Equal Night: the Spring Equinox and the Sports We Love

Friday, March 20, marks the Spring Equinox… Equal Night… one of the two moments every year when night and day are equal…the start of spring! Happy Spring, where hope runs eternal.

Spring training is now in full swing. We’re in the middle of the first week of the NCAA tournament where 68 (used to be 64) teams get whittled down to 16 (in the seven days from Selection Sunday to Sweet Sixteen Sunday). Daylight Savings Time & St. Patrick’s Day hangovers are nearly over. And soon the snows from this crazy winter will be gone.

Funny how things balance out. The universe seems to want to it that way. And for the most part, so do we. We don’t like it when things are out of balance. We strive to make things fair. Especially when it comes to our sporting events and games.

If there’s one thing that Americans can agree on, it’s a fair game. For good or worse, we as a culture are obsessed with sports, and to most of us, fairness and a level playing field are sacred. Americans love to compete. We play to win. And although we may root for different teams, most of us hate cheating and unfair advantages. We won’t stand for a rigged game. We hate unfair competition. So with balance and fairness in mind, we ask you a couple questions:

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God’s Cod, Jack Salmon and America’s Future

fishfryLast March, I was having dinner with a friend and her father. And even though religion and politics are still not considered polite conversation, our discussion turned to the changing demographics in America and the fear that it sparks in many older white Americans. (It was just a few months later that America By The Numbers with Maria Hinojosa — an excellent show about the changing demographics in America — premiered on PBS.) I’ve been aware of shifting demographics for quite some time, but was surprised at the concern that was expressed. Fear really is the enemy of a democracy and of a dinner date. But then, as the waitress brought me the steak and asparagus that I had ordered, I got hopeful. For some reason, I thought of “fish fries.” That’s right, “fish fries,” and I felt a wave of hopefulness.

Most Americans, even if they’ve never attended one, have at least heard of a fish fry. They’ve become very popular with local print and broadcast news in the Heartland. I guess because they have nothing better to cover, local media produce numerous guides, directories and features about fish fries every spring.

Fish fries have always been popular in the Midwest and Northeast, especially in Roman Catholic communities, and especially on Fridays during Lent when abstinence from meat was/is required. But fish fries can be found in any community in any region and religious affiliation is unnecessary. Throughout the years, many restaurants have had fish specials on Fridays, but my memories are of parish and community fish fries. A great way for the community to come together and for an organization to make a little money.

Back in 1960s, when I must have attended my first fish fry, the standard menu consisted of battered or breaded fried fish served with french fries, coleslaw, lemon slices, tartar sauce, ketchup and some sort of dessert. The fish was usually “God’s Cod,” but I remember Jack Salmon — not salmon at all, but a cool name for walleyed pike, a large game fish pulled from the lakes and rivers of the northeast.

beerIn German areas, like south St. Louis where I grew up, beer was/is the beverage that “pairs best” with fish fry fare. Sometimes there were potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce and maybe a slice of rye bread. In St. Louis, you could find mostaccioli as a side dish along side the mac & cheese thanks to the Sicilians who came to the city in the early 20th century.

Of course, the south invaded a while back bringing catfish and cornmeal batter, along with hushpuppies and cheese grits as sides. Up the river from NOLA came snapper, shrimp, Jumbalaya and Louisiana hot sauce.

So you can see where I’m going here and why I was feeling hopeful last spring thanks to fish fries. Fish fries in Gateway are showing a more gentle and tasteful swing in demographics.

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Fish fries have been around for a long time. Certainly Native Americans came together and cooked big fish dinners for the whole community long before the rest of us got here. Over the years, different ethnic groups have brought great recipes to the classic fish fry menu. Today, here in Gateway, one of the most popular fish fries is the Mexican Fish Fry at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Parish. It’s so crowded that people order and schedule pick up online! On their menu: salmon, cod, shrimp, chile relleno, tostada, quesadilla, chips and pico de gallo, tamales, and sometimes, fish tacos!

Yes, I’m hopeful — and I’m getting hungry! Fish fries are part of our heritage in the Heartland (good health or not), and they’re still going strong. You can still get “God’s Cod” battered and fried with the same sides that were served in 1964, but you can also get flavors from around the world! You’re still at a fish fry! You’re still in America. And you’re still in good company!

—Wheelhouse

nowshowing.474wWho knows what a fish fry will be like in 50 years. The writers and producers at Gateway-TCR are thinking about fish fries (and other things) in 2064,1964 and today. We’re practicing a “careful futurism” as we build the sustainable stage upon which the Gateway-TCR stories will be told.  That means we’ll be looking back as much as we look forward. -50 | 0 | +50, our method of careful futurism, compares the change in POV from 1964 to 2014 and then uses it as a governor for predicting what the community will be like in 2064. What will fish fries look like in the future? Will they be more healthy? Will influence and recipes come from China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, South America, Africa? Will we live in stronger and more just communities? Won’t America be even stronger because of our diversity? We can only hope and pass the tartar sauce.

