About Me

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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A piece of monologue

I'd like to share a little bit of my most recently produced play "The Americans." Just to take a second a way from editorializing, and to "show" as much as "tell."

An excerpt from "The Americans"

I once wrote a poem about a girl. About standing on the beach in New Jersey, with a girl who I loved, and she didn’t love me. We spent time together, usually because I was adept at working myself into her life…and she must have known. But frankly, she was never going to love me. I wrote it about nighttime at the ocean, and the jetty, and how it was all black. Simple things. I said that she would never know that I was her foul-mouthed Romeo. Some piece of purple prose. I was younger than I am now. If you can believe that. I wanted to be big. Important. Homeric. You know…Superman in sneakers.


But I never stood with this girl on the beach. I’ve never been to the Jersey Shore at night. I kissed a few girls, but all of them tasted like salt.


I wonder if anyone ever loved me and never told me. I still wonder. I wonder if I could have made that person happy.


Ever been happy? Really very happy with big white teeth? Smiling like in a commercial? Talking to a friend, feeling young and alive and full of happy yellow sunshine?


I haven’t. I often wonder what makes people feel that way. I mean, why they would want to. Because when you feel that way, you stop. You stop moving, doing, working. You are nothing but a moment of satisfaction. You barely exist.


I never want to be so resigned. Happy and resigned. This is it, I’ll think. ‘I’ve done it. I’ve found it.’


I don’t want that. To be finished. You write one thing and then you write another thing. And you go to work at your day job and they hate you there, and they smile at you anyway and they think “When will this man quit?” or “Why does he work here?” but they don’t say anything and neither do you. You look around at the way the world works, this country, this city. You hear people talk about the fall of Democracy and the two-party system and the widening wealth gap and the royal family and the Supreme Court. You wonder what you could possibly do to change it. If you should try to change it? You say to yourself each day that it’s not impossible. You say, “I can change this.” But you’re no fool. You read. You know better. You know from Steinbeck that you can’t keep the fields from turning to salt. You know from that poetry teacher in high school that you are only trying to make yourself feel better by dragging your bones along the scuttle and rocks. You know from Emily Dickinson that you should never leave your home. You know from Shakespeare that it’s all a mess of arms and limbs and swords and ghosts and there is no point in trying to make sense of it…that it’s just a show for someone else. You know from history that you are not in the ruling class and you know from Edgar Allen Poe that you will be quiet and lie down one day, penniless, never knowing what became of you.


You know what I am talking about. The unchanging world. American to the core. Resigned and hateful, hopeful and defeated. The hand wave as a grand gesture. Nothing at all…except grand. It is grand. But it’s nothing. Nothing at all.


You don’t have to read the poem. Not if you understand that. Not if you know, in fact, why I wrote it. Because I didn’t want to wind up satisfied and accepting. I didn’t want to lie down with my arms folded and say “There is nothing I can do. Let the sun crash into the earth.” What I want is to say “This is how I change things… by offering this up. I offer it up.” And up it went.


That’s why I wrote it. That’s why I write all of them. But this one… it exploded. And that was really not my intention. My idea. But that’s the risk you take, I guess. When you make offerings.


I remember, though, at that moment… the most dreadful part was that there was nothing I could do. That it was a complete moment, a finished thought. The thing had happened. It was over. And all I was doing was sitting there. What else could I ever do again that would create such a thing. And it wasn’t me…it was “The Americans.”


Was this the feeling of satisfaction? Of completion? If it is… it’s like someone takes your heart right out of your mouth.

Spearbearer, I hardly knew you

Farewell to Spearbearer Down Left, from San Diego.

May a thousand flowers grow where you planted a seed.


Naysayers, read this. The Transit Strike worked for the WORKERS. Which is who it was supposed to benefit anyhow.

I hear a Woody Guthrie song, remixed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Big Lie Theory: Satellite Phone

Amazingly enough, the Bush administration's oft quoted claim that press leaks about his administrations methods are irresponsible and "could harm national security" are bullshit.

The main example, and pretty much only cited one, is debunked here.

Farewell Vincent Schiavelli

Don't know who you'll miss until they're gone.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays

To everyone!

Even if you're just enjoying a few days off.

I would like to say this: Anyone who is concerned about the "secular war on Christmas" take heart. No one cares but Christians who are going to celebrate Christmas anyway.

The entire argument is just another example of exactly why we're considered such lunatics elsewhere in the world.

I'll be off for a few days. Be well, all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

On a far, far lighter note

Something I saw on Superfluites, courtesy of Our Girl in Chicago. Sort of fun, mass e-mail type stuff.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Freelance Video Game Reviewer, Human Resources Coordinator, Office Manager, Security Guard for a Landfill.

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Fisher King, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (best of the three), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Four places you've lived: Pennsylvania, Boston, Chicago, New York City.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Lost, Homicide: Life on the Street, Battlestar Galactica, The League of Gentlemen.

Four places you've been on vacation: Portsmouth, San Francisco, Miami, Montreal.

Four websites you visit daily: www.nytimes.com, www.starwars.com, www.ghunka.com, www.nytheatre.com

Four of your favorite foods: Lobster, Very Salty Potato Chips, Light and Sweet Coffee, Stoudt Beer

Four places you'd rather be: Under the covers; in rehearsal; at Izzy's in Boyertown, PA, drinking $1.50 Yuengling; the Minnesota State Fair.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thinking about Thinking about Thinking

Think of me as a monkey with two buttons in front of him. One says "Self-Righteous" and the other says "Food." The Self-Righteousness button sends me pleasant electro-shocks, so I'll keep pressing it and forgo food for ages.

It's my fatal flaw, but at least in the fifth act, everyone will get a good speech before I die by my own sword.

That being said, there has been more than a little head-scratching at my responses to MattJ's "What is Text?" entry, Scott Walter's entry into the fray, and then George Hunka threw in with his usually odd mix of high-mindedness and modesty.

I figure I should try to discuss a little more of what I was trying to express, albeit clumsily. I certainly won't stop with the "Fuck Bush" posts (sorry, George) because it is, after all, my personal space to express myself in any way I see fit or find satisfying; but I don't mind trying to raise my level of discourse a bit and take things a little more seriously for a minute.

The fact is, I'm not against thinking deeply about any subject, or exploring art, or being interested in theory. All of these things have their place. And I completely identify that my tone has been a little harsh, when it certainly doesn't need to be. I am obviously not making myself clear about what, exactly, I was objecting to.

I do not believe that the quality of theatre, by and large, as an art, in its entirety, is what interests me. There is theatre that is breathtaking. There is also a great deal of garbage, covered in sugar, that is fed to the waiting public on great big stages in major cities. So be it. The garbage, by and large, is more visible than the expressive and experimental. So be it. I'll rail against the garbage and throw my arms around the good stuff, because that's what people do.

That's how these things go.

That being said, I hear, in the blogsphere, two sentiments.

One is that theatre's quality is in dire shape, and that we must approach theatre as a doctor does a patient, remake what is seen on the stage, and if we improve the quality, the audience will re-emerge, as if it has been hibernating. Those with this sentiment tend to quote a great deal of theory, talk about the history of theatre, in an effort to shame current artists out of their complacency and act as cultural professors. George calls them "strategists."

Elsewhere is the belief that it's not the quality of the theatre, but the interest of the audience, that has waned. The belief that we are in danger of being overlooked by better advertising, easier access, and an increasingly isolated population with less and less free cash and more and more instant gratification. Those with this belief (I would count myself often as one) are less concerned about whether or not theater is getting worse, and more interested in making it seem appealing to an audience that is increasingly difficult to reach.

I believe the first sentiment is blaming the victim for the rape. It seems to say that the audience is gone because theatre drove it away. That the market is dictated entirely by quality, and that quality is what anything that does not find an audience lacks. This is, in my view, naive.

I believe the second sentiment is often blind to the quality issue. It seems to think that if we put a bigger bow on a package that includes lousy Broadway musicals and people covering themselves in paint and running in circles, we will be able to sell it to an audience full of suckers. It is a rather cynical view, to say the least.

BUT...the important unity between these two perspectives is the desire to rekindle interest in the theatre. We are a team of activists and advocates and artists, in the midst of the decline of our art's importance in American culture.

Therefore, when I see long posts about "post-modernism" and questioning the very meaning of words like "text" my spidey-sense tingles. This is the sort of collegiate, insular, dull-as-a-box-of-nickels snore that leads us as far away from anything of import as possible. It leads theatrical discourse up into the clouds, where no one but the few and the pristine bother to chase it.

It can be fun to break down language to prove it has no meaning, or twirl words around on the eye of a needle. But talk like that has no jelly in its eyes and no meat in its stomach.

It is ethereal, and it is rarefied, and it continues that terrible trend of treating art as an exercise, a sort of series of experiments. It seems to say if we can just figure out how to do it "correctly" we will all acheive a sort of "good grade" in being playwrights or directors.

