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    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    On The TCR Tribes Controversy

    Some of you may know that there has been some level of controversy surrounding Theatre Cedar Rapids’ (TCR’s) production of Tribes. Here’s a piece from the Iowa Theatre Blog that summarizes the situation nicely.

    I didn’t really intend to talk about this. For one thing, others had already discussed it nicely in posts like the one above. For another, for better or worse the flames of controversy had somewhat died down to an ember. Unfortunately, that’s when the artistic director of TCR decided to throw a barrel of gasoline on the fire in a post that is shocking in its ugliness. I’ve screen shotted it and attached them, and have sent contacted TCR, the local media who reported on the situation, Dramatists as rights holder, and other parties who have written on the issue. I’m not going to link directly to the post. You can probably find it on your own and there’s a lovefest going on in it that would turn your stomach.

    In short, TCR’s AD uses the fact that she had cancer to justify discrimination and to silence any criticism, and she expresses contempt towards a marginalized community for daring to expect that a story about that community be told with their participation. No, seriously – as hard as it might be to believe, that’s what she does.

    I’m sorry she had to deal with cancer. No one should have to deal with it. I’ve lost close family to it. But  if the cancer prevented her from properly doing her job, then she should have reassigned duties to someone else capable of performing them. I know how local theatre works; I would be stunned if no one had offered to help her. And as sorry as I am that she had to deal with cancer, I’m even sorrier she seems to think cancer gives her the right to post a toxic, hateful sreed.

    Let’s look at the passages she ends with:

    And the Deaf community all over the fucking world jumped on my ass because I prevented the hordes of Deaf actors in the Cedar Rapids area from auditioning for a play that the Deaf community alone understands and therefore has the exclusive right to do.

    So that’s the scoop. I’m sorry, everyone. I’m sorry, Deaf community, that I got a bunch of cancers and fucked everything up. I’m sorry that I let that shit get in the way of my outreach toward you and yours. I’m sorry that that ugly disease clouded my judgement for a moment and made me think that artists get to do art…without asking permission…without apologizing. If you’ll forgive me, I promise to do better by you in the future by fending off that stupid old cancer and keeping my eye on the prize, the Deaf community of Eastern Iowa.

    Again, I’m sorry for her illness. But it’s shameful and disgusting to use that illness to justify discrimination, and it’s shameful and disgusting to use that illness in an attempt to silence a marginalized community. Indeed, it would be difficult for her to be more insulting to either the deaf community or to other cancer survivors. 

    Those passages guarantee that TCR is not going to be able to perform this play and discuss the issues this play raises with any sensitivity. These passages guarantee that no deaf actors in the area are ever going to come forward for any TCR production. These passages guarantee that members of any other marginalized group are never going to be able to trust TCR to tell their stories. The only way TCR can possibly hope to mend the damage she has caused is to cancel the production and, if she isn’t willing to voluntarily step down as artistic director, fire her. There really are no other alternatives for TCR at this point.

    I have never worked with TCR. I would like to – I’ve auditioned in the past and I was going to audition for Beauty and the Beast – but I will not do so as long as she is with TCR. I will also not attend any TCR shows as long as she remains with the theatre. It is a stance I urge others to take, and in addition to that, a stance I’d suggest is absolutely essential to the health of local theatre. If TCR is unwilling to listen to the deaf community, then perhaps they will listen to the hearing community.

    Saturday, January 16, 2016

    Political Musings

    Read this piece from a Daily Kos user about his journey from Bernie to Hillary. I don't share this journey - I've been for Hillary from the start - but the piece details a lot of the reasons why I can't support Bernie Sanders. Another important set of works are the Looking for Bernie series at Shakesville (mentioned in this Kos piece), which convincingly puts to death the notion that Sanders is not a traditional politician.

    (Long aside, and maybe this should be its own post, I think traditional politicians are good, I think they're what's needed to solve political problems. I just have a problem with someone who's been in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate for the past 27 years trying to claim they aren't a traditional politician.

