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2011 bits REVIEW: Xanadu A musical film so bad that despite spawning a few pop hits it becomes a cult classic, then re-worked into an acclaimed hit broadway musical. 2011.08.12 The US economy is still in recovery mode but KUNM commentator Jim Terr sees a parallel between what it might take to survive in a sagging economy and one New Mexico industry. 2011.07.15 Two productions in Santa Fe this week - one theater, one documentary. Our reviewer Jim Terr says both productions have interesting twists. 2011.06.21
Spark-Shmark? opens today in Santa Fe. KUNM has a local preview of this musical production. 2011.05.27
Theater-goers this weekend in Santa Fe will get another chance to see the story of a talented and innovative drummer's journey to South Korea to pursue the spirit of percussion. As reviewer Jim Terr found, there's a bigger message in the film: that on the other side of suffering, happiness can be found. 2011.05.05
The real payoff for many in acting classes - apart from landing that big part at an audition - is the public performance where the actors get to show off their skills. Reviewer Jim Terr says one such performance comes up this weekend in Santa Fe. 2011.03.11 A Santa Fe author has crafted a unique book on the homeless: simply by interviewing them. Reviewer Jim Terr liked it so much he wanted to share some of it with you. 2011.01.27
Among the many holiday season theater offerings now in Albuquerque, one in particular is not easy, and not necessarily in the Christmas spirit. But, as reviewer Jim Terr says, it's rewarding nonetheless. 2010.12.02
“Love Song” Theater review – KUNM - November 2010
There is an arc to many modern plays – at least for me – wherein the first 20 or 30 minutes often appear a little too clever, like the playwright is pouring out his or her witty or profound thoughts accumulated since the last production...
Review of "COMPANY" (Sondheim musical) - Santa Fe - November 2010
Review of "EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP"
documentary - November 2010
Review of "LET ME IN" (film) Oct. 2010
Review of "SOCIAL NETWORK" (film)
Code for those below:
Movie Reviews (**rent these!) Theater Review
Commentaries & book reviews
Review of BURST one-woman show
and LION in the LAMB play
Jim Terr © 2010 - KUNM
Santa Fe director and playwright Deborah Dennison brings her lifelong fascination with St. Francis of Assissi to her original work, THE LION IN THE LAMB: THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT OF FRANCIS OF ASSISI.
This glimpse of the 12th and 13th century Europe – with a dramatic excursion to Egypt – follows the life of Francis from the adventurous, soldiering son of a wealthy cloth merchant to his blinding revelation that we all are one and that his mission was to emulate Christ as he saw him, and tend to the poor and the sick. His passionate and genuine spirit of giving and sacrifice inspired a devoted following and the Franciscan order that endured for so many centuries. His struggles with himself and with powerful political forces, primarily the Church, are fully relevant today, and the skilled cast and spare writing make the story and this relevance come though.
The LION IN THE LAMB is bare, earnest, almost “artless” in fact, but in a way that serves the story and makes for a moving evening of theater. I only regret that the mainstream of Santa Fe Catholics will probably not see this fascinating play or even be aware of it, since theater unfortunately remains a boutique, elite form of entertainment in our time.
* * * * * * *
Also playing in Santa Fe is a one-woman show by Gray De Young, an Oakland, California executive brilliantly directed by Santa Fe solo performance coach Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, for her very engaging show, BURST.
The line between workaholism and the mental disorder of hypomania can be thin and almost indistinguishable, and that explosive level of creative and sexual energy can quickly spill over into full-blown mania, and sometimes bi-polar disorder, frenzy and madness. Gray De Young explores this devastating spiral in BURST.
Despite her background as a branding and marketing executive on the rise, De Young obviously has tremendous talents as an actor and dancer – which take the form of beautiful, expressive movement in support of her wrenching tale of a descent into madness, or near-madness.
One day, at work, she was flipped into a frightening reality later diagnosed as hypomania, and as Bipolar Depression. With wild swings of comedy and pathos and wonderfully articulate description, DeYoung describes the manic sex, the psychotherapy, and she tells of the healing Vietnamese Buddhist embrace that brought her through. DeYoung also credits tapping into the expressiveness of performance as helping save her sanity. I love the solo performance form, and BURST is a brilliant example.
BUTST plays this one final weekend, through September 25, at Santa Fe Performing Arts, information at brownpapertickets.com
THE LION IN THE LAMB: THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT OF FRANCIS OF ASSISI plays two more weekends, through October 3rd at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe, information at 501-1709.
August: Osage County (hear AUDIO)
Theater review – KUNM – Jim Terr © 2010
The program notes for the Fusion Theater Company’s current production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, point out something I had never thought about, how Oklahoma is the focus of so much strife in the short history of the US: the resettlement ground for several “Trail of Tears” tribes, likewise for a large number of former slaves, many of whom had escaped and many of whom had been assimilated by the tribes; the site of many rapacious land rushes, and the source of the poor, white Dustbowl migration.
Against this background, AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY recounts a moment of several huge and painful passages in the life of a family that has gathered to deal with the disappearance and possible murder or suicide of the father, who may or may not have wanted to just escape his bitter and ailing wife.
That’s only the start of the pain and drama that unfolds here, as is the custom in plays, where you sometimes get the feeling that every thought and every hurt in the playwright’s life and imagination get written down. In fact, the first act of AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY struck both me and my companion as a bit stagey, a bit too full of conversation and reflections that seem to occur only on stage, and rarely in real life.
It’s an effective set-up, however, for the thunderstorm that follows, and the extraordinary cast of the Fusion company turns it into a devastating tour de force - a cliché to describe it that way, but it’s true.
I was intent on seeing this play because I happened to have seen two other works by the same author, Tracy Letts, a play called “KILLER JOE” and a play-turned-film called “BUG”. Both were incredibly strange and intense, and in fact several members of the current production were involved in previous productions of those plays.
This is a huge cast filled with remarkable actors and remarkable performances. I could cite just about everyone but will mention just a few here: Paul Blott, Jacqueline Reid, Laurie Thomas, Lauren Myers in an incredibly convincing role as a teenager, and veteran William Sterchi as the desperately likeable good old boy trying to hold the scene together as everyone else tears each other apart.
I hear anecdotally several things that ring true: that the play’s run may be extended because people are coming back to see it a second and third time, and that a few homeless people who have been invited in to see it have also been moved to tears. This is the first production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY outside the initial big-city productions, and I can easily believe what I’ve also heard – that this production is even better than those.
This is powerful live theater at its finest, a rare moment in time for some of the best talent New Mexico has to offer. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY plays at least through September 26 at the Cell Theater, phone 766-9412 for information. This is Jim Terr.
THE LAST EXORCISM (Hear Audio)
Film Review Jim Terr – KUNM - © 2010
I’m fascinated by the mockumentary, or mock documentary, or faux documentary, genre. SPINAL TAP is probably the best-known example, but it was so loaded with comedy that almost no one could have thought it was real. Many others have been produced with seemingly the intention to really make you wonder whether they’re real, with perhaps just the slightest wink to those discerning enough to figure out that they’re not.
Great fun for the filmmaker, and occasionally amusing and thought-provoking for the viewer, and instructing for me, since I’m working on one in the mockumentary genre myself.
A new release called THE LAST EXORCISM follows a disillusioned young preacher who sets out with a film crew to document what a sham are the exorcisms he and his colleagues have been practicing for years, and charging big bucks for. The final case he plucks at random from his inbox is a request concerning a young girl in spooky Louisiana bayou country.
The clues that this final expedition is going to go very wrong start popping up immediately, and before long, the wink-wink as he shows his exorcism props and tricks to the camera crew give way to real terror and deep doo-doo.
It’s really quite effective and scary, as we feel the panic of the minister and the film crew trapped with some real and suspected crazies, and real and suspected demons. We wonder, they wonder, and it all gets pretty terrifying, as they want to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of there but are drawn back by concern for the teen girl in question, who may be abused, possessed or both.
My main objection to THE LAST EXORCISM – and it may be just me – has to do with the casting and acting. Most of the actors, particularly the lead character, the preacher, look a little too much like actors, and you can see them – or him – acting. Which spoils the illusion a bit. I think it’s a very difficult thing to pull off, a fine line to walk, but THE LAST EXORCISM misses the 100% mark slightly on the realism score, due to being slightly too slick somehow.
I’ve read that there’s been some controversy and audience anger about an ending that’s too abrupt and too ambiguous, but I, normally the easily-confused filmgoer, thought the ending was clear and appropriate, and the story is more clever and engaging the more I think about it.
THE LAST EXORCISM is just opening in theaters throughout northern New Mexico. This is Jim Terr.
Film review “INCEPTION” – KUNM
Jim Terr © 2010
I just had one of the strangest movie-going experiences of my life.
Watching INCEPTION, the new Leonardo diCaprio blockbuster, I was constantly trying to figure out if this was a real sci-fi / action film or perhaps a parody of the genre, or of Alice and Wonderland and its many levels and levels, down and down the rabbit hole...
I kept thinking of the old joke about the guy – how can I say this on public radio? – who has to pay a few bucks to a stranger in a bar to hold his privates. But it turns out he has a larger bet with someone else that he can make that happen.
Likewise, I was trying to figure out if there’s some private joke or dare here between the director and his buddies: Can I spend $200 million to make a film that’s incomprehensible, and see if no one notices? Perhaps I’m just exposing myself as dense -- but that’s the risk in doing an honest movie review – I just couldn’t follow this film.
The basic premise is intriguing – getting inside people’s dreams to extract information and implant notions. And I wanted to see the film because the director, Chris Nolan, made one of my favorite surprise-ending movies, THE PRESTIGE (trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPyVBO2rRyg ) about two battling magicians. The difference was that getting to the surprise ending of the PRESTIGE was fun, and in this case I was just marking time, hoping it would all be over soon. You know you’re in trouble when you’re wishing all the heroes would be killed so you can get out of there.
You know you’re in trouble when there’s not a moment without suspenseful music overlaying the dialogue in a vain attempt to distract you from the fact that it’s totally incomprehensible. One of the longest and most mind-numbing action sequences takes place in some vacant alpine ski resort, as indistinguishable guys in white parkas shoot each other with white guns-- who’s shooting who? Who knows, and who cares? The only possible explanation for this sequence is that the director had a friend with a condemned ski resort, who needed some cash for a location fee. Or perhaps some mountainous state or country was offering tax rebates or guaranteed loans to the filmmakers, to shoot there.
Speaking of filmmaking, this one scored 4,000 on my personal cost-benefit scale, meaning its $200m budget was 4,000 times the $50k budget for which I and any number of people I know could make a more interesting movie. And yes, I’ve seen plenty more interesting films made for $50k or less. The classic Ambrose Bierce short story and Twilight Zone episode, “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge”, covered the mental time-warp element of this film much more quickly and interestingly.
Among the many concrete failings of this thing was the idea that the “victim”, as it were, the heir to a huge multi-national energy corporation, has to take a scheduled airliner to transport himself and his father’s casket to – somewhere or other – rather than using a private jet. Thereby exposing himself to numerous potential kidnappers and brain-robbers. And by the way, neither he nor his father looked like they could balance a checkbook, let alone build or maintain a huge corporation. Poor casting abounds in this film.
One of the few really original elements of INCEPTION, as my companion pointed out, is that it had not one black character, not even the stereotypical security expert or computer hacker. Early on in the film, our whispered wisecracks were annoying the folks in the next row forward, but before long they were all asleep, keeled over on one another like a row of dominos. These, I fear, are the best alternatives in watching this spectacular train wreck of a film. This is Jim Terr.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
KUNM Film Review Jim Terr © 8-2010
The first film adapted from the hit book series, The Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson, was a revelation – a fantastic ride - if you don’t mind a little sadism, violence and revenge in your Swedish thriller entertainment.
That film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – and in fact the book series itself – evidently blindsided the American entertainment industry. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO had not only a twisted, exciting story of a pair of investigators – an “unlikely” pair, as the cliché goes, investigating a decades-old-disappearance, but a wonderful, unexpected lead female actor, Noomi Rapace (NO-may Rah-PAHS), a spellbinder who would never have been cast in any such American production. In fact, one of the more intriguing aspects of this whole phenomenon is contemplating how badly the rumored American remake will soften the best elements of the Swedish original – including, probably, the choice of lead actress.
So now we have the film version of the second book of the trilogy, called THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. If you saw the first film, I think there’s no denying that the new installment lacks many elements that made the first so exciting. Mainly, the element of newness and surprise in these characters, and the deep doo-doo they step in. And the scenes of violence and delicious revenge just don’t seem to have the edge of the first film, apart from the added familiarity.
Even so, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is a first-rate thriller, reminiscent in many ways of the original Bond movies, with a global canvass and odd, terrifying villains. But I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone who didn’t see the first, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – or at least read the first book - because I think the viewer would be lost.
The new story picks up where the old one left off, this time with our young computer hacker heroine, Lisbeth, and her partner, journalist Mikael, investigating a sex trafficking ring which turns out to involve – surprise – Lisbeth’s long-lost father.
Call me obsessed, but I couldn’t get over how, once again, the distributors chose to use subtitles without a black outline – which costs not a penny more – so that unless you happen to understand Swedish, much key dialogue is lost when the movie scene has white or yellow highlights – which it often does.
Un-outlined subtitles and all, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is playing at the Screen in Santa Fe and the Century 14 downtown in Albuquerque.
WONDER OF THE WORLD Theater review
Jim Terr for KUNM © May 2010
WONDER OF THE WORLD, playing 2 more weekends at Auxiliary Dog Theater in Albuquerque, is a strange mix. In trying to grasp the exact level of irony versus possible seriousness here, I found it interesting to compare the current production to reports of the original play in New York, almost a decade ago. That production starred Sarah Jessica Parker in the lead role now carried very skillfully by Amy Suman.
Her character, Cass, is leaving her husband because, mainly, she has discovered that he has a very strange sexual fetish, which I won’t reveal – and you can be thankful for that. Of course that’s not the only reason she’s escaping; it’s more a general urge to break free, to explore her innate restlessness and head-banging craziness which cannot abide being tied down to her mostly button-down husband.
Somehow Cass’s own wild urges, her innocence amid her own madness, doesn’t quite fit Amy Suman’s inherent sense of gravitas which she projects; it’s a bit easier to visualize the bubbly Sarah Jessica Parker in this role. But that slight mismatch doesn’t detract from the incredible sense of perversity that pervades WONDER OF THE WORLD..
Her sidekick on her sudden breakaway road trip, the alcoholic Lois, wonderfully played by Kristin Hansen, is a piece of work herself, constantly competing for Cass’ attention and sympathy – with mixed results - as she threatens to kill herself by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And Nick Lopez is wonderful as Cass’ husband, who gives us a good sense of what she’s trying to escape, but also a warmth and innocence that presumably drew her to him in the first place.
Also in terms of the original New York production, a third character in multiple roles, played well here by Kristin Elliott, was played originally by Amy Sedaris, sister of ironic author and performer David Sedaris, and herself a biting wit. That irony is the dominant note of WONDER OF THE WORLD, delighting in perversity, and the comic thrill that comes from careening through life half-conscious – at least watching it on stage.
A couple of other parts struck me as a bit too slapstick in flavor, but still didn’t seriously harm the overall tone of inspired absurdity and wicked nastiness. WONDER OF THE WORLD artfully dissects the stresses inherent in marriage and in life, in a raunchy tabloid tone which sometimes makes it all bearable, and even a little more understandable.
Watching WONDER OF THE WORLD is kind of like watching children careening through an adult world, totally unprepared, but then doesn’t life seem that way for all of us at times?
In keeping with the grand and incomprehensible tradition of many New Mexico theaters, absolutely no relevant information is included on the playbill, but show dates and times should be available by calling 254-7716.
Earth Days documentary review
Jim Terr – KUNM - © 2010 AUDIO
A new documentary premiering Monday (April 19) on PBS throws a comprehensive light on the emergence of the environmental movement in the past 40-plus years. The documentary, called “EARTH DAYS”, takes the first Earth Day celebration, in 1970, as its dramatic peg. That first Earth Day was the largest demonstration, nationwide, that has ever taken place, with an estimated 20 million Americans – one out of 10 at the time – participating.
One of the many interesting insights I got from the documentary was how popular the environmental movement was when it first burst onto the scene in the late 60s, with a small group of activists – without e-mail, without the web – mobilizing millions of people and public opinion. The writing of Rachel Carson about the dangers of DDT and its destruction of species and of human health – and questioning the ideas of “better living through chemistry” and man dominating nature – was a big catalyst. Of course the chemical industry then – as now – attempted to discredit her, but she won the day.
When that still-small group of activists succeeded in ousting seven of eleven anti-environmental congresspeople, the environmental movement gained even more strength in Congress. President Nixon was on board. Democrat Gaylord Nelson and Republican Pete McCloskey joined to create the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. McCloskey is extensively interviewed in this documentary, and points out that the problem in Washington then – as now – is that Congress critters think more about who will give them money this week, for their re-election, than about long-term solutions. Another interviewee points out that we humans in general are programmed more for immediate conflicts, like dealing with the next tiger that might attack us – than for thinking about long-range problems and solutions.
Our recently departed Stuart Udall was Interior Secretary at that time, and Udall provides a guiding voice through this documentary, revealing among other things that he did not support the creation of Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, as he felt that it perpetuated our dependence on cars and oil. Los Angeles once had, we forget, a public transportation system that covered the entire basin.
We also forget, the documentary reminds us, how polluted our country was in the 60s. Rivers and lakes were poisoned, and anyone living in L.A. breathed in the equivalent of 2-1/2 packs of cigarettes’ worth of pollution a day. These outrages provided the needed impetus. Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich appeared six times on Johnny Carson’s show to warn about overpopulation, and President Jimmy Carter installed solar water heaters on the White House roof.
But his successor, Ronald Reagan, had the solar panels removed and did everything he could to dismantle the environmental juggernaut, setting it back 30 years by some estimates. We see Reagan sweetly and skillfully intimating that environmentalists would like to have us revert to a primitive, if not communistic, lifestyle – a chilling preview of the demagogic techniques refined and practiced today by numerous commentators and news outlets.
One of the interviewees reminds us that it took much longer for environmental issues to be seen as global and not just American, and another states that for all the good major environmental organizations do, they’re still Washington-centric dealmakers and not the grassroots movements where change really takes place.
EARTH DAYS is a highly educational and illuminating look at where we’ve been and where we might go, in perhaps surviving on our earth.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
movie review - KUNM - Jim Terr © 2010 Audio
I must be the only person who has never heard about or read the trilogy of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson on which the film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, is based. The trilogy has sold over 7 million copies, and a lot of those readers filled the parking lot of The Screen in Santa Fe for the start of the movie’s run. All the more testament to the books that readers would want to see the film version.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is an exciting ride, indeed. A mystery thriller at its best – even the two-and-a-half hour running time doesn’t seem too long when you’re so engaged in such a spellbinding tale of solving a 40-year-old murder with such an unusual pair of dogged pursuers. Damaged but brilliant people are always fascinating, and the film’s mysterious female star steals the spotlight every moment she’s on screen.
Someone sent me the other day a memo from David Mamet about dramatic writing which specifies that each and every scene should create some suspense leading to the next. That seemed a little demanding to me, but THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO demonstrates that it’s possible, even in a 2-1/2 hour film. Plus I’ve always felt that old, hidden historical events emerging to solve a current mystery is particularly fascinating, and that’s a strong element in this story.
The film is gritty and kinky in ways that will probably be softened or eliminated in the American remake that’s already being talked about. There should be no need for an American remake, except perhaps for this one’s all-white subtitles which render some of the dialogue incomprehensible -- unless of course you speak Swedish. Well, I suppose the American distributors wanted to save a few bucks by not using black-outlined subtitles so they could be read over both light and dark scenes, and those black-outlined titles cost… uh.. wait, they don’t cost a penny more. I’ll never understand why they do that. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the kind of movie that yanks you into its world in such a way that you forget about your own life for the duration, the best kind of entertainment in my opinion. It left me with that cleaned-out, renewed feeling that only such a transporting film can give you. This story has got everything but the kitchen sink, giving you that sort of formulaic feeling if you stop and think about it, but it’s so well-done that it all works. I’d even venture that anyone who’s suffered sexual abuse might find some satisfying therapy in a couple of the choice sequences. Revenge can be sweet, at least in the movies.
If you enjoyed “Silence of the Lambs”, if you enjoy an exhilarating ride, you can’t do better than THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It’s playing at The Screen in Santa Fe, information at 473-6494.
“Hurt Locker” review – KUNM
Jim Terr © 2010 Hear audio
Seeing “The Hurt Locker”, the excellent Iraq war drama which won the first Best Picture and Best Director Oscars ever for a female director, Kathryn Bigelow, and produced by Santa Fe resident Tony Mark, reminded me of something I had tried to forget: There’s still a war going on in Iraq, still with US troops – sixteen dead so far this year.
But producer Tony Mark says that the intent of the film was not explicitly political, and that he’s gotten much acknowledgement from service men and women who feel the film really captures the experience of war in Iraq: __(appreciation)_
If there’s any political message, Mark says, it’s the futility of war, especially a war where you can’t really tell who’s the enemy. That was certainly my experience in watching it. The film starts with a quote from journalist Chris Hedges which I’d seen before and been intrigued by, about war being an addiction, a high.
For the lead character, a bomb disposal expert, that high is even higher. He obviously relishes the thrill of being on the edge of destruction at every moment, and his recklessness is near the core of “HURT LOCKER”, as he bonds with his buddies even as he endangers and enrages them.
It’s the excellence of the moviemaking – from the acting to the editing – which is really impressive, as well as that “you-are-there” quality. All this on a relatively low $11 million budget and a short, difficult shooting schedule – and with NO thought of winning any Oscars. Again, producer Tony Mark: __(intensity- get it done)__
Mark says that though it’s been a deeply satisfying experience, even winning the Best Picture Oscar won’t make this film a huge financial success, __(boneyard.) (Venice)______
One of the most heart-stopping scenes in the movie, involving a suicide bomber who’s had a change of heart, struggling to escape his armament before it blows, features Iraqi star in exile Suhail (HALE) Aldabbach, who Mark says is now living in Albuquerque, getting by without acting work for now. Mark says that when that scene was shot, the entire crew was transfixed and speechless, just as the viewing audience is at this heart-rending moment of drama, and of incredible acting by Aldabbach.
“HURT LOCKER” is an impeccable piece of filmmaking, and a frightening excursion into the heart of modern warfare.
The complete interview with Tony Mark can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q85qPhnm2lk
Sunshine Boys theater review –
for KUNM - Jim Terr © 2010 LISTEN
Santa Fe stage veterans Paul Walsky and Jonathan Richards were never a vaudeville team, or any sort of comedy duo, but they perfectly evoke Neil Simon’s hysterically funny story, THE SUNSHINE BOYS, based on a real-life comedy duo, Smith and Dale, who performed for decades until their bitter break-up.
In THE SUNSHINE BOYS, Walsky plays – to a “T” – Willie Clark, who bitterly resents his ex-partner, Al Lewis, played by Richards, who he feels abandoned him in mid-career after 40 successful years on stage. In the story, CBS has asked the two to reunite for an TV special, and this brings up all their old antagonisms that have simmered for years since their falling out.
Walsky’s every word, every gesture, every expression, working with Simon’s classic script, is absolutely hilarious, and I personally was worn out with constant laughter. Richards’ character, Al Lewis, is happily retired and not consumed with resentment as is Walsky’s character, and his mild irritation with his ex-partner provides a rich comic vein which these two stage masters milk for all it’s worth.
THE SUNSHINE BOYS was originally produced for stage in 1972, starring Red Skelton and Jack Benny, then as a film starring Walter Matthau and George Burns in 1975, then as a TV movie starring Woody Allen and Peter Falk in 1995.
The unceasing snappiness of the dialogue really makes me contemplate what has happened to comedy and to writing in the almost 40 years since SUNSHINE BOYS first appeared. I didn’t see it either on stage or on film, and might not have appreciated it as much as I do now, but I notice lately that such classic comedy from that time, what you might call The Ed Sullivan era, including such masters as Victor Borge, really hits the spot now for some reason.
Santa Fe native Hardy Pinnell is also perfect in this production, as Willie Clark’s nephew and agent who is so anxious to make the TV reunion work, struggling against Clark’s desire to exact revenge against his old partner, and to let him know how he’s been suffering from their breakup. The terms, “covert hostility” and even “overt hostility” do not begin to describe Clark’s countless assaults on his old partner, who really seems not to care that much, frustrating Clark even more. When we finally get to see their old vaudeville act, reportedly taken directly from an old, actual routine, it’s fabulous.
THE SUNSHINE BOYS plays this one final weekend at The Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe, information at 984-1370 .
BENCHWARMERS 9 etc review – for KUNM
Jim Terr © 2010 LISTEN
Tonight, Friday, marks the last opportunity to see the 9th annual collection of original short plays written and selected for the Benchwarmers competition at the Santa Fe Playhouse.
As in past years, there are some hits and some misses – or near-misses. But the chance to see so much of Santa Fe’s best writing and acting talent is always exciting, and encourages and celebrates the “localism” that many of us in the theater and film communities feel is so important.
And indeed, there is so much to be proud of in this year’s Benchwarmers collection. The creative constraints – works of 15 minutes or less, each set around a simple park bench, have produced some very touching and very funny plays, a satisfying evening of theater.
Two of the best are comedies, “Dog Story”, written by Gary Dontzig and done to perfection by four actors, two of whom portray canines commenting on their owners’ behavior and whatever else comes to mind. Lori Tirgrath is phenomenally funny as chic Afghan Roxie, and David Trujillo as plain old hound dog Buddy. This piece had the entire audience howling.
Trujillo has another fantastic turn in another of the best comedies, “And the Winner Is”, written by Tom Woodward. I’m a big fan of absurd dark comedies where things go crashing downhill, and here bubbly Ms. America contestant Judith Jones-Arute brilliantly deconstructs emcee Trujillo and the entire pageant, leaving the whole affair in a shambles. For me this was even more amusing than “Dog Story” – which I wouldn’t have thought possible.
Veteran Benchwarmer actors and directors Barry Hazen, Annie Goodwin, Will Arute, Dan Gerrity, Clara Soister and Pal Dybel turn in excellent work in the eight short pieces, and we’re privileged to see long-time Santa Fe star Robyn Reede in a touching and rare dramatic role in “The War Widow,” written by Richard Dargan.
Benchwarmers always manages to end on a truly moving note, and this year is no exception. “Jerry and Kyle and the Big Parade” is a brilliantly moving and funny encounter between two men watching a gay pride parade. One reserved, one flamboyantly touting such heroes as “The Dali Lama of Moisturizers”, these two connect in a way that is surprising and revelatory. Tonight is the last performance of Benchwarmers, and Saturday and Sunday are staged readings of some of the other entries; info at the Santa Fe Playhouse, 988-4262.
This is also the final weekend for two other notable plays in Santa Fe: “Emil’s Enemies”, a Nazi-era historical drama at Theaterwork, which is however completely sold out, and “Parted Waters,” a northern New Mexico multi-generational family story involving Crypto-Jewish secrets, written by Robert Benjamin, at Capital High School’s Brian Fant Theater. The word I’ve heard on “Parted Waters” from veteran theatergoers has been very good, and the final performances tonight and Saturday are pay-what-you-wish; information from Teatro Paraguas at 424-1601.
Public Campaign Finance commentary
© Jim Terr – aired 2-15 -10 on KUNM LISTEN
Public campaign financing is based on the simple idea that if politicians didn’t have to spend half their time chasing campaign contributions, and kissing up to big campaign contributors, they’d have more time and attention for serving the needs of the so-called average citizen, than those of rich individuals, corporations and other interests.
I see no reason to think that this situation – and this simple solution – applies any less on a state level, here in New Mexico, than it does nationally. And neither does the UNwillingness of most politicians to change the system. Why should they? They evidently like the attention, the money, whatever, even if it messes up their day, and their work product – as delivered to me, the consumer, the EMPLOYER. Yes, you and I hired these folks, our representatives, supposedly, to serve our interests.
I recently asked a popular statewide candidate what he (or she) thought about promoting public campaign financing?
Well, it’s an important issue, this person said, maybe I’ll give it more thought after I’m in office and take care of some other priorities. Thinking “Yeah, fat chance,” I asked why not now? Wouldn’t it make a dramatic point, and big news, if you came out for public campaign financing, while the campaign is just getting underway?
Well, frankly, he or she said, I don’t think most people are that interested in it. Are YOU interested in it, I asked – that’s the point. Do you think most people would be interested if they knew that it would only take $6 from each voter to replace ALL the money spent in all elections nationwide, including the billion dollars spent on the last presidential campaign?
Is that true? This person asked. I didn’t know that. Well, if this person didn’t know that, how many other people know that, and how could people be expected to be interested, if they didn’t know how cheap it would be to get their democracy back?
And now that the Supreme Court has ruled that huge corporations have unlimited rights to buy elections, to roll over any candidate who opposes the corporate agenda in favor of a human agenda, the need is even more urgent.
There are some single corporations like Exxon who could put up the full one billion $ spent on the last presidential election without blinking, since their profits alone, last year, were over 40 billion. And now there is nothing to stop them – you heard right.
So ask your friendly New Mexico legislator, or your favorite candidate for governor or lieutenant governor, where they stand on public campaign financing – now, not next time around, but now. If we can’t do it in New Mexico, as Arizona has, how can we expect it to happen nationally? And if we CAN do it in New Mexico – and in other states – we can help make it happen nationally. Before it’s too late, forever.
The Good Soldier
Documentary Review – KUNM? Jim Terr © 2010
I’m going to try to make this the shortest review I’ve ever done, because almost anything I could say about “The Good Soldier” would be superfluous, beyond saying how important and perfectly done it is.
Certainly most of this audience needs no convincing that war is bad and peace is good. But it’s another thing to listen to five brutally honest veterans, from World War Two, Vietnam, Gulf War One and Iraq, reflect on why they joined the military, how they adjusted to that first kill, how in some cases it got to be an addiction, and at what point they realized it no longer worked for them.
They all speak with a simple honesty and credibility that can only come from having been there. THE GOOD SOLDIER begins with a quote, on-screen: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” The quote is from General Dwight David Eisenhower.
THE GOOD SOLDIER has gathered reviews such as INCENDIARY, AFFECTING, EMOTIONAL and ASTONISHING. I would add MANDATORY – well, I think that’s been said, too. You’ll wish that every congressman, senator and president should be required to hear these testimonies, but in any case the video is available to us, the citizens who send our kids off to war.
Here’s one of the five men interviewed: (AUDIO: Vietnam effect…)
This is a beautifully-produced documentary, made more powerful because there’s no narration; it just lets the vets do the talking. The revelation that they are all involved in anti-war activism now, almost takes you by surprise, because they all speak of the excitement of war, for them, at some point, in such an engaging way.
This concluding remark by the same Vietnam vet, puts it all in a slightly different context than I’ve ever heard: (AUDIO: greatest generation..…)
THE GOOD SOLDIER plays this Saturday and Sunday only, at the Guild Theater in Albuquerque.
This is Jim Terr.
A Single Man
Movie Review KUNM January 14, 2010
© Jim Terr AUDIO
Just recently rescued from the brink of financial collapse and closure by a couple of anonymous contributions, the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe celebrates its continuation with a featured run of a new film directed by part-time Santa Fe resident, fashion designer Tom Ford.
“A Single Man”, an adaptation of a Christopher Isherwood novel set in Los Angeles in 1962, is the designer’s first attempt as a film director, and he pulls it off well not only on a visual level – befitting his designer’s eye – but dramatically as well.
This is an Oscar-worthy role for Colin Firth, as college professor George Falconer, attempting to plod through life a year after the death of his lover of 16 years, Jim. Jim is never far from George’s thoughts, and the void of love and companionship lost is a constant downward pull on George, who doesn’t come across as ever having been a very upbeat character in the first place.
His only friend seems to be his ex-girlfriend, Charly, played by Julianne Moore, a cheerful-but-sad character herself who’s trying to pull George back into their long-ago romantic relationship.
An impossibly beautiful student is also trying to reel in ol’ George, but George has other plans, involving a revolver. As a matter of fact, everyone in this film, and every single frame, is almost distractingly beautiful, no doubt due to director Ford’s designer background. But in many ways it’s a very modest, understated, honest film that works for this very reason.
The story, which takes place mostly over the course of one day, is really quite simple and bare, and for that reason it’s moving and very relatable, for anyone who has experienced loss..
CCA Cinemateque director Jason Silverman finds it fitting that the revived CCA is featuring a run of this critically-acclaimed film by a local director: (audio…)
“A Single Man” continues next week at the CCA in Santa Fe, information at ccasantafe.org . A special fundraiser / gala will be held Friday the 15th, from 6pm til 8:30 pm.
