The BBC Reports:
A strip club in New York state cannot claim a tax exemption for the performing arts because lap dances do not promote culture in a community, the state supreme court has ruled.
I originally had a snide comment about this when I read it, something along the lines of if I could have given lap dances, my theater company would not only still exist, it would be turning a healthy profit. Then I remembered an incident during rehearsals for my first produced show, and I was ashamed.
Our premiere production was my play The Danish Mediations/slots. One of the subplots involved a budding romance between two women. In the initial read-through we got to the scene where they made out on stage, which was read impassively by my stage manager and met with shifting and giggling (the two actresses were straight). It was at this point that my fight choreographer loudly and crassly proclaimed: “Can’t wait to see that!”
I allowed the deathly pall that fell over the room to be his punishment. In retrospect, I now know that it was not nearly enough.
Perhaps I could have kicked him out. I could have made it clear that these were working artists embarking on a project that did not exist for his titillation. I certainly needed to tell him, publicly, to shut the fuck up.
To my eternal embarrassment, I didn’t. In asking two performers to take risks, I failed in my obligation to create a safe environment in which they could expose their vulnerability onstage.
I’m not going to even get into the rationale behind the sex work industry — let someone with more letters behind their name and more years in academia unpack that — but a decision equating a lap dance with a theater performance would have justified my fight choreographer’s cat call.
There is a place for titillation and eroticism in theater: part of the excitement of having a line is threatening to cross it. But like Potter Stewart with obscenity, when it comes to an exploitative artistic situation, I know it when I see it.
[FYI: My produced plays live here. The Danish Mediations/slots will join them shortly]
[…] The most perplexing question in the [Dominique] Strauss-Kahn affair is how a career politician with ambition to lead one of Europe’s most powerful nations was blinded to the possibility that his zest for sex parties could present a liability, or risk blackmail.
The exclusive orgies called “parties fines” — lavish Champagne affairs costing around $13,000 each — were organized as a roving international circuit from Paris to Washington by businessmen seeking to ingratiate themselves with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Some of that money, according to a lawyer for the main host, ultimately paid for prostitutes because of a shortage of women at the mixed soirees orchestrated largely for the benefit of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who sometimes sought sex with three or four women.
- When you have to tolerate your irritating uncle to score luxury box tickets for a client, you’re making a sacrifice to climb the career ladder. When you’re spending $13,000 so that a lecherous old man can sex three to four women in a night, surely you must have to fight that voice in that back of your brain that says maybe I should have become a humble cobbler instead…
- There was a shortage of women who willingly engaged in these seedy, pornographic fantasies made manifest? That is shocking. Truly.
- But if anyone would understand how to use the invisible hand to alleviate shortages in the market…it would be people currying favor with the IMF.
I’m not upset with Jim Lehrer for being run over roughshod by the Republican candidate, nor for failing to follow up on the pink slip he was issued on national television. I’m bewildered by the questions that he asked when he was ON-script. It was clear from the outset that he was trying to—borrowing a phrase from his book—create a framework by which voters could compare candidates, “Apples to Apples.” In his introduction, he promised ”an emphasis throughout on differences, specifics and choices.”
He was true to his word. Even into the waning moments of the evening, he was still summing up segments with remarks like:
Can we — can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice — a clear choice between the two… of you on Medicare?
It’s remarkable that he didn’t ask for verification that the color of their respective ties were, indeed, different.
If you frame a political debate to appeal to morons, you’ll have a moronic debate. A lot of what happened last night can be explained if we remember the history of President Obama’s flag lapel pin.
In 2007, candidate Obama went back and forth on wearing one or not. In 2008, Time Magazine quoted the Illinois Senator speaking about it during two separate campaign stops in Iowa. In Cedar Rapids, he said:
“The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. […] I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”
Then he hit upon the subject again in Independence, Iowa:
“After a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time. […] My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart.”
Republicans (and, it must be said, some Clintonistas) responded idiotically and simply with a reply roughly analogous to Seth MacFarlane’s Answer-Every-Debate-Question-With-Nine-Eleven spoof.
And lo and behold, it worked. In American politics, the simplistic answer beats the nuanced one every time. So now, President Obama wears a fucking flag pin.
Most of us have been paying attention and have already made up our minds as to whom we will vote for in November. Last night, both candidates were playing to a percentage of voters that can be counted in the single digits.
In Ohio, the President holds a commanding 9% lead over Governor Romney in opinion polls—however, this is the state where 15% of registered Republicans credit the former Massachusetts governor with killing Osama Bin Laden. That is, it is filled people people who are never going to give credit to the President for demonstrable facts of history, let alone a more emotive issue like financial security.
The President is edging the Governor in Pennsylvania by almost 4 points — this in a state whose GOP’s only play for victory is disenfranchising poor, urban minorities.
