Friday, May 31, 2013

Still fighting the Civil War

It turns out that one of my co-workers buys into the bullshit fantasy in which the Civil War was fought over "states rights" instead of slavery. And apparently he's not alone. According to a Pew Research Center study, 38% of Americans say the Civil War was fought over slavery, and 48% it was fought over "states rights."

Of course I've felt it my duty to throw facts at him. I pointed out to him the impact that southern states have had on textbooks, which is confirmed by this article in Salon:

As the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy) gained in political clout, its members lobbied legislatures in Texas, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Florida to ban the purchase of textbooks that portrayed the South in anything less than heroic terms, or that contradicted any of the lost cause’s basic assertions. Its reach extended not just to public schools but to tenured academia—a little-known chapter of its propaganda effort is detailed by James Cobb in his 2005 book “Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity.” Cobb recounts how in 1911, for instance, University of Florida history professor Enoch Banks wrote an essay for the New York Independent suggesting that slavery was the cause of secession; Banks was forced by the ensuing public outcry to resign. Perhaps Banks should have seen that coming: seven years earlier, William E. Dodd, a history professor at Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College, had complained that to merely suggest the confederacy might not have been a noble enterprise led by lofty-minded statesmen “is to invite not only criticism but enforced resignation.” Dodd himself would later migrate to the University of Chicago, where he established a Northern outpost for Southerners who were interested in a serious examination of Southern history. Such scholarship was not encouraged back home: the first postwar society of Southern historians was created in 1869 for the explicit purpose of vindicating the confederate cause. 
The fear of losing one’s job worked to keep most dissenters in line, but if that failed, self-appointed censors in the community were always on the lookout. In 1913, for instance, the sons of confederate Veterans succeeded in banning from the University of Texas history curriculum a book that they felt offered an excessively New England slant on recent history. The UDC industriously compiled lists of textbooks used in schools across the South, sorting them into one of three categories: texts written by Northerners and blatantly unfair to the South; texts that were “apparently fair” but were still suspect because they were written by Northerners; and works by Southern writers. Outside academia, the New South creed, popularized by Atlanta newspaper editor Henry Grady in an effort to spur economic development, also reinforced this new orthodoxy. A big part of Grady’s canny public relations was to pay extravagant homage to the imagined splendor of the antebellum South, and to portray the New South as a revival of that genius instead of what it really was: the rise of a whole new class of plutocrats.

The UDC did lots of damage although according to the Salon article it no longer has much clout - but it still has a web site. But if you want a more active group of racist traitors you can check out the Southern Nationalist Network. I found that web site thanks to the Dixie Cinema web site - although they had reviews of neither the recent Lincoln nor Birth of a Nation. Although you can pretty much guess what they'll say if they ever do.

To see Southern revisionist bullshit in action check out the Dixie Outfitters web site wherein they claim:
Since the Southerners had escaped the tax by withdrawing from the Union, the only way the North could collect this oppressive tax was to invade the Confederate States and force them at gunpoint back into the Union. 
It was to collect this import tax to satisfy his Northern industrialist supporters that Abraham Lincoln invaded our South. Slavery was not the issue. Lincoln's war cost the lives of 600,000 Americans. 
The truth about the Confederate Flag is that it has nothing to do with racism or hate. The Civil War was not fought over slavery or racism.
We at Dixie Outfitters are trying to tell the real truth via our art and products in regards to the Confederate Flag. We hope to educate people about the Confederate Flag and stop the divisiveness caused by ignorance and emotion.
They go one step further than most lying Southern Revisionists - they don't simply avoid mentioning slavery - they actively claim that the Civil War was not about slavery.

These lying scumbags also have a Facebook page.

And now for some fresh air - I bought this movie when it was first released, but you can watch the entire thing for free on Youtube - it's C.S.A. - which presents the horrible dystopia that might have resulted if the South had won the Civil War.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Back to the Future day countdown

Every now and then some Facebook friend of a friend believes that TODAY is the day that Marty McFly arrives in the future from 1985. And you have to tell them no, they fell for a hoax.

From now on I'm just going to send them to the Back to the Future Countdown page.

Although really they should know better because it's going to be a much bigger deal when October 21, 2015 does roll around than just somebody will mention it on Facebook.

We still don't have hoverboards (well, except for a useless prototype) or flying cars, but Back to the Future II did get somethings right.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fux Capacitor

We began looking at counterpoint in my music course. It turns out there are five different "species" of counterpoint first classified by Johann Joseph Fux in his Gradus ad Parnassum, which is available for free on the IMSLP web site. Unfortunately nobody thought to translate it from the original Latin into English yet. There are English translations but not free ones. All the bigs used Gradus ad Parnassum - Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bach.

Somebody needs to write a five-species-enabled counterpoint generator and call it the Fux Capacitor. Because hey why not?

(Although technically Fux is pronounced "fooks" not "fucks" which kind of ruins the gag, but only if you pronounce it like a German. And if you ain't German... )

So while reviewing the rules of counterpoint it occurred to me that there must be a computer-based counterpoint generator out there. And there are - but not free ones. That I've found. Yet. (I did find one for $5)

Automated music has been around for a long time. According to this paper:
...the computer to aid a composer or even generate an original score. The idea of automatic music generation is not new, and one of the earliest “automatic composition” methods is due to Mozart. In his Musikalisches Wurfelspiel (Musical Dice Game), a number of small musical fragments are combined by chance to generate a Minuet.
But according to Wikipedia Musikalisches Würfelspiel :
The earliest example is Johann Philipp Kirnberger's Der allezeit fertige Menuetten- und Polonaisencomponist (German for "The Ever-Ready Minuet and Polonaise Composer") 1757...
Mozart was born in 1756. Not even he was prodigy enough to be fairly described as responsible for "one of the earliest" and in fact Wiki points out that although a version of Musikalisches Wurfelspiel was attributed to Mozart there's no direct evidence.

But counterpoint lends itself directly to computer programming because of the series of explicit rules developed for it:

  1. Begin and end on either the unison, octave, or fifth, unless the added part is underneath, in which case begin and end only on unison or octave.
  2. Use no unisons except at the beginning or end.
  3. Avoid parallel fifths or octaves between any two parts; and avoid "hidden" parallel fifths or octaves: that is, movement by similar motion to a perfect fifth or octave, unless one part (sometimes restricted to the higher of the parts) moves by step.
  4. Avoid moving in parallel fourths. (In practice Palestrina and others frequently allowed themselves such progressions, especially if they do not involve the lowest of the parts.)
  5. Avoid moving in parallel thirds or sixths for very long.
  6. Attempt to keep any two adjacent parts within a tenth of each other, unless an exceptionally pleasing line can be written by moving outside of that range.
  7. Avoid having any two parts move in the same direction by skip.
  8. Attempt to have as much contrary motion as possible.
  9. Avoid dissonant intervals between any two parts: major or minor 2nd, major or minor 7th, any augmented or diminished interval, and perfect fourth (in many contexts).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ayn Rand Fun Facts!

