Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Brighton Beach Memoirs Producers: You put all your PR money WHERE?

In the last year, the New York Times has suffered decreasing circulation, has had to borrow money from Mexican investors to keep afloat, and most recently laid off 100 staffers & asked the remaining employees to take a 10% pay cut. With its rapidly declining readership, reflecting the public's scorn for partisan journalism, the NYTimes is not the first place you'd go shopping for ads for your multi-million dollar revival of not one, but two Neil Simon plays. Unless you're the producers of the recently closed Brighton Beach Memoirs, and the stillborn Broadway Bound.

Michael Riedel of the NYPost cites unnamed sources (but if they're Riedel's sources, you can take it as gospel) as saying that the producers of the recent (doomed) revival of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Nederlander put their entire PR budget into an exclusive ad agreement with the Gray Lady. No direct mail, no TV or radio GOOGLE ADWORDS, for Heaven's sakes! They put every PR dime into the NYT.

And how does the NYT spin it? They claim that Neil Simon's plays have fallen out of fashion, and obituary writer & Times apologist Patrick Healy even cites that as the official cause of death in their ArtsBeat Blog. No mention of the experimental PR ad deal is mentioned in the NYPost article, not even a mention that there might be a conflict of interest with the paper reviewing something they're simultaneously taking ad revenue to promote.

I read the online version of the Times; after all, comedian Andy Borowitz says the NYT slogan should be "For $2.00, try the print version of our free online edition.” I never once saw an ad on the web version of the paper for BBM. For all the money spent, you'd think the Times would have thrown up a banner ad or two, but I saw none.

I saw the revival of BBM at the Nederlander (in a great nabe, BTW) a week and a half before it closed. Under David Cromer's excellent direction, the production had received raves during its Chicago run; but the only reason I knew about those reviews is because Mr. Cats.Politics.Theatre is a theatre critic, and he emailed them to me before we saw it. It was an excellent production, and I told Mr. CPT that Laurie Metcalf would likely receive a Best Supporting Actress nod come Tony time.

Instead, Metcalf and the rest of the outstanding cast (who were going to star in Broadway Bound in repertory with BBM) are out looking for a job. I can only hope some of the PR money wasted at the NYTimes found its way into the actors' & crews' severance checks. They've more than earned them for the incompetent actions of the producers.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Your Car Is Meowing"

Via comes this great story about a kitten being rescued from inside a car engine. Warning: extreme cuteness ahead.

Photo credit: Kathy Harrison, The Destin Log

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Riefenstahlization of The Arts

Who was Leni Riefenstahl? In case you don't know, she was known as Hitler's photographer, the photojournalist and filmmaker who gave us most of the images we have of the Third Reich in its heyday. Riefenstahl was notorious for denying she knew about any of the horrors the Reich perpetrated, and denied being a Nazi to her dying day. In no way do I compare the Third Reich to the Obama Administration. Far, far from it. But her story is a fine example of artists turning a blind eye to what is happening right in front of them politically. And something similar is playing out in the arts community here in the US in their lemming-like following of all things Obama.

Admittedly, I'm a rarity - a Conservative working in the arts community (in my case, as an off-off-Broadway PR agent). All that stuff you hear about artists being open-minded only applies if you're a Liberal. And speaking out against Obama? Accusations of intolerance and racism fly your way. Judd & I actually received an anonymous email, pre-election, warning that we "would lose many PR jobs" because of our politics. The email further threatened that the writer "would personally make it their mission to make sure our potential clients know you're Republicans", etc. etc. So as you can imagine, we keep our politics on the down-low while conducting business. After all, we're damn good PR people; that has nothing to do with our politics. But you'd be surprised how people react when they find out you voted McCain/Palin in 2008. You'd think we were child molesters.

So just when I thought all hope was lost, and no one else in the arts community besides me & the hubs were questioning the Obamessiah, Patrick Courrielche comes along and makes my whole damn year with these two articles: The Artist Formerly Known as Dissident and The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion .

Courrielche, like me, wonders where all the dissent has gone. Rarely if ever has art and politics been in as total an accord as they are now. There seems to be a sense of, dare I say, "hope" out there, that now that Obama's in office, everything is going to be alright.

How odd, then, that other than increasing an already astronomical deficit, President Obama continues the Bush Doctrine when it comes to Iraq. He has increased troop deployment in Afghanistan, despite his promises to "bring the troops home". A simple repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act would take less than a month, yet they remain. The anti-war protests & the pro-gay protests have been a mainstay of the theatre community, and the subject of many, many works of art, plays, etc. over the past few years. Yet the arts community has overall remain silent even as Obama ignores the promises he made concerning these issues.

