Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quote of the Day

"In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?"
-- Kennedy's Inauguration Address,

Power of the Powerless I: Theodore C. Sorensen and Individual Agency

I'm deeply saddened to read that Theodore Sorensen has passed away. I did not know the man's name until I read the eulogy, but -- without even knowing who he is -- he was the man who turned me on to the politics of hope. I've just come back from the Rally to Restore Sanity (thoughts to follow), but throughout my life as a politically engaged person, many of the ideas and principles have come from the speeches he wrote, and the Administration he was a core component of.

I came of political age after 9/11, which happened when I was in eighth grade. Before that, I was interested in history -- mostly Civil War era history, and mostly battlefield history, as you'd expect from a young adolescent.

When 9/11 happened, most of the world suddenly found themselves discovering a small band of terrorists they had never heard of, catching up on a whole aspect of Middle East history that was a pretty distant consequence of the Cold War before then. I, however, had by a curious coincidence just completed a research assignment on Osama Bin Laden for a summer class on Forensics. But at that point, Bin Laden was just a name, a curious historical set of incidents. He was not a visceral part of American life, the way he became after 9/11.

What I realized from that was that history is a curious confluence of decisionless masses who are propelled forward by the weight of previous history, and the momentary influence of an individual in the right place, at the right time. Bin Laden was a single individual who, with the help of a small group of individuals, managed to suddenly change the course of American history -- and not in the positive way of other individuals.

The next few days, I sat in bed watching the 24 hour news cycle voraciously. I tried to imagine myself in the shoes of so many different people -- the heroic passengers, the terrorists, the reporters, the people trying desperately to get out of the towers, the firefighters. I realized that it just wasn't an option to ignore politics or governance anymore -- those things are facts which affect us all.

But there's two ways to come out of trauma. One is the bitter, angry, closed in response of someone who is afraid that openness will open them to trauma. The other is the attempt to reach out to others, to hold on to the things that are good in the world and focus on them.

Which brings me back to Sorensen, and Kennedy. Kennedy took power after a decade of fear in American society. The scars HUAC and McCarthy inflicted run incredibly deep; I remember discovering those scars vividly when Elia Kazan was given the life-time achievement Oscar, and was booed by those who still remembered his response to that era.

McCarthy's imagined "Socialist Threat," with eyes and arms everywhere, was a clear message to the individuals in America: you are helpless. There is nothing you can do in the face of such a powerful and insidious foe. Communism is everywhere you look, it can corrupt anyone -- only the full force of American might -- the entire nation, in lock-step -- can counter it.

Kennedy's inauguration spoke of a new posture between America and the world:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
The emphasis there was not to fight Communism (although clearly that was implied), it was to assure the survival and success of liberty. Liberty for the individual.

And yet he reached out to his opponents:
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
And he reminded us that it is us, not governments or God himself, that held our future:
All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.


Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
The individual as the designer of its own destiny, restored to the American sphere. Never able to completely influence its own destiny, always at the mercy of our communities and of the elements, but always struggling to assert its own fate.

Obama began his campaign by awaking that, and he sustained that through the course of the campaign. But as Republican obstructionism choked a lot of that vigor, I think this election is casting a shadow of doubt. Did we really have that power, summed up in the slogan, "Yes We Can?" Or was it just a brief illusion.

I think we still can.

But, paradoxically, we only can if we understand how often we'll run into failure. We can always try, and we must always keep trying, and we must be prepared to fail, and to learn from our mistakes.

I've been on hiatus lately, and I'm glad that the Rally to Restore Sanity is the last thing that happened before I came back. It's funny, because the two things I've been following most closely -- governance and theater -- are both plagued by their own kind of insanity. And it's time to rededicate myself to the individual's ability to change these things.

Thank you, Theodore C. Sorensen, and thank you to everyone who have spread the message that individuals can matter.

I leave you with Sorensen's masterpiece. I suggest you listen to it. I'll be continuing along with this theme from now until the 2012 election:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hiatus Fail III: G-Men and Post-modernism

Sorry, I'm coming out of hiding yet again because of this article from FedBlog:

Some federal intelligence agents and law enforcement officers are going back to school -- to study paintings. CIA and FBI agents, along with Secret Service officers, are among those who have taken a course called "The Art of Perception" at the Metropolitan Musuem of Art, theTelegraph reports.

