Thursday, June 30, 2016

Christopher Hitchens has gone down in history as the man who said women aren't funny - JUST LIKE I PREDICTED!

My daughter made me watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when I was at her house the other day and so now I'm binge-watching the series. It's definitely a mixed bag - sometimes it's laugh out loud funny especially for its randomness - when it isn't trying too hard to be random - but sometimes it makes me cringe. It can be gross and I hate the dumb-guy humor of Kimmy's stepfather.  I certainly didn't immediately adore the show as I did when my daughter introduced me to Orphan Black. But I'd still recommend it.

The show is at its best is when it is mocking New York's ultra-rich, especially women who marry old rich men - and to my chagrin you do see far more attractive women/gross old men couples on the Upper West Side than any other place I've lived. So it hits home - and speaking of home, I recognized my neighborhood, including Summit Rock in several scenes in the show.

I also know two actors who had bit parts in the series. Plus I once personally spoke directly to Richard Kind ("Hey there. The playwright whose play you are performing in - he's my Facebook friend.") who played Kimmy's GED teacher in one episode.

I started Googling to find out more about the show and the actor who plays Kimmy, and I was thrilled to discover that she, Ellie Kemper, is not just an actor but a talented comedian (no, I will not use the uselessly gendered term "comedienne" any more than I'll use the term actress) and not just that - in a Ted Talk she makes a direct reference to Christopher Hitchen's infamous Vanity Fair article. Here it is.

This was recorded before she was cast as Kimmy - her on-stage persona is not all that far from the character.

But the best thing about this is that she mentions writing a response to the Hitchens piece in GQ - but it's not just a response, it's a full-on, pitch perfect parody of Hitchens piece and evolutionary psychology. Kudos to you Ellie Kemper. Here it is - read it.

And of course I predicted, five years ago, that Hitchens would go down in history as the guy who said women aren't funny.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Featherwood and the idiocy of the Far Left

The contemptible Liza Featherstone is claiming she will vote for the new Ralph Nader, Jill Stein of the Green Party, because she's "afraid" of a Clinton presidency.

What kind of exquisite lives do people on the Far Left live that they can claim we shouldn't vote for the "lesser of two evils"?

Putting aside the fact that Clinton is not "evil" - in my experience life itself is a constant selecting of the lesser of evils - do I want to work at a job I hate, or do I want to be homeless? Do I want to go into debt to get a college education or do I want to be even more limited in my employment options? Do I want to deny myself ice cream or do I want to work out longer?

If people on the Far Left do NOT live exquisite lives but instead must constantly choose between the lesser of evils like most everybody outside the Koch brothers (Featherstone's husband Henwood is far more generous towards the Kochs than he is towards feminists), why would they think politics would be any different from the rest of life?

There are no perfect socialist saviors that the Far Left craves. Politics will always be about choosing between two fallible human beings with whom we do NOT agree 100%. And in the present case, it's so obvious to any but extremists and the delusional that Donald Trump is one of the worst possible people who could ever be elected to the presidency and even if you don't like Clinton you have to admit that she is not in the same league of "evil" as Donald Trump.

Really what is WRONG with people that they can't see how stupid it is to enable a Trump presidency in any way - including voting for Jill Stein?

Of course Featherwood do live lives of privilege in Brooklyn, and it's doubtful that they would suffer at all under a Trump presidency. They come from money apparently, and they make a living expressing their barely qualified opinions, mostly attacks on liberals. That does sound like a really sweet life, although you have to wonder what idiots would pay for such useless opinions.

I do have to laugh at Featherstone being described as a feminist since she came right out and said she wants to destroy "neoliberal feminism" aka real feminism, which is about women's lives. She and her husband prefer the kind of feminism that puts socialism first before women' lives.

They are truly contemptible misogynists and I will not re-subscribe to The Nation as long as clowns like that are getting paid to attack women for the sake of brocialism and the delusion that life is not virtually always about the lesser of evils.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Norma Jeane at the Venus/Adonis Festival

It looks like NORMA JEANE AT THE PAYNE WHITNEY PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC will have its world premiere at the Venus and Adonis Festival in January 2017. Stay tuned for details.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Saturday, June 25, 2016

More Shakespeare in Central Park

Titania and her fairies exit, stage left.
The fairies, left to right, are Moth, Mustardseed, Cobweb and Peaseblossom

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM is Shakespeare's best comedy, and I'm saying that as someone who came to Shakespeare via AS YOU LIKE IT and have honored MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING as the original romantic comedy. But MIDSUMMER is just about perfect and especially for outdoor productions. Although it doesn't have to be performed in a park to work, one of the best versions of MIDSUMMER that I saw was on the Philadelphia waterfront.

I saw New York Classical Theatre's production Friday night on the north-west section of Central Park, right near The Great Hill, which I finally got to see. It was a pretty good hill. I don't know about great. Although I got a good photo out of it.

Flying a kite on the Great Hill

I didn't stay for the entire show, partly because they didn't have one single staging area but instead kept the audience hopping about every twenty minutes from one location to another and I got tired of it. I really didn't see any good reason for it, and it was quite a large audience so it was a mass exodus every time.

