The prevailing feeling of war, maybe more than fear or dread, is exhaustion.  More than a decade into the longest and most wearying armed conflicts in U.S. history, M. Craig Getting directs a heart-breaking adaptation of the western world’s very oldest war story: An Iliad, at the Lantern Theater.

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There’s seven weeks left in an annus horribilis for the record books, a relentless, daily reminder that the world is not okay, has maybe never been okay, is maybe never going to be okay. The world is not good, but there are still good things in it, and it’s vital that we find them and experience them while we can.

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How I Mean to Cast My Vote

Posted: November 7, 2016 in Threat Quality

(I know I said this is a theater review website now, and it is, this is a momentary diversion that I’ve been meaning to write for a while, I’ll get back to the real good stuff after the election.)

Got to vote tomorrow, got to make some decisions.  I am going to lay out my position.  I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, or saying a person is good or bad for agreeing with me or disagreeing with me — I think it’s good to vote, because participation in democracy is essential to the existence of democracy, but beyond that I’m not going to say who you should vote for.  You’ve got to do what you think is right, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to do that.

I’m going to say what I think is the best thing to do for me, and maybe it’ll convince you, maybe it’ll convince you to do the opposite, life is mysterious, but at least we’ll all know where we stand.

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Theater Review: Breathe Smoke

Posted: November 1, 2016 in Threat Quality

(Broad Street Review does this thing where they’ll publish your review if it’s different enough from another review they ran, but they won’t tell you if they’re going to pay for it until after you’ve written it.  I am not *real* happy with this practice, but what else am I going to do, who knows.  Anyway, my review was second, but I wrote it, might as well run it somewhere.)

According to its description, Breathe Smoke, the fourth play from the Orbiter 3 producing playwrights collective, is about a controversial performance artist planning his final show, one that will “merge the boundaries between his art and his mortality.”  In 2016, the idea evokes David Bowie, whose Blackstar, was planned and recorded while the artist knew he was dying and released two days before his death, or Gord Downie, whose farewell tour with the Tragically Hip was planned when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

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Review: Breaking the Waves

Posted: November 1, 2016 in Threat Quality

(I got about seven months of time left, and without a project my brain is going to start to cannibalize itself, the other day I was so bored at work I started to get high.  I mean, like, really high, like it felt like my consciousness was floating outside my body and drifting away?  Terrible.

Anyway, Threat Quality Press is a theater review blog now.  This is a review I did at Broad Street Review a couple weeks back.)

Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere Breaking the Waves, based on the 1996 Lars von Trier film, opened to some acclaim, with at least one critic declaring it among the best 21st-century operas yet produced. It’s the brainchild of librettist Royce Vavrek and composer Missy Mazzoli, and it certainly was produced in the 21st century. It’s a production, led by conductor Stephen Osgood, of fine performances in service of what might charitably be described as a questionable goal.

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So!  As you know, I wrote a letter to my congressman, telling him that I wasn’t afraid of the dangers posed by Syrian refugees, or at the very least that I believe that the threat to human life was so great that it was worth the risk, and I implored him to have the courage to stand up for things like human decency and compassion and all those gooey sorts of things that comprise what we call “humanity”.

And he wrote back!  Get a load of this letter, I want you to see it.  It’s a form letter, obviously — no one really expects a congressman, especially not a congressman like Patrick Meehan — to give a flying fuck about what his constituents think about anything.  But…well…

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Some Notes on Tragedy

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Braak, Politics
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It probably has not escaped anyone’s notice that I don’t usually write things in the face of terrible tragedies.  With one or two exceptions, I usually don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how other people survive in the world; I keep most of it at delicate, carefully-maintained distance.  Any horror is capable of collapsing that distance, bespeaking not just itself but every horror, every agony in the unremitting misery of the world.  I don’t have a good mechanism for feeling bad about only one thing at a time, I think.  Somehow, in my imagination, every tragedy is chained together and to drag one loose is to pull all of them free.

When things like this happen I start to feel…”deliberate” I suppose is a word.  Maybe this is a kind of vanity – in the face of external stresses I become introspective.  Vanity is certainly something I am capable of.  And maybe it’s a kind of cowardice – I look for, instead of some way to act, only the one way to act perfectly correctly, the opportune moment to do only the exact right thing.  Sometimes the opportune moment never presents itself, and I do nothing, and so maybe this is a way of forgiving myself of the responsibility of action.  Cowardice is certainly something I am capable of.

I don’t know.

A philosopher that I happen to like is Baruch Spinoza, and a quote that has felt especially pertinent to me lately is this one, from his Tractatus Politicus:

Peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character.

I suppose I’m interested in what that means, what it means that peace is not the absence of violence, but is instead a resistance to violence.  That war is not an active condition but a passive one – a state of entropy that emerges on its own when the hard work of peace is abandoned.  That it’s peace that is the real work, the difficult work, the challenging work.

I don’t know the answer to this, either.  I don’t know how to win this war, and I am suspicious of anyone who claims to know.

I do know that I want to do the right thing, and only the right thing, and I don’t know what that is or even what it looks like.

So.  This is the letter I wrote to my congressmen.  I encourage you to write to your congressmen, too.

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