Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

The Intersection of Language and Sensitivity

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 24, 2016 @ 12:23 pm PDT

userpic=schmuckOne of my favorite adages is: “Never ascribe to malice what one can to stupidity.” Today, that applied to me.

Perhaps I should explain. Perhaps I shouldn’t — explain that is. Let me tell a story.

We have our lead character, let’s call him Edward J. Littlehazy. Ed is Jewish, caucasian, male, and does his best to be socially aware. He’s hip to terms like microagression. He supports #BlackLivesMatter, because he understands the implicit privilege that exists today in society, and that people like him have benefited from over time. He attempts to be sensitive in all his writings, and strives to listen and understand first, and not to resort to name calling or attacking the individual in discussions.

He is also, being Jewish, sensitized to antisemitism (and writes it as one word, to distinguish it from hatred of Semites in general). He has studied the subject, and is well aware of the terminology often used and abused in discussions. He is politically active on the liberal side of the spectrum (no surprise there), and is also sensitized to the growing desire of segments of the population to reinvent history to support their views. He’s a factual person.

This person made one mistake. He has a friend who is hypersensitized to privilege, agreession, and marginalization issues from a different aspect. That’s not the mistake — although he doesn’t always agree with this friend, he has learned from the discussions this friend has and the posts this friend makes. The mistake, was commenting on one of this friend’s posts, expressing how he interpreted the post slightly differently because of the words used; in fact, he saw the words excluding many dimensions of the issue, and using potential trigger terms.

For this, he was accused of a particularly bad behavior (“splain” is part of the accusation), and was said to be abusing his white privilege in commenting. When he asked to clarify what he had done wrong, more accusations arose related to privilege and belittling the original author.

Here’s where that adage comes in: Never ascribe to malice what one can to stupidity.

The author could have simply responded: “My intent was specifically not to be broad in the way you see it; I intended (describe narrow focus) for particular reason.” That, quite likely, would have ended the discussion by clarifying that the misreading was wrong. No malice. Just a stupid misreading.

But a particular intent was presumed. Again, mishandled by ascribing malice. Instead of saying someone had done some bad behavior and assuming it was obvious that it was intentional, there could have been an attempt to teach and clarify: By the way, were you aware that by wording your comment as xxx, it could come off as bad behavior because it could be interpreted as zzz. After a long back and forth, that particular explanation came out. The back and forth was unnecessary.

What’s the takeaway here? What can I learn from this? (and perhaps you, but I won’t explain how)

First, remember, never ascribe to malice what you can to stupidity.

Second, go into discussions to understand and discuss ideas; don’t attack the person. They may not know better. If someone mispeaks, gently educate them on how to say things better, not just how they were wrong. Remember the only useful thing from TQM: plusses and deltas. Let people know where they did good, and where they can improve.

Third, be aware not only of your own hypersensitivities, but of other’s sensitivities, when you talk to them.

Lastly, think twice before taking your dog for a walk in a minefield.

Understanding The News

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 21, 2016 @ 11:44 am PDT

userpic=oh-shitAs I sit here eating lunch and reading the headlines on Google News, I see the following:

newsimageCharlotte police shooting victim was armed with a gun, chief says after night of violent protests
Washington Post – ‎6 minutes ago‎
CHARLOTTE – The morning after violent protests erupted over the fatal police shooting of a black man, officials here called for peace while stressing that the man was armed and posing an “imminent deadly threat” when officers shot and killed him …

I’m reading the headline, and I’m thinking, “You know, most people will read this headline, think the killing was justified based on it, and not see what the protests are about.” Similarly, they’ll read about the shooting in Tulsa of the unarmed black man, learn that PCP was found in his trunk, and go “it was justified.”

Here’s why both of these are problems, and why they are illustrative of the divide in society that is captured in #BlackLivesMatter.

In the Charlotte incident, ask yourself: If the man who was shot was Hispanic, would the behavior of the officer have been the same? If he had been a white woman? If he had been a white man in a hoodie? If he had been a white man in a suit and tie? Quite likely — as is in the case of most police departments — the reaction of the officers would have been different. Therein is the problem. Police officers (and society at large) are bringing visible and invisible prejudices into situations, and those are coloring their reactions. As a result, the reaction is no longer based solely on the crime, on innocence or guilt, on clear danger, but on perceived danger, on fear not facts, on clothing and skin color and bias. The upshot of this is that being a person of color or being of lower socioeconomic status can cost you your life in a police situation even before real guilt or innocence is determined. That is something that is no longer acceptable today.