Also I wasn't crazy about how manly this production was. Usually the Fairy Queen's attendants (Moth, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Cobweb) are played by women, but in this production some of the guys who played the "rude mechanicals" (Bottom, Snout etc.) doubled as the fairy attendants, although they were more like a pack of irritable, semi-sane homeless men. But it wasn't bad, just different. But what that choice meant was that there were only three female actors in this production. I understand that doubling is cheaper, and these actors were (hopefully) getting paid. But still. The first production of MIDSUMMER I saw had a women playing Puck, which they could have done here, just to be fair with the gender switch-up on the fairies. Although Matt Mundy was excellent as Puck. Pretty much every Puck in a given MIDSUMMER production will be one of the best actors in the show. I'm not sure why that is, but that's been my experience. The interactions between Oberon and Puck are often the highlights of the show, and this production had a neat trick of having Puck from far away "throw" the purple flower to Oberon, who through sleight-of-hand appeared to suddenly have the flower. Very well done.

This production was very musical - the fairy folk sang their lines quite a bit. Which worked OK, I didn't mind that. It was a nice variation.

I was prepared to go with the flow, but then somebody got in my face to tell me I couldn't take pictures. Presumably because this is an Actors Equity production but he didn't bother to tell me that and how could he expect me to know the rules of the AEA? And there was nothing in their web site's "planning your visit" page nor their program that said no photos allowed, and unless you had a program (which I didn't until I asked for one from no-photos-please guy) or know something about the theater company (which I didn't) how would you know this was an Equity production, even if you knew about Equity rules in the first place?

And in any case the rules of the AEA are idiotic when it comes to outdoor productions. This production was in the middle of a public park and not only did it have no clearly-delineated staging area but the staging area itself kept changing. And you could easily take a photo from a little ways off. I have to wonder how far the production stormtroopers were prepared to go. Do they look out for everybody within eyesight who might be taking a photo of the production? And how do they know the offender isn't actually taking a selfie?

You can see in the photo below just how vast the space (at least for one 20-minute segment) was where they were performing.

Oberon and Puck on the tax-payer-funded green

The problem is that the rules against video and photography set down by Actors Equity are from the distant past when taking a photo or video footage was a major undertaking. From a time before everybody had high-quality imaging equipment in their pocket at all times. I mean, so what if somebody takes a picture? It's a freaking FREE production anyway, so they aren't losing anything by someone publicizing their production by (ahem) posting pictures on their blog. It just does not make sense anymore to have such prohibitions and especially for a free outdoor performance in a tax-payer funded park. That's right - I paid for their venue through my taxes, it's appalling that they would begrudge me a few photos.

In any case, I love the top photo on this blog post, taken just as the fairy folk were coming off the "stage."

MIDSUMMER is so popular it's on the verge of over-exposure. I have an idea to write a play about two theater companies who happen to get permission to produce MIDSUMMER in a local park in adjoining locations at the same exact days and times. I think it could be very popular - as a change of pace from yet another production of MIDSUMMER and also, because many people don't understand what is being said much of the time, even for this play. I overheard a woman say she only understood about 70% of what was being said, and this was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where people pride themselves on their cultural sophistication.

I don't know if I'll call it DUELING MIDSUMMERS or A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S RIOT or what. Not that I should really be planning yet another play which who-knows-when I'll get around to writing. I finally finished a first draft of the latest incarnation of my Marilyn Monroe play, which will probably have a production in the Venus and Adonis festival this winter, but I still have to re-write my Ayn Rand-haunted play DARK MARKET, plus rewrite a play listed in my Doollee entry as THE BENEFICENT POWER OF REVENGE but which I will probably change to FLOWERS FOR MOM. I have to re-write it partly because I can't find a single copy of the script on my computer and may have lost it completely in a hard drive crash; and partly because I have new ideas and it will ultimately be a better play.

And then there's the play inspired by my mom's senior residence plus transvestite (CHESTNUT STATION); PALMYRA NJ based on my adventures with early motherhood and the radical chic; and 12 ANGRY JURORS FROM QUEENS. So five plays I'm trying to finish simultaneously. Do I really need to put one more in the queue? Sigh. I guess I have to.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The North Woods

No that is not a woodland sprite on the upper-left side of this photo,
it's a girl looking at her iPhone
After I stopped by the Harlem Meer in Central Park on my epic journey on Tuesday (to be honest I was trying to meet my Fitbit daily 12,000 step goal) I headed over to the North Wood, which I have to say, was kind of spooky at 8:15 in the evening, although there were still plenty of people everywhere. But I had never been to the North Woods before and it was pretty charming with bridges/arches and waterfalls and lots of trees.

I will have to go running in there one of these days. I'll have to take this map with me next time.

It seemed much darker when I was there - those iPhones
do have very good automatic lighting adjustment
I didn't get to visit The Great Hill but want to soon, I want to see what's so great about it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Not 2B

After I was kicked out of the Conservatory Garden (it was closing time, I wasn't unruly) on Tuesday I headed north to see the Harlem Meer. When I was apartment hunting I was taken by the agent to the octagonal building on the far right of the photo below. I was taken here after I had tried to get an apartment on the Upper West Side and it didn't pan out. So I was depressed and this building,  compared to the charming one I saw on 92nd Street near Central Park West seemed so cold and industrial - it didn't help that I saw it at night in early February and it was freezing. Although it looks pretty nice now in the early summer dusk.