This is Jim Terr
Film review: PRECIOUS & AVATAR
Jim Terr © 2009 AUDIO
So much to compare
Between two so different films
I’ll make it haiku:
One a 3-D trip –
I mean AVATAR of course.
The other, PRECIOUS.
Cameron strikes again:
AVATAR- mythic, dazzling,
Will make a fortune.
Worth every penny
Of the 300 million
Spent on production.
And in this corner,
PRECIOUS, costing one sixtieth
But packing power.
It’s amazingly acted.
You’ll never be quite the same
Once you see PRECIOUS:
A girl beaten down,
Hanging by a tiny thread,
Might as well be dead.
Juuust returned to life
By the kindness of strangers
Yes, I can relate.
Please don’t get me wrong.
Not to take from AVATAR,
A fine space epic,
In its storyline.
But I’m comparing
And contrasting the two films,
Different as can be.
AVATAR: great fun.
PRECIOUS: great revelation,
If I saw just one,
If I wrote and made just one
I’d rather PRECIOUS.
This is Jim Terr.
Thom Hartmann: “THRESHOLD”
Book review - Jim Terr © 2009 LISTEN
First, full disclosure: I have listened to radio talk show host Thom Hartmann for years – as I have many others, right and left. And Hartmann has played many of my political satire songs on his show – as have many others.
Hartmann is the number one progressive talk show host in the US, and is unique in political talk radio for his gentlemanly, academic manner and his effort to reach out to people who disagree with him. Still he’s a passionate FDR-style progressive who feels that this country and its middle class have been destroyed by corporate power and its efforts to spin the news, kill any sense of civics and community, and have corporations be considered people, with human rights like free speech – meaning the right to finance political campaigns and even make law.
Hartmann is also a historian, a scientist, a grandfather, a therapist, the author of twenty books, has lived in many countries and has started numerous service organizations and successful businesses. If it sounds like Hartmann accomplishes several times as much as the average person, he would attribute that to his ADD, another subject he’s written books about, and a condition which he considers not a disease, but just another evolutionary adaptation and thinking style.
Hartmann has brought this broad world view into a new book called THRESHOLD: THE CRISIS OF WESTERN CULTURE, which ambitiously lays out the challenges to the continuation of human life and society, the possible solutions and, in a brilliant touch, profiles several modern societies which seem to work.
Hartmann contends that we are on the verge – the threshold – of collapse in three areas – environment, economy and population – due to four factors: a disconnection from natural processes; a phony and unworkable economic ideology; an unrealistic and exclusionary view of religion and the human spirit; and what he calls “Gunboat Altruism.”
Although Hartmann clings to the hope that humanity can and MUST prevail, he outlines these challenges in the most dire terms. He says that our planet long ago surpassed its carrying capacity in terms of population, and that our current population approaching 7 billion has almost no way of surviving, now that the petroleum bubble which sustained this artificial lifestyle for 100 years is about to burst.
He feels that the military-industrial complex, as described so clearly by President Eisenhower in 1961, has become an accepted and generally unnoticed cancer on us, and the rest of the world. Hartmann chronicles the systematic efforts by the rich and ruling class to finance think tanks, columnists, talk shows and media empires devoted to spinning a Reaganesque, elitist, just-sit-tight-and-go-shopping world view.
But despite all this, in THRESHOLD, Hartmann insists that we can self-correct and survive. There is much to ponder and even disagree with in this ambitious book, but Hartmann deserves credit for bringing our challenges and opportunities into such sharp focus.
This is Jim Terr.
“Inglourious Basterds" & "A Woman from Berlin”
film review for KUNM - Jim Terr © 2009 LISTEN
I had pretty much sworn off Quentin Tarantino’s films after being so terribly bored and disappointed by a couple of them, following his riveting debut with “Pulp Fiction” and the even better “Jackie Brown.”
But several people I know raved about his new one, “Inglourious Basterds”, a fantasy revision of how Hitler, Goebbels, and World War Two came out, so I figured why not? Tarantino’s wonderful gift with dialogue, timing, suspense, casting and production look is evident throughout, especially in the chilling opening sequence where a Nazi officer visits a farm in occupied France to search for hidden Jews.
The core of the story is that a hellish band of Jewish American commandoes, led by country boy Brad Pitt, hunt down, torture and scalp hundreds of Nazi soldiers and officers, putting fear into the heart of the Nazi war machine all the way up to Hitler himself, and presumably putting dollar signs in the eyes of the Weinstein brothers, who backed this project.
If this is unappealing to you on either ethical or dramatic or violence-aversion grounds, there’s little here that will offset your objections, I’m afraid.
What could have been a wonderfully juicy, suspenseful revenge fantasy is brought down a notch by too many self-indulgent touches, and a running time that could have been shaved by a full hour. Tarantino obviously enjoys filmmaking for its own sake, and doesn’t want to leave anything out, but the final product suffers. Tarantino’s sensibility never rises much above the junior high comic book level, and somehow that worked much better for me in “Pulp Fiction” than it does here. Still, “Inglourious Basterds” is a pretty good ride.
At the other end of the seriousness scale is a German film called “A Woman in Berlin,” based on the memoirs of a journalist who suffered the mass rape and pillage of victorious Soviet troops at the end of World War Two. She finally resolves that if she’s going to be raped, at least she will choose her man, so she links up with the Soviet commander, a relatively sensitive, piano-playing, philosophical type. Of course, if you’re as beautiful as the star, I suppose you do get to choose. I’m not trying to be cute here – this is actually the way the story is told.
A bleaker story you never saw, and if nothing else it made me contemplate the horrible and conflicted situation of the conquered German civilians at the end of the war. Much as Spielberg’s documentary, “The Last Days”, made me think about German Jews after the war; “Amistad” first really made me contemplate the slave experience; and the riveting film “Downfall” gave me a feel for the final days of the Nazi high command in their bunker, and the German civilians above.
It’s probably unfair and irrelevant to compare such a serious film to a more mass-appeal project, but I keep comparing every big-budget release I see to an excellent film I saw at the Santa Fe Film Festival last year, a dark romantic thriller called “The Rule of Three”, whose budget was – are you ready? - $10,000. The look and sound were good, the small cast was excellent, and the story was gripping. How can such a film be done for 1/5,000th the cost of a Tarantino extravaganza, and what are the implications for filmmaking, particularly here in New Mexico, where we have all the resources, including possible investors? What makes a story interesting, and makes a film really stick with you? It’s something to think about when watching these huge, complicated productions.
“Inglourious Basterds” is in wide release, “A Woman in Berlin” plays through Thursday at the De Vargas in Santa Fe, and “The Rule of Three” can be found on-line.
Aviva Kempner has produced three documentaries I’ve seen, on the theme of American Jews who blazed new trails in American culture -- one on baseball star Hank Greenberg, another on the Warner Brothers [[oops- total mistake there - this was not her film; her other film was Partisans of Vilna, a documentary on Jewish resistance against the Nazis]], and now, YOO HOO MRS. GOLDBERG, about Gertrude Berg, the creator and star of the long-running, pioneering radio and TV show, THE GOLDBERGS.
I never saw the show, but have always been curious about it. Gertrude Berg created the character, wrote and produced the over 12,000 scripts, and essentially invented the sitcom format, first as a daily radio show, which ran from 1929 to 1946, then as a weekly TV show from 1949 to 1954..
In the documentary, such interviewees as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg speak about how a program that was unabashedly, ethnically Jewish, was such a broad success for so long. On the other hand, actor Ed Asner, talks about how, as a member of a Jewish family from Kansas City attempting to “blend in”, THE GOLDBERGS was not something he identified or was comfortable with.
I asked Producer Aviva Kempner her thoughts on this: …audio clip…
When Gertrude Berg was ill and missed her own show for a few days, the network received over 100,000 letters of complaint and concern – an unheard-of number in those days. Gertrude Berg’s own story was a bit darker than that of her popular character. Her older brother died in childhood, and her mother never got over it, and died in an asylum. Gertrude herself could never be alone, for fear of succumbing to her own inherited sense of dread.
Despite – or perhaps because of – this dark drive, she was so popular she is seen now as the Oprah of her day, ranked only with Eleanor Roosevelt as the most successful and respected woman of her time.
She didn’t shy away from political issues, such as the rise of the Nazi German Bund in the US. And when her TV husband, Philip Loeb, was blacklisted, she fought to keep him on the show, and when that became impossible and he was fired, she continued to pay his salary.
YOO HOO MRS GOLDBERG is thoroughly and skillfully produced, like all of Kempner’s documentaries I’ve seen. It opens Friday at the Regal DeVargas in Santa Fe, and Aviva Kempner will speak at this Saturday and Sunday’s shows. One of the TV show’s stars lives in Santa Fe, and may also appear in person.
Every Little Step – movie review for KUNM
© Jim Terr 2009 LISTEN
I left the documentary, “Every Little Step”, wondering whether someone who has not been involved with theater or film, with the process of auditioning, could fully appreciate the intensity, the longing, the heartbreak of auditioning, of finally getting that part – or not. Well, actually, though I’ve been involved on both sides of the table, as an actor and as a director trying to select the right “talent” for the job, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced quite that degree of intensity myself.
But the 3,000 singer/dancer/actors auditioning for the 19 slots in the 2006 Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” – many of whom traveled thousands of miles to be there – are an intense bunch. Watching them dance their hearts out, sing their lungs out, and watching as their hopes are dashed – or in some cases, rewarded – and how they react, is fascinating.
I could have answered my own question about the universal appeal of “Every Little Step” by just noticing that my companion, who has nothing do with theater or dance, was likewise enthralled by the film. These folks are exceptional people, incredibly well-trained, and watching the audition process is exhilarating, and at times heartbreaking. They’re also beautiful people, and that makes it even more fun to watch.
The film returns often to the genesis of “A Chorus Line” in the 1970s, when choreographer Michael Bennett gathered several dancers around a tape recorder to talk about their lives as performers, as children, many as gay people trying to cope with an unaccepting world. From that first session, evidently, he knew he had the makings of a universal story. Aren’t most of us, after all, trying to make it, trying to fit in and be accepted?
Bennett is gone, but many of the actors and producers involved in the original production are involved in the new auditions and in the film. A wonderfully thoughtful and articulate bunch, which is part of what makes a film like this so interesting.
I got a special kick out of seeing New Mexio’s own Marsha Mason get such a great acknowledgment in the film. Songwriter Marvin Hamlisch (is it OK to call such an august figure a songwriter?), tells a story, in his wonderful style, about how the original show just wasn’t working for the audiences, until Marsha Mason showed up and made a brilliant observation and suggestion which turned the show around and resulted in standing ovations thereafter.
Strangely, perhaps, this documentary left me with no desire to see “A Chorus Line”, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Strange, since the documentary and its marketing seem to me very much directed toward getting butts in the seats at the new Broadway production. I simply enjoyed watching the personalities and talents involved in the audition process.
I have a nagging question about how the documentary crew happened to follow from the beginning of the process, several of the actors who ended up being cast, and I wonder whether some of those NOT cast have the same question.
But none of that detracts from this thrilling, fascinating documentary. "Every Little Step” is showing at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, show times at CCAsantafe.org
Albuquerque Theater Hosts Story of Struggling Texas Writer
(Katherine Anne Porter - "Passenger on the Ship of Fools")
Jim Terr - KUNM - July 31, 2009 (c) LISTEN
New Mexicans have an opportunity, in an ongoing play at Albuquerque’s Vortex, to find out what one dirt-poor Texan had to do to become a writer. Reviewer and commentator Jim Terr says he found it was not only a moving true story, but that it has more local connections than he’d expected.
Katherine Anne Porter is best known for her only full-length novel, SHIP OF FOOLS, which took her 30 years to write, while being paid advances all along. This saga is laid out along with the many fascinating phases of her life, in PASSENGER ON THE SHIP OF FOOLS.
This is a cleverly written and staged and beautifully acted piece, and I didn’t realize til the end that this was not a local adaptation of a big-city production, but a premiere presentation of a play written by two local playwrights, Laura Furman and Lynn C. Miller, and directed by Victoria Liberatori.
Bridget Kelly, one of three fine actors who alternate playing Porter in deftly interwoven parts, said Liberatori’s involvement was one of the things that got her involved:
Porter was born dirt-poor in a small Texas town that doesn’t even exist anymore, was raised by relatives, and was only educated one year beyond grammar school. What comes across strongly in the play is her incredible focus and determination to be a writer, despite these and other disadvantages. She worked as a movie extra, a ghost writer, a model, elocution teacher and journalist on her way to attaining lasting fame as a writer.
Porter never followed the literary crowd. She married five times, and while the literary scene of the 1920s thrived in Paris, she was in Mexico.
(QUOTE RE HER ILLNESS & NEAR-DEATH)
A discussion with a leading Porter biographer will be held on August 8th.
PASSENGER ON THE SHIP OF FOOLS stars Bridget Kelly, Vivian Nesbitt, Lee Kitts and Shirley Roach, and continues at the Vortex in Albuquerque for two more weekends. Call 247-8600 for information, or visit www.vortexabq.org.
Michael Savage’s interview (TALKERS, June 2009) clearly displays all that is loved and un-loved about him. I used to enjoy listening to Savage; I found it fascinating to hear someone so spontaneous, so uncensored (if clearly conflicted), so colorful, so in-the-moment.
It seems to me he was a bit less abrasive, hateful and inflammatory in his early days – the qualities which have now gotten him on the unwelcome-in-Britain list. I don’t agree with his being banned, by the way. I think a visit to Britain (or almost anywhere) would do him some good, and mainly I believe in more speech, not less. The only way we learn to make judgments and handle controversy and paradox is to hear it all and learn to sort it out.
The clearest qualities on display in Savage’s interview are his disingenuousness, arrogance and hypocrisy – and I can illustrate: He protests that he doesn’t advocate violence, when in fact his program consists of little but hate, assault, insult, and getting rid of “the vermin” (his term, and a strange word choice, isn’t it?) – yes, violence, in the broad sense. (“Making America a better place” is how he frames it in his interview.)
He says his current troubles, this outrage, have been ignored by the major media, when in fact it was all over the major media. How else would I, for instance, know about it? He is waiting for an apology and an invitation to speak before the British Parliament!
But most remarkably, he cites the support of his case by the ACLU and the Council on Islamic-American Relations, and complains that all other talk show hosts and lovers of freedom are not also rising to his defense. (“Today it’s Michael Savage. Tomorrow it’s who – you?”)
Exactly. When has Michael Savage ever advocated letting anyone else speak, with whom he violently disagrees? His show consists largely of who should shut up, be banned, deported, suppressed, or preferably die! I don’t think I’ve ever heard him stand up for the free speech rights of another despised individual, minority or majority with whom he disagrees.
If this isn’t the ultimate in hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.
Commentator for KUNM-FM
Albuquerque, New Mexico
EMPATHY commentary (Supreme Court nominee "spin") KUNM © Jim Terr 2009 HEAR
As Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor makes the rounds in Congress this week, one word may continue to stick in the minds of some senators - a word that has been pounded into the airwaves lately. As commentator Jim Terr notes, that could turn out to be a good thing for Sotomayor.
I’ll bet you didn’t know “empathy” was a bad word. In fact, in my book, it’s one of the best words, one of the best qualities, a person could have. If I had kids, I think I’d be most proud to hear them described as honest, fair-minded and kind – which is pretty much synonymous with “empathetic.” Empathy meaning the tendency or ability to put yourself in another’s shoes – a necessary quality for being able to follow the golden rule.
But even before President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Supreme Court justice, the right-wing spin machine was complaining that he had mentioned “empathy” – the ability to bring the human dimension, a human understanding, to judicial decision-making – as a quality he was looking for. The right wing opinion makers were on a roll, declaring that such a communist, socialist, anarchist quality as “empathy” had no place in Supreme Court decisions. Except, of course, in cases to be decided in their favor. But hypocrisy is another essay.
Millions of people who couldn’t cite one court case as an example of being strictly decided on a so-called “constructionist” basis, versus one decided on a nuanced, real-life, human basis, were suddenly incensed at the idea that “empathy” could be brought into play in judicial decision making. Which of course they’ll hope like hell it is, if they’re ever brought before the court.
Evidently Frank Luntz got a 3 a.m. phone call on this one, the request to come up with a key word to sink the Obama nomination before it even occurred. Frank Luntz is the political wordsmith who’s hired to help re-frame invasions as “liberations”, inheritance taxes as “death taxes”, and all those pesky little issues that can be swung just the right way if only they’re re-titled with the correct word – which is actually about all it takes.
The right wing is three times, five times, maybe TEN times as expert at this as the Democrats, in case you haven’t noticed. But maybe they’ve mis-fired on this one, maybe Frank Luntz was a little groggy or mis-heard the assignment when he got the 3 a.m. call. After all, isn’t “empathy” – assuming most people even heard the word before this week – sort of essential to the Christian faith and the American way? I HOPE so.
President Obama, as usual, is missing a golden opportunity to face this issue head-on. I’m referring to the issue of Spin, this wordsmithing and demagoguing which muddies almost every important issue. He’s being presented with yet another “teaching moment” where he could point out, from his very visible and respectable platform, how this spinning is done, how well-chosen words are used to turn everything on its head.
He seems to think that by speaking in his clear, earnest, fair-minded manner, he can make reason prevail. He may be right, but he’s done nothing to raise awareness of this process of spinning and re-framing which will ultimately bring him down and sink his best efforts, as it does everyone’s. Watch the word “socialism”; watch the term “single payer.”
If judges were able to judge without bringing human values and “empathy” to bear, there would be no need for judges, would there? It could all be done by computer, thus saving the salaries of those nine Supreme Court judges and their clerks – and all that empathy!
ID: Jim Terr is a writer, actor and documentary producer in Santa Fe.
Golda’s Balcony – KUNM theater review
Jim Terr © 2009 HEAR AUDIO
INTRO: If live theater hasn't made it into your weekend plans yet, reviewer Jim Terr says perhaps that should change. There are two performances in Albuquerque, in fact, which he says are receiving the longest, most enthusiastic standing ovations he's ever seen.
I enjoy a one-person show as much as any form of theater, more so in fact when you add in the amazement at anyone learning 80 or 90 minutes of script. Robin Epstein’s masterful portrayal of Golda Meir in “Golda’s Balcony”, at the Vortex, magnifies a beautifully-written piece of biography and history, first staged in 2003.
Golda Meir had a long and fascinating life and career before becoming the fourth prime minister of Israel, and “Golda’s Balcony” revolves around her handling the crisis of the 1973 war, and the controversial but not-difficult-to-believe thesis that Israel used the threat of the nuclear option to get vital US assistance.
But first, let’s clear the air, which is always necessary with regard to Israel. You don’t have to be partial to Israel or the Zionist dream to appreciate this play, just as you don’t have to be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic to criticize some Israeli policy. Even one of Israel’s early leaders, David Ben-Gurion, said with regard to Israel’s neighbors and former inhabitants: “Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country.”
So it takes no pretending that this isn’t a difficult situation – or that it will ever resolve itself peacefully – to enjoy an incredible piece of theater about a rich and complex life – made even richer by Golda Meir’s own articulation of the tragedy involved in Israel’s birth and struggle to survive.
Golda was born in Kiev and escaped the pogroms at an early age, settling with her family in Milwaukee. Always at odds with her family – and even her suitor and husband – over her socialist and Zionist ideals, she went to live in Denver with her older sister, before finally moving to Palestine in 1921. From childhood she demonstrated the strong will and leadership skills that placed her at the center of world events for decades, and which eventually tore her from her husband and family.
My favorite Golda Meir quote, “Don’t be so humble – you’re not that great” – amazingly does not make it into this play, but another one I had never heard does – and it’s almost worth the price of admission.
One particularly poignant episode in “Golda’s Balcony” involves her visit to Cypress, where Jews who had survived the Holocaust were stranded and allowed only limited exodus to Palestine. Her heartbreaking job was to convince adults who were next in line to let the children go in their place. In response to one woman’s snipe at another as having been a Nazi officer’s whore, she says “In Israel everything is new.” “Golda’s Balcony” is a riveting piece of history and performance. Information is available at VortexAbq.org or by calling 247-8600.
And speaking of one-woman performances, I can’t fail to also mention a one-night revival, this Saturday the 23rd, of one of the most amazing pieces I’ve ever seen, “Harriet’s Return”, written and performed by Albuquerque’s own Karen Jones Meadows. This incredible portrayal of the life of ex-slave Harriet Tubman plays at the North 4th Theater, information at 344-4542.
ID: Jim Terr is a satirist, actor and documentary producer in Santa Fe.
The Final Inch LISTEN
Documentary Review – KUNM – Jim Terr © 2009
(KUNM intro): The vaccine for polio in the United States meant that few children would experience lifelong suffering related to the disease. However, the virus still exists in some of the world’s most vulnerable places. A documentary short, the Final inch, follows efforts to finally wipe out polio in India.
When I was a child, in the mid-1950s, polio was still a threat, even though it had mostly peaked a few years earlier, leaving thousands of children, many with metal leg braces, and some in “iron lungs,” huge chambers in which they had to live, their heads sticking out, in order to breathe.
Some of those people now in the 60s are still living in those iron lungs. I know a couple polio survivors myself, brilliant people, crippled or with even worse problems from “post-polio syndrome”.
I was proud of my dad, a small-town doctor, for organizing an annual city-wide polio vaccination drive in the early 1960s, using the newly-developed Sabin oral polio vaccine, delivered on a sugar cube without the necessity of an injection.
An Academy-award nominated short documentary, funded by Google, called “The Final Inch”, is showing one more time, tomorrow, on HBO. The documentary follows the efforts by an army of almost half a million health workers in India to vaccinate the millions of children who are still vulnerable to the disease.
It’s a poignant but dramatic story, because although polio has been eradicated in most of the world, the remaining few million vulnerable children – the “final inch” – could still suffer the devastating consequences of the disease, and even re-infect the rest of our highly-mobile world again, if polio isn’t knocked out for good. New polio victims do in fact arise daily in India, due to the poor sanitation which allows the disease to be passed.
The eradication effort – which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan as well – is described as the biggest non-military effort in history, as these volunteers go door-to-door in poor neighborhoods, contending with parental ignorance and even conspiracy theories about vaccination being an American plot to sterilize their children. Their thoroughness and dedication in doing this work, for little or no wages, is almost unbelievable to witness.
In an interview for KUNM, director Irene Taylor Brodsky said that the importance of this battle goes beyond eradicating this horrible disease, to demonstrating that humanity can organize to defeat other scourges as well. That’s what excites me about this documentary, because I’ve always had the quixotic notion that if we – humanity – focused on enemies other than each other – for instance, poverty, starvation and disease in general – we could actually end up with a livable world we could be proud of.
“The Final Inch” is short, to the point, and inspiring. It shows once more, tomorrow, Saturday, on HBO, and via HBO-on-demand through April 26.
ID: Jim Terr is a satirist, actor and documentary producer in Santa Fe.
The Great Buck Howard
Movie review by Jim Terr – KUNM - © 2009 LISTEN
One of my favorite country songs is an incredibly melancholy one, about a faded country star who now tours tiny halls in tiny towns, playing to tiny crowds. If you’ll allow me a few bars:
He had a silver plated bus and a million country fans
Now there's just a few of us and he drives a little van **
“The Great Buck Howard” follows a faded stage mentalist – mind you, don’t call him a magician – performed beautifully by John Malkovich and based on writer/director Sean McGinly’s memories of working as road manager for The Amazing Kreskin. Like Kreskin, the fictional Buck Howard appeared many times on the Johnny Carson show til he was suddenly dropped – and has never quite gotten over it.
The film does a good balancing act between a somewhat snide, cynical view of show business, and an overall warm look at the magic of stage craft. Writer/director McGinly told me that this very much reflects his mixed memories of Kreskin; McGinly says he didn’t like his behavior much, but was as swept up as everyone else when the curtain rose on Kreskin’s act: (McGinly AUDIO…)
Like many of Malkovich’s best characters, Howard absolutely seethes with superiority and a sense of resentment at not being appreciated for the genius that he is. That would be amusing enough to carry the movie, but another, sweeter note appears, and it eventually becomes clear that Howard really loves what he does, and even the small-town audiences he condescends to.
Colin Hanks – Tom’s son – is perfectly cast as a law school drop-out looking for a taste of show business, and he gets a good reality check in serving the exacting demands of the prissy Buck Howard. Emily Blunt is likewise beautifully cast as a somewhat jaded PR operative hired to publicize one amazing stunt which Howard has dreamed up to revive his career, in Cincinnati – as big a city as he’s likely to play.
The stunt is almost derailed by a traffic accident involving local celebrity Jerry Springer – but still succeeds in giving the faded star another shot at Vegas and network TV.
Steve Zahn turns in a hilarious performance as an enthusiastic fan who’s booked Howard for a local gig, and Colin Hank’s disapproving dad looks amazingly like him because, well, it IS his dad – Tom Hanks.
Not yet scheduled in Albuquerque but playing at The Screen in Santa Fe, The Great Buck Howard is an unpretentious, sweet and often very funny film.
ID: Jim Terr is a satirist, actor and video producer in Santa Fe.
** “Would You Catch a Falling Star” Recorded by John Anderson, written by Bobby Braddock of course!
Morningtime Train – theater review
Jim Terr © 2009 Hear audio version
Santa Fe resident Gerald Fried has composed film scores for Stanley Kubrick, for Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE, and for “Roots” – for which he won an Emmy.
During Fried’s tenure in Hollywood, his five-year old son, Zack, died of AIDS, which he contracted as a newborn in the hospital, from tainted blood. The disease was so new at the time it was virtually unknown and not screened for.
Some of the film producers Fried was working with at the time, who knew of the tragedy he was going through, suggested he take notes, and he did, as much to distract himself as to create a screenplay based on the story. The screenplay was optioned but never produced, but the stage version, MORNINGTIME TRAIN, is showing one more weekend, this weekend, at the Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe.
Fried describes MORNINGTIME TRAIN as the story of “a guilt-ridden young father being hounded toward redemption by three comic ghosts.” It’s an unusual combination of heart-breaking moments, almost slapstick comedy, and original music by a quartet of live musicians, including Fried, offstage.
I asked Fried whether the guilty act in question, a brief romantic encounter with an old girlfriend in the hospital, which arguably leads to little Zack receiving tainted blood, is a big enough sin for a modern audience to relate to:
(audio…SEE FULL VIDEO INTERVIEW )
I found MORNINGTIME TRAIN an uneven but mostly very affecting and moving examination of grief, guilt, secrets and redemption. It’s an artistic leap by a thoughtful writer looking to share insights and experiences which might unburden others, and for the most part - with the help of some brilliant acting and casting - it works.
Information on the final weekend of Gerald Fried’s MORNINGTIME TRAIN at the Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe, is available at 984-1370.
THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS LISTEN
Youth opera review – Jim Terr – KUNM ©
I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of opera. Perhaps I haven’t given it enough of a chance, but it has just never connected for me.
But the so-called “youth opera,” “The Language of Birds,” playing tonight and Saturday only at the Lensic in Santa Fe, did work for me, for many reasons. The opera, based on a Russian fairy tale, was originally commissioned by and performed for the Sarasota Opera by Santa Fe New Music founder John Kennedy.
According to New Music director Rozie Kennedy, many elements have been adapted for the Santa Fe production, including changing several of the main roles to female, in order to accommodate the wealth of young female talent who showed up for auditions: (audio clip 5)
The production involves over 60 young people from many schools and many backgrounds. There’s so much to appreciate -- the simple but incredibly beautiful rear-projected backdrop, the dazzling and affecting costuming, and the delicate music – nicely performed by the young singers and backed up by a live professional orchestra.
And there’s great depth to the story itself, about a young girl who saves the day and shows everyone that they’re part of a larger whole, because due to a kind act she’s been given the gift of understanding the language of birds. The good guys win in this piece.
Mostly what makes it all work is the dedication and energy of the young cast, their expressiveness and enthusiasm; you can focus in to any one of these 60 kids and watch how much they’re enjoying themselves – pirates, sailors, royalty and peasants, crows and birds. In fact, Rozie Kennedy says even the birds were adapted for the local production:“The Language of Birds” opens tonight, Friday, at the Lensic in Santa Fe, with afternoon and evening performances on Saturday. Information is available at 988-1234.
(audio clip 9).
MEDIA LITERACY commentary
KUNM – Jim Terr © 2009 LISTEN
I was gratified to hear that a bill to promote media literacy made it through the House and Senate, and has only to be signed into law by the Governor. Actually I was glad to hear that the subject even came up, because I’ve long considered media literacy one of the main issues – and one of the missing elements – in our awareness and in our educational system. If there’s a survival skill for our time, this is it.
Media literacy involves learning to dissect and understand the advertising messages with which the average child, for instance, is bombarded for over six hours per day – mostly from TV.
And only with a little training can we become aware of the various techniques by which we’re persuaded to buy the incredible amounts of unnecessary stuff that we buy, to be made to feel bad if we don’t, to feel a gnawing lack and general insecurity that can only be made right by going shopping.
State Representative Moe Maestas of Albuquerque, who sponsored the bill, says he’s concerned that 63% of 12-year-old girls are insecure about their bodies – and he points out that they didn’t learn that at home, but from media images and messages. Well, maybe some of them did learn it at home, from parents who are also hypnotized by the TV and equally unaware of what they’re being brainwashed with.
The New Mexico Media Literacy Project, a leader in this field nationally, points out that it’s not just TV, but also “radio, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, signs, packaging, marketing materials, video games, recorded music, the Internet, and other forms of media” which supply these complex messages.
The problem is indeed beyond TV advertising and even beyond consumerism. It’s spin in general, which allows our politicians, talk show hosts, demagogues and PR firms to get away with outrageous mis-labeling, mis-logic, mis-information and phony statistics – and crazy politics. Only by understanding the game, the PR techniques, can we be inoculated against this spin, and see our way through this muddy soup to some understanding of what’s going on, and empowerment to do something about it.
I’ve tried to do my bit, I believe, having agitated for this for years, including on these very airwaves, and having developed a TV show – something that could even be broadcast from right here in New Mexico – called “Let’s Play Spin Doctor.” The idea is that a panel of high-school-age PR geniuses would compete at spinning, skewing, mis-representing and demagoguing, just like the big folks do. The attention-getter is that it’s young people who are being corrupted and doing the corrupting, and in the process the gaping national audience becomes more aware of the PR and spin techniques with which they’re bombarded every day.
When the Media Literacy Bill becomes law, it will be up to local school districts to adopt Media Literacy classes into their curricula, and I very much hope they will.
“KASHF: THE LIFTING OF THE VEIL”
Film Preview – Jim Terr / KUNM March 9, 2009 ©
INTRO: After a debut performance at the Santa Fe Film Festival in December, and a long run at the Santa Fe Film Center, an unusual Pakistani film opens this week at the Guild Cinema.
“Kashf: The Lifting of the Veil” is the first English language feature film produced in Pakistan in 30 years. Filmmaker Ayesha Khan says it was a strange coincidence that brought her to Santa Fe, where she now lives.
(See video interview with Ayesha Khan):
After finishing the shooting in Pakistan, she and her producer planned to watch about ten films together in order to get focused on the direction they wanted to go in editing. But they only got around to watching one, a film called BARAKA, which they liked very much.
She began editing her film in Pakistan, but due to electrical outages and other problems she was unable to continue, and she contacted her producer, who happened to have moved to Santa Fe, to ask for help. He said he’d look around New Mexico, and by coincidence it turned out that David Aubrey, who had edited BARAKA, lived and worked in Santa Fe.
So Ayesha Khan moved to Santa Fe, where they edited the film. She points out that it’s very unusual for a feature film to be edited in New Mexico at all, that even when features are shot here, post production is usually done in L.A. And in this case, the film was shot in Pakistan before being edited in New Mexico.
“The Lifting of the Veil” is a modern Sufi-oriented tale, a hero’s journey, and filmmaker Ayesha Khan says she hopes the film gives American audiences a different view of Pakistan and that part of the world, other than the violent, sensationalistic view which dominates the news:
She says that Pakistan is a country of 160 million people, very few of them terrorists, but rather mostly people wishing to live a modern, progressive life, and she hopes that the film will give Westerners a more broad and positive view of Pakistan, much as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE has done for India.
WE ARE HISPANIC-AMERICAN WOMEN..OK?
(Theater review) Jim Terr KUNM 3-3-09 © LISTEN
I was raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in a Jewish family, so I bring to my theater-watching experience – well, I suppose to every experience – a strange brew of influences, as I suppose we all do.
So I was a little bit mystified as to what I was seeing and reacting to while watching Albuquerque playwright Patricia Crespin’s production at El Museo in Santa Fe, called WE ARE HISPANIC-AMERICAN WOMEN – OK? So much of the bickering, sniping, forgiving, pushing and pulling among the five women in the play – two sisters, their mom, grandma and granddaughter – reminded me uncomfortably of the tension convention around the old homestead.
