Monday, January 31, 2011

the wisdom of Joni Mitchell

In this clip Julia quotes somebody besides Schopenhauer for a change.

But watching this clip has given me an idea for how to fix the script, so this reading has definitely done its job.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

insane spam poetry

I mentioned earlier this month about the spam that pops up in the comments for this blog. I got another batch this morning - a schizophrenic in the grip of a psychotic episode might write such things:
Your cock, it turns in sight, much stronger than I thought. Escaped! Escaped and sealed the portal!

Spacious kitchens, weary traces of unbridled rage battle sorceress a pair of dusky spots burning on the walls, to Clara in the heat of thrust on the lightning, misshapen piles of dishes and utensils, swept from their seats, reared in a considerably corner of the nautical plate.

On the ceiling crackers tossing some material: Dating it does not fly, not a spider the expanse of a cat, and his loss, Clara had created, and then some lifetime sighting control things fireballs.

If I wrote for a hundred years I would never come up with these phrases, which is why they're so fascinating.

Many blog comments are not moderated - I googled the first phrase to see all the places it has been posted - just a few examples:


Awkward Zombie (I think this was posted on purpose actually)

Get your mobile recovered from thieves

Chat'N With Leon

The Hockey Fighters

F-bomb pioneer

I don't remember where exactly I first heard the term "fuck-in-laws" - I think I read Courtney Love using the term but couldn't swear to it. But I think it's a useful expression although hardly in common usage - a quick google of the term only brings up this definition from Urban Dictionary. Well I'm doing my best to get the term into common usage through my play. I assume the meaning of the term is obvious, in the context of the play if nothing else.

This is another use of the F-word not found in the first edition of the book "The F Word" - how about that - I feel like I'm an F-bomb pioneer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

THE SLASH - new look

I decided to go for a new look for THE SLASH web site and logo. I couldn't resist using some art from an old-time sci-fi magazine cover.

As it happens, this image is almost a perfect illustration for a scene in the slash story that Bernadette and Sharon are writing, when Una, the daughter of the rogue StarQuest officer who has set himself up as the ruler of a cargo-cult society, pulls a "multi-beamed discombobulator" on Captain Clark and Mr. Quirk. Una has a thing for Mr. Quirk.

the new web site

What is a cargo cult? Marvin Harris, an anthropologist whose work I greatly admire (I created a web site devoted in part to Marvin Harris) spent a chapter in his "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches" on the phenomenon and it's really mind-blowing. But I'll let Harris explain:
... in the New Hebrides, the people decided that a G.I. named John Frum was King of America. His prophets built an airport at which American Liberator bombers would land with a cargo of milk and ice cream. Relics left over on Pacific island battlefields show that John Frum was there. One group believes that a U.S. Army field jacket with sergeant's stripes and the red cross of the medical corps on the sleeves was worn by John Frum when he made his promise to return with cargo. Small medical corps red crosses, each surrounded by a neat fence, have been erected all over the island of Tanna. A John Frum village chieftain interviewed in 1970 noted that "people have waited nearly 2,000 years for Christ to return, so we can wait a while longer for John Frum."

During 1968, a prophet on the island of New Hanover in the Bismarck Archipelago announced that the secret of cargo was known only to the President of the United States. Refusing to pay local taxes, the cult members saved $75,000 to "buy" Lyndon Johnson and to make him King of New Hanover if he would tell the secret.

In 1962 the United States Air Force placed a large concrete survey marker on the top of Mt. Turu near Wewak, New Guinea. The prophet, Yaliwan Mathias, became convinced that the Americans were ancestors and that the cargo lay underneath the marker. In May 1971, after a night of prayer to the accompaniment of pop music on their transistor radio, he and his followers dug up the marker. No cargo was found. Yaliwan explained that the authorities had taken it away. His followers, who had contributed $21,500, did not lose faith.

I borrowed some of the details from this chapter for the slash story that is being told as part of the play - the story within the story.

As soon as this production is over I will finally get around to revamping the Cultural Materialism web site.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The title of this lecture is "life sucks and then you die"

I was worried that there was too much Schopenhauer for most theatre-goer's enjoyment, so Schopenhauer had to become a point of contention.

The jury is still out though... I may change a whole bunch of the second act.

All the smart-talking DOES sound so much more convincing with an English accent... I haven't specified in the script that Julia has to be English, but maybe I should.

just call me Roster Cogburn

Well I took too many one-eyed pictures of myself with the good hair - and now my hair is back to its old self again and it's too late to take any more good hair pix. So I'm stuck with the one-eyed look for my new profile photo. *sigh*

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ruben Bolling/Ken Fisher - super genius

Ruben Bolling, nom de cartoon for Ken Fisher is a flat-out genius. He's been doing some of the most amazing comic stuff for at least 10 years. Whatever awards they have for comics, he should win them.

Here is his latest. Click to see a larger version:

I love "Classix Comix" of course - I'm a sucker for anything that pokes fun at the work of Ayn Rand. And making fun of the Lockhorns ("Marital Mirth") is always a good time. Although the Comics Curmudeon does a pretty good job of it on a regular basis. I love the CC - that is one of two sites - the other being Engrish that is guaranteed to make me laugh every time. Sometimes helpless, falling out of my chair laughter. I can only take them in small doses.

Here's a "Lockhorns" with Curmudgeon commentary directly underneath:

For instance, had I skipped the weekend I would have missed the moment when Marvin and the Lockhorns stopped pussyfooting around and just owned up to their respective central premises. Marvin threw in a half-assed (see what I did there? I know I’ll be punished for it) pun to try to keep within the conventions of the comic strip form; that Lockhorns, true to the comic’s uncompromising commitment to authenticity, went someplace much, much darker.

original post at the CC

The Lockhorns harken back to an earlier age - married couples hating each other was pure comedy gold, apparently in the 1960s and 70s. But it gradually died out and now only the Lockhorns, to the best of my knowledge is carrying the tradition on.

Once divorce became popular - thanks to increasing female economic independence - couples no longer had to stay together and it wasn't as funny any more, I guess.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

blow-out 2

Here I am with blown-out hair - I blogged about the wonders of the blow-out back in October. I took a picture because my nice smooth straight hair will be back to its old freaky unruly self within the next 4 - 8 hours and I wanted to be able to remember this moment. *sigh*

But it is nice to make the hairdresser happy. The one tonight kept saying "don't you love it?" because SHE loved it - hairdressers go nuts for my hair after they've tamed it. If only it would stay tamed. But then the next hairdresser wouldn't have the fun of taming it. So there's that.


JULIA & BUDDY - groundbreaking

I bet that JULIA & BUDDY is the first play in the history of the American theatre in which somebody does an impression of Arthur Schopenhauer with a dominatrix.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

mutant space vipers

Watch the "Cassandra Directive" scene.

Here is another clip from last week's Dramatists Guild reading. The "Cassandra Directive" scene in JULIA & BUDDY isn't in the play only for comic relief - the themes of not needing sex - at least androids as opposed to humans - and also precognition - or the lack thereof - come up later in the play. But there is something about the way Claire Warden does the Cassandra voice (she's technically not supposed to be seen, only heard) that cracks me up every time. You can hear me chortling and snorting (how attractive) while recording.

In the image above, her hand is blurry because she was enacting cutting off the cowboy's hand with a light saber - although she accidentally says "I will sever your hand from my arm" - which I guess could work, but in the script she says she'll sever his hand from his own arm.

