Tag Archives: Lew

Comcast to Chicago’s Public Access TV Stations: Just DIE Already…Like the Other Thirteen We’ve Killed Off

comcast2

by Legendary Lew

The deadline has now passed for the extension of Comcast’s contract for CAN-TV and no agreement has been reached. This means that CAN-TV is in great danger of being shut down like thirteen other stations in Illinois that Comcast allowed to die.

Executive Director of CAN-TV Barbara Popovic and Kartemquin Film‘s Gordon Quinn were recently on WBEZ’s Morning Shift discussing the conflict:

Comcast is not doing you a favor by providing public access TV stations. It is fulfilling an obligation. This is most important to remember when discussing the issue of funding these low-fi stations. Comcast is candy-coating their press releases with the usual language of how they are best working with local communities to provide crucial programming for them while at the same time allowing stations to close in Illinois over the last decade.

This attempt to veer away from public responsibility is nothing new. I’ve produced and directed public access TV shows in Rochester, NY back in 1994 and I can tell you the major cable company there at the time,Time Warner, fought tooth and nail to keep from their commitments to provide public access TV stations. They finally had to relent to public pressure due, in part, to the public’s low opinion of their service. Sound familiar?

Adding insult to injury, the conglomerates, when they finally did oblige and provide stations, routinely saddled them with outdated equipment prone to constant breakdown and insufficient staffing for training and public outreach. These are money-stuffed giants willing to provide only the bare minimum for local communities to have active voices on the air and then claiming they exist to provide “choices” for subscribers. It might be cute and quaint for public access TV shows to look like “Wayne’s World,” but the lack of technical aesthetic with the stations is not an accident. It’s by design. Cable conglomerates do not want public access TV shows to compete with paid programming, because they think what Honey Boo Boo does is much more important to you than what your local elected officials do.

With today’s technology, independently produced media can muster up great and important television on public access. CAN-TV provides such programming. I’m a proud board member of Elephant and Worm TV, a public access show that was nominated for a local Emmy last year for outstanding children’s programming. An Emmy-nominated public access TV show may seem extraordinary, but it could become more common if stations were allowed to upgrade. All of Elephant and Worm’s videos presented to CAN-TV actually had to be downgraded for television broadcast.

Would it really cut into Comcast’s massive profits to help upgrade stations to HD, instead of keeping them more than a decade out of date? They’ve done so in Portland, OR. Why not here? Does Comcast think public access TV stations are part of the ratings game? Comcast is gutter-dwelling in customer service rankings and taking on an evil reputation for their bids to “fast-track” the internet. You would think they would want to do right by the public after we allow them to run their infrastructure in our communities and pay nothing to us for the privilege. But then, you may be thinking more of your local community than Comcast is.

 

 

 

Is Comcast Trying to Kill Chicago’s Public Access TV Stations?

Comcast

by Legendary Lew

Comcast is Chicago’s largest cable provider and wants to renew a 10-year contract with the city. Part of the licensing renewal agreement, if agreeable to the city of Chicago, would be to provide air space on their spectrum for public access.

This has always been a pesky little matter for cable giants, because providing public access stations gets in the way of important things like profits from vital, universe-changing programming like Duck Dynasty or disputing reports of their incredibly low-ranking customer service ratings.

Well, negotiations for a renewal, including budgeting for CAN-TV (Chicago’s public access TV stations) have now been going on for over a year with no agreement. Seriously. Comcast can’t seem to get it together enough to promise to do right for Chicago with a guaranteed budget to keep CAN-TV operating. The current contract with Comcast was extended for three months and expires on June 15, 2014.

That means that, conceivably, Chicago could be without public access channels after that date. This would be a travesty and would totally undermine the original goals of serving the public interest promised by the cable companies.

Comcast made $6.82 billion last year. Current operating costs for CAN-TV run about $2.7 million dollars total. The cable companies don’t even provide all that money, some of it comes from fundraising and donations, etc.

