Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Cheap Wine, Dried Salame, and YOU

 My husband was one of those “bad boys” that girls fall in love with and parents deplore. With his black jacket and black leather cap, he looked like a Sicilian gangster out on a hit.

His pent-up anger spilled out of him in dangerous ways. For example, he mapped out a plan whereby every bank in the city of San Francisco could be robbed on the same day.

His dark nature captivated me, and soon, I was hooked for life.

We fought like cats and dogs, but oh, the fun we had! We went treasure hunting in crazy, out-of-the-way places, finding cold hard cash lying in the sand in a cave. We drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in his green Fiat X-19, enjoying the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair. We hiked through the redwoods on Mt. Tamalpais and watched the ocean tides under a full moon at Ocean Beach.

One day, singing at the top of his lungs, my husband suddenly stripped down and drove naked with the top of his car open along the 92 over to Half Moon Bay. Thrilled and excited, I watched for the cops, laughing all the way.

On cool, foggy nights, we slipped away into the darkness and made love on sandy beaches. On warm afternoons, we packed a picnic snack: a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco and a link of dried salame. Sun, warmth, ocean air, sand, green grass, and a hazy glow of love and darkness and friendship between us.

After our daughter was born, we included her in our crazy life. Archery at the range on King’s Mountain, afternoon tea at Agatha’s, strolling the malls, tramping through the sand at Half Moon Bay, riding the carousel at the San Francisco Zoo, flying kites down on the Marina.

Those days are over now. Our daughter is grown, and we’re not as skinny as we used to be. We live in the desert in Arizona, work, walk the dog, watch TV, and complain about the heat, wind, and dust. But whenever I go back to California, I relive those glory days of sunshine and salt air. Whenever I spot a bottle of Riunite or a link of dried salame at the grocery store, I remember foggy nights and making love in the sand.

So let me fill my plastic cup with cheap red wine, arrange slices of salame and cheese on a paper plate, and offer this toast to the man I love:

I LOVE YOU, DEAR HEART, MY LOVER, MY BEST FRIEND, MY MENTOR, MY DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, MY DARK KNIGHT — AND I ALWAYS WILL.

Happy Father’s Day!

(Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19, 2022 in the USA)

Dawn Pisturino

June 16, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Reprise: Butterfly Travels

(Monarch Butterfly)

Cymbals crash. Drums roll. In Pacific Grove, California, hundreds of school children, sporting orange-and-black butterfly wings, participate in the annual Butterfly Parade.

The parade is held every October to celebrate the arrival of thousands of monarch butterflies to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The monarchs spend the winter here, clustered onto Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees. They enjoy the moderate temperatures and misty fogs of the California coast. In February, when temperatures rise, the monarchs return home again.

Why do monarchs leave home in autumn? How do they know where to go? And how do they find their way back home again in spring?

When temperatures drop in the eastern part of the United States, monarch butterflies travel south, to the warmer climates of Florida and Mexico. Monarchs living in the West migrate to the coast of California. The butterflies need warm temperatures in order to fly. Otherwise, they will die.

Monarchs travel together in large groups for long distances. There can be as many as 1,000 butterflies in a group.

During the day, they can fly 12 miles an hour, up to 100 miles a day. Even though their wingspan is only 3 1/2 inches wide, monarchs can soar up, up into the air, as high as 2,000 feet. At night, tiny claws on their feet help them to cluster together in tree branches. They sleep until morning then start their travels all over again.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate every year. Some travel 4,000 miles to reach a nature reserve in the mountains of Mexico. In Santa Cruz, California, a monarch flag is hung when the first orange-and-black clusters appear. Six months later, the flag is taken down. Pacific Grove, California calls itself “Butterfly Town, USA.” Tourists flock to the city every year to get a glimpse of their colorful visitors.

Every year, volunteers from the Monarch Project tag thousands of monarchs in order to track how fast and how far the butterflies can fly. The tags are number coded and attached to the hind wings of the butterflies. When someone finds a monarch wearing a tag, the number code, date, and location are recorded.

Monarch Watch and Journey North recruit volunteers to record when and where the first monarch butterflies are spotted every year in autumn and spring.

When spring comes, the monarchs begin the long journey home. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. Butterflies that hatch in spring and early summer live two to six weeks. Butterflies born in late summer live eight to nine months because they are the ones that will migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes.

Scientists are still studying how monarch butterflies migrate to distant places and find their way home again. Are they sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field? Are they influenced by the angle of the sun’s rays? Do they follow geographical landmarks such as lakes and rivers? Does some genetic code in their bodies prompt them to return to the same location generation after generation?

Nobody knows. But people who love butterflies welcome the delicate orange-and-black monarchs to their towns every autumn and spring.

Dawn Pisturino

June 7, 2022

Copyright 2013-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Chevron’s Operational Excellence Management System

       Chevron is a transnational energy corporation with offices and projects all over the world.  The company takes great pride in conducting business according to its core values.  The company’s vision and mission statement, Business Conduct and Ethics code, and Operational Excellence Management System overview can be easily found on the company website and elsewhere on the Internet.

       The Chevron Way encompasses the company’s vision and mission statement.  Chevron’s vision is “to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnerships, and performance” (Chevron, 2018; MBA Tutorials, 2020).  This vision reflects its core values “to conduct business in a socially responsible and ethical manner.  We respect the law, support universal human rights, protect the environment, and benefit the communities where we work” (Chevron, 2020; MBA Tutorials, 2020).

       In accordance with the Chevron Way, the company strives to safely and efficiently supply energy products to its customers all over the world; hire the best-qualified people; become the best-qualified and highest-performing organization for its partners; and earn the respect and admiration of all of its stakeholders (MBA Tutorials, 2020).

       Chevron’s Business Conduct and Ethics Code outlines for employees the values and high standards of the company.  As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth writes, “The Chevron Way is our touchstone for getting results the right way and establishes high standards for how we operate around the world” (Chevron, 2020).  The code emphasizes the company’s commitment to comply with the laws, regulations, and customs of every country in which it operates.  Violations can range from human rights to health and safety matters to bribery and fraud.  Consequently, the company encourages all employees to speak up about alleged violations of the code.  Since the company has a non-retaliation policy, employees who speak up in good faith are protected from retaliation by supervisors and peers (Chevron, 2020).

