[Some scenes around Chicago this week that I thought were pretty and posted to Sassy Plants]
The purpose of a “doom antidote” or “fear porn repellant” is to take a deep breath, cool down, and rationally ponder if what the tee-vee is screaming about today or what the headlines are bleeding is true…or if it is just hysteria ginned up for ratings. Being in front of the computer screen (or, worse, the tee-vee screen) for too long is bad for everyone. Listening to conspiracy theories (even the ones that are probably right) for hours on the radio in the dark is not healthy either. Sometimes, you need to pull yourself away, head outdoors, look for interesting (or, dare I dream…sassy!) things in nature to photograph, and enjoy the real world (not the fake, twisted, messed up Internet world).
After you collect yourself, take a look at the day’s headlines and ask yourselves if the weird fantasies and wish-casting being pushed by various pundits is real…or if it’s bad alternate universe fan-fiction (usually of the dystopian, worst-case-scenario possible bent).
Here are some thoughts on what’s plastered all over today (and why none of it is really the end of the world):
1. JK Rowling decided to emblacken (make a white character black in later versions of a work) Hermione Granger in the new Harry Potter play, “The Cursed Child,” despite Rowling using terminology in her books that clearly indicated that Granger was white. I think it’s insulting to black people when entertainment companies (or a beloved brand like Rowling) do this…because to me it means that black people are an afterthought to them and they only get the leftovers and hand-me-down characters. Rowling wanted to prove what a Big Thinker she was (and how enlightened she is!) by turning Hermione black retroactively, but really she’s just putting a big spotlight on how she didn’t bother to create a central black character in the Harry Potter books back when she had the chance in the 1990s. Making Hermione black now in a stage play seems stupid when the stage play could have created a new and original black character. Rowling is one of the most beloved people on the planet but I think all her billions and the nonstop gushing of praise on her has gotten to her head and she’s become one of the politically correct zombies that so infest Hollywood.
2. Bizarre Clickbait Fantasy #1: People saying that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democrats’ 2016 nominee. I was really surprised to see how strong Bernie Sanders’ support is, especially amongst gay people. Back in 2008, the gay guys I knew who didn’t support Hillary and were for Obama said in apologetic tone that they liked Hillary but thought it would be cool to have a black president, so they were voting for him instead. They promised in the future if Hillary ran again that they would back her…but almost every one of those people are really rabid for Bernie Sanders. That was a complete shock to me and indicates that their support for Obama was more than that they just wanted a hip, cool, black man as president…but that they have really strong Leftist leanings and that’s what they want government to be. Hillary gets pummeled by conservative writers all the time…but she’s not the radical Leftist dream candidate that Obama was and that Sanders would be. Which is why she is having so much trouble locking up this nomination. Democrats are in for a really rough fall no matter what happens, because those Sanders people are nasty…nastier even than the Obama acolytes were in the 2008 campaign. I have never seen hatred as strong as that being spewed by the Sanders crowd, who promise to essentially riot if Sanders is not the nominee. But, Democrats will never let him take the nomination from Hillary and permanently cement the DNC’s transformation into the Socialist Party. I am glad I am not a Democrat anymore because I would want no part in the quixotic fence-mending that needs to be attempted in Philadelphia when Hillary becomes the first female presidential nominee. The only thing that will save them is if Sanders becomes her VP, which I doubt the DNC would want but having him on the ticket is the only way that the Sanders thugs will be quieted.
3. Bizarre Clickbait Fantasy #2: Bill Kristol’s third party nonsense. Wasn’t 1992 clear enough? The way a Clinton wins the White House is for some kind of third party bid to siphon enough Republican votes away for Hillary to become the 45th President of the United States. If you don’t want that to happen, don’t do the Ross Perot Redux thing. I was in high school for that election and Ross Perot won our school’s mock election by a large swath. This fantasy of going third party is something that appeals to a lot of people. There’s a romance and rebellion in it. But, all it does is ensure the Clintons move back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Do not kid yourself otherwise, no matter how noble you believe third party runs are…or how you wish you lived in a world where a third party win was possible. We do not live in that world. We live in the world where it has been proven that a third party candidate guarantees a Clinton wins the presidency.
4. Enough about the gorilla (let’s talk about how precious human life is instead): I find it stomach-turning that so much ink, column space, and tee-vee time is being devoted to one gorilla that was killed in a zoo (to save a human child) when so little attention is ever given to the millions of American children who are murdered every year by the ghouls at Planned Parenthood. I don’t want to even link to a story about the gorilla (even though I was sad he had to die, but a human child’s life must always take precedence over an animal’s)…so instead watch this video of how awful Planned Parenthood in Illinois is and how hypocritical all of this upset over a zoo animal is when the people upset don’t ever care about all the human children senselessly murdered for no reason.
Sometimes, it’s overwhelming how much craziness is pushed by the Dinosaur Media. It’s really toxic and unhealthy. But, if you remember that the media does this to keep everyone in a perpetual state of crippled, frost-fingered terror (because people are easier for the government to control that way…and ratings are higher that way) then I think life is so much more enjoyable and this election season doesn’t feel like the Fall of Western Civilization so much as a much-needed course correction that’s been eight years coming.
[Click above to embiggen: some of my nature photos, which I collect on the Sassy Plants Facebook page.]
One of my hobbies in the last few years has been taking pictures whenever I am out and about in Chicago and posting them to Facebook. Sometimes it upsets me that the Drudge headlines for Chicago are always about all the murders and the corruption here, when it’s a very lovely place.
