Wednesday, March 31, 2010

my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote

It's also my favorite observation about The Beatles:
I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.
That's what I aspire to - using art to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit.

Considering how much they were together, it's surprising how hard it is to find an extended Lennon & McCartney together clip like this.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The real Deal

It took me years to realize how important to the Pixies' sound was Kim Deal. And she wrote at least two masterpieces - the Pixies' "Gigantic" and the Breeders "Divine Hammer."

Who isn't looking for one divine hammer? I'd bang it all day too.

Of course we cannot forget the mind-blowing guitar of Joey Santiago - although the camera almost never shows him in this concert! Nobody wanna look at Black Francis all that much - even before he tanked out.


Wacky Flying Nun video version of Divine Hammer


Monday, March 29, 2010

hot Rochester

I am definitely looking forward to the hot Rochester, Michael Fassbender in the upcoming new movie adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Interview at with Fassbender on youtube about another movie

Regency England is no Spartan Greece, so I doubt they'll show as much of him as they did in The 300 - but oh my!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

During his Cherry Lane Master Class, Amiri Baraka recommended that everybody in the room read Frederick Douglass's autobiography. I had planned on it anyway, but during this Master Class I got an idea for a new play - and since the play is set on a plantation in the antebellum South, I pretty much had to read this important primary source for the life of a slave right away.

It's full of the horrors and outrageousness of slavery of course. Although it's important to know about, it's also incredibly depressing that this "institution" existed for hundreds of years, in a democracy. So I confess that my favorite part of the bio is the non-depression section, where Douglass recounts what life was like for him after he got free and began living in New Bedford, MA. The excerpt I posted below also explains where Douglass got his last name and how he came to become involved with the abolitionist periodical "Liberator."

We now began to feel a degree of safety, and to prepare ourselves for the duties and responsibilities of a life of freedom. On the morning after our arrival at New Bedford, while at the breakfast-table, the question arose as to what name I should be called by. The name given me by my mother was, "Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey." I, however, had dispensed with the two middle names long before I left Maryland so that I was generally known by the name of "Frederick Bailey." I started from Baltimore bearing the name of "Stanley." When I got to New York, I again changed my name to "Frederick Johnson," and thought that would be the last change. But when I got to New Bedford, I found it necessary again to change my name. The reason of this necessity was, that there were so many Johnsons in New Bedford, it was already quite difficult to distinguish between them. I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the name of "Frederick." I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the "Lady of the Lake," and at once suggested that my name be "Douglass." From that time until now I have been called "Frederick Douglass;" and as I am more widely known by that name than by either of the others, I shall continue to use it as my own.

I was quite disappointed at the general appearance of things in New Bedford. The impression which I had received respecting the character and condition of the people of the north, I found to be singularly erroneous. I had very strangely supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and scarcely any of the luxuries, of life were enjoyed at the north, compared with what were enjoyed by the slaveholders of the south. I probably came to this conclusion from the fact that northern people owned no slaves. I supposed that they were about upon a level with the non-slaveholding population of the south. I knew ~they~ were exceedingly poor, and I had been accustomed to regard their poverty as the necessary consequence of their being non-slaveholders. I had somehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be no wealth, and very little refinement. And upon coming to the north, I expected to meet with a rough, hard-handed, and uncultivated population, living in the most Spartan-like simplicity, knowing nothing of the ease, luxury, pomp, and grandeur of southern slaveholders. Such being my conjectures, any one acquainted with the appearance of New Bedford may very readily infer how palpably I must have seen my mistake.

In the afternoon of the day when I reached New Bedford, I visited the wharves, to take a view of the shipping. Here I found myself surrounded with the strongest proofs of wealth. Lying at the wharves, and riding in the stream, I saw many ships of the finest model, in the best order, and of the largest size. Upon the right and left, I was walled in by granite warehouses of the widest dimensions, stowed to their utmost capacity with the necessaries and comforts of life. Added to this, almost every body seemed to be at work, but noiselessly so, compared with what I had been accustomed to in Baltimore. There were no loud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading ships. I heard no deep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer. I saw no whipping of men; but all seemed to go smoothly on. Every man appeared to understand his work, and went at it with a sober, yet cheerful earnestness, which betokened the deep interest which he felt in what he was doing, as well as a sense of his own dignity as a man. To me this looked exceedingly strange. From the wharves I strolled around and over the town, gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches, beautiful dwellings, and finely-cultivated gardens; evincing an amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had never seen in any part of slaveholding Maryland.

Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful. I saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and bare-footed women, such as I had been accustomed to see in Hillsborough, Easton, St. Michael's, and Baltimore. The people looked more able, stronger, healthier, and happier, than those of Maryland. I was for once made glad by a view of extreme wealth, without being saddened by seeing extreme poverty. But the most astonishing as well as the most interesting thing to me was the condition of the colored people, a great many of whom, like myself, had escaped thither as a refuge from the hunters of men. I found many, who had not been seven years out of their chains, living in finer houses, and evidently enjoying more of the comforts of life, than the average of slaveholders in Maryland. I will venture to assert, that my friend Mr. Nathan Johnson (of whom I can say with a grateful heart, "I was hungry, and he gave me meat; I was thirsty, and he gave me drink; I was a stranger, and he took me in") lived in a neater house; dined at a better table; took, paid for, and read, more newspapers; better understood the moral, religious, and political character of the nation,--than nine tenths of the slaveholders in Talbot county Maryland. Yet Mr. Johnson was a working man. His hands were hardened by toil, and not his alone, but those also of Mrs. Johnson. I found the colored people much more spirited than I had supposed they would be. I found among them a determination to protect each other from the blood-thirsty kidnapper, at all hazards. Soon after my arrival, I was told of a circumstance which illustrated their spirit. A colored man and a fugitive slave were on unfriendly terms. The former was heard to threaten the latter with informing his master of his whereabouts. Straightway a meeting was called among the colored people, under the stereotyped notice, "Business of importance!" The betrayer was invited to attend. The people came at the appointed hour, and organized the meeting by appointing a very religious old gentleman as president, who, I believe, made a prayer, after which he addressed the meeting as follows: "~Friends, we have got him here, and I would recommend that you young men just take him outside the door, and kill him!~" With this, a number of them bolted at him; but they were intercepted by some more timid than themselves, and the betrayer escaped their vengeance, and has not been seen in New Bedford since. I believe there have been no more such threats, and should there be hereafter, I doubt not that death would be the consequence.

I found employment, the third day after my arrival, in stowing a sloop with a load of oil. It was new, dirty, and hard work for me; but I went at it with a glad heart and a willing hand. I was now my own master. It was a happy moment, the rapture of which can be understood only by those who have been slaves. It was the first work, the reward of which was to be entirely my own. There was no Master Hugh standing ready, the moment I earned the money, to rob me of it. I worked that day with a pleasure I had never before experienced. I was at work for myself and newly-married wife. It was to me the starting-point of a new existence. When I got through with that job, I went in pursuit of a job of calking; but such was the strength of prejudice against color, among the white calkers, that they refused to work with me, and of course I could get no employment. [I am told that colored persons can now get employment at calking in New Bedford--a result of anti-slavery effort. did for nearly three years in New Bedford, before I became known to the anti-slavery world.] Finding my trade of no immediate benefit, I threw off my calking habiliments, and prepared myself to do any kind of work I could get to do. Mr. Johnson kindly let me have his wood-horse and saw, and I very soon found myself a plenty of work. There was no work too hard--none too dirty. I was ready to saw wood, shovel coal, carry wood, sweep the chimney, or roll oil casks,--all of which I did.

In about four months after I went to New Bedford, there came a young man to me, and inquired if I did not wish to take the "Liberator." I told him I did; but, just having made my escape from slavery, I remarked that I was unable to pay for it then. I, however, finally became a subscriber to it. The paper came, and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and my drink. My soul was set all on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds--its scathing denunciations of slaveholders--its faithful exposures of slavery--and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institution--sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!