Academia and art are not the same. They have entirely different goals. Academia is a study of something that already exists, and artists are the creators of what did not exist before.

For academia to become an arbiter of taste or a means by which to achieve good art seems digesting ones food without chewing it or tasting it. Art is creative and impulsive and based entirely upon personal expression.

One can hone the ability to express himself or herself (gain technique in painting, learn sense/memory, learn the three-act structure) but one should not mistake study for technique, or mistake knowledge for ability. Whenever art is made to conform with or please any type of overly considered theory, it is sacrificing voice for thought, and in my estimation, that is a sacrfice no artist should be led to make.

That being said, it also leads artists to less think about what they would like to say to their audience, and more what will please the insular community of academia.

We are in this entirely for the audience. They are who we exist to touch, expand, fail or please. We are creating this work for them. And we are losing them, each year.

We must think about theater's success in many ways. We should ramble about plays and wrestle out about quality. We should make each other laugh and defend ourselves.

But I get, I'll admit it, a bit defensive and concerned when I hear us defining terminology and breaking down four letter words into even longer sentences and bigger words.

It has nothing to do with creating art for the audience we so desperately need.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A "Manifesto"

Who can pass up a Manifesto? There's one to respond to over at Theatre Ideas. Take a good look at the comments. MattJ and Allison Croggon both have some very different and intriguing things to say.


Well, it amazes me that the Transit Union can say "We will not allow you to give workers of the next generation worse benefits than we have" and the MTA can treat them like unreasonable savages.

Anyway, this is tough. But guess what?

GO UNIONS! Stick it to the man.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Star Wars Prequels

Happily assuming my new mantle of the most countrary person on the theatrical blogsphere, I would like to say to both Spearbearer and MattJ that I personally have seen all the prequels too many times to count and that I can win any trivia contest in the world about them.

Shameful, but hey, we all have our fun. Perhaps, when I get around to it, I'll write a full defense of them.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Theatre Gets Kicked in the Crotch

The film adaptation of the 12 Tony Award Winning, Broadway Smash-Hit "The Producers" just got slapped around by the New York Times. Hard.

This isn't just a review that says "This film isn't good." It's a review that says, from a film reviewer, that Broadway is low-brow and has been surpassed by movies.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Something Useful from David Mamet

As noted elsewhere (Here and Here) David Mamet has written up this piece in the Guardian about Night of the Iguana.

As usual, Mamet is in rare form as he says ridiculous things like:

"To praise drama as primarily poetic is to engage in propositional theology; ie to enjoy the sense of probity and status conferred by the announcement of an elevated and approved opinion. This, though, is the province of the cleric and has nothing whatever to do with the performance or the enjoyment of real drama." (I wonder what Kirk Wood Bromley would say to this...?)

Another Gem:

"Playwriting is a young man's - and, of late, a young woman's - game. It requires the courage of youth still inspired by rejection and as yet unperverted by success. Most playwrights' best work is probably their earliest." (I would argue that Mamet's own earliest plays are not his best.)

That being said... there is something Mamet does that is mechanically useful here, which is to write down what he feels makes a "good play." Herein are the points of argument, and I think that they are the points worthy of discussion.

Rule #1: A Play is Written to be Performed. He argues that anything in the text that is not "performable" reduces the quality of the play.

Rule #2: Any spoken line of dialogue that is not written for the express purpose of furthering the plot reduces the quality of the play.

Rule #3: The "poetry" of drama is equal to the "mechanical purity of the dialogue."

I'm curious what we think of these "rules for drama." I guess my real question is: Who has written what is a "good play" that breaks his rules successfully?

A quick note about "text" and academia

Take a look at Theatre Conversation and Superfluities and then read this:

I noted to MattJ that questions such as these, I felt, were impractical and ultimately not going to bring him to much of an end. What I note there is that instead of worry about the broad terminology and vocabulary of art, it's better to focus on one's own preferences and aethetics and choices.

George stopped in to offer what appears to be encouragement and defense for MattJ.

We all butter our bread differently, gentlemen. But I can honestly say that when I am sitting at my "typewriter" (what a romantic notion) I do not consider the effects of the postwar period on what comes out of my fingertips.

The more consciously you consider your influences and the theory behind your work, I suppose, I feel the more self-consciously those influences will appear and less intuitive your own work will be. I love to watch Beckett because he kicks me in the gut and makes me insanely jealous and makes me laugh and feel hopeless and human all at once.

I think that we often find comfort in the idea that Beckett was a "product" of his time and his influences. That makes it easier for us to feel as if there is not something elusive and unreachable about being a great artist: that his or her work comes from a tradition, and if we follow that tradition or "figure it out" we, too, can have access to that greatness.

If that was true, of course, there would be nothing noteworthy about the acheivements of the true geniuses of art. Modern, post-modern or otherwise.

No amount of reading about art will make anyone a great artist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A short history of the Pledge of Allegiance

This was sent to me by my friend Jay Leibowitz.

Thanks Jay.

Hunka Brings the Hammer Down on American Playwrights

I had a professor that liked to piss all over American playwrights too. In college. So fun!

Interesting post though. Many may agree. Take a look.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bush Speaks in Philadelphia

I love how the press simply re-writes the Bush speech without any analysis of what he's said.

Bush claims that around 30,000 Iraqis have died, give or take. Now, if that's the figure the White House deems to quote after three years of saying "We don't do body counts" it means only one thing:

They have a decent idea and it's MUCH higher than 30,000. And even 30,000 is a huge number. He was asked directly from someone in the audience, which means he was like "Oh! Hm...30,000 is less than the real number, but higher than 100 which no one will buy."

Iraq is the nadir of American society. In Vietnam we could claim some sort of "loss of innocence." The war in Iraq is the victory of propoganda, falsehood, negligence, powerlessness and apathy. Anyone who think we are living in a Democracy needs look no further than the morning news.

Below is the transcript, from CNN.com, of the speech Bush gave yesterday in Philadelphia. My personal commentary and links are in Red. Just because, hey, I'm furious. This isn't really analysis. Mostly just me sounding off.

"Thank you all. Thank you. Thanks for the warm welcome.

Thank you for the chance to come and speak to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council. This is an important organization that since 1949 has provided a forum for debate and discussion on important issues.

I've come to discuss an issue that's really important, and that is victory in the war on terror. And that war started on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack.

First of all, the war in Iraq has no connection whatsoever with 9/11. Here is a story for June of 2004. That's a year and a half ago. It was also not a war that was "started" in September 11th, 2001. In fact, we have been at war with Osama Bin Laden for years and the Republicans make that claim conveniently to disparage Bill Clinton quite often. Here's an example. What Saddam Hussein has to do with 9/11, again, is continually unclear. Bush's use of 9/11 to justify any and all military action is morally reprehensible.

Like generations before us, we have accepted new responsibilities. We're confronting dangers with new resolve. We're taking the fight to those who attacked us and to those who share their murderous vision for future attacks.

Here, he ties past conflicts with the current "war." Note that is definition is ever and terrifyingly broadening. Once he said that we must find and kill the "terrorists." First it was "Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive." Now his term is those who attacked us (almost all of which were Saudi Arabians trained in Afghanistan, not Iraqi) and those who "share their murderous vision." Saddam was a secular dictator and Osama Bin Laden is an Islamic, fundamentalist academic that was funded and trained by the CIA. They did not appear to "share a vision."

We will fight this war without wavering, and we'll prevail.

To find out how, see this far-reaching and Quixotic document.

The war on terror will take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield, from the streets of western cities, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the tribal regions of Pakistan, to the islands of Southeast Asia and to the Horn of Africa.

Wait. Stop. What? How long are we going to be shooting at people?

Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity.
So we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.

Yes. That's why Iraq contained no weapons of any note, no connection to Al Qaeda, and that the United Nations voted against an invasion of it. Because the terrorists picked it. They love Iraq. They wanted to fight us there. Why else do you think they dressed Iraq up all pretty for us?

Last month, my administration released a document called "The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," and in recent weeks I've been discussing our strategy with the American people. At the U.S. Naval Academy, I spoke about our efforts to defeat the terrorists and train Iraqi security forces so they can provide safety for their own citizens.

Last week, before the Council on Foreign Relations, I explained how we are working with Iraqi forces and Iraqi leaders to help Iraqis improve security and restore order, to rebuild cities taken from the enemy and to help the national government revitalize Iraq's infrastructure and economy.

Side note: I interviewed for a job in HR at the CFR. Imagine that. Plus, his plans are unspecific. Things like "We will help Iraq grow its economy" is not a plan to grow its economy. That's akin to looking up the word "growth" in the dictionary and seeing the word "growth" as its definition.

