Monday, September 29, 2008

The curse of the dread Merkin

I thought I was finally free of her - I had not read anything by her in a year. Mercifully, she is no longer a regular contributor to the New Yorker and I haven't noticed her byline lately in the NYTimes.

Daphne Merkin and I have a bad history. I slammed her in my blog a couple of years ago - I had come to loathe her whining style and her reliance on second-hand evolutionary psychology to understand gender politics and folkways. And then one day to my surprise I received an email from someone who claimed to be Merkin herself. She was not pleased by my critique of her work, and proceded to insult me and my blog. I blogged about in June 2006

I recently began work on a play about Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and thought I'd better re-read Emily's "Wuthering Heights." And since I wanted the luxury if reading it in-hand rather than online, I hied me to Amazon to look for a good edition of the work.

And there she was. The dread Merkin wrote an introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classic edition of WH.

And predictably, she made a mess of it. She mainly peddles second-hand gossip about the Brontes, but she doesn't even get THAT right. Or rather, in classic Merkin style, you aren't quite sure what she means - does she think it's gossip, or does she believe it? Observe:
But by far the most intense (and screwy) psychological scrutiny was reserved for the close relationship between Branwell and Emily. After Charlotte had given up on him as a bad egg, Emily continued to stand by her older brother, calming him down and getting him to bed during his drunken outbursts. This aspect of the Brontë family life led to speculations about a possible incestuous aspect to Branwell and Emily’s relationship, especially in regard to its being the model for the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. (One theory suggested that Heathcliff was in fact the bastard son of Mr. Earnshaw and thus Catherine’s half brother.) Of course, this theory clashed with yet another view that saw Branwell as doomed by his closet homosexuality, which may or may not have emerged during the period he spent as a live-in tutor to a young boy, Edward Robinson; his employment ended in disgrace after Branwell was dismissed with the threat of scandalous exposure if he tried to get in touch with any of the family. Branwell later retailed this scandal as an adulterous affair he was having with his pupil’s mother.

Up until the last clause it sounds like she's recounting pure "theory" - but then she makes a true statement - Branwell was dismissed due to scandal - and follows that up with a statement that sounds as though she gives the theory credence: "Branwell later retailed this scandal as an adulterous affair..."

Every well-researched, document-supported (including the Brontes' own correspondence) source makes it clear that in fact Branwell was in love with Mrs. Robinson, and had hopes that she would marry him - and support him while he attempted to make a career as an artist - once her ailing husband died. But when the husband died she did NOT marry him and instead cut off all communications with him, and he became extremely depressed.

But why shouldn't my blog post be better-researched than a paid-for and published introduction to Wuthering Heights? After all we don't live in a meritocracy and as anyone can tell you, it isn't what you know, it's who you know. Daphne Merkin certainly hasn't made her career based on what she knows - she must be very well-connected indeed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Underpants NYC

So actor Bruce Barton and I went to see Nat Cassidy in THE UNDERPANTS.

As expected, Nat was great in the role of Versati, this wacky unpublished poet and would-be seducer. Really, he was the best thing in the show.

I was curious to see what critics have thought of the play itself, and to my amazement they all think it's just swell. But then, most critics are idiots and are far too impressed by the fact that the play is an adaptation by the comedian Steve Martin.

Because really, it isn't a very good play. It has some funny moments, mostly when Versati is on - and Nat played him with full-on outrageous over-the-topness. But as Bruce noted, it was a sex farce without any sex. And once Versati left, the plot goes straight downhill. Where it should be ever more outrageous, it instead becomes washed out - at one point I thought it was going to morph into A DOLL'S HOUSE. And the rex ex machina ending was the lamest of the lame - Martin didn't even emphasize the boorish husband's ambitiousness enough to give his turn of fortune at the end any meaning at all.

Even the Village Voice seemed to like the play, in its review of the 2002 Classic Stage Company's production. Although I do like the ending:
Edelstein has basically commissioned a cat to rewrite an anti-feline play. Martin is a fat cat, too, who leaves downtown theaters in stretch limos, so he evidently can't help identifying with Theo. "The bourgeoisie is us," he recently told The New York Times. It may not concern him that Theo is a walking cautionary tale, as relevant to Germany in 1911 as he should be to America after 9-11. We've never needed a good playwright to take the piss out of middle-class blockheads and flag-kissing nationalists as much as we do now. But indifference is the bonbon of privilege, isn't it?

