Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wrong again Sparky

Of course there is no love lost between Sander Gusinow and myself, so I was not surprised to see Gusinow making the absurd argument that right-wingers are oppressed in theater:
It's easy to blame students' missteps on naiveté, but I've noticed the same muzzling of difficult ideas in theatre. Take for example Jonathan Reynolds' abortion drama Girls in Trouble: Theatres passed on the play for years because of its sympathetic portrayal of a pro-life character and the depiction of her beliefs onstage. It's easy to see why: New York City theatregoers are generally a left-leaning bunch. Plays that contest our liberal notions might upset the subscriber base and not sell.
Reynolds, who made a living as a food critic, liked to claim that middle-aged women were out to get him for his opposition to abortion. Unfortunately for his martyr complex his play was produced without a word of complaint by any feminists as far as I am aware. And as Reynolds himself demonstrated on his own blog (removed since I talked about it) he is a bully who pressured a vegan actor in the cast of his show to eat meat, while mocking her for making life choices of which Reynolds disapproved.

As I pointed out during the production, the idea that Reynolds' play was a much-needed balance to all the pro-abortion plays out there is absurd. There are no big theaters producing pro-abortion plays, and references to abortion tend to come with lots of ambivalence and hand-wringing. Reynolds' play, according to critics, was over-the-top and strident

As I also noted at the time, while you may be able to make a case that the theater is politically correct when it comes to representing LGBTQ issues or Jews (the play MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE actually did result in the controversy that Jonathan Reynolds could only dream of) the theater world, still ruled by men - especially obvious in the ratio of paid male to female theater critics and the underrepresentation of plays by women - has no trouble at all presenting misogynist plays, from OLEANNA to MISS JULIE to THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. Reynolds' misogyny is just part of the long theater tradition of men attacking women and preventing women from having as big a platform to strike back. 

Gusinow's article goes on to mention all the conservatives (all white men, big surprise) whose work devoted to mocking liberals and attacking progressivism get productions and win Pulitzer prizes. Which would seem to contradict his concern but he doesn't seem to be aware of that. And it's no surprise that these plays don't attack Jews or gays - they attack black people and women. And he doesn't mention Mamet's RACE, which was basically Mamet inventing a ridiculous cardboard villain who is probably based on Michelle Obama - or rather the right-wing smear version of Michelle Obama based on willful misrepresentations of her college thesis.

Of course nobody said a word against RACE other than that it wasn't an especially good play. But then women and non-whites aren't covered by the rules of political correctness in the American theater.

If anything the American theater is more likely to produce a play with an explicitly right-wing theme than one with an explicitly left-wing theme because right-wing themes are more excitingly controversial.

I think the most likely reason that explicitly right-wing themed plays are not produced more is because the commercial American theater tends to shy away from politics in general. But even more so, the conservative mindset itself is a problem, Because it accepts the premise that there was a good old days when everybody accepted the social hierarchy, and white heterosexual men were the top of that hierarchy, and they were the writers, directors, producers of plays, which were mostly focused on the concerns of white men. And any play that does not follow that mindset is, to conservatives, automatically "liberal" - whether or not it has an explicitly liberal message.

Because the conservative mindset is fundamentally unempathetic to outsiders and their concerns. Which is why they mock or ignore the concerns of outsiders until it turns out that one of their own is impacted

And theater is fundamentally empathetic. Or should be.

But nobody is stopping the Catholic Church from funding anti-abortion plays, or the Tea Party from funding more plays that misrepresent Michelle Obama. Why they don't is their own problem, it isn't liberals' responsibility to represent the views of the far right.

So no, Sparky, conservatives are not being treated unfairly in the theater. Or David Mamet wouldn't have a career - but he does even though his plays are now routinely awful.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Settees and me

The width was right on this one but the
price and the color were both a bit much.
I hate to admit how many hours I've spent recently online looking for just the perfect loveseat or settee. I have this whole floral theme in my new apartment living room so I kind of want to get an upholstered floral print piece of furniture and it's so difficult to find just the right one - I'm very particular about design and color.

Plus it can't be more than 50 inches wide which really limits my choices. And I don't want to spend more than $500 unless I absolutely must.

At this point I might just end up buying something at Ikea to be done with it, but I have discovered some really charming furniture websites, and I actually know what a settee is now:
The term couch is used in North America and Australia, whilst the term sofa is generally used in the United Kingdom. The word originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning "to lie down".[4] It originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on, somewhat like a chaise longue, but now refers to sofas in general.
Other terms which can be synonymous with the above definition are settee, chesterfield, divan, davenport, lounge, and canapé.[2] The word sofa is from Turkish derived from the Arabic word suffa for "wool", originating in the Aramaic word sippa for "mat".[5] The word settee comes from the Old English word, "setl", which was used to describe long benches with high backs and arms, but is now generally used to describe upholstered seating.
So basically there's very little difference, for all intents and purposes, between a settee and a loveseat.

In my settee search I discovered a web site called 1st dibs which has an amazingly huge selection of antiques - some are even affordable - by which I mean I could afford one of the better items if I was willing to spend an entire month's pay on a single piece of furniture. But some of them are amazing, like this here canapé - that's just French for settee, as far as I can tell - this one is an 18th Century Venetian Walnut Canape - doesn't  that sound incredibly delicious? This one costs more like two months pay, before taxes.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The intellectual incoherence of the Berner

This is a parody but it's incredibly close to the way Berners think, based on my arguments with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our next president will be a woman and the brocialist ladies auxiliary is not happy

My favorite HRC meme so far
Misogyny is alive and well. And no, I don't mean from Donald Trump although of course he is a misogynist.