Today, I'm going to speak in depth about another vital element of our strategy: our efforts to help the Iraqi people build a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

Whenever Bush says the word "depth" he is thinking about a swimming pool. Now, settle in, because the professor is going to give us all a lesson...

I can think of no better place to discuss the rise of a free Iraq than in the heart of Philadelphia, the city where America's democracy was born.

A few blocks from here stands Independence Hall, where our Declaration of Independence was signed and our Constitution was debated.

From the perspective of more than two centuries the success of America's democratic experiment seems almost inevitable. At the time, however, that success didn't seem so obvious or assured.
The eight years from the end of the Revolutionary War to the election of a constitutional government were a time of disorder and upheaval.

There were uprisings, with mobs attacking courthouses and government buildings. There was a planned military coup that was defused only by the personal intervention of George Washington. In 1783, Congress was chased from this city by angry veterans demanding back pay, and they stayed on the run for six months. There were tensions between the mercantile North and the agricultural South that threatened to break apart our young republic. And there were British loyalists who were opposed to independence and had to be reconciled with America's new democracy.

Our founders faced many difficult challenges, they made mistakes, they learned from their experiences and they adjusted their approach.

Our nation's first effort at a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed. It took years of debate and compromise before we ratified our Constitution and inaugurated our first president.

It took a four-year civil war and a century of struggle after that before the promise of our Declaration was extended to all Americans.

It is important to keep this history in mind as we look at the progress of freedom and democracy in Iraq.

In the above passage, Bush compares the United States struggle for "Democracy" to the struggle for Democracy in Iraq. This comparison is tenuous. Three points to take note of here, and they are daunting.

One is that he is describing years and years of struggle (he notes events of the civil war and in 1783). This seems to be preparing Americans for what amounts to a permanent force in the region, that is responsible for and involved in events such a internal uprisings and civil wars. This sounds like a costly committment, without an ever-changing standard for success. Have we committed to a century of struggle.

Second is that if he is, in fact, saying that we should be "in it for the long haul" why was it necessary to attack Hussein so quickly, without a broad international consensus? Why was immediate military action necessary if we can look forward to a centuries long struggle? Why were our troops underfunded and underarmored? And, in fact, why has this administration declared victory so often if it always expected a long and costly struggle in the center of the Middle East?

Third is that the history of the United States and the History of Iraq are very, very far apart and NOT comparable. For one, we came from a tradition of parlimentary rule and European values and French philosophy and revolutionary pamphleteering. They are coming from a splintered, ethnic and religious state, surrounded by enemies, with an Islamic tradition, and little obligation to be a nation from within. In fact, the current state of "Iraq" is largely a construction of Britain in 1920. To try to bring about, through external means and warfare, a philosophy and psychological behavior that mirrors our own in the late 1700s is the height of mythology.

No nation in history has made the transition to a free society without facing challenges, setbacks and false starts. The past two and a half years have been a period of difficult struggle in Iraq, yet they have also been a time of great hope and achievement for the Iraqi people.

It's esepcially hard to make the transition to shadow version of the nation who is bombing you.

Just over two and a half years ago, Iraq was in the grip of a cruel dictator who had invaded his neighbors, sponsored terrorists, pursued and used weapons of mass destruction, murdered his own people and, for more than a decade, defied the demands of the United Nations and the civilized world.

There are many nations that have worse records for human rights and behavior. They were not such easy targets, took such advantage of most Americans racist fear of Arab-seeming terrorists, or had such an advantage militarily in an oil-rich region. For examples, see China and North Korea.

Since then, the Iraqi people have assumed sovereignty over their country, held free elections, drafted a democratic constitution and approved that constitution in a nationwide referendum.

The Democratic Constitution that they have drafted is a largely contested document even now because it has been universally questioned by the Sunni minority, and also because of its largely Islamic language. For an example of how well an "Islamic Republic" has produced a truly representative and liberal government, see Iran.

Free elections and sovereignty are also odd words for people who are in the grip and under the direct influence of a Western occupying force.

Three days from now they go to the polls for the third time this year and choose a new government under the new constitution.
It's a remarkable transformation for a country that has virtually no experience with democracy and which is struggling to overcome the legacy of one of the worst tyrannies the world has known.

The "worst typrannies the world has known?" So Saddam Hussein is in the same league as Hitler and Stalin? Hardly. The man could barely occupy Kuwait. Plus, North Korea, again, is an Orwellian nightmare with nuclear aspirations that has been negotiated with, not invaded.

Voting does not equal Democracy. For example, a marjority of Americans believe that the War in Iraq was and is a mistake. But our tyrannous President persists. Democracy and having a Representative government are different, and are easily corrupted even if in a nation with "experience."

And Iraqis achieved all this while determined enemies used violence and destruction to stop the progress.
There's still a lot of difficult work to be done in Iraq. But thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom.

These "enemies" were and are the Iraqi people themselves.

I would love to read the "history of freedom." Does it include sexual freedom, reproductive rights, and a reduction is prisons in the United States? Does the history of freedom include CIA detention centers being outed throughout Europe, which torture can go unpunished and unseen?

The history of the Middle East, for the record, has seen far more war and regime change than our young nation has. Our shallow view of history is about 200 years old.

As the Iraqi people struggle to build their democracy, adversaries continue their war on a free Iraq. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists.

The rejectionists are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein. They reject an Iraq in which they're no longer the dominant group.

We believe that, over time, most of this group will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq led by a federal government that is strong enough to protect minority rights. And we're encouraged that many Sunnis plan to actively participate in this week's election.

The Saddamists are former regime loyalists who harbor dreams of returning to power, and they're trying to foment anti- democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. Yet they lack popular support and, over time, they can be marginalized and defeated by the people and security forces of a free Iraq.

The terrorists, affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaeda, are the smallest, but most lethal, group. Many are foreigners, coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. They are led by a brutal terrorist named Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, who has stated his allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

This is fantastic: the new face of the insurgency is, finally, given a little more nuance. It took two and a half years for Bush to admit that the insurgency wasn't being led by Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Husseins former generals. But in fact, this patchwork of "enemies" once again fails to identify the true crisis: the civil war that is brewing within Iraq. For the most part, tribes of Iraqis, religious sects, are battle one another. And many of them view us as agents for, you guessed it, Israel. This is not a "war being fought against freedom" by THREE groups. It's a war being fought for a thousand reasons, by a thousand different tiny armies, and we are standing knee deep in the middle of it.

The terrorists' stated objective is to drive U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq and gain control of that country and then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East and establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Spain to Indonesia.

This sounds eerily like the sort of alamrist rhetoric of Vietnam. The goals of the Communists are as vast and frightening and Vietnam was their foothold into unstoppable growth. Want to be truly scared? Read this speech by President Johnson regarding the rationale for our presence in Vietnam. Now replace, in it, the words Communism for Terrorism, the words Asia with Middle East and the word Vietnam with Iraq.

The terrorists in Iraq share the ideology of the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th.

They share the ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali and killed workers in Riyadh and slaughtered guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan.
This is an enemy with conscience and they cannot be appeased.
If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be leading quiet lives as good citizens. They would be plotting and killing our citizens across the world and here at home.
By fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are confronting a direct threat to the American people. And we will accept nothing less than complete victory.

It's when he says stuff like this that I have to wonder if everyone in the US is completely insane. The logic here is "All these different groups are the same, and by fighting a secular tyranny in Iraq, we line them all up and beat them all up in one spot. They fell for it and we've got them right where we want them. Fighting their philosophy is pointless, because they're not humans."

Good. Great. And what do you think they say about us?

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Our goal is victory. And victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.

Ladies and gentlemen: We want to win. Call the Press Corps. Oh, and the way to win is to kill everyone that doesn't want us to.

I'm sure we've all heard that joke about the sports color announcer that says stuff like: "To win, they've got to score more points than the other team."

This is the "football game" theory of warfare. Play to win, hit them until they're out of guys to throw at us.

The problem, of course, is in football you line up, you get four quarters, and you only play against one team at a time. That team is also playing football, just like you.

Our strategy in Iraq has three elements.

On the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis restore their infrastructure, reform their economy and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq.

On the security side, coalition and Iraqi forces are on the offense against the enemy. We're working together to clear out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, and leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy.

And as we help Iraqis fight these enemies, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces so they can take the lead in the fight and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.

The economic side: We can't even reform OUR economy and build prosperity in our OWN nation. In fact, our schools are the laughingstock of the entire Asian continent. But we'll get Iraq up and running in no time.

Security Side: Attacks in Iraq have gone up, not down, in the last year.

Iraqi Security Forces seem to be learning how to protect themselves about as quickly as I learned calculus in high school.

We're making steady progress. The Iraqi forces are becoming more and more capable. They're taking more responsibility for more and more territory. We're transferring bases to their control, so they can take the fight to the enemy.
And that means American and coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis and hunting down the high-value targets, like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.

