Monday, May 31, 2010

Parabasis Bait

Okay, I may not be as big a comic book fan as the folks at Parabasis, but I have come up with an absolute law of where superheros come from. Can any of you guys think of counter examples?

  • Some heroes are born super (X-Men, Superman)
  • Some heroes achieve superiority (Batman)
  • And others have superiority thrust upon them by radioactivity (Spiderman, the Hulk)
  • or when their body is cybernetically rebuilt after an accident (Iron Man, Robocop)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pragmatic Aesthetics I: Goal-Based Art

I threatened a while back to start articulating the aesthetic theories that I'm working with, that I spent the last of my college days refining.

The motivating force behind this development was when, in my freshman year, Karen Finley stood in front of all of us and declared that because there was no right or wrong in art, there was no need to study form, and that we were all wasting our time studying art. This was after an enraging performance of The Passion of Terry Schaivo that raised every hackle in my artistic soul.

The Experimental Theater Wing was definitely born out of that post-modernist moment of "What is art?" and constantly asking the question of where we draw the line. I knew that I, personally, had some impressions of what art should and shouldn't be, a critical frame, but I had no way to articulate it that was non-arbitrary.

My first strong sense about this aesthetic realm is that just because the rules are not absolute does not mean that they are arbitrary. The core assumption, so far as I could suss, of a lot of post-modernists is that since truth is relative, we therefore create it in each moment. But I don't believe that the first part leads to the second part necessarily.

So I went in search of some philosophical language that addressed how to talk about something which is relative but not arbitrary, and I fell on William James' Pragmatism like manna in the desert. His prime assumption, which is that "philosophy is rules for action" was a needed bearing. Why do we criticize and theorize? Not simply so that we can diss artists we hate and prop up artists we like. It's so that we can make better art. In other words, aesthetics help us make choices that make our artwork better.

What's better, then? I spent four years in search of what "better" means in the realm of art. This "better" is where the relativity lives.

I thought about it for a while, and I slowly came to the conclusion that there's two separate issues; there's the goal that the artist has in mind for the created work (which is a truly individual and moral choice), and how well the work accomplishes that goal. Based on the goal that the artist wants to fulfill, there are some clear rules for which choices will be more or less effective. They are relative -- relative to the artist's context, relative to the artist's goal -- but they are not arbitrary.

Because of the goal, the efficacy becomes measurable. Any rule stated about a created work should be able to predict success within a certain context; success and its context is defined by the goal.

Now, each created work accomplishes its own individual work. But if it is a work of culture, there is one common function it performs, whether it be an advertisement, a twitter feed, a play, or a blog post. The function of culture is to form a bridge between the creator(s) and the audience member(s) to convey some piece of knowledge or experience. This is how we gain knowledge and experiences without being there firsthand.

Now, what knowledge or experiences will we, the audience, want of the creator? This is where we return to Pragmatism as James put it: we will value the knowledge or experiences that help us live our lives in the way we want to live it. To put another way, we will value the knowledge or experiences that help us make effective choices in our own lives. These are knowledge or experiences that help us make accurate predictions about the world around us, so that our choices will be more effective.

So, to recap:
  1. The point of an aesthetic is to provide a means for making effective choices.
  2. Each work should have a goal with measurable success conditions.
  3. The aesthetic choice within the work is valuable to the degree that it helps achieve the goal.
  4. The function of culture is to transmit knowledge or experiences between creator(s) and audience member(s).
  5. The knowledge or experiences that the audience will value are those that help make accurate predictions about the world they live in.
Alright, that's the nut basics of pragmatic aesthetics, my attempt to use pragmatic philosophy to create a critical language for the arts. I'm hoping to lengthen my thesis into a book on the subject, which goes into more depth about the principles above and goes into more.

Anyways, the whole point of this was I have some posts I'm going to be working on that are critical responses to other works, and this is the groundwork I'm working in.

Sense of Community II: Aren't We The Social Media?

Thanks to Isaac, I'm now following Antenna, a TV blog, and this sentence caught my eye:
I find myself more eager to watch “live” TV these days and one big reason why is the social experience of watching along with everyone else on the internet.
The larger, RTWT argument is that while Tivo, Roku, and Hulu push us towards a private, disengaged TV-watching at your own pace, the phenomenon of TVittering (Twittering along with your TV) predisposes you to watching TV communally, at the same time. It creates a sense of community around the television.

Theater people: be afraid.

Seriously, isn't "sense of community" supposed to be the thing that we, in the theater, offer that television could never offer? But if I think about the social connection that social media offers people even when they're sitting alone, and compare that to the sitting-in-the-dark-cellphones-off environment of most theater experiences today, I have to ask: when did theater stop being a social media?

When I was in the Czech Republic, I noticed that the reason I find Opera boring today is because in each opera the characters go through three steps:
  1. They sing about what is about to happen.
  2. They sing about what is happening.
  3. They sing about what just happened.
The over-narration seems absurd. But it was explained to me, while I was there, that opera was not something that people sat and watched. They milled around, talked with each other, walked in and out for food, and occasionally tuned in when the music was good and asked, "What's going on right now?" And of course, they'd know, because no matter where you are in the plot, someone in the plot is explaining the plot to you through the song.

Rock concerts still have that vibe -- you certainly go and piss or get a drink whenever you want to, you don't worry about missing some key musical point. And whatever Spring Awakening may say about being like a rock concert, I bet most of their audience is spending most of the time sitting quietly in the dark looking at the stage. If you make too much noise, Denzel Washington might stare you down.

What are we going to do to make theater a social media again? I don't mean creating a community around theater, I mean creating a community in theater -- during theater, participating in theater? Or is even Television going to beat us at sharing an experience with our fellow man?

Pitching Arts to Conservatives III

I presumed that, in the previous post, comparing the percentage of arts money spent per state to the state's percentage of the population would give a clue into whether or not the stimulus spending was in proportion to population. Ian Thal, in the comments, asked about the numbers per capita, and I assumed it would reflect the same imbalance.

