Friday, August 31, 2012

New Yorker Parity Report - multi-issue

I got waaaay behind on the New Yorker parity report. I'm still fiddling with the formatting. This week I'm keeping it simple since it's a multi-issue report.
There seems to have been a quota of 4 women per issue for the past four issues. BTW the average parity for these four issues is 32%.

August 6, 2012
Total writers: 12
male: 8
female: 4
gender parity score: 33%

August 13/20, 2012
Total writers: 13
male: 9
female: 4
gender parity score: 31%

August 27, 2012
Total writers: 13
male: 9
female: 4
gender parity score: 31%

September 3, 2012
Total writers: 12
male: 8
female: 4
gender parity score: 33%

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boogie Oogie Oogie

I was so willfully ignorant of disco music and groups, as was the rest of my stoner/rocker cohort at high school that I had no idea that the two women who fronted A Taste of Honey played their own instruments.

Now that may not be such a big deal now, but at the time of the release of their monster hit Boogie Oogie Oogie in 1978, that was a huge rarity. One of the reasons that Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders was so ground-breaking was Hynde's guitar playing. And that was New Wave rock - rock has always been more about singers who also play instruments than any other genre. To have a disco band fronted by two female musician/singers blows my mind even now in 2012.

And God what I wouldn't give to look like bassist Janice-Marie Johnson. You could cut glass with those cheek bones.

Plus bongoes. I ask you - what is not to like?

I love watching this video and it makes me sorry I never went to a disco during the age of A Taste of Honey. And now all I can say is:
Let's get up on the floor cause we're gonna boogie oogie oogie til we just can't boogie no more.

And yet another monologue

It has certainly been Eric Percival month at NYCPlaywrights. But he's been doing such a great job, so why the hell not?

I have to admit my special effects firefly is definitely "special" - but I've seen worse special effects online.

It's definitely one of the better monologues we've done, although I'm not crazy about the ending, which is kind of creepy/stalkery. But several of the script evaluators picked it, so I went with it.

We recorded this on Roosevelt Island - it was the nearest place I could think of where we could have access to a fairly bucolic setting that wasn't a New York City park - which all ban smoking. I don't pay these actors enough to have them risk a fine for smoking. As I mentioned in a previous post, those cigarettes were very expensive, even more than the beer and I bought a big-ass bottle of beer - that was the only individual-serve size available at the convenience store. And Eric drank the whole think while we recorded this - by the end I think he was a little drunk. But he's a pro and you cannot tell.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RIP Peter Nicholls

I found out today that a former member of NYCPlaywrights, Peter Nicholls, died recently. Peter and I had our ups and downs while he was a member of the group, primarily because, like so many people who ask for post-reading feedback, he didn't really want to hear criticism and took offense to it. The concept of honest, unvarnished feedback is foreign to most playwrights groups, and so NYCPlaywrights' practices often came as quite a shock. Not that anybody was required to get feedback - I always gave a speech at the beginning of the meetings advising writers that there would be no effort to enforce "positive" responses, and so if they were likely to be upset by criticism, maybe they should think twice about asking for feedback. But almost everybody asked for feedback every time, even for tiny snippets of readings. *sigh*

But I did like some of Peter's work, and told him so, because I am as free with praise as with criticism. This video clip contains an excerpt of his ongoing play, GUNNY, which he called BASIC TRAINING in its 10-minute play version. I thought GUNNY had promise. I don't know what he died of, but he was too young to die. RIP Peter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

glad I quit smoking

Wow cigarettes are EXPENSIVE!
I smoked briefly in high school, and it helped that cigarettes were around a dollar a pack.

I just shot a video the other day, which required the actor to smoke. He doesn't smoke and neither do I, so I had to buy a pack - and then run back because I forgot to ask for matches.

The most expensive part of shooting the video - which also required a bottle of beer - was the damn pack of smokes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

another monologue

Once again Eric Percival does a great job. I made him do this very long monologue (7 minutes) several times and he was a complete pro about it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

still not exaggerating

Just in case anybody thinks I exaggerate when I say I have to look at this accursed, dead-fish-filled art card every damn day. Yes, that's me once again, forced to stare at it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

models dot com

Oh my frickin lord - I just discovered a web site,, which has the top 50 male models in the world profiled (it also has the top 50 female models but who the hell cares about them?)

Oh lordy the beauty there! Here are my top models of the 50:

Miles McMillan - like a young Johnny Depp...

Ton Heukels - as always, the hair counts a lot with me.

Erik Andersson - yeah, dude looks like a lady a bit, but not where it really counts, I bet.

Alexandre Cunha - oh hell yeah

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oliver Sacks WAS the 1960s

I've always found Oliver Sack's books to be a mind-expanding experience thanks to the stories he tells about people like the man who mistook his wife for a hat, and the man who kept throwing himself out of bed because he didn't recognize his own leg, and the man who couldn't remember anything for longer than fifteen minutes, among many other case histories. All these neurological problems create a reality very different from the quotidian.

But that's nothing compared to what Sacks was up to in the sixties:
"I started with cannabis. A friend in Topanga Canyon, where I lived at the time, offered me a joint; I took two puffs and was transfixed by what happened then. I gazed at my hand, and it seemed to fill my visual field, getting larger and larger while at the same time moving away from me. Finally, it seemed to me, I could see a hand stretched across the universe, light-years or parsecs in length. It still looked like a living, human hand, yet this cosmic hand somehow also seemed like the hand of God.
All this on two puffs??? Where can you get some of that Topanga Wowee?

