Daring Fireball: Obsession Times Voice:
There is an easy formula for doing it wrong: publish attention-getting bullshit and pull stunts to generate mindless traffic. The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.
Obsession times voice is a pretty good stab at a simple formula for doing it right.
What Do Mike Daisey, Chef Gordon Ramsay and the Economy Have In Common? : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE:
As I watched my first ever episode of Hell’s Kitchen, I was reminded of something Mike Daisey said during his monologue, How Theater Failed America. While describing the tail end of his life’s darkest year, he wondered why theatre festivals couldn’t just be festivals. Oh no, these have to be fights to the death where the winners are crowned with glory and the losers see their sets burned down and actors killed. Watching the highly competitive environment of Hell’s Kitchen, I could only think: there’s the problem in a nutshell.
On Screen - Film - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:
Escape to Witch Mountain (and, to a lesser extent, its sequel Return to Witch Mountain) was a clunky, wondrous '70s classic: a couple of child space-Aryans, Tony and Tia, crash-land on Earth and have to go live at an orphanage where they talk to cats and get punched a lot by a red-haired bully. They do not remember space. Then, because they also have super telekinetic/telepathic space powers (and a magic harmonica), a sinister businessman adopts them so they can help him bet on the ponies or something! (Wait, tell me again how this is worse than THE ORPHANAGE?) Sooo sinister! Then they have to escape to Witch Mountain in Eddie "The Grump" Albert's flying Winnebago. The end. I own this movie on DVD.
Rands In Repose: The Makers of Things:
When Brooklyn and New York’s population was booming at the end of the 19th century, the best way to get to and from Brooklyn was via ferries. As solutions were considered, I’m sure there were those who simply thought, “More boats!” These ardent defenders of the status quo were not engineers — they were the business. Their goal was not to build something great, but to make a profit.
Art of Function: The Post Show Round Table:
I found it ironic that Mike Daisey railed against theaters trying to 'get more money' to solve all their problems with paying artists in his piece, and then comedically, 10 minutes after the show when he asked his panel, what would you need to make big changes to the theater culture in L.A. the first answer out of someone's mouth was... "We need more money."
I sat in my chair and hung my head. Did they not listen to the show?
Mike Daisey Isn’t Done Smacking the American Theater — or Teresa Eyring — Around « Clyde Fitch Report:
Here in New York, meanwhile, you’ve got major nonprofit theaters siphoning off bloggers and segregating them, like African-Americans on Alabama buses. They calling them into early-preview invitations and dubbing whatever those bloggers write “marketing initiativess” and not treating them like what they are — legitimate critics. It’s absurd and it’s shameful. It’s as if Brown vs. Board of Education was written with an exemption for those that worship at the Temple of Dionysus. Feh — as if it isn’t already absurd that blogger-critics aren’t paid to write what they write, because they ought to be. And please, oh Lord, don’t give me the argument that there are too many bloggers and press agents can’t discern which ones are “legitimate.” It was the same story 10 years ago when all the theater websites cropped up and, well, the market figured it out — the publicists figured it out. No, what Daisey is getting at is another manifestation of theaters being too dumb, too dim, too insular to turn the ship before it strikes the iceberg. It’s also about the fact that the managerial and administrative enablers also depend on the status quo for their own economic survival.
greg.org: the making of: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Dendur:
G -- He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he became sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber., for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... A bounty hunter.
S -- If there were these Arabs who just discovered some great king's tomb, and you see the tomb being taken out. And there are about twenty five or thirty Arabs heavily armed, and like five trucks and you realize... there's this one guy who's all painted, and he's one of the pall bearers who slips a thing into the back of the truck, gets behind the wheel and as the caravan is going to turn right, this one thing goes left. And the rest chase him, but he gets away.
G -- The thing is, if there is an object of antiquity, that a museum knows about that may be missing, or they know it's somewhere, he can go like an archeologist, but it's like rather than doing research, he goes in to get the gold. He doesn't really go to find cheap artifacts, he goes to gather stuff. And the other thing is, if something was taken from a tomb, stolen and sort of in the underground, sometimes they may send him out to get it. Essentially he's a bounty hunter. He's a bounty hunter of antiquities is what it comes down to.
If a museum says that there is this famous vase that we know exists, it was in this tomb at this time. It may still be there, but we doubt it. We think maybe it's on the underground market, or in a private collection. We'd like to have it. Actually it belongs to us. We're the National Museum of Cairo or something. He says okay and tracks it down.
If its not in the thing, he finds it, finds out who's got it. And he swipes it back. A lot of times it's sort of legal. All he has to do is get it. It's not like he steals things from collectors, and then gives them to other collectors. What he does is steal things from private collectors who have them illegally, and gives them back to the national museums and stuff. Or, being that his morality isn't all that good, he will go into the actual grave and steal it out of the country and give it to the museum. It's sort of a quasi-ethical side of that whole thing. The museum does commission somebody to go into the pyramids and you know, whatever they find, sort of get out without the Egyptian government knowing, because they were in the process of turmoil and nobody's going to know anyway and there's not going to be any official protest, so just do it...
greg.org: the making of: Greet The Light. Ask The Light How It's Family's Doing.:
Encountering a Turrell work almost always involves a moment of realization--yes, someone did call it an "Aha! moment" last night--that the solid-looking object or space you're looking at is, in fact, light. And the artist told a few stories--well-polished and funny like a favorite stone he carried around in his pocket--about getting sued by a woman who leaned against the wall "that wasn't there"; the reviewer who dismissed a piece at the Whitney as "uniformly painted"; and the viewer who leapt into that same piece because she thought it was solid, which makes no sense if you think about it, but it's funny nonetheless, and we all laugh knowingly, which is the artist's point.
turrell_moma.jpgI remember parking myself in MoMA's A Frontal Passage when it was first installed, watching peoples' reactions in the dark as they "got it." Of course, more than once, what surprised them was that there was someone lurking in the dark space with them, and a couple of people freaked when I moved because they thought I was a sculpture. The Observer Effect apparently applies to Turrells as well.
Despair over financial policy - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com:
In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem.
Or to put it another way, Treasury has decided that what we have is nothing but a confidence problem, which it proposes to cure by creating massive moral hazard.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 20, 2009) - Palin's Latest Posture:
Her latest gambit to keep national attention is to turn down a third of her state's stimulus money. Of course, she wouldn't be Palin if she hadn't already lied about it, claiming at first she was refusing half the money, then being forced to acknowledge she was actually only refusing a third. Then this little nugget of joy:
The biggest single chunk of money Palin is turning down is about $170 million for education, including money that would go for programs to help economically disadvantaged and special needs students.
After this latest stunt, the legislature may over-rule her on a bunch of it.
Stimulus Politics | AndrewHalcro.com:
It appears lawmakers in Juneau are feeling burned over Governor Palin's announcement yesterday that she was declining 30% of the federal stimulus money. The most controversial chunk of change left on the table was $170 million for education that has both lawmakers and education professionals stunned.
Lawmakers are apparently upset because they thought they had a deal with the governor on what funds the state would be keeping and now she has put them in a position where they'll look like the spenders while she polishes her appeal to conservatives who are courting her for 2012.
'Day to Day's' end severs NPR's strongest tie to the West - Los Angeles Times:
Faux-Westerners tend to give themselves away. They drive with their convertible tops down on frigid winter days. They write lyrically about night air filled with the pungent smell of (scentless) bougainvillea. And, when times get tough, they revert to their Eastern roots.