Similarly, whether or not there was PCP in the trunk is immaterial. Officers cannot see in the trunk. If the fellow who was shot was dressed like an investment banker or a lawyer, would the reaction have been the same, or would there have been hesitation. The difference in reaction is the problem; the reaction often comes from the internalized fear of “the other”, those beneath us in society, those for whom we have stereotypical tropes in our head.

Does the reaction happen the other way as well? What about those white officers who have been shot? I opine that in the opposite case, the only color that matters is the color of the uniform, not the skin. Those whom have been downtrodden by the police are having instinctive reactions to the uniform, and fighting back. Many analogies come to me.

So when you read about #BlackLivesMatter — and the opposite side of the issue, be it called #AllLivesMatter or White Racism or something else — think about the issue of hidden bias, and police who fear and overreact based on stereotypes, skin color, and status.

Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t mean that all police officers feel this way. Many — I’d go so far as to venture out on a limb and say a majority — go out of their way to avoid bias, and want to serve and protect everyone in their community. The problem is that a few bad apples have spoiled the entire bunch, and many people are scared to interact with a bushel of apples that may have one bad one in it (and so their reaction is to stomp them all).

When you see headlines such as this, ask yourself if hidden bias could have come into play. If it could, that may explain the reaction you see. Further, if you say that in this case, there may really have been a reason for the response, remember that the reaction of the community has been tainted by years and years and years of misbehavior. Until those policing us have a history of demonstrating color-and-bias blind policing, every action is suspect.

Even With a Republican • “I Love You, Because” @ GTC Burbank

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 18, 2016 @ 3:27 pm PDT

I Love You Because (GTC - Red Brick Road)userpic=theatre_ticketsShortly after the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I read a review in the LA Post-Examiner about a production of I Love You, Because at the Hudson Theatre. I had heard the music from the show before (I have the CD), and wanted to see it; unfortunately, I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule before it closed. Luckily for me, I learned about a different production being produced by someone I knew from my Temple Beth Torah days that was opening in September. The show’s schedule and my schedule were able to mesh, and so last night we were out in Burbank to see the Red Brick Road Theatre Company† (FB) and Endeavor Theatre Ensemble’s production of the Cunningham and Saltzman musical “I Love You, Because” at the Grove Theatre Center.
[† Red Brick Road does have a website, however it is currently under construction and not yet uploaded. Eventually, you’ll find it here.]

I Love You, Because is a musical about… well, let me start by telling you what everyone says it is about. Everyone says — that is, it seems to be that every review of the show that you will read will say — it is a modern twist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Now, I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, but I have read the Wikipedia summary,  and I have difficulty seeing the purported connection. My advice: ignore that claimed aspect of the show, as it appears to be tenuous at best. Beside that, there are no zombies.

So what is I Love You, Because about. To me, it is a comedy squarely in the center of the off-Broadway subgenre of small cast comedies about finding love in New York. You know them: shows like First Date; Brownstone, The Musical; Five Course Love; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; I, Sing; Little Shop of Horrors… oh, right, no zombies. In any case, shows about some small number of couples seeing to find love through endless dating, finding Mr. Wrong, and then finding Mr. Right. I don’t know why they are always in New York — perhaps Gothamites are much worse at finding love, or perhaps Gothamites will only go see a show if it is about their city (whereas LA folks care about love in New York, perhaps New York doesn’t care about LA).

In any case, I Love You, Because is squarely in the “looking for love” genre of musicals. In this case, we have two young and beautiful gothamites: Austin and Marcy. Each has just been dumped by their long-term paramores. One, Marcy, would just like to move on, but her best friend Diana convinces her that she absolutely must wait the proper amount of rebound time. The other, Austin, wants to win back the love of his life, but his brother, Jeff, convinces him that he must go out and date again, for only then will the universe restore balance by bringing the woman that dumped him back. If you hadn’t realized it yet, both of the sidekicks are pretty cynical about love itself and neither has any realistic hope or want of finding a relationship. So the two sidekicks happen to set up a date with each other, and happen to bring along their best friends so they can meet and force the universe to do what they want.

The universe is perverse, so you can guess what happens.

That’s right, Austin and Marcy start seeing each other: her to have something to pass the rebound time with; him to have someone help him right the perfect poem to win his girl back. There’s no interest of the two in each other, as they are stereotypical opposes: he a straight-laced Republican; she a free-spirited Liberal. As I said, you can guess what happens; I probably shouldn’t spoil it too much.

As for the sidekicks, you can probably guess what happens there. After all, you’ve see Mike and Molly. That’s right: they become friends with benefits.