So many people that I’ve known while I’ve been here are either moving away or have already left. A surprising number of Chicagoans (at least in Boystown) headed to Atlanta, in what felt like an exodus. Things are getting ridiculously expensive here, especially if you have a car. The City is so desperate for revenue that they keep coming up with new ways to tax or punish anyone who drives. It’s also expensive just taking the trains. A lot of people are being priced out…but, still others are feeling unsafe, largely because of how the news portrays the city. Then, of course, there’s that potential serial killer hunting the expressways…with something like 22 shootings so far that everyone on the ground thinks is one person (or a duo, like the Beltway Sniper) but the police just claim is random gang violence.
I never like hearing Chicago called “the next Detroit” because I don’t think that’s true. We’re in a strange period here because the City needs a tough as nails, tyrant of a Mayor to thrive…and Rahm Emanuel is a terrible Mayor. He’s really allowed this city to become a powder keg and his grip on power is so tenuous at this point that the sharks are circling for him. I think things will get worse before they get any better, as he doesn’t have sense enough to resign. So, the city will teeter on the precipice of chaos and ruin as long as he’s in office.
I’m not one of those people who wakes up in the morning and focuses on the impending apocalypse of the moment though. Chicago is a vibrant place full of talented and exceptional people, with a lot of beauty and advantages to living here. I think we’re in a national period of political collapse unlike anything seen in decades, but I don’t think that’s something to ruin your summer over. Too many people I’ve known in recent years have gotten sucked into FOX News on the tee-vee and the sky-is-falling! doom du jour and I just think that’s so unhealthy. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind even has cable, let alone watches cable news.
Get outside and enjoy the summer. Turn off the tee-vee and plug it for a week and see if you really miss it. If you like watching sports, find a cool sports bar or restaurant and watch the games there with other people and make new friends. Or, even better, find a local college and watch all the baseball or other sports you want for free when the college teams play and practice in a field near you.
Stimulate your mind by picking a local board of some kind and looking into and reporting on what it has been doing. Go to their meetings and become a regular speaker during public comment. Ask questions, and keep asking them until the public body gives you answers. Use Freedom of Information Act requests to dig up all their dirt. You can laugh, but it’s really a fun hobby studying these local boards. Megan Fox and I have been doing it for three years now and we juggle about a dozen boards now that we monitor, audit their spending, and bust the bad board members who are up to no good. Library boards were the subject of our first book…and the one we’re writing now is about village boards. We have material for a full series of books based on just the last three years of attending board meetings and investigating things that the Dinosaur Media refuses to investigate.
If you love politics, I guess my point is that you should get involved in your local area’s politics and don’t let the FOX News talking points rule your day. I just got done talking a friend off the ledge who was crazed today about Brad Thor and Glenn Beck. I have met Brad Thor several times at different Tea Pary events in Chicago and I’ve always liked him; I can’t imagine he’s someone who would ever want to assassinate a president (or anyone). But, I question why a fiction writer is being interviewed so often about politics when Thor is wired to write Richard Castle-like fictional thrillers. That’s how he’s programmed. I write satire and have jokes in everything I write, which is also how I speak. I give Thor the benefit of the doubt that his wiring to write thrillers creeps into how he speaks on the fly.
Doing interviews is hard because so much focus is on speaking well, carrying yourself well on camera, listening to what the interviewer is saying and responding, and sometimes the human brain is not as fast on the uptake as it should be. I’ve told jokes that bombed in interviews, or I messed them up by slurring a word or mispronouncing something. It’s hard to be spot-on every time. I regret that Brad Thor is being pilloried in so many places when I can say that the guy I’ve met a few times and had some good conversations with is a very nice man who is not the monster that he is being made out to be by opportunists.
But, this is what happens when people get so cranked up about what they see on cable news, which is desperate for ratings. They bring on a fiction writer of thrillers and then take advantage of an awkward exchange he engaged in (which sounds like a plot point from one of his books)…and then for a week very nice people are upset all day over something that doesn’t have much real bearing on them. There’s so much more to life that this energy could be spent on.
I have never been happier than I am focusing on local matters in Chicagoland and trying to oust bad board members, reduce spending waste, and change bad local policies. I am so much more fulfilled doing this than I ever was focusing on the national political circus. I loved writing the book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment and am enjoying working on my second book with Megan Fox, which I hope to have on Amazon by the end of summer.
I am challenging myself to find something every week about Chicago that I’ve never done, never been to, never experienced and enjoying it (snapping pictures all the way for Sassy Plants). I love enjoying nature wherever it’s found in this urban setting. My goal is to make a bunch of new friends, have some fun times, and bust a handful more terrible boards this summer. I want to see as many live theater shows as I can, read as much as I can, and continue writing my own books with Megan.
This is going to be a great summer, in Chicago and everywhere. In the fall, we’ll elect a new president…and the world is not going to end. Sorry if that’s a spoiler. I think it’s exciting that for the first time ever it really feels like the Establishment is collapsing and the public is revolting against the status quo. This is a good thing. And we will all survive no matter how it shakes out. I have a true sense of peace about that. For some reason, my friend really needed to hear this today and I talked him down off his ledge so I shared the same sentiments here with you.
Back in 2008, I started writing this site because it was easier just to do this than to talk many people I knew off ledges during the crazy primary campaign that year. I have always had a love/hate relationship running this site because it takes so much out of me and when doing it I am unable to do other things that are more fun or enjoyable to me. For a while I’ve felt that the Internet has become an irredeemably nasty and foul place that does little good. It wasn’t like this back in 2008. I think it was the rise of smart phones and the abundance of Millennials (who are quick to attack and try to censor any opinion they don’t like) and the spur-of-the-moment immediacy of our culture today. In many ways, the Internet became incredibly toxic. I think possibly the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way, though.
I have so many mixed feelings about this coming election. I plan to start sharing them, which is hard because there is so much to process. These might be the strangest days that Americans have ever lived through. We will survive them, but the strangeness of it all will definitely be something for the history books.
