Friday, October 31, 2014

Greenwich Village ghost walk

Starra signed us up for a walking tour of Greenwich Village so we tromped around the vicinity of Washington Square being informed of various spooky historical facts  by a woman dressed like a witch and who introduced herself as the mother-in-law of Edgar Allen Poe.

Which, considering, there weren't all that many facts related to Poe presented that evening. And the facts weren't so much spooky as just plain tragic.  She discussed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and a spate of suicides of NYU students - Poe's mother-in-law postulated it was caused by Lenape Indians from their built-over burial grounds, rather than, say, depression or schizophrenia, which both tend to first manifest in college students. That kind of thing. 
Aliza, Starra, Poe's
mother-in-law and me

The guide would occasionally stop to quiz the group on our historical knowledge and I was amazed that I appeared to be the only one there who knew who Aaron Burr, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emma Lazarus were. That might have been the scariest aspect of the whole tour.

Then we ate at an Italian place called La Lanterna diVittorio on Macdougal Street and shared a nice bottle of 2010 Rosenblum Syrah. That was the best part of the evening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

JULIA & BUDDY wins "Outstanding Production of a Full-Length Play"

Claire Warden and Matt DeCapua
perform at the MITF Awards party.

We won a MITF award - yay!

I really did think that they'd win for best Actor/Actress though.

I didn't see the competition, but I don't see how they could be any better.

I had no speech prepared because I hadn't expected to win anything, so my little acceptance speech was pretty lame. Oh well. It's nice to have all that hard work recognized.

Celebrating in the end zone.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yes I did successfully run another 5K

Nome with her medal
In all the excitement of going to Beacon (some people who live in Beacon commute into NYC daily, so it's not like it's that far away but still, I never go anywhere...) I forgot to report in on my latest 5K - it was the Haunted 5K on Roosevelt Island.

Unlike the Mother's Day run, I was not hindered by babysitting a kid, and of course I've been in training all summer, so my time was much better - I ran this last 5K in 40:24, while my Mother's day time was 43:06.

Although my Governor's Island 4th of July time was 39.46 - 38 seconds faster. I guess stopping to tie my sneaker this time cost me more than I realized.

At least I beat the guy running near me most of the race. He must have been at least ten years older than me and he kept sprinting ahead, while my pace was slow and steady. So he would sprint and then run out of steam and I would catch up to him, then he would sprint again, I would catch up - this happened about five or six times. Eventually he just gave up on the sprinting and I maintained my lead until the finish. Slow and steady wins the race, suckah. Or at least finishes sooner. The winner in my age division beat me by over ten minutes. But hey, at least I got a medal.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Beacon NY

My trip to Beacon NY lasted all of 24 hours from the time I left my apartment to the time I got back. But I so rarely get out of NYC that it was a big deal for me. So I have pictures.

And it also confirmed for me that I don't like to stay at a bed and breakfast. From now on it's only hotels for me. The place I stayed at last night with Starra had all kinds of issues for me, but the worst of all was when we were served a runny quiche, which also didn't taste very good (it tasted more like an undercooked omelette than anything else)  for breakfast. I ate a bit and then covered the rest with my napkin.

Apparently our plates were examined back in the kitchen, and instead of just ignoring the uneaten food, the guy who owns the B&B actually came back to our table and demanded to know why one of us didn't finish our quiche. Starra and I both assured him that everything was fine, we just weren't that hungry, but how obnoxious is that?

No, not doing that again.

The town of Beacon was pretty charming, and my brother was excited to know they have a Dr. Who-themed restaurant called Pandorica on Main Street. They had a Halloween parade while my friend Starra and I were in Pandorica, so we went out and took pictures.

The proprietor of The Pandorica in the white apron.

Looks like they had a big turn-out for a small town.
They also had a big Magritte-esque mural - I made Starra stand in front of it.

The bathroom door of Pandorica

Friday, October 24, 2014

Busy busy busy!

No I am not becoming a Bokononist, I am just really busy, between cleaning my house because I have a houseguest coming (which is always a huge undertaking thanks to my inability to do maintenance cleaning), then I have a 5K to run tomorrow morning (which is fortunately no longer a huge deal any more since my trainer - aka my daughter - has me running 5 miles every week now), then I have to get out the NYCPlaywrights weekly email blast as I do every Saturday, then I'm joining my friend Starra in upstate New York at a bed and breakfast, then Monday of course is the big MITF awards show. I don't expect to actually win any awards and we only get five minutes to perform from the JULIA & BUDDY script, and then there's all the agita I'm getting from people involved in the show, so it's more of a hassle than anything else.

