Monday, December 31, 2018

Sophie Blackall - still a terrible artist

Surely Sophie Blackall being given a Caldecott Medal for illustration in 2016 demonstrates that it's who you know, not what you know and Sophie Blackall must have known the Caldecott judges. I find it hard to believe that anybody, unless they were bribed or blind, would give Sophie Blackall an award for illustration.

As I discussed at great length a few years ago, Sophie Blackall cannot draw perspective. At all. 

And  she still can't. Here is her drawing of the same lighthouse from two different perspectives:


Notice how in Blackall's understanding of perspective, if you view windows in a lighthouse from above, the windows shrink and the space between the windows grows.

Google Maps now has some amazing 3-D capabilities and here's how the 3-D New London Harbor Lighthouse looks at approximately the same angles. Notice how space does not expand between the windows and the door when you view the lighthouse from the top. 

Now when I looked at the two pages of the book that Blackall illustrated I didn't realize consciously that the space between the windows was not correctly adjusted by her in changing the perspective on the lighthouse - but I knew at first glance that something did not look right.

Clearly Blackall just can't be bothered to make an effort to look at examples of perspective and then do it right.

But why should Blackall bother to make an effort? She got the Caldecott despite being a terrible artist.

This is why awards for the arts are meaningless - there's no control for the tasteless cretins who may come to dominate awards committees.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The ugliness of French media

The stars of the first season (only one I will watch)
of Spiral - there is Gregory Fitoussi,
that rarest of French
male media stars - an attractive one.
I want to thank this English writer for pointing out something that is not pointed out often enough:
...for male French stars, being good looking is not a requirement. Better that you look like an aged, post coital rhino who has been rutting in a swamp all night, or if you have a nose like a deformed butternut squash. In L’Homme Du Train, Johnny Halliday is meant to be sexy, despite looking like a crocodile handbag with a wig on. Add Serge Gainsbourg, Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno into the mix and you’ve got yourself a great big buffet of ugly quiche.
This is something I noticed early on in my voyage to learn French by watching French media.

This is one reason why it's so hard to watch French films and TV, even for the sake of learning French - the male actors are almost all ugly AF. This isn't just a French preference for ugly people - the women in French media are beautiful and young. Only the men are allowed to be - nay, expected to be - old and ugly

This use of old ugly men as film stars in France tells you everything you need to know about how much French culture is still completely dominated by men. Although if you need further convincing just read about how fucked up and sexist Cannes is.

And of course the beautiful young French women actors are expected to play scenes in which they are incredibly attracted to ugly old men.

The worst example of this I've seen so far is the first episode of a TV series called "A French Village." It's set during WWII and the first episode opens by explaining that Nazis are invading. Directly after, we see a scene of a middle-aged businessman played by unattractive (of course) Thierry Godard (also in Spiral AKA Engrenages - you cannot avoid him if you watch French media) have sex with his mistress who is played by Nade Dieu who is twelve years younger and looks twenty years younger and is much better-looking (of course) than Godard.

Did I mention that while middle-aged businessman is having adulterous sex there is a Nazi invasion happening?

There are occasional exceptions to the ugly old French male actor rule- the previously-mentioned series Spiral has, in the first season at least, one handsome regular - one - played by Gregory Fitoussi but his relationship with the tough female cop that promises to get serious by the end of the first season (they hold hands in the last episode) has completely disappeared without explanation by the beginning of the second season, at which point I stopped watching Spiral, since without a worthwhile relationship to root for the show is basically one woman - or girl - after another being raped, tortured and murdered.

And there is no big "will they or won't they get together" of unexpressed sexual tension between the cop and Fitoussi's character - the first moments of the first episode the cop mentions that she finds Fitoussi's character attractive and by the second episode (or third but it's very early on) they end up in bed together and go on to have a very casual, no-strings, emotionally muted relationship that fizzles out by the second season. Ugh.

I also tried to watch the French TV series "Maison Close" about 19th century prostitutes but the male ugliness was extreme even by French standards - absolutely intolerable - and by the time I could see the young intelligent woman with a fiancee was about to get trapped into life as a prostitute I was done - couldn't even make it through the entire first episode.

And then there is the series "Call My Agent" which is all ugly older men having sex with attractive younger women - at the office - except for the rich handsome new owner of the agency who ends up having sex with and impregnating the agency's only lesbian. Is it any wonder that sexual harassment at French companies is completely insane?

I've heard good things about the show "Marseille" but not good enough for me to watch anything with fat ugly old Putin-loving alcoholic slob Gerard Depardieu in it.

Why do the French have a reputation for romance? Based on the French media I've seen, there is no romance, just a bunch of casual, unemotional hookups between pretty young women and (mostly) ugly old men. Who the hell wants to watch that, except ugly old men who don't really like women?

(And I detested the Oscar-winning film The Artist - I didn't realize until after I wrote this blog post that it was French - but I'm not surprised.)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Oh oh oh, joyeuses fetes!

