Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jonathan Reynolds: still a right-wing asshole

I have been reading the Dramatists Guild's latest issue which includes The Count, a review of the lack of production opportunities for women and non-white men, and they included responses to The Count, including one from the contemptible right-winger Jonathan Reynolds. Not surprisingly Reynolds is against The Count. After all, Reynolds has had a very comfortable life getting white/male privilege and naturally he isn't in any hurry to end that comfort.

Reynolds isn't only an asshole because he's a rightwinger, he's an asshole because that's his essential personality. As I noted five years ago:
First as to the douchebag part - he admits he is one on his very own blog, in so many words: 
Now, what does this have to do with GIRLS IN TROUBLE, my play currently in rehearsal at The Flea which consumes about 23 1/2 of my 24-hour day? Just this: we have a vegan in the cast, and I am trying to persuade her of the error of her ways. I've instructed her to stand upside down and then told her she could only have meat and dairy products for a week with the occasional snack of fish just to show her the borderline fascistic rigors of the flip side. She's thinking about it. I didn't have the spirit to bring her the slow-roasted pork, fearing charges of unfair competition: surely she would buckle at the knees and succmb, because there is no denying the pork shoulder. Besides, we need her in the first and third acts, not as a giddy, overfed pig convert too pleasured to make her entrance.

First I presume that as a good conservative he would never try to convert someone who refused to eat pig for religious reasons. Because there is political correctness for conservatives too - it just isn't called that.
Putting aside the hyperbole about standing in the corner, I don't doubt that he is trying to persuade her of the errors of being a vegan, since, according to several reviews of the play he makes it clear that he holds vegans in contempt. 
And she told him she's thinking about it. Well what the fuck else would she say? She's one of the very very few actors in this town who has a paying gig of some prestige. And as the playwright of the production she's doing, as well as a grand old man of the arts and a former NYTimes writer from back in the days when that actually meant something, Reynolds pretty much has total power over her career. If he decided to have her removed from the play he could do it - the Dramatists Guild is very clear about the right of playwrights to influence casting decisions. So unless she's a moron zombie, I'm sure what she'd prefer to say was "get the fuck out of my face you disgusting right-wing asshole" but the only thing she COULD say was that she'd think about it. 
Reading what Reynolds wrote about the vegan still pisses me off - what a smug, self-righteous bully. But then, that's what right-wingers are. So now he's worried about the political correctness of pointing out that although men and women make up roughly equal numbers of humanity, women's plays are only produced 20% of the time. In the Dramatist Reynolds writes:
The moment an art form takes into consideration any criteria for artistry other than merit - such as the race, gender, sexual leaning, ethnicity or age of the artist - it signifies the starter's pistol for the devaluation of that form from art into the data-drive, quantifiable, and much less inspired arenas of politics and sociology.
Naturally the notion that white males have been favored doesn't cross Reynold's mind - since in his mind white males are the default human beings and how could they possibly be getting advantages of gender or ethnicity? In his understanding of the world only women have gender. Only non-whites have ethnicity.

Also in the Dramatist, Lisa Kron and Madeleine George write:
unless we believe that white men are inherently better playwrights than everyone else, we have to accept that the numbers are the result of an implicit, systemic bias on the part of producing organizations...
I think that "white men are inherently better playwrights" is EXACTLY what Jonathan Reynolds believes. He's just too coy to come right out and admit it. And anybody who believes otherwise, in his view, is simply being "politically correct."

You also have to laugh at his pretend concern about "politics and sociology" over pure art since he is obsessed in his work with "political correctness." 

Add transparent hypocrite to bully, douchebag, etc.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Life on the Road

I'm looking forward to getting Gloria Steinem's new memoir My Life on the Road. The reviews are mostly very positive: complaints that Steinem doesn't share enough personal gossip are the biggest criticism. But it's full of lots of good stuff, like what an asshole Gay Talese was and possibly still is:
One day, trying to cover Bobby Kennedy, she found herself in a taxicab between Saul Bellow and Gay Talese. Talese leaned over and said to Bellow, "You know how every year, there's a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year's pretty girl." Steinem didn't object at the time; she was too embarrassed and reluctant to express anger. Decades later, in the telling of the anecdote, she metes out a justified revenge.
Reliably, Terry Gross interviewed her about the book. The New York Times also interviewed her. The New Yorker has a piece about her.

Steinem looks amazing for her age, so much so that I have a hard time believing she hasn't had some work done. But even more so, she's actually a couple of years older than my mother and the women in my mother's home for seniors and yet she seems so much younger in her engagement with the world. That, I think, comes from living independently and doing your own thinking your entire life.

One thing I find curious in the Fresh Air interview, Steinem suggests that women no longer have an obligation to do gender after age 50, and she doesn't come right out and say it but she seems to be suggesting that this includes being sexual. Gross played a recording of a 1992 interview she did with Steinem, when Steinem was approaching 60. But clearly that wasn't true for Steinem - she got married for the first time at age 66 to David Bale (father of actor Christian Bale.) You have to be pretty serious about having sex with someone to go so far as to get married to them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The scoop on Mr. Rogers

I've always been a fan of Fred Rogers, although I hadn't read up on his life much. But I learned more about him this weekend because I stayed at a house in Winter Park Florida. Apparently Winter Park was a favorite locale for Fred Rogers. In part because he attended Rollins College there. I always associated Rogers with Pittsburgh and a middle-class lifestyle, but apparently Fred Rogers' family was stinking rich.

According to his American National Biography entry:
As the recipient of a substantial family inheritance, Rogers was independently wealthy and was able to forgo income from his television productions.
To get a real sense of just how wealthy Rogers' family was, when my mother took a boat trip in Winter Park (which is built in the middle of the central Florida wetlands) this weekend, the tour guide informed the group that Fred Rogers was not able to have a piano at his Rollins school lodgings so his family built a house for him nearby where he could play his own piano there. 

