Observations Along the Road

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

Category Archive: 'rant'

Just Imagine: A Safer World under Trumppence?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jul 22, 2016 @ 11:40 am PST

userpic=nixonWhile eating lunch, and thinking about Trump’s speech emphasizing the law and order he will bring to the US if elected (you’ll notice he only mentioned “freedom” once, and “liberty” not at all), I took a look at the news. The news got me thinking about what could be, if he and his supporters gain control.

First, think about how our legislature will change. Today, right after Trump’s speech, a new candidate announced for a senate seat in Louisiana. This candidate, who is affiliated with the Republican party, said: ““I believe in equal rights for all and respect for all Americans. However, what makes me different is I also demand respect for the rights and heritage of European Americans.” He also said, “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years. My slogan remains America first.”

Then, I read about the Munich shooting, and thought about how Donald Trump might fulfill his promises of making America safe from terrorist attacks. Note that many of these attacks have been carried out by legal citizens who have been inspired by ISIS, but are not affiliated with ISIS. Thus, none of Trumps immigration controls will make us safer from these attacks. So how might he make us safe. Just imagine (music swells). Armed guards inspecting everyone, at every mall, at every event, and randomly on street corners. The government inspecting which websites you visit to make sure you don’t get radicalized. Guards patrolling the streets and inspecting bags as you go to the movies, go shopping, go to the theatre. Almost every citizen encouraged to carry loaded weapons as part of the protection strategy, except, of course, if you look suspicious. We all know the types that look suspicious and we don’t trust. You know. Them.

This, friends, is the only way to get the safety, law, and order that Donald Trump promises, in the time frame he promises. Is that that America you want to live in?

I can’t speak for you, but I’d rather have a little risk in my life to retain my liberty and freedom. Donald Trump, in his speech last night, pivoted the Republican party to one of fear. He pivoted the Republicans to a party of isolationism and protection at a level not seen since Robert Taft battled Eisenhower for the GOP. He pivoted the Republicans to a party of law and order, a fear of the “them”, and a party of big government for the military and law enforcement elements.

Now, yes, I am a Democrat (since Hubert Humphrey). But I want a viable Republican party — a party with a candidate who if they win, wouldn’t destroy America as I know it. I didn’t like Bush, but I also didn’t fear he would totally change the nature of the country. I fear that with Trump.

If you are thinking about Trump, please think about how he might realistically achieve the goals he spoke about at the closing of the RNC. Think about how that would change the country. Then think about — and I’m surprised that I (a life-long Democrat, except for a flirtation with John Anderson in 1980) am saying it — think about what Ted Cruz said. Trump shouldn’t be the future of the Republican Party, and I don’t see how those with Republican values can vote for him.

I, as a Democrat, know who I’m supporting. I know who I believe can make this country safe and strong the right way. To the non-Democrats, I’ll echo Cruz: Vote your Conscience. I think Hillary is the best path forward of what we’ve got, but if you want to support Johnson (L)† or Stein (G), go for it. Just don’t vote for Trump. The present he sees is not representative of reality, and the future he’ll bring is just too scary.

†: But if you are really thinking Johnson, read this.

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Changes in Ahmanson Ticketing – No More Hottix/Rush Tickets

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 11, 2016 @ 7:07 pm PST

userpic=ahmansonAs I noted in my last post, when we were at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) Saturday night a very interesting piece of news was reveled. We were walking by the subscription table when the subscription-pushing-volunteer asked if we were interested in subscribing. I indicated that we were already full-up on subscriptions, and we tended to use Hottix to get our Ahmanson tickets. For those unfamiliar with it, Hottix was a program that made the limited view seats on the sides of the  theatre available for $25 plus a 10% service charge. This was a remarkable deal. It was then that he dropped the bombshell: Center Theatre Group (FB) was discontinuing the Hottix program as of the 2016-2017 season.

Heaven forfend! I quickly took out my cell phone and looked for confirmation, but couldn’t find any corroborating material online.

When I got home and was writing up the show Sunday morning, I did more research. I also dropped a note to Customer Service at the Ahmanson, where my fears were confirmed: “I am sorry that at this time there has not been an announcement as to the ending of HotTix.   There will be soon.” I also asked about Day-Of Rush HotTix, and those are disappearing as well: “From what we have been told, there will be no “Day Of” rush.” I also asked about the Ahmanson continuing to put tickets up on Goldstar (which we never used because HotTix were a better deal), and learned: “There will still be some Goldstar offers – but they will be for pre-sale to get patrons to purchase earlier rather than later and they will not be as discounted as the Subscriber tickets.”

That’s the bad news. Basically, the Ahmanson is adopting the same approach that we currently see at the Pantages: better scaling of the pricing of seats in the orchestra (they won’t be all the same price), and demand pricing for popular shows (i.e., if there is lots of demand, ticket prices go up). Thank you, New York.