Today, I want to discuss the political element of our strategy: our efforts to help the Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all the Iraqi people.
By helping Iraqis to build a democracy, we will win over those who doubted they had a place in a new Iraq and undermine the terrorists and Saddamists.
By helping Iraqis to gain a democracy, we will gain an ally in the war on terror.
By helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will inspire reformers across the Middle East.
And by helping Iraqis build a democracy, we will bring hope to a troubled region. And this will make the American people more secure.

This is not a strategy. It's church-style preaching. One could also say: "If everyone has love in their heart, there would be no war." Unfortunately, sentiment is worth what you pay for it.

Needless to say, building Democracy in Iraq was not, only two years ago, the reason that we went to war in the Middle East. The reason, then, was Weapons of Mass Destruction and to enforce United Nations resolutions. (Ones that the United Nations did not see fit to enforce "our way.") Now, we are a force for "Democracy" to gain and ally in the war on terror? I think that the world is terrified of US. Maybe that's was our goal.

From the outset, the political element of our strategy in Iraq has been guided by a clear principle.

From the OUTSET? You mean, the recent outset? Or the Gulf War in 1990? When, exactly, are we marking the Outset?

Democracy takes different forms in different cultures. Yet in all cultures, successful free societies are built on certain common foundations: rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free economy and freedom to worship.
Respect for the belief of others is the only way to build a society where compassion and tolerance prevail.
Societies that lay these foundations not only survive, but thrive. Societies that do not lay these foundations risk backsliding into tyranny.

Holy Shit, this statement is what I would show English students to define the term "Irony."

When our coalition arrived in Iraq, we found a nation where almost none of these basic foundations existed. Decades of brutal rule by Saddam Hussein had destroyed the fabric of Iraqi civil society.

Under Saddam, Iraq was a country where dissent was crushed, a centralized economy enriched a dictator instead of the people, secret courts meted out repression instead of justice, and Shia Muslims and Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed.

Under Bush:

Torture is farmed to European "black sites" and legally parsed by the Attorney General.
Economic greed outweighs moral standards (War for Oil, Kyoto Agreement snubbed)
Dissenters patriotism is questioned.
FBI and CIA get broad new powers to violate privacy.
Professors who have politically unpopular views are accused of terrorism.
The government intervenes in the private decisions of families (Terry Schiavo).
Evolutionary science is challenged by the President in public, who encourages discussion of Hocus Pocus in science class.
Gays treated as underclass with fewer rights than straight citizens.
Hurricane victims, largely minorities, left swimming among the dead.
30,000 dead (or more) dead in Iraq in 2 and a half years.

At least he didn't cut off anyone's fingers. That we know of.

And when Saddam Hussein's regime fled Baghdad, they left behind a country with few civic institutions in place to hold Iraq society together.
To fill the vacuum after liberation, we established the Coalition Provisional Authority. The CPA was ably led by Ambassador Jerry Bremer, and many fine officials from our government volunteered to serve in the CPA.
While things did not always go as planned, these men and women did a good job under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances, helping to restore basic services, making sure food was distributed and reestablishing government ministries.

They "did a good job?" What is this? Kindergarten?

One of the CPA's most important tasks was bringing the Iraqi people into the decision-making process of their government after decades of tyrannical rule.
Three months after liberation, our coalition worked with the United Nations and Iraqi leaders to establish an Iraqi Governing Council.

After Liberation from whom? This should be specified. Certainly not from us.

The governing council gave Iraqis a voice in their own affairs, but it was unelected, and it was subordinate to the CPA and, therefore, did not satisfy the hunger of Iraqis for self-government.

Like free people everywhere, Iraqis wanted to be governed by leaders they had elected, not foreign officials.

So in the summer of 2003, we proposed a plan to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

Under this plan, the CPA would continue to govern Iraq, while appointed Iraqi leaders drafted a constitution, put that constitution before the people and then held elections to choose a new government.

Only when that elected government took office would the Iraqis regain their sovereignty.

This plan met with the disapproval of the Iraqis. They made it clear that they wanted a constitution that was written by elected leaders of a free Iraq, and they wanted sovereignty placed in Iraqi hands sooner. We listened and we adjusted our approach.

In November of 2003, we negotiated a new plan with the governing council, with steps for an accelerated transition to Iraqi self- government.

Under this new plan, a Transitional Administrative Law was written by the governing council and adopted in March of 2004. This law guaranteed personal freedoms unprecedented in the Arab world and set forth four major milestones to guide Iraq's transition to a constitutional democracy.

The first milestone was the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government by the end of June 2004.

The second was for Iraqis to hold free elections to choose a transitional government by January of 2005.

The third was for Iraqis to adopt a democratic constitution which would be drafted no later than August 2005 and put before the Iraqi people in a nationwide referendum no later than October.

The fourth was for Iraqis to choose a government under that democratic constitution, with election held December of 2005.

I adore this entire passage. Mostly because it says "We decided to offer them sovereignty," which puts the lie to the term "liberation" from the earlier paragraph.

It also is a littany of ways that Iraq has "requested changes" in our plans. Plans that we have been adjusting time and time again, and deadlines that have changed time and time again, because our plan to begin with was short-sighted, inflexible, and did not take their culture into account.

The first milestone was met when our coalition handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi leaders on June 28, 2004, two days ahead of schedule.

Two days? Wow. And now they're sovereign? I keep forgetting that.

In January 2005, Iraqis met the second milestone when they went to the polls and chose their leaders in free elections. Almost 8.5 million Iraqis defied the car bombers and assassins to cast their ballots. And the world watched in awe as jubilant Iraqis danced in the street and held ink-stained fingers and celebrated their freedom.

That was a year ago. Today this happened. Dancing has died down.

The January elections were a watershed event for Iraq and the Middle East, yet they were not without flaws.
One problem was the failure of the vast majority of Sunni Arabs to vote. When Sunnis saw a new 275-member parliament taking power in which they had only 16 seats, many realized that their failure to participate in the democratic process had hurt their chances and hurt their groups and hurt their constituencies.

And Shia and Kurdish leaders who had won power at the polls saw that for a free and unified Iraq to succeed, they needed Sunni Arabs to be part of the government.

We encouraged Iraq's leaders to reach out to Sunni leaders and bring them into the governing process.
When the transitional government was seated in the spring of this year, Sunni Arabs filled important posts, including a vice president, a minister of defense and the speaker of the national assembly.

As far as I can tell, this has made the Sunnis happy and safe and a willing part of the government.

The new government's next political challenge was to meet the third milestone, which is adopting a democratic constitution.

Again, Iraq's leaders reached out to Sunni Arabs who had boycotted the elections and included them in the drafting process. Fifteen Sunni Arab negotiators and several Sunni Arab advisers joined the work of the constitutional drafting committee.

After much tough debate, representatives of Iraq's diverse communities drafted a bold constitution that guarantees the rule of law, freedom of assembly, property rights, freedom of speech and the press, women's rights and the right to vote.

As one Arab scholar put it, "The Iraqi constitution marks the dawn of a new age in Arab life."

If anyone can find this specific scholar for me, I would appreciate it. I'm sure there were a few other Arab scholars with a different take on this troubled, barely ratified document.

The document that initially emerged from the committee did not unify Iraqis. And many Sunnis on the constitutional committee did not support the draft. Yet Iraq's leaders continued working to gain Sunni support.

And thanks to last-minute changes, including a new procedure for considering amendments to the constitution next year, a deal was struck four days before the Iraqis went to the polls.

The revised constitution was endorsed by Iraq's largest Sunni party. It was approved in referendum that attracted over a million more voters than in the January elections.

Many Sunnis voted against the constitution, but Sunnis voted in large numbers for the first time. They joined the political process and by doing so they reject the violence of the Saddamists and rejectionists.

Through hard work and compromise, Iraqis adopted the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world.

Once again, I'll say that regardless of the existence of a government that is voted on by the people, it has little effect on Human Rights or future amendements. Iran and Palestine both have voting populaces.

On Thursday, Iraqis will meet their fourth milestone. And when they do go to the polls and choose a new government under the new constitution, it'll be a remarkable event in the Arab world.

Despite terrorist violence, the country is buzzing with signs and sounds of democracy in action.

The streets of Baghdad and Najaf and Mosul and other cities are full of signs and posters. The television and radio airwaves are thick with political ads and commentary. Hundreds of parties and coalitions have registered for this week's elections and they're campaigning vigorously. Candidates are holding rallies and laying out their agendas and asking for the vote.


Our troops see this young democracy up close. First Lieutenant Frank Shirley (ph) of Rock Hall, Maryland, says, "It's a cool thing riding around Baghdad and seeing the posters. It reminds me of being home during election time. After so many years of being told what to do, having a real vote is different."