I'm not saying that non-wealthy people can't be pleasant and upbeat, but it gives an important perspective on how Fred Rogers was able to maintain a childlike, almost surreal belief in the innate goodness of people and the world - he didn't have to hold a job if he didn't want to, and the job he held was as a pioneer in public broadcasting for children. Not exactly a challenging career path. It's on the job that most people are forced up against each others' competitiveness and pettiness and bullying and even violence, and Fred Rogers just didn't have to deal with it. If he needed anything, his family provided it. It was always a beautiful day in the neighborhood because Rogers lived in the most beautiful neighborhoods money could buy.

Of course plenty of the stinking rich are horrible people with excessive vices, and Rogers was a decent human being with moderate habits. So good for him. But make no mistake, he had advantages that the vast majority of humanity do not get. It's easier to be pleasant when your life is pleasant.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No Roshambo for us

My daughter-out-law Patty also played - the mini-golf  theme was aliens
I've always thought rock-paper-scissors (aka Roshambo) was a nifty alternative to flipping a coin. Unfortunately it's not so useful when two minds are in sync. While trying to decide the playing order in mini-golf in Orlando,  my daughter and I  threw the same shape five times in a row, so I just gave up and let her go before me. I won mini-golf anyway mwah-hah-hah! And then they flew back to New York, and like an idiot I took the train again - 22 hours in coach with crackheads and sick people and jerks. I think Amtrak pretty much cured my fear of flying.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Yes please, no more Poet Voice

I'm glad somebody finally said this: Stop Using Poet Voice:
The chief injustice of Poet Voice is that the tone too accurately projects the kind of self-serious and highfalutin vibe that puts off potential audiences for poetry and gives fodder to writers who want to claim that poetry is dead, dying or has been dead a long time. (For the record, poetry is UNdead, motherfuckers. Do a page search of this article for “green face powder” or “Captain Eliot” and you’ll know what I’m talking about.) In its willowy whisperings, Poet Voice screams, I am The Oracle and you are a hotdog cramping up in a plastic folding chair. It’s condescending and it makes me want to expose the man behind the curtain. 
I suggest poets look to the theatre for direction. If you’re a poet writing poems that have a speaker—no matter how reliable or fragmentary—do what actors do. You are on stage, aren’t you? Pick a character that makes sense with the poems, square your shoulders to the audience, and project to the back of the room. You’re not trying to talk down a bear; you’re trying to be the bear. Deciding on reading styles that suit or productively play with the content of your poems will add meaningful layers to the poems, which will make for a richer performance experience for everyone involved. 
Another thing poets can do is just say no. Don’t read. These days, poets are expected to be very good not only at writing poems but at promoting those poems, performing those poems, sending those poems out for publication, networking and organizing tours. It’s a rare bear who can operate gracefully in all of those arenas, but not everyone can or has to be that bear. If someone’s not good at performing on stage, they can even get someone else to perform their poems for them or use one of the many social media outlets to promote the poems instead. Put it on Instagram! More people will see that than will go to a reading.

I do wonder if the author Rich Smith is giving the poets who use the Voice too much credit for modesty though. He seems to think that when they adopt the "Poet Voice" they are inadvertently coming off as The Oracle. I would suggest that they sound condescending because they actually do think very highly of themselves. They do consider themselves The Oracle. 

Being a successful poet gives you very little material rewards nor, in most circles, an elevated social status. So when you do find a small group of people willing to sit and listen to you recite your work, you are going to milk that tiny sliver of ego-boosting acclaim for all it's worth - and that's when you get to play The Oracle. I've seen it happen with off-off Broadway actors with very little accomplishments - if you do treat them with respect some of them become entitled, arrogant egomaniacs. 

Many people in the arts are assholes - so it is no surprise to me that some poets are too.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Words to live by

How do you have so much energy? 
Video games. And love

I am in the Orlando Florida area for my niece Jamie's wedding this weekend. I hate to fly and avoid it whenever I can, so I took the train from NYC. I splurged on a sleeper car, which turned out to be not quite as nice as it sounded. For one thing, I couldn't sleep very well, which surprised me. I can never sleep on planes, but I thought I would be fine on a train. Not so. For another thing, I don't know if it's a problem of maintenance or design, but there's something up with their on-board sewage system. I first noticed when I entered the train in the sleeper car section, that there was a slight but unmistakeable smell of rotten eggs like someone had turned on the gas oven without the flame. And then when I was in my sleeper car room (or "roomette") I would notice several times per hour the smell of sewage. Not enough to gag you, just enough to remind you that you were stuck on this train for almost 24 hours and there was nothing you could do about the smell.

me and my daughter
Early morning, as I lay semi-awake I smelled a distinct cleaner fluid smell and then the rest of the trip  I didn't notice the sewage smell. So the smell probably isn't a design problem so much as a maintenance problem. I did some Googling - on my cell phone - they don't have Wifi on long distance trains yet(!) and found I wasn't the only Amtrak passenger who had noticed the smell.

The wedding was very nice, and I got to see family members somewhere besides Facebook for a change. And I found out one of my nephews is gay - apparently everybody knew but me. I feel like I'm always out of the loop. Fortunately my siblings and I (with the exception of my brother Brian, the ex-Marine) are all much more progressive than our parents, so it's no big deal.

I'm not too happy about the accommodations here though, there's no Wifi so I'm spending lots of time at Starbucks. I do have the option of going to one of the many amusement park configurations here, but that's really not me. The reason we're all here in the first place is because my cousin and her new husband both work at Disney World as tour guides. I thought it would be a nice change of pace for a few days, but I'm missing New York and the autumn - it's like I regressed back to summer here, in the mid-80s every day.

