Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/21: Cold Day Reflections [Corrected]

Shining Frozen

1. Wait, what? Ann Althouse revealed this week that she doesn’t read all of the paragraphs in articles she blogs about. She was caught doing this is a post I didn’t read, since it involved her weird concern about the sounds ice makes in a glass. The law professor had asked a question that was answered in the article, but Ann didn’t read that far.

I have found that blogging inherently requires doing opinion and analysis with less than all the facts, or, in the alternative, writing only an article a day. The Ethics Scoreboard, now online, was an ethics website, not a blog, and I spent easily three times the research and consideration on each post that I do now on Ethics Alarms. I also had a webmaster who caught most typos. I eventually decided to switch to blog, because I couldn’t come close to covering the field in only a post a day (if even that), and because I wanted to have an ethics forum with participation from commenters. I sympathize with Ann: blogging is time consuming even if you write as quickly as I do. Then you have the proofing, tagging and administrative stuff. I can see why she would get in the habit of skimming articles.

But it’s still reckless, and guarantees mistakes and an erosion of trust. To her credit, she admitted that she does this in her post, but didn’t seem to say that she was about to change.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/26/2020: Having Flashbacks To When Saturdays Were Fun

That’s the late, great, Vito Scotti as “Pasta.” He played Italians in drama, comedies, stage plays, movies and TV shows, but he also played Mexicans and other ethicities  when required.  Was he in “The Godfather”? Of course he was. “Columbo”? Sure. Did he drop in on “Gilligan’s Island,” “I Love Lucy,” and “The Addams Family.” Absolutely. He was on “Batman” twice as one of The Penguin’s henchmen.

And he really was a professional caliber chef. “Andy’s Gang,” meanwhile, was completely chaotic, just as kids like it. No educational value, no political indoctrination, just lots of running jokes and nonsense.

Sublime.

I had a rubber “Froggie the Gremlin” bath toy. “Twang your magic twanger” was a catch phrase for years after “Andy’s Gang” went of the air.

1. Professional incompetence. One almost certain casualty of the lock-down will be live theater, in part because the people who run it, on average, just aren’t very smart. I have been reading about how New York theaters are or will be streaming plays. Morons.

Theater that isn’t shown in a  theater with people sharing the experience isn’t theater, it’s crude TV. The problem has always been to get people into a  theater to experience what is so dynamic and unique about a live performance. If the theater community promotes video versions of theatrical performances as a viable substitute, and that’s exactly what it’s doing, they have surrendered.

Well, at least we’ve probably seen the end of $500 Broadway tickets.

2. Maybe they’ll appreciate Citizens United now. Showtime is featuring an anti-Trump screed disguised as a movie called “The Comey Rule.” I wonder if those who, like all the Democratic candidates for President during the primaries that played to the crowd by promising to get the Citizens United case reversed (as if they could), understand its significance. They condemned the SCOTUS ruling upholding the First Amendment, and  Showtime’s bit of campaign agitprop is exactly what the overturned campaign contribution law would have allowed the government to ban.

Since the film at the center of the original case, however, was a conservative attack on Hilary Clinton, Democrats were (are?) all for censorship. Continue reading

Common Sense Doesn’t Matter Either: The “Woke” Acting Profession Is Betraying Audiences And Dooming Itself (Part 2: Give My Demands To Broadway…)

Upon careful consideration, I think this clip is the fairest representation of what black theater activists on Broadway are advocating:

In Part I of this series, we discussed the dead-end strategy recently pursued by the performing woke of imposing one-way limitations on which actors could portray what roles. Across the full range of group grievance activism, everyone is rushing to try to exploit and capitalize upon the George Floyd Freakout, perhaps recognizing that the present state of self-flagellation and submissiveness by white decision-makers, governments, businesses and other institutions won’t last forever. In their haste, many groups—in this I would include the “resistance,” Democrats and the news media among others—are metaphorically cutting their own throats. This is especially true of the theater community.

A coalition of theater artists called “We See You, White American Theater” has posted online a 29-page set of demands that if adopted, the New York Times opines, “would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America.”

Wrong, Bias Breath! If adopted, the demands would kill commercial live theater, and it is more than half dead already, though most theater community members are in denial.