Even if cable companies were to provide all the $2.7 million. That means in terms of just Comcast’s income alone from last year, it would amount to .04% of those earnings.  This is a pittance to ensure a great service for the community.

Forty-three Aldermen signed a petition to Comcast asking the cable company to stop dragging its feet and provide for the services Chicago needs to keep CAN-TV operating at its best potential.

In a time when the cable giant is willing to put up the bucks to purchase Time Warner for $45 billion for a super cable conglomerate, it’s ludicrous to believe Comcast can’t cough up enough to provide basic, vital community programming for its local viewers.

As part of the production team of the Emmy-nominated Elephant and Worm TV show (my public disclosure), I’d like to call on others to join CAN-TV in contacting and thanking their Alderman for taking the right stance with Comcast. You can find the list of those who signed the petition here. (Find your Alderman here). If your Alderman did not sign, please ask him/her to do so.

Also, call CAN-TV and tell them you support their programming and ask how you can help. They need to hear from you, Chicago, if you value the true choices in programming that the cable lobby always promises the public.

Wild Yard Sale This Week Plus …Would You Like to Share an Apartment with a Co-Founder?

soundslikewoodstockThe Underground Multiplex moves from its current location, the Brain Kitchen, on Saturday!  History was made there as we’ve met with wonderful people, hosted jazz concerts, held interviews with TV news and radio stations, entertained partygoers with music and movies, and developed our philosophy of collectivism in art and art promotion.

The Brain Kitchen was a special place, but always a physically limited space, so we are off to plant roots in a new home TBD soon.

In the meantime, there are artifacts we will be selling in a wild and funky yard sale Wednesday 5/28 and Friday 5/30 from 3pm-8pm at our grand location at 1424 N Greenview in Chicago. Among the items being sold are Joe’s crazy artwork, some of my insanely cheap but interesting records. books, games, a super 8mm camcorder, a super 8 Sound FILM camera with telescoping mic and various other goodies.  However, please do note the following:

Please don’t ask what specifically we’ll be selling. I’m way too busy packing and working to reply. Just stop by.
NO, we are not selling marionettes.
NO, we are not selling Meinecke or related artwork.
No early birds. We begin promptly at 3pm. Early birds will be plucked and deep fried with a delicious golden brown beer battered coating.

Come on over and pick up a piece of Chicago newsmaker history!

PLUS–Lew, co-founder of TUGM, is still looking for a roommate for a West Logan Sq apartment sublet beginning June 1st – August 31st. Strongly preferring someone who will continue on with a lease on Sept. 1st. If you are serious and interested, email lewojeda@gmail.com for more details.

 

Get This Banned Danish GOTV PSA on American Media **NOW**! (NSFW)

voteman-hed-2014

by Legendary Lew

I would love to shake the hand of the person who had the wild audacity to create this pants-pissing, hilarious cartoon urging young people to vote.  It touches on so many themes: hipster culture, superhero worship, incredible amounts of gratuitous sex and violence and even dolphins. However, it also makes the point that personal involvement matters. The GREATEST political Get-Out-the-Vote Ad ever created–bar NONE.

It was, of course, yanked immediately.

To those whimpering that this is too offensive: really? Been to the movies lately? Voter apathy in this country is way too high. Any means by which we can get more people to vote and continue to be a part of the law-making process can help.

http://bcove.me/zd5fpz0b

Anti-Porn Thief and Inspiration for TUGM’s “Sisters of No Mercy”, Charles Keating Jr., Dies

Keating

Hated porn but LOVED your money. (Photo courtesy: gazette.com)

by Legendary Lew

Charles Keating Jr., the central figure in the Savings and Loans Scandal of the 1980s (basically a warm-up for the Bush Depression of 2008) died on 3/31/2014 at age 90. Although he is known as the guy who bilked thousands of people out of their cash on useless junk bonds (with the preferential help of 5 US Senators), I will forever prefer to remember him for another colossal failure.

