Saturday, November 30, 2013

More about Granpa Walton

Several years ago I blogged about Will Geer - I was fascinated that not only was he the father of actor Ellen Geer (who played "Sunshine Dore" in the movie "Harold and Maude." If you've seen that movie, I don't have to remind you who Sunshine Dore is.) I also found it very amusing that Grandpa Walton was once a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.

Somehow I missed the part where he was also bisexual and had an affair with Harry Hay, the founder of the Mattachine Society and one of the leaders of the gay rights movement.

All that and Theatricum Botanicum too - what a full and varied life he led.

Friday, November 29, 2013

80 Washington Square East - the Mizer show

And then after I see the Frick show I'm heading over to 80 Washington Square East to see the Bob Mizer show. Mizer took lots of photos of sexy men in the 1950s for "physique" magazines. He took many beautiful photos of Joe D'allesandro. I'm hoping there will be at least a few Little Joe pix in this show.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

An awesome Frick'n show

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Vermeer
I am so going to the Frick ASAP. I love the work of Vermeer. Only Velasquez and the drawings of Ingres present subjects which are, thanks to amazing draftsmanship, so vividly alive.

...the Frick Collection’s own three splendid Vermeers and three Rembrandts joined briefly by 15 works on loan from one of the world’s best Dutch collections, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, including one of the most famous faces in Western art, “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

The painting on the right is Las Meninas by Velasquez. You can click on it to get a better look at the details.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More financial regulator humor

Ah yes, the go-to currency for money launderers, Bitcoin.
I wasn’t trying to manipulate an underground economy. I was just doing my job as a blogger for the website Gawker when I broke the story of the online underground illegal drug market Silk Road, on which bitcoin was the only accepted currency because of its relative anonymity. The article went viral and introduced hundreds of thousands to bitcoin. 
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, helped, too. During a news conference a couple of days after my article was published, he called bitcoin “an online form of money laundering.” I suppose a lot of people thought that sounded pretty cool. The price of bitcoin surged to $14.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Godot pronunciation controversy

Really I just wanted an excuse to post this awesome graphic.
Letters to the NYTimes on the Godot issue

Monday, November 25, 2013

The quintessential Ayn Rand

After having read three biographies, two memoirs and one sycophants' web site about Ayn Rand, the most quintessential description of Ayn Rand comes from Barbara Branden's biography The Passion of Ayn Rand:
A highly intelligent young woman of twenty, a dancer and a member of the "junior collective," had personal problems in her romantic relationship with a friend of Ayn's. Ayn, Frank (O'Conner, Rand's husband), her lover, and I were present when Nathaniel (Branden) called her in for a discussion of her psychology. Such evenings were becoming a commonplace in Ayn's dealings. The evidence was presented, the diagnosis of social metaphysician was made. 
In a paper she later wrote in an attempt to organize her thoughts, the young woman said - in an echo of others who felt as she did - 
"I have not been this unhappy since I was a kid, when I used to look out the window and calm down by watching the stars. But then I had the promise of a brilliant, beautiful future. Now I have the echo of an empty, futile past... Everything is gone. Everything... I began to see the pattern as Nathan went thorugh example after example of what I had done. It was when he said 'and your self-esteem is tied to what other people think of you,' that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was being said to me - the worst degradation, the worst muck. I had betrayed everything that has ever meant anything to me... He said I could work to correct it and become a proper human being, or be like the people I hate for the rest of my life... I'm afraid to care about anything, because I'm afraid I'll get all mixed up again. I have to find out if it's safe to care about something again. I don't know any longer what I want in a career, in anythin g- it doesn't seem to matter, and I'm afraid of the day when it is going to matter... Yet I will always remember the day I met Ayn as one of the happiest days of my life..."
That evening, Ayn exhibited a lack of human empathy that was astonishing. As Nathaniel, who conducted the conversation - it had the aura of a trial, except that the accused had no defense attorney - was pointing out the young woman's psychological deficiencies, he occasionally made some especially compelling point, succinct and well phrased. Each time, Ayn chuckled with appreciation - and clapped her hands in applause.
The girl, like others of Ayn's friends caught in similar situations, was to find a means of ridding herself of guilt. The means, as her paper indicates, was emotional repression. "I'm afraid to care about anything, because I'm afraid I'll get all mixed up again." She, like they, began the process of changing from an open, spontaneous, enthusiastic young woman into a rigid thinking machine. It was done as an act of self-preservation: one most not experience emotions that might brand one as immoral. 
The distance between the self-created myth of Ayn Rand and the real woman who lived and acted outside the world of her study, was growing steadily greater. In retrospect, it is evident that none of Ayn's young friends, including Nathaniel and myself, were helping Ayn to deal with the tensions that drove her. No one achieves power who does not seek it; had she not insisted upon being viewed as a goddess, she would not have been so viewed. Nevertheless, the adulation she received was a great disservice to her. She needed to be challenged when she applauded a young woman's agony - or when she spoke of Aristotle as the only thinker in history from whom she had had anything to learn - or when she demanded, in her affair with Nathaniel, that a set of rules be held as applicable to her that were not applicable to others - or when she flew into a rage, as she did with her attorney, Pincus Berner, at his suggestion that everyone, including herself, had at some time done what they knew to be wrong - or when she made it implicitely clear that any criticism of her was an act of treason to reason and morality. But had the attitude of her friends been different, it is likely that she would have renounced them and surrounded herself with people who would give her what she needed. It was not chance that her chosen friends were so many years younger than she - as it was not chance that her lover was so man years younger than she.
Truly Rand was a malevolent little troll of a woman.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I agree with only some of this...

