Monday, August 31, 2015

More play research

Based on this video interview with Arthur Miller, he appears to believe she committed suicide. However, there's no definite proof that she did and I think Donald Spoto makes a good case that it was an accidental overdose.

But then again, Miller might not be the most reliable when it comes to Marilyn Monroe. In the interview (at minute 6:55) he says of The Misfits, filmed in 1960, that it was "the first dramatic role she ever tried to do." Apparently Miller was unaware of, or discounted "Don't Bother to Knock" "Niagara" (which I just saw this past weekend) which were indisputably dramatic roles. And even "Bus Stop" was a pretty dramatic role. And what's more, they were better roles than what Miller gave Monroe in Misfits, which I talk about here. I can't imagine how Miller could say that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Good-bye Oliver Sacks

New Yorker:
Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and writer, died on Sunday at the age of eighty-two. He was a treasured writer here at The New Yorker. Sacks wrote his first piece for the magazine, “A Surgeon’s Life,” in 1992; it was a profile of a doctor with Tourette’s syndrome. From then on, often under the rubric “A Neurologist’s Notebook,” Sacks explored both the extraordinary ways in which the brain and mind can change and the courage of the individuals who adapt to those changes. His writing testified to human frailty and human strength.
The New Yorker provides a listing of all the articles by Sacks it published.

I've mentioned Sacks several times on this blog.

Oliver Sacks as a young hottie - except for those shoes - hadn't motorcycle boots been invented yet?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting fancy in Queens

Wow, I couldn't believe this article I read in the NYTimes about how tourists have discovered Queens:
Mr. MacKay told of a recent conversation he had with a French journalist who was keen to tour Queens.
“She said, ‘I’m so excited to see Long Island City. Everybody in Paris is talking about Long Island City.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ ” Mr. MacKay recalled. “She said, ‘Can you take me to Sweetleaf?,’ ” referring to a popular cafe in Long Island City. “I said, ‘Sweetleaf?’ She said, ‘Yes! Everybody in Paris is talking about Sweetleaf!’ ”

I was just in Long Island City today, running 3 miles with my daughter.

I blogged about Sweetleaf over a year ago - but I don't know if everybody is talking about this little coffee shop or the swanky new location  on the edge of the East River which also serves alcohol - probably the latter though. Interestingly there's a new little French pastry shop Cannel Patisserie in Long Island City but I guess that's no big whoop to Parisians.

As the Times piece notes:
Yes, Queens... New York City’s equivalent of a flyover state, perhaps most famous for two sitcoms, one featuring a food-fixated deliveryman and the other a xenophobic bigot.
I'd better hurry and finish my play 12 ANGRY JURORS FROM QUEENS so I can get some of that tourist dollar. No telling how long Queens-mania will last.

Also fancy - there is a pianist who lives in an apartment across the lot from me and this person plays for hours at a time. I don't recognize the tunes but they play them well - some sound like Broadway-type music and others are classical-sounding. But either way it's a nice sound to have in the background while you're blogging or working on a play. Tres bien.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Oh libertarians. You're always wrong.

My FB friend Corey Robin got another shout-out from the Mighty Krug-Man the other day:
Actually, nothing — because those alleged principles were never real. Conservative religiosity, conservative faith in markets, were never about living a godly life or letting the invisible hand promote entrepreneurship. Instead, it was all as Corey Robin describes it: Conservatism is
a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.
It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.
Krugman referenced that Robin piece before as I talked about here. It's a very good piece.

The funny thing about Krugman giving a nod to Robin is that every time it happens a bunch of Robin's Facebook friends say something like "Congratulations Corey for the mention, and BTW, Krugman is a running dog of capitalism and a big poopy-head."

Many of Robin's friends consider themselves Marxists or anarchists or some other such useless leftist posturing. So it's especially amusing that Krugman was criticized by a libertarian for being an extremist leftist and a big poopy-head. Someone named Kevin Vallier at "Bleeding Heart Libertarianism" writes:
Krugman’s opponents aren’t just wrong: they oppose fundamental moral and political values (equality) that any reasonable, decent person should accept. How are Very Serious Progressives like Krugman to share a country such individuals? Krugman’s answer is clear: support state power to crush conservative policies and criticize their intelligence and character. 
It is easy to see the moral vice and animus in the post. Krugman dehumanizes his opponents by refusing to regard even some of them as fundamentally well-motivated and informed. Conservatives are foes and nothing more.
He doesn't even say Krugman was wrong to characterize conservatives that way - apparently to accurately describe conservative views is to "dehumanize" them.