Playwright Crespin says that’s to be expected, however: (sound clip…this is universal, not cultural, etc.). There’s a touch of the TV sitcom here, and a crowd-pleasing, tequila-swigging, bird-flipping grandma character who left me a little cold, but there’s a lot of insight in the play, too, and excellent work by five spirited, confident Hispanic actresses. It’s good to watch people have such a ball. Director Karen Paramanandam is a fine actress herself, and it shows in her skilled direction.
This is the third New Mexico production of the play, and the 12th piece staged by Teatro Paraguas, a company dedicated to bringing Hispanic-themed theater to Santa Fe. The apparent lack of Hispanics in the audience was regrettable, I thought, but so is the small percentage of people in general who partake of the richness of live theater.
Teatro Paraguas folks tell me they’re not as discouraged about that as I am, however, that when they put on something that strikes home, word gets around and they have sell-out crowds.
WE ARE HISPANIC-AMERICAN WOMEN, OK? continues for the next two weekends at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe; phone 473-0143 for information.
CHE, CEOs, and THE DARK KNIGHT
Commentary - KUNM – Jim Terr - © February 23, 2009
( Hear AUDIO version )
Sometimes, when things are coming to a head, and when you’re having a realization about what it all means, almost everything that happens in your life contributes to that realization, and reinforces your conclusions.
The “economic downturn” is weighing on most of us, even those free-lance creatives like myself, who live somewhat outside the 9-to-5 world.
In my case, the recent passing of a loved one, a strange internet video, and even films about Che Guevara and Batman all seem to point me toward the gist of a book I came across a couple years ago, THE POST-PETROLEUM SURVIVAL GUIDE AND COOKBOOK, subtitled Sustainability, permaculture, and the novel idea that living with less stuff is actually a good thing.
Living with less stuff – what a concept! Does anybody doubt that what’s happening in the economy is basically a crumbling of consumerism, of over-dependence on credit cards and the thrill of shopping? It causes you – as have many recent events in my life – to re-evaluate what’s important, what you really need, why the US, despite all our stuff, does not place among the top 15 countries those people feel the happiest.
I sense that the current economic crisis is forcing most Americans to confront some basic issues which such influencers as Rush Limbaugh have been desperately trying to avert peoples’ attention from, for years: Is it right that CEOs make 400 times as much as their workers? Do they really work 400 times harder? Is it right – or is it grotesque - that the top 1% of the US population owns most of the wealth?
How can we justify a so-called health care system that ranks so poorly for outcomes and cost-effectiveness, and is that surprising when the middlemen - the health plans and insurance companies - rake off so much , like a $1.2 billion salary for a top CEO? How can banks take $350 billion of our money and then cut credit lines, raise our interest even higher than the already outrageous rates, and pay their CEOs millions in bonuses? I guess it takes a great crisis to get your attention when you’ve been so brainwashed for so long.
The video I referred to suggests that Obama’s election and the miraculous landing of the US Airways jet in the Hudson river may be omens of a better future: (“Maybe things will start to go right, yeah maybe things will start to go right”). The better future shown has a quirky emphasis on local agriculture and people dancing in the streets.
But is that really so quirky? When the mysterious, distant, “national economy” explodes, what an opportunity to re-connect locally to help each other, to house each other, to grow our own food in backyards and community gardens. Is anybody going to convince us that these aren’t our basic needs?
Which brings me to the movies. The first 40 minutes of THE DARK KNIGHT had enough demolition, chaos and Maggie Gyllenhaal to keep me amused, til the pounding, bloated repetitiveness started making me think about how many more interesting films I or many other filmmakers I know, could make for that amount of money.
Let’s say 150 such movies, at a million each. Movies that might give you something to think about, like CHE, which was shot for a quarter of the DARK KNIGHT’s budget and is much more interesting, and which raises questions actually worth pondering, like how much oppression will people put up with before they change their way of living? And like why so few Americans will even see such a rich and provocative film, just because it’s not on TV or at the multiplex?
The top-down culture, the top-down economy -- with any luck the crumbling of so much will result not just in more feelings of desperation and powerlessness, but in more reliance on each other, locally, on growing our own food, on bartering – which is still legal as far as I know -- and looking out for a larger world whose problems with food, water, housing and security make ours look miniscule.
BENCHWARMERS 8 (Theater Review)
KUNM review by Jim Terr 2-6-09 © HEAR AUDIO
The Santa Fe Playhouse’s annual program of one-act plays, BENCHWARMERS, has gotten better for each of its past eight years, and the current bunch, BENCHWARMERS EIGHT, showcases mostly-local writers, directors and actors at the top of their game. There’s hardly a misfire in the entire program, and there are inspiring moments in all of these eight short plays, any one of which I’d be proud to have written.
Funny, touching, thought-provoking – these are all clichés, but they are the qualities we hope to see when creating theater or watching theater, and these eight little masterpieces deliver the goods.
I won’t try to describe every play in this short review, but the program starts with veteran Santa Fe writer Rosemary Zibart’s piece, “AUCTION”, which takes Ilan Ashkenazi’s suggestion that Israel be auctioned off to the highest bidder, and makes a dramatic and fairly good sales pitch for the idea – with the help of top actors Courtney Cunningham and Paul Walsky.
“STUCK” finds a couple on a personals-ad date caught at the top of a Ferris wheel, with their most basic and very opposite personality traits flapping in the wind. The piece stars Santa Fe’s dynamic theater duo, Tom Romero and Lori Tirgrath, who also appear in additional demanding roles in other pieces.
THE EIFFEL TRUTH, EBB AND FLO, and SHOPPING BAGS, by veteran Hollywood comedy writer Ron Bloomberg – these and the other BENCHWARMERS are all beautifully-written, skillfully-directed and wonderfully acted by some of the best of New Mexico’s brilliant pool of actors.
I actually have lived in and gone to see theater in the big, big city, and I really don’t think the skill and talent there can beat these BENCHWARMERS.
The last piece, THE SPEED OF LOVE, written by the father-and-daughter team of George Sewell and Genia [[“Jeanie”]] Michaela, is a delicate but stunning piece which I had to see a second time in order to appreciate its poignant power, but almost all of these short plays are rich enough to deserve a second viewing.
BENCHWARMERS runs for two more weekends at the Santa Fe Playhouse, so there’s time to see them once if not twice. Reservations and information are at www.SantaFePlayhouse.org or by calling 988-4262.
OUTRO: An excerpt of one of the Benchwarmers plays, “EBB AND FLO”, can be viewed at www.SantaFeShorts.com .
"ARSENIC AND OLD LACE"
Jim Terr theater review KUNM 12-23-08 © LISTEN
I’ve been hearing of the play, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, for decades, from high school to college performances, to various big-city and small-town productions.
But don’t think I ever saw it until last week at the Santa Fe Playhouse – and I’m glad I finally did. Director Pal Dybel has moved the locale from Brooklyn to Santa Fe, and while I don’t think the shift is convincing or really necessary, it doesn’t seem to take away either.
The play’s inspired premise – about a family whose every member is more comically insane than the last one we’ve met – is cleverly written and the play is tremendously enjoyable. Laugh out loud funny, as they say in cyberspace.
It’s tempting to assume that a play that has been so popular for so long is bland and shallow, and certainly there’s nothing particularly deep or controversial about “Arsenic and Old Lace,” but it’s just as true that there’s probably a good a reason that something has been so popular for so many years. And in this case it’s just truly clever, truly great fun. And as long as you know who Teddy Roosevelt was, and that he charged up San Juan Hill, there’s nothing particularly dated to spoil the fun.
The re-appearance of veteran Santa Fe actor Paul Walsky as the seriously dangerous long-lost brother John, ratchets up the drama and the comedy by several notches. I’ve missed seeing Walsky in recent years, and his return to the stage is inspired. Accompanied by Hugh Elliot as the evil sidekick, Dr. Einstein, Walsky’s performance is not only hysterically funny but menacing enough to provide a little squirminess as well.
Nate Patrus also stands out as a manic neighborhood cop with a screenplay to push – sound familiar?
“Arsenic and Old Lace” gets off to quite a slow start, it seemed to me and other attendees I compared notes with, but when it gets rolling it’s a great ride.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” plays the next two weekends, through January 4th, at the Santa Fe Playhouse. Call 988-4262 for information and reservations, or go on line to www.SantaFePlayhouse.org.
"Grand Guignol" - theater review - Jim Terr © 2008
(did not air due to scheduling mixup) HEAR AUDIO
Every now and then you see a production so well-suited, so right for the audience, you wonder why it hasn't been done before, in that particular location.
This was my thought on watching the Santa Fe Playhouse's current production, Le Theatre du Grand Guignol. This tradition of horror theater was adapted from some of the lurid crime stories of the day, and flourished in Paris for the better part of a century, as explained by director Liam Lockhart, who is also part of the excellent cast (see audio)
Lockhart says that Grand Guignol has not really been widely attempted in the US, and that the material for the Santa Fe production comes from a fairly new source. (see audio)
One surprising feature of the program is the inclusion of a comedy - and a fantastically funny one, in fact - as the last of the evening's four pieces. But Lockhart says that's actually part of the Grand Guignol tradition. (see audio…)
This is the final weekend for Le Theatre du Grand Guignol at the Santa Fe Playhouse. Information on the performances, including the special Friday night Halloween party and performance, is available by calling 988-4262.
"Boogie Man" - documentary review
KUNM - Jim Terr © 2008 HEAR AUDIO
First, a disclaimer: Back in 1988 Lee Atwater gave me a cute blurb for a book of my country music lyrics. Atwater was chairman of the Republican National Committee, and a pretty good blues/rock guitar player, which is why I thought to ask him for a quote.
If I'd appreciated at the time what an evil influence he was, I might not have asked him. Stefan Forbes' new documentary, "Boogie Man", lays out Atwater's profound impact on American politics with fascinating interviews with many who knew him best and many who carry on his work today, including Roger Ailes, McCain strategist Tucker Eskew, and Atwater's protégé, Karl Rove.
Atwater almost single-handedly invented the current brand of slash-and-burn, win-at-all-costs, dirty tricks, leave-no-survivors, attack campaigning and spin. Almost all those interviewed acknowledge how absolutely amoral and disinterested in the truth Atwater was, yet even his critics seem to have a hard time saying anything bad about him personally. Evidently he was a very fun guy. Those he effectively destroyed, such as Michael Dukakis, also interviewed in the documentary, have less sympathy for him.
Almost supernaturally driven by some inner demons to attain recognition and a seat at the table with those in power, Atwater wasn't even devoted to conservative or Republican politics; he just felt that was the underdog party at the time, where a young man could work himself to the top most quickly, by exploiting the flag-and-fear-and-insecurity he was so expert at working. It was Atwater, not Karl Rove, who gave a certain current president his start.
I asked producer Stefan Forbes whether, with Atwater-style spin-and-fear politics so ingrained today, a relatively positive, issues-oriented campaign could ever work again: (AUDIO…)
I'm saddened to think that if Obama is elected, he won't get one day in office without constant diatribe, suspicion and hatred of his every word and motive. John McCain, too, if he's elected, for that matter. My only hope is that the extreme style of attack campaigning which Atwater pioneered is starting to wear thin and become more transparent - but I'm not all that hopeful.
Atwater died young, of a brain tumor, and in his last months made penance for those he had destroyed and what he had brought to American politics. But even his deathbed conversion has its doubters.
"Boogie Man, The Lee Atwater Story," is an exciting and essential viewing experience for anyone interested in where we are and where we're going. Its run is just beginning at the Film Center in Santa Fe, and will start October 19 at the Guild in Albuquerque.
theater review - KUNM 10-8-08 Jim Terr © LISTEN
Well, I finally got down to Albuquerque to see a performance by the Mother Road Theater Company, and it was well worth the trip.
I had gotten the impression from a too-quick reading of the flier about "The Weir", Mother Road's current play, that it was about some guys sitting around a bar in Ireland telling ghost stories that get progressively more scary. And being a fan of anything Gothic, that would have been fine with me, but it's not exactly the case.
Albuquerque favorite Kate Schroeder provides a counterpoint to the guys at the bar, although they're not roughnecks but lovable fellas whose connections go way back. It's a warm play with beautiful conversation, and wonderfully fine acting from this cast of total pros - including Tom Schuch, Bill Sterchi, Alan Hudson and Morse Bicknell.
It's a thrill to watch them work, even apart from the engaging text and scary stories. The set, a small rural Irish pub, is perfect, and the intimate set-up of the Filling Station on 4th Street puts you right in the middle of it. The rich dialect seem flawless - and why not? One of the cast members was raised in Ireland and helped the others to hone their accents - and it's fun to figure out who that is.
The interesting thing for me was to see what a different direction the story took from the horror story I was expecting. I asked Mother Road Executive Director Kristin Hansen, about what she saw as the real intention of the play: (AUDIO.)
Director Vic Browder gave a different take on the same question: (AUDIO)
In any event, you can see some intimate and inspiring theater, "The Weir", this final weekend, at the Filling Station on South 4th Street. Call 243-0596 for ticket information.
Theater review - Jim Terr - KUNM - © 2008 HEAR AUDIO
Tartuffe, a biting satire about religious fanaticism, hypocrisy and gullibility, was written by Moliere in the 1600s, but couldn't be more topical. A wonderful performance by Santa Fe's Arden Players at El Museo, seemed to me even more relevant - and more laugh-to-keep-from-crying funny - than the first time I saw it 8 or 10 years ago.
Tartuffe himself, a pious phony of the most modern and eternal sort, is played way over the top by Wayne Cote. He's impossible not to watch and wonder at every moment he's on stage.
The entire cast is flawless, in my opinion, and Moliere's text is brilliant, with a marvel in almost every line - even in translation. I asked director Deborah Denison about the amazing relevance of Tartuffe to our own modern world: (SEE AUDIO)
The program notes alerted me to the fact that the ending was tacked-on by Moliere in order to please the King and allow the play to be performed in Paris, and I asked Denison what we know of the original ending. (SEE AUDIO)
Tartuffe offers some side-splitting comic relief from a very sad current situation. It truly deserves to be seen in its remaining two-weekend run at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe.
Information is at 983-4002. This is Jim Terr.
PORTRAITS OF JEWISH-AMERICAN HEROES
Book review for KUNM - Jim Terr - © 9-5-08 HEAR AUDIO
Malka Drucker is a Santa Fe rabbi and author who has written a beautiful book called PORTRAITS OF JEWISH-AMERICAN HEROES. I was only slightly bothered to notice, while enjoying this very readable book, that it was written with the younger reader in mind. OK, children.
Oh well, I'm not ashamed of being right in tune with children's literature, and I learned plenty I didn't know from reading about Jewish heroes I knew something about, like Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Levi Strauss, Golda Meir, Leonard Bernstein and baseball star Hank Greenberg; some I'd never heard of - and some it never occurred to me were Jewish, like Emma Lazarus, the young poet who penned the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…"
I asked Malka Drucker what constituted heroism, for her, in terms of selecting people to profile in the book: [SEE AUDIO VERSION]
I asked Drucker how she might explain the disproportionate number of Jews who have distinguished themselves in science, the arts and social justice, far out of proportion to their numbers in the population, and she referred me to a quote from Mark Twain reprinted on the back cover, who wondered at the same thing, noting that it's been done - quote - with his hands tied behind him. - end quote, and she adds: (not genetic)[SEE AUDIO VERSION]
I also asked Malka Drucker why non-Jewish children - or adults - might care about a book about Jewish heroes: [SEE AUDIO VERSION]
Rabbi Malka Drucker will sign her book, PORTRAITS OF JEWISH AMERICAN HEROES at 4pm Sunday, September 7, at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe. Call 986-0152 for information. This is Jim Terr.
Roman de Gare - film review Jim Terr KUNM 9-2-08 LISTEN
I've been seeing fewer movies lately, for various reasons, hence the scarcity of my movie reviews on KUNM. I've also had reason to make a couple lists recently, of my favorite all-time films, and I noticed that one of my favorite genres, or sub-genres, is the sort of mystery/thriller which ends with the viewer realizing he's been misled all along.
I don't much like being manipulated in life or in treacley movies like "Chocolat" - one of my all-time least-favorites - but when it comes to a good mystery film I love that feeling. I'm thinking of most of M. Night Shyamalan's films such as "Sixth Sense", "Spider" starring Ralph (Rafe) Fiennes, "The Forgotten" starring Julianne Moore, and - like - oh my God - the ultimate "I've been had" turnaround film - "The Others," starring Nicole Kidman. Rent that one sometime.
So it was strictly on a whim, while riding my bike around Santa Fe the other night, that I dropped in at The Screen to see "Roman de Gare," a new film by French director Claude Lelouche, because the poster said something about a tight, taught, twisted, mystifying mystery thriller - something like that.
"Roman de Gare" is a French term for what we'd call a quick read or a beach book, but I think the director is selling himself a little bit short with that self-effacing title. "Roman de Gare" is a thoroughly engaging tale, twisted indeed, involving a beautiful jilted lover, a man who may be a novelist or a serial killer - or both or neither - who agrees to play her fiancé for the weekend, a famous novelist who may or may not be writing her own novels, and a murder - which may or may not be a murder.
I'm not going to give away any more than that as far as plot, but I found this just the sort of wild ride that reminds me how engaging movies can be, even if only for a couple of hours. And when you realize at the end how you've been led around, abused and lied to by the writer and director, playing on your assumptions and expectations - well, what could possibly be more fun than that?
"Roman de Gare" reminded me how much I'd like to write a film like that, or at least HALF that intricate and fascinating - and inspired me to keep going with a couple such scripts. Great acting, masterful directing, beautiful cinematography - at 71 years old, co-writer / director Lelouche shows no signs of letting up with this wonderfully enjoyable film.
"Roman de Gare" is showing at The Screen in Santa Fe, call 473-6494 to confirm showtimes.
"The Last Tudor" - theater review
© Jim Terr - KUNM June 12, 2008
Santa Fe playwright, commentator and former attorney and international negotiator Craig Barnes has written a remarkable, and beautifully acted and directed play called "The Last Tudor", which imagines that the virgin queen Elizabeth the first might have actually had a son, an heir to the throne.
I've almost never been able to hook in to Shakespeare's language, but this play gave me the impression of almost being channeled Shakespeare, a "lost" Shakespeare play finally brought to life, with the thrill of that language made more accessible for a modern audience. I asked Barnes whether this was his intention: (Craig Barnes quote…) HEAR REVIEW & INTERVIEW
The political content of "The Last Tudor", and its relevance to our time became more apparent as the play progressed to its very dramatic conclusion, and I asked Barnes about his political intent: (Craig Barnes quote…)
"The Last Tudor" plays through June 22 at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe. Ticket info: 505-455-2340. This is Jim Terr
"GASHOLE" Documentary review
KUNM May 27, 2008 © Jim Terr LISTEN
INTRO: An Albuquerque native has produced a thoughtful documentary about the fuel crisis, which is making waves around the country and which will show tonight only at the Guild. Jim Terr reports.
Albuquerque native Jeremy Wagner and his production partner, Scott Roberts, have produced a documentary called "Gashole", which highlights the very important questions of whether we couldn't get much better gasoline mileage and utilize many more alternative sources of energy, thereby reducing our reliance on so-called "unreliable" overseas sources of crude oil - with all the wars and compromised American values which go along with protecting those sources.
By the way, the title, "Gashole", is as scatological as the documentary gets; the title is a quote from one of the children interviewed about the oil situation, who refers to the stuff that comes out of the ground being put in the "gashole" of the car. Unfortunately, much of the video is not much more illuminating than this segment.
"Gashole" starts with an extended segment - around a half an hour's worth - about a couple of rumored technologies which could supposedly have quadrupled our cars' gasoline mileage, one of which was shelved by the industry anxious to sell more gasoline, and another whose inventor was allegedly murdered before his invention could see the market. These patents have allegedly been expunged and hidden where they will never cut into oil company sales and profits.
OK, maybe so. But I asked Jeremy Wagner why, if such patents had been bought up and hidden, they couldn't be re-created now. (Jeremy answer…)
And I asked Scott Roberts what would prevent the auto industry from developing and adopting such technologies today, which would give them a huge sales advantage -- and how could the oil industry keep them from doing so? (Scott answer…)
I don't know about you, but I find these explanations less than convincing, and I find the whole conspiracy theory approach to public affairs a little disheartening. The documentary also contains a dizzying blizzard of images and archival clips - some barely relevant to the subject matter - evidently intended to make the information palatable to the short-attention-span generation. Again, not to my taste - along with oil company Congressional testimony so broken up as to be almost incoherent.
But to give the film its due, there are some interesting historical discussions of how the fuel crisis has developed in the US, how Standard Oil came about as an incredible monopoly and how it was broken up in the wake of the sort of public outrage that was possible in those days.
This historical information, as well as some serious interviews about where we go from here, and about alternative energy sources, and about the urgency of doing something - still make "Gashole" a documentary worth seeing. This is Jim Terr.
"Cowboys Are My Weakness"
Theater review - KUNM - Jim Terr - © - May 2, 2008 LISTEN
REQUESTED INTRO: When a play is an enactment of short stories, wouldn't it be just as satisfying to simply read the stories? Maybe not, in this case, as Jim Terr explains:
I hardly ever saw a theater performance until my mid-30s, despite having attended a college which was famous for its theater department. A real shame, since I've discovered so much satisfaction in live theater. Two styles I've found that I almost always enjoy are the one-person show, and a relatively new format called, among other things, the "Book-It" style, wherein a short story is performed, word for word, including the "he saids" and "she saids".
Which reminds me of that great line, " 'Shut up!', he explained" - which is totally irrelevant here, except that I can't help mentioning it.
Anyhow, The Tricklock Company's current production is "Cowboys Are My Weakness," an enactment of four short stories by author Pam Houston, from her collection by the same name, in the "Book-It" style, word-for-word.
What makes this show so enjoyable is not just the wonderfully expressive and precise performances we expect from the Tricklock Company, but the great intelligence and expansiveness of Houston's short stories.
These are tales of a young woman in the modern West, all involving crazy romances, and one involving a hair-raising, life-and-death rafting trip as well. The thing that's exceptional about these stories is Houston's great insight and sense of absurdity, combined with a sense of humor and forgiveness about her own foibles - and everyone else's. There's something very liberating about absorbing this point of view, this welcoming of ambiguity, this perspective of "we're all human, after all."
The sense of living deeply and adventurously gave me a nagging worry that I may not be living quite as fully and as close to the edge as I'd wish, but that's just me. Perhaps much of the satisfaction here could be gained from simply reading these stories, but there's the added thrill of watching these dedicated actors do their craft so well, and with such gusto.
It's great to see Tricklock regulars Summer Olsson, Kate Shroeder, Kevin Elder and Chad Brummett shine in varied, colorful cameos, and especially to see Tricklock star Kerry Morrigan return for the first time in quite a while, with her incomparable skill and zest. These folks really remind you what fun - and what a revelation - good theater can be.
In addition, the musical accompaniment that's an integral part of this performance is pulled off beautifully by Don Bicknell, Casey Mraz and vocalist/mandolinist Aleah Waldron, who's not only a fabulous singer but who also does a fantastic turn as a dog, along with Chad Brummet, in a sequence where the canines really steal the show. It's amazing how compelling good acting can be when the actors really throw themselves into a role, even when the characters are dogs.
Scene-stealing canines, the problems inherent in dating a dedicated deer biologist, or a boyfriend who, though fairly inarticulate, can report on a phone call from a, uh, "friend", using -quote- "eight non-gender-specific pronoun references" - it's all here and it's all somehow uplifting.
"Cowboys Are My Weakness" runs from May 2nd to May 18th at UNM's Rodey Theater. Information is at UNMtickets.com, and the box office number is 925-5858. This is Jim Terr
"Expelled" documentary review,
(and "Doubt" theater preview)
Jim Terr - KUNM April 24, 2008 ©
I don't think I've ever done a really negative review here, not because my mother taught me to not say anything if I can't say something nice (which she didn't!), but because I'm fairly easy to please -- plus, I try to see things I expect I'll like. In this case, though, I'll have to make an exception.
I was curious to see Ben Stein's documentary, EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED, because I am myself an agnostic on the subject of so-called Intelligent Design, or I.D., an alternative or supplement to pure random evolutionary theory, and partly because I'm interested in and sensitive to issues of free speech, of discrimination against those who oppose the orthodoxy of the moment. EXPELLED claims to expose a conspiracy to punish those in academia and the press who show any interest at all in Intelligent Design, and promises to throw a little light on this and evolutionary theory as well.
Unfortunately it does neither, but simply uses every cliché of documentary filmmaking to portray a sinister plot to stifle free speech, destroy religion, and even sterilize or exterminate the genetically challenged. I'm not kidding. Yes, in the course of this incredible mess, Ben Stein and the producers inject Adolph Hitler, the Nazi death camps, eugenics and Planned Parenthood, as part of a shadowy scheme that's all implicit in evolutionary theory. (Darwin, by the way, was not an atheist, and looked for some element of intelligent design himself!)
Such a muddle has probably never seen mass release on big screens nationwide - even for as short a time as this train wreck is likely to last. EXPELLED has already had its brief run mercifully cut short in Santa Fe, but it continues in Albuquerque for those looking for a bad time, or a lesson in heavy-handed demagoguery and inflated martyrdom. There probably ARE issues of groupthink and free speech to worry about here, but this documentary isn't likely to help the discussion.
To give you just a hint of how clumsy this thing is, let's say this review were a video, and when I mentioned the word "short" just now, as in "cut short," I inserted an image of a pair of Bermuda shorts. It would be pointless and confusing, but believe it or not, that's exactly what happens repeatedly in EXPELLED! Not to mention the ominous, predictable and always-rumbling music, and the long sequences of the not-very-interesting Mr. Stein padding around in his black suit and jogging shoes, looking for his appointments. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Now, on a more positive note - and I do feel unclean and in need of saying something very positive after that… A riveting play I saw last year in Albuquerque, called "Doubt", a very deserving Pulitzer Prize-winner by John Patrick Shanley, one of the very best plays I've EVER seen, will be performed in Santa Fe beginning next Friday, May 1st, by Santa Fe's excellent Ironweed company.
I've seen a preview, and the Santa Fe production promises to be as powerful as the Albuquerque production was - and that's extremely powerful. For information and reservations for the Santa Fe production of "Doubt", call El Museo Cultural at 660-2379. This is Jim Terr.
A different view of the "disastrous" ABC debate
Jim Terr © 2008 - for KUNM-FM Aired April 21, 2008 HEAR
UPDATE! GEORGE RESPONDS! REALLY LOVED IT!
Thanks for sharing -George Stephanopoulos
I don't think Charles Gibson or George R. Stephanopoulos
Embody all the wisdom of Plato and the Acropolis.
But neither do I think it foreign to the human brain
To care about candidates' stumbles (nor Paris Hilton's pain.)
Call it curiosity; you need not call it sick
To pick at Hil and John and Barack to see what makes them tick.
So, taking full advantage of this fertile field unsown,
Here are some questions to titillate AND get down to the bone.
Yes, a few left-field inquiries of the candidates still running
Which might reveal their values, their nature and their cunning.
And please be sure to tell me if any of these topics
Strike you as irrelevant, partisan or myopic:
Agree or disagree? With half our budget on "defense",
Would a full-blown peace offensive
perhaps now make some sense?
With nukes themselves the problem, as even hawks agree,
Is it optional to talk or not to the so-called enemy?
Is Armageddon practical or a cop-out fantasy?
And here's a related question - or maybe it's just me:
Do you think fundamentalism is a problem in itself?
Do you prefer McVeigh or Osama? (Or perhaps somebody else?)
Heard of global warming? Are the outcomes bad enough
To warrant drastic action? Or don't you buy that stuff?
Fresh water's running out. Is this a problem in your eyes?
Is it okay that what's still left is being privatized?
Give up our freedom and privacy to reduce by 5 percent
The chance of a terrorist episode?
Is this what the Founders meant?
Political prosecutions: A threat or no great harm?
And are you surprised that not all talk show hosts are up in arms?
Spend money on space settlement when we have yet to prove
That we can get along on earth and make life for all a groove?
Or do you maybe disagree that it can work for all?
20,000 starve to death each day - OK with y'all?
Is "growth" a positive value for any but the few
Who profit from the misery we'll all be going through?
Do the profiteers of war make sure we never get enough?
Or was President Ike a doddering fool who didn't know his stuff?
Were we lied into this war, and what would victory be?
Do Iraqis feel they're better off than before 2003?
Have Bush and Cheney done anything
for which they could be impeached?
I'm not sayin' - I'm just askin' - maybe some time in jail for each?
The world's 400 richest having more than the last 2 billion?
Your thoughts on this would be revealing if you would be willin'.
Ever had to compromise on what you knew was right
To please those who put up the cash for your next electoral fight?
Would public campaign financing, at a cost of seven bucks
For each of us, improve the game? Or would it somehow suck?
And if you agree that any of these are problems that we've got
What have you done or said about them?
(And if nothing, then why not?)
** REVIEW: “4 Months…” and “Harriet’s Return”
© Jim Terr / KUNM March 31, 2008 AUDIO
New Mexicans have a chance to see two incredible acting performances in the next couple weeks, on stage and in film, both riveting for any viewer, and powerfully instructive to the actor as well.
You may have heard about the Romanian film with the unwieldy title, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” garnering an incredible number of glowing reviews, but somehow not even nominated for a best foreign film Oscar. The film, playing for at least another week at The Screen in Santa Fe, lives up to its reputation.
It’s a stark, gripping story about a couple of friends trying to get an abortion in the last days of the Ceausescu regime in the 1980s, and the impact of the story and the acting are simply startling. It makes you re-think what can be done with a good premise, spare writing, a handful of incredible actors, and a storyline that has you expecting the worst – even worse than what really does happen.
As for the live stage, I’m sure we’ve all been at performances where you had the urge to deliver a standing ovation, but weren’t quite sure. Well, a couple of years ago I saw a one-woman show at the Lensic that was so remarkable that the full house of over 800 was on its feet and cheering and crying at the end – with no question. This was Placitas resident Karen Jones Meadows’ performance of her show, “Harriet’s Return”, about the self-liberated slave and underground railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman.
The story is amazing, and Meadows’ performance is even more amazing. Truly, it’s better than anything I’ve ever seen either on public television or commercial TV, and why it’s never been videotaped and widely distributed is a mystery to me.
Meadows reprises her performance this weekend and next at the VSA North 4th Arts Center. If you see it, I don’t think you’ll ever forget it.
I asked Meadows where she’s been lately with the Tubman show, and why she thinks this historic story has such a broad appeal today…
I’m really thrilled to be performing in Albuquerque, which is now my home. I’ve been traveling all over – Seattle, Hawaii, Boston, Chicago, L.A. I did a fundraiser for The Harriet Tubman home, which is in Auburn, New York; it’s an historical landmark. I’ve been to Tortola, which is one of the British Virgin Islands. Harriet’s actually very well-respected throughout the world. One of my goals is to get to every state, and I’m having a great time reaching it, as well as traveling abroad of course – I love that. Harriet Tubman really touches people. The play resonates with a diverse audience because it’s about personal freedom and power, and we all go through some process to achieve that in our lives, so… Still the play manages to be fun. We travel from the contemporary – now – right now – and go through to Harriet’s afterlife, and there are about thirty characters who are portrayed. It’s an adventure that audiences are truly enjoying.
Karen Jones Meadows’ one-woman show, “Harriet’s Return,” runs this weekend and next at the VSA North Fourth Arts Center, call 344-4542 for information. The film, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” plays for another week at The Screen at the College of Santa Fe, phone 473.6494. This is Jim Terr.
March 14, 2008 review of HBO's "John Adams" miniseries was a shorter version of interview with
Santa Fe writer Kirk Ellis, which you can see here:
Feature Films in northern New Mexico
KUNM review/commentary Jim Terr © 1-08 LISTEN
Two feature films currently playing in Santa Fe show how much can be done with a relatively small budget, small cast and an inspired idea.
ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, written and directed by John Turturro, stars James Gandolfini as an adulterous suburban New York garbage collector, Susan Sarandon as his wife who's not gonna take it, and Kate Winslett as his incredibly, gloriously foul-mouthed girlfriend. The characters break into song and dance at the most unexpected moments, and the quirky nature of this production had me almost running for the exit for the first half hour or so, til the exuberance of the whole thing swept me away.
The fun of seeing great actors have a great time, the fabulous soundtrack - featuring no less than three versions of "Piece of My Heart", the thrill of seeing something really odd that really works - make ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES a must-see for the adventurous movie-goer.
** BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD repeatedly begs the question: How much worse can a bad situation get? A fairly foolproof, easy heist goes bad, then really bad, then unbelievably bad. I found myself playing around with alternate titles in an attempt to cope with this very gripping downward spiral: BAD TO WORSE, WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS, IF IT'S NOT ONE THING IT'S ANOTHER, or how about just OY!?
You can almost see actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney reading this script and feeling they HAD to sign on, whatever the pay. It's dark, and it gets darker, but it's a perfectly constructed piece of filmmaking, and you won't be getting up to go to the bathroom before it's over. And what higher compliment can you pay a film?
But some thoughts on filmmaking in general, on the vast field of ideas still left untouched, if you'll indulge me: A couple weeks ago I was privileged to participate as a director in an annual event at the United World College in Montezuma, NM, called The 24-Hour Playwriting Project.
In the course of 24 hours, 11 random topics are assigned to 11 writers, who each have 12 hours to write a short play. These scripts are then turned over to 11 directors, who cast 38 World College students (this year), rehearse them, and stage the plays at the end of the 24-hour period.
I've never had a better time, and I was absolutely flabbergasted at the quality of the productions - thoughtful, hilarious, and well-acted by a brilliant bunch of students from all over the world.
I would say that several of the plays could have been expanded to viable, commercially successful feature films. My experience with the event in fact suggested a film featuring many of these same actors, set on campus.
But how to make something like this happen? How many New Mexicans with enough funds to invest in major entertainment companies, churning out more or less the same old stuff, have even considered investing in a home-grown film production?
And how many times have I marveled - and heard other people comment - that no feature film has been done about America's most fascinating character, Ben Franklin? I finally secured the film title for myself, but could such a project ever materialize, perhaps with a New Mexico angle?
Top-line Hollywood entertainment attorney Peter Dekom, who has helped guide New Mexico to its current filming boom, has made it a mission to give independent filmmakers a reality check on the incredibly small proportion of scripts ever produced, and the small number of produced films which actually get distributed and make any money.
With all due respect for that view, I still have the sense that with the perseverance of visionary New Mexico filmmakers, actors and investors, and the creative use of the so-called new media, New Mexico will yet have its first real home-grown hit.
Meanwhile, providing some inspiration, ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES plays at The Screen in Santa Fe, and BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD at the CCA. This is Jim Terr.
** Pete Seeger: The Power of Song
KUNM documentary review Jim Terr © 1-08 LISTEN
As a song satirist, social critic, and generally negative guy, I've often wondered whether there's even any value in concentrating on the issues, the facts, the things that need to be done in this world, when the problem as I see it is the people who willfully dispense hate and misinformation, thereby preventing any real understanding or debate. So Job One is counteracting that hate and misinformation - at least that's about all I feel I can do. Let's face it, I hate hate.
So it was with great interest - and based on some great recommendations - that I went to see the new documentary, PETE SEEGER, THE POWER OF SONG, about a guy whose whole career and whose whole being radiate not a drop of hate or negativity, but just a constant, pulsing push for peace and justice, through song. Outrage perhaps, but not negativity. Pete Seeger's earnestness, you might even say squareness, come through in even the tiniest glimpses, which is about all I had had of him prior to seeing this documentary.
Part of that unawareness was, of course, due to his having been out of the public view for seventeen years, initially because of his refusal to co-operate with the McCarthy hearings and take a loyalty oath, and then a few years more when he was considered by the TV networks to be just too controversial and perhaps anti-American, as a result of the taint of the hearings.
It wasn't until he was courageously yanked back into the public eye by The Smothers Brothers and Johnny Cash, on their TV shows, that one of the unintended consequences of Seeger's repression became obvious, according to Seeger biographer and radio host Dave Dunaway, who's interviewed several times in the movie. (Dunaway's Seeger biography, "How Can I Keep from Singing," will be released in paperback in March, by the way).
Because during all those years when Seeger and his group, the Weavers, were denied the big-media stage, Seeger, whose love of singing as a tool for social change was very deep and real, sang for small groups and children's camps and wherever he could find an audience, thereby spreading the seed of folk music and its strong social justice component, to a whole new generation which bloomed in the Hootenany and folk music movement of the late 50s and 60s.
Many of the musicians to whom Seeger is a hero are interviewed in the new documentary, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. It's a testament to the power of Seeger's quiet, modest, steadfast persona that these interviews paled - at least for me - next to the footage of Seeger himself. I wanted more and more, and this film is full of fascinating performance and interview footage of the wonderfully un-ironic, clear-eyed, unswerving Seeger, as well as his family.
Among the many great aspects of this documentary is that it uses no stirring background music to jack up the dramatic value, because none is needed. This is just the straight stuff.
It's a full and quietly thrilling portrait, and I think it will move, inspire and inform anyone interested in recent history, in social action, and how we can use our being and our art to forward the causes we care about.
PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG is showing for now only at the CCA in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
** IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON
Documentary review KUNM Jim Terr © (aired 10-22-07)
July 20, 1969 was, I believe, a Sunday. I remember that only because it was on Sundays that we kids occasionally went to Conchas Dam with our friend Marvin, to water ski. It was on the way back that I heard Marvin exclaim, "Damn! They landed on the moon! That's amazing." At that point I was only half-listening to the radio, if at all, and even with Marvin's amazement it still didn't make much of an impression on me.
As one of the astronauts points out in the new documentary, "IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON", many people who were adults long before that date found it hard to believe that man had walked on the moon, and many born since can't imagine it was any big deal.
I guess I was sort of on the cusp at the time, and what I remember now about the first moon landing could be summed up in a one-minute version of Steve Martin's "Five Minute University": It took about three days to get there, there were three astronauts, some people claimed it was a hoax, and the first astronaut to step on the moon said "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". Actually, it's been reported since that Neil Armstrong really said "One small step for A man…", which does make more sense.
Armstrong is the only one of the astronauts who have actually been to the moon who is not interviewed in the new documentary; evidently he's a very private person. The others are wonderfully sharp, funny, even ironic - and their story is thrilling to hear, and to see along with the dramatic, beautifully restored, amazingly clear footage in the documentary.
It's important to recall how outrageous was President Kennedy's proclamation in 1961 that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It was only in that year, 1961, that the first men - a Russian and then an American - had even orbited the earth.
Among the many things I didn't know or remember until seeing this fabulous documentary, was that there were five additional successful US voyages to the moon - one of which almost didn't make it back, as chronicled in the film "Apollo 13." Or that the three astronauts who died in a fire weren't even on a mission to space - they were just sitting in a test capsule. Or that the space capsule's velocity on re-entry is 13 times faster than a bullet. Or that President Nixon had pre-recorded a eulogy to be broadcast in the event that the first bunch didn't make it back to earth. Or that the people of the world were glued to their radios and TV sets and were thrilled not that Americans had walked on the moon, but that "we" - humans - had accomplished something inconceivable.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON does a brilliant job of re-creating the drama, the danger and the enormity of what was being undertaken, almost entirely through the words of the astronauts interviewed. They too were overwhelmed by the task and what had been thrust upon them. The fame, the guilt at becoming celebrities while their friends, other pilots, were being shot down in Viet Nam, their mixed feelings about expressing religious sentiments when confronted with the awe of being in space and seeing the earth from a distance.
The astronauts were recruited from among the elite corps of test pilots, men accustomed to handling life-threatening, unexpected events with coolness. Even among this exclusive bunch, Neil Armstrong, chosen to be the first man to step on the moon, was exceptional. Among the stories recounted about Armstrong is by another of the astronauts, who tells of learning later that his heart rate had gone up to 144 on liftoff, but that Armstrong's had remained at a leisurely 70.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is a riveting and very moving reminder of the days when something truly daring and visionary could be accomplished by a talented, dedicated nation, and I can't recommend it highly enough. IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is playing at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
(SEE TRAILER! http://www.intheshadowofthemoon.com/ )
"A Fabulous Time at the Theater!"
review by Jim Terr KUNM - © 2007 -
aired October 10, 2007 LISTEN
Ron Bloomberg has written for such TV shows as All in the Family, Three's Company, Home Improvement and many others. Whether or not the award-winning writer moved to Santa Fe with retirement in mind, his creativity and output have not diminished, and he has had several excellent pieces featured on the local stage and on radio. He's even branched out into acting, with a convincing role in David Mamet's "Glen Garry, Glen Ross" at the Santa Fe Playhouse this past winter.
When Bloomberg heard Chris Calloway, daughter of famed singer and bandleader Cab Calloway, sing in a Santa Fe club, he was mesmerized, and came up with the idea of combining Calloway's singing with a set of his new, short comedic pieces.
The result, modestly and perhaps ironically titled "A Fabulous Time at the Theater!", plays its final weekend at the Santa Fe Playhouse this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The program is not musical comedy, as Calloway simply introduces each short piece with a song and some of her witty banter - all top-notch and thoroughly enjoyable.
Bloomberg has recruited some of his favorite actors he's encountered in Santa Fe, to populate his short comedies, including Grande Dame of the Santa Fe stage and Hollywood screen, Robyn Reede, and local veteran Barry Hazen. Hazen delivers what I thought was the funniest bit of the entire program, a live TV show warm-up between acts, consisting as those things do of dumb gags designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator - such as myself - and they really hit the spot.
Despite Bloomberg's background, watching his pieces is not like watching television, because they have more depth and pathos than you're likely to see on any sitcom. The first and longest piece, "No Socks," features another anchor of the Santa Fe theater scene, Liam Lockhart, a fairly recent Hollywood emigrant himself, as a comedy writer burdened by the hopelessness of making a successful network pitch at the advanced age of 46, compounded by bereavement at his wife's death.
He talks his young, attractive typist, Jaclyn Jardine, into lending some youth appeal to his impending pitch meeting, and the outlook suddenly gets better - then worse - then better - then worse, in a spiral much more ambiguous and unresolved than you're likely to see on prime time TV.
The second piece, "We the People," stars Gregory Chase and Fran Martone - along with Robyn Reede - in a thoughtful and touching exploration of whether a Santa Fe liberal and a Republican, both looking for love, can possibly, ever, just get along. We know James Carville and Mary Matalin manage it somehow, but watching this one unfold is truly engaging, honest and dramatic.
The final piece, "Nobody's Perfect," seemed to me to be a bit thinner than the others, but was well-executed, by Anna Felix and Jacob Mulliken and - again - Lockhart - in fine performances.
"A Fabulous Time at the Theater" finishes this weekend at the Santa Fe Playhouse. Information and reservations are at 988-4262 or via their website, SantaFePlayhouse.org. This is Jim Terr.
11th Hour - movie review - Jim Terr / KUNM ©
The 11th Hour is Leonardo DiCaprio's ambitious documentary laying out the many disasters threatening human survival, including but not limited to global warming. DiCaprio did an earlier short film called The Last Days of Ancient Sunlight, based on the book by talk show host and author Thom Hartmann. Hartmann's thesis, which he also explains in the new film, is that for most of human history, our population and growth were limited by current sunlight, as captured in plant and animal life that could be consumed by humans.
The current "bubble" of petroleum production, the consumption of ancient captured sunlight extracted as oil and coal, is a tiny, two-century blip which has allowed the earth's population to skyrocket to levels that will be unsustainable once the petroleum and fertilizer run out - which will be any day now. Fortunately, mankind and our political leaders are rising to the challenge by moving to limit the population and halt the mindless worship of "growth." That's all you hear on TV and radio any more; you can hardly get any gossip about celebrities' and politicians' sex lives.
…Oh, I'm sorry, I must have been thinking of a parallel universe. In fact, we as a group couldn't be less interested. I even developed some websites myself, called www.StopAt2.com , www.DosBasta.com and so on, and offered them to population groups who ARE making an effort to inform and motivate, and I couldn't GIVE them away.
The many experts in The 11th Hour speak brilliantly about not only the demographic and environmental threats to our survival, and a few possible solutions, but also the forces opposing our getting more aware and active - big oil, leaders interested mainly in their own survival, television, apathy - the usual suspects. Hey, I'm aware of the situation and I'm not even interested!
I asked Thom Hartmann if we could really expect government to do anything meaningful about the survival of the human race, when they can't even address a few more obvious and immediate problems. Here's his answer: (Thom Hartmann quote - hear)
A couple of the folks in The 11th Hour pointed out that the earth will survive in any case, species will regenerate, and flowers will bloom, with or without humans and our exploitation, waste, war and pollution. A cheery thought, I suppose, some small consolation.
The film's speakers are bright, visionary, dedicated and articulate, but the overused talking heads format, the backlighting, the crinkled gray backdrop, the graphics running on-screen that are impossible to absorb while people are talking heavy talk -- it's all so cliched. Though I'm not sure how it could have been done better. I kept thinking that if one of those Republican media geniuses had been given the same footage and a sufficient paycheck, they could have packaged it more effectively somehow.
But it's a heroic effort, well worth seeing. After all, it's only the survival of our species - and a few thousand others - at stake. Perhaps your reaction, your sense of hope, of encouragement to take action, will be better than mine. This is Jim Terr.
Theater Review "DOUBT"
KUNM - Jim Terr © 2007 AUDIO
I remember the name "John Patrick Shanley" as the writer of the Oscar-wining 1988 film, "Moonstruck." I wasn't as fond of it as most people, so when I saw that Shanley was the writer of a Pulitzer- and Tony-award-winning play called "Doubt: A Parable," enjoying a sold-out run at the Cell Theater, I said to myself, "Well, maybe that's why; maybe Shanley is actually more of a playwright than a screenwriter."
But it turns out that Shanley has in fact had little recognition as a playwright, for his nearly 30 plays written in the past couple of decades. That is, until he wrote "Doubt."
Twisted logic aside, seeing Fusion Theater Company's production of DOUBT is one of those peak theater experiences where a brilliantly crafted and engaging work is executed by an essentially perfect cast of wonderfully skilled actors, beautifully directed.
The setting is a parochial school in the 1960s, long before the priestly molestation scandals exploded publicly -- but obviously not before the activity was in progress. A scandal is brewing at St. Nicholas Church School. But is it really? Is the handsome father Flynn having his way with a particularly vulnerable young student, or is the highly analytical and controlling Sister Aloysius simply letting her imagination and her own bitterness run wild?
Hmmm it's not real clear, and this fine line of DOUBT keeps the audience engaged and in suspense as much as even the best murder mystery might do - perhaps even more so. What's at stake here is reputation, a child's life, and reality itself.
Ross Kelly plays the earnest, attractive and appealing Father Flynn. Appealing, that is, to everyone but the suspicious Sister Aloysius, played with razor-keen intensity by Laurie Thomas. The sincere Sister James (Rachel Tatum) doesn't know quite what to believe, and just wishes all the turmoil and confusion would go away. "You would trade anything for a warm look," Sister Aloysius admonishes her. Ouch!
In the middle of all this the child's mother, Mrs. Muller, visits the school for a conference with Sister Aloysius, who as always has an agenda which reveals itself only after a snakelike few minutes of intense coiling before the strike. But Mrs. Muller, a flawless Angela Littleton, has a few surprises herself hidden under her at-first-compliant veneer, and the struggle and maneuvering between these two powerful, determined women is breathtaking.
It's also on a strangely different note from the rest of the play, and it was interesting to read that this scene was actually the initial inspiration, the original vision, from which Shanley wrote the rest of "DOUBT". Fusion is an Equity theater company, a professional designation which unfortunately carries with it a relatively high admission price, but for those who are able, DOUBT is a powerful and unforgettable performance. Extra performances may be added to accommodate the tremendous response to this production; call the Cell Theater at 766-9412 or visit FusionAbq.org for ticket information.
This is Jim Terr.
Bo Peabody lecture/book review Hear
Jim Terr - KUNM August 20, 2007
Bo Peabody really makes you think. The first thing he made ME think is, "Who in the world is Bo Peabody?" It's not the sort of name you forget after hearing it the first time.
Well, it turns out almost everyone in the world of internet technology except me has heard of Bo Peabody. He's the entrepreneur who developed Tripod, a social networking website, out of his college dorm room and sold it for $58 million, and went on to develop and sell other sites and businesses I'd never heard of, for billions. He now runs a venture capital group which tries to spot and fund up-and-coming internet ventures, especially those located in small towns where they might help generate jobs and support the community.
Peabody, now 38 and still very youthful-looking and enthusiastic, spoke to a technology venture group in Albuquerque recently, and outlined his vision of how information technology has progressed, from storytelling around the fire to the printing press to TV to the sort of web sites like Google, YouTube, e-bay and Napster which are not so much concerned with generating information or entertainment "content", as it's called, like the big film and music companies, as much as new ways of delivering them - and how these "content creators" must adjust to the idea of their stuff being given away to some extent, in order to survive.
As a producer of "content" myself, specifically music and films, I was less interested in the mechanics of the new technologies than in watching Peabody's lively thought process in general, and his analysis of what makes a good entrepreneur and a successful venture. He has laid all this out in a wonderfully short book, LUCKY OR SMART? SECRETS TO AN ENTRERENEURIAL LIFE. It's only 66 pages long, perfectly suited to my attention span.
Peabody makes a few points which are not surprising, for instance that a successful entrepreneur needs a huge ego to carry him or her through the numerous disappointments, rejections and lean times, and to be able to keep selling the project until it succeeds - and in the meantime to attract loyal, talented partners to hang in there with you. But also the importance of being able to turn that ego off in order to really listen and learn from feedback and criticism, without going into defensive mode, and to go with the radical changes of direction which he says all of his successful ventures have taken, versus the original idea.
Most interesting to me was that Peabody really displayed this quality of humility, in answering some questions from the audience which I thought might have put him on the defensive, but which did not at all. He even, to my surprise and delight, mentioned me as a film producer and storyteller after looking over a DVD sampler I had handed him before his talk!
Regarding the short attention span issue, that's actually one of the key points in Peabody's book. He refers repeatedly to "B student" types, which would include himself, versus "A student" types. He characterizes "B" students as being fairly good at and knowledgeable about lots of things, with a relatively short attention span -- typically the founder and promoter of a venture. The "A" student types, he says, are those who can really focus on and excel at a given task; these are the very valuable managers and partners essential in any venture or organization started by a generalist like Peabody.
These "A" students include the truly eccentric geniuses whom Peabody calls "sociopaths", in the sense of being far outside the mainstream of human behavior. I had to double-check him on this in the dictionary, and in fact the definition of sociopath does not necessarily include any serial killing.
Peabody repeatedly makes reference in his book to a venture having some positive human and social value if it's going to inspire the needed loyalty and be successful. He actually cites very few examples of this in his book, but I sense that that really is a key part of his motivation in creating ventures and passing out the venture capital.
Whether your attention span is short or long, whether you're starting a high-tech business or a restaurant [Peabody has done both], "LUCKY OR SMART?" deserves your attention. The book is filled with provocative thoughts and surprising tidbits, such as his frank opinion of people addicted to e-mail and to checking their Blackberries, and how much valuable time they're losing when they could be generating ideas. And his account of his own 15 minutes of fame (which I must have missed) is wonderfully honest and revealing.
Incidentally, that discussion that was so beside-the-point to me, about new, as-yet-undiscovered models for internet technologies, must have triggered something, because I woke up with a brilliant one just a few days later. Check with me next year to see if it's gone anywhere. This is Jim Terr.
Theater review - Jim Terr - KUNM July 13 07 Listen
I once produced a series of educational videos, one of which was intended to excite young people about reading. Despite good reviews, I was never convinced that the video really succeeded in conveying the excitement of reading - let alone writing.
Although I'm not sure it's the intent of "Collected Stories," a two-woman drama debuting this week in Santa Fe, this play conveys both. Written by Donald Margulies, "Collected Stories" concerns a stormy and deepening relationship between a fairly successful short story writer, making her living for the past thirty years as a professor, and her writing student, who is absolutely dazzled and intimidated to be spending time with the author whose works she knows by heart, word for word.
Ruth, the author, is a cynical, acerbic, self-contained and certainly intimidating character, played perfectly by Janeal Arison. It's a cliché to say that a good actor "inhabits" a character, but Arison so thoroughly becomes Ruth that it's hard to imagine she might have a separate identity as a person and as an actor. This is clearly a play she could not resist doing, and I'm very glad she took it on.
The dialogue is wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent, and is only magnified by the actors' intense, intelligent and nuanced performances. That's another cliché, nuanced, but I think you'll agree if you see the play.
Writing and literature are the subject at hand, not just as this relationship takes off but throughout, but the women's deepening and strained relationship itself unfolds vividly and viscerally as well.
As Lisa, the young student and budding writer, Bree Merkwan also does beautiful work. By the nature of the piece, she is largely dominated and overshadowed by the older character, who comes to resent Lisa's having her whole life and career ahead of her. I'm no walking encyclopedia of either drama or literature, but I've never seen this issue - among others - dealt with so honestly.
Not to give anything away, I hope, but there's the added satisfaction of seeing a play which, for a change, not only does not end on a happy note, but perhaps not even a resolved note. And in this case, that ending is still perfectly satisfying. "Collected Stories" can only be described as rich on every level, with a jewel flying by at every moment in terms of language, insight and acting.
I never really saw any serious theater until my early 30s - well, better late than never. Those who have not yet gotten into the theater habit would get off to a great start by seeing this rich, rewarding and beautifully executed performance.
And I believe those who are already theater aficionados will be thrilled as well by "Collected Stories," a gem if I ever saw one. "Collected Stories" starts Thursday at the Santa Fe Playhouse. Call 983-7330 for information and reservations. This is Jim Terr.
Interview July 11 '07 with John Flax of
Theater Grottesco re their production,
"The Rise and Fall of a Fortune Cookie Company"
Audio only - Listen
Tricklock Company's "Black River Falling"
Theater review - Jim Terr - KUNM May 3, 07 Listen
The incredible whirlwind of activity that comes out of the Tricklock Theater Company reflects the power of a shared vision that theater can communicate on many levels, and make an impact on both individuals and community.
Tricklock's steady stream of mostly-original work, all remarkably creative in both content and form, featuring their many talented company members and their collaborators at UNM, where they've taken up residence, isn't the end of it. Add their work with talented teen actors and writers, and their annual Revolutions International Festival, bringing in original works and actors from around the world - and their own international touring - Tricklock has enough on their plate to keep five theater companies busy.
Their current production, Black River Falling, at UNM's Theater X in the bottom floor of Popejoy Hall, is another groundbreaker for Tricklock. Tricklock actor and education director Kevin Elder, working with the actors and other company members, filled several notebooks with ideas on how to tell this tale of tragedy and loss through four sisters living in an 1880s farmhouse in northern Wisconsin, before settling on a final script.
The farmhouse is made of fine gauze, just open enough for the audience to peer through at this cavalcade of hope and creeping insanity - mostly the latter - the product of untold pain sinking a desperate attempt to maintain a stoic veneer of hope and good cheer.
Even at best, this would be no warm and friendly 19th century "Leave It To Beaver" domestic scene, but the fits of painful memory, attempted suicide and desperate stabs at nostalgia play out with only occasional moments of relief, jerking toward a tragic conclusion.
Which is not to say the mood is depressing at every moment. Fabulous live original music performed by a bluegrass trio on-set, songs as evocative as the best of "O Brother Where Art Thou?" in my opinion, beautifully complement and lift the action playing out in the gauze farmhouse and outside, right up next to the audience.
This being Tricklock, the meaning is never handed to you on a platter, and I wasn't able to connect to all the incidents being telegraphed by all the scenes, but it was clear that a thing of beauty, skill and integrity was being offered up by actors Elsa Menendez, Katy Houska, Summer Olsson and Abigail Blueher, and it's never any less than mesmerizing.
Black River Falling takes to the road - specifically Germany and Poland - immediately after this run, so this is the last weekend to see Tricklock Company's newest offering at UNM's Theater X, phone number not included in the program as it never seems to be in theater programs, but rumor has it that the reservation number is 925-5858. This is Jim Terr.
Santa Fe Cinematheques
Jim Terr - film review - KUNM Feb.22, 07 © Listen
Two things that would be hard to live without, if I had to relocate somewhere, would be public radio and cinematheques. I'm not sure what the difference is between a cinematheque and what they used to call an art house, but I gather that a cinematheque is where you can see so-called independent films and documentaries you're not likely to see in your local multiplex.
Now, I'm not one of those people who shuns and disdains everything that's likely to show in the multiplex. I loved The Departed, I loved The Wedding Crashers, and I especially loved Babel. But I also love variety, and documentaries, and Santa Fe - one of the most movie-going cities in the country, with one of the highest ratios of screens-to-inhabitants -- is also blessed with more than its share of cinematheques.
For starters, there's the CCA, the Center for Contemporary Arts, a complex including a theater, art and performance spaces that's been in Santa Fe at least as long as I have, which is 20 years. Currently playing at the CCA is the Penelope Cruz hit, Volver, and for only a couple more days, the Oscar-nominated short films, both animated and live-action. And starting this weekend is the fifth annual "African Effect" film festival, always interesting and always moving.
** On the College of Santa Fe campus is one of the largest screens and most high-tech sound systems in the area, called The Screen. Curated by serious and knowledgeable film fanatic Brent Kliewer, The Screen is home to many festivals and events, as well as an always-challenging film schedule. Playing at the moment is Pan's Labrynth, an incredible film which mixes fantasy and gritty reality and recent history almost effortlessly, and The Cave of the Yellow Dog, which I hear is a moving masterpiece as well.
** Not far from The Screen, located in a strip mall on St. Michael's Drive, is The Santa Fe Film Center. Formerly The Cinema Café, this venue features huge, soft couches where you can sprawl and watch an always-shifting, fascinating array of films and documentaries, many of them favorites from the Santa Fe Film Festival brought back for an extended run. Just last week I saw a fabulous documentary called Sacco and Vanzetti, a hit at the Santa Fe Film Festival, and last night I saw a truly incredible documentary called Beyond the Call, about three wild, crazy, successful and eccentric middle-American guys in their 50s who get their kicks running aid missions to the most dangerous parts of the world, wherever they decide people are most in need of food and medical care.
Carrying thousands in cash, and often - as they say - the only people in the region not carrying guns, these guys know where the satisfaction is in life, for them at least, and this documentary is an eye-opening step outside the bubble of America, as they call it. Beyond the Call runs again this weekend only at The Film Center, and I strongly recommend it.
Finally, even the much-maligned multiplex has some choice offerings, here in the City Different. At least one screen at the UA De Vargas is always loaded with so-called indie films from Fox Searchlight and Sony Classics. Coming soon is perhaps the most powerful film I've seen in the past year, The Lives of Others. This is the German nominee for best Foreign Film, the story of a Stasi agent assigned to eavesdrop on a top playwright in the darkest days of the East German police state, just as the playwright has decided to stop towing the government line.
The transformation that occurs in the playwright, his actress girlfriend, and the agent assigned to monitor them, are as suspenseful and powerful as anything you're likely to see on screen, ever. When this film ended, I literally couldn't get out of my seat, and couldn't talk. If you see nothing else, please see The Lives of Others when it shows up at a screen near you. With a look at the treasures to be found in Santa Fe's cinematheques, This is Jim Terr.
"My Name is Iran"
Jim Terr - book review KUNM 2-13-07
KUNM listeners who remember a powerful three-part public radio series in 2004 called "My Name Is Iran" will recall the story of a young American woman bouncing back and forth between the US and Iran, absorbing and exploring her Iranian heritage, struggling to fit that in with her American roots and with her own serious, introspective soul.
Davar Ardalan found her calling as a reporter and producer at National Public Radio, and in her new memoir, also called "My Name Is Iran," she speaks glowingly of how Albuquerque and KUNM provided the path to a degree of peace and fulfillment as a journalist and mother, after years of turmoil which included becoming a young Islamic bride in Iran - a subservient role which was bound not to work out - and even a veiled newscaster on Iranian TV.
In her late 30s, after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with her Iranian husband and two children in tow, she ended up in Albuquerque because one of her uncles, a psychiatrist, lived here. "The land of enchantment," she writes, "would not disappoint me." She writes that not only the landscape and climate but also the ancient multi-cultural feel, provided a bridge to her memories of Iran, and combined with a freedom of spirit and supportive people, helped her heal from a lifetime of confusion and conflict.
And her couple of years as a reporter at KUNM gave her a chance to join NPR in Washington DC, leading her to a fulfilling career in reporting, and as a senior producer for "Morning Edition."
It was amazing for me, as someone who couldn't write 500 words about my own family history or cultural heritage, to see Ardalan go into such incredible detail about the history of Iran, Islam, and her own family.
Many of her ancestors were remarkable. Her family on her father's side, the Ardalans, were a prominent and powerful clan in Persia and Iran, going back for centuries.
Her great grandfather was a cabinet minister and close advisor to the Shah, and killed himself in the 1930s when he felt his own assassination or imprisonment was inevitable. Her maternal grandmother, an adventurous young nurse from Idaho, struck out at age 22, totally against her family's wishes, to work at a hospital in Harlem. There she met an Iranian physician, an incredible survivor who graduated medical school at age 54, and married him. They eventually returned to Iran and did pioneering work in public health. After they split up, years later, grandfather Abol, now in his 70s, went on to have a second marriage and ten more children over the next 16 years.
Ardalan's parents were intellectual seekers from San Francisco, who took her and her siblings to Iran when she was an infant, to rediscover their own heritage and share it with their children. Her father was an architect, a friend and protégé of Louis Kahn, who was depicted in the moving documentary, "My Architect." They eventually broke up, leaving the adolescent Davar even more adrift.
The incredible intercontinental family saga is dizzying to follow, but it makes Ardalan's eventual resolution and finding peace even more satisfying. There's a personal sense strangely missing in her story, there's a certain veil between the reader and the writer, but as a primer on Iran, Islam, the wonders of New Mexico and of radio journalism, and even the process of creeping fascism, "My Name is Iran" is fascinating reading.
Davar Ardalan returns to New Mexico for appearances Monday the 20th at 4:30 at the UNM Bookstore, and Tuesday at 5:00 at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
Second thoughts on impeachment
Jim Terr for KUNM © 2-12-07 LISTEN
I've been thinking lately of a fairly simple solution to a huge, complex and tragic problem. I'm referring, of course, to the war in Iraq. And the geniuses who dreamed it up and were able to sell it to a panicked and gullible American public.
The first few times I heard the suggestion of impeaching the president, I dismissed it because, well, I don't remember why exactly, but it probably had something to do with the idea of being left with Dick Cheney as president. Even the first time I heard of the current effort to spark the impeachment of both of them by the current resolution before the New Mexico legislature, I wasn't sympathetic, even when it was explained to me that this is a constitutionally-mandated way to get the matter before the U.S. Congress.
Now I'm not only supportive but enthusiastic about the New Mexico effort, and I'll tell you why.
Almost as disturbing as the havoc and suffering and torture and death of probably 500 or 600,000 people which this invasion has unleashed, is the prospect for continued killing whether we leave tomorrow, or a year from now. And the cultivation of probably hundreds of times the number of skilled, US-hating terrorists as there were before the invasion. Not to mention the expenditure of $800 billion or so that could have been better spent on life rather than death, and the accomplishment of nothing positive that I can see, except perhaps the removal of Saddam Hussein - whose reign most Iraqis now say they'd prefer to the current situation. I'm not saying, by the way, that there weren't one or two good intentions in this poorly-planned, deceitfully-sold and illegal would-be "cakewalk."
A column by Newsweek editor & columnist Fareed Zakaria entitled "We Might 'Win,' But Still Lose" (January 22), explains that even in the unlikely event that we "succeed" militarily, "Sunnis will become more insecure as their militias are dismantled", and the torture, bombings and killing are likely to continue.
So, if you're willing to face the enormity of this tragedy, for those treacherous enough to have gotten us there by using fake and inflated charges of a threat to our security, impeachment seems almost too kind a punishment. I wish we could also impeach the fair number of Americans who still insist there are WMDs in Iraq, that Saddam was behind the 9-11 attacks and provided a breeding ground for Al Quaida terrorists, and that Bush and team didn't hunger to invade Iraq long before 9-11 gave them an excuse to do so - despite numerous first-hand-reports to the contrary from various ex-administration insiders, journalists and even a Bush biographer.
Impeaching Bush and Cheney would send the world a great message: "So sorry! We apologize for being such big suckers as to have allowed ourselves to get into this! And to show our good will, here are the heads of two of the chief perpetrators!" Maybe this would defuse some of the anti-American anger this war has generated worldwide, and make it safer to travel overseas or to New York City or Disneyland in the coming decades. In this way, and perhaps only in this way, can Bush and Cheney still be useful in mitigating the after-affects of their adventure. And by getting the ball rolling, New Mexico can have something to be truly proud of.
The second part of my Simple Solution is getting out of Iraq - like tomorrow! No more money down the toilet, no more American lives to clean up an impossible mess, and if there's any chance the Iraqis can somehow stuff back in the bottle the demons that have been let loose, well, I'm willing to pray exclusively for that every day for the next 5 or 10 years or whatever it takes. Which is about all I can do about it.
