Monday, November 24, 2008

Now That Would Be Entertainment! :)

Strategic principle is often put into practice by arranging an alliance between two or more seemingly unlikely positions to the mutual benefit and advancement of all concerned. A "strategic visionary" is frequently little more than someone who has made the effort to grasp the basic concepts involved and recognised a nascent juxtaposition before anyone else.

Eric S. Raymond wrote a compelling essay a couple years ago about the important role firearms historically played in the development of responsible people and competent citizens. Mr. Raymond relates the convergence of personal responsibility that conscientious gun users develop and practice to the equivalent public duties and character that good citizenship demands. While recognising that this personal development mechanism has fallen into dis-favor in recent national history, Mr. Raymond declines to go into specific examples as to how this circumstance might be rectified.

As a matter of personal conviction, I consider the actress Denise Richards to be one of the most physically arousing women alive. Now, I recognise that her genetic inheritance isn't an accomplishment she can lay especial claim to and that her professional training and experience makes passing judgement on her character based upon her occupational efforts more than a little mis-leading too, but her personal and professional circumstance positions her to take the public stage in a manner not often permitted those in her chosen trade, I believe (and yes, I read this too).

One of the problems shared by historical re-creation and "Reality TV" is the obvious contrived nature of their public presentation. US Civil and Revolutionary War re-enactors overcome this by totally immersing themselves in the character minutia and historical circumstance such that their actual personality becomes submerged - very like the process followed by traditional stage and screen actors, I imagine. Audiences to their "performances" are generally understanding of the amatuer theatrics involved and that the action being portrayed is the feature, not the actors theatric accomplishments. Reality TV programs, on the other hand, are premised on the personality of the featured celebrity and the circumstance de jure being supposed to offer some measure of drama or humor. The participants are measured against the same standards by which any other public performance might be - however "unscripted" they're purported to be. Let's face it, drama in our personal lives rarely turns out happily and isn't something we can schedule at all reliably.

In Ms. Richards' recent on-screen effort, she explicitly avoids resorting to the single most universal circumstance she shares with her potential audience - her ex-husband. Despite the all-too-public nature of their relationship (not to mention its demise), her publicly expressed desire not to damage his relationship with their children speaks well of her as a parent, but denies this legitimately expected programming content that a reality-based presentation such as hers requires. What makes this decision on her part even more pronounced is her decision to include her two daughters in the on-screen presentation and the court proceedings she found necessary to over-ride their father's objections. Her deliberate on-camera confrontation with a magazine editor over the nature of the coverage she recieved was also damaging. Not to make too much of the issue, but someone who spends her working day in front of a camera with the intent of publicly broadcasting the result comes off as somewhat less than genuine for objecting to someone else doing the same thing. The result was to disappoint the most salacious of the potential audience while de-meaning her own public personae to her critical (or only spiteful) observers. In any case, the program suffered and failed to achieve or hold sufficient audience to justify its continuation apparently.

A successful strategy advances the disparate positions of its constituents. For Denise Richards to achieve such positional advancement herself, she must ally herself with others so as to reinforce their individual actions.

Ms. Richards needs continuing occupation that doesn't intrude excessively on her parental responsibilities. Mr. Sheen needs to maintain active contact with his daughters and a viable cooperation with his former wife. Not to be discounted, the two young Miss Sheen each has needs to be accounted for as well; a stable home life with two parents guidance and comfort combined with an opportunity to grow into adulthood as functional contributing citizens of the Republic. Mr. Raymond's essay offers a potential framework into which all of these considerations can be structured to advance each, both separately and in concert.

Presuming Ms. Richards can arrange for further filming of her program at all, a change of venue and a structural re-format would extend the potential audience and remove certain distractions from the production.

