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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The rich vein of Ayn Rand-based comedy

It's always good fun to parody the "philosophy" of Ayn Rand, although it is really easy, to be perfectly honest. I did it myself in my play DARK MARKET. In fact, it's the first thing she says in the play:

Miss Rand? Are you here to haunt me like Jacob Marley?

How dare you! You know I hate “Christmas Carol”! That tale of an heroic businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, forced by supernatural beings to give his wealth to that moocher Bob Crachett and his family of worthless parasites. 

Good times. And of course Objectivists really do hate "A Christmas Carol" as I documented a couple of years ago.

So of course I enjoyed this recent New Yorker parody. The conceit is that Ayn Rand is reviewing children's movies. My favorite:
“The Muppets Take Manhattan”
This movie was a disappointment. The Muppets do not take Manhattan at all. They merely visit it. —No stars.

What is this song leading to?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Rom-Com - in worse shape than I thought

I can't say I'm disappointed in the submissions received (over 50 so far) to the NYCPlaywrights "Take Back the Rom-Com" project - having done calls for submissions before, I am well acquainted with the high percentage of crappy ten-minute plays usually received for these things. It was exactly what I expected.

But what's really annoying is what a high percentage of the plays received are neither comedic nor romantic. I was so exasperated by one submission received yesterday that I broke my own rule about never contacting submitters except to acknowledge receipt of the play. People are mostly not interested in feedback - they want you to tell them how great their play is, and I responded to this guy by asking what he thought was romantic about the play. His response:
I'm sorry? Is The War of the Roses with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner not a romantic comedy? Did you want a funny version of a Danielle Steele novel?
As it happens, "The War of the Roses" is classified as a black comedy by Wikipedia. The fact that this person believes that it is a romantic comedy is proof that people don't understand romantic comedy.

We had a nasty little back-and-forth exchange with his refusing to believe that his 10-minute play which consisted entirely of a couple of domestic partners bickering hatefully with each other wasn't the last word in romance and comedy.

And I just rejected another play which was about a bitter ex-boyfriend showing up in a restaurant to tell his ex-girlfriend the guy she was meeting for dinner was a killer. I haven't heard back from the guy, but this time instead of asking what the author thought made it a romanic comedy I simply stated:

"This does not meet the criterion of “romantic comedy.” Humor of course is a matter of personal taste, but this is in no way “romantic.”

If he has anything to say in response I will post it here.

I swear, it's as if any play that involves people who have had sex automatically qualifies as romantic comedy no matter what else happens in the play.

Some other gems:

A play which involves 8 characters (this is a ten-minute play, remember) that isn't romantic so much as a commentary on romantic tropes. Fail.

A prostitute picks up a guy at a bar, and though it's clear she isn't going to charge him for the sex, it's also clear that the only thing that's going to happen is sex. A one-night stand is not "romantic." Fail.

The guy in a hetero couple falls off a ledge and dies at the end. Fail.

A play based on absolute gender essentialism, in which a woman explains to her husband why women just don't like to have sex. Fail.

This is not to say that I love all the plays that do qualify as romantic comedies. I hate several of them. But I will have a bunch of actors to help me determine the best romantic comedies of those that qualify. My job now is to weed out those that do not qualify. Which so far is more than half of all the submissions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marilyn research

In addition to the second draft of DARK MARKET I am working on the first draft of my play about Marilyn Monroe, Incident at the Payne Whitney
and towards that end I've been doing a bit of research.

I remembered that Gloria Steinem had written a collection of essays about Marilyn - I recall hearing her talking about the book on the NPR show "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, when it was first published. It's a very interesting book from a feminist perspective.

 I've already read Miller's play After the Fall with a character based on Marilyn, and then I rented the movie "The Misfits", supposedly the character that Monroe played in that movie was based on her. If so, it's a pretty sad commentary on Miller's attitude toward's Monroe - her character is mostly passive and helpless, and cries a lot. Also just a boring movie with lots of roping and chasing horses, I didn't make it all the way through.

While reading up on "The Misfits" I discovered that Miller wrote a play called "Finishing the Picture" which was about the hassle of making Misfits. It was produced in 2004 to fair to middling reviews, but I wanted to read it anyway. Only to discover that it is apparently impossible to get a copy of the script. It appears to never have been published. I wrote to Miller's literary agent to see if it was possible to buy a copy, but so far I haven't heard back.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Private gains, public losses, universally disgusting

From American Banker:
But in finally getting what they wanted, big banks also thrust themselves back into the limelight in the worst possible way, simultaneously reminding the public of their role in causing the financial crisis and in their continuing influence over the various levers of the U.S government. In one fell swoop, they undid whatever recovery to their battered reputation they'd made in the past four years and once again cast themselves as the prototypical supervillain in a comic book movie. 
Observers said the fight was a public relations nightmare for Citigroup and the big banks. 
"They've taken a lot of reputational hits now, a lot of people saying, 'You're trying to blackmail us and not fund our government until you get your way,'" said Sheila Bair, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in an interview on CNBC before the House vote. 
"It's terrible publicity and I just hate to see that because I think the industry needs to be rebuilding trust with the American people right now. You do stuff like this, it just adds to the cynicism about banks, especially big banks."
Many analysts agreed that repealing the swaps provision, which was Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, is likely to only help banks on the margins, since they are allowed to continue engaging in the activity through affiliates. But by fighting so hard, some saw signs of darker motivations. 
"Wall Street's determined lobbying on Section 716 provides compelling evidence that Wall Street's business model depends on the ability of large financial conglomerates to keep exploiting the cheap funding provided by their 'too big to fail' subsidies," said Arthur Wilmarth, a professor of law at George Washington University. "Shame on Congress if it allows megabanks to continue to pursue the same business strategy that brought us the financial crisis."