I had not long been a reader of the "Liberator," before I got a pretty correct idea of the principles, measures and spirit of the anti-slavery reform. I took right hold of the cause. I could do but little; but what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting. I seldom had much to say at the meetings, because what I wanted to say was said so much better by others. But, while attending an anti-slavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I felt strongly moved to speak, and was at the same time much urged to do so by Mr. William C. Coffin, a gentleman who had heard me speak in the colored people's meeting at New Bedford. It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly. The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down. I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease. From that time until now, I have been engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren--with what success, and with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my labors to decide.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sid & Nancy

The entire movie is available for free online.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hot Man in Regency Period Clothing of the Week - March 26, 2010

Ioan Gruffudd, known to fanboys as Mr. Fantastic (Four), looks mighty fine in Regency period clothing as can be seen here. I confess that although I was interested in William Wilberforce's fight against the slave trade, I was 50% compelled to see the movie because of Gruffudd's hotness in the movie trailers as can be seen below. Although he spent entirely too much time wearing a pre-Regency wig for my taste.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You had me at 'predatory lending'

Great article about Elizabeth Warren in the NYTimes

"I learned early on what debt means, how vulnerable it makes people, what the security of owning a home means," Ms. Warren said, her eyes welling. Even today, Ms. Warren's daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi said, her mother is so frugal that she eats shriveled grapes out of the fruit bowl.

Six years ago, Ms. Warren was one of the few guests at a Harvard Law School faculty reception for Barack Obama, an alum then running for a United States Senate seat in Illinois. He greeted her with two words: “predatory lending,” signaling he knew her work. He began to talk about dicey mortgages and abusive credit products and their shattering effect on families, Ms. Warren recalled. Finally, she cut him off.

“You had me at ‘predatory lending,’ ” she said. A few years later, Mr. Obama was promoting her idea for a consumer agency on the presidential campaign trail.

Meanwhile, in October 2008, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, called out of the blue and asked Ms. Warren to head Congressional oversight of the bank bailout. It was a vague job, sketched out in a hurry, but she interpreted her mandate aggressively. Instead of issuing standard monthly reports, she turned them into independent research projects, bulletins and videos asking pointed questions about Treasury’s treatment of the banks.

and then later in the article...
"This is America's middle class," she recently said on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." "We've hacked at it and pulled at it and chipped at it for 30 years now and now there's no more to do. We fix this problem going forward, or the game really is over."

“When you say it like that and you look at me like that, I know your husband is backstage, I still want to make out with you,” Mr. Stewart responded.

Oh yes, Jon Stewart really did say that:

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good women return

It looks like I'm finally going to produce my play GOOD WOMEN OF MORNINGSIDE at the Playlab. I did a reading of it back in November and the actors insisted on reading this bit of stage direction:
(Debbie-Lisa and Lisa-Jean each possess a pellet of super-concentrated black hole anti-matter in the core of her being. The pellet is deeply offended by such a display of innocent, unself-conscious affection. Debbie-Lisa and Lisa-Jean look at each other, thinking the same thing: Courtney must be made to suffer.)
I was really pleased the actors liked this - I liked it. It gets at the ultimate inscrutability of mean girls - they seem to be basically sadists, inflicting pain on those less mean than themselves and just because they can. They seem to me to be a real source of evil in the world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little punk staffer

Thus spake the Krugman:
Menzie Chinn wonders what constitutes a punk staffer, after John Boehner told bankers, “Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves”.

What Menzie doesn’t understand is that this is how bankers think of anyone who stands in the way of their God-given right to have whatever they want. Consider this memorable passage from William Cohan’s House of Cards, recounting Jimmy Cayne’s reaction to Tim Geithner’s reluctance to bail out Bear Stearns:

“The audacity of that [punk] in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” he said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge …, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he’s … He’s got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I’m not a good enemy. I’m a very bad enemy. But certain things really—that bothered me plenty. It’s just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they’re a good credit? Who … asked you? You’re not an elected officer. You’re a clerk. Believe me, you’re a clerk. I want to open up on this …, that’s all I can tell you.”


Monday, March 22, 2010


Must-See TV

Oh, wow. I was watching John Boehner doing his Glenn Beck imitation, demanding a one-by-one vote to delay reform by an hour or two, and considering bailing out — but then … a standing ovation as Nancy Pelosi walks in.

History as we watch.

Her speech started off a little awkward — but it’s getting more and more passionate. Anyway, the world will little note nor long remember what they say tonight. What matters is what they do tonight.

We’ve seen this stone get rolled up the hill, then slide back down, so many times. I almost expect lightning to hit the Capitol.

But it’s really happening.

NYTimes source

And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.

This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Sermonette: suburbanites of the soul and the substrate of evil

The short of it: I suffered emotional trauma a couple of years ago, and one of the ways I've worked through it is by writing poetry about it.

Was the trauma sufficient to warrant writing poetry? Is there justification for writing poetry about it for two years?


Why? Because I say so. It's my trauma, it's my working-through, so I'll say how long it takes me to work through it. You can call it an obsession if you want, but unless you were my personal therapist, you would not be in a position to make that call.

But suburbanites of the soul, as I like to call them, are crass busybodies who police the tangled hedges and overgrown lawns of other people's emotional lives - even or perhaps especially - the emotional lives of people they've never met, or met once, briefly.

The person I have in mind sent "poetry" about me to Andrew Bellware. Bellware has a grudge against me over my blogging about his casting call being included in the blog "Nudity Required, No Pay."

My poetry has nothing to do with Bellware, but that doesn't matter. The issue of whether or not Bellware exploits actors doesn't concern her. Her motive is to attack me, for any reason. This just gave her an opening.

I don't know this woman. But mocking me on behalf of other people seems to be what she loves to do. Although her poetry on Bellware's site is published anonymously, I recognize her style - she's mocked me through poetry before. Here's one of the recent ones - this and the others are available on Bellware's site.

DIL the dale of love
To show the hilarity
Of obsession keen

Here's the prior poem she published (under her own Facebook identity) to mock me, back in June:

____ is beyond the pale
Our love tale the great white whale
Of unrequited.

You can see the similarity of style. Web statistics also indicate that it was she who sent these poems.

The blank line of the second example is for somebody's name - she wrote his name in the original, but I won't here. I assume the unnamed person knows about all of this, and it doesn't bother him - maybe he thinks it's hilarious too. The fact that so many of his friends are vicious soulless thugs (as I gradually discovered) leads me to believe that he is one too, in spite of every atom of my being refusing to believe it. But really, the case in favor of vicious soulless thuggery has become overwhelming, atoms be damned.

I should mention that my emotional trauma was much more complex than simply unrequited love - but vicious soulless thugs don't really get complexity.

In any case, I fell in unrequited love with this person before I was clued into the thuggery. But love can be a goddamn tenacious, illogical emotion, injecting you with endorphins while it sucks the life out of you. It can co-exist even with hatred. So in desperation I wrote about it, about my conflicted feelings for him.

This is certainly not any new discovery on my part. People have been working through emotional trauma through poetry since there was poetry. Shakespeare's sonnets about the "dark lady" clearly indicate that that relationship was rough weather all the way - if it's good enough for big bad Bill, it's good enough for me.

My poems are on my blog, and I mostly put them on separate pages so you have to make an effort to see them by clicking a link to them - you are not suddenly accosted by them out of the blue.

So nobody has to read my poetry, and it's not hurting anybody - certainly not the man in question. So why does this woman feel the need to mock me and my poetry, on at least two separate occasions?

I think that partly it's a group-bonding thing - apparently the group she is part of thinks it is a huge laughable deal that I write poetry out of a search for solace.

It so happens that I know that one of the members of this group was left at the altar and wrote songs about it. Although I might possibly dislike him and some of his work I would never in a million years laugh at him for writing about his emotional trauma in a song. In fact, I empathize with him over his songs, knowing he went through rejection too, and dealt with it in a similar way.

In any case, there are some things you don't attack, even about your enemies.

Not everybody believes this, obviously.

Hannah Arendt is famous for the phrase "the banality of evil" and it's so well-known because she's onto something. She was talking about the humdrum everyday evil of the millions of "good" people who participated in Nazi atrocities as part of their daily routine. But the Nazis didn't create the banal evil - they merely tapped into something that I believe exists in all human societies. A kind of molten substrate of evil, that is mostly dormant, but sends up little reminder plumes of ash every so often.

Unrequited love is common - probably the most common form of romantic love. Surely this woman has experienced it herself and knows how bad it can make you feel. This woman is also involved in the arts as a theater director - the arts are about emotions, especially deep emotions. Things like unrequited love. Why would she think it was such an objectionable, mock-able thing for me to express my deep feelings through an artistic outlet?

