Observations Along the Road

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

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…]


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Some Tasty Afternoon Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 10, 2016 @ 4:20 pm PDT

Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…



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Signs of the Times

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 09, 2016 @ 3:48 pm PDT

userpic=rough-roadRecently, I have seen various things that remind me of how society has changed since my youth — whether it is for the better, I’ll leave to you decide. It is markedly a loss of innocence and a growth of awareness.

  • When I was up at camp Friday night, I noticed in the dining hall a brit that all campers had to sign. This evidently has been part of camp for the last (mumble) years since the current director came, and I think is it a good thing. It requires all campers to acknowledge that camp is a mutually supportive safe space, that embraces individuality. Back when I went to camp in the 1970s, we had that feeling (although there were a few bullies), and I believed that everyone came away with the impression that camp was a safe space. I certainly did, and I was one of the more individualist campers out there. But today we have to say it and remind people — a sad commentary on not only the prevalence of bullying, but the acceptance of bullying in some circles.
  • Back in the 1960s, the Smothers Brothers had a routine about updating old musical standards that reflected societal mores no longer in vogue — the example I remember was the all-white MacNamera’s Band requiring integration. The other day I read a review of Beauty and the Beast in the Daily Cal that captured another thing people might have missed, best embodied by this paragraph: “At this point, most audiences — and, indeed most Americans — know the plot of “Beauty and the Beast”: Belle, a brilliant woman utterly suffocated by the patriarchy and her small town, escapes marrying a misogynistic, violent, entitled alpha male (Gaston), and ends up being held captive by another man in his castle. ” The reviewer goes on to castigate the show as outdated, but you’ll find a large number of Broadway successes (and even Shakespearean successes) have such equivalent dated values, from Merchant of Venice to How to Succeed to Flower Drum Song to … you name it. My comment is more on the increased awareness we have of these issues — our increased recognition of art that accepts violence and perpetuates stereotypes, or that appropriates culture. Again, a loss of innocence from our youth, but perhaps for a good reason.
  • The third item is also from the Daily Cal, this time looking at the Venmo culture. Again, here’s the key paragraph: “Short Venmo transactions — supposedly aimed at discreet, cold-cut convenience — were enough to make me feel left out. Something about the nature of their publicized transactions screamed: “We don’t want to announce to the world that we hung out, but we still want you to see and imagine what we did.” And that’s when it struck me: We, as Millennials, have entered a whole new territory of humblebragging.” Through Facebook and Venmo and Twitter, we’ve entered the era where we regularly state our status by sharing our activities, humbling our friends who cannot afford such luxuries. I’ll admit I’m guilty of that with my theatre reviews — it is hard to know the balance. But again, the issue here is awareness — we’re increasingly aware of when privilege comes into play.
  • That brings me back to camp. While at camp — with this increased sensitivity — I was realizing that most of our Jewish summer camps are camps of privilege — just due to the nature of the makeup of Judaism as predominately white. There are black Jews and hispanic Jews and Jews in lower socioecomic spectra, but what do we do to reach out to them to provide that camp experience — that safe shared space. If they came, would it be humble-bragging of our position? I don’t know, but it would be good to find a way to reach out.


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Understanding Diversity

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 24, 2015 @ 8:17 am PDT

userpic=twogentlemenPrologue. As I’ve noted before, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Perhaps too many, as it takes a lot of work to keep current; this is partially because there is such a resurgence in the number of really good podcasts. I’m learning about more and more everyday, and there just isn’t time to listen to the podcasts that sound interesting. Now I’m “old-school” on my podcast listening: I actually download them daily to an actual iPod, as opposed to using streaming data to listen to them on a mobile platform. I find that I can only listen to spoken-word podcasts in certain environments (primarily those where I’m not consciously using the “reading” portion of my brain): driving, shopping, working out, walking. Further, I can’t just sit back and listen — if I do that, I’ll fall asleep (which I blame on conditioning from the vanpool). As a result, I’m regularly backed up on podcasts; my typical backlog is on the order of 15 podcasts, not counting Woodsongs.

Boy, I’m starting to feel like Ira Glass opening an episode of This American Life (one of the podcasts I listen to).

So the other day, I’m shopping at Trader Joes and listening to a recent episode of the Startup podcast. Startup was the first podcast from Gimlet Media, and originally told the story of the startup of Gimlet. It has gone on to look at other startups, such as DatingRing, but it occasionally tells Gimlet’s story. Right now, they are doing a half-season on Gimlet, and the latest show tackled the question of Diversity.

I strongly urge you to give it a listen. This episode explores the level of diversity of Gimlet Media. Although they have made an effort for male/female balance, they are working to correct a significant white/people of color balance. The episode explores why that divide exists, how diversity begets more diversity, and why the question of diversity is more than skin deep. That’s meant to be literal: for there are questions of diversity across religion, orientation, political spectrum, etc. Alex Bloomberg of Gimlet rightly points out why diversity is so important: it enables them to tell a better story that exposes all sides of an issue.

This post consists of three acts (no, that’s not right). Well, there are three articles that came across my feeds this week that illustrate this so well.

Act I: Dating Apps. The first was a post by Ferrett Steinmetz over on LJ (you do remember LJ, right). It explores a new dating app: this time it is one developed by women for women. Dating is similar to porn, in that what women want and need in the experience is often drastically different than men, and yet it is mostly a male-centric industry that is producing the product. This results in an inherent bias in the product towards the male point of view. Nowhere is it clearer than this dating app: whereas men want to see the widest variety of women, the women only care about those men who are somewhat local, who are congruent on interests, and who have a mutual interest in them. In fact, it restricts the profiles that you can see to those where there is a mutual match of criteria. This is a clear example of what a different perspective can bring, and why that perspective is so important.