I signed up for the mailing list of the Trogneux Chocolate company in Amiens France because why not? The Trogneux are relatives of Brigitte Macron (née Trogneux) so I was curious.

Anyway, I received a message from them:
En cette période de fêtes, notre équipe (et le père Noël!) vous offrent 2 moulages "tête de père Noël" pour toute commande effectuée sur notre site internet du 10 au 16 décembre avec le code CHOCOHOHOH De nombreuses surprises gourmandes vous attendent également en boutique. 
vôtre, Jean Trogneux
I'm excited because I can mostly translate it without cheating:
'In this holiday time, our team (and Santa) offer you two moulages (I said mostly*) "head of Santa" for all who asked on our internet site December 10 - 16 with the code CHOCOHOHOH - Many gourmet surprises equally wait in the boutique."
yours, Jean Trogneux 
le tête de père Noël

Their Santa doesn't say "ho ho ho" he says "oh oh oh" which sounds to an anglophone like he just spilled the milk that came with his cookies. But the French never pronounce the H at the beginning of a word so might as well spell it like you say it, right? One of my French teachers from FIAF once sent me an email in which she laughed but instead of "ha ha" she said "ah ah" which sounds like the way Sesame Street's Count Von Count laughs.

There is a French version of the Count by the way. Here he is with his chave-souris. (Bats, but literally in French  "bald-mice")

(* I had to look up "moulage" which means "mold" as in they poured the chocolate into a mold that was in the shape of Santa's head - it sounds like a rather technical inside-baseball way to refer to a piece of chocolate when communicating to the public. But that's just anglophone me, I guess.)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Those crazy Cramps

My ex-boyfriend John the manic-depressive autodidact with the lightning wit (when he wasn't suicidally depressed) loved The Cramps and had all their albums. He went to see their show too, but I never went with him. I wish I did now, they were wild as you can see in this video. 

I was kind of a snob then and I thought they were excessively trashy - not appreciating, at the time, the fun of trashiness, but when you are a single mother working shit jobs and living in Pennsauken NJ you're always on the verge of being actual white trash, and so performative trash is not nearly so amusing. But now, from the perspective of New York City in the twenty-first century in middle age it looks like hella fun. 

Part of the problem was that I didn't like most of their songs, but there are three I really do like - "People Ain't No Good" which is currently in one of my iTunes playlists, "What's Inside a Girl" and "The Call of the Wighat." 

The great thing about Wighat was that the lyrics sounded like they were written by a psychobilly Dr. Seuss. I actually drew a Seussian series of illustrations of the lyrics which I have around here somewhere. It was pretty funny.

I can still hear momma calling "Junior get home. What's got into you, what's that on your dome?"
I wasn't their biggest fan but I was fond enough to note the death of Lux Interior on this blog almost 10 years ago. He died of an aortic dissection. RIP.

He lived a full life though. Here he is living it up performing in Belgium in 1986.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wisdom from composer Frank Wilhoit

The entire discussion is here.

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Wilhoit's Broadheath Music.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Pensées des gilets jaunes

Outline of Texas over a map of France
Being busy with projects and working for The Man has sure cut down on my blogging time.

I've been keeping an eye on the French protest movement "gilets jaunes" and it has revealed many surprising things about French society. 

The stories about the gilet jaunes always quote the people participating in the demonstrations claiming to be poor. Reminiscent of the way that it was accepted that Trump voters were economically insecure instead of racist, because all the stories about Trump supporters were basically a string of quotes from the supporters with very little context.

Of course it's easier to write a story by simply quoting one or more people than by providing context but I expect better of The New Yorker. The author of a recent New Yorker gilets jaunes story, Alexandra Schwartz doesn't bother to provide any context in her interview - she just types up her questions and the response of a gay author who grew up in a conservative French city.

And without context Louis makes things sound much worse than they might seem to a non-French person. For instance he says:
(his family) live(s) in a small village in the middle of nowhere, so for them it’s difficult to go (to the demonstrations)
But "the middle of nowhere" means something very different in France than in the US. For one thing, France is about the size of Texas - actually Texas is bigger. So that means that the farthest any place in France is from the middle of somewhere - Paris - at the Spanish border, is a mere 7 and a half hour drive - the time it takes to drive from New York City to Cleveland Ohio.

And the city that Louis grew up in, Hallencourt, is a two hour drive to Paris and a 43 minute drive to Amiens the larger city that Louis reportedly fled to when he grew up and which is also the city where Emmanuel Macron grew up. Amiens is a bustling city. It may not be Paris but it's certainly not nowhere - so in truth Louis' family lives a three-quarter of an hour drive from somewhere and two hours from Paris. That's his concept of "the middle of nowhere"???

Elsewhere he says: 
It’s the body of people who are living in precarity, people from the North of France, or from the South of France, who don’t have money, who come from the kinds of families that haven’t gotten an education in five generations—families like mine.
Is that possible they "haven't gotten an education in five generations"? But I have been told what a great education system the French have including by my most recent French teacher - she said that unlike in the US where schools vary a lot in quality because they are dependent on the local taxes, in French they are supposed to be all the same because they are administered by the central government.

