Saturday, November 28, 2009

To Broadway or not to Broadway....

Maybe not the question exactly at this point but a very real consideration and one that has elicited some surprising feelings on my part. There is not an actor in this world who at some point would not drink all of your blood and step over their mother for the opportunity to open a big hot show on Broadway, me included, but Im not so sure that's the point Im at in my life right now. As I type this there are no offers out to anyone so its a bit of an abstraction but they'll be coming soon and one can't help but think about how it all might play out.

If I were in the producer's meetings I think I'd be lobbying for a couple of different scenarios. My first option would be to offer my role to a star. Who? No idea. I have no feeling for that kind of thing but I'd put a casting director on that tout suite. A name sufficiently large would of course be a draw in and of itself but it would also insulate the show from some nagging unevenness that likely wont escape critical New York eyes and perhaps sell enough tickets to offset the potential of less than raving reviews. As major script changes don't seem to be in the offing I'd be pushing this option hard.

But lets assume nobody else wants to dig down and start cutting weekly checks to a star or risk upsetting the balance of music and story we've arrived at.

In that case I'd hire a local NY actor and pocket the per diem and housing that would be part and parcel of offering the role Now, Im not poor mouthing myself here. I think I do one helluva good job and I don't think I flatter myself unduly in feeling that the work I've done has gone a long way towards helping shore this thing up as a viable Broadway commodity. I think Im a real asset to the production but even so there is no way around the fact that Im saying that if my own money were at risk here I would strongly consider not offering myself the role.

What. The. Fuck. Is up with that?

Its a strange place to say the least. Its like Im at the intersection of Contentment and Sour Grapes and to be honest Im not entirely certain I know which road Im on but I guess its the perfect illustration of how things change with age.

If I'd been in this spot ten years ago and were not offered this part in New York I would have been crushed. Well fuck, beyond crushed, there is no word for that kind of rejection. It would have been one of those devastating kicks to the scrotum that this business doles out every so often and would have sent me shivering under the covers for an unknowable period of time. But ten years hence I see the larger picture somewhat and more importantly don't feel that my personal worth is nearly as bound up with my career to the same extent I used to. Which is not to say that I care less but is to say I don't care as much. Can't explain it any better than that.

In fairness this isn't strictly pass/fail. Regardless Im likely to continue to stay with the production in Chicago as long as I care to and it suits the producer's needs so its not like Im out on the street. If the fall back position is that I get to stay regularly employed in a show that I genuinely love to do, pays well, AND get to wake up next to my wife and take my kids to school everyday that's a better gig than lots of actors have so any disappointment I'd feel would be a tad unseemly.

I've likely jumped the rambling shark by now but this is a little like walking on the moon. Acting is premised on a completely unhealthy level of self absorption, don't let anybody bullshit you otherwise. Perspective is rare in this business and I'll probably lose it at some point, but its nice to have worn it around for awhile.

Welcome Gentlemen...

Ordinary or otherwise.....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How does everyone else afford universal health care?

Because we subsidize most of the world's military. Now this paints with a broad brush but there is no small measure of truth in it. Western Europe and much of Asia has lived under the umbrella of our military strength since WW II with countries like Germany and Japan notably growing their economies in that time without having to seriously consider the costs of defending themselves which has freed them to spend lavishly on butter without having to also bear the cost of guns.

If the right wing has a viable opportunity to rebrand itself it is here. There is little political will to bear the costs of our military over extension and while the American Exceptionalism of the neo con right is largely responsible for the our projection of power abroad there is a growing movement in the hard populist right wing to just stay home. Currently the problem is that this point of view is most often associated with the more unfortunate element of the right like Ron Paul and Patrick Buchanan but there is an argument here for the right to make and return to their non interventionist roots.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So Im a big stinkin' atheist. Why am I such a nice guy?

So.... yeah... don't believe in God. Now, I have to say that I've come by my apostasy honestly, I spent the first 20 odd years of my life deeply immersed in the Southern Baptist church. If the church was open we were generally there and I took my time there seriously. Im no casual disbeliever but disbelieve I do..

The reasons for my disbelief are many but one of the first things that made me start thinking about the status of my supposed salvation was the notion of morality and evil writ large.

Christians will tell you that without their God there is no possibility for morality but I aint buyin' it and frankly never have. First of all to say as much is to essentially announce that you're a psychopath on a short leash which of course they are not but it goes beyond that.

