When Artistic Boldness Is Unethical: The “Merrily We Roll Along” Movie

In an epic and unprecedented project, auteur director Richard Linklater will direct a film adaptation of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the cult 1981 Sondheim musical fashioned from the 1934  George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart Broadway play.

The production, which will begin next year,  will take 20 years to shoot, so the actors can age with their characters. You see, the story in “Merrily We Roll Along” is told backwards, with the audience meeting the characters as jaded middle-aged adults, and then watching how they got where they are, until they are seen as idealistic young students preparing to go out into the world. Linklater is probably correct that this is the only way to film such a plot credibly, and he is a bold and courageous artist to commit to an artistic endeavor requiring such a long time commitment, extreme expense, and uncertainty.

He’s also deluded and irresponsible. The project will cost many millions of dollars, and tie up not only his talents but many others to varying degrees over 20 years. The film is quite likely never to be completed, and if it is, likely not to be any good. Even if it is good, it will have no market, and is guaranteed to lose money. Continue reading

“Avengers: End Game” Ethics

I should begin by noting that there is no way I’m going to see this movie, unless I’m in the hospital, it’s on TV and my best alternatives are “Ellen” and Don Lemon.  I’m sick of CGI movies, sick of super-hero movies, and  have never been enamored of the genre since Christopher Reeve took Margot Kidder flying. As for this particular super-hero movie, the fact that it is 3-hours  is a minor problem, overwhelmed by the fact that I would have to watch the previous long Avengers movie, “Infinity War” to have a prayer of knowing what the hell’s going on.

However, many fans of such films are annoyed by the fact that “End Game” is so long yet has no intermission. They should be. One should be able to see the entertainment one has paid for without having to miss a chunk because nature calls. Movies don’t have intermissions any more, but that doesn’t mean there’s a good reason for them not to. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/18/2019: “The Pussy-Grabber Plays,” And More

1. The Comment Of The Day That Wasn’t. An aspiring troll calling himself “Alan P Siegfried, PharmD” attempted to post a debut comment on “Prophesy Confirmed: SNL And Our Nation Of Assholes,” which concerned Saturday Night Live mocking the war wounds of then candidate, now Congressman Dan Crenshaw as part of a campaign of ad hominem attacks on Republican. I considered making the post a Comment of the Day, as I have in the past with especially amusing rants, but it’s not that funny. I am going to reproduce it here, though, first, to provide another example of the kind of approach that the Comment Policies explicitly warn against. You don’t get leave to comment here by insulting me or condescending to your host, much as I am in thrall to the wisdom of pharmacists. I don’t know how someone can think that it is ethical to enter a house and immediately to start vomiting on the furniture, but commenters who do think that aren’t going to be tolerated. I also thought the attempted comment would be instructive on the question of why the current imbalance between commenters on the Left and Right here or late. Recent progressives have been arriving sneering and spitting; new moderate and conservative oriented readers have been acceptably civil. Why is that, I wonder? Here is the post, and my comments follow intermittently:

How many adults did you see ‘roll with laughter?’

This is called “a bad start.” I wrote that the mockery of Crenshaw by snickering Pete Davidson had the SNL barking progressive seals roaring with laughter, which it did. The first line also was signature significance, apparently suggesting that the vicious disrespect of a wounded veteran was mitigated if the laughter was muted. “Ah!” I say, when a comment begins like this. “An idiot!”

Or is that conjecture from a big city gal who dine went and lost touch with reality??

Wait—I’m a “big city gal”? I don’t even identify as one. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. One more time...I’m really going to try to get a year-end ethics review up for 2018. In both of the last two years, I failed miserably, and The Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of Ethics Awards never posted. It is a very time-intensive exercise, and the traffic for the posts have never been substantially more than an average entry that is a tenth as long.

We shall see.

2. The Bad Guys, Redux. It’s a problem: one wants to curb the trend of demonizing political adversaries, and yet we keep seeing escalating examples of unequivocally despicable behavior that deserves to be demonized, because it is constant, self-righteous, and indefensible.

Over at GoFundMe, someone named Brian Kolfage, has posted a petition and a crowd-funding effort to pay for “the wall” if Congress won’t. He writes, “I have a verified blue check Facebook page as a public figure and I’m a Purple Heart Recipient triple amputee veteran.”

This is not encouraging. [Correction notice: I originally wrote “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)” I checked this, but my source was wrong. Facebook does give public figures “blue checks.”] I guess Kolfage is sort of a public figure. He is also a controversial one who has pushed extreme right-wing conspiracy theories. When asked why he doesn’t mention any of his controversial crusades and advocacy in promoting his crowdfunding effort, he has responded, “My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.” Fine: what do his war wounds have to do with building a wall?

