Tyger Tyger, Burning Bright

There was an interesting and rather lengthy article in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week about the puppetry program at West Virginia University. It is apparently one of the few degree programs in puppetry in the country. As you might imagine, it is in danger of being shutdown.

The article notes that while puppetry is held in high regard in many cultures, it is considered low culture and content for children in the U.S.

In Indonesia, wayang kulit, or shadow-puppet shows, would stretch from night until dawn, illuminated by oil lamps. In Japan’s Bunraku theater, which originated in the 17th century, apprentices toiled for 10 years to master manipulating just the feet of dignified puppets.

Yet is appears in more sophisticated content evoking delight from mass audiences:

That perception has staying power, even in the midst of a multidecade renaissance. The Lion King and its dazzling animal puppets became the highest-grossing Broadway musical of all time. The internet erupted when it first saw Baby Yoda, who is brought to life in the television series The Mandalorian, in part, by a puppet.


Puppetry abounds. And yet it remains peripheral. Puppet theater has “never fully established a fixed role for itself in contemporary American society,” writes John Bell, a prolific puppet scholar, in his 2000 book Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History. It “has had to constantly reinvent itself in order to survive.”

Of course there is also the recent production of Life of Pi that also uses life sized puppetry rather effectively. I saw this video of a lecture using the tiger puppet from the production on Reddit a few months ago. In some respects it is a more effective illustration of the work that went into the show than some of the promotional videos the production put out. Even though people can clearly see the three people manipulating the puppet within arm’s reach, the coordination and motion study the team invested sends people scurrying back.

Will Airline Fraud Provide Impetus For Google To Stamp Out Clone Ticketing Sites?

About a month ago, I wrote about the Fix the Tix Coalition which is advocating for laws to change exploitative ticket practices. Among the practices they were trying to change is websites masquerading as the official ticketing site of different venues.

Speaking from personal experience, the venue I run has a ticketing service that took out a Google ad smack in the middle of our venue listing on the Google results page.  Even though there is a button labeled for our website, we have tons of people that follow the fake link, buy tickets for many times the list price and swear up and down they bought them from us.

Well it seems scammers are doing a similar thing with the Google results for major airlines. According to an NBC News story, scammers have managed to change to list different telephone numbers for the airlines.  When people call to make or change reservations, they end up giving their credit card number and personal information to a thief.

Instead of reaching a Delta employee, Evers said he spoke to a man with a thick accent who hung up and called him back from a different number. That man then asked for payment to book a rescheduled flight. Evers recognized it as a scam and scrapped his trip.

He then went on to document six other airlines, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Air France, that had incorrect numbers served up by Google.


A Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company does “not tolerate this misleading activity.”

“Our teams have already begun reverting the inaccuracies, suspending the malicious accounts involved, and applying additional protections to prevent further abuse,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson refused to address questions about how long the problem persisted, how many airlines were successfully impersonated, or why there weren’t better protections in place for major companies like the airlines.

Google has struggled to counter scammers who have learned how to get fake contact information to show up when users look up a company on Google Search or Maps.

While I would hope Google would take steps to eliminate ticketing fraud when they find a way to effectively stamp out the efforts of the folks masquerading as airlines given that they can see what a big problem it is, I suspect performance venues are too small an industry and the ad venue too enticing to inspire them to implement similar measures.

Fix The Tix Coalition Makes Bold Demands To End Exploitative Ticketing Practices

A little over a month ago, I wrote about the newly formed Fix the Tix coalition which is urging the US Congress to pass legislation to protect ticket buyers from exploitative ticket pricing/manipulation, ticketing scams, and use of bots to purchase high demand tickets.

Last week they released the details of what they are pushing Congress to enact. It is pretty much everything ticket buyers and venue operators have been praying for.

In addition to restrictions on just plain gouging, the plan calls for the end of speculative ticket selling by requiring sellers to legally have physical or virtual ownership of tickets.