What he means, of course, is it reminds him for the signs that say "Vote Cassie for Homecoming Queen." I wonder if he finds it cool to tell Iraqis that they have to go vote. (i.e. "what to do.")

Unlike the January elections, many Sunnis are campaigning vigorously for office this time around. Many Sunni parties that opposed the constitution have registered to compete in this week's vote. Two major Sunni coalitions have formed and other Sunni leaders have joined national coalitions that cross religious, ethnic and sectarian boundaries.

As one Sunni politician put it, "This election is a vote for Iraq. We want a national Iraq, not a sectarian one."
To encourage broader participation by all Iraqi communities, the national assembly made important changes in Iraq's electoral laws that will increase Sunni representation in the new assembly.

In the January elections, Iraq was one giant electoral district, so seats in the transitional assembly simply reflected turnout. Because few Sunnis voted, their communities were left with little representation.

Now Iraq has a new electoral system where seats in the new council of representatives will be allocated by province and population, much like our own House of Representatives.

This new system is encouraging more Sunnis to join in the democratic process, because it ensures that Sunnis will be well- represented even if the terrorists and Saddamists try to intimidate voters in the provinces where most Sunnis live.

More Sunnis are involved because they see Iraqi democracy succeeding. They have learned a lesson of democracy: They must participate to have a voice in their nation's affairs.

A leading Sunni who had boycotted the January vote put it this way: "The Sunnis are now ready to participate."

A Sunni sheik explains why Sunnis must join the process: "In order not to be marginalized, we need power in the national assembly."

As more Sunnis join the political process, the Saddamists and remaining rejectionists will be marginalized. As more Sunnis join the political process, they will protect the interests of their community.

This speech sounds a bit like a very long way to say "If you don't like how it's going, Call the Sunnis. They're being unreasonable." The Sunnis might respond with "The electoral college is a joke, we don't like you shooting us, and once we have enough power in the National Assembly, the first thing we're doing is calling Iran to come and hate on you."

Like the Shia and Kurds who face daily attacks from the terrorists and Saddamists, many Sunnis who join the political process are being targeted by the enemies of a free Iraq.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party that boycotted the January vote and now supports elections, has seen its offices bombed. And a party leader reports that at least 10 members have been killed since the party announced it would field candidates in Thursday's elections.

Recently a top Sunni electoral official visited the Sunni stronghold of Baquba. He went to encourage local leaders to participate in the elections. During his visit a roadside bomb went off, rattled his convoy, but it didn't stop it.

How inspiring. Yesterday, I fell and twisted my ankle. But I didn't break it.

He says this about the attempt on his life: "The bomb is nothing compared to what we're doing. What we're doing is bigger than the bomb." By pressing forward and meeting their milestones, the Iraqi people have built momentum for freedom and democracy.

They've encouraged those outside the process to come in.

At every stage, there was enormous pressure to let the deadlines slide, with skeptics and pessimists declaring that Iraqis were not ready for self-government.

At every stage, Iraqis proved the skeptics and pessimists wrong. At every stage, Iraqis have exposed the errors of those in our country and across the world who questioned the universal appeal of liberty.

By meeting their milestones, Iraqis are defeating a brutal enemy, rejecting a murderous ideology and choosing freedom over terror.

Bush treats having a democracy like a checklist here. Beyond that, I think that what is often missed is that no one doubts that good people want self-government. Most people just doubt that the Bush administration wants to provide anyone with true self-government, and even if their intentions were pure, most doubt the administrations ability to execute plans this complex. We aren't pessimists: we've simply read a few books.

This week elections won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process. Iraqis still have more difficult work ahead and our coalition and the new Iraqi government will face many challenges, including in four critical areas: ensuring Iraqi security, forming an inclusive Iraqi government, encouraging Iraqi reconciliation and maintaining Iraqi democracy in a tough neighborhood.

Great. The Middle East is a "tough neighborhood." Once Bush referred to Al-Qaea as a "bunch of folks" as well. Love that Yale educated bar talk for large international bodies and groups of NATIONS.

The first key challenge is security. As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the terrorists and Saddamists will continue to use violence.

They will try to break our will and intimidate the Iraqi people and their leaders.

These enemies aren't going to give up because of a successful election. They understand what is at stake in Iraq.

So, we picked a fight and now the other guy wants to win? Crazy.

They know that as democracy takes root in that country, their hateful ideology will suffer a devastating blow and the Middle East will have a clear example of freedom and prosperity and hope.

Important to ask ourselves this question: What is their ideology? When is the last time you were exposed to the specific, detailed ideology of the groups we are fighting. What do they believe in and why? And is their belief tied to defeating us in Iraq, where they weren't fighting us two years ago? Where is this expressed anywhere by anyone but our own leader's propoganda?

So our coalition will continue to hunt down the terrorists and Saddamists, will continue training Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight and defend their new democracy.

As the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down. And when victory is achieved, our troops will then return home with the honor they have earned.

This slogan is as hollow as Laura Bush's eyes.

The second key challenge is forming an inclusive government that protects the interests of all Iraqis and encourages more in the rejectionist camp to abandon violence and embrace politics.

If Iraq is sovereign, how do we proport to enforce an "inclusive government?" We, ourselves, lack inclusiveness in many points of law.

Early next year, Iraq's new parliament will come to Baghdad and select a prime minister and a presidency council and a cabinet of ministers. Two-thirds of the new parliament must agree on the top leadership posts. And this will demand negotiation and compromise. It will require patience by America and our coalition allies.

This new government will face many tough decisions on issues such as security and reconstruction and economic reform.

Decisions that we will stand there and watch them make, in order to assure they are freely making decisions that benefits our economic interests. Oh, have I tipped our hand?

Iraqi leaders will also have to review and possibly amend the constitution and ensure that this historic document earns the broad support of all Iraqi communities.

By taking these steps, Iraqi leaders will build a strong and lasting democracy. It's an important step in helping to defeat the terrorists and the Saddamists.

This is a sort of chicken and the egg moment in the speech. Does a Democracy mean we've defeated the "terrorists and Saddamists?" Or does a Democracy mean we have made an important step in "helping defeat the terrorists and Saddamists?" I thought the point of having people vote in Iraq was to win. But instead, I see that it's to create a "step towards victory."

Darth Vader to Lando Calrissian: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

The third key challenge is establishing rule of law and the culture of reconciliation. Iraqis still have to overcome longstanding ethnic and religious tensions and the legacy of three decades of dictatorship.

I love this. Thirty years under Saddam. Thirty years. You know how long that is historically? Not very. Not long enough to refer to him as one of histories most brutal tyrants.

During the regime of Saddam Hussein, Shia, Kurds and other groups were brutally oppressed. And for some there is now a temptation to take justice into their own hands.

Recently, U.S. and Iraqi troops have discovered prisons in Iraq where mostly Sunni men were held, some of whom have appeared to have been beaten and tortured.

This conduct is unacceptable and the prime minister and other Iraqi officials have condemned these abuses. An investigation has been launched.

And we support these efforts. Those who committed these crimes must be held to account.

More irony. This comes from the man who has defended the use of torture as an interrogation technique by the CIA, but refuses to allow the US to be tried in the World Court for its own offensives.

We will continue helping Iraqis build an impartial system of justice that protects all of Iraq's citizens.

Millions of Iraqis are seeing their independent judiciary in action as their former dictator, Saddam Hussein, is put on trial in Baghdad. The man who once struck fear in the hearts of Iraqis has heard his victims recount the acts of torture and murder that he ordered.

One Iraqi watching the proceeding said, "We all feel happiness about this fair trial."

Slowly but surely, with the help of our coalition, Iraqis are replacing the rule of tyrant with the rule of law and ensuring equal justice for all their citizens.

No, I know some fear the possibility that Iraq could break apart and fall into a civil war. I don't believe these fears are justified. They're not justified so long as we do not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.
Encouraging reconciliation and human rights in a society scarred by decades of arbitrary violence and sectarian division is not going to be easy and it's not going to happen overnight. Yet the Iraqi government has a process in place to resolve even the most difficult issues through negotiate, debate and compromise. And the United States, along with the United Nations and the Arab League and other international partners, will support these efforts to help resolve these issues.

This is reassuring. His ability to predict the attitudes of the Iraqis has been uncanny so far. Now I know for sure that Iraq will not fall into a civil war.

And as Iraqis continue to develop the habits of liberty, they will gain confidence in the future and ensure that Iraqi nationalism trumps Iraqi sectarianism.

"Habits of liberty?" What the hell kind of rhetoric is that? Is liberty just a habit to us? Like smoking?

A fourth key challenge is for the Iraqis to maintain their newfound freedoms in a tough neighborhood. Iraq's neighbor to the east, Iran, is actively working to undermine a free Iraq.

