Monday, February 17, 2014

Applause! Applause! Review of Her by Andrew P. Clunn

This review of the movie Her was written by Andrew P. Clunn and published in Volume X, Issue 4 (2014) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Directed & Written by Spike Jonze
Reviewed 2/17/14

It’s hard to say whether Her (directed and written by Spike Jonze) is a romantic comedy, morality play, or science fiction story. While it deals with the complexities of relationships and marriage of today, it does so safely through an imagined future. It speaks to today’s court battles over same sex marriage seeking to legally define love and relationships, but with a premise of the isolated but deeply thoughtful Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falling in love with his Artificial Intelligence Operating System Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It's a crazy thing to do. It's kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity. - Amy

For the main character of Theodore, the only real forays into the notion of marriage are a blind date, where a woman presses him for a commitment in a passive aggressive manner that is all too realistic. The other is his clinging to his own failed marriage by constantly delaying signing his divorce papers (much to his ex’s frustration). To him the marriage document is a symbol of their relationship and love, and if he lets it go then he lets her go. 
Theodore is only able to do so after his relationship with Samantha comes to fill the gap, and though his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) seems willing to forgive him for delaying their divorce so long, she lashes out at him when she learns that he’s replaced her with a computer program. It’s from this encounter that Theodore comes to question and doubt his relationship and becomes fearful of how others might judge him.

At one point Theodore and his friend Amy (Amy Adams) are discussing their lives since their marriages fell apart (Amy’s somewhat more recently). Both withhold that they’ve found companionship (in Amy’s case platonic friendship) with their OS. Both fear the judgment of their friend, but when they reveal themselves, Amy laments that it took her so long to end her stifling marriage. Fear of others’ judgment, fear of feeling like a failure, had kept her from ending it for so long. When they both come clean about their present relationships, the acceptance and genuine pleasure at each other’s happiness is palpable.

The recently divorced Amy is a video game programmer. In the game she’s working on the player who takes on the role of a traditional mother. The player scores points by doting on her kids, making baked goods for school events, and picking up her children from school on time. The clear contrast within the world of Her between how people actually live their lives and the way that “normal” people are portrayed is one of the many ways in which it feels so real. Of course Amy puts in a hidden glitch where the super mother avatar begins humping the refrigerator, and how Her manages to be both so crude and touching is perhaps its strongest point.

Dear Catherine, I've been sitting here thinking about all the things I wanted to apologize to you for. All the pain we caused each other. Everything I put on you. Everything I needed you to be or needed you to say. I'm sorry for that. I'll always love you 'cause we grew up together and you helped make me who I am. I just wanted you to know there will be a piece of you in me always, and I'm grateful for that. Whatever someone you become, and wherever you are in the world, I'm sending you love. You're my friend to the end. Love, Theodore. - Theodore

While the film’s story is science fiction, the realism makes that a forgettable afterthought. At one point Theodore and Samantha go on a couple’s picnic with a co-worker and his girlfriend. The fact that she isn’t human is incidental, serving as little more than dinner conversation. When a little girl asks why Theodore’s girlfriend is in a computer, Samantha responds, “Because that’s where I live.” No further explanation is needed. The notion that people and relationships come in all forms seems so natural, and the acceptance that how others define love has no bearing on how we define it is made to appear so obvious and intuitive that, by contrast, it’s our dogmatic judgmental society that seems out of place.

Traditional relationships exist in Her, as well as imagined possibilities of relationships that do not yet exist. The new form of relationships don’t mean that the old form go away, and each is left to thrive, fail, or change according to the desires of the participants. It’s so elegant an idea that people should be in relationships with whoever they want to be because they want to be. And best of all, it makes for one hell of a romantic comedy.

You know what, I can over think everything and find a million ways to doubt myself. And since Charles left I've been really thinking about that part of myself and, I've just come to realize that, we're only here briefly. And while I'm here, I wanna allow myself joy. So fuck it. - Amy

Applause! Applause! Review of The Electric Indian at The Invisible Dog Art Center by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of The Electric Indian at The Invisible Dog Art Center was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 4 (2014) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Electric Indian
The Invisible Dog Art Center (51 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY)
Reviewed 2/16/14

Conceived & directed by JJ Lind, The Electric Indian successfully combines storytelling, ritual, dance and song with 19th century historical texts, 20th century popular media and 21st century technologies to tell the story of the American Indian (and specifically the Cherokee nation) using the life of Elias Cornelius Boudinot, a controversial Cherokee who served as a Confederate Army colonel during the Civil War, as the linchpin. Also appearing in the production were four other characters, the Sculptress, the Missionary, the Surveyor and the Entertainer, who each represent different aspects of White Society during the 19th century. A main source for the script was The Manners, Customs, Traditions and Present Condition of the Civilized Indians of the Indian Territory, an informational lecture for white audiences by Col. Elias C. Boudinot. The Electric Indian was the name of a studio band created in the 1960s that sought to capitalize on the "native sound" used at the time. The title is a metaphor for the American (and capitalist) impulse to fetishize and commoditize an idealized image of native people. The director, JJ Lind, who identifies as a Cherokee, comes from Vinita, Oklahoma, a town founded and named by Elias Cornelius Boudinot. 

