Friday, January 20, 2017

On Losing the NEA and the Death of Art

As we join with  our  fellow  Americans   and  look  down  the   barrel of  the  travesty  that  is  the  stolen  Presidency on  this   Inauguration  Day  of 2017 - and if  you're a  Democrat  who  has  been  voting  since  before  2000 and  you  are  reckoning  that  there  have  literally  been  two "stolen" elections  in  your  lifetime - as  an artist  the big  news  for  us  is  the  end of  the  NEA.

It  seems  Mr. Trump  and  his  Republican  cohorts are  eager  to  take  whatever  revenge  they  can  extract  from an artistic  community  that regularly satirizes the extremity  of  their  views.

So on  this  inauguration, with  the  NEA already  on  comparative  life  support  when  compared  to  other  industrialized  countries  in  the  world, we  as  artists  are  in  true  mourning, finally  coming  to  the  realization  that  the  patient  will not  be  revived  this  time.  With health care, women's  rights,  racism, and national  security on  the  forefront  of  everyone's minds, throw in some  immigration  for  distraction, the likelihood that  dismantling  the  NEA will merit  more  than one-time  front  page article  is  high. Their  is a  growing concensus that  Americans  don't  care  about  art and  humanities.

We are relatively easily moved to the  back  of  the  priority bus when it comes  to  discussing  the  upcoming  progressive  battle  with  the  incoming  administration.

How should  we  feel and  react?  Outrage?  Absolutely. Should we pool all of  our resources
to protest this horrendous  dent  to  our  national soul and  character? Clearly!


It  should  be  acknowledged  that  within the  not-for-profit  arts  community  there  is a  division  of  the  "haves"  and  "have-nots", not unlike  our  own  country's  socio-economic  divide.  The National  Endowment  for  the Arts  gave the lion's share of it's  wealth to organizations and institutions across  the  country  that  are  also  served by relatively wealthy  boards.  The NEA served as an  imprimatur of  excellence that  foundations  and large  private philanthropists used to guide their generosity.
Although during the Obama administration there was a mandate to reach out  to  smaller  organizations, the NEA had  few programs that could  make  art  grow for arts sake in  small organizations.

Ever since Robert Mapplethorpe's photography the  right-wing have  pretended they were lone  arbiters  of morals and family  values.  Clearly a backlash against  homosexuality  and  its  acceptance. But  if  we are living in  the  age  of  information, the  Republican Party and  their  new
partners, the  Trumplicans, are in a war  against our access  to  it. So kill the  artists. We'll need  the  lawyers  for  those  lawsuits.

If it cannot be measured  and  put  on a  scale,  giving  money  to  it's  creation is a  subjective.
That's a bad  idea says  the  right  wing and  over  time   the  Democrats  think  so  too, just  so  they  can  get  it  through  Congress.  So as a  reaction  to  this,  art and  artists  have been  bending  over   backwards  to  make  measurement   rubrics  and  assessments  to  try  and  fit  in  to  the  Republican  idea  of  what art  should  be. Over  the  last   30 years  the  NEA

No  matter  how  many  great  works   of art  have  been  aided  by  the  NEA  monies,  there  is  no   doubt  that  the  artistic   soul of  the  nation  is  harmed  by  this  thinking.  It is not  the  thinking  of  artists.  Far  worse,  it  has  literally  eaten  the  lives  and  intellects  of some  of  our  greatest  artists  and  creators  as  they  seek  to  create   work  that  dances  around   some   idea  of  what   is  "safe".   If  an  idea  seems  commercial,  the  not -for-profit  machine  begins to  favor  it  more  than
the  dogged  pursuit  of  excellent  art  for  its  own  sake.

Republicans, as a party,  do not  care  about  artists.  However, Republicans  as  individuals  are  the  greatest  donors  to  the  arts  as  everyone  in  the not  for  profit  world  knows. How  could  this  be  so?  Simple: tenacity and  entrepreneurship  is admired  but  helping  other s is  not . It  is  seen as  weak within the  Republican Party. Yet  they  regularly  flog the  arts  like  a  battered spouse whenever  budgets  are  discussed. The  arts  have been  gaslit  for ages. It's  where  the  right   wing  perfected  their  techniques.

