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, October 01, 2014

How the Brontes cheer me up

Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte,
painted by their brother Branwell.
Reading about the lives of the Bronte sisters cheers me up for the same reason that reading about the life and philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer does - no matter how lonely and depressing my life might seem, theirs were much worse.

It's certain that both Anne and Emily died virgins and Charlotte only had sex after she was married, at age 37 - she died a year later.  And she most likely died from run-away morning sickness - so had she remained a virgin she might well have lived into old age.

It was a miracle she married at all at that advanced age. Here she is writing to her best friend (outside of her sisters), Ellen Nussey:

Who gravely asked you whether Miss Bronte was not going to be married to her papa's curate? I scarcely need say that never was rumour more unfounded—it puzzles me to think how it could possibly have originated. A cold, far-away sort of civility are the only terms on which I have ever been with Mr. Nicholls. I could by no means think of mentioning such a rumour to him even as a joke—it would make me the laughing-stock of himself and his fellow-curates for half a year to come. They regard me as an old maid, and I regard them, one and all, as highly uninteresting, narrow and unattractive specimens of the coarser sex.
Reader, she married him - Mr. Nicholls, her father's curate. But this letter was written in 1846 when Charlotte was 30 years old - considered an old maid at 30. That's how extreme the patriarchy was in those days - it made women's lives unbearable, unless they were very wealthy. The Brontes had to make a living as teachers and governesses, and hated it. Without any labor laws to aid them, they were underpaid, overworked and generally treated like absolute shit. Charlotte wrote about her experiences in a letter to Ellen:
...The country, the house and the grounds are, as I have said, divine; but, alack-a-day, there is such a thing as seeing all beautiful around you - pleasant woods, white paths, green lawns, and blue sunshiny sky - and not having a free moment or a free thought left to enjoy them. The children are constantly with me. As for correcting them, I quickly found that was out of the question; they are to do as they like. A complaint to the mother only brings black looks on myself, and unjust, partial excuses to screen the children. I have tried that plan once, and succeeded so notably, I shall try no more. I said in my last letter that Mrs. did not know me. I now begin to find she does not intend to know me; that she cares nothing about me, except to contrive how the greatest possible quantity of labour may be got out of me; and to that end she overwhelms me with oceans of needlework; yards of cambric to hem, muslin night-caps to make, and, above all things, dolls to dress. I do not think she likes me at all, because I can't help being shy in such an entirely novel scene, surrounded as I have hitherto been by strange and constantly changing faces. . . . I used to think I should like to be in the stir of grand folks' society; but I have had enough of it - it is dreary work to look on and listen. I see more clearly than I have ever done before, that a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a living rational being...

But being a wife was scarcely better - women were basically the property of their husbands, with all the usual horrors that such living arrangements entail. Although as we can see with wealthy women, they pushed the drudgery of motherhood off on the servants as much as possible.

I was reading up on the Brontes over the weekend as research for my play about them for the 365 Women project. I initially thought my play would be 30 minutes, but turns out it's only 10 pages, which is excellent - it will fit nicely with the other plays that are set to be part of the staged reading - they are all 10 minutes long. I'm pleased I have a completed play now, THE BRONTES BEGIN.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You Turn Me on I'm a Radio

If you're driving into town
With a dark cloud above you
Dial in the number
Who's bound to love you
Oh honey you turn me on

I'm a radio
I'm a country station
I'm a little bit corny
I'm a wild wood flower

Waving for you
Broadcasting tower
Waving for you
And I'm sending you out
This signal here
I hope you can pick it up
Loud and clear
I know you don't like weak women

You get bored so quick
And you don't like strong women
'Cause they're hip to your tricks
It's been dirty for dirty
Down the line
But you know

I come when you whistle
When you're loving and kind
But if you've got too many doubts
If there's no good reception for me
Then tune me out, 'cause honey

Who needs the static?
It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal
From "Breakfast Barney"
To the sign-off prayer

What a sorry face you get to wear
I'm going to tell you again now
If you're still listening there
If you're driving into town
With a dark cloud above you

Dial in the number
Who's bound to love you
If you're lying on the beach
With the transistor going
Kick off the sand flies honey
The love's still flowing
If your head says forget it
But your heart's still smoking
Call me at the station
The lines are open






Some clarification for Mitchell's extended metaphor based on archaic technology:

"Dial in the number" - dial refers to the rotary telephone that was obsolete by the 1980s. Listeners could call in to radio stations to make song requests. "transistor" refers to a type of radio
"sign-off prayer" - back in the day most media outlets went off the air late at night - the last thing played was a prayer (or more often in the US, "The Star-spangled Banner."

How is Ayn Rand still a thing?

The video from the latest episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, "Ayn Rand: How is she still a thing?" has really motivated me to get my play DARK MARKET done.
Unfortunately the embed function is disabled at Youtube so you have to go watch it here.

And it isn't only politicians who adore Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged - here is Penn Jillette about how misunderstood Ayn Rand is and how empty the theater was when he and his wife were the sole audience members for Atlas Shrugged I.

He liked the movie - I wonder what he thought of II and III.



Atlas Shrugged - Penn Point by pennpoint

 At one point in this video Jillette says that people will hate him for loving Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged but there are so many more reasons to hate Penn Jillette. He gets a shout-out in this article on the most loathsome Americans right between a gay-bashing Mormon billionaire and the ghost of Breitbart:
Charges: Humiliating himself as Donald Trump’s dancing business-monkey. Featured on a not-so-secret list of sexist creepers within the skeptic/atheist community. He’s an intolerably smug know-it-all who actually knows very little. A devout Randroid and Glenn Beck fan, he’s to the rationalist movement what John Wayne Gacy was to clowns. His thankfully defunct, eponymously titled show “Bullshit,” operated under the tired formula of dirty hippy debates Cato Institute whore, and we learn that second-hand smoke is as safe as Gerber’s. Magic! The Anti-Lorax, Jillette’s an environment-hating buffoon who denied anthropogenic global warming until as late as 2008–because he was too scared of the “political climate.” At least Teller has the decency to never speak.
Smoking Gun: “Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

My theory on why the New Atheists are so freaked out by women these days, plus my ancient argument with Amanda Marcotte

Last week I blogged about the latest skirmish in the ongoing war of Social Justice Warriors and New Atheists. They are at it again this week.

