KRTHULU = KRUGMAN
Greetings seekers of wisdom. You may have come to this web site because you saw Duncan Black mention "krgthulu" on his web site Eschaton and you Googled the word. When Black uses that word, he's talking about Paul Krugman.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rest for the restless

I met Rita Sutter in the seventh grade at St. Cecilia's grammar school in New Jersey - I had moved from the Pennsylvania suburbs that summer. I briefly formed a trio of friends with her and another girl, Lynn and we made it our project that autumn to clean up the garage of the old Dongy place. This was a big old Victorian house in bad disrepair, torn down not long after our project, and eventually replace with two or three smaller houses. I still remember learning how to properly tie a bandana in order to keep our hair out of our faces, to look like we meant business.

I have no idea why we decided to do that. I went along for the camaraderie - it was nice to have friends in my new neighborhood. But we soon gave up the project and our little trio broke up soon after and while I was Lynn's friend through most of high school and attended her first wedding and remained friends, if distantly, right up to the present time - if you count a Facebook friendship,  and in spite of the fact that she seems to have turned into a Jesus freak, Rita was always in and out of my life. Mostly out, but very memorable when she was in.

Rita was a bad girl in school - a smoker who got into boys early, indulged in the occasional shoplifting (admittedly I did that once myself - I lifted the 45 single of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" from the Sound Odyssey at the Cherry Hill Mall.) She was the first person I knew who was adopted - she and her younger brother were both adoptees of a nice middle-class Catholic couple - I met them a few times, although barely remember them. Rita's mother was most often exasperated by Rita, in my memory.

Rita introduced me to super-tight jeans and flavored lip balm and occasionally she would swoop in and drag me along for the ride to some teen-age gathering, but mostly we traveled in different circles. Actually I don't know for sure what circles she traveled in - she seemed to alternate among several. The main characteristic of Rita as I remember her was restlessness.

I lost track of her when I dropped out of school in the eleventh grade when I was pregnant with my daughter. So who was the bad girl, really?

As far as I know she was completely heterosexual but she did have a slightly butch affect - she always wore her hair short when I knew her, and had a squarish head and firm jawline - she was pretty but in a sort of boyish way.

I contacted her about 14 years ago, thanks to everybody suddenly having email. I hadn't seen her in about twenty years before that. It turned out she was planning a trip to Manhattan so we decided to meet up. She invited me to come along with her to see Tale of the Allergist's Wife, starring Linda Lavin.

Rita had done pretty well for herself for a bad girl - she was married to a doctor in Baltimore and was a free-lance writer.

We saw the show, had drinks after, talked a little and that was the last time I saw her or heard from her, although I did occasionally Google her name, as I tend to do with people from my past.

I Googled her yesterday and discovered this:
Rita Marie Sutter, 52, of Cleveland since 2005, died Feb. 6, 2014, in a local hospital.

She is survived by her parents, Francis and Helen Malloy Sutter of Leisuretown, N.J.; husband, Dr. James Ross Slemmer of Cleveland; brother, Gerald Sutter of Maple Shade, N.J.; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.
Complete arrangements will be announced by Ralph Buckner Funeral Home and Crematory.
Dead almost a year and I didn't know it.

It doesn't say how she died, but since it was in the hospital I assume cancer.

Two people posted memories of her at the funeral home web site. I thought this passage by her cousin was similar to my experiences with Rita, although obviously the cousin spent more time with her than I did:
She knew what to wear, what the 'in' expressions were, how to wear your hair and so on. I always wanted to be like her growing up. We had a lot of great times together, a lot of family vacations together, our annual trip to Parvin State Park for Columbus Day weekend and our combined birthdays and many other trips and holidays. As adults we lost touch and I always regretted that, although I kept up with her life through both of our parents.
So it wasn't only me she lost contact with as adults - in spite of easy access through Facebook, which she could have taken advantage of in at least the last 5 - 6 years of her life.

Rest in peace, restless spirit.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rating Rom-Coms

The play review team is reviewing the romantic comedies submitted to NYCPlaywrights - I thought we'd have it done by today, but health issues intervened and now it looks like we won't determine the winners until Thursday at the earliest.

In the meantime, I had to sort through all the almost 300 plays to weed out the ones that didn't suit the submission criteria, including all the "10-minute plays" that were 25 pages long.

After all that, I discovered that these are the signs I'm not going to like a 10-minute alleged romantic comedy:
  • The pages aren’t numbered. That’s just rude.
  • It’s obviously just an edited full-length, not a bona fide 10-minute play. You can tell when the first page begins with ACT I Scene 1.
  • It has a cast of more than 4 - some of the plays sent into this project had casts of 8 or 9 - meanwhile very few full-length plays by famous playwrights with casts that large are produced these days. And why do you need more than 4 characters for a ten-minute play? You don't want minor characters and walk-ons for a 10-minute play.
  • The ages are pointlessly precise - “32” instead of “early 30s." There is NO difference in casting - you can cast a 25-year-old or a 40-year-old to play a 32-year-old and "early 30s" is damn well good enough for the director.
  • The play is about people in their 50s and they constantly make references to how freaking ancient they are.
  • The woman is described as “attractive” or “pretty” while the man’s aesthetic appeal is left un-described. Not sure if I hate this more than the woman being described as more attractive than the man, which does happen pretty frequently.
  • The cast list includes:
  • Archetypes like cave people or Adam and Eve or Romeo and Juliet
  • Cupid
  • Famous people - this is absurd for a 10-minute play and it especially doesn’t work if one of the members of the couple isn’t famous.
  • The dynamic is unbalanced - a named character plus a “man” or “woman” or in one case "Scientist" and "Woman."
  • Non-human characters. I am uninterested in romance of any kind between/among non-humans.
  • Hyper-specific descriptions of the characters - like the man has a beard. Really? You expect an actor to grow a beard for a 10-minute play?
  • It’s about people meeting through a matchmaker or an online dating site. This may be a comedy (tastes vary) but it is never ever romantic. There is not a single solitary aspect of online dating or matchmaking that is romantic. At all. 
  • Page-long monologues.
  • Work not in the public domain - usually a song - used in the play.
  • There’s a big complex freaking stage set. This is a 10. Minute. Play. It would take longer to set up some of these sets than to perform the entire play. Not that we have to worry about that for a reading, but it’s usually a bad sign that this piece is just an edited-down full-length play or the playwright doesn’t understand 10-minute plays.
  • People standing on a ledge. It's amazing how many plays present this scenario.
  • The characters talk to the audience. Sometimes only to the audience which is just awful for a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy should be about two human beings connecting in some way, in addition to the sexual component.
  • The two characters are just meeting - this is especially bad when they’re in a park or public transportation and are random strangers who happen to be thrown together.
  • The play is composed of “vignettes” - IT’S A 10-MINUTE PLAY!!!
  • One or more characters are cheating on someone else. Cheaters are creeps and cannot be both romantic and comedic. The woman in The English Patient was cheating on her perfectly nice husband (played by Colin Firth) and the movie was romantic - but it wasn't a romantic comedy - both lovers are dead by the end of the movie. If cheaters are in a romantic comedy, they better have a damn good justification for cheating, otherwise it isn't a romantic comedy, it's a sex farce.
  • The play is attached to an email that describes the play as “offbeat” “dark” or in one case “perverted screwball”. That means it will NOT be an actual romantic comedy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Heartbreak Artist

I had a horrific experience with a bunch of off-off Broadway actors some years ago, and I wrote poetry about it, and about one actor in particular, for whom I carried a torch. Although it hardly seems real now and I don't know why I conceived such adoration for someone who is objectively not worthy, in hindsight.

