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Monday, December 30, 2019

The Resume Myth


History has shown that for recent presidential races, experience is overrated.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar  Photo: pbs.org
During the December 19 Democratic Presidential Debate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar chided South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on his lack of experience.  She attacked him for “mocking the 100 years of experience” on the debate stage when he contrasted his own time outside of Washington. She said Buttigieg “should respect our experience when you look at how you evaluate someone.” The Indiana mayor, highlighting his military service, responded, “That is my experience, and it may not be the same as yours, but it counts, Senator. It counts.”

To be sure, voters tend to want their presidential candidates to possess significant “experience” if they should find themselves in the White House as the country’s chief executive and commander-in-chief. Moreover, the candidates do not hesitate to present their gaudy resumes on campaign literature and ads, and they prominently display their bios on their respective websites. They believe that is what impresses voters. And opponents will likely pounce, as Sen, Klobuchar did, on those whom they perceive as thin in the resume department.

But it takes more than a jaw-dropping resume to be a successful candidate and ultimately a successful president.

History has taught us that the winner of the presidential election often has a lighter resume than his opponent’s.  Nixon boasted much more substantive experience including being vice president for two terms than JFK but the latter eked out a victory in 1960.  

The same could be said for Gerald Ford bowing to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter, for his part, had executive experience as the governor of Georgia but Ford’s experience, was longer as a vice president (for a partial term) and congressman. Ford’s pardoning of Nixon was arguably the key factor in the contest.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan steamrolled over Carter but the resume was a non-factor. The election, instead, was a referendum on Carter’s presidency and the economy at the time.

It seems nobody had a more impressive resume than 41, George H. W. Bush. Though he lost the Republican nomination in 1980 to the upstart Reagan, his experience did not help him much.  Bush did manage to soundly defeat Michel Dukakis in 1988 but any Republican would have beaten the weak Democratic candidate.

However, 1992 was telling, and it bolsters my argument about how the resume is overrated. Bill Clinton emerged as the Democratic standard bearer. The draft-dodging, pot-smoking, skirt chasing governor of the “small state” of Arkansas as Republicans often ascribed to him clearly did not have the broad experience of Mr. Bush.

But the entrance into the race by third party candidate Ross Perot doomed Bush’s bid for a second term. That plus violating the “read my lips, no new taxes” mantra by Bush, which turned off his own party, sealed Bush’s fate. The resume may have well been thrown out the window.

In 1996 Clinton who was under investigation by Kenneth Starr on a dubious land deal, which ultimately led to the president’s impeachment for lying under oath over an extramarital affair, managed to defeat the beloved war hero Sen. Robert Dole. Clinton avoided military service during the Vietnam War but triumphed over the Purple Heart recipient Dole. Again, the resume did not matter.

Former Texas Rangers executive and Governor of Texas George W. Bush had what seemed like a solid resume. He took on former two-term Vice President and former Senator Al Gore in 2000.  It would appear to be a draw in the resume department though Gore was in government much longer. Bush prevailed with the help of another third party candidate Ralph Nader and the U.S. Supreme Court. Their respective resumes turned out to be immaterial.

The pattern continued in 2008 when a little-known Senator from Illinois with a funny name as he put it, Barack Obama, defeated the iconic long-time Senator and war hero John McCain.

Then came 2016. Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady for 8 years, a U.S. Senator and ultimately Secretary of State took on the only presidential candidate in history that did not include public service or a military record on his resume. His only credentials he brought to his candidacy was his so-called business acumen. That reputation persuaded enough voters to win though it was revealed Donald Trump’s expertise in business consisted of 6 bankruptcies including casinos of all things and questionable sources of money when U.S. banks declined to grant further loans.

My point is that there is no experience that prepares one to be president because of the uniqueness of the job. It has been and will always be on-the-job training.

As Elaine Karmack in Fortune magazine wrote, “The federal government today is so big and so complex that presidents – even ones with extensive political experience, but especially those with limited experience – have trouble figuring it out.” 

