Saturday, March 31, 2012


I finally got to see Keen Company's PAINTING CHURCHES - director Carl Forsman kindly gave me comps to the show - and I was right - it is a good play. I could tell by reading it, but it was confirmed by this production. I was choked up by the end - even though I already knew the plot. That is what a play is supposed to do - have some kind of emotional resonance.

I had the same feeling at the end of DEATH OF A SALESMAN and WIT. That emotional impact that sometimes sneaks right up on you. So few plays that I've seen have that kind of impact. Hell, most of the plays written these days don't even try. They're too focused on examining (really, celebrating) man's inhumanity to man or being cutting edge or portentous or making some kind of intellectual observation.

Plays that have a quiet but profound emotional impact like CHURCHES are not what gets produced. Which I think might be part of the reason for why plays by women are produced less often than plays by men, in spite of the fact that plays by women make more money than plays by men. Because the sensitive, subtle emotions evoked by plays like CHURCHES aren't all manly macho kewl. And the cast is two women and a man - it's just so horribly girly. Going to such a play might pollute a man with girl germs and sap his virility. Best go see a play by Adam Rapp - those have manly prostitute sex and violence and bodily fluids galore and are therefore much more prestigious.

Some of the reviews of Keen's PAINTING CHURCHES were pretty negative and I disagree with most of them. I do agree that the actor playing the daughter didn't seem to quite inhabit the character as she should - certainly not in comparison to the way Kathleen Chalfant and John Cunningham inhabited their characters. But as far as the set, which several reviewers bitched about - are they smoking crack? I thought the set design was just about perfect, especially considering the small stage the designer was given to work with. And the direction was just fine - it worked for the play, rather than draw attention to the direction itself. What a radical concept these days.

So never let it be said I hate all plays - I do hate alot of plays, but only because alot of plays are crap. When I find a good play, I like the hell out of it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

giant mammal fruit

Wikipedia makes this interesting observation about avocados and mangoes:

Co-evolution The avocado may be an example of an 'evolutionary anachronism', a fruit adapted for ecological relationship with now-extinct large mammals (such as giant ground sloths or gomphotheres). Most large fleshy fruits serve the function of seed dispersal, accomplished by their consumption by large animals. There are some reasons to think that the fruit, with its mildly toxic pit, may have co-evolved with Pleistocene megafauna to be swallowed whole and excreted in their dung, ready to sprout. No existent native animal is large enough to effectively disperse avocado seeds in this fashion. If so, the avocado occupies an ecological niche similar to that of the mango of Asia.[44][45]

This is a gomphothere.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

non-misogynist romance movies

I was looking at iTunes movie listings recently and was appalled to see that some hard-core misogynist movies are listed in the Romance category. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for instance. I haven't seen the movie because it sounds like a huge reeking piece of misogyny - naturally coming from Judd Apatow - based on every review I've read. But if even half of what is described in this review at Tiger Beatdown is true, it is best if I don't watch the movie because if I did, I would have an irresistible urge to hunt down Apatow and every evil freak who green-lighted this movie.

I did, unfortunately, see Love Actually. I don't want to relive that experience. Read the NYTimes review of Love Actually to get some idea of how obnoxious and misogynist this movie is. And so many people think this is such a charming lovely Christmas movie. Morons. It's "romance" as conceived by evolutionary psychologists - a field of dreams for men of all ages, and a horrible nightmare for any woman over 30. You think I exaggerate? Compare these two scenarios from the movie:

Guy considered ugly in the UK goes to America where the women love his accent so much that he is taken back to an apartment to have a five-way - I kid you not - with them. And then he finds true love with one of them and goes back to the UK with her and another one in tow, to give to his buddy like some retarded sexbot souvenir.


Laura Linney, who should be horse-whipped for accepting this role, plays an American woman who can not have love ever again because her brother, a violent psychotic, has access to a telephone literally twenty-four hours a day at the psych ward he is committed to and therefore calls her all the time night and day. That's the only "love" that Linney's character gets - with a violent psychotic brother living at the worst psychiatric facility ever.