Act II: Wearing the Hijab. The second was an article in the Washington Post, which was subsequently echoed by other outlets such as NPR. The article looked at the recent movement to support Muslim women by wearing head scarves as a show of solidarity. The problem? No one asked Muslim women what they thought about this. Modern Muslim women haven’t adopted the headscarf out of choice or even out of religious reasons; it has been forced upon them by the male-dominated atmosphere of Islam. They would prefer an approach that actually encouraged Islam to liberalize its attitude towards woman, instead of reminding them of their second class citizen status. It is as if society said they wanted to support Jews by dressing in long black frock coats, growing long beards, and wearing tzittzit and kippot. So where did the headscarf notion come from? People who did not understand the Islamic culture, but “meant well.”

Act III: The Theatre. Broadway Bullet, Episode 608, was specifically focused on women’s voices and diversity in the theatre. Again, this is an issue I’ve brought up many a times — as recent as last week, in fact. In order to draw audiences to the theatre, we need to have diversity in the writing of the shows. We need diversity in the casting so that what is on stage reflects what is (or what should be) in the audience. We need diversity in the back and front of house production and creative positions as well. This diversity ensures we hear the voices we need to hear. But far too often, theatre go for what is safe, and that is shows often by white men aimed towards the white mindset.

Post-Logue. These are just three examples, and show why diversity is so important, and is so much more than tokenism. It is a change of attitude, a desire to bring not only diverse people but diverse viewpoints to issues. These articles — and it is emphasized in the Startup Podcast — show how these diverse viewpoints can improve the end product, often by coming at issues from a very different place and experience.

P.S.: You’re probably wondering why I chose the userpic. Two Gentlemen of Verona — at least the  musical version from the New York Shakespeare Festival — was one of the first productions that emphasized diversity and color-blind casting. It wasn’t a bunch of white men spouting Shakespeare.

P.P.S.: So what podcasts do I listen to? Here’s the current subscription list: The Allusionist, BackStory, Broadway Bullet, The Ensemblist, Freakonomics; Gastropod; Invisibilia; Irish and Celtic Music Podcast; LA Observed; Opening the Curtain; The Moth; NPR Technology; Planet Money; The Producers Perspective; Quirks and Quarks; Reply All; Science Friday; The Specialist; Startup; Theater People; This American Life; Wait, Wait, Dont’ Tell Me; The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour; and 99% Invisible. There are quite a few more I’d love to add to the list, but I just don’t have the time. [ETA: Over the weekend, I added Surprisingly Awesome and Answer Me This.]

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And take a tip from La Belle France: “Viva la difference!”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 22, 2015 @ 8:00 pm PDT

Observation StewLet’s end this week of news chum posts with song lyrics in the title with a very apropos song for a “news chum stew” post: Pete Seeger’s All Mixed Up. The point of the song is a timely lesson for all of those who profess hatred or refuse to permit in refuges:

There were no red-headed Irishmen
Before the Vikings landed in Ireland
How many Romans had dark curly hair
Before they brought slaves from Africa?
No race of man is completely pure,
Nor is anyone’s mind, that’s for sure
The winds mix the dust of every land,
And so will woman and man.

And now, on with the stew:


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Repent, and Ye Shall Be Saved

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 30, 2014 @ 11:41 am PDT

userpic=soapboxWhile eating my lunch today, I was reading the LA Times, and saw an article about how Donald Trump had purchased another golf course. This got me thinking about Donald Trump pulling a Donald Sterling, and how Sterling was banned for life from the NBA. This, in turn, got me thinking about our punative culture. For as much lip service as we give to religion, our attitude in the US seems to be: make a mistake once, and you’re branded for life.

Consider: Sterling clearly made racist remarks — wrong, misguided, and every kind of stupid. But the actions that were taken in response provide no ability to Sterling to ever recover — even if he was to sincerely learn from his mistake and change his ways, there’s no undoing the ban. Similarly, for those that commit any level of sex crimes — even if they were very young — there is no opportunity with the way our society brands and ostracizes such offenders that they could ever change their ways and be trusted. I’m sure you can find numerous additional examples: politicians are still held accountable for stupid statements and behaviors in their youth. We put many people in jail, and then brand them as “once-in-jail” for life. You can’t escape the permanent record.

All this from a society that is actually one of the most religious ones around. I know that both Judaism and Christianity  teach — in fact, they emphasize — the ability to sincerely repent from one’s wicked ways. They teach that one can move from leading a life of sin, and be reborn on a good and spiritual path. I believe the teachings are that if one is on that path sincerely, the past is the past. Yet for all the religious talk, we’re not doing that.

Was society always this way? I think not. Look at George Wallace. Once he was an ardant racist and segregationist. Later in his life, he recanted those early beliefs, and changed his ways (and was viewed differently).

I want to be clear that I’m not defending the behavior of Sterling or sex offenders. Rather, I’m raising the question of repentance: can one truly repent in front of society (and, if one believes, in front of God), what is the motivation for repentance if society refuses to accept it, and whether we can be as religion-centered as we claim if we eschew the notion of repentance in practice?

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Saturday Stew: Clearing out the Groupatwos before Pesach

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 12, 2014 @ 9:18 am PDT

Observation StewIn the Talmud, there is a learned Rabbi who opines that groupatwos are to be considered Chametz during Passover. Luckily, this week was so busy I accumulated a bunch of groupatwos. So let’s get that feather and that candle and get them out of the links list before Passover starts Monday night:


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Seminal Points: The ABCs

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jul 18, 2013 @ 5:30 pm PDT

userpic=cyborgToday’s collection of news chum all fits in the categories of stories related to seminal inventions or time points:


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