Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day One-Hundred Thirty-Seven: Legislation Fail (Also, Overactive Response Fail!)

Well this has become amusing.

Quick recap: Remember a month or so ago when a Dallas Cowboys (that's a football team) practice facility collapsed and injured a bunch of people? Apparently, that's because either the architect or engineer or lighting person for that facility didn't know what they were doing. The Texas State Legislature has decided to take action to try to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, so they're trying to find a way to require their designers of lighting to show understanding of structural engineering before letting them hang really big, heavy lighting equipment where people will be doing important things (like playing football).

However, once the bill went from the House to the Senate, the language was changed a bit to say that no Lighting Designer would be allowed to practice in the state of Texas without a degree in engineering, or some such thing. Needless to say, this would be tragic to all sorts of performance-based institutions such as theatre, dance, sports, modeling, etc., that all have a person called a lighting designer so that people will be able to see the play, game, show, recital, etc. The way this law is currently worded, it would be illegal for those folks to do their thing without an engineering degree.


So, some well-intentioned theatre folks like the folks at set out the alert, asking people to contact Texas lawmakers to make sure this is taken care of. And apparently, people have responded. In droves. Occasionally very, very angry droves. Droves of people who are villainizing Texas lawmakers, saying they have an anti-arts bias, right-wing bigots that they are. Accusing the Texas senate of having a vendetta against theatrical lighting designers. Angry Facebook statuses pop up all over, bashing the entire state of Texas, what idiots run the place, how nothing good ever comes from here, how BUSH came from Texas, how the state just needs to go ahead and secede into its own irrelevance, blah, blah, blah.


First off, yes, the generality used in the new wording of the legislation is overly-simplified and dumb. It is, however, nothing more than an OVERSIGHT. I don't know what it is about we artists that we constantly think someone is out to get us. Especially conservative someones.

Second, yes, I definitely advocate contacting lawmakers about legislation that you disagree with. In fact, I plan on sending a note to my representative to make sure this oversight is examined and taken care of. Aside from theatre lighting designers potentially being thrown under the bus, there's the fact that this requires a bunch of people who already have jobs to suddenly get an entire second degree if they're to continue their livelihood. I hope there's some provision that would give current "lighting designers" assistance in order to comply with the new demand. However, if I'm a Texas lawmaker and I get a bunch of hate-mail from some wackos in New Hampshire and Oregon calling me a right-wing fundamentalist hate-mongerer (or anything along those lines) and find my inbox lined with seventy or so emails about the same topic, I'm going to tend to stop reading them after about three or four. Hopefully someone didn't have a well-reasoned statement in there anywhere, because it got lost in the overreactive furor.

Yes, the law is bone-headed. Clearly, the senators were uneducated in the various meanings of the term "lighting designer." Why, then, do we have to villify instead of educate? Why do we assume someone has to be out to get us and must be beaten down at all costs? Why can't we take a deep breath and think for a minute and a half before reacting?

Technology is great, but we have to realize that it has also amplified mankind's natural ability to make its problems worse instead of better. People are always going to overreact; email has just given us a way to overreact in a way that actually does some damage. ;-)

Anyway, I'm not too sure what my point is. Earlier today I was going to write more about the ignorance of the legislation, then I sat down to write and saw the note on backstagejobs asking people to be more respectful and less paranoid when contacting Texas state officials. And then all the Facebook comments of people who've never been to Texas ragging on Texans, and...

Yeah. There's stupid on both sides of this one. Go figure. Stupid really is as stupid does. (I don't care what today's critics say, Forrest Gump is still a great film)