Apparently, once upon a time, romance movies with strong female characters weren't considered "chick flicks" and even men could admit to enjoying them. I expect this is because at the height of the age of the Patriarchy there was no question that women were inferior to men, so men could enjoy a strong woman character without feeling pussy-whipped. But no longer. Now that Patriarchy is on the defensive, the only way for a bro to enjoy a movie about romance is to ensure that women are humiliated, as in the Sarah Marshall movie, or humiliated (Emma Thompson's character) AND deprived of romantic love entirely due to being the slave of a psycho (Linney), while the all the male characters' dreams come true in Love, Actually.

That's how evil filmmakers are these days. I would have said "Hollywood" but Love Actually was made in the UK.

There are, however, the rare pro-woman, even, *gasp* feminist romances out there. The minority to be sure, which is why it's important to make a list. I decided to start making that list:

  • His Girl Friday - this is a feminist movie by accident - the Rosalind Russell character, Hildy, was originally a male but the director changed it. Also, ad-libbing was allowed so Russell hired a writer to give her bon mots to give her character. But even if by accident, I'll take it. Because it was originally written for a man, the character's trajectory is to want to get out of the newspaper business and go live in the sticks and settle down and get married, but can't because he's too good a journalist. They couldn't change that without ruining the story entirely so they were stuck with it - even for a woman. And bonus - the boring guy that Hildy ultimately rejects is Ralph Bellamy and she ends up with Cary Grant. Talk about a no-brainer.

  • The Little Mermaid - Katha Pollitt and I vehemently disagree on this one. Pollitt thinks that just because the evil character Ursula sings about how mermaids don't need to talk to get a man, and ends up right, it proves that The Little Mermaid is sexist. Pollitt didn't watch the movie very carefully because the reason that Prince Eric resists Ariel in spite of the fact that he thinks she's pretty and he likes her personality is exactly because she can't talk - and in his first woozy encounter with Arial, after she saved his life, he remembers she was singing. But even without her voice, Arial manages to communicate with Eric. But also, her character is filled with intellectual curiosity - she's virtually a mermaid archeologist, with a collection of human artifacts that she tries to figure out. She becomes attracted to Eric while on one of her expeditions to the surface, in defiance of her father, who hates humans. And perhaps most importantly of all, she is driven by shameless lust. This is rare enough in any movie much less a Disney movie. And in fact you really get a sense of progress when you consider that the last Disney fairy tale animation before this one was Sleeping Beauty, in which the title character, well, slept through virtually the entire movie. What a difference from Ariel. People who think the Little Mermaid is sexist are all wet.

  • Cassanova - was a delightful surprise. I rented this because I thought Heath Ledger was damnned cute, but I was prepared to grit my teeth through the interchangeable-sexbot view of women which I figured was inevitable with any story about Cassanova and wow, that was so not this movie! Instead the heroine is awesome - an 18th century proto-feminist philosopher. Cassanova falls in love with her and they end up on the road together as a traveling theatre troupe and the heroine becomes a playwright. Swoon. It's a total fantasy but so what? And on top of that, there's quite a bit of Catholic-church bashing throughout. Which makes this pretty much a perfect movie.
More non-misogynist romance movies to come...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Well it took me forever to edit this NYCPlaywrights play of the month which we recorded on the subway, mainly because of the lousy sound quality. I will have to invest in some serious equipment one of these days. The best part of this is the actors facial expressions, which luckily don't depend on sound. And Val did a great job with the monologue, especially considering we had one read-through of the play in a diner just before hopping onto the subway, and considering that we were in the middle of a public subway car with other people and seemingly constant P.A. announcements. And Mike does great with his mini-monologue too - it's about the travails of being an actor.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Yorker Parity Report - April 2, 2012

Well we are almost within hailing distance of parity - as close as it's gotten since I started to keep track, except of course the food issue. And still it's 18% short of parity.

The New Yorker Parity Report

A regular report on the gender parity - or lack thereof - of the current issue of The New Yorker based on table of contents by-lines
Includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. Does not include illustrations.

A score of 50% means that half of all writers in the issue are female.
A score of greater than 50% would mean more female than male writers. This never happens.