But she's so good as the android I might have to rewrite the scene to have her actually play the ladybot.

The original inspiration for this scene is a parody I wrote of a local independent filmmaker's space western, which can be read here.

One of the reasons the filmmaker's films are so lacking in humor - which at least one reviewer complained about - is because almost every one of his characters is surly. The hero. The retarded space marshall. All the other space marshalls. The ladybot. The monk guy or whatever he was. And surly ALL THE TIME. I guess the filmmaker figures it makes his movies seem all tough and bad-ass and shit to have every character in a perpetual bad mood.

And that's why his films - the bits I've seen - are so unintentionally funny. People walking around in quasi-space gear snarling constantly at each other will make you giggle after awhile

But back to my play. After watching the clip, I do think I need to trim the scene. Also the cowboy says "we's gonna have sex" twice and it's a bit much. I need to come up with something similar to "I'm gonna take you for a test drive." Another favorite bit: "operational ladyparts."

I was disappointed that I didn't get a reaction from the audience when Julia calls the movie clip she just saw "indescribable." I actually stole that line from "I, Claudius" where crazy, sporadically homocidal emperor Caligula, having just performed a goofy song and dance routine in drag, asks Claudius what he thought of the show. That scene can be viewed here - unfortunately the scene cuts off right before Caligula asks how Claudius liked it - but watch it anyway for John Hurt's amazing performance.

The only line that does get a laugh in this clip is when Buddy asks if Julia wants to play cowboy and Indian girl with him and she says "and then what, you give me smallpox and steal my land?" But I wasn't surprised. That gets a laugh every time.

Claire is an impressive actor, but so is Daniel and I was extreeemly impressed to see his performance in this bit from Sesame Street. That is the coolest thing ever, to me, to be on Sesame Street.

Daniel is the dancer wearing the business suit and shades. He slides into the camera at 1:12.

DAMN - I just realized that Alton Brown is in this clip too!

winner of the most repulsive dating site contact yet

So my online dating profile says I'm looking for somebody with whom I have something in common. This douchebag emails me:

Well I'm conservative, religious, out of shape, shaking grammar ability, balding, 52, not Tom Cruise, and married! So it looks like a good match HUH?

And he's in law enforcement. Why is he wasting my time and his?

And icing on today's crap cake - another guy emails me to point out that we have so much in common. His age? SEVENTY-EIGHT! I figure I have a couple of decades at least before I resign myself to being an unpaid health care worker. Eesh!

Really, the high self-regard of old men never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

more on the discontent of cats

Really the more I think of Joe Quirk's description of cats, mentioned in the blog post from the other day, the more baffled I am - has he ever actually lived with cats? Were his cats just semi-comatose? Are my cats just complete freaks?

I mean, Jesus - if my alarm goes off and I hit the snooze button, I actually get no extra snooze - because my cats know that the alarm means it's breakfast time. They will stand on me and yell in my face - it's technically meowing, but when you're trying to sleep and they get all right up by your head and go "yaaaaaawwwwlll!" it feels like yelling. "Buddahdom? Did the Buddha ever scream in anybody's face at 6:30 AM?

And that's just for starters. My semi-feral cat Miss Willow watches the clock all day for dinner time. Although it isn't like she's goofing off until then - every hour or so it occurs to her to ask for cat treats. She screams at me then sometimes. Sometimes she hits me.

My other cat, the Siamese named Spike - but I always call him Mr. Fuzz - is less likely to hit (although he has tried that) but he's got a whole bunch of other tricks. Mr. Fuzz actually doesn't care so much about treats - although he certainly will take some if Willow is getting some - but he really cares about playing and people attention. Like most Siamese, he is very dog-like in his devotion to people. He's almost as shy around strangers as Miss Willow, but when I have guests over he will eventually come out of hiding because he misses me so much. He even lets other people pet him sometimes.

And if it's just me and it's playtime, watch out. He'll bring his mousies to me, expecting me to play with them. Sometimes we are out of mousies and he'll bring me the empty bag that the mousies came in, just to remind me about mousies.

One of the most cute and yet intensely annoying things he does - if I am not paying enough attention to him he will go into a closet or another room and start meowing - and Siamese cat meows can sound like crying babies - almost impossible to ignore. And he'll keep it up until I say "where's Mr. Fuzz?" And then he immediately comes out of the closet or comes running into the room.

And if I pay too much attention to Miss Willow, Mr. Fuzz gets mad. Sometimes you can even hear him - if he's on the other side of the room and I pet Miss Willow, or talk nicely to her, you can hear him say "Hmphf!" and then he comes running over to chase her away, hitting her on the head if necessary.

I mean, sure, they sometimes quiet down and take a nap, but cats need so much sleep because when they are awake they are totally on - ready to run and hide at a millisecond's notice. Or ready to jump four feet in the air to catch a thrown mousie toy. They play hard so they sleep hard. But Buddhadom? No fucking way.

I call this picture "portrait of two cats waiting for treats" Buddhadom my ass.

grotesque bigotry of the 1950s New Yorker

While trying to figure out who the Willie the Whaler artist is, I was looking at the work of Alain, aka Daniel Brustlein - I bought "Alain's Steeplechase" a collection of his cartoons from the 1950s.

I was really shocked by the sexism and racism of Alain's cartoons. Not that he was the only cartoonist doing such things. And it's possible that he didn't come up with the ideas, just drew ideas given him. But he did take money for it - on the other hand, it's likely that any cartoonist of the time who refused to draw bigoted cartoons would find himself quickly out of work.

Alain's work is slightly less sexist than the New Yorker of that period - there's an ongoing theme of stupid women during that period, especially stupid fat middle-aged wealthy women; and cave women being bashed on the head by cave men.

But Alain did provide some misogyny:

The entire cartoon is not visible here, but the gag is that the woman scientist stops in the middle of an experiment to talk and talk and talk on the phone and the test tubes overflow but the results turn out to be good anyway, so she's rewarded for accidentally doing something right. And this was at a time when it was legal to discriminate on the basis of gender in hiring, and there were almost no women scientists.

But women get off easy compared to Mexicans. Here are only five of the many "lazy Mexican" themed cartoons in the book I bought:

This Mexican is such a slacker they built the railroad tracks around his sloth.

In this cartoon (I excerpted) the gag is that she throws and fires a clay pot just to smash it over his lazy head.

Oh what a surprise - Senor Diaz is sleeping on the job.

Look - in Mexico you can buy a fashionable ensemble to wear while you sleep the day away.

But just because they are lazy it doesn't mean Mexican men are stupid - in this sequence a Mexican man devises a leash for the baby so that the baby can walk and the woman can carry the lazy Mexican man on her back.

This is not to say that black men are any more enterprising.

The caption for this cartoon is the white man saying to the black men: "Now could you just hold that pose?"

Of course it's not entirely the fault of the black men - as this cartoon demonstrates, laziness just automatically happens once you head south.

The milestone in the middle panel is unreadable here, but it says "Mason Dixon Line." Not only people but horses and monkeys become slothful in the South as this cartoon shows.

OK, that's enough. I'm plenty nauseated.

It strikes me that the New Yorker's view of Mexicans is very similar to Joe Quirk's view of cats - they just laze around all the time. In Quirk's view, people never do that - we're always up and about doing things.