    A simple look at his voting record shows he's not a brave loner, bucking the wishes of his constituents. All of his 'bold' votes are right in line with what his constituents wanted him to do. It's not bravery to vote the way your constituents want you to vote. It would have been brave for him to voted for the various pieces of gun control legislation he's opposed; that would have been going against his constituents wishes. But as he's said on many occasions, he didn't vote for those measures because it would have cost him votes to do so. But I digress.)

    Neither set of works gets at the biggest problem I have with Sanders, though.

    Saturday, December 19, 2015

    Format Thoughts

    If I am going to be using this more, I really need to update the visual format.

    Bernie Stans and the Disconnect from Reality

    So, when the seriousness of what the Sanders’ staffers did finally sinks in, will Bernie Stans: A - Admit that the campaign did something incredibly wrong and deserved to have access temporarily suspended until it complied with the request for information; B - Completely ignore the fact that four separate staffers conducted 25 searches of Clinton data throughout early primary states in order to obtain information that would help the Sanders campaign and that the Sanders campaign manager made claims about Clinton staff accessing data that he had to immediately retract because he admitted he had no knowledge whatsoever of such a breach occurring; or C - Continue with the persecution complex and delusional fantasies? I’m going with C, because that seems to be the Bernie Stans response to any information that is the least bit critical of Bernie, a man who continues to prove that even if there were no other issues disqualifying him from the office – and there are a ton of other issues disqualifying him from the office – his temperament alone makes him fundamentally unsuited to be president. 

    Friday, December 18, 2015

    My Fantastic Four Thoughts

    I love the Fantastic Four. The first Marvel comics I got were Fantastic Four comics, and those early issues are still among the pride of my comic collection. I came to this movie completely invested in these characters. I also came to this movie fully aware of the reaction to it.

    The first 60-70 minutes of this film are good. Really good. Not good in a ‘better than expected’ way, but good. It’s not necessarily my Fantastic Four, but it is legitimately A Fantastic Four. (My main complaint with Man of Steel is that it isn’t a Superman movie. It’s a movie featuring some character with powers like Superman.) Yes, there are some things I would change – more Ben Grimm between the time he takes Reed to the Baxter Building and the time Reed calls him to take part in the experiment; make Susan an active participant in the trip instead of removing her agency from her; and for God’s sake, while you need to have Reed and Doom linked, you don’t need to have Doom get his powers at the same time as the Four. But that’s the difference between the first two acts of the film being really good and the first two acts of the film being great.

    Unfortunately, the film has three acts.

    The last act of the film is as bad as the first two acts are good. As with anything, it doesn’t matter how good it opens – it matters how good it closes. And this, well, this does not close well. There’s final act is an extended generic action sequence, except most of the action has been replaced with bad exposition. The action that is there is basically bad CGI. Any sense that these four characters are a family (and that is the element that sets the Fantastic Four apart) is lost. Yes, the narrative is about how they’ve moved apart and then they come back together as part of the final battle, but that’s told to you, it isn’t shown.

    It’s hard to say who owns this failure. The first two acts seem to clearly be Trank’s film. The final act seems to be the studio stepping in because they didn’t get what Trank was doing. Or maybe it’s just that Trank’s script fell apart at the end. Maybe he didn’t know how to end it so the studio jumped in. It will be a nice story to read when it eventually all comes out.

    I liked this film, far more than I thought I would. I liked the beginning a lot, enough to make me really dislike the wasted potential. This could have been a great film. Even with the ending, I would have been willing to watch another Fantastic Four movie with these characters. 

    Sunday, December 06, 2015

    Bernie Bros to the Rescue!

    Salon is having an internal contest to see which of its Bernie Bro columnists can write the stupidest piece. This is in the running. It is always - ALWAYS - the case that the people who make the 'Maybe it needs to get worse' argument are people WHO WILL NOT SUFFER IF IT GETS WORSE!!!!! There's enough white male privilege in this piece to choke a herd of elephants.