What think you?
I’ll be appearing on The Andrea Shea King Show tonight to talk about the book I wrote with Megan Fox, SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.
When: Tuesday 5/31/16 (today!)
Time: 900pm Eastern/800pm Central
Andrea Shea King is my favorite interviewer and her show is my favorite on the radio. I’m looking forward to talking about what’s in the book that Megan Fox and I wrote and why people should care about what a public library in Chicago’s suburbs did to silence, censor, and intimidate its critics.
Since the Village of Orland Park used its police force as a weapon to silence people engaged in the protected activity of petitioning a government body for change and redress of grievances, there are lessons in our book that are valuable for Americans everywhere who encounter local officials who view the police as a weapon they, too, can use against the public.
Another topic will be SLAPP lawsuits, which public bodies file as weapons to scare away citizens who uncover wrongdoing in a public body. Since they don’t want anyone looking into what they have been up to, public bodies are notorious for filing bogus lawsuits to scare people away. Megan and I survived one such SLAPP and now we are telling the tale.
The Joliet Area Community Hospice is being accused by the family of Chester Siniawski of deliberately starving this man to near death. The family believes Chester’s wife, Marian, is instructing hospice workers to withhold food and drink from her husband to euthanize him — despite Chester being alert, responsive, able to speak, and able to eat on his own. By all accounts, killing a man who wants to live and who is being deprived of food and water so that his life ends is the definition of murder.
Chet Siniawski, Chester’s son, has mounted an effort to save his father’s life, noting that Chester suffered a stroke on April 10th, 2016 but has made a solid recovery (regaining the ability to speak and move on his own and the ability to feed himself, if food and water would be brought to him). According to Chet, his mother Marian suffers from delusions and has been threatening hospice staff with the police if they allow Chester to have any food or water against her wishes. Marian is, unfortunately, the person designated with power of attorney over Chester and she is calling the shots while he is in the hospice. Why is this being allowed when a man’s life is at stake and Chester has expressed that he wants to live?
Chet asserts that his father Chester is not terminal and should be in a rehabilitation center, not a hospice. Audio and video recordings taken by Chet and other family members show Chester begging for food, begging to see his doctors, and begging to be taken to a place where he will recover. Chester does not want to die and believes that the Joliet Community Area Hospice is attempting to murder him.
So far, the Siniawski family has had no luck with the police helping Chester. The police do not want to get involved. This is typical in Illinois.
The family is raising funds for an attorney to go to court to bring this matter before a judge and save Chester’s life. Please consider chipping in to their GoFundMe if you can.
Also, anyone reading this who has knowledge of what a family can do in this situation, where a non-terminal patient is being deprived of food and water in a hospice when he wants to live and when doctors stated he should be in a rehab center, please post your thoughts on what steps Chet Siniawski can take to save his father’s life.
This is a rare situation where the person holding the power of attorney (Marian) is willfully ignoring the best interests of the patient and making medical decisions for end-of-life when the poor man is fighting to survive. Since Chester is conscious and speaking and expressing he is hungry and wants to be fed, why is Marian allowed to direct the hospice staff to starve Chester Siniawski against his wishes?
I have never encountered a story as horrifying as this one, where a woman is seemingly being allowed by the Joliet Community Area Hospice to murder her husband by withholding food and water agains this wishes (and against the wishes of other family members). I think this is the most terrifying death imaginable, where a man is literally begging for his life and his son and other family members are also begging to save him but law enforcement refuses to get involved because the murder is being committed inside a hospice.
[Click above to embiggen: Please help this man save his father’s life in any way you can, even if just in prayer.]
Oak Lawn, IL
I was horrified to learn of what’s being done to starve and euthanize a man who recently had a stroke. According to his son, Oak Lawn native Chet Siniawski, this man needs to be in a rehabilitation center to mend and heal from the stroke…but instead the man’s wife (who appears to be in early stages of dementia) is insisting that the man be starved to death in a disreputable Chicago area hospice. This reminds me a lot of the twisted Terri Schiavo case in Florida, only the man who had the stroke in this case could actually recover if his wife would get out of the way and allow him to be moved into a physical rehab center (not a hospice where food and drink are being withheld from him from the grim reapers on the hospice’s payroll).
The man appears to have left no instructions to be euthanized if he had an event like a stroke and the son, Chet, is raising funds on GoFundMe to hire an attorney to save his beloved father’s life. According to Chet, his mother suffers from delusions that appear to be dementia related…so it’s shocking that she is being allowed to make end of life decisions for her husband.
I’m appalled that a hospice is doing this to this poor man, who by all accounts loved life and would want his son to stand up for him and try to save his life.
I don’t even know where to begin with this case. How is it possible in the year 2016 for a woman suffering from delusions and likely dementia to be the last word on whether her husband is allowed to starve to death in a hospice instead of being given rehab to recover from his stroke? Why are doctors signing off on this? Why is a hospice allowed to enter into end-of-life procedures with a man who would recover in a rehab facility? Why isn’t all of this criminal and why can’t the police or Sheriff stop all of this?
The horror is that the man appears to be aware inside his body, just unable to communicate and move much due to the stroke. Imagine being trapped like that, knowing what is happening to you but unable to cry out, while your own spouse is pushing to have your life ended. It’s a horrifying thought.
At the very least, a judge should have to be brought in on this and hear all the medical evidence…not just allow the wife the ability to starve a man to death while he is incapacitated. It sounds like the wife mentally doesn’t know what she’s doing, but since she’s never been legally declared mentally incompetent and she appears to hold power of attorney over her husband in his crippled state, she’s calling the shots when perhaps she’s not equipped to do that.
