Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pirates and Prohibition

essaysbysean.blogspot.com
…“A cadet shall not lie, steal, cheat or tolerate anyone who does.” It was a stern code, but I thought then and I think now, it is a good one. Since I took my oath as a cadet, I had tried to live by this code and thought, for the most part, I had lived up to its standards. In the barracks, we cadets were forbidden to lack our doors, and I had never lost a stick of gum or an M&M peanut nor had I taken one from another cadet.
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy, p. 305, 2002


Some people are so awful that I wish I didn’t know about them.

I like Roger Ebert’s (journal) essay-blog, (to the right of his movie reviews) where his commenters are all civilized. And I like Ebert’s guest essays (below Ebert’s essays) from his “far flung correspondents.”

One fine guest, Michael Mirosal, was an expert on pacific Asia. Regarding movie piracy over there, he explained how the movie distribution system means that no art house or obscure movies are available, not unless pirated. Let me hasten to add that he was not justifying piracy, only explaining it. His calm writing reminded me of how if you would correct the behavior of an alcoholic, or a delinquent, then you must act as if they have neither conscience nor impulse control. For them you must speak in a computer voice, judgment-free, merely stating consequences.

So he wrote an expository, “I’m just trying to provide the bigger picture” essay with calm, clear explanations. But his awful commenters! They might just as well have been delinquents. Nearly all North American, nearly all middle class, meaning: rich and comfortable. None of them were overtly “poor but honest.” (Except me) By their comments the majority, who incidentally all but ignored the subject of Asians, raised their pirate flag: They expressed denial, frustration and anger, self-justification and hatred of “big” movie distributors. They were awfully twisted up.

One man –significantly only one person was overtly female— one man wrote bitterly that people who didn’t agree with piracy had no right to their library card. “If so, then burn your library card, you pirate.” What’s his problem?

Now, I grew up with Scotsman Andrew Carnegie’s name writ in sandstone over the entrance to the public library on Main Street. So maybe it’s easy for me to research how less-than-middle-class people, like my poor relatives, felt a need for Libraries Against the Darkness. Of course, holding a library card, it was also easy for me to research how the US prohibition of alcohol was against the wishes of the vast majority such as the grandmothers of my clan, little ladies who loved a little hot water with their whisky. Yet surely the middle class commenters would not have required any research. Surely their common sense alone would give them a sensible perspective on the "prohibition of piracy," and on the need for libraries where a dedicated citizen can find the classics of page and celluloid. Alas, no. Apparently these guys were “common sense challenged.”

Call me a straight John, but I believe “if you can do the crime,” as in piracy, “then you can do the time” as in take the time to acquire perspective. Instead I see I see twisted willful denial, anchored by willful resentment of “big” movie companies. The payoff? Self-permission to steal. I am reminded of my long ago youth, and a juvenile delinquent telling me it’s not stealing, it’s only shoplifting, because “I really wanted it!”

Moreover, I am reminded of a documentary on TV of a concert on the Isle of Wight from back in the 1960’s: I saw flower-loving singers pleading with people outside the fence to please allow those who had paid for the show to enjoy themselves. Unhappily, many people, people of the same sort of sentiments as the pirates who commented, wanted to wreck the concert for everyone because they “believed” the “big” concert promoters should allow them in for free. Such a careless “belief.” Call them self-willed.

Most importantly, I am reminded of my adult life where I have listened to the same sort of twisted uptight resentment expressed: I’ve listened to self-willed grown adults justifying their breaking the law to buy their drugs. Call it immaturity. Many an alcoholic in AA has pointed out, unhappily, his emotional growth stopped when he took that first drink. I’m sure folks in Narcotics Anonymous would say the same.

There is a word in the addictions field: “enabling.” Back in the 1960’s we had our flowers, yes, and we had more bomb threats, (people forget how common bomb threats were) and more bombings, than in the decade before or after. This was partly our own fault because we enabled. Just as, from what I can see, the Arab community enables cross-border bombings. (There is nothing more enabling than letting extremists see you dancing for joy after the violence on 9/11) I doubt anyone in Pakistan organized peace protests after Pakistanis crossed the border to shoot up the Indian financial district… To make sure I was not enabling pirates, then, besides writing an essay… I too commented.

