Monday, March 18, 2019

New Jersey represent

I didn't know about this video until somebody on Twitter posted a link to some band covering "Because the Night" and I went Googling to see if Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith had ever performed their only co-written song together. 

I was born in Philadelphia and I've lived in NYC for ten years now, but I spent my young adulthood in New Jersey and most of that time Springsteen and Smith were rock and roll icons - Springsteen from North Jersey, Smith from South Jersey.

There's something so cool about seeing them together.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Back to Sheplers

About twelve years ago I realized that the online seller I was buying my cowgirl boots from, Sheplers, was selling merchandise with Confederate flags as "rebel wear."


I am pleased to say that I've just been through their web site and no longer find any hint of treason, so I can now shop at Sheplers again.

Things can change for the better.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

RIP Miss Willow



RIP Miss Willow.

I knew she didn't have much longer to live, she had hyperthyroidism and the medicine didn't seem to be working anymore, but the vet told me to give her twice as much and see if that helped. 

Her hyperthyroidism made her always want food and she loved to drink from the dripping faucet in the bathroom and she would wake me up to be fed.

She had such regular habits and I was so invested in her well-being in the past year, buying her special foods and baby foods. At the end I had to wipe her face after eating since she stopped grooming. 

But still, it was a shock to find her dead under the bed this morning.

She was semi-feral and did not like to be held, but she had the heart of a lion - if there was ever a threatening noise outside the door she would always run *towards* it, growling. 

Rest in peace brave little soul.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Kathy Griffin, American hero

My opinion of Kathy Griffin has gone up and down over the years - mostly up but every now and then... although I have been defending her for years.

No matter what though, I think there's no denying she is a true blue American hero.




In this video, for what appears to be a venture capital company, she seems disappointed and frustrated with the audience response. But I think she's expecting the kind of adulation she gets from her stand-up audience - but this isn't her stand-up audience. I think they like her though, they are just quieter than what she is used to.

The letter she reads towards the end of this clip, written for her by a board member of CBS to send to Trump (she names him in a different interview as Arnie Cobolson) is so groveling it reminded me of something out of "I, Claudius," of the way people would speak to Tiberius or Caligula.

That's the kind of tyrant that Trump would be if given a chance, his personality is exactly suited to being a Roman emperor. And the disgusting sleaze-bag Republican party and all the filthy monstrous MAGAs would love to give him that chance.

Watch the video. Griffin has been through some serious shit.

Funny story about me and Kathy Griffin, sort of. Years ago I had a huge crush on a guy, an actor, who didn't care for me but for whatever reason my feelings for him hung on for a long time in spite of that. I wrote poems about it and all. (Most of them are not good, but I think a few hold up.)

Kathy Griffin on
Law and Order SVU
This image forced her
character to come out
as a bisexual.
During the tail end of the crush, the actor played Kathy Griffin's boyfriend in an episode of Law and Order SVU. He got very little screen time - in fact most of his exposure in the episode was a still image - a selfie from his character's cellphone, kissing Kathy's character. In the plot this was a big deal because Kathy's character was an outspoken lesbian.

At the time the SVU episode was made, Kathy, although clearly a liberal with strong political opinions, mostly steered clear of politics to talk about celebrities. But she's become much more political thanks to being harassed by Trump and by MAGAs - so that she seems now much more like her SVU character than before.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Sprinter is here 2019


Sprinter is our shortest season - sometimes lasting only a day or two.

This year Sprinter was delayed thanks to the cold snap in the past week or so. But today it was just warm enough for Sprinter.


Saturday, March 02, 2019

We meet again Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

Seven and a half years ago I blogged about the significance of the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in my life. Little did I dream when I was getting arrested for civil disobedience at an anti-nukes demonstration that one day I would be working right next door.

I also finally discovered that I was pronouncing the name of the second Secretary-General of the UN wrong - I was saying it like "dag hammer-shold" when apparently it's pronounced "dog hammarhwehlld."


 

Friday, March 01, 2019

Mon anniversaire

I admit I've asked Siri several times when my birthday is, just so she will wish me a joyeux anniversaire.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

No escaping Sophie Blackall

LinkNYC kiosk with blessedly non-Blackall content
Well so much for my hope that the dread Sophie Blackall would stick to illustrating children's books after winning the Caldecott medal.

When the LinkNYC kiosks started popping up all over the UWS I was inclined to think they were, on the whole, good things. 

But then.

I was schlepping my laundry down the street the other day and was approaching the kiosk on the corner of my block, not really paying attention. Then I felt an inexplicable sickly feeling and my eyes beheld that all-too-familiar combination of faded colors, shoddy draftsmanship and humanoid characters with faces all built on the same weak and simpering template and instantly I knew what the source of my sickness was.

Blackall!

I tried to get my phone out quickly enough to document the atrocity but by the time I found my camera app it was gone and I was not about to stand out in the cold with twenty pounds of laundry on my back waiting for it to show up again.

