Be Wary of the Intellectuals

What are the intellectuals of society saying today? Whatever it is, and I’ll let everyone think about that for themselves, be skeptical of their conclusions and what they want YOU to do.

I’m reading Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals & Race. Technically, on audio book. As usual, Sowell has crafted a treatise so rich in research and analysis, that’s it’s impossible to grasp it all on just one read or listen. But I wanted to write out a few salient points already coming to the forefront.

A quick perusal of history can show that the intellectuals of any certain era – though often well-meaning – can be wrong, so wrong, so incredibly wrong that their sophisticated language and eruditely argued theses can end up sounding like a steaming pile of balderdash to the generations which follow.

Sowell goes deep into the progressives of the early 20th century to see how the intellectual class latched on to the eugenics movement with prominent individuals such as Madison Grant, Margaret Sanger, and others providing the intellectual arguments for eliminating the inferior races. Madison Grant’s book The Passing of the Great Race went on to be the book Hitler referred to as his bible. Grant was not a fringe nut. No, he is described as one of the leading thinkers of the progressive era. He was very much mainstream, greatly admired by many politicians and leading thinkers of the day. As Sowell points out, Grant died in 1937 and never got to see what his ideas about race led to the Holocaust just a few short years later.

So goes the intellect. The soft sciences have created a myriad of highly educated individuals who have crafted many, well-meaning schemes to radically change societies, from Czechoslovakia, to Yugoslavia, to Pol Pot and his Killing Fields in Cambodia, and many more. The list of long and the destruction left in their wake is vast.

It got me thinking about today. What are the intellectuals of 2022 thinking, writing, and speaking out about? Where is social theory, in the hands of today’s intellectual class, leading us? What are the burning questions? The issues constantly being debated, pushed, rationalized, and upheld as the only logical way forward? (CRT, anyone?) What will the future generations say about the intellectual class that erupted on the new millennium? My fear is that they will not be kind.

It makes one pause and wonder about one’s own limitations to see the way forward. If someone claims to know the way to utopia, well, I’ll probably head in the other direction, especially if my common sense alarm keeps going off.

I still have a ways to go in Sowell’s book, but it’s a good one, and I recommend it.

What is Wrong With Us?

I’m worried about us. Humans, that is. And it has everything to do with cell phones.

I had my final show tonight. Seussical. A culmination of 3.5 months of hard work. It was a great show. I’m so proud of my actors and tech crew who pulled it off. But what I saw tonight sickened me. And it made me worry about us. Us humans.

I was sitting in the audience. That’s what I do as a director. When the show comes around, I always consider my work to be finished. So I enjoy the show from the house and see what my many months of work has produced.

I’m proud of this show. We had a lot of things go wrong, but we weathered the storm and put on a great show for the audience. But here’s where my worries enter.

Right in front of me was the uncle of one of the performers. And he couldn’t pay attention. At all. I mean at all. If he went a minute without checking his phone I’d be surprised. He came to the show, paid money for a ticket, was there to watch his nephew, and yet couldn’t pull himself away from his phone long enough to even pay attention to the show going on in front of him.

I’m worried. Very worried about us. Us humans.

He was looking at his Facebook feed. I mean studying his Facebook feed. The same feed he monitors all day long. And he couldn’t pull himself away from it for even a few minutes to watch a great production with his NEPHEW being one of the leads. No. That was too much. His Facebook feed was so compelling that he couldn’t look away.

What does that mean for us? It’s not good. These screens have become our dictators. Our gods. Our everything. And he (and it’s not only he, it’s many people) couldn’t bother to pay attention to what his nephew was doing on stage. (rather brilliantly, might I add) He couldn’t bother with actual life. He needed the virtual. He couldn’t pull away. He needed the feel of the screen — the thrill of the scroll. He turned his back on his own kin for a cheap thrill of a tiny screen.

I am sickened. For all of us. What will we become?

What is wrong with us?

The Future of Discrimination: White Male

I’ve been waiting for this article. Perhaps there have been others espousing similar points of view, but leave it to some brilliant graduate student of philosophy, of all things, to express what I’ve been guessing at all along: the blame the white narrative is getting much more pointed.