Citigroup is holding government funding hostage to ram through its government bailout provision. Join me in opposing the

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Worst Christmas party ever

I just escaped got home from the worst Christmas party ever. It took me 90 minutes to get from the depths of Brooklyn back to Astoria, and while the A/C subway line must be the shittiest of all, like waiting in the subway station for thirty minutes and then getting on a smelly crappy train with loud obnoxious people sitting in front of the subway maps, it was worth every minute of not being at that party.

I've been to bad parties before and normally wouldn't bother to mention it, but this was so amazingly, epically bad, I just have to memorialize it on this here blog.

The best part is, it appears to still be going on based on the Facebook photos.

I showed up there with two bottles of a very palatable pinot noir - which was completely unappreciated by the other party guests. The "party" consisted of a tiny living room with a sofa and a coffee table, and the eight of us party attendees sitting around the coffee table playing a hideously crass, stupid card game that advertises itself as being a party game for horrible people which completely lived up to that motto. And of course really bad non-Christmas rock music.

I was there for an hour and a half and that card game is ALL that happened at this party. I would have liked to chat with people a little, but there was no time for that because they had to play this boring, moronic card game. I've never felt so alienated by seven other people in my entire life. I sat there trying to act like I wasn't appalled and when I couldn't take the torture any longer I left there, wanting to kill myself.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Albert Einstein advises Marie Curie

"At the time, Curie was putting up with a lot of ridiculous criticism. Despite winning a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work on radioactivity, in January 1911, her bid for a seat in the French Academy of Sciences had been rejected, likely in part because she was a woman and atheist, and perhaps also due to rumors that she was Jewish — a problem in an anti-Semitic, Dreyfuss affair-era France."

More at VOX

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Like a bicycle-loving fish needs a bicycle

White Palace variations

I went to see White Palace when it was first released, and at the time I was around the same age as the James Spader character, but now I'm older than the Susan Sarandon character. Tempus fugit. I still mostly like the movie, with some reservations, as I discussed a couple of years ago here.

One of the things I had reservations about was that the Nora character basically rapes the Max character. I recently bought a copy of the original novel the movie was based on, also called White Palace and to my surprise it actually uses the word "rape" to describe the encounter. So I'm glad the author, Glen Savan, had that much awareness.

Savan had a cameo in the movie, as can be seen in the first scene in the movie's trailer ("Yo, buddy, I'd like to get my hamburgers.) Poor old Savan died at the age of 49 of a heart attack.

There are several other difference between the novel and the movie, but I haven't found them all yet because I've been too busy to finish the novel.

One fascinating thing I've discovered is that this scene from the movie is hugely popular for "scene study" exercises.

You really appreciate the actorly abilities of Spader/Sarandon when you see these people do the scene:

And even in Norwegian!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Krugman said: American Evil

I will quote the entire thing:
As the Bush administration fades away in the rearview mirror, my sense is that many people — even liberals — are forgetting what it was really like. It becomes, in memory, just another administration whose policies you disapprove of, like the reign of Bush the elder. 
But it wasn’t. It was an administration that deliberately misled us into war, exploiting an atrocity to pursue an agenda that had nothing to do with that atrocity — and causing vast amounts of death and destruction in the process, not to mention undermining American strength. 
And it was an administration under which America became a torturer, with the enthusiastic approval of top officials.
This wasn’t normal. And if it’s going be normal from now on, all the more reason to remember the Bush years with horror.
I first became aware of Krugman soon after 9-11 - he was one of the very few pundits who weren't bowing down to the hysterical xenophobia of the Bush administration. My respect for his straight-shooting made me a big fan. And he is clearly still an eloquent, yet succinct straight-shooter.

Christ, you know it ain't easy...

Yoko Ono was different, so it seemed. Yoko Ono had something that all the others did not: perseverance that bordered on obsession. It was a mixture of guts and gall that went beyond chutzpah into the range of something spooky. By now everyone in the household was a little wary of her. After meeting John at an art exhibit she had been unshakeable… the beginning she showed up at the Apple business offices and demanded to see him… and she once threatened to chain herself to the gates (of the Abbey Road EMI recording studios) in an attempt to get in to see John. Then came a long-distance assault on Kenwood (Lennon’s home.) It began with a barrage of phone calls, and then, when John’s telephone number was changed three of four times, Yoko sent dozens of letters. The letters first insisted, then demanded, John’s support for her arts projects. Cynthia (Lennon’s first wife) intercepted many of the letters and began to save them when they turned dark and despairing, in case Yoko ever followed through on the threats to kill herself. She had already tried to do herself in once in Japan, and the letters sounded sincere. According to Cynthia, Yoko wrote: “I can’t carry on. You’re my last hope. If you don’t support me, that’s it, I’ll kill myself.” 
Very much alive, Yoko began to appear at Kenwood in person, waiting in the driveway of the house for John to come and go. She stood there from early in the morning until late at night, no matter what the weather, wearing the same scruffy black sweater and beat-up shoes, so intense and scowling that the housekeeper was afraid to go nearer. One day Cynthia’s mother took pity on the forlorn figure and let her into the house to make a phone call and have a glass of water. But Yoko only used the occasion to leave her ring behind, which gave her a pretense to return the next day and demand to be let inside. One morning a package arrived from Yoko which Cynthia and her mother opened; it contained a Kotex box in which Yoko had buried a broken china cup painted blood red. John had a laugh about it, but Cynthia and Lillian Powell didn’t find it one bit funny.  
Eventually, Yoko’s dogged pursuit of John became so blatant that it developed into something of a private joke between the married couple. Yoko’s grande atrocity occurred one night when she turned up at the Transcendental Meditation lecture John and Cynthia were attending in London. When it was over she followed them out of the lecture hall and into the backseat of John’s psychedelically hand-painted Rolls-Royce limousine and sat herself down between them. Cynthia and John exchanged embarrassed smiles over her head until the chauffeur dropped her off at Park Row, where she was living with her husband.
From "The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles" by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines.