It was bad enough I had to look at her hideous work in the subway, still a traumatic memory almost seven years later, but now it's ambushing me on my own block. And the thing is you never know, when looking at one of these kiosks, if a perfectly useful subway status is going to suddenly be replaced by a Blackall image.

Clearly there are some people who like Blackall's work but I can't explain their bad taste. All I know is that Blackall cannot draw for shit and I despise her work and it pisses me off that there are so many good artists all around and yet people keep encouraging Blackall and giving her money to perpetrate her awfulness. And then sticking it in my face without warning or mercy.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

KRUGMAN MASTERCLASS WHOOHOOOO!

Anybody reading this blog (now in its fourteenth year!) knows how much I admire Paul Krugman.

So of course I absolutely had to sign up for the Krugman Masterclass which was advertised on Youtube videos for Rachel Maddow. It was a little pricey at $90 but I decided to treat myself for my upcoming birthday (I share the date if not the year with Krugman.)


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

When Black Friday comes I'll be on that hill, you know I will

When Black Friday comes I'll fly down to Muswellbrook, gonna strike all the big red words from my little black book.

Gonna do just what I please, gonna wear no socks and shoes with nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos.



Sunday, February 17, 2019

Eileen's sister the Communist

Unlike my own mother, my friend Laura's mother was interested in politics and culture. My strongest memory of Eileen McGowan was her at her usual spot on the living room sofa watching the Watergate hearings. My first political involvement was going door-to-door giving out McGovern campaign flyers at her behest. My parents voted for Nixon.

And because Mrs. McGowan (I never called her Eileen myself) was interested in the arts, she took an interest in my cultural affairs. She knew that Laura and I had written our own fan fiction for "Tom Sawyer" - something my mother never knew, and frankly would not have cared had she known.

My mother has never recommended any literature to me, because she has no interest in literature herself, and has bragged that she got through high school English courses by reading the Classic Comics versions of novels.

Mrs. McGowan recommended I read "My Sister Eileen." I was never sure why exactly, other than, I guess, she enjoyed the book herself and wanted me to enjoy it. But I could not have been any older than eleven or twelve when she recommended it to me - in fact I wonder now if she recommended it to me because the author, Ruth McKenney, died in July 1972, only sixty years old. Her NYTimes obituary is here. Mrs. McGowan herself died in the mid-1980s and was in her late 50s.

I think I tried to read the book but didn't find it interesting. Primarily because it was about adults and at that time I was only interested in books about people my age.

So on Saturday I was researching for the next NYCPlaywrights podcast and wondering if I should put an audio clip from "His Girl Friday" into the podcast, since the theme is "romantic comedy" and I think the movie counts. Also, it's now in the public domain.

So while watching the movie for the tenth time, I was Googling around about the people in the movie and saw that Rosalind Russell, in addition to starring in "His Girl Friday" also starred in the first adaptation of of the book "My Sister Eileen." So I read the Wiki page for that and saw that the book was based on stories McKenney first published in The New Yorker - and since I have a New Yorker subscription which provides access to its entire archive I tracked those stories down.

Then I read McKenney's Wiki. Very very sad. "My Sister Eileen" was based on McKenney's adventures with her sister Eileen, who died at age 27 in a car crash, days before the theatrical adaptation of the book opened. McKenney's husband killed himself on her 44th birthday.

Over the opposition of lawyers for a company owned by President Donald J. Trump, State Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten ruled Thursday that a condominium on the Upper West Side could remove the bronze letters spelling out his name from its 46-story building.
McKenney became famous for her humorous stories about her family but what she really wanted to write about was labor issues. And until they were ousted by the Party, she and her husband were Communists.


McKenney's husband Richard Bransten, writing under his pen name Bruce Minton and speaking on behalf of himself and McKenney makes it clear that the couple believed that the US Communist party was not hard-core enough for their liking:
The leadership does not emphasize the great truth that workers must learn; Only socialism can make the people free, only socialism can rid the world of war and fascism. By no word does the American Communist Party at its National Committee Meeting hold the capitalist system to the full light of scorn. The leadership does not educate the American masses to the horror and evil of capitalism, to the awful reality that capitalism offers only terror, lynch, poverty, oppression of women, persecution of minorities, starvation, exploitation, racism, enslavement of peoples and nations, fascism, and war.
Wow, they took their Communism very seriously.

I'm afraid like all serious idealists they were doomed to disappointment. I was first disabused of political idealism when I sat in on a food co-op meeting when I was eighteen and for most of the meeting it was simply people complaining about other people in the group.

No organization of any significant size, from a Philadelphia food co-op to the Communist party will ever be peopled by enough obsessive policy wonks and nerds to satisfy the purity tests of idealists.

More people than not would rather get by with Classic Comics than making the greater effort to read the original. 

