|Anyone who votes for a Republican is either an idiot, or in on the con job.|
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Sunday, December 15, 2019
Friday, December 6, 2019
Thursday, December 5, 2019
I find it amusing that the other world leaders are actually laughing out loud at the so-called president of the United States. That should help remind Donald Trump that he’s actually filth.
Of course, Trump has always secretly known he's nothing, emptiness, really just filth. That's the impetus for his ludicrous grandiosity and constant lies. It's so transparently a desperate attempt at psychological compensation.
Since I first became aware of Donald Trump decades ago, I recognized him as merely a pitifully damaged human being, nothing more. The fact that so much of his damage is self-inflicted merely makes his situation — and now, by extension, ours — that much more tragic and stupid.
Trump has never interested me, and he still doesn’t.
What interests me very much is finding out exactly how a purportedly democratic political system erodes to the point of putting something like Trump in charge.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Yesterday, I noticed something odd.
A friend had posted detailed Democratic poll data and left out Bernie Sanders, who was in second place. I added that information, and he informed me that his page was a "No-Sanders Zone." I remarked that his post — which left out the second-place winner of the poll — was intellectually dishonest. He unfriended me.
You know, Hillary Clinton was showered with corporate millions to run TWO presidential campaigns, and lost both times. Bernie Sanders didn't do that to her, and this lingering hissy-fit bitterness from some of her supporters is childish.
By the way, the person I'm talking about is a librarian. A librarian who censors relevant public information in a fit of political pique.
Monday, November 25, 2019
“Most of the time we are inside our own ego and completely identified with it. We believe that we know who we are. We are the one who is having all these reactions to everything around us. The ‘I’ that gets offended, upset, angered, resentful. The one whose feelings get hurt. The one who feels threatened or jealous or, conversely, pleased with oneself, the holier-than-thou one, or the superior one. That’s all our ego and it is possible, by appointing one ‘I’ as an observer, to step away from all that, and that first step is huge. Once you practice that step over and over, and see yourself as you are in reaction, that very seeing, without judgment or name-calling, just plain seeing, is the beginning.”
— Ellen Burstyn
|Everybody saw what Trump was before the election, when he mocked the disabled reporter and when his boasting about sexual assault become public. His constant lies and serial bankruptcies were old news.|
Friday, November 22, 2019
|I contend that the primary problem with the American system right now is the complicity and corruption of the corporate news media, which lets the right-wing arsonists burn what they like without ever sounding the alarm.|
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Friday, October 25, 2019
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Monday, October 21, 2019
Saturday, September 28, 2019
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Hooray for “centrism.”
Yes, when you have a difference of opinion, the only proper thing to do is not to inquire about which is right, but always go right down the middle.
You know, like Solomon and that baby.
In 2019, the greatest political threat we face isn’t “extremism,” whatever that is. No, it’s a “centrism” that turns out to have been designed to coddle and enable a fascist outcome — a yellow line “right down the middle” that insistently bears right.
The late and unlamented Washington Post hack David Broder inadvertently contributed another name for this phenomenon: “Broderism.” That’s the worship of bipartisanship for its own sake, combined with a fake “pox on both their houses” attitude.
The main goal of the Broderists was always the establishment of a permanent ruling class of Washington insiders, our betters who know better. It is their rough agenda that is sold as “centrism” even when it has no actual relationship with the political center in a meaningful way.
“Centrism” always presumes itself to be framed by two equally defensible or indefensible positions. That is not the case in reality. That is an unwarranted assumption.
It’s the belief that it all sides are equal and must compromise at all times, regardless of the final outcome or the level of understanding or intelligence presented by each side.
The problem is that “pragmatic” “middle-of-the-roadism” or “centrism” is, by nature, completely unprincipled. What’s the “centrist” policy on torture? Causing only moderate agony to helpless prisoners? What’s the “centrist” stance on starting unjustified wars? Only every other one?
“Centrism” isn’t a philosophy. It’s just an angle — or a cop-out.
And those examples aren’t merely academic. During Bush and Cheney’s Iraq war, which was based entirely on lies applauded by the “centrists,” many self-described “centrists” actually accepted the use of “moderate, centrist” torture like water-boarding. And that didn’t violate “centrist” principles, because there aren’t any “centrist principles.” Positioning is not principle.
Case in point: before he was banished from the warm, nurturing media spotlight for his sexual transgressions, “centrist journalist” Mark Halperin thought the walking mental vacancy known as Ben Carson was well-qualified to be president, but called President Obama a “dick.” And that tells you everything you need to know about the ongoing con job called “centrism.”