       In the United States, Chevron and other energy companies are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  In 1994, DOT established the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to regulate the United States’ 2.6 million miles of oil and gas pipelines.  As of 2018, oil provided 40 percent of U.S. energy, and natural gas provided 25 percent (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

       Pipelines are considered a transportation system because they transport oil and gas to residential, commercial, and industrial customers.  Transporting energy products through pipelines is considered the safest means of transport.  PHMSA regulates all types of pipelines: gathering lines, transmission pipelines, and distribution lines.  The agency is responsible for “regulating the safety of design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance, and emergency response of U.S. oil and natural gas pipeline facilities” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).  Protecting human lives and the environment from pipeline safety hazards are the main focus of PHMSA (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).       

       Integrity Management is a program instituted by PHMSA that requires pipeline operators to analyze and understand the environment and population in the area where the pipeline exists. Operators must be able to foresee the consequences of a pipeline failure to the local environment and community.  This proactive approach to pipeline safety and emergency management helps operators to prioritize inspections and scheduled maintenance and keeps them well-prepared in the event of a pipeline failure (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

       In addition to PHMSA, other federal agencies involved in pipeline safety and security are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  State and local governments as well as industry experts also contribute to regulatory controls and standards.  Individual states must meet minimum federal safety regulations but can create stricter rules (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020). 

       PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety performs “field inspections of pipeline facilities and construction projects; inspections of operator management systems, procedures, and processes; and incident investigation” (U.S. Department of transportation, 2020).  When violations or safety hazards are found, the agency can force an operator to take corrective action (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

       Operators of gas distribution systems must participate in the Gas Distribution Integrity Management Program (DIMP) which requires them to develop and put into practice a comprehensive integrity management program tailored to their individual distribution systems.  The purpose is to enhance safety by identifying risks, ranking them by severity, and implementing safety precautions to manage and eliminate those risks (U.S. Department of transportation, 2018).

       Chevron has developed a comprehensive Operational Excellence Management System which reflects its core values as a company.  Mike Wirth, Chairman of the Board and CEO, takes personal responsibility for the company’s performance.  His primary concern, when it comes to safety, is “to eliminate high-consequence personal and process safety events.  This means no fatalities or serious injuries and no fires, spills or explosions that can affect people or communities” (Chevron, 2018).

       Wirth’s focus is on three important areas: 1) understanding the safety risks involved in managing oil and gas operations; 2) identifying the safety measures needed to mitigate the risks; 3) implementing, maintaining, and improving those necessary safety measures (Chevron, 2018).

       The goals of Chevron’s Operational Excellence Management System are to protect “people and the environment” (Chevron, 2018), fulfill its mission “to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnerships, and performance” (Chevron, 2018), and successfully manage “workforce safety and health, process safety, reliability and integrity, environment, efficiency, security, and stakeholders” (Chevron, 2018).

       To implement and maintain such a system requires the cooperation of all members of management and the workforce.  Everyone in the company must be accountable for their actions and the actions of others.  Everyone must be responsible for fostering a culture of safety and performance excellence (Chevron, 2018).

       Company accountability begins with its compliance with all health, environmental, and safety laws and regulations. Next, the company must comply with its own internal policies and procedures.  At the same time, company personnel must continually assess the company’s risk management program and make improvements as needed.  Assurance measures must be taken to ensure that safety precautions are kept in place to mitigate all identified risks.  The competency of the workforce must be kept up-to-date to ensure that quality management requirements are met.  The company must provide educational opportunities to keep the workforce informed of new policies, practices, and procedures.  The company must incorporate advanced technology into its operations to reduce the risk of human error.  Communication systems must be effective and reliable in order to convey information about potential chemical and biological safety hazards.  Contractors hired by the company must be in compliance with Chevron’s Business Conduct and Ethics Code and Operational Excellence Management System to maintain consistency and high-performance standards across the company.  There must be a competent system in place to report and investigate accidents; evaluate causes; implement new safety procedures; and communicate findings with management and the workforce.  Finally, an emergency management team must be prepared to respond at any time to a serious crisis that could harm property and human lives (Chevron, 2018).

       The reliability and integrity of wells, pipelines, and other facilities must be managed effectively to prevent safety hazards and operational losses.  Equipment must be inspected and maintained on a routine basis (Chevron, 2018).

       Chevron maintains a goal “to do business in environmentally responsible ways” (Chevron, 2018).  The company seeks to prevent all spills and accidental releases of gas and oil; to reduce air, water, and ground pollution; to conserve national resources and reduce greenhouse gases; to manage waste, especially waste produced by contractors; to dismantle company assets that are no longer used and restore the natural environment to its original pristine state.  The company keeps the public informed of its environmental management policies on its website (Chevron, 2018).

       Efficient use of energy and resources in order to drive down costs is an important part of Chevron’s Operational Excellence Management System.  Maintaining a secure physical and cyber environment prevents unnecessary and unwanted intrusions and safety hazards.  Engaging all stakeholders, including outside contractors, in the safety and performance goals of the company ensures that everyone connected with the company is on board (Chevron, 2018).

       The Operational Excellence Management System at Chevron depends on strong leaders and committed workers who are willing to work together as a team to implement, maintain, and improve the safeguards which mitigate risk.  “Typical safeguards include facility designs, mechanical devices, engineered systems, protective equipment, and execution of procedures” (Chevron, 2018).  Once risks are identified, personnel work together to eliminate them; create new policies and procedures to manage them; and provide personal protective equipment to protect workers from them (Chevron, 2018).

       Personnel are also expected to follow a code of conduct that was designed to reinforce safety and mitigate risk.  The two key tenets of this code are: “Do it safely or not at all” and “There is always time to do it right” (Chevron, 2018).  If all employees operate on a daily basis within the fundamental safety provisions of the Operational Excellence Management System, safety hazards should be minimized or avoided altogether (Chevron, 2018).

       Chevron’s website provides an excellent overview for the general public of its history, operations, financial status, environmental and safety management, ongoing projects, and vision for the future.  What it does not address are the real situations that come up and threaten the financial standing of the company and the Operational Excellence Management System it has put in place.

