Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another blogger calls out Mikki Kendall for her obsessive hatred

Well Mikki Kendall is slowly getting the attention she deserves for her obsessive hatred of white women. The latest is Adele Wilde-Blavatsky in the Huffington Post:
Yet since when did all white feminists (or women) claim that being married, a mother, sexually assertive etc was not acceptable or feminist? Certainly not any feminism that I, or many others, would sign up to. Mikki Kendall, who has also gained renown for the dreadful Twitter campaign #solidarityisforwhitewomen, is particularly guilty of such 'white women bashing'. Kendall's article about Beyonce's album not only does all of the above but appears to also suggest that 'white feminism' is anti-man. Yeah, right.
And Blogmother at What About Our Daughters also has plenty to say about the bizarre bullshit claim that white feminists are attacking Beyonce - a claim promoted by, who else, Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall just pulls random stupidity out of her ass and is considered some kind of legitimate journalist to NPR.

Here's the stupid shit that Mikki Kendall likes to say:

Is there any evidence that Mikki Kendall actually knew "a lot of white women" who Kendall has amateur-psychoanalyzed in this way? Of course not. But who needs evidence - I mean we're talking about white women - we all know what they are like, don't we?

Who is paying Mikki Kendall to spend all her time spreading hatred against a group of people on the basis of shared ethnicity/gender? And why do media outlets like NPR support her in her campaign of bigotry?

And I see that Mother Jones has jumped on the Kendall-promoting bandwagon. Mother Jones was the first magazine I ever subscribed to, when I was sixteen. So glad I stopped subscribing years ago.

What's really fascinating is that liberal media has decided that a campaign to blame anonymous demonized white women for everything is perfectly reasonable and nobody who questions the wisdom of such a campaign is given a voice - not in  Mother Jones, not at Salon, not at Jezebel and not even at NPR. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lou Grant and the 1970s

TV Tropes tags the Lou Grant show as an example of The Seventies trope. And there's definitely some of that - I'm in the middle of season 3 and there's definitely an element of issue of the week - they covered homosexuality, race, old age, alcoholism, and nuclear weapons among many others. But I don't mind it, especially because the show tends to shy away from wrapping up neatly. For instance, an episode about an evangelical church getting rich from the gullibility of their flock, while clearly showing the religion to be an opportunistic scam, didn't end with the church getting busted. Instead the last scene with the preacher showed him claiming that the Los Angeles Tribune was doing the work of Satan, and the flock remained as gullible as always.

I do love all the younger men sporting that longish 70s hair - makes me nostalgic.

There's a web site called lougrant.net which is not extensive, and a little grim - it has an obituary page which lists the deaths not only of cast members (Nancy Marchand, Mason Adams) but also behind the scenes people like the makeup guy.

It has a photo of the surviving cast members from 2008 on the front page.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

More friends at Lou Grant

Stanley Kamel
Many familiar faces on season 3 of Lou Grant - Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan, William Shallert (Patty Duke's TV father), Ed Harris, Michael J. Fox, Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West) but the one I cared about the most was Stanley Kamel - as soon as I saw in the Canonical Lou Grant episode guide that Kamel had been in a show I had to watch it.

I loved Stanley Kamel as therapist Dr. Kroger on the show Monk. I was very upset when I heard he had died suddenly of a heart attack - I blogged about it then.

Unfortunately in the Lou Grant episode his character got just a single scene - he played an opportunistic literary agent. Very different from Dr. Kroger, it's too bad he had such little screen time.

He was just so good as Dr. Kroger. A perfect foil for the Shaloub's Adrian Monk. As you can see in the clip below.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Charlie Brown "Atlas Shrugged"

The world is divided into two kinds of people: a tiny minority who do all the productive, creative work, and who also happen to be attractive, smart and super-competent, and everybody else.
Everybody else is divided into two kinds of people – moochers and their leaders, the looters who run the government. What they have in common is their tendency to be ugly, stupid, lazy and incompetent. Although they talk about feelings and emotions all the time, it’s all fake and used exclusively to manipulate the producers. They are incapable of true romantic love because unlike the producers they aren’t exclusively into M/f kink.
Society depends on the “producers” to do everything, even though the moochers/looters pretend they don’t know they do everything and offer the producers no gratitude for it – out of pure, unadulterated malice.
Then one day a company run by moochers/looters decides to force their own employees to collectivize their company. They do it because the leader of the company, Ivy Starnes, is a sadist who gets off on abusing workers. One of the producers named John Galt who happened to be working for the moocher/looter company, created a magical motor that could create energy out of virtually nothing. John Galt, offended by the idea of a company forcing their workers to collectivize it, decides to run away and start his own society made up of only producers.
As soon as all the producers run away, society, which is now exclusively composed of moochers/looters falls apart, resulting in the well-deserved deaths of many of the moochers/looters. As soon as enough of them die off, John Galt and his fellow producers will return in Glory.
And that’s what “Atlas Shrugged” is all about, Charlie Brown.

Friday, December 27, 2013

So how did my Jewish Christmas go?

Well it was certainly different. I did have Chinese food, but did not make it to the movies. Instead I watched more of the Lou Grant show. And I saw some old friends in season 2:

Marcia Marcia Marcia!
Maureen McCormick showed up as the illiterate niece of Mrs. Pynchon, Luis from Sesame Street showed up as a regular reporter for the Tribune and Coach from Cheers showed up as a mobster.

This web site provides a handy episode guide with ratings.

