On Philanthropy and Politics

[This was written in 2001 or so. I haven’t updated it but present it here for posterity. – Lee 9-20-05]


I am a soft Libertarian. I could talk for a while about this but I’ve got more important things to do than argue over the internet.

I’d rather yell at you in person.

See what being a Libertarian is about.

Hey, want to know what our congress is doing (or not ;-) right now? See the actual text of bills and find out what bills are coming up for legislation. Go talk to Thomas.

Here are some important documents:

Lee on Philanthropy

A while ago, I ran the web site at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline Mass and until September 2001 I ran their mailing list. I haven’t been to the theater in several years now… I’ve been living near NYC and don’t get up to Boston that much.

Several years ago, Julie and I decided to do volunteer work. We couldn’t think of what organization we wanted to volunteer our time to. We thought about Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens, helping the homeless, and the like but it just didn’t get us excited. We thought about it a while and knew that we had to pick a charity that we felt good about. It’s easy to pick something that’s hard to do. If you are doing something that you’re not really good at, it’s easy to feel like you’re “working hard” at it. When actually, you’re just a thorn in the side of your charity. The goal here is to -do- something, not just feel all warm and gushy inside.

We also thought a long time about the kind of charity we wanted to donate our time to. We had to feel good about what we were accomplishing. If we helped build a house in Kentucky, then some guy or family a thousand miles away will have a roof over his head. Of course, that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t do much for my world. Saving starving children in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, or China is nice but getting a couple pictures and a story from the Save the Children Fund is still a bit distant.

We wanted something:
– hands-on – signing a check is too quick
– present – helping people thousands of miles away just isn’t satisfying
– that used current skills. My charity doesn’t want to have to teach me how to use a bandsaw
– that we could appreciate – after helping, I want to be able to stand back and admire it a little

It was a difficult choice, putting that last one on the list. It sounds too vain. But we figured out for ourselves that it’s ok for a component of philanthropy to be vanity.

So Julie and I began helping the Coolidge. I helped to run their web site and fully administered their schedule mailing list. Those were things that I was good at and they needed. It felt pretty good. I’m glad I did it. It feels good knowing that I helped The Coolidge stay around.

We picked the Coolidge I volunteered my services there because:

  • Indie film takes risks. Big Cinema often caters to the least common denominator. That usually makes it boring. It’s really quite frightening how people are attracted to such dreck. At least when Indie film is bad, it’s REALLY bad, and you still have something to talk about.
  • The Coolidge is an authentic 1920’s Deco Style theater. It’s just plain cool inside. There’s all these details and cool features that make me feel like this place was really made for the theater-going experience
  • They have pretty good popcorn.
  • The occasional live performance and event at the theater is always cool. They have folks like:
  • Annie Sprinkle, Sexpert
  • The Alloy Orchestra performing for silent films. Seeing them perform for their print of Metropolis in ’94 was an AMAZING experience. I heard a piece about them on NPR recently (4-20-02). They’re famous!
  • Each year, there’s the 24hr Science Fiction Marathon
  • It’s good to volunteer for a good cause. I know I’m not saving the whales or educating underprivileged youth but I’m doing something that I can believe in. I’m helping to keep alive a cultural icon that I think is very important.

    1. DUDE!!!! C'MON says:

      this is BORING

    2. Lee says:

      Sorry you feel that way. Have you taken a look at any of the other 1,600 or so posts on my blog?

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