I think this is the key to the whole thing: "Krugman’s opponents aren’t just wrong: they oppose fundamental moral and political values (equality) that any reasonable, decent person should accept."

What really bugs Vallier is the notion that anybody would believe that equality is a value that all reasonable decent people should hold. Krugman has values, and expresses those values, and Vallier finds this unacceptable.

And of course it's deeply ironic that any libertarian would complain about someone dehumanizing opponents - their heroine Ayn Rand specialized in dehumanizing her ideological opponents - anybody who doesn't believe that hasn't read "Atlas Shrugged." I talked about that in 2013:
The most prominent feature of Atlas Shrugged is its extreme binary view of the world - it is the most common criticism of the novel: the good guys are uniformly physically attractive and skillful and smart, the bad guys are uniformly unattractive (even Lillian Rearden who is constantly described as having "dead eyes") and stupid and incompetent and cruel. It is this extreme dichotomy that renders the novel ridiculous to so many people. Atlas Shrugged has been jokingly compared to The Lord of the Rings, except, the punchline goes, that LOTR "involves orcs." But I would argue that Rand so dehumanizes her ideological opponents that in fact Atlas Shrugged and Lord of the Rings both involve orcs.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unusual Marilyn Pix

UPDATE: my play about Marilyn Monroe will be performed in Manhattan February 20 - 26, 2017.

There are so many photos of Marilyn Monroe available via the Internet. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions. And not even just from when she was famous - not even just when she was a pretty pin-up model, although there are thousands of those alone. 

Considering she came from a working-class background it's surprising how many photos there are of her as a child and teenager. The photo above, taken by her first professional photographer, Andre de Dienes is probably my favorite photo of Monroe - this was taken when she was Norma Jeane Baker. Not only does she look unusually normal, she looks almost contemporary - if her jeans were skinnier and had a few holes she would look like a teenager from the 2010s. 

Below are some of my favorite photos of Monroe.

As a gawky pre-teen - even Marilyn Monroe had an awkward phase!

Monroe visiting her mother Gladys (center, looking over her left shoulder)
probably taken by Andre De Dienes

With Ana Lower, the aunt of her legal guardian Grace Goddard.
Lower was Monroe's favorite of all her guardians and she attended Christian Science services with her.
She was only able to live with her for two years because of Lower's failing health.

Ballet dancer Marilyn

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Great photo of Fitzgerald

Doing more research for my play and came across this New Yorker article featuring photos taken from the hey day of Harlem. This photo of Ella is from 1940.

You can click the photo so blow it up nice and big.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Thoughts on Gloria Steinem

I love Gloria Steinem, for her courage and her generosity and her plain-spokeness - if there had to be a single person chosen to represent feminism - as Steinem was by the press in the 1970s, you couldn't do better than Steinem.

That's not to say that I always agree with Steinem, although the disagreements are far rarer than the agreements. I mostly just disagree with her about pornography especially this:
Steinem asserts, "Whatever the gender of the participants, all pornography including male-male gay pornography is an imitation of the male-female, conqueror-victim paradigm, and almost all of it actually portrays or implies enslaved women and master."[18]:219[100]
Perhaps when porn was offline it was easier to believe that it was so monotonous. But these days it takes two seconds to Google "femme dom" and find thousands, probably millions of porn videos catering to those who are aroused by women dominating men. I've argued with Amanda Marcotte about this too. There's plenty of evidence that pornography isn't only about men abusing women. Unless you're going to use the No True Scotsman argument that no matter how explicit a sex video is, if it doesn't have a man dominating or abusing a woman then it isn't really porn.

The NYTimes ran a brief piece this weekend about Steinem with an awesome info graphic (see above) about her life and career, which mentions that she is on the record being for gay marriage 45 years ago. Very impressive. Although the Wikipedia entry has a surprising view on homosexuality:
What will exist is a variety of alternative life-styles. Since the population explosion dictates that childbearing be kept to a minimum, parents-and-children will be only one of many "families": couples, age groups, working groups, mixed communes, blood-related clans, class groups, creative groups. Single women will have the right to stay single without ridicule, without the attitudes now betrayed by "spinster" and "bachelor." Lesbians or homosexuals will no longer be denied legally binding marriages, complete with mutual-support agreements and inheritance rights. Paradoxically, the number of homosexuals may get smaller. With fewer over-possessive mothers and fewer fathers who hold up an impossibly cruel or perfectionist idea of manhood, boys will be less likely to be denied or reject their identity as males.[101]
Steinem appears to have bought into the common notion of the time that homosexuality is caused by the behavior of parents, especially mothers. So Steinem was way ahead of her time on gay marriage, but of her time on homosexuality  - I assume she's changed her attitude about the cause of homosexuality since then.