"Tribune begins with 'T'"


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Two factions of the Ayn Rand cult

Barbara Branden died December 11 this year, according to the NYTimes. The obituary didn't say much I didn't know about Branden, but it did clarify for me the two different factions of what remains of the Ayn Rand cult:
Beginning in 1953, when Ms. Rand was nearly 50, Ms. Branden wrote, the intellectual mother of principled self-interest had ardently pursued an interest in Ms. Branden’s husband, Nathaniel. Though 25 years apart in age, they had an affair for about 15 years.
Ms. Branden knew about it because Ms. Rand had insisted from the start that both spouses — Ms. Branden and Ms. Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor — give their consent. 
Ms. Branden revealed the story, she said, partly to set the record straight about Ms. Rand’s sudden banishment of the Brandens from her circle in 1968. She had denounced them in a widely circulated essay, claiming they had exploited her financially. The couple denied the accusation.
In fact, Ms. Branden wrote, Ms. Rand expelled them because she had learned that Nathaniel Branden was involved with a third woman. She faulted Ms. Branden for not telling her about that other woman. The Brandens divorced soon afterward. 
The revelation led to a rift among Ms. Rand’s acolytes. Philosophical differences underlay the dispute, but by most accounts, opinion about Ms. Branden’s book became the stand-in for the disagreements. Ultimately the Ayn Rand Institute, established in 1985 by the Rand estate to promote her ideas, split in two. 
On one side were followers who rejected the book as heresy (though not as a lie, since private letters in Ms. Rand’s estate confirmed the story). Others, who saw the book as an important chronicle of movement history, formed the Institute for Objectivist Studies in 1990 (later renamed the Atlas Society). In their view, Ms. Branden’s book paid tribute to Objectivism, which at its root defines reality as a set of objective, absolute (rather than relative) observable truths. And the story Ms. Branden told was the objective truth, they said.
I hadn't realized that The Atlas Society and the Ayn Rand Institute had split over Branden's book. Clearly the Ayn Rand Institute is the more conservative of the two, refusing to accept the fact that Rand had a meltdown over a man. And it's not surprising - the Ayn Rand Institute is run by Rand's "intellectual heir" Leonard Peikoff, who, as the beneficiary of all the profits of Rand's work, has a financial stake in Rand's reputation. But what I have to wonder is, who is Leonard Peikoff's intellectual heir? He's 80 years old now, and doesn't appear to have any biological heirs - like virtually all members of Rand's "collective."

One thing the Times obituary got wrong though in claiming the Nathaniel Branden-Rand affair lasted for 15 years. According to Nathaniel Branden's memoirs they stopped having sex after the publication of "Atlas Shrugged" in 1957 after Rand fell into a depression, and as the depression lifted, Rand began to hint and then badger the unwilling Branden to continue the sexual component of their relationship. So by my count the actual affair only lasted about 5 - 6 years.

This Rand-Branden timeline by a Rand obsessive appears to agree with me about the length of the affair - actually his estimate is that the sexual relationship lasted only 4 years.

But that was the part that Rand really cared about as she made clear to Branden according to this exchange from 1967 reported by Branden:
"Getting tired of a serious, philosophical life?" she asked sharply. "You're on your own now in every way that counts. Unless you mean you want to be rid of me."
"Free of you? I want us to be friends forever." 
"Friends is not what I'm talking about! What new irrationality is this? Do you think I would have dedicated Atlas Shrugged to a friend? I've told the whole world that you are Objectivism. Do you think I would say that about a friend? What's the matter with you? Don't you attach meaning to the words you speak? Where has your mind gone?" 
The message was clear - if I were not in love with her, that meant my mind was gone and I was a traitor to our philosophy. This was Ayn's notion of giving me every chance to withdrawal from our "romance."
As far as Rand was concerned, if Branden didn't want to have sex with her, their relationship was over. And so when Branded did admit he didn't want to have sex with her any more, their relationship was over and Rand "denounced" Branden.

The Atlas Society offers its view of the split with the ARI. So far I haven't found the ARI view of the Atlas Society.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Have myself a merry Jewish Christmas

Thanks to the intersection of work and Christmas falling on a Wednesday this year, for the first time ever I am not going to be with family on Christmas. So what will I do? I decided to have myself a merry Jewish Christmas.

So far the only things I'm sure Jews do on Christmas is eat Chinese food and go to the movies. I can do that. But I can't decide which movie to go see - the Hobbit 2 or Saving Mr. Banks.

I guess I could also play with a dreidel. I don't have one, but I hear you can make them out of clay.

Saturday Night Live has this educational video Christmastime for the Jews.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What did Mikki Kendall do with the Verb Noire money?

During Racefail 09, Mikki Kendall (aka Karynthia) and Jamie Nesbitt Golden (aka Thewayoftheid) announced they were starting Verb Noire, a small press dedicated to publishing stories by people of color that mainstream publishers had been suppressing. Though their hyperbole was ludicrous, their goal was not. Small publishers have successfully targeted niche markets for centuries. 
According to the verb-noire LJ, they got over $8200 in donations when they launched. In August, they announced that they needed more money to go to WorldCon and raised an additional $1500. They sold Verb Noire merchandise, but they apparently never shared how much it made.
They produced one ebook with an amateurish cover.
Then, in October of 2009, Kendall announced that Golden was leaving the company after goofing up some contracts.
And since then? 
Whatever their problem was, it wasn’t money. On their web site, they mention these expenses: 
Everything we need to get Verb Noire off the ground, ranging from new equipment to safely store the submitted work, to lawyer fees to make sure our contracts are fair, to covering advertising and software costs. We’re also registering copyrights for our authors. 
Getting a lawyer to donate time should’ve been easy. What equipment does an epublisher need? Clearly, they had computers. As for safely storing submitted work, that’s $50 to buy either a dedicated hard drive or a file cabinet... 
...Kendall and Golden had hundreds of people who wanted them to succeed—even the people they had attacked as racists wanted them to succeed. Book people are like that.
Note: and I'm sure they attacked a LOT of people as racists, because all it takes for Mikki Kendall to attack you as a racist is to disagree with Mikki Kendall, as I found out. The blogger continues...
After I blogged about Verb Noire’s finances, Golden (thewayoftheid) tweeted: 
So a girl decides to do a little vanity googling to discover that Will Fucking Shetterly has her name in his mouth. What to do, what to do.
I tweeted back: 
You might start by making a public post about where the Verb Noire money went. 
She never answered...

