Thursday, June 25, 2009

Turd in a Guilded Cage

So HuffPo guy Nico Pitney, who has been jacked into events in Iran while the Washington Press Corpse has been doing its usual fluff, was tabbed to convey a question from Iran at a presser.

Here's Dana Milbank defending his turf:

Newspapermen used to belong to guilds. And the primary purpose of these guilds, which date back more than 1000 years, was to keep competition out. Via wikipedia:

The earliest guilds were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by an authority or monarch to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials.

And the journamalistic version:

The Newspaper Guild is a labor union founded by newspaper journalists in 1933 who noticed that unionized printers and truck drivers were making more money than they did. In addition to improving wages and working conditions, its constitution says its purpose is to fight for honesty in journalism and the news industry's business practices.

See much honesty in journalism in Milbank's pique?

As Milbank's furious tantrum demonstrates, the quality of the work is irrelevant. The fact that Pitney asked a much better question than 90+% of the drones around him dared to ask is irrelevant. And the fact that Obama wouldn't answer his question (which completely undermines any claim of substantive collusion) is irrelevant. Jeff Gannon is irrelevant, as is the complete indifference of Milbank & Friends to his extended stay in the pressroom. What matters to the Guild is that their ability to protect their turf has suffered another blow.

The end really can't come soon enough for these guys.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Man of Guantanamo

I am a pretty picky consumer of culture these days. One of the forms of entertainment I no longer much care for is musical theater. Andrew Lloyd Webber makes me barf; almost everything else is a revival or otherwise recycled. There are perhaps two shows that I consider worthy of such resurrection: West Side Story and Man of La Mancha. The former is so insanely difficult and demanding that it is virtually never staged (I've only seen the 1961 film); the latter is much easier to find (I've seen at least four stage productions).

One thing they have in common is their centuries-old source material -- Shakespeare and Cervantes are almost perfect contemporaries. (The two Broadway shows launched only a few years apart as well.) Another similarity is the importance of that material: Don Quixote is widely considered the first modern novel. And of course they are both tragedies in which optimism collides with a dark, hostile reality.

An interesting diffference between the works of the two authors is that Shakespeare's plays are often staged in updated contexts (the whole point of West Side Story); La Mancha is almost always staged in its original context. The whole play-within-a-play takes place in a prison where the protagonist awaits his turn before the Spanish Inquisition. That context has seemed sui generis for most of the 40+ years since its first run.

Until now.

And that's why I'm prattling on about Broadway -- I just realized that Man of La Mancha ought to be staged in a new prison with a Spanish name: Gitmo.

(It turns out I am not the first to think of this, and there have been small productions that are explicit, and a more mainstream one that drew explicit parallels in the program without changing the setting. But I think this is a textbook case in which familiar art could make an uncomfortable but needed point to people who might not otherwise hear it. Were I to stage it now, the play would start conventionally during the Inquisition, but when the play-within ends, the scene would be Guantanamo.)

More on La Mancha in context here. If you don't know the show and are tempted, skip the movie and find a stage production.

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