Friday, October 29, 2010

scriptwriters


Heading into the midterm elections, it's a good moment to revive an article from last November's New York Times, as Robert Pear discovered eerie similarities between floor speeches and remarks entered into the Congressional Record by members of Congress, with ink drops leading all the way back to the offices of lobbyists for Big Pharma.
Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.
No partisan slant on this post, really; just a reminder to vote next week. It's one thing if big money buys our elections in spite of our best efforts; but if they're scripting the floor show for a democracy and no one's even bothering to watch, then we get what we deserve.

[image via a Canadian Christian Puppets site -- really.]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

more sausage getting made [af(sw)]

We held the latest read-through of all's fair (six western) this past weekend. Some pics from the event:



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This time next week, can we count on seeing you here?


Don't answer yet. We'll ask again next week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

all in the timing

Oh, he needed to be fired. No doubt.

But exactly a week before the general election? Seriously?

bricking over the ceiling


In an election year where the New York Gubernatorial election has taken on all the subtlety and maturity of a fraternity brawl, the Times notes a significant overabundance of testosterone at the highest level of the two main campaigns:
In the race for New York governor, women are suddenly popping up everywhere — everywhere, that is, except inside the campaigns’ inner circles.

Even as Mr. Paladino, the Republican, and Mr. Cuomo, the Democrat, embrace women’s causes, they rely on strikingly few women as key advisers.

Neither of them selected a woman as his running mate or campaign manager, and the top ranks of their political operations are conspicuously dominated by men. The scarcity stands out in a state where the modern women’s rights movement was born and where female voters play a crucial, and at times decisive, role in elections.
This isn't just an issue of catering to one of many constituencies. It's important because in an election that will see a notable rollback of women's representation in Congress for the first time in a decade -- at a time when vital issues like all women's reproductive rights and gay women's civil rights will come under pressure -- women are increasingly being spoken at by men or, worse, by barely competent ciphers.

What does it say about the national party's estimation of the value of women when this woman, this woman, and this woman form the vanguard of the GOP's female ranks? (This isn't just a difference of opinion. Fellow brown people, show of hands: who wants to cast their lot with Alvin Greene? Hint: if you think the candidate that looks like you is a plant by the other side, then they're probably not moving your agenda forward.)

You know the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn't been ratified, right?

Monday, October 25, 2010

outsourced

The NY Times this weekend went in depth on the latest round of the wikileaks document dump on the war in Iraq. Despite the erratic behavior of its founder, the value of the light the document release casts on America's entanglements in the Middle East can't be denied. Amongst the accounts of gross negligence and incompetence, there is one chilling line:
There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.
Be it ten years from now, sooner, or later, we can only anticipate more sickening accounts as a result.

Friday, October 22, 2010

the fourth estate *finally* gets it right

If the Administration's icky whiff of xenophobia when facing down its critics in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems a bit too desperate to latch on to, fear not -- the New York Times actually did its job and found a nasty little conspiracy on our own shores:
Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.
The entire article is worth a read -- unless the oligopoly they got over in Moscow seems appealing to you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

film festival this week

The Home Planet Film Festival, founded by COItc Artistic Director Adam Karsten, will be screening the winners this week.

Festival winners will be screen this Friday, October 22, 2010 at the June Havoc Theatre (NYC) starting at 12 noon.

For a full schedule of events and list of winners, follow this link.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

American Taliban

Via the Times:
Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware, on Tuesday appeared to question whether the First Amendment to the Constitution imposes a separation between church and state.

In a debate at the Widener University Law School, Ms. O’Donnell interrupted her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, as he argued that the Constitution does not allow public schools to teach religious doctrine.

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Ms. O’Donnell asked him, according to audio posted on the Web site of WDEL 1150 AM radio, which co-sponsored the debate.

The audience at the law school can be heard to break out in laughter. But Ms. O’Donnell refuses to be dissuaded and pushes forward.

“Let me just clarify,” she says. “You are telling me that the separation of church and state is in the First Amendment?”