The New Atheists came off worse in their claims that Adam Lee had smeared Richard Dawkins in the piece he wrote in the Guardian.

First Adam Lee's own cluelessness, which is admittedly relatively minor sin in comparison. He's responding here to Dawkins' whining on Jerry Coyne's blog:
I, on the other hand, am an atheist blogger who writes articles. When people say things I disagree with, sometimes I write articles criticizing them.
Lee is trying to present himself as a nobody blogger in comparison to big celebrity Richard Dawkins. But this is either disingenuous or stupid or stupendously obtuse. Dawkins wasn't responding to a nobody blogging, he was responding because the piece was published in the Guardian. Most Americans have never heard of the Guardian, but surely Lee realizes that it's a huge fucking deal in England, especially to liberal Britons - it's like the New Yorker and the New York Times rolled into one publication. 

But that's nothing compared to the New Atheists. As usual Dawkins reveals himself to be a thin-skinned drama queen:
I long ago declared that I would not wish to go on living if I found myself in a world dominated by people who no longer care about what’s true and express open contempt for factual evidence. Either a 1984 world where the Party in power is the sole arbiter of what is “true” and enforces it with violence; or a world where truth is whatever society deems it to be, regardless of evidence, and where dissenters are ruthlessly punished by vitriolic abuse or ostracism rather than violence. 
I fear we are sleepwalking towards that feared world, where people shun evidence and despise facts: a world where dogma is king, emotion is queen and evidence is exiled; and where dissent from orthodoxy is suppressed by verbal if not physical jackboots. 
The hypocrisy is strong with Richard Dawkins. But Rebecca Watson already handily nailed Dawkins for that in her parody of his infamous (and yes, sexist) "Dear Muslima" letter.

Before continuing further with the sins of Richard Dawkins I should say that I'm not at all surprised that Jerry Coyne attacked Lee on Dawkins' behalf - although I was once an admirer of Coyne (just as Lee was once an admirer of Dawkins) and read his blog regularly, I gave up on him for his support of evolutionary psychology, worship of the New Atheist assholes and disgusting Islamaphobia. And his complaint about Lee's article is truly pitiful:
It’s one-sided, quoting only the anti-Dawkins Usual Suspects, and accuses not only Dawkins but Sam Harris of “ignorant sexism.”
Where does Coyne get the idea that an editorial has to be two-sided? Lee was saying that Dawkins and Harris have said sexist things and it seems to be a pattern. Does Coyne really expect Lee to take a survey of non-sexist things Dawkins and Harris have said and present those in some absurd effort at "balance"? The guy is making an argument here, not writing a documentary.

Lee provides links to Dawkins' own words. Coyne could have argued that Lee is misunderstanding Dawkins (although I think not) but he doesn't even bother because he's too busy having the vapors that somebody criticized his hero:
I won’t bother to dissect it in detail because reading it makes me ill.
But nobody has the vapors like Richard Dawkins:
I fear we are sleepwalking towards that feared world, where people shun evidence and despise facts: a world where dogma is king, emotion is queen and evidence is exiled; and where dissent from orthodoxy is suppressed by verbal if not physical jackboots. 
Unfortunately, thanks to the influence of Social Justice Warriors on our present discourse, Dawkins isn't completely wrong about exiling evidence. Not that Dawkins is innocent of doing that, himself, but I'll get to that in the section on my theory (below).

I lost respect for Adam Lee precisely because of his disdain for evidence - he censored me on his blog while allowing a friend of his to claim I was out to get people on the autism spectrum because I speculated that Ayn Rand might be on the spectrum. Allowing his friend to shriek slanders about me, on the basis of no evidence was clearly perfectly acceptable to Adam Lee. So he is, unfortunately, not a good argument against Dawkins' worries concerning evidence.

And then there is Amanda Marcotte - in her latest Nation column, which is excellent, Katha Pollitt addresses the New Atheist misogyny (although she doesn't mention the Lee piece in the Guardian) and writes admiringly of Marcotte:
Alas, the ability to take such instruction is in good part something Sam Harris thinks women sadly lack. “There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” said the bestselling author of The End of Faith. “The atheist variable just has this—it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.” It seems to me, judging from recent events, that atheist men are the fragile flowers here—they, not women, are the ones wilting under criticism. Perhaps they can’t stand it that women are withholding that “extra estrogen vibe” that used to make conferences so much fun. (Amanda Marcotte, of the steel-trap mind, has a fine time slapping Harris around at Pandagon. Remind me never to get into a fight with her.)
I did get into a fight with Marcotte, on Facebook three years ago, which you can read here. I was not at all impressed by Marcotte's steel-trap mind. Marcotte had written a book review in which she suggested that Internet porn was misogynist because of the attitudes of Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione. She then maintained in our Facebook discussion that most online porn was misogynist but when I asked her for evidence she declined to present any. And when I presented evidence to make a point about straight vs. gay pornography Marcotte pulled this:
  • Amanda Marcotte Nancy, I may be pro-porn, but I'm going to defriend you for posting porn on my page. My mom looks at this.


I didn't "post porn" on her page, I posted a link to a gay porn site as evidence that gay men's porn included some of the same activities that Marcotte and friends were claiming was innately misogynist. When confronted with an argument based on evidence, Marcotte used her mother's delicate sensibilities to derail the argument. Which was not only sleazy but outrageously hypocritical - it was Marcotte herself who posted the link to her discussion of porn on her page. Apparently that was OK for her mother.

It's interesting that Pollitt herself argued my side of the issue against Gloria Steinem years ago (although I haven't yet found the reference online.) I doubt that Steinem's mind is inferior to Marcotte's.

My theory on why the New Atheists are so freaked out by women these days

It must be said that nobody shuns evidence like people who promote evolutionary psychology, which includes all the New Atheists. Atheism is not a religion - but evolutionary psychology is the religion of the New Atheists.