On the flip side, against enabling, there was a Beatles single encouraging someone to achieve perspective on bombing. “You say you want a revolution, well you know…”

Am I saying there should never be resentments of “big?” Not quite. Old Benjamin Franklin was right to be against the big British Empire, but his feelings were not twisted into resentments. While transparently enlisting the cooperation of others, he made great efforts, suffering great risk of death by hanging. Him I respect. I like the poor working class lad who, instead of flopping on the couch, organizes a ball game in a vacant lot, or who enlists help to put on a movie festival that all can enjoy. He too achieves respect in my eyes. As for those wimpy self-justifying American pirates, them I will neither enable nor respect.

To put it plainly: I don’t want my niece to marry one of them.


Sean Crawford
On the Great Plains
April 2012
Footnotes on Prohibition:
~Coincidentally, I live in cattle country and it was on an old black and white TV western, Bonanza, that I saw author Charles Dickens coming to the Ponderosa ranch and educating the hardworking frontiersmen.
He said copyright theft was like rustling.
(note: the link is to a computer web-magazine column by one of my favourite writers, David Gerrold.)

The pirates try to justify themselves by saying, "prohibition has never worked:"

~Responsibility is golden. I explained the responsible normal political process of dialogue and compromise in my essay Greens and Sound Bites of March 2011.

No such responsibility was felt by the US folks of the movement to legislate prohibition of alcohol. On the body politic, these guys were nothing but bloody parasites.
They “couldn’t give a care” about all the other the grave issues facing the republic, only about their single issue. They didn’t care to stress themselves over how to achieve the common good. When voting, they didn’t care how any politician stood on any other issue.

And just as the public understood that campaign promises…

(You have to promise in order to compete, lest skeptical voters say you are too naïve to govern, too naïve to realize your constituency includes the sort of people who enable e-mail spam)

…are not the same as promises made after an election, in a constituency office, so too did the public understand their representatives were constrained by the swing vote of the parasites.

There is at least one known case of a politician publicly drinking alcohol on the same day the law was passed-- with the consent of his constituents. Granny was not accustomed to heroin, but she was sure accustomed to her whisky. “Prohibition never works” is true when prohibition is manipulated by parasites.

~Meanwhile, prohibition of DDT is working well, even as bedbugs are making their huge comeback in America. Despite Granny’s itchy self-interest in blasting those pesky bugs, she respects the law.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Panhandlers and Panic

www.essaysbysean.blogspot.com
Introduction

I regret human nature doesn't change. As noted below, in my youth "everybody knew" the Reds were a menace. Now, "everybody knows" about global warming, a knowledge that I fear is impervious to data. In my youth there must have been immigrants and defectors, retired state officials and professors, who knew the truth, who knew the communists were not such a menace. But everybody knew not to listen.

My fear is that, as during my youth, the panic will not be penetrated by reason. After all, back when Michael Crichton revealed that data had been changed there should have immediately been reporters and scientists investigating. So let's not get complacent that the truth will always come out.


Panhandlers and Panic
As I write this panhandlers are lining the sidewalks of our fair city. Unlike during the 1930s, they are not selling apples. History repeats, yes, but with variations. Every decade has its struggles and its jokes for coping. So far, I have heard no jokes about panhandlers, so I suppose society has no felt need to deal with the issue. By comparison, if you were to pick up a Mad magazine from the 1950s, as I have, you would find that half the jokes involve the cold war, the other half are to do with conformity.

We might harshly judge the people of the 'fifties; we might think they didn't know any better than to conform, but in fact, based on Mad, they did know. It was one of them, after all, who characterized his generation by writing The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. (Sloan Wilson) Another man (Arthur Miller) wrote a now classic play about the Salem witch hunts, The Crucible, but no critics back then gave it a favorable review. They felt no freedom to speak a kind word, not when everyone was scared by the on-going communist hunts.

A man I respect from that time was Edward Murrow, the radio and early television journalist. George Cloony respects him too, enough to produce a movie about him called Good Night and Good Luck. Murrow was a better man than I.

He found himself at a place and time where he could not just turn his head pretending he did not see. He stood, fearless, where two torrential rivers joined: fear of communism and fear of not conforming. History tells us that Murrow braced himself to stand almost alone against that raging torrent. Would anyone of today be like him ?

Back then, if you tried to say that communism was not totally Bad, nor capitalism totally Good, you would be branded: "You're a communist!" If you tried to discuss the value of free speech you would be shamed into conforming: "Communism!," thundered the conformists "is of such pressing danger that there is no time to discuss values!" If you calmly tried to ask whether freedom of speech is Right or Wrong the conformists would instantly switch topics on you by righteously lecturing: "The wrong thing is communism! Everyone should know about the horrors of it..."