By now you can see where this is going, and anticipate where things will end up. There is a crisis at the end of Act I prompted by the profession of actual feelings; Act II serves to resolve those feelings and bring everything to a happen ending, with the help and lubrication of two nameless supporting cast members who serve various roles, including as bartenders and waitresses (something every actor in New York knows how to play well).

Overall, I found the story a bit sitcomish, but enjoyable and funny and cute. That may be because the characters were written a bit broadly. Others in the audience were guffawing and finding it hilarious throughout — I’m not that demonstrative, but there are some very cute bits.  There could be an age factor in this: the humor may hit even more to those who are closer to the modern dating world than I, an engineering type who married another engineering type and never really explored the dating scene (except with other mathematicians, scientists, and engineers).

Part of this could be due to the fact that this was an early work from the authors, Ryan Cunningham (Book and Lyrics) and Joshua Saltzman (Music). The team does not have a lot of musicals under their belt, and often the oeuvre of a team matures over their production span. In many ways, the lyrics and music were a bit stronger than the book itself. Many of the songs were very cute and the audience could relate to them. Good examples of this are “We’re Just Friends”, “Coffee”, and “That’s What’s Gonna Happen”. Of course, there is the very strong “The Actuary Song”, which makes one think of the heist planning in 70 Girls 70. On the other hand, there were some klunky-ish songs such as “…But I Don’t Want to Talk About Her”.

One thing that was notable here was the casting, for which there is no specific credit (so it was likely a combination of the director and the producers). Most productions of this show, judging by the cast pictures, tend to select a uniformly white, good looking, model-proportioned cast. This production was far from that. Of the three female cast members, two were on the fubsy side, the third was a person of color. The male side was a little less diverse, although that is understandable given two of the three characters are brothers. But it was truly a nice thing to see on the stage — especially as -ism based on size has been about the only -ism to remain common.

ETA: Photos from the production have been posted on the production’s Facebook page.

Let’s turn to this cast, under the direction of Carol Becker (FB). In the lead positions were Laura Bevilacqua/FB as Marcy and Nick Echols (FB) as Austin. Let’s start with the basics: I was smitten with Bevilacqua’s performance. She had a remarkable personality, a dazzling smile, wonderful expressions and reactions and an extremely strong singing voice that did not require the amplification that it had. She was just a joy to watch, especially when she wasn’t the center of the action and was just reacting. Echols seems to start out a bit stiffer (this was, after all, the second performance of the show) and to have some amplification problems, but as the show progressed he became a much warmer character and less of the stereotype he began as. (boy, that was a convoluted sentence).  One other thing worth noting was the size difference between the two: even in her heels, Bevilacqua was at least a head shorter than Echols. It was fun to watch them navagate around that.

In the sidekick tier, we had Kristen Bennett/FB as Diana and Matthew Ian Welch (FB) as Jeff. Bennett and Welch just seemed wrong for each other, yet the pairing work. No where else was this clearer than in the “We’re Just Friends” song, where the two are clearly having a load of fun. Bennett had a very strong gospel style voice, and Welch had an amazing baratone that just seemed to come from nowhere.

Rounding out the team in various character roles were Ali Deyer (FB) as the “NYC Women” and Tim Jim Lim/FB as the “NYC Men”.  I really liked Deyer — it was nice to see someone who was zaftig on stage where it wasn’t being played for the funny, but just as a normal character with a normal life. Deyer also had a strong singing voice. I was less crazy about Lim — his characterizations were a bit over the top and at times bordered on the stereotypical; I was also not enamored of his singing voice, which was a bit weaker than the other two men in the cast. Lainie Pahos (FB) was the understudy for Marcy/Diana.

The on-stage musicians were under the musical direction of Stephanie Deprez (FB), who was on stage playing as much as the actors (she was a hoot to watch). The “orchestra” consisted of Betsi Freeman (FB) (Piano), Glenn Ochenkoski (Drums), Mark Corradetti (FB) (Bass), and Jeff Kroeger (Keyboard). Choreography was by Liza Barskaya (FB) and worked pretty well given the space — again, I particularly enjoyed it on the “We’re Just Friends” number.