I found it very helpful to write poetry and I wrote a monologue about that.

It turns out that it isn't only poetry that helps you handle pain, as this NYTimes article says:
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.'
The past 9 years - as long as I've had this blog - have been the most difficult of my life, with the death of my father, and an operation for cancer, and horrible jobs and financial worries and an anxiety disorder and depression and betrayal and the end of a long relationship - and no relationship to take its place but instead dreary years of unrequited love and unfulfillable longing and the realization that I'm at an age where this romantic/sexual situation is not likely to improve and in fact things will most likely only go severely downhill from here.

I wonder how how much worse I would be if I hadn't had this blog and poetry to help a little. I mean I've been seeing a therapist for over a year now, so it isn't like I've handled it all so well, but I really wonder if I would have killed myself in utter despair by now but for this blog. Although never say never.

I did find it especially odd that the actors I had a falling out with, and their friends who are also involved in the arts, decided that it would be a good idea to attack me for writing poetry. First through a Facebook page, and then through a response to my essay on the therapeutic uses of art.


I found this especially odd because one of the two people in the above screen cap conversation had a girlfriend who wrote poetry.

The guy, whom I'll call D, with the poet girlfriend, started off high in my estimation, especially for the way he treated his girlfriend, and I recall saying something to him along the lines of "you must be the best boyfriend ever." And she was certainly a loyal girlfriend, for when I criticized him a few years ago, she posted furious responses on this blog - which I declined to post in part because some of her comments were fairly libelous. I still have them in my moderation queue all these years later.

But when I heard they broke up I wasn't surprised. Rather as I came to know a little more about D and his girlfriend, whom I'll call X, the more I realized that X was not temperamentally suited to be part of the circle that D travelled in. I knew it couldn't last.

Now mind you, I can't say I especially like this woman - this is someone who referred to me in her comment tirade as a "theater terrorist" for criticizing her then-boyfriend's work and for pointing out that certain independent theater publishers favored the work of male playwrights over female playwrights. Her response was over-the-top, but at least it was honest. Her boyfriend and his clique would never be that emotionally honest, although they can certainly fake it. D and I exchanged heated emails related to this incident and in the end D apologized for injuries past and for a split second I thought maybe things were OK between us - but not a week went by before I found him trashing me on Facebook. Completely phony and untrustworthy. But X is not a phony, and it was thanks to X's honesty that I discovered how I was being smeared by her boyfriend's gang, including some legally actionable activities - although I have declined to take any legal action thus far. 

I would say that X has much more the soul of an artist than D - she is open-hearted, while D and his circle are closed-hearted, for all their artistic affectations. 

And now I see that X has a tumblr of several months standing where she writes mostly poetry. And her subject matter is much like mine was, when I was hot and heavy in the sonnetry from 2008 - 2011 - about romantic/sexual attraction and heartbreak. And like me, she never refers to the man who broke her heart by name in her poems, but because I know some of their history, it's easy enough to figure out when she is talking about him.

Formalistically we are very different - I adhered pretty strictly to the discipline of the Shakespearean sonnet, while her work, save a few sonnets, is the standard contemporary free-form verse, indistinguishable from brief essays except for some word play and non-standard sentence formatting. It's considered the proper way to write poetry these days - my adherence to tradition made me a complete outlier in the world of poetry.

Nevertheless I do appreciate many of her poems and empathize - we are all looking for magic, and many people online are inscrutable, and some people do leave scars no matter how we try to forget or imagine sending the pain to the moon.

I feel you sister.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Entertainment for men


One of Anita Sarkeesian's beefs with video games is that they routinely treat women as "sexual playthings" for men.

But of course that is pretty much the standard in this culture, and has been for at least 60 years.

Playboy magazine, founded in 1953 bears the subtitle "Entertainment for Men." And the cover image has always made clear that the entertainment on offer is women.

Prior to being known as entertainment for men, women were mainly useful as beasts of burden and bearers of children. Thanks to advances in birth control women were allowed to be commodified sexbots instead.

And men have been raised with this idea that women exist to provide entertainment for them, and so when a woman refuses to do so, and actually expresses her own sexual agency, men can get mighty angry.

I was watching a video about Anita Sarkeesian's hassles with the gamergate misogynist freaks when who should pop up but the newly-discovered (by me, anyway) Cindy Gallop. I never heard of her until about a month ago, and now it seems like she's everywhere. When feminist worlds collide!

Friday, January 23, 2015

S&G rides again


Looks like things are going to get busier this winter than they already were... my sacrilegious sex farce from 2010 returns. More details soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Meet Mohammed Ali

I never paid much attention to the boxer Mohammed Ali. I've never cared about boxing, and his heyday was when I was a kid. I've always known him as Mohammed Ali, and was surprised when I learned he used to have a different name, Cassius Clay.

Thanks to part 11 of Eyes on the Prize I learned a lot more about "The Greatest."

He was a constant braggart - he would often say he was pretty - which I guess is where Johnny Bravo got it - and I have to say, it is absolutely true. I was too young to appreciate his beauty when I was a kid but watching him on Prize I have to say day-am he was a fine looking man.

He was also a stalwart opponent of the Viet Nam war and a gasp! Muslim! Bill Maher must hate him.

He was also really funny and smart.

I also learned that Harry Belafonte had a huuuuge man-crush on Ali - in EOTP Part 11 he goes on and on about how great Ali was, calling him "delicious" at one point.

I also learned from this episode about the Howard University student take-over, which I don't ever remember hearing about.

I also learned that not only was he an excellent poet, but Amiri Baraka was also quite the movement leader.

I highly recommend the "Eyes on the Prize" series.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eyes on the Prize part 2

I'm rewatching the series Eyes on the Prize, inspired by seeing the movie Selma. It's fascinating, not only for the subject-matter, but because the series was produced about thirty years ago, in the mid-1980s, which means that most of the people involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s were still alive - some of them still pretty young since many of them, like the college student members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were of course quite young at the time and were only in early middle-age by the 1980s. They have interviews with Coretta Scott King and Myrlie Evers, the widow of assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and David Dennis, an important leader of Freedom Summer.

