Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

LBJ Rising, Redux

All The Way, Robert Schenkkan, directed by Bill Rauch, Seattle Rep, through Jan 4.

Hey, wait a minute, didn't you already review this play? Yes I did, when it debuted at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Here it is, here, and just about everything I said then applies now. 

Here's the short version, LBJ conducts a master class on arm-twisting, deal-making, cajoling and berating, tracking the period from his ascendance as an "accidental president" to his triumphant re-election as Landslide Lyndon. Jack Willis burns up the stage as LBJ, a critical mass of both personal power and insecurity. The late Mike Nichols stated that every scene is a seduction, a fight, or a negotiation - with Willis' LBJ every scene is all three at the same time. Peter Frechette is a positively twitchy Humphrey, Jonathan Haugen is an explosive Wallace, and Kenajuan Bentley is a calm MLK whose own challenges threaten to overwhelm him. You can watch Bentley's face in the wake of Mississippi Burning losing control of his narrative, and his political wrangling mirrors LBJ's own.

So what has changed from the OSF version? Much and little. The cast is mostly intact from OSF, though in the more intimate housing of the Bagley Wright, their performances seem more broader and  animated than earlier. Yeah, I just said the Bagley Wright is intimate, and it is, compared to the pitlike Bowmer in Ashland. In the Bowmer, we have an outhrust stage into a large amphitheater, giving a top-down view, while the B-W pitches up to the actors on stage. There feels like their are fewer actors on the stage here than in Oregon, but they are more packed together, and the setting - chairs on risers occupied by actors who are not occupying center stage, is more looming  from the seats in Seattle. 

The play itself is there as well, all the beats in place, but some of the story has evolved since I first saw it. A tale of young LBJ in his first campaign is gone, and the play culminates with a comparison between MLK's Nobel Prize and LBJ calling out his own party for its racist politics. And yes, there feels like more mention of Progressive Republicans fighting for equality in this presentation as well, creating both a clarity of division and the vibe that the world has changed between then and now. So it is an evolving thing as well, and gets stronger in it evolution.

The other noticeable thing was the house was packed, even unto the balcony, which was not always the case for other plays. Usually this is the time of year when you do something safe - a musical or another version of Inspecting Carol, but taking a large, sprawling poltical play like All The Way with its huge cast is a risk, and one that looks like it pays off. I recommend not only this play, but its sequel, which will also hit the boards at the Rep next month, The Great Society. I've had a chance to read the play in advance (as part of a class) and have to say, it just gets better.

More later,

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Political Desk - Results

Yes, it is Saturday and the elections were on Tuesday. But the nature of Washington State's elections are they are all-mail elections, and the deadline for postmarks are Tuesday. So measures that are leading on Tuesday Night then become questionable by Friday, and there is usually one item that is still hanging fire, waiting to resolve. The Seattle Times publishes a yearly gripe that ballots should arrive on Tuesday as opposed to being postmarked, but really, its not about when the votes come in so much as counting them all. 

Mostly, the election was about returning incumbents. We may grouse about Olympia and DC, but when push comes to shove, we want to keep OUR guys and wonder why the rest of you keep re-electing the same corrupt schmoes over and over. On the national level, the election was either a biting condemnation of indiscriminate peace and prosperity, or a strong endorsement for more of the gridlock that has paralyzed us so far. Or something like that.

On to the local stuff:

Initiative 1351 (Minimum Class Size) - MAYBE - This is the one that is still unresolved, as a close gap on Election Night has closed and then flipped. Given that both the people AND the state supreme court are both leaning on Olympia to do something about education funding, maybe we will see some movement (Hah! I keed. The Senate is in the hands of the GOP, and would rather go to jail than spend money on kids). 
Initiative 951 (Ban Gun Confiscation) - NO
Initiative 954 (Close the Gun Loophole) - YES

Advisory Referendum 8 and 9 -  MAINTAIN

US Rep, 9th District - Adam Smith

Washington State Supreme Court:
Position Four - Charles Johnson
Position Seven - Debra L. Stevens

State Legislature 11th District, Position 2 - Chris Bergquist

Kent Position A (New Police Station) - YES, BUT NOT ENOUGH - The measure got a majority, which in non-Bizarro democracies would mean it wins, but not only did it need to win, it needed to win big -  with 60% percent of the vote. This is in a country where 52% is considered a "landslide". So the local police are left hanging on this. I recommend that the natives of Kent drive slowly and avoid all local speed traps - just until we sort all this out.

More later,

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Hey, A Signing!

So, I've already besieged the people on Facebook and Google+, but to fill out the trifecta, I want everyone to know that we have a signing this evening, at 7 PM, and the University Book Store for the Kobold Guide to Combat, one of our series of essay collections on various gaming subjects. It promises to be interesting, with Wolfgang Baur, Chris Pramas, Steve Winter, myself, and editor Janna Silverstein speaking up on the subject, so check it out here.

More later, after they count more votes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Political Desk - The Jeff Recommends, 2014 edition

These type of elections are tough. It is one thing to believe whole-heartedly in a candidate or a measure and to see that, under the best of circumstance, they have a long haul to an outside shot of passing. It another to be confronted by a relatively empty ballot, populated by referendums that are advisory only and positions that have either no or token opposition.