       The jewel in Chevron’s crown is the Gorgon Project, located off the coast of Western Australia.  Gorgon is one of the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the world, with the capacity to produce 15.6 million tonnes of LNG per year.  The processing facilities are located on a one percent section of Barrow Island, a Class A Nature Reserve.  Chevron has invested an enormous amount of time and resources into preserving the integrity of its pipelines, processing facilities, and the environmental standards of Barrow Island.  The company has set out to prove that an oil and gas company can successfully operate while respecting and preserving the local environment (Chevron Australia, 2020).  

       From its very beginning in 2009, the Gorgon Project has been plagued by failures, safety hazards, engineering challenges, and excessive costs.  Originally, the project was supposed to cost $US37 billion, and the first LNG was projected to be produced in 2014.  By the time the first load of LNG was produced and shipped off to Asia in 2016, the final cost came in at $US54 billion (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       In 2009, there was a strong worldwide demand for LNG.  In early 2016, the price of petroleum products had fallen, and there was an excessive supply of LNG on the market.  Chevron was under pressure to complete Gorgon and produce its first load of LNG.  In order to meet Chevron Chief Executive John Watson’s deadline, “untreated feed gas traveled from the Jansz-Io gas field wellheads, 1350 [meters] below sea level off the edge of the continental shelf, to Barrow island, 130 [kilometers] away” (Boiling Cold, 2020).  Once the gas was treated and ready for cooling, “the feed gas ran through [a propane cooler] on a separate circuit” (Boiling Cold, 2020).  The propane gas in the cooler circulated “back to the compressor through a knockout drum” (Boiling Cold, 2020).  Nearly three weeks later, the fourth knockout drum failed, damaging the compressor.  Production was halted for three months (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Chevron released a statement more than a week later that the failure would only require routine repairs, and all equipment and materials were available at the facilities.  In reality, the propane compressor was flown to Perth for repairs.  Three months after the failure, Chevron had not reported it to the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), the safety regulator for the Barrow Island LNG plant (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       In August 2016, Chevron finally met with DMP officials to discuss the incident.  Chevron provided an analysis of what led up to the incident.  The most serious violation was the failure of workers to follow the company’s safety code and stop the cooling process when the propane compressor began to vibrate excessively (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Another significant issue was the failure by engineers and operating technicians to evaluate and identify possible safety hazards with the plant’s start-up operation and then take measures to make changes to the design or procedures to mitigate risks (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Other violations included workers with inadequate knowledge to start up the plant, fuzzy management responsibilities, and insufficient technical resources to deal with a problem (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Chevron took corrective measures to fix the problems and satisfy the requirements set forth by the DMP, then issued a public statement to assure the public that they had taken action to ensure the safety of all people working at the plant (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Part of Chevron’s environmental agreement with Western Australia was “to capture and store underground 40 percent of the [Gorgon] plant’s emissions through a sophisticated process known as geosequestration or carbon capture and storage” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2018).  Chevron proudly brags about its CO2 injection project on its website.  But the reality shows something different.

       Chevron promised that between 5.5 and 8 million tonnes of CO2 would be injected into its underwater carbon storage project in the first two years of production on Barrow Island.  But seal failures and problems with corrosion delayed the CO2 injection project, leaving the Federal Government of Australia $AU60 million dollars poorer. As a result, all the gains in lower CO2 emissions made by the widespread use of solar power were wiped out.  A spokesperson for Chevron stated, “Our focus is on the safe commissioning and start-up of the carbon dioxide injection project and achieving a high percentage of injection over the 40-year life of the Gorgon project” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2018).

       Chevron’s CO2 injection project was approved by Premier Colin Barnett on September 14, 2009. “The Barrow Island Act was the first legislation regulating carbon dioxide storage (geosequestration) in the world” (Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, 2019).  The project started injecting CO2 into the Dupuy Formation, a geological layer located more than two kilometers beneath Barrow Island, in August 2019.  Since then, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has been monitoring the project, making sure that Chevron stays in compliance with the Barrow Island Act and its Pipeline License (Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, 2019).

       When Chevron’s carbon dioxide system successfully started up in August 2019, Chevron Australia issued a press release reassuring the Australian public that it would continue to monitor all safety issues and fulfill its promise to reduce the Gorgon plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the 40-year life of the project (Chevron Australia, 2019).

       When the coronavirus spread around the world early in 2020, the slumping oil and gas industry was hit with more problems.  The economic lockdowns put in place to stop the spread of the virus kept people at home, causing a backlog in equipment and parts orders, and a slowdown in preventative maintenance and repairs on wells, transmission pipelines, refineries, and gas distribution systems (Reuters, 2020).

       In order to cut costs, companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil began laying off workers, putting off maintenance and repair projects, and delaying start-up projects.  This put established wells, pipelines, refineries, and gas distribution systems at risk for future failure and safety hazards (Reuters, 2020).

       In July 2020, it was reported by the Australian media that routine maintenance at Barrow Island had uncovered thousands of cracks in eight propane kettles that had been sitting in storage for several years.  These kettles had been scheduled to be installed on LNG Train 2.  It has been speculated that the cracks were caused by water penetrating the thermal insulation surrounding the vessels.  The insulation was installed by overseas construction firms and then shipped to Australia (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       While repairing the cracks in the eight propane kettles, workers at Chevron discovered defective welds in those same kettles.  Executive Vice-President Jay Johnson told investment analysts that the defects occurred during the manufacturing process and not because they were poorly designed.  He claimed that repairs would be sufficient to make the vessels safe (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Safety measures were put in place to mitigate risks in LNG Trains 1 and 3, but Chevron refused to reveal what those safety measures were or how workers would be safe while repairing LNG Train 2 (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       The company suffered a $US8.3 billion loss in the second quarter of 2020 due to problems at the Gorgon Project.  And it refused to explain how the 16 propane-filled kettles still operating were safe without being inspected for cracks and weld defects (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       In September, Chevron reported that it had given incorrect instructions to welders repairing the eight propane kettles on LNG Train 2.  Authorized personnel had neglected to inform welders that a post-weld heat treatment needed to be done, subjecting the weld to more cracking and failure (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       More delays in repairs have cost Chevron and its partners more than $AU500 million.  The continued problems at Gorgon have worried union leaders and workers alike.  The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety “gave Chevron permission to continue operating [LNG] Trains 1 and 3 under a plan where Train 1 would close for inspection of its kettles in early October and Train 3 would shut down in early January [2021]” (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       The company error occurred simultaneously with the final phase of its plan to lay off 20 to 30 percent of its Australian workforce due to losses incurred from COVID-19 lockdowns, a slumping oil and gas industry, and the expensive problems at Gorgon Project.  If repairs need to be done on Trains 1 and 3, the company will incur even more losses.  In order to recover some of its losses, Chevron plans to sell between $US5 billion and $US10 billion worth of assets (Boiling Cold, 2020).

