HONK FOR US - 09.20.2023
September 20, 2023
Welcome to my monthly RUPP'S NOTES & FBI SPECIAL AGENT HARTMANN SERIES post. I'm novelist Richard V. Rupp, writing from Burbank, California.
I think most of us are looking forward to Fall and the end of Summer, which occurs this Friday. Cooler weather will be nice following our hot summer.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
As I write this, I think of a paraphrase that resulted from the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles Police in 1991, "Can't we all just get along."
No, Rodney, apparently, we can't.
My research takes me to all kinds of sources – written, digital, video, and conversational. They all tell me hate is rampant, crime is rampant, civil communications have evaporated, and labor and management are at odds. The financial world is in a state of flux that has befuddled economists, and their outlook is not good. Climate change has arrived in full force, creating weather-related natural disasters around the world that have millions of people migrating to places that don't want them.
Sorry! Not a pretty picture. And I'm usually a glass-half-full guy. Apparently, we are facing a glass-half-empty future. My last comments about a "Depressing Poll" at the end of this post sure don't paint a pretty picture.
HONK FOR US!
As Drew Barrymore found out this past week, don't mess with the current writers' strike. Her decision to tape her show during the strike was quickly shot down by her industry peers. She has worked hard to develop her quirky style in the industry, but that style does not play well when it comes to business decisions. From all indications, she has paid a steep price for her decision.
Following an industry backlash for resuming production in the middle of the TV and film writers' strike, she stated, "I have listened to everyone, and I am making the decision to pause the show's premiere until the strike is over. I have no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt."
Yesterday, the LA TIMES had a column titled – THANKS TO DREW BARRYMORE, STRIKING WRITERS ARE IN THEIR MOST POWERFUL POSITION YET.
I live in Burbank, which usually is a place that provides relief or at least takes your mind off the bad stuff through TV and film productions. But presently, the visual entertainment industry is at the center of a labor-management conflict. It is my understanding that the two sides will meet today for the first time in a while. But my sources tell me – don't hold your breath.
The Writers Guild (WGA) has indicated that a "studio or two or three" who are members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTSP) might broker a deal with the unions independent of the other media companies to "either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP or to break away from the broken AMPTP model."
Disney and Warner Bros. Studios are just down the road from me. I see the actors and writers walking the picket lines every day. One of the strikers carried a sign that read, "WE WRITE 4U – WE ACT 4U – HONK FOR US!"
From what I can tell, the Nation is honking 4U.
Now, the United Auto Workers are joining the writers and actors on strike, and the Nation is honking 4THEM.
IDEA FOLLOWING A COUPLE OF BEERS AND A BAILEYS ON THE ROCKS
You know, I principally write fiction based on research of real events. Here's what I came up with based on the above info and in talking with my Story Tavern friends.
The old-time studio moguls were showmen who had a basic pride in the quality of the movies and videos they produced. Today, the studio heads are ultra-rich bastards (Yes, I think the B word applies) minted in finance and law. In other words, greed.
I retired a number of years ago from the big corporate business world, where I observed several times the four stages of the business cycles. They are expansion, peak, contraction, and trough. The first two are led by positive-thinking entrepreneurs who take on greater than normal financial risk to build a business. The second two are led by negative-thinking lawyers and financial staff who will do anything to satisfy themselves and their shareholders financially. The TV and film industry is in the middle of the second stage.
Here's a view of the industry from a September 3rd Los Angeles Times article by Alessandro Camon – "An entertainment industry dominated by a handful of megacorps, with a gig-economy model of employment, obscene income gaps between the top earners and everyone else, and human creativity sacrificed to an artificial simulacrum, is a very real danger. We've been heading that way at full speed, with no brakes."
Here's my solution to fix the industry. I've done a lot of research on AI and have concluded that it really doesn't work that well in developing new artistic things but works great in solving business and financial problems. So, I would replace the current studio's top executives with AI. After all, the current breed of brand managers relies on stats, polls, and algorithms, which is a perfect fit for AI. That would free up billions of dollars to pay the artistic talent to develop artistic productions of all kinds. In other words, real movies and video productions instead of artificial ones. Did you know part of the definition of artificial includes the term "insincere?"
Just think what would happen if one studio took this approach. My bet is that it will be successful, and the others will follow.
One article I read indicated that if you think about it, writers and actors are among a minority of people who love their jobs with a passion. Living here in Burbank, I can attest to that. Yes, there are a few who make millions, but then there are the rest who spend a lifetime working toward a dream. They are my friends at the local pubs who spend years during which employment is unstable, compensation is modest, and rejection is constant. Their efforts require curiosity, empathy, discipline, and a kind of courage—none of which can be supplied without loving it.
While passing cars are honking for the writers and actors, a good part of our Nation is honking for themselves. The combination of high inflation and high interest rates is hurting the average guy and increasing the wealth disparity in the Nation. Add to this AI, which is creating a revolution (AI or Machine Learning Revolution) that could be as life changing as the Agriculture and Industrial Revolutions.
The current writers' and actors' strikes are a symbol of a changing Nation. Now, they have been joined by the Auto Workers.