2016-2017 Ahmanson Pricing ModelTo the right is the new Ahmanson pricing model (snarfed from their website). As you can see, pricing has been divided into roughly 6 levels: the premium orchestra seats, four price levels spanning the orchestra and mezzanine (and presumably founder’s circle) areas, and the remainder of the mezzanine and balconies. The old HotTix areas are the “D” seats.

For general admission sales, a limited number of $25 tickets will be available. As my customer service rep wrote: “I will also mention that we will still have 25 dollar seats that go on sale with the general public.  We are trying to have patrons buy early and be rewarded for that.  With hit shows waiting until the last minute will result in higher prices and surely all the 25 dollar tickets will be gone.” General sales will also be available in the Balcony and Mezzanine.

Current subscribers in the balcony and mezzanine have been moved to equivalent price points (I’ll get to that in a minute) in the A-D levels. This will likely mean that the D and possibly C seats may be full; and for those getting D, they may not be very happy moving from good view balcony to limited view orchestra. There are also no subscription options for the Premium seats — presumably those are full up from past Orchestra subscribers, and new subscribers will get the option to “upgrade” after they see who doesn’t renew.

That brings us to subscription options and pricing. For this discussion, I’m going to use Saturday Night seating as my benchmark.  Here’s the pricing table that I was provided from customer service; it agrees (on the full ticket prices) from what I got from the Ahmanson subscription pages:

Price Zone
Price Level
Full 5-Show
Full 6-Show
Per Show
Single Ticket
Orchestra /
Premium $675 $732* 11% $112 $125
A $535 $600* 5% $90 $95
/ Mid-Orch
B $335 $450* 7% $65 $70
C $199 $288* 15% $38 $45
Front and
D $199 $198* 8% $23 $25
handling fee


Note the “$60 handling fee”. That is a $10/per ticket fee for subscribers, and it applies for both full subscriptions and the “build your own” subscriptions (which are less than 6 shows). This means that, in some cases, the per-ticket price for subscribers may be higher than the full price ticket. Note that this belies their claim of “enjoy the absolute very best seats at every Center Theatre Group performance at the best price—up to 30% off single tickets.” Right now, it also does not appear to include parking (which might make it a better bargain, but then again, if you take Metro to the theatre, it doesn’t). All this gives you is the ability to change your dates easier, and the ability to buy more tickets at your price if demand pricing raises the price of tickets. I’ll note that the “build your own season” (“Pick four or more shows at all three of our theatres and get access to our best seats, prices, and benefits.”) appears to have the same pricing as the full season.

ETA 2016-07-16: For comparison purposes: If you buy full price tickets at the box office online, the handling charge is 10%. If you buy at the physical box office, according to customer service, there is no handling charge. This means, when you add in handling charges, unless you are going for premium seats, the cheapest seats (until demand pricing kicks in) will always be at the physical box office, with full price online coming less than the subscription price. That’s not how to design a subscription program, boys and girls. You are assuming your audience is too stupid to do the math.

There is a third option: the Passport. For that, you pay $125 “and save up to 50% off at all three of our theatres.” Basically, the Passport gives you the ability to “purchase up to two tickets at the discounted Passport price to each production at the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre produced or presented by Center Theatre Group.” This would be in a special purchase period before the show opens, and the price of the passport is not based on where you buy the tickets. That’s significant, for buying 2 discounted tickets for six shows in the lower-priced tiers will not offset the cost of the passport.

At this point, I’m not sure what I will do. I’ve been going to the Music Center for theatre since 1972. My parents were LA Civic Light Opera subscribers. At one point I had an Ahmanson subscription, but dropped it ages ago and have used HotTix for better seats for lower prices.  I broke down and subscribed at the Pantages this year to ensure Hamilton tickets, but they (a) don’t add the outrageous $10 per ticket fee, and (b) allow you to break your subscription into 10 payments (CTG only supports 2).  This year we’re only interested in three shows: Amalie, Fun Home, and Curious Incident. Do I do a Build-Your-Own Subscription? a Passport? Goldstar? Take my chances on open sales? Right now, I’m thinking open sales or Goldstar.

A final conspiracy-theory thought: Could this be connected to the Pro99 battle? After all, if the 99 seat theatres are killed off, there will be less theatre in town, and more demand for the Ahmanson, and they can charge more. That would never happen now, would it?

I’m open to your thoughts.

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There’s Stupidity and There’s Stupidity (A Lunchtime Musing)

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 06, 2016 @ 11:23 am PST

userpic=nixonJust as there are different levels of infinity (ℵ0, ℵ1), there are different levels of stupidity, as this year’s Presidential campaign is showing. I’m finding myself increasingly agreeing with conservative commentator P. J. O’Roarke, on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me: when he endorsed Hillary Clinton:

“I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

Wrong within normal parameters. That says a lot about this year’s viable Presidential candidates (although I expect the Green and Libertarian candidates to see a significant increase in support, I don’t believe they will reach a level where they have electoral college impact).