At least the Gallery Player's production had period costumes, which I enjoy. And I talked to Nat's mother after the show and she agrees that Nat looks better with longer hair. I high-fived her for saying that. Nat's a nice half-Jewish boy, he should only listen to his mother!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NYCPlaywrights fundraiser TONIGHT

Whoohoo! Our first fundraiser in the new space. Should be fun - we have a nice new stage and theatrical lighting. We moved on up to the West Side.

More info

Friday, September 26, 2008

Inked In

Oh no, not another online social network I feel obliged to be part of!

Oh well, Inked In is connected to the estimable Burry Man Writers Center from whence I've found many a playwrights submission opportunity to post on the NYCPlaywrights blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

and you can quote me!

The Dramatists Guild plans to quote from the email I sent to them recently... here it is in its entirety:

I was glad to see the latest issue of The Dramatist is devoted to copyright issues.

Thought you might be interested in what's going on with my case...

As you may recall, Edward Einhorn registered an unauthorized derivative "blocking and choreography" copyright on my play TAM LIN, and then when I produced my play, used it to sue me in Federal Court, claiming my production violated his copyright.

Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered Einhorn to cancel the copyright because in his opinion the work wasn't substantial enough to copyright; it was registered for the purpose of instigating a lawsuit; and was unauthorized.

Then an odd thing happened - the US Copyright Office would only cancel the copyright if Edward Einhorn himself agreed with any one of Judge Kaplan's reasons. And since he refused, that was the end of it as far as the US Copyright Office was concerned.

At that point my lawyers basically threw up their hands and said, oh well, the Copyright Office won't do its job.

I sent a letter stating my case to the US Copyright Office a year ago and have not received a response to date.

But in spite of the legal stone wall I've run up against, it is not the end of the matter as far as I am concerned.

And this is not only about me. Any American author could find themselves in my situation because there are two serious problems with the US Copyright Office's derivative work registration system:


1. The Copyright Office does not require proof of authorization

2. The Copyright Office will not cancel the unauthorized copyright unless the wrongdoer confesses to the wrongdoing, even in spite of a judge's orders.


Also, in spite of the judge's order, Einhorn still holds an unauthorized "blocking and choreography" copyright registration, which should be of great concern to all American dramatists.

I plan to begin work on a project aimed at both canceling Einhorn's unauthorized derivative copyright and correcting the two serious problems in the US Copyright Office's system.

I hope that I can count on the Dramatist Guild's support in this endeavor. I plan to ask for the support of every American writers' organization.


Although I am capable of explaining the situation in logical and rational terms, it really makes me angry that the US Copyright Office is run this way. I can't believe it has been allowed to operate like this for so long.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I love the internets!

I cannot believe it - I finally got to see the pilot to Alias Smith and Jones!

Only the best comedy-western of all time - not to mention the two hottest cowboys ever.

Now you can watch it too, on!

Yep, it's just like I was saying...

I see that the New Yorker agrees with me. Specifically, in the piece Wizbucks by Nick Paumgarten:
Over the past thirty years, Wall Street has honed the art of creating and selling financial products with an increasingly tenuous connection to reality. It has been an extraordinarily creative period—a modernism of money, with an equivalent trend toward abstraction. Relatively simple derivatives evolved into ever more arcane contrivances. The risk and the leverage piled up, and, in the short term, the billions rolled in. This is over now.

Meanwhile Congress is digging in and refusing to be steamrollered into handing Bush buddies a blank check - guess they did learn something about the dangers of the Bush Administration, blank checks and absolute power corrupting absolutely.

Although really, as my old manic-depressive boyfriend used to say: "the tiniest speck of power corrupts absolutely."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nat Cassidy's UNDERPANTS

Hey theater people, why not check out the NYCPlaywrights web site?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yule County

This weekend I was inspired to finally write my Christmas-themed ten-minute play (and of course it prevented me from house-cleaning.) Although I guess I should really be writing an autumn equinox play today.

I had originally conceived of it as a short full-length, with the idea that I would produce it with the work of another playwright, who had also written a Christmas-themed piece. Well, one of many Christmas pieces he had written. Christmas was like half his entire oeuvre. Maybe because when he was growing up that was the only time he was allowed to go home from his crazy Scottish reform school.

I thought it would be fun if we inter-wove them a little, kind of like a ying-yang symbol.

