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Wattle Twaddle

turkey

It’s two weeks until Thanksgiving! You know what that means? Any second now the talking heads and “experts” will rise up and moan and rail against retail. Suddenly the plight of the employee and the sanctity of family will take on grave importance. The siren song of the big box store will lure people away from the sacredness of their nuclear hearth! How dire it is to impose commercialism onto such a pure holiday! Never mind the millions of turkey and pilgrim tchotcke festooning tables and mantels. Disregard the families barcalounged in front of football games all. day. long. It is shopping that threatens to erode this holy Norman Rockwell day!

“People shouldn’t have to work on Thanksgiving”; the bobble talking heads will shout. I suppose we should close the hospitals, police force & diners as well. Lots of people work on Thanksgiving. Do we expect the secret service or any branch of the military to lay down their arms and hoist a drumstick? I’m not sure anyone would want pilots, gas station attendants or bus drivers to have the day off. It’s interesting that retail employees are often the concern during this sacred poultry time. Retail workers regularly work evenings and weekends and often quite erratic schedules. Depending upon the shop they can be forced to wear a uniform and carry a see-though bag containing their belongings (the assumption being that they steal.) Retail workers are often on their feet all day long, not allowed to use the same bathroom as the customers and not given their week’s work schedule until the last minute. Throughout most of the year their interests aren’t exactly a priority. Let us just assume the moaners/ranters are just grasping at (cheese) straws and spouting twaddle.

But what of the family?! Whose family exactly? Is there a family so functional and fun loving and their time together so sacred? Is this fictional (if not entirely creepy) family so enamored with each other yet powerless to resist the charms of a doorbuster sale? Many many people do not have a family or one with whom they’d like to be sequestered. To impose some ideal onto every single person is if not callous than surely annoying. Would anyone care if family members went to the movies (spending obscene amounts of money to sit in dark silence together?) What is it about shopping that rankles the pundits? Is it that the shopping in question is for Christmas? Is the melding of holidays the equivalent of “my corn is touching my sweet potatoes!!!!”? If that’s it I suggest they take on the Thanksgiving/Chanukah synchronized celebrating of 2013.

I suspect that at the core of the whining is that any kind of change can make people cranky. Thanksgiving is nothing else if not a holiday revered for its stasis. We eat the same exact foods every year (heaven help the host who changes the stuffing recipe!) We go to or watch the same parade or movies. We take the post-feast walk or nap. There’s nothing wrong with clinging fast to the comfort of tradition. But there are lots of people out there with lots of different needs and desires. The idea that there is only one way to do something is a bit offensive. There’s a reason we serve more than one kind of pie.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Sports Talk

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Team sports and bad behavior have been linked more than a few times recently. The theme of the stories isn’t necessarily new nor are their clusterings. It’s common that news producers bring similar stories (of any vein) to the forefront resulting in the illusion of clustering. The fact remains that bad behavior in team sports probably happens all the time to varying degree. What makes the recent spate of stories worth examining is that they’ve prompted conversations regarding homosexuals in sports. Several sport professionals and commentators have made grim pronouncements and analysis about the state of ‘tolerance’ in team sports. More than a handful of serious men are giving serious thought to what homosexuality means to and how it affects team sports. Armchair commentators are baffled by the efforts to correct what they experience as innocuous behavior. Some harken back to their own survival of a coach’s wrath and wonder what the hell has happened to sports.

What seems to be missing from all of these conversations is women. Where is the serious analysis of women’s sports teams? Why are we not discussing what a locker room might look like with openly gay women in it? Where are the exposes of women coaches yelling gay slurs at her athletes? Putting aside the fact that women sports teams are not nearly as financially lucrative as their male counterparts, why the discrepancy? Why do we not seem to care all that much about the sexual orientation of women athletes? Why is it hard to even imagine a woman using a lesbian slur? Can we even picture a locker room in which any female athlete would care a whit about the orientation of a teammate? Could it be that the recent ‘homosexuals in sports’ conversation is much more about ‘machismo in sports’?

