Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Not Conservative, But Human

Suddenly, everybody's talking about "conservative" or "red state" theatre. I must confess, along with Laura Axelrod and Leonard Jacobs, that I don't know what "red state theatre" is. Now, that might strike my readers as odd, since by all accounts I am the founder of this particular intellectual feast engaged around the theatrosphere. Briefly, I'd like to trace how this permutation of my original idea came about before I try to either address the question Slay is asking in "Conservative In Question," or redirect the topic in the original direction -- I'm not certain which way this post will end up.

Apparently, the starting point for this discussion is found in my interview at "Theatre Is Territory," where Ian, having no idea what can of worms he was opening, asked the following question:

Do you think conservative, right-wing politics are somehow fundamentally at odds with the arts community?

To which I responded:

No, but the arts community needs to care enough about the conservatives to dialogue with them and not just insult them. We’re digging our own grave! Half of America is conservative! [snip theatre history lesson] There’s got to be a progressive way to speak to conservatives. (Hint: it doesn’t involve dehumanizing them.)

Please note the context: I was asked whether there was a fundamental disconnect between conservative politics and the arts community. My assertion is that the disconnect is a historical condition, not a fundamental one. The theatre has been conservative as much as it has been radical -- perhaps moreso. Aeschylus' The Oresteia is a conservative play in the sense that it celebrates the Grecian development of a court system to replace the revenge system of justice; Shakespeare's plays tend to support the English crown, and the playwrights of the French Neoclassical era bows to Louis XIV and the rules that the French Academy put into place at his behest. I could give other examples, but the point is that there is nothing endemic to theatre that makes it the enemy of conservative politics.

That said, I did suggest that theatre artists might find it beneficial to "find a progressive way to speak to conservatives," rather than insulting and dehumanizing them. That does imply some sort of active contact between liberals and conservatives that doesn't involve spitting or dogmatism. Apparently this idea is abhorent to at least one blogger, who has referred to it as "some shit." Nevertheless, this is just basic humanism -- the belief that most people operate from a sense of wanting to do right, even though they may differ about what that entails. That does not mean that one must agree with or respect all choices equally -- I am not suggesting that theatre artists sit down for a nice cup of tea with a KKK member and try to sensitively sympathize with his virulent racism. But I am suggesting that people who do not share a liberal ideology are human beings nonetheless and should be granted the basic respect that all human beings deserve.

Anyway, somehow this pretty bland idea (all people deserve to be treated like members of the human race and given the benefit of the doubt as far as their motives are concerned) was translated by Mark "Mr Excitement" at the Impending Theatrical Blogging Event as "Red State Hooey" (I love the title). Here's what it came out as (and my apologies to Laura Axelrod, who got unfairly smeared with my tar in this summary):

There is this odd notion in certain corners of the theater blogosphere that theater must speak to, or represent the concerns of, red state conservatives. It correlates with the outdated political notion that candidates must craft a message tailored to one elderly white male who lives in middle America, while the country is actually becoming more urban and more ethnically diverse. Plus, red state conservatives have had the entire government of the most powerful country in the history of the world speaking for them for six years now. The idea that theater should somehow also be responsible for promoting their agenda is bizarre.

Now, gentle reader, can you help me in tracing the devolution of my comment to this? I said nothing about trying to "represent the concerns" of conservatives, nor did I suggest that theatre should promote a conservative agenda. I suggested that theatre artists might find a "progressive way to speak to conservatives," that they might "dialogue" with them.

Nevertheless, it is Mark's revision of my original interview response that was picked up by Slay at Theatre Fortre in a post entitled "Hee Haw Retreads." Slay seemed as baffled as I was about the origin of this interpretation. He wrote:

I found where he says "a progressive way to speak to conservatives" and the part where he says "the arts community needs to care enough about the conservatives to dialogue with them".

I can't find "theatre made [there] in downtown NYC has [an] obligation to speak to those outside of its community" or "theater must speak to, or represent the concerns of, red state conservatives" or "theater should somehow also be responsible for promoting [the conservatives'] agenda " or any place where he says that theatre should be "speaking the concerns" of conservatives.

Is it not in this interview?

