21 November 2012

Radi-Aid

This is pure genius:


Not only is it hilarious -- and it is possibly the funniest intentionally funny thing I've seen on YouTube in a long time -- it serves a far deeper purpose.  From the Africa for Norway website:
Why Africa for Norway? 
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway? 
If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about. 
The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on. 
The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
Nothing makes a point better than comedy!

15 November 2012

It's All Happening

"The real question is: if it is liberty we seek, should most of the emphasis be placed on government reform or trying to understand what 'a virtuous and moral people' means and how to promote it." - Ron Paul
The revolution is happening, whether you like it or not.  It's happening on the internet.  It's happening in crowd-sourcing and mutual aid; it's happening with Occupy Sandy and Kickstarter, with Bitcoin and the Creative Commons.

Rush is Wrong

After dropping my lovely and talented wife off at LAX this morning, I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures:  talk radio.  The wife hates talk radio because she is intelligent.  I can only tune in when I'm tooling around by myself.  I flip around -- KPCC, KPFK -- and then off to the dark recesses of the AM dial with KFI, KABC, and The Answer.  This morning, I landed on Rush Limbaugh, and boy howdy ...

Limbaugh played a couple of clips from Ron Paul's farewell address, and managed to completely miss the point in a fashion so spectacular, it was as if he were simultaneously channeling Ed Anger and Emily Litella.

Ron Paul clip #1:
I thought a lot about why those of us who believe in liberty as a solution have done so poorly in convincing others of its benefits.  If liberty is what we claim it is, the principle that protects all personal, social, and economic decisions necessary for maximum prosperity and the best chance for peace, it should be an easy sell.  Yet history has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely, if ever, fulfilled.
Rush's response:  "We are the party of liberty.  We are the essence of liberty and freedom.  That's what it's all about."  Then why did your party play dirty pool at the convention, Rush?  Why did you guys dick around the brightest burning torch for liberty the Republican Party has seen since Barry Goldwater? Why did the "party of liberty" show a complete lack of respect for the man and his delegates?  Hell, you prefaced your remarks on this clip with "I know a lot of you think we're listening to kookville here, but ..."

Rush went on to prove the Republican party's dedication to liberty by pointing out their stance on abortion and gay rights.  

Wha--huh?!?

"We are not looked at as people who believe in freedom.  They see us as thwarting their freedom," says Rush.  "Figure that."  Your party is against reproductive freedom and treating everyone equally.  Figure that?  Seriously?

Rush's rationale is that "along with freedom, there are natural limits to it that we call morality."  Fair enough. "[C]ulturally, freedom in pop culture means no obstacles on the road to what we call depravity and decadence.  They call it enlightenment, emancipation."  Understand what Rush is saying here:  Extending the same legal coverage to same-sex couples that heterosexual couples currently enjoy is depravity and decadence.  Unbelievable.

Ron Paul clip #2:
If authoritarianism leads to poverty and war and less freedom for all individuals and is controlled by rich special interests, the people should be begging for liberty.  There certainly was a strong enough sentiment for more freedom at the time of our founding that motivated those who were willing to fight in the revolution against the powerful British government.  During my time in Congress, the appetite for liberty has been quite weak, the understanding of it's significance negligible. 

And Rush goes on to talk about how leftists define freedom as life under authoritarianism.

Of course, Rush also believes in freedom as life under authoritarianism, so I don't see what his problem is.  Sure, he prefers his particular brand of moral authoritarianism over the Democrat brand, but Democrat, Republican -- it's all about more state.  The only question is, in which area do you want the state to interfere?

Ron Paul's point is ... well, let's let him speak for himself, in a clip Rush didn't play:

Everyone claims support for freedom.  But too often it’s for one’s own freedom and not for others.  Too many believe that there must be limits on freedom. They argue that freedom must be directed and managed to achieve fairness and equality thus making it acceptable to curtail, through force, certain liberties. 
Some decide what and whose freedoms are to be limited.  These are the politicians whose goal in life is power. Their success depends on gaining support from special interests. 
The great news is the answer is not to be found in more “isms.” The answers are to be found in more liberty ..."
Rush tried to co-opt Ron Paul's Farewell Address today, and failed.  Sadly, Rush and his party continue to fail at grasping Ron Paul's message, which has been consistently and clearly enunciated for the past 30 some odd years.
A full transcript of Ron Paul's address may be found here.  Video of the speech may be watched here.

