Saturday, December 22, 2012

You Are All Very Disappointing

I am agitated with the state of the world.  I have been sick and the key to getting better has been to figure out how to not be mad at myself for being sick, so I could just let myself be sick and get better, instead of inflicting shame and guilt and suffering on the proceedings which is my proclivity fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it.  Oh, my God, did you really just make it past that last sentence?  It is appalling.

So this break from directing massive outrage on myself results in my outrage against my generation.  I am really fucking upset about how my beloved United States is held hostage by corporate interests, by money, by lobbyists.  So much so that I get these Christmas cards, which I love, I love, love, love to get Christmas cards but the ones that say Peace on Earth really just piss me off.  Because for the love of God, if Peace on Earth was important, really important, then we would have it.

It cannot be that we are all so busy with the treadmill of consumerism that the rank hypocrisy of this message  goes unnoticed?  Come on.  What do we do for peace?  Peace in our own souls, peace in our schools?  What do we do?  How can I watch Obama cry to universal acclaim for the killing of twenty of ours when the civilian casualties in Iraq go unnumbered (estimated as high as one million people, clearly north of 300,000).  What holocaust do we not know that is yet blood on our hands?  Corporations, sovereigns, religions:  these things have made us blind to our own humanity.  The moneychangers are in the temple, in the church, in the government.  All of our lives are being stolen for money and we are conspiring by working, buying, conceding to the culture without questioning instead of fixing this ill for the sake of our children.  And we do this knowing our earth is being hurt perhaps beyond repair by our own actions, and knowing that in our culture we murder each other for sport.

And we keep taking our kids to school and working and keeping up.  Myself included.  So I cannot judge.  But man, spare me the cards that are really looking for a miracle - Peace on Earth - unless you are willing for that miracle to come.  Unless you will lend your voice and your vote and your time.  Or at the very least open your eyes to the truth of your country, your earth and your children's future.

Sorry to be so mean.    

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Welcome to December 2012, the Mayan Edition

I have been sick, more than a month now, pleurisy, a total drag especially for a stoic like me.  I am too weak to do much, and it is absolutely tedious. I wonder whether the winter finally broke me and now I have some kind of chronic seasonal affective disorder, with pleuritic undertones (how I love my new adjective but loathe my new disease).  This new normal is going to take a lot of getting used to.

I miss Occupy.  There are some great things happening in London, voices are being heard, but I have been writing this play.  A draft of the play is now in the hands of the producer, that most impressive of impresarios.  So now I can heal and not write.  Except those two occupations together are incompatible, now I have to write, absent a play I indulge in the blog, like a cigarette behind the movie house.

I find so much of what I read in the news unbearable.  One point two billion pounds spent on a submarine (the UK?  a submarine?) (I rest my case).  Banks too big to be indicted, celebrities who did great harm when they were too big to be indicted - I'll tell you, when the news reports example after example of institutions or people (HSBC or J.S.) that were treated like kings while we are treated like dirt - stars who were treated like kings despite them breaking the law.  It's all so poisonous.

We are asleep, we the people.  We don't storm the town halls, we don't protect our interests:  I don't think we are to blame, so busy we are with trying to provide for our families and keep the engines of capitalism running.  In fact, I may be hte only person who thinks this but I think things get worse every year.  I think the real burden of the Great Recession is the stress we all have had keeping things together, making less do when before we had more, it's in our bodies, it is in the number of emails we answer after 9:00 p.m., it is in the clenched abdominals haunting us when we wake up, it is about cancelled Christmas parties and rumors of layoffs and how are we supposed to take to the streets and demand a better world when Christmas is just around the corner?

Fear not.  This is reputedly what the angel said to the shepherds, who were freaked out at all the supernatural goodness going off like fireworks in the starry sky.  Fear not.  That baby Jesus, what that baby brought into the world is available to anyone who follows him.  They said he would be the Prince of Peace and if that is the case, then his followers are doing a terrible job.  Practically everyone in the government in the United States claims to follow that baby, but they can't even make peace with their fellow Americans, let alone the rest of the world.

That baby grew up to be the nicest person ever, and he was great at last minute crunch entertaining, and extemporaneous speeches.  Really good.  The only thing that really pissed him off were the money changers. Crucify?  No problem.  Show up with money?  Tons of wrath.  I don't know why all of the followers of Jesus are all so loathe to consider this point.

I also don't know why all the followers of Jesus are trying to use the government to make other people  - like gays and people who want a right to sovereignty over their bodies - into followers of Jesus.  Jesus was very clear that this was NOT IT AT ALL.  You cannot use the rule of law to force people to believe something.  And no matter what they do, no matter what, your job is to love them.  Even if they break your laws.  Even if they break the law and go to jail. If  you follow that baby, you are supposed to love the elderly, the shut-ins, the convicts the most of all.  The homeless, the hated:  there the treasure lies for those Jesus people.

Yet I see a way, I see it every day despite overwhelming rejection of the idea everywhere I turn - I see a way that the Jesus people and the Occupy people really want the same thing.  They don't want money and advertisements, and commercial interests to rule our lives.  They want art, education, virtue and spirituality to be foremost in their society.  They want - or should want - war to end. This week:  1,200 million  - 1.2 billion - way too much money - for a submarine the UK does not need. We were warned with the Iron Cross speech of Eisenhower.  It is not too late to waltz with those ideas in Abilene.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Hoi Polloi: Stories from an Invisible Town

Hoi Polloi is a theatre company in Cambridge. They are rarely here but I just came back from the latest Hugh Hughes show:  Stories from an Invisible Town.  It is the fourth Hugh Hughes show I have seen.  The character HH is an "emerging artist" from Anglesey, an island off the North Coast of Wales.  The artistic director of Hoi Polloi, a man named Shon Dale-Jones plays Hugh Hughes.  His first show was about his adolescent need to tear himself away from the island.  In the multi-media show, the island was torn away from its roots with the effort, and floated all around the world.  The second was about the death of his father intertwined with the apparent death of a pet rabbit.  The third show was about his best friend outing himself as a cross dresser.  This show is about Hugh's memory project, an art project, spurred by his mother moving out of the family home.  He interviews his siblings ceaselessly about the memories and the truths, and the layers of life they laid together, and they agree to be in a show.