I mean the ladies auxiliary of the Hillary Clinton-hating brocialists. And I don't even mean Liza Featherstone and Amber A'Lee Frost, although they are of course contemptible in their hatred of feminists.

No I have in mind women I've known since I was a teenager and who are my Facebook friends, and one in particular, who I went to high school with named Helen. My ex-boyfriend John had a crush on her back then and I had this impression that she was soooo smart. Well after arguing with her about the Democratic nomination race I don't think she's especially smart at all. But even more disturbing is that the idea of a woman president doesn't make her happy, not the least little bit.

The Berner/brocialist ladies auxiliary identify as women so little that the idea of a woman president means nothing to them. They are so invested in extremism and Sanders' lame-ass, poorly-considered "revolution" that even though Hillary Clinton is a liberal Democrat, with policies very similar to Obama, whom many on the far left loved, not to mention having many similar views to Sanders himself, they are filled with the most amazing venom and hatred towards Clinton, believing every character assassination attempt ever dreamed up by Richard Mellon Scaife and his well-paid army of smear mongers.

While African Americans went for Obama by 96%, these women are eager to prove they don't care about women getting elected.

Meanwhile Jane Mayer has written an article about Charles Koch's phony quasi-endorsement of Clinton:
Judging from the media hype surrounding Charles Koch’s interview, this past Sunday, with Jonathan Karl on ABC, you would think that the Koch brothers have undergone some kind of miraculous political conversion. ABC blasted out several breathless news alerts from the interview, saying that it was “possible” that Koch might prefer Hillary Clinton to the Republican Presidential candidates, and that he is so disenchanted with the Party’s options that he won’t even go to its convention. These bulletins have been swallowed and then regurgitated by one media outlet after the next, which in turn have spawned a wave of punditry, mostly concluding that Koch’s alleged transformation is the latest proof of the G.O.P. establishment’s dire dislike of Donald Trump.
It makes a good story, but it’s almost completely hot air.

To begin with, Charles Koch has never defined himself as a Republican Party stalwart. He has long stood far to the right of the Republican Party, which he has disparaged for spending too much, taxing too much, and regulating too much. He has been denigrating Republican candidates at least since 1980, when he talked his younger brother David into running as the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket, against Ronald Reagan and his running mate, George H. W. Bush.

But the  best part was when the New Yorker posted a link to her article on its Facebook wall and all these men jumped on to mansplain to Mayer, who recently published a book about the Kochs, why she's wrong about the Kochs and their attitude towards Clinton.

A selection of the mansplaining - as well as a member of the brocialist ladies auxiliary there at the end.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Riverside Park

Looking north at the GWBridge
Over the weekend I finally made it to the other big park within easy walking distance of my new apartment, Riverside Park. It has pluses and minuses over Central Park:
  • Fewer tourists
  • Fewer landmarks and concessions so few people in general
  • The multi-tiered use of the land makes it bigger than it looks on the map
  • A view of the NJ side of the Hudson - it was a bit nostalgic for me since I lived over there for seven and a half years.
  • View of the GWB - the one that Governor Christie log jammed thanks to being a complete asshole

  • Don't even think of having a nice walk along the river-side walkway - bicycles are allowed on it and many of them wiz by at top speed - you take your life into your hands walking on that thing - at least one person, a kid, was hit by a bike within the past year.
  • Bicyclists are not only on the walkway, they're all over the paths where you think it's going to be just pedestrians. In Central Park the bicyclists stick to the (usually closed-off) roadways.
  • No concessions so if you get thirst and want to buy a bottle of water you are out of luck.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Finishing the Picture - wow

Not only did Heather Prete get a non-speaking role,
this is the only picture she's in, on the Goodman Theater's site.
Matthew Modine performed as Arthur Miller's self-portrait.
So I finally got my copy of Arthur Miller's FINISHING THE PICTURE and it turns out to be practically word for word right out of Miller's autobiography:
(Paula Strasberg) could hardly say what time it was without seeming to suggest it was secret information, and to engender awe in the innocent onlooker she wore several watches—a pendant hanging from her neck, a wristwatch, and another in her bag so she would know what time it was in London and Tokyo, Mexico City and Sydney, implying that she and Lee had important interests all over the world.
From the play:

(falls in a chair)
Oh thank God. I'll let Edna handle it for a minute, I'm washed out. What a night I had with her. This is Waterloo. The Battle of the Bulge. The Brothers Karamazov. 
Five o'clock?  

No-no, six-thirty.

(Focusing closer) 
Oh! I'm reading London.
(Focuses on one of the five small watches hanging on chains from her neck and with alarm.) 

Miller also caricatures Lee Strasberg and accuses him of letting Monroe down. From the autobiography:
“I’ll talk to her, yes,” (Lee Strasberg) conceded. I understood the rules he was laying down—he would do what he could but was not going to take responsibility for her under any circumstances, most especially not when she was on the ropes. And he was the only person she trusted. Such was the perfection of her fate.

From the play - Paul is Miller's avatar:

But she wants you to leave. 
In a minute. The question is, who is responsible for her. That needs to be settled.  

(to the bed)
No honey you can't go on like this, you will have no voice! Now please! 
(To Paul)
Clearly I can't take responsibility in that sense.

