Monday, October 31, 2011

down with Oxfordian swil- OMG who is that?

The movie "Anonymous" is just so much Oxfordian swill but dear baby Jesus they found the most beautiful man in the world to play young Edward de Vere - I may have to go and see this movie just for him. His name is Jamie Campbell Bower and I will certainly be following his career. If he ever ends up in a role where he wears Regency period clothing I may well faint dead away from joy. Although he's certainly no slouch in Elizabethan garb.

For actual information about William Shakespeare, try the The Shakespeare Authorship web site - they even have a bit on their front page about the movie.

Excellent: Ten Things I Hate about Anonymous. My favorite:
8. The snobbery. The movie reflects the Oxfordians’ intellectual pathology: They are victims of the syndrome Freud called “the family romance.”

The “anti-Stratfordian” case—the idea that William Shakespeare of Stratford didn’t write Shakespeare—is based largely on what you might call “negative evidence”: The lack of any surviving letters written by Shakespeare or reference to his books in his will. There are gaps in Hitler’s biography as well, important ones, but as I suggested in Explaining Hitler, these gaps don’t constitute positive evidence in favor of urban legends such as the one that claims Hitler was descended from a Rothschild. I called such stories “the family romance of the Hitler explainers,” after Freud’s characterization of the fantasy that one is secretly related to royalty or aristocracy, and pointed out that a “gap” is not necessarily evidence of absence, but absence of evidence, which, in Shakespeare’s case, the passage of more than four centuries makes even more likely.

Freud used the term "family romance" to describe the wish of the neurotic patient to believe that his apparently humble origins conceal a conspiracy to hide from him or her the fact of an exotic, usually royal or noble parentage and the way his or her true legacy was stolen. It’s so obvious the Oxfordians suffer from this pathological snobbery when you read the disdain they have for the “glover’s boy of Stratford,” Shakespeare. The Oxfordians are projecting their own self-inflating neurotic “family romance” onto Shakespeare. Their belief somehow endows them with a feeling of superiority over the vast majority of “mere” common readers of Shakespeare. It’s a sign of their nobility that they recognize the noble who secretly authored Shakespeare. But Oxford is as likely a progenitor of “Shakespeare” as a Rothschild was of Hitler.

You tell 'em!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumnal lunch break

I decided to get out and enjoy nature the other day for my lunch break, you know, before all the snow set it. And nothing says Autumn like red trees.

Here are some random daisies.

And a random seagull

I had lunch outside of the Starbucks on the water, as you can see...

But wow, the sparrows outside the Starbucks were cocky! Look at this guy - that's a tall cappuccino there, which as we all know is the shortest size that Starbucks serves*. This guy came well within arms length although if I tried to stretch my arm to touch him he would have been gone too fast. Not that I really want to touch semi-wild sparrows.

There were cranberries in my sandwich so I shared some with the birds and wow - you would have thought I was the second coming of Big Bird when I started handing out cranberries. I totally made their day. The woman sitting at the table nearby was throwing pieces of bread at them - which of course they ate. But most birds love fruit more than anything - with their high metabolisms they prefer high-energy foods.

*Technically not true - they do have a "short" even though they don't post that size on their menu board - but if you ask for it they will give it to you. Try it and see.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Could a Commoner Write Such Great Plays?

The perfect scathing review of "Anonymous" in the NYTimes begins this way:
“Anonymous,” a costume spectacle directed by Roland Emmerich, from a script by John Orloff, is a vulgar prank on the English literary tradition, a travesty of British history and a brutal insult to the human imagination. Apart from that, it’s not bad.
But the ratings advisory at the end might be the best:

“Anonymous” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Swordplay, bodice ripping, bawdy speech and the cold-blooded murder of the truth.

Friday, October 28, 2011

hot guys help you check your breasts


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Halloween from Paul Krugman and The Onion!

Greetings…it's your favorite dead-itorial writer, Paul "Bearer" Krugman, here to talk to you again about some rather, shall we say, chilling developments in the national economy. Ah, yes, it is a very dark and stormy night indeed for our financial system, dear readers, the kind of night that sends shivers up one's spine and sends the national unemployment rate soaring to nearly 10 percent. So curl up under your covers, and keep the candlelight close, because I will now tell a tale of economic woe so terrifying it may just make your hair stand on end.

more at The Onion

I got a heads-up on that from Krugman himself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYCPlaywrights moving on up

NYCPlaywrights broke a record October 24 according to Google Analytics - 307 unique visitors in one day. And coincidentally - or not? - AKA New York offers us a discount code and free tix to the Alicia Keyes produced STICKFLY in exchange for posting their info online (which I will do as soon as they send it.)

I like them free tix.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are John Lennon and Yoko Ono racists?