    There are a ton of reasons not to support Bernie Sanders and though the arrogance, idiocy, misogyny, and racism of a HUGE CHUNK of his supporters isn't the most important reason not to support him, it is a big part of why I support him to win the nomination. (It's interesting to me how this is a mirror of 2008. In 2008, the PUMAs turned off a lot of Democratic voters and help drive them to support Obama instead of Clinton. In 2016, the Bernie Bros are turning off a lot of Democratic voters and helping to drive them to support Clinton instead of Sanders.)

    But here's the thing. Despite the fact that I think he would stand no chance of winning if he gets the nomination (he'd be eaten alive in a debate with Trump and we would all have the pleasure of seeing commercials crying 'Socialist!' 24/7, particularly if he doesn't change his stance on financing and he runs out of funds in mid-September), despite the fact that I think he would be an absolute disaster as president (the man's signature accomplishment in 27 years of being in the House and the Senate is that he never changed his party affiliation - there isn't one piece of legislation he can point to and say 'Me! That happened because of me!' and just look at the hissy fit he and his campaign threw when CBS wanted to change the opening of the last debate from the economy to terrorism - being able to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances is one of the most important qualities needed in a president, and he has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks that ability, not to mention that he has repeatedly shown that the slightest bit of criticism sends him flying off the handle, and any Democratic president is going to get tons of criticism), I will vote for him if he is the Democratic nominee and support him if he is the president.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Sad News Part Two

    Peggynol’s Alaskan Gundog – aka Bobo, aka G-Dawg, aka G, aka Old Man, aka Handsome Boy, most commonly known as Gunner. 07/17/99 – 09/24/15

    As if the Magic news wasn’t bad enough, Gunner has also been deteriorating rapidly lately. Over the past year he has started having spells where he has no physical strength and he is mentally gone. They’re becoming more frequent and lasting longer, coming now at a pace of about one a week, lasting about a day. The one he had this last weekend was especially bad, and he’s only partially back. He’s quit eating and has great difficulty breathing.

    After a long talk with Lesa after I told her about my decision with regard to Magic, she suggested that maybe it was Gunner’s time too. My mother had suggested the same thing. I hated to agree, but I knew they were right. The vet is going to put Gunner to sleep at the same time he come for Magic.

    I’ve already explained what these dogs have meant to me, so rather than belaboring that, I’d like to share some of my favorite Gunner memories.

    I wasn’t there for this, but Lesa likes to tell how she chose Gunner. Or rather, Gunner chose her and Drew. A friend of Lesa’s was a breeder of Welsh Springer Spaniels who’s main dog had a litter. She told Lesa she could come pick out a dog. Drew was about 20 months old at the time, and was roaming around like toddlers do. The puppies ignored him, except for Gunner, who followed Drew around wherever he went. Lesa’s friend told her that Lesa didn’t have any choice in which puppy to choose because one puppy had already chosen them.

    Another memory I love is from a few years back. Springer Spaniels get their name from the way they approach game. They spring at birds, causing them to take flight. Bot Magic and Gunner are jumpers, but Gunner much more so than Magic. I had the dogs in the front yard one late spring day, and the birds in the oak tree were chattering at the dogs. One bird took to swooping down and buzzing them. It was coming in for another round when Gunner jumped at it, hitting it with his paw and knocking it out of the air. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. He wasn’t trying to hit the bird, he did it accidentally. He went running after the bird, but it was able to straighten itself out and take off before he got there.

    But my favorite Gunner memory is this: It took a couple of weeks after we brought Ethan home from the hospital before he would sleep in his crib at night. But once he did, Gunner slept beneath the crib every night til Ethan moved to a bed. It was as if he was saying to us ‘It’s okay, you get some sleep. I’ve got this.’

