Let's not legalize torture, okay? And let's not make it legal for the US to export people over seas for torturing. Threre's enough outsourcing already.
On a serious not, please read this passionate post on the subject.
Let's not legalize torture, okay? And let's not make it legal for the US to export people over seas for torturing. Threre's enough outsourcing already.
On a serious not, please read this passionate post on the subject.
It's true, alas. I find writing about politics easy, writing about art takes real effort and is exhausting, but I have an idea for some interesting theater-related and music-related stuff (music, you exclaim! why yes, music, I reply! I have omniverous tastes and don't mind writing about things I'm only marginally qualified to write about! For you see, that is the way of the bloggeer!)
So, class, our topic for today is White Male Entitlement as it relates to Bush/Gore and Bush/Kerry.
I have a grand unifying theory of the past two elections: they can be viewed as case studies in different behaviors stemming from White Male Entitlement. Here we see two different forms of the same attitude-- I was born white and male, I grew up in extreme wealth and privilege and I deserve X. In this case, X is the Presidency of the United States.
Growing up as a child of privilege, not to mention being almost white (jew) and definitely male, I know this state of mind backwards and forwards. And I can see pretty clearly the effects it has had on these men running for office. Below are my two case studies. I'll start with Bush.
I actually agree with David Brooks for the second time.
In the above-linked op-ed piece Brooks talks about how Democracy is important, and how we shouldn't be content with propping up a strongman who will hold Iraq together.
I couldn't agree more. Brooks' trademark sneakiness comes out later, however, when he uses the article to only criticize Kerry, who said he would settle for security in Iraq. Kerry deserve the criticism, but no matter what you think about Kerry saying outloud that he would put a strongman in place, the Bush administration is doing a pretty good job of actually installing a strongman, namely Allawi. After all, they've talked about not allowing voting in insurgent areas (which would be areas in which Allawi is unpopular QED) and also the CIA is funneling money into getting Allawi elected. So which is better, David, a sham democracy or an honestly non-democracy?
I'm not sure I know the answer myself... do you?
Brigitte Bardot turns 70 today. It couldn't happen to a nicer, sexier fascist.
Here's a nice, and unwhite-washing article from one of Salon.com's few good entertainment writers, Charles Taylor.
So perhaps today is a good day to get back to artsblogging.
Why? Because it's tech week, that's why. If you don't know what that's like, here's one of my posts ont he subject.
Also, because, let's face it, dear reader, is there really any point to talking about the forthcoming debate? That 35 page long contract seems designed to strip all moments of spontaneity out of the telecast. The cameras can't even cut away for reaction shots for christ's sake. What's the point, I ask you? This'll be like the Dogme99 version of a debate-- stripped of everything interesting, but you're expected to watch it anyway. Ridiculous.
I'm guessing that these debates will go pretty much exactly like the Gore-Bush debates. No matter who wins on substance, Bush will decimate in style. And by style, I mean likeability. Take the third debate. There was a moment in the third debate where Gore turned to Bush and started grilling him about his tax cut plan, essentially putting the lie to Bush's claim that everyone will be helped by it. Bush resisted and resisted and finally, crumpling into his chair said, "yes, you're right. I think if you pay more taxes you should get more tax relief" and pouted, looking like he was going to cry.
In a real debate, Gore won that one on the merits hands down. In fact, he squashed GWB on the central plank of his platform, getting him to admit he was being deceptive about his tax cut and admitting to the central truth-- that primarily rich people would benefit. GW Bush had been (it's difficult to remember this, but try) resisting this very point on the campaign trail. In England, that would've been the moment when Bush lost the Presidency decisively, but they have an intellectual culture there, whilst we have one that is profoundly anti-. Here, in our country, Gore lost the debate at that moment by looking like an asshole.
Is there any way that Kerry won't look like an asshole compared to Bush this time around? Seriously, any of you big Kerry supporters... John-Paul, are you out there? Is there any way?
Also... it seems to be that very few voters are undecided in the traditional sense-- i.e. which guy would make a better President. They more seem undecided in the sense of not liking either of their choices. So does that mean that the debate strategies for the candidates have to be different? A kind of "I know we didn't get along, but Pow! How you like me now?"
