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The Weekly Call To Action: Unicorns - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
May 23rd, 2006
12:23 pm

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The Weekly Call To Action: Unicorns
Last week, I set out to write a weekly set of letters about things that concern me. Blogging about the latest outrage is fairly useless unless the people who can enact change are reading your journal... Which is unlikely. Thus, I take my concerns directly to the people in charge.

I had planned to write to the CDC this week regarding their recommendations to treat all women of child-bearing age as if they were pregnant, but another post convinced me that I might be out of my element here. Not being a doctor or a media specialist, I'm not sure whether writing would do more harm than good (by making me sound more uninformed than I actually am), and I'm not sure who to write to, so I'm going to stay out of this one. For now. I may go back.

However, I did get some worries from people who said, "What if you nag your congressmen to death? If you write them all the time, you're gonna be a weekly nutjob." And I agree. What bugs me is not always politics, and sometimes I'll be writing to companies to get them to change their ways.

Like, for example, the way that Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, hasn't seen any money from the movie.

Again, I don't know the fine details (and of course, Peter's tale is one-sided), but I wound up writing this to the three main executives to express my concerns:

As a child, one of my favorite books and movies was "The Last Unicorn." I haven't purchased it on DVD, but that's because I always wait for the "Special Edition" of any DVD to arrive, having had to re-purchase several movies in the past. I've been waiting for the Special Edition for awhile now, to add it to my collection of about 300 other DVDs.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, even if it were released I would have to pass on it.

I'm not sure how aware you are of the current contract dispute you're having with Peter Beagle, the author of the book The Last Unicorn which the movie was based on, but he claims he has not seen any significant money from the movie release. Though I could pirate movies, as many of my friends do, I buy them to give money to the people who helped create them. If the author is left out of the equation, I have no reason to buy it.

As such, I hope you can resolve this dispute. Even though you may well be working within the letter of the law, the spirit of the law would have Peter getting a rightful share of the profits for a beloved children's movie. And I do hope that some day, I will be able to purchase the Last Unicorn with pride.


Actually, what I wrote is a mild lie. I've long forgotten the plot of The Last Unicorn, and I never saw the movie... But the truth is that I would purchase it if it came out on DVD and I knew that Peter was getting his share of the money. Like I said, I buy retail to funnel some of that dough back to the creators, and I'll frequently buy things not for the entertainment, but the principle of things, kind of like buying a friend's CD to help him with his band. If I knew that Peter was getting some of the cash I'd cheerfully hand over my $20 to make up for years of wandering in the wilderness. I don't know whether the contract he presents on his web page is accurate or not, but like I said - the creator should always get some cash, even if it's legal to screw them out of it.

So that's my tale for this week. We'll see what pisses me off next week. You never know.

(37 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:May 23rd, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)
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I tried writing to The Film Board of Ireland to ask when they'd be releasing a US DVD of I Went Down.
No answer yet. I wonder if their hard drive crashed or something.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 23rd, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Speaking of causes, lemme know if you don't find a place you're comfortable with for your dog. I'll put out the call if your resources fail.
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
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Kat (katkia222) has already done wonders; I've actually got choices, thanks to her. You meet the nicest folks in the Honors College...>8)X
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
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And thanks, hermano. I appreciate all the positivity, especially these days.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:17 am (UTC)
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I wish I had more to offer, chief. I really do. All I got is support.
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:May 24th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
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's all good. I need that too, you know. I may LOOK like the Vegas Hulk, but I can assure you that the strain is pretty Grodd-damned incredible, most days...
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From:conorh
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:31 pm (UTC)
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Try the producers at info@treasure.ie. There has been a video/dvd release here, so it shouldn't be too hard to get yer hands on one
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From:suburbfabulous
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
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You rock. I just emailed them, and asked if there was some way I could help.
I know The Rodent, after all...I must be got-damned important SOMEwhere!
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From:merle_
Date:May 23rd, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
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"What if you nag your congressmen to death? If you write them all the time, you're gonna be a weekly nutjob."

Ah, but they rarely answer their own phones.

