Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Subtle Code of Inequality in Children's Books:

Pigs in particular are substantially over-represented in subordinate jobs (those with low skill and no authority), where their overweight bodies and (judging from the plots of these books) congenital stupidity seems to "naturally" equip them for subservient jobs. Here, see this additional image from Scarry's book, showing construction work being performed by the above-mentioned swine.

In effect, Martin's point is that there is a hidden language or code inscribed in children's books, which teaches kids to view inequalities within the division of labor as a "natural" fact of life – that is, as a reflection of the inherent characteristics of the workers themselves. Young readers learn (without realizing it, of course) that some species-beings are simply better equipped to hold manual or service jobs, while other creatures ought to be professionals. Once this code is acquired by pre-school children, he suggests, it becomes exceedingly difficult to unlearn. As adults, then, we are already predisposed to accept the hierarchical, caste-based system of labor that characterizes the American workplace.

Monday, January 28, 2013

To Have Without Holding

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Marge Piercy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tom Williams writing at has dismissed the Chicago production of AGONY/ECSTASY there with this devastating paragraph:

Now, after Daisey apologized for the above, the revised script of Jobs now called “ethically made” version that Lance Baker referred to as “airtight and fact-checked a piece of journalism as you are likely to ever hear spoken in theater.” Well, if that is the case, why, with a simple Google search, was I to easily find several falsehoods?

I see two possibilities:

1) There are giant, gaping factual holes in a piece that has been refined for several years, fact checked by NPR, then retracted, which put it under a microscope, fact checked AGAIN by NPR under said microscope, then revised, re-fact checked for the new version, and then restaged in an environment where everyone knows will be fact checked again and again.

2) Mr. Williams isn't a very good fact checker.

There is a reason people don't just put things into Google to "fact check" them—because it doesn't do a very good job. Fact checking is an art and a science, and it's actually difficult to do with nuance and insight.

Here are the two facts that Mr. Williams believes are contested, and which he believes should throw the work into dispute:

"The population of Shenzhen, China is NOT 14 million but 10,357,938."

Thanks to his wonderful specificity, it's clear Mr. Williams went to the
Wikipedia page for Shenzhen, scrolled down and read the population number from the sidebar there. I suspect this is where his fact checking began and ended.

What he doesn't know is that there are actually a number of different sources you can look at for population data, especially in China. That same section of the show talks about the relative size of Shenzhen to other Chinese cities—depending on which definitions you use, that number also shifts a lot.

What we did is that since we were talking about Shenzhen's economic engine, I talked about the population of Shenzhen including the factory zones which I will be traveling to in the piece, much in the same way that Seattle, for example, has a city population of 620,778, but an urban population of 3,059,393 and a metro population of 3,500,026.

My number passed muster at NPR for the broadcast, where we went over its methodology. It was then gone over again with incredible detail for the retraction…and again, for the restaging.

It does open a great question about facts. For example, would Mr. Williams find it acceptable if the performer had said 10 million? What about 11 million? 10.5 million? Where would he have liked the line drawn? And why is Wikipedia definitive for him? Where did he construct his authority? Obviously he does not trust this performance…but the response he has is to reach for Wikipedia, and then without context trust that source.

I'm just asking. I think these are interesting questions.

His other issue is:

"…and a search of Foxconn (the Chinese factory making Apple products) reveals that 450.00 workers (estimated) work at Foxconn but they has 13 factories in nine Chinese cities plus factories in other countries."

It looks like he used the
Foxconn article on Wikipedia for this, from what I can tell from some of the sentence construction.

What's funny is this is wrong in a number of different ways. First, there's no point in the show where I state how many workers there are at Foxconn overall.

I do talk about how many workers are at the plant in Shenzhen where I met people at the gates and where Sun Danyoung died, and that was 430,000 at the time that I visited. This was fact checked by NPR, twice, as above, and then gone over in great detail repeatedly later.

Mr. Williams has conflated that number, which I think he misheard as 450,000, though technically he is saying that there are 450.00 workers at Foxconn. I won't take that seriously like some kind of fact checker, and I'll assume this is a typo. But that isn't even remotely the right number of workers at Foxconn—Foxconn is China's largest employer and has well over a million employees.