Not only is this Miller presenting Strasberg as refusing to take responsibility, but it also recalls Miller talking about Monroe screaming at him, which I talked about before:
She saw me and began to scream at me to get out... I thought to move the doctor away from the bed to stall off the injection, but the screaming was too terrible, and her distress in my presence canceled out any help I could hope to give, so I left and stood in the living room and waited until the doctor came out. He was up and talking. He believed he was the last doctor in the area to be called in, but he would not agree to any more shots of anything, fearing for her life now that he had seen what he had seen. I went back into the bedroom and she looked at me, ravaged but slowing down at last, merely repeating, “Get out,” as in a dream.
In "Timebends" Miller mentions re-writing the script of Misfits during the shooting of the film (and according to the Spoto biography, very frequently) but this is not mentioned at all in the play. Miller refuses to take any responsibility for his part in Monroe's stress. And of course when it came to his own son Daniel, born with Down Syndrome, again Miller refused to take responsibility. Maybe Monroe was screaming every time Miller appeared because she was aware of his true nature, and his self-serving was so appalling to her all she could do was scream in disgust at him.

Miller gives Paul some very nice speeches about "Kitty" - for example:

(deeply disturbed)
...I still can't understand this! - She's the envy of half the world! 
But what they are envying doesn't exist!... She doesn't feel loved, Phil, so the fluffy Kitty the world adores is a mockery, a phantom, a curl of smoke. And she certainly is surrounded by resentment now - I think she's not sure she really exists. So she stays in bed. This is all unconscious I think, not a strategy; but knowing that forty workers are praying in the lobby for you to appear has to mean you exist, right?...
But in spite of his character's defense of Monroe, what he does to the character of Kitty is incredible - the Goodman Theater provides this handy student study guide so I'll let the interview with Heather Prete, the actor who played Kitty, explain:
Question: How do you prepare for this non-speaking role? 
Heather: There are all these monologues that all of the characters come and say to Kitty at her bedside. And what I did when we were doing our table work, I wasn’t saying anything, but I would listen and I was trying to communicate with my face. So they would say their monologues to me and I would communicate with my face and just try to follow and be a good listener and reactor. Then I improvised lines in order to give the actors something to have in their head and then, of course, you can’t put in words that aren’t written, so then we’d go back to having it be less and less. 
Question: Have you ever played a part similar to this where you’ve felt the same challenges as an actor? 
Heather: No, it’s unusual to have a role where you don’t speak. 
Question: Do you get frustrated with that? 
Heather: No, I love it. It’s a lot of pressure off. I just get to watch these amazing actors and react. I don’t have to think about my lines; I can just be moved by watching them do their craft.
That's right. Miller created a character that represents Marilyn Monroe and it is a non-speaking role!

She doesn't speak but all the other characters monologue at her. And when she screams when she sees the Paul character she is not heard even then. She is entirely mute.

I was just talking about this recently - how Monroe's characters in her movies were objects rather than full characters - but at least she got some fucking dialog in them! Monroe was very bitter about Miller's taking away her character's speech about killing horses in "The Misfits" and instead had her throw "a screaming fit" - and here Miller does not even let her character scream out loud!

Absolutely mind-boggling.

Poor Heather Prete. She is trying to be positive when asked if she is frustrated about playing this shitty mute role. Of course she isn't going to complain - Arthur Miller was involved in the production and he is a theater god to most people. Admitting how she really felt could hurt her career.

And a lot of good it did her - she doesn't even make a living as an actor nowadays, she's doing meditation coaching stuff.

If I ever get a chance to do a decently-funded production of my play I will certainly try to get Prete for the role of Norma Jeane. She deserves it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Passover 2016

I was invited to Passover this year - I didn't have to go to Zabar's after all. Although I have to say, my neighbors on the Upper West Side have a much less formal Passover than my in-laws back in Pennsauken NJ back in the twentieth century. But I had matzoh ball soup for the first time in decades so that was nice. No latkes though. Oh well you can't have everything. In the entire six years I lived in Astoria I was never invited into anybody's home, and here I've lived on the UWS for a little over two months and not only did I have dinner in somebody's home, but another neighbor invited me over to get high. Which I haven't done, yet, but it was nice to get the offer.

Yes so far the UWS is much friendlier than Astoria.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

RIP Bill Shakespeare

An amusing "obituary" in today's NYTimes: William Shakespeare, Playwright and Poet, Is Dead at 52. It's a bit snarky at times:
Had Hamlet never existed, playgoers would still speak of Macbeth, an upwardly mobile and downwardly moral Scottish thane who, with the steady prodding of his perhaps-mad wife, lets nothing stand between him and the throne and is defeated only by a combination of traveling trees and a C-section baby.4 
Before he died, Mr. Shakespeare would see his plays performed at Blackfriars Theatre, at the Globe (which burned down during a performance of “Henry VIII,” an event perhaps more exciting than anything that happens during “Henry VIII”)
Important to remember appreciation can sometimes take a while...
It should be added that Mr. Shakespeare was equally, if not more, revered in his lifetime for his non-theatrical poetry. His “Rape of Lucrece” (not as graphic as it sounds) went into multiple reprints, and “Venus and Adonis”—dedicated to his then-patron, the 3rd Earl of Southampton12—was the greatest publishing coup of his career, far outselling any editions of his plays.
And in one of the footnotes:
Why not the foremost English writer? In “Shakespeare: The World as Stage,” Bill Bryson writes that at the time of Shakespeare’s death, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher and Ben Jonson all enjoyed greater esteem as playwrights. Beaumont was the first dramatist to be buried in Westminster Abbey — an honor never accorded Shakespeare, even though the two men died a few months apart. It took another century for Shakespeare’s reputation to outstrip that of his peers.
Astounding claim - I mean "lonely"? "Excellent"?
More than 2,000 words received their first recorded use in his work, including “barefaced,” “assassination,” “excellent,” “frugal,” “eyeball,” “auspicious,” “swagger,” “zany,” “summit,” “moonbeam,” “obscene,” “cold-blooded,” “hot-blooded,” “epileptic,” “fashionable,” “gossip,” “lonely,” “grovel,” “torture,” “manager,” “well-read,” “buzzer” and “rant.”