Today the sun shines. Today we go walking to work past panhandlers while turning our heads. What if, over lunch, I tried to ask my peers whether panhandlers should be re-labeled as beggars? I would surely be branded as anti-homeless. If I tried to calmly say that selling apples is Right but question the value felt for one's human spirit after begging, well—My peers would switch topics. They would panic and act as if there was no time to discuss any values. There would be barely enough time to lecture me with a torrent of words about the horrors of being homeless. Sometimes I wonder if panic is used as sheep's clothing to cover up self-righteousness.

History repeats... and I for one have not the courage of Edward Murrow.



Sean Crawford
posted spring 2008

footnote: Perhaps panic is used to avoid self-knowlege:
After all, who wants to admit to having been an uninformed conformist?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Peace Without Democracy

essaysbysean.blogspot.com
(Until 1995 the constitution of the British Labour Party included clause 4):
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the  full fruits of their industry and the most suitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
p.6, "There Is No Alternative" Why Margaret Thatcher matters by Claire Berlinski

I felt a mix of emotions last week; I wish I could have seen my own face. There I was, driving in my car, and listening to a CBC interview of an educated middle-class British London university research associate. Let's hope I misheard or misunderstood. Like everyone else I know, including my old soldier friends, he was against war. What surprised me was that he was also against democracy… and he probably didn’t even know it!  He has a passion for peace, and had just written a book covering several millennia. (The Glorious Art of Peace, from the Iliad to Iraq) A smart man, too bad he doesn’t get democracy.

My “aha” insight came when the fellow sounded so perplexed and dismayed at how the public greets returning soldiers from Afghanistan as being “heroes.” Suddenly I understand certain people better. I’ll return to that insight later.

In living memory, no two democracies have ever declared war on each other. Logically then, every peacenik should be a “ peacenik for democracy.” Nevertheless, wanting peace without democracy is not without precedent. After the horror of the Great War, amidst the agony of the Great Depression, many people thought we needed a radical change. For them, recent events had switched on an arc light; good and evil seemed as clear as white light and black shadows. They saw grown men reduced to selling apples in the streets, while children and crippled veterans starved. To many idealists, we should drastically downsize the armed forces… And so we did, and then there were consequences… We in the Western world were unable to oppose fascist wars in Asia, (Tojo) Africa (Mussolini) and Europe. (Franco)

At the same time the fascists were fighting, many idealists thought we should not only discourage capitalism but discourage nationalism too, “the cause of wars.” Instead we should encourage the Comintern: communist international. Under communism, plutocrats would no longer eat cake while starving children cried. Everyone would be happy and peaceful, far happier than under democracy…

The arguments raged for years. When I was a boy, you could not so much as write a book about being a P.O.W. of the North Koreans without also including an end chapter about trying to convert an honest communist guard to democracy. (General Dean’s Story) No one dreamed that, within our own lifetimes, the dark communist tide would ebb, freeing all but China, North Korea and Cuba. Last year, I read on a computer nerd forum where some commenter, stuffed with arrogance and contempt, said the term “leftist” was now outdated, too irrelevant to be used today. He was a really smart nerd, but he was wrong.

“Leftist,” I regret to say, remains relevant. Even after Margaret Thatcher the labour party, quoted above, still wanted "common ownership of the means of production." During the cold war, we learned to spot crypto communists, such as those gun-toting insurgents who claimed to be merely “agrarian reformers” We reasoned, “If it waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Today some people may not be card-carrying communists, but they are still leftist between their ears. Unfortunately, their quacking on public forums is not from any practical or theoretical plans for a healthy alternative to capitalism.

Long after the Berlin wall has come a-tumbling down, today’s leftist, whether he’s an old professor or a young student, has no access to any carefully drawn blueprints to, say, collectivize all industry, but he has still retained a leftist sensibility. To me, that’s what leftist means: No coherent plans, only a feeling of opposition, of opposition to capitalism, government, rich folks, big business—in fact, anything that is big. Although, come to think of it, leftists do believe in a big national daycare for children—or at least, they will believe until two days after the big network of daycares is established… If, during conversations with me, these people are not vocally against small businesses too, well, maybe it’s only because they never have time to get that far down the list of things they don’t like. Don’t like? Say despise, say hate.

When I picture a leftist, it’s like a picturing a highway tailgater: I always see a male. A man of hatred.

