I have been sans internet for a couple of days now. I love Parabasis, but maybe not enough to spend money at an internet cafe when I'm also rushing to rehearsal.
I will post tomorrow, even if it costs money!
I have been sans internet for a couple of days now. I love Parabasis, but maybe not enough to spend money at an internet cafe when I'm also rushing to rehearsal.
I will post tomorrow, even if it costs money!
Thanks to a little research. we here at Parabasis central have stumbled upon a couple of interesting Conservative endorsements for Kerry. Here is the first (it's from The American Conservative and is followed with some commentary by me at the end:
Kerry's the One
By Scott McConnell
The American Conservative
November 8, 2004 Issue:
Unfortunately, this election does not offer traditional conservatives an easy or natural choice and has left our editors as split as our readership. In an effort to deepen our readers' and our own understanding of the options before us, we've asked several of our editors and contributors to make "the conservative case" for their favored candidate. Their pieces, plus Taki's column closing out this issue, constitute TAC's endorsement. - The American Conservative Editors
There is little in John Kerry's persona or platform that appeals to conservatives. The flip-flopper charge - the centerpiece of the Republican campaign against Kerry - seems overdone, as Kerry's contrasting votes are the sort of baggage any senator of long service is likely to pick up. (Bob Dole could tell you all about it.) But Kerry is plainly a conventional liberal and no candidate for a future edition of Profiles in Courage. In my view, he will always deserve censure for his vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002.
But this election is not about John Kerry. If he were to win, his dearth of charisma would likely ensure him a single term. He would face challenges from within his own party and a thwarting of his most expensive initiatives by a Republican Congress. Much of his presidency would be absorbed by trying to clean up the mess left to him in Iraq. He would be constrained by the swollen deficits and a ripe target for the next Republican nominee.
It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. Because he is the leader of America's conservative party, he has become the Left's perfect foil - its dream candidate. The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II: both gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries' budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks.
Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation's children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal - Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can't be found to do it - and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.
(more after the jump)
George has an interesting post on his blog about how the Iraq war is going, democracy at gun point, and includes in it his own throw down into the debate that is currently going on in the comments section of the "holy crap" post on Parabasis. You should read it. It's interesting.
Also... soon we will be adding a new feature to Parabasis! More on this later.
things are crazy at Parabasis central. Doing three weeks in a row of the Rapid Response Team has proven a recipe for burnout. The audiences are really enjoying the shows, but putting on a completely different play once a week for three weeks that has to be written in 48 hours and rehearsed over 4 days is a crazy undertaking. I can't believe I thought that six weeks of this would be a good idea. Thank god I downsized to 3. I'd be dead by now otherwise.
In the meantime, I thought I'd give the readers of the site who can't make it to the Team a chance to look at some of our material. I'm going to start by uploading a script to a piece I wrote last week and titled, pretentiously enough, The State of Political Discourse In America. If I get permission from the other writers, I'll post some of their stuff on the site too. Hope you enjoy, click to expand the post to read the script. Your comments and critiques are more than welcome
Bush today, about Kerry's accusations (fairly well founded) that it was Bush administration incompetence that led to the disappearance of 380 tons of the world's deadliest conventional explosives:
For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief.
You could, perhaps, argue that Kerry is the kind of person who jumps to conclusions and thus should not be our commander in chief.
It is manifestly true that Bush, as commander in chief, jumped to conclusions by invading Iraq prior to the ccompletion of the inspector's mandate in that country, declaring that Saddam Hussein was harboring and hiding the world's deadliest WMD's without, it seems, much more than circumstantial evidence.
So.. you might suspect that Kerry jumps to conclusions and would as commander in cheif, but his record shows that GW Bush absolutely has done this.
As you probably know by now, thanks to Everything's Ruined, I have become a close reader of and (often) commentator on David Brooks' twice weekly columns for the NYTimes. Well, he has a new one today (clikc here for it) and, well, I'd spend some time arguing against it but... he doesn't say anything.
Here were are, a calendar week from the election and... he has nothing to say. It's a long column about how no one knows what's gonna happen on election day, and pundits should thus be mocked. But.... he's a pundit... who frequently assumes knowledge he doesn't have... so is this just defensive posturing? Does he really have nothing to say? I would guess that maybe he's tired of defending the indefensible, namely George Bush, and that he feels a little dirty constantly slamming Kerry in that sneaky fashion of his, so now it's time to write a column that feels like a cross between Maureen Dowd, William Safire, and 12 bloody marys.