Using the Wall Street Journal's helpful widget (which I wish I'd found last night), I looked up the amount of money dispersed to the arts in the Stimulus Bill:

Of course, they reflect two different pools of numbers; this diagram above is the stimulus bill; what I was looking at last night was a break down of just the music education. Also, the WSJ doesn't show their work (the raw numbers it is taken from).

When I have a little bit more time, I'm going to play around with the raw numbers at the NEA site and see if the per capita really does match the evenness above, and if it is in fact individual disciplines that vary from state to state. Also, I'll see if I can track down the numbers for the NEA's regular funding, not the stimulus bill, and see whether the stimulus bill is representative of NEA spending in general.

I made the mistake of using a data set that confirmed what I already believed to be true about the NEA. My apologies.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Change II: Can David Beat Goliath?

So, people are angry at Facebook. Honestly, I looked at the updated privacy controls today, and I have trouble understanding what the hubbub is all about. I don't put anything on my Facebook that I consider to be private, and most of the content is pretty easily put into Friends Only mode. I feel like the same hubbub came up when Google's algorithms started pitching me ads based on what I wrote in emails or was searching for, but I find it difficult to get my ire up.

That being said, if people want to protect their information, their only real choice is to quit Facebook. And honestly, at this point, Facebook is deeply embedded in my life. I hire actors by going through my list of friends on Facebook sometimes; I find about a majority of my friends' events on Facebook; I keep in touch with people I would have lost touch with all the time on Facebook and it often amounts to big stuff.

Some people, however, are determined to leave Facebook, but to create their own. And these people are four NYU students behind a project called Diaspora, and the many many people who appear to have donated (including, allegedly, Mark Zuckerberg himself -- maybe he's hoping to appropriate it later, like Toyota's part-ownership of Tesla).

Diaspora isn't even done yet, but it is an interesting question -- when it is ready, what will it take to shift the vast majority of users from Facebook to Diaspora? New social networks have, at times, been able to create themselves in the face of larger, more connected social networks (Friendster to Myspace; Myspace to Facebook). The question is, can Diaspora leverage its advantages over Facebook in the face of Facebook's ultimate advantage: its existing community?

It's interesting to see whether it is possible, or whether this will also fall prey to the same individual-lethargy-to-action as Move Your Money did (which I wrote about here).

Oh No, Does This Mean Another "Off"?

Michael Feingold, in Village Voice (h/t Playgoer), has this to say about Broadway/Off-Broadway:
New York theatergoers, in effect, no longer possess Broadway as a venue for seeing plays; it belongs to the ultra-rich and the tourist trade. This puts Off-Broadway's nonprofit institutions in an awkward situation. They would like to take risks, to test works that are untried and perhaps unready, to let novice writers and directors spread their wings and perhaps fall flat on their faces. But their own ticket prices, like their expenses, go up every year. Their audience—the dedicated New York audience that, in decades past, used to check out new Broadway shows from the cheap seats—demands the satisfaction of a fully achieved work. Prestige-hungry boards of directors and hit-hungry commercial producers waving enhancement dollars hover over their season planning. The pressure is endless, the time available for pondering nil, the situation wholly untenable. No wonder such theaters produce many more mishaps than triumphs.
I don't exactly see how this is "untenable." Right now, there's a shift in Off-Broadway towards the same sort of slick, commercialism and popularity that Broadway has to offer, only at prices that New Yorkers can afford; the same, but for local audiences. Ken Davenport and his works are a pretty good example of this, and you can see the effect of this in the fact that Broadway hits are testing out the idea of moving Off-Broadway, rather than the other way around; Avenue Q did, and so did 39 Steps.

As demand for fully-realized Off-Broadway works increase, the barrier to entry Off-Broadway will increase. Pretty soon some pretty good companies Off-Off-Broadway won't be able to get "Off-Broadway." So they'll create their own venues. And then there'll be a division between Off-Off-Broadway and the real amateurs. So we'll call it Off-Off-Off-Broadway. It'll take place in Battery Park -- so Downtown that it's almost in the Atlantic.

Anyways, my point is that this is the process that birthed Off-Broadway to begin with, and then birthed Off-Off Broadway. And if the persistent decrease in Broadway's audience continues, one day we might just decide that Off-Broadway is just Broadway, that the old Broadway can be put to death, and everyone will pull one of the "Offs" off their business cards.

Pitching Arts to Conservatives II

A while back, I wrote a missive (aimed particularly at Scott Walters) about how to win public support for government arts funding again:
Kingston's stance right now is, the NEA is useless to my district, so it is way easy for me to rag on it. After all, how many people in my district have any connection to or value of the NEA? Why not kick it around? What would I lose?

And if you look at the political math, if the NEA's money is going mostly to large metropolises, then it will be undersupported in the House. And probably the Senate too.
As if on cue, there's been a fight a-brewin' amongst the mainstream blogosphere about New York's status as a cultural capital -- are we snobs and cultural imperialists, or victims of our own success? It started here; if you want to follow the conversation, go read Andrew Sullivan's blog (you have to be already -- how are you not?). Here's the post that stuck out to me, though:
The question to me is not whether centers of power or culture or economy are good or bad, but whether there are appropriate checks and balances on their influence, and whether that influence then results in (cultural/political/economic) growth across the country or whether it simply saps the rest of the country of its resources. Is New York robbing the rest of the country of its art and culture? Probably not. Likely quite the contrary occurs. Wall Street, on the other hand, is a lot more culpable when it comes to our financial situation and the drain bad finance has placed on people on Main Street as it were – and there is certainly a problem with letting one industry, largely centered in one city, become so dominant.
I don't know if New York can be said to rob the rest of the country of its art and culture, but I do think New York can be said to be robbing the rest of the country of its cultural support. Here's a breakdown of the NEA's music grants from the stimulus bill by state:

Almost 25% went to NY and CA. 18% of the population (according to Wikipedia) gets about 31% of the arts funding, and Texas (more populous than NY and with its own strong arts tradition, especially in cities like Austin) is getting about 3% of the funding compared with being 7% of the population. (Interesting to note, by the way, that Illinois is equally out of favor, despite being home to Chicago, part of the"NYLACHI" that Scott's sworn his life to balance against.