Would-be organizers of human beings ignore that at their peril.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thank you once again, Kwame Anthony Appiah

Appiah in Foreign Affairs writing in defense of Cosmopolitanism 
Furthermore, societies have moral and legal duties to admit at least some foreigners—namely, those escaping persecution and death. Those obligations are shared by the community of nations, so the burden must be distributed fairly. But each society must contribute to meeting the need.  
The fact that the localists share societies with cosmopolitans in countries that have duties to asylum seekers constrains the ways in which the localist camp can achieve the comforts of home. But the existence of the localists constrains what the cosmopolitans can do, as well. Democracy is about respecting the legitimate desires of fellow citizens and seeking to accommodate them when you reasonably can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Speaking of poetry...

Public domain, baby.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

It's nice to be appreciated



I wrote this haiku six years ago. When Jordan Davis, who I follow on Twitter, tweeted  this morning "I would like to read some poetry now please" I impulsively tweeted him my haiku.

Davis is poetry editor for The Nation so it was especially nice to have him react positively to my work.

According to Wikipedia Davis is a "flarf" poet.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Pinkerite


One of these days I'm going to get the Pinkerite podcast off the ground. In the meantime I've been adding to the blog of the same name.

I created the logo. I think it's pretty snazzy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More obnoxiousness from the brocialists

I've mentioned on this blog before I have issues with Barbara Ehrenreich so I wasn't surprised by her recent idiotic tweet:


Absolutely standard brocialist talking point - any woman Democrat who isn't Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is garbage. 

When Ehrenreich released "Nickeled and Dimed" I thought it was a great idea for a book - Ehrenreich went undercover as an unskilled laborer to see what a shitty life it was.

But she could have just asked me, the ex-wife of her buddy Zvi in Key West, how shitty it was. 

I struggled as a single mother all those years raising my daughter with almost no support from my ex-husband. Once in awhile I would get a big payment from him if he had sold a lot of marijuana, but overall he got away with paying a very small amount of child support. So I did the usual thing poor people do - got welfare, got food stamps, got free government cheese, and then through being in the right place at the right time was able to use the personal computer revolution to work my way up to a decent living one less-shitty-job at a time. Without a college degree.

And of course my ex contributed nothing to my daughter's college education which was financed through a combination of grants and loans taken out by my daughter and myself. I finally finished paying off the loan for my daughter's education this year. Unlike me she was able to go to college for four years and graduate.

But why should Barbara Ehrenreich care? Zvi was devoted to what really mattered to him - marijuana rights - so why should he have to worry about getting a job to pay for his daughter?

It's just like Bernie Sanders who was too busy writing for obscure political rags that paid nothing while his son was little - Sanders, like my ex-husband, prioritized himself and his ambitions over his kid. And that doesn't bother people like Ehrenreich at all. Or my ex-friend "Reverend Bookburn."

I'm sure that Sanders' baby-momma made sure she had enough food in the house and paid the electric bill for the sake of her son - meanwhile Bernie was stealing electricity from his landlord for power, just like he tried to get power through the Democratic party while shitting on Democrats.

I hate these people with their self-satisfied ignorance and their hatred of women struggling uphill to actually be effective and get things done - people like Nancy Pelosi.

Fuck you Barbara Ehrenreich and your whole brocialist misogynist mob of shitheads.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

More Beatles awesomeness


I have my annual cold this week so I'm watching/listening to Beatle stuff to cheer up.

I re-watched Ron Howard's Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years on Hulu - I saw it when it was first out in the theater and had forgotten the part where it mentions the Beatles were vocally anti-segregation. The Youtube video here is the excerpt.

It turns out that the Beatles had an anti-segregation clause in their contract. But they also said they were anti-segregation publicly, in interviews as the clip above demonstrates.

I am convinced that this is the root of the anti-Beatles hysteria in the South in 1966. I think the racists were just looking for a chance to punish the Beatles and Lennon's "bigger than Jesus" gave them their excuse. In this interview McCartney seems to be alluding to just that.

 I think there's the makings of a play here.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Rom Coms again


Well I decided to do another call for submissions on the theme of "romantic comedy" for NYCPlaywrights again. This time for the podcast.

I bitched in several blog posts about the unromantic and uncomedic nature of so many of the submissions back in December 2014. And again. And again.

This time around the thing that annoys me the most are the "meet cute" submissions. That's when two people meet and fall in love, in the present context within the real-time span of a 10-minute play. The plays are almost always ridiculously fake because they are utterly derivative. They are based on movies the author has seen and certainly not on lived experience - because people don't meet and fall in love in ten minutes. If people in real life do go off together in real life after ten minutes it's because they like how the other person looks, not thanks to pun-ridden witty badinage, and it isn't about love it's about lust. And straight women almost never, ever decide to go off with some random man they just met.

The absolute worst of the meet-cutes are the meet-cutes on a first date after connecting on an Internet dating site. In real life those are never romantic and almost always extremely uncomfortable and disappointing. 

On the up side, this time around we only have to choose one play, not eight.




Thursday, January 17, 2019

Right-wing racists flipping out again because I created infographics


Obviously I'm never going to understand the thought processes of the racists who gather round Steve Sailer at Unz ~ so I despair of ever understanding why they have such a phobia about information in graphic format.


