Sunday, January 23, 2011

Date Night

By Jack Simony

They're calling it "Date Night", but it's not exactly Blueberry Hill that they're pairing up on.  Nope, it's Capitol HIll, and it's this Tuesday night when legislators will be showing up and sitting with their favorite colleagues from across the aisle:

The pairings themselves are intriguing, but not as interesting as the fact of the pairings itself, happening at an event at which the President will be urging bipartisanship.  The symbolic gesture has picked up steam since the tragic events of Tucson earlier this month.  Senator Kirsten Gillirand (whose pairing with fellow attractive Senator John Thune is generating great attention) has called it a "symbol of what's to come."  

Maybe.  I tend to doubt it.  Even at the event itself, the lawmakers wlll tend to be rooting for their own team, cheering and applauding -- or decidedly not doing so -- in keeping with their parties' positions.  A new era of bipartisanship?  I'd love to see it.  I doubt I will, regardless of what I see on Tuesday night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ibsen at BAM

By Jack Simony

As Ben Brantley reminds us in his NY Times review of Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman", playing at BAM's Harvey Theater through February 6, Edvard Munch, the painter of the famed "The Scream" called this play, "The most powerful winter landscape in Scandinavian art."

He was right, and the production at BAM, brought here by the Abbey Theater of Ireland, has done a tremendous job of showing us the chill, both exterior in the weather and interior in the hearts of the characters and their relationships with one another.

I loved this production.  Ibsen's play is timeless, and the performances, most notably by the always excellent Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw and Lindsay Duncan, were memorable.  The three refrained from milking Ibsen's tendency toward melodrama, delivering very nuanced performances.  

The play itself makes clear how our own minds can create prisons far more confining and stifling than any real penitentiary.

I believe there are still tickets.  Go!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Righteous Life

By Jack Simony

Sargeant Shriver has died at the age of 95.  A businessman-turned-public servant, Shriver used his place of privilege in our society to boost the place of others, founding the Peace Corps, launching the "War on Poverty" for Lyndon Johnson, and helming his wife Eunice Shriver's brain child, the Special Olympics.  I won't recap his life and formidable accomplishments -- you can read his obituary in any print media to which you turn tonight -- but I will simply say that he was an exemplar: a righteous person, beloved by all who knew him and a benefit to thousands who didn't.  CNN's obituary:

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Borowitz Report

By Jack Simony

I think we can all safely agree that there's no better source for televised fake news than "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central.  And who doesn't love the periodical "The Onion" (which now also boasts the hilarious "Onion Sports Network", also on Comedy Central).  You laugh (we all do, actually), but by lampooning real news sources and skewering those in the news, these satirical venues provide an important outlet for the rest of society, an opportunity for catharsis as we recognize the absurdities that accompany the troubling aspects of these difficult times.

So who is the as-of-yet unsung hero of the faux media?  In my humble opinion, that title goes to Andy Borowitz.  In his "Borowitz Report", updated nearly daily, he prints little absurdist gems -- fake news articles that always serve to shine spotlights directly on those areas of hypocricy, inconsistency and downright outrageousness that our political leaders and other newsmakers are hoping we somehow won't notice.

Samples of recent headlines (and sub-headlines):  

Would Create ‘Giant Hole’ in Program Schedule

Place of Birth ‘Negotiable,’ President Says

The articles are invariably even more clever than the headlines.  They don't disappoint.

Borowitz's website:   

You can "friend" Borowitz on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maps with Meaning

By Jack Simony

The book Cartographia is worth a mention here -- it is a magnificent collection of maps spanning both history and the globe.  What makes this book a marvel is that in it, Vincent Virga shows us how maps are wide windows into their civilizations -- they show us how their makers viewed themselves in the contexts of their nations, their nations in the larger world, and humankind and our planet in the cosmos.  The maps in this remarkable book show an emergence of our sense of geography and even our understanding of science over time.  They show us how they could be used to bend truth as well as to point it out in all its starkness.  This is a multifaceted and multilayered book that one could lose oneself in, and return to time and again.  It tells myriad stories, and they all inform us about ourselves today:

Need I say that I'm a fan?  -By Jack Simony

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snoozeworthy (Snowsworthy?). Not Newsworthy.

By Jack Simony

CNN must be hard-pressed to come up with content.  It’s leading off with the news that 49 of our 50 states have snow on the ground.  Every state except Florida, in case you were now wondering which state was the lone hold-out:
Really?  That’s your lead story?  Another headline vying for my attention?  ”Ghostbusters III a nonstarter without Bill Murray.”  Really.
I could have told them that.  I went to the site to read more about the crash of Lebanon’s government, and this is what they felt took precedence.  This is what they wanted me to know about first.  Perhaps for some of their readership it might be the more interesting fare.  But as far as I’m concerned, let me know when Jacksonville’s expecting a light dusting.  To me, it might become newsworthy when we’ve achieved a full 50/50 states.  Maybe.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brain Trauma Miracles

By Jack Simony

We live in remarkable times.  It was only a blink of the eye ago when the victim of a gunshot wound through the brain would never survive, never mind recover…as doctors hope Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords just might do.  She has been responsive to basic commands.  Doctors have been able to prevent further damage from brain swelling by removing a piece of her skull, and have put her into an induced coma, which is enabling her brain to rest and, in effect, heal itself.  It is incredible to think that a bullet entered Congresswoman Gifford's brain and exited the other side, and doctors are able to report cautious optimism that she may one day return to her job, her family and her daily life.

