An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Archive for February, 2012

Lefty’s Review – Macbeth

It isn’t often that a rather poor college student gets to go to something fun like this.  But Lady Luck decided to be kind and offer an olive branch.  Sheer chance got us into this performance, and a good thing too.  It was a lot of fun.

A little background first, for those who don’t know.  Macbeth is an opera by Giuseppi Verde.  It is the operatic version of the play by William Shakespeare.  Since it is an opera, instead of a play, it is shorter than the original production, but in this case, that isn’t so bad.

This version of the performance, put on by the the Anchorage Opera group, at the Discovery Theatre in the Performing Arts Center (PAC).  This was the last show, so that made it especially nice.  If one is going to a big number like this, it is always better to be at the first show or the last.  In this case, the final show was definitely worth it.  It was clear that all the performers were putting their all into it.

The First Act was very nice.  The introduction of the characters was handled very well.  There was Macbeth, portrayed by Todd Thomas.  He had a very commanding tone, which worked well.  Along with him was Banquo, who was by far the best performer of the group.  He was done by Derrick Parker.  His lyrical tone worked very well in this performance.  There was a kind of jovial method to his work, even at the very serious parts.  That’s very good for a performer.

Then there was Lady Macbeth, performed by Brenda Harris.  Although she didn’t seem as manipulative as her character was meant to be, she was in no way bad at the role.  Her voice work was amazing, especially some of the high notes, which can’t have been easy to do.

The First Act also introduced the witches.  They are by far my favorite part.  Both of the play and the opera.  The sets for them were very nice, with stony pieces that make it look like Stonehenge.  There were also lights that make it look like fireplaces.  The whole dark ambience of the opera was very well done.  It was very reminiscent of the original play.

The large choral numbers were also very well done.  With the witches, it was the most fun, because of the dark tones, but all of them were done well.

Of course, there were some issues.  But of those, most had nothing to do with the play.  One problem was that the audience seemed compelled to applaud every couple of minutes.  Now, it’s not a bad thing to enjoy a performance, and to signify this enjoyment.  Far from it.  This is a very good thing.  But when it is happening every couple minutes, it slows down the performance, and probably makes things more difficult for the performers, who have to slow down their rhythm for this.  Any acting has a rhythm to it.  When you are rehearsing, it is developed.  But when the audience interrupts, that makes things more complicated.  Of course, that is speculation on my part.

The other issue was rather amusing.  It was the choreography of the battle sequence in the third act.  Of course, that isn’t a criticism, since these people were there to do an opera, not fight a battle.  Still, it was funny how silly some of the fighting was.  But again, it’s understandable.

In any case, the show is done.  There are no more to see.  So, if you missed it, sucks to be you.  It was quite a show.

Peace out,

Lefty

Discussions with a Brilliant Journalist (Part 2)

Once again, the Atwood Chair of the Journalism and Public Communications, Richard Murphy, department came to speak to the class.  He demonstrated his excellent knowledge in the field, a dedication to journalism almost unseen today, and showed a history that is not only important to Alaska, but left an impact all over the world.

It is still a memory that burns hard – the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Murphy talked about how he heard of it, with a phone call late at night.  At first, he didn’t believe it.  But he looked into it anyway, and because of that, started some of the great reporting in Alaska’s history.

The level of dedication to this story was absolutely amazing.  The reporters who went down to Valdez were living in a crampt apartment that they rented.  One story that was really telling of what a farce the reporting is with groups who are well-respected, like the New York Times was that one night, they just went to a press conference, and once it was over, hit the bar.

Murphy talked about what could be a film scene.  All of the journalists are in that bar, having only listened to what the company told them.  The camera pans back, outside.  It is raining like crazy, miserable weather.  Out there is a long Anchorage Daily News reporter, with his gear and a sleeping bag, headed to a ship where a group of volunteers, none of whom are getting paid, are going to collect birds to help.

This level of dedication served them well, and did change the conversation about this.  When Exxon’s people had a press conference, and they were assuring the press that no animals had been harmed by this spill, one reporter holds up a copy of the Anchorage Daily News with a picture of a dead oil-covered bird, and asks, “then what is this?”  A powerful moment in this discussion, and it shut everybody in the room up very quickly.

And the lies that Exxon was putting out there outrageous.  The dead animals one was bad enough, but when the ADN published that the ship’s captain was drunk, they immediately retaliated by saying this was a lie, and that they were trying to deceive people.  Never mind that the next day, they fired the captain for drunkenness.

What’s worse is that the government was also often complicit in their lies.  The Coast Guard started to work to keep reporters away from the actual ship.  They were helping to cover up the facts because they didn’t want to stop sucking at the tit of the money that these people brought in.  Of course, this isn’t unusual.  After the collapse of 2007, Congress very quickly came to the bank’s defense.  But that’s off-topic.

One thing worth mentioning was that there was a lot of faith placed in a lot of people that couldn’t be done post-9/11.  One journalist couldn’t get back to Anchorage to get his photos developed, so he grabbed a guy heading out on a plane, who he didn’t know, gave him the rolls of film in an envelope, and told him to call a number and get them to that person.  They never lost a roll of film.  That’s incredible.

Murphy remarked that some of the biggest news agencies just came and went, often doing no more than going to press conferences and listening to what Exxon told them.  Which, of course, isn’t journalism.  Not the good kind, anyway.  But the Anchorage Daily News stayed there all summer.

He polished off this tale of the coverage of Exxon Valdez by remarking that there was one press-conference where everybody was, and Exxon promised all the people that they would help them.  Now, 20 years later, they are in court still fighting to not have to keep their promises.

That remark led to the tragedy of journalism currently in Alaska.  Murphy said that if something like Exxon Valdez happened now, the ADN wouldn’t even be able to charter a plane down.  The top two floors of their building are being rented out to a film company.  It is a graveyard in their news room.  He seemed very saddened by this.

The leaving remark that Murphy brought was that journalists often thing that they can change the world.  They can’t do that, but (and this is very important), they can change the conversation.  They can direct what the nation is talking about.  And this leads to the ultimate failure of the mainstream media – they aren’t getting people talking about anything.  They are just saying stuff.

Murphy is a brilliant reporter, and has left a legacy most worthy or all the respect of journalists everywhere.  He is everything that this industry should be, and the journalism industry will be losing a piece of itself when he leaves it.

Peace out,

Lefty

Discussions with a Brilliant Journalist (Part 1)

In my Writing and Producing for my Electronic Media, there was a guest speaker.  He will be coming back on Thursday, but today’s discussion was something that got me thinking.  I have said a lot of smack about journalism.  But he really put into perspective what is wrong with modern journalism – it doesn’t care anymore.

The guest speaker, Professor Richard Murphy, is the Atwood Chair of the department of Journalism and Public Communications (JPC).  He came to the class to talk about photo-journalism.  The example that he was using to show the power of photo-journalism was a story that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  It brought some incredibly difficult realities to the fore-front, while not taking the liberties with itself to believe that they had the answer.  It was journalism at its best.

This story was a series of reports, that took up about 10 issues of the paper.  The entirety of it is called “People in Peril.”  I encourage you to look it up.  It brought to the Anchorage community the tragedy of what was, and still is, happening in the native villages.  There was rampant suicide, and accidents which had the statement – “alcohol was involved” in the police report.  They sent several reporters all over Alaska, and they got a story that nobody could have imagined.

They showed the ugly realities surrounding the native villages problems with suicide and alcoholism.  It was rather impressive that they just gave the facts, as they believed people needed to know.  But really, as interesting as the written reports were, it was the visual story that carried so much weight.

Some of these pictures were heart-breaking.  There was one of a native man, drinking at a building where a ceremony had been held not that same night.  That was one of the most powerful pictures ever put in a newspaper, and it came from the Anchorage Daily News.  That’s pretty impressive.

But there was one photo, and a response that followed a statement, that symbolizes my respect for journalism.  The picture was of a village resident, using a  pick-ax to dig into the ground, so they could bury their child.  It was hard to look at, because if you knew how small these villages populations were then you’d know just how terrible the loss of one person can be.  Not to mention having to dig the grave of your own child.

There was a comment after he showed the picture.  A student remarked that he would have found it hard not to help the person dig.  That to just stand there, and take a picture, it sounds very hard.  However, Murphy had one of the best quotes that has ever come from a journalist in response.  I had to write it on my arm, because I didn’t have paper.

Your job is to tell this guy’s story, not to dig his grave.

That kind of journalistic integrity, it goes beyond words.  There was a time when journalists were able to do that.  They would go to a place, and learn the truth about what is happening.  Not to report on what they see, but to report on what they feel, and how it looks.  To get the truth of a story, not just the facts.

And that is what is truly missing from journalism now.  When was the last time that MSNBC did that kind of journalism?  What about CNN, or Fox?  The truth is that none of them do it.  It is becoming an increasingly rare thing, and that is the most heart-breaking part.  So few respect this field because honestly, it has become a first-come, first-serve, all-you-can-eat buffet of information.  No feeling, just mindless facts.  The images are totally bereft of visual poetry, and great stories in one image.

It is a sad day for journalism.  Yet so few mourn its passing.

Peace out,

Lefty

Lucien Maverick's Blog

This is a lesson that our government never seems to learn.  Despite how history shows it, over and over again, the government of this nation is either too greedy or too stupid to listen.  They are trying their damndest to make it work today.  What’s interesting about this is that the government has basically realized that the American populace is too stupid to actually do anything.  Or is it?  We’ll get to that point in a few.

But first, a history lesson.  The government trying to ban what they don’t like isn’t a new thing.  Probably the most famous historical example was Prohibition.  The idea was that the conservatives of their day thought that alcohol was the enemy.  So, they had a comprehensive ban on it.  Complete, total.  Right from the git-go, it didn’t work.

I love how one of my favorite reporters, H.L. Mencken, realized what a farce Prohibition…

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GOP Authorizing Rape Before Abortions

The language in the title may sound excessive, but if you listen to what is said, and you see what is affiliated with it, then really, there can’t be any other way of looking at it.

For those who are unaware, Virginia has recently passed a law that makes is so that a woman has to get an trans-vaginal ultrasound before they get an abortion.  But why call it rape?  For one thing, this totally destroys the Constitution of this country.

It’s been on the block for years.  It’s kind of nice to know that America is finally killing it.  The Patriot Act destroyed the 4th and 1st Amendment.  SOPA and PIPA would have totally obliterated them, but they failed.  Now ACTA is trying to finish them.  Of course, that doesn’t even matter because the government did what SOPA and PIPA would have done anyway, when they took down MegaUpload.

And the Republican delegates of Virginia don’t even care.  Delegate Todd Gillbert basically made the case that a majority of abortions are a matter of “convenience.”  That this is all fun and games for women.  Not only is that an offensive statement, but in lieu of what is happening, it makes this whole affair even worse.

This is what the GOP wants to shove into rape victims

If one has ever seen the probe (featured right) that is involved with trans-vaginal ultrasound, it basically looks like a dildo.  These things are now going to be forced into the uterus’ of women in Virginia.  But the really sad part is that it doesn’t stop there.  In Texas, states all over the Lower 48, and now here in Alaska, similar legislation is being presented.

This is a total violation of the rights of women.  And the reason it is being done is even more insidious.  It is in order the shame these women.  To coerce them into not having this procedure.  Not only is forcing a woman to do something like this beyond humiliating, but it is being done for the express purpose of making them do what the GOP wants.

It is kind of interesting that this “family values” crowd is making such a big reappearance in the last few years.  Groups like the American Family Association have been coming back.  This coincides with the picking up speed that Rick Santorum is getting in the GOP primaries.  The far-right conservative base is making another appearance, and this is what it brings with it.

Legislation that would force invasive procedures onto women who could have been raped.  They were raped once, and now the GOP in Virginia has legislated that they be raped again.  As Americans, we cannot stand idly by and let this happen.  There needs to be some action.  People like elected officials are making the case that abortions are done for “convenience.”  They are shoving devices that look like dildos into women.  This is NOT how a government operates in a civil society.

But the bigger issues is – if this government thinks that this kind of thing is appropriate, does America have a future?  It is getting harder and harder to answer that question, because there doesn’t seem to be as huge outrage.  Granted, that may be because this is new.  A Category-5 Storm of media lambasting and online attack may still come.  And if it does, that’s good.  There needs to be another Komen for the Cure level reaction to this, because these people are not “moral crusaders.”  They are charlatans who wear the clothes of kind people.

