Intro

Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Little Logic


I had a little logic passed on the other day by comedian, Lewis Black. No, it was not particularly liberal. But it made so much sense to me, I thought I should pass it on.

When I was growing up, my dad always taught me to leave a place better.  If you use someone's tools or their work area, you should always return the tool or the space cleaner than when you got it or used it.  Every home I've owned or rented, I always tried to leave it in better shape.  My current home has been steadily updated and improved.  It was the way we always approached a site when we went camping.  In other words, it is a typical life lesson, try to leave things better than you found it. It was something I tried to teach my own children.

This brings me to the bit of logic from Lewis Black.  It's about climate change.  Even if you don't believe in climate change, why wouldn't you want to leave this planet - this Earth - a better place than you found it for your children so they can leave it a better place for their children? For that matter, why wouldn't you want to make life better and the planet better for everyone?

Well, why wouldn't you?

It really is that simple.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Choosing of My Directorial Debut



In 1979, I was hired right out of the University of Northern Colorado to teach English, direct the school play, do one, speech meet, and was  eventually appointed as the assistant basketball coach at South Park High School.  I had a degree in English, a minor in theatre, had only done speeches for classes, and I could identify a basketball at least four out of five times.

So, I had a lot to learn. I mean....I-HAD-A-LOT-TO-LEARN.

Besides the fact that I was an actual contracted, certified teacher, I was excited that I would get to direct a play.  I had directed a scene in college directing class.  I'd even "directed" a skit in my high school.  I had seen some really great directors and some really bad ones as well.  I felt competent to the task. Little did I know how much I didn't know.

All that said, I still believed I could do something to build the struggling theater program at South Park High School.  The training, I'd received in college gave me some understanding of staging.

Like many small high schools, South Park had done what many small high schools had done by appointing some teacher, usually the English teacher, to direct a class play.  It would sometimes be a Senior Play or if the class was small the Junior/Senior Play.  My first act was to ask permission to open auditions to any South Park High student, freshmen through senior.  Permission was granted.

Next, I looked at the scripts from previous plays.  To say the plays the school had done were some of the poorest dreck ever to be printed would be an understatement.  The script file consisted of I called "high school"  (and not in a good way) plays and mediocre melodramas.  What they all had in common was they were bad to begin with and cheap to do and required virtually no skill to perform.  So I decided we needed to do something else.  Something of a little more classic nature.

There was one other problem: money.  I think I was given a total budget of about $50.  This sum dictated that the play had to be minimal royalty to no royalty or public domain.  We had to make do with whatever costumes the actors could come up with and we would have to survive on my small makeup supply.  We also had no scenery of any kind.  Public domain, then it was.  I refused to pick another of the cheap "high school" (and not in a good way) play.  I also wanted real scripts for the actors. I chose a favorite of mine, The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde.  (As a side note, I discovered a short time later that Wilde had actually come to the South Park and Leadville area  as a guest of Horace Tabor.)

Scripts were, I think, about $1.75 each so I bought the exact number of scripts for the actors plus one for me.  I'd never actually built a director's script.  I simply wrote all movement into my script as we rehearsed.  So having spent $17.50 plus shipping.  I had about $30 to build a set for a multiset show. I purchased enough lumber to build two door frames, a large window frame, and a fake fireplace.  I also bought some chicken wire in order to make a hedge from tissue paper and some fishing line and a few eyelets and hooks. The idea was a simple one.  We could place the window and door frames anywhere on stage.  All we had to do was put up the fishing line and hooks from the curtain pipes where we wanted to hang entry doors and windows.  Any needed furniture would be borrowed.  Oh, did I mention the stage sat at one end of an old elementary gym?  The stage at Edith Teeter Elementary was 12 feet deep and 24 feet wide at the proscenium.  There was no wing storage and acoustics were slightly better than a cavern in Carlsbad.


I cast my first play. I think every person that auditioned ended up with a part or technical position.  Turn out was not huge.  I was disorganized, and it would be several more plays and a Masters Degree in Theater with a directing emphasis from an amazing theatre professor before I actually knew what I was doing, but I was fortunate.  I had actors who were willing to help and work with me.  Together we learned, and we did a real play.  We did two shows: a matinee for the entire school, elementary through high school, and an evening performance.

 It was a sad turn out for the evening show.  There were perhaps 18 or 20 people in the house.  The cast and running crew were almost as many. The dearth of "high school" (and not in a good way) plays had taken its toll. I would also discover that because that I wasn't choosing simple, slap schtick plays, elementary and younger students were going home and announcing that the plays were boring because they didn't understand the play.  Killing the all school matinee a couple of years later also increased attendance.
 

It would be a couple of years before we would get a bigger attendance to the evening shows. I was, however, thrilled with my small cast who  put on this classic and challenging play.  They would become my first core group of performers from which we would build the program over the next ten years.  It was this group of nine or so actors and a few stagehands, that would give me my start in educational theater.  I cherish this time.  We did real shows (and in a good way).  Thank you goes out to those early actors and technicians who struggled with my learning curb but shared with me a moment in the arts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Meme Time...


I have a few memes that have been piling up.

I am also going to be evil and make you look up to see if what I say is true.  So here you go.

1.
History much?
Washington was the only president who was not endorsed by any political party.  Jefferson was a member of the Democratic-Republican party.  Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican who left the party to form the Bull Moose Party and was a leader of the Progressive Movement.  He did reconcile with the Republican leadership but died before he could run again in 1920.  Abraham Lincoln was the first elected president of what we would now consider the current Republican party, but it should be noted that up until the early 1950s it was the Democrats who were considered conservative and it was FDR's New Deal that would move the Democrats to the left.  The South was  largely Democrats who were even referred to as War Democrats in the time of Lincoln. Lincoln, who was fairly liberal, worked with the many divided factions of the Republican, Democrat and the dying Whig party which was more business oriented.  

2.
Does this mean the argument has changed?

If guns gave us freedom then does this now mean that guns do kill people?  You cannot have it both ways.

I know a number of folks who would disagree with this idea, including Mohandas Gandhi who brought the British Empire in India to its knees without the use of weapons, The Selma Freedom Marchers who forced the passage of civil rights voting rights act without the use of weapons, and Nelson Mandella who was also an advocate of nonviolence, although it should be noted he did, before his arrest, work with a group of terrorist saboteurs.  I suppose I could include Martin Luther King and Jesus, but that would just be piling on.

3.
No.  Washington did not say this.
This is what he actually said: "A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."

Its meaning is just a bit different than the distorted quote.

4.
The next two are just silly, and I include them for fun.
If you didn't survive riding in the back of a truck, I suppose you won't be sharing.
And I simply have no words for this Valentine.

I suppose her Valentine will remain faithful, at least while he is in range.
More soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 5: You Are Being Lied To



Ever wonder how it was that people could allow such horrible thing such as death camps to occur.  They were steadily lead there by misrepresentation.  I honestly worry about people who spend all their time on right wing or left wing sites. It is easy to fall into the trap of propaganda and sadly the leading cable news network is one of the lowest rated in its accuracy.  Fact Checking sites rate news regularly and one of the lowest rated is Fox News. Politifact, for example, rated Fox, Fox News, and Fox Business and their pundits as only half true to pants on fire 121 times out of 129 stories they've investigated. Bill O'Reilly, Fox's lead pundit, has received only true and mostly true marks 6 out of the 18 times he was checked.  Another political station is NBC/MSNBC which has been checked 123 times have been classified as half true to pants on fire 82 times.  Rachael Maddow*, MSNBC's lead pundit,  has been rated true to mostly true 9 out of 24 times they have fact checked her.  If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, Politifact has never given him a True rating and only mostly true twice out of the 30 times they have fact checked him.  Glenn Beck, of TV, radio, and internet fame, has been classified as true to partly true only 4 out of the 27 times he was fact checked. No political pundit or political network have good records.  If something is half true, then that means it is also half lie.  In my book that makes it pretty suspect as to that person's intent.  Shading the truth is still lying.