It's a conceit.  When I saw the first show, I thought the artistic director had directed a person named Hugh Hughes.  No, he made a character Hugh Hughes to help him understand his life and his memories - the stories are broadly autobiographical.  The result  is a series of plays more true, more edifying, more ingenious, more full of love than almost anything than I have ever seen on a stage ever.  Yes, I am helplessly lapsing into superlatives and I agree with you that it is not very helpful.  I texted my friend F after the play that this man's genius and love know no bounds and that he may be the living person I most admire.  What I am feeling right now is what teenage girls feel for Justin Bieber and that is not very attractive, I know.  (I just realized that mentioning Juston Bieber has probably guaranteed that this will be my most popular blog post)  (Fine.)

I wonder how to tell you why I like it so much.  Believe me I have searched for answers.  Let me start by saying I like plays. And one of the things that my ex-Christian soul loves about plays is that I found at plays what I didn't  (mostly) find at church.   Edification.  A clue about what to do next, about how humans are.    Plays are for me this important ritual for uncovering truth.  have seen a lot of one man and one woman shows.  These are shows where people try to tell the audience the truth about their lives through a narrative, a story.  The truth most of these shows uncover is that the people performing do not really understand very much about their lives at all.  I mean, it's sad and embarrassing watching.  But Hugh Hughes has layers, and Hoi Pollloi  makes human emotions accessible by these layers.

Example.  In the memory project, Hugh asks his brother Derwyn to recreate, on film, the emotions he felt during a particularly traumatic evening when his father mocked him for losing his homing pigeons ("making the homing pigeons homeless").  So this guy who has a burger business out of a trailer gives it a shot.  We find out he agreed and we watch the film with Hugh and Derwyn.  It is funny because he yells NOOO!  and it is silly and fake.  He's a terrible actor.    He yells no and we can see by the way he yells no that he is so buttoned up, so inhibited that it is ridiculous.  It lacks, well, honesty.  He yells and yells and even unconvincingly throws things.  The audience laughs, the lights go up and Derwyn says to the audience, "You're laughing now.  I don't mind telling you, I was very upset when I did that. Very upset."

I mean, oh, my God, it's the knock out punch.   It's the theatrical equivalent of Douglas Adams' Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick) Because when Derwyn turns and says that to the audience, we are instantly ashamed and empathetic.  His pain is real and his inability to express it is no joke.  And above all we believe it is real.  The action of watching a fake portrayal  with the portrayer (who is also an actor)  - it's like life requires us now to contrive greater and greater outrigging, greater scaffolding and conceits so that we can hold open the internal space necessary to have an emotion, or believe one in others.  

This is real post modern theater.  The best description of post-modernism I heard was in my postmodernism and the law class.  If "modernism" is saying "there's one thing I do know... and that is that I love you." then post modernism is saying, As Rhett Butler said to Scarlett O'Hara, there's one thing I do know . . . and that is that I love you."

In our times, we have to strip away the cultural referents by naming them in order to enter into some authentic space.  Hoi Polloi strips away every excess, every layer, patiently.  Layers of media, layers of reality,  layers of memory, layers of audience and actor, truth and embellishment.  It is the most remarkably effective method I have seen and one I greatly admire.  

It would really make me insanely jealous if it hadn't made me so happy.

UPDATE:  I add a quote from an American theologian for reasons that will remain obscure:

“ . . some moment happens in your life that you say yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. waking up to the first snow. being in bed with somebody you love... whether you thank god for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. if you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul.” 

― Frederick Buechner

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Unit of Measure, a poem by Sandra Beasley

All can be measured by the standard of the capybara.
Everyone is lesser than or greater than the capybara.
Everything is taller or shorter than the capybara.
Everything is mistaken for a Brazilian dance craze
more or less frequently than the capybara.
Everyone eats greater or fewer watermelons
than the capybara. Everyone eats more or less bark.
Everyone barks more than or less than the capybara,
who also whistles, clicks, grunts, and emits what is known
as his alarm squeal. Everyone is more or less alarmed
than a capybara, who—because his back legs
are longer than his front legs—feels like
he is going downhill at all times.
Everyone is more or less a master of grasses
than the capybara. Or going by the scientific name,
more or less Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

or, going by the Greek translation, more or less

water hogEveryone is more or less
of a fish than the capybara, defined as the outermost realm
of fishdom by the 16th-century Catholic Church.
Everyone is eaten more or less often for Lent than
the capybara. Shredded, spiced, and served over plantains,
everything tastes more or less like pork
than the capybara. Before you decide that you are
greater than or lesser than a capybara, consider
that while the Brazilian capybara breeds only once a year,
the Venezuelan variety mates continuously.
Consider the last time you mated continuously.
Consider the year of your childhood when you had
exactly as many teeth as the capybara—
twenty—and all yours fell out, and all his
kept growing. Consider how his skin stretches
in only one direction. Accept that you are stretchier
than the capybara. Accept that you have foolishly
distributed your eyes, ears, and nostrils
all over your face. Accept that now you will never be able
to sleep underwater. Accept that the fish
will never gather to your capybara body offering
their soft, finned love. One of us, they say, one of us,
but they will not say it to you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Engaging With Christianity: It is a hassle, and I feel like a jackass

  I find myself working on an amicus brief on behalf of  a small group of Wheaton College alumni.  We have something to say in a lawsuit Wheaton has filed. We oppose Wheaton suing the HHS saying that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate violates Wheaton's religious liberties.   Wheaton decided to file this lawsuit as a political act.  If you don't think so, then consider this.  As it turned out the contraceptives that Obamacare required -- the ones that were such an affront to the school's religious liberty -- had long been available on Wheaton's private insurance and indeed they had to cancel provisioning of the contraceptives in order to file suit.

As an alumni, I see this lawsuit as a dangerous retreat from Wheaton's position as a beacon of tolerance and intellectualism in Christianity.  In contrast to the dangerous anti-intellectualism that characterizes much Evangelical Christianity, Wheaton taught me never to fear the life of the mind.  Not to say that all of the students had one.  I remember correcting philosophy papers as a teaching assistant and being bowled over by how many people simply wrote a variation on God Is Awesome!  Why worry about Hegel!  We are AWESOME for being Christians.  But then, a lot didn't.  Jon Sweeney and Jen Grant are two authors from my class who spring to mind.  They had baptists at Wheaton, Catholics even, Methodists and Evangelical Free Church members.  Many strains of Christians were under one roof and got along.  The creed was   "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." 

Wheaton cheapens and narrows Christians by arguing that "Christians" do not support morning-after type pills when actually some Christians do.  And Wheaton cheapens religious liberty when it tries to give itself (a school, a legal fiction) more freedom of conscience than it is willing to give to its own students and staff.  Even calling compliance with Obamacare a violation of religious liberties makes me nauseous.  Who can't practice their religion in this situation?  Who is denied religious expression?  It's a perversion to even bring up religious liberties. This lawsuit is extreme evangelicals trying to test the waters on making Wheaton more extreme.   

