Jefe's House

Politics

Never Forget

by on Jan.20, 2017, under On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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I realize there are numerous examples of horrific cruelty in our history — the Middle Passage and Concentration Camps always come to mind first and foremost — but here’s one more. We might want to call such crimes unspeakable but they need to be spoken.

Look up Reginald Edward Harry Dyer for the full scoop. The thousands of citizens, including entire families, who gathered were attempting a Gandhian peaceful protest and also during a religious festival when the city of Amritsar was packed. This is just down the hill from the Sikhs’ Golden Temple.

20161223_09294920161223_092937The protest was on rented private property in a back alley courtyard. Dyer had stupidly issued a Jim Crow-like order barring Indians from congregating in groups of 6 or more (in their own country) and decided to make an example of this particular group that included children.  British sources gave a figure of 379 killed with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress counted more than 1000 dead and 1500 injured. 

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“People were fired at from here.”

Churchill later called it a “monstrous” and UnBritish act. Dyer was also all about half-naked public floggings of private citizens and his soldiers fond of stopping pedestrians and making them slither down the street like worms at gunpoint. The British parliament viewed Dyer as a hero. By the way, it’s reenacted in the movie Gandhi as one of the watershed moments leading up to the widespread popularity of the independence movement.

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Martyrs Well.

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“To escape the deadly firing, many people fell into this well. About 120 dead bodies were recovered from it.”

 

 

 

 

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Happy MLK Day

by on Jan.16, 2017, under Politics, The Truth Is In Here

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MLK

 

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But, conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”

– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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Prepare to be Judged, Judges

by on Jul.16, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

A fair question and an honest article and my honest, if not entirely fair, response…

dailydot

Why are 22 of the 24 new Amtrak writing residents white?

This year, a majority of those selected members are white, and many creatives aren’t happy about it.

Amtrak writes that “the residents offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country.” There certainly is some representation of different backgrounds—lots of women, some LGBT writers, and some disabled writers, too. However, 22 of the 24 selected are white, and there is not a single black writer…

Residency judge Jeffrey Stanley provided the Daily Dot with a little more insight into the process.  CONT’D at Daily Dot>>

PS – Here’s the full text of my response:

Hi Jaya, I can only speak for myself as an individual judge. Indeed when I saw the photos of the winners yesterday for the first time when they were announced my heart sank. As you’ve said it’s diverse in so many other ways but there are no black faces. Obviously this wasn’t done intentionally. As a judge I had no clue of an applicant’s ethnicity, appearance, or with which affinity group they identify, unless they state it in their bio, artistic statement, or any autobiographical pieces they may have included with their writing samples. Judges aren’t given specific guidelines. Speaking for myself, I was looking first and foremost at the artistic merit of the sample, then their publication history that might qualify them as a professional writer pursing a writing career in earnest and not just as a hobby, and their statement on why this residency would be beneficial to them.  Should the application be modified for future applicants and judges instructed more specifically to weigh race in the application process?  Maybe so. These are issues faced by every theatre organization with which I’ve been involved as a board member, every screenwriting contest I’ve ever judged, any college admission portfolio I’ve been asked to evaluate.  I can’t speak for Amtrak but I would suspect they’d be wide open to suggestions for best practices for how to improve the diversity of the judges as well as the applicant pool.  Feel free to shoot me any followups. Happy to talk more.

Jeff

 

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Finding Francis

by on Sep.26, 2015, under Politics, The Sixth Boro

Looking for the Pope in Philadelphia

20150926_100357On this overcast, blustery fall day I made a lone pilgrimage on foot two miles from my South Philly home to Center City for a chance at glimpsing Pope Francis, “the people’s Pope,” in person.  All the way up Broad Street, Army or National Guard soldiers — I’m not sure which — in green fatigues hung out casually in pairs on every other street corner. They’d been there since last night but I’m not sure why as no Papal events are planned this far south and barely a soul was out. The city seems apocalyptically deserted.

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Click to enlarge photos.

Eventually I came to barricades personed by police and military at every intersection to keep out vehicles but as a pedestrian I could pass freely. Finally, just south of City Hall, I reached one of the security entrances to the main event.  The lines were much shorter than I anticipated, and much friendlier.  Soon I was inside the secure zone.

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20150926_101707Although I’m not Catholic and have serious disagreements with the Catholic Church and its checkered history, the Pope is a major historical figure and he’s right here in my town so naturally I wanted to be a part of the event.  Like all these visitors from around the world I was one more gawking pilgrim eager to see “the people’s Pope” in the flesh.

