Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ben Brantley swoons for the manliest man playwright

Ben Brantley:
Theatergoers familiar with Mr. McDonagh's work (which includes the Tony-nominated "Pillowman" and "Beauty Queen of Leenane") are by now used to the acts of torture, humiliation and interfamilial skull bashing that figure in his work. But with "Lieutenant," directed with a steady gaze and acute theatrical instinct by Wilson Milam, Mr. McDonagh raises the carnage factor to a level that rivals Quentin Tarantino's.

Unlike Mr. Tarantino, Mr. McDonagh isn't trying to elicit the poetry in surreally stylized violence or the aesthetic content in shades of red. There's nothing pretty about the gruesome mess in which these gun- and razor-toting characters, members of splintered splinter groups of the Irish Republican Army, find themselves. And they seem to regard as merely mundane the abominations they commit in the name of causes they can't always remember. But they might as well face it, they're addicted to blood. So, this play suggests with devilish obliqueness, are we.

Well there you have it. McDonagh writes stuff with torture and humiliation, but he doesn't do it in the service of something greater like that wimp Tarantino. He does it for the sheer fun because "we" are addicted to blood.

Damn I hate it when critics presume to speak for me.

But since critics long for manly men playwrights to rescue theatre from the dangers of kindliness, aestetics and other feminine foolishness it's only a matter of time before McDonagh gets a Tony or a Pulitzer.

The New Yorker, predictably has already written a Great Man of the Arts profile of McDonagh.

Monday, February 27, 2006

You go, Sarah Vowell

I haven't paid attention much to Sarah Vowell, although everything I've heard about her sounded good, and I enjoyed her commentary on the documentary about They Might Be Giants, A Tale of Two Johns.

Well now I know why she makes a living as a writer. I've been reading her guest op-eds in the NYTimes and she is very good. And look, MoDo! Another woman who can opine on a regular basis! This goes against your and Gail Collins's belief that, as Gail said: "There are probably fewer women, in the great cosmic scheme of things, who feel comfortable writing very straight opinion stuff, and they're less comfortable hearing something on the news and batting something out."

If this keeps up, Collins might have to give up her evolutionary psychology-informed understanding of female nature.

Vowell is not only good, she's distinctive, if her Times pieces are any indication. For the past two weeks she's finished up her guest op-ed columns, both hearty and satisfying indictments of the Bush Administration with paragraphs that clang and resonate with the force of a big mofo Chinese gong.

Last week's column is The Pessimism Deficit and its final paragraph reads:
Alas, I see my initial worries about the current administration as the greatest betrayal in my whole life by my old pal pessimism. I attended the president's inauguration in 2001. When he took the presidential oath, I cried. What was I so afraid of? I was weeping because I was terrified that the new president would wreck the economy and muck up my drinking water. Isn't that adorable? I lacked the pessimistic imagination to dread that tens of thousands of human beings would be spied on or maimed or tortured or killed or stranded or drowned, thanks to his incompetence.

This week's column, When Bush Falls In Love has an even stronger finish:
Bonhomie, as our ex-cronies the French call it, should have its limits. Seems as if American voters picked the current president because they thought he'd be a fun hang at a cookout — a jokey neighbor who charred a mean burger and is good at playing Frisbee with his dog. What we should be doing is electing a president with the nitpicky paranoia you'd use to choose a cardiologist — a stunted conversationalist with dark-circled eyes and paper-cut fingertips who will stay up until 3 tearing into medical journals in five languages trying to figure out how to save your life.

Watch Sarah Vowell on the Daily Show here. She discusses her op-eds.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Stupid or Lying? John Tierney edition

(Lawrence Summers) great gaffe on campus was suggesting that bias by patriarchal white men might not be the only reason for the shortage of women professors in science and math. After making the ritual genuflections to discrimination, he dared to note that there are many more men who score at the upper extreme (and the lower extreme) on math tests.

This will come as no surprise to the high school students who have taken the math part of the SAT, a test in which there are three boys in the top percentile for every girl. Perhaps a few of these students will now wonder how much intellectual stimulation they'll get at a university where inconvenient facts are taboo. But most of them will probably be happy to go there just because it's Harvard.
As so often happens with right-wingers, the response to these statements is "is he stupid or lying?"

Anybody who has paid 5 minutes of attention knows that Summers's gaffe wasn't saying that "bias by patriarchal white men might not be the only reason for the shortage of women professors in science and math" and noting that men as a group scored better than women in math.

The gaffe was that Summers said that biologically-based mental inferiority was the most important factor in the lesser math/science careers of women.

Perhaps it's a reading comprehension problem that so few commentators understand what Summers said. Siva sets Eric Alterman straight over at Sivacracy.

Here's the exact quote from 'Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce':
So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.

What Summers says is that socialization and discrimination are LESSER FACTORS than evolutionarily-endowed female inability to do math and science.

Imagine for a moment that Summers said that biological differences were the cause of fewer black men in math and science. How many liberals - and even conservatives - would have a problem with that, I wonder?

The difference between evolutionary psychology, of which Lawrence Summers, Steven Pinker, John Tierney, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd are populizers, and modern racism is not basic proof, it's focus.

Both the proud racists of American Renaissance and evolutionary psychologists agree that a group's vocational achievement and test scores are clear indications of innate, biologically-endowed abilities of the members of that group.

The only difference is that American Renaissance uses these indicators to claim both gender AND racial inferiority, but the evolutionary psychologists only apply them to gender.

As a conservative John Tierney gives the game away. Neither Summers nor his critics said anything about white men. There was nothing about race involved in this particular controversy. But since Tierney is not an evolutionary psychology insider, he hasn't gotten the message that while it's politically correct to say that women have a biologically-based mental inferiority to men, it is not EP PC to say that blacks are mentally inferior to whites.