But that's the key to the whole thing - a lack of empathy. Lacking empathy does not help you be a good artist. But it does make you the perfect good soldier, taking instructions from others on whom to hate and whom to hurt.

She does not need to know me, does not need to know anything about me other than this - her friends hate me and they see my expressing my feelings in a public (if fairly obscure) way as a vulnerability, and a way to hurt me. And she will happily comply if it means that her group will approve of it. It's something they can all have a good laugh over and that joins them together and makes them feel less alone in the universe.

But it isn't only about being in a group - the most important part of the substrate of evil isn't the desire to be approved of by your group - it's the need to exclude others from the group and to identify them as the outsider - and if conditions are right as the enemy - and if conditions are really extreme, the enemy on whom all bad things can be blamed. Like the Jews. It's the scapegoat syndrome, basically.

Not that I think this group is going to try to cart me off to a concentration camp. So far they've been content to try to hurt me where they think I am most vulnerable.

But they don't know enough about me to identify my true vulnerabilities - I don't care who knows that I was in unrequited love, and I don't care who knows the identity of the man, and I don't care if they think it's funny I've written poetry about him.

And to a certain extent, I confess I find it rather flattering that my poetry matters so much to them. Any poet likes an audience and god knows poets have a harder time finding an audience than virtually any other artists. And my type of poetry, sonnets, is currently very unfashionable - I've been told as much by several other poets. The real in-thing these days seems to be to write in prose but then just format it in a poet-y looking way. Katha Pollitt, the feminist writer whose prose I adore writes poetry that way. I don't adore her poetry.

Ultimately though, I think maybe the suburbanite poetess lacks empathy because she could never do what I've done, couldn't even imagine it - express emotional vulnerabilities through art. What if somebody laughs? As she and her group have demonstrated, they sometimes will. What if somebody uses it against her - and they sometimes will try. But if you feel something strongly enough that you have to get it out, you will find a way. Ideally you will, to use the Freudian term, sublimate the feeling by expressing it through art. But if you don't, it might come out in other ways, more violent ways, ways that actually cause physical damage. If more people wrote poetry, perhaps there would be fewer stories along the lines of man shoots wife, children, self.

So it's better to express it through art. But that doesn't mean you'll necessarily be praised for it, and it's certainly no guarantee that people will like your art. But you have to try. Otherwise you'll be just one more suburbanite of the soul, too busy taking up the cause of other peoples' emotions to deal with your own. You do that and you'll become a tool for evil, Satan's very own Swiss Army Knife.

You have to mind your own business - including your own emotional business. Being a full human being is a dirty, difficult, thankless job sometimes. But go for it - even if somebody calls you a narcissist - you can be a narcissist, and you can be self-absorbed about your own emotional life. It IS your life, not some insignificant or inconvenient appendix of your life.

Just remember the immortal words of Patty Smith: "I am an American artist and I have no guilt."

I addressed the sublimation thing in a poem, and I don't think anybody but my one loyal reader, the only person who has read every single one of my poems, has ever seen this one, so I'll repost it here - if you've read this far, you might as well read it, too.

Why this inability to hate you?
I've said so before, but astonishes
Still - you are not worthy, you are not due
Any fond-feelings, any well-wishes.
You cannot comprehend deep emotion,
Can't imagine the point of soul-searching,
Cannot give nor receive true devotion.
And your pestilent clique keeps besmirching
All the poor weak shreds of integrity
You have ever had. Onto this blank slate
Have I written down all my poetry
Extracting love from well-justified hate.
Senamensing wrung from my heart of hearts,
Oh there's value yet in the liberal arts.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The philosophizing of the twitterers

A twittering friend of E.D. proclaims "just being angry doesn't make you a feminist."

But being angry over sexism usually does.

But yeah, feminists can get angry over other stuff, like personal attacks. Not everything is about feminism.

What really separates the sexists from the non-sexists is this: those who dismiss women as "just angry women" if they display anger, over anything, are in the sexist camp.

And working with exploiters and creeps who send messages of sexual assault definitely puts your feminist cred into question.

When will you get a clue?

You have to be a total badass to be a woman and a poet in Saudi Arabia

From Friday's NYTimes:
A Saudi woman received a death threat last week after she appeared on "Poet of Millions," Abu Dhabi's version of the game show "American Idol" - which features aspiring poets instead of singers — and recited a poem attacking clerics for "terrorizing people and preying on everyone seeking peace."

This week she returned to perform a similar poem and was rewarded by the judges who made her the first female contestant to reach the show’s final round.

As the newspaper The National reports from Abu Dhabi, the woman, Hissa Hilal, "sparked controversy in Saudi Arabia, especially on Internet forums."

"According to reports, many viewers praised her for her courage, but others attacked her for criticizing clerics and reciting her poems in public," the newspaper wrote. "One website called for her death."
I only have to deal with assholes who mock me for writing poetry - that some women get death threats for their poetry really helps keep things in perspective.

Yes, I will say it again: Jon Stewart is a genius

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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What Bill O'Reilly is to Stephen Colbert, Glenn Beck is to Jon Stewart - the perfect nemesis.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hot Man in Regency Period Clothing of the Week - March 19, 2010

Whoah, I have not seen the movie "Immortal Beloved" - I just didn't feel compelled to see a half made-up movie about Beethoven, but seeing pix of Gary Oldman as LvB has convinced me to see it ASAP!

And BONUS - the guy who plays the lead in Europa, Europa is also in this - I've never seen him in any other movie. That is a great movie!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

off off Broadway - adventures with creeps

Pointing out to creeps that they are acting like creeps will not cause them to stop acting like creeps. It will only make them act creepier.

I discovered that in a truly disturbing way. I gave a shout-out to somebody who had been googling all kinds of odd things about me. I mentioned him by initials since I didn't think everybody in the world had to know who I was talking to - just this odd googler. Well I shouldn't have bothered, since Andrew Bellware revealed his identity for me on his blog.

Since I monetized my blogs, I like to keep track of what's what with web statistics - if you posted a link to, for example, you like to see if it causes lots of people to visit your site. So I check the stats pretty frequently. And when your name keeps popping up over and over in search strings, you tend to take notice - especially when it's your name and some odd stuff, like "love letters."

Now people have googled some odd things about me before in the past - my name + "debt" was one of the creepiest - but I never felt the need to make an issue out of it, except that this odd googler was visiting my site pretty much daily, sometimes several times a day. Now I had only met this person once, and had nothing against him. So I thought it was a bit obsessive - even if he was doing it on behalf of Andrew Bellware's grudge against me.

When the googler responded to my message by googling a bunch of bizarre things with my name in the mix, I was not surprised. And when he apparently got a bunch of his friends into the game (judging by the mix of IP addresses) I was not surprised - lots of people can't stand alone, they have to have backup from their group.

What did surprise me, because I am apparently not nearly as cynical as I thought I was, was the creepy sexual turn the google searches took. These people knew I could read their search strings, and several of them wrote descriptions of sexual assault against me.

I really should NOT have been surprised. This kind of behavior has happened plenty on the Internet. One of the most famous cases was the attacks against game blogger Kathy Sierra. Her case was more extreme than mine, but it is truly creepy the way these men feel the need to make the issue sexual. I mean, it's already pretty ridiculous that they feel the need to gang up against me, considering I've done nothing against them - but that's groupthink dynamics for you. But there's no reason why it has to turn into a sexual thing other than pure misogyny.

As the author of the article A Chilling Effect says:
I know that I am far from alone. Any woman journalist who speaks out steadfastly and strongly against war, violence, imperialism, militarism, nationalism, capitalism, pornography, prostitution, who writes as a feminist or as a human rights advocate, can expect to be harassed and attacked online and offline. In general, she will be attacked not only for her specific views and perspective, but in ways that are distinctly sexist. Her appearance will be mocked or denigrated, she will be described as a man-hater, her writings, activism and life's work will be dismissed and trivialized, she will be called shrill and strident, or she will be threatened in ways that are sexual.

As I said, my case is not this extreme - but it's clearly along the same lines of sexualized violence.

Bellware did not like the fact that I, along with the anonymous blogger of "Nudity Required, No Pay" (and many other female actors I've heard from) consider him an exploiter for offering no pay for acting work, particularly that involving nudity. And so he considers anything fair to use against me.

