Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ovation Inflation Strikes Again!

I rise today to take a stand against standing. At the end of four different performance events (two musical and two dramatic) this past week, I found myself sitting and applauding, when all others round me were vaulting to their feet. Three of these performances were good and clearly deserved a generous round of warm applause. One was outstanding, but it got the same acclaim as the other three since all four captured the now “de rigueur” standing “O.” I would claim that there is seldom much special about anything that happens all of the time.

Like its academic cousin, grade inflation, ovation inflation seems to spring from notions of misguided anti-elitism in society. If all receive the same "good" grade, differences are banished on the surface and no one’s self esteem will be crushed. Baloney! A one level fits all performance evaluation is no evaluation at all. One wonders if the egalitarian surge would be received as pleasurably if teachers or audiences were counseled to move their rewards down rather than up. I wonder how long recipients would put up with thunderous boos for all all of the time.

In the meanwhile I guess I’ll continue to vote with my seat and save my feet. Why not join me in standing against the herd by staying seated the next time ovation inflation strikes?

What think you about this issue?

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Small and Large World

One of the many ironies of life is that the small and local world can become so full that the large world is received only as a peripheral vision. The Blackfriars Stage Company visited the college on Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 7th and 8th) to serve up two magfificent doses of Shakespeare. First came a tour de force science fiction musical version loosely based on The Tempest. Then came a snappy and exhilerating WW II styled Much Ado About Nothin. This touring company, which used to be known as the Shenendoah Shakespeare Express, continues to exude energy and talent. I spent six weeks with the 1995 Company in Harrisonburg, VA while on a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and have continued to follow their successes in the past ten years. Chief among them has been the building of a new theatre (The Blackfriars)in Staunton, VA. We hope to see this new building on our next trip South.

Inbetween the Shakespeare I have been doing a bit of Ibsen. The Monmouth College Theatre will be producing an adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt called Gint in a couple of weeks and I lectured to the Old Friends Talk Arts group at the Buchanan Center on the background of the original play. Will be doing the same for the cast of the new production this coming Sunday.

So a great theatre week so far, while the Muslim world rages against the excesses of free speech in the West. I taught a Seminar on the Freedom of Speech for a number of years and in that class we always read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. That great British philosopher wrote, "Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being 'pushed to an extreme'; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case." Allowing all does not excuse communicators from being responsibile nor receivers for violent reactions, but it does allow rational recipients to see how deleterious intractible or extreme positions generally are. My sense is that many of the violent reactions come out of countries where there has been little or no tradition of freedom of the press. These publics have no sense that there may be a difference between the media and the government as the communication organs in their states have always been controlled by the government. Thus a cartoon in a Danish newspaper seems to them to be a political position by the Danish government. It get more murky when violence breaks out at the Norweigian Embassy--I suppose because all Scandanavians are alike. And from here the extension to all Western governments is on the march. Multitudes of Muslims who righteously condemned being stereotyped as terrorists after 9-11, now blithely extend the crude and offensive satire of a few cartoonists to reflect the attitudes of whole populations.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Your New Word of the Day: "Frankenbite"

Still my astonished heart! TIME magazine has revealed that "Reality TV" is being doctored in order to seem more dramatic and interesting. The practice is so widespread that it is spawing new words to describe it. Frankenbiting is the new verb for adding in bites of sound, words, or phrases that were not there before, thus potentially changing the meaning or impact of the portrayed event. One of the contestants on "The Batchelor" has charged that suspicious noises and a phrase spoken at a different time and in another context were added to the finished showtape and the result seemed to imply that she and her hunk were doing rather more in the bushes than talking about the starry night. This tempest in a tv pot was provoked by the underpaid folks who do the doctoring. It seems they want entrance to the writers unions where the salaries are better. To be fiction or not to be that is the question. And the answer! On average follow the money. With life reality keeps getting in the way.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The End of Another Era

A long article in today's New York Times, notes the impending end of the film camera era. 92% of all cameras sold last year were digital. Kodak will soon be ending the production of film. Even with all the advances noone is quite certain how long the digital images of today will last and how they will be retreived as storage devices develop and change. One needs only to think of all those floppy disks with no drives to play them on or all those records with no record players.

New is great and new also brings new challenges and new problems.