I've talked a lot about evolutionary psychology on this blog, so I won't go into everything that's wrong with it, but Dawkins' view of women is entirely dependent on the gender essentialism of evo psycho. In the New Atheist mind, claiming that women don't want as many sex partners as men or claiming that women are innately less interested in a "critical posture" as men is not misogyny, it's just science. And the fact that they have no evidence at all that it's women's nature to be these things is not a problem. Having a theory based on pure untestable speculation is good enough for them. And when scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould criticized their theories, they launched personal attacks against him for his political leanings (as Pinker did) or for his failure to be polite once (as Dawkins did on the Pharyngula web site - Dawkins shared a personal anecdote that Gould was too dead to respond to.)

The huge problem here is the inability of evo psycho advocates to comprehend the importance of economics to gender roles. I've been mulling this over quite a bit lately and I have a theory about it: factors impacting women directly are considered of no relevance to the fundamental human condition by New Atheists (and many others), but instead are categorized in their minds as "women's issues." Issues such as equal pay for women, sexual harassment, etc. have no real impact on their theories of the world. 

And so they have completely ignored the gradual but growing economic independence of women over the past 50 years. This independence changes utterly the balance of power between men and women that has existed for millenia, and that of course changes everything else about human society.

Which is why the twenty-first century is such a trial for Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker and Jerry Coyne and intellectually-old-before-his-time Sam Harris. They feel hounded over trivialities while they want to talk about serious issues.

From their perspective all they are doing is making casual conversation infused with evolutionary psychology good sense about the nature and predilections of women - a minor topic, really - and inexplicably they are ruthlessly punished by vitriolic abuse of incomprehensible meanies.

I will give Marcotte this - her response to Harris is enjoyably snarky. But even better from my perspective, she highlights evidence that supports my theory of New Atheists towards "women's issues" - he's supremely dismissive:
Again, the acerbic tone that offends him so greatly that he goes into italics-bonanza mode should suggest perhaps that he is not as masculine and tough and women are not as soft and receding as he thinks. On average, even. Also, the reason a lot of women hated Hitchens is Hitchens thought we were inferior by dint of biology. I find that offensive whether you say it gently or say it acerbically. It’s the content, not the tone. Or, as the calm, rational manly man Harris would write, it’s the content, not the tone.
I believe that a less “angry,” more “nurturing” style of discourse might attract more women to the cause of atheism.
He gave this its own paragraph. Because every rational person knows that saying things repeatedly makes them more true.
However, I haven’t spent even five minutes thinking about how or whether to modify my writing or speaking style so as to accomplish this.
I want to be offended that Sam Harris admits he cannot be bothered to think about women beyond just dismissing us outright, but honestly, all I ever think about him is dismissive, so I guess we’re even? At least I have reasons for my dismissive attitude.
But this part towards the end of Marcotte's snarkfest is most amusing from my perspective. First Marcotte quotes Harris, then responds:
How much is explained by normally distributed psychological differences between the sexes? I have no idea, but I am confident that each of these factors plays a role. Anyone who thinks disparities of this kind must be entirely a product of sexism hasn’t thought about these issues very deeply.
It might be 50% that women are inferior. It might only 25%. Have you considered that it’s 95% that women are inferior? All I’m saying it it cannot all be sexism. Because reasons. By the way, have I told you I don’t think there’s a god?
If you read my argument with Marcotte, she is equally vague and unconcerned with evidence as Sam Harris is, in supporting her claims that most pornography is misogynist. But that was three years ago - maybe she learned to respect evidence since then.

And when it comes to Sam Harris, this question cannot be asked often enough:
Why does anyone take Sam Harris seriously?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Black Tie Blog revisited

I like having an excuse to post
a photo of Jon Hamm.
I gave a shout-out to the Black Tie Blog almost two years ago, and shockingly for an androphile such as myself, have failed to mention it since.

This is remedied now.

It's refreshing that the men on the red carpet are scrutinized as much as the women, for once, although the guy is a little harsh. He gave Jon Hamm an exceptional rating for the 2014 Academy Awards,  but he put Jared Leto in the "debatable" category, saying: "Jared Leto’s Saint Laurent ivory jacket is fine . . . if you can get past the bright bow tie and cascading locks."

But the whole problem with men's formal wear is that it is so conservative. Not every guy should look exactly alike and it's hard to believe that the Black Tie guy would really hold it against Leto for his tie color and his hair length, considering that everything else is in order.  Women wear their hair every which way (can you imagine if women wore their hair as unimaginatively as men do?), I think it's refreshing that Leto doesn't wear his hair in the awful standard look that I like to call "the brown skullcap" - that hair style beloved of so many men (especially in the financial services) where they do the bare minimum with their hair - shaving their head would take too much time out of their busy schedules, and of course they can't have long hair because that too would require some effort (the kind of effort that virtually all women put into their hair as a matter of routine) so they have their barber just cut their hair as close to their head as possible every two weeks or so and that's all the effort they put into it. It's the next best thing to going bald and never having to think of their hair ever again.

The incredible lopsided aesthetic efforts of men vs. women is one of the core principles of patriarchy, which says that men should never have to put much effort into visually pleasing women, while a woman's entire worth is based on her appearance. This must stop. I would consider this Black Tie guy to be part of the solution except that he is so very conservative. He'd be happy if every guy at the Academy Awards looked exactly like Jon Hamm - which, if you're going to clone somebody, Hamm would be a good choice, but I think it's possible to have too much of a good thing, even Hamm. We need some Jared Leto's to add some spicy variety now and then.

Speaking of men in financial services, there is one guy who works on my floor, who looks like a younger, shorter Jon Hamm, but, I swear to god - even hotter. He wears his suits to perfection and even his (slightly long) brown skullcap doesn't ruin his appearance. This man is so freaking hot I can't even look at him for more than a second for fear it will somehow trigger an HR violation. I hope I never have to work on a project with him because when I am within twenty feet of this man I literally cannot think of anything else except his extreme hotness. He's married of course, with a couple of kids.

Sigh.

I really do envy the asexuals sometimes.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Montgomery from Memphis

Well that was a surprise. Dan Montgomery was my first real boyfriend, briefly, in high school. On our first date we went to see All the President's Men when it was in the movie theaters - that's how long ago this was. Dan has been obsessed with music since then and now makes his living as a musician.