Here’s the article if you want to read it. Not at all a surprising addition to the back list of of Huntington Post. You may want to read it before eating, though it might prove an effective means of losing one’s appetite. HUFFPOST South Africa

If you want to be spared the gross negligence your eyes may suffer while reading it, let me summarize. This forward-thinking philosophy student is posing the question of whether it’s time to put a moratorium on white male voting. This is coming from the post-Apartheid South African context. The reason for disenfranchising the white males, even for a period of 20 years as she suggests, is to redistribute wealth that white males have stolen over the years (stolen through capitalism, cronyism, white male privilege and other such ways, I suppose) so that a fair and equitable society can emerge. It would be a positive, long overdue step to help right the wrongs of the past.

I’ve seen this coming, this philosophy, this radical departure from sanity. And it won’t take long for some far-flung politician to pick it up and throw it in the debate arena. The push will be slow and steady until one government, undoubtedly democratically elected, will inch towards compensation, demanding a wide range of actions meant to address historical grievances against the white male.

In full disclosure, I am a white male. I’ve lived the last twenty years in different cultures, working alongside people from all backgrounds, creeds, and ethnicity. I’ve been in schools where diversity isn’t lauded, it’s a simple backdrop of life. My first child was five years old when she finally realized that all her friends had black hair. There is a movement in the world, there are people in the world, there are day to day interactions in this world which have come to the point where differences and backgrounds and colors and creeds and social envy means nothing because everyone is treated the same.

This is what real progress looks like. I’ve seen it, and yes, I know the world is not a dreamy-eyed utopia and it never will be. There are problems. But hearkening backwards looking for villains who happen to be white and male is the essence of anti-progress. You do not compensate historical grievances by stripping people of rights. You can not further progress by ripping apart one of the modern world’s founding tenets of progress: universal suffrage.  I just wish a certain graduate student would realize that philosophy is dead if this is the best you can come up with. Heaven help us if this is the future of education. Heaven help us if this is the future of our world.

Perhaps I’ll discover it was all a mistake. A piece of brilliant satire. But I doubt it, because I knew it was coming.

On a brighter note, this world of ours continues to be an unending source of new writing materials. I guess I should thank her for that. Now let me get to work on that new play. A satire, perhaps.

Taxis: Take Note

Columnist and fellow playwright Fa Abdul at FMT hit the nail right on the head with her critique of why Malaysians, in particular, has eschewed taxis for Uber and Grab Car. I have become so fed-up with taxi drivers in Malaysia that when I discovered Uber and tried it for the first time, I thought the sky opened up and a heavenly light followed my little Uber car all the way home on wings of angels and harps chords.

Taxi companies and politicians around the world have hit Uber and like ride-sharing companies hard accusing them of being unsafe, under insured, a commercial venture that should be regulated the same as the taxi industry, and so there have been protests, laws, prohibitions, and all kinds of other nonsense. But what hasn’t happened is all of the critics actually try to determine which type of passenger car ferrying provides the service and price point that the customer actually wants? Because it’s painfully obvious. The taxi drivers I have used in Malaysia are an embarrassment compared to the Uber drivers. Fa outlines all of this very well.

I can’t tell you how many times I said to a taxi driver “Look at your door. It says ‘metered taxi only. No haggling'” as the driver haggles with me. He brushes it off as it is nothing. Or how many times did I used to walk from taxi to taxi “Will you take me there?” “No.” “How about you?”  “No.”

The so-called progressives  in society have become regressive when they work to limit ride-sharing companies. And let’s make it clear, it’s politics not safety concerns which is driving these criticisms. In the United States, big cities are overwhelmingly Democratic, and the Democratic political machinery has worked in lockstep with taxi unions to squash the competition because they get loyal support from them. But it still hasn’t worked because folks who want to get from point A to point B in a clean, inexpensive, and timely manner don’t care about politics. They car about service.

I had some family members visiting us in Malaysia a couple weeks ago. I encouraged them to download Uber and give it a try when they wanted to get out and about on their own one day. Yes, another convert. Affordable convenience rather than dealing with hucksters.

So I agree with Fa 100%. Taxi drivers aren’t going to win back customers through regulations and complaining about how unfair everything is. They will  win back customers by using their meters and providing a pleasant ride from one place to the next.

I’m a free marketer. Compete for my business. Uber has. The taxi industry hasn’t.