But actually there's one other thing I can do about it, and that is not to support one more politician or candidate who won't admit a mistake. It's that kind of ego that got us into this. It's one thing to admit you were hoodwinked, along with tons of other too-trusting Americans. It's another thing - and it's bird-brained - to say that if you knew then what you know now, you'd not have voted to let President Bush invade Iraq. If you can't detect B.S. at least as well as millions of other Americans could at the time, you're not qualified to be president in these times of terror and deceit.
One final thought, and this should appeal to the free-market capitalists out there: After we leave Iraq, let's take 10 or 20 percent of what we've been spending there, and offer it to whatever Iraqis propose the best plans for doing their own rebuilding, and for protecting and utilizing what they've rebuilt. There's nothing like a truly competitive, fairly-judged bidding process to encourage creativity and effectiveness. Unlike the no-bid process that put the current top US contractors into Iraq. This is Jim Terr.
Movie Review: "Sweet Land"
Jim Terr KUNM © 12-06
I found "Sweet Land" a bit difficult to watch, but one of those small ordeals that really pays off. This is a low-budget independent film that doesn't look low-budget. It's a labor of love, and a lot of name stars and character actors obviously loved it, too, and were drawn into the project.
It's 1920s rural Wisconsin, and a beautiful Norwegian bride arrives to marry a shy and quiet Norwegian farmer, lugging her Victrola but no identity papers. Even if she had identity papers, anti-German hysteria is still so high because of the recent war that there's a painful-to-watch resistance to letting her marry her farmer. So she stays with mutual friends for a while, and finally walks across the field to stay with her fiancé, much scandalizing the rest of the community, even though he sleeps in the barn while she sleeps in the house.
How this Norwegian bride happens to speak only German is one of several small mysteries you have to disregard or figure out in order to make it through "Sweet Land," but it's worth the puzzlement.
There are so many different languages flying around that the producers don't even bother providing subtitles, but just give the viewer credit for being able to sense what's going on without them.
Another challenge is the pace of this film, as slow as the seasons that pass through this rich farmland and which provide the basis and the pulse of the story. Everything - the brutally hard work of making something of the land, the battle between the farmers' grange movement and the banker only too ready to repossess a farm late on its mortgage payment, the incredible bond that forms between these people, and with their land - everything hinges on the battle to bring forth a crop and make it to another year.
The craftsmanship in the acting and production of "Sweet Land" is as evident as the do-or-die commitment of the farmers. It's a bit of a cliché to say that some movies transport you to another time, another reality, but this is a real trip back to a time and place that's strangely harsh and pre-industrial despite the presence of a few machines - and less than 100 years ago at that.
If you can take a little discomfort for a lot of reward, treat yourself to "Sweet Land," playing for only another week or so at the CCA in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
Apart from the issue of whether a soul
Ever peruses this sweet doggerole
Or whether it bugs 'em or cheers 'em at best
It's something I must now get off of my chest.
Back in the winter of 2003
A big bunch of cynics and lefties like me
Had the good sense, upon brief self-reflection,
To turn on their sensors for b.s. detection
And see that the claims of the WMDs,
The claims of a cakewalk that would be a breeze,
Of a war to stop terror right there in its tracks,
Was a vinegar enema given by quacks.
I watched for three years as the chaos ensued,
While soldiers in caskets all red, white and blue'd
Returned, while excuses for why we were there
Were floated and bloated and vanished in air,
While billions were stolen or frittered away
On projects with virtue (and some just for pay),
The madness, the mourning, the suicide bombs,
Til now most Iraqis would rather Saddam!
So now that you Bushies are finally waking
To the reaming you've gotten, the lying, the faking,
Think for a moment of the buckets of tears
Of we who have watched this for FOUR FRIGGIN' YEARS!!
Arianna Huffington book review / interview. LISTEN
"On Becoming Fearless -- In Love, Work & Life" 11-14-06
INTRO: Arianna Huffington is best known as a political commentator and creator of her popular blog, The Huffington Post. But she's written a book that doesn't seem, at first, to be at all political. Jim Terr has the story:
If I had to pick one commentator on the political scene who most often hits the mark for me, it would be Arianna Huffington. A former conservative, she's seen both sides, and as a former president of the Cambridge debating team, this immigrant-girl-made-good always seems to me to pierce directly to the heart of the matter.
Arianna Huffington has written a short but powerful book called ON BECOMING FEARLESS - IN LOVE, WORK AND LIFE. It's a surprise coming from someone who's so political, but she quickly makes clear how pervasive is the feeling of powerlessness, how insistent the push to compare ourselves to others, to be anything but who we are, and how pervasive the negative affects can be.
I asked Huffington whether the fact that she wrote this book with her teenage daughters in mind, gave her the strength to see the project through…
ARIANNA: Actually it was very much written about my daughters, that's what prompted me to write it, so it's very much about everybody's daughters, the idea that our daughters are at the moment trapped in a very, very difficult cultural time, with tremendous pressures on them, to be thin and still be feminine, and speak out but not alienate men, you know there's just a lot that they have to deal with.
In the book, Huffington addresses what's really attractive…
ARIANNA: In the book I write about it, the French have a word for it, jolie-laide; it means someone who is not conventionally beautiful but who radiates a confidence and an engagement and all those things are ultimately more attractive than anything.
I asked Arianna Huffington whether her own high degree of self-confidence comes more from her experience as president of the Cambridge debating team, or from her mother whom she acknowledges often in the book…
ARIANNA: Oh a lot, she's very much my fearless role model. As I write in the book she's a huge part of my life, I think the foundation of a lot of what I have done because she basically made me believe in myself by her own unconditional loving of me. And that meant that I always knew I could strive for my dreams and if I failed she wouldn't love me any less. And I think that's the greatest gift we can give to our daughters.
And I asked her whether we might have better politics if people found that place of fearlessness in themselves…
ARIANNA: I say in the book that in the end you cannot be a fearless leader if you don't have a foundation of personal fearlessness, that in the end it comes back to that core. And that's why it's very instructive that when FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, he had come from the struggle with polio for two years, of battling that, and that's where his own foundation of fearlessness came from. And he was able to communicate it to a nation.
The book is ON BECOMING FEARLESS - IN LOVE, WORK and LIFE by Arianna Huffington. It's also about becoming fearless about the body, parenting, aging, work, money, illness, death and more. It's a small but powerful work, with rich insights on every page.
This is Jim Terr
OUTRO: Jim Terr's complete interview with Arianna Huffington is linked from his website, www.JimTerr.com.
I Dreamed It Was November 8th
- Jim Terr - KUNM Nov. 6, 2006 Listen
INTRO: Some people may be trying not to get their hopes up about the November 7th elections... for a variety of reasons. Commentator Jim Terr shares some of his own:
I dreamed it was November 8th
And those of almost infinite faith
In those who claim by faith to rule
Had won again - an end so cruel,
Confounding and dejecting those
Who'd counted fingers, even toes
And thought that they'd throw out the rascals
But didn't quite eject the jackals.
Some complained of voting fraud
And candidates who hemmed and hawed
And didn't quite articulate
The reasons why we all should hate
Those demons who would throw us in --
By stealth -- a war we could not win.
But even those who did some grumping
Felt, after all, we should do SOMETHING
About the 9-1-1 attacks
With or without a few key facts,
Like whether those who flew the planes
Were backed up by Saddam Hussein.
Our soldiers on the ground, you see
From emotional necessity,
Mostly DO think 9-1-1
Was something Mr. Hussein done.
No, I'm not making all this up.
Even our Leader so corrupt
Admitted with a sheepish face
That this was not in fact the case.
And what of us, bedazzled by
Attack ads full of meadow pie?
We'd like to strangle all those jerks
But they run those ads because they work.
And how many of us have asked our favored
Candidate or commentator
Or Senator to comment on
The still un-nerving atom bomb?
Or global warming, rising seas,
Our foreign-financed economy,
The gerrymandering that guarantees
'Most all incumbents victory,
The militarizing of outer space,
The starving of the human race?
And all this pales next to the day
When you can get married if you're gay!
One terror to hide twenty others
That are even worse if we could bother.
It may just be that from those who serve
We get about what we deserve.
Doing a little mental preparation myself, for whatever happens, This is Jim Terr.
“CANDIDE” – Theater Review – (Listen)
Jim Terr / KUNM October 27, 2006
The new collaboration between the Tricklock Theater Company and UNM's Theater Department is working out brilliantly, according to reviewer Jim Terr, who says you have only this last weekend to see for yourself.
Candide is the Tricklock Company’s first co-production with the University of New Mexico, where they’re based now that they’ve lost their original little theater on Washington Street.
Candide is their wild adaptation – ranging all the way from before the time of its origin as Voltaire’s satire in the 18th century, to the distant future. Space aliens as well as quiz shows and the Inquisition provide fabulous comic fodder for this wonderful farce, and the collaboration between some of the stars of the Tricklock Company and the emerging stars of UNM’s Theater Department, works perfectly.
Kevin Elder is the ideal Candide, wide-eyed, almost always optimistic and romantic despite witnessing some of the cruelest horrors of the millennium. Tricklock’s Katy Houska is a delicious ingénue, and Chad Brummett truly outdoes himself as the native sidekick, Cacambo.
William Sterchi does his usual masterful job in several roles, as does everyone, including the UNM students. The sales pitch by the visitors’ bureau hostess for the land of Eldorado -- which hasn’t been visited in at least 82 generations, until now -- is worth the price of admission, as is the TV quiz show and the alien encounter.
The comedy is wonderfully bawdy, cynical and wide-ranging, and the laughs are truly side-splitting. I haven’t had such a good time in weeks.
The only problem with this production of Candide – and it’s a pretty hard one to understand – is why it’s two-and-a-half hours long. That takes real endurance on everyone’s part, and I think that extra hour could have easily been trimmed by removing the weaker parts. Not that any of it is really that weak, but they could have cut the “B” material and left the “A” and “A-plus” material.
I know how hard it is to cut – you should hear some of the great bits that didn’t make it to this review – but it’s got to be done, even if you have to bring in a ruthless outside editor. In any case, the script by Joe Feldman with Joe Peracchio is brilliant, and it reaches a comic peak toward the end, so I’m not suggesting you don’t stick around for the full 2-1/2 hours.
The sets, the stagework, costumes and sound are all wonderfully imaginative, and the Rodey Theater at UNM is a great venue for the play. Tricklock continues to demonstrate that tremendous skill and imagination will always carry the day, and UNM is fortunate to have them on board.
Candide runs three more performances only, tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30, and Sunday at 2pm. Despite the short notice, and despite the somewhat excessive length, you owe it to yourself to see this hysterically funny and skillful production. Call 925-5858 or visit www.unmtickets.com to book a seat, and hold on tight.
This is Jim Terr.
My mom says that the only time she ever saw my dad cry was when FDR died. My favorite story she tells about him is the time he drove out in the country to collect on a doctor's bill some patients owed him, and came back having given THEM money.
Some years later, he became a Republican. I don't know why, but looking at his correspondence at the time, and remembering him as I do, I think his concerns were primarily human dignity and freedom.
The day before he went into the hospital to die, he was out around town soliciting businesses for contributions to the Special Olympics, and his in-lieu-of-flowers request was for donations to the Salvation Army.
I was in Washington DC last week, partly to interview Scott Simon - with whom this audience will be familiar - and I was not only charmed by the beauty of the city, but surprised to find it NOT to be a police state, contrary to my vision of the capital of a terrorized nation, as our leaders seem to want to portray it.
Around ten o'clock on a beautiful moonlit night I visited the Washington Monument, breathtakingly illuminated by powerful spotlights against the black sky and bright moon.
I walked right up to it, one of only two or three visitors around. No guards at all, until a kindly security guard, unarmed, evidently from Africa, strolled up and gave me directions to some of the other monuments I asked about.
I walked down to the World War II memorial - which I somehow didn't realize had been built - and was moved. Walking further along the Mall in the moonlight, along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, I was surprised and heartened by the great number of visitors - including many young people - seemingly reverent and inspired. One of the couple unarmed security guards on duty there told me that the Mall and the monuments are open 24 hours a day!
I was somehow encouraged and calmed by all this. The city has its own spirit, its own eternal dignity and pulsing history, which somehow made me forgot for a moment my aggravation and - yes, terror -- about the current band of people in charge. I got a hint - just a breath - of the possibility that friends sometimes try to remind me of - that we will survive this.
I'm never quite so sure. True, this country has survived all sorts of things, but this is a new age, where a small number of people control weapons which can destroy much of human life - and arguably have an Armageddonist, Rapturist fantasy that this might be the way to go. There's more than one band of suicide bombers we have to contend with.
Being in this beautiful city, among its amazing variety of people, even made me appreciate in a way President Bush's seemingly single-minded focus on preventing another terrorist attack. Even if this focus may be driven in part by guilt about not having prevented the last one. And even though this gang messes up everything they touch, giving me no reason to think they're any better at sniffing out possible terrorist plots - if there have been any.
If God is angry at America, it's not for tolerating homosexuality, but more likely - judging from the visible results - for being so gullible, so anti-science, so warlike, so willing to believe in fairy tales, and so much more interested in sex scandals than in the four or five top real issues that are likely to destroy us.
Even such conservative stalwarts as Richard Viguerie, who pretty much invented this whole modern Republican thing as we know it, says we'd be better off clearing out this bunch of thugs, who betray almost everyone who supports them, in order to regain a little balance and a little integrity.
But there I go again, into that negativity I managed to rise above for a couple of lovely hours in DC. My parents took us there over forty years ago, wanting, I think, to share a reverence about the city's eternal quality, which I think my dad would still recognize if he were alive today.
I'm not so sure he'd recognize his Republican party.
This is Jim Terr.
You can see Jim Terr's photos of his visit to DC here
"The Mercy Seat" - Theater Review - Tricklock Co.
Jim Terr Sept. 2006 (C)
I actually had the privilege of connecting playwright Neil LaBute with The Tricklock Company, though I never met him - long story. But it's been a fruitful relationship, as Albuquerque's premiere theater company has produced several of LaBute's plays, and even the premiere performance of at least one of them.
I've always been a little uncomfortable about the level of misogyny or at least unnecessary cruelty in LaBute's plays and in his movies, such as his breakout film, "In the Company of Men."
So I was expecting some of that, and already a little put off by it, anticipating Tricklock's performance of LaBute's "The Mercy Seat," playing through September 24 at the Orpheum Arts Space in Albuquerque.
Chad Brummett and Dodie Montgomery are instantly engaging and believable as two illicit lovers caught in a pressure cooker of a New York apartment the day after the 9-11 attacks. Brummett's character was supposed to be at work that day, in the Twin Towers, but he was visiting his girlfriend instead. Which leads to a great opportunity for this relationship - or a breaking point.
The dialogue is incredibly sharp and digs deeply, but is thankfully not driven by cruelty. It's delivered with complete believability by Brummett and Montgomery, who are totally in the moment and who simply couldn't be any better in these roles. Skill and dedication like this are thrilling to watch.
Brummett is not only Montgomery's lover but also her employee, seething with resentment about how she's never given him a promotion, and about how he must choose whether to leave his family to have the relationship he wants - or thinks he wants - with Montgomery. And on top of it, he's twelve years younger than she is!
Enough material for a compelling play there, you think? I don't think I've ever been so intensely engaged in a play, in what was going to unfold from one line to the next.
"The Mercy Seat" will put you through a complete wash and dry cycle with regard to relationships by the time it's over - truly a cleansing process. "The Mercy Seat" has some elements of those two-lovers-locked-in-semantic-combat-in-a-small-apartment plays that are sometimes tedious, but this one is incredibly honest and never boring. And of course there's the obligatory LaBute switcheroo at the end and it's a brilliant one, even better than some of M. Night Shyamalan's movie twists.
If you liked the film, "Two Girls and a Guy," directed by James Toback and starring Robert Downey, Jr. - as the guy anyhow - you'll love "The Mercy Seat." If you've never seen that movie, but you love great theater or want to love great theater -- or want to turn someone on to how powerful theater can be -- you can't do any better than this.
The acoustics in the Orpheum are challenging, so if you have any difficulty hearing dialogue, as I do, make sure to sit in the front row, right next to the actors, even though the theater only seats 50.
"The Mercy Seat" runs this weekend through September 24 at the Orpheum Arts Space, phone 254-8393 for reservations.
This is Jim Terr.
WORLD LEADERS AT PLAY PSA parody
Jim Terr © 2006 Hear it (MP3 1.7mb)
We've all had the realization at one time or another. The handsome, self-confident high school jock or the beautiful cheerleader we all look up to turns out to be the loneliest one in the crowd, with the biggest problems of all.
Yes, it can be lonely at the top, and no less so for world leaders. Including YOUR world leader, upon whom you depend for your very survival, what with today's nuclear weapons and scores of other possible scenarios for global destruction.
So when your president or prime minister has a chance to meet with other world leaders, to let his or her hair down and share a diet soda with others who hold the fate of their people in THEIR hands, we suggest you support and encourage these social opportunities.
Whether it's staring deeply into the soul of a Russian president, conducting virtual war games with a British prime minister, visiting Graceland with an Elvis fan or finding common ground with a German chancellor, remember that world leaders are people too, and they benefit from human friendship and social interaction just like everyone else.
In fact, they may not HAVE any other friends, and playing with other world leaders may be a valuable outlet and a great chance to learn to cooperate with others, just like it is for children.
So encourage your world leader to take every opportunity to socialize, to find out about other cultures, to learn to get along. They may say it's just getting to know people with whom they can do business, but we know it's much more important than that.
Review of Theater Grottesco’s “WENOMADMEN”
Jim Terr – KUNM - August 06, 2006
There’s no theater company around here, that I know of, any more political than Santa Fe’s Theater Grottesco.
Their past two plays, including the new one, “WENOMADMEN,” are both post-Apocalyptic. And what’s more political and more relevant than looking at where we’ll be in 50 years or 250 years, after the Apocalypse has occurred, whether with a bang or a whimper – which I personally think is likely to happen unless we change direction drastically.
Theater Grottesco’s greatest gift – besides their obvious skill and discipline – is their daring, their willingness to try to create something out of nothing, at the risk of a small portion of the audience simply not getting it – which is sometimes the case, and has sometimes been the case for me, too.
In the new production, WENOMADMEN, we’re instantly thrown into a brave new world with a fearful, subjugated class of slaves and craftsmen, lorded over by a futuristic, stylized clique of bureaucrats. Everything in this production is stylized, exaggerated, minimalist, but the echoes of our own society and its anxieties are everywhere.
The tinny propaganda, the calls to heroism, the evocation of legend and of fear – it’s all there, but it’s all hanging by a thread in this primitive future where there’s not enough of anything to go around, where survival depends on a mad and probably hopeless voyage of discovery. And discovering what? Do we still think a place doesn’t exist til we “discover” it?
In this stark world, as a jury-rigged but sturdy ship sets sail to find a habitable land, drinking water is all that matters. And is there anything WE pay less attention to now, with water tables falling, and water supplies being polluted -- and privatized to boot!
The social order among the crew is quickly turned upside down. Rod Harrison, a Grottesco regular, gets a great chance to stretch out in his role as the fugitive, the stowaway whose past is finally revealed, but only after it has become almost irrelevant.
“Every 65 years a culling,” he says. “Why not make a holiday of it? Who doesn’t want to be a hero?” Why are these words so chilling, so resonant? What sort of culling are we in the midst of now? Why does this play remind me so much why SURVIVOR-type TV shows are so popular these days?
This is Grottesco at its best, creating a frightening, elegant scenario out of a deceptively simple, imaginative set; wonderfully original and evocative dance and movement, dedicated actors, a brilliant soundscape by J.A. Deane, and a finely-honed script.
Don’t miss Theater Grottesco’s WENOMADMEN, resuming tomorrow, Thursday, for its last two weekends at the Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe, call 474-8400.
This is Jim Terr.
FDR Book Review - KUNM - Jim Terr July 2006
The use of the term, "the first hundred days" -- the practice of evaluating a president by what he's able to accomplish in that period of time, in his honeymoon period with the Congress and the people who elected him -- began with President Franklin Roosevelt's first hundred days in office.
Until I read "The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope", by Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, I didn't fully appreciate what deep doo-doo the US was in in the years and months before FDR assumed the presidency in 1933.
The Great Depression was on and people were out of work, banks were closing - big banks in big cities - and Alter paints the scene so vividly that we have no problem understanding why a great portion of the American public - perhaps a majority - and many major public figures - would have been fine with Roosevelt assuming dictatorial powers to bring things under control.
In probing FDR's upbringing and political history prior to his run for the presidency, Alter gives us insight into why Roosevelt resisted becoming a dictator when the role was probably available to him. He gives us a sense that FDR's essence is not easy to tease out, since the views of even those people who knew him and worked with him very closely, were sometimes contradictory.
To be sure, FDR was a politician at heart, a showman, devious and evasive when it suited him, but his policies reflected a deep faith and a sense of self-security instilled, probably most strongly, by a fiercely protective and self-confident mother, Sara. The story is told that when Franklin was a small boy, on a voyage that turned into a ship wreck, his parents kept their cool and sheltered Franklin from the chaos around him, determined that the family would continue to stick together and play happily even if the ship were going to sink.
Franklin's cheerful personality and self-confidence rubbed many the wrong way in college and in his early years as a bureaucrat, giving him a reputation as a dilettante and a lightweight - which in some ways he may have been. As fate would have it, this vibrant, social, theatrical, somewhat vain man-about-town was stricken by polio, losing the use of virtually his entire body below his arms.
His time spent in therapy, much of it among the super-poor rural folk in Warm Springs, Georgia, had a humbling and deepening effect on him, and created a sense of empathy which, most simply, characterized his term as president.
I also didn't know that he was almost assassinated during his first presidential run. The mayor of Chicago was shot instead, and eventually died, and this, too, evidently had a profound effect on Roosevelt.
Jonathan Alter, the author, is an openly liberal, Democratic columnist, and he must have worked hard to resist the temptation to compare FDR to the current president - which he does little to none of in this book. But one key difference appears repeatedly:
Many insider stories have appeared of a current president who does not question, does not explore and does not read. But Roosevelt was unique at that point in history for assembling a vast group of advisors, experts from academia, from business and government - his "Brain Trust", it was called -- , soaking up tons of often-conflicting advice, asking lots of questions, and being willing to try something and if it didn't work, trying something else.
Fortunately, FDR made many of the right choices. He was accused of being a socialist, a rich guy who betrayed The Club, for his bold moves to put the country back to work with an incredible array of government programs, resulting in many buildings and landmarks we still see today - and perhaps his most radical and lasting achievement, Social Security.
His ability to hide his crippled body from the public, his relationship with Eleanor, and her interesting relationships, and her role in bringing invaluable input from the street to Roosevelt - many fascinating threads are included in this book but Alter repeatedly re-focuses on the mysterious core of FDR and his sense of mission and his determination to make the country whole again, against all odds.
"The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope" by Jonathan Alter is a fascinating read, with more than a little relevance to our own perilous time.
This is Jim Terr.
A Dip into Utopia -- KUNM -- written July 5, 2006 ©
It's an old debate - or is it? - whether listening to the news causes depression, or whether being already depressed and listening to the news is -- like drinking and driving - almost certain to result in disaster.
In any case, I knew I was well into the despair zone when I heard the other morning that the subway crash in Valencia, Spain, resulting in the deaths of over 40 people, was due not to sabotage but to good old human error - and found myself feeling a little bit elated.
Yeah, the news is not good, as you've probably noticed. And for some of us, who haven't totally given up hope for a better outcome - and even for some of us who HAVE given up - the strangest things can provide a glimmer of optimism. Or at least a little manic uptick.
Perhaps this is why I was strangely moved by a preview performance of an original time travel comedy opening this Friday at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe, called "It's About Time." Locally-written, and performed by a fine group of teen actors, the play is genuinely funny, clever and surprising. But it was the theme that got me, rather unexpectedly.
The time-travel story involves a future without conflict. I can remember when just hearing such a Utopian idea would have put me to sleep. And in fact I've probably seen and read a few things on this topic which HAVE put me to sleep.
But I'm older now, truly worn down by what I see going on in the world, and mercilessly immersing myself in the hopelessness of it all on a daily basis. So perhaps it was just seeing this play at the right time, hearing newly - for the first time in a long time - the suggestion of a world without war, without violence, that was so surprising and refreshing and moving. The fact that it was presented in a light, funny, almost innocent context, certainly didn't hurt. I recommend it.
Likewise, Santa Fe's treasured author, commentator and former human rights attorney Craig Barnes gave a talk the other night in connection with the release of his new book, "In Search of the Lost Feminine: Decoding the Myths that Radically Reshaped Civilization."
Barnes thoroughly scoured the surviving art of the Minoan culture for anything glorifying war or violence against women so common in subsequent times - and, dare I say it, even today - and found none. His thesis is that this advanced culture somehow existed without war, and he traces exactly when and why and how war and the subjugation of women began to climb the charts.
He insists that he's not projecting peacenik values backward, but simply putting on his attorney's hat and looking for evidence. Again, the idea of a world without war, without glorification of violence, celebrating nature, unexpectedly struck me like a runaway beer truck -- no doubt because of how deeply I've bought in to the current darkness, myself.
I recommend you take a dip into the Utopian and see if it doesn't help revive you as well.
This is Jim Terr
Essay: The Attack Industry, National and Local
Jim Terr © 06-06 KUNM
STATION INTRO: For some people, the current state of political debate has become confusing and frustrating, and has left them longing for some real substantive discussion of issues rather than posturing. KUNM commentator Jim Terr says if anyone is benefiting from the confusion, they're benefiting greatly at this moment.
A friend sent me this morning – strictly for my amusement and amazement, I hope – a ten-minute clip of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter reading from her best-selling book.
I made it exactly one minute and nineteen seconds into the reading before my curiosity was overwhelmed by disgust. She was painting some grotesque, exaggerated and unrecognizable portrait of liberals – of whom I know quite a few and probably am one – for the benefit of those who don’t get out much, and don’t know any liberals personally. Except as they are caricatured by Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and others in what I can only see as The Attack Industry.
Later the same morning, I turned on the radio and immediately heard a caller accuse liberals of funding – not supporting or cheering but FUNDING – the insurgency in Iraq, to make George Bush look bad! This sort of wackiness can only flourish by a systematic idolizing of those who proclaim themselves most Godly – no matter how vicious they show themselves to be --, by demonizing those of us who question them, and by dismissing and demonizing the professional news media as either “liberal” or “corporate-controlled.”
So-called major media reporters can’t be counted on to ask obvious questions like “Excuse me, what did you say the war in Iraq has to do with avenging or preventing another 9-11, again?” – but they are constrained to bring a degree of balance and verifiable reality to what they report.
I know a few Republicans and conservatives, all nice people on a personal level, wanting the best for everyone as far as I can tell, and it frankly amazes me how they can buy into what I see as the obvious lies, fear-mongering and hate-mongering of the current administration and their many spokespeople. And they probably think I’m equally deluded.
The divide between what I see and what conservatives see has grown so large, the willingness to listen has grown so small, that this polarization, this hostility, is now a bigger problem than almost any of the other issues that we face. Perhaps we can all agree that none of our major issues are truly being addressed because most of the energy and focus are on the mutual hate and suspicion -- fighting each other instead of addressing our real problems – and I don’t meant the mostly phony “culture war.” Yes, I can get away with anything – including sabotaging your best interests – if you think I’m protecting you from THOSE guys.
It’s a situation that promotes the horrors and absurdities we read about every day – and our resulting impotence, confusion and frustration – which can only benefit up-and-coming demagogues and dictators, and Big Business. And I frankly have no clue how to attack the problem, except for an occasional salvo of satire.
Looking at this on a local level, our new Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Dendahl, has just let us know explicitly that we will be getting no discussion of anything substantive or risky during his gubernatorial run, but only attacks. At least he's honest about what we can look forward to, but isn't this exactly what Republicans are always pretending to complain about Democrats for -- all criticism and no solutions?
And the current Governor has let us know through his spokesman that he will not commit to debating Dendahl. If the Governor doesn't have the self-confidence to rebut Dendahl's attacks in person, in real time, and doesn't have enough respect for us voters to favor us with a public debate, I would never vote for him again.
The fact that I have to worry about whether that statement will bring down the Governor's wrath -- as so many others evidently do worry -- shows what a banana republic we've become. Fortunately I don't think I've asked or been given any favors by the Governor, so hopefully don't have much to lose.
Finally, the fact that the Governor and Senator Bingaman are so bloated with campaign funds that they're already battering us with warm, fuzzy ads about how great and benevolent they are, speaks volumes about how corrupt the system is and how badly public campaign financing is needed. That’s an issue that we will NOT be hearing anything about from these three gentlemen.
Boy, I can't wait to vote in this exciting process!
This is Jim Terr.
Essay: Support locally-written feature films
Jim Terr - KUNM-FM 6-6-06 (c) LISTEN
NOTE: I regret that I didn't mention the Governor's Cup competition as fostering New Mexico creativity/filmmaking. I didn't mean to slight it -- I simply forgot to mention it.
INTRO: Commentator and reviewer Jim Terr has watched a lot of Hollywood films which were produced in New Mexico -- and he's directed and acted in a few films himself. He has some thoughts on feature films that are WRITTEN here as well.
If case you haven’t noticed, New Mexico is in the midst of a movie boom. We’ve got more Hollywood movies shooting in the state at this moment than we’ve had in an entire year at times in recent decades. There are three separate Hollywood feature films shooting at one movie ranch near Santa Fe right now!
This can only be considered a good thing, bringing lots of money and employment to the state, and credit should go to the many forward-thinking politicians and private citizens who brought about the incentives that have resulted in this boom.
But there’s another side of feature film making that could be just as profitable for the state, and even more exciting. And that is the production of home-grown, locally-written feature films.
Think about it: We have the crews to pull off a good-looking, good-sounding film – which is no small feat. We have the varied locales to create virtually any look, including small-town Midwestern. We have more creative talent – good writers and good actors – than we know what to do with.
And finally, we have an extraordinary number of people for whom a quarter-million-dollar investment in a feature film would be no big deal, no catastrophic risk. Even Los Alamos, a town you don’t usually think of as particularly wealthy, has a greater proportion of millionaires than any city in the country – according to recent news reports.
A quarter-million dollars is one one-hundredth of what a relatively low-budget Hollywood film costs, but enough to pay cast and crew and get a good-looking, good-sounding movie out of a first-time feature film director looking for a chance.
And what would an investor get for his or her quarter-million dollars, potentially? Well, we all know about “The Blair Witch Project”, which cost only $25,000 to shoot and which made a quarter-BILLION dollars worldwide. That may be the exception, but it’s possible. There are hundreds of ways to market and profit from a good, low-budget film, especially with the emergence of so-called new media.
New Mexico had one of the first on-the-spot filmmaking festivals, “Flicks on 66”, at which I had the privilege of writing and directing the first runner-up film in 2001. It was a tremendous opportunity for all of us, and the opportunity continues with this summer’s Duke City Shootout in July.
I dare say I’ve seen short films written and produced in New Mexico that are more entertaining than many of the Hollywood feature films that have been shot here –with all due respect. Hell, I’ve got scripts that are more interesting – and I’ll write in your wife, daughter or any other would-be star, and make ‘em look good, too. A regular HollywoodMe right here in New Mexico!
Tomorrow night at the Albuquerque Academy, some serious young filmmakers will be pitching for funding for a feature film. And Sunday night at the Hispanic Cultural Center, some serious documentary filmmakers will be pitching as well.
Hey, how about liquidating some of that Wal-Mart stock and taking a chance on New Mexico filmmakers?
This is Jim Terr.
TAG: Details on the two upcoming filmmaker presentations mentioned in the preceding story are at www.LasVegasNMFilm.com
NOTE: Please also see www.HollywoodMe.com
** "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days"
Film review © 4-06 Jim Terr
"Shocking", "compelling," "transfixing," "devastating" - these are the sort of adjectives commonly thrown around by reviewers. Sometimes, perhaps, the shock and the devastation recede a bit in the weeks and months following the writing of a review, making the reviewer wish he or she had chosen words a little less dramatic.
It's been over four months since I saw "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days", at the Santa Fe film festival, and that feeling of shock and awe that I felt at the time has not diminished in the least.
The Oscar-nominated film is starting its run at The Screen in Santa Fe, and I'd like to recommend that you go get shocked and awed for yourself.
If you saw the unusual documentary, "Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary," you may remember that right near the end, Traudl Junge, the secretary, says that it was many years after her service to Hitler, as she walked one day past a statue of Sophie Scholl, of the short-lived White Rose Society resistance movement, that she finally realized the horror of what she'd been a part of. "It was no excuse to be young," she says, "It would have been possible to find things out."
"Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" recounts the crime that got young Sophie and her brother arrested - leafleting an empty university building with anti-Nazi fliers - and the days of interrogation leading up to their execution.
The film utilizes transcripts of her interrogation which were discovered only recently, and the producers evidently felt no need to spice up the narrative with romance, comedy or car chases. All the drama you could ever need - yes, "Shocking", "compelling," "transfixing" and "devastating"- unfolds as Sophie tries at first to evade prosecution, then faces up proudly to what she's done.
She's even given a chance to avoid execution in the process, but she goes bravely to her fate, and gives the Nazi kangaroo court an earful while she's at it.
Julia Jentsch gives a brilliant, slightly understated performance as Sophie Scholl - sweet, almost innocent but totally resolute -- that will burn itself into your soul.
Even the movie's website, www.SophieSchollMovie.com - manages to capture some of the tension of the film, and there you can read the text of the leaflet that led, ultimately, to the execution of this small band of heroes, The White Rose Society. That text, reproduced on the website, will surprise you.
"Sophie Scholl: The Final Days," is playing at the Screen in Santa Fe, and I truly hope it will be booked soon in Albuquerque as well.
This is Jim Terr
"Too Hot Not to Handle"
HBO documentary review © Jim Terr 4-06
HBO's new documentary, "Too Hot Not to Handle," illustrates in excruciating, frightening detail the great increase in the frequency and severity of killer storms, killer heat waves, droughts, and other symptoms of a long-term warming trend. No snowpack, no water, dying crops, greater transmissibility of tropical disease, longer allergy seasons, 185 mph hurricanes, hundreds dying from heat waves in Chicago, thousands in Europe - it's all happening, with more to come.
Evidently no scientists except those whose research is sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, question that this is likely due to the greenhouse effect, caused by the millions of tons of gases and particles from fossil fuels we've been burning over the past century. Glaciers are receding. The film shows many side-by-side, before-and-after photos of identical locations in Alaska, Greenland and in the Arctic, taken 30 or 50 or 100 years ago, huge glaciers then and fragrant meadows now.
When all the glaciers in Alaska melt, sea level will rise one foot; Greenland twenty feet; when all ice caps melt - 200 feet! That will indeed make a few beachfront properties and major cities and countries uninhabitable.
But wait - those unfrozen ports, that unfrozen land will make it so much easier for oil companies to drill for new oil in those formerly-ice-locked regions. And we'll gladly use that oil - isn't that convenient for everyone?
"Too Hot Not to Handle" doesn't explore the world view of those who willingly deny this trend and the imperative to do something about it. Do these people not have children and grandchildren? Do they expect to live in colonies on Mars, or elsewhere in heaven, when things get even worse, when their beachfront properties are submerged? But that isn't within the purview of this documentary; it's just one of those little things I wonder about.
The documentary's job - and it does it well - is to interview several scientists about what's going on, just how bad it is, and how incredibly long it will take to reverse this trend - even if we start now, if it's not already too late.
After thoroughly scaring the crap out of you, "Too Hot Not to Handle" offers a few solutions, a few examples of businesses, cities and other entities who find it makes sense to pitch in and save our planet as a habitat for human life.
Small solutions add up, I suppose: conservation, alternative energy, hybrid cars, biodiesel trucks, ethanol. Now there's one I never understood: growing corn and depleting the water table to make fuel for cars. But the documentary claims that a significant source is the silage that's otherwise thrown away, so that makes a little more sense anyhow.
Albuquerque is one of a handful of US cities committed to a comprehensive energy policy to address this problem. Mayor Martin Chavez explains why:
(MAYOR audio:) "As the mayor of a major city, it is frustrating to watch the federal government dicker when the reality of global warming is here. America's mayors don't intend to let federal inaction deter us from doing the right thing for our planet."
Get outraged, get informed, get hopeful (but as for me, not TOO hopeful!); see "Too Hot Not to Handle," during the next few weeks on HBO.
This is Jim Terr.
TRUE WEST theater review Jim Terr 4-06 ©
There's something thrilling about watching great craftsmen at work, seeing someone doing something really well - whether building a house, fixing a car, teaching a class, or creating live theater.
Santa Fe's fine small theater company, Ironweed productions, has put together a production of Sam Shepard's "True West" which grabs you from the first moment, and pretty much never lets loose.
In the performance I saw, in a beautiful small corner set carved out of El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe's railyard, Scott Harrison plays the good brother, screenwriter Austin, hanging out at his mom's house outside Los Angeles while she's on vacation, so he can finish up a screenplay and have a meeting with his agent, named… Saul! (Thanks for the subtle touch there, Mr. Shepard!)
Hanging around and making Austin mighty nervous is his black-sheep brother, stringy-haired, psycho petty thief, Lee, played perfectly by Eric Kaiser. High-strung, violent, blaming everyone but himself, just in from the desert where he hides out, Lee would make anyone nervous.
But Austin is trying to get some serious work done in preparation for a meeting with his agent the next day, and he gives Lee the keys to his car only very reluctantly in order to get him out of the house so as not to interrupt.
Of course it doesn't work out quite that way. Well…it doesn't work out anything near that way. In fact, things take such a bizarre turn that you know you're not in the so-called real world any more, you're in theater-land. Who's the good guy, who's the bad guy, who's nuts and who's not, who's going to succeed in Hollywood and who's going to succeed in the world of crime - everything spins out of control as True West enters phase two.
Adding to the suspense and interest is trying to imagine each actor playing the other role. Because in addition to the role reversal that occurs in the story, in Ironweed's production the actors actually do switch roles at various points in the show's run, so for a discount price you can see the play a second time, with the lead actors swapping roles to play the other brother!
In keeping with a great tradition in Santa Fe theater, there is no phone number or website listed on the program to make it easy to recommend the play to friends you'd like to see it, but I've got the inside information:
Call 660-2379 for play dates for this very fine performance of True West at El Museo Cultural, and try to go a second time, another evening, to see the reverse casting. That's 660-2379.
This is Jim Terr.
"All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise"
(review - HBO) Jim Terr April 5, 2006 © - KUNM-FM
It's often said that support for gay rights and gay unions and gay adoptions increases as people who are opposed, simply get to know some living examples, rather than living with their worst fantasies and stereotypes.
A new HBO documentary should go a long way in advancing the real-life experience over the stereotypes and fantasies.
A couple years ago Rosie O'Donnell and her partner organized a one-week Caribbean cruise on one of the world's largest cruise ships, for 1,500 people - gay, straight, families, young and old. The documentary about the cruise, despite the un-promising title, "All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise," is moving and eye-opening.
As a viewer, I had to set aside my ideas about how the only thing more boring than a cruise would be a film about a cruise, but my own pre-conceptions quickly fell away as I got drawn into the many intimate portraits of loving couples and their beautiful, happy, and sometimes startlingly articulate children.
I always think it's hilarious that gay people are sometimes described as "sissies" - as happened when this group disembarked in the Bahamas and ran into an anti-gay demonstration - when in fact it obviously takes unusual courage to be gay if you're gay, and for you and your children to put up with the inevitable harassment. Rosie O'Donnell isn't the only tough cookie on this cruise.
One of the most moving sequences was hearing from former NFL defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo about having lived a secret gay life while he was competing, and coming out for the benefit of his children, whom he adopted from within his family. Like anything new, getting to know these families as they enjoyed this week in a safe environment, was a real revelation. I guess I, too, needed to meet more gay people - particularly families.
Director Shari Cookson says it was an eye-opener for her, as well. A straight women, she returned with her husband and family for the next cruise, a year later: (audio…)
"All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise" will play on HBO for the next several weeks. This is Jim Terr
If you’ve never thought about it, or tried it, finding a good name for a website is a fascinating exercise. There are websites which sell these domain names, as they’re called, and which can instantly look up any names you have in mind, to see if they’re taken.
For every name that someone has purchased to use for an actual website, there are probably five that have been bought to speculate with, to try to sell to someone else who comes along later and might actually need it and will pay top dollar for it. So when you're trying to find an original, catchy, memorable domain name at this point, the pickings are slim because most names you're likely to think of, have been taken.
What’s fun about it, though, is that as you tear through the possibilities to see what might still be available, you get the feeling you’re matching wits with other would-be marketing geniuses out there, almost like you’re playing a real-time, on-line chess game.
I recently looked for a name for a website I was putting together for my radio jingles, and the first one I tried, the most obvious one for me, JingleJim (dot-com), was of course taken. JTJingles and JimJingles were available, but not too compelling. So I checked out a few others, all of which were taken: SingleJingle, Jingler, RadioJingles, JingleJungle, and Jumpin Jingles. A few which WERE available were Jingle-Minded, JingleJive, and Jingular.com – which made the final cut which I later put out to my friends for a vote.
OK, now I’m really getting into it. I thought of names that are puns or references to other things and other phrases. JingleFever, JingleBells and JinglesAllTheWay were taken, but JingleFile, JingleHanded, JinglesWild, JingleBook, and Jingleheimer were available. As were TinyJingles, -- get it? (sing: “TinyJingles…”), JinglePiper (a reference to Peter Piper – I think), JinglesMalone (referring to Potatoes O’Brien), and JingleWeed (a reference to – well, I’m not sure). JingleShot, JinglesAway, WholeLottaJingles, and JingleBoogie WERE available, and also made it to the final nine for voting. At this point I sent a preliminary poll out to friends, and a friend of mine, a pretty big radio talk show host, suggested It’sAJingleOutThere, perhaps a little too cute for me, but which I did include in the final ballot.
Then there’s the sort of generic category, little added-on phrases that you could apply to anything you’re selling – gift cards, kitchenware, pet supplies. Like JingleCity, JingleWorks, JustJingles, JingleJoint, JingleThing, JingleHound, JinglePie, MisterJingles, DoctorJingles, BigJingles, and JingleBarn – yech!! -- all taken – and the following which WERE available but also too insipid to use: JingleJar, JingleJug, JuicyJingles, UncleJingles and JinglePark.
Finally those that were just plain stupid and don’t ask me why I even considered them: JingleJuice, JingleJustice, JingleSprings, JingleSwings, JinglesWithHam, JinglesWithFries, JingleBoat and EternalJingles.
When I put the finalists out to friends for a vote, it was pretty much a tie between JingleBoogie, It’sAJingleOutThere, and Jingular – dot com.
As is my prerogative, I broke the tie, and the winner is..., let’s see... opening the envelope here... – www.Jingular.com! A singular choice, I’m so honored, and I’d like to thank my… oh well, never mind.
This is Jim Terr.
** WHY WE FIGHT
documentary review for KUNM, 3-15-06, Jim Terr
Like Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, or the Ten Commandments, most of us have heard President Eisenhower's dire warning in his 1961 presidential farewell address, about the emergence of a "military-industrial complex." He invented the term to describe a monster with a life of its own, feeding itself, corrupting the political process and generating a state of permanent warfare to keep itself alive. But like those other famous speeches, how many of us have paid attention or really done anything about it?
As the Supreme Allied Commander in World War Two, Eisenhower saw it coming even then, as the country built up to fight that war, and as president he was in a unique position to observe and understand - as he said - the politics of the defense industry and how it seduces politicians and the public for its own ends. And it gave him the credibility to make this unexpected charge during his farewell address.
The new documentary, WHY WE FIGHT, examines what has developed in the 45 years since Eisenhower gave his startling warning, which obviously went unheeded. The US's military budget dwarfs that of the next eight countries combined. (What ever happened to the peace dividend that was supposed to result from the collapse of the Soviet Union, by the way?) When a new weapons system is approved, the contractor often makes sure that components are manufactured in all 50 states, so every senator and congressperson has a stake in supporting it, to bring home the bacon and ensure their re-election.
Did you know that the accepted equation is that 100 jobs equal 500 votes?
WHY WE FIGHT effectively follows several individuals through time, as the film lays out its case in a relatively balanced manner. Two are American bomber pilots who tried to take out Saddam and his leadership early in the current war.
One is a young man who sees no alternative but to join the military. One is a father, a hard-boiled New York City cop, who lost a son in the 9-11 attacks and who wants revenge, who even asked that his son's name be written on a bomb to be dropped during the current war, and who was startled and sickened to hear President Bush admit later that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. Why he didn't figure this out earlier is another story, and an important one, but is not the subject of WHY WE FIGHT. One of the interviewees points out that war profits are up 25% in just one year, and when profits go up - surprise! - war becomes more likely. A bumper sticker I saw yesterday, that said "I'm against the NEXT war," becomes more relevant and less funny in this context.
WHY WE FIGHT lays out plainly Dick Cheney's lifelong career as an industrialist and hawk, now in the frightening position of creating policy exactly as he would like it. Dan Rather makes the obvious but chilling observation that one hallmark of a fascist state is a chorus of government officials and senators singing in unison the praises of the great leader. Sound familiar?
The most effective ongoing interview in my opinion is with Lt. Gen. Karen Kwiatowski, who served for years in the military and the Pentagon and finally quit in disgust when it became clear to her how the defense industry dictated policy to the Pentagon, and how the Pentagon - especially in the run-up to the current war - blatantly manipulated the available intelligence to sell a bogus war that was in the making long before 9-11.
Right up there with Lt. Kwiatowski is CIA veteran Chalmers Johnson, who provides the most extensive narrative, coldly explaining HOW the defense industry, the military and the Congress got in bed together and will evidently be unable to get out, short of a general uprising in the country. WHY WE FIGHT stands a fair chance of generating that uprising, and should be seen by everyone - liberal, conservative or simply concerned about where all the money and lives are going.
WHY WE FIGHT is playing at the CCA in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
AFTER INNOCENCE documentary review - Jim Terr © 2006
I don't know why, exactly, but I've always been struck by the plight of the convicts who have been released from prison, due to examination of stored DNA evidence by methods that weren't available at the times of these crimes and convictions, some as long as a quarter century ago.
A new documentary called "After Innocence," which won the Sundance Festival's Special Jury Award, and which has been featured and lauded at many other festivals as well, examines the lives of several men released from prison through the work of The Innocence Project (which originated, I'm proud to say, at the law school of my alma mater, Northwestern University). Over 100 prisoners have been released due to the work of these attorneys and law student volunteers.
"After Innocence" examines the stories and struggles of five released men, some of whom were in prison for as long as 23 years, and some of whom were on death row. Shockingly, up until very recently, there was no provision in any state for any official apology, let alone compensation for time and life lost, nor even expunging of the prison record.
That's right, if you're exonerated and released from prison after 10 or 20 years, you not only don't get any apology or any money, you have to pay an attorney to fight with the state to get your record expunged, so you can have some hope of finding a job! It's discouraging to think how many innocent men and women are still in prison and will stay there, or have died there, due to lack of evidence that could have exonerated them - and the resistance of some prosecutors to re-opening cases in which they've already won convictions.
One of the exonerees featured in the film was at the showing I attended at The Screen in Santa Fe. He languished in a Florida prison for three years AFTER he was exonerated, and he reports that he felt the prosecutors and many in the penal system were angry that he was innocent! The stories in "After Innocence" are heartbreaking, but also encouraging in the dignity of the exonerees, their commitment to not letting anger and hatred get in the way of enjoying what free life they have left, and the courage of their families and the volunteers who helped free them. "After Innocence" is a must for anyone interested in social justice.
It plays this week only at The Screen in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
** "LUBBOCK LIGHTS" doc. review Jim Terr 2-15-06
Filmmaker Amy Maner worked for years putting together her documentary, "LUBBOCK LIGHTS", about the hidden musical legacy of her home town, Lubbock, Texas. I say hidden because "LUBBOCK LIGHTS" is not about the strange number of well-known stars who grew up in or near Lubbock: Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Bob Wills, Mac Davis, and one of the Dixie Chicks.
Rather, the documentary focuses on some of the lesser-known, but perhaps equally brilliant singer/songwriters to emerge from Lubbock: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock - known collectively as "The Flatlanders", local country music king-turned-guru Tommy Hancock and his family band, now called The Tejana Dames - who lived and developed musically in the forest near Questa, New Mexico, by the way - Santa Fe's own artist/writer/performer, Terry Allen, and many others.
Maner wanted to capture what's been called "the most magically drab space in the world." Or, as one of her interviewees calls it, the "violent emptiness" of West Texas, that many songwriters and performers have credited with somehow vaulting them into creating something even more real, more magical, in response to that great void. One of the interviewees says that in this void, this emptiness, the music drifting in from Mexican powerhouse station XERF was like "secret messages from the other side of the universe" - exactly like KOMA out of Oklahoma City was for me when I was a teenager.
Lubbock is the biggest town within 300 miles, its Cotton Club the biggest honky-tonk between Dallas and Los Angeles, making it a magnet and breeding ground for so many up-and-coming artists, some of them now famous, some semi-famous, and some now gone. Tommy Hancock says of Lubbock, "I would describe Lubbock to an outsider as a great place to live. But I wouldn't want to visit there."
I found "Lubbock Lights" thrilling and captivating, and not just because I've been privileged to know so many of the artists featured. The friend I watched it with, who was totally unfamiliar with the artists, found it just as rich and satisfying. It's a film so full of heart; in their wonderfully thoughtful ways, all the interviewees shed light on how landscape, history and culture can combine to bring out the musical and spiritual best in a crop of remarkable artists.
The film somehow misses the one singer/songwriter of this bunch I really like best - David Halley - but regardless, "Lubbock Lights" is a fascinating, wonderful documentary, rich in beautiful, moving, original music, and shouldn't be missed. It plays this weekend only at the Film Center in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
** "USHPIZIN" Film Review - Jim Terr 2-8-06
For various reasons, I would be about the last person likely to enjoy and appreciate an Israeli movie set in the world of ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, during the holy days of Sukkoth.
"Ushpizin," the title, refers to the "holy guests" who may miraculously show up during this holiday, to take shelter in a small structure called a "sukkah", built just for this purpose. Moshe is a poor, devout rabbi, struggling not only with poverty but with a childless marriage. The two visitors who show up unexpectedly to take shelter in the sukkah which Moshe has been very lucky to find and assemble, are far from holy, however, and try to draw Moshe into his surprising, much shadier past.
He and his doubting wife Mali (spouses in real life, incidentally) shower these friends with hospitality nonetheless, for it is their duty, and they do not take their obligations to God lightly.
To Moshe, everything is a matter of faith. Just when things are at their worst, and when Moshe and his wife are praying the hardest for a miracle, they get one. Belief and reality clash repeatedly, however, in the finest style of a great story by, say, Isaac Bashevis Singer -- or Mark Twain for that matter. This movie is being promoted as a comedy, and it does have its incredibly funny moments, but it's got the full-bodied texture of heartbreak as well, conveyed beautifully by flawless, believable actors.
Suffice it to say that my moviegoing friend and I had to forgo some of our usual extra-curricular movie-watching amusements so as not to miss a single line of this movie - it was that compelling. The fact that the world in which this story takes place is so foreign to us, makes its effectiveness even more of a miracle.
What a lesson in moviemaking and storytelling is this small wonder of a film. "Ushpizin" is just beginning its run at the CCA in Santa Fe, and I hope you won't miss it. This is Jim Terr.
DOMAIN NAME SEARCH (Jingle Name Search) essay Jim Terr 2-24-06
If you've never thought about it, or tried it, finding a good name for a website is a fascinating exercise. There are websites which sell these domain names, as they're called, and which can instantly look up any names you have in mind, to see if they're taken.
For every name that someone has bought to use for an actual website, there are probably five that have been bought to speculate with, to try to sell to someone else who comes along later and might actually need it and will pay top dollar for it. So when you're trying to find an original, catchy, memorable domain name at this point, the pickings are slim because most names you're likely to think of, have been bought.
What's fun about it, though, is that as you tear through the possibilities to see what might still be available, you get the feeling you're matching wits with other would-be marketing geniuses out there, almost like you're playing a real-time, on-line chess game.
I recently looked for a name for a website I was putting together for my radio jingles, and the first one I tried, the most obvious one for me, JingleJim (dot-com), was of course taken. JTJingles and JimJingles were available, but not too compelling. So I checked out a few others, all of which were taken: SingleJingle, Jingler, RadioJingles, JingleJungle, and Jumpin Jingles. A few which WERE available were Jingle-Minded, JingleJive, and Jingular.com - which made the final cut which I later put out to my friends for a vote.
OK, now I'm really getting into it. I thought of names that are puns or references to other things and other phrases. JingleFever, JingleBells and JinglesAllTheWay were taken, but JingleFile, JingleHanded, JinglesWild, JingleBook, and Jingleheimer were available. As were TinyJingles, -- get it? (sing: "TinyJingles…"), JinglePiper (a reference to Peter Piper - I think), JinglesMalone (referring to Potatoes O'Brien), and JingleWeed (a reference to - well, I'm not sure). JingleShot, JinglesAway, WholeLottaJingles, and JingleBoogie WERE available, and also made it to the final nine for voting. At this point I sent a preliminary poll out to friends, and a friend of mine, a pretty big radio talk show host, suggested It'sAJingleOutThere, perhaps a little too cute for me, but which I did include in the final ballot.
Then there's the sort of generic category, little added-on phrases that you could apply to anything you're selling - gift cards, kitchenware, pet supplies. Like JingleCity, JingleWorks, JustJingles, JingleJoint, JingleThing, JingleHound, JinglePie, MisterJingles, DoctorJingles, BigJingles, and JingleBarn - yech!! -- all taken - and the following which WERE available but also too insipid to use: JingleJar, JingleJug, JuicyJingles, UncleJingles and JinglePark.
Finally those that were just plain stupid and don't ask me why I even considered them: JingleJuice, JingleJustice, JingleSprings, JingleSwings, JinglesWithHam, JinglesWithFries, JingleBoat and EternalJingles.
When I put the finalists out to friends for a vote, it was pretty much a tie between JingleBoogie, It'sAJingleOutThere, and Jingular - dot com.
As is my prerogative, I broke the tie, and the winner is, let's see here, opening the envelope here - Jingular - dot com. A singular choice, I'm so honored, and I'd like to thank my… oh well, never mind. This is Jim Terr.
"GANGES, RIVER TO HEAVEN"
documentary review Jim Terr 2-7-06
It's not a new observation that our Western culture regards death as not only unwelcome, but foreign, something to be ignored and regarded as something other than part of life.
So-called Third World countries such as Mexico and India come to mind as places where death is more studied and accepted, or at least expected.
A documentary debuting this weekend at The Guild in Albuquerque and showing Saturday only at the CCA in Santa Fe, called "Ganges: River to Heaven," examines the role of the Ganges River and the Indian city of Kashi, in the Hindu view of death.
According to the documentary, Hindu lore assures that provided a person lives a good life, their soul will find eternal rest if it is cremated and deposited, according to ritual, in the Ganges River, in the city of Kashi. The film centers on a charitable hospice in Kashi where people have brought their dying mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sometimes from hundreds of miles away, to live out their last few days before undergoing this ritual, which is carried out mostly by members of the "untouchable" caste.
There is a thriving industry in Kashi, providing wood for the funeral pyres, fabric wrapping of various grades for the bodies, and even clarified butter or "ghee" to help with the incineration.
Although much of this ritual seems so foreign, I found a certain resonance in the prescribed practice of the oldest son being shaved before setting the funeral pyre ablaze, and in regarding the flame as part of a larger, holy, eternal fire connected with Shiva and with this ritual.
Although the movie lacks a certain dramatic arc present in most documentaries these days, it is beautifully shot and produced, and there's a lot of value for a Westerner like myself, and possibly yourself, in simply contemplating the relatively matter-of-fact manner in which death is regarded in India. Even the cows, dogs and monkeys in ample supply on the streets, shown in the film, convey a sense of unthreatened peace which also feels worthwhile to absorb.
There is little grief portrayed in the film, among the attending relatives, but it's hard to know whether the grief response is actually different in India, or whether this simply reflects a respectful approach by the filmmakers.
The film doesn't shy away from the health and environmental problems caused not only by decaying bodies, but sewage as well, deposited in the Ganges. There are some fascinating discussions with Indian scientists who fully recognize the problem, and are trying to find solutions, but who still recognize that they're of two minds, one scientific and one religious, when it comes to the river and its role in the Hindu religion.
"Ganges: River to Heaven" premieres this weekend at the Guild Theater in Albuquerque. Producer Gayle Ferraro, along with Camille Adair-Norwick of Project Life Stories, will host a discussion after the early evening showing Friday night at the Guild in Albuquerque, and at the single showing at the CCA in Santa Fe, Saturday at 3:15 pm. This is Jim Terr.
THEATER GROTTESCO "Winter One Acts"
Jim Terr © 1-29-06
Santa Fe's Theater Grottesco has deservedly built a reputation as a consistently skilled, daring and innovative company. While a few of their pieces over the years have eluded me, they can never be accused of getting in any sort of rut, or sticking with any sort of formula for success, but rather always trying something new.
Grottesco's current offering, playing only one more weekend, is called "Winter One-Acts", two pieces co-written by Santa Fe writers, and both co-developed with Grottesco founding member Elizabeth Wiseman. Wiseman also plays a brilliant part in the first of the one-acts, "Swimming in the Gases of Jupiter, a modern Fairy Tale," co-created by Santa Fe actor Anna Bogaard, who co-stars.
The drama starts immediately when school teacher Bogaard arrives in town and finds a homeless, wheelchair-bound woman squatting in the flat she has rented, and calls the police after being unable to convince the woman to leave. The homeless woman turns out to be another sort of being entirely, confined to a wheelchair for a startling reason, and as the historical and moral issues begin to unfold, magical realism rears its head in flights of beautiful, imaginative stage work that few but Grottesco can accomplish. "Swimming in the Gases of Jupiter" grabs you and won't let you go - again, if you're open to Theater Grottesco's daring leaps.
Then comes the second piece, "Motherland," co-created by performance artist Barbara Z. There was a book once called something like "Motel of the Gods," which imagined what archeologists of the future would make of prehistoric artifacts dug up from a 20th century motel -- their religious significance, the wild guesses at the purpose of various objects and pieces of furniture. Keep that in mind as members of this prehistoric band on stage strike out to explore the land across the river, once they figure out how to lay out rocks in order to cross.
The beginnings of agriculture, even the concept of creating a bag to put things in, are played out before our eyes in ways that are amazingly believable, and wonderfully reminiscent of a child's sense of discovery. Actor Todd Anderson is back with Grottesco again, and he's a whirlwind of intensity and awe.
Barbara Z, who's also an on-stage performer in the piece, had a near-fatal brush with cancer recently, and has also got an inquisitive little boy, and both elements seem to have added a great authenticity and urgency to every quest and every gesture in "Motherland." Even the syntax of this primitive band is fresh with discovery and invention. A beautifully graceful and simple chorus of dancers underscore the drama at just the right moments. And just what are those metallic relics they discover scattered and hidden around the landscape and across the river?
Watching this brilliant piece, I was reminded several times of a wonderfully wise dictum attributed to Kinky Friedman's father, Tom, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times: "Treat children more like adults, and treat adults more like children."
Theater Grottesco's Winter One Acts continue only through this weekend at the Armory for the Arts in Santa Fe. Call 474-8400. This is Jim Terr.
"BuDDy" commentary on 1-31-06 State of the Union address. 2-1-06 (broadcast on KUNM "Free Form")
This here's old Buddy, supportin are president,
Which everybody should do, if you're a US resident.
He's tryin his best, he's a human you see
Which is why folks like him, at least folks like ol Buddee.
You might not agree with every little war he starts,
You might not think of him as a patron of the arts.
You might not like his hard-partyin twin girls,
But he's got in his mind the best innerests of the world.
He's bringin freedom to the world, ain't that worthwhile?
Even if it cost us a few of are freedoms here at home,
can't you still just smile?
We're runnin out of Arab countries where we can get our awl.
So he's sayin let's use some of our extra land and water
to grow some ethanol.
So maybe his speech wasn't real big on a bunch
of figures and facts.
But this is a guy who don't just talk, he acts.
You gotta do the talk or the walk, you can't have both.
Just like ol Buddy, ol GW would just like to see
Some peace, justice and economic growth.
All right, a word from ol Buddy, how bout it. …some balance. Daily podcast with are news and views if we can find a sponsor. Maybe somebody who grows ethanol, how bout it?
"THE SPIRIT OF CLAY"
documentary preview Jim Terr © 1-18-06
Actress, artist, dancer and producer Christine MacKenzie calls her documentary, THE SPIRIT OF CLAY, "a mystic journey", and says she really didn't set out to produce a film that would find success at film festivals; it just turned out that way.
Featuring the work of Galisteo clay artists Isabella Gonzales, Priscilla Hoback, Elizabeth Rose and Vicki Snyder, the documentary focuses on the history of Galisteo, NM, and the role of clay in the art and culture of the area, all the way back to its original residents, the Tano Indians.
So what WERE MacKenzie's intentions in producing the film? She says it stemmed originally from a deep wish to pay homage to the earth itself. Quote: "Like the native Americans, I firmly believe we need to love and respect this planet and everything on it unreservedly, as it provides us with life-sustaining energy and everything we could possibly want or need."
Secondly, says McKenzie, again quoting: "I too am an artist and therefore enjoy discovering and recognizing the artist in others, it's a 'kinship' kind of thing. I also must confess that I adore the wide open spaces and creative energy out here, the fabulous light we're blessed with… So in a way, this is my love letter to Galisteo."
"The Spirit of Clay" will show this Sunday at 2pm at the Santa Fe Film Center at Cinemacafe in St. Michael's Village, a benefit for the NM Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Santa Fe Film Center. Light dinner will be served, and the artists and the producer will be in attendance. For information and reservations call 988-5225. This is Jim Terr
Essays written / broadcast 2005
Congress essay - © 2005 Jim Terr (ran 1-03-06 on KUNM)
My fellow liberals would probably be surprised to know that I feel I actually learned something from my years of listening to Rush Limbaugh, before he got so repetitive and predictable I couldn't stand to listen to him anymore.
Of course this was back in the days before the Republicans took control of Congress, and Rush doesn't make quite the same critique of the House and Senate these days, but anyhow he used to harp on how the Democratic Congress had the agenda, consciously or unconsciously, of making the public dependent on them, thereby increasing their own importance and power.
Now I watch for that and see it quite clearly, especially now that it's the supposedly smaller-government Republicans who are in power. One of the main things that gets clearly incompetent and bankrupt people re-elected to congress is their ability to bring home the pork.
How did it happen that so much of our wealth now goes to Washington, that everything from our highways to our community centers depends on federal grants, and on our Congresspeople being able to scam those funds for us?
How does it happen that there's money for a $300 billion war which, whether you agreed with the original stated reasons or not, now appears more clearly than ever to have been a war of choice, and a bad choice at that, when the schools have to hold the proverbial bake sale, and we have one of the most bloated and inefficient health care systems in the world, which leaves millions unprotected?
How does it happen that the Congressional re-election rate has shot up to 98%, using every trick in the book, including grotesque gerrymandering of congressional districts, in order to make it nearly impossible for a challenger to unseat an incumbent?
When was the last time you heard your Congressperson question this, or any other such institutional outrage?
When was the last time your Congressperson - or you - confronted the observation of the Roman historian Tacitus, who said "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous its laws"? How many laws do you suppose you've broken today, in your life or your business, which a zealous prosecutor could bust you for if necessary? When was the last time your Congressperson initiated some legislation that was of actual interest or benefit to you, long-term or short-term?
I am fortunate to have one Senator and one Congressman whom I admire and respect, who I consider genuine, thoughtful, clear-eyed and progressive. But even so, I am feeling like I will vote against them - and anyone else - who doesn't take the lead in proposing universal, single-payer health care, among the thousands of other arcane or special-interest or grandstanding bits of legislation which seem to eat up all their time.
I'm completely fed up that I and so many people I know and don't know have no health coverage, and will be bankrupt or dead if anything serious happens. Somehow other countries, even poorer countries, manage to arrange health care for everyone. Let's give that single issue - as they like to say - an up-or-down vote. This is Jim Terr.
THE ARISTOCRATS review & commentary
(bleeps) inserted for radio reading, which ran on KSFR-FM, Santa Fe, "Journey Home" show - 12-30-05
There's an interesting film playing at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, only through Thursday. It's called "The Aristocrats", and it concerns a sort of comedians' inside joke that's supposedly been around since the days of vaudeville. It's an inside joke because it's so filthy that there's not really much opportunity for comedians to tell it in public, so it serves mostly as a jazz piece for comedians, something for them to improvise on and amuse each other.
Well, okay, the joke goes like this - and I'm not giving anything away, because the framework for the joke is spelled out at the beginning of the film, and most of the comedians you've ever heard of and not heard of, tell their variations, discuss it and analyze it.
Ok, so the only essentials are that a guy walks into a talent agent's office and describes his act - a family act, in fact - and here you fill in the most vile details you can imagine - and therein lies the craft, the art, the improvisational skill of the comedian - and after the act is described in excruciating detail, as long and as graphically as possible, the astounded agent says "What do you call this act?" and the guys says "The Aristocrats!" Get it?