But of course Joe Quirk would not support such anti-Mexican bigotry. The way that you can tell old-tyme sociobiology from modern evolutionary psychology is that while sociobiology claims that different ethnic behaviors AND different gender behaviors are innate and evolved, evolutionary psychology only claims that different gender behaviors are innate and evolved. Which is why they can go around making outrageous claims about women and then act all hurt if you accuse them of sexism - aw shucks, they were only doing pure disinterested science. Only their critics have a political ax to grind, not them, no never ever them.

This is why people who whine about "political correctness" are so annoying - they seem to have no idea how vicious and freewheeling the bigotry was back when nothing was considered politically incorrect.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whalin time!

I FINALLY got my Mac back from the Apple store. While I could do many things with my work laptop, I had lots of stuff, like Willie ads, on the Mac.

So Willie's back too.

I know what "gale" is, a strong wind, but lolly? The best I could do was the Water Words manual from the Nevada Division of Water Resources, which says:
Frazil (Frazil Ice) — A French-Canadian term for the fine spicular ice, derived from the French words for cinders which this variety of ice most resembles. When formed in slat water it is known as Lolly Ice. When first formed, frazil is colloidal and is not visible in the water.

I think "slat water" is a typo for "salt water." So perhaps "lolly and gale" is an icy ocean gale?

The term "deep six" according to the wiktionary is: A nautical expression indicating a water depth of 6 fathoms (36 feet) as measured by a sounding line; "deep six" acquired its idiomatic definition from the fact that something thrown overboard at or greater than this depth would be difficult if not impossible to recover.

So I'm not exactly sure what Willie is saying here. He wants the Saturday night bottle so bad, and the weather up in the crow's nest (I think that's what that platform is) is so bad that he'd rather jump overboard? Although knowing Willie, he'd do anything for his bottle, lolly and gale or no.

Next post: samples of offensive cartoons from Alain's Steeplechase.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

the real Mr. Quirk

My play THE SLASH currently in rehearsals has a character named Mr. Quirk.

How odd that there's a real Mr. Quirk, and I would be at odds with him at this time.

A Facebook friend posted a link to Joe Quirk's article Science Proves You're Stupid but what the article proves mostly is that Joe Quirk is stupid.

Maybe not stupid - maybe just lazy and shallow and glib and self-aggrandizing. I followed the link from my Facebook friend's page to his article, and eventually I realized that he was an evolutionary psychology promoter. The clue was this sentence in the article:
Many transhumanists tell me triumphantly that human nature has been left behind.

Evolutionary psychologists always worry that there's someone, somewhere denying human nature. Although it always turns out that what's being denied is one or more specious and unsupported and wild claims for some aspect of human nature made by an evolutionary psychologist.

So I was not at all surprised to find Quirk wrote a book entitled "It's Not You, It's Biology" which recycles all the trashiest gender essentialist evolutionary psychology tropes into one "humorous" package. Quirk's web site includes glowing reviews of the book - to get an idea of how scientifically ignorant the reviewers are, one of them says:
From Mike Chorost, author of Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human (Houghton Mifflin, 2005):

Stephen Jay Gould was a leading opponent of evolutionary psychology, especially of the moronic pop-psychology variety that Quirk is selling. Gould's evisceration of Helena Cronin's "The Ant and the Peacock" in the New York Review of Books is a joy to behold, and I don't think Cronin's bff Richard Dawkins has ever forgiven him for it.

It's actually no wonder that evolutionary psychology is so popular - it's so easy to prove the premises of evolutionary psychology - at least to the satisfaction of other evolutionary psychologists and ignoramuses who are impressed by anything labeled "science."

Here's how it works:

  • Identify something to study.
  • Do a study of it: observe human behavior - or just send out a survey
  • Claim that the behaviors observed, or the survey results are evidence of "human nature."

    It's a little like Eddie Izzard's description of British imperialism - just stick a flag in.

    That's why the name David Buss doesn't provoke shame and/or laughter in spite of the fact that he actually chose to interpret female sexual slavery as evidence of female sexual selection, as documented in David Buller's Adapting Minds.

    Regular readers of this blog know how much I despise evolutionary psychology and those who promote it. I ripped into David Brooks recently

    I have to say, the New Yorker article The decline effect and the scientific method has been indispensable in arguing against evolutionary psychology since its promoters tend to cite debunked studies. Brooks cites the debunked "symmetry" effect, and Quirk cites "verbal overshadowing."

    You're so clueless about your own experience, you've already re-written the paragraph you just read. Close your eyes and sum up what was just said. Done? Now when you re-read it, you'll find you don't remember the words, but only your impression of what was said. Once you say it, you replace your vague impression with your act of verbalizing it. Associate Professor of Cognitive Psychology Jonathan Schooler calls the effect "verbal overshadowing."

    I guess Quirk is too busy searching for proof of human nature to read the New Yorker, which reported in "The decline effect...":
    "Jonathan Schooler was a young graduate student at the University of Washington in the nineteen-eighties when he discovered a surprising new fact about language and memory. At the time, it was widely believed that the act of describing our memories improved them. But, in a series of clever experiments, Schooler demonstrated that subjects shown a face and asked to describe it were much less likely to recognize the face when shown it later than those who had simply looked at it. Schooler called the phenomenon “verbal overshadowing.”

    The study turned him into an academic star. Since its initial publication, in 1990, it has been cited more than four hundred times. Before long, Schooler had extended the model to a variety of other tasks, such as remembering the taste of a wine, identifying the best strawberry jam, and solving difficult creative puzzles. In each instance, asking people to put their perceptions into words led to dramatic decreases in performance.

    But while Schooler was publishing these results in highly reputable journals, a secret worry gnawed at him: it was proving difficult to replicate his earlier findings. “I’d often still see an effect, but the effect just wouldn’t be as strong,” he told me. “It was as if verbal overshadowing, my big new idea, was getting weaker.” At first, he assumed that he’d made an error in experimental design or a statistical miscalculation. But he couldn’t find anything wrong with his research. He then concluded that his initial batch of research subjects must have been unusually susceptible to verbal overshadowing. (John Davis, similarly, has speculated that part of the drop-off in the effectiveness of antipsychotics can be attributed to using subjects who suffer from milder forms of psychosis which are less likely to show dramatic improvement.) “It wasn’t a very satisfying explanation,” Schooler says. “One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work. He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.”

    Schooler tried to put the problem out of his mind; his colleagues assured him that such things happened all the time. Over the next few years, he found new research questions, got married and had kids. But his replication problem kept on getting worse. His first attempt at replicating the 1990 study, in 1995, resulted in an effect that was thirty per cent smaller. The next year, the size of the effect shrank another thirty per cent. When other labs repeated Schooler’s experiments, they got a similar spread of data, with a distinct downward trend. “This was profoundly frustrating,” he says. “It was as if nature gave me this great result and then tried to take it back.” In private, Schooler began referring to the problem as “cosmic habituation,” by analogy to the decrease in response that occurs when individuals habituate to particular stimuli. “Habituation is why you don’t notice the stuff that’s always there,” Schooler says. “It’s an inevitable process of adjustment, a ratcheting down of excitement. I started joking that it was like the cosmos was habituating to my ideas. I took it very personally.”

    Of course lack of empirical data will never stop or even slow down an evolutionary psychology promoter with a flag.

    I posted comments on the Joe Quirk article, but I doubt they'll get past the moderator, since apparently they only accept comments that proclaim how brilliant Joe Quirk is.