If you stop halfway between left and right, you will not find the home of truth. That’s the address of cowardice and intellectual laziness. Many people take a wrong turn and get lost right around there.
For example, the “centrist” Joe Biden “reached across the aisle” to be a cheerleader for a war that murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. He “reached across the aisle” to shill for a bankruptcy bill that enslaved America’s students in permanent debt. He “reached across the aisle” to sign on to Wall Street deregulation that crashed the world economy less than a decade after it was passed. He “reached across the aisle” to oppose busing to achieve racial equality. He “reached across the aisle” to help his Republican pals slap down Anita Hill.
Yes, Biden is a “centrist” — meaning he CALLS himself a Democrat while he actually votes for the worst policies of the Republicans.
It’s the GOP-accommodating, cozy-cute “across-the-aisle centrists” like Biden who, by offering no opposition to the Republican Party’s steady, decades-long march toward fascism, led us by the nose to the election of 2016, when the Mango Mussolini took over.
As Shane Ryan observed, “There's already a Republican party. You cannot out-flank these people from the right. If there’s a mantra the left should internalize, it's this: Republicans beat centrist Democrats. Always. And the crazy thing is, moderation never saves the Democratic candidate from being portrayed as America’s answer to Che Guevara.”
Democrats have long taken a weak, cowardly, bullshitty and corrupt “we’re all men of good will” approach. And gotten railroaded by Republican know-nothings and drowned out by GOP propaganda on Fox News and talk radio.
If only someone had thought to politely disagree with Benito Mussolini. I’m sure he would have realized how wrong he was, and apologized.
I think many “centrist” Democrats are, in fact, satisfied with the scraps that fall from the medieval orgies of gluttony at the Republican buffet table. Call it the Rahm Emanuel Diet Plan.
Long ago, the Republicans observed that the Democratic Party politicians like Biden were too corrupted, cowardly, confused and completely compromised to fight to protect or even rally their own political base. So that’s a green light for the GOP to destroy the Democrats’ political base, and the American middle class right along with it.
According to “centrists” in the U.S., what the U.K. and Canada have — universal health care — is an “extremist” position. It’s sheer Bernie Sanders whack-a-doodle stuff. According to the political philosophy of “centrism,” universal health care is wrong, right? Either that, or “centrism” is in fact a meaningless term.
“The financial crisis and the current inequality we face discredits the neoliberal ideology of the past 30 years,” observed Conor Lynch. “Centrism tends to be promoted as pragmatism, and the only way to win national elections. This may have been true in 1992, but today it is false. Centrism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a strategy for corporatism, to stop progress with a slogan of practicality. But giving in to the crony-capitalist status quo is not a practical move for the middle class, just the one percent.”
Although Social Security is paid for by a dedicated payroll tax, the “centrists” have long itched to slash and “privatize” the program, along with Medicare.
“Cutting these programs is probably the single highest priority of the tiny centrist elite, and it has been for years, excepting the usual run-ups to our various wars,” noted Alex Pareene. “Part of the elaborate theater of Performing Seriousness in Washington is claiming that ‘everyone agrees’ that the cuts are urgent and necessary, while also bemoaning that no politicians are ‘brave’ enough to support them.”
I once saw a bumper sticker that nailed the “centrists” down tight: “You know what would probably fix everything? Some more tax cuts for the rich.”
As for the effectiveness of “centrism,” Judith Watson observed, “We went high and they stole a Supreme Court seat, installed a corrupt president and now put children in cages. I don’t think it worked.”
My friend Jim Hampton points out that “centrists” are, essentially, the mayor of Amity Island.
“I always think of ’70s Irwin Allen disaster movies when I think of centrists,” Hampton said. “They’re the ones trying to calm everyone down as the disaster is destroying everything all around and closing in. Then there’s that one explosion or crack in the earth or shifting of the sinking ship that wakes them up and sends them rushing for the escape route. But as in the movie, it’s always too late.”
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Monday, September 9, 2019
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Friday, August 23, 2019
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Monday, August 19, 2019
By Dan Hagen
You wouldn’t expect much to happen in a story about Lutheran lady cooks in some small-town 1960s church — and it doesn’t.
But I suppose that’s the secret of the success of Church Basement Ladies, a musical directed by Therese S. Kincade now closing out the 2019 summer season at Sullivan’s Little Theatre.
It’s part of that increasingly popular trend that might be called “innocuous theatre,” of which the 1985 musical Nunsense is the prime example. An audience can rest assured that not one of its comfortable assumptions will be challenged in these shows, and many audiences find them greatly enjoyable for that very reason.