Parity change from previous week: +8%

April 2, 2012

Total writers: 19
male: 13
female: 6
gender parity score: 32%

Last week's score
Total writers: 21
male: 16
female: 5
gender parity score: 24%

Monday, March 26, 2012

Eddie Izzard flies his atheist flag

He mainly does his usual schtick which is fine because it's funny.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MISTRESS ILSA 2012 wraps it up

We had a great show for our last performance of MISTRESS ILSA, part of the TAWDRY show. The play is still not quite right, but this version represents a definite improvement over ILSA 2011. I expanded the role of The Snake and in this production she acquired some supernatural qualities. In this scene she somehow manages to gain entry into Ilsa's office without Ilsa realizing it, and she now has her own special music when she enters. The actor who played her this time around, Vibe Normann, is Danish and has expertise with accents. And she knows much more about Latvia than I do - she told us that Denmark and Latvia had a war which Denmark won, for one thing, and for another,  Latvian accents are much closer to Russian accents than I realized.

But also, she just really rocked the evilness of The Snake.

Friday, March 23, 2012

what Twitter?

I still have a Twitter account, but I haven't tweeted since December 2011 and I don't miss it at all. I think Twitter is basically a fad. Most people will eventually stop using it because what's the point? You either have something to say of substance or why bother?

There are only two kinds of people who have a reason to use Twitter - celebrities who are promoting their work, and people who are incredibly, mind-bogglingly banal.

Andy Borowitz falls into the first category. I am much more likely to want to buy his book because he twits consistently witty things. Here are some of his best tweets in the past 24 hours alone:
Andy Borowitz ‏ @BorowitzReport

Just to be on the safe side, people should probably stop wearing hoodies, and also be white.

Bad news for Obama: he can't hire the best person to sabotage Mitt Romney's campaign, because that is Mitt Romney. 

If someone shoots innocent civilians in Afghanistan, he's arrested a lot faster than he would be in Florida. 

BREAKING: Prostitution Ring Embarrassed by Association with John Edwards

I worry that Geraldo's hoodie comment will overshadow all the other comments he's made that are equally idiotic. 
I found these on Twitter just now, but you know where I saw them first? On Facebook because Borowitz feeds his tweets into his Facebook newsfeed. So who needs Twitter for reading tweets?

The second category of people, the mind-bogglingly banal, well they are truly dedicated to Twitter. I used to check in frequently with one individual's tweets because I just couldn't believe that she felt the need to tweet such utter banalities on a regular basis. I mean electron microscope-sized small talk. Things like (I'm paraphrasing) "my coffee is very hot this morning." Eventually I stopped reading her tweets because... well I guess I just forgot about her. But I suddenly thought to check in to see how it's going and yes, she is still the sworn enemy of significance - here are just some of her tweets from the past week or so:
  • She has noticed an attractive man nearby
  • She doesn't want to be annoyed today
  • She is wearing a special nail polish color
  • She found a musical item just now
  • Some food in her refrigerator went bad
  • There was water on the floor of the subway
  • It's foggy this morning
  • She noticed a room is chilly 
  • She has eaten a delicious dessert
I don't claim to be the most scintillating of conversationalist but dear little 8 pound 6 ounce baby Jesus! Being so spectacularly boring must be some hard work! I mean, sure, not everything on my blog is going to be of interest to everybody, but at least I generally have something of substance to say even if it is noting the Vernal Equinox - I didn't just say, hey, it's the Vernal Equinox, I posted an informative diagram. And in any case, I rarely post more than one item a day. She churns out these precious nuggets of almost Zen-like nothingness many times during any given 24-hour period.

I just can't imagine that the effort to type out the present climate conditions in 140 characters or less is worth the bother.

I would feel sorry for her, for being so boring, but she seems to be a completely contented, spitting out little cuds of banality on a regular basis, with the occasion sharing of mutual approving moos with of one of her friends. No, I'm sure the banal either have no idea they are banal or if they do, they think that banal is exactly the thing to be.

I'll check back with her in another six months. I suspect when I do I will learn more about temporary weather conditions, subway car inconveniences and the state of her groceries. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rutherford & Son

I got to see another play for free thanks to the NYCPlaywrights web site. This time it was Rutherford & Son at the Mint Theater.

