Raising the Roof

On [i]Extreme Makeover: Home Edition[/i], Denise Cramsey leads a nationwide broadcast on the strength of community.

Denise Cramsey is not in the business of solving problems; she's in the business of telling stories. But sometimes the best stories involve a problem solved. Currently working on her eighth reality TV series, the 38-year-old executive producer has found the largest platform and audience of her 16-year career-ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Now in its fourth season, the Emmy-winning show regularly rates first in its Sunday evening time slot-tugging millions of viewer's heartstrings with voyeuristic stories of home renovation and life transformation, punctuated with impeccable product placement.A distinctly American experiment in generosity, EMHE feels curiously closer to Cinderella than to, say, Horatio Alger. It happens like this: a team of producers led by Cramsey sifts through video submissions from families in impoverished conditions-like the Rogers family from 2006, which consisted of a single mother who cared for her incapacitated brother-in-law and home-schooled his three children, as well as eight of her own-all within a 900-square-foot shack in Alaska.\n\n\n
It is a television show, of course. But more than that, it is actually a mission to go out and help people who need help.
Each episode features frosted-tipped male model turned TV carpentry personality Ty Pennington doing his best fairy godmother impression, as he and his team of designers turn a dilapidated shanty into a state-of-the-art suburban mansion in just one week. The Rogers place, for instance, grew to 4,800 square feet and was filled with computers and plasma screens, not to mention an Astroturfed backyard football field. The presence of the ubiquitous bullhorn through which Pennington emphatically encourages his crew reinforces the show's aggressive Americana-as does the "extreme" in its title, which could refer not only to the speed with which a home gets transformed and the extent of the renovations, but also to the extreme differences in the show's reception.The show has been criticized as endemic of a culture of suburban excess and instant gratification. And while EMHE does feature a glut of corporate sponsorships and conspicuous consumerism, consider the local volunteers (sometimes numbering in the hundreds) who congregate around the construction site day and night until the project is finished. Cramsey thinks the sense of communal compassion, in tandem with the show's tear-jerking moments, is what distinguishes it from the legions of gimmicky reality shows that clutter the dial: "It is a television show, of course. It is a business, of course. But more than that, it is actually a mission to go out and help people who need help," she says.On EMHE, the Johnsons's house increased in size from 900 to 4,800 square feet. Here is what that difference looks like. When Cramsey left Syracuse University with degrees in newspaper journalism and economics, she dreamt, like many a wide-eyed journalism student, of writing for The New York Times. That didn't quite happen. "I think I got rejected by every newspaper in the United States of America," she says, chuckling. "But I did get a job at a local television station in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I was there for two and a half years and moved up from the assignment desk to writing to producing, and sort of caught the TV bug and have never looked back."That TV bug took her through a host of successful reality-TV production jobs where she honed her narrative prowess-including the very popular Trading Spaces, which marked the first collaboration between Cramsey and Pennington. Despite helping so many people, Cramsey attributes her success to the spirit of altruism that surrounds the show. "I produced literally hundreds of episodes, and all I did was stand by and record people at the most intense moments of their lives," she says. "People tell their own stories. And solve their own problems. I'm just there to record it."
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet