Friday, March 17, 2017

An Article about an Article

As regular readers of my blog know, I like to do theatre reviews, with a particular focus on the productions of one of the best regional theatres in the country, Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.  My writing drew the attention of a local newspaper, the Palms West Monthly, updated daily on line and published in print form once a month.  The paper’s very enthusiastic and skilled publisher, Rob Harris, asked whether he could reprint my reviews and then, a new job for me, be his occasional reporter for news articles on upcoming productions.  Gulp, a paying job, my first since retiring (except for a couple of piano gigs) but with that goes responsibility and, worse, length restrictions on articles I write for the paper.

My first effort as a Jimmy Olsen cub reporter involved interviewing certain members of the cast and the director of Dramaworks’ forthcoming production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.  This was an energizing experience, giving me more insight into the play which I had already read.  But writing a news article is very different than reviewing, so I came home with pages and pages of nearly illegible (curse of being left-handed) notes, a 1,000 word restriction, and sat down and promptly cranked out a 1,600 word article.  It seemed impossible to cut out 600 words, all hard earned by me, not to mention the professionals at Dramaworks who had given their time.  How could I cut anything that they said, not to mention my own “precious” words?  These words were my friends and to retrieve them after sending them out to do their job was agonizing.

Shape up, I said! My wife Ann took a scalpel to it as well in helping me edit and by yesterday, after several passes at the article, each effort winnowing about 100 words, I finally got it down to a little more than 1,000 words and thought that, surely, Rob would cut me a little slack, so I submitted my article.  Within hours (he is a fast worker) he came back to me with his version, almost word for word what I wrote except the guillotiner-in-chief had severed about another 100 or so words for space considerations.  Ironically, those he left on the cutting room floor were the next set of cuts I would have made if pressed.  In making those deletions he also tightened the article quite a bit.  So, I was pleased with the results which can be read here.

Sometime after the opening of the play on March 31 I’ll be writing a review but as that will be published in my blog, no length restrictions!  I’m thankful for that as Arcadia will probably require lots of thought and many of my friends, words.  I will not abandon you this time!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, An Oasis of Beauty

Hidden away on a small street in West Palm Beach is the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.  If the name sounds familiar it’s because her husband, Ralph Norton, founded the Norton Museum of Art.  She initially came to Florida to teach art and met Norton at his Art School.  The Museum was their home during their marriage.  The Norton House is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is located at 253 Barcelona Road in West Palm Beach.  It’s right on the Intracoastal with a distant view of Mar-a-Lago across the waterway.  There is no parking lot.  One just parks on the street.  The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is a remarkable place to visit with two plus acres of gardens and indoor and outdoor sculptures.

Who knew?  My own Ann was there originally 15 or 16 years ago but just recently escorted visitors from Connecticut there and was blown away by the current exhibition.  So of course she was determined to take me as well as very dear friends, Art and Sydelle, who we met on our first Caribbean cruise 17 years ago.  We had lunch and drove there last weekend.

 Presently there are two special exhibits in addition to the omnipresent Ann Norton sculpture pieces:  The Lost Bird Project, black bronze sculptures of extinct birds by Todd McGrain, objects of art which are meant to be touched, stroked, and the birds remembered.  They range from small sculptures to massive ones for the outdoors.  The other special exhibit is the unforgettable ‘Rising’ The Mystical World of Sophie Ryder, consisting of “Hares and Minotaurs, strange amorphous figures fashioned in wire and bronze, some with human attributes are characters beyond human form.”  These are large outdoor pieces, many of which needed cranes to be put in place.  It is spectacular to walk among them, as are some of Ann Norton’s own works, permanently on display.

It’s one of those places that many locals are not even aware exists, but definitely should be visited. 
These are just some photographs of our own visit but check out their web site for more information.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Play the Game

Watching some of the outstanding games from the World Baseball Classic it suddenly hit me.  Here is a metaphor for the real world, not the fake one we are being dragged into, kicking and screaming.  Make America Great again?  If the WBC doesn’t demonstrate what the REAL world is like because of this country’s greatness (well, up until now), then nothing will.  Here is THE AMERICAN PASTIME which has been adopted throughout the world and not on a half-hearted basis, but with the commitment and zeal that some would have you believe is a uniquely American trait.  Just look at the nations represented in addition to the United States: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.  Yes, most of the players are those already in the US Major or Minor leagues, but it shows the diversity of what baseball has become, with implications for world economics as well.  The nationalistic agenda of the present administration not only denies this reality, it also unrealistically seeks a time that has long passed.  We will never see that world again.  Life progresses.  One needs to adapt and not seek refuge in a past before Jackie Robinson stepped up to the plate at Ebbets Field.

And look at the enthusiasm the WBC has generated.  This is truly a world series.  I think the game between the Dominican Republic and Colombia, with Jose Bautista throwing out Oscar Mercado by a hair at home plate, is one of the best games and plays I've ever seen:
If he had scored, Colombia would have won the game, but the favored Dominican Republic finally won in an extra-inning game by a large score.  The DR beat the US the night before, US blowing a five run lead.  We are merely competitors at our own game.