I realize it looks like I'm stalling on reading Atlas Shrugged... but hey, check out these Ayn Rand Fun Facts! Wow was she a nasty person!

Here are some of the funnest facts. The first one provides an explanation for what my Ayn Rand-loving Libertarian former co-worker told me (and our entire department via company email) - that Farrah Fawcett was considered for the role of Dagny Taggart in an early planned version of "Atlas Shrugged."

Ayn Rand Fun Fact # 20

One of Rand’s favorite television shows was Charlie’s Angels. She said it was a  ”triumph of concept and casting.” Rand described Angels as “uniquely American,” but said it differed from all other shows because it depicted true “romanticism” (as defined by Aristotle as “not…things as they are, but…things as they might be and ought to be”). Farrah was Rand’s favorite Angel; she wanted her to play Dagny if Atlas Shrugged were ever made into a movie. The fondness was mutual. Shortly before her death, Farrah called Ayn Rand a “literary genius.”

Ayn Rand Fun Fact # 37

Rand really didn’t get jokes. An example:

An acquaintance, to Rand: “Two fellows were sitting down at the end of [a] bar. And one said, ‘My God, you see those two women coming across the street? One’s my wife and the other is my mistress.’ The other guy said, ‘You took the words right out of my mouth!’”

Rand: “What an extraordinary coincidence.”

Ayn Rand Fun Fact # 41

When two of Rand’s Objectivist followers in the “Collective” got married, they included in the ceremony vows pledging their “joint devotion and fealty to Ayn Rand.” Also part of what had to be the worst wedding ever, they read to one another from the “sacred text” Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand Fun Fact # 48

When Gentry International wanted to make a movie of Atlas Shrugged, Rand agreed on the condition that they get Rod Serling to write the screenplay. Gentry brought the proposition to Serling, and “Serling simply laughed—his laugh getting louder and longer the more he pondered it.”

NOTE: The fun facts blog also includes tidbits of Rand's sex life, but I was too skeeved out to repost them here. Go there at your own risk.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mac Wellman wanna-be

The most recent NYCPlaywrghts Play of the Month is the wackiest play we've done yet. I don't know if the author meant to emulate the work of Mac Wellman but if you put this play up under Wellman's name I'd wager that nobody would ever suspect it wasn't him. It has all the hallmarks of Wellman's work: referencing socio-political issues without ever saying anything coherent or incisive about society or politics; lots of repetition - the "hearts beating" phrase comes up a lot in this play; little or no emotional connection between characters, and excessive verbiage.

I originally was going to say that this play indicates that the author has the same problem that so many other writers of 10-minute plays have - he couldn't be bothered to go back and re-work the draft. This is probably the first draft of the play - maybe with a few tweaks here and there. One of my edits in the video recording helped tighten things up - and all I did was leave out the first two sentences.

Why was the edit so helpful? Because the "Dirty Beauty" character starts off talking about how she saw "one of them little buggers." And yet Joseph's first line is: "looks like a bad case of moles to me." Well if she already saw one of them, what's the point of saying that line? Other than it's always better to leave nothing unsaid, and the order in which things are said doesn't really matter.

Cause and effect mean nothing in the universe of postmodernism, which is why it leads to such extremely unsatisfying drama.

An excerpt from the first page of the script:
Thanks. Life's full of surprises. Isn't it. The front lawn's a big surprise. Oh Geez. The neighbors are going to talk about this one, aren't they? I'm sure. My front lawn looks like it has a bad case of acne. It just makes me so sick. It looks like somebody's face. Full of pus. Pus filled chicken poxes. I'm trapped. I don't know what to do, it's like I feel like I'm paralyzed.
Now I happen to like the "bad case of acne metaphor." And the goofy "chicken poxes." And I think it would be better if the passage pretty much stuck to that metaphor instead of throwing in the neighbors and feeling "like I'm paralyzed."

I was originally going to say that the author has a "problem" with not going back and tightening the script, but is it really a problem? Mac Wellman has made a very nice career out of flabby and incoherent and non-dramatic work. Why couldn't this guy?

Although I did discover one reason why Wellman has been able to devote his life to work that most people outside of Academe are not interested in - the New York Public Library inventory of Mac Wellman papers 1959-1999 includes a biographic note that says: The Wellman family already included several inventors, and Mac grew into an inventor and innovator of language.

I'm guessing that, like so many people in theater, Wellman can do whatever he wants because he has a trust fund. And what he wants to do is not actually theater, although he is allowed to call it that:

Here's the second scene from his play CLEVELAND.
Scene 2
(The kitchen. MOTHER is trying to unclog the sink with a  plunger. The sink makes strange noises. JOAN is trying to do her homework at the kitchen table. More nice music.)
JOAN. Mother, how can I concentrate on my homework with you making that noise?
MOTHER. I'm sorry dear. It doesn't drain. Mr. Barfly the plumber was supposed to come fix it, but he never did.
JOAN. But I'm trying to do my homework.
MOTHER. Joanie, there's nothing I can do.
JOAN. Mother, what's the largest moon in the solar system?
NARRATOR. Why, Triton, dear. A moon of Neptune. Not a very hospitable place. My this sink is hopeless. Miranda's much prettier.
JOAN. Thanks. Mr. Delaplane's science class is really hard.
(Loud crash outside.)
What's that noise?
MOTHER. (Going to look:) Just some commotion in the street.
JOAN. Who is Pope Joan? Bet you don't know.
MOTHER. Haven't the faintest, dear.
(Phone rings.)
JOAN. Oh, God, what if it's Panda Hands asking me to the prom.
MOTHER. I thought we weren't fashionable enough to be invited.
JOAN. Well, I still want to go. It depends. You get it.
MOTHER. Silly girl.
(She gets the phone:)
Hello? No, he's dead. That's right. Dead. No, we don't need any. Thank you. Good bye.
(Hangs up. Pause.)
Well, it wasn't Panda Hands.
(Knock at the door.)
Who could that be?
JOAN. If it's Panda Hands I'm not here.
MOTHER. (At door:) Yes? Can I help you?
(A MAN enters.)
MAN. Lady. Your front porch. It ah. Fell into the street. Somebody's underneath. In a car. One of those imports. Squashed flat.
MOTHER. Oh, how terrible. Well, come in.
MAN. Thanks. All you can see is the hubcap.
MOTHER. The phone's right there.
JOAN. Mother?
MOTHER. It's all right, Joanie. The front porch fell into the street and it seems there's a car underneath.
MAN. What's the police number?
MOTHER. Haven't the faintest.
(He reads it off the phone and dials.)
JOAN. Mother, what if Jimmy asks me and not Panda Hands?
MOTHER. Then I expect you should go. Even if we're not fashionable.
MAN. No one answers at the police. Strange. (Hangs up.)
MOTHER. That is strange.
JOAN. Very strange. Hey, can I go look?
MOTHER. If you're careful.
(JOAN skips out.)
MAN. I'll call the wrecking company. You got a Yellow Pages?
MOTHER. Sure, right here.
(Shows him. She goes to the sink and plunger.)
You know, I think I want to go back to school. Learn a skill. I'm tired of being a drudge. And since my husband died. It's rough being alone.
MAN. You're young to be a widow.
MOTHER. He was a Trotskyist.
MAN. (On phone:) Acme Wrecking? Yeah, part of a house's fallen across River Road near Willougby. Traffic's already backed up pretty far. And I think there's someone trapped underneath. Yeah, in a car.
(Hangs up.)
MOTHER. He was a Trostkyist.
MAN. So am I. Thanks, lady.
(He goes out. She goes back to the sink. JOAN enters.)
JOAN. Oh, you should see it. Everything's all smashed. It's real neat. Say, do you suppose someone's dead under all that pile of rubble?
MOTHER. Could be, darling. Could be. Wash up, it's dinner time.
JOAN. If Jimmy calls I'm here. If Johnny calls I'm not. If Panda Hands calls I'm dead.
MOTHER. Yes, dear.
MOTHER. You know, Joanie. I think I want to go back to school.
JOAN. You'd be a great student. And I'll do the grocery shopping. We'll trade.
(They giggle.)
MOTHER. So. What's the biggest moon in the solar system?
JOAN. Miranda.
MOTHER. Miranda's the prettiest. Triton's the biggest.
JOAN. Darn. Well you tell me who is Pope Joan.
MOTHER. Never heard of her.
(They giggle.)
JOAN. I want to be like Pope Joan. Only I want to be a Trotskyist.
MOTHER. This sink is disgusting.
(The MAN enters again.)
MAN. Lady, can I use the phone again.
(He dials. Pause.)
JOAN. If he's on the phone all the time how's Jimmy going to call me?
MOTHER. Ever think it might be Panda Hands?
(They giggle.)
Absolutely typical Wellman. It's like a dream - bizarre things happen like a front porch suddenly flies off and lands on top of a person in a car. Except that unlike most people's dreams, there is no emotional resonance from an act of violence. The characters can barely summon up enough interest in an injured or dying person to stop talking about Panda Hands for two minutes. So it's a dream dreamt by a sociopath.

You know how you love to hear some random stranger tell you about his dream, in which implausible violent things happened and nobody cared and they just kept making inane small talk?


Now you may say: "but Nancy, you moron, of course Wellman did this on purpose. He's making A Statement About the Way Things Are in These United States Today. Don't be such a sucker for "Sentimental Melodrama*!"

But the problem is that just presenting humans - in virtually every play he writes - as if a bunch of unfeeling robots isn't enough - there has to be something more. And there never is. What a great job Wellman has though - just throw random sociopathic bullshit on the stage and people - smart people from the university - will invent meaning for it.

And of course being a "Trotskyist" means absolutely nothing in socio-political terms in CLEVELAND. Wellman just name-drops Trotsky, probably because the people who come to see his work will congratulate themselves that they have a vague idea of who Trotsky was - he was the guy who had an ice pick buried in his head by a Bolshevik. They saw that in a short play by David Ives.

And when Wellman attempts actual political satire, well this is what happens:
...A satire about the hypocrisy inherent in right wing American politics, "7 Blowjobs" was written in the early 1990s as a response to senator Jesse Helms’s attack against the National Endowment for the Arts, when he accused the NEA of funding artists whose work he deemed obscene. With so many homophobic and anti-sex politicians scandalized in recent months, it’s no surprise that Theatre on Fire’s artistic director Darren Evans decided to revive the show. What’s surprising is that he imagined Boston audiences would find Wellman’s facile portrait of social conservatives entertaining. 
There are no actual blowjobs in this play, but when a package containing a series of ambiguous x-rated photographs is delivered to Red State senator Bob’s office, his staff of conservative aides is thrown into a sex panic. Their collective sex jitters as they spend most of the play trying to decode the political and sexual meaning of the salacious photos might have been funnier, if the verbal jabs of Wellman’s insipid stereotypes were able to rise above the level of playground polemics. Unfortunately, his dialogue merely sounds like a string of childish partisan text comments posted on You Tube. 
The premise that there’s a pack of horny Chihuahuas humping underneath the rhetoric of anti-sex campaigns is tempting if hackneyed, but the jokes are so bad you’ll end up feeling cheated and embarrassed for the cast, as I did. In the words of two insightful Edge readers I had the pleasure of sitting next to during the show: "This show is an utter waste of time... we were not amused."
Clearly the critic and the reader quoted above don't understand the Wellman play drill - you are not to expect the author to provide insight into the political scenario - just the fact that he used the word "blowjobs" in his title is supposed to be enough to impress you by what a daring maverick Wellman is. You are supposed to provide the political meaning yourself.

I'll let theater impresario Martin Denton demonstrate how it's done:
This is, in effect, all that happens in 7 Blowjobs. Senator Bob seeks advice from a television evangelist named Reverend Tom, whose reaction is pretty similar to Bruce's but whose broader experience in such matters enables him to provide the senator with some valuable strategic/tactical assistance—namely, to pin this and other conspiracies against decency on "fags." Bob, Jr., who one suspects may indeed be a bona fide member of that last-named group, is also interrogated, but to no avail.
The point of all of this non-sequitur lunacy is obvious: playwright Mac Wellman wrote 7 Blowjobs in 1991 in response to the flap on government funding supposedly obscene art by the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe, and he dedicated it to Senator Jesse Helms. Hypocrisy in government not having gone away in the past decade, the play resonates resoundingly; the spectacle of seeing self-appointed guardians of the moral order salivate and drool over dirty pictures feels great and registers as hilarious, scoring points off its lascivious targets all the while.
The play's brilliance is mostly attributable to Wellman's astonishing language, which simply soars with glee as it dances around actually naming whatever it is that might be depicted in those seven pictures. Wellman delights in imprecision here: Reverend Tom declares them "photos of unnatural acts, capable of rendering a full-grown man happy," and that's really as much as we actually know about their content: how much apt commentary on the current state of morality and censorship in America is packed into that?
It should be mentioned that Denton's ecstatic response to Wellman is far more typical of critics than the negative response of the Boston critic I quoted.