Some context would have been helpful there - are the schools in the north of France worse for some reason? - but Schwartz can't be bothered. Louis managed to get a good enough education that he became a best-selling author so the education can't be all that bad.

And I've been waiting for this - Putin hates Macron and wanted far-right Marine Le Pen to become president - so of course Russia wasted no time in getting involved in the gilets jaunes movement:
In the weeks since the gilets jaunes movement took off, Ryan Fox, COO of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company that tracks Russian-related influence operations on Twitter, has noticed a network of accounts that his organization believes is connected to Russia shift its focus to France. Since October 28, these 340 accounts have created and amplified content about the brutality of the French police, Macron’s inability to lead the nation, and anti-NATO or anti-migrant sentiments more than 20,000 times, according to New Knowledge. Among the claims: Macron’s treatment of the gilets jaunes is worse than Bashar al-Assad’s treatment of Syrian rebels.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The latest Podcast

I really like this image which was painted by Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A soldier of love, that's hard to be

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of The White Album, #BeatlesSongsForMillenials is trending. My favorites so far:
  • Magical Microaggression Tour
  • Fair Trade Organic Strawberry Fields Forever
  • We all live in our parents basement 
  • U Up? Jude
  • While my fidget silently spins
I thought of "Bitcoin Lane" but others beat me to it.

While I was looking at a list of Beatles songs for inspiration I saw "Soldier of Love" - I hadn't heard or even thought of that Beatles cover for a long time but I remember I liked it long ago so I found it on Youtube. What a nifty little tune. It seems that they only recorded it once, and it's not a great audio quality unfortunately but still... the war metaphor is especially interesting in view of Lennon's transformation into a hardcore peacenik a few years later.

My favorite Beatles cover of all time is "Words of Love" - I raved about it seven years ago on this blog. But this might be my second favorite, a very close second.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Tulsa massacre and the "race science" project of erasing American history

The "biosocial criminologists" I have written about on this blog believe that "black" people are innately more criminal than other "races." The most outspoken of the biosocial criminologists, John Paul Wright, explains the belief system in a book called  Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research edited by Kevin M. Beaver and Anthony Walsh:

It is clear that the main driver of "biosocial criminology" is to argue that the economic underachievement and related crime of blacks in the US is due to their inferior genetics. John Paul Wright again:

It's no surprise then that the hereditarian approach to American history is to try to erase it. Because if you erase it, you wipe out the evidence of what happened when blacks managed to prosper: the Tulsa massacre. It's clear that whites in Tulsa targeted blacks not because they were criminals but because they were uppity - they were too successful. And the white majority had the numbers to destroy them.
The predominantly black district of Greenwood in Tulsa had a commercial district so prosperous that it was known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street").[21] Blacks had created their own businesses and services in this enclave, including several grocers, two newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black professionals, including doctors, dentists, lawyers, and clergy, served their peers. Because of residential segregation in the city, most classes of blacks lived together in Greenwood. They selected their own leaders and raised capital there to support economic growth. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

BlackkKlansman - great movie

The real Ron Stallworth's police ID card
I've been interested in the movie BlackkKlansman, watching several of its trailers many times but never managing to get out to see it in the theater - but now it's available online so I watched it.

Some of the reviews of the movie were mixed but I thought it was great.

It think Spike Lee achieved a perfect synthesis of fact and fiction, art and reality. I will watch it again.

Politifact provides a review of where the movie diverged from the historical record as recounted in Ron Stallworth's book and contemporary news reports.

Fun fact, I know one of the background actors playing a Klansman - the guy is the furthest thing from a Klansman so it was really amusing.

I admit I haven't seen much of Spike Lee's work but I think this one will end up being considered his masterpiece.
Not only did I enjoy the well-plotted, exciting movie (although there were some harrowing moments as when the character portrayed by Harry Belafonte recounts a lynching) I appreciated the mention of the "race science" by David Duke (Topher Grace) of Nobel Prize winner William Shockley and the wording was so similar to the defense of current race-science proponents for their scientific racism, I was amazed. I will definitely discuss that in my planned upcoming podcast Steven Pinker, the Intellectual Dark Web, and Race Science.

And of course, inevitably, the Pioneer Fund supported Shockley's eugenics.

In "The Bell Curve" Murray and Herrstein mention the connection between Herrnstein and Shockley in the public's mind but seem to feel that although they agree substantially about eugenics, Shockley's style was "eccentric" and therefore an unfair comparison.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Our last Thanksgiving at Capsouto Freres

For twelve years - since I moved to the NYC area, I had Thanksgiving  with various combinations of friends and family members at Capsouto Freres, a restaurant in TriBeCa. I blogged about it a few times. This photo is from Thanksgiving 2011. The last Thanksgiving there.

Then Hurricane Sandy came and wiped out the restaurant and they never re-opened.

My daughter-in-law is a chef so my Thanksgivings are great but I miss Capsouto sometimes.