But still I was surprised to see that there is a glowing review of his latest album in CounterPunch magazine. CounterPunch is a leftwing political magazine and I didn't even know they ran music reviews. The reviewer loved it so much he compared Dan to Bruce Springsteen:
Born in Philadelphia, Montgomery spent a good deal of his life in South Jersey occasionally moving to other parts of the country before settling in Memphis. Like a far more well known singer-songwriter from New Jersey, Montgomery has created a world of characters and stories that create a portrait of working class life.
Now that's the kind of review any singer-songwriter could love. You can hear some of his music at his web site. Although he grew up in New Jersey he lives in Memphis now and you can hear his singing voice has a Southern twang now, which cracks me up.

Dan's playing in NYC in a couple of weeks and invited me to his show. This should be very interesting.

Here's his band playing. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Speaking of DARK MARKET

My reading of DARK MARKET went pretty well on Sunday. I was glad that it got laughs where I was hoping it would. I was disappointed though that an actor I thought would be perfect for the Bob Rubenesque character couldn't participate - he even has Ruben's Warby Parker-style glasses. But no, he had to spend a long weekend on Cape Cod because lah-tee-dah that's how some people get to spend their weekends.

The biggest problem with DARK MARKET is that the Ayn Rand character is so vivid she steals the play - she is basically the bad guy.

I was re-reading what I've written about Rand over the past year or so as research for this play, and was flabbergasted all over again by the fact that "Atlas Shrugged" has nothing to do with a sober socio-economic analysis of capitalism and Communism. As far as Ayn Rand was concerned, the reason for the existence of Communism was not politics or economics or even mob rule - the reason for Communism is sadism:
...if you ever want to see pure evil you should see the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who'd talked back to her once... And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who's ever preached 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
The most disturbing thing about Ayn Rand is not that she was a crackpot, it was that her novel "Atlas Shrugged" a failure on any literary, philosophical or even allegorical level is the Bible of Libertarianism, and considered a font of wisdom by successful politicians like Paul Ryan and Ron Paul. And that's the basic theme of DARK MARKET - the absurdity that Rand's ideas should influence important decision makers in the government like Alan Greenspan.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tequila!

I would love a $5.00 Margarita.

365 Women A Year project online

So the web site for the 365 Women A Year project is now online. So I'd better get this play about the Brontes done.

In honor of my play, here is a re-run from 4 years ago of the hysterical Bronte Sisters Power Dolls. With Brontesaurus!

I love how Anne Bronte doesn't speak, she just snarls.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Adventures with ASMR

There are a whole bunch of ASMR videos meant to trigger the ASMR sensation. And they are all weird - most are a person speaking in a very soft voice, almost a whisper and doing a "role-play" in which they are pretending to brush your hair, or apply make-up.

This one is called "The Sound Spa" and it is classified as Role Play and it consists entirely of this woman, Violet, using various tools - well here is what it says in the intro on Youtube:

Welcome to The Sound Spa! Take a moment to relax while I delight your senses with my magical powers of crinkling, brushing, and tapping. I apologize for the short length of this video--I meant for it to be an hour or so, but with the days becoming shorter I find that I lose my light too quickly. I hope you enjoy regardless. :)

So I decided to try to induce ASMR by listening to this. Although I did find it relaxing and felt a certain points like I might get the ASMR sensation, I did not. Also I couldn't help but laugh at several points at the fact that I was lying on my sofa with headphones on, listening to a young woman crinkle paper.

I posted some info about ASMR on my Facebook page and it turns out I know two other people who also get ASMR - one guy whom I just met a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Matt, whom I've know since high school. ASMR must be much more common than I initially realized. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another great Feist video

I think that Feist's 1234 video is probably the greatest music video ever made - I don't know how many times I've watched it, but a LOT.

But to my amazement I like "I feel it all" just as much- it's equally amazing in its own way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I have ASMR!

Wow! I have been trying for decades to find out what is going on with this inexplicable but wonderful spontaneous sensation I get every now and then. And finally today, I hit the Google jackpot:
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial,[1] with a considerable cult following and strong anecdotal evidence to support the phenomenon but little or no scientific explanation or verified data.[2]
 Although there are some differences from the standard experience of The Unnamed Feeling and my own:
  • I experience it as starting in my spine and working its way up to my head. Most other ASMRers have the opposite sensation - brain to spine.
  • I wouldn't call it a "tingling" sensation - it's much too smooth and subtle for that adjective. I would describe it as a slow influx of pleasurable feelings.
  • Apparently many people can identify what triggers the ASMR sensation and most triggers are through sound or sight. I have no idea what triggers it, although if I did I would be triggering it all the time. Seriously - the sensation has been compare to an orgasm ("brain-gasm") but in spite of some similarities it's very different from sex - and in fact it is better than a sexual orgasm. If I could trigger my own ASMR response at will I might not ever need sex again.
I'm so relieved to know this is a real thing, though, and not just unique to me. Although ASMR "sufferers" (should be "enjoyers") typically never tell anybody, as this woman recounts on NPR's This American Life.

Apparently this has been a meme now for a few of years and I didn't even know about it.

After looking around the net it's clear that there are many similarities among those who have experienced ASMR: usually it's first noticed in grammar school, during a droning lecture by the teacher - that's exactly what happened to me; they don't tell anybody else about it; they try to make it last as long as possible because it feels so good; but if they do try to explain it to other people the other people likely have no idea what they're talking about.

I've only told maybe 4 people about my experience of ASMR - my ex-boyfriend John, my daughter, my physical therapist and Oliver Sacks. Or at least whoever answers Oliver Sacks's email. I reached out to Sacks about 12 years ago and described the sensation, and the email response I got back from Sacks (or his flunky) was basically "enjoy it." Which you hardly need to be told - it is the nature of the ASMR experience to be pleasurable. But I wanted to know what it was and figured if anybody might be able to help it would be Mr. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

I've had ASMR experiences since I was about 8, although they are not evenly distributed - I can go months, possibly years without having the sensation or even thinking about it, and then I'll have it several weeks in a row. The closest I have come to identifying a trigger for ASMR is that I have been recently in a state of tension and my body is responding to the release of tension. I feel like it has something to do with good posture - with sitting up straight. And maybe not having a full stomach. These are just guesses though.