National Public Radio feels like a slightly tone-deaf interloper this week, as it kills its engaging, Culver City-based magazine, "Day to Day," and hacks its West Coast staff. This all comes just six years after the network proclaimed a deep new commitment to life on our distant shores.
Mike Daisey calls America's theater establishment on the carpet - The Denver Post:
Denver Post: You have described the slow death of newspapers as "the next great crisis of the American regional theater." Why?
Mike Daisey: Theater is deeply interdependent on the newspaper industry — theater critics have been an integral part of theater's identity for more than a century, woven into the core rituals of opening night, previews and so forth. With the current model of newspapers collapsing, we will lose that support system of critical feedback, and it will strike a deep blow to theater's sense of itself as a relevant art form.
The media that replaces and evolves from newspapers are unlikely to give theater as much attention as it is getting now, and the loss of advertising space will mean theater needs to actually think about how to reach people. It will be a difficult transition that theaters are poorly equipped to handle.
Theater News - Theater - Theater News - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:
That Night Follows Day, Etchells's latest show, is another performance experiment, an inversion of children's theater: 17 kids, ages 9 to 14, performing for adults. The children, in a very natural and nonperformative way, speak directly to the audience, telling us about ourselves: "You feed us. You dress us... You watch us when we are sleeping. You tell us that once the world was full of dinosaurs... You teach us that in the world there are bad men... You teach us not to fight... You offer to teach us a lesson... You teach us to choose our words. You teach us to watch our tongues. You teach us that certain words must not be said at all... You speak another language, so we won't understand. You whisper conversations at the bottom of the stairs."
An audience of adults watching children and being scrutinized in return creates an awkward, disorienting feedback loop.
So Long - Theater - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:
One summer—roughly around the time that Burning Man, the Country Fair's electrified nephew, was becoming popular enough to ban guns—an old yellow school bus rolled into the performers' camping area and disgorged a younger, more sinister-looking pack of vaudevillians. They were scruffy road dogs in dusty suit vests and battered dress shoes. Instead of red wine and marijuana, they carried a whiff of whiskey and opium. They played music that sounded more like 1920s Gypsy jazz and Kurt Weill cabaret songs, and they comported themselves with a haggard romanticism, a gutter-dandy air that wouldn't become popular in rock and neo-burlesque clubs until years later. Their show fulfilled the promise of their entrance. It was all the usual tricks—juggling, acrobatics, sword swallowing, trapeze—but to my young eyes, Circus Contraption's stylish cirque noir made the rest of the Country Fair crowd look like weekend warriors.
Icono-Curmudgeon-Clast - Loring Wirbel's Rants: Tesla, Dead Dogs, Mike Daisey, and a Boardwalk-Park Place Sweep:
Sometimes there are hidden advantages to living in a town where Nikola Tesla performed the bulk of his research - cameo movie appearances, strange cultists on street corners (who left after the local Tesla museum went bankrupt), and now, an appearance by storyteller Mike Daisey. Daisey is a former Amazon.com exec and connector of arcane theories that entances everyone who sees him. His new piece, Monopoly!, covers the secret history of the board game, Tesla's work on large-scale electromagnetic fields, and the history of the Tesla-Edison fights that led to far too much animal abuse.
Questions for D. T. Max: Ask the Author: Online Only: The New Yorker:
In researching your article, did you glean any unique or quirky facts about David Foster Wallace’s writing process?
At one point, Wallace had a room in his house in Bloomington, Illinois, painted entirely black. The room was illuminated with dozens of antique lamps, some with shades, some without. The whole effect was very spooky. A picture of the room—at least I think it’s the room--is on the Web.
Theatre Ideas: The Wal-Marting of American Theatre (Part 2):
The fact is that at any particular moment in time, 86% of Actors Equity members are out of work. The fact is that 55% of AEA members do not work at all during the course of a year. The fact is that the median income for working AEA members is $7340, which isn't even rent in NYC. And the fact is that the true median income for all AEA members is zero. When college teachers cling to the idea that they are training young people for the profession, they fail to note that, in fact, there is no profession.
Truly Obscene Thrills / Violet Blue: Local theater company The Thrillpeddlers delivers wonderfully pornographic Parisian Grand Guignol:
Porno theater sounds like it's either going to be a total turn-off, or a trip to see live acting onstage that just sort of leaves you feeling vaguely uncomfortable. But the intention of Grand Guignol is to make you feel extremely uncomfortable, and The Thrillpeddlers have it down to a delightfully campy (and sexy) art while following the rich tradition of the genre. The theater itself is custom-built to keep you closer to the action than necessary, and the vignettes performed, while direct translations from their original scripts, deal with the most impolite subject matter possible. Violence, madness, hysteria, disease, murder in every possible form and crazy, outrageous, and especially really gross-out sex is standard fare for Grand Guignol, whose origins date back to 1897.
Back then, the Theatre du Grand Guignol was founded with much blasphemy in a former chapel in Paris and it was not only customary to splash the audience with gore, but one director even counted his successes on how many ladies fainted in the audience per each evening's performance. The actress Paula Maxa, during her career at the Grand Guignol (circa 1917) was known as "the most assassinated woman in the world." The theater would typically feature 5-6 vignettes a night as "hot and cold showers" that alternated between grisly extreme horror and bawdy sex farces.
"Funny, intelligent, and captivating."
"A Jon Stewart-esque commentator whose righteous anger and sense of humor are fundamentally inseparable."
Los Angeles Times
LA/OC Theatre Examiner: Must-See ‘How Theater Failed’ in Culver City - Jordan Young:
Got big plans this weekend? Drop ‘em. Get you butt down to the Kirk Douglas Theatre in beautiful downtown Culver City. Beg, buy or steal a ticket for How Theater Failed America, through Saturday, March 21st.
No costumes, no sets, no cast of thousands. Just a guy named Mike Daisey and his manic energy and his wonderful brain and his big ideas, big enough to fill the stage and spill out into the street. Big ideas about theater, what it is, what it could be, where it’s going and why.
Daisey recalls how he fell in love with the process of making theater under the spell of a psychotic teacher, his attempts to produce plays in western Maine where the moose outnumbered the audience, and an abysmal Seattle production of Genet’s The Balcony that almost finished him.
He’s not afraid to poke fun at his fellow actors and their passion for opening night platters of cheese, or bite the hand that feeds him by mocking the concept of season subscriptions—and blasting big theater companies for investing in buildings instead of art. Daisey doesn’t paint a pretty picture about the future of the American theater, but serves up a fervent (and often hilarious) argument for its survival against long odds.
New York Theater - Spring Guide: David Levine Messes with Imperfection in Venice Saved: A Seminar - page 1:
His recent projects have shunned the stage altogether: In Actors at Work (2006), he auditioned performers, assembled a cast, filed Equity paperwork, then paid his corps to go back to their day jobs. In 2007's Bauerntheater, which translates as "farmers' theater," Levine hired actor David Barlow to live as the laborer from Heiner Müller's land-reform drama The Resettler. After a rehearsal period, Barlow moved to a plot of land outside Berlin and spent a month planting potatoes 10 hours a day. In 2004's 'Night Motherfucker, Levine closeted two actors in a large minimalist sculpture and had them run scenes from two-character Broadway plays.