NOTE: if you are here via a link from extremist, lying, Google-bombing freaks Rebecca Scott, aka "The Mad Gastronomer" or  Mikki Kendall, aka "Karnythia" you can read my most recent response here.

Also, here are some various anti-racist things I've said over the years on this blog...

Thursday, December 30, 2010
A walk in the park

Thursday, December 23, 2010
don't ask don't tell" can now go to hell - plus ignorant Confederacy-loving freaks

Friday, July 23, 2010
David Mamet is a teabagger

Tuesday, December 1, 2008
Obama vs Bell Curve

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Steven Pinker at Gene Expression

Monday, October 24, 2011

The theatre around the corner

Exactly one block away from my apartment is the Astoria Performing Arts Center - how cool is that to have a theatre one block away? It's in a church, but that's OK - theatre is a religion.

Even better, they are doing a play, A HARD WALL AT HIGH SPEED and the lead is Tom O'Keefe who I asked, months ago, to participate in the next reading, and hopefully final pre-production reading - of JULIA & BUDDY. It was just a weird coincidence that he's rehearsing/performing so close by.

I think Tom might have the perfect combination of qualities and acting chops to play Buddy. With any luck he can come along for the world premiere.

Watch part of his reel:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Martin Denton fesses up

I see that Martin Denton's most recent blog post on his Indie Theater blog admits to the small percentage of female playwrights in his Indie Theatre Now play collection. He writes:
Now, part of me really bristles at the idea of segregating work by one group or another: shouldn’t the sex of the author not really matter when choosing a play to read or produce? Unfortunately, it kind of does, though. Our friends at 50/50 in 2020 are working hard to bring about parity for women playwrights in American theatres, something that simply doesn’t exist right now. (Just look at the relatively small number of plays by women in Indie Theater Now versus plays by men for confirmation: the fact is that many more plays by men get produced each year, even in indie venues, than plays by women.) By calling attention to the fine work created by women, the hope is that this inequity might start to erode, bit by bit. I certainly hope so.

Definitely a step in the right direction.

Friday, October 21, 2011


NOTE: This blog post contains spoilers about both VENUS IN FUR and THE MOUNTAINTOP - the former is about to open on Broadway after a well-received Off-Broadway run last year, the latter is currently running on Broadway after winning the Olivier award in Britain last year.

I got a copy of David Ives' play VENUS IN FUR yesterday from the Dramatists Book Store - it's autographed - ooh.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I had Ives sit in on a meeting of NYCPlaywrights in 2007. I gave him a ride home from Midtown to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and as I was dropping him off we had an exchange that went something like this:

I have a whole bunch of prop bullwhips in the back of my Prius - I ordered too many for a production of my play HUCK FINN - d'ya want one?


I already have one!

(David Ives exits.)


(to the bunch of actors who came along for the ride so they could say they rode with David Ives)

Hah hah - oh that David Ives, he's so droll!

And then I heard about VENUS IN FUR and thought, maybe he wasn't entirely joking.

Well now that I've read VENUS IN FUR I think it's more than maybe - it's probable. Maybe he doesn't literally own a whip but I wouldn't be surprised if his fantasy is to be the M in an S and M relationship. Because VENUS IN FUR is a 90-minute sexual fantasy.

According to Did He Like It the play got all positive reviews when it had an off-Broadway run, although I think the thumbs-up symbol they gave the Variety review is completely mischaracterized - it sure reads like a pan to me:

Unfortunately, the magic of the moment is lost once Thomas picks up the part of the young man destined to become her sex slave. Tentative as Thomas, Bentley ("American Beauty") is downright wooden as his 19th century counterpart. And in this two-character play, he gets the lion's share of the intellectually weighted lines.

Hanging in there, Arianda doesn't let this get her down and delivers a wonderfully quicksilver perf, sliding in and out of her several personae as fluidly as Vanda slips in and out of her provocative costumes. (Fantasy S&M boots, bustiers, and dog collars courtesy of Anita Yavich, who must have had a ball shopping this show.)

What does it all mean, one might ask? Ives advances glib theories about kinky sexual practices as the enlightened route to male-female sexual liberation. But the academic tone makes it agony to sit through Thomas's lugubrious lectures.

I don't know if Ives made changes to the script since the off-Broadway production, but I didn't notice any lugubrious lectures, although that might be as much because I was reading the play rather than watching it.

What I did notice was how incredibly one-note the play is. A guy getting off on being dominated by a woman. And there's no doubt that this is a male hetero-centric work - Vanda wears a variety of traditionally sexy outfits but what Thomas is wearing doesn't matter, because for all Ives' attempts at making some kind of feminist point - and "glib theories" as Variety's critic called it is an accurate assessment - Thomas is the subject and Vanda is the object. Vanda is there to fulfill Thomas's sexual fantasies and she does. That's pretty much the play.