Good judgment, intelligence, a commitment to American values, a strong economy, a vision for the future, and solid advisors and a penchant to listen to them will contribute to the success of the chief executive.

Of course, it is helpful that a candidate possesses executive experience or a legislative background to at least demonstrate that the candidate is knowledgeable of how government works. 

But it's not an end-all.

Pete Buttigieg has been criticized that being the mayor of a small city is insufficient to tout executive experience. Yet, Michael Bloomberg had been mayor of a city 80 times the population of South Bend and Cory Booker was mayor Newark, the largest city in the nation's most densely populated state but Buttigieg is polling higher than these two.  Moreover, take a look at the 2016 Republican presidential field with governors Christie, Bush and Kasich--all exiting the race as voters preferred Trump. 

There are, however, other factors will determine the outcome of an election, such as likability, the state of the economy, the direction of the country as perceived by voters, a candidate's political skills, ideology, whether or not the country is engaged in a military conflict, and the record and character of the opponent (and the candidate him/herself).

As for a glossy resume leading to an election, history tells us, not so much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

OUTspoken’s Top Blog Posts for 2019

The end of the year means another list somewhere, and this blog is no exception. Since this blog is a mix of LGBT, Politics and Arts, the top 5 posts for 2019 according to page views are listed by category below. In addition, I returned to my roots with sports commentary and posted articles during the Washington Nationals’ historic championship run in October.   You may click on the title of each to access the full post.



LGBTQ

1.     Gay Christian Delivers Heavenly Performance on ‘Idol’ (March) -  Son of Christian pastor comes out as gay to national audience during audition for American Idol. Not only was this post the most viewed in the category but it was also the most viewed post of the year.

2.     A Prideful First for Howard County (April) - The first ever Pride celebration in Howard County is set to go.

3.     Straight Pride: Another Way to Mock LGBTQ Folks (June) -  Anti-LGBTQ people think they deserve to hold a “straight pride” event. Why this is wrong.

4.     Howard County H.S.Students to Hold First Rainbow Conference (July) -  First student-led LGBTQ conference in Howard County to be held in May 2020.

5.     Jumel Howard:Leading Howard County to Pride (May) - A profile on the man who started with a vision and helped bring LGBTQ Pride to Howard County for the first time.



Politics

1.     The Resume Myth (December)
Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for his lack of experience but recent elections show that the resume will not necessarily win an election.

2.      Trump’s Shutdown: Another Losing Bet (January) – https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/01/trumps-shutdown-another-losing-bet.html
As had been the case throughout Trump’s career, the government shutdown he brought on his own, is destined to fail politically.

For Dems to succeed, they must take it to Trump.
 
4.     Trump is Not as ‘Sharpie’ as He Thinks (September) - https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/09/trump-is-not-as-sharpie-as-he-thinks.html
Trump’s use of a sharpie to falsify a hurricane warning demonstrates his profound degree of dishonesty brought attention to his other exaggerations and lies.

5.     Why Not, For Pete’s Sake (April)https://stevecharing.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-not-for-petes-sake.html A case made for the candidacy for president of Mayor Pete Buttigieg right after he formally announced and his contrasts with President Trump.



Theatre

1.     Curtain Up! Light the Lights! Gypsy Comes Up Roses at Toby’s (February)- Cathy Mundy’s ... acting is top-notch; full of passion and conviction and portrays the loud, single-minded stage mother to the hilt.”

2.     With Cabaret at Olney, Even the Orchestra is Beautiful (September) - “…An intricately staged, brilliantly costumed spectacle…”

3.     A First Class ‘Pygmalion’ on Display at Spotlighters  (February) - “In a superb presentation at the Spotlighters Theatre, Shaw’s views through Pygmalion come to life with a potent drama laced with razor-sharp wit and humor.

4.     Hitting the Right Notes More Than ‘Once’ at Olney (February) - “Once is a different type of musical from what we’re accustomed and… features a tender romantic story of looking back at what has been, how to bounce back from despair and to try anew while beautiful songs fill the theater.”