One thing I do like, the smell here is amazing - some combination of flowers and trees and maybe distant balmy ocean breezed. Definitely better than the train.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Brian Doherty is bitter about Ayn Rand deniers

I blogged about Brian Doherty before - I bought his book "Radicals for Capitalism, A Freewheeling History of the Modern Libertarian Movement" because I didn't realize what a true believer in Objectivism he is or how much he adores Ayn Rand.

A few months ago this Reason article by him, 4 Prominent Ayn Rand Recanters makes clear how devoted he is. The recanters are Neil Peart of the rock band Rush, Paul Ryan, Alan Greenspan and Travis Kalanack, the guy who founded Uber.

I was especially interested in Greenspan since his recantation of Rand occurs at the end of my play DARK MARKET. Like all good Objectivists, Doherty thinks it's just crazy that Greenspan would say that a big part of the 2008 meltdown was lack of regulatory oversight:
By 2008, the retired Greenspan was betraying free market principles by foolishly claiming that it was lack of sufficient regulation and a flaw in his own free market ideology that led to the mortgage-driven 2008 economic downturn rather than recognizing and stressing the role of his own Fed's interest rate policies, federal mortgage lending policies, or the moral hazard of well understood "too big to fail" bailout ideology at least as much.
Now if you aren't up on right-wing economic theories you might not immediately get what he's talking about here, so allow me to translate:

Fed's interest rate policies

Objectivists like Doherty are against the Federal Reserve itself on principle. The notion that the Federal Reserve has the power to influence the sacred Free Market by setting interest rates is evil as far as that are concerned. But even more important, lowering the interest rates to respond to various economic realities can inconvenience the plutocracy, which of course are who Objectivists serve.

Krugman, the Great Satan of the Objectivists (you can see how much they despise him by a quick look through Reason articles here) says this of the interest rate issue:

What is the role of interest in this world? Interest, classically (and I do mean classically, as in Mr. Keynes and the), is the reward for waiting: there’s supposedly a social function to interest because it rewards people for saving rather than spending. But right now we’re awash in excess savings with nowhere to go, and the marginal social value of a dollar of savings is negative. So real interest rates should be negative too, if they’re supposed to reflect social payoffs.
This really isn’t at all exotic — but obviously it’s a point wealth-owners don’t want to hear. Hence the constant agitation for monetary tightening.
And this agitation does real harm. Think about the Fed’s taper talk: ultimately, I think it’s clear that it was an attempt to throw a bone to the tight-money crowd, in a way the Fed hoped wouldn’t do real harm. But it did do harm: long-term rates popped up, and are a significant factor in slowing our economy.
So add the rentiers’ sense of entitlement to the reasons we have made such a botch of macroeconomic policy.

Federal mortgage lending policies

The favorite scapegoat of right-wingers, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Joe Nocera addresses that fallacy:
Over at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, two resident scholars, Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto, have concocted what has since become a Republican meme: namely, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ground zero for the entire crisis, leading the private sector off the cliff with their affordable housing mandates and massive subprime holdings.
The truth is the opposite: Fannie and Freddie got into subprime mortgages, with great trepidation, only in 2005 and 2006, and only because they were losing so much market share to Wall Street. Among other things, the Wallison-Pinto case relies on inflated data — Pinto classifies just about anything that is not a 30-year-fixed mortgage as “subprime.” The reality is that Fannie and Freddie followed the private sector off the cliff instead of the other way around.
But Objectivists are never going to blame the private sector for anything. Because that is against their religion.

"Too big to fail" bailout ideology

Objectivists don't object to "bailout ideology" because it enable private gains/public losses, they object to the concept of bailing out banks completely. As far as they are concerned, the economy should have been allowed to completely melt down as this Reason editorial argues. And this makes perfect sense coming from people who worship Ayn Rand and think that Atlas Shrugged was a work of genius that both accurately represented the socio-economic conditions of the mid-20th century as well as being prophetic and a how-to guide for our present time. The premise of Atlas Shrugged is that the way to handle a world run by looters, moochers and parasites is to let the economy melt down and then the Objectivist overlords will return in glory to set up a new era of free market peace and prosperity. Or as Krugman said:
After all, what is Atlas Shrugged really about? Leave aside the endless speeches and bad sex scenes. What you’re left with is the tale of how a group of plutocrats overthrow a democratically elected government with a campaign of economic sabotage. 
And that's why Objectivists, Libertarians and all the other sons of Ayn Rand should be prevented from getting their hands on the workings of government. They are never, ever to be trusted.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Back to the Past

Nick Fondulis (as Marty McFly) and The Usual Rejects gang did a great job with their reading of Back to the Future II, being faithful to the script mostly, except that much beer was served and you had to take a swig whenever anybody said "future" or "McFly" or "butthead" so there was lots of drinking. Unfortunately I don't like the taste of beer so I didn't imbibe.

They also lampshaded the horrible treatment of the Jennifer character, which was funny and true.   Just an all-around good time - and they are doing it again on Saturday - go see it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Great Scott! We're in the future!

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, at 4:29 p.m., our today will finally catch up to the tomorrow depicted in “Back to the Future, Part II.” In that 1989 film, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) appear with a flash in their DeLorean time machine from 30 years in the past. Suddenly, they find themselves in the same town, Hill Valley, but surrounded by impossible technology and outlandish social mores. It’s a place where cars can fly, hoverboards are the norm and, most incredibly, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series.
Meanwhile, Cracked has some interesting things to say about the Back to the Future trilogy:
Back to the Future is a story of time travel, moral lessons and a dangerous lunatic who nearly destroys the universe on three separate occasions and nearly kills the underage boy he hangs around with on at least five others.

