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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Theater recommendations for the end of 2016

The Wolves is PHENOMENAL but also very sold out. Hoping it will be brought back for a third run!

saw and loved Anna Deveare Smith's Notes From the Field.

Her one-woman shows are the result of years of interviews she conducts and records, then performs as each subject. She becomes, in body language and verbal style, first a protester, then a convict, then a teacher, then a congressman.

The subject of this show is the relationship between education and incarceration, and what that means for racial justice and the soul of America.

We were wondering beforehand if she would openly address the election. She didn't have to--the whole thing felt urgently topical, and I doubt anyone hadn't cried by the end.

Highly recommended.

saw and loved Sarah Jones's "Buy Sell Date", a one woman show (she was greatly influenced by Anna Deavere Smith) in which she becomes different characters--fictional, but based on observing many nuances of speech and manner--all of whom talk about sex, prostitution and porn, with a speculative fiction twist. Brilliant and hilarious.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a funny and devastating play by Martin McDonough (In Bruges) is being revived at BAM. Don't know this production, but I recommend it sight unseen! I saw it in 1998 or 9.

I saw Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway this week. Very good and touching and very funny, and appropriate for a mature 12 year old and up. (We took Kate's nieces and nephews, and now they're totally Broadway fans!)

Not earth shattering in its voice or music, but memorable and special and entertaining. 100% of the audience loved it and came out glowing. At least 30% cried including yours truly :)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Faster Google Chrome browser on Mac

Just tried turning off hardware acceleration in Chrome, and it improved performance on my Mac noticeably. No idea why that would improve things, but it does, for me and many others, apparently.

I also recommend disabling plugin auto-play (i.e., making Flash ask you before it runs).

...and using the extension "The Great Suspender" to suspend tabs you haven't visited in a while.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

The spectacular meta-lie

I was searching for analysis of Assata Shakur's guilt or innocence (watching the film 13th, I was reminded of how interesting and disputed her history is), and I came across this disturbing search result:

Peep the third result.

This takes you to this completely false and slanderous story, which I immediately suspected was biased, but which I didn't realize at first was totally made up:

Especially interesting is the clear political angle:

I think it's clear that this article is something its author wanted to both seem true and to raise, and echo, suspicions that Snopes is being systematically unfair to right-wingers when it calls their theories false. In that sense, it is a meta-lie: a knowing lie which attempts to perpetuate an alternate reality of truth in which other knowing lies are validated, and shame for spreading them is absolved.

One theory I have is that in a story like this, a sprinkle of absurdism serves to provide an out for people accused of spreading lies. The story has it that when an antique player piano started playing "Dixie", the Snopes editor:

...became violent. He started grabbing various antique objects from the vendors’ tables and throwing them at the antique piano in an attempt to silence the music.

That's just absurd enough so that you can roll your eyes at someone who believed it--but not so absurd that it's obviously untrue, a balance that I think is a carefully calibrated.

Contrast this with the staid passages that pretend to reveal information which pierces Snopes's veneer of independence and fairness:

The list of groups and individuals paying to use the website’s clout ranged from local politicians to transnational entities to foreign governments, including Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority. None of the specifics or individual names are being revealed while the investigation is still ongoing...

This is a brilliant gambit, from a propaganda standpoint, in part because these passages are so quotable out of context. And the story itself, even if more than one paragraph is read, seems designed to make a significant percentage of people not realize at all that it's fake. The original story carries no disclaimer at all, and even the republished story I found saves the only disclaimer--the single word "satire"--for a separate section at the end of the column. (The story is tagged at the top in tiny print first as "Commentary", and secondarily as "Political Satire".)

More analysis of this fake story, including the source of the Photoshopped image, here.

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