The apartment I saw was way up near the top and the big windows didn't even have screens in them - you just slid the window open and the cold night came right in. And the only thing I could think of was how easy it would be to jump right out the window.

Fortunately my current apartment was available and it turned out my apartment number is 2B - I took that as a good omen, since if I had moved into the octagonal building on Central Park North I feel like I would have been not to be.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Conservatory garden at dusk

The English garden

The Italian garden

The French garden


I don't think I've ever been to the Conservatory Garden in Central Park at dusk - certainly not at 7:45PM like I was on Tuesday, because I didn't realize the park ranger lady started to walk around in the Garden kicking people out at that time. Luckily I got there soon enough to get some photos.

I'm always surprised to discover New Yorkers who don't even know this place exists. It's amazingly beautiful. I've blogged about it before, in March of this year, and in 2012.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

As you like it across the street

I had been toying with the idea, a couple of months ago,  of doing a theater production on Summit Rock. So I was especially interested in seeing the Barefoot Shakespeare production of AS YOU LIKE IT performed there for the past few days.

That, and As You Like It is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. It's so good, but the ending is kind of bad, which is a shame. Although I have to say, although I'm not especially fond of the deus ex machina ending with the Greek god Hymen coming in to match up four couples, I didn't like what BS did either, which was to have the guy who played Adam - the old servant of Orlando - act as a sort of Hymen's representative. But I guess they had only so many actors to do the doubling up and that's why he got the gig.

I thought the actor who played Jacques and the actor who played Rosalyn were especially good, but there was a general all-around high quality to the cast and their musical interludes were quite good. Also their Charles the wrestle was much more exciting than any version I've ever seen.

And they made very good use of the space, which was a perfect setting for AS YOU LIKE IT. That play is almost as well-suited for Shakespeare in the park (actual park, not the Delacort Theater) as A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lady Aberlin is my neighbor

 I became Betty Aberlin's Facebook friend in January 2015. I occasionally befriend celebrities - at least celebrities to me, not necessarily known to most people. I'm also Facebook friends with Dar Williams (singer/songwriter), Katha Pollitt (essayist/poet, columnist at The Nation), Joe Conason (political writer), and Larry Wilmore - I befriended Wilmore in March 2009, when he was just an occasional guest on The Daily Show, he's much more famous now. I tried to befriend Paul Krugman but so far no luck. I don't think he's a big FB user. I do follow him on Twitter though.

Betty Aberlin is probably known to more Americans than any of my other celebrity friends because she appeared on Mr. Rogers' neighborhood in the dual role of herself, in the Neighborhood, and as "Lady Aberlin" in the "Neighborhood of Make-believe" in which she played a member of the nobility in that hereditary monarchy ruled by the insufferable, authoritarian King Friday the Thirteenth.  Here he is in action - you are expected to say "correct as usual King Friday" when he addresses you by name. This is an early episode - early 70s is my guess - and check out Fred Rogers sideburns! He's actually kinda hot here. I never thought I'd say that about Mr. Rogers.

Anyway so I posted a video of a kind man helping a turtle that got a plastic bag stuck around its neck. Lots of people like the video, including Betty Aberlin. It really is a nice video. But I never expected she would be following me on Facebook and respond to one of my posts. I befriended so many Hillary Clinton supporters in the past couple of months that almost the only friend posts I see now are about the election.

The video can be seen here on Facebook.

I looked Aberlin up on Wikipedia and was surprised to find she's been in several movies. She plays a nun in Kevin Smith's "Dogma."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday in the Park with Nome

Doing yoga.

In Long Island City.

The Nomester 

Random yogis - that #@&!! dock was splintery

Namaste NYC

Friday, June 17, 2016

Colbert's homage to Jon Stewart

On June 14, Stephen Colbert did a bit about Donald Trump that recalled Jon Stewart's immortal parody of Glenn Beck.

 Jon Stewart's parody: 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The gift of life that we received, is quite a mystery;

Poets of Pennsauken
My mother is an award-winning poet and not for the first time. The people at the Pennsauken library are fans of her work, and this is at least the second time she's won in the adult division of the Pennsauken library's annual poetry contest.

Her 2016 award-winner begins:
The gift of life that we received, is quite a mystery;

The years we have remain unknown, whatever they may be.

My mother favors the AABB rhyme scheme in iambic heptameter. This is known as a Fourteener - a fact I discovered by Googling "iambic heptameter."
A Fourteener, in poetry, is a line consisting of 14 syllables, which are usually made of 7 iambic feet for which the style is also called iambic heptameter. It is most commonly found in English poetry produced in the 16th and 17th centuries. Fourteeners often appear as rhymed couplets, in which case they may be seen as ballad stanza or common metre hymn quatrains in two rather than four lines.
The term may also be used as a synonym for quatorzain, a 14-line poem, such as a sonnet.