So why, exactly, did NYCPlaywrights choose to do a video recording of a reading of a Wellman-esque play? Well first off, you should have seen the competition. And I would have picked the play that had the blow-up doll in it over this one, but I took a vote on the semi-finalists among the people who participated in the script-reading and majority ruled.

But most of all, because it is only ten minutes long. Postmodern plays are bearable in small doses, especially if there are some humorous bits. But as far as I know, Mac Wellman doesn't write ten-minute plays: all his plays are long enough to be considered an entire evening of theater. An entire, mind-bogglingly pointless, undramatic, postmodern evening of theater.


*Mac Wellman in a 2012 edition of the Dramatist Guild's magazine. He's talking to Annie Baker:

Theatre criticism is a remarkable one note only interested in what I call Sentimental Melodrama. They miss any intellectual sharpness, visual or physical acuity. They are only interested in what I call Face Value theatre. What you see is what you get, no time for reflection (incidentally they miss the sharp edges of your work.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall

Published before television was invented, obviously.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Photos

My favorite photo of Marilyn Monroe - from 1959
Although the Weather Channel's slide show is called "Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Photos" in fact the photos go all the way up to 1977, while the "modern" bikini appeared in 1946. Most of the photos are anonymous folks but there are a few celebrity shots - in addition to Monroe there's one of Elizabeth Taylor, a Jimmy Durante and several others - including this one of George Harrison and then-wife Patti Boyd from 1966.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ron Lindsay's non-apology apology over his non-welcome welcome

It's my theory that Ronald A. Lindsay wanted to make the big important atheist men of the skeptical movement who have been criticized by feminists - especially Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins - know whose side he's on when he delivered his opening speech for the Women in Secularism conference sponsored by the Center for Scientific Inquiry - Lindsay is the current CEO.

Here is his speech. Now remember, this is the opening speech - typically opening speeches at conferences are given to welcome attendees.

Here's how Ron Lindsay welcomes women in secularism:
One thing you may have noticed already is that I did not give you a formal welcome to Women in Secularism 2. Of course you are welcome here. We're very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.
What a weird thing to say. He takes a whole paragraph to explain why he isn't giving the conference attendees a formal welcome, when all he had to say was: "welcome to Women in Secularism 2" like every other opening address to conference attendees that has ever been delivered.

Instead he says "Of course you are welcome here."

Because there was some doubt? Ron Lindsay's organization was sponsoring this thing.

I'd say that what comes next is a pretty big clue to Ron Lindsay's true state of mind in delivering a non-welcome welcome. It's about having someone like Rebecca Watson, one of the invited speakers at the conference, in his territory.

First he introduces a nameless, unidentifiable entity:
I’ve had some conversations in which the claim has been made there is no significant division among true feminists.
Presumably these conversations took place with human beings outside of Ron Lindsay's head, but other than that we know nothing about the source of these conversations. He then takes two paragraphs to argue with the mystery opponent(s) before moving on to what he's really after: the concept of privilege. He acknowledges that of course women have been dominated by men through millennia but then he says:
But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.
So the main point of Ron Lindsay's opening statement on women in secularism is that the concept of privilege is being misused by women in secularism to silence men.

Now there is plenty of disagreement among feminists about the proper uses of the concept of privilege. And a discussion of the issue would have been a useful session in the conference. But Lindsay made this point, in the opening statement of a Women in Secularism conference right after he gave the group a non-welcome welcome.

It must be remembered that Rebecca Watson's response to Dawkins' infamous Muslima attack was a blog posted entitled The Privilege Delusion.

I think that Lindsay wanted to signal to Shermer and Dawkins that regardless of the CFI capitulation to these hysterical bitches, he, Ron Lindsay, was certainly not pussy-whipped. And like Dawkins two years ago, Lindsay responds to mild criticism of his inappropriate "welcome" by making things much worse. And by making things much worse I mean showing his true colors.

Watson responded to this non-welcome welcome with a tweet:

But in her defense, perhaps Watson was too busy tweeting about how “strange” it was to have a “white man” open the conference to pay attention to what I was actually saying.  (I’m just glad Watson didn’t notify security: “white man loose on stage, white man loose on stage!”)
Please note the sub-text - as CEO of CFI, the stage of the CFI-sponsored event is indisputably Ron Lindsay's territory. Lindsay jokes about a scenario in which Watson attempts to push Ron Lindsay out of his own territory. 

Lindsay is not arguing in good faith because what this is all about is not an honest disagreement - Lindsay's response attacking Watson by name on the CFI web site is his trophy to put on display for Dawkins and Shermer and their legions of vicious anti-feminist fanboys.

And as Watson rightly points out, it is strange - not only that Lindsay opens a conference on women in skepticism by complaining about the way that somebody, somewhere has misused the concept of privilege - with the underlying message that men are being silenced by women in skepticism - but also his complete failure to address the actual very real silencing of women in skepticism through a relentless barrage of terroristic threats:
...In his talk, Lindsay didn’t give any examples of men who have been silenced, though he has promised to provide some. In the meanwhile, the audience is forced to examine the only example provided: Lindsay himself, a white male who is CEO of one of the largest skeptic organizations in the world and who delivered the 30-minute introductory lecture at a women’s conference. There doesn’t seem to be much danger of his voice being silenced, though of course I may not be aware of some behind-the-scenes campaign to drive him into obscurity. 
Meanwhile, nowhere in Lindsay’s speech did he mention feminists like Jen McCreight, who has been so bullied and harassed that she did in fact quit attending conferences and she quit blogging and being active on social media in the hopes the anti-feminists would finally leave her alone. They didn’t. That is silencing. Nowhere did Lindsay mention that every day I and other feminists get slurs, rape jokes, and death threats from fellow skeptics and secularists. That is an attempt at silencing, though it is an attempt that will not work until the day one person follows through on the threat.
And it must be noted that Richard Dawkins has never spoken out against his rabid fans who took his Muslima attack as a signal to turn vicious against Watson and anybody else who dared to speak up against Dawkins.

This controversy reminds me of the shitstorm that ensued after Larry Summers suggested at a conference on Women and Science that women's lesser careers in math and science were due, foremost, to women's innate inferior abilities compared to men. Like Summers, Lindsay gave lip service to discrimination and social conditions - but what they really think is made clear - the real problem is women themselves.

The most important similarity is that Summers and Lindsay delivered these statements in an address to assemblies that were dedicated to promoting women, and they delivered their statements in their capacity as representatives of the organization that was sponsoring the assembly.

Their speeches would have been controversial anyway, but could have been seen as one person's opinion. Instead they gave their opinion while serving as the organization head.