He gave me a copy of the published playscript of this particular Christmas-themed play, inscribed: "Nancy, this play got published because of NYCPlaywrights and your personal input!" Soon afterwards we had a falling out and he has refused to communicate with me ever since, in spite of my attempts to pass the peace pipe. That's gratitude for you. Well, with my Christmas 10-minute, I figured I would do a little inter-weaving with his play anyway, since I was so instrumental, apparently, in its development. It's just a tiny bit really, a little shout-out at the end (the polka stuff) and certainly not actionable. And anyway, to sue me he'd actually have to acknowledge my existence, and I think that is against his religion. You can read Yule County here. My play is much darker than the other playwright's play, so I don't know if they would have gone so well together after all. Although maybe they would have been an agreeable counterpoint, like a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon coupled with Wisconsin cheddar. (His play is definitely the cheese.) But we'll never know.

YULE COUNTY was also inspired by Dar William's song "The Christians and the Pagans" which, in addition to being a great song is also a perfect little short play in its own right too. Listen here - lyrics here.

And finally, I got the line about nature being in sympathy with us from Charlotte Bronte - specifically, JANE EYRE

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NYCPlaywrights fundraiser

More information about the NYCPlaywrights fundraiser here

exotic securities

I worked for one of the big investment banks (there used to be five - as of this week there are two) and it introduced me to the wonderful world of exotic securities.

By "securities" I mean basically, stocks and bonds and options and... but we'll just say stocks and bonds for now. The things Mr. Howell used to obsess about while he and Lovey were stranded with the other castaways.

And if you've seen the movie "Trading Places" you'll have some understanding of short selling - which is basically betting that a stock or bond will fall in price.

For the longest time there were just stocks and bonds, which were straightforward, fairly easy-to-understand financial investments. What are now called, in the industry "plain vanilla" securities. Then options were added.

Then came the "exotics." An exotic can be almost anything - but especially a combination of anything. An exotic can be a "basket" which means a collection of virtually any type of security in the world - stocks, bonds, options, warrants, etc. in varying percentages, all rolled into one traded "instrument."

Robert Kuttner at the Boston Globe says:
financial firms created credit by inventing exotic, little understood securities.

I worked in the investment bank's Compliance department - the department that was charged with making sure that the bank's securities holdings met regulations all over the world. And as I watched the computer programmers wrestle with ways to track the securities holdings, to see if they were in compliance with the regulations I realized that when it came to exotics - they really could not. Because basically an exotic could be virtually anything the investment bank wanted it to be.

And, hence, as Robert Kuttner observes:
There was scant disclosure to regulators or investors, who mistakenly trusted bond-rating agencies. Credit has now frozen, as markets belatedly downgrade these assets.

more here

So basically, the bluff has been called, and the investment banks don't trust each other because they know the other guy's been doing the same thing, inventing new, complex, unregulated exotics, which means nobody really knows the value of the bank's securities holdings. The real value, as opposed to what the bank says is the value.

And that's why the financial world is in turmoil right now.

AND the feds still haven't caught up with the shenanigans underlying exotics trading. And that's why the crisis is not quite over yet.

Although they have suspended short selling, which helps a little. But shorting is not the actual problem - it's the under-regulation of exotics.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm from New Jersey

by John Gorka

I'm from New Jersey, I don't expect too much
If the world ended today, I would adjust

I'm from New Jersey, No I don't talk that way
I watched too much TV, When I was young

I'm from New Jersey, My mom's Italian
I've read those mafia books, We don't belong

There are girls from New Jersey, Who have that great big hair
They're found in shopping malls, I will take you there

I'm from New Jersey, It's not like Texas
There is no mystery, I can't pretend

I'm from New Jersey, It's like Ohio
But even more so, Imagine that

I know which exit. And where I'm bound
The tolls on the parkway, They will slow you down

New Jersey people, They will suprise you
Cause they're not expected, To do too much

They will try harder, They may go further
Cause they never think. That they are good enough

I'm from New Jersey, I don't expect too much
If the world ended today, I would adjust
I would adjust, I would adjust

John Gorka's version is the best, but it isn't available for free online. This cover is OK though.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mergatroyd Productions' Playfest

Sat. Nov. 15 2008 8PM
& Sun. Nov. 16 2008 3PM
@Penny Templeton Actors Studio
261 W. 35th Street, Suite 304, NY NY

More info at the web site here.

Awesome popcorn!

One of the first songs I ever really loved on the radio was Popcorn by Hot Butter ->Listen to it here!

Little did I know that it was, according to Wikipedia, "a famous early synthpop instrumental, originally recorded by Gershon Kingsley."

