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markpkessinger

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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 4,994

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Have you ever been to a musical where you personally knew the characters of the story?

No, I don't mean the cast. I mean the actual characters portrayed in the play. I'm about to find out what it is like. Let me explain...

Some of you may be familiar with the lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel. Until 2006, she was known chiefly as the artist responsible for the comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For." Then, in 2006, her autobiographical graphic novel, "Fun Home," was released. The book was a stunning success, both popularly and critically, and was named Time's Book of the Year that year. The book deals with Alison's relationship with her father, Bruce, a funeral director in her tiny, Pennsylvania town, and an English teacher at the local high school. Bruce was, as it turns out, a closeted gay man. He was also a mad perfectionist whose consuming passion was the restoration of the family's Gothic revival mansion. Bruce died in 1980, while restoring another house he had purchased -- he had crossed the busy road to dispose of some brush he had cleared, and was killed when, as he attempted to cross the road back to the house, he stepped in front of a Stroehmann's bread truck. Alison makes a pretty convincing case that his death was, in fact, a suicide, based on some discoveries she made in the aftermath of his death (he had apparently been discovered to be having an affair with a local teenage boy, and law enforcement was closing in).

It is a stunning book, well deserving of every accolade it has received. And now, the book has been made into a musical, which is playing at the Public Theater in New York, and was reviewed (quite favorably) in the New York Times this weekend.

So here's the thing: that little Pennsylvania town Alison grew up in happens to be the same one I grew up in. And her father was one of my high school English teachers. I was a year behind Alison in school. I worked alongside her mother (who also features prominently in the book) in the local summer stock theater for several summers. I attended numerous cast parties in that Gothic revival house her father restored. One of her two younger brothers was in the same Boy Scout troop I belonged to. Our respective families have associations that go back more than a century and a half. So seeing this musical promises to be a positively surreal experience!

Theater Review
Family as a Hall of Mirrors
‘Fun Home,’ a New Musical at the Public Theater

Cast members in “Fun Home,” adapted from the Alison Bechdel memoir by the playwright Lisa Kron and the composer Jeanine Tesori, at the Public Theater.

By BEN BRANTLEY
Published: October 22, 2013


At moments during “Fun Home,” the beautiful heartbreaker of a musical that opened on Tuesday night at the Public Theater, you may feel you’ve developed quadruple vision, and not just because your eyes are misted with tears. It’s also a matter of those three actresses playing the same character at different ages, a device that usually feels strained in theater, but here comes off as naturally as breathing.

Then there’s that fourth party, someone who is so clearly cut from the same genetic cloth that you have to blink whenever he shares a stage with any or all of those actresses. It’s Daddy, portrayed in searing style by Michael Cerveris, a person whom his daughter, the middle-aged Alison (Beth Malone), will be living with and reincarnating forever.

The title of “Fun Home,” adapted by the playwright Lisa Kron and the composer Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s wonderful graphic memoir, is a cozy abbreviation for the small-town Pennsylvania funeral home that Daddy runs. It also refers to the Bechdel family’s Victorian house, which Daddy is endlessly restoring with a perfectionist’s tyranny.

But, more broadly, this musical’s setting is one of those halls of mirrors, both familiar and unique, where most of us grew up. It’s a place where the images of who you once were always linger, and where, no matter how hard you try, you can’t look at anyone else without seeing some of yourself. Such is the curse and the comfort of belonging to a family.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Nov 3, 2013, 11:45 PM (4 replies)

Can you identify the lovely young woman pictured with JFK?

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Nov 2, 2013, 08:32 PM (29 replies)

NY Times Editorial: ‘Not One More’

EDITORIAL
Not One More

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: October 27, 2013


< . . . . >

It’s good that Mr. Obama said “us.” It acknowledges his own role in this continuing disaster.

