Bob Schwartz

Month: September, 2020

TV Laughs: The Goes Wrong Show on Amazon Prime

Farce: A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.

I need laughs right now. Real repeated laughs. Not just a smile or “isn’t that witty.” Laughs that make me feel good and forget, just in case there is something going on in the world that is best forgotten, even if for a half hour. Maybe you need that too.

I don’t laugh at plain physical comedy and slapstick. What I laugh at is physical comedy combined with outrageousness. That is funny. That is farce.

The Goes Wrong Show (Amazon Prime) is a BBC series from the creators of The Play That Goes Wrong, a West End and Broadway theater hit.

The series has a very simple premise. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society undertakes some very ambitious plays that far exceed their talents and production abilities. With each play, things go horribly wrong, but the amateur actors carry on earnestly in the face of catastrophe. We in the audience are the beneficiaries of these theatrical disasters.

Farce is not for everybody, and this may not be for everybody, but please give it a try. You have nothing to lose but incessant wallowing in the dour and depressing alternative of the news. All episodes of this first season are recommended, but my current favorite is A Trial to Watch.

One more thing. You may be tempted to watch some of the many clips that are available. My unusual advice is don’t. Much depends on set up and premise, without which these clips look only like little comedy bits. With complete set up and premise in the context a full episode, you will get why, at least for me, this is the funniest show on TV.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

This is the fifth time in the last few years I have posted about 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action by the late Gene Sharp (1928-2018) of the Albert Einstein Institution–the last time this past April.

These methods were developed over decades as creative and practical tools of change in resistance to authoritarian regimes. Which is to say: they have worked.

I raise it again now, just five months after the last time, for a couple of reasons.

As optimistic as I want to be about emerging sometime soon from dark governmental and political times, that day may not be tomorrow, or November, or January, or 2021.

If you study the list, you will find a number of methods that have been tried, but also a number that haven’t been tried or even considered. All of these may not be “good ideas” under the circumstances (impractical, too costly, dangerous, counterproductive), but there are bound to be some methods that simply haven’t been thought about. Think about them–all of them. And please pass it on.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

Formal Statements
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Group Representations
13. Deputations
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
16. Picketing
17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals
31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
33. Fraternization
34. Vigils

Drama and Music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
37. Singing

38. Marches
39. Parades
40. Religious processions
41. Pilgrimages
42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
50. Teach-ins

Withdrawal and Renunciation
51. Walk-outs
52. Silence
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back

The Methods Of Social Noncooperation

Ostracism of Persons
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
58. Excommunication
59. Interdict

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions

Withdrawal from the Social System
65. Stay-at-home
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. “Flight” of workers
68. Sanctuary
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)

The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: Economic Boycotts

Actions by Consumers
71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott

Action by Workers and Producers
78. Workmen’s boycott
79. Producers’ boycott

Action by Middlemen
80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

Action by Owners and Management
81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
83. Lockout
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ “general strike”

Action by Holders of Financial Resources
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money

Action by Governments
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo

The Methods Of Economic Noncooperation: The Strike

Symbolic Strikes
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

Agricultural Strikes
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm Workers’ strike

Strikes by Special Groups
101. Refusal of impressed labor
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike

Ordinary Industrial Strikes
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathetic strike

Restricted Strikes
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike

Multi-Industry Strikes
116. Generalized strike
117. General strike

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures
118. Hartal
119. Economic shutdown
The Methods Of Political Noncooperation

Rejection of Authority
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
138. Sitdown
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
148. Mutiny

Domestic Governmental Action
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organizations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organizations

The Methods Of Nonviolent Intervention

Psychological Intervention
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
a) Fast of moral pressure
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention
162. Sit-in
163. Stand-in
164. Ride-in
165. Wade-in
166. Mill-in
167. Pray-in
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
176. Stall-in
177. Speak-in
178. Guerrilla theater
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
188. Dumping
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

Birds on Rosh Hashanah

I asked the birds about their plans for Rosh Hashanah, now that the temples would be closed. Not sure how observant or knowing they were, I explained that the name of the holy day meant “head of the year”, that is, the new year. It begins the ten days, called the Days of Awe, that end with Yom Kippur, the “day of repentance”. Sometimes we fashion Rosh Hashanah as the birthday of the world, the anniversary of creation. This year, instead of dressing up in fine clothes to mingle and sing, we will be on Zoom. Maybe we will dress up, maybe we won’t.