    And he is so obviously not. As I said to my Facebook friend:

    His article is glib and shallow and only works if you don't actually think about it too much. I mean, what about his cat example?

    "Many transhumanists tell me triumphantly that human nature has been left behind. So why are they bothering to... tell me? All humans everywhere care what other people think, spontaneously react when their values are challenged, argue with tribemates about what's true. See the comment button below? Why doesn't your cat find this button irresistible? Why can't you choose to be more like your cat? Turn off your mind, go sit in the sunbeam, give not a shit, and be content.

    Hey, you're still reading. How long did you consider the option to stop chasing opinion and contributing your own? Why does your cat's brain gravitate naturally toward the Buddhadom you must discipline yourself to achieve? It's that damn human nature again. It won't go away, not even the part that desires to transcend it, a particularly unique feature of Homo Confabulus."

    He's positing this idea that cats are more content than people - they gravitate "naturally" toward Buddhadom. And if you're just reading along, not considering this very much, you might go, "yeah, my cat looks very content sitting in the sun" and just move along in the article.

    Well MY cats are discontent PLENTY. My cat Spike is always pestering me to play fetch with his mousies. And Willow always wants me to give her cat treats. Sometimes she comes right up to me and screams in my face.

    That ain't no "Buddhadom" - I mean yeah, SOMETIMES cats are content. But sometimes so are people - all those people laying on the beach in the summer. What's THAT?

    Just like his example of cats vs. people in THIS article, his approach to men vs. women in his BOOK is the product of the most shallow, stereotyped, cartoonish outlook.

    His whole gig is to reinforce what everybody thinks they know about people and cats and men and women. So it's deeply ironic that he is making a case about people forging their understanding of the world not out of what actually happens, but out of a mental template.

    It appears to me that he's more guilty of doing so than most people.

    So now somebody is googling my name combined with Joe Quirk's to get to my site. I'm 99% sure it's Joe Quirk himself, since the person most likely to Google you, unless you are very famous - is you.

    And in spite of his best efforts, rehashing tired old "Men are from Mars" books will not make Joe Quirk famous.
  • why ANGELS IN AMERICA is great

    People will tell you that Shakespeare is so great because of his language. But I maintain that he is so popular still because of his plots, which is why they're so frequently borrowed.

    And I would go so far as to say that his popularity is in spite of his language, since so many people today have no idea what is being said about 50% of the time in any given Shakespeare play. I was the same way, the first time I saw AS YOU LIKE IT, the BBC's production with Helen Mirren. But in spite of the language barrier, I could tell that a very cool plot was happening - two women were taking the initiative to escape a bad situation, and manage to help each other, have adventures and hook up with cute guys in the end. The deus ex machina ending with Hymen isn't so great, but even Shakespeare isn't perfect.

    But plot is important and that's why ANGELS IN AMERICA is so popular - great plot.

    However, I've slowly come around to a deep appreciation of the monologues from ANGEL too. The Roy Cohn "pecking order" speech has always stood out as great, however, how could you not be impressed by this (excerpted)?
    ...Now to someone who does not understand this, homosexual is what I am because I have sex with men. But really this is wrong. Homosexuals are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through City Council. Homosexuals are men who know nobody, and who nobody knows. Who have zero clout. Does that sound like me, Henry?

    It's interesting that the HBO special version is longer - there's a mention of taking his boyfriend to the White House and Reagan smiling at them.

    Then there's this little gem from Harper:
    I don't understand why I'm not dead. When your heart breaks you should die. But there's still the rest of you. There's your breasts and your genitals, and they're amazingly stupid, like babies or faithful dogs, they don't get it. They just want him. Want him.

    Then there's this bit from a character, "Martin Heller" who is Ed Meese's assistant (excerpted):
    It's a revolution in Washington, Joe. We have a new agenda and finally a real leader. They got back the Senate but we have the courts. By the nineties the Supreme Court will be rock-solid Republican appointees, and the Federal bench - Republican judges like landmines everywhere, everywhere they turn. Affirmative action? Take it to court. Boom! Land mine. And we'll get our way on just about everything: abortion, defense, Central America, family values, a live investement climate...

    In spite of that fact that many of his predictions are wrong, the Martin Heller character certainly gets across the Republican ideology, and the Republican-leaning Supreme Court IS pretty much true. And they're even more activist, more aggressive at over-turning precedent than even Martin could have dreamed of.

    This speech (excerpted) from the Angel of America advocates death, and sometimes this makes alot of sense.
    ...Who demands More Life?
    When Death like a Protector
    Blinds our eyes, shielding from the tender nerve
    More horror than can be borne.
    Let any Being on whom Fortune smiles
    Creep away to Death...

    But maybe my favorite speech is the one that took me longest to warm up to - I really disliked it at first because of the ugliness of the imagery - but of course that's part of the point. Harper is talking to a dummy from a diorama in the Mormon center who has suddenly come to life. Harper asks the dummy "how do people change?" And the dummy says:
    Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice.
    God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls until all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching... just mangled guts pretending.
    Having gone through so many changes in the last five years, since I first saw the HBO version of the play - I have come to realize how true this metaphor is.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    good meeting/bad contact

    We did the first NYCPlaywrights 2.0 meeting on Wednesday night and it was pretty good. Phoebe Summersquash said it was "a good vibe."

    We did readings of my two newest 10-minute plays, ARTSY-CRAFTSY and A VERY DARK ROOM, along with a couple of other plays, not by me.

    ARTSY went over much better than ROOM, although I personally think they're pretty close in quality level. Both are semi-autobiographical - I even name-checked myself in ARTSY. That play deals with mean girls, along the same lines as GOOD WOMEN OF MORNINGSIDE, which I produced last April.

    As far as ROOM - I haven't really suffered from depression since I was thirteen, as the protagonist in ROOM has, but the concept of men on dating web sites being unfuckable is one I live with every day.

    Speaking of which... another charming contact from a dating site denizen today...

    hi nancy...could be some mismatches but im saying hello nevertheless
    best wishes rc

    He's 59. Here's what it says in his profile:

    I'm working, financial services and a new on line venture. I'm married, have kids who are pretty much grown. It is difficult but necessary to say that I would not be here unless i was seeking the kind of communication i have missed for so long.

    Oh boy - an adulterous old BLUE SHIRT!

    Elsewhere in his profile he says he's tired of being "vanilla". Ooh, kink with an old man, it's a dream come true!

    PLUS he's 59, but the maximum age of a woman he's looking for is 51. There is NOTHING that makes me hate a man more than when he thinks he's just too damn youthful and hot to date a woman HIS OWN AGE.

    Actually, that's not true - there's nothing I hate more than someone who cheats on their spouse. Those people are scum of the earth.

    He also didn't bother posting a photo on his profile, but at age 59 that can only help him. No man is good-looking at age 59. Although the vast majority of them seem to think they are, which is why so many of them try for women so much younger than their old coot selves.

    I gave this guy some helpful advice:

    If you want adulterous non-vanilla sex with a younger woman, it would be more efficient to just go get yourself a prostitute.

    Then I blocked his delusional old ass.

    He's probably just too cheap to hire a prostitute and figures he can get someone to do it for free, seeing how much he has to offer and all.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    the mighty Krugman


    There was a time when conservative think tanks employed genuine policy wonks, and when asked to devise a Republican health care plan, they came up with — Obamacare! That is, what passes for leftist policy now is what was considered conservative 15 years ago; to meet the right’s standards of political correctness now, you have to pass into another dimension, a dimension whose boundaries are that of imagination, untrammeled by things like arithmetic or logic.