In December, 2012, defending the practices of social justice warriors at Metafilter’s “privilege-checking and call-out culture”, Martin Wisse cited Verb Noire as a success of Racefail. I laughed in the sudden realization that warriors live in their own reality.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Things are looking up for 2014

Yesterday it was the good news that more and more people are realizing what a bad movie Love Actually is.

Today I see that black bloggers have called out that unethical journalist and all-around shameless bomb-throwing attention-monger Mikki Kendall. Things are looking up for the new year.

Readers of this blog will know that I have a personal issue with Mikki Kendall - when I got into an online argument with some who claimed John Lennon and Yoko Ono were racists, Kendall used the search engine - link aggregation power of her karnythia Tumblr account to brand me as a "racist" in Internet search results.

I've never been a racist, I oppose racism, I think the concept of race itself, while a handy tool used to oppress various ethnic groups by the powers-that-be, is actually scientifically invalid. Not to mention that we are all ultimately out of Africa, and in the United States especially, the idea of racial purity is a joke. Plenty of people thought to be "white" in the United States have black ancestors, and even more people thought to be "black" in the United States have white ancestors, thanks to the access that white slaver-rapists had to black slave women.

Finally, I believe that to a much greater extent than most Americans are aware or are willing to admit, black people built the United States, and jazz and rock and roll are only two of the most recent gifts given to the culture by a group of people who were treated like absolute shit for most of US history. I'd be fully in favor of some kind of tax credit for African Americans to acknowledge this reality.

None of my beliefs matters to an extremist professional hater like Mikki Kendall though. And smearing me is such an easy, satisfying thing to do.

But the personality that is petty and vicious enough to smear people without knowing anything about them will show itself in many other ways: I've already mentioned Kendall claiming in Salon that some anonymous doctor was out to get her for wanting a legal abortion. And after Amanda Marcotte defended Kendall against criticism, Kendall turned around and attacked Marcotte.

And then there was her ethnicity/gender-based hate-a-thon on Twitter. I was pleased to see that in spite of Nation writer Auro Bogado and Guardian writer Chitra Nagarajan joining the mindless, ethnic/gender-based scape-goating madness there are others who didn't participate in the Kendall-generated hysteria.

The Blogmother of What About Our Daughters has a nice take-down of Kendall:
I was on blogcation when the whole #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag broke out. #ThankYouLAWD! For those who missed the earlier uprising, the hashtag was basically a laundry list of grievances Black feminists have against White feminists. The grievances range from the substantive to the petty - real and imagined. 
Well apparently NOW/Feministing/ the NSA/Who Cares At This Point  hosted a panel and they discussed #solidarityisforwhitewomen...
She posts Tweets from Kendall complaining about other people using "her" hashtag.
So apparently you can't discuss a hashtag on Twitter unless the creator of the hashtag is present and approves. And I'm being facetious here folks- this is far deeper than the hashtag, but instead of addressing the underlying grievances, we're fighting over a hashtag... 
...Marginalized Black women don't give a rip about a bunch of privileged BLACK and WHITE women fighting over a hashtag. And if you want to scream "we're not privleged," I don't believe you. I know two things about you right now A) you have an internet connection and B) you can read. You're privleged... 
...The hashtag creator isn't writing a book because it would be controversial and she thinks it wouldn't sell. #GurlStop! #You'reNotSerious 

Kendall then responded to the blog entry and Blogmother shot back in the fed-up and exasperated tone that any sane person eventually develops towards Kendall and her self-aggrandizing stunts:
Maam. You have ridiculous sense of ENTITLEMENT. And are seriously detached from reality. In SEVEN years of blogging- I have never gotten pre-clearance to blog about whatever-in-the-hell I want to blog about. And I'm not going to ask permission from you NOW! Get a grip! Your supporters are cheering you right over a cliff. #YouDontWantNONEofThis. Go back to whining to feministing. 
Thank you, Blogmother!

Apparently one of Kendall's followers, who are as rabid as Kendall herself, threatened Blogmother for daring to call Kendall out:
Well my Halloween was made even scarier this year because a hood feminist ( his words not mine) has declared that if I don’t stop talking about #solidarityisforwhitewomen something bad is gonna happen to me. 
Here is the tweet he sent to my personal account. He added the “.” in front of my Twitter username intentionally so his Twitter followers would see his threat to me.
So let me see if I have this right. "Hood feminists" have a Black male in their ranks that is running around the internet demanding that Black women be silent... or else. And he’s doing this in their name.
A bit later on she calls Kendall out for her typical disregard for facts and proportion:

*sigh* Your Twitter followers make a public #$*&^ of your hashtag by outright lying about material facts related to the #solidarityisforwhitewomen panel organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW).

  • yes you were invited (albeit in an incredibly TACKY manner on Twitter - NOW should have done a better job in that regard.) - it is not true that you were not invited.
  • yes, NOW acknowledged that the hashtag was your creation- it is not true that they did not give you credit. 
  • No, Feministing.com was not an organizer of the panel - it is not true that Feministing.com was an organizer. 
  • Yes, Feministing.com hosted a discussion about the hashtag on a video chat- there’s no law preventing them from doing so. 
  • No, you never indicated to anyone that you did not want the hashtag discussed online without your prior approval - whether the law requires it or not. - if you wanted a courtesy contact from them, then that should have been made clear. It is not customary online to get pre-clearance to discuss a “hot topic.”
You didn’t make clear that you don’t actually want to be in solidarity with White feminists, you just want to use the hashtag to discuss why you aren’t. You don’t want resolution or reunification, you want to critique the breach. You’ve got people talking about your creation without knowing what it means, and that’s not entirely THEIR fault. If you want to define what it means- then DEFINE IT or someone else will define it for you. 
 I love this blogger - I just donated $10 to the What About Our Daughters blog.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Love Actually: artistic low point of the 21st century

FINALLY! People are beginning to come around to the fact that "Love, Actually" is not a delightful classy-British romantic comedy, it's a huge reeking misogynist piece of shit.

