Reflections On My Final Visit To “The Greatest Show On Earth”

The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus will bring down its metaphorical Big Top for the final time in May. Its business model simply does not work any more, as an executive of the arena entertainment company that owns it said recently—especially since the circus capitulated to animal rights activists and fired its performing elephants. (Ticket sales dropped by almost a third.) This was an iconic cultural institution vanishing, so I had to say farewell, and did so last weekend, when the circus came to Washington, D.C. for the final time.

Observations:

1. It is still an entertaining show, even though  the Ringling brothers would never have recognized it as a circus. Several of the acts were worth the ticket price (in our cases, about 75 bucks) all by themselves.

2. The Verizon Center was about a third filled for the final show of the legendary Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Center itself was sparsely staffed; it took 20 minutes in line to buy popcorn. Americans, as a group, don’t care about history, culture and significant changes in it landscape any more. The circus and its components gave us imagery, lore, metaphors—“walking a tight rope,” “three ring circus,” (this one is now a two-and-a half ring circus at best), “ringmaster,” “dog and pony show,” “the big tent,” “side-shows,” “clown act,” —and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” The nation is a little poorer and less colorful without it.

3. The public also increasingly sees little value in the mass audience experience. Live entertainment, especially family friendly varieties, were traditionally seen as an important and natural way to strengthen community ties, by bonding disparate members of society through a shared experience involving witnessing something transforming and memorable.

4. Assisting in the death of this experience is the trend of making sure all arena and stadium events  are filled with loud, never-ending, pounding electronic music that would make Phil Specter grab ear plugs. Once,  the circus’s dramatic  music consisted of drum rolls, bands and soft calliopes. If you watch the Cecil B. DeMille movie “The Greatest Show On Earth,” you will see spectators talking to each other during the acts, or shouting out to performers. Either is virtually impossible now. Conversation consists of screaming a few words repeatedly until your companion nods. This continues the cultural trend of making meaningful interaction with fellow human beings passe. How can this possibly be a healthy development for society?

I did see a lot of people texting….maybe to those sitting next to them.

5. Almost no venders were walking among the seated. A single snow cone from one of these cost $12.00.

6. This is how unintended cultural pollution takes place. The conglomerate that owns the circus also owns various ice shows, like Disney on Ice. To cut costs, it decided to employ performers from the ice shows in the circus too, meaning that instead of a sawdust path around the rings, the track around the performing areas are ice. Everyone is on skates half the time. It isn’t a bad effect: it’s faster than the old-style parades. But now the circus is an ice show. Continue reading

President Trump Will Not Throw Out The First Ball Of The Baseball Season

News Item: Donald Trump has declined the Washington Nationals’ invitation to throw out the first pitch when the Nats begin the 2017 season. The club said that the White House blamed a “scheduling conflict.”

Observations:

1.  In the abstract, this is too bad—for baseball, for the Presidency, for the country. Traditions are healthy for cultures. Thirteen U.S. Presidents have thrown the season’s ceremonial first pitch at either a Nationals or Senators catcher  since 1910.: William H. Taft (1910-11), Woodrow Wilson (1912, ‘14), Warren Harding (1921-22), Calvin Coolidge (1924, ‘27-28), Herbert Hoover (1929-32), Franklin D. Roosevelt ( 1933, ‘35-41), Harry S. Truman (1946, ‘48-50, ‘52), Dwight Eisenhower (1953-58, ‘60), John F. Kennedy (1961-63), Lyndon Johnson (1964-65, ‘67), Richard Nixon (1969), George W. Bush (2008), and Barack Obama (2010).” The rest since 2010 found time to throw out at least one opening day pitch in other ball parks.

