Saturday, March 30, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 36 - FX

FX is an American basic cable and satellite television channel created by 20th Century Fox Television to provide a foray into large-scale interactive television.  While the channel originally centered on original live programming and rebroadcasts of classic television, the network quickly developed into a home for hard hitting original scripted programming with mature themes and content, as well as high-quality writing, directing, and acting.  A basic cable channel following the model fo premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.  FX also carries rebroadcasts of theatrical films and broadcast-network sitcoms, and has spun out two sister channels in FXX, focusing on comedic programming, and FXM, or FX Movies.  FX is a leader in adults 25-54, and male viewers in particular.

FX was acquired by the Disney company as part of its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and with the acquisition, Disney can use this channel to round out its portfolio.  If the Disney channels speak to children and families and ABC represents the general public, FX is then the channel for the discerning adult viewer.  It is the sophisticate brand, the Criterion collection if you will.

And it's that space that drives my recommendations for the channel.

Primary Goals for the Division:

  • Focus on Quality - If FX is going to stake its brand on filling a niche similar to AMC or HBO, the programs have to be quality offerings.  The last thing Disney needs is another channel filled with fluff or to return to the perceived cheapquel era.  
  • Be Daring - This is something FX is already doing with programming ranging from niche comedy to historical dramas, but it should be continued and a trademark of the brand.  The current tag line is Fearless and the channel should reflect it, with programming across genres, across formats, and across ratings.
  • Don't Be Afraid of All Ages Programming - I know FX has traditionally relied on programming that pushed the edges of television ratings.  However, focusing solely on this aspect would have the network over look programming like the new Twilight Zone revamp, Downtown Abbey, etc.  The focus should be on quality, compelling storytelling, regardless of rating.
  • FX Feeds Hulu, Feeds FX - FX is probably the channel within Disney's stable that has the most to gain from the majority ownership of Hulu.  The obvious benefit is FX programming going directly to Hulu, but the reverse would also seem to be beneficial.  Why not air 11.22.63 on FX, now that it has had a full run on Hulu?  Or the Man in the High Castle?  This is a variation of the old movie release strategy previously discussed in the ABC post, but it still applies here.  Content should be able to move from streaming to basic cable in order to reach the broadest audiences.
  • Hello Defenders - FX is a natural home for Marvel's edgier Defenders content, previously aired on Netflix.  The material could easily fit within the ratings restrictions, would be a natural later prime time program, and would boost brand recognition of the two.  Once the cooling period has ended, this is where future Defenders programming should air.
  • Consider Rebranding to Searchlight - I'm all for consistency in branding.  Disney has Disney movies, Disney+ streaming, and Disney Channels.  The same would be apparent under ESPN and National Geographic.  While FX is related to Fox, it is separate enough to be confused with the "New Fox" that remains.  Just as I would recommend Disney rebrand the film divisions as 20th Century Pictures and Searchlight Pictures, rebranding FX as Searchlight TV would signal the commitment to quality and niche fair, while removing the connection to Fox.
  • Reconsider FXX and FXM - The market may be there for these channels, but I'm wary of over-extension in Disney's offerings.  These may be two prime candidates for paring down.
FX can be a wonderful and important addition to the Disney family, if it is fully utilized.  I believe the goals above will help in that regard.

Next in the series, ESPN.

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Reminder

As a new year of blog posts start, I wanted to take a minute to say thank you and to give a reminder to the readership.

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  And to those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I also wanted to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules and regulations, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak, but I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

With that, an update of the reminders previously posted:
  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  I also hold them more accountable partly because they are in power, and I'm going to criticize whoever has power more than those in the minority.
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all to often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
    • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
    • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
    • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
    • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts then informed opinions then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
Again, thank you for reading.  Please let me know if there are topics that you particularly enjoy or there is changes you could envision.  Here's to the many more posts to come.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

One Year of Posts

Today marks one year of blog posts.  Nearly daily.  This is post number 363, so it looks like I only missed a couple of days.  I'm pretty satisfied with that result.  The completist in me would like it to match, but I can live with the difference.

To everyone that has read this blog, that has continued this journey with me through the various ramblings and musings, thank you.  I never expected anyone would ever read this, and am always appreciative to hear the kind words that have been passed along.

You all lift my spirits more than you could know.

I started this blog as a writing exercise.  An opportunity to get thoughts out of my head, to hone my voice, and to have an outlet for my rants.

Further, I started it to prove something to myself - I can write.  If you took the combined words of the blogs and put them together, you get a page count and word count that could rival the best novels.  To me, this shows me the only thing keeping me from writing anything I want, whether it be a play, an article, or a novel is the commitment to see it through.  To me this blog has shown time cannot be an excuse.  Over the past year, I've invested the time that could equate to any of those.  What is required is just the drive to do so.

And I've gotten that bug.  The blog was accompanied by adapting a play, as well as ideas for the next play and another adaptation.  I have the first few chapters of a novel, I just need to continue it.

I'm excited to see what happens next.

I am continuing the blog.  I may not be as dogmatic on the daily posts, but I'm going to try.  I like the exercise. I need the exercise.  It has often been a cathartic process.

So, again, thank you for sticking with me through this process.

It's continually in development.  Just like me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Last night the Wills Point Theater Department put up Ghetto as their one-act play at Bi-District competition.  Ghetto, by Joshua Sobol, focuses on the lives and experiences of Polish Jews in the Vilna ghetto during the Nazi occupation of World War II.  It centers on historical figures like Jacob Gens, the chief of the Jewish Police and later Head of the ghetto, as well as many Jewish artists that are living in the ghetto.  It is a play that forces us to look at the purpose and power of art, particularly in the most extreme and trying times in our lives.

Good theater speaks truth.  It forces us to confront truths about history, about our lives, about society, and the world around us.  And these students and their performance did just that.

These students have much to be proud of.  Each performance has continually improved on the last, as they have continued to learn and discover more of the truth spoken through this show.  They have dug deep to truly grasp the gravity and emotion of one of the most horrific points in our past, to find the humanity, the beauty, and the tragedy that occurred.

Wills Point always has one of the most competitive paths for advancement in One Act Play.  Their district alone contains one school that consistently makes the State Competition and often wins, as well as other state competitors.  Each subsequent level gets more and more competitive.  What that means is that each level is a wonderful day of theater with great performances and great shows.

So, while they may not have advanced out of Bi-District, each student should be commended for the performance that they put forward.  They should know they moved many people in the audience (from anecdote, at least a couple to tears).  You told this story well and you honored the memory of all that were represented.  You cannot ask for more from theater.