Turning to the production and creatives side. The set design by Carmi Gallo was reasonable: it didn’t give a strong sense of New York other than the pictures hanging on the wall; additionally, there was this odd red LED shape at the back that would turn on occasionally. It was unclear what that was meant to convey; hence, it served primarily to distract. Properties design was by Rebecca Kahn/FB, and they worked reasonable well — especially all of the fruity drinks and such. The sound design from Jay Lee was problematic: there was bad balance between the actors and the music; in that size space, the music needs to be toned down and the actors — especially these actors — do not require much amplification. As it was, it was a bit overpowering. The lighting design by Robert Davis conveyed the proper sense of mood and time, and thus worked well. The costume designs by Christine Macedo were strong — I particularly enjoyed the costumes on the lead actress (remember, I said I was smitten); all conveyed that sense of New York design that doesn’t work as well in LA :-). Rounding out the production credits were: Becky Murdoch/FB, Assistant Director; Owen Panno (FB), Stage Manager (who didn’t recognize us from the many years ago where we frequented TDWA in Northridge with all the Nobel grads); and Emily Mae Heller (FB) and Betsi Freeman (FB), Producers.

I Love You, Because continues at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) through October 2nd. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets; they do not appear to be up on Goldstar. I found it a fun and cute show — not deep, but fun — and a nice way to pass the evening.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  The last weekend in September brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

News Chum Stew: Sex, Lubricants, and Tenuous Connections

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 17, 2016 @ 4:07 pm PDT

userpic=tortuga-heuvosIt’s the weekend. Time to clean out the list of links that never quite jelled into a theme. Let’s see what we’ve got here:

  • Ah, So That’s What It Looks Like. As they say, start with the sex and draw them in. Driving home from a recent vacation, we were listening to the excellent new Gimlet podcast, Science Vs — and this time, it was Science Vs. “The G Spot”. You know you want to listen to it, so I’ll wait. (taps foot) One of the things discussed in the episode is that, unlike the male organ which is (ahem) out in front, the bulk for the female equivalent is hidden, and we only see the tip. Well wonder no more: Here’s a three-dimensional model of the clitoris. (yes, it is SFW) It shows the organ is much more you see, and it explains why this notion of special spots is bunk — there’s all over sensitivity.
  • Lubricants. As we’re talking sex, we should be talking lubricants. Here’s an interesting article that explores the four basic types of lubricants, and what each is good for: oil, grease, penetrating lubricants, and dry lubricants. Hint: Don’t use penetrating lubricants with your partner, no matter what the name implies. On that part of the body, WD-40 is not your friend.
  • Unwrapping Your Present. What do you think the most popular Christmas or Chanukkah present is? I don’t know for sure, but the most popular birthday is September 16. Now, count back 9 months.
  • Knitting and Math. Perhaps you’re not into either sex or lubricants. You would rather knit. Cool. Here are six math concepts explained via knitting and crocheting. You too can knit a hyperbolic plane, a Lorenz manifold, cyclic groups, or a numerical progression.
  • When to get a Flu Shot. Perhaps all this talk of sex and knitting is making you sick. Could be the flu? Did you get your flu shot? They are out now. Here’s the best time to get one. Timing is everything. Some research shows that vaccines grow less effective over the course of one flu season. With the flu sometimes sticking around until spring, it’s then possible that those who get their shots early in the year will be left vulnerable at the end of a late season.
  • Ship Names. Continuing this tenuous theme, we all know what a submarine signifies. Now, what do Harvey Milk, Gabby Giffords, Sojourner Truth, Medgar Evers, Cesar Chavez, and John Lewis have in common. They are all names assigned to Navy ships of late. The choice of names, predictibly, has gotten some small-minded members of congress up in arms. I happen to like them.
  • No Dues. Another tenous link: what’s almost as risky as unprotected sex. How about deciding to go away from a tried and true funding model — such as synagogue dues — and asking people to pay what they want for the community. Yes, this happens; in fact,  a synagogue in Westlake Village has taken the leap to a no-dues model. Will it be successful. I hope so — I think it is the model of the future.
  • Hot Under the Collar. All this talk of sex has probably gotten you hot. You’re not the only one. The earth is heating up as well. Here’s a timeline of how the earth has been heating up.

 

Los Angeles: Going, Going, Gone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 17, 2016 @ 8:07 am PDT

userpic=van-nuysThis collection of news chum has coalesced around the theme of Los Angeles — in particular, some well-known (or somewhat well-known) Los Angeles landmarks that are either gone or seemingly threatened… or coming back in different incarnations.

 

Average Privilege | Size is Relative

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 16, 2016 @ 11:42 am PDT

userpic=chicken-and-eggHave you ever wondered where our clothing sizes come from? I’m not talking about sizes that are clearly measurements, such as waist size, but the more relative sizes: small, medium, large, extra (excuse me, “xtra”) large, and so on. What about women’s sizes, which aren’t even consistent from store to store? A number of articles this week have made me think about this subject, as well as the connection to a recent podcast on a similar subject.