I cannot imagine a worse situation for a family to be in. I ask that you please pray for the Siniawskis, chip in for the lawyer fees if you can, and also please leave a note in comments if you have any ideas for what else Chet Siniawski can do to save his father’s life. Does anyone reading this have any knowledge and expertise in this area? Do you have any contacts with Right-to-Live groups who advocate for people whose families are pushing for euthanasia?
How do people save a man’s life when his own wife wants him dead — and why on earth is something like this allowed to happen in America in this day and age?
[Click above to embiggen: a map of the Beltway Sniper serial killings back in 2002. It’s interesting that NO SUCH MAP is posted anywhere marking where all the recent Chicago expressway shootings have been. Why not have one? Wouldn’t such a map establish a pattern that could help figure out who is doing this? Unless the reason for not having a map is because the media and police don’t want people to put those pieces together.]
Here’s something that people on the ground in Chicago are all freaked out about (but of course the media won’t report on it accurately and the police seem to be pretending that it’s not happening): is there a serial killer shooting at cars on the highway into Chicago similar to DC’s Beltway Sniper from years ago?
Whenever these shootings are reported on, the media seems to go out of its way to just claim this is random gang violence. But…if that was true then wouldn’t this have always been happening through the years? I find it hard to believe the gangs just decided recently to start shooting at cars when they never did that before. Why start this new “shooting at cars on the highway” thing…or missing each other and accidentally hitting cars (which is what the police try to claim is happening, but that makes little sense)?
Doesn’t it seem more plausible that a serial killer (or pair of serial killers, similar to the Beltway Sniper killer-team) is at work?
The Beltway Sniper was a two-person team working around DC in 2002. The serial killers in that instance turned out to be 42-year old John Allen Muhammad and his 17-year old accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam, was executed by lethal injection in 2009 for murdering at least 10 people in the sniper attacks. Malvo remains in prison without the possibility of parole. If you recall, the media tried hard at the time to pretend that Muhammad and Malvo were not serial killers either (especially after the media caught onto the connection to the Nation of Islam).
Here in 2016, it feels like the media and police want to try pretending these Chicago shootings are just random gang violence because that’s less scary than a serial killer who is hunting cars for prey (especially if it is a black shooter targeting white people driving to and from work in the city). I know plenty of suburbanites who are scared out of their minds over this…and they have stopped driving into the city as a result. Everyone here is desensitized to gang violence and white people in the suburbs figure that they will never be impacted by the black-on-black crime in the Southside that bleeds across the Tribune’s front page every Monday morning (what local tee-vee reporter Evelyn Holmes always calls the latest Murder-Death-Kills). But, the specter of a serial killer would get suburbanites’ attention in ways that would hurt all of the tourist-dependent entities downtown. Can’t have that just as summer fun season is heating up.
Even conservative outlets like HotAir fail to put the pieces together and see a serial killer pattern, not just random shootings. Why is that?
This is another example of watching a story being reported on completely opposite to what people who live here in Chicago are saying about it. It’s like being in Russia in 1980-something and reading Pravda or Iskra…or listening to Baghdad Bob during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as he literally reported the exact opposite of what was really happening all around him on live tee-vee.
Have you noticed any of this?
What think you: is random gang violence more comforting a thought than the specter of a serial killer hunting in Chicago?
[Click above to embiggen: The Orland Park Public Library does not carry on its shelves the book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, even though this library claims every fall that any book that is deliberately not carried is “banned” or “censored” by the library that does not carry it. If they don’t carry a book that is critical of them, isn’t the Orland Park Public Library staff banning and censoring this book?]
* The American Library Association (ALA) hosts an event every year called “Banned Books Week,” which Thomas Sowell once called “National Hogwash Week.”
* The ALA claims that a book is “banned” if any parent ever complains about the book’s contents for young children. By this logic, the ALA would say it is age discrimination if a parent doesn’t want his/her child to look at Playboy or the Karma Sutra in a public library. The parent would be “banning” those adult books by merely voicing concern over the appropriateness for a child.
* Since the release of SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment, numerous members of the ALA have aggressively tried to suppress the book (aka “banning it”) by posting fake, negative reviews on Amazon (without ever having read the book). Also, libraries are refusing to carry SHUT UP! on their shelves…which is the very definition of “banning” according to the ALA.
* Hypocrisy, thy name is librarian.
In 2013, my friend Megan Fox and I stumbled upon the fact that no one seems to ever ask questions about how public library boards spend the millions of dollars of taxpayer money they are allotted each year in Illinois. In Chicagoland, the media once in a while busts bad school boards for going out to lavish dinners, staying in hotels for conferences in town, or expensing vacations to Florida or Hawaii or wherever and writing it off as “board education.” But, what are library boards doing? They get as much money as some school districts or park districts…only no one ever seems to question how that money is spent (just trusting that libraries aren’t misspending it).
We quickly realized that anyone who wants to fleece taxpayers and get away with it should probably think of running for a seat on a public library board. More often than not, people run opposed for those seats…and the benefits are outrageous. Since library boards are never scrutinized and the public almost never attends library board meetings, unscrupulous individuals who win seats on public library boards can pretty much do whatever they want.
We caught members of the Orland Park Public Library board stealing gold jewelry, putting in for large travel expense checks without receipts to back anything up, going on trips to “conferences” but never having any proof they actually attended conference events, throwing large sums of money at “contractors” who were paid big bucks for jobs that library employees could have (and should have) done for no extra pay, etc.
Read the rest of this entry »
[XANADU is playing at the American Theater Co. at 1909 W. Byron in Chicago 60613 (close to the Addison Brown Line stop); 6 shows weekly through July 31st, with tickets available at ATCWeb.org.]