There are at least 72 versions of Popcorn recorded, including Hot Butter's, not to mention Kingsley's own original version which is a little spooky. And here he is playing it on the piano quite recently.

And naturally Kraftwerk had to get in on that synth Popcorn action too. These are the guys who gave us the simultaneously most hypnotic yet annoying piece of synth music ever Autobahn!

Although I do rather like, in small doses, the uber-geekiness of I am the operator of my pocket calculator.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reason loves religious zealots

Reason is a libertarian publication. Modern libertarianism was basically invented by Ayn Rand, the worst famous novelist ever. Her importance to libertarianism and Reason is underscored by her inclusion on their topics list along with the likes of Drew Carey and Ron Paul.

Initially I thought that libertarianism was a left/right hybrid - left on personal issues like abortion and religion, but right on economic issues.

So they are pro-choice, pro-rationalism, pro-free speech, right? At one time I thought so. But Reason and its fans are completely in the tank for McPain - they especially love Sarah Palin, the fundamentalist book-banning anti-choice ignoramus. They even had one of their tame pseudo-"feminists" Cathy Young, write an article about how great Palin's candidacy is for women.

More proof that I was right to draw the conclusion in the past few years that "libertarian" is just a fancy name for conservatives who don't hate sex.

You are all going to hell in a handbasket!

In my journey from hard core Roman Catholicism to rationality, one of my discoveries along the way was that rather than being united by their love of Jesus Christ, the various Christian sects hate each other.

I used to do clinic defense at a women's health center in South Jersey in the 1980s (I have tons of videotape to prove it) which meant I dealt with both fundamentalist Protestants and right-wing Catholics. It was always fun to ask the fundamentalists, within earshot of the Catholics, about Jesus's mom Mary and her perpetual virginity. The fundies and the Pope-lovers do NOT agree about exactly how big a virgin Mary was. The Catholics believe that Mary was a virgin her entire life, in spite of being married to St. Joseph. The fundies believe that she was only a virgin until after she gave birth to Jesus, after which she was allowed to have "normal" marital relations with St. J. And don't dare tell them otherwise. Oh the fights that used to cause - sometimes they forgot to scream at women entering the clinic, so obsessed were they with convincing the other side about the state of Mary's hymen.

Long after I became an atheist it occurred to me that the whole Mary thing represents such total hostility on the part of Christianity - especially Catholicism - to female sexuality. Mary is honored for being the mother of God. But a mother who got pregnant without having sex! And the whole pedophile priest scandal was such a clear demonstration of the low regard the completely male-dominated Church hierarchy has for women: their response to the declining numbers of men entering the priesthood was not to ordain women - it was to help pedophiles remain priests.

Well, the infamous Jack Chick and his pamphlet industry think that Catholics are all going to hell anyway - because they believe that Catholics are not actually Christians!

Wouldn't that be a kick in the head for Catholics to end up in Hell for eternity with us atheists, gays, Jews, Muslims, Masons and Halloween lovers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's with all the naked gay men?

Is it my blog, or is there a sudden world-wide rush on for naked gay men? I swear my web statistics indicate that every day I get 5 - 10 hits from people searching for some variation on "naked gay men." So far JUST TODAY I've gotten visits from 5 "naked gay men" searches, three "nude gay men", one "sexy gay men naked" and one "kurt wild gay." And then there's the search for Nat Cassidy and Underpants, but I don't think they're looking for Nat naked (and he's not gay anyway) but rather Nat's show at Gallery Players.

Of course this blog post will only contribute to the traffic... I could probably be making actual money on this blog if I turned it into a naked gay man blog. I'm too big an egomaniac though. *sigh*

At first I thought they meant Curt Wild from the movie Velvet Goldmine played by Ewan McGregor, who is not gay, but his character was and he was naked too And a good thing, since he's Hotty McHotstein.

But apparently there's a porn dude named Kurt Wild.

Anyway, for all of you who have arrived here looking for ngm, rather than NGM (my initials) here's a ngm web site for you (warning - very explicit images right on their home page.)

And for me here's a hotty photo of McGregor as Curt Wild.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Portraits in graphite

Finally, all those years of study, not to mention students loans is going to pay off - I'm taking the plunge and offering my services as a portrait artist. Not quite complete web site here.

One of the important points about my work is that I do portraits from life - people sitting right in front of me - not photographs. The idea of drawing a portrait from a photograph is absurd. I was paid by some guy to do that back when I was seventeen and even then I thought it was idiotic. And that was before anybody with access to Photoshop could make any photo look like a watercolor, or a pen-and-ink drawing or a pencil sketch - as you can see in my Photoshopped "self-portrait" below.