It is time to break the cycle and pull the plug.

Clearly  what  Republicans  do  not  care  about  as a  party  is  quality  and  under  Donal  Trump, possibly  the  American President  with  the  least class  since  Andrew  Jackson (unkind   to Jackson's  memory) - it is  clear  that there is  no  barometer for quality arts in the  White House.  Do we  really  want  someone  making   choices that  effect art in America  who  thinks  Meryl Streep is  overrated?
If you have  no sense  of taste,  you  shouldn't  pick  the  wine.

We  should   pack our  bags  with  dignity and  not  prostrate ourselves  on  the  ground   begging to be noticed  by  Mitch McConnell and   Donald  Trump. Both seem hopelessly  callous, craven individuals who are almost  impregnable  to  reason and  decency.  We  should  begin  creating  as  much  art  as  possible  in any  place  we  can  create  art  to  reflect  the  nature  of  this  administration.  Eventually  the patient  will be  revived  and  when  it  is   it  will  be  leaner  and  healthier  and  it  will  protect  the  true  space  artists  need  to  create  with  more  ferocity.  It  will  demand respect  for artists  and  not  beg  for  approval  from politicians   who  dangle  meager  funding  in front  of  national  treasures   as  if  they  were  giving  children a  lollipop.

We have a  tremendously  dysfunctional  system  of  funding  arts  in our country. As a society  we  need  art. We  as  artists, and our  country as a  society  will not  be  served  by  cutting  arts  funding,  but  neither  will we be  served by groveling  for  pennies  for  the  crown  jewel institutions of  our  country.  Most institutions will  survive. Some  will not.  However  some  were   doomed  to  failure  after years of doing puppy  tricks  for  Republicans.  They  had  lost  touch  with their  own  artistic  core.

In  five years we will begin one of the most prolific artistic eras of this or any other generation  of  Americans.  Now, there are many artists who will be  looking for ward  to NOT  working with Republicans and the Trump administration. When the  nightmare  is over, if we remain true to craft  in  the  dark  times, the  output  will  shimmer  with  the  brilliance  of commitment and audacity.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Art Ghetto

There  is a  good  deal  of  conversation  these  days  about  our  system  favoring  the  1%  to  the  disadvantage  of the 99%.

Anyone pursuing  a livelihood  as an artist in America in 2016 knows this  full well.  I would  suggest  if  you  really look at  economic  changes  in  the  arts you'll see a  road map  for  were  the  country is  headed  as a whole since Washington  politics  frequently  take their  cues  from the  artistic  community.  Simply put, as a general  group, artists  are  amazingly  capable  of  getting  by with being  provided with very little: where better to look for a plan for how  we  could limit  American  society as a  whole.

Art and  artists have been  voluntarily  ghettoized  for many  decades  in  America.


When  one  lives in  the ghetto  of art  it is understood  that  the  only  path  to a  reasonable  livlihood  is through  the  pursuit  of  another  profession.  This is a  necessity  some  artists  wrestle  with , others accept,  some  promote,  but  for  practicing artists, the  idea  of  a "day job"  has  been accepted  for   so  long  that   those  who  sample the art and even the  unions  that  represent  the  artists  have long given  up a  notion  that  art  should  support  artists'  lives.  Writing  that  you  can't  make a living   as  an artist is  as pointless as  writing the  sky is  blue.

In this  accepted  state artists diversify.

Some artists are  able  to  make do on inherited income. Obviously,  those  artists are  living  on wealth not earned. They are  in a completely  separate  category and it is  often  difficult  for artists of such seemingly good fortune to  fit in easily with artists of unequal benefit who navigate less secure  circumstances.

In art  they  often  say you  have  to be  lucky.  Being  lucky and being born into some  wealth
are  often conflated.  However, the tremendous  lifelong  advantage of being born into wealth  is  a  circumstance  of  our  economic system and  the
unequal  benefits it confers  upon the  children of greater socio-economic  means.

