Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hapworth 16, 1924

Wow, I am excited - The New Yorker has entered the digital age big-time. It now has digital archives of the entire magazine, online, accessible to its print subscribers. Which means I get to read the only thing by J. D. Salinger (that I know of) that I haven't read yet, the story "Hapworth 16, 1924" printed in the June 19, 1965 edition.

I was prompted by the way, by this article in today's NYTimes Still Paging Mr. Salinger.

Here's Hapworth, for subscribers

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shakespeare's sonnet #148

O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight!

more with analysis & interpretation here...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

John Simon & Me

John Simon is a crusty old coot, and a racist to boot - he once said on Theatre Talk that Suzan-Lori Parks was a social climber because she married a white guy.

So it feels weird to note that he and I are virtually the only people in theatre who are not impressed by the work of Harold Pinter, who has been canonized as one of the Great Men of the Arts, worthy of many hagiographies in The New Yorker. Although I, at least, like Pinter's politics. But I agree with Simon in his review of THE HOMECOMING:
It is widely considered the Nobel laureate's masterpiece; rather than as a drawback, its making no sense is perceived as a challenge.

Pinter's characters are either sorry nonentities or predatory jackals. Bad enough, but, worse yet, each turns with predictable schematism into his or her opposite. Then, often enough, back again. Even the dead revolve, not in their graves but in human memory. For the spectator, steadily foreseeable reversals become an unsurprising shell game.

Max, 70, a retired butcher, has three sons: the youngest, Joey, a demolition worker by day and aspiring boxer at night; the middle one, Lenny, a successful pimp in London's Soho with a high-class clientele; the eldest, Teddy, a professor of philosophy in America, home to visit with his wife, Ruth.

Max refers to his late wife, Jessie, as one at whose ``rotten, stinking face it made [him] sick to look,'' though not ``such a bad bitch.'' At another time as a paragon who taught her boys ``all the morality they know,'' which turns out to be low praise indeed. Sam, Max's chauffeur brother, first calls her a charming lady, and later mentions her having adulterous sex in the back of his car.

Logical Incoherence?

Surly Lenny tries to engage Teddy in a philosophical discussion.

``Do you detect a certain logical incoherence in the central affirmations of Christian theism?'' he asks amid recondite questioning. Teddy, like no philosopher one has ever met, finds existential questions beyond his purview.

Lenny reminisces about an old lady coming out of nowhere and asking him to move an iron mangle from her front room to a back one. When the mangle proves too heavy, Lenny settles, being in a good mood, for a mere jab to the crone's belly.

Ruth, who seems withdrawn and cold, nonetheless is an exemplary wife and good mother to her three boys. Max treats her alternately as a lady and as a whore. Soon she is playing erotic games with her brothers-in-law.

Typical of the writing is Ruth's description of America: ``It's all rock. And sand. It stretches . . . so far . . . everywhere you look. And there's lots of insects there.'' The latter sentence is duly repeated after one of those infamous, pseudo-pregnant Pinteresque pauses. Not even cigars can stay in character: pronounced excellent one moment, they are decried as wretched soon after.
More here.

I've been told on occasion that I "think too much" about plays. This is from people who generally think much too little - but only thinking too much is considered a fault in our world.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Baby

Eartha Kitt died Dec. 25 2008. One of her best-known recordings was Santa Baby. My mother likes to tell the story of how my grandmother yelled at her for singing that song while doing the dishes, when she (my mother) was a teenager. I'd like to think that my grandmother didn't like the song for its crass materialism and whorish sex-for-cash message, but it was probably just because it was a sexually suggestive song.

My grandmother also had a huge problem with Elvis Presley, calling him "disgusting." This was well before the fat Elvis era.

Favorite lyrics of "Santa Baby"

Santa cutie, there's one thing I really do need:
The deed to a platinum mine.

A platinum mine???? Sheesh, she is not messing around - she goes right to the means of production.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm having an English Christmas

Look at the charming teacup and saucer a couple of English playwright friends of mine gave me for a housewarming gift. It prompted me to say "all the best stuff comes from England."

There are some exceptions, but consider:

The Beatles
Eddie Izzard
Monty Python
Regency period clothing for men
The Brontes
Afternoon tea
Chupa Chups
Sherlock Holmes

So I have decided to have an English Christmas, with goodies from the premiere English food purveyors in Manhattan Tea & Sympathy.

Although I admit I have yet to have a craving to see Christmas pantomime. Although I do rather like Monty Python's Pantomime Horse as Secret Agent sketch.

Mary Tyler Moore & me

I've been watching some early episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore show - when the show first began airing in the 70s I was too young to appreciate it. And while I was watching it struck me how much Phyllis Lyndstrom (Cloris Leachman), Mary's friend and landlady, reminds me of an actor I worked with in the past year - incredibly bossy and full of herself, acting like she's large and in charge when in fact she's destructive. This episode gives a great idea of what Phyllis was like. It's eerie - I'd swear the actor in question modeled herself on this character.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why this image?

Because any time is a good time to show a photo of Björk Guðmundsdóttir wearing her infamous swan dress.

You can't see it here, but her purse was shaped like an egg.

My favorite Bjork song: Human Behavior

If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready to get confused
There's definitely no logic
To human behaviour
But yet so irristible
There's no map
To human behaviour
They're terribly moody
Then all of a sudden turn happy
But, oh, to get involved in the exchange
Of human emotions is ever so satisfying
There's no map
And a compass
Wouldn't help at all
Human behaviour

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Connections online

The kids today can't possibly appreciate what a treasure trove the Internet is - especially YouTube. When the Connections series came out, I did not have a video recorder and the series was not available on videotape yet. So I had to arrange my schedule around public television's schedule. And if you missed an episode, forget it.

Now you can watch the entire TV series CONNECTIONS for free any time you want on YouTube. I was born 40 years too early.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is "Jane Eyre" the sexiest book ever written?

Asks The Daily Mail:
He pouts, broods and beats his way into our hearts, riding around the moors in leather boots and furry coats, looking ripe for rescue by our Jane.

He is clever, tortured and besotted, and Jane follows him around the house and calls him 'Sir' and 'Master' in scenes which, if I were not so well bred, I would consider rude.

A typical one goes like this: "You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he. "Do you find me handsome?" Jane has a ponder and comes back (no pushover she): "No, Sir".

It's a struggle, a battle, an epic; and when he finally declares his love to her (after naughtily pretending he was going to marry someone else), a tree gets struck by lightning in the garden. (This doesn't happen in my love-life, although I dearly wish it would). But ? and most people forget this ? Jane Eyre is a fantasy too rich for one hero. Charlotte wrote us two.

After she leaves Thornfield (to nearly die of exposure), she meets St John Rivers, who is later revealed to be her cousin. (In some ways, Jane Eyre is a lot like Dynasty.)

St John is a prim, sexy blond. (She probably cut a third hero, a red-head this time, from an early draft.) And, sometimes - particularly on winter Sunday afternoons - I find him more beguiling even than Rochester.

St John is a priest - a "cold hard man" he tells Jane - but he falls for Jane like an orange rolling off a fridge. She fancies him, too, watching him admire a picture of a beautiful girl and drooling: "He breathed low and fast; I stood silent."

That's two-love to lonely Miss Bronte. How spoilt she was in her head. But it's back to Rochester and his marvellous flaws, and the beautiful cry: "Reader," - say it with me - "I married him." Aaah.

That is when I collapse prostrate on the floor, like a piece of toast waiting for some Rochester-flavoured jam.

In Rochester, Charlotte wrote a hero no real man can ever touch. Jane Eyre should be subtitled Revenge Of The Parson's Daughter because she spoilt real love for us all.

He is the man in every film, book or TV series you ever wanted; the dark darling you can save from himself. Plus Thorn-field would be fab to redecorate.

And Jane is so ordinary, "poor, obscure, plain and little", that anyone could get him. He chucks the glamourous beauty Blanche for Jane. He falls, like a god, into our laps.

What about Jane Austen, you may squeak. What about Pride And Prejudice? Shaddap is my answer. Charlotte herself sneered that Jane Austen "ruffles her readers with nothing vehement" (ouch!) and tidy Miss Austen is a pastel to Bronte's lustrous crimson.

