WBEZ | criticism http://www.wbez.org/tags/criticism Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en WBEZ responds to criticism that “Go Make Babies” ads leave LGBT people out http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/wbez-responds-criticism-%E2%80%9Cgo-make-babies%E2%80%9D-ads-leave-lgbt-people-out-105484 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/r-WBEZ-GO-MAKE-BABIES-AD-CAMPAIGN-large570.jpg" style="height: 259px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>When WBEZ launched its new ad campaign, it knew it would push some buttons. As part of the station&rsquo;s yearly member drive, WBEZ has been <a href="http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/make-babies-urges-saucy-public-radio-campaign/">satirically</a> urging listeners to &ldquo;go make babies,&rdquo; arguing that &ldquo;interesting people make interesting people.&rdquo; The idea is that WBEZ wants to get new listeners tomorrow, and the campaign saucily plays into that idea. Aimed at the &ldquo;curious class&rdquo; (the station&rsquo;s pet name for its listenership), billboards and ads urge the WBEZ faithful to &ldquo;do it&hellip;for Chicago.&rdquo; Rick Kogan apparently just has an effect on people.</p><p>Although the station has never before delved into Jonathan Swift territory, it&rsquo;s hardly the first tongue-in-cheek campaign from the local radio station. Last year&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/04/wbez-cat-videos-kanye-wes_n_1477790.html">summer fundraising campaign</a> featured cat videos, having fun with the idea that cats are the superstars of the internet. The campaign&rsquo;s tagline quipped, &ldquo;Research shows that cat videos make people happy. Happy people donate.&rdquo; One promotional video starred cats in wigs playing Terry Gross and Gene Simmons during a particularly tense interview, and others recreated segments with Bill O&rsquo;Reilly and Kanye West as incorrigible felines.</p><p>However, while cats are politically neutral (although I imagine the dog lobby got <em>barking mad</em>), babies are different. The use of babies is inherently loaded, commenting on our national discourses on procreation, family planning and population control. In the past few weeks, the station has received concerned calls and emails from listeners who felt that the campaign promoted overpopulation and eugenics, and some were even concerned that the &ldquo;Go Make Babies&rdquo; message would inspire children to do the same.</p><p>According to Vanessa Harris, the Director of Marketing at Chicago Public Media, WBEZ anticipated some of these criticisms and assures people that the station doesn&rsquo;t actually expect anyone to make children. It&#39;s about visibility, not babymaking. It&#39;s about people.</p><p>However, one criticism has been particularly close to her heart. In the weeks since the campaign launched, some LGBT Chicagoans have voiced their concerns that the campaign leaves them out of the discussion. After billboards began to pop up across the city, criticism of the ads quickly populated Facebook and social media feeds: What if we don&#39;t want kids? Do we have to be like straight people to be included? Is heteronomativity part of the deal? Others wondered whether their inability to make children makes them less valued as listeners. As someone who works for WBEZ, a friend of mine approached me to ask how she should respond to the ads. Not only does she identify as queer, but she and her partner might not be able to have children. She felt like the campaign was insensitive to her struggles with fertility.</p><p>The campaign&rsquo;s heteronormativity gets more explicit when you log onto WBEZ&rsquo;s new dating app, which you can access through GoMakeBabies.com. The app attempts to set you up with other &ldquo;interesting&rdquo; people in the Chicagoland area but assumes all its users are heterosexual. When I informed the app that I&rsquo;m single and ready to mingle with a nice Chicago gentleman, it suggested some eligible straight men for me&mdash;even though our endless love might be bound to have a few, um, obstacles. The app thought I was a hetero lady. (Not that there&rsquo;s anything wrong with hetero ladies.)</p><p>Last weekend, I sat down with Vanessa Harris at the Bourgeois Pig in Lincoln Park to discuss the campaign and address the LGBT community&rsquo;s concerns about its rhetoric. I felt they had a right to feel marginalized, as the campaign potentially sends the wrong message, and that WBEZ had a responsibility to be accountable to that criticism. Harris said that she understood the concern and didn&rsquo;t want any of the station&rsquo;s viewers to feel excluded.&nbsp; Of all the concerns, Harris felt that this was the one that had the biggest potential to turn off a core group of the station&rsquo;s viewership.