I know people are coming around because Jezebel has published this accurate and hysterically funny review: I Rewatched Love Actually and Am Here to Ruin It All For You.
Although in my case she can't ruin it for me because I've hated this movie with the hater-heat of a thousand suns since I first saw it many years ago, although I can't believe I didn't blog about it until 2012.

The Jezebel piece contains the best, most righteous thing ever said about Love Actually:
I know it's early, but I'm calling it. Artistic low point of the 21st century.
I missed the Salon critique from last year, I have just discovered. Excellent paragraph from that review:
There’s also the Alan Rickman story line, about the married man tempted by the unbelievably predatory secretary, and the heartbroken wife (Emma Thompson) faced with the choice to “stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse.” There’s the Laura Linney one, about the noble woman who can’t be with the man she loves because she has to care for her mentally ill brother. And doesn’t that make an interesting contrast to the Liam Neeson plot, in which a very recent widower is rewarded for his emotional pain by hooking up with Claudia Schiffer. Claudia Schiffer!! There’s also Kris Marshall’s, in which a lonely, goofy-looking Brit flies to America to dazzle the ladies solely on the basis of his Britishness – and immediately scores a pile of insanely hot babes. And yet they call crap like this a “chick flick.” I’ve seen less depressing Michael Haneke movies.
Although as in every negative review of Love Actually there are invariably comments from absolute morons defending its hideousness.

This blogger also makes excellent points:
Along with the subservient and demoralizing messages about women, Love Actually also presents a warped and idealized view of romance, as demonstrated in the relationship between Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln). Juliet has married Mark’s best friend, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Mark, who has always been aloof with her, is actually secretly in love with her. She realizes this by accident, and on Christmas Eve, he stands at her door, expressing his affection by holding up cards with words written on them, including the phrase, “To me you are perfect.”
This image has been constantly used in magazine articles about romance, presenting the unrealistic and idealized view of love that this movie perpetuates. Of course Mark thinks Juliet is perfect; he has never gotten to know her. He sees her as an ideal, rather than an actual person. No one is perfect and holding anyone up to that idea in a relationship is a recipe for guaranteed disappointment and disaster – not to mention the fact that Mark is very rude and unfriendly to Juliet for almost the entirety of the film, then attempts to redeem himself with one grand romantic gesture. And the gesture seems to work, given that Juliet chases him down the street and rewards him for his gesture with a kiss.
As in any "romance" written by misogynists, the only good women are Because...Um Girls, with no personalities or motivation, who deliver love and/or sex because it's required by the plot. So that men can get hot pussy without the tedious chore of getting to know another human being as a person. And that's what Juliet is. But all the desirable women in this movie (i.e. women who are under 30 and not fat) are Because...Um Girls. Because that's how assholes like their women.

There's nothing in media I hate more than smarmy, crass misogyny trying to pass as romantic love stories. That's why I also hate Talley's Folly and the far less-well known Compulsive Love.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dogs Playing Poker

While binge-watching the Lou Grant show on Hulu I saw a Geico commercial that includes a dogs playing poker picture. I decided to find out where the original picture comes from.

Actually it was a series of sixteen paintings of anthropomorphized dogs, only nine of which actually involve a card game. According to Wiki the paintings were commissioned by Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars. There's a web site dogsplayingpoker which shows all the paintings by the original poker-playing dog artist C. M. Coolidge.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I want something from you - read the freaking directions!

Well once again, people responding to an NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month challenge have demonstrated how many ways it's possible to get the instructions wrong.

The challenge was to write a one-page monologue based on the theme "I want something from you."

I was hoping that the theme would prompt the entering playwrights to send something with a sense of urgency - something dramatic.

There have been 31 submissions so far (the deadline is in a couple of weeks) and virtually none of the submissions is close to what I was hoping for. Almost all of the plays are based on the theme "I want to tell you something." No sense of urgency, just a lot of whining.

The closest entries are about how the speaker wants something from someone else - usually love - and they are talking to a different person, trying to get that person to help them get what they really want from the other person. In one case it was a woman asking someone for money so she could go see her boyfriend. The monologue should have been addressed to the boyfriend, telling him why she wants him to love her.

But no. They'd rather do it all second-hand and remote and undramatic.

Well there was one play that spoke directly to the person whom the speaker wanted something from - or rather, not the person - the dog. It's one of those faux-clever pieces where you're not supposed to figure out it's a dog until they drop that bombshell at the end.


Hopefully the later submissions will be closer to the actual theme - that happens pretty often. The early submissions are just whatever the playwright happened to have lying around, maybe edited a tiny bit with the phrase "I want something from you" but often not even that. The later submitters are more likely to have written something specifically for the NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month. We shall see.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lou Grant

Now that I'm done with the Mary Tyler Moore Show I've moved onto watching Lou Grant. It really is fascinating that the character of Lou Grant starts out on a half-hour sit-com and ends up on an hour-long drama.

I watched even less of the Lou Grant show when it was first aired than I did of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which probably accounts for why I had this impression the Lou Grant show was only on for a very short time. It was on for five years, and the fact that it was an hour long show means that it will actually take more time to watch the entire run of Lou Grant than it did to watch all MTM episodes.

So far I've watched the first seven episodes of LG and it's pretty good. Of course it's so quaint to see a show about putting out a physical newspaper - and in fact the opening credits shows the life-cycle of the physical paper, with a wry, irreverent spin: from logging the wood to the printing press to delivery to reading over morning coffee to the paper's final fate of lining the bottom of a bird cage.

It's clear that these first episodes of LG are very influenced by the movie "All the President's Men" which had been released just a year before the first season of LG in 1977. In fact I think at least a couple of the guys in the story conference room were the same guys in the story conference room in President's Men - and I know that Robert Walden, who plays the reporter Rossi in LG portrayed one of Nixon's "ratfuckers" in ATPM.