She's John Lewis to Charlotte's Selfridges. Who wants to hear about the city of Bath when you can have the wilds of Yorkshire? Who wants drippy Darcy ? a man so wet you could do backstroke in him ? when you can have Rochester and Rivers?

So Jane Eyre isn't the first book in the canon of love-starved fantasy. It is the canon. The only thing I can say against it is that it is indirectly responsible for Dame Barbara Cartland getting published.

I don't agree with quite a bit of this... but it is entertainingly written, especially the Rochester-flavored jam bit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis RIP

Dock Ellis, who infamously claimed he pitched a no-hitter for Pittsburgh under the influence of LSD and later fiercely spoke out against drug and alcohol addiction, died Friday. He was 63.

I keep trying to finish a play based on this guy and his tripping no-hitter.

Obit at the NYTimes

Partay tonight!

It's time for my holiday/housewarming partay for all my chardonnay-sipping brie-munching liberal friends tonight!

And yes, that's what the right-wingers call us, as they do in this stunningly UNprescient blog thread at the dread wingnut "Free Republic" (home of the "Freepers") entitled Obama Can't Win in November

money quote:
You can't win a general election with a coalition of America hating Bitter African- Americans and America hating Bitter white liberal elitist billionaires/millionaires, who buy brie, Chardonnay, and expensive rat politicians like the elitist Hussein Obama/Samma.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Krugman & Bush

Both Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert made a big deal out of Barbra Steisand making nice with Bush. But here's a weirder moment of Zen - Bush and one of his (other) harshest critics, Paul Krugman.

Hilarity ensues, says The Economist

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The buffest Rochester ever

Our Rochester for the upcoming JANE EYRE reading, Jason Alan Griffin, is definitely the buffest Rochester of all time.

How big a douchebag is Steven D. Levitt?

He asks: What Do Prostitutes and Rice Have in Common? in the NYTimes:
When we talk about the demand curve for a good, what we mean is how the quantity consumed for that exact same good changes with the price of that good while holding everything else constant (such as the consumer's income, the price of other goods, etc). A moment's reflection makes it obvious that the customer who purchases the high-price prostitute would demand just as much or more of her services if she were willing to do all the same things but at half the price. Similarly, the customer who chooses the low-price prostitute would also consume more of her services if her price were halved. If this is the case, the demand for prostitutes indeed slopes downward, just like the demand for virtually every other good known to mankind.

So how is it that rice in rural China might violate this rule? How could it be that when the price of rice rises, people actually consume more of it? Two factors are critical.

First, rice makes up a large share of the total expenditures of these Chinese peasants. Second, if they were richer, these peasants would prefer to eat less rice and more of other things, like meat; it is just that they are too poor right now to afford much meat and they have to eat something. When rice becomes more expensive, one effect of the higher price is to make the peasants want to consume less of it (just as johns do with prostitutes who raise their prices).

Now I'm someone who thinks prostitution should be decriminalized. But even so, I recognize the nastiness of that life for the majority of sex workers, and to compare the "consumption" of a prostitute's services to consuming rice is so incredibly offensive. But even more offensive is some of the commenters on the Freakonomics blog - none of whom, I'll wager, have ever had to worry about selling their bodies to survive - or being sold into sex slavery by their own parents, or kidnapped into it - the fate of thousands or even millions of girls around the world.

What do Steve D. Levitt and a douchebag have in common? What don't they?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ooh, Sonnet contest!

Looking for adult sonnets! My sonnets can certainly be "adult!"

Oh wait, you have to be in Kansas.

And damn, I missed the Prairie Home Companion sonnet contest. And I must say, the finalists and winning sonnets seem very very lame to me.

I know my next sonnet will be one of my most romantic but I can't finish it because because because...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The next big thing...

Performed by Bruce Barton, Lynsey Buckelew, Ann Farthing, Nick Fondulis, Lori Kee, Mike Selkirk & Phoebe Summersquash

6 shows @The Penny Templeton Studio theater

Saturday, January 24 2009 8PM
Sunday, January 25, 2009 3PM
Saturday, January 31 2009 8PM
Sunday, February 1, 2009 3PM
Saturday, February 7 2009 8PM
Sunday, February 8, 2009 3PM

Fox Force Five

Is Emily New York enough to get into Fox Force Five? Maybe crazy coked-up Jackie can help.

Personal Jesus

Mellow Jesus and Angry Jesus answer prayers - that are mutually exclusive. Only the power of a Zen koan can help them now..

Pooh Story

Two people. A bench in Central Park. A Bear of Very Little Brain. A parody of a classic American play.

Stage Diving

Stephanie's Mom has come along to a concert with her, which is bad enough, but then Mom wants to relive the Clash's 1981 London Calling tour by diving off the stage.

The B Word

Gerry and Sandy bicker about the dangers of city playgrounds and prejudice until some bad kids come by and steal their bikes.

Mr. Black

Mr. Black has vowed to protect all abused creatures on Earth. His girlfriend is concerned where this will lead.

Happily Married

Kelly has had a crush on Ted, a cartoonist, for a long time. Now she has a chance to tell him what Hannah, his wife has been up to when she was supposed to be rehearsing.

The Helicopter

Helen and Bob are so intent on learning who will be promoted that they don't pay attention to the unfolding tragedy downtown until Helen learns her daughter is involved.


Well, the next big thing after the JANE EYRE winter solstice reading next week...

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I wish I could write sonnets again.

Maybe there will be a Christmas miracle.

Speaking of The Nutcracker, you can now watch videos of various Nutcrackers at youtube, including the Baryshnikov version - Bary's looking hawt!

And it is de riguer for Clara to dance with the Nutcracker

The Royal Ballet does a nice version of the Chocolate, Coffee & Tea dances.

And here is its Trepak & Marzipan I loooove the Prince's outfit with the red jacket, white pants and boots. What does that remind me of?

And the Waltz of the Flowers

My first Nutcracker was 1979 at the Pennsylvania Ballet.

There is apparently a Manhattan S&M club called The Nutcracker Suite.

Friday, December 12, 2008

American Notes by Charles Dickens

Excerpt from Chapter 18
There is but one other head on which I wish to offer a remark; and that has reference to the public health. In so vast a country, where there are thousands of millions of acres of land yet unsettled and uncleared, and on every rood of which, vegetable decomposition is annually taking place; where there are so many great rivers, and such opposite varieties of climate; there cannot fail to be a great amount of sickness at certain seasons. But I may venture to say, after conversing with many members of the medical profession in America, that I am not singular in the opinion that much of the disease which does prevail, might be avoided, if a few common precautions were observed. Greater means of personal cleanliness, are indispensable to this end; the custom of hastily swallowing large quantities of animal food, three times a-day, and rushing back to sedentary pursuits after each meal, must be changed; the gentler sex must go more wisely clad, and take more healthful exercise; and in the latter clause, the males must be included also. Above all, in public institutions, and throughout the whole of every town and city, the system of ventilation, and drainage, and removal of impurities requires to be thoroughly revised. There is no local Legislature in America which may not study Mr. Chadwick’s excellent Report upon the Sanitary Condition of our Labouring Classes, with immense advantage.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

They couldn't see this coming?

The New Yorker review of the movie "Doubt"
This film, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who adapted it from his own play, unfolds in 1964, at a Catholic school in the Bronx. A jovial priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is accused by the principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), of interfering with an altar boy. He denies it, she yearns to believe it, and we don’t care. Collectors of large narrative signposts will spend a happy couple of hours at Shanley’s movie, enjoying the window-rattling thunderstorms that he uses to indicate spiritual crisis, and the grimness with which Sister Aloysius, narrowing her red-rimmed eyes, delivers the line “So, it’s happened.” I didn’t know you could hiss, groan, and murmur at the same time, but Streep can do anything. She is, of course, wasted on this elephantine fable; if only “Doubt” had been made in 1964, shot by Roger Corman over a long weekend, and retitled “Spawn of the Devil Witch” or “Blood Wimple,” all would have been forgiven.

The play this movie is based on is good, but how could Shanley not get how uncinematic it is? I could see how static it was going to be when I saw previews last week before "Milk" but I wasn't a bit surprised. The play itself is quiet and thoughtful and leaves the audience wondering if the priest was guilty or not - which is all wrong for a movie. And actually, I had my own problems with the ending of the play, but nobody else seems to agree with me on that.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I cannot write any more sonnets until I find out what happened to my studio monitors... a Muse is a funny thing...

what was I thinking?