One of my favorite people from the series is Mamie Till the mother of Emmet Till. It was largely thanks to her, and the brave testimony of Till's uncle, that made his horrible death into one of the first major Civil Rights issues, in 1955.

"Prize" is a bit dated though - in the section on Ever's death, it mentions that a fingerprint found on the murder weapon came from white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, but later it is stated that "no one was ever convicted of his murder."

But that was in the 1980s. According to Wiki:
In the 1980s, the reporting by the Jackson Clarion Ledger of the Beckwith trials stimulated a new investigation by the state and ultimately a third prosecution, based on new evidence.[1] By this point, De La Beckwith was living in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He was extradited to Mississippi for his trial at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson. The 1994 state trial was held before a jury consisting of eight black and four white jurors; it ended with De La Beckwith's conviction of first-degree murder for killing Medgar Evers. New evidence included testimony that he had boasted of the murder at a Klan rally and that he had also boasted of the murder to others during the three decades since the crime had occurred. The physical evidence was essentially the same evidence that was used during the first two trials.[1]He appealed the guilty verdict, but the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1997. The court said that the 31-year lapse between the murder and De La Beckwith's conviction did not deny him a fair trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Although Mississippi had a death penalty in 1963, it was unenforceable because it and other death penalty laws in force at the time had been declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Furman v. Georgia. Beckwith sought review in the US Supreme Court, but was denied certiorari.[8]On January 21, 2001, De La Beckwith died after he was transferred from prison to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. He was 80 years old. He had suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and other ailments for some time.[1]

There are actually two parts of Eyes on the Prize, a seven part version, which I saw, that went up to the Selma march to Montgomery, and a second seven-part version, which goes from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.

One of the most starkly contemporary issues addressed by Part 9 of Eyes on the Prize is "open carry" and how, when the Black Panther party began to open carry, suddenly the law was changed in California preventing open carry within cities.

The double-standards of white vs. black people engaging in legal open carry is well documented.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Confederate Heroes Day in Texas

No, this is not a joke out of The Onion.

By way of the Maddow Blog and related Facebook discussion thread I discovered there actually is a "Confederate Heroes Day" in Texas as you can see by their official holiday list here.
19 - Confederate Heroes Day (partial staffing holiday)House Bill 126, 42nd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 8. Approved and Effective January 30, 1931 as Robert E. Lee's Birthday.
Senate Bill 60, 63rd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 221. Approved June 1, 1973 and Effective August 27, 1973 as Confederate Heroes Day. This bill deleted June 3rd as a holiday for Jefferson Davis' birthday and combined the two into Confederate Heroes Day.
Just unbelievable. And the date is not a coincidence:
In 1973 the Illinois Legislature was the first in the nation to create an official holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. That same year, the Texas Legislature responded to calls for a celebration of the Civil Rights leader’s life and work in a very different manner. 
Since the ’30’s Robert E. Lee’s birthday on January 19th had been a minor state holiday. In 1973 the Texas Legislature consolidated it with a celebration of Jefferson Davis’ birthday to create a brand new, totally race-neutral Confederate Heroes Day. Take that you Hippie, Commie, agitators. Of course, any overlap on the calendar with MLK’s birthday was pure, race-blind coincidence.
Speaking of the Civil Rights struggle, I finally saw Selma and I have to say I was a little disappointed. I really expected to like it, and of course its subject is important and intrinsically interesting, but the film just did not hang together very well.

I liked the use of FBI reports throughout the film, but I think that should have been used to better effect, and bookended at the beginning and the end of the film. That surveillance really demonstrated just how fearful the powers-that-be were about the Civil Rights movement - and of course was used to torment King in his personal life. Such a powerful subject deserves a more cohesive, powerful approach. I enjoyed the movie, but not as much as I thought I would.

The real place to go for an understanding of the Civil Rights movement is the series "Eyes on the Prize."



Monday, January 19, 2015

Democracy: why we can't have nice things.

By way of Krugman is this slightly dated but nevertheless brilliant discussion by Cory Robin of the conservative mind.

I found this especially interesting because I had a reading of the second draft of my DARK MARKET play on Sunday, and the actors and I were discussing the mysteries of the conservative way of thinking. I suggested that one of the most important features of the conservative view of the world is hierarchy - and to my delight Krugman agreed in his column today:
And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.
I followed Krugman's link to the Robin article and found more good stuff. 

Robin:
No simple defense of one's own place and privileges, the conservative position stems from a genuine conviction that a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. This vision of the connection between excellence and rule is what brings together in postwar America that unlikely alliance of the capitalist, with his vision of the employer's untrammeled power in the workplace; the traditionalist, with his vision of the father's rule at home; and the statist, with his vision of a heroic leader pressing his hand upon the face of the earth. Each in his way subscribes to this statement, from the 19th century, of the conservative creed: "To obey a real superior ... is one of the most important of all virtues—a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting."
One thing he seems to be saying, although not explicitly is that this conservative view  -  a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull - is likely to be unpopular with many people and so they hide their real views behind a facade:
Playing the part of the dull-witted country squire, conservatives have embraced the position of the historian F.J.C. Hearnshaw that "it is commonly sufficient for practical purposes if conservatives, without saying anything, just sit and think, or even if they merely sit." While the aristocratic overtones of that discourse no longer resonate, the conservative still holds on to the label of the untutored and the unlettered; it's part of his populist charm and demotic appeal. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatism is an idea-driven praxis, and no amount of preening from the right or polemic from the left can reduce or efface the catalog of mind one finds there.
One of the useful aspects of Ayn Rand is that she hid nothing of what she thought - thanks to her own inability to dissemble (which I suspect is the result of her undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome) combined with her publisher's disinclination to edit Atlas Shrugged for fear of a Rand tantrum resulting in the loss of income, we get a pure unfiltered hit of the belief that:
a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. 
Boy howdy, is that the essence of the Rand world-view. And because she was such a bad novelist, not only is the world of Atlas Shrugged ugly, brutish and dull, as the result of the tyranny of the worser men over the better, but the worser men themselves are ugly, brutish and dull.

And Rand knew exactly what to do with them - put them onto a train, list their thought crimes, send the train into a tunnel filled with carbon monoxide (thanks to the insistence of a politician wanting to make it to a voter rally in time) and then blow up the train.

You can see why the savvier conservatives of the National Review found her such an embarrassment, and wrote scathing reviews of Atlas Shrugged. While they may not have hated worser men enough to want to see them all dead, they certainly agreed that, fundamentally, it's thanks to democracy that we can't have nice things.

And if you consider a palace the ultimate in nice things, then this view of the world makes sense. Concentration of wealth allows for the gratuitous creation of beauty, and there are those who covet a Louis XVI chair and will never be able to appreciate the utilitarian elegance of an IKEA chair. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What I learned from THE FLICK: movies are better than theater

No, I am not kidding.