This legislation is unconstitutional, it is unethical, and it is un-empathetical.  And above morality, empathy is what is needed.  Clearly, the GOP candidates who backed this in Virginia, and anybody who will back it her in Alaska doesn’t have ANY of that whatsoever.

Peace out,

Lefty

Is Anonymous as Bad as the Government?

There is a line or reasoning that you see in the comments section of YouTube videos that the group Anonymous puts up.  They are a group who randomly accosts groups of people who they perceive as acting injustly.  To date, their actions seem to be keeping with a good standard, not just striking the defenseless.  They have gone after Scientologists groups whose crimes are no well-documented.  They have gone after this government for disabling internet, something that our own government attacked Egypt for doing.  They have also attacked the government itself, after the failure of SOPA and PIPA to pass did nothing to stop them from getting rid of MegaUpload.

However, many people now seem to be of the mindset that Anonymous is as bad as the government and corporate forces that they attack.  This is an interesting theory, for many reason.  Let’s compare the actions of Anonymous and the government, to see which is the more malicious.

1. The government passed The Patriot Act, which has effectively destroyed the Fourth Amendment, and made the government be able to wire-tap any phone or computer they want, without the user’s permission.
Anonymous has leaked the personal information of people who it views as unjust.  In many instances, this doesn’t seem out of bounds because these people, like the police officers who brutalized Occupy protestors, have done reprehensible things, and seem to not be taken to task for it.

2. The government created a bill that would allow them to censor the internet, but when it didn’t pass, they simply disabled a site anyway.  It is abundantly clear that they didn’t seem to care that this didn’t pass.  They had every intention of acting anyway.
Anonymous has disabled sites, but only after the people have acted in what they perceive as wrong, and their reasons are justified.  They are not destroying countless pieces of information, like the government did when they got rid of MegaUpload.  Gigabytes of data, completely destroyed in a micro-second.  The government and the corporations were only bothered, and for a brief amount of time.

3. The government has put an American citizen (Bradley Manning) in prison, for over a year, without charge or trial.  The trial that they did have was a show-trial, and everybody who cared and saw this knew it.
Anonymous has done nothing of the sort.  They have leaked information, and made a lot of people look really bad, but nobody has gotten hurt from their actions, despite what Fox News will say about how dangerous these people are.

4. The government has an army of people who have been brutally quashing the peaceful protests of people who are trying to exercise their First Amendment rights to have a redress of grievances.  They have put innocent people in the hospital, like the Iraq veteran who they shot in the head with a canister, and who now has problems speaking.
Anonymous has explicitly said that they do not endorse violence.  They have come firmly out and said that all protests should be peaceful, and that violence cannot solve anything.  Disagree with that point, but they have never endorses violent behavior.

5. NDAA is a new bill that has stipulations that allow American citizens to be hauled off to jail, indefinitely, without trial or charge, and also allows them to be tortured.  All they have to be is viewed as “terror suspects.”
Anonymous has never even come close to doing something of that nature.  They are online hackers, not a bureaucracy that will attack and now can indefinitely imprison its citizens, along with torture them.

When you look at the facts, it’s pretty clear.  Anonymous is a group who is acting in the interests of what they believe to be right.  If you believe that they are wrong, that’s fine.  However, to say that their actions are just as bad as the governments and corporate entities that they are fighting is a compete falsehood.

It’s good to argue about the things that matter to people.  Debate means that people are thinking.  But don’t go saying that this group is just as bad as a group that has clearly shown itself to be the more nefarious.

Peace out,

Lefty

On February 7, 2012 the Lead Coordinator of the By2015:AMERICA Movement will travel to Juneau – Alaska’s political capital. His purpose is to address the irrational political gridlock occurring in the 2012 State Legislature.  Senate Bill 3, a School Meals Bill, is being held hostage in exchange for oil company tax breaks.

Lead Coordinator, Kokayi Nosakhere, intends to assist the lawmakers in “regaining their humanity,” as he thundered at a January 3 press conference. His tool of choice is a hunger strike.  Nosakhere is pledging not to eat any food until Senate Bill 3 is scheduled for an up or down vote on the House Floor.

Anchorage-based Channel 11 news anchor Grace Jang remarked that a hunger strike appears drastic.  Corey Allen explained that her comment comes without the background knowledge of nearly three years of constant activism. On April 22, 2010 The Anchorage Press published a cover article on…

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