Let’s talk about the podcast first. On a recent 99% Invisible (which looks at hidden aspects of design), an exploration was made of the history of the notion of the average, and especially the average in terms of sizing. It is well worth a listen (it is one of my favorite short podcasts). It points out how the first notion of average size was from a survey done of Scottish soldiers, which showed that the average chest size of these soldiers was 39 and three-quarters inches.  This was deemed as the ideal size, and shortly thereafter, the notion of being the average became the ideal.  Here’s an interesting quote from the transcript that explains where our notions of Small, Medium, and Large came from (Quetelet was the fellow that did the Scottish study):

Lincoln, after a series of losses to the Confederacy, realized he needed more information about the Union army. He ordered a massive study to assess the soldiers physically and mentally, and, in strict adherence to Quetelet’s science, calculated averages of just about everything. These averages began to inform the distribution of food rations, the design of weapons, even the fit of military uniforms.

Before the Civil War, uniforms were custom-sewn. In this war, however, such a massive number of people had to be outfitted that uniforms needed to be mass produced. But they couldn’t all be one floppy size. Soldiers were put into subtypes: large, medium, and small—classifications that eventually found their way to civilian clothing.

This study found its way to the Army, where in 1926, when the Army designed its first airplane cockpit, they measured the physical dimensions of male pilots and calculated the average measurement of their height, weight, arm-length and other dimensions. The results determined the size and shape of the seat, the distance to the pedals and the stick, and even the shape of the flight helmets. This mean that, in part, pilots were selected based on their ability to fit into the cockpit designed for the average 1920s man. This fell apart in WWII, when suddenly pilots were dying, and the cause eventually turned out to be: the average size aircraft. This led to the ability to adjust seats and wheels (which made its way to cars), into the study of ergometrics, and so forth.

So we now see that S M L XL came from Civil War measurements (to this very day), but what about women’s clothing. This brings us to the articles I saw this week:

  • The Average Sized American Woman. You would think, with the notion of S, M, L, and so forth, the average woman would be in the “regular” size clothes, probably on the order of and 8-10 (given the bottom of the range is 0-2, and by 14 you are into the euphemistic “plus size”). Think again: The average American woman is not a size 14 anymore. Size 14, which would likely be a L, being the average came from an outdated study. A new study published in August in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education decided to create a more current report.What the study found was that size 14 is no longer accurate; the average American woman today is actually between a size 16 to 18.The authors of the study looked at recent data from the Center for Disease Control and compared it to the ASTM International body measurements for “misses” and “women’s plus-size” clothing for a sample of more than 5,500 women in the US who are at least 20 years old.The authors found that the average American woman’s waist circumference has increased 2.6″ (from 34.9″ to 37.5″) over the last 21 years, which accounts for the increase in clothing size. While 16-18 was the average size for all women, the study found that Black women in particular currently wear a size 18-20 on average.All this to say that the size-14 average is no longer accurate.  The average size is a plus size.
  • Plus Size Shopping Ain’t Easy. An interesting Vox opinion piece discusses the difficulty of plus size shopping. Its hypothesis is that the whole idea of “plus-size” clothes is outdated and degrading. It notes this weeks Washington Post op-ed by design guru Tim Gunn, where he blasted the fashion industry’s unwillingness to “make clothes to fit American women” — specifically plus-size women. This is because, despite the increase in size of the average American woman, many clothing designers and merchandisers still refuse to produce anything larger than a 12. Larger sizes are shuffled off into separate stores, separate departments (often physically separated from the rest of woman’s clothes). As the opinion author writes: “This is demoralizing for plus-size women — but it’s also one reason why clothes shopping can be so demoralizing for all women. We need women’s clothing sizes that make sense, and they shouldn’t be segregated into normal or plus or petite. Sizes should just be sizes.” I’m familiar with this first hand: for much of my married life, my wife has been plus sized, and I’ve seen this first hand (she’s gotten down to just below my weight, so she’s in the lower end of the range now). I’ve seen the segregation and the dearth of good looking clothes as she hunts to find something. There’s also some segregation for larger men, but it is no where near the shaming that goes on for women.
  • And Speaking of Fat Shaming… The last interesting article asks the question: Is it only acceptable to call out instances of “fat-shaming” when you’re not fat yourself? In other words, if an actress who is not visibly obese is called out for being “fat”, and she rails about the fat shaming nature of fans or the business, she goes viral. But if the same shaming occurs to a visibly obese woman, and she calls out the shaming, how is the obese woman regarded? Is she a hero? The opinion author writes: «So while stopping body-shaming is an admirable goal, we need to think beyond the individual level if we want to actually dismantle fatphobia and stop fat-shaming. And that includes supporting women of every size with the same enthusiasm we use to cheer when a size-6 celebrity charmingly dismisses a hater who calls her fat on Instagram. It means changing our responses from “But she’s not even fat!” to “It’s OK to be fat.”» Related to this, I’ll call your attention to a very interesting episode of the podcast This American Life from back in June, which explored the question of fat. In Act One of the podcast, Lindsey West talks about finding pride in her fat, and dealing with her boss and friend who decided to fat-shame women on his podcast. It is well worth a listen to see the impact of fat shaming and pride.