Perhaps sensing that he doesn't have much to stand on here, Mr. Williams says:

"These are among many questionable items found in the piece."

I wonder what those are? Perhaps Mr. Williams, if he finds the time, will do more Google searches and unearth more discoveries from Al Capone's vault.

I'm kidding a bit, but let's be clear: Mr. Williams is lying.

He doesn't have a list of "more questionable" items. He just wants to make sure he's puffed up his position, and he doesn't expect anyone to respond, so he's saying shit.

What's sad here is that this review could have been about the actual work Mr. Williams saw onstage. We have protocols in the theater for it—if a reviewer has questions about the factual truth of something in a piece of theater, they should contact the production and simply ask. That dialogue makes sense in the same way that a reviewer sometimes might inquire about a dramaturgical point about what they just saw, for which they often make the same request.

It's also interesting to look at this from a positivist angle. Fact checking is by nature reductive and negativist, and you never can tell what was done beyond what you see. Did Mr. Williams "check" many other facts, but find them acceptable? Did he read the New York Times stories spoken about in the work which affirm and reinforce the work being dramatically presented on stage?

We don't know.

Mr. Williams ends his piece by speaking of "mere storytelling", equates all theater that is about any subject in the world to documentary, and uses the words "distorts" and "propaganda" liberally.

If Mr. Williams is so taken with fact checking, I am hoping he will publish my response and respond. It would be interesting to see what he would actually think of the show if he was to actually review it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Lance Baker sticks with ‘ethical’ staging of ‘Jobs’ - Chicago Sun-Times:

Daisey and the show were discredited for a time.

Not for long, though. Daisey apologized for the misinformation, and replaced five minutes of the show with new material serving the same purpose. The New York Times reviewed the new version as “even more powerful, funny and engaging” and, since that time, more than 35 productions of the new show have been staged around the globe.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Sexy dresses that barely fit -

Sometimes, despite all the acceptance and gentle-eyed self-appraisal, you put on your best tight-as-you-dare dress to find — discouragingly, irrefutably — that when you walk, your rump looks like two hams rumbling in a sack. Here’s the mindful, radically accepting solution: Wear a fuller skirt, or surrender to Spanx. They make lovely, center-squeezing, cellulite-smoothing fishnet tights. Mind the metaphor: If you feel like you’re exploding in all kinds of uncomfortable directions, there’s a multibillion-dollar industry built around helping you hold it together. Just roll them on, get over yourself, and get to the party. The goal weight — and the water pills and the rice cakes and the Pilates class — will be there tomorrow. And the next day … and the next. Recapturing your ideal form doesn’t have to slide from the wish list. Acceptance is not the same as settling — it’s simply giving your impossible expectations the evening off. A cloud of hairspray, a red rose pinned into my bouffant, and 6-inch scarlet sequined pumps later, I was cruising through the casino looking like a one-woman prison riot.

I was the shrinking violet in this crowd, though. Satin, corsets, cleavage, high femme fabulosity, butch drag, and gender bending — everyone was bringing it like this was Prom Night of the Damned. The hairdos and hats were so big, the event organizers had to establish a height rule for the showroom. One girl wore a yellow dress with a tutu-skirt and a Swarovski-crystal-bedazzled rubber ducky on her head. We were the beautiful people not because we were so naturally blessed but because we put in the time.

After the contest ended and the winners were chosen, I retired to the casino’s T.G.I. Friday’s with the rest of the sparkly rabble and ate the world’s greasiest quesadilla while watching the merrymakers stream by on the way to the after-party. By the time I headed up to my room, it was 5 a.m. — 8 if we’re adjusting for time zones. I doffed my wig, scrubbed off my makeup, and lowered into bed, feeling satisfied and fully alive. In the burlesque world, it’s called “the glitter high.” I got it. Sometimes you just need to get into that full-femme battle rattle and ride the night down to its pathetic, wheezing last. The grave can wait and so, for that matter, can sleep. I woke three hours later, pupils pinned in the beam of Vegas morning sunlight that streamed through the cheap hotel blinds, totally alert and not ravenously hungry for the first time in months, reborn in the Temple of Fake.