Josh Marshall seems to have the best coverage of why the Pentagon's excuse "it was gone when we got there" re: the 380 tons of missing explosives is... to put it mildly... suspect.
So now the big story is out. If you haven't seen it already on the front page of the NYTimes or read this excellent piece of commentary/summary from Josh Marshall than let me be the first to A) thank you for reading this blog so early in your news-gathering ruitine and B) telling you that around about 18 months ago a cache of the world's dealiest conventional explosive (roughly 350 tons worth) in Iraq was looted by terrorists because the cache, which had been under IAEA lockdown prior to the US invasion was now pretty much totally unguarded. It is widely believed that this 350 tons off incredibly explosive stuff is the exact same explosives being used by the insurgency to kill Americann forces and Iraqis and pretty much keep reconstruction from really happening.
This story is important for a whole number of reasons, some of them actual, some of them symbolic. Josh, once again (same link as above, just click on it) has a great rundown of why this story is actually important and for passionate discussion of its implications, you probably can't do much better than this Andrew Sullivan post. Simply put, this administration's incompetance in the first few weeks of the occupation has even broader implications than we thought. Their incompentance has literally led to the deaths of hundreds of US troops and thousands of Iraqis.
Ted Leo/RX have a new album out, and you really should go buy it. Shake The Sheets is a lot of fun, a good emotional experience, and shockingly danceable throughout. Ted Leo is certainly continuing to lay claim to the Elvis Costello And The Attractions throne. You can download it off iTUNES if you wish. Full review to come in a couple of days.
Moving back into my apartment over the next couple of days after a month out at a friend's place on the UWS whilst repairs and renovations were done to my place.
Thus, I will almost certainly not be posting anything until Monday. If you need need need content, go browse around the blogroll.
Oh, I would also say that this week's Rapid Response Team is shaping up to be pretty damn awesome. It is quite different from last week. Still covering political topics, but also with a good dose of goofiness (we have a sketch about Kool Aid that we still can't get through without cracking up) and a certain surreality missing form last time. Also, the multiple influences of having a female writer/director on board, two actors of color and more people writing this time has made for a great diversity of material. It's much less overtly "sketch comedy" and somehow more theatrical. But still really really funny. And I finally got over myself and wrote a couple of songs (I've always written songs but this will be the first time any of them has ever been heard by anyone other than myself). So hey, yeah. Come see it if you can.
Till then, enjoy your Sunday, and your half of Monday. I'll see you all soon, Dear Readers.
I'd recommend this posting by Mac Rogers that somehow manages to weave together the sexual harassment lawsuit against Friends, Dukakis, David Mamet and the various functions of comedy in a soceity. Go check it out.
Once again, people, the Rapid Response Team is coming!
For those of you who don't remember, The Rapid Response Team is a group of theater artists banding together to make short plays as a direct response to the past week's news. We have two more weeks of performance. The first is this Tuesday Oct. 26th at 8PM. The final performance is a special Election Night Blowout where we will give you live updates of the election tallies as the show goes on.
Here's some of the stories we're working on for this week:
The cultural value of Kool Aid*A cross country mini-odyssey for the perfect bottle of wine*actors in the doctor's office*The Bush Administration vs. Science*Do liberals hate America so much they'd leave it?*Love*rumor, gossip, and other anonymous sources*Political crushes*
So come on down!
The Rapid Response Team II
at The Red Room (85 East 4th b/w 2nd and Bowery, next to New York Theater Workshop, third floor)
Tuesday, October 26th at 8PM
Tickets = $7 w/ reservation, $5-11 otherwise (long story)
To purchase tickets in advance:
Go to SmartTix
Or call 212-868-4444
Hope to see you there!
Look, I've recently become a fairly passionate- if also critical- Kerry supporter, but that doesn't mean I can't laugh at the guy every now and then. Look at this Slate.com article, which highlights Kerry's version of the Bushism-- the run on sentence. The article is written as an attempt at analyzing Kerry's many problems with delivering prepared remarks. (I will note, quickly, that Chris Sullentrop, who wrote the article, is pretty obviously tired of covering John Kerry every day, he has almost nothing nice to say anymore about the guy, he doesn't exactly have anything nasty to say, he just pretty much constantly mocks him). Anyway, here's a clip:
Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people.
Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.
Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.
Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you.
Kerry's Script: These worries are real, and they're happening all across America.
Actual Kerry: These worries are real. They're not made up. These stories aren't something that's part of a Democrat plan or a Republican plan. These are American stories. These are the stories of American citizens. And it's not just individual citizens who are feeling the pressure of health care costs. It's businesses across America. It's CEOs all across America. This is an American problem.
Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.
Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong, my friends. We shouldn't be just hoping and praying. We need leadership that acts and responds and leads and makes things happen.
Kerry's Script: That's wrong, and we have to change it.
Actual Kerry: Well, that's wrong. We had a chance to change it in the Congress of the United States. They chose otherwise. And I'll talk about that in a minute.
Kerry's Script: It's wrong to make it illegal for Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices.
Actual Kerry: But not satisfied to hold onto the drug company's profit there, they went further. Medicare belongs to you. Medicare is paid by the taxpayer. Medicare is a taxpayer-funded program to keep seniors out of poverty. And we want to lower the cost to seniors, right? It's common sense. But when given the opportunity to do that, this president made it illegal for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is go out and bulk purchase drugs so we could lower the taxpayers' bill and lower the cost to seniors. It is wrong to make it illegal to lower the cost of tax and lower the cost to seniors.
Hilarious. But in a good way. I think you could argue that it actually demonstrates an agile mind at work- a mind agile enough that it actually causes him problems with presentation of ideas. I can sympathize with that, as a director it's something I fight within myself on a daily basis.
The Station Agent is a thoroughly alright movie. It's a lowkey pleasure, the kind that doesn't start rants and raves on its behalf (like mine of, for example, Huckabees or Abe's writing earlier on this site about Asian cinema), but it is certainly a good rental. Peter Dinkledge and Patricia Clarkson give particularly good performances and, as Jack says in the comments, the movie lets the camera be a part of the story telling, instead of just a recorder of a story.
The movie's lack of greatness, or even lack of real impact on me as a viewer can probably be traced back to how underwritten it is. This is a movie that perfers the long pause, the lengthy cinematic moment to let you into its world. This is all fine and good by me; I think, for example, that Fargo does the less-dialogue-more-visual storytelling thing brilliantly... sometimes I think all the lines in that movie could fit on one cocktail napkin if you wrote in a small enough font. The original Swedish film of Insomnia is filled with haunting shots of Stellan Skarsgard standing against a wall doing.... nothing....The problem with The Station Agent is that, unlike the Coen's et al. writer-director Thomas McCarthy doesn't really have anything to say beyond "this guy is lonely", "this guy is bored", "this gal is despondent", "this is all torpor". Nor do these pauses give us real moments of reflection (as they would in, say, a Pinter play) because there so little content in the film to reflect upon.
In films that use the silent treatment well, the pause either sets something up or stands in sharp contrast to something else. In The Station Agent they stop doing either by about halfway through the movie. At this point, McCarthy is repeating himself and it is not until some action finally gets going during the last fifteen minutes that the film again begins to do anything new to you.
Having gone a bit down the rabbit hole with my kvetching, let me again reiterate that this does not keep The Station Agent from being worth watching. It is still a small semi-precious stone, especially helped by good acting and a delightful and whimsical score by Stephen Trask. When it falters, it stumbles for the old fashioned indy-film problem: poor pacing.
Yaron of "Daily Lunch" and myself and having a bit of a row over in the comments section to my post "Oh and to follow up". You can find the links to that debate in the right had column. I felt like it was getting to the point where it was time for me to actually write a post about what we're talking about. Our argument is pretty much over whether the Cheney's treatment of their daughter is homophobic or shows pride in a gay child and via this what the hell did John Kerry mean in the segment of the debate where he mentioned that she was a lesbian.
Let's now go over to media matters where you can see, via their comments attempting to "defend" Mary Cheney, exactly what this party stands for:
1) Pat Buchanan compares John Kerry mentioning Mary Cheney's lesbianism to pointing out to someone who is pro-life that their daughter has had an abortion. Rush Limbaugh also compared the two.
