Thursday, March 31, 2011

Love, Death & Christmas

I've decided to do another evening of short plays, along the lines of STRESS AND THE CITY, this time for Christmas. I was going to do A CHRISTMAS CTHULU but the plot was too involved with theatre, and I've done too many of those plays lately. And actually my policy is to avoid inside-theatre plays as much as possible. Also the whole Lovecraft thing has been done to death lately with no less than three recent productions that I'm aware of.

And I have these short plays which will go pretty well together - some have had readings, some have had productions, some I haven't quite finished yet...

THE VERY DARK ROOM - my suicide play

JASMINE - my violent ho play

NEW RULES - I did this for one of the John Chatterton shows, but it bears repeating

SODOM & GOMORRAH: THE ONE-MAN SHOW - same with this one - and this is about theatre too... oh well, it's only ten minutes or so

GREEN MONKEY SYNDROME - a slice from my play I SEE LONDON which was produced at the Brick Playhouse in Philadelphia twelve years ago. Not quite finished.

MISTRESS ILSA - a reworking of my play MOTHER LODE, and partly inspired by the bar-owner/waitress dynamic in "A Confederacy of Dunces." Not quite finished.

YULE COUNTY - Also a suicide play - I did this as a reading in my 10-min Playfest

CHRISTMAS BLESSINGS - also done for a Chatterton show, but needs to be in a Christmas show. I have big plans for this.

And one of my favorite parts of a new production - I get to design a logo:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nome's Betsy Johnson period

I just discover a stash of old sketches during my spring cleaning. This is a nice one of my daughter when she was 15. She went through a Betsy Johnson period.

This was during my Crayola magic marker period. Those squares above Nome's right knee are devices we used to call "cassette tapes."

Sassy gay friend - just before he sold out

I prefer my sassy gay friend in Shakespeare scenarios, but the MacBeth I found includes an in-your-face product placement for some shit called "Mio" that flavors your spring water. Eesh.

General Electric is completely screwing America

per the NYTimes

Although of course all big corporations are screwing us too. But GE is just a little bit better at it.

While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less.

In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back.

Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.

Yet many companies say the current level is so high it hobbles them in competing with foreign rivals. Even as the government faces a mounting budget deficit, the talk in Washington is about lower rates. President Obama has said he is considering an overhaul of the corporate tax system, with an eye to lowering the top rate, ending some tax subsidies and loopholes and generating the same amount of revenue. He has designated G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, as his liaison to the business community and as the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and it is expected to discuss corporate taxes.

We are well on our way to having a new feudal system.

Jon Stewart:

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beatles for Sale

I bought "Beatles for Sale" from iTunes the other day because it's the only Beatles album I've never owned. It's not one of their best because it has a very high percentage of covers for a Beatles record, and many of the originals are second-string Beatles: Baby's In Black, I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, What You're Doing. Although at this point that's a plus - these are some of the very few Beatles songs that I haven't listened to death to, so they're kinda fresh and fun. And it's the fucking BEATLES, even their second-string is comparable with most composer's first-string stuff.

Also two of the covers are masterpieces:

Mr. Moonlight by R. L. Johnson
Just the way Lennon jumps on the opening line: MIIIISTAAAAAHHHHH Moonliiiiight! makes it all worth it. I like to crank that up. There's also a nifty organ going on.

Words of Love by Buddy Holly
It's hard to beat Buddy Holly, for singing or for instrumentation, never mind composition. The Beatles certainly loved him. But I think this cover is better than the original. This is no easy thing because the original is so great. And the Beatles were sage enough to keep much of what makes the Holly version so good - the chunk-a-lunk rhythm, the blazing guitar melody, the extra percussion touches - sounds like sleigh bells in the Holly version, and the Beatles go with hand-claps.

AND the extra vowel sound, just a tiny bit, on the end of many of the lyrics:

Hold me close and tell me how you feeeeelah.
Tell me love is reeeeeeaaalah.

Let me hear you say the words I want to heeeeaarah
Darling when you're neeeeeaarah.

But what completely enslaves me in the Beatles version is the very end, including the fade-out, which of course you should crank up. And actually Buddy Holly does this a little too, but what allows the Beatles to go for the win is the Beatle harmonies. Holly harmonizes with an overdub of himself on his version. Three Beatles - John, Paul and George - harmonize together and make some really beautiful sounds. And it's on the fade-out that it really makes a difference. In both versions the end of the song is humming basically:

Words of love you whisper soft and true
Darling I love yooouuuah.... mmmmmm-mmm-mmmmmm mmmmmhmm hmmmm hmmmhmmhmm hmmmmummmm...mmmahhhhh

BUT on the Holly version, the fade-out lasts for only 12 seconds and it cuts out almost immediately after Holly opens his mouth to go ahh-AH-ahhhhhhhh.....

The Beatles do something just a wee bit cooler. Almost the same thing BUT

The Beatles make the mmmmhhh sound for 12 seconds, but they're only getting started - and instead of shifting from mmmm to aah to done like Holly does, they overlayer the ahhhs underneath of the mmmhhhsss and from there to an oooohhhh sound.

Words of love you whisper soft and true
Darling I love you mmmmmm-mmm-mmmmmmmm mmmmmhmm hmmmm hmmmhmmhmm hmmmmummmm...mmmahhhhh aaahhhh aaahaaahaaaaaooooohhhhh aaahaaahaaaaaooooohhhhh aaahaaahaaaaaooooohhhhh

What they're doing is giving the song an extra musico-erotica-emotional impact by going from mmmm to aaahhh to ooohh. Altogether the Beatles hum-along fade-out lasts for 23 seconds before it becomes inaudible, which is pretty long considering their version is less than two and a half minutes.

One more tiny difference - Holly says:

Let me hear you say the words I want to hear.

The Beatles say:

Let me hear you say the words I long to hear

"Long" is just a bit more poetic, just a bit more intense, than "want."

These aren't huge differences from the Holly, but as Michaelangelo is alleged to have said, "trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."

Not that I think the Beatles planned to go Holly one better with an extra musico-erotica-emotional oomph, it just happened intuitively.

Buddy Holly's version

Beatles version

tin fish

Here's another WWII-themed Willie the Whaler ad, from March 7, 1942. Situations don't get any more precarious than this - and here I thought the mollymauk incident was the worst ever. But in spite of the deadly danger, Willie still has his priorities - he's concerned that he's missing out on his usual Saturday night bender.

Monday, March 28, 2011

C. T. Great

I am very interested in turning an incident in the life of Catherine the Great into a play. And no, it isn't the incident with the horse - there was no incident with a horse. I still can't believe I heard about the incident with the horse from my tenth grade social studies teacher.

Catherine the Great had lots of lovers, many younger than herself. She behaved very much the way any male absolute monarch behaves, but it's somehow more controversial when a woman does it - and so her enemies came up with the horse story to smear her.

And the notion that women don't crave sexual variety or younger lovers as much as men is still in circulation in the form of the theories of evolutionary psychology, which is the direct descendent of sociobiology. The founder of sociobiology, E. O. Wilsom claimed that polygyny (one man, multiple wives) was genetic. The anthropologist Marvin Harris addresses that idea in his "Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture":
Sexually adventurous women are severely punished in male-dominated cultures. Wherever women have enjoyed independent wealth and power, however, they have sought to fulfill themselves sexually with multiple mates with no less vigor than males in comparable situations. I cannot imagine a weaker instances of genetic programming than the polygyny of Homo sapiens.

Nobody could stop Catherine from having her affairs, but they got revenge by inventing far-fetched stories about her, no doubt for refusing to behave as a "real" woman should.

No, no horse stories for me - the story I have in mind is when one of C.T. Great's ladies-in-waiting, Countess Praskovya Bruce bagged the Empress's current favorite, Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov, which lead to Bruce's dismissal. Wikipedia claims that Rimsky-Korsakov was an ancestor of the composer, but I haven't found any other source for this claim yet.

I'm currently reading Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power as research.

And now for something completely different... well, not exactly...

That wasn't a Hunnalizer, it was an Alexander the Greatalizer!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer

Well it's coming up on five years since the lawsuit Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions. Kat A. Reynolds, working on her MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design (and a very all-around interesting person) interviewed me about the case the other day and that dredged up the whole thing in my mind.

So what have we learned?

My former partner, Jonathan Flagg and I technically won the case on both issues - the payment issue and the copyright issue.