When Mr. Coons offers a shorthand of the relevant section, saying, “government shall make no establishment of religion,” Ms. O’Donnell replies, “That’s in the First Amendment?”
In the same election season where a Tea Party Candidate has a journalist detained by his private security firm, and a candidate for national office deems her speeches private events to avoid public scrutiny, the question is why hasn't the latest iteration of American fascism been called out for what it is yet?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A fascinating look in last week's Times of shows that go straight to Broadway rather then getting regional tuneups. Most fascinating was little more than a side note in the piece as a whole:
The four multimillion-dollar musicals are all leaping to Broadway without a net because of their creators’ confidence in the material and, to varying degrees, skepticism that a tryout elsewhere is useful anymore. The Internet has made it impossible to fly under the radar at theaters in La Jolla or Seattle; bad buzz anywhere can reach New York theatergoers instantly, as was true last weekend when some bloggers picked apart the first preview of “Women on the Verge” only hours after it ended.
"Tastemakers" is a term that applies to two groups now: prominent critics / creative types, and a vengeful crowd with twitter accounts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

be interactive, but not *too* interactive


When high-brow institutions try to appeal to the masses, the results are usually unintentionally hilarious.
Tate Modern is to stop visitors walking over the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's vast field of 100m porcelain sunflower seeds because of health and safety fears over ceramic dust.

As revealed by the Guardian, the Turbine Hall installation has been closed since yesterday morning because of worries that dust inhalation might be a health risk. That means the thousands of visitors who traipsed through the installation between Monday and Wednesday were the lucky ones. The work will now be viewed from the building's bridge.

"The Unilever Series, Sunflower Seeds, by Ai Weiwei is made up of over 100m individually handmade porcelain replicas of seeds," the Tate said today.

"Although porcelain is very robust, the enthusiastic interaction of visitors has resulted in a greater than expected level of dust in the Turbine Hall. Tate has been advised that this dust could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time. In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow visitors to walk across the sculpture."

The work is intended to be interactive and to have people walking through it, although some visitors, mainly children, had more fun in the seeds than curators might have liked.
Really, that last line is the money shot, and draws an underline beneath the dilemma that purveyors of "high culture" face in this mass media age.

Naturally things went wrong the moment an audience's interaction couldn't be dictated ahead of time. Much as I adore opera, I find it obnoxious that an audience is expected to know the work beforehand: when they applaud or boo, they're judging the latest performance against a pre-determined canon, reducing the entire evening to an inside joke with formalwear.

I particularly enjoy, therefore, when snooty cultural gatekeepers give lip service to the idea of making art accessible to the general public, and then act horrified when the public acts like, well, an unruly group of people.

[image via the Guardian]

Friday, October 15, 2010

art and austerity


Last week the BBC asked -- a bit too cheekily for my taste -- Do hard times equal good art?
Vincent van Gogh, starving as he slaves over his masterpieces. Johnny Rotten, sneering at the wreckage of 1970s Britain. George Orwell, finding his voice amid the poverty and despair of the Great Depression.

You'd think today's artists would be happier about the prospect of imminent destitution.
Not an auspicious beginning to a serious conversation, but the article does right itself later:
The left-wing singer-songwriter Billy Bragg is certainly no supporter of the funding cuts, and he acknowledges that the music industry was already facing deep-seated problems even before the arrival of the credit crunch.

But, weaned on punk rock, and his craft forged during the battles of the 1980s, he does believe that musicians tend to find their voice during periods of crisis.

"As times get hard, it's still the most obvious way to reach out and speak to people," he says.
This is a slightly different argument, but more perceptive. It is true that artists need some kind of crisis (even a minor crisis like a deadline -- looking at you, COI podcast) to focus their minds.

I don't see how that's an argument for pushing them to the brink of starvation, though.

[image via Chris Tyrell]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Truth Be Told this weekend

Our sister company, Oracle Theatre Inc., is mounting the latest installment of their Truth Be Told series this weekend. Their info is below:
Oracle Theatre Inc Presents.......