       Publicly, Chevron does what it needs to do to keep a shining reputation, but the reality is a much different story.  Chevron’s lofty goals for itself magnify every mistake that it makes, from environmental violations to engineering and operational errors to investment losses.  Although  basically a sound company and a worthy employer, Chevron is in a tough position due to stricter environmental standards, COVID-19 restrictions, a slumping industry, and forces lined up against the use of fossil fuels.

References

Chevron. (2020). Chevron business conduct and ethics code. Retrieved from

https://www.chevron.com/-/media/shared-media/documents/chevronbusinessconductethics

       code.pdf

Chevron. (2018). Chevron operational excellence management system. Retrieved from

Chevron Australia. (2019). Safe start up and operation of the carbon dioxide injection system at

       the gorgon natural gas facility. Retrieved from https://australia.chevron.com/

       news/2019/carbon-dioxide-injection/

Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety. (2019). Gorgon carbon dioxide injection

       project. Retrieved from https://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Petroleum/Gorgon-CO2-injection-

       project-1600.aspx

Diss, K. (2018, June). How the gorgon gas plant could wipe out a year’s worth of australia’s

       solar emissions savings. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-21/gorgon-gas-plant-wiping-out-a-year-of-solar-

       emission-savings/9890386.     

MBA Tutorials. (2020). Chevron mission and vision statement. Retrieved from

Milne, P. (2020, July). Gorgon’s catastrophic start-up. Boiling Cold. Retrieved from

https://www.boilingcold.com.au/gorgons-catastrophic-startup/

Milne, P. (2020, July). Cracks at chevron’s gorgon threaten safety and lng production.

       Boiling Cold. Retrieved from https://www.boilingcold.com.au/cracks-at-chevrons-gorgon-

       threaten-lng-production/

Milne, P. (2020, August). Gorgon weld problems raise safety questions chevron will not answer.

       Boiling Cold. Retrieved from https://www.boilingcold.com.au/gorgon-weld-problems-raise-

       safety-questions-chevron-will-not-answer/

Milne, P. (2020, September). Chevron to redo its botched gorgon weld repairs. Boiling Cold.

       Retrieved from https://www.boilingcold.com.au/chevron-to-redo-its-botched-gorgon-weld-

       repairs/

Milne, P. (2020, November). Chevron to restart gorgon lng train after $500m production loss.

       Retrieved from https://www.boilingcold.com.au/chevron-to-restart-gorgon-lng-train-after-

       500m-production-loss/  

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2020). About phmsa. Retrieved from

https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/about-phmsa/phmsa-mission/

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2018). Gas distribution integrity management. Retrieved

       from https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/technical-resources/pipeline/gas-distribution-integrity-   

       management-program/

Yagova, O., George, L., Bozorgmehr, S. (2020, May). Coronavirus creates repair headache for

       Oil and gas industry. Reuters. Retrieved from

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-oil-maintenance-an/coronavirus-

       creates-repair-headache-for-oil-and-gas-industry-idUSKBN22V0LT.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 16, 2020; April 20, 2022

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment »

Gas Pipeline Maintenance and Safety

       The main goal of a natural gas distribution company is to deliver affordable energy to customers in a safe manner at the lowest possible cost.  Utility companies in the United States are private businesses, even though they are regulated by local, state, and federal agencies, and must make a reasonable profit in order to pay employees, finance support services, expand services, and keep the natural gas distribution system well-maintained and safe (Busby, 1997, p. 45).

       Before a pipeline is even built, it must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Companies must submit their “construction plans and economic studies that demonstrate a demand for gas in the area to be served and an available, adequate supply of gas” (Busby, 1997, p. 45).  Companies must also detail the pipeline’s environmental impact on the local surroundings.  Once the FERC approves the pipeline, it issues a certificate to the company (Busby, 1997, p. 44-45).

       The next steps are to purchase the right-of-way and lease property along the path of the pipeline.  Peculiarities in the local environment, the length of the pipeline, the local population, expected customer needs, and the projected load dictate what choices the design engineers make – gas pressure, pipe diameter, pipe wall thickness, type and spacing of compressors, and more. Computer software now exists to assist engineers to choose the right location and calculate the right specifications.  Once all this is done, the appropriate pipes, valves, and other parts and equipment are ordered (Busby, 1997, p. 45).

       Ditching machines dig deep trenches in the ground, and sections of pipe are laid out along the trench.  The sections of pipe are held in place while welders weld the lengths of steel pipe into one long pipeline.  After the pieces of pipe are welded, “the outside surface of the pipe is cleaned, coated, and wrapped to inhibit external corrosion” (Busby, 1997, p. 46).  Frequently, these pipes have been coated inside at the steel mill to prevent corrosion; to aid internal inspection of the pipe; to reduce water retention after hydrostatic testing; to reduce absorption of gas odorants; to create a friction-free surface.  After the pipe is welded, coated, and inspected, it is lowered into the trench, where it is re-covered with appropriate backfill (Busby, 1997, p. 46-47). 

       At any point along this timeline, safety issues can come up which might not become apparent until months or years later.  A faulty pipe, an inappropriate valve, a design flaw, a pipeline that is allowed to carry too much pressure, an improper weld or inappropriate backfill, may lead to a dangerous break or leak later on down the line.

       Safety is the paramount concern in pipeline operations.  “Pipelines require regular patrol, inspection, and maintenance, including internal cleaning and checking for signs of gas leaks” (Busby, 1997, p. 51-52).  A major pipeline disaster could lead to political and economic repercussions, as well as environmental pollution and threats to property and human lives (Busby, 1997, p. 51-52).

       The most common cause of pipeline damage is third-party damage, caused by contractors and other people digging too close to natural gas lines.  Any damage to the pipe, the coating, or the welded joints can cause leakage and breakage.  Most states now have requirements for contractors to determine the location of utility lines before they dig new trenches (Busby, 1997, p. 52).