● require that resellers and ticket resale platforms legally obtain each ticket and have each ticket in possession, virtually or physically, prior to placing it on sale.
● require that the ticket resale platform has written proof that a reseller possesses a ticket to sell.

Similarly, they ask that attempts to make a ticketing site masquerade as official outlet of a venue be made illegal.

● make illegal the use of deceptive URLs, search engine optimization, or advertising that improves the visibility of secondary sites over primary sales platforms and makes fans believe they are buying tickets from the venue or artist.
● require secondary ticketing resellers and platforms to clearly and conspicuously disclose:
○ a notice that it is not the primary ticket issuer and venue;
○ that a ticket may still be available from the primary ticket seller and link back to the primary ticket seller;
○ the original face value and fees of each ticket; and
○ a certification that the event ticket offered for sale is in the possession of the reseller or secondary ticketing platform.

Note, I haven’t listed everything they are asking to occur in each of these situations. Check out the full document for more info.

As you might imagine, they are also insisting on full transparency for fees up front during the purchasing experience.

In terms of privacy and safety, they are asking the secondary market sellers be required to provide venues with the contact info of ticket purchasers so they can be reached in case of emergency or rescheduling. But they also insist that secondary market buyer information be protected and not used for sales and marketing without purchaser permission.

As mentioned, Fix the Tix also want to prevent tickets from being snatched up by bots and to ensure secondary ticket sales are made at or near face value on a one on one basis rather than by corporations to individuals:

● ensure that artists, working with venues, determine how to get tickets into the hands of actual fans.
● prohibit companies that operate both primary and secondary ticketing platforms from forcing tickets sold for more than face value to only be resold on their platforms.
● encourage ticketing platforms to operate exclusive, no-fee, fan-to-fan exchanges of tickets as long as they are not exchanged on those exclusive platforms for more than the face value (or the original total cost) of the ticket.
● prohibit companies that are primary sellers and secondary resellers from offering secondary resales on the same web page or display where the primary seller also offers tickets for primary sale.

More Prescribing Arts To Cure You

Artsjournal linked to a piece in a University of Florida journal about a program the university is piloting in the hopes of eventually rolling out a national program of prescribing arts to solve mental and physical ills. I have written about similar programs before where doctors prescribe arts and nature to patients.  My biggest issue is that instead of proactively working to change society and culture to emphasize taking care of yourself mentally and physically or normalizing participation in creative activities, the approach of these programs is to essentially prescribe carving out time to relax and take up enjoyable activities.

The article even alludes to the fact that medical care is associated with a degree of unpleasantness in the US.  Many people feel some wariness about arts experiences so making it a medical cure can compound a sense of alienation.

“Our health care system doesn’t have a structure that enables people to engage in things that are enjoyable and support their health. We’re acculturated toward taking medicine,” Sonke says. “If your doctor says, ‘I think you need to take a pottery class or a dance class, to get out and be more social and more creative,’ is that going to feel like you’re not being taken seriously?”

Even the name presents an issue.

“Social prescribing as a term works in the U.K., because social care is a concept that everyone understands. In the U.S., social services are highly stigmatized and highly politicized, so that language is problematic,” Sonke says.

The only upside I see from the description of this initiative is that it is intentionally disassociated with medical facilities and personnel.

Social prescribing differs from arts in medicine in a few key ways. Instead of bringing arts into a health care setting, it aims to infuse social and cultural activities into daily life. Second, the activities are led by artists and community-based organizations, not health care workers or therapists. Third, while clinical treatments are intended to serve their purpose, then end, social and creative arts involvement can continue after medical intervention concludes.

When a health care provider identifies a patient who could benefit from social and cultural engagement, they refer them to a “link worker” whose role is to match them with an activity in their community, Sonke explains. And while it’s not meant to replace medical intervention, it gives primary-care providers more ways to help patients who aren’t thriving.

Creative activities shouldn’t be in a position of being an option of last resort for your health and well-being. The first time people are encouraged to visit a museum shouldn’t be after suffering years of sleepless nights, mounting anxiety, and heart palpitations.