I checked back into again recently - I was all psyched about being in NYC so perhaps I was the victim of irrational exuberance, much like the financial markets - and wow I forgot how many unattractive men there are out there in the 40 - 50 year old age range. I mean, not just ugly, but SCARY ugly. And so many of them want women in the 20-30 age range. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid.

Men really start to look worse than women in middle age. It's because so many of them think that the cardinal virtue of being a man is being all-natural - none of this hair coloring for them - if they even have hair. The bald ones seem to believe that bald is beautiful. And what's up with the gray beards? Why would anybody have a gray beard? It makes me sick to think about getting near one. And so many men are slobs and couch potatoes. At least most of them have gotten the message that long nose hair is truly revolting and are trimming it.

And so many of the men online make a big deal about wanting a good kisser. It struck me as odd, this obsession with kissing - I mean, that's what they call "first base" isn't it? Then I remembered - of course! Prostitutes don't like to kiss their clients. These men can't get kissed by pros, so they are looking for a woman who will kiss them, for free, because they can't even pay a prostitute to do it.

Then some 48-year old douchebag contacts me, noticing that my preferred age-range is 25 - 48, and says "what would a cultured lady like you do with a 25-year-old?"

So many good come-backs for that one, I was overwhelmed, and just didn't bother answering, in disgust. And I could have a 25 year old, virtually any time I wanted. But I have this horrible curse - I actually have to LIKE a man before I can get involved with him. And I like so few of them. So when I do meet one I like, I usually go nuts for him.

It's hard not to despair and become a nun. Luckily I'm an atheist.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wow my relatives are boring

I can write this because none of them have any real interest in me or what I'm up to and will probably never read this blog. They friended* me on Facebook, but that's presumably for the sake of completeness - they no doubt friend every McClernan.

*yes, friend is also a verb now, much like "befriend" without the be. I can hear the curmudgeons wailing about it now. Well hey, English is a living language get used to it!

My family has never been close, especially on my father's side - my mother never liked my dad's siblings, and they did not like her, and it filtered down to the children, I guess. I don't recall ever having a conversation with any of my paternal cousins and I know nothing about them. And thanks to Facebook I still don't know about them except the most mundane aspects of their suburban existences.

Although I guess I should give my cousins credit for being on Facebook at all, plenty of people our age are total Luddites, but do they really think people want to know that they are baking cookies, watching the kids, watching TV, going through circulars (!!!) getting a new dishwasher etc. etc. etc. I mean, some of my New York friends (and I) will occasionally write something mundane too, but will follow it up with something amusing or weird or interesting or inscrutable. Here are recent status updates for my Facebook friends:

Carl has a donut hangover

Lori is remembering the infamy of this date.

Tom is in the hoopty with Ogelthorpe tearing ass around the galaxy

Jonathan is a monkey

Cheryl is about to enjoy the blending of many traditions that is "The Klezmer Nutcracker."

Jessica wonders what if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?

I notice that some of my cousins are members of a Facebook group called "We Love Alcohol" and I'm not surprised - they must have something to take the edge off the monotony!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bill Ayers speaks

I was wondering when this guy was going to speak up for himself...

In the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

more at the NYTimes

Friday, December 05, 2008

Winter Holiday Reading

Rehearsing another fundraiser this Saturday - the NYCPlaywrights Winter Holiday Reading. This one includes my play SOCIAL ENGINEERING, which is related to the blog post here a couple of days ago, the reference to Obama's 1994 critique of Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve." One guy in my play is very much a Murray-ite, like razib of Gene Expression - he's getting paid by a right-wing think tank to spread "scientific" justifications for racism and sexism.

For some reason we had a big influx of plays in which prostitutes are featured prominently - almost half the plays. Yes, we put the ho in ho-ho-ho for the holidays!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Where are my keyboard amps??? Also known as "powered studio monitors."

Cute guy drawing

By Ingres at the Met

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama vs Bell Curve

Well I've been so busy that I've neglected to check in at Gene Expression the go-to web site for the racist side of evolutionary psychology.

(The standard evolutionary psychology party line is that while test scores and less distinguished careers in math and science indicate genetically-endowed deficiencies in women those things do not indicate non-white genetic deficiencies - but Gene Expression is, shall we say, on the right wing of evolutionary psychology.)

I expected that Obama's election would drive them crazy (well, crazier) - and of course it has. But they did dig up an anti-Bell Curve editorial written by Obama in 1994 that is excellent. Excerpt:
Now, it shouldn't take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn't interested in prevention. He's interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it's artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It's easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray's calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, real or perceived, that minorities may enjoy.

The Bell Curve is The Bible to the racists at Gene Expression. And you can see how much Obama's editorial bugs them in the related comments section. Any time you can get them to say "political correctness" you know you've hit a nerve.

The. Best. President. Ever.

And I say this in spite of Obama's selection of that idiot Lawrence Summers, one of the "liberal" proponents of evolutionary psychology, who only believes that women, not non-whites, are genetically inferior in math and science.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I saw the movie Milk last night and I think it's great. Although I have to say that the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk I found more powerful. But Sean Penn does a great job of playing Milk. watch the trailer on YouTube.

You can watch the opening of The Times of Harvey Milk here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving cancelled this year!

My daughter is sick!

I will pray to the robot God-Jesus for a better Thanksgiving next year.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Frenchy-French Thanksgiving

Well it's Thanksgiving again, and that means oo-lah-lah, time for la belle cuisine francais!

Since I moved to the NYC metro area lo these 10 years ago, I have had Thanksgiving dinner at Capsoutos Freres every year, except in 2005 when my ex wanted to try something snootier, and we went to One If By Land, Two If By Sea - which I was not impressed by. It seemed to me like a very over-priced and snobby TGIFridays, complete with servers singing happy birthday to a customer. The waitstaff was extremely unctuous, which my ex adored. Well, we are very different in many ways, which is why he is my ex.

But he did introduce me to Capsoutos, and I owe him for that. Capsouotos is a "nice" restaurant without being snobby and uptight. The Freres seem like a pretty laid-back group of guys (although there's one Frere I've never seen cause he's in the kitchen.) It's all the way in TriBeCa, so it tends to be frequented by a loyal fan-base with not alot of walk-in traffic - although that's probably changing since the neighborhood seems to get more upscale and fashionable each year.

And I must come clean here - it isn't like I have foie gras and snails for Thanksgiving each year - they do have turkey with traditional cranberry sauce (although not directly from the can like Mom used to serve) and veggies. And for dessert, pumpkin souffle! I'll have to do my traditional post-dinner 3-mile walk after that - THIS year in Central Park, which is now in my neighborhood - wheee!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

calling Harriet the Spy

Wow, Harriet the Spy would love to live in my apartment. Many of the people in the big fancy building across the street don't believe in covering their windows and you can see right inside. I guess they are proud of their apartments or whatever, but I think it's kind of weird. Also I own a pair of binoculars and it's very tempting...

oh yes I am back online

Wow, that was a long time without home Internet access... what did I used to do before the Internet anyway?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

free Internet wifi cutoff

So blogging will be very light until Time Warner hooks me up tomorrow afternoon...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Got my jobs program!

Oh President Obama, you are not even in office yet, but you are well on your way to becoming the Best President Ever.

First making Hillary your Secretary of State. And NOW doing what I've been calling for since July - a jobs program. But not just any jobs program - a GREEN jobs program!

In the Democrats’ weekly radio address, Mr. Obama said he would direct his economic team to craft a two-year stimulus plan with the goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. He said it would be “a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face.”

Mr. Obama said he hoped to sign the stimulus package into law soon after taking office on Jan. 20. He is already coordinating efforts with Democratic leaders in Congress, who have said they will begin work next month.

Advisers to Mr. Obama say they want to use the economic crisis as an opportunity to act on many of the issues he emphasized in his campaign, including cutting taxes for lower- and middle-class workers, addressing neglected public infrastructure projects like roads and schools, and creating “green jobs” through business incentives for energy alternatives and environmentally friendly technologies.