Please head on over to FMT to read Fa’s timely COLUMN.

Is the Digital World Making Kids Feel Entitled?

As a teacher who often talks about creative writing, intellectual property, and other issues which try to support the view that artists be paid (and hopefully well) for their endeavors, I regularly run across attitudes from students concerning digital media which are concerning.

Just this week I had a student that complained about how expensive digital media (music and movies, I believe, was the context) and how the high price justified his actions of downloading the music or movies for free.

In my view, this is a very regrettable attitude for several reasons. First of all, the digital platform has CHEAPENED music and media, not made it more expensive. Anyone with more years under his or her belt would know that. In fact, digital media is not expensive at all. It’s cheap. Too cheap. Probably WAY too cheap. I remember how much music used to cost.

Back in the early 80’s, during the prime years when I would be buying 45s (yes, those round things that played music on a record player) I would save up my meager allowance and seek out my favorite songs on vinyl so I could enjoy them at home. So I bought songs from Toto, Journey, Bob Seger. I think I even bought Eddie Rabbit’s “I love a rainy night.” And how much money would I plop down for those? Ninety-nine cents. Perhaps a dollar twenty nine. That was one hit song and then a thrown in B-Side that nobody liked.

As a reminder of time, that was thirty-five years ago. I was paying the same price for a song in 1982 as I’m paying now if I download one from Amazon or iTunes.

Music is expensive?

Remember when CDs came out?  I easily plopped down $18 for a CD back in the late 80s and early 90s. Now? Most new music can be had for under $10 because of the digital platform.

So this excuse that music (or movies) are too expensive just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The digital world has cheapened music, not made it too expensive. This student’s excuse doesn’t hold up to empirical data.

But the problem with that comment goes way beyond the reality of the price of a song. It goes to an attitude that I believe is troubling. And that is this: “I am entitled to listen to that song as much as I want. And if I think it is too expensive, then I should be allowed to break the law and get it for free, because I’m that special.”

Too many people believe they are entitled to entertainment.

That’s what digital has done to the marketplace.

A Lexus is too expensive for my budget. But I should be able to drive one. So therefore, I’ll go steal one.

A trip to the Maldives is out of my reach. But I should be able to enjoy that. So therefore, I’ll hack in and steal someone’s credit card so I can support it.

If you can’t afford a song, what makes you entitled to it for free? What have you or anyone done to deserve to hear a song you didn’t want to pay for? What part of the creative process, the musicianship, the production, the marketing, etc… did you contribute to that makes you deserving of hearing even a few chords of a new song without paying for it?

I’ll tell you which part. No part.

And the excuses keep coming:

  • They (the artists) are so rich anyways.
  • Everyone is doing it.
  • It’s so easy to download from Youtube. Why pay for it?
  • It’s not like anyone cares in my country. Even the police buy bootleg DVDs.

There are artists who are rich. So what? Irrelevant. It’s like saying there’s so much money in the bank so I deserve to rob it. There are plenty of other artists (musicians, writers, etc…) who can’t make enough to live on. It in no way gives anyone license to enjoy their content for free!

Everyone is doing it. Just listen to your mother’s voice to hear how foolish you sound.

It’s so easy. It’s also easy to walk over to your neighbor’s lawn and take their potted plants. Try it someday.

No one cares? So we base our actions off the wrong actions of others? Where were you raised?

If a song is good enough to take up 4 minutes of your time, it should also take up $1.00 from your wallet.

If a movie is worth wasting 2 hours of your life, it’s at least worth a $3.99 rental.

We all need to get back to respecting value – especially the value of the creative arts. Our cultures are bathed in entertainment, and we spend hours each day enjoying it, yet we sanction and encourage a lazy attitude toward making sure the artists get the money for what they have created. Imagine how boring your life would be without it. You might even have to walk outside and look at the azure sky.

Pay for your entertainment. It’s never been cheaper, so don’t cheapen it anymore.





No Guns Theatre. Shoot! I had a script.

I’ve entered a number of play-writing contests and festivals this year as I begin to expand my writing in new ways. I ran across one such un-named short play theatre festival which I had planned to enter until I saw one of the stipulations: plays with guns as props will not be accepted.