That's the same Peter Brown who got a shout-out in "The Ballad of John and Yoko" - 
Peter Brown called to say
You can make it OK
You can get married in Gilbraltar near Spain.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Colbert and Obama were awesome

I LOL'd several times during this - Obama crushed it.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Colbert Report on Facebook

The Vulture talks about it.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Finally had a reading of my play DARK MARKET - it went pretty well, and the actors seemed to like. As usual poor Miss Willow, my anti-social cat, hid under my bed the whole time. But as soon as the actors left she was back at her post.

Now comes the hard work of rewriting. Oy.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Cycle Sluts

I've mentioned Cycle Sluts before, it's the hysterical porno that Barbra Streisand's character Doris was in before she met Felix in the movie version of "The Owl and the Pussycat."

Well apparently they did a whole photo shoot in Cycle Slut costumes for promotion - but these images did not make it into the movie. Wheee!

The movie was of course the original inspiration for my JULIA & BUDDY. But there's no porno movies in my play - but there is a video clip of a space cowboy.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Nathaniel Branden is dead

Just as I'm completing the first full draft of my play DARK MARKET, about Ayn Rand's influence on Alan Greenspan, and indirectly, the 2008 economic meltdown, I find out that Nathaniel Branden died on December 3.

Reason, the magazine for libertarians and therefore, worshippers of Rand, said this:
Then, after Rand broke from him and all "official" Objectivists were required to revile him, Branden was a living example that intelligent admiration for and advocacy of Rand's ideas need not be tied in with thoughtless fealty to Rand as a person, or to the pronouncements of those who controlled her estate, with all the attendant flaws and occasional irrationality: that one need not be an official Randian to spread the best of Objectivism. As late as 2010, Branden published print versions of his NBI lectures helping systematize her ideas under the title The Vision of Ayn Rand. 
Branden was a friend to Reason over the years. An interview he gave to the magazine back in 1971 was vital in breaking the then very-small-circulation publication up into the thousands in circulation.
And of course Branden was Rand's boyfriend for several years and she broke with him and cursed him and destroyed his Nathaniel Branden Institute, which was devoted to promoting her work, when he refused to resume having sex with the apostle of reason. According to his memoir:
"Getting tired of a serious, philosophical life?" she asked sharply. "You're on your own now in every way that counts. Unless you mean you want to be rid of me." 
"Free of you? I want us to be friends forever." 
"Friends is not what I'm talking about! What new irrationality is this? Do you think I would have dedicated Atlas Shrugged to a friend? I've told the whole world that you are Objectivism. Do you think I would say that about a friend? What's the matter with you? Don't you attach meaning to the words you speak? Where has your mind gone?" 
The message was clear - if I were not in love with her, that meant my mind was gone and I was a traitor to our philosophy. This was Ayn's notion of giving me every chance to withdrawal from our "romance."

Thursday, December 04, 2014

A moment of art appreciation

Click to see a much larger version of this painting.
The news lately has been so disgusting, with the killer police and rape colleges, I don't even know what to say about it all.

So it's time for some art appreciation.

Botticelli's La Primavera ("Spring") is one of my favorite paintings for several reasons - for one, it's very theatrical, with the cast arrayed within the setting like a stage, with the diva, Venus, in the center. Also there's the anticipation of action, with Cupid above, about to shoot somebody with a love arrow.

I also like the color composition. I have a copy of this painting in my apartment, although unfortunately the colors on the red end of the spectrum have faded (I guess it was a pretty cheap print) and so the whole thing has turned to blue, and only the drape of Mercury (the stud on the left) and Venus are at all reddish. However, it's not so bad - if this were a painting by Renoir it would be a disaster - his work is mostly about color, but Botticelli was big on line as much as color - so the print can still be appreciated for the grace of the line, which becomes more prominent with the greater color monotony.

Art historians are still not sure exactly what this painting is about, although the most popular is some kind of mythological allegory. As Wikipedia says:

Venus presides over the garden - an orange grove (a Medici symbol).[9] She stands in front of the dark leaves of amyrtle bush. According to Hesiod, Venus had been born of the sea after the semen of Uranus had fallen upon the waters. Coming ashore in a shell she had clothed her nakedness in myrtle, and so the plant became sacred to her.[10]The Graces accompanying her (and targeted by Cupid) bear jewels in the colors of the Medici family, while Mercury'scaduceus keeps the garden safe from threatening clouds.[7][9][8]
The basic identifications of characters is widely embraced,[11][12][13] but other names are sometimes used for the females on the right. According toBotticelli (1901), the woman in the flowered dress is Primavera (a personification of Spring) whose companion is Flora.[14] The male figure is generally accepted as Mercury but has been identified as Mars by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker of SmARThistory.[15]
I've been told I resemble one of the characters in this painting, but I won't say which one. One of the female ones though, fortunately.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Myers gives Jerry Coyne a well-deserved thrashing

Jerry Coyne is a proud New Atheist along with misogynists Christopher "women aren't funny" Hitchens, Sam "women have too much estrogen to be skeptical" Harris, and Richard "Dear Muslima" Dawkins, which means that of course his true religion is evolutionary psychology*.