I felt the play fairly and objectively depicted the plight of the American Indian during the 19th century as well-intentioned European-Americans and American Indians sought to find policies that would be in the best long-term interests of the Native Nations in an atmosphere where a number of other Whites sought to take every advantage, legal or illegal, of any Indian or Tribe standing in their way. 

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, the son of Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee National leader who was editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper. His mother, Harriet Ruggies Gold, a woman of English decent from Cornwall, Connecticut, died in 1836, several months after her seventh child was stillborn. His father and some other relatives were assassinated in 1839 as retaliation for signing the Treaty of New Echota, ceding the remainder of Cherokee lands in the Southeast in exchange for removal to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. For their safety, Boudinot and his siblings were sent back to Connecticut to their mother's family. The Golds ensured the children received good educations. Boudinot studied engineering, became an attorney, and co-founded The Arkansan, a pro-slavery newspaper that favored railroad construction into Indian Territory. In 1860, he was chosen as the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic State Central Committee and in 1861, he served as Secretary of the Secession Convention as the territory determined whether it would leave the Union. In 1863, Boudinot was elected a delegate to the Congress of the Confederate States of America, representing the majority faction of Cherokee who supported the Confederacy. During the Civil War, he served as a Colonel in the Confederate Army and after the war, he was chairman of the Cherokee Delegation to the Southern Treaty Commission, which negotiated treaties with the United States.

The Electric Indian depicts Boudinot struggling to do what is best for his people. Will civilizing the "savage beast" prevent their extinction? Will learning English and becoming American citizens help? Will embracing development and supporting integration through the presence of railroads make a difference? Will abandonment of communal lands and the granting of parcels to individual households of tribal members teach them to be industrious and responsible? Will making Oklahoma a state dominated by Native American politicians help preserve the future of the Native Nations in this country? All of these efforts were supported in one way or another by Boudinot but the results were disappointing to say the least. Was the outcome for the American Indian predictable from the beginning as The Missionary character in the play observes? Was the death of their culture inevitable? Was the American Indian destined to become as the play suggests - a modern day unicorn - magical, mystical and rarely seen? Perhaps.

The Electric Indian tells an important story in an unusual and entertaining manner. It was produced by Immediate Medium and the performers included James Allerdyce, Max Dana, Brady Jenkins, Julie Stainer-Loehr and Siobhan Gandy. The ensemble cast worked well together and pulled off an unconventional piece of theater that educated its audience while taking them on a wild ride. I was particularly impressed with the stage presence and performance of James Allerdyce, who played the Surveyor, and by the charismatic and talented Brady Jenkins, who was the Entertainer. After Boudinot is transformed on stage into a modern day Unicorn, the final scene of the play is a patriotic red, white and blue light display symbolizing the ultimate triumph of the White Man over the Red Man in America - just a matter of fact by this point in the story. I very much enjoyed the production and if the run is extended, I urge you to see this interesting and creative presentation of a slice of our country's history.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death Should Not Be Used To Fuel The Failed Drug War, Say Libertarians

Andrew P. Clunn, Chair of the Saratoga-Capital District Libertarians, a chartered chapter of Empire State Libertarians, says “the tragic death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, allegedly as a result of a heroin overdose, should not be exploited by local law enforcement officials to perpetuate and expand the failed war on drugs. In the wake of sympathetic news coverage of Hoffman’s substance abuse issues, New York Police Department investigators have aggressively and vindictively arrested several parties possibly connected to Hoffman on drug possession charges. Others have suggested that those who sold illegal drugs to Hoffman should even be held criminally responsible for his death, the way some bars are now being held liable if a patron leaves an establishment drunk and then gets into a car accident. A drug seller should not be responsible for the consequences of a user’s use or abuse, unless what he or she sold was substandard or adulterated in some way. No one is to blame for Hoffman’s death other than himself. I find it abhorrent that Hoffman’s passing and personal tragedy is being used by some media outlets, politicians and law enforcement officials as supposed evidence for staying the course with the increasingly unpopular war on drugs. The emphasis should be on expanding the number of opportunities available for those seeking rehabilitation, not on increasing prosecution rates and creating convicted felons out of those who sell or use drugs.”