Payment Issue
This was the small claims court matter that Einhorn (and his lawyer brother David Einhorn) later blew up into a federal case.

Jonathan said he didn't want to pay Einhorn $1000 (he was going to offer $500 had Einhorn deigned to negotiate with him.) The judge agreed with Jonathan on principle, if not on the exact amount. Judge Kaplan granted Einhorn $800. A difference of $300. So you might say Einhorn created a federal case to recover $300.

It should be noted that Einhorn was not hurting for money in the least. I have hesitated in the past to mention he comes from a wealthy family because although I suspected this (based on Einhorn's apparent lack of a normal day-job and the nice place he lived in on the upper west side of Manhattan, not to mention his overweening sense of superiority and sense of entitlement which eventually made it such a chore to work with him) I didn't actually have evidence. However I recently discovered that Einhorn himself discusses the fact that his inheritance allows him to spend his time doing off-off Broadway theater productions.

But if Einhorn had merely wanted to recover $1000 we would have only been in small claims court. But Edward Einhorn was ambitious. He saw this as a chance to establish a director's copyright.

Copyright Issue
After we fired Einhorn from the 2004 TAM LIN production, his brother sent us a "cease and desist" letter. The letter claimed that we were using Einhorn's intellectual property. Read it here. Because of this cease and desist letter, we felt we couldn't pay him anything because if we did it would be as if we agreed that we were using his intellectual property. As far as we were concerned he was doing work-for-hire.

The reason we went to court, instead of settling out of court, was because we wanted the Einhorns to withdrawal Edward Einhorn's ill-gotten copyright registration. They would not do it during pre-trial hearings. The trial ended when Judge Kaplan ordered them to withdraw the copyright registration.

Why do I say "ill-gotten"? Because Judge Kaplan said during his decision that Einhorn's derivative script failed as a copyrightable work for three reasons:

  1. The Einhorns registered the copyright for the purpose of filing a federal lawsuit

  2. The script was not substantial enough to warrant a copyright

  3. The script was a derivative work, and as such was supposed to have the permission of the author of the original work (that would be me) in order to have a copyright registered.

However, the Einhorns have not to this day withdrawn the copyright registration. Because the US Copyright Office is in desperate need of reform. For two reasons:

  1. According to law, a registration cannot be granted for a derivative work unless permission is granted for the registration by the author of the original work. Not only did I not grant permission, I had no idea what the Einhorns were up to until they sued me on the basis of their copyright registration.

    So how did the Einhorns get away with it? Because the US Copyright Office does not require proof of authorization. So the Einhorns defrauded the US Copyright Office.

  2. And they are still getting away with it, because even though a federal judge said it failed three tests of copyrightability and ordered them to withdraw the copyright, they didn't have to. Because in order for the US Copyright Office to withdraw a copyright registration, the holders of the copyright have to admit that the work they registered failed. In other words, the perpetrators of the crime (defrauding the US Government) have to admit that they committed fraud. And so all the Einhorns had to do was NOT ADMIT IT. Apparently a US Federal Court judge's opinion means nothing - only the perps' opinion matters.

    The mind boggles at this insane, criminal-friendly loophole.

Hopefully steps will be taken to reform these two failures of the US Copyright Office. If I had an inheritance, that's how I would spend MY time.

So Mergatroyd Productions technically won - the judge agreed with us that Einhorn didn't deserve $1000 and the judge agreed that Einhorn didn't deserve that derivative copyright registration. But the copyright registration still exists, and it cost $300K+ to fight the lawsuit.

But the real win, for which all the theatre world should be grateful to Jonathan Flagg (who financed our case out of his own salary - neither Jonathan nor I have inheritances) is that we actually went to trial, rather than settling out of court, which is what happened in the Mantello case, and got the judge to state for the record what he considered worthy of a director's copyright:
There is a very lively question, I suppose, as to whether that is an appropriate subject of the copyright as to which I express no opinion. If it is, however, the deposit copy certainly didn't cover it because it is impossible to discern with precision from the deposit copy just exactly what the movements were and what the positioning was.

With this one sentence the judge set the bar too high for any copyright-coveting director, using standard stage-directing practices, to reach. You'd have to create a document with highly detailed instructions for movement and positioning (which would be a massive work - I'm a technical writer, I know from how long it takes to write out precise action instructions) and you'd have to do it with permission from the playwright whose work you are directing.

So not only do we owe thanks to Jonathan, we owe thanks to the Einhorn brothers for being such litigious clowns.

To be complete - here is Einhorn's copyright registration. It will never do him a bit of good, and in my opinion it exists as a visible mark of shame on his character.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

C'mere Jesus, I got something to show yah

I recently listened to the Godspell soundtrack. That really takes me back - I saw the movie with two of my brothers when it first came out. I was right on the cusp of atheism at the time. And when I watch some of the movie now (I couldn't make it through the whole thing) I wonder if the movie had an influence in pushing me towards atheism.

For example - the movie enacts the parable of the goats and the sheep. In the movie Jesus divides his follower-hippie-clowns into sheep and goats and brings the "sheep" into "heaven" and tells the "goats" in effect to go to hell.

But at the last minute - he relents and lets the "goats" into heaven too.

I don't think most Christians really consider the incredible cruelty of the traditional concept of hell, and the parable as enacted in the movie actually brings it home - these bright cute young people, were they really sinners on the judgment day, would, according to standard Christian theology, NOT be allowed into heaven, but instead would be tormented for eternity in hell.

The people who made Godspell couldn't stand to portray Jesus as he is actually meant to be on judgement day, per traditional Christian theology - a complete heartless douchebag.

But many of the songs are very good. And that John the Baptist guy is hot.

The song "Turn Back Oh Men" is quite strange. The woman seems to be doing a Mae West/New Orleans madam/flapper kind of schtick - maybe she's supposed to be Mary Magdelen? - and although it's not exactly risque, it sort of hints at risque. And she does say "c'mere Jesus, I got something to show yah." Whaaa--?

The music is very typical early-70s pop style - it sort of reminds me of early Sesame Street. But I have a real hard time with Jesus - I didn't remember Victor Garber's face from the movie and so my first awareness of him is his portrayal of a butler on Frasier. It's hard to reconcile that guy with this Jesus from Godspell. Maybe it's the fro.

And David Hyde Pierce is also in this clip. I hugged him once.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What's all this then?

I decided to take a look at THE BUTTERFLY COLLECTION controversy. My Facebook buddy Liz gave me a heads-up to this transcript of Theresa Rebeck's speech at ART/NY Curtain Call on her blog. It's over a year old but still worth a look. Excerpt:
The play is called The Butterfly Collection. I wrote it in 1999. It is about a family of artists, and the tensions that rise between the father, who is a successful novelist, and his two sons, one of whom is a struggling actor, and the other who is an antiques dealer. Tim Sanford at Playwrights Horizons fell in love with this play and said he would produce it in the fall of 2000, and he talked to the guys who run South Coast Rep and they read it and included it in the new play festival that spring, so that we had a chance to work on it out there. The workshop was great, and we were the hit of the festival.

So Rebeck describes what she thinks the play is about. And she mentions it was well-liked. Except by Bruce Weber at the NYTimes:
When the New York Times published its review it was not what anyone expected. The reviewer, who shall remain nameless, dismissed the play - which was about art and family - as a feminist diatribe. He accused me of having a thinly veiled man-hating agenda, and in a truly bizarre paragraph at the end of the review, he expressed sympathy with the director because he had to work with someone as hideous as me.

I found the review in question in the NYTimes archives:
THEATER REVIEW; Like Father (a Writer), Like Son (an Actor), and Neither Is Likable
Published: October 4, 2000, Wednesday

Near the end of Theresa Rebeck's bilious new play "The Butterfly Collection," Sophie, a young woman who has spent several weeks as the assistant to a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, finally gives literal voice to the complaint that the play itself seeks not only to address but also to avenge.

"Why is it always about the man?" Sophie says, a response to what the novelist has said about her own short story, that it pointedly ignores the male character at the center of it. But of course she's also talking about the novelist himself, a bullying egomaniac (whom she has declined to sleep with) and about his son, another bullying egomaniac (with whom she has slept).