I didn't hate the play, but I found it pretty boring especially towards the end. I appreciate that the Mint Theater's mission is to produce older plays and this one is about a hundred years old, but even more notably was written by Githa Sowerby, a woman. She was produced under her initials originally but once her identity was known, the New York Times critic Adolph Klauber expressed his concern:
Even with Miss Sowerby as a shining example, we do not feel that the playwriting instinct in young ladies calls for immediate or emphatic encouragement.
Ah yes, the good ole days.

The play had a solid narrative structure so it avoided the aimlessness of so many contemporary plays, but the concerns of the people in this play were the concerns of a completely different time period so it was hard to identify with, for example, the daughter who spent her first 36 years at home waiting on her father with no contact with men ever. I felt bad for her, of course, but mainly I felt more like "so glad things have improved in the past hundred years."

Also the two Rutherford sons were played with an incredibly whiny manner that was extremely irritating, and the one son's accent kept sliding around from North of England dialect to Received Pronunciation dialect to Indian accent.

The guy who played Rutherford was really good though. He totally was Rutherford.

Of course Shakespeare's time is even further away, (although extreme patriarchy changed very little from his time to Sowerby's time) but I feel more identification with his characters. I guess that's what makes him big bad Avon Bill.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vernal Equinox

Technically, yesterday.

Excellent technical diagram from Wiki. As a professional technical writer, I adore graphics that are both informative and aesthetically pleasing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

things I learned from Mad Men

I spent the day sick on the sofa watching the first two seasons of Mad Men and learned quite alot about the way things were in the early 1960s:
  • Everybody smoked all the time, especially doctors when they were seeing patients.
  • Everybody drank all the time - especially pregnant women.
  • Everybody cheated on everybody all the time.
  • Everybody was anti-Semitic
  • Women were sexually harassed in the office constantly.
  • Friends let friends drive drunk all the time.
  • Nobody tells anybody anything important unless they absolutely have to.
  • All men are complete scum.
Now nobody has to tell me that the early 1960s was a bad time for Jews, Blacks and women but even I have a hard time believing that people engaged in such bad behavior so relentlessly. I will say though that I enjoyed Don Draper's scenes of marital infidelity because Jon Hamm is an extremely attractive man and you're much more likely to see lots of him during his adulteries than during his marital sex. So even though it makes me dislike his character, I do look forward to his endless cheating.

The biggest charm of Mad Men is the production values which take great care to get the period details right and gives you the impression of being a fly on the wall during that time period, and being aghast at the self-destructive and careless behaviors of people back then. One of the most shocking and effective moments is when one little girl is running around with the plastic that is used to cover dry cleaning over her head and her mother yells at her - and you think she's about to say "take that plastic bag off your head" but what she says is "if I find the dry cleaning that came with that bag on the floor..." But on the down side, that aspect grows old after a while and the surprise and let's face it, the smug superiority of being a Person From The Superior Future wears off. The story lines become repetitive and the charm of watching men in business meetings is pretty low to begin with.

Since it's an ad agency in the 1960s, Mad Men occasionally reminds of Bewitched - Samantha's husband Darren being an advertising copywriter. But then I miss all the magic stuff and of course the shamelessly self-serving Larry Tate. Although speaking of self-serving, the head of Don Draper's ad agency is a huge fan of Ayn Rand and at one point says he'll introduce Don Draper to Ayn Rand. I don't think they're actually going to portray that in the show which is such a shame - it would be so incredible. Now that I've seen some Mad Men, I can really appreciate this Sesame Street parody:

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Yorker Parity Report - March 26, 2012

Oh boy, it's the Style Issue, when the New Yorker tries to look more like Vanity Fair, but only for a week, thank goodness. I would have thought that, like the food issue, this issue would have a higher percentage of female writers than usual, but I would have thought wrong - although it's up a smidge from last week, 24% is a pretty standard parity rate score - half of actual parity.

The New Yorker Parity Report

A regular report on the gender parity - or lack thereof - of the current issue of The New Yorker based on table of contents by-lines
Includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. Does not include illustrations.

A score of 50% means that half of all writers in the issue are female.
A score of greater than 50% would mean more female than male writers. This never happens.

