get all questions answered. I was on Lucy duty, so my wife went, and for the first time EVER, she has requested to write the Monday blog for me!

Tessa wanting to write one of my blogs is like Nixon going to China. I usually have to avoid looks of derision and moans of “oh fer chrissake” coming from the other room, so this is a red-letter day in our household.

Before the news cycle paints all of the writers in a horrible light, I’m going to make one statement, and pose one question. First off, I’m going to give you a very simplified reason of why we’re (probably) going on strike.

Many years ago, writers agreed to a disastrously-small royalty fee for movies released on VHS home video. We agreed to it because it was a new idea that was expensive to manufacture – “movies watched on tape at home!” – and we were “all in it together!” That translated to four cents for each movie bought. But when DVDs came out, the studios refused to raise the rate even though production costs were HALVED, so while they made BILLIONS & BILLIONS, we still got… four cents per movie.

Determined not to let this happen again, we decided to push for a more equitable royalty on internet downloads, which we all know will replace physical DVDs in the next few years. Something more akin to eight cents a movie. The studios said “we’re offering you NOTHING cents per movie.”

That’s like starting a negotiation with someone, holding out your hand to shake, and having the other guy say “how about you go fuck yourself?” So that’s where we are. Forget everything you’re about to hear in the news: this strike is about THAT. I’ll leave it to Tessa to tell you even worse stunts the studios are pulling, and also why writers can’t live without royalties.

Meanwhile, I’d like to ask this question: when did America become so hostile to the little guy? When did everyone start cheering for corporations? Sure, we like to think of ourselves as a defender of underdogs, but that kind of sentimentality is limited to the movies – in real life, everyone’s a fucking Yankees fan, cheering for the sun to rise. We only really want to hear about the winners, and we want the winners to keep winning. And when the winners stop winning, we forget about the sport entirely.

I’ve read some pretty vitriolic crap about the writers and our strike, and I’ve experienced first-hand the schadenfreude right here on the blog. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’ve spent the last five years fielding comments and emails from those defending the indefensible, whether it be the Iraq War, our disastrous Presidency or pharmaceutical companies.

Before everyone’s eyes start rolling, believe me when I say none of this hurts my feelings – in fact, the last five years on here have been brilliantly informative for me personally, often through the folks I disagree with most. But something has shifted in the American consciousness that I find particularly disheartening, and this strike – and the coverage of it – has italicized its meaning. Put simply, why does everyone gotta root for the bullies?