5.     The Hunchback of Notre Dame' at Toby’s is a Bell Ringer (April) - “... An extraordinary production that captures your imagination from centuries past while serving as a reminder that many of the same human issues exist today.



Sports

1.     The Pressure is More on the Dodgers in Game 5 (October 8) -  Facing elimination once again, the LA Dodgers were feeling more pressure than the Nationals.

2.     In Defense of Kershaw (October 10) -  Dodger fans blamed the Game 5 loss on Clayton Kershaw for blowing a lead, but there was plenty of blame to go around.
 
3.     How Sweep It Is (October 16)- The Nats exorcised past demons from the 2012 series with the St. Louis Cardinals to sweep their old nemesis in the 2019 NLCS.

4.     Kings of the Road (October 31) –  The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals set a Major League Record for winning all the away games in a 7-game World Series. Fortunately for the Nats they played one more of those games than the Astros.

5.     Nationals ‘Managed’ Historic Win in Wild Card (October 2) -  Nats manager Davey Martinez pulled all the right strings as the Nats won their first postseason series—the National League one-game Wild Card match over the Milwaukee Brewers.



Blasts from the Past

Besides those popular posts from 2019 (above), below are several posts from previous years still garnering many views in 2019 (in no particular order):








Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Electric ‘Superstar’ Rocks the Hippodrome


Paradoxically this month, while billions around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre is presenting a musical that delves into the last days of Christ’s physical time on Earth. The latest revival of the 1970 rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar, with the stellar score by superstar-in-his-own-right Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, has rolled into town depicting Rice’s loosely interpreted events as related by the Gospels in the New Testament.

What has been billed as the 50th Anniversary Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, the production is more akin to a rock concert than the garden variety Broadway musical. Songs coming at you one right after the other in rapid-fire sequences; high voltage dance numbers abound; hand-held mic’s and mic stands are employed and sometimes double as props; high-tech lighting (designed by Lee Curran) bathe the stage from above as if the rays were emanating from Heaven; fog effects blend beautifully with the lighting; and performers playing musical instruments onstage—all packed in 90 minutes with no intermission to quell the momentum.  

The set designed by Tom Scutt features multi-level steel girders upstage with grid-like compartments on the second level where members of the orchestra are situated with some of the performers joining them from time to time. This change in eye level adds an effective dimension to the optics.  The major set piece is a large cross dominating the stage that is used as a runway among other purposes and, ultimately, the Crucifixion.  

Though the story line’s contours are derived from the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ last days from his arrival in Jerusalem to the Crucifixion, if you are among those not familiar with the New Testament, you could be at a disadvantage. There is nary a spoken word as this is a sung-through musical, and there is no narration other than the lyrics contained in the songs. Moreover, most of the principals are not readily identified and placed into context. The assumption is that the audience is knowledgeable of the story.

Jesus Christ Superstar with its well-known catalogue of songs is riveting entertainment. Originally, the songs were part of a rock-opera concept album before it migrated to a stage production. Rock, folk and gospel themes reflect the 1970’s era with the lyrics containing modern colloquialisms and other modern references. Among the more popular songs are “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” “Superstar,” and my personal favorite “Gethsemane.”

Mary (Jenna Rubah) comforts Jesus (Aaron LaVigne)
The show focuses on emotional relationships and conflicts that touch on such themes as power, greed, celebrity and betrayal as seen through the eyes of Judas  (played stirringly by James Delisco Beeks), one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.

His concern is that Jesus, the King of the Jews (played by Aaron LaVigne), is moving in a direction that will offend the Romans that could bring wrath upon the Jews. In the end, Judas betrays Jesus and terminates his own life. #hocoarts

Mr. Beeks performs the role zestfully especially in such numbers as “Heaven On Their Minds,” “Damned For All Time/ Blood Money” and “Judas’s Death.” 