In a review of Steven Pinker's Blank Slate, AmRen complains that Pinker won't apply his theories to race:
Prof. Pinker is firm and clear about the “inherent” or “innate” characteristics and behavior of human beings—human nature — that exist before anyone has a chance to scribble on the blank slate. Not only aggression and sexual differences but also intelligence he acknowledges to be in large part genetically grounded, but on the Big Taboo—race—he is vague and even contradictory.

He endorses the environmentalist theories of the origins of civilization of Jared Diamond and Thomas Sowell as opposed to racial ones, and tells us that “My own view … is that in the case of the most discussed racial difference—the black-white IQ gap in the United States—the current evidence does not call for a genetic explanation.” Yet, six pages later, he tells us that “… there is now ample evidence that intelligence is a stable property of an individual, that it can be linked to features of the brain (including overall size, amount of gray matter in the frontal lobes, speed of neural conduction, and metabolism of cerebral glucose), that it is partly heritable among individuals, and that it predicts some of the variations in life outcomes such as income and social status.” Combined with the different scores of blacks and whites on IQ tests, of course, this implies that the “most discussed racial difference” has a significantly genetic and not an environmentalist explanation.

I think AmRen may have a point. Why can't the innate mental properties that both they and Pinker believe are indicated by test scores be applied to race as well as gender?

Pinker, Summers and the rest hope that if they ignore the racist uses of evolutionary psychology it will go away. But it won't - and the evolutionary psychologists may ultimately find their greatest political champions, possibly even the source of most of their research funding, from racists.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Screw ethics, this is theatre

I have to go see my friend Bruce Barton perform tonight in a play by David Foley. I always enjoy Bruce's performances, but I'm pissed that I have to see a play by the author of The Last Days of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, In Exile. The play presents O'Hair as a crook. The summary on Theatremania says
a comic fantasy that imagines a different fate for the notorious atheist activist who, in real life, disappeared several years ago under a shroud of mystery and speculation. In this version, after having embezzled millions of dollars from her own organization American Atheists, Madalyn has fled America and is holed up on a South Seas island with her son and granddaughter. As she waits for the embezzled funds to come through, she is visited by ghosts from her past and feted by the island natives. Old scores are settled, romance blooms, and transformations are undergone as the play moves toward an unexpected finale.
What actually happened was that O'Hair, her son and granddaughter were kidnapped and brutally murdered.

But if you think that horrific reality is going to stop a jolly smearing of a person's character, well, you don't know the theatre world very well.

Lest you scoff at my concerns that this play be taken as the truth about O'Hair, consider this web page at rotten.com which uses one of the publicity shots for the play to represent O'Hair. (The first picture.) Nowhere in the article is it revealed that the photo is NOT O'Hair.

What we have here is a case of Foley using O'Hair's name recognition, and the scandal of her disappearance to garner interest in his play.

This situation is somewhat like what Doug Wright did in his play Quills, but in reverse. Whereas Wright portrayed the rapist Marquis de Sade as a hero of free expression, Foley is helping to smear the reputation of a woman, who, as one of the most famous American atheists in a religion-loving country, is already well-hated. Her own son, the born-again one, says of her "My mother was not just Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist leader. She was an evil person who led many to hell."

As Foley admitted in an email to me in 2003:
I wrote the play before anyone knew what had happened to the O'Hairs, but even then I never intended a historically accurate account of Madalyn Murray O'Hair. That's not a playwright's job. I wanted instead to address seriously - though perhaps in "zany" theatrical terms - the discussion that O'Hair helped spark in this country and which is still going on.

Foley admits to using O'Hair's notariety for his own purposes. Which may have been OK, except that the actual horrendous details of her last days became known before the 2003 production of the play. But inconvenient facts can't stand in the way of publicity. He could have changed the names of the characters and still addressed "the discussion that O'Hair helped spark in this country and is still going in." But of course he would not, because getting people to come out and see The Last Days of Jane Doe, In Exile would be much more difficult.

And anyway, playwrights needn't be concerned about facts, Foley self-servingly proclaims.

Portraying O'Hair's mythological absconding to a tropical island, however zany its theatrical terms, comes nowhere near addressing the true "discussion" that O'Hair sparked. But maybe it's a good sign that Foley wants to believe such things. Maybe it's proof that he does have a sense of ethics, which needs to be buried under a truckload of theatre marketing copy bullshit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Al Franken's friend is a right-wing idiot

I've loved Al Franken ever since he wrote "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, and other observations." He wrote it at a time when most liberals were still oblivious to just how evil and pervasive the right-wing media had become.

Al Franken is a sentimental guy, though. He cries virtually any time he talks about his father. Old ties are important to him. Which is why he remains friends with the thoroughly repugnant Mark Luther.

I listen to Al Franken's radio show every day. I always turn off the radio while Mark Luther is on, because listening to him always causes me to go into a rage over his stupidity and obnoxiousness. I made the mistake of leaving the radio on today when he was on, so I was treated to hearing him accuse people who object to the Dubai port deal of racism. He believes this because Rush Limbaugh said so.

To have Rush Limbaugh accuse anybody of racism is the most spectacular absurdity. Rush Limbaugh is a famous racist. He claimed that Arabs shit themselves. He was fired as a sports commentator for his racism. I personally witnessed his racism when I watched his TV show back in the early 90s. It was about homelessness, and they interviewed only black people to ask them if they would move to a city that was offering free housing to homeless people. Mind you, none of the black people were identified as homeless, and one of the interviewees was a well-spoken guy in a business suit. The assumption was that homelessness = stubborn black people who won't take free housing in a new city. I was astounded at this mendacious technique - to promote racist attitudes without actually saying anything racist aloud.

Limbaugh also used this non-verbal technique when he said "there's a White House Dog" and showed a picture of then-12-year-old Chelsea Clinton.

Even a right-winger should be utterly repelled by Rush Limbaugh after such an incident. To still admire Rush Limbaugh after such a stunt is to admit that you have no values whatsoever.

Rush Limbaugh is a documented racist, a liar, a bully, a smear-meister and a world-class hypocrite. To worship him is to worship evil incarnate. And that is what Mark Luther, Al Franken's friend, does. Mark Luther worships evil.