Luckily I took the day off from work on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Back when I used to run NYCPlaywrights as a weekly meeting (I did it for eleven years - what was I thinking?) there were many flaky people who came through, attempting to write plays. Among the flakiest was a woman who claimed to have been a dominatrix back when (she was about 60-something when I knew her) and who had written a play that was based on her experiences.

It wasn't a play really, though, it was an epic, a saga, and the main character was called "Mother Love." The play actually had some interesting characters and scenarios (which it would kinda have to, being based on a dominatrix gig) but the woman just did not have the kind of mind that could turn all the elements into a coherent narrative. Which was not unique to her, unfortunately - coherent narratives are shockingly rare, even among plays that are produced. She brought in scene after scene and in spite of the weird and sometimes gross events, it never seemed to go anywhere.

Oh, and I almost forgot - in spite of all the kinky weirdness and offensive violence, the author refused to use naughty words like "fuck" - her characters would say freaking instead of fucking.

I found this all hugely frustrating so I wrote a 10-minute play called MOTHERLODE which we did in a fundraiser for NYCPlaywrights back in 2009, which borrowed some of the concepts from Mother Love. Then I decided that I had borrowed too much, so I changed almost everything except the core concept of a dominatrix, which I turned into my play MISTRESS ILSA, which I've done two productions of, one in 2011 and then a revised version in 2012.

The actor who played Ilsa, Alice Anne English, could have a career in Germany as a dominatrix - my web sites get hits all the time of people checking out her pix in costume.

I must develop it into a full-length play. I think it has quite a lot of potential. And could be very funny. As I think the clip below proves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Christmas wish list

Well I found what I want for Christmas this year - this triptych of 8x10 prints will be auctioned for an estimated $25,671 - $38,507. 

I expressed my admiration previously on this blog for a variation of the photo on the left with "Little Joe" Dallesandro and Candy Darling.

Wow do I wish I had so much money I could just buy these without a second thought. 

Maybe next year. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

J&B still hanging in there

Matt DeCapua and Claire Warden
In spite of a whole bunch of tsuris I've gotten from all sides in preparation for the Midtown International Theater Festival's Awards Party coming up this Monday we are still on track to perform five minutes of JULIA & BUDDY. It's quite surprising actually - at least two times in the past week I was sure that I was going to bag the whole thing out of extreme aggravation - the details of which I might share on this blog after the whole thing is over, depending on how much people annoy me on Monday.

It looks like I might have a gal pal posse with me, which would be awesome, as my friend Starra from San Francisco will be in town, and my friends from work Frances and Mina will probably be there. Which is good because I may need backup.

In honor of the fact that I haven't scuttled the project yet, here are a few more photos from the 2014 production. I hope to have photos and even video from Monday's performance. 

This is a rehearsal outtake - Buddy never actually plays the
recorder during the play - we just see a "video" of Buddy
performing a brief section of HAMLET and he just
holds the recorder. Although in the play Hamlet
does try to get Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern to play it.

This happens in the play. There's a fair amount of kissing
throughout the play. Well it is a romantic comedy after all.

Monday, October 20, 2014

#Gamergate and the rise of the misogynist terrorist freaks

I've blogged about Anita Sarkeesian a couple of times on this blog, and thought she did good work, and had some good feminist things to say - so I was not at all surprised to find she's the target of misogynist terrorist freaks. I am well-acquainted with phenomenon of vicious threats against women for getting too uppity by misogynist freaks thanks to knowing about "elevatorgate" and the insane death/rape threats against Rebecca Watson inspired by Richard Dawkins' "Dear Muslima" letter. And my own experience, which is minor compared to what Watson and Sarkeesian (and others) received, but the difference is degree not kind.

Big media outlets have begun to pay attention to the story, the latest being the New Yorker:
...on Tuesday, when the director of Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender received an e-mail proposing “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian’s upcoming speaking engagement at the school was not cancelled. The e-mail, which was published online by the Standard-Examiner, read, “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs…. Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU.” Sarkeesian cancelled her talk after the campus police, citing Utah’s gun laws, refused to prohibit attendees from carrying concealed weapons to the event. The e-mail is being considered as part of an ongoing F.B.I. investigation into threats against Sarkeesian.
Absolutely perfect - the misogynists and the gun nuts, working together to shut down a woman's right to speak in public. Utah, of course, perfect, the state controlled by a religion that started out by putting women into harems.