I had a script that I wanted to use in this festival which actually did have a gun in it. So I knew immediately not to send it.

But then I got to thinking why? Why no guns?

I could only think of two possible reasons for a theatre festival to not allow plays with guns. Perhaps there are more than two, but I couldn’t think of them. Here are the ones I thought of:

  1. They are afraid that a gun on stage might be mistaken as a real gun by the audience, thus causing a possible panic.
  2. They are making a statement about gun violence in America by not allowing guns on stage.

Let me look at each of these.

#1 – This scenario seems unlikely to me. I’ve used guns on stage (high school setting) for years. Some guns look more realistic than others, and I’ve never one even had the slightest infinitesimal reason to suspect that anyone in the audience was disturbed or fooled by the fake fire arm. So I’m thinking that this isn’t the reason for not allowing prop fire arms in their festival.

#2 – I’m guessing they are making a statement by having such restrictions. This is fine if that’s what they want to do. It’s their festival, and if they want to run it a certain way, no problem. But I tend to disagree with their assessment. The first reason is that there are many fine, good, and important plays which necessitate a fire arm. How awkward would it be to have a cop tell the bank robber to put up his hands by warning him sternly without any physical threat to back it up.

But it’s actually something else which makes this issue more important in my eyes. Our culture is a culture of guns. Like them or hate them, they are there, and they are there to stay. One of the main tasks of a playwright, or at least how I see it, is to be a reflection of society – its issues and struggles. Playwrights are to wrestle with questions from all angles and provide insight that may not come from anywhere else. To take the weapon (haha) out of the hands of the playwright’s arsenal, does not only diminish what’s happening in society, it mocks the influence a playwright can have.

People have guns. People use guns. People are in society. Playwrights write about people; therefore, playwrights also write about guns.

I hate to see the whitewashing of society, and I hope theatres will continue to be at the forefront of society in regards to dealing with important cultural issues.

Hey festival, I was going to send you my script “Alone in a Bar,” but I guess I’ll find another avenue for it.

The Internet May Doom Us All (or at least make us all feel stupid)

If it’s in print, it must be worth paying attention to!

If it’s from a “reputable” site, it must be true!

The Internet makes us all susceptible to bias or right-out lies; Therefore, it is the duty of every person who goes on the web to judiciously and skeptically approach EVERY piece of news which one comes across.

Here’s a post a wrote awhile back entitled “If you can’t read the news without spreading rumors, then …” Read post here

It would seem like most people in the world haven’t followed my advice. Hmmm. Well, let’s try again. Here’s a link from Christianity Today which explains very well what to do when someone reads stuff on the web. It’s great advice. Check it out:  Christianity Today link

The uproar this week surrounds a fake news story about a pastor being arrested for not being willing to perform a gay wedding. Can you imagine what followed? How many people shared this on their Facebook page only to have their friends share and their biases confirmed by something which was entirely not true.

But this is not surprising. Everyday (literally) I see memes and articles on Facebook and other outlets which, if they aren’t true, they are extremely misleading. They come from all points of view – liberal, conservative, Christian, atheist – everyone has an agenda and are often times willing to skew the facts a little to better their point of view.

You, as the reader, have to be smart. You have to be able to see past the ridiculous statements and the political spin to look at the issues in a level-headed manner.

Please. Don’t pass on anything without verifying the facts. Don’t accept any news at face value. Don’t believe anything the Onion publishes. (I feel bad for those who have accepted the Onion’s news as real. Oh my.)

If you spot fake news or misleading information, confront it (with grace) to pass on the correct information. If you pass on information which you find out later to be wrong, make amends. Re-post and set the record straight. It can make a big difference.

In this digital day and age, we all must be the eyes and ears which guard the truth. Don’t sit back and expect the media to do it for us.


Media Bias: No Wonder Everyone in America is Confused

Look at these three headlines which appeared in a Facebook feed on June 5. They are all referring to the same EPA report on fracking.

Capture fracking

Each headline gives a very different impression of the situation, and yet they are all talking about the same report. Ecowatch is confirming that fracking pollutes drinking water. The NPR headlines seems to say that there is no great problem with fracking and drinking water. Mother Jones is teasing everyone with a hint of implication about the dangers of fracking (or at least I would argue that this is in the headline.)