That's Jacques Capsouto in the middle of the photo.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Razib Khan and the race science project to deny history

Although Razib Khan posted this article on Medium on July 4 of this year, I didn't see it until today. It confirms exactly what I have been noticing about proponents of race science - they think that genetics tells us more about human culture than the historical record:
And yet genetics can shed light on historical patterns. Unlike written text genetics is neutral. It does not present a particular narrative or agenda. 
That's his bold emphasis in the original. This is the underlying justification for the erasure of history that allows Khan and Sam Harris and Charles Murray to assume that failure of blacks to thrive in the US has nothing to do with 300 years of slavery, a hundred years of apartheid and fifty years of discrimination but rather their own genetic inferiority.

As usual with Khan his essay is a combination of no-duh ("Much of the wealth of the kingdom which the planters were building unfortunately consisted of slaves") and ideas he either is unwilling to express clearly, or lacks the literary ability to express clearly:
While Indiana was settled mostly from the South, there were far more Yankees who founded towns in Michigan and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Ohio and Illinois were both divided between a northern portion settled from New England, and a southern expanse dominated by Scots-Irish “Butternuts.” 
All this seems clear in the genetic results. Now we can quantify the differences. Illinois is tilted a bit to the northern migrants. Ohio somewhat to the southern ones. Historical debates can be resolved through genetic analyses!
Nowhere does he say what "historical debates" he thinks are resolved through genetic analyses. Is that oversight a deliberate dog whistle for other race science proponents? Or is it just the output of a lousy writer who lacked a professional editor?

At the end of the essay, Khan is all enthusiasm for the Triumph of the DNA Test:
Over the next few years tens of millions of more Americans will obtain direct to consumer genetic tests. The database will grow larger and larger. Many demographic questions related to the history of this country will not need to be explored through reconstruction of texts and laborious perusal of letters and court documents. Rather, scientists will simply scan through the pedigrees they construct from human genomes, and synthesize their results with the rich assortment of resources already available from the fields of genealogy and history.
This time the bolded emphasis is mine. To realize the silliness - or the hidden agenda - of that bolded sentence one needs only reflect for a moment: genomes don't tell us that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 or how many lynchings were perpetrated. Does it really matter if the lynching party was composed primarily of individuals with a genetic heritage of Scots-Irish with a small expression of German-French?

In spite of Razib Khan's literary inadequacy we can see clearly the tactic favored by proponents of race science: deny the importance of history because only science is pure enough to tell us anything about the world.

Now the nonsense that Khan is spewing is no more incoherent or useless than anything written by Steven Pinker on the topic of history and culture and race - it must really piss Khan off the way Pinker is well-respected and highly-remunerated and beloved by the mainstream media - here they are fawning over Pinker again in this interview at the NYTimes - while saying much of what Khan says and just as badly.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Les français sont si bizarre

This is a French TV show, apparently, in which they pretend to connect kids to a lie detector and then ask them questions. Although sometimes they pull weird stunts - like at one point they told a little girl that the color of carrots is blue. She insisted on orange a few times but there would be a beep each time indicating she was in error according to the "lie detector" so eventually she agreed that carrots are blue. That's some kind of gas-lighting bullshit right there.

On the other hand these are good videos for me to watch because, since they are talking to little kids, they have to make the language simple enough for them to understand - and so I can understand most of what they are saying.

Quillette, the center for white male grievance

Back in January of this year I mentioned that Quillette was not well-known. But now it seems it is getting better known - as a place where white men can gather to express their grievances.

Wonkette has an article about the latest literary atrocity at Quillette, a first-time novelist who believes that he didn't get a contract right away because he's white male. But he did get a deal and now he's milking it for publicity by selling Quillette his tale of woe of life as a white man - the kind of thing that Quillette loves to publish.

Quillette is such a huge joke - I'm glad more and more people are finding out about it. Many amusing comments about it on Twitter.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

There's always a tweet

Monday, November 12, 2018

My shout-out in Politico

I really need to start my podcast about Steven Pinker and Quillette and the "Intellectual Dark Web" - I just got a shout-out from Politico to my Twitter thread about the "race realism"/"race science"/"hereditarianism" - or you can just call it neo-Nazi science position at Quillette.

The link on "clowns" in this screen cap links to the thread which is here.

Brigitte Macron, living the life

Saturday, November 10, 2018

O his prophetic soul - Ken Tucker on Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam"

Ken Tucker's review of Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam" ends with:
In any event, I doubt that Steely Dan will ever become merely precious or insular; through five albums they have consistently circumvented their complexity with passionate snaz-ziness and fluky, cynical wit. If The Royal Scam lacks ready-made Top 40 fodder, it also widens Steely Dan’s already considerable parameters. Their next album, if one can speculate about this lovably perverse bunch, should be a pop killer. In the meantime The Royal Scam is well worth living with, pondering and, what the hell, even dancing to.
The next album was Aja considered Steely Dan's masterpiece and on top of that, was their biggest seller.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Dude loves Bohemian Rhapsody

This guy, who has apparently been living under a rock has never heard Queens "Bohemian Rhapsody" - or many other famous songs before.