My graphics about Steven Pinker are the subject of controversy over at Unz. But the information I presented is virtually the same as the information that Bari Weiss presented in her Intellectual Dark Web article, connecting Steven Pinker to extremists:
Go a click in one direction and the group is enhanced by intellectuals with tony affiliations like Steven Pinker at Harvard. But go a click in another and you’ll find alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux and Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich (the #PizzaGate huckster) and Alex Jones (the Sandy Hook shooting denier).
And yet they don't seem to think the Weiss article is crazy.

One of my Unz reader critics took exception to my criticizing the art of Sophie Blackall - but presumably doesn't mind that Steven Pinker devoted an entire chapter in "The Blank Slate" to ranting about modern art

You can't expect consistency from those wacky "race realists."

Monday, January 14, 2019

As anyone could have predicted Steven Pinker and Pinkerite Jesse Singal go the full Quillette

Look it's the gang from Unz.

Given Singal's well-known transphobia, and given that bashing trans people is one of Quillette's favorite activities - it was not only inevitable but I wonder what took him so long to start working with Quillette.

Quillette and Steven Pinker have long had a mutual admiration society, but this is the first time I am aware that Pinker has a byline in Quillette.

The text in the Pinker diagram will be updated to reflect his intensified connection to "race realism."

Infamous eugenics proponent Toby Young lists members of the race realism gang.




Young celebrates Pinker going the full Quillette.




Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Thank you New Republic

Finally the New Republic has published an article in the face of the great leftist romanticization of the "gilets jaunes" 


From the article:
Unfortunately, this is a challenge the main left-wing opposition has largely failed to meet, a balance it has refused to strike. Just as populists see “the people” as something pure in the face of corrupt elites, so, too, do certain elites desire for there to be an essential purity in the idea of an uprising of the alienated masses—the “neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls,” as Hannah Arendt once described them. 
First, the gilets jaunes have always been inseparable from far-right politics. Supporters of Marine Le Pen have the most favorable views of the yellow vests, and a hypothetical gilets jaunes party would sap significant support from Le Pen in the upcoming European parliamentary elections.
Feckless stupid leftists have been cheering on a group who - it should have been OBVIOUS to anyone - are the people who wanted Marine Le Pen to win. That's why even after Macron gave them what they said they wanted the gilets jaunes turned around and called for Macron's resignation.

That was ALWAYS the goal of the gilets jaunes.

If Trump had lost this is how his followers would have acted. Complete with NYTimes articles soul-searching why the "real" America wanted to tear down the government. 

Mark my words, it's going to turn out that Putin has been helping the gilets jaunes too. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Sophie Blackall and the 2016 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee

I thought it was odd that one of the worst professional illustrators I have ever seen, Sophie Blackall, won the 2016 Caldecott Medal for children's picture book illustration. Especially when you look at the vastly superior work of the 2016 runners-up.

I didn't immediately leap to the conclusion of cronyism when I heard the news. But after looking at the names of the people in the Medal Selection committee, I'm definitely considering it. The Chair of the 2016 selection committee was Rachel G. Payne of the Brooklyn Public Library.

I did a little research and it seems, if the online location sources are correct, that Blackall and Payne are neighbors - they live about a mile from each other in Brooklyn.

And they are also Facebook friends, although I don't know if they were friends before Payne gave Blackall the medal. It would be very surprising if they were not, since not only do they apparently live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, they have both been to at least one conference at the same time prior to 2016.

Now it's possible that Payne and the rest of the selection committee simply don't know shit from Shinola, and that's why Blackall won the Caldecott, but I have my doubts now.

But again, if the awful Renoir is still beloved by the masses there is no reason why Blackall can't have a thriving, award-winning career forever. There will always be tasteless idiots to champion mediocrities while the vastly superior are ignored - superior artists like Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot.

There is no justice in this world. And plenty of bad taste. And cronyism.

This book...



...was judged better-illustrated than this book...


and this book...


and this book...



and this book...



...by the 2016 Caldecott committee. Completely insane.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Conservatory garden in January


A lot fewer flowers - but also a lot fewer tourists.

Sophie Blackall and the surprisingly crowded genre of books for children about lighthouses

So I was talking about the inability of award-winning, yet still terrible illustrator Sophie Blackall to handle perspective in her illustrations for a children's book about a lighthouse. To my amazement I found a blog which has an interview with Blackall in which Blackall claims to have done a whole lot of research for the book. I guess that shows that all the research in the world cannot cure an inability to draw.

I've been criticizing Blackall's work long before she won the Caldecott medal in 2016. In 2012 I saw her banner image on the NY subway system and understood her true awfulness even then.

But it looks like I got my wish from this 2016 blog post when I speculated that winning a Caldecott would make Blackall focus on children's illustration. To the relief of all discerning adults.

Just for the heck of it I did some Googling to see how other picture books for children handled the topic of lighthouses. I found that all the artwork in this surprisingly crowded genre was better than Blackall's... well except one, which I will get to at the end.

Here are some examples of both more realistic and more stylized approaches to lighthouses for kids.

