Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Snapshot of the State of the Union(s)

It was ever thus.

“...the common denominator has been that each time, management won and the workers lost.”

Blue collar workers across the U.S. (and around the developed world) are placing ill-conceived bets on politicians of dubious intent — men and women who promise, often in natavist language, to “bring jobs back” and to protect workers from a (fictional) tidal wave of immigrants who are invading our shores with their nefarious plans to steal our jobs.

It sounds like support. It sounds like those politicians have workers’ backs.

In keeping with this naive belief, an estimated 80% of union workers at the Momentive plant in upstate NY voted in the current U.S. regime because Trump “doesn’t owe anybody.” That sounds like something union workers use to say about themselves.

Whether or not Trump “owes” anybody is for others (and perhaps the Russian secret service) to say. Yet the working class in the U.S. and elsewhere continues to believe that rich politicians have their interests at heart, despite a long history of just the opposite.

Slowly this lot begin to realize their situation: Their corporate masters don’t give a fig about workers. Nor does the Trump regime, stacked as it is with rich men and women.

The union president implores, “I would pray to God that Donald Trump would reconsider what he is doing and have a talk with some of these people...about what is going on here.”

But “these people” are billionaire shareholders of private equity firms that prize profits over people. They rule our land (as they have for decades) by squeezing what they can from workers and tossing away the remains. Enriching themselves while they force wages down, erode pensions and shift the burden of healthcare onto those who can least afford it.

One worker broods that ownership could have made “the correct moral decision.” But there’s no morality when it comes to corporations making money on the backs of their workers.

Friday, February 3, 2017

How to Be an Artist

A friend of mine is the eighth-grade counselor at one of our local middle schools. She invited me to the school's Career Day, ostensibly to speak to interested students about what it means to work in the theatre, because this is how she knows me — through our time spent creating The Tree Play a couple of summers ago. Given that my creative work these days tends mostly toward writing and performing music, conversations with the kids criss-crossed all my artistic endeavors.

I thought it was important to share my philosophy of what it means to be an artist with the eighth graders. A statement of what it takes if you really want to pursue an artist's life. I'd been thinking about this anyway — that I need a mission statement. I think I know why I make art. Could I put it into words that anyone would understand, myself included?

This isn't that mission statement, rather, it's a list of artist "Must Haves," which I posted at my desk for the eighth graders to consider.

How to Be an Artist

Ultimately, I think the reason I was invited to Career Day was because I have a day job and am therefore a Responsible Member of Society (so far as they know, anyway) and can attest to how hard it is to make a career in the arts, versus being a working artist.

But that didn't matter to the students. The brave few who approached my table with questions wanted to hear things like: what's  a "typical" day in the life of a theatre director? (Answer: there is no such thing as a typical day, though there are definite patterns to the playmaking process) Where do I work? What degree did I get? Is writing hard? How do you get over writer's block? Do you play your own songs? I found I tossed those questions back at the kids before offering any advice. Some of them want to make movies or write poetry or record songs in their bedrooms. I highly encourage all of the above.

A thank you note from the school counselors included quotes from the students about what they learned from conversations with the various adults-with-jobs in the room. A few sound familiar:

  • "I learned that I can be both an actor and a director." (Or maybe this was Webster, who was there, too.)
  • "I learned that a writer can often work from home." ("Often," being the key word (cough, cough) he wrote, sipping a latte at the coffee shop...)
  • "I learned that selling a book is harder than writing it." (No f*cking kidding! This quote I know came from my "writer's block" dialogue with one of the other aspiring novelists in the room.)

Coolest job? The helicopter pilot (a woman from the Armed Services). Or maybe one of the gaming creatives. Or the sheriff's officers from the forensics team. Or the silicon chip guy with the wafers and circuits (something I grew up with, cos dear old Dad was a wafer-fab man).

Most popular? Definitely the guy handing out laser pens (don't point those things at people's eyes, boys!). No idea what he did, but those pens were pretty nifty.