14 November 2012

Don't Be Ridiculous


Regarding the secession petitions: Don't be ridiculous.

First of all, a serious secession movement doesn't start by politely asking the President to please consider allowing a state to secede.  It's obvious to me that these petitions are just a way to give the President the finger, by "forcing" him to make an official statement about what amounts to general crankiness.

And the response petition?  "We Petition the Obama Administration to: Strip the Citizenship from Everyone who Signed a Petition to Secede and Exile Them."  Ha ha, I get it.  "You can't break up with us, we break up with you!"  Very funny, guys.

Look, if the people who signed the secession petitions are serious -- and I have no doubt some of them are -- they're just going about this all wrong.  You don't solve statism with the state.  You'll just wind up with more state.

You do it by heeding Ghandi's advice:  "Be the change you want to see in the world."  You do it by opting out, by exercising your unalienable rights, and by seeking out and setting up camp in every inch of freedom you can find.

But some people would rather thumb their noses.  Hey, it's a free country.

The Revolution Will Not Be ...

The Revolution will not be a "revolution" per se, but rather an evolution, as more and more people develop and launch alternatives to the state.

I remembered this in the shower this morning, a news item from February of this year:
One of the company’s three co-founders, Yancey Strickler, said that Kickstarter is on track to distribute over $150 million dollars to its users’ projects in 2012, or more than entire fiscal year 2012 budget for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), which was $146 million.
In all fairness, Stricker goes on to say, "Maybe there’s a reason for the state to strongly support the arts."  Maybe there is.  Personally, I believe in a separation of Art and State.  As JFK once said (emphasis added):
Art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.
Kickstarter is an exemplar of Crowdsourcing née Mutual Aid, and thankfully, it is not alone.  This is a great time to be alive!


12 November 2012

Disney and Lucasfilm

My thoughts, disorganized as usual:
 
1) Kathleen Kennedy is firmly in charge of Lucasfilm. This is a good thing.
   
 
2) Disney may actually manage the brand better than Lucas. Disney gets nostalgia. Sure, they've been known to wring the life out of beloved classics (I believe the term "suckquel" was coined to discribe the direct-to-video sequels they produced of Disney animated classics. And what's the deal with the Tinkerbell movies?! A talking Tinkerbell?) But hey -- Guillermo del Toro is working on that new Haunted Mansion film. As much as the sequels suck, Pirates was a pretty genius move. And the Epic Mickey games shows that they are at least cognizant of how inherently cool their legacy properties are. And with a guy like John Lasseter running around doing his best impression of Walt, there is some great potential here.
 
3) It's not just Lucasfilm, it's also ILM. Once upon a time Disney was at the forefront of big, special effects-heavy, live action family films. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mary Poppins, etc. Maybe having this sort of access to ILM will facilitate a return to big screen family spectacles! Maybe.
   
 
4) Seriously? Disney has bought out another company? They own Spider-man, Kermit the Frog, and now Luke Skywalker. It just seems so ... Imperial.
 
5) I wonder what this will mean for the culture of fan-fiction and fan films that exists around Star Wars. Disney is a copyright heavyweight itching to put the pinch on infringers. Will be interesting to watch.
 
6) Episode 7. I can't ... I just can't think with this right now. With the right writers and directors, it could be everything that the Prequels weren't. But ... I just don't know.
 
7) At the end of the day, we need more Star Wars, Mickey Mouses, Spider-Mans, and Kermit the Frogs. A big company can be ossified; independant artists have the freedom to fail and suceed on their own terms. I know people who could be the "next" Lucas, Disney, Lee, and Henson. Or rather, the "first" Pire, Meeks, Kadlecik, Yavnieli, etc. I'm happy to see Star Wars continue on under the wings of a company that actually produces watchable movies. At the same time I know that the bigger and more centralized media companies get, the more opportunities there are out here for those of us who aspire to great things, especially with the technology and distribution options available to us.
  