Gleichman certainly has the talent to keep an audiences attention through the whole of the play, but it is Zachary Brewster-Geisz who steals the show as the young, crude and incredulous Mozart.
Throughout the play Brewster-Geisz is able to wax comic and tragic without the least bit of hesitation; patrons will laugh hysterically at Mozart’s profanity laden jokes and lament his eventual downfall.
My latest email update:
I have returned from my time on a remote South Pacific island where the last cargo cult in the world can be found. Here is the first thing I've written about the experience:
Last month I gave a keynote manifesto for the PuSh Festival in Vancouver on art, commodification, and the war for our culture. You can listen to a recording of that speech here:
My monologue HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA plays this week in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. We're thrilled to be bringing this work to LA, and are hoping to reach theater artists and lovers across the city—details are at the end of this message, along with an incredible ticket offer of $10 for people on this list. Please spread the word to folks you know in LA—a trailer for the monologue can be seen here:
We'll also be doing a workshop of our new monologue, THE LAST CARGO CULT, this Sunday afternoon for five little dollars:
Next week we'll be performing MONOPOLY! in Colorado Springs with Theatreworks. I'm looking forward to this last engagement in what has been a continuous three month tour, because Nikola Tesla had an infamous laboratory in Colorado Springs. You can see a film of me visiting Tesla's final laboratory, in Shoreham, Long Island, here:
Details can be found at the site, mikedaisey.com, and tickets are available here:
Be seeing you,
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA
4 nights only at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theater
Following successful runs Off-Broadway and in Washington D.C., and Seattle, master storyteller Mike Daisey makes his L.A. debut by sinking his razor-sharp wit into a subject he knows well: the American theater, from the sublimely crass to the genuinely ugly. From gorgeous new theaters standing empty as cathedrals, to “successful” working actors traveling like migrant farmhands, to an arts culture unwilling to speak or listen to its own nation, Daisey takes stock of the dystopian state of theater in America: a shrinking world with smaller audiences every year. Fearlessly implicating himself and the system he works within, Daisey seeks answers to essential and dangerous questions about the art we’re making, the legacy we leave the future, and who it is we believe we’re speaking to.
"A funny, surprisingly supple performance about life in the theater, the ecstatic highs and the aching, humiliating lows, rendered here with explosive humor and a dark edge of tragedy."
"A sardonic rebuke to the corporate types who hold American theater hostage and a powerful sense of the wonder of theater. A remarkable performer."
NEW YORK TIMES
"Blending political anger with striking personal stories, this piece should reach anyone who believes in live performance."
Watch a trailer on YouTube here: http://pop.youtube.com/watch?v=QoXf5u6_Gw0
Get $10 tickets to any performance using code DAISEY here: http://tinyurl.com/batvq7
Read a New York Times profile here: http://tinyurl.com/b68oo9
Get tickets to THE LAST CARGO CULT workshop here: http://tinyurl.com/dxyh29
"Daisey is a working man's Spalding Gray: boyish passion meshed with refined contemplation...not only vastly entertaining, it's also a call to action."
TIME OUT NEW YORK
"His transfixing delivery underscores his central point: theatre is a wave, not a particle, and the current system isn't doing it—or us—justice."
THE NEW YORKER
"A rollicking, entertaining evening that's as inspiring as it is cautionary."
NEW YORK POST
"It's an exhilarating show, as Daisey deftly coaxes the room from raucous laughter to hushed contemplation...Daisey has a knack for disarming his audience with an approachable persona, incandescent wit and a gift for virtuoso storytelling."
"Daisey creates an alternately exhilarating and frightening picture of the contemporary American stage—a startlingly accurate diagnosis of its condition"
"Though theater may have failed, Daisey nicely succeeds."
"Wildly funny and a passionately engaged critique—it will remind you of everything you once thought possible and make you wonder whether it can't be possible still."
WASHINGTON CITY PAPER
"Pungent, profane and hilarious...Daisey can evoke the thrill and absurdity of theatrical passion with the surreal bravado of a modern-day Swift."
"An engaging, witty, and impassioned critique of what's wrong with the way theater is currently being done -- and who is responsible. He manages to make the audience understand the weight of everything he's saying while transforming the material into some of the funniest stories I've ever heard. At the heart of all of his tales is an element of truth that makes clear not only his critical opinions, but also his love for the art."
See This Play: "How Theater Failed America" in Los Angeles:
For those of you who work in theater, Mike Daisey's inspiring, funny, and sad monologue, How Theater Failed America, should be required viewing. Having played in New York (that's where I saw it last year) and toured pretty extensively throughout the country, many industry folk have already seen it and argued about it. It hits the Los Angeles area this week, and, if you're even remotely interested in the state of American theater, you should go.
The dynamic Daisey tells the story of how he fell in love with theater, while also breaking down how the industry is collapsing under the weight of its own ambitions. How Theater Failed America is at once a provocative and argumentative critique of the system as well as a clarion call to all theater artists to help save and honor the industry that they love.
LA Stage Scene Examiner: A double dose of Daisey:
“How Theater Failed America” is a well tested and well traveled piece in which Daisey takes on - and takes to task - the American regional theater system especially its treatment of actors. “The Last Cargo Cult,” the Tanna piece, is still in workshop form, although with Daisey’s scriptless, evolving thoughts format, it could be suggested that his monologues never stop being works in progress.
Given its chomping-the-hand-that-feeds-you subject matter, “How Theater Failed America” has stirred up a bit of controversy. Daisey maintains that any actor who isn’t already embedded in the regional theater system could not express some of the things he’s saying publicly without risking career suicide.
Daisey a self described “independent contractor“ - doesn‘t have that problem.
“There’s a lot of repression. We don’t talk about what the landscape is like,” he said. “I kept thinking about these issues. The more I learned, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I had to find a way to talk about them in way that was not didactic by weaving my own story about moving through the American theater, and my assessment of the shape of things today.”
“We want to make a performance a hospitable friendly welcoming space,” he continued. “It gets unpleasant for people if they paid $75 to actually become vividly aware of how much an Equity actor is making in a production. Audiences like to passively believe that people are paid a living wage. It makes them feel better.”
Too big to fail, too bad to be fired - The Atlantic Business Channel:
It's worth noting that AIG basically responds to this argument in CEO Edward Liddy's letter (pdf) to Geithner and in the firm's white paper (pdf) on compensation practices. And it's worth noting because AIG's argument for why it can't lose certain employs takes an interesting and perverse form:
AIGFP's books also contain a significant number of complex -- so-called bespoke -- transactions that are difficult to understand and manage. This is one reason replacing key traders and risk managers would not be practical on a large scale. Personal knowledge of the trades and the unique systems at AIGFP will be critical to an effective unwind of AIGFP's businesses and portfolios.
That's from the white paper. Essentially, the complicated contracts that resulted in huge losses in AIG is being used as a reason why the the people who wrote the contracts can't be fired. (They understand the belly of the beast!)
I don't really know if this should be convincing. But I do find it interesting that this argument takes almost the same form as the claim that certain institutions are "too big to fail." Size isn't a question of merit, and neither is complexity. But both size and complexity are now being used as a defense of the status quo.
Interview With Nassim Nicholas Taleb - washingtonpost.com:
You're a fierce critic of the entire field of economics. Don't economists know anything?
You have close to a million people out there in economic life. How many people saw the extent of what could happen in this financial crisis? Some people said we'd have a problem of too much leverage, but very few saw the potential total impact that could come out of it. They didn't see the cascading effects that can be produced by a complex system.