My company let us out of work early on Friday so I had a couple of hours to kill in Manhattan before my appointment with my therapist. So I went to the Dramatists Bookshop. I had planned to buy both THE FLICK (won the 2014 Pulitzer) and VANYA, AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE but I was able to read THE FLICK in the bookstore in the time that I had, thus saving myself 7.99.

OK, I'm not saying THE FLICK is as bad as ANNA IN THE TROPICS, which will forever be for me the low-water mark of Pulitzer Prize winners. But it certainly is nowhere near as good as its competition, FUN HOME which I saw a year ago.

Now admittedly, I was not inclined to like THE FLICK and not just because I loved FUN HOME - here I am complaining about it back in September based on the reviews. I feel that part of the play's appeal is the upper classes' nostalgie de la boue.

If anything though, it turned out to be even worse than I thought it would. One of the complaints of those who saw the play was that it was boring - the show presents people working at mundane mindless jobs. Actually, Baker managed to make her characters more boring than people at crap jobs actually are.

Unlike Annie Baker, I have years of crap jobs under my belt - I really should have gone with the plan where I won a Pulitzer by the time I was 33 - I didn't even write my first play until I was 31, and instead was an impoverished single mom working such jobs as:
  • a circular inserter at a small town newspaper
  • a thread cutter at a garment factory
  • an order picker in a health food warehouse
  • a cashier at a liquor store
  • a printing plate developer at a print shop
  • a paste-up artist at a graphics company (this was before everything was done on computers)
  • a driving instructor
And several others. I was lucky enough to get a computer earlier than most people (1989) and was able to ride the personal computer wave into a job as a computer applications trainer and eventually a technical writer. But you never forget those low-paying, mundane, soul-crushing shit jobs. And one thing I remember is that the people who worked them were generally more strange and interesting than the three characters presented by Annie Baker in THE FLICK.

Maybe because the play is set in a movie theater, which is arguably more intellectual than your typical liquor store (I also ran the lottery machine whoohoo) and so the workers are perhaps less bizarre than at other shitty jobs, but I worked with a devotee of the Guru Mahara Ji at the health food warehouse (she sabotaged my work as I wrote about here), and plenty of born-again Christians at the other jobs. Not to mention the hideous family who ran the print shop - the son routinely referred to his mother as a "whore" in front of the employees. Having some semi-autistic, asexual movie buff character who loves "Pulp Fiction" is not even close to that level of bizarreness.

And speaking of which, towards the end of THE FLICK the other characters cajole the semi-autistic asexual into reciting from memory a section of "Pulp Fiction" dialog. It's this:
There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. 
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. 
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”  
I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker ‘fore you popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. Now I’m thinkin’, it could mean you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. .45 here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or is could by you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. 
But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.
So what this means is that the most exciting, most compelling dialog in THE FLICK was lifted directly out of "Pulp Fiction."

And consider - while THE FLICK won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for drama, "Pulp Fiction" did not win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Now I love "Pulp Fiction" but I don't think it's the greatest movie ever made - that would be "Seven Samurai" - but I defy anybody, even the world's biggest theater queen, to watch "Pulp Fiction" and then to watch THE FLICK and tell me that "Pulp Fiction" isn't twenty times more entertaining, enlightening and original than THE FLICK.

Thus proving that movies are better than the theater.

And for the record, this isn't just because movies allow more action - "My Dinner with Andre" is also far more entertaining than THE FLICK. And I didn't even have to sit through a production of the play, which reportedly was filled with lots and lots of mind-numbing pauses. One of the very few non-glowing reviews notes:
These two had some success last season with Ms. Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, also at Playwrights in a production which I did not see. But this time out, all I could think, during most of the 180 minutes in my small seat, was that I was watching the Emperor without clothes. 
For The Flick breaks every rule, defies any description of what I was taught makes a good play. It has no dramatic action whatever, its dialogue sounds as though we, the trapped audience, had a microphone hidden somewhere. That the two principal characters, later joined by a third, were inarticulate, emotionally challenged human beings did not help matters. 
Under Sam Gold’s direction, and I assume Ms. Baker’s instructions, one could almost hear the actors being told to “say Mississippi to yourself four times before you respond when asked a complicated question like: ‘Are your parents living?’ or ‘Where were you born?'” The tipoff came at the top, when that movie score went on and on and on, climaxing several times before its finale ultimo brought its blast of clashing cymbals to a sudden halt. 
There is no plot. Well, there is a tiny one and I certainly won’t spoil what there is of it for you by giving it away. All I can say is it’s not worth waiting until deep in the second act to even discover what it is.
I'm afraid this critic only made things worse for future theater audiences.
Saying "For The Flick breaks every rule, defies any description of what I was taught makes a good play" is exactly the kind of thing that Baker and her enablers want to hear. For Baker is a disciple of the dread, anti-drama Mac Wellman, the king of the fuck-the-audience school of theater, and "breaking the rules" (i.e. "breaking the boundaries") is their one and only goal. Breaking the rules of theater convention convinces them (and obviously the Pulitzer committee) that they are a bunch of magnificent genii.
I do wonder how Baker is going to continue her career. If she wants audiences to actually watch her plays, she's going to have to stick with what Wellman calls "melodrama" - like Baker's crowd-pleasing CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION. But if she wants awards and reliably worshipful reviews from critics, then she should keep going the Wellman route, with the obnoxious, anti-dramatic, playwright-knows-best attitude towards the audience, whom the Wellman school consider idiots and losers with their pathetic need for emotional resonance and interesting plot.
I'm so happy I read the play, instead of watching it on stage - if I had to sit through all those pauses, on top of the boring characters and situations I would have completely lost it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Monetizing misogyny

Speaking of misogyny, by way of Pharyngula is this article in Boing Boing about misogynists who make money by firing up mobs of fellow misogynists.

One of the things that completely convinced me that Will Shetterly was no longer one of the good guys was his siding with the misogynist assholes of #gamergate against Anita Sarkeesian and  Zoe Quinn. This is how deranged Shetterly became - in addition to siding with Koch brothers employee (by way of the AEI) Christina Hoff Sommers he also approvingly quoted another professional feminist-hater, Cathy Young, yet another Koch brothers employee (by way of Reason magazinewho said this:
When GamerGate members claimed to have found the man who had sent threats to Sarkeesian, anti-GamerGate blogger David Futrelle responded by accusing them of harboring some of Sarkeesian’s harassers in their midst—citing as his example a netizen known as “thunderf00t,” who has done little more than to engage in sharp criticism of Sarkeesian’s work.
That's the kind of right-wing Bizarro World (or just Shameless Lie-ville) that anti-feminists live in.