So despite it likely giving me a Class A Moron designation, I  want to remind these guys about love and charity being at the forefront of Christianity, and tolerance and respect for individual's consciences being a chief virtue.  I basically want to remind Wheaton of all the great things that I learned there, things that I miss about Christianity.  I remember learning the ontological argument for the existence of God - that which nothing greater can be conceived.  Well, I am a fish with a big imagination and I can conceive some pretty great things.  I still hold out some hope that this God  greater of which I cannot conceive  (so very like Nina Simone) exists.  The God I can imagine would not be interested in ghettoizing and isolating religion by trying to strike a blow against a president some people don't like.   the God I imagine would not confuse the culture of the religion with the religious practices itself. I used to calmly make this point in my annual appointment with Dr. Chase, who was the President of Wheaton during my time.  I made the appointment in the fall to complain about the football team praying for victory during chapel.  It's like praying for a parking space.  That cheapens everything.  You think God is going to listen to your prayers about winning a football game when tens of thousands of people pray for food yet starve to death or pray for peace and are refugees of war?  Come on!  It's that kind of stuff that really gets me going. Remember Joe McClatchey?  Frederick Buechner?  Arthur Holmes?  How would they react to this lawsuit?  Jonathan Blanchard was more like Lincoln than he was like Pat Robertson.

Somehow I can't walk away.  And the same self-righteous jackass impulse that got me into that mess with the Wheaton alumni is getting a workout at my son's school  

I find myself with a son enrolled at a Christian school despite being an ex-Christian.  I have a great group of friends at the school, it is a magic place in many ways.  However, we are seeing Evangelical influence on the secondary culture of the school, where the values and practices of American Evangelical culture (i.e. big fat cupcakes in bake sales, condemnation of homosexuality as sin)  as distinct from American religious practice (i.e. prayer) are becoming an increasing phenomenon.  What is the culture that hosts the religion and what is the religion?  Those bake sales are the culture - the one legal high for an observant Christian - sugar.   But its a blurred line.

 My son's school is a private school, it goes from age 4 - 14 so far, 130 kids in nine classes.  You need not be a Christians to enroll.  But many are (some very serious evangelicals from the US) and there is a feeling that while the school is a Christian school, the community should defer to a narrower view of community, a smaller group called Evangelicals.  People who are not Christians are feeling a little cowed, a little silenced and a little concerned.

I really hope our feelings are wrong.  The parent committee is called the Community Association.  And it is open to anyone who has a child there.  So it is open to me.  So I am in this community just as much as anyone else and I will not be cowed.  Let me tell you about one member of the Community.  I am a latte-drinking, sushi-loving, liberal leaning,  yoga practicing human who loves television. I am an ex-Christian. I went to a Christian school, then went to Harvard law school  where Barack Obama introduced me to my roommate.  I even taught Sunday School at St. Peter's in Porter's Square, sometimes despite catastrophic hangovers.  But the more I thought about it the less I could believe that the bible had more truth than other books, or that the resurrection was a thing that happened. I don't think that the bible is the inerrant word of god (many Christians do not) but I still love lots of it very much.   I love plays.  I write them. My brother is a gay rights activist  and I am very proud of him. He is followed like Gandhi whenever we walk down 17th St in DC together, so many little rent boys has he homed and helped and loved when their own parents kicked them out of the house.  My son has three godmammas, two are a lesbian couple.  I don't believe creationism is valid science and I wish people would stop throwing shade on Charles Darwin.  I don't believe that submission to authority is a virtue, sure I know classrooms must have order.  But obedience for the sake of obedience, garnered by fear not by love, is  a pretty hollow thing.  Almost a year ago I kind of turned into a protester.  I was on the streets with Occupy London and it changed me.  I think people should spend less time parenting and more time tending the world that the children they are raising will eventually have to inhabit.  As we stress about secondary Evangelical influences and bake sale obligations, the centre of Cambridge is being reconfigured and privatized, Europe's economy is collapsing- yes, you see, I get like that.

I have many many generations of Christian missionary blood in my veins.  But instead of the classic missionary manifestation: cultural hegemony of going somewhere new and saying,"Hey, hi, do you want to go to this hospital?  Just say you are a Christian." or "All your religious beliefs are wrong and mine are right", I had some kind of mutation.  My missionary work is to keep Christianity as big and important as the god it is supposed to serve.  Ha!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Julian Assange

 This whole situation with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy is fascinating. I heard Assange speak on the 15th of October and I think he's a hero.  I don't know what kind of man he is personally, but the function of wikileaks:  to undermine the state secrets doctrine that robs people of the possibility of true democracy, that function is admirable.  Virtuous.  Don't talk to me about him jeopardizing the troups.  The truth is the entity jeopardizing the US troups is  not Julian Assange. It is the US government.  Not only do they kill them with friendly fire, they sent them there in the first place.  Assange said he was in it for a moral revolution, for a simple application of the rule of law, and I believe him. While the red states and the blue states have been bickering, the ability of the people to decide when and if we go to war has been stolen from us.  I feel like Assange sees the big picture.

And now he is hiding out at the Ecuadorian Embassy because he doesn't want to face the prosecutor from Sweden over alleged sexual impropriety with two separate women.  I don't offer an opinion on the charges, I know nothing.

Only that I think it is weird and problematic that the Swedish prosecutor won't just come and interview Assange in London.  That is the next thing that needs to happen in the investigation and why can't it happen here? It is logical and orderly.

The media reports he doesn't actually care about facing those charges,  his concern is that he will be extradited from Sweden to the U.S..  That is why he had to seek Asylum, so the UK wouldn't hand him over to Sweden.  I think he's probably right about that and he has every reason to be concerned.  Look what they did to Bradley Manning. 

So Ecuador was undecided on granting him Asylum - although they saw his care and keep at the Embassy a kind of humanitarian aid -- until the UK government sent them a letter saying they thought it was within their rights to raid the Embassy to get  Assange.  And in any event, they were not going to grant him safe passage to get from the Embassy onto a diplomatic flight to Ecuador.

This is the most short-sighted abuse of power I have seen from Whitehall in a while.  This really takes the cake.  Functioning embassies are a cornerstone of civilization and at their heart is a magic, a magic called sovereignty.  Under law, that embassy is in Ecuador and the minute that Assange went in, he ceased to be their responsibility.  And believe me every ambassador who ever came out of the UK is agreeing with me on this point because they need those magic powers to keep up alliances, to unite the sovereigns, they need that discretion and power within their host countries.  But some pasty Oxbridge idiot can decide to take all that back.  I wonder if the US put them up to it too.  I really do.