Well, obviously, if you're easily offended, or don't have at least an academic interest in the process of comedy, this is not going to be your movie.
It gets worse than just fucking and sucking and shitting and pissing involving Mom, Dad, the children, Grandma, Grandpa and the dog.
But it's interesting, hearing some very thoughtful and very funny comedians reflect on the dynamics of comedy in the course of deconstructing this joke and giving some very funny variations, including a mime version, an Amish version, a card trick version, a South Park version, a feminist version, a clean version, and so on.
Paul Reiser and George Carlin, predictably, deliver a couple of the funniest variations and most interesting discussions of the joke, its history and rationale - even the sad, ironic undercurrent beneath it -- and Bill Maher gives it a great twist.
Robin Williams tells a joke I've always liked and have told many times myself, involving a piano player, which, it never occurred to me, is just a variation on the Aristocrats joke. "The Aristocrats" starts to drag a bit once the subject matter is fairly well exhausted, and it makes you feel like you need a shower afterward, but it makes you think, especially if you've ever dabbled in comedy or have thought about what makes it work. And in my case, it of course inspired an idea for a parody version of this movie, taking exactly the opposite approach in every respect.
The showing I attended this past Friday at the CCA was a benefit for a loyal and remarkable CCA volunteer, Mary Burford, to help with the costs of her cancer treatment. Now there's an obscene joke for you, a variation on the bumper sticker, "I long for the day when schools are well-funded and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers." In this case, the CCA has to hold a benefit to collect a few dollars to save someone's life because we have no fucking universal health care in this fucking country.
But I digress. Go see "The Aristocrats" at the CCA in Santa Fe, through Thursday, or at least drop by and make a contribution to Mary Burford's cancer fund. This is Jim Terr.
Internet scam essay - KUNM - Jim Terr ©2005
It's been a summer of humbling experiences for me, one after another, and I suppose that's a good thing, perhaps a good thing for anyone, but especially for someone with an admittedly inflated ego.
A few weeks ago a friend suggested that his ex-girlfriend, who was going out of town for a month, should let me advertise her house for rent while she was away, in order to make her some extra money, and myself some money as commission. I took some photos and posted the ad on Craig's List, an internet bulletin board for real estate and just about everything else.
A few days later I got an e-mail from a "John Young" in England, acting as agent for a "Pastor Moses Johnson" from Canada, who was soon to visit Santa Fe for some sort of conference. It seems Pastor Johnson's congregation had awarded him $5,000 for this purpose, for lodging and rental car, but Pastor Johnson, evidently being a humble man himself, had decided that $5,000 was too much, and rather than bother the church committee to reduce his stipend, wanted to get $3,500 of that $5,000 back from me, as rental agent at this end, and use it to help other pastors attending the conference, with their car rental fees.
Well, I must admit I had the thought that perhaps Pastor Johnson wasn't going to use that $3,500 entirely to help other pastors attending the conference with their car rental fees, but I figured what business is that of mine. After settling on various details such as fees for feeding the cat and for housecleaning, it was all set and a cashier's check arrived from Canada, drawn on a Houston bank, along with detailed instructions of how I was to wire the $3,500 balance back to Pastor Johnson in care of a car rental agent in Texas.
It struck me as odd that someone who didn't know me would trust me to wire back several thousand dollars of their funds, but I think at some level I fancied that my extraordinary sense of integrity had somehow communicated itself through my e-mail messages. I mentioned this odd situation to a few friends, who agreed that it was odd, but hey, go for it.
After I received the cashier's check and deposited it at the bank, I dutifully purchased some money orders with the several thousand dollars in cash back I got from my deposit, and sent the money orders to the car rental agent in Texas via Federal Express. Due to my not following instructions precisely, I got a testy e-mail from the heretofore gentlemanly Mr. Young, and this exasperated phone message:
"Yeah this is… Young. I would like you to call me back because you made a mistake on the information I gave, it's not supposed to be money order it's supposed to be Western Union transfer. So you go back and cancel this transfer and send it cash to the name I sent to you. OK? Bye bye." [Actual recording is in essay posted on www.KUNM.org]
Well, that didn't exactly sound like the John Young from England I was expecting, but never mind. I was still dazzled by the thought of my commission on this house rental deal.
For that same reason, I didn't plan to mention this story to my brother, who's an attorney, because, well, he can be such a wet blanket about such things.
I did happen to see him that afternoon in his office, however, so when I started to tell him this whole strange tale, I was no more than half a sentence into it when he reached into his wastebasket and pulled out a copy of the state government newspaper, with an article from the attorney general's office about cashier's check and money order scams, which made the whole thing plain as day.
Now in a panic, I called up Federal Express and intercepted the outgoing package, though of course the address "Young" had given me was bogus anyhow - which is why he wanted me to wire the money. Good thing I didn't get that part right.
I called the bank and told them the cashier's check was probably counterfeit, which indeed it was. The issuing bank in Houston said oh yeah, this happens all the time, constant scams using copies of our cashier's checks, usually in amounts about like that, $5,000 and you're supposed to return, typically, about $3,500.
The agency I called to report this, to offer the phone message above, to help in identifying this scammer, wasn't really that interested, since I hadn't lost anything. All I can do is share this story with you, the listener, so that when the next variation on this scam comes along, in your direction, you won't be quite as gullible and as blinded as I was.
Humbly yours, this is Jim Terr.
REBELS ON THE BACKLOT
book review KUNM Jim Terr 7-25-05
I first became aware of Sharon Waxman while watching a documentary called OVERNIGHT, about a bartender-screenwriter-musician who became the hottest thing in Hollywood for about 15 minutes, before his overblown personality deflated the mania and excitement that had overtaken the city about this great new talent.
Sharon Waxman was about the only bright spot in this very dreary tale. Then the movie reporter for the Washington Post, now for the New York Times, Waxman was interviewed, as I recall, about how Miramax's Harvey Weinstein dropped this genius as soon as he figured out what a pain the guy was.
Waxman has written a book called REBELS ON THE BACKLOT: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System. The mavericks in question are Quentin Tarantino, whose PULP FICTION revolutionized and invigorated the film business, David Fincher of FIGHT CLUB, David O. Russell, director of the marvelous film, THREE KINGS; Spike Jonze, who directed the mind-boggling BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, Steve Soderbergh of TRAFFIC, and Paul Thomas Anderson, whose BOOGIE NIGHTS was the only movie featured in this book which I wasn't crazy about, but whose MAGNOLIA is one of my favorites of recent years.
Waxman doesn't pad her narrative; she doesn't need to. REBELS ON THE BACKLOT is filled with fascinating, fast-moving stories of where these directors came from, how they grew up, their peculiar personalities, how they broke into the film business, and the struggles each of them went through to get their pet projects made. One thing that amazed me in reading these stories was how, even after the big financial success that most of these films represented, the directors still had to fight to get the next project financed, and to retain creative control. There are always executives who think they know better - and sometimes they're right.
These stories were even more fascinating to me personally because I've dabbled in film directing myself, had a few shorts in film festivals, and wrote and directed a film that was first runner-up in the Flicks on 66 Film Festival a few years ago. That festival's successor, the Duke City Shootout, is happening right now, this week, with seven film crews running all over the county, scrambling to finish their short films in just a few days, for the big screening and awards ceremony Saturday night at the Kiva.
The results of this effort are often mixed, but the excitement, and the opportunity for local filmmakers, actors and crew to practice their craft and put their vision on screen is invaluable.
Waxman's book takes us deep inside Hollywood, where many of our local filmmakers no doubt hope to achieve fame and fortune someday, and perhaps some will. REBELS ON THE BACKLOT gives us real people to relate to, young directors who are in some cases pretty unsavory, hypersensitive, unstable and - surprise! - egotistical! To Waxman's credit she doesn't gloss over these faults, even though these are people she has to deal with on a regular basis. I guess they need her, too; after all she is the film editor of the New York Times.
Whether or not you read it with an eye toward New Mexico's own burgeoning film industry and the passionate, eccentric personalities who no doubt populate our own film world, REBELS ON THE BACKLOT is a fascinating read, a wonderful insight into the making of many of the films that have jolted us the most in the past 15 years. This is Jim Terr.
"The Naked Emperor" -Jim Terr 3/05
How many times in the past few years have I thought of the story of the emperor strutting around with no clothes, and hardly anybody noticing?
President Bush is less than half way through his 60-day, 60-city tour to convince the American public that the so-called Social Security crisis needs serious attention. Now, if the president were some sort of genius in economics I'd think twice about this alleged crisis, even though most experts, Democratic, Republican and non-partisan, say there's more of a crisis with Medicare. In fact, most economists polled recently say that the budget deficit is our biggest threat, bigger than terrorism.
The sad part is that if President Bush woke up one morning with a different obsession, say, an urgent concern with global warming, or with the fact that 25,000 people are starving to death every day, then he really would be questioned as to why he's obsessed with something so off-the-Washington-radar.
But the White House has a magical ability to focus the attention of the press and the public wherever it wants, so that while the Pentagon says that global ecological disaster is right around the corner, and the World Watch Institute notes that food production has reached its limit, topsoil and water supplies and water tables are dropping, and the world population is expected to double in 45 years, with 25,000 people a day already starving -- the President's response is "There's a crisis in Social Security, and I'm going to spend the next 60 days on the stump, raising the alarm, talking to the people about it." Talking at the people, hand-picked, agreeable audiences, is more like it.
And that IS what we'll hear about on the news, til he moves on to the next crisis, the next diversion. Why is it that I so often imagine Karl Rove chuckling, "Can it really be this easy?" Evidently it's well beyond the bounds of polite journalism to discuss whether the president might in fact be governing by crisis, distraction and diversion, and might just be - obsessed!
NPR's coverage is little better than the rest of them on this score. They're evidently unwilling to find skeptical, truly alternative, perhaps impolite interviewees on this and most other subjects. I don't mean to pick on NPR News, except that I depend on their coverage and wish they were more "alternative."
Would it really be that hard to find a psychiatrist who might characterize the president's 60-day barnstorming tour about a non-existent crisis, his strange tendency to insist that people are coming around to his point of view while the polls show just the opposite - as obsessive, compulsive, delusional behavior?
Faith and steadfastness are fine in their place, but is disconnection from reality really a reassuring quality in our number one policymaker?
But I can't really blame the president for getting away with whatever he can, when a good portion of the electorate is willing go along with such things as the idea that invading Iraq was a reasonable response to the 9-11 attacks, somehow a much more reasonable response than, say, attacking Mexico or Canada.
Certainly the soldiers risking their lives in Iraq, and their families back home, have to believe, at least for now, that the people in charge must know what they're doing, that they certainly wouldn't lead us into something so horrible for devious reasons. That they wouldn't, for instance, hijack the events of 9-11 to justify an invasion they had on the books for months and years before.
But I don't have family in what is oddly referred to as "postwar Iraq," so I'm free to contemplate what it might be, what horrible possibilities, that we're so willing to be distracted from.
I wish legislators would consider how they'll answer their grandchildren in 20 years -- if we make it that far - when they ask, "Grandpa, what did you do about this? Didn't you see it coming? Or were you one of those who thought the Rapture was coming soon so it didn't really matter anyway?" That's something else you won't hear about on NPR. This is Jim Terr.
** Documentary review: "Mad Hot Ballroom"
Jim Terr 7-05 Please see related JITTERBUG short video
I'm re-reading a book called "Wildest of the Wild West" by Howard Bryan, whose premise is that my home town, Las Vegas, New Mexico, had a much more violent history than even the fabled gunslinging capitals of Tombstone and Dodge City. I've always wondered whether Las Vegas' violent past trickled down to the somewhat rowdy behavior that prevailed on the school grounds, or whether that was just normal for an American junior high school in the 1960s.
In any case, I thank God for the refuge I found in the sock hops that provided an alternative to hanging out and looking for trouble. This daily Swing fest took place in the gym, McFarland Hall, during the lunch hour, and the girls were only too happy to teach me how to jitterbug, since there were relatively few guys participating. At least I learned one thing in junior high, and jitterbugging has been a continuing pleasure ever since. And I suspect that the experience made relating to the opposite sex a little easier as well, for all of us.
A new documentary called "Mad Hot Ballroom" follows several groups of fifth graders, about 11 years old, participating in a ballroom dance program and competition offered in New York City schools. In this 10-week program, the students learn Merengue, Tango, Rumba, FoxTrot and - yeah! - Swing! Over 6,000 students have participated in this program, and watching these kids move through their awkwardness to real enthusiasm and skill in dancing, makes me think once again that such a program should be offered - perhaps even required - in every junior high school in the country. And - get this! - the kids are listening to and absorbing real music!!
Many of the students in "Mad Hot Ballroom" - and in the group the film follows most closely - are of that beautiful, Dominican-mixed, rainbow variety so prevalent in New York City. And that was for me one of the great pleasures of the film. Not only do kids in New York still speak in complete sentences, often with surprising wisdom and frankness, but most of these girls sound like Rosie Perez!
The dance instructors are an inspiration as well - skillful, empathetic, and totally dedicated to the success of their students. They recount several examples of this dance program saving kids who were lost or headed down a dangerous path. One of the greatest sequences in "Mad Hot Ballroom" is a strategy meeting and free-for-all dance with the instructors themselves, where their own enthusiasm for dance is plain to see.
The film makes clear the hidden value in so many aspects of the program: the importance for some of these kids of seeing that a man - in this case their dance instructor - can be something other than a tough, macho figure; and that learning to dance can develop skill at relationships and friendships.
The kids themselves are quite clear about this. One girl says of one of the boys: "Rudy used to be rowdy and difficult, but he's become more understanding and gentle." One of the boys observes that learning to dance isn't really that hard. He says: "It's fun; how can you forget a fun time?" It's not fun for the kids who don't win the final trophy in the city-wide competition, but watching their sorrow is just another of the many revelations of this fabulous film.
"Mad Hot Ballroom" has been compared to "Strictly Ballroom" and "Spellbound", but since I haven't seen either of those films, it reminded me most of "Born Into Brothels." Although these kids aren't in such dire circumstances as the children of prostitutes in Calcutta, many of them come from materially disadvantaged homes, and their wisdom, and their joy when presented with a new opportunity and experience, are just as uplifting.
With our state's leaders contemplating what to do with over 240 million dollars in increased revenues, designating the coming year as "The Year of the Child," I can't think of anything that would contribute more to the socialization, self-esteem, joy and fitness of our kids than such a ballroom dance program in all of our secondary schools. Let's be first in something positive for a change!
"Mad Hot Ballroom" is playing at the DeVargas Theater in Santa Fe. This is Jim Terr.
** DOWNFALLfilm review (& commentary) Jim Terr 5-13-05
Perhaps you've seen the 2002 documentary, BLIND SPOT: Hitler's Secretary, featuring the reminiscences of Hitler's private secretary, Traudl Junge, almost 60 years after she signed on to Hitler's staff as a starstruck young woman of 22.
Downfall, the new dramatization of Hitler's last twelve days in his Berlin bunker, as the Russians closed in, brings to life the drama that Junge described, as the glorious Third Reich collapsed in a whirlwind of disillusionment, recrimination and chaos. If you haven't seen that earlier documentary, no problem.
Downfall opens and closes with excerpts of that previous testimony, as the now-over-80-years-old Junge expresses her regret for not having appreciated the evil around her, to which she lent secretarial support. Downfall is probably the most powerful, in-your-face war movie I've ever seen, and one of the most powerful films I've ever seen, period. Not only are the scenes of tragedy and destruction on the streets above the bunker vivid and heartbreaking, but the scenes in the bunker below are almost too banal and bizarre to be believed, but they have the ring of truth and were in fact re-created from several historical works on the last days of Hitler and his staff.
German actor Bruno Ganz delivers an earthshaking performance as Hitler, looking older than his 56 years, frail yet monstrous, railing against the reality of his inevitable defeat, shouting orders at his generals, some dubious and some willing to carry out their Fuhrer's insane wishes to the end. The screaming rages, alternating with Hitler's moments of kindness to his dog, his beloved Eva Braun - whom he married shortly before they committed suicide - and some of his staff, accurately reflect everything I've read and imagined about him. Some have criticized the very idea of portraying and therefore humanizing Hitler, but watching Downfall only added to my appreciation of the evil of this madman and of war in general.
As Hitler coolly discusses the method of his suicide with his doctor, as Hermann Goering and his wife carry out the poisoning of their five children -- whom they can't imagine living in a world without Nazism --, as Hitler screams hysterically at and about his generals who he feels have betrayed him, as the staff and soldiers party on with the abandon of the doomed, the insanity of this gang becomes more and more real and mesmerizing.
In several scenes, various people beg Hitler to make it easier for the civilians up above to evacuate Berlin. Hitler's response is telling: "I have no sympathy for the German people. Compassion is a primal sin, a betrayal of nature." The German people willingly joined him on this great venture, he says, and they should no more want to survive its aftermath than he does.
Forgive me if this makes me think once again of our current leadership, many of whom reportedly believe in Armageddon and The Rapture as the endgame for all of us, including the unwilling - even unwilling Republicans!
As an epilogue to Downfall, we see some footage of Traudl Junge, the secretary, who died shortly after her interviews were recorded, and before her documentary was released. It was many years after her service to Hitler, as she walked one day past a statue of Sophie Scholl, of the short-lived White Rose Society resistance movement, that she finally realized what she'd been a part of. "It was no excuse to be young," she says, "It would have been possible to find things out."
A devastating and masterful film, Downfall is currently showing at The Screen in Santa Fe, and opens May 27 at the Fountain Theater in Mesilla. This is Jim Terr.
MY THOUGHTS - Jim Terr Commentary broadcast on KUNM-FM 9-28-04
Someone asked me "what I think." And when I think about it, I see a bright red sky.
The world is getting more angry, insecure and belligerent, American political dialogue being just the most obvious example.
So, naturally, more and more nations want the best they can get to defend themselves - nuclear weapons - and probably will get them in the next three or four years.
I think, whether or not this is really the "End Times" described in Revelations, that we are on the edge of world chaos, politically, militarily, environmentally, and in terms of disease, poverty, starvation and general desperation and misery.
This isn't just opinion. Anyone who cares to read a newspaper, and read the information and reports that are out there beyond most American daily newspapers and newscasts, can know it. I suppose the survivors of the 30,000 people who die each day of starvation and starvation-related illness would say we're already there, past the edge of chaos.
I don't entirely blame those Americans who latch on, with a religious or quasi-religious level of faith and belief, to authority figures with a belligerent, strutting, self-righteous stance and a simple if improbable world view, wrapped in a sugar-coated, patriotic, inspirational package. I suppose that's one way to respond to the uneasy inklings we all probably share and feel somewhat powerless about. But I think this is the path of going down in flames.
I think our only chance of averting the final chaos - and I think there is very little chance - is a shared vision of a world that works for everyone - no one excluded - encouraged and implemented by a leadership with a positive, radical, compelling vision, willing to put our energy, resources and influence into such a vision and such a world.
A leadership such as we have not been offered thus far, but hinted at by Illinois senator Barak Obama in his recent speech where he said (and I've taken great liberty in cutting this up): "It's not enough for just some of us to prosper... we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child... that makes MY life poorer... that threatens MY civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief - I am my brother's keeper... It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams..."
But that is, as I say, a radical vision, not one you're likely to hear again from candidates or commentators.
It shouldn't surprise me that I've been sleeping restlessly, and I should probably stop looking for medical causes. We'll either start exporting aggressively, very soon, a radical vision of a livable world, and the strategies and resources and carrots and sticks to make it happen, OR the tools and strategies and weapons to further reinforce the desperation and the fortress mentality and the End Times.
The bright red sky I see is either nuclear or - less likely, but just trying to be optimistic here - a bright red dawn.
THOUGHTS ON RABBI MICHAEL LERNER
Talk in Santa Fe 3-21-05
I heard Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of the "Tikkun" movement, speak recently in Santa Fe, the first time I'd heard him. I thought he had a brilliant analysis, and I'd like to summarize it here as accurately as I can.
Although Lerner is openly liberal/Democrat, I have no problem sharing this with conservative/Republican friends as well, because the logical extension of it, as I see it, does not ultimately benefit liberals any more than conservatives, but rather society in general.
Lerner's analysis is that whether or not you think that Republicans or Democrats' policies are really more humanistic, pro-life and "moral," the Republicans have clearly cornered that market because they're not afraid to use the "language" of "morality", of "values" - again, whether or not you think their policies are at all in line with those values.
Many liberals and Democrats, on the other hand, because of having been burned by religion or whatever, go out of their way to avoid anything that reminds them of religion, and therefore don't want to think or talk about "morality," "spirituality" or "values" in public policy. Therefore, those voters who are concerned about what they consider "values" issues, naturally tend to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt, because "at least they're talking about it."
Lerner recounted an interview with a young, single mother in Colorado who said she didn't agree with Bush on the war and a lot of other things, but she felt so threatened by a world where her 12-year-old daughter is being pressured to act more sexual, dress more sexually, and is bombarded by all sorts of "immorality" in the media and in her life, that only the Republicans seemed to be aware of anything amiss, judging from their rhetoric, so she has a vague feeling that they're more likely to do something about it, so therefore she voted Bush and Republican.
So Lerner's conclusion, which I agree with completely as far as it goes, is that liberals/Democrats need to take these concerns seriously, talk about more than just economic equality, and quickly get over their hesitation to talk about these problems and possible solutions, in the language of "morality" and "spirituality", beyond just saying "I pray and go to church," if they ever hope to get a majority of the vote again.
Now, at first it seemed to me that spreading this bit of wisdom around would reveal something which the Republicans could then appropriate to their further advantage. But then I realized that if this whole issue were totally out in the open - which is what Lerner is after - that it would not only eliminate the Republicans' corner on the "morality" market, their ability to beat Democrats over the head with it, but it would in effect force all of us, and all politicians, to confront this situation, instead of just using code words and using it to divide.
I take it even further, wondering why, for instance, it's no longer assumed that your kids can run around town -- whatever town -- all day, as we did when we were kids, and come back for dinner, alive and well. Is the situation so far gone that we just accept that the world will never be safe again, or could we begin to address the issue of life-as-we'd-like-it-to-be, if were all focused on it?
And let's include the larger issue of the preventable death and suffering in the world that the US might contribute its energy toward ending, if we were not wrapped up in the right-left hatred which is largely manufactured.
Politicians are people, too, and while primarily concerned with keeping their jobs, they also at some level must perceive these deep problems and would probably like to do something about them, in a non-self-righteous, non-polarizing way, if they felt they had public support and wouldn't be considered oddballs for doing so.
So I'm all for bringing this discussion out in the open, the issues whose solutions might call be called "spiritual," as widely as possible. Thank you, Rabbi Lerner. This is Jim Terr.
PARAGRAPHS DELETED FOR TIME/ SPACE: (I'm leaving out half of Lerner's argument, by the way, which relates to the tension between a looking-out-for-number-one, survival-of-the-fittest, get-whatever-you-can-for-yourself-before-somebody-else-gets-it point of view, versus an interconnected, co-operative, we're-all-in-this-together point of view, because I think that tension exists within each of us and is therefore largely irrelevant).
Personally, I've often thought about just such situations as the one described by the woman in Colorado, and more. In fact I used to enjoy listening to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, when we could get her on the radio here, for just this sort of discussion.
** "MY ARCHITECT" documentary review 3-13-04
When architect Louis Kahn was three years old, before his name was Louis Kahn and of course long before he was an architect, he took some coals from the stove in his home in Estonia, and they ignited his clothes, burning him severely. His father wanted to let him die, but his mother insisted on helping him survive, saying that his injuries would make him a great man.
In the film, "My Achitect", nominated for the Oscar for best documentary, and currently playing in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn tries to piece together the life of this father he barely knew. Louis Kahn had a wife and child, and two children by other women, colleagues, none of whom ever met until his funeral. He died alone and bankrupt in the men's room of New York's Pennsylvania station in 1974, his body unclaimed for three days.
Yet all the well-known architects interviewed in this film seem to agree he was the best of all, a genius who tapped into something primitive and eternal and inspired in his captivating buildings.
It was during a trip to Asia, studying mostly ancient ruins, that he finally felt he understood the essence and the imperative of timeless, monumental design. And it wasn't until he was 50 years old that he designed something, a bathhouse, that he felt was really worthwhile and original, and that this was when he discovered himself. The architect E.M. Pei says in this film that it is more important to create three or four masterpieces, as Kahn did, than 50 or 60 buildings in a lifetime.
This portrait of a truly possessed, passionate genius who perhaps cares more about his vision than about the people in his life -- his lovers and his children -- can be distrurbing, but it becomes clear that this focus on the eternal is genuine, a sense of immateriality and nomadishness that causes him to sleep more often on a rug on the floor of his office, than in a bed. His relationships were as original as his designs.
He believed that the surface of a building should reveal the process by which it was made, and he speaks of asking a brick what it wants to do, honoring what it wants to be. His Indian and Bangladeshi colleagues considered him a true guru, more at home in the East than the West, who understood and talked about matter in spiritual terms, who understood that everything was alive.
The mesmerizing building featured in the advertising posters for "My Architect" is the government complex of Bangladesh. It's fitting that this magical project was his last, taking 23 years to build, by hand, in the poorest country in the world. He never got to see it completed. During Bangladesh's war for independence in 1971, Pakistani pilots said they didn't bomb this building because they thought it was an ancient monument. Its power is absolutely undeniable, as is the power of this documentary, "My Architect."
This is Jim Terr (2:34)
A random collection of commentaries etc. from PRIOR TO 2005
Review of documentary, “The Dildo Diaries”
It's about a lot more than dildos...
(This review written for delivery on radio)
Hey, can you hear me? I'm calling from a phone booth. I just wanted to let you know about a scandalous documentary I just previewed that'll be playing at the CCA next week at the “Way Out West Quee... (cough) Queer Film Festival” – I have a little trouble saying that but that's what they're calling it.
Like I say, this documentary is on a slightly different topic than my usual subject matter. It's called The Dil (cough) ... the Dildo Diaries. There, I've said it. You can see that's why I'm calling from a phone booth. Touchy subject.
Anyhow, it seems that down in Texas, which, as you may have heard, has a slight Fundamentalist streak, they've outlawed dildos and other such devices. And I hate to tell you, there ARE other such devices. You don't wanna know about it.
Anyhow, in order to outlaw dildos they had to not only re-affirm their laws against homosexual sodomy, which of course we can all readily agree upon – but their laws against heterosexual sodomy as well. And of course this required a detailed and embarrassing debate in the Texas legislature.
This occurred shortly after the Texas legislature began videotaping their sessions, and naturally this debate has become the biggest seller in their inventory. The debate was indeed unbelievable, loaded with very direct and detailed questions and challenges, embarrassed answers, and a great amount of uncomfortable guffaws throughout.
The legislation was championed by a fundamentalist legislator who is very frank about saying, in an interview, that he's not elected just to work for what his constituents want, but for what he feels they need, according to Biblical principles. Taking the lead in questioning this legislator, and demanding to know exactly what act, exactly what accidental slip, might constitute heterosexual sodomy, and exactly who's supposed to be in your bedroom to enforce this law, or whether you're supposed to go down to the police station and turn yourself in, is a fellow legislator named Dera Danberg, whom I'd vote for for president any day.
Representative Danberg and other civil liberties and free speech advocates properly point out that it's this kind of law, which very few people want, or care to obey, which undermines respect for the law in general. After all, if you're given one crackpot law that invites you to mock it and disobey it, you're well on your way to disrespecting any law you want to. Kind of like how murder leads to stealing which leads to lying... but I digress.
“The Dildo Diaries” contains a running commentary by columnist Molly Ivins, a long-time expert on observing the idiocy of the Texas legislature, and of course this subject gives her the most brilliant opportunity. The effect of this law, for instance, is that in Texas you can buy a dildo if you say you're buying it for educational purposes, such as instructing someone in putting on a condom. Or up to five dildos. If you buy six or more, however, you are considered to be a felon, because you're obviously buying them for resale. But then again, if the dildo is adorned with a decorative touch like the head of a dog or a goat or Satan, it's not technically a dildo because, well, you don't find those things on a real (cough!) penis.
On a more chilling note, Representative Danberg describes the exact process by which such inane legislation gets enacted, chilling because this dynamic underlies every debate, every vote, every reactionary thought process, every misleading title of every dubious act in every legislative body, including the US Senate and House.
She explains that while very few legislators want this Sodomy law, for instance, and very few will privately admit to supporting it, they don't want to be quoted in a negative campaign ad or speech as having opposed it, so they feel they must vote for it.
To quote Representative Danberg, “The Right Wing has rating systems, the Right Wing publishes peoples' votes. You don't ever see a Right Wing publication saying that they favor the repeal of the sodomy law because they believe in limited government and they believe in freedom. What you see is them misrepresenting what the vote means, and saying that [if you voted against this legislation] you are endorsing and condoning a lifestyle that's counter to Biblical principles.”
Is this not exactly the same process by which the Patriot Act was passed, by legislators who openly admitted that they hadn't even read it, but didn't want to be labeled as unpatriotic?
Other fascinating segments of “The Dildo Diaries” include a visit to the leading manufacturer of dildos and similar devices (I always love movies about factories, don't you?), where dozens of laborers who look like they might just as well be making plastic salad tongs, turn these things out by the millions. And did it ever occur to you that dildos must be initially molded from (cough!) live models?
And who'd want to miss a visit to the adult entertainment convention in Las Vegas, where items you could never imagine are displayed, pitched, and, well, demonstrated? Including bizarre devices like the Drilldo and the Buttsaw. You don't wanna know.
And how about the sex toy museum in Minnesota, displaying industrial-looking machinery from as far back as the early 1900s? It seems that back then having an orgasm, or even enjoying sex, was considered deviant, and if a woman simply couldn't contain her frustration or “hysteria” any longer she could visit a doctor for a treatment with one of these devices that would do the trick. There are strange things on display, from this Victorian era, to rival anything on sale at the adult entertainment convention.
I could go on, but I won't. Even though it's not the most slickly-produced documentary you'll ever see, The Dildo Diaries will leave you flabbergasted. At least it did me. It's showing Wednesday and Thursday, June 9 and 10, at the Way Out West Queer Film Festival at the Center for Contemporary Arts, website www.ccaSantaFe.org .
From a phone somewhere near Cerrillos Road, this is Jim Terr.
Jim Terr's commentaries, songs and satires can be found on the web at www.BlueCanyonSatire.com
Text and audio links for a few recent Jim Terr opinion pieces, broadcast on KUNM-FM community radio in Albuquerque, posted at www.PanamaRedMusic.com , and elsewhere...
Commentary on Missing Issues during the current political campaign debate, and an idea for a new website and media campaign to force the candidates to talk about them, broadcast May 6, 2004 on KUNM-FM Real Audio 56k
I've got an absolutely fabulous idea for a web site and media campaign to force the presidential candidates to discuss a few issues besides the ones that dominate the national debate.
Naturally terrorism and the war in Iraq, which is either a response to terrorism or a total diversion, occupy the brain politic at the moment. But if it weren't that it would be something else. Probably the old standbys, “national defense”, “the economy,” “the environment”, “foreign relations”, “morality”, “education”, “crime”, Social Security, health care, etc.
Not that these aren't important issues, but as President Bush and others consistently demonstrate, what you say you believe and will do about these issues, during a campaign, bears little relationship to what you will do and CAN do when you actually take office.
And it's kind of like some wit in the 1930s said of a famous actress: “She runs the gamut of emotion from A to B.” Well, for me, these issues run the gamut of my concerns from A to B. With the possible exception of the War in Iraq, which is indeed a tragedy and a test of honesty in our leadership and whether anyone really cares about that.
Which brings me back to my website to publicize other issues we might care about, and which will be roundly ignored in this campaign year as in all others, because they don't lend themselves to easy answers and easy sound bites and easy moralizing -- although no issue is really immune from demagoguing and idealoguing.
So, since I'm not likely to raise the funds needed for that website, and since I've already got too many websites, I'll just list a few of these issues for you, issues which I think bear more strongly on our survival, in a 10- or 20-year perspective, than most of the issues Jim Lehrer and company will grill George Bush and John Kerry about in the debates.
First, the Pentagon issued a report a few months ago saying that global warming has already gotten us dangerously -- possibly irreversibly -- close to global catastrophe, environmentally and economically. That's right, the same Pentagon supposedly controlled by the White House which denies that this phenomenon even exists – but let's ignore that irony for now.
Second, 30,000 people starve to death each day. That's 10 times the number of World Trade Center deaths – per day! In a different world, this might be regarded as a startling failure, demanding our immediate attention. But not in this world, evidently. I guess dark-skinned people don't really suffer as intensely as the rest of us, so it doesn't matter that much.