2. President Trump’s pass is wise, unfortunately. Herbert Hoover was roundly  booed every time he threw out the first pitch, and it was a profound embarrassment. (He kept coming back, though. Bravo. Guts.) Hoover, however, didn’t have to deal with endless videos, internet cruelty, TV show comic mockery, and a political party dedicated to undermining him and respect for his office. Washington DC voted against Trump by a 96%-4% margin. People in D.C. want the President to throw out the first pitch purely so they can abuse him. He has a duty to protect the office and his dignity. The President was right to decline, even though it represents handing another victory to those who want to isolate him, “otherize him,” and undermine his leadership. Trump could be defiant, but it would spoil the tradition. Sometimes the assholes win. This is one of those times. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Christmas Music Blues”

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In addition to honoring his Comment of the Day, I also have to thank texagg04 for his timely comment to last year’s lament here, “Christmas Blues,” about the state of Christmas music as presented by the media. Christmas and holiday music is a useful, if depressing, window into the state of U.S. culture, and if he hasn’t written this commentary, I would have had to. Unfortunately, the tex’s list is res ipsa loquitur, and what it speaks of isn’t good. Christmas, the most ethical of holidays, has been substantially stripped of its ethical foundations by pop culture.

Here is texaggo4’s Comment of the Day on the post “Christmas Music Blues.” For added perspective, you may also want to revue last year’s post, On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide.

As of noon today (Monday, 28 Nov), I ran a quick survey of songs played on our local “Christmas” station since the start of last Monday.

95 songs played (though 161 if you separate them by Artist and Version of the song) for a total of 1,893 times.

Here’s the list and how many times they were played (Down on the list are some weird outliers involving the Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice soundtrack. I have no clue how those landed on the station’s playlist archive…but they were there, so I’ve included them): Continue reading

Opening The Door, Tit-For-Tat, And The Drunk In The “Hamilton” Audience

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All right, all right, maybe this is the final word on the “Hamilton” controversy.

What do we make of this?

A supporter of President-elect Trump reportedly interrupted a Saturday-night performance of “Hamilton” in Chicago with profane shouts at the show’s cast. According to BroadwayWorld, somebody seated in the balcony shouted, “We won! You Lost! Get over it! Fuck you!” during the number “Dear Theodosia,” which is about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr coming to terms with what being a father meant in the newly formed United States. The audience member was escorted out of the theater by security after a brief altercation.

Rueful thoughts: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Harvard Soccer Team’s ‘Locker Room Talk'”

Men are pigs, and how dare they stereotype us?

Men are pigs, and how dare they stereotype us?

Alizia Tyler, the provocative arch-conservative Ethics Alarms iconoclast whose comments here are frequently far longer than the posts she comments on, delivers the Comment of the Day.  It involves the controversy regarding the Harvard soccer team’s cruel “scouting report” on the sexual attributes of their female counterparts, and the college’s punishment it brought down on the team’s members.

Alizia’s particular focus is the response by the members of the women’s team, which was not the primary focus of the Quiz. Indeed, Alizia’s post is what first brought all of it to my attention. My reaction was, simply, that it is pure, indefensible bigotry. This isn’t about “men,” this is about jerks, and the letter tells us that these women think the two are one and the same. They are not. This is the same as blacks asserting that all whites are racists. It is a bigotry double standard. When women posture in public forums about their innate superiority, the reaction should be exactly as indignant and condemning as when a man says that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. It never is, however. Misogyny is disgusting. Misandry is cool.

If Harvard president Drew Faust had integrity and was not a biased, feminist social justice warrior, she would end the women’s soccer season too. It is, however, a useful microcosm of what men can look forward to under President Hillary.

Alizia has more to say. Here is her analysis of the letter, a Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Harvard Soccer Team’s “Locker Room Talk”:

 

From the Harvard Crimson and the letter published by the women’s soccer team representative:

“In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men’s entitlement to bodies that aren’t theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks.

“Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe, or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize until this week.

“We have seen the “scouting report” in its entirety. We know the fullest extent of its contents: the descriptions of our bodies, the numbers we were each assigned, and the comparison to each other and recruits in classes before us. This document attempts to pit us against one another, as if the judgment of a few men is sufficient to determine our worth. But, men, we know better than that. Eighteen years of soccer taught us that. Eighteen years—as successful, powerful, and undeniably brilliant female athletes – taught us that.