Amy Herman, an art historian who teaches the course, says it's valuable to investigators because it "refreshes their sense of inquiry" and improves their ability to characterize what they see.

"Amy taught us that to be successful, you have to think outside the box," says Bill Reiner, an FBI special agent. "Don't just look at a picture and see a picture. See what's happening."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hiatus Fail II

Shorter me: bollards.

I was actually just having this conversation last night with a friend of mine. We both have a mutual friend who works at a very large non-profit theater named after a famous president, who she reports could literally not charge for tickets and still have enough money to put on their entire season, but is absolutely terrified to put on anything that might alienate their wealthy donor base.

Whereas my theater company's real problem is expanding into the not young audience, because we're young people who make theater that young people tend to like.

(Updated: And people who say "Young people don't like theater" are basically pretending sketch comedy and improv aren't theater.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Legal Commentary: Gay Rights IV

(I suck at being on hiatus)

Okay, so, here's the story:
  1. The Obama Administration defends Don't Ask Don't Tell.
  2. The Obama Administration seeks to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.
  3. The courts strike down Don't Ask Don't Tell.
  4. The Obama Administration appeals the decision, asking for a temporary stay.
  5. The Obama Administration's Pentagon tells gays they are allowed to enlist.
  6. The courts grant the Obama Administration's stay, meaning that gays can be fired.
... is anyone, anyone at all, in charge of this?
You know why the young generation isn't concerned about civil liberties or about corporate spying as much as their elders? Because when they were growing up, their parents read all their emails and screened all their facebook posts and checked their text messages.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I'm basically a bee drowning in honey:

So I'm taking a hiatus until the first week of November. There's a lot of exciting stuff moving forward for my theater company, for the Orange Hats, for everything else, and work is being particularly demanding right now, and my weekends are going to involve travel.

Look for me again in November, where I will probably start by dropping some big posts responding to some things that are weeks if not months old :-P

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Dispatches from Israel

FARATA'A, Palestinian Territories — Thick black smoke billows from the olive grove under the gaze of Israeli soldiers as Palestinian farmers use branches to try to beat out the fires lit by Jewish settlers.

It's olive harvest time in the occupied West Bank.

The firebombers swooped down from Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish settlement unauthorised even by the Israeli government.
Another incident:
A few hours earlier, in the village of Azmut near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, a group of youths from the settlement of Elon Moreh, four kilometres (two and a half miles) away, dispersed Palestinian olive harvesters with shots in the air, witnesses said.

The settlers said they had come under attack first.

"We began the harvest at 7 am. At 9 am while we were having breakfast, they turned up with these automatic weapons," said Pauline Marechal, a 57-year-old Frenchwoman.

"They began firing in the air. The children were screaming and crying. The settlers were chanting: 'Out. Out'," said Marechal, an activist with the Palestinian solidarity group, Darna, which helps villagers with the olive harvest each October.
And the final button:
The Israeli army says it does all it can to protect Palestinian olive growers. So far this year there have been no casualties at least. But neither have the police made any arrests.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Legal Commentary: Gay Rights III

So, bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the Obama Administration will appeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in the face of it being struck down. Although the Obama Administration's official statement acknowledges that the Administration wants to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, they stand behind their position that the Obama Administration is beholden to legally back laws passed by Congress.

I don't know where the legal basis of that idea is; clearly they don't have to, as Andrew Jackson's "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!" proved. On the other hand, as an Administration who considers returning to a position of respect for Congress a major policy goal, perhaps it is necessary from one perspective.

But the good news is that the Pentagon will cease enforcement of Don't Ask Don't Tell until the end of the appeal (and, one presumes, the result of the expected vote after the policy review is completed)

This, I think, strengthens what I said last time, which is that gay and lesbian servicemen should use this to have a mass coming out moment. In a way, they'd be in a similar position as the gays and lesbians who married in the window between the legalization of gay marriage and the passage of Proposition 8 -- 18,000 legal marriages that could not be banned.