Ranking Every Episode Of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"  on Buzzfeed.

I do agree with most of the low-ranking episodes. And I do get behind the anti-Riley sentiment, completely. And I'm so glad they called out "Flooded" which was the dreariest Buffy episode of all time.

But I will never get why so many rate the "Hush" episode so highly. One of the primary reasons for watching Buffy is for the dialog - and the episode has no dialog.

I also don't get why people say they don't like Season 6, and that it's "so dark." Hello? Guess which season Buffy dies in? Seasons 1 and 5. Not Season 6.

No, in Season 6 Willow raises Buffy from the dead. In Season 6 Buffy and Spike have the hottest sex ever shown on network television (and the Buzzfeed list rightly mentions how unusually explicit the episode "Smashed" is.) Season 6 has one of the most popular episodes, the musical "Once More with Feeling" episode.

Season 6 has the funniest bits with "the Trio" and it has the most tragic and dramatic bits with Dark Willow the season's "Big Bad" - especially when Dark Willow and the Trio collide.

And how awesome of a switch-up is the whole premise of Willow as the Big Bad? In every other season the Big Bad was some scary supernatural alien force. In Season 6 Big Bad is a character who was completely mild mannered and good, but gone berserk on magic and grief. Only Spike has a more extreme character arc, in the other direction. Oh, and Amy who turns herself into a rat in Season 3 and is turned back to herself by Willow in guess which season? That's right, Season 6, and in fact in the episode Smashed - truly one of the greatest Buffy episodes.

Oh, and in Smashed Amy and Willow join magical forces to punish homophobes.

Best episode ever.

There are a few crappy episodes, but Buffy Season 6 is the absolute best. The other seasons in order from best to worst:

Season 5
Season 3
Season 2
Season 1
Season 4
Season 7

I certainly don't count any of the Buffy comic books as actual "seasons" although some misguided souls do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lilias Yoga and You

Lilias Folan is a little old lady now, but she was a yoga maverick back in the 1970s, and my first introduction to yoga was through her public television show Lilias, Yoga and You.

You can watch an entire episode from the 70s here. I find Lilias charming in her earnestness and her suburban housewife-hippie chick vibe.

People Magazine did a profile of Folan in 1980.
Originally from Pound Ridge, N.Y., Folan was born Lilias Antoinette Moon and known thereafter as "Muffin" ("Can you see Muffin, Yoga and You?" she asks with a giggle). Her parents divorced when Lilias was 2, and her mother remarried several times, sending her daughter off to boarding school at the age of 9. Lilias later spent two years at Bennington, continued her art studies in Italy and returned home to an early marriage and postpartum depression.  
"I had everything," she says. "A successful husband, two children, a lovely home and a boat in Long Island Sound. But there was a longing in me that just wasn't filled up. I had the blahs." A doctor prescribed exercise, and Lilias spent three years in psychotherapy. Then she discovered yoga. "From the beginning I felt better as a person and a woman," she says. "Also, no one was into yoga then, and part of me liked being a little weird. If anyone asked me at parties, I'd get my leotard and do a headstand. It wasn't until I crashed into a coffee table that I saw how ridiculous it was."  
When her husband, Bob Folan, now president of his own transport company, was transferred to Cincinnati in 1967, Lilias went along and taught yoga. "The anxiety and depression had begun to lift," she recalls, "and I needed a broader, deeper vision. Slowly I began to feel a call." In 1970 she began a series of instructional shows for the local PBS affiliate. By last fall she was carried in 193 cities, pulled in 150 letters a week and boasted converts to yoga like Alan Arkin and Carol Burnett. 

Folan has her own Youtube page.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lou Grant

One of the things I like about watching the Mary Tyler Moore show is that Lou Grant reminds me of my father. My dad, who has been dead for ten years this June adored Lou Grant - I think he related to him - they definitely had quite a bit in common. Lou Grant was probably the primary reason why my father never missed an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show on Saturday nights.

Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant was five years older than my father, so they had the same cultural references - although Lou Grant was supposed to be a little older than that, which is why he served in World War II, whereas my father served in Korea. Lou Grant was a solid family man, and had a nice paternal relationship with Mary Richards, and was pretty conservative, like my father.