Keating, as part of a group called Citizens for Decent Literature, Inc., funded and distributed an anti-porn short film narrated by “outstanding news reporter” George Putnam in 1961. “Perversion for Profit” has been accurately described

Illustrated scene from "Perversion for Profit"

Illustrated scene from “Perversion for Profit”

as the Reefer Madness of porn. It’s a hyperbolic, homophobic ranting screed that uses similar tactics used by some porn-fighting churches, namely, showing an enormous amount of the offending material (with eyes blacked out).  This 30-minute short has more male and female sleaze ‘n’ tease as can be found in a dozen feature-length sexploitation films, which means, of course, that’s it has found a home with me as one of the best, most hilarious propaganda films ever made.

No doubt, I crowed about this movie so much that we had to include a remixed version of it as part of our feature film, Sisters of No Mercy. So as a testament to the double-misfired life of Charles Keating, Jr., I include in this post the amazing Perversion for Profit, presented by the indispensible Prelinger Archives:

And here is our feature, Sisters of No Mercy:

 

 

Elephant and Worm (EWTV) Returns to Television Tomorrow!

EWTVby Legendary Lew

Gather up the kids of all ages! EWTV, the Emmy-nominated TV show of The Elephant and Worm Educational Theater Company, is back on the air beginning tomorrow! There’s a host of new surprises in store, but the live call-in segments will return, so call in with your ideas during the show.

EWTV airs every Tuesday at 3:30pm on CAN-TV Channel 21. If you are not in the area or if you don’t have cable tv, you can tune in to live streaming at cantv.org/live.

This season’s first guest is Chicago artist Gene Bowen, whose works showed at Meinecke Studios last Friday in West Rogers Park.

Mediatrocities #10– Free Media: The Manifesto of The Underground Multiplex

LewandSophie

Legendary Lew

by Legendary Lew

Joseph R. Lewis and I were very proud to give a presentation titled “Free Media: Mending Arts When All is Broke” Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at Chicago Filmmakers.

Around 90 people attended to listen to Joe and I discuss the history of how The Underground Multiplex got started and some of the basic ideas that keep this

joe-profile-pic

Joseph R. Lewis

organization going. This is an age where there’s very little money going around for the arts, so it’s imperative that artists learn a new paradigm by which they can have works created, published and distributed. It may seem daunting to be responsible for all these aspects but it can be done and we’ll tell you how to approach it.

Give a listen:

Internet Hater Chris Dodd Wants Technology to Help Boost Sagging Theater Attendance

ChrisDodd

by Legendary Lew

Variety reports that last year, attendance for the 18-24 year-old age bracket in movie theaters dropped like a stone. It’s serious because, you know, everyone else is dead and will never benefit from films aimed toward them:

The number of frequent moviegoers in the all-important 18-24 age group plunged an unprecedented 21% in 2013, according to MPAA annual statistics released Tuesday at Cinemacon, while attendance in the 12-17 age bracket also saw a precipitous drop off, falling almost 15%.

Frequent filmgoers from 12-24 are likely spending much of their previous moviegoing time watching a variety of other screens.

Well, heavens to Betsy, whatever shall a bloated, non-innovative, money-wasting, inefficient, money-gouging, hypocritical corporate entity do?!

I know! Call in MPAA head Chris Dodd to give the industry a pep talk:

“We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” Dodd insisted during his keynote address delivered Tuesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings,” Dodd added.

I practically shat blood laughing so hard when reading these statements. This is the same Chris Dodd that backed the SOPA and PIPA legislations–so much so that he extorted the White House to try and have its support. SOPA and PIPA would have destroyed the internet as we know it with opposition to the legislation coming from internet companies that regularly help Hollywood promote its films. The public response to Dodd and SOPA/PIPA supporters was a whole lot of this.

It’s also the same Chris Dodd that supported the arrest of Kim Dotcom, only to have the case against him implode over embarrassing allegations, not the least of which was Dotcom’s assertion that he was ready to start a legally-created IPO with MegaUpload. (Dotcom’s new company, Mega, has since created an IPO in New Zealand)

Now, Dodd wants to urge the industry to use technology, i.e the internet, to boost theater tix sales.  Never mind that he tried to explode it a couple of years ago and will, no doubt, try again, unless Dodd has some other new type of technology he wants to introduce to the world.  Oh wait, I forgot, Hollywood doesn’t have one.