Bravo!  Good show!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Decline of Happiness

It's official.  We are becoming less happy in the United States.  And it's been measured in a report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in partnership with the Ernesto Illy Foundation

In general, since the World Happiness Report started in 1973, American happiness peaked in the late 1980s and has been down ever since.  The report asks, "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days - would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"  It looks like we're more on the "not too happy" side of things.  According to the report, both adults and adolescents were reporting significantly less happiness than they had in the 2000s, let alone the late 1980s.  In addition, numerous indicators of low psychological well-being such as depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm increased sharply among adolescents since 2010, particularly among girls and young women.

By most accounts, we in the United States should be happier now than every.  Violent crime is low, unemployment is low, and income per capita is steadily growing.  And yet here we are.  As our standard of living improves, so should our happiness.  But this does not seem to be the case.

If we look at the broader report, we see that the United States ranks 19th among countries in the World Happiness rankings.  That's one spot down from last year, which was four spots down from the previous year, and so on.  Compared to the happiest countries, America has declining social support, and increases in obesity and substance abuse.  Finland, this years happiest country, boasts a good work-life balance, generous parental leave and other policies helpful to parents, universal healthcare, and lots of time spent in nature.

The report even included a special section on the "Sad State of Happiness in America," which pointed to a different, more insidious culprit.  The shift in leisure time to isolating digital platforms.

Several studies have found that adolescents and young adults to spend more time on digital media are lower in well-being.  For example, girls spending 5 or more hours a day on social media are three times more likely to be depressed than non-users, and heavy-internet users are twice as likely to be unhappy.  Overall, activities related to smartphones and digital media are linked to less happiness, and those not involving technology are linked to more happiness.

Correlation between activities and general happiness, 8th and 10th graders, Monitoring the Future, 2013-2016 (controlled for race, gender, SES, and grade level)

Notice that the ones that bring the most happiness, beyond sufficient sleep, generally involve live, social interaction.  How ironic that a medium designed to bring us closer together makes us more isolated, more depressed, and less happy.

"It is not good for man to be alone."

I wonder why we do not bring up this part of the Gospel more often.  The Good News.  That the followers of God will no longer be alone.  That He promises to always be with us.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud signing."
Zephaniah 3:17

"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:20

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Hebrews 8:38-39

We see from the chart, that religious services rate as an activity that generally brings us happiness.  There is the camaraderie, the family, the fellowship.  The bond of believers that lifts our spirits.  In the best churches, we find true fellowship that bears one another's burdens, that truly binds us together in Christian love.  The kind that is contagious.

But, if possible, I think we underplay the reminder that we are not alone.  That no matter the situation, the Lord is with us.

We added a new song to the worship service yesterday entitled "Another in the Fire" by Hillsong.  Through the verses and the choruses, it is a wonderful reminder of the Lord's presence with us always.

There's a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone.

The title and the hook of the song refers to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they were thrown into the fiery furnace.  How after the three men were thrown into the furnace, the people saw four figures instead, with one shining like a "son of the gods".  Regarded by many as a "Christophany," or appearance of Jesus before His human birth, it remains in any interpretation a powerful metaphor of Christ walking and being with us through it all.

The verses illustrate this concept beautifully.

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the water
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I've been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

There is another in the fire

And through the song, the tense changes us to remind us that God is the one who was, is and will be.  "There was/is/will be another in the fire."

So no matter what you have been through, no matter what you are facing, no matter what lie ahead, you do not have to face it alone.  There is One who wants to be there through it all.

I'll count the joy come every battle
'Cause I know that's where You'll be

That should be reason enough to be happy.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

And the Two Become One

Yesterday I had the privilege of being in my brother-in-law’s wedding.  A beautiful ceremony and reception that perfectly fit the bride and groom.  Joseph has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know and in Jesse, he found a mate that is one of the kindest and gentlest souls that I have met.  The two complement each other perfectly in spirit, in interests, and in writing. 

The ceremony had wonderful touches highlighting their loves of coffee, reading, and games.   And it all reflected their love for each other and of the Lord. 

In particular, they wanted to make sure their ceremony included a presentation of the Gospel message. 

And a wedding is a wonderful opportunity to present the Gospel. A beautiful illustration of the love of God, for a marriage is often used as an illustration of God’s love for his church. 

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a glorious church, without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.
 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  Indeed, no one ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.  For we are members of His body.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:22-33

That God would compare our marriages to His relationship with His Bride, the Church tells you how seriously he takes marriage. How it is to be one of our greatest witnesses. That our marital love reflects God’s love for us.   

So to celebrate such a union, to celebrate two that God has brought together, and who are taking this commitment with the perspective that is appropriate, that is worth celebrating. No wonder Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. 

To Joseph and Jesse Hamrick, may the two of you be blessed with many happy years ahead. May you be a wonderful reflection of that Gospel love. May your love be a witness and example to others. May you make choices that always bring you closer together.  May each day be brighter than the previous. 

 Congratulations and God bless!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Of New Beginnings, Time, and Spring

As of today, we are officially in Spring.  The time when snow melts, ice thaws, and the sun traditionally begins to shine more.  When the planet warms, bringing forth new life, springing out of the ground.  Plants bloom, hibernation ends, and our whole outlook tends to become brighter.

It's a season of celebration.  Of Carnival, of Easter, and May Day.  Of Saint Patrick's Day and Cinco De Mayo.  Of Spring Break.

And it is a time of new beginnings.

In that spirit, I wanted to to give a reminder that now is as good of a time as any for a fresh start.  If there is something you need to give up but missed lent, why not start now?  If you need to leave a relationship that is toxic or abusive, why not start that new life now, just as the rest of the planet is doing? If you need to change jobs, change majors, pursue new opportunities, why not now?

Pursue that new job, seek that new relationship, start that new project.


"Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.  We are the ones we've been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek."
President Barack Obama

So stop waiting for some other time.  Stop waiting for things to be different.  Stop procrastinating.

There has never been a better day to make a change.  No day but today.  So if there is anything you are looking to improve, to change, or to start, the only way you can guarantee it will happen is to start today.

Because the truth is, there will never be a perfect day.  There will never be a perfect time or situation.

So go for it.  Dream.  Strive.  Change.

You've got this.

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."
Alan Watts

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Disney Acquisition of 20th Century Fox Closes

It's official.  The Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox has closed as of 12:02 am ET this morning.  The New York Times has summed this up with a quote from The Lion King.  "Everything the light touches is yours."

This makes Disney the largest studio by far.  The website for the Walt Disney Company has already been  updated to reflect the change.   Images for Avatar, The Simpsons, Fox Searchlight, National Geographic, Fox Sports India, and Deadpool have been mixed in with Frozen, Toy Story, Fantasia, Captain Marvel, and Star Wars.

Disney now owns the 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, which has one of the greatest remaining back catalogs, Blue Sky Animation, the National Geographic and FX cable networks, most of the streaming service Hulu, and Star, the fast-growing television service provider in India.  Disney also gets back full distribution rights to the Star Wars franchise, particularly A New Hope, and the X-men and Fantastic Four families back into Marvel Studios.