After John Huntsman was eliminated from the GOP primary, this election ceased to be about subtle differences in philosophy, and both camps doubled down on turning out their bases while tuning out the other side.
After the past year’s barrage, it’s clear that undecided voters are morons. This isn’t a blase SNL skit take on them, nor is it a matter of their simply being uninformed — this is willful ignorance.
In 2008, Virginia breaking for the first black president was about generational change, domestic migration, and hard choices. By 4% of their electorate, the Commonwealth nudged itself away from a proudly southern, militaristic tradition and acknowledged that it was a new century. That’s powerful, subtle stuff.
But it’s four years later; if you’re paying attention in Virginia and in every other battleground state, at this point, you know whether you think that was a shift for the better or not.
If you need distinctions drawn between the two candidates in October 2012, it’s clear that your priorities lie not with government regulation, social issues, education policy, or entitlement programs.
Both parties have been abundantly clear about their philosophies of governance; they are drastically different. There’s a chance that undecided voters are weighing whether they prize a nationwide abortion ban over keeping their Medicare. Perhaps they’re lying about being undecided because they’re lonely and like the phone calls. But whatever their motives, both candidates and the very framework of the debate were focused on them. This debate was about truly ephemeral shit questions, such as: Who is more likable?
Temperaments aside, both candidates adhered to the same basic game plans:
- Admit to no mathematical sureties on your plan;
- Point out big scary numbers in your opponents’ plan; and
- Don’t come across as a prick.
With both campaigns following that game plan, guess what, Morons? You were the real winners of last night’s debate. Jim Lehrer, President Obama, and Governor Romney acted like this was a 90-minute very special episode of Blue’s Clues.
- The Governor play-acted at the energetic fighting outsider (no bullying or nasty birther jokes)
- The President refrained from calling the Governor a liar to his face (and kept his math/arithmetic references to a minimum);
- The debate moderator pretended that what the country needed in the first face-to-face meeting between these two candidates was 90 minutes to really create some daylight between positions that have been so diametrically opposed for so long, the two campaigns no longer fight about common issues — they just argue about who’s lies are more opportunistic and inartful.
Disappointed fellow-travelers have filled by inbox with West Wing quotes as they mourn the missed opportunity of last night’s debate: they were hungering for an evisceration of the opposing candidate, or a meaty tangle about philosophy.
Instead, we got a Frankenstein’s monster of body language analysis and whoring for Q-ratings.
Are you not entertained?
A federal judge has ruled that the New York Police Department illegally arrested large numbers of demonstrators at a protest in Lower Manhattan during the 2004 Republican National Convention. But the judge upheld aspects of how the city had handled the protesters’ arrests.
As soon as I finish my time machine, this will actually matter.
UPDATED: Shut up, me. Ruling? Relevant:
The ruling, as a Wall Street Journal article notes, could expose to the city to expensive lawsuits from the people who were arrested.
Re-watching the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained before The Dark Knight last night (no spoilers!), I was able to clarify why, precisely, I am nervous about this talented director using slavery as a backdrop for his latest project.
It’s not — wholly, at least — due to Tarantino’s race. (My mutt heritage makes it folly to argue that any cultural history belongs to one person or another.) Tarantino — and any director or writer — should plunder any historical source he sees fit to plunder.
However, there is an unmistakable tone to Tarantino’s spectacularly violent films — glib and irreverent — that gives me pause. Now, before we go on, Django Unchained should not be compared to Inglorious Basterds.
Django (according to Columbia Pictures’ Marketing Department, at least) is a revenge fantasy. Had Basterds started with square-jawed Brad Pitt storming Auschwitz, liberating an emaciated prisoner after wittily dispatching the soldiers guarding his work detail, and then made that concentration camp survivor responsible for collecting 100 Nazi scalps, then these two films could be compared, apples to apples. But since one film is about Americans swooping in to right Nazi wrongs in occupied Europe (worthy of its own post, another time), while the other places the victim of the enslavement at the center of its revenge fantasy, the two plots are fundamentally different.
I worry about the tone of Django because we live, it seems, in an Age of Ironic Detachment: passionately held beliefs are thought to be the refuge of the simple-minded, while cynical detachment is an indication of sophistication. Just as Victorian mores barred frank discussion of sex and allowed the transmission venereal disease and Cold War arithmetic made is necessary to efface the crimes of Nazi scientists as quickly as possible, our Age of Ironic Detachment makes is difficult to discuss serious things seriously.
It does great damage if the institution of slavery comes into view in popular culture only as a backdrop for blackly humorous popcorn fare; it makes it okay for the public at large to react with frivolity to other voices who want to raise serious questions about slavery’s legacy.
This is disconcerting since we are still extremely uncomfortable confronting the truth about — and ongoing effects of — slave labor in American history. Jamie Foxx’s Django is searching for his wife, still owned by a white man. As the recent illumination of Michelle Obama’s family tree has reinforced, Americans both white and black avoid realty of slave rape.