The author of the New Yorker piece, Simon Parkin, writes:
I have first-hand experience of this mentality. When I wrote about Zoe Quinn’s game Depression Quest for this site last month, a piece that was commissioned before the coining of the Gamergate hashtag, my editor received a slew of messages from people who disagreed with the article and sought to discredit me by claiming that I had a financial connection to the story. I sponsor several writers with small monthly donations via Patreon, a crowdfunding Web site for artists. Unbeknownst to me, one of those writers, Jenn Frank, had been commissioned to write a piece for the Guardian about the harassment that Quinn had endured. This was enough for many Gamergate supporters to denounce my piece as part of a media conspiracy. I can’t imagine how much worse it must be to receive threats against one’s life.
Can there be any doubt at this point that if he had a female pen name, he would be getting death threats by now?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Estro-subgenius and goat cheese balls

Celia & Val
My friend Valerie is performing in a play that is part of the Estrogenius show and comped me in Saturday night.

I'm sure glad I didn't pay because although Valerie was good, of course, most of those plays were just awful.

I should say that I'm not big on the whole Estrogenius thing, being associated with the dread Manhattan Theater Source, which seems to be living on without a building. So I might not be completely objective, but our friend Celia didn't like them much either.

But Celia, like most human beings, doesn't have an extreme, insanely visceral reaction to bad plays, like I do. I don't know why I have such extreme reactions but I do. Luckily I was able to sit in the corner in the back row, so I didn't have to annoy many other audience members with my writhing in agony, banging my head against the brick wall that was conveniently right next to me, etc..

The first play was about three female coal miners. The play never told us why female coal miners, which is pretty damn rare. The three female coal miners had no luck finding coal, and their boss lady, dressed in office casual came down into the mine to tell them they were on the verge of being fired.

So two of the miners hold hands and "cast a spell" that we are not allowed to hear - they do it silently in their minds - and then the other miner finds coal.

There's a canary in the coal mine with them (which of course should mean that this play is set no later than the 1980s, which would really beg the question why female coal miners) and right after they find coal, the canary dies. And for some reason, even though boss lady in office casual seemed to have no trouble coming down into the cave, and then getting out, the miners can't get out in time to avoid being overcome by carbon monoxide. One of them tries any way, and the other two just lay down and die. THE END.

The next play in the line-up was about a widowed woman who wanted her best friend, a woman, to sleep with her. Because she was lonely at night in bed. I mean, basically she wanted to have a slumber party with her friend, but it's made into this big big deal. The dialog for this one was so bad I ended up jamming my fingers into my ears because it was so annoying. To give some idea of how poorly thought-out the dialog was, at one point the friend is telling the widow that she feels bad because she has it so much better than the poor lonely widow. She says something like, "I get to go home to Bob, who is probably watching the game in his underwear while drinking a beer, and I'll have to tell Bob to stop being such a slob, and then I get to go to bed with him." Which should make the widow feel better about being alone, but that's not what the playwright was trying to say.

The next play was a relief from the uniform awfulness of the first two (and the ones that came after) because it actually made a coherent point and did it without relying completely on exposition the way every other play in this show did. The play was about an African American woman who had once interviewed for a job as a maid, back in... I'm going to guess the 1960s, and was told that she had to enter the apartment through a special servants door. Flash forward to the present, and the woman's daughter, a successful lawyer, has bought the same apartment and the woman and her granddaughter decide the one-time servants door will be a special door for the granddaughter. The dialog and pacing could have been better, but it was a precious gem of a play compared to everything else in the line-up.

My friend Val performed in the next play, and boy was it a bad play. And she had a horrible thankless role. It's roles like this that really make me feel for actors. Her role was basically to be the bitch who doesn't want anybody else to self-actualize. It had something to do with lobsters and the bitch's father-in-law giving a boat to the bitch's daughter, but the plot was so clumsily organized, the dialog so clunky with the relentless exposition that I don't really remember the details. The play ends with the bitch's husband getting a big clunky metaphor-laden speech about following your dream, and then everybody else leaves the room and we are left with the bitch standing there being a loser.

The last play in the line-up was so irritating that I again felt it necessary to jam my fingers in my ears half of the time. It involved the female protagonist - a writer and an obvious Mary Sue - having long exposition-laden conversations with a cute guy, including how she bonded with a mother black bear. The bear shows up at the end (not on stage, unfortunately) and I couldn't help wishing the bear in the play had the same attitude towards people as this bear in New Jersey.

Or at the very least, there could have been stage directions borrowed from Shakespeare: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

The ceiling at Euzkadi
Fortunately our post-show drinks were a lot more fun. We went to a tapas place nearby in the East Village called Euzkadi that had these amazing fried goat-cheese balls. And we killed two pitchers of sangria. That was nice too.

Also the decor at Euzkadi is inspired by the cave paintings at Lascaux, which was pretty cool.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Erratic LIC

I finally went to see the "glacial erratic" in Long Island City today. That's the big rock that the car is parked on behind me. I read about this in the Wiki entry for LIC.