Join us for a night of new works, as Oracle Theatre Inc presents scenes by NYC playwrights: Susan Ferrara, Corey Ann Haydu, and Isaac Rathbone.


October 16, Saturday, at 7:00pm
Shetler Studios - Penthouse 1
244 West 54th Street (between 8th and Broadway)
12th Floor; then ask for the Penthouse


Cover at the door is $5. A small reception will follow the performance.


"Truth Be Told" is our longest running program, that promotes collaboration and the development of new projects by a variety of different artists. If you are interested in presenting at a future event, please let us know! Join us and continue to support the arts.
See you there?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

would you let this man near *your* children?


Carl Paladino's delayed repudiation of his weekend gay-bashing is being rightfully dismissed as too little, too late. But that doesn't mean it still can't be picked apart for its lack of logic, cowardice, and inanity. "I am Carl Paladino," the statement (probably not written by Carl Paladino) opens, "a father, a husband, a builder and a business owner."

Why stop there? You are also a Republican, septuagenarian, Virgo, homo sapien -- actually, I can see where this would get problematic. Let's leave it at "business owner." He goes on to write that this whole incident began when "Yesterday I was handed a script."

That is leadership, people.

We could go on to outline our disdain for the my-best-friends-are-gay gambit later in the statement, the brain-melting attempt to place himself alongside President Obama on the same side of, well, anything in the Year of the Tea Party, and the fact that within hours, an aide had maintained the Paladino campaign's pace of one-gaffe-per-day by calling the Attorney General "oily".

We've noted, more than once, our disgust with Accidental Governor Patterson. But maybe the bigger problem isn't the politicians, but the office itself. Maybe it only attracts the venal and mildly insane.

Or maybe just the possibility of attaining the office turns you crazy and hateful.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

performative politics


A fascinating profile of Ann Coulter in the Times Fashion section on Friday, as she stakes out new ground since the Tea Party has taken over her brand of crazy:
“I happen to think that Ann believes everything she says,” said Bill Maher, the host of “Real Time,” who is a friend. But at the same time, “it is a bunch of show business. You are working in the media. You are in makeup.” For a person like Ms. Coulter, Mr. Maher said, “once they are in the public eye, they don’t want to be irrelevant.”
Something to keep in mind the next time you get all worked up by something that was said on-air by paid pundits...

Monday, October 11, 2010

don't forget to consult your abogado, kids!

The actress who provided the voice of cartoon heroine Dora the Explorer between 2008 and 2010 is taking legal action against the Nickelodeon network.

Caitlin Sanchez, 14, claims she has not been paid fees due from reruns, DVDs, other products and promotional work.

[...]

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sanchez's action alleges she was given just 22 minutes to sign an "unconscionable" contract without the advice of an attorney.
Now, I don't know the details of this case, and Viacom says she got her fair due, but given the history of every media conglomerate ever -- I'm going to go with Sanchez probably got screwed.

[via BBC News]

Friday, October 8, 2010

pay to play [af(sw)]


We have some very exciting news to share soon about our workshop production of All's Fair (Six Western), but in the meantime: a friendly reminder that you can help us with an online donation via Fractured Atlas here.

(Give us some money, then we'll tell you what we know.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

like looking in a warped mirror

Over at Deadspin, Emma Carmichael has a fascinating piece on a conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell as part of the New Yorker Festival. She breaks apart the fragile mythos that allows Simmons -- a highly paid columnist and author -- to play the part of an average joe sports fan in the eyes of the New Yorker's readership. The piece has, I think, a summary of seminar attendees that transfers almost seamlessly to theatergoers:
The New Yorker Festival promotional material has a sketch of a young man and woman walking side by side, presumably headed to some venue in the city where they will listen to famous actors and writers talk about how they got to be so wonderful, and if they're lucky, one of those two will get to stand at a microphone to ask a question that shows the crowd that they, too, are quite wonderful. In the sketch, the guy has glasses and a coffee cup; the woman has high heels and a big bag. They are not walking to the Meadowlands.
(Okay, minus the "young" part.)