If you don't think that some of these stations will protect this lying, then you are not paying attention.  Bill O'Reilly has been recently caught in a number of misrepresentations in his news reporting past.  Brian Williams was suspended for his misrepresenting a past story.  Lara Logan of 60 Minutes was suspended for putting a report out on Benghazi that used lies told by a "witness." Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC following his attack on Sarah Palin.  Bill O'Reilly, despite other reporters announcing that a some of his news reports are lies at most and inaccurate embellishments at the least, has also been accused of threatening a reporter at the NY Times and sexual harassment.  While it is true he is a pundit now, when he made those reports, he was a news reporter.  Fox has remained mute on the subject except to point to his ratings, and O'Reilly has basically attacked anyone who has a different story. He also says in an interview in the Washington Post, "This is splitting hairs trying anything they can to bring down me because of the Brian Williams situation.” I am not sure who "they" is. A former FoxNews member told CNN that no one actually expects O'Reilly to tell the truth.  That is, indeed, a sad comment on the most watched cable news network.

But it gets worse.

If you use sources from Facebook pages, you are going to find even more lies, half-truths, and shadings.  Several friends I have on Facebook post stories almost daily from the Conservative Daily Facebook page.  I did some wandering around on that page and every single "news" item comes from the IJReviw.com. Doesn't it bother them that the page makes no attempt to hide what it is? Do you really expect unbiased news from a page called Conservative Daily? That's like expecting a site called GumChewersof America to post nothing but anti-gum memes and kitten videos.  You are living in a fool's paradise.  IJReview, which stands for Independent Journal Review, is about as independent in its politics as AllThingDemocrat.com is favorable to Republicans.

The Baltimore Sun recently posted a Pew Research poll on how trusted are news source.  Pew has long been held as fairly independent with a slight conservative lean.  They found that Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are the two least trusted news sources in their poll.  Fox is the number one cable news source and Limbaugh has the number one talk radio show, and yet in the poll, they led the pack in least trustworthy.  And many of you post from these people daily. So how does Fox become the "Most trusted" in other surveys? It is because of who they serve.  If you convince your audience that all other networks are liberal shills, then when the survey is run, the only conservative network is bound to show as most trusted.  If you ran an election with one conservative and five liberal candidates, then the conservative wins because the liberals split the rest of the vote.  So if Fox, as it did in one survey, shows as 19% "trusted a great deal."   Other networks divide the rest.  NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC, all of which are supposed to be "left of center," receive 71% as "trusted a great deal." The over-all rating by voters of 29% for Fox means that the rest of these ratings are then divided by the so-called liberal media.

I know. There is a defense.  Politifact and its subsidiary Punditfact which rated Fox as on the false side about 60 percent of the time and MSNBC about 46 percent of the time is a liberally driven media outlet.  Really? That's the defense?  Well, who told you that? Conservative Daily? Fox News? IJReview? Having a conservative website tell you that fact checking sites are driven by liberals is kind of like listening to Charles Manson tell you he is all about love or Bill Clinton announce that he didn't have sexual relations with that woman.  With that kind of defense, we don't need juries any longer. We just rely on the defendant to tell us if he is guilty or not and accept his words. Wolves won't bother the chickens and you can sit at ease as you are surrounded by starving lions. To quote Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."


Do you want to stop the dividing of America?  Then get off Conservative Daily, TeaParty Patriots, Americans Against the Tea Party, Think Progress and actually find the truth.  You are being lied to and your acceptance of it makes you part of the problem.


*Full disclosure, Rachael Maddow is one of the political pundits I follow on Facebook.  It does not mean I believe her.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 4: What's in a Word


If you don't think you can be carefully misled by a few choice words, I have one thing to say to you: Nazi Germany.  Entire nations have been led to doing terrible things, led to wars, led to accept untruths all by a few carefully selected words.

Don't believe me?

Let's try an experiment.

She had been working at the store for just ten years.

She had been working at the store for a decade.  

Both are ten years, but one seems like a shorter time just because of the word choice.

Words make a difference.  They create age, love, hate.  They bring us together and they tear us apart.  I've done a whole blogs on  memes because they are all about word choice.  Truth not only lies in the words but in the choice of words.

Each pair of these statements say the same thing, but the word choice makes a huge difference.

Thug killed in robbery.
Young  man shot taking candy.

Man beaten to death by angry mob.
Man killed by group protecting child.


