Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This is a 500 word essay I submitted for a writing contest. The topic was to choose a photo in the journal and write no more than 500 words on the ethical issue it arises.


The photograph ‘No More War’ depicts a young woman with a peace sign on drawn on her foot, comfortably reclining in her chair in front of a computer. The subject appears to be taking an “easy” approach to the issue of war, one that gives the impression of outward concern, but inward nonchalance.

In this generation, perhaps more than in past, vacuous symbolism is very economically viable. Today’s businessmen must be perpetually gleeful at the flocks of eager college kids clamoring to purchase trendy advocacy regalia: peace symbol jewelry, bags and clothing; think ‘Garanimals’ - for the “ethically-conscious” young adult.

Add in groups titled ‘Free Tibet’ or ‘Save Darfur’ on social-networking websites which only work as a mug’s game to provide a “care” badge for members- not to advance the causes, and what is left is a vast neo-hippie segment of the population with a lesser, 1.0 version of 60’s-era civic involvement.

Many of the anti-war protests held by college-age “activists” have strong undercurrents of anti-corporatism. Ironically, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for these progressively-minded individuals to capriciously choose which corporations to rally against, while privately supporting others by purchasing the aforementioned peace paraphernalia.

The worldly concerns of these individuals live in margins they attempt to keep wide, although the disconnect between their vocal philosophy and personal weekend habits reveal these margins to be unconscionably narrow.

Does this store-bought activism cheapen the efforts of real activists who choose to directly donate their time or money toward their chosen causes, instead of settling upon wearing a t-shirt or carrying an organic cotton tote bag? I would argue it does.

We must ask: Which is more of an ethical compromise, being truly apathetic toward a cause or aspect of human misery, or outwardly transmitting distaste for a crisis, while not actually doing anything to solve the problem? Is lying preferable to not caring? It appears to be a truism that when the latter is the case, two ethical criteria are violated: upholding honesty (perhaps with the exception of cases where the truth may cause harm, like a situation involving an inquisitive murderer), and the reasonable sacrifice of a morally incomparable good in the interest of saving lives.

It is best to drop arrant pretension in the interest of moral consistency. If you deck yourself out in peace symbols - support legislation to cut military funding and don’t pick fights with others; if you claim to be a strong environmentalist, stop supporting the meat and dairy industry at mealtime.

One shouldn’t pretend to believe in certain causes because it may be “politically correct” or of-the-moment to do so. If you don’t care about x, y, or z, that’s okay; no one is going to attack you for it, this is not the USSR. But hopping on the bandwagon by giving off the appearance of virtue is elitist and dishonest, it’s preferable to avoid the topic altogether and allow the real activists who believe in the cause to work toward enacting change.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How the idea came to be

I always had my mind set on writing a political satire. At first, my idea was a 'Breakfast of Champions' inspired story about a group of future archaeologists who uncover the remains of a quasi-ancient civilization, the Akirema. My intent was to satirize our current pop culture and consumer product obsessions using an abstraction technique, strongly influenced by anthropologist Horace Miner's satirical 1956 essay, 'Body Ritual Among the Nacirema'.

Because the intent was to be scathing, but humorous, I changed the name to Akirema, or "Amerika" backwards, the 'k' of course, a nod to fascist regimes.

I did not write that story, I just couldn't wrap my head around exactly what I wanted to attack or how to make it "stage-friendly." Around this time, I remembered a story idea I had about two car insurance agents who try to one-up each other by doing more and more fraudulent modifications to the cars in order to insure a sale (think Matilda Wormwood's father in Dahl's 'Matilda').

Being strongly influenced by the Brat Pack lit movement of the 1980s, and 80s culture in general, I decided to make write a play about aspiring yuppies.
It went through a variety of changes. The first draft, 'An American Con' (homonym of 'Unamerican con') involved the land grant scam and ended with the two men being arrested, but sure that "the system would take care of them" - being the rich, white men they were. I had a money laundering element in there, but the concept was apparently too much for an audience to take in within 10-15 minutes, so that was cut.

The final product was a coke/alcohol induced testesterone driven frenzy between two business partners who become suspcious of each other.

The dialogue was slightly arcane. I used a lot of cliches and yiddish insults, inspired by 'Goodfellas' (one of my favorite movies of all-time) and Ellis's dialogue. The coke use, among other things, was a nod to the 80's yuppie subculture I wanted to emulate, only the play is set in the present.

Overall, I'm proud of the script and all the feedback I've received points to it being one of the most well-written plays performed in the production, which is great.
I hope to do something like this again, and hopefully keeping up this blog will inspire me to go for it.

On with the show!

Well, now that that first silly post is out of the way, let's begin with the "meat" of things.

I recently wrote a play, 'The Ratchet Men', and it was performed along with other 5 other student written and student directed plays at Miami Dade Kendall Campus. I consider it a pretty good feat, since I never thought I'd dabble in theater. I like reading plays and analyzing language, but the experience of writing this one-act play has put a proverbial "fire in my belly" to write some more.

I'll probably begin by expanding the current play into a 3 or 4 act play, and when I have some more ideas laid out, I'll write up a screenplay.

I've got some songs already in mind, two of which were unfortunately not used in the MDC production.
So I've got a total of 3 songs I definitely would like to use in the film version.

I won't actually post the script of The Ratchet Men here until I register it, but I'll give a synopsis. It sounds a bit odd because it was part of a press release that I and a fellow writer, my very good friend Jennifer Fumero wrote up to send to a few outlets. You can read it at: http://www.pressreleasepoint.com/miami-dade-college-kendall-campus-host-performance-original-studentwritten-plays

The synopsis, as quoted in the press release is as follows:

The opening play, ‘The Ratchet Men’ was written by MDC graduate and Philosophy major Katherine Concepcion. The play was inspired by the true-life story of Larry Smith, a con-artist who drafted phony land grants and sold the contracts to worried property owners, in the hopes that their property would not risk foreclosure. The play begins in media res, after the scheme began, with the two businessmen attempting to balance their books in a drugged out and drunken stupor. When one of the men accuses the other of having stolen some missing money, violence escalates and an unintended murder is committed. The remaining man’s paranoia increases and the play ends with a final, unexpected twist and shocking climax. Concepcion was also inspired by the British “Angry Young Men” literary genre, American writer Bret Easton Ellis’s tales of greedy, amoral “yuppies” embracing excess in all its forms, and playwright David Mamet’s high-testosterone, edgy action and dialogue.

In the interest of terse blog posts, I will write a bit more on the development of my idea in a future blog.


My very first blog post

Hey readers,

I've abandoned my idea of starting a blog long enough, so I figure I'd jump in with both feet and just start writing about whatever pedantic or pedestrian topics come to mind.

I also want to post more interesting things here, like original research, etc.

I've got a little investigative project right now that I'll be blogging about soon.

I'll consider this my "intro" blog, so I wont feel weird about writing in the future.