The list reminded me of the bad old days of the 1960s, when student anarchists, protesting the war in Vietnam, would take over university buildings and then, thinking that they had the upper hand, would submit a list of demands including the Moon and the kitchen sink, many of which had nothing to do with the war at all.  This list of demands makes those look reasonable, one reason being that simply reading the 29 pages of arrogant woke-speak is a task few will have the patience to undertake.

I’ll just focus on some highlights. (By the way, you need to know that BIPOC means “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”):

  • “We demand the naming and acknowledgement of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tribal land and its Native peoples who have lived, currently live, and will live on the land where any theatre activity happens.”

I hate to keep having to break it to these naifs, but theater is just not that important to most people, particularly those in power. “We have to rename Indianapolis to have theater here? OK—we won’t have any theater then! Problem solved!”

This one is worth repeating in full: Continue reading

A Typically Deranged Example Of The George Floyd Freakout In Destructive Action, As It Takes Every Bit Of Self-Restraint In My Being Not To Laugh, Because That Would Be Wrong

Now the statue-toppling, America-hating, woke-police have come for “Hamilton.”

That’s ignorant and destructive, as well as as stupid, like so much of what we have allowed the Black Lives Matter mobs to do. It is unethical, and as predicted by anyone who has learned the history fanatic movements throughout world history, it was inevitable. Such anger-driven uprisings never stop until they start devouring their own.  “Hamilton” doesn’t deserve the attack, but as one of the more arrogant and offensive agents of the resistance when it was just getting rolling on its divisive, self-righteous way, I am finding it difficult to be as sympathetic to its fate as I should be.

You will recall that about a week after the 2016 election, the cast of “Hamilton,” led by its star and creator Lin-Mamuel Miranda, signaled that all rules of fairness, respect and decorum were suspended as the Left vowed vengeance on Donald Trump, his supporters and allies. The cast ambushed Vice-President- elect Mike Pence, who had come to see the performance like any other audience member in any other audience, and who had every right to be treated with the same deference. Instead, the cast called out Pence during the curtain call, and subjected him to a scripted lecture, beginning,

“We hope you will hear us out. We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

How naive and quaint those words sound today, a little less than four years later, as the chaotic madness spawned by “the resistance” is in the process of trying to tear down the nation, constrict our rights, and replace our values. Continue reading

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

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf”

The nauseating tale of how Washington College in Maryland killed a fully rehearsed and audience-ready student production of the widely acclaimed (and inoffensive) Larry Shue comedy “The Foreigner” on the most flimsy of political correctness pretexts, and then saw the institution’s president absurdly deny that the censorious act was censorship, has begun attracting comment here from the college’s larger community.

Below is a Comment of the Day on my post about the situation, “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf,” submitted by skipm, a 1987 graduate with two BA degrees, including one in drama.

Speaking for a group of about 200-300 (changes daily) alum, we’ve been at odds with the Board of Visitors and Governors due to the cost of the high turnover of administration for years. The lack of transparency in the fiscal and administrative management is deplorable. Calling on the alumni to support half-hearted and complacent efforts to maneuver a private liberal arts college, the 10th oldest college in the country, through this past 10 years makes us grow weary. This censorship is only the latest, most egregious act thus far by the current administration.

You mistake Machiavellian for pure ham-fisted ignorance. Kurt was late to the game on this issue, yet owns and yet in his own moment of “enlightenment” supports the decision fully. If you read the letters to the editor on The Chestertown Spy from one of the affected parents of the cast/crew (https://chestertownspy.org/2019/11/13/wc-parent-open-letter-to-provost-diquinzio-on-foreigner-cancellation/) , or look at the largest social media commented post ( https://tinyurl.com/censorshipwc1) you’ll see the Provost and Dean, and perhaps one other professor, announced the cancellation at the outset of the final dress rehearsal, then locked the doors, allowed the students to work through the play, then walked out at the end with nary a word or huzzah. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf

“Elephant? What elephant?” The thing is, Jimmy was playing a CLOWN when he uttered that line, not a college president.