Still, there are some measures worth measuring here, in particular the ones dealing with education and gun safety. So, go dig out the ballot from under those Fred Meyer circulars and get cracking, because while you have until Tuesday to mail it in, they will start counting early, and release the first results Tuesday night.

Initiative 1351 (Minimum Class Size) - YES
Initiative 951 (Gun Confiscation) - NO. No. Just a big steaming mug of Nope.
Initiative 954 (Close the Gun Loophole) - YES

Advisory Referendum 8 and 9. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. MAINTAIN.

US Rep, 9th District - Adam Smith

Washington State Supreme Court:
Position Four - Charles Johnson
Position Seven - Debra L. Stevens

State Legislature 11th District, Position 2 - Chris Bergquist

Kent Position A (New Police Station) - YES

And that's about it. It is not a lot, so you have no one to blame but yourself for not voting.

More later,

Political Desk - Kent Proposal A

If you've been driving around Kent the past few weeks, you'd be forgiven if you thought that the hottest big-ticket item on the ballot involved the police. There have been huge signs demanding we support public safety and our police by voting Yes on this proposition.

And what is this proposition?

The City Council of the City of Kent adopted Ordinance No. 4118 concerning a proposition for public safety and officer training facilities. This proposition authorizes public safety improvements – constructing and equipping new police headquarters, improving the firearms training range, improving the city’s jail, and completing other training and public safety facilities – to be funded through the issuance of up to $34,000,000 in city general obligation bonds, maturing within 20 years, and annual property tax levies in excess of regular property tax levies, as needed to repay the bonds (estimated average levy rate of about 19 cents per $1,000 assessed value). 

Yeah, I know - the guys who don't like I-594 because it was too long and confusing just had an aneurysm halfway through that paragraph.

But this is what we're talking about - Kent wants to build a new police station. They're split up between about four locations right now, and the jail really isn't big enough to handle all the people who have moved into the neighborhood since the current building (which used to be a library) was converted back in the long-ago. They want to put a new HQ on the site of the old one, improve the jail and firearms training area, get a secure lot for the police cars, and pay for all those big signs.

And I'm good for that. We're a bigger community than we were, and an upgrade makes sense. It is like I-1351 that led off this discussion. Yeah, it is something that we should pay for, and we should go into it clear-eyed and say yes, getting stuff costs money. And it is not like they're buying used tanks from the military (also note to the Kent Police Department: Don't buy any tanks - they won't be able to get up the hills in the winter).

So why all the huggamugga? Well, for this proposal, not only does it have to reach 60% approval, it has to have a certain minimum floor. In other words, this is a case where a low voter turnout actually HURTS the proposal, since it may just get 51% (which is enough for most laws) and or may get enough but not enough floor votes. So yeah, vote YES.

More later,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Political Desk - 11th District State Legislature

Here's what happened in Olympia. After the last election, a couple Democratic Senators threw off their masks and cloaks and revealed themselves to be really lizard-men Republicans, tilting the upper house to the GOP. And taking their cue from the national GOP, they proceeded to not do much, such that the Supreme Court has found Olympia in contempt for not acting on basic education. So now comes the clarion call to throw the bounders out and hold the flames to the feet of the new Dem majority to get stuff done, right?

But then I realize I'm in the 11th, which sprawls down from Downtown Seattle and rounds Lake Washington to the Renton Highlands, and realize that I've already GOT Democrats in charge, and besides, we aren't dealing with a State Senator this time out. Well, there's still the holding the feet to the fire bit.

(And truth be told, I'm really kinda jealous that Grubb Street has been kicked out the 47th District, which has a talented veteran Dem (Pat Sullivan), a talented, young GOP (Joe Fain), and a guy who really should be sent to the showers (Mark Hargrove - seriously folks, consider Chris Barringer.)

Zack Hudgins is running unopposed for representative position 1. Chris Bergquist is the incumbent in position 2 against challenger Sarah Sanoy-Wright. Bergquist got in on the idea that he's been a teacher, and we need that voice in the state house. He was right then, and in the face of the current struggles, he is still right. Both the Times and the Stranger has praised the man with faint damns, so yeah, Chris Bergquist. But let's get the flames ready.

More ready. 

Political Desk - US Rep 9th

OK, US Representative. Every two years we get to check in on these guys, and despite all the huggamugga, we tend to like 'em. We may gripe and moan about Congress, and the Reps have a popularity just above ebola in the polls, but when it comes to our particular guys, the guys who represent US, we tend to stick to our guns and return the incumbents. So we usually (and sometimes sadly) DO get the representation we deserve, And things like redistricting tends to make these cases more-so, as both parties tend to favor safe districts.

And the 9th, which sprawls between Tacoma and the north shores of Lake Washington, should provide enough diversity of opinion to make it a bit of a run. In reality, we'll probably return Adam Smith to the position. And that's OK - Smith is good at the job, works hard, represents us well on a number of committees and has not embarrassed us (which, you'd think, should be less of a problem than it is in an age where John Stewart's writers just follow Congressmen around waiting for them to open their mouths and provide the material for the next day's monologue).

But let me pause for a moment for his opponent Mr. Doug Basler, Yep, he's a tad overmatched (Even the Times went for Smith), but his website is about the environment, energy, and equality. He seems steady, pro-business, and generally sane, a break from a lot of GOP congress critters. Yeah, the burning great seal of the US on the web page is a bit much, but still, this is the sort of "traditional" Republican we need in the race. More of this, please.

More later,