So how do we perceive the average? Do we assume — despite all the diversity in society in size, weight, shape, color, and everything else — that there is some sort special beauty in being “average”? Some benefit? You might say that there isn’t — after all, this isn’t like racism — but you would be wrong. Listen to Act Two of the This American Life previously mentioned. It demonstrates how people — especially women — are perceived differently when they lose weight. With recent dialogue, we’re well aware of the meaning of “white privilege”, and aware of the hidden discrimination that comes with being a person of color. But privilege and hidden discrimination isn’t just a skin color issue. It can go with nationality, it can go with religion, and yes, it can some with size. The links and stories above (as well as the remaining acts in the This American Life) are clear demonstrations of “average privilege” and size discrimination occurs in our society.

P.S.: After I posted this, a friend happened to post a link that is also relevant about the measurement known as BMI and why it is bullshit. I seem to recall one of the podcasts touching upon a similar notion — in particular, that BMI is as much a fallacy as the notion of an “average” size.

P.P.S.: Here’s another related link posted in the day-after window: 11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone. The article is about concern trolling – which is the act of a person participating “in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause”. Interesting read in relation to the above and the fat shaming already going on in society.

Understanding Trump Supporters

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 14, 2016 @ 8:16 am PDT

userpic=stressedIt has oft been said that in order to win an argument with someone, you need to understand where they are coming from. Some recent interactions have prompted some thoughts and insights that I think are applicable in understanding where those who are support Trump — namely, the white male contingent — are coming from.

I have a friend who is strongly into social justice. This friend is hyper-sensitive to privilege issues, to micro-aggression, and all the similar ilk. This friend is also active on the nets, and often writes about these issues. Through these discussions, I’ve become sensitized as well. I don’t always agree 100%, but that’s the nature of human thought; I respect this friend enough not to express any disagreement in their discussions.

Recently, however, I lapsed. I ventured into the dangerous waters and expressed an opinion that I thought was sensitive and in agreement (but slightly broader). I’m still smoking a little around the edges from the response. In thinking about this, I gained some insights.

There are things that we can easily change about ourselves: how we think, how we view society, how we interact with society. There are things about ourselves that can be changed with a little more effort, if we really want: our religion, our gender expression, our eye color, our hair color. Many of the things in this latter category are superficial changes — they may change how society perceives us, but may not change our internal perception. Basically, we’re just making the outside agree with the inside. Then there are things about us that we cannot change, such as our skin color, our ethnicity, our ancestry, the behavior of our ancestors. Attacking or disparaging someone simply because of a characteristic they cannot control is problematic. To put it another way: I happen to have been born a white male to a Jewish family. I can’t change that.

If you are like me — a white male — society has changed around you. You are often being criticized for something you cannot change. You did not create white privilege. You did not create the oppression that your ancestors may have done. You did not create the societal attitudes that were acceptable in the past but are unacceptable now. Although you may have taken advantage of the opportunities that society has provided, you didn’t specifically ask society to provide them to you. You just tried to live your life.

And what has happened to you. Everytime you turn around, you’re being blamed personally for the ills of society. You’re seeing ways that made you comfortable in the past disappear. You’re seeing everything you thought you knew change around you.

I’m not trying to say that the change is wrong. I’m not trying to say that we aren’t moving in the correct direction. I’m not trying to say that the increased sensitivity is a bad thing. I’m not trying to say that how minorities and people of color and other marginalized groups have been treated or viewed in the past was correct. All I’m saying is that this change, which is happening very fast, is making people that were formerly comfortable in their lives uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

When you are uncomfortable, what do you want? You want the pain to go away — to be comfortable again. You want things to be they way they once were, when you perceived you were safe and secure and you knew what was going to happen. I emphasize the you there: your concern is making you, personally, feel better; nevermind that it may have been an uncomfortable time for many many others.