The fundamental problem for those who conflate God and morality is that civilizations with vastly different conceptions of God, or scarcely any perception of God at all, have very similar moral codes and behaviors as believers. Its a small point and an easy observation but its a significant issue for anyone who insists that the Bible or other book is the source of all morality in the world. Wildly different inputs should not have observably similar outcomes, but they do all the time.

But lets get personal. As I observe the lives of the many Christians I know I can perceive no difference in the choices they make for themselves and the choices I make for me. In fact I would say that you would not be able to point to any facet of my moral life and infer my atheism from my behavior or choices. Now Im no better than them but Im certainly no worse and that shouldn't be. I don't believe in heaven or providential judgement of any kind, so why aren't I killing, lying, cheating, and coveting more than the religious folks? I should be....

For me the answer is readily apparent. Morality is a human conception, I'll even call it an evolved trait. What do we want? Well excluding the sociopaths and nutjobs its fair to say that most homosapien types want to live in relative peace and comfort. Now is continued violence against ones fellows the best way to achieve that end? Sometimes it is ( in which case we handily enlist God on the side of our violence ) but most often bashing the heads of your neighbors against a wall because you covet their ass isn't going to make your life less complicated and will invite pain and violence which doesn't serve the interests of our existence over the long term.

Out on the savannah I think we learned very quickly that codifying fundamental respect for one another made the wheels of our nascent civilization turn much more easily for its members and thus was morality "invented".

Now here comes the ironic part....

While its abundantly clear that one God is in no way necessary to the formation of morality it is also clear that myth, symbolism, and belief in the idea of A god are entirely necessary to the CONTINUED existence of morality in a pluralistic world. We are meaning makers. We have an endless capacity to organize ourselves around stories and I think that's a terribly important point in our survival but to acknowledge the equal power of our stories costs us much of their specific organizational impact and that's where it gets dicey. God does not exist. We continually invent him. But we cannot acknowledge as much without radically reorganizing our societal structures and that just aint going to happen quickly. If ever.

This is why Im not an angry atheist.... well I am angry but just not about this. Usually. I don't know if we have the capacity to move toward complete rationality or if that would even be a good thing but I do know through observation that we have the capacity to move away from singular conceptions of the transcendent without an injurious affect on society or individuals and the more we move away from spiritual tribalism the better. How far? I wouldn't pretend to know, just don't start teaching your goddamn creationism to my kids.....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tell me again what we're sending people to die for?

In the grand scheme of things this KSM trial dust up makes me more sad than angry but either way its yet another point of conservatism that I truly cannot process.

The talking points are basically covered here in Krauthammer's latest column. The underlying assumptions are two: that the court system is unable/unlikely/unwilling to handle the job and to avail KSM access to this shoddy unworkable system then conveys rights to him that he otherwise wouldn't have and in fact shouldn't have....


Let me take the last one first. This notion that the American government has the capacity to bequeath rights to individuals is one helluva statement for someone like Krauthammer to make, because unless Im mistaken the American Ideal is expressed in the belief that "We hold these truths be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...". Including the Bad Guys.

To my mind this is the great achievement of America. Its why it exists, and its why its not just a lump of land we happen to have been born in but a noble and uplifting concept worth asking people to sacrifice their lives for, and to reassert that belief when faced with the worst of the worst, as this man undeniably is, strikes me as the strongest possible statement of confidence in our beliefs and the institutions we've built to embody those beliefs. To lack that confidence to this extent invites the question what do these people think America is.

But it is not terribly surprising that the conservative populists would be so disrespectful of our courts because they generally do not find them to be legitimate. In what is irony so deep that it makes me dizzy the one institution that exist EXPLICITLY to ensure that the government respects our "unalienable rights" is the very same institution conservatives disdain most. "Activist judges". "Discovered rights". These are smears leveled by people who actually don't believe in natural rights but in majoritarianism. So if you accept the notion, as conservatives do, that the courts are inherently at odds with the will of the people and that will is the final arbiter of all things then of course a criminal court is the wrong place to do this. Its just that this is a terribly unfortunate belief for an American to hold because in that respect it wastes his birthright.

