Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

“The Death of Klinghoffer” : The Metropolitan Opera Flunks Its Ethical Duty

Death of Klinghoffer

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is scheduled to present John Adams’s 1991 opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall. [Full disclosure: Adams, then an unknown, was one of my professors in college] The opera is a dramatization of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking,in which the Palestine Liberation Front murdered the wheelchair-bound Jewish-American businessman Leon Klinghoffer. The opera has always been the target of Jewish and other critics who believe that it is too sympathetic to the Palestinians, and is thus anti–Semitic. Predictably (although for some reason the Met seemed not to be prepared for it) the Anti-Defamation League and conservative pundits are condemning the new production, typified by the reliably simple-minded Michele Bachmann, who denounced the Met for sympathizing with terrorists.

This is, and I state this without moderation or equivocation, is anti-cultural, anti-art, anti-free speech political correctness bullying from the right. This is an opera, and it, like any work of art, stands for itself. Whatever the political message of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” it is secondary to the main purpose of any opera, which is music and entertainment. The Met, as an organization dedicated to music and opera, should not be held to any standard in producing it other than whether it meets the company’s standards of excellence. An arts organization like the Met is apolitical, and should never allow the political or ideological messages of the artists whose work is presented there change its programming in any way. This means telling critics like those of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” be they advocacy organizations, would-be public censors or embarrassments to Congress like Bachmann to go fly a kite when they attempt to dictate what art is or isn’t “appropriate.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

“Bang The Drum Slowly,” My Old Friend, and Me

The American Century Theater's "Bang the Drum Slowly"

The American Century Theater’s “Bang the Drum Slowly”

I haven’t mentioned it here, but we are ending the 20 year adventure of my intentionally out-of-fashion theater company, The American Century Theater, after next season. One of the things I will miss most about it is that working so closely with the great works of stage literature we produce causes their wisdom and life observations to stick with us. Since I tend to choose works that involve ethical dilemmas, this has had professional as well as personal benefits.

I was thinking about the Mark Harris play (and novel, and movie) “Bang The Drum Slowly” in May, when I wrote about the kindness shown to Pasco High School student Vanessa Garcia, who was dying of cancer, because we were performing it at the time.  The story involves a baseball team and how it responds to a third-string catcher who is dying of Hodgkin’s Disease. It is about kindness and the Golden Rule, and the ways the impending death of someone in our life often brings into sharper focus the importance of kindness and our shared obligations on this perplexing journey to oblivion we all must travel together. But I really wasn’t thinking about “Bang The Drum Slowly” yesterday. Yesterday, I was just having a wonderful time talking about baseball, politics and family with my old friend from law school, who happened to be in a hospice. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Literature, Romance and Relationships, Uncategorized

Henry Rollins Shows Us How To Apologize

MeaCulpaWriter, thinker, and philosopher  Henry Rollins wrote one of those columns that you should put aside for a weekend and think about for a while for the L.A. Weekly, essentially condemning Robin Williams for taking his own life. Reading it, I knew that he would regret it pretty quickly. It was obviously fueled by emotion and anger, and I’m familiar with that feeling. It was how I felt when John Belushi died, and it was how I felt when Philip Seymour Hoffman died—so much so that I had written one of those be-sure-to-think-about-it-over-the-weekend-posts when that great actor died, and fortunately trashed it. But I’ve had exactly the same thoughts that Rollins expressed so powerfully—he expresses everything powerfully—and I know I’ll have them again. He wrote:

“Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it. Fuck suicide. Life isn’t anything but what you make it. For all the people who walked from the grocery store back to their house, only to be met by a robber who shot them in the head for nothing — you gotta hang in there. I have life by the neck and drag it along. Rarely does it move fast enough. Raw Power forever.”

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media

Ice Bucket Challenge Ethics

Ice Bucket Challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a silly, brilliant fund-raising device that has simultaneously increased public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, brought over 14 million more dollars of donated funds into the ALS Association than last year for research, and provided some priceless YouTube fare, ranging from celebrity drenchings to this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4qADFNsDxE

Entertainment! Celebrities! Medical research! Charity! Public Education! How could there be anything unethical about such a phenomenon? Well, ethics often throw cold water on all manner of activities human beings crave, so it should not be too great a surprise that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated quite a few ethics-based objections. Let’s examine the potential, alleged and actual ethical flaws of the current fad, and rate them on an Ethics Foul Scale from zero (No ethical concerns at all) to ten ( Very Unethical).

