Another Week That Was

YouTube, you are amazing; I found it – “Flying Car; I Was Promised Flying Cars!” said Avery Brooks:

I love this commercial. Avery Brooks, a.k.a. Captain Sisko of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” has such a wonderful voice. Just his voice makes this ad.

Slate’s Explainer on “How a dirty word gets that way.” I tend not to realize that there really is a history – a whole etomology – behind, say, the f- word. So, really, this article was fascinating.

This other Explainer explains the Pope’s Swiss Guard. I suspected they might be undercover (or could be more like our Secret Service) – they couldn’t possibly always be wearing those plumed helmets.

And, speaking of words and language and voice: apparently this trio from the West Coast are on an illuminating path with their play about racial slurs (and literally entitled three most unpleasant slurs):

Oddly, the play originated in the more subtle racism of the entertainment world. When [Rafael] Agustín was a graduate student at U.C.L.A.’s School of Theater, Film and Television in 2003, he became frustrated when he was rejected repeatedly for leading parts in plays by Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, directed by other students.

“One director said: ‘You’re fantastic. There’s this Latino play, you should audition for that,’ ” recalled Mr. Agustín, whose father was a doctor in Ecuador who ended up working at Kmart after moving to this country for economic reasons.

Mr. Agustín complained to the faculty — which, he says, reported back that the directors said they envisioned Brad Pitt-Jude Law types in the leading roles. He realized he would have to write something himself to showcase his talent.

He reached out for help from a mentor and former debate coach at Mount San Antonio College, the community college in tiny Walnut, Calif., where Mr. Agustín was a champion debater. The coach, Liesel Reinhart, and her boyfriend, Steven T. Seagle, helped shape the piece and suggested bringing in his former debate teammates, [Allan] Axibal and [Miles] Gregley.

At the time Mr. Gregley was doing stand-up comedy in his spare time, while Mr. Axibal was doing slam poetry in his. “The three of us sat down together one day and had a simple conversation about how we felt about the state of things,” Mr. Agustín recalled.

Mr. Axibal said: “We started telling each other the things we went through. Even as close friends, these were things that we never knew about each other. We’d all had experiences with these words.”

Over two years of performance in 24 states, “N*W*C” has shifted and evolved with practice and experience. They have added a Michael Richards joke. They have closely watched the immigration debate. They have had a white supremacist tell them their play changed his point of view.

They hope one day to bring the show to Broadway or parts nearby, and to spin it into a television show. Their attempt to write their way into a career has been a success, but it has also become a mission of sorts.

“People say to us: ‘You can’t stop doing this. You have to keep going,’ ” Mr. Gregley said.

Mr. Agustín chimed in: “We think, ‘The N.A.A.C.P. and the neo-Nazis are ticked off at us? We sure are bringing people together.’ ”

I think it’s interesting that creativity can come out of the prejudices of the art world. Imagine – if the dramatic arts weren’t so hesitant about casting a person of color to Shakespeare (or weren’t so fixated on the Brad Pitts/Jude Laws), the motivation to go out and make your own play wouldn’t have that extra societal kick to it.

And, it’s that time of year for Skakespeare Outdoors.

I am trying not to pay any attention to the Paris Hilton debacle (really, so not worth it) – but it does illuminate the oddities of the law and society – are celebrities (particularly people who are famous just for being famous) really getting better treatment in the criminal justice system? Is the law going too far over a minor matter because the celebrity is embarrassing them? I mean, yeah, the jails are overcrowded, and people on minor charges get out early, but even here, the potential for social outcry should have made anyone try to avoid it (like, do your time for more than a week and don’t make a scene; don’t make a judge mad; etc.). NY Times’ Sharon Waxman highlights:

It was a rare moment in this star-filled city, where badly behaving celebrities can seemingly get away with anything — or at least D.U.I. But Ms. Hilton, for all her money and celebrity, seems to have been caught between battling arms of the justice system here, with prosecutors and Judge Sauer determined to make a point by incarcerating her, only to have the sheriff’s office let her go.

“She’s a pawn in a turf fight right now,” said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles. “It backfired against her because she’s a celebrity. She got a harsher sentence because she was a celebrity. And then when her lawyer found a way out of jail, there was too much public attention for it to sit well with the court.”

The struggle between the judge and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, incited indignation far beyond the attention normally paid to a minor criminal matter.

Judicial and police officials here said they were inundated with calls from outraged residents and curious news media outlets from around the country and beyond. The Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, decried Ms. Hilton’s release as an example of “double standards,” saying consideration was given to a pampered rich girl that would never have been accorded an average inmate.

I just think it’s kind of sad that there are real issues – war, famine, disease, etc. – and the media circus can only find one redeeming issue in the Hilton case – that the criminal justice system has problems.