    Wouldn’t the right be better served by better wonks? No. For one thing, they’d be unreliable — they might start making sense at an inappropriate moment. And, crucially, the media generally can’t tell the difference. I’ve had long exchanges with reporters over the doc fix; let me tell you, it’s very, very hard to get the point across. People like me tend to think in terms of simple thought experiments, but reporters keep wanting to dive into the political ins and outs, no matter how many times you try to say that those are irrelevant.

    Or maybe the simplest way to say this is, Ignorance is Strength. And why tamper with a winning formula?

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    I get emails

    roundup of today's most interesting emails:

    A former member of NYCPlaywrights writes:

    I'm happy that I'm still on the mailing list and have wanted to get back involved with the group...

    Now I had thought this person dropped out because she found the post-reading feedback sessions were not as "constructive" as she might like. This woman has a nice facility with words, but she was too in love with the ambiguous scenario she had constructed in her 3-hour-long play to turn it into a coherent narrative. Her attitude was that if you didn't know what the hell was going on in her play, too bad for you, it was obviously a sign you are an idiot. No, I don't think I'll allow her back in - especially since I guess she just didn't want to pay the membership fee, and figures it's a good time to come back now that membership is free.

    The Dramatists Guild writes:

    The Public Theater in partnership with Amnesty International will hold a peaceful demonstration at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations [136 E. 67th Street].

    New York area theatre artists are invited to show their support for the persecuted Belarus artists and activists. Those gathered will speak out against the arrests that followed the disputed elections in Belarus on December 19, 2010 that imprisoned the Belarus Free Theatre's own Company Manager, Artiom Zhelezniak. These artist have been beaten up and driven underground.

    Text the word "PROTEST" to 27138 to receive updates about exact meeting location.

    I would LOVE to go to this but it's too far uptown to make it during my lunch break - or rather, I could make it, but would pretty much have to head back right away. But anybody who cares about freedom and justice and art - go to this.

    ALso I would love to do a protest at the United Nations because it takes me back to the no-nukes rally I went to with my ex-husband in 1978, when we all got arrested in Dag Hammarskjöld plaza.

    Last and most weird... from an online dating site - mind you, I never contacted this 49-year-old guy, I just looked at his profile for two seconds:


    very interesting

    but I'm in an open marriage

    does this work for you?


    Um no dude.

    Well it looks like the NYCPlaywrights meeting won't be snowed out THIS week and that means one thing for me: cleaning.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    TestoGenius - because the experiences of men are SO under-represented in the theatre!

    Hmmm... somebody from Manhattan Theatre Source (MTS) just sent me a call for plays for something called "TestoGenius 2011" to be posted on the NYCPlaywrights web site.

    There's definitely something in it for them - NYCPlaywrights is an increasingly well-known resource of calls for plays.

    But what's in it for me? Or other writers?

    Andrew Bellware is associated with MTS, and that does not speak well of the organization. Not to mention Bellware himself has accused the current MTS administration of fiscal malfeasance in the past year.

    Then there's the concept of "TestoGenius" itself. Presumably this is a response to "EstroGenius." But I always thought that EstroGenius was created in response to the fact that plays by women are under-represented in productions in the theatre world at large. There's no need for a special male-oriented festival - presenting the male experience on stage is what's known as "business as usual."

    I mean, what's next? A festival devoted to plays that represent the experiences of white people who come from well-to-do families?

    And there's the fact that in spite of calls for submissions, the plays chosen for any of the MTS "-Genius" festivals are usually by MTS insiders - I know this because I know many of the insiders (either personally or through indirect, unpleasant experiences) and I've seen ALL their names in the play line-ups. And it apparently doesn't matter if you are an actor, a director, a stage manager - if you are an MTS insider, they're going to produce your play. I really think that these calls for submissions are just a cover for the fact that they do mainly the work of insiders.

    And finally - WHO designed the logo for TestoGenius? It's one of the ugliest logos I've ever seen!

    But no doubt it is the work of a Manhattan Theatre Source insider - politics, not art, reigns supreme at MTS.

    Joshua James, who is currently a MTS insider, recently recalled what it was like for him at MTS when he was an outsider:
    Now for a bit of gossip … I liked the Spontaneous Combustions a lot, I believe I did four of them …

    PRETEND IT IS was the last one I did, however … I remember that the Friday I did it was my birthday, I stayed up late, wrote the piece, took it Saturday and tried to rehearse and had so much trouble because one of the other writers (and Source regular) was raising hell and having a water fight or some shit like that in the theatre, just messing around, and made it impossible to hear my actors … when I asked him to hold it down a bit, he smirked and said, “Somebody give Josh a quarter so he can call someone who gives a shit” which is a profoundly rude thing to say to anyone, much less a dude (like me) who’s twice your size and had a life long interest in kickboxing … I didn’t pick him up and toss him through the window, to my credit, rather I shook my head, took my grievance to the guy running the whole thing … which basically resulted in my being UNINVITED to the very next Spontaneous Combustion. Because the snotty guy (who later that day, to his credit, did try to apologize, but interrupted our rehearsal yet again to do so, irritating us all) was better friends with them than I was.

    They later invited me back for another one on a later date, but by then I figured, hey, if that’s how you roll, you guys don’t need me, right? I stayed up all night on my birthday - lol!

    Of course, none of the folks running SC back then is in charge now (this current retrospective show was set up by the talented Ed Malin, a friend and colleague I respect a lot), so I feel free to share the story now (and the person in question who was rude has also moved on) and it all seems so silly in retrospect, seems silly because it is and was … just junior high politicking, basically, which I could care less about, and their loss because a good playwright willing to spend time busting his butt to put up good work for free is extremely valuable to a small theatre, but too often (and this is just my experience) at many places they act like they’re doing YOU a favor, not the other way around.

    But in the end I learned something valuable … you can’t make people appreciate you or your work, they either do or they don’t, and it’s better to spend time with those that do than those that don’t … you’re going to run into the latter, it’s inevitable, and may even have to work with them … but bear in mind the above, you can’t make them appreciate you, so if you’re not getting paid or getting anything out of the work, why waste time with them?

    Ultimately you have to find your tribe, find those you appreciate and who appreciate you, to run the long races with.

    Hah, that’s a hell’ve a plug for a show, ain’t it?

    The only thing I would add is that I seriously doubt the political-personal dynamics have changed at MTS since James's first bad experience - and god knows I've had some AWFUL experiences with many of the people who are current insiders in the group. The only thing that changes is whether you are an insider or an outsider.

    They have more than enough insiders at MTS now. The rest of us need to get our OWN "tribe."

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    blogging lite

    Blogging will be light and infrequent until my computer is back from the Apple store.

    I did receive my copy of Alain's Steeplechase today. I was disappointed to find it has no biographical info about the author.

    And there are some stunningly sexist and racist cartoons within. Granted the time period is the 1950s but this is from the New Yorker, alleged bastion of sophisticated liberalism. It demonstrates how unremarkable those attitudes were. The theme of lazy sleeping Mexicans was a big favorite.

    I will post some of them here when I get my computer back.

    And I still can't determine if this is the Willie the Whaler artist.

    And now - I sure am tired of typing with my thumb on this Blackberry.

    mac crash

    Oh goody my Mac just died right in the middle of editing videos. Guess I'm off to the Apple store.