Let’s look at the recent stupidities.


Let’s start with Ms. Wrong-Within-Normal-Parameters. Andy Tannenbaum’s Electoral Vote site summarizes the stupidity regarding the email issues well, noting how the FBI director said she was extremely careless and might have put national security at risk, but that he was simply following the law and she didn’t break it. Specifically, they stated:

The law does not make being careless with classified information a crime. To reach the level of an actual felony, three factors have to be present. First, there has to be an intentional mishandling of classified information. Being sloppy is not enough. Second, there has to be a large amount of classified information exposed. About 110 of her more than 30,000 emails were classified at the time she sent or received them, but almost none were marked as such. Many more were classified months or years later, a common government practice. Third, there has to be some indication of disloyalty to the United States or else obstruction of justice. Nothing like that was present in her case. The DoJ prosecutors will next have to decide whether to indict, but Comey said that no reasonable prosecutor would indict someone for what she did. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has the final say and she already stated that she would follow the FBI’s recommendation. Thus it is virtually certain that Clinton will not be indicted. There will be much partisan yelling and screaming in the coming weeks and months, but in the end, she dodged the bullet.

The LA Times makes a similar argument:

Federal law makes it a crime for a trusted U.S. official to “knowingly and willfully” disclose or transmit secret information to an “unauthorized person.” A second law makes it a crime to “remove” secret documents kept by the government or to allow them to be stolen through “gross negligence.”

Neither law applies clearly or directly to what FBI Director James B. Comey described Tuesday as Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of classified emails that were sent through her private system when she was the secretary of State.

“It’s just not a crime under current law to do nothing more than share sensitive information over unsecured networks,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “Maybe it should be, but that’s something for Congress to decide going forward.”

Comey made clear, Vladeck said, that “however much we might want federal law to make her carelessness a crime, nothing she did falls within the letter of the relevant federal criminal statutes.”

The Time’s concluding thought is particularly noteworthy:

Stewart Baker, a top national security lawyer in the Bush administration, called Comey’s statement “pretty damning for Secretary Clinton, even if the facts don’t make for an impressive criminal case. He suggests that she should have been, or arguably could still be, subjected to ‘security or administrative sanctions.’ What he doesn’t say, but what we can infer, is that she ran those incredible risks with national security information because she was more worried about the GOP reading her mail than of Russian or Chinese spies reading it. That’s appalling,” he said.

This shows where our incredible partisanship, and the hatred of the Republicans for the Clintons, has gotten us. My take on this mess is that, although what Clinton did was stupid, it appears to have had no significant national security affect. Further, similar classified data has been found in the emails of other Secretaries of State. More importantly, I don’t think it is a mistake that would be repeated: Clinton has been sensitized to the issue, and the staff supporting her if she becomes President are unlikely to permit the situation to be repeated. Then, of course, there is the fact that the President is the ultimate arbiter of what is classified, as the head of the Executive Branch.

Of course, the Republican side isn’t letting the issue fall, and again Electoral Vote captures it:

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans made clear that they intend to open a new investigation into the e-mail server, with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) promising that Comey would be called before the House of Representatives to answer for himself.

Undoubtedly, the GOP wants to keep the e-mail server in the news for as long as is possible, and Congressional hearings would certainly do that. However, those hearings would also be a supremely bad idea. Whatever damage that emailgate is going to do has already been done—those who are going to hold the server against Clinton, and those who are going to overlook it, have already made their decisions. Short of a game-changer, like an indictment, not much is going to change on that front. However, holding hearings after the FBI has made its recommendation, along with the Benghazi hearings, and the Merrick Garland obstruction, would give the Democrats a powerful argument that the Republican members of Congress are less interested in doing their jobs than they are in abusing their positions of power in service of partisan ends. One can scarcely imagine something that would do more to help the blue team in their efforts to retake the legislature.


Now, let’s look at Mr. Wrong-in-So-Many-Ways. Here is someone who keeps making new stupidities — again, not at the criminal level (perhaps), but at the appalling level. Over the last few days, we’ve had Trump posting an antisemitic image in a tweet on Clinton, and the subsequent identification that the image came from a white supremacist website. Electoral Vote summarizes the concern well: “Even if he got the image in a completely non-problematic fashion (say, a retweet from a supporter), it still shows an incredible lack of awareness on the part of the candidate. A lack of awareness that does not line up well with the sensitivity demanded of the leader of the free world.”