Analytics in Like a Lion

Google-Analytics

Like the month of March across most of the United States, Gateway-TCR’s first analytics report came in like a lion.

Change from early January 2015 to early March 2015 is as follows:

  • Sessions: +449%
  • Unique Visitors: +433%
  • Pageviews: +638%

These increases are tied to our aggressive social media and content campaigns, and the unique and interesting content being posted on Gateway-TCR.com in Q1 2015.

Conservative projections are for continued traffic growth for the rest of Q1 and through Q2.  That conservative growth would get Gateway-TCR to 2190 sessions/month, 1470 unique visitors/month and 5340 pageviews/month by the end of June — WITHOUT the next episode segments: Segment 1.2 and the Pilot Prelude.

If production schedules and budgets allow completion and posting of Segment 1.2 and/or the Pilot Prelude before the end of Q2, we project Gateway-TCR.com traffic will be 9,000 sessions/month, 9,000 unique visitors/month and more than 30,000 pageviews/month by the end of June.

Advertisers and sponsors take notice!

A New Game of Drones

Gateway-TCR is a poli-sci-fi television drama set in 2064 where the story of a whole city, nation and planet must be rewritten. It’s not Game of Thrones, but there will be drones to deal with… watch a sneak preview.

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Help us get more segments on the air! Sign our petition (see column to the left). Use the links below to share this post. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

If you sign it they will come. Sponsors and advertisers will support this indie TV series if we show them it has an audience. YOU! We’re creating Gateway-TCR one episode-segment at a time, and we’ll be sharing them with you for free – right here on this site. We’re not asking for anything in return, except that you SIGN THE PETITION! Please tell potential sponsors and advertisers that you’ll watch Gateway-TCR and that you’re interested in their messages about sustainable brands and New World Business. In appreciation you’ll receive our monthly fan newsletter and information about special promotions and prizes. Thanks!

Interview with Gateway Pilot Director

snedenMike Sneden has been directing commercial and long format pieces, both for corporations and non-profit organizations in St. Louis, for nearly thirty years. His craft has taken him to work in virtually all fifty states and a dozen foreign countries. He has garnered numerous local and national awards for his story telling abilities. His particular passion is working with both novice and professional talent to craft compelling stories. He is part of the creative team for Gateway: the City’s Reason and will direct the pilot. Our interview with Mike follows.

How did you get involved with Gateway.TCR?

When Gene Pfeiffer floated the idea of an episodic series created by and about St. Louis fifty years hence, I was intrigued. When he elaborated about its central premise and ethic, a community that has somehow managed to evolve into a sustainable enterprise, I was hooked. I was particularly interested in the challenge of creating a dramatically compelling story arc that did not have to rely on the easy fallback of the dystopian future.

Where will the shoot happen?

St. Louis is a perfect pallet for any filmmaker: a place with a rich visual fingerprint that has never really been explored by any episodic series. The muddy rivers, historic bridges, iconic skyline, decaying 20th century manufacturing, agrarian surround and dozens of square miles of red-brick abodes have all been amazingly underutilized.

What needs to be considered when directing a series with a futuristic and sustainable setting?

The production trick to such a futuristic series, inevitably hamstrung by a limited special effect budget (probably won’t have the proverbial flying cars) is first finding ‘scapes’ that either have a certain timeless quality to them or are by today’s standards, really forward thinking architecture and environs. This necessarily dictates several production realities; a fairly controlled camera field of view, some in-camera photographic tricks and the judicious and occasional (but believable) CGI assistance.

What technology is available for the series?

Decades ago social soothsayers predicted the electronic revolution would bring a great decentralization; a democratization to myriad human endeavors. Flash-forward to the present and it’s a reality. High-end sophisticated motion storytelling, aka movies, long the purview of a centralized system in a few select cities, can now be accomplished anywhere. With a few small esoteric exceptions, the production tools for filmmakers are everywhere, St. Louis, not being an exception. Availability of advanced production equipment is no longer an impediment.

The availability of production talent has followed the same arc. While St. Louis might not have hundreds of people doing ‘A’ level work like an LA or New York, it most decidedly has dozens. A particular craft position like Gaffer might not have a deep bullpen in a small media market like St. Louis, but there are several individuals that could easily play at the elite level in any market.