P. Z. Myers, who regrettably has some SJW tendencies like siding with that idiot Suey Park against Colbert, over the Redskins parody, nevertheless is a stalwart critic of the standard inanities of promoters of evo-psycho and responds to Coyne here:
But then Coyne pulls his magic “proof” out of his hat: the existence of sexual dimorphism. Yeah, who has a problem with that? Men and women look different in grand and subtle ways. Some of those differences were almost certainly selected for. Again, I don’t know anyone who denies that, so it’s kind of weird to use it as his triumphant example. Except that he seems to think all those lefty wackos — you know, feminists, apparently — are in the business of denying the obvious.
But the left-wing opposition to evolutionary psychology as a valid discipline in principle, especially when it involves differences in sexual behavior, seems to me based more on ideology than on biology. Ideologues cannot allow any possibility that males and females behave differently because of their evolution. Such people think that this would buttress the view that one sex would be “better” than the other.
I know a lot of modern radical feminists. I’m pretty solidly in the left-wing camp myself. And NO ONEdenies the physical differences between men and women, or claims that evolution could not have played an important role in shaping the diversity of modern humans. Nor do any claim that there aren’t significant behavioral differences — we encounter those every day. What we oppose is the credulous insistence that every single difference is a product of selection, that the influence of culture is noise gently overlaying the purity of the biological signal, and worst of all, the idea that the status quo is justified as a product of biology (which Coyne at least tries to distance himself from at the end).
But please, spare us the simplistic causal explanations for these differences that rely on cartoony, evidence-free speculation, like that men evolved to be bigger than women because they had to punch each other lots in fights for dominance. Perhaps we should recognize that culture creates roles that can generate differential selection pressure on men and women, and that human behavior is far more complex and cooperative than cavemen bashing each other with clubs.

*and Islamaphobia - you pretty much can't be a "New Atheist" unless you consider women to be intellectually inferior to men (not just "different" which they like to pretend is what they're really saying) and consider Islam to be the Great Satan.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Nature is a language - can't you read?

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You'd like to

So, if there's something you'd like to try
If there's something you'd like to try
Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?

Coyness is nice, and
Coyness can stop you
From saying all the things in
Life you'd like to

So, if there's something you'd like to try
If there's something you'd like to try
Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?

Spending warm Summer days indoors
Writing frightening verse
To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it's not Love
Then it's the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

Nature is a language - can't you read?
Nature is a language - can't you read?

So ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it's not Love
Then it's the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

If it's not Love
Then it's the Bomb
Then it's the Bomb
That will bring us together

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tiny theater world - still tiny

One of the people in the 365 Women playwrights group with me is married to this right-winger David Marcus - here he claims that David Mamet's OLEANNA is "just as relevant and present now as it was when Mamet wrote it in reaction to the Clarence Thomas hearings."

OLEANNA, as I detail here, is a right-wing fantasy about a noble professor brought down by a crazy college student controlled by a shadowy Group. It had no relevance when it was first produced, much less now - except as an example of the deranged panic of right-wing men.

Although I didn't realize it was a reaction to the Clarence Thomas hearings, but if it was, it's pretty suitable since Clarence Thomas is possibly one of the worst Supreme Court justices ever who lied his way onto the Court.

Deranged right-wing men will always watch each others' backs. Which is the only possible reason that Marcus would even reference a complete loser like Jonah Goldberg.

 What I really don't understand is how his wife, who is not a right-winger, can stand to be near him, much less be married to him. I won't go so far as to call all right-wingers idiots, but I will say that their understanding of the world is so extremely different from my own that there is virtually no way to connect with them on a personal level - you might as well try to communicate with a Venusian - a Venusian who believes that Venusians are superior in every way, and gets everything wrong, and has a belligerent attitude covered, if at all, by the most transparent veneer of civility.

I don't see how you wouldn't want to throttle them after five minutes in their presence.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Naomi & Patty win thanksgiving

 Patty made the turkey, Naomi made the sweet potato pie and I brought the wine.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful today I don't work for Walmart

The Walton family never gets tired of being rich and evil.
Walmart pays its workers so little that many of them are forced to rely on government assistance to make ends meet. But while it won't raise wages so that workers can pay their bills and buy food, Walmart is totally concerned and wants to help its employees who are struggling. Once again, it's expressing that concern by holding a canned food drive for its own workers. This time around, it's an Oklahoma Walmart store where bins have been put out with signs asking workers to "succeed by donating to associates in need."
Also on the Thanksgiving theme - a very Chagrin Falls Thanksgiving:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The School of Rape

So it turns out that not only is the University of Virginia in the running for the premiere rape college in the United States, it also has a mural that, if not glorifies faculty misbehavior and adultery, at least considers it just another part of attending the University of Virginia.