A convincing rendition of top-down perspective on a 
lighthouse by artist David Armitage showing it can be done.


This piece by Rosalind Clark might be the most similar in style
to Blackall's that I've seen but yet is so much less awkward.
I shudder to think how Blackall would handle the pose of
the girl on a hillside in this image.


A more realistic work by Elaine Wentworth -
Blackall couldn't do something this realistic
in her wildest dreams


Very stylized but vastly superior technique to Blackall by
Ingrid Godon. Appropriately for a children's picture book,
Godon gets top billing over "with words by Andre Sollie"
What an hysterical title for a kid's book though - love it.



A non-fiction book about lighthouses by Roman Belyaev who
truly understands perspective - stylized, precise and beautiful


Ocean by Emily Dove - so beautiful and graceful.
In a just world it would be Dove winning a Caldecott
medal, not a talentless hack like Blackall. And I bet
Blackall couldn't understand why this
is so much better than her work but then
that's what it means to be an exemplar of the
Dunning-Kruger effect - you don't know
that you're bad because you don't know what
makes something good.
More stellar work by Dove on her web site.


As promised here is the one lighthouse-related piece of children's book illustration that I think is worse than the work of Sophie Blackall.

Like Blackall, Elias is much better at drawing lighthouses than people.
One of the far-superior illustrators
who were runners-up to

the awful Sophie Blackall ~
I can't help but notice that
the chair of the 2016 Caldecott
medal selection committee,
Rachel G. Payne, lives in 
Brooklyn, just like Blackall. 

And BTW this page from the Caldecott site shows all the runners-up beat by Blackall, each and every one a far superior artist to Blackall. They must all be as flabbergasted by the loss as I am.

The problem with someone like Blackall, who can't draw well, winning the most prestigious medal in children's illustration is not simply an incompetent being told she's the best - it's all the truly talented illustrators being told that an incompetent is better than them. That's what really annoys me.

And also that subway card by Blackall in 2012 is truly, truly hideous. I hated being forced to look at it during my commute.

But I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise - if the truly awful Renoir is still considered a great master,  anybody could be.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Sophie Blackall - still a terrible artist

Surely Sophie Blackall being given a Caldecott Medal for illustration in 2016 demonstrates that it's who you know, not what you know and Sophie Blackall must have known the Caldecott judges. I find it hard to believe that anybody, unless they were bribed or blind, would give Sophie Blackall an award for illustration.

As I discussed at great length a few years ago, Sophie Blackall cannot draw perspective. At all. 

And  she still can't. Here is her drawing of the same lighthouse from two different perspectives:

 

Notice how in Blackall's understanding of perspective, if you view windows in a lighthouse from above, the windows shrink and the space between the windows grows.

Google Maps now has some amazing 3-D capabilities and here's how the 3-D New London Harbor Lighthouse looks at approximately the same angles. Notice how space does not expand between the windows and the door when you view the lighthouse from the top. 



Now when I looked at the two pages of the book that Blackall illustrated I didn't realize consciously that the space between the windows was not correctly adjusted by her in changing the perspective on the lighthouse - but I knew at first glance that something did not look right.

Clearly Blackall just can't be bothered to make an effort to look at examples of perspective and then do it right.

But why should Blackall bother to make an effort? She got the Caldecott despite being a terrible artist.

This is why awards for the arts are meaningless - there's no control for the tasteless cretins who may come to dominate awards committees.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The ugliness of French media

The stars of the first season (only one I will watch)
of Spiral - there is Gregory Fitoussi,
that rarest of French
male media stars - an attractive one.
I want to thank this English writer for pointing out something that is not pointed out often enough:
...for male French stars, being good looking is not a requirement. Better that you look like an aged, post coital rhino who has been rutting in a swamp all night, or if you have a nose like a deformed butternut squash. In L’Homme Du Train, Johnny Halliday is meant to be sexy, despite looking like a crocodile handbag with a wig on. Add Serge Gainsbourg, Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno into the mix and you’ve got yourself a great big buffet of ugly quiche.
This is something I noticed early on in my voyage to learn French by watching French media.

This is one reason why it's so hard to watch French films and TV, even for the sake of learning French - the male actors are almost all ugly AF. This isn't just a French preference for ugly people - the women in French media are beautiful and young. Only the men are allowed to be - nay, expected to be - old and ugly

This use of old ugly men as film stars in France tells you everything you need to know about how much French culture is still completely dominated by men. Although if you need further convincing just read about how fucked up and sexist Cannes is.

And of course the beautiful young French women actors are expected to play scenes in which they are incredibly attracted to ugly old men.

The worst example of this I've seen so far is the first episode of a TV series called "A French Village." It's set during WWII and the first episode opens by explaining that Nazis are invading. Directly after, we see a scene of a middle-aged businessman played by unattractive (of course) Thierry Godard (also in Spiral AKA Engrenages - you cannot avoid him if you watch French media) have sex with his mistress who is played by Nade Dieu who is twelve years younger and looks twenty years younger and is much better-looking (of course) than Godard.