But most astounding of all: William Shakespeare, Playwright and Poet, Is Dead at 52.

Fifty two. Fifty fucking two.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Paul McCartney appreciation day

Miss Willow and McCartney
I'm sorry that Prince is dead. More sorry than I was when Bowie died. But to be honest, other than "Let's Go Crazy" and "Little Red Corvette" I really didn't care much about his music. They still don't know exactly how he died, as of this writing. RIP dude.

I heard the news just as I was posting about this piece about a biography of Paul McCartney in the New Yorker.

It's written by Adam Gopnik who has been working my nerves since at least 2010. As with any Gopnik essay, this one has good bits equally matched by annoying bits.

Some of the good bits:
And yet, even though we’re drowning in Beatle fact, something mysterious remains, and that mysterious thing, as always in the lives of artists, is how they did what they did. There is something fated about the Beatles. The first photograph of them in their final fourness, with Ringo on drums, was taken on August 22, 1962; the last was taken exactly seven years later, on August 22, 1969. The space between was filled with music. The notorious 1962 Decca tryout tape, where they failed the audition, and deserved to, seems almost impossible to reconcile with the final, elegiac side of “Abbey Road,” or with the music of the last rooftop concert, in London in January, 1969—all that passionate, smoky, supple playing and singing. The seven years are still almost unbelievable in the growth they evidence. The Beatles were an O.K. provincial rhythm-and-blues group, then they were masters, and they departed having made only masterpieces. How and why it happened—and why, having come so far so quickly, they broke apart so soon—remains the biographer’s puzzle.

He makes an excellent point. I also like how Gopnik appreciates McCartney's very unusual for a rock star regular family man aspect,  something I've written about before.
...Paul was not only a man of genius but also someone who has, past seventy, handled the madness of mega-fame about as well as anyone ever has. Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson died of something very much like suicide; John Lennon was murdered—hardly his fault—but after a long period of withdrawal. Paul is a grandfather and a father, by all accounts a good one, who made a bad rebound marriage after losing a much loved wife, but who has otherwise spent the past twenty-five or so years doing the good work of entertaining countless people and accepting innumerable awards. It’s a nice life to look at. He still strolls the streets of New York, smiling and dismayingly normal. So, if there are no new facts, there is a new attitude: all is forgiven.
And I really like the ending:
Not long ago, on one of the Upper East Side avenues he haunts, Paul McCartney bumped into a woman (my wife, as it happens) who as a small child had seen him onstage and held her ears against the screaming, and, like every woman of her generation, has idolized him since. “I know you,” he said cheerily, and then, stepping forward, realized he didn’t. “I’m so sorry,” he said, at once. “I’m really sorry to intrude.” It must have been the first time in fifty years that McCartney had had to apologize for bugging someone on the street, rather than the other way around. That he still knew how to do it is a sign of his grace.
I will have to spend more time on the East Side in the future if McCartney's over there walking around accosting people.

from the New Yorker article
In other Beatles news, I've had prints of photos taken by Astrid Kirchherr of Lennon and McCartney, signed by Kirchherr herself for over ten years, but I only just had them properly framed. I went with the best-quality no-glare museum quality glass. Very expensive but worth it for my two proudest possessions. Kirchherr was interviewed on Fresh Air in 2008.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Living the Life

I took this picture lying on my back on Summit Rock.

I worked from home today so instead of taking my afternoon break in old industrial Long Island City I took my break in Central Park - stopping first to drop off my laundry and pick up a cappuccino and hamantash at the Gastronomie 491 the delightful bakery/cafe next to my laundry. I don't know why I took so long to discover this place - here I had been going to Starbucks since I moved in two months ago and meanwhile this great place was even closer than the two Starbucks on Columbus.

The crowded but fragrant Pinetum.
There seems to be quite a few French-type pastry places on the UWS, but then there seems to be quite a lot of French people up here too. Even with my half-assed French language skills I can sometimes understand what they're saying as they pass by me - for instance today a woman who was probably a nanny said to a little boy -

"Timmy, Qu'est-ce que tu fait? Arrêté."

(Timmy, what are you doing? Stop it.")

Of course the context helped a lot.

The park was looking good today, but so full of people. I mean this was three o'clock in the afternoon and there were people everywhere, including kids. Well I guess quite a few might have been tourists, but still.

So I had been hoping to sit at a picnic table in the Pinetum and check my work email but all the picnic tables were taken. And all the benches in the shade were taken  too, but I finally got one, next to the people in the photo. But it smelled like pine trees so it was all worth it.

Then I headed up to Summit Rock, which, while not completely empty had fewer people than the Pinetum. I lounged around for quite a while, enjoying the sun and wondering if it would be worthwhile to do an NYCPlaywrights production of ten-minute plays in the amphitheater of Summit Rock. Probably in September, if I decide to do it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I think we can start focusing on defeating Donald Trump now

Joan Walsh has a good piece in The Nation (it isn't all brocialists yet) entitled:
Surprise: New York Democrats Like the Democratic Party!
And the Sanders campaign is making enemies with its attacks.