But if you do a quick Google, you'll discover that so many people are offering their services drawing from photos. WTF????

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hmm... this seems familiar somehow...

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Once elected, Palin hired friends and lashed foes

The Smiths - There is a light that never goes out

Arguably one of the best songs ever written.


Take me out tonight
Where theres music and theres people
And theyre young and alive
Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I havent got one

Take me out tonight
Because I want to see people and i
Want to see life
Driving in your car
Oh, please dont drop me home
Because its not my home, its their
Home, and Im welcome no more

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine

Take me out tonight
Take me anywhere, I dont care
I dont care, I dont care
And in the darkened underpass
I thought oh god, my chance has come at last
(but then a strange fear gripped me and i
Just couldnt ask)

Take me out tonight
Oh, take me anywhere, I dont care
I dont care, I dont care
Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I havent got one, da ...
Oh, I havent got one

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine

Oh, there is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out

Saturday, September 13, 2008

That's what I'm talking about

That's how to do it people - make McCain's attacks the issue! Yeah!

McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions

Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions.

more at the NYTimes

Friday, September 12, 2008

Once again, Paul Krugman is my hero

What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

More Krugman excellence at the NYTimes

I knew her when she was Chang

Back in the early 80s I did some work for an underground newspaper in Philadelphia - my ex-husband was involved. So was Kathy Chang. I didn't know her very well - my strongest memory of her was her talking shit about me in the other room when she didn't think I could hear her.

I also remember she had a penchant for taking her clothes off and running down the street until the Philly cops arrested her.

So it was kind of weird when she immolated herself some years later. By then she had added an "e" to her last name. She has her own Wikipedia entry and was recently mentioned in a poem in the New Yorker - right in between Rusty Trawler and Bing Crosby's sons.

Life is strange, with an e.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The story, people, is Republican smear/fear tactics

The "lipstick on a pig" bullshit brouhaha is the completely unsurprising tactic of the Republican party, an organization that will stop at NOTHING to hang on to the White House in spite of the Worst President in History being a Republican.

The only way to counter their outrageousness is to make their outrageousness THE STORY.

Let us begin by reading Media Matters for America every day.

Another good heads up from Nat Cassidy

Hey theater people, why not check out the NYCPlaywrights web site?

Chill, people

There's lots of anxiety lately about Obama slipping in the polls.

Relax people.

It's just a matter of time before Sarah Palin says something really dumb and really bad for her campaign. This is a woman who tried to ban library books - she has no sense of proportion or self-control.

Any day now.

And BTW - in case you haven't heard from Guiliani yet, today is the seventh anniversary of 9-11.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

business as usual - male-dominated theatre

The intrepid actor/playwright/composer/etc./etc. Nat Cassidy just sent me a link to Melissa Silverstein's response in the Huffington Post to Charles Isherwood's Sunday NYTimes article On Tap: A Male, Male, Male World. Said Nat: "Thought you'd appreciate this" - and oh yes he is correct. Thanks Nat.

I emailed Isherwood on Sunday scoffing at the idea that a male-dominated New York stage was something remarkable. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it was basically what Silverstein says in the HuffPo:
The NY Times reported this past Sunday that the new upcoming Broadway season is a Male, Male, Male World: Like I'm shocked.

A handful of productions, probably converging by coincidence, will provide a season-long seminar on the subject of the male animal under pressure.

The Times continues and posits that maybe this is a reaction to last season's plethora of domineering women.

Is it a reaction against last season, when the New York stage seemed to be overtaken by domineering women?...Whatever the reason, wives and mothers are taking a definite back seat to their husbands, fathers and sons this fall on Broadway stages.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck takes on this bullshit in a great piece in The Guardian, Broadway's Glass Ceiling and makes it very clear that every season, no matter if there are a few good female roles, is a man's world because so few female playwrights are let into the club.

As probably the most-produced female playwright around these days, Rebeck deserves credit for taking a stand - she has the most to lose by calling out the theatre powers-that-be.

Rebeck, in the Guardian:
There's some feeling in rehearsal halls and writers' retreats and drunken dinner parties, that maybe the American theatre participates rather too enthusiastically in the supposed gender bias that the American media tosses about willy-nilly while discussing candidates for higher office. Mostly it is women playwrights who feel that way; male playwrights think the system is really, really fair and that women playwrights who raise these questions are whiners or dirty feminists. After all, everyone is discriminated against! It's show business! Nobody's happy! We're all narcissistic egomaniacs, you can't expect it to make sense! This is about the work. Which means, apparently, that any woman who cares enough to raise her voice about the fact that women's stories are not reaching the stages for which they are intended is a whiner, a dirty feminist and a lousy artist too - because a true artist wouldn't care.

