Monthly Archives: January 2006

of the day

Do not “rehabilitate” the material. That is PC at its worst, the anti-Brecht. It’s the easiest impulse.

who knew?

Daniel Mufson, who authored the authoritative book on the late, great, brilliant director Reza Abdoh, has been running Alternative Theater, a website on the kind of American theater that came out of Lower Manhattan from the late ’70s to the late ’90s, their European forebears (Brecht, Brecht and more Brecht) and more current colleages.

Of course, “Alternative Theater” is as dated a way to refer to such theater (and their followers) as “avant garde” at this point. My undergraduate teachers being who they were (Marc Robinson, Joseph Roach and Shawn Marie Garrett)–this theater was my apparatus–these artists, my heroes, to whose works I aspired. It’s nice to see a home for information about it. The news is rather spottily updated, but there’s some great images and history pages.
Check it out.

theater is dead, part 3,492, subsection (a)

So I guess the question is–if stage actors went on strike, would anyone notice?

old thought to not forget–

The person who knows enough about every profession to know how to make every person he/she meets feel bad or inadequate or insecure. The porousness of people’s feelings.

theater is dead, part 3,942.

which is what it feels like. Great article in the New York Times today about how the career of stage acting will make no one no bread at all. Which is to say, duh. But I like that it was a topic of vigorous and pissed-off debate–Tim Blake Nelson said something along the lines of “we are subsidizing the theater,” which is true. Theater artists generally aren’t paid what they’re valued, and subsidize the work they love by other means and other work. Best example in the article:

Andrew Weems gave an explicit example, recalling that some two decades back he’d been in a production of “Troilus and Cressida” in Washington for which the actor playing Thersites had received about $600 a week. Recently Mr. Weems found himself playing the same role, Off Broadway, in a production directed by the esteemed Sir Peter Hall. Mr. Weems was earning significantly less. Another voice chimed in to denounce the disturbing tendency of regional theater management to mimic the latest trends in the corporate world: While the artistic directors’ salaries have steadily grown, payments to actors have not kept pace.

On a somewhat unrelated note: a couple of years ago, I had a very illuminating conversation with the husband of Ben’s judge, an economics professor, about the state of the art, specifically, of regional theater. I basically told him that the current system in no way facilitated the development of exciting new work; we hashed it out, and ultimately determined that theater has become a museum, showing the same old shit for audiences who wanted it.

“And what’s wrong with that?” he asked. I couldn’t help but agree. If that’s what the regional theater has become, that’s what it is, and fin.

Flash forward to convo with colleague yesterday–he was talking about staging a show in a gallery, how it was the most open, inviting space he’d seen. Art galleries love live performance–for fine artists, I’ve noticed (even in my couple of guest teaching stints with SFAI) that it’s sort of this exotic last frontier–both performance and theater–something that sexes up a place.

Theaters are becoming museums. Museums are becoming theaters.

only in San Francisco…

We walk by a one-armed man pull out a sword while arranging crap in the back of his truck.

miscellany, part 1

A narrative device I have particular hatred for: a character saying a name aloud in his/her sleep as a revelatory plot measure.

Watching Vera Drake last week. Everyone gets behind that movie somehow, pro-choicers, anti-abortion people; people see what they want to see in it, see themselves in it. The anti-choicers see her having a moral revelation, getting what she deserves or at least realizing that what she’s done for the past twenty-thirty years is wrong. Which is not what I see, of course. I see an amazingly crafted story in a working class neighborhood that draws, with precision, the ways in which women are trapped living in a world of man-made laws; the secret constant network of women helping each other, and having this huge world not receiving any acknowledgment or reflection in the civilization around them, that’s what I see.

I shouldn’t be copying PC–I should be writing the anti-Namesake (dialogue between hysterical rants/well-made novel)–literally the daughter of P (he’s a do gooder lawyer with a penchant for shiksas who married an Israeli girl, divorced her, now convinced he’s a member of the lost tribes of America–has become Mormon, possibly?–this absent, absent father)–and her hotpants mother who’s sad over her political or rather professional failures)–

Why did I never let myself appreciate Gwen Stefani and No Doubt at the height of its powers? She is a fucking rock star, a badass rock star, and shameless with it. “Just a Girl” is outstanding; I always loved “Don’t Speak” despite myself. Will I let myself enjoy her solo stuff, or will I have to enjoy it five years from now, like I did with Nirvana?

the bay area, a small provincial town.

Proven by an article this morning in the Chronicle–you can prove a small town by its need to write gooshy articles about local talent, even if said local talent hasn’t done anything worthy of a full-page spread. Local boy makes good! Acknowleges home town! Aren’t we special?

Really, I would believe that of a Cleveland, but San Francisco?

Now, I love a jazz improvisation master getting a big full front page, but y’all know what I’m saying.

trading spaces

I briefly kept a LiveJournal for feminist issues last summer; I’ll be moving those posts over to here, since keeping up with women’s issues counts, for me, as personal. More on “Broadsheet” over at Salon and “stand-in”, later.

