Remembering Thommie Walsh

Ethical human beings who pass through your life deserve to be remembered, and it is in your interest to  give them that lasting gift. Sometimes they are like strings tied around your finger (does anyone still do that?) reminding you to do the right thing.

Thommie Walsh was like that for me today.

March 15 is his birthday, you see—I only knew that because the man who introduced us almost 20 years ago tagged me on a Facebook post.  Maybe you remember Thommie, who died in 2007, too. Here’s part of that post, by my friend and Thommie’s, playwright, author, and theater historian Chip Defaa:

He was an original member of the cast of “A Chorus Line”–which was THE musical of that era. That show was created, in unique fashion, from taped comments about their lives by actual performers. Thommie was one of that original group. And the character he originated in “A Chorus Line,” “Bobby,” was based on him. As an actor, Thommie was saying on stage lines that rang true because they were true; he was saying things (as “Bobby”) he’d been saying before anyone thought up the idea of doing “A Chorus Line.”

He moved into choreographing and directing. He was ALWAYS working–Broadway, Off-Broadway, TV commercials, you name it. He staged friends’ cabaret shows–most notably the cabaret show of Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie, his former castmate in “A Chorus Line” and a lifelong friend. She did that show, to great acclaim, for years afterwards in many venues. (I was delighted to be an invited guest at the performance that was taped for an album.) He also worked on the cabaret and concert shows of Chita Rivera and Joel Grey. Broadway royalty.

Among Broadway and Off-Broadway shows Thommie worked on, as a director and/or choreographer, were: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” “Nine,” “My One and Only,” and “My Favorite Year.”

Thommie won two Tony Awards for choreography: that’s how I knew his name when Chip told me that he was going to direct “Danny and Sylvia,” the two-person musical about Danny Kaye and his wife Sylvia Fine I had originally developed for my theater company, as part of a New York City, Off-Broadway festival. Both cast members were friends, so I got periodic updates on how rehearsals were going. Thommie, like any good director, was making changes, adding his feel for the characters and material as he went along. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Reveries, 3/15/2020: Oh, Hell…I Have To Write About The Wuhan Virus Whether I Want To Or Not..

Good morning…

The avalanche of Wuhan virus stories with ethical implications cannot all be squeezed Part III of the series about the pandemic’s ethical implications, especially since that one will concentrate on politics and the news media. So I’m stuck, much as I would prefer to think about almost anything else….

1. Here’s one that compels the question, “What’s going on here?” among others.  The Struthers, Ohio, police department posted this notice on Facebook:

“Due to the coronavirus, the police department is asking that all criminal activities stop until further notice. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in the matter. We will update you when we deem it’s appropriate to proceed with yo bad selves.”

Before I got to the end, I assumed this was a serious message. It is far from the dumbest thing I’ve seen in response to the Wuhan Virus mess.Then I reached the end, and I decided that it was probably a joke.

Thinking some more, though: would it necessarily be futile to ask criminals to be responsible members of the community just for a while, for their own benefit as well as society’s? There might be some who would take the appeal to heart. If there were, however, the joke ending of the message would undermine any such impulse.

2. More on the Name Game: Our esteemed Mrs. Q had dubbed the illness the WuFlu. Checking on Google, there was a flurry or reports using that name in January and February; there was even a hashtag. I like it, but using Wuhan Virus does a better job of rubbing in the face of the appropriate parties the deceit and cowardice of the news media’s rush to follow China’s edict and pretend that the virus originated somewhere else. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2020: Mrs. Jobs, Senator Schumer, Mayor de Blasio, And A Possum

Hi!