Speaking about leadership, today’s revelation has Trump praising the leadership of Saddam Hussain (the equivalent of praising Hitler). Here’s the quote from the LA Times: «“He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday night. “They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. It was over.”»

Trump, of course, has his own email issues that have made the news, which (of course) have been overshadowed by his stupid statements. In particular, he was accused in early June of destroying email evidence. As the article noted:

In 2006, when a judge ordered Donald Trump’s casino operation to hand over several years’ worth of emails, the answer surprised him: The Trump Organization routinely erased emails and had no records from 1996 to 2001. The defendants in a case that Trump brought said this amounted to destruction of evidence, a charge never resolved.

At that time, a Trump IT director testified that until 2001, executives in Trump Tower relied on personal email accounts using dial-up Internet services, despite the fact that Trump had launched a high-speed Internet provider in 1998 and announced he would wire his whole building with it. Another said Trump had no routine process for preserving emails before 2005.

Then again, there’s the issue of Trump and (sigh) child rape in the past:

An anonymous “Jane Doe” filed a federal lawsuit against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump last week, accusing him of raping her in 1994 when she was thirteen years old. The mainstream media ignored the filing.

In fact, as both the article linked above and another article highlights, this appears to be a pattern of behavior. Of course, then there’s the whole issue of Trump University and the Trump Institute, and how Trump exploited people for personal gain.

Shouldn’t these be subject to the same scrutiny and investigation that the email non-issue of Clinton has had? Where are the Congressional inquires into Trump University, Trump Institute, and the rape charges? Where are the investigations into patterns of hate speech, sexism, and racism? Where are the investigations into the deletion of emails in legal cases?


This brings us back to the question of what are normal parameters, and how wrong is wrong? The mistakes we’ve seen from Clinton are mistakes that are likely not to re-occur, given the checks and balances provided through Congress and the heightened sensitivity of White House staff. We certainly have not seen statements that reflect misunderstanding of foreign policy or demonstrate lack of sensitivity at anything close to the racism or sexism demonstrated by Trump. In fact, the general impression is that Clinton enjoys public service and wants to give back to the country through it — that’s where her life has been devoted. Trump, on the other hand, clearly puts his mouth or typing-fingers in gear long before there is any connection to the brain — and that is dangerous in the leader of the Free World. He has also clearly done what is necessary — racist or not — to get personal gain.

Wrong-within-normal-parameters. Clinton may not be the perfect candidate, but of those who have the potential of obtaining sufficient electoral voices, she’s the best shot we’ve got. Or, as WWDTM put it: “Wrong within normal parameters. I’ll take it.”

To put the issue another way: In an ideal world, both of the major parties would have run viable, intelligent, and appropriate candidates who held reasoned views of the issues. None (or precious few) of the candidates in the candidate pool achieved that (yes, that includes Bernie). Further, both parties are stuck with presumptive nominees with significant problems, and do not have the option of going against the will of the majority of the voters to go with a different candidate (and yes, that includes Bernie). This country needed strong candidates from both parties — candidates that would make strong Presidents were they elected. Instead, the Democratic side let the oversize donkey that was Clinton fundraising and history scare off other moderate potential candidates (or they didn’t look ahead sufficiently to groom any, being distracted by the fights with the GOP. The GOP was no better, permitting candidates that appealed to the wacko, evangelical, and ultra-conservative and isolationist fringe to lead, as opposed to finding a moderate Republican who could have broad appeal.  As a result, we don’t have that honest, moderate, slightly to the left Democrat; we don’t have that honest, moderate, slightly to the right Republican.

We have Donald and Hillary.

Wrong-within-normal-parameters. Sometimes, that’s the best that you can do.

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A Lunchtime Musing: Managing Risk

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jun 16, 2016 @ 11:53 am PST

userpic=cardboard-safeIf you hadn’t figured it out by now, I work professionally in the field of cybersecurity. One of the concerns in my field is the question of risk: how to manage it, how much is tolerable for an organization, what can be done to mitigate it. All of the cybersecurity techniques you know are related to the question: virus scanner mitigate the risk of malware; passwords mitigate the risk of unauthorized users; firewalls mitigate the risk of unauthorized systems accessing a network, and so forth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about risk in the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, and in particular about the reactions of our presumptive leaders, as well as the initiatives that always start after an event like this. Naturally, I see them all dealing with risk in some ways, and in someways misunderstanding risk.

Donald Trump has blinders on with respect to risk. He clearly sees risk — a lot of risk — in immigrants and terrorists, but is blind to the risk of home-grown terrorism, or risk that comes from easy access to assault weapons. Further, his approach to the risk he sees is to be clearly risk adverse. He has a low risk tolerance, and wants to (if possible) eliminate the risk through closing down immigration and building walls. His approach is impractical and costly, as experience has shown.

