A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Evidently, I’m on strike.

Who knew?

I must have missed the memo. But I’m reading about it in all the newspapers and on all the Web sites: writers are on strike, and the world as we know it has come to a grinding halt, all for the want of words.

Or not.

OK, so my union isn’t really the one on strike.  Let me rephrase that: if I belonged to a writers’ union – which I don’t – mine wouldn’t be the one on strike.  The writers on strike write for TV and film.  From what I hear, they want a bigger piece of the entertainment pie.  And I can understand that. That’s a pretty good-sized piece of pastry – more than enough to share generously, don’t you think?  As an ink-stained wretch without a union, I’d love to have any piece of the entertainment pie.

Heck, I’d settle for a hunk of the entertainment Twinkie.  Whatever.  I’m easy.

The surprising thing here is, nobody knew they actually had writers for television any more.  I mean, it’s all sports and reality shows, isn’t it?  And the whole point of reality shows is that you DON’T write them – isn’t it?  Gone are the days of Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, Steven Bochco, James Burrows, the Charles brothers and Aaron Sorkin. Instead we have someone named Melissa on MTV’s “Real World” solemnly intoning things like: “He’s got Gucci shoes on, you know.  I’m sitting here in Target jeans, it’s just not gonna work out.”

You can’t write stuff like that.

Thank heavens.

Hollywood is all abuzz about the strike . . . well, that and . . . you know . . . Britney.  Late night talk show hosts are trying to figure out how to be funny without joke writers.  TV series are on indefinite hiatus, and viewers are being fed a steady diet of reruns. They’re even canceling some of the award shows – seems the stars can’t say “and the winner is” without someone to put it down on cue cards for them.  Plus, nobody wants to cross the union picket lines.  In fact, I’m probably violating some cardinal rule of brotherhood and solidarity just by sitting in front of this word processor and making a few verbs and nouns agree.

Uh . . . they did agree, didn’t they?

All of which means the “vast wasteland” of television is a little vaster these days (yes, I know – “vaster” isn’t exactly a word; there’s a writers’ strike on, for Pete’s sake!  Words everywhere are spinning out of control!).  What better time to put down the remote control, step away from the ol’ Motorola and find something else to do? There are children to talk to, spouses to re-connect with, exercise programs to launch and volunteer service projects in which to participate.  Write to an old friend.  Make brownies for your neighbors.  Sort those boxes of old photos you’ve been meaning to organize.  Read a book.  WRITE a book (but be careful on this one – there may be union implications).

There’s a ton of stuff to do, stuff you’ve set aside until the day you had some free time.  And now, thanks to the writers’ strike, time is what you have.  Think of it as a gift from Lalaland to you: a gift of time.  A gift of family.  A gift of friendship.  A gift of community.  You’ll be surprised at how refreshingly pleasant life can be when you’re looking at it through your own eyes rather than the skewed lens of Hollywood perception.

And who knows?  When “Desperate Housewives” finally does return with new episodes, maybe you won’t be quite so . . . desperate.

And you’ll be ready to strike back.

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— © Joseph Walker

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