But none of that is nearly as creepy as these google strings. I don't think that the google strings are illegal, and lots of Internet stuff is too new to have been considered in court. In any case, I have the records and more importantly, Sitemeter has the records in its data archives, should they need to be reviewed. Those who typed the hardcore google strings are not always immediately identifiable, but it's not that hard to figure out identities, sooner or later.

Susan Brownmiller, the author of "Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape" is a Facebook friend of mine and we've chatted a bit. I am going to run this incident by her and see what she thinks.

Doggy origins

Don't eat my baby!

Interesting article in the NYTime about the origins of dogs.
Humans lived as roaming hunters and gatherers for most of their existence. Dr. Wayne believes that wolves began following hunter-gatherer bands to feed on the wounded prey, carcasses or other refuse. At some stage a group of wolves, who happened to be smaller and less threatening than most, developed a dependency on human groups, and may in return have provided a warning system.

I know why people started hanging around with dogs - look at the cute faces on those dingoes!

I always find it annoying the way people are divided into dog people and cat people. Why can't you like both? I love my two cats but I also loved my dog Cookie when I was a kid. My parents were going to give her away at one point for barking too much after we moved to a smaller house in NJ and I ran away from home with her for a day in protest. We had adventures, including putting out a forest fire. But when it started to get dark and Cookie was getting hungry (I forgot to take money with me) we had to go home. My parents changed their mind and we kept her after all.

Apartment life is not easy on dogs though, so I have cats. My ex-boyfriend loves cats too but growing up his dog Emily was his best friend. I wrote a monologue about that relationship - Nick Fondulis performs it on youtube here.

Anyway, dogs and cats are not that different. Especially Siamese cats, which are very dog-like - my Siamese cat Mr. Fuzz (his real name is Spike but I never call him that) follows me around the house and he has to play fetch with his mousies every day. Unfortunately, after we fetch he has to roll the (real fur) mousie in his bowl of cat food and then eat the fur off the plastic shape that it's glued onto. I worry alot about his digestive system, but he's been doing this for years now with no apparent ill effects - except on my wallet - those real fur mousies are not cheap.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Always after me lucky charms

Yes it's Saint Patrick's Day. Yes I'm Irish (mostly.) No, I don't care about ethnic celebrations and it's embarrassing the way St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by getting drunk - because the Irish really do have an alcohol problem. I used to think the drinking stereotype was just an anti-Irish thing, but then I worked for an Irish company and saw drinking was an integral part of the work environment. For example, if you failed to follow the proper software development processes, you had to buy the development team a round of drinks.

As a result, the Irish employees could always outdrink the American employees - but the Russian employees could out-drink even the Irish.

more women in theater news...

Theatres 'risk ignoring talented female playwrights' says Sir David Hare
Sir David, 62, an associate director of the National Theatre, said the theatre lagged behind other creative art forms, such as the novel, when it came to equality of expression. Theatres should realise that women's writing for the theatre had reached a "tipping point", he said. "I don't think the repertory of most theatres at the moment is reflecting what seems to be happening in terms of the most interesting new theatre," he said."We would hope to see management of theatres reflecting where we think the creativity in playwriting is coming from."

And my meetup group Works by Women is offering a great deal on tickets to see MISS LULU BETT. Although I am curious about this play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1921 - the first time a woman won the Drama Pulitzer, you can get a pretty good idea why the play isn't done much nowadays by this wikipedia synopsis:
The story concerns a woman, Lulu, who lives with her sister's family, essentially acting as a servant. She does not complain about her position, but is not happy. When her brother-in-law's brother, Ninian, comes to visit, there is a certain attraction between them. While joking around one evening they find themselves accidentally married, due to the laws of the state requiring little more than wedding vows to be recited while a magistrate is in the room for a marriage to count as legal. On learning this, Ninian and Lulu decide they actually like the idea of being married, and choose to stick with it. However, within a month, Lulu is back home, having discovered that Ninian was already legally married: 16 years prior he had wed a girl who left him after 2 days, and he had actually forgotten about the whole thing. Lulu considers this a reasonable story, but her brother-in-law, Dwight, insists that it would be a humiliation to the family to reveal such a thing, and insists that she tell everyone instead that Ninian grew bored with her and left her. Lulu is unable to see why this should be a less humiliating story, and begins to complain about her circumstances for the first time. She also notices that her teenage niece, Di, is unhappy, and also seems to be trying to use marriage as a way to escape her circumstance. Lulu eventually has to prevent Di from eloping, and is finally inspired to move out of her sister's home and live on her own.

Oops! We are accidentally married! Oohh kay.

This week's New Yorker has a profile of Oskar Eustis, and I found especially interesting the part about his collaboration with Tony Kushner, and how much he was involved in the development of ANGELS IN AMERICA.

Now I think that Tony Kushner is the greatest living playwright, as I told Jason Zinoman the other day, but ye gods he sure got SO MUCH help and encouragement for ANGELS from Eustis. According to the article
Although (Kushner's first play A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY) received mixed reviews, Eustis was eager for Kushner to write more... the play... was six years in the making. Throughout the process Kushner and Eustis talked frequently..."

Eustis directed a couple of versions of the play, but then Kushner got George Wolfe to direct it for Broadway and that caused a rift between then.

Needless to say, Eustis has never directed anything by me... but my play THE SLASH was directed for Looking Glass by someone who made money by babysitting Eustis's two kids. I don't know how she did as a babysitter but I was not impressed by her directorial work and the experience is what clinched for me the idea that I must direct all my own plays. That, and being sued by another director.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greetings Pharyngulites

I don't know why, according to sitemeter, somebody linked to my blog from the Pharyngula post comment thread "I Get Email" - and I have no intention of visiting Pharyngula to find out. I don't have time to defend my honor on a comment thread.

Although I'm sure the majority of people who post comments at Pharyngula are nice folks, there is a core group who hangs out there all the time - seemingly 24/7 some of them - who constitute a ruling party, and who attack anybody found not to adhere closely enough to the party line.

That is why I found myself the target of fantastically nasty personal attacks when I dared to suggest that it was pointless, at best, to make an issue out of the fact that some scientists hold religious beliefs. You can read more on my thoughts on that in the January 2010 archives of this blog.

Although since Richard Dawkins is mentioned in the "I Get Email" post, perhaps it's about my argument with Dawkins last autumn over his support for evolutionary psychology. I had to bail out of that early, unfortunately, since I had a deadline to meet and had to learn PHP quickly - on top of my day job. I don't get paid to opine, like Dawkins.

I am certainly not alone in my disparagement of evolutionary psychology - plenty of scientists find it sorely lacking as a research strategy (to use a term coined by anthropologist Marvin Harris) - and the refutation of EP goes back to Stephen Jay Gould at least. The EP crowd often claims that Gould should be ignored on the subject because he had left-wing politics. But nobody could claim that Gould was anti-science. Perhaps this is why Dawkins felt the need to share a story with Pharyngulites (it's in the Pharyngula archives) about how Gould snubbed somebody - the only witnesses to this snub being, apparently, Dawkins' informant and dead defenseless Stephen Jay Gould.

So unlike many of the Pharyngula commentariat, I don't hero-worship Dawkins - his support of the work of the biggest EP ninnies Helena Cronin and David Buss I find especially galling. Combine that with my "accomodationist" tendencies, and well, I just don't see the point in enduring so much hostility from a bunch of semi-anonymous strangers.

If you're curious about me, or have questions, feel free to email me at nancy at mergatroyd dot org.

Dargis, Joplin & Jones

Great article in Monday's NYTimes by the ever-cooler Manohla Dargis:
Even before the nominations were announced on Feb. 2, as she picked up one award after another, including from her peers at the Directors Guild, people who don’t usually talk about women and the movies were talking about this woman and the movies. Uncharacteristically, the issue of female directors working — though all too often not working — was being discussed in print and online, and without the usual accusations of political correctness, a phrase that’s routinely deployed to silence those with legitimate complaints. I don’t think I’ve read the words women and film and feminism in the same sentence as much in the last few months since “Thelma & Louise” rocked the culture nearly two decades ago.

And now for something completely different - Janis Joplin sings a duet with... Tom Jones?!?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

G. B. Shaw isn't so cool after all...

Well that wasn't fun, going out into a hurricane Saturday to see a friend perform in G. B. Shaw's MAN AND SUPERMAN only to discover that George Bernard Shaw, whom I had thought was a progressive feminist, was in fact just as big a sexist as anybody.