Years ago, I noticed one thing about economics, and that is that economists didn't get anything right. I wanted to find out the reason. They would say their models are not perfect. But data show that you do much worse using their models than you would without them. It's a bull [expletive] science.
Will the Economic Crisis Destabilize Tajikistan?:
Criminal networks and radicalism could quickly fill the void. In a recently released report widely cited by Western diplomats here, the International Crisis Group concluded that Tajikistan is at risk for massive social unrest and is no longer a "bulwark against the spread of extremism and violence from Afghanistan." Rather, it is a potential source for both.
Alarming statistics back up the report. The Tajik government reports that this year crime is up 6.5 percent (and that's probably a low-ball estimate), while, according to the IMF, remittances are already down by 24 percent. Almost none of the Tajik countryside receives electricity or water in the winter, while three-quarters of rural residents live in what the International Crisis Group characterized as "abject poverty." The report adds, "[H]unger is now spreading to the cities." The country's two biggest industries, cotton and aluminum, have tanked.
Not that long ago, Central Asia—all those opaque countries ending in -stan that used to be part of the Soviet Union—was diplomatic flyover country. Other than as a source of oil and the site of the odd U.S. military base, Central Asia has not registered as a priority for the security mandarins commanding U.S. foreign policy. This may soon have to change. This mostly Muslim region, marinated in oil, uranium, and a full periodic table of other important commodities, is in a position to undermine the Obama administration's emphatic aspirations for success in Afghanistan. From failing banks in Kazakhstan to angry and unemployed men loitering in the shadows in Tajik villages, the financial crisis threatens to disrupt Central Asia's fragile political and social stability.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 16, 2009) - Compare And Contrast:
Bush and Cheney were, in fact, more brutal in their "enhanced interrogation" than the Gestapo was. And note that I am not engaging in the slightest hyperbole here. I'm not saying that the US is Nazi Germany in any way. I am saying that the torture program used by Bush and Cheney follows exactly the specific methods used by the Gestapo. This is not in any historical dispute, although the irony of using the exact same phrase for the exact same methods is one reason the Bushies dropped the term.
We also have a very specific legal precedent. When the US captured officials who had done to prisoners exactly what the last president did, the US prosecuted them, found them guilty and executed them. The price Cheney pays is a fawning interview on CNN.
That's who we are. That's what we've become.
I was asked to comment for an obituary at the Wall Street Journal for Ed Grothus, who passed away while I was on Tanna and out of touch.
I wrote a letter in the Melbourne airport about Ed and sent it off to the journalist, but they chose to use a brief quote from my monologue about the Black Hole.
I think Ed would have been fine with that—he saw the show and thought it was hilarious—but I wanted to publish my full letter to the WSJ, since none of it made it into the piece and I feel like they sold Ed short in terms of his reach, his ambitions, and his humanity.
Here's the letter:
I'm delighted you wrote me--I was lucky enough to meet Ed and spend time with him last year while working on my monologue IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING, which is in part about the rise of the military/industrial complex post-WWII and the nuclear industry.
Ed was fantastic--sharp as a tack, even as his body was clearly slowing him down, you could feel an intense engagement in him, and his emails would be wide and expansive. We wrote quite a bit--he was a good correspondent, and his kindness is really what impressed me--he was an activist, but his heart was tremendously open, and if you spend your life fighting for something that much of the world assumes is a necessary evil, it's easy to become embittered.
Ed didn't turn that way, and I found it inspiring. He was also humble, and always aware of his complicity by having worked in the weapons groups making bombs--he never forgot those origins, and how easy it had been for him, and I think for all of us, to do evil under the guise of simply doing our job.
My monologues are autobiographical, and woven from multiple storylines together. Ed appears in the piece as himself, at my first meeting with him, and I describe his life and the way he gives tours. It was a moment I'll never forget when he came to see the show, and having him stand up in the audience at the end of the performance.
He was a bundle of contradictions, and his sparkling humor and ability to laugh at himself and the world was awesome to see welded to the kind of hands-on, demonstrative work he did. He made an extraordinary choice to remain in Los Alamos, reminding that community of what it had done and continues to do, a local reflection of a national conversation about what we're willing to tolerate in the name of safety.
One anecdote: Ed would drift through the Black Hole, tinkering and puttering with true love about the most amazing piles of research and military hardware stacked up to the edge of heaven. He had this knack for materializing out of nowhere, silently, and then exclaiming in an incredibly loud voice brought on by deafness, "WELCOME TO THE BLACK HOLE!" I don't "play" people on stage, as I tell stories, but I demonstrate in the show how loud he is and do a passing imitation...it shocks audiences.
Ed loved this part when he saw it--though I know the show spoke to many of his concerns as well, he was also a showman, and a ham, and a P.T. Barnum of the nuclear age. In an age when we seem to forget how effective magic can be he understood the need to make a cause into a human story, with comedy, panache and a heartfelt yearning to connect--and his dark shop of wonders did that so well. He was an original.
Thanks for reaching out,
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable « Clay Shirky:
Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to alt.fan.dave_barry on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.
One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.
The Stranger | Slog | To Charles:
I wrote about this very madness back at the start of this crisis in October.
What's happened, since then, is the same parasitic sociopaths have started betting on the failure of the US Government:
The recent widening in United States Credit Default Swap levels has gotten a lot of attention once it cleared the magic 100bps level intra-day.
As with any CDS-related news, you will get heated commentary in the blogosphere with a large perception of folks simply calling for all CDS trading to be banned. The general consensus appears to be “don’t the buyers of CDS realize that in the event of default by US, these contracts are not likely to be honored anyway?” This is Krugman’s line. Taleb chimes in with “It would be like buying insurance on the Titanic from someone on the Titanic”.
Why would one do such a thing? If these traders are successful in generating a panic, the spreads should increase, netting them a neat paper profit—as they drive us all a bit more into the iceberg.
The Clyde Fitch Report: From the Blogroll XI:
And look -- one can argue that when an Atlanta theater mounts a play and the play is picked up for New York, that's the Wal-Martization of the American theater, too. Ditto if you have an actor trained outside of New York who then comes to New York and makes it big, Beth Leavel-style. But when a play is mounted successfully in New York and regional houses pick it up, that brings income -- tangible, substantive success -- to playwrights. If you take someone like Steven Dietz, whose plays are always done in Seattle and who lives in Seattle and Austin, I believe -- well, his situation really gives the lie to what Walters calls a lie, for Dietz proves that New York need not always be the center of the Dionysian universe. This lends credence to Mike Daisey's argument that there needs to be far more encouraging of non-New York arts communities to celebrate their own within their own, if you will, and that the temptation to indulge in the hagiography of New York must be resisted -- again, at home. New York isn't to blame for great branding -- non-New York communities are responsible for uncompetitive branding.
The Playgoer: Will Theatre Outlive The Newspaper?:
So my question is: how will (and I say "will" not "would" since it is now accepted this will happen) the disappearance of serious daily newspapers in major cities affect the life of the theatre in said cities?
And I don't just mean critics.* I mean without the newspaper itself. So not only no features, but no listings, and no ads.
These regional theatre folks better get web savvy real fast...
I'm going to break with tradition and answer this briefly--it will affect them CATACLYSMICALLY, because mainstream American theater is tied to the newspaper intimately. We're now at the point where most of those theaters do understand that there is a "web" out there, and that they can sell tickets there...so they've begun doing web promotions, but they are always partially baked.