 She writes:
I’ve been to a total of five Clinton events in Brooklyn, Washington Heights, and the Bronx in the last few weeks, and I can say conclusively: The biggest applause lines always have to do with Sanders’s recent status as a Democrat, and Clinton’s long history with the party. At all of these events, Clinton surrounded herself with local Democratic leaders, while Sanders has generally been promoted at his much larger New York rallies by a combination of grassroots activists and celebrities, not by local elected officials. To lefties convinced that such folks are corrupt post-Tammany hacks, this is no doubt a selling point for Sanders. But for ordinary people who consider themselves Democrats—and I’ve met a multiracial throng of avid Democrats who are home health workers, nannies, bus drivers, teachers, waiters, social workers, and museum administrators at Clinton rallies—it is part of why he will lose on Tuesday, and perhaps lose big.

Predictably the sore loser Radical Chic is muttering darkly about vote disenfranchisement. Because New York state voting laws are strict about the voter registration process. Featherstone apparently considers this an evil conspiracy deliberately created to hurt Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

That fresh clean feeling of civic responsibility...

Plus I got a free sticker!

Excellent description of the Radical Chic

It's all about posturing. As this article On Becoming Anti-Bernie describes:
That led me to more research. I concluded that the fact that Sanders only got three bills through Congress (two of which were for naming post offices) wasn’t the only meaningful measure, so I looked at the legislation he introduced during his senate career. It turns out that, every year, year after year, he introduced the same legislation to make a point, and no one else ever seems to have signed on to it. To me, this looked like showmanship rather than governance — an exercise designed to highlight his own support for a very progressive agenda. The hard work is to draft a bill that your co-legislators can get behind, in the political climate that exists and in the place where you work. I concluded that Sanders was less interested in actually accomplishing anything than he was in staging protests where he could claim some kind of moral high ground, not interested in getting in the weeds and doing anything to actually achieve his goals within the Congress he worked in. This research put Sanders’ supposedly pristine progressive agenda in perspective: it is very easy to maintain that agenda if you never make the hard choices necessary to get things done. Classic protester — yet handily collecting his $200,000 pay check and his lifetime of benefits while doing little to enact actual progressive policies to improve people’s lives.
That's why I came to despise the Radical Chic, best exemplified by Nation contributors Doug Henwood and Liza Featherstone (married to each other) - they are all radical posturing and holier-than-thou attitude - and reveal themselves to be incredible hypocrites in the process. Bernie Sanders with his pristine do-nothing progressivism is tailor-made for the utter uselessness of Henwood and Featherstone.

Actually uselessness is giving them too much credit - they consistently attack feminists if they don't think they're impoverished and humble enough, as "lean-in feminists" or "bourgeois feminists." 

Radical Chic hypocrites Henwood and Featherstone are absolutely contemptible and I will not subscribe to The Nation as long as it publishes them.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Hunting of Hillary

I've admired Joe Conason and Gene Lyons since their The Hunting of the President was published (and also made into a movie) and my admiration only increased when they butted heads with toxic Hillary hater and Nation/Jacobin contributor Doug Henwood (after I tangled with him on Facebook).

I've since become Conason's FB friend and via a link he provided downloaded his free book (adapted and updated from The Hunting of the President) - you can get it here.

I especially enjoyed what they had to say about Maureen Down in the introduction in light of her latest attack on Clinton:

Having created the ballyhooed Whitewater “scandal,” most of the nation’s news organizations, including three or four television networks and the two most important daily newspapers, cheered Starr on, spending millions more in their own zeal to get Hillary. There was no accusation too obscure or dubious to make headlines, in publications that routinely anticipated her imminent criminal indictment. Editors of The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, employed not one but two op-ed columnists, William Safire and Maureen Dowd, whose only seeming purpose in life was to bring her down. Safire warned repeatedly that she would go to prison, promising to “eat crow” if his direst predictions proved wrong. (While the old Nixon hand has since passed away, Dowd still pursues the same old obsession in the same space, as she devolves into self-parody.) 

I was so annoyed by Dowd's piece I commented - and to my surprise they ran it:


 New York NY 
Yes, MoDo's deep bitter toxic hatred of Hillary Clinton is well known. How can anybody take Dowd seriously on the topic?

I am phone banking for Hillary prior to the April 19 primary.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tequila is not my friend

Well I guess I'm going to stick with cider from now on. I had a post-run brunch with my daughter at the Mermaid Inn on the UWS and instead of cider - which they did not have anyway - or wine I decided to go with the pomegranate margarita.

Not only did it not taste as good as cider or wine - the pomegranate wasn't strong enough to mask the tequila taste well - but I ended up needing a nap, which was followed by a horrible pounding headache. No more tequila for me please.

Except in dance form.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Good enough to eat WTF?

There is a restaurant nearby called Good Enough to Eat and Jesus Christ there is always a line outside of this place. Is it that good? I will have to watch out for the next time I go by, and if there is no line go in and see what the big deal is.

I'm very tempted to go on April 22 for their special Passover menu. I haven't been to a Passover dinner since I broke up with my ex-husband which is a loooong time ago. But as I was perusing their menu I was getting nostalgic. I mean latkes - I can't remember the last time I had a latke but now I don't know why I haven't had one for so long - they were so good. I don't know if my ex-mother-in-law may she rest in peace was a great cook - she was better than my mother but that's not saying much. But I loved her latkes and blintzloaf and kugel - all kinds of kugel but I remember broccoli and apple the most. Damn that was some good stuff.  Ah memories. *sigh*

I wasn't crazy about the wine though. My parents weren't big drinkers and we never had wine around the house so literally my first experience drinking wine was at a Baranoff family Passover seder. Thanks to Mogen David it took me years to realize that wine could actually be delicious. But I'd gladly drink Mad Dog 20/20 again if I could have another one of those Passover meals.

