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Dionysiun Report
Earlier this evening, I went to my first Dionysium event, their April 2006 meeting at the Alamo Drafthouse South. The name is pronounced "die-oh-knee-see-um". This is a project of Salvage Vanguard Theater among others to do a monthly salon with presentations, debate, and theater. I went into the program with high hopes and left with some interesting experiences but also a little disappointment.

What went well? The opening piece was a screening of a short film, part of the East Austin Stories project. It was about Honduran teens who took political asylum in the US to escape their violent gang life in their home country, and it highlighted a program here in Austin that provides support for these kids. The RTF program at UT has been doing this project as part of their introductory documentary filmmaking classes for several semesters, and they will soon be turning these pieces into a video podcast.

I also really enjoyed Wayne Alan Brenner's telling of a personal story titled "Coming & Going" that he'd written for the 2000 Austin Chronicle "sex" issue. Wayne's a brave, brave man and a really funny storyteller, even though the content is probably more "Austin weird" than "highbrow salon".

What didn't work? The debate was the centerpiece of the evening, but I didn't think either debater provided an effective argument. The topic was "Resolved: That American military power can be neither effective nor justified in bringing about democracy in other societies." In the affirmative was Pat Youngblood of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, while taking the contrary view was Alan Blake, CEO of Yorktown Technologies. Pat argued that the US had a poor track record with military intervention, with many of our efforts pushing our own country's interest over the democratization of the rest of the world. However, he gave a lot of ground on the morality of military action to preserve human rights in the abstract, and he failed to show that it would be unjust and ineffective for the US to act if it really had the goal of bringing democracy to a troubled region. However, Alan's argument relied on an appeal to the Declaration of Independence and a recital of Japan and Germany as example of the US being effective in setting up democratic systems. When questioned, he usually dodged the meat of the question by saying we're dealing with abstractions. At the end of the speeches and audience interrogatory, a vote was held, and the resolution passed by a small margin, but I don't think the format adequately explored the deep issues involved in this question.

There also was a performance by the core group of Violet Crown Radio Players, doing the last act of their recent Molly McCoy aviatrix saga. The timing for this was a bit off; they'd done a much better job when I saw their show at the Hideout earlier this month. Better was the closing commercial, a pitch for the MoneyGo Vulcanizer, a rubber coating sprayer that can be used on furniture, pets, and children.

The evening was closed by everyone singing the Philosopher Drinking song from Monty Python. That was fun, and I did appreciate the musical interludes played on the organ by the talented Graham Reynolds. I think I'd attend again in the future, but I'll probably not make a big effort to get tickets unless the topic and speakers looked to be really interesting.