Did I mention that while middle-aged businessman is having adulterous sex there is a Nazi invasion happening?

There are occasional exceptions to the ugly old French male actor rule- the previously-mentioned series Spiral has, in the first season at least, one handsome regular - one - played by Gregory Fitoussi but his relationship with the tough female cop that promises to get serious by the end of the first season (they hold hands in the last episode) has completely disappeared without explanation by the beginning of the second season, at which point I stopped watching Spiral, since without a worthwhile relationship to root for the show is basically one woman - or girl - after another being raped, tortured and murdered.

And there is no big "will they or won't they get together" of unexpressed sexual tension between the cop and Fitoussi's character - the first moments of the first episode the cop mentions that she finds Fitoussi's character attractive and by the second episode (or third but it's very early on) they end up in bed together and go on to have a very casual, no-strings, emotionally muted relationship that fizzles out by the second season. Ugh.

I also tried to watch the French TV series "Maison Close" about 19th century prostitutes but the male ugliness was extreme even by French standards - absolutely intolerable - and by the time I could see the young intelligent woman with a fiancee was about to get trapped into life as a prostitute I was done - couldn't even make it through the entire first episode.

And then there is the series "Call My Agent" which is all ugly older men having sex with attractive younger women - at the office - except for the rich handsome new owner of the agency who ends up having sex with and impregnating the agency's only lesbian. Is it any wonder that sexual harassment at French companies is completely insane?

I've heard good things about the show "Marseille" but not good enough for me to watch anything with fat ugly old Putin-loving alcoholic slob Gerard Depardieu in it.

Why do the French have a reputation for romance? Based on the French media I've seen, there is no romance, just a bunch of casual, unemotional hookups between pretty young women and (mostly) ugly old men. Who the hell wants to watch that, except ugly old men who don't really like women?

(And I detested the Oscar-winning film The Artist - I didn't realize until after I wrote this blog post that it was French - but I'm not surprised.)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Oh oh oh, joyeuses fetes!

I signed up for the mailing list of the Trogneux Chocolate company in Amiens France because why not? The Trogneux are relatives of Brigitte Macron (née Trogneux) so I was curious.

Anyway, I received a message from them:
En cette période de fêtes, notre équipe (et le père Noël!) vous offrent 2 moulages "tête de père Noël" pour toute commande effectuée sur notre site internet du 10 au 16 décembre avec le code CHOCOHOHOH De nombreuses surprises gourmandes vous attendent également en boutique. 
Chocolatement 
vôtre, Jean Trogneux
I'm excited because I can mostly translate it without cheating:
'In this holiday time, our team (and Santa) offer you two moulages (I said mostly*) "head of Santa" for all who asked on our internet site December 10 - 16 with the code CHOCOHOHOH - Many gourmet surprises equally wait in the boutique."
Chocolately 
yours, Jean Trogneux 
le tête de père Noël

Their Santa doesn't say "ho ho ho" he says "oh oh oh" which sounds to an anglophone like he just spilled the milk that came with his cookies. But the French never pronounce the H at the beginning of a word so might as well spell it like you say it, right? One of my French teachers from FIAF once sent me an email in which she laughed but instead of "ha ha" she said "ah ah" which sounds like the way Sesame Street's Count Von Count laughs.

There is a French version of the Count by the way. Here he is with his chave-souris. (Bats, but literally in French  "bald-mice")

(* I had to look up "moulage" which means "mold" as in they poured the chocolate into a mold that was in the shape of Santa's head - it sounds like a rather technical inside-baseball way to refer to a piece of chocolate when communicating to the public. But that's just anglophone me, I guess.)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Those crazy Cramps

My ex-boyfriend John the manic-depressive autodidact with the lightning wit (when he wasn't suicidally depressed) loved The Cramps and had all their albums. He went to see their show too, but I never went with him. I wish I did now, they were wild as you can see in this video. 

I was kind of a snob then and I thought they were excessively trashy - not appreciating, at the time, the fun of trashiness, but when you are a single mother working shit jobs and living in Pennsauken NJ you're always on the verge of being actual white trash, and so performative trash is not nearly so amusing. But now, from the perspective of New York City in the twenty-first century in middle age it looks like hella fun. 

Part of the problem was that I didn't like most of their songs, but there are three I really do like - "People Ain't No Good" which is currently in one of my iTunes playlists, "What's Inside a Girl" and "The Call of the Wighat." 

The great thing about Wighat was that the lyrics sounded like they were written by a psychobilly Dr. Seuss. I actually drew a Seussian series of illustrations of the lyrics which I have around here somewhere. It was pretty funny.

I can still hear momma calling "Junior get home. What's got into you, what's that on your dome?"
I wasn't their biggest fan but I was fond enough to note the death of Lux Interior on this blog almost 10 years ago. He died of an aortic dissection. RIP.

He lived a full life though. Here he is living it up performing in Belgium in 1986.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wisdom from composer Frank Wilhoit

The entire discussion is here.