And like Summers' case, anti-feminists - in their disguise as champions of free speech and foes of political correctness - hailed Ron Lindsay as a hero. And like Summers' fans, they are in for a disappointment. Because both Summers and Lindsay like the perks of being the head of an organization, even if CEO of CFI isn't quite as prestigious as being the president of Harvard University. And so Summers and Lindsay did what any politician does when caught saying something that offends their constituents - they apologized.

Although Lindsay, predictably, offered a non-apology apology:
...In my blog post of May 18, I complained about Ms. Rebecca Watson’s characterization of my May 17 talk. In doing so, I expressed my points in intemperate language, e.g., the comparison of her blog post to a press communication from North Korea, and for that I unqualifiedly apologize. This apology has been conveyed to Ms. Watson. 
To be clear, I still firmly believe Ms. Watson’s blog post mischaracterizes my talk, specifically by characterizing my abbreviated discussion of the phrase “shut up and listen” as the “crux” of my talk. 
As to my May 17 talk, I have nothing to say. The CFI board will decide whether my talk was contemptuous of women, as some have alleged, misrepresented CFI’s commitment to women’s rights, or in some way committed CFI to a course of action inconsistent with CFI’s mission.

As I've demonstrated here, if anybody was guilty of mis-characterization it was Ron Lindsay.

I'm guessing the CFI board is going to make him issue a proper apology, and he'll do it rather than lose the prestige of being CEO.

Now will all his fanboys who considered him a hero start calling him a "mangina?" We shall see.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Much funnier than the winners

Unlike the winning entries in the New Yorker cartoon caption contest, I actually LOL'd at some of these Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What about Ayn Rand?

Laugh at this illustration of
Atlas and Fudgy the Whale
while you can, parasites. *
Well I still haven't had time to read the rest of Atlas Shrugged. I'm currently teetering on the edge of chapter 4. But soon... I'll have to renew it again if the library will let me. Hah hah, the American public library, subverting capitalism since 1790. Thank you Ben Franklin.

In the meantime let's enjoy this review of Atlas Shrugged from the New York Times on October 13, 1957. Here's the opening:
This Gargantuan book comes among us as a demonstrative act rather than as a literary work. Its size seems an expression of the author's determination to crush the enemies of truth - her truth, of course - as a battering ram demolishes the walls of a hostile city. Not in any literary sense a serious novel, it is an earnest one, belligerent and unremitting in its earnestness. It howls in the reader's ear and beats him about the head in order to secure his attention, and then, when it has him subdued, harangues him for page upon page. It has only two moods, the melodramatic and the didactic, and in both it knows no bounds...
And even more amusing is Alan Greenspan's letter to the NYTimes from November 3, 1957, concerning the book, back when he was a mere stretch:
To the Editor: 
"Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Mr. Hicks suspiciously wonders "about a person who sustains such a mood through the writing of 1,168 pages and some fourteen years of work." This reader wonders about a person who finds unrelenting justice personally disturbing. 
New York.
Oh yeah - you just know some of this is going into my play. I'll probably have the spectre of Ayn Rand quote it back at him after Greenspan's repentance.

And here is the Ayn Rand Novels web site offering the Atlas Shrugged Summer Reading program, complete with a $10K prize for a winning essay. But you have to be in school to enter. Dammit, this might have really incentivized me into getting this thing over and done with.

*Illustration from the Mother Jones article about the private equity firm Roark Capitol Group, which owns Carvel.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

IMSLP - Petrucci Music Library

My music teacher turned us on to this excellent web site, which not only lists composers alphabetically but also by nationality (who knew there was an Icelandic composer Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson? ) and music by instrument and even entire books - I downloaded Chinese Music by J. A. Van Aalst in the hopes of finding the origins of the music featured in my CD Splendid Jubilant New Year - The Collection of Chinese Festival Music. I'd love to transcribe Splendor Night Vision (which is awesome for the title alone) into piano form - how handy if somebody already put together the sheet music.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Deconstructed Goat Cheese Tart

As I mentioned on this blog last week, I absolutely adore the Goat Cheese Tart at the Black Mountain Winery in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn. The really great thing about it is that although it is mind-blowingly delicious it's also incredibly freaking healthy too. It's not actually a tart in the traditional sense of a small pie with a crust. I guess since potatoes are a starch maybe that's considered close enough to stand in for the usual pastry used in tarts. But whatever - the sandwich made from potato and roasted beet with a thin layer of goat cheese in the middle is just right - plus the balsamic and the greens with a dash of dressing and you have yourself a perfect food. I went back to Black Mountain Winery for the second week in a row, just to eat it again. But this time I examined it well enough I was able to deconstruct it. I think my illustration above is very close to accurate. Although who knows what magical things they do to make it work together in the amazing synergistic way it does?

Here's what it looked like after I ate about 20%. And of course I paired it was a sauvignon blanc. I'm sitting by the fireplace - it was chilly last Tuesday so they had a roaring fire going. Just a perfect dining experience.


Here's the place from the outside. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

You really don't want to be gruntled

Every now and then someone will ask why, even though there is a word "disgruntled" meaning dissatisfied nobody ever uses the word "gruntled" to mean satisfied. After all if dissatisfied is the opposite of satisfied, wouldn't gruntled be the opposite of disgruntled?

No. Because "dis" has another meaning besides "the opposite of."

The online dictionaries were no help here, except that pointed me to the excellent free resource, the Online Etymology Dictionary created by a guy named Douglas Harper in his spare time.

In addition to the usual meaning of "dis-" there is another meaning according to the OED's entry:

...also "exceedingly, utterly," from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (cf. Old English te-, Old Saxon ti-, Old High German ze-, German zer-). 
The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and thus is related to Latin bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two ways, in twain."
PIE is: "Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical reconstructed ancestral language of the Indo-European family. The time scale is much debated, but the most recent date proposed for it is about 5,500 years ago. "

The word "gruntle" does exist in original form from 15th century Middle English and means "to grumble." So being disgruntled means to be very gruntled, not the opposite of gruntled, and so no, you don't want to be gruntled. Although obviously disgruntled is even worse.

But really, could a word that sounds like "gruntled" ever mean anything close to "satisfied"?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Disgruntled New Yorker

Standing in line with other responsible citizens.
I was certainly a disgruntled New Yorker on Friday. If you register to vote in Queens county they send you a questionnaire to fill out, with eight questions asking for your birth date, whether you are a citizen - basic stuff. I don't remember receiving the questionnaire, and I certainly didn't expect to receive a questionnaire because I've never had to fill out a questionnaire like this for any other county I've lived in. Everywhere else I've lived had you automatically pegged for jury duty just from voting. No need for a questionnaire. So imagine my surprise when I get a subpoena in the mail from Queens informing me that since I didn't fill out the questionnaire I had to appear in person at the Queens courthouse to hand it in.