What a disappointment. MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION was such an accomplishment - the economic reasons for gender roles are so rarely acknowledged at all, even today, much less a hundred years ago in a play - and a pretty entertaining play too.

So it was no fun at all to sit through MAN and have Shaw just keep relentlessly pounding on this evolutionary psychology-esque notion that women - apparently by nature - are obsessed with trapping men into marriage. Women at the time the play was written could not vote, could not control their own property, could rarely get a well-paying job to support themselves.

The idea that marriage is for the benefit of WOMEN is utterly insane - just ask the millions of little girls who - in places all over the world TODAY - are sold into marriage to old men to pay off a family debt.

Why does anybody even bother to put on such dated, tiresome plays as MAN? And the cutesy ending made me want to puke too.

The actors for the most part were not to blame in this production, although the director was - if the guy playing the obnoxious Shaw-mouthpiece character was attractive, had a tiny bit of charisma - and an English accent! - and wasn't obviously older than the female lead, it would have been infinitely more tolerable. Instead a young cute guy plays the character that gets dumped. And the lack of English accent was really noticeable - not only did all the other English characters have English accents, but there is an American character with an American accent in the play - which made the fact that the English guy had an American accent all the more glaring. AND there's a whole bit about Cockney accent - Shaw being so fascinated with spoken language. What was the director thinking?

I gotta stop going to these off-off Broadway things - I invariably end up bored or cranky.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another response to Jason Zinoman

Once again, my response to Jason Zinoman's latest is too long to fit into a comments box.


I posted something written by Theresa Rebeck, in which she suggested that Frank Rich ignored the sexual harassment issue in her play, but paid attention to it when David Mamet presented a false charge of sexual harassment.

How you jumped from that to thinking I believe those things you claim I do (not ok to have feminist agenda; no male critic will give good review; Mamet always gets good reviews) is a great mystery to me.

Now as far as women writers not being allowed to be angry - women in general are not allowed to be angry as study after study has shown. Like this one: Angry men get ahead while angry women penalized: study
A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as "out of control" and incompetent, according to a new study presented on Friday.
So why should the theater world be any different from the world at large? Even among liberals - there are plenty of people who wouldn't deliberately discriminate but who carry around these unexamined, unconscious assumptions about men and women absorbed through the culture.

Of course you know about the "Angry Young Men" playwrights. Well it's probably thanks to that 50+ year old trope that anger is still a badge of honor for male playwrights: Here's how Charlotte Moore promoted Martin McDonagh:
Mr. McDonagh is an angry young man, asserts Ms. Moore... "He's very sullen, he smokes like a funnel, he drinks like a fish. And he has the Irish, Irish, Irish distinction of being suspicious. There's no more suspicious group on the face of the earth, and he writes from that perspective." And, she adds pragmatically, it doesn't hurt box office that he's good-looking, cheeky and arrogant. "And he's so bright. And fearless."

Here's how the Times Independent kicked off an article about McDonagh:
Martin McDonagh: Playboy of the West End world As a dramatist, Martin McDonagh sounds too good to be true: an attractive, angry young man with Irish roots, adored by the gossip columns, who can't stop writing hit plays. Is he for real? Liz Hoggard finds out. Photographs by Antonio Olmos
Notice how being angry is consider a too-good-to-be-true virtue.

And then there's you:
Mr. McDonagh responded to this comment with a flash of anger, disregarding a pledge he had made minutes before to give up harshly judging other living writers in the press, firing off one of those hilariously belligerent rants that his characters are known for and that can’t possibly be printed here. Translated from the profane to the mundane, he said he was going to beat up Mr. McPherson next time he saw him.
Here's Marsha Norman describing Adam Rapp - she seems to equate anger with genius - and yes women can certainly buy into the angry man trope as much as men - although it's certainly news to me that Mozart was especially angry:
You'd have to go back to Mozart to find somebody like Adam. And Mozart, actually, would be a good person to compare him to. Both playful, both angry, both geniuses, both capable of great beauty and great fury, neither a man to be messed with."
—Marsha Norman

But you of course are familiar with Adam Rapp especially since your mother directed a play of his. I commented on the critics' worship of Rapp here.

Here we see The Independent also joining anger to genius in the case of Neil LaBute: Article: Watch out angry white male at large Neil LaBute, writer and director of 'In the Company of Men', is bringing his misanthropic vision to the London stage. Profile by John Lahr profiles the misanthropic Mormon genius.

LaBute isn't only angry, he's also a gigantic self-confessed douchebag:
And that makes a side of LaBute happy. "It's part of my makeup," he says, "to ruin a perfectly good day for people."
Now if Joe Schmoe Nobody said such a thing everybody would despise him for being such a douchebag - angry young men playwrights have asshole licenses. Do you know of any female playwrights who go around saying anything close to that level of obnoxiousness?
Even Tracy Letts is described as angry:
Here's how Patrick Healy's profile of Tracy Letts begins:
TRACY LETTS was angry. It’s not exactly what you might expect from someone who, moments earlier, had won the Tony Award for best new play for “August: Osage County,” a runaway success on Broadway...

So yeah - I think that Theresa Rebeck knows what she's talking about when she talks about male playwrights anger.

Now about my arguing in good faith - let's look at you:
. That you write that i think it's "so very important" to write an anti-abortion play "now" is absurd -- and you know it.
It WOULD be absurd if I wrote that - but I did not. I said:
So very likely there has NOT been anything from the left to match the approach of GIRLS - so why is it so very important to present a polemical anti-abortion play now?

First - it was a question. Second - it was a general question, or if aimed at anybody, would be aimed at The Flea. I did not necessarily think YOU thought it was important to present an anti-abortion play now.

Did you completely miss out on what I have been saying? There haven't been any polemical pro-abortion plays done - neither you nor I can think of one unless you count WASTED from a hundred years ago - so why is it necessary to have a polemical anti-abortion play done now? The Flea and Reynolds, in their commentary about getting the play produced, keep implying that it couldn't get produced because it was an anti-abortion polemic. But in fact the real reason might be because it's an abortion polemic, period. Audiences might not necessarily want to see ANY abortion polemic no matter which side it's coming from.

But the people promoting GIRLS are pushing it as brave - in the face of unsubstantiated assumptions about the tyranny of the pro-choice crowd.

Now about "As for why there can't be plays against sexual harassment" again - I never said that. I merely agreed with Theresa Rebeck that it was mighty fishy that while SHE wrote a play on the subject and Frank Rich ignored that content, Rich did not ignore the content when Mamet presented harassment from the point of view of false charges.

Again, how you made the leap from that to thinking I am claiming that there can't be plays against sexual harassment is bizarre. I choose to think you are just having a reading problem, not that you are deliberately reaching for unfounded conclusions.

So, sorry to say, if anybody has to correct distortions, it's me correcting your distortions. But unlike you, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it might be a misunderstanding, rather than accusing you of deliberate "bad faith."

Now as far as your suggestion that I write a play about sexual harassment - I don't feel a burning desire right now, but Theresa Rebeck has already written one, and I'm sure others are out there. Why they aren't being promoted or perceived by critics as the last word in brave, provocative and cutting-edge is the real question.

I have written a one-act pro-choice play produced by the now-defunct estrotribe years ago, never to be heard of again. It wasn't polemical except that it looked at the hypocrisy of an anti-abortion activist who gets an abortion - which is based on a true story.

I also have a positive take on abortion in the full-length semi-autobiographical play I'm working on - although it isn't about abortion, just that one of the characters has an abortion, and there is a scene of clinic defense where the pro-choicers are the good guys. And I am not worried about anybody telling me the audience can't handle it - I try to produce my own work whenever possible, to avoid committee-think, tired old assumptions, and litigious directors.

I'm familiar with Caryl Churchill, and I'm not impressed much with her work and I disagree with her take on cloning in A NUMBER. I think she totally stacks the deck.

It so happens that Tony Kushner is the greatest living playwright right now.

Now I'm off to see a friend perform in MAN AND SUPERMAN. I generally like Shaw although it says about this play in wikipedia:
Ann is referred to as "the Life Force" and represents Shaw's view that in every culture, it is the women who force the men to marry them rather than the men who take the initiative.

get me rewrite!