Why? Because Mark Luther is stupid and doesn't understand the complex world we live in. Stupid people rarely realize they're stupid, and so Luther feels that the real problem is that there's something tricksy going on behind his back. He doesn't understand it, and he fears it, so he looks to a thug like Limbaugh to protect him from the incomprehensible tricksiness. You can hear Luther's fears in the whiny undertone of his voice. He has decided that the world is unfairly tricksy, and needs somebody to blame. Rush will be happy to supply candidates for blame, regardless of logical considerations.

Al Franken has compassion for stupid people, and besides, he and Luther go way back.

But Al - Mark Luther isn't your friend. If you and he and Rush Limbaugh were in a sinking lifeboat together and he could only save one person he would save Rush Limbaugh.

He was once your friend, Al, because you had common cause. You were both against the war in Vietnam. You were against it because it was morally wrong, Luther was against it because he was worried about being sent there and getting killed.

It's time to face reality Al - he's a whiny, stupid, self-centered creep who worships evil. To give him a forum for his stupidity is to aid evil. He pretends to be your friend because you're a celebrity, and his association with you can only help him, especially with female ditto-heads. He's using you, and he isn't worthy of your consideration.

Cut him loose Al!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New York Songlines

A super cool web site If you love New York you'll love this site.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I love me some Alec Baldwin

Here he is in the Huffington Post:
"Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions."

I tried to get to see him in Roundabout Theatre's Entertaining Mr. Sloan but there are no tickets to be had for this show. At all.

Buh-bye Larry

Harvard says Summers resigns as president
Summers, whose brusque management style has won both praise and contempt, sparked controversy last year when he said innate differences between men and women may help explain why so few women work in the academic sciences.

He has since apologized repeatedly for his remarks.

But the abrupt resignation of the arts and sciences dean William Kirby, on January 27 deepened opposition against him. Several faculty have accused Summers of pushing Kirby out and called for his resignation at a faculty meeting this month.

"The university has been in a state of paralysis. I've never seen anything like this before," Farish A. Jenkins Jr., a Harvard zoology professor, told Reuters.

"Harvard can't be run by one man. It is a collaborative enterprise with many fine people," said Jenkins, one of a dozen professors who confronted Summers at a faculty meeting this month and suggested that he step down or be fired.

Following an expected yearlong sabbatical, Summers will return to Harvard as a professor in economics, public policy, and international affairs, the university said.

What, he isn't going to be a professor of evolutionary biology? But he claims to know so much about women's biological natures!


The web site savinsucks.com is a great tribute to the First Amendment.

It also happens to be a demonstration of the way David Einhorn, of Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C., embarrassed himself in his attempt to use the Lanham Act to punish free speech.

And now he's trying to do it again. David Einhorn is representing his brother, Edward Einhorn, in his claim that by the mere fact that Edward was involved in my play, TAM LIN, I therefore owe him credit and licensing rights over the play for eternity.

Although the Einhorns think that they're going to get big bucks out of us for "violating" Edward's "copyright" they nevertheless are not happy about being publicly connected to this case (Edward refused to be interviewed for the NYTimes article) and for good reason - they risk ending up as pariahs in the theatre world. For if they succeeded in their case it would have a chilling effect on American theatre.

But any "metastuffing" that anybody could do is nothing compared to Edward Einhorn's connecting himself to the case publicly by writing a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the case.

My partner, Jonathan Flagg, has a response to Edward Einhorn's fantastical claims:
Since filing suit in October 2005, Edward Einhorn has done his best to spread an incorrect version of his case – resorting to all manner of misinformation, presumably in an attempt to garner sympathy. Neither the facts nor the law support his viewpoint; he therefore hopes to apply pressure by influencing public opinion. While Einhorn’s misstatements are too numerous to list, we will address some of the most grievous. Einhorn’s quotes are taken from his blog entry on the Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2006/01/30/off-off-broadway-and-into-federal-court) and his letter to the editor in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/arts/12alsmail.html).

Einhorn Claims:

“A fee was agreed to, in writing….” And “I was never paid the promised fee” (He claims $1000.)

But Actually:

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in his February 7, 2006 order dismissing Einhorn’s promissory estoppel claim, “that aspect of the complaint clearly is without merit. There was no clear and unambiguous promise to pay Einhorn $1,000, regardless of what happened….”

Einhorn Claims:

“I do not wish or expect $3 million, which is a number derived from the maximum potentially allowed. I merely ask that I get a reasonable amount for my work as a director….”

But Actually:

Einhorn seeks damages that are many times more than the maximum the law allows, even if he were eligible for statutory damages, which he is not. As William Patry points out in his copyright blog (http://williampatry.blogspot.com/2006/01/copyright-in-stage-directions.html), “statutory damages are awarded per work, not infringement.” Edward Einhorn’s brother/attorney/business partner, David Einhorn, should know this well, as the chairman of the intellectual property group for Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C.

Einhorn Claims:

“I felt I had no choice but to sue Ms. McClernan and Mr. Flagg, partly based on their theft of my intellectual property.”

But Actually:

A theft has occurred, but Einhorn is the thief. There is a similarity between the blocking script (which Einhorn registered two months after the show closed) and video of the 2004 production, and with good reason. Einhorn wrote his blocking script after he left the production, based on these video tapes. His script was reverse engineered from our work, not his. This will be proven during trial with video tape taken during rehearsals that Einhorn directed. These videos show very different blocking.

Einhorn compounded this fraud by stating that he had Nancy McClernan’s permission to create the blocking script on his application to the United States Copyright Office. (The original author’s permission is required to register a derivative work.) No such permission was ever granted. But most grievously, Einhorn seeks to block Nancy McClernan from having her play produced ever again without his permission.

This case is nothing more than an extreme abuse of the legal system. It shows how someone with an attorney-brother, can file copyright registrations and complaints with no evidence and no basis in law. Most individuals and small companies simply cannot afford the high cost of legal fees. They are forced by financial circumstance to quickly settle, surrendering their rights and money to these thieves. Fortunately, the vast majority of attorneys would never file such a frivolous and fraudulent case; doing so is prohibited by the rules of civil procedure. We will be moving to seek a ruling from Judge Kaplan that Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C. violated these rules. Our attorney, Toby M.J. Butterfield of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is currently preparing a Rule 11 Motion to that effect. We are fully committed to defending this case in trial until our rights are fully vindicated.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The latest manly man playwright

John Lahr is a happy happy camper. He's discovered yet another manly man playwright who may be a suitable successor to uber-manly David Mamet.

Adam Rapp's manly brutal manliness inspires Lahr to flights of manly critic manliness:

  • Davis is a tour de force of liveliness; he feeds off the deadness in others, which goes some way toward explaining his allegiance to his depressed and inept friend, who, when Davis enters, has just attempted to hang himself from a coat peg with his shoelace.
  • Here we see the cruel manly man arrive to jump start the loser - not to say feminized - sensitive writer man.

  • Davis, who is a wunderkind of the publishing world back in New York, fancies himself an agent of delight. He is as pathologically confident as Matt is pathologically shy; he generates life, but at an emotional price to those who capitulate to his infectious energy.
  • The manly character is not just cruel, he's patholigically confident. Well who wants to see a play about a character who is merely excessively over-confident?

  • It’s easy to understand Davis’s appeal to Matt: he embodies the wildness, the appetite, the sense of maverick liberation that Matt yearns for—and raves about in Henry Miller’s writing. “Miller was a genius. Carver was all craft and no substance,” Matt lectures, provoked into a rare moment of eloquence by his disdain for Raymond Carver’s “little tales of suburban paralysis.”

  • More notes of manliness. 'maverick liberation' and a disdain for 'suburban paralysis.' And of course references to other literary manly men.

  • Rapp, in his introduction to the published play, refers to Davis as a “sexual carnivore . . . a collector of seduction anecdotes.”

  • But of course. He would hardly be a manly man if he was not a sexual carnivore. Sexual herbivores just don't cut it in manly man land.

  • a soi-disant French singer who turns out to be a “window whore” and an American, whom Davis has picked up in his troll through the red-light district. Christina, we learn, is part of a prearranged plan to get the earnest, sex-starved Matt laid. (Matt’s only significant girlfriend since college, he later reveals, fell for and is now “sort of, like, engaged” to Davis.) She is a languid, soft-spoken object of desire; in her pliancy, she exudes a sense of lostness. Her big, kohl-lined eyes sparkle at Davis’s brazen high jinks.

  • The Christina character is the perfect female in a manly man play. A prostitute who is also languid, soft-spoken, pliant and lost, who approves of the manly man's "high jinks."

  • “You’re an idiot,” he tells her. “You think you know me . . . because I stuck my finger up your ass while I fucked you like the whore you are?” “We made love,” Christina says, insisting on his goodness. The ensuing violent, sexual scene—“It might be the best and the worst thing they’ve ever felt,” the stage directions read—escalates into a powerful dance of death.

  • Yes, the beautiful pliant prostitute insists on seeing goodness. And now the sexbot must fulfull her ultimate role in the manly man fantasy - she must engage in a violent sexual dance of death.

    The genius of the Patriarchy is that it insists that male fantasies are not male fantasies - they are meaningful lessons for us all. And to complete the mirage, Lahr even confesses, in the mini-review of Barefoot in the Park that follows directly after the Rapp review, to finding patriarchal attitudes insufferable.

    As I read reviews of the play by other critics, all male, I noticed a recurring theme. They tend to think that Rapp's previous plays weren't especially good, and this play, while swell and rip-roaring with sex and violence and cruelty (he's compared to Neil LaBute) is flawed too. But they love him anyway. Which supports my theory that male critics are just dying for a manly man playwright to represent their fantasies. The fact that 95% of all movies are male fantasies isn't enough to satisfy them. They really want Adam Rapp to succeed.

    A perfect illustration of critics' love of Rapp for his manly manliness while regretfully acknowledging his limitations as a dramatist can be found in the opening paragraph of Michael Feingold's review in the Village Voice:
    Despite my admiration for Adam Rapp's writing, I've stayed away from his plays the last few years—no easy task, given his prolific output—because they were starting to give me the locked-in feeling of a gifted artist endlessly circling round and round the same material, looking for someplace else to go but uncertain what direction to take next. In Rapp's case, this sense of imprisonment was particularly grueling because of the relentless sordidness in his work: characters always at the bottom of life, actions always the harshest and ugliest.
    Rapp is such a gifted artist that Feingold's been avoiding his plays!

    Lahr finishes his Rapp review with what we all, manly men fantasists or no, should take away from the show:
    ” he brings memorable news about the heart, telling us both how it fools itself and how it kills itself."
    The heart kills itself.

    Yeah. By hanging itself from a coat peg with its shoelace.

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Kimba the White Lion is his name

    Speaking of the Japanese, I still remember turning into a convulsing freak when I was about seven-years-old if I wasn't in front of a TV at 3PM when "Kimba the White Lion" was on. I thought it was the greatest thing ever invented. And looking back, it really was quite a cool, progressive show.

    Kimba was created by Japanese grand animation master Osamu Tezuka. Some people claim that Disney's The Lion King ripped off Tezuka, but the themes are very different in the two stories.

    The Lion King presents a conservative view of society. The models for Simba's world are the hereditary monarchy and the circle of life, meaning the animals at the top of the food chain eat the lower animals. There are also bad animal castes: the hyenas in the Lion King are uniformly evil. And Simba seems to have no original ideas - he's out to save his own ass to become king, to reproduce to keep the dynasty going.

    The Kimba of the original series was a visionary and a radical utopian. Kimba set up schools for animals, promoted vegetarianism - to hell with the "circle of life" - and sought to bring about an understanding between humans and animals.

    Simba is a British monarch - Kimba is Gandhi.

    I tried ordering the original Kimba series on DVD, but Amazon bailed out on me with an email saying it wasn't available. Luckily my brother Paul was able to hook me up for Christmas.

    There is an amazing Kimba web site here that even has a video clip of the opening credits/theme song from the original US version of the series.

    Who believes in doing good and doing right? Kimba the White Lion is the one.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    I'm with the Japanese on banning US beef

    I stopped eating beef a couple of years ago because I do NOT trust the Bush administration to properly police the American beef industry. I really think it's just a matter of time before somebody comes down with mad cow here.

    The Japanese are smart to ban American beef. They understand what a deadly combination the Bush USDA and beef are.
    Just a month after Japan lifted a two-year ban on United States beef, it re-imposed it in January after a Brooklyn meatpacker shipped veal containing backbone, which many Asian countries think carries a risk for mad cow disease.
    BushCo. has shown time and time again that they'll gladly allow the foxes to guard the henhouse. I don't trust them with my life.


    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Why Valentine's Day is idiotic

    Because it encourages assholes like the NYTimes John Tierney to write stupid articles about Valentine's Day, including this list on how to get laid:
    • Tell your wife you adore her.

    • Suggest an activity that's fun.

    • Do your share of child care.

    • Do your part with chores.

    • Listen without judging.

    • Praise her.

    • Support her interests.

    • Say, "I understand," when she expresses her emotions.

    What will you, as a man, get out of doing these stupid womanish wastes of time? Tierney sums it up:
    Wives also (and Haltzman presents supporting data here on the gender gap in libido) tend to make the decision on whether to have sex.

    Did that last sentence get your attention, gentlemen? Then enough talk. Start working on that list.
    What I want to know is, if men have so much stronger libidos than women, why don't men try to dress and act sexy for women by wearing revealing, uncomfortable clothing the way women are supposed to? Why is it that females have to go to such great lengths to spark male sexual desire if men have such strong libidos to begin with?

    Because we live in a Patriarchy, and as Twisty Faster will tell you, females are the sex class.

    I would suggest that weaker libido or not, women do get bored of sex with the same person quicker than men do. If Tierney was really worried about women's libidos he'd suggest wives take lovers. But this solution is anathema to the Patriarchy.

    Valentine's Day represents the traditional bribing of women to have sex by offering candy and flowers. But now that women can earn their own money, they aren't as cheap to bribe as they used to be. And even John Tierney knows it.

    It's time for John Tierney to give up on human interactions with females and just get himself a prostitute when he wants sex. Then he wouldn't have to pretend to give a shit about his wife's interests or feelings in order to get laid and the world would be a more honest, content place.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Pollitt on Friedan

    Pollitt's latest column is about the late Betty Friedan
    If you ever doubt how thoroughly dead the 1950s are, try teaching The Feminine Mystique to young women, as I did six years ago. You might as well be teaching Jane Austen. The way you'd have to explain about curates and Bath and entailed estates, you have to tell them how women dressed up to go to the market, how women's magazines obsessed about the fragile male ego and how dropping out of college to get married was indulgently viewed because you weren't going to use your education anyway. The vast American obliviousness that shrouds in a kind of Gothic mist everything that happened before last Tuesday has swallowed up the system of laws, social practices and cultural understandings Friedan described. My students felt a bit exasperated by Friedan's suburban wives, their low-level depression and seething dissatisfactions, their "problem that had no name." If they were so unhappy, why didn't they, you know, do something about it? None of my students planned to spend their days waxing the kitchen floor; even their mothers hadn't done that. But if they did, it would be--the magic word--their choice.

    She also took the opportunity to address the serious problems of Linda Hirshman's December piece on feminism:
    For Hirshman work is everything: She counts as slackers even new mothers who take a few years off or go part-time. And work means a high-paying career with a corner office in your sights: none of your poverty-wage, idealistic, do-good jobs for her, so eat your hearts out, Nation staffers. Hirshman wants feminists to assert that stay-home mothers waste their talents, buy into domestic subordination and perpetuate inequality in the public realm. Even if she's right in some abstract, theoretical way, and even if there were some central committee of feminism to issue these fatwas, it would be hard to think of a better recipe for political suicide: As if American women don't already feel attacked by the cartoon feminist in their heads!

    Maureen Dowd's biggest insult: 'you're a woman'

    But what would a Smurfette know about being a woman?

    As Ann Bartow sez: If the New York Times can only manage to have one female Op-Ed columnist, why oh why does it have to be Dowd?

    To which I hasten to add: The NYTimes should give Katha Pollitt her own op-ed.

    But we know why Dowd is kept on by the Times - because she flatters the Patriarchy every chance she gets. She wants to be the popular girl. So she compares men to women in order to insult them, bashes feminism while claiming to be a feminist, and promotes evolutionary psychology every chance she gets. Why should the Times, a thoroughly male-dominated institution, give up all that flattery just for the superior literary style and keener mind of a Katha Pollitt?

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Why does Daphne Merkin get paid to write?

    I've been noticing the mediocrity that is Daphne Merkin ever since I was first irked by her a few years ago in the New Yorker. She also writes for the New York Times magazine. Her trademark is a buzzing, incessant, helpless whine.

    You could get a more original, thoughtful, 21st century-style piece of writing on the sex lives of 50-year-old women in a thousand places on the Internet. From people who are getting paid nothing to write.

    Here's Merkin's latest piece of whinery in the Times Magazine:
    Of course, I understand that negative myths do more harm than positive ones and, more crucially, sell far fewer books. And there may well be women like Rachel, the over-50 management consultant who met a champion at tantric sex on the Internet who taught her how to have multiple orgasms. All the same, it would seem fairly self-evident that as women enjoy longer and more active lives in a culture that venerates youth, especially in women, something's gotta give — and what gives, mostly, are men. Men of 45 aren't looking for women of 45; men of 55 aren't looking for them, either. Nor, apparently, do you have to be Jack Nicholson playing a version of himself — a rich, insanely charming Don Juan — to think that you deserve a spring chicken on your arm.

    Let me offer a small bit of anecdotal evidence: the one time I took a look at the goings-on over at the Web site "J Date," I spotted an ad by a writer I recognized from his photo. This writer is a never-married, nice-looking man in the vicinity of 50. He has enjoyed a degree of professional success and is lucid in conversation. He is not, that is, either a tycoon or apparently delusional about his attributes. And here we come to what is either cause for concern or outrage or, more likely, a case of genetic intelligence lording it over social correctness: the woman he was seeking was to be in her late 20's — someone, I suppose, who might look up to him. Even more important, a woman this age would come with a guarantee that her eggs were fresh (not to mention her own).

    "Men of 45 aren't looking for women of 45; men of 55 aren't looking for them, either."

    Merkin buys into the myths of the Patriarchy so earnestly that to her, men are all-powerful. Men of 45 aren't looking for women of 45. Well, welcome to the 21st century, Merkin: plenty of 45-year-old women aren't looking for men of 45 either!

    Of course what people want is not the same as what they get. But men always get what they want, in Merkin's mind. She mentions some 50ish guy who is advertising on J-date for a woman in her late 20s. She doesn't actually mention whether he gets a woman in her late 20s. As far as she's concerned, just by asking, the old man will receive the young chick.

    The key to Merkin's wallowing in helplessness is, naturally, her fervent belief in the claims of evolutionary psychology. Old dude's wish for a younger woman is "a case of genetic intelligence lording it over social correctness."

    You see, men desire young eggs. Women - well it doesn't matter what women desire in the world of evolutionary psychology. But when EP's do think about women's desires, it turns out that women desire older, more powerful men.

    This idea is based on either just-so stories about how our cave ancestors lived, or the belief that 20th century social mores are a true reflection of our evolutionary natures. So the fact that through socio-political design men ensured that they kept most of the money for themselves, and women were forced to consider economics when choosing a mate means exactly nothing to evolutionary psychologists.

    The idea that men want youth and beauty, and women want wealth and age in mates is transparently self-serving Patriarchy drivel. But poor dumb Merkin buys into it.

    And Merkin really is dumb. Not only is she a sucker for the lies of the Patriarchy, she isn't even aware of her own Times colleague Maureen Dowd. When Dowd was accused of writing about her own romantic failings in her recent annoying work about the "failure" of feminism (as if Smurfette understands anything about feminism) she was quick to claim that in fact she has an active and satisfying love life. Well Dowd is over 50 too.

    So maybe the problem isn't Merkin's age. Maybe the problem is Merkin's whining annoying sad-sack personality.

    From now on I will avoid reading anything by Daphne Merkin. I want to hunt her down and throttle her every time I do. And as long as she's kissing up to the Patriarchy through the promotion of evolutionary psychology pseudo-science, the NYTimes will continue to publish her drivel. And PAY her for it!!!

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    The asshole license

    The asshole license is alive and well.

    The asshole license is the justification for people who have talent (or, more often, believe they have talent) to behave any way they wish. Woody Allen has an asshole license. Perhaps about 90% of Americans don't recognize its validity, but for the 10% who do, it is true and good and right to disregard his hypocrisy or misogyny or pedophilia or general creepiness because he's made films, some of which are fairly enjoyable.

    The fact that the asshole license is not a tangible item does not make it any less real for those who believe they possess one, or are believed to possess one.

    As a living legend, Paul McCartney has an asshole license, but one of the things I admire most about him is that he seems to have taken very little advantage of its privileges, and throughout his life seems to have behaved in a fairly moderate and reasonable way. This fact is rarely appreciated, which gives those who possess asshole licenses even less reason to behave well.

    Thanks to the playwright Doug Wright, the Marquis de Sade has been issued a posthumous asshole license. The Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat who took advantage of the power of his class to sexually assault prostitutes and servants.

    That de Sade also wrote about his desires to sexually assault apparently caused Wright to feel that de Sade deserved an asshole license, and so he wrote a play, Quills that ignored de Sade's actual crimes and portrayed him as the victim of phillistines and prudes. Since so few people know de Sade's true biography, Wright's view of de Sade is the one that is popularly accepted. The transformation of the Marquis de Sade into a hero of the First Amendment is, in spite of his Pulitzer Prize for I Am My Own Wife, Doug Wright's most impressive accomplishment.

    The asshole who is suing me, demanding that I give him money for producing my own play, Tam Lin, thinks he has a license to be one. He holds his own directing abilities in such high regard that he believes that any work that is touched by him is singed with his mystical brand and altered, profoundly, eternally and irrevocably. Although I directed Tam Lin in 2005 myself, starting from scratch with a completely new set and a revised script, he has the delusion that I used his blocking and "choreography" from the previous year. I will have more to say on this topic once the case has gone through the courts.

    Read the rest of this essay "The asshole license" here

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Wolcott is SMOKIN'!

    Go and read Wolcott's piece on Imus! He is smiting the evildoers right and left. His focus is on the I-man, but he gives plenty of grief to the ever-deserving Smurfette:
    Today Maureen Dowd was on, doing her usual cutesy-nervous number (I don't know how you can cut it as a seductress when you so transparently want guys to, um, like, like you), and at one point Imus said that she's gotta stop bashing Bush in her column, he and Charles and everybody else are bored with it, she's just gotta let it go, all that Rummy stuff, ya know, enough already...

    And instead of the Pulitzer Prize winning Times writer saying, It's my column, I'll write what I want to, or, We've got three years left in the Bush presidency, I can hardly ignore him and it, no, instead of standing up for herself, she said in the coyest, cloyingest manner possible, "Well, I beat up a little on Hillary at the end of the column today." As if she were trying to appease the geezer. As if she hadn't bashed Hillary all those years Bill C. was president, and will no doubt be bashing her again ad nauseum in the future.
    He pins exactly what is so grievously wrong with Maureen Dowd and why it's an embarrassment to womankind to have her represent us at the NYTimes op-ed hive colony.

    The Times should fire Smurfette and hire Katha Pollitt to replace her immediately.

    Wolcott also bashes Tom Oliphant, who I always like on the Al Franken show. I would LOVE to have Franken question Oliphant about his Imus-enabling.

    Thank you Wolsy!

    Help Chris Muir find teh funny (again)

    as seen on Pandagon

    See my version here.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Bush is the worst president EVER

    New York Review of Books' review of James Risen's State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

    Nobody was supposed to know that FISA had been brushed aside. The fact that the National Security Agency (NSA), America's largest intelligence organization, had been turned loose to intercept the faxes, e-mails, and phone conversations of Americans with blanket permission by the President remained secret until the New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau learned over a year ago that it was happening. An early version of the story was apparently submitted to the Times' editors in October 2004, when it might have affected the outcome of the presidential election. But the Times, for reasons it has not clearly explained, withheld the story until mid-December, when the newspaper's publisher and executive editor—Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller—met with President Bush in the Oval Office to hear his objections before going ahead. Even then certain details were withheld.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Bush Administration can't ask for court order to spy on its politcal enemies

    from MyDD by way of Majikthese: Bush Is Spying on His Political Opponents
    Bush Administration uses U.S. Army to spy on war critics. The Bush Administration used top-secret U.S. Army spying capabilities to spy on domestic war critics such as Quakers, Students Against the War, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Greenpeace. An internal review forced the Pentagon to admit it had "improperly stored" information on potentially thousands of people because there was no "reasonable belief" they had any link to terrorism. (Newsweek, 1/30/06)

    Bush Administration uses FBI to spy on war critics. The Bush administration is using the FBI to "collect extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators," causing the California Attorney General to declare that Bush Administration policy violates the state constitution prohibition on spying on political and religious groups without evidence of criminal activity. (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/23/03

    Read more at MyDD

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    My favorite drug: tea

  • Great Britain has its own tea council - although the naked lady in the cup of tea graphic is pretty skeevy.
  • Tazo Tea has a fancy schmancy web site
  • The cruelly mis-named Boston Tea Party What, are you supposed to drink Boston Harbor?
  • My teapot: Imperial Nail Head
  • The FDA's tea page - not as boring as it sounds.
  • Tea and Coffe trade journal if you are really serious about tea.
  • Tea Muse also for the serious tea freak.
  • Tea & Sympathy - a great downtown Manhattan spot I don't get to go to often enough.
  • Tea and Sympathy by Robert Anderson - good play, but disappointingly sparse on actual tea.
  • Saturday, February 04, 2006

    Pollitt gets the last word

    On the Slate debate with Saletan

    Nobody else seems to talk this way, so let me be the one to say it: Legal abortion is a good thing, and not just because it prevents illegal operations. Without abortion, women would be less healthy, less educated, less able to realize their gifts and talents, less able to choose their mates; children would be cared for worse and provided for less well; sex would be blighted by fear of pregnancy, as it used to be back in the good old days; families would be even more screwed up than they already are; there would be more single mothers who can't cope, more divorce, more poverty, and more unhappy people feeling sandbagged by circumstance. We hear a lot now about regret and sorrow, and I know some women who have abortions feel that way, but we don't hear about the regrets and sorrow women feel who went ahead and had the baby, and we don't hear much from women who are just completely relieved and thankful that the clinic was there for them and they can get on with their lives - lives that are good and moral.

    That's the end of her response. Earlier she says that Saletan seems like "a delightful person." I can't believe she really thinks that though, since she pretty much demonstrates exactly why he is not nice - and certainly shows what a second-rate thinker he is.

    Maybe that's just her style. She chided me once for being too angry in an email to Donna M. Hughes (I cc'd Pollitt), who in my opinion deserves all the grief I gave her for claiming to be a feminist while hooking up with David Horowitz and giving anti-feminist soundbites to Kristof at the NYTimes.

    Or maybe, because Saletan observes the social niceties, she feels she has to play along or look like a bitch. Probably a good career move in any case.

    But I think that Saletan demonstrates, courteously and in well-measured prose that he doesn't actually give a good goddam about women's lives.

    And it can't be said often enough - THE NYTIMES SHOULD GIVE KATHA POLLITT A REGULAR OP-ED COLUMN!!!

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    Friday Kat blogging

    Krazy Kat

    I love me some Paul Krugman

    The State of the Union is normally an occasion for boasting about an administration's achievements. But what's a speechwriter to do when there are no achievements?

    One answer is to pretend that the bad stuff never happened. The Medicare drug benefit is Mr. Bush's largest domestic initiative to date. It is also a disaster: at enormous cost, the administration has managed to make millions of elderly Americans worse off. So drugs went unmentioned in the State of the Union.

    Another answer is to rely on evasive language. In Iraq, Mr. Bush said, we have "changed our approach to reconstruction."

    In fact, reconstruction has failed. Almost three years after the war began, oil production is well below prewar levels, Baghdad is getting only an average of 3.2 hours of electricity a day, and more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects have been canceled.

    So now, having squandered billions in Iraqi oil revenue as well as American taxpayer dollars, we have told the Iraqis that from here on in it is their problem. America's would-be Marshall Plan in Iraq, reports The Los Angeles Times, "is drawing to a close this year with much of its promise unmet and no plans to extend its funding." I guess you can call that a change in approach.

    There is a common theme underlying the botched reconstruction of Iraq, the botched response to Katrina (which Mr. Bush never mentioned), the botched drug program and the nonexistent energy program.

    John DiIulio, the former White House head of faith-based policy, explained it more than three years ago. He told the reporter Ron Suskind how this administration operates: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. ... I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues."

    In other words, this administration is all politics and no policy. It knows how to attain power, but has no idea how to govern. That is why the administration was caught unaware when Katrina hit, and why it was totally unprepared for the predictable problems with its drug plan. It is why Mr. Bush announced an energy plan with no substance behind it. And it is why the state of the union — the thing itself and not the speech — is so grim.


    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    William Saletan: world class douchebag

    William Saletan to Katha Pollitt:
    Third, you object to targeting women rather than men. "Nobody's proposing the walk of shame for men who don't or won't use condoms, or stern lectures for them in the clinic waiting room either," you write. Well, I am. Any guy who knocks up his date should go with her, whether it's for an abortion or prenatal care. I'm open to ideas on how to pursue this.

    Then later
    Now, to the main point. You doubt that the pro-life movement will support a campaign to reduce abortions through birth control, since so many pro-life activists oppose birth control. I agree. I'm not trying to form a coalition with the pro-life movement. I'm trying to form a coalition with the public. Any pro-lifer who wants to join us is welcome. Anyone who doesn't will learn that preaching against birth control is a lot lonelier than preaching against abortion.

    Katha Pollitt, reliably, kicks his ass in her rebuttal (scroll down the link).

    The next day Saletan comes back flailing:
    Pro-choice groups are afraid of saying anything that might 1) make women feel bad about having abortions, 2) get quoted by pro-lifers as a rationale for restrictions, or 3) piss off other folks in the pro-choice movement. The result is that they water down any comment that might sound anti-abortion. It's like pulling teeth to get them to admit that abortion can be "tragic" or "sad." "Bad" is completely out of the question. They work so hard not to make waves on the left that they get the same nonresult in the middle.


    What about you? You say pro-choicers don't see abortion as "morally trivial." You say they defend it as a reluctant decision, a "sad necessity," a "morally serious, very unfortunate event." Is that how you see it?

    But my question is: does ANYBODY think that William Saletan is going to "form a coalition with the public?" A coalition devoted to hounding women about how BAD abortion is, while at the same time promoting birth control and policing people's sex lives to ensure that men accompany women they knock up to the abortion clinic?

    How easy it is to solve life's problems when you live miles about the real world!

    What a douchebag.

    Actually, that's an insult to douchebags. Douchebags perform a useful function.


    After Pollitt demolished Saletan, he finally admits what his coalition to guilt-trip women comes down to: pandering to rightwingers in an effort to gain political power:
    But, Katha, if we agree on virtually all of the policy questions, isn't politics the whole ballgame? Look at our wish list: more birth control, more sex ed, more emergency contraception, more male responsibility, more health insurance. How much of that agenda can we get without government action? And how much action can we get from a government of which we control not a single branch?

    That's why I quote polls instead of letters. It's not because I don't care about women. It's because polls tell us what the public thinks, not just what our friends think. Without the public, we have no power. And without power, we're no good to women at all.


    Yeah, and Saletan's bizarre "coalition" fantasy is really going to be good for women.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    sucking David Mamet's dick

    How the male theatre critics love David Mamet. He is their ideal, two-fisted, manly man who wasn't afraid to have his characters say 'fuck' before that became de rigeur.

    And if you want to see the critics suck Mamet's dick hard, the place to go is The New Yorker magazine.

    John Lahr worships Mamet and his play Glengarry, Glen Ross. That is the perfect Mamet play, having no female characters at all to drag down the sweaty glorious manliness of the scenario. Of course Mamet has no reason to include women since the play is about the brutality of business not about the brutality of sex.

    As I've written before on this blog, one of the biggest fears of men of the theatre is the possibility of being thought of as soft and unmanly, and so they cling to the most manly male playwrights, revelling in tales of brutality and inhumanity. They have some respect for Tennessee Williams, mind you. After all, he did write A Streetcar Named Desire and Stanley Kowalski is a spendid sister-in-law raping brute of a man. But he never had the tough wimmin-disdaining atittude of a Mamet.

    Hilton Als's review of Martin McDonagh's brutal play The Pillow Man - which expresses a revulsion of feminine weakness blatantly through the crucifixion of a little girl - compares McDonagh to all the favorite playwrights of his cohort: Mamet, Shepherd, Pinter, Beckett, Pirandello. Damn, Hilton Als loves him some Martin McDonagh. The only manly brutal playwright man he missed is Neil LaBute. But then LaBute's latest play Fat Pig was about feminine concerns so he might be out of the manly club for men at the moment.

    Let's not forget the film critics in the New Yorker. David Denby also loves Mamet and his film Heist, but then how could a movie about a criminal with a "hipster moll" fail to charm a straight male New Yorker critic?

    No suprise that The New Yorker speaks from a male perspective. It's fairly well known that although at least half the readers of The New Yorker are female, the vast majority of its contributors are male. A web site called Moby Lives documented this fact in 2002. But never fear, the New Yorker cannot be pussywhipped into affirmative action. In the February 6, 2006 issue there are 13 contributors listed, of which three have female names - and two of those contributed poems.

    An amazingly high percentage of theatre critics are men. I watch the TV show Theatre Talk regularly, hosted by Susan Haskins. I don't know if I've ever seen a female theatre critic on the show. And in fact the only female critics in New York I know of (except for on the Internet) are Linda Winer of Newsday and a few in the Village Voice (although not the first-stringers).

    So it's no surprise that manly Mamet is the toast of the town, since the town in this case has a male to female ratio of about 4:1.

    The latest installment of Mametphilia is expressed in this week's New Yorker in the form of Hilton Als review of a revival of Sexual Perversity in Chicago.
    In Mamet, American has found its chief chronicler of the ways in which what lies between the thighs does and doesn't relates to what lies in the heart

    By "America" of course, Als means men, but then you knew that because that IS the default human being in these United States.

    Only a man would consider Mamet a suitable chronicler of love and lust. Mamet's Oleanna makes clear just how much Mamet dreads the possibility of female power. Which might make him a perfect chronicler for a guy from The New Yorker, but not for some of us other Americans.