       Corrosion is the second most common cause of pipeline damage. “To minimize corrosion, pipeline companies install electrical devices called cathodic protection systems, which inhibit electrochemical reactions between the pipe and surrounding materials” (Busby, 1997, p. 52).  Any kind of rust, cracking, or pitting can cause pipe breakage or leakage.  If the original coating on the pipe was defective before use, the problem may go undetected for a long time (Busby, 1997, p. 52).

       A hydrostatic test can prove whether or not a pipeline is defective or needs repairs.  The gas is removed from the pipeline and the pipe is filled with high-pressure water.  But this is an expensive procedure so pipeline operators use a device called a pig that travels through the pipeline to remove dirt and corrosion.  These materials can cause damage to the pipes, regulators, and meters.  More advanced pigs (smart pigs) use technology that can measure pipe wall thickness and other abnormalities which can indicate corrosion and other damage (Busby, 1997, p. 52-53).

       Aerial patrols of transmission lines make routine surveys that can detect signs of leakage, such as patches of yellow vegetation in areas that are normally green; construction projects that may have damaged the line; or bare pipes that need to be re-covered (Busby, 1997, p. 53).

       Leak detectors can detect gas leaks above and below the ground.  Workers can detect leaks by the presence of brown or yellow vegetation.  By digging small holes at these locations, gas leaks can be detected by visual inspection or the odor of gas.  Inline cameras are used to detect leaks inside pipelines (Busby, 1997, p. 67).

       Workers routinely survey pipelines for leaks on a set schedule.  Public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, government offices, and theaters, are given priority attention.  Serious leaks are repaired immediately.  Companies are obligated to investigate customer reports of gas odor, leaks, explosion, or fire in a reasonable amount of time, according to the severity of the leak (Busby, 1997, p. 67).  Natural gas utilities post information on their websites educating consumers on detecting and reporting natural gas leaks.

       Mains and other distribution pipes made of plastic are repaired by shutting off the gas and squeezing closed the pipe on each side of the leak.  The leaking section is replaced with new pre-tested plastic piping and appropriate connections made on each end. “Mechanical couplings are commonly used for this purpose” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2017, p. VI-20).  Repairs must be done by qualified technicians (Busby, 1997, p. 69). 

       Leaks in steel pipes can be repaired with “leak clamp[s] applied directly over the leak” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2017, p. VI-20).  If multiple leaks are found, the easiest way to repair the pipe is to replace it altogether with pre-tested pipe that has been coated, wrapped, and strengthened by cathodic protection.  Steel pipe can also “be replaced by inserting PE pipe manufactured according to ASTM D2513 in the existing line and making the appropriate connections at both ends” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2017, p. VI-20).  Qualified technicians must be used to make the repairs who will use the proper connections, provide adequate support, and consider thermal expansion and contraction of the PE pipe (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2017, p. VI-20).

       Instead of repairing cast iron natural gas pipes, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) instituted programs to identify, manage, and replace cast and wrought iron pipelines as early as 2009.  The Distribution Integrity Management Programs (DIMP) became mandatory for all U.S. pipeline operators in 2011 (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

       In 2012, PHMSA urged state pipeline safety agencies to “monitor cast iron replacement programs, establish accelerated leak surveys, focus safety efforts on high-risk pipe, incentivize pipeline rehabilitation, repair and replacement programs, strengthen inspection, accident investigation, and enforcement actions, and install home methane gas alarms” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).  While cast iron gas pipes can be repaired using PE or steel pipe and the appropriate connections by qualified technicians, the official recommendation is to replace these pipes altogether.

       The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is restricted by Section 4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it comes to oversight of oil and gas pipelines.  OSHA’s authority is largely limited to contractors hired by pipeline owners and operators and their workers when it comes to occupational health and safety hazards (United States Department of Labor, 2004).

       The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the primary regulator of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.  The administration sponsors a Gas Distribution Integrity Management Program which requires all operators to create a Distribution Integrity Management Program (DIMP) that includes the following elements: “knowledge; identify threats; evaluate and rank risks; identify and implement measures to address risks; measure performance, monitor results, and evaluate effectiveness; periodically evaluate and improve program; report results” (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

       Gas distribution systems are a necessary part of modern life.  With all stakeholders working together to achieve optimal safety, natural gas will continue to be a safe, low-cost, efficient form of energy.

References

Busby, R.L. (Ed.). (1999). Natural Gas in Nontechnical Language. Tulsa, OK: PennWell.

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2017). Guidance Manual for Operators of Small Natural

       Gas Systems. Oklahoma City, OK: U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2020). Pipeline replacement. Retrieved from

https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/data-and-statistics/pipeline-replacement/

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2020). Gas distribution integrity management. Retrieved

       From https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/technical-resources/pipeline/gas-distribution-integrity-

       management-program/

U.S. Department of Labor. (2004). Laws and regulations. Retrieved from

https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2004-05-28-0

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 8, 2020; April 19, 2022

Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments »

Church of All Russian Saints Ukraine Message

(Church of All Russian Saints Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Burlingame, California, USA)

When I lived in California, I used to walk by this church all the time. It always fascinated me with its blue and gold domes, magnificent painting of the Virgin Mary, and clean, white walls. I rarely saw anybody there, and it seemed like one of those mysteries of life, kept locked up and tucked away, that strikes us with awe but never gets solved. For some reason, I was thinking about this church in relation to Easter and the disaster in Ukraine and decided to look it up.

Established in 1952, the church is part of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This Diocese is also called the “Russian Church in Exile” because it has always seen itself as “part of the suffering Orthodox Church in Russia during the decades of Soviet turmoil, persecution, and subjugation of the Church and its faithful.” In 2007, the Diocese reunited with the Mother Church in Russia.

Like everybody else, our Russian immigrants here in America are shocked and dismayed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s the message of hope and prayer posted on the church’s website:

“We are overcome with grief over the tragic events in Ukraine, for many of us the land of our forefathers, and for some the land where our relatives live today. We pray to the All-Merciful Lord and His Most-Holy Mother for speedy secession of all hostilities and long-lasting peace.