“Our intent in cancelling the production was to prevent further harm to members of our community who already feel marginalized. However, the decision to cancel the play has been interpreted by some as a form of censorship on the part of the College. Censorship is anathema to the core values of Washington College, and this was never our intent.”

—-Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College in Maryland, in his letter to the campus regarding the decision to cancel a student production of Larry Shue’s 1980 farce “The Foreigner.”

Got that? “Censorship? What censorship? Oh, you mean that thing when we stopped a play from being performed? You call that censorship?”

Yes, the president of an institution of higher learning is really and truly saying in print that administrators cancelled the production of a play, as in “prevented it from being seen,” because of concerns over the content of said play, and the need to protect some students from seeing it, hearing it, or knowing it was being seen and heard by others, yet did not intend this to constitute censorship, which it was by definition.

I’ll publish the whole weaselly, embarrassing letter at the end of the post, because otherwise you might not believe it.

I have seen “The Foreigner.” It’s not a classic by any means, but there is nothing controversial about it, and nothing that would legitimately “trigger” anyone with the sense God gave a trout.  Deciding that “The Foreigner” needs to be censored makes as much sense as blocking a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The comedy opened Off-Broadway in 1984 and won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. Since then it has been a staple of regional theaters, community theaters, colleges and high schools. A very short version of the plot: Two Englishmen visiting a  fishing lodge in rural Georgia foil the plot of an evil  local Klansman to take over the lodge and use it as a KKK headquarters. The hero, Charlie Baker, pulls this off in part by pretending to be a non-English speaker and talking gibberish, as well as pretend language like ” Klaatu barada nikto” from the classic film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  Because people think he can’t understand them, they openly discuss their various plots and schemes in his presence.

The Horror. Continue reading

Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My Upcoming Smithsonian Program on Cross-Examination

I don’t know how many Ethics Alarms readers live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.—I suspect quite a few—but if you do and are interested in seeing me and my sister present a lively two-hour program exploring many of the legal ethics issues that I have tackled here, along with plenty of history, popular culture and trial technique (and are willing to pay $45 for the privilege as well as some take-home materials),  maybe I can meet you on the evening of October 21st.

The event is called “Courtroom Drama: The Art of Cross-Examination,” and here’s description: Continue reading

The Theater World Shows How To Embolden White Nationalists: Discriminate Against Actors For Being White

Even white actors, as long as they are willing to be treated as if they aren’t wanted…

“Backstage,” a popular industry website for actors and technicians, recently posted a casting call for an ensemble production Off-Off Broadway in New York City. The post included this…

and this…

It also offered this…

As soon as an enterprising journalist at the Daily Wire began querying the playwright about these discriminatory requirements—of course they are illegal, but he got statements from two Constitutional scholars to pass along—the Back Stage announcement was changed to reflect no racial disparities.

Fascinating. Continue reading

Fire Lisa Mars

I usually hesitate to call for anyone to be fired, though there have been exceptions. In this case, however, the call is mandatory on ethical grounds. It is unethical for a school dedicated to the arts to hand oversight to an gross incompetent who doesn’t comprehend the arts she is supposedly responsible for teaching; it is unethical for someone to take on this responsibility who is wildly unqualified for the job; and it is unethical for that individual to act in a way that undermines the mission of the school she heads.

I have just fairly described Lisa Mars, currently the principal at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School, the high school “of music, arts the performing arts” made famous in the movie and TV show, “Fame.”

On opening night of a school production of “The Sound of Music,” she ordered all Nazi-themed props and set pieces struck. They are offensive, you see. Never mind that the show is set during Germany’s take-over of Austria as the Third Reich was expanding. Never mind that Nazi Germany and its officers are major elements in the plot, or that the plot is based on the real-life escape of the singing Von Trapp family from the Nazis. Never mind that theater is a representational art form. Stage deaths are not real killings, stage rape isn’t really rape, stage racism isn’t really racism, and stage representations of Nazi symbols do not promote fascism. Most grade-school actors can grasp this basic principle, but not the head of a school for the performing arts.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore said. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history.” Yes, that too. “Obviously the symbols are offensive,” he added. “But in context, they are supposed to be.”

Make him principal. Continue reading