Men dominate sports, and sports are often about domination. For men (regardless of orientation) homosexuality can be seen as a threat to machismo/dominance. Much of the anti-homosexual slurs don’t refer to men loving men, but of a state of being effeminate. Of course on a purely rational level it’s hard to imagine anything more masculine than men partnered with other men. It is the very celebration of manhood that is what defines homosexuality, but we digress.

Even if we ignore women being ignored in this conversation, we are still left questioning whether we’re being ingenuous in this conversation. Is it really about how athletes and coaches view and treat homosexuals? Or is it that male sports teams are defined by homogeneity and there is little room for divergence? Could it be that male team sports is an ancient phenomenon and like a good chorus line, is dependent upon a neutrality of identity? Is the version of machismo fostered by team sports am ancient defense to the intense touching and often underdressed state of teammates? Could it be that self-concsciousness that sometimes leads to bad behavior with women? Could it be that all traditionally all-male groups suffer from the same self-consciousness? Could that be behind “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Boy Scout ban? Could all the bigotry really just be an attempt to affirm; “No, I’m not, they are!”

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Thanksgiving

Christmas seems to start earlier every year. The holiday is on the same day (December 25) every year, which is a rare character trait in a religious holiday. But the engines seem to start before the leaves on the tree have become the leaves on the ground. A completely unscientific and utterly unsubstantiated analysis (known more commonly as the “because I say so” analysis) would suggest that the retailing of Christmas pushes back one full week every five years. Now before you get all “wait a minute, how many revolutions of the calendar are we on now”, no this phenomenon did not start 2012 years ago. It began somewhere around the time when shopping became more than a means to an end.

Christmas is make or break time for most retailers. End of year sales account for the biggest percentage of their annual sales. (Depending on the type of retail, back-to-school can be a close second.) Naturally, retailers long for a longer period of time to bolster sales. It isn’t necessarily intuitive that a longer period creates more sales. The goal (i.e., presents under the tree) is theoretically the same regardless of the time it’s given to achieve. But sales must increase or why else would it be done? It is hard to imagine how a longer span of time spent with blaring Christmas songs pummeled into our ears makes us spend more. Increased exposure to Christmas themed merchandise wears down the novelty. Ten weeks of eyeing Santa themed apparel will lead to the realization; “Wait. I’m giving this to him/her on Christmas Day! When will they wear this? Next late October?!” What’s clearer is that ‘doorbuster’ sales gets ’em in the store. It’s safe to assume that a fair percentage of those $5 flat screen televisions aren’t going under the tree but up on the bleary eyed shoppers’ wall.

This year even more retailers are pushing their ‘busting’ back. Black Friday is becoming the power-shopping day for amateurs as Thanksgiving Day shopping comes into its own. This rankles some people. Thanksgiving is seen as a sacred family time. It is one of the few times of year that people come together simply to be together. The dining table is heaped with tangible proof of tradition and longevity. It’s also the holiday (perhaps like Christmas) when most of the responsibility for making it happen falls to one member of the family. Unlike Christmas it’s a holiday when some people (who perhaps did not prepare the meal and unearth all the serving ware) park themselves in front of the television for a sport marathon. For some (if not many) the holiday is spent with people who are (or who have been) mean to them or are flat out obnoxious. For many others there is no one to share the holiday (either by choice or not.) In other words; Thanksgiving is not sacred to everyone.

If shopping is a way out of the house, and a way to choose how one’s time is spent, so be it. Those 5 AM drastically reduced priced household appliances and toys are a huge help to many families. They will help to make Christmas happen for many who could really use a break. For others who are doing okay, those heavily discounted items will help them with their (much needed) gift donations this year.