My actor friend Nick Fondulis is performing tonight in a BTTF live show.

The Back to the Future countdown clock is finally done. I blogged about it 2 years ago.

Meanwhile Tom Wilson who played Biff Tannen has a second career as a singer-songwriter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sylvia Plath was never too good at math

My ex-boyfriend John was a collector of fairly obscure "alternative" or punk music and when he was in one of his manic states would make me sit up all night with him at my kitchen table listening to audio cassettes of Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, until I was in a semi-comatose state, head lolling and trying to stay awake by taking turns closing one eye then the other when he wasn't looking.

Whenever Sylvia Plath is mentioned I remember one of the songs he played for me, named for her. It is such an obscure song that unlike almost any other recording I've ever heard, you can't immediately find its lyrics on the Internet, although I eventually found them on a Facebook page devoted to the song's author Peter Laughner, who died in 1977 at the age of 24.
Sylvia Plath was never too good at math
But they tell me that she finished at the head of her class
And if she lost any virginity
She didn't lose it too fast
They couldn't hold any dress rehearsals for Sylvia Plath.
Sylvia Plath came into Manhattan
She had crawled out one cocoon where there was absolutely nothing happenin
She said "If I'm gonna be classless and crass,
I'm gonna break up some glass".
Nobody broke anything sharper than Sylvia Plath
There'e no romance in excuses, there's just a dance in the aftermath
And when you check out of this hotel Jack, you're nothing but an autograph
The desk clerk wakes up around seven
And he tosses it out with the trash
But he might keep around a couple of letters return-addressed to Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath woke up and turned on the gas
Then she put her head down and completely forgot about lighting a match
The rest of the details
Are just too boring to attach
But let's see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Aw, let's see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Yes, let's see you do one thing as senselessly cruel as Sylvia Plath

I could never quite make out all the words, so it's nice to finally see them here. It's a pretty good song I think now, although I never fully appreciated it before thanks to having to listen to it under compulsion.

Laugher recorded a version which is available on Youtube, but the version I was made to listen to was    a cover by a band called Saturday's Radio. It's pretty good, probably the best version of the song you'll ever hear.

I'd never paid much attention to Sylvia Plath but I was thinking of her because there is a new biography out now about Plath's husband Ted Hughes, Cursed by Beauty reviewed in the NYTimes. The reviewer seems to think Hughes was exceptionally handsome, although I don't think he's such hot stuff. However he couldn't keep little Ted in his pants and because of this apparently made life hell for Plath and other women - as the reviewer notes:
There were so many women, at various stages of his life, that we read not merely of mistresses but of submistresses.
It's believed by many that he drove Plath to suicide, but she had made other suicide attempts and appears to have battled depression her entire life. Although I'm sure his philandering did not help. And his mistress, who was pregnant with his child when Plath died also committed suicide.

Thanks to Youtube we can hear Plath reading her most famous poem Daddy.

I found it curious that most of the discussions quoted on this page about the poem try to ignore or disavow the autobiographical content but it's pretty obvious and one of the commenters says:
Judging from the biographical history of this poem, Plath's victory could only be a pyrrhic one. She wrote "Daddy" on 12 October 1962, four months before her suicide, fifteen days before her thirtieth birthday, on the twentieth anniversary of her father's leg amputation (alluded to in the poem, lines 9-10) and on the day she learned that Ted Hughes, the alleged "vampire" who drank her blood for seven years (73-74), had agreed to a divorce.(5) 

Monday, October 19, 2015

McClernan's Cafe

McClernan's Cafe since 1910
A cousin from my father's side posted a whole bunch of old family photos on Facebook.

I knew that my father's side of the family had owned at least one bar in South Philadelphia, back in the first half of the 20th century but I never really thought much about it. But seeing the actual storefront with logo makes it much realer - and I really like that logo. Unfortunately I can't make out the year. A cousin claims it's 1910.

That's my uncle John, aged 2, so this would be taken in 1940.

The next photo is my father riding his bike, and the photo after that appears to be my uncle Bill and my father and my grandfather riding my father's bike. I don't know if the window behind them is another window in the same building as the first photo, or if it's a completely other building.

It's really amazing to see a photo of my Grandfather riding a tricycle. He's been dead for 30 years already, wow. When I knew him he was affable enough (until I started dating my vegetarian, Jewish ex-husband. I don't know how he felt about the Jewish aspect, but I remember he thought that vegetarianism was like a cult.) But in my earliest memories of him he was in his early 60s. He was actually quite dapper in his younger days as the photo attests.

My father on his tricycle

My mother's grandfather Thomas Maguire owned a liquor store. A bar and a liquor store - could my Irish ancestors be any more cliche?

Uncle Bill, my father and my grandfather - on my father's ttricycle.

My dapper grandfather

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Better than Nina Hartley I guess

Well I had been told I resemble Nina Hartley, but recently a gentleman informed me that I look like a mermaid. Which I suppose could be a compliment, although if he meant like the ones in Pirates of the Carribean, well they are just freaking scary.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Kwame Anthony Appiah on the benefits of appropriation

Bo Derek, running dog of appropriation
I'm amazed that I blogged about Kwame Anthony Appiah's "The Case for Contamination almost ten years now. I guess that's what happens when you've had a blog as long as I have - my 10 year bloggerversary is coming up on November 2.