I’m working on Part III of the Wuhan virus ethics series, so I’m going to try to keep related matters to a minimum here. A couple links you can check out to relieve me of the necessity of commenting on them: Here’s Ann Althouse writing about her “social distancing” without, apparently, any awareness that the average American is not retired, financially well off, with a spouse, with grown children, who are happy blogging and reading all day. And here’s Ruth Marcus, long one of the more blatantly biased (and dim) members of the Washington Post’s editorial board, authoring an op ed with the head exploding headline,Why Joe Biden is the antidote to this virus.” I intend to keep this utter crap on file for the next time someone argues that degrees from elite institutions are evidence of intellectual ability. Marcus has a Yale and Harvard  Law degree.

1.  Rich people have a right to their wealth; it’s a shame, though, that their riches can’t buy IQ points, or the wisdom to know when to shut up. Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve , told the New York Times,

“It’s not right for individuals to accumulate a massive amount of wealth that’s equivalent to millions and millions of other people combined. There’s nothing fair about that. We saw that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the Rockefellers and Carnegies and Mellons and Fords of the world. That kind of accumulation of wealth is dangerous for a society. It shouldn’t be this way….I inherited my wealth from my husband, who didn’t care about the accumulation of wealth. I am doing this in honor of his work, and I’ve dedicated my life to doing the very best I can to distribute it effectively, in ways that lift up individuals and communities in a sustainable way. I’m not interested in legacy wealth building, and my children know that. Steve wasn’t interested in that. If I live long enough, it ends with me.”

What a stupid, ethics-challenged, smug and selfish person. The tell is offering the non-argument that people being able to make as much money as they can and want isn’t “fair” and that it “shouldn’t be that way.” How articulate and persuasive! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics”

SUCH a pretty virus! Yes you ARE! Yes you ARE!

Whether you or not agree with all of Pennagain‘s generally wise advice, these are good things to talk and think about. The smug manner in which we are all being told to just hole up in out homes indefinitely is not really helpful. Civilization has to continue.

I just had two seminars cancelled, a few minutes ago. I expected it, but the ramifications are many and complex, and not just for me.

Here’s Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics”:

The basic information is everywhere and easily available. It is also repeated or presented regularly. Anyone can find it online in the regular (not specially created) medical websites. This is a panic and the rest of us — I assume that includes most readers here — need to sit back, give a think, and wait it out. And, much as I hate to say it, not watching TV (particularly the un-news) will help enormously. [If you don’t understand why you should stop regular, unquestioning watching of television and online “news”, never mind] If you feel secure enough, support your local grocery, gym, restaurant (get take-out) and other small businesses you usually do. You don’t want them to fail; they won’t be back again.

Do not follow some instructions — several of which seem to have been taken from a 1934 public health pamphlet. A few. Do not wash your hands unless you have a reason to. Hand washing is fine after touching something or someone who might have been infected. Luke-warm water, a bit of soap that you usually use. Hand scrubbing is not okay unless you are a surgeon at work. Rub and rinse under luke-warm (never hot) running water. Pat dry. Alcohol-based cleaners are being suggested by otherwise reputable health care sources. Eschew them. They do not protect against viruses and most of all, they dry out your skin, which then develops cracks (including microscropic cracks) that viruses can get into. Panic reaction to AIDS (the mid 80s) caused fast-thinking savvy businesspeople to jump on the hand-“cleaner” bandwagon and the public went along like hypnotized lemmings. Nobody needs them. oh, and nobody ever caught anything from a toilet seat either.

Try not to share your anxiety with your children. Think about having to home-school them! Here’s what you do need to know. Yes, it’s simple. Pass it on: Continue reading

How Do People Get These Crazy Ideas About Right And Wrong?

I always review the “Social Qs” advice column on Sundays, and frequently have a disagreement with the advice offered by columnist Philip Gallanes. (He’s pretty good, though.) This time, however, his column bothered me from a different perspective, namely, “What the hell is the matter with these people?” I found Gallanes’ advice reasonable and ethical throughout, but in three of the four letters, the conduct described was so obviously wrong that I found myself once again feeling that my insignificant efforts to try to promote good ethics decision-making skills (a task that takes up about three hours a day, seven days a week, 365 ,  366 this year, days a year—Do NOT tell my business partner!—are an irresponsible waste of time that I will want back when I am dying  of COVID-19.