And in fact the number of homosexuals has gotten larger, if you count bisexuals since as has recently been reported, A third of young Americans say they aren't 100% heterosexual. This only makes sense to me, since the stigma of being gay has been reduced from 45 years ago, and so those who might have denied same-sex feelings in the past are now admitting them. This is definitely a good thing as I'm sure Steinem would agree.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tiny showbiz world, MIDSUMMER edition

Greg Petroff as Oberon.

I was walking through Greenwich Village this weekend with a friend of mine from Ecuador and we happened on a production of MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM in Washington Square Park. I said to Juan "I probably know at least one person in this cast, I know so many people in off-off Broadway."

And sure enough, we had found a Gorilla Rep production with Greg Petroff, a long-time actor friend of mine playing Theseus/Oberon and he was completely kicking ass. You go Greg.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

More Internet fun - tiny show biz world edition

As I reported yesterday, Karen Lynn Gorney from Saturday Night Fever connected to me via Linked In.

Well today   Santa Claus   commented on my blog post about the Doonesbury cartoon about Gladys Knight and the Pips.

How do I know it was Santa Claus? Well the commenter signed his name JGM, and the initials linked to his Blogger profile, which includes a link to Meath iTunes Mixes which is no longer operational but its root URL is Meath Media which means that my commenter is Jonathan Meath.

I have two odd show biz connections to Meath - one is that my theater colleague Donna Moore of COUGAR THE MUSICAL fame used to be a kid on the TV show Zoom - of which Meath was a producer - although long after Moore's time.

The other is that my actor buddy Matt DeCapua was married to a Radio City Rockette - Meath portrays Santa Claus in their Christmas Spectacular. Here he is being Santa Claus in 2012.

Of course these are fairly tenuous connections, but still.

But actually my first awareness of Meath was as the father of Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, a band I just discovered a month ago via a shout-out by Paul Krugman. Meath mentions her father at minute 10:57 in the video at Krugman's site.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Internet fun

My new Linked-In connection
(not John Travolta)
The Internet has changed the world in big ways and small and just plain weird.

I got a Linked-In friend request from a Karen Lynn Gorney the other day. I didn't recognize the name, but I often get friend requests from other theater people and figure it's as good a way as any to make connections. So I took a peek at her Linked-In profile. Oh - she was Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever.

As it happens she would be perfect to play the role of Betty Brooks in my play DARK MARKET and I am going to ask her to participate in the next reading I have of that play. How awesome is that?

She's certainly the biggest celebrity to reach out to me on Linked In - I am also friends with Al Franken's son, but he isn't technically a celebrity and I reached out to him.

In other Internet fun, I was pretty excited to see that someone was reading one of my blog posts on Ayn Rand, about Rand's stamp collecting - and according to my web analytics they came directly from the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine California. Suck on that blog post, Objectivists!

Finally, thanks to the Internet, non-professional historians can do good research and publish it for a mass audience, as is the case with April VeVea and her Marilyn Monroe blog which I mentioned a few days ago - I gave her a shout out. She returned the shout-out here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ella Fitzgerald's superpower

I've been thinking of Ella Fitzgerald lately thanks to the play I'm writing about Marilyn Monroe. My first introduction to Fitzgerald was as a person with superpowers. Thanks to this commercial for Memorex, which showed her breaking glass with her voice.

I always wondered - could she really do that?