The ever helpful Joshua James offered this: "I believe Scott made that statement on a comment thread on David Cote's blog, if I recall . . . it may have been Catechism on a Hot Tin Roof, but I'm not sure. Mr Excitement would know, he referenced it originally." Slay checked it out, and said "I couldn't find it there." Joshua then said: "I'm not sure the exact place, myself . . . I know Walters also said something similar on his Praxis interview . . . but Mr. Excitement would know exactly." But alas, Mr Excitement ain't talking. At this point, I stepped in to save Slay from spending the day searching the blogosphere for my quotation, telling him it didn't exist, that it was a bad translation from the original English.

Nevertheless, from bad misunderstandings good conversations sometimes grows. Slay posted "Conservatism in Question," which lays out the basic topic quite nicely. Adam Szymkowicz contributes his thoughts in "Thoughts on Conservative Theatre," and Kyle at "Frank's Wild Lunch" offers "This In Response" to Adam. I suspect by now there are others as well, but rather than provide a Wikipedia article on the whole thing, let me stop here and offer my own thoughts on this subject tangential to my original quotation.

There's part of me that would like to offer the following quotations and let it go at that:

Laura Axelrod: I’m not sure what Red State Theater is, exactly. Personally, I’d like to have the biggest audience possible for my work, without compromising my vision. Shouting that Democrats or Republicans suck is going to defeat my purpose. Unless, that is my purpose. KnowwhatImean?

Slay (quoting from one of his recent shows): "We need to actually be liberal, to view the world as being made up of varying points of view and to court those we would not normally meet for coffee ... We have to give up the Us/Them mentality. You know, the one we find so disgusting when employed by George W. Bush."

James Comtois: To me, theatre doesn’t have to be political, apolitical, educational, right-wing or left-wing. It’s far more important to me that theatre artists and theatre theorists don’t consider their audience “beneath them.” Once you think you’re smarter than your audience, that’s the beginning of the end.

Those are all pretty damn good. But simply quoting would be the easy way out. I should probably supply something of my own that can be twisted in translation.

What I would suggest is as follows (with apologies for repetition). Great theatre artists should:

1. Avoid dogmatism and propaganda. Any part of life worth writing about is worth portraying in complex terms. Melodrama has one-dimensional heroes and villains -- don't stack the deck in your favor.

2. Assume that your audience is as smart as you are. Or better yet, smarter.

3. Believe that your spectators are capable of change.

4. Understand that change comes from persuasion and empathy, not nagging.

5. Allow for the possibility that viewpoints other than your own may be valid. As Neils Bohr famously said, "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." Strive to create plays that contain profound truths rather than correct statements.

6. Include yourself in any accusations. Remember that when you point a finger, three fingers point back at you. If you must point, that is good dramaturgical advice.

7. Even if you disagree with a particular value, try to understand it deeply, and present it fairly. Don't turn values into cartoons.
The thing that makes Angels in America great is that all of the characters, even Roy Cohn, is presented with complexity, depth, and (yes) empathy. See number 1 above.

8. There is a place for preaching to the choir -- as Slay wrote, quoting (he thinks) West Wing:
"Sometimes you have to preach to the choir, if you want them to sing." So true. Sometimes values need to be strengthened and reinforced. But don't confuse this with creating high quality theatre -- this is propaganda. Sometimes propaganda is necessary.

9. Imagine a better world. As Jill Dolan writes in Utopia in Performance, try to "inspire moments in which audiences feel themselves allied with each other, and with a broader, more capacious sense of a public, in which social discourse articulates the possible, rather than the insurmountable obstacles to human potential." As I tell my dog, Kip, you can point out shit without having to roll in it. He never listens either.

10. Believe in hope. As Barack Obama says, "the audacity of hope." Cynicism and despair is the idealist's wound. Always open up your heart, even though it seems dangerous to do so. (And if someone brings up Beckett as an example of a great artist that writes about despair, I would beg to differ. All of his characters have hope, in my opinion, and in their hope is their tragic heroism.)