2) Tucker Carlson compared her lesbianism to adultery
3) Fox & Friends co-host E.D. Hill compared lesbianism to alcoholism
4) Mike Gallagher, radio host and frequent guest on Fox, compared it to obesity.
Listen to what these people are saying... what they're saying is that Mary Cheney's gayness is something to be ashamed of, and by Kerry mentioning it, he's brought shame on the Cheney family.
If the Cheney's were actually supportive of their daughter, this would be the point for one of them to say, "um, no, conservaties, you got that wrong too. It's not that we're ashamed, we just feel like Kerry shouldn't go around talking about our family all of the time". But they won't. In fact, they're using this idea that her lesbianism is shameful too in order to score political points. What exactly are they so ticked about, the Cheneys? This is what Kerry said:
We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.
There's nothing mean, homophobic or crass in this comment. It's only mean, homophobic or crass if you think lesbianism is something to be ashamed of. Which , via their actions, the Cheneys have shown they think.
But let's assume, for a second that I'm wrong. There is a second criticism to be laid, which is that they are proud of her, secretly, but publicly use her when convenient and ditch her when not. This gets to the heart of personal convictions vs. political convictions and whether or not there is a difference. To which I say... aren't your political convictions outgrowths of your personal ones? And here is where I must turn my critical eye towards John Kerry. Kerry's stance on abortion is incoherent, if you stop and think about it. It goes something like this:
1) I am a devout Catholic
2) Because I am a devout Catholic, I believe that life starts at conception
3) However, I also respect that not everyone believes that and that thus we need to give people the freedom to operate under their beliefs
4) This is why I am pro-choice but personally opposed to abortion.
(again, preface this with I'm staunchly pro-choice) It's something along those lines, anyway, it's bullshit. If Kerry really believes life begins at conception how can he stand by and let people kill babies like that? Honestly.
Ah, what to say about Team America; World Police? It's hard to respond to a movie like this, but let me go ahead and try...
A few weeks before the release of Team America, Trey Parker and Matt Stone gave an interview in the New York Times in which they explained, amongst other things, that they were very lazy, did not enjoy stretching themselves, and that in Team America, they were working out how they feel about the subject of America's place in the world on the fly, while rewriting the script and trying to figure out how to work in the oevre of puppetry.
What emerges on the screen is what, in the theater world, would be deemed "a successful workshop"... you can see what works and what doesn't and if you were the director, you'd know where to take it from there. It is not, however, that great a final product. As sometime guest blogger and fellow Rapid Responder Rob Grace pointed out to me, it's a good first draft of a better final product. The individual set pieces of the film work very well, but with some restructuring and some rewriting the piece could really come alive.
I'm going to focus for a bit on the demerits of the film before getting around to the positives, of which I think there are many, it's just that the individual set-pieces that are brilliant are hard to talk about without ruining the film, while a broader conversation about satire is possible based on its faults.
Parker and Stone have benefitted greatly from success. They can do whatever the hell they want (within some limits, I suppose) and they frequently do. What follows from this is that their artistic output is like a little window into their brains. And here we see, as we do occasionally in South Park, two quite lazy ill-informed people trying to write a satire without really bothering to do their homework.
The main problem of the film extends from the idea that Parker and Stone were trying to figure out how they feel about American foreign policy while writing and filming the movie. It shows. This places the film in sharp contrast to South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut which paired a satirical exploration of freedom of expression in America with an extended parody of the musical genre. Team America is doing a similar pairing-- a satirical exploration of US foreign policy paired with an extended parody of the action film.
The problem is that Trey Parker and Matt Stone knew a lot about the state of freedom of expression in America, because they had been at the forefront of the issue for years. They knew it, they understood it, they knew how they felt about it, and because of this they wre able to construct a hilarious satire of both the left (in the guise of Sheila Broslovsky) and the right (in the guise of the rampant militarism and racism of the US armed forces) and how they respond to issues of freedom of speech vs issues of violence. In the middle we had our four little dirty-mouthed civil libertarians, wondering who would listen to them.
It worked brilliantly. The South Park film remains one of the great film comedies of my lifetime. You could teach a class based on it.
In Team America, Stone and Parker are working so hard at making marionettes work and figuring out exactly what they think that they can't really bother to form an accurate satire of the issue they're discussing. This becomes apparent in the second half of the film, when the movie takes a sharp turn rightward and becomes a particularly vicious satire of the Hollywood Left.