As Jay Allen in Boing Boing noted:
Many of these professional victimizers are anti-feminist video bloggers, who combine the income from YouTube video ads with funding through Patreon, a service which allows people who create content to charge subscribers per-release or per-month. One of the highest-profile examples is atheist and anti-feminist video blogger Phil “thunderf00t” Mason, formerly of Freethought Blogs. In addition to his promotion of atheism and debunking of pseudoscience, he focuses on attacking feminism and particular feminist personalities. In particular, he’s focused on video game cultural critic and video blogger Anita Sarkeesian, making multiple videos with names like “‘Feminism’ Vs FACTS (Anita Sarkeesian DESTROYED!)” and “Anita Sarkeesian- BUSTED! 
Most of these videos rely heavily on editing short segments out of context and belaboring them, but that’s typical for the level of discourse in YouTube video blogs. What makes Mason different is that he actively exhorts his viewers to express their disagreement with personal abuse. In a video titled “Anita Sarkeesian and the BITCHY tweets”, he tells his viewers, “People call [Sarkeesian] a bitch because they think [she] acted like a bitch. That’s really not sexism, but a conclusion.” He describes this abuse as “part of the public marketplace of ideas”. And his viewers take that message to heart, often even citing thunderf00t by name while heaping personal abuse on Sarkeesian. For these videos, which often have hundreds of thousands of views, he gets approximately $1.50 USD per thousand views (recent estimates of YouTube income ranges from $0.60 to $5 per thousand), plus more than $2500 per video through Patreon. 
Mason—and others, like Jordan Owen and Davis Aurini, planning a feature-length documentary titled The Sarkeesian Effect—have targeted Sarkeesian for more than a year; they only joined up with GamerGate to promote their already-existing anti-feminist agenda.
You can understand why  professional feminist-haters like Cathy Young and Christina Hoff Summers support thunderf00t and the rest of the mobbing evil misogynist freaks - that's exactly what the Koch brothers pay them for. What is Will Shetterly's excuse? He started out by justifiably attacking real Social Justice Warriors, like the conscience-deficient Mikki Kendall and K. Tempest Bradford, but he seems to have concluded that since they claim to be feminists (while spending their time attacking "white feminists" whom they hate more than any member of the Ku Klux Klan who ever lived) the real problem must be feminists and so we must attack feminists, including Sarkeesian who was never a Social Justice Warrior.

My guess is that Shetterly was never a true feminist and the existence of Social Justice Warriors has allowed him to fly his right-wing misogyny freak flag. Fortunately I never included Shetterly's SJW web site in my blogroll, so I don't have to take it down - but I am adding David Futrelle's "We Hunted the Mammoth" partly as a response to Shetterly's going over to the right-wing Koch brothers-supported misogynist side. As much as I hate the hardcore SJWs I will always side with feminists against misogynist-sympathizers like Will Shetterly.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Scary misogyny online

Germaine Greer once said:"Women have very little idea of how much men hate them." This may have been true in 1970 when The Female Eunuch was first published, but I think it's safe to say that thanks to the Internet, women are rapidly getting a real sense of how much men hate us.

Not all men, of course. 

But there is a sizable enough minority of the hard-core hate-filled that it's pretty disturbing. There was of course the infamous, Richard Dawkins-inspired elevatorgate, in which disciples of science and reason attacked a woman for saying, and I kid you not "guys, don't do that" when discussing a personal incident in which she was annoyed by a guy hitting on her in an elevator. And I had my own personal experience of Internet fueled misogyny thanks to Andrew Bellware, bad director who doesn't pay actors, and the gang of NYC theater people who support him.

But the most disturbing misogyny lives in the overlapping worlds of "men's rights activists" (MRAs) and "pickup artists" (PUA). There is so much women-hating material out there that a blog, We Hunted the Mammoth, is dedicated to exposing it. And while David Futrelle's pro-women sentiments and amusing mockery of the deadly-serious bitter weirdoes does take the edge off, I find that I cannot read the words of the MRAs/PUAs for long without feeling nauseous. Here is but one example:
The last we heard from Men’s-Rights-adjacent eccentric Peter-Andrew: Nolan(c), he was falsely accusingan Ohio University student of being a false rape accuser and posting her personal information on the internet.
Now he’s back in the news again with an exciting new social media venture. While Paul Elam takes on the world of publishing with his Possibly Still Unnamed Publishing House for Men Who Don’t Write Good (not its real name), Nolan(c) is taking on an even bigger target: Facebook.
Nolan(c), who for complicated crackpot reasons now goes by the name Joschua-Brandon: Boehm(c), has just launched ManBook, his version of Facebook, but for men only. While ManBook might look to the world like a glorified blog, Nolan(c)
Boehm sees it as a viable alternative to the alleged misandrist tyranny and “censorship” of “fascist book.”
Well, unless you’re a woman. If you’re a woman and try to post on ManBook,
Nolan(c) Boehm(c) explains, he has the right to kill you.
For a certain percentage of men, Germaine Greer was 100% correct.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hanging with the Cougar lady 2 ~ tiny tiny freakish theater world

Last weekend I interviewed Donna Moore of COUGAR THE MUSICAL fame. It was very interesting although a little disheartening when she was talking about some of the financial dealings that go on in this business we call show.

One bright spot for Donna however was having her work directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. I asked Donna if it would be OK to talk to Taylor-Corbett about her work on COUGAR and she said that would be fine.

The name Lynne Taylor-Corbett sounded familiar to me, but I couldn't remember where I had heard it before. Then I Googled her. And Oh My God. It turns out I was a fan of Taylor-Corbett long before I ever heard of COUGAR.  I saw her Great Galloping Gottschalk when I was in college - I've spoken about that production on this blog. This show was my introduction to the music of Gottschalk.

Wow, it really is a tiny theater world.

All the pieces performed in GGG are available on Youtube here.

Here is my favorite, the finale set to "Manchega." I've not only posted this on my blog before, I've posted it on two separate occasions on my Facebook page.




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Seen around town lately

Look, it's "The Bourgeois Pig" restaurant. For some reason this reminds me of Doug Henwood. He must be feeling grumpy lately, since the "bourgeois feminist" that he hates most after Hillary Clinton, the Great Satan Sheryl Sandberg, was in the NYTimes lately: Speaking While Female.




New Yorkers are so helpful. This is at the 30th Avenue station on the N/Q line.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hunch hunch! What what? Buh Bo!

Archer is back with season 6. Of course I only discovered Archer this past summer thanks to the guy who lives in the Brooklyn Pit of Filth.

It's an addictive show, and some people are a little fanatical about it, including the person who took a brief snippet of an episode (Tragical History) of a virus that infected the (former) Isis headquarters and turned it into an hour long Youtube video.




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Who is a genius?

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
This week marks the third time I've been told I'm a genius. The first two men who said I was a genius were boyfriends of mine at the time they told me. The third is just a friend.

I find it interesting, because they are three very different people and so I assume must have very different views of what it means to be a genius.