Worst of all is the absolute silence on freedom of speech. reports that there is a bill going through Congress right now that would give the Executive Branch absolute power to shut down private citizens' access to the Internet during "times of national emergency". This has been done under the guise of "security". In all fairness, this abrogation of our civil liberties started in the wake of 9/11 with the Patriot Act, but that pretty much only referred to warrantless wiretapping of violent Islamic extremists, not shutting off American citizens from Facebook. The Administration even advocated Orwellian-style reporting of "misinformation" about the healthcare bill at the now defunct Citizens were encouraged to rat out their friends who dissed the so-called "reform". And most egregious of all, there is an attempt to institute government regulation of radio & television content with the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer to the FCC.

During the Bush-Cheney years, I couldn't go a week without seeing yet another play about Iraq, about torture, about the abolition of our basic civil liberties, about the repression of minorities, about same-sex marriage. Since all of these things really haven't changed since January 20, 2009, where is the arts community, and why are they so damned silent after raising hell for 8 years?

I liken this mentality to being a herd of sheep. If you know anything about sheep, you know they will follow their shepherd anywhere. If their shepherd doesn't bring them in out of the rain, or shelter them against the wind, or bring them to the proper feeding ground, it is in their nature to remain together in a herd, awaiting the shepherd's lead to move. And honestly - Obama isn't moving his sheep forward. He is not a leader. He looks great on paper, he talks a great game, he makes one hell of a campaign speech, but when it comes to leading, he's not the man.

I guess when you've drank the Kool-Aid, you all fall silent en masse. Let us hope the artistic community awakens before they find themselves occupied with creating art that only promotes the Obama Administration's Agenda, rather than constantly questioning the status quo. Speak truth to power. Don't fall silent.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I don't know all the facts about H1N1, but I'm sure everyone will act stupidly about it

In the last 3 days, I've received quite a few chain letter emails, Tweets, and Facebook postings about the dangers of the H1N1 (or "swine flu") vaccine. In many of them, I've been given links that lead to websites like,, etc. All of these sites lead back to someone named "The Health Ranger", Mike Adams, who purports to have no formal schooling in health sciences, but says he just does the research & reports "the truth" with headlines like "How to Halt Diabetes in 25 Days", "Green Tea Prevents Prostate Cancer", and also claims that mammograms actually CAUSE breast cancer. You would think with headlines like these that people wouldn't be sucked in, but unfortunately, some are believing these wild, speculative claims that have no basis in medical truth.

And here's how far down the rabbit hole he goes: . The only other person I've heard bandying about wild claims like this is Obama claiming pediatricians were yanking kids' tonsils out because they got more money for it than just giving them antibiotics.

Due in no small part to the current strong debate over healthcare, paranoia is rampant. When it comes to the H1N1 vaccine, or vaccines in general, everyone thinks they're scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, or virology experts. Many people have come to a common conclusion that the government, the medical system, big pharma, and insurance companies want them dead, or want them to be on medications to keep them sick to make money. (Sounds like Obama's claims, hmmmmm?)

Belief in these wild claims is manifesting in irrationality and ignorance of nearly 100 years in epidemiology and medicine. The fundamental problem is lack of trust with a side of ignorance. Vaccines have saved far more lives than have been lost.

Ultimately, every American should have a conversation with their doctor or a health care professional about their need for a flu shot. But it is a fact that the flu, in all variants, has the highest rates of fatalities in the following groups: infants, school-age children, people over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic health conditions. It is my concern that people will accept the advice of some snake oil selling, mid-level marketing, con artist who works for a shadow company that makes their living selling books, tapes, and CD's of blatant lies, rather than talking to a physician who can see you personally and give you a choice. There will be "fringers" who dismiss what I have to say, but it remains to be seen how many stoically die at home of their flu shunning health care to their grave.

Trying to explain statistics to a lottery culture is futile. Your odds of dying of the flu is much higher than hitting the lottery, but people still line up to waste their money on tickets. Vaccines save lives. Don't gamble with your life, or your children's lives. Only time will tell which side was right but you can use science, not pseudoscience, to make an informed choice.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama, Gatesgate & Acting Stupidly

So as the entire world knows, thanks to the last question in Wednesday's Presidential presser, that even though he knew literally next to nothing about the incident, Obama thinks that Cambridge police officers "acted stupidly" when they arrested the noted Harvard professor H.L. Gates, Jr., for disorderly conduct. Today, Press Secretary Robert Gates (no relation) reframed Obama's words to mean "cooler heads should have prevailed on both sides".

In my opinion, Obama would have been better off with a "no comment". To blatantly throw down the race card without knowing all the facts (especially that the police officer is a training specialist in stopping racial profiling) was irresponsible. Read Boyce Watkins' article on Black Voices for his take.

Having had to break into my own house and car several times pre-cell phone days, I sympathize with Dr. Gates; however, I have to say I'd never think of speaking to any policeman in the way Dr. Gates did. I take the approach that John Hawkins of Right Wing News did. Respect the police. They're not arresting you for being black. You're screaming at the officer in public. It's called "disorderly conduct".