Much of the responsibility to fix what Mr. Obama calls the “broken immigration system” lies within his own administration. He can’t rewrite immigration laws, but he can control how well — or disastrously — they are enforced. He can begin by undoing the damage done by his Homeland Security Department. Mr. Obama has just nominated Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department general counsel, to replace homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who resigned in July. It’s the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. Here is what it might look like:

STOP NEEDLESS DEPORTATIONS The Obama administration has kept up a frantic pace of 400,000 deportations a year, and is closing in on two million. Those numbers are driven by politics, not public safety. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has wide discretion to determine whom it detains and deports. It can retool all its policies to make noncriminals and minor offenders — the people most likely to benefit from the reform now stalled in Congress — the lowest priority for deportation.

The deportation surge is fed by programs like Secure Communities, which does immigration checks on everyone arrested by local and state law enforcement, and Operation Streamline, in which border crossers in the Southwest are prosecuted en masse, with little access to legal representation. Mr. Obama turned the dragnet on, and can turn it off. In marches and vigils across the country, protesters have made one plea on deportations to Mr. Obama: “Not one more.” He should heed it.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Oct 28, 2013, 09:20 PM (4 replies)

Two Comments I just posted to 60 Minutes on the Cheney segment

This was the first:

Sanjay Gupta: You know, magical, wonderment, you're words. Those aren't words you typically hear, or expect to hear from you...


On the contrary, Dr. Gupta, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest to hear Mr. Cheney use such words in reference to his own life. Now, if he had used those words in reference to the lives of the over thousands of American solders for whom he had a hand in sending to pointless deaths or the 100,000+ innocent Iraqi civilians who lost their lives as a result of his war mongering, THAT would surprise me. Whatever his physical health troubles, Mr. Cheney's ego has never been close to requiring life support.


And here's the second:

In referring to "when George W. Bush asked Cheney to be his running mate in 2000," without mentioning that what Bush originally asked of Cheney was that he head up a committee to vet potential running mates, and that Cheney, after taking that committee through a few, mostly pro forma motions, presented HIMSELF as the most qualified candidate available, 60 Minutes has further enabled BushCo's attempt to rewrite history.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Oct 20, 2013, 10:33 PM (17 replies)

A bit of inspiration courtesy of an old voice teacher

One of my voice professors from when I was a student at Westminster Choir College posted this on Facebook. I was quite moved by -- although I do not teach music, it expresses some very profound truth of what I gained in the serious study of music.

Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 18, 2013, 04:36 PM (2 replies)

Give me a fucking break! (speaking to right-wingers, not folks on DU!)

So, the right's latest outrage du jour is the $300 million aid package the President has committed to the City of Detroit. Tonight, a crazy, right-wing sister of mine shared an 'infographic' (if you can call it that) from Freedomworks, calling that aid package a 'bailout' and whining about "our hard-earned tax dollars going to bail out union fatcats." So here is the status update I posted in response:

Mark Kessinger

(I will make every effort to be as temperate as I possibly can be i writing this post. But I guarantee nothing.)

Today I saw yet another example of one of the right's endless litany of 'outrages' by President Obama. There is an infographic from Freedomworks circulating Facebook that oh-so-self-righteously fulminates against what it calls a "bailout" of Detroit. Here is the accompanying text:

"The Obama Administration has announced it will bail out Detroit with $300 million of YOUR tax dollars.

'Share' if you don't want your hard earned money to be spent bailing out union fat cats! Send a message demanding your Congressional Representatives stop the bailout:"

First, it is an aid package, not a bailout. Detroit's debts total sum $18 billion dollars, so $300 million can hardly be considered a bailout.

Second, approximately $150,000 of it is earmarked to help THE REPUBLICAN-APPOINTED EMERGENCY CITY MANAGER to cover the costs of razing blighted buildings. The remainder is going towards helping to beef up the decimated police and fire departments. These are all necessary preconditions for any redevelopment by PRIVATE DEVELOPERS.