Well Zabars is not too far away and I bet they have all that good stuff. Maybe I'll throw my own Passover dinner.

According to Jon Stewart, Zabars is "the second holiest site in Jewish religion."

Friday, April 15, 2016

Eight F**king Thousand Dollars

One of the funniest sequences from Broad City. I was thinking of this walking down the street and I had a huge grin plastered across my face.

Speaking of money it's tax day - and I did my taxes two months ago beeyotch!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cider Week is coming!

Now that I've become a cider fan I've decided to see if there are cider tastings out there. And while I was Googling around I discovered that Cider Week is coming to NYC October 21 - 30 - plenty of time to get ready! And it's in the Autumn, my favorite season - yay!

AND it turns out there's a cider maker (aka "cidery") in Queens. Wow.

I haven't been able to find any impending cider tastings but I did find a list of good places to get cider in Manhattan - but so far none on the UWS.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Best idea ever

Make the Confederacy's Defeat a National Holiday

...the federal government should ...make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support...
...the Union’s victory, and the abolition of slavery, both merit celebration as exemplars of American improvement and renewal, even if many Unionists weren’t moral heroes. These twin accomplishments are as worthy of a federal holiday as any holiday we already celebrate. So let’s name April 9 New Birth of Freedom Day. And if that creates too much paid leave for government workers, we could swap out Columbus Day. We don’t yet live in the America Obama described, but we should strive to.
In a better America, we’d all have Thursday off. And there would be fireworks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Monroe sighting in LIC

I'm not sure what the connection is between Marilyn Monroe and Long Island City though.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Drama in the desert, part 2

Costume test for The Misfits
Due to the wacky divorce laws in America at the time, Arthur Miller had to live in Nevada for six weeks in 1956 to meet residency requirements in order to get a divorce in that state, which was easier than getting a divorce in New York state. While he was there he fainted in a phone booth, stressed out by Marilyn Monroe's despair while making the movie "Bus Stop", as I mentioned a few days ago. He was divorcing his first wife in order to marry Monroe.

Four years later their marriage was falling apart and they were back in Nevada filming "The Misfits." The movie had been inspired by Miller's 1956 stay in Nevada and was written as a valentine from Miller to Monroe, but it soon became the final straw in their relationship. It got so bad that at one point, Miller recounts:
A doctor was feeling the back of her hand, searching for a vein into which to inject Amytal. My stomach turned over. She saw me and began to scream at me to get out... I thought to move the doctor away from the bed to stall off the injection, but the screaming was too terrible, and her distress in my presence canceled out any help I could hope to give, so I left and stood in the living room and waited until the doctor came out. He was up and talking. He believed he was the last doctor in the area to be called in, but he would not agree to any more shots of anything, fearing for her life now that he had seen what he had seen. I went back into the bedroom and she looked at me, ravaged but slowing down at last, merely repeating, “Get out,” as in a dream. 

Miller mentions rewriting the script and John Huston's compulsive, expensive gambling but it's clear he blames the problems the production had almost entirely on Monroe and what he considers her desire to self-destruct. And if it isn't clear that's how he felt when he published this autobiography in 1987, it certainly is clear, in this synopsis of his last play from 2004 Finishing the Picture:
Kitty was a successful actress, a natural choice for a major motion picture. But as production gets under way, Kitty's acting is more and more hindered by mental illness and a drug-induced haze. The play opens with the producer, who must decide whether to cancel the late, over-budget picture altogether, or whether Kitty will be able to finish. 
Over a year after I first heard of this play and I finally found a copy of the script - I just ordered it.

Miller never offers any suggestions for why Monroe screams "get out" at him. Perhaps we are to assume that this is all just part of her "mental illness." But Monroe's biographer Donald Spoto offers a different perspective:
(Monroe) was habitually late... but had solid, objection reason. Every night, Arthur rewrote entire scenes, handed to her as she went to bed or on awakening: for years, such last-minute changes had tossed her into panic. "I have not really helped her as an actress," he admitted after the fact. Marilyn was confused: "I never really know exactly what's expected of me."
...As Miller rewrote Rosyln, she expressed her dismay at the capture of mustangs and their imminent slaughter not by dialog or reasoning with the men, but "by throwing as fit," as she said later.

I guess they thought I was too dumb to explain anything, so I have a fit - a screaming, crazy fit. I mean nuts. And to think Arthur did this to me...
Spoto also makes a very good assessment of the movie:
The script, as Miller and Huston continued to hammer away page after page, was full of grand but disconnected rhetoric about rugged individualism, the contemporary lack of intimacy and communication, the decline of the West and the nature of the American conscience. But a screenplay is composed of more than ideas and in The Misfits very little happens.
I have to laugh at the "contemporary lack of intimacy and communication" - this was 1960, but lack of intimacy and communications is always, it seems, contemporary.

Miller was constantly pushing the narrative that Monroe had a death wish, between his autobiography and his plays about her, but to fully understand the character of Arthur Miller it's important to remember how he treated one of his sons:
At his death, the only major American newspaper to mention Daniel in its obituary was the Los Angeles Times, which said, “Miller had another son, Daniel, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth in 1962. It is not known whether he survives his father.” Citing the Gottfried biography, the paper reported that Daniel had been put in an institution, where Miller “apparently never visited him.” 
Miller’s friends say they never understood exactly what happened with Daniel, but the few details they heard were disturbing. Miller had not only erased his son from the public record; he had also cut him out of his private life, institutionalizing him at birth, refusing to see him or speak about him, virtually abandoning him.
This is extreme, but I would suggest that this is what happened to people who were a disappointment to Arthur Miller. What he said about Monroe after their break-up should be considered with this in mind.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Valerie David is THE PINK HULK!