Glacial erratics are:
...rock(s) that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres. Erratics can range in size from pebbles to large boulders such as Big Rock (15,000 tonnes or 17,000 short tons) in Alberta.
They are apparently dumped in position by retreating glaciers from the Ice Age.

The rock is in an industrial section of LIC, which is why I was surprised to find this coffee house right around the corner from the big rock - almost as improbable as the glacial erratic. I couldn't hang out though, I had to get back to work for a meeting. But I'll definitely return one of these days. The woman who served me a cappuccino had no idea about the erratic. Glad I could enlighten her.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Somebody finally responds to Bitter Gertrude's bullshit

I'm so glad that somebody has finally responded to the argument by Melissa Hillman in Bitter Gertrude that it's perfectly fine for her to produce men's plays 75% of the time, because in her opinion (in so many words), women as a group suck at writing plays.

I should say somebody besides me, but I don't really count because I self-published in this personal blog, I wasn't published by the Theater Communications Group.

In my own experience, I have run the NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month since 2011 and in all that time I have never detected what Hillman claims is a female play trait:
However, that female character isn’t driving the narrative– she is, instead, just reactive to whatever the male characters are doing. It’s a woman sitting around wondering what to do about some man in her life, talking to her friends about some man, interacting with some man about his decisions or actions.
Granted the plays I've reviewed are 10-minute plays, but if women are such complete losers as portrayed by Hillman, I think I'd have picked up on it. Without any conscious effort to achieve parity at all, the plays chosen for the Play of the Month are a 50/50 gender split.

I have no fear that my speaking out about Hillman's internalized sexism will harm my career because I will never submit any plays to Hillman - not only does she clearly have bullshit attitudes towards women, so I know chances are my play wouldn't get a fair shake, but she's dead set against an entire genre of plays - the romantic comedy. For idiotic reasons.

My suspicion is that because femaleness is considered a liability in theater these days, Hillman is sure to let everybody know that she doesn't tolerate all that weak-ass girly shit. It's probably a good career move - as long as the attitude that women suck unless they emulate men reigns in the theater.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Indie Theater Sociopaths

I've long said that the whole "Indie Theater" phenomenon is just a club where a bunch of people who all know each other take turns giving each other awards. I had to laugh though when I saw that the person who won a directors award recently is one of the nastiest individuals I have ever... well not exactly met.

I had a falling out with a friend of this director, so the director took it upon herself to attack me personally, even though she had never met me, and my relationship with her friend was none of her damn business. And no, this is not a high school student - this is a woman well into middle age.

The way she attacked me was this: I wrote poetry about my feelings about her friend as a form of therapy and posted them to this blog. She mocked me for writing poetry, in a Facebook group created especially just to mock me, and on her friend Andrew Bellware's web site. I talk about it in this blog post here.

That's right, someone who is involved in the arts decided that a good way to attack someone is to mock them for making art. That's the kind of shriveled up little soul this woman has. I responded by making more art - I wrote my play GOOD WOMEN OF MORNINGSIDE in honor of her and another friend of hers (who was probably the original instigator of the attacks.)

In the blog post I linked to above, I make a point about sublimation - turning bad feelings into art. And other friends of the director mocked me for that. I saved the screen shot from Facebook.

Yep, there's Indie Theater people mocking others for advocating the making of art.

I couldn't swear that Indie Theater has a higher percentage of art-hating sociopaths than any other organization - but I wouldn't swear it doesn't either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Another play, oy vey

As if I needed another play to think about I have lately been inspired to start my play 12 Angry Jurors from Queens which I talked about back in March when I was finishing up with jury duty. Which I really don't need on top of Dark Market, my bachelorette party play and my Marilyn Monroe play. But at least I finished my Bronte play, one less thing to worry about.

It doesn't help that I end up spending hours arguing with people on Facebook, like an idiot. Not that they aren't important issues - the latest arguments are inspired by the Bill Maher vs. Ben Affleck controversy and of course I'm strongly opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry. But I have no illusions that I'm going to change anybody's mind so really these arguments are doing nothing except giving my rhetorical skills a workout. Which, frankly, I really don't need because so few people are any good at all at debating. I was arguing with an anthropologist I respect, last week, and who I assume is smarter than most people, and I was ripping his arguments (not about Muslims) to shreds with no difficulty at all. Very disappointing that I was able to do it, but also kind of scary. If even somebody like that can't hold his own in a debate, well, I guess rhetoric isn't all that important in having a distinguished career in anthropology.

And of course you do not endear yourself to people by ripping their arguments to shreds - exactly the opposite, they hate your guts for it. So all you get out of it is the satisfaction of knowing you ran logical rings around them, for no productive purpose and at the expense of good will. Although I will admit that I get some satisfaction out of slamming anybody who comes at me with a condescending attitude - almost always a man - and then I slowly and methodically eviscerate his argument - and his smug superiority. I'm sorry to say that never gets old for me.