Some ASMR events over the course of my life - I've had many more than just these - these just happen to be most memorable.
  • The first time, during math class in third grade.
  • While I was sitting talking to my landlord when I was 18. 
  • While listening to an answering machine message from my manager with whom I was in love. 
  • A year ago while having a neck massage as part of physical therapy. That's when I asked my PT about it - she had no idea what I was talking about.
  • Last night after the reading of my play DARK MARKET while having a glass of wine. But I don't think it was the wine so much as the relaxing after being tense all day getting ready for the reading and then running the reading.
  • Today at work - after a day of a really mindless tedious task I felt pain and tension in my neck - I have arthritis in my neck - and so I did some cervical exercises and that set off the ASMR - which is yet again an indicator that the trigger for me is relaxation after tension. It was this latest ASMR even that led me to discover finally what this thing is. 
So the next step is to find out if I can trigger it at will the way some people can, through sound or other senses.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Great song, great video

One, two, three, four
Tell me that you love me more
Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for

Old teenage hopes are alive at your door
Left you with nothing but they want some more

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are

Sweetheart bitterheart now I can't tell you apart
Cozy and cold, put the horse before the cart

Those teenage hopes who have tears in their eyes
Too scared to own up to one little lie

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are

One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then
One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, who you are

For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart
For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart


Saturday, September 20, 2014

So many plays to write...

Monroe reading James Joyce's "Ulysses"
Of course when I'm the most busy, inspiration strikes. On top of my DARK MARKET play, and my play about the Brontes, I was also lately compelled to begin a play about Marilyn Monroe - I heard about this collection of her own writings which includes a letter in which she recounts her awful stay at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

And then I was inspired to write a short play based on my sister Eileen's bachelorette party.

Is there as such thing as too much inspiration?

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Atheists vs. Social Justice Warriors - round 2

When I last blogged about the ongoing war between the New Atheists (most prominently represented by Richard cranky old man Dawkins) and the SJWs (lead by Adam censorship Lee) the New Atheists were on top thanks to Dawkins being less obnoxious than usual.

But thanks to Dawkins remembering who he really is, and Sam Harris never forgetting, the Social Justice Warriors are back on top.

Lee had an op-ed about Dawkins in the Guardian recently: Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheism a bad name:
But over the last few months, Dawkins showed signs of d├ętente with his feminist critics – even progress. He signed a joint letter with the writer Ophelia Benson, denouncing and rejecting harassment; he even apologized for the “Dear Muslima” letter. On stage at a conference in Oxford in August, Dawkins claimed to be a feminist and said that everyone else should be, too. 
Then another prominent male atheist, Sam Harris, crammed his foot in his mouth and said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”. And, just like that, the brief Dawkins Spring was over. 
On Twitter these last few days, Dawkins has reverted to his old, sexist ways and then some. He’s been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans who just want an excuse to take offense, and how Harris’s critics (and his own) are not unlike thought police witch-hunter lynch mobs. Dawkins claimed that his critics are engaged in “clickbait for profit”, that they “fake outrage”, and that he wished there were some way to penalize them.  
For good measure, Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking.
I was just discussing evolutionary psychology with anthropologist David Price and others on Facebook today, thanks to this excellent criticism in the Nation, and right in the middle I saw the story about that idiot Sam Harris - Harris claims that atheism and skepticism are innately masculine.

Although I despise Harris for his right-wing hideousness (supporting ethnic profiling, torture, and opposing gun control), and general stupidity, he was the only member of the New Atheist "four horsemen" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Pinker) whom I thought I had no reason to accuse of misogyny. I should have known better.

As always, the main question about Sam Harris is this: Why does anyone take Sam Harris seriously? 

Favorite quote from that article, which is over a year and a half old but still relevant:
Before delving further into this NRA wet-dream of an essay, let us reflect on an important facet of Harris’s personality. The common thread running through all of Harris’s logic-abortions, the key to understanding how a purported “intellectual” can be so consistently wrong and so morally repugnant, is his unbridled cowardice — both of the intellectual variety and an all-pervasive, crapping-his-pants fear that manifests itself in the form of sophistry and a brazen disregard for following the available evidence to its logical conclusion.
It is true though that SJWs like to engage in witchhunts as I found out myself directly when I was targeted by Mikki Kendall and K. Tempest Bradford, but I had a good laugh over Rebecca Watson's payback of Richard Dawkins' infamous Dear Muslima letter - Dawkins, Harris and friends like to imagine that if they get any criticism for the mind-bogglingly stupid, sexist things they say, they are the victims of a "witchhunt." 

For the record I don't consider Watson a SJW, although Mikki Kendall was promoted at least once on her Skepchick site. 

So the SJWs have won round 2 against the New Atheists. Now what group-think censorious awfulness will the SJWs come up with next to show that they, not New Atheists, are the biggest assholes? I expect we'll know within a month or so. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who is John Galt? A homicidal maniac

In the comments section of this post entitled Atlas Shrugged Humor somebody posted a link to the recently released Atlas Shrugged Part III.

I don't know if this person bothered to actually read what I wrote about Atlas Shrugged, or maybe they don't even care - they're hoping that anybody will watch the movie, even for free, even if they despise Ayn Rand.

It looks like the third installation of Atlas Shrugged has bombed even bigger than the first two:
That must be the fault of those damn freedom-hating socialists, or perhaps it’s due to the fact that so few of the Tea Party types the series’ producers once hoped would queue up are, er, the literate sort. Or maybe it’s just that the prior installments weren’t very good movies, and it should surprise few that this last one is the worst of the lot. You can’t really blame the filmmakers: Stuck with a budget that again halves its immediate predecessor’s (now down to $5 million), they’re hapless to convey the grand scale of events Rand intended.
More of my opinions about Atlas Shrugged.

It's good timing for me, since I am working on my play DARK MARKET, getting it ready for a reading this Sunday. The influence of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged over Alan Greenspan is a huge issue in my play.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hanging with my fellow playwrightresses


I refuse to use the term "actress" for female actors. I think it's silly to have to feminize "actor" - there are no directresses or playwrightresses, so there's no point in having actors AND actresses. Anyway, so the title of this post is meant in jest.