In his new show Lou Grant mentions almost nothing about his former life, referring to Minneapolis a few times and once mentioning how abruptly he was fired (everybody in the newsroom but Ted Baxter was fired in the last episode of the MTM show) after being there for 9 years - he says 9 years on the Lou Grant show, but several times on the MTM show it's mentioned he worked for WJM-TV for 11 years. When you watch all the episodes of a show in a short period of time, you notice things like that.

I really want to find out more about the cancellation of the Lou Grant show. I remember that at the time it happened, the word was that it was cancelled because the network didn't like Ed Asner's leftist politics - I remember Mother Jones ran a cover article about it, but don't remember reading the article.

I plan to order Lou Grant: The Making of TV's Top Newspaper Drama and find out more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Good Night Minneapolis

I finally finished watching the entire run of the Mary Tyler Moore show, and yes, I did cry at the end of the last episode.

I found this article about the MTM show: How The Mary Tyler Moore Show reinvented the sitcom in just 10 episodes which does include the "Ted Has a Change of Heart" episode. Although one of the best insights comes from a comment after the article:
"The Lars Affair" is actually Sue Ann's first appearance, and the most amazing thing in it is this:  when Phyllis is telling Sue Ann that Lars has his flaws, her example is that he has "a neurotic fear of swallowing hair". 
I totally missed the implication of that too. I'm impressed episode writer Ed. Weinberger got that in there.

Here is Betty White talking about being cast in the Mary Tyler Moore Show near the end of this video at 25:25.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gladwell jabs back

Well I was wrong about Gladwell a few days ago when I wrote: "so Gladwell is secure and needn't respond to criticisms with angry jabs."

Gladwell did jab back at Tom Scocca for calling Gladwell out in his excellent On Smarm piece in Gawker. And it was a bad move, because it only invited further analysis of the career of Gladwell, and that turns out to be a very bad thing for Gladwell (reputation-wise with the cognoscenti - probably nothing can stop his career of publishing pop bestsellers.) 

For instance, although I had recently come to the conclusion that Gladwell was a lazy, self-impressed bullshitter after listening to a recording of a talk he gave at the recent New Yorker Festival on Tokens, Pariahs and Pioneers, it was thanks to the responses to Gladwell's response that I discovered the entry on Gladwell in the Shame the Hacks who Abuse Media Ethics web site, right up there with professional racist Charles Murray, professional laughingstock Megan McArdle, and professional douchebag and prostitution-obsessive Steven D. Levitt, one of the Freakonomics guys.

Apparently Gladwell started out as a Reaganite right-winger, and since then, when he isn't writing poorly-supported "counter-intuitive" best-sellers, he's acting as a brand advocate for the tobacco, pharmaceutical and financial industries.

Scocca has been a critic of Gladwell for years, but Scocca's response to Gladwell's response so far has been:

Malcolm Gladwell deepens our understanding of smarm by explaining that when Dave Eggers wrote the words "Do not be critics," he meant people should be critics.

Considering that Gladwell's standard approach is the counter-intuitive one, it only makes sense that he wants to report to the world that what Eggers words seem to mean are really the opposite! of what Eggers meant. As this Forbes writer calls it "peak counter-intuitiveness" in his critical response to the Gladwell offensive.

The New Republic also responds to Gladwell.

Look it's the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The MTM hippie episode

I'm in season seven of the Mary Tyler Moore show and I agree with some of these choices for the 12 best episodes of the MTM show, especially Edie Gets Married - I was surprised how affecting it was.

I was disappointed they didn't mention the episode I watched tonight, season 7 episode 5, "Ted's Change of Heart." The episode is fairly pedestrian to begin with, Ted has a mild heart attack and has a change of personality - he suddenly appreciates the little things in life, like salt. What blew me away was how they concluded the episode - Lou suddenly has the same change of heart. It seems like it's going to be a gag, but instead, they went totally sincere, until the last scene of the episode is Lou, Mary and Murray all staring out a window, watching the sunset.

Did not see that coming.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Inside Job review

I watched Inside Job again - maybe for the fourth or fifth time. Krugman was not included as an interviewee, while Dominique Strauss-Kahn (ugh) was. And I had forgotten somehow that Brooksley Born was mentioned in this movie, albeit briefly.

 Krugman had some interesting things to say about the movie when it came out:
I finally managed to see the movie. Do see it if you can; it will make your blood boil, and in a good way.
One side reaction: the movie showed the Hamptons, with the caption “two hours from Manhattan.” Only for the little people, guys. Almost 20 years ago — when Wall Street paychecks were small by modern standards — I asked some investment bankers whether getting out to their Hamptons places was a hard drive; there was a silence, then someone said, “It’s only half an hour by helicopter.” In a way, the point is that even Ferguson doesn’t quite grasp just how big the gaps in life experience have grown.
OK, about the economist-bashing: I thought it was basically fair. There aren’t, I think, all that many cases when economists are literally paid to offer a specific opinion — although Greenspan’s defense of Keating qualifies. But the movie didn’t say there are. What it suggested, instead, was a kind of soft corruption: you get paid a lot of money by the financial industry, you get put on boards, but only if you don’t rock the boat too much. Besides, you hang out with these people, and get assimilated by the financial Borg. I think all of that is very true.
I think this film will stay with us; when you ask how the even worse crisis of, say, 2015 happened, the fact that these people got away with it will loom large.
I had my own "gaps in life experiences" moment back when I was teaching watercolor classes at the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown NJ, a well-to-do township in South Jersey. Classes were mostly attended by the children from the township and other well-off areas but there was also some kind of tuition aid or scholarships for poor children from the city of Camden so they could attend. And during a conversation that included children from Moorestown and Camden, and one of the Moorestown children mentioned having a vacation in Europe. One of the kids from Camden accused him of lying, because the idea of traveling to Europe was outside of the realm of possibility, in her experience.

And the income gap in the US has only gotten worse since then.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mary Poppins' back story

I am looking forward to this movie...

Monday, December 09, 2013

Snark vs. Smarm

Really great piece at Gawker by Tom Scocca, On Smarm which I found via my FB friend Roy Adroso.

