Aldon Hynes's blog
We live in a polarized society where just about everything is right or wrong, black or white, either/or, and rarely both/and. Perhaps this is some of the starting point of the discussion about the Amity High School Theatre Department's production of Sweeney Todd. It is violence ladened entertainment, or it is art. Even when talking about art, we find this dichotomy, art for art sake versus art as a means of societal change.
Last night, at the Amity Board of Education, I suggested a middle ground. Can we look at Sweeney Todd as both art for art sake, and art capable of bringing about positive societal change? Can art contain distasteful violence and be redeeming at the same time? If we are willing to step outside of our preconceived assumptions, it just might be possible.
For me, this relates back the whole idea of indirect lessons. Kids learn football for football's sake, yet at the same time, they are learning about teamwork. There's a lot of teamwork you learn when you are in a musical. Yet there's even more. There is a certain amount of emotional intelligence and empathy that can be indirectly learned by the cast and the audience a like. There can be catharsis and redemption even in a play about revenge.
Amity has a great tradition of theatre, yet one thing that I've not been able to find around that has been groups gathering to share with one another what they have experienced and learned from attending the productions.
The dust up around the production of Sweeney Todd appears to be offering an opportunity to fill this need. Over in a discussion on the Orange Patch, The Rev. Ann Ritonia wrote,
"a community discussion on violence is a wonderful idea. All are invited to attend a continuation of a community dialogue on April 23rd at St. Barbara's Greek Orthodox Church sponsored by the Orange Interfaith Clergy Fellowship. Prevention of Violence in our Culture: The Next Steps will begin at 7 pm and childcare will be provided. The public is welcome and Middle and High School Students are most welcome to participate in the discussion."
I hope people will attend Sweeney Todd. I hope they will then join the discussion at St. Barbara's Church. Let's celebrate and share art for art's sake that brings about positive social change.
This evening, I attended the Amity Board of Education meeting, where the public comment ended up being about the theatre department's upcoming production of "Sweeney Todd". I decided to go after I saw an announcement in the Patch, Violence Continues at Amity High School.
It was an unfortunate headline for an unfortunate announcement. The violence continuing at the high school is in the form of the musical, "Sweeney Todd". One high school student commented that the only violence at the school is freshmen during the first part of the school year, and that most of the time, Amity High School is a pretty mellow place.
The announcement resulted in an article in the Patch, "Parents Plannning [sic] to Protest at Amity BOE Meeting". It appeared in both the Bethwood Patch and the Orange Patch. Between the two articles and the announcement, there have been around 40 comments on the topic. It was also picked up in the New York Times.
Many of the comments talked about those opposing the production as "small-minded protesters [who] should be ashamed of themselves" and who "should get a grip on reality". Yet I think this misrepresents what is going on.
The first person to speak talked about an inter-faith coalition that was concerned about violence in society, and particularly as it exists in the media. She raised concerns about the violence in the musical and if it was teaching the sort of lessons we want to teach our youth. Others spoke about the musical in terms of art.
I spoke about how, perhaps if we think seriously, the two positions aren't as far apart as people would like to imagine. Art is a powerful way for people to deal with trauma, with the evil that is in the world. It provides an opportunity for people to discuss violence and the sort of society that we want to be part of.
I encouraged everyone to attend the musical, and then to gather with friends to discuss it and broader topics of violence in society. Afterwards, I encouraged the husband of the first speaker to attend, and to distribute leaflets inviting other theatre goers to an open discussion on a later date about violence in society and how art, and the musical addresses this problem. We shall see if anyone takes me up on this.
After I spoke, Howard Sherman echoed some of the same themes, reflecting on Sondheim's words, "Art isn't easy". Art isn't easy. Confronting evil and violence in our world isn't easy. Teaching our children isn't easy. But all of it can come together to help make the world a better place.
So, please come see Sweeney Todd, and then engage in discussions about the music with your friends and neighbors. Join in a broader discussion about how we can make our community a better place.
(This blog post has also been submitted to The Patch)
I figure it must have been back in 94 when we got the Thule Weekender. I've never been a big fan of cargo boxes on top of cars. I had spent eight months hitchhiking around the States and Europe back in 83 with just my trusty old blue backpack, which I still have. But when you get married and settle down, you need a little more space.
We had a 1991 Ford Escort wagon. That was a great car, but with a four year old and a one year old, we just couldn't fit everything we needed in the back for a long weekend of camping at a folk music festival.
People who have been reading this blog for a long time know that pretty much every year, I head to the Falcon Ridge Folk Music Festival for a long weekend of fun, camping and listening to great music.