That's not all their fault--in each market where all the papers die, it will be a massive upheaval and the ground will change very quickly. Until that moment NO ONE really knows how things will change. My issue is that the American theater industry I know so well has these consistent traits:
A) Is very slow to react.
B) Is cranky, old-fashioned and out-of-touch when it does start reacting.
C) Has very little sense of zeitgeist or cultural indicators of any kind.
In this climate they are going to fail. Not forever, but they will certainly not adapt well to the change--I bet there's 2-3 years until they find a footing of some kind, and that is assuming that cultural delivery and reflection instruments evolve in that particular city. I believe this change will be the next great crisis of the American regional theater.
I don't think it's going to wait for us to deal with the current crisises, so I fear it may just be overwhelming for many to have no map whatsoever.
Parabasis: That's Live Theatre For You:
The first act of This Beautiful City is largely devoted to creating the world of Colorado Springs, following around various citizens of the town, including high ranking members of Ted Haggard's church (New Life), a transgendered Christian woman, a few atheists, members of other churches etc. The second act is largely devoted to the fallout of the Haggard revelations on the various characters introduced in the first.
SO here's the thing... Ted Haggard was in the audience last night with his wife, Gail. I found out at intermission, before the show's focus had shifted to being about Haggard and the fallout of his outing.
A letter from the mailbag from my friend and Seattle-era, Printer's Devil-era theater maker Hilary Ketchum:
I just had to write and tell you how much I've been enjoying your debate re MFA programs.
It's hitting close to home for me because I attended the MFA Acting program at the New School University from 2000-2001 when it was still under the auspices of the Actor's Studio. The tuition was $28,000 a year, which is just under the cost of tuition for much more renown programs such as Yale and NYU. I took it all out in loans and I also took out an additional $10,000 for living expenses, plus I was working a part time job, which they advise against. Can you believe that? I was like, "yes but....how?" So I just worked anyway, most of the students did.
Unlike NYU & Yale, this program was really poorly put together and young. The connection to the Actor's Studio was eronious except that the teachers were all members and they were great. I had a wonderful experience with my acting teacher and my history teacher there but the rest were just, eh. The main problem though, was the other students. They accepted 50 acting students, many of which had little no experience at all. I could go on and on about why the program was not up to snuff with the big leagues but I won't because it's not really my point.
My point is that they had no right to charge the prices they were charging. If it had been say, $6,000 a year (like the wonderful Playwrighting MFA program at Brooklyn College where my husband graduated) or even $10,000 a year, I would have stayed but it quickly became apparent to me that this program was not going to help me become a working actor. Even if it helped me get into the Actor's Studio itself (when you graduate you're allowed to audition at the top tier and many did get in) after observing sessions at the Actor's Studio, which we were allowed to do, I began to realise that getting in there wasn't any great shakes either. It's basically a bunch of geriatrics slapping each other on the back for great yarns like, "I remember once when I did an improv with Brando and he threw me against a WALL!!" A cohort of mine used to sit with me and play a game I made up called "how many minutes will go by before someone mentions Brando." It was a fun game because someone always did.
Anyhoooo, I was really unhappy at the program and after one year I decided to leave. It was a hard decision because I'm not a quitter and I don't give up easily but the main thing for me was that this was costing me SO MUCH MONEY. I saved myself over $70,000 by dropping out and it was the best decision I've ever made. That's more than what my husband and I just put down as a down payment on our house. By the way, I haven't seen even one member of my cohort in so much as a television commercial, let alone a piece of downtown theater and I've been looking.
Now in full disclosure I auditioned for the NYU MFA program twice and didn't get in. I know that I don't really have what it takes to make it as a working actor. If I had gotten in to NYU I may have gotten more work; I may not have. I probably would have had a much better experience and at least gotten an agent but I really agree with you that even these top tier programs are charging way too much, way too much for this experience. Kids believe that it's their ticket in and for a very small few it is. Many people have made the point that it's not just about getting work when you get out, it's about the inner growth, what you learn, becoming a better actor. and I totally agree. I did get quite a lot out of my first and only year in an MFA program, however it was NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING WORTH THE MONEY.
If a young talented actor walked up to me and asked me if they should go to graduate school for acting I would say, "If you are rich, then yes. If you are not rich, just go audition, join a theater company, work and learn the hard way. You'll save yourself a shit load of money."
I'll stop here. I just wanted you to know that I agree with everything you're saying. It needs to be talked about and examined. It's total extortion plain and simple.
Very truly yours!
How to find the hidden folk of Iceland:
According to a poll conducted in 2007, 54 percent of Icelanders don't deny the existence of elves and 8 percent believe in them outright, although only 3 percent claim to have encountered one personally. The ability to see the huldufólk, or hidden folk, can't be learned; you're just born with it. To find elves, seers don't really need to do anything—they'll just sense an elfin presence. The Vanity Fair article says that elf detection can take six months, but it's usually a quick process that can last under an hour. And although the magazine claims that a "government expert" had to certify the nonexistence of elves, the Icelandic Embassy insists that these consults are performed by freelancers, not government contractors.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 09, 2009) - The Big Questions:
1. I want to know with great detail the true status of the following institutions: B of A, Citi, and AIG. We’re all adults here. Let’s hear it.
2. What are the positions of the Republican Party on the following issues: job creation, the financial system, energy, and health care?
3. Why does Tim Geithner have no staff? When will he have staff? What should we think of this glaring shortfall?
4. What do the Obama people have in mind for the auto industry?
5. When will taxes go up on the middle class to help pay for Obama’s long term restructuring of the economy, a.k.a. the “Grand Bargain”? When will he present this case to the public?
Mike Daisey Performs 'How Theater Failed America' at Kirk Douglas Theatre March 18-21:
As part of Center Theatre Group's DouglasPlus, Mike Daisey performs his acclaimed monologue "How Theater Failed America" for four performances only at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, opening Wednesday, March 18 and continuing through Saturday, March 21 (all performances are at 8 p.m.). A special roundtable discussion will be held following the March 20 performance on the state of American theatre. Daisey will also workshop a new piece, "The Last Cargo Cult" on Sunday, March 22 at 3 p.m.
In "How Theater Failed America," directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, Daisey sinks his razor-sharp wit into his workplace in this monologue about theatre, failure, passion and hope. In this controversial piece Daisey makes the case that theatre has lost its audiences and its way by valuing buildings above artists, growth over artistry, and corporations over individuals. The Washington Post called the monologue " . . . a funny, surprisingly supple performance about life in the theatre, the ecstatic highs and the aching, humiliating lows, rendered here with explosive humor and a dark edge of tragedy."
Ken's sad and lonely life in Barbie's shadow:
But even with his manhood, Ken wouldn't quite be a man. When I took my Beach Party Ken over to Marion's place for a play date, I discovered that she has six Barbies—none of them bought by ambivalent Mommy—attending to the needs of her one hapless Ken. Marion and her mother evolved a game in which two evil sisters (represented by Cruella de Vil and the witch from Sleeping Beauty) repeatedly abducted the two Kens and tied them up in their lair, where they waited powerlessly for a Barbie to come to the rescue.