Hillary Clinton understands that the risk will be present, and wants to reduce it (understanding that it cannot be eliminated). This is where the call for restricting selected gun sales based on findings from background investigations, and calls for restricting the types of weapons come from. They will not eliminate all the possible terrorist actions on American soil, but they will serve to reduce the risk of those actions.

The mass populace also has difficult understanding the difference between risk mitigation and risk avoidance. There are segments who believe that all guns should be banned. Those folks have blinders on regarding risks: banning guns will not eliminate all gun risk (for there is still the criminal element), but it also ignores non-gun attacks. There are some who believe the more moderated approach of increasing the difficulty to get attack weapons is pointless if attacks are still possible. They are the type that are risk averse, and fail to see the benefit that comes from reducing risk.

With respect to terrorist attacks and home-grown gun attacks, we need to understand that we cannot eliminate them completely. The potential is already there, with existing weapons and the free-flow of ideas that our society permits. That is a risk we must accept. What we can — and must — do, is reduce the risk where we can: this means reducing the ability to buy and sell weaponry that can create massive casualties, increasing our ability to be resilient in the face of attack, and aggressively going after home-grown terrorism and terrorist cells (within our existing legal framework), with increased monitoring of those identified as being sympathetic or involved with those homegrown causes (again, while still remaining in our legal system with respect to monitoring and the rights of US citizens).

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An Open Letter to Enci (or) How to Make the Lemon Less Bitter

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 15, 2016 @ 7:30 am PST

userpic=fountain-penOver on the closed #pro99 group on Facebook, in a discussion about Bitter Lemons, Enci Box (the publisher of Bitter Lemons) wrote: “I do want to make things right and I do want to raise awareness to this issue. Truly do! I’d love to meet with you all for coffee, tea, at a theatre space where we can discuss this and other issues.” Given that meeting for coffee/tea can be difficult for me given other commitments, and because this has been rambling around my head, I’d like to offer these specific suggestions on how to restore the reputation of Bitter Lemons via my blog instead:

  1. Address the relationship with Colin. Although Colin has been fired as editor-in-chief, he is still an owner of the site. That elephant needs to be addressed, clarifying whether that has been severed and the extent to which Colin has any editorial influence — or influence at all — on the site. The baby elephant should also be addressed: What to do with Jason.
  2. Righten the Editorial Ship. Appoint two editors-in-chief who are respected by the community, and require that all articles that are posted be approved by one of them. There are two editors so that if one writes an article, the other must approve it.
  3. Sensitivity Training. To ensure that the editors and writers truly understand why this issue created the firestorm that it did, there should be mandatory sensitivity / sexual harrassment awareness training for all staff and writers. We’ve had such training at my place of employ, and it does truly make one aware of how little things can be very significant.
  4. Suspend the Pay-For-Play Reviews. The notion of paid reviews hurts the integrity of the Bitter Lemons site, and is a continual thorn in its reputation. They should be ended as of the end of Fringe; no more should be accepted for review. Bitter Lemons may be able to do reviews in the future, but any approach should be accepted by the community and free of any taint of conflict of interest.
  5. Formal Apology. There should be a formal apology from Bitter Lemons, although there are some that will not believe it (there should also be apologies from Colin/Jason, but I do not believe people would accept them).
  6. Address the Issue Head On. There should be an effort by Bitter Lemons, as an organization, to address the issue the right way. My suggestion along those lines might be for Bitter Lemons to host a series of forums to discuss the prevalence of such abuse and harassment in Southern California’s theatre community, and to develop community driven ways to eliminate the abuse and provide awareness of the abusers. Additionally, I’d suggest providing a space on Bitter Lemons for people to report such incidents, potentially anonymously, for investigation. Lastly, I suggestion posting a clear statement of editorial principles that guide Bitter Lemons, to include 0% tolerance for harassment and abuse, a pledge to avoid all conflict of interest, and a clear statement that the mission of Bitter Lemons is to bring together and improve the Southern California theatre community and improve its visibility to the public.

Lastly, for those articles that have been published, both the original article and received comments should remain.

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The Tension of Speech

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 14, 2016 @ 5:22 pm PST

userpic=soapboxHere are two situations for you to think about:

  • Arts Integrity Fires Bitter Lemons: «LA Bitter Lemons, an outspoken Los Angeles theatre site which Arts Integrity’s director challenged over its pay for review strategy about a year ago, has posted a short piece by editor Colin Mitchell which seems, in essence, to “blame the victims” of Profiles for not speaking up sooner. Read it if you must, but given this manner of engaging with a serious problem at one theatre that, unfortunately, is likely happening at other theatres and in the arts at large, Arts Integrity believes Bitter Lemons has gone from bitter to vile, and will no longer give further consideration to writing that appears on the site again.» [Note that since Colin Mitchell’s piece has been posted, Colin has been fired as Editor-in-Chief by Publisher Enci Box, who has apparently assumed editorial function; Colin still seems to be part owner of the site, as no statement has been made to the contrary.]
  • Donald Trump Revokes Press Credentials from the Washington Post. «Donald Trump announced on Facebook yesterday that he would rescind The Washington Post’s press credentials. Reporters from the paper will no longer be able to cover his campaign events in person.» Essentially, the Washington Post has been barred from Trump events because they made comments pointing out where Trumps statements were in error or had unsubstantiated accusations.