Tarantino knows what he’s doing; but I’m less confident in his primary audience: white males between the ages of 15-25 who believe that Bill Maher calling Wayne Brady and President Obama Uncle Toms makes him edgy at worst — rather than revealing him to be a tone-deaf, racist asshole.
With unemployment, education, and incarceration rates as starkly divided along racial lines as they are, it would be painful — but helpful — to look into our past to see why this is so. That is certainly not Tarantino’s responsibility. But watching a false revenge fantasy that trivializes the horrifying reality of our past set to 70’s soul music will do nothing to elevate the discussion — and can quite easily debase it.
Over on the Economist’s Prospero blog, Christopher Shinn has a simply outstanding response to an interview with Adam Phillips about the relationship between creating art and madness. Shinn manages to incorporate so many thoughts I’ve had about writing and the courage required to force one’s gaze upon things we’d rather avoid.
It’s a fantastic post, and really needs to be read in its entirety. But here are a couple passages to whet your appetite (if you eat this kind of food):
When I write a play, I try to access something in me that feels beyond my control, a traumatic inner space where painful feelings and images of loss, longing and rage lie in wait. When this process becomes unbearable—that is, when I begin to feel “mad”—I haul myself to the computer and begin to write until I’m depleted.
It is the difficulty of this process—the reluctance of that inner space to open up and, once it does, the reluctance I feel to experience and translate it—which makes me agree with Mr Phillips’s claim that, “the more disturbing something is, the more we defend against it.” If the writing is easy, I know it’s not very deep; if it’s hard I know I’m getting somewhere.
One more snip:
But I can’t help but wonder if Mr Phillips is playing it a little safe in his central idea about the ideal distance for art to take from madness. Is it possible that his point of view is a defence designed to protect us from more fully confronting the things that disturb us?
In support of Mr Phillips’s sense that artists and audiences alike require this distance, I remember a writing teacher, when I was an undergraduate, who tried to explain to me why fight choreography onstage often looks fake. “If you were to think that someone onstage had actually slapped their fellow actor, you’d stop thinking about the character and begin thinking about the poor actor.” The fakery, in other words, was intentional. This is a more concrete version of Mr Phillips’s point that once madness crosses the line from the representational to the actual, we can no longer enjoy the performance.
Gee, I don’t know if I’m ready, Mr. Vice President — I mean, er, “Joe” — but I do know some things:
- Since I’m pretty sure you and I are not on first-name terms, and since I respect your office as well as your decades of public service, I’m going to go ahead and stick with “Mr. Vice President.” Wouldn’t be awful if you did the same with me (“Mr. Burbank” will do — Lord knows I’ve never held elective office — nor am I the Vice President!).
- You may be unaware of this fact, but I can confirm that I am definitively not on first-name terms with the President. Your predilection for mis-speaking aside, it’s pretty egregious for you to try and make us ‘bros’ when he’s not even part of the conversation.
- This is the really important point, so please pay it some heed: I give your re-election campaign $10 a month on a recurring basis. It would be great if, in the future, some of that money was spent on developing slightly more sophisticated spreadsheet management — like, for example separating out one-time donors from recurring ones. I know we killed NASA, but c’mon — Rocket Science this ain’t.
Go get ‘em, Bub.
Let’s review: this bonus season, payouts to finance workers will drop 14 percent, while bank profits have fallen 51 percent. (For once, it’s not the taxpayers who are getting screwed, it’s the shareholders — so boo freaking hoo.)
But I’m still trying to get my mind around the competitive pay argument: we need to make sure these boobs are overpaid because they might bolt — and take their profit-slashing skills elsewhere?
Arthur Brisbane’s handwringing about publishing, unedited, demonstrable untruths out of the mouths of public figures has prompted everyone on the internet everywhere to rub their temples as they condescendingly respond that it’s obvious that you don’t print lies.
However, Brisbane isn’t being obtuse: he scrutinizing the sacrosanct tenets of ‘objective’ or ‘straight’ journalists. This is a real dilemma that plagued scribes, for example, during the ascendancy of Joe McCarthy, as reported by David Oshinsky:
When a politician makes a controversial statement, the public, in a free society, must be able to read it without being told that it is filled with errors, or that the politician is not to be trusted. These judgements must rest with the reader — and no one else.
Quite often, then, the reporter becomes a conveyor belt for material he knows to be false. he is helpless because the system inhibits him from imparting his version of the truth. In McCarthy’s case this objective approach was particularly frustrating. “My own impression was that Joe was a demagogue,” a newsman remarked. “But what could I do? I had to report — and quote — McCarthy. How do you say in the middle of your story, ‘This is a lie’? This press is supposedly neutral. You write what the man says.”
Which makes me wonder, after Michelle Bachmann’s drop from of the GOP primaries and Rick Santorum’s Google problems — could McCarthy have been a political force in the internet age?