The rape issue was brought to national attention thanks to an article in Rolling Stone which:

...detailed what appeared to be the preplanned gang rape of a student in 2012 in an upstairs room of the Phi Kappa Psi house, followed by a botched response by the administration. And it alleged that rape has long been an ugly undercurrent of the university’s social system, treated as an unfortunate byproduct of the school’s party culture whose eradication was less important than maintaining the university’s image.
A very expensive mural called "The Student's Progress" covers the entire foyer and stairwell of Old Cabell Hall, which is also the University’s premier auditorium and the favored space for visiting dignitaries. The mural depicts, among other scenes of daily life at the University of Virginia, a male faculty member standing on a porch and tossing a mostly naked student her bra as his beleaguered wife comes up the stairs. My students and I have pointed out that wildly inappropriate section of the mural to faculty, administrators, students, parents, and donors, but so far, no one has been particularly horrified. The mural is proudly displayed and is prominently featured on UVA tours.
I managed to track down the blog of the artist of the mural, Lincoln Perry (not to be confused with the guy who played Stepin Fetchit) which includes four videos of 10 - 15 minutes each about his work on the UVA mural. 

I didn't see the section that Gordon mentions in any of the videos. The content of the mural seems to be a big mish-mash of allegory (the "Seven Deadly Sins" are included, and he goes on about the Pride figure at one point in the video) and allusions to many famous works of art including not only "A Rake's Progress" but also "The School of Athens" which he mentions explicitly in the video.

So it's possible that the student and her bra symbolize the deadly sin of "Lust" or the scenario is possibly a reference to one of the many depictions of Zeus raping a mortal woman, inciting the jealousy of Hera

In any case, though, the artist, his patrons, and the UVA administration at large see nothing wrong with presenting a scene which, if not rape, is a portrayal of the abuse of power, and presented as part of a "student's progress."

Of course there's a tradition of right-wingers dismissing the problem of faculty abuse of power through sexual relationships with students, from OLEANNA which depicts the issue as a crazy student controlled by a shadowy Group falsely accusing a professor of rape, to anti-feminist Katie Roiphe's (I was just talking about her yesterday) defense of a philosophy professor Colin McGinn using his position to pursue a student. 

The abuse of power seems to be a concept that conservatives in general have a tough time wrapping their heads around, probably because their worldview is based on hierarchies and the belief that those at the top of the power structure deserve to be there through their own merits. A philosophy professor responds to Roiphe's difficulties with the concept:
I know that I was once an aspiring undergraduate philosopher who said “thank you” when an adviser, a leader in the field I wanted to study, called a philosopher on the graduate admissions committee at another university and told him he’d give a verbal recommendation but would “wring his neck” if I were admitted to the other program, because “she’s mine.” I was once a graduate student who said “thank you” when that same adviser presented me with the first red rose. I was once a graduate student who said “thank you” when he promised not to tell anyone what had transpired between us. He assaulted me because he “loved” me. But the thank you didn’t mean I loved him. The thank you didn’t mean I was appreciative. The thank you meant that I was afraid of the consequences of provoking his ire, afraid that I’d be committing academic suicide if I complained or refused to play his game. The thank you meant that there was a power differential.
The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson, the raper of slaves, as Bonnie Gordon notes:
Rape culture reflects a community grounded in patriarchal privilege and gender inequity. For example, that mural. Or the fact that our sacred founder, Thomas Jefferson, had sex with a 14-year-old enslaved girl. (That’s not consensual.)
We are expected to worship the sacred Thomas Jefferson for his great accomplishments, while brushing aside the fact that he was a slave-owner and rapist. Just as fans of Roman Polanski can watch his work and not think about the fact that he is a child rapist. The work of the great man is presumed to be too important to worry about such minor details. And if you have a problem ignoring such details you're treated like some kind of hysterical moron.

How fitting that Jefferson's University is now considered a rape school, considering it was founded by a rapist. And the section of the mural called out by Gordon is a fitting representation of the forgiving, even cavalier attitude of the culture at large towards the abuse of power by men.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Daphne Merkin finds her soul mate

I rarely have a reason to talk about Daphne Merkin since she left a typically whiny comment on this blog many years ago, but I can't help remarking on her latest adventures, which I discovered via this week's New Yorker - she's palling around with feminism-hater supreme Katie Roiphe, to whom Katha Pollitt delivered an exquisite smack-down twenty years ago, "Not Just Bad Sex."

I actually thought better of Merkin than that, believe it or not. Sure Merkin wrote a defense of Bernie Madoff, and wrote bullshit about the Brontes, and promotes evolutionary psychology theories about gender mating behaviors, but even I didn't think she would stoop so low as Katie fucking Roiphe. As Pollitt noted about Roiphe's grotesque views on date rape:
ONE in five, one in eight- what if it's "only" one in ten or twelve? Social science isn't physics. Exact numbers are important, and elusive, but surely what is significant here is that lots of different studies, with different agendas, sample populations, and methods, tend in the same direction. Rather than grapple with these inconvenient data, Roiphe retreats to her own impressions:
"If I was really standing in the middle of an epidemic, a crisis, if 25 per cent of my female friends were really being raped, wouldn't I know about it?" (Roiphe forgets that the one-in-four figure includes attempts, but let that pass.) As an experiment, I applied Roiphe's anecdotal method myself, and wrote down that I know about my own circle of acquaintance: eight rapes by strangers, (including one on a college campus), two sexual assaults (one Central Park, one Prospect Park), one abduction (woman walking down street forced into car full of men), one date rape involving a Mickey Finn, which resulted n pregnancy and abortion, and two stalking (one ex-lover, one deranged fan); plus one brutal beating by a boyfriend, three incidents of childhood incest (none involving therapist-aided "recovered memories"), and one bizarre incident in which a friend went to a man's apartment after meeting him at a part and was forced by him to spend the night under the shower, naked, which he debated whether to kill her, rape her, or let her go. The most interesting think about this tally, however, is that when I mentioned it to a friend he
was astonished,- he himself know of only one rape victim in his circle, he said- but he knows several of the women on my list.
It may be that Roiphe's friends have nothing to tell her. Or it may be that they have nothing to tell her. With her adolescent certainty that bad things don't happen, or that they happen only to weaklings, she is not likely to be on the receiving end of many painful, intimate confessions. The one time a fellow student tells her about being raped (at knifepoint, so it counts), Roiphe cringes like a high-school vegetarian dissecting her first frog:
"I was startled... I felt terrible for her, I felt like there was nothing I could say."
Confronted with someone whose testimony she can't dismiss or satirize, Roiphe goes blank.
Sure Roiphe was an asshole twenty years ago, but surely she's gotten a clue since then, right? Well, no.

