26 Feb 2012

Rocky! (Bullwinkle!)

So I ended up waitlisting my way into the midnight show tonight—Longwood's mainstage is The Rocky Horror Show, which is, yes, the show on which the movie was based. It was a crazy fun experience, because all the serious Rocky fans (who know all the audience parts) were out in force for the midnight show. And unlike a showing of the film with audience parts, in a live show the actors get to respond to them, and pause for the audience line to finish before they delivered theirs. Interestingly, since this wasn't a single crowd of regulars who all knew all the same parts, it made the audience participation even better, because some of the lines the whole audience shouted while others were heckled up by one or two lone voices.

It's always interesting to see how the actors you've seen before will be cast in different roles, but on a show like this, it's especially fun seeing the casting revealed one-by-one. Riff-Raff was played by Chris Swanson, a music professor, which I knew in advance but it was still great fun seeing him emerge (in a pink and blue mohawk!). Brad (Justin Heavner) I had previously seen as a crotchety and somewhat deluded old man, and then as Jesus, but the entertaining part was that it took two scenes to even recognise him because he actually had hair this time. When Rocky (Beau Bryan) got revealed, I had a nagging thought that he looked familiar, but couldn't place him from either Juno or Godspell, when I suddenly realised that he had played Henry V himself last term down at Hampden-Sydney (particularly funny as I was wondering just last night why he was sitting out Picasso!). Janet (Abby Frank) I'd not seen before but she immediately stole every audience participation line she could.

The real scene-stealer for much of the show was the costuming, though. Frank'n'Furter was perfectly stunning in his wispy gown and feather boa (excellent makeup work as well), and quite a few of the costumes struck a careful and delicate balance between being extremely brief and yet functional. (Apparently there were some wardrobe malfunctions during the dress rehearsals, though!) Frank's corset and garters were obvious but well-executed; Rocky wore a gold singlet, which was probably a better choice than the trunks from the movie, as those would have required significant amounts of body glue. And actually, I was quite taken with Janet's slip; its fabric covered more than any of the other risqué costumes, but you got the impression than anyone wearing that kind of slip would feel much more unclothed in it than, say, Frank in his corset. But my favourite little costume detail was that Eddie was wearing a Meat Loaf T-shirt. That right there is attention to detail, my friends.

This show is an immense amount of fun. If you fancy yourself a prude you might not like it, but otherwise, this show is not to be missed.

"In my experience it's the people who are born on third base who are the most enraged at the poor---they want everyone to think they hit a triple." --Kip

Posted by blahedo at 2:39am | Comments (0)

24 Feb 2012

Picasso au Lapin Agile

Just got back from Hampden-Sydney, where I saw their production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a crazy little show written by Steve Martin (yes, that one) about what would happen if Einstein had dropped in at one of Picasso's Paris haunts just as Einstein was developing special relativity and Picasso was approaching the end of his blue period. It was, coincidentally, also one of the first shows I saw after moving to Galesburg back in 2003; I remembered that it was smart and thoughtful, but I'd forgotten how damn funny it was.

Part of that is just that Steve Martin is himself smart and thoughtful, and has a wicked sense of humour. His sense of comic timing is brilliant, with a subtle ability to wait just long enough between breaking the fourth wall that you've forgotten it's that kind of show; or the ability to set up a joke, wait, and then drop in the punchline some time later for maximum effect. (In this respect, the show resembles a long-form multi-member standup routine.) Credit also goes to a nice casting job, though, with most of the actors having just the right affect and delivery for the kind of character they were playing. Aside from a nagging tendency to talk over the audience laughter, they did a great job at delivery, both on the comedic lines and on the more contemplative stuff.

All in all, a nice night out. Also playing next weekend, Thursday and Friday. Now to see if I can sneak in to the Longwood show, Rocky Horror, which is already sold out for the whole weekend. Oh well, I had good luck last time with the waiting list, maybe I'll try that again.