I'm not sure what Ives is trying to say with the ending, which goes like this:

(She takes a real fur stole from her big bag and puts it on)


Who are you?


You know who I am so say it. Say it.


Hail, Aphrodite...


Louder please.


Hail! Aphrodite!

(Lighting and thunder, louder. She takes a triumphant stance, facing him down the room with her feet planted, legs spread, hands on her hips.)


"And the Lord has smitten him and delivered him into a woman's hands."





(Lighting and a deafening crack of thunder. Blackout.)
Is she really Aphrodite? That's not as ridiculous as it might sound because in addition to the thunder and lightening that is heard off and on throughout the entire 90 minute play, she displays unlikely knowledge of Thomas's script - she's already off-book - and of Thomas's personal life.

So maybe suddenly the play becomes supernatural. It doesn't make any difference really - the only power we see this Greek goddess display is the power to turn this guy on - big whoop - any dominant woman in a black-leather bustier and thigh-high boots would have the same exact power. We don't get to see her do any impressive, actual, magic.

The same day I read VENUS I had read some reviews of THE MOUNTAINTOP and was struck by the similar use of the supernatural - in THE MOUNTAINTOP the maid who is visiting Martin Luther King, Jr. in his hotel room, after some slap-and-tickle, tells him she's there to take him to heaven. What is the point of inserting the supernatural? And at least in VENUS IN FUR, Thomas is just some guy with a fetish, so ending the story with the apotheosis of his object of desire doesn't make much difference to the story, such as it is.

The reason MLK is interesting is because of what he did, what he achieved. Having an avatar of a god come by could happen to any character.

Using MLK is just a cheap publicity trick, in my opinion, very much like using Madalyn Murray O'Hair's notoriety to come up with a fantasy riff on O'Hair that is far less interesting than her own life and achievements and must less sensational than her actual death. (I wrote an essay about that Screw Ethics, This is the Theatre.)

I was a little discomfited by the part in VENUS IN FUR where Vanda is transformed in Thomas's eyes from a schlub to an object of desire through the power of her acting. That happens in JULIA & BUDDY - though of course since it's my play it's the man who is the object of desire and the woman who is doing the desiring.

You can't expect to write a play that has nothing in common with another play - and I just identified the supernatural commonality in VENUS and MOUNTAINTOP - but still, I don't want anybody to think I was imitating Ives - I wrote that section of JULIA & BUDDY in 2009, before I knew anything about VENUS IN FUR.

And I must confess, I like my two-person play much better than Ives's play. I think my play has much more variety and the philosophical issues are much more interesting and important. Also, I believe that although it's clear that Buddy is the object of desire, there's more to him than just that. I think there's more balance between the characters. And with any luck, the audience will actually care when Julia & Buddy reunite at the end of the play. I hope to give the audience an emotional orgasm.

VENUS IN FUR gave me no emotional orgasm and I suspect the only people who do get one are those who share Thomas's kink.

And I suspect that Thomas is Ives's Mary Sue (as they call it in the world of fan fiction) because Thomas is completely passive - he wants to be dominated by a woman, but he makes no serious effort to achieve that end. She basically comes in and they play a few head games and then she dominates him. Autobiographical characters are almost always passive - things are done to them, rather than them being the agent of forward-action in the plot.

And in addition to being passive Thomas is also whiny, poncy, critical and self-absorbed. He's some creep with a fiancee who does a little sexual adventuring on the side. Why do I care about him fulfilling his kink? Especially when he could do that any time, day or night, at any of the several dominatrix establishments in New York.

I can't deny I did write a play like that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

interesting coincidence

I saw a NYTimes article on free will and experiments today. The experiments seem to indicate the absence of free will, in fact. I was especially interested because my play JULIA & BUDDY discusses this exact thing - experiments that seem to demonstrate what Arthur Schopenhauer was going on about - that the Will is what drives our behavior, not our conscious minds - i.e. "free will."

Our conscious minds only tell themselves they are in control.

I also blogged about it back in July.

But here's the coincidence part - right in the middle of the article there's this:
If I choose to remain indoors because I’m in the grip of a panic attack at the thought of going outside, then my choice isn’t free. Here we might say that I’m not just caused to choose as I do, I’m compelled.
JULIA & BUDDY is also about panic attacks - the philsophy professor Julia is having one when the play opens and this issue is dealt with off and on throughout the play. And in the first half of the play she can't go outside due to panic-attack induced agoraphobia. How strange.

Or maybe not so much - perhaps this example came to mind because the author, Gary Gutting, himself suffers from panic attacks. Certainly that's my motivation for mentioning panic attacks in my play. Although I've never gotten so bad that I couldn't go out of my apartment.

Perhaps philosophy-minded people are more inclined to panic attacks than other people? That's basically what I have Arthur Schopenhauer propose, in my play:

Have you ever experienced a panic attack, Herr Schopenhauer?