Ed Asner is not a conservative - he's a pretty hard-core lefty. It's widely believed that this is why his spin-off from the MTM show, Lou Grant, was canceled in spite of the fact that it was doing very well in the ratings. I've still never seen the Lou Grant show, I will put that on my to-do list after I watch the complete run of MTM.

So it's hard for me not to feel lots of affection for Ed Asner, and I'm glad he's hanging in there at 84.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mary Richards is stalked and it's just hilarious!

The phenomenon of stalking and the serious consequences it can have were not recognized during the run of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and so when they wrote Episode 19, in Season 3, about Mary being stalked it was played entirely for laughs.

And worse...

Warren the stalker tells Mary he loves her after one date, and then proceeds to pester her for weeks in spite of her giving him no encouragement at all. Mary asks Rhoda to tell Warren's friend to tell Warren to "bug off."

Instead of bugging off, Warren pays to have the message "Warren loves Mary" on a billboard across from where Mary works, and Lou Grant thinks it's funny. Next Warren shows up to demand Mary come to lunch with him. She refuses to go to lunch and so Ted Baxter tells her she's taking the "hard-to-get routine too far." Then Warren handcuffs himself to Mary, and says "now we're prisoners of love" and tells her the maitre d' at the restaurant has the key so she has to go with him.

Instead of somebody calling the police, Mary is forced to go to lunch with Warren, and when she comes back she is crying, but no longer handcuffed. At least they don't laugh at her, and Lou offers to assault the guy. Mary says it's her own fault for being afraid to hurt his feelings.

By the end of this treatment Mary is cowering in her apartment, with the drapes closed and refusing to answer the phone because she's afraid, that after Warren doing "something humiliating to me for the last eleven days in a row" she's afraid of what he's going to do next. Rhoda comes by and tells her it's her fault because she's "afraid to make a scene."

Mary decides that she won't be afraid to make a scene in the future. So the writers of the episode, Jim Mulholland and Mike Barrie, resolve the stalking like this: soon after the scene where Mary is cowering in her apartment, she is having a "normal first date" at a restaurant with another man, and Warren appears with a mariachi band and a cake that says "will you marry me." Mary naturally assumes it's for her because it's the most logical assumption. So she makes a scene, and it turns out the cake is for another woman that Warren is asking to marry.

But because Mary made a scene, it ruins any chance she had with the other guy. They even have a scene at the end of the episode where she calls the guy and tries to explain why she made the scene - and since stalking wasn't a concept back then she doesn't have the words to explain it, and just gives up and hangs up on the guy.

So in other words, the writers of the show have set up a situation where Mary cannot win: when confronted with a man who won't say no it's either her fault because she's afraid to make a scene, or she'll be punished for making a scene by being humiliated and losing a guy she likes.

Don't ever let anybody tell you that feminism hasn't made things better for women. Things may not be perfect now, but it was much worse 40 years ago.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Well it didn't bother your third husband

Well I'm in the middle of season 3 of the Mary Tyler Moore show and I am getting a little tired of the fact that some guy falls in love with Mary in every other episode. Sure I know, she can turn the world on with her smile, but this is getting ridiculous.

In episode 12 the sixteen-year-old boyfriend of Phyllis's daughter Bess falls in love with Mary. Although it is portentous that she asks him: ""Does't it bother you that I am 15 years older than you are?"

Seven years later Mary Tyler Moore married her mother's doctor Robert Levine, who is eighteen years younger than her.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tea Reviews

The Tea Reviews web sit I linked to yesterday doesn't list Awake in its top ten best teas, which are:

#1ThepuriTea Red Dragon Pearl9.85
#2Jacksons of Piccadilly Fair Trade Assam9.75
#3Mariage Freres Marco Polo9.67
#4Canton Tea Co. Superior Bai Lin Gong Fu9.65
#5American Tea Room Toasted Fig Pu Er Blend9.57
#6Culinary Teas Chocolate Mint9.50
#7American Tea Room Organic Yunnan Golden Ne9.49 Ruaysui Sky Crane Honey Bl9.47
#9American Tea Room Ruby Black9.43
#10Art of Tea Classic Black9.38

Call me a purist but I don't think tea mixed with flavors like Fig and Chocolate count as real teas. But the American Tea Room Ruby Black and the Art of Tea Classic Black sound pure - and without added flavors.

American Tea Room is their favorite tea company, and I have to say, their Arya Diamond 2013 First Flush Darjeeling SFTGFOP1 looks primo.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I recommend Tazo Tea

They sell Tazo Tea (pronounced tah-ZOH) in the health food section of my supermarket so I hadn't really bothered with it. But now that I'm watching what I eat more these days I tried it and to my surprise it's really good - better than my former favorite brand the British Twinings.

Actually the only Twinings that is really good is Darjeeling. But the Tazo version is even better and the Tazo English Breakfast is way better than the Twinings version. They don't just call it "English Breakfast" though, they have to be fancy and call it "Awake."