In the first situation, the community wants to tar-and-feather an entire site because its editor said something very controversial. You see few speaking up for the site’s right to publish, and even fewer (if any) speaking up for the clown that made the offensive statement. In the second, you have people up in arms about the revocation of the “press credentials”, arguing that the paper should be able to say what it wants. As for me, I see hypocrisy if one is acceptable and the other isn’t. (In case you can’t figure it out, I don’t like either)

Now, I’m not defending at all what Colin said. But I do defend his right to say it. Just as the ACLU was right in defending Nazis when they wanted to march. A hazard of our rights to have free speech in this country is that sometimes there is uncomfortable and painful speech we have to hear. About the only good thing about such speech, indeed, is that it is out in the open and you can identify who is saying it. That same freedom of speech permits those who think the speaker is wrong to pummel them for it, to point out the errors of their ways, in hopes that reason will prevail and they will learn and change (of course, we tend not to accept that change when we see it, but that’s a different rant — just consider, if Colin were to apologize today, and indicate that the comments had made him see the error of his ways — would the community accept it?).

It is also perfectly acceptable for a press outlet, such as Bitter Lemons, to fire a columnist if their speech does not fit within what the site considers the bounds of their editorial position (or what their advertisers will accept, more often, alas). Freedom of speech does not mean I have to publish what you say, only that you have the right to publish it somewhere. Presumably, Colin is free to go to WordPress.Com and create a free blog of his own for anyone to read. [That’s what I’ve done, although I’m self-hosting.]

What bothers me more is that people are tarring-and-feathering the Bitter Lemons site just because of Colin, just like Trump is revoking the credentials of the Washington Post because he doesn’t like that reporter. Enci, as Publisher, has removed Colin from his editorial role (and presumably other roles, except perhaps ownership). Enci has stated she wants the site to have a new direction, working with the community. We should be giving her the benefit of the doubt, and helping her to right the ship. Independent of Colin’s missteps, the Lemon has been a good site for the community: aggregating reviews, getting commentary out there, getting news out there, supporting the publicity efforts of the community when the large print media has been pulling away. We can’t — and we shouldn’t — throw away that good because of the bad editor. Let Enci restaff, refocus, and rebuild. Further, let’s help her distance herself from the Colin era so we can make the community stronger.

We need to be very careful here: In the Chicago incident, people were afraid to speak up because of the reaction it would engender. We need to let people know that it is OK to express an opinion that differs with the community, that might be controversial, that might be shining light in an area where the cockroaches scurry. Hell — we’ve seen Colin do just that with some of the unethical producers in this city. That means, sometimes, we will hear an opinion that we don’t like. But that risk must be there, if we are to have the freedom. Freedom exists in a world of tension. We’ve seen that with the tension between the right to be safe and the right to keep information private. There’s a similar tension with the press. We need to be careful, even as we may tune out a specific speaker, that we don’t eliminate their right to say something in the process, or create collateral damage on those who simply were the conduit.

As a PS, for those talking about integrity and bringing up the integrity of accepting money for reviews. I’m an audience member — not in any way connected with the theatre save plunking my money down at the box office, and sharing my opinion afterwards. I work in an industry that hammers the importance of ethics, and the risk of the appearance of unethical behavior into us. We cannot accept anything from a supplier more than a donut.* I have had theatres offer me comp tickets as a reviewer, and I refuse them for that reason. I will pay what I would pay on Goldstar. So with respect to reviewers, as long as they are accepting free tickets, they are as tainted as money directly going through the site to their pocketbooks. You want integrity in reviewers? Create a site where the reviewers are paid through crowdfunding, donations, and subscriptions (in the model of Consumer Reports), and they are assigned to review shows… and to pay for their tickets like any other audience member. Then I’ll believe the integrity of their reviews. Otherwise, just let me know, for each reviewer, what form of bribe they accepted — comp tickets to pay-to-review — and I’ll judge based on their track record whether I agree with their reviews. Oh, and yes I understand it is “tradition”. That doesn’t make it right.
*: Link is an example, not the organization I support.