I still remember posting it though, so it doesn't seem so long ago. I was very impressed by his main point - that cultural appropriation is a good thing. Although he only uses the word "appropriating" once and not in reference to the current popular meaning. His focus in the Case for Contamination is more on other cultures being made less pure by whites (Europe and the United States):
The preservationists often make their case by invoking the evil of "cultural imperialism." Their underlying picture, in broad strokes, is this: There is a world system of capitalism. It has a center and a periphery. At the center - in Europe and the United States - is a set of multinational corporations. Some of these are in the media business. The products they sell around the world promote the creation of desires that can be fulfilled only by the purchase and use of their products. They do this explicitly through advertising, but more insidiously, they also do so through the messages implicit in movies and in television drama. Herbert Schiller, a leading critic of "media-cultural imperialism," claimed that "it is the imagery and cultural perspectives of the ruling sector in the center that shape and structure consciousness throughout the system at large."
One of the pillars of identitarianism is opposition to the cosmopolitanism Appiah is talking about. But their cultural appropriation is not people of color using white people stuff, but white people using people of color stuff - young white women wearing their hair in cornrows is a particular irritant for them, in spite of the fact that Bo Derek wearing cornrows was a thing back in 1979. But anti-appropriationist Parul Sehgal felt the need to mention them anyway in her NYTimes screed:
In fashion, there was the odd attempt to rebrand cornrows as a Caucasian style — a ‘‘favorite resort hair look,’’ according to Elle.
Shehgal doesn't seem to have any problem with black women straightening their hair though, so apparently in her mind people of color can appropriate anything they want, only white people are forbidden from adopting something that was originally associated with another ethnicity, even if, like cornrows, it was adopted thirty-six years ago by white people.

But it doesn't matter which side of white/nonwhite you are against adaptation, what we're talking about is culture purity, which is almost always associate with fundamentalism and reaction. And cultural appropriation has been happening forever. Appiah again:
The ideals of purity and preservation have licensed a great deal of mischief in the past century, but they have never had much to do with lived culture. Ours may be an era of mass migration, but the global spread and hybridization of culture - through travel, trade or conquest - is hardly a recent development. Alexander's empire molded both the states and the sculpture of Egypt and North India; the Mongols and then the Mughals shaped great swaths of Asia; the Bantu migrations populated half the African continent. Islamic states stretch from Morocco to Indonesia; Christianity reached Africa, Europe and Asia within a few centuries of the death of Jesus of Nazareth; Buddhism long ago migrated from India into much of East and Southeast Asia. Jews and people whose ancestors came from many parts of China have long lived in vast diasporas. The traders of the Silk Road changed the style of elite dress in Italy; someone buried Chinese pottery in 15th-century Swahili graves. I have heard it said that the bagpipes started out in Egypt and came to Scotland with the Roman infantry. None of this is modern.
I wasn't able to find anything by Appiah addressing anti-appropriationism, but I hope he writes something soon. The ethnicity of a writer should not matter more than what they say, but to identitarians no white person has the right to speak on the issue of ethnicity (unless the white person is an identitarian), so what I say won't mean anything to them except as an example of a white woman refusing to STFU. Appiah is not white and so might actually be able to get through to identitarians. Not because he makes superb, reasonable arguments, but because of the authority of his ethnicity.

In the meantime I thought this piece by a couple of bloggers, Reflections on Cultural Appropriation is pretty good, although I can't confirm they are people of color and so quite possibly dismissible by identitarians. All they have is rational argument, a thing that identitarians are notably resistant to.

I hadn't been keeping up on the career of Appiah, and I see he's the now the New York Time's Ethicist. I will have to start reading that regularly.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dudes say the darnedest things.

Guys say some funny things on dating sites and every now and then I feel the urge to mess with them a little. In his profile this guy claimed to be both a porn star (and he had the body for it, if those are really him in the photos) as well as interest in philosophy. So after the long pitch for his "sex positive" approach to life - apparently that's the term that horndawgs are now using - I had to ask him about the philosophy. And speaking of jerks online, I see that the guy I was horribly in love with for several years is still on at least a couple of dating sites and he just turned 50. But he's still looking for someone between the ages of 30 - 40. I wonder how many more years he'll stick with that age range.  Probably forever. If I had known that he was your standard middle-aged entitled ass I would never have fallen in love with him in the first place - I really had this delusion he was a special person. And since he rejected me like I was radioactive waste lo these seven years ago he's been persistently single as far as I can tell. I have to laugh about it now because he's such a seriously mediocre human being with some awful friends (theater people, also incredibly mediocre and with typical sexist views) who hooted like howler monkeys (or the online equivalent) because I dared to express my attraction for this guy indirectly in poetry. I'm still amazed their lives were so empty they cared enough to be mean to me. Being rejected by this very average-looking guy (even when I was in love with him I didn't think he was especially good-looking) made me feel completely worthless for a long time. Lucky for me there are plenty of men who don't agree with him. Although perhaps some of them are a little too "sex positive."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My anti-racist bona fides

I was home sick from work yesterday so I ended up wasting more time than usual arguing with people on Facebook. This time it was with Michael Kimmel over his approval of a video that tells white women to shut the fuck up. Literally:

You want to deprive white women of a voice?
Start with yourself, Emma Gray.

Kimmel has a Facebook page for the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities of which I was a member up until yesterday. I got into an argument with someone using the name of the group, so I can't be sure it was Kimmel himself, but probably, especially since someone has been checking into this blog several times in the past 36 hours, most recently from SUNY at Stony Brook.

Kimmel is clearly in league with the identitarians - I used to call them Social Justice Warriors but the term has been co-opted by the Right. An identitarian is someone who is obsessed with ethnicity - everything is about ethnicity for them, and if you dare to suggest otherwise, they will brand you a racist. That is their main weapon. That and censorship. Identitarians love to tell people to STFU mainly because they are not smart people and so the only way they can win any argument is by silencing their opponents - that's why they are so quick to tell any objectors to shut up, and to make them shut up if possible. Which is why Kimmel threw me out of his Facebook page.