The major problem right now with Don't Ask Don't Tell is that the anti-gay pro-military crowd can basically huff and say "Well now is not the time for major changes," because the status quo appears to work for a lot of people. Now imagine that several thousand servicemen came out simultaneously, during this window that the Pentagon avowedly is not enforcing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Suddenly, the status quo is to let these people serve. To discharge one or two activists like Dan Choi, or to quietly fire tens of Arabic translators doesn't disrupt the whole. But if a whole tide of servicemen came out, and couldn't be fired immediately... any attempt to re-implement Don't Ask Don't Tell would suddenly be seen as a major disruption to the status quo of the working military. I'd like to see John McCain argue that position.

Legal Commentary: Foreclosure Mess II

Two things:

One; in my last post, I mused aloud why the attorney generals in all fifty states had to look into the foreclosure mess (where banks were issuing foreclosures through automated processes, leading to foreclosures based on incorrect information -- basically "accidentally" throwing people onto the street for no reason) rather than the national Attorney General.

My father noted that housing remains a state issue, and the abuses were in state courts, so the investigation would need to be in the state domain. I still hold, however, that the national decision of the big banks (BofA, Wells Fargo, and others) was a national fraud issue, and that the national attorney general should be involved. I am not a lawyer, however -- it may be that there's no way to make the charges stick, federally.

Two; if you're wondering exactly what the crux of this big deal is, and why it's getting a lot more severe action than, say, all of the other shit that has happened, I think this quote sums it up:
“When Stephan [the mortgage enforcer] says in an affidavit that he has personal knowledge of the facts stated in his affidavits, he doesn’t. When he says that he has custody and control of the loan documents, he doesn’t. When he says that he is attaching ‘a true and accurate’ copy of a note or a mortgage, he has no idea if that is so, because he does not look at the exhibits. When he makes any other statement of fact, he has no idea if it is true. When the notary says that Stephan appeared before him or her, he didn’t.”
This is the difference between lying, and lying in court.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Legal Commentary: Attorney Generals in All 50 States

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Top legal officers of all 50 states opened a joint investigation into home foreclosures, saying they will seek an immediate halt to any improper practices at banks and mortgage companies.

The states will conduct a coordinated inquiry into whether banks and loan servicers used false documents and signatures to justify hundreds of thousands of foreclosures. The group intends to establish independent monitoring, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the group, said today in a statement.
What if we had someone whose job it was to investigate on behalf of all 50 states? Some sort of central, almost federal office, almost like a Federal Attorney General.

Oh wait.

Seriously, where is Eric Holder? (other than being cussed at by Carl Paladino). I dig that he's busy, but this foreclosure crisis is a pretty big fucking deal.

Well, okay, he announced the arrest of 88 law enforcement agents in Puerto Rico. And he was out last week to explain why we shouldn't go to Europe. And he hasn't been able to try terrorists in civilian courts.

Okay, I guess he is busy. But still.

Birthday Party!

A birthday party/staged reading by our friend RVCBard's group, Crossroads Theatre Project:
WHO: (aka me)
WHAT: Staged reading for Tulpa, or Anne&Me combined with birthday party for Anne Hathaway (aka Andy aka Jack). There will be cake. There will be balloons. There may be party hats.
WHEN: Friday, November 12 at 8pm
WHERE: WOW Cafe Theatre, 59 E. 4th Street, New York, NY
WHY: Fundraising for Crossroads Theatre Project and WOW Cafe Theatre.
HOW: Click on the Fractured Atlas button below to send a donation to Crossroads Theatre Project. Suggested donation $10. $25 or more lets you join the raffle for an autographed copy of the script. $50 gets you your own autographed copy of the script (no raffle needed). All donors will be named on the playbill.
Read more at the announcement page. As a donor to the project, I'm looking forward to seeing how it has come along since the last reading!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Legal Commentary: Gay Rights II

Following up on this update is today's story:

Brushing aside Obama Administration arguments that a federal judge could issue only a narrow, limited order against the Pentagon’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy against gays in the military services, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips on Tuesday issued a nationwide ban on any enforcement, ordering an immediate stop to any investigations of gays now going on and halting any discharges that were being planned. In a 15-page bench memo. she explained her rejection of most of the government’s arguments against a sweeping order. The text of her final order is here.