</p><p>For Harris, this criticism is particularly relevant, as she made a decision fifteen years ago not to have children. However, to her, the campaign speaks to the idea of exposing a new generation to public radio. Harris stated that people are exposed to public radio in one of two ways. Either they were exposed to it in college, by a friend or a classmate, or they grew up on it. I&rsquo;m a prime example of the latter, as my mother would listen to <em>A Prairie Home Companion </em>on the weekends when I was young, and I finally understood what Garrison Keillor was talking about when I got older.</p><p>Although Harris doesn&rsquo;t plan on having children, she fully expects to help raise her sister&rsquo;s children and &ldquo;make them awesome.&rdquo; She felt it was a part of our intergenerational exchange: &ldquo;As an adult, you just want to seek children out and expose them to things.&rdquo;</p><p>As an older brother, I understand the sentiment, and sometimes I feel like Zooey Deschanel in <em>Almost Famous</em>, passing down my wayward rock-and-roll records. (A recent mix included Beach House and Vampire Weekend.) The last time I visited home, I was determined to make my tween-aged brothers into Joss Whedon fans. Getting them to like <em>Dr. Horrible&rsquo;s Sing-A-Long Blog</em> is one of the prouder moments of my life, although we&rsquo;re still working on <em>Buffy</em>. They&rsquo;ll come around eventually.</p><p>Harris and WBEZ want to pass public radio down to a new generation of young people, who often don&rsquo;t surf the radio in traditional ways. For WBEZ, the problem becomes: &ldquo;How do you stumble across public radio?&rdquo; According to Harris, WBEZ has to &ldquo;tell people we exist.&rdquo; &ldquo;We want everybody to give public radio a try,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;People see millions of advertisements a day. Only one is going to stick with them. We wanted to do something to break through and reach people.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Harris, society is changing, and LGBT people and same-gender families are a huge part of that. Examples like the TV program <em>Modern Family</em> show that people find themselves in families in &ldquo;so many different ways,&rdquo; whether that&rsquo;s adoption or otherwise. There is no one way to have a family, whether that&rsquo;s the one you&rsquo;re born into or the one you choose.</p><p>The station hopes to further reach out to Chicago&rsquo;s LGBT community through advertisements specifically oriented to a queer audience, which were meant to be released shortly after the start of the campaign. Forthcoming print and digital ads will ask queer listeners: &ldquo;You know who loves rainbows? Infants.&rdquo; They will be released in local LGBT publications like <em>Windy City Times</em>. According to Harris, the only reason WBEZ didn&rsquo;t push them sooner was because the station didn&rsquo;t want the ads to come out of nowhere, instead having them build on the preexisting campaign. Without context, the ads wouldn&rsquo;t make sense.</p><p>When I asked her what she would say to that LGBT listeners who might have felt left out, she put it simply: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sorry. I wish I could hug each and every one of you. We are completely dedicated to you as an audience. We&rsquo;re in this together.&rdquo;</p><p><em>If you would like to hear more bad animal puns, follow Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a> or on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico_Lang</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/wbez-responds-criticism-%E2%80%9Cgo-make-babies%E2%80%9D-ads-leave-lgbt-people-out-105484 The worst pregnancy books (as determined by formerly pregnant people) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/worst-pregnancy-books-determined-formerly-pregnant-people-104190 <p><p>Hey, Kate Middleton! Congratulations on your pregnancy! I bet that&rsquo;s sort of a relief, now that all the pressure of getting pregnant is off.</p><p>I know you read this blog so I wanted to help guide you as you peruse baby books. There are <em>so </em>many out there, and what&rsquo;s useful to you probably depends on what type of mother you want to be. So instead of recommending books, I figured I&rsquo;d present to you a list of the <em>least </em>helpful baby books, according to myself and some other moms I know.</p><p><strong><em>The Happiest Baby On The Block</em></strong><br />The premise of this book is a fine one: Your baby isn&rsquo;t sleeping because it&rsquo;s operating from its weird quasi-formed lizard brain, but there are five ways you can help coax it back to sleep when it awakes to terrorize you. However, a whole book doesn&rsquo;t need to be written about this. I would have gladly paid the same amount of money for a brief pamphlet detailing the &ldquo;Five S&rsquo;s&rdquo; (swaddling, shushing, side/stomach position, swinging, sucking) but felt like I was going insane as this message got repeated over and over again in book form.</p><p><strong><em>Your Pregnancy, Week-by-Week</em></strong><br />My friend Stevie said, &ldquo;This book informed me during week 32 that green tea was something to stay away from. My problems are a) I am not sure that&#39;s true, and b) WEEK 32 is not the time to tell someone avoiding caffeine to avoid green tea.