More at the NYTimes

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Heavens to Mergatroyd! Snagglepuss was on SNL last week!

(He uses the tag phrase from whence this blog gets its name too!)

I'm a New Yorker now - you gotta problem wid dat?

Well I had planned to get rid of my car anyway, and now I'm doubly sure of that plan of action. Parking in Yorkville is BRUTAL. I thought Weehawken was bad. I drove around for literally an hour without finding any parking spots. And maybe I was getting punchy after awhile, but it sure seems like there are more fire hydrants here than anywhere else. Does the fire department really need like 10 hydrants per block? Oy!

That being said - I love my new neighborhood. It has everything, in addition to being a 20 minute walk from the Met and Central Park. Why did it take me so long to move here? Oh yeah - so many reasons. But I'm glad I finally moved on up to the East Side, to a three-floor walkup near Carl Schurz Park.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slacker (Ending) - Directed by Richard Linklater

The last half of this clip is the best - with "Skokiaan" playing and then the guy throws... well, just watch it!

I am Heathcliff

That's what Catherine, the object of Heathcliff's obsessive love says about him, in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. But to a certain extent, we are all Heathcliff, which is what makes him a Byronic "hero" even though in fact he's kind of a monster. But who among us hasn't wanted some serious revenge on people who have hurt us, out of their unshakable belief in their own superiority and our inferiority.

I was never much for grudges or revenge until I met some of the truly nasty, loathsome creatures in the New York City off-off Broadway theater scene. Only in the last 3 - 4 years have I really come to understand how freakishly evil some people can be, and responded with simmering anger and occasional flair-ups. And there's only so much comfort you can get from sublimating your feelings into art.

But Heathcliff goes way overboard into pathology. Emily's Heathcliff is sometimes compared to Charlotte Bronte's Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre, both being dubbed Byronic heroes. But Rochester is a much better man than Heathcliff. While you can't help but feel badly for Heathcliff in his anguish over losing Catherine, it's impossible to like or forgive him, because not only does he take his revenge on those who have done him wrong - and it's arguable that Linton, Catherine's husband, ever meant to do Heathcliff deliberate harm - he also takes his revenge on children who had nothing to do with him, just because they are related to people he hates.

Compare that to Rochester - he is cuckolded by Celine Varens, his French opera-dancer mistress, and when she abandons her daughter he takes her in, although he's pretty sure she isn't his child. He has little affection for Adele, but he does the best he can by her.

More on Wuthering Heights soon. I wasn't a big fan of the book when I read it in my early 20s, and while I understand it better on an emotional level now, I still don't like it as much as Jane Eyre, and I'm not ashamed to say it's because I don't really like any of the people in Wuthering Heights, whereas I can't help but like Jane and Rochester, and forgive Rochester as Jane does.

And then there's the violence of Wuthering Heights - wow, I haven't seen any adaptations of the novel, but I bet none of them presents the violence on screen the way it's presented in the book. That's what someone should do - adapt Wuthering Heights with all its violence. I'm tempted... I think that the focus should be on Cathy, the daughter of Catherine and Linton. And you'd pretty much have to include that meddling Nelly Dean. Hmm...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brokers with hands on their faces

The news media loves to illustrate bad days at the stock market by running photos of brokers with hands on their faces. So someone decided to turn that into a web site, called Brokers with Hands on their Faces

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jason & Phoebe

Phoebe Summersquash has agreed to play Jane and Jason Alan Griffin has agreed to play Rochester in the upcoming December 21 reading of JANE EYRE which will be at the Penny Templeton Studio, 261 W. 35th Street

You can watch Jason's reel here (watch out, there's a sexy scene in the mix).

And the Philly band Scary Monster asks the musical question Do You Like Phoebe Summersquash? And yes, they really mean our gal - but then, how many Phoebe Summersquashes do YOU know?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jane Eyre reading

Coming in mid-December at the Penny Templeton - a reading of JANE EYRE in preparation for the next production. More details soon...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yule County reading

My play YULE COUNTY was part of the Mergatroyd Playfest this weekend. Since it turned out that none of the actors is Equity I was able to videotape the whole thing.

See a clip of the Yule County performance here. Quicktime format.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What I look for in a 10-minute play

As the producer/director of the Mergatroyd Productions 10-min. Playfest, I was responsible for the final selection of plays for the show. Over 500 plays were sent in. Is it possible to read that many plays, even ten-minute plays in less then a month – especially when you have a full-time day job (technical writer) and run a theatre group (NYCPlaywrights) that meets every Friday night?

It is possible. Here’s how I did it.

First, all the improperly formatted plays were thrown out. A playwright should know enough to use standard playscript formatting. And I made a big deal, in the call for submissions, about using standard playscript formatting. I even provided a link to formatting samples. So any plays I got that were not in standard playscript formatting I took as one of two clear messages from the author to me: “screw you, I’m too big of an innovative important artiste-genius to abide by the rules of you common mortals.”


“I’m not smart enough to read submission guidelines or figure out how to format text. I should be taking classes in reading comprehension or Microsoft Word, not writing plays.”

Is that harsh? Too bad. If a play is improperly formatted, guess who will have to fix the script so that there are page numbers, a character list, and contact information for the author. Me. Not gonna happen - this is New York, Jack, I have stuff to do.

So I automatically threw out the improperly formatted plays – that took care of about 15% of all submissions.

What’s next? Well one of the things I said I wanted to see was plays in which something happens. In my opinion, far too many plays – and not just 10-minute plays – are about people sitting around bickering. So I look at the stage directions. If the stage directions consist entirely of “(pause)” then probably not much happens besides two or more people sitting around talking, bickering or arguing. Sorry but even arguing – even an argument in which people yell at each other – is not interesting drama by itself.

That’s another 20%. So 65% of the submissions remain. Now the process slows down a little, as more reading is required. Now I look at plays in which the characters don’t have names, but are just called “Woman”, “Man”, “Husband”, “Wife”, “Father” etc. I like my plays to have vivid, individualistic characters. Not giving your character a name says to me that your character isn’t an individual but some two-dimensional steotype. This is especially annoying for “Husband” and “Wife” – I don’t want to watch a play that portrays a “typical” marriage. Plays about how men and women just don't understand each other really irritate me. And have already been done to death.

OK, so that’s another 10%. Now I look for good parts for women.

It never fails to amaze me that in a time when women are astronauts and senators and serial killers and managers and soldiers and computer programmers there are still few interesting parts written for women. The thinking seems to be that unless the character is performing what is deemed a female function (sex, nurturing or needing to be rescued) it should be male, by default. I’m pretty sure that many of the plays submitted to the 10-min Playfest originally had fewer female characters, but since I made a big deal out of wanting good parts for women in the submission guidelines, some of the characters had been rewritten as female. Good. If I made one playwright realize that male is NOT the default gender for humanity I’m making the world a better place. Women are not a minority or special interest group – we make up half of all people on the planet. Theatre (of ALL places!) should reflect this. A playwright who gets that deserves extra consideration for his or her plays.

I am not looking ONLY for plays that have female characters, but female characters definitely help. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

So what do we have at this point? About 40% of the submissions, or about 200 plays that are properly formatted, aren’t just bickering, have individualized characters, and have a tendency towards good roles for women.

These last 200 get close scrutiny. I read them a couple of times at least. Some more things I look for:

• Does the play get right into the action?
• Is it really funny, or really touching?
• Does it present a novel world or situation?
• Does it have solid internal logic?
• Does it have that certain je ne sais quoi?

The last one is of course the most elusive of all. Je ne sais quoi is French for "I don’t know what" – meaning some undefinable, ineffable quality. A happy synergy of factors. Which is completely subjective. And of course much of the quality of the play depends on the actors performing the roles too. A bad performance could ruin a good play, although from what I’ve seen, far more often a good performance can rescue a bad play. But even if you carefully select your material, director and actor the results might not be the happy synergy you hoped for.

This we call “the magic of the thee-aa-tah.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jobs Program

I've been suggesting that we will need a jobs program since July 20. Not that anybody listened to me. Me and Krugman.

All indications are that the new administration will offer a major stimulus package. My own back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the package should be huge, on the order of $600 billion.

So the question becomes, will the Obama people dare to propose something on that scale?