Along comes a man who promises to return you to that time. A man who promises to build a wall to keep the change far far away. A man who promises to bring you back to that time when you felt great, when you weren’t being castigated for what you were born into. A man who promises to restore the order, to put the classes and groups that you grew up with being in power back in power again. A man who promises to restore the world you grew up and felt safe in. Note the emphasis on what this brings you ; there is no concern for the impact of this on the other . It is very self-centered.

You now understand many of the supporters of Donald Trump. They are supporting Trump to bring society back to a time when they felt comfortable and safe, irrespective of the impacts on anyone else.

By the way: the supporters of the other leading candidate (the one I support). They are the ones who are concerned less about what the candidate will do for them, and more for what the candidate will do for the others. What the candidate will bring those who have traditionally been marginalized. They understand that there are people who come from the classes with inherent privilege who still work for change, who still work to make the world a better place for all (such as A. Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, L. Johnson, B. Clinton). They understand that although change may make them personally uncomfortable and unsure, in the long term society will be better and stronger for it.  While they may be religious, they have internalized religion’s concern for the other: Remember that you were once a slave. Remember that you were once poor and downtrodden. Help your neighbor. The focus is outside yourself. In Jewish terms, they are working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Think long and hard about this difference and distinction. Now think about how you might need to craft an argument to reach the other side. Got it. Good.

By the way, this should give you a strong insight to the point of political discussion, and of much discussion in general. Your initial objective is not to find a large enough stick to beat up the other side. It is understanding of their view, and perhaps why they feel that way (irrespective of whether you agree or not). Through that understanding, you can learn to talk in such a way that you might actually be able to hear each other. Hearing each other is the first step along the path of changing an opinion.

[And now that I’ve got this musing and this thought out of my head, I can focus on other things…]

 

Representing America

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 11, 2016 @ 3:55 pm PDT

Muse/ique Summer/Timeuserpic=theatre_ticketsLast night, we saw the third installment of Muse/ique (FB) on the Beckman Lawn at Caltech.  For those unfamiliar, Muse/ique bills itself as a counter-culture orchestra. I’d say it is more an orchestra with an electic bent on the creative spectrum. It takes a particular subject and makes all sorts of connections to illustrate it well. This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). The second installment (which we saw in August), American/Rhapsody, looked at how George Gershwin built bridges between musical styles — in particular, between jazz and classical, with his Rhapsody in Blue and other efforts. Last night’s show was focused on Porgy/Bess, umm, make that Porgy and Bess, and was titled Summer/Time, after the first song in Porgy and Bess.

As usual, the show started with the national anthem (as do most outdoor shows). But after the anthem, the Maestra and Artistic Director of Muse/ique  Rachael Worby (FB) opened the program by noting how the nature of America and the themes of the anthem (in a content, not musical sense) were something that ran through Gershwin’s work. She then talked about how this was reflected in “Porgy and Bess” — an uniquely American story of hardship and triumph that reflected Gershwin’s ability to bring together operatic forms with jazz, gospel, ballads, and other musical forms across the spectrum of American music (and she posited that Gershwin would have used Motown had it existed then). She then introduced the main players for the show, the “Porgy/Sings” — Ellis Hall (FB), the “Porgy/Dances” — Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB), Bess — Vanessa Becerra (FB), “The/Temptation” — Kenton Chen (FB), and “The/Voices” — The Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles and Byron J. Smith.

Ms. Worby then intimated that we were going to see Porgy and Bess, but not as we have ever seen it before. Not only were they going to incorporate portions of the Gershwin score (to be precise, George and Ira Gershwin, with a book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward), but they were going to interpret similar musical strains that Gershwin did or would have drawn from. This included source artists such as traditional spirituals, George Frideric Handel, Laura Nyro, Camille Saint-Saëns, Ashford and Simpson, Thiele and Weiss, and Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. You probably now expect me to give you a precise playlist from the show. I can’t. Muse/ique does not provide one — not at the show (there’s only the above list of creators), not as you walk out, nor on their website. You are forced to go from memory, which doesn’t help if you don’t know the piece.  So I shall endeavor to do just that.

The journey through the artists listed above was divided into three parts: Alone. Together. A third part that I don’t remember but I think had a “/” in it. It started out not with the traditional “Summertime”, but with some church choral music, which I’m guessing was the Handel. We were then introduced to the characters: Bess (Becerra) with “My Man’s Gone Now”, Sportin’ Life (ummm, excuse me) The/Temptation (Chen) with “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and Porgy (Hall/Riley) with “I Got Plenty of Nothin'”.