But I did hang out with a dozen other women playwrights as part of an organizing effort to get our plays about historical women produced as a reading. It's for a project called 365 Women Project - and we are the NYC chapter. You can see me in the picture above in the center - our host has a very nice place on the Upper West Side.

My play is about the Bronte sisters, specifically the day that Charlotte talked Emily into publishing a collection of her plays that Charlotte had found. And it was just in the nick of time too - Emily only had 3 more years before she was taken by tuberculosis, and Anne had 3 and a half years of life left. Charlotte recounted the story in her introduction to Wuthering Heights:
About five years ago, my two sisters and myself, after a somewhat prolonged period of separation, found ourselves reunited, and at home. Resident in a remote district, where education had made little progress, and where, consequently, there was no inducement to seek social intercourse beyond our own domestic circle, we were wholly dependent on ourselves and each other, on books and study, for the enjoyments and occupations of life. The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest pleasure we had known from childhood upwards, lay in attempts at literary composition; formerly we used to show each other what we wrote, but of late years this habit of communication and consultation had been discontinued; hence it ensued, that we were mutually ignorant of the progress we might respectively have made. One day, in the autumn of 1845, I accidentally lighted on a Ms. volume of verse in my sister Emily's handwriting. Of course, I was not surprised, knowing that she could and did write verse: I looked it over, and something more than surprise seized me,- a deep conviction that these were not common effusions, nor at all like the poetry women generally write. I thought them condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear, they had also a peculiar music- wild, melancholy, and elevating. My sister Emily was not a person of demonstrative character, nor one on the recesses of whose mind and feelings, even those nearest and dearest to her could, with impunity, intrude unlicensed; it took hours to reconcile her to the discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that such poems merited publication. I knew, however, that a mind like hers could not be without some latent spark of honourable ambition, and refused to be discouraged in my attempts to fan that spark to flame. Meantime, my younger sister quietly produced some of her own compositions, intimating that, since Emily's had given me pleasure, I might like to look at hers. I could not but be a partial judge, yet I thought that these verses, too, had a sweet and sincere pathos of their own. We had very early cherished the dream of one day becoming authors. This dream, never relinquished even when distance divided and absorbing tasks occupied us, now suddenly acquired strength and consistency: it took the character of a resolve. We agreed to arrange a small selection of our poems and, if possible, get them printed. Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because- without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called "feminine"- we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery which is not true praise.
Obviously I'm not in favor of the term "authoress" either. The great irony is that in Charlotte's own lifetime the Bronte's novels were considered too passionate to be read by young ladies - now of course their work is cast into the "chick lit" category.

And we know what happened to the practice of hiding your gender for publication - it has continued into the 21st Century, as J. K. Rowling can tell you.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jackson Browne reconsidered

I will conclude my romantic comedy series soon. But first...

OK, so maybe I was a little harsh towards Jackson Browne last year. I have had cause to reconsider Jackson Browne when I stumbled into Anita Gevison's memoir about her relationship with Warren Zevon, which contains this:

"Before seeing Warren, I had to participate in group therapy, so I would be prepared for our new life together once he got out. I thought it was touchy-feely bullshit. I’d been through this with my sister before she died, overdosing on scotch and liquid methadone. You can’t save people, you just can’t. And needy doesn’t turn me on. Needy does not do it for me, even if it’s me someone needs. I did not want to see Warren like this. When I finally did, in group therapy, he grabbed me with sweating hands, and my heart was breaking. Apparently he’d told everyone in the group all about me, and my picture had been hanging up on the wall in his room. As we went around the room, each story was worse than the one before it. When it came my turn to “share,” I took the gloves off. 
“I just don’t see how this whole thing is going to work,” I said. “How are any of you going to be able to walk out of here and resist the urge to drink or do drugs just because you had a little warm-and-fuzzy session with the rest of the derelicts?” Not exactly what any of them needed to hear.
Warren ran to his room. I followed. I sat next to him on the bed. He pulled one of my t-shirts from under his pillow — he’d taken it out of my drawer before he left. I told him I just didn’t think it was going to work and he shouldn’t come back to Philly. But I remember thinking that if I left Warren there, he wouldn’t die on my watch. 
Somehow, Warren didn’t see this coming. He asked me to leave. I went to the counselor’s office, and they asked me who I knew that could replace me as Warren’s “co-dependent.” There is only one person to call, I said, one person who is un-fucked-up and responsible enough to handle this. 
“Call Jackson Browne.” And then I packed up my shit and got on the plane.
So Jackson took over and made living arrangements for Warren out in Hollywood after he got out of rehab — in Oakwoods, the place where all the rock stars wind up after their divorces.
So good on you Jackson Browne. And this is especially since, as reported by Gevinson, Zevon resented Browne's success and they were not on great terms at the time Gevinson recommended him as Zevon's caretaker:
I always hated bringing Rolling Stone home. At that point, a good article about Jimmy Buffett or Randy Newman would set him off on a jag and he’d be back in his robe, padding around the apartment for days, rudderless, full of vodka and ruin. He was on the outs with Jackson, and anything good that happened to Jackson Browne was bad, bad, bad. Warren was pea-green with Jackson envy. Who didn’t want to look like Jackson Browne? Everything was so hard for Warren that was so easy for Jackson and Don Henley. Out of nowhere he would just blurt out to me: “You know, Jackson’s first name is Clyde, and Henley gets all of his ideas from the phone book, you know that, doncha?” I’d just roll my eyes.
Poor Warren Zevon. He died from cancer at the age of 56, eleven years ago. He was a fine looking man when Gevinson was with him, so I did enjoy this especially intimate moment in her memoir:

...And then there was the night in Philly when we came out publicly as a couple, and I introduced him to the crowd at the Brandywine, and before I could get offstage he ran out from the wings with his guitar and slid across the stage on his knees, trapping me between him and the microphone. Warren kicked into Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” The crowd went ballistic. I just stood there smiling, not knowing where to look. At him? At the audience? Do I put my hands on my hips? Or at my sides? Finally it was over and Warren escorted me off the stage, and I collapsed in a heap on a chair. Then he walked up to the mike and said, “There’s a certain Philadelphia girl that I’ve been in love with, and tonight’s my night to show it,” and then he started playing Alan Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl.” I was putty in his hands after that. 
Which is the only explanation I have for why I wound up agreeing to walk down the aisle with Warren. We were making love one night after a concert in Denver when he proposed — how do I put this delicately? — in mid-stroke. “Will you marry me?” he asked, and then thrust his pelvis for emphasis. I don’t know why — I guess because deep down, I really was in love with the guy — but I responded with a breathless “Yes.” So we got done having sex, and Warren went to the bathroom. I was lying naked in bed and already starting to have second thoughts...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Romantic comedy and theater

As we discussed, in the movies the romantic comedy has been taken over by dude-bro sensibilities, replacing the concept of the man and woman as quirky individuals who come to terms with each other as equals, with the concept of schlubby man-babies winning hot women.