Oskar Eustis takes to YouTube!

Via Matthew Freeman, Oskar Eustice announced the Public's 2010-2011 Season:

My only response to this is that Oskar Eustis is a surprisingly poor salesman.

The point of any act of culture, including advertising, is to take knowledge or experience and transfer it to the audience. In this case, the goal of this video-let is to make the audience get the feeling, "Holy Cow! I should go see The Public's new season!"

Do you know how you don't do that? By telling us that the work you're putting forward this season is amazing.

I mean, okay, you can say that here or there, but if you listen to the video, keep track of what percentages of the sentences are unverifiable statements of value. Okay, so Mr. Eustis thinks Gatz is "amazing" and it will make you think that The Great Gatsby is the "greatest American book." Unless I have different tastes from Mr. Eustis. It has happened before.

Instead, the video should have focused us on the facts that might appeal to us about the plays. For instance, take Gatz. I have been praying that someone would stage Gatz in New York (it was shut out for several years because of a straight production of The Great Gatsby. Why? Because Gatz is not a straight production of The Great Gatsby.

Don't tell us that Elevator Repair Service is one of New York's premier downtown company -- tell us about the strange work that they do, and then talk about how their production of Gatz has been on tour all over the world.

So, for instance, here's the Boston Globe on Gatz:
Five years ago, the New York experimental theater group Elevator Repair Service staged an audacious workshop production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby.’’ Not a word of the original text was excised. Every descriptive passage, every evocative detail, every “he said’’ and “she thought’’ was uttered verbatim. The piece, called “Gatz,’’ ran an epic 6 1/2 hours.

In the show, a man in a dreary, dilapidated office begins reading a paperback version of “Gatsby’’ aloud and doesn’t stop until the lives of Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, and Nick Carraway reach their tragic culmination.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’’

The unpublicized workshop became an underground phenomenon, attracting industry luminaries to the Wooster Group’s Performing Garage in SoHo. But before Elevator Repair Service could capitalize on its blazing-hot word of mouth to stage a full-scale production, the Fitz gerald estate put a stop to the workshop and told the company it could not perform the show in New York. The estate was concerned about the impact of “Gatz’’ on a more traditional stage adaptation of the novel that was aiming for Broadway.

Since then, “Gatz’’ has become something of a cult legend, with an aura that oddly echoes the mythology surrounding the enigmatic millionaire at the center of “The Great Gatsby.’’ Elevator Repair Service has mounted the show around the world, including Brussels, Amsterdam, Dublin, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Chicago. But it’s mostly been seen in short, weeklong engagements, for a total of only about 50 performances.
Now, there are some subjective value judgments snuck in there ("underground phenomenon," "blazing-hot word of mouth," or "cult legend"), but predominantly, it is a history of the production that tells you A) why it is not just a straight production of The Great Gatsby, and therefore more interesting (or repellent), and B) why Elevator Repair Service is considered a hot commodity.

I kind of stopped watching the video a little bit into it, because I wasn't getting any particularly interesting vibes off any of the pieces that Mr. Eustis was describing. I focus here on Elevator Repair Service because it was a play I was already excited about, so I knew it could be sold in better terms.

And that's the takeaway, people who need to market their own shows: don't you bother wasting your breath telling me that you think it's going to be an amazing show, or a transformational one, or yadda yadda. Of course you think that. At this point, I largely screen out that sort of information.

Anyways, there you go, Matthew Freeman. One gut-reaction, courtesy of the theaterosphere.

(Note: Aaron Landsman, one of the members of Elevator Repair Service, was a professor of mine and was very helpful in the very early days of me founding my own company. I post this as a disclaimer, but also to tell you to check out what he's up to too -- his project City Council Meeting looks awesome.)

Band of Brothers pt. 3

One last coda to my previous forays into Band of Brothers' representation of World War Two: here's a beautiful aspect to the war that we've forgotten:
Dear Dave,

This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

Symbols: Painful Denotations

RVCBard highlights some epic stupidity (via this one). Yup, that's what racism and ignorance look like. Not much to say that doesn't fall under "WTF" and "Fire Her."

I did notice RVCBard's note at the end:
Now I'm just waiting for the day when "God Hates Fags/Dykes" posters aren't homophobic and hateful, but ironic. Funny, even.
I have to say, personally, one of the greatest mysteries that never got solved for me when I was in Europe is, why is the Swastika a symbol of everything that is evil and hate-filled, and the Hammer and Sickle is just an amusing bauble of a by-gone era? It's not because Hitler was more evil or more crazy than Stalin -- I mean, whether or not one wins over the other, they both concentrate practically lethal amounts of murder, hatred, and paranoia. It's not because of time -- Hitler is more distant in memory than the excesses of the Soviet Union (which was rounding up people and invading nations even until the 1980s.

And I mean, it's the same for me. I must admit that I am not offended by the hammer and sickle -- I have the odd ironic t-shirt.

And it's not the I'm-Jewish-so-Nazism-affects-me-more-directly thing; after all, most of my family was wiped out by the Polish and Russian pogroms, whereas they largely avoided the Holocaust. It's not an American bias either -- in the Czech Republic, you can still buy Soviet hats and military garb, whereas if you tried to find a street vendor to sell you Nazi paraphernalia -- good luck.

I'm at a loss to understand why, universally, swastika = ARGH and hammer/sickle = meh. Was it Gorbachev? Did he mystically rehabilitate the hammer/sickle by letting the USSR end with a whimper rather than a bang?

So I don't know if we'll ever be able to laugh about God Hates Fags. There was a short period where the KKK was supposedly laughed at after being used in a children's radio show of Superman (although Wikipedia is not convinced), but this lady's numb-nutted behavior notwithstanding, a burning cross remains not a punchline.