What a way to start a fabulous summer in Chicago! The American Theater Company’s production of XANADU is the most fun I’ve had at any show in years, probably since I saw Smokey Joe’s Cafe at the Royal George several seasons ago (and am still humming along to all the fun songs from that, too). Approaching 40, XANADU’s early ’80s nostalgia is for me what Smokey Joe’s 60s nostalgia was for Baby Boomers in the generation above me…a fun evening of songs I remember from childhood, tuned up and refreshed for the here and now in a show that transported me to someplace fun and carefree for 90 nonstop minutes (with no intermission!).
For those who don’t know, XANADU is a stage retelling of Olivia Newton-John’s 1980 feature-length music video for her album (you guessed it) XANADU. I’ve always thought this movie was the most genius thing that any record company ever did, better than Purple Rain for Prince, Captain EO for Michael Jackson, Vibes for Cyndi Lauper, or Who’s That Girl for Madonna. It doesn’t seem like Newton-John ever fancied herself as an actress or dreamed she would have a film career…and I don’t believe anyone who worked on the movie thought they were creating a cinematic masterpiece for the ages. They knew this was camp, not high-art, when they were making it and understood that not everything in life has to be excruciatingly serious high-art. They all wanted to sell copies of the XANADU album and make it a big hit, so the movie was an extended music video for that, playing in theaters a year before MTV hit cable…and whatever anyone thought was cool or neat to see on a movie screen, they just threw into XANADU (like they were grade-schoolers bedazzling an art project until they could not possibly bedazzle it anymore).
You won’t read many reviews of the XANADU stage production that don’t trash the 1980 movie because I think critics enjoy feeling smug and good about themselves for making fun of things (from a long time ago, for Millennial critics in particular). There seems to be peer pressure amongst these cynics that if they don’t trash the 1980 movie then they cannot feel superior to the people who either made or just enjoyed the 1980 movie. That attitude is prejudiced and misplaced here, because XANADU was a product of its time that plays like a time capsule from an era now lost. It’s as if it was written and produced by a focus group of cutting-edge 1980 trend-followers, who shoved whatever they thought was “hot” at the moment into one movie: leg-warmers, neon, feathered hair, roller skating, disco…XANADU has it all! That movie is a window back in time…to a moment at the end of the Carter Era, just before Reagan took office, when Americans were sick of the gloom and malaise and stagflation and aspired for something more carefree and optimistic (in a time that people now derisively view as being devoid of culture or art). The musical actually references this, with confusion amongst the muses about whether they are in Venice, Italy in the 1780s or Venice, California in the 1980s…and there’s groans about being in the “wrong” place.
I could argue on behalf of the 1980s being a particularly spectacular time to be alive (as I was there), but I’ll save that for another day. Those of us who were there know the truth…and those Millennials who weren’t there are just jealous. Because the ’80s were fun and campy and people did things without being glued to phones and electronic gadgets…and I am grateful every day that I remember what it was like to be part of that simpler world.
There’s a hilarious line in the stage production of XANADU that calls all of this ’80s campiness “children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people,” which is the most accurate description imaginable. And that’s a great thing because we have enough cynical, depressing, dystopian, dark, and gritty you-name-it clouding over us wherever we turn (especially in Chicago these days, with what plagues our news). Being transported to an optimistic place like a roller-disco about to open in 1980 is not a bad way to spend 90 minutes on a Friday night in Illinois.
I have seen the stage production of XANADU several times, once on Broadway with the original cast in 2008 and then twice at Water Tower in Chicago when a touring company came to town in 2009. While I enjoyed all of those, there is something special about American Theater Company’s production that makes this version of XANADU the best I’ve seen yet.
The set design is transportive, largely because the venue American Theater Company uses is an old repurposed building that must have been some kind of auto body shop or other commercial/industrial space once upon a time. Walking up to the theater at 1909 W. Byron, the building surprises you, with an unassuming blink-and-you-miss-it entrance that meshes well with XANADU’s plot (involving an old building on the brink of demolition being repurposed as a roller-disco). It’s all very meta, in the best possible way, and the setting of the theater feels like a character in the show. Stepping inside, I was greeted warmly by beautiful chalk drawing murals, kitschy props and decorations, bubble gum and vibrant jolly ranchers, and fun video screens playing facts about the XANADU film and stage versions. Did you know that “Xanadu” was the name of Chinese Emperor Kubla Khan’s summer palace? You’ll learn that and more while in the lobby waiting for the show to start.
I’ve never seen a show more perfectly cast than this production of XANADU. Hats (or leg-warmers) off to director Lili-Anne Brown for assembling a group of talented young Chicago actors who really made this show their own…and I think elevated it to a place more fun than the Broadway or Water Tower productions I’ve seen. On a much smaller budget than previous productions, costume designer Samantha C. Jones made spectacular choices that I feel surpass the Broadway stagings. Jones is the first XANADU costumer I’ve ever seen make the connection between Mount Olympus and Studio 54, the pinnacle of that late-70s/early-80s elite aesthetic. When the Clash of the Titans-style gods appear at the end of this production, they’re not wrapped up in togas but instead clad in vintage Halston, the goddesses looking set-ready for cameos on Dynasty and Zeus a hilarious amalgamation of Jimi Hendrix, Richard Roundtree, and Ruby Rhod (fresh from a trip to Fhloston Paradise in The Fifth Element). See what I did there, I rapid-fired a bunch of random pop culture references at you…just like XANADU does in its 90 minutes! If you are into this kind of thing, you will love this show.