The father and son are the twin villains of this play, which opened yesterday at Playwrights Horizons. Their testosterone-fueled rivalry is portrayed as a cruel force that humiliates nicer people - that is, women - and churns up a family like a cyclone in a barnyard. Neither one cares much for Sophie, and they aren't really competing for her, but she is in their path, so she must get picked up, spun around and flung aside with the rest of the human detritus. In fact, Paul, the novelist father, and his son Ethan, an actor, are such awful guys in such predictably awful ways that if this weren't a contemporary domestic drama set in Connecticut, they'd be wearing black hats. This is a play that's about the men, all right, and Ms. Rebeck gives it to them good.

Ethan, 40 years old and in the throes of a self-created professional crisis - he's incensed that the small theater that wants him for a play is insisting that he audition - has arrived for a rare visit to his parents' country house at a time when his father is having a crisis of his own. Paul, long blocked, is late with a new novel, and his publisher has insisted that he produce a manuscript or return his substantial advance. It's a humiliating (and given that the play credits him with a Nobel, hardly credible) turn of events, and he's looking forward desperately to the arrival of a new assistant to help him push forward with his book.

That such an accomplished writer can work only with the constant feedback and sentence-massaging of a 20-something postgraduate student is preposterous, of course, but Ms. Rebeck's perspective here is that without their women, men are without resources. There are strong hints that Sophie ends up responsible for the breakthrough passages in the new book, just as Paul's wife, Margaret, deserves much of the credit for the Nobel winner.

Paul and Ethan spend the play braying at the moon and at each other, leaving the other characters feeling cowed and dismissed. In addition to Margaret and Sophie, the casualties are Laurie, the girlfriend Ethan has brought with him, and Ethan's brother, Frank, the soft-spoken and considerate owner of an antiques shop who, we're supposed to presume, is gay. It's supposed to chasten us when it turns out he's not; he is the playwright's paradigm of the right kind of man.

Agenda-based writing rarely does much for actors, and it's not surprising that the performances fall into two camps. In one are the noncharacters, the bad guys and their innocent pawn. Neither James Colby, as Ethan, nor Brian Murray, as Paul, ever reveals a scintilla of the charm the other characters keep saying they have. Mr. Colby is particularly gifted at landing Ethan's most repellent lines, but when he's supposed to be ingratiating he's a transparent wheedler, and he fails to make the slightest case that Ethan could attract either a solid and decent woman like Laurie or a randy young thing like Sophie.

Maggie Lacey, a young actress who is making her Off Broadway debut as Sophie, has her moments. But she's unfortunately saddled with some terribly cliched scenes that call for her to be flustered, and she must also deliver the monologues that open and close the play and that provide it with its precious title. As for Mr. Murray, he plays Great Writer in the Hemingway-clone mode, quick to bellow, quick to insult, quick to defend the grandiosity of the artistic pursuit. It's a shallow portrayal, shrill even (odd to say for an actor of Mr. Murray's girth and vocal sonority), but then it's a shallow part.

On the other hand, the characters who have the playwright's sympathy have real roles, and they are all well handled. Reed Birney, as the sweet-tempered Frank, gives a lovely performance as an introvert who takes pleasure in tranquillity and beauty but still rues his inability to swagger. Laurie, a woman stunned by the realization of the kind of man she's fallen for, is given an aptly wounded and dignified reading by Betsy Aidem.

And Marian Seldes, as Margaret, finds a full palette of colors in a woman who sees her own life's worth in her difficult family. Acerbic, wry, palliating, disapproving and subtly, desperately loving, Ms. Seldes shows us a character who is both thrilled and saddened by her lot. Her work is reason enough to see the show.

Considering the circumstances, the director, Bartlett Sher, accomplishes much. He provides the play with a graceful and fluid pace on a set by Andrew Jackness that suggests the most spartan, least inviting country house in New England; it's very uncoziness is undoubtedly the point. Mr. Sher wrings particular tension from scenes in which characters pass through already occupied rooms not knowing what the other characters know. You have to wonder, though, how he managed to get his good work done with the playwright so ready to resent him.

So I read the play. I didn't especially like it, I thought it was a bit of a soap opera and if the play is about a father and sons, as Rebeck says, well I didn't find that struggle especially compelling. And it is a bit of a cliche, this father/son struggle. So what makes Bruce Weber so apoplectic? Is it really because a 20-something college student makes a brief bit of possibly feminist critique? Could that really be all there is to it?

Looking at several of the reviews of the production, I didn't see any others that detected this misandry that Weber claims.

And Ethan especially is not a true villain. Weber complains that the play shows that "Paul's wife, Margaret, deserves much of the credit for the Nobel winner." But it is Ethan who is the one who gives her the credit. Although they are neither nice people, the father and Ethan are very different. And even if you think they are uniformly, unrealistically evil, at the very least one of the three males in the play is not evil. If Rebeck was bent on a man-hating screed wouldn't she have made all the men hateful? But Weber doesn't even give her credit for being only 66% misandrist.

No, Weber's views are not justified by the characters or their interactions. I think this passage is what prompted the hissyfit:

Oh, come on! You know what I'm talking about! John Updike has never written a believable woman in his life. Thomas Wolfe? Hardly. Saul Bellow, Brodkey, your friend Mr. Mailer, let's face it, the whole twentieth century -


Oh really?


Chock full of misogynist creeps. Conrad, Lawrence, even Fitzgerald, Daisy notwithstanding, surprisingly Hemingway actually does better than he's given credit for, when he takes a shot at it - but overall - not to say they're not geniuses, but really. Half the human race. Don't you think it should be considered a limitation if you can't imagine what it means to be human for half the human race?

I think that Weber reacted to this as sacrilege. A female character attacking Great Men of the Arts. And then later Rebeck references the Brecht co-author controversy, this time through the "good-wife" doormat Margaret character:
Drafting is different from writing and it happens much more than you know. Brecht? It doesn't take away from his genius, mind you, but he didn't write all those plays. No indeed. He slept with some very smart women, that one.

I can't imagine that Weber would go so far as to deny the reality that throughout most of the twentieth century women were indeed absolutely, unquestioningly subordinate to men. Women served men, men did the real work, the important work, and men got all the credit. No I think that Weber was mad that Rebeck would have the bad taste and poor manners to bring up such issues in the middle of a traditionalist father-son drama dynamic.

While I don't think the set-up works artistically Weber's attack truly is over the top.

The kind of male-dominated literature that Sophie disparages was discussed recently on the blog Tiger Beatdown as "Fond Memories of Vagina." I think this is both funny and apt:
Fond Memories of Vagina is a book that has been written over and over again. A few months ago I picked up Fury by Salman Rushdie at a thrift store. I knew this was Fond Memories of Vagina on the first page. All of the descriptions of people are based on a specious understanding of contemporary pop culture: It's written in the way older male authors try to imitate youth culture (GAWWWWD Tom Wolfe), shoehorning in references to THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES which make them seem even more clueless than ever. (Your main character has a MYSPACE account? What is this, the War of 1812?)

The main characters of these books are all the same guy. He spends three hundred pages aggrandizing or belittling himself, but is ultimately the only fit judge of his self-worth and life. He is usually embattled, defending himself against the intrusion of silly, feminine interpretations of his behavior, lest he start making decisions based on the lives and feelings of others rather than his own childish needs. He blames everyone else for his problems, he is able to take women’s measurements on sight with eerie precision, but he’s not very good at sex. The decline of his libido is always a metaphor for death. ALWAYS. You get the picture.

And who are these women? Take your pick from the treasure trove of stock characters that the male sexual fantasy complex has fed us. There are high-powered, but emotionally brittle female psychiatrists, tragic young ingenues, naive female poets, the occasional innocent farm girl — her cow milking a not too subtle metaphor for what the protagonist wants her to do to his well-read, internationally acclaimed boner — with the smell of tulips about her. Let me ask you something, Older Male Authors of a Certain Generation: Have you ever been near a cow?

Both Gabriel Garcia Marquez and John Updike went underage, which is revolting. They were largely shielded from criticism by the male apologists of high art, who reject critical interpretations of literature that expect the writer to take his head out of his own ass once in a while and decide against loving descriptions of pedophilia. In Memories of My Melancholy Whores, the ninety-year-old protagonist begins the book by ordering a young virgin on the telephone. Updike's character in Toward the End of Time begins molesting a young girl for money. There seems to be a suspension of sexual morality in these books, built as they are on a rapidly deflating, and therefore desperately adhered to, sense that they are chasing HIGHER IDEALS. These ideals include the assumption that Fond Memories of Vagina is a book that needs to be written. Otherwise, we might forget that older men lust after younger women.