Of course, with some effort, you can still have a Producers-style laugh at White Supremacy's expense. Here's Esquire quoting Neo-Nazis who endorse Obama:
"White people are faced with either a negro or a total nutter who happens to have a pale face. Personally I’d prefer the negro. National Socialists are not mindless haters."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pragmatic Aesthetics II: Reality Keeps On Knocking

Matt Trueman in the Guardian's theatre blog has an apt criticism for some theater:
Time and again, I find myself watching a production that is a shadow of the show it wants to be. Props and furnishings stand in not for their fictional counterparts, but rather for the props and furnishings that would have been bought had the funds been available. Actors, too, are widely miscast – often the wrong age or physical build – in the hope that we'll see through them to the ideal cast and beyond to the characters. It feels unfair to name and shame, but recent symptomatic examples include an Ikea-heavy noughties living room for a play set firmly in the 90s, fancy-dress maid's uniforms worn by the staff of a glossy five-star hotel, and the fluffy halo and tulle angel-wings combo used as a travelling player's costume, despite the play's 1936 setting.

In short, far too much fringe theatre begs our leniency and forgiveness. To do so, however – to apologise in advance – is inexcusable. Theatre cannot make excuses for itself, no matter how tight its budget or how short its rehearsal process. If materials don't suit the aim, either change the materials or change the aim. Find another way.
When the artist's focus is the work of art itself, then dreaming big may seem like the right strategy. After all, the theater-going audience will, sometimes, suspend their disbelief and use their minds to give you the props, special effects, etc. that you need. They see what you're trying to do, imagine it being done, and see whether they think that would work. And when a play is in development hell, this is an ally; this is what allows a staged reading to attract people's attention to the play's potential.

In play development, the focus of the event is the play itself. And that's why play development workshops and play-readings tend to be an insider thing -- because they're invested enough in arts to want to spend their time watching a play that isn't ready yet.

But for the average audience, they want to be effected, directly. They want the artist to do their own work. And therefore, when you're creating a work for the real audience, not the insiders-there-to-help-you-make-that-work-happen, the focus should be on the effect the play has on the crowd.

If you focus on the goal of the work rather than on the work itself, you will be forced to, rather than gesturing at the solutions you wish you had, think creatively of solutions that still work towards your goal. I get it; you can't set off fireworks in your 99 seat black box. But there are a thousand ways to fill in for that act. You have to choose the one that most effectively works toward the original goal in that moment, rather than the one you think would be most effective when the work is fully realized.

There's no reason why a bare-bones production can't be effective; but if you try to evoke a form you can't fulfill, the audience will simply desire to go see a work that can fulfill its desires. When you present a work to an audience, you're trying to transmit knowledge and experience to them. But in order for that bridge to be formed, they have to trust you. You need to have legitimacy (an idea which is very important to me).

The problem with unfulfilled work is not that it asks the audience to imagine -- you can get a lot out of asking the audience to imagine. The problem is that you ask them to pretend that something is true that isn't; you're asking them to pretend your work is fulfilled. Asking the audience to accept an untruth will make the audience more skeptical of the truth of the other knowledge and experiences you're putting forward.

Jon Stewart once said that the reason he likes Obama is that whether or not they agree on everything, he gets the sense that Obama isn't bullshitting him; "He doesn't tell me that it's not raining when it's clearly raining outside."

Don't tell your audience it's not raining. Given rain, figure out how to make the rain work toward your goal.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Court Commentary: American Needle v. NFL pt. 2

A while back, I mentioned a case, American Needle v. NFL, about whether the NFL constitutes a "trust" if it pools all of the NFL merchandising power together. The issue came down to whether the NFL is its own entity, or whether it is a trust composed of the 32 NFL teams. I also personally wondered, esoterically, whether "Football Merchandise" is considered distinct enough of a market, as opposed to being only one aspect of "Sports Merchandise," but that wasn't the issue before the court.

Although I've rarely been on the same side of issues as the current court (in Comstock I found myself in the same minority as Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia), it was comforting to see that in a 9-0 ruling, the NFL was found to be a trust, and therefore may face legal penalties for restraint of trade.


On the "people who aren't in theater talk about theater" circuit, there's this post by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I was going to be upset by his stance that he hasn't been to the theater in 10 years, but if you read the comments, you'll see that (at least on this post) his readership is pretty theater-literate.

My new goal is to lure TNC to one of my productions.

Abu Mariya

This week's Economist had an article on a Palestinian protest leader in the West Bank named Abu Mariya. The thrust of their article is that both Fatah and Hamas are trying to gain legitimacy by linking themselves to the peaceful protests led by Abu Mariya. Until the Economist article, I hadn't heard of Abu Mariya, who is apparently married to a Jewish-American and is behind a lot of the peaceful protesting we've been seeing in the West Bank. Shouldn't more be done to highlight peaceful leaders such as this one? A high-profile peaceful resistance movement would undermine the hawks on both side--note Hamas members marching along the peaceful protesters, trying to reclaim lost status in the West Bank.

History Channel and Bank of America

I'm watching the History Channel right now, and Bank of America just put an ad out that looked indistinguishable from the History Channel segment that surrounded it -- beginning as a historical bit about how Bank of America supposedly bankrolled recreating our navy. Then they say, "And today, Bank of America continues this tradition today..." and talks about some community work they do.

Unless you're watching with eagle eyes, it will be difficult for you to realize that you've left the History Channel's programming and entered paid advertisement. It's absolutely scummy of the History Channel to allow such an ad to air without flagging the ad clearly as a paid advertisement.

My Mind 5/23 - 5/30

Free Time + Cleaning out my Files = A Rather Busy Post.

How I was keeping my mind clean this week:
How I was keeping my mind fit this week:
Important facts:
Things to watch in the future:
Updates on previous posts:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Parks III: Zoning for Audiences?

I did a little bit of reflection on parks earlier in the month, both about Commissioner Benepe's apparent moves against artists in parks, and on his interview regarding noise. The question that the parks really is facing, which they also faced during the planning for the Washington Square Park "renovations", a problem which we face in the theater too: the question of audience.