The first ex-boyfriend, in his 50s now, is an autodidact bibliophile who has little use for technology and knows virtually everything there is to know about World War II. He's also the quickest-witted, funniest person I've ever known. We were in much agreement about politics, the arts, etc. but nevertheless he used to provoke me into arguments frequently by playing devils advocate because he enjoyed our debates. If I am good at debating - and I'm told I am - it's due at least in part to his training me.

The second ex-boyfriend, now in his 40s, is a database developer, and is always up on the latest technology. He considers himself a genius too - he certainly is a genius at database development. We use to come up with fanciful ideas together, my favorite of which was a cruise ship registered in Holland that would sail the seven seas, allowing passengers to smoke marijuana legally while out on international waters. This idea was inspired by the psycho-nautic adventures of William F. Buckley. We would call this ship The Flying Dutchman. This was years before the loosening of marijuana laws in the US of course.

The third guy is 30-something, a talented actor, world-class charmer and life-long babe magnet. And that's no joke - when he was an 18-year-old high school student a newspaper article was published about him that described him as "textbook tall, dark and handsome" and as having a "female entourage," two members of which are quoted as saying "everybody loves" him. How epically hot do you have to be for a newspaper to think it's worth writing a whole freaking article about how beloved of the ladies you are? He wrote to me this week, when asked for feedback about a play I'm working on:
I love this play. You're a genius. I love this play.
About the only thing these three men have in common is that they all love Star Trek. It's funny, really, I've never been a huge fan of Star Trek but I know quite a bit about the show simply through osmosis. The geekiest moment of my life was when the second ex-boyfriend, who was just learning database development at the time, brought his reams of computer-printed code to share with his friends and me while we sat in a movie theater, after we arrived very early, for the first showing of the just-released Star Trek movie. (It must have been Star Trek: Insurrection.)

I don't know how serious any of these men were in the use of the term "genius" though. They could have been using it in the sense of an outlandish superlative, not to be taken literally, as if they'd called me a "goddess." Don't laugh - I've been called goddess more often than you would think - just the past week someone participating in the NYCPlaywrights poll wrote to me:

I love everything about (the NYCPlaywrights web site) ... it is my Bible for sending work out, & I guess that makes you Goddess! 
Certainly that's how people tend to think of genii - as these fabulous, rare creatures like Shakespeare or Mozart or Einstein. The fact that the plural of genius, genii (although the dictionary also allows "geniuses") is also used to refer to a magical being, usually spelled "genie", gives you some sense of the awe attached to the term.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had an interesting take on genius. While he thought genii were rare, he actually lowered the bar in his definition:
No difference of rank, position, or birth, is so great as the gulf that separates the countless millions who use their head only in the service of their belly, in other words, look upon it as an instrument of the will, and those very few and rare persons who have the courage to say: No! it is too good for that; my head shall be active only in its own service; it shall try to comprehend the wondrous and varied spectacle of this world, and then reproduce it in some form, whether as art or as literature, that may answer to my character as an individual. These are the truly noble, the real noblesse of the world. The others are serfs and go with the soil — glebae adscripti. Of course, I am here referring to those who have not only the courage, but also the call, and therefore the right, to order the head to quit the service of the will; with a result that proves the sacrifice to have been worth the making. In the case of those to whom all this can only partially apply, the gulf is not so wide; but even though their talent be small, so long as it is real, there will always be a sharp line of demarcation between them and the millions. 
The correct scale for adjusting the hierarchy of intelligences is furnished by the degree in which the mind takes merely individual or approaches universal views of things. The brute recognizes only the individual as such: its comprehension does not extend beyond the limits of the individual. But man reduces the individual to the general; herein lies the exercise of his reason; and the higher his intelligence reaches, the nearer do his general ideas approach the point at which they become universal.]
The works of fine art, poetry and philosophy produced by a nation are the outcome of the superfluous intellect existing in it.
 What Schopenhauer does is contrast those who are in the service of the "will" - best understood as the will to survive - and those who escape the relentless grasp of the will through intellectual/artistic pursuits. Schopenhauer made the point that people who are genii basically have more intelligence than they need to get by - genii have superfluous intelligence, according to him:
For as with money, most men have no superfluity, but only just enough for their needs, so with intelligence; they possess just what will suffice for the service of the will, that is, for the carrying on of their business.
Their "business" meaning survival and reproduction.

Schopenhauer includes virtually every person who is involved in a more than a casual way with intellectual and artistic pursuits as a genius and doesn't even consider great talent a necessity: "even though their talent be small, so long as it is real, there will always be a sharp line of demarcation between them and the millions."

Of course in Schopenhauer's time education was far less available than it is now, and so people who might have been considered genii by Schopenhauer never stood a chance, being illiterate and too oppressed by their serfdom to ever have a chance to develop their native intelligence and natural curiosity. Our present day would no doubt appear to be overrun by genii to Schopenhauer.

The Bronte sisters, indisputable genii all three, had to struggle more than most to make a life in the arts, but even they had the advantages of education to help their writing talents blossom - that and each other, because they acted as mutual sounding boards from an early age, when they were writing fanciful stories about invented societies. The Brontes were contemporaries of Schopenhauer, although he was born decades before them and outlived them all.

Later on in his essay on genius Schopenhauer says:
...the relation between the genius and the normal man may, perhaps, be best expressed as follows: A genius has a double intellect, one for himself and the service of his will; the other for the world, of which he becomes the mirror, in virtue of his purely objective attitude towards it. The work of art or poetry or philosophy produced by the genius is simply the result, or quintessence, of this contemplative attitude, elaborated according to certain technical rules.
I used his concept of the "double intellect" in my play JULIA & BUDDY, to help Julia understand her panic attacks - which would seem to imply that I believe people who get panic attacks are therefore genii. However, that isn't me talking, it's Schopenhauer, and he isn't talking specifically about genii in my play, but about philosophers - although as you can see from the text above, Schopenhauer basically considered anybody involved in philosophy to be a genius by definition. I have Schopenhauer call this double intellect "existential displacement. Here's what he says in my play:
The ordinary mass of humanity is aware of the everyday world only. But philosophers see another world besides the everyday - we see a world that is composed of endless fleeting phenomena in the ever-rushing stream of time. And sometimes the philosopher will see both states of existence at once, and this overwhelms the mind, which may result in disorientation and nausea and panic.
The "endless fleeting phenomena in the ever-rushing stream of time" is a real thing, I should note, one that I first experienced in my 30s. I won't say that's connected to the panic attacks, but sensing your own impermanence doesn't help either.

It's interesting that while the second ex-boyfriend mentioned here is more likely to be considered a genius by most people than the other two, since he is so brilliant at computer technology, the other two are more likely to be considered genii by Schopenhauer. Of course Schopenhauer wasn't aware of computer technology, but the second ex-boyfriend does database work as part of his job, so it is in the service of his will in the Schopenhauerian sense of the word "will" while the other two,  not involved to a great extent in technology work (hell I think the first ex-boyfriend still doesn't have an email address to this day) are more involved in pure intellectual and artistic pursuits that don't provide the bulk of their incomes. A labor of love is Shopenhauer's purest definition of genius.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Another compelling NYTImes article about exercise

I was just talking about the many NYTimes articles about the health and anti-aging benefits of exercise. Here comes another one:

How Exercise Keeps Us Young
But even in advance of those results, said Dr. Harridge, himself almost 50 and an avid cyclist, this study shows that “being physically active makes your body function on the inside more like a young person’s.”