Let’s stop for a moment for a quick aside, for even in those numbers some interesting counter cultural questions are raised. First, is there a requirement to do a show in the book order and with the right characters doing their song. Nominally, it is Serena, not Bess, that sings “My Man’s Gone”, as she’s singing about Robbins. Nominally, we start with “Summertime”, have “Nothin'” later in the first act, and don’t have “Necessarily” until the 2nd act. Those familiar with the Porgy and Bess score would find the rearrangement jarring — I certainly did — until I decided to view this as a concert as opposed to a telling of the story.

Second, there is the question of what “color-blind casting” means. Traditionally, you hear the term when a director casts a show that was traditionally designed for caucasian actors with actors of color. In most cases, it is applauded as a step towards diversity. But what about a show that is traditionally black, with the only white roles being the people of authority — the police and coroner. Here, Bess was white or hispanic; the Temptation was Asian. Was that acceptable to do to this work, or wrong? Is it acceptable in the spirit of a concert, but not acceptable as an instance of the real show? I don’t have the answer, other than to state that while the performances were good, the change was jarring and off, and resulted — especially for the Temptation — in the loss of the South Carolina dialect that Gershwin carefully cultivated. The refrain is “It ain’t necessa, ain’t necessa”, not “It ain’t necessarily, ain’t necessarily”, and — heaven forfend — it is “mammy”, not “mommy” in Summertime.

Back to the music. There was then the traditional spiritual “Motherless Child”, followed by “I Cain’t Sit Down”. The order of the remaining songs in the evening I can’t completely recall, only to note that it included (of course) “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”, “Oh, Lawd I’m On My Way”, and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, Ashf0rd and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic”,  Thiele and Weiss’ “What a Wonderful World”, and the entire piece ended with Jackson/Ritchie’s “We Are The World” (which, I’m sorry but I must say, has both the sappiest, stupidest, and most self-centered lyrics — “We’re saving our lives” — really now? Not other lives?).

Setting aside the story issue and the casting issues, the performances (modulo dialect issues) were strong. Individual voices had a good character; choral pieces were strong. The dance was stunning, and as always, the Muse/ique orchestra was great. The ultimate point Worby was making — that Porgy and Bess is an American amalgam — was made, and when combined with the prior pieces of summer, cement Gerswhin’s place as a uniquely American artist oft unappreciated for his nuance and variety. In that way, this was a success.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Roger Wilke, Anna Landauer (FB), Tamara Hatwan (FB), Agnes Gottschewski (FB), Loránd Lokuszta (FB), Marisa Kuney (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper (FB), Neel Hammond, Lilliana Filipovic, Anna Kostyuchek (FB) / VIOLA / Shawn Mann (FB), Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler (FB), Ginger Murphy (FB), Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Leslie Reed (FB), Michele Forrest (FB) / CLARINET / Stuart Clark (FB),  Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May (FB), Anthony Parnther (FB) / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Amy Sanchez (FB) / TRUMPET / Dan Rosenboom (FB), Adam Bhatia (FB) / TROMBONE / Steve Suminsky (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Doug Tornquist (FB)  / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz (FB) / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB). Featured players were Roger Wilke, Alan Steinberger, Charlie Tyler, Mike Valerio, and Ted Atkatz. I was good, and fought the urge to use slashes that time.

One observation about the orchestra: Writing this up, I expected the orchestra would be the same group as in August. After all, this is the “Muse/ique Orchestra”; wouldn’t they be the same across all events for a consistent sound? But I’d guess that perhaps 20-30% were the same; the rest were drawn from orchestras across the city. Is this common in orchestras?

Addressing the elements that could be controlled were Jon Boogz (FB) and Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB). Matthew McCray (FB) was the Stage Director. It is unclear if Matthew’s job was on the order of stage management (i.e., logistical) or more directoral (in terms of the cinematography for the screens). There was no credit for video, lighting, or sound — all of which were great. The lighting in particular was quite effective for this show.

Addressing the elements that couldn’t be controlled were — sigh, and they were annoying. We were in the back in Festival seating, and there were some kids in the far back making a lot of noise. It’s fine to bring your kids to these things, but you need to remind them to keep quite during performances. Even more annoying were the police helicopters circling overhead with lights. They were quite disturbing; luckily they went away, and whomever they were searching for wasn’t in the crowd.

As always, I recommend Muse/ique to people. They take quite a novel approach to music, jumping from here to there — and as a result, you never quite know what will happen, making it a treat. They are civilized in terms of food and amenities, and their greatest lack is a program for the evening. There next event is an Uncorked event in October, but it isn’t up on their website yet. I suggest subscribing to their website to learn more; there’s an option to do that at the bottom of the page.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and I plan to renew my mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  After a bit of a hiatus, we are back to theatre. Next weekend sees us in Burbank for I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre. The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.