    Reading videos

    Click still images to watch the video...

    Julia's panic attack monologue

    Buddy messes with Julia's head

    Julia solves a mystery

    Reading at the Dramatists Guild

    Wow, I don't know if the actors were just extra "on" last night, or if it was because they were completely sober this time, or what, but this second reading of the complete JULIA & BUDDY script was much better than the one at my Christmas party. Not that I hated that reading - but it all seemed to come together and work much better at the Dramatists Guild reading.

    I had all these edits to the second act in mind, but after seeing it all flow so well last night, I'm having second thoughts.

    Anyway, here I am in front of a rack of DG magazines. The one in the middle, the yellow one with the phrenology head is the issue in which my article The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn vs. Mergatroyd Productions appears.

    Here is my wonderful cast.

    I will have some video clips later today - but it takes a long damn time to process video data.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    the short play report

    Well since I last blogged about the submissions for the NYCPlaywrights 10-minute play challenge I've gotten a higher proportion of 10-minute plays from women writers, so that's good. The down side is that very few of the plays seem very good at all. I will have to read them more carefully, but a quick glance at most of them gives me a bad feeling.

    I very specifically said what I wanted to see for submissions:

    • Does the play pull me in right away?
      There are only 10 minutes - the play has to pull you in right from the start.

    • Does the play surprise me?
      If the play is about something I've heard a hundred times already, I'll be bored. Or if it unfolds in predictable ways, I will be bored.

    • Does the play make me laugh or well up? Or both?
      Art must have an emotional impact.

    • Does the play have a dramatic struggle?
      People sitting around bickering is not a dramatic struggle. So many people don't seem to understand that.

    • Does the play have vivid characters in compelling situations?
      People sitting around bickering is not a compelling situation. Especially if the characters are called "man" and "woman." If the playwright can't be bothered to come up with a name for a character, it's usually a sign that the character is as generic as the label. This is especially true of a 10-minute play where you really don't have time for generic supporting characters.

    • Does the play show more than tell? "Show, don't tell" has been said a million times and yet maybe about 20% of all the people who write plays - including lionized, famous playwrights - seem to get this.

    • Does the play blow my mind through sheer funky originality?
      This is the Holy Grail of ten-minute plays. I've seen only a handful of ten-minute plays that have blown my mind.

    But few of the plays pulled me in right away, or surprised me, or had much emotional impact. But the most common problem by far was no dramatic struggle. I guess I needed to be more specific - I only mentioned that people sitting around bickering is not compelling. So I didn't get alot of plays of bickering. Instead I got alot where they are just HAVING A CONVERSATION.

    And then there are the plays, usually written by male playwrights, that use what I call the Zoo Story Template. Here's how that goes:

    talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk SUDDEN VIOLENCE!!! the end.

    I think Edward Albee is hugely over-rated. I think his most famous, produced piece WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF is incredibly boring and silly. And so is ZOO STORY. I wrote a 10-minute parody of it, called POOH STORY. Here is a clip from my 2009 STRESS AND THE CITY production. That's Bruce Barton, Nick Fondulis and of course, Winnie the Pooh.

    Did I ever mention the time I got a tour of Edward Albee's place?

    JULIA & BUDDY reading today! I will be videotaping and posting excerpts here.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Slash site

    The first iteration of the web site for THE SLASH production is up.

    And no, I'm not actually working with Al Pacino... yet.

    This is definitely my favorite part of the play:
    (Bernadette strokes Mr. Quirk as she speaks.)


    ‘Daddy gave me access to his secret library - I know all about the starship and the supplies. But Daddy made me swear not to tell. And he won’t let me mate with the natives so I am a very lonely, neurotic girl. And a very erotic girl. And here you are, all tied up in your underwear.’


    I’m afraid I am not in any phase of my cycle where I can be of assistance to you.


    ‘Don’t you worry. I know all about your cycles. Did you know that your ancestors invented a synthetic hormone that would allow them to mate outside their cycle?”


    That is a malicious lie.


    “Oh is it? Let us be scientific!’

    (She slaps an open palm against his arm and holds it there.)

    “Pure roxydimethedrine is being subcutaneously absorbed. Any moment now you will enter your mating phase, where you must mate or kill. If you do not do either you will die.”

    (She embraces and kisses Mr. Quirk.)


    “Can you feel it, Chloridian? I know all about Chloridian physiology. It’s all right here in this boob.”

    (She pats one of her breasts.)


    Bernie, I think there’s a typo in your story.


    Oh my God!

    (She returns to her desk, types rapidly, picks up a book, and returns to Mr. Quirk as Una.)


    “It’s all right here, in this BOOK!”

    (Waves book at Mr. Quirk)

    ***Just then they heard a commotion outside.***

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011


    I came across this cartoon in the New Yorker archives today, from February 1957. I've been studying it, trying to figure out the gag.

    After some consideration, what I THINK is going on is that this is a shotgun wedding because the young man saw the young woman in a two-piece bathing suit. That's my best guess. Is it right? Anybody?

    Willie the Whaler is never inscrutable - his motives. His language sometimes is, but not this time. We've already seen "Gloucester Grog" - this ad includes the phrase "all-a-taunt-o" which is defined by A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century as: Fully rigged, with masts, yards, &c. A sea term.

    Which I take to mean that Willie is saying once they put up all their rigging they'll take a break and get shit-faced on Gloucester Grog, which I'm sure is the usual custom aboard the bark Wanderer.

    There's even a Polish "worldwide crewing agency" called All A Taunto, although they abbreviate it to AAT.

    Melville's Billy Budd also uses the expression.

    I rather like the sound of that phrase. And it sounds like it could easily be employed as a euphemism for an erection. I will try to use it in a sonnet one of these days.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Who keeps paying David Brooks to write worthless crap???

    Now we know why the New Yorker can't hire more women writers - it has to save that money to pay David Brooks to write utterly worthless crap.

    Brooks's "think" piece, Social Animal is the worst dreck I've seen in a magazine with intellectual/literary pretensions since Vanity Fair paid Christopher Hitchens to write an incoherent misogynist screed called "Why Women Aren't Funny".

    Brooks's inability to grasp the complexities of all social realities would be astounding in anybody this side of fourth grade, much less from somebody who makes a living as a writer for the biggest media outlets. But I can't express the baffled middle-brow inanity of Brooks any better than Tom Tomorrow:

    More Tom Tomorrow commentary on the travesty that is the output of David Brooks here.

    But it is just Brooks's intellectual near-sightedness that makes him a perfect candidate for the theories of evolutionary psychology. "Social Animal" only mentions "evolutionary psychologist" once, in reference to David Buss (for a perspective on the outrageously bad "science" practiced by Buss, take a look at this excerpt from "Adapting Minds" by David J. Buller) but the article is completely informed by evolutionary psychology. In fact, if you took all the articles about evolutionary psychology from all mainstream publications from the last twenty-five years and rolled them into a big gray ball of mush, you'd have Brooks's article. All the biggest EvPsych tropes are there.

    I won't get into them all now, it would take hours. If only my full-time job was debunking evolutionary psychology - I would be extremely happy. Thanks to this Brooks article though, I bumped into what is surely one of the greatest magazine article titles in the history of the world:

    Is Evolutionary Psychology Total, Utter, and Dangerous Bullshit? by Stanton Peele. And this is in Psychology Today, to my utter amazement. I thought PT was completely in bed with evolutionary psychology.