“We know what it’s like to get knocked down. To lose a few battles. To sweat, to cry, to bleed. To fight so hard, yet no matter what we do, the game is still out of our hands. And, even still, we keep fighting; for ourselves, yes, but above all for our teammates. This document might have stung any other group of women you chose to target, but not us. We know as teammates that we rise to the occasion, that we are stronger together, and that we will not tolerate anything less than respect for women that we care for more than ourselves.”
_____________________

There is something so creepy in this that has to be located and exposed.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Harvard Soccer Team’s “Locker Room Talk”

harvard-soccer-team

A week ago I wrote about Donald Trump’s rebound at the polls, and noted, among the factors, this…

B. This just in, from  The Harvard Crimson: Female soccer recruits at Harvard were rated for their attractiveness by their male counterparts – and a sleazy document speculated on their favorite sexual positions. A ‘scouting report’ from 2012, has emerged, containing sexually explicit comments about women, alongside photographs of them. One soccer recruit was described as looking “like the kind of girl who likes to dominate, and likes to be dominated.” The nine-page document assigned each woman a hypothetical sexual position. This document was shared between members of the Harvard 2012 men’s soccer team, and scouting report appears to be a yearly tradition.

Wait…how can this be? When Donald Trump tried to explain away his vulgar conversation with Billy Bush as “locker room talk,” the news media sprinted to prove this was just another lie. Why, athletes in all-male settings never denigrate women or objectify them among team mates! Absolutely not!

Now we learn that Harvard has cancelled the men’s soccer season as punishment for “the widespread practice of the team’s players rating the school’s female players in sexually explicit terms,” reports the New York Times.

The university commenced an  investigation the men’s team after The Harvard Crimson reported last week, in the piece that prompted the Ethics Alarms note, that a player created a nine-page document in 2012 with numeric ratings, photos and lengthy evaluations of the freshman recruits of the Harvard women’s team based on their physical appearance. Apparently the practice had become a tradition.This was the response from the women’s team:

“Locker room talk” is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room…. We are hopeful that the release of this report will lead to productive conversation and action on Harvard’s campus, within collegiate athletic teams across the country, and into the locker room that is our world….”

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Gloria Allred

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“If Hillary signed off on a private investigator, let’s call it a minus. It wouldn’t change my support for her because there are so many pluses for her, like her stance on abortion.”

Feminist attorney Gloria Allred, responding to a New York Times report regarding Hillary Clinton’s efforts to intimidate and discredit her husband’s various female accusers.

This is the language of corruption and ethics cowardice, and it is very close to a majority mindset among Americans., who increasingly rationalize away what should be taken as unquestionable proof that a leader or potential leader is untrustworthy and therefor unqualified to lead. In respect to the Clintons, this is a flashback: feminists like Gloria Steinem betrayed their central principles to make rationalizations for Bill Clinton during the Monica scandal (which was a about workplace harassment and a President lying under oath, not about illicit sex), again because he supported abortion.

Here, on Ethics Alarms, the never-ending debate concerns  whether leaders should be chosen based on their positions, or their character. That the two parties are officially all-in betting that character is both irrelevant  to governing and to the voting public is proven by the disgusting Clinton-Trump choice. The message is that character doesn’t matter at all, which makes it more than  strange that the news media and the Clinton campaign’s primary focus is on attacking Trump’s character. If character mattered as it once did and should, Trump wouldn’t be nominated, and neither would Hillary. If sufficient numbers of voters cared that the standard bearers of their pet policy positions were dishonest, ruthless, cruel, cynical, incompetent and manipulative human beings with little genuine regard for fairness, honesty, responsibility, integrity, respect or citizenship, this election would be literally impossible, except in some hideous alternate universe. Continue reading

Random Ethics Thoughts On The Death Of Jose Fernandez

marlins-tribute

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, at 24 one of the rising stars in baseball and a remarkable, charismatic young man as well, died when his boat hit a jetty at high speeds in the early morning hours last Sunday. He had escaped to the U.S. from Cuba at 15 after failing twice and being imprisoned by the Castro regime as punishment. How good a pitcher was he? At this point in his career, as good as any pitcher in the history of the game. What might he have accomplished? The possibilities were limitless.