I've written at length about my unpleasant experiences with identitarians, including the queen of the white woman-hating identitarians, Mikki Kendall.

Now I try to assume that people like Kimmel mean well, but in their ill-considered approach to injustice they are only perpetrating more injustice. The professional identitarian Robin DiAngelo is a case in point, as I blogged about not long ago. She decided that somebody needed to pay for the 1955 murder of Emmet Till, and so she used her authority during a company meeting to humiliate a woman by telling her she had to leave the room when she cried because white people were not allowed to cry. She did it because some woman prior to the meeting had griped about "white women's tears." 

The white woman in this case probably thought of herself as an individual human being, not as a dehumanized signifier of white women in the Southern patriarchy tradition. But Robin DiAngelo decided that she should be dehumanized - as payback for the way black people have been dehumanized.

Dehumanizing random white people as payback is not how you fix racism.

You want to talk about slave reparations? Let's talk about slave reparations - I thought Ta-Nehisi Coates made a good case for them. You want to talk about how black people have a higher arrest rate for drugs than white people even though white people deal drugs more? There's a Washington Post article with data showing this happens and it needs to be addressed. 

There are plenty of white people who are pissed off about ethnic-based injustice. It's completely idiotic to tell others they can't talk based on their ethnicity - you may be silencing an ally. It's not only unjust, it's ineffective politics.

And I am certainly an ally. As I pointed out to Kimmel, I have stood up against racism, as I discussed on this blog.

I also helped to keep professional racist Razib Khan from getting a gig at the New York Times.

I've always spoken out against racism, because racism is both evil and stupid.

But none of that matters to identitarians. Because they decided that "white feminist" means an ignoramus who has to be told everything. And according to identitarian ideology, white people do not get to speak for themselves. No matter what is said about them. You don't have a right to defend yourself, ever.

Identitarians cannot tolerate dissent. Because what identitarians are really about is not justice for all, but revenge against white people. And since women are less likely to get violent, and more likely to be apologetic than men they decided to target white women specifically. And since they are essentially an anti-liberal, reactionary bunch, white feminists especially.

And Michael Kimmel, who pretends to be interested in equality, approves this effort to silence women on the basis of their ethnicity. That should tell you something about him and his organization.

And once again I'm left wondering if people like Michael Kimmel and Emma Gray, the Executive Women's Editor of the Huffington Post are secretly working for some Koch brothers-funded organization - because identitarianism benefits conservatives more than anybody else by promoting the notion that we should all be judged on the color of our skin rather than the content of our character.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

At last it can be said: Renoir sucks at painting

I've disliked the work of Renoir since art school, and thanks to this article in the New Yorker, I realize, at last, I am not alone. Apparently there is an Instagram called Renoir Sucks At Painting.

The New Yorker article is very pro-Renoir. So much so that the author, Peter Schjeldahl, suggests there is something wrong with the character of those who do not like Renoir:
In the second class of people who like Renoir are those who have stopped fortifying their self-esteem with pride in their sophistication. You recall with indulgence, and may renew, the joys of your innocence. And liking what others like comes to seem more a happiness than a humiliation. Lord knows you’re lonesome enough in other respects. 
Renoir painted very well when he cared to. (Ask any painter.) He did so in radical ways imported from outside academic convention—from his first profession, as a decorator of porcelain china. His style never forgets the charm of imagery glazed onto vessels. It’s true that his compositions tend to be slack. He was indifferent to the corners of rectangular canvases. It helps, when looking at his pictures, to imagine them as flattened convex surfaces. 
Renoir’s popular appeal advanced the bourgeois cultural revolution that was Impressionism. He junked the aristocratic airs that linger in Degas and shrugged off the plein-air product lines of Monet. (They’re great, too, of course.) His art was from, for, and about the delights of an ascendant class. His exaggerated blush and sweetness make sense as effusions of triumphal exuberance. 
Have the R.S.A.P. members ever truly looked at Renoir’s “Dance at Bougival” (1883) in the Boston M.F.A.? A raffish guy swings a lovely girl—Suzanne Valadon, the artist’s model and mistress, and later a distinguished painter herself—at a summertime outdoor cafĂ©, redolent of heat, music, smells, and light sweats of exertion and desire. Cigarette butts litter the floor at their feet. This is no candy-box fantasy. It is the real life of real people in a real place, glorified. Modernity is dawning. There’s a beat to it, and a glow.
If you must hate yourself a little for loving Renoir, do so. You’ll get over it. And, when you think about it, who’s keeping score?

Who's keeping score? Apparently you are, Peter Schjeldahl.

But now that I am an official member of R.S.A.P., let me take his advice and truly look at Dance at Bougival, at least a digitized version. Schjeldahl notes that the woman portrayed is modeled on Suzanne Valadon. Here is a photo of Valadon two years after the Renoir was painted.

Quite a strong character even just sitting for her photo portrait. Here is how Renoir portrays her in Dance at Bougival. Valadon has been transformed into a pretty plump party girl, one of Renoir's generic boneless heifers. 

Here is how Valadon was portrayed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, also an Impressionist.

And if you think it's unfair comparing Valadon as a dancer to a Valadon portrait, here's a portrait by Renoir of Valadon.

Which portrait captures the essence of Valadon and which one says: "this is what pretty girls look like to me"? This is how Valadon portrayed herself, along with her 21-years-younger husband (on the left), her mother and her son.

To Renoir Valadon wasn't an individual, she was a pretty girl.

And it isn't just in portraiture that demonstrates Renoir was the least of all the Impressionists. Here is a dancer painted by Renoir, and another painted (in pastels) by Edgar Degas. If you can't see that Degas is the better draftsman, colorist, stylist and conveyer of humanity, well I don't know how you can't. Of course tastes vary, but then I don't claim that if you like Renoir it says something about your character.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Year of the Woman - more Warren Beatty please

A Facebook friend pointed me to a recently re-discovered film called "Year of the Woman" by Sandra Hochman, which I rented and watched.