Day-After Pill Decision Prompts a Resignation [Aug. 31st, 2005|11:53 am]
Published: August 31, 2005

WASHINGTON — A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency’s refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.

Susan Wood, director of FDA’s Office of Women’s Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.

The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor’s guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription — a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.

“I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled,” wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women’s health. “The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women’s access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women’s health.”

Plan B’s maker has been trying for two years to begin nonprescription sales, and the FDA’s latest postponement of its fate was a surprise: Commissioner Lester Crawford won Senate confirmation to take his job only after promising members of Congress to make a final decision by Sept. 1.

They ought to be ashamed of themselves. [Aug. 29th, 2005|09:35 pm]
Feminists for Life, a “pro-life feminist” organization. They have a LiveJournal, too, and while they’ve been around for 20 years, their increased visibility probably has more to do with the celebrity endorsement of Patricia Heaton, actress from “Everybody Loves Raymond” (a show I’ve never seen, I don’t even know what the woman looks like). Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ wife has been doing pro-bono work for them for years.*

One might easily dismiss these women out of pocket, but let’s take a moment to seriously consider the organization. I mean, we need to talk to each other across party lines, across political stances. We need to have a dialogue about these issues. I’m against the death penalty! Perhaps we’ll have something in common!

I did a thorough pass through their website and discussion boards–a lot of talk about why abortion is bad, how there have been Jews and blacks and feminists alike who hate abortion, abortion is evil, you shouldn’t support abortion, etc. Links to their nationwide program transmitting their anti-abortion message to universities and colleges, convincing young women through well designed advertisements.

Let’s start from the beginning:

Abortions happen when unwanted pregnancies happen.

In my opinion, the best thing to do is to prevent unwanted pregnancies (which is what Planned Parenthood wants as well, last I checked). The best way to do that, last I checked, is through a combination of reproductive education and access to birth control.

Which is why I was unfortunately (though perhaps not surprisingly) disappointed, to find that the Feminists for Life barely touch on birth control. There is, in fact, a shocking lack of any information, discussion, or resources related to women’s sexual and reproductive health. Probably because the best resource in the country for such information, the organization whose mission it is to promote women’s health, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, Planned Parenthood–is painted as the arch-enemy, an abortion factory.

How can you talk about preventing abortion and not talk about birth control? And how can you talk about feminism and not talk about birth control? The women’s movement would never have happened without the advent of both a) the Civil Rights* Movement, and b) The Pill. The former taught us to mobility, to organize, conceptualize and communicate the oppression; the latter allowed us to do it on our schedule, on our terms.

A woman cannot make her play to strive for equal access in the world: to employment opportunities, to sexual joy and pleasure, to controlling her destiny–without being able to control if and how and when she gets pregnant. Simple.

I could buy their stated “pro-life” stance (though I would still never agree with it) if they at least could be honest about that. Then perhaps we could have the conversation.

* But oh no, he won’t overturn Roe v. Wade, he’s a pragmatist, sure sure. (That’s sarcasm, btw.)
** Roberts doesn’t believe in Civil Rights, either. Not guaranteed under the Constitution.

Consciousness Raising [Aug. 29th, 2005|09:30 pm]
Increasingly feel like the problem is, women in America currently don’t think there’s a problem.

We need rap circles and consciousness raising sessions outside of a commodity–or, frankly, academic ivory tower–framework.

Access to Abortion Pared at State Level [Aug. 29th, 2005|09:29 pm]
By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 29, 2005; A01

This year’s state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman’s access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.

Three states have passed bills requiring that women seeking an abortion be warned that the fetus will feel pain, despite inconclusive scientific data on the question. West Virginia and Florida approved legislation recognizing a pre-viable fetus, or embryo, as an independent victim of homicide. And in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has summoned lawmakers into special session Sept. 6 to consider three antiabortion proposals.

While national leaders in the abortion debate focus on the upcoming nomination hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, grass-roots activists have been changing the legal landscape one state at a time. In most cases, the antiabortion forces have prevailed, adding restrictions on when and where women can get contraceptive services and abortions, and how physicians provide them.

Antiabortion activists say they have pursued a two-pronged approach that aimed to reduce the number of abortions immediately through new restrictions and build a foundation of lower court cases designed to get the high court to eventually reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making the procedure legal.

On the other side, a handful of states have approved provisions that make it easier for women to get emergency contraception, known as the “morning after” pill. However, two Republican governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and George E. Pataki of New York, vetoed such bills.

Locally, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has signed legislation that makes a “viable fetus” a distinct victim of a crime such as murder or manslaughter. Virginia did not enact any laws related to abortion.

“Every year, we see a lot of legislation introduced,” said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research group that specializes in family and reproductive health. “This year, we have seen a lot more action than in recent years. The level of bills enacted has been much higher.”

David Bereit, director of program development for the American Life League, which opposes abortion in all circumstances, supports both the short-term efforts and the long-term strategy aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade .

“People are becoming frustrated more progress hasn’t been made at the federal level and feel they don’t have as much control to change things there,” he said. “If we can’t outright ban abortion, what can we do to make it less prevalent? We see it’s much easier to take up funding and parental notification measures at the state level.”

In the meantime, “we want to have cases working their way up in the eventuality Roe would be overturned,” Bereit said.

South Dakota has been among the most active states, passing five new laws, including a “trigger” law that would impose an immediate abortion ban after any Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade .

Last year, “there was an attempt to engage in a full-frontal assault of Roe versus Wade ” with an outright ban, said Brock L. Greenfield, a state senator who is director of South Dakota Right to Life. But similar bills have been found unconstitutional, and Gov. Mike Rounds (R) vetoed the bill on technical grounds.

“This year, the pro-life forces united in order to pass some legislation,” Greenfield said. The other measures include stricter parental notification requirements and a provision adding an “unborn child” as a distinct victim to the state’s criminal code for charges of murder in the first and second degree. In its new informed-consent law, South Dakota requires physicians to tell women seeking an abortion about the “existing relationship between a pregnant woman and her unborn child,” and that all abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being.”

The language in that law was written with the expectation it could be used to “help tear down the wall put up by the Roe versus Wade decision,” Greenfield said.

For the small and dwindling number of physicians providing abortions, it has been frustrating to encounter new regulations dictating non-medical requirements such as the width of doorways and the size of hallways, said Steven Emmert, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.

“Those opposed to abortion are finding new and different ways to increase the roadblocks and the hoops [that] providers and patients have to jump through,” Emmert said.

Missouri, for example, has set aside $1 million to encourage low-income pregnant women to carry a pregnancy to full term and potentially give the infant up for adoption.

“A theme we’re seeing this session is for legislatures to go back and put on more restrictions,” said Katherine Grainger, legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They passed all these laws, and now they’re saying, ‘Let’s see what else we can get.’ “

Lawmakers in several states toughened existing laws affecting girls younger than 18 who seek an abortion. Today, 35 states require parental involvement of some type, according to a tally by, an online public policy journal funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In its end-of-the-session newsletter, Texas Right to Life hinted at the variety of approaches its side pursued.

Supporters “did not muster the strength to pass any of the multiple freestanding pro-life bills,” it noted. However, “several major pro-life victories came in the form of ‘under the radar’ amendments.” Those included measures to shift state money to abortion alternatives and health care for unborn children, stricter parental consent requirements and a ban on third-trimester abortions “when the abortion is not necessary to prevent the death of the woman.”

Some antiabortion leaders in President Bush’s home state attribute their victories to a shift in the political winds.

“Texas, having gone from Democrat to Republican control, makes it much more possible to get into these issues,” said state Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), who sponsored two successful amendments. “Under the Democrats, these died in committee.”

Hartnett, who pushed to change the law from requiring parental notification to requiring parental consent, said the earlier language simply “paid lip service” to protecting minors from an unwise decision.

But Emmert, who represents abortion providers, said that in many circumstances, the girl has been impregnated by a male relative or boyfriend of her mother, making parental consent complicated, if not impossible.

Even in some of the 12 states that have state constitutional protections for abortion rights, legislatures have enacted new restrictions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. (The 12 are Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee and West Virginia.)

Not all the restrictive measures came from Republican-controlled states. Democratic governors in Kansas and Pennsylvania signed budgets that steer millions of dollars to organizations that provide alternatives to abortion. And in Oklahoma, Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed a law in May that requires parental notification for minors, deems a fetus a “victim” under assault laws and mandates that abortion providers give specific counseling relating to the developmental stage of a fetus and a list of groups that support women who choose to carry a pregnancy to full term.

California, once deemed a liberal bastion, will consider a ballot question in November proposing to require, for the first time, that most women younger than 18 notify a parent before getting an abortion and to require physicians to report all such abortions.

Breast Cancer Culture [May. 11th, 2005|09:41 am]
Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this article about the depoliticization, infantilism and commercialism of pink ribbon breast cancer about four years ago, but it is still applicable and important.
Susie Bright on Andrea Dworkin’s death [May. 10th, 2005|10:53 pm]
Brecht said (and I’m paraphrasing) that you can either fight the appratus or work within it, but no matter what, the apparatus will win. The only hope we have is how the apparatus will change in the process of absorbing whatever material is outside of it.

Meaning, briefly: in goes punk and the X-Ray Spex–out comes Avril Lavigne and those wretched Hot Topic stores. Oh, bondage…what a neat necklace! Only $5?

Passionate and moving eulogy, as much for the truly radical roots of feminism as for Andrea Dworkin.

Resolved, 2006

1. To ride a century bike race
2. Get two pieces published
3. Not say “no”
4. I deserve it!
5. Go hip-hop dancing
6. Dress sexy aagin
7. Be entirely myself (while serving my relationship)
8. Spend more time thinking about what turns me on.
9. Not let Jill’s baby mean we don’t spend time together
10. Be in better touch with friends.
11. Drive less, bike more