But Sacks was just getting started... Sunday morning I counted out twenty pills (of Artane, a belladonna-like drug) ... there were no psychic effects... I heard a knocking at my door. It was my friends Jim and Kathy, they often dropped round on a Sunday morning. "Come in, door's open," I called out, and as they settled themselves in the living room I asked, "How do you like your eggs?" Jim liked them suny side up, he said. Kathy preferred them over easy. We chatted away while I sizzled their ham and eggs - there were low swinging doors between the kitchen and the living room, so we could hear each other easily. Then, five minutes later, I shouted "Everything's ready," put their ham and eggs on a tray, walked into the living room - and found it empty. No Jim, no Kathy, no sign that they had ever been there. I was so staggered I almost dropped the tray.

It had not occurred to me for an instant that Jim and Kathy's voices, their "presences," were unreal, hallucinatory. We had had a friendly, ordinary conversation, just as we usually had. Their voices were the same as always - there was no hint, until I opened the swinging doors and found the living room empty, that the whole conversation, as least their side of it, had been invented by my brain.
He has other hallucinations too that morning, and this might be the funniest part of the article:
"As I drew nearer to look at it, the spider called out "Hello!" ... I said "Hello yourself" and with this we started a conversation, mostly on rather technical matters of analytic philosophy. Perhaps this direction was suggested by the spider's opening comment: did I think Bertrand Russell had exploded Frege's paradox? Or perhaps it was its voice - pointed, incisive, and just like Russell's voice, which I had heard on the radio. (Decades later, I mentioned the spider's Russellian tendencies to my friend Tom Eisner, an entomologist; he nodded sagely and said: "Yes, I know the species.")
If you think these incidents scared Sacks straight, you would be wrong...
"I had been taught, as a child, that there were seven colors in the spectrum, including indigo... But few people agree on what "indigo" is. 

I had long wanted to see "true" indigo and thought that drugs might be the way to do this. So one sunny Saturday in 1964 I developed a pharmacologic launchpad consisting of a base of amphetamine (for general arousal), LSD (for hallucinogenic intensity), and a touch of cannabis (for a little added delirium). About twenty minutes after taking this, I faced a white wall and exclaimed "I want to see indigo now - now!"

And then, as if thrown by a giant paintbrush, there appeared a huge, trembling, pear-shaped blob of the purest indigo. Luminous, numinous, it filled me with rapture; it was the color of heaven, the color, I thought, that Giotto spent a lifetime trying to get but never achieved... I leaned toward it in a sort of ecstasy. And then it suddenly disappeared, leaving me with an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness that it had been snatched away. But I consoled myself: yes, indigo exists, and it can be conjured up in the brain."
So next, while on vacation, he shoots himself up with morphine.
"Within a minute or so, my attention was drawn to a sort of commotion on the sleeve of my dressing gown, which hung on the door. I gazed intently at this, and as I did so it resolved itself into a miniature but microscopically detailed battle scene... I saw hundreds, thousands of men - two armies, two nations - preparing to do battle...  I lost all sense of this being a spot on the sleeve of my dressing gown, or the fact that I was lying in bed, that I was in London, that it was 1965... after awhile the scene started to fade... it had been dusk when I took the morphine, it should be darker still. It was ten, I now realized, but ten in the morning. I had been gazing, motionless, at my Agincourt for more than twelve hours."
He goes on to recount other wacked-out drug experiences but really, how can you top staring at your own sleeve for twelve hours?

But finally he goes on to credit amphetamines for kicking off his career as a writer of neurological phenomena.

I was curious to see that Sacks has had his share of critics for his recounting of case histories, according to Wikipedia:
Although many characterize Sacks as a "compassionate" writer and doctor, others feel that he exploits his subjects. Sacks was called "the man who mistook his patients for a literary career" by British academic and disability-rights activist Tom Shakespeare, and one critic called his work "a high-brow freak show"
But the biggest critic of Oliver Sacks is my daughter. When she was doing a work-study program while at Rutgers in the late 1990s, Sacks came to speak at the college and my daughter had to be his go-fer. She reports that he was incredibly fussy - for instance, a room had to be cooled to just the right temperature or he could not inhabit it. I pretty much can't talk to my daughter about Oliver Sacks and his work due to her grumbling all during the conversation.

Which is a shame because who wouldn't be amused by this New Yorker essay from trip-master Sacks?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mighty Krug-man shares a video

I got this video from Krugman's blog - it features himself and his wife Robin Wells talking about the ongoing fiscal crisis.

I work near Zucotti Park and although there are no Occupy protestors there, they've moved south and are camped out in front of churches. I will have to get pix soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I believe in Mother Eve

My friend Val took me to see MOTHER EVE'S SECRET GARDEN OF SENSUAL SISTERHOOD on Sunday, and I went mainly because it's been awhile since I saw Val and wanted to catch up with her. I did not have my hopes up - after all, this was a Fringe Festival show, and I had never seen a Fringe Festival show that I didn't loathe.

Well I was pleasantly surprised. This show was actually good. I have some problems with the book, but over all a fun, funny musical. Not only did I not hate it, I actually LOL'd in several places.

Granted I was the only one in the audience who laughed when they have one of the characters quote a line from cult-crap movie The Room - "Lisa, you're tearing me apart!" but still, there were plenty of other communal laughs.

Apparently they did the Midtown International Theatre Festival last year - and also, lo and behold, a web series even before that. Presumably it's gotten better each time.

But they need to fix the book, and I know how - (SPOILER)

- they need to put the reporter's come to Jesus moment (come to Mother Eve moment) after the Mother Eve expose scene. That way we don't already know that the reporter knows she's wrong, and then after the come to Jesus scene we can go right to the scene where the reporter saves Mother Eve - and they can drop the well-written but superfluous number, a space-filler in a meta-NAME OF SHOW-esque mode. Or rather we can go right to the scene after the reporter has a big show-stopping number called either "The Sensual Power of the Irrational" or "I Believe in Mother Eve."