Prayer to the Lord:
O Lord, Lover of mankind, King of the ages and Giver of good things: having destroyed the
divisions of enmity and granted peace unto the human race, grant even now peace unto Thy
servants, planting within them the fear of Thee and establishing them in love for one another.
Quench all strife, and remove all dissensions and temptations; for Thou art our peace and to
Thee do we offer up glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever
and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Владыко Человѣколюбче, Царю вѣковъ и Подателю благихъ, разрушившiй вражды
средостѣнiя и мир подавшiй роду человѣческому, даруй и нынѣ миръ рабомъ Твоимъ,
вкорени нихъ страхъ Твой и другъ къ другу любовь утверди: угаси всяку распрю,
отыми вся разногласiя и соблазны. Яко Ты еси миръ нашъ и Тебе славу возсылаемъ,
Отцу и Сыну и Святому Духу, нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь.


Prayer to the Mother of God:
O much sorrowing Mother of God, more highly exalted than all other of the daughters of the
earth, according to thy purity and the multitude of thy suffering endured by thee on earth:
Hearken to our sighs and soften the hearts of evil men, and protect us under the shelter of thy
mercy. For we know no other refuge and ardent intercessor apart from thee, but as thou hast
great boldness before the One Who was born of thee, help and save us by thy prayers, that
without offense we may attain the Heavenly Kingdom where, with all the saints, we will sing
the thrice-holy hymn to One God Almighty in the Trinity, always now and ever and unto the
ages of ages. Amen.
О, многострадальная Мати Божiя, Превысшая всѣхъ дщерей земли, по чистотѣ Своей и
по множеству страданiй, Тобою на земли перенесенныхъ, прiими многоболезненныя
воздыханiя наша и сохрани насъ подъ кровомъ Твоея милости. Инаго бо прибѣжища
теплаго предстательста развѣ Тебѣ не вѣмы, но яко дерзновенiе имущая къ Иже изъ
Тебѣ рожденному, помози и спаси ны молитвами Своими, да непреткновенно
достигнемъ Царствiя Небеснаго, идеже со всѣми святыми будемъ воспѣвати въ Троицѣ
единому Богу нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣков. Аминь.”

(Parish Choir Lent Recital, 2018)

Whatever your faith – Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, Russian/Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Wiccan – please pray and extend your best wishes and hopes for the people of Ukraine!

Dawn Pisturino

April 4, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

5 Comments »

Guest Blog: Culture of Pub Music/Ariel Pisturino

(Dublin pub musicians. Photo by Jeremy King, Flickr.)
Culture of Pub Music

by Ariel Pisturino

In 2019, I spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland, exploring the city with my partner. Ireland is a magical place, full of history and folklore. One night, we were out and about and it started to drizzle, as it does in that part of the world. Looking around for a place to duck into, we started to hear some raucous music. We stuffed ourselves into this little pub. It was PACKED with wall-to-wall people, and everyone’s attention was on the group of musicians playing traditional Irish music on traditional instruments. It was such fun and a different experience from being in America. It got me wondering about the culture of Irish music.

Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, with generations learning by ear and passing it down. It’s a tradition that still exists today. Irish music originated with the Celts about 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music from the East. It is even thought that the traditional Irish harp originated in Egypt. The harp was the most popular instrument and harpists were employed to compose music for noble people. When invaders came to Ireland in the early 1600’s, that forced people to flee the country. Harpists roamed through Europe, playing music wherever they could.

The most famous composer/harpist was Turlough O’Carolan (b.1670-d.1738). He was a blind harpist, composer, and singer. He traveled all over Ireland for 50 years, playing his music. He is considered Ireland’s national composer.

The main traditional instruments are fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán. More recently the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo have found their way into the playing of traditional music.

Irish pub songs are part of a tradition of storytelling by the fireside. People used to visit their neighbours, friends and relatives in the evenings after work or on a Sunday after mass, sit with them by the fireside, and share stories. In between the stories there would be songs, usually unaccompanied.

There was a big revival of pub music during the 1960’s with popular bands singing traditional Irish music, usually accompanied by guitar. (Think: The Chieftains.) In the 1970’s, local singers started forming singing clubs to focus on the traditional songs. One of the first singing sessions was hosted in Dublin during the 1980’s. These sessions became more regular and popular amongst pubs to host these groups, and that’s how pub music evolved into what we experience today.

Previously published in the unSUNg Concerts Newsletter, March 17, 2022

Ariel Pisturino graduated from the Thornton School of Music at USC with a Masters in Vocal Music. She teaches part-time at three different colleges and universities, privately in her own music studio, and performs with various opera companies and vocal groups in the Los Angeles area. She is the Curator and Artistic Director of the unSUNg Concert Series, which is dedicated to reviving previously-composed, forgotten vocal music and sponsoring new composers and young vocal artists.

Ariel Pisturino as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore:

Ariel also does a lot of church singing and concerts:

unSUNg Concert Series: http://www.unsungconcerts.com

Ariel’s current project: Musical Director for the student production of Working!:

Find Ariel on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Ariel Pisturino: http://www.arielpisturino.com

~

Dawn Pisturino

March 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Ariel Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Rebel Without a Cause: Juvenile Delinquency

ATTENTION: SPOILER ALERT!

       After World War II, Hollywood struggled to re-define itself.  Box office revenues stagnated, and Hollywood needed new markets to keep going.  The teenage market was an obvious choice.

       Post-war prosperity in the 1950s made it possible for the middle-class to own houses, cars, and the latest work-saving appliances on a widespread scale.  After the fear and deprivation of the war years, Americans wanted to enjoy their new-found prosperity.  Television invaded American homes, bringing new entertainment and exposure to the latest products.  The consumer economy had begun.

       Teenagers had unprecedented pocket money and leisure time.  While their parents climbed the social ladder and hung out with friends at the country club, teenagers necked in the back seats of cars and danced to the latest rock and roll tunes. Hollywood targeted teens to become the new movie-going generation (Lewis, 250, 255).

       The upbeat world of the 1950s cringed under the shadow of nuclear war and an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union.  Beatniks mourned the impending death of humanity in coffee houses and cafes.  The McCarthy years dragged on, and the fear of Communism ran rampant throughout the country.  At the same time, a new kind of socially-conscious movie was being made to highlight problems in American society (Lewis, 228).  Juvenile delinquency became a hot topic.