One of the principle distractions Its Complicated suffers from is the legitimate concern Mr. Sheen has for daughters Sam J. and Lola Rose's welfare. I'm willing to stipulate that Ms. Richards seeks to involve them in the production as a mechanism to further their financial benefit. By moving the program venue to this portion of Texas, she and their father can jointly purchase some property (I would suggest 20+ acres of undeveloped land) and vest ownership jointly in the two girl's names while arranging for the property to be managed as a blind trust over which neither parent has direct influence. The TV shows premise would shift to Ms. Richards working to build a home for her daughters while she home-schooled them. Given the generally universal love young girls have for horses, it seems reasonable to plan for a non-commercial horse ranch environment that would also accommodate Ms. Richards' love of animals as an initial construction objective.

Mr. Raymond begins his essay thus:
There is nothing like having your finger on the trigger of a gun to reveal who you really are. Life or death in one twitch — ultimate decision, with the ultimate price for carelessness or bad choices.

It is a kind of acid test, an initiation, to know that there is lethal force in your hand and all the complexities and ambiguities of moral choice have fined down to a single action: fire or not?

In truth, we are called upon to make life-or-death choices more often than we generally realize. Every political choice ultimately reduces to a choice about when and how to use lethal force, because the threat of lethal force is what makes politics and law more than a game out of which anyone could opt at any time.

But most of our life-and-death choices are abstract; their costs are diffused and distant. We are insulated from those costs by layers of institutions we have created to specialize in controlled violence (police, prisons, armies) and to direct that violence (legislatures, courts). As such, the lessons those choices teach seldom become personal to most of us.

Nothing most of us will ever do combines the moral weight of life-or-death choice with the concrete immediacy of the moment as thoroughly as the conscious handling of instruments deliberately designed to kill. As such, there are lessons both merciless and priceless to be learned from bearing arms — lessons which are not merely instructive to the intellect but transformative of one's whole emotional, reflexive, and moral character.

I don't know that he was thinking of pre-school little girls and Hollywood starlets when he wrote those words, but they apply all the same. America is a nation of gun users because we were founded as a country on the principle of personal responsibility for the life-and-death nature of our individual liberty. Mr. Raymond further points out:
The Founding Fathers of the United States believed, and wrote, that the bearing of arms was essential to the character and dignity of a free people. For this reason, they wrote a Second Amendment in the Bill Of Rights which reads the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, the Second Amendment is usually interpreted in these latter days as an axiom of and about political character — an expression of republican political thought, a prescription for a equilibrium of power in which the armed people are at least equal in might to the organized forces of government.

It is all these things. But it is something more, because the Founders regarded political character and individual ethical character as inseparable. They had a clear notion of the individual virtues necessary collectively to a free people. They did not merely regard the habit of bearing arms as a political virtue, but as a direct promoter of personal virtue.

The Founders had been successful armed revolutionaries. Every one of them had had repeated confrontation with life-or-death choices, in grave knowledge of the consequences of failure. They desired that the people of their infant nation should always cultivate that kind of ethical maturity, the keen sense of individual moral responsibility that they had personally learned from using lethal force in defense of their liberty.

Accordingly, firearms were prohibited only to those intended to be kept powerless and infantilized. American gun prohibitions have their origins in racist legislation designed to disarm slaves and black freedmen. The wording of that legislation repays study; it was designed not merely to deny blacks the political power of arms but to prevent them from aspiring to the dignity of free men.

The dignity of free men (and, as we would properly add today, free women). That is a phrase that bears thinking on. As the twentieth century draws to a close, it sounds archaic. Our discourse has nearly lost the concept that the health of the res publica is founded on private virtue.

As knowledgeable hunters and shooters around the world can attest, the moral and ethical lessons that provide the foundation for civic virtue and personal integrity that gun usage can provide don't actually require they be used to their full design potential - it isn't necessary to actually kill with one to learn the lessons it can teach. With that in mind, Ms. Richards should explicitly include a family known-distance shooting range on the property and arrange for regular lessons and practice for herself and the girls. Since instruction is the intent rather than competition, a distance of 100' (200' max) ought to suffice. A decent backstop berm or other terrain feature to shoot against at one end and a simple concrete slab with awning and a couple benches or tables behind the firing line at the other would be ample. While pre-schoolers are more likely to better accomidate air rifles then .22's as a general rule, the purpose is to begin their introduction to the moral and other lessons that responsible gun usage ought to impart and to bolster their self-reliance by watching their mother doing the same thing.