Now the reason they don't do it in that order is because the reporter uses the Mother Eve aphorisms to help her boss figure out how to deal with his wife and then because the boss is happy, that gives her the go-ahead to publish the expose on Mother Eve. But it's not worth it - the important part of that scene is the reporter's Mother Eve training kicking in and to her amazement, it's effective - and that only works right after the reporter has done the damage and thinks she's triumphed over Mother Eve. It's much more dramatic that way. They don't need the issue of getting her story published as a plot point. Really the scenes with the reporter and her boss need to be fleshed out more anyway - they're pretty throw-away right now.

And they need to integrate the reporter character into the earlier scenes better. She's so obviously not a part of the Mother Eve group - she's a very bad under-cover reporter. She doesn't even sing until the end of the show, which is just wrong for a musical - she can sing unwillingly and without enthusiasm during the Mother Eve scenes, but she should at least sing - then her big show-stopping come to Jesus moment will feel right.

Not that anybody's going to listen to me.

Anyway, it is a good time as-is and many of the lyrics are quite witty and most of the tunes are very good as well. If you only go to one Fringe show, see this one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cute chunky play

I liked this Play of the Week selection for many reasons: Eric Percival's amazing take on "Pete from New Jersey", Larissa Adamczyk's comedic skills - in several places in this video she reminds me of David Hyde Pierce - high praise indeed - and the play itself.

The play is pretty well-written - not perfect but definitely better than most of the submitted entries.

But also it deals with a subject that is both hugely common and hardly ever addressed - women being accosted by men. Sometimes known as the "street hassle."

Young women especially have to put up with this kind of thing, and virtually no woman gets to the age of thirty without being on the receiving end of some weird or creepy come-on from some random stranger.

And it doesn't stop even when you're over 40 - I mentioned on this blog, a few months ago, being accosted by a guy - and I haven't yet mentioned another incident, which happened a month or so after the "Midnight Cowboy on Steinway" incident: as I was walking home from the subway wearing my business lady suit, some youngish guy comes up to me and tells me he's from Brazil and invites me to accompany him back to his place. At first I didn't understand what he was saying -  he did have an accent and an unfirm grasp of English. At first I thought he was trying to get a donation for a charity, since I am over the age when a woman is routinely accosted on the street. (I originally thought that men were just more polite in the NYC metropolitan area, when I first moved up here when I was in my late 30s - finally I realized I had just aged out of the constant harrassment zone .) Anyway, back to the boy from Ipamena - eventually he got his meaning across to me, and I'm like - wha? Of course I told him, politely, to go away.

The reason why the street hassle is rarely the subject of plays or TV shows or movies, even though it's practically a rite of passage for women is obvious - because men still completely dominate the media. Since men don't have to put up with this nearly as much as women, it's considered a non-issue and why would anybody care? Except women of course, who do things like create web sites devoted to trying to stop the street hassle, like Holla Back.

I should mention that the author of this piece says it's based on a true incident. Of course I was not surprised.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Terry Gross and Jon Stewart - amazing

How is it I missed this when I was a subway ride away from the 92 St. Y - and still get their mailings?

I used to listen to Fresh Air on a daily basis - now not so much - but I do watch the Daily Show all the time.

Best moment in this clip above - Terry Gross: "I thought you hated me!"

Apparently Terry Gross interviewed Jon Stewart over ten years ago and thought she "blew it" while Jon Stewart thought it was a good interview!

I tracked down the interview on the Fresh Air archives here. From May 31, 2000 it's about twenty minutes long.

Actually I think there's a bit of flirting going on in this interview. At about 8 minutes in, Stewart says to Gross "you don't find me amusing in the least."

Now actually, Gross laughed several times up to that point, so there's no reason to say that in earnest, unless, as Stewart says "I'm a needy son of a bitch." He also claims to be "naked on an air mattress in Hoboken."

Gross reassures him that she does find him funny.

What I think is that Terry Gross, who is not a lesbian as some people apparently believe, has a huge crush on Jon Stewart. You can see how nervous she is in the 92 St. Y interview.

And who can blame her?

You can get an idea of how tiny Terry Gross is at the end of the clip above, when they stand up - Jon Stewart is famously short, and Gross comes up to his navel.

She also interviewed Paul Krugman!

And I finally realized that the Fresh Air archives is a priceless treasure trove.
She also interviewed Caitlin Moran!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Another Ingres widget online

Back in February I blogged about the Ingres widget available on the Morgan Library web site - well lo and behold, the Metropolitan Museum of art has one too. And they have a much bigger Ingres collection. Check out this close up of Ingres' portrait of Jean-Joseph Fournier.

 This is just about the actual size of the original.

But you'll want to see the whole thing to enjoy this guy's Regency/Empire period clothing. Oh lah lah!

I must get back to the Met very soon. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

my girly side

There are some who would have you believe that I don't care about girly things like fashion - my daughter, for example and her friends went so far as to describe me as "butch" - and they are lesbians.

But actually I do like fashion, I just don't care about it as much as, say, the women on Sex and the City.

And I really like men's Regency period clothing - which I don't know if that counts as "fashion" being more of an historical and somewhat (ahem) fetishy predilection.

Mainly though there are two factors that have prevented me from being fashionable most of my life. One is the lack of disposable income. I've had a few brief time periods when I've had money but most of my life has been spent in debt and that includes now - I still have to pay the parental student loan I took out for my daughter's college education, plus the lamentable long-term results of irrational exuberance I suffered during my JANE EYRE production five years ago(!)