I love that it gets at what the pleas for niceness are really about - people at the top of the hierarchy striking back at those beneath them, as revealed by certain ways the Very Serious People express themselves. I knew I loved this article when it called out Niall Ferguson:
The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by the lack of respect. Nothing is stopping anyone—any nobody—from going on a blog or on Twitter and expressing their opinion of you, no matter who you think you are. New media and social media have an immense and cruel leveling power, for people accustomed to old systems of status and prestige. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use." 
So the smarmers deplore the coarseness of the tone, or try to invoke the old credentials, or both. Niall Ferguson, the prizewinning Harvard historian now practicing the craft of a tendentious magazine hack, came unhinged on his blog after people pointed out his magazine work had been done sloppily and dishonestly:
What exactly are his credentials? 35,550 tweets? How does he essentially differ from the cranks who, before the Internet, had to vent their spleen by writing letters in green ink? 
(Elsewhere in the same post, he wrote that his critics had breached their duty to "exchange ideas in a humble and respectful manner.") 
 I blogged about Ferguson in October, how Krugman went after Ferguson for his rank-pulling. And as the Scocca article points out, the plutocratic smarmers are acutely aware of the power differentials:
The critics—the snarkers—are haters, smarm says. The snarkers are driven by "their resentment," Denby writes. Their resentment. ("It's Personal," his subtitle says.) They are "pipsqueaks" and "brats." Young. Malcolm Gladwell, another target for the haters, has a conversion narrative interchangeable with Eggers', if more quizzical in tone:
I am everything I once despised. When I was 25, I used to write these incredibly snotty, hostile articles attacking big-name, nonfiction journalists. Now I read them and I'm like, "Oh my God, they're doing a me on me!"
Above (or beneath) it all, they are little. Eggers writes of his former critical self, "I was a complete, weaselly little prick." He asks: "What kind of small-hearted person wants an artist to adhere to a set of rules, to stay forever within a narrow envelope which we've created for them?" He answers, and answers, and answers: "the lazy and small ... small and embittered ... narrow-hearted ... the tiny voices of tiny people."
The Very Serious People (a favorite term of Krugman's) are not especially subtle about their disdain for people who haven't been as blessed in their literary endeavors by the Invisible Hand of the Market as they have been. My first encounter with a high-status smarmer was when Daphne Merkin responded to something I said about her on this blog, way back in 2006. Please note that what she is responding to is me, an unpaid blogger, questioning why she gets paid to write, since what she was paid to write was essentially a long whine about how obnoxious men are on online dating sites. There are a whole bunch of entire, unpaid websites devoted to the topic.

But I was questioning the wisdom of the Invisible Hand of the Market, and Merkin was certain that she had already received its blessing and I hadn't and so how dare I criticize her?
This is the whiney and unfairly remunerated Daphne Merkin reporting in, having stumbled on your blog late this night instead of sleeping or finishing reading D.H. Lawrence's THE RAINBOW. Aside from insulting me, you sound like a generally unreflective and overly self-regarding person. >From glancing quickly at your bio, I gather your own "feminist" credentials are less than wonderful, since you seem to have abandoned one early putative interest (illustrating) for another ( playacting) on the basis of meeting a "beautiful young man." Your blog makes me shudder on behalf of bloggerdom, seething as it is with envy and bravado and received wisdom. I hope your plays are better than this.
Now she doesn't actually say "do you know who I am?" because clearly I do, but she had to make sure I was aware of her intellectual stature via her reading selection, which she just happens to casually mention.

Merkin isn't only a literary plutocrat, her family comes from money and was permitted by the NYTimes to write an op-ed piece defending her brother, a business associate of Bernie Madoff.

As all those blessed by the Invisible Hand like to believe, Merkin imagines I'm motivated by envy. Dave Eggers demonstrates how it works:
The most significant explicator of the niceness rule—the loudest Thumper of all, the true prophetic voice of anti-negativity—is neither the cartoon rabbit nor the publicists' group nor Julavits, nor even David Denby. It is The Believer's founder and impresario, Dave Eggers. If there is a defining document of contemporary literary smarm, it is an interview Eggers did via email with the Harvard Advocate in 2000, in which a college student had the poor manners to ask the literary celebrity about "selling out." 
In reply to the question, Eggers told the Advocate that yes, he was what people call a sellout, that he had been paid $12,000 for a single magazine article, that he had taken the chance to hang out with Puffy, and that he had said yes to all these opportunities because "No is for pussies." His response
builds to a frenzied peroration:

Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.
Here we have the major themes or attitudes of smarm: the scolding, the gestures at inclusiveness, the appeal to virtue and maturity. Eggers used to be a critic, but he has grown out of childish things. Eggers has done the work—the book publishing, the Hollywood deal-making—that makes his opinions (unlike those of his audience) earned and valid opinions. 
It is no accident that he is addressing undergraduates here; he tells the Advocate that before he sent back his reply to its questions, he had already delivered a version of the text as a speech at Yale. He is explicitly performing, for an audience of his inferiors. ("The rant is directed to myself, age 20, as much as it is to you, so remember that if you ever want to take much offense.") 
It is also no accident that Eggers is full of shit. He is so passionate, and his passion has such rhetorical momentum, that it is almost possible to overlook the fact that the literal proposition he's putting forward, in the name of large-heartedness and honesty, is bogus and insulting. Do not dismiss ... a movie? Unless you have made one? Any movie? The Internship? The Lone Ranger? Kirk Cameron's Unstoppable? Movie criticism, Eggers is saying, should be reserved for those wise and discerning souls who have access to a few tens of millions of dollars of entertainment-industry capital. One or two hundred million, if you wish to have an opinion about the works of Michael Bay. 
And now here is Dave Eggers 13 years later, talking to the New York Times about his new novel, The Circle, a dystopian warning about the toxic effects
of social media and the sinister companies that produce it:

I've never visited any tech campus, and I don't know anything in particular about how any given company is run. I really didn't want to.
Someone has come a long way from "do not dismiss a book until you have written one." But Eggers was never laying down rules for himself. He was laying down rules for other people.