Let us call these books what they are: high-minded pornography. They are a way for Older Men of a Certain Generation to read a book about how sexy they are, how normal their neurotic tendencies are, and how easy it is to get young women to have sex with them. But they should not be labeled “universal,” as literature so often is. I am NOT talking about censorship. I am talking about the fact that these books won’t appeal to more than half of the population, and yet are marketed as if they written for everyone. If I decided to write a book about all the sex I wish I was having, I would have the sense to name it McKinley from “Wet Hot American Summer” Sends Garland a Sext or The Night Shia LaBeouf Didn’t Ruin It By Talking, not The Silent Quickening of Thomas Dupree. That would be misleading.

This is exactly the kind of thing that Rebeck was attacking. And this kind of thing is sacred to men of Bruce Weber's generation. The impious will suffer the mighty thunderbolts of NYTimes critics hurled from Olympus. And please note, Weber's review was written right at the twilight of the Updike age, just before any upstart feminist could blog disrespectful things about Great Men of the Arts any time of the day or night for a potentially large and international audience.

And then it's quite possible, given the literary-arts field is small and inbred that one or more of those great men listed by Rebeck were personal friends of Weber.

So how badly did Weber's review harm this play? Well any bad review in the NYTimes will harm a play's prospects, it is universally agreed. I'm not sure that it matters why Weber hated it. None of the other critics loved it. It's not a great play. But it does serve as an interesting contrast to the critical reception to OLEANNA, from ten years earlier, a play in which a shadowy, scheming Group uses a not-very-bright college girl to maneuver a college professor into a corner in which he either has to submit to their dastardly demands to censor his work, or have his life destroyed through a false rape charge.

Critics didn't find this situation ridiculous or over-the-top at all. They thought it was an honest and brave take on the horrors being visited on society through political correctness. They adored OLEANNA. I suspect Bruce Weber did too.

These days Weber writes obituaries for the Times - for actual dead people, not playwrights careers - and can't do too much harm anymore. Unless Rebeck dies before him.

FUN FACT: I just saw Maggie Lacey, who played Sophie in THE BUTTERFLY COLLECTION, last night in THE MILK TRUCK DOESN'T STOP HERE ANY MORE.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Royal Nonesuch

This review is a reminder to the off-off Broadway in-crowd - the only people who should be allowed to publicly review your work are:

  1. Friends

  2. Friends of friends

  3. Those who are impressed by self-indulgent preciousness

Well, that night we had our show; but there warn't only about twelve people there - just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy - and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village. The bills said:

The World-Renowned Tragedians
Of the London and Continental
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
Admission 50 cents.

Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:
"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"

Well, all day him and the king was hard at it, rigging up a stage and a curtain and a row of candles for footlights; and that night the house was jam full of men in no time. When the place couldn't hold no more, the duke he quit tending door and went around the back way and come on to the stage and stood up before the curtain and made a little speech, and praised up this tragedy, and said it was the most thrillingest one that ever was; and so he went on a-bragging about the tragedy, and about Edmund Kean the Elder, which was to play the main principal part in it; and at last when he'd got everybody's expectations up high enough, he rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted all over, ring-streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow. And - but never mind the rest of his outfit; it was just wild, but it was awful funny. The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over again, and after that they made him do it another time. Well, it would make a cow laugh to see the shines that old idiot cut.

Then the duke he lets the curtain down, and bows to the people, and says the great tragedy will be performed only two nights more, on accounts of pressing London engagements, where the seats is all sold already for it in Drury Lane; and then he makes them another bow, and says if he has succeeded in pleasing them and instructing them, he will be deeply obleeged if they will mention it to their friends and get them to come and see it.

Twenty people sings out:

"What, is it over? Is that all?"

The duke says yes. Then there was a fine time. Everybody sings out, "Sold!" and rose up mad, and was a-going for that stage and them tragedians. But a big, fine looking man jumps up on a bench and shouts:

"Hold on! Just a word, gentlemen." They stopped to listen. "We are sold -- mighty badly sold. But we don't want to be the laughing stock of this whole town, I reckon, and never hear the last of this thing as long as we live. No. What we want is to go out of here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the rest of the town! Then we'll all be in the same boat. Ain't that sensible?" ("You bet it is! -- the jedge is right!" everybody sings out.) "All right, then -- not a word about any sell. Go along home, and advise everybody to come and see the tragedy."

Next day you couldn't hear nothing around that town but how splendid that show was. House was jammed again that night, and we sold this crowd the same way. When me and the king and the duke got home to the raft we all had a supper; and by and by, about midnight, they made Jim and me back her out and float her down the middle of the river, and fetch her in and hide her about two mile below town.

The third night the house was crammed again -- and they warn't new-comers this time, but people that was at the show the other two nights. I stood by the duke at the door, and I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging, or something muffled up under his coat -- and I see it warn't no perfumery, neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in. I shoved in there for a minute, but it was too various for me; I couldn't stand it. Well, when the place couldn't hold no more people the duke he give a fellow a quarter and told him to tend door for him a minute, and then he started around for the stage door, I after him; but the minute we turned the corner and was in the dark he says:

"Walk fast now till you get away from the houses, and then shin for the raft like the dickens was after you!"

I done it, and he done the same. We struck the raft at the same time, and in less than two seconds we was gliding down stream, all dark and still, and edging towards the middle of the river, nobody saying a word. I reckoned the poor king was in for a gaudy time of it with the audience, but nothing of the sort; pretty soon he crawls out from under the wigwam, and says:

"Well, how'd the old thing pan out this time, duke?" He hadn't been up-town at all.

We never showed a light till we was about ten mile below the village. Then we lit up and had a supper, and the king and the duke fairly laughed their bones loose over the way they'd served them people. The duke says:

"Greenhorns, flatheads! I knew the first house would keep mum and let the rest of the town get roped in; and I knew they'd lay for us the third night, and consider it was their turn now. Well, it IS their turn, and I'd give something to know how much they'd take for it. I would just like to know how they're putting in their opportunity. They can turn it into a picnic if they want to - they brought plenty provisions."

from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Although seriously, the King and the Duke's show sounds waaaay more entertaining.

Milk truck

I saw this guy naked tonight

A friend took me to see THE MILK TRUCK DOESN'T STOP HERE ANYMORE Wednesday night and I have to agree with the reviewer from New York Magazine:
That Dukakis doesn’t consistently succeed has less to do with her powers of interpretation and more with the rich — sometimes too rich — strangeness of the text. (That said, I suspect her cotton-mouthed accent will divide audiences; personally, it grew on me.) Directed (and, to a certain extent, reconstructed) by Michael Wilson (The Orphan’s Home Cycle), Milk Train is an oddity. It was written in the early sixties, during the excruciating final days of Williams’s longtime lover Frank Merlo. The playwright had just enjoyed what would prove his last great critical and commercial success, Night of the Iguana, a play that bears several superficial similarities to Milk Train: a windswept promontory in a foreign land, a miasma of American hegemony, a lonely, still-libidinous older woman and a younger, off-course male redeemer/consort with spiritual pretensions that might actually be sincere. (Here, his name is Christopher Flanders, a wandering artist-gigolo who’s in the habit of “comforting” wealthy older ladies as they approach the grave: The Collection’s Darren Pettie has the stones to play this more-than-faintly ridiculous character completely straight, his stud’s entitlement shifting tactically into Zen submission.

What none of the reviews mention is that Darren Pettie, all too briefly, goes the full monty early in the show. It was without a doubt the highlight of the evening.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lovely Rae shout-out

My buddy the Luvely Rae gave me a shout-out on her new central blog. We came to be catching up on the subway when I got on the R train for my usual homebound commute last Friday when who should be sitting across the aisle from me but the Luvely Rae! What are the odds?

How do you write a good 10-minute play? Part 2

These three plays are very different, but all balance dark subjects with humor: FORGET ME NOT covers serious subjects - old age, decay, bullying, suicide leavened by sweetness and gentle humor; WE APPEAR TO HAVE COMPANY approaches catastrophic circumstances with absurdist humor; HOT APPLE PIE is a darkly humorous look at violence and intolerance with a hopeful ending.