Let’s hope that the answer to that question is yes, that the new administration will indeed be that daring. For we’re now in a situation where it would be very dangerous to give in to conventional notions of prudence.

more at the NYTimes

Jobs Program. Just remember I called it first.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 min. Playfest press release

Finished at last!

Mergatroyd Playfest Press Release

Better late than never! We're almost sold out anyway, so I'm not sure how much I should promote the show at this point.

to the Met!

I am so excited by the fact that the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be in my very own neighborhood - I plan to be there all the time. I'm especially looking forward to getting to see some actual Ingres drawings - whenEVER they decide to finally display one - and the new Greek and Roman Galleries.

I wonder if they'll display one of the many pornographic red-figure Greek vases in existence - I'm sure they have at least a few in their collection. They probably won't - I mean we are talking very explicit stuff, including homosexual and kinky stuff. From relatively vanilla straight sex - cowgirl style - to gay three-way, to the ever-popular satyr orgy. I'd venture to say that before the Internet, the largest collection of pornographic images ever created were on the pottery of the ancient Greeks.

Although other cultures certainly created their share

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NYTimes prank

More here

Wow this would be a wonderful world! From the spoof NYTimes:

The President has called for swift passage of the Safeguards
for a New Economy (S.A.N.E.) bill. The omnibus economic package
includes a federal maximum wage, mandatory “True Cost Accounting,” a phased withdrawal from complex financial instruments, and other measures intended to improve life for ordinary Americans. (See highlights box on Page A10.) He also repeated earlier calls
for passage of the “Ban on Lobbying” bill currently making its way
through Congress.
Treasury Secretary Paul Krugman stressed the importance of the bill. “Markets make great servants, terrible leaders, and absurd religions,” said Krugman, quoting
Paul Hawken, an advocate of corporate responsibility and author
of “Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came
into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.”
“At this point, the market is our leader and our religion. No won-
der the median standard of living has been declining so much for so
Krugman said that the new Treasury bill seeks to ensure the
prosperity of all citizens, rather than simply supporting large cor-
porations and the wealthy. “The market is supposed to serve us.
Unfortunately, we have ended up serving the market. That’s very

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Harriet the Spy

I just discovered a really neat fact about the new Manhattan neighborhood I'm moving to - Louise Fitzhugh, the author of Harriet the Spy lived on the very block I will be living on, at the time she wrote Harriet, and Harriet's neighborhood will be mine.

If you haven't read "Harriet the Spy" do so at your earliest convenience. It's classified as a children's book - but then so is "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" - both books can be enjoyed just as much - or possibly even more - by adults than by children.

But a sample of "Harriet" proves its greatness much more than all my praise:
The cook put cake and milk in front of her.

"What you always writing in that dad-blamed book for?" she asked with a sour little face.

"Because," Harriet said around a bit of cake, "I'm a spy."

"Spy, huh. Some spy."

"I am a spy. I'm a good spy, too. I've never been caught."

Cook settled herself with a cup of coffee. "How long you been a spy?"

"Since I could write. Ole Golly told me if I was going to be a writer I better write down everything, so I'm a spy that writes down everything."


Harriet knew the cook couldn't think of anything to say when she did that.

"I know all about you."

"Like fun you do." The cook looked startled.

"I do too. I know you live with your sister in Brooklyn and that she might get married and you wish you had a car and you have a son that's no good and drinks."

"What do you do, child? Listen at doors?"

"Yes," said Harriet.

"Well, I never," said the cook. "I think that's bad manners."

"Ole Golly doesn't. Ole Golly says find out everything you can cause life is hard enough even if you know alot."

"I bet she don't know you spooking round this house listening at doors."

"Well, how am I supposed to find out anything?"

"I don't know" - the cook shook her head - "I don't know about that Ole Golly."

"What do you mean?" Harriet felt apprehensive.

"I don't know. I just don't know. I wonder about her."

Ole Golly came into the room. "What is it you don't know?"

Cook looked as though she might hide under the table. She stood up. "Can I get you your tea, Miss Golly?" she asked meekly.

"That would be most kind of you," said Ole Golly and sat down.

Harriet opened her notebook:


"What do you have in school this year, Harriet?" asked Ole Golly.

"English, History, Geography, French, Math, ugh, Science, ugh, and the Performing Arts, ugh, ugh, ugh." Harriet rattled these off in a very bored way.

"What history?"

"Greeks and Romans, ugh, ugh, ugh."

"They're fascinating."


"They are. Just wait, you'll see. Talk about spies. Those gods spied on everybody all the time."


"'Yes,' Harriet, not 'yeah.'"

"Well, I wish I'd never heard of them."

"Ah, there's a thought from Aesop for you: 'We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.'"

Ole Golly gave a little moo of satisfaction after she had delivered herself of this.

"I think I'll go now," Harriet said.

"Yes," said the cook, "go out and play."

Harriet stood up. "I do not go out to PLAY, I go out to WORK!" and in as dignified a way as possible she walked from the room and up the steps from the kitchen.
It was also illustrated by Fitzhugh and her drawings are classic.

My daughter, who turns 30 years old today (we are doing brunch at Capsoutos Freres), plans to get a tattoo of Harriet the Spy.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Playfest next week!

Play festivals are alot of work. We're doing 20 plays by 20 writers next week and we just had a marathon rehearsal today and wow - tired! Although I am always tired after a directing session - concentrating so hard for hours will wear you out - and I can just imagine how rough it is for the actors. Luckily I found a very good stage manager and that makes things flow much more smoothly than otherwise.

Hopefully it will all be worth it - the lineup of plays is here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

It's official!

I'm moving to Manhattan soon - weehoo!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

OutKast - Hey Ya!

They disabled embedding but you can see it at youtube:

Hey Ya!

And I love that Andre 3000 (aka Andre Benjamin) - he just loves to dress up - he played all the dudes in his Hey Ya! video and you know he loved to wear all those different costumes. And now he even has his own line of fashion.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I've never felt so patriotic in my entire life





Tuesday, November 04, 2008

He's outta there not a moment too soon!

Bush Aides Say Religious Hiring Doesn’t Bar Aid

In a newly disclosed legal memorandum, the Bush administration says it can bypass laws that forbid giving taxpayer money to religious groups that hire only staff members who share their faith.

The administration, which has sought to lower barriers between church and state through its religion-based initiative offices, made the claim in a 2007 Justice Department memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel. It was quietly posted on the department’s Web site this week.

The statutes for some grant programs do not impose antidiscrimination conditions on their financing, and the administration had previously allowed such programs to give taxpayer money to groups that hire only people of a particular religion.

But the memorandum goes further, drawing a sweeping conclusion that even federal programs subject to antidiscrimination laws can give money to groups that discriminate.

More at the NYTimes

And for the record, I predicted that the Bush Administration would go down in history as the worst ever in January 2001.

This is a very good sign...

Obama Wins in Earliest Vote in Tiny Dixville, NH
DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. (AP) -- Democrat Barack Obama came up a big winner in the presidential race in Dixville Notch, N.H., where the nation's first Election Day votes were cast and counted early Tuesday.

Obama defeated John McCain 15-6. Independent Ralph Nader was also on the ballot, but received no votes.

The first voter, following tradition established in 1948, was picked ahead of the midnight voting and the rest of the town's 21 registered voters followed suit in Tuesday's first minutes.

Town Clerk Rick Erwin says the northern New Hampshire town is proud of its tradition, but says the most important thing is that the turnout represents a 100 percent vote.

President Bush won the vote in Dixville Notch in 2004 on the way to his re-election.

I can't believe that idiot Ralph Nader is on the ballot.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Autumn Reading videos

One of the fun things about our NYCPlaywrights fundraiser readings is that actors often get to play very different roles in the same evening. That was the case with me when I filled in for sick/missing actors - I got to play a British executive assistant named Mindy in a play about a corporate Peter Pan, and the ghost of a TAROT READER's bubby with a Yiddish accent. I also got to play an old hard-of-hearing lady, but the clip I used doesn't have me in it, a successful business woman, but again, don't show me, and I got to play the evil adulterous wife in my own play HAPPILY MARRIED but alas, the damn camcorder battery died before my performance.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The book is better...

Assistant: This is Bexy [?].
MA: Hello, Bexy. This is Frank L'Ouvrier, I'm with President Sarkozy, on the line for Governor Palin.

