Friday, September 14, 2007

Extreme Irritation

Very interesting. I noticed in the articles from the Brattleboro Reformer this week that apparently there was unrest between the journalists from the area and the production staff from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The Editorial from today's Brattleboro Reformer was very interesting. I'm going to cut and paste it here, because I don't know how long it will remain on the Reformer's webite.


Extreme annoyance

Friday, September 14
Reality TV is an oxymoron. The supposedly spontaneous events one sees on such programs are carefully stage-managed, edited and manipulated for maximum dramatic impact.
The presence of a television camera seems to make people do just about anything. And the presence of so-called TV stars is supposed to make everything stop to accommodate them.

That's why the experience of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has left a bad taste in our mouths. While we are happy that the Vitale family of Athens has a new home, and that a modicum of money was injected into the area economy, we were not pleased with the bullying tactics of ABC and Endemol USA, the producers of the program.

The program was happy to have the Reformer run out to Athens on Sept. 5 to take pictures of the Vitales and their old home. The next day, we were informed that the Vitales were no longer available to speak to us. None of the principals from the program deigned to speak to us, and there were enough security people around to enforce their wishes.

While Athens is only 20 miles from Brattleboro, we were told that the town was one of the most remote locations they had ever filmed on. As best as we can tell, remote means no cell phone service and no Sears stores.

The armada of trucks and support staff for the program descended upon the West River Valley. The last time something comparable happened was when the eminently forgettable Chevy Chase film, "Funny Farm," was shot in the Townshend area in late 1980s and the filmmaker's artificial snow killed all the trees on the Townshend common.

No trees were apparently harmed in the Extreme Makeover shoot, but the producers' egos might have been. Perhaps the story by reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman, which we published on Sept. 7, did the trick. It brought up the first question on everyone's mind -- what's going to happen to the Vitales' property tax bill?

Considering that we were told on Wednesday by Kevin Birchmore of the McKernon Group, the architects of the Vitales' new home, that it cost about $750,000 to build, the family is now the proud owner on one of the five most expensive properties in Athens.

Apparently, the Reformer was supposed to provide fawning coverage of the show. But the questions we raised were legitimate, and again, the Vitales were prohibited from talking about any of the specifics of the contract they signed to get the house.

Perhaps the show's producers took exception to the letter we ran in Wednesday's Letter Box, from George Kaye, one of the performers at a benefit concert for the Vitales in Bellows Falls on Monday. Kaye had the audacity to point out that Disney Corp., owners of ABC, and Endemol USA, creators of reality shows such as "Fear Factor" and "Big Brother," aren't exactly hurting for money. He raised the important question that while there was a huge outpouring of volunteers and donations to build the Vitales' new home, all that volunteer work was being done for the benefit of a multibillion dollar media corporation.

Kaye challenged the show's stars to match the money raised by the benefit show, dollar for dollar. We hope they do, since without the efforts of volunteers willing to work for free to build their houses, "Extreme Makeover" couldn't erect a house in seven days.

In any event, at Wednesday's big unveiling, we learned that the security crew had orders to bar Weiss-Tisman from the site. The reporter we did have present was herded into a designated "media area" far away from the action. We were expected to ooh and ahh and cheer with the rest of the crowd.

Sorry, Disney. We don't play that game.

As a newspaper, we wanted to report not on your stars, but on the family who was the beneficiary of the new house. We raised legitimate questions about the gift and the financial burdens it might bring. We wanted to report on the spectacle of seeing fish-out-of-water types from Hollywood adapt to a place with dirt roads, a place that is generally unimpressed with TV stars.

The world that our newspaper reports upon isn't scripted or stage-managed. We can't do a second take or adjust the lighting when a fire or accident happens or when a town board meets. We report on the good and the bad, the real and the phony. We ask questions and expect answers and defer to no one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A New Home

Yesterday, the Vitale family was finally able to see their new home. Anyone interested can read this article here. There isn't as much in the article as I had hoped, as the family is still bound by confidentiality agreements. We probably won't hear any interviews from them until the show airs. I'll post when that is happening so anyone who wants to see it can watch.

I did notice that the reveal apparently is filmed multiple times. So interesting to find out about how these things pull together...more evidence that the 'magic' of tv can be deceptive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quilting, finally

I did eventually get to do some of the sewing that I had planned for the weekend.

I made some of Tonya's wonky letters for the fabulous workshop that she is teaching.
We won't talk about my inability to judge the angles. LOL. I obviously need more practice.

Then, I made several blocks for the Stashbusters 6th anniversary 6-6 Challenge. The name of this block is My Blue Heaven from Quilters Cache.

Extreme Makeover: Quilt

Once I decided that we were going to see the house being built, I had to find a quilt to bring with me. Unfortunately, I didn't have a finshed quilt that I could put my hands on, so I had to find a top to finish immediately. I went thru my pile, found a top and quickly quilted and bound it.

