Monday, October 31, 2016

Bronte-mania - portraits

Very good exhibition of Charlotte Bronte artifacts at the Morgan Museum and Library. 

I was very impressed that the show had the actual oil painting by Branwell Bronte of his sisters (which originally included a self portrait but he painted himself out), known as the "pillar portrait."

Here is an image of it, but it was so cool to be up close to it. It normally lives in the National Portrait Gallery in England.

The exhibition helpfully provided magnifying glasses to look at some of the miniature books and drawings Charlotte produced but I also used one on the larger pieces like this painting to really get a good look. I was interested to see that Bramwell had done a fairly complete pencil drawing on the canvas first before he applied a thin layer of oil paint. You could especially see it in the cross-hatching for the shadow on Ann's neck.

 The Wikipedia version of the portrait is large enough to show what I'm talking about.

It's interesting that he did that - his technique is more like a watercolor painting than oils.

I hadn't realized that Branwell was only 17 when he painted this which means that Ann (left) was fifteen, Emily (center)  was sixteen and Charlotte (right) was eighteen.

This portrait of Anne by Charlotte was also in the exhibition. This is close to the actual size of the original. The magnifying glass came in handy.

I had been aware of these drawings and also the very nice portrait of Charlotte by George Richmond, which is in this show, also usually in the British Portrait Gallery. It's a very well-done portrait in pencil and chalk, a nice work of art in itself, even without the Bronte connection.

What really blew my mind in this show though was a piece of art that I had never seen before nor heard of - I am sure I would have remembered if I had seen it. A cartoon self-portrait by Charlotte, complete with a word balloon, included in a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey. As far as I know there is nothing like this in the entire Bronte family collection of art.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Caught at the Met

While coming home from the Morgan Museum & Library today I got caught in a sudden thunderstorm just as I was passing by the Metropolitan Museum of Art so I had to hang out under one of their red umbrellas. And obviously I wasn't the only one.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Apparently I have been a practicing semi-Stoic my entire adult life

According to William Irvine by way of Massimo Pigliucci's blog, How To Be A Stoic:

“The stoics thought they had an answer to this question. They recommended that we spend time imagining that we have lost the things we value— that our wife has left us, our car was stolen, or we lost our job. Doing this, the Stoics thought, will make us value our wife, our car, and our job more than we otherwise would. This technique— let us refer to it as negative visualization—was employed by the Stoics at least as far back as Chrysippus . 5 It is, I think, the single most valuable technique in the Stoics’ psychological tool kit.”

Yep, negative visualization is the story of my life.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ginger ale tastes like love

I saw an article about the medicinal uses of ginger ale (and ginger) in the Atlantic and now I have this commercial stuck in my head - I haven't heard it since it was actually on the radio, but it's the nature of commercial jingles to stick in your head - and the hook "ginger ale tastes like love" as been there in my mind all these years.

And now you will have it in your mind too - Mwah-hah-hah!

If love's what you like...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Charlotte Bronte at the Morgan

Going to see this very soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More philosophizing

I sat in on a workshop recently, Stoicism 101 with Massimo Pigliucci at the Ethical Society. He gave an interesting lecture, including mentioning James Stockdale - whom I remembered as the vice presidential candidate for Ross Perot who said during a debate: "who am I, why am I here." Which would normally be a pretty philosophical thing to say, but wasn't appropriate in the context. So I was amazed when Pigliucci mentioned Stockdale's ordeal in Vietnam and how lessons of the Stoics helped Stockdale - or as it says in Wikipedia:
His primary focus was ancient Stoicism and the Roman slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, whose lessons captured in The Enchiridion Stockdale credited with providing him strength during his ordeals as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton.
I was amazed and impressed to know this about Stockdale.

During the lecture I also got the idea for a Meetup group that does philosophical plays, and decided to do some research and found quite a few and not just from the ancient Greek philosophers.

