Tag Archives: creativity

Comment Of The Day: “The ‘Unacceptable Word’ Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?”

I don’t know if anyone regularly commenting here cares about the punishment of the acting student for his politically incorrect choice of words in an improv exercise as much as Curmie (above) and I do, but we care about it a lot.  As with the Ethics Alarms baseball ethics posts, the various theatrical ethics posts here sink quickly in readership, which, I’m afraid, speaks to a regrettable narrowness of vision. Ethical issues are seldom restricted in their applicability to the specific area in which they arise. I’m especially sensitive to ethics issues others might miss in certain areas where I have a lot of experience and expertise. The same is true, obviously, with Curmie.

Incidentally, I again urge readers to check on Curmie’s blog routinely. He has been through a light writing period of late, but when he speaks, as they once said of E.F. Hutton, people listen, or should. And maybe we can get him writing more again. I know of no more thoughtful, fair, and eloquent blogger, regardless of the topic.

See Curmie? The pressure’s on now!

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?:

I am not an acting teacher by trade, but I have taught about two dozen sections of various college-level acting courses over the years. I’ve also taught directing maybe 15 times, and I’ve directed about 40 full-length plays (and a bunch of one-acts)—I’ve used improv techniques in the classroom and in rehearsal many times, although perhaps fewer than some of my colleagues of equivalent experience may have done.

It is remotely possible that the professor, Craig Rosen, imposed some restrictions on the exercise. I’ve done this. For example, if a student is working on a period piece and the language is, shall we say, less explicit than that of a work by David Mamet or Neil Labute or Sarah Kane might be, that young actor may be having trouble finding the anger a character feels if the verbal expression of it seems mild by 21st-century standards.

I’m reminded of working on a book chapter about an Irish version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The translator/adapter had Masha, one of the title characters, refer to her sister-in-law as a “bitch.” I happened to have access to a good friend and native Russian speaker, who also happened to be a scholar of dramatic literature. No, she said, Masha’s expletive doesn’t really translate that way… but for her expression of class-driven disgust to have the same effect on a modern audience that Masha’s line would have had in Tsarist Russia, she’d have to call Natasha a “fucking shopkeeper.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”

The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.

Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with  the role he had been assigned.  Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused  Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”

No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.

As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above)  reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”

Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Special Post Thanksgiving Food Feature: Store Brand Ethics

Dr-PublixI may be the only person who cares (other than the company’s that are losing sales to the tactic), but look-alike labeling, branding and packaging are ethicly objectionable if not flat-out fraudulent, and if it isn’t that, it’s a insult to shoppers’ intelligence. I particularly detest kids DVDs with the same titles and similar graphics as Disney DVDs, but containing cheap knock-offs that look like Hanna Barbara cartoons when the cartoonists were having a bad day. Now that my kids video purchasing days are over, it’s over-the-counter drugs and food packaging that trick me when I’m not paying attention and in a hurry, and with me its one or the other, often both. I got caught Wednesday, in fact, buying a Safeway knock-off that had the same colors as the real McCoy.

Thus I’m grateful to Consumerist, which recently asked for readers’ to send in photos of the most ridiculous examples of store brand imitations. With these, it’s not the lame attempts to fool consumers that’s annoying so much as the laziness and the pure lack of respect and creativity involved in the effort or lack of it.

There was a theme on the late, lamented film satire show Mystery Science Theater 3000 when the special effects or other aspects of the cheesy science fiction and horror movies they mocked were particularly ridiculous: “They just didn’t care.”

That’s what’s going on with this Hamberger Helper rip-off…

panburger

and this pathetic “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” clone… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising

Culture, Truthteller Ethics, And Richard Dawkins’ Tweet

What can a leading intellectual say of value in 140 characters?

What can a leading intellectual say of value in 140 characters?

Philosopher/biologist Richard Dawkins, best known as the world’s most formidable atheist, does not shy away from rustling the feathers of some pretty fierce birds. Recently he even infuriated many of his admirers by tweeting, “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He was immediately called an anti-Muslim bigot by some, while others chose to challenge his assertion with false analogies. Making a strong statement worthy of a treatise in 140 characters is a tricky enterprise, and perhaps an unwise one, but the politically incorrect observation he was making was not about the Nobel Prize’s perfection as a measure of accomplishment, but rather about how the Muslim culture has strangled human progress, creativity and advancement for centuries. In this he is correct. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, History, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, The Internet

Concept Stealing Or Creative Evolution? “The Trip To Bountiful” Controversy And The Ownership Of Conceptual Innovation

"Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!"

“Pay up! Timothy Wilson owns that color!”

The late playwright Horton Foote’s gentle drama (all of his dramas are gentle, come to think of it) “The Trip To Bountiful” is being revived on Broadway, and is stirring up the kind of nasty controversy he would have detested. (You probably know Foote better as the screenwriter who brilliantly adapted “To Kill A Mockingbird” into the classic movie it became.) The production has an all-black cast starring Cicely Tyson, and some are arguing that director Michael Wilson stole the idea of presenting Foote’s tale as the story of an African American family.They also claim that he owes Timothy Douglas, the professional director who first staged the play this way (in Cleveland, in 2011) public acknowledgment, and possibly compensation. Alisa Solomon lays out the theatrical ethics controversy here, and explores many related issues, including the murky distinction between colorblind casting and non-traditional casting.

As an ethicist and a professional stage director, I have a simple and direct answer for what Solomon seems to believe is a complex question: Baloney. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Web Hoaxes: Would You Trust This Lawyer?

In an earlier post this month, I related the story of Ethan Haines, an unemployed, newly-graduated lawyer who was staging a hunger strike, he said, to protest the fact that law schools misled their recruits about the employment prospects of their graduates. I was not sympathetic, and concluded:

“Law degrees still are valuable credentials, as is a good legal education, and if Haines got a good legal education, he received everything a law school is obligated to provide. Turning the degree into a career is his responsibility, and it is wrong for him to claim that anyone but himself is accountable for his present unemployed state.”

His stunt was more than an avoidance of responsibility and accountability, however it was a lie. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

The Strange Case of the Starving Lawyer

Newly minted and unemployed lawyer Ethan Haines has gone on a hunger strike in the name of all unemployed former law students, to protest misleading law school employment statistics, commercial school rankings, and antiquated career counseling programs. “I designated myself class representative since these students are not able to come forward themselves, for fear that vocalizing their concerns will negatively affect their careers,” he writes on his website. He is alerting various law schools about his Dick Gregory-style protest, intending “to bring awareness to the concerns of law students and recent law graduates by having them addressed by law school administrators. Their primary concerns are inaccurate employment statistics, ineffective career counseling, and rising tuition costs.” The strike, he says, “was motivated by a recent American Bar Association (ABA) investigate Report, which concluded that educational leaders are unable to timely combat the adverse affects of U.S. News’ rankings on legal education.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, The Internet