The process will still continue.  Disney has to offload Fox's 22 regional sports channels, plus a stake in A+E Networks, Fox Sports, and as well as follow some added stipulations on the ownership of National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild channels.  But this is a huge steps in Disney's continued growth and development.

Streaming will continue to be the division to watch as the companies begin to intertwine.  Disney+ will be rolling out later in the year and National Geographic is expected to be a pillar of the platform.  Disney is further expected to attempt to acquire WarnerMedia's 10% of Hulu, which would bring it's ownership up to 70%. That would allow Disney to monopolize the platform with its more adult programming.  Arm-chair analysts could also see Disney seeking to reach an agreement with Universal for the remaining 30%, likely some sort of swap involving theme park rights, distribution rights, and The Simpsons.

Interesting times.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Country Before Party

"Look, at some point, Democrats have to decide whether they love this country more than they hate this president.  And they have to decide that they want to put the safety and the security and the diplomacy of our country ahead of their own political games. And we're very hopeful that they will."

The Press Secretary made that statement on an episode of Fox & Friends in regard to Democratic opposition to the nomination of now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the post in April last year.  And I've been seeing it make the rounds on social media to refer to all kinds of actions by the Democrats.  The latest being the opposition to the declaration of a national emergency for the border wall.

The shoe is on the other foot now, it seems.

Now it is time for Republicans to decide whether they are more loyal to their country or to Donald J. Trump.  With the overreach in power in the declaration of a national emergency.  With continuing revelations regarding his corruption.

Or given the events of this past week, perhaps the better focus is on just one Republican in particular - Senator Lindsey Graham.

Following a unanimous vote in the House, Senator Graham blocked a resolution in the Senate which would make the full Mueller report available to the public.   He used a bit of whataboutism in his justification, objecting when Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer refused to include an amendment that would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate candidate Hilary Clinton.  "Was there two systems of justice in 2016?  One for the Democratic candidate and one for the Republican candidate?" Graham asked.

Generally, no, but we do scrutinize the winners of an election, or actual elected officials much more closely than we do the losing candidate.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer could not understand the opposition.  "There is no good reason, no good reason that the special counsel's report should not be made public.  The American people are overwhelmingly for the report being made public.  They have a right to see it.  No one should stand in the way of that."  And later "I have absolutely no idea why a member of this body would object to this basic level of transparency whatever their concern or other issues."

Perhaps the transparency is the concern.  Could Senator Graham be concerned that he might be implicated in the Mueller report?  Is the President using his relationship with Senator Graham, one of his more staunch defenders now, to keep this document out of the public eye?  Would the release of the report make any difference with Trump supporters no matter what it revealed (probably not)?

It's past time for politicians of all stripes to start putting country above party.  To end the endless reelection cycle.  To reinstate campaign finance reforms to end the endless fundraising cycle.  To put our representatives back to work for us instead of spending 50% of their time raising more money.

To take Washington's warning of factions and parties to heart.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
Washington's Farewell Address

It's time to expect better of our government.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Feast Of Saint Patrick

Today we have a reminder of the influence of the Irish on our American heritage. Thirty- three million people or 10.5% of our population tracing their heritage to Ireland. There are over five times more people with Irish heritage in America than there are Irish in Ireland. 

Today, we recognize them as a pillar of the American melting pot. Celebrated communities in the Northeast. Pioneers in the westward expansion. 

And yet, for the majority of their immigration pathway here, they were discriminated against. Viewed as less than. Inferior. 

Hated and feared for their religious differences (Catholics v Protestants). For their ethnic differences (Celts v Anglo-Saxon). For a language barrier. For their work class. No Irish Need Apply. 

On this day when we celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. His capture into slavery and conversion.  His ministry and dedication to Ireland. His driving out Druids, or “snakes,” out of Ireland.  And the Irish history and heritage of our country. 

Why don’t we celebrate by honoring that history. By owning up to complicated history that it is. And by looking at how we treat any immigrant to our country. By committing to not making the same mistakes. 

We can keep up the old traditions. Wear green. Drink green beer. Raise a glass high. 

But I think that the list above might be a far better way to celebrate today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 35B - The Wonderful Worlds of Disney

A bit of a bonus, as I wanted to dive a bit more into a program that I consider to be a lynch pin of the plans for ABC.  The Wonderful Worlds of Disney.

As discussed yesterday, Disney and ABC's history goes back fairly far.  When Walt Disney and his brother Roy were looking to finance Disneyland, they reached out to ABC, which agreed to finance part of the project in exchange for producing a television program for the network.  From there, the Disneyland anthology program debuted on October 27, 1954, airing weekly on Wednesday nights.

The Disneyland anthology program existed in some form from 1954 through 1983.  From Disneyland to Walt Disney Presents to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color to The Wonderful World of Disney (and Disney's Wonderful World and Walt Disney).  Following a short gap, the block came back more as a movie program entitled The Disney Sunday Movie.  This time slot still exists as The Wonderful World of Disney, an umbrella title for Disney specials on ABC as well as a home for network broadcasts of Disney films.

I want to get back to the original format.  The one that was part behind the scenes, part testing ground for new material, part showcase of existing material, and all advertisement.

The original Disneyland made use of the four lands of Disneyland to serve as an indicator for the content for the particular show.  Davy Crockett and other programs on American History would appear in Frontier Land.  20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or True-Life Adventures would air under the Adventure Land banner.  Cartoons, Ink and Paint documentaries, and the like would be in Fantasyland.  Cutting edge science presentations like Magic Highway and Werner Von Brauns' Man in Space would fall under Tomorrow Land.

This same model would serve well for an expanded Worlds of Disney, and many of the same categories would apply.  I would propose an expanded list, making use of other Disney themed lands to serve as banners for the content.  The categories would include:

  • Adventureland - A place for True Life Adventure documentaries, National Geographic programs, stories from the animal kingdom, and pulp adventures.  A combination of Adventureland in the parks and Animal Kingdom.  Would have a Tree of Life title card.
  • Frontierland - A place for programming related to American history and expansion. Documentaries and historical fiction programming.  The return of the western or Zorro.  Would have a Big Thunder Mountain title card.
  • Fantasyland - A place for cartoons, fairy tales, and magic.  A place for Disney cartoons, previews of Disney theatrical releases, and theme park specials.  Would have the traditional Sleeping Beauty Castle title card (or if park specials, a title card for each specific park).
  • Tomorrowland - A place for scientific discoveries and science fiction.  For new developments in Imagineering.  What shows us how things work.  For Cosmos and the like. Would have a Spaceship Earth title card.
  • World Showcase - A place for programming related to world history and culture, both fiction and non-fiction.  To preview work in international theme parks and for international audiences.  To explore the cultural heritage behind film releases like Coco or Mulan.  Would have a globe title card (or perhaps an it's a small world title card).
  • Hollywood Studios - A place for programming related to behind the scenes documentaries at the Disney lot or from Disney's other film brands.  Marvel, Lucasfilm, PIXAR, 20th Century Films, or Muppets could go here.  This could likewise host an ABC season preview.  Would have a Grauman's Chinese Theater title card (or perhaps a Carthay Circle Theater card if necessary for brand identification).
  • Wide World of Sports - A place for programming on sports related entertainment and documentaries.  ESPN documentaries, sports films and the like.  Would have a ESPN Wide World of Sports title card.
This would give a greatly expanded framework that could contain the breadth of the current Disney company.  It allows for existing programming and content to fit into the show and provides guidelines for the creation of new content.

