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On the surface, "Walking to Buchenwald" is a quirky, comedic play about the typical drama surrounding a family trip. But a closer look reveals an exploration into gender, love, and what it means to be an American.

The show, presented by the Open Fist Theatre Company in Los Angeles, follows soon-to-be married couple Schiller and Arjay as they take Schiller's aging parents on their first trip to Europe. Based on a real trip the playwright, Tom Jacobson, took with his family, the provocative comedy touches on hot-button topics like politics, gender, marriage, and what it's like to be an American abroad when the president of the United States is pretty unpopular.

Christopher Cappiello, Justin Huen, Ben Martin, and Laura James. Photo by Darrett Sanders.


But the play gets really interesting when you learn Jacobson wrote Schiller and Arjay without any specific gender. So, depending on the night, the show is either about a male same-sex couple or a female same-sex couple.

"I definitely wanted to do that from the beginning because it does change the play and how we feel about the characters," Jacobson says. "One of the reasons we encourage people to see the play more than once is to really engage in questions of how do we perceive a story based on who's enacting the story."

Since the actors are literally performing the same material, those changes and altered perceptions largely come from the audience's expectations and implicit biases around gender.

Mandy Schneider, Amielynn Abellera, Ben Martin, and Laura James. Photo by Darrett Sanders.

The production doesn't just give audiences the opportunity to rethink how they see the world — the actors also get a chance to collaborate and perform like never before.

Christopher Cappiello and Mandy Schneider both play Schiller, one-half of the show's same-sex couple. Both actors brought their own choices and idiosyncrasies to the role, but for lighting and technical reasons, they had to hit identical marks and blocking to avoid confusing the other actors they performed with. This required some serious collaboration and the support of a very patient director, Roderick Menzies.

"There was no sense of competition or resentment. I think it made it stronger for everyone," says Cappiello.

Photo by Darrett Sanders.

For Schneider, the role offered the rare opportunity to play a leading, multidimensional woman character. As an actress, she says she doesn't often see roles for women that are this fleshed out.

"Many women in various plays, pieces, they don't show every single emotion. And I feel like this is really exciting that I get to show everything —from sadness to anger to frustration," Schneider says. "This is personally the first time I've played a woman like this in a long time."

She even flew her family in from the Midwest to see the show. "I don't know when I'll get this kind of role again."

Photo by Darrett Sanders.

In addition to gender-blind casting, it's no small thing that Jacobson's play features gay and lesbian characters in leading roles.

Both Cappiello and Amielynn Abellera, who plays Arjay opposite Mandy Schneider, identify as gay, and say they relished the rare opportunity to play gay characters. These compelling, diverse roles can go a long way toward improving representation.

"Visibility is really what's brought the sense of a normal life to LGBTQ people. Coming Out Day, pride parades ... that has been crucial to communicating to the public who we are," Jacobson says. "It's important to communicate that we're not afraid and that we are in some ways like everyone else and in some ways very different, and unique, and worthy of being cherished."

Photo by Darrett Sanders.

The show also offers a timely political discussion — particularly impressive given that it was written 14 years ago.

Jacobson took the trip with his family in 2003, just when the war in Iraq was kicking into gear. Much of that real-life trip included European locals telling his family exactly what they thought of America and President George W. Bush. Though Jacobson wrote the show to be evergreen, not mentioning the president or conflict by name, he expected the play to be produced quickly. It wasn't. Once President Obama entered the office, the material seemed dated and less relevant, and it spent years on the shelf.

In 2016, hedging their bets on a Clinton victory in the presidential election, the Open Fist decided to do a reading of the play almost as a cautionary tale turned time capsule.

Then, Trump won.

"Instead, the play became more relevant and the theater said, 'Let's do a full production,'" Jacobson says.

The conflict and president are still unnamed, but the experience of being an American abroad while the country's reputation takes a nose dive is more applicable than ever before — almost too eerily close for comfort.

"There are ways in which we've been afraid that current events might overtake the play," Cappiello says. "Is this about to happen? And is our play now going to become a work of history, instead of hopefully a warning?"

Photo by Darrett Sanders.

"Walking to Buchenwald" explores these events and nuanced conversations with humor and heart, as only art can.

The show continues its run with the Open Fist Theatre Company in Los Angeles through Oct. 21.

While the play isn't widely available in most of the country, Jacobson would love to see it run in other cities. If the show is something you'd like to bring to your area, he suggests reaching out to your local or community theaters to lobby for a staging.

"There's so much that it's hitting upon that's happening right here and right now that's extremely important," Schneider says. "I hope as many people see it as possible."