I'm certain my mother isn't aware of this terminology either - she has no interest in the formal rules of poetry, she picks a theme and lets 'er rip - I don't think she edits her first draft either. Whatever comes out of her head on the first try, that's the poem. 

I came to poetry because I was interested in following the rules of a particular style of poetry, the Shakespearean sonnet. And I would usually do three or four drafts until I was happy with it.

Also I'm pretty sure my mother has never written a poem about the psycho-social implications of penile tumescence. Although you can see in my sonnet Amoureuse that I sometimes break the iambic rhyme scheme and even the meter - although I see now what a pointless affectation it was to use "blood-engorgéd" instead of just "blood-engorged" since it added an extra syllable which broke the iambic pentameter for no good reason.

I don't only write about male genitalia though, my first poem ever is about lady bits, inspired by Shakespeare's sonnet 151. I think it holds up pretty well, although only I can appreciate some of it - I had once visited the home of my unrequited love, which was in Oyster Bay, and I got both "oyster" and "bay" into the sonnet. And I used oyster as a metaphor for lady bits. The reference to "ill-starred forecastle" is about an injury to my love's head which he never mentioned but was clear to me when I zoomed in once to Photoshop his headshot for a theater production. I did think I was fiendishly clever in my reference to "Grafenberg the place" - this was a reference to the "G spot" which may or may not exist. My unrequited love's first name began with a G.

I'm not wild about the alliteration of "bottom of the bay" now though. And "quite insane" is hackneyed. I do enjoy the extended shipwreck metaphor though. Water-related imagery always works for me.

My hopes drown on the bottom of the bay.  
Brooding, I lie alone on a stark shore.  
Beaten down by the predictable fray,  
Prostrated I will never see you more.  
I blame myself for my poor judgement. How  
I dismissed any bad weather report;  
The ill-starred forecastle of your port bow;  
Your inability to find a port. 
 But still the white-foam-spraying dreams remain,  
Sweating a sad tormented yearning girl.  
Admitting that I may be quite insane  
Again I search the oyster for the pearl.  
No longer Gräfenberg the place will be -  
The letter will forever stand for thee.

It's hard to believe how obsessed I was with the man at that time. Eight years later, I rarely think of him at all. Which is some comfort to me as I suffer for other unrequited love, which is pretty much the only kind I've had for the past ten years. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Doug Henwood hates feminists more than the Koch brothers

UPDATE 3/10/2017: HELLO Twitter followers of Doug Henwood.

No doubt Henwood is talking shit about me, that's how he deals with non-compliant women - first he blocks them, then he talks shit about them with his equally cowardly shitty brocialist friends. I encountered this behavior from my very first run-in with Henwood, on Facebook. Before I even knew he was the king of the brocialists.

 He really got angry when I shared on Twitter his connection to the Liscio Report. Shameless hypocrites hate it when you present evidence for their shameless hypocrisy.

Henwood likes to call good people like Krugman and Steinem "elites" and attacks feminists as "bourgeois" but apparently he considers people who subscribe to the Liscio Report to be salt of the earth members of the proletariat.

(back to original blog post)

According to this blog:
Doug Henwood on Facebook 
In the last 10 minutes, courtesy of Facebook pals, I learned that the Koch Bros. are responsible for school segregation and the John Birch Society. Really, people, there are a lot of reactionaries, many of them with money, in this country. If only it were just two bad dudes.What bothers me is this single-minded obsession that’s taken over a bunch of the left. Their kind of politics has a long history in the U.S.
Well that's so sweet that self-declared Marxist Doug Henwood has decided to defend the Koch brothers against his Facebook pals.

Henwood is uncomfortable with targeting the Koch brothers:
Which is the more serious problem with that chain of reasoning? That corporations are people, or that money is a form of speech? I’m uncomfortable with the urge to treat the Koch brothers as the focus of evil in the modern world, to steal a phrase from Ronald Reagan, but they could spend tons of their personal money spreading their poison and the issue of corporate personhood wouldn’t figure at all. Rich people have a long history in this country of buying elections and politicians. They didn’t, and still don’t, need the dodge of corporate personhood to do that nasty work.

I found this very interesting - Henwood apparently doesn't have a real problem with Citizens United, but instead expresses what sounds like a parody of leftist thought, and notice how he seems to be defending the Kochs again by the ironic phrase "the Koch brothers, everyone's favorite emissaries of Satan":
The Citizens United decision means that corporations can spend money as freely as they want, without restrictions, if money is a form of speech and corporations are legally the same as individual persons. The problem with that to me is not so much that corporations have the same rights as people do, but that people have the right to spend as much money as they do and that's considered expressing their freedom of speech. That seems to be the problem. You could have the Koch brothers, everyone's favorite emissaries of Satan, free to spend their personal billions as they like to pursue their nasty agenda -- that seems to be the problem to me, not the corporate personhood.
I find it fascinating that Doug Henwood doesn't seem to have any criticisms of the Koch brothers on his blog but he hates Hillary Clinton with the fire of a thousand suns, and also is much more critical of Barbara Boxer and Gloria Steinem than the Koch brothers.

Here's Henwood apparently deliberately conflating climate change denial with promoting an energy source that not even Greenpeace is sure is worse than coal for promoting climate change. But it apparently offered Henwood a chance to defend the Kochs (and Republicans) while attacking Clinton.

And of course Henwood's wife Liza Featherstone seems to have a very comfortable relationship with the Koch brothers-funded Reason magazine.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts & prayers

An excellent piece by John Scalzi.

A man goes into an immigration services center in Binghamton New York, blocks the exit in the back with his car, goes through the front door with handguns, body armor and ammunition. He shoots the receptionists and opens fire on a citizenship class. He murders thirteen. This is horrific. I offer my thoughts and prayers. 
A psychiatrist trained to help others with the stress of combat goes to Ft. Hood, the army base at which he is stationed, and opens fire on his fellow soldiers and some civilians, too. Another thirteen people are murdered there. Three are killed charging the shooter. Words cannot express my sorrow. I offer my thoughts and prayers. 
A professor is denied tenure at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. She goes to a department faculty meeting and in that conference room pulls out a nine-millimeter handgun and shoots six people, three of whom she manages to murder. Those people were just doing their jobs and what happened to them is terrible. I don’t want to have to think about it any further. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Making of Amadeus

I've been thinking of Amadeus since Peter Shaffer died last week and came upon this documentary of the making of Amadeus. It's pretty good, from 2002, made 20 years after the film. It has interviews with the actors who played Mozart, Salieri, Constanze, Mozart's wife, and a couple of the minor characters, although I was sorry they didn't include interviews with Christine Ebersole who played Salieri's student (and crush) Katarina Cavalieri, Simon Callow, who played Schikeneder or Cynthia Nixon, probably one of the biggest stars post-movie, who played Mozart's maid. They did include Twyla Tharp and Jeffery Jones (the Emperor) before he was a registered sex offender.

I had heard that Elizabeth Berridge, who I thought was great as Constanze (and director Milos Forman agreed) and who unfortunately hasn't had much big profile film work since the movie, had been cast because Meg Tilly was injured; and that it came down to one other actor and Berridge in the running as replacements and Berridge got the role because the other actor was "too pretty" - what I didn't know was that they gave the reason directly to Berridge herself. She talks about it in minute 32 of the documentary. She also hates marzipan.

I had also heard Tom Hulce had actually played for real in the scene where Mozart is forced to play a piece upside down and backwards.

They make a big deal about how Tom Hulce is not a leading man, but really, he is a very cute man, even cuter with the longish blond hair in the role. He put on quite a bit of weight in the twenty years post-Amadeus. F. Murray Abraham, in contrast, actually looked better in the documentary than he had in the movie twenty years before.

Another really interesting piece from the documentary is the creation of the death-bed/Requiem scene - apparently quite a bit of it was improvised by Hulce and Abraham.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

RIP Peter Shaffer

I just heard that Peter Shaffer died this week.
Peter Shaffer, a leading British playwright whose Tony-winning dramas “Equus” and “Amadeus” explored the male psyche through the entwined anguish of dual protagonists, died on Monday in County Cork, Ireland. He was 90.
His agent, Rupert Lord, confirmed the death. “Sir Peter had traveled to Ireland to celebrate his 90th birthday with close friends and relations,” Mr. Lord said in an email. Mr. Shaffer turned 90 on May 15. Mr. Shaffer, who lived in Manhattan for more than 40 years, died in a hospice in Curraheen, a district outside Cork City.
Valued by critics and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Shaffer (pronounced SHAFF-er) saw his reputation amplified by well-received movie renderings of his plays. He won an Academy Award for his film adaptation of “Amadeus,” about the rivalry between Antonio Salieri, the court composer for the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the precocious composer whose magnificent gifts thrill the older man and fill him with malicious jealousy as he realizes his own consignment to mediocrity.
I'm a huge fan of the movie Amadeus - Shaffer co-wrote the screenplay based on his play. I saw the play too - an ex-boyfriend who always went top drawer in everything took me to see it, and we were in the front row and Mozart's sweat flew all over us.

But more than that, I think the structure and emphases of the movie - the original movie not the director's cut - is just better than the play.

One of the great scenes from the movie.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Lost photos?

New York Mag claims to have "lost photos" of Marilyn Monroe, but I thought most of the photos in their slide show looked pretty familiar - or at the very least, not much different from other photos I'd seen of Monroe. But this one with the record player is definitely new to me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Hillary Clinton Claims the Democratic Nomination

Reaching for history as she became the first woman to win a major party’s nomination, Mrs. Clinton pledged to build on the achievements of pioneers like the 19th-century leaders at Seneca Falls, N.Y., who began the movement for women’s rights in America.
“Tonight caps an amazing journey — a long, long journey,” Mrs. Clinton said, nearly a century after women won the right to vote nationwide. “We all owe so much to those who came before, and tonight belongs to all of you.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Open letter to Sady Doyle

Really? You're going to block me on Twitter because I said Mohammed Ali wasn't perfect, and deliberately adopted an arrogant persona as a statement against the bigotry of the time? And because I took exception to the standard identitarian practice of scapegoating white women - most often white women who are feminists?

BTW - I said very complimentary things about Mohammed Ali a year ago.