Well loyal reader, I had to go in and re-write parts of Loyal reader, do you think it is so wrong - I just couldn't live with the senamensing line - it was too clunky. I try to use senamensing whenever I can since I invented the word and want to get credit in some future edition of Webster's, but I had to face up to it - it just wasn't working. The changes make the poem flow much better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Response to Jason Zinoman

Jason Zinoman, the NYTimes theater critic and I have been going back and forth in the comments on my post from March 10 ah yes, theatre critics dig up more exciting "controversy"

Rather than fit my latest response into the little comment box, I decided to make it a post instead.

Jason asked: is it not notable that the play makes an argument about abortion that you never see onstage?

But I've never seen any "argument" about abortion on stage - as far as I am aware, any play that has ever dealt with abortion on stage has been about the ambiguities of abortion. Are you aware of a pro-choice play that is the equivalent in stridency of GIRLS IN TROUBLE? I haven't heard of one - please enlighten me.

Nobody has been preventing the Catholic Church or any other anti-abortion organization from producing an anti-abortion play. I will defend to the death anybody's right to say whatever they want in a play. But the right to have your say is not the same as an obligation for others - especially your ideological opponents - to facilitate and pay for you to have your say.

Even if the anti-abortion advocates don't get to grind their ideological axe on stage - so what? It isn't like they aren't getting their point of view out on a regular basis, up to and including getting in the faces of women seeking abortions by standing around screaming in front of health clinics. I used to videotape them. You can see a short sample of what women put up with in the video clip I posted yesterday.

And do you really think that I - or any liberal - are so ignorant of the arguments of the anti-abortion side that we need Jonathan Reynolds to come along and save us from our ignorance? I've heard all the anti-abortion arguments - I was raised Catholic, I was indoctrinated with anti-abortion arguments.

Do you think it's a coincidence that the "hot-button" item chosen to be addressed is one that attack's women's right to self-determination? The theater is empirically resistant to presenting plays by women about women as was demonstrated in the recent well-known study - and the Flea's own web site demonstrates that in the past 5 years it has presented plays by women 11 times while it has presented over twice as many plays by men - 29. (some of the playwrights of both genders are represented by more than one play/production.)

This is the context in which they decide to present an anti-woman play by a man.

When is The Flea going to produce the conservative side of other "hot-button" issues? When will it produce a play that advocates the conversion of gays to heterosexuality? Where is the right-wing response to ANGELS IN AMERICA?

Where does it end - do Nazi sympathizers get their own play? And if not - why not? Where is the REAL "Springtime for Hitler"? What about a pro-Taliban play? I'm sure they're anti-abortion too.

Although really, it isn't like conservative points of view are not being presented on stage. In addition to David Mamet's work, there are all those revivals. Anything written more than 50 years ago will contain points of view congenial to any contemporary conservative.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rightwing anti-abortion douchebag idiot

Jonathan Reynolds is an anti-abortion conservative, so it's no surprise that he's also a douchebag and an idiot.

First as to the douchebag part - he admits he is one on his very own blog, in so many words:
Now, what does this have to do with GIRLS IN TROUBLE, my play currently in rehearsal at The Flea which consumes about 23 1/2 of my 24-hour day? Just this: we have a vegan in the cast, and I am trying to persuade her of the error of her ways. I've instructed her to stand upside down and then told her she could only have meat and dairy products for a week with the occasional snack of fish just to show her the borderline fascistic rigors of the flip side. She's thinking about it. I didn't have the spirit to bring her the slow-roasted pork, fearing charges of unfair competition: surely she would buckle at the knees and succmb, because there is no denying the pork shoulder. Besides, we need her in the first and third acts, not as a giddy, overfed pig convert too pleasured to make her entrance.
First I presume that as a good conservative he would never try to convert someone who refused to eat pig for religious reasons. Because there is political correctness for conservatives too - it just isn't called that.

Putting aside the hyperbole about standing in the corner, I don't doubt that he is trying to persuade her of the errors of being a vegan, since, according to several reviews of the play he makes it clear that he holds vegans in contempt.

And she told him she's thinking about it. Well what the fuck else would she say? She's one of the very very few actors in this town who has a paying gig of some prestige. And as the playwright of the production she's doing, as well as a grand old man of the arts and a former NYTimes writer from back in the days when that actually meant something, Reynolds pretty much has total power over her career. If he decided to have her removed from the play he could do it - the Dramatists Guild is very clear about the right of playwrights to influence casting decisions. So unless she's a moron zombie, I'm sure what she'd prefer to say was "get the fuck out of my face you disgusting right-wing asshole" but the only thing she COULD say was that she'd think about it.

Now, as to the idiot part. Being a conservative is pretty much a license to be a hypocrite on the basis that conservatives believe that it's proper and right for there to be different sets of rules applied to different sets of people. This is why so many Catholic women end up getting abortions - they tell themselves that unlike those sluts who go around having abortions, if not for fun, than just because they are generally careless and irresponsible, they, the Catholic women, need an abortion due to their own special circumstances.

But even so - what a fucking idiot. Here's what he tells Time Out New York about the work of that other right-wing asshole David Mamet:
But I've found that about a couple of his plays - they waffle at the end, and don't prove a dramatic point.

Here's what he tells Time Out New York in a different article:
Knee - jerk conservatives, however, may not find themselves thrilled with Girls in Trouble either - especially in the play's shocking final section. "Jonathan really, in a spirited way, addresses both sides of the issue and comes to his own conclusion about it," says Simpson. "Is it right? Is it left? I don't think anyone is going to find a great deal of comfort with it on either side of the fence." Reynolds feels the same way. "I'm trying to take these issues to their logical extreme," he says. "At the end of the play, I bet you won't be able to tell which side of the issue I'm actually on."
A great big fat waffle with waffle-flavored syrup is what that is. And certainly critics have found there's no dramatic point being proven. As Jason Zinoman, who bends over backwards to give this play a chance, says:
The gruesome conclusion, which takes the discussion about control of one's body to a literal extreme, will polarize. Part of me thinks it's a cop-out, a pox-on-both-your-houses twist that places the value of shock over that of argument.
So it MIGHT BE a pox-on-both-your-houses situation. Or maybe not. In other words - it proves no dramatic point.

Douchebag. Idiot. Case closed.

Of course Reynolds and the Flea's Jim Simpson are in a can't-lose situation here. If the play is a hit and they make money, what's not to like. If the play is not a hit, it's because of the tyranny of the left-wing theatre-goers, especially those women over 40 - as Reynolds takes pains to call out. And even though the play is obnoxious, one-sided and over-the-top, it's considered "brave" and "controversial" because it is anti-abortion.

Speaking of which - can ANYBODY tell me which play, exactly, is it that this play is supposed to be balancing out? If there are any plays which present some kind of unambiguous joy over abortions, I've yet to hear about it. Every dramatic representation of the abortion issue I've EVER heard of has been about the moral ambiguity. And nobody felt the need to throw in a random attack on people who eat meat either, just for the douchebaggy hell of it.

And if Simpson and Reynolds ever find out I've written this, they will be ECSTATIC. Someone actually cares enough about this play to attack it and Reynolds - OOH CONTROVERSY!!! Get out your copy of the First Amendment right now so you can start waving it any minute. Because that's how these men prove what big fucking heroes they are. By facing down Big Sister, the way that brave John fights the Group in OLEANNA.

Yes, it's time for wealthy old white men to band together and fight the oppression of women and their dangerous beliefs in the right to female self-determination. They only have Fox News, most religions, most of the money and a million years of human cultural tradition on their side. Poor pitiful wealthy old white men!

It's funny though, that the one "PC" subject that is selected as the brave conservative piece is anti-abortion. Not anti-gay, or anti-Jew. All these men running theater groups and men writing theater reviews and men interviewing "brave" conservatives seem to agree - the proper subject of anti-PC attack is female self-determination. But I'm sure in the interest of bravery and completeness we'll be seeing a pro-Nazi play or a gays-are-evil play ANY DAY NOW.

And finally, the reason that this play is crap and Reynolds can't make a reasonable anti-abortion argument is because there ARE no anti-abortion arguments that are reasonable - certainly none that assume that women are human beings. I spent years doing clinic defense with video camera in hand, and the standard nuanced approach of the anti-abortion side is demonstrated in this video clip:

THAT'S the people who are the base of the anti-abortion movement.

YAY! More Sassy Gay Friend!

Save it, Patty Hearst!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ah yes, theatre critics dig up more exciting "controversy"

Theater critics lead SUCH exciting lives! They are always discovering something fresh and new and cutting edge!