My list so far:
  • THE CLOUDS by Aristophanes
  • WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett
  • THE ROBBERS by Frederich Schiller
  • SOCRATES by Voltaire
  • NO EXIT by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • OEDIPUS by Seneca the Younger
  • WHO SHALL DIE by Simone DeBeauvoir

Monday, October 24, 2016

I was a baby lesbian

When I was a kid television networks would show old cartoons after school and on weekends. But although cartoons were thought to be for kids, these cartoons had often been made, originally, for adult audiences, as an opening act for a feature movie, and they reflected that. Especially the male-gaze sexuality.

You can see below an example of something I might well have watched as a little kid, a Tex Avery cartoon featuring a wolf-whistling wolf admiring a (human) showgirl.

So one day I happen to be sitting in a willow tree in my front yard, and I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. The tree was later blown down by a hurricane, before I was ten. The willow overhung the sidewalk. This was in the Philadelphia suburbs and at the time far away from shops and supermarkets, so there wasn't a lot of sidewalk traffic, but now and then somebody in the neighborhood would go by. A teenage girl came along and, since she had a face full of make-up and was wearing high-heels and a very short skirt, just like the ladies in the cartoons, I felt it was the social expectation, nay, my obligation, to wolf-whistle at her.

She looked up at me and said "you're a girl, dummy."

I had no idea that only boys were supposed to wolf-whistle, and I was mortified - you can tell I was because I still remember it, and this was from a time where I don't have that many clear memories. But this faux pas has stuck with me all these years later.

And that was the end of my faux-lesbian phase. Although I didn't fully realize with clarity I was heterosexual until I heard the Beatles recording of "Twist and Shout" when I was thirteen. (This was long after the Beatles had broken up, I'm not that old.)

There was something about the way John Lennon screamed that really really got to me. And I didn't even have a visual, which, as you can see below was magnificent. Just Lennon's voice alone made me realize there was something to this whole boy thing, and I wanted it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The truly odious Dinesh D'Souza

Dinesh D'Souza is an unhinged, nasty, right-wing weirdo. He has a long history of making bizarre, racist, inflammatory statements. He's Ann Coulter with less testosterone. Apparently D'Souza and Coulter dated at one point.

This might have been the most evil and yet most stupid tweet he's ever tweeted though:

Truly amazing to blame a ten year old child for parents leaving. What a degraded, vicious, vile creature D'Souza is.

And that doesn't even consider that he's a convicted felon. Who cheated on his first wife. And was ordered by a judge to get psychiatric care.

Or as Salon said:

Dinesh D’Souza, adulterous felon and disgraced academic, really embarrassed himself this time.
Imagine having that much rage and bitterness, as well as being just a total overall sad hack, mostly recently as the creator of a film described by one critic “the single dumbest documentary” he’d ever seen. It must get lonely, to have gone from actually being taken seriously a few years ago to being just another Twitter troll. And as D’Souza finds himself increasingly dumped by his former supporters, you’ve got to wonder, maybe they know something, huh?

I had a nasty exchange on Twitter with D'Souza, which, like everything about the man was ugly. But I got some nice feedback, so it was worth it:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump gets booed BIGLY

Here is Donald Trump, showing up to the Al Smith dinner to attack Hillary. Apparently the concept of the dinner - to tell self-deprecating jokes - is something Trump is incapable of even conceiving of.

Gets booed BIGLY.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mull of Kintyre

I have heard of Paul McCartney's "Mull of Kintyre" but never heard it. It finally occurred to me that I could just go to Youtube and listen to it. I didn't know there was a whole McCartney video, completely with bagpipes associated with the song.

Monday, October 17, 2016

LaBute sighting

I'm pretty sure I passed Neil LaBute on my block today while going for a morning coffee. He was headed in the direction of Central Park, walking with someone I sincerely hope was his personal trainer. The dude is out of shape.

Even though the UW and UE sides are crawling with so many celebrities it's like the wax figures escaped from Madam Tussands in Times Square and headed uptown, I wasn't expecting to see LaBute, so I quickly Googled him to see if he lives on the UWS and sure enough... the photo on this post is from the Twitter feed of a guy who bumped into LaBute at an UWS movie theater a year ago. LaBute is on the left but the photo is cropped so you cannot see his prodigious avoirdupois.