Not to even go into the sovereign immunity case a few years ago with Pinochet. Seriously, the Labor government let Pinochet drink through the wine list at The Priory (the private hospital near Selfridges in London where Pinochet holed up) for fifteen months before they dragged their feet into extradition.  So
I don't really understand why they are planning a dawn raid on the territory of a foreign sovereign, unless Washington is leaning on them (see Iraq war).

So Assange can run or he can walk out of that Embassy and be extradited to Sweden.  Basically, the way I see it, his choices are Trotsky or Mandela.  He either spends his life in non-extradition treaty countries in a shadowly half-life of freedom and an increasing irrelevance or he faces the horrors of being imprisoned.  Prison is no joke.  But then, neither is the moral revolution.  It might take years, but I really think that eventually people will come to understand.  I mean, Assange is never going to be an American hero.  The highest ranking Australian in our culture is Crocodile Dundee.  But he could be the gadfly biting the flank of Athens, moving them by his unjust presence in jail.  I don't know.  I don't know what I would do. But he would certainly be a living symbol of the moral revolution he hopes to achieve.

The Posner Holocaust

What follows is what I always write on my blog:  self-serving drivel that interests only me.  It is lovely to think I could never be accused of marketing.

So today my four nephews stopped by with my sister-in-law and luckily they were in top form and we were able to have a vehement political discussion, very well argued from all sides, in a matter of moments.  I do love that about them.  Sister-in-law asked about the teaching of evolution in America; she is a teacher here.  She was very interested in the prevalence of intelligent design, which I think it is fair to say she saw as an idea that should not compete directly with the prevalent and accepted science in a science class.

Sure, it's weird for people outside the United States, the whole creation thing, but it's not as damaging as one I don't hear discussed very often.  At least the creationists are straightforward in promoting their ideology.  You know who they are and what they want.  When I look back at my education, my objection is not to intelligent design.  My objection is to the fact that every system for the distribution of goods and services in society except for capitalism was extensively and willfully ignored.  In my law school classes, in my college economics classes, in my philosophy of justice classes, in my city planning classes . . . the ideology of capitalism is so insidious in the United States.  Socialism and communism was dismissed outright as absurd and bad.  But that isn't the worst thing.  Now that we find capitalism failing the people so obviously in the United States what really enrages me is that in all my training in thinking and law, I was never trained to apply principles of justice to capitalism.  That faculty - that possibility -was not taught and today I am pissed off. 

I blame Richard Posner.  Maybe not only him, but we can't overestimate the neo-liberal damage done by the Rawls-Dworkin-9th Circuit syndicate that made it somehow impossible to people to apply justice to numbers.  Law and Economics as a way of thinking about law was and is insanely popular in most law schools.  But in that ideology, somehow the economics always won.  The basic equation of law and economics is that growth is always best, more profit, more industry, less regulation, basically, in Law and Economics, economics gag law, and law never wins.  The humanity of justice, its complexity and importance is systematically dehumanized in law and economics to ultimately mean that the biggest number wins. 

So you can see why I feel let down.  You know, Marx saw this coming.  But we aren't allowed to think about Marx because he's a goddamned communist and what could be worse than that?  Well, I'll tell you what could be worse than that.  A corporate oligarchy masquerading as a democracy.  What is worse than that is exactly what we have now.   

And the funny thing is I still think that capitalism is not bad.  All of these systems are not bad or good, just a thing that can be regulated by the people in the way they regulate their democracy.  I like capitalism.  I think it's the way to go. I think competition produces great results. Anyone who watched the Olympics probably agrees with me there.  I think it would be nuts to suggest replacing the current system.  But I feel like its something we don't even have the ability to talk about in any meaningful way.  The general counsels defer to the CFO's.  Always.  Capitalism has been made inevitable by our universities, and we feel it controls us rather than we control it.  But no one seems to talk about this particular holocaust.  Maybe holocaust is too strong a word.  But how strange that something can be instantly dismissed with one word - socialist! communist! - and we don't even have an idea of what those words mean, or how those words could serve us.  And we don't even have an idea of how to put an economic transaction on the scales of justice.

To me that is much more unnerving than the intelligent design people.  At least in that debate, we can discuss both sides.  I feel like the other side of this debate - the ideas of justice and money exterminated in the Posner Holocaust has not been addressed.  I don't know what it looks like.  Although, you know, I am trying.  It is what the play I am working on is about.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2012 Review

Three days, ten shows, wonder, puzzlement, nostalgia, blinked-back tears and a few drunks.  I’m on the train back from my annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

First up after arrival: Phil Nichol doing an hour of comedy at the Assembly Rooms Sunday night.  Phil Nichol Rants!  I have seen Phil Nichol mesmerize, delight, teach and connect with audiences.  On Sunday though he mostly insulted Americans generally and specifically insulted my American friend sitting next to me at her first ever Fringe show.  There was more American bashing than any other year at the Fringe.  So FYI America: you are not welcomed as liberators now.  You are scorned as oppressors.  It may be worth considering whether they have a point. 

I consider this with some frequency. This summer my son has been insulted with some regularity for being half American.  The local kids have learned from their parents that Americans are stupid, annoying people who solve their problems with guns.  "Americans are stupid people who shoot each other with guns when they have problems." That's what my son heard every day.  FYI.  

But really this insult lacks integrity, right?  I mean, if I  - clearly an American - really solved my problems with guns, then wouldn't they not want to make themselves a problem?  I guess I am just saying we lose either way. 

Phil Nichol had some good moments, I’m sure his new play with David Florez, Intervention,  will be very good. 

The next morning we jumped into Female Gothic.  The actor, Rebecca Vaughn  told three tales of horror, each creepier than the last. About 5% of the lines were incredibly beautifully written, like Hemingway, clear and unforgettable.  The storytelling was absorbing.  Using only her voice and a few choice sound effects, she painted shadowy pictures of ghosts of spurned lovers, the living dead, and malevolent murderous spirits.  Pixar’s best CGI demon will never be half as creepy as the one evoked by Rebecca as I sat in the dark listening to her.  If she explained why the show was called Female Gothic at the beginning, I didn’t hear it because I was in the bathroom but I think it is called Female Gothic because the starting point of all the stories was a woman spurned, a woman ignored, a jealous woman – a wise man once told me that when you have a dream, you must realize that all of the characters in the dream in fact represent some portion of yourself.  The dark forces evoked in these stories are no less than the dark side of ourselves.  Again, don’t shoot the messenger.  I am just here to tell you that the more you can understand yourself, especially the darkest parts of yourself, the better you have made the world. 