Military expenditures. Forget about the fact that even post-Cold-War and pre-9-11, the US spent more money on defense than the next EIGHT countries COMBINED. As a SPECIES we spend too much on defense, relative to what we put into conflict resolution.
“Growth.” Who came up with this fine goal? The Club for Growth -- give me a break! With 30,000 starving every day, with water supplies dwindling, with millions more being born every day and the geniuses in the Vatican and elsewhere saying “bring em on”, it's time to have fewer children, not more. Unless I'm missing something.
The litigiousness of our society, the tendency to quantify and eliminate all human judgment, and the resulting cautiousness and cowardice in all things, especially public affairs.
Senators voting for significant legislation like the Patriot Act without even reading it.
The fact that you can't let your kids go ride a bike around town all day and expect them to come back safely in time for dinner. And how do porn and violent video games relate to this?
The death of the middle class. The rise of the big-box chains, and people feeling so economically stressed that they can't even think about the social consequences of shopping there. The fact that Wal-Mart could pay their employees $4 more per hour, by sharing just a bit of the profits and the wealth of the owners.
The black-box voting issue, and the elections that may have already been stolen. The problems with the electoral college and the democratizing potential of instant run-off voting.
The re-districting rip-off, and incumbents rigging the process so that they have a 98% re-election rate!
Corporations assuming the rights of citizenship and personhood – as if they're not ALREADY running the show.
Stay tuned. These issues will be flying fast and furious in the presidential debates. Right. And I'll be watching on TV, from my little log cabin on the moon.
Listening to as much talk radio as I can stand to, for talk radio is still predominately right-wing, I'm struck by how many callers and hosts still equate the invasion of Iraq with taking a stand against terrorism, with the notion that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9-11. I won't even tell you, for fear of disturbing the faint of heart, how many of these callers are angry that we don't just bomb ‘em completely, entire cities, wipe ‘em out, these ingrates who have the nerve to not welcome our troops, and to not wrestle to the ground and turn over all those insurgents who are shooting, bombing and kidnapping them.
Even George Bush never quite came out and said that Saddam was behind 9-11. But why should he? He's got Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh and his numerous clones, to say and clearly imply it for him.
There's a psychological process at work here that's probably got a name, but I don't know what it is. I see it most clearly in the families of soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq. If they ever doubted that this war had something to do with fighting terrorism, and with establishing a stable democracy in the Middle East (which, to be generous, was probably part of the original intention), they sure do believe it now.
And they must! Who could stand the pain of admitting that your son or daughter or husband or wife died for a dubious cause, or for no reason, or for a goal that's looking less and less likely to be reached?
And so it is that I was struck by President Bush's being caught in the same process, in his press conference on Tuesday night. I must say I was impressed by his sincerity. If he ever had a sense that he was duping the American public into a questionable war, one that he planned since the first days of his administration as some former Bush insiders have confirmed, one that he perhaps did think would go smoothly and be over with quickly – if he ever had a sense of duping us, even for our own good, I think he's forgotten it now.
And so he must, for his own psychological well-being. He mentioned repeatedly in his news conference the anguish he felt in meeting with families of slain soldiers, and how strongly he reassured them that they died for a just cause, in furtherance of a noble goal which will be achieved.
Well I'd feel that way, too, and I'd be anguished too, if I were the President. If as president I ever had any doubts about this adventure, when the resistance and the killing started dragging on beyond the date when I proclaimed victory on the deck of that carrier, bulging out of my flight suit, I'd have no doubts now -- or if I did I certainly wouldn't express them.
Forget about the concern shared even by some Christians that President Bush has an apocalyptic view of the world and of history, and is willing to see us all go up in smoke if that's part of God's plan for SOME of us to ascend to heaven. Just on an earthly, political level, President Bush stated clearly and repeatedly Tuesday night that he's willing to see this thing through come hell or high water, no matter how badly it goes, no matter for how long, to be perhaps stopped only if he's decisively un-elected in November -- if even then.
I'm hoping that somewhere in his simple but troubled heart, President Bush may even hope that the Back-to-Crawford movement now sweeping the country DOES send him back to the ranch for some peaceful brush-clearing, football-watching and pretzel-eating. Maybe he has an inkling that he's gotten himself into very deep doo-doo here, and that the satisfaction he would take in seeing the mission truly accomplished, would almost be matched by the chance to get the hell out, wipe his hands of the whole affair, and let someone else try to clean it up.
I think the president is truly enjoying the role of Warrior King, a role I believe has given his life meaning. But I'm hoping he MIGHT be willing to give it up.
This is Jim Terr.
RECENT: Comment on Condi Rice appearance before the “9-11 Commission”
broadcast on KUNM-FM.
(Intro: Santa Fe singer/songwriter and video producer Jim Terr admits he's prone to be skeptical about almost any administration pronouncement, and his reaction to last week's 9-11 hearings was no different.)
Someone was reckless enough to ask me what I thought about National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice's testimony to the 9-11 commission last week. So I'll tell you.
Here's the thing about Condi's testimony, and the follow-on media spin, that drives me crazy:
Someone -- I believe it was former Senator Bob Kerry -- asked her the essential question: Since you were getting all this “chatter”, the “spike in intelligence” that something big was about to happen, wouldn't it have made a difference, as far as, for instance, the Phoenix FBI information about suspicious flight training, and the Al-Qaeda terrorists who were known to be in the country by some agencies but not others – all this information that didn't get passed up the chain – wouldn't it have made a difference if President Bush himself had issued a directive that ANYTHING suspicious be passed along, so that the pieces might be put together?
After all, as Condi herself stated several times, it was no secret that the FBI, CIA etc. were not good about sharing information.
Her answer to this question and many others, which she and the administration have repeated constantly: We had no specifics as to time and place and method of a possible attack.
Well of course they didn't have specific information! And when the next attack occurs, using a suitcase or a ship or a Volvo or an elephant, will they again whine, “Well, no one told us where and when and how it was going to happen.” If I were trying to portray myself as a competent, proactive and reasonably imaginative leader, I'd be ashamed to use an excuse like that.
The idiots in this picture are not Condi Rice and the people in the administration who come up with answers like this. The President and his staff are geniuses, in my opinion, at knowing how much people and the press corps will swallow, and that seems to be almost anything.
Speaking of how much people will swallow, President Bush said in a live interview Sunday morning, with regard to the intensified fighting in Iraq, that "Members of the governing council wanted us to give them a chance to move into Fallujah, and we're giving them a chance to do so." Well, I'll bet you didn't know that the Iraqi governing council was calling the shots, and that we're just there to provide whatever assistance they request.
The acceptable level of lying and euphemism is just ratcheted up, tighter and tighter, and becomes more and more acceptable to the public and the press, like the proverbial lobster in the pot who doesn't notice it's getting warmer and warmer as he's being turned into dinner.
If you'll go to www. CostofWar.com you'll be able to see the millions of dollars tick off steadily, something over 130 billion dollars so far, the cost of this Iraq war that was sold on false pretenses and false intentions – not bad intelligence – which the Bush administration lusted for from day one, according to two former officials who were there, and which is recruiting more terrorists than it's eliminating, despite any other good it may or may not achieve. Fighting terror is a police and intelligence effort, not a conventional war. It may include denying sanctuary to terrorists, but Iraq never was a terrorist sanctuary – not til now anyhow.
Meanwhile, if you drive down the road here in Santa Fe, you'll hit numerous potholes large enough to flip a motorcycle or throw your car out of alignment.
The excuse is always lack of funds – for roads and highways, for health care, education, assistance for the hopeless and helpless, and for the 30,000 who die each day of starvation, not to mention disease, somewhere in our world... Well, forget that one – that doesn't even get mentioned, especially on the highly “moral” right-wing talk shows.
Now someone will probably ask me what I thought of President Bush's speech on Tuesday night.
The best policy is, don't get me started.
This is Jim Terr. (3:25)
"In his letters and articles, Jim Terr makes too much sense. In any other country he would have long since been locked up."
- Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor, Newsweek
"Jim Terr's spirit shows through consistently in the essays, songs and other projects he creates. It's the droll, sardonic, 'cut the B.S.' outlook that is known around the world as 'American.' His tone is especially valuable in an election year. " - James Fallows
"A gentle agitator...who's come up with a way to lower the country's political temperature." -Paul Greenberg, syndicated columnist
(These quotes do not indicate support of any or all Jim Terr projects or pronouncements)
DENIAL IS STILL A RIVER IN AMERICA
Full text of a commentary broadcast July 7, 2003, KUNM-FM Albuquerque (www.KUNM.org)
It's been a great and encouraging week for me, in terms of both politics and journalism. Important questions were asked of important officials, and even if I wasn't totally satisfied with the answers, at least the issues are finally being addressed.
First was the presidential news conference where a reporter from the New York Times, instead of asking President Bush whether he lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, asked the more troubling question: Why Americans don't seem to mind being lied to in the first place, as long as the outcome is something they can feel good about.
Second, the in-depth Newsweek interview with Vice President Cheney, where the truly essential question was asked: Why the United States spends such a phenomenal amount of money on defense, more than before, more than the next five big spenders combined, when we're the only superpower left, when we're geographically secure, and when schools, hospitals, Social Security and health care are crying for funds. And why the US doesn't offer to eliminate or at least stop improving our own arsenal of nuclear weapons of mass destruction while demanding that no other countries take up this addiction.
Then there was the Juan Williams interview with Senator Pete Domenici on National Public Radio, where Williams -- surprisingly -- asked Domenici to explain how our current system of huge campaign contributions could fail to corrupt the process of "government by the people, for the people."
And finally, the Albuquerque Journal interview where Senator Jeff Bingaman was asked, essentially, what he's done lately to address the fact that each day we gain 209,000 people, lose 104,000 acres of rain forest, gain 4,000 acres of desert, lose 215 million tons of topsoil, add 4 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere, and lose about 70 species. (Answer, unfortunately: not much).
I'm kidding, of course. The New York Times, NPR, Newsweek, The Albuquerque Journal, will NOT ask any of these questions, of the people in charge. These questions are considered too impolite to be asked at those interviews and exchanges which journalists are made to feel privileged to be invited to, even though they are clearly more important than…-- well, look at the front page of today's paper and ask yourself if any of the leading stories of the day approach any of these issues in terms of the effect on your life and future. Seriously, I'll make that challenge without even knowing what day this commentary is going to run, and what the headlines of this day are going to be.
It's not just that politicians are experts at distracting us from the most important issues, with themes that are sexier and more exciting, but it's we, the audience, who demand the easy, dramatic, entertaining stories, with heroes and villains. But we need to separate entertainment and morality plays from news, or from what should be news: the slow-moving, slippery, deep-seated, semi-hidden, truly essential, frightening, difficult and frustrating issues that we ignore at our peril.
Imagine any of the above questions, for instance, being asked at the next presidential or presidential-primary debate. No, Jim Lehrer will not, repeat, NOT, ask any candidate whether he has any thoughts on the United States' grotesquely huge, disproportionate, crippling military expenditures. Nor to justify rejuvenating our nuclear weapons stockpile. Nor about the American public's indifference -- no, preference --, for being lied to if it maintains their comfort level. Nor about the startling fact that most Americans thought Saddam Hussein was behind the 9-11 attacks, and other such polls revealing a gullible, largely brain-dead electorate. Could anything be more threatening to our future, to our democracy, than that?
Nor any direct question of a senator or representative about their symbiotic relationship with corporations and lobbyists, and with voters who are so naïve as to believe they're not really being left out of the process, that the truth could not possibly be that bad. Nor about what's happening on this earth, about whether the idea of "growth" is in fact of benefit to anyone except a few major corporate stockholders, and even then only in the very, very short term. Nor about the fact that this supposedly blessed country, the flower of civilization and opportunity, has a larger proportion of its population in prison than Russia or China, and mostly for drug offenses. Are you depressed yet? Are we entitled to run the world? Let's at least take a vote.
The unprecedented inequality of wages and wealth at home, the crushing poverty and disease in the world, the 20,000 deaths from hunger each day, the unprecedented power of corporations, the unprecedented surveillance. These will NOT be addressed at a presidential news conference. For one thing, there ARE no more presidential news conferences, and there won't be any until a huge stash of Iraqi weapons is discovered -- at which point that issue is guaranteed to dominate the questioning. And because for another thing, we don't care -- obviously not enough to demand that these questions are asked of those who make and control policy.
Citizens, the press, and politicians, all need to wake up, together, without one waiting for the other, take a deep breath, shake off the denial, the approach to news as entertainment, and demand that we face the difficult, essential questions, not the dramatic, entertaining ones, before it's too late.
Jim Terr is a video producer and performance artist from Santa Fe, whose website is www.BlueCanyonProductions.com.
by Jim Terr
(continued from Home page)
I am not gauging this by my own microscopic understanding of physics, biology, organic chemistry, etc., but rather by the comprehension exhibited by the wisest people in all such fields. To the best of my knowledge, most of them profess progressively greater wonder at the mystery and Grand Design of life, the deeper they dig and the more they understand.
The example that always comes to mind is the struggle of scientists to create in the laboratory simple proteins, the simplest building blocks of all organisms.
Forget about skin, circulatory systems, digestive systems, nervous systems thousands of times more complex and subtle than the most sophisticated computer. Forget about the ability to think, to grow, reproduce, fight disease, sleep and heal. Just creating a basic unit of protein has proven almost impossible to the most skilled and well-equipped scientists.
And I have no problem accepting the existence of a higher being, a higher intelligence, a vaster design. Why should I? Does accepting this diminish my own experience of joy, of power, of opportunity? Am I, as a person, any less wondrous than an ocean, a river, a cloudy sky or the infinite heavens? I certainly don’t feel so; in fact, I feel in awe of all of them, not to mention my own body.
Fortunately, I wasn’t raised with any exaggerated notion of human grandeur, independence or supremacy, of Man’s dominion over nature. I think that the conscious or unconscious assumption of my parents, and of the immediate culture in which I was raised, was that people are a wondrous cog in a wondrous system called Life and Nature, here to enjoy that system while we can. So the idea of God or of a higher intelligence behind that system is perfectly acceptable, and in no way demeans my own feelings of self-esteem.
Neither do I feel that my belief in God or a higher intelligence is simply a wishful adult projection of the childlike state of dependency on a father figure. It simply seems obvious and natural, or at least convenient, to posit and believe in a higher power.
As I am more powerful and comprehending than a baby, and a baby presumably more powerful and complex than a twig, so do I think it likely that there is a much more complex system and a more powerful consciousness of which I am a part, and it feels quite natural to think so. And if there is a higher consciousness, why can I not tap into it--and sometimes even get a response to a request--by prayer and mediation? In fact, I often do. Somehow I’ve never had the impression of the lines of communication being jammed or clogged at any given moment.
As a final note, I was raised a Jew in small Christian communities, in the 1950s and 1960s, before the concept of the separation of church and state was extended to mean no religious expression for anyone in the public sphere. I loved singing Christmas carols, I loved exchanging gifts at Christmas (of course), and my later appreciation of my own religious heritage was in no way stunted or diluted. I thank God that no one was watching out for my right to avoid all religions at that time.(c) 2000 Jim Terr All Rights Reserved
Jim Terr commentary
KSFR Radio / Santa Fe, NM -- March 17, 2003
I had a long statement I was going to make, about how this war and the president who thought it up are bogus, but then we were both saved -- my listener, or listeners, and I -- by a small miracle that happened today. I was listening to another talk radio show, and someone called up from Rabbittown, Alabama. I figured okay, Rabbittown, Alabama, bring it on. And what the caller said was short and sweet: That this president has conned the good people of this country, with that pious, sincere way of his, into thinking he has good and honest motives in invading Iraq. So there, in a nutshell, from Rabbittown, Alabama, is what I was going to take several minutes to froth and rave about.
But of course, I can't let it go at that. I heard that there was a complaint about my show last week, from someone who felt that it was too one-sided, presumably too one-sided in opposition to the war against Iraq. I suggested that the person making this complaint call in to the program -- we'll open up the phone a little later -- to say his piece. But first, let me give him something to really complain about:
First, I never promised to make this show balanced. As Garrison Keillor said in a wonderful response to a listener who was concerned about "Prairie Home Companion" making fun of the administration,
"You have Rush Limbaugh, who has twenty times the platform of this show, and you have nine out of ten talk radio hosts in America. Can't you be satisfied with that? …. Bear with the rest of us. Allow us to grumble. It's not so often a man of Mr. Bush's distinction gets elected president by a minority." [for entire letter, see "Liberal Domination of the Media?" at www.ToughTalkRadio.com ]
I've spent more than my share of time listening to the right-wing talk shows that totally dominate the commercial airwaves in this country, so I'm already "balanced" in that respect, before I even open my mouth. I'm intimately familiar with the right-wing and conservative point of view and psychology, because I've immersed myself in it.
I've read articles about the documents and discussions going back 12 or 15 years involving many of the people once again in power, in this administration, arguing for the US getting a foothold in the Mideast, for various reasons, a secure oil supply being only one of them [ see below, bottom of www.BombtheBastards.us, from Atlanta Journal ]. I even -- and some of my friends will by shocked by this -- have been able at times to see the logic and appeal of that position.
And having absorbed and digested all this material, from both extremes and in between, I think this war and the people who support it are absolutely mad.
First, the biggest public promoter of it, the unelected-by-the-popular-vote president who has nonetheless decided to remake the US and the world in his own image, is an obsessed phony who requires a war and a Crusade against Evil to give meaning to his empty life. [ By the way, did I mention that this is my own opinion and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the staff or management of KSFR? ] , and anyone whose BS detector is so deficient as to take this guy seriously -- well, shame on you. As Bush himself noted, he hit the trifecta with the 9-11 attacks, and the specter of future terrorism has become his excuse for everything and anything, including this war.
The main selling point of this war is that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction represent some grave threat to the US and the world, and that he must be stopped.
This is pure pretext. Setting aside the only assumption that gives this any credence at all -- that our president thinks this is so and he must know what he's doing and wouldn't be throwing away hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives and unleashing a new wave of retaliatory terrorism for no good reason… --- well, as noted earlier, I don't share this assumption about our president knowing what he's doing. Rather, I think he does know what he's doing, and it has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, except to the extent that he can get Saddam to get rid of a few of them before he invades Iraq anyway.
Which brings me to my often-repeated, still-unanswered question: What possible motivation does Saddam have to get rid of weapons when he knows as well as I do, and you do, and the press does, that he'll be attacked anyway? And in the unlikely event that he does disarm, and is attacked anyway, who would complain or question this foul play? Certainly not our crack press corps, which has not examined this question so far, and is afraid of offending the pro-war US public in any case.
But I digress. Only four countries, including the US, are willing to claim that Saddam Hussein represents any sort of threat, and I'm not sure that even THEY believe it. Saddam's neighbors don't to believe it, and they would be the first to be concerned, wouldn't they? The CIA and Pentagon don't believe it, and much of the evidence Secretary of State Powell cites has turned out to be bogus. And I certainly don't believe it. Saddam has had these weapons for years, and he had a lot more of them 12 years ago, and he never used them to terrorize the US -- so why should he now, except to defend against invading troops?
Too heavy for me, let's take a break for a little music….
Again, it all comes down to this leap of faith required to accept George W. Bush and his good intentions. Unfortunately there are millions of Americans who are willing to go along with anything this guy says in his sincere, pious tone. Over 30% of Americans also believe that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks, when even the White House has barely tried to make this assertion, so this level of faith makes it pitifully easy for Mr. Bush to sell his agenda by focusing on Saddam Hussein the attention and hatred of millions of Americans. Americans who never would have heard of Saddam if it weren't for President Bush and his father, and who clearly have no concern for any other dictator or any other injustice in this world unless focused on it by a skillful puppeteer and a compliant press corps. I'm terrible, aren't I, but I thought I'd say what's obvious to me while I still can.
We've all heard that quote from Nazi Hermann Goering about how easy it is to lead people into war. ** Of course that just applied to those stupid Germans; that would never apply to such sophisticated people as modern Americans.
Yes, from I know Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, and it would be nice if he would go into exile or just drop dead, or be overthrown, and his people liberated. I'm just not willing to see international law broken, and precedent made, to do it, especially when done so selectively, and especially when it's just a pretext, a con job, to justify another agenda. If George Bush and his staff actually cared about people other than their own kind, their foreign and environmental and economic policies wouldn't be what they so consistently are.
Anyhow, I promised earlier something to really get me in trouble. So here it is: What am I supposed to think and feel about our troops about to invade Iraq -- "our boys" and "our girls"? Including those dashing pilots and highly-trained technicians about to launch a ghoulish array of newer and bigger and better bombs, "people cutter" bombs, cruise missiles, an unprecedented barrage to shock Iraq into submission?
Is there any question that more civilians die in modern war than combatants, as if that's not bad enough? About a million Iraqis have died as a result of the Gulf War and as a result of our sanctions, far more than combat deaths.
Am I expected to start cheering anyway when the attack begins, set aside my objections, join the team, get behind our president and our boys, and forget about the horror and injustice being done by these starry-eyed, scared shitless kids, pushed forward from a safe distance by a maniacal, semi-conscious, Freudian/Oedipal-driven president? I hope I won't give in to that team spirit this time, as I've done before.
I predict right now that when the attack is announced by President Bush, which may be happening at this moment, that he will make some reference to our fine troops being anxious to do what they were trained to do, that they can wait no longer, too bad Saddam forced us to do this -- all wonderful ways of saying that this is inevitable, it's destiny, it's in God's hands now -- mainly, that it's not my fault, I'm just a peace-loving guy from Texas.
Well, I've heard reports from the foxholes that the boys are indeed anxious to get on with it, if it's going to happen. I've also heard in the same reports that they're perfectly willing to get out of there and come home WITHOUT fighting. [ NPR report: "U..S. troops in Kuwait are preparing for action.": http://discover.npr.org/rundowns/segment.jhtml?wfId=1193421 ]
I've got one bit of advice for the parents and loved ones of soldiers who may or may not make it out of this one alive: You should have exercised your BS detector a little better and your rights of free inquiry and free speech a little earlier, for the sake of these kids who are required to swear to uphold the Constitution without even being given a copy of it to read and see what's in it. Maybe you'll do that next time. If we're still allowed to do so, next time.
Support our troops. Bring them home!
Now, let's get to that phone call.
By the way, this little speech is posted, at the bottom of www.BombtheBastards.us, and on the Opinion Page of www.BlueCanyonProductions.com, along with links to a couple of the specific items mentioned, including the Hermann Goering quote and the document about what the real reasons are for this war, as published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and elsewhere.
** "Why of course the people don't want war ... But after all it is the
leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a
simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or
a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship
...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding
of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they
are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism
and exposing the country to danger."
--Hermann Goering, Nazi leader, at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II
From the monthly column, "Don't Get Me Started," in the Eldorado Sun, Santa Fe, NM, May 2000. This is the edited, pre-publication version.
JUST LIKE A WOMAN
By Jim Terr
My editor, Mr. Siegel, said our theme for this month is women, that people might be getting tired of hearing my thoughts about Republicans every month, so here is my essay about women.
Women are very pretty. There are many women in my life and I am very grateful for them, such as my mom, my sisters, my girlfriend, past girlfriends, just plain friends, and women who are smart and inspiring such as Dolly Parton, Susan Sarandon, Susan Faludi and many others.
Women are not as strong (physically) as men, but they are sure nicer. Well, I don't know if they're born nicer, but at least they don't hit each other so much. At least they don't hit each other as hard as men, since they're not as strong.
Some people say that if women were in charge we wouldn't have any more wars. Let's see, Margaret Thatcher no, that's not a good example. Golda Meier, there's a good example Well, maybe not. But I still think women are nicer and there would be less wars if women were in charge. Or at least the wars would be nicer.
Once upon a time, long ago, men could have their way with women just because they were stronger. Then women learned to somehow wrap men around their finger, so that now men feel they have to beg women and impress them in order to win their hearts and affections. Have you ever noticed that there are very few men able to make a living as prostitutes, compared to women?
Anyhow, it amazes me that some women are actually Republicans. Oh, I'm sorry! I just can't help myself sometimes. I suppose it is unfair to expect all women to fit that stereotype of nurturing, empathetic creatures who would tend to be almost anything but Republicans, but in fact there are more women who are Democrats than Republicans.
But isn't it a testament to our great country that women can express themselves in such unexpected ways if they wish? Republican women! I like that, in a sort of kinky way.
Not that Democrats completely embody the ideas of nurturing and inclusiveness, as they used to (or maybe I'm just getting older and more realistic). But Republicans seem to have stayed pretty true to their traditional role of defending the wealthy, self-made or otherwise, and I admire that sort of consistency. Though it seems sort of a strange stance for women, sort of like a woman firemanthough I'm probably just being old fashioned. And I might make a lot of money myself someday, so I should be careful what I say.
Anyhow, my girlfriend, who is a women, once had an interesting correspondence with the radical MIT professor, Noam Chomsky (who's all man), an exchange which had a frightening but powerful effect on me. She wrote to Chomsky, in part:*
"Until the other day, when I had lunch with two contemporaries of mine, I had thought that no person, upon learning that US foreign policy purposefully causes suffering and death in other lands, would fail to be appalled and contrite. But here I found myself faced with two "respectable" upper-middle-class housewives (one 37, the other 40) who were willing to admit that the actions of our government might contribute to worldwide misery-but who really didn't give a damn. Each said, more of less: "such things are not my concern"; "the lives of Third World people are insignificant to me" "I can't feel sympathy for anyone with whom I don't have a close relationship."
Professor Chomsky responded that he had just spoken to some friends who teach at Catholic colleges who reported similar encounters, such as "a young woman student who was deeply troubled by many of the awful things they had been reading about the long record of US-backed or US-run atrocities, but then raised a simple question in class: if we weren't to do these things, would the sweater I am wearing cost more? The instructor said he didn't know, but suppose it would: would that then imply that the US should be in the business of murdering priests and peasants, etc.? Her answer was that she wanted a good life for herself and if others had to suffer, that's too bad."
Chomsky adds "We have to bear in mind that people are trained from childhood with endless propaganda that tells them that the only value in life is personal gain. Care and concern for others are weaknesses to be derided (that is why the term "liberal" has become a term of contempt and derision so easily). What is more, social policy has been carefully designed to set people against one another, protecting the powerful and privileged."
It gets worse. Maybe the Eldorado Sun will publish the complete exchange someday for people who might like to slit their wrists.
This attitude of "I've got mine and everybody else be damned!" is evidently still acceptableeven hipin some circles. But I guess I've been in Santa Fe so long, associating mostly with globally-minded do-gooders, that I had come to assume that virtually everybody in the northern hemisphere, living as we do in a degree of comfort and security greater than the kings of old, shared the wish that everyone on earth should be well and prospereven if not all of us are quite aware of our power to help make this happen. But I guess not.
And it sort of gets me down. It's almost enough to make me cry. Just like a woman.
Well, Mr. Siegel, there's my essay. I hope you like it and that you'll publish it, even if I did get off the subject a little bit and start talking about Republicans again. And by the way, readers, did I mention that Mr. Siegel is the best, nicest editor in the whole world?
* reprinted by permission
Jim Terr is a Santa Fe song satirist, actor and video producer who lives at www.bluecanyonproductions.com.
REPRINTING AN OLDIE-BUT GOODIE
(More relevant than ever before, and getting more so by the day)
This was also broadcast as a commentary March 30, 2005
(day before April Fools'), on KUNM-FM
Jim Terr sneak-previews Stephen Soderbergh's latest film, featuring an unbelievable all-star cast: Susan Sarandon, Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, LeeLee Sobieski, and Haley Joel Osment
From the Eldorado Sun, (now Sun Monthly) February 2001
I Saw This Great Movie....I Wish! By Jim Terr ©"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins..." -H.L. Mencken
An Internet search finds 13,500 entries under "demagoguery" and almost 16,000 for "demagogue", yet most people are not familiar with the term. Webster's definition of a demagogue is "one who seeks to gain personal or partisan advantage by specious or extravagant claims, promises or charges."
Steven Soderbergh's new star-studded but low-budget film, "Young Demagogues' School," employs a broader meaning of the word, encompassing advertising, corporate and political public relations and propaganda, euphemism, calculated rectitude and good-old-boyism and deceitful punditry of all sorts. I'll go along with this more inclusive definition, since it covers the whole range of media manipulation and spin control which assaults and attempts to mislead us on a daily basis.
The premise of this new Miramax release is best described by a 1998 cartoon that appeared in The New Yorker: A small child in a suit and tie is declaiming self-righteously at a tiny lectern, his right hand raised in oath-taking position, while his mother, watching from the next room, says to a friend, "With the Suzuki method, they start them campaigning as early as three or four."
In "Young Demagogue's School," an exclusive prep school evidently located somewhere in upstate New York prepares young people to practice the skills of deceit which seek to dominate our political, commercial, cultural and even emotional lives, and which prop up the "culture war" which has replaced the external enemies of the Cold War.
In the "Rush Limbaugh Master Class," young demagogues-in-training are guided in the fine art of demonizing their opponents. In this disturbing sequence, Haley Joel Osment (the wonderful young co-star of "The Sixth Sense") draws a classmate's name from a hat, silently peruses a questionnaire listing her views on such mundane things as sports, fast food and music, and then cheerfully turns everything he knows about her into a withering attack on her character, intelligence and intentions -- almost as skillfully as the "master" himself.
Osment's mentor in this scene, Susan Sarandon (playing very much against type, or at least against her own real-life progressive political stance), combines a seemingly motherly instinct with a scary understanding of the manipulative techniques of advertising and P.R., and a ruthless determination to instill it in her young subjects.
Another frightening but funny sequence has Sarandon and her ditzy co-instructor, Annette Bening, leading the rowdy class through an exercise in framing a series of heinous political and corporate acts as good things we can't possibly live without, using the warm, fuzzy, soft-focus, saccharine-piano, "Morning in America" TV ad approach that seems to work so well for everything from ketchup to candidates -- and in giving them euphemistic, saleable titles.
The flip side, portraying good acts and initiatives as the greatest threats to democracy since Adolph Hitler, is practiced by our young demagogues using the growling, threatening, rumbling commercial style heard so often in political "issue ad" campaigns. Watching the students master these techniques and voices is at once fascinating and disquieting.
What emerges throughout the film is a bleak, sardonic view of a world controlled by spin doctors and their manipulative ads, phony news stories and industry-sponsored "astroturf" (as opposed to real "grassroots") citizen group campaigns. This is the Kafkaesque universe parodied weekly in Tom Tomorrow's comic strip, This Modern World, and by such cartoons as one that appeared in Time Magazine after Hillary Clinton's health care plan bit the dust in an industry-orchestrated orgy of recrimination: "Then came the TV scare ads: 'The Government wants to tear down our health care system and force us to have surgery performed by Motor Vehicle Bureau clerks!!'"
As owner and headmaster of the Young Demagogues' School, Martin Sheen (in a sharp departure from his usual television role as a liberal US President) does a chilling turn as a Machiavellian proponent of mastering demagoguery both as a career skill and as a defense against other demagogues. His simultaneous pursuit of both Bening and seductive student LeeLee Sobieski (Joan of Arc), effortlessly conducted behind the back of his hapless wife, Julia Roberts, represents an Oscar®-worthy performance for both Sheen and Bening.
Special mention is due to the ubiquitous Russell Crowe, who, in an amusing but unsettling sequence as the school's only male instructor (oddly, involved in none of the romantic or murderous sub-plots swirling around the other characters), tutors young Rory Culkin (late of You Can Count on Me) and Sobieski in the use of biting but innocuous-sounding "code words," in pretending to attentively listen to and advise a clueless President while in fact telling him what to think, and in subtly re-stating an opponent's position in terms that make him seem heartless and ignorant.
In fact, virtually all the tools of the advertising and PR trades are starkly exposed in this funny and touching yet disturbing film, which will premiere nationally later this month.
Actually, this movie will appear about the same time they make a film about America's most interesting character, Ben Franklin -- which is to say, probably never. But I can dream, can't I?
Oliver North has emerged as yet another hero on the political scene who skillfully employs references to his family and his moral virtue to divert attention from the magnitude of his immoral actions. His performance has been masterful.
North is touching deep emotional chords in the American public with his ramrod manner, his love of country and family and his insistence that all his actions have been undertaken in the service of his government. He possesses the defiant, arrogant style of the righteous, at once subservient to those above him who agree with his vision and contemptuous of all those who refuse to believe.
(North) is self confident and assured; he speaks from a deep reservoir of certainty that may be related to a strong religious conviction...he has mastered the dramatic pause and indignant tone needed to present himself as the faithful servant of his leaders.
(This chilling example of "calculated rectitude and good-old-boyism" courtesy of James M. Wall in The Christian Century, July 15, 1987)
Santa Fean Jim Terr is a song satirist, actor and video producer
who lives at www.Jim Terr.com.
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