What’s quite interesting, however, is if you click into all three articles, the same basic information is given: the EPA found that there is no widespread drinking water threat from fracking, though contamination is possible if safeguards are not maintained. I think this is an accurate assessment of what the EPA actually said. And all three articles mentioned this as well.

But what’s the problem? The problem is that we live in a headline society. Too many people get their news through news feed such as this and the headlines are used as the gospel.

Let’s take Bob who has been an out spoken critic of fracking all along. Bob sees the Ecowatch headline and yells over to his friend Jack, who is for fracking:

“Hey Jack, did you see the news? The EPA confirmed that drinking water is contaminated by fracking. I told you so. We need to shut down all those wells. It says so right here on Ecowatch!”

If Jack doesn’t do any further investigation on the issue, then Bob must be right because the headline says so right in front of him.

So Bob shares that headline on his Facebook feed, which in turn is shared again and again. Thousands of people and their bias is confirmed because of a headline which is, let’s be honest, misleading.

Is the headline technically true? Yes.

Ahaaa! If it’s true, then why not use it, right?

Wrong! It’s shoddy journalism that is meant to feed a certain bias. There’s nothing wrong with a bias towards saving the environment, but it is intellectually dishonest to spin the EPA’s results into such a misleading headline. The headline is implying that ALL fracking is bad because it causes water contamination. There are no qualifiers to better understand what the EPA is actually saying. The EPA report actually bolsters the idea that fracking is, for the most part, safe. But this headline was spinning it a completely different way.

But this is just fracking. Only one hot issue. There are dozens of other issues which are daily spun on their heads, twisted and cavorted into short flashy headlines which are meant to feed a bias. Whether it’s ISIS, Hillary Clinton, Climate Change, Race Relations, or Healthcare, the media is saturated with ways to get across an agenda rather than to inform.

For one to be media savvy:

1) Don’t fall for headlines. Click and read to see if that is actually what the full article says.

2) Don’t fall for biased sources. Yes, every source will have a bias, but some more than others. A organization like Ecowatch will have a clear bias. It’s up to you to decide if that bias is good or bad, but you need to understand there is one.

3) Remember that .org websites are created to support a certain agenda.

4) Remember that .com websites are created to make money.

5) Only pass on news that is vetted and true. If you aren’t sure about something, don’t share it.

These few tips will help us all have a better understanding of what is actually going on.



What to do with all those Cosby videos? (The problem of celebrity)

I, like millions of people, have a large stock of “Cosby Show” DVDs in my house. Who wasn’t enamored with the charming Huxtables? I bought them several years ago to watch with my kids, and we all laughed along and enjoyed the ride tremendously.

Now with more than twenty women alleging sexual abuse at the hands of Cosby, dating back to the 1970s and continuing on through his entertainment career, we all have a different look at the man – perhaps one of the great con-men of our generation. While the luster on the Cosby veneer has certainly diminished recently, what about his body of work? What are we to do with his entertainment legacy?

This is a difficult question. Some may not think so and will quickly destroy every thought or whisper of Cosby’s entertainment career from their psyche. That is certainly their right, and certainly not without some merit.

But is it possible to separate a performer’s work from his or her private life?

This is a question with which we need to tread lightly. Let’s pose some theoretical circumstances and see where it takes us.

What about an evangelist who preaches moral perfection, but is discovered with a prostitute. (I believe this happened at one point.) He would certainly be labeled as a hypocrite. But let’s say that his preaching encouraged someone to make radical, positive changes in their life that saved their marriage or changed their family dynamics for the better. Is that positive teaching invalidated by the action of the teacher?

Here’s a completely different scenario. Let’s say that a paroled, convicted sexual predator gets a job in a bakery, making all the bakery’s cinnamon rolls. An undercover journalist exposes the man as a convicted sexual predator who had done hard time in the past, does that mean that we shouldn’t eat the cinnamon rolls he makes?

One more. Let’s say that someone uncovers a hidden diary by an old Hollywood Legend – Jimmy Stewart, for argument’s sake – and this diary details all of his “hidden sins” about which the public never knew. Does that mean we shouldn’t watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” anymore?

Does a good message become negated by the bad actions of the person who gave the good message in the first place?

