Did any of you get a chance to listen to Jonathan Lethem on Leonard Lopate talking about plagarism? Any reactions? Thoughts? I'll probably be posting my own response later...
What other writers do you consider your greatest influences?
What non-writer artists or cultral artifacts (painters, films, cartoons, whatever) do you consider your greatist influences?
Okay, so... listening to the audio of the Biden quote, it's clear that it is mis-punctuated and thus might appear more racist than it really is. You can get audio here.
My analysis? Still highly problematic although perhaps not crossing the "racist" line. Still, the idea that (as one TPM reader said) there's "no gotcha here" is incorrect. What you have is a politician with a long record for making racially insensitive remarks making a racially insensistive remark about someone in his own party in the hopes of bettering his own chances of winning the Presidency. That's a story, and that's a problem.
Let me also just add that, even getting the punctuation correct, Biden is still factually off base by listing Obama as the first mainstream African American. Even assuming he means "Presidential Candidate" (which he probably is)... Jesse Jackson was a mainstread Democratic African American Presidential Candidate who got a larger percentage of primary voters than Joe Leiberman (supposedly the hallmark of the mainstream) did in 2004. So Biden is both racially insensitive and ignorant of recent Presidential election history. Does that really sound like someone you want running to be the standard bearer of your party?
UPDATE: As always, Digby has some great thoughts here.
Frequently when I have been discussing musicals I haven't liked recently (and specfically the songs contained therein) people have said to me:
Well, you need to see/hear it more than once
Which seems the lamest of lame excuses. No piece of performance should need to be experienced more than once to be at least minor-league rewarding. Albums and books needing to be reexperienced, great, I'm with ya on that one. Films? Maybe. But the idea that a live event should be experienced more than once before you "get it" is upsetting to me and somewhat hostile to the audience.
Of course, seeing an event more than once will give you a deeper understanding of it, as would buying the soundtrack and listening to it before seeing it. But the idea that that is your duty as an audience member has the equation exactly backwards. A well-written show will reveal itself in new and entertaining layers as you get progressively further into it.
This doesn't mean that musicals need to be filled with "pretty" songs or need to pander. I simply think that (like plays!) they should be written with the expectation that the audience has never heard it and will never hear it again.
My gut feeling about all of this is that no musical theatre writer would actually write a musical intending for it to take multiple listens for the audience to get something out of it. Someone saying to me that I need to experience it more than once is simply an elaborate Argument from Authority. The whole point is that I don't know enough to be able to critically evaluate it, and therefore my contrary opinion about the show is completely invalid. It is, like most arguments, about the egos of the people arguing, rather than the thing being argued.
Oh and PS: I'm over the writer's block. I wrote four essays today. It's like going from constipation to shitting your pants.
A question for our international brethern and sisteren:
How much attention do you pay to US Presidential politics? Do you know who John Edwards and Barack Obama are? Has this changed since the War in Iraq started?
Writer's block continues, so the questions must arise. This one is for the theatre peoples, and its a practical question:
Producers: How much did you pay/do you usually pay your actors? Designers? Directors? Playwrights?
Actors/Designers/Directors/Playwrights: How much do you routinely get paid?
(note: please feel free to answer the question anonymously, but if you do, please tell us where you are writing from)
Pardon the profanity, but this shit really pisses me the fuck off.
Not content to defend his appeal in the South by insisting that Delaware was a slave state, Joe Biden (D- Assholia) now thinks this is the way to compliment Barack Obama:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
Articulate? Clean? Nice-looking? Right... because (sarcasm) historically, "mainstream" African-Americans are dirty, ugly, meanspirited stupid people who talk like characters out of Amos 'n' Andy.
Never mind that historically African Americans weren't in the mainstream because they were, you know, trying to fight for equal rights which was (and continues to frequently be) a non-mainstream position because of slave-state politicos like yourself, Mr. Biden.
Just goes to show you, the Republicans may have Macaca Allen, but they don't have a monopoly on racist politicians.
Please tune your today at 12pm Noon to WNYC where author Jonathan Lethem will talk about why plagarism is a-o-k. I think that's the Leonard Lopate show. Anyway, Jonathan recently wrote a brilliant article on it for Harper's and if the ongoing conversation here at Parabasis about intellectual property law and creativity has been interesting to you, I heartily recommend checking it out, considering he has been a major catalyst of those writings.
I have writer's block. 48 hours before a major application is due.
I apologize dear reader, for the silence.
I do not, however, have reader's block... so let me ask you all a question for the comment threads:
What do you do when you are creatively blocked? What methods do you use to get unblocked?
(note: I'm not really looking for advice, as everyone's process for unblockage will be different and personal, I'm just interested in the topic)
Thanks in advance!
Check out this interview with Lee Hazelwood, one of the best god-damn American singer songwriters ever. Not only did Hazlewood revolutionize rock by inventing Duane Eddy's singnature twang, he also wrote These Boots Are Made For Walkin". And this interview may be his last. He has very severe renal cancer and isn't expected to live to see 2008.
Prompted by a comment in a post below, I need to ask you all something. Ever since I was in college, I've heard phrases expressing a sentiment something along the lines of... the director's job is interpretive rather than creative. Or... the writer is the creative artist, the director is the interpretive artist. etc.
I was going to write a post today saying that I thought that was compelte hogwash and then I realized... I'm not sure I really understand what that even means. It seems to be one of those maxims that people repeat, but I'm not sure what they mean when they say it.
So I guess my question(s) is(are) something along the lines of:
What is the difference between a creative and interpretive artist? What does "interpretive artist" mean? How is directing interpretive? How is it not creative?
Any help would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to post a post disregarding an idea when I have no real clear grasp on the idea to begin with!