All new programming should seek to mimic the magic of those initial Disneyland episodes with Walt.  There will need to be a charismatic host or team of hosts.  Someone preferably with an affinity for the company, like a John Stamos or Neil Patrick Harris.  Beyond that, each of the brand representatives like Kevin Fiege, Pete Docter, and Brian Henson have proved themselves to be capable personalities on camera as well. Disney itself would just need a better spokesperson than Iger.  Of course, if I'm CEO, I'm making myself the host.

I primarily want to capture the club feel that Disneyland provided.  Walt was everyone's favorite uncle.  He brought you behind the curtain. Like Stan Lee at Marvel.  Like Jim Henson with the Muppets.  

If it could nail that, it would provide a strong identity for ABC programming and set the week off right.

Friday, March 15, 2019

In Praise of Intermissions

With the upcoming Avengers: Endgame release reported to have a 3 hour run time, rumors have started to surface that the film may include an intermission, or interval.  And the discussion has started in earnest, with some praising the decision and others decrying the very nature of intermissions.

Me, I'm completely in favor of adding in an intermission.  I want the cinema experience to be an event.  I know Avengers: Endgame is three hours in running time, but I want more.  I want a Marvel One-Shot short before the main event.  I want an overture, I want the intermission, and I want an entr'acte.

Theaters should want this.  There needs to be some kind of pomp and circumstance regarding seeing a film in the cinema.  Something that makes the cinema experience different than just playing the same movie on a home theater system with surround sound and an ultra high def big screen television.  Intermissions add in that unique factor.  They also provide a second swing at the concession stand for refills and for new purchases.

I know theaters are not fans of long running movies and would prefer to have shorter features granting them more show times.  But if the film is going to be long anyway, having the intermission for a second pass at the snack bar would seem like a good trade.

Jamie and I have sought out a movie experience simply to see something made with an intermission in mind.  When The Hateful Eight came out, we made a point of catching it in Austin so we could see the roadshow production with the overture and the intermission.  And it was worth it.  The film was created as an epic and it deserved that kind of treatment.

Endgame does as well.  And I say bring it on.  Let's making this a fitting capstone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.  It's the culmination of 21 films preceding it.

Let's give it the royal treatment it deserves.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The State of Israel <> The Nation of Israel

This is likely not going to be a popular entry, but it's one that needs to be said.  The title should effectively read the current state of Israel does not equal the biblical Nation of Israel.

We can see many instances in which a government is not its people.  Government's can be corrupted, governments can be broken.  Further, the full Nation of Israel is still dispersed across the globe with its people. God's people are in nearly every nation on earth, while the government of Israel is protecting its promised land.

A land that is contentious and controversial.  Leading to need for diplomacy in the area and international relations with the government that are plagued with mine fields.

The United States has had a close relationship with Israel since the recognition of the state of Israel in 1948.  This bilateral relationship is a very important factor in the overall policy in the Middle East and considerable importance has been placed on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship. This is particularly true among political conservatives and especially heightened by the evangelical influences in the Republican party.  This can be seen in comments like Senator Lindsey Graham's recent "reminder."  "Here's a message for America: Don't ever turn your back on Israel, because God will turn his back on us."

For many, the deep nature of this connection stems from biblical warnings to the enemies of Israel and protections for its allies.

"I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:3

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'"
Psalm 122:6

"For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined."
Isaiah 60:12

And while I do not want to suggest that we should not be an ally to Israel or that our relationship should not be maintained, I do think it's time we take a hard look at how that relationship is manifesting in our country.  Because we seem to be getting dangerously close to "Israel can do no wrong."  To a position where any questioning, any criticism, any rebuking, any statement or action against something Israel has done is not tolerated and labeled "anti-Semitic."

We can see it in the discussion after Rand Paul blocked a bill that would send billions of dollars of aid to Israel, though it came from his strict Libertarian position.  "I'm not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren't doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America.  This is a stance I've taken for many years."

Or in the firing of Marc Lamont Hill following a U.N. speech endsoring the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel, but closing with the call for a "free Palestine from the river to the sea."  The phrase drew criticism from some conservatives and staunch Israel advocates, who view such remarks as echoing language used by Hamas and other groups that seek to eliminate Israel.  Hill emphatically denies these allegations, and reiterated that while he supports Palestinian freedom, he does not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to him.  He petitions for the return to pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow right of return.  The full rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular will come up later.

More recently, look to the controversy around Representative Ilhan Omar's latest comments on Israel.  While speaking to a bookstore, Rep. Omar suggested that pro-Israel groups were pushing lawmakers to "pledge allegiance to a foreign country."  This led to Congresswoman Nita Lowrey responding in a tweet that "Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry.  I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel.  I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful."  Omar fired back, "Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!  I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.  The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest.  I am sure we agree on that!The exchange resulted in the House shifting their focus to overwhelmingly pass a broad resolution Thursday afternoon, March 7, 2019, to condemn all bigotry.

Rep. Omar's comments, like Hill's, were claimed to draw on anti-Semitic tropes, particularly those that play on Jews hypnotizing the world or running the world behind the scenes.  And while she may need sensitivity training on how to phrase her comments, she does have a point.  We're seeing a pattern where every attempt at a discussion of American-Israeli policy is met with a hard stop.

And we're seeing a need for that discussion in the actions of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu has tried to rally his religious and nationalist base for re-election by charged accusations that his challengers will form a coalition government with Arab political parties.  This was met with a post by Rotem Sela, one of Israel's top models and TV hosts, stating "What's the problem with the Arabs?  Good heavens, there are also Arab citizens in this country.  When the hell will somebody in the government tell the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people are born equal?"

To which Netanyahu replied, "I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people in the Israeli public."  Israel "is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people."

There are around 1.8 million Israeli Arabs.  20% of Israels nearly 9 million citizens.  And it's prime minister has just written them off.  It's one thing to say the religious, the biblical Nation of Israel is just Jewish.  That would be correct and as I've stated, reflects the Jewish population across the globe.  But it's true of only about 75% of the citizens of the state of Israel.