There  are  two major  ways  artists diversify for survival:
1) Get one or more  jobs  earning  revenue in another  field.
2) Find a co-habitation partner who earns  revenue  in another  field.

The  necessity to  do one or  the  other for  survival  is so plain and  so  frequently  practiced   it  is  amazing  it  is  not  taught  as  a  principle  of  the   occupation  itself in  one  or  more  of  the  universities  that  take in , literally, billions  of  dollars  every  year  in  revenue  from  students  pursuing  education in  the  arts

The  economics of  art  in America are a  story  of  staggering inequality and and what is an almost medieval system.  It is so accepted that  it  barely deserves attention  when  someone  writes  such  an assertion. "Art is a tough  business."  The  phrase  is  repeated so often and so  frequently  among  practitioners  of  art  throughout  the industry  that  there  is  little  contest of the  statement  being  true both inherently  of  craft  and  occupation.  It  is  as  accepted  as   truth  and I  would   venture  to  speculate  that  across  great  party  lines  of  great  disagreement   in  our  country  you  could  get  wide  agreement   that   the  above  statement  is  true  in America, and  secondarily,  that  it  OUGHT  to be  true  in America and  finally , that  that  is  the  best   for  both  art  and  our  society.  Yet  the  economic  engine regularly  pillages  output  from  eras  when  such a  statement  was  less  true  for  tremendous  profit.

There  are artist unions, true,  but  the  unions   themselves are such  large  organizations, under such  great  assault  for  the bare minimums  they are able  to  provide, the unions  themselves  cannot  see  how  tremendously  disconnected  they are  from the  real lives of  everyday artists. Indeed, in  show  business union  contracts  can  become  the  bane  of a performer's  existence, and  customarily  serve  more as a  filter  to repress economic  competition  from a  grass roots  level.

In  order  to maintain  these  unequal  systems  within  unions which  are  formed  under  the  pretense  of  equality there  are  several key ingredients.  First  performers  must  begin  to  work  very  directly  against  one  another  and  members  of  the  union must  be  convinced  they are  more   entitled  to  benefits  than  n-n-members. They  must  understand  that all actors  who  are  "in" the  union are  their  "brothers  and  sisters"  - a  family  like  connection - and  actors  who  are  not "in" the union  are  not  "in" the  family.  They may  join  the  family  in  the  future  if  they  pass  through a  merit  test  and  cough  up an initiation  fee... Both  of  which  are  arbitrary  filters  to keep a  union's  ranks  of membership low  and  decrease  the  competition  for  jobs.  It has  nothing  to do with  fairness  for  "all artists",  it's  just   fairness   for  those  "whom  we  decide are  artists".   Not  surprisingly  this  creates a non-union work force  which  actually  serves  ultimately as a  competitive  force  for  the  union and  diminishes the  union's  bargaining  power.

The Art  Ghetto is  created as  union members  who  are  entitled  fight  for  opportunities  with  non-union members, and  non-union members  fight  to meet  criteria  to  become  members  of  the  union. Individuals  identifying  with  either  body  as a  family  or  identifying  the  struggle  for  admission into  the  union as a  the  struggle  for  professional  acceptance  are   caught  in  a  whirlpool  of  pointless  activity  that  leads to usually only  the  most  meaningless  of  jobs,  creates  a  vast  community  of  non-working  actors  who  feel  little  to  know   leverage  or  power  in  work circumstances  and  most  importantly  they  create  employees  who  are  slavishly  indebted  to  the   employers  when  the  employers   grant  employment.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

BERNIE  Would Have Won - Really?

Within  the   the  Democratic  Party  the  cry goes  up
that  Bernie  Would have  won.

The  other  quarterback  would  
have  won  the  game.  One of  the most  common
Monday  morning  thoughts  
ever  spoken  after  a  football  game  loss.

So the, "they wanted  change, we  shoulda  gone  with Bernie" 
has  made  the rounds  like  quicksilver  in
the  minds, hearts, emails  and   blogs  of many  progressive Dems.