No. What is it?


It starts with an awareness of binocular vision. And your life force begins to seep away. And you feel as though you are going to black out.


You are suffering from existential displacement.


Are you sure?


Jah. It happens when you become aware of the two states of existence. The ordinary mass of humanity is only aware of one state of existence, the everyday world. But philosophers see another world - the world that is composed of endless fleeting phenomena in the ever-rushing stream of time. And sometimes the philosopher will see both states of existence at once, and this overwhelms the mind, which may result in disorientation and nausea and fear.


Yes! Sometimes I get this sense of - I feel - eternity rushing through me!


Existential displacement is the price of being a philosopher...

Maybe I was closer to the root cause of panic attacks than I realized... although I always assumed panic attacks were a fight-or-flight adrenaline over-reaction to stress. Hmmm....

I should say that Julia's description of a panic attack is not entirely typical. The "awareness of binocular vision" is my own personal innovation, so to speak, in panic attack symptoms. The first time I noticed binocular vision wasn't during a full-blown panic attack but during a job interview - and I got the job.

So I don't often get that symptom, but I thought it was a good metaphor so I used it. I'm more often afraid I'll black out. That's pretty standard panic attack symptomology. sigh

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

two sides of the same Coyne

I've been a fan of evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne ever since his superb take-down of the Thornhill-Palmer exercise in standard evolutionary psychology just-so-ology "A Natural History of Rape."

Coyne's article Of Vice and Men (the link opens up a PDF document) was an impressive piece and you know it's objectively good because it really pissed off the ev-psychs at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Mecca of evolutionary psychology. (The EP Vatican is the London School of Economics.)

But I'm ambivalent about his blog Why Evolution is True because he so often refers admiringly to the Five Horses Asses of Atheism, Pinker, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett.

I've blogged about what jerkwads they are before. I personally find them, one and all, an embarrassment to atheism.

Coyne claims that these "Horsemen" have eloquence in common. Perhaps, but each one is an asshole in his own special way.

Richard Dawkins is an anti-Muslim bigot, proven sexist, prominent booster of evolutionary psychology, and all-around nasty little man.

Christopher Hitchens supported the Iraq War and is a proven misogynist.

Sam Harris is also an anti-Muslim bigot and is perhaps best known for his defense of torture.

Daniel Dennett is also a booster of evolutionary psychology and a promoter of strict adaptationism, called a Darwinian Fundamentalist by Stephen Jay Gould. I know the least about Dennett, personality and politics-wise.

Stephen Pinker huge promoter of evolutionary psychology to the point of shading into the racist tendencies of sociobiology. And also a huge sexist. His idea of a "feminist" is Camille "women can't be geniuses" Paglia. Also a pal of gigantic douchebag and Wall Street booster Lawrence Summers.

Coyne himself, while showing evidence of anti-Muslim bigotry, is, as established by his Vice and Men paper, quite skeptical of the most outrageous claims of the evolutionary psychologists - and doesn't appear to be a sexist, although he's pretty traditionalist in his attitudes at times. But from everything I know about these six men, Coyne is far superior to the others. Why he insists on being a consistent booster for those assholes is beyond me.

And speaking of Pinker, The New Yorker did to his The Blank Slate, what Coyne did to the Thornhill-Palmer work - completely eviscerated it. It's such a joy to read - if you haven't go read it now: Doing What Comes Naturally.

Pinker is constantly inventing straw-man liberals and academics he can accuse of all kinds of awfulness, so it's always satisfying when the actual liberals at The New Yorker get a hold of his books and tell you how poorly-reasoned and all-around weaselly they are.

So I loved the New Yorker review of Pinker's latest book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined". Unfortunately unlike the Blank Slate review this one is not available to read for free online. You'll either have to track down a copy of the New Yorker from a couple of weeks ago or subscribe and get access to the archives - I recommend the latter.

Anyway, here are some highlights from the review:
The homicide rate in New Orleans last year was forty-nine per hundred thousand, roughly what Amsterdam's was six hundred years ago. St. Louis's and Detroit's murder rates in 2010 were about forty per hundred thousand, around the rate of London in the fourteenth century... Do these cities lag behind in "the civilizing process" because they're poor or educationally disadvantaged? No, Pinker argues; the key factor is that they have large African-American populations. Low-income blacks in the U.S. are "effectively stateless," living in a sort of Hobbesian dystopia beyond the reach of law enforcement..."