Scientific American addressed the issue:
Only the finest leaded crystal is dainty and resonant enough to break at volumes that some people can produce without amplification—upward of 100 decibels. A famous commercial from the 1970s showed Ella Fitzgerald shattering a wine glass with ease through Memorex speakers, and the trick has been repeated many times with amplification. The principle of directing sound at a brittle object is used, for example, to break up kidney stones—except doctors don't bother to find the resonant frequency, preferring just to blast the stone with lots of sound energy (and if a singer were as loud as, say, an explosion, she wouldn't have to find the resonant frequency to break a glass, either). Yet, it seems that until a couple of years ago there was no proof that any person had ever broken glass with his or her voice alone. 
Then in 2005 the Discovery Channel television show MythBusters tackled the question, recruiting rock singer and vocal coach Jamie Vendera to hit some crystal ware with his best shot. He tried 12 wine glasses before stumbling on the lucky one that splintered at the blast of his mighty pipes. For the first time, proof that an unassisted voice can indeed shatter glass was captured on video. 
Vendera's glass-breaking wail registered at 105 decibels—almost as loud as a jackhammer. Not many people can muster the lung power for that kind of noise. Opera singers train for years to build up the strength to produce sustained notes at volumes above 100 decibels.
Here is the video of Vendera's accomplishment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Life imitates art, Bill Cosby edition

A few years ago I wrote a 10-minute play called JASMINE in which a prostitute and a john face off when the john wants to have sex with her for free, because he's a Calvinist and it would be a blessing on her for him to ejaculate in her. Here's an excerpt:
It’s predestination. Can you say that word? 
You think I’m retarded? 

Just say it. 
Predestination is God’s grace made manifest. Wealth, beauty, good health, good personal habits. All these things he gives us.  

I may not have all that stuff, but I’m going to heaven.
Maybe you could Jasmine – if you had God’s grace bestowed upon you. And by joining with me, you could be filled with God’s grace. 
Hah – I heard a lot of names for jizzem before – this is the first time anybody called it “god’s grace.”
Don’t laugh Jasmine. It is the literal truth. You will be baptized with the white-hot blessings of a just and merciful god. 

Call it whatever you want – you want to put it in me without a condom, that’s gonna cost you a hundred.

Sounds pretty far-fetched right? Well lo and behold what I read in Gawker about another victim of Cosby coming forward:
“I felt Cosby’s left hand gently grab my long hair behind my head … his giant frame blocked the door so if anyone should try to enter, they would not be able to see what he was doing,” Whitedeer told reporters. “When Cosby was done, there was a horrible mess of semen all over my face, my clothes and in my hair. He took out a Kleenex to try to wipe off my face. I was bordering between vomiting and passing out. He was mumbling that I had been blessed with his semen, like holy water.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New art

I recently went back to the Spring Studio to do some sketching after being away for years. I'm pleased that I am still able to capture likenesses pretty well, although I think I screwed up the model's leg. Well back to the old drawing board.

This New Yorker cartoon is apparently the source of that expression.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The mystery of Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Mocambo club

UPDATE: My play about Marilyn Monroe will be performed February 20 - 26, 2017 in NYC.

More information here.

A month ago I wrote about the connection between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, and I noted that oddly, Jet Magazine did not mention Marilyn at Ella Fitzgerald's first appearance at the Mocambo club, in spite of the fact that other celebrities are mentioned and also appear in photos. Considering how much credit Ella Fitzgerald herself gave to Monroe for her appearance there, it's a really surprising oversight.

Fitzgerald is quoted all over the Internet as saying this:
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt… she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”
I was curious about the elipses - what else did Fitzgerald say? - so I started to track down the source for the quote. It apparently first appeared in the August 1972 edition of Ms. Magazine, which unfortunately is not available because their archives only go back to 1987. I'm toying with the idea of buying a copy, but the lowest priced one I've found is on Amazon (ugh) for $35 and cost 70 bucks on ebay. I guess I'll try the library first.

Turns out Monroe herself is on the cover of that issue, along with an article by Gloria Steinem entitled "The Woman Who Died Too Soon" which may or may not be the same as "Ten Years Later: The Real Marilyn Monroe" also listed on the cover. And I confess I also want to read the articles "The Liberated Orgasm" and "What If Pat Nixon were a Feminist?"  

While I was Googling around for a cheaper copy of the second issue of Ms., I discovered this fascinating web site, Unraveling the Slander of Marilyn Monroe which includes a page about the Mocambo incident. Author April VeVea addresses the integration issue, which I'd already seen debunked - in spite of the persistent claim that Monroe helped Fitzgerald integrate the Mocambo, Fitzgerald was not in fact the first Black performer to appear there. According to this article:
Marilyn Monroe did indeed help Ella Fitzgerald land a gig at the swanky hot spot Mocambo in 1954. But in fact, race wasn’t the reason that Charlie Morrison, the club’s manager, didn’t want to book Fitzgerald. Black performers had played Mocambo plenty of times in the early 1950s. But unfortunately for Fitzgerald, Morrison didn’t think she was “glamorous enough.” Monroe was a huge fan of Fitzgerald and was able to (change) the manager’s mind. 