We went straight to see Guy Masterson’s show The Half.  The Half what theatre veterans call the 35 minutes before curtain of a show.  Guy plays a 50-year-old alcoholic, whose wife has left him, who has a nervous breakdown  during The Half as he contemplates his imminent return to the theatre performing Hamlet as a one-man show lasting four and half hours with no intermission.  Four five-star reviews came in for it today, deservedly, for Guy’s virtuoso performance and for the  evocative script.  Hamlet is paralyzed by doubt, remember, looking to the theatre for respite and truth.  Hamlet devoutly wishes for death but cannot muster the courage for suicide. The parallels haunt this piece.  There is suffering.  But the suffering has a ludicrousness, the character has a ridiculousness in his failure so much that I could not help but laugh.  So the piece swings from utter pathos to slapstick comedy.  Not for the faint of heart.  The one-person sword fight is in itself highly entertaining, shortly after, though, the man is moved to tears with self-loathing.  A difficult show, a challenging show.  In some ways it seemed huge and Russian to me, looking at madness like The Idiot.  Like all Masterson productions, though, it ended beautifully, perfectly. Somewhere in the hysteria and ego of this character, somewhere in his meaningless bloated eternal life of self-doubt, there is something real, a real connection.  Basically, you have to see The Half if you get a chance, because its extremities will provoke great thought. 

Next to A Soldier’s Song.  This was great, and the Fringe is really the only place on earth I see stuff like this.  A private in the Falklands tells his true story of war, accompanied by sounds of assassins’ bullets and mortar fire.   I mean, really, if you ever wanted the opportunity to look at a guy who has really shot another guy dead at point blank range, this is it.  The way he told his stories was haunting, sometimes funny, always honest.  

He came to Edinburgh to tell this story because he knows that for the public, war is a story spun by politicians, but he wants us to know that war is in fact just young boys being ripped apart by metal.   He wants a new script for the politician’s stories and somehow his time on the battlefield gives his request a certain poignancy.  

This is what happens at the Fringe sometimes.  There is a story, and then there is the fact that the person this really happened to is the person telling me.  This is a different theatrical experience to just being absorbed by the narrative. What I think is the upside of this different Fringe-specific experience is that it i not only to entertain, but to teach as the voice of experience.   I wanted more in Soldier’s Song of that polemic.  I wanted more of what happened to him after the war.  I wanted to learn more.  

At least theoretically I wanted to learn more, actually by the time Soldier’s Song ended I was a little emotionally wiped out.  That is Edinburgh, right, the human condition laid out in all its glory, including the suffering.  After creepiness, pathos and war, I was chain smoking and eating nachos pretty pathetically.  

Thank God though the next person was the Australian comedienne Sarah Kendall.  She welcomed us to the Fringe and pointed out the incredible number of  comedians we had to choose from, all with great reviews.  In fact, she pointed out, if you believe all the reviews,  there is an incredible number of geniuses congregating in Edinburgh this August.  (“Sorry, we won’t be finding the cure for cancer this August, all the geniuses are doing stand-up in Scotland”).  Sarah has this delivery that is so matter-of-fact that it actually takes a few seconds to realize how brilliant what she just said was.  A lot of the show was about the kind of world she was bringing her daughter into, the devastating message of appearances in The Ugly Duckling.  Her routine where she pitched a rap music video that involved her watching gay guys make out was so telling.  The casual sexism of everything pointed out with a wry and equally casual delivery. 

After Sarah Kendall we went to see a three comedian extra 11:00 pm show.  Eddie Izzard, Michael Mittelmeier and Trevor Noah.  Izzard had produced Michael’s and Trevor’s shows in his bid to bring world enlightenment through comedy.  Trevor is half Swiss, half black South African.  Michael is completely German.  Trevor and Michael were thematically united by making fun of Americans.  No matter, Izzard was right.  There is a lot to learn.  I did feel like I learned.  Trevor’s best friend growing up was named Hitler.  As a first name.  Because in his mom’s culture in SA, when word got out that a guy named Hitler was bombing the French and the English, they were like, whoa, way to go.  To them the French and the English were the oppressors.  And then a generation later a kid would be named after his father or grandfather and they would be the next Hitler.  I found it kind of difficult to deal with – there is such a culturally communicated knee-jerk reaction against Hitler.  But I have learned from yoga that when something is hard to deal with, the best thing to do is pay a lot of attention to it.  So I did, and I felt like I learned.  I even learned from the German but was eventually allowed to relax when he  started making fun of the British (instead of Americans) and it was hilarious.  You have not lived until you have heard a German comedian call an Edinburgh crowd “a bunch of hobbits from the Shire”. 

Izzard was in good form but somewhere around 12:30 my brain shut down.

The next day we started with Kemble’s Riot.  John Kemble and his sister Mrs Sarah Siddons were the  biggest celebrities of their day, and when they built a new theatre and tried to raise prices on tickets in  London circa1809, the crowds in Covent Garden rioted for 66 nights until they backed down. This play used five actors and the audience to act out the riots.  This is totally my kind of play.  There were a million interesting things going on, the possiblity of which was created but left open by the script.  The audience had a couple actors implanted who act as protest ringleaders. When in the play a security guard (an actor) tried to remove a ringleader (another actor), one of the audience (**not an actor) pulled him off the protester.  Fantastic.  The historical reminder of the power of the crowd to stop those in authority from doing things we don’t want them to do could not be more important.  This show is great because it’s sort of Protest 101, Transgressive Behaviour Junior Course.  We are so acculturated not to complain, to take it, to obey, to submit, to not make a fuss.  These are no longer virtues, and this play helps us exercise our more virtuous protest muscles.  In the world we live in now, failing to complain is the vice.  Learning to complain is the necessity.  Protest.  Remember.  Justice Is Possible. Kemble's Riot.  Really good. 

Next to an adorable and not really dark revival of the off-Broadway darling musical Putnam County Spelling Bee.  A cast of eight kids spell their way right into our hearts.  My friend, the one insulted by Phil Nichol, came into her own at that play.  This was one of those plays that lets down the "fourth wall" and begins as soon as people walk in the theatre.  The lead character latched on to Ellen as his mother.  As she held his inhaler for him during the play she would shake it from time to time for him to make sure it had enough medicine. (Me, jealous:  Ellen, it's a prop!").  Funny, sweet, clever – everything you want in a musical.  I loved Olive Otrovsky, the lonely only child.  This is a broadway show just going into general release and I will say this:  American shows may seem unsophisticated and guileless next to their European counterparts but they also do something the European shows fail to do:  leave you with an overwhelming sense of positivity, hope and love.  European shows somehow always remind you that suicide has its own logic.  