How do you write a good 10-minute play? Part 1

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

you should read VIDA

Well I am the stahh of the internets today. I'm getting all kinds of hits from FB for my post about Adam Rapp - I think Rapp's publicist was the one who commented on that post today. I sure hope she is she sure ain't much of a blogger. Not like being a blogger is considered the height of the kewlness, but still...

And I got a sweet shout-out from Alyss Dixon on Twitter.

Here's a link to Vida - I'm so glad I found out about this site it has so much good stuff. Check it out!

Please note - that's VIDA, not to be confused with the "party snacks" VITA.

this article explains so much

Very disturbing article in today's NYTimes - Gains, and Drawbacks, for Female Professors - not for the main focus of the article but for two other reasons.

First, the only link provided for the reference to the Laurence Summers "women are genetically inferior at math" controversy is one to an anti-feminist screed.

Here is a better article in Slate.

But the most disturbing was a little throw-away line in the middle of the article:
Despite an effort to educate colleagues about bias in letters of recommendation for tenure, those for men tend to focus on intellect while those for women dwell on temperament.

So men are recommended on the basis of intellect and women are recommended on the basis of temperament. And of course by temperament they mean - is the woman a team player, is she easy-going, is she nice. That is what is desired of women - to be nice. Any other attributes are much less important.

So if a woman's temperament is considered a more significant factor on which to recommend her than intellect - FOR A SCIENCE JOB - how much more is nice the critical factor in the evaluation of women for all other fields of human endeavor?

It's things like this which truly reveal just how pervasive is the kudzu of the Patriarchy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gam & Flip

How rude - Willie has taken over this polar bear's igloo. I know polar bears don't live in igloos - but that's sure what it looks like - the bear looks really annoyed.

As always Willie's lingo is an education. It doesn't seem right in context but it appears that gam means "a herd or school of whales" while flip means "a class of mixed drinks." The term apparently comes from the 1887 publication How To Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant's Companion which has been reprinted and is available on Amazon - but also available on Google Books for free.

Jerry Thomas "is considered "the father of American mixology. In addition to writing the seminal work on cocktails, his creativity and showmanship established the image of the bartender as a creative professional. As such, he was often nicknamed "Professor" Jerry Thomas."

Wikipedia has helpfully provided a list of his recipes:

* Cold Brandy Flip — brandy, water, egg, sugar, grated nutmeg
* Cold Rum Flip — substitute Jamaica rum
* Cold Gin Flip — substitute Holland gin
* Cold Whiskey Flip — substitute Bourbon or rye whiskey
* Port Wine Flip — substitute port wine
* Sherry Wine Flip — substitute sherry
* Hot Brandy Flip — brandy, sugar, egg yolk, hot water, grated nutmeg
* Hot Rum Flip — substitute Jamaica rum or
* Hot Whiskey Flip — substitute whiskey
* Hot Gin Flip — substitute Holland gin
* Hot English Rum Flip — ale, aged rum, raw eggs, sugar, grated nutmeg or ginger
* Hot English Ale Flip — same as Rum Flip, without rum and less egg white
* Sleeper — aged rum, sugar, egg, water, cloves, coriander, lemon
* Egg Flip — vanilla vodka, advocaat, cinnamon
* Peg Flip — pear vodka, advocaat, cinnamon

Advocaat is apparently "a rich and creamy liqueur made from eggs, sugar and brandy." Now you know. This will really liven up your next cocktail party.

There isn't only flip recipes, and some of the drink names are very interesting: Tears of the Widow of Malabar; Sighs of Love; Delight of the Mandarins, Elephant's Milk, Non-such Punch and Bimbo's Punch. There is also a section on how to drink Absinthe. Jerry is nothing if not thorough.

Here is the page on Non-such Punch:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One of the most excellent blog posts on the douchebaggery of contemporary male playwrights ever

This Nice Feminist is brilliant.

Here is her take on RED LIGHT WINTER but you should go read the entire post and the unusually articulate and thoughtful comments:

Lastly (and most infuriating, to me): Red Light Winter. Matt is in Amsterdam with his best friend Davis. Davis brings a prostitute, Christina, back to their hotel - as a gift for Matt, though he (Davis) already purchased her services earlier. The three of them hang out in an overlong scene where it's clear that Matt is Awkward and Davis is an Asshole. Then Davis leaves, Christina and Matt have a heart-to-heart, have very brief sex, and Christina skips town. Then Act 2, a year later (or is it longer? I don't have the script next to me), Christina shows up at Matt's door looking for Davis. Matt's been pining after her since they met; she doesn't remember him at all. Actually, she's been pining after Davis because, why again? Because he was "sweet" when he was dicking her, even though he was clearly an Asshole when he was hanging out with her and Matt. Oh, and also maybe because he made her orgasm 3 times. Anyway, she's got AIDS now, so Matt says she can stay with him, confesses his love for her, and goes out for food. Then Davis comes over, trashes Matt's apartment, is an Asshole to Christina, and then fucks her because she literally throws herself at him. And then! THEN! He leaves, and SHE FUCKING KILLS HERSELF. Does anyone else see a problem here? A prostitute follows a client to America and kills herself because he doesn't remember her, even though another dude just offered to put her up and help her out? Quoi??????

This is, to me, the most toxic of these plays (though that first scene where Christina and Matt are alone together is gorgeously written). Like Phil in The Shape of Things, this Douche lacks any charm whatsoever, I mean, ANY charm. Yet this girl - who seems plenty savvy and independent in other ways - follows him to America and kills herself when he, y'know, acts like a Douche?? Being willing to make out with a Douche for an artistic statement, or bang a Douche because you're not happy in your relationship, is one thing. But the Nice Guy is gonna sleep on the floor so you can have his bed and ya kill yourself? This is DEFINITELY a situation that could have been avoided if Christina had a Sassy Gay Friend. Second City, get on that, wouldja?

So why am I bitching and moaning about these plays? Well, because it seems to reveal a collective neurosis that worries and disgusts me: the fear that, if you're a Nice Guy, your Hot/Quirky lady love will fuck you over and go get it on with your Douchey Best Friend. Is this a thing that happens often enough to warrant mass alarm on behalf of our male playwrights? 'Cause last I checked, none of us Hot/Quirky ladies were looking to bang a Douche. We may not always be into the Nice Guys, but generally it's because of something other than their Niceness (like, if they're boring or insecure or have no social skills or no sense of boundaries or what have you). Niceness, in itself, is actually pretty damn ideal.

But! If you're a Nice Guy and your girlfriend HAS left you for your Douchey Best Friend (or brother) and you're sad about it, rather than writing a play that depicts the one female character as a slave to the Douchecock, here are some tips:
-GET RID OF THAT DOUCHEY BEST FRIEND. Every Nice Guy character in every movie has one and I still can't figure out why, but if you have one, DROP HIM. Not only might he fuck your girlfriend, he's just a bad person. Kick him to the curb and meet some other Nice Guys at a coffeeshop or some shit.
-When you meet girls, don't obsess over them, especially not immediately. That seems to be a mistake made by all 3 protagonists in these plays.
-And if you absolutely must place this particular plotline in one of your plays, maybe don't have that girl be the only female? Jenny in The Shape of Things doesn't count - she's a bland little Girl Next Door who just can't resist Adam when he gets all Hawt. That - much like a prostitute following you across the ocean because you made her orgasm in triplicate - just seems like a bullshit male fantasy that gives your bros a bad name.

All right, I'm done. Thanks for listening. But seriously, boys, STOP WRITING THESE PLAYS. I'm sick of 'em, and I'm not the only one.

Thank you NF.

I have a theory for why these Douche plays don't work. NF makes the point that the douche characters, as written, don't have anything going for them, with the implicit point that the reason women like them is for the douchebaggery itself.

The tale of the production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in which the hideous John C. Reilly was cast as Stanley Kowalski should be a lesson for all casting directors when approaching RED LIGHT WINTER or any of the other the-lady-loves-a-douche plays. The director has to inject something into the douche character that is not IN the script - the director has to cast a REALLY HOT GUY as the douchebag. Then everybody understands what the woman sees in the douche. Certainly any man can understand the principle - how many men admit - hell BRAG - that their sexual attraction for a woman is strictly based on what she looks like. Of course there are still plenty of doucebags in this world who would deny this privilege of being "shallow" to women and don't see the double standard.