Normally I wouldn't mention someone being overweight - I've certainly had my own up and down struggles with weight over the years - but I just can't stand LaBute - and not for his work so much as his contemptible attitude which I noted six years ago on this blog:
LaBute isn't only angry, he's also a gigantic self-confessed douchebag:
And that makes a side of LaBute happy. "It's part of my makeup," he says, "to ruin a perfectly good day for people."
I'm happy to report that LaBute failed to ruin a perfectly good day for me, at least. This time.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Donald Trump has gone full Nazi

I never thought I would live to see this day.

From the NYTimes:
“Whether intentionally or not, Donald Trump is evoking classic anti-Semitic themes that have historically been used against Jews and still reverberate today,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights discrimination, said in a statement.
Not surprisingly, card-carrying Nazis are beside themselves with joy over Trump's "international banker conspiracy" speech.

I think Trump knows exactly what he's doing. And it's monstrous.

 NPR has the transcript. From the speech:
The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure. We've seen this first hand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.
This is the basis of Nazi anti-Semitism, straight out of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

We did not fight Hitler in order to let Trump destroy our democracy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's always something

This is my most popular, most retweeted tweet by far - it would have been nice if there weren't two glaring typos. *sigh*

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Well at least I like that Scandinavia lifestyle

Their plays, not so much.

I just saw the first half of Ibsen's HEDDA GABBLER and then I couldn't take it any more. I've also seen the entire THE SEAGULL which I did not care for at all, and technically this is Russian not Scandinavia, but they are right next door.

And I read Strindberg's MISS JULIE and hated it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I love Rachel Maddow


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sun Salutation Cheat Sheet


Monday, October 10, 2016

It's always a trade-off

I know an incredibly handsome actor. So handsome that when I introduced him to another actor recently she blurted out right in front of him: "Oh my god I didn't know he was going to be so handsome!"

And he isn't only handsome, he's sweet and affable and incessantly flirty, with men, women and Siamese cats.

It's one thing to imagine making love to such a creature but the reality of an ongoing relationship must result in an incredible amount of stress, knowing that so many others want to jump on his dick. And not just middle-aged playwrights, but women who are professionally beautiful, the kind of women an actor is likely to meet - dancers, singers, models, other actors. To maintain a relationship with him you'd have to have a personality composed of a rare combination of rock-solid self-esteem, low-levels of jealousy, and probably most important, an obliviousness and self-absorption so complete that you are spared from noticing the constant onslaught he is subject to, the endless bids for time and attention and much more from hoards of women and a not inconsiderable number of men.

There are so few men who combine beauty with approachability that when one appears he is the flame to all the moths within a 50 mile radius. Maybe it's better to imagine the pleasures of fire than risk the heart's sure immolation.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Club Anaphlan

The Vice Presidential debate left me completely uninspired so let's discuss philosophers and masturbation instead.

You can't get a more clear example of the fact that no matter how brilliant, creative, deep or original are the thoughts of great philosophers, they are still entirely of their own time, than Immanual Kant's attitude towards masturbation. Pigliucci mentioned in passing, during the Sunday Philosophy-in-Manhattan meet up that Kant was anti-masturbation.

And sure enough, according to Wikipedia's History of Masturbation (yes it's a thing):
Immanuel Kant regarded masturbation as a violation of the moral law. In the Metaphysics of Morals (1797) he made the a posteriori argument that 'such an unnatural use of one's sexual attributes' strikes 'everyone upon his thinking of it' as 'a violation of one's duty to himself', and suggested that it was regarded as immoral even to give it its proper name (unlike the case of the similarly undutiful act of suicide). He went on, however, to acknowledge that 'it is not so easy to produce a rational demonstration of the inadmissibility of that unnatural use', but ultimately concluded that its immorality lay in the fact that 'a man gives up his personality … when he uses himself merely as a means for the gratification of an animal drive'.
Kant, as it says in the Wiki for him, "... is considered the central figure of modern philosophy."

It's pretty amazing that such an important figure in philosophy would have such an absurd view of masturbation. But that view as all the rage in Europe at the time, thanks no doubt to Christianity. And Kant was big into Christianity.