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/What_to_Expect_When_You%27re_Expecting_Cover.jpg" style="float: left; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong><em>What To Expect When You&rsquo;re Expecting</em></strong><br />Annie had it up to <em>here </em>with the diet this book presented: &ldquo;You know, bring a package of wheat germ along on your vacation because restaurants may only have white bread and white bread does not have the best odds for your baby! Oh, and you need to watch your weight so you stay sexy for your husband. And, once a week, give yourself a really decadent treat, like a small fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt! Bleah.&rdquo; Kate (not you, Duchess, another Kate) agreed: &ldquo;The whole back third of [the book] was full of horrible things that might happen to your baby. I mean, it&#39;s good to be prepared, but this was like reading &lsquo;Doomsday Baby.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><strong><em>The Baby Book</em></strong><br />Annie didn&rsquo;t like this one, either. &ldquo;I threw the Dr. Sears book across the room one day. He was going on about the evils of rice cereal and said something about how babies don&#39;t have teeth, but mine cut teeth at two months (early, but not freakishly so) which was a Major Pain when nursing. My beef was: a) the assumption that all babies are the same, and b) you are turning your kid over to the heroin dealer unless you follow the rules exactly.&rdquo; Stevie added, &ldquo;Dr. Sears is a little preachy and routinely pushes his family&#39;s privilege (like his sons&#39; wives being able to sleep whenever because they stayed home).&rdquo; Annie pointed out, &ldquo;I also liked how he slipped up and mentioned how his wife worked after going on about how mothers shouldn&#39;t work.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Babywise_2007.jpg" style="float: right; height: 477px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong><em>On Becoming Baby Wise</em></strong><br />Kristen found this book &ldquo;Judgy, religiousy, awful. I remember being INCENSED by the religious aspects of the system they lay out in the book. The system is, basically, you need to have a schedule on which you feed your kid and let him or her sleep. There&#39;s a three-hour cycle: sleep, eat, play, sleep, eat, play. There was a lot of judging of parents who didn&#39;t do this as immoral or deficient, and I remember at one point the authors compared letting your kid cry because he or she is hungry to Jesus suffering on the cross. It might have been the post-pregnancy hormones, but the whole thing made me sick. It struck me as very harsh and used conservative Christian ideas to justify its harshness. I couldn&#39;t believe the friend who recommended it to me had really read it and thought it a good idea to pass it on.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><em>Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child</em></strong><br />The author of this book works at the practice we take our son to, and my friend Elizabeth requested that I kick him in the shin for her if I ever ran into him. &ldquo;I found the entire book to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. It tells you what babies do, not what you should do with your baby or how to encourage your baby to do what is being described. And practically every page says, &lsquo;Never wake a sleeping baby.&rsquo; Well, thanks, that&#39;s just so helpful. In all fairness, I was trying to read this book in a sleep deprived state, which is just a bad combo. I have since given up on all parenting books and try just to follow baby&#39;s lead or ask my pediatrician when necessary. Otherwise, you could drive yourself nuts!&rdquo;<br /><br />There you go, Kate. What <em>can </em>I advise you? Don&rsquo;t drive yourself crazy. Eat what you want but try to exercise when you can because it&rsquo;ll be good for your digestive system. Order three sets of sheets and three sets of waterproof sheets and layer them all on the royal crib (this will make sense in the middle of the night). Otherwise, you got this. Good luck!<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/worst-pregnancy-books-determined-formerly-pregnant-people-104190 So, you think you're a critic? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/so-you-think-youre-critic-100062 <p><p>&quot;Everyone&#39;s a critic, Jonathan,&quot; someone at the station said. &quot;No, they&#39;re not,&quot; I replied firmly. &quot;Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn&#39;t make him a critic.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DaumierCritic.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Honore Daumier’s ‘The Critic’" /></div><p>Of course,<em> I am</em> a critic. I know this because (a) people tell me I&#39;m a critic, (b) I define myself as a critic and (c) for many years people have paid me money to be a critic, which seems to confirm (a) and (b). Whether or not I am a good critic is for others to judge.