Bernie  Sanders, would  certainly  have
been  a  brilliant  choice  for President,
he ran a  brilliant  campaign and  he
is a man  of  character  and  grace who
campaigned  fervently  for  Mrs. Clinton.

Maybe he  would  have.

However,  the  "they wanted  change"  theory  
runs  contrary  to  all of  the  incumbent  
Senators  who were  re-elected  to  
the  worst  Congress in  the 
history  of the United  States.

It's  too trite a  response  
to the complexity of  what  we have  just  witnessed  and 
lacks a more nuanced  analysis of  what  we  have all just  experienced

First, the attack of Wikileaks and James Comey's revelation
would  have  easily  sunk any 
political  candidate  of  the  last  thirty  years.
There  was  no perfect strategy  to beat those  
unbelievable and  unprecedented  dilemmas, 
both of  which  were  crushing.
With  the Access  Hollywood  tape and   
his  refusal  to  accept  a  winner  declaration 
at  the  last  debate, Mr. Trump endeavored to  throw  
his  candidacy  away, but  he probably  
did not  alienate as  much of  his  base  with  either.
But the  Democrats  endured  two  highly  irregular
revelations  of  what  should  have  been  private information.

The  most  mature  reaction  
to  the  election  would  be  to admit that and a) not permit  such hacks in the  future 
and b)  prosecute  to  the  fullest  degree  
of  the  law  those  responsible  for  the  hacks.

Secondly, the perception  that  Clinton was  
so  far  ahead from  the  middle  of September  
to  the  middle  of  October, 
relaxed  the  attack  of  Democrats.
Classic rope a  dope. Muhammed Ali  would 
have been  proud  of  Mr. Trump, although Ali was purposeful,
Trump less artful but  classically  resilient. 
The story  of  the  tortoise  and  the  hare   is  told  to  3 and  4  year olds  and  we  saw it  lived  out  in  front
of  American politics  quite  clearly. Again, not  mysterious or a misjudgement  of  the  
electorate. A tactical  error  on  the  part  of  the  
greater  community  of  Democrats , 
and  we  all  share  some   blame - most  greatly
Bernie  Sanders  supporters  who were  disappointed  Mrs. Clinton  
did not  inspire  them  as  Sanders  did. understandable   
disappointment  but  inexcusable  inaction  when  the  wolf  is  at  the  door.
We  all  share  that  blame.

Thirdly, and  perhaps  more importantly,
what  we  need to win a  campaign 
and  what  we  need to  govern more  effectively
are  perhaps  two very  different  remedies.

To govern we need  to  bridge a  great  divide  
with policies  that help us  rise  above  gridlock.

Mrs. Clinton would clearly  have been  
the  better  choice  among  all offered.
Ms. Clinton's  campaign  accurately  
promoted  her  "fitness" over  Mr. Trump's.

However, the Clinton campaign underestimated
the  American  electorate's ability to  distinguish  between
leadership and  entertainment. 

I have a slightly different  point  of  view.

From the outset  of  the  campaign,
whatever Mr. Trump's  downsides, he has never 
failed to entertain his audience. Even when he  went  terribly astray and  he  often  did,
like Houdini, the  crowd marvelled
in  his escape  from certain  death.

I believe  there is simply a  misunderstanding  
of  what  the  job of President has  become in 
our  modern  communications  era.

Rock star is  the  first  qualification.

The President is the star of one 
of  the most  popular television shows in history:
the news. It's a nightly series. The  quantity 
of  screen  time for a President is  tremendous.
It's no wonder  that it's a race  to be entertaining.

Occasionally  someone  comes  along  who  is  
both - President Obama  was  the  rare  blend.

The  great ones - and  Mr. Sanders is a  great one.  also -
make  you  feel as  if  they are  talking  right to  you.
With  the possible exception of Mr. Bush and his  father,
for  the last 36 years, every winning  President has 
been the more  entertaining  speaker. 

The  most  charismatic woman in America today?
Unquestionably Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren a  close  second.
Had either been  running they would have won  too.

We  thirst for this quality in a leader 
and instinctively reach  for it at the ballot  box.