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Earl Nelson Rich

Around this time of year I often think of my dear friend Earl, who died in 1997, in a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles are the devil. But his death was in September, I think of him this time of year because I persuaded him in the winter to let me take photos of him during our lunch break in Valley Forge Park which was near where we worked together at old PTS Learning Systems in King of Prussia PA.

So that would have been January 1995, twenty years ago. Wow. I took the photo on the left during that session, I planned to do a painting of him from the photos but never did. The closest I got was a pencil drawing and a magic marker sketch, which I drew both from life, and which you can see on this essay I wrote about him A Long Essay on a Brief Life - which I started in 2001 and still haven't completed.

Everybody was in love with Earl, he was so beautiful and sweet, but our manager Lisa was completely crazy about him and she was very possessive of him too, which was insane since he was married. She was so jealous that when she saw the magic marker sketch hanging on my cubicle wall, which I drew with Earl's full permission - he posed for it - she reported me to HR for sexual harassment. People are just unbelievable sometimes. But Earl had that kind of charm, he could just drive you crazy with wanting him. I certainly wasn't immune to that myself, but I never forgot for a moment that he was married. I later commiserated with his wife after he died, but I haven't heard from her in a long time. I hope she was able to find a new guy in her life, but very few men could compare to Earl. What an awful loss.

Cue the Islamaphobe extremists

Well I knew what to expect as soon as I heard of the terrorist attack in Paris - the Islamaphobes would be crawling out of the woodwork, blaming a religion of a billion people for the work of a tiny faction.

Sam Harris has not yet weighed in, but Jerry Coyne has made sure that the New Atheist/Evolutionary Psychology/Islamaphobia brigade has been heard from.
Jerry Coyne If they determine the killers were Muslim extremists, let us then hear the “moderate” Muslims throughout the world decry this brutality. And Ben Affleck: are these murders the fault of Western colonialism, or religious extremism per se?
Notice how he puts the word moderate in quotes. Jerry Coyne doesn't actually believe non-extremist Muslims exist. He's really trying to give Sam Harris competition in the most loathsome New Atheist bigot.

And Bill Maher was an asshole again, of course. I used to enjoy watching Bill Maher but ever since he's become the king of the Islamaphobes I've given up. And let's face it, he was always kind of sexist and smug too. But what all the members of the New Atheist brigade believe is that unless a Muslim has come out and made a statement in opposition to a terrorist act, they will be suspected of being a terrorist sympathizer. That's the kind of bigoted freaks that Maher, Coyne, Harris and the rest of them are.

And the Freedom From Religion Foundation reminded me why I will never join them - they posted a quote from Sam Harris on their Facebook page, something about 9-11, that was supposed to be a response to the Paris attack.

Anybody who knows anything about Sam Harris is aware that his response to 9-11 was to defend the use of torture and call for ethnic profiling of anybody who looks Muslim at airports.

So for Jerry Coyne to even come close to the obnoxiousness level of Harris is quite an accomplishment.

Oh and did I forget Richard Dawkins? How could I?

Richard Dawkins goes on anti-Islam rant: Blames Charlie Hebdo massacre on entire religion 

No, all religions are NOT equally violent. Some have never been violent, some gave it up centuries ago. One religion conspicuously didn’t.

No discussion of the Islamaphobes is complete without hearing from the awesom Reza Aslan: Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Math is hard Barbie

I was curious about the legendary talking Barbie doll who said "math is hard."

This phrase became so famous that Krugman occasionally references it.

And I reference it in my play DARK MARKET:
   Olivia 
A friend of mine knew a producer at the DC public television station. I have a Ph.D in Applied Mathematics but I felt I hadn’t applied it to help anybody much. I liked the idea of making math fun for kids. You know what Barbie said: “math is hard.” 
   Larry 
Barbie? You mean like the doll? 
   Olivia 
Yes. They made a talking Barbie and one of things she says is “math is hard.” Not exactly encouraging little girls to get into math. 
   Larry 
Do you honestly think that’s the problem? Not enough encouragement?  
   Olivia 
That’s a big part, sure. What do you think it is? 
   Larry 
When my daughter was little, I bought her some trucks, because you know, I wanted to be politically correct. And she told me that one of the trucks was the mommy truck and one of the trucks was the baby.
I also reference Larry Summers' infamous math and science are hard for ladybrains speech in the above passage. He really did use his daughter's play habits as an example of how girls are different from boys, which means we shouldn't be surprised if they don't do STEM careers as well as boys.

But after doing some Googling it turns out that Barbie didn't say "math is hard" she said "math class is tough" and this was controversial back in 1992.
A talking Barbie doll criticized by a national women's group for saying "math class is tough" will no longer utter the offending lament, Mattel Inc. has decided. 
The Teen Talk Barbie, which costs about $25, will remain in stores. But the computer chip that randomly selects four phrases for each doll will now pick from 269 selections, not 270. 
The American Association of University Women attacked the math comment in a report on how schools shortchange girls. The doll hit store shelves in July.

They may have discontinued the phrase in 1992 but it lives on in social memory. Albeit not accurately. This piece from 2006 discusses the historical morphing of the phrase.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

2015 - year of the future

One of three 1985 Lorraines
If you are a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy, as I am, you don't need to be told that the year 2015 is very important in those movies' universe. So much so it has an entry in Futurepedia:
2015 is a year in the 21st century. 
By this time in history, technology had progressed as much during the 30 years since 1985 as it had during the previous 30 years from 1955 to 1985. Electronics were in virtually everything from clothing to garbage cans to make them move, talk and/or make electronic noises. 
Flying cars, once they were invented and perfected, had become so common that drivers no longer needed roads — except perhaps for short journeys. Skyways dominated the skies of central California and eventually the entire world. Cultural influences from other countries, particularly Japan, were more often seen in food and clothing. 
Life was lived at a quicker pace than before, in evidence by the speed that people walked down the street, the time it took to cook dinner, and the swiftness of court trials.
Although of course the Future won't actually arrive until October 21.

This French article, which I haven't run through Google translator, seems to be making an interesting point - that the actors who were aged 30 years with makeup for Back to the Future II actually look better in real life than they did in the movie. Although they kind of cheated for Lea Thompson, who actually had three different appearances in her character's future. In the movie her "real age" was set in 1955 and she was 30 years older in 1985 - first though she's the fatter Lorraine married to loser George McFly, but after Marty goes back to 1955 she's the trimmer, tennis-playing Lorraine married to successful sci-fi author George McFly, and then in BTTF II she's the glammed up cosmetic surgery-fied Lorraine married to Biff. The French article compares the real present-day Lea Thompson to the fatter Lorraine McFly.