As Elyse Sommers, one of the still-rare female critics puts it:
Rather than attempting the impossible feat of casting another Brando... Edward Hall has opted for a totally against the grain Stanley. Not that Brando wasn't a beer-swilling slob but that rippling torso and gorgeous profile made you understand Stella's overlooking Stanley's abusive behavior with "there are things that happen between a man and a woman that sort of makes everything else... unimportant."

How not to cast STREETCAR.

No surprise - the director of the Reilly STREETCAR, Edward Hall is a straight man.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

3 excellent plays

I put out a call for plays in January on the NYCPlaywrights web site. I'll never do that again - at least not in this way. I asked for excellent 10 minute plays so I could write another article just like this one

But most of the plays were really bad. There were a few that were OK, not excellent. And some that were just gross. It's a tossup for me which was grossest, the one about the librarian dominatrix and the guy with the foot fetish, the one where one guy offers the other guy alot of money if he will perform a "nut fumble" on his own father, or the one about the woman sitting on a toilet - center stage of course - and she refuses to get off the toilet, has been refusing for weeks. This last one, I take it, is believed by the author to be cutting edge.

The best part of getting submissions is when the playwrights include a list of all the awards won and/or productions given to the play they are sending me - sometimes the list is right at the beginning of the script itself. This reminds me of the bit in "The King's Speech" when discussing the King's medical advisors:

They're all idiots.

They've been knighted!

Makes it official then, doesn't it?

I am not the least bit impressed by awards that plays have won - most people who give awards to plays cannot discern shit from Shinola. I can't count the number of award-winning plays I've seen and/or read that I thought were crap.

Out of the 85 submitted, I could only find 4 that I could stand at all. And three of them I didn't actually care for much - it was going to be a stretch to come up with a reason for why they were excellent. So I put six of the plays from my 10-min Playfest in with the four and had members of NYCPlaywrights read them aloud at one of our meetings and give me their opinions. And two of the plays that were most popular with all four judges were from the 10-min Playfest. So both of those and only ONE out of 85 was selected for the article.

Nope, never doing that again.

So far my call for plays that have something to do with Shakespeare has only produced two half-way decent plays out of the 24 submitted. The one I hate the most of that batch so far is written by an Oxfordian - so instead of a play having something to do with the life and work of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon he sent me a 10-page scene between Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth, and it fails for three reasons:

  1. It's a conversation between two people - nothing happens

  2. It's Oxfordian swill

  3. It opens with Queen Elizabeth, on her deathbed, farting

I will never do a play having anything to do with the latter stages of the digestive system. I don't care if that makes me less than open-minded. Tough shit.

But at least for this contest, the play selected doesn't have to be excellent to meet the stated criterion. It can just be merely playable so that we can video-record a reading of it and it won't cause the actors or myself too much shame.

One of the three plays selected for the "excellent" play contest is HOT APPLE PIE by Michael Jalbert - see clip below.

I was reluctant to select another play by Mike - his LOVERBOY was in the first "How to write an excellent 10-minute play" article. But PIE was by far the most popular choice of the four judges, and I think it's a terrific play - I've produced it several times as a reading.

I have yet to hear a completed full-length play by Mike, although he is working on one. But he sure has a knack for 10-minute plays. Another one of his, HERBERT, is based on a story by H. G. Wells and is also excellent - I would have been happy to use that for the article too.

Of all the writers who have come through NYCPlaywrights, Mike is the only one (besides myself) whose work I consistently like. And it's funny - I knew him first as an actor - I cast him in my HUCK FINN as the evil slave trader. He also played a riverman on the Mississippi and the scene for that character was one of my favorites in the entire play, because it got some nice laughs - and most of the dialog was my own original work, instead of taken directly out of Twain's book. Not that Mike and the other actor, who shall remain nameless, did a bad job - they were very good. But I don't think its success was entirely due to the actors:


You reckon they’ll catch that runaway slave that killed that boy, what’s his name?


Whose name? The slave?


The boy. Crazy old Finn’s boy.


I don’t remember. Except it was a strange kind of name. It was some kind of fruit.


Some kind of fruit? Who would name a child after some kind of fruit?


I’m pretty sure it was some kind of fruit. Like “Crabapple.” Yeah, that sounds right. Crabapple Finn. His pappy’s a terrible drunk – maybe he was drunk when he named him. And now that old drunk’s gonna get all Crabapple’s money. Some people have all the luck.


How much money did he have?


I heard it was a million dollars. They took it right off a pirate ship.

(Bob whistles in amazement at the sum of money. Huck, now on dry land, enters.)


Well now young fella. What are you doing out and about so late at night?


My ma and pa and I is camped out down the road apiece, and my ma wants to make a fire for our breakfast in the morning, but we ain’t got no matches.


Say no more. Here you go.

(He tosses a box of matches at Huck.)


Thank you sir. I’m mighty obliged. Say, do you know how far it is to Cairo?


Cairo? I don’t rightly know. You know Bob?


She’s somewheres along the river, that’s all I know. Say, boy, Joe and I was sitting here talking and I says “Getting along towards the long days and the short nights now.” and then Joe up and says –


I’m sorry mister, I can’t stay. My ma will be worried.


That’s too bad because it’s pretty funny.



(Huck exits.)


Bob, quit beating that dead horse.

If memory serves, Mike played "Bob." Nick Fondulis was Huck. Speaking of which...

Here's the clip from HOT APPLE PIE, performed by two cuties, Brett Holland and Nick. I certainly hope Mike, who has just as much of an appreciation for masculine pulchritude as I do, appreciates my casting choices for his play. And I hope Nick's agent doesn't have a problem with this.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

J&B next level - oy

Well I just about gave myself a hernia with all the heavy editorial lifting in my efforts to improve the second half of JULIA & BUDDY and am happy to report that while the job is still not done, I did make some progress - but only by sitting in front of my computer for a solid eight hours in a single stretch and wrassling the damn mess into submission.

But it was all worth it this evening - I invited Joseph Rodriguez, aka THE LIBERTINE himself to play the role of Buddy, and was very impressed with his work. And he suggested that I might look into his group Playhouse Creatures and their new play development series. No more sincere compliment than that!

More images from THE LIBERTINE can be seen here - can that man rock a wig or WHAT?

Now back to editing - there needs to be more funny stuff. Oy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

story from The Onion

Virgin Mary Statue Crying For No Good Reason

Nearly a week after a statue of the Virgin Mary began shedding what appeared to be actual tears, worshippers at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church told reporters Wednesday they had lost patience with the figure's nonstop whining and carrying on.

"Like everyone else, I got sucked in at first," said the Rev. Paul Doherty, the pastor of the church, who admitted he had once kissed the tears streaming from the eyes of the 5-foot wooden altarpiece. "But now it's just too much—crying in the morning when I come in, crying during baptisms, crying, crying, crying all the time. I've called around to other parishes, and all of their Marys are doing fine, even the cheap plaster ones that have to stand outside in the wind and rain. There must be thousands of Marys in the Greater Boston area, but ours is the only one who can't hold it together."

"To think I actually thought it was a miracle," added Doherty, looking up at the statue's glistening, tear-slicked face. "The real miracle would be if Old Faithful over here would turn off the waterworks for five seconds."

Longtime church organist Agnes Wright told reporters that the weeping statue had become a distraction and that she now privately hoped someone would lay a drape over the self- indulgent figure or at least turn it so it was facing the wall.

"I know she's sad, but c'mon, she's acting like the world revolves around her or something," said Wright, adding that Mary's incessant sorrow had made receiving communion a "chore." "I just spent the past 10 years watching my husband slowly die from Alzheimer's, and I cried on my own time. I didn't make it this endless production."

more at the Onion

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

the true purpose of text-to-movie applications

Xtranormal Schopenhauer! This movie is based on a brief dialog from Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation."

The app could not handle the name "Schopenhauer" so I had to spell it out "show-pen-how-er."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Patriotic Willie

Looks like Willie the Whaler is doing his part for the war effort, promoting the sale of war bonds in this February 2, 1942 issue of The New Yorker.

But what naughty word has he uttered? "...put the darbies on the blasted .......s"?

The word darbies is British slang for handcuffs - probably the missing word is bastards, since it's nice and alliterative along with "blasted."

And not a mention of larceny or alcohol. I guess it's too much to ask of Willie to avoid naughty language too.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Cassandra Directive - Xtranormal

These "movies" are limited but fun - I used the second scene from my JULIA & BUDDY script, which is supposed to be a scene from a low-budget sci-fi movie, to make this one. Unfortunately you can't do anything with props or lighting in this free version of the app - no space blasters! Oh well, it IS free.

