Sunday, October 07, 2012

London, 1928:Mr. Belloc Called it Right, But There Is Still Time To Get It Right

I guess Bill O'Reilly and John Stewart went at it last night.  They had a debate -  A gifted comic genius and an ego on steroids.  

John Stewart is brilliant.  Bill O'Reilly has a massive following.  Politically, I might be closer to O'Reilly, but that is about it.  I don't get the guy.  John Stewart on the other hand has a mind like a Swiss CPA and good humor and comic timing of a Chicago Homicide Detective.

Bill O¿Reilly and Jon Stewart onstage at O'Reilly Vs. Stewart 2012: The Rumble In The Air-Conditioned Auditorium

I imagine John Stewart mopped the floor with Bloviating Bill.

Eighty four years ago, two literary giants went tusk to tusk in London  George Bernard Shaw and GK Chesterton. Read the debate. I am going to see a dramatic presentation of this event this afternoon at the Provision Theatre* ( 1001 West Roosevelt Road).  

The conclusion by the moderator, Hilaire Belloc is the pay-off.

Mr. Belloc scored the only real hit in the verbal combat with his prophetic analysis of the end of the industrial age.

MR. BELLOC: I was told when I accepted this onerous office that I was to sum up. I shall do nothing of the sort. In a very few years from now this debate will be antiquated. I will now recite you a poem: "Our civilization Is built upon coal. Let us chant in rotation Our civilization That lump of damnation Without any soul, Our civilization Is built upon coal. "In a very few years, It will float upon oil. Then give three hearty cheers, In a very few years We shall mop up our tears And have done with our toil. In a very few years It will float upon oil." In I do not know how many years--five, ten, twenty--this debate will be as antiquated as crinolines are. I am surprised that neither of the two speakers pointed out that one of three things is going to happen. One of three things: not one of two. It is always one of three things. This industrial civilization which, thank God, oppresses only the small part of the world in which we are most inextricably bound up, will break down and therefore end from its monstrous wickedness, folly, ineptitude, leading to a restoration of sane, ordinary human affairs, complicated but based as a whole upon the freedom of the citizens. Or it will break down and lead to nothing but a desert. Or it will lead the mass of men to become contented slaves, with a few rich men controlling them. Take your choice. You will all be dead before any of the three things comes off. One of the three things is going to happen, or a mixture of two, or possibly a mixture of the three combined. (emphases my own)
After finally watching the Obama/Romney debate which I recorded, I re-read the above.

Mitt Romney gets what Belloc spoke about, especially his fifteen words about using clean coal as a path to relieving some of our economic burden. The day after the debate, I read where coal stocks soared on the markets.  President Barack Obama fully embraces the words of Belloc that I emphasized in dark ink.

Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate
Review by Lauren Whalen 
Opposites attract: the principle doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. To quote one of my favorite sitcoms, “We’re friends. We don’t need to have anything in common.”George Bernard Shaw and GK Chesterton – two of the finest literary minds of the 20th century – had very little in common. Shaw was an atheist, socialist and vegetarian, while Chesterton was a Christian distributist who loved meat. Yet the two remained best friends who relished a stirring yet respectful debate. Based on actual exchanges between the playwright and journalist, Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate is an intelligent peek into the minds of two brilliant men, though the talk-heavy format may not appeal to everyone.
The play begins with Shaw (Lawrence McCauley) and Chesterton (Brad Armacost) preparing for an onstage debate, while bantering playfully and assisting moderator Belloc (Michael Downey) with his bloody nose. Throughout an intermission-less 85 minutes, Shaw and Chesterton interact with audience members, tease Belloc and embark on friendly verbal sparring: first on the topics of politics and religion, then in a “lightning round” with spectator input. But Chesterton has a secret that, when revealed, will throw Shaw for a loop and could change the friendship forever.Some elements of Shaw vs. Chesterton feel superfluous: for example, Inseung Park’s otherwise spot-on set design includes chairs bolted to the walls. Why is that necessary? Also, the play opens with Jim Poole’s video compilation of famous debates from this century and last, involving Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Richard Nixon, among others. Because this audience is attending a play with the word “debate” in the title – and most of them have probably watched television in the past decade – they are well aware of what a debate actually entails and don’t need it spelled out for them.
And at its core, Shaw vs. Chesterton is just that: an hour-plus-long debate. Only two scenes showcase Shaw and Chesterton’s relationship outside of the back-and-forth: more human and less showy, these were my favorites, and I wanted more of the same. While the talk of property and religion is both interesting and frighteningly relevant, I wasn’t always engaged. I could appreciate the intellectual sparring, but I wanted to learn more about the men themselves and their unique friendship.
Despite a script that doesn’t always compel, the three actors have a wonderful time onstage and share this joy with the audience. Downey brings a light comic touch to his moderator role, with relatable frustration when the sparring gets slightly out of control. As Chesterton, Armacost articulates conservative beliefs with a jolly fervor and a deep respect for his opponent. And McCauley’s bombastic and hilarious Shaw radiates wit and good humor with flawless delivery of lines such as “I’m an atheist – and I thank God for it!” He wields his pocket watch like a weapon, dispelling the friendliest of fire, with brotherly love for Chesterton shining through every syllable.
As this contentious election year has proved, people find comfort in their beliefs. They also find comfort in each other. Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate effectively illustrates what happens when two brilliant individuals agree to disagree, chatting all the way.Timothy Gregory’s direction of two stellar actors is promising – if only his adaptation had been more engaging.,0,7546780.story

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