If  we  combined  notoriety  with  integrity with  charisma,
every  corner  of  Wisconsin, Pennsylvania  and Michigan  would have  come,
as  they  did in  2012.  Mrs. Clinton  did not  lack  integrity. Far  from  it.
And she  was  a  female  rock  star politician.
But  because  of her  long  tenure  in  politics, the  hate  groups  against her
were  literally  two  generations  old. 

The great  American dilemma  is  that  the  most  charismatic leaders  
do not  instinctively  reach  for  the Presidency.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Real Villains

Republican Congress Creeps Away with Murder

Tonight  is  the  third  and final Presidential  Debate  of  the  2016 race.

We'll likely hear a  good deal of salacious accusations back and forth. It's  clear one campaign  is  gearing up to throw everything but the kitchen sink  at  the  other .

Makes  for  really tremendous  theatre, and  when  you  make  theatre  it's  hard to ignore  when  the  reality around  you has become a  Shakespearean  play unto itself.

Tonight: Act 3.

We  will hear the word 'change' again  from  the  Trump  campaign  and  they  will  claim  the  title  of  'change  candidate'  with  great  gusto  and  pride.

But  who is  the change  candidate? Who  is  most  responsible   for  what  some  are  calling  a  slow  recovery?

Why  has  nothing  been  done  to alleviate  the  suffering  of  middle  class  families  in  the  mid-west  and  Rust  Belt  states? Why do  we  have  an immigration mess on our  hands? Voting  rights  attacked? The  simple  answer  to all of  the  above is the  current  Republican led Congress  which has  been  arguably  the  most  destructive and  least functional  Congress  in  the  history of  the United  States.

In a normal election  season they  would  be  taking a  beating  -  but  as  everyone  has  said  a  thousand  times -  these  are  not  normal.

Democrats  are  running  against Trump's insanity instead  of the stonewalling of the  Republicans Congress.  He  is  such  a  nightmare  it  seems obvious Republicans have underserved the country with his  nomination.

But I  suggest  he  is  exactly  what  the  Republican  Party  wants  and  needs: a  giant  distraction.

The  real  villains  are  sneaking  out  the  back  door.   They  may  even  be  able  to  keep  their  jobs.
There  is a narrative  going  around on  the  political  talk shows  that  "Trump is  dragging   down  the  ticket."  That  would  seem to be an impossibility  given  the  record  of  ineffectiveness  that  the  House  Republicans  have  clearly  engineered.   Their  real  constituents  are  Bi-Pharma, Big Banks, Big Oil, Big  Gun, Big Arms Race and Organized Religion. All of  those  BIG  guys  are  getting  away  with  the  Congress  because  they  are  not  being  called to account   for  supporting  Republican policies of intransigence.

It  seems  almost  impossible  to  begin a  conversation  about   how  dedicated  and  single minded   the  Republican  Congress  has been. No one  is  speaking  about  the   huge  role  they  have  played  in  slowing  many of the positive initiatives Mr.Obama has proposed during  his Presidency. They  should ideally be applauded for how effectively they have shut down  the    real positive  progress of our country. They are the real villains  of  this campaign season and  while  everyone goes on about  Trump  they  are creeping  toward  election day with out their record  of  intransigence  being brought before the American people for judgement.

Trumps look to maintain most  of  their  proposed  policies  if  not  make  them  worse.  The  only  change  he  is  advocating   is   change  to make  America lousy again. He  is  100% in favor  most  of  the  reasons  they  have  been  completely  intransigent, and  has  gone  on  record  as  being  for  policies  like  eliminating  Roe  vs. Wade, eliminating  Obamacare, not  pursuing  background  checks on  gun  owners ,  forced  deportations  of  millions  and  millions  of   immigrants.

This  isn't  change: it's status  quo  from  Republicans, which means  going  back to  the  dark ages  of  women  having  abortions  with  coat  hangers. If you want to get real,  get  real. That's  wha  the  Republicans  like Pence  are  all about.  Gay men and  women  not  being  allowed to marry.

The  only  candidate  brave  enough  to  talk  fighting  for real  changes  that  effect  people  is  Hillary  Clinton.