The last time I felt strongly enough about an issue to call was that stupid energy bill that will change Daylight Saving Time starting next year. Every place I called, some other person answered the phone, calmly took my input, asked what zip code I lived in, and thanked me. I did not really expect time directly with a US Senator, but it felt a lot like they all had a big office full of people who just answer phone calls.
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From:jfargo
Date:May 23rd, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
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So...that bill went through? Without TV to tell me about these things, I'm adrift in the world.

What changes is it enacting, exactly, just so I know what to expect?
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From:kmg_365
Date:May 23rd, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
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DST will run from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November. I think that is an addition of a month to the beginning and end of the current DST schedule.
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From:merle_
Date:May 23rd, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. It was a ... lemme just go find the reference. I know I posted about it..

Ah, here you go. Basically, it starts three weeks earlier, and ends one week later. It was a rider tacked on to a huge energy bill that had lots of money for lots of states and companies, and so was bound to pass.

So if you have any, say, computers, VCRs, or whatever that have hardcoded daylight saving time rules.. tough luck.
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From:angelbob
Date:May 23rd, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
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I buy Peter's stuff through Conlan Press for similar reasons. The Last Unicorn is *still* one of my favorite books.
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From:jcfiala
Date:May 23rd, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Ditto. In fact, I'm eagerly awaiting my Audiobook of TLU.
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From:angelbob
Date:May 23rd, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
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Heh :-) Me too, actually.
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From:kmg_365
Date:May 23rd, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
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What are your thoughts on actors who get screwed out of royalties? I'm thinking of cases like Gilligan's Island and Seinfeld where the cast receives little money (if any at all) from the subsequent syndication of the program.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:18 am (UTC)
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Depends on the show. I'm not too worried about Seinfeld, and if the show is that popular the cast can make a good living at conventions and whatnot. I'd have to see the specifics.

But I am not purchasing Gilligan's Island on DVD. I'd just buy Lost instead.
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From:ebonypearl
Date:May 23rd, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
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The actual CDC guidelines aren't out of line for what the CDC does (which is issue studies and guidelines for specific health issues - this one addressed the health of women of childbearing years from hte standpoint of having children - they've done others on birth control, drug use, and so on).

The Washington Post article about the CDC guidelines was both alarmist and sensationalistic. If you feel the need to write about it, may I suggest the WaPo, who coined the phrase "pre-pregnant"? And probably gave the people who are trying to reduce women's pursuit of "life, liberty, and happiness" a lovely rallying-cry and reason to deny women medications that cross the fetal barrier (like anti-convulsants for epileptics, high blood pressure medications, and so forth). Women are tragically losing so much on the health front, especially now that pharmacists can apaprently legally practice medicine without a license by denying women properly prescribed and legal medications.

I write my legislators a lot. Even take them out for breakfast or lunch once in a while (I live near the state capitol, this makes it easy). I send them kudos when they do what I expect (not always what I want, but what I expect them as my representatives to do), as well as letters covering my concerns, which aren't always popular stances. They don't see me as a nutjob. So, write your legislators. How else are our elected employees going to know what we, their supervisors, want?
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From:partiallyclips
Date:May 23rd, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I'll be filking with Peter Beagle at Balticon this weekend. I've known about this issue since last Dragon*Con. I'll be interested to know if he has any new news.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:18 am (UTC)
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He filks, too?

I like the guy better all the damn time.
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From:das_hydra
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)
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The Last Unicorn is out on DVD, but you mean you'd only buy a SE of it, right?

Considering they've been trying to make a LIVE ACTION/CGI version of the movie for like eight years now... with Christopher Lee as the King... yeah.
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From:conorh
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Just in case you run out of things to be concerned about....

http://www.earthisland.org/eijournal/new_articles.cfm?articleID=713&journalID=69
[User Picture]
From:hiromasaki
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
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Please tell me I'm the only one who read the headline as "The Weekly Call to Action: Unicrons"
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From:evilbeard
Date:May 24th, 2006 08:30 am (UTC)
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That's how I saw it.
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From:ladyhawke_wings
Date:May 23rd, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
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Ferrett, have you read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood? Scarily reminiscent....