I guess ... get creating, folks.

Entrainment is the Enemy of Art

[NOTE:  Here's yet another draft that's been sitting around, waiting to be published. I've held back because this is pretty grumpy, even for me. I feel I should add a disclaimer to stuff like this: This isn't the final word. My opinions and attitudes are constantly evolving. This is just where I was back in June of this year. Fortunately, only about three people ever read this blog.]

Entrainment is the Enemy of Art.

Or, to put it another, William Blake-esque, "Proverbs of Hell" way, "Entertainment! Not Entrainment!"

First, a reading:

entrain2
vb (tr)

3. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Zoology) Zoology to adjust (an internal rhythm of an organism) so that it synchronizes with an external cycle, such as that of light and dark
entrainment n
Now, a hymn:

I want to be different, like everybody else I want to be like I want to be just like all the different people I have no further interest in being the same, because I have seen difference all around, and now I know that that's what I want I don't want to blend in and be indistinguishable, I want to be a part of the different crowd, and assert my individuality along with the others who are different like me
And to conclude, the sermon:
 
This is my "personal" blog, i.e. not the theatrte blog (whose name I'm omitting so as to avoid the Googlebots). The theatre blog has taken on a life of its own. People actually read it now, and so I'm beginning to feel that I can't be as candid as I used to. That's a sad thing for me, because it has always been a place where I can honestly say what's on my cranky, cantankerous mind. In short, the entrainment has begun. Oh, I'm not a part of the clique--and there is a theatre clique in this town. Every subculture has its cliques, its cool kids; its criminals, basket cases, jocks, brains, and princesses. But I am on the, if you will, "fringe" of the local theatre subculture. And somewhat like the little kid who noticed that the Emperor was buck-ass naked, I find myself biting my tongue at what has become an annual circle jerk-cum-theatre festival. No pun intended. People will have their fun, and people will be entertained. Of course they will, and this is good. At the same time, I can't help but roll my eyes at the complete and utter failure of yet another theatre organization to live up to its name. In this particular case, it's the "fringe" part of a particular festival whose name I'm also ommitting so as to avoid the Googlebots. Please open your Wikipedias to the entry on "Fringe theatre". Thus spaketh the crowd-source:
Fringe theatre is theatre that is not of the mainstream. The term comes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which name comes from Robert Kemp, who described the unofficial companies performing at the same time as the second Edinburgh International Festival (1948) as a ‘fringe’, writing: ‘Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before’. The term has since been adopted by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and thence by alternative theatres and alternative theatre festivals.
"Not of the mainstream." "Alternative." Granted, in this town any live theatre is the "fringe" of mainstream entertainment. But that's not the point of a fringe festival, now is it? There are some daring souls making some daring theatre, but the fringe moniker is largely innacurate, and is the sort of myopic ego-stroking that turns me off from the theataaaaah. "Look how risky we are! We have swear words and/or violence in our play!" And don't get me started on the one-person shows. Don't even get me started.

But so long as people are being entertained, what do I care? 

Yes, what do I care indeed.  Hence, posting this here rather than over there.  The fact is, I don't fucking care.  It hits me in cycles, I've observed.  I joke about how my relationship to theatre is just like Chaplin's in Limelight.  "I can't stand the sight of my own blood, but that doesn't stop it from pumping through my veins."

In my case, I can't stand the theatre, but that doesn't stop me from pontificating about it.  Or maybe, finally, I just can't stand the theatre.

03 July 2012

Plot, Story, and Theme

Have you ever committed to cleaning and organizing something -- the garage, your desk, your finances, whatever -- and once you start digging into the mess you discover that things are far worse than you suspected? I'm having that experience right now as I re-break Pin-Up Girls as a screenplay.