Now, are these the characteristics of a "conservative, "red state" theatre? Not really, I suppose. But they are, I think, characteristics of a theatre that might bring people together in a common experience, and that might help bridge the ever-widening gulf in American society that the media has created and reinforced. Please note that I have not suggested "pandering to the audience," which is a violation of #2 above, nor have I said they should not be challenged. I guess, when all is said and done, I am simply repeating what I wrote in the post immediately preceding this one:

I think challenge is absolutely necessary for a community to grow. Theatre shouldn't exist simply to deepen social bonds by reinforcing already-agreed-upon ideas. Although such deepening DOES serve an important purpose, and is part of what a theatre should do. Part, but by no means all. But theatre should also challenge, and the point about challenge I would make is a very fine one. It is about the artist's soul, I guess, his attitude. I think scolding and hectoring is ineffective, and scorn is alienating... And as I noted in my post on risk, if your main purpose is to make the audience uncomfortable, you've set the bar too low. That is just so easy to do. I think discomfort comes as the result of a stretch toward something else, something higher than one has reached before. Like when a yoga instructor asks you to stretch in a way that is uncomfortable -- the goal is to increase flexibility, not simply the discomfort itself. I guess it is a generosity of spirit I'm talking about, and a faith in one's fellow man.

I don't think generosity of spirit and faith in one's fellow man is too much to ask of an artist. To me, that is the definition of a great soul. And I think great art comes from great souls.

Addendum: 1) None of these ideas should be viewed as policies -- no jackbooted arts troopers will come to your door to force you to follow these ideas. 2) If there was some miracle and suddenly every play being written were conforming to these suggestions, I would immediately create another list insisting on the opposite -- balance is the goal. The above, which may seem like truisms to some, are what I feel is in need of increase at the moment.


Alison Croggon said...

Hi Scott - all those things are characteristics of good theatre, indeed, to the point of truism. It just often seems to me that in your blanket condemnations of contemporary theatre, you ignore (or worse dismiss) the "great souls" who are in fact doing all those things.

Freeman said...

Scott -

I am deeply offended by this and will hold you accountable for past statements.

Wait. No. Not at all.

In fact, I Appreciate all that clarification and your efforts to bring things together. I agree with a great deal of this and I think that you're dead-on when you extol the virtues of attempting to find commonality, as opposed to presenting a political point of view.

I'll say that speaking down to one's audience is pretty much a recipe for disaster. I'd say, especially for any of your students, this is very good advice.

It's interesting for me, because much of the discussion comes down to the assumption that, as creative artists, we are sending messages to the audience, and they are messages we control actively, and we should be conscious of how those messages come forth. I can't speak for everyone, but I don't really write that way. The ideas and messages found in my plays (if there are any) are often discovered more accurately by those that observe them. As someone who is writing characters and doing things like trying to come up with effective language and a workable structure, message is sort of the last thing that shows up. It usually surprises me. Values, in my plays, are simply something that come from the characters. They have the values that serve them, as characters, and serve the play, as a whole.

That's about as far as I take my own responsibility. Playwrighting, to me, is very, very difficult if I am exceedingly conscious of my social responsibilities.

Mark said...

Hi Scott,

I’d like to respond to this, as my single comment in the context of the blogging chat probably doesn’t capture the totally of my views on the subject. I’m a bit wary of continuing this discussion, since, the one comment aside, I’m not a particularly combative sort, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t visited any of these dustups before. But, as you say, I did set this off and since you feel I’ve caricatured your views, I’ll respond.

Your quote from Theatre is Territory does capture the sentiment I was referring to, which is something you’ve written about quite a bit. My comment may be broad-brush, but you have written a lot about your view that we liberals should communicate specifically to conservative Americans through theater performance. I don’t share this view, not because I think liberals shouldn’t talk to conservatives (I certainly do) but simply because I don’t gravitate to theater as a vehicle for distribution of these views. (Reading over the dialogue, it occurs to me that one might think I favor liberal agitprop, which isn’t particularly the case.)

For me, the making of art is a subjective experience in which the creator reveals something of his or herself and invites the audience to hopefully find some points of commonality. Most good theater isn’t deliberately crafted as “liberal” or “conservative” in terms of messaging—and, if it is, it can be both patronizing and undramatic. I don’t think that the creative artist generally should concern herself with the (presumed) political views of her audience—but this certainly does not mean that I advocate “dehumanizing” them. (However, as Adam thoughtfully notes, the mere presence of political subject matter or challenging content may fluster the conservative more easily than the liberal.)