But of course identitarians aren't interested in getting to know anything about the people they smear.

I was smeared five years ago as a "racist" by that bully Mikki Kendall (see Michelle Goldberg's piece in The Nation on what an ass she is) because I argued with friends of hers on Facebook who claimed John Lennon and Yoko Ono were racists. In spite of the fact that anybody who reads my blog can see I'm on record as being an ANTI-racist for the past 10 years - and Jamelle Bouie even cited my blog as evidence against Razib Khan during the NYTimes controversy.

As far as I can tell, Kendall thinks I deserve to be falsely smeared as a racist because I was impolite when I was arguing with her and her friends. That was my first taste of the absolute conscience-free approach to public discourse of identitarians.

It's only a matter of time until identitarians turn on you because attacking people on the basis of their gender/ethnicity is what they do. Because identitarians are fundamentally bigots, who don't give a shit about the content of a person's character, ONLY the color of their skin.

And Jesus after all the nice things I said about you and defended you against that asshole Doug Henwood?
Don't you think the groupthink and absurd smearing that the brocialists engage in is exactly what identitarians do? How could you fail to see the similarities in the mob rule mindset?

Fun fact: my first awareness of Doug Henwood was on Facebook arguing with him calling a feminist organization "bourgeois" - his response was to attempt to smear me with the Mikki Kendall lie - proving that brocialists and identitarians are EXACTLY alike when it comes to smearing people, without the slightest ethical qualm.

You're a brilliant writer. As a judge of character, not so much.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Thoughtful discussion of abortion

I quoted a Variety review of the anti-abortion play GIRLS IN TROUBLE a few days ago and the review opined it was a shame the play was hobbled by right-wing potshots against unrelated issues, for it might have provided a "thoughtful discussion of abortion."

But there's really not much to discuss about abortion. Here's how it breaks down:

I. You think abortion at any stage in the pregnancy kills a human being.

II. You think abortion doesn't kill a human being.

  • At least up to the point of viability.
  • Or a different point in the pregnancy.

And that's about it. Now of course plenty of people who oppose abortion don't support murder charges against those who have an abortion, which indicates that even some people who claim to think abortion is murder don't really think it is murder.

And there's the hypocrisy of GIRLS author Reynolds view on the issue of the taking of human life, since not only does he support the death penalty, he apparently thinks anybody who doesn't support the death penalty is an idiot.

I used to ask anti-abortion protesters at the women's clinic in Cherry Hill NJ if they were pacifists. And I don't recall a single one ever claiming to be a pacifist. They're all fine with taking a human life when it's beneficial to themselves in a war. An actual, born human, not an embryo.

Now in the case of most wars, the combatants' commanders don't want to wipe out the entire enemy population, they just want to be in charge. So if you consider preserving human life the most important thing of all, then you would rather surrender to the enemy than kill the enemy. But the devout anti-abortion activists would rather kill the enemy. Because preserving human life is not really their most important value, unless it comes to forcing women to bring unwanted pregnancies to term. Which of course is no trouble at all for the anti-abortion crowd, they won't have to deal with the complications associated with that. And instead, by harassing people and acting holy, the anti-abortion people believe they are buying themselves eternal life in heaven, which is a pretty good deal.

The only real issue, it appears to me, is determining at what point in the pregnancy it's OK to terminate. I doubt many people would agree that it's acceptable to terminate a pregnancy at eight and a half months. And in fact abortions rarely happen after the first trimester.

But the anti-abortion protesters, especially the Catholics are not only opposed to abortion at any point after the sperm fertilizes the ovum - which doesn't guarantee a baby since the ovum must also implant in the uterus after fertilization, so many women who thought they were just menstruating were in fact "miscarrying" a fertilized but unimplanted ovum, they are against all forms of birth control, except the bullshit "rhythm method."

They are against it enough to go to court about it. Which tells you that the Catholic church doesn't care about human life either - its motivation in opposing abortion is to try to hang onto its control over women's lives. And if they can't get women to obey by threats of hellfire and damnation they will do it through the US court system.

Which is why the Catholic Church needs to be opposed at all times. And especially needs to start paying taxes since it is nothing if not a political organization.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The hottest thing in pictures

The hottest thing in pictures cooling off.
Not all of Monroe's autobiography "My Story" is as grim as the Mr. Kimmel story. Although she does emphasize all the difficult times she had in her climb to stardom. But I thought the story of her road tour to promote the movie "Love Happy" was pretty amusing:

On the way to New York I made plans of all the things I would see. 
My lover had always said, one of the reasons you have nothing to talk about is you've never been anywhere or seen anything.  
I was going to remedy that. 
When the train stopped in New York I could hardly breathe, it was so hot. It was hotter than I had ever known it to be in Hollywood. The woolen suit made me feel as if I was wearing an oven. 
Mr. Cowan's press agent, who was supervising my exploitation trip, rose to the situation. 
"We must make capital out of what we have, " he explained. So he arranged for me to pose on the train steps with perspiration running down my face and an ice cream code in each hand. 
The caption for the pictures read: "Marilyn Moroe, the hottest thing in pictures, cooling off." 
That "cooling off" idea because sort of the basis for my exploitation work. 
A half hour after arriving in New York I was led into an elegant suite in the Sherry-Netherland Hotal and told to put on a bathing suit. 
More photographers arrived and took more pictures of me "cooling off." 
I spent several days in New York looking at the walls of my elegant suite and the little figures of people fifteen stories below. All sorts of people came to interview me,  not only newspapers and magazine reporters by exhibitors and other exploitation people from United Artists. 
I asked questions about the Statue of Liberty and what were the best shows to see and the most glamorous cafes to goto. But I saw nothing and went nowhere. 
Finally I got so tired of sitting around perspiring in one of my three woolen suites, that I complained. 
"It seems to me," I said to the United Artists' representatives who were having dinner with me in my suite,  "that I ought to have something more attractive to wear in the evening." 
The agreed and bought me a cotton dress at a wholesale shop. It had a low-cut neck and blue polka dots. They explained, also, that cotton was much more chic in the big cities than silk. I did like the red velvet belt that came with it. 
The next stop was Detrait, and then Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford. It was the same story in each of them. I was taken to a hotel, rushed into a bathing suit, given a fan and photographers arrived. The hottest thing in pictures was cooling off again.
In Rockford I decided that I had seen enough of the world. Also, due to my moving around continually and to the confusion this seemed to arouse in Mr. Cowan's bookkeeping department, I had not received any salary whatsoever. The salary, it was explained to me, would be waiting for me at the next stop. As a result I didn't have fifty cents to spend on myself during my grand tour.
After sitting in the lobby of the Rockford movie theater, "keeping cool" in a bathing suit and handing out orchids to "my favorite male moviegoers" I told the press agent that I would like to return to Hollywood. 
The tour, in a way, was a failure. When I got back I didn't seem to have any more to talk about than before. And absence didn't seem to have made my friend's heart grow any fonder.
They thoughtlessly didn't pay Monroe while she was on the tour so she couldn't afford to do anything besides work for them. And she wasn't used to standing up for herself, just took whatever came along. She must have been really fed up by Rockford to get up the nerve to ask to go home.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

My Story

I'm glad I waited until this long to have a look at Marilyn Monroe's autobiography "My Story" written with Ben Hecht, who wrote the play THE FRONT PAGE which was then turned into one of the best romantic comedies of all time "His Girl Friday" (usually characterized as a screwball comedy.) I'm glad I waited because with all the research I've done for almost two years now, I have a good sense of what is true and what isn't when it comes to stories of Monroe's life.

It's less easy to tell how much the words are direct quotes from Monroe and how much they are Hecht's - and how many liberties Hecht took with the truth. One thing that struck me right away is that Monroe's legal guardian Grace McKee is often confused or combined with Monroe's favorite person in the world Ana Lower. Lower is actually mentioned in the book, but she's called Aunt Anna - an extra n.

There are some scenes in the book that other sources said were Ana, but My Story turns her into Grace. For example the recounting of waiting in line to buy stale bread.

But even more so in the section where Monroe tells "Aunt Grace" about her new movie role:
Aunt Grace beamed and went to the stove for coffee.  
"The people are all wonderful," I said, "and I'm going to be in a movie. It'll be a small part. But once I'm on the screen -" 
I stopped and looked at Aunt Grace. She was still smiling at me. But she was standing still. Her face was pale, and she looked tired - as if life was something too heavy to carry much further.  
I put my arms around her and helped her to the table.
"I'm all right," she said. "The coffee will fix me up fine."
"It'll be different now for all of us," I said. "I'll work hard."
I have no doubt that this was actually Ana Lower described here. She died right after Monroe got work in her first movies. The description sounds very much like someone with a heart condition - Monroe's "Aunt" Grace was an alcoholic by this time and died by suicide in 1953, when Monroe was achieving stardom. Not only a heart condition though - Ana Lower was a Christian Scientist and eschewing medication for coffee sounds exactly like what a Christian Scientist would say.

My Story,  published posthumously, is really forthright about things that weren't spoken of in Monroe's day. She gives the entire story of her molestation  when she was eight years old, and even names the guy, "Mr. Kimmel." The best part of all is the portrayal of Kimmel as a grotesque, shameless hypocrite:

When he unlocked the door and let me out, I ran to tell my "aunt" what Mr. Kimmel had done. 
I want to tell you something," I stammered, "about Mr. Kimmel. He - he -" 
My aunt interrupted. 
Don't you dare say anything against Mr. Kimmel," she said angrily, "Mr. Kimmel's a fine man. He's my star boarder!"
Mr. Kimmel came out of his room and stood in the doorway, smiling.
"Shame on you!" my "aunt" glared at me, "complaining about people!" 
"This is different," I began, "this is something I have to tell. Mr. Kimmel -" 
I started stammering again and couldn't finish. Mr. Kimmel came up to me and handed me a nickel. 
"Go buy yourself some ice cream," he said. 
I threw the nickel in Mr. Kimmel's face and ran out. 
I cried in bed that night and wanted to die. I thought, "If there's nobody ever on my side that I can talk to I'll start screaming." But I didn't scream. 
A week later the family including Mr. Kimmel went to a religious revival meeting in a tent. My "aunt" insisted I come along. 
The tent was jammed. Everybody was listening to the evangelist. He was half singing and half talking about the sinfulness of the world. Suddenly he called on all the runners in the tent to come up tot he alter of God where he stood - and repent. 
I rushed up ahead of everyone else and started telling about my "sin." 
"On your knees, sister," he said to me. 
I fell on my knees and began to tell about Mr. Kimmel and how he had molested me in his room. But other "sinners" crowded around me. They also fell on their knees and started wailing about their sings and drowned me out. 
I looked back and saw Mr. Kimmel standing among the nonsinners, praying loudly and devoutly for God to forgive the sins of others.