He has a Youtube channel in which he listens to well-known song for the first time and reacts to them. He loves Bohemian Rhapsody.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The ridiculous symbolism of MOSHI

Nietzsche and his huge &
hideously excessive & ugly mustache
I criticized the organization MOSHI about a year ago for its bizarre usage of a mustache - a male secondary sex characteristic -  to represent
philosophical thought and ideas for children.

According to its web site:
MOSHI is a witty mustache which sticks on children’s face to teach them how to philosophize and express their ideas in artistic ways.
Moshi is a mustache full of ideas!
In the US women are sometimes complimented by being told they "have balls" because having testicles - something that only men have - is a symbol of courage. So to have balls is to be like a man, therefore courageous.

Maybe one day we'll see women complimented with: "you have a mustache" meaning they are full of ideas and philosophical thoughts and if so we can thank MOSHI for pioneering that concept.

Well it turns out the use of a disembodied mustache for the organization is even more ill-considered than I had guessed. I recently had an extremely unpleasant exchange of emails with MOSHI founder Caroline Murgue, who threatened to sue me for daring to publicly criticize her organization for sexism on account of its symbolizing thought by a mustache.

WIGGI is a wig full of ideas!
During the exchange she indicated that her organization's goal was aimed at helping children in their "social and emotional learning through MOSHI workshops."

This came as a surprise to me since the MOSHI social media sites emphasize thought, not emotion or socialization.

But even more surprising, Murgue informed me that the mustache was inspired by the huge walrus-sized mustache of Frederich Nietzsche, the nineteenth century philosopher who ended his days stark raving mad.

Now the MOSHI web site does not at all make it obvious that the mustache represents Nietzsche - I didn't find any mentions of Nietzsche by name. On its home page there is an image of Nietzsche - sans mustache on his face - but I doubt many of the parents of MOSHI's target audience have any idea what Nietzsche looks like.

And I find it astounding that Murgue considered it a good idea to use Nietzsche and his mustache to represent social and emotional learning for children since Nietzsche was no model of either social or emotional success in his life, even before he went completely bonkers.

POODIE is a poodle
full of ideas!
There are so many gender-neutral options that Murgue could have used to represent philosophy. Schopenhauer, for example, who detested facial hair on men and from whom Nietzsche got all his best ideas, is famous for loving his poodles.

(I know a lot of fun facts about Schopenhauer thanks to all the research I did writing a play that included him as a character.)

A talking poodle would be a much more attractive symbol to convey philosophical ideas to children than a disembodied floating mustache. Not to mention the poodle symbolizes Schopenhauer's love for his pet, which is a better representation of "social and emotional learning" than Nietzsche's ugly woman-repelling facial hair.

Although to be honest Schopenhauer might have been even less successful in his social life than Nietzsche, and his strongest emotional connection seems to have been primarily or even exclusively with his poodles.

If the symbol must be something one can wear, the model philosopher could have been Voltaire and children could have worn powdered wigs to represent becoming full of ideas.

I wonder what Voltaire would have thought of the leader of an organization, claiming to be dedicated to philosophy, threatening a lawsuit in an attempt to censor criticism.

Voltaire had some experience with censorship.
 At this time he published his views on British attitudes toward government, literature, religion and science in a collection of essays in letter form entitled Letters Concerning the English Nation (London, 1733).[50] In 1734, they were published in French as Lettres philosophiques in Rouen.[51][b] Because the publisher released the book without the approval of the royal censor and Voltaire regarded the British constitutional monarchy as more developed and more respectful of human rights (particularly religious tolerance) than its French counterpart, the French publication of Letters caused a huge scandal; the book was publicly burnt and banned, and Voltaire was forced again to flee Paris.[18]

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The NYTimes calls it!

Friday, November 02, 2018

Supernatural Podcast teaser

You can hear:

…our interview about the superstitions surrounding “the Scottish Play” and the John Wilkes Booth connection with noted Shakespearean scholar (and star of a BBC series on Shakespeare) Professor James Shapiro; 
…Orson Welles talk to H. G. Wells (author of the original “War of the World”) about Hitler’s response to the Orson Welles broadcast and the panic it caused; 
…the performance of Michael Jalbert’s LOVERBOY and our discussion with Michael afterwords about how domestic abuse can be more horrifying than the most extreme horror story.

You can listen either on the web site or check it out on iTunes. More info here.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The one where they went to the wrong fountain

One of the things you are asked when you are working the kiosk in Central Park is "where is the 'Friends' fountain?"

The actual fountain that is featured in the opening credits of the 1990s TV show "Friends" is on a studio lot in Burbank California.

This is the Cherry Hill fountain that they think is the Friends fountain. 