The judge, acting in the case of Log Cabin Republicans, v. U.S. and Gates (docket 04-8425), also refused an Administration request to postpone the effective date of her order to give officials more time to plan their reaction and to ask for a formal delay of the order while they pursue an appeal. The judge said she had three times turned down pleas for delay, and concluded that no new arguments had been made this time for a postponement. That left the government with the option of asking the Ninth Circuit Court to put the Phillips ruling on hold temporarily.

This is the second Federal ruling against Don't Ask Don't tell, and is a much broader repudiation of the law than the Witt ruling ordering the reinstatement of someone fired under the ban.

The important part of this story, however, is that there is a 60 day window for the Obama administration to appeal the decision:

Justice Department spokesperson Tracy Shmaler would only say the department is "reviewing the ruling." The department has 60 days to appeal, but is not required to do so.

Seeing as the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal was lost under the threat of a filibuster from John McCain (Mr. "If the generals recommend it" and "that's not the policy"), and seeing as the Democrats will almost certainly have less seats in the Senate before the long-awaited policy review that Republicans have been using as a stalling measure, this is an open invitation for Obama to take quick action that Americans very much are in favor of (54% say it should be repealed, and 60% say we need it now because of the wars we're fighting).

In addition, as I pointed out before, there's a whole slew of decisions headed towards the Supreme Court about Gay Rights: Prop 8, DOMA, and DADT; DOMA and DADT have at least two major rulings against them each.

If I was in the military and I were gay, this is when I'd come out (even though the Log Cabin Republicans, who won this victory, advise caution). Imagine if the estimated 66,000 gay members of the military (2%) came out in the 60 day window that the Obama administration was using to consider whether or not to appeal. Since, legally, they are currently protected, the Obama administration would have, on the one side, an incredible logistical and legal crisis (attempting to discharge all of those soldiers, hundreds of counter-suits, etc.), or on the other side the new status quo that everyone except some 41 senators in Congress wants to bring into effect.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Legal Commentary: A Story I Missed At The Time

Obama vetoed a housing bill that could have made the foreclosure process faster; in the atmosphere of who knows how many bad foreclosures, this was probably a good thing.

I was looking up Obama's first veto, however, and I got this story:

For those unaware the president had even vetoed a bill emanating from the Democratic Congress, don’t worry. The measure was a stop-gap spending measure for the Pentagon that became unnecessary when the president instead signed the annual Pentagon money bill in time. He then vetoed the five-day, interim bill as unneeded legislation.

Even though the entire issue was moot, his action prompted the House to go through the veto override process because Congress and the executive branch are locked in a long-running Constitutional feud over a president’s ability to issue a “pocket veto” by failing to sign legislation but not sending it back to Congress.

The central legal question is over whether the pocket veto is legitimate when Congress is in recess or between sessions of an ongoing Congress. [...]

Representative David R. Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the veto vote was required to make the point that Congress did not consider the pocket veto legitimate.

Okay, moot bill gets vetoed, required symbolic vote. Fine. Here's what buggered me:
The effort to overturn the veto failed, but 140 Republicans and three Democrats still took the opportunity to try to override Mr. Obama, even though the underlying legislation was of no consequence whatsoever. The final vote was 245-143 against overriding the president.
Really? I understand holding the vote to send a message that holding the vote is Constitutionally required; can anyone figure out why to vote for a moot bill?


Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Ian Moss shares, as a parenthetical, this cute story:
Among my more brilliant ideas was to advertise that there would be no alcohol provided at my twenty-first birthday party. One person showed up.
As someone who doesn't drink, I do have to point out that it is strange how deeply, deeply indebted independent arts are to alcohol in all its sundry forms. Seriously, where the hell would we be without selling people liquor, and then trying to squeeze more money out of them when they're drunk. People are far more willing to pay $10 on drinks for an evening than to out-right donate $10 to a company...

Anyways, it puts me in that odd position of being someone who doesn't drink hawking beers and vodkas and wines at people. How very strange.