...As Pinker's views on African-Americans and Southerners probably indicate, there is much in "The Better Angels of Our Nature" that is confounding. Those developments which might seem to fit into his schema - a steady rise in the percentage of Britons who identify themselves as vegetarians, for instance - are treated in detail. Yet other episodes that one would think are more relevant to a history of violence are simply glossed over. Pinker is virtually silent about Europe's bloody colonial adventures. (There's not even an entry for "colonialism" in the book's enormous index.) This is a pretty serious omission, both because of the scale of the slaughter and because of the way it troubles the distinction between savage and civilized. What does it reveal about the impulse control of the Spanish that, even as they were learning how to dispose of their body fluids more discreetly, they were systematically butchering the natives on two continents? Or about the humanitarianism of the British that, as they were turning away from such practices as drawing and quartering, they were shipping slaves across the Atlantic?...

Leaving out European colonialism is a typical Pinker trick - ignore any evidence that disputes your main point. And this section demonstrates Pinker's fishy math:
According to his own calculations, the Second World War was, proportionally speaking, the ninth-deadliest conflict of all time - in absolute terms, it was far and away the deadliest - yet the war lasted just six years. The Arab slave trade, which ranks as No. 3 on Pinker's hit list, was an atrocity that took more than a millenium to unfold. The Mongol conquests, coming in at No. 2, spanned nearly a century.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we accept that the Second World War was only the ninth-bloodiest conflict in the history of our species, and the First World War the sixteenth. Isn't this still a problem? The heart of Pinker's argument is that trends and historical forces associated with modernity have steadily diminished violence. Though he hesitates to label the Second World War an out-and-out fluke, he is reduced to claiming that, as far as his thesis is concerned, it doesn't really count. Accidents happen, and the Nazi's rise to power was one of them. A series of unfortunate events ensued, but it's important not to rush to judgement...
But that's all standard Pinker. Why anybody is impressed by the work of Steven Pinker is another vast mystery.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Don't Let Me Down

Well now I'm on a Beatles kick. Here's a very nice clear video of the Apple rooftop performance of Don't Let Me Down from Let It Be.

The Jann Wenner interview with Lennon for Rolling Stone in 1971 is pretty infamous. Lennon is very blunt and harshly critical of Paul, especially. The other day I mentioned that the Harrison documentary has Ringo giving Paul credit for making the Beatles get into the studio - this RS interview makes it clear that Lennon resented it quite alot.

This page has not only the interview but some audio clips from the interview.

The infamous Two Virgins album cover.

Another picture from that same photo shoot, a bit more explicit. I'd never seen this one until tonight.

McCartney appeared naked in print before Lennon (albeit only by a week*) - they were always so competitive - there's a shot of him in the White Album photo montage poster insert, which was later censored.

* The Beatles (aka The White Album) was released November 22, 1968, Two Virgins was released November 29, 1968.

JET! - very nice clip from 1976's Wings tour - McCartney is still young and hot, almost as hot as his Beatles days - except he is rocking a serious mullet.

And wow, check this out - McCartney doing I've Just Seen a Face live in 1975. This has always been one of my favorite McCartney tunes.

According to Wiki the original recording of I've Just Seen a Face has only acoustic guitar and percussion which is quite remarkable, and I guess the credit goes to George who is playing lead acoustic. It's a good song, but that falling bass line is what makes it. It opens the song and is repeated, but best of all it doubles with the end of each phrase in the lyric line, like this:

I've just seen a face I can't forget the time(dah) or place (duh) where we (dum) just met

She's just the girl for me and I want all the world (dah) to see (duh) we've met (dum)

Hm mm mm m m mmm.
The middle-section solo is also superb. It's a 2-minute masterpiece.

Adorable Lennon sequence in this short clip. That man was a natural comedian.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's All Too Much

The George Harrison documentary focuses on all those big Harrison hits like "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps" and "Here Comes the Sun" but I think his best song is "It's All Too Much." I love the combination of the psychedelic intricacy of the instruments, the pretty melody and one of my favorite Beatles song lines of all time:
Sail me on a silver sun, for I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea

Interesting stuff about the song:

From the Beatles Bible

Notes by Alan W. Pollack


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Living in the Material World

Some naughty person has posted the George Harrison documentary to Youtube. Watch it before they take it down.

The section with Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voorman which starts around minute 15 is especially enlightening.

There's a great quote from Ringo, although he isn't the first person to acknowledge Paul's leadership role in the post-touring Beatles saga (around 1:04:00):

We have to thank Paul that we made as many records as we did because John and I because we lived in the same area be hanging out you know, sort of it's like, beautiful day in the garden in England and the phone would ring and we always knew it was him - "he wants us to work!"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mr. Fuzz and his mousie problem

Mr. Fuzz has a mousie problem, which means I have a mousie problem too. Our problem is that all the pet supply stores are starting to substitute fake fur mousies for real fur mousies.

Do they take Mr. Fuzz for a fool!?!

He can certainly tell the difference between acrylic-fur and actual fur and by god he demands actual fur. He won't play with a mousie made of fake fur.