Look, the Hollywood Left could use some satirizing, don't get me wrong. They've done plenty of stupid shit and they can get what's coming to them, but what's coming to them is not portraying Michael Moore as a fat suicide bomber... if you want to mock Michael Moore, mock him for opposing using force even for protecting people against genocide. Similarly, when the Hollywood Liberals join forces with Kim Jong Il to start a peace conference, I couldn't help but be reminded of the fact that it was the anti-Iraq-war left that argued for a tougher stance towards North Korea and the pro-war Right that argued for leaving Korea alone and going after Saddam Hussein.
This is too bad because their knee-jerk hatred of an American Left that only exists in Republican Party fantasy doesn't lead to particularly funny or insightful places for the film.
Where they go right in the satire is when trying to provide a justification for the way the United States behaves in the world and how they portray the dilemmas Americans go through as we grow more and more comfortable with our power. I may not agree with the conclusion they draw, but they still managed to do with a surprising amount of nuance and understanding.
I would still absolutely recommend seeing the film. Besides the fact that its spirited defense of the status quo of a US foreign policy I am opposed to made the more sense coming out of a marionette's mouth than it ever has out of any of our politicians, the parodies of the action film genre are hilarious. Absolutely brilliant. From the deconstructionist gestures involving the marionette conceit (my favorite being the housecats used as wild panthers) to the brilliant Rent parody (title song: Everyone Has AIDS) to the song that tells us that " I miss you/ More than Michael Bay missed the mark/ when he made Pearl Harbor", Team America knows American pop culture well and can mock it mercilessly. If only Parker and Stone had bothered to bring the same amount of insightfulness to their critique of American discourse, it would be a truly great work of comedy.
Nicholson Baker has made a lot of news these days with his new dialogue novel Checkpoint. Pretty much everyone in the literary world has read, and had a reaction to, the New York Times Book Review's odious hatchet job. For a good response, I would recommend picking up this month's Believer are reading Rick Moody's sentence by sentence close reading of the review of Checkpoint.
In it, Moody says that Baker has written three bonafide "masterpieces". The first one of these he lists in Baker's first novel, written in the mid 1980's, The Mezzanine. While I might hesitate before calling The Mezzanine a masterpiece it is, on a level of pure style at least, fascinating work.
For those of you who don't know, The Mezzanine tells, in 135 pages and a collection of footnotes ranging from one sentence to two pages long, the journey of one man through a door, across a lobby, and up an escalator. Sound gimmicky? Sure, to paraphrase how the New York Times Book Review put it in the 80's, much of great fiction is made up of the "gimmick" novel (Tristam Shandy, for example, or Ulysses or, I would argue, The Sound And The Fury).
Anyway, the reason to read The Mezzanine is certainly not the story, it is both our narrator Howie's attention to and neurosis around the quotidian details of every day life and the portrait of a man, a time, a mindset that emerges. For The Mezzanine isn't about walking down the street, nor is about the brilliant and hilarious observations that emerge vis-a-vis shoe laces, drinking straws, band-aids, vinyl records, men's room etiquette, vending machines or footnotes themselves, it is about a sense of loss a sense of nostalgia, a sense of being void and filling that void with objects and details of our day-to-day lives.
It is through this sense of loss (nothing in Howie's world is compared favorably to how it was a decade ago) and this sense of void that Nicholson Baker actually has constructed a social novel that gives an account of our times, or at least of the 1980's, where what matters most, what a man would decide to set down in his memoirs, is shoe-laces, straws, records things.
This is not to say that The Mezzanine is easy going. It's not. It may, in fact, be one of the densest books I've read in a long long time. Besides the shear quantity of information and number of digressions (often, as it jumps back and forth in time, you may find yourself wondering exactly how Howie's progress up the escalator is going), it is also in consistency of town. Like Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, Baker has so brilliantly and consistenty captured his character's voice that reading the book becomes harder rather than easier because of it. The tone pretty much never varies. If the book were longer than 135 pages long, it would be impossible to finish. Indeed, I know many people who loved the book but put it down around page 75, figuring that they had had enough.
