The GOP's war on science gets worse, writes Elizabeth Kolbert, noting that the House GOP cut $300 million from NASA's budget for earth sciences (including climate) on the childish old theory that ignoring a problem will make it go away.
That same week The New Yorker, for which Kolbert writes, came up with an even wittier version of the same basic argument:
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
James Baldwin wasn't thinking of climate when he wrote that, but if you think about it, isn't that the logic of climate policy efforts today?
Isn't that the hope, the idea that drives our science -- to win the public over with the truth?
And perhaps that's why it's not an easy sell, either. It's a confronting, a look in our eye.
To me it's a tribute to Baldwin's "piercing honesty," that his formulation takes on new life as it ranges across time and space. To Jose Antonio Vargas, who wrote about James Baldwin in a spectacular essay for the Los Angeles Times, it's as if Baldwin's words saved his life.
It's absolutely fascinating, "literary detection" as The Guardian says. What I like about it is that without condemnation it unearths the psychological mechanism by which Williams created his characters out of himself and projected on to others (his characters). It's not exactly pretty, but it's powerful. Lahr admires Williams' work passionately, but can dissect his method dispassionately.
What [Williams] was, as he said, was a hysteric. And performance is part of what a hysteric does. They perform their wound and project it onto other people. And there is that brilliant line in Sweet Bird of Youth where the Princess says, “I have this thing like a sculpture almost heroic that I can unveil.” And that’s it. That is what the negotiation is, both as an artist and as an ordinary citizen if you’re a hysteric. You are projecting your inner life into others and watching and enjoying their response, and controlling their response with your act. So the performative thing was always a part of Williams’s life.
Remember that essay he wrote about the sidewalk histrionics of a little girl? Dressing up, saying, “look at me, look at me.” I think he calls it “Sidewalk Theatrics” [actually, “Person-to-Person”]. It’s in his collected essays. And that in a cartoonish way is what a performer does. He is drawing attention to himself. He has a need for that attention. That’s part of the DNA of an entertainer.
Speaking of wounds, here's a pic of Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, a character based on Pancho Rodriguez, a wounded man in his own right. Would love to see those Barrios' plays --
As noted here a week or so ago, Ronald Reagan's close friend and confidant George Shultz published an op-ed declaring that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he would take action to restrain climate change. Along similiar lines, this week Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon published a tough warning about drought and California that began with a great/horrifying lead:
“The heart of the West is a desert, unqualified and absolute,” wrote prescient 20th century Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb. Nearly six decades later, the desert is returning to claim its own.
Cannon surveys the parched state, nodding at desalination, frowning at the exploitation of deep aquifers containing the water of thousands of years of rainfall, and ultimately concluding that California farmers are living "in a dream land"...and that the desert is coming back.
He didn't even mention the pictures of the dry Sierra Nevadas, as seen from satellites or on Gov. Brown's snow survey, or in charts. It's a scene depicted as amusingly as possible by Steve Breen:
Wenju Cai and colleagues report that increased land warming relative to the ocean and an increased frequency of extreme El Niño events, are setting the scene for these events every 13 years compared with a past frequency of one every 23 years. They use a collection of global climate models, selected for their ability to simulate extreme La Niña events, to investigate how the frequency of those events will change with global warming. The authors find that extreme La Niña events will increase in frequency and that approximately 75% of this increase will occur immediately following an extreme El Niño event. The implication of this is that weather patterns will switch between extremes of wet and dry.
Kind of like now, only more violently. What is the sound of a drought?
Have we not changed enough? Do we not get it? Need we move from accepting the science to taking action?
But surely it would help if we could connect emotionally to the struggle to make a change. Change is hard. Countless allusions and gestures in dumb science-fiction/action films, no matter how huge, to climate and crisis don't seem to help. In truth, it's a tough story to tell well.
Here's a dance about it, staged most appropriately at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, by choreographer Karen Armitage. She has known the ecologist Paul Ehrlich of Stanford for decades, and has worked with his words in On the Nature of Things to express, as she said, that "the fact of global warming gives me dismay." She goes on to argue that dance, because it works through the body, without words, might be better equipped to tell this difficult story than other forms.
The big winner this week in theater awards for 2014 in Los Angeles was a Russian playwright who's been dead for over a century.
Well, not exactly, but writer Aaron Posner's brilliantly free adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull did win the L.A. Drama Critics Circle awards for best ensemble, direction, and writing. It's just spectacular, and won countless raves from critics, but maybe the best "review" is an inspired look at Chekhov and his six major characters, in their (imagined) words, from writer Adam Silver in the Examiner,
Anton Chekov: One day I got shat on by a seagull. I f**king said "Stupid f**king bird" and murdered a gull in a play.
Aaron Posner: One day I was reading Chekov. I f**king decided to adapt "The Seagull" into a comedy where people would actually laugh and could use words that people couldn't use on stage in a pre-George Carlin 1895. My life isn't bound by tradition. I could change the names of the characters as you'll see below.
Emma Arkadiana is first and foremost a famous actress: One day I got old. I f**king hate anything that reveals my age. My life is so desperate. I could forgive my lover's many infidelities as long as they are with talentless wanna-bes.
Conrad Arkadina, the twenty-something son of famous actress Emma Arkadina, the main character: One day I was too old for my wanna-be forever young mother. I f**king became an albatross dragging my mother into middle-age. My life is so depressing I could kill myself, twice.
Dr. Eugene Sorn, the older or younger brother of Emma Arkadina, is alone in life: One day, after years of basking in reflective adulation, I was too old to be Emma's brother. I f**king no longer lived in her shadow but threatened to darken her days. My life is empty. I could fade into anonymity.
Doyle Trigorin is talented enough to be a golden boy facing his mid-life crisis with assorted short-lived liaisons with young untalented ladies: My life is so boring I could use some melodrama and adulation-laced sex. One day I could no longer stand Nina's clinging talentless body. I f**king needed to be with someone who actually understood artistry and was too old to leave me.
Nina Zachery the childhood friend and beloved of Conrad wants to be an actress like Emma: My life is messed up. I could act regretful if I could act at all. One day I ran away with the lover of my neighbor and had a baby who died prematurely. One day I will be too old to be eye candy on stage. I f**king made my unhappiness.
Mash Amberson works for the Arkadinas: My life is depressing I could dress in black every day because I'm in mourning for my life and it makes me look thinner. One day I could no longer wait for Conrad to return my love so I f**king settled for dependable Dev."
Dev Dylan longs for Mash's love: My life is so humble, I could eat pie. One day I got married to the one I loved. I f**king am the only one with a happy ending.
One day I went to the Theatre@Boston Court to see "Stupid F**king Bird," an adaptation of Anton Chekov's curious comedy "The Seagull." I f**king finally laughed out loud and found the comedy in this classic, that now includes references to Cirque du Soleil and smoothies. This is in large part due to Michael Michetti's crisp direction. In comedy, timing is everything and this ensemble cast gets is right with every nod, wink, stare and pregnant pause. Posner's adaptation doesn't just tweak by adding in some modern day references and plenty of swear words and punch up the sexual content with full frontal nudity--male and female, it also breaks the fourth wall and plunges into the potentially dangerous territory of asking for audience commentary, taking time for small impromptu, unscripted conversations.
And yes, let me say It's just great -- more than great, it's unforgettable. Hope to see it again some day, though I doubt it could possibly be better produced than it was at the Theater@BostonCourt in Pasadena.
Here's a picture that gives some idea of its stand and deliver nature -- a little: