Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Given how often the Beatles were photographed, it's suprising how few photos there are of just John and Paul together. The original of this cropped image
by Harry Benson has George and Ringo in it too.
If I had the money I'd buy all kinds of original Beatle art photos prints - what's not to like? Not only are they an investment, they're historical, the subjects are very attractive young men, they're works of art, and come on, it's the Beatles.
I did treat myself to a couple of prints signed and numbered by Beatles "exi" pal Astrid Kirchherr (Stu Sutcliffe's girlfriend) a few years ago.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sight Unseen, Lunch Revisited

I went to a mass actor audition thing yesterday and to my great dismay was treated to two versions of the same ghastly monologue, one of the most nauseating examples of self-loving male puppetry ever forced down the throats of female actors:
PATRICIA: I can't describe the pleasure I had being your muse. The days and nights I sat for you. It thrilled me, watching you paint me. The connection. The connection was electric. I could see the sparks. I never felt so alive as when I sat naked for you, do you know that?
Now I did some nude modelling when I was a desperately poor single mother and I don't care if the painter is young Elvis in a thong, it's not a pleasurable experience. I bet a hundred bucks Donald Margulies never did even 2 minutes of sitting naked for a painting.

I can't believe any female actor with an ounce of self-respect would choose that monologue, with its pre-1969 levels of female passivity and self-abasement. I'd have a hard time casting someone who picked it - I'd just automatically assume she's an idiot.

The monologue is not only obnoxious in itself, it is obnoxious because it encapsulates the mind-blowing irritation level of Sight Unseen, a play about the playwright's desire to be worshipped, especially by females, for his artistic importance and power. Donald Margulies admits in the latest issue of the Dramatists Guild magazine that Sight Unseen is a thinly disguised self-portrait. I'd lock that shit away, Dorian Gray.

The Patricia character isn't the only female who appreciates Jonathan the Important Painter. The other female in the play is an attractive German woman who is interviewing him about his art, and the importance of his art, to give the playwright a chance to wax philosophical on the importance of art. Not that he REALLY needs your goddam worship, thank you very much.
JONATHAN: What I am today? What am I today? I just got here. People like you suddenly care what I have to say.
GRETE: I do care.
JONATHAN: I know you do. It cracks me up that you do; it amuses me.

Women care so much about him and his art, and yet he doesn't care about their adulation. No, not really. He can live without it. Protest much, bitch?

The Patricia character doesn't merely worship Jonathan and his art though. By rejecting her, Jonathan has ruined her life. Thanks to Jonathan, Patricia had to marry an English guy she doesn't really desire. The only time they have hot sex is when Jonathan comes to visit, because his proximity turns Patricia into an animal.

Male critics, and most critics are male, adore this play, which is a big reason why it's considered an Important Play That We Can All Learn Something From. To get a sense of the gender divide, consider this item from a recent production. A rare female critic notes:
The final scene (the second flashback of the play), surely intended to be a poignant last look at love lost, feels unfinished in this production, leaving the audience confused, saying (as the woman sitting behind me did) "is that it?" at the end of the show.
The critic blames the director, but the problem is the script. I think the woman who said "is that it?" assumed incorrectly, because Patricia does get a few lines not explicitely about Jonathan's importance, that this is a play about their relationship. Oh no no no, woman in the audience. This play is the story of the godlike power and sexual attractiveness of the Great Man of the Arts, who can ruin women's lives forever with his indifference. The little men of the arts never tire of that story. And since we are trapped in a Patriarchy you can expect to see this play revived again and again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cheney's downtime demands

As featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and available at The Smoking Gun.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Am I the only one who's ever noticed this?

If you crossed Frank Burns from MASH with Senator Joseph McCarthy you get... Bill O'Reilly!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What the NYTimes can't say: "nasty ass military area"

In today's NYTimes article about Camp Nama yet another horrendous American torture site and another blot on this country's reputation, it says:
Some former task force members said the Nama in the camp's name stood for a coarse phrase that soldiers used to describe the compound. One Defense Department specialist recalled seeing pink blotches on detainees' clothing as well as red welts on their bodies, marks he learned later were inflicted by soldiers who used detainees as targets and called themselves the High Five Paintball Club.

It took me a few moments of Googling but according to a military person, a friend of members of a web site devoted to quilting of all things :
Due to security concerns, I don't go downtown too much, although I do make pretty frequent trips to neighboring compounds. I spent the night of my birthday at Camp NAMA (which stands for Nasty A$$ Military Area--named by a General). Like the name says, it is lacking in accomodations--all tents and portajohns and "Navy" showers.

If a quilting circle can handle "nasty a$$ military area" why can't the urban sophisticate readers of the NYTimes? Especially when the accounts of torture and abuse mentioned in the article are far more "coarse" than that phrase.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Manly Man Mansfield

Walter Kirn in the NYTimes has an awesome review of the book "Manliness" by Harvey C. "Manly" Mansfield
After a section on the history of "the great explosion of manliness that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries"(an image that gives even me, a straight man, erotic chills), it's time for Mansfield to stop preheating the oven and cook up the geese he's already got trussed and cleaned: the feminists. Remember the feminists? These would be the late Betty Friedan and the even later Simone de Beauvoir, along with the somewhat more recent, but not very recent, Kate Millet, Germaine Greer and so on.

These thinkers are all somewhat different from one another, Mansfield carefully shows, but they also have something profound in common: they stole their best ideas, by and large, from two great men. From Marx they pilfered their economic theories. From Nietzsche they swiped their "nihilism." For Mansfield, nihilism is the idea that in a godless universe people are free to invent their own identities. At least I think that's what he means. Next to "manly," "nihilism" is Mansfield's favorite word, and it shows up in such a variety of contexts, attached to so many names and objects, that he might as well have rendered it as "X," as in: Simone de Beauvoir + all those other gals + the fact that they're female + the notion that "becoming manlike is a strange way of proving you are independent of men (ladylike would seem to be a better way)" = X.

Friday, March 17, 2006

You got served

The guys that do South Park are libertarian jerks, but I have to admit every now and then they do something great. "You Got F*cked in the Ass" from 2004 isn't an all-around great episode, like the immortal Underpants Gnomes episode or the anti-Scientology episode "Trapped in the Closet" but it has great moments, especially with the goths.
Stan: Hey guys. Uh. You guys know how to dance, right?

Tall Goth: [with cigarette] Of course we know how to dance.

Stan: Cool, because, there's this competition on Saturday, and I have to find the very best dancers in South Park to be on my crew. My friends can't do it because they suck ass, so, will you be in my dance troupe?

Red Goth: Dance troupe? Please. [leans to one side and whips his hair back into place] We don't dance like those Britney and Justin wannabes at school. [whips his hair back into place] Goth kids dance to express pain and suffering.

Tall Goth: Yeah. [stands up] The only cool way to dance is to keep your hands at your sides and your eyes looking at the ground. Then every three seconds you take a drag from your cigarette. [leans his head to the right for two beats, leans it to the left for two beats, leans it to the right for two beats while taking a drag, leans it to the left for two beats, repeats. The red Goth follows suit, then all four Goths dance the same way]

Stan: Okay, that'll work fine. Listen, there's a dance competition this Saturday and I need good dancers so I don't get served.

Red Goth: [flips his hair back] No way. Dancing is something you do alone in your room at three in the morning.

Stan: [walks up to the red Goth] Please, you guys, our whole town's reputation is at stake! Will any of you do it?

Red Goth: I'm not doin' it. Being in a dance group is totally conformist.

Henrietta: Yeah. I'm not conforming to some dance-off regulations.

Little Goth: I'm not doin' it either. I'm the biggest nonconformist of all.

Tall Goth: I'm such a nonconformist that I'm not going to conform with the rest of you. Okay, I'll do it. [rises and walks over to Stan]

Stan: Great! [they leave together]

Henrietta: Whoa. I think we just got put in our place.

Red Goth: Yeah. We just got Goth-served.

And now... it's on!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Book report: Adapting Minds

Just got Adapting Minds, Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature by David J. Buller, and so far so good.

Unfortunately, but not suprisingly, it hasn't captured the public's imagination the way many of the works of the Evolutionary Psychologists (Buller capitalizes the term) have but then that's always the advantage EP had - telling the public, in simplified "scientific" terms what it already believes about the true natures of men and women.

But what Buller lacks in user-friendly presentation he makes up for in his solid examination of the claims of evolutionary psychologists. I've only read a few chapters and already found refutations of EP that I hadn't considered, like the fact that much of the results of the celebrated female desire for males with status actually boils down to "status homogamy" - the tendency of people to mate with those in their own status group. He points out that it's very likely that studies have shown that women prefer high status men because the women studied, invariably white upper-class women in college, have high status themselves.

He criticizes the methodology of David Buss and confirms what I suspected but hadn't yet researched - that David Buss ignores cultural restrictions on female choice of mates. As Buller says: a well-documented study, the anthropologist William Irons found that, among the Turkmen of Persia, males in the wealthier half of the population left 75 percent more offspring than males in the poorer half of the population. Buss cites several studies like this as indicating that "high status in men leads directly to increased sexual access to a larger number of women," and he implies that this is due to the greater desirability of high-status men (David Buss 1999 "Evolutionary Psychology the New Science of the Mind").

But, among the Turkmen, women were sold by their families into marriage. The reason that higher-status males enjoyed greater reproductive success among the Turkmen is that they were able to buy wives earlier and more often than lower-status males. Other studies that clearly demonstrate a reproductive advantage for high-status males are also studies of societies or circumstances in which males "traded" in women. This isn't evidence that high-status males enjoy greater reproductive success because women find them more desirable. Indeed, it isn't evidence of female preference at all, just as the fact that many harem-holding despots produced remarkable numbers of offspring is no evidence of their desirability to women. It is only evidence that when men have power they will use it to promote their reproductive success, among other things (and that women, under such circumstances, will prefer entering a harem to suffering the dire consequences of refusal).

The fact that Buss can't be bothered to account for virtual female slavery when proclaiming female choice is typical of the Evolutionary Psychologist approach. Their belief in the power of biology to control human behavior is so reflexive that they can't be bothered to consider even the most glaringly obvious cultural factors impacting their claims.

And those who claimed that all Lawrence Summers was doing was expressing an interesting theory on human nature are so incredibly short-sighted. Because Summers suggested "to provoke you" that women are mentally inferior to men in math and science, and that's the primary reason why women have lesser math/science careers than men.

This isn't just interesting scientific speculation. He was the president of Harvard and had some say in its hiring policies. That made it political, and feminists would be fools to refrain from fighting tooth and nail to prevent the flimsily-backed claims of Evolutionary Psychology from being allowed to excuse gender-based discrimination.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

...and the president you rode in on.

By way of Evil Li-brul Overlord >:D , Shakespeare's Sister has a great post on conservatives who are now trying to distance themselves from Bush.
And now that the hideous underbelly of conservatism is exposed in a grotesque mosaic of avarice, antipathy, and corruption, the movement conservatives, who happily regarded Bush as the water-carrier for their movement during this hog wild run toward heaven on earth, now want to distance themselves from him as if the revolting montage of carnage is the singular result of his dogmatic incompetence, instead of the culmination of a mob-directed feeding frenzy that it actually is. Well, fuck you and the president you rode in on.

Bush was your Golden Boy—a corporate shill with the demeanor of a country bumpkin, who could hold together the unholy alliance between Big Money and Big Religion, standing at the altar and giving the blessing to the crackpot marriage between the business interests who sought to get rich off the stupid sods who marched in lockstep if only someone would protect the children from radical feminists and kissing boys. He didn’t just give good speech on Neocon dreams and working class nightmares; he believed that shit. And with a GOP-led Congress and a neverending stream of media mouthpieces willing to demonize anyone who dared to dissent, he tumbled headfirst into fulfilling every last one of your wishes, like a demented genie pulled out of a bottle in oil-soaked Texas.

He wrapped himself in the flag and told America to follow him down the Yellow Brick Road. He went to war, and he made you rich. And you cheered him all the way, over every last golden cobblestone. Then America got to Oz, and started getting itchy—and now you want to pretend you never knew what was there. Why, we had no idea there was just some shriveled old man behind the curtain! Please.

This excerpt also gets bonus points for using a Wizard of Oz metaphor, which I intend to use myself when I create a web site devoted to the lawsuit involving my fight to protect my copyright, and my right to authorize derivative work - or to refuse to authorize derivative work - in the spirit of the web site.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fun Copyright Fact

This is from the US Copyright Office's Circular 14 Copyright Registration for Derivative Works
Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. The owner is generally the author or someone who has obtained rights from the author.
I have never authorized a derivative work for my play TAM LIN, so anybody who claims to have a copyright on such a derivative work has obtained it unlawfully.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Unauthorized Copyright in Oz

Coming soon to this blog - my parody of the court case my partner Jonathan and I are embroiled in.
(After the case is over, of course.)

(image of Ozma of Oz c. 2006 by N.G. McClernan)

Friday, March 10, 2006

The New Republic has never heard of Tom Tomorrow

According to Noam Schreiber in the New Republic
The shrewdest observers of human nature in newsprint, such as Tierney's Times colleague David Brooks...

Reading this - thanks to great goddess Echidne for blogging about this first - caused me to burst into laughter because I remembered the classic Tom Tomorrow cartoon Mr. McBobo, the Intellectually Near-sighted pundit. The whole point of that cartoon was exactly how bad an observer of human nature Brooks actually is by comparing him to the literally near-sighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo.

Tom Tomorrow (aka Dan Perkins) should win the Pulitzer for that cartoon alone.

The fact that Noam Schreiber can make such a claim about David Brooks without a hint of irony proves he (and possibly the New Republic) are unfamiliar with This Modern World.

Oh Magoo, you've done it again!

Ooh! Blog-parasite bonus - Tom Tomorrow's blog has a video of right-winger John Derbyshire getting his ass kicked by Bruce Lee - for real.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Videos of anti-abortion protestors

Can be seen at atCenterNewtwork. No surprise here - the anti-abortion protestors haven't thought through the ramifications of making abortion illegal - like whether women who get illegal abortions should be prosecuted.

I have a whole bunch of videos of anti-abortion protestors of my own from the Cherry Hill Women's Center from the early 1990s. I'll have to start posting excerpts here soon.

I found this link via Pandagon.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Slavery denial

One thing that really bugs me is when the importance of slavery to the American Civil War is minimized or denied.

A good example of how that works is on an episode of "The Simpsons" when Apu is getting his citizenship.
Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.

Cute, ain't it? But in fact, slavery it IS.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, South Carolina seceded, followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. They seceded because they feared Lincoln would free their slaves.

The Confederacy was formed Feb 9, 1861.

Then on April 12, 1861 the Confederacy attacked the United States of America at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

If the Confederacy had won the civil war there is no doubt they would have preserved slavery - possibly even forcing slavery on formerly free states.

How interesting that the clear cause of Civil War - the desire of the South to preserve slavery - is constantly downplayed.

Could it have something to do with the fact that the state of Texas, a member of the Confederacy and to this day a deep Red state and a bastion of racism has so much control over textbooks?

According to the NYTimes, March 17, 1994:
Textbooks sales in Texas represent about 8 percent of the $2.2 billion national market for textbooks. The state is second only to California which represents about 12 percent. Texas is also one of 22 states in which government committees must approve all texts sold in the state. Because Texas controls such a large market share, publishers often develop texts to meet the standards set by its 15-member Board of Education and then market them nationwide.
I think there's very likely a connection there.

Growing up in the mid-Atlantic states, I never thought much about North-South differences. The Civil War was a hundred years before I was born - ancient history. I think many Northerners feel that way. Only recently have I come to realize just how much anti-Northern resentment there is in the South. (BTW, mute your computer's sound before you visit these links or be blasted with a hideous MIDI version of "Dixie.")

They're still bitter they lost the Civil War, and I think some Northerners try to make them feel better by downplaying the obvious - the South was the pro-slavery BAD GUYS in the Civil War and it's a great thing that the North won!

The Southerners can get over the Civil War by stop thinking of themselves as Southerners and start thinking of themselves as Americans.

Interesting article on slavery denial at which I found by way of Ann at Sivacracy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Link changes

Delinking Majikthese - too many annoying guest bloggers, too worshipful of Daniel Dennett, anti-doggie steps and now two Oscar fashion posts. I'm out of there.

Linking - Americablog - brought us the Jeff Gannon/Guckart scandal.

On the ability to bring new life into the world

The problem with the discussion of abortion is that it has been entirely framed by the patriarchy. In the patriarchy's view, pregnancy is something that happens to female bodies, part of "nature" and once a female happens to become pregnant, her body belongs to the patriarchy.

And this is the enlightened view. In extreme patriarchy, even non-pregnant females are owned by the patriarchy - females are not permitted to decide when to have sex, much less when to become pregnant. In cultures that exist right now girls are sold into marriage and women cannot refuse to have sex with their husbands.

It is time for a new, holistic understanding of the female body - not a collection of organs in service of the patriarchy but a single entity with self-determination.

The fact that the actual process of growing a fetus is not a conscious action of will in no way invalidates the conscious will of the woman growing the fetus in her body.

Girls should be taught that the future of the human race is up to them. If they decide to get pregnant, and decide to grow a fetus to term, they are doing humanity a favor.

It is the woman's decision to grow life or deny life. If society wants another generation, we, as women, may decide to provide one if we can expect the proper amount of gratitude for undertaking such a body-sapping, time-consuming, sometimes even life-threatening project.

And as soon as enough women have wrested control of their lives from the patriarchy, that's how it will be. Which is why the patriarchy is terrified of both abortion and birth control.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bush is Bad - the Musical

I saw Bush is Bad the Musical last night at the Triad Theatre (located on the upper West Side, aka Blue State Central) in New York and had a great time.

It's more a cabaret act than a musical in the traditional sense. The cast, Kate Baldwin, Neal Mayer and Michael McCoy perform a variety of tunes concering the evils of the Bush Administration. They also do impersonations - Michael McCoy does a good Bush and Baldwin was spot on as God - and the role gave her a chance to show off her impressive voice.

Highlights of the show include "Crazy Ann Coulter", "Culture of Life" and "Das Busch ist Schlect" (Schlect was done in the art song style of Robert Schumann.)

It was definitely a heartening experience to be in a room of people who get it - who understand just how crazy and radical the rightwing have become. And can laugh hysterically about it, in between moments of utter bafflement and outrage.

We're going back and taking a bunch of people from work with us.

How can 59 million people be so dumb? Of course these days even my mother, a conservative anti-abortion Catholic says she doesn't like Bush. If only the election could be held today (assuming the voting machines aren't tampered with.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Donald's latest solo

Not Trump, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan

He has a new album Morph the Cat coming out March 14. I pre-ordered at Amazon.

I wasn't a huge fan of the latest Dan record Everything Must Go, but the one before, Two Against Nature had, for my money, two songs that stand up to the best of old tyme Steely Dan: the title track and Jack of Speed.

Fagen/Becker (Walter Becker) are one of my favorite songwriting duos, along with Lennon/McCartney and Flansburgh/Linnell (They Might Be Giants).

I definitely prefer Donald to Walter though. Mainly because none of Becker's solo work has ever grabbed me, and the man's voice is nothing to rave about either. But if Fagen had never done anything else musically, he should be revered for the sci-fi ironic-patriotic electro-pop subversive supermarket masterpiece that is IGY (International Geophysical Year) from Fagen's first solo album way back when in '82, The Nightfly. Hearing the opening synthesizer of IGY, especially in the supermarket, always makes me perk up in anticipation. The very fact that you can experience such smooth and knowing irony in a supermarket makes the world seem like a fun and funky place, if only for a moment.

Also, Walter Becker has a sort of leering old sleezy uncle persona, whereas Donald Fagen has a far more appealing resigned-to-life's disappointments uncle persona.

I had to laugh at Fagen's reply in this week's Time Out New York interview when asked if any of his songs were optimistic:
I think they're all optimistic in the sense that I wrote a song. In other words, if I didn't write any songs, that would really be pessimistic. The fact that I wrote the song and took time to do the arrangement, got the musicians to show up on time, arranged to pay them somehow, went out on tour, played for people, charged money and stuff like that - that's really optimistic.

And I am optimistic that I'm going to like Morph the Cat.

But it would be hard for anybody to match the excellence of songs like Time Out of Mind, Sign in Stranger, Boddhisatva, My Old School or IGY.

If you haven't heard IGY, go listen to it at your earliest convenience. Amazon has a snippet that doesn't do it justice. The lyrics alone don't do it justice either, but they're still fun to type.
Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure time for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free for the hard-core Dan fan

Watch Donald and Walter do Taxicab Confessions.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

People who feel are just not cool

Many people with at least some education are familiar with Horace Walpole's saying
Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.

And they all take a single meaning out of it - people who feel do not think.

That's why it's so terribly chic to laugh at violence and cruelty.