And when I say "play" that's only part of it. He also has a ritual every time he eats from his food bowl, which is twice a day - first I have to throw the mousie a few times so he can chase it. At some point, sooner if he's hungry, he decides that's enough chasing and he takes his toy to his bowl. He then rolls the mousie around in his bowl of (soft) cat food. Then he chews the mousie, eats some food, chews the mousie some more. The he eats some of the fur. Often he'll throw that up. Then he leaves the skinned, chewed-up black plastic mousie chassis somewhere in the apartment.

He can eat his food without a real-fur mousie, but it is not the same. Sometimes when we are out of mousies, he and I scour the apartment for any possible hidden mousies. Which is especially annoying in the morning when I need time to get ready for work. But we make a good team - for example, I'll pull the sofa out from the wall and he goes around behind and looks under the sofa. We have about a 40% success rate with this technique. And I have to at least try - he's so disappointed when he doesn't have any mousies for his meal-time ritual I feel bad and want to help him out. Sometimes he subsitutes Q-tips for a mousie, but obviously that's hardly the same thing.

And if we lose all sources of real-fur mousies - THEN WHAT?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Underground art exhibit

Almost ten years after the World Trade Center attacks they finally opened the south-bound Cortland Street Station. This makes my commute a little bit quicker though not exactly easier. There is no access to the street from that side of the tracks so you have to go under the tracks in a tunnel that must go pretty far underground judging by all the stairs you have to climb back up to get to the street. That will certainly get your blood circulating first thing in the morning!

But luckily there's a permanent art exhibit under there, which helps. There is a series of ceramics-based murals in the passageway called Trade, Treasure and Travel, 1997/2011 by Margie Hughto - follow this link to see more info.

I took this picture with my iPhone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

yacht variations

I've been sending JULIA & BUDDY out to various theatre groups in the hopes that they decide to produce it, but I suspect that it won't get picked up. Theatre groups don't want romantic comedies, they want raw, edgy brutality and characters who wallow in squalor and despair. And lots of manly-men behaving badly. JULIA & BUDDY is not cool like that.

So I suspect that I will end up producing it myself via Mergatroyd Productions. I think this might be the first production where I actually break even, since I always pay my actors (and you might be surprised at how often actors are not paid for off-off Broadway productions) but this play has only two characters and minimal set requirements. It's true the second half of the play takes place on the deck of a yacht, but as I say in the production notes:
There are two main categories of yachts - engine-powered and sailing. But yachts come in many sizes and styles in both categories so the production designer has quite a bit of leeway in how to represent the yacht for scenes 5 and 7. The author’s own preference is simplicity - a railing to represent the edge of the yacht deck can stand in for the entire boat.
Really an engine-powered yacht would work best - they tend to have much more spacious decks as I discovered first-hand when I visited a marina near work the other day during my lunch hour.

There are lots of deck options available, although most of the yachts I saw had sofa-bench type furniture, built into the front deck of the yacht. Here are two examples - this one seems to have a sort of red sofa-bed:

And here is a sort of blue padded bench:

Notice the "grab-bar" style railings. Most of the yachts were these slick white stream-lined models but I especially liked this unique boat, named "Justice." It is obviously built for comfort, not for style or speed. The front deck has both a built-in sunken sofa in the tip, and after that a deck with lounge chairs.

In this photo you can see the pilot's booth just behind what looks like four yellow futons on the roof of a curtained room.

It also had what looked like a sun-deck and a porch. It's an adorable boat. But it's a little atypical for the purposes of the set of JULIA & BUDDY.

I think my set model will be the upper deck of this boat, the "Gloria" - simple, squared off, and can be easily suggested just by the railing and deck chairs. I estimate it will cost me no more than $200 to create a decent set for this section of the play.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bringing the hammer down - the appropriate uses of Godwin's law

Godwin's law states:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
I invoked Godwin's law yesterday during a Facebook comment-thread debate with a cousin of mine, a hard-core conservative who became offended when he saw my support for Occupy Wall Street. His response was to start posting all-caps comments on my Wall and on my comment threads, the basic message of which was "I DON'T WANT TO LIVE UNDER COMMUNISM."

This is the nuanced response of a typical conservative - if you criticize Wall Street it means you want communism.

I suggested to him that he might want to turn off caps-lock because it looked like he was screaming. He responded "I AM SCREAMING!"

Before Facebook I might have exchanged a total of 20 words with this cousin, who is a few years my senior, during my entire life, and I don't think I've actually seen him, in-person, since his wedding to his first wife, some time in the early 1980s. So I had no idea he had turned into such a right-wing extremist when I accepted his Friendship, as I routinely do with all relatives, on Facebook.

