After almost a year, Upstage Theater’s production of Falsettos (with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by James Lapine) is ready for prime time. Its short run hits the Second Stage at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts tonight and runs through this Sunday, 11-13 March 2022, and it’s definitely worth seeing. I first mentioned this upcoming production last December in my profile of Val Zvinyatskovsky. He submitted a proposal for this show early last year and was given the formal approval last summer for the project in which he’s stage directing, music and vocal directing, and doing the lighting and sound design. It’s taken a lot of hard work, and it’s time for audiences to enjoy the fruits of this company’s dedication. Tickets are on sale now. Continue reading
In our current world, there is a great deal of effort being expended to bend people’s perceptions of reality to gain personal, organizational, or even national advantage. I’ve written about the dangers of propaganda before, and in modern society with its current technological advancements there are more tools available today than ever before to impose false realities, i.e., to create mythologies. Granted, not all propaganda is necessarily negative since the term applies to any attempt to create a narrative to further a cause, some of which could be focused on good things. Still, there is far more press reporting on the dangerous side of the equation. Continue reading
Amid the ongoing circus of seeking accountability for those breaking the rules at the highest levels of our society, I think back to my school days when I learned something about how limits might apply. As children we all push against the boundaries imposed upon us in some ways which helps to define our sense of right and wrong. I’m reminded of two particular incidents from my grammar school days that affected me beyond the simple situations at hand. Continue reading
David Baldacci is known for gripping adventure novels that can sometimes seem a bit too plausible in today’s world of perception management. In his 2008 book, The Whole Truth, he introduces a new hero, Shaw. The reluctant international intelligence agent with no first name and a mysterious past may be the only person who can unravel a manufactured crisis before it’s too late. Teaming up with Katie James, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has fallen from the top of her field and is looking to redeem herself, they desperately seek the source of the crisis de jour that begins as a humanitarian catastrophe and expands to include a London massacre that blanket the news worldwide. Which events actually happened? Who is behind these events, and why did they set them in motion? Continue reading
In 2006, Richard Dawkins wrote a book that has garnered high praise from some and unabashed fury from others. The book has the provocative title, The God Delusion. Dawkins uses his background as a scientist specializing in evolutionary biology to examine a simple conceit to explain why so many people refuse to even consider leaving religion behind despite compelling evidence to refute its validity: “I didn’t know I could.” In his Preface he explains that his intention in writing this particular book is to raise consciousness to a few ideas such as why atheism has merit and can facilitate a productive and fulfilling life without guilt or apology; how concepts like natural selection, though often misunderstood, provide more probable alternatives to religious dogma; and how religion corrupts childhood and encourages exclusion. He acknowledges the importance of various scriptures such as the Bible, not as divine instruction, but as works of literature or historical fiction. As such, he explains how they provide cautionary tales and cultural references while inspiring countless modern works of literature, and he laments the ever decreasing familiarity with such sources even amongst those who claim to be religious. Mostly he intends his book to inspire people to think and examine the world around them anew, open to the beauty that comes with greater understanding through science. Continue reading
Now almost a month into 2022, while I still have some hope that things will improve eventually, I’m not quite as optimistic as I was at the beginning of January about some things and more optimistic about others. Entering our third year of the pandemic, one thing is a constant, I am tightly embracing my inner hermit. Fortunately, being an introvert helps a lot. Unlike most of my friends and family, I don’t crave in-person gatherings. I’ve discovered that over the course of the pandemic, I not only appreciate the widespread use of tools like Zoom or FaceTime in addition to the old standbys of voice calls and texts, I find that I prefer them to meeting in-person. It’s safer on multiple levels while still maintaining important connections. It’s also highly likely that my personal live performance days are over even if or when we eventually move from the pandemic to an endemic phase of living with COVID-19. Instead, my music and theater focus has shifted to helping the next generation dive into that wonderful world through mentoring.
Beyond the performing arts, which are still struggling to strike a safe balance between remote only performances and live performances with all the comradery and interaction that allows, the nation is continuing to swing from one extreme to the other between fully reopening with no restrictions to tightening down just short of lockdowns while virus cases mount. That the response to such a deadly threat was politicized and common sense measures demonized make the U.S. an ongoing threat to itself and the world. We could be much further along if only the divisions keeping many people from making wise decisions didn’t exist.