Patriot defends self against jackboots.
Extremist threatens FBI with military weapon.



 Prison is not a home for liberals and a right of civil equality has nothing to do with owning a gun even if you use the adjective "defense" or put the word "need" in quotes.

If you don't see what's being done with the words in these two memes, then you are part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 3: Consider the Study


Have you ever seen a news story that seems to lack value.  In today's quick news cycle society, they happen all the time.  For that reason, you need to be critical in thought if you are not going to be part of the problem.  I love, for example, the program Mythbusters, but I do not rely on them as in-depth, carefully researched scientists.  Their goal is to blow stuff up.  In other words, they are entertainment using science as applied to professional special effects.  That is, after all, what Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are: special effects experts in the entertainment industry.

This brings me to another problem that makes it way into the news media at every level.  This is the story that inevitably starts with a sentence like, "A new study shows..." I am not saying that every news story that begins with that line is wrong, but I am saying that not every new study is a good one. We need to wait for the evidence and the study to be duplicated again and again before we know it to be true.  Far too often, what is reported lacks the actual depth that the study may have actually reported or a single study can be just plain wrong or even an out and out lie.

Take, for example, the study to which so many anti-vaccination people point. It is a 1998 study that has not only been retracted but also has been pointed to as an elaborate fraud perpetrated by the doctor who wrote the study.  He has since lost his license to practice medicine. It was discovered he not only made up much of the study but did so to support an autism treatment he was pedaling.  This is not the first time such a study has created a panic.  One of the first, now discredited studies used to describe the terror of GMO's was a French study from 2012.  It too, even though it is still frequently used,  was retracted. One of the leading scientists in climate denial was  caught getting money from big oil companies.  Remember, cigarettes once advertised that they were doctor recommended.

A local news station had an interesting one recently, and I seriously doubt the veracity of the study or at least the way it was reported.  The "sitting study" or SRT first appeared in 2013. The study has actually to do with flexibility of adults.  As reported by the station though it was being used to predict longevity simply by sitting and standing without using your hands or knees to rise up.  What they fail to point out is this test works only if you're able bodied. If I were to go by the news report, I should be dead.  I haven't been able to lift myself without pushing up with my hands since I was a teen, and it has become worse for me as I grew older.  I tore the ligaments in my right knee and suffered from severe Schlatter's Knee on the left as a youth.  Add to this the torn ligament in my right ankle 25 years ago and the intercostal tear from a fall on ice ten or so years ago, I think most people understand why I don't just bounce up from a sitting position on the floor.  The video news story lacks the depth of the actual SRT study which considers other factors than just touching the floor and a points system.  A doctor who uses this point system is not using the factors involved in the original study.


So as you post that meme about GMO's or Climate Change or Vaccinations, you might want to actually check the science before you become part of the problem.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 2: Trying to Ignore Facts and Remaining Anonymous


Here's another story for you.  It's one that at first glance seemed to be pseudo-science.  What caught my eye was the story had all the earmarks of those with similar credentials or lack of them.  The confirmation bias too often used to prove the evils of GMO's or that our climate is not in trouble from our abuse of it or the dangers of vaccinations.  So many ignore the real science. So it was with this, I started looking at this story from Realfarmacy.com.

There was the story warning me of the horrible dangers of Nutella courtesy of Realfarmacy.com.  It is not that what they are saying is necessarily untrue although I was unable to find  anything on vanillin as an artificial flavor made from MSG. A quick search shows that vanillin is, in fact, the crystalline formed on the outside of a vanilla bean, not some evil chemical construct.  I found no place that stated vanillin contained MSG. I must agree, that palm oil has been cited as a problem. I suppose eating anything by the jar full in one sitting would be bad.  Moderation in all things.

What actually caught my eye was not the terrors of eating too much of anything, it was that Realfarmacy had an editorial headline tagged on the Nutella story.  They had decided  to write an answer about one of its stories appearing on Snopes.com. They were one of the sites posting that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge money was not going where it was supposed to go.