Assistant: One second please, can you hold on one second please?
MA: No problem.

Assistant: Hi, I'm going to hand the phone over to her.
MA: Okay, thank you very much I'm going to put the president on the line.
Assistant: Okay, he's coming to the line.

SP: This is Sarah.
MA: Okay, Governor Palin?

SP: Hellloooo...
MA: Just hold on for President Sarkozy, one moment.
SP: Oh, it's not him yet. I always do that. I'll just have people hand it to me right when it's them.

FNS: Yes, hello, Governor Palin? Yes, hello, Mrs. Governor?
SP: Hello this is Sarah. How are you?

FNS: Fine, and you, this is Nicolas Sarkozy speaking, how are you?
SP: Oh... So good, it's so good to hear you. Thank you for calling us.

FNS: Oh, it's a pleasure.
SP: Thank you sir, we have such great respect for you, John McCain and I, we LOVE you and thank you for spending a few minutes to talk to me.

FNS: I follow your campaigns closely with my special American Advisor Johnny Hallyday, you know?
SP: Yes! Good!

FNS: Excellent! Are you confident?
SP: Very confident and we're thankful that the polls are showing that the race is tightening and--

FNS: Well I know very well that the campaign can be exhausting. How do you feel right now my dear?
SP: I feel so good. I feel like we're in a marathon and at the very end of the marathon, you get your second wind and you plow to the finish-

FNS: You see, I got elected in France because I'm real and you seem to be someone who's real as well.
SP: Yes, yeah, Nicolas. We so appreciate this opportunity.

FNS: You know, I see you as a president, one day, you too.
SP: Well... maybe in eight years. [laughs]

FNS: Well, ah, I hope for you. You know we have a lot in common because personally one of my favorite activities is to hunt too.
SP: Oh very good, we should go hunting together.

FNS: Exactly! We could go try hunting by helicopter, like you did, I never did that.
SP: [laugh]

FNS: Like we say in France, "on pourrait tuer des bébés phoques aussi" [We could also kill some baby seals].
SP: [laugh] Well, I think we could have a lot of fun together as we're getting work done, we can kill two birds with one stone that way.

FNS: I just love killing those animals. Mm, mm. Take away a life, that is so fun!
SP: [laugh]

FNS: I'd really love to go as long as we don't bring your Vice president Cheney.
SP: No, I'll be a careful shot, yes.

FNS: You know we have a lot in common also except that from my house I can see Belgium. That's kind of less interesting than you.
SP: Well, see, we're right next door to other countries that we all need to be working with, yes.

FNS: Some people said in the last days, and I thought that was mean, that you weren't experienced enough in foreign relations, and you know, that's completely false, that's the thing I said to my great friend, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stef Carse [a Quebecois country singer].
SP: Well, he's doing fine, too, and yeah when you come into a position underestimated, it gives you the opportunity to prove the pundits and the critics wrong. You work that much harder-

FNS: I was wondering because you are also next to him, one of my good friends, also, the prime minister of Quebec, Mr. Richard Z. Sirois, have you met him recently? Did he come to one of your rallies?
SP: Uh, haven't seen him at one of the rallies, but it's been great working with the Canadian officials in my role as governor; we have a great cooperative effort there as we work on all of our resource development projects. You know I look forward to working with you and getting to meet you personally and your beautiful wife - oh my goodness! You've added a lot of energy to your country, even, with that beautiful family of yours.

FNS: Thank you very much. You know my wife, Carla, would love to meet you. You know even though she was a bit jealous that I was supposed to speak to you today.
SP: [laugh] Well, give her a big hug from me.

FNS: You know my wife is a popular singer and a former top model and she's so hot in bed. She even wrote a song for you.
SP: Oh my goodness! I didn't know that.

FNS: Yes, in French, it's called "Du rouge à lèvres sur une cochonne" [Lipstick for a pig] or if you prefer in English, Joe the Plumber: [sings] "It's his life, Joe the Plumber..."
SP: Maybe she understands some of the unfair criticism but I bet you she is such a hard worker, too, and she realizes you just plow through that criticism like..

FNS: I just want to be sure, I don't quite understand the phenomenon "Joe the Plumber," that's not your husband, right?
SP: Mm-hmm, that's not my husband, but he's a normal American who just works hard and doesn't want government to take his money.

FNS: Yes, yes, I understand, we have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France, it's called, "Marcel, the guy with bread under his armpit," oui.
SP: Right. That's what it's all about, is the middle class, and government needing to work for them. You're a very good example for us here.

FNS: I seen a bit about NBC even Fox News wasn't an ally, an ally, sorry, about as much as usual.
SP: Yeah that's what we're up against.

FNS: I must say, Governor Palin, I love the documentary they made on your life, you know, Hustler's "Nailin Palin."
SP: Oh, good. Thank you. Yes.

FNS: That was really edgy.
SP: [laugh] Well, good.

FNS: I really love you. And I must say something, so, Governor, you've been pranked.
By the Master Avengers. We're two comedians from Montreal
SP: Oohhh, have we been pranked? And what radio station is this?

FNS: This is for CKOI in Montreal.
SP: In Montreal? Tell me the radio station call letters...

MA: Hello? If one voice can change the world for Obama, one Viagra can change the world for McCain.
Assistant: Hi, I'm sorry, I have to let you go. Um, thank you.

listen here

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It

Glad to see I'm not the only one with election anxiety
Richard Schrader, a senior staff member for a national environmental organization, lives in Amherst, Mass., where politics start liberal and traipse left. He is fairly liberal, but his neighbors worry that he does not worry nearly enough. "They wake up, drink that pot of coffee and hit the polling Web sites," Mr. Schrader said. "Too much good news has to be a lie."

Recently he sat down with a friend who was sweating about Minnesota.

"Minnesota?" Mr. Schrader told his friend. "What, are you kidding me? Obama's up 14 points there."

The friend shook his head sadly. Take off seven points for hidden racial animus. Subtract another five for polling error. It is down to two points, and that is within the margin of error in sampling, and that could mean Mr. Obama might be behind.

"It was perversely impressive," Mr. Schrader said.

Our country's fate is hanging in the balance - Obama has to win.

If Obama does win I think a big factor will be those who prefer McCain, but can't bring themselves to put Sarah Palin in line for the presidency, won't bother voting at all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tam Lin 2008

Every year, no matter what, my play TAM LIN must be performed in NYC for Halloween. Just so Edward Einhorn knows he hasn't killed the play in spite of the fact that the US Copyright office has not yet cancelled his UNAUTHORIZED derivative "blocking and choreography" script registration. It WILL be compelled, eventually, even if I have to spend the rest of my life to do it.

Also, it's just a damn fun play to do. This year, like last, it will be read at the weekly NYCPlaywrights meeting.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

And let us not forget The Onion's prescience January 17, 2001:
Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'
"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

hah fucking hah

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Poll: Obama Has 16-Point Lead Over McCain

THE POLL: Pew Research Center, national presidential race among registered voters.

THE NUMBERS: Barack Obama 52 percent, John McCain 36 percent.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Looks like the Krug-Man is going for a Nobel in literature too.

Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."

read more from the Mighty Krug-Man

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The show must go on!

I don't know what kind of nasty bug has been going around, but it has been playing havoc with my casting choices. I thought I had the NYCPlaywrights Autumn fundraiser finally cast just right, when Ann came down with this virus and had to bail out the very morning of the show. Luckily I had just the night before made the acquaintance of a very good young female actor and she filled in... for the most part.

She wasn't comfortable doing an English accent and I didn't want to push her - I was too grateful she was just able to fill in with a 4-hour lead time. So I had to take the role of Mindy, Peter Pan's executive assistant. Initially I was just going to do a few minor roles and some stage directions, but I got promoted thanks to this. I also played the ghost of a bubby (Jewish grandmother) - luckily I was acquainted with the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack from the week I spent in my aunt's convent when I was 12 (long story.)

So as always I'm posting clips from the show online - but here's a preview of me playing Mindy. Considering this is the first time I'm saying these lines aloud, and considering I haven't ever studied dialects, I think I do OK.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Charging Bias by Theaters, Female Playwrights to Hold Meeting

Frustrated by what they describe as difficulty in getting their work produced, enough female playwrights to make a standing - room - only crowd are planning to attend a town hall meeting on Monday night to air their grievances with representatives of New York's leading Off Broadway and nonprofit theaters.