As we've argued before, theater exists in an elitist, rarefied market. Attempts to make works for "the people" ignore this salient fact (looking at you, Lombardi). When theater artists try to make their work universally appealing -- or, let's face it, appealing on any kind of mass scale, they look as absurd as Bill Simmons trying to convince us he has more in common, class-wise, with sports fans than the millionaire athletes they watch.

The whole article is definitely worth a read.

[Deadspin.com]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

the old versus the new on the subcontinent

It's not just on these shores that the integrity of live performance is under siege by the pandering of mass media. Aditi Saxton's profile of the Gati Dance Forum in the Caravan explores how the group can preserve traditional forms in the face of vulgar popularization while still finding space to innovate (and stare down their own arch-conservative critics). Saxton's purple prose is also a joy to read:
Even as fusty traditionalists worry about the siege of the new—in Besseling’s End (of ) Days, Arundale’s disciple MR Krishnamurthy expresses precisely these fears—the modern, the contemporary, it’s the twin Trojan horses of Bollywood masala mash-up and TV dance competition gimmickry that are laying waste to the Indian dance-scape. With no connection to reality, the kind that inspired thinking choreographers like Chandralekha, the two are reducing dance in India to its lowest common denominator. When the aggressive jut of a pelvis wins accolades, the appreciation for subtleties dwindles proportionally, whether it’s a mudra replete with spiritual significance or a battement executed with technical virtuosity. The threat is not from change but from capitulation to mediocrity.
RTWT here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the end of days (coming in 2011)

God. Dammit.

[Relevant to NYC subway riders only]

fight call

Lest actors forget the importance of taking fight call and general stage safety seriously:
A play at one of London's most critically acclaimed theatres has been suspended after an actor was apparently shot in the eye with a fake gun during a performance.

David Birrell was appearing in Stephen Sondheim's Passion at the Donmar Warehouse when the accident happened on Saturday.
The Guardian has the whole story. But yikes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

when you realize the joke is on you


To: Steve Jobs/Apple Computer
From: COItc
Re: Well played, Sir. Well played.

Can you hear that sound? It's a lone, slow clap that reverberates against the walls and ceiling. It's sardonic, almost mournful. The applause is hardly celebratory; it's recognition of a brilliant, methodical practical joke at our expense. We don't like having egg on our face, but we can certainly salute the complexity of the Rube Goldberg machine that delivered it there.

As we've noted before, the COI podcast is largely recorded on a MacBook Pro using GarageBand software -- a program that all Macs include out of the box.

When the laptop failed the first time, we thought it was simply a byproduct of our hard-living style, as we carted the machine between the BoCoCa Arts Festival and Planet Connections Festivity.

The second and third times, we thought we certainly were suffering some ill luck, but clearly a visit to the Genius Bar and hardware replacements would allow us to return to the brisk release schedule of the Spring without a second thought.

But now, as the laptop is about the return to the shop for the fourth time in three months, we realize what you've done. And we must tip our caps to you. As has been documented elsewhere, whether it's your absurd response to phones that don't work, or shipping computer displays that look like crap, you have taken a captive audience and milked them for all they're worth. You built a cult of fans who paid premium prices for high-concept, high-design computer products that "just work." Once that niche appeal became mass appeal, you cut corners to increase profit margins, with the inevitable results that more and more units per production run failed miserably.

Idiots like me lose weeks at a time in productivity because we're waiting for your well-meaning but overwhelmed service departments to repair inferior products. And because my investments in your closed software ecosystem have forced me to throw good money after bad, I have no choice but to sink even more money into your declining product line -- I'm bailing water from a sinking ship with no lifeboat in sight.

So as I type these words from the new iMac I bought in order to keep productive for the week while my defective laptop heads into the back room once again, I can do nothing but applaud your evil genius -- charging more and more while providing less and less.

You magnificent bastards.

Sincerely,
COItc

PS: Long story short -- the COI podcast is delayed. Again.