So I guess it's back to arts blogging for me later today...
volume of smoke
by Clay McLeod Chapman (the pumpkin pie show, redbird)
Directed by Isaac Butler (redbird, First You're Born)
Original Music by Erik Sanko
With: Paul Thureen, Hannah Bos, Abe Goldfarb, Kalle Macrides, Emily Mitchell, Daryl Lathon, Orion Taraban
Acclaimed author and playwright Clay McLeod Chapman brings his signature lyrical southern gothic style to the Great Richmond Theater Fire of 1811 in his brand new play volume of smoke. Weaving together individual accounts, vaudeville, mythology and ghost stories, Chapman creates a kaleidoscopic view of the fire and its aftermath. This workshop production is directed by Isaac Butler (redbird, First You're Born) and features a dedicated and talented cast with original music by grammy nominated recording artist, former Lounge Lizards member and New York Times 10 best recording artist for 2002 Erik Sanko. This is a good chance to see a great play here in New York on the cheap.
When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1-2, 8-9 at 10:30PM (the show runs 70 mins.)
Where: The Kraine Theater on East 4th b/w 2nd and Bowery (next to New York Theater Workshop)
How do I get tickets?: Box office opens 1/2 hour prior to the show or reserve advance tickets at SmartTix by going to:
(tickets are $10, $7 for students)
I hope to see you there!
Funny you should ask... I'm on the Upper West Side.
Yes, dear reader, due to some construction on my apartment, myself, partner Mary and intrepid dog Ramona have relocated to a friend's place, hense the rather light posting for the past few days. Today might, indeed, be light, so let me just jot down some thoughts:
1) Did anyone read the NYTimes Magazine piece on Political Bloggers this weekend? I can't say I'm particularly impressed-- the piece manages to combine the Magazine's two worst traits: simplistic condescension and being late to a party they have no hope of understanding. This was similar to the profiles of the Deaniac Volunteers, where their attitude seemed to be "what deluded little children, surely they are simply naive neophytes, they couldn't possibly believe in a politician, this is just activism day camp".
The attitude of the Blogger piece seems to be: "I want to sleep with Wonkette, and everyone else is either an angry asshole or an angry loser". (I mean, BTW, no disrespect to Wonkette whose work I very much admire, this is about the author, not her). Josh Marshall, whose beloved TalkingPointsMemo is hardly the repository of Bush hatred and vitriol, is portrayed as an angry, befuddled loner. Atrios' site (it seems that any interview with Prof. Black was cut out of the piece) is simply called one of the most popular "anti-Bush websites".
Hmm... so people leveling fairly reasonable critiques at Bush are just "angry" and lefty blogs like Atrios are simply "anti-Bush" instead of pro something. This is the ongoing media por(be?)trayal of the left, and I for one am sick of it. I was sick of it when Dean's hard hitting attacks on the President became all about his anger and whether or not he's an abusive husband, I was sick of it when Michael Moore's legitimate beefs with this adminsitration and grief over the decimation of Flint, Michigan were portrayed as some kind of rabid hunger for blood, and I really don't like it that people writing emotionally about issues they care about are portrayed as angry radicals. Josh Marshall doesn't write anything that in tone would be out of place on the NYtimes Op-Ed page. Or in its magazine, for that matter.
Earlier on this site I wrote about a curious phenomenon-- that every Bush Campaign accusation about John Kerry is something that might be true of John Kerry (maybe) but is, as a matter of public record, definitely true of GW Bush.
I also wrote yesterday about the Right Wing effort to paint Kerry as alienating of a foreign leader for speaking out in contrast to what Allawi had to say when he visited the US for a Bush Campaign Eve- er, um, a speech to Congress.
Anyway, what I missed (and Josh Marshall caught) is that this critique of course falls within the Rubber-Glue Hypothesis. Kerry may have insulted a foreign leader and shown that he's a bit clumsy with diplomacy (maybe) but Bush and his team have definitely insulted foreign leaders (actual democratically elected ones at that) and as a matter of public record have shown their clumsiness wiht diplomacy (Bush's scolding speech at the UN is only the latest example of this).
So I think the Rubber-Glue Hypothesis is proving itself to be true. Maybe next they will accuse Kerry of being bad for the environment?
Some google searches that led people to this site:
airplane opera song industrial electronica -jefferson -soap down you put
photos of freddie prinze jr. sucking cock
Instapundit is always useful for gathering Republican talking points. What Prof. Reynolds does is start collecting people who agree with something he agrees with when he read it somewhere. By conveniently linking to all of them, you can suddenly see how the GOP talking points message machine works, or at least what it's putting out today.
The latest attack seems to be on Kerry's critique of Allawi and Bush's plans for (and estimations of) Iraq. In case you don't know, Kerry, rather than meeting with Allawi or being there when he appeared in front of Congress, took the time to speak out against Allawi and Bush's message of the day in Ohio. The general Right Wing consensus is that this was a horrible affront to a foreign leader of a country we are trying to help, a foreign leader whose cooperation Kerry will need if he wins the election, and a foreign leader who we need to stand behind in this time of trouble. Indeed, Kerry basically insulted a foreign dignitary in order to score some cheap points at the President's expense. That's pretty much the argument in a nutshell. Sure, there are variations on this point, but that's pretty much it.
