As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It wasn't long ago that the United States declared it was going to try to re-establish diplomatic relations with the long disassociated nation of Cuba. Why? Well, fifty years of boycotting didn't bring about the downfall of the communist island country, and one might say there was the perception of a more mellow leadership now that Fidel Castro has stepped down.
But Cuba's government wasn't feeling mellow when it stepped in and shut down performance artist Tania Bruguera as she attempted to stage an artistic demonstration dedicated to free speech. The piece, called Tatlin’s Whisper #6, was supposed to take place in Havana’s Revolution Square near the end of 2014. The concept was that Ms. Bruguera would invite members of the public to stand at a podium and express themselves freely for a minute.
The Cuban government detained Ms. Bruguera, confiscated her passport, and has charges pending against her. If Cuba's feeling a bit more friendly toward America these days, apparently that feeling doesn't fully extend to the sentiments of America's First Amendment.
As a matter of fact, there are more than a few artists who aren't all that sure that America always embraces its constitutional freedom of speech guarantees. So, in the spirit of solidarity, artists in New York recently restaged Ms. Bruguera's performance work in Times Square. According to an ArtNews article, the comments in New York focused more on American speech suppressions rather than Cuban.
What is theater if not an opportunity to raise consciousness and sometime stir up controversy?
Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre's young adult program produced a play titled This Is Modern Art (Based on True Events), by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin. The "art" to which the title refers is graffiti.
Granted, graffiti isn't everyone's idea of art. The fact is, there's so much in the way of different styles of art that it's difficult to say any one of them will appeal to everyone on an equal basis. One man's Picasso is another man's poorly drawn woman.
However, with graffiti we're talking about something that isn't just a matter of artistic taste. We're also talking about something that's, from a technical standpoint, illegal when, uninvited, it's applied to public and private property. Some term it street art. Others call it vandalism.
That's the thing that irked two of Chicago's major newspaper's theater critics, both of whom commented in their reviews that the play romanticized graffiti--something they considered to be not a good message for the Windy City's youth.
According to a story in the Washington Post, within hours the theaters and their youthful supporters were online villifying the critics for their comments about the show's message. The article further says that, although the show has closed, the controversy continues online.
Art museums don't seem to mind when people take self photos--"selfies"--in front of the works on display. A selfie on someone's Facebook page or Twitter post is free publicity for the museum.
However, it may be a whole different story when the visitors bring on the camera positioning extender known as a "selfie stick." The wand-like apparatus, designed to get the photo-taking device far enough away to include a little extra background in the framing, has museum officials concerned that people wielding these sticks might accidentally clunk another visitor or even damage the art with an unfortunate swipe through the air.
According to a New York Times article, the museums don't want to have to put all their art under glass, and so, instead, some are simply banning the sticks. According to the Times, Washington's Hirshhorn Museum already has the ban in place, and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to require its patrons go stickless.
Some of the 20th Century's most stirring speeches came from the lips of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. So how come none of his words are in the King biopic movie, Selma?
Answer: Copyright. That and the possibly perceived threat of litigation.
The copyights on Dr. King's speeches are in the possession of his surviving family--long known to be quite litigious when it comes to production companies plopping portions of those speeches into films and TV programs. According to reports, the King heirs have already licensed the use of those speeches to other companies for an as yet unmade movie.
The producers of Selma might have been able to use small portions of the speeches anyway under the Fair Use Doctrine of the Copyright Act. However, how much is too much is a pretty gray area in that respect. So even limited appropriation could still land the producers in court on charges of copyright infringement.
Of course, just because someone claims infringement doesn't mean a court will automatically see it that way. But, if the court does, and if the movie has already been released with the "infringing" material contained in it, that could be a disaster for the motion picture people. As such, in this case the producers of Selma went the safer route and paraphrased Dr. King rather than quoting him directly.
Does anyone think the Grinch from Dr. Seuss's classic story got off pretty easy, considering he committed breaking and entering, malicious mischief, and who knows how many other illegal activities in his attempted theft of Christmas? I mean, he seems to get off scot-free despite the damage, inconvenience, and trauma he must have caused all of Whoville.
Well, maybe the story doesn't really end there...
HOW THE GRINCH GOT JAIL TIME
A legal parody by
Every Who down in Whoville was irked Christmas Day
With the Grinch who had carted their goodies away.
Oh, sure!—yes, he’d brought back the items, at least.
And then, like nothing happened, he ate their roast beast!
“He hustled our houses!” said Whos, gnashing their teeth.
“He purloined each present! He ransacked each wreath!
He fondled our food! Stole each stocking, that ninny!
And who knows what ‘present’ he left in our chimney!”
This Grinch-like behavior the Whos had to stop.
So they went to the phone and they called for a cop.
The Grinch was just swallowing his last dessert stuffs,
When the Who Blues broke in and they slapped on the cuffs.
The Who Judge’s wrath, well, it knew no containment.
He rolled off the charges at the Grinch’s arraignment.
“Count One would be trespass,” the Judge said with great heft.
“Count Two, breaking in with intent to do theft.”
There was also the property damage acute.
And animal cruelty was thrown in, to boot!
Identity theft they could add just to dress it.
But, Santa, it seems, he chose just not to press it.
Yet the thing that would fix the Grinch wagon, ‘tis true,
Was the D.A.’s star witness, little Cindy Lou Who.
Her eyewitness tale, in her court testimony,
Recounted the deeds of the Santy Claus phony.
As evidence mounted in the publicized trial,
Every Who knew the Grinch would be gone for a while.
So the lesson he learned, and the moral we draw,
Is a Grinch can’t steal Christmas or sidestep the law.
© 2014 Richard Amada. All rights reserved.