Cherry Hill fountain - no houses nearby

Not only do they not look much alike - aside from a general fountainy-ness but Cherry Hill is in the middle of the Park - there are no houses nearby and in any case not five-story houses that look like the ones behind the real fountain. There's nothing but very tall apartment buildings on the streets along Central Park.

Could they be more mistaken?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Countdown to Ecstasy at the Beacon Theater

Great time at the Steely Dan concert tonight. Although it was more like a Donald Fagen solo show since Walter Becker died a year ago

Whenever considering going to a Steely Dan show I always worry: "what if they don't play 'My Old School'?"

Tonight that was not a problem - the show was devoted to playing the entire Countdown To Ecstasy album and the Dan did a great job and although the band was loud I could hear people around me singing along during My Old School ('ooooh no, William and Mary won't do now.')

And then after doing that entire album they did "Black Cow" and "Peg" and "Josie" and "Hey Nineteen" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "Aja" and "Kid Charlemagne."

Actually, in spite of the consistently excellent musicianship (of course, this is Steely Dan) Fagen didn't really warm up until the Countdown set was over and he addressed the audience: "so weird day today, with the ipe-ay ombs-bay" - I'm not sure why he switched to Pig Latin to say "pipe bomb" but the audience cracked up. Until that point he had stayed at his keyboard and barely sang, especially at first - the backup vocalists did almost the entire vocal of "Bodhisatva" although luckily it doesn't have a lot of lyrics (Bodhisatva, won't you take me by the hand, can you show me the shine in your Japan, the sparkle of your China, Boddhisatva, gonna sell my house it town and I'll be there  to shine in your Japan, to sparkle in your China.

(What the kids today don't realize is that the phrase "sparkle of your china" was used in a dishwashing detergent advertisement of the time.)

Anyways, after Fagen addressed the audience in Pig Latin he got much more lively and sang louder and even stood up to play the melodica and danced around a little. He was great. And My Old School was great. And the Beacon is a 15 minute walk from my apartment. What's not to like?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

NYCPlaywrights now on iTunes

We're a real podcast now!

Monday, October 15, 2018

No surprise at all, Steven Pinker defends racist crank Linda Gottfredson

Steven Pinker blocked me months ago on Twitter because, like all members of the "Intellectual Dark Web," he cannot tolerate criticism of any kind. 

But I have another Twitter account for NYCPlaywrights so while logged in there I took a peek today at Pinker's Twitter time line and OF COURSE he is defending racist crank Linda Gottfredson, while supporting Quillette, the Kremlin of race science promoters and attacking the Southern Poverty Law Center a venerable anti-bigotry bulwark.

Pinker is bitter because the Southern Poverty Law Center criticizes supporters of race science - evolutionary psychology, "human biodiversity," "biosocial criminology" which includes his friends like Sam Harris, Claire Lehmann and many other members of the "Intellectual Dark Web."

Steven Pinker is a disgusting, racist-supporting individual. But that's been obvious since he started promoting the careers of race science cranks Steve Sailer and Razib Khan.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Quillette defends racist crank Linda Gottfredson

No surprise that Quillette, which promotes "race science" proponents and evo-psycho bros has published an article defending Linda Gottfredson. It seems Gottfredson was disinvited from being a keynote speech at the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance meeting in Sweden.
My guess is that the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance people finally realized that Linda Gottfredson is a racist crank.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Following a long tradition of scientific racism, Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence. Relying heavily on money obtained from the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, Gottfredson has worked tirelessly to oppose any and all efforts to reduce racial inequality in both in the workplace and in society as a whole. 
In Her Own Words: 
“The bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85; and those for different subgroups of Hispanics roughly midway between those for whites and blacks. The evidence is less definitive for exactly where above IQ 100 the bell curves for Jews and Asians are centered.“
—“Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” The Wall Street Journal, 1994
“The IQs of different groups of African blacks range more around 70.”
—Interview with Stefan Molyneux, 2015
Here is the section of the interview with Molyneux in which they rank "groups."

Friday, October 12, 2018

The wonderful Bruce Schneier on digital security

I've mentioned Bruce Schneier on several occasions on this blog before, but always in reference to how he kicked Dunning-Kruger poster boy Sam Harris's ass on the issue of profiling and airport security.

Now Schneier has a new book out about security focused on "the internet of things" - aka IoT - called Click Here to Kill Everybody.

I'm glad somebody is paying attention because it was clear to me from the outset of IoT that it was incredibly dangerous to leave computerized objects operating in physical space vulnerable to hackers. Scheier talks about it in the video above.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

So whatever happened to Neil LaBute?

I was surprised to see that the LaBute festival is still happening this year. I just posted their call for submissions at NYCPlaywrights.