I found a Rebecca Traister piece about it in the Huffington Post and I have realized that Traister (also a Facebook friend) and I are very different people. She seems to think Hochman is really cool. I think she's a ninny.

The film is described as a documentary, but since Hochman is a poet - which she never lets you forget, peppering the film throughout with her "poetry" - there's not nearly as much items of fact that you would hope to get from a documentary, especially about a subject as interesting as women's involvement in the 1972 Democratic convention - and waaaaay too much Hochman. That's poets for you - they make everything about them. Which works out OK, if you're Walt Whitman. Hochman is by turns pedantic and hectoring and then cutesy and twee and all manifestations of Hochman are self-indulgent and her Long Island dialect just makes it all that much more irritating.

There is a series of bits with Hochman and syndicated columnist Art Buchwald scattered throughout which starts out annoying and by the end of the film is absolutely excrutiating with Hochman and Buchwald pretending they're on another planet looking through a telescope down at the earth after a women's revolution, and Buchwald says it's a mess because women screwed it up and men and women all look alike now, which eventually causes Hochman to switch from her cutesy mode into her hectoring mode, demanding that Buchwald rework his fantasy to her specifications. There is a sequence of her tapdancing. Another where she sucks up to Norman Mailer because he gave her poetry a good review. She harasses a fellow poet for his "sexist" poetry. This woman is always utterly tiresome.

And Traister's piece just makes it worse:
The guys who come off worse are the ones less willing to acknowledge that there’s a revolution happening at all. Hochman asks Fred Dutton, the Democratic power broker who had served both John and Robert Kennedy and who was then working for McGovern, whether any women are writing position papers for the candidate. “Yes,” replies Dutton. “They tend to so far work mostly in the child care centers and things like that.”
Bullshit. Traister misrepresents Dutton by cutting it there. Here is the exchange:
Are there any women writing position papers for Senator McGovern? 
Yes, there are women who are working in all kinds of areas. They tend to so far work mostly in the child care centers and things like that. What we really need to do is get them much more into foreign policy and economic and things that don't have anything to do with being just woman or just man.

Traister is a professional journalist. There's no excuse for such misrepresentation. 

But even worse than that is her snarky slut-shaming of Warren Beatty:
And there are slick male provocateurs: Norman Mailer, here appearing as feminism’s most implausible friend, and the purring Warren Beatty, all soft-lips and pheromones, a liberal actor and activist who appears mostly confused by a filmmaker whose priorities don’t seem to include having sex with him.
First off, as I noted, Hochman was sucking up to Mailer. She made him feminism's most implausible friend out of careerist back-scratching. I'm not a fan of Mailer, but this wasn't fair.

And Traister apparently believes she can read Warren Beatty's mind: "confused by a filmmaker whose priorities don't seem to include having sex with him." This was a man who was doing Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn. I don't think he was that desperate to get into the sack with Hochman.

And he's confused by the filmmaker because the filmmaker is confusing. Rght before the exchange with Beatty, Buchwald also expresses confusion with what Hochman is up to.

I know you want to be a sister and all that, Traister, but it's not them, it's her.

The segment with Beatty begins as he is responding to something Hochman has said to him, but we don't know what it is. The title says: "Warren Beatty Famous Movie Actor" 

It's kind of a sexist question. 

Well this is a sexist film. We're interested in women. 
Are you a female chauvinist? 
Yes I am. I'd like to see women take over the world. I'd like to know how you feel about that. 
You would like to have the male without a voice in the world? 
Well I would like to have them have the same that women have had. 
But you said you wanted women to take over the world. 
Well I think that men could go to rehabilitation centers and be oriented towards their new role in this society. 
But aren't women really worse male chauvinists than men? I mean, most of them? 
Women don't always have to outdo men. I don't think they're worse than men. I think the pathology of oppression -  
No, no no, I don't mean worse female chauvinists - I mean aren't they worse, aren't they more destructive to the women's movement basically than men are when they don't really participate? So I mean aren't we both male chauvinists?  
I'm not. I don't know if you are.  
So you think you've really licked it? When I met you, you were a male  chauvinist.  
In what way? 
Well you were doing all kinds of little things you didn't have to do because you were a woman. But obviously you've changed. 
What was I doing that I didn't have to do? 
Well you were being... you were doing little numbers I think. They were very pleasant, they were very nice but when you came and talked to me up at the Beverly Wiltshire - and I liked you very much - but I don't think you were very direct and very firm the way you are now about what you want. 
Well I was talking about something I didn't feel very firmly about which was you.  
Why did you come there then? 
Because I wanted to meet you and see if you would be a possible person to be in my interview. 
A possible person to be in your interview? What interview? 
Well I was doing a piece for the Times on impressions of Hollywood. 
Oh. Was I in it? 

(they laugh) 

Why? (to off camera) What are you waving at?


First of all, "this is a sexist film" is a stupid fucking thing for Hochman to say.

I can't read Warren Beatty's mind any better than Rebecca Traister can, but I would bet that his confusion springs from the fact that Hochman has two modes, as I mentioned: hectoring and twee. And Beatty probably met Hochman at the Beverly Wiltshire when she was in her twee mode, and was confused by the fact that this time around she's in her hectoring mode. And you can see what Beatty was probably talking about when Hochman is talking to Buchwald - she gets this very soft, deferential tone, calling him "Mr. Buchwald" all the time.

This interview comes off with Beatty, while smiling and flirty, nevertheless being sincere and taking the discussion seriously, while Hochman comes off as an incoherent idiot. And the only reason Traister has to be bitchy about Beatty is that, apparently, she resents him for having sex with lots of partners.