Friday, March 11, 2011

time for tea

Ooh, the NYTimes does a "where to take tea" article today. Features faves "Tea & Sympathy," "Alice's Teacup" and "Lady Mendl's".

slide show

Jane Eyre makes good

The NYTimes likes the latest incarnation of Jane Eyre:
Reader, I liked it. This “Jane Eyre,” energetically directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) from a smart, trim script by Moira Buffini (“Tamara Drewe”), is a splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie. Neither a radical updating nor a stiff exercise in middlebrow cultural respectability, Mr. Fukunaga’s film tells its venerable tale with lively vigor and an astute sense of emotional detail.

I think I will like it too, especially since the movie opens very close to the point in the story where my adaptation of Jane Eyre opens - after Jane has left Rochester:
The opening scene shows Jane in desperate flight from Thornfield Hall, dashing across the stormy landscape as if pursued by demons and menaced by a ghostly, wind-borne voice. She is taken in and nursed back to health by a young clergyman, St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), and his two sisters (Holliday Grainger and Tamzin Merchant); then her earlier life unfolds in a series of flashbacks that compress many pages into a few potent scenes and images.

Although in my version it doubles back to when Jane first comes to Thornfield Hall.

I'll have more to say after I see the movie.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

French in action

Whoah, most episodes of French in Action are available on Youtube now. I used to watch this in the 1980s to try to improve my French - just for fun, but now that I have a new French gentleman friend, I'm more motivated than ever. Tres bien!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

another call for plays for NYCPlaywrights

We're not even done judging the Share your excellent play contest and already NYCPlaywrights is doing a new call for play submissions: 10-minute Play of the Month and as with the first one, almost all the submissions of the first couple of days after the inital announcement are from male playwrights.

The theme this month is "must have some connection or reference to the life and/or work of Shakespeare" which I thought was pretty straightforward, but today I got a play about a couple at a Renaissance Faire. I guess the author figured hey, guys wear tights in Shakespeare plays too. But not only that, the hero of the play is a guy who thinks that Renaissance Faires are lame and makes several jokes about it, and his girlfriend, who is described as beautiful, loves Renaissances Faires. So after he insults her favorite thing, he explains he just doesn't know how to tell her that he loves her. So she takes him back.

Because who doesn't love the all-American regular-guy oafish insensitive self-centered douchebag?

I replied to the author that the play doesn't meet the theme, but perhaps he might consider turning it into a full-length screenplay and submitting it to Judd Apatow.

He said he would think about it.

I don't think he quite got how scathingly I was insulting him.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

America is not broke

Truly important speech by Michael Moore - his entire life has been leading up to this moment.

Monday, March 07, 2011

a very Willie Christmas

The 1941 run of New Yorkers certainly was a treasure-trove of new Willie the Whaler ads including this one - a close-up of Willie wishing a Merry Christmas! It's weird to see him this way, with fully-delineated hands - maybe too delineated. I almost missed this ad, the style is so different from the typical Willie ad.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

why I wish I was a lesbian sometimes...

Um ok what are you looking for naughty

Well I like to get to know a little about somebody before getting into sexy talk, so maybe I'm not what you're exactly looking for.

Also I'm a big fan of standard punctuation.



A big fan of standard grammer you mean

(thinking of this as a kiss-off)

The whole shebang - punctuation and grammar. And spelling.

I mentioned I was a snob about those things, so maybe you emailed me accidentally.

I think your sexy where are you


chat chat chat

What IS IT with men on dating sites? You try to have a conversation with them by email and they immediately want to go to chat. WHY? What's wrong with email - instant communication isn't fast enough? Or is it too much trouble to form complete sentences with standard punctuation and actual thoughts?

And if they think they're going to get me to chat sexytalk with a virtual stranger they have another think coming. Do other women do that? What's the point? You have no idea what they are really like until you meet them.

The younger guys are the worst - I think they've all been watching too much MILF porn and think that real life works like that - all these older women are so thrilled with a younger guy - ANY younger guy - that they'll do anything, immediately, no questions asked.

Real life does NOT work that way!

I'm not against porn per se (the non-violent kind), but I do have to wonder if so much easy access is giving younger people a completely surreal attitude about human sexuality.

new Jane Eyre movie

Another Hike on the Moors for 'Jane Eyre'.

I thought this was a good observation about the differences between Austen and Brontes:
“Jane Austen is like ‘Gossip Girl,’ and Charlotte and Emily were like Goth twins,” he (the director Cary Fukunaga) said. “It’s a totally different sensibility. The emotional world that Charlotte inhabited is much darker and more dangerous.”

It’s also a world that modern readers may more readily identify with. The story of an orphan who becomes a governess, sticks up for herself and finds true love in a spooky, haunted-seeming mansion, all the while pouring her heart out on the page in prose that is lush, romantic, almost hypnotic, “Jane Eyre,” is both a Gothic horror story and arguably the first and most satisfying chick-lit novel.

Not just darker and more dangerous, but supernatural - Charlotte has an actual incident of clairvoyance at the end of 'Jane Eyre' and while Emily doesn't give an indication as to whether or not Heathcliff is truly being haunted by the ghost of Cathy, certainly Heathcliff thinks so. Nobody is ever going to do a mashup of zombies with either of the two famous Bronte novels - there is already too much eerie going on.

Interesting slide show in the NYTimes: Jane, Rochester and That Zombie.

The King's naughty speech

Well this is just great.

One of the tropes in JULIA & BUDDY is that Buddy cringes at the f-word due to his uptight Scottish boarding school background. And I only threw that in there because

a. I thought it would lead to some amusing comedy bits and

b. it drew Buddy away from the person who was the original inspiration for the character - who, while he really did go to boarding school, most certainly had no problem whatsoever with saying the word "fuck."

And then once I had that trope in there, I hooked into the whole Schopenhauerian concept that sex is considered so dirty because it leads to existence, which leads to pain. And that's why words connected to sex are the naughtiest words you can say.

I saw The King's Speech Saturday and I'm worried that everybody is going to associate JULIA & BUDDY with that movie. Although technically Buddy's issue is the opposite of the King's - he can't say the word but Bertie's issue is that he can say cursewords very well, it's other words that give him trouble.

Here is the relevant clip from the movie

I started working on JULIA & BUDDY in May of 2009, long before I ever heard of The King's Speech movie. I hope nobody thinks I got the idea from the movie. Now that I made the Schopenhauer connection I don't want to lose it.

I did quite like The King's Speech, it is well made, although not the most ground-breaking piece of cinema ever. But Colin Firth did an excellent job of making Bertie sympathetic, in spite of the fact that the film did not shirk the Royals' insistence that nobody forget their royalness. But even an hereditary monarch can have a rough life at times, is the message, and that's a good and humanistic and empathetic thing.

And I was pleased that the King gets a little monologue right before making The Big Speech where he explains why it's important that he does a decent job - he acknowledges that the role of King in 20th-century England is pretty much just a figurehead - but that is exactly why his ability to deliver an inspirational speech is so critical - that's about ALL he's good for.

And Colin Firth looks damn good in those uniforms, although not anywhere near as hot as in Regency get-up as Mr. Darcy.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


I find this NYTimes poll absolutely beyond belief - it claims that in daily random samples of Americans, something like 77% to 94% said that they felt "feelings of happiness during a lot of the day yesterday." I really question what people mean by "happiness" there because I don't think I've experienced it alot during the course of the day on more than a dozen or so days in my entire life. I could only believe this poll if happiness means "not filled with despair."

McHappiness by Matt Keating

This song came out in 1994 - seventeen years ago! It seems like yesterday. And we will all be dead some day.

analysis: "If You Really Love Me"

I wouldn't say I'm a huge Stevie Wonder fan. I like some of his stuff, but some of his stuff ("I Just Called to Say I Love You") not so much.

But I LOVE If You Really Love Me by Stevie and his wife Syreeta - who also does backing vocals. It is always in my iTunes "Recently Played" list. I could listen to it any time of the day or night, anywhere, although the best time to listen to it is when I'm driving and the windows are down because it's warm out and it comes on, unexpectedly, on an oldies station while I'm waiting at a red light.