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Wilhoit's Broadheath Music.




Saturday, December 15, 2018

Pensées des gilets jaunes

Outline of Texas over a map of France
Being busy with projects and working for The Man has sure cut down on my blogging time.

I've been keeping an eye on the French protest movement "gilets jaunes" and it has revealed many surprising things about French society. 

The stories about the gilet jaunes always quote the people participating in the demonstrations claiming to be poor. Reminiscent of the way that it was accepted that Trump voters were economically insecure instead of racist, because all the stories about Trump supporters were basically a string of quotes from the supporters with very little context.

Of course it's easier to write a story by simply quoting one or more people than by providing context but I expect better of The New Yorker. The author of a recent New Yorker gilets jaunes story, Alexandra Schwartz doesn't bother to provide any context in her interview - she just types up her questions and the response of a gay author who grew up in a conservative French city.

And without context Louis makes things sound much worse than they might seem to a non-French person. For instance he says:
(his family) live(s) in a small village in the middle of nowhere, so for them it’s difficult to go (to the demonstrations)
But "the middle of nowhere" means something very different in France than in the US. For one thing, France is about the size of Texas - actually Texas is bigger. So that means that the farthest any place in France is from the middle of somewhere - Paris - at the Spanish border, is a mere 7 and a half hour drive - the time it takes to drive from New York City to Cleveland Ohio.

And the city that Louis grew up in, Hallencourt, is a two hour drive to Paris and a 43 minute drive to Amiens the larger city that Louis reportedly fled to when he grew up and which is also the city where Emmanuel Macron grew up. Amiens is a bustling city. It may not be Paris but it's certainly not nowhere - so in truth Louis' family lives a three-quarter of an hour drive from somewhere and two hours from Paris. That's his concept of "the middle of nowhere"???

Elsewhere he says: 
It’s the body of people who are living in precarity, people from the North of France, or from the South of France, who don’t have money, who come from the kinds of families that haven’t gotten an education in five generations—families like mine.
Is that possible they "haven't gotten an education in five generations"? But I have been told what a great education system the French have including by my most recent French teacher - she said that unlike in the US where schools vary a lot in quality because they are dependent on the local taxes, in French they are supposed to be all the same because they are administered by the central government.

Some context would have been helpful there - are the schools in the north of France worse for some reason? - but Schwartz can't be bothered. Louis managed to get a good enough education that he became a best-selling author so the education can't be all that bad.


And I've been waiting for this - Putin hates Macron and wanted far-right Marine Le Pen to become president - so of course Russia wasted no time in getting involved in the gilets jaunes movement:
In the weeks since the gilets jaunes movement took off, Ryan Fox, COO of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company that tracks Russian-related influence operations on Twitter, has noticed a network of accounts that his organization believes is connected to Russia shift its focus to France. Since October 28, these 340 accounts have created and amplified content about the brutality of the French police, Macron’s inability to lead the nation, and anti-NATO or anti-migrant sentiments more than 20,000 times, according to New Knowledge. Among the claims: Macron’s treatment of the gilets jaunes is worse than Bashar al-Assad’s treatment of Syrian rebels.


Monday, December 03, 2018

The latest Podcast



I really like this image which was painted by Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf.



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A soldier of love, that's hard to be

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of The White Album, #BeatlesSongsForMillenials is trending. My favorites so far:
  • Magical Microaggression Tour
  • Fair Trade Organic Strawberry Fields Forever
  • We all live in our parents basement 
  • U Up? Jude
  • While my fidget silently spins
I thought of "Bitcoin Lane" but others beat me to it.

While I was looking at a list of Beatles songs for inspiration I saw "Soldier of Love" - I hadn't heard or even thought of that Beatles cover for a long time but I remember I liked it long ago so I found it on Youtube. What a nifty little tune. It seems that they only recorded it once, and it's not a great audio quality unfortunately but still... the war metaphor is especially interesting in view of Lennon's transformation into a hardcore peacenik a few years later.

My favorite Beatles cover of all time is "Words of Love" - I raved about it seven years ago on this blog. But this might be my second favorite, a very close second.


Monday, November 26, 2018

The Tulsa massacre and the "race science" project of erasing American history

The "biosocial criminologists" I have written about on this blog believe that "black" people are innately more criminal than other "races." The most outspoken of the biosocial criminologists, John Paul Wright, explains the belief system in a book called  Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research edited by Kevin M. Beaver and Anthony Walsh:


It is clear that the main driver of "biosocial criminology" is to argue that the economic underachievement and related crime of blacks in the US is due to their inferior genetics. John Paul Wright again:




It's no surprise then that the hereditarian approach to American history is to try to erase it. Because if you erase it, you wipe out the evidence of what happened when blacks managed to prosper: the Tulsa massacre. It's clear that whites in Tulsa targeted blacks not because they were criminals but because they were uppity - they were too successful. And the white majority had the numbers to destroy them.
The predominantly black district of Greenwood in Tulsa had a commercial district so prosperous that it was known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street").[21] Blacks had created their own businesses and services in this enclave, including several grocers, two newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black professionals, including doctors, dentists, lawyers, and clergy, served their peers. Because of residential segregation in the city, most classes of blacks lived together in Greenwood. They selected their own leaders and raised capital there to support economic growth. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

BlackkKlansman - great movie

The real Ron Stallworth's police ID card
I've been interested in the movie BlackkKlansman, watching several of its trailers many times but never managing to get out to see it in the theater - but now it's available online so I watched it.