Would parks be better served by not trying to make each park all things for all people? What if the local community boards would sit, look at the history and use of each park, and decide, "Okay, Washington Square Park is a park for artists and public congregation. East River Park is a serene and quiet sanctuary." Mark them as such, make the difference in rules clear, and allow people who have different expectations of parks find the parks that they want.

Reviews of Performance Anxiety

My friend Ben Lundberg runs a little group called Orange Hats who create an archive of audience response to shows. They did one for Hamlet previously, and now they've done a great one for Performance Anxiety. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our Sex Lives

Matthew Yglesias has this to say about Elana Kagan, and the firestorm surrounding her:
This strikes me as part of a broader set of questions where I tend to see older straight liberals seeing things one way and gays and younger straight liberals seeing it differently.

When you think about it, the whole reason these “it’s none of your business” situations arise is precisely because facts about your sexual orientation aren’t considered on a par with questions about one’s sex life. Straight people don’t normally discuss our sex lives with casual acquaintances or unknown readers, but we’re expected to over time bring dates to events or make passing reference to current or former partners. It’s when someone doesn’t do that stuff that people begin to wonder if the person is gay.
Oh my god.

I didn't realize...

Faithful readers, I'm looking back in my archives and, well, I don't see any passing references to current or former partners. I haven't been talking about current or former partners in passing with any except my closest friends... I haven't been seen in public lately with a date. I didn't have a date in the audience of any of my most recent shows...

I'm thinking about it, and, well, normally I'd keep this sort of personal information to myself -- I've never denied it, but I haven't been open with this aspect of my life before. I'm not necessarily sure people in my community would approve, actually. But I think it's important for me to come clean, and tell you about something which I thought effects only me, but may actually be a strong part of my identity and influence how I look at the world.


I'm a virgin.

Yes, that's right. There are no current or former partners for me to discuss, and I haven't had any dates lately. I try to keep this to myself because I didn't feel it was relevant to my work as a public figure, but reading Yglesias' post, I realize that my quiet on the subject may have led you all to speculate that I am gay.

I am not gay.

Anyways, sarcasm aside, as one of the small community of people who have retained their virginity past graduating from college, as well as being one of the few who do not drink, and from my unique vantage point of puritanism, I've noticed that what Yglesias is saying about the assumptions people make when you don't participate in the conversation.

Living amongst the college aged, believe you me I've seen entire conversations -- of upwards of an hour -- of people just talking about drinking exploits. Hell, some people make careers of it. Conversations that I am, by definition, excluded from. (I usually break in at some point to say, "And this one time, I had a cup of chamomile that had me slightly peppy for like twenty minutes!")

And that's what people talk about when they mean "peer pressure." Not "HEY YOU SHOULD DRINK THAT BEER" (although I've seen one or two examples of that), but just a culture in which people are expected to have some fun stories about sex or drinking stupidities to prove that they've "been there" and "done that."

If you don't, apparently it is completely fair to wonder about their identity. In Yglesias' context, it is wondering whether they are a closet case, but it applies equally to wondering if they're other things as well. That's the acidic effect of making assumptions.

Band of Brothers pt. 2

Where Is Everyone Else?

I grumbled a little about representation issues last night while I was watching Band of Brothers, and Ian does raise the point that units were segregated at the time, which I was aware of. Last night, however, it just struck me as absurd that the 101st Airborne hasn't run into any of the segregated units. Not even mentioned! Or any Asians; I noticed this because someone was speaking Spanish

Now that I'm thinking about it, though, Band of Brothers focuses on Easy Company of the 101st pretty narrowly in general; D Company is only seen briefly once in the ones I've seen, and that's to steal their commanding officer to bring him to Easy Company. There's one episode where Easy Company rescues a group of British soldiers, but we only actually see the British in one brief scene afterwards. Only in this episode I was watching last night do we see German civilians for the first time.

My father also pointed out the usual American stereotype that concentration camps were filled with nothing but Jews. In Band of Brothers, when they liberate a Jewish work-camp (not a concentration camp), one of the Jews references Poles and Gypsies, but there's no mention of the disabled or homosexuals who were also sent.

Beauty In Tragedy

But of all the stereotypes that I wonder about in Band of Brothers, the one I wound up getting the most fired up about is the stereotype of a group of violinists playing sad string music while sitting on top of the rubble of the town they lived in. There's something about sentimental violin music that makes rampant destruction and chaos seem beautifully necessary.

I haven't figured out what primal itch in our brain slow motion and string music itches that it makes everything seem like it's the way it is supposed to be, but I happen to know that if you just show something happen with no special effects, it is far more brutal than if you put some sad violin music and frame everyone feeling sad.


No, not the exceptional history book by Tony Judt (which by the way tackles the catastrophic homogenization that happened before, during, and after World War Two).

The one question that watching Band of Brothers raised in my mind is, how did these people's lives progress after the war? One of the interviews with the real-life 101st Airborne members talked about how he even today couldn't stop going back to the Battle of the Bulge in his mind.

That's why I'm really happy about the decision to continue making Foyle's War despite the fact that the war ended at the end of the last season. There are TV characters who are soldiers, and TV characters who are veterans, but rarely do we get to see the character's war experiences, and then see the characters try to return to the world as it was. Foyle's War, however, is going to have a very different story to tell than, say, a Band of Brothers that continues past the end of the war; for Britain, World War Two was a nationally shared experience; in the United States, World War Two was shared among veterans, but had a very different impact on the civilian population.

Just as American war films/TV often compartmentalize the US Military, shutting out the other forces that are at war with us, so do they also often compartmentalize the experience of war; as though soldiers start existing the moment they show up at training, and dematerialize at the end of it.

Band of Brothers

Listen, I like this show. But seriously... didn't any black people fight in World War Two? I'm sure there was at least one or two...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Court Commentary: Quote of the Day

Being on a brief "vacation," I'm cleaning up things I bookmarked for later. I marked this paragraph back when Justice Stevens resigned, and it's my quote of the day:
“I suppose you all thought I was wrong in that case [Texas v. Johnson]?” he half-asked and half-stated. He then paused for several seconds as his eyes darted around the room. My co-clerks and I nervously looked down and studied our hands. The clock ticked. No one said a word. “Well,” he finally continued with a sigh, “I still think I was correct.”
If you're curious as to what the case was, it was Justice Stevens' lone dissent against the ruling that flag-burning constitutes free speech.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don Hall highlights Feminist Fatale's 11 Commandments of Pop Culture Feminism. He finds the cognitive dissonance over the whole list of "isms" at the end. I, personally, wound up raising my question here:
5. Thou shalt vote with thy wallet (also known as the "I will not pay $12 to see ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell' commandment.")