But what about in the theater? Well in theater there is a different problem. In the theater the romantic comedy is problematic because by its nature it can't be portentous or cynical about love.

I knew playwright Annie Baker was golden when they started comparing her work to that of Harold Pinter, whom theater people revere as a god in spite of (or, I would argue, because of) his utter portentousness. If you google "Harold Pinter" and portentous you will see how often his work is described that way. One example:
And, as befits the first opportunity to see a Harold Pinter play in the Harold Pinter Theatre, Old Times is laden with the playwright’s trademarks: scattergun dialogue interjected with pauses and silences; menacing undercurrents of manipulation; portentous lines that remain utterly unexplained (the repeated “I remember you dead” being a memorable instance in this play); and a niggling feeling that underlying it all is just abject, aimless misery. You leave the theatre feeling confused, dejected and more than a little unsatisfied – for the Pinter fan, it has everything.
Ah yes, abject, aimless misery. The nectar of the gods for contemporary theater folk.

Here's what a positive review (they were overwhelmingly positive) of Baker's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick had to say:
At the end of the play, Sam begins to train Avery’s replacement, Skylar, using a version of the same script that opened the play. We return to the beginning and a somewhat dulling sense that this will all happen again. After the repeated failures of these three to become more deeply connected to one another, Sam confesses to Avery: “There’s a lot of good stuff in my life. Maybe I never told you about it. Sometimes, people you fall in love with, fall in love with you.” Sam recounts a typical scenario of an unrequited love ultimately reciprocated as something that “really” happens outside the cinema walls. Avery barely acknowledges this faith, another cinematic promise. He ignores the last bid to restore a friendship and leaves, holding cast-off 35 mm reels in hand.
How nice for Annie Baker to show us a bunch of losers in a dead-end job, who fail to connect with each other. A Pulitzer Prize-winning hot new thing whose parents were academics (...her father had been an administrator for the Five Colleges consortium and her mother worked toward a doctorate in counselling psychology - New Yorker) no doubt never had, and never will have to worry about working a crappy dead-end job. But it's nice that she can spend three hours showing us how much life sucks for the 99%. It's fun for the 1% who can afford theater tickets to wallow in loser-land - they can leave at the end of the play. And they can tell themselves that they've experienced the authentic, and the gritty, including all those realistic long-ass pauses.

Don’t let the sycophants get you down. I walked at intermission. The show was boring, arduously paced, and painfully mundane; like my life. I go to the theater to get away from it all, not to amplify my fatigue. I’m so amazed when supporters tell me how fresh and new this play is supposed to be. I watched a character scrape gum from a chair for five minutes. OK, I get it, they have tedious mundane jobs. But come on, is this a training skit parody for a janitor school?
But the commenter needs to consider the perspective. If you've never had to make a living through menial labor, and few of Baker's colleagues or target audience members have, watching someone scrape gum from a chair for five minutes absolutely is fresh and new.

That's another thing in fashion these days - complete self-indulgence on the part of the playwright. The thinking goes that you must be truly blessed by the muses if you can say fuck you to the audience and make them sit through your portentous pauses.

A proper romantic comedy is the opposite of all these things - it caters to the audience instead of saying fuck you; it takes out excessive "realism" to serve the heightened reality of its world; it does not take itself seriously; it doesn't wallow in squalor; and it doesn't deliver this message to the 99%: life sucks and then you die, alone and miserable after a hideously banal life.

As Andrew Romano said:
Sure, (romantic comedies) can be conventional. But pop songs tend to be conventional, too, and that doesn’t dull the dopamine rush of a perfect chorus. A well-made romcom—It Happened One Night, Sleepless in Seattle, Say Anything…, Groundhog Day, The Apartment—works in much the same way. It’s a dazzling machine doing exactly what it was designed to do.
A "dazzling machine" is an apt description. A machine built expressly to provide people - no matter their socio-economic status - with emotional gratification.

And that is why it is not considered serious theater - and that is why critics and Serious Theater People hate romantic comedies.

And then of course there is the notion that romantic comedies are for women - and the theater is already terrified of losing status due to its association with females. But that will be addressed further in my next rant.

But I think Romano is wrong to only consider romantic comedy a "machine" - because any good story-telling observes conventions that create a narrative reality that is different from ordinary reality. That's exactly why people want to hear stories crafted by gifted story-tellers of any medium -it takes them away from conventional reality. And that's why audiences hate post-modern novels and post-modern plays - which Theresa Rebeck has ranted so delightfully against. But in the theater, pleasing a broad swath of humans is not what counts - it's impressing awards judges and other theater gate-keepers that truly counts.

I was gratified by one of the reviews that Julia & Buddy received, which called my romantic comedy "unconventional" - not because I agree with her, but because I knew this would be perceived as a high compliment by most theater people - conventional anything, but especially conventional romantic comedy is perceived as, essentially, shit for the moron masses.

But you can see why she thought J&B was so unconventional by the way she describes romantic comedies:
Many romances have a predictable mold. It’s easy to tell exactly who is going to get the girl (often the underdog best friend) or how the girl is going to get the boy (usually via some sort of mistaken identity and then a full, happy realization by the end). However, with Julia and Buddy, there is a quality of unconventionality about it. It opens on Julia, a fledgling philosopher (played by Claire Warden), locked in her room and having a panic attack. Finally a maintenance man named Buddy arrives (played by Matthew DeCapua), and we begin to see the inherent ironies these two people come with. Julia, a philosopher, tries to understand Buddy and “put together the pieces of the puzzle” as she puts it, while at the same exact time Buddy seems to realize that Julia knows very little about herself: Just as Buddy figures out that Julia is calling for a maintenance man to unlock her door, when she is actually afraid of leaving the house, Julia simultaneously realizes that even though the maintenance man is supposed to fix the ills of an apartment, Buddy quite literally can’t do any of the things in his job description. 
This "underdog best friend" getting the girl as a standard rom-com trope is news to me - this must be the result of the dude-bro/nerd boy influence on romantic comedies.