There are two easy refutations to this argument to make: first off, none of these critiques of Kerry's statements include a real substantive critique of his argument-- namely that Iraq is going down the toilet and President Bush's only plan is to tell the American people that everything is going okay. The second counter argument is that what they're saying is bullshit: Allawi isn't really a foreign leader, the Bush administration doesn't treat him like one either, and Kerry will have no trouble getting his allegience when/if he comes into office.
So apparently my little piece on hysterical realism is getting some play, both here at George Hunka’s well-worded takedown and over here with Leonard Bast, who expands the conversation to talk about dialogue-books and whether or not they rightly should be called thinly disguised plays.
There’s a lot that’s brought up by both of these posts (I would recommend you read them) and, as much as I really want to rise to my own defense here, I think the George’s post reflects a certain generational difference between the two of us that informs our taste. I find room for contemplation and conversation in the onslaught and George does not, and that’s pretty much what our difference comes down to. For me, the moment of contemplation occurs less in the moment-to-moment-ness of it all (that, BTW, if you’re wondering, was a very hysterical-realist phrase to use) but rather when the piece is finished, taken as a whole. In this way Kushner’s work very much differs from Pinter or Beckett, playwrights who both create enormous spaces for their audiences. I love them all, and value the (very different) experience of watching and communicating with each.
Part of what I love about Kushner (and here is my youth, George, I admit it) is that I never find him boring. Even when I don’t like what he’s doing, I’m not bored. Honestly, I can’t say the same for Beckett or Pinter—just like I’m never bored reading DF Wallace, but can often be bored reading Faulkner. Sometimes the space for contemplation feels like just empty space. Sometimes a pause is just a pause, I suppose.
In other news has been sporadic of late, to say the least... so here's a big steaming plateful of news you may have missed!
In the sex and romance category:
--Gay? Gay-friendly? Perhaps you should consider boycotting Louisiana after reading this. My favorite thing about gay bashers is how they hate our judicial system. How patriotic of them.
--Meanwhile, you women out there might want to stay away from that new contraceptive patch you see Olympians hawking on television.
-- And nudists can fight crime too!
In the gender research department... big boys bans attendees from air kissing and other pompous gestures.
-- Perhaps organizing a showing of the Abu Ghraib pictures wasn't the most tasteful idea the Warhol museum has ever had, but hey, it's good publicity!
-- In Scotland. where I recently was, the politicians have no taste in art whatsoever (wasn't it ever thus?)
Finally, as always, we close with a reading from Harper's. This time, it's about hamburgers.
Have a good hump day!
Now can we stop this idiotic "Kerry has already lost, he's Dukakis the sequel" news story?
Look, Kerry may very well lose, the race will be close no matter what, but there is a certain Heisenbergian thing going on here. The longer the news media cling to the Kerry's campaign is burning up in a blimp and sinking into the sea sotry line, the harder it will be for the truth to come out-- Kerry's done some reshuffling. he's more on message, and the voters are liking it.
Paul Krugman has a good piece on Iraq an Bush rhetoric vs. reality.
Considering that things are, according to the Bush administration's own internal, highly classified and frequenly leaked documents going rather disasterously over there, one has to wonder... is it all wishful thinking on Bush's part, or is it all just the usual talking points repeat-it-unti-everyone-believes-it modus operandi of this administration?
This is not to say that everything in Iraq is going poorly. There is reconstruction. There is -some- progress in places, and, of course, a horrible dictator who tortured and slaughtered his people with the full knowledge and tacit permission of the US government has been dethroned by that very government and will hopefully soon face justice in a true democratic fashion by the very people he hurt, which is at least some comfort, even if those people who helped him to power and nurtured him here in the United States will never face justice for their actions.
So back to the original quesion... what is up with the Bush Administration and their public statements on Iraq? I believe that here we are seeing the reprisal of the standard Republican strategy as crystalized in the Luntz Memo. The Luntz Memo, for those of you who do not know, is a fairly famous piece of work by Republican Push-Pollster, poorly-tupeed MSNBC host, and architect of the "contract with america" Frank Luntz. In it, Luntz outlines a strategy for Republicans to convince the American people that global climate change is a scam in the face of fairly incontrontovertable scientific consensus. Recognizing that even 54% of Republican voters favor stricter environmental regulation and conservation, Luntz sought to create an atmosphere in which pro-busines policies would become popular instead of unconscionable.