A real standout in this production is Missy Aguilar and her interpretation of Calliope. It’s hard keeping all the Greek muses’ names straight, but Calliope is one of the two villainous muses (the other, Melpomene, is delightfully played by Karla L. Beard). Calliope (you pronounce that like the music-making contraption from the ragtime era) and Melpomene (I know of no easy way to pronounce this) may remind some audiences of the characters Pain and Panic from Disney’s Hercules cartoon (which is fitting, considering the shared mythological source material). They are slap-sticky, over-the-top, comedic relief that insert themselves to move the plot forward in between Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra musical numbers. In past productions, Calliope has been played as a brash redhead with glasses and a stereotypical Bronx/New York hamminess…reminiscent of Annie Potts’ secretary character in Ghostbusters.
Aguilar largely reinvents the Calliope role and makes it her own, bringing a Chicago-ness to the part that I loved. It was refreshing to finally see someone do something new with this part and play the role in an original and memorable way. This actress really hits a home run in what’s a supporting character and in many scenes steals the show (especially when literally chewing the scenery). She was so fun to watch and her banter and timing with Beard’s Melpomene make me wish the two would score a road trip buddy comedy of some kind. They are spectacularly entertaining villains…and both are more fun to watch than most people on sitcoms airing today.
Another standout was Aaron Holland as Danny Maguire/Zeus. Again, this was another example of this production of XANADU reinventing a role in a unique way that makes the show better than previous versions I’ve seen. Both as Maguire (the Gene Kelly role in the film) and as Zeus, Holland puts his own stamp on the character. This was the fourth time I’ve seen a stage version of XANADU but Holland and Aguilar really made everything seem fresh by taking their characters in a new direction (which worked better than the original versions).
The other muses, played by Kasey Alfonso, Hanah Rose Nardone, James Nedrud, and Daniel Spagnuolo are hilarious and engage the audience frequently as they zip around on roller skates. The stage is circular, with the audience seated around as if in an actual roller rink, which adds to the fun and magic of the evening. Alfonso is particularly funny with the winks and nods she makes to the audience and the fun expressions and reactions she gives her character, even while chomping on popcorn (a very fun and obscure inside-joke reference to the original 1980 movie). Nardone is enchanting and elegant on her skates and is a master at delivering one-liners. Nedrud and Spagnuolo switch effortlessly between hamming it up in drag as “sister muses” and then butching it up as rockers or California dudes as the plot requires. They even get to play a cyclops and a centaur at one point! The fun of a comedic production like XANADU is seeing the supporting cast race backstage, switch costumes, and pop back into the show as completely different characters (which is called cast-doubling, where one actor plays various roles in a show). A lot of the blink-and-you-miss-it in-jokes come from them and they make the production seem much larger with their versatility.
The leads in this production, Jim Deselm as Sonny Malone and Landree Fleming as Kira/Clio are strong…but I think constrained in some way and unable to put as much of their own unique stamp on these parts as the supporting cast was able to do. This is no slight against Deselm and Fleming, as they are both fantastic singers, but more a reflection on the parts they have to play. Since the stage production is a parody/spoof of the original movie, the character of Sonny Malone has to be a dumb-as-rocks (but with a heart of gold) Venice Beach dreamer and Kira/Clio must be a satire of Olivia Newton-John in her big film role. Fleming is saddled with having to do a bad Australian accent (on purpose) that mutates throughout the show into various other accents (also on purpose). I hope audience members get the joke and don’t think Fleming is really bad with accents (because part of the show’s humor comes from this running gag). I will just say this because no one else ever will, but some audiences who saw previous productions of XANADU didn’t understand the jokes like this (and frankly that is the audiences’ fault, not the actors). While you don’t have to know much about the movie this is all based on, going out to see live theater requires a little more smarts and paying attention than sitting in front of reality tee-vee at home while eating pudding. I’m sorry, but that’s true. XANADU is a show for people who can embrace camp and can pay attention enough to catch a lot of rapid-fire, witty pop culture references rooted in the 1980s (with nods even to Singin’ in the Rain and other classics…including literal classics, like the Greek myths).
While watching American Theater Company’s production of XANADU on its first preview night, I couldn’t help making a list of everyone I know who I want to bring down to see this show while it’s playing through July. My friend Megan Fox‘s two daughters (Ten and Seven) are going to be over the moon when I surprise them with a trip into the city from the suburbs to see this. They study Greek myths in school, they love the ’80s music that their mom and other Gen-Xers like me grew up with, and they are both just learning to roller skate. I can’t wait for them to see this show! I listened and watched closely during the production and saw nothing that I thought was inappropriate for kids seven and up. There were a few jokes with some innuendo that I think will go right over young heads…exactly like in the Disney Hercules cartoon, come to think of it. I also plan on seeing the show again on my actual 40th birthday this coming June, since the show references itself as actual children’s theater for 40-year-old-gay-people and all. How perfect is that?
I know a show is good when I walk out of a theater itching to tell everyone I know about it. For some reason, Chicago audiences have never seemed to get the jokes or understand the campy fun of XANADU the other times productions of this show have been mounted here. Going to XANADU is like going to see a screening of Mommie Dearest at the Music Box Theater with drag queens dressed up as Joan and Christina Crawford chasing each other around during the movie with Comet cleanser and wire hangers. It’s like heading out to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show or showtunes night in a gay bar and screaming alternate lyrics to the songs playing on the screen. It is a fun, campy night that you can sing along to and dance in your seat…so I think you might need to be a fun, campy person to really get the most out of the experience. You can’t be a grump. You have to actually want to have fun on your night out to see a show and want to go out for drinks afterwards and laugh and laugh and laugh with friends over what a great time you just had.
If you are anywhere near Chicago now through July 31st and you want a great night out with friends and family, I can’t think of anything better to recommend to you than Lili-Anne Brown’s production of XANADU at American Theater Company.
Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music & Lyrics by Richard Damus & Mark Rubel
Directed by: Lili-Anne Brown
Music Direction: Aaron Benham
Choreography: Brigette Ditmars
Scenic Design by Arnel Sancianco
Scenic Painter CoCo Ree Lemery
Costume Design: Samantha C. Jones
Melpomene/Karla L. Beard
Danny Maguire/Aaron Holland
Euterpe/Hanah Rose Nardone
[Click above to embiggen: the American Library Association quickly yanked down child porn promotion policies that had been in effect for years when they realized a new book critical of the ALA chastised them for facilitating these heinous crimes in public libraries.]
SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment has caused the American Library Association to quietly dissolve and disown its longstanding policies that promoted child pornography access in public libraries in Illinois and across the country. These damaging and destructive policies had been in effect at the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom since the 1990s, when a deranged and demented soul named Judith Krug was the OIF’s Director. Krug is best known for stating that she wished public libraries in Boston had not cooperated with authorities in their investigation into Muslim use of library computers to plot the 9/11 Islamic terror attacks and she also stated repeatedly that librarians should not look out for children in their libraries (and should instead look the other way when any crimes were occurring in those public buildings, in the name of “patron privacy”). Almost entirely because of Krug’s sick and twisted world view, in just a generation public libraries were transformed from safe places for families into the sketchy Masturbation Lounges and Cybercrime Dens they became in recent years.
Judith Krug is arguably one of the worst human beings to have ever lived, right up there with Margaret Sanger and Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, in terms of the destructive influence she had on decimating American families and harming children in a “transformative” way. Though she passed away in 2009, her spirit and influence still haunt the ALA…and by extension all American libraries under ALA control.
After it was announced that Megan Fox and I were writing a book that specifically examined the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the sick things it pushes librarians to do (including destroying evidence of crimes, interfering with and obstructing police investigations, insisting that librarians are not judges and therefore can’t tell if it’s really child porn that’s on a library patron’s screen, refusing to discriminate against people who are sexually attracted to children by reporting them to police for stalking, molesting, or exploiting children in public libraries, etc.), the ALA went into full-on panic mode.
The OIF’s new Director, a man named James “Jamie” LaRue, took to Twitter and engaged in a childish and immature squabble with Dan Kleinman, the nation’s leading expert on dangers to children in public libraries. Megan and I met Kleinman through our investigation into unreported sex crimes in the Orland Park Public Library, as Kleinman runs Safe Libraries (which is the best clearinghouse of information on all of the awful things that the ALA has been doing since the days of Judith Krug and her perverse War on Children). Kleinman confronted LaRue on the dangerous policies that the ALA had in place that instructed librarians not to call police when child pornography was being accessed in their libraries. LaRue denied that the ALA did that…but Kleinman had the proof, which he found right on the ALA’s website!
In addition to the ALA telling libraries they don’t have to call the police when child porn is being viewed, the Orland Park Public Library listened to Klein Thorpe Jenkins — which in my opinion is the worst law firm in the whole state of Illinois — when it told the Library that it could get away with not calling the police when child porn was only being viewed on library computers, instead of being filmed or downloaded or distributed. Klein Thorpe Jenkins actually made the sick distinction that the Library could evade responsibility by insisting that child porn VIEWING was okay…because it was a separate act apart from filming, distributing, downloading, etc.
No one in their right mind believes this is true…but Klein Thorpe Jenkins was wrong on this (as usual) because the act of viewing any pornography in a public building is a crime that violates lewd behavior, indecent exposure, and exploitation of children/corruption of a minor ordinances. Someone watching porn of any kind in a public building where passersby can see it is engaging in lewd conduct and is creating a sexually hostile environment that is criminal. When minors can be exposed to that sexually explicit material being viewed, the person displaying that material commits a crime. Klein Thorpe Jenkins failed to mention any of that in its advice to libraries on how they could sneakily try to claim they didn’t have to call the police on child porn viewers.
In case you haven’t figured this out yet, but Klein Thorpe Jenkins is the kind of law firm that seems to specialize in telling public bodies that they can get away with whatever sick or illegal thing they want to get away with. This is the law firm that a public entity goes to when it wants to break the law in some way: Klein Thorpe Jenkins will not tell them to obey the law, like any ethical or reputable law firm will do. Instead, Klein Thorpe Jenkins is the law firm that bad public bodies hire when they want to break the law and have lawyers that help them get away with it. They are very similar to the firm Bendini Lambert Locke in John Grisham’s The Firm…or the law firm Wolfram & Hart on tee-vee’s Angel. They are the most offensive lawyers you will ever encounter in Chicago and I believe they are the facilitators or causes of the majority of problems public bodies are involved in.
A lot of SHUT UP! deals specifically with times that Klein Thorpe Jenkins attorneys violated the law, or caused the law to be violated, right in front of us at board meetings or at other points during our investigation into the Orland Park Public Library. There are chapters and chapters of all the foul things that the legal eagles of Klein Thorpe Jenkins had a hand in. If you enjoy books about terrible law firms up to no good, then SHUT UP! will be an enjoyable read for you.
The American Library Association will hate it, of course, probably as much as Klein Thorpe Jenkins will. I find it amusing that since the book was only published yesterday that James LaRue and others at the Office for Intellectual Freedom have not even had the chance to read it yet…but already they are trying to disappear evidence down the memory hole and pretend they never encouraged child porn access in public libraries. Dan Kleinman has all the screen grabs though!
Just compare what the ALA’s policies towards child porn and explicit sexual content in public were BEFORE the publication of SHUT UP! and what they look like now, after SHUT UP! was announced and the ALA realized that Megan and I were busting them for giving such piss poor advice to public libraries. It is a night and day, obvious difference. Since these policies were not changed since the days of Judith Krug, the only explanation for every evil thing they had posted suddenly going POOF! is that SHUT UP! scared the bejeezus out of them.