This is from 2011:

Roiphe has a long history of spouting anti-feminist rhetoric, as Rebecca Traister captures well in a book review for
The 38-year-old author first made her name as the baby bĂȘte noire of feminism with her 1993 screed against campus date-rape activism, “The Morning After.” The book made Roiphe, then a 25-year-old Harvard grad and the daughter of feminist writer Anne Roiphe, a child star of sorts, a symbol of the generational rupture in the women’s movement and of a post-Reagan conservative backlash among young people. Her I’m-too-sexy-for-this-movement provocation partially inspired Tad Friend to coin the term “Do-Me Feminism” in 1994. 
In her latest anti-woman contrarian triumph, Roiphe makes a lot of misguided arguments, including that sexual harassment is too much of an “umbrellalike” charge, thus mistakenly grouping together ostensibly serious claims like “demanding sex in exchange for a job” with those that are more agreeable to Roiphe, such as a comment about someone’s dress.
Similarly, the spectacular decline and fall of notorious skeezeball and celebrated mediocre philosopher Colin McGinn, recently let go (ahem, “retired”) from his position at the University of Miami, is, according to Roiphe, the story of a man who “lost everything because of a 26-year-old woman.” Because, 100%, of the woman—not, in fact, because Colin McGinn is a well-known student-schtupper whose shenanigans got him in trouble at every previous job he ever had, including Rutgers, where he had an actual “plum” position, as opposed to the definitely-not-plum position (despite Roiphe’s ludicrous characterization) at Miami, which is a poorly-ranked program at a poorly-ranked institution, hardly befitting a Philosopher of Mind of his mind’s stature. 
Any time you see a senior professor with long and distinguished publication record teaching somewhere not-that-prestigious, but who used to teach somewhere more prestigious, that is almost 100% because that person fucked someone he wasn’t supposed to. Usually a grad student. Usually his own grad student. It happens all—and I mean all—the time. And it is deplorable, despite what Roiphe says about she, herself, preferring a “powerful, arrogant man” and resenting the fact that apparently in our society, that is a punishable offense, which makes perfect sense when you think about the relative power, arrogance and maleness of nearly every single Fortune 500 CEO in existence.
Why McGinn had to take the fall for what hundreds of senior professors just like him do every day will remain a mystery—perhaps he just did it so much that eventually something had to give. Perhaps he has so many enemies in Philosophy of Mind that he was under extra scrutiny. Perhaps he just got unlucky and the victim of this particular bit of skeeviness was unusually brave–and if you look at the hundreds of disparaging comments on Roiphe’s article (which I am not linking to because it is an odious hagiography that doesn’t even deserve this mention, much less a link), you’ll see why that kind of bravery is rare.
For most of the comments agree with Roiphe. This 26-year-old woman isn’t a “victim” of anything. If anything, she is the perpetrator: a scorned lover who manipulated the rules of an institution to get back at the scorner. Because, as Roiphe describes emails Colin McGinn sent her when he wasn’t busy having Skype-sex with her, erm, I mean, being “interviewed,” this woman welcomed the advances. She advanced back. She flirted. She called him “dearest.” She is just as guilty as he is. The “only” thing he did wrong was not report their relationship to authorities and remove himself as her mentor and employer.
All right, first of all—that’s not “only,” that is a major and fireable offense. And second of all, here is the main reason for this rant: It does not matter at all that she seemed into it at the beginning. It falls under the school’s sexual harassment statute because of the power imbalance inherent in the situation.
But let's face it, Roiphe has such a sweet niche going on. She makes her living defending the white male establishment that still runs everything. She is never going to lose money on that proposition.

And only an idiot like Daphne Merkin would stoop so low as to pal around with her. They so deserve each other.

Monday, November 24, 2014

After the Fall

Young, pre-cosmetic surgery and bleach Monroe
I got a copy of Arthur Miller's play AFTER THE FALL because it's basically an autobiographical piece and I wanted to see how he portrayed Marilyn Monroe - called Maggie in the play. I'm writing a play about MM in between trying to finish my DARK MARKET, which will have a reading in two weeks.

Miller's character Quentin is a lawyer and Marilyn's character is a singer rather than a movie star, but the inter-personal dynamics are presumably the same - Miller pretty much portrays Monroe as the hot mess that she's known as now. In fact I have to wonder how much this portrayal has influenced views of Monroe. According to a documentary about Monroe in New York, which portrays Monroe as pretty damn sharp, Miller was responsible for driving a wedge between Monroe and her business partner, photographer Milton Greene. She set up a business, "Marilyn Monroe Productions" together with Greene.