What also struck me about the DR – Colombia game is that every one of the 37,000 seats in the Miami Marlins stadium was occupied.  Contrast that to a typical Marlin’s ML game which would have only about a little more than half of that.  It is no surprise given the large Spanish population in the area.  But that is the point.  We are a multinational country now.  We need to embrace it.  Not run from it.  And Baseball, as well as the capitalist forces of the world economy, is of our own making.  No doubt, I will root, root, root for the home team (US of A) and if they lose it will be a shame, but we have to play the game. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

And Now a Word from a Guest

There used to be a day when if I saw anything interesting in a newspaper I’d cut it out or circle it for my wife.  As the printed venue has given way to the online world, I (like everyone else) now forward the links, sometimes with my comments.  One particular piece from The New York Times, Charles Blow’s A Ticket to Hell, merited such treatment. 

Ann in turn forwarded it to friends who coincidentally we saw for dinner a couple of nights ago.  Our friend, Joyce, forwarded it to her daughter, Terri, who within a couple of hours wrote an email response to her mother.  As I drove home, Ann read me her email and I said that it was remarkable she took the time to write, off the cuff, such a cogent piece.  It’s the kind of letter you used to see in “Letters to the Editor” column (when they permitted one of such length; nowadays, they just like brief, attention-getting ones).  One of the nice things about writing this blog, is there are neither length nor subject restraints.

But, first, a few comments regarding Trump & Co.:  we have seen the enemy and they are us.  We have invited this creature into our lives, laying the groundwork with social media conspiracy theories and a culture that prizes 24 x 7 streaming of mindless reality “shows” and movies dominated by computerized special effects and violence.  In our topsy-turvy world, unreality has become reality.  Talking about impeachment is pretty serious stuff.  I think it will come down to that over a black swan event which is still to rear its head.  After all, Trump has abandoned all moral authority which comes with the office, but that in itself is not impeachable.  However, not having that authority is going to leave us vulnerable to the very things the Presidency is supposed to protect the American people from, not to mention, historically, the world. 

When will an impeachable offense take place?  Perhaps the Russian connection will be substantially proven or, worse, North Korea launches a nuclear weapon while Washington is still embroiled in Trump/Bannon crazy making.  But, then what?  We still have a Twilight Zone world of our own making and a democracy that is a shell of its former self.  No answers here; we are dependent on our Congress so we better elect the right people, and I’m not talking about Democrat vs. Republican, but about people of principle, no matter what their political party.  Please, no reality TV people need apply.

This brings me back to Terri’s impassioned email.  The foregoing does not mean to distract from its heartfelt arguments.  So as a “guest piece” I reprint it below:

Here's my take if you care to read it... (just venting!):

The big question is, will these cowards in Congress wake up and realize that they are being had, just like the people who voted this unstable, increasingly paranoid megalomaniac into the highest office in the world? Will they do what they should to stop him?

Day by day, the big picture emerges: the pathological lying to the American people, the dark, dangerous and unsettling Russia connections, the mass firings of career State Dept. diplomats (who we need now more than ever..), the "Friday Night Massacre" yesterday of 46 US attorneys, many of whom are in the middle of investigations of high level government corruption and misconduct, the dismantling of any trust in anything the FBI and CIA uncover (unless it benefits Trump), appointing a bevy of unqualified, inexperienced loyalists to head major governmental departments (don't get me started on that one...), decrying that everything is fake news (unless it benefits Trump) and the just plain making shit up! The list goes on and on....

Then there is the "Trump Whisperer" and Puppet-master, Steve Bannon - who is behind the all of the conspiracy theories that Trump has been espousing since the birther movement...who is a sick, anti-Semitic, white supremacist who is in the most dangerous and influential position he could ever wish to be in:  in the brain of the President of the United States of America!  (Can you say "Manchurian Candidate"?)

Trump and Co. are systematically destroying and decimating this country from the inside out, as well as the outside in. As C. Blow laid out, many helpless and sick people who depend on the subsidies of the ACA won't be able to get help with this new bill and many will literally die. No, ObamaCare isn't perfect, but it gave millions coverage who wouldn't have any, which is a big deal.  Our country's stability and our diplomatic efforts (for the most part) is what have kept the world safe and in check since WWI - and in 50 days, yes, 50 days (!) it is coming apart at the seams. Our allies are freaking out just as we are! Our security and alliances are theirs, too. Secretary of State Tillerson didn't even know that the President of Mexico was in town meeting with Trump last week! - he is keeping everyone but his inner circle involved and no one is able to watch or report on him as he goes about his complete takeover of our government. How are we allowing this to happen?

Forget about Isis! The real and imminent threat is not Isis - It is Trump, and I am not being hyperbolic. Statistically speaking, the chances are much greater that Trump will do excessively more profound damage to our country and even the world order than Isis. Both inside and outside. We need him removed and impeached.

I can't believe I am saying this, but  - the answer is that more republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have broken with the party to speak out, pretty surprisingly need to have some courage and actually stand up to this bully - for the sake of our republic.  Where are all the others? Are they really thinking he will give them what they want if they go along with him? Cowards!

 Only the republicans can do this - they have to eat their own! They have the total majority for the moment and dems don't have much of a say, so the country will have to depend on these guys to do the right thing for ALL of us!

Let's just hope they do it, and do it soon. We will see who the real heroes are!