A few years ago I decided that, whenever someone insulted me or acted rudely, I'd laugh it off. It was probably the only New Year's resolution I've come close to keeping.
It's useful, because nine times out of ten, the insult or rudeness is unintentional or thoughtless. Why take it personally?
Case in point. Last night I went to the Birchmere to meet my cousin for her husband's birthday celebration. I arrived early so I could save a good table for five (not quite early enough, and it turned out I needed space for seven, so the back of the room turned out fine).
While waiting to get in the doors, I sat at the bar with a glass of pinot grigio and my paperback - The Fall by Camus (yeah, I know - perfect reading for an old music hall. But I'm used to being out of place).
I'm trying to get out of myself a little more and be open to random conversations in public places. Not that I want to be picked up or anything. But a couple sat down at the bar table across from me, so maybe I'd just start a conversation. The guy was about my age, give or take seven or eight years, and the girl was much younger. They were both on their cell phones, but chatting in between texting.
I heard the guy grumble to the girl, "What a loser, can't get a date."
Okay, I knew he was talking about whoever he was communicating with on his phone. Maybe it was somebody who backed out of meeting them there. But he was sitting three feet away, directly across the table, from a middle-aged woman sitting alone in a bar with a glass of white wine and a book - the iconic image of "loser, can't get a date."
I smiled, laughing at myself and at the guy across the table from me, and continued with Camus' narrator on the absurdity of public charm.
The guy and the girl paused in their own conversation for a bit, so I asked the guy if he'd been to hear this singer before, Guy Clark. I wanted to know what kind of music to expect.
The guy was very friendly, an aging old-boy/hippie with a long grey ponytail. The much-younger girl he was with, I finally realized, was his daughter. The fact that he was there without a wife or significant other made him a bit more forgivably attractive. The music, he told me, was country ballads, Texas style, and this Guy Clark was very funny - droll, like Lyle Lovett.
The guy went to get drinks for his daughter and himself, so I chatted with the girl - a nursing student going for her LPN. I told her of my experiences with the health care system over the last few years, with my parents in and out of hospitals. "Nurses rock!" I said. (I admit wondering, fleetingly, if she would like me as a stepmother. Sigh. It was a semi-selfish thought: Who is going to take care of me when it's my turn to be in and out of hospitals?)
When her dad came back, the girl was playing around with the settings on her new camera. She was trying to turn off the automatic flash. She let me look for the setting - I never found it on her camera. I whipped out my own camera to show her the function I was looking for.
I'm very proud of my little camera. It's the one I won at the pre-concert party for Clay Aiken's 2007 Tulsa concert. So I bragged about how I won my camera at a Clay Aiken concert.
The guy laughed. I mean, LAUGHED. Laughed harder than he should have. "You like CLAY AIKEN? Seriously? HAHAHA!!"
I just smiled. (Yes, of course! I LOVE Clay Aiken! How normal of me!)
Maybe that was enough to break the ice - he introduced himself, Rick, and I said my name. The daughter introduced herself too. (Sorry - Amanda? Angela? I am really sorry I didn't get her name too. Too flustered.)
By then my number was about to be called to go into the dining hall. Rick and daughter were only a few numbers behind me. I found my table for my cousins and never saw my new friends again until the intermission between opening act and Guy Clark. We ran into each other in the hallway leading to the restrooms. Rick patted me on the shoulder and smiled broadly. Amanda/Angela(?) was cute as a doll. We all said we were enjoying the show. I went back to my party's table and never saw them again.
Anyway, I had a great time. In spite of being thoroughly (unintentionally) insulted twice. I think it was the right attitude to take, don't you?
laughing off loving Clay as much as ever, because it feels good.
Monday, April 20, 2009
The subtitle of this blog is "Subjugation Fails."
My three most-recent outings to the theater were:
1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Round House (closes April 26)
2. The Civil War at Ford's (through May 24)
3. Ragtime at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater (through May 17)
Of these, obviously Civil War and Ragtime have more in common thematically, and also structurally, but Cuckoo's Nest illustrates the historical point very clearly: subjugation of one group (in this case the mentally ill) because it does not fit in with what is deemed normal (so deemed by those in power) is immoral and destined to fail.
Civil War, more concert than play (I would call it a concert with stagecraft and some acting, but no plot--more of a live montage), presents the human impacts of the war from a variety of points of view, including the words of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. It ends with a montage projected on the backdrop bringing the history of civil rights up to the present. Obviously a rushed and abridged edition; the imagery used is iconic but conveys the most meaning to those who already know their history.
My favorite part of that production was the fact that it took place in Ford's Theatre (hee! Not a good seat in the house, though the chairs themselves have been improved). The famous box where Lincoln sat (with a portrait of Washington hanging in front) was lit up whenever Lincoln's words were read aloud, and the singers/characters turned to "watch" him. I could almost imagine Lincoln standing and nodding in acknowledgement of the performers.
Ragtime got to have my expectations lowered thanks to the Washington Post story ("Reduced Ragtime") about how the production values have been diminished since its 1998 Broadway and heavily Tony-nominated production. That was the age of overproduction, so truthfully it wasn't that big a deal to me. The touring set is impressive enough, with multiple tiers of metal railroad-station platforms surrounding three-fourths of the stage.