But the nuns in Nunsense actually, accidentally and rather cheerfully killed a bunch of people, as you may recall (Sister Julia, Child of God, offed 52 poor souls with her tainted vichyssoise). Lutherans would never get up to anything so showy, however.
When the dramatic era of a show includes the year 1968, you know it’s going to be at least in part about “change,” because 1968 was an American watershed in terms of civil rights, war-making, trust in government, you name it.
What’s surprising about Church Basement Ladies is that while tide and time are referenced here, they never actually manage to wash ashore in the tiny Minnesota town where the story is set. The musical is finally about a fear of change that turns out to be completely unfounded (beyond the regrettable replacement of the black hymnals for red ones, of course).
The naturalistic set by Michael Mason works well, with its period fridge, ovens and freezer, and a prominently displayed cookbook called The Joy of Butter. The cabinets are all a homey color my friend Bart Rettberg calls “country blue.”
Into this slice of vintage Americana slides a tight cast of five whose talent overtakes the material without breaking a sweat.
The minister is Rory Dunn, the ingénue is Brittany Ambler, her mom is Equity actress Heather J. Beck, their funny friend is Bonner Church (who must enjoy sharing her name with the show) and the beneficent battleaxe Mrs. Lars (Vivian) Snustad is played by Equity actress April Woodall.
The plot, thin at best, gets pulled like taffy before a particularly implausible scene wraps up the show. In fact, having run out of funny things to say about Lutherans per se, the show falls back on a number comparing Lutherans to Catholics (who are, let’s face it, funnier).
But forget all that. The comedy here is at its best when it’s at its broadest, a Carol Burnett skit level of funny. And that makes the audience roar with a satisfactory frequency.
The ladies warm up with a song about the glorious blandness of their cuisine, Pale Food Polka (“People might take offense if your table’s too intense… Keep it light! Keep it gray! Keep paprika far away!”). But they really hit their stride with a big band-type number spearheaded by Beck being brassy, Get Down to Business (“Rattle the roaster! Bang on the bowls! Tell ’em the Tupperware’s set at a supper where we can redeem some hungry souls!).
Ambler shines in a number about the change that never happens, Sing a New Song. Church wows ’em with a song about menopause, My Own Personal Island, although that medical term is never used (And “Fargo” is rhymed with “Key Largo”). Church also has a darkly funny running bit about her husband’s slow dismemberment in farm accidents.
But I confess that that old stick in the Minnesota spring mud Woodall is my favorite in this production. Imagine Thelma Ritter strutting her stuff in a chorus line, and you’ve got something of the effect.
Woodall’s best number — and the funniest in the show, for me — is The Cities, her baleful warning about those Sodoms and Gomorrahs of the Midwest, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Kincade has conjured herself another crowd pleaser here.
Incidental Intelligence: This musical, which premiered in 2005, has a book by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke and music and lyrics by Drew Jansen. The show was inspired by the 1997 book Growing Up Lutheran, written by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson.
The musical has spawned no less than six sequels: Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping; Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas; The Church Basement Ladies in A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement; The Church Basement Ladies in The Last (Potluck) Supper; The Church Basement Ladies in Rise Up, O Men and The Church Basement Ladies in You Smell Barn (which premiered last year).
This production has costuming by Pippen Calame, lighting by Noel Rennerfeldt, musical direction by Kevin Long and choreography by Mandy Modic. It runs through Aug. 25.
Saturday, August 17, 2019
Friday, August 16, 2019
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Monday, August 12, 2019
Open-carry ammosexual right-wing thugs parading around everywhere. Militarized police. Universal police-state surveillance combined with increasing government secrecy. For-profit prisons eager to lock people up. Unjustified wars. Unpunished Wall Street crimes. Torture. Propaganda channels branded as “news.” Unlimited corporate power that has the courts and the lawmakers in its oily grasp. I can understand people being afraid to face what all that adds up to, but closing your eyes won’t stop the boot from coming right down on your face, will it?
Monday, August 5, 2019
Everybody knows the secret
They all know what their life should be
And they move like a river
Everybody knows except for me…
— Breeze Off the River
By Dan Hagen
This production opens with a Chippendales performance by the agreeable Lars Kristian Hafell — that alone is enough to put the audience in a pretty sunny disposition for the balance of the show.
Imagine Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland saying, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show — with male strippers!” That’s clearly one source of inspiration for The Full Monty, but the show also swims in darker cultural currents than MGM musicals ever explored.
|Corey John Hafner in “The Full Monty.”|
Nearly a decade ago, I wrote, “If there’s a 20th century story that captures the dampened spirit of 21st century America in song, it’s probably The Full Monty, the musical now playing at the Little Theatre.