His view is basically that not only Occupy Wall Street, but the United States government, itself, is evil. I pointed out to him that the government wasn't too evil for his mother to take Social Security survivor's benefits when his father died, leaving seven children and a stay-at-home mom. Not to mention welfare and food stamp benefits for a time. I suggested to him that he put his money where his mouth was and pay back the US government since if he thinks the government is evil he should pay back the money the government shelled out. And if he didn't do so, I suggested that he STFU.

His response:
What makes you think that the fact my Mom got government assistance when I was a kid erases my right to my own opinion as an adult! Millions of Germans had parents who benifited from the Nazis. Are they, therefore Nazis or Nazi simpasizers?

Clearly my point was his shameless hypocrisy, not that he wasn't entitled to his own opinon, and I considered for a moment actually wasting my time explaining this to him, but instead I brought down the hammer. I cited Godwin's law and ended the thread.

To a certain extent I understand why comparisons to Hitler and Nazis are so popular. Everybody knows who they are and everybody (except of course modern neo-Nazis) agrees they were very bad. Or as TV Tropes points out:
...Hitler has pretty much displaced the Devil as a personification of ultimate evil...
If you compare something to the Khmer Rouge you're going to lose 95% of everybody, especially Americans with our traditionally awful grasp of history.

But Godwin's purposes are worthwhile: "Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics, (the purpose of Godwin's law) has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where do I enlist?

Although Krugman has some quibbles with the chart depicted.

Krugman's on a roll, each column is more smokin' than the last.

Panic of the Plutocrats
It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.

Monday, October 10, 2011

RIP Ginger Snaps

I only knew Ginger Snaps - real name Melissa Hayes - through Facebook. But it still counts as a friendship. I just found out that she died October 5 in a car accident.

Ginger and I had our share of comment-thread debates. Most especially about the issue of Muslim bigotry. Like many hard-core atheists, most notably the big-name atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, Ginger Snaps used atheism as an excuse to indulge in anti-Muslim bigotry, under the guise of defending free-thought from religion. We clashed on that several times.

But we agreed on the issue of atheism. She was a dedicated, unflinching atheist but in spite of that had religionists as Facebook friends - she was interested in a variety of points of view in spite of her own firmly held views. I admired that about her.

Anyway, she was a Facebook friend and she was sharp and cool and young and pretty and only 34 and now she's gone - more gone than defriending, more gone than blocking, she's just plain gone. Another friend of hers posted this tribute to her.

Several people posted messages on her Wall about her being with God and all that, which I think is disrespectful, knowing as they must that she was an atheist. Especially now that she's not here to talk back. Somebody said she now "sleeps with the angels." I replied "fuck angels" because that's what Ginger would want.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Lark Rise to Candleford

I found a fascinating, recently cancelled 4-season British TV series via iTunes Lark Rise to Candleford and after I spent a bunch downloading from iTunes discovered the entire series is available for free on Youtube.

It's quite well-done and quite addicting. The characters are very well-drawn and multi-faceted.

Here's Season 1, Episode 1, Part 1, including even the BBC announcement for the new series.

Typical of BBC series, there are some great British actors involved.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Friday, October 07, 2011

This might be Krugman's best editorial ever!

Confronting the Malefactors
A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Grubhub amusements

I see I'm not the only one who is greatly amused by Grubhub's ads, which are all over the NYC subway system. The artwork is definitely South Park-esque, and the design and copy is clever and/or wacky.

I wouldn't go quite as far as this blogger though, who has a post called The Semiotics of Grubhub.

But I did LOL when I saw this GH ad:

These office workers seem to be having a party in celebration of the fact that they can order burritos online, in all the classic office-worker ways - a tie headband, goofy dances and the ever-popular photocopy-your-butt, which the woman in the center is doing. It's just so dumb I had to laugh.

The sushi/s#!t ad is also a classic.

Well played, Grubhub. Although I still use, mostly out of inertia.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

this is what I want for Christmas...

It's the Men of the Stacks calendar featuring guy librarians. Whoohoo! They're all cute but Mr. January, above, is my favorite.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Zap & Faun

Between reliving the days of No Nukes protests in New York and working on my play PALMYRA NJ, I've been thinking of a couple of strange characters from back in those days - Zap and Faun. They actually never met each other, but I made them boyfriend and girlfriend in my play.

Faun was a hippie chick who liked to carry a large staff - ala Gandalf - around - I believe it was allegedly magic. I remember one time I was accompanying her to see her chiropractor in Philadelphia and construction workers bleated at her like sheep - I assume because of her staff. I don't know if Faun was her real name. I have a couple of sketches of her around somewhere, I'll have to dig them up.

I know that Zap was not his real name. I don't know if he used the name because he looked a bit like Frank Zappa or what. He was a straight-up junkie and used to rip off our spare change jar and puke all over the upstairs loft. My ex-husband was a freak magnet. Basically, if you liked to get high, you and he were gonna be best friends. Oy.