At least they just call Darjeeling, "Darjeeling." Although that might be because Darjeeling is its own brand - it's like Champagne, in that it has to come from a specific place - one of the designated tea estates in the Kalimpong area of Bengal. Darjeeling even has its own logo.

Apparently Tazo has been bought by Starbucks, and I have to hand it to Starbucks, they know quality. And I'm sorry, I like their coffee too. I've been told it's not that great, by people who know coffee but I really don't know coffee. Before I ever tried Starbucks, in the late 1990s, my idea of coffee derived from whatever they made at the office. I prefer tea anyway so never really thought much about coffee.

I have to say, the first time I had a Starbucks latte it blew my mind. I didn't know a coffee drink could taste so good. Now latte has too much milk for my taste, and I switched to cappuccino, and I think it tastes great too.

I still like tea better, but it's harder to get good tea than good coffee - although it seems that Starbucks, which makes Tazo available in its coffee shops, has solved that problem too. Although it is annoying that they call everything from Tazo a "tea" when actually, unless the main ingredient is the leaf of the camellia sinensis it isn't really tea, but rather an infusion, or as Wikipedia would have it, a tisane.

Here's someone else who really likes "Awake."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Moving on up

Another fashion observation - the woman on the right is wearing the most modern-looking dress that we've seen yet on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, in this episode from season 2 from 1972.

And the woman on the left of course is the actor Isabel Sanford before she got the gig as Louise Jefferson.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Norwegians would

Friday, November 15, 2013

Speaking of zany MTM fashions...

WHAT is this thing that Mary is wearing? Is she supposed to be Mary Queen of Scots? And for a date with Principal Kaufmann from Room 222?

I don't remember the outfit but strangely enough I do remember the conversation where he tells her that she isn't his type, he needs a "meat and potatoes" kind of woman and she's more like "dessert." Although in my memory I thought Lou Grant said those lines. Thought it's impressive I remembered that much dialog from decades ago.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum!

Zephyrus and HyacinthusAttic red-figure
cup from Tarquinia,  c. 490 - 480 BCE
This is one of the best things I've ever found on the Internet, this Corpus of Ancient Vases.

I've been fascinated by ancient Greek vases since art school, and here I find that someone has done the sensible thing of collecting information about all ancient Greek vases known to humanity and making that information available in one place - and making it browsable and searchable.

These vases are so fascinating for many reasons - there are so many of them - Wiki claims there are over 100,000 in the CVA - that they give vivid insight into the social customs and beliefs of these people. One of the most riveting being of course the fact that the ancient Greeks were very OK with homosexuality, and scenes of men embracing, courting and even having sex appear on lots of vases.

My favorite type of Greek vase is known as "red figure" - the drawings on those vases are the best of all, thanks to the red images allowing a nice use of brush to create the inner lines. The black figure vases, which preceded the red figure, while beautiful in their own right, tend to have fairly primitive drawings.

They had plenty of other subjects besides homosexuality of course, but their openness about homosexuality is so fascinating because it's such a contrast to our own culture, even now in the age of gay marriage.

And thanks to the Greeks' unashamed love of beautiful men, the men on the red figure vases are often quite cute. Many of the men in ancient Greek vases are often actually desirable, which is much more than you can say for the vast majority of the men depicted in old (if not exactly ancient) Indian or Japanese erotic paintings.

In the case of Indian art the men invariably have cheezy little moustaches, but if they didn't you might think they were women, they have such feminine faces.

And in the case of the ancient Japanese erotica all the men look like they're balding, thanks to the fashion of the time.

I do like the elegant lines, but that fat balding baby look just does not do it for me. If they didn't have arranged marriages their society would have surely died out from lack of female desire.

And don't even get me started on what was supposed to be hot for European men prior to the English Regency period.

So I plan to do lots of checking out of this online Greek vases  repository - not just for the cute guys though, but also just to see some of the vases I've never seen before. Although there are 100,000, only about 100 are shown on the Internet, and museums rarely show their entire collections all at once.

To get a sense of how many vases there are, I've done a  search on just red-figure vases, with the inscription "kalos" (the boy is beautiful) on the vase, and only those in the catalog that have images. The search resulted in 538 vases.

Admittedly the vase images that tend to get reproduced the most are those with the best artwork, but it's still fascinating to look at even a poor drawing by somebody from two thousand years ago.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fashions on the MTM show

In this image you can see the strange 70s fashions of the Mary Tyler Moore Show - Mary going braless under a hot pink turtle neck and Phyllis wearing a horrendous monstrosity that makes my eyes hurt. Only Rhoda looks modern in her all-black ensemble, except for the gigantic red-white-and-blue scarf she's wearing in her ponytail.

I don't remember the crazy colors because we had a black and white TV.

I also don't remember that Mary went braless. What a unique moment in TV history - I don't think anybody today on TV would go braless.

In this episode Phyllis asks Mary to tell her daughter Bess about sex. I don't remember that either, but it's possible that my mother made my father turn off the TV at that point. So I don't remember that Bess tells Mary that she already heard about sex, because another kid told her about it, and she didn't believe it at first.