And then there's the fact that I am very particular about what I think looks good, and fashion designers and I for the most part disagree on this issue. For example, I think that wearing high heels is utterly pointless unless they will help you get laid.  I was just silently critiquing some woman's shoes on the subway this morning - they were peep-toe snake-skin high heels and I don't know if they were just too small or they were supposed to look that way but they were hideous - and not just for the snakeskin but because her ugly big toe sticking out of the front and the toe cleavage where her foot was jammed into the shoe, and the way the veins popped out of the top of her foot. I'm gagging now just thinking about it. Although she was with what I assume was her boyfriend and they were pretty lovey-dovey, so maybe they do help her get laid, but still, it's kind of a steep price to pay, in my opinion.

And I absolutely hate that one-shoulder asymmetrical look that is currently the rage. And I have been actually nauseated by some of the hideous patterns and colors that are used for women's dresses. And don't even get me started on those big ballony white sneakers that tourists, especially, love to wear. They should be outlawed.

But when I see something finally that I like - take these shoes that Joni Mitchell was wearing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967 - I have been hankering for a pair of these shoes for literally years. I just can't seem to find them. You can't see in this photo (I can't find the original photo that inspired the craving so I had to use this one where she's hugging Leonard Cohen) but they are sling-backs with maybe inch-high heels. Ideally I will find a pair in black but as I said, fashion designers and I have very different ideas of what looks good and I can never find them in any color. But at least this is proof that I'm not entirely butch. Just "butch like Diane Keaton" as the lesbian fashion terrorist brigade proclaimed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

monologue project - one year in the making

I did a search on the NYCPlaywrights web site to see if perhaps we posted the Project Y monologue project call for submissions, and sure enough, we did. But it was over a year ago - their time-line for asking for scripts and then selecting and recording the five winners was an entire year.

Considering what kind of money they must have for their projects, it's really amazing how very little difference there is in the quality of the video recording, directing, etc. between their pieces and the NYCPlaywrights pieces. I expect this is partly due to the nature of Internet video - the dimensions of the image and the necessary reduction in image quality in order to speed up streaming causes the final product to lose a good deal of high-quality production values.

And of course NYCPlaywrights doesn't just do monologues - two of the 10-minute plays of the month are virtual short movies - BEAUTIFUL BOY and OCCUPY DISNEY. BEAUTIFUL BOY didn't come out as well as it could because I seriously underestimated how noisy the subway is - I guess I've learned to block it out during my commute. I should have had each actor over-dub the entire movie to fix the lousy sound. Oh well, live and learn. I think OCCUPY DISNEY, while still not exactly perfect, is a definite improvement on sound quality. It helps that we were in Union Square instead of on the N train.

And one more thing - and this is my own theory of Internet video, but I think that online video works best when you have close-ups of human faces. Most of the shots of the Project Y video are mid-ranges shots, where as I generally get right up in the actors' faces, as in my sonnet video.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ray Magliozzi has a beautiful soul

Like Fred Rogers, Ray Magliozzi has a beautiful soul. But the beauty of Ray's soul is not nearly as obvious as Fred's. On the other hand he's more approachable - in many ways he's a regular guy.

I had already concluded in the past year that Ray Maggliozzi has a beautiful soul, but it was confirmed for me while listening to a podcast of Car Talk tonight.

Ray Magliozzi is Click and/or Clack, one of the Tappet Brothers - the nom de radio adopted by him and his brother Tommy for their show Car Talk.

His brother Tom, 12 years his senior, seems like a decent enough guy, and he might even be the more innovative and philosophical of the two. But Ray is the one who laughs the most, who gives the best advice about cars (especially in the last few years, since Tom has been increasingly showing signs of his age, to put it charitably) who has been married to the same woman for almost forty years. Or as he described it, in contrast to his brother who has been married at least three times, "one and done."

In one podcast Ray mentioned that he met his wife Monique (from Queens!) during a Peace Corps event. That was one sign of his character. And then tonight his brother mentioned that Ray and Monique lived in Vermont for a time because they were admirers of Scott and Helen Nearing. I had heard of the Nearings thanks to being part of the anti-nuclear power movement back when. As Wikipedia tells it:
In the 1930s and 1940s, Nearing and his eventual second wife, Helen Knothe, lived in Winhall in rural Vermont, where they had purchased a rather large forest tract for $2200 and a moderate sized farm for $2500. Nearing and Helen Knothe, who married in 1947, lived a largely ascetic and self-reliant life, growing much of their own food and putting up nine stone buildings over the course of two decades there. Cash was earned from producing maple syrup and maple sugar from the trees on their land and from Scott Nearing's occasional paid lectures.
Feeling a sense of dignity in the common man, and wanting to serve, Nearing wrote and self-published many pamphlets on topics such as low income, peace throughout the world, feminism, and different environmental causes.
I'd venture to say the Nearings are not the heroes of most auto mechanics.

Ray also mentioned that he's always loved working with cars. I will certainly concede that Ray Magliozzi has benefited from moral luck - being born at the right place, at the right time, with the right personality and inclinations, not to mention a stable family life and the progressive outlook of Cambridge Massachusetts. But that doesn't make his soul any less beautiful.

I am sure going to miss hearing him and his brother dispense useful practical information with abiding good humor on a regular basis once Car Talk signs off this autumn. Car Talk is a lot more than just an automotive advice program - I would go so far as to suggest that like Mister Roger's Neighborhood, it is an example of human beings at their best.

If there was ever an inter-galactic conference where every planet was allowed to send just one representative of all the planet's inhabitants, the Earth could not do any better than to send Ray Magliozzi as our representative.

Monday, August 13, 2012

No I was not exaggerating

Here it is again, the art card I blogged about back in June. I was not exaggerating when I said I had to look at this thing every damn day. This mind-fuck, which, at first glance is charming cartoon whimsy and at second, third, infinity glance is a grotesque melange of freakish body entanglements and dead fish.

I mean, I did not choose to stand here, facing this thing for 30 minutes on the way to work - I was standing here because there were no seats and no other place to stand. And I didn't even realize I was standing in front of it, until I looked up from my iPhone and there it was! Again!