Well April VeVea makes a pretty convincing argument that in spite of Fitzgerald's claim, Monroe herself never appeared at the Mocambo. I might have immediately scoffed at this if I hadn't already been puzzled by the Jet article's failure to mention Monroe. VeVea presents evidence that the pictures of Monroe and Fitzgerald together at a Hollywood club were from Fitzgerald's appearance at the Tiffany Club:
The trouble starts with this picture. It has Marilyn and Ella at a "Hollywood Club" where Ella is performing on November 18, 1954. Except we know Ella wasn't performing at a Hollwood Club on the 18th. She was performing at the Tiffany Club.

Marilyn then went again on the 19th or 20th with Sid Skolsky and a couple of gal pals. How do we know it's a different event? Because her outfit above is clearly a black spaghetti strap dress and the other was pedal pushers with her mink.

How do we know it was the 19th or 20th? Because Ella's performance ended on the 20th. You'll notice that (Monroe's) appearance on the 18th was her first night out since her endometriosis surgery.
And VeVea further presents evidence that Monroe was not in Los Angeles when Fitzgerald performed at the Mocambo, although there is evidence that Monroe "agented the booking."

VeVea concludes:
(Fitzgerald's) version appears to have combined Marilyn's actual appearance at the Tiffany Club with her helping Ella get booked at the Mocambo. You will notice that Ella herself never says anything about race. She only says that they refused to book her. Marilyn repeatedly said in interviews that she liked Ella. Combined with her appearances at the Tiffany Club, Ella did have a significant boost in her career. While Marilyn deserves credit for helping a friend, Ella obviously had the singing chops being she was asked back to the Mocambo in November of 1955.

So the wonderful tale of how Marilyn Monroe integrated the Mocambo by promising to sit in the front row every night Ella Fitzgerald appeared is unfortunately wrong on many counts:
  • Monroe appeared two or three nights at Fitzgerald's run at the Tiffany Club in November 1954, and we have photographic evidence and newspaper testimonial.
  • Monroe was responsible for Fitzgerald getting the March 1955 booking at the Mocambo, but there is no evidence she appeared there - in spite of Fitzgerald's own testimonial - during Fitzgerald's run.
  • The Mocambo had used Black performers well before Fitzgerald.
The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away. *sigh*

Well I'm still going to use the Monroe-Fitzgerald connection in my play, but I will avoid including unsupported stories. We do know that Monroe was a huge Fitzgerald fan and did at least advocate for her appearance at the Mocambo and did appear at a nightclub to watch Fitzgerald. So there's that. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pips get no respect

I love the song "Midnight Train to Georgia" - I have it in several of my Amazon Prime playlists and listen to it usually several times a week. The backing vocals are what make it. But I can't think of the song without thinking of this Doonesbury cartoon which was published not long after Midnight Train made it up the charts. And now that you've seen this cartoon you will never hear MTTG without thinking of it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wrap me in your arms...

I just discovered the official video for "Coffee" by Sylvan Esso. Good stuff especially when lead singer Amelia Meath rocks out at the end.

I'm also a big fan of "Play It Right" - it seems almost too hard-rock for these guys, but it's great.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It should have been me

Carolyn Kaelin
The first time I remember thinking "it should have been me" was when my friend Earl died in a motorcycle accident in 1997. Earl was beautiful and beloved and had no idea what loneliness felt like. His biggest problem was that too many people wanted to spend time with him. Ever since then, every time I hear about somebody who died who had everything to live for, I think the same thing. Most recently it was on reading the obituary of Carolyn Kaelin, the surgeon and patient advocate, who died of a brain tumor. Her death hit me especially hard I guess because she's the same age as me. True, Kaelin had to fight breast cancer and its complications, but she did, and moved on to have a second career as a patient advocate. She was beautiful and beloved and had a devoted husband and was doing good, important work. There's no greater illustration of the unfairness and absurdity and wastefulness of human existence than the fact that people who have lives worth living die and the rest of us keep living on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Everything you've always wanted to know about socks

The surprisingly tumultuous history of socks ~

An unknown Middle Eastern innovator created a new kind of cloth by looping a single piece of thread repeatedly back through itself. Unlike cloth woven from multiple parallel threads, the resulting knit fabric stretched and sprung back. This newfangled cloth could also be knitted in both flat and tubular shapes using just two smooth sticks — no expensive and bulky loom required.
The technique ushered in a lifestyle revolution and became the preferred method for manufacturing short socks, long stockings, gloves and caps.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Portrait with clarinet

Naomi on clarinet - graphite on crappy paper
My daughter on the clarinet. She was in marching band in high school - something that I was much too alienated from the whole high school scene to ever do.