Just as I see nothing wrong with women from the dawn of women's liberation being strident, not with the odds they were facing, I see nothing wrong with hatred from the communists of the last century. They hated with good reason. Chairman Mao, hiding out with the red guerillas, wrote in his Thoughts that China was feudal, not a democracy. His mentor, Karl Marx, writing in the British museum, must have raged at the factories and laws that so blatantly discriminated against workers without property. Vladimir Lenin, writing in a land where (I think) the aristocracy could ride with impunity over peasant’s crops, trampling the food meant for winter in a momentary pursuit of game, wrote, “Who, whom?” Meaning, within a nation, intramural-wise, betwixt the classes, who exploits whom? Lenin saw this as an eternal question, for every time and space.

Marx, who lived at the same time as Charles Darwin, would have instantly grasped Lenin’s words. (Origin of the Species was 1859, Das Kapita was 1867) The pioneers of communism, as did many Americans of the 1930’s, saw society as red in tooth and claw, class against class, struggling and hating, fighting and hating. It makes sense. If I am a nineteenth century cattle baron using guns to drive small ranchers away from all the watering holes, then I would surely resort to hatred, telling myself “those dam nesters” don’t deserve watering holes.

Now, living in twenty-first century America, with laws and regulations, checks and balances, speed of light communications and, most importantly, universal literacy, there are few cases where my class interests are separate and coherent. I don’t need hatred.

It has become accepted that a modern business with computers will have a flattened organizational pyramid. Not so many managers as in the days of Mad Men. Back in those easier times you could produce a good competitive product without needing to resort to recruiting minorities like Colin Powel or Hilary Clinton. The problem today is not fewer managers but greater world competition. It’s just not effective to treat my workers as wage slaves, as children I need to always be standing over. Increasingly, employees must be adults who are expected to buy into the demands of their position, adults who work with minimal supervision, who understand where their work fits into the needs of the organization as a whole. In my boyhood, pre-computer, this was not the case. Back then there wasn’t all this talk of everyone in the company knowing the vision, goals and mission statements. Remember? Those days are gone.

America is affluent. Most of us have never heard Lenin’s eternal question, while the leftists who have heard it somehow lack perspective. They don’t get it that “who, whom” is as outdated as “running dogs of imperialist lackeys.” Of course, there may always be a tendency to favor one’s class, but the word is “tendency.” I think leftists are just too serious. Sure, maybe some snobs try to say “limb” instead of “leg,” and maybe some people will go home and practice pronouncing foreign artist names foreign-style, instead of going in for common anglicizing, but all the while, fine art is getting more affordable and more widespread than ever before. Affluence.

Last year, at an art gallery showing, I enjoyed talking to a petroleum executive who traveled overseas on business. He told me how leaders in west Asia would corruptly rake in lots of dollars, but then after a few years, having made a bundle, would be less corrupt and better able to listen to reason, easier to do business with. He said it only took a few years. Again, when it comes to corruption, the word is “tendency.” As Lord Acton said, “Power has a tendency to corrupt…” I suppose when persons quote Lord Acton while leaving out the word “tendency” they are indulging in their own form of corruption.

Here in America, according to statistics, congressmen are apt to already be independently wealthy before they are elected. Needless to say, therefore, they have little tendency to savagely oppress and denigrate the lesser classes. To any congressmen, I’m sure, his class is merely a subset; he also sees himself as part of all of America. I’m sure if I suggested to a millionaire congressman his daughter should travel overseas to find a millionaire prince, he would laugh out loud.

All Americans, regardless of class, see themselves as part of a group called Americans. Forget the prince. Forget the “third world” or, as Trudeau called them, the “southern nations.” In those states the rich class, reminiscent of Lenin’s feudalism, still see themselves, if not as being blue blooded, as somehow separate from the people. Senator Robert Kennedy, in 1968, wrote that no South Vietnamese senior army officer was ever killed. This while a number of US generals had been killed defending South Vietnam. In contrast to southern nations, Americans fight as a total group. Such is democracy in action. I remember reading about a Captain and a young Lieutenant serving together in Korea. The captain later became a senator; his Lieutenant went on to be an intellectual, and editor of Harpers Magazine.

In any war, where the total group called America has agreed to declare war… (Which of course leaves out South Vietnam, a “conflict” where no war was declared) …the casualties normally include the sons of senators and generals. It was unremarkable when a former general, President Dwight Eisenhower, had a son in Korea. Less than a decade earlier a capitalist millionaire, Joseph Kennedy, had his eldest son, Joe, killed in the air force, and another son, Jack, had his PT boat blasted out from under him. Another son, Bobby, was too young to serve in the war… Joseph outlived him too.
 (from Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt, p368, 2009) 
Michael looked out at the Atlantic. “What have you been doing all day, Helen?”
“Watching the kids.” A sailboat was tacking with the wind. It was carrying two boys. Teenagers.
“The Kennedys?” Michael asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Michael studied them for a moment. Joe and Jack. “It’s good to see them enjoying themselves,” he said. 