Apparently (and, perhaps, predictably), the military is where many of the recent medical advances in the area of  head trauma due to gunshot wounds have been made. 

My thoughts remain with Congresswoman Giffords and her family, with all those recovering from Saturday’s shootings and their families, and with the loved ones of those who were killed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Condolences and Best Wishes

By Jack Simony

There's not much to say about the horrific and tragic massacre in Arizona yesterday, but I wanted to add my voice to those sending their deepest condolences to the families of the dead and wishes for speedy and full recoveries to the injured, most notable among them, obviously, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, by all accounts a bright, hard-working and dedicated public servant.  Given the location in the brain in which she was shot, there is -- amazingly -- hope for her recovery.  But with the murder of Federal Judge John M. Roll we lost a universally admired legal mind and a well-liked man.  We lost a nine-year old girl.  We lost a beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, a young Congressional staffer engaged to be married, a retiree whose husband is still hospitalized from bullet wounds of his own, and another retiree married to his high-school sweetheart, who covered her with his body to protect her from the bullets.

For thumbnail sketches of them, see:,4_0_8d62627_%7B%22method%22%3A%22cookieFailure%22%2C%22params%22%3A%5

I wanted to write to help memorialize them.  And I know we all not only wish for the recovery of the injured from their physical wounds and mental trauma,, never mind.  I won't get political.  At a moment like this, I'll keep it about the shooting victims and their loved ones.

-By Jack Simony

Saturday, January 8, 2011

iPad Elementary?

By Jack Simony

I’m both intrigued and repelled. As the NY Times reported today:
A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.
There’s a battling raging in my brain: Good or bad development? Arguments pro and con are obvious and myriad — it’s more environmentally sustainable, but students lose the satisfaction of turning pages in books; it broadens horizons, but not all the info is, umm, CORRECT. It can both spark creativity in teachers and dampen it, creating torpor as they leave lesson-planning to others. What will my boys encounter when they get to school, and will it lay the foundation for critical thinking or inhibit focus? I see possibilities for both. I will reserve the right to be vigilant.

Friday, January 7, 2011


By Jack Simony

It's playoff time! Whether you're the wildcard or the first seed it all doesn't matter anymore. Playoffs start tomorrow and my guys are taking on Peyton Manning and the Colts this weekend. If we step up the pass rush, Indy doesn't have a chance.

I'll be watching the game, and tweeting about it, so follow me on Twitter @jacksimony and let me know what you think.

- By Jack Simony

RSC in Repertory

By Jack Simony

I've been meaning to write for a while about this, so when a dear friend called this morning about this very matter, it gave me the impetus to up and do it:
This friend and I have been planning for ages to fly to England for a long weekend and go on a long Shakespeare tour, taking in as many productions -- both in London and at Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-on-Avon -- as possible.  It seems, though, that the Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to bring the productions to us instead.
From the NY Times article about it:
“King Lear” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” two Shakespeare plays that are not frequently produced in New York City, will be among the five productions that the Royal Shakespeare Company will mount in next summer’s Lincoln Center Festival, the organizers announced on Monday.
The other plays will be “As You Like It,” “Romeo and Juliet” (directed by Rupert Goold of “Enron”) and “The Winter’s Tale.”
Actors in the company’s 44-member ensemble will play various roles in the productions, with 7 to 10 performances scheduled for each show. The entire run, July 6-Aug. 14, will be held at the Park Avenue Armory on a thrust stage (with seats on three sides) that the Royal Shakespeare Company is now building to the specifications of its Courtyard Theater in Stratford-Upon-Avon. All five plays are now running at the company’s home base in England.
OK, it's a rather tragedy-heavy line up.  Three tragedies, a comedy, and a Romance (and this particular Romance is split right down the middle -- the first half is straight-up tragedy, while the second half is full-blown comedy).  I admit to preferring slightly lighter fare for my summer Shakespeare, but for whatever reason, the folks at the RSC and Lincoln Center didn't call Jack Simony to ask for his opinion.  Regardless, it will be a memorable experience to see the same fine actors tackling very varied roles over the span of only a few weeks.  I don't know about you, but my friend and I will be buying tickets to all five performances.  Stay tuned -- I know I'll have more to comment on the subject between now and then (as well as about each play in the line up)...and I'll have plenty to write once I've seen the plays.

-By Jack Simony

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Defining Moments at the Supreme Court in 2010

By Jack Simony

Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal recently narrowed down the top defining moments of the Supreme Court in 2010.

At the top of his list was something that happened almost a year ago -- when President Obama scolded the high court for its Citizens United decision the week before, as well as the reaction from Justice Samuel Alito Jr., who mouthed the words "not true."

See what other Supreme Court moments topped the list

- By Jack Simony