Then when she went to college she switched to drums in a riot grrl -esque group. That's more my style.

Monday, August 10, 2015


The de-conversion at the end of the play
And I don't just mean Antonio, the titular Merchant, although he is an incredibly anti-Semitic douchebag. I mean the whole damn play.

I know I've seen it before - the BBC's "Shakespeare Plays" series covered the entire canon and I must have seen MERCHANT because I remember thinking that it was odd the way they portrayed Jessica, the daughter of Shylock. She was portrayed as a bitch, if memory serves. Which actually was pretty fair since she totally ripped her father off when she eloped with a Christian.

I remember I didn't care for the play much, but when I saw the Hip to Hip Theater Company's version in the Socrates Sculpture Garden last weekend I was completely appalled by it.

I discovered Hip to Hip last year when I went to see their production of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA also in Socrates Sculpture Garden. I went because my actor friend Amanda Thickpenny was performing in GENTLEMEN. I didn't realize at that time that the married couple that runs Hip to Hip, Joy and Jason Marr, are friends of my actor friend Matt DeCapua, and both performed in his sci-fi web series Space Dogs. Jason Marr has the more prominent role in the series, playing "Boney" the ship's doctor in an homage to "Bones" as Dr. McCoy the ship's doctor on Star Trek was known. Joy played an HR rep in the second episode of the series.

Wikipedia has an interesting observation about the modern attitude towards the play:
Many modern readers and theatregoers have read the play as a plea for tolerance, noting that Shylock is a sympathetic character. They cite as evidence that Shylock's 'trial' at the end of the play is a mockery of justice, with Portia acting as a judge when she has no right to do so. The characters who berated Shylock for dishonesty resort to trickery in order to win. In addition, Shakespeare gives Shylock one of his most eloquent speeches...
This misses the most shocking aspect of the trial, in which the tables are turned on Shylock and he is punished and one of his punishments is that he is forced to convert to Christianity

Hip to Hip made an especially big deal of it - when the Christians force him to convert they underline it by having the character forced to put a huge cross on a chain around his neck and have him remove his yarmulke. It was truly shocking and offensive, this injustice by the play's protagonists.

As the Wikipedia article noted, this is considered a "happy ending" - and thus suitable for what is supposed to be a comedy - because to the audiences of the time, converting to Christianity meant Shylock would not burn in hell forever in the afterlife.

Modern audiences feel differently though. And I for one, who normally does not like anybody taking big liberties with Shakespeare's text, was pleased when H2H inserted a final silent scene where we see Shylock taking off the cross and putting his yarmulke back on.

The hideousness of the treatment of Shylock was made even worse by the fact that his storyline was paired with the woman-in-drag/ring trick schticks that Shakespeare uses in other plays. And of course the absurdity of Portia, who gives no indication of legal training or even exceptional intelligence during the play, suddenly popping up at the end to argue the law in disguise.

It's an all-around wretched play in spite of the excellent "hath not a Jew" speech. I have no desire to see it again.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

More SATC Thoughts

I finally saw the Sex and the City movie, which was pretty good although I was sorry that Samantha Jones left Smith Jerrod.

I had bonded with a project manager at the office when I included names from characters from the TV series in some technical documentation I wrote. She is a big fan of SATC and has been bugging me to watch the movies.

I've heard bad things about the second movie though, so who knows when I'll watch it. Although the hate might just be due to the traditional girls-like-stupid-shit response. Emily Nussbaum wrote an interesting piece about the show a couple of years ago, observing:

So why is the show so often portrayed as a set of empty, static cartoons, an embarrassment to womankind? It’s a classic misunderstanding, I think, stemming from an unexamined hierarchy: the assumption that anything stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively) must be inferior. Certainly, the show’s formula was strict: usually four plots—two deep, two shallow—linked by Carrie’s voice-over. The B plots generally involved one of the non-Carrie women getting laid; these slapstick sequences were crucial to the show’s rude rhythms, interjecting energy and rupturing anything sentimental. (It’s one reason those bowdlerized reruns on E! are such a crime: with the literal and figurative fucks edited out, the show is a rom-com.)