Beatty was at the peak of his hotness at this time. I could watch an entire documentary of him being interviewed. You can see why he got so much sex. Hochman should be so lucky.

There was also a brief interview with Gloria Steinem who is always enjoyable to listen to. And my god she was a beautiful woman. If there was any justice she hooked up with Beatty during the convention.

Monday, October 12, 2015

TALLEYS FOLLY - the tide is slowly turning

As I observed about the play TALLEY'S FOLLY three years ago:
As the post-baby boomers become old and become the theatre audience, they might not be so comfortable with the extreme patriarchy of this play - and TALLEY'S FOLLY will one day go the way of WHY MARRY, the 1918 Pulitzer Prize winner that nobody ever produces anymore. Because it's crap.
So sure, few people notice the egregiousness of TALLEY'S FOLLY now, but that's just because I'm ahead of the curve.
And I'm here to gloat that my prediction seems to be slowly coming true. TF is still frequently produced - no doubt in part because it's cheap, with an easy-to-make set ($200 and a trip to Home Depot should do it) and cast of two. There were several productions in 2015 in the US.

Of course older people still love it. The author of this glowing review, which refers to Sally as a "spinster" and claims there's nothing offensive in the play appears to be in his 60s based on his FB page, as does the author of this glowing review.

The author of this review appears to be in her 30s and while she doesn't use the word "stalker" she does say:
Yes, I questioned the dogged way Matt finally gets Sally to reveal her story - it seemed to border on bullying - but perhaps the problem-solving accountant knows this is the only way to break through her defenses.
But naturally she bends over backwards to excuse Matt's awful behavior, which is the standard critics' approach to the play. That review, like this one, both also cite this passage to excuse the stalking, in the tradition of "you could tell she wanted it by the way she was dressed."
"You can chase me away, or you can put on a pretty dress," he wryly surmises. "But you can't put on a pretty dress to come down here and chase me away."
Well 35 years of mindless critical adulation does take some time to wind down. But there are signs it is indeed winding down and even clueless critics are getting clued in. Three reviews note the horrific sexual politics this year. 

From a 2015 perspective, Matt's persistence might seem like stalking. Yet he is chirpy and confident. Enraptured with the beauty of the Missouri countryside, he exudes confidence that the war will soon end and prosperity ensue
But even while the critic acknowledges the reality that the hero of this play is a stalker, he follows up with "Yet he is chirp and confident." As if that somehow ameliorates the stalking.

But he has no boundaries and can’t take no for an answer, which raises the stalker-or-romantic question (especially when he physically obstructs her escape and stifles her screams with his hand).
Yes, thank you. What a fucked-up scene. A stalker and a bully - how romantic.

Nor has director Joy Carlin figured out a way to make us understand Matt’s almost stalker-like persistence in the face of Sally’s intransigence, or to believe in Sally’s continual, too obviously choreographed, attempts to leave the boathouse.
I would not blame the director for that. But best of all, the critic suggests that the play is so over formalistically.
Ultimately, in the context of today’s dramatic literature, marked by the potent ultra-realism of playwrights such as Annie Baker, Neil LaBute, the young Irishmen and others, “Talley’s Folly – despite its lyricism and its hints at deep social issues – feels too obviously manipulated.

And that is what will doom the play to well-deserved obscurity long before the atrocious romanticizing of male entitlement will.

Meanwhile, I am working on a ten-minute play that presents the trapped-in-a-boathouse-with-a-stalker scenario more realistically. I actually wrote a 40 minute version several years ago, but I think ten minutes is enough.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Love letter from Marilyn Monroe

Monroe and Miller at the Queensborough Bridge
Monroe had a beautiful flowing handwriting, but nevertheless this letter (you can click it to blow it up), from her to Arthur Miller, is difficult to read in spots. But I think I got it right - although if anybody else wants to take a crack at it, be my guest. I believe it says:

Dear Art,
In thinking about Sunday's letter, April 21, I want you to know this - Poppy you said that I was dear to you partly because I had not lived the lie of propriety and so-called morality - but my darling don't you understand I was never once offered that and maybe if it was possible for me - I might have gone down that road - in other words - there was no choice to make - the same road was always before me. So when you speak of my nobility it really wasn't so noble - but my dear dear dear - that you love me makes so much that has happened to me and is happening to me (in the worst case) unreal - and still I know from all my nerves and muscles and mind that they did happen - so you see how it's doubly difficult to understand that you - the finest, dearest, most beautiful human being chose me - to love.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The drugs of Marilyn Monroe

I reached out to Christelle, the creator of the  Cursum Perficio web site to ask about the provenance of the bill from Monroe's stay at the Payne Whitney, which indicated she used the name Mary Miller, not Faye Miller. She wasn't sure, but she mentioned "Julien's auctions" as a possible source.

I somehow was not aware that a whole bunch of Marilyn Monroe's possessions and memorabilia was auctioned off last December, even though I was already beginning work on this play by then.

So I looked it up and wow, they had a lot of stuff up for auction - you can see the entire catalog here. Here is a fairly typical page to see what kind of stuff you could bid on.

Since Monroe was such a big user of prescriptions drugs - and after all they were the cause of her death - there are even pill bottles and prescriptions up for auction. She's listed as Mrs. Arthur Miller in this prescription even though it's from April of 1961 and they had been divorced for months. Unfortunately I didn't find any references to her bill from the Payne Whitney.

Some of the items are as cheap as $100 opening bid and there are some fancy things like jewelry and dresses she wore, but what I'd want most of all is a love letter written by Monroe to Miller. I took screen caps of the letter in the catalog and plan to translate and transcribe it soon.