The other thing that makes the book hard going is that it has been so influential. Baker is not the first person to focus on the little details of our world, nor is he the first author to use footnotes in fiction, but stylistically the way he's combined all of this has clearly rubbed off on our social novelists of today, like Franzen, Foster Wallace even (I would argue) AM Holmes and more pop-culturish novelists like Palahniuk. (for example, I would imagine that in 198whatever doing a footnote about footnotes would've seemed hilarious and groundbreaking where when I encountered it I was like, "ah yes, of course, the post-modern gesture in the midst of this very postmodern book" and while finidng it entertaining, was not blown away or anything).
So if you get a little bored, I completely understand. Howie is a thoroughly boring individual (like the Butler in Remains of the Day), even though his thoughts and neurosis are so similar to our own and spending 135 pages with him can be tough going, especially if you try to swallow more than about 10 pages a day/sitting I will bet the same will happen to you. I almost gave up reading it a couple of times, but am glad I did not. If you decide to give up fifty pages in, may I recommend that you instead flip to and read the last couple of chapters. Here, tonally and stylistically, the book really begins to soar, and lilke a great piece of music reaches a resounding and satisfying conclusion based on themes teased throughout the work. It is these final chapters that redeem the slow going in the middle and will leave you feeling greatful for, rather than resentful of the slog.
So Somehow with all the rehearsin' and the newspaper readin' and the fussin' and the feudin' and the stuff and the thing, I have managed to find time to take in some culture and absolutely fail to write about it over the past couple of weeks. Besides I Heart Huckabees which I already wrote about here, I also saw Team America: World Police and, on DVD The Station Agent, finished reading Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine and watching The Civilians' new show Nobody's Lunch at P.S. 122.
I will have posts up responding to these over the next day or two.
I'll start with Nobody's Lunch. Now once again, I said I wasn't going to do reviewing on this site, and it would be stupid of me to try with The Civilians, a company of worked with twice and love very dearly. I will say that I liked Nobody's Lunch and I thought it did a good job of expanding their goofy, interview-based aesthetic into much darker directions, and instead offer for you why you should check out their work:
For those of you who don't know The Civilians, they take the verbatim theater aesthetic, mix it with some Joint Stock, and turn it all on its head. The company develops shows by conducting interviews based on whatever topic the show will be about (in Gone Missing, lost objects for example). The interviews are with an enormous range of people. They conduct the interviews without taking notes or recording them, and then after the interviews are over create monologues that attempt to capture the person artistically rather than literally or realistically, if that makes sense. Pieces of the monologues are then assembled with originaly (and delightful!) music by Michael Friedman and wham you have a show.
It might be important to note that not all of their shows are like this, but the majority of them at this point are. Of the three, Nobody's Lunch is easily the darkest and the most overtly political. The show is about how we come to know what we know. In other words... where do we get our information from? How are our opinions formed? What is fear and where does it come from? etc. The interviews range from an interdimensional being channelled by a psychic (who tells us that we are being harvested like cattle and fear is what a race called the Anokhi feed on "just like in Monsters Inc."), to a woman who as a young girl was inducted ino a group therapy cult, to everyone named Jessica Lynch who will talk to them.
What I love about the Civilians is that they remind us that we are human. By portraying other humans with grace (and laughter), they rip through out alienation for about ninety minutes.
Like I said, I'm not here to review Nobody's Lunch. If I was, here's the point where I'd start leveling my criticisms at it (which I do, of course, have). But instead, let me just say that having seen a lot of their work, having them take a darker direction with this piece (And a sadder one as well) is a pretty bold development of an aesthetic I think most people would assume is better suited for comedy. I entered Nobody's Lunch expecting a similar emotional experience to Gone Missing, namely, to laugh my ass off and then to find myself profoundly, inexplicably moved in the last 15 minutes or so. Instead, I found myself having a much more varied emotional and intellectual reaction, laughing one minute, angry the next, almost crying at one point, bored for a couple of minutes, laughing again etc. It is rare that I have such a diverse set of reactions when seeing a play, and it makes it tough to process. Good food for thought then, I suppose...
Okay, so I'm late to the party, but I've been rehearsing. if you've not heard about Jon Stewart's recent appearance on Crossfire, well, it must be seen to be believed. Or at least read. But it's better seen (it'll take you less time to watch it if you have a fast interweb connection).
Anyway, go here for the transcript.
Go here to watch it for PCs
or go here to watch it for Macs.
My favorite part is when he proves that Crossfire = Theater because Tucker Carlson is wearing a bowtie.