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Recognizing Harassment

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 11, 2016 @ 7:04 am PST

userpic=theatre_musicalsI often bring lessons and teachings from my workplace to my hobbies, such as attending theatre and writing up shows. A prime example of this has been our training regarding ethics, which is the clear reason I do not accept comp reviewer tickets. The other days some incidents have come to light regarding another workplace training I have received; incidents that make clear that the theatrical community is in clear need of similar training.

The incidents in question occurred in the non-Equity theatre community in Chicago, and were written up extensively in the Chicago Reader (note that the article behind the link is likely to be triggery to those that have suffered abuse). They concern the Profiles theatre and some of its artistic leadership. It details specific incidents of unwanted sexual and physical advances against actors, in an environment where there were no union protections. The Chicago community is working on a solution; hopefully they will achieve it.

This shitstorm hit the fan, and spread its noxious odor over LA when the editor-in-chief of Bitter Lemons, Colin Mitchell, wrote an op-ed piece essentially saying: they were consenting adults, and they should have taken the personal responsibility to stop it. And the gates were opened, and verily, Colin stepped into it. Deeply.

Let me state the definition of sexual harassment from the EEOC website:

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

It is clear from the article that the situation in Chicago was clear sexual harassment. The complicating factor was the nature of non-equity theatre: there was not necessarily an employee-employer relationship. But even that is not required under EEOC rules.

Now, I am not an actor. I’ve never been one. I’ve never worked in that community. I am, as they say, a professional audience. At work, we are regularly required to have harassment training. This is not training on how to harass, ye of little minds. It is training on how to recognize harassment, and how to report it. If there is not such a thing in the theatrical community, there should be. The only thing that should be making actors uncomfortable in the theatre should be the ideas in the script; the work environment must be supportive, not hostile.

In response to Colin’s article, the Hollywood Fringe Festival has issued a statement severing their relationship with Bitter Lemons. While I agree in principle, I’ll just note that Bitter Lemons is more than Colin Mitchell. I believe the ball is now in the courtyard of Bitter Lemons. There needs to be a pubic response to Colin’s behavior, and this needs to be more than statements by Enci Box, the publisher. At minimum, this should be mandatory sexual harassment recognition training for those who work for Bitter Lemons, and perhaps funding such training for the LA Theatrical Community. Perhaps it is providing an ombudsman for the LA Community to report such incidents when Equity is not involved.  Bitter Lemons needs to make clear that Colin was not speaking for Bitter Lemons, and that Bitter Lemons strongly disagrees with the positions that Colin has taken.

There certainly should also be some response involving Colin specifically. At minimum, Colin’s editorial voice should be removed from the site for an identified period of time, certainly until after all those in publicly visible positions have undergone appropriate training. There have simply been far too many instances in the last year where Colin, as the voice of Bitter Lemons has stepped in it. Enci, and perhaps some of the other columnists, must become the voice of Bitter Lemons and demonstrate that Colin’s attitudes are not the attitudes of the organization.

I say this as someone who has gotten to know Colin, and at times, even defended his actions. This time, however, his action has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the issue. His response has offended the community and hurt the reputation of Bitter Lemons. There must be distance between the man and the website.

Many years ago, at a former employer, we were having ethics training. The instructor said something I will always remember. He said (essentially) “I can’t teach you ethics. You are either ethical or you are not. However, I can teach you the law, and the penalties for violating the law.”

What has happened in Chicago is (to me) clear sexual harassment. It has created a hostile work environment. The appropriate organizations should be legally called to task for the behavior, and there needs to be community enforcement and education that such behavior is not tolerated. We have that in the aerospace industry. There’s no reason it can’t be in the theatrical community. Further, such enforcement and education should not just be in Chicago, but in every community with non-equity theatre. Sexual harassment and hostile workplaces are illegal, be they a traditional industry like aerospace or a non-traditional industry like the theatre.

(As an aside, I’ll note that sexual harassment has no place anywhere. That includes in other volunteer artistic organizations such has historic dance or theatre guilds (there has been an image related to this going around Facebook, part of the Standing Up for Safer Spaces movement), at technical conferences (a large concern in recent years), at non-technical conferences (again, a large concern, especially amongst those clowns who believe that cosplay equals consent), and in the gaming world (cough, Gamergate, cough). Harassment of others is never acceptable. Alas, we have at least one presidential candidate who presents the attitude that harassment of others is acceptable — ridicule, name calling, etc. But that’s the subject of another post)

As for Bitter Lemons, an organization I’ve supported in the past. I hope that they can clearly distance themselves from Colin, and clearly demonstrate that he does not, and in the future will not, speak for them. Only by doing that can they rebuild any relationship with the LA Theatrical Community.