My buddy Valerie David can be seen in the Planet Connections Festival in June/July performing her show The Pink Hulk.

One woman's journey to find the
superhero within.

She also gave me a lovely bouquet of flower as a housewarming gift today- 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

You call that Sea Salt Caramel?

mislabeled product!
I gave up on waiting for the Gristedes across the street to restock their supply of Häagen-Dazs Sea-Salt Caramel Gelato. They ran out, probably thanks to me, and don't seem to have taken any notice for over a week now. Who knows if they'll ever restock.

So I finally had to buy another brand but I had to up-size since only Häagen-Dazs sells it in those little containers and I had to get an entire pint of Talenti. But I vowed to maintain some self-control with all that gelato in my freezer.

Of course as soon as I got home I had to try it. Talenti is supposed to be such a high-end fancy-schmancy product, I figured it must be even better than the Häagen-Dazs  although I couldn't imagine how.


Talenti screwed up! This isn't "Sea Salt Caramel" it's chocolate chip sea salt caramel. Oh sure, they call them "truffles" but if this was vanilla ice cream they'd be called what they are, which is chocolate freaking chips. Here are the ingredients online which include cocoa (processed with alkali). Have you no shame Talenti? And don't listen to this guy who thinks it's a great idea to put chocolate chips in. He is a fool.

Now obviously I'm still going to eat the entire pint. I had a tea cup's worth (OK two tea-cup's worth) and it is delicious. But it just isn't the same. I want my Sea Salt Caramel pure like the way Häagen-Dazs does it -  with no chocolate. And you can tell it's objectively better, it has 30 calories more per serving.

I call bullshit, Talenti.

Friday, April 08, 2016

GFE - FU patriarchy

I had to laugh at James Poniewozik's NYTimes review of "The Girlfriend Experience" - the term, also GFE, describes men paying prostitutes to pretend to be their girlfriends over a long period of time. Basically like traditional marriage except it's even easier to "divorce" the woman when you get tired of her and want to trade her in for a newer, younger model.

What cracked me up was the male critic - of course the critic is male, based on a rough estimate I would say 95% of all paid critics of all media are male - writes this:
Christine joins Avery to meet a client, assuming an alias, and discovers that she’s not just good at role-playing but also drawn to it. There’s money, of course — thousands a night — but also a feeling of control. You gradually get the sense that the guarded, composed Christine sees all relationships as transactional. (“You’re like a female Ted Bundy,” a client tells her. He sort of means it as a compliment.)
Leave it to a man, writing about a show created and run by men, to look at a prostitution scenario and compare the prostitute to a psycho-killer, instead of her wealthy, often married customers.  

I so fucking hate living in a patriarchy sometimes I could scream.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Life in the big city

I had a nice time hanging out in the city last night, seeing a friend perform in a play and then getting drinks after... it was a great old New York City time. And then while walking home I was reminded that there are still bad things lurking out there.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

I knew this day would come

FINALLY the news media called Bernie Sanders on his pie-in-the-sky promises, when the New York Daily News pressed Sanders on how he would actually accomplish what he claimed he could. As the Washington Post observed:
For Sanders’s critics — including Hillary Clinton — the Daily News interview is the “ah ha!” moment that they have been insisting will come for Sanders, a time when his pie-in-the-sky proposals are closely examined and found wanting. Sure, free college tuition sounds good, but how, exactly, do you pay for it? And, yes, breaking up the biggest banks seems appealing — particularly if you saw “The Big Short” — but (a) can you actually do it? and (b) what does it mean for all the people those banks employ?

And also:
The Daily News interview amounts to a moment of reckoning for Sanders. Okay, let’s say you get elected — now what? And have you thought through what it might mean to the American worker and the American economy if all of the things you insist have to happen actually did happen? Judging by Sanders’s responses, he hasn’t.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Drama in the desert, part 1