When will it end?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

everybody loves those Shakespeare sonnets

A Shakespeare sonnet got a shout-out in today's NYTimes:
Couplets that end Shakespeare’s sonnets often give lie to the old saw that they are throwaway rhyming lines written solely to satisfy the requirements of the form. The couplet that concludes Sonnet LXXIII is a case in point and sums up my feelings, both ecstatic and sad about the “handiwork of time”: This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,/To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
Here is the entire Sonnet 73...
That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
It's a nice coincidence that a Shakespeare sonnet gets a shout-out in the NYTimes when I've just completed my video shout-out. Although I discuss Sonnet 147, which goes like this:
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th’uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I, desperate, now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed:
   For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
   Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Emma Brown

With all the reading up about the life and work of Charlotte Bronte that I did in preparation for writing an adaptation of Jane Eyre, how is it that I don't remember reading about Emma Brown?

I must have read about it, but it completely did not register in my brain that Bronte was working on a novel called Emma when she died, and she wrote two chapters. And it seems that a writer, Clare Boylan who died in 2006 finished the novel for Bronte and called it Emma Brown. I guess I'll get around to reading that, eventually.

In the meantime, here is Bronte's two chapters of Emma:



We all seek an ideal in life. A pleasant fancy began to visit me in a certain year, that perhaps the number of human beings is few who do not find their quest at some era of life for some space more or less brief. I had certainly not found mine in youth, though the strong belief I held of its existence sufficed through all of my brightest and freshest time to keep me hopeful. I had not found it in maturity. I was become resigned never to find it. I had lived certain dim years entirely tranquil and unexpectant. And now I was not sure but something was hovering round my hearth which pleased me wonderfully.
    Look at it, reader. Come into my parlor and judge for yourself whether I do right to care for this thing. First, you may scan me, if you please. We shall go on better together after a satisfactory introduction and due apprehension of identity. My name is Mrs. Chalfont. I am a widow. My house is good, and my income such as need not check the impulse either of charity or a moderate hospitality. I am not young her yet old. There is no silver yet in my hair, but its yellow lustre is gone. In my face wrinkles are yet to come, but I have almost forgotten the days when it wore any bloom. I married when I was very young. I lived for fifteen years a life which, whatever its trials, could not be called stagnant. Then for five years I was alone and, having no children, desolate. Lately Fortune, by a somewhat curious turn of her wheel, placed in my way an interest and a companion.
    The neighbourhood where I live is pleasant enough, its scenery agreeable, and its society civilized, though not numerous. About a mile from my house there is a ladies' school, established but lately--not more than three years since. The conductress of this school were of my acquaintances; and though I cannot say that they occupied the very highest place in my opinion--for they had brought back from some months' residence abroad, for finishing purposes, a good deal that was fantastic, affected, and pretentious--yet I awarded them some portion of that respect which seems the fair due of all women who face life bravely, and try to make their own way by their own efforts.
    About a year after the Misses Wilcox opened their school, when the number of their pupils was as yet exceedingly limited, and when, no doubt, they were looking out anxiously enough for augmentation, the entrance-gate to their little drive was one day thrown back to admit a carriage--"a very handsome, fashionable carriage," Miss Mabel Wilcox said, in narrating the circumstance afterwards--and drawn by a pair of really splendid horses. The sweep up the drive, the loud ring at the doorbell, the bustling entrance into the house, the ceremonious admission to the bright drawing-room, roused excitement enough in Fuchsia Lodge. Miss Wilcox repaired to the reception-room in a pair of new gloves, and carrying in her hand a handkerchief of French cambric.
    She found a gentleman seated on the sofa, who, as he rose up, appeared a tall, fine-looking personage; at least she thought him so, as he stood with his back to the light. He introduced himself as Mr. Fitzgibbon, inquired if Miss Wilcox had a vacancy, and intimated that he wished to intrust to her care a new pupil in the shape of his daughter. This was welcome news, for there was many a vacancy in Miss Wilcox's school room; indeed, her establishment was as yet limited to the select number of three, and she and her sisters were looking forward with anything but confidence to the balancing of accounts at the close of their first half-year. Few objects could have been more agreeable to her, then, than that to which, by a wave of the hand, Mr. Fitzgibbon now directed her attention--the figure of a child standing near the drawing-room window.
    Had Miss Wilcox's establishment boasted fuller ranks--had she indeed entered well on that course of prosperity which in after years an undeviating attention to externals enabled her so triumphantly to realize--an early thought with her would have been to judge whether the acquisition now offered was likely to answer well as a show-pupil. She would have instantly marked her look, dress, &c., and inferred her value from these indicia. In those anxious commencing times, however, Miss Wilcox could scarce afford herself the luxury of such appreciation: a new pupil represented forty pounds a year, independently of master's terms--and forty pounds a year was a sum Miss Wilcox needed and was glad to secure; besides, the fine carriage, the fine gentleman, and the fine name, gave gratifying assurance, enough and to spare, of eligibility in the proffered connection. It was admitted, then, that there were vacancies in Fuschia Lodge; that Miss Fitzgibbon could be received at once; that she was to learn all that the school prospectus proposed to teach; to be liable to every extra: in short, to be as expensive, and consequently as profitable a pupil as any directress's heart could wish. All this was arranged as upon velvet, smoothly and liberally. Mr. Fitzgibbon showed in the transaction none of the hardness of the bargin-making man of business, and as little of the penurious anxiety of the straitened professional man. Miss Wilcox felt him to be "quite the gentleman." Everything disposed her to be partially inclined towards the little girl whom he, on taking leave, formally committed to her guardianship; and as if no circumstance should be wanting to complete her happy impression, the address left written on a card served to fill up the measure of Miss Wilcox's satisfaction--Conway Fitzgibbon, Esq., May Park, Midland County. That very day three decrees were passed in the newcomer’s favor:--
    1st. That she was to be Miss Wilcox's bed-fellow.
    2d. To sit next her at table.
    3d. To walk out with her.
    In a few days it became evident that a fourth secret clause had been added to these, viz., that Miss Fitzgibbon was to be favored, petted and screened on all possible occasions.
    An ill-conditioned pupil, who before coming to Fuschia Lodge had passed a year under the care of certain old-fashioned Misses Sterling, of Hartwood, and from them had picked up unpractical notions of justice, took it upon her to utter an opinion on this system of favoritism.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The upcoming manly season at Workshop Theater Company