Crossing Love Park I got my first glimpse of one of the Jumbotrons, on which the Pope was just starting (continue reading…)

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Kentucky Premiere of Tesla’s Letters

by on Sep.26, 2015, under Politics, Theatre

Paige Neeley as Daisy and Brandon McCoy as Zoran. Photo via The Richmond Register.

I was flattered to hear that my play Tesla’s Letters , which world premiered Off Broadway to rave reviews in 1999, is in production at Eastern Kentucky University, directed by Jeffery Boord-Dill. Break a leg, y’all.

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Sydney Marks at Biljana And Baxter Wilhelm as Dragan. Photo via the Eastern Progress.

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I did not say “anyways”

by on Jul.21, 2015, under On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

Otherwise the section on Boneyards and me in this National Journal article by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood is accurate except where otherwise noted, which is everywhere. Ever feel icky and used by a fellow writer?

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LAST YEAR, AMTRAK LAUNCHED an odd initiative called the Amtrak Writer’s Residency. The idea was to send 24 writers wherever they wanted, on a long-distance train, where they would basically stare out the window and type on their computers. The program was bashed by conservatives and lightly mocked on the Internet; yet an astonishing 16,000 people wound up applying. Among the eventual winners were several high-profile media figures, including the writer Jennifer Finney Boylan and the public-radio host Marco Werman.

In mid-March, I met up in D.C. with Jeff Stanley, a 47-year-old Amtrak resident writer who would be taking the Capitol Limited to Chicago, before heading to San Francisco on the California Zephyr. Stanley, who wore an Ed Hardy–style Western shirt, is a playwright, performer, and adjunct professor both at New York University and Drexel University. A fan of all things occult, he staged his latest production in the basement of a South Philadelphia synagogue, where he used a Ouija board and a martini shaker, among other instruments, in an attempt to connect with the dead [see Boneyards].

“Now, supposedly, the old station at Harpers Ferry is haunted,” Stanley tells me, as we approach West Virginia, sitting in his sleeper car. He goes on for a while about a ghost called Screaming Jenny, [Um, no. I spent about 30 minutes between DC and Harpers Ferry explaining to this writer that I had visited Harpers Ferry many times due to my love of history.  I told him that the Capitol Limited runs the route of the former B&O Railroad, and that many times I’ve stood outside the small building that was the Federal arsenal which was seized in 1859 by radical abolitionist John Brown and a group of 20 followers including his son and five African-Americans. They holed up in the arsenal and were thwarted by a detachment of US Marines under the command of a young Robert E. Lee.  In 1865 as the Civil War ended, Storer College opened in Harpers Ferry to educate recently freed slaves.  Years before John Brown’s raid and Storer College, Meriwether Lewis came to Harpers Ferry and waited while a local iron worker created a collapsible canoe according to his specifications. Lewis started out from here in 1803 in a Conestoga wagon following almost the exact same route that is now the very train line we were following. Lewis  met up with Clark near Pittsburgh to continue their journey West.  Talking about the Lewis & Clark expedition got me thinking about Thomas Jefferson who funded it, and I mentioned to the writer that one of the many reasons I admire Jefferson is that whenever a slave in Virginia sued for his freedom Jefferson would represent them pro bono.  All of the above got boiled down by the writer to “but, anyways.”  See below. (continue reading…)

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Terri Schiavo Redux

by on Jan.27, 2014, under Film/TV, NYC, Politics, Theatre

Terri Schiavo

Back when the infamous Terri Schiavo case was running at full throttle with Jeb and George Bush and a lot of other men sticking their  paws into her dead brain and playing politics with her corpse I wrote a short, satirical play about it called Lady in a Box which was performed at Chashama in Times Square and featured downtown performance artist Michael Weiner. After that I kept getting requests from people wanting to produce it in evenings of short works, including from my friends at Eastcheap Rep Theatre Ensemble.  I then adapted it into an award-winning short screenplay, then a short film in 2006 which I directed starring Mississippi Masala‘s Sarita Choudhury (currently Mira Berenson on Homeland), John Lordan, Luke Rosen and Sean Hayden and which aired around the world.

Marlise Munoz

Here we go again and again in 2014, this time with Mrs. Marlise Munoz in Texas and a 13-year-old girl in California who I won’t name here.  May they rest in peace.

As the vultures, mostly men, pick and peck over their corpses — over ownership of these women and  girls who can’t speak for themselves  — I’m reminded of what inspired me to write Lady in a Box in the first place and make a little movie of it eight years ago. Enjoy the trailer–

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The full 15-minute short is available here.