Art from the News I: The Evils Of Marketing to the Moment

Via 99-seats-at-Parabasis, apparently MCC is reviving that shitty musical Carrie. The quoted rationale sticks out to me:
Director Arima stated, "As our society finally begins to take a serious look at the intense stressors placed upon teenagers and the often tragic consequences of bullying and social ostracism within our schools, the message of Carrie has only become more timely and resonant."
How absolutely vile to take a musical that nobody liked at the time and try to position it as "speaking to the moment". Thank God he doesn't come out and say "In light of that one gay who keep committed suicide that everyone's talking about"!

It's not even phrased "We were looking for something to speak to the recent tragedies that have come to light in our nation's schools, and we couldn't think of anything better than Carrie" -- which would be laughable.

NYU has a new head of the Drama Department, and one of the things we used to deride her for was that her favorite word was "Zeitgeist" and she basically told a class of would-be producers that they should look every day at the front page of the New York Times, and do work that speaks to whatever is there. At least creating work that speaks to the front page of the New York Times is one step better than taking whatever work you're going to do (for whatever incomprehensible reasons) and saying, "Hey, this thing on the front page could help get us some crossover attention."

Remember that time that a boy was killed because he was gay, and a group of theater people traveled to the town and interviewed the people effected, and created an organic show around it? That's, at least, a thoughtful and honest way to go about responding to a national crisis. And yes, they got marketing boons in return, but that's okay because they started with the work, and then the marketing created itself.

A bad way to respond to something important and weighty nationally is a ripped-off-the-headlines, thrown-together response. An even worse way to respond is to simply try to position your work in context of the current news.

If, as 99-Seats suggests, the Roundabout decides to remount Starlight Express, are they going to lead off their press release with "As the Obama administration leaves NASA's future in doubt..."? Will someone try to remount Moose Murders by saying "As the Obama Administration delays trying terrorist Ahmed Gilani, we look back at another, whimsical set of murders..."

Dear God. I'm just upset.

Regional Accents

The Guardian online muses about regional accents in English plays. Can't remember the last time I heard a regional American accent in a play, with the exception of some terribly forced stereotypically "Southern" accents.


RVCBard asks the question about pricing that nobody has dared to ask: where are your ninjas?

My answer is thus:

Is not Isaac's stance that people should have access to theaters for reasonable prices a way to allow more people to sneak into theaters? Isn't it a very NINJA thing to want to do?

And isn't 2amt's stance that people should pay what they're capable of -- and that theaters should feel free to charge higher fees if they need -- an awfully familiar stance? The stance... of PIRATES?

I knew this would all boil down to being pirates v. ninjas.

Up until now, I've kept my nose out of this debate because I see a lot of sides to the equation. I'm not going to venture into the quasi-math of A+B+etc., but it seems to me like there's a fixed amount of money in the system, and that money is simply not enough.

Seeing as there is not enough money, people basically wind up either:
  1. Compromising their mission to provide more popular fare that they can squeeze revenue out of.
  2. Compromising their artists in the form of low wages, etc.
  3. Compromising their staff (such as an entire literary department).
  4. Compromising their audience (through the form of high ticket prices).
  5. Failing.
The point has been made a couple times that the choice you make is basically what defines who you are. What's more important, your mission or your staff? Your artists or your audience?

Trying to cut production costs becomes, at a certain point, like trying to cut waste:

Some artists/companies will hit some vein of success -- a Broadway transfer, a surprise hit of a mission-accomplishing show, or a MacArthur Genius Grant, that will change the calculus. Or maybe in 2012 we'll elect Europe to be our President and the money spigots will flow.

So, seriously. Are you a ninja? Are you a pirate? Are you a robot? How you decide to fail is probably going to define who you are and where you are going.

Don't feel like failing? I suggest NYU Law. Everyone else: Fail again. Fail better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unicorn Chaser

Grassroots + Power V: Power and Ticket Prices

One of those delightful rows that overtakes the internet every once in a while is upon us -- one of the ones that provokes very long and intelligent posts between people who all have valid points.

Basically, the conversation is about ticket prices: are dynamic pricing schemes fair, do ticket price caps kill the theater or the artists who work in it, is there a better way to price tickets?

I'll snip from 2AMt's recap/index:
[Y]ou might check out a series of posts I did in response to that conversation about different pricing strategies on this site.