Drinking the Theatrical KoolAid « a poor player:
I think the saddest experience of my day yesterday was attending the keynote address at which Beth Leavel spoke (or rather performed). A graduate of Meredith College and University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Ms. Leavel won the Tony Award for her performance in the title role of The Drowsy Chaperone. Her IBDB listing indicates she’s been in exactly 6 shows on Broadway since 1980. Almost 13 years of her career has been performing in 42nd St., the original and the revival. She was in the right place at the right time with the right show to win her Tony. She is funny, and she appears to have a very quick comic mind. She enjoys playing the comic diva. She had the assembled multitude of college theatre majors eating out of her hand.
But she had nothing serious to say, really. Neither did the theatre majors. All the questions and all the talk was about how to succeed on Broadway and be like her. As I walked through the halls of the hotel complex during the afternoon I grew more and more sad watching all these young dressed-up kids with their audition numbers pinned to their chests waiting for their turn to show everyone what they could do and begin their climb up the great Broadway ladder. They know nothing else at all about theatre except this professional business model, and they have no sense of independent thought in terms of thinking about how to push back against it. They’re just buying it hook, line and sinker. And we, the educators, are tossing them the baited hook.
While I was on the island, a number of people have been talking about MFA programs and my posts on them. I don't have time now to address all of them, nor do all of them merit addressing as I've been fairly thorough in the past, but I'll go through this response from a commentor at Parabasis as it is the latest to land.
Lately, Mike Daisey, theatrical gadfly, has taken it upon himself to rectify a certain area of the theatre world called the MFA.
I have no idea why people choose to open with a tone like this, but it makes it difficult to engage in civil discourse. And to be clear, I am trying to RECTIFY nothing—that would imply that I've begun activist work. All I've done is post my thoughts to my site. Despite the vote of confidence in my vast powers, this doesn't rise to rectification.
It's a subject that's been well chewed over, but since Mike's HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA has made him resident ombudsman for the theatre world, the subject is getting fresh attention.
1) I don't think it has been very well discussed—in fact, I don't think it's been talked about nearly enough.
2) I doubt I'm an ombudsman—all I did was post my thoughts on the matter. If people choose to engage with that, well and good...but I'm getting tired of the ad hominem attacks because I have the temerity to talk about shit.
First, seeing that an Acting MFA costs a lot, he calls into question what its real value is. This perspective means he's looking at MFA programs as simple equations that can be boiled down to: If I pay this in up front, how much will I get paid back later?
But that certainly is a component to them, isn't it? And if the costs are so high, and the remuneration for the craft that school teaches is so low, shouldn't that be a topic for discussion? An MFA in theater is a craft-based learning--I have no idea why it is so crass to discuss how one will pay back that debt in practice.
It is a notion we're more used to hearing on the Squawk Box on CNBC every morning. If one believes this is the way education should be understood, we should call into question any liberal arts program that does not qualify as pre-med, pre-law and pre-mba.
I've seen this specious line of counter-argument a couple of places: the idea is that I'm a raving capitalist. It's ridiculous and stupid: all I'm pointing out is that the one thing an MFA is supposed to prepare you for (a life working in the American theater) is ridiculously incapable of repaying the debt that put you there.
Also, I am not talking about how "education" should be reformed—a constant issue I'm dealing with is folks who unnaturally expand the scope of my argument, so they can win reductio ad absurdum. I am specifically speaking about MFA programs in the American theater.
Of course, he doesn't tell us who has been through some of these programs that have succeeded. It's just assumed everyone's a loser. It might be interesting to look at a shortlist of MFA success stories:
Sigorney Weaver, Meryl Streep, Danny Glover, Debra Messing, Billy Crudup, Michael Hall, Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, Benjamin Bratt, Anna Shapiro, etc.
Is this a joke? It looks as though you've offered a list of nine movie and television stars as evidence of "success". At least Anna works in the theater--so we have ONE success, in history, against the hundreds (probably thousands, but I will have to do research to confirm) of MFA graduates every year? I'm not sure this is a fruitful argument for you.
I'm arguing that the cost and debt is excessive for theater artists—I have no idea why the evidence of a small number of people who do very well who have been to MFA programs contraindicates what I'm saying.
Did these people really get by on nothing but connections? Really? Or just talent? It is not only impossible to say, but it's ridiculous to say you know. No one knows. We only know that they are successful and they have MFAs.
Isn't this the same kind of tortured logic the Church used to "prove" that Galileo was wrong?
When did I state that I knew how these people were successful? I've never even talked about these people. This is a straw man.
Mike then calls current MFA acting programs "Ponzi schemes."
I said, very clearly, that they were like a Ponzi scheme, as I was discussing how each generation gets in debt to pay out the generation before it by supporting the institution that trains them. I did not actually say they WERE a Ponzi scheme. There is a difference.
He further says that current administrators and teachers in MFA acting programs are by thus, by default, "complicit" in this ponzi scheme.
I said that artists who work perpetuating this system need to assess their own complicity within it, and evaluate what their institution is doing to the art form—programs vary immensely, and some will be more or less abusive than others.
Of course he doesn't tell you who those people are - but who teaches in those programs?
Here are just a few names that teach or have taught at programs that cost real money:
Robert Woodruff, Lonny Price, Kristin Linklater, Andrei Serban, Joseph Chaiken, Richard Foreman, Anne Bogart, Robert Wilson, Morgan Jenness, Wendy Goldberg, Amiri Baraka, Barbara MacKenzie-Wood, Natalie Shirer, Donald Margulies, Deb Margolin, Anne Bogart, David Schweitzer, Estelle Parson... etc.
I love how this time around, with the teachers, we get a list that is almost all people who *actually* work within the living theater, as opposed to the "success" stories.
I know a number of people well on that list—Woodruff, Bogart, Jenness, Schweitzer—so let me be clear: YES. All those people have a responsibility to assess their complicity in the MFA system, and ensure that their participation is not doing damage to the theatrical ecosystem. In fact, as teachers and independent artists of note they have a very high responsibility to do so. I have no idea why artistic achievement would exempt these people from assessing the direct effects their choices have.
According to Mike these people are part of the destruction of American Theatre. But read the names again and ask yourself, Really? These people?
Yes, that would be problematic if I had said something so incredibly stupid, but since I didn't we don't have to worry about it.
It's another straw man, but beneath it is the truth that yes, artists teach and choose where and how to teach, and we bear a responsibility for the state of the system, and a moral obligation to work for reform.
There's a case of dramatic overstatement going on here that starts with some all-too-quick conclusions drawn from superficial research and understanding about MFAs.
Not to be too snarky, but I think this more accurately describes the writer than it does on me.
His arguments serve those who believe that MFAs are about connections alone and that nobody can learn anything from anyone else when it comes to the theatrical training.
Look, it might *serve* those people if they are morons, but they aren't my opinions—I think learning and craft-based training is very important. If I did not I wouldn't be making statements about it—I would simply tell everyone I knew to never go to any MFA programs and have done with it. But I believe in education, and in the ability of training that doesn't break the back of artists to be a vital link in our American theater...and that's why I'm addressing these things. We need a better system.
Not that big debt for an MFA is a great thing. It's not. It's quite a serious problem.
Finally, some agreement.
But suggesting no-one gets anything but debt out of an MFA, unless they're a teacher, is such a blanket statement built on assumptions of why people go and how they do after, it should be regarded quite suspiciously.
It would be, if I had said this, but I didn't. I know people get LOTS of things out of MFA programs...LOTS and LOTS. But what I care about is the LOTS and LOTS of DEBT they get on the way to doing that, and how that prevent them from practicing their craft, which is what they ostensibly were trained for.