Some of the reviews of the movie were mixed but I thought it was great.

It think Spike Lee achieved a perfect synthesis of fact and fiction, art and reality. I will watch it again.

Politifact provides a review of where the movie diverged from the historical record as recounted in Ron Stallworth's book and contemporary news reports.

Fun fact, I know one of the background actors playing a Klansman - the guy is the furthest thing from a Klansman so it was really amusing.

I admit I haven't seen much of Spike Lee's work but I think this one will end up being considered his masterpiece.
Not only did I enjoy the well-plotted, exciting movie (although there were some harrowing moments as when the character portrayed by Harry Belafonte recounts a lynching) I appreciated the mention of the "race science" by David Duke (Topher Grace) of Nobel Prize winner William Shockley and the wording was so similar to the defense of current race-science proponents for their scientific racism, I was amazed. I will definitely discuss that in my planned upcoming podcast Steven Pinker, the Intellectual Dark Web, and Race Science.

And of course, inevitably, the Pioneer Fund supported Shockley's eugenics.

In "The Bell Curve" Murray and Herrstein mention the connection between Herrnstein and Shockley in the public's mind but seem to feel that although they agree substantially about eugenics, Shockley's style was "eccentric" and therefore an unfair comparison.




Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Our last Thanksgiving at Capsouto Freres

For twelve years - since I moved to the NYC area, I had Thanksgiving  with various combinations of friends and family members at Capsouto Freres, a restaurant in TriBeCa. I blogged about it a few times. This photo is from Thanksgiving 2011. The last Thanksgiving there.

Then Hurricane Sandy came and wiped out the restaurant and they never re-opened.

My daughter-in-law is a chef so my Thanksgivings are great but I miss Capsouto sometimes.

That's Jacques Capsouto in the middle of the photo.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Razib Khan and the race science project to deny history

Although Razib Khan posted this article on Medium on July 4 of this year, I didn't see it until today. It confirms exactly what I have been noticing about proponents of race science - they think that genetics tells us more about human culture than the historical record:
And yet genetics can shed light on historical patterns. Unlike written text genetics is neutral. It does not present a particular narrative or agenda. 
That's his bold emphasis in the original. This is the underlying justification for the erasure of history that allows Khan and Sam Harris and Charles Murray to assume that failure of blacks to thrive in the US has nothing to do with 300 years of slavery, a hundred years of apartheid and fifty years of discrimination but rather their own genetic inferiority.

As usual with Khan his essay is a combination of no-duh ("Much of the wealth of the kingdom which the planters were building unfortunately consisted of slaves") and ideas he either is unwilling to express clearly, or lacks the literary ability to express clearly:
While Indiana was settled mostly from the South, there were far more Yankees who founded towns in Michigan and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Ohio and Illinois were both divided between a northern portion settled from New England, and a southern expanse dominated by Scots-Irish “Butternuts.” 
All this seems clear in the genetic results. Now we can quantify the differences. Illinois is tilted a bit to the northern migrants. Ohio somewhat to the southern ones. Historical debates can be resolved through genetic analyses!
Nowhere does he say what "historical debates" he thinks are resolved through genetic analyses. Is that oversight a deliberate dog whistle for other race science proponents? Or is it just the output of a lousy writer who lacked a professional editor?

At the end of the essay, Khan is all enthusiasm for the Triumph of the DNA Test:
Over the next few years tens of millions of more Americans will obtain direct to consumer genetic tests. The database will grow larger and larger. Many demographic questions related to the history of this country will not need to be explored through reconstruction of texts and laborious perusal of letters and court documents. Rather, scientists will simply scan through the pedigrees they construct from human genomes, and synthesize their results with the rich assortment of resources already available from the fields of genealogy and history.
This time the bolded emphasis is mine. To realize the silliness - or the hidden agenda - of that bolded sentence one needs only reflect for a moment: genomes don't tell us that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 or how many lynchings were perpetrated. Does it really matter if the lynching party was composed primarily of individuals with a genetic heritage of Scots-Irish with a small expression of German-French?

In spite of Razib Khan's literary inadequacy we can see clearly the tactic favored by proponents of race science: deny the importance of history because only science is pure enough to tell us anything about the world.

Now the nonsense that Khan is spewing is no more incoherent or useless than anything written by Steven Pinker on the topic of history and culture and race - it must really piss Khan off the way Pinker is well-respected and highly-remunerated and beloved by the mainstream media - here they are fawning over Pinker again in this interview at the NYTimes - while saying much of what Khan says and just as badly.