It's commonly estimated that there are something in the neighborhood of 100 million gun owners in the US alone; if even 1 percent of them watch the show that's 1 million viewers tuning in to see their personal interest being shared in a responsible and entertaining fashion on TV. Not to mention three ladies of varying age helping to pass on one of life's most crucial lessons to each other and anybody else who happens to vicariously join them each episode.

Since no TV show can survive without advertising sponsors (well, they can I suppose, but having some certainly must make production more assured), I think Denise (and the girls to the extent they are able) doing the P90X exercise program would be an entertaining and physically beneficial regular segment of the show. [Trust me, despite my current dimensions, as a former gym-rat I can assure you that there is very little more entertaining on this Earth than watching someone shapely bend, twist and sweat copiously on her way to physical collapse. And very little will build respect faster than watching her succeed in overcoming the physical challenge.] Additionally, the Nutra System nutrition program would make another excellent sponsor for the show as Ms. Richards and the girls make at least one meal each episode on-camera from their menu. The advantages of home delivery and storage the food offers is a legitimate point to bring up as is the dietary considerations a professional actor shares with pretty much anyone else to some degree.

By moving the show away from its present environment Ms. Richards can spend some portion of each episode working on some aspect of the property in addition to filming some regional activity or attraction whether or not she or the girls actually takes part on camera. 3 or 4 minutes of each episode of her doing voice-over for a segment showing some aspect on non-Hollywood life would be an excellent opportunity for other celebrities to have cameo appearances on the show if such could be arranged.

I don't ordinarily insert myself so directly into these strategic examinations, but in this case I can't resist. Ms. Richards is going to need the active assistance of someone who has the basic skills needed to carry all of this off. Now, admittedly much of the major work of building the property will be performed by professionals hired for the purpose. The premise requires that she and the girls at least try to do some of all of it though and a male helper who has some expertise would not seem unlikely under the circumstances. It doesn't really matter what the job title ends up being, there are really only two primary considerations involved; he will work for Ms. Richards (this is a job application, not a proposal for matrimonial dependency) and he shouldn't be an experienced acting professional himself. Ms. Richards will need some area of superior expertise not only for her own continued good mental health but also to bolster her starring role in the program format. Having to help a non-professional work reasonably well before the camera ought to fill both needs admirably. I will confess to tailoring the specifics of all this to permit my own participation to be at least possible. [I will also confess to having to step out onto the front porch and letting my periodic flights of fancy take wing for a bit just to get them out of the way of writing this down.] I presume by this point in her acting career the lady has become reasonably accomplished in helping men technically old enough to be her father through their initial urge to act like a 12 year old upon first meeting her. That being so, whether or not she might consider me personally for the job, someone to meet that need would benefit the program and improve the girl's potential property value by providing a maintenance staff candidate post-production.

By taking the show away from the obviously contrived (or just unseemly) situations it has revolved around over the course of the first season, Ms. Richards presents herself as someone with whom many more people can positively identify then has so far been the case. She will participate in and de-mystify a variety of behaviors that often receive short shrift from her industry and develop an inheritance (with the active participation of their father) for her two children, all while continuing to earn a living in her chosen profession.

Yeah, it's complicated, but like all good strategy it's quite do-able.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link to Eric Raymond's original post.


staghounds said...

It's always struck me that a "reality" program where people, well known or not, are taught a genuine skill would be successful.

There was one in England called "Faking it", which I happened to see once, coincidentally when the subject was my own- a dancer from some club was being taught to compete in a horse show, though she had never been on a horse before.

The gunmakers and NRA are missing a bet by not producing a program like that. It could be a series, follow a half dozen novices from first time through an IDPA competition, for example.

Will Brown said...

I have been meaning to follow up on this general topic for some few weeks now so thanks for goading me to somewhat less lethargy.

Did I guess the blog ID correctly? I'm further presuming you are the same Staghounds that comments on TamaraK's as well?

In any event, thanks again.