In the interest of fairness, however, click here to read Dr. Gates' attorney's statement on his client's version of what happened, and click here for the complete police reports (one by Sgt. Crowley, the arresting officer, and one by Officer Figueroa).

It should be noted that in a press conference by the Cambridge Police Department that they said they had responded to a burglary at Dr. Gates' house a few weeks before this incident. The police were also following a simple tenet: if a burglary call comes in, and someone is in the house, that person is always asked to come out of the house so the officers can check the rest of the house to make sure a burglar hasn't gotten in and is hiding. When the officers arrived, they had no idea if Dr. Gates was already in the house when the people seen shouldering the door were outside. They had reason to fear for his safety - home invasions anyone? Could it be they wanted to get him safely out of the house, quickly and quietly, in case the reported intruder was hiding elsewhere in the house?

Larry Elder over at has coined a new term, a variation on DWB (driving while Black): HWB, or home while Black. Read his take here.

Could cooler heads have prevailed? Sure. In the pithy words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

After a long hiatus, Jeff Kills Again

My fondness for a killer cat named Jeff is well known. Jeff WAS semi-retired and had apparently become a pacifist....until recently.


Billy Mays, RIP

Billy Mays was found dead this morning after a very rough USAirways landing yesterday where he described hitting his head (or some luggage landing on it). Although most of us would wonder "Why is that man yelling at me?" whenever he came on pitching his many products, like Kaboom, OrangeGlo, the Hercules Hook, Mighty Putty, or Oxi-Clean, most of us caved to the pitches & bought what he sold. (I personally can testify to "THE POWER OF OXI-CLEAN!" Sorry, I'll always hear his voice saying that every time I use it.)

He even recently had his own show on the Discovery Channel, and had just signed a contract to pitch for Taco Bell, where he undoubtedly would have erased all traces of the Yo Quiero Taco Bell Chihuahua from our collective unconscious. Vince the SlapChop/ShamWow guy couldn't hold a candle to Billy. Billy was wholesome, smiling, trustworthy...the kind of guy who you'd give a key to your house & not think anything about it.

But we'll never know how far Billy would have gone, or the next new product he'd bring us, knowing we'd trust his judgment and buy it whether we needed it or not. Because he's gone, all too soon, at the age of 50. To his family, he was a beloved son, father, and husband. To us he was someone we laughed about in public but behind closed doors, we had a cabinetful of his products. In both cases, in different ways, we will all miss him.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Message for Speaker Pelosi

This is a short video by Kellen Guida, a 25-year-old laid-off architect who pretty much organized & fundraised the NYC Tea Party on April 15, which by official NYPD and city count, was attended by 12,500 protesters.

Judd & I participated in the protest. We saw people of all colors & races in attendance, many Democrats & Libertarians, religious righters, the not-so-religious, all united with one common goal: to stop providing unregulated bailout money to mega-corporations, to stop wild government spending in a time when our country cannot afford it, and to stop generating debt that will imprison future generations of Americans & take decades to pay off. Not one elected official spoke; women, African-Americans, & Asians comprised over 1/2 the speakers; and little to no anti-Obama rhetoric took place. It was truly a bi-partisan gathering of like-minded people who knew that true revolution starts at the grassroots level, with individuals gathering collectively for a cause they believe in: NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.

Speaker Pelosi (along with most of the left & mainstream media) called the tea party movement "astroturf" (a slam at the term "grassroots") & claimed all of the gatherings were funded by big business & right-wing extremist groups. Kellen Guida & about 5 individuals planned, raised the funds for, obtained permits & speakers, all for the gathering in downtown NYC where we all lifted our voices as one, chanting USA! USA! USA! and We Are America!!!

Please forward this very short video to everyone you know. And take a look around the website. Kellen is a conservative young man with a big heart and a vision of conservatism for the future.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GM + Segway + pedicab chassis = Chapter 11

Our taxpayer bailout money went to THIS?

GM adds Segway engine, bug splatter shield & training wheels to pedicab chassis, holds irony-free press conference/unveiling in NYC this morning.

The P.U.M.A. (which stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility Project) can attain a top speed of 35 mph, runs on a lithium battery and has a vehicle to vehicle technology that keeps it from colliding with anything in its way (including pedestrians). GM will be designing snazzy interchangeable plastic snap-on customizable color pieces so you'll look different from everyone else driving these nerdmobiles.

NYC has already banned the Segway from bicycle lanes and sidewalks. Putting a chair & a windshield on one isn't going to help. And although the PUMA has a nifty gadget to avoid collisions - the V2V technology that stops it before it hits anything/anyone - regrettably, NY cabdrivers don't have V2V yet, and will barely look up from lighting their incense or mumbling incoherent Farsi into their Bluetooths if they see one of these iPods on wheels humming past.

A word to GM: Just file bankruptcy already, because if this product is any indication of your business acumen, you'd do better with crayon-wielding pre-schoolers in your design unit.