</p><p>The difference between mere opinion and criticism is knowledge based on continuing study and research, and discrimination based on diverse and continuing experience. Criticism is personal opinion, but it is supposed to be <em>informed</em> opinion, perhaps even erudite opinion on occasion. This applies to any field of endeavor, and my particular field happens to be theater.</p><p>In part, my job is to point out that the emperor has no clothes. I flatly declare that not every big Broadway musical is a great show just because it is big and Broadway, even though many people think so. You may pay $100 or $150 for a ticket to a production but that doesn&#39;t mean it&#39;s good, yet many people equate price with merit. At the other end of the scale, not every shoe-string store-front show deserves praise just because it&#39;s staged by sincere and eager young kids. The time to nip their bad artistic habits in the bud is when they are young.</p><p>The job of the critic is to be frank, professional and neutral. It&#39;s easy to be smart-ass and witty when lambasting a show (&quot;And then I tore her heart out and stomped on it,&quot; we like to say), and sometimes it&#39;s fun, but it rarely makes for good criticism although it frequently makes for lively writing. Neutral does not always mean nice, but the voice of the reviewer (in print or on-air) never should sound like personal attack or a sermon, whether of the soapbox or high pulpit variety.</p><p>Of course, every critic has personal views on politics, religion, education, art, etc. and it&#39;s worse than disingenuous for a critic to claim that his/her reviews are unbiased. It&rsquo;s equally false for a critic to strike an omniscient attitude. When interpreting a play with strong themes or ideas a capable critic should state or reveal his/her biases and limits, commenting on the play in terms of his/her own life experience. Theater is, after all, one of the humanities and not a science.</p><p>Over the long haul, the best service a critic can render the public is consistency of perspective. Those who follow a critic over a period of time easily should come to know if he/she is liberal or conservative, pro-choice or anti-abortion, religious or not, a fan of Mozart or rap, vegan or omnivore, pro-military or anti-war (although one can be both) and so on. From this, an individual reader or listener can make up his/her own mind about a particular production.</p><p>For myself, I rarely declare any show to be either &quot;Don&#39;t Miss&quot; or &quot;Stay Away.&quot; Theater almost never is all-black or all-white but is some shade of gray, just like life itself. My job is to point out what works in a play or production and what doesn&#39;t work, and to take what I see and hear at face value. If I understand it, I will say so; if I don&#39;t understand it, I will say so. In either case, I will try to explain why, and to convey my emotional and/or intellectual reactions.</p><p>All of this comes to mind because the American Theatre Critics Association is holding its annual conference in Chicago June 13 through 17, during which reviewers from Seattle to Sarasota, from Palo Alto to Pittsburgh, from New York to New Mexico will see up to eight local productions and meet with local artists and directors, and gather reams of information from the League of Chicago Theatres and the Chicago Office on Tourism and Culture.</p><p>The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) is the only nationwide professional organization for theater critics, with several hundred members across the country. The principal purpose of the annual conference is to gain a deeper understanding of the theater industry in a particular locale. Chicago is the only city which has hosted four ATCA conferences, the last in 2002. Chicago also is the only city in which five theater companies have received the annual Tony Award for an outstanding regional theater. It&#39;s not a coincidence, as ATCA participates in the selection process for that award.</p><p>This Friday June 15 on <em>Eight Forty-Eight,</em> my Dueling Critic colleague, Kelly Kleiman, and I will be discussing the place and role of theater critics in a changing media world. Our notable guest will be Terry Teachout, theater critic for the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>.</p><p>Very few theater critics are anything like Addison DeWitt, the tart-tongued narrator of the classic film, <em>All About Eve</em>, although I admit that some critics do deserve the murderous punishments handed out to them by Vincent Price in <em>Theatre of Blood</em>. The problem today is that the expanding number of media platforms makes it all-too-easy for any yahoo with an opinion, but without knowledge or discrimination, to declare him/herself a theater critic. The critical profession is diminished by such individuals as well as by the shrinking role of the daily paper, and the reduction of space allotted to theater news and reviews in most platforms.