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Singing in the Snow

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Winter blues got you down?  I know! Let’s put on a show!
Every January for the last hundred years or so, enthusiastic performers from the University of Chicago community have come together to create a comedy revue.  It’s been my good fortune and a source of high pleasure to take part in the productions for the last six or seven years.  Written by the talented Andy Austin-Cohen, with music by Bob Aschenhurst, Julian Harvey, Noel Taylor and other gifted composers, the show is a light-hearted lampoon of university and contemporary life.

This year, I play Oleana Salamander, producer of raunchy reality TV shows and Dan Friedrichs, my cameraman and I, get stuck in Grimy Gulch when our bus breaks down on the way to film “Naughty Nerdettes; Real Chorus-Girl Co-Eds of Las Vegas.”  The action shifts between the University’s Smart Museum of Art and Grimy Gulch. The singing, by the professional Lauren Miller, Trip Driscoll, and Sara Stern is beautiful, and I do my signature dismemberment of someone else’s gorgeous music, in this case “L’ho perduta” from Marriage of Figaro.  The performance is January 28 and 29 at the University’s Quadrangle Club.  Tickets are on sale now (773-493-8601) and you definitely do NOT need to be part of the U of C community to attend–so please, come one, come all, have a drink, have a meal from the Q Club’s great kitchen, and enjoy the show!

Believe it or not, that's me

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Arizona Massacre

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Yesterday, January 8, as most of you know, a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the brain at point-blank range.  She is alive but her condition is critical and the prognosis difficult.  The assassin murdered a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, and four other people.

I wanted to write today about some lighter-hearted topic, the Mozart fest on Radio 3, the Vivian Maier exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, but my grief, outrage, sense of violation are too great not to mention this latest atrocious set of murders by U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.  We started the week with the assassination of a moderate Pakistani governor by one of his bodyguards, with appropriate grave head-shakings over extremism in Muslim countries.  But we have our own extremists here, and it’s time we said, “enough” to them.

Rep. Giffords had received many threats because of her support of immigrant rights in a state that is setting the standard for intolerance.  She also voted for health care reform, which led to further threats on her life.  As the New York Times reported on January 9, “Ms. Giffords was also among a group of Democratic House candidates featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.”  Although Palin has now taken down this map, it was still up and active at the end of the day when Giffords was shot.

The assassin may be, as some news reports assert, mentally unstable, but it is to the mentally unstable that rhetoric like Palin’s, or Nevada Republican candidate Sharron Angle, speaks.  During her campaign for U.S. Senate, Angle said more than once that it was time for “Second-Amendment remedies” against the Democratic controlled Congress of 2010.

Dr. David Gunn and Dr. George Tiller were both murdered by people who had been stirred by years of violent rhetoric, including “Wanted” posters, and websites that not only urged the doctors’ deaths, but gave details of their schedules, their home addresses, and the whereabouts of their wives and children.  The purveyors of the websites, and religious leaders who proclaimed the violent rhetoric were never held accountable–we only spoke metaphorically, they said.  Not our fault if unstable people took the words literally. Just as in Punjab, where it wasn’t the fault of violent religious rhetoric that led one of Governor Salman Taseer’s bodyguards to murder him.

When Henry II said of his Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” (words which, if they were spoken at all, were uttered in Latin or French; the king spoke no English) he was not surprised that his barons took him up on it.  And in their heart of hearts, no bishop, Fox commentator, or politician is surprised when John Salvi or Scott Raeder or Jared Loughner uses a gun against the target of their vitriol.

My only hope is that in their secret hearts they are appalled at the effect of their language, not pleased.

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Are Women Human?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

We may be human, but we are not persons under the United States Constitution, according to that militantly anti-female Justice, Anton Scalia. The Fourteenth Amendment defines as “citizens” all persons born in the United States, but Scalia says women are not included in the intent of the text and the amendment does not protect us or our rights.

Here’s the text:”All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

If we are not persons under this Amendment, we do not have the right to the equal protection of the laws.  Period.  We are back to where we were thirty years ago when we tried to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, because each state had its own set of laws defining women’s rights, or the lack thereof, and Scalia is happy to see us struggle state by state to try to establish our rights.

Scalia’s statement foreshadows his decision to back Wal-Mart against the million plus women suing the mega-corp for back pay.  It also underscores his frequently articulated opposition to abortion and reproductive rights for women.  We aren’t persons, we are therefore not citizens with full rights, we are merely the possessors of ovaries and uteri.

I am angry but I also feel helpless.  If anyone out there reading this has suggestions for action, PLEASE write in!

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