Though others have pointed some of these things out elsewhere, Mike doesn't re-address the issues with these new thoughts in mind. Instead he publishes a testimonial from an MFA playwright who feels he learned nothing of value from his Columbia education.
1) I'm readdressing them now. Happy Birthday.
2) The posting of links and messages to the site indicates my interest, but not my automatic endorsement—unless I am stating something it isn't a statement from me. Things I am saying are bold, like this. Things others are saying are italicized.
Mike doesn't help himself much when he suggests solutions to the situation might come by making loans "income contingent."
I didn't. That's a Slate article I linked to. That's why it's in italics.
Though I will say that there's nothing wrong with an income contingent loan program if it is accompanied by actual funding that helps defray and cushion against shocks—I think it is a compelling proposal for education.
What would be more helpful would be an overhaul of the consolidation system that allows one to only consolidate once. If you consolidate when the interest rate is high, you're screwed forever.
Well, you really can't "consolidate" more than once--what you're really talking about is more options for refinancing, and I agree, that would be a good avenue to explore.
The commentator concludes with some thoughts on loans, which you can link back and read, but since they are about education in general I'll let this overlong posting come to an end.
I have a performance this evening in Melbourne, and now must return to my work. I am not sure I will be returning to this subject on the site anytime soon—I've been somewhat disappointed with the level of discourse that has sprung from what I've said, and I'm not convinced that people are listening in a constructive way, at least the ones who are posting the most often. We'll see.
The Stranger | Slog | A Followup Question, Your Holiness:
The Vatican "stands behind" the excommunication of the mother a nine-year-old girl who underwent an abortion after she was raped and impregnated by her stepfather and doctors determined that carrying twins to term would endanger the life of the little girl—oh, the Vatican stands behind the excommunication of the girl's doctors too.
So, your holiness, any word on the stepfather? Has he been excommunicated? Or are you worried about the repercussions for the Church if you start excommunicating child rapists left and right? The Church is having a hard enough time retaining priests as things stand now, huh?
Parabasis: About That 50 Million...:
I'd have to agree with the blogospheric consensus that restricting the $50 Million in NEA bailout money to people who received grants from the NEA during the Bush administration was a mistake. I don't think it's necessarily worth the angry invective, and I think money for the arts is in general is a good thing and it's worth keeping in mind that in concrete terms arts organizations will be helped by this money. That doesn't make the move above criticism, however.
Creepy Shock Doctrine Reference #2
The Strange, Charmed Life of Steve Wozniak | Newsweek Daniel Lyons | Techtonic Shifts | Newsweek.com:
How he ever managed to work alongside the notoriously prickly Jobs is hard to imagine. Legend has it that in the early days Jobs worshiped Woz, who is a few years older and even as a teenager had gained a reputation as an electronics wizard. Woz started out as a phone-system hacker, making "blue boxes" that enabled people to make free long-distance calls. Later he was working at Hewlett-Packard and was reluctant to quit and join Jobs to form Apple—but Jobs twisted his arm. A few years later, when Apple went public in 1980, Jobs refused to give any shares to some of the young guys who'd been helping out in the garage. So Woz set up something called the "Woz Plan" and sold (at very low prices) or gave away one third of his shares to those folks, as well as other friends and family members. After leaving Apple he finished a degree at UC Berkeley, taught fifth grade and promoted rock concerts with technology demos at the fairground.
Someone has been reading THE SHOCK DOCTRINE...
My Way News - Obama: Time of crisis can be 'great opportunity':
WASHINGTON (AP) - Trying to buck up a dispirited nation, President Barack Obama on Saturday promised that prosperous days will return and cast these bleak times as nothing less than a "great opportunity." Packing some heft with his hope, he defended his fast-moving and expensive agenda.
Are there lemonade stands that devote more to charity than Amazon.com?:
While Amazon.com is famously cheap in its prices, it's also become infamously cheap to the community it lives in. The tacit silence over Amazon's stinginess was first broken in a 2007 complaint on a Publishers Weekly blog by a rival Seattle bricks-and-mortar bookseller. When Paul Constant, books editor at the Seattle alt-weekly the Stranger, followed up on the post last year, he hit a stone wall: "[Amazon.com] has refused to return repeated e-mails and calls from The Stranger about the company's seemingly nonexistent contributions to the Seattle arts scene," he wrote at the time. "Internet searches for any sign of philanthropy on behalf of the company prove fruitless."
Wait … no corporate giving at all? None?
Recent Amazon.com SEC filings and annual reports make no mention of grants, charitable donations, local arts support, or any other civic-minded efforts by the online giant. By contrast, their rival Barnes & Noble actually notes community relations in its annual reports and maintains a Sponsorships and Charitable Donations page complete with application instructions. For that matter, most multibillion-dollar corporations pay at least some lip service to doing good—especially when the company itself is doing great.
Puzzled, I e-mailed Patty Smith, Amazon.com's director of corporate communications. Yes, she said, she'd like to hear Slate's questions. But when asked specifically about the extent of Amazon.com's charitable contributions—indeed, for any comment at all on a corporate policy regarding philanthropy—the company's response was silence. Repeated calls and e-mails have since gone unreturned.
Two perfectly reasonable explanations come to mind for this. The first is that Amazon.com is exceedingly discreet—that it changes into superhero tights in a phone booth, then rockets off to provide clean water to poor villages, dole out blankets to shivering orphans, and phone in whopping anonymous grants during Car Talk pledge drives.
The other is that there are lemonade stands that donate more to charity than Amazon.com does.
From Martin Dockery, whose show THE SURPRISE is currently running in NYC:
I just spent about a half-hour scrolling down your site, reading what you had to say about MFA tuitions obligating debt ridden graduates to get a job outside of poorly paying theater. It's an opinion I've always held myself.
When I entered Columbia for an MFA in playwriting, I was a year out of college and didn't have any decent appreciation of the money my father would be paying for me to go there. By the end, though, 3 years later, I was appalled to realize the massive amounts of debt my classmates had taken on for this degree - which didn't actually teach anyone how to make a career of theater. I mean, we had playwriting workshops and other courses which were, in essence, filler to round out the degree.
All this for some advanced degree that, outside of teaching, would make no difference to anyone. But we weren't there to become teachers. Or, like you pointed out, were we? And surely the administrators knew this. And the professors, as well.
I don't blame anyone for teaching, but they should be aware that they are complicit in perpetuating a system that bankrupts the very artists who are most enthusiastic about this particular art. That they are obligating them to become teachers who will be forced to perpetuate the same system further.
And in the end, what, really are people being taught? How to write? How to act? These are not disciplines that, for the most part, can be taught, I believe. You either have an innate talent, or you don't, and it is experience alone that allows you to improve upon it. (But this is another argument.)
Imagine if all that tuition money were instead put towards establishing small theater companies that mounted their own productions? People would really learn how to create sustainable, vibrant theater.