And so far, American politicians have been silent. Our president can tweet false claims regarding the co-founder of Greenpeace, fan the claims of anti-Semitism in the Democratic party, and continue to stoke his ego, but nothing about a country clearly disregarding a subset of its population.

This should be concerning even for those believing in the biblical call for supporting Israel.  In our Journey Groups, we have four core values, the final of which is admonishing biblically.  It's a reminder that when you are someone's ally, when you are interested in the growth of a friend or family, you speak up when they are acting inappropriately.

"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."
Titus 3:10-11

Further, we know that historically there were times that even the Nation of Israel "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord."  That there were times they needed to repent and return.  And even if the current government of Israel completely represented the nation of Israel, there would be times where we could not support them.  That we should not support them.  If we are a Christian nation as we claim to be, we should be following the Lord's instructions and speaking up when admonishment is necessary.  To bring our friend to repentance.

We have to be able to do this.  We have to be able to talk about this.  Otherwise, we're supporting the exclusion of a minority population in that country.  And that can't be who we are.

Abraham Lincoln believed the political religion of the United States to be liberty.  Liberty and Justice for All.

If we believe in that like we say we do, we have to call out our allies when they infringe on the liberty of their citizens.

Especially when it's not popular.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Brexit Plan Rejected, Version 2

Once again, Britain's Parliament has resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal just 17 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European bloc.  Lawmakers voted 391 against to 242 for, a closer vote than the previous round, but still a rousing defeat.

This leaves lawmakers now to vote on whether to leave the European Union without a deal on the current scheduled date of March 29, or to ask to postpone Britain's departure.

Prime Minister May clearly believed this vote was the last best hope for a brokered deal for Brexit.  "This is the moment and this is the time - time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done."  She continued, "If this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost."

I pray cooler heads prevail and the vote ask's for a postponement, hopefully allowing a second referendum to call off Brexit.  At this point, any Brexit is going to be a quagmire that the United Kingdom may never get out of.

If a "no-deal" Brexit goes forward, tariffs and border checks imposed on trade between the United Kingdom has the potential to deal catastrophic blows to medicine, perishable foods and plants, and thousands of other downstream products. The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland could once again become the flashpoint of reignited conflict.

This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


It's Spring Break week for the Keeler household and that means a little staycation in Dallas.  Jamie is very grateful for the week off.  Avalyn and Jude don't know any better, but they are happy to get out of the apartment and play.

It's a full couple of days with time at the Dallas Zoo, the Perot Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and Klyde Warren Park, as well as other fun little detours.

I'm getting to enjoy just driving a few minutes downtown to stay with them here closer to the office.

All in all a good time to rest and relax.

I hope that those of you with children or who work for school districts are getting to enjoy a break.  Take the time while you can.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Captain Marvel

Higher.          Further.            Faster.

Carol Danvers, a woman who had it made - until the day radiation from an exploding alien machine gaver her the skills and powers of a Kree Warrior, plus an uncanny Seventh Sense - transforming a human woman into ... a heroine!
Stan Lee Presents Captain Marvel

Marvel's newest film and heroine premiered this weekend.  Captain Marvel soared into theaters, {box office results}.  The film is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with an 81% positive review ratingMetacritic gives a rating of 65, with less reviews than Rotten Tomatoes.  It's even scored an impressive A on CinemaScore.  Thankfully, this was one weekend where we got to see the new film in its opening weekend to see for ourselves.

And it's good.  Real good.  This is a beautifully structured movie, that plays with the "mystery box" trope well, setting up a lot of good moments and paying them off well.  Brie Larson fills the role well and Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, and Lashana Lynch really ground the film with stellar performances.  There are a couple of very impactful moments that are excellently put together, particularly in the films third act.  Plus, as someone with their formative years in the 1990s, it was great to have the soundtrack of my youth backing the film.

The film did really well over the weekend as well, with an estimated $153 million opening weekend, placing it in first place for the weekend and the year so far.  It's the seventh biggest opening for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole and the second-biggest debut of a new Marvel character, trailing only Black Panther.  It took in $302 million internationally for the fifth highest international opening weekend of all-time and the second biggest super-hero opening weekend.  It is also the third highest opening weekend in China.  Even better and more impressive, it outpaces Wonder Woman's solid $103 million open weekend.  The $455 million global debut makes it the most successful launch for a female-led film ever, surpassing the previous record holder, 2017's Beauty and the Beast.

I really wish I could leave this discussion with the review above.  But it's impossible to talk about Captain Marvel the movie without talking about toxic masculinity and the events of the past couple of weeks regarding the film and through its entire production.

When Marvel first began releasing promotional images, there was criticism that Captain Marvel wasn't smiling.  A variation on the "you would be prettier if you smiled" misogyny.  The film faced more opposition following an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in which Larson discussed her work with other women in the industry regarding pushing for diversity through inclusion riders and Critical, a more diverse database for studios and publicists.  In particular, Larson recounted how "On the Captain Marvel press tour, I'll be pushing for more representation across the board: my interviews, magazine covers, the clothes that I'm wearing.  It means spending more time thinking about things than you sometimes want to, but it's worth it."  Further fuel for the fire was a Marie Claire article, where the interviewer discussed in detail Larson selecting that interviewer specifically, a black disabled female reporter. "I want to go out of my way to connect the dots.  It just took me using the power that I've been given now as Captain Marvel.  [The role] comes with all these privileges and powers that make me feel uncomfortable because I don't really need them."

Angry knuckle-dragging fanboys took to the internets with cries that Larson was trying to take away opportunities from traditional film critics (read: white males).  They then took to review-bombing the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes for a film that had not yet premiered, blasting it with terrible reviews.  A misguided effort to drive the audience away from it, that resulted in Rotten Tomatoes adjusting the audience score metrics and policies preventing a film from being commented on by the audience before its release.  On Friday, these whiny entitled man-children were able to voice their tirades, resulting in a 36% audience score, bombarding the site with 5,216 user ratings following the first day of screenings.

I have to wonder if this is part of a backlash, the inevitable result of the decision to following the Peter Pan Syndrome for marketing films.  For decades now, the majority of films have been marketed to 18-35 year old males, largely under the old American International Pictures strategy.  It follows that:
  • A younger child will watch anything an older child will watch;
  • An older child will not watch anything a younger child will watch;
  • A girl will watch anything a boy will watch; and
  • A boy will not watch anything a girl will watch.
Therefore, to catch the greatest audience, you zero in on the 19-year-old male. They kept that audience with the ARKOFF model, designed to titillate and excite.  Action (exciting, entertaining drama), Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas), Killing (a modicum of violence), Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches), Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience), and Fornication (sex appeal, for young adults).  It often pandered to the lowest common denominator.  There's a reason why the AIP movies were often schlock, B-movies, and exploitation.