Around last year at this time I had an argument with the people who run the Facebook page 50/50 in 20/20 - I pointed out that Martin Denton's play publishing site had a very tiny percentage of female playwrights represented. The 50/50 people defended Denton on the grounds that he was a friend of theirs and a nice guy who didn't hate women at all. This didn't contradict the fact that only 17% of the plays on his site were by women, and eventually he copped to it.

One of the people following the 50/50 group, Kathleen Brant, a producing director of the Workshop Theater Company posted something on the thread to the effect of "our group does plays by women." I checked their web site and at that time they had a higher than usual percentage of female playwrights represented in upcoming productions - still not 50% of course, but then we know we can't expect 50/50 for another eight years (nine years at the time.) Because God and Nature have endowed men with the ability to write plays better than women write plays, and this will only change in 2020.

So I congratulated Kathleen Brant on this feat. But that was last year. It looks like this year it's back to business as usual. Looking at the Workshop Theater Company's upcoming schedule, all the playwrights named as receiving productions or staged readings between now and February 2013 are men

Actually, I think that 50/50 in 20/20 is optimistic. I think Caitlin Moran has it correct:
"For men born pre-feminism, this is what they were raised on: second-class citizen mothers; sisters who needed to be married off; female schoolmates going to secretarial school, then becoming housewives. Women who disengaged. Disappeared.

These men are the CEOs of our big companies, the big guys on the stock markets, the advisors to governments. They dictate working hours and maternity leave, economic priorities and social mores. And, of course, they don't feel equality in their bones - sexism runs deep in their generation, along with a liking for boiled puddings, and spanking and golf. Their automatic reaction is to regard women as "other." The entrenched bias against the working, liberated female will only die out when they do."
The same thing applies to theatre critics and producers and theatre organizations. So we're stuck with this "women as other" concept - which translates into the attitude that plays by and about men are of universal interest, while plays by and about women are of women-only interest. (Interesting statistic from the big theatre-gender study Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender: An Integrated Economic Analysis of Discrimination in American Theater - plays written by men about women were more likely to be produced than plays written by women about women.)

Of course it isn't only men in that age-group who buy into the concept. Plenty of women agree with it - or at least go along with it, so that the men who run things will allow them to be part of the female auxiliary of the boys club.

And don't expect them to suddenly find enough plays by women to fill 50% of all production slots any time soon - because if they suddenly did that now, it would be an admission that they were NOT doing it prior to now.

This means that plays by men will continue to be done much more often than plays by women because it will take that long for these people with their regressive attitudes to die off in the next twenty years or so. Which takes us out to 2032, not 2020.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


I've slammed my share of popular plays (OLEANNA, SIGHT UNSEEN, and especially TALLEY'S FOLLY) but I don't hate all popular plays - and I've praised a few - OUR TOWN and PAINTING CHURCHES - but I've been critical more than I've praised.

 I'm going to have to write a piece about PROOF because in many ways it is a perfect play. I have an audiotape version and I've listened to it several times just to admire how finely-structured the plot is. And I even got to see PROOF on Broadway - my ex-boyfriend took me for my birthday one year.

It doesn't make for an especially dynamic movie, unfortunately, but I predict it will have a long life in theatre because it has a tiny cast, two decent roles for women and a tight, well-crafted plot.

Also - and I don't know if any critics have said this - but PROOF is sort of reverse Ophelia - what if, instead of falling apart after the death of her father and then killing herself, Ophelia falls apart but then gets her shit together by solving a famous mathematical puzzle?

I realize that a favorite theme of the theatre is the helpless suffering of women, but too bad - PROOF is what we call progress.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

speaking of sonnets

Working on the video of my monologue The Dark Lady Sonnets, which is based on my entry in this year's Shakespeare Birthday project, reminds me of the weirdness surrounding my sonnets when I posted them online over the course of a few years.

For most of the time I was posting them I put them on a separate page, so you had to click the link that said "sonnets" to read them. Nobody had to read them, even accidentally. And not only did I not mention anybody by name in the sonnets, you'd have to personally know the people in question, and my relationship with them and be a very close reader of the sonnets to have any idea what I was talking about, because the references were pretty obscure - because that's the way art works.

This is all pretty much ancient history, except that about a year ago I received an email that addressed the topic. It was an epic jeremiad, actually - the author was mad at me because I criticized the concept of his one-man show, which involved tricking the audience, kind of like the Royal Nonesuch in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." But somewhere in the middle of the epic he wrote:
...YOU also need to understand that your dealing with your emotions arouses emotions in other people - emotions that are equally as valid as your own. So they deal with it in THEIR own ways. And, if it includes making light of things that make them uncomfortable--yes, even making fun of you--so be it. Not everyone likes having erotic and sometimes insulting poetry written about them, whether it explicitly names them or not.
Now as my friend Bruce said when I described this to him: "why do they care?"

Why indeed? Especially since the person who wrote the email, and the person who most prominently attacked me  - she posted some insulting "poems" about me on a couple of occasions  - were not mentioned in the sonnets. I don't even know the woman who attacked me. They are friends of the people mentioned in the sonnets. How did the sonnets become the concern of these other people?