Never mind: the appeal has raised over 18 million dollars to date, although the contributions have slowed considerably. It’s a futile effort; I suppose it has some value to show public support for enforcing immigration laws. If people want to donate their money to such a cause, it’s their money to give, though they might as well be making little green paper airplanes out of hundred dollar bills and sailing them into the wind.

Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors. She writes,

Did you donate money to the GoFundMe page to build the border wall? If you did, there’s a good chance this guy/gal or otherkin has doxxed your Facebook profile to millions of other nasty trolls who will now make it their business to harass and punish you with anonymous online mobs. Get ready, because your life is about to get more interesting. Based on my personal experience, once these monsters get your information and the directive to destroy you, the death threats, vandalism, obscene pornography, and harassment at work are not far behind. And the worst part is, no one will help you — not the police or the FBI or anyone else whose job it should be to stop intimidation and harassment.

Nice. Continue reading

Lost Tuesday Ethics Scraps, 12/11/18: Statues, Tucker Carlson And “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Good whatever it is.

I guess I’m not as recovered as I thought: one high energy ethics presentation to a sluggish audience today and I was fried. This better not be encroaching old age, or I’ll be pissed.

1. Thank you for making the open forum this morning active: I wish you all had been in my audience today. I haven’t read any of it yet (I did finally get your excellent comment out of moderation, Michael R!); I’m trying to get my own posts up.

2. Stolen art ethics. No doubt: the looting of art from the Old World by American tycoons and museums is a long-time ethics scandal, and the international court battles settling the disputes will continue for a long, long time. The argument over a 2000-year-old bronze statue, known as “Victorious Youth between the Getty Villa and Italy, however, is not as clear as most. Italy’s highest court has ordered that the sculpture should be returned to Italy. Currently, it is on display at the villa on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum. It was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964, and sold to successive collectors and dealers. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled  that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal. Getty is not giving in.

The ethics as well as the law is murky. This is not a case like King Tut, where Indiana Jones-style archeologists and adventurers, just uncovered foreign cultural treasures and took them home. Before acquiring the prized artifact, the Getty undertook a comprehensive, five-year study of whether the statue could be purchased legally and in good faith. Their due diligence extensive analysis of international, Italian, American and California law and of Italian court decisions pertaining to the work.

In 1968, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to the Italian state; after all, it is Greek. Although the fishermen took the statue onto Italian soil, the court did not find that its brief presence in Italy transformed the sculpture into a component of Italian cultural heritage. Eventually the statue made its way to a German art dealer who put the statue up for sale. According to the Getty, in 1973, acting on a request from Italy, German police initiated an investigation into whether the German dealer had received stolen goods. The investigation was dropped for lack of evidence of wrongdoing. In 1977, the Getty purchased the bronze in Britain for almost $4 million from a gallery affiliated with the German dealer. The bronze has now been publicly exhibited, studied and cared for at the Getty for 40 years. Continue reading

The Vagina Epilogues [Updated]

The progress of ethics and wisdom in  civilization generally gets better over time, though it may take some screwy routes to get there. I presume gender ethics will eventually get better too, but right now, it’s hard to be optimistic. Take the vagina, and the absence thereof:

  • According to blogger Amy Dyess, lead singer for Big Dyke Energy, there is a movement to condemn lesbians who aren’t sexually attracted to trans women, the kind without vaginas. She writes on Medium, “Lesbians have the right to a word that defines who we are. We have a right to exist and take pride in our boundaries. Our existence doesn’t invalidate trans people. Plenty of pansexual and queer folks are attracted to trans people, and that’s awesome. There’s nothing hateful about being a homosexual, yet extremists don’t want homosexuality to exist.” Here’s an example of the argument that holds that one’s sexual orientations are a form of bigotry:

 

Writes Dyess, “Being a trans ally doesn’t mean you have to tolerate or promote homophobia. Being a homosexual isn’t anti-trans. It’s unreasonable to expect lesbians to be pansexual. Sexual orientation is sex-based for homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals. Extremists can’t handle that words have meaning. Boundaries aren’t being respected.”

Well, welcome to the Extreme Left Planet, Amy. It isn’t enough to ensure that people have rights regardless of their differences, its is officially unacceptable to acknowledge that those differences exist of involve any real world handicaps at all. However, special privileges that only those with the special qualifies are always just.

Conservative and liberal are rapidly diverging into two distant corners labelled: REALITY and FANTASY, with the FANTAST side taking no prisoners….or as Amy Alkon says, “Yes, sexual preference has become a form of bigotry in Social Justice Crazytown.”