Every year, I've dragged out the Thule Weekender, strapped it on the top of the car, filled it to the brim, and set off. Since that time, we've been through several cars. I've bought new footings for the Thule rack to fit the new car, and packed the Thule Weekender the same way, year after year. We also used the Thule for other vacations.
After a divorce, remarriage, and a third daughter crammed into the car, we settled into a yearly trip to Cape Cod as well, and the Thule Weekender would again, get packed and come along with us.
Along with the new cars, the new wife and daughter, has come a couple new houses, and the Thule Weekender has made many trips between old houses and new houses.
Now, twenty years is a pretty long life for a cargo box seeing heavy use and a few years ago, one of the hinges on the front broke. I used duct tape to hold things together, and we got several more years out of the Thule Weekender as a result, although I always worried about when the duct tape would give way. I had visions of camping stuff covering a highway.
Last fall, my mother died, so I'm back at moving stuff from one house to another, as I help prepare her house for sale. I put the Thule Weekender on top of the Prius and headed north. It was empty and I didn't reinforce the duct tape. Heading up Route 8 in Connecticut, not far, I believe, from Thule's North American headquarters, I heard a racket on the roof and saw something black flying on to the highway behind me. The Thule Weekender had taken its last trip. I pulled the car onto the highway and backed up. I pulled the top half of the Thule Weekender off the highway. The bottom half was still firmly attached to my car.
I don't think they make the Thule Weekender anymore. They now have the Sonic, Force and Pulse lines, as well as the Sidekick, which seems closest to the Weekender. I guess I can keep the bottom of the Thule Weekender as a cargo basket now, but I really need to get a new cargo box, or at least a new cargo bag.
With money tight these days, I just hope I can find a good deal on a cargo box and that my next one lasts as long as the dear old Thule Weekender. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated.
It is a beautiful March day, forty degrees and clear. The sunlight, reflecting off the newly fallen snow makes it even brighter. Yet last night was dark. We lost power twice during the snowstorm. The first time was around noon and the power was out for about an hour. Then, in the evening, it went out around five and was out for several hours.
It was just our neighborhood that was without power. Someone said that a power line had come down on the next street over. It would make sense. March snows are heavier than snow during the colder months, and can take down branches that have survived other blasts.
I drove Fiona to a friend's house that did have power, so she would have something to do and wouldn't have to sleep in a dark room. Driving through Woodbridge, lights were on just about everywhere until I made it back to my neighborhood. It is strange to think of life going on as normal everywhere around you, but not in your neighborhood.
Survival mode settles in. Candles are lit, considerations are made for keeping food cold, humans warm and for flushing toilets.
For me, it is even more of a challenge. The past couple of power outages came at very difficult times in my life. Hurricane Irene came as I was struggling with some difficult work life balance issues. We had to confront these issues in the library if I wanted to be online, or in a house without power. Of course, that was in August, so there weren't the worries about staying warm, but we were without power for several days.
Hurricane Sandy came during the final days of my campaign for State Representative. It was accompanied by news that my mother had died in a car accident during the storm. The power came back more quickly than it did after Hurricane Irene, but the struggles were much more difficult.
The snow storm yesterday wasn't expected to be as much as it turned out to be, and we hadn't done the preparations for a power outage. There weren't any great issues, at least that I know of yet, that came about during the power outage, but still, it was enough to remind me of previous struggles.
Now, the power is back on. It is a beautiful day outside. I shoveled a little this morning, did the dump run and am now heading off to my mother's house to prepare it for sale.
Sometimes, there is more to a power outage than just the electricity.
The ‘Evolving Personalized Information Construct’ is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now – from blog entries, to phone-cam images, to video reports, to full investigations.
It talked about the importance of things like eReaders and video, not quite getting the details right, but predicting a lot of what has happened over the past decade. For example, it suggested that Google would buy TiVo to corner the online video market. Instead, they bought YouTube. It suggested that Sony's ePaper would become the medium of choice, instead of mobile devices. And, it suggested that the challenge to Google would be from Microsoft having bought out Friendster, instead of Facebook becoming the 'social news network and participatory journalism platform [that] … ranks and sorts news, based on what each user’s friends and colleagues are reading and viewing and it allows everyone to comment on what they see.'
They also suggested that the evolving personalized information construct would be Google's and not Facebook's.
I thought of that video today as I listened to the announcement of the new Facebook newsfeed. In fact, during the presentation, Mark Zuckerberg even used the world evolving numerous times.
The creators of Epic challenged us, nearly a decade ago, to think about what happens to journalism in the age of social media. Perhaps, they merely scratched the surface.