Parity change from previous week: +3%

March 26, 2012

Total writers: 21
male: 16
female: 5
gender parity score: 24%

Last week's score
Total writers: 23
male: 18
female: 5
gender parity score: 21%

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mistress Ilsa 2012 pix

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mike Daisey wants it both ways

The issue of This American Life's retraction of their broadcast of Mike Daisey's show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs reminds me of an exchange I had with a playwright who wrote a play using prominent atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hair as the main character. I blogged about that in February 2006.

What David Foley, the author of The Last Days of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, In Exile and Mike Daisey have in common is that they want to have it both ways. They want to be able to use the notoriety of their subjects to get attention for their theatre production but they want the freedom to invent details as they see fit.

 There are differences though. In Daisey's case, the main thrust of the story is true - Foxconn does mistreat its workers. But Daisey made it seem much worse by claiming that its workers were being forced to use n-hexane; that he met under-aged workers at Foxconn; that he showed an iPhone to a worker who had never seen an iPhone and the worker said it was like magic; that the factory guards had guns.

In the case of David Foley, something that might have been true - O'Hair absconding with money - turned out to be completely false and not only that, but the truth itself was much more dramatic, sensational, even, than the speculation. I am at a loss to say which is worse. But in both cases, the misrepresentations were excused on the basis that it was theatre.

Well the theatre world is full of bullshit artists who have no concept of personal integrity, so none of this is really shocking. It's all about selling tickets, even if it means presenting fiction as fact.

Friday, March 16, 2012

sick of theatre

What is this, I'm sick for another theatre production. This is getting to be a regular thing. Seems like every time I do a production I come down with a cold. At least for the last MISTRESS ILSA, back in July, I waited until the last performance to get sick. This time I'm sick before the first performance. Argh. I guess it's because I always end up doing so much and the stress is too much. I need to get someone else to do all the production shit work next time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My new Tawdry promo

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ilsa & Trixie

Mistress Ilsa rides again. This time she has a new Trixie - that's Larissa Adamczyk, who was last seen in a Mergatroyd Productions show playing the exact opposite of Trixie - Courtney, in The Good Women of Morningside was a brainy nerd while Trixie is... not brainy. However they both have one thing in common - each loves her cat.

I just realized I've had cats in many of the plays I've written in the last few years... I better tone down the cattage a little going forward.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Yorker Parity Report - March 19, 2012

The New Yorker parity rate soars up from 8% to 21%, back to almost half of what would be parity.

The New Yorker Parity Report

A regular report on the gender parity - or lack thereof - of the current issue of The New Yorker based on table of contents by-lines
Includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. Does not include illustrations.

A score of 50% means that half of all writers in the issue are female.
A score of greater than 50% would mean more female than male writers. This never happens.

Parity change from previous week: +13%

March 19, 2012

Total writers: 23
male: 18
female: 5
gender parity score: 21%

Last week's score
Total writers: 23
male: 21
female: 2
gender parity score: 8%

Sunday, March 11, 2012

the Forsman interview

I enjoyed this whole interview with Carl Forsman - we talked for 30 minutes and I edited it down to almost 8 minutes and unfortunately had to leave out our discussion of Mr. Rogers (Carl is a fan of Mr. Rogers too) among other things, but the best part is at the end. First because Carl says of Tina Howe "her plays are very much generated from a spirit place of truth." I'm guessing he casually floats phrases such as that as a result of having a minister for a father.

I expect it's saying things like that which made Tina Howe say of him "doves fly out of his jacket." Carl mentions that anecdote and I laughed loudly - much too loudly. I did what I could to edit the laughter down to a low roar in post-production, but I didn't want to lose what Carl was saying so it's still pretty loud.

But really, that is pretty funny.

I mention at the beginning of this interview that Carl is from Chatham NJ. I've actually been to Chatham - I had some root canals there several years ago - and in spite of that I recognized what an utterly charming town Chatham is. I mean old time quaint and pretty and like you've gone back into some mythical American small town that never really existed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Mistress Ilsa rides again in the evening of one-acts, TAWDRY.

Productions photos soon. I'm still missing a Snake but I'm auditioning tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2012

I love me some Carl Forsman pt 2

Back in January 2008 - can that really be four years ago? - I saw an interview with Keen Company founder and director Carl Forsman and I blogged about it under the title "I love me some Carl Forsman."