That's how I found out about sex too - some kid in school told me, and that was my reaction too - I thought the kid made it up to gross me out. Only when I read my first adult non-fiction book Black Like Me, which describes some sexual situation (I forget what now) did I believe it was true.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Liking sex” was the preferred euphemism for making or consuming porn

I read something in the NYTimes today which reminded me of our buddy Antonia Crane because it's about attitudes of people in the wonderful world of commercial sex. The writer is at a porn convention:
Instead, over the next few days I found myself absorbing one unrelenting, expertly media-trained “celebratory” paean to commodified sex-positivity after another, and feeling more and more depressed by the hour. The conference’s best-known attendants seemed to respond to all but the most ingratiating questions by swiftly shaming the interlocutor. The porn stars stuck to their talking points and stayed on message. “Liking sex” was the preferred euphemism for making or consuming porn. Conversely, harboring even the slightest ambivalence about porn meant that you categorically “hated sex” and were out to ruin it for everyone else. 
A dominant narrative soon emerged at the conference, in which pornography — and not the Victorian kind with the bloomers and the spankings or whatever — was presented as a bastion of orgiastic disinhibition; a filthy fun-times Arcadia from which sprang nothing but joy and empowerment and marriage and children and unicorns. 
Like all good stories, this one had a villain: “the girlfriend.” A sex-hating, man-foiling human barricade whose cruel, withholding ways sent armies of disconsolate men into the tender embrace of their “favorite” porn stars daily. I was taken aback. I was a girlfriend! I mean, I wasn’t that girlfriend. But the more this version of reality was reified throughout the event, the sadder, the more isolated, the more diminished I became. The worst thing about it was how overwhelming the experience was, and how deviant it made me feel.
It's clear that Antonia Crane has the same attitude, with the slick way she tried to conflate protestations about using sex slaves with disapproval of prostitution. Her message is the same: if you have complaints about any sexual scenario, it means you are anti-sex.

Now I'm sure that Antonia Crane believes she's against rape. But it is clear from her response to commenters in this article that as far as she's concerned, what Max did - having sex with a sex slave, knowing that as a sex slave she couldn't give consent - was a regrettable minor indiscretion.

Now unfortunately Max will never be caught and punished for rape, but what he did was in fact, rape, and he should be punished for it. And it doesn't matter how "remorseful" he is. Instead Crane tells him - and any other rapists - that what they did was understandable human weakness, and it isn't really rape if you pay someone for it.

Antonia Crane makes her living as a dispenser of commercial sex, or more recently as a raconteur of the glories of dispensing commercial sex. And she is vigilant about protecting her product - if she acknowledged that people who use sex slaves are guilty of rape, she'd just ruin the good times for some people, who, like Max either have had sex with sex slaves, or just don't care if the prostitute they are using is a sex slave. You don't want to kill any potential customer's woody with guilt or concern for other human beings' welfare. The attitude that Crane is promoting is that anybody who isn't cool enough to simply brush away concerns about sex trafficking must hate sex.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Antonia Crane, rape apologist

I was amazed and appalled by this "honest" and "human" article which I found via Slate in which sex worker Antonia Crane interviews a former john and he admits to using a woman who was the victim of sex trafficking, knowing she was:
Rumpus: But it’s not consensual. It’s coercion. It’s sex slavery.
Max: And I felt very remorseful when I learned this. And then I did it again.
Crane wants you to believe that this is just a sad but understandable human weakness. In the comments beneath the story she exonerates Max and herself:
It’s clear from the comments above (particularly Mia, Laurie and LDB) that this is a topic where people experience strong visceral feelings. I found Max’s transparency about his experiences with women in the sex industry brave and honest. What’s interesting is human desperation. I don’t think that being a kind, generous client in that situation makes Max a self centered, unfeeling asshole. It makes him honest and human. The disdain that some of you have for this client is, sadly, what my article exposes. You helped me do that. It’s not an article about sex trafficking, but the places we hide ourselves and the ways we connect with people sexually. I’ve never met anyone who condones sex slavery. It’s a horrendous, monstrous thing. Perhaps his interaction with them was a bright spot in their day. Have you ever talked to a woman who has been pimped out and sold? Have you ever given her money? Shelter? 
See it's "human desperation" and the article wasn't about sex trafficking so why are you people making such a tiresome big deal about it? And unless you have personally tried to rescue sex slaves, you are a big hypocrite to point out that having sex with someone who is being held against their will in the sex trade is rape. How dare you insinuate that Max paid the slave master to rape the slave!

Max isn't some poor guy reaching out for human companionship, he's a rapist. And Antonia Crane is fine with rape and she finds you weird and puritanical for having such qualms.

It's people like Antonia Crane who help the sex slavers do what they do. And she's not ashamed to tell the world about it, because she is a moral cretin.