You’d probably then want to check out a post on Parabasis calling Arena Stage to task for their use of dynamic pricing on a recent show that ended up spiking prices up above $100/ticket. That sparked a fresh #2amtTwitter conversation and this post from Gwydion Suilebahn about discussing prices in a civilized way. Which led to a lengthy (and highly readable) comment stream, which led to another post from Gwydion and then to a fresh post by Isaac Butler at Parabasis responding in kind.
Reading through it, I really don't have anything to add about pricing -- I suspect, in order to sort out whether Gwydion or Isaac or Trisha are right. I suspect it would take some actual economics research to untangle the effects of ticket prices on audience participation, audience satisfaction, etc. and I suspect I have little to add to it.

But there is one part of Gwydion's argument that I do feel like I need to mention:
The criticism of too much government funding of theater, for example, is that we’d end up having, well, government-approved theater: nothing that threatens the state, nothing very adventurous, etc. After all, they’d have some sense of ownership, wouldn’t they? The same might be said of corporate donations. Personally, the thought of big businesses “owning” theater frightens me even worse. I have a similar concern about individual donations; I don’t want America’s owning class “owning” the stories we tell, either. (If donations were always – or even very often – small and from large numbers of diverse donors, I’d have less concern).
The thing about this paragraph is that it starts with, basically, a classic slippery-slope argument. If the government starts by putting in a money, eventually we'll only have art that is compatible with the state.

A while back, I commented on Obama's arts policy by saying that they looked like they were looking for innovative ways to help the arts, but didn't want to go on a limb to actually create new programs or increase funding. In the comments section, I got swamped by anonymous comments from right-wing trolls who basically told me to reread 1984 because working with the government on the 9/11 day of service was equivalent to either A) bad prostitution or B) fascism.

I decided to try and take a more specific look at the relationship between arts and power. I laid out a number of scenarios of what sort of involvements with the arts the government could have:
  • Government A buys art organizations and appoints NEA officers to run them.
  • Government B gives the NEA powers to license performances: unlicensed performances are made illegal.
  • Government C passes rules saying that the NEA can only fund Pro-America productions. The NEA evaluates grants based on their content.
  • Government D creates a web listing of currently existing arts-charity programs, to help donors find them.
Let's do the same here. Suppose we have a hypothetical government which looks exactly like the United Nations, but whose NEA has the capacities to award $25 billion nationwide. I pulled that number out of my arse, but let's assume that it's enough to largely support a handful of mid-to-large sized arts organizations in every city in America as well as investing into rural and small-town arts in a scheme that bizarro-world Scott Walters is administrating.

Now, let's say I'm a performance artist who wants to create a statement about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I create an absolutely damning piece of work condemning the President, and I try to take it to bizarro-world Lincoln Center. But bizarro-world Lincoln Center gets too much money from the government, and doesn't want the wroth of an angry NEA chair! So they pass. As does bizarro-world BAM, and bizarro-world Taper Forum, and bizarro-world Seattle Opera.

What's probably going to happen? In the scenario Gwydion outlines above, we're just not going to have this daring and incisive piece of performance. But I don't think that's the real world.

In the real world, I would probably find other people who similarly can't get NEA-funded projects, and we'd get together in a warehouse somewhere and we'd form our own little enclave. And we'd fight and scrabble every bit like we do today, without NEA funding, and put ourselves out there. It should be every bit as possible for us to succeed in that endeavor in bizarro-world as it is here.

Remember in the health care debate? When people were told that we couldn't have a Public Option because it would drive all the competition out of business? And liberals pointed out that the Post Office has never driven UPS or Fed EX out of business? I doubt government-supported theater would be any different.

Now, if bizarro-world US Government decided to actively censor works, that would be different. If bizarro-world US Government restricted access to performance space, that would be different too. But the idea that increasing funding necessarily leads to a less-healthy arts atmosphere is not, on the face of it, true. The BBC is still capable of criticizing the British government; the BBC is internationally respected as being an independent arbiter of news information. It's more independent than privately-owned FOX News!