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The Future of Music

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 13, 2016 @ 7:25 am PST

userpic=white-ipodEven though I’m on vacation this week, I’ve still been reading news and collecting articles. One subject that has been popular this week has been Apple, iTunes, Apple Music, and the future. Here are some of the discussions that caught my eye:

  • All About the Benjamins. A number of articles have been circulating about the skyrocketing value for older iPods, such as this article, which notes that the U2 edition of the iPod is now supposedly fetching $90K, but of course only if it was factory-sealed in its box. To us old timers, this sounds like the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of many years ago, or the Beanie Baby craze. iPods are meant to be used: to hold music, to play music, to be the center of your musical life. They are not meant to remained boxed. I have two iPod Classics, each modified to have a 512GB SSD memory instead of the 160GB Hard Disk, and I use them everyday (in fact, I’m using one of them as I write this up: currently playing, “Fireflies” by Vana Mazi from the album Izam Anav).
  • W3C, DRM, EME, and other Acronyms from Hell. Yesterday, on Boing Boing, was an open letter from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) to W3C (the Web Advisory Council) about their stance on new DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology for the web. They are creating a video DRM standard designed to prevent people from implementing it unless they have permission from the big movie and TV companies, by invoking the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its international equivalents. Earlier in the week there had been a similar article about how earlier attempts at DRM could have killed iTunes and the iPod. That article noted that “iTunes was able to become a powerhouse in music by allowing Apple customers to legally format-shift their digital music. The fact that the RIAA hated this, said it was (or should be) illegal, and tried to stop them didn’t mean that Apple couldn’t go on.” I’ve been format-shifted music I own for years, and there’s nothing that can stop it (especially if you’re willing to go the old analog route, and actually do analog re-recordings of music). I do analog recording from LPs, CDs, and cassettes; digital ripping of CDs, and purchase music digitally. Back when I was much younger, I even recorded off of AM or FM radio (that’s how we used to “stream” music 🙂 ).  I’m of the belief that people should actually own copies of the music they listen to; if they do, they should have the ability to format-shift their purchase so they can use it.
  • iTunes and Destroying the Will to Collect Music. However, these days, collecting music has gotten much harder. Our interfaces to manage the music doesn’t help — witness how many people complain about iTunes (which is likely still the largest music manager for MP3 players and their brethren).  Here’s one man’s story about how iTunes destroyed his desire to collect music. What with fears about iTunes replacing carefully curated tracks with similar versions on the cloud, to the tendancy of iTunes to lose tracks or delete music, the ability to manage a collection — especially large collections — gets difficult. I can understand the concern. If you’ve visited our house, you know I have a large collection of LPs and CDs (and once upon a time had a very large collection of cassettes recorded from those LPs and CDs). I have just under 38,000 tracks in iTunes, and plan to add more. I recognize how I’ve grown tied to iTunes and its play counts and ratings, as well as how easy it is for iTunes to screw up and lose music.
  • iTunes vs. Apple Music. But the music industry may be trying to screw listeners once again. There are conflicting stories out there about how Apple is going to kill the iTunes store within 2 years; but then again, it may not. The conflict (and the reason for the conflicting reports) is the movement to streaming music (which I view as an insidious plot). Supposedly… Apple wants to get out of the profitable business of “selling” people music through the iTunes store, and replace it with the streaming of music through Apple Music, where you can stream tracks you are leasing (but I put “selling” in quotes, because in someways it was leasing as well, because Apple could delete the trick, or might have DRMed the track). I tend to side with the folks that say Apple isn’t doing this now, simply because it is a profit center. I think the risk of it going away is there, especially if more people move to storage in the cloud and a streaming model. Luckily, I think the artists still want to have the ability to get music in the hands of their fans — be it  through download, CDs, or other means. I have yet to hear rumors that Amazon is getting out of the digital music field — and I always get my music through Amazon if I can as they do not DRM protect their tracks; I subsequently import them into iTunes (which moves them out of Amazon Music’s reach).

So what is the upshot of these articles. I think it is simple. People have always wanted to own the music of the artists they like: be it sheet music in the early days, LP recordings through much of the 20th century, cassette records, and later CDs and digital tracks. With recording technology, they like — and need — the ability to format shift their music to formats of their choosing. They also need the ability to pass their music collections to their children (something that may be difficult to do). We should not be forced to buy new copies of recordings we own every few years, despite what the music companies claim.

As for Streaming Music: Streaming music is demon spawn. It is a reinvention of the radio, but under your control. However, with streaming, you not only pay for the music, you pay for the bandwidth used to deliver it. Further, the streamers can lose the ability to send you the music at any time. Further, it is only good if you have a signal to stream the music. Fight streaming. Purchase your music, record it to a format you can use, and just play from your collection — non-streaming or local (i.e., your house) streaming. Oh, and that iPod Classic you’ve got in your closet — don’t sell it as a Cabbage Patch MP3 Player, and don’t throw it away. Replace the hard disk with SSD, load it up, and use it. You can have your entire music collection with you, and listen to the songs you want.

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