In the title role sexy Aaron LaVigne with his lithe physique is onstage throughout much of the production dealing with his apostles, his relationships with Judas and Mary, and the conflicts with the high priests and their followers as well as the conflicts within himself as to whether he should be an inspirational leader or martyr. God was to make that decision for him.

Mr. LaVigne performs many challenging songs and experienced a couple of rough patches early on the evening this performance was reviewed. But his vocals rebounded and improved markedly as the show progressed. His rendition of the moving, gut-wrenching solo “Gethsemane” is one of the show’s highlights as Jesus comes to grips with his ultimate demise.

He excels during the number “Trial By Pilate/39 Lashes” as Jesus receives the punishment following his famous trial. In a shocking display, each of the 39 lashes is accompanied by glitter where some of that adheres to his already bloodied body. He winces and recoils and convulses from each of the lashes. It is quite a spectacle.  Mr. LaVigne’s overall performance is stellar.


Jesus Christ Superstar with its well-known catalogue of songs is riveting entertainment.

As Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who provides comfort to Jesus and develops a love interest for him, Jenna Ruball is spot-on. Her soulful, sweet voice is evident in “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” another of Superstar’s iconic songs.

Alvin Crawford plays Caiaphas, a high priest, who along with others, sought to persecute Jesus. His bass vocals are excellent and notable in the sinister “This Jesus Must Die” and in the group number “The Arrest” where he is joined by another high priest Annas, played well by Tyce Green.

Tommy Sherlock portrays Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who dreams of Jesus’ crucifixion only for it to actually happen. He excels in the song “Pilate’s Dream” and the production number “Pilate and Christ.”

Simon, one of the hawkish apostles, is played by Eric A. Lewis. His number is “Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem” and demonstrates strong vocals.

James Delisco Beeks as Judas
Also possessing a solid singing voice is Tommy McDowell as Peter, another disciple who denies Jesus three times at the time of Jesus’ arrest to save himself. He performs in “The Arrest,” “Peter’s Denial” and in the duet with Ms. Ruball in “Could We Start Again, Please.”

Then there’s King Herod, King of Galilee, played by Paul Lewis Lessard, who had a role during the trial. Decked out in flamboyant garb co-designed by Keith Caggiano and Nick Lidster that I can visualize Liberace and Elton John fighting over, Mr. Lewis performs well in the aptly named “Herod’s Song.”

The remainder of the company under the direction of award-winning Timothy Sheader and choreographer Drew McOnie, also an award recipient, as well as Musical Director Shawn Gough, is exceptional in voice and through their up-tempo precise dancing.

With such a compact production and without dramatic dialogue, there is insufficient opportunity to provide a more in-depth look into the relationships among the principals. And, as most people are aware, this is not a feel-good story in any shape or form.

Yet, the music, staging, the talented performers, electric atmosphere and the technical effects at the Hippodrome make this a fundamentally enjoyable experience and a timely Christmas present. But hurry, the show’s tour stop in Baltimore ends on December 22, 2019 A.D.

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Running time. One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs through December 22 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BaltimoreHippodrome.com, call 800-982-ARTS, or visit the Hippodrome Box Office located at 12 N Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.

Photos: Matthew Murphy





Sunday, December 08, 2019

Morella Spins a Spirited ‘Christmas Carol’ at Olney

Paul Morella

There is no shortage of Christmastime traditions: Santa Clause, gift-giving, Christmas trees, caroling, eggnog, wreaths, poinsettias, and parties, just to name a few. There is still another tradition: Paul Morella performing his one-man show, A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas at the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre Center. #hocoarts

Celebrating his 10th anniversary of staging this unique presentation at Olney, Mr. Morella, who adapted the Dickens classic, seems to always add a fresh layer to his performance. In this version there is more of a ghostly theme and a more in-depth exploration of the characters. #hocoarts

Any accomplished actor will tell you that playing a role is not simply memorizing lines from a script and following the play’s director. One needs to conduct research and delve into the character’s qualities and persona and for a couple of hours lose one’s own identity and virtually become that character. 