I realize this is a more thoughtful framing of the idea than I presented in my original comment, but some of your rhetoric on the subject has certainly been overheated as well--this post for example, contains reference to “spitting”, which is far more cartoonish than anything in my comment. I favor provocative theater, but I have never, in all my theatergoing days, seen audiences treated with the sort of disrespect you seem to think is routine among urban liberal artists. On the contrary, audiences for provocative work are often bonded together with the artists and one another in a powerful way.

Finally, I can’t believe it hasn’t been noted yet that my original comments were made in the context of the Pretentious Festival, which hosted the blogging event to feature “bloggers blogging about blogging”. The inclusion of your quote about bloggers functioned as a way to poke fun at ourselves, at our foibles and self-seriousness. The cheering in the room that Freeman describes speaks to that, but, all theater being local, it may not have translated that way outside the room. (However, the notion that New York theater bloggers represent, in any way, the “avant-garde” would probably draw hoots of derision from the actual avant-garde.)

Although I haven’t been able to participate as much, I’ve appreciated the dialogue that’s been generated, although it may, as you say, have grown from some misunderstandings. (I’m going to commit a slight blog faux-paus and crosspost this comment to TheatreForte and maybe put some version of it on my own blog as well.)

Joshua James said...

What Mark said -

Though I note you left out much of what I added by way of explaining my postion, but that's cool, it's your blog, dude. Good to hear clarification.

And I would add, the quote from your Praxis interview (even with context) is at odds from the enlightened quote of James "Mr. Wonderful" Comtois - don't see how they are NOT at odds . . . one calls for the entire arts community to speak respectfully to a political group . . . one definitely takes the position otherwise . . . so are you retracting your quote?

Scott Walters said...

No, I don't withdraw it, nor do I see it as contradictory. The important part of the quoatation, to me, is the idea of not talking down to an audience. If you are doing that, then you are halfway to creating theatre that can accomodate diversity.

Praxis Theatre said...

Hi Scott,

We asked this very same question of Toronto's politically driven theatre company The Wrecking Ball. I think there's a basic agreement between their response and yours. Here's how the folks at The Wrecking Ball answered the question:

Do you think Conservative, right-wing politics are somehow fundamentally at odds with the arts community?

"It’s true that most of The Wrecking Ball writers to date have written left-leaning commentaries. That’s probably a good reflection of the arts community in the country and their opposition to current conservatism. But it’s more a symptom of our time and our culture in Canada than a fundamental truth about the arts and society. It happens that support for the arts comes from the left in Canada right now, but, you know, the Nazis were great supporters of the arts.

"It’s funny you should ask that question because we have been considering a ‘right-wing’ Wrecking Ball for a while now. No, really! And no, we weren’t going to invite Ernst Zundel or David Irving to chip in, but we think it would be interesting to get writers like David Frum to write from a place of conservative authenticity. It would be something to provoke our community from the coziness of our own thinking, a whetstone to sharpen our own arguments or, at the very least, challenge the assumptions that make you ask this question."

What do you think?


Scott Walters said...

Mark -- I used the word "spitting" ironically, in the same spirit as Slay's question, "Scott, I wanna know how we can talk to conservatives without throwing up in our mouths all the time." (emphasis mine) It's a metaphor, not an actual behavior.

As far as the aggressive attitude you remember me commenting on, which you feel is really not in evidence, let me offer the following quote from Edward Albee:

""I think maybe if nobody walks out of something, if you can't offend somebody, you've failed. I thought The Goat would upset the right people. I would have been upset if it hadn't."

Apparently I am not the only one to be unhappy about Albee's attitude. ``I think Albee really hasn't written a great play since `Woolf,' '' says Libby Appel, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, ratcheting things up several notches. ``All of the ones since then have a certain bogus quality to them. I find it all a little patronizing, like he's sitting up there on a cloud looking down at us and laughing at us. He's always got that edge of arrogance.''

I doubt that Albee is some sort of freakish outlier.

Scott Walters said...

Ian -- I don't like the idea of a theatre that is "aimed" at a group, whether right-wing or left-wing. To me, that is reinforcing the ideological polarization, which I believe is undermining American democracy. I think, as I said in the interview, that there needs to be a progessive way to address conservatives. I want to see art that brings people together and builds bridges, not more niche theatres.

