Archive for October, 2005

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Daily Reading

October 31, 2005

Cause you can never find enough of this stuff.

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Reading

October 28, 2005

Dream Boogie : The Triumph of Sam Cooke

If you don’t know Sam Cooke, you are not nearly as hip as you think you are. Read this book and get some insight into how the man came to become the legend. You can’t really appreciate the book, however, without the right soundtrack:

Live at the Harlem Square Club
Portrait of a Legend

And this is unrelated, but worth your investment as well. Go see the movie too.

My mind is an endless cultural lint trap.

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Reality

October 25, 2005

I was having a chat at dinner this evening about Reality TV and trying to figure out my own reasons why it is good for America. Given that the person on the other side of the chat had three TiVos (I only have two, and if I were a lesser man this would make me feel inadequate) I can’t presume to be the expert here. She clearly has expertise not yet fully understood.

However, here are some of my reasons for enjoying reality TV:

  • No premise is too absurd. I still miss The Swan (and the local woman that won the first season was amazingly hot, in a plastic surgery type of way). I believe it justifies the belief that the end is always worth the means.
  • No person is too trashy. Shame that Paris and Nicole have been cancelled. Next season would have seen them as part-time Thai hookers.
  • You can be a nanny. Do we need say more than “Super Nanny”? One episode of that was all I needed to determine I would sooner be the night busboy at Denny’s than leave my child to the care of one of these hideous beasts.
  • Good deeds. Yeah, boring.
  • Inked. Hot people having ink all over their bodies (under the skin, mind you) and the sordid tales of their lives. A fake leg is no hinderance to a hot piece of ink.
  • American Idol will be back in January.

    Some people are just a slave to TV. Some people are just a slave to more interesting things.

    I should go check the TiVo.

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Struggles

October 23, 2005

I sit on the board of a wonderful not-for-profit theatre in my community, Second Story Repertory. The company produces amazingly diverse works for both adults and children, with the productions involving professional actors and a dedicated professional crew. All of this is done on a very small budget (not really that different than the budget for my own home) in a small space.

None of it is easy.

The arts suffer in our community from both a lack of support and a lack of real interest. They suffer in many communities because of this. Many people just think that because they pay the price of a ticket that everything will be okay. Yes, ticket sales contribute to the overall revenue, but much less than people might imagine. The cost of rent alone each month can be greater than ticket sales.

Second Story is not unique in its struggles. Many such organizations in small cities suffer the same. When a community like my own, Redmond WA, is an outlier to a large city, Seattle, there is a constant “war” for the dollars of the community. Everyone is given a plethora of choices in the arts, and each of those organizations rely on funding from grants and individuals.

I sometimes ask myself why I sit on the board (and even allowed myself to be elected President). I know that I do it for my daughter. I want her to grow up in a community with a rich set of artistic choices and culture. I do it for all the sons and daughters. I do it for myself. No ethical citizen can really ignore the obligations to return something to their society; this is one of my ways of meeting that obligation. I do it for the actors and crew. They often work on wages that are eclipsed by a good barista at Starbucks. I do it for my pleasant little city.

I do it for many reasons, as do my fellow board members and all our contributors. They are all generous of spirit, time and money. But that is not often enough.

I saw some demographic information about my community recently. Median household income was bout $144K. Yes, that is a pretty large number. It is an affluent community, with Microsoft and Boeing employees forming a generous chunk among a diverse group of professional and blue-collar families. There are a lot of kids in Redmond. Yet our arts organization, like so many others in the community, struggles to stay afloat. One of our sister organizations recently had to fold, leaving many kids without the arts training they had come to love and depend upon.

I know that in this year of great tragedies and a conservative Christian political regime we are all on the precipice of how to spend our ethical and moral capital. Should I fund abortion rights today (YES) or help the victims of the Pakistan earthquake (YES) or the fight against AIDS (YES). Some people spend their capital on their church or their chosen political campaign. We all get the freedom to decide and I cherish that. I might not agree with the choices of others, but I defend their right to make those choices.

The point here, however, is that in a climate of major challenges, the little organizations that keep the engine of our society going can be overlooked. The small not-for-profits that operate day to day need a little of our support as well. We sometimes have board discussions about the concept of “donor burnout”. It is difficult to give and keep on giving because the requests seem never ending. They will always be never ending. Perhaps we live in an age of great tragedy and a tragic downturn in the foundation and future of society. Perhaps it is just a bad year. In either case, need never ceases.

I can’t tell anyone how to spend their social capital, nor would I dare to do so. I can ask, politely, that you look at the full landscape of need when apportioning those dollars.

I also welcome you to our upcoming presentation of Man of La Mancha or your small gift of support. I am not above asking for help. No one else should be above asking for help for their own passions or their own need.

I am far from noble and far from saintly (trust me, very very far), but I care about something. I care about the future.

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Skyscrapers

October 9, 2005

In retrospect, I realized that Rome has no skyscrapers (that I saw, anyway). I have become so used to the ubiquitous steel and glass building that defines even the smallest city that it took me a while to figure out that their absence.

Skyscrapers, which is a vastly ambitious term for most of the 20 odd story cookie cutter building in second and third tier American cities, are a profoundly American and vaguely phallic symbol of success. Banks build them to demonstrate a solid foundation for the safe-keeping of customers’ money. Insurance companies do essentially the same. Medium size corporations get to mount their name on high to indicate they are the leading light in Columbus, Nashville, Spokane, or Sacramento. Americans like the boxy boring sameness of the little “downtowns” scattered across the land. Add in a Gap, a Cheesecake Factory, and a Marriott and that is everything a city needs to provide weekday credibility and weekend wind buffers against the empty streets.

Rome had no skyscrapers. It has classic architecture, historic ruins, endless churches and a robust variety of luxury stores and street vendors. History has given the city credibility. It was once the center of the western world, the heart of an empire. In America, a city celebrates its 200th anniversary and is historic. In Rome, some structures were last renovated 200 years ago, after 1000 years of existence.

Rome has few beggars. Those it does have kneel quietly on the street, their head shrouded, a cup held out. The cup usually has a rosary hanging from it. The beggars are women, or at least all that I saw. It broke my heart to see a police officer move one away from the front entrance of a Catholic church. I could not even take a picture of one of these beggars, feeling that I would capture their pain and my own shame if I did.

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Comment spam

October 4, 2005

Little use in my complaining about the comment spam I have been getting, I guess. I have now added a couple more layers of restriction to it, hopeful that will deter most scammers. I have also tried to find and delete most of the scam comments.

A couple of things puzzle me about the whole comment scam thing, however. First, why pick on a blog that has such small (really) readership. Not sure exactly what their criteria is for selecting a blog, but guess it is not particularly efficient. Second, do people actually read those comments and click on the links?

More to report soon on my trip to Italy.

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