There is nothing sacred about Thanksgiving; it just feels like that because all the other really sacred holidays have been co-opted. It is a delicious holiday, with a great parade and for some of us lucky ones, some wonderful and loving memories. For some it’s a much needed and rare day off with an opportunity to make a serious impact on their to-do list. There’s more than one way to experience this or any other day. I would no more take to the sprawling front lawn with a football in hand than I would take a fork to a tofurky. But lots of people would (okay, lots of people would play touch football and some people would eat tofurky.) Just like there’s always room for more pie, there’s room for everyone and their choices this time and every time of year.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Lombardi – Review

There are enough gratifying aspects to Lombardi to make it 90 minutes well spent.  The (very thin) play by Eric Simonson, is based on a biography.  I don’t know enough about sport to comment on the accuracy of the football history.  (Let’s be frank, what I know of sport I learned from Damn Yankees.)  There are beautiful moments in this play that are by no means the result of Thomas Kail’s (In The Heights, Brokeology) direction.  Having now seen Lombardi and Brokeology I am left believing that Mr. Kail is adept at knowing his audience and creating a format that will appease.  What he is not necessarily skilled at is helping his actors connect resulting in a complete lack of dramatic tension.  But he does know his audience.  This production, at Circle in The Square, is filled with lighting cues, videos and sound effects.  But what a joy to see theatre in the round!  While one of the actors (Keith Knobbs) seemed to have a bubble over his head reading “pivot, pivot, pivot,” most of the actors seemed entirely comfortable in the venue.  Theatre in the round can be such a wonderful method of drawing the audience into the experience, and I do believe the format helped this production a great deal.  It is difficult to asses performances when there simply isn’t that much with which to work, but there was one clear stand-out.  Judith Light plays Vince Lombardi’s wife Marie and steals the show (I would use a football metaphor, but who are we kidding.)  Ms Light while known predominately for her soap opera and sitcom work, is a very accomplished stage actress (Wit.)  She owns the stage for every moment she is on.  She manages to do so without any cheap tricks (which would be simply disastrous in such a small venue) but by the sheer force of her embodiment of her character.  Dan Lauria plays her husband Vince, and from what people tell me, Mr. Lombardi was ferocious?  I wouldn’t know that from Mr. Lauria’s performance.  He was likable enough (which is probably not helpful for this role) but the stage is clearly not his home.  I have decided that he was saving his voice (I saw a matinee) and I have no issue with that, however, he seemed to also be relying on his voice to do all the work for him.  That can be a problem.  Even so, how wonderful to see an un-miked play!!  I was almost dizzy listening to sound actually change as actors moved!  How novel.  How wonderful.  The size and style of the theatre, and the lack of amplification was joyous enough for this reviewer, but added into the equation was the fact that the majority of the audience were first time theatre goers.  Now, this might have been the ONLY time they were to venture into a theatre, but that’s okay too.  Much has been made of the website tutorials that existed for Lombardi fans (“it is customary to applaud for performances that please you.”) but I say “hurray.”  Come to the theatre to see the football memorabilia in the lobby.  Take photos of yourselves (in football regalia) next to full size Lombardi photos.  Flip through the Playbill declaring, “I’d see the Blue Man Group in anything.”  Come one, come all.  There is a whole lot of things theatre should be (affordable, magical, etc.) but what it should never be is elitist.
The only downside to this “theatre for beginners” phenomenon was the high school class sitting behind me (who arrived 15 minutes late.)  Their behavior would have appalled you.  When the curtain calls concluded, and the house lights came up, I dear reader, had my own curtain speech to give.  Please picture if you will, my 5 foot 7 self looming over slumping sitting sullen teenagers.  Ahem.  “I’ve listened to you for 90 minutes, now you are going to listen to me.  This is not your living room, this is a theatre, and that is not YouTube it is a play.  Those are real people down there performing.  They deserve your respect and you will give it to them.”

I think I lifted some of that from Herbie’s speech to the stage manager in Witchita’s only burlesque theatre.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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