Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Death of Freedom

Evidence that freedom in America may be on its deathbed:

Tuesday June 8th, 2010

Washington Post journalist Helen Thomas was forced to resign after voicing “anti-Israel” comments. Basically, she said Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine”. I’m not saying I agree with her views, but I respect her for saying something she believes in (instead of being journalistically neutral, which, I feel, is death, even Un-American). Thomas shouldn’t be forced to resign from her job for having an unpopular opinion. Think about it: she lost her job because she was being FREE.

Thursday June 17th, 2010

Congressmen grilled BP CEO Tony Hayward today in a congressional hearing, basically pinning all the blame on him for the big mess in the Gulf. A brave Republican from Texas named Joe Barton went against his fellow congressmen and boldly apologized to Hayward for the Obama administration's “20 billion shakedown”. He quickly retracted the apology, however, when his party leaders rebuked him for his words. I guess sticking up for BP was too conservative a stance, even for the Republicans. So much for free speech in Washington, the Capitol of a country that was built around the belief in free speech.

Wednesday June 23, 2010

General Stanley McChrystal was fired from his position as top Afghanistan commander after "mocking" Obama and the President’s senior officials in a Rolling Stone Article (he called Obama a “wounded animal” and National Security Adviser James Jones a "clown", among other things). McChrystal was initially forced to apologize for the comments, but was ultimately asked to step down by Obama. Maybe his comments were immature and maybe the war will be better handled without him, but are McChrystal's blunt opinions really grounds for termination? Apparently freedom of speech is tolerated in America so long as it doesn't undermine those who are in power.


If people can't handle freedom (as the above examples indicate), then maybe it’s time we reevaluate our nation’s basic principles. Do we really want to be free? Or is the reality of freedom too ugly to handle?

We’ve spent the last decade hunting down people like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, who are so-called “enemies of freedom”. We’ve “liberated” places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and would like to do the same in places like Iran and North Korea. But what values are we really bringing to these countries? Isn't it a little hypocritical to be “liberating” these places when we can't seem to handle freedom ourselves?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

American Bully

For the past couple of months, there has been case after case after case of intense "bullying" in schools across America. Many of these cases have resulted in the bullied victim committing suicide (like what happened with Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA.) or at least having a traumatic mental breakdown of some sort. Bullies, of course, have always existed in schools, but why have they become even more intense and so vicious over the past few years? Honestly, it took me a while to find an answer to this question...but today I think it hit me.

I was surfing through some television channels while munching on a bite to eat and I happened to catch about five minutes of a show on VH1 called "Undateable". The show features a bunch of hack comedians making fun of guys who do the wrong things during first dates. Although the show is funny to some degree, the overall tone of it is condescending, making the male sex look like a bunch of idiots. OK, I get it. Sometimes we're clueless. Women rule. Men are dumb. Wow, really funny. Great TV.

Anyway, watching "Undateable" reminded me of how many shows there are on television that consist of smart-ass comedians making fun of people, whether it be celebrities, figures of pop-culture or just regular people in general. I'm thinking of shows in the vein of VH1's "Best Week Ever" or the "I love the 80s" type-shows or "The Fabulous Life" or the E! Channel's "Talk Soup" or Fox's "TMZ". For some reason, making fun of people (i.e. bullying) has become a very entertaining thing to do that apparently makes for some extremely good television.

And, again, some of these shows can be very funny (like "Talk Soup"). I mean, I admit that I can't help but laugh when I watch them. However, the overall effect of all this condescending TV programming can be extremely detrimental to our society. I would argue that the bullying we see all over the media today is largely responsible for the increased bullying we see in our American schools. And it's just not on the television; it's in the tabloids (that constantly poke fun at the celebrities), and on the radio (think Glenn Beck making fun of Obama's 11-year-old daughter), and in blogs (Perez Hilton), and even in 'parody' films like Epic Movie that make references to/make fun of people like Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan etc.. Young, impressionable minds who are exposed to all this kind of media, over time, come to understand bullying as something that is normal, even socially acceptable. The message they get is that it's OK to make fun of others.

Now, a lot of people - such as the hack comedians on VH1 and E!, or the scumbags at TMZ - would probably argue that the people they make fun of on their programs deserve to be made fun of, because they're 'celebrity divas', or, to use a new term that's become popular lately, 'celebutards'. But, really, who are they to judge? As Jesus would say, "let he who is without sin throw the first stone", or, to put it another way, 'let he who is without fault make fun of a person who is with fault'. I mean, what ever happened to compassion and understanding? What ever happened to tolerance? Even if there are people who "deserve" to be made fun of, isn't it a waste of time to call them out on it? Get a life. There are so many other positive things one can be doing with their time.

It's probably true that bullying makes for good ratings and sells more tickets or tabloids, but it's just flat-out wrong when you think about it and (if the Phoebe Prince tragedy is any indication) it has extremely tragic consequences in our culture as a whole. We need to be sending today's children a much better message.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Email from Ray Carney re: KING OF HEARTS

I just got this email today from world-renown film critic Ray Carney ( who is known within the Independent Film World as one of the toughest cookies to please. I had sent him an email a few weeks ago about a play I was in called "King of Hearts", but he never responded and I thought there was no way in hell that he would actually come and see it. But apparently he did!

I post his email here for two reasons: first, I like to toot my own horn, but second, the email says a couple of interesting things about the responsibility an actor has to portraying a character truthfully.

Here is the email:

From: "Ray Carney"

Sent: Thursday, June 3, 2010 7:15:13 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern

Subject: at the intersection of Norfolk and 1A.....


I waved but you didn't see me. I was pulling out of Norfolk St. at around 5:40 today from 1A and you were turning onto it in a small black car. But it did remind me that I have been remiss in telling you what a great job I thought you did in King of Hearts. You wonderfully stayed "inside" your character (the deaf mute), functioning from HIS perspective and HIS understanding. That is the essence of drama. So many actors play themselves, from THEIR OWN points of view, but you played your character, from his pov. Great work!

Forgive me for being out of touch for so long. No excuse. Just busy. (Currently editing a book chapter in FRENCH and my French is primitive. Welcome to my world!)

Stay well. And keep doing the drama/acting thing. You have talent!

Ray Carney, Prof. of Film and American Studies

Author: Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Faber and Faber); Shadows (British Film Institute/University of California Press); John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity; The Films of Mike Leigh (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Frank Capra (Wesleyan University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies (Cambridge University Press), and other works

Ray Carney's web site--"The Independent Film Pages"

Ray Carney's blog--"Necessary Experiences: Why Art Matters"

Mailing address:
Prof. Ray Carney
College of Communication
640 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston University
Boston, MA 02215