Here's  hoping  he  pulls  out:  "what  have  you  been  doing   for  the  last   thirty  years   in  Congress"  and  she  explains : working  with  the  same  Republicans  who  elected  you.
Here's  hoping   she has  a list  of  their  addresses   handy  when  he  complains  about  the last  thirty  years   when  she's  been  trying  to   work for  things   like  universal  health  care. He  should  start  letting  them know  he  cares.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The LURE of Independent Theatre (gratitude to Mr. Miller)

I am always amazed, inspired  and  rejuvenated  when  involved  in  producing a  play  with  artists who  are dedicated  to  the  theatre  for a  common  good. In the  theatre  this  good is  sometimes  stated   but  often only  understood  or  felt  on a lower  membrane  level. The  actors, designers  and  participants  might never  communicate  with  one  another  why they are  doing  this   thing  they  call a play.  It  will  probably  never  be  said,  but  it is  the energy  that moves them  forward,  creates  innumerable  experiences and, I  would  argue, gives  many  of  us  some  sense  of hope in a challenge  of  living  that  can often  be  filled with  messages  to  the contrary. The  walls are closing  in  but  somehow when  we  reach  opening  night  there  is a glimmer  of imperfect light  at  the  end  of  the  tunnel.

These  actors  and  designers - the  cast  and  crew -  gather  to  make  uncounted  collective  sacrifice  that  is  rarely  seen or  discussed  during  the  process  or   after. They  sacrifice   opportunities  for  income  that  will  keep  them  alive and a roof over  their  heads. They  sacrifice opportunities  to  gather  with  family and  friends at  weddings, funerals,  and birthdays. They  sacrifice  untold  hours of preparation  outside of  rehearsal to  learn  lines,  research  roles  and  share the activity  with others in  the  community.

A more  crass observer  might  say  these  were  only self-interested individuals promoting  their  professional  activity  so they might advance  in  their  profession.  While the understandable  human  desire  to advance  professionally  is present as a pre-text, the unliklihood  of such progress  would  discourage  even a  snail  from it's  shell. The professional  entertainment  industry grazes infrequently in our  fields. Another  unspoken  collective  truth that  furthers my admiration  of  the  warriors  who gather.  We  are  bound  together  by  not  only  the  hope that  we  will succeed  by  also the  collective  recognition  that  it  will not reward  us  greater  than the experience  itself. It  is an inevitable  disappointment.  I know  of no  other professional activity  that  asks of  all it's  members such a prelude.

When I  hear  actors  scoff  at  doing "free  theatre"  as if  they  had risen  to a level above and  beyond it's  boundaries, I am  reminded of  the moments in  such  adventures  when  true  art   happens  in the  midst  of this  collective gift  to  our communities and  then I  know that  we  are  engaged in a  much  greater , primitive joining of souls  that  has the power  to renew individuals  and  restore their  vision  for  the  following  day's challenges.  

I am  reminded  of  Rebecca  Darke, who  was  first  introduced  to  our company in  her  early 70's, having lived a life of  sorrows and  joys - a lifetime  member of  the  Actors' Studio.  I think of  her   magnificent   grace  in  small  roles in some short  plays we  produced.  I  think  of  the stunning  disappointment  when, at  80, she  failed to recall her  lines  on  evening  when  the  NY  Times  was  present  for a  two  hander she  had  led. The  crushing  defeat  she  felt  in  her  eyes  of  having   disappointed a  fellow  actor. And I hear  her   mentioning  to me,  some 2 years  later  , that  after  a performance as  the  grandmother in  Horton Foote's, The  Trip  to Bountiful, she  mentioned to me, "I'm  finally an  actress."   I am reminded  of the gentlemen who left a letter  in  our  hat   after  show, saying  because of  hard  times  the  letter  was  all he could  offer  but  our  performance  was  what  he  looked  forward   to  every   day. I am reminded of the  gentleman - missing  teeth - who  wait after  each  performance he  sees   of  ours , records our  autograph in  his  program,  delivers  copies  of free newspapers  with our  listings in  them and  tells  us we  are  the next  Public theatre.