And then on top of that there's all the blogging I do which also takes time away from playwriting - and in spite of all the time I spend I haven't even got around to completing my series on romantic comedy.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Female desire and male entitlement

This article from 2013 in Salon is one of the better refutations of evolutionary psychology that I've seen. Evo Psychos constantly attempt to present virtually all modern sexual mores and practices as the result of evolution, so not likely to change as a result of social conditions. But this study on female desire presents evidence that animal studies - which Evo Psychos usually like to point to as evidence of the naturalness of male dominance in humans - have been consistently misinterpreted thanks to the pervasiveness of patriarchy.

And the Salon article itself, illustrated with a beautiful swooning woman, demonstrates the dominance of the male gaze even in an article about female desire. But anyway:
...The force of culture puts some level of shame on women’s sexuality and a fantasy of sexual assault is a fantasy that allows for sex that is completely free of blame. So that’s one reason. Another, which Meana brings up, and which I think is very compelling, is this idea that the feeling of being desired is a very powerful one, a very electrical one. And I think at least at the fantasy level, that sense of being wanted, and being wanted beyond the man’s self-control is also really powerful. 
That brings up another theory, which is that there’s something “narcissistic” about women’s desire. Can you explain the thinking behind that idea?Yes, it’s important to underline here that I don’t think Marta Meana, who first introduced that to the conversation, meant narcissistic in a condemnatory or critical way at all, just in a descriptive way that a really powerful engine for female desires is being desired, is being wanted. It’s both — it is a powerful feeling, I think, to have that level of desire coming at you, and an electrifying one. 
Is this narcissistic desire innate or is it a cultural byproduct?I think that was one of the things I wrestled with most in the book, and I can still visibly remember wrestling with it as I was turning in final chapters. I kept thinking back to Deidrah, our monkey, and thinking, OK, that is not a sexuality that seems to depend on being desired. She has a desire; she is going out and getting what she desires. I can’t describe to you how clear that drama was as we watched it. If you’re talking about innate patterns of sexuality, how do you get from that to us? One of the answers is that the force of culture has, to some degree, inverted things. And, you know, maybe that’s the only wise answer, if you want to talk about innate factors.
The entire purpose of evolutionary psychology is an attempt to bolster the once completely entrenched dominance of men. And as far as I know, none of the promoters of Evo Psycho has acknowledged the studies mentioned in this article.

One of the main problems with the way men have run the world is the persistence of male entitlement. If you are involved in any way with online dating sites, and you are a woman over the age of 21, male entitlement will hit you square in the face:
"From the time you're 22 you'll be less hot than a 20-year-old, based on this data," Christian Rudder said at a recent talk. "So that's just a thing.
The Daily Mail quotes Rudder:
On his blog, OKData, he delves into this pattern even further, explaining that as men get older they tend to search for younger and younger women.
'The median 31-year-old guy, for example, sets his allowable match age range from 22 to 35 - nine years younger, but only four years older, than himself,' he writes.
'This skewed mindset worsens with age; the median 42-year-old will accept a woman up to 15 years younger, but no more than three years older.'
And he doesn't mention all the men in their 40s and up who won't even consider a woman his own age, much less even a few years older. Plenty of them set their oldest match age as ten years younger than them.

This is why more often than not after being on a dating site for any length of time I come away really hating men. And I was extremely gratified by the Daily Mail's headline: 

Are you a girl over 22? Then don't even bother with online dating: Hilarious graph shows men prefer young women - however old THEY are

Of course 20-something women are looking for 20-something men not 30 and older, but since when do men actually care what women want? 

As someone commenting in the Daily Mail article said:
Yeh, I get the feeling the deluded 50 year old trawling the site for 20 year olds will remain single for the remainder of his rather sad, grimy life.
That does make me feel a little better about male entitlement.

Christian Rudder of course is a huge fan of Evo Psycho to explain the way things are. So from his perspective it's get used to it ladies, "science" says you're an ugly old hag after 21, and men are never going to change. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rockin out Saturday night

There's my friend Dan's band Saturday night at Fontana's. It's on the Lower East Side and I haven't been in a place like this in a long time - it had no seating except in the back of the room - this is the kind of place where I used to see punk shows (albeit in Philadelphia) and looking at the audience they were once at punk shows too but now they're all old - older than me, many of them. It was kind of depressing, especially when the next band came on (there were a whole bunch of bands scheduled for the evening) who were much younger and their audience was much younger. I really felt old then.