       Nicholas Ray’s 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause, explores the alienation and delinquency of “upper-middle-class white suburban teenagers” (Lewis, 253).  The movie was filmed using Cinemascope widescreen technology and Warnercolor.  Starring James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Natalie Wood, this tense melodrama was meant to serve as a wake-up call to parents: take care of your children, or they will go down the wrong path (Lewis, 253).

       When the movie opens, it is Easter in Los Angeles, California, 1955.  Jim Stark (James Dean) is lying on the pavement, drunk, playing with a mechanical monkey.  It is a poignant scene that shows a lost character who is torn between childhood and adulthood.

       Jim Stark is hauled off to jail and becomes aware of John/Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood).  The three troubled teens are required to speak to the juvenile officer, who tries to understand them.

       Judy cries about her father, who pushed her away when she reached puberty, and complains that she feels unloved by him.  She craves his attention, runs out of the house, and wanders around alone after dark when they get into a conflict over wearing make-up and grown up clothes.  Judy is trying to grow up, but growing up means losing closeness with her father (fear of incest).  She cannot understand why he is pushing her away because nobody has talked to her about it.  Her anger and despair lead her to hang out with the tough high school gang, The Wheels, and the gang’s leader, Buzz.

       John/Plato is an abandoned and neglected rich boy whose black maid is paid to raise him.  It is his birthday, and he is angry because his parents are divorced, his father is not involved in his life, and his mother stays away on vacation.  He has been picked up for shooting some puppies, a deviant behavior that is considered nowadays to be a precursor for sociopathic/psychopathic serial killers (Siegel, 353).  Although his black maid appears to sincerely care for him, calling him “her boy,” she is powerless to help him.  John/Plato appears to be emotionally unstable, starved for love, rejected by his peers, vulnerable and gullible, and physically and emotionally immature. 

       While waiting to see the juvenile officer, Jim Stark annoys the other police officers by wailing like a police siren, making obnoxious comments, and exhibiting a negative, sarcastic attitude.  In one scene, a deep-focus camera shot captures the three troubled teens through windows: Judy sitting in the office with the juvenile officer; John/Plato waiting in the office next door; and Jim sitting on a chair in the background.  The viewer understands that these three troubled teens will eventually get together, connected by their common suffering and antisocial behavior.

       Jim’s mother and father show up at the police station wearing a mink coat and a tuxedo.  They have been at a party at the country club.  Jim’s father laughs and minimizes his son’s drinking.  After all, the family has just moved to Los Angeles, and Jim has not made any friends yet.  The parents bicker, blaming one another; and Jim’s father says to him, “Don’t I buy you everything you want?”  Jim covers his ears and cries at his parents, “You’re tearing me apart!”

       Jim loses control, punches the juvenile officer, and bangs on the desk.  He is in danger of going to juvenile hall.  His parents admit that they have been moving frequently because of Jim’s behavior in order to protect him and their own reputations.  It becomes clear that Jim’s father is weak and cowardly.  His mother is a nag.

       On the first day of school, Jim is bullied for being the new kid.  He tries to befriend Judy, but she smokes cigarettes and hangs out with the tough crowd.  John/Plato looks up to Jim and tags along behind him, calling him “my best friend.”  During the field trip at the Griffith Observatory, the teens are exposed to a presentation about the universe and a nihilistic commentary about the insignificance of earth and human beings.  Jim and John/Plato can both identify with this.

       Jim gets into a knife fight with Buzz, the leader of The Wheels.  At the end of the fight, they agree to compete in a “chickie run.”  Jim doesn’t know what this is, but he agrees to do it as a matter of honor.  When he consults his father, his father cannot give him any worthwhile advice.    Later that night, Buzz is killed when his jacket gets caught on the door, and he is unable to escape from the car.  His car goes over a cliff, and all the members of the gang take off.  Jim confesses to his parents what happened.  His mother wants to move.  His father tells him to keep quiet.

       Jim wants to do the right thing and confess to the police.  The police ignore him and tell him to go home.  Gang members think he has squealed and go after him.  A live chicken is hung up over the door of Jim’s house, scaring his parents.  Jim and Judy hide out in an abandoned mansion.  Parallel to this, the gang attacks John/Plato, and his black maid chases them off.  In his mother’s room, he finds a child support check from his father, gets angry, grabs his mother’s gun, and takes off for the abandoned mansion.

       At the mansion, the three teens pretend that they are a nuclear family, bemoan the presence of troublesome children (they should be drowned), and isolate themselves from reality.  After John/Plato falls asleep, Judy and Jim go off by themselves.  The gang shows up, and John/Plato goes nuts when he finds out that Jim and Judy have left him alone.  He shoots one of the gang members.  The police show up.  John/Plato runs off to the nearby Griffith Observatory, and he shoots at the police.  Jim and Judy get into the Observatory, take the bullets out of the gun, and escort John/Plato out of the Observatory.  John/Plato does not realize the gun is empty and points it at the police.  The police shoot and kill him.

       At the end, Jim breaks down and cries “Help me!”  His father finds renewed strength and courage and promises to be there for him, no matter what happens.  Jim’s mother finds new respect for her husband.  The family is saved.

       The importance of a strong family and good communication are highlighted throughout the movie.  No matter how much wealth a family has, wealth cannot give a child what it needs to be happy, secure, and well-grounded.  Parents are responsible for raising good citizens who contribute to society.  Nicholas Ray sent this message loud and clear when he made Rebel Without a Cause. 

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

February 13, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

Ray, Nicholas, Dir. Rebel Without a Cause. Perf. James Dean. Warner Bros., 1955.

Siegel, Larry J. Criminology. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2012.

9 Comments »

Hollywood Filmmaking Today

 Photo by Thea Hdc on Unsplash

      As Hollywood evolved from small production companies into large corporations, so did the financing of motion pictures.  Large corporations could sell stock and borrow money from well-heeled investors.  But this depended on the reliability of the investment.  Investor fears of risky ventures forced Hollywood corporations to incorporate traditional business practices: “efficient management, timely production practices, and profitable results” (Lewis 477).  Hollywood developed standardized practices that still survive today.

       The Hollywood studios held a virtual monopoly over the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures until 1948.  With the Paramount decision, this monopoly came to an end.  Suddenly, the studios lost much of the real estate they had used as collateral to borrow money.  Following the example of independent filmmakers, such as David O. Selznick, the studios replaced the studio system with the independent system (Lewis 477).