6. Thou shalt consume shitty forms of media (i.e. tabloids, reality TV) to be aware of what the "mainstream media" is saying about (and to) women and girls.
Excuse me? Which is it, to consume or not to consume? Should you avoid I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell or should you consume it to see what they're saying about women and girls? When is buying a tabloid considered espionage, and when is it considered propping up the enemy?

I mean, I agree with most of the commandments. And in fact I agree pretty strongly with Commandment 5. Commandment 6 has never crossed my mind. The only Reality TV I like watching is RuPaul's Drag Race. Why? Because it's good. But I don't buy National Enquirer to see what "the mainstream" has to say. I don't listen to Taylor Swift to see what Kanye West was so mad about. I consume the culture I want to support, and that's that. I also don't watch Bill O'Reilly to see what the spin cycle has to say about the news.

Don't we make the mainstream culture mainstream in our assumption that we need to know what's going on with it? Don't we empower them with our viewership, not just our money (seeing as, especially with television, our viewership is money)?

Anyways, the rest of the list (except the over-use of the Bechdel Test) is pretty solid, and good activism advice. I just don't see what Commandment 6 is doing there, let alone what it's doing there right after Commandment 5.

"Golden Age"

Michael Feingold makes an argument in the Village Voice argues that we're seeing another Golden Age in the theater. That's a nice and needed counterweight to, say, David Cote's post in the Guardian about the coming bloodletting in the arts. 99Seats-at-Parabasis asks if we agree with the Golden Age hypothesis.

I feel like I go from feeling like this is theater's Golden Age to feeling like this is theater's End of Days. The latter is clearly histrionic, but if you read Outrageous Fortune too close to bed-time you can have visions of the Four Horses. I see a show like The Lily's Revenge and I think, "Wow, look at what we are capable of." And then I see the derision around Nick Clegg's approval for Samuel Beckett, and I ask, "Has theater in America ever been more isolated from the rest of the population?"

Assessing the question "is this a Golden Age" requires a level of perspective that I don't think I'll ever have. I don't know if we're really living in a Golden Age, but I know that we are living in my Golden Age. From my perspective, I see a New York City that is thriving with new and exciting work. My graduating class is going into the world, and they're going to make some ass-kicking theater, and I'm just pleased as punch about it. But on the other hand, I can't tell if we're really going out there and doing something, or if we're just making Nero's fiddle music sound really good.

I do know one thing. Right now, there's a demographic shift going on; in the same way that the so-called Jon Stewart generation is taking over politics, there's a new wave of theatermakers making their mark.

I hope it gels into something really new. My thesis was an attempt to assert something past Post-Modernism. I think that's the moment when we'll be able to say something: when we've really created something that didn't exist before. And we won't know it until much later (which is what 99Seats was saying).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Maybe you've noticed, at one time or another, that Wikipedia is not very well-informed about the performing arts. I remember that the first time that I went to look at an article about Brecht, it was infuriatingly just a stub -- one of the single most influential theatermakers of history, and there was maybe six sentences. His page has gotten much better.

For all of those performing arts moments, concepts, and figures that haven't gotten their due yet, there's a project called Performing Wikipedia which is out there trying to beef up the performing arts on Wikipedia.

Things You Really Should Know About

A bomb goes off under an Islamic Center in Florida and nobody cares.

3LD Eviction pt. 2

Isaac commented on my post about the 3LD eviction, saying:
Just to clarify: I wouldn't call my position "Pro-MTA". I'd call me position "anti-shitty-management-practices". Based on the Times story alone, 3LD made some really bad decisions, and I'm sick of us all rallying around poorly managed theaters to save them because any theatre closing is the Worst Tragedy of All Time.

Now, assuming that what Kevin Cunningham says is true-- and honestly, we need to see the lease document to know that for sure--3LD has a better case than I initially thought. ALthough I STILL think a $20+K lease is a stupid thing to sign on to.
I'm responding to the comment as a post rather than with another comment because I think Isaac touches on the deeper issue here, which is -- to what degree should we bail out small arts groups?

I myself didn't have a particularly strong impulse to rally behind 3LD for the simple fact that, well, I hadn't heard of it at the time. So they're being evicted -- I have no frame of reference to if that's a terrible blow to our arts scene.

So, in the previous post, I talked about receiving the statement from Kevin Cunningham from the League of Independent Theaters. It was part of their May Update, the first story. The second story in the May Update was about the Ohio Theater's closing, and the community forum that NYIT and League of Independent Theaters teamed up to provide.

The closing of the Ohio struck me more personally as a tragedy because I've seen work there; I've had friends work there, and particularly the Ice Factory Festival stands for me as one of the cooler things that goes on in the year (even after having been rejected from it this year...). And I also have some insight into how it came to fail that doesn't have to do with poor practices: supposedly, they have a new landlord who doesn't want to give them the generous treatment that the last landlord did, and they have had trouble putting together the new, higher rent.

That combination of personal connection and not-their-fault-edness makes me predisposed to be on the side of those who would want to save the Ohio.