Dan's band did very well - highlight song of the evening "It's not a crack house, it's a crack home" and we all went out for pizza afterwards and Dan and I gossiped about people we knew back when - including an ex-boyfriend of mine who I've been trying to locate via Google for years, and Dan told me he came to Dan's show Friday night in Philly. Although he isn't online, which is typical of him. Offline but alive in Philadelphia, which is a relief, and even W. C. Fields would agree.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Charmless sociopaths of online dating

This creep is pretty much every woman's online dating nightmare - his "comedy" schtick is to make videos mocking women's online profiles - so he can demonstrate what creeps there are at online dating sites. Without a hint of irony.

Since he calls it comedy he apparently believes he can get away with being mean without suffering any consequences of being a charmless sociopath.

He contacted me on a site and we almost met up for a drink - until he told me the name of the book he was writing and I was able to discover his real name and then connect it to these videos. Obviously I blocked him as soon as I saw his videos.

More tales of OKCupid creepiness from We Hunted the Mammoth.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five more minutes of J&B

At this point it looks like we will be doing 5 minutes of JULIA & BUDDY at the MITF awards party.

It's not really enough to give a good idea of the play but I was told that's all we would get. For that and other reasons I might end up changing my mind and deciding it isn't worth it after all.

But for now we're on.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Why SJWs are no better than New Atheists

I've been blogging lately about the fights between the New Atheists and Social Justice Warriors, of whom I've presented Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism as a leading example, especially since he tangled directly with Richard Dawkins as a result of writing a column attacking Dawkins in the British newspaper The Guardian.

But in his response to Bill Maher and Sam Harris vs. Ben Affleck, Lee demonstrated why SJWs and New Atheists are fundamentally the same: they hold simple-minded views of religion and human cultures.

Although he has some reservations, Lee basically agrees with Sam Harris and Bill Maher about Islam:
On the other hand, it’s not true, as defenders of Islam like Affleck have claimed, that Islam is a basically peaceful religion hijacked by a small minority of violent extremists. Even if you disregard terrorism and other non-state actors, nearly all of the countries where Islam holds power are repressive, illiberal theocracies.
This passage represents, perfectly, the ass-backwardness that SJWs and New Atheists share. Lee believes that because many countries that have repressive governments have a majority Muslim population, it means that the cause of the repression are the tenets of Islam itself.

Anybody who is not a half-wit can see through this mind-set by considering: the tenets of Christianity have not changed a jot since they were codified in the Bible, and yet majority-Christian nations are less repressive now than they were in the past. Clearly the cause-and-effect breaks down here.

The remarkable thing about the New Atheists and atheist SJWs like Adam Lee is that they attribute as much power to holy writings - to the actual words and prayers and books -  as any religionist does. Sweet mother of irony.

The mental model that they all use to comprehend the world was called by anthropologist Marvin Harris, "idealism" which he discusses in his book Cultural Materialism:
The intuition that thought determines behavior arises from the limited temporal and cultural perspective of ordinary experience. Conscious thoughts in the form of plans and itineraries certainly help individuals and groups to find a path through the daily complexities of social life. But these plans and itineraries merely chart the selection of preexisting behavioral "mazeways." Even in the most permissive societies and the richest in alternative roles, the planned actions - lunch, a lovers' tryst, an evening at the theater - are never conjured up out of thin air but are drawn from the inventory of recurrent scenes characteristic of that particular culture. The issue of behavioral versus mental determinism is not a matter of whether the mind guides action, but whether the mind determines the selection of the inventory of culturally actionable thoughts. As Schopenhauer said, "We want what we will, but we don't will what we want." Thus the human intuition concerning the priority of thought over behavior is worth just about as much as our human intuition that the earth is flat. To insist on the priority of mind in culture is to align one's understanding of socio-cultural phenomena with the anthropological equivalent of pre-Darwinian biology or pre-Newtonian physics. It is to believe in what Freud called "the omnipotence of thought." Such a belief is a form of intellectual infantilism that dishonors our species-given powers of thought. (Cultural Materialism, pp. 59 - 60)

"Intellectual infantilism" - that's exactly it. That's what Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Adam Lee all share.

And bonus in that passage above - Harris quotes Schopenhauer's immortal observation about free will (or absence thereof) - which I also quoted in my play JULIA & BUDDY. (And on my Facebook profile too, if you want to know.)

It should be noted that Sam Harris, along with all the other New Atheists, is a devotee of evolutionary psychology, which would seem to be mutually exclusive with idealism but evo-psycho doesn't have much to say about changes to human behavior that happen in a less-than-evolutionary time span, so it's useless when trying to explain, say, the changes in the relationship of nations and religions from the Enlightenment to the present. So they resort to the default mind-set of any common ignoramus.