As I say in that blog post, I love the Keen Company's theatre philosophy. So I decided to finally do something to help promote it - I interviewed Carl yesterday about his philosophy and his currently running show Painting Churches and will be posting it onto the NYCPlaywrights web site - and here, of course. Carl was as nice as you might expect somebody who champions sincerity, generosity and kindness, gave a great interview AND gave me comps to his show. And as it happens, PAINTING CHURCHES is a good play - I haven't seen it yet but read it and was impressed by it as I said back in December. And I am impressed by very few plays.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

the suit we call business

Well I finally found a business lady suit but I had to go to Bloomingdales to get it - no Steinway avenue for me.

Look, Grand Central Station.

Am I the only one who notices how hot Mercury is? I guess it's really part of his job, being a Greek Roman god* and all. But seriously... six pack of the gods!

* his Greek counterpart is Hermes

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Calling all angels

Is this statue of an angel with a cell phone great or what? And it has numbers you can call:

...shortly after the statue was unveiled last April, a local couple, the parents of two children, set up a number so people could call the angel. Business cards soon appeared in pubs, restaurants and hotels with a picture of the angel and the number. So successful was the line that the couple opened a Twitter account, @ut_engelke, managed by the husband, which now has about 2,700 followers.
“The telephone is ringing all day,” said the wife, who like her husband agreed to meet a reporter on the condition that they not be identified. “It was a fairy tale,” she said over beer and snacks. “Now, it’s real.” To identify them, she said, would end it.
What began as a joke continues because the cellphone number has become something of a hot line, dialed by people of all ages, some in need of help, others just because they are lonely.
At the holidays, the calls became so frequent and so pressing that the couple was tempted to give up. “Between Christmas and New Year’s, that was an emotional time frame, it was so heartbreaking,” she said. A small girl called begging the angel to pray for a grandmother who had just died; a woman asked help to celebrate her first Christmas without her parents. A widow sought prayers for her dead children.
The statue of the Little Angel arose out of a 1997 competition, won by the Dutch sculptor Ton Mooy, to create 40 statues, including 14 angels, to replace those on the cathedral that time and pollution had ruined. The Little Angel was the only unconventional one.
“You can make a phony Gothic statue,” Mr. Mooy, 63, said in his studio in Amersfoort, about an hour north of here. “That’s not what I wanted. It had to fit in with what was always on the church, namely, refinement, emotion. Angels are there to guide, to protect people, they get messages from above. How do you show that? With a cellphone.”
More at the NYTimes 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


It's a good thing Mr. Fuzz is as cute as he is because otherwise he would really get on my nerves. He has a range of schemes to get me to pay attention to him. I've already blogged about the one scheme, where he goes into a closet or another room and then makes piteous meows that I can't ignore - and when I say something in response he comes trotting into the room, or busts out of the closet.

This photo is another scheme, well-known to many cat owners I'm sure - the old stare-down. You can see he's practically on top of my laptop and his face is like inches away from my face as I try to ignore him and get some work done.

Right after I took this picture he went to Scheme 1.

Maybe the most cute/annoying scheme though is when he makes me hold him, under the theory, I suppose, that if I can't be playing mousie-time with him, the least I could do is hold him while typing on a laptop. If I'm slouched far enough down while working, he just sits right on my chest so I can rest my chin on his back while I work. Sheesh.

Monday, March 05, 2012

New Yorker Parity Report - March 12, 2012

Wow, the parity rate drops to 8% this week - two female by-lines out of 23. One of the bylines is my Facebook friend Dahlia Lithwick, the other is a poet, Maxine Kumin. It's almost as bad as a Republican panel on health insurance and birth control.

The New Yorker Parity Report

A regular report on the gender parity - or lack thereof - of the current issue of The New Yorker based on table of contents by-lines
Includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. Does not include illustrations.

A score of 50% means that half of all writers in the issue are female.
A score of greater than 50% would mean more female than male writers. This never happens.

Parity change from previous week: -19%

March 12, 2012

Total writers: 23
male: 21
female: 2
gender parity score: 8%

Last week's score
Total writers: 22
male: 16
female: 6
gender parity score: 27%

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Supermarket playlist

I'm very business-like at the supermarket - I have my list of stuff to get and I tool around with my cart like nobody's business and then it's off to the self-checkout (faster than the staffed check-out) and I'm outta there.