His tips include the following (see if these seem familiar to you) for massaging the public vis-a-vis anti-environmental policy:
1) Preface your anti-regulation and anti-conservation message by using the same broad principles as the environmentalists --> "People don’t understand the technicalities of environmental law – but they do understand the benefits of conservation of water, land, and open spaces" but use these to promote "common sense" solutions. Everyone should recognize that the latter phrase is absolutely meaningless.
2) Use phrases like “we all want to move towards a healthier, safer future”
3) Rhetorical obfuscation: using active language instead of passive langauge, focusing on the future "benefits" instead of the present day situation, and avoiding discussion of process at all costs
4) Despite years of scientific evidence to the contrary, public speakers and writers should insist that America needs "more up-to-date" information before formulating policy. Also, stop referring to it as global warming, but instead call it climate change.
Luntz also recognizes the need to instill real doubt in the American people about global warming. Sure enough, we now have a network of petroleum company backed institutes that seem to produce a Hydra of TV talking heads who go on and talk about how "unsound" the science of climate change is. This is the scientific version of Astro-Turf politics, and it seeks to do nothing else but obfuscate the matter and confuse the average voter. It has also proven devilishly effective.
And now the Bush administration is using the exact same tactics on the American people w/r/t Iraq. So, for example, the Bush Adminstration has declared a disasterous and now, perhaps, generation-spanning war in Iraq in the name of peace, security and prosperity which is making us less secure, bankrupting our government and causing bloodshed. Also, the administration has rutinely forstalled elections in Iraq in order to get the guy it wants in power (first Chalabi now Allawi) all in the name of Democracy.
The President almost never talks about the situation in Iraq as it is today, he talks instead about what it's "moving towards". When he speaks in this language, he also speaks with little care for facts, figures, or reality. After all anything can move towards anything, and there's no way to reall disprove it. For all I know Iraq is moving towards becoming a mountain all covered with cheese where General Shinseki will lose his meatball if someone sneezes but that's really beside the point. What matters is that the situation on the ground there right now is horrible, and the Bush administration's own predictions for the future are either it stays exactly the same or it gets worse.
As for the more "up-to-date" information thing, it was with exactly this stalling tactic that Bush kept the American people from a true reckoning with exactly how badly misinformed the American people were about Saddam's WMDs. I still don't understand how people are forgiving about this. Either Bush lied to the American people about the main cause of war, in which case he is a scalliwag and deserves to be thrown out of office on his ear or he was misled by people he trusted within and without the administration and in that case he has shown little to no real judgement and therefore is not competent enough to lead this country through the almost blindingly difficult years it is about to face. Keeping Donald Rumsfeld, for example, and his neo-con crew on the payroll is a particular affront. That man should've been fired a year ago.
Instead of any real action, we've gotten stalling while official inquiries take place. In the mean time, our President gets on TV and continues to lie, saying we've found the weapons when we haven't (remember those balloon-inflating trucks?) only to have the American people give him a pass because they think "aw, he can't speak the English language properly. Surely I should vote for him again!"
Finally we have the war version of the petroleum-funded institutes-- the right wing network of "journalists" and think tank employees, always willing to justify and distort to their heart's content. DaBrooks' column today, in which he wildly misrepresents all of Kerry's positions on Iraq (Josh Marshall has particularly good commentary on this as does JP). We all know the Talking Points system and how it works, whether it be "first and fourth most liberal senators" or "Saddam and Al Qaeda are linked" there is always a network of toadies willing to sacrifice their credibility for some on-camera time, a paycheck and the thanks of the Right Wing. Hell, even Bob Dole was willing to do this to smear Kerry's Vietnam record.
This network is doing real harm to our democracy because they are not elected, and thus not accountable for anything they say. Bob Novak can do whatever he wants, he's under contract. Journalists on Fox can repeat slander after smear after libel after lie about whatever they want, because all they answer to is ratings and commerical payments. What matters is that people are gullible enough to continue to believe them. Just look at our opinion mongers today. Even those who have expressed regret since about the Iraq war (Brooks, Pollack etc.) refuse to take any real blame for what has happened. They helped stir up support for this war, and now they want to act like everything was fated by the Gods or maybe at least somewhat the Bush administration's fault. And we just let them go on, saying whatever it is they want to say, and no one in the public eye will call them on it. Just once, I'd like Mark Shields to turn to David Brooks and say, "Well, David, you said the following things would happen in your columns and you said the following nasty things about anti-war voters and politicians, who turned out to be right on the facts when you turned out to be wrong, and you owe them an apology, and I don't know why the American people continue to listen to you". I pick on Brooks, but I would like it to happen all over, especially to so-called liberals like Thomas Friedman, a man so "Reasonable" he claimed on Charlie Rose that a Muslim Great Reformation was going to come from us attacking the most secular country in the Middle East.