The gathering was organized by the playwrights Sarah Schulman and Julia Jordan, who have rallied their colleagues to the cause, contending that their male counterparts in the 2008-9 season are being produced at 14 of the largest Off Broadway institutions at four times the rate that women are. More than 150 playwrights appeared at a meeting last month to discuss the issue, and all 90 seats at New Dramatists, the playwriting center where Monday night’s meeting is scheduled, are already spoken for, and there is a long waiting list.

More at the NYTimes

As I commented on Jason Grote's blog, before he censored me, this is about the money.

But not only money. We do not live in a meritocracy, never have and never will. The Bush administration has been criticized for cronyism, but cronyism is absolutely the standard practice in most of the world. And especially in the arts, where there is no standard for what "good" is - it's extremely subjective. And in fact, I would argue that all forms of art beginning with the early 20th century, with the "modernist" rejection of displays of traditional skills - the ability to write a memorable melody, in music; the ability to write an exciting story, in drama; the ability to create an image, with your own hands that looks like something, in the visual arts - have all lead to art by cronyism. You don't need to hone your skills - you just need to display a basic understanding of the craft and then you schmooze with the right people and through the power of the in-crowd's clout, your work is declared the next new and exciting thing.

And men still have more free time to schmooze, and more money, to afford go out drinking with artistic directors etc.

And then there is the "angry young man" phenomenon which I've blogged about before, and will again, soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008


What Nobel prize-winning Krugman said:
At least he’s admitting that he got something wrong. That’s actually rare these days, especially among the people Greenspan associates with.

That said, praise also to Steve Goldstein at Marketwatch for this memorable line:

For a man who was once remarkably hard to decipher, Alan Greenspan is now as clear as an empty Lehman Brothers office.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MONTY PYTHON////Election Night Special

My Secret Sonnet #10 was sponsored by the Very Silly Party.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Actor on a Valu-Pak

Jason Alan Griffin, who performed in Mergatroyd Production's production of my play The Slash and also my facebook friend showed up on my doorstep today - on the cover of the Valu-Pak coupon mailer. He looks so suburban!

Jon Stewart to Sarah Palin: 'F*** You.'

The audio quality on this clip is really bad. Stewart hurls the f-bomb, with authority, at 0:45. Thanks for speaking for us in the unreal America, Jon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

OLEANNA is a right-wing play - glad the NYTimes agrees

A few years ago I wrote an essay about OLEANNA called History is Written by the Winners in which I suggest that there was a deeply conservative, even misogynist subtext to the play. Although some feminists were also saying it, for most people it was just some sort of he-said/she-said both-sides-are-wrong kind of thing.

FINALLY the NYTimes - the "paper of record" lays it on the line. In its caption of the photo on the left it says: "David Mamet's OLEANNA addresses sexual harassment through a conservative lens."

Thank you for noticing. Of course it probably helps that Mamet recently came out of the closet as a conservative.

The rest of the article frets about the lack of conservative views in the theatre. But that's wrong - the author, Patricia Heffernan, is just not thinking fourth -dimensionally, as Doc Brown says. The theatre is FULL of conservative views - anything written 50 years ago represents conservative views, or at the very least respresents a world that is pallatable to conservatives. Except most stuff by G. B. Shaw.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

you said it Roy

excellent point by Roy - again:
Andrea Mitchell talked about a "remarkably negative" Obama ad -- negative because it shows McCain bragging about how often he sided with George Bush.

In 2000 there was a lot of yapping about the limited involvement of Bill Clinton in Al Gore's campaign. (In fact we've had some of that this year about both Clintons' limited involvement in Obama's.) Yet nobody finds it remarkable that the Republican Presidential candidate is running, actively and like hell, from the sitting President from his own party. In fact, they cluck over Obama's bad taste in bringing it up.

My acting debut

Well if you want to get technical, my acting debut was playing an elf doing the A-B-C dance in the Our Lady of Fatima first graders' Christmas pageant. So this is my adult debut - not counting the Brick Playhouse's Night of a Thousand Plays. OK, so this isn't my acting debut - except it's the first time I will perform in public in one of my own plays. I play the adulterous wife in my HAPPILY MARRIED in next week's NYCPlaywrights fundraiser. Which should be fun - playing bad guys is fun. OK, so it's only a reading. But still, it should be interesting. Rehearsal yesterday went pretty well. I am playing a few other parts too - for some reason most of our female actor members are very busy lately (or out of town at a film fest) and I had to fill in. Luckily it's minor parts and stage directions. I think I can handle that. It will be videotaped, so that should be amusing to watch.

More info about the Autumn 2008 reading here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Female Cougar vs Male Grizzly Bear Encounter.

Oh wow! For years I have maintained that in a fair fight between a Polar bear and a Siberian tiger, the tiger would win. And yet not a single person I've asked: "Polar bear vs. Siberian tiger?" has agreed with me.

Well check it out - a little old COUGAR fights off a Grizzly bear - which is much closer in size to a Polar bear than a cougar is to a S. tiger. And look who wins bitches!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hermenautic circle

Now I'm getting visits from a link in some discussion thread on the Hermenautic Circle, but I can't read it because I am not a member of that "select" group. But what a coincidence - Jason Grote is a member. Could Grote be talking about me at his exclusive little club of ubermenschen and yet he is too cowardly to dare to debate me?

Well I am sorry to say, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. But if it is your doing Grote - You kicked me off your blog. I wrote about it on my blog. Jesus Christ - let it go.

The Hermenautic Circle seems to be a kind of gated community for the insufferably self-important - here's what they say about themselves: "The Hermenautic Circle is a select and secretive enclave of 100 thinkers, writers, editors, journalists, bloggers, artists, designers, musicians, multimedia producers, activists, grad school refugees, and other friends. Hosted by Joshua Glenn. The group is not accepting new members. Please support our efforts by visiting the Hermenautic Circle Bookstore."

This is our own private club for super-important-geniuses - now give us your money.

we must repeat - we ARE DEVO!


DEVO on youtube

Thank you for noticing, Ben Bernanke!

Bernanke also said there were now risks to the global financial system from unregulated credit default swaps. These are insurancelike products that allow big investors to hedge against potential losses. The market for swaps is thought to total $55 trillion, yet it's a "dark market," unregulated and without transparency, amounting to nothing more than contracts between two sophisticated parties.

"Credit default swaps are not traded on an exchange. They aren't traded through a central counterparty, which means if one of those firms fails, among the consequences would be that the banks and others who had purchased credit insurance would be forced to write down tens of billions of dollars of value," Bernanke said.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cleansing the mind's palate

Well that previous post was ugly. Time for something pretty.

I challenge Jason Grote to a debate

Apparently I unknowingly stormed Jason Grote's Fortress with the awful might of my mildly dissenting opinions and now he's threatening to keep me from commenting on his blog.

Don't worry Jason, I won't attempt to cross your moat again - I've caused you enough stress already.

But nothing annoys me more than contributing to the interest factor of someone's blog with some mild debate - not to mention references to interesting studies - and then being told to STFU for my efforts.

So I challenged him to debate me on the sexism in theatre issue as well as the Hillary was the victim (in part) of sexism issue.

I need to expand my horizons eh? Condescend much?

If I had known you found *mildly* dissenting opinions objectionable I would have never contributed here. I had this delusion your were hip liberal dude.

Luckily, I have my own blog and am not a prisoner of your moderation purgatory.

You're welcome to come and debate me on my own blog any time - I have no plans to censor you - I don't need to - I can out-debate you on any of these topics, any time.

I don't expect a response - a theatre establishment insider has nothing to gain by debating - and losing to - me.

Really, I guess it's my own fault for not guessing that someone who calls his blog a "fortress" might be a bit on the defensive side.


Grote's predictable response:
...I'm going to close the comments now because I think this is a meaningless argument and I've got better things to do. Luckily for you, you've got the entire rest of the internet to tell everyone what a big ol' Nazi I am. Keep on sticking it to the man!