And as for the people mentioned in the sonnets, why did they tell other people I wrote about them, and why do they pretend to care what I think of them? They certainly made it clear to me they had no regard for my opinion.

Well, I was going to write a long analysis of mob psychology, and how pathetic it is to make enemies out of strangers so that other members of your middle-aged gang will think you're cool, but I saw something by Anne Lamott on Facebook today, and I'm going to quote that instead:
You own everything that happened to you.
Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them they should've behaved better.

Monday, August 06, 2012

British is your only dialect...

...for sonnets.

Say what you want about British slang with its knicker/knacker/knackered zaniness, it doesn't matter what they say so much as how they say it: British people tawk fancy, and everything sounds more intelligent and refined when they are clipping their Ts and eliding their Rs.

Claire Warden is one of these British type people and she made my sonnet "The world my love is composed" sound amazing. And of course she made Shakespeare's sonnet 147 sound amazing too, but it's a tad more difficult to make my sonnet sound amazing. I'm only allowing British people to read my sonnets aloud from now on.

An interesting aspect of British dialect is that it's changed since Shakespeare's time, which is why Shakespeare meant for these lines from sonnet 147 to rhyme:

My reason, the physician to my love
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept, 
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve 
Desire is death, which physic did except. 

But making the word love sound like "loove" or approve sound like "apruv" - and probably they neither sounded like that but both rather had a different vowel sound entirely - is just too much, so the rhyme is allowed to disappear.

Claire isn't only a great voice and great actor though - she's very athletic too, and recently went skydiving for her second anniversary with her husband (the official second anniversary gift is supposed to be china.) And in a very unusual production of HAMLET this summer for which she was cast as the Player King, she rocked her amazing costume, as you can see in this image from her web site

You can click it to see a larger version. She's an all-around, versatile, consummate performer and why she hasn't been hired for the most recent James Bond movie I'll never understand.

She's also been doing readings of my JULIA & BUDDY since the earliest days of readings at NYCPlaywrights, so of course I want her to perform in the world premier of the full-length version, which will be coming along any day now.

In the meantime, I had her do my monologue "The Dark Lady Sonnets." It contains two sonnets because, obviously, that's what  contemporary audiences are clamoring for - sonnets.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

HAIR 1969

Ever morbidly, my thought on observing these young people in the cast of HAIR is: not a single one of them is less than 60 years old now. It hardly seems possible.


The song "Popular" from the musical WICKED is some serious genius. Not only is the music charming and perfect for the Galinda character, but these lines are so true:

When I see depressing creatures 
With unprepossessing features 
I remind them on their own behalf 
To think of celebrated heads of states 
Or specially great communicators - 
Did they have brains or knowledge? 
Don't make me laugh
They were popular - please
It's all about popular. 
Writer Stephen Schwartz disparaged the song as "shallow" but I think that he deserves a Tony just for writing lyrics with the word "unprepossessing" in them, alone.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Fishy laundromat

Gah! The management company that owns my building suddenly decided with no warning to lock up the laundry room in order to "improve" it. And the note they posted on the laundry room door doesn't even say when this massive inconvenience will end.

So I had to throw on a bra* and some shoes and schlep my dirty clothing to the laundromat under the subway line where I have the option to wait through the wash cycle either in the laundry itself where there are no seats, the humidity is 110% and there's a guy on TV screaming about a soccer game.

The alternative is sitting outside the laundromat and breathing in the fishy air wafting over from the fish store on the corner.

Grrrr I hate my building's management company.

*just kidding about the bra - these laundry people will just have to suffer through my party hats. And besides everybody knows that bras and feminists are natural enemies.

Friday, August 03, 2012

OMFG Caitlin Moran!

I adore Caitlin Moran and her new book which I just bought and devoured, "How to be a Woman." She is brilliant and so is her book.

But first let me get the bad part out of the way: she uses "balls" to mean courage, and at one point suggests that women need to "grow lady balls."

Well, she's not perfect. But she gets virtually everything else right, perfectly right, and so I will forgive her for it. But only her. Nobody else gets away with it.

And I learned so much British slang, half of which I still don't know what it means. But at least I now know that knickers are underwear and knackers are testicles, but to be knackered doesn't mean that you've been teabagged. It means your are worn out.

There were so many funny bits, but actually it's when she's at her most strident - and she is proud to be strident which is awesome - that she is the most brilliant:
In the 21st century, we don't need to march against zero-size models, risible pornography, lap-dancing clubs and Botox.  We don't need to riot or go on hunger strikes. There's no need to throw ourselves under a horse or even a donkey. We just need to look at it in the eye, squarely, for a minute, and then start laughing at it. We look hot when we laugh. People fancy us when they observe us giving out relaxed, earthy chuckles.

Perhaps they don't fancy us quite as much when we go to bang on the tables with our fists, gurgling "HARGH! HARGH! Yes that IS what it's like! SCREW YOU, patriarchy!" before choking on a mouthful of chips, but still.

I don't know if we can talk about "waves" of feminism any more - by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it's around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide.
Sublime. And she says gets high heels perfectly right:
"...there are only ten people in the world, tops, who should actually wear high heels. And six of them are drag queens. The rest of us just need to... give up. Surrender. Finally acquiesce to what nature is telling us. We can't walk in them. WE CANNOT WALK IN THE DAMN THINGS. We might just as well be stepping out in anti-gravity boots, or roller skates.
What I always say is that if high heels were so great, men would still be wearing them. And not counting the platform shoes period of the 1970s, they haven't since the days of the 18th century European aristocracy.