It’s no wonder that members of the American Library Association have so aggressively tried to suppress sales of our book and censor and ban it and why they organized yesterday to post bogus negative reviews of SHUT UP! on Amazon to keep people from reading it.
If our book has caused so much turmoil at the ALA just one day after publication…just imagine what will happen when people read all 666-pages!
[Click above to embiggen: the bogus review by “LPZ Berskutis” that ALA Think Tank members encouraged to be left on Amazon.com to suppress sales of the new book SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment on its first day of release, 5/26/16.]
This is sickening (but thankfully Amazon.com ultimately did something about it).
Members of the ALA Think Tank (a Facebook group that Barbara M. Jones — the former Director of the ALA’s Orwellian-sounding Office for Intellectual Freedom — had used during her tenure to direct ALA members to do her bidding) openly talked about tanking the debut of SHUT UP! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment by writing negative reviews for the book on Amazon…without ever reading the book or knowing anything substantive about what was in it.
The book was published on 5/26/16…and aside from a handful of people who received Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) from Megan Fox and myself personally, no one who has purchased a book from Amazon has even been able to read it yet. The books are being printed in South Carolina and then shipped via UPS…and so a book ordered on 5/26/16 would not have even been shipped as of 5/26/16 (let alone be in the hands of anyone who could have read it). Anyone posting a review of the book on 5/26/16 was, thus, being dishonest when slamming the book (that they never read) in a bogus Amazon 1-star review.
On 5/26/16, ALA Think Tankers aggressively targeted SHUT UP! for attack with negative reviews…from librarians who never actually read the book. This was similar to how the leftist site Wonkette attacked SHUT UP! earlier in the month, without ever actually reading it, because Wonkette lost its mind and became upset that Megan Fox and I released a book trailer for SHUT UP!.
This is how the Left works in case you haven’t noticed: leftists reinforce what each other say and make something true by repeating it in an echo chamber. Wonkette lied about SHUT UP!, but future leftists will cite Wonkette’s lies as fact…and build off them. Then, other leftists will cite and build off that…and it’s the Alinsky Telephone Game to destroy the target with overlapping lies.
The good news for the moment is that Amazon is sophisticated enough to realize what these leftists are doing, so the “drive-by” fake negative review that the ALA Think Tankers put up was yanked. It’s likely they will continue to post fake negative reviews in the future though, which is part of the Left’s longstanding habit of suppressing and censoring and banning whatever they do not agree with or like.
Librarians who frequent that ALA Think Tank page are so naked in their prejudiced bias and Alinsky nature. Look how they were so easily caught plotting to post the fake reviews to hurt Megan and me.
Do you think this is how people who truly believe in “intellectual freedom” should behave?
Example One from ALA Think Tank page:
So, not only are they ginning up the “insightful reviews” talk (of a book they have never read and probably have no intention of ever reading), but look at what Amy Vecchione wrote about violating our book’s copyright by just scanning it and putting it up on a “Tor node.” According to a Google search, Vecchione works in the library field at Boise State University. Here, she was caught on the ALA Think Tank page on 5/26/16 openly advocating for copyright infringement. Since she is a university professor, I wonder what she is teaching her students!
Example Two from ALA Think Tank page:
Again, none of these people have read the book SHUT UP!, but they decided to band together to suppress it by encouraging negative reviews…of a book that none of them have ever read. This is shocking and malicious willful intellectual dishonesty from the people who claim they are supporters of “intellectual freedom.” Why does the American Library Association encourage (or tolerate) its members to behave this way? Look how Terry Moore, who claims to be a librarian working in Midlothian, Texas, encourages people who have not ever read our book to trash it on Amazon…and a few hours later one of his fellow ALA Think Tankers has taken him up on his challenge.
Example Three from ALA Think Tank page:
Then came Tricia Jauquet with more of this garbage, strangely wanting the actor George Takei (from Star Trek) to involve himself and/or have other people do “creative reviews.” Again, none of these people could possibly have read SHUT UP!, as it was only published that very morning…yet Jauquet and others were gleefully plotting to trash the 666-page book with bogus negative reviews on Amazon (and even involved a beloved Asian Sci-Fi actor in her scheming). According to her Facebook page, Jauquet is the Assistant Director and Technical Services Librarian at Purdue University North Central. What the hell kind of library are those people running?
Yet again, we bust an academic librarian advocating posting dishonest and bogus negative reviews of a book she has not even read…because she wants to ban, censor, and suppress a book that she believes she will not agree with. No less than Thomas Sowell has called the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week” by a new name — National Hogwash Week — because of the complete and utter shameless dishonesty of ALA members who participate in this hypocritical lunacy.
Is this disgusting behavior what librarians are learning in library school these days? Would their hero Neil De
Grassi Junior High Grasse Tyson approve of such shameful actions from Tricia and her ALA member colleagues?
The ALA and its leadership like James “Jamie” LaRue should be ashamed of themselves, as the people who participate in the forums that Barbara M. Jones was such a key part of when she was the Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom are clearly people who make an absolute, unfunny mockery of “intellectual freedom.” How can a society be “intellectually free” when librarians work so hard to suppress or eliminate opposing viewpoints and sabotage books they believe they will not like (when they haven’t even read them yet)?
The American Library Association REALLY doesn’t want you to read SHUT UP!.
What are they so afraid of?
I hope it makes you interested in finding out what librarians like Amy Vecchione, Terry Moore, and Tricia Jauquet are so desperate to ban, censor, and suppress. Many in the American Library Association membership ranks seem to feel our book is an existential threat to the ALA’s very existence. This seems to be why they are so committed to suppressing our book any way that they can.
Could SHUT UP! collapse the ALA the way that James O’Keefe’s expose collapsed ACORN? If enough people read it, maybe it could. Hence, the determination by librarians to ban, censor, and suppress this book!