There is a kind  of  eternal frustration and  disappointment   that  binds  us  in  the  theatre as we  search  for  that  light. But  there is  an  experience  of  true  collective  joy  when it's  seen,  the  requisite   envy  at  the  seer,  but  nonetheless  joy at  its  sight, that can remind us  all that  the  predicament  of the life is a  shared one. We  are still looking for the answers and  only  discoveries  made   with  the  depth  of  our  joined  hearts   can  show  us  the  way.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

UCA Update: Where is Lincoln when you need them?

We're  coming  to  you  with an update on  how  our   signature  concept, UCA  is  proceeding.

We're  not  getting  any  traction yet. We haven't  had any viewers  per  se  and   we  don't  have  any  real  followers.  We  thought  this  might be the time  to  abandon  the  idea  and  then  we  caught a  glimpse  of  Marco  Rubio,  cheering  his  campaign on  after  coming  in  third. Claiming  victory  after  winning  Minnesota. His speeches  after  failing  were  an  inspiration.

So we  return. We're confident that once Mr. Drumpf (see: John Oliver)  gets  word  of the UCA plan to  divide the country he'll  begin to wield it.

Currently there are  new issues  on  the  horizon  that   make  clear  the  truth  that  few people  are  willing to discuss: The  American people  do not agree.

We are not an agreeable  country and  the  truth is  we  haven't   ever  really and  truly  agreed  for  any   very  long  periods  of  time. As  you  study  American  history  you  see  that  whatever   agreements  have  been  made and   used as a  fulcrum  for  change   have   frequently  been  seen in  hindsight  with  regret. The system is fundamentally  broken  because  people  who live in the  society  have  resigned  themselves to eternal war and  nowhere is  this more  fundamentally  clear  than on  the issue  of  abortion. Some  history is  valuable:

Abortions  have been  taking  place  for as  long  as  human beings  have  been afraid  of  having   children  for  various  reasons.  No  religious  position  of  movement  has  ever  successfully  stopped all  women  from  having  abortions in the  history  of  human  beings.

I am always  trying  to  understand  what  the  other  side  is  really  proposing.
Near  as I  can  tell the  Republican  right  has  not  started  a movement  against  procreation or  sexual intercourse, although  that's  debatable.

Near  as I can tell from the  current  Republican Party, in their  view in  the  future UCA, pregnancies will not  come  from  unwanted  sexual intercourse and  pregnancies  that  do  come  from   desired  intercourse  will  result  in  growing   families and there  will be  jobs  and  circumstances  for  the   individuals  responsible  for the sex. Sex is good. Sex only happens  in marriage. It's purpose  is  joy and  procreation and  any  deviation  from  that will have  consequences.

We're  proposing a new  system  where ONLY women  of  child  bearing  age   have a  vote  on abortion  laws.

But on the  day  of this last  Republican  debate the  question  burning  in my  mind  for   candidates  to  respond to is  how  do  you  intend  to  reach  out  to  those  who  don't  agree  with  you?  How  do  you  propose we  build  bridges  between  these  different  constituencies.

We  think  someone  should  propose  the  UCA to  one  of  the  cnadidates  and see  how  they  react. See if  someone  can  say  something  Abraham Lincoln  like  right  now . Because  we  really  need   somone  like  Abraham Lincoln  right  now  and   it  doesn't  look like  they're  around.

Monday, January 25, 2016

BOYCOTTING the Academy Awards, Reparations, and Meritocracy

I'm not  going  this  year.


This  will be  my 53rd  consecutive  year  of  boycotting  the awards.
Now I  haven't  been invited so I  doubt  my  opting  out  is  having  an  impact.

No one in our company, to my  knowledge  is  planning  to  go  but  I know  were  any  of  us invited  and  had  the  time and  money  to  travel  to LA  for  them  we  would  be there.
We  would  think  of  it  as a privilege  to be  asked.

So while  it's obviously  disappointing  more  African American performance  and   performances  from  actors  of color or  gender  diversity were  recognized, it's  odd  there's  been an  uproar  over  that exclusion  and  less  so  from  the  same  Hollywood  elite  performers  over  the  conversation  about  reparations  that  has been  raised recently  by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
 in  the  Atlantic.