Neil LaBute's relationship with MCC Theater was suddenly cut, back in February of this year: 
Neil LaBute, a prominent American playwright and screenwriter known for his portraits of misanthropic and misogynistic men, has been abruptly cut off by one of New York’s leading nonprofit theaters. 
MCC Theater, a prestigious Off Broadway company, announced Thursday that it was canceling an upcoming production of Mr. LaBute’s latest play and terminating his tenure as its playwright-in-residence, effective immediately. 
The theater’s leadership repeatedly declined to explain the reason for its action, but on Friday, Blake West, its executive director, said, “We’re committed to creating and maintaining a respectful and professional work environment for everyone we work with.” 
Mr. LaBute did not respond to a request for comment. 
The action is a startling development in the 15-year relationship between the nonprofit theater and the polarizing playwright: MCC has been a longtime champion of Mr. LaBute’s work, which often raises uncomfortable questions about sex and power and leaves viewers debating whether Mr. LaBute was critiquing or reveling in the bad behavior of some of his protagonists.

Geffin Playhouse also dropped him:
No reason was given by MCC for its split with LaBute, nor did Geffen offer an explanation for its own move in replacing “Fat Pig” with a play by another writer. Sources with knowledge of the Geffen production said that Chrissy Metz, the “This Is Us” star who was announced as the star of “Fat Pig,” had dropped out of the project last month; however, the Geffen, when asked for comment, did not elaborate on its initial announcement.
As this author on Twitter noted:

On the other hand you could argue that if it was for sexual harassment then it was smart of LaBute to cut a non-disclosure deal with MCC, because if nobody is sure he was fired for harassment  there will likely not be outrage when he makes a come-back. 

And less than a year after whatever it is caused such an abrupt break, LaBute is having no trouble at all getting hired or having theater festivals with his name on them.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The fundamental stupidity of Sam Harris

I was reviewing this exchange between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein recently.

 I have long had a very low opinion of Sam Harris's intelligence and so I shouldn't have been, but I really was amazed at how sharply and clearly Sam Harris's stupidity jumped right off the page (highlighted.)

How is it possible that when Ezra Klein makes a very succinct and clear argument for why Jefferson's generalization of the innate intellectual abilities of blacks as a group was obviously disproved by individuals like James Baldwin and so using the "Jeffersonian politics of difference" that Charles Murray promotes is absurd, Harris completely misses the point and instead leaps to "do you doubt people are different"?

Because Sam Harris is not very bright.

Sam Harris is the recipient of wealth and connections that has allowed him to get to the point where he can play a smart person to gullible groups of young white men. Harris rode to fame on the anti-Islamic bigotry caused by the 9-11 attacks

But when people who actually know what the hell they are talking about talk to Harris, Harris comes out looking like an especially arrogant poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect as when an actual security expert, Bruce Schneier, ripped Harris's idiotic ethnic-profiling scheme apart.

And so since Harris isn't actually very bright, he's going to generally come out the worst for it whenever he gets out of the safe spaces of Quillette and "Intellectual Dark Web" echo chambers. And so in order to maintain his own belief in his superior intellect he will have to keep going back to people who believe he's really smart, the people who made him in the first place - the pants-pissing bigots.

And I think that's why he has such a whiny demeanor when communicating with people like Ezra Klein - I think Harris perceives he is being bested, but doesn't want to - or is so blinkered he can't believe it's due to his intellectual failings and so Harris suspects that there's unfair machinations being used against him.

Another thing that really struck me in the Harris-Klein exchange is that Harris, just like the Steven Pinker-promoted duo of alt-right racist Steve Sailer and right-wing operative and too-racist-for-the-NYTimes Razib Khan, wants to discard what we know about the African American experience in the US when discussing blackness and race and nature v nurture. As Khan said:
So I have to take issue when The New York Times posts articles with headlines such as White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier. What genetics is showing is that in fact white Americans are shockingly European to an incredibly high degree for a population with roots on this continent for 400 years. If we removed all the history that we take for granted we’d be amazed that the indigenous peoples had so little demographic impact, and, that the larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general “white” population. 
The statement is so absurd it took me a while to realize that in this passage Khan means we should disregard history because then we will better understand the purity of the genetic information. It's such a bizarre way to understand humans - unless of course you've already completely bought into the assumption that nature is everything and nurture is nothing.