1. It’s dangerous.

Anything can be dangerous if you are not sufficiently careful, and the Ice Bucket Challenge had its consequentialist moment when four firefighters were injured, one very seriously, trying to help the marching band at Campbellsville University get dumped with ice water this week. Two firefighters were in the bucket of their truck’s ladder preparing to douse the students using a firehose when a surge of electricity jumped from nearby power lines and electrucuted them and two colleagues. This was just a freak accident, however. Unlike the so-called Facebook Fire Challenge, the ALS fundraisng stunt shouldn’t be perilous to anyone, as long as practitioners don’t get too grandiose or creative.

Ethics Foul Score:

0

2. It wastes water.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Charity, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, Uncategorized

Ethics Quiz: The Macaque’s Selfie

Macaque

The wonderful photo above has gone viral on the web, and is also causing serious debate among intellectual property lawyers. The weird tale is as follows:

Wildlife photographer David Slater was visiting a national park in North Sulawesi to photograph the wildlife. His subject was a group of crested black macaques, and when he left his camera unattended, the primates took advantage of the opportunity. Apparently attracted by the reflection and the noise the camera made when activated (the implications of the macaques doing this because they were interested in photography are too disturbing to contemplate, so I won’t),  one macaque took hundreds of photos of itself. Most were blurry and out of focus, just like the pictures my dad took, but a few were superb selfies that would have Ellen DeGeneres eating her heart out.

Wikimedia took the clear images off of Slater’s website, adding them to its collection of royalty-free graphic, and sending them all over the web as a result.  Slater now demands that the images be taken down or that he be paid for them. While Wikimedia argues that either the monkey owns the copyright for the photos or nobody does, the photographer claims that being the owner of the camera, and the artist who created the circumstances under which the macaque was inspired to release his inner Richard Avedon, he alone is the owner of the photographs.

As you might expect, copyright law is unclear on the issue of lower primate selfies, an art form that was not anticipated as the law evolved. I don’t care about that: today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is about fairness:

Should Slater have full ownership of the macaque’s creations?

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Uncategorized

Undermining Addiction Treatment For A Petty News Story: The Ethics Bankruptcy Of CBS and Dean Kendrick

"Here you go, Dean. Now: what did Robin Williams share at your AA meeting?"

“Here you go, Dean. Now: what did Robin Williams share at your AA meeting?”

 Alcoholism is a national scourge that destroys lives, families and businesses, and  often kills both sufferers and those they interact with. It it is incurable. One of the few effective methods of keeping alcoholism under control is the Twelve Step program developed by Bill Wilson in the 1930s, and taught by the organization he founded, Alcoholics Anonymous. Millions of Americans attend AA meetings every day, including many who are very close to me.

Dean Kendrick works for CBS affiliate KPIX-5 in San Francisco, and he’s apparently an Alcoholic Anonymous member. This means that 1) we shouldn’t know he’s a member, and 2) especially that he shouldn’t be revealing, especially on television, that anybody else is a member, and 3) he absolutely should not be revealing what someone said or how they acted at a meeting he attended, and 4) this even applies to Robin Williams, dead celebrity that he is. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media

CNN’s Carol Costello, Making CNN Viewers Dumber Yet Again

Lauren-Bacall-To-Have_l

The least we should be able to ask of the news media, since they obviously can’t be trusted to report the news competently, objectively or fairly, is to not make the public more stupid and ignorant than it already is. CNN’s Carol Costello, a prime offender in the incompetent and biased, can’t even clear this low bar.

This morning, as the networks interrupted their around the clock Robin Williams death coverage to note the passing of famed screen siren Lauren Bacall at the ripe old age of 89, Costello led her report by referencing Bacall’s “beauty, talent, and wit.” Her wit was represented by a clip of her famous line as “Slim” in “To Have and Have Not” (1944):

“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow. “

But this quote has no relationship at all to Bacall’s wit, and she was indeed witty. The line was written by Jules Furthman, or perhaps William Faukner, both credited with the screenplay, inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote the novel and created the character Bacall was playing. A seven-year-old could have been just as witty, with these guys putting words in her mouth.

Incredibly, a ridiculous number of people really think actors are responsible for the lines they say on stage or on screen. This is, you’ll agree, idiotic and an embarrassment, and CNN should not be encouraging such a misconception.

And yet it did.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society