Third, $300M is a little over .008% -- that's EIGHT THOUSANDTHS OF ONE PERCENT -- of the Federal government's total outlays for 2012 (approx. $3.5 trillion). It is approximately $1 for every man, woman and child currently living in the U.S.l Telll you what, conservatives: if that $1 for each member of your household is really of that much concern to you, call me up and I'll give you the damn dollar!

Whatever may be said of the causes of Detroit's bankruptcy (and they were significantly more complex and manifold than mere unions), the fact remains that Detroit is still a city of some 700,000 people, the vast majority of whom had little or no say in the decisions made by their leaders over the years, and a large percentage of whom simply do not have the means to pull up stakes and move elsewhere.

This may come as a shock to conservatives, but the fact is we ALL pay taxes for things we don't like. (God knows many of us had to sit by and watch helplessly as untolled trillions were poured into two pointless wars that were launched by one of your own, chiefly at the behest of conservatives with a financial stake in defense contracting industries.) You are not, contrary to your self-anointed 'victim' status, uniquely put upon. Your tax rates are at something like a 70-year low, and tax rates in the United States are among the lowest in the developed world, so, with all due respect, conservatives, grow the fuck up already!


Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Oct 12, 2013, 11:09 PM (14 replies)

Amazing comment posted to Will Pitt's piece on Truthout . . .

. . . And Will's article is a must-read!

Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 11, 2013, 01:17 AM (34 replies)

Alarming paragraph in NY Times article

In the article on the Times site titled, "As Pressure Mounts, House G.O.P. Weighs Short-Term Debt Deal," this paragraph practically jumped off the page at me:

Democrats showed their own cracks. Twenty-six House Democrats planned to attend a bipartisan event on Thursday morning with the group No Labels, calling for negotiations to start immediately, a challenge to the president and to Democratic leaders who say they will not negotiate until the government reopens and the debt ceiling is lifted.


WTF?! Does anybody know who these 26 idiots are?
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Oct 10, 2013, 01:36 AM (7 replies)

NY Times/Wilentz: Obama and the Debt

Very good Op-Ed in which Sean Wilentz, Professor of Histiory at Princeton, lays out a good argument for why the President has the authority to act under the 14th Amendment.

Obama and the Debt
By SEAN WILENTZ
Published: October 7, 2013


THE Republicans in the House of Representatives who declare that they may refuse to raise the debt limit threaten to do more than plunge the government into default. They are proposing a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” is sacrosanct and “shall not be questioned.”

Yet the Obama administration has repeatedly suppressed any talk of invoking the Constitution in this emergency. Last Thursday Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said, “We do not believe that the 14th Amendment provides that authority to the president” to end the crisis. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew reiterated the point on Sunday and added that the president would have “no option” to prevent a default on his own.

In defense of the administration’s position, the legal scholar Laurence H. Tribe, who taught President Obama at Harvard Law School, has insisted, as he put it two years ago, that “only political courage and compromise” can avert disaster.

These assertions, however, have no basis in the history of the 14th Amendment; indeed, they distort that history, and in doing so shackle the president. In fact, that record clearly shows that Congress intended the amendment to prevent precisely the abuses that the current House Republicans blithely condone.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 8, 2013, 10:58 AM (1 replies)

Looks like the bikers who beat the SUV driver blew off a police check point with impunity . . .

. . . the guy who appears in the video (video at link below) is a friend of a friend. It appears that the bikers simply blew right past a checkpoint on the Manhattan Bridge, while law-abiding drivers were stopped and required to reproduce license, registration and proof of insurance. One has to wonder if the fact that there were five off-duty cops among the bikers had something to do with this. I mean, it is pretty hard to believe that blowing past a police check point wouldn't have resulted in a police pursuit, unless there had been some kind of prior arrangement. The fraud of the security state is exposed again!

http://www.insideedition.com/videos/1830-motocyclist-captures-biker-mob-acting-reckless
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Oct 6, 2013, 06:40 PM (10 replies)
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