Miller seems to consider himself the driving force behind Monroe's career moves:
No! Tell the truth! The piano's off and you're not listening! 
But nobody will ever notice. 
A pianist moves near her out of the executive group. 
I know the difference! Don't you want me to be good? I told Weinstein I wanted Johnny Block but they gave me this fag and he holds back my beat! Nobody listens to me! I'm a joke! 
Maybe if I talk to Weinstein -  
No, don't get mixed up in my crummy business, you've got an important case...  
He moves to and point and demands: 
Weinstein, get her Johnny Block! 
The music turns over into another number and her voice, swift, sure. 
There now! Listen now! 
She listens in suspense; he almost struts with his power.  
See? There's no reason to get upset, just tell me and I'll talk to these people any time you - 
I found it interesting though that Miller was aware that Monroe had found some unkind things he wrote about her not long after they were married -
What are you, goddam judge or something? Let go. You no judge. 
He lets go. 
You know when I wanted to die. When I read what you wrote, judgey. Two months after we were married, judgey. 
Stricken, afraid, but remorseless. 
Let's keep it true. It's not some words on a piece of paper that destroyed us. You told me you tried to die long before you met me.  
So you're not even there, huh. I didn't even meet you. Tries to laugh. 
You coward. Coward! 
She staggers to her feet. He finds it hard to look directly at her. A clear line of accusation momentarily seems to steady her, and with the pills in her palm she stands straight. 
I was married to a king, you son of a bitch! I was looking for a fountain pen to sign some autographs. And there's his desk... 
She is speaking towards some invisible source of justice now, telling her injury. 
...and there's his empty chair where he sits and thinks how to help people. And there's his handwriting. I wanted to touch his handwriting. And there's some words... 
She almost literally reads in the air, and with the same original astonishment. 
"The only one I will ever love is my daughter. If only I could find an honorable way to die." 
Now she turns to him. 
When you gonna face that judgey? Remember how I fell down fainted? On the new rug? Member? That's what killed me judgey. Right? 
She staggers up to him and into his face. 
'Zat right? When you gonna face that one, kiddo?
It's pretty harrowing.

There's so much available about Monroe now, including this piece in Business Insider, 50 Things You Didn't Know about Marilyn including:
26. In 1950, Johnny Hyde, her agent, paid for her to have two plastic surgeries: a tip rhinoplasty (reshaping the soft cartilage at the end of her nose); and a chin implant.
Actually, looking at later photos of Monroe I think she also had some kind of upper-eyelid surgery at some point - her eyelids are much more pronounced in later photos, which goes against the basic facts of aging and gravity.

My favorite thing about Marilyn though is this:
28. Marilyn’s intervention got Ella Fitzgerald her first major engagement at a Los Angeles nightclub. In 1955 the colour bar was still in force, but Marilyn convinced the management to let Fitzgerald play by promising to sit in the front row for a week.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I've Got a Feeling

Unfortunately the rooftop video is not available, just this montage.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I went to see POWERHOUSE with my friend Val last night. It is a theatre piece about the life of composer and eccentric Raymond Scott. You would most likely know his work through its frequent usage throughout Looney Tunes cartoons.

The NYTimes gave it a rave review, but I tend to agree more with the New Yorker's review which says in part:
...the three women are relegated to the thankless roles as Scott's three wives (Wife No. 3's signature line is "I brought you a sandwich.")
In this production, stagecraft rules, with the odd result that scene changes and interludes come to life more fully than the human narrative we're expected to care about.
The costumes were almost entirely in shades of gray to give the impression you were watching events set in the mostly pre-1970s, which is the time setting for most of the play.

And interestingly, in another review in the same issue of The New Yorker, of the Bedlam Theater Company's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, the stagecraft sounds like POWERHOUSE:
...actors moving about onstage with the fluidity equal to that of the mobile props - chairs, sofas, tables, doorways - that roll across the playing area in a kind of non-stop allemande of shifting perspectives.
In the case of POWERHOUSE, the subject himself is not especially interesting, and his relationships with his wives are pretty sad - he was always so self-absorbed. Val thought he might have been on the autism spectrum. But he almost seems consequential, thanks to the stagecraft. It was directed by Jon Levin, who was basically the star of the show in my opinion.

Here is the "Powerhouse" tune, used many many times in cartoons.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Evolutionary psychology takes another hit

One of the claims of evolutionary psychology, that theory so beloved by New Atheists like Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins, is that women prefer older men because of an evolutionarily-endowed innate predilection.

Well lucky for proponents of evo-psycho, they've never depended on evidence to support their pet theory, because it looks like thanks to the female income revolution women are going for younger guys:
According to Fischer, data from specific age brackets -- 30-49, 50+ and even 20-29 -- showed similar patterns of women preferring younger men, although older female users were even more likely to respond to messages from younger guys.
If the numbers contradict conventional wisdom, a look around at the way people actually date suggests that they're right on the mark. As CNN pointed out in February, Hollywood and the broader celebrity sphere is full of young women dating younger men, from actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, 31, to race car driver and model Danica Patrick, 30, to Eva Longoria, 38. 
The data also make sense in light of women's financial realities. Women under 30 are out-earning young men in major metropolitan areas. Women are now the primary breadwinners in 4 out of 10 households with children. There are signs that men are increasingly interested in women who earn as much or more than they do. Since they can count on themselves, women don't need an older man for financial stability, and dating a younger one may be a way of establishing relationships where they have at least as much control as the man. In a recent story on the data, TIME quoted Harvard psychologist Justin Lehmiller speculating that "when the woman is older, it shifts the traditional heterosexual power dynamic toward greater equality," and equality makes for happier couples.

But of course evo-psychos will invent some just-so story to get out of facing yet more evidence that the theory is based on, as anthropologist Marvin Harris said, "biologizing inequality."