The last show of the  day was, well, ok, it was Ted, the incompetent lawyer from Scrubs and the rest of his barbershop quartet.  Yes, those four guys from Scrubs have a show.  They promise the The first fifteen minutes were the weakest fifteen minutes of the Fringe, but then they sang Take On Me and there was something authentic in the nostalgia.  I find myself in those moments bathed in memories.  Take on Me, I probably watched the video for that 100 times. And the k-Tel greatest hit collections, advertised on television during my childhood cross-legged on the floor, were recreated with a specificity and acumen that was the perfect aide memoire. 

The Blanks, for that is the name of the group, aspire to a Marx Brothers style of zaniness.  I could see they had started to work it and were beginning to get there.  The thing is, the Marx Brothers' routines had been worked out in hundreds of stage performances before they were captured on film.  The Blanks have an admirable goal and should just keep performing together to get the time in to make their routines as immortal.  I did think they had a couple of promising starts.   And already impressive musicians.  Please drop all references to Scrubs, you have to get past that, and also please put Underdog in your line-up.  

Last show, Bullet Catch at the Traverse, written and performed by Rob Drummond.  It's a magic show, a mind-reading show, the story of an on-stage defense of free will and the quietest (except for the shots) and loveliest show on the Fringe.  I never looked at my watch.  I felt great tidal waves of emotion. I wondered.  Really too good.

Is this what it has come to?  Have I really mastered the Fringe and pick no loser shows on which to vent my ire?  It may be.  It was one of my best Fringes. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alan Kay, let me introduce you to the Rule of Law

 this federal judge, Alan Kay, ruled in Hawai'i today that the state laws, which grant civil partnerships for gay couples but not marriage rights were not unconstitutional.  He didn't try to answer the question on its merits, despite the fact he is a judge, no, he let loose with this gem:

" If the traditional institution of marriage is to be reconstructed, as sought by the plaintiffs, it should be done by a democratically elected legislature or the people through a constitutional amendment," and not through the courts"

I interrupt the regularly scheduled neglect of my blog to vent my rage on this one.

If a mob decides the law, it is rule by mob.  The balance on the legislature - the mob - is a strong judiciary committed to the rule of law.  This is the genius of the constitution (the intent of the founders, if you're dirty like that).  

But it only works if the members of the judiciary step up.  

And judges have a responsibility to write the law - within the confines of the facts of the case before them.  It's a burden, it's a sacred duty.  Alan Kay took his sacred duty and punted.  He's not the first, but that doesn't make it right.  The time for the judiciary to start making calls on the cases in front of them is ALWAYS.  Remember Alan, history does not look kindly on Justices who wrote the Dred Scott decision. There is a reason you are sitting underneath Lady Justice who has a blindfold on.  That is because your mandate is to do justice and be blind to the consequences:  fiat justitia ruat coelum.  That is latin for:  do justice though the heavens be rent asunder.  Translation:  do the right thing even if that means things hitting fans. 

I do not think it should be controversial or even remarkable to assert that a judge is obliged to decide the law based on the facts before her or him.  Somewhere along the line our judiciary has put themselves in the back seat and made that assertion seem controversial and remarkable.  This is problematic. 

So I don't blog when we have the 3 Day Play with Gomito Theatre Company in my back yard and 14 kids devise and perform a great play entitled Where Has All The Magic Gone?  And I don't blog when we go to the Secret Garden Party and sleep in a tent and for four days slog through mud and participate in a strangely perfect celebration of humanity.  I don't blog when we go to the Olympics, I don't blog about Edinburgh (although I will).  

I blog for this, to point out an error, to tell everyone that I still believe justice is possible, I believe ineffably in the rule of law.  I am therefore displeased with Alan Kay.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Questions about Angels

Questions About Angels
By Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Olympic Torch Ceremony In Cambridge

  I regretted agreeing to go from the start because I have less and less tolerance for crowds as I grow older, and I could just imagine the press of people.  But my Dad carried the Olympic torch for the '80 Olympics in New York State.  And I kept thinking that it was a thing, an event that I wanted my children to witness for good or for ill.  And by ill I mean a constant stream of muttered anti-capitalist trash talk from their mother.

I have such a love-hate relationship with the Olympics.  I mean, look, this human ideal of competing in peace and honoring physical achievement is so fantastic.  And the great truth that I keep reminding my son.  All these athletes are already champions, and they are champions not only because they have talent, but because they also work hard at it, day after day, and make sacrifices to be excellent.  This is a truth about life, talent is not enough without work.  And to see the Olympic teams is to see mostly virtuous humans.

And yet these excellent people are chiefly funneled by the Olympics into advertising fodder.  The expenses paid to the International Olympic Committee and the cost overruns are insane.  The demands of the IOC (six hundred air-conditioned limousines for their sole use during the London games) . . . the way that you HAD to have a VISA card to purchase tickets, the way that the tickets were insanely expensive and all the choice tranches went to corporate sponsors, the way that the remodeling of East London was done to maximize fascist crowd control measures, the huge portion of the tax money that goes to making private security firms rich, the privatization of the police and the evaporation of civil rights (at the complete discretion of private security forces, you can be excluded from the Olympics and there is no right of appeal or connection whatsoever to the courts), the passing of laws restricting what kind of t-shirts people can wear (those same private security forces can make you turning your Pepsi t-shirt inside out a condition of entry because Coke is a sponsor and Pepsi is not).  In fact, on that last one, I heard that the reason they did not release the route of the torch through England until very shortly before it began not because they were worried about terrorism, but because the sponsors didn't want their competitors buying up billboards along the route.

But Saturday at 18:50 the Olympic torch was going to arrive in Cambridge at a big park and my son wanted to see it, so we started the extensive logistics analysis that must be undertaken before a parking place can be agreed upon, packed rain gear and resigned ourselves to standing in a field for three hours.  I was curious to see the police presence and am happy to report that it wasn't that bad.  There were a number of concrete and metal barriers places to control the crow but there wasn't a menacing police presence (I guess that would spoil the effect of the advertisements?)