What determines whether or not the community should bail out an arts organization in trouble? If my theater company were to hit the financial rocks, I have no illusion that I would pretty much just go gently into that good night, nor would I expect anyone to fight for us. But what's the profile of an organization that should be fought for? When should we rage against the dying of the light?
  • Is there such a thing as being culturally too important to fail -- so that even if evidence of poor management came up, the community should protect the organization (perhaps while pushing for a change in leadership), because of the value of the works that get created there?
  • Is there such a thing as being socially too important to fail -- where the community relies on that organization even if there is poor management? Presenting venues, for example, that present work that may not get presented if they went out of business?
  • Is there such a thing as being to historically important to fail -- arts organizations that we bail out to preserve our history?
  • Are any arts organizations too economically important to fail? (I feel like the answer to this is probably MoMA, the Met, BAM, and little else)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Court Commentary: Biden on Kagan

So, Joe Biden wants me to back Elana Kagan. In his note he says:
To see why, look no further than her role in the Citizens United case. It was a legal battle that most experts agreed would be impossible for the government to win. But as Solicitor General, Elena chose this as her first case. She recognized that rolling back bipartisan election law would allow special interests to dominate campaigns across the country and drown out the voice of the American people. Though she knew she'd probably lose, she chose to make it her fight all the same. That's character.
Wait, hold on a moment -- who thought Kagan was going to lose Citizens United? Since when was that case a foregone conclusion? And how does that obviate her responsibility in losing one of the landmark cases of the last year?

I don't think Obama and Biden want to make a big case of Kagan's positions as a Solicitor General. Let's take one at random: here's a recap of a case where Kagan argued that detainees at Bagram Airbase have no rights:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v Bush, which granted habeas rights to Guantanamo detainees, Kagan wrote, “rested heavily on the ‘unique status of Guantanamo’” in terms of “the nature and duration of the United States presence at the site of detention, and the practical obstacles to permitting the detainee to pursue habeas relief in United States court…”

Bagram, she wrote, “does not share the defining attributes of Guantanamo,” thus “an enemy alien apprehended and detained by the military overseas in an active war zone at the very least bears an extremely heavy burden before he may sue his captors civilly and require the federal courts to second guess the judgment of both political branches with respect to the reach of habeas jurisdiction.”
Now, whether or not the case is correctly legally argued, it returns to mind the fact that the Solicitor General's job is to basically legally argue whatever the President believes, whether it be that Bagram air-base detainees have no rights or that some detainees may be held forever.

How strange, then, to back a Solicitor General for losing a case of great importance, while defending a principle that you told her to have.

3LD Eviction

As I mentioned in my last My Mind post, 3LD is being evicted by the MTA. I also mentioned that Isaac has the pro-MTA opinion, but based on this comment alleging money owed to 3LD by the MTA (of a very large sum), it seems like he's in the same boat as I am: if it's true that the MTA owes $1.6 million, then the situation is wholly different.

Meanwhile, the League of Independent Theaters sent out this statement from Kevin Cunningham, AD of 3LD (who I assume is the same Kevin who commented on Matt Freeman's post):

"1)3LD is open for business and actively fighting the eviction. We are booked into 2012.

2) The MTA owes 3LD $1.6 million in re-imbursement and compensation for work 3LD was forced to do for them during construction and for unreasonable delays and obstruction of our build out effort which ended up going more than 2 years beyond our original schedule because of MTA's refusal to work with us or to do preparatory work they promised to do in the lease. From our point of view they have been in default on the lease since late 2002.

3)We have offered several different solutions to the arrears problem all of which have been summarily dismissed by the MTA including offering to repurpose a work letter payment of $250,000 to prepay rent for 2010. They have not negotiated in good faith.

We have very strong pro bono counsel in Andy Lance the Senior Real Estate Partner at Gibson Dunne & Crutcher who told us when we made our first demands for payment in 2005 that the MTA is virtually immune from law suits in these matters because they have been able to establish through stare decisis that they are slow and incompetent. Nontheless it looks like Andy has found a pro bono litigator for us.

We need people to write letters to their elected officials immediately urging them to force the MTA to do the right thing. We need balanced press coverage that represents our point of view. We need people to write letters to the editor. We need the community and cultural value to be a part of the argument not just the money.

State Senator Squadron and Congressman Nadler are trying to help us with MTA. CB 1 is drafting a resolution condemning MTA's action on the basis of community and cultural benefits we bring to a distressed neighborhood and insisting that the MTA negotiate with us on these matters in good faith."

I reached out to Daniel Squadron's office and received the following response:

The Three-Legged Dog is renowned for experimental theater and for its

central role in helping to rebuild Lower Manhattan's cultural life

after September 11th. By working out a new repayment schedule with

this thriving theater, the MTA has an opportunity to collect hundreds

of thousands of dollars in rent and keep a cultural gem alive in the

heart of Lower Manhattan. I don't know why a cash-strapped public

agency would pass up that chance.

Zoning Code Sprawl

An post by Matthew Yglesias caught my eyes a few weeks ago about Zoning Code Sprawl, and how simple documents can quickly become large and complex over time.

It made me think about governing documents of organizations, like by-laws (my company has a set).

It reminds me of a few things:
  • The (in my opinion) terribly written European Constitution, which was over 300 pages, as compared with the trim US Constitution. Why the difference? Because the American Constitution was written as a mechanism for handling disputes rather than as a solution for those disputes. Governance documents tend to fail when they become the latter rather than the former.
  • It reminded me of the hell that is the Tax Code, and other documents that drift from usefulness into complexity; and the California State Constitution's slow slide into dysfunction. How helpful would it be to have a mandated return/rewrite to governance documents after a given period of time? Depending on the life cycle of the organization, it could be anywhere between five years and twenty five. But it would be useful to mandate a review.
(bonus fun fact: did you know Patrick Henry was vehemently against slavery?
Patrick Henry, the great Virginian patriot, refused to attend the Convention because he "smelt a rat," was outspoken on the issue, despite his citizenship in a slave state. In 1773, he wrote, "I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery."
Give me liberty or give me death indeed.)

My Mind 5/17 - 5/23

How I was keeping my mind clean this week:
Important facts:
  • Marriages may be decreasing, but partnerships are up, and the sum of the two are increasing. At least, that's the way it is in France.
  • Increased sex drive among women tends to be towards both men and women, whereas increased sex drive among men tends to be for one gender or the other. RTWT, lest ye jump to conclusions.
Things to watch in the future:
Updates on previous "Things to Watch:"
  • Question: Will Nick Clegg break through? Answer: Yes.
  • Question: Will Harry Reid win his financial game of chicken? Answer: No. Wait -- Yes.
  • Question: Will Charlie Crist run as an independent? Answer: Yes. And it's already proving hysterical.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Court Commentary: Life Sentencing

On the other hand, the Court also just ruled that a life sentence without parole is 'cruel and unusual' when applied to minors, regardless of their crime:
"A state need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
I still think a life sentence for minors is still way out of line for anything other than first-degree murder.