Honestly I am not making one word of this up.

And coincidentally, published in this week's New Yorker (another incredibly male-dominated "liberal" institution) is James Surowiecki's article about anti-female workplace discrimination "Equal before Mammon" which mentions the blind auditions phenomenon which I've blogged about here before. As Surowiecki notes:
It’s true that active discrimination is rarer these days than it once was. But, contrary to what much economic work would predict, racial and sex discrimination is still a powerful force in the job market. Decades ago, the economist Gary Becker showed that “taste-based” discrimination (pure prejudice) could not survive in a truly competitive talent market, because unprejudiced companies would outperform prejudiced ones by hiring smart women and minorities. Yet the introduction of blind auditions at major symphony orchestras, starting in the seventies, has increased by fifty per cent the likelihood of female performers’ advancing—a clear sign that, for decades, orchestras had made bad talent decisions because of their prejudice without being punished.

What we need is a theatre equivalent of blind orchestra auditions.

And go see Nat Cassidy in The Underpants - although since he is playing the role of, in his own words, "a professional sexyman" maybe out of the underpants. tee hee.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Man on Wire

The recent movie "Man on Wire" is really great! I saw it last night in the East Village. I was 13 when Petit walked on a wire between the two World Trade Center towers, and I do remember it, barely. But actually New York was such a big mythical place to me I kind of shrugged and figured that's just how things go in NYC.

The movie is great because it works on three levels - as a moment in time, as a portrait of the elfin Petit, and as a view of the World Trade Center towers when they were first built and of course we all know what happened to them. Although my favorite scene was shot in France, where Petit and his friends were romping in the French countryside while practicing the walk and figuring out how to get the wire across from the North to the South tower - they decided to use a bow and arrow.

It's just a great movie - go see it!

Defense of community organizers

Young woman stands up for community organizers in the face of Sarah Palin's contempt - not to mention Guiliani.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Naked ex-boyfriend drawings

Since I've been tripping down Memory Lane, I figured I'd put up some naked ex-boyfriend pix. Click the thumbnails to see the entire picture.

My ex John, in 1983, so he was 23 at the time.

My ex Jonathan in 1998. He was 29 at the time.

Not exactly a boyfriend, and tragically, not naked either - Jason could have starred in "Boogie Nights" sans prosthetic - but the most beautiful man with whom I've ever, shall we say, tripped the light fantastic. He was 23 at the time. I was 35. Maybe it's just my age, but it sure seems like the quality of men that you met through the Internet was much higher before everybody started looking for dates online.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 76

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Modern English translation

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Good night Sweet Prince

Today marks eleven years since Earl Rich died in a motorcycle crash - it was on a Sunday, too. It's still hard to believe. I had such a weird complicated relationship with Earl - read all about it here

Earl Rich on his wedding day

I knew I could never have a romantic relationship with him, but it didn't stop me from falling in love with him - and of course with his flirty ways he didn't exactly actively discourage me. But eventually, as I said to him, I was forced to take a big bite of the reality sandwich. The email he sent me in response was much more metaphysical than I'd expected. In fact, after I read it I thought to myself "you just wrote your own eulogy." Here it is:
I like that phrase "reality sandwich". I think I understand where your coming from.

Everyone has to take a bite of that sandwich once in a while. Although the sandwich may taste like shit, it's sometimes necessary medicine for those who are stuck with eating it (sorta like cough syrup).

And it doesn't ALWAYS taste bad. In fact, sometimes it can taste downright good. Many of us take those good moments for granted. We both have to take the good with the bad, just like everyone else. But at least we're eating the sandwich!

Of course that bite of sandwich can get stuck in your throat if you don't chew thoroughly; thats when it can make you blue. I'm a pretty fast eater and I'm always looking for something to act as a chaser (an admittedly BAD habit). In fact, I had a pretty-damned big chunk of that sandwich stuck in my throat this morning, and I was feeling somewhat discolored. And without any serious pharmaceuticals. But then a pretty cool thing happened.