And even if, say, Ben Brantley gives the latest Martin McDonagh play a luke-warm review, the NYTimes feels obliged to send another critic, Jason Zinoman, out to make it all up to McDonagh by writing a standard fellatio piece.

What really annoys me is theater critics implying that if you don't find pointless violence to be the most wonderous thing ever, it means you're big wimp - or even, the worst thing you can be as far as theater critics are concerned - unmanly. A "pussy" even. Not somebody who has balls. Like a man does.

The idea that right-wingers can't get anything produced is insane - they are lining up to produce anything that Mamet sneezes onto paper and he's a total right-winger.

But uh-oh, the New Yorker's critic has accused McDonagh of racism so his days as critics' darling may be numbered. For while misogyny is encouraged - it shows you haven't been pussy-whipped by the PC patrol and are still manly and in possession of your testicles, racism is a crossing of the line in the US.

But oh those poor poor upper-class right-wing men - always being oppressed! That's why The Flea Theater thinks it's so bold and daring for producing a piece of anti-abortion dreck written by some old upper-class white man. FIGHT THE POWER!

And as much as the critics WANT to love GIRLS IN TROUBLE, to prove how "fair and balanced" they are, it is, by all accounts a huge reeking turd of a play. I could find only one review by a woman so far, Time Out New York's Diane Snyder (no surprise, the ranks of theater critics is totally dominated by males), and she says:

Surely Jonathan Reynolds is having us on. He purports to be politically conservative, but the character who delivers the antiabortion diatribe in his polemical play Girls in Trouble is so ridiculous that one suspects he’s secretly working for NARAL.
The McDonagh fellator, Jason Zinoman says:
Mr. Reynolds, a playwright ("Stonewall Jackson's House"), screenwriter and former food columnist for The New York Times Magazine, has written a raw, flawed work. But he also goes places intellectually and dramatically that no left-wing dramatist would dare. At times that’s thrilling.

Few left-wing dramatists would write something as simplistic and noxious as what Reynolds wrote and still get produced. But thank Our Lord Jesus H. Christ that The Flea is brave enough to stand up for the rights of wealthy old right-wing white men, who have nothing but Fox News, obscenely wealthy think-tanks, the Catholic Church and 24-7 talk radio to turn to in order to get their views across! They MUST have theater too!

I will give Zinoman one thing - he's one of the few critics who gets how crazy right-wing OLEANNA is:
The deck is clearly stacked — it makes “Oleanna” look fair and balanced...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Amiri Baraka

I had a very good time at Amiri Baraka's Master Class at the Cherry Lane tonight. It started off a little slow, but once he got comfortable it was great - he's charming and funny. And right in the middle of the class I got a great idea for a play that I'm working on now.

Only an evil right-wing douchebag like John Derbyshire of the National Review would portray Baraka so egregiously.

But as Baraka mentioned several times this evening - we have to fight the Right.

Speaking of which, there's a rightwing nutjob in my apartment building who posted a piece of paper on their apartment door - facing the hallway - with all this crazy anti-Obama ranting all over it. Jesus I hate teabaggers. At least the political kind.

Monday, March 08, 2010

top of the world, Ma!

That's where I'm heading one of these days, since countries in the far north tend to have a much better track record on gender equality as Katha Pollitt notes in her latest column. Although after #4 it switches to the bottom of the world - New Zealand - but that's where Jane Campion is from so not too surprising.

And the winner is... Iceland! According to the 2009 Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum, the land of glaciers and puffins, population 319,000, is the most gender egalitarian country on earth, with women having closed 80 percent of the gap with men. Finland (2), Norway (3), Sweden (4) and Denmark (7) are in the top ten too, as is New Zealand (5). You could try harder, Spain (17) and Germany (12)--in 2007 you were in the top ten. And O, Canada: 25. Very sad.

Athough it's no picnic in the US, the report goes on to note all the incredibly vicious, routine ways that women are crushed by the patriarchy around the world, with things like abortion denied to women even to save her life (Nicaragua), honor killings (Turkey), as well as the crazy Sharia laws in most of the Muslim world, and places throughout the world in which little girls are sold into marriage to old men to pay a family's debt - which is nothing less than sexual slavery - all perfectly legal. And then there's the horrendous illegal stuff like child sex trafficking. When will the routine brutalization of women ever end?

sonnets contain many metaphorical variations

an incurable cancer of the brain

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Freakonomics beatdown

I am sorry I missed this Freakonomics dudes beatdown at "The Sexist" column and at Tiger Beatdown back in October.

Dubner and Levitt have recently irked the hell out of me and many others by coming out as climate-change deniers - and Paul Krugman, the far superior economist, recently tweaked them by entitling one of his recent blog posts Freakout-nomics.

But before the climate issue, I was becoming extremely annoyed by their absolutely clueless take on prostitution - back in December 2008 when I asked How big a douchebag is Steven D. Levitt. Levitt compared the price of prostitute services to the price of rice in a stunning display of reductionism.

So in October 09 the Freaks were using their same sociological skills to look at why some prostitutes are so successful. I'll let Amanda and Sady take it from here:

SADY: yo lady.

AMANDA: hello! wait ...shouldn’t you be out, earning money for sex?

SADY: i know! i thought about it! but then i realized: i am probably not chipper enough for it. as per superfreakonomics, my disinclination to put your favorite song on the stereo and mix your favorite drink and smile gleefully about how awesome you are for paying someone to help you cheat on your wife would hurt me, probably, in the long run. PROFIT-WISE, that is!

AMANDA: right. which is why us curmudgeons have chosen a life of blogging, instead of the more obvious choice.

SADY: exactly. it's a wonder more women aren't out sexing for cash instead of blogging for dollars! oh, except that there are various disincentives to do that, actually? like, i am pretty sure there are women that choose to do sex work and like it, but what with the social marginalization, lack of protection by the law, health risks, etc. it is actually NOT a wonder that more women do not choose it.

AMANDA: there are so many things wrong with the treatment here, i can't even begin. you did a lot of the work in your piece, but i wanted to start off with this one sentence from the freakonomics excerpt: "There is one labour market women have always dominated: prostitution." hmm. really? i mean, i get that perhaps this is meant to be some sort of play on words, but given the amount of money men have made off of pimping out or trafficking prostitutes, i am not exaaaactly sure this is the case.

SADY: right? i mean, to frame the sex industry - not just prostitution, but other varieties of sex work in general - as "female-dominated" is just absurdly wrong. it's like calling starbucks "cashier-dominated." there are more women on the front lines, but management is by no means primarily or exclusively female. and given the exploitative relationship management has traditionally had with the service employees, that's something to worry about. not that there aren't exploitative female madams, etc. but you get where i am going, i hope. i think the entire article is so infuriating largely because it aims to present an "economic" analysis of prostitution by_ talking to one sex worker, basically? and reading the work of one other dude? this stuff is insanely complex, and people have been fighting about it and studying it forever, and it DRIVES ME INSANE that people are going to read this fluff and confuse it with an actual analysis.

AMANDA: yeah. here's another little pet peeve of mine: pretending that "prostitution" is the same as "sex." I understand that prostitution is a lot different than it was 100 years ago, and a lot of that has to do with changes in attitudes toward sex. but when these researchers say that prostitutes now see competition from "any woman who is willing to have sex with a man for free," they’re implying that tons of women are actually performing the work of a prostitute on a daily basis, which is absolutely not the case. the reality is that many prostitutes are not being paid to "have sex." they are being paid - as the researches note with the high-class prostitute - to have the kinds of sex that men can't get on a daily basis. and in reality, that doesn't mean "interesting sex" or "anal sex" or "enthusiastic sex" that these dudes just can't get out of their wives. it also means degradation. prostitutes are popular, to some men, because they can do whatever they want to them, and the appeal isn't in a particular sex act that they can't get at home, but rather in the experience of paying someone to be their sex partner. when these researches say you "have to like sex" enough to be a prostitute, that's bullshit. plenty of women like sex. you have to like PROSTITUTION enough. or... be poor! and according to them, poor prostitutes are kind of fucking idiots.