Wow. I assume Hecht shaped the telling of this but it's all Monroe's story. And that ending is really something.

Friday, June 03, 2016

What is a straw man?

Sander Gusinow has responded to my response to his piece in TDF "Are Liberal Politics Hurting Theatre?" by asking me to respond on the TDF site so we could debate. Apparently he didn't check the comments below the article before making that request since I had responded on the TDF site back in April.

The TDF comments text boxes only allow for 400 characters, which makes it barely better than Twitter for engaging in meaningful debate. But I responded to Gusinow's response yesterday to my April comment. My latest comment isn't currently visible, I assume because TDF has to moderate it first. In any case, I didn't address Gusinow's unconventional use of the term "straw-man" in the TDF comment, but I will here.

a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily confuted
How my comment was a "straw-man" argument by this definition I cannot say. I wrote:
Good" of course is subjective - but what reviews make clear is that the play was over-the top and strident. "The gruesome conclusion, which takes the discussion about control of one’s body to a literal extreme, will polarize..."
My argument was obviously a direct response to Gusinow's own argument. I guess I could have said "contrary to your claim that the play was passed on for political reasons I think it was passed on for stylistic reasons" but I didn't expect I would have to be so explicit to be understood. In any case, even if my point wasn't clear, a statement like: "the play was over-the-top and strident" is hardly sufficient material with which to fabricate a straw man, even if that's what I was going for.

As I said in my latest comment on TDF which will hopefully be posted soon, Gusinow has provided no evidence at all to support his claim that producers had passed over GIRLS IN TROUBLE for its political point of view. 

Because consider this: no play produced by a well-known New York City theater company has, to my knowledge, produced a strident, over-the-top PRO-abortion play. Or really, any play with the main theme being pro-abortion. So if Gusinow is correct and the producers were calculating that their audience is mostly pro-abortion, why have we not seen a strident, over-the-top pro-choice play to balance the anti-abortion message of GIRLS IN TROUBLE? 

Gusinow claims that GIRLS is a good play - I haven't seen it, but the reviews make it sound seriously flawed. Jason Zinoman in the NYTimes writes:
The drama’s red-hot center is the shocking last act, an articulate debate in an Upper West Side kitchen between an anti-abortion activist, Cynthia (Ms. Booth), and the pregnant host of a cooking show on NPR, Amanda (Laurel Holland). This scene is dramatically clunky, features some truly strange dramatic choices (did Mr. Reynolds really need the nudity?) and an off-key performance by Marshall York as Amanda’s husband. Yet the two superb lead performers put flesh on what are essentially dueling essays.
And the Variety review gives us some insight into Reynolds' obnoxious personality as well:
But subtlety isn’t really Reynolds’ strong suit; nor humility. He could have served his play a lot better by focusing on a single issue rather than trying to take down an entire cultural perspective armed with little but one-liners. 
Instead, we get a potentially thoughtful discussion of abortion hobbled by throwaway potshots. Communism is for idiots; vegetarianism is for idiots; opposing the death penalty — also for idiots. This is something liberal playwrights do all the time, but they ought not to, either. It’s intellectually offensive to dismiss your opponents as fools, regardless of what side of the fence you’re standing on.
So the Flea put on a polemical play that the NYTimes characterizes as at times "clunky" and featuring "some truly strange dramatic choices" and Variety thinks is lacking in subtlety and humility. Although I have to say, I don't know which liberal playwrights Sam Thielman is talking about, who call their ideological opposition "idiots." The most blatantly liberal playwright I know of is Tony Kushner and I thought ANGELS IN AMERICA was pretty even-handed and respectful to Mormonism. Something I very much doubt a play by Jonathan Reynolds would be. Joe Pitt is shown as more self-delusional than an idiot, and even someone as objectively nasty as Roy Cohn is treated with compassion over his death by AIDS.

Would The Flea have produced a polemical potshot-ridden play like this if it was pro-choice? Not likely. It seems to me the entire reason for producing GIRLS IN TROUBLE was to show that the Flea was brave and unafraid of controversy in producing an anti-abortion play. Although unfortunately for them, and for Jonathan Reynolds' right-wing martyr complex, there was no controversy at all.

And that's because in the white male-dominated theater world there are points of view that are taboo  - but opposition to women's rights is not one of them.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Global Running Day

My daughter and a co-worker,
both corporate shills.
My daughter celebrates Global Running Day by running in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 5K race. That's right, Berners, my daughter is a corporate shill, so suck it.