And yet, the studios have been using the same formula for major releases for years now.  If you look at the release slate for the tentpole films, you can see this in action. It used to be that films where written for adult audiences - sophisticated dramas, witty comedies, etc.  Now, you can clearly see the demographics skew towards a very specific target.

Sure, there are exceptions.  But those are clearly marketed as niche products.  Romantic comedies or chick flicks.  The way films with primarily Latin American or African American casts are acutely marketed to those specific audiences.  Under the existing Hollywood rules, you would never market a blockbuster to a female audience or African American audience.  You just wouldn't get the same results.  Don't you know, female led action movies don't sell.

We're learning that's not the case, though.  Wonder Woman had an exceptional response, as did Black PantherCaptain Marvel has been on track for the same.  And part of their appeal is that they reject the old ARKOFF model.  Look at how many reviews for Wonder Woman mention the lack of a male gaze in the camera work.

Yet, there seems to be a subset of the population that just isn't ready for it.  That wants the ARKOFF formula to remain.  That wants films to remain to be made just for them.

It's the same subset of people as are in the comics reading population that is railing against inclusion and diversity in the comics market.  The Comicsgate movement against "a hard push by social justice warriors into their hobby" and "forced diversity" in hiring and content.  They want their comics just as they want them.  Original heroes.  No perceived politics or social commentary.

It's this last point that is most ludicrous.  Comics were always political and pioneers of social justice, starting with Captain America punching Hitler.  Marvel Comics in the 1960s were revolutionary and counter-cultural, speaking out against racism, sexism, and bigotry.

It's similarly ludicrous for the film industry.  It's amazing to think of, but in many ways, films in the Golden Age of Hollywood shame current Hollywood in regard to gender representation.    In 2013, women accounted for only 15% of all protagonists and only 30% of all speaking roles, despite representing 50% of the population.  It's strange that this is an area we have regressed in.  Women dominated Hollywood from 1917 to 1923.  During that heyday, all that mattered was star power regardless of gender.  Betty Davis practically ran Warner Brothers over Jack.

Captain Marvel, or Ms. Marvel as she was known in 1977, in particular, was an outspoken feminist and her comic had her working at a feminist magazine.  She was always used as an outspoken proponent of women's issues, reflected in the use of the word Ms. and in an in comic fight for equal pay for equal work.  So it should be no surprise that her film is going to carry the same overtones.

I guess it really should come as no surprise that we get reminders that the fight is still out there and that we need heroes like Captain Marvel to step up.  To inspire us to keep up the fight. 

To push on.

Higher.          Further.            Faster. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

What If Jesus Isn't Coming Back Anytime Soon?

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Matthew 24:36

Or, everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to live (to borrow from Crowder).

That's the question that has been repeating through my head since reading the blog entry by Keith Giles on Patheos.  What if Jesus isn't coming back anytime soon?  Not that he's never coming back, but that it will not be during my lifetime.  What if it's not for another 100 years?  Another 1000 years?

Believers have been looking for Christ to return since the moment he left.  Early Christians expected Jesus to return within a generation of his death.  Christ himself had told his disciples "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."  Matthew 24:34  Further, "there are some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  Matthew 16:28.  They took those statements to mean that Jesus' return was imminent and the non-occurrence of the second coming surprised the early Christian communities.  "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." 1 John 2:18

In the interim period from that time to now, there have been many moments when the Christian community had to believe that the end had finally come.  When Nero began persecuting the followers of the Way.  When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in AD 70.  During the Spanish Inquisition when believers were tortured for disagreeing with the Catholic Church on their doctrines.  During the Black Plague.  Certainly during World War II with the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust.  That would seem straight out of Revelation.

For over 2,000 years, there have been proclamations of Jesus' imminent return and each of them have been wrong.

This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life.  We both have to live like Christ's return is happening tomorrow and as if it will never happen in our lifetime.  We have to be prepared to meet our maker at any moment and be prepared to continue to run the race, to fight the fight, and continue the task He has appointed us to, as if there were no end.

I, like Giles, wonder if too many Christians are clinging to the hope and promise of an imminent return of Jesus, allowing them to coast into their end.  To be able to continue to pray, "come Lord Jesus," so they can escape this wicked world and their obligation to it.  They want to be vindicated for their belief, rescued from this pagan culture, and whisked to heaven where they will be comfortable for eternity.

Think about it.  How many sermons have you heard that have some component of how wicked the world is becoming and how the day of Christ's return just has to be so much sooner now.  Or people that say that they wish He would just come already.  That latter wish always sounds more like a wish to be rid of a perceived or actual evil than a wish to actually be in Christ's presence.

We are even given specific warnings about the consequences about not continually being in active service to Christ.

"Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their portion at the proper time?  Blessed is the servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

But suppose that servant says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and he begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk.  The master of that servant will come on a day he does not anticipate and at an hour he does not expect.  Then He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

That servant who knows his master's will but does not get ready or follows his instruction will be beaten with many blows.  But the one who unknowingly does things worthy of punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from him who has been entrusted much, even more will be demanded."
Luke 12:42-48

As believers, we have been entrusted with much.  What we bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, what we loose here will likewise be loosened.  We have been given a supremely important commission "All authority in heaven and one earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  We still have responsibility for stewardship of the earth, not something we often talk about.  "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over..."  We are to care for the least of us.  "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me."  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Christianity should be at the forefront of making this world a better place, not watching go to Hell in a handbasket.  We should be in the process of addressing every social ill that this world can create.  We, together, should be ending world hunger, ending poverty, ending homelessness, adopting orphans, and rehabilitating the prisoner.

If the world around us is not becoming more like the Kingdom, if it's not becoming a better place, isn't that our fault?

Let's take an easy example.  What would the world look like if everyone who claimed to be a Christian tithed?  I know, the tithe is not arguably required under the new covenant, but let's just assume what if everyone that claimed to be a Christian would give away 10% of their income for ministry and charity.  Rough estimate is that would represent an increase of $160-300 billion that could be put to good use.  And that could do a lot.

For starters, assuming all the additional is used properly and goes to specific causes, it could:

  • Add prison ministry to the roughly 1,800 prisons in America.
  • Add 5,500 new family counseling centers
  • Give $10 billion to people facing financial crisis
  • Provide support and housing for every homeless person in America
  • Eliminate the financial burden from adopting from foster care $14,000 a year per family
  • Train 20,000 new pastors
  • Raise their salaries
  • End global hunger and starvation in 5 years
  • Provide clean water and eliminate deaths from preventable diseases in 5 years
  • Eliminate illiteracy in 5 years
  • Solve the world's water and sanitation issues
  • Free 27 million people living in slavery, AND
  • Fully fund the Great Commission, bringing the Gospel to everyone

And that's just with an increase in a monetary donation.  What would if we gave more of our time, our talents, our strengths and weaknesses in such a fashion?  What would it look like if we cared for each other and the world around it like the early church?