TURN OFF THE SCREEN AND READ A BOOK
With the writers and actors on strike, there is not a lot to watch these days. To make things worse, I just read that $1.2 billion is going to be spent on political ads here in California during the next few months. I can attest to the fact that they have already started. The reason for the high ad spending is the race for the U.S. Senate seat that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is vacating, a half-dozen highly competitive House seats, and several high-dollar ballot initiatives.
Where these ads used to be contained on local television stations, they have now expanded to the entire digital world – cable TV, Facebook, Google, and "connected TV" (ads delivered through a streaming service to smart TVs or connected devices such as a Firestick or Roku).
I don't know about you, but I hate ads, and I really hate "political ads."
I must admit I was out of sorts when Charter Spectrum (my cable provider) and Disney had a falling out. Thank God they came to an agreement in time for me to watch the new JEOPARDY season. The timing of the agreement also allowed me to watch ESPN's Monday Night Football debut. Unfortunately, this also allowed me to see the possible career-ending injury to Aaron Rogers.
Then, this past Sunday, my two local NFL teams lost. In the early game, the CHARGERS allowed Tennessee to come back in the 4th quarter from a double-digit deficit and win 27-24 in overtime. Then the RAMS lost to their longtime rivals, the 49ers, who kicked a field goal with 4 seconds to go in the game to win 30-23. What a heart-pounding day of football.
YOU CAN'T LIVE WITH IT - YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT
One of the premises in SKYWARD, the novel I'm working on, is that humanity would not have advanced to the level it has without the use of fossil fuels. I also recognize the adverse impact of fossil fuels and the fact that they have contributed to an earlier expiration date for our planet. In the book, my principal characters, who gained much of their wealth from fossil fuels, use it to take a selected (STEM-educated) group to colonize space. They start with the moon, then go on to Mars, and finally search for new earths.
Anything humans do has consequences. When you take an action, there are reactions. Some good, some bad.
I read in the same daily newspaper about one group wanting to plant more trees and shrubby to cool the planet and create fresh air. This group says – "one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do to have a positive impact on the environment? It's true. Trees clean the air, prevent rainwater runoff, help you save energy, and even combat global warming." Then, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California indicates with respect to growing decorative vegetation, "We have never done anything like this before because we haven't seen this situation happen like this before. We just can't afford the water for it."
One of the last insurance industry research papers I wrote prior to retirement was about electric vehicles and the adverse impact the batteries in them will have on the environment, both from their manufacture and from their disposal. President Biden is facing some of what I anticipated in my report. While he wants to expedite the move towards electric vehicles, he is finding that the US doesn't produce many of the key components of electric batteries because we don't have the metals they require, and the manufacturing process has an adverse impact on the environment.
The President's electric car stance has also angered the United Auto Workers, whose support he needs to win the next election. In trying to expand the electric vehicles market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent China from solidifying its grip on a growing industry, he supported legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes billions of dollars in incentives to get cleaner cars on the road. The UAW fears the transition will cost jobs because electric vehicles require fewer people to assemble.
As the saying goes – Be careful what you wish for. Or be careful what you provide.
IT DON'T WORK NO MORE
In a previous Newsletter, I mentioned that the property insurance industry business model was no longer working. Here are some updates I have noted -
David Jones, UC Berkeley's Climate Risk Initiative and California's insurance commissioner from 2011 to 2019, has indicated, "Insurance isn't magic. Insurers are rational economic actors … in business to make money. And in some parts of the United States for some risks, they're deciding that there simply isn't a price high enough for them to make sense insuring that particular risk in that particular geography."
He further warned that the path toward an "uninsurable future" we're currently on could eventually affect the housing market. . . .The rising weather-related risks from climate change, from coastal hurricanes to western wildfires, are increasing pinching insurance companies, which are raising rates and pulling back from parts of the country in an effort to stay in business."
One of the nation's largest homeowners' insurers, Farmers Insurance, announced that they are laying off 2,400 workers, representing 11% of its total workforce. The announcement indicated that they needed to reduce operational costs and focus on "long-term sustainable profitability."
Since the beginning of the year, companies representing more than half of California's $12-billion home insurance market have stopped or limited new policies. State Farm, Allstate, and USAA have effectively closed for new business, Farmers has put a cap on the number of new policies it will write each month, and Travelers and Nationwide have put new restrictions in place that make it more difficult for new customers to qualify for policies.
One article I read indicated that some homeowners were paying more for their insurance than their mortgage.
How would you answer this Gallup poll question? Are you proud to be an American?
Apparently, American pride isn't what it used to be. In fact, it's at an all-time low.
An annual Gallup poll taken in June asked the above question with the following boxes to be checked – ""extremely proud," "very proud," "moderately proud," "only a little proud," or "not at all proud.
The results indicated that only 39 percent of people are "extremely proud" — a new low. Twenty-two percent indicated they were "moderately proud," 7 percent are "only a little," and 4 percent are "not at all."
Millennials and Gen Z were the least patriotic. Just 18 percent of those aged 18 to 34 said they were "extremely proud", which marks a steep drop from 85 percent in 2013. While the poll found that 40 percent of those aged 35 to 54 and 50 percent of those 55 checked the "extremely proud" box.
After writing this, I'm heading to Story Tavern to see if I can find some happy thoughts to include in my next Newsletter.
Richard V. Rupp, Author
Website – www.richardvrupp.com
Email – email@example.com
Copyright@2023 by Richard V. Rupp