For the past week I have been engrossed in a very important question: What is the story of Pin-Up Girls? I know the plot, but what is the story? I blame John August and Craig Mazin. I discovered their podcast, "Scriptnotes" and have been soaking up past episodes like a ShamWow. Episode 39, "Littlest Plot Shop" hit me at around the same time I began outlining PUG. Thus spaketh Craig:
Well, when you go through a plot like that you get a lot of “what” questions, like — what happens? This woman seduces a man to save a guy to do a thing. So, what happens next is what bad writers are constantly asking: what happens next? And I think good writers are always asking: why should this happen next?
I know the events of PUG. I know the "whats"; what are the relationships, what happened to Scotty, what does Helen do in response, what does Ruby do, etc. And I may have actually spent some time asking and answering "why," but not nearly as much as I should have. The fact is -- and I'm obsessed with this concept right now -- PUG is a plot without a story. Or perhaps a plot with a weak story. Either way it's functionally the same.

The worst part is, story is related to theme, or as Mazin puts it, "central dramatic argument." From episode 23 of the podcast, "The Happy Funtime Smile Hour":
But the reason I made it up [the term "central dramatic argument"] was because the word “theme” can be distorted when we talk about writing screenplays and theme. Some people can use the word theme the way we should probably use the world motif like brotherhood, or justice, or bravery. Those are motifs. But they are not actually useful when you are writing a movie. What is useful when you are writing a movie is what Aristotle, going all the way back to Poetics, called “unity.” And that is, at its core, an argument, and what I call a central dramatic argument: an assertion that is the answer to a question, that you could agree or disagree with, but ultimately is at the… It is when people say, “What is this movie really about?” It’s about that.
Why is that the worst part? Because I'm an idiot. From the original PUG pitch document:
[Regarding theme] I have to defer to the great Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. In his book Towards a Poor Theatre he wrote:
I do not put on a play in order to teach others what I already know. It is after the production is completed and not before that I am wiser.
It is very difficult for me to discuss the themes of a work-in-progress; I'm almost superstitious about this. I can, however, give you a sense of where I'm going. "Pin-Up Girls" deals with comunication and miscommunication, and the effect this has on relationships. Further, it deals with the new-found freedom that American women encountered during World War II, and how this altered traditional gender roles. Personal responsibiity and artistic responsibility are subjects that always interest me as a writer.
Waa-waa-waaaah ...

Two things: Jerzy Grotwoski's lifetime goal was to remain poor, and I know better than to write things like the above. Maybe not when I actually wrote it, but certainly now. It occurs to me lately that the point of storytelling is sharing what we've learned about our basic humanity. Storytelling (I believe) sprung up out of a basic need to share experiential knowledge. "How Not to get Killed by a Wooly Mammoth" was an early box office smash.

It's probably time I get over my bad self and become more willing to share my own observations and experiential knowledge of life.

In closing, John Carpenter:
Every great work has something that’s thematic about it. Not a message, because I don’t think movies do messages very well. They fall flat. Socially, I mean, some great films were made back in the ’30s and ’40s and you can see that they were placed in the time they were made, but their themes are for all time. The biggest thing is the story, but within that you need some thematic element that gets the audience going, that reaches out to them.

04 January 2012

Support PuppetVision: The Movie



"Using interviews with and performances by over sixty puppeteers from at least fifteen different countries, this film is going to share amazing work by amazing artists and have them talk about how they create it and why."

I've never met Andrew Young in person.  We are longtime acquaintances via the internet and the wild and (literally) wooly online puppeteering community.  I have tremendous respect for Andrew -- his PuppetVision website is a well-tended, thoughtfully edited clearinghouse for international puppetry news.  His plan for a documentary of the current state of the art is a movie I want to see.

And you should want to see it, too.  Puppetry is a vibrant, sophisticated theatrical artform.  There is much to be learned from the artists who make it happen, and Andrew is uniquely positioned and qualified to bring their stories to the screen.

Let's help Andrew make his film happen.  His fundraising deadline is coming on quick.  Please visit his IndieGoGo page and kick him a few bucks: PuppetVision: The Movie.