Praxis Theatre said...


But if the starting point is "right-wing authenticity", via David Frum, for example, couldn't such a niche theatre exercise be helpful in motivating discussion (where, perhaps, discussion has stalled)? Wouldn't such an event be a great way of challenging liberal art-makers about their assumptions of conservatism, generally?


Freeman said...

Building bridges is really for architects and social activists. I think it's a worthy goal, but is it truly a goal for playwrights?

I'm suspicious of artistic pursuits being hijacked by social goals. Aren't there other, better venues for that sort of activity?

Praxis Theatre said...

Hey Freeman,

I'm not a playwright, so I can't really speak to that part of your question. My interest is in marketing independent theatre and in theatre theory and criticism. To lay out that bias.

I think a playwright should work in whatever way works for them. But if someone wants to curate an event with its own political agenda or "aim", I'm not sure that's at odds with or in any way diminishes the original intent of the work.

So it's okay if a playwright isn't interested in social message theatre, but if their work can be used for such a function (with their permission, of course), I think that's a good thing – or at least not an inherently bad, or suspicious thing.

I hope my argument assumes the following: that finding ways to market theatre and theatre ideas, generally, is worthwhile because theatre, generally, is worthwhile.


Freeman said...

I don't disagree in the least, Ian. I'm more speaking to the idea that we should be bridge builders and that offending the audience is a form of arrogance.

Scott Walters said...

Matt -- You can probably predict, after all the time we've known each other, how I will respond to your question. But I appreciate the question.

I am not a Kantian. I don't believe that the arts stand outside of society, nor am I particularly interested in art solely as "self-expression." (Which is not to say that self-expression isn't part of the equation. In my Praxis interview, my working definition of an artist was: "James Joyce said it in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “I go to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” To me, Joyce acknowledges both the necessity of the artistic soul and the importance of its connection to community.) I think an artist is a social being, and that the images he or she creates have an influence on reality. In my Harlem Renaissance class, I just this morning finished showing a video called "Ethnic Notions: Black People in White Minds," about the effects of racist representations of African-American over the years. If you watch that documentary, and then read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye or watch Spike Lee's Bamboozled, you can see how those images play out in reality. The artists who created those images might protest that they were just giving people what they want, or expressing their souls, but once those images enter the public sphere they have an effect. Overall, I am distrustful of the desire to isolate the arts from reality, to make it something special that is over there somewhere and not accountable. From a philosophical viewpoint, I think that everybody is a society should be striving to make their society better. I don't consider that to be the special purview of "social activists." We're all called to contribute.

Joshua James said...

Obviously I disagree, and maintain that the quotes are contradictary.

I don't think it says "Don't talk down to your audience," which is what you say you now mean . . . really, it means don't insult or disrespect conservatives . . .

And I would add that, if the arts community is your intended audience for that remark / slash interview, it speaks down to us . . . it assumes that A) we're not listening and B) all we do is insult and C) the sad state of theatre is solely because liberal artists are doing A and B, above.

And D, that all arts people are conservative or even political. Many are not. I was one.

I'm sorry to keep on about this, but I believe in being precise with words and phrases, and while everyone makes a misstatement once in awhile, you continue to maintain that what you said means something that, in reading, it doesn't.

Additionally, your quote is factually challenged, I believe and addressed in the theatre forte thread, and some of your points aftward (AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH is NOT politically polarizing material) . . .

I also think your theories are convenient for you in that I don't know or see how you ever put them into practice, as an artist, yourself.

Anyway, I keep debating you on this and it seems to not to get anywhere, other than to publicize your blog . . . the conflict has made drama which has drawn and audience and I wonder if I hadn't just left Slay's post alone, if we'd even be talking about this . . . I don't think so.

Joshua James said...

When I said this: (AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH is NOT politically polarizing material) . . .

I meant to write - you commented that AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH is NOT political polarizing, which is an incredibly untrue statement -

And I would add that that movie is very politically polarizing . . . and while Al doesn't talk down to his audience, you and I would agree, there are many (Glenn Beck first and foremost) who maintain not only is it fiction, it talks down to them.

So. There that is.

Scott Walters said...

Thanks, Joshua. It is always nice to be told what I really meant.

Joshua James said...