The early church worked diligently at these assignments and saw much fruit.  The Lord added daily to their number those being saved.  And they enjoyed the favor of all the people.  The community around them recognized that there was something better about the way these Christians lived.

People noticed what these Christians did.  In the ancient world, children who were orphaned usually met one of three fates: death, slavery/prostitution or Christian “adoption”.  Of the followers of the way, it was said, “Falsehood is not found among them; and they love on another; and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.  And he who has, gives to him, who as not, without boasting. And when they see stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother.”  Apology of Aristides the Philosopher 15, c. A.D. 125

We are called to live like this because it shows a better way.  It provides a glimpse of heaven here on earth.  "The whole point of all this is to demonstrate that Jesus really is a better King than any other ruler on this planet.  Our mission is to point people to another way of living and another code of ethics that rivals anything this world has to offer."

But are we?  Or are we just waiting on Jesus to fix it?

Let's personalize it.

Am I about my master's tasks, working diligently at the tasks He has entrusted to me?  Making an impact on the community around me?

Or am I waiting for Him to return to fix it?

What would change if I believed He wasn't coming back in my lifetime?

If your answer is anything other than "nothing," it's time to get to work.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Spring Forward

Tonight is the night that clocks will need to be set forward one hour, as daylight savings time begins.  A barbaric practice, robbing us of a precious hour of sleep, and leaving most confused in the days following, it is nonetheless the law of the land.

"You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time."
Dave Barry

We move into that time where the sun beats down mercilessly longer into the evening.  Why particularly in the south in the summer we would want to extend that, I'll never know.

"Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping."
Harry S. Truman

So, adjust those clocks under protest.  Ease yourself into it and do it this afternoon.  Leave an hour early from work in solidarity.  Write and petition your local congressman so that maybe we can finally change it.

"The sun got confused about daylight savings time.  It rose twice.  Everything had two shadows."
Steven Wright

Until then, soldier on.  We'll get that hour back.  Eventually.

Friday, March 8, 2019

International Women's Day

Better the balance, better the world, #BalanceforBetter

Today is International Women's Day.  Originally created and celebrated on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, March 8 became the day of celebration after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917.  The day was finally adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.  In some places, it is a day of protest, in others, a day that celebrates womanhood.

The day is a national holiday in 26 countries.  In others, it is widely observed but not an official public holiday.  In the United States, it is recognized but not an official public holiday, though attempts have been instituted since 1994.

Each year since 1996 has had an official theme named by the United Nations.  This year's theme is
"Think equal, build smart, innovate for change," focusing on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure.

The goals for the initiative seek to:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The United States International Women's Day group is also promoting "#BalanceforBetter."  Balance is not a women's issue, it's a business issue.  The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance of wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage...
Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

Gender equality is one of the things that always amazes me that we still have to keep talking about it.  That we haven't solved it yet.  And that there are people who would view it as a negative for society.  Sure, they won't couch it in such terms, they'll focus on traditional women's roles or "family values."  See Tucker Carlson's astounding assertion that falling male wages in comparison to female wages is at the root of all of our family problems. Or lamenting how men are becoming less male.  Whatever that means.

Here's what we still have to fight:

  • Women on average still make only 80% of what men make for the same job
  • That gets worse in minority populations ranging from 53% to 77% (the discrepancy is slightly less in Asian populations at 85%)
  • The gender pay gap shrank between 1980 and 2000, but has largely stalled since then, closing by less than a nickel up to 2017.
  • One in eight women live in poverty and women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men
  • 90% of adult sexual assault victims are women
  • Every 98 seconds an individual is sexually assaulted in the United States
  • One in three teenaged girls in the United States is reported as being a survivor of sexual violence, with young women of color and LGBTQ being particularly vulnerable
  • Girls are sexually abused at a rate 4.4 times higher than boys, and their behaviorable reaction to trauma is often criminalized
  • Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under 12
  • Nearly half of all female rape survivors were assaulted before the age of 18
  • Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault
  • One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college
  • Only 66% of voting age women have access to proof of citizenship with their current name
  • About two-thirds of individuals in the United States believe it is easier for a man to be elected than a woman
  • We still cannot pass the Equal Rights Amendment, making gender discrimination unconstitutional
  • Maternal mortality rate has risen in the United States by 27% from 2000 to 2014

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

We have a long way to go, but we can get there.

Together, as equals.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Thursday, March 7, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 35 - ABC

"These are the two premier family entertainment companies."

"Exporting American entertainment is one of the things we do very well.  The key is to create it first."

"I feel more comfortable with the two companies together."

Michael Eisner, Former Disney CEO on the Capital Cities/ABC acquisition

ABC began in 1927 as the NBC Blue Radio network.  It was created for the primary purpose of testing new programs on markets of lesser importance and to test drama series.  Following lawsuits and an FCC report, RCA sold NBC Blue in 1941 to Mark Woods who converted the network into just the Blue Network.  By 1944, the network became known as the American Broadcasting Company.  Though the company struggled early on to gain ground, by the 1970s, it began to pass CBS and NBC in ratings.  Today, ABC is third in the ratings, trailing both NBC and CBS by a significant amount.

Capital Cities/ABC merged with The Walt Disney company on January 5, 1996.  At the time, the second-largest merger in U.S. history, after the $25-billion acquisition of RJR Nabisco Inc. by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in 1989.

The acquisition, in many ways, was a fairly natural fit.  When Walt Disney and his brother Roy were looking to finance Disneyland, they reached out to ABC, which agreed to finance part of the project in exchange for producing a television program for the network.  From there, the Disneyland anthology program debuted on October 27, 1954, airing weekly on Wednesday nights.  When Disneyland opened, ABC aired a special live broadcast commemorating the park's first day of operation, Dateline: DisneylandThe Mickey Mouse Club also debuted on the networks.  The two Disney programs made 1955 the year that the network was first profitable.

The current state of ABC and its relationship with Disney also affords it many opportunities to experiment and to seek new ground in the ratings.  With the changing nature of television, many of my recommendations will represent potentially radical changes to the current broadcast model, in both large and small ways.

Ultimately, ABC's future, to me, seems to be tied to its integration with Disney and the various brands under its umbrella.

