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December 21-27, 2005

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Parade

It's the End of the Year as We Know It: Wes Modes' photo collage envisions the inaugural Last Night DIY Parade.

Nūz

About Last Night Again

This New Year's Eve at sunset, a parade of giant puppets, decorated bicyclists, stilt walkers and activists will march through the downtown mall stopping traffic—despite the fact that organizers have no event permit. This will be the inaugural Last Night DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Parade, combining two of the most popular pastimes in Santa Cruz: dressing in costume and resisting authority.

At the most recent planning meeting, Santa Cruzans discussed the logistics and goals of the event. Some participants wanted more whimsy in the community. Ultimately, organizers hope to create a child-friendly New Year's alternative to drinking bubbly at local bars.

The absence of a permit is partly due to the fact that special event permits cost a bundle. Yet without a permit, aspects of the parade will undoubtedly be tricky, such as having fire dancers and deflecting traffic by forming a protective ring of bicyclists around the marchers.

Rico Thunder, who helped host the meeting, said, "I'm reasonably confident that the police will find it's good even though it's outside of their official control. It's an opportunity to have the citizens of their own community doing their own thing."

However, Lt. Rudy Escalante, who patrols downtown, stressed that event permits are designed to ensure public safety and protect local businesses.

"We address those situations as they come up, and we have an open dialogue with those people," Escalante said. "But unfortunately [the paraders] have not contacted us yet."

Although paraders want a child-friendly environment, after discussing outreach the meeting shifted to preparations for police resistance—like avoiding police blockades and designating people as police liaisons or "cop-tamers," who will engage disgruntled officers in discussion while the festivities continue.

"If there are helicopters, then we run," said Jennifer Buschard, another organizer at the meeting.

"Well, you can't make that choice for everybody," Rico Thunder replied.

Hopefully it won't come to that, since stilt walkers and giant puppets would have a hard time running from the choppers.

For more information, check out www.lastnightdiy.org, or show up in your New Year's best at 5pm, New Year's Eve, in the parking lot outside the Saturn Café.

Community TV Goes Digital

Maybe we're going out on a limb here, but Nüz has a hunch that this whole digital technology thing is going places. And by the time you read this, Community TV will have jumped on that bandwagon by converting from an analog to a digital format—a transition they say is the most significant in the organization's 10 years of existence. But what does this mean, other than a DVD carousel taking the place of stacks of VHS tape players? Community TV executive director Maryanne Rehberg says the transition offers a bunch of efficiencies that benefit both Community Television and its users.

We'll start with the users. If you've got a digital video camera and decide to put your trampoline highlight reels together and set them to music for an exciting Community TV show, you won't have to go through the cumbersome and more expensive process of transferring your TV show to tape. Plus, it means better picture quality and stereo sound—a feature the old system couldn't support. Producers will also be able to easily overlay simple features that were previously unavailable, like a listing at the end of the show saying when it will play next for viewers who came in on the tail-end of the show. Producers will also be able to add program listings of what's coming up next—even if that happens to be a natural disaster, because police and fire departments will be able to instantly issue warnings on the station via remote access.

"The last real big bonus we're excited about," says Rehberg, "is that the system has the ability for us to assign users in the community, who can make their own pages for the community calendar, which improves the likelihood that we'll be able to honor the request. You get to create the page that's going to be on TV, in keeping with the public access tradition of 'make your own TV,' and be part of the process."

Rehberg says the $80,000 system, called 'Cablecast,' is already in use at other community TV stations like Berkeley Public Access, and is designed to be easily upgradeable. They're pulling off the transition with what Rehberg calls "unprecedented community and local government support," which breaks down into three separate pieces of financing. The first was an equity fund set up by the county 10 years ago, which supplied about $38,000. The second piece of the puzzle came from the cable companies, which the county recently discovered had underpaid their franchise fees (which fund community TV) by $22,000. The other $20,000 came from staff "restructuring"—obviously the most painful piece, but Rehberg says it's been working out for the best.

"I think anytime you do staff reorganization and organizational change," says Rehberg, "people are invested in things looking and being a certain way, so we did have some growing pains around that and some people expressing concerns of whether we would be able to preserve all of the good things we'd be able to do. We've actually expanded the number of classes we offered and are doing some new stuff."

Rehberg says the new system is more fully automated, meaning less baby-sitting by staff, as the station (at least partially) runs itself. She also says a searchable database of upcoming programming, combined with the capability to list programming on air between shows, will significantly cut down the number of calls coming into the station, furthering easing staff workload.

Rehberg points out that, on a national scale, funding is still an issue for public access stations across the country. Currently, cable companies are required to negotiate franchise fees with each city or county in which they operate—fees which comprise the majority of any given public access station's revenue. But phone companies looking to make inroads into the video broadband market are pushing for legislation that will enable them to either not pay those fees, or to negotiate them on a national scale, which would eliminate local control of local infrastructure. Find out more, and how to get involved, at www.communitytv.org.

Match This

As you seek to find unique ways to treat loved ones this hoilday season, consider that Cruzio is offering to match $1,500 in contributions for the Second Harvest Food Bank Holiday Drive and $1,000 for Doctors Without Borders through Dec. 30, 2005. Cash or check contributions, made payable to Second Harvest Food Bank or Doctors Without Borders USA, can be dropped off or mailed to Cruzio at 903 Pacific Ave. #101, Santa Cruz, 95060, or 23 E. Beach St., Plaza Vigil, Watsonville, 95076, 10am-6pm Monday-Friday, 10am-2pm Saturday. Cruzio will match the contribution and mail in your check. Canned food donations can be dropped off during regular business hours. For more information, call Westi Haughey at 831.459.6301, ext. 247, or email owesti@cruzio.com.


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