I wonder where old Zap and Faun are now? Zap is probably dead, but I have no way of looking up either of them since none of us ever knew their real names by the time they drifted out of our lives so many years ago. Well, wherever they are, they're gonna show up again in my play.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


As I mentioned last week, we selected Adrienne Dawes TOWER TATTS for the September 9-11 Play of the Month. It's certainly original, and extremely raunchy.

The actors and I who participated in the readings of the semi-finalist submissions were really taken by surprise by the unusual, very atypically non-reverential approach to the subject. And by the time we got to the part where Weasel (Bruce Barton) suggests that Natty (Mike Durell) create a tattoo for him featuring Jesus "cradling an airplane against his lactating breasts" our minds were all well and truly blown.

We've done four of these Play of the Month selections now, and so far three of the winning entries have come from people with impressive resumes. Adrienne Dawes is one of the ones with an impressive resume.

The script actually calls for the characters to be in their 20s-30s but Bruce and Mike brought such enthusiasm and brio to the roles during the reading of the semi-finalists that I had to keep them. Bruce was channeling Tom Waits.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

In search of Mozart and Beethoven

I saw a pair of entertaining documentaries recently, In Search of Mozart and In Search of Beethoven both by Phil Grabsky who did all the writing and directing. They appear to have nothing to do with the British historian Michael Wood's In Search of Shakespeare in spite of the similar titles. In Search of Shakespeare appears to be available, in its entirety, online.

Both films combine biographical information with clips of musical performances and interviews with historians and musicians. The Beethoven film was perhaps a bit more interesting than the Mozart, I think in part because the impact of the film Amadeus makes the life of Mozart a bit better known than the life of Beethoven. Although I had seen the film Immortal Beloved which covers the basic facts of Beethoven's life. But "In Search of Beethoven" suggests the identity of the Immortal Beloved is Antonie Brentano, rather than Beethoven's sister-in-law.

The Beethoven film doesn't mention the movie "Immortal Beloved" but the Mozart film does make a reference to Amadeus (as "the Foreman film") when somebody complains about its inaccuracies. I think they'd have to mention it, since so many people get their concept of Mozart's life and character from that movie.

One thing the movie got right was Mozart's love of scatology. This facet of Mozart's character was little-known right up until, probably, Peter Schaffer's play AMADEUS, which was the basis for the movie. If anything though, the movie under-plays how dirty Mozart could talk. There is an entire Wikipedia entry devoted to Mozart and scatology. Not only did he write dirty things to his family and friends, he wrote scatological music. And Mozart's family liked to talk scat too - the movie "In Search of Mozart" quotes Mozart's mother, in a letter to Leopold Mozart, concluding with the phrase: "shit into your bed and make it burst," a phrase that Mozart uses in his letters as well.

The take on the scatology from "In Search of Mozart" is that people just spoke like that in those days, and I think this may well be, especially since in that time they did not have the luxury of flush toilets or toilet paper and had to cart their excrement off-premises themselves, and so something they had to think about more than we do today. Interesting essay on the history of toiletry here.

The Wiki article has another suggestion - that this is just the way Germans talk - right up to this day.

The same article has a funny footnote about some people's inability to accept this aspect of Mozart's character:
Margaret Thatcher, who as Prime Minister of Britain was appraised of Mozart's scatology when she made a rare visit to the theater to see Peter Schaffer's famous play Amadeus. Director Peter Hall relates: "She was not pleased. In her best headmistress style, she gave me a severe wigging for putting on a play that depicted Mozart as a scatological imp with a love of four-letter words. It was inconceivable, she said, that a man who wrote such exquisite and elegant music could be so foul mouthed". I said that Mozart's letters proved he was just that: he had an extraordinarily infantile sense of humour ... "I don’t think you heard what I said," replied the Prime Minister. "He couldn't have been like that." I offered (and sent) a copy of Mozart’s letters to Number Ten the next day; I was even thanked by the appropriate Private Secretary. But it was useless: the Prime Minster said I was wrong, so wrong I was." Source: Hall's preface to Amadeus (Schaffer 1981).

One of the best parts of the Beethoven bio movie is the section on what they call "An Epic Concert" - Beethoven arranged an all-Beethoven concert in 1808, during which he premiered his 5th Symphony. Here is the program:

The Sixth Symphony
Aria: "Ah, perfido", Op. 65
The Gloria movement of the Mass in C major
The Fourth Piano Concerto (played by Beethoven himself)
The Fifth Symphony
The Sanctus and Benedictus movements of the C major Mass
A solo piano improvisation played by Beethoven
The Choral Fantasy

The word is that the audience was too cold and tired to fully appreciate what they were hearing. But clearly it was once of the greatest concerts ever performed.