And Harris is in agreement with this. I suspect the hereditarians think this way in part because history isn't science but genetics is. Here's Harris in the discussion with Klein:
     Ezra Klein 
I doubt that we have, given the experiment we have run in this country, given the centuries of slavery and segregation and oppression, given locking people out of jobs, out of good schools, out of building wealth, out of going into top professions, out of being part of the social networks that help you advance; the amount of violence and terror and trauma that we have inflicted on African Americans in this country, I absolutely doubt — I truly, to the core of my being, doubt — that we are at a place where any of us should have confidence saying that the differences we see in individuals now reflect intrinsic group capacity. I think that at every other point in America history where we have said that — 
     Sam Harris 
But even Murray wouldn’t say that. 
     Ezra Klein 
That is exactly what Murray says. That at every other point in American history. 
     Sam Harris 
Again, there is confusion creeping in here. 
     Ezra Klein 
There is not confusion. 
Sam Harris 
Okay, I’ll try to sort it out in my next volley. 
     Ezra Klein 
You’ll sort it out. Of course. At every point in American history where we have made that argument, we now look back — and, I mean, this is not going way back. Segregation, my mom was alive in segregation. Charles Murray was alive during segregation. We’re talking, I think, it’s within the week of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. This is not ancient history, it is recent history. 
I think we look back and say, “Man, they really had it wrong.” You quoted back at me something that I think either I say it, or the Vox authors say it, now I don’t remember, but that, yeah, if you’re having a version of this conversation again, then it is incumbent on you to say why you’re so sure it will be different this time. 
Murray does say he thinks that some combination of genetic and basically immutably environmental characteristics make it so we can’t do much about this and there just are big differences between the groups, and it’s just going to remain that way, and American politics need to rearrange itself around that reality. 
Yeah, I strongly disagree, and I disagree because of American history. That is why my fundamental criticism of that conversation was that you needed to deal more with the history of this conversation and the history of this country. 
     Sam Harris 
Okay, but even in this conversation you are unwilling to differentiate scientific fact and scientific data and reasonable extrapolations based on data, from past injustices in American history, these are totally separate things — 
     Ezra Klein
No, we disagree on what a reasonable extrapolation from the data is.
Harris then goes onto whine about how the Southern Poverty Law Center was a big meanie to him - they were not.

Towards the end the exchange demonstrates Harris's Dunning-Kruger blind spot:
    Sam Harris 
I get that, but not in precisely the ways you think you do. I’m in the, once again, having the bewildering experience of agreeing with virtually everything you said there, and yet it has basically no relevance to what I view as our underlying disagreement. 
    Ezra Klein 
You have that bewildering experience because you don’t realize when you keep saying that everybody else is thinking tribally, but you’re not, that that is our disagreement.
Harris is bewildered because he can't keep up with the intellectual complexity that Klein has been throwing at him, but can't admit - can't understand - that the problem is his own deficiency and so he has a suspicion that something tricksy is going on.

But Harris will continue to be successful because he's telling all those white supremacists and misogynists what they want to hear and telling them that they are the true smart ones, the pure intellects, unlike those identity politics people.

And of course there's always the wingnut welfare from the Kochs or other right-wingers, glad to prop up mediocrities who say what they want them to say. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Who said it - Cathy Young or Mark Judge?

Gamergater #1
Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women videos, which feature prominently in the debate about videogames, feminism and sexism, are full of selective and skewed analysis—one that neglects positive female images, ignores examples of male characters getting the same treatment she considers sexist for women, and attacks games for encouraging deadly violence toward female characters when killing those characters is actually the "bad" option that causes player to lose points. (A fairly detailed three-part discussion of the flaws in Sarkeesian’s critique was posted a few weeks ago on; for upfront disclosure, the first part quotes from an old column of mine criticizing radical anti-sex feminist Andrea Dworkin, on whose theories Sarkeesian sometimes relies.) It should go without saying that the biased shoddiness of Sarkeesian’s arguments does not in any way excuse the online harassment toward her, let alone violent threats.  But the harassment should not preclude a critical examination of her critique—instead of the largely unquestioning adulation it has received from the elite gaming media.
Gamergater #2
Yes, some games are violent. Some are misogynistic. And responsible people can have discussions about the effect that too much gaming has on the human soul and psyche—as well as what good games do. Yet Sarkeesian’s arguments are overly broad, deceptive, and full of specific errors. Gamers have pointed this out in great detail, and are still caricatured in the media as unintelligent, pajama-wearing mouth breathers.
One of the sharpest gamers to respond to Sarkeesian is a kid who calls himself Mr. Repzion. Mr. Repzion in a lifelong gamer, and on his YouTube channel he has posted several responses to Sarkeesian that are detailed and well researched. (They also contain occasional bad language.) Repzion was particularly exasperated at the errors Sarkeesian made when she recently attended E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
The first is by Cathy Young. The second is by Brett Kavanaugh's black-out drinking buddy and probable rape-train rapist Mark Judge.

As much as I have been reading Cathy Young's commentary on, and support for the monsters of Gamergate during the past month, I would not have been able to tell the difference between Young's and Judge's words. Mark Judge is Cathy Young's soul mate when it comes to hatred of women who complain about sexism.

Young mentions Judge online but hasn't said that she knew him. They are just two awful human beings, I guess, being independently awful.

Now that Young has found out (probably by now) that Mark Judge was a fellow Gamergater will she decide to admire and defend him as she did Milo Yiannopolous and Eron Gjoni?

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Speaking of right-wing Helen Pluckrose

I find it funny that Helen Pluckrose and other right-wing Quillette clowns believe they've proven something by getting a reworded Mein Kampf into some lame po-mo publication.
To date, their project has been successful: seven papers have passed through peer review and have been published, including a 3000 word excerpt of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, rewritten in the language of Intersectionality theory and published in the Gender Studies journal Affilia.

So what do Helen Pluckrose et. al. believe? That it's better to deliberately publish a racist than to inadvertently publish one? Or do they believe it's just worse to be racist against Jews than racist against blacks?