Oregon Shakespeare Festival

I'm halfway through my slate of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and thankfully, done with the outdoor plays! It's really hot this year. 105 yesterday, 110 predicted today. At 8 last night, when The Odyssey began in the outdoor theatre, it was still in the mid-80's. I was sweating during the 3.5 hour performance; I felt for the actors. I know they wear ice packs under their costumes, but we were seated close enough to see the sweat, nonetheless.

The Odyssey was really good; the actor who played Odysseus, Christopher Donahue, was compelling, and some of my favorite actors in the company were in the production.

We've also seen the Merry Wives of Windsor, which is normally only so-so for me as far as Shakespeare goes, but this production added 80s music, and surprisingly, the combination worked for me. The result was to pull Anne Page, the daughter, and her story, more into the foreground.

I'm always surprised at what bothers some people about productions. I've heard no one complaining about the 80s music, but I have heard people complaining about the fact that Falstaff is being played by a woman. The character is still a man, but a woman is playing him. K.T. Vogt is a great comic actor, and as soon as I heard she was playing Falstaff, I knew she'd make a great one, especially in Merry Wives. Men played women's roles in Shakespeare's time, so what's the big deal?

The other complaint heard a bit is about the number of Asian actors the last couple of years. OSF is a repertory theatre, so all the actors play in two shows, and Bill Rauch, the current artistic director, has made the choice to expand the diversity of the offerings the OSF presents. The last several years, he has both put on various Asian plays and put on Shakespeare plays in Asian settings. As a result, he has hired more Asian actors. He also is committed to more diversity in hiring in general, and in casting. Slowly, I'm starting to see a tiny impact in the audience attracted; there are more people of color than there were 7 years ago when we first started coming. Still not many, but a trickle.

One of this year's new plays, a world premiere, is Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, about a Korean-American woman and her search for the mystery of her grandmother's suicide. Despite the suicide at the center, it's a funny play, and so far, is my favorite of the season.

Another world premiere, Off the Rails, is written by a Native American playwright, Randy Reinholz, and is described as "Blazing Saddles meets Measure for Measure". The play uses Measure for Measure to tell the story of an Indian boarding school, with humor to make the grim story easier to take. The first act is a little slow, with lots of exposition setting everything up, but the second act is much stronger, and the ending fixes a number of problems I have with Measure for Measure's ending.

The other play I've seen is Disney's Beauty and the Beast. This is the big family friendly musical that OSF puts on in the big outdoor theatre to pay the bills to support the new plays. I wasn't sure about this choice, but I should have had more faith in OSF. Jennie Greenberry as Belle and Jordan Barbour as the Beast were fantastic, and rather than go for big spectacle, the director chose a rather spare production, which I really liked. Not to everyone's taste, though; I've heard complaints about that, too!

Still to come: Julius Caesar, Shakespeare in Love, Henry IV Part I and Part II. We're really looking forward to the Henry's. They're being staged in the Thomas, the smallest and most intimate of the three theatres, and I love seeing Shakespeare there. I loved the last production of the Henriad by the OSF, so I'm excited for this one.

Next year, we are not coming down in August, though! Too hot!

A case study in empathy

I came out of the local grocery co-op this morning, bag full of organic produce. I walked to my car, the one with the “No One Trumps the Constitution” ACLU bumper sticker. I have one of those remote key fobs that I don’t even have to pull out to unlock the car, I just open the door. The keys are in my pocket. For some unknown reason, in between the time that my car recognized my key fob to allow me to unlock the car and the time I put my grocery bag in, buckled up, and pushed the button to start the car, the car no longer recognized my key fob.

That sets off the alarm. I grabbed my key fob and started pushing buttons. No luck. I got out of the car and pushed buttons. No joy. I’m scrambling through the owner’s manual trying to find the solution while my horn blares and my lights flash.

An Asian woman approaches the car parked next to mine. “What happened?” she asked. I shrugged, showed her my key, and told her. “Oops,” she replied, and left. 

Horn is still sounding. A pickup truck stops behind me. Two young men are in the cab. “Hey, your horn is going off!” the driver shouts. I turn and look. “I know,” I answer. “Go Trump!” he yells and laughs as he drives off. Clearly he saw my bumper sticker.

Later, in the manual, I find out that the alarm will sound for two minutes before silencing if it is not deactivated. I have failed in any attempt to deactivate it. I’m trying to decide if it will shut down on its own or if I’m going to have to resort to more drastic measures, like maybe disconnecting the battery, which I really don’t want to do and I don’t know will work. I wouldn’t design a security system that could be bypassed that easily.

While I’m still leafing through the manual looking for answers, an African American gentleman  comes over and asks if I need some help. I explain the situation, he takes my fob and tries, but about that time, the two minutes are up. We have a nice discussion, I thank him, and I try again. Fortunately, everything works this time, and I drive home.

For future reference, in the Acura owner’s manual, information about the car alarm system is found in the index under “security”, not “alarm”. It’s hard to think of all the alternatives when the system is going off in a very public place, very loudly.

There but for grace

I listen to Republicans attempt to justify their destruction of the ACA, talking about good people not having to pay for others, and other such nonsense, and I wonder what they really think in their starved little brains. Do they think they’ve succeeded because they’ve been good? That they’ve been healthy because they’re better than other people? 

I look at my relative comfort, and think, wow, am I lucky. I’m lucky that, through no choice of my own, I like math. I enjoyed math, I did it for fun, I took all the math classes I could, and that led me to a field where my skills were handsomely compensated. There are plenty of people who are as smart and as hard-working as I am, but they didn’t enjoy doing something that just happened to really take off at the right time. 

So, even though I have multiple pre-existing conditions, even if I can’t get health insurance, I can afford medical care, simply because I liked math. What a crazy way to decide who deserves health care.

Tractor Hacking

I haven’t seen much discussion of this issue outside of the intellectual property community, though no doubt it’s being discussed among tractor owners. John Deere has effectively locked down its tractors, making it difficult for farmers to repair or modify the tractors they have purchased on their own. Fortunately, there’s a carveout in the onerous DMCA that keeps jailbreaking the tractors from being criminal, but the farmers are still potentially liable in a civil suit, and as in any situation with running unauthorized firmware, are in a constant arms race with the manufacturer to keep up with the latest releases, not to mention vulnerable to security issues.

John Deere today, GM tomorrow? Not impossible to imagine. As automobiles get more and more sophisticated and software controlled, car manufacturers will want to limit what customers can do to the software, for good reasons: safety and security can be compromised with changes that don’t go well. However, the temptation will also be there to protect that investment and recoup the cost by forcing customers to stay within their infrastructure for add-on parts and repairs. Tires that have to be licensed by GM to be recognized by the vehicle, for example, or the car won’t operate. Oil changes that can only be performed at GM-certified garages. When the ability of the engine to start and run is controlled by software, almost anything is possible. We’re already seeing used car dealers adding after-market devices that disable vehicles if too many payments are missed. What if car companies decide to stop supporting cars that are more than 10 years old?

Regulation is going to be way behind reality here.

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