We got there and started the great British crowd ritual of queuing:  for drinks, for hot dogs, for the toilet, for some cherries.  We stood in the thickening crowd, angled so that if we lifted the children, they could just glimpse the actual stage plus they would have a view of a screen.  I was very proud of my son's reaction to the screen.  "If I just see it on a screen it doesn't count."  Thank you, Owain, I agree.  But as the crowd pressed in and our view was completely obscured, Liberty dropped her Bunny into the mud and my husband and I felt an overwhelming need to just leave.

The offering on the main stage was this bland, peppy parade of young people who tried to whip the crowd into cheering by performing backflips.  It did vary.  They had a sort of reality show format where they would pit one side of the crowd against each other and keep score on huge COCA COLA or LLOYDS TSB logo'd screens. When we first walked in, the main stage had a group of children dancing a tribute to the Olympics. Accompanied by a drum orchestra, the children pretended to lift weights and play tennis.  I had to look away.  The kids were not that well rehearsed, but that was not what was disturbing.  What disturbed me was that the look on their faces was just like the look I had seen in the North Korean propoganda festivals circa Kim Jong Il.  An odd adolescent halfway house located between duty-bound and I-don't-give-a-fuck.   The performers were to a person without soul, without truth.

And the athletes were not there and being lauded.  This was an excuse to gather a crowd, it was an extensive advertisement.  I found myself spontaneously asking people in lines with me why we were there.  I didn't get a satisfactory answer.  I felt like I was with a bunch of sheep. We decided to leave.

When a woman behind me said, "So you've decided to go?", I told her I felt like a participant in a North Korean propaganda campaign blended with a Coca cola advertisement.  I let some outrage out and said, "Yes!  We are going!  While I still have some dignity!"  - That was the best part of the evening for me.

  But as we crossed the huge field to find the parking garage, there were only five minutes left to wait,  Owain pleaded and we waivered and quickly in the distance we saw slightly above the crowd a flame, a small yellow flame. And the fact that that flame came from a flame that never went out was very impressive to my son, and the cheer that went up from the crowd was oddly heartwarming.  

It reminded me of my favorite fake folk dancing story.  One night at the Early Night Club (the monthly dance party for moms in Cambridge) at closing time the DJ put on a traditional Ceilidh.  And the eight or so happy tipsy women in my part of the bar started hooking arms and passing our partners on to the next person.  We didn't know what we were doing. We were fake folk dancing, because we were just making it up as we went along.  But we were at the same time really folk dancing because we were enjoying each other and celebrating being together in this authentic, exuberant way.  We were REALLY fake folk dancing.

And in that crowd tonight, despite the oppressive corporate presence, despite the three inches of mud, when the torch came through, there was an authentic whoop of excitement.  Excitement that sounded like other parents like us who wanted to make this moment a real memory for our children and wanted to believe in what was good about the Olympics.  It had the heart of the real fake folk dancing.

But the cheer was there and gone in seconds, but the corporate logos on the screens endured long after we trotted off home.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Consolation of Television When Faced With Fear

  I just heard Owain upstairs trying to sleep crying out in fear.  I came upstairs and he had worked himself up into a state of terror - sobbing.  And at the same time he condemned himself for interrupting my work late at night, an overlay of guilt that made his pain multidimensional.  When I went upstairs, I cuddled him to calm him down and then we talked.  He was scared of getting Alzheimers like his great uncle and being confined to a nursing home.  He was scared of dying like his grandfather.  And he was despairing of the fact that the fear was overwhelming him, that he couldn't control it.

We have been meditating most nights for five minutes or so, and acquainting ourselves with emptying our minds.  We do different things, child's pose or feet up the wall or just lying flat and noticing what we feel in our bodies.  I am doing it because he has such a hard time going to sleep.  But we talk about having a still mind so that we can recognize when the chattering monkeys of fear and the past and the future take over our brains and rob of of the present.  We always accept that they are there, but then we try to turn the thoughts into penguins and let them waddle on off into the darkness and leave us alone.

This is serious endeavor for me.  And I am 45 with years of shrinks behind me.  Imagine trying it when you are eight.  He gets nowhere near still and relaxed, really, but he definitely gets more still and relaxed than he was before we meditate, so it is worth it for me.

He was worried about being able to fight his fears.  But I don't think you can fight your fears, not in a brutal, wrestle them into the ground and vanquish them kind of way.  You can only accept your fears for what they are and not let them control you.  I also told him that every living thing dies and that this is a fact we cannot change and must accept.

[Side note:  may I just say the prevailing culture of fighting death and teaching our children death is the worst possible thing sucks? I feel like the culture of both the UK and the US is so dangerously myopic on this point.  We all need to adopt Dumbledore's view that to the organized mind, death is simply the next adventure.]

 His great uncle and grandfather were great men who lived happy lives until old age, and this is true no matter what, no matter how they died.  When we accept what is, we can see the good things and the bad things.  There are good things in most lives.

The only thing to fear is fear itself.  Of course that line came out, I am an American Democrat and former Washingtonian.  He considered my offering and then also mentioned that he would like to take the fear out of himself and put it in the kid who is giving him a very hard time right now at school .  So he ended on a revenge fantasy.  Fair enough.

Now he is watching TV.  I felt like I had to jolt him out of the brooding by occupying his mind swiftly elsewhere.  Television is excellent for that.   As I tucked him in on the couch, he turned to the Simpsons.  He said it was his old favorite, that it made him feel better to watch it.  And I remember many depressed years in my life when watching the Marx Brothers was a lifeline, was a reprieve from the mental suffering.  I felt the same about Danny Kaye.  Sitting on a couch watching a Danny Kaye movie to this day makes me feel safe and happy.  

I know moms are supposed to be all freaked out about screen time but I am happy that Owain has favorite movies and comforting shows.  Watching new movies together is great.  When we find one we both are really into it is absolute magic.  We pause it to talk about it because we are so excited.  We pause it and cajole his Daddy to join us.  A good story is really exciting.  Look, I am deeply distrustful of capitalism and like any good citizen of the Earth, I despise Rupert Murdoch but I love Sky Movies.  And I love the consolation of the screen for my son right now.  Perhaps watching the Simpsons and calming down is only a shadow on the wall of Plato's cave when it comes to a truly still mind, but still, it is something, something good, a respite from the sadness of an 8 year old.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

High Hopes

Writer(s): cahn/van heusen

Next time you'  re found, with your chin on the ground,
There's a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time you're gettin' low
'Stead of lettin' go
Just remember that ant!
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.

When troubles call, and your back's to the wall
There's a lot to be learned, that wall could fall!