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

Pop Culture

TikTok star's surprising method for finding good Chinese food is blowing people's minds

Yelp can be a helpful tool for scoping out food joints, but maybe not in the way you think.

Photo by Debbie Tea on Unsplash

Different cultures view service differently.

Content creator Freddy Wong has a brilliantly easy way to find authentic Chinese food.

As he reveals in a mega viral video that’s racked up 9.4 million views on TikTok and 7.7 million views on Twitter, the trick (assuming you live in a major metropolitan area) is to “go on Yelp and look for restaurants with 3.5 stars, and exactly 3.5 stars." Not 3. Not 4. 3.5.

He then backs up his argument with some pretty undeniable photo evidence.

First, he pulls up an image of a Yelp page from P.F. Chang’s. With only 2.5 stars, one can tell the food is “obviously bad.” Alternatively, Din Tai Fung—a globally recognized Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant—has four stars.

Sounds good right? Wrong. In this case, “too many stars” means that “too many white people like it,” indicating that the restaurant is being judged on service rather than food quality. According to Wong, if “the service is too good, the food is not as good as it could be.”

He then pulls up the Yelp page for a couple of local Chinese restaurants, both of which have 3.5 stars. The waiters at these establishments might “not pay attention to you,” he admits, adding that they might even be “rude.” But, Wong attests, “it’s going to taste better.”

@rocketjump

Why I only go to Chinese restaurants with 3.5 star ratings

♬ original sound - RocketJump

"The dumplings here are better [than Din Tai Fung's]. I've been here," he says of the 3.5 star Shanghai Dumpling House. Considering his Twitter profile boasts a “James Beard Award winning KBBQ Gourmand'' title, it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

So, why is this 3.5 rule the “sweet spot”? As Wong explains, it all comes down to different “cultural expectations.”

“In Asia, they’re not as proactive. They’re not going to come up to you, they’re not going to just proactively give you refills, you need to flag down the waiter,” he says, noting the different interpretations of service.

"People on Yelp are insufferable,” he continues, arguing that “they're dinging all these restaurants because the service is bad,” but the food is so good that it balances out the bad service. Hence, a 3.5-star rating. His reasoning is arguably sound—people do often give absurdly scathing reviews that in no way accurately reflect a restaurant’s food quality.

“A good Yelp review doesn’t mean it’s a good restaurant — it simply means the restaurant is good at doing things that won’t hurt their online rating,” Wong said in an interview with Today, adding that “highly rated Yelp restaurants are often those with counter service and limited menus, minimizing potential negative interaction with staff.”

He also added the caveat, “I don’t have anything against those places, but I think people who only eat at the ‘highest rated’ restaurants on online review sites are only eating at the most boring restaurants.”

A ton of people in the comments seem to back Wong’s theory.

best chinese food

100% accurate, some say

TikTok

Plus, the theory seems to not be limited to just Chinese restaurants, further implying that maybe there’s more of a cultural misunderstanding, rather than any real lack of quality.

thai food near me

No drink refills but the food is fire.

TikTok

yelp reviews, yelp

2.8 is the new 5

TikTok

One of the gifts that our modern world provides is the opportunity to truly experience and appreciate other cultures. Since food is easily one of the most accessible (and enjoyable) ways to do that, perhaps we should prioritize seeking authenticity, rather than rely on a flawed and superficial rating system.

As Wong told Today, “I hope it encourages people to go out and eat more food from not only Chinese restaurants, but restaurants representing the whole world of cultural cuisines.”

Education

How a 3,800-year-old stone tablet helped create modern legal systems

'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't that new of a concept.

Kind of looks like the Matrix code...

The modern justice system is certainly not without its flaws, however most can agree that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is one that (when not abused) stands as the foundation of what fair due process looks like. This principle, it turns out, isn’t so modern at all. It can actually be traced all the way back to nearly 3,800 years ago.

historyLady Justice, the image of impartial fairness. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

English barrister Sir William Garrow is known for coining the "innocent until proven guilty" phrase between the 18th and 19th century, after insisting that evidence be provided by accusers and thoroughly tested in court. But this notion, as radical as it seemed at the time, can, in fact, be credited to an ancient Babylonian king who ruled Mesopotamia.

During his reign from 1792 to 1750 B.C., Hammurabi left behind a legacy of accomplishments as a ruler and a diplomat. His most influential contribution was a series of 282 laws and regulations that were painstakingly compiled after he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws, then adapted or eliminated them in order to create a universal system.

Those laws were inscribed on a large, seven-foot stone monument, and they were known as the Code of Hammurabi.

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via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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