Next time Chris Dodd gives a speech, I suggest this type of formal attire.

 

 

Chicago’s Dave Hoekstra Nominated for Prestigious Journalism Award for Covering Story First Presented by TUGM

HoekstraThe Underground Multiplex congratulates Dave Hoekstra, formerly of The Chicago Sun-Times, for his nomination of the prestigious Lisagor Award for  “BEST ARTS REPORTING AND CRITICISM:Daily Newspaper, News Service or Bureau, circulation more than 250,000.”

The news feature was “Souls on a String,” which made the front page of Chicago Sun-Times Sunday edition back on October 27, 2013. It told the story of lifetime marionette creator/puppeteer Ralph Kipniss and what happened to a half-century of his creations. Hoekstra’s coverage was a result of my report originating here on this blog.

Read Dave Hoekstra’s excellent coverage here.

Read Legendary Lew’s original report on The Underground Multiplex here.

BTW, the search for a home for Kipniss’ marionettes continues. Anyone with any leads for a permanent home can contact us at theundergroundmultiplex@gmail.com.

 

What You Won’t Learn from Most David Brenner Obituaries

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

by Legendary Lew

Master of comic observation, David Brenner, died March 15, 2014 from cancer. The greatest emphasis in remembering him by most media has been his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Gracing the stage there 158 times since his 1971 debut was quite the feat. It’s currently unmatched by any other guest.

A few obits will mention that Brenner was the star of a extremely short-lived NBC sitcom from 1976 called Snip. How quick was the demise of the show? NBC cancelled the show before a single episode was aired.  Normally, this would simply be an insignificant footnote in TV history. However, the story behind what happened is fascinating, leading me to believe that the network had some of the biggest assholes in charge during the 1970′s.

Davidbrennersnip2

Courtesy: remembermarilyn

Brenner was a very hot property by the mid-1970′s as one of the best stand-up comics around. Naturally, producers were keen to take notice and one of them, James Komack, was spinning gold as executive producer of the hit shows Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man. Komack developed a new sitcom called Snip, based somewhat on the box-office winner, Shampoo starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Snip starred David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren as divorcees who are reunited in a hair salon when he takes a job there. The show also starred Bebe Drake and Walter Wanderman as the salon owner.

NBC pulled out all the stops for promoting the show, saturating the airwaves with announcements of the new “hit” comedy. Although I’ve not seen them in almost 40 years, I recall seeing ads for it.  Snip was also buoyed by advance good reviews, presenting a strong case for the network having high hopes.

So why did NBC cancel the show almost literally at the last minute–so drastically that TV Guide didn’t have time to pull this spread from their Fall Preview issue?:

TV Guide's Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC's lineup

TV Guide’s Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC’s lineup. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

The answer: homophobia.

Snip would have presented the first regularly recurring gay character (played by Wanderman) in television history and NBC was not ready to take the chance. Throwing it into a strange limbo, NBC announced it would be cancelled, then it would be postponed, then it just simply died. NBC wouldn’t try having a gay character again until 1981, when they ran Love Sidney for a two-season run, but not before giving the lead a character castration so that his gayness would be quelled, lest viewers catch something.

The network’s dick move (certainly not the only one they pulled in the 1970′s–The Richard Pryor Show‘s tumultuous journey becoming legendary TV history) didn’t really hurt Brenner’s career. He continued to appear on The Tonight Show, even becoming rumored as a possible replacement for Carson when the latter showed signs of fatigue in the late 1970′s.

The cancellation certainly did, however, make NBC look heartless and it must have damaged Wanderman’s career, as he only made one final TV guest spot before disappearing. The subsequent successful airing of the existing five episodes on Australian television had to have inspired an interesting phone call between Komack and NBC. How I would have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.