Once there was a silly old ram
Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam
No one could make that ram scram
He kept buttin' that dam

Cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes
He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time you're feelin' bad
'Stead of feelin' sad,
Just remember that ram!
Oops, there goes a billion kilowatt dam

All problems just a toy balloon
They'll be burst soon
They're just bound to go pop
Oops, there goes another problem kerplop

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Antigone at the National

I wish that the National Theatre could take over the existing UK government and run it out of Cottlesloe as a play in progress.  They know everything they need to know to do this from their current production of Antigone by Sophocles.  Holy shit, what a production.  What a choice of a play.

When I was a little kid I bought an anthology of plays at a garage sale.  This anthology had Antigone. At age eleven,  I  loved the heroine of this play because she was so fearless.  She was so unhesitant in doing the right thing. What I loved about Antigone when I saw the play again  on the eve of my 45th birthday, was the bigger picture:  The hollowness of authority, the sanctity of love.  Seeing that love must always win over abuse of power.

The criticism of the U.S. War on Terror in the opening scene is unspoken and ingenious.  At the King's headquarters, he and his advisers watch a screen where someone is being killed.  They move into a perfect tableau of the famous photograph of Hilary Clinton, Biden, Obama and selected others watched the live feed of the Bin Laden execution.  And they stayed there for a long time.  Unmistakable.  When the State kills its enemies, someone ends up murdered, and that is not right.  No, it wasn't right when Al Qaeda did it on 9/11 and it wasn't right when the U.S. did it to Bin Laden.  Even States should comply with the rule of law.

The King is played by Christopher Ecclestone, who was Dr. Who before David Tennant (never4get) and Matt Smith.  Ecclestone really bothered me as Dr. Who, he didn't have the expansive, endless love of humanity I felt was essential to the character. He was a reserved Northern unemotive Dr, even slightly awkward.  As Timothy Dalton was to James Bond so Christopher Ecclestone was to Dr. Who.   This exact quality served Ecclestone him well as King, though.  It somehow highlighted the fragility of the King's authority and its hollow, fearful center.

He doesn't start out fearful, though, he starts out convinced of his merit for the job and the importance of the State. In a kind of John Prescott style, he speaks: the interests of the State and of all of its citizens are one and the same, and only complete fidelity to the State will be tolerated. He has decreed that no one will bury the body of the dead soldier, the traitor to him, the new King.  Antigone cannot bear to abide by this decree and thus condemn her brother to be an unhappy ghost, she breaks the prohibition as quickly as possible.

She is brought before the King and condemned.  She is sentenced to being walled into a cave in the distant desert with a little food.  Thus no soldier will have blood on his hands. Wow, I thought.  Drones.  Sophocles was warning about drones back then.  It is an odd sort of remove, to kill with bombs and drones.  When the play ends everyone is covered with blood but to me the most chilling thought was how mechanizing killing makes it that much easier.

The King is warned by his old friend the blind soothsayer Tiresias that his decree against the burial of the traitor was short-sighted and irrational.   The King, I would like to say, realized that in transgressing the bonds of love and family and decency, he had overstepped the authority of the State but actually all that happened was that he started to be frightened of the dire consequences Tiresias predicts.

The King's son is Antigone's affianced (also her cousin) and he kills himself after he finds Antigone dead, and his mother kills herself after hearing the news of her son's death.  

Clean, lean, direct, riveting, true.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

From the preface of Adrienne Rich's book, What Is Found There

               It is difficult
to get the news from poems
      Yet men die miserably every day
                                       for lack

of what is found there. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

They Might Have Something Here (Constitutional Monarchy)

    So I have come to some conclusions around the Jubilee.  There exists among most people in the UK a deep-seated respect and affection for the Queen.  This is a fact, a stubborn thing, a truth to be accepted.  This is also something completely foreign to me.  And unfortunately sometimes quite revolting.  But if I can get past my American exceptionalism for a moment, it is interesting to observe.  The relationship of the citizen to the state is different here, because the state has two components: the monarch and the government.  Each person has a relationship with both.  To me it seems like a steady affection and respect for the royals somehow provides a constant distraction from the other component of the State, the government.  So basically you have this reminder of the State in the Queen, who represents the best of Britain, the rich history and excellence in the arts and sciences, and then you have the actual government, which is a slave to banks and frankly a cesspool. 

And yet I willingly say the relationship of a UK citizen to the state is better than the relationship of the US citizen to the state.  Because in truth, the poor citizen of the United States has had all choice, all nuance, all complexity robbed from them and they have only the Orwellian Binary Choice:  Republican or Democrat.  In the meantime, the overlap between the binary is 90%: deference to the banks, commitment to defense spending, the lobbyist system - a commitment to serving money and not citizens.  Both parties happily agree that international law does not apply to extraterritorial US actions and both parties are happy for the President to order the killing of our enemies and mayors to order the beatings of protestors.  These are disgusting violations of the rule of law.  but the binary choice masks them and they become invisible, silent nonissues in every presidential debate.    

I think people in the US are just starting to wake up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this situation does not serve the ideals of democracy and justice we founded these United States to achieve.  At least some of the people think this.   Many people I love and respect are still so much in the war of Democrats and Republicans that they don't see how rotten the entire system has become. Believe me in Washington I was in that war.  When Clinton was elected, the Republicans waged an unceasing and inventive war on his presidency which included, among other things, Whitewater, the Vince Foster suicide, the Paula Jones suit, the impeachment trial, the Lewinsky wiretap - tawdry awfulness dug up by spirited zealots who saw the only way to righteousness was to destroy the enemy.  What an awful waste of time it all was, what an awful waste of time and talent.  The war between the Democrats and the Republicans still is.  I know they try to suck you in and get your money by pressing your buttons,  I get those Emily's List emails myself but please resist.  Getting sucked into that noise is just a block to your enlightenment. 

It actually is great in the UK that members of parliament are determined not to turn elections into economic exchanges.  It's one good thing.  In the UK they very nobly wait to be elected and then sell the power of the state to corporations to ensure their personal wealth.  That's the European way.  But there will be no holograms in the coverage. 

The UK and US have many of the same hurdles to clear between where they are now and the free democratic state we all wish them to be, and actually, I dream that the UK shows the US the way.  I feel like the US is stuck in this absolute quagmire of religion and the Orwellian Binary Choice, but the UK is not.  Maybe their affection and respect for the Queen triangulates and grounds their feelings about God and Government. 

I see these things and I hope.  I hope that all the acuity and greatness that the people of the UK have in their arts and education could be wielded to solve the great problems of our time.  I hope for this constitutional monarchy and my constitutional democracy.  I still have hope.