Most unusually, the characters themselves were symbolic. As I’ve written elsewhere—and argued, often drunkenly, at cocktail parties—the four friends operated as near-allegorical figures, pegged to contemporary debates about women’s lives, mapped along three overlapping continuums. The first was emotional: Carrie and Charlotte were romantics; Miranda and Samantha were cynics. The second was ideological: Miranda and Carrie were second-wave feminists, who believed in egalitarianism; Charlotte and Samantha were third-wave feminists, focussed on exploiting the power of femininity, from opposing angles. The third concerned sex itself. At first, Miranda and Charlotte were prudes, while Samantha and Carrie were libertines. Unsettlingly, as the show progressed, Carrie began to glide toward caution, away from freedom, out of fear.
I've been toying with the idea of writing a series based on NYC myself. Maybe I'll call it A Tale of Two Boroughs - meaning Queens and Brooklyn. I like the idea of combining the best aspects of Tales of the City (also a better series than text-based phenomenon) and the TV show Sex and the City.

I tracked down the original Sex and the City columns written by Bushnell for the New York Observer. They have almost nothing in common with the TV series, although some of characters have the same names and similar traits.

You can tell that this was written twenty years ago - not only is it not that difficult for a woman in her early 40s to get 25-year-old guys these days, it's not that difficult for a woman in her early 50s to get 25-year-old guys. Now hot 25-year-old guys is another story, but that's not what the sentence below says.
Loving Mr. Big
Ed. note: This column was originally published on April 24, 1995.] 
A 40-ish movie producer I’ll call “Samantha Jones” walked into Bowery Bar and, as usual, we all looked up to see whom she was with. Samantha was always with at least four men, and the game was to pick out which one was her lover. Of course, it wasn’t really much of a game, because the boyfriend was too easy to spot. Invariably, he was the youngest, and good-looking in the B-Hollywood actor kind of way—and he would sit there with a joyously stupid expression on his face (if he had just met Sam) or a bored stupid look on his face (if he had been out with her a few times). Because at that point it would be beginning to dawn on him that no one at the table was going to talk to him. Why should they, when he was going to be history in two weeks? We all admired Sam. First of all, it’s not that easy to get 25-year-old guys when you’re in your early 40’s. Second, Sam is a New York inspiration. Because if you’re a successful single woman in this city, you have two choices: You can beat your head against the wall trying to find a relationship, or you can say “screw it” and just go out and have sex like a man. Thus: Sam. This is a real question for women in New York these days. For the first time in Manhattan history, many women in their 30’s to early 40’s have as much money and power as men—or at least enough to feel like they don’t need a man, except for sex. While this paradox is the topic of many an analytic hour, recently my friend Carrie, a journalist in her mid-30’s, decided, as a group of us were having tea at the Mayfair hotel, to try it out in the real world. To give up on love, as it were, and throttle up on power, in order to find contentment. And, as we’ll see, it worked. Sort of. 
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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Ice age batons

Fun facts!
Dildos in one form or another have been present in society throughout history. Artifacts from the Upper Paleolithic which have previously been described as batons were most likely used for sexual purposes.[5] There appears to have been hesitation on the part of archaeologists to label these items as sex toys: as archaeologist Timothy Taylor put it, "Looking at the size, shape, and—some cases—explicit symbolism of the ice age batons, it seems disingenuous to avoid the most obvious and straightforward interpretation. But it has been avoided."[6][7] The world's oldest known dildo is a siltstone 20-centimeter phallus from the Upper Palaeolithic period 30,000 years ago that was found in Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm, Germany.[8] The first dildos were made of stone, tar, wood and other materials that could be shaped as penises and that were firm enough to be used as penetrative sex toys. Dildo-like breadsticks, known as olisbokollikes (sing. olisbokollix)[9] were known in Ancient Greece prior to the 5th century BC.[10] Chinese women in the 15th century used dildos made of lacquered wood with textured surfaces. Nashe's early-1590's work The Choice of Valentines mentions a dildo made from glass.[11]

The Ancient Greeks were never shy about depicting sex practices right on their vases, although this is the most explicit one I've seen yet.