The ancient Greeks, who invented philosophy, were much more relaxed about masturbation:
The ancient Greeks regarded masturbation as a normal and healthy substitute for other forms of sexual pleasure.[5] They considered it a safety valve against destructive sexual frustration.[5] The Greeks also dealt with female masturbation in both their art and writings. One common term used for it was anaphlan, which roughly translates as "up-fire"
I had never heard of this anaphlan before but others certainly have as can be seen in this Google search. Although Club Anaphlan of Tampa Florida no longer exists, judging by the fact that it no longer has a web site. Although it seems that it was a swingers club, which is odd since anaphlan means masturbation and that doesn't seem worth going to a club for.

In any case most of us are already members of Club Anaphlan. Presumably Kant was not, although let's face it, he probably really was and was just ashamed of it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Existential Comics

Thanks to following Pigliucci on Twitter I discovered Existential Comics. It's pretty funny but the drawing is atrocious. I immediately looked up the installments associated with Schopenhauer. The first one is about Schopenhauer's antagonism towards Hegel.

You see what I mean about the drawing.

But the author captures the sit-com-esque relationship between Schopenhauer and Hegel - Schopenhauer always fuming about what an idiot Hegel was, Hegel constantly succeeding and appearing not to know that Schopenhauer exists. Really you could sustain a comic about Schopenhauer based on that scenario alone. That and Schopenhauer's relationship with his poodle.

I referenced both poodle and Hegel-hating in my play JULIA & BUDDY in which Schopenhauer makes an appearance:

Life is misery. Each and every one of us must suffer and each and every one must die. That is what unites us all. Instead of Sir or Madame we should greet each other in this way: “Greetings poor soul, how is your suffering today?” and when we part we should say: “Farewell, I hope you will suffer less tomorrow.” We are such wretched creatures that we have nothing of value to offer to each other except tolerance, patience, and love.
That’s beautiful.
Jah. I have my moments. That is from my “Studies in Pessimism.” But tell me, would you say my work is more popular than the work of Hegel, in your time? 

Yes. I believe so. 
I shall make another prediction - the more time that goes by, the more my work will be appreciated. All the things I have said - all will be empirically verified. 
(A dog barks offstage.) 
     And now I must leave you.
Oh don’t go. There is so much more to say - 
(Another bark.) 
Butz must have his walkies.

Monday, October 03, 2016

More on Massimo Pigliucci

I've been looking online at Pigliucci's work - his blogs, Youtube videos, published work etc. There's a lot out there - I wonder that he had time to drop in to the Philosophy-in-Manhattan meet up on Sunday.

Pigliucci identifies as a Stoic and has a blog called How to be a Stoic and I found this especially interesting:
Stoic practice. And we finally get to the crux of the matter: how, exactly, does one practice Stoicism nowadays? There are a number of modern Stoic practices, or “spiritual” exercises, inspired by the writings of the ancients. Of course, different combinations will work for different people, but these are the ones I do regularly:
* Morning meditation: as soon as I get up I find a quiet, not brightly lit spot in my apartment, seat comfortably, and mentally go over the potential challenges awaiting me during the day ahead, reminding myself about which of the four cardinal virtues I may be called to exercise in response to those challenges.
So what are the four cardinal virtues?
The Stoics thought that the good life (eudaimonia, often translated as “flourishing”) consisted in cultivating one’s moral virtues in order to become a good person. The four cardinal virtues recognized by the Stoics were: Wisdom (sophia), Courage (andreia), Justice (dikaiosyne), and Temperance (sophrosyne).

One of the guys from the Partially Examined Life crew had nice things to say about Pigliucci in 2011:
What I really like about Pigliucci is his scientifically-minded intellectual honesty, and the fact that he is more interested in honoring the practice of science than worshiping its fetishized ideal. In other words: his determination to follow evidence and arguments wherever they take him, even when they lead him to conclusions concerning the limits of scientific inquiry that many partisans find so threatening to their ... faith.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Swinging cats

Soon-Yi and Allen - I had to pass them because
they walk slow like a couple of tourists
You can't swing a cat without hitting a celebrity in this town. Today I went to a Meetup meeting for Philosophy over on the UES across the park from me and got to meet Massimo Pigliucci who was presenting a lecture with audience participation on the topic of morality vs. ethics. Of course he's not known outside of the world of philosophy, but he's a pretty big deal within it. I had heard the name before but I wasn't aware that Pigliucci was such a prominent critic of Sam Harris - I've been a non-prominent critic of Sam Harris for years on this blog.