And when I was doing the 4-mile run in Central Park on New Years Eve, I couldn't help thinking of this scene from BTTF III. It should be noted that it isn't clear exactly which "future" Doc is talking about - by this point in the trilogy his character, in this scene set in 1885 has already been to 1955, 1985 and 2015 - but presumably people are still running for fun in the BTTF 2015 as much as in 1985. He's obviously not talking about 1955 though - nobody ran for "fun" or even to keep in shape back then.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cat lady blues

Commodified representation of human loneliness
I don't know if the problem is my personality, my age, or the age we live in but I find it so difficult to have friends anymore. I mean I have them, but so many of them are hopeless alcoholics, or have serious health problems or are flaky or moved far away. One friend I've had since seventh grade is now a Jesus freak. And I know a bunch of theater people  but you can hardly call them friends. You'll see them if you can do something for them, like put them in your production, but other than that, you'll never hear from them.

And dating is of course one failure after another. I suppose I could find company if I was willing to spend time with men I find unattractive-to-intolerable who want to get into my pants. Turns out I'm not that desperate for companionship yet.

So I hang out with my two cats a lot. I suspect I'm not alone since "crazy cat lady" is now a well-recognized trope. It's hard not to despair - I doubt it gets easier to find friends as you get older. Although I do cling to the notion that you aren't a "crazy" cat lady until you have lots of cats. I think having only two is still under the crazy line.

Meanwhile, it seems loneliness isn't only unpleasant, it's life-threatening.

Philosopher Brendan Myers believes that existential loneliness is the human condition. He's all about "pushing back the boundaries of loneliness a little bit." I became curious about Myers and found his web site.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The war on porn

Actually, no, there is no war on porn, but I have been struck recently by a bunch of people, non-Puritanical, pro-sex people, who want everybody to reconsider the use of porn, especially when it morphs into porn addiction.

I blogged about an adorable man a few months ago, and his TED talk called Why I Stopped Watching Porn.

Lately I found out about a web site called Make Love Not Porn, by a social media phenomenon named Cindy Gallop, know for her black apartment and her video talks on the subject of how porn is warping the sensibilities of the 20-something men she dates.

Gallop in turn is a huge fan of Don Jon, directed by and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a movie about a porn addict who recovers to have a relationship with an older woman played by Julianne Moore. It isn't anti-porn, but anti modern, high-tech Internet porn addiction.

And it is really, scientifically an addiction if this TED Talk The Great Porn Experiment is to be believed.





Saturday, January 03, 2015

Are Black people more human?

In the past few years it has become fairly well-established that some modern humans have Neanderthal genes. However, there are two schools of thought on why that is. One is that Europeans homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals, which I think is the most parsimonious and therefore likely explanation, while the other is that the shared ancestors of humans and Neanderthals became genetically isolated, with southern African populations remaining virtually pure homo sapien and northern Africa and European populations expressing more genes that are also common to Neanderthals.

Here are some charts from New Scientist that tell the story.



But no matter whether you believe in the sex or no-sex theory, either way what this all boils down to is that the more recently your ancestors lived in Africa, the more likely that you are a pure homo sapien, undiluted with the genes of a separate sub-species of humanoid.

And I'd bet anything that if the situation were reversed and Africans were more likely to have Neandertal genes, race-obsessives like Razib Khan would use that fact to proclaim African inferiority, on the grounds that their genome is polluted by an extinct species.

I decided to check in with Khan's writings and see what he thinks about all this. It appears that he's something of a Neanderthal denialist. This is perhaps not surprising since he doesn't think highly of Neanderthals and of course if Africans have no Neanderthal, that would be a good thing:
Perhaps the difference between Neanderthals and behaviorally modern humans was less about large between group differences in individual level traits, and more about the fact than Neanderthals simply lacked the leadership cadre which behaviorally modern humans possessed. In this scenario most modern humans are just like Neandertals, lacking vision, drive, and proximate insanity. Neandertals would not have had their Alexander the Greats, but perhaps they would not have had their Adolf Hitlers.
None of this is based on evidence of course, but since when did socio-biologists/evolutionary psychologists ever rely on evidence? Speculation has always been their favorite scientific method.

More recently Khan appears to hold out hope that Africans are less pure homo sapiens sapiens than current data might appear to indicate:
I assume that in the near future a lot of whole genome analysis is going to come out of Africa, with decent population coverage (yes, Sarah Tishkoff is probably going to be on the author line, so you can get a sense of which populations). The assertion that there is more genetic diversity within Africa than outside is often used to glib effect in my opinion, but in this case I think that this fact may be indicative of future career possibilities for human population and phylo genomicists.
Because Khan is such a bad writer - and I suspect the lack of clarity serves his real purpose, it's often difficult to get what he's driving at. It always helps to remember that he is absolutely obsessed with the concept of race, and of determining which races are intellectually inferior - although of course he's already made up his mind which one is the most inferior. It also helps if you've been studying the racial end of the evolutionary psychology spectrum and know that when they say "human biodiversity" it means, as Rational Wiki says:
  • Human biodiversity or HBD:[2] By being just one "bio" away from supporting "diversity" and by failing to mention race, human biodiversity is the most innocuous form of racialism, because it allows one to deny any racism -- because it's recognizing biodiversity, not being racist!
Khan is apparently afraid to tangle with his critics in the 3Quarks comments now, so instead he's retreated to flinging feces across the fence from his safe perch at the far-right Unz Reader. He says:
There is no Platonic sense where there are perfect categories with ideal uses. Rather, we muddle on, making usage of heuristics and frameworks which are serviceable for the moment. We lose our way when we ignore the multi-textured nature of the issues.
What this appears to mean is that Khan really has no clear definition for "race" and he's fine with that and we can "muddle on" without any concern for rigor or truth. In other words race is whatever Khan says it is. And anybody who expects more than that in the discussion is a wacko who expects pie in the sky.

Although he doesn't always use the term race, he sometimes likes to use the term group, as in:
Razib adds: Racist? God-that-I-don’t-believe-in I’m tired of this crap. I’ve addressed these issues before. I believe in equality before the law. But, I believe different groups probably have different aptitudes (not moral inferiority or superiority)-and the axiom of equality-that all groups have the exact same tendencies as our common evolutionary heritage, could cause serious problems when applied to public policy.
If you are going to declare that "groups" have different aptitudes from others, might it not be important to be clear about which individuals belong to which aptitude groups? Apparently Razib Khan feels like it's no big deal if there is no clarity there. Much like his writing.

Oh, and also, apparently right-wing Razib Khan has found agreement among the readers of his far-right web site that liberals are closed-minded hypocrites. Who could have seen that coming?