Now this would just be another in an endless string of political arguments were it not for the fact that we have people fighting and dying right now to protect the freedoms that some among us do not have the courage to trust in times of hardship. But they are... and given that I think its fair to ask conservatives if they believe our soldiers are dying for America the plot of land or America the idea?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Empty Argument Against Gay Marriage...

The Christian right has put a good deal of time and energy into the argument that making gay marriage legal would force them to deny their beliefs or face governmental backlash. This is wrong of course, Christians will retain their right to hold onto their bigoted beliefs and promote them in their churches thanks to a little thing called equal protection before the law. Now, they will lose the right to appeal to the government to be a tool of their bigotry just like racists did after the Civil Rights Act but that hardly squares with the victimology they are embracing.

This is a little remembered point but the Mormon Church was, until 1978, structured in a way that was clearly intended to deny blacks equal footing with whites within in the church. And its worth noting that it was a handy revelation from God and not governmental pressure of any kind that allowed blacks to become fully Mormon and indeed many fundamentalist Mormon offshoots still disallow blacks full membership. Clearly racist and clearly wrong... but clearly legal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Its only a matter of time?

As one could've guessed its becoming clearer that the Ft. Hood shootings were the work of a Muslim fundamentalist, and that's going to get very awkward. And while I think there is merit to the argument that Sam Harris and Hitchens make that violence is especially endemic to Islam I don't think that captures the full picture.

Violence is endemic to fundamentalism period. Fundamentalism is not a spiritual stance, its a retreat from the world as it exists and a yearning for an imaginary world. It absolutely refuses to reconcile the two in any way...

So while it is not true that every fundamentalist is a potential terrorist it is true that violence against the "lesser" world (reality) is the logical extension of any sort of fundamentalism.

We're in a time in America when the future is coming fast. An old order of conservatism is falling away, having been discredited, and its leaving a lot of people with no viable political voice. Its going to further stoke resentment, fear, and isolation. People were killed at Ft. Hood by a Muslim who had checked out of this world and had bought fully into what his Magic Book told him the world should be like. Im afraid its only a matter of time before some Christians start doing the same.....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jesus, Save Me From Your Followers....

If this was just the ramblings of one wing nut then it'd be easy to dismiss, but it aint. Dreher represents the best intellectual argument that religious conservatives can summon when it comes to their support for legal bigotry and its so stunningly stupid that you have to read it several times before you really grasp how shallow it is.....

Read the whole post if you can but this is the money quote:

"...every single time its been put to a popular vote gay marriage has been a loser...unless you're prepared to call more than half the country bigots, and I have no doubt that many, perhaps most, gay marriage supporters are, and let that self serving explanation suffice, maybe, just maybe, you ought to ask yourself if there's something else going on here"


Brilliant. Put the onus of responsibility for my bigotry on the person who is being discriminated against. What is it about you gay person that makes me want to deprive you of your full rights? Maybe you should think about that before you go and call me a bigot because Im not a bad person, must be something else going on here. Sometimes other people's sheer idiocy makes me wanna beat my head against a wall, and this is one of those times.

Well let me go on record as saying that Im perfectly willing to say more than half the country is bigoted and if you honestly don't recognize that almost everyone is prejudiced against something then Im really not sure what world you're living in. Certainly not the one that me and my computer are in right now.

So how can we know finally that this is a bigoted position? Well, look at their own words. Conservatives howl to hell and back about the potential harm gay marriage is going to do to us all but when they're pressed to articulate specifically what that harm is well.... shit gets dicey for them.

They talk about "something else" other than bigotry going on here but what that something is not even God in heaven knows because they can't tell you what that "thing" is. They talk vaguely about concerns over undoing traditional norms but they can't tell you how that's going to hurt you or yours. They cannot articulate any harm to society beyond their own ick factor and that just aint gonna do it.

Look. Laws protect people against harm. Absent harm then there is no need for that law. End. Of. Story. Now of course conservatives have every right to hold whatever prejudices they like, raise their children in that prejudice, worship with people who are like minded, in fact they are perfectly free to organize every aspect of their life around it. But they are not free to petition the government to enshrine their prejudice in law for no other reason than it suits them.

This will end one day. Sadly it looks like it'll be later rather than sooner. But when it does and the sky does not fall and we go on living our lives just as we always have the children and grandchildren of these people will look at them and have no idea what the hell they were doing or why.