    But the one, perfect example of the absolute, utter and blindingly manifest (to anybody but editors at the New York Times and the New Yorker) black void of literary and intellectual value that is the musings of David Brooks is this bit from "Social Animal" :
    Erica was impressed by him: women everywhere tend to prefer men who have symmetrical features and are slightly older, taller, and stronger than they are."

    Now this is all standard party-line evolutionary psychology, iterated and re-iterated for the past twenty-five years. But the beauty part is that just a few weeks ago, in the December 13, 2010 issue of the New Yorker the "symmetrical features" study was completely debunked in "The Decline Effect":

    In the three years following, there were ten independent tests of the role of fluctuating asymmetry in sexual selection, and nine of them found a relationship between symmetry and male reproductive success. It didn’t matter if scientists were looking at the hairs on fruit flies or replicating the swallow studies—females seemed to prefer males with mirrored halves. Before long, the theory was applied to humans. Researchers found, for instance, that women preferred the smell of symmetrical men, but only during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Other studies claimed that females had more orgasms when their partners were symmetrical, while a paper by anthropologists at Rutgers analyzed forty Jamaican dance routines and discovered that symmetrical men were consistently rated as better dancers.

    Then the theory started to fall apart. In 1994, there were fourteen published tests of symmetry and sexual selection, and only eight found a correlation. In 1995, there were eight papers on the subject, and only four got a positive result. By 1998, when there were twelve additional investigations of fluctuating asymmetry, only a third of them confirmed the theory. Worse still, even the studies that yielded some positive result showed a steadily declining effect size. Between 1992 and 1997, the average effect size shrank by eighty per cent.

    … For Simmons, the steep rise and slow fall of fluctuating asymmetry is a clear example of a scientific paradigm, one of those intellectual fads that both guide and constrain research: after a new paradigm is proposed, the peer-review process is tilted toward positive results. But then, after a few years, the academic incentives shift—the paradigm has become entrenched—so that the most notable results are now those that disprove the theory.

    This shouldn't have been hard for Brooks or the New Yorker editors to find - as of this writing it's in the New Yorker web site's "Most Popular" article list.

    Paul Krugman often refers to the zombie lies of economics - claims that have been proven false, but keep coming back no matter how many times they are debunked.

    And the reason they won't die a natural death is because somebody wants to believe in them. Clearly some editor at the New Yorker wants to believe in the just-so stories of evolutionary psychology. Otherwise they wouldn't pay the intellectually-limited but over-employed David Brooks to keep spreading them.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    busy theatre week

    I sure have plenty of theatre stuff to do this week - the first meeting of the new NYCPlaywrights takes place this Wednesday, and I have two new short plays as well as edits to JULIA & BUDDY and THE SLASH waiting for readings.

    One of my new plays Artsy-craftsy is the third play I've done that has child characters. The ending might be a bit too meta, but I'll find out - that's the point of having readings.

    And then there's the Friday Night Footlights reading of JULIA & BUDDY. I have a flyer for that.

    click to see a larger version

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    consarned contraption

    Well I am impressed - Willie knows how to use a sextant! The term "shooting the sun" means "ascertain the altitude of the sun with a sextant in order to determine one's latitude."

    This edition of Popular Mechanics shows you how.

    All this time I did not realize that three-water grog was just a drink made of three parts water and one part rum. You'd think all that water would dampen Willie's enthusiasm a bit. But the real mystery is - if he's not already ON the bark Wanderer, what boat is he on?

    Saturday, January 08, 2011


    I saw the movie HOWL the other day and quite enjoyed it.

    It is based on the trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was charged with obscenity for publishing Howl and Other Poems (forward by William Carlos Williams) by Allan Ginsberg. While most of the "Beat Generation" poets are long dead, Ferlinghetti is still alive at age 91 and still running the book store. I didn't see many sights when I was in San Francisco in December 1999 for a week on business, but City Lights is one of those I did see.

    Anyways, the movie was quite interesting for many reasons - James Franco is a very attractive man, and actually looks more like the young Allan Ginsberg than I expected, but my idea of Ginsberg was from his older days as a balding dude with a ponytail. And Franco is a very interesting person in his own right.

    I also generally like trial dramatizations. Trial scenes (unless improperly edited) are always so clean and sharp and yet dramatic they are always intellectually stimulating.

    Most interesting though was the recitation of the poem Howl over the course of the movie, intercut with an interview with Ginsberg (Franco) and the trial, which not only was interesting as a trial, but was full-on fascinating for the fact that the prosecution and the defense were wrestling with the issue of what makes a poem a poem, and artistically valid.

    And most personally interesting, it is revealed that Howl was primarily inspired by Ginsberg's love for the mostly heterosexual Neal Cassady:

    who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
    stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
    poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
    to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
    in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
    rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
    gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
    ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
    solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,

    The movie portrays Ginsberg saying the name Neal Cassady, rather than just "N.C". And please note the use of the word "cocksman" which I recently said I hated - although Ginsberg used it in 1955, not in 2010 like John Lahr.

    Not that I didn't already realize that many a poem has been inspired by unrequited love, but it's good to be reminded - and I hope my frequent actor-visitors, my fanemies as I like to call them, are taking note. They all, suburbanites of the souls every one of them, think I'm some kind of evil freak of nature for writing poetry for someone who did not return my feelings. The absurdity of this attitude, especially for people who fancy themselves creative types, escapes them utterly: if the worst thing that I or they or any human being ever did was write poetry about somebody who did not like them, I, or they, or any human being would be a fucking saint.

    Back to the movie - I was pleased to see that one of the movie's co-authors was Rob Epstein, co-author of another great movie about a San Francisco-based homosexual, The Times of Harvey Milk, which is available for free online via Hulu - if you haven't seen that by all means watch - it is a great documentary.

    Fun fact: James Franco also appears in the recent movie "Milk" as Harvey Milk's boyfriend.

    The entire poem Howl can be read on the movie's web site here.

    I think I'll go watch The Times of Harvey Milk again.

    Friday, January 07, 2011

    call for plays - startling facts

    I posted this call for plays on the NYCPlaywrights web site late last night, but was a little worried that I wouldn't get any submissions, because it's pretty unusual - if not unique. Instead of a production of your play you win an online analysis of your play. I wondered if anybody would submit work. But I got fourteen submissions in the first day - and the deadline isn't until February 15.

    However, two startling facts:

    Of the fourteen submissions on the first day, only ONE was from a female playwright. Now I knew that there were more male than female playwrights, and plenty of studies have demonstrated that men as a group have higher self-esteem than women - although that's what you would expect from a patriarchy. But one out of FOURTEEN? Even I didn't expect that. I will have to see how this plays out by February 15. I will report the statistics on this blog.

    The second startling fact. Back in August I blogged about the fact that I'd seen no less than three plays about the World Trade Center attack in which somebody's lover could not accept the fact that their loved one died in the attack - and so the play was about the lover hallucinating that the person was still alive. Well guess what - today the fourth variation on that theme was submitted to NYCPlaywrights.

    What IS it about the WTC attack that makes people write plays in which one person thinks a dead person is still alive???

    I've only seen two plays about the WTC attack that DON'T use that trope - THE GUYS by Anne Nelson - which I thought was only so-so but it was fun to get to see Marlow Thomas on stage. And my own play, THE HELICOPTER, which I happen to think is swell. I did a production of it in my January 2009 evening of 10-minute plays STRESS AND THE CITY.