</p><p>Theater criticism may not be as important as the Euro crisis or the rights of Guantanamo detainees or protecting women from so-called honor killings, but it <em>is</em> symptomatic of educated opinion slowly drowning in an ocean of voices and messages put forward without editorial standards or intellectual rigor. It is something of value, and it&#39;s being lost.</p></p> Thu, 14 Jun 2012 21:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/so-you-think-youre-critic-100062 A critic's 2012 resolutions http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-03/critics-2012-resolutions-95226 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-03/New Year&#039;s_flickr_Ed Yourdon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-03/happy new year.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 225px; height: 332px;" title="(Flickr/C.VanHook)">Three days into 2012 so it's time for some New Year's resolutions. Sure, I know the world is coming to an end next December but, after 40 years as a theater critic, better late than never, right?</p><p>So, what sort of resolutions does a theater critic make? Well, I have four of them for 2012.</p><p>Number One, I resolve not to see any more bad shows. Two, I resolve to be generous and fair-minded in all my reviews. Three, I resolve to be honest.</p><p>OK, Resolution One is the tough one. It's not like cutting back on chocolate or losing 10 pounds, because I don't know whether or not a show is bad until I've seen it, or at least until I'm in the middle of seeing it and saying to myself, "Dear God, get me out of here! Please, just let me spend the next two hours listening to chalk scratching on a blackboard!" In 2011 I saw the single worst show of the year in January. At least it all was uphill from there. I fear Resolution One will be broken before I can put it into effect, which is the natural order of things when it comes to the life of theater critic.</p><p>Resolution Two is the easy one, because I already am famously generous and fair-minded in all my reviews. Indeed, I'm frequently called "a living saint" by those in the show biz. OK, I hear you: "Jonathan, Jonathan! What about Number Three? C'mon, be honest." All right, they don't call me a living saint but they sometimes want to burn me at the stake or crucify me upside down, or at least tie me up and force me to watch Vincent Price in <em>Theatre of Blood</em>, again.</p><p>In truth, I actually do strive to be fair-minded and balanced when I critique a production. Like life itself, theater rarely is all black or all white, but generally is a brighter or duller shade of gray. My job is to point out both the highs and lows and come to a conclusion as to which predominate and then attempt to explain why I think so, perhaps displaying some of my erudition (at least about theater) in the process. Those of you who read my reviews or listen to them are the judges as to whether or not I'm successful. Being clever and trashing a production or an actor is easy and fun ("And then I took out her heart and stomped on it," we critics used to joke to each other) but not very productive. In time it will destroy one's soul, kinda' like the "Avada Kedavra" killing curse in Harry Potter. If you dislike so much of what you see and hear in theater, ya' shouldn't be in the reviewing game at all.</p><p>As for Resolution Three, it obviously applies, or should apply, to far more than theater criticism alone. As I speedily progress through Late Middle Age on the inevitable march towards Medicare and Social Security (which may not be inevitable for the next generation but probably still are for Us Boomers), I must decide if the inevitable compromises with life and life choices are dishonest in ways which are immoral or unethical. In other words, are they black or white or some shade of gray? Similarly, what and how I write is subject to my own editorial judgment before it ever goes to my editors. When should I write "The show was sunk by Actor X, who was totally out of her depth in the title role" and when should I write "The role was an ambitious stretch for Actor X who was not fully up to its demands"? Is one less honest than the other? You tell me.</p><p>Oh, I almost forgot Resolution Four: I resolve that for another 12 months, I will not use the words dazzling, stupendous, brassy, sensational, best-ever or must-see in any review I deliver on air or in print. If I must rely on superlatives to convey my admiration--or lack of admiration--then I'm not doing my job well. This usually makes me the least-quoted major theater critic in Chicago, but perhaps a tick more thoughtful because of it. In my own mind, it makes me a bit more honest, too. But that could be pure illusion on my part. After all, I still think I look like Gary Cooper.</p><p>Happy New Year. And don't worry: I will NOT let the world end next December, no matter how bad the theater season has been.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 03:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-03/critics-2012-resolutions-95226