Those same political divisions are driving the ongoing threat to the U.S. remaining a world leader in democracy. This month the GOP members of the Senate, representing 41.5 million fewer people than the same number of Democrats and Independents (with a little help from two Democratic Senators whose motivations are more than a little dumbfounding) thwarted an attempt to preserve voting rights nationwide. As a result, some states will continue to be democratic ensuring that every eligible voter can vote and have their vote counted, while others will do all they can to ensure that even if every eligible voter can theoretically cast a vote, it will be far more difficult for traditionally democratic voters to do so. In those suppressive states, only some votes will be counted going forward as determined by partisan election boards. Voting rights that guarantee free and fair elections are fundamental to any functioning democracy, and the U.S. is in real danger of losing that depending on what Congress does next.
The insurrection investigations are making real progress into exposing the truth of the 6 January 2021 attack on our democracy and the peaceful transition of power after a presidential election. Both the DOJ and the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol have filled in more of the blanks on exactly what happened and who was responsible. The House Select Committee will soon be holding public hearings to let the people of the country know what happened, and all of the evidence they collect will also be made available to the DOJ for future prosecutions. Will it be enough and in time to counter the propaganda and stop another insurrection from happening? Only time will tell.
Living in the bluest part of a very blue state, it is sometimes difficult to imagine how harsh the reality is in other parts of the country where the worst effects of the Congressional deadlock and propaganda blitz play out. Still, the fact that people are engaged even in places where it’s a steep uphill climb to get any relief is encouraging. With all of the venom being spewed across the political divide, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that at our core, despite the rhetoric, we really are all the same. Humans all need the same basic necessities in life, and as a nation, we have the ability to ensure that nobody goes hungry or is forced to live on the street. We just need to have the will to make it so.
Along the way, we all have stories to tell. Some stories may capture the imagination and provide inspiration to make things better. Others can be demoralizing encouraging people to just give up. We need more stories of the former type. Despite the fodder for dystopian sagas the past several years may inspire, we can’t lose sight that the opposite is also out there, and there is far more to life than winning and losing. Watching the ubiquitous political fights blanketing the media sometimes make it seem that the only thing that matters is winning, but that’s not true.
Sometimes on a warm winter day, it’s important to look up at the trees and the blue sky and take a deep breath ignoring the political machinations vying for control of our lives for a moment. What matters is living and doing our best to help those around us do the same.
Teri Kanefield – The Dangers of Lies and Simplifications
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The final book in Bob Woodward’s trilogy chronicling the Trump presidency and its aftermath is aptly named Peril. Woodward co-authored this third book with Robert Costa and released it in September 2021. While the first two books, Fear and Rage, together cover the Trump presidency prior to the historic 2020 election and its aftermath, Peril overlaps a bit with Rage and focuses on the extraordinary actions within the Trump administration, the Pentagon, and Congress in the lead up to the election, the administration’s attempts to thwart the legitimate outcome of losing reelection, and the first several months of the Biden administration. While the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Department of Justice are hard at work investigating what happened from a legal perspective, Peril tells the story drawn from personal interviews of more than 200 people at the center of the events resulting in more than 6,000 pages of transcripts, much of the information never before seen in the news or in publicly released documents. In a historical context, this is an important book. It chronicles what happened from the perspective of those involved rather than strictly what was made public or reported in the news. Continue reading
As I took my car out for some exercise to keep it running on the first day of 2022, I was filled with hope. We had recently received some significant rain that we desperately needed to help lessen the severity of the two-year-old drought. The sky was blue. There was snow on the higher area mountain peaks. There was a chill in the air under the bright winter sun. As was my habit I donned my masks, which this time of year also helped keep my face warm, and I noticed as I passed others walking or riding their bikes that most were also masked. I was filled with hope that others in my area were still taking the COVID-19 threat seriously as the Omicron variant of the disease was causing case counts to spike to new highs. Continue reading
2021 started out with such promise. Vaccines to help us get past a worldwide pandemic were just starting to be deployed. As their availability widened, they promised at least a partial, if not total return to normalcy until being inoculated (the responsible thing for a person to do) was attacked and made into a political battle. Still, those doing their part by getting their shots when they became eligible were hopeful. Continue reading
There is so much going on these days. We’re just about ready to start a third year dealing with a worldwide pandemic as we face yet another new variant in the midst of a holiday period. While that’s weighing heavily on my mind, in my solitude I think about what constitutes a national holiday. Some are obvious like the 4th of July, the day marking our nation’s independence. That one makes sense. It’s a celebration commemorating the birth of our new nation, founded on the principles of democracy where we the people voice our opinions through free and fair elections determining who serves in our representative government. This one is a truly patriotic, American holiday. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are also American holidays in honor of those who have served our country to help keep it free. Presidents Day and MLK Day honor some of our national heroes which also makes sense as far as patriotic American holidays go. Continue reading