And I crank it up and sing along with it to the delight (I take the liberty of assuming) of all the other car drivers around me (you're welcome!) as I bathe in the glow of my own super-cool cosmic transcendent apotheosis.

Pretty good for a recording that is 40 years old this year.

But why do I love it so much? As always, a given piece of art's effect on one defies close analysis, but that never stops the foolhardy and intrepid from trying anyway.

Firstly there is that smooth and sexy yet warm and friendly voice - Stevie Wonder in his twenty-one year old prime.

It starts out with a descending piano figure immediately joined by a horn section. I'm not always a big horn-section fan, especially in pop music, but this is done right and anticipates Bruce Springsteen's early work a bit, the perfect piano/horn combo.

Then Stevie does a little hiccuppy "ah yeah" while the main theme plays and the drums kick in. Soon the first lyric with Stevie on top and then himself overdubbed doing an echo of the lyrics under
Welllllll if you really love me
Won't you tell me, yeah.
Then the sexy female backup vocal doubles under Stevie's vocal:
And if you really love me
Won't you tell me, yeah.
And then the solid:
Then I-I won't have to be playing arooouund
I should say the vocals are solid, but the horns are doing this mind-blowingly cool contrast with little noodly: bah dah dah, bah dah dah, bah dah dah badadahdah bah dah daaaaaAAAHHHHHH.....

So far so great, a plea from Stevie - give me a reason to be monogamous!

And here's where it becomes idiosyncratic - and pure genius. Stevie stops the momentum and does the first of two slow-downs with just a piano and bass accompaniment
You call my name ooh so sweet
To make your kissing complete
When your mood is clear you quickly change your ways.
Then you say I'm untrue
What am I supposed to do?
Be a fool who sits alone waiting for you?
He builds the anticipation by finishing the last line with a little bumm bumm bumm bumm bumm-bumm-bumm-bummbummbumm on the piano, with drums and launches back into the refrain.

(And that little piano figure right after "change your ways" is pure Dave Sancious from "The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle" album.)

And it's here that I think the song completes its absolute dominance over my psyche - and it doesn't sound like much to describe it - it's the way that the clarinet (I think it's a clarinet) plays this slow patient rhythm - whaaah whah whaaaah whah - while the other horns do their filigree, along with the incomparable driving Motown bass, drums, vocals and hand-claps. The clarinet rhythm is NOT in the first appearance of the lyric.
Buuuut if you really love me
Won't you tell me, yeah.
And if you really need/love me
Won't you tell me yeah?
Then I won't have to be playing arouuunnnnd.
And another break into the slow section, but this time you suspect what's coming and the sexual tension is almost unbearable, and with extra breathiness this time:
I see the light offf your smile
Calling me alllll the while
You are saying, Baby, it's time to go-oo-ooo.
First the feeling's alright
Then it's gone from sight
So I'm taking all this time to SAAAYYYYY... whoah
OK, now here comes the last refrain: the piano goes bumm bumm bumm bumm bumm-bumm-bumm-bummbummbumm and here comes the clarinet - whahh whah whaaaah whah and THEN male vocals going "ahhhhhhhAAH!" But that isn't all - this is the final appearance of the refrain so it has to go out big and it does:
Oh if you really love me
Won't you tell me, yeah.
And if you really love me
Won't you tell me, baby, tell me?
Then I won't have to be playing arouuunnnnd.
Playing arouuuuund! No!
Goofin' arounnnnd oh baby!
Playing arouuuuund!
And everything gets thrown into the mix to reach a crescendo that compares to any symphony and then it quickly fades away.

And all in three minutes and three seconds - a brief moment of pure ecstasy.

According to Wiki the instrumentation is Stevie and The Funk Brothers, who should all be knighted and sainted in my opinion.


Friday, March 04, 2011

Squash vs. racquetball

I finally joined New York Health and Racquet Club which turns out to be more affordable than I thought and decided I'm going to learn squash. Or racquetball. I don't know for sure which one - they both look exactly the same to me so I'm not sure how to decide - flip a coin I guess.

Here are two women playing squash:

All the videos on youtube show squash or racquetball players in action from the back of the players. Hasn't technology advanced far enough, especially in the world of sports, that they could use a clear wall - made out of that super-hard glass used in iPhones, for example - and show the players from the front? It would be a huge boost to the popularity of squash/racquetball as a spectator sport I bet.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Adam Rapp can't fail

I've written about Adam Rapp before, how much male critics want him to succeed. The latest round of critical responses proves my point once again.

As you can see at Did He Like It the critics were mostly "meh" about Rapp's THE HALLWAY trilogy. Most of the critics think the first two plays of the trilogy, ROSE and PARAFFIN are pretty good, while NURSING is pretty bad, but the biggest masculinity cheerleaders, like the New Yorker's John Lahr say the opposite. They think NURSING is the best.

I personally can't get past the premise of NURSING which Charles Isherwood describes as "preposterous."
While a rare female critic, Toby Zinman of the Broad Street Review, describes it this way:

In Nursing, directed by Trip Cullman, the hallway is now separated from the audience by a red curtain, dragged open and closed by a tour guide (Sue Jean Kim— her retro costume and perky manner and the entire device seem lifted from George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum of 1985). This is a museum in the disease-free future, when children don’t know what “sick” means, guarded by a Darth Vader figure (Stephen Tyrone Williams) who’s been sensitized by his brutal experiences in Afghanistan.

Behind the glass lies a man (Logan Marshall-Green) on a mattress. He has volunteered (why?) to be infected with dread diseases (bubonic plague, cholera) and then brought back from the brink of death (again, why?). The public comes to the museum to watch his suffering (why?).

He’s tended by a deranged nurse who belongs to a “group,” but what their agenda is, other than wanting to revive fatal diseases and then die of them, remains unclear. The characters’ motives are all as unintelligible as their personalities, and the entire exercise seems an excuse to perform repulsive acts onstage. More blood. More vomiting. More shit.

But my favorite description is by Mark Peikert in NYPress:
In "Nursing," some people are very angry at sickness' absence, because no disease means no empathy. It's a specious idea, at best, and made worse by the execution. Pain still exists; mental illness seems to still exist. But neither of those things incites empathy in Rapp's characters - a twist on how few Rapp characters incite empathy in audiences.

I would suggest that this is a deliberate choice on Rapp's part because empathy is for girls, not men. And he-man manliness is what the Rapp cult is all about. And that's why, no matter how much the critic dislikes the play currently under consideration, Rapp will nevertheless be praised for his talent.

David Cote in Time Out New York gives a loving shout-out to Rapp's manly attributes in this way, with my own emphasis:
Familiar Rappian tropes include physical decay, violence, cults, madness and futile acts of kindness. Anyone worried that the writer is getting soft, rest assured: By the end of this epic, every bodily fluid has put in an appearance.

...Despite the shaggy-dog aspects of the enterprise, Rapp remains a true man of the theater and a potent writer...

Michael Sommers at New Jersey Newsroom provides a perfect demonstration of a standard all-is-forgiven response to Rapp's uneven talent:
The cumulative effect of the trilogy is negligible except to reaffirm that Rapp is a talented writer who only sporadically rises to his considerable best.

You don't believe me when I say they are all actively rooting for Rapp to succeed? Michael Giltz in the Huffington Post comes right out and says it:
A trilogy of plays is inherently ambitious and it's natural to demand sweep and greatness so you can shout to the heavens about a major new work, especially when it comes from acclaimed playwright Adam Rapp, who seems one major hit away from becoming the Sam Shepherd of his generation. But the simple truth is that he has delivered two solid, if flawed, plays that exhibit his many talents for character and dialogue. The third -- Nursing -- is a bit of a train wreck with its sci-fi premise and heavy-handed denouement. It's further proof of Rapp's considerable talent, but not the home run you long for Rapp to hit.

Although admittedly I said male critics want Rapp to be the next Mamet, rather than Shepard, the other senior manly man playwright. And please note the sports analogy.

John Lahr, Rapp's biggest fan, pays the highest manly man compliment - he compares Rapp's work to sports expressed, amusingly, in Lahr's usual effete style:

Rapp, who played semiprofessional basketball in Europe as a young man, has, as they say in the vernacular of the sport, some terrific moves...

And there you have it - Rapp is a jock. Not even Mamet or Shepard can make that claim. Rapp truly is the most manly playwright of them all. And thus, no matter what he writes and how badly, he'll be with us for the rest of his natural days.