Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guns and Jennifer Connelly

Those are the things that generate the most traffic around here. I have no illusions about my skills as a writer, thinker or commentator. It's T & A or the possibility of violence that will draw the crowds.

In fact, the post I wrote about a handgun ban a while ago still generates traffic and comments. I'm not sure what to make of that, since I don't think I'm all that far out with my stance. It's based on, as far as I can tell, reason, not emotion. I know there are factors I have not considered, but the purpose of a handgun is not something I approve of. Murder is not a good thing. It's one of the few Abrahamic principles I can get behind.

Guns are for killing things. Handguns are for killing people. They're one of those things, to borrow a phrase from Nicholas Cage in The Rock, that I wish we could uninvent. We can't, so limiting the availability is the best option. There are all kinds of weapons we already limit, and I don't see people clamouring for their right to own mustard or chlorine gas, vehicle mounted machine guns, or high explosives. These things are also designed for killing people, and we have decided as a society that killing people is generally wrong. So we don't let these things out into general circulation.

I'm not the only one to think this way, either. There are people who are pointing out that the wide availability of firearms does NOT make people safer. That dude who went nuts on the Greyhound bus only killed one guy. Possibly because God only told him to kill the one, but probably also because he had a knife, not a gun.

Alternet posted a relevant story today, as well:

The Gun Lobby Asks You to Please Lay Off the Mass Killings While It's
Trying to Influence Legislation

"The NRA is asking gunmen to refrain from mass shootings while key gun
bills are before legislators," says a newscaster in a recent editorial

Say that! On a month that began with the Alabama, Illinois church and
Germany shootings and ended with the Oakland police killings -- a Miami mass
killing, a Turlock, CA church shooting and the Mexico shootings not even making
the public radar -- lawmakers are not thinking of gun owners as an oppressed

I'm not suggesting for a minute that people not be allowed to defend themselves, though the commenters on the last post are suggesting that I am. However, we have a system in place that's designed to defend us on our behalf. We hire people to carry guns so that the rest of us don't have to. If you think that a widely armed populace is safer, then I think you might be missing a few things.

Some crimes are violent by nature, and a ban won't stop them all. But most crime is not violent. Most is property crime, and that sometimes becomes violent. If we were truly serious about stopping violent crime, we'd address poverty and the horriying wealth imbalance. We'd address the illness inherent in a consumer society, where people are measured not by the quality of their character, but by the quality of their shoes. We'd look at improving education, health care, and addressing mental illness (which is a very small factor in crime, though it makes the best movies). We'd stop making violent people heroes.

In the meantime, a reduction in the number of firearms is a good way (well, certainly better than no way) reduce the number of property crimes that turn violent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Energy Savings

Yeah, yeah. Never posting, being all lazy and shit. Not apologetic. I owe very little to my "audience", such as it is. I write for me, and lately I've been not writing for anyone. So, while I am ashamed of myself, it has nothign to do with my readers. I just need to write more.

I have, however, to return to a recurring theme around here, found an incredible way to save energy. Not like electricity, mind you, but my own. It's apathy.

Eventually, spending a lot of time in the echo chambers of the internet leads to an inevitable but discouraging conclusion. You're not going to change the world. You talk to other greeny-type people, and they agree (mostly) with you, and you all decide collectively that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and you'd better start a vegetable garden.

But all that does is ensure you have too many tomatoes in August (or whenever they come; I haven't actually started this vegetable garden yet), and it does very little to prevent the collapse of the resource-based economy.

You can talk to others, too. People who are different, conservatives, for instance. I was talking to one last night. I didn't understand her at all. At all. I can't begin to tell you how fucked up her perspective is. Oddly, she's one of our closest friends.

But eventually you get tied of talking to people who will not be swayed, or who already agree with you. You start to retreat. That's what I'm trying to prevent.

Call me out. Get me writing. I need to save the world. I have a daughter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Audience

I saw Misery at the Grand Theatre a couple weeks ago. I was disappointed. I was disappointed with the audience, for one. They thought the whole thing was funny. I was disappointed with the acting. Annie was nutty, not menacing, and considering the stories we've heard recently about people being held against their will (by their fathers, or by a government), that sort of geist should have been easy to muster. I was disappointed with the sound. There were cues that were spoonfeeding the audience, and I was insulted.

But the one thing that confuses my wife the most is that I was disappointed with the set.

The set was amazing. An entire farmhouse that could pivot to move focus to the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, or the exterior, plus a second-floor staircase that as best I can recall was never used. The bedroom consisted of a bed and bedside table, a chair, a lamp, and some stained wallpaper. The living room was minimalist, the kitchen was kitschy. The stairs were there. Study and superfluous, but there nonetheless.

In my opinion, the whole thing was superfluous.

Sure, you need the bedroom, and one other room that Paul explores, but that's it. The stairs, the outside, the living room, the upstairs hallway, the bathroom, and the alcove were all unnecessary. The geography of the house is unimportant, and you don't need to build a house for the audience to know that they're supposed to be imagining a house. We've paid our price, and we're willing to work a little for the experience. The kitchen can have a medicine cabinet (and if I recall correctly, the medicine Paul sought was in the pantry in the novel), and it's not unreasonable to assume that the scrapbook might be in there as well (or near enough to make no difference). What is important is that Paul leaves his cell while the warden is out. Who cares where he actually goes? The set was an unnecessary cost. I can think of ways that money might have been better spent.

Last night was a good example. Last night I saw two performances, one a staged reading on an empty set, and another a performance involving a chair. That nearly empty stage was a kitchen floor, inside a wall, a Venetian canal, a bar and a mausoleum in Paris, a New York alley, a midway, a bathroom, a stoner's kitchen, a ticket booth, a barker's podium, a Ferris wheel, the scrambler, the merry-go-round, the caterpillar roller coaster and the fun house.

I don't recall ever thinking to myself, What the hell? The stage is empty!

Jeff Culbert used language and storytelling to evoke the scenes, focusing on character rather than locale. It was a wise choice, because the stories are not about Mehitabel's drowning lover or Archy's cockroach orators. It's about Archy and Mehitabel. Jayson McDonald gave a very physical performance, playing half a dozen characters at home, in line, on rides and on the phone. Powerful, and no doubt exhausting, it rendered the set moot. Again, the characters were more important than locale.

And honestly, that's why we watch plays, movies and television, isn't it? Why we read books and magazines and poetry? To hear great stories about people. Stories that happen in places, for sure, but usually stories about people (or roaches and cats). Not all the time, to be sure. Sometimes they are stories about places, too, but there are characters in those stories, too (think Hell House, Sin City, or Cabaret for examples), because stories about places aren't enough for people.

The Grand Theatre hosts some amazing, inspiring and enviable performances. But as long as they keep mollycoddling their audiences, I'm going to continue to feel a little insulted, and prefer alternative theatre, like the stuff we have here.

Come see archy and mehitabel and Fall Fair. You have to work a little harder, but you won't be disappointed.