“The old authoritarian formula of ‘more bans, more arrests’ for dealing with the drug problem clearly hasn't worked,” says New York State Libertarian Party Political Director John Clifton, a former County Chair of the Libertarian Party of Queens County and a former three-term State Chair of the New York Libertarian Party. “Putting more people in a cage is not the answer. Mr. Hoffman was clearly a very productive person, yet had he been caught with drugs in his possession, he without doubt would have been prosecuted, sent to prison, and labeled a felon. Some people can handle drug use and never get addicted, stopping on their own when it suits them. Others get addicted and seek help and a small minority of drug users, unfortunately, die. But one thing is true of all drug users. They voluntarily chose to engage in that personal behavior and in ours, the most informed society of all time, there should be no laws controlling what people choose to ingest at their own risk or benefit.”

Empire State Libertarians was founded on July 4, 2010 by Thomas Robert Stevens (current Chair of the Libertarian Party of Queens County) to encourage New York State residents who share libertarian ideals and principles to become politically active and to seek out avenues to promote a pro-liberty agenda; to endorse candidates seeking elective office who support smaller government, lower taxes and more individual freedom; to encourage patriotism, respect for our Founding Fathers, and a deep appreciation for the United States Constitution; and to organize and charter chapters of Empire State Libertarians in order to promote local activism. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Queens Libertarians Call For The Legalization Of Mixed Martial Arts In New York State

On February 2, 2014, the Libertarian Party of Queens County voted unanimously to support the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York State.

Natale Corsi, Liberty Outreach Coordinator for the Libertarian Party of Queens County, speaking in support of the position taken by the Queens Libertarians, commented as follows:

"Liberty is defined in the dictionary as the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views. The ban of professional Mixed Martial Arts in New York State is the exact example of taking away liberty from its citizens. New York State feels in its misguided belief that it knows what's best for the citizens of New York and must protect us. New York State is one of only two states in the United States of America that bans professional Mixed Martial Arts. I, as Liberty Outreach Coordinator for the LPQC, feel that this ban is a direct offense against our liberties as citizens and we must support New Yorkers who want to legalize Mixed Martial Arts. The right of two consenting adults to engage in a sport that is less dangerous than already legal sports like Boxing should not be infringed. I am not only a supporter. I am a practitioner of Mixed Martial Arts for 8+ years and have been involved in the fight to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York State. I have attended rallies, expos and seminars and participated in the first legally sanctioned Amateur Mixed Martial Arts bout in New York State as a coach. I specifically want to thank Dr. Tom Stevens, the newly elected LPQC Chair, for championing this worthy cause and placing it near the top of his political agenda.

Mixed Martial Arts is the fastest growing sport in the United States of America; it has generated more pay per view sales than any other event. Mixed Martial Arts competitions are hosted nationwide in the country's most iconic arenas. It has even invaded our pop culture with numerous movies, TV shows, and celebrities rising from its ranks. Famous Mixed Martial Artists are staring in movies, visiting troops overseas and headlining as guests on talk shows. You cannot go to a sports bar on Saturday night without seeing crowds of people gathering to watch Mixed Martial Arts. However, despite the overwhelming success and stardom of the sport, New York State is one of only two states in the nation that bans Mixed Martial Arts matches within its borders.

The ban of professional Mixed Martial Arts is a direct attack on the personal liberties of the citizens of New York. The state has deemed the sport too dangerous and prohibits consenting adults from participating in the sport. This ban is another example of a Nanny State deciding for its citizens what is best for them. There is no evidence in support of the allegation that Mixed Martial Arts competitions are dangerous for its participants. Since the first sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts bout in 1993 to the present, there have been only 5 Mixed Martial Arts related deaths with only one being a direct result of injuries sustained during a match. In comparison, Boxing, which is legal in all states including New York, has recorded over 146 deaths since 1990 and over 1,000 since records have been kept. A recent Sienna Poll showed that only 30% of New Yorkers oppose the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts with 45% in favor and 25% without an opinion. Mixed Martial Arts was once illegal in 49 states in 1993 and now is only illegal in two states because of the will of the people. It is time for the New York State legislature to ignore union lobbyists and listen to the will of its citizens and restore one more piece of our freedom that has been taken from us.

Dr. Tom Stevens, LPQC Chair, has made me the point man on this issue. I will continue to fight until millions of participants and fans are restored their freedom to engage in competitions and to watch Professional Mixed Martial Arts bouts in New York State and, specifically, in the most famous arena in the world - Madison Square Garden."

Natale Corsi was appointed Liberty Outreach Coordinator for the Libertarian Party of Queens County on January 21, 2014.