Annotative Book Summary from The Literature, Arts & Medicine Database

Back cover via Amazon
[User Picture]
From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
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I have, in Feminist Lit. A decent book. Gini reread it, and I was thinking about doing likewise.
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From:draxar
Date:May 23rd, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
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I saw the film long ago, while the plots gone a bit fuzzy for me, I remember it being great, and epicly told. I never realised it was based on a book (though thinking about it, it makes sense). I'll have to hunt down the book of it.
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From:mrmanatee
Date:May 23rd, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I'm hoping for the supreme irony that will result if it turns out the person to whom you sent the letter is a reader and calls you out for lying.
[User Picture]
From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
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Me too!
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From:guttaperk
Date:May 23rd, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
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As a doctor, I see nothing wrong with the CDC's recommendations themselves, and see various rewordings of the recommendations as being frighteningly alarmist.

The basic idea seems to me to be that, for various reasons, good health care should start before pregnancy.

Others seem to be imposing their own interpretations.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 24th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
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Good to know.
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From:interactiveleaf
Date:May 24th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
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The basic idea seems wonderful to me to.

But the devil's in the details, and it's the details that are making me cringe.
[User Picture]
From:guttaperk
Date:May 24th, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC)

<Rant>

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What most seem to be cringing at is not so much details, but turns of phrasing.

My own (biased!) view is that the turns of phrasing in question are understandably offensive only when read in a particular context- and not the context of the phraser.
As one blogger said,
the biggest news here isn't the CDC; it's the interpretation of this document in the broader context of increasingly conservative ideas that women are primarily baby-factories and mothers, rather than actual human beings whose health care matters for its own sake. Luckily the CDC (and, in my experience, most health care providers, especially in women's health) still belong to the reality-based community.
Emphasis and focus on pregnancy as a critical, crucial period is offensive to many women who are happy to be able to forge an individualistic identity that is completely independent of pregnancy or the absence of pregnancy. Many women find that focus on pregnancy as a foundational aspect of women's health care to be a throwback to ages and places where a woman was defined by her womb, and had no choice in the matter.

Unfortunately, the choice to frame health recommendations in such a manner is one that ignores the realities of health care; pregnancy, pragmatically speaking, remains a critical period from a healthcare standpoint whether or not women choose to make it a part of their identity. Further, the often unpredictable nature of pregnancy means that health care givers cannot rely wholly on a woman's framing to predict whether or not pregnancy will be a significant in a woman's future. A woman who cares not a whit about pregnancy in January may find, through no misdeed or flippancy, that pregnancy issues are very important to her in March.

So the only ethical, practical course for health care givers to take is to act as though pregnancy is always at least a remote possibility- and to take that into consideration in their recommendations for the improvement of women's health care.

International experience has been that improving the care of pregnant women, ideally starting before pregnancy, is one of the most effective means of improving the lot of women and children available to health care planners and givers.

That's not theory; it's experience.

The CDC recommendation is not made in the context of one seeking to impose Atwood-style limitations on the freedoms or choices of women. It is not made in the context of arguments against universal suffrage. It is made by health care planners facing the reality that maternal and child health care for some Americans is among the poorest in the developed world. That reality should rankle more than perceived imperfections in CDC phrasing.
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From:interactiveleaf
Date:May 24th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)

Re: <Rant>

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I agree with everything you've said here.

My problems with the proposal are three fold:

One, some of the specific medical details are just . . . too much. All women should stay away from cat feces? Single women shouldn't own cats, or should hire someone else to clean out their litterboxes if they do? Woman shouldn't drink? What about that glass of wine a day that is (supposedly) an effective deterrent of heart disease, the number one killer of American women? Despite what websites about FAS will tell us, you and I both know that a glass of wine a day is no significant threat to a fetus, and two or three glasses of wine per day are still unlikely to harm, but the proposal still says to stay away from alcohol. Things like this are frustating to me, but no more so, I'm sure, than any other American trying to sort through the massive and often contradictory information about what's good for us.