America is made up of many overlapping memberships. As Alexis de Tocquiville noted 1835, Americans are especially known to seek out groups. A computer millionaire who could have easily retired to be a playboy for the rest of his life, Paul Graham, wrote in a web essay, almost as an afterthought, that he got back in the working world to have something in common, membership, with other workers.

"There is a bit of a problem with retirement, though. Like a lot of people, I like to work. And one of the many weird little problems you discover when you get rich is that a lot of the interesting people you'd like to work with are not rich. They need to work at something that pays the bills. Which means if you want to have them as colleagues, you have to work at something that pays the bills too, even though you don't need to. ... (Why to Not Not Start a Startup, March 2007)"

With the possible exceptions of invalids, hermits and leftists, people no longer give their loyalty solely to their socio-economic class. There are social classes, yes, and also groups doing what individuals cannot do alone, groups including businesses, nonprofits, and charities. It is with a group of volunteers that we can most easily see a fundamental rule of human nature at the group level. To illustrate: If a group of “People for Sober Driving” agrees to a civil campaign for safe driving, then anyone enduring the hard work of envelope stuffing, or the hard stress of being the treasurer, will receive a generous round of applause at the general meeting. It’s just common sense: if a few members do extra work for the group’s purpose, then they are entitled to extra applause.

And if, as a nation-group, our purpose is peace making, if all of us agree to support some of us to go overseas in a military campaign, then common sense means applause. “Heroes.”

The more horrible the war is, the more honor our representatives accrue… Which brings me around to that perplexed professor of peace. He may not know as much about the horror of war as my buddies do, but still, he knows damn well. If he is dismayed at how we consider it common sense to greet our surviving young men and women as heroes, then … what’s his problem?

At last I come around to my “aha!” insight. While I can’t be real sure about that particular academic, I suddenly realize what a lot of folks similar to him are like. Maybe he wouldn’t label himself as being a modern day leftist, but I think he has a leftist mentality, “our class against theirs.” It’s as if he has divided the body politic into groups, and then, in his hatred, blacked out some groups of people as being beyond his comprehension. Yes, and beyond his affection too.

I can extend that thought: Perhaps he doesn’t feel any ownership or affection for the total group’s national flag, eh?

To the arrogant computer nerd I mentioned earlier, I would say, “You are wrong: leftists are still relevant, because they are still among us. But you are also right… because they shouldn’t be.”


Sean Crawford
In the land of milk and honey
April 2012

Footnotes:
~In the US, Jack is a nickname for John.

~That petroleum executive and I had more in common than just our taste in art: We both blushed to admit we like a program on the Tree House channel, Mighty Machines.

~To write a message, one begins by understanding the recipient. Despite my university degree, I can still try to understand and walk in the shoes of the common man. Obviously, anyone who writes “imperialist lackeys” understands no one but his fellow leftists. He certainly won’t understand why regular folks respect the flag.

~I wrote here about some professors with leftist tinged thinking, “the Regina sixteen,” who didn't want scholarships for the orphans of soldiers, as the topic of my essay called Socialists Reject Soldiers on April 16, 2010.

~As for Europeans and democracy, I just don’t know. Some decades ago, stationed in Germany, I had the sense they weren’t even moving in the same direction, that they would never become as democratic, as naïve and idealistic, as Americans. My impression, then and now, is the Europeans have more leftists than we do here, but I just don’t know.

~An artist, back when I was young, composed a song that contained the image of four family men in business suits walking together in the dusk, up a hill and into the sunset: Two brothers, a black man, and a tall man in a stovepipe hat. Would a European artist ever place a similar song onto the pop charts?
“I dreamed I saw him walking, up over the hill, with Abraham, Martin and John.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creative Movement

essaysbysean.blogspot.com

I believe it was in Reader’s Digest, many years ago, that I found this touching, true-life humor:

A young man in love walks into the telegraph office to send a message to his sweet heart. He tells the old signaler to send, “ Oozy loves his woozy woozy woozy.” The old man counts the words, and then says for the same price he can add another woozy. The young man looks puzzled. He says, “But that would sound silly, wouldn’t it?”

It’s touching how the young swain feels perfect freedom to tell his girl friend of his affection. “Perfect love casteth out all fear.”