After the meeting I found this excellent piece online, Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements in which Pigliucci says:

I have already mentioned Harris, who writes about ethics with little acknowledgment (or understanding, or both) of just how complex a topic it is, and how much literature there is out there to engage with. As he infamously wrote in the first footnote of chapter 1 of The Moral Landscape, “Many of my critics fault me for not engaging more directly with the academic literature on moral philosophy … [but] I am convinced that every appearance of terms like ‘metaethics,’ ‘deontology,’ … directly increases the amount of boredom in the universe.” Why are we taking such a brazen display of anti-intellectualism as anything more than a clear mark of an overinflated ego? But far from that, Michael Shermer then builds on Harris’ point (or perhaps simply restates it, at much greater length), coming out with yet another “revolutionary” book about the science of ethics, predicated on an argument that had so many holes in it that I felt a bit embarrassed having to explain them in a public forum a couple of years ago [15].
Pigliucci goes after other New Atheists I've expressed dislike for, Dawkins and Hitchens, although he doesn't mention Steven Pinker in this piece (he does elsewhere though.) He also criticizes Neil deGrass Tyson, which surprised me, but then I wasn't aware that Tyson had dismissed philosophy. And he goes after P. Z. Myers, unfairly, I thought, although I will agree that his Pharyngula can get really nasty - but I found it much worse before everybody realized what an asshole Dawkins was. And of course Dawkins himself was a contributor to the nastiness of Myers' blog, as I found out directly through personal experience.

I also disagree with Myers on some issues, most especially his defense of identitarians (aka Social Justice Warriors) like Suey Park of #cancelcolbert infamy, and I tangled with him briefly over Hillary Clinton a couple of months ago on Twitter. But he's generally one of the good guys. And naturally he had plenty to say in response to Pigliucci.

I'm surprised it took me so long to really become acquainted with Pigliucci's critiques of the New Atheists, since he's especially well-qualified to defend philosophy from their attacks, being not only a long-time skeptic/atheist activist but also an evolutionary biologist as well as a philosopher. 

I came to know the New Atheist celebrities not through their various political controversies but through my disagreements with evolutionary psychology. Which I discovered via the anthropologist Marvin Harris, who criticized it back when it was known as sociobiology. 

And I came to philosophy also from Marvin Harris, through his criticism of Hegel (and the Hegelian dialectic) and his quoting Schopenhauer. In fact currently if you Google "Marvin Harris, Hegel, Schopenhauer" my blog post is the first hit.

So like so many New Atheist notions, the idea that philosophy is no longer of value, to be replaced by "real" science is overweening and absurd.

After the Philosophy-in-Manhattan Meetup, I walked home through Central Park when I was stuck on a path walking behind a slow couple in front of me. To my annoyance it was another one of these old man with a much younger woman couples, which I see so often on the Upper West Side due to old men using their wealth by buy women. But as I passed their slow asses I realized it was in fact Woody Allen and Soon-Yi. 

I once fantasized that if I ever ran into Woody Allen, whom I despise at least as much as New Atheists, I would kick him, but thanks to this natural experiment I have discovered I would not. But I still think he's a creep. And he walks like a freaking tourist.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

I heart Justin Trudeau

And he hearts me right back YAY!
Is there any man, let alone leader of a free country, more adorable than Justin Trudeau? He has it all and he's a proud feminist. He needs to be cloned. 

Need more?

Trudeau identifies as a feminist,[197] having stated, "I am a feminist. I'm proud to be a feminist." Trudeau has also stated that "the Liberal Party is unequivocal in its defence of women's rights. We are the party of the Charter." After being sworn in as Prime Minister, when asked by a reporter why he felt gender parity was important when naming his cabinet, he replied simply, "Because it's 2015."[198] More recently, he has similarly answered to feminist organizations on social media that "On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am writing back to let you know that I wholeheartedly agree: Poverty is Sexist".[199]