The point I'm trying to get at is that we should never, ever let someone say "If x relationship is established with government, then eventually government will control x" without demonstrating how it would achieve that. Government donations do not, in any way, force competition out of the market. It's connected to a widespread intellectual illness here that Government has a Midas touch, and everything it grazes turns to its bitch.

Remember the NEA Four? And how their government money got taken from them? Oddly enough, Karen Finley is still making work!

Still, go and read all those articles. There's a lot of fantastic thinking going on. I'd just hate to see it sullied by shorthand like that.

In Vitro Fertilization

How strange must it be to be a person who has tangibly led to the creation of particular individuals.

I mean, one of my very, very close friends exists because of in vitro fertilization. Imagine if she happened to run into him, and knew who he was. What a surreal experience. "You couldn't have existed without me."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Radio Ad: "Hypocrisy"

I'm not a huge fan of attack ads, but as they go, I think this is as close as you could get to shining a light on something related to the actual issues while going for your opponent. This isn't "She has a black baby" (which, as John McCain rightly said should earn those people "a special place in hell"), it's "her positions on the issues are disingenuous.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Legal Commentary: Williamsburg Yeti

So, the Williamsburg Yeti is basically a local group that, among whatever else it is they do (I don't pretend I fully follow) try to get theater to W-berg residents at affordable prices.

They've also just kicked off a project called "The Great Broadway Swindle" to try and alert people to the dishonesty in the Broadway pricing system. I'm not sure if I think it's a swindle -- the idea being that people in the know go to the TKTS booth and get tickets at half of what rich theater tourists come to town to pay. It's rather like airlines -- people pay the price they are smart enough to pay. One day, no two people will be paying the same price (I think Ken Davenport was in favor of that, but I can't find a post).

Anyways, the point is that they previously had a photo of the TKTS booth as their group photo (in the sense of "This is what we're protesting," and TKTS contacted them that they were inviolation of copyright and they should take it down.

One of my favorite uses of copyright: sticking it to people you don't like.

Legal Commentary: Facebook in the Court

New York has a good article about the New York State Bar Association doing research on what is and isn't ethical for lawyers to do some research on Facebook for a case.

It seems, actually, like most of the rules that work in the brick-and-mortar world can be fairly easily ported to Facebook -- if it's public, it's public, don't engage in relationships (i.e. friend) with an adversary or their lawyer, don't use false pretenses to gather information.

Three State Solution V: Contiguity

I laid out my case for the need of a three-state solution (at least in the medium term) a while back. Yesterday I spotted this interview with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (who I strongly dislike, but who somehow comes off looking rational next to Avigdor Lieberman):
Q: Do you want that for the West Bank or for Gaza as well?

A: We are proceeding under the assumption that some day Gaza will be part of this deal. Right now, it’s not part of this deal because it’s under Hamas. So when President Obama talks about a contiguous Palestinian state, that has two meanings. One, it means there being no settlement blocks dividing the Palestinian state, but also that there be some kind of connection between West Bank and Gaza.
It seems to me that all three parties are subtly trending towards the three state solution, whether they want to be or not, because they're punting on exactly the sort of issues that would need to be conquered to have a Two State solution.

My original case for a three state was based around the first part of Oren's comment -- the fact that Hamas is not a good-faith player for peace, and good-faith players should not have to be held up by bad-faith players.

But the second part of the statement is also a highly insurmountable one. Discontinuity. There are very few nations anywhere that manage to be cleaved in two, let alone a nation that is cleaved in two by a historic enemy. Even if Israel creates some sort of a corridor, Israel is a police state. We all know that if a single rocket or bomb made Israel skittish, there goes that corridor. And, by the way, I'm not necessarily condemning them for that -- it's just a terrible security and foreign relations problem.

Having two discontinuous parts of a country in this region doesn't remind me of Alaska and Canada, it reminds me of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh -- or as it was once known, East Pakistan. They also tried to have discontinuous governance, but the people grew apart too much and for whatever reasons -- including Indian interference -- they're now separate nations.

Even supposing one day we had a Gaza not administered by Hamas, or a Gaza administered by a Hamas who looks as innocuous as the Fatah does today, the issue of contiguousness is going to rear its ugly head. And I don't know if there's ever going to be a satisfactory solution to it.