I immediately went online and filled out the questionnaire, but that wasn't good enough for those bureaucrats. They informed me that once you get the subpoena you're done. You have to show up.

Lucky for me I have a salaried job because it was a huge pain in the butt to show up at 9:30 am and then stand in a line that was at least four city blocks long to wait to hand in your form. I feel sorry for the people who get paid hourly and had to lose at least two hours for this extreme bullshit.

They couldn't just let a cop walk along collecting forms. Oh no, you had to wait in line, and then wait in the waiting room to be called and then wait in another line to go through security and then wait in another line so that you could personally hand in the questionnaire to a person at the counter while showing your photo ID.

Why? Why is this necessary? They don't ask for photo ID when you mail the questionnaire back to them, or fill out the form online. The only possible reason I can figure is for punitive purposes - they want to make sure you are personally inconvenienced for your failure to comply with their questionnaire demand, instead of having a friend bring it for you, along with their own.

The Queens county bureaucrats wouldn't be happy until thousands of responsible citizens were inconvenienced over this idiotic questionnaire.

I am all in favor of voting of course, and the jury system. I've never tried to get out of jury duty - not only is it an important component of the justice system but I find it rather interesting. But this is ridiculous. They could do what every other jurisdiction does and ask you these questions after you're summoned for jury duty. But no.

So I was not in a mood to deal with all the subway hassles, with the construction and the switching problems and the sick passengers.

Utterly bleak with no place to sit.
And then I met up with my daughter where she works and the plaza outside her building is one of those "privately owned public spaces" (POPS). And there was absolutely no place to sit and I was tired from walking around the city, not to mention standing for hours in god-forsaken lines in Queens.

I started to do some reading up on the subject.

Jerold S. Kayden said in the NYTimes in October 2011:
Since 1961, the City Planning Commission has used zoning laws to give developers the right to build over 20 million square feet of extra residential and office floor space in return for providing more than 500 public plazas, arcades and indoor spaces. On paper, it reads like a great deal that, at little cost to the city, has given it enough additional public space to cover 10 percent of Central Park... 
...the events at Zuccotti Park highlight the continued inadequacy of the laws regarding privately owned public spaces. Other than the requirement that this space remain open 24 hours a day, the owners were left to promulgate their own rules; the only limit is that they be “reasonable.” 
...The absence of anything specific in the zoning text, coupled with almost no monitoring of owner conduct, has benefited self-interested management. Having visited every privately owned public space in the city, I write from experience. Guards, sometimes accompanied by dogs, have from time to time stopped me from taking photographs or speaking into a handheld recorder.
One of the stunning things I learned from reading up on POPS is that until Kayden wrote a book about it in 2000, the NYC bureaucrats did not have a list of all these POPS. Once his book was published they used it to map the POPS. The NYC.GOV web site admits it here.

Although much attention was given to POPS thanks to the Autumn 2011 Occupy Wallstreet protests in Zucotti Park, apparently the 2000 Kayden book lit a fire under the city planners enough so that by 2007 there were new rules for what a POPS had to provide - a big provision was made for seating:
The provision of abundant, well-designed, and comfortable seating is one of the most critical elements of public plaza design. Plaza designers should carefully consider the variety, dimensions, location, and configuration of seating with the intent to maximize opportunities for comfortable and convenient seating that emphasizes social interaction.  
Variety: There are six types of seating that may be used to satisfy the seating requirements for public plazas:  moveable seating, fixed individual seats, fixed benches, seat walls, planter ledges, and seating steps. 
All public plazas are required to provide two of these seating types, while plazas between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet are required to provide three types.  Plazas greater than 10,000 square feet are required to provide moveable seating as one of the three required seating types.
The owners of the plaza in front of my daughter's office building have been required since 2007 to provide seating in their public space. So why is there still no place to sit there?

Jerold S. Kayden has created a POPS web site which details all the POPS. Although I haven't found any explanation yet for why the 919 POPS is still seat-free after six years.

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's Pat!

I'm reworking my JANE EYRE play because a theater group in Virginia has expressed an interest in producing it.

On the plus side, I'm giving the script some much-needed tightening. One of the critics of the 2008 production complained about the many short scenes. And to a certain extent she was right. On reworking the script I was able to find ways to get rid of some of those two-minute scenes. I did feel a little bad about cutting Grace Poole out entirely (she's still mentioned, but she no longer appears on stage) because she added some color to the show, but it just wasn't worth it to have this character who had a total of six lines of dialog. I got rid of all the other minor servants too.

And let's face facts - people mostly just wanted to see Jane and Rochester together. Anything else was just so much packing peanuts around the real goods of the story.

My favorite change is that I turned the bed-burning scene into a Jane monologue. The important information is still conveyed by the monologue but at a HUGE production cost savings. We built a whole fucking curtained bed just for that scene, not to mention the ill-fated smoke machine - lack of ventilation control in the theater meant the smoke hung around for the next several scenes. And the water-throwing tech just never worked well enough either.

So this reworking is definitely a good thing. Except of course that I'm remembering that 2008 production and so suffering some mild PTSD symptoms over it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Well that was a rough night at the old Classical Theory and Ear Training III class. We've pretty much ignored the Ear Training part of the course description for both I and III segments (I skipped II by permission of the instructor) except for a few brief interludes of Solfege (do-re-mi) singing, and so I was completely unprepared for the class assignment, having had exactly no vocal training of any kind, ever.

I have a terrible voice - I can actually carry a tune in the sense that I can hit a note when I hear one - but the sound that my vocal chords make is so unpleasant that I might as well be entirely tone deaf for all my singing matters. If you don't believe me you can hear my singing at the end of this NYCPlaywrights video ("I want my baby-back, baby-back, baby-back..."), although my voice was slightly processed through a Garageband filter and so not a pure example.

This has never been a problem for picking out tunes because I've always had that most excellent of crutches, a little invention called "the piano" to allow me to match the notes I hear with a minimum of cacophony. But two of the students in CT&ET III are accomplished singers with many years of vocal music study under their belts and so they were ducks in the water at this week's class. I was like a rock in water.

The assignment was to figure out the notes and harmonious triads of an F minor Mozart quartet in 2/2 time purely through figuring out the notes in our heads with nothing but the aid of the Solfege scale. AS IF!

Anyway so I decided to give myself an assignment of de-composing something that happens to be in my iTunes, just to make sure I can do it - although I will be using my MIDI keyboard as a crutch and not trying to do it with just my voice alone. It's the third movement (Rondo. Allegro agitato) of Francois-Adrien Boieldieu's Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in C. You can hear some of it here.