Two, the proposal doesn't even begin to address the fact that the people who need it most are never going to hear of it. America has an astonishingly large infant mortality rate, which is largely because of our significant third world population living surrounded by, but with no access to, some of the most progressive and informed medical staff and first rate medical equipment in the world. Also unsurprisingly, a disproportionate number of these doomed infants are born to poor and/or minority mothers, who don't even have access to prenatal care, much less regular visits with a doctor before becoming pregnant.

Third, most personal, and most personally repugnant to me--girls are starting their periods at a younger and younger age. Third grade teachers now keep emergency supplies of tampons and pads in their desks for "surprises" that their predecessors never dreamed of. This guideline is telling a doctor to treat my twelve year old goddaughter as pre-pregnant, and to start discussing with her how she should take care of herself to help protect the health of her babies.

OK, that last isn't nearly as important as the others but it's the one that makes me splutter with righteous indignation when I think of it.
[User Picture]
From:guttaperk
Date:May 24th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)

Re: <Rant>

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Thanks for taking my rant in the spirit in which it was intended.

Your concerns with the proposal are understandable:

1) The recommendations are excessive
I do think that women should keep pregnancy in mind when handling cat faeces. My wife never touches the stuff; the litterbox is my job. The reason? Toxoplasmosis is horrifically dangerous, and most so during early pregnancy. Some of the greatest danger may silently occur before a woman knows she is pregnant. The recommendation is not harsh in and of itself; it exposes a harsh reality.

I would not agree with you that a glass of maternal wine a day is no significant foetal threat; we simply don't know.
Foetal alcohol syndrome is a gentle, wide spectrum from the pretty-much-normal to the severely malformed, and we don't know if there is a clear threshold of danger, or where that threshold might be.
Again, the recommendation is not pointlessly harsh; it exposes the harsh reality of our ignorance.

This is a central theme of the recommendations; that healthcare is not currently dealing well enough with harsh realities of public health care deficits.


2) The people who need it won't hear of it
This is a CDC policy recommendation to health care planners and workers. It is not in itself a public health education piece. Frankly, I don't care whether or not those in need even know what a CDC is; they don't have to, in order to be healthy.
The recommendations themselves are formulated with the assumption of irregular or nonexistent visits as a distinct possibility, and poor health knowledge as being likely.
Ironically, many Americans are floundering in a sea of excessive, unhelpful medical information. It's always amazed me that media recommendations will swing this way and that, back and forth, on the basis of a single study here or a tentative musing there. That's no way to live! The best thing to do is to work on the basis not of isolated studies, but of literature reviews that see what study results are confirmed and replicated.


3) They're starting too young, dagnabbit!
But here's the difficulty: children should be given knowledge before the need for that knowledge arises.
How early is too early?
And is it worse to be too early, or too late?


I see the basis for your concerns; they expose difficult areas, to be sure. But I am not at all convinced that the CDC has taken the wrong course- though individual doctors certainly often do.

By the way, ironically, it's your third, supposedly least important issue that I find the most troubling and splutterworthy; that is fundamentally an ethical/ philosophical problem, and not one of healthcare logistics.
[User Picture]
From:koikuri
Date:May 24th, 2006 05:32 am (UTC)

Tee hee, unicron! ^_^

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The film is good. The original animation is beautiful (though not technically on a par with Disney, as an example, or with any of the recently-made CG marvels) and the voice acting mostly isn't bad either. The writing is, of course, excellent (the screenplay was also written by Beagle). However, the current DVD release is... well, before someone gave me the dvd, I'd treasured a video I had copied from a friend who had taped the movie from the TV, and I'd say the video and audio quality were as good on that old tape, which we watched a million times, as on the DVD I have now. Also, the only "feature" it includes is a menu screen with a scene selector. I definitely advise holding out for a better release, and also for one that will benefit Beagle!
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From:onceupon
Date:May 24th, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
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You know, when I wrote that post, I never really expected it to move beyond my own little corner of livejournal. But comments keep trickling in and the newest one cited you as the source and while it isn't THAT big a leap (we do have several friends in common, after all), it's still funny to see my post referenced by someone not on my friends list. Thanks.
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