Islam provides the "inventory of culturally actionable thoughts" but the impulse to violent behavior does not arise from reading the Koran any more than it arises from reading the Bible - the Koran and the Bible provide only a framework in which the violence - in response to infrastructural causes - happens.

But it's easier to be intellectually infantile, and so that's what SJWs and New Atheists do.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Go Krugman, go Krugman!

In Defense of Obama

The mighty Krug-Man:

Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it's working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it's much more effective than you'd think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.
Also good...
There's much more in the financial reform, including a number of pieces we don't have enough information to evaluate yet. But there's enough evidence even now to say that there's a reason Wall Street – which used to give an approximately equal share of money to both parties but now overwhelmingly supports Republicans – tried so hard to kill financial reform, and is still trying to emasculate Dodd-Frank. This may not be the full overhaul of finance we should have had, and it's not as major as health reform. But it's a lot better than nothing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

New Atheists vs. Ben Affleck

And he looks much better without a shirt than them too.
I don't think that much about Ben Affleck, normally, and the last time I remember doing so I was annoyed that his movie Argo, which I liked, beat out Lincoln, which I liked much better for the 2013 Best Picture Academy Award.

But I've never admired him more since Affleck stood up to to the right-wing Islamaphobic insanity of Bill Maher and Sam Harris.

The insistence of New Atheists - and Maher may not be an inner member like Harris is, but his smug superiority and of course Islamaphobia makes him one of their buddies - that the very tenets of Islam make it specially powerful, among all religions, in its ability to turn people into terrorists is simplistic in the extreme. They are ideological soul-mates of the Tea Partiers, like the ones who protested against the "ground zero mosque."

I was part of the counter-demonstrations opposed to the anti-mosque demonstrators back in 2010. Here's the video I made, below. Wow, already four years ago.

You know that Maher and Harris are on the right-wing side because the ghouls at the Free Republic, that favorite gathering place of extremists and bigots, absolutely adored what Harris and Maher said.

It is too bad that Affleck is not more conversant on this topic. Jon Stewart has never been on Maher's show as far as I know, but I am sure he would have been on Affleck's side and would have done a better job against Maher and Harris. But you have to give Affleck credit for standing up to the solid wall of smug emanating from Maher and Harris.

I have to say that I agree with Maher on most issues - and he disagrees with Harris about things like gun control and torture - and he is funny. So although he agrees with Sam Harris, he is a much more worthwhile human being. Sam Harris is just useless, except for providing support on most issues to right-wingers. And of course, when it comes to Harris, this question cannot be asked often enough:

Why does anyone take Sam Harris seriously?

I actually had to argue down some Facebook friends (recently befriended though - they might not make it through their probationary period) who were siding with Maher and Harris. It's truly disgusting how simple-minded some liberals can be.

Monday, October 06, 2014

It might just be time to give up on online dating...

I referred to him as "black box" because that's what his profile picture was.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The phases of Mr. Fuzz

My Siamese cat, Mr. Fuzz, has a wonderfully silky coat, but it is not as cold-resistant as the fur of other cats because Siamese lack an undercoat. As a result they get cold more quickly than other types of cats.

Mr. Fuzz has found a solution to his cold sensitivity problem by sleeping with me under the covers during the cold parts of the year, going farther down as it gets colder.

As you can see by this handy diagram, for the greater part of the year Mr. Fuzz sleeps butted right up against the back of my knees, which of course makes it difficult to change sleep positions.

He does like to mix it up sometimes though - in the warm months instead of sleeping on my arm, he'll sleep in the October-April position but on top of the blankets.

It's a wonder I'm ever able to sleep through the night.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Obama must take a bigger stand against Ebola

UPDATE October 6, 2014: Thank you President Obama:

White House Now Seems Open to New Steps on Ebola in U.S.

I am extremely frustrated that Obama is not doing more about the Ebola case - and the potential for an Ebola outbreak. If there are good reasons for why the following steps are not being taken, I want to know what they are.

1. Why are flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks not being quarantined? There may be some good reasons why, but I haven't heard them yet, and until a convincing reason is given it looks very bad that we have not done so. As we have seen in the case of the Ebola patient in Texas, he lied on his screening form.  And who wouldn't lie, if they thought they had Ebola and were headed for the United States? Your chances for survival are much better in an American hospital than in a Liberian hospital.

It seems to me that the only way to prevent those infected with Ebola from entering the US is with a quarantine at American airports. If there is any other way to do this, I haven't heard of it yet.

2. Why isn't there a hazmat team assembled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention? The response so far to cleaning up the Texas victim's apartment has been to let clueless county officials handle it and hope for a private contractor to do the clean-up.

The Center for Disease Control must create an Ebola hazmat team to address this kind of clean-up. Too much is at stake for health and politics to screw around with this.