She has a blog - here we see Naomi Wolfe giving her tacit approval to rape apologist Antonia Crane.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More on Moore

So in episode 19 season 1 of The Mary Tyler Moore show Murray has his play produced and the show is trashed by a local critic, but it turns out the critic hates everything, including My Fair Lady and Hamlet.

This inspired me to see what critics had to say about the MTM show back in the day. Well the New Yorker, which can't STFU about the current TV series Girls had nothing to say about the original Girls.

But the New York Times's John J. O'Connor wrote this weirdly snarky review about what is now generally agreed to be the gold standard of television sit-coms, on April 21, 1971:
"Mary Tyler Moore" is a sitcom. 
That is not my latest contribution to the literature of graffiti. That is a fact. A sitcom, as the trade pros would have it, is a situation comedy, one of the most fragile, abused and perishable of television formats. For one super-successful "I Love Lucy," there are probably a couple dozen super-embarrassing duds. A few still manage to survive, though, and at least occasionally are worth closer inspection. 
The "Mary Tyler Moore Show," already on TV's crowded re-run trail, can be seen Saturdays at 9:30 PM over the Columbia Broadcasting System. Among the magic few, it is a new half-hour comedy series this year that actually will be returning next season. 
The format? Mary, a bachelor girl perched precariously around age 30, works for a TV news station in Minneapolis, where - as the bouncy introductory song puts it - she "just might make it after all." So the situations revolve around Mary at work as indispensable secretary-Girl Friday, and Mary at home, as an attractive unmarried on the brink of affairs as numerous as the series is long. 
All right, already, it's a format, no better or worse than most formats. There's the potential for mass empathy, with all those bachelor girls out there in the real world, along with their families and myriad suitors. And there's the potential for longevity, with Mary looking healthy enough to keep cavorting at least until the ripe old age of 45. 
With little or no need for character development, the emphasis is on plot, and that is the key ingredient in the long-running television series…
The creators, writers and producers of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" are James Brooks and Alan Burns. The plots tend to be breezy, somewhat inane and, after three minutes, utterly predictable. It's all much like your average Broadway comedy. And of course there are the contemporary "swinging" touches, much in the way pre-marital sex and a certain eight-letter word were used to update the cliche format of the film "Love Story."
Within the familiar plots, however, the viewer can find a good many first-rate bits and pieces. The program's strongest points are the actors. Miss Moore's Mary is a most agreeable bundle of leggy charm. And her two steady friends make effective foils - Cloris Leachman as Phyllis and especially Valerie Harper as the wise-cracking Rhoda. Miss Harper, currently in Broadway's "Story Theater," can pick up a piece of candy, mutter "I should just apply this thing directly to my hips," and manage to make an ordinary line very funny. 
At the television station, Mary's boss is Grant, played to a superb Edgar-Kennedy slow burn by Edward Asner. Grant's complimentary nature runs to exhortations such as "Keep up the fair work, Murray!" Murray (Gavin MacLeod) is the resident copy supplier, and Ted (Ted Knight) is the egomaniacal newscaster, complete with silvery mane… 
…And so it goes in the world of situation comedy. Nothing terribly significant but, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show" at least, enough to pass a pleasant half hour.

Some thoughts:

"Certain eight-letter word"? What does that mean?

The critics adored that line "can pick up a piece of candy, mutter "I should just apply this thing directly to my hips" - they always mention it.

What does Edgar-Kennedy slow burn mean?
Oh, never mind, found it.
Something else I discovered - thanks to the MTM show I learned that they packaged ice cream in Minneapolis in 1970 like Chinese takeout. (Mary Richards had her tonsils out and everybody kept giving her ice cream.)

Saturday, November 09, 2013

How awesome would it be if they both ended up as president of the US?

More young politicians... although some of these are certainly not my "favorites"

Friday, November 08, 2013

Financial regulator humor

Dimon: Now, in terms of a fine . . .
Holder: Yeah.
Dimon: I was talking with some of the guys here and we were thinking, like, a billion maybe would be good.
Holder: Huh.
Dimon: Were you thinking that would be a good number?
Holder: No-o-o.
Dimon: Oh. What were you thinking, hypothetically?
Holder: Hypothetically? Not less than thirteen.
Dimon: Thirteen. Wow. And that . . . that would be as in billion?
Holder: Yes, definitely billion.
Dimon: Of course. Because thirteen million . . . I mean, my pants are worth more than that . . . ha ha . . . I’m kidding, they’re not, they’re just regular pants. I just think the word “pants” is . . . Anyway. Wow. So thirteen billion.
Holder: Yeah.
(A long beat.)
Dimon: So you feel like we were . . . were bad, the guys and me, at the bank here.
Holder: Pretty much, yeah.
Dimon: Huh. That’s so weird, because we weren’t thinking that at all. We were thinking, you know, we made a lot of money and that that was, like, good.
Holder: Interesting. I guess for me it’s how you made the money?
Dimon: Not sure I understand. Why would that matter?
Holder: Well, over here it’s kind of the . . . what’s the word . . . the essence of the whole thing.
Dimon: Like . . . rules and stuff.
Holder: Exactly.
Dimon: Like that . . . what do you call it . . . Vulcan Law?
Holder: Volcker Rule.
Dimon: Yeah, that one. That’s funny, because we didn’t really take that one very seriously. We actually have a copy of it up on a wall and people kind of point at it and laugh, because, I mean, it’s just funny.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

American Theatre mag asks: Can an online database bring transparency and efficiency to the play-submission process?