The Greeks did get a little freaky though sometimes. Greek freaks.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Feminist in the Wild

Via We Hunted the Mammoth...

This is for you, Evan Marc Katz.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The cowardly, sneaky feminist-hating Evan Marc Katz

Dating advice huckster Evan Marc Katz likes to claim he's a liberal and pro-feminist:
(Suzanne Venker) holds special contempt for feminists, Hollywood, liberals, atheists, and casual sex, and since I believe in all five of those things, I could feel the heat rising when I learned how folks like me are unable to have successful and meaningful relationships.
Well as a wise person once said, actions speak louder than words. So while Katz is claiming to be pro-feminist, he's promoting the advice of extreme feminist-haters.

I've already pointed out that he recommended the idiotic advice of a non-credentialed feminist hater named Andrew Aitkin.

And in spite of his protestations against Venker, he goes right ahead and quotes her book "How to Choose a Husband" approvingly:
Because her case is actually quite a compelling one. And it’s one I’ve been making on the pages of this blog for six years...
...From p. 122 “I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “you’ll attract more bees with honey than you will with vinegar.” This is the very aspect of human nature against which feminists have rebelled. To them, being sweet means being a doormat. They are wrong. Being feminine – kind, soft, nurturing, or whatever adjective you prefer – is only suffocating if you’re in love with a Neanderthal…. Most men are much nicer than feminists would have you believe. And if you treat them with honey as opposed to vinegar, you’d be surprised what you’ll get in return.”
Now Katz, Aitken, and Venker don't need to actually cite any dastardly feminists saying these nasty things that they like to attribute to feminists - because bigots don't need evidence.

And Katz is at it again. On his blog today I found him recommending another vicious feminist-slanderer Dr. Robert Glover.
Here Glover claims that Elliot Rodger was not motivated by misogyny - apparently in Glover's world, there's no such thing as misogyny, since if Rodger wasn't one, in spite of his clear manifesto, then nobody is. Which would of course let Glover, Aitken, Venker and Katz off the hook, wouldn't it?
Culturally Accepted Misogyny. Rodger’s anti-female rants have brought the feminists out of the woodwork. Even though Rodger is obviously homicidally rageful at women, as I write this, the body count includes more men than women. We can’t put this on misogyny.
Of course in Glover's world feminists come "out of the woodwork" because no doubt Glover doesn't know any actual feminists, personally.

Here he uses the word patriarchy in quotes - which would make sense since he denies misogyny exists so surely patriarchy is a figment of feminist imagination.
I grew up in the 60’s and heard all the feminist rhetoric about the “patriarchy” – the evils of men – and how “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” (The woman who said that later married a very wealthy man.)
He's attacking Gloria Steinem there, by the way, but like Evan Marc Katz, he's too passive-aggressive to name her. Steinem herself was wealthy when she married David BaleWealthy people tend to know other wealthy people. But Glover seems to think it's some kind of anti-feminist gotcha.

Finally, laughably, Glover considers Maureen Dowd a feminist. Of course I've heard people describe right-wing freaks like Camille Paglia and Christine Hoff Summers as feminists, when their entire schtick is to attack feminism.

Well if you can gas-light away misogyny and patriarchy, you can believe anything you want.

There needs to be a book written about the insanely high amount of feminist-bashing promoted by dating advice hucksters. But at least Aitken, Venker and Glover own their hatred of feminists - Evan Marc Katz won't own it - he just promotes people who do hate feminists.

Because Evan Marc Katz is a little weasel.

More of my thoughts on Evan Marc Katz.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Republicans?

"Just in case you had any illusions about the state of US governance, and the sanity of the party that now controls Congress, the estimable Stan Collender now tells us that there is a better-than-even chance of a government shutdown this fall. And the issue that will bring us to the brink? Republican demands that we defund Planned Parenthood."

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Another drawing from back when

Another portrait of an ex-boyfriend, Bob. Done in pastels.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Holy mother of monkeys, indeed

Over at Buzzfeed you can see This is What Disney Princes Would Look Like in Real Life. The paintings are by Jirka Väätäinen.

I always thought Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid was extremely hot for a cartoon guy. Although not as distortedly sexy as Johnny Bravo.

If only more real guys were this attractive, the world would be a better place. We need to get this whole cloning thing going soon.

I enjoyed the first comment after the Buzzfeed article:
Holy mother of monkeys I'll take two of each!!


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