The public intellectuals who supported the war helped get us into this mess. This includes writers I respect, like Tim Noah and Fareed Zakaria. They should be held accountable, in some way.
If you don’t get the reference in the title to today’s post, you belong in one of two categories. The first group is the group that has not yet seen the complete first and second series of BBC’s The Office. This group should stop reading this post immediately, as I am going to ruin every little surprise that this delicious show has to offer, and go find a copy. Set aside six hours, it need not be all at once, and watch all twelve half hour episodes. Make sure you see them before the two Christmas specials are released on DVD in November.
If you belong to the second group, those who have seen The Office but either it’s been awhile or your memory for dialogue is a bit shoddy, please forgive me for heaping praise on this show so late in the game. It has been broadcast on TV before last year in the states on BBC America, and has been out on DVD for some time, but I’ve been busy, so there. I don’t want to spend the whole time writing hagiography for Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais’ achievements, no. Anyone who has seen the whole thing is almost certainly in love with it, so I have nothing to prove to you.
Instead, let me offer a few observations, from one who has just finished watching the Second Series roughly twenty-four hours ago.
I realize I haven't been writing to you enough lately, largely because I've been out of the country, and because I don't want to bore everyone with repeating the same story I told last time with First You're Born. This time around, however, things are very different.
First of all, I'm co-directing. How is that turning out? you ask. So far, so good. Codirecting with the author (heretofore "Clay") certainly means that you couldn't impost on the script even if you wanted to. Which I don't. I have a lot of ideas, and the staging is certainly not going to be in the "invisible hand" style of the last show I did, so having the writer around is actually a bit of a confidence booster. Just to remind you in case you forgot, we split the directing job down the middle, with him handling working on the text with the actors, and my handling staging the thing and putting it together. This is rather like in musical theater where the musical director will teach the actors the music (including the how of its performance) before the director comes in and stages things. I was in Britain for the first week of rehearsal, and Clay had a week alone with the actors.
Hearing the text after a week of book work that I hadn't been a part of was... well... a shocking and impressive experience, to say the least. Before leaving, I gave Clay a list of visual ideas I had for the show and he and I talked about the acting and where we wanted the characters to go. That being said, you only really control so much of the process. Much of what they had discovered in book work didn't really jive with some of the blocking ideas I had developed reading the script on my own. Important reminder: blocking is character, and vice versa. Seeing what they had discovered in Book Work, which creates a nice framework for the show, I spent much of the time tinkering with staging ideas to adapt the gist of what I was thinking to the new reality of the performances.
And then came last night. As I've said before, volume of smoke is going to be one of the most physical show I've ever directed. As a result, we started rehearsal with an hour of physical work only semi-related to the characters or the play. Most of this was spent walking around the room with me shouting different tasks for them to accomplish ("follow the music!" "work against the music!" "walk in character!" "walk in neutral!"). We've started to develop a vocabulary, a short hand that allows me to give direction quickly so we can move through the script. I'm trying to rough out the shape of the play and then go back and refine as much as possible, so working fast is good for me. Most of the vocabulary involves giving direction on a scale of 1 to 10-- can you walk there with pace 3? I said yesterday. Everyone laughed, but it worked (note: 5 = normal, 1 = Noh drama, 10 = sped up film).
We've developed other ways of talking about voice, physicality, speed, intensity etc., but I won't bore you with getting into it. Anyway, this is the most kind of "developmental" process I've had in a long time, and that's exciting.
The first day of blocking is always hard. No one knows what the visual vocabulary of the show is except for me in my head, and I only know part of it. I mean, you can talk about it as much as possible, but people don't really know what it is until they start doing it. I could see the trepidation on people's faces the whole evening, but once we got the first 11 pages of the script blocked, people seemed a lot more relaxed. It was like "Ah! now I have a better idea of where this is going!". I find there's no better way to explain something than to just get people to do it. I'm a big learn-by-doing fan.
In today's not-quite-must-read-but-you-probably-really-should-read column, check out Will Saletan's latest piece in Slate.com about Bush and Kerry's speeches to the National Guard. Definitely worth checking out. I think the points he makes about the guardmen's befuddling support of GW Bush can be applied to the electorate at large.