But in fact J&B is so conventional by pre-dude-bro standards that it was modeled on the 1965 off-Broadway romantic comedy The Owl and the Pussycat. In O&C the "owl" named Felix (which of course should be a cat's name) is failing as a writer and the "pussycat" named Doris is failing as an actor, although both keep insisting that's who they really are. And they each see through the other's delusion. And aid and comfort each other.

But the reviewer is young (I looked her up in Facebook) and so to her the dude-bro standard in romantic comedy IS the convention. She isn't even aware of the classic rom-com conventions.

And this lack of awareness of pre-dude-bro romantic comedies is, I suspect, one of the reasons why the reviewer who trashed my play hated it so much. Well, OK, I have no idea why he hated it so much, calling it "agony" but when I read this part, I knew this was someone who didn't understand romantic comedy as I did:
The play gives no reason for Julia to actually like Buddy aside from his ‘cute butt.’ (mentioned ad-nauseum) McClernan is content to slap acting a few seizures onto Buddy’s backstory and call it a day, but what he and Julia actually do or want for one another (aside from very good sex) is non-existent. With no compelling reason for the pair to be together, McClernan gives us no desire to watch her lightly-camouflaged philosophy lesson unfold.
This reviewer is just out of college, but the other reviewer, in spite of also being young, got what Julia and Buddy give to each other - they see through each others' delusions, as in the Owl and the Pussycat - and they help each other in spite of their own problems.

But the concept of people helping each other get better is absolutely anathema to Serious Theater these days - it's considered naive if not flat-out a symptom of idiocy. I had a conversation online with somebody who adores Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and his description of it was basically: "they know they have a bad relationship and things will never get better." In The Flick nobody makes a connection. In another recent Pulitzer-winner August: Osage County family members hate each other and squabble and two family members are at each others throats at the end.

Cruelty, contempt and despair are hip. People helping each other is lame. Even in a romantic comedy, apparently.

But even without their helping each other, even if all Julia and Buddy had was good sex, that would be a noble end in itself. Perhaps this is another issue of perspective - a college student can't understand that for a single middle-aged woman, finding a partner physically attractive enough and personable enough and non-gay or non-married enough to only have regular good sex is fiendishly difficult. Finding a soul-mate is pretty much the impossible dream.

Yes, college boy, you have no idea how much life can really, really suck before it's done with you. You will be amazed to learn - and I admit I was pretty surprised to discover this for myself - that it's somehow possible to go on living, day after day, year after year, in a state of almost constant despair.

Enjoy yourself while you can.

 But college boy seems to misunderstand the purpose of mentioning Buddy's cute butt "ad nauseum" - this is what is known as a comedy bit - comedy being one of the essential ingredients of romantic comedy.

Maybe he didn't think it was very funny, but it's there for a purpose. Here is how it worked - Buddy expresses his resentment of what he believes is Julia's snobbishness:
   BUDDY
You know what? My butt was on your radar. 
 
(Now he has her full attention.)  
   JULIA  
Your butt was on my radar?  
   BUDDY
It’s understandable. I’m known for having a nice butt. 
Then eleven pages later there's this:
   JULIA  
Then why haven’t you fixed anything for me? You’re always around, in your very fashionable clothing. Pretty fancy for a maintenance man. I saw that designer label on your back pocket.  
   BUDDY  
That’s because you were looking at my butt.  
   JULIA  
You and your damn butt. Maybe you should stop thinking about how good your butt looks and start thinking about fixing things. Why don’t you fix my light? 
Now it so happens that Buddy's one-upmanship - "she really did find me attractive" - in the sentence "that's because you were looking at my butt" pretty much always made the audience laugh. Which is good enough for me.

"Butt" is mentioned several times because repetition is a comedic device.

And the butt bit is used one last time, four pages later, for the sake of repetition, but also as the old switcheroo:

   BUDDY
Can I ask you something? And I want you to answer honestly. 
 
   JULIA
OK.... go ahead... just don’t ask me if I want a... just don’t. 
 
   BUDDY
My poor damaged brain wasn’t playing tricks on me, right? You really were checking out my butt. 
 
   JULIA
Yes. I confess. Your butt was on my radar. 

What happens here is that Buddy, thanks to his brain damage, has asked Julia three times already (rule of three and also more comedic repetition) if she wants a cat. So when Buddy says "can I ask you something?" Julia and the audience expects he's going to ask about the cat again - but instead he switches back into the butt issue again. This is there not only for the comedic value but also the romance value - Julia has to admit her attraction for Buddy, and right at this moment, so they can get speedily into a clinch and end the first half of the play with (off-stage) coitus.

And speaking of brain damage - I suspect that college boy was disappointed that the reason Buddy has brain damage is merely a dirt bike accident - my guess is that he wanted Buddy's back story to involved horrific sexual abuse at his boarding school. Which is a natural enough assumption about boarding schools but I declined to waste time in deep dark psychoanalysis for Buddy's back story seeing as this was a romantic comedy. And I wanted to bring it in under 90 minutes.

And one more classic rom-com convention I observed - I went to some lengths to find a very good-looking guy for the role of Buddy. Perhaps this added to college boy's displeasure. Probably his expectation was that Buddy should be played by an average-to-repulsive looking guy as in standard dude-bro "romantic comedies" and the notion that a woman would be portrayed lusting after an attractive man's ass offended his bro-honed sensibilities.

So there we have it - all kinds of romantic comedy conventions in Julia & Buddy.

So college boy reviewer is not overly-familiar with, or perhaps just doesn't like classic romantic comedy tropes. And admittedly rom-coms are not popular these days.

So romantic comedy is at a low point in our culture at the present time. Can romantic comedy be saved?