In his  article he  movingly  describes  why   we  are  long  past  due  for  reparations  in   our  country. It's a moving  and  telling  argument  that  tugs  at  your  morality in our  current  world. It  seems  worthy  of  outrage  and  worthy  of a movement  that  would be  supported  by  prominent  people  of reputation  in  the  African American  community.  the  cause  seems  worthy  of  the  word "boycott"  with  all of  the  symbolic  populist  outrage  and  history  the  word  has  come  to  connect  with. Immediately  when  you  say  the  word  in America  you are  linking  yourself  with  some  of  the  most  important  social  activism of  our  time. It's a galvinizing word.

But  when it's  used in  relationship  to  the Oscars  in  describing  the  hurt, and  disappointment   some actors  are  feeling  that  members  of  their  race  were not  included as the  awards finalists,
it  seems  shallow.

It's just  not  deep  enough to inspire  "boycott".

The  people  who  are  doing  the   "boycotting "  are  not  people  who  would  be  categorized  as  underprivileged  by  our  industry  standards. Presumably  they  have  had  notable  roles in  notable  films  with  relatively  wide  releases.  Will Smith  is  not  starving  for  Instagram  followers, although he  lacks an nomination in 2016.

It's  difficult  to   turn  on  the  television  on any  night  and  not  see Idris  Elba in  something  wonderful.  He  has  justifiably  received opportunities  to offer  his talents  in many projects of  merit. Likewise, Michael B. Jordan,  another  snubbed  contender  for an  award  this  year  is  in  no  danger  of lacking  opportunity,  thanks  to his  memorable  and  deservedly  praised  work.

All of  which is  to  state  the  most  obvious point: The  Academy Awards  are  not  a  meritocracy.
The  Academy Awards  may be  the  very  definition of  elitist. Why  should  we  watch  thinking  they  were  governed  by  populist  appeal or  morals. Of  course  we watch hoping  the  best  man  or  woman  wins  each  year,  but  it's  not news to  say  the  Academy Awards is  political. So's the  race  for  President  of  the U.S.

It  seems  the  Academy  is  going  to make  some  changes  to address  all  this , and now there's  even  been a press  release  that Chris  Rock  intends  to joke  about  it  at  the  awards  show. Earth  shaking. The  thing  is, you  can  be  sure,  because  of  that  'joking'  it  will  one  of  the  "most  watched" Oscars  of  all  time. People  will  tune  in  to  see him  diss  the  Academy  for  racism. Perversely,  the Academy  of  Motion Pictures  Arts  and  Sciences  is  going  to  profit  from  its  racism.

But  none  of the  same  outrage  has  gotten  on  the  reparations  bandwagon, although  Bernie  Sanders  and  Hillary  Clinton  are  being  pummeled  for  think it's  not  a  practical  solution  to  the  problem. Of  course  it  doesn't matter  if  it's not  practical. It's  the  right  thing  to  do  so  we  should  do  it.

Doing  the  right  thing  is  rarely  practical  but  in any  organization just  about   any  top  leader  will  be  able to  tell  you  that  there  are  dividends  and  yield  within  every  company  when a  wrong  is  publicly and justly  righted.  It can  change  the  culture  of  an  organization. It  can  offer  real  hope  to  people   who  have  lost  hope  that  America  could  ever  justly  face  up  to  it's  past.

Now there  are  alot  of  challenges  with  the idea of  reparations  but  there are  alot  of  challenges
with alot  of movements  in  our  country.  There  are  alot  of  folks  who  want  to  make  abortions  harder  to  get  in  our  country. Seems  tremendously  unfair  but  after  Roe vs.Wade  they  certainly had  alot  of  challenges n front  of  them and  they are  prevailing  by  passing  phony  laws in  huge  states. If  they  can  prevail  with  that cause, it's  difficult  to  understand  why  the cause of  reparations  might  not  someday have a hashtag with  just  as  many  Hollywood  names  using  as  the  Oscar boycott.