It would be so awful, so ironic, if the president who made affordable healthcare for all a reality in this country ends up being blamed for a health crisis. This must not be allowed to happen!

And of course Fox News is already attempting to exploit their advantage.

Friday, October 03, 2014

JULIA & BUDDY nominated for 4 awards from the MITF

Claire Warden (Julia) & Matthew DeCapua (Buddy)
Photo by Linda Jaquez

JULIA & BUDDY which was performed in the Midtown International Theater Festival July 17, 18 19, 27 and August 2 was nominated for four awards today, according to WrightGroupNY Communications:
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Full-Length Play - Claire Warden, Julia & Buddy
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Full-Length Play - Matthew DeCapua, Julia & Buddy
  • Outstanding Production of a Full-Length Play - Julia & Buddy
  • Outstanding New Script for a Full-Length Play N. G. McClernan Julia & Buddy

Winners will be announced at the 2014 MITF AWARDS and PARTY
Monday, October 27, 2014
The Actor’s Temple 339 W 47th Street, New York City

We won Outstanding Production of a Play

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Michael Shermer - another New Atheist whose views of women are informed by evolutionary psychology

It appears that another Big Man of Atheism is a misogynist asshole. But then, I already knew that Michael Shermer was an asshole because I was aware of his support for evolutionary psychology, that collection of just-so tales so loved by all supporters of male entitlement.

And hooo boy Shermer is big-time entitled. At best he's just a sleazy midle-aged creeper. At worst he's a date rapist.

Recent stories on Shermer:

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

How the Brontes cheer me up

Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte,
painted by their brother Branwell.
Reading about the lives of the Bronte sisters cheers me up for the same reason that reading about the life and philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer does - no matter how lonely and depressing my life might seem, theirs were much worse.

It's certain that both Anne and Emily died virgins and Charlotte only had sex after she was married, at age 37 - she died a year later.  And she most likely died from run-away morning sickness - so had she remained a virgin she might well have lived into old age.

It was a miracle she married at all at that advanced age. Here she is writing to her best friend (outside of her sisters), Ellen Nussey:

Who gravely asked you whether Miss Bronte was not going to be married to her papa's curate? I scarcely need say that never was rumour more unfounded—it puzzles me to think how it could possibly have originated. A cold, far-away sort of civility are the only terms on which I have ever been with Mr. Nicholls. I could by no means think of mentioning such a rumour to him even as a joke—it would make me the laughing-stock of himself and his fellow-curates for half a year to come. They regard me as an old maid, and I regard them, one and all, as highly uninteresting, narrow and unattractive specimens of the coarser sex.
Reader, she married him - Mr. Nicholls, her father's curate. But this letter was written in 1846 when Charlotte was 30 years old - considered an old maid at 30. That's how extreme the patriarchy was in those days - it made women's lives unbearable, unless they were very wealthy. The Brontes had to make a living as teachers and governesses, and hated it. Without any labor laws to aid them, they were underpaid, overworked and generally treated like absolute shit. Charlotte wrote about her experiences in a letter to Ellen:
...The country, the house and the grounds are, as I have said, divine; but, alack-a-day, there is such a thing as seeing all beautiful around you - pleasant woods, white paths, green lawns, and blue sunshiny sky - and not having a free moment or a free thought left to enjoy them. The children are constantly with me. As for correcting them, I quickly found that was out of the question; they are to do as they like. A complaint to the mother only brings black looks on myself, and unjust, partial excuses to screen the children. I have tried that plan once, and succeeded so notably, I shall try no more. I said in my last letter that Mrs. did not know me. I now begin to find she does not intend to know me; that she cares nothing about me, except to contrive how the greatest possible quantity of labour may be got out of me; and to that end she overwhelms me with oceans of needlework; yards of cambric to hem, muslin night-caps to make, and, above all things, dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me at all, because I can't help being shy in such an entirely novel scene, surrounded as I have hitherto been by strange and constantly changing faces. . . . I used to think I should like to be in the stir of grand folks' society; but I have had enough of it - it is dreary work to look on and listen. I see more clearly than I have ever done before, that a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a living rational being...

But being a wife was scarcely better - women were basically the property of their husbands, with all the usual horrors that such living arrangements entail. Although as we can see with wealthy women, they pushed the drudgery of motherhood off on the servants as much as possible.

I was reading up on the Brontes over the weekend as research for my play about them for the 365 Women project. I initially thought my play would be 30 minutes, but turns out it's only 10 pages, which is excellent - it will fit nicely with the other plays that are set to be part of the staged reading - they are all 10 minutes long. I'm pleased I have a completed play now, THE BRONTES BEGIN.