But my local supermarket sometimes has an excellent selection of music playing and it slows me down a little so I can do a step or two from "The Hustle."

Some of the songs they played I'd heard before but for some reason have only now developed an appreciation for them - mostly funk and disco stuff - like "The Hustle."

Here is my supermarket's playlist (with links to the Youtube instance):
  1. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester - this reminds me of the documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk" because it's played over scenes of Castro-area partying. Your basic disco-repetition set-up, perfect for dancing, not listening to the lyrics.

  2. This Guy's In Love with You by Herb Alpert - the crashing piano sections are what completely make this this song, contrasted with Herb's smooth delivery.

  3. Downtown by Petula Clark - I already own this one but it's great to hear it almost anytime. Because things will be great when you're downtown. I don't have that many memories from before kindergarten but this is one of them. I distinctly remember hanging out on the Delp's hammock one summer morning with the twins (Anne Marie and Bernadette Matusek) and Johnny Thompson and maybe a couple more kids and singing this song's refrain. Actually I think we just sang "downtown" over and over again. So it made a big impression.

  4. IGY by Donald Fagen -  this is from Fagen's post-Steely Dan I (1969 - 1981) phase, on his solo album "The Nightfly" and although I've owned this for years, there is almost nothing better to listen to while shopping, with its ironic take on the splendors and future of American consumer culture and technology from the point of view of the 1950s: "You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky - You know we've got to win  - Here at home we'll play in the city -  Powered by the sun - Perfect weather for a streamlined world - There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone." Just perfect.

  5. My Ever-Changing Moods by the Style Council - oh man oh man I love this song. And I pretty much don't like The Style Council's output but there is something about this song... I actually loved it for the music alone for years - I first noticed this song in the supermarket - before I bought it, but the lyrics turn out to be extremely interesting. They're hard to hear so you can read them here. The last stanza is most-compelling: "Evil turns to statues - and masses form a line | But I know which way Id run to if the choice was mine | The past is knowledge - the present our mistake | And the future we always leave too late | I wish we'd come to our senses and see there is no truth | In those who promote the confusion for this ever changing mood" And yet for all that it is extremely danceable and who could resist the drum flourish with the bah-bah-BAHHHH!? Nobody with working ears, I say.

  6. Gone at Last by Paul Simon - this is an amazing song but I never realized it until recently. The lyrics, the Phoebe Snow backing vocal - and the Jesse Dixon singers. The feelings generated by this song I imagine are very similar to what the devout feel at gospel-singing churches. Poor Phoebe Snow - her career was side-tracked when she cared for her disabled daughter for 30 years, and then she had a cerebral hemorrhage and died last year at age 60.

  7. Stoned Love by the Supremes - this is the post-Diana Ross Supremes.  I've always been a Supremes fan but never knew much about this song, but it's great, as usual.

  8. Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time by the Delfonics - on the other hand I've never been a big fan of the Delfonics - their "smooth jazz" has always been a little too smooth in my opinion. I'm sure I've heard this song many times, since it was first released but I never noticed it until my last trip to the supermarket. Originally I thought he was saying he blew her mind with a great round of sex, but actually it's because he's finally leaving her.

  9. The Hustle by Van McCoy and the Soul City - I was part of the teen anti-disco brigade back when, and have spent the last decade regretting it as I've come to appreciate so many disco songs. Although I will say in my defense, I've always been a fan of Turn the Beat Around even when I was 15. So I wasn't as bad as some. The Hustle is such a blast to hear, unexpectedly, in the middle of the supermarket.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Harlem Tragedy by O. Henry

Most people know of the writer O. Henry through his short story The Gift of the Magi. But he wrote lots of short stories, and most of them will never catch on in the popular imagination - or at least dear baby Jesus I certainly hope not. Not in the case of his A Harlem Tragedy, which is the delightful tale of a woman, Mrs. Cassidy, who is frequently beaten by her husband:
Mrs. Cassidy laughed the contented laugh of the guarded and happy
matron. With the air of Cornelia exhibiting her jewels, she drew
down the collar of her kimono and revealed another treasured bruise,
maroon-colored, edged with olive and orange--a bruise now nearly
well, but still to memory dear.