In the past, even if you could surmount these production obstacles you would still be constrained by distribution and obviously electronics has fundamentally changed that paradigm also. There is no longer the impenetrable gatekeeper of the big networks or monolithic cable conglomerates. Free and pay-for-play web platforms are proliferating, the outlets are numerous and exciting.

Who will the actors be?

It should not come as any surprise that St. Louis has been a huge source for national level talent; John Goodman, Kevin Kline, Linda Blair, Robert Guillaume, Jon Hamm, Shelley Winters, Betty Grable, just to name a few. And there are dozens and dozens of unheralded performers who are laboring undiscovered in the local theater scene. We plan on bringing as many as we can into our series.

What are your hopes and visions for the series?

There are a lot of natural qualms people will float for such an endeavor. Can a dramatic series that is not dystopian be at all interesting? Will the series have a unique point of view? Will the series degenerate into some progressive group hug and ignore the permanent human dysfunction; greed, jealously, lust and simply random fate (you know – the stuff people really want to watch)? Is there really the writing, producing and acting talent in such a ‘backwater’ town? Is there a sufficient critical mass of individuals who will put their financing where their mouths are? We’re ready to silence the naysayers.

Mike Sneden is a partner at the Arbor Group, a director-based content production company located in St. Louis, Missouri.

PROUD TO BE PRESENTING AT

Hello. We’re very proud to be presenting at the 2013 Webster University Sustainability Conference ON April 13, 2013. Our session, Our Common Future: The Stage for Stories in a New World, is about creating the setting for a web/television series called Gateway: the City’s Reason. It takes place 50 years from now in a “sustainable” St. Louis.

In order to create a “sustainable” vision of the future of St. Louis for the series, we will be interviewing sustainability professionals and advocates from around the world and right here in St. Louis.

The Webster Sustainability Conference administrators have been kind enough to let us do a quick survey that will allow us to continue expanding our series development bible. Whether you are attending this year’s conference or not, we invite you to share your thoughts with us. It won’t take long and we will not be able to identify you.

Click here to take the survey!

+++++ CONFERENCE PRESENTATION ABSTRACT

“Our Common Future”: The stage for stories in a new world.

Fiction and entertainment are shaped by our times, but stories also have the power to shape our world. They can help citizens bridge the gap between what is now and what is possible.

We’re used to seeing the drawings and models of architects and planners when it comes to sustainability issues. But how often is a positive vision of our common future incorporated into popular entertainment that can compellingly communicate innovative visions for the future?

We are creating a sustainable “stage” for a television drama set in the near future here in St. Louis. The show’s creators have been interviewing leaders in business, government and science in order paint a picture of St. Louis in 2063. A picture of a future where we live more intelligently with the earth and with each other.

“Gateway” offers a vision of a sustainable way of living and working, and it does so in a way that is unthreatening and energizing. It gets this vision into the common air of public thought, into the mainstream experience–and mind’s eye–of ordinary Americans. We need this now, as we face terrific challenges and the immanent need for smart, agile changes as a society.

Our team, which will include producer/writer, Gene Pfeiffer, director, Mike Sneden and casting director, Joe Hanrahan, will present the series trailer and storyboards and will discuss our research and vision of Gateway: the City’s Reason.

Gateway: an Effort to Turn Perceptions Around

by Joe Hanrahan, artistic director of The Midnight Company

midnightcompanyLogoThe burgeoning but still raw independent film community in St. Louis has not melded with the available talent in the more mature St. Louis theatre community. If we can get more of St. Louis’ many fine, trained, experienced theatre actors in front of the cameras of these (mostly) young storytellers, the art of film in our community has a chance to grow and be recognized. (Note that when I say film, I mean (usually) video, not always (seldom) feature-length, and soon (probably) available to see anywhere but movie theaters.) GATEWAY is one attempt to bridge that talent gap.

And working towards a sustainable film/video community here, GATEWAY could also help lead a way out of an artistic morass our civic community is in. This town deeply supports the arts IN St. Louis. By that I mean the Fox, the Muni, and most of the major institutions in the city. Those are great, underline the cosmopolitan nature of our region and should continue to be supported.

HOWEVER, most of that artistic output is imported from other parts of the country and world. Even resident artists at major symphonies and theatres come from elsewhere. Not to mention the major art on display, the touring pop music bands, dance companies and the like. They receive the major share of our community’s dollars, press and appreciation.

What is not supported here to any significant degree are the arts OF St. Louis – The work created by the people of this city. Born, bred, moved in and settled, whatever. Their work is the heart and soul of our community, and we shove it under a rug. We should continue to applaud the visitors to our town, but we need to celebrate our own.

GATEWAY – locally created, written, directed, shot and cast – is an effort to turn that perception around.

How it could be and how we get there.