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    Alain's Steeplechase

    I haven't received a response yet from Daniel Brustlein's estate to my question about Alain's possible work on the Willie the Whaler ads. The next best thing - I bought a copy of the collection of Alain's New Yorker cartoons "Alain's Steeplechase." Hopefully some clues will be found there.

    The book is out of print, but I found one used, but in good condition on Amazon for a mere $3 - it costs more to ship it. Mind you, this is a hard cover book too.

    I like many of his paintings too. The painting on the left is quite nice:
    Daniel Brustlein, Portrait of Priscilla Morgan, oil on canvas, 1983

    Here is the cover of the Steeplechase - soon it shall be mine:

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    Willie at the Montauk light

    Let's not forget how this Whaler Bar mania got started - I saw an ad for Willie the Whaler in a back issue of the New Yorker. Now I'm toying with the idea of doing a play featuring WtW.

    This is the first time I've seen an actual geographic reference in a Willie ad.

    He is referring to the Montauk Point Light - per Wiki:
    "It was the first lighthouse in New York State, and is the fourth-oldest active lighthouse in the United States. The tower is 110' 6" high. The current light, installed in July 2001, equivalent to approximately 290,000 candle power, flashes every 5 seconds and can be seen a distance of 17 nautical miles (31 km).

    Pirate Captain Kidd was said to have buried treasure at the foot of the lighthouse around 1699 at two ponds which today are called "Money Ponds.

    Willie word definitions:

    We already know what a "painter" is.

    Coble - is a type of open fishing boat which developed on the North East coast of England.

    Throbble - I can't find anything better than the Urban Dictionary's definition: "When one looses his or her ability to stand or walk after consuming to many alcohlic beverages. " That certainly sounds like Willie's speed. I can't find any references to "throbble bowl" except this very ad in the New Yorker!

    The more I compare the Willie graphics with the other graphics of Alain, the more I think he was the artist. I emailed the estate of Daniel Brustlein to see if I can get confirmation.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    a whale of a day part 2

    It was a day so gigantic it had to have two blog posts!

    Here are pictures from 1-2-11 before the trip to the Whaler Bar.

    Nature girl here doesn't know what kind of tree is associated with these prickly seed pods - I just call them "burrs."

    And this is a "birdie."


    Whenever I see ducks in Central Park I think of this bit from "Catcher in the Rye" - Holden is talking to a cab driver:
    "The fish - that's different. The fish is different. I'm talking about the ducks," I said.

    "What's different about it? Nothing's different about it," Horwitz said. "It's tougher for the fish, the winter and all than it is for the ducks, for Chrissake. use your head, for Chrissake."

    I didn't say anything for about a minute. Then I said, "All right. What do they do, the fish and all, when that whole little lake's a solid block of ice, people skating on it and all?"

    Old Horwitz turned around again. "What the hellaya mean what do they do?" He yelled at me. "They stay right where they are, for Chrissake."

    "They can't just ignore the ice. They can't just ignore it."

    "Nobody's ignoring it. Nobody's ignoring it. They live right in the goddam ice. It's their nature, for Chrissake. They get frozen right in one position for the whole winter."

    "Yeah? What do they eat then? I mean, if they're frozen solid, they can't even swim around looking for food and all."

    "Their bodies, for Chrissake - what'sa matter with ya? Their bodies take in nutrition and all, right through the goddam seaweed and crap. They got their pores open the whole time. That's their nature, for Chrissake."

    These steps lead to Shakespeare's garden in the Park.

    Shakespeare's bench

    Shakespeare's sundial - I couldn't tell what time it was - I think it's broken.

    Heading out of the Park I saw this Christmas creche - I'm sure Wes from the blog A Camera in Some Hands knows about the Catholic League - it's run by cranky old coot Bill Donohue who managed to get the Smithsonian Institution to censor the video piece "A Fire in My Belly" by David Wojnarowicz.

    Right nearby the creche I came upon this protest - it's against the use of horses in New York City and I completely agree - why treat horses this way so that people can do something so pointlessly anachronistic as ride a horse buggy around in 21st century New York City? You go, animal cruelty protestors!

    I didn't get any good pictures of lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, but here's the Chrysler Building a few blocks away from the Whaler Bar.

    Monday, January 03, 2011

    A Whale of a Day!

    I ended up not going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday, but that was OK because instead... I WENT TO THE WHALER BAR!

    Yes, it's true! And I have photos to prove it.

    I actually did go to a park - Central Park and I went to Le Pain Quotidien too, but that will have to be in a separate posting. I did get some nice photos of that too.

    But back to the Whaler Bar. My friends and I knew we were in the right place when we saw this posted in the hotel lobby - and we were in luck - it was Jolly Hour!

    I don't know if the Whaler Bar ever looked the way Alain portrayed it on a postcard - he made it look like an actual ship with portholes. Here is the postcard:

    It certainly doesn't look that way now. Of course when we arrived, in spite of it being Jolly Hour the only other customers were a family of German tourists with zwei kinder banging unmercifully on the piano in the corner of the room. As you can see in this photo below. Tourist on the left, children barely visible behind the piano on the right.

    I strongly suspect that the only continuity with the original New York Whaler Bar is the mural, seen in the photo below (with German tourist and children coats in the lower right.)

    But you can't appreciate the mural from that distance. You have to get right up to it. I posted close-ups, below.

    The mural seems to be of a whale hunt that happens right in the town's harbor, with every 19th-century water craft joining in on the hunt.

    On the left hand side are two whales, a light house, two small whaling vessels and a big multi-mast ship, and a two-sail sailboat way in the back.

    click to view a larger version of this image

    Moving rightward on the mural is the third whale, who is so certain that no whales are in danger that he's laughing in the whale hunters' faces - these guys are straight out of the Willie the Whaler school.

    click to view a larger version of this image

    Here is a close-up of the laughing whale.

    This center section of the mural shows some landlubbers in the background, watching the proceedings.

    click to view a larger version of this image

    The next section has the most going on. A whole bunch of landlubbers - and I love the men's Victorian-era outfits; a horse-cart; dolphins and a steam boat.

    click to view a larger version of this image

    One of the landlubbers is up on the widow's walk with a telescope.

    The right-most section of the mural shows the most damage, especially right below and above the ship. There are dock-workers on the far right and the artist's signature at the bottom. Bruce something - I couldn't read the last name up close in person either.

    click to view a larger version of this image

    In spite of the damage, this mural is in decent shape for being probably 70 years old - since it's not in a museum I expect there's only been minimal maintenance. But it's really neat in person - go and see it yourself, it's free. It's in the Madison Towers hotel at 38th and Madison, just down the street from Grand Central Station.

    And to make the day complete, Anonymous posted two seadog lingo factoids in the comments:

    In Irish sailor's music, "Fiddler's Green" is the name of what is essentially an alternative afterlife, meant specifically for sailors, which contains, instead of the contemplative ecstasies of Heaven, the more prurient pleasures of sea-faring folk.

    Ah hah! Just as I suspected. Surely Fiddler's Green is a house of ill-repute, seeing as it's named after an afterlife of ill-repute.


    The base term, "grog" refers to rum which has been weakened by cutting with water, after the edict of one Admiral Grogram which insisted upon it. His less-than-affectionate nickname was "Old Grog".

    Thanks so much, Anonymous!