Mrs. Fink capitulated. The formal light in her eye softened to

envious admiration. She and Mrs. Cassidy had been chums in the
downtown paper-box factory before they had married, one year before.
Now she and her man occupied the flat above Mame and her man.
Therefore she could not put on airs with Mame.

"Don't it hurt when he soaks you?" asked Mrs. Fink, curiously.

"Hurt!"--Mrs. Cassidy gave a soprano scream of delight. "Well,

say--did you ever have a brick house fall on you?--well, that's just
the way it feels--just like when they're digging you out of the
ruins. Jack's got a left that spells two matinees and a new pair of
Oxfords--and his right!--well, it takes a trip to Coney and six
pairs of openwork, silk lisle threads to make that good."

"But what does he beat you for?" inquired Mrs. Fink, with wide-open


"Silly!" said Mrs. Cassidy, indulgently. "Why, because he's full.

It's generally on Saturday nights."

"But what cause do you give him?" persisted the seeker after


"Why, didn't I marry him? Jack comes in tanked up; and I'm here,

ain't I? Who else has he got a right to beat? I'd just like to catch
him once beating anybody else! Sometimes it's because supper ain't
ready; and sometimes it's because it is. Jack ain't particular about
causes. He just lushes till he remembers he's married, and then
he makes for home and does me up. Saturday nights I just move the
furniture with sharp corners out of the way, so I won't cut my
head when he gets his work in. He's got a left swing that jars you!
Sometimes I take the count in the first round; but when I feel like
having a good time during the week or want some new rags I come up
again for more punishment. That's what I done last night. Jack knows
I've been wanting a black silk waist for a month, and I didn't think
just one black eye would bring it. Tell you what, Mag, I'll bet you
the ice cream he brings it to-night."
It's one of the more grotesque things I've ever read. Mrs. Cassidy accepts the beatings because her husband buys her things after the beatings. Mrs. Fink becomes jealous because her husband doesn't beat her. So Mrs. Fink tries to provoke a round of domestic violence and instead her husband ends up doing her chores for her. And that is why the story is called A Harlem Tragedy. This particular O. Henry ending is intended, I gather from the tone of the piece, to inspire gales of laughter from you, dear reader.

Hardy har har.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Midnight Cowboy of Astoria

So I'm running up and down Steinway Street in Astoria in a frustrating and futile attempt to find a store with a decent selection of ladies business suit jackets when some guy blocks my way. He was Asian, maybe late 20s, fairly normal-looking and...

Excuse me, would you like some company right now?

Not right now. Thanks.

And I quickly walk past him. And it occurs to me: I was just propositioned by a male prostitute!

Because that was no pick-up line I ever heard of - "would you like some company right now."

The poor guy. He should watch the movie Midnight Cowboy before he tries to make a career out of hustling women on the street. Midnight Cowboy was made in 1969 but nothing has changed for men wanting to sell sex to women - there are too many men who are willing to give it away. Especially, from my personal experience, men in their 20s.

The Cowboy was played by the now extremist right-winger Jon Voight although he was liberal then. He is also more attractive than the guy I met on the street - after all, he is the father of Angelina Jolie - and even his character couldn't make it as a male prostitute for women. He thought he finally found a female customer, and they go back to her place, and when she realizes that he expects her to pay him for his attentions she flips out and yells: "I happen to be one hell of a gawgous chick!" And he feels so bad that gives her money instead.

The closest I ever came to that kind of thing was my sister's bachelorette party at a place in Philadelphia called The Cave. It was pretty wild and there were young well-muscled guys in little thong-like underpants running around and we were supposed to put money into their underpants, but when one guy came up to me, I couldn't do it. It felt so degrading to treat him like that, so I just handed him the money. Which was probably not what he wanted since the only place he could store his money was in the thong and he probably ended up putting the money in there himself - I don't know, I looked away in mortification.

I certainly appreciate masculine pulchritude and if women can make money by wearing little outfits in front of people then men should have the opportunity too. But I don't actually want to participate myself. It seems so depersonalized and heartless. If a guy needed money I'd rather just give him money than make him do something sexual in exchange. I really don't know how anybody could pay for sex - where's the fun in that?