First, a college freshman wrote that her boyfriend had given her  a 50 dollar gift certificate for Panera on Valentine’s Day. When she told the guy, whom she said was “great,” that his gift was terrible, he replied, “Well, at least I got you a gift.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance

A furious mother is making an issue out of a Utah middle school’s policy requiring sixth-graders to agree acquiesce when a classmate asks them to dance.

Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn was asked to dance by a boy she thought was icky. She “politely” refused, but the principle at Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah,  intervened, telling the couple to get out onto the dance floor. Was the boy short, fat, covered with acne, bad-smelling, a bully, afflicted with Down Syndrome? Was he poor, have a lisp, or Muslim? Was there a cool boy Azlyn was waiting to play Prince Charming? Never mind: As the principal, Kip Motta, later explained in a letter to Alicia Hobson, the school has a policy requiring students to accept dance invitations, and sticks by it. Motta wrote,

“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”

Hobson equates the policy with “rape culture,” and is prepared to take the issue to the Utah Board of Education. “Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.”

Ethics Alarms dealt with a similar issue in a different context in this post, about children accepting kisses and hugs from repulsive family members.

Before I pop the quiz question, I have three observations. The first is that that the principal’s fad use of the word “safe” has just got to stop. That’s not what “safe” means, and if we keep using “safe” to mean “insulated from any event, feeling or experience that someone might prefer to avoid,” the word will cease to have any communication value. The second is that equating the social obligation to accept an invitation at a supervised dance with “rape culture” is a hyperbolic crock, and should be identified as such immediately.

The third observation is that the “Today” headline is intentionally misleading and unfairly supports the mother’s inflammatory framing. “School policy forbids kids from saying ‘no’ when asked to dance” presumes the conclusion Hobson wants. “School policy requires students to be kind and considerate when asked to dance” promotes  the school’s rationale. An ethical and responsible headline would be, ““School policy requires students to accept an invitation to dance.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today :

Is the school’s policy wise and ethical?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Who Killed ‘Judith’s’ Baby?”

Enigmatic commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod (that’s not him in the picture, just a relative) returned to Ethics Alarms after an unexplained absence (though who knows how time passes in his dimension) to provide one of several excellent observations on the post and poll about “Judith,” the expectant mother whose faith in a “freebirthing” cult cost her unborn child his life. The comments of Tim LeVier, Humble Talent, JutGory, and Mrs. Q, among others, were all Comment of the Day worthy, but for now, I’m going to award EC the prize.

Here is the current state of the poll…

…and here  is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on “Who Killed Judith’s Baby?”

First off, I’m grateful for all the nuanced and well-considered opinions here. I can always count on getting reasonably well-balanced information about human society from people’s experiences here, and the encouragement that reasonable people are not alone–just not yet organized.

The poll didn’t let me vote multiple times, but I’m tempted to select “all of the above,” in the sense that “responsible” can mean “contributing to the problem and needing to change.” For “primarily responsible,” I’m obligated to go with “Judith,” since she is presumed to have ultimate decision-making authority in this case.

That survey question by the National Partnership for Women & Families spins so hypnotically, I’d like to take it off its axle.

“Giving birth is a natural process that should not be interfered with unless absolutely medically necessary.” Who wouldn’t agree to that?

1. Yes, giving birth is objectively and literally a natural process, in that humans didn’t deliberately design it. (Although I wouldn’t put it past them to have done so under a tight budget of time and money. I’ve supported software rollouts that were just as awkward and painful.)

However, stating something to be “a natural process” in so many words implies on an emotional level that it is by default perfectly healthy and should remain purely natural, which is an appeal to nature fallacy. “Cancer is a natural process.” “Epidemics are a natural process.” “Hurricanes are a natural process.” There are plenty of natural things that I am very grateful civilization has altered or wants to alter using technology. Continue reading