Primary Goals for the Division:
  • Move to four distinct television seasons - Viewing habits are clearly changing and the traditional television seasons need to adapt as well.  There's no need for the fall premier, winter hiatus, spring finale, and off summer pattern any more.  Networks are learning that premiers can happen in any season.  And the growth of the streaming platforms shows that dropping a new season is a welcome event throughout the year.  I would propose moving to four 13-week seasons across the year.  Fall, winter, spring, and summer, each of which can be viewed as distinct units and should be programmed accordingly.
  • 13 episode pickups maximum for non-staple programs - With the four 13 week seasons to plan for, programs pickups should match accordingly.  13 episode pickups would be the maximum for a season then, with many ranging in the 8-10 episode blocks to work around known event programming (State of the Union, Superbowl, Oscars, etc.).  If a program is particularly popular, it could be picked up for two 13 episode orders for the year.  For fall and then spring for example.  This also allows for alternating programming throughout the seasons, important with the brand synergy point.
  • Let the whole season run - With pickups limited to thirteen episodes maximum, and combined with the goal of feeding streaming, the full pickup should be honored.  No more airing two or three episodes and then dropping it.  Air the season out and just decline to renew.  The thirteen weeks will pass and then the program will be rotated out regardless.  This can let slow programs pick up viewership and can help keep a consistency and continuity in the broadcast schedule.  A bonus benefit for this strategy is the elimination of the need for re-runs.
  • Increased in-house production - I understand the benefit of airing productions from other studios.  But, with the variety of production companies that Disney houses, I would prefer to see Disney be able to fully monetize, fully control the programs that air on ABC.  Particularly such that Disney retains the streaming rights, the theme park rights, the home media rights, etc.  Disney is nearly fully integrated and it should be able to make use of the properties on its networks.
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment - With ABC in third place, it's time to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.  It's time to throw out the rule book and see what the new rules are.  
    • Experiment with sponsorship options.  Is it time to go back with a single sponsor for a program with extended breaks at the beginning and end, but not throughout?
    • Experiment with format.  Does a sitcom need to be 30 minutes, such that a night of sitcoms would be four different shows?  Or could you have three 40 minute sitcoms? This one is particularly important as streaming platforms are truly innovative here.
    • Experiment with show length.  Perhaps it's time to bring back the mini-series.  Could one programming block for a season have two four episode miniseries?  Or perhaps it would have just one twelve episode maxi-series that has no intention of continuing in future season?
    • Experiment with genre.  ABC practically defined the western on television. Perhaps it's time to bring it back.
  • Don't break what's working - there's no need to shake up current staples of the ABC broadcast.  AFHV, Dancing with the Stars, the Bachelor/ette, 20/20, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Nightline, and Good Morning America all should be maintained.  There's no need to move them or to change them up unnecessarily.
  • Reach deep into the libray - ABC and now 20th Century Fox Television have extensive television libraries that can be accessed to find programming to revive.  Is it time for a new Fall Guy, Outer Limits, or Planet of the Apes? Could All My Children and One Life to Live be reworked into alternating prime-time dramas?  Should Disney bring back The Mickey Mouse Club for afternoons?  I'd argue Disney should get the rights back to Zorro and reimagine it into a new hour-long show.  Disney could even look at the previous Swiss Family Robinson show to adapt its own movie into a television series.  The history of this network and the television libraries Disney owns should not be ignored.
  • Synergize with the other Disney brands - ABC as the free over-the-air broadcast network should be Disney's champion for its other brands.  Put another way, I would always have a Lucasfilm program on the network, whether it be a continuation of Young Indiana Jones or a Star Wars television program.  Marvel should always have a program on the network, like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter and beyond.  Sports on ABC should continue to be labeled with the dual ESPN on ABC branding.  Disney should have a presence.  The Saturday morning block should be changed from the Litton Weekend Adventure to utilize EPCOT, Imagineering, and National Geographic brands.  Even Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Broadcast feeds streaming, which feeds broadcast - This is probably the most important component of success for the network.  The connectivity between broadcast and streaming will be key, or broadcast will be replaced by streaming.  ABC is uniquely positioned where it can premier broadcasts of programs that will eventually populate both Hulu and Disney+, based on the branding and content of the particular program.  Likewise, the fact that ABC is free, over-the-air necessarily means that there will be viewers who watch the content on ABC that will not have access to the streaming platform.  Just as theatrical, home entertainment, premium cable, cable, and broadcast used to represent stratified options for monetization of film assets, a similar strategy could be used to maximize the viewership and monetization of television programming.  Could a season premier on Disney+ and then be aired weekly on ABC six months later?  Maybe a shorter gap, perhaps a longer one?  This will be of vital importance to master.
  • Resurrect effective brands of the past - It's time to bring back TGIF for Friday comedy programming.  Perhaps even resurrecting Disney's One Saturday Morning, now used to represent a block across the various brands.  If it has nostalgia, it's worth exploring.
  • Resist the impulse to spin out a 24-hour news network - There is no need for another 24 hour news network.  Keep ABC News focused and on the current ABC channel.
  • Disneyland - A linchpin for programming will be a revitalized Disneyland, now called the Wonderful Worlds of Disney.  Airing at the prime hour of 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT, the Wonderful Worlds of Disney will be exactly like Disneyland was - an anthology program that is part testing ground for new material, part shameless plug, part DVD making of extra.  It's an opportunity for Disney to showcase its parks, its studios, its live events, etc.  It can air programming for Lucasfilm, 20th Century Pictures, The Muppets, PIXAR, Marvel, ESPN, and National Geographic.  It's a place to try new concepts in a hour long format.  It can air company films in an extended block.  
Now, a few ideas as to suggested programming, particularly for primetime.

You'll note the staple programs remain.

On Sunday, The Wonderful Worlds of Disney anchors a night of fantasy and science fiction.

Monday generally has reality programming.

Tuesday is an action block, with a Disney action hour, a Lucas action hour, and a Marvel action hour.  Each hour rotates through programs each season, such that the Disney hour could have a Pirates of the Caribbean program one season with a Big Thunder Mountain western program the next, and a Medfield College mad science comedy the next (combining all the Absent Minded Professor, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Now You See Him, Computer Wore Tennis Shoes events into one college campus).  These blocks in particular would be good feeders and receptacles for streaming programming. 

Wednesday would be a combination sitcom and drama/dramedy night, with a potential for primetime animation.

Thursday would be all dramas.  Shondaland programming has been especially effective here.

Friday brings back TGIF with family friendly sitcoms and 20/20 to close out the night.

Saturday morning would have a Disney's One Saturday Morning with EPCOT and National Geographic programming.  Primetime would be ESPN on ABC for sports programming.  Alternate seasons would focus on reality and game show programming.  In the 10:30 slot, I would love to see ABC create a variety show counter to Saturday Night Live using The Muppet Show.  Bringing the Muppets back into edgier programming for a little more risque humor, though still in a PG-13 manner and playing up their strength in song, dance, and skit based humor.  It's a bit of counter-programming that I think could be very effective.

I feel that creates a very solid basis from the network to grow from.  With the right amount of experimentation and risk, I think it could recapture a lot of lost ground.

Up next in the series, the new recruit and Disney's home for more "adult" fare - FX.