    I love both of these dogs so much. It’s only hours now til they’re both gone, at least from this physical plane of existence. (My father is going to have a lot on his hands when they join him in heaven.) I hope Gunner has had a good life, and that he knows how much he was loved and how much he will be missed. 

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Sad News Part One

    Samson’s Merry Magic – aka Circus Dog, aka Little Miss Magic, aka Dammit Magic!, aka Magic Stop!, aka Magic No!, aka Magic Don’t!, aka My Girlie Girl, most commonly known as Magic. 11/27/01 – 09/24/15

    Magic has had numerous medical difficulties, starting in July 2010 when I rushed her at night to Bright Eyes, Bushy Tails in Iowa City. She having trouble breathing, shaking, clearly in discomfort. She was there for four days, they having discovered that she was suffering both from Lyme Disease and a completely non-functioning thyroid.

    Approximately 14 months later, she collapsed while in the front yard. By then I was taking her to Farm and Family Vet in Victor. Dr. Cheney - a great, great vet - recognized that she had the symptoms of Addison's Disease, a disease vets so rarely catch that they call it the Great Imposter due to it presenting as several different diseases. There is only one treatment, and she started on it as soon as tests confirmed that's what she had. For the last several years, I've spent about $140 a month on meds, an amount I'd gladly spend forever. Unfortunately, time had other plans. 

    Magic had a small stroke the night we had off before we opened Death of a Salesman at ICM. She had a major stroke the week after the show closed.

    The stroke really affected her balance and her sense of direction. It didn’t help that she was already nearly blind. Dr. Cheney said that if she didn’t begin to recover within the first two weeks of the stroke, she wouldn’t recover at all.  I spent the end of May and the first part of June thinking any day would be the day I would have to make the decision to have her put to sleep. But she gradually recovered a lot of her abilities. Not all. She couldn’t climb the steps to the bed anymore, meaning I have had to lift her onto the bed. She also never was able to walk in a straight line, meaning no more running free outside. She seemed to like being on the leash after that, though. I imagine it made her feel safer, knowing someone was there near her.

    I worried that she wouldn’t make it through the summer, that I would need to say goodbye while Ethan was still here. But she made it through, and was still doing okay til a couple of weeks ago. That’s when I noticed her ability to walk at all was deteriorating. Shortly after that she began having trouble standing, and most recently trouble breathing at times.

    English Springer Spaniels always look sad. That’s their thing. But there’s a light in their eyes, a spark behind the sadness. This past weekend I realized the spark had gone. She seemed tired, weary. I had silently promised her that when she was ready to go, I would do the right thing and not hold on to her for my sake. So today I called the vet, and made the arrangements. He’s going to come here on Thursday, and that will be it.

    I’m writing this with a broken heart. She has been my constant companion since Lesa and I got her in January 2002. I have spent more time with her over these 13+ years that I have with any other living creature, even Gunner (who was with Lesa in Pennsylvania for about half a year). Magic fit in a baseball cap when we first got her, and now, as I tease her when I have to lift her upstairs on onto the bed, she’s a ‘heavy heavy dog’. I love her.

    I cannot overstate how much she, and Gunner, have meant to me. I went through some very dark times when Lesa took the boys out east. There was a good three year period where I felt so meaningless, so insubstantial that a breeze could have carried me away. Many was the night on the way home, especially after Ethan had just left here to go back to Pennsylvania, where I was tempted to just keep driving until the money ran out and just start over someplace else, with no contact with anyone I knew. Magic, and Gunner, stopped me from doing that. They were my anchor, my tether to this life, my sanity. I don’t need them for that anymore, fortunately, but that doesn’t make the pain any less acute.

    She’s laying on the floor right now beside me, licking my feet as she likes to do. Of course this has been one of the rare recent days where she seems engaged with life. But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter what I do, she’s not long for this world, and I’d rather let her go out on good days, with dignity, then prolong it. I owe her that.

    I can only hope she’s enjoyed her life, that she knows how loved she has been and will always be. She will always be a part of me.