Obama, Bush Secret-Keeper:
Having inherited an undifferentiated mass of legal "war on terror" doctrine from the Bush administration's constitutional chop shop, President Obama finds himself in the position of being Bush's Secret-Keeper. Picking its way warily through a minefield of secrecy and privacy claims, the Obama administration this week released nine formerly classified legal opinions produced in the Office of Legal Counsel (while holding back others that are being sought) and brokered a deal whereby Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will finally testify about the U.S. attorney firings (but not publicly). Meanwhile, the administration clings to its bizarre decision to hold fast to the Bush administration's all-encompassing view of the "state secrets" privilege, and the Nixonian view of executive power deployed to justify it. The Obama administration has also been quick to embrace the Bush view of secrecy in cases involving the disclosure of Bush era e-mails and has dragged its feet in various other cases seeking Bush-era records. If there is a coherent disclosure principle at work here, I have yet to discern it.
Screwing the Poor | Mother Jones:
There are lots of things to hate about our current medical system, and all of us have our own favorite things to hate. This is mine: the fact that the system massively overcharges you if you're uninsured, and they do it just because they can. If you're uninsured, you've got no leverage, no alternatives, no nothing. So you get screwed. It's like the shopkeepers who charge twenty bucks for a pair of flashlight batteries after hurricanes. Maybe it's the free market at work, but if so, that's all the worse for the free market. In the healthcare biz, it just doesn't work.
The Long Goodbye:
Since my mother's death, I have been in grief. I walk down the street; I answer my phone; I brush my hair; I manage, at times, to look like a normal person, but I don't feel normal. I am not surprised to find that it is a lonely life: After all, the person who brought me into the world is gone. But it is more than that. I feel not just that I am but that the world around me is deeply unprepared to deal with grief. Nearly every day I get e-mails from people who write: "I hope you're doing well." It's a kind sentiment, and yet sometimes it angers me. I am not OK. Nor do I find much relief in the well-meant refrain that at least my mother is "no longer suffering." Mainly, I feel one thing: My mother is dead, and I want her back. I really want her back—sometimes so intensely that I don't even want to heal. At least, not yet.
Sheila Callaghan’s Play as Provocation (Jell-O Included) - NYTimes.com:
I did get a subscription to Metal magazine, but I wasn’t a true metalhead. I maybe went to a Bon Jovi concert. I had a Cinderella album, “Long Cold Winter.” It was a weird time to come of age because you have a burgeoning sense of your own sexuality, and your objects of desire are long-haired, permed, lipstick-wearing, Spandexed boys. I had a huge crush on all of those dudes with those pulsing pants and high kicks and beautiful glowing pink mouths.
What could you buy with AIG's record-smashing $62 billion loss? - Boing Boing:
CNN's Peter Wilkinson has been running the numbers on AIG's record-smashing $62 billion quarterly loss, the largest corporate loss in history (AIG lost about $460,000 per minute in the last quarter). In addition to being sufficient to carpet an area the size of Baghdad in $1 bills, $62 billion is enough to:
1. It could pay off the combined national debts of China, Australia, Mexico and Ukraine, according to 2008 estimates by the CIA Factbook, and still have plenty left over for a good night out.
Shocking Lack of Accountability:
I am going to have to agree with Jesse that part of the issue driving this collapse was the complete lack of fear of ramifications on the part of those bending the rules to suit their personal goals. I remember 11 years ago, when I wrote a story for Money magazine about simple broker fraud, being shocked by the realization that even the most egregious violations of trust—churning someone's account into oblivion, for example—more often than not resulted in a nonadmission of guilt and a three-month suspension from the markets. We still have much the same situation today despite high-profile imprisonments of Dennis Kozlowski, Jeff Skilling, and Conrad Black. And it means that people are still willing to break the rules with relative impunity
Open Source Theatricals: A World Class Theatre Town?:
Mike Daisey's article in The Stranger, The Empty Spaces, motivates. He sums up the argument against the status quo reasonably well but overlooks the fundamental cause. Theatre history teaches us that there's a relationship between competition and quality. A theatre on subsidized life support is incapable of innovating and competing against other forms of entertainment. So long as benefactors find value in a comatose art form, our theatre will live on unchanged.
The basic conventions of our theatre haven't changed since Ibsen's Pillars of Society opened in 1877. Social drama remains the dominant genre. Thesis driven chamber pieces requiring four actors and a couch are our stock in trade. Neither have produced a masterpiece on par with the greatest plays of the past, nor have they resulted in a popular, profitable and vital theatre. That curtain fell on a vital theatre when non-profit tax exemptions became law. Still, season after season, we keep raising the curtain hoping a miracle is waiting in the wings. And when it's the same old plays by the same old dead playwrights, we get a new head shot, dust off the monologues and get in line. Exceptions happen, some are excellent, but none have altered the course of our theatre.
The thing I find most depressing about all of this is our lack of imagination. We can imagine a 48-hour play festival and make it a reality, we can imagine the plays of Shakespeare and Shepard and Moliere and Mamet into existence, yet we can't imagine a theatre more popular, vital and relevant than basic cable.
The way Americans pay for college is a mess. Here's how to fix it.:
Marketed under the decidedly unappealing name of "income-contingent loans"—how about we call them "smart loans" instead?—the concept is simple: Instead of paying upfront or taking loans with repayment schedules unrelated to income, students would accept an obligation to pay a fixed percentage of their income for a specified period of time, regardless of the income level achieved. Suppose a university charged $40,000 a year in annual tuition. A standard 20-year loan in the amount of $160,000 (40,000 times four) would produce an immediate postgraduate debt obligation of $1,228.50 per month, or $14,742 per year, not sustainable at a salary of $25,000 or anything close to it. Under a smart loan program, the student could pay about 11 percent of his income, with an initial payback of $243 per month, or $2,916 per year, which is feasible at a job paying $25,000. If, after five years, the student's salary jumped to $100,000, payments would jump accordingly and move up over time as income increases. After 20 years, assuming ordinary income increase, the loan would be paid off.
The smart loan model would permit all students to fund their own educations, guaranteeing that finances would no longer be a barrier to the education our work force needs. It would also free parental savings for other obligations—such as health care—at the same time that it would recognize that the student's ability to repay will grow over time as income increases through a career. The current system of hitting graduating students with immediately sky-high payment obligations just as they enter the work force is nonsensical. Pegging repayment amounts to income earned is common sense. A student who wanted to teach for several years could do so, with proportionately reduced payments, knowing that when she moved over to a more remunerative job, her payments would jump accordingly.
While I'm out of the country my partner and director Jean-Michele Gregory is working on a show with the storyteller Martin Dockery back in New York that I highly recommend you check out—it is called THE SURPRISE.
The show is about families and relationships crashing together, and about a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, everything from the temples of Angkor Wat to the silence that can blossom between people.
Martin is a sharp storyteller and a keen observer, a truly gifted narrator working with a fantastic director—it's not to be missed. There are just three shows left—full details are here, and the tickets are available through this link.
Dow finishes below 7,000 for first time since '97: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance:
The Dow's descent has been breathtaking. It took only 14 trading sessions for the average to fall from above 8,000 to below 7,000. For the year, the Dow has lost 23 percent of its value.
Its last close below 7,000 was May 1, 1997 -- a time when the market was barreling to one record high after another because of the boom in technology stocks, but often suffered big drops as investors worried about inflation and rising interest rates.
This time around, Wall Street analysts seem to believe that a stock market recovery will first require signs of health among financial companies, and on Monday those signs seemed further away than ever.
Q&A with Alissa Hamilton - The Boston Globe:
IDEAS: What isn't straightforward about orange juice?
HAMILTON: It's a heavily processed product. It's heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn't oxidize. Then it's put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it's ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.
Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down - NYTimes.com:
“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”
With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.