I had taken a double-dosage of some cold remedy that's been sitting in our medicine cabinet for quite some time (I do have a cold). I went out for a drive. The sun was out, the snow was everywhere, and Pluto [his dog] was in the passenger seat. I had a mild buzz going (much to my surprise) either from the medicine, or from my cold. WWDB's Sunday With Sinatra show was churning out some of Franks greatest stuff. The next thing you know - lifes problems seemed kinda distant. Its like for some weird instant you can tune into life. It always seems to happen in different places, at different times, and for different reasons. But its still pretty cool when it does happen. So no matter how fucked over things can get, good moments can still happen. The fact that they don't last, and the fact that there ARE bad moments, are what make the good times worth living for. If those perfect moments lasted, we would all take them for granted. Like that poem by that guy, I think its called "Nothing Gold Can Stay" but I'm not sure.

Hey, I never claimed to much of a spiritual guy. Thats why I like republicans.

Well, Monday morning is right around the corner so I have some serious relaxing to take care of. I hope you saved some of that work for me.



But when I thought it was his own eulogy, little did I know that it would be used as such only a year and a half later.

I was late to Earl's memorial service. His friend Bud told me 11, but it was actually 10. So by the time I showed up, things were winding down. The church was packed with family, friends, and coworkers from PTS, where I used to work and where I met Earl. The minister gave everybody a chance to share their memories and thoughts about Earl and I stood in the back in the foyer listening. As luck would have it, Lisa, our coworker who had made Earl's life at PTS very unpleasant with her bossiness and manipulation (she was in love with Earl too) was the last one to speak. I almost did not say anything about Earl's eulogy, but when I realized that that sanctimonious Christian cow would have the last word, I knew I had to go on - Earl would definitely have wanted it. So as soon as Lisa sat down, I marched up to the minister and handed him a copy of Earl's auto-eulogy. He looked startled, but glanced over it, and as I sat down (some former PTS coworkers made a space for me in a pew) he began to read it, making sure to skip over the part about pharmaceuticals and leaving out the "fucked."

I guess my appearance and the surprise sermon from Earl to all assembled made an impression. Earl's wife later shared a cousin's essay about it with me (which I don't have any more, dammit!) where she describes an "eccentric" woman suddenly appearing with this message from Earl. I still don't know why she thought I looked eccentric - I mean, you're supposed to wear all black to a memorial service, aren't you? In any case, I did my duty for Earl - HE got the last word, not Lisa. As we left the church, it suddenly started raining hard on us. I felt like Earl was crying on me.

Good night sweet Earl, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. But I wish you were still eating the sandwich.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Slavery by another name

I just caught an awesome presentation on C-Span by Douglas Blackmon about his book Slavery by Another Name and it is a mind-blowing account of the systematic RE-enslavement of African-Americans in the South after the Civil War, and which continued in one form or another right up until the beginning of World War II.

I'm gonna buy it tonight

It cannot be said often enough - the USA owes everything to Black Americans who have built this country while being treated like shit before AND after the Civil War, continuing right up until the present time.

Poe fight!

Baltimore Has Poe; Philadelphia Wants Him
Edgar Allan Poe never lived in one city for long, and ever since he died and was buried here in 1849 this city has claimed him as its own.

But last year Edward Pettit, a Poe scholar in Philadelphia, began arguing that Poe’s remains belong in Philadelphia. Poe wrote many of his most noteworthy works there and, according to Mr. Pettit, that city’s rampant crime and violence in the mid-19th century framed Poe’s sinister outlook and inspired his creation of the detective fiction genre.

“So, Philadelphians, let’s hop in our cars, drive down I-95 and appropriate a body from a certain Baltimore cemetery,” Mr. Pettit wrote in an article for the Philadelphia City Paper in October. "I'll bring the shovel."

Since I was born in Philadelphia, I tend to want Philly to get him - but it's true, Philly does have Ben Franklin, who I would argue is a somewhat bigger deal than Poe. But when is The Bronx going to put in its claim for Poe's remains?

Why Publish?

Way back when, before blogs, people did something called "zines" - and Mike Gunderloy of Rensselaer NY cataloged them in his Factsheet Five. I illustrated a few covers (see below) as well as the inside of Mike's booklet "Why Publish?" - which was published in 1989 - ten years before the creation of blogger.

Not surprisingly Mike Gunderloy has his own blog now.

Here is one of my illustrations from "Why Publish?":

Now you can buy "Why Publish?" online here: Specific Object

and here: Biblio.

But you can get it for free here.

And you can view copies of Factsheet Five (maybe with my covers!) at several libraries.

