Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Week of Activities

So...what else have I been up to this week... besides studying and work...

Tuesday: An Exercise in Hard Budget Constraints - Susan Tanaka and Maya MacGuiness of The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget led an exercise where teams made the budget decisions that Congress faces. We chose what budgetary goals we wanted (eliminating the deficit in 3 years), and then tried to accomplish it based on the exercise choices. We realized how hard it is to cut spending and raise revenues. You can learn more about the exercise here.

Tuesday: Ruby Sunrise @ the Public Theatre - The Times gave it a tepid review, especially for Oscar Eustasis' first turn at directing as the new Artistic Director. Perhaps it was as smashing as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but Rinne Groff constructs complex and engaging play. The play is as much about the tension of idealism and skepticism as it is about the development of television.

The plot aside, the production's ending "TV show within a play" did the mix of live video as well as long timers like the Builders Association or the Wooster Group. While not experimental in content, I felt like it was showing how mainstream theatre is adapting these tools of downtown theatre. As always, I found Groff's structure and metaphors engaging. In the beginning she connects the lines in farm fields with the lines of a cathode ray tube. There is great, brief meta theatrical musing of how writer's work is undermined or changed by actors and directors.

One of the starkest contrasts for me is Ruby's vision that television will connect us to the world, as it is, and by doing so, end war. "Because who could stand having it in our livingrooms?" But what we have is war in our living rooms as a form of infotainic detachment. In the end of the play, we have stories, written, under commercial pressures, that play with our sympathies, not some objective portal into the greater world that could build understanding.

John Lahr's criticism was that the play leaves unresolved the "conumdrum of commercial television" opposing the idealistic, Liberal, outlook for TV. But I disagree with that necessity. What is more real is that ideals aren't ever truly subverted or truly realized, but left a in a mishmash. It is task enough to be aware that the world we live is a result of a massive matrix of decisions and on top of that, to be aware of the compromises made as we balance our fears with our hopes.

Who makes this conundrum? We do, by what what we desire or fear, and how we chose to engage or detach from the world. The puzzel we face then, is how do we respond to knowing we contribute to the state affairs (pollution, red baiting, commercialism, etc..) yet also know/sense that we have little power to oppose it as individuals.

Wednesday: MicroFinance In Theory & Practice - Wagner Professor Jonathan Mordoch talked about how sees microfinance changing in the next 5-10 years and PhD candidate Daryl Collins South Africa discussed why kind of context that might play out based on her Financial Diaries Project. The project was a super interesting study of how poor people in South Africa manage their money. Two interesting notes were the average household employed 17-20 different savings instruments and that the major financial event for them were funerals, many having to do with HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday: The Hazzards Make-Out Party - after months of missed connections, Dave and I caught up and saw Anne & Sydney host there recurrent show at Galapagos. The surprise of the evening was the taqueria on Bedford in the back of the bodega. Great, inexpensive mexican food, a super treat in the tragically hip strip.


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