The other people of course being the little people. Snarkers make Dave Eggers as well as Daphne Merkin shudder on behalf of bloggerdom.

More on smarm from Scocca:

People want to be uplifted, and through social media people want to demonstrate to other people that they are the kind of people who appreciate being uplifted. Negativity is a bad market niche, according to no less a figure than Malcolm Gladwell—a known expert, in theory and practice, on the marketing power of popularity:
[T]here's very little negative stuff you can put in a book or an article before you turn most of your audience away. Negative stuff is interesting the first time, but you'll never re-read a negative article. You'll re-read a positive one. Part of the reason that my books have had a long shelf life is that they're optimistic, and optimism permits that kind of longevity.
One curious fact about this long view is that it's quite untrue. I can't recall ever, unless compelled by duty, rereading a Malcolm Gladwell article. What I have reread is Mencken on the Scopes Trial, Hunter Thompson on Richard Nixon, and Dorothy Parker on most things—to say nothing of Orwell on poverty and Du Bois on racism, or David Foster Wallace on the existential horror of a leisure cruise. This belief that oblivion awaits the naysayers and the snarkers shouldn't survive a glance at the bookshelf.
Although I was favorably disposed towards Gladwell because of his calling out Steven Pinker for his racist intellectual bedfellow Steve Sailor, when I saw this New Yorker Festival talk he gave on Pioneers, Tokens and Pariahs I was forced to conclude that Gladwell feels he can slap together any shaky premise on the morning of a talk and expect it to be taken seriously.

Although if you want to see worst ratio of privilege to content ever, check out Delia Ephron's rant against Citi Bikes.

New Yorker writers appear to hold onto their jobs until death, so Gladwell is secure and needn't respond to criticisms with angry jabs. But for those like Daphne Merkin and Niall Ferguson, the changing of the old rules of prestige is upsetting. As Scocca notes:
The old systems of prestige—the literary inner circles, the top-ranking daily newspapers, the party leadership—are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career. 
Smarm offers a quick schema of superiority. The authority that smarm invokes is an ersatz one, but the appearance of authority is usually enough to get by with. Without that protection, to hold an opinion is to feel bare and alone, one voice among a cacophony of millions. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The prophetic Mary Tyler Moore show

At 11:55 of this video Georgette says:
I don't care what anybody says, I think we look like the top of a gay wedding cake.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The best thing ever said on TV

I cannot believe Jon Stewart has done it again - he's topped himself!

I didn't know that Stuart Varney was a smug, contemptible, self-adoring piece of shit, but I do now - and I got to see Stewart give him the best smack-down ever.

"Pope doesn't come over to where you work and slap Jamie Dimon's dick out of your mouth."

He has reached the pinnacle of his career.

The only thing preventing this from being huge is that too many people are so ignorant they don't know who Jamie Dimon is, and so don't understand why Stewart said this about a guy who is a financial commentator.

There used to be a Jon Stewart show, back when he was less successful - here is the last episode. But ye gods, he was young and hot. 

And that Newt Gingrich joke is still relevant.

And David Letterman is at his charming supportive big brother best here.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Fun facts from the NYTimes

 I came upon this NYTimes article accidentally and I am glad I did - I learned some fascinating facts:
  • Marilyn Monroe loved Abraham Lincoln: 
She was obsessed with Lincoln. She thought of him as her father. And she always kept a copy of Carl Sandburg’s biography and a photograph of Lincoln in her bedroom.
  • Barack Obama loves Lincoln:
KEYA MORGAN: He wrote a full article about my photo for Time magazine, and the editors got the date wrong.
ERROL MORRIS: You mean O-118?
KEYA MORGAN: Yes. I told him that the date was the 5th of February. And later on, one of the publishers of Time magazine put “April 10, 1865” under the photograph.
ERROL MORRIS: But Obama liked the photograph?
KEYA MORGAN: Obama said it was his favorite photo of all time. He wrote a whole article about it. I didn’t know who Barack Obama was. I thought he had a funny name. I Googled him and found out he was a senator. I thought, “Wow! That’s nice. Here is a senator who is African-American.” I thought, “That’s very unusual.” He was very polite and very nice.
  • Barack Obama is a great writer. Well, I kind of knew that. But I mean a great writer.
The article by Barack Obama appeared in the July 4, 2005, edition of Time magazine was entitled “What I See in Lincoln’s Eyes.” The article is accompanied by O-118 with the crack. Obama wrote:
My favorite portrait of Lincoln comes from the end of his life. In it, Lincoln’s face is as finely lined as a pressed flower. He appears frail, almost broken; his eyes, averted from the camera’s lens, seem to contain a heartbreaking melancholy, as if he sees before him what the nation had so recently endured. It would be a sorrowful picture except for the fact that Lincoln’s mouth is turned ever so slightly into a smile. The smile doesn’t negate the sorrow. But it alters tragedy into grace. It’s as if this rough-faced, aging man has cast his gaze toward eternity.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The motherlode of Congressional archives

I'm 3/4 through my play DARK MARKET about the 2008 financial meltdown, and finally dug up the relevant congressional records.