I've owned this recording, by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra with Marissa Robles on harp, for at least a year, but I never paid attention to the composers. And so since I decided to analyze this piece I looked up Boieldieu in Wikipedia. And he's quite the cutie as you can see in the painting above, at age 25 in 1800 in all his Empire fashion finery. He was apparently known as "the French Mozart" although you might also call him the French Jon Hamm, if you're familiar with the Hamm salami meme. Oh-lah-lah.

Now I should say that I selected this piece to analyze before I realized it was in C Major. But I sure am glad it is.

I was hoping I could also de-construct Boieldieu's name, since the second syllable (it's pronounced bwal-dyeh according to this online dictionary) is clearly the French word for "god" but all the translation software gives back is "boiel god."

Based on this painting all I can say is amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Proposed: the Roman Catholic Church should be driven out of the United States of America

I'm not suggesting anything as drastic as outlawing the Catholic Church.

There is an article in Monday's NYTimes about the threat to women's rights posed by mergers of secular with Catholic hospitals. The problem is best illustrated by this statement from  Rev. Thomas Weinandy, the executive director of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrine:
“If you go to a Catholic medical institution, you’re going to get medical advice that is in keeping with the moral norms of that institution,” Father Weinandy said. “We think Catholic medical advice is the best medical advice to give.”
That got me thinking about how it came about that the Catholic Church now dominates the US hospital system to the point were it can shove its misogynist socio-political views down the throats of American women.

I speculated on FB about it, and one FB friend suggested that it was because 30 years ago nuns worked as nurses in Catholic hospitals (with the tacit understanding that brides of Christ are incredibly underpaid and thus the savings were passed on to the Catholic hospitals.)

But that didn't make sense, because nuns also used to subsidize Catholic schools, and the nun shortage must have impacted Catholic hospitals as much as it impacted Catholic schools. And yet the Catholic hospital system is expanding while Catholic schools are closing down in record numbers.

I did a little research.

According to the National Catholic Reporter:
Turning to hospitals, just one Catholic system -- Ascension Health, the country's largest, with 1,400 locations in 21 states and the District of Columbia -- had revenues of $15 billion in 2011, exceeding the combined haul for all parishes. There are 56 Catholic health care systems in America, and in 2010, the Catholic Health Association reported they had total expenses of $98.6 billion. That's almost 10 times the amount spent by parishes, and a fraction under 50 times the amount spent by dioceses. 
Catholic Charities USA, one of the largest private charitable networks in the United States, had revenues in 2010 of $4.67 billion, of which $2.9 billion came from the government and most of the rest from private donations. This one charity, in other words, collected more in public funds alone than all the country's dioceses spent.
That's right, Catholic Charities gets 62% of its money from the government. That means taxpayers like you and me. And what does Catholic Charities do with its money - fight the government to be allowed to shove its religion down the taxpayers throats:
In 2004, the Catholic Charities of Sacramento, a social-service organization, brought suit over the Women’s Contraception Equity Law, which required it to provide its employees with contraception coverage. The law made an exception for churches, just as the Obama regulation does, based on the criteria that such “religious employers” primarily hire people who embrace the tenets of the faith and exist mainly to inculcate religious beliefs, but Catholic Charities did not qualify on those grounds. 
Now of course it also cost the US taxpayers to pay for the lawsuit defense too.

But as the Economist explains the Catholic Church is also using its special status to game the system and through that earn money for its hospitals (my emphases):
Although funding for religious groups is prohibited under the state’s constitution, a series of court rulings has opened the door to bond issues. Catholic groups there have raised at least $12 billion through muni bonds over the past decade. Of that, some $9 billion went to hospitals. In one case, in San Jose, the money went to buy chancery offices for the bishop.
The dioceses back their bonds with letters of credit from banks. Among the most active guarantors are Allied Irish Banks (AIB), US Bancorp and Wells Fargo. None of the banks was prepared to discuss the financial terms of these contracts.
Muni bonds are generally tax-free for investors, so the cost of borrowing is lower than it would be for a taxable investment. In other words, the church enjoys a subsidy more commonly associated with local governments and public-sector projects. If the church has issued more debt in part to meet the financial strains caused by the scandals, then the American taxpayer has indirectly helped mitigate the church’s losses from its settlements. Taxpayers may end up on the hook for other costs, too. For example, settlement of the hundreds of possible abuse cases in New York might cause the closure of Catholic schools across the city.
That right there is the smoking gun. The Catholic Church is exploiting its ability to hide its financial records as a religion, while operating as a government or public-sector body to make money through tax-free municipal bonds.

The Catholic Church is getting all kinds of subsidies from American taxpayers, and they are passing the oppression directly onto the American taxpayers, especially women.

Stephen Colbert explains how it works:

So it's clear the the most effective way to rid the United States of this antiquated, evil, misogynist organization is to stop handing it huge quantities of taxpayer money.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The last episode of Compulsive Love is exactly what I predicted

Hello shitty web series fans.

If you've been following this blog you know that I predicted back in March that Compulsive Love, the shitty male fantasy web series about an ugly little rat-faced creature who is constantly having sex with every woman he meets, including lesbians would end this way:
So in Compulsive Love we have the crazy sluts: obviously all the women who have sex with Ratface; the bitch: the office manager, the Asian woman's mom; and Daria, the Because, Um... Girl. Now she's not having sex with Ratface yet, but I expect eventually Ratface will realize that she is the one for him. But she's still a Because, Um... Girl because she actually spends her free time with him. Because, Um... who the hell would do that??? Although if you are forced to live in the land of no attractive men, it does become more understandable.
Maybe there were some attractive men in the rest of the series - I couldn't stand to watch any more episodes because they made my skin crawl. But figuring by now the last episode must be online  I decided to take a peek and see if I was right. And sure enough...

I'm not saying I'm a genius for figuring it out. You could tell right from the beginning that the writers of this web series were utterly devoid of any original ideas and the entire thing would be an unholy alloy of 1970s-style porn scenarios fused with the schlubby soul of a Bud Light commercial. So anybody could see the conclusion of the series from the fucking Crab Nebula.

The "Because, Um... Girl" mentioned above comes from this brilliant analysis of Dude-Bro storylines by Sady Doyle from Tiger Beatdown, back when it used to be good.

The Because, Um... Girl described by Doyle...
...can only exist in the negative space created by this double bind. If women have standards, they're bitches; if they don't have standards, they're sluts: try to write yourself out of this, and you find that the only feasible way to create a non-threatening female character is to give her no motivations or personality whatsoever, to turn her into a cipher who provides love or sex simply because the plot demands it. 
Which, if you're a dude - particularly a dude threatened by women! - might just be a hilarious way to vent your gender anxiety and give your male character some pussy without having him face the complications inherent in dealing with actual individual female humans.
I mentioned earlier on this blog that the pussy delivery systems that are the females in this web series (unless it's a bitch pussy) don't have any existence outside of their fuck status vis-a-vis Ratface and the only metric that counts is how quickly the pussy delivery system delivers the pussy to the one with the face of a rat.