See as Television Without Pity's write ups of Battlestar Galactica have gotten shockingly purple of late, I thought I might post a few thoughts on last night's episode. Since this is all-spoilers, all-the-time, I'm publishing the rest after the jump.
Urbaniak joins the ani-D'Souza chorus of the NYC Theatre Blogosphere. He is responding to D'Souza's almost-hilarious self-defense in the Washington Post an article which, if I have time, I might Fisk tomorrow. But I have more on intent to write, not to mention like 340 essays for The Drama League applications.
Meanwhile, there are a number of newsworthy theatrical and cultural events happening in January and February, which have become a new opportunity for smaller scale work to flex its muscles before the TONY season. What with Under the Radar, Target Margin's mini-season, Richard Foreman's opening, Decasia, that Belgian play everyone seems to be talking about etc. I'm sure that it's pretty goddamn easy to find something to write an article about.
Just to really quickly expand on the idea that the script is created semi-individualistically, because I realized that point might not be clear:
We're never alone. Even sitting in our rooms, plugging away at Microsoft Word, we are still relating with the history of the art form, with works we have seen recently, with artists who form our influences, and with various institutions such as Theater, Family, Religion, Representative Democracy etc. The idea that one can ever truly be separate from all of this is, in my view, incorrect. Talk of the Walk-Up is one voice in a conversation that includes everything from Shakespeare to Chuck Jones to society's view of the family. Dan was only alone when writing it in the most literal, corporeal sense of the word.
Are there particular things about the writers as individuals? Yes, of course, but the art we make is also in part created by society at learge, our friends, our colleagues, our loves, the books we read, the plays we see, the music we sing, the moves we dance, the ads we watch etc. All of those things involve other people.
UPDATE Rereading this, I see a need to clarify... It takes inordinate skill and talent to take this conversation through culture, with society, and with history and to make anything resembling good art out of it. I do not have these skills. Playwrights do. That is the part that is the individual. And I value and respect that a great deal.
I'm mad at Mac Rogers. Not because of what he wrote in this great post, but rather because I wish he posted more often! Damnit, Mac! POST! MORE! OFTEN! Mac's site was the third theatre blog I ever read, and I miss his wit, passion and articulateness.
In response to what Mac's written about the scary theoretical me vs. the menchy practical me, I want to write to expand on some of my thoughts about authorial intent and why I find it so problematic.
The first reason (that I want to addresss in this post) the primary reason I find it so problematic has nothing immediate to do with the writer or with the director, but rather with theatre itself. I believe in groups. I believe that groups have their own character that is different from the inidividuals that make them up. I think reducing a group to the individuals in that group is a mistake, and denies a group its power. Theatre is a social art, and creating theatre is a social act. I believe the individuals come together from their various roles to engage in an act of group creativity.
Authorial Intent can be a mechanism by which we deny the group its power and its responsiblity. The other biggee is Directorial Intent, which is just as problematic. I'm going to write in extremes for a moment here, because it's easier, so bear with me: I used to think the director's job was to have all the answers. The actor asks a question, the director answers it, those answers get put on stage. This is a fairly conventional way of viewing the director's job, and it's a very individualistic way of going about it.
I'm not really interested in doing that anymore-- I find it exhausting, I find that it creates boring, deadly theatre (at least when I do it), and I think it denies the creativity of your collaborators. So now I'm more interested in thinking about-- and constantly tinkering with-- process, to help enable the group to create both the questions and some possible answers.
That group process needs to be oriented towards the group, not towards the individuals. So, if the point of that group process is figuring out the author's intent and putting it on stage, we're not doing out job right.
A practical example from the show (and a moment when I knew Dan and I would work well together). There's a point when Pumpkin has to admit to setting fires that she didn't set. It's never explained why she does this, but she does. The actors were asking about that moment. Dan I talked about it privately. What we both agreed is that what matters is that Heather had a coherent reason (or could appear as if she had a coherent reason) for taking the fall, not what the reason was. Dan, Heather and I all had different reasons for it (I still don't know, actually, what her reason was, I believe firmly in mystery as part of the process of creation). Now, if Heather felt like she had to create Dan's answer (or Isaac's answer) to that question on stage, we've put the period at the end of a sentence, and the possibility for creation ends there.
I want to try to provoke better questions so that we can answer them collectively.
Part of the bizarreness of creating script-based theatre is that the script itself is created through a semi-individual creative process, and then this individually-created object is used as the basis for a collaborative process. Navigating this transition is difficult. Collaborating with the text and the writer is difficult, and it must be done with the utmost love and respect. What a writer intended when writing the script is very important, to the extent that it is knowable. It's just not the be-all and end-all of art-making.
And neither is what the director wants when they are coming from an individual standpoint. Directors are often given way too much power in the rehearsal process, and that they often abuse that power, and on behalf of the profession, I'd like to apologize to those writers who have to deal with shitty, powerhungry directors. Forgive us, we know not what we do.
This is the somewhat-tangential question I have based on Mark's post about the new play development panel:
What makes for a good public reading?
Practically, ethically, philosophically, from whatever perspective, please feel free to chime in.
I'm still reeling from last night's performance of Talk of the Walk-Up, the drinking that followed, the good times had by all etc. So I'm taking the day off from BlogLand. Thanks to everyone who came out to see the show, to everyone who made the show possible, to our many friends in the blogosphere who helped publicize it, and especially to Dan, Patrick, Sandy, Mac, Heather, Jim, Betsy, Scott, Daryl and Ronica for being so wonderful to work with and work for.
In the meantime, I recommend you read this article from Matt Yglesias about the multivarious hypocrisies and duplicities the anti-anti-semitism lobby, and this article from Mark Armstrong reporting back from the "development hell" panel hosted by David Cote. Sorry I didn't put a shout out to it here on the blog before hand guys, I've been a little swamped.
See you tomorrow.