In a tour-de-force, multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee and Olney stage veteran Paul Morella does exactly that.  Except there is a major difference: he does not portray a singular character; he plays dozens of characters in this heartwarming, imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic novella A Christmas Carol.  And for good measure, Mr. Morella directs his own performance.

Mr. Morella’s hand in this one-man show stretches out from not only performing the myriad roles but is also the theater’s usher welcoming audience members with a warm smile and handshake.  Prior to the presentation Mr. Morella advises the audience that he is not to be seen as an actor performing this play but instead a “guide” to the story whereby the audience is urged to let their imagination run free. He is too modest, however, as Mr. Morella conducts an acting clinic and turns in a virtuoso performance as a storyteller that indeed provokes the audience to imagine.

Surrounded by an assortment of early Victorian furnishings on the cozy stage including a period desk, chairs, fireplace, Persian rugs; a scattering of clocks, books, candles. spectacles and the like, Mr. Morella spins the fabled yarn that centers on the miserly-turned-loveable Ebenezer Scrooge (Bah! Humbug!) who finds redemption and becomes an admirable chap at play’s end.

As the sole performer Mr. Morella recites Dickens’ prose as they were intended, and Dickens, at times, actually performed the novella by himself.  Therefore, along with the charming set that also displays a foggy vapor at various points in the story, there is a great deal of historical authenticity that enriches the experience. 

"Mr. Morella conducts an acting clinic and turns in a virtuoso performance as a storyteller..."

Adding to the genuineness, many of the characters’ good attributes as well as shortcomings in A Christmas Carol related in some manner to Dickens’ own life’s experiences that included struggling to make ends meet.  Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve to Christmas Day evolution from when he began as a mean, arrogant and friendless soul to one that ended up as a caring, generous human being embodies the true meaning of the Christmas holiday spirit.

This extraordinary transformation in Scrooge’s personality was accomplished through the eerie appearance of the ghost of Scrooge’s late partner Jacob Marley followed by the nocturnal visits from three other ghosts: one representing Christmas Past, one from Christmas Present and one from Christmas Future.  These ghosts pointed out Scrooge’s failures, the effects of his actions, and the consequences that could occur in the future.

Besides narrating the story as Dickens, Mr. Morella deftly switches characters with amazing fluidity using all the acting tools in the toolbox.  He accomplishes this competently not with tedious wardrobe changes but with voice inflections, facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms unique to each character.  Mr. Morella is in constant motion on the stage as he relates the story.

At one moment he is Scrooge and then he seamlessly switches to either Bob Crachit, Tiny Tim, each of the three ghosts and a host of other characters including females and children.  When reverting back to Scrooge or another character, there is solid consistency.

Adding substantial texture to the play is Edward Moser’s excellent sound design that creates echoes when the ghosts speak, the ringing of church bells, folks laughing in the background, cats scratching on a door as well as other effects.  Sonya Dowhaluk’s superb lighting design contributes to the gothic atmosphere by employing light fades and keeping the stage illuminated at a subdued level (but not too low) to simulate candlelight. Patrick W. Lord is the Projection Designer, and Josiane M. Jones skillfully directs the overall production.

Mr. Morella’s ability to tell this classic story is captivating and is theatre at its best.  This would make a great pre-holiday gift or a stocking stuffer for anyone who loves theatre and appreciates the skills of a superb actor (and guide and usher).
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Running time: Two hours with an intermission.

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas runs through December 29 at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. 

Performances are Thursday-Saturday evenings at 7:45 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm. There are additional performances on Wednesday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. at 7:45 p.m., Monday, December 23 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., Tuesday, December 24 at 3:00 p.m., and Thursday, December 26 at 3:00 p.m. No performances on December 4 & 5, Wednesday, December 11 and Wednesday, December 25. No evening performance on Wednesday, December 26.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 301-924-2654 or visiting online .

Photos: Teresa Castracane Photography