Iran doesn't want democracy in Iraq to succeed because a free Iraq threatens the legitimacy of Iran's oppressive theocracy. Iraq's neighbor to the west, Syria, is permitting terrorists to use that territory to cross into Iraq.

Iran: Because the War Only Stops If We Run Out of Targets.

The vast majority of Iraqis do not want to live under an Iranian- style theocracy and they don't want Syria to allow the transit of bombers and killers into Iraq. And the United States of America will stand with the Iraqi people against the threats from these neighbors.

Now check this out. He says that and then he says...

We'll continue to encourage greater support from the Arab world and the broader international community.

Can't have it both ways, GW.

Many Arab states have kept the new Iraq at arm's distance. Yet as more Arab states are beginning to recognize that a free Iraq is here to stay, they're starting to give Iraq's new government more support.
Recently, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have welcomed the Iraqi prime minister on official visits. Last month, the Arab League hosted a meeting in Cairo to promote national reconciliation among Iraqis, and another such meeting is planned for next year in Baghdad.

These are important steps, and Iraq's neighbors need to do more.

This is a fantastic new step in our international relations and our strategy towards Middle Eastern imperialism. First, take over Iraq. Then, tell the world that the reason we're having trouble taking over Iraq is that other nations won't help us or don't like us. Then, attack and criticize the nations that have easy access to Iraq, like their neighbors. That way, we never have to stop spending ridiculous amounts of money on weapons and no one needs to think about African debt relief.

We have always been at war with Eurasia.

Arab leaders are beginning to recognize that the choice in Iraq is between democracy and terrorism, and there is no middle ground. The success of Iraqi democracy is in their vital interests because if the terrorists prevail in Iraq, they will then target other Arab nations.

I thought the "terrorists" WERE other Arab nations! And obviously, according to Bush's logic, if we can fight them in Egypt, we don't have to fight them here.

International support for Iraq's democracy is growing as well. Other nations have pledged more than $13 billion in assistance to Iraq, and we call on them, those who have pledged assistance, to make good on their commitments.

The World Bank recently approved its first loan to Iraq in over 30 years, lending the Iraqi government $100 million to improve the Iraqi school system.

Nothing like a loan to get a nation securely under your thumb.

The United Nations is playing a vital role in Iraq. They assisted in last January's elections, in the negotiations for the constitution and in the recent constitutional referendum. And at the request of the Iraqi government, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution extending the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq through 2006.

The United Nations is involved. Amazing how we now wear them like a badge of honor, and when they told us "no" we treated them like an "old European" dinosaur? And for the record, isn't the multinational force in Iraq, like, 16 guys with a truck and a clip board?

Earlier this year, the European Union co-hosted a conference for more than 80 countries and international organizations so they can better coordinate their efforts to help Iraqis rebuild their nation.
Whatever differences there were over the decision to liberate Iraq, all free nations now share a common interest: building an Iraq that will fight terror and be a source of stability and freedom in a troubled region of the world.

The reason for this unity is, clearly, that if they don't intervene now, no one will clean up the mess we've made.

The challenges ahead are complex and difficult. Yet Iraqis are determined to overcome them and build a free nation. And they require our support. Millions of Iraqis will put their lives on the line this Thursday in the name of liberty and democracy. And 160,000 of America's finest are putting their lives on the line so Iraqis can succeed.

The American and Iraqi people share the same interests and the same enemies. And by helping democracy succeed in Iraq, we bring greater security to our citizens here at home.

The terrorists know that democracy is their enemy. And they will continue fighting freedom's progress with all the hateful determination they can muster.

Yet the Iraqi people are stepping forward to claim their liberty. And they will have it.

This simplified rhetoric is precisely the reason that most of the free world thinks we're simpletons and is scared shitless of us. The idea term "the terrorists know democracy is their enemy" reduces our foreign policy to "shoot the bad guys." The truth, of course, is that we once referred to Al Qeada in Afghanistan as Freedom Fighters when they were using the same tactics against the Soviet Union. Why? Because our version of freedom is not the only one in the world. In fact, many view our society is simplistic and barbarous.

It's easy to see that no one who is attacking us is doing so out of a "hatred for freedom" or the desire to "crush democracy." I would also venture to say that there are many, many Islamic fundamentalists that I do not agree with. That does not mean that treating them as unreasonable savages, or failing to understand what the nuances of the conflict are will lead us to victory. In fact, we are carrying a big stick, we have no idea where and how to swing it.

When the new Iraqi government takes office next year, Iraqis will have the only constitutional democracy in the Arab world, and Americans will have a partner for peace and moderation in the Middle East. People across the broader Middle East are drawing and will continue to draw inspiration from Iraq's progress. And the terrorists' powerful myth is being destroyed.

In a 1998 fatwa, Osama bin Laden argued that the suffering of the Iraqi people was justification for his declaration of war on America. Now bin Laden and al-Qaeda are the direct cause of the Iraqi people's suffering.

This is one of the most bizarre twists of logic Bush has bothered to make. We were starving the Iraqi people with sanctions, and being a politician, Bin Laden spoke about our actions in a way that would garner support for his cause. Then, when we go into Iraq and break their system apart and bomb their cities and kill thousands of civilians and incite riots and impose our own order, we say that the struggles there are the "direct" result of bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

In fact, if we are battling an enemy that uses our own actions against us in his efforts to recruit, perhaps we should choose those actions more wisely.

As more Muslims across the world see this, they're turning against the terrorists. As the hope of liberty spreads in the Middle East, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits and lose the sanctuaries they need to plan new attacks.

A free Iraq's not going to be a quiet Iraq. It'll be a nation full of passionate debate and vigorous political activity. It'll be a nation that continues to face some level of violence. Yet Iraqis are showing they have the patience and the courage to make democracy work. And Americans have the patience and courage to help them succeed.

We've done this kind of work before. We must have confidence in our cause.

In World War II, free nations defeated fascism and helped our former adversaries, Germany and Japan, build strong democracies. And today these nations are allies in securing the peace.

In the Cold War, free nations defeated communism and helped our former Warsaw Pact adversaries become strong democracies. And today nations of Central and Eastern Europe are allies in the war on terror.

Today in the Middle East, freedom is once again contending with a totalitarian ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom.

And the advance of freedom in the Middle East requires freedom in Iraq. By helping Iraqis build a lasting democracy, we will spread the hope of liberty across a troubled region. We'll gain new allies in the cause of freedom.

By helping Iraqis build a strong democracy, we're adding to our own security. And like a generation before us, we're laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

All this is almost hilarious. One reason is that fascism and communism weren't even similar in their methods or in the ways they fell. But beyond that, they were socio-political systems. Terrorism is not one. Terrorism is a method of Guerilla War, not a philosophy. But wait...here comes my favorite part:

Not far from here, where we gather today, is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans: the Liberty Bell.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public, the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration and a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something."

Today the call of liberty is being heard in Baghdad, in Basra and other Iraqi cities, and its sound is echoing across the broader Middle East. From Damascus to Tehran, people hear it and they know it means something.

It now means "Look out below."

It means that the days of tyranny and terror are ending and a new day of hope and freedom is dawning.

This also happened in the 1930s, the 1940s, in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Thank you for letting me come.

I'll let that Freudian slip... slide.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Later this evening, I'll be posting my full response to today's speech from our beloved President.

I would like to note that, for some reason, the press is praising Bush for taking questions. Have we sunk so low that the President simply answering questions from the voting public in a normal manner is praiseworthy?

He showed today that he could throw sound bites at real people and not pre-screened supporters. What are we supposed to do? Throw up out of sheer amazement?

Quit Smoking

This is not related to theatre or politics. It is simply this: Last Wednesday I quit smoking.

I feel fine about it and not edgy.

At all.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lady Cavaliers

Check out the Lady Cavaliers "Signature Stories."

Carrie Brewer, the artistic director, was responsible for the fights in 2001's production of King Arthur. She's a class act and a sweet person and she can kill anyone reading this blog in 15 different ways with a variety of weapons. She also puts on a great show, and her company is simply a lot of fun and feminist in its most fabulously active form. There's an interview with her here.

Sorry guys, she's married.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Richard Pryor Dies at 65

He was far, far too young. But frankly, if some white kid with a blog (namely, me) waxes nostalgic about a man whose prime was well before he was born... Pryor would probably have done a riff on it.

He was, though, one of the greats and his humor would have provoked riots these days. In some ways, he is a symbol of how much he wanted for us, and how far backwards we've come.

In other ways, he's the symbol for how far our culture may yet go and what is gloriously unique about it.

May we fuck each other until we are all the same color.

Rest in Peace.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Theatre: Branding the Industry

I was recently listening to On The Media, and a representative from the Beer Industry had some interesting things to say. Here is the MP3 of that segment.

Herein lies the point: the beer industry has lost a little market share compared to the upscale wine and spirits industries, which have relied on "point of sale" marketing and have a self imposed (at this point) ban on television advertising. To combat this, the beer industry as a whole is creating a message for the public to raise awareness and reapproach its audience.