I think that answering that question in the affirmative is a dangerous way to think because all human’s are flawed. This is not in any way to excuse illegal, degrading, and illicit behavior. Any person who uses their celebrity status to get away with evil certainly deserves the scorn and legal procedures that comes back upon him or her.

But again, what about the videos? Well, here’s a few ideas.

For those who can’t stomach the sight of him anymore, throw them in the trash.

For those who can focus on the story and not the man, use them as an object lesson for your kids (when their age is appropriate.) Show the shallow facade behind celebrity. Help your kids to understand the difference between real-life and fictional drama. Show kids how to not put people on pedestals, because that is a recipe for disappointment. Teach kids how to understand the message, but not to be sucked in to the glamour and hero-worship which our media constantly gives to Hollywood.

Someone might argue that by purchases the DVDs by a disgraced celebrity is in fact putting money into his pockets. Yes, that is true, and if you don’t want to do that, don’t buy the DVDs.

But the reality is, this happens everyday when we buy pretty much anything at any store. Our money is continually flowing through corporations and financial institutions to any number of despicable people of whose individual actions we would not support. In our homogenized and globalized society, if we wanted to cut ourselves off from everyone we disagree with or everyone we think is a bad person, then we would indeed be very lonely people.

If you can, keep the message, while not supporting the faulty messenger. There’s no reason to say, “You know all those wholesome lessons from the Cosby Show? Well they were all a bunch of crap because we now know that Cosby is a bunch of crap? So forget all of those lessons and do whatever you like!”

Can we keep the message and use the circumstances as a lesson for our kids?

If yes, great. If not, then burn those DVDs.

“Judgment is corny.” No, that statement is corny.

I came across an article which listed out some of the most misogynistic rap lyrics which have ever been written. I’m sure you know the names of the rappers. All the big ones and more I’ve never heard of, but that’s not a big surprise. The music industry celebrities are far off of my radar. But I hear things, and I understand the type of talk which is pervasive, and even glorified, in America. Not all hip-hop stars use those kind of slurs, but they aren’t hard to find.

In the article, after listing out these horrific lyrics which, sadly, constantly graze the ears of our youngsters, the author of the article said, “Judgment is corny, but examining the cultural forces which shape our perceptions and actions is essential.”

I’m sorry, but that’s silly.

Judgment is not only not corny, it is essential in teaching our kids the difference between right and wrong. Oh wait, you think right and wrong is corny too?

Well, relative thoughts about right and wrong truly are corny because whether we want to admit it or not, we all know when someone has done something wrong – like threatening to beat up or sexually assault a woman. Wait, where did I just hear that? Oh yes, in those lyrics I mentioned above.

Though I believe the author of that article had good intentions, it does no one any good at all to dance around an issue so as not to offend anyone or, for heaven’s sake, make a judgment about someone’s behavior.

For me it’s clear.

Lyrics written for the purpose of glorifying violence against women are wrong.

Lyrics written for the purpose of sexually objectifying women are wrong.

Lyrics written for the purpose of calling women whores and sluts are wrong.

Why do we continually tolerate this? Why do we let the youth of America spend their money on concerts, music, and merchandise that promote this type of behavior/

If the music you are blaring through your headphones would not be welcome in your house if it was playing through your family’s stereo, then why are you letting it rattle around in your head. Hey teens, does your mother know what you are listening to?

Call me old fashioned, but I think women should be treated with respect. I think young men should be taught that women are not objects to be thought of and spoken about in such flippant terms.

I don’t want to shut down speech. I’m in favor of all speech. The more the better! But all speech is not to be judged equally. Just because someone has a right to say something doesn’t mean they won’t or shouldn’t be criticized for it.

There are true heroes and people to be admired in this world, but those who use misogynistic slurs are not among those whom I would look up to. Sadly, there are millionaires who live high and mighty off lyrics like that.

And, yes, there are plenty of female performers who also perpetuate the stereotype that women are objects – insert a picture of Miley Cyrus into your mind. No, sorry. Please don’t. On a side note, you may have heard that the Dominican Republic cancelled her show because they (gosh) made a judgment that what she represents is not for them. Good for them!

There is plenty of good music of all genres (including rap and hip-hop) out there. Choose some that would make your mother and all the female influences in your life proud. Someday it will make a big difference.