Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #102 “Looking Forward to the Past”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.


by Larry Brody

Usually, I keep my professional life in the education and television businesses out of this space, but I’m so excited about new developments that I’ve got to share my feelings.

The old order of the TV business is passing, reflecting changes in our entire society.

Remember that scene in the old film The Graduate where someone turns to Dustin Hoffman and gives him the keys to the future the way you’d give your teenager the keys to the truck with just one word?

“Plastics.”

Well, the key phrase here is “web video.”

Thanks to web sites like YouTube, Google Video, Revver, and a host of others, the formerly closed doors of network and cable television production now are wide open. Anyone who wants to can create and deliver a video about anything to an eager internet audience of hundreds of millions of people who are sick of the sameness they’ve been seeing for all too long on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and the rest.

The concept is called peer production by some. User-generated content by others. Whatever you call it, what we’re talking about is the fact that with an inexpensive camcorder or digital still camera or cell phone camera or home computer webcam, a computer with video-editing software (standard with Windows XP and Vista, and Mac OS X), and—maybe—a couple of friends, everyone reading this can make a video and put it on the web, where it can be seen by hundreds of millions of viewers.

It doesn’t matter who you are. Where you live. Who your family is. Whether you know the “right people” or no one at all. It doesn’t even matter if you’re the kind of man, woman, or child everyone adores or a wild-haired, wild-eyed, wild-willed rebel who makes passersby cringes wherever you go.

You’ve got access. As in being just a few mouse clicks away from an upload that can make viewers laugh or cry or cheer or boo. You can ease people’s pain. Give them new hope. Take them to a fantasy place where they can hide. Teach them the things that didn’t come across in school, or are so new they haven’t yet made it into the curriculum.

“Progress” is a funny thing. Once upon a time, art was part of everyone’s daily life. Cave painters recorded news of the hunt on their walls whenever they felt like it. Tribe members told stories, true or exaggerated, at community campfires. Worshippers sang and danced or acted out stories about their beliefs in all kinds of rituals.

But, slowly, the “everyone” part of the equation got written out. It started with written language. Only the educated knew enough to make those marks on clay tablets, animal hides, or bark scrolls.

Then came the printing press. We had books! Except you not only had to be educated to write them you had to be wealthy enough to hire a printer.

Then came films, and radio, and TV. “Mere” wealth wasn’t enough anymore. You had to get past the people who owned the film studios and the radio and television stations (and the publishing companies too) to get to an audience for your story.

Different “gatekeepers” had different criteria. Some people got through the gate on their talent. Others made it through via connections. Sometimes both were needed. Sometimes none of the above did the job.

Storytelling became the business of “experts.” Self-expression, or just plain artistic creation, lost its place as part of daily life. Deserving voices were stilled.

Until now.

Personal web sites, online message boards, and blogs have paved the way for wide open online video sites that not only want but need the contributions of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the door.

These sites charge advertisers but not those they call “content creators.” And often they share their advertising income with those same creators.

With us.

For storytellers this is a dream come true. We’re free, every single one of us, to spin our tales and share our dreams with the larger audience in human history. We’ve gone from being powerless to being totally empowered, a condition that will effect every element of our lives.

Progress has played a wonderful joke on the gatekeepers. Modern technology has succeeded in a way no one ever could’ve predicted.

Instead of going “back to the future” like Michael J. Fox, we’re rushing forward into the wide-open past.

I love it!