This also gave the feeling of America always being on the go. Like with Civil War, the show seemed more pageantry than history, as though these important events could only be reduced to an outline--or a skeleton, whose meat is provided by the strength of the performers and their connection to the audience.
The story of struggle against subjugation and for the liberation of creativity is a compelling one, and all three of these shows grabbed me by the heart.
And for those of you who count such things, all three shows got standing ovations for the performances I attended: A Thursday night preview, a Sunday matinee, and a Sunday night, respectively.
waiting for the next curtain to rise
P.S. Update on the Box issue. I may go back to Box after all. The non-box version of Comcast no longer carries Show Tunes on the Music Choice channels. Crap.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The May-June 2009 issue of THE FUTURIST is on the way to subscribers soon from the World Future Society. Here's a sneak peak at the Future View editorial:
Forecasts in Hindsight
By Cynthia G. Wagner
By Cynthia G. Wagner
Every now and then, we at THE FUTURIST are asked to look back at previous forecasts to see how we did. Many magazines have turned back the clock briefly to recall what topics interested the readers (or at least the editors) 10, 20, 50, or even 100 years ago.
So a curious thing happened when I picked up the May-June 1989 issue of THE FUTURIST to see what we were forecasting then. I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.
In the Future View editorial “Tomorrow? Who Cares?” economics professor Thomas Oberhofer wrote of the consequences of short-term focused and greed-driven financial maneuvering by businesses and individuals alike. He attributed this phenomenon to impatience.
“When we are impatient with the little things, it is hard to be patient with the big things,” he wrote. “We see this in many areas of contemporary society. Financial markets in the 1980s have been driven by merger activity and corporate raiding as a means of capturing value. This is in lieu of the old-fashioned way of investing in productive capacity and building a business. Consumers have plunged into debt to enjoy a fling today, often with limited concern for the longer-term consequences of their actions. And the American people have tolerated the creation of massive federal indebtedness and the international erosion of their financial power in the world economy.”
Oberhofer advised economic policies that created incentives for patience and disincentives for immediate gratification, though he noted that implementing and enforcing such policies would require a change in the cultural mind-set.
Looking around the international financial landscape just now, I think I can safely say that cultural mind-sets are very difficult to change: Impatience persists, exacerbated by accelerating change in all directions and by a proliferation of distractions.
Several other topics we covered 20 years ago ring familiar today, too, including the cover story, “Cars That Know Where They’re Going” by Robert L. French, a consultant on vehicular navigation systems. Indeed, as he foresaw, the use of GPS in cars today is widespread.
“Once a sufficient fraction of all cars are equipped with navigation systems,” French predicted, “even unequipped drivers will benefit because traffic will be spread uniformly over the road network.” Unfortunately, this forecast has not quite met with success, though perhaps today’s traffic congestion is not as bad as it could have been without drivers’ ability to better manage their personal routes.
What else was on THE FUTURIST’s mind? Among the other feature articles in the May-June 1989 issue were “Renewable Energy: Power for Tomorrow” by Robert L. San Martin, “Human Factors: The Gap Between Humans and Machines” by Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown, and “A New Era of Activism: Who Will Frame the Agenda?” by Rafael D. Pagán Jr.
Pagán foresaw the impacts of the Information Age creating better-informed and better-connected citizens, who would pursue an active interest in improving public and private institutions. But he warned of fallout from anti-corporate movements: “Leaving the authorship of public policy to activists is irresponsible,” he argued. “Corporations can find a way to retrieve eroded public trust, can be dynamic participants in the debates of our time, and can fairly balance the social contract between themselves and consumers.”
Pagán was clearly optimistic on corporate responsibility, both for self-regulation and for stewardship. “The doctrine of the stewardship of the earth has developed dramatically in the last two decades,” he noted. “Now we are coming to see ourselves as caretakers, and we are holding ourselves responsible for the way we use our resources.… The choice for industry is no longer whether it will be responsible, but how.”
Our World Trends & Forecasts section likewise covered topics that continue to have an impact on our lives and futures, such as family–work balance, investments in children’s health and education, and the phenomenon of “environmental refugees”—entire groups of people forced into migrating due to insurmountable environmental problems. As Hurricane Katrina painfully illustrated, some problems just cannot be planned away, but they can (and must) still be planned for and, if possible, prevented.
And that lesson continues to be the principal subject matter of THE FUTURIST and the World Future Society.
About the Author
Cynthia G. Wagner is managing editor of THE FUTURIST. E-mail cwagner 'at' wfs 'dot' org.
Cynthia G. Wagner is managing editor of THE FUTURIST. E-mail cwagner 'at' wfs 'dot' org.
For further discussion of financial manias and their causes and impacts, see Chapter 11, “The Past as a Guide to the Future,” of Futuring: The Exploration of the Future by Edward Cornish (WFS, 2004), which may be ordered from the World Future Society at www.wfs.org/futuring.htm.
Back in the old office, back in the day.