You’ve probably read Dale Carnegie’s depression-era classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie wrote of how Howard Thurston, the greatest stage magician of his time, would stand in the wings before every show saying, “I love my audience. I love my audience.” As a boy reading this, I sensed Thurston was casting out fear while summoning up the spirit of excellence. As a college graduate, I realize he was reaching for an optimal concentration of focus.

At college, although I was a career major, one of my favorite classes was one outside my program; namely, a class for theatre students called Creative Movement, taught by Joyce Grey. I remember once, when we all paired off to do a freestyle one-minute exercise, a woman and I kept doing the same overly repetitive movements. How dull. Significantly, we made almost no eye contact: We were too afraid of each other. Our teacher noticed.

Perhaps as the semester passed we all increased our love and acceptance of each other. Such a joy. Most assuredly, and most importantly, we substantially increased our ability to summon our “energy” and our “concentration” on what we were doing. This sort of Zen, this learned energy and focus, was the whole meaning of the course. This global skill we could then apply to technical training for dancing, acting or anything else that involved any people being around, or any audience, which might throw us off balance.

My friend John Duban was a practical farm boy; he attended the University of Lethbridge. John still enthuses over a movement course he took, called Creative Dance, taught by Ms Day. The class had such an affect on people. John told me, “There is a long foyer, where we could spot certain people walking, and they’d turn out to be from our class.” He explained how his teacher told them they shouldn’t just walk but should have an awareness, and that they were not just taking up space, but “had an airflow around us, air space overhead, as a body moving in space and time.”

Once they had to pretend to walk through water, then light motor oil, then thick honey… I know such exercises truly work. When my teacher reminded us during class to imagine a chord from our heads we’d all straighten up, standing even straighter than we already were.

John knew I was wondering: How did a kid from the farm get into that course? And so he told me. “Three of us got in because we dared each other.” Had any of the three young men withdrawn, the other two would have withdrawn too, so that meant they all had to show up. In my own case, I had wanted to continue onwards from my Introduction to Drama course, and there wasn’t much else to take except movement.

I started out a little anxious—good thing I had a sense of humor. It didn’t help matters that the first day of class, for me, was the start of the second semester of Movement, for them. Right after that first class, I recall standing at the actor’s “call board.” That’s a cork bulletin board that professionals of the footlights are expected to check as often as executives check their e-mail. Also reading the board was Brendan Lavery, a guy from the class I felt friendly towards. I said, “Pssst! How many in that class were outsiders?”

“Three.”

“Because I’m the only poor s.o.b. there who can’t touch his toes!”

Midway through the semester I was very pleased to show my career classmates how I had improved: I went from being able to lean over and touch the bottoms of my kneecaps, to being able to reach halfway down my shins. Wow! I might add that, as a boy, I had by far the strongest legs in my high school.

Although surrounded by theatre majors, I didn’t feel like one of them, partly because of my recent army years. In fact, I kept wearing sweat pants, or my green-pajama combat pants. One of my career classmates, Henry from New York City, said he didn’t blame me at all for not wearing tights. But then came our final class group projects, to be presented on a stage, complete with lights and sound. We presented on our last day of classes. As it turns out, although I was already sure to pass the course, my two partners were not. If they failed this project, it would put their theatre diploma back by a full year. For their sake, I broke down and got a plain black body suit. Ah, the power of love. And you know something? As our teacher pointed out to the class, that final day, once I had broken that limitation, I could easily wear a body suit again. And I did.

For college, I was enrolled in a four-semester program, Leisure Services, specializing in therapeutic recreation. I watched as my classmates slowly learned a modicum of concentration. Our teacher, Chuck Killingsworth, pointed out how for the first semester he always had to keep the classroom door closed; for the second semester he could leave it open; for the third we could do our games and exercises just outside the class, using the wrestling pit; and for the fourth, when a space crunch forced us into rented classes downtown, we could go do games in public parks… Meanwhile, first semester students in an Introduction to Drama class would giggle, tee-hee-hee, from sheer self-consciousness, thereby rendering their efforts ineffective.

As for me, to this day, I can instantly focus, without any warm up– and that’s just so cool! I think I understand why young actors can seem so flamboyant, for they are just like young rock climbers who clamber up classroom doorways: They have a new skill, they use it because—suddenly—they can!

John told me that, in retrospect, “I thought everyone at university should take that class.” I know that my own movement class, as I look down the years, has sure changed my life.


Sean Crawford
Midway between entrance and exit,
April 2012