Moran applies the "do men do it" test to other things:
It was on the "are boys doing it?" basis that I finally decided I was against women wearing burkas. Yes, the idea is that it protects your modesty and ensures that people regard you as a human being rather than a sex object. Fair enough. But who are you being protected from? Men. And who - so long as you play by the rules and wear the correct clothes is protecting you from the men? Men. And who is it that is just regarding you as a sexual object, instead of another human being, in the first place? Men.
And talking about cosmetic surgery: can tell if some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring: "Are the men doing this, as well?"
If they aren't, chances are you're dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as "some total fucking bullshit."
This is some excellent sociology here:
Most sexism is down to men being accustomed to us being losers. That's what the problem is. We just have bad status. Men are accustomed to us being runners-up, or being disqualified entirely. For men born pre-feminism, this is what they were raised on: second-class citizen mothers; sisters who needed to be married off; female schoolmates going to secretarial school, then becoming housewives. Women who disengaged. Disappeared.

These men are the CEOs of our big companies, the big guys on the stock markets, the advisors to governments. They dictate working hours and maternity leave, economic priorities and social mores. And, of course, they don't feel equality in their bones - sexism runs deep in their generation, along with a liking for boiled puddings, and spanking and golf. Their automatic reaction is to regard women as "other." The entrenched bias against the working, liberated female will only die out when they do.
Yep. But she isn't just a trenchant commentator of social conditions, she's really funny. When she writes about her siblings, in particular, she reminds me very much of David Sedaris:
I was interested in absolutely everything to do with Buck. Just looking at his face was interesting. How he stood, near a door = interesting. The way he held the obviously lightweight and plastic gun as if it were heavy = interesting. The theme song takes on such an unbearable load of yearning and Buck Rogersness  that - 28 years later - I still feel stirred when I hear it.
Obviously these are all some big-assed feelings to be dealing with, and so I did what we always did when an event of some import was going on. I grabbed Caz - then five- and pulled her into an airing cupboard with me. Like the Mitfords used to - except theirs was probably much larger than ours and didn't smell of Bold, mouse droppings and farts.
"Caz" I said, pulling the door as shut as I could and assuming an expression of deep portent. "I have something incredible to tell you."
I pause, staring at her.
"I... am IN LOVE with Buck Rogers. Don't tell Mum. "
Caz nodded.
My burden lifted, I opened the door again and gestured for Caz to leave. I watched her cross the landing and go down the stairs. I heard her opening the front room door.
"Mum. Cate's in love with Buck Rogers," she said.
I learn then, in that moment - as mortification burns across me like hot ash - that love is agony, all crushes should remain secret, and Caz was an untrustworthy, fainthearted son of a bitch.
All these facts stood me in good stead, subsequently. I learned alot in the airing cupboard that day. Just 20 minutes later I was stuffing frozen peas into Caz's pillowcase while whispering, portentously, "And so the war begins."
Although she does often combine humor with incisiveness, as in her description of modern porn:
One thing that the Internet is stocked with, shelf after shelf, clip after clip, and none of them more than six minutes long - the average time it takes for a man to come. This is 21st century heterosexual porn:
Once upon a time a girl with long nails and a really bad outfit sat on a sofa, trying to look sexy but, but actually looking like she'd just remembered a vexing, unpaid parking fine. She might be slightly cross-eyed, due to how tight her bra is. 
A man comes in - a man who walks rather oddly as if he's carrying an invisible garden chair in front of him. This is because he's got a uselessly large penis, which is erect and appears to be scanning the room for the most sexually disinterested thing in it. 
Having rejected the window and the vase, the cock finally homes in on the girl on the sofa.
As she disinterestedly licks her lips, the man leans over and - inexplicably, weighs her left breast in his hand. This appears to be the crossing of some kind of sexual Rubicon because 30 seconds later she's being fucked at an uncomfortable angle, then bummed while looking quite pained.* There's usually a bit of arse-slapping here, or some hair-pulling there - whatever can ring in the variety in a straight-forward two-camera shoot in less than five minutes.
It all ends with him coming all over her face, messily - as if he's haphazardly icing a bun in one of the challenges on Minute to Win It.
The End.
...essentially the Internet vends a porn monoculture... this is the Microsoft Windows screw; crushing every other kind of sex out of the market.
Oh and so much more. Plus, she has epic eyebrows.

Emma Brockes of the NYTimes liked it too - I discovered Caitlin Moran thanks to this review.

Buy her book and read it and love it. And here she is on Youtube - enjoy.

She mentions Andrea Dworkin in this clip - fun fact - I was once related by marriage to Andrea Dworkin. Fairly distantly - her father was a cousin of my ex-husband's father. But still. I met her parents at a family wedding. They were very nice - and seemed quite proud of Andrea.

* If you found the phrase "she's being fucked at an uncomfortable angle, then bummed while looking quite pained" confusing, join the club. That's some of that British slang I was talking about. The author is not being ridiculously redundant here - I mean of course she's going to be bummed if she's  at an uncomfortable angle and pained, right? But no, to "be bummed" apparently means to have anal sex. 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

I married Isis on the fifth day of May

One of my favorite scraps of dialog of all time in a song comes from Bob Dylan's Isis:
She said "Where ya been ?"
I said "No place special."
She said "You look different."
I said "Well, I guess"
She said "You been gone."
I said "That's only natural."
She said "You gonna stay ?"
I said "If you want me to, yes."

Unfortunately there is no instance of the original recording from the album Desire available online, and no other version, including Dylan doing it live, can hold a candle to the original. The secret, I believe, is the emphasis on the percussive aspects of the piano.

You can hear a brief clip of the original at Rhapsody.

And speaking of Dylan, it's John Lennon and Bob Dylan in a car.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

another play of the week

This was probably the best of the four July plays of the month, but even so, as always I enjoy the actors feedback more than the play itself.