On Sunday, when the Things and I went to Athens, I brought the quilt. I got someone involved with the show to find a member of the Production crew for me, and I handed of the quilt to him. He promised me that he would get the quilt to the designers who would pass it along to Louie Jr. They took my name and phone number, and had me sign the scrapbook, so I am confident that the quilt will get where it needs to.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

I had a lot of plans to do quilty things this weekend, but I got sidetracked by Hollywood. Extreme Makeover:Home Edition was in our area building a house for an area family, the Vitale's, who have a severely handicapped son, Louis. You can see
the family's website.

Back at the beginning of the summer, there was a signup sheet at 7-Eleven soliciting volunteers in case the family was chosen to be on the show. So of course, I signed up. They called this week, unfortunately, I was unable to spend the 4 hours they requested because of childcare issues. So instead, Thing One, Thing Two and I went to be spectators at the build site in Athens, VT.

The location where the family lives is very remote, they are about 5-6 miles out of town (population 300 something) at the top of a hill on a narrow dirt road. The crew says that this has been one of the most challenging locations they have ever worked at (imagine the Hollywood production functioning with no cell service?). The volunteers and spectators were being bused from a parking area in a neighboring town up to the location by shuttle bus. The road was temporarily made one way because it was too narrow for trucks to pass one another. Oh, and did I mention that when we wre therer on Sunday it was pouring rain?

Before anyone asks, no Ty Pennington was not there. So unfortunate. He was in Bangor, Maine, doing the reveal of a house that was built there last week. He was due back in town last night or this morning. The reveal of the Vitale's new house in Vermont is tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept 12 at approx. 2PM. If anyone lives in the area and wants to go, the show is asking for cheering spectators to come out and be hon hand for the reveal. You need to park on Rt. 121 in Cambridgeport and take the shuttlebus. I wish I could be there, but my schedule doesn't allow for it.

Some interesting things I learned from talking to a representative from the constructon company:
-The house is build with concrete walls, 6 inches of concrete with rebar in them. The R value of the insulation is R50 and the estimted cost for propane heating of this house will be just $500 (Extremely low for Vermont).
-There is a lovely playscape for the two children to use, and it is handicapped accessible for the baby.
-Over 100 University of Vermont students (3 busloads) showed up to Volunteer on Sunday.
-Almost 4 acres of land had to be cleared for the trucks and construction equipment to work on the house. Once the project is complete, 75 trees will be replanted.
-Ty Pennington gets no special treatment like a plane or a helicopter, he rides the bus with the rest of the crew and designers.

If you want to read more, there is
an article here,
and here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Some recent projects

Here are photos of some of my recent accomplishments.
The first one is a quilt made with crumb blocks. One of the gals on the Sunshine List came up with this setting and then she shared it with someone else, who shared it with me. I'm pretty happy with the finished project, but I was sure muttering to myself while I made this. This is one of those quilts that is constructed in a number of sections, which then area sewed together almost log-cabin style around the center. It wasn't difficult, but I kept turning pieces and sewing the seam on the wrong sides, etc. If I use this setting again, I think I'd have to be more careful when I pick up pieces and move them from the wall to the machine. I find the crumb blocks interesting...I didn't like them very much when I first started seeing quilts made from them. But then I followed a tutorial and started making I'm addicted to them and I love the quilts I see using them. They are like potato chips to me, you can't have or make just one!
The pillowcases, well, here is another bunch. The snowman pillowcase is made from fabrics that Thing Two picked the last time he was at The Norton House with me. The other ones are all made of fabrics that Thing One picked while we were in Minnesota. The dog/cat one is hers, the monsters on the trains are for Thing Two and the Dick and Jane one is for my neice, who just started Kindergarten last week. I'm not thrilled that the designs run sideways on most of these, and I do know how to make them work so the design goes properly but 1. it uses a lot more fabric, which I didn't have and 2. I'm too lazy.

Time for a Cup of Coffee

I've been crazy busy since my return from Minnesota. I have finished several quilts, 4 pillowcases, taken the kids on several day trips, begun homeschooling again, and once again started schlepping kids to activities every day.

I did take some time out one day to sit and do a couple of my favorite things: relax and have a cup of coffee and read the newspapers. Yes, those papers were over a week old when I read them, but ejoyable all the same. One thing I love when I travel is to get the local paper and read it when I get home. Just another of my many bizarre quirks. Everytime DH or anyone else goes on a trip, I ask them to get me a local paper. When DH went to London for work back in January, he brought me home a big pile of British newspapers and magazines and I was happy for several days sitting and reading them.

My kids took some time to have some fun of their own, and one of the quilts that I have ready to donate played a part in thier fun. They used Diego, Dora and Baby Jaguar and some of the other coordinating Legos to make up their own board game. The quilt served as the gameboard. Yes, I know that some of those Dora and Diego things have been recalled, the ones they are playing with her are NOT among the recalled items as best I can tell right now. I'm still waiting for the brochure from Mattel to see exactly which things I need to return. The Dora and Diegos have since been put away.