No Mosques in Financial District?

Apparently, building a Mosque in Financial District is now a problem:
"If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive," Sipos told me. "If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?"

Why, indeed.

A rally against the mosque is planned for June 6, D-Day, by the human-rights group Stop Islamicization of America. Executive director Pamela Geller said, "What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack? Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn't dream of such an insult. It's a stab in the eye of America."
Argh. Argh argh argh.

Court Commentary: Comstock v. United States pt. 2

Not too long ago, I briefly profiled (in verse) a Supreme Court case about civil commitment, which uses mental health laws to keep sex offenders in jail after their jail term is up. Depending on the state's law, this can be with the approval of a three-person board (like a parole), or a judge's hearing.

In my opinion, this amounts to giving someone who was not handed a life sentence, with little chance for appeal, for a potential future crime. I am against using the legal system to combat potential future crime, for reasons most eloquently argued in Minority Report, or in the episode of This American Life that explored a two-year operation to create a terrorist arms trader to then arrest him.

In a 7-2 ruling (opinion by Justice Breyer), the Supreme Cort upheld civil commitments as being legal. The dissenters were Thomas and Scalia... which makes me feel a little strange, seeing as I never thought I'd be counted among Thomas and Scalia.

Breyer's opinion begins:
The Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress authority sufficient to enact [civil commitment]. Taken together, five considerations compel this conclusion. [...]
(1) The Clause grants Congress broad authority to pass laws in furtherance of its constitutionally enumerated powers.
Already, my red flag is up. The "Necessary and Proper Clause" is rightly nicknamed the "Elastic Clause" because it is very easy to use it to negate the rest of the Constitution. But deciding on exactly where the limits of the Elastic Clause lie is tricky and slippery. I'm very upset to hear that in this case, civil commitment was considered "necessary and proper" to uphold the laws.

From there, the argument is that civil commitment falls under mental health laws, which provide Congress with the authority to pass laws involuntarily committing anyone who appears to have mental health problems.

The problem is that civil commitment requires the decision of whether or not a person has the right to freedom based on their character, without needing empirical evidence of actions committed--because that person, having been in jail, has not been capable of doing anything (unless they have committed a crime in jail, in which case there is a separate disciplinary mechanism for dealing them).

Where would civil commitment end? Could people be indefinitely detained for having violence issues that prison didn't cure? For arson, or for kleptomania? To what degree do you have to be cured internally to be assured of not committing crimes externally? To what degree does this open up the government to enforcing our internal states rather than what we do in the real world?

I don't know. This case doesn't provide any limits or structures on that.

Foyle's War

I am thrilled as punch to see that the excellent British WWII murder mystery series Foyle's War is still being broadcast, even though WWII ended last season. The episode I'm watching is notable because the B plot is centered around urban design rebuilding Hastings in the wake of the destruction in the war.

It's really a testament to the power of dramatic action over simply talking about things that any person could really easily follow the merits and drawbacks of urban planning, if the interests and forces are embodied as compelling characters trying to live their lives.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kalpen Modi on his Way Out pt. 2

Barry has a politely worded and very on-the-nose response to Kalpen Modi's time as White House Liason to the arts. My sense was somewhat the same. I'm glad that Barry did his due diligence and tried to poke around to get an official response.

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be much of one yet. According to what Barry heard, most of the stuff has been interfacing with lobby groups -- after all, Americans for the Arts may be our lobbyists, but they are lobbyists. Otherwise, it was mostly working with the different arts organizations within the Obama Administration.

In a way, some of the expectations I had around Kalpen Modi came from the fact that he was a celebrity. I presumed that the choice of Modi would be an attempt to bring the arts more into the public sphere of discussion. And, interestingly, there was some small gesture at bringing the arts into the public sphere of discussion -- but that was by Michelle Obama, through the highly publicized jazz workshop at the White House, and similar events. Perhaps my expectations were also set by the name "Office of Public Engagement."

At any rate, Barry's call for an exit interview from Kalpen Modi would be fantastic. I hope that Kalpen Modi does a debrief somewhere -- if not Barry's blog, then somewhere else.

Jet Blue Terminal 5

I'm right now sitting at Jet Blue's Terminal 5 at JFK, and I have to say that Jet Blue understands that they can create a positive customer experience long before their actual "product." After all, Jet Blue is in the business of flying people from Point A to Point B. But they have taken a clear interest in designing the arena in which people get that experience.

I arrived at the airport, and checked my bags with a nice, helpful attendant named Tyrone, who joked with the customers. When he spotted my American Airlines bag tag that I hadn't removed from my last flight, he pointed out to me that you can book a JetBlue flight domestically and connect to an American Airlines flight internationally.

Also, I noticed signs in the bathroom that told people that if they spotted something wrong with the bathroom, they should inform Jet Blue's customer service folks (who sit at desks labelled "ASK ME").

Right now, I'm sitting at these specialized benches with plenty of power-ports and touch-screens where you can order food where you sit. No, seriously. It says on the side that you can surf the internet and place an order for food or drink while you work. And they give you free WIFI to do it with. Suck that American Airlines/Boingo WIFI!

My point in all that is that I'm sitting here feeling some of that old-fashioned customer loyalty, and I'm probably going to enjoy my flight more even though my flight experience will have nothing to do with any of this. It's ridiculous and petty of me, but I feel better since I feel like Jet Blue is actually invested in my positive experience.

It makes me wonder about theater lobbies. Do we do everything in our power to make the pre-show experience and post-show experience enjoyable to our audiences? Do we take responsibility for each moment of that experience? Is there anything we could be doing better, or newer, or differently?