Anytime you find yourself having to attack a  fact check site, you are in trouble.  Realfarmacy's reason is because Snopes is owned/operated by two people. I am unsure what difference it makes whether it is run by one or a thousand.  What matters is accuracy.  The editorial points to the fact that Snopes will update their stories if new information is found.  Seems to me, this validates Snopes' desire for accuracy not that they are frequently inaccurate.  The story also asks the questions of whether Snopes is qualified to discuss health issues.  I hate to point this out, but where the money goes for ALS is not a health issue.   The editorial is by "The Health News Impact Editor" which links you to another namelessly owned site.  Do you see the problem here?

Realfarmacy also does not list who their staff is.  We as readers have no idea, in truth, to know whether they are actually qualified to be "trusted on health issues." Anonymous sources are never good ones. A person who writes under a pseudonym is still anonymous.  If one goes to a real news site, the editors, staff, writers, and sources are clearly listed. Even on the editorial page, we will see who wrote the editorial. Again, to avoid being a part of the problem is easy enough.  No names, no sources (or sources that don't really support what is being written),  or responses that don't actually answer the issue at hand -- all equal a place that is not worth your time.

When you attack the bearer of the facts, you are not arguing the facts.




Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 1: Information Reported...


I like the old saying, trite as it is, "if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem."  Well, friends, more than one of you are part of the problem.  For that matter, I was too. Let me put it another way.  Far too many are getting the news, not just from Facebook or Twitter, but they are getting it from people whose job is to stir up trouble.  They add things to the stories.  They leave information out. They twist the story.  They lie.  They turn it to their own  beliefs.  Some of them honestly believe the tripe they spill out.  Others...not so much. There are some really smart and sleazy people who know exactly what they are doing.

You see, I was like some of you.  I followed some very specific sites for a while.  I was being misled.  I had become a part of the problem.  The evil of these sites is that when you start following one or two, you suddenly find that when verifying their "news stories" you unintentionally start looking for what you want to be true rather than looking for the truth.  I discovered that there were actual studies on this.  It's called confirmation bias.  So, I eliminated sites, TV shows and YouTube channels.  The truth, as hard as it is to deal with, has made my attitude so much better.

I see far too many re-posting stories, liking stories and generally just blindly following what these sites, YouTube channels, and TV shows have determined is news.  Take, for example, the story about the last words of a convenience store robber that I read a while back.

This comes from a site called Gun.buzz.  Notice the title is "Thug's Last Words..." The first tip is the use of a loaded word like "thug."  A thug is defined as a tough, violent man especially a criminal.  More than a few sites have stated that "thug" is a word not applied to all criminals but is now used exclusively for black criminals.  I'll accept, or at least hope, that this was not Gun.buzz's intent.  I did find a discussion board though that actually used the "N" word though and announced the "N" criminal got what he deserved.  I would link it for you, but that particular discussion board has been taken down.  But oddly enough, it was this discussion board that lead me to the actual news story.  All other links, I found about the Gun.buzz report, led me basically to stories that either said, "Gun.buzz is reporting" or actually stole the Gun.buzz story as their own.

I was looking for the original story.  I cannot prove that this is the story Gun.buzz used, but it is a story with the same name of the gunman mentioned, and the only one that I found on an actual news site. This is where I was led, the New Jersey news site, NJ.Com (this link is the most detailed of the two stories on the site that I found).  What is interesting about this story is at no point does it say that the robber's last words were, "I thought you couldn't own a gun in New Jersey."  While I am sure that Gun.buzz's purpose was to show why it is important to own a gun, it is not just the missing quote, but the fact that Gun.buzz offers no details that verify where the quote came from.  I am not saying that these were not the robber's last words. I am saying that there is no link or record in the Gun.buzz story as to where this quote came from. In fact, the quote actually only makes the robber look like an idiot who doesn't understand New Jersey gun law.  It seems to me that the store owner using a gun makes the point.  The additional quote really serves no purpose except as click-bait.  If  a site will add a quote without identifying its source, what else are they willing to do?

So the first step, in not being a part of the problem, is a simple one.  Find the original source.  Adding or failing to source information is not okay. It's like the seemingly harmless quote of the criminal's last word.  It doesn't really add to the point of owning a gun for protection, but it does make for sensational reading.  It's just that there is no source.