From Arthur Miller's autobiography Timebends:
The motel owner woke me one night to tell me I was wanted on the phone. It was after eleven, well past Marilyn’s bedtime while filming. The truck bumped along the sandy path to the phone booth, lit inside only by the greenish glow of the moon. Every star seemed to crowd the sky across the great Western vault. The air seeping in under the door of the booth was cold on my bare ankles. Her voice, always light and breathy, was barely audible. “I can’t do it, I can’t work this way. Oh, Papa, I can’t do it . . .” Jokingly at first, then as a habit, she had been calling me this, but there was no joking here; she was desperate and near weeping. She sounded strangely private, almost as though she were talking to herself, not even bothering with pronouns. “Says I did the scene with vulgarity. What is it, a registered nurse? Can’t stand women, none of them can, they’re afraid of women, the whole gang of them. Vulgar! Supposed to rip off my tail, this thing I have sticking out of my costume in the back, but angrily so it makes a mockery of me so I can react, instead of like just lifting it away I didn’t even know he’d done it. So I said rip it off, be angry with me so I can make it real when I react, but they’re afraid to act nasty because the audience might not approve, you see what I mean? I’m no trained actor, I can’t pretend I’m doing something if I’m not. All I know is real! I can’t do it if it’s not real! And calls me vulgar because I said that! Hates me! Hates me!  
“Supposed to run out into the rodeo and my shoe came off and I could see him start to call cut, but then he saw the crowd laughing and so happy so he let me run back and get my shoe and go on with the scene, but he was ready to cut if I hadn’t of gone on! Because I knew the minute it happened it would be good, and it was, but he doesn’t know!” But all this was overlay, a swollen sea of grief heaved under it, and now she began to sound high and inspired. “I don’t want this, I want to live quietly, I hate it, I don’t want it anymore, I want to live quietly in the country and just be there when you need me. I can’t fight for myself anymore . . .” I asked if her partner, Milton Greene, couldn’t help, and her voice went deeper into secrecy; he was there in the room with some other people. But he was afraid to stand up to Logan for her. As such, her complaints about Logan—which smacked a bit of frantic actor talk—mattered less to me than a new terror I was hearing, an abandoned voice crying out to a deaf sky, and the dead miles between us choked me with frustration; whatever the truth about Logan, her sincerity was unquestionable, for she was dancing on the edge and the drop down was forever. This was the first time she had sounded so unguardedly terrified, and I felt the rush of her trust in me. She had concealed her dependency before, and I saw suddenly that I was all she had. I recalled her telling me months ago that she was putting off signing a contract that Greene and his lawyer had been pressing on her to set up her new company; it gave Greene fifty-one-percent control against her forty-nine. In return for his share he would bring in new recording and film projects that would not require her participation, but so far the new company’s assets consisted only of her and her salary. She had not wanted to dwell on this, had tried to turn from the implicit betrayal, and even now as she reported her disappointment in Greene’s failure to protect her from Logan, she seemed to shy from any open anger with him. For myself, I wished she could trust him; I had had only the minimum necessary interest even in my own business affairs, leaving most of the decisions to lawyers and accountants to keep myself free to work. I hardly knew Greene; it was faith itself I instinctively did not want to see her lose.' 
I kept trying to reassure her, but she seemed to be sinking where I could not reach, her voice growing fainter. I was losing her, she was slipping away out there, and with partner and friends so close by. “Oh, Papa, I can’t make it, I can’t make it!” Her suicide leaped up before me, an act I had never connected with her before. I tried to think of someone I knew in Hollywood who could go and see her, but there was no one, and suddenly I realized I was out of breath, a dizziness screwing into my head, my knees unlocking, and I felt myself sliding to the floor of the booth, the receiver slipping out of my hands. I came to in what was probably a few seconds, her voice still whispering out of the receiver over my head. After a moment I got up and talked her down to earth, and it was over; she would try not to let it get to her tomorrow, just do the job and get on with it. Lights were still revolving behind my eyes. We would marry and start a new and real life once this picture was done. “I don’t want this anymore, Papa, I can’t fight them alone, I want to live with you in the country and be a good wife, and if somebody wants me for a wonderful picture . . .” Yes and yes and yes and it was over, and the healing silence of the desert swept back and covered it all.
It's sad that Monroe was so unhappy during the filming of Bus Stop, one of the best character roles she played was the dance hall girl from West Virginia, Cherie. I don't think it's a coincidence that one of her best characters is played in a film produced by her new company Marilyn Monroe Productions.

But she sounded so unhappy on the phone that Arthur Miller thought she was going to kill herself, which stressed him out so much he fainted in a phone booth.

In this documentary about the making of the movie, George Axelrod (with whom I disagreed so vehemently in his assessment of her character in "Seven Year Itch") claims he didn't give her any long speeches because she couldn't remember them. I should say here that Axelrod made major changes to the play by William Inge, but this movie is better - and much better for Monroe as an actor - than Axelrod's "Seven Year Itch." Although I thought the ending was fairly weak.

The scene with the tail that Monroe was talking about at the beginning of the above excerpt can be seen at minute 10:50 in the documentary.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Object of desire

At least her character had a name in "Let's Make Love"
Recently I forced myself to watch two Marilyn Monroe movies that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like much, and I didn't.

"Let's Make Love" is known for being pretty awful. It focuses on a rich guy played by Yves Montand and he uses his money to coerce Marilyn Monroe's character into spending time with him, most dishonorably by having his flunky buy a majority share of the off-Broadway play she is in. He's just a complete creep. And it's hard to believe that Montand was some kind of movie heartthrob - he looks goofy to me.  As far as I'm concerned the only thing the movie has going for it is this number, "Specialization." You have to give it to Frankie Vaughn for his perfect New York dialect - he's an Englishman.

Monroe, who was in her early 30s by this point and coming off the success of "Some Like It Hot" plays a nothing character, as she complained afterwards. Her role is to be the object of desire for the Montand character.

And it's the same thing in "The Seven Year Itch." Itch was based on a theater sex farce. And, to my surprise, is still being produced on the stage. The movie is very much a play, so much so that the Ewell character gets a whole bunch of expository monologues.

This documentary mentions that Ewell is very average-looking, at best, cast as an "everyman" so the the movie could be a male fantasy. Kind of like what Judd Apatow does in almost all his work, except Apatow and his male critic enablers try to pretend that the attractiveness gap is not at all a male fantasy, just normal and to be expected.

Also according to the documentary, the censors suppressed so much of sexual aspects of the film that the only thing that saved it was Monroe's presence. Causing the author of the play and co-author of the screenplay, George Axelrod to complain:
She unbalanced the whole picture because it's essentially the guy's story. It's really about the man, but it became about Marilyn Monroe.
This is complete bullshit. The movie is completely about Ewell's character and never veers from his point of view. Monroe's character is never anything but a fantasy object of desire.  Her character doesn't even get a name - she's just "the girl."

Pretty much in every movie Monroe made, her job with to be the object of a man's desire. No wonder she was so fed up.

One of the things I want to do with my NORMA JEANE play is to make it completely about her, and her point of view. And she's going to get all the monologues.

(Fun fact - you can see photos like these for pretty much every Monroe movie just by Googling "Monroe costume test."