What? I'm not entitled to feel as though you talked down to me, as a member of the arts community, with that statement regarding listening with respect to conservatives rather than insulting them?

Scott Walters said...

Joshua -- I would really like to talk to you, but I can't if you insist on engaging in angry, dogmatic hectoring. If you want to really have an exchange -- by which I mean that we both open our minds and consider each other's ideas, rather than trying to persuade each other over to our side -- then I'm all for it. But if you want to fight, then I'll stop responding. As I said in bold in my original post, to respect someone does not mean agreeing with their ideas. But it does mean talking to people from an attitude of curiosity: "Hmmm. I don't really get how he can see it this way. I'd like to find out more." (OK, that's the Sesame Stree version -- now you know why I don't write plays.) I have a sense of humor, and I suspect you do too; we both care about the theatre; we both agree, I suspect, on most political issues. So there is common ground. Now, if we both can enter into a conversation that does not assume that only one of us is right, and that that person is ourself, then we might have a conversation. Are you willing to do that?

Joshua James said...

Well Scott, we've tried that, haven't we?

We've done the email thing and we've done the discuss thing, both here and at my blog . . . each time I don't know that it was satisfying for either of us, do you?

Again, I feel I am open to ideas and things . . . so . . . there you go. My experience with you is that you state one thing and then state something that, to me, is contradictory . . . I don't say that to hector you, it's just my experience, okay?

It could just be that we are oil and water, hmm?

I keep saying to myself that I won't engage you on certain topics, as one or two of my unnamed brethern have done, because then life is less that much conflict.

And then something comes up and I choose to participate . . . well, what can I say?

And actually, this started simply because I wanted to point Slay in the direction of the quote . . . if you recall, when you and I briefly discussed the situation at Laura's website, there was no fight.

In fact, I simply said what happened was't quite what you said it was.

And when you first did the interview, I didn't jump on you, I simply disagreed with it on my own and let it go.

It was only when we got into the nit and grit of the substance of the thing that the issues came to light.

And I don't see that there is really a fight now . . . it's simply that you've made a bold statement that I believe means one thing and you believe means another.

And I would add, while I'm being clear and honest about what I think, I don't believe I've come out "swinging" on this issue - I've simply attempted to stay focused on certain points - I've not called you a name, not shouted or screamed, just tried to focus on what I felt the issue was . . . the aforementioned statement, and what it meant . . . and comments made thereafter.

So . . . maybe I should just keep that promise to myself that engagement on this issues, between you and I, is a bit hopeless . . .

Scott Walters said...

Maybe so, Joshua. If we can't get past "that's what you said" "no it isn't" "yes it is," then there's not much point. At least, you seem to feel we can't get past it. So let's just let it go. I'm sorry to say that, but we seem to exasperate each other.

J Cale said...

Quoting Libby Appel about anything in contemporary theatre does not help your case.

Under her, the OSF track record for doing new work of real substance is not very good. Schenkkan's work there is terrible, the David Edgar pieces were dreadful (let's talk about pandering!), the Octavio Solis play was so undercooked the only thing that can be said about it is that the Festival was brave for making it.

The other "new" plays there are mostly MTC retreads so they're hardly bold choices.

Artistic Direction like Appel's has lead us to a theatre of decreasing relevance, vitality and audience.

I didn't like The Goat for the simple reason that I didn't believe a man would leave Mercedes Ruhl for an animal. (And the speech about a universal love didn't do it for me.) But at least it was ballsy and hard-nosed. It had a point of view that was unapologetic and unsugar coated.

Scott Walters said...

Well, to quote somebody is not to endorse their entire career. I quoted Appel because her comment ran parallel to the point I was trying to make.

J Cale said...


Which doesn't help your point - which might be a good one independent of what anyone might think of Appel.

But you also used the quote to say you aren't the only one who thinks the way you do. You're saying, look, someone important endorses what I say from a different angle.

However, it also asks us to consider your source - which, to my point, doesn't help your arguement.

Appel doesn't know much about rejuvenating theatre by creating new work or making theatre more vital for audiences not already showing up on tour buses from the old folks homes on the West Coast.

The OSF under her was not about creating interesting new work. Your use of her opinion on Albee doesn't make think your parellel point is a good one. To the contrary....