And the answer is no.

No matter how great a database it is, producers still have to - or designate somebody else to - read the damn script.

They quote Adam Szymkowicz in this piece - it seems like I can't go anywhere online anymore without running into Szymkowicz. He's interviewed a whole bunch of playwrights. How that makes him the go-to guy for an article about a play database and getting producers to read playwrights' scripts is apparently because one out of his 600 interviewees said:
"It is logistically impossible for theatres to have an open submission policy. There are too many plays and not enough time to read and consider them all. I would like to change that."
What I would have been interested in finding out is how Szymkowicz ended up writing the dude-bro "romantic" comedy web series Compulsive Love.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Bruce Norris likes to imagine he's some kind of rebel

I thought that Clybourne Park sounded like bullshit and had no desire to see it - and although I can't really decide until I read it (I will not pay to sit through it) I think this article makes some excellent points: Guthrie Theater's smug and offensive "Clybourne Park" perpetuates the illusion of a "post-Civil-Rights" society .

But Domesticated sounds even worse. I thought it sounded like standard evolutionary psychology bullshit when I read this pre-opening article in the NYTimes a couple of weeks ago, and the reviews make it sound even more obnoxious:
I’m not diagnosing Norris, as the harpies diagnose Bill, with “you just don’t get it” disease. Domesticated is a play, not a manifesto. But with its biological framework and Big Picture perspective, it does sometimes seem like a treatise. Near the end, Bill offers the topic sentence: “In the last 50 years, we’ve reached a remarkable turning point in history where, in a precise inversion of how we treated you … anything a woman could possibly want is universally construed as good, and all of a man’s desires — for all intents and purposes — are bad.” 
Sounds like Rush Limbaugh or some Men's Rights Activist.

Norris's belief, which is absolute gospel in evolutionary psychology circles, is that men are naturally polygamous and women are naturally monogamous. And the history of the world is women forcing men into marriage.

But actually the history of the world is the history of the sexual double-standard: wives and mistresses and prostitutes for men and extreme punishments for women who stray - or even wear the wrong clothing at the wrong time. And this is in fact true in some places in the world right now. And the only way for anybody to buy into the bullshit tenets of evolutionary psychology is to deny that reality.

So Clybourne Park was about race, and Domesticated is about gender, so when is Bruce Norris going to write about homosexuality? Of course a straight white man would be the perfect playwright for that topic too. By all means give him another commission.

And here's that asshole dissing Angels in America:
When I received the Steinberg Award, Tony Kushner made the introductory speech and talked about the greatness of theater and so forth, and I realized as I was sitting there, that my father— 
But Tony Kushner didn’t introduce you, John Guare did. 
Tony Kushner went first. 
Right, but then John introduced you, and he called you a suicide bomber, which I have a feeling you’re about to demonstrate. Go ahead. 
I’m just saying, my father, who lives in Texas, is not in any way related to theater. Not only has he never seen Angels in America, ostensibly the most important work of theater in the past twenty years, as we’ve all been told, he’s never heard of it. So if the most important work of theater goes unheard of by a hard-working citizen of the U.S., what does that say about how important theater is? 
I think it says more about your father. 100 years from now, more people will remember Tony Kushner than your father. 
I suppose so. I’m not sure Angels in America is that important. I certainly don’t think the plays I write are very important. Angels came and went in a cultural moment and it excited a lot of people, and it probably led to other things like Will and Grace, but I don’t know if it’s “important.”
100 years from now more people will remember Tony Kushner than this douchebag and his ignorant Philistine of a father. I guarantee it.

This is him again:
“I would say it’s not about a mission to unmask the privileged bourgeois hypocrites,” he says of his oeuvre, “and it’s not a campaign to bring down the American way of life. I guess, if I were to be really pretentious about it, it’s a campaign to bring down the species. I think as a species we have some big problems that are insurmountable. I think we are kind of doomed, and our responsibility is to just be perpetually vigilant to our worst tendencies.”
Oh brother.

Of course he's worshipped by the idiots who run theater. Because he's so macho and manly and uncompromising. And a suicide bomber. Jesus fucking Christ. I realize that in order to make a playwright cool you have to emphasize how his work will be painful and how rigid and uncompromising and macho he is, but really? "Suicide bomber"? He must be the best playwright of them all. 

And it's not like evolutionary psychology is such a taboo - most of the writers for the NYTimes, and plenty of other so-called liberals, completely buy into gender essentialism. Bruce Norris is not a rebel in the slightest. 