"[Republicans] say that we need to keep taxes on the rich low because they're the job creators. They're not. They're much more likely to save money through mergers and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you." --Bill Maher

Posted by blahedo at 9:38pm | Comments (0)

4 Feb 2012

On porn in libraries.

On FB today I saw a share going around trying to rouse the troops against the Seattle Public Library, which is fighting to keep pornography accessible from their computers. How terrible! Demeaning to women! Etc, etc. Much was made of the gross stuff some people look at, the occasional masturbators, and of course, what about the children?

But let's back up a second. And I don't mean revisiting your opinion about pornography—there is a compelling case to be made that it is deeply problematic in a lot of ways, and also a compelling case to be made about its existence being necessary in any system that supports sexual freedom. I have friends on both sides of that, and I'm not going to argue that point at all.

What I want to re-examine is the idea that pornography should be banned or blocked from public-available computers in libraries—even if pornography is itself a bad thing. Obviously there's no problem with kicking out (and banning) library users for masturbating in public, but there are big problems with banning users from looking at pornography in libraries. The two big ones that come to mind are that

  1. it puts libraries in the business of deciding what is bad enough to count as "pornography"; and
  2. it will inevitably block legitimate use of the computers by people who have no reliable other access to computers or the internet.
Both should be total dealbreakers on the issue of blocking porn from library machines or banning users that look at porn in the library.

I'll deal with the second issue first. Let's assume for a moment that you deem those who actually look at porn in the library to be perverts and therefore not making legitimate use of the machines. I have been sent camouflaged links to porn by friends who thought it would be funny (ha ha, made you click; think rickrolling). I have followed links to things that are considered pornography by some because they were images that had been discussed in the news and I wanted to figure out what they were all talking about, because I don't generally trust journalists to accurately report that sort of thing. And of course nearly everybody manages to get a popup ad from time to time that has rather more explicit images than expected. Even under the premise that porn itself is not a legitimate use of the machine, which you may or may not agree with, all of those are cases where "legitimate" users will be or may be seen as viewing porn and therefore liable to get kicked out or banned. This is unacceptable.

The other point is even worse, though. Here's the real lurking problem in this debate: not everyone agrees where the edges of pornography are, even among people that agree that porn is "bad" (for some definition of "bad"). I routinely see news about information and instruction regarding breastfeeding getting blanned or blocked in different forums because someone with a stick up their butt claims that a female breast is pornographic even (sometimes especially, arghh) when it is feeding an infant. In other locations, any content involving homosexuality, including just kissing and holding hands, is liable to get blocked under pornography bans. Furthermore, auto-blocking software, whether it is rule-based ("does the page contain these keywords?", etc) or URL-list-based ("block all requests for xxx-sexy-boys.com"), always ALWAYS manages to block more than it is supposed to; and the supposed "administrators" (i.e. librarians) do not always have the technical knowhow, or in some cases even the permission, to white-list clearly acceptable sites that got blocked. Is poor people's access to those sites just an acceptable casualty in a war on pornography?

Public libraries are our safe haven of information access, and cuts and blocks and other policies that affect them are made twice as bad because they have a disproportionately large effect on the poor, for whom the library is actually a need and not just a convenience. There is a really, incredibly, phenomenally high burden of proof that you have to pass before you get to block that information. "Pornography", however you define it, doesn't even come close.

If you agree, consider sending a message to the Seattle Public Library in support of their current position; I actually used the protestors' site to send the following:

I'm using SLP's site because it's convenient, but I totally disagree with their message. Don't give in to them! Public libraries are too valuable a resource to burden them with the job of deciding what is or is not porn, whether someone intentionally went to a link, etc; and more importantly, any system at all that auto-blocks content will block _legitimate_ content as well, a privation that will fall disproportionately upon the poor, who have no other reliable access to computers or the internet.
I put the subject as "Don't give in to the censors!" and figured that this would be the best way to get through to all the people that are also getting the negative message!

(Adapted from a post to Facebook.)

"Obama ran as a visionary and leads as a legislator. That's been the most disappointing thing about him." --Jon Stewart

Posted by blahedo at 3:23pm | Comments (4)