“Based on the 1997 British comedy film, it’s about the psychological ramifications of unemployment, and a regular guy from Buffalo named Jerry who is trying to keep his spirits buoyed in a world that seems determined — with a cold, corporate, industrial-strength efficiency — to grind him right down to a fine powder and scatter him to the four winds.”
Times do change, and that aforementioned American spirit feels even soggier. The men’s seething sense of entitlement to good union jobs seems almost quaint now, two decades on into the cold indifference of the “gig economy,” with its disposable attitude toward labor.
You find yourself thinking that it’s too bad American men’s resulting rage couldn’t actually be bled off into some sexy, self-liberating dance performance. Instead, it gets channeled into the election campaign of Donald Trump.
This production is ably directed and choreographed by Jordan Cyphert, and benefits from the return of musicians in the pit (who went missing for Newsies). A key scene is played in a removable restroom with realistic graffiti on the walls — well done, scenic designer Jonathan Sabo.
John McAvaney is Jerry’s fat, funny and plaintive pal Dave, a role he has played before and can sell with ease. His flat, emphatic delivery of comedy lines is a crowd-pleaser.
Jerry is Trevor Vanderzee, the actor who perfectly embodied Curly in this season’s Oklahoma. Now he no longer expects beautiful mornings, only bleak ones.
Mandy Modic, playing Jerry’s estranged wife Pam, elevates the proceedings another notch with her naturalistic performance, convincingly showing us that she cares deeply about Jerry but is fed up with his self-pity and wants to see him save himself. No lamebrain fairy-tale romance this.
To explore the benefits of killing oneself in song, McAvaney and Vanderzee team up with none other than the Little Theatre’s executive producer, John Stephens. As the prissy, depressed mama’s boy Malcolm, Stephens adopts an amusing and convincing voice completely unlike his own.
The trio’s number, about helpfully crushing a friend’s head with a Big Ass Rock, is always one of my favorites. With this and Oklahoma, Vanderzee always seems to be singing people into suicide this summer.
The show’s best dance number, Big Black Man, is supplied by Jaimar Brown as Horse. Although he’s credibly aged by makeup, Brown’s limber locomotion betrays his show-stopping youth and stamina.
Kevin Sosamon, playing Jerry’s son Nathan, works that same acting trick in reverse. He’s actually quite young, but seems older because his character is in certain ways more mature than his own father.
I’ve seen Marty Harbaugh many times on the Little Theatre stage, but never better than in this. His awkward, halting attempt at a striptease manages to be both humorous and poignant in the same moment.
Actor Nicholas Carroll, who played Jud Fry so perfectly in Oklahoma, is effective here in the nervously restrained role of Harold, the executive who’s afraid to tell his free-spending wife that he, too, has gotten the proverbial ax. Equity actress Heather J. Beck does a quick star turn as his wife, the brassy belt-it-out lady who somewhat inexplicably adores her Life With Harold.
I see one of my favorite Little Theatre actors, Corey John Hafner, has gone Equity. Congrats. Here, he’s Ethan, a guy who gamely keeps trying to run up walls like Donald O’Connor in Singin' in the Rain and who offers the men’s strip show his, erm, “hidden assets.”
The show reaches its full Glory when … I wonder how many times reviewers have used that pun? But it’s true.
Equity actor Glory Kissel pegs the feel-good meter with her portrayal of the elderly fireball Jeanette Burmeister, a never-say-die Vegas trouper who shows up to rehearse the men. It’s a role she’s played before, always irrepressibly. The audience loses some of the words in her big song, but Kissel dominates all her scenes with her uninhibited, Carol Burnett-like clownishness.
She belts out, “I've played for hoofers who can't hoof. I've played for tone-deaf singers. And once, when I insulted Frank, I played with broken fingers.”
This musical touches on interesting ideas about emasculation and self-worth that it can’t really stop to explore. But it gets points merely for raising them in the context of such audience-alluring salacious fun.
“Never allow yourself to be made a victim,” the playwright Harvey Fierstein once said. “Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
In The Full Monty, Jerry, Dave and the rest of the boys learn just what he meant.
Incidental intelligence: The Full Monty runs through Aug. 11. For tickets, call The Little Theatre On The Square Box Office at 217-728-7375.
Musical direction is by Kevin Long, with lighting design by Zach Pizza.
The talented cast includes Kate Turner, Brittany Ambler, Bonner Church, Emily Bacino Althaus, Tyler Pirrung and James Garrett Hill.