Not surprisingly, professional racist Steve Sailor loved Clybourne Park. I bet he's going to love Domesticated too.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Tree That Owns Itself

I discovered The Tree that Owns Itself a few weeks ago via my Facebook friends They Might Be Giants.

According to Wikipedia:
The earliest-known telling of the tree’s story comes from a front-page article entitled "Deeded to Itself" in the Athens Weekly Banner of August 12, 1890. The article explains that the tree had been located on the property of Colonel William Henry Jackson (no relation to the photographer).[1] William Jackson was the son of one James Jackson (a soldier in the American Revolution as well as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and Governor of Georgia), and the father of another James Jackson (a Congressman and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia). He was the brother of Jabez Young Jackson, also a Congressman.[2][3] (William Jackson was reportedly a professor at the University of Georgia, and is sometimes given the title of Doctor. The nature of his military service and the source of the title "Colonel" are unknown.[4]) Jackson supposedly cherished childhood memories of the tree, and, desiring to protect it, deeded to it the ownership of itself and its surrounding land. By various accounts, this transaction took place between 1820 and 1832.[5] According to the newspaper article, the deed read:
I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree… of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.

I couldn't help noticing this bitter fact - if the transaction granting the Tree ownership of itself happened between 1820 and 1832 it means that for around thirty or forty years there was a tree in Athens Georgia that owned itself, while millions of human beings in that state and adjoining states did not own themselves.

Other famous trees.

Monday, November 04, 2013


This might be my favorite response to cranky old man Richard Dawkins telling the TSA to get off his lawn.

Even Joyce Carol Oates gets into the act.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Oh no you don't! 
I've seen episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show both as an adult and as a child. But I don't remember the episodes I saw as a child, and certainly didn't get the jokes, and I've only seen a few episodes as an adult, including the notorious "Chuckles Bites the Dust" and the one my great grand-uncle Iggy Wolfington was in - his entire dialog is "What is she, nuts?"

My father adored the show, especially Ed Asner's Lou Grant, and never missed an episode. And it was one of the few shows my mother didn't consider too risque.

When the show started I was too young to stay up to watch it, and by the time it was ending I was a teenager, out hanging with friends and missed the last seasons. This was before the Internet or even VCRs (Videocassette Recorders in case you forgot.)

But since there is the Internet now, you can watch the entire show's run on Hulu, which is what I'm doing. It's a strange experience, part nostalgia and part a new appreciation for the show. It's forty years old but I have to say, it seems pretty modern, or at least no less modern than episodes of Friends.

Although there are moments when you realize how old it is - in season 1, episode 6, Lou Grant is talking about what a great job it is to be a sportscaster - 20 minutes of work a night and for that you get a whopping $20,000 a year! 

I vaguely remember the opening credits of the first season, but it's so different watching it from an adult perspective. It's starts with a cross cutting between Mary driving down the highway to Minneapolis and what looks like a going-away party held at Mary's prior job. Just as she's leaving this middle-aged guy in glasses tries to get a kiss from Mary and she's all - oh no you don't! So what I'm wondering is, who are these actors and do they ever get any credit anywhere for these opening sequences?

Another observation: Rhoda Morgenstern is supposed to be so fat and dumpy compared to Mary, and yet she is gorgeous - you could cut glass with those cheekbones. What were they thinking? And on top of that, she has some of the best lines in the show, especially in her rivalry with the ever-annoying Phyllis over who gets to be Mary's best friend.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I wish I could look like the Charcoal Donut lady

The New Yorker reports that this Charcoal Donut image has sparked a racism debate in Thailand. Apparently Thailand is a pretty racist place, and having light skin is all the rage there. But I think this woman looks amazing. Although I don't like the color of the lipstick - it should be darker and redder - I don't think they should have tried to match the Dunkin Donuts logo color so slavishly.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Adolescent libertarian fantasies

I love how the Mighty Krugman can be counted on to trash Ayn Rand on at least a monthly basis, as in today's NYTimes column:
So what’s this all about? One reason, the sociologist Daniel Little suggested in a recent essay, is market ideology: If the market is always right, then people who end up poor must deserve to be poor. I’d add that some leading Republicans are, in their minds, acting out adolescent libertarian fantasies. “It’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” declared Paul Ryan in 2009.
And what "this" is all about is the Republican war on the poor, which of course would be inspired by that eccentric hack novelist who got her first big break in life from the Bolsheviks.

As Krugman says:
All of this hostility to the poor has culminated in the truly astonishing refusal of many states to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Bear in mind that the federal government would pay for this expansion, and that the money thus spent would benefit hospitals and the local economy as well as the direct recipients. But a majority of Republican-controlled state governments are, it turns out, willing to pay a large economic and fiscal price in order to ensure that aid doesn’t reach the poor.
Astonishing only if you weren't already aware of what a bunch of evil freaks Republicans are.