Two of his friends were also killed in the accident, and he left a pregnant girlfriend behind. Baseball stars have died tragically mid-career before—Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson, Harry Agganis, Ken Hubbs, Lymon Bostock…Lou Gehrig, of course…but seldom has a death in the sport caused such an widespread outpouring of grief.

Some random thoughts:

  • I have a gut reaction to such deaths, when a young man or women of infinite promise and special talent dies due to his or her own recklessness and foolishness. This was the case with Fernandez; there is no denying it. His boat was speeding, going much too fast for the conditions. It was dark, and he may have been drinking: he had just left a bar. My reaction is anger. I can’t help it; I know he’s dead, and that he didn’t want that. Still, part of ethics is the belief that all human beings have an obligation to do what they can to be a productive part of society and join in the effort to make existence better for everyone. To those who have special abilities and talents, more should be expected, and they have a duty to recognize that their life is more than just their own, but part of the collective wealth that everyone shares as long as they live. Amazing people who throw their young lives away, and with it all they might have given to the rest of us–joy, thrills, inspiration, memories—make me especially furious. (I am merely routinely furious with ordinary people who throw their lives away.)

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On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

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I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington foundation threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal. Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart, What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it us well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said…

Christmas just feels half-hearted, uncertain, unenthusiastic now. Forced. Dying.

It was a season culminating in a day in which a whole culture, or most of it, engaged in loving deeds, celebrated ethical values, thought the best of their neighbors and species, and tried to make each other happy and hopeful, and perhaps reverent and whimsical too.  I think it was a healthy phenomenon, and I think we will be the worse for its demise. All of us…even those who have worked so diligently and self-righteously to bring it to this diminished state.

Resuscitating and revitalizing Christmas in our nation’s heart will take more than three ghosts, and will require overcoming political correctness maniacs, victim-mongers and cultural bullies; a timid and dim-witted media, and spineless management everywhere. It is still worth fighting for.

More than five years ago, Ethics Alarms laid out a battle plan to resist the anti-Christmas crush, which this year is already underway. Nobody was reading the blog then; more are now. Here is the post: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Syracuse Kiss Cam Ban

Kiss cam

The Syracuse University Carrier Dome kiss cam was taken out of service over the weekend and was not in operation during  the Syracuse-Central Michigan University football game, apparently because a letter to the editor  on Syracuse.com expressed the opinion that it encouraged sexual assault. So-called kiss cams are a tradition in some stadiums in which the scoreboard camera pans the crowd and picks out a couple who find themselves being displayed over or under a banner that encourages/demands that they kiss as the crowd roars. Typically, they do, laugh, and life goes on.

Yes, it’s stupid.

Letter writer Steve Port described watching two kiss cam scenes in which women didn’t seem to want to be kissed, but nearby men kissed them anyway as the crowd cheered.  He said such a practice condones and encourages “sexual assault and a sense of male entitlement, at best. And they are an actual instance of assault, at worst…No one has the right to forcefully touch someone be it a hug, a kiss or a violent rape.”

Well, I certainly agree that rape cam is a bad idea.

Port argued that “the Syracuse University student government, the chancellor, the athletic director, etc. review what happened last weekend and seriously consider the ramifications of what they are encouraging.” Spooked by the letter and the online response to it, the Syracuse administration discontinued the gimmick. One letter is all it took. “We are taking the time to assess the concerns expressed in the letter to the editor. We discussed this with POMCO, the sponsor, and they supported that approach,” Sue Edson, executive senior associate athletics director for communications, said in an email.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the kiss cam a provocation to sexual assault and a sense of male entitlement and therefore unethical?

Continue reading