Here is the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) is United States federal legislation that officially ensured modernized regulation[1] [2]of financial products known as over-the-counter derivatives. It was signed into law on December 21, 2000 by President Bill Clinton. It clarified the law so that most over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives transactions between “sophisticated parties” would not be regulated as “futures” under the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 (CEA) or as “securities” under the federal securities laws. Instead, the major dealers of those products (banks and securities firms) would continue to have their dealings in OTC derivatives supervised by their federal regulators under general “safety and soundness” standards. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's (CFTC) desire to have “Functional regulation” of the market was also rejected. Instead, the CFTC would continue to do “entity-based supervision of OTC derivatives dealers.” [3] These derivatives, including the credit default swap, are a few of the many causes of the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent 2008–2012 global recession.[4]

But the real smoking gun is the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets
and the Commodity Exchange Act - Report of The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets. Here is where Greenspan and friends cut off all opportunities to regulate OTC derivatives:
The elimination of impediments in current law to the clearing of OTC derivatives, together with a requirement that any clearing system for OTC derivatives be regulated by the CFTC, another federal regulator, or a foreign financial regulator that satisfies appropriate standards;

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How Objectivists test things

It's always fun to argue with Objectivists over Atlas Shrugged, which I have been doing for the past couple of weeks. They actually believe that the characters in the novel are some kind of reflection of reality, and evidence that we should do things like drop testing standards for industrial equipment, and any other kind of regulation because the market will separate the good guys from the bad guys.

The key to this is that Objectivists are OK if a few people die along the way - that's how we determine which companies are the bad guys - they kill people, and so they should, theoretically, go out of business.

One Objectivist recently claimed that the heroine of Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart should be allowed to collude with Hank Rearden in order to test Dagny's train, and Hank's magical metal by driving a train full of people over the bridge, and then by driving the train at a hundred miles an hour through residential districts.

Firstly, this highlights the complete incoherence of the world Rand invented for the novel - the US government appears to be incapable of enforcing industrial testing standards, which is why Hank/Dagny (Hangny? Dank?) have the option to testing their bridge any damn way they want - they could load the train up with babies if they felt like it for the test trip over the bridge - and yet somehow the government is able to enforce zoning laws when it comes to train speeds - which is why:
He stood on the platform, surrounded by Taggart executives, division heads, civic leaders and the various local officials who had been outargued, bribed or threatened, to obtain permits to run a train through town zones at a hundred miles an hour.
This recent New York train crash demonstrates the problem with running trains at high speed.

The Objectivists make a big deal about how they are against the initiation of force. I've yet to find one who acknowledges the existence of the problematic "threatened" passage - but Randians like to re-write Rand's work to suit themselves.

Anyway, so this Objectivist I'm arguing with says that everybody trusts Dagny because she has a reputation for excellence like Steve Jobs. Firstly, nobody knows how Dagny's reputation got around since in the world of Atlas Shrugged all the newspapers (which appear to be for-profit and untroubled by the government in any way) have colluded for the past five years around the idea that they would no longer report facts, out of an apparent case of rampaging post-modernism.

Secondly, this Objectivist is apparently unaware of how Steve Jobs really operated:
At the time of the announcement, only 100 iPhones existed, with some of those featuring significant quality issues like scuff marks and gaps between the screen and the plastic edge. The software, too, was full of bugs, leading the team to set up multiple iPhones to overcome memory issues and restarts. Because of the phone’s penchant for crashing, it was programmed to display a full five-bar connection at all times.
Then, with Jobs’s approval, they preprogrammed the phone’s display to always show five bars of signal strength regardless of its true strength. The chances of the radio’s crashing during the few minutes that Jobs would use it to make a call were small, but the chances of its crashing at some point during the 90-minute presentation were high. "If the radio crashed and restarted, as we suspected it might, we didn’t want people in the audience to see that," Grignon says. "So we just hard-coded it to always show five bars."
The difference of course between Steve Jobs and a real-life Dagny Taggart (in Atlas Shrugged the heroes are basically infallible so of course nothing goes wrong with the bridge and train) is that unlike a bridge or train, if the iPhone radio crashes, nobody dies.

Such delusions fed by the wack-jobbery of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Ayn Rand's eye tic

I've speculated that Ayn Rand might have been on the autism spectrum due to both personal traits of hers which seem to align with those said to indicate autism, as well as the odd natures of her heroes in Atlas Shrugged, and the bizarre way that Rand portrays "collectivists" - as jealous sadists who don't really believe what they say they believe - which appears to have nothing at all to do with Communism or any other socio-political system that has ever existed on planet Earth.

I recently noticed that when Rand appeared on television, she seems to have an ocular tick - her eyes often flick off-center, especially to the left for no apparent reason. I recommend you watch these with the sound off - if not you may end up, like me, wanting to throttle her for being so incredibly obtuse.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Woodwinds vs. Harps

My favorite woodwind piece is an odd one - it's sort of the Celtic Bolero - the Belfast Harp Orchestra and the The Chieftans playing MacAllistrum's March. It starts off with percussion and harp and gradually adds instruments while reiterating the melody, but what really makes it work for me are the woodwinds. The first time I can really discern one - I assume it's an Irish flute - happens at 00:58. Then other woodwinds pile on and the musicians sound like they're really wailing to make themselves heard over the harps. And then you can hear what might be a trilling pennywhistle just make it over the top into audibility at 1:30. By 1:35 you can hear them struggle to play and breathe at the same time, and by 1:55, the flutist is like "forget this, I am only hitting the highest notes."

And that's why it's great.

I like this song so much I'm thinking of writing a theme and variations piece for it.

Please ignore the "Souvenirs of the Celtic Lands" images used in this video. I hate that leprechaun crap.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pernicious post-modernism

My music theory teach had us listen to some woodwind music prior to attempting to orchestrate woodwind music. He had us listen to the woodwind pieces in Luciano Berio's Sequenzas. Straight-up postmodernism and supports my theory on post-modernism - it's true of all the arts, but especially so in music: post-modernist music is nothing more than a hired companion of the wealthy jerking off before an audience. You may remember that the jerking off occurred before an audience, you may remember how long it took to do the jerking off, you may remember the size and color of the instrument being jerked off, but everything else about the performance is unremarkable and unmemorable.

Crude, but it must be said. Berio's clarinet piece below is indistinguishable from anybody just trying out a bunch of sounds.

The difference of course is that Berio expects critical acclaim for it, on top of being paid for it. And if audiences won't pay for it, well there are always some members of the upper class with plenty of spare change and a desire to be hailed as a brave and formidable intellectual who isn't afraid to present a guy jerking off as art.