[photos via Dallas Morning News and wikipedia]

 

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Which Religion is the Most Violent?

by on May.01, 2013, under Politics, The Truth Is In Here

Outstanding article here that I urge you all to read. The kicker is at the end where in the author ID we learn the writer, Chris Ladd, is a Republican activist. If more Republicans were like this, there’d a little more hope on the mainstream political landscape. Or perhaps he’s a closeted liberal. Terrific piece regardless–

by Chris Ladd, Washington Times

April 30, 2013 ― The Boston Marathon attacks have revived old claims that Islam is inherently violent and all Muslims should face heightened scrutiny. When a Lutheran kid shoots up a movie theater or a Norwegian fundamentalist describing himself as a “modern-day crusader” slaughters kids at a summer camp, we take it in stride. When someone with a connection to Islam commits a crime, every Muslim faces suspicion.

Perhaps this is a good time to investigate the question: Which religion is the most violent?

The analysis presents some challenges. Should the answer be based purely on a body count? Professor Juan Cole casually estimates that Christians chalked up roughly 50 times more violent deaths than Muslims across the past century. That, however, doesn’t necessarily prove that Christianity is more violent. It just demonstrates a high level of efficiency. To answer the question we need more than a raw death toll.

When measuring violence, should grievances count as mitigating factors? When a Christian Lebanese militia spent two days in a besieged Palestinian refugee camp raping and slaughtering civilians under Israeli supervision, ought they be excused by the previous Muslim slaughter that inspired it? And should the Muslim slaughter be excused by the Christian slaughter that inspired it? Who is guiltier, the chicken or the egg?

A look at each religion’s holy books won’t provide much guidance. CONT’D AT >>>

http://c.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/just-enough-city/2013/may/1/which-religion-most-violent/

 

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Let the Pope-off Begin

by on Mar.12, 2013, under Politics

Cardinal Angelo Scola. Photo via worldcrunch.com.

Well, we know it’s going to be a white-haired European so that rules out the American (everyone would cry foul and say the US government secretly arranged to have him installed in their continuing effort at ruling the world) , the Mexican (no way), the Canadian (never), the Brazilian (impossible) and leaves only the Italian. I know, I know, they’re under pressure to pick the Mexican or the Brazilian to better reflect their current constituency but the Vatican’s never been one to bow to pressure from their own followers so my money’s on the Italian (pictured left). Also he looks the most Papal.  I’m just going by headshots alone here in making my psychic prediction. It’s as good a way as any.

If it does turn out to be Scherer then I’m telling you right now for the record that I own the headline VATICAN GETS A BRAZILIAN.  Remember you heard that here first before it’s stolen by the writers working for Seth Meyers or John Stewart.

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Time to Free Tibet

by on Feb.18, 2013, under On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe

(News Flash: Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS reincarnates in Philly this June at the Art Church of West Philadelphia as part of the 2015 SoLow FestTickets and full details here.)

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Enjoy these 16 images I took in January, 2013 at the Tibetan Refugee  Self-Help Centre in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India in the foothills of the Himalayas just over the mountain from Tibet.  And if you support the idea that it’s time for China to get out of Tibet and leave the people and their natural resources alone then feel free to share the images with others.

Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center Orphanage
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center Orphanage
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Welfare Center for Tibetan Children
Welfare Center for Tibetan Children
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"Welfare Centre for Tibetan Children, donated by National Christian Council, Aug. 1963
"Welfare Centre for Tibetan Children, donated by National Christian Council, Aug. 1963
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Refugee Centre Store
Refugee Centre Store
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Workshop where some of the handicrafts are made that are sold in the store.
Workshop where some of the handicrafts are made that are sold in the store.
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Your purchase will help the people of this centre; our products are not sold outside shop.
Your purchase will help the people of this centre; our products are not sold outside shop.
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This site of 3.8060 acres is the gift of The American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, September 1964. Save Tibet.
This site of 3.8060 acres is the gift of The American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, September 1964. Save Tibet.
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Original site of the centre started in October 1959 with four workers and two rooms.
Original site of the centre started in October 1959 with four workers and two rooms.
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Intro to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels on the premises.
Intro to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels on the premises.
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Om Mani Padme Hum (or hung)
Om Mani Padme Hum (or hung)
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Prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels.
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Refugee handicrafts worker.
Refugee handicrafts worker.
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More refugee handicrafts workers.
More refugee handicrafts workers.
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Another refugee handicrafts worker.
Another refugee handicrafts worker.
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Rug in progress.
Rug in progress.
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Rug in progress.
Rug in progress.
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