SADY: well, this was somewhere i was heading in the piece i wrote for CiF, but there just wasn’t room to talk about it there; even if we don't assume that all men are hiring prostitutes specifically to "degrade" them - and i don't know what goes on in all circumstances, i do assume that a lot of guys want to degrade women because they get off on the power imbalance and others do it for other reasons, from all the first-hand testimony I’ve heard - the nature of the transaction is fundamentally different than the nature of the transaction that is casual sex. at the risk of oversimplifying: in prostitution, a woman does what you want her to do, for money. in sex - even casual sex - a woman does some of what you want her to do, or maybe even all of it, but only in exchange for you doing what she wants as well. in casual sex, there is (unless you are a huge asshole) the expectation that you will be dealing with the desires and needs of the other party. female desire enters the picture. and i think THAT, we can say, is probably a big part of the "sex" vs. "prostitution" thing. even if the guys don't want to HURT the prostitutes, they're paying them to have sex that has nothing to do with their desires and everything to do with the desires of their clients. the only way you can miss that is if you don't acknowledge that women have desire.

AMANDA: right. so these economists are stumped - stumped, i tell you! - as to why more women don't spend their entire lives pleasing men and receiving no pleasure in return. they can't understand why this is, because outside of prostitution, women are lining up in droves to have sex! but instead of working through their obvious miscalculations here, they decide to tell imply that women are probably just kind of dumb. the kicker is when, at the end of the piece, this is how the researchers leave Allie, the
"high-class" prostitute who ended up becoming an economist: "Several students said this was the best lecture they had in all their years at the university, which is both a firm testament to Allie's insights and a brutal indictment of Levitt and the other professors." As if it's some kind of joke! when, in reality, these guys actually don't understand wtf they're talking about, and they're actually seemingly amused that a prostitute could not be a dumbass. so: why didn't she write this?

SADY: RIGHT! and that's the thing; i don't want to discount her insights or experiences - or those of LaSheena, the less privileged sex worker they interviewed for five seconds and then apparently forgot about because she wasn't smart enough to be a billionare sextrepreneur - but I think Levitt and Dubner kind of effectively discounted her already, by using her as a subject even though she IS GETTING A DEGREE IN ECONOMICS and simplifying her story, which has GOT to be more complex than the one we're reading, into this wacky quirky Happy Hooker stereotype.

AMANDA: yeah. and thank god she is getting an economics degree, because this is Exhibit A as to why more women need to be represented in the sciences. I’m sure that these guys are brilliant economists, but when you're attempting to form a theory as to why HALF OF HUMANS choose not to be prostitutes for a living, perhaps your own experience will be insufficient.

SADY: right. oh, and the lazy dumb hooker is getting a DEGREE IN ECONOMICS now! wacky twist! did you catch the part where they said she became a prostitute because she
"just didn’t like working all that hard?"

AMANDA: oh yeah. i caught that part. the weird thing is that the premise of their investigation is: why don't women prostitute themselves out for cash, when the pay is so good? and they entirely fail to even begin to answer that question. they don't come up with one reason why she wouldn't! oh, they come up with one reason: maybe she's married. but i don’t see another one!

SADY: i can't think of a single one! there's, like, one line where they acknowledge that it's ILLEGAL (being harassed, jailed, and potentially raped by cops: A DISINCENTIVE???) but that's only in the service of pointing out that its illegal status allows Allie to charge high fees.

AMANDA: haha right. now, i don't know if Levitt and Dubner are heterosexual males, but let's assume they are.

SADY: assumed!

AMANDA: the only appropriate response to the ridiculous question posed in the article would be, "I don't know, why don't you suck cock for a living?" Why don’t you suck cock, out of your fancy house, instead of being a famous economist? I'm sure that will be the pertinent question in "SuperDuperFreakonomics: The Freakiestonomics Yet"


AMANDA: probably because they don't like sex?

SADY: i mean, jesus. sex work is complicated. i'm so sure - and i have to keep reiterating this, because i feel bad for assuming that allie's "i just happened to go on an online dating service and tell people i was an escort because, tee-hee, i just love sex" narrative is a Pile O' Poopy - that there are women who are very fulfilled in their sex work, or at least prefer it to the other jobs they could have. i'm SURE of this. but asking THAT ONE LADY to tell you what prostitution is like - hell, even what the MONEY side of prostitution is like - is massively misguided.

AMANDA: i mean honestly. LaSheena straight-up tells them that she "doesn't like men." And somehow, because Allie says that she LOVES men, this sample size of 2 indicates that women who like men make tons of money doin' what they love, and women who don't like men are poor street hookers. so really, women don't cash in on the obvious benefits of prostitution because they're... bitches?

SADY: that's what irked me so much – they're so invested in this Ayn Rand fantasy of the fulfilled sex-liking happy safe rich sex worker that pretty much everyone else is left out of the picture, or else shamed as inadequate. Allie is like the John Galt of professional sex, in this equation.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Hot Man in Regency Period Clothing of the Week - March 5, 2010

Well this week's edition of Hot Man in Regency... seems to actually be PRE-Regency - the dude's ponytail is a give-away. But I couldn't resist the title, "A Bath Intrique" - I'm imagining some wild bathtub scenario - in short, I WAS intrigued... but alas the intrigue is not in a charming iron claw-footed antique bathing apparatus, but rather in the city of Bath.
Cassie Wyndmoore's brains have always been her distinguishing characteristic. Of course, most gentlemen prefer a pretty wife over a clever one - which is fine with Cassie, who prefers reading to flirting. That is, until a trip to Bath puts her carriage out of service, and Cassie in the path of a helpful "stranger" who doesn't recall that they've met before. Cassie has been smitten with Derek Leighton ever since he courted one of her beautiful sisters. Yet now that he's paying attention to her instead, Cassie can't help wondering about his motives - especially when he seems unduly interested in some strange documents she discovered on a park bench...It is a rare thing to encounter a lady whose intelligence places her above and beyond the fairest of the ton. And for the Earl of Richmond, more surprising still that a woman he found unremarkable upon their first meeting has now engaged his interest so completely. True, Cassie is possessed of important papers that Derek must obtain in order to defeat a French spy - but in attempting to seduce her into turning them over, Derek soon realizes he has given away his heart. Now, his mission is twofold: Prove his loyalty to the Crown...and his love to Cassie.

*sigh* no rubber duckie action this time around.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

OK Janis

Well that does it - I am going to have to write a play about Janis Joplin. There's already a musical about Joplin, created in co-operation with her brother and sister, and there WAS going to be a movie called The Gospel According to Janis but apparently that's not happening now.

In any case, I think it's time for a straight play - with some music. Less biographical than the musical, I think.

It's really astounding how popular Janis Joplin is now. She was 27 when she died, 39 years ago, and MY blog gets hits from people Googling her name all the time. Granted I've mentioned her by name several times in the past couple of years, but to give some perspective: I've mentioned Paul Krugman many more times - and Krugman is alive and kicking, writing for the NYTimes, recently won a Nobel Prize, and just had a write-up in the New Yorker. And I don't think anybody has Googled their way to my site via "Paul Krugman" yet. I got 30 visits to my site JUST TODAY from people looking for Joplin.

I began researching the play today, I bought a copy of "Love, Janis" by Laura Joplin, Janis's sister. The book is not valuable for Laura Joplin's prose - she's a lousy writer. It is valuable for all of Janis's letters reprinted in the book. She was a very chatty letter-writer and surprisingly family-oriented for someone with such a hoochee-mamma reputation.

And in spite of her growing success, she was as star-struck as anybody, as in this example from a letter to her mother in April 1967:
Speaking of England, guess who was in town last week - Paul McCartney!!! (He's a Beatle.) And he came to see us!!! SIGH Honest to God! He came to the Matrix & saw us & told some people that he dug us. Isn't that exciting!!!! Gawd, I was so thrilled - I still am! Imagine - Paul!!!! If it could only have been George...

From this quote I learn that Janis Joplin and I have very different tastes in men. Seriously? George over Paul??? In spring 1967 Paul McCartney was not only an incredibly beautiful 25-year-old man, he had just seen the completion of the recording sessions of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - which by all accounts got made due to his pushing for it. In fact, the story is that McCartney pushed to get the Pepper recording finished by April 1967 so that he could fly to the US to be with his girlfriend Jane Asher for her birthday. Which is why he was able to catch Janis Joplin's show in April 1967.

Other Joplin-Beatles trivia - Joplin recorded "Happy Trails" for John Lennon's birthday, but by the time the tape got to him, she was already dead.

Poor old Janis - she got some bad, extra-strength heroin - that's what did her in.