Will you be on Zoom for Rosh Hashanah, I asked. Will you dress up? Will you gather together to sing? Will you repent? Will it be awesome?

I got my answer.

Stones along the way

Stones along the way

Today I collect
only green stones
along the way
tomorow brown
the next day red.
Is there a system
a pattern an explanation?
Why those colors on those days?
Why not?

© Bob Schwartz

The only way Donald Trump Jr. got a “bestseller” is to publish it himself and make it free

The only way Donald Trump Jr. got a “bestseller” is to publish it himself and make it free.

I admit to being a little curious about what Donald Trump Jr. had to say in his book, just published a week ago. So I went to Kindle, figuring I could at least read a sample for free.

What a surprise! The entire book is free on Kindle, at least to the many customers who are part of the subscription Kindle Unlimited program, which allows you to read a large selection of books for free. It turns out that Junior’s Liberal Privilege is one of those.

This made me more curious to learn which reputable publisher had actually signed him up to write this book and then offered it free. Again surprised, but maybe not, the publisher of this “bestseller” is…Donald Trump Jr.


I still haven’t opened the book, and may not. If I do, any urge to share will be outweighed by our need to focus, as much as practically possible, on the true and the good. It’s been challenging enough constantly hearing, reading and repeating the words of Senior, who remains a genuine threat. Junior seems to have inherited his father’s unlimited sense of self-importance. But really, he’s just a pipsqueak with a beard.

Trump: Since I’ve led you distrust everybody, you might as well trust me.

It is a diabolical bit of black magic, but history sadly tells us it sometimes works.

First, the demagogue destroys trust in everything and everybody. When it comes to trust, this creates—as strange as it seems—a level playing field. That is, if you can’t trust everyone, you might as well trust anyone.

Second, the demagogue says: If you might as well trust anyone, why not me? I’m no less trustworthy than anybody else.

A logician can blow holes a mile wide in this, but people are not logicians, they are people. People “think” with their feelings (it is common for Trump to reach conclusions about what he “feels” where others would usually offer thoughtful support).

Where suffering could be alleviated by thinking and truth, demagogues offer feelings and lies. Where chaos is self-inflicted, demagogues offer promises of order. Where trust is eliminated, demagogues say “trust me.”

180,000 dead pixels. And counting.

America: Did you think it would always be that way?

A prime part of American exceptionalism is how relatively new the nation is. One result is that for many Americans their sense of history goes back three centuries or less, for some just a few decades, if there is any sense of history at all.

It is ironic in one way. America, even with defections, is still a Judeo-Christian society. Both traditions look back in belief and scripture at least two millennia. That should be a clue that things have been radically different over time, that things of then are not things of now, and that things of now will not always be thus.

Everything changes.

Much of the world knows this experientially. Not only do countries east and west have long histories. Those histories are steeped in changes, some benign, some malign, all a part of natural impermanence.

All things must pass.

America justifiably wants to keep the best of itself and its institutions. That desire has been made more pointed by two overlapping phenomena: a leader who cares nothing for the best and well-being of America and a virus that cares nothing for the best and well-being of América.

The nexus of these has America desperate for the way things were, in ways little and big. Those ways are both existentially significant or trivial. The significant and existential ones should not be lightly abandoned. But as we fight for the way things were, we must acknowledge right now what most nations know from their complex histories: whatever that was or this is, it isn’t forever.

The boy who cried “healthy”

One reason not to lie constantly, or not to ask others to constantly lie for you, is that someday you may find the truth useful.

On a Saturday afternoon last November, Trump was whisked away from the White House to Walter Reed Medical Center. No explanation was provided, at least not a plausible one. There was some excuse that it was the first half of an annual physical continued in April, but this split examination defies standard medical practice.

As for Trump’s health, he is obese, is known to have a terrible diet, and gets practically no exercise (golf with a golf cart doesn’t count). Despite that, his former White House doctor Ronny Jackson was stunned by his good health, saying that he could live to be 200 if he ate better.

Today we have revelations that Trump’s doctor rode with him to Walter Reed—an unheard of practice—and that Mike Pence was also at the hospital, leading to the conclusion that whatever was going on, some temporary transfer of power might be needed.

Trump has directed his current doctor to deny that the visit concerned a number of serious conditions (this doctor didn’t mention how long Trump might live). Above all, however, neither the doctor nor anyone else at the White House will tell Americans precisely what went on at Walter Reed.

Leaving us to speculate that it was in fact very serious. Because if it was not serious, why cover it up? You say it wasn’t serious, but why would we believe you now?