       Today, filmmakers have many options for obtaining financing.  “Money may come from the studio, the producer, the investment community, or (most probably) a combination of these” (Lewis 477).  Financing may be procured in stages as the production progresses.  Controlling costs is a major concern, especially when it is difficult to accurately predict them (Lewis 479).

       Under the studio system, the budget was based on direct and indirect costs.  “Direct costs included everything from art direction and cinematography to insurance.  Indirect costs, usually 20 percent of the direct costs, covered the studio’s overall contribution to ‘overhead’” (Lewis 479).  The independent system calculates costs according to a 30/70 configuration.

       Costs can become inflated by the use of union labor (Lewis 476), special effects technology, personnel with special expert skills, and the high salaries commanded by superstar actors, producers, and directors.  Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate contracts that reduce upfront costs and benefit all parties involved.

       Marketing, distributing, and exhibiting motion pictures depend on the product produced.  Exclusive and limited releases assess audiences’ initial response; key-city releases assess audience reaction on a second-run basis; and “wide and saturated releases on hundreds or thousands of screens in the major markets . . . [test audience reaction] as good reviews and word of mouth build public awareness and demand” (Lewis 482).  While studios have established methods for bringing their films to market, independents use various methods.  They can rent their films to a studio or producing organization with the means to market, distribute, and exhibit them (Lewis 482).

       Experts determine release dates, arrange tie-ins with toys, books, and other merchandise, decide screening locations, form contracts with DVD and streaming companies, work on advertising and publicity, and complete negotiations on domestic and foreign rights.  Others calculate rental and download costs, ticket prices, and length of runs (Lewis 482).  Movies are an expensive commodity!

       Today, Hollywood comprises a combination of a modernized studio system and independent production companies that may or may not be part of a studio company.  In total, this collection of Hollywood filmmakers grossed $10.9 billion in revenue in 2013 (Lewis 483).  As Hollywood continues to evolve, it will discover new avenues of financing and generating revenue.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 23, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

7 Comments »

How Hollywood Survived the Invention of Television

(1956 TV Guide featuring Lassie)

       Postwar social changes and technological advances in America profoundly influenced Hollywood filmmaking.  The invention of television produced direct competition.  Audience expectations demanded more complex characters and more mature themes.  Hollywood adapted by incorporating technology into filmmaking that would fascinate audiences and draw them back into the movie theaters.  Experiments in defying the Production Code led to the screening of more mature films and changes in the code.

       “By 1960 there were 50 million TV sets in homes across the United States, and lots of people were watching a lot of television: in 1960 the average daily viewing time for U.S. households with a TV set was over 5 hours a day” (Lewis 233).  Television was a new toy that people could enjoy, and it was free.  Families could gather around the TV set after dinner and enjoy watching it together.  The advertisements exposed viewers to new products.

       The Hollywood studios adapted by creating new business relationships with the television studios.  “Disney led the way, making a deal with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) that included the production of a Disney TV show that aired weekly on the network” (Lewis 234).

       These synergies were so successful that multinational conglomerates began buying up Hollywood studios and formulating new ways to produce and distribute films.  For example, “Gulf and Western Industries bought Paramount in 1966” (Lewis 237).  Hollywood studios contracted with TV studios to run their movies as a second run.  Walt Disney negotiated a deal with ABC to create Disneyland, an amusement park.  These deals brought in much-needed revenue to the studios.

       The conglomerates abandoned production in favor of distribution.  They began using market research and tie-ins with books and other merchandise.  Technological gimmicks such as 3-D and widescreen were tried (Lewis 234).  But what finally brought audiences back to the movie theaters was the distribution of foreign-made films and defiance of the Production Code (Lewis 238-247).

       While American audiences enjoyed foreign-made films, these movies were produced by European standards and often came into conflict with the standards of the PCA.  Otto Preminger completed his controversial film The Moon is Blue, in 1953.  When United Artists submitted it to the PCA, it was rejected.  As a result, United Artists gave up its membership in the MPAA to avoid a fine (Lewis 239).

       Theater owners, however, were more than willing to screen an adult-themed film that did not have the PCA seal, and “The Moon is Blue grossed over $4 million in its initial release” (Lewis 239).  Preminger used the same strategy with his second movie, The Man with the Golden Arm.  As more and more controversial films were released, the PCA was forced to relax some of its codes.

       Jack Valenti, who was named the president of MPAA in 1966, agreed to an exception for the release of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.  Warner Bros. labeled it For Mature Audiences and left it to the theater owners to decide whether to screen it or not.  Pretty soon, Welcome to Hard Times was released with the label NO PERSON UNDER 18 ADMITTED UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT (Lewis 244-245).   Finally, in 1968, the MPAA came up with a new voluntary rating system: G (General Audiences), M (Mature Audiences and parental discretion), R (Restricted and no one under age sixteen unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian), and X (no one under sixteen admitted).  Films with an X rating could not receive a PCA seal (Lewis 283).

       The new rating system gave Hollywood the latitude to create a greater variety of films.  With social change rapidly advancing, the studios began targeting the youth audience and the social issues which were important to them (Lewis 285).  For a short time, studios began promoting “topical movies with a political edge” (Lewis 286) produced by new, young directors (auteurs) who could tap into young audiences’ interests.  The most famous and most profitable movie produced was The Godfather in 1972, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  But as iconic as many of these films are today, studios wanted more formulaic films whose success could be easily reproduced, and the “auteur renaissance” (Lewis 282) ended.  Action blockbusters formed the new wave of Hollywood films by the 1980s.

       Hollywood has been resilient over the decades and found ways to adapt to new technologies, changes in audience interests, and restrictions placed on them by the Supreme Court.  Always alert to new avenues of revenue, Hollywood has survived by its willingness to negotiate new (and more profitable) deals.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

29 Comments »

Happy Chinese New Year 2022

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger is a highly-revered animal in Chinese culture, representing strength, courage, and nobility. People born during the Year of the Tiger are considered to have these characteristics and to make good leaders. Tigers are also symbols of good luck.

May we all be blessed in 2022 with the luck of the tiger!

Dawn Pisturino

February 1, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

6 Comments »

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