Recently, Steve Oxman and Scott Walters both noted an awful fate of Theatre: that it would become a sort of community activity and therepeutic exercise.

In the midst of this is a bit of self-parody where we try to define the term "Avant-Garde" as if anyone in the audience even truly cares how we define what.

Earlier, there was some discussion of changing the term "Off-Off Broadway" with "Indie Theatre." (Discussion therein could be found here.) Zach Mannheimer went so far as to propose that we all leave the cities and evangelize in the countryside.

All of this is coming from a few facts and a few fears.

One fact is that the audience seems to be divided and dwindling. There are hundreds of shows that are put on in New York City alone, every year, and much of them go unseen and unheralded. Some of them, rightly, should be unheralded as they are merely vanity projects. Some of them are youth exuberances. And some of them are real and potentially lasting pieces of artwork that are lost in the shuffle. The problem is the audience of theater is not a casual audience. It is a built-in audience of friends, relations and other theater practioners. We are an incestuous bunch, indeed.

But the product isn't the problem, and the product's ubiquitousness isn't the problem. It is that we have failed entirely to use any sort of modern approach to making theater essential viewing to anyone beyond a select few. Then we have solidly promised never to compromise, never to make pieces of "fluff' just to bring in audiences, we curse Disney's newly won Broadway and we look into the prisons, where we think we might be able to do some good.

I propose that we re-examine how to market our product without changing it. To change the audience and raise awareness and create a sense of urgency and focus without, in fact, performing "A Christmas Carol" to fund our production of "Fences."Must market Theatre, not plays.

We should create an organization that represents the Industry of Public Theater, or the Industry of Independent Theater. We can use the model of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, perhaps. But regardless, we must come together to create print campaigns, talking points, representatives, a business model, grant writing for small stages, new ways to approach ticket sales, and above all... a plan to simply raise awareness for what we do.

To target a demographic, study that demographic and do the correct and careful things to cultivate it.

To stop speaking in generalities about theater funding below the Regional level, and do research. Put out studies. How much theater in New York, on a yearly basis, is funded by grants, by ticket sales, from an individual's pockets. How many plays break even? What can we learn from one another about what works?

Research spaces. How do they compare in price? What do they provide? Making that information public and readily available might force spaces that currently overcharge and under provide to renovate or reconsider their fees.

We can define "Indie" theatre by using our research and seeing what truly differentiates Off-Off Broadway from Off-Broadway. Create criteria that separates well-intentioned vanity projects and showcases from professional theater that currently lacks Off-Broadway scale budgeting.

But most importantly, to create a plan that utilizes available resources to raise awareness of Theatre as a whole, to use slogans, logos, advertisement, word-of-mouth and promotions to expand our audience and educate new audiences.

In the coming year, after the Holiday, I would like to offer to organize an initial meeting to simply discuss how this might be acheived. Interested? Able to offer space? Want to attend?

Contact me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holy Shit

Harold Pinter speaks about the United States in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

UPDATE - The lecture is now accessible directly at the Nobel Prize site here. Thanks to the Playgoer for a head's up.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Through A Glass, Briefly - Part 2

Part 2 of my little look-see into my own 20s is a run down of what I've done as a playwright up until now. That's the wonderful thing about blogging: I can write about myself without having to justify it.


THE MESSAGE. My first play was produced at The Players Ring in Portsmouth, NH by a gentleman named Gary Newton, who has since passed away. The play was about a man named Barclay, who receives a message that he must meet a woman, who he has never met before, from a gentleman who comes knocking on his door late one evening.

Newton read it and said that he "understood it" to me, while I was working for a Chocolate Shop called "Harbor Treats" during my summer as Romeo. It was written while I was in college, and the small production, taken entirely seriously by this earnest troupe, made me feel like a true writer. Newton may have been the only person that did understand it. Thanks to him, wherever he may be.

THE PROPOSALS / FEBRUARY AND OTHER SEASONS. These two have never been professionally produced. Of the two, I think February rather holds up now. February and Other Seasons is a series of short scenes wherein characters trade lines, or keep their lines when other change theirs, etc. It's a scene-exercise on steriods, but I still enjoy reading it. Proposals was a bit more clunky... a sort of nameless dread play about a guy who can't tell the difference between the women he loves. They were read to some of my new friends in New York in a small room somewhere in midtown, and one of those in attendance was Katherine Gooch. They were used as a sort of evidence by Katherine, later, to Chris Sanderson that I could write a play.

THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR. This was a project proposed by Christopher Sanderson. Apparently, he originally discussed it with Kirk Wood Bromley. In any case, he was looking to produce a play of King Arthur, written in verse. A Shakespeare version of the Arthur legend. Having never written in verse before, and having only a passing knowledge of the King Arthur myth, I immediately offered to write it. Having performed nothing but Shakespeare since I walked out of college didn't hurt in structuring it. Austin Pendleton, when I was acting with him, gave me some very good notes on it, but read it mostly because he felt that it was dramatically impossible to write a play about this particular story. I was too young to know that it was a foolish thing to attempt in the first place.

It was written in 2000, and produced outdoors along a path in Central Park in October 2001. Obviously, it was immediately after a date I won't bother to write down, and it was incredibly cold outside. The production was also rife with personal conflict between Chris and I, to the point where he walked off the project, leaving me to complete his directoral work myself.

In the end, though, it has been the play that has produced the most outward success for me. It produced my first and only review from the New York Times, which was, to my joyful surprise, high praise. The play was published by Martin Denton in this anthology, and is soon to be published in its own by Playscripts, Inc. Two monologues from ARTHUR will appear in a collection of audition monologues by Smith and Kraus, due around February of 2006.

As a play, I still enjoy it, but I've never since returned to verse in any real way. I did write a verse play called "The Idiot Servant" not long afterwards, but it's still sitting on my laptop, three years later, waiting for a proper re-write...one which honestly may never come.

REASONS FOR MOVING. This play might be considered an odd follow-up to a five-act verse play. It is a two-hander, passed on the poem "The Tunnel" by Mark Strand. It was produced by my friends Sean Elias-Reyes and Michael Colby Jones under the banner of "The Local Productions."

It was directed by Russel Marcel, who has since relocated to California and become both a husband and father. In fact, Russ, Sean and Michael are all married now, and both Russ and Sean are fathers. And so it goes.

The play starred both Sean and Matthew Trumbull, who also played Bedeviere in Arthur. Matt and I met freshman year of college and have been close friends ever since. He was in the readings of the abovementioned Proposals and February and Other Seasons, in the first reading of The Message, and later was in my short of the Metropolitan Playhouse, 465.

The play was produced at HERE Arts Center. There is review of it to be found here.

465. A short produced by the Metropolitan Playhouse as a part of festival of plays in May of 2003, based on the short poem of the same name by Emily Dickinson. A review of it can be found here. Featuring Matthew Trumbull (as noted above) it's a bleak little picture of a man, cheating on his wife, in a hotel room. Nothing too fancy, but I did include the poem, which was part of the deal.

GENESIS. An adaptation of medieval mystery plays produced by Scott Reynolds at Handcart Ensemble in June of 2003. I also directed this piece, and spent a great amount of time on it in a basement in Harlem. Featured Tim Moore (who played Merlin in Arthur), Debbie Jaffe, Barrett Ogden, James Mack and Jay Leibowitz, a good friend whom I met at Emerson College. The genesis of Genesis was a production I directed while at Emerson College of the text of Abraham and Isaac. Incidentally, playing Isaac in that version was John Gregor, who wrote the music for this later Off-Off Broadway production.

A review of it can be found here, and an interview with me regarding the production can be found here.

This play's connecting movement pieces were entirely designed, choreographed and directed by my friend David DelGrosso, who at the time was fresh off of a tour with the Aquila Theater Company. David and I met at Emerson College during Freshman year as well, and he, Matt Trumbull and I have been attached at the hip ever since. He hasn't been in many of my productions, as he had been on tour for what felt like centuries, so it was a thrill for me to hand over the production to him during this piece. His work was phenomenal, as it always is. He's also one of the closest friends I've ever had to this day, and just a tirelessly hardworking actor.

I felt it was good to get this one out of my system. It was at least a sort of return to verse (which puts the lie to my earlier statement) but honestly, more of a return to a subject matter that has been a part of my life since I was conceived. Unfortunately, my father didn't make it out to see this one. I'll always be curious what he would have thought of it.

THE GREAT ESCAPE. The first of two (and looking to be, potentially three) productions by way of Blue Coyote Theater Group. This play was the first of what are becoming overtly personal plays. A dark comedy in three quick acts, which recounts the story of a young man who is overcome by confusion when his mother remarries. His (and his adopted sister's) solution is to wrap her up in a burlap sack and tie her to a chair. Directed by Kyle Ancowitz, who went on to become a great friend and current collaborator on my newest play.