  • The furied elevation of Women Without Vaginas as a special class continued at Eastern Michigan University, where a scheduled performance of “The Vagina Monologues”was  cancelled because, according to the university’s release, “not all women have vaginas.”  The Women’s Resource Center EMU halted production of Eve Ensler’s iconic 1994 play because of its “lack of trans-sensitivity”, and “overall lack of diversity and inclusion.” According to Ann Arbor News, survey respondents opposed to the production consistently cited that “the play centers on cisgender women, that the play’s version of feminism excludes some women, including trans women, and that overall, “The Vagina Monologues” lacks diversity and inclusion.”

Notice how the extreme Left inevitably arrives at censorship and the suppression of free speech.. It is the totalitarian tilt of the entire ideology: the nail that sticks out must be pounded down. Nah, there’s no difference at all between women with vaginas and women without them, and, I assume the logic goes, women with penises instead. They are as like other women as two blades of grass, and since they are, any opinion or artistic expression that says otherwise, hint otherwise, or in any way supports one who believes otherwise is not merely a lie, but a form of hate speech that should not be permitted in a woke society anyway.

Have I got that about right? I think so.

Many surveyed  wanted to see the play modified to reflect better diversity and inclusion, particularly related to transgenderism. That’s part of the pattern too. You can’t indoctrinate a population if old ideas and opinions are still available. Ban those books, plays, artwork and movies, or cut and paste them into Truth. The past not only has to be ignored and forgotten, it needs to be edited so all of the poison—because SJW’s now KNOW what is right, and the arguments are settled–can’t confuse anyone else.

In the new Broadway musical based on “King Kong,” the female lead doesn’t scream when menaced by a 30 foot gorilla, because we all know a woman would never scream in such a situation. (I might, however…)

EMU is not the first campus to cancel a  production of “The Vagina Monologues.” American University substituted an event called the  “Breaking Ground Monologues”, in order to “broaden the focus from specifically female genitalia to multiple identities and bodies.” In 2015 ,a student group at the women’s university Mount Holyoke College ended its tradition of presenting an annual performance of the play, claiming the play is exclusive of the experiences of transgender women who don’t have a vagina. According to an email sent to students from the group Project: Theater, “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.”

It’s funny: I was always excluded by the original  version of the play, but I always had the old-fashioned idea that screenwriters and playwrights should be able to write for all audiences and all points of view. No, now the Left has decided that old way was best: works of thought and art should be banned if authorities conclude that they’re not good for us, just like the censors once banned Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, and “Huckleberry Finn.” The key thing they’ve learned is that this only works if the right people are “the authorities.”

I had a really punchy but uncivil, vulgar, sexist and totally deserved ending for this post, and this story makes me angry enough to use it. I won’t, though.

 

“Antigone In Ferguson”: Embedding The Lie

Mike Brown’s father during a discussion after the performance.

“Antigone in Ferguson”  premiered at Normandy High School, Michael Brown’s alma mater, in September of 2016. Now the Harlem Stage is presenting it in New York City, Off-Broadway. A play is a play and art is art; artists are going to enable juvenile, half-baked and even destructive political ideas and themes, and playwrights will turn their perceptions of reality into stagecraft that they often are far more qualified to execute than the task of making sense out of the world. This drama was conceived and directed by the activist playwright Bryan Doerries in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri four years ago,  overlays the structure of the ancient Sophocles Greek tragedy with a distorted version of Brown’s death and its aftermath. The goal, says the sympathetic—complicit may be a better word—New York Times, is “to open the door on the thoughts and feelings aroused by the shooting of the 18-year-old Mr. Brown by a white police officer, and by the protests that followed. ”

The play is championed by the Brown family, which means that in part it exists to perpetuate a politically useful lie and the  apparently invulnerable narrative that Brown was the innocent, sweet-natured victim of a racist cop who murdered the teen in the streets of Ferguson, and then got away with his deed because the white justice system is bent on killing young black men.

This quite simply is not what happened. The racialist Obama Justice Department was eager to be able to show that the officer was a killer, but in the end, despite the sympathetic spinning of the news media for months, the evidence did not support that conclusion, and no charges could be brought. Mike Brown, stoned and freshly off roughing up a storekeeper, resisted a lawful arrest, tried to grab a police officer’s gun, and then, when he focused his imposing 300 pound mass on charging the smaller cop who arrested him, got himself shot—stupidly, needlessly. His friend on the scene, however, quickly concocted the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” exchange that never happened, and as that false version slowly twisted its way from slogan to protest to debunked myth, the facts of Brown’s case were neatly discarded for a narrative that advances the cause of division, anti-police bias, racial hatred, and more. Continue reading