UPDATE - Grote removed all my posts on the comments section so the link above no longer shows the text of the entire tempest in a teapot. However, I suspected that he would do just that, and so I saved an image of the original exchange. Not that anybody really cares. But it was a most enlightening experience. Maybe I'll turn it into a play.


One more thing - I just discovered that Grote is a facebook friend of Edward Einhorn. Now it all makes sense...

DEFINITE FINAL UPDATE - coincidentally I suddenly have an influx of visitors from people googling my name. Some appear to be visiting me from their workplace - the name of their company is often displayed in my web statistics. And not a one of them has bothered to click the link for "The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions." Really people, that's the most interesting thing about me, for those of you who are involved in theatre, anyway. Although I hope you also read my theatre essays. Apparently some people find my opinions on that topic incredibly objectionable.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Nobel committee agrees with me

They share my high opinion of Paul Krugman:
Krugman Wins Economics Nobel

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finding Jane

Well the Jane Eyre auditions are underway and I've found at least one actor so far who could play Jane, which is great. Rochesters are much harder to find, unfortunately... but the hunt goes on!

Philly boes Palin - McCain supporters boo McCain

Normally I would have no idea what is going on in the world of hockey. But thanks to Atrios I went to the NYTimes Hockey section and read this:
Let me start this off by saying, I would object to this sideshow whichever political party it involved. Having vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin drop the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers' opener Saturday night was problematic not because it was Palin — Flyers owner Ed Snider’s decision under the flimsy excuse of "honoring" hockey moms — but because it is injecting politics in a place it should not be.

The biggest problem: when Palin came out onto the Wachovia Center ice Saturday night — greeted by resounding (almost deafening) boos from the Flyers crowd.

Ah Philly, my old home town.

Meanwhile, after McCain and Palin rile up their scary mob of supporters, McCain finally tells the crazies that Obama is not an Arab terrorist - and he is booed by his own.

And as Frank Rich notes:
Some voters told reporters that they didn’t want Obama to run, let alone win, should his very presence unleash the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King. After consultation with Congress, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, gave Obama a Secret Service detail earlier than any presidential candidate in our history — in May 2007, some eight months before the first Democratic primaries.

"I've got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying," Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of "Treason!" and "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

... what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is "not a man who sees America the way you and I see America." Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd "Who is the real Barack Obama?" it's no surprise that someone cries out "Terrorist!" The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama's middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers's Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That's a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. "Barack Obama's friend tried to kill my family" was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8.

We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed "patriotic" martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and me

I'm finding the article in today's NYTimes Taking Hard New Look at Greenspan Legacy to be very interesting indeed, for several reasons.

As I blogged here weeks ago, I was appalled when working for a large investment bank, by the sheer complexity and fluidity of financial instruments known as "exotic derivatives."

Turns out I was in pretty good company:
George Soros, the prominent financier, avoids using the financial contracts known as derivatives “because we don’t really understand how they work.” Felix G. Rohatyn, the investment banker who saved New York from financial catastrophe in the 1970s, described derivatives as potential "hydrogen bombs."

And Warren E. Buffett presciently observed five years ago that derivatives were “financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.”

I remember thinking at the time - "how could our government allow this to go on - there is NO WAY that any kind of oversight could be going on. What kind of idiot would allow this to happen?"

Now I know. The idiot Alan Greenspan.
One prominent financial figure, however, has long thought otherwise. And his views held the greatest sway in debates about the regulation and use of derivatives — exotic contracts that promised to protect investors from losses, thereby stimulating riskier practices that led to the financial crisis. For more than a decade, the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has fiercely objected whenever derivatives have come under scrutiny in Congress or on Wall Street. “What we have found over the years in the marketplace is that derivatives have been an extraordinarily useful vehicle to transfer risk from those who shouldn’t be taking it to those who are willing to and are capable of doing so,” Mr. Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee in 2003. “We think it would be a mistake” to more deeply regulate the contracts, he added.

There were some who saw the crisis coming:
In 1997, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a federal agency that regulates options and futures trading, began exploring derivatives regulation. The commission, then led by a lawyer named Brooksley E. Born, invited comments about how best to oversee certain derivatives.

Ms. Born was concerned that unfettered, opaque trading could "threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it," she said in Congressional testimony. She called for greater disclosure of trades and reserves to cushion against losses.

Ms. Born's views incited fierce opposition from Mr. Greenspan and Robert E. Rubin, the Treasury secretary then. Treasury lawyers concluded that merely discussing new rules threatened the derivatives market. Mr. Greenspan warned that too many rules would damage Wall Street, prompting traders to take their business overseas.

"Greenspan told Brooksley that she essentially didn’t know what she was doing and she’d cause a financial crisis," said Michael Greenberger, who was a senior director at the commission. "Brooksley was this woman who was not playing tennis with these guys and not having lunch with these guys. There was a little bit of the feeling that this woman was not of Wall Street."

Hmm. Some woman was getting uppity and trying to tell men how to do things. Who should the men bring in to put a woman in her place?

Of course - Lawrence Summers!
In early 1998, Mr. Rubin's deputy, Lawrence H. Summers, called Ms. Born and chastised her for taking steps he said would lead to a financial crisis, according to Mr. Greenberger. Mr. Summers said he could not recall the conversation but agreed with Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Rubin that Ms. Born's proposal was "highly problematic."

But Born was right:
Ms. Born pushed ahead. On June 5, 1998, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Rubin and Mr. Levitt called on Congress to prevent Ms. Born from acting until more senior regulators developed their own recommendations. Mr. Levitt says he now regrets that decision. Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Rubin were “joined at the hip on this,” he said. “They were certainly very fiercely opposed to this and persuaded me that this would cause chaos.”

Ms. Born soon gained a potent example. In the fall of 1998, the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management nearly collapsed, dragged down by disastrous bets on, among other things, derivatives. More than a dozen banks pooled $3.6 billion for a private rescue to prevent the fund from slipping into bankruptcy and endangering other firms.

Despite that event, Congress froze the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s regulatory authority for six months. The following year, Ms. Born departed.

Well why did she depart? No doubt Larry Summers would tell you (from his infamous women aren't as smart as men speech at Harvard):
So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this [this being women's less success careers in science and engineering] 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.

I'm sure Summers believed that Born just didn't have an aptitude for numbers.

And he and Greenspan got their way:
In November 1999, senior regulators — including Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Rubin — recommended that Congress permanently strip the C.F.T.C. of regulatory authority over derivatives.

Mr. Greenspan, according to lawmakers, then used his prestige to make sure Congress followed through. "Alan was held in very high regard," said Jim Leach, an Iowa Republican who led the House Banking and Financial Services Committee at the time. "You've got an area of judgment in which members of Congress have nonexistent expertise."

Because there IS NO OVERSIGHT for derivatives, you know they have been used for some major financial dirty dealings - and that is the next big financial scandal that will break.

Here's hoping Alan Greenspan will end up in jail for it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

arguments with ourselves

Out of arguments with others we make rhetoric, out of arguments with ourselves we make poetry

Attributed in many places on the Internet to William Butler Yeats but I can't find an actual source anywhere.

But it does make me feel a little better about the strange ambivalent nature of my sonnets.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Yule County - updated

I made changes to my latest 10 minute play Yule County based on feedback at NYCPlawyrights. Some things needed clarification - like Todd's status as a college freshman. Someone in the audience was very distressed by the thought of Todd drinking anti-freeze, so I took it out. The important point is Todd wanting to kill himself, not so much the method.

And out of the 20 or so people in attendance, one got the metaphorical nature of Todd's reference to all the Christmas presents being opened, and then a comment to his sister about reincarnation. Which I was happy about - I didn't necessarily expect anybody to get it, in part because it goes by pretty fast.

And I decided to go with Schopenhauer after all. Although I think he is the superior philosopher, so many more people have heard of Nietzsche, so I almost used him. But you really can't beat Schopenhauer for total suicidal pessimism. The quote I used is from his essay On The Sufferings of the World.

And Schopenhauer had a snappy comeback to anybody who complained about his extreme bummer demeanor:
I shall be told, I suppose, that my philosophy is comfortless - because I speak the truth; and people prefer to be assured that everything the Lord has made is good. Go to the priests, then, and leave philosophers in peace!

I always find Schopenhauer such a comfort when I'm feeling lonely - few have been as lonely as Schopenhauer himself.