One of my Factsheet Five covers

Friday, September 05, 2008

back from hiatus

NYCPlaywrights starts up again tonight - we're taking it to a higher level this year. New location (Penny Templeton studio), more distinguished guests (as with last year's visit from David Ives) more work, more actors, more readings. Our heads may explode.

List of computer programming language names

These are my favorite computer programming language names:

and Yorick - their logo is the upper half of a skull, of course

The big list of programming languages here

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Daily Show quote of the day

Jon Stewart: "In Dick Morris's defense, he's a lying sack of shit."

I'll get the video on here ASAP.

Stewart is having a FIELD DAY with Republican hypocrisy!

Watch ALL the right-wing hypocrisy and Dick Morris bashing here!

AND this is so funny - Senator Foghorn Leghorn and Senator Droopy Dog!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Baby Jesus's bris

One thing you rarely see in Christian art is the depiction of Jesus's circumcision. In fact, growing up Catholic, it never occurred to me that anybody would depict it. Really, to be perfectly honest, I never even thought about Jesus getting circumcised, although I knew he was a nice Jewish boy. Well, not only has it been depicted, to my surprise and bemusement, but in STAINED GLASS too. You can see it, if you dare, in New York's Cloisters museum. But if you can't wait that long, you can see it on Flickr right now. You can see other stuff too (see photo with this post), but slightly less mind-blowing.

Blogger Alexander in New York has some nice pix from his trip to the Cloisters.

Cloisters own web site here. My favorite part of the museum was the several gorgeous courtyard/gardens.

At least the Met did the Cloisters right. I was mighty annoyed with the Met museum management because I went over to the Big Museum on 5th Avenue to see pencil works by J.A.D. Ingres, my latest art mania - specifically I went to see his "The Kaunitz Sisters" (see below) on the (foolish) assumption that since it is a recent acquisition, they'd be showing it off now, only to discover that it wasn't currently on display! Instead I got a wallful of Kathe Kollwitz. TOTALLY different mindset/style/etc. I respect Kollwitz and all, but I'd much rather look at an Ingres drawing, for professional and aesthetic reasons.

You can see an awesomely enlarged reproduction of The Kaunitz Sisters here

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

HUCK FINN reading on video

I videotaped the reading for NYCPlaywrights' meet & greet event a week ago and you can watch the Huck videos here.

Cast: Nick Fondulis, Lorenzo Scott, Ann Farthing, Reagan Wilson, Charles Major, Mike Selkirk, Mike Jalbert, and Reggie Buckingham doing stage directions.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sonnet 147

Sometimes you have to give sonnet-writing a rest and submit to a greater Will

My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed;
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Plain-English interpretation here

Becoming Jane

I caught "Becoming Jane" the recent movie about Jane Austen, and thought it was OK. I'm not a big fan of Austen's work, finding it too smirky and not deeply emotional enough for my tastes - which is why I'm all about the Brontes. And really, Austen's life was not actually very exciting.

However, all the men running around in Regency dress added a whole extra level of enjoyment to the movie, and James McAvoy is Hotty McHotstein throughout.

Another blogger, Lauren of Ladamania has an excellent post about the hotness of Regency clothing, complete with photo comparisons of actors in modern dress and period costume - no better case can be made for the raw power of clothing to increase a man's sexual allure than this. And I'm glad she included Ioan Gruffudd in the mix - I was absolutely enthralled by him in "Amazing Grace" in those hotty outfits.

Although Lauren seems to be unaware that the "puffy" clothing and long hair she rightly adores is in fact specifically Regency period.

Unfortunately I could find no photos from the the best part of "Becoming Jane" - when the young men skinny dip.

What I want to know is why nobody has made a movie about the life of Charlotte Bronte and her family, which is infinitely more interesting than Austen's life. I really should get to work on that screenplay.

Interesting article in the NYTimes about "Becoming Jane", including this:
And however much society has changed, Austen's heroines — unlike the Brontës' — deal with the believable, timeless obstacles of class, money and misunderstanding, which make her works adaptable to any era. As Ms. Huff said: “Everyone thinks she's Elizabeth Bennet; not everyone thinks she’s Jane Eyre. Everyone knows a young woman trying to decide if the guy she's attracted to is Mr. Right. Not everyone meets a Mr. Right who has a mad wife in the attic."
Although like so many others, Huff seems not to have read much of the work of the Brontes - Charlotte and Ann both dealt quite a bit with class, money and "misunderstanding" (whatever "misunderstanding" means.)