A review can be found here and interview with me regarding the production can be found here. Photos are available on Blue Coyote's website here.

This play marks the only play I've ever had that was advertised in The Onion, and that made me smile very, very broadly.

THE AMERICANS. As I am wont to do, I followed up a three act dark comedy with a three character, 80 minute, monologue style piece which recounts the story of a young writer whose poem causes his apartment to explode. It's been dubbed my 9/11 play, but I've always considered it a play about writing. It's also not very funny.

The characters are named D, T, and F for reasons that might be obvious to anyone can read the names mentioned in the above paragraphs. Anyone who thinks I'm more ambitious than obvious, though, is welcome to that opinion.

The play was directed by Gary Schrader and I'll honestly say that he's a quietly unheralded marksman. Not only did he take a text-only play and provide it with a series of beautifully realized stage pictures, but he allowed the action and the text to soar as well. I was thrilled with it.

This marked, for me, a return to acting after a lengthy absence. I performed the role of the writer (how fitting) in the role of D. Kyle Ancowitz performed F and Vince Gatton (who was fabulous) performed T.

This is currently my favorite of the plays (don't let the other plays hear me say that) and it was surreal to be performing in it. The production was also the first that was seen by my girlfriend, Pam, and I thank whatever God may be up there that she liked it enough not to break up with me on the spot. I think we'd be dating a month when she saw it.

A review can be found here and photos can be found on the Blue Coyote website here.

This production prompted a nice write up for me on the New York Foundation for the Arts website, which can be found here. If you're wondering what "Silent New York" is, after reading it, I can only say, I hope to show you soon.


That brings us up to date. I completed my latest draft of my newest play "The Most Wonderful Love" about two weeks ago, and I'm hoping to see it produced this coming year. The first play produced in my thirties.

As a writer, beyond the playwrighting, I've been intermittently reviewing for nytheatre.com and my freelance writing appeared in Maxim Online (television reviews), Gamespy.com, Complex Magazine, and MTV Magazine (video games, ladies and gentlemen.)

All in all, a fine time was had by all. And as I sit here, writing this at 1:38am on December 7th, 2005, it's nice to enjoy a look back and find all these old quotes and play "This Is Your Life." Not a bad ten years.

Thank you for your indulgence. Onwards and upwards.

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." - Tennyson

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


If you haven't seen this... it's required viewing, especially for anyone enjoying the benefits of the advancing rise of "new media." It's in Flash, about 8 minutes long.

Click here to watch "Epic."

Through a Glass, Briefly - Part One

Tomorrow, I turn 30 years old. I haven't been quiet about it. I'm not a big fan of the concept of dying, and just about every day I feel a little closer to it. And while 30 is the new 25 and life begins at 30 and I am well aware that no one actually cares very much if I am, personally, not ready to leave my twenties, that's exactly why Time is such a World Eater. I can kick and scream and make a production of it, but either way, it happens. Even if I'm being a huge baby about it. Which I am. It's my right.

For the sake of my own edification, I thought I'd look back over my twenties and what I've been up to in the theatre thus far. If it provides any entertainment or insight to others, that is purely an accident. I don't want to live an unexamined life. And if this blog (public as it is) feeds some sort of showmanship that is inherent in me, I say, why fight it? If you think that looking back on one's twenties seem a little premature and indulgent, I say... you're probably right.

I'll break this up a bit. Herein, I'll talk about my short history as an actor.


I attended Emerson College from 1994 to 1998, getting an almighty BFA in Acting. Worked with Kristin Linklater, who at the time was the Mistress of all Speech at Emerson. Performed in a great number of shows, like everyone does at college. I was trained in Linklater Voice Method, trying not to sleep in my own bed and, um, making 5 bucks last a week.

I arrived in New York in 1999, after spending a year in Chicago, holed up with friends, shivering. I had been cast in a show there, but it entirely imploded before we ever got to performance. Frankly, I can't even remember what it was called. The director lost a few cast members, had little money or time, and, in fact, the show had a script that was, as far as I remember, a little "loose."

Before Chicago I had been Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the New Hampshire Shakespeare Festival (recently re-monikered the New England Shakespeare Festival) before being fired, for rank insubordination. The rest of the cast quit not long afterwards as well. It was not pretty. It was, without a doubt, the worst production of Romeo and Juliet in the history of such productions.

An example of the fine choices being made herein: Before the balcony scene comes the Masquerade ball. Often, Mercutio is put in a dress for a laugh and some winking. In the aforementioned production, all three friends are put in dresses. I was in a giant hoop skirt and wig with fake breasts. When Juliet first laid eyes on me, she saw what must have been the ugliest woman in the world. Of course, we are instantly in love. How could she resist?

Beyond that, there is little time, especially in a "First Folio" production, to change costumes between scenes. So on these hot summer outdoor nights, with babies and restless teenagers in attendance, I would begin the balcony scene by pulling off my wig, throwing my grapefruit-boobs away and trying to look sincere in a big hoop skirt.

Needless to say, one year out of college, I was not a happy boy.

Anyhow, that's just blood under the bridge. Isn't all of it?

I moved to the city to live with my then-girlfriend (now an ex-fiancee), who was also an actress. We lived together in Chelsea, in Seminary housing (I got hooked up by my Father.) Liza and I didn't last, but remained at least friends, from a distance. That distance now traverses the span to West Virgina, where she currently is in Graduate School.

During this period, I did a little more Shakespeare. This time with Frog & Peach Theatre, with Ted Zurkowski and Lynnea Benson. I played Oswald in King Lear (with Jaime Sanchez) and Balthazaar in Much Ado About Nothing (with Earle Hyman). Oh, and Baggett in Richard II (with Austin Pendleton.) It was a ramshackle affair, in a hot converted stage overlooking a church, and my parts were tiny. But I did have a fine old time and got to sing in front of Earle Hyman and meet Austin, which is sort of like being in Law & Order in New York. Eventually, you'll do it.

In the midst of this, I attended a performance of Pericles that starred by friend Ian Gould, down on Ludlow Street. At the performance was Katherine Gooch, who quickly informed me that it was too cold to not to be wearing a jacket and that I should come audition for Gorilla Repertory Theatre, a company that she helped found.

I worked with Gorilla Rep as an actor and met some dear friends, many of which are married with children now (including Katherine Gooch-Breault.) I worked and lived with Sean Elias-Reyes, who has since married Rohana Kenin, and had two beautiful children, Caleb and Milena. Sean is part owner and operator of Shut Up and Talk, now. He continues to act and write, and will inevitably break into the mainstream in some completely unexpected way. Because he's a genius. I met Doctor Tony Pennino, Russ Marcel (whose wife Katie recently had a daughter), actor Michael Colby Jones, who married not long after his wife Stephanie. John Walsh, who has since moved to L.A. to work for G4 Media, played Bottom in the Midsummer I was a part of, and it's still the most generous version of that character I was ever graced to see. Friends like Tim Moore, Tom Staggs, Lynda Kennedy, Kina Bermudez, Brian Olsen, Dale Ho. These lists are dangerous, because someone is always left out. Regardless, it was a time of great significance for me and I remember it fondly.

I worked as Flute in Gorilla's long-running Midsummer Night's Dream in Washington Square Park; was in Tony Pennino's Story of an Unknown Man; had fun running around in Ubu is King!; got humiliated as Sylvius in As You Like It; joked it up in Twelfth Night; was killed in a variety of ways (both as MacDuff's son and as Young Siward) in MacBeth; and worried my pants off as Pisanio in Cymbelline.

All of these productions had their highlights. My favorite, of course, was a gaffe. As Young Siward, I faced off with the athletic Michael Colby Jones, only to find that my sword had shattered into three separate pieces. I wasn't sure what to say, so my smart mouth came flying out. "Can we talk about this?" Young Siward said to Macbeth, before dropping his sword and running for the hills.

It was a time of running in the park, playing poker, smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and speaking the speech as trippingly as I could speak it.

This meant working with Christopher Sanderson, the artistic director of Gorilla Repertory Theatre. I admired him for his passion and perseverence. He and I were very close at one point, but when the clash of personalities hit, over "The Death of King Arthur," it hit very hard and we never quite found our way back to any kind of reconciliation. But the time working with Gorilla Rep did wonderful things for me, so regardless of the personal difficulties, I can't say a regret a thing.

It was during this time that I decided to make a full shift from acting to playwrighting. I have acted since, but have focused almost entirely on playwrighting since Gorilla Rep produced "The Death of King Arthur" in October of 2001.

The only real break from that was a few readings at the Abingdon and with friends, and also performing in my own play, The Americans, in the role of "D" in 2004.

Onwards, and upwards. Next stop, Playwrighting...