Although normally the inevitable capitulation of Because, Um... Girl to the hero is presented with a modicum of artfulness. Not so in Compulsive Love which is nothing if not the purest distillation of the Dude Bro Weltanschauung.

This is actually what happens in the episode (I paraphrased the script.)
(Ratface and Daria the Because... Um Girl are going to work together. Ratface is whining.) 
All women want to get married and have babies. And that's what I want. 
You'll find the right one. 
Hey! YOU are a pussy delivery system! 
You know too much about me - I almost have an existence that persists outside of your fuck-o-sphere. 
Let me keep talking until you comply. 
(2 seconds later) 
Since the plot demands that I deliver love or sex, I will comply. 
  (They go fuck on an office table. OFFICE MANAGER    sees them and since she's a bitch says:) 
Stop having sex on the office table.
(They go elsewhere and fuck.) 

And these are the people who get funding for their projects. The rest of us should go kill ourselves now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Empire State Building web cam gif strikes again

For several years I lived in a high-rise building on the Hoboken watefront, directly across the Hudson from midtown Manhattan, with a great view of the Empire State Building. My ex-boyfriend and I set up a web cam pointed at the ESB and for one 24-hour period I captured the images on a once-per-ten minute basis. Then I edited the photos into an animated gif seen here on the left.

This was a very nice thing to have in itself, but I was very pleased when I was able to use it for the latest NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month reading selection, at the end of the reading. It worked out pretty well, I think. Here it is:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another great Mother's Day brunch

My daughter gots skillz with the brunch-making. Frittatas are her speciality.

Plus the cats gave me chewed up mousie toys. This is the best Mother's Day ever.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

They are Maggie and Terre and Suzzy

It's such a shame that the Roches had such a low-key career, as talented as they are. Terre Roche wrote an article in yesterday's NYTimes about her un-lucrative career as a songwriter, and it's interesting if depressing. Although as Roche kind of says, you could argue that it was miraculous that they had as big a career as they did, considering they are a trio of folky sing-songwriters who, I read somewhere, were considered not ready for prime time by the producers of Saturday Night Live because they weren't attractive enough. Although eventually they did make it onto the show, at Paul Simon's insistence.

Fun fact - Maggie and Terre Roche were backup singers on Simon's "Was a Sunny Day."

Their first album was justifiably praised to the heavens. Quite a bit of its charm is the subject matter, the mundane lives of women as in "The Married Man" and "Mr. Sellack" and "Runs in the Family." The Hammond Song has that going for it too, but also contains one of the best melodies/harmonies ever recorded. Just beautiful.

The Roches have a web site.

Hammond Song

(Words & Music by Margaret A Roche)

If you go down to Hammond
you'll never come back
In my opinion you're
on the wrong track
We'll always love you but
that's not the point

If you go with that fella
forget about us
As far as I'm concerned
that would be just
throwing yourself away
not even trying
Come on you're lying to me

Well I went down to Hammond
I did as I pleased
I ain't the only one
who's got this disease

Why don't you face the fact
you old upstart
We fall apart

You'd be okay if you'd
just stay in school
Don't be a fool

Do your eyes have an answer
to this song of mine
They say we meet again
on down the line
Where is on down the line
how far away?
Tell me I'm okay

If you go down to Hammond
you'll never come back

Copyright 1979 DeShufflin Inc.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is Ayn Rand a Batman villain?

Maher tries to make a joke: "Atlas Shrugged, the book that's never been read all the way through - " and Bernie Sanders starts laughing before he gets to the punchline "- by anybody who has a girlfriend."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The rising cost of the rights to Beatles recordings

It turns out that most of the people I work with have never seen The Prisoner TV series.

Granted, many of my co-workers are not native-born and so were unlikely to discover the show via PBS fundraisers like I did. And they were pretty skeptical when I tried to explain Rover to them:
(totally excited to turn on Prisoner virgins) 
...and there's this giant bubble that patrols the Village. 
A what? Did you say "giant bubble"? 

Yes. This was the sixties. Just go with it. It was really a weather balloon.  

And you say it "patrolled" this village?
Yes! It would bounce around and keep a watch for anybody who was unmutual. Or sometimes it would be summoned. Like out of the water. Number 2 would go "Orange Alert" and then one of his flunkies would press a button or whatever and it would come out of the water and chase after people. Sometimes it would kill them, sometimes it would knock them out, and sometimes it would just, like herd them. 
"Number 2?" 
He was the leader of the Village.  
Who was Number 1? The bubble? 
No of course not. The bubble was just their, like, watchdog. They even called it "Rover." 
Did it bark? 
No of course not. It roared.
Finally I gave up and urged them to go watch it. Apparently the entire Prisoner series is available on Youtube.

I decided to re-watch some episodes myself tonight, while reading up on the series. And one of the interesting things about the show is that they used the Beatles recording of All You Need Is Love in the soundtrack of the last episode, "Fall Out." That episode was first aired in England on February 1, 1968. The song had been released less than a year earlier, on July 7, 1967.

And according to this web site:
Eric Mival, Music Editor on the Prisoner, recalled that the decision to use "All You Need Is Love" on the Fall Out soundtrack cost the princely sum of £48 (about $75 US).
That's right, $75 USD.

To get some sense of the bargain this was, consider that the Wall Street Journal claimed that the producers of Mad Men had to pay $250,000 to get the rights to play Tomorrow Never Knows on one episode. And that wasn't even one of their big hits.

Tthe origins of the title of Tomorrow Never Knows (from Wiki):
Interviewer: "Now, Ringo, I hear you were manhandled at the Embassy Ball. Is this right?" 
Ringo: "Not really. Someone just cut a bit of my hair, you see." 
Interviewer: "Let's have a look. You seem to have got plenty left." 
Ringo: (turns head) "Can you see the difference? It's longer, this side." 
Interviewer: "What happened exactly?" 
Ringo: "I don't know. I was just talking, having an interview (exaggerated voice). Just like I am NOW!" 
(John and Paul begin lifting locks of his hair, pretending to cut it) 
Ringo: "I was talking away and I looked 'round, and there was about 400 people just smiling. So, you know — what can you say?" 
John: "What can you say?" 
Ringo: "Tomorrow never knows." 
(John laughs)

There's the orchestra coming into the studio now, and you'll notice that the musicians are not rock and roll youngsters. The Beatles get on best with symphony men."