And speaking of Richard Dawkins, that best-selling and revered millionaire considers himself a victim - the comments below the quote are P.Z. Meyer's:

I don’t take back anything that I’ve said, Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood and so I will … He trailed off momentarily, gazing at his hands resting on a patio table.I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well, he continued. There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me. 
Richard Dawkins is worth over $100 million. Every book Richard Dawkins writes is a best-seller. People pay Richard Dawkins $10-20,000 to come lecture at them for an hour. When any news source wants to get an opinion from the atheist community, who do they turn to first? Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins gets to tell conference organizers who to uninvite from their speaker list. Richard Dawkins makes movies about Richard Dawkins.
And poor little Richard Dawkins is muzzled? After whining that American women ought to hush up about getting fondled in the workplace or harassed in an elevator, because they’re so well off compared to women in the patriarchal cultures of the Middle East, he’s claiming victimhood as a wealthy outspoken opinionated man, because people criticize him?
Jesus fuck. That’s pathetic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seen around the city

It's hard to take a selfie with Miss Willow, she's very camera shy

But officer, that jewelry had my name on it.

King of the hill, top of the heap

Astoria bodegas have everything

Subway hair

Space hippies!

Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?
Would you like to go up on 'A' Deck and look at them with me?
Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?
Would you like to go up for a stroll and keep me company?

Do you know
We could go?
We are free
Anyplace you can think of
We could be

Have you seen the stars tonight?
Have you looked at all the family of stars?

Blows Against the Empire

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hey I don't have cancer

The cats are fine now, and that's the important thing.
It was a year ago today that I had an operation to remove a growth from my right kidney. They didn't know for sure that it was cancer although they definitely suspected it, and after the biopsy a few weeks later it turns out they were right. The cancer was small, luckily and produced no symptoms at all - they only found it because I had a CAT scan for something else.

I just got the results of my follow-up CAT scan and there was nothing to report. Yay. Actually the scan was a couple of months ago, and when I didn't hear back from my doctor I assumed everything was fine, but I was still nervous about actually asking for the results. But since it was the one-year anniversary of that unpleasant event, I figured I might as well remove all doubt.

I got the first bad CAT scan results a month and a half before the operation and you couldn't say I took the news with fortitude and grace. I got the news by phone from my endocrinologist while I was at work and I went home and cried my head off. I reacted so badly it upset my cat Miss Willow and I ended up taking her to the vet to find out what was wrong - nothing was wrong, but the vet suggested that my displays of anguish were making her sick. Poor Miss Willow. She's fine now.

It should be noted I did not miss a single day of blogging the week of my operation, which included a single overnight stay at the hospital. You can blog in advance and just set the time of posting for later, I didn't blog from my hospital bed. Although I did email and text from my hospital bed, I'm not a Luddite.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I love Ken

As a kid I was never big on playing with Barbie dolls, although I was given Barbie dolls for several Christmases, until I started asking for books and art supplies instead. I just never knew what to do with her - the entire point of Barbie was to dress her in outfits and that seemed to be it. I was not inspired. I preferred Japanese anime like Kimba the White Lion and Astroboy - but they didn't make Kimba or Astroboy dolls at that time.

And I don't think I ever owned a Ken doll. But I loved Ken in Toy Story 3 a few years ago, in part because of the scene where, at Barbie's request, he has a little fashion show for her, strutting around in outfits from his vast collection. I think there's nothing sexier than a man displaying his masculine beauty for a woman he cares about. There's still far too much underlying hostility in American culture to any man who makes an effort to look good, although it will no doubt fade as the strict dichotomy of patriarchy fades and we no longer have men as the sexual consumers, and women as the sexually consumed, or women = decorative and men = utilitarian. It's about time that heterosexual men stepped up to give something nice for women to look at, and that includes wearing cute outfits.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

On Invisibility

The received wisdom is that women over 40 become "invisible" to men. But this wisdom seems to be contradicted all the time. For example, there seems to be a pretty healthy appetite for porn featuring older women out there. In fact, I first remember reading about it in the NYTimes and when I went back to find the article I was amazed to find the article is from 2006, already eight years ago:
WHO watches this stuff? By far the most avid consumers of older-woman pornography, producers say, are young men fulfilling boyhood fantasies of teacher lust or yearning for the attractive mothers of their friends. Some, it has been suggested, may be tired of what one producer, Oren Cohen, has called, in a recent AVN article, “the young, helpless teen thing.” 
David Joseph, 38, De’Bella’s boss and the president of Platinum X, said: “It’s totally an erotic thing people are attracted to. There’s a huge market out there for older women. I’m trying to understand it myself.”
But the older-woman fantasy is nothing new, even if the video pornography industry is scarcely more than three decades old. It may be that the revival of young men’s teenage fantasies, along with the sexual confidence of older women, is fueling the supply side as well as the demand.
The genre has been credited as the idea of Bonnie Kail, 48, the national sales manager of Wicked Pictures. A few years ago Ms. Kail was working for a small company, Heatwave Entertainment, which specialized in fetish sex, including so-called granny porn, which feature old women. She thought there was room for less freakish fantasy. 
“I had said from my personal experience that, being divorced, I’m lucky if I can meet someone my age,” Ms. Kail recalled. “Most guys who want to date me are in their late 20s. So I thought, let’s get some hot-looking, 40-ish women and make that the theme.”
And this was right before everybody was online all the time. Now you can easily see porn on Youtube, and here's just one sample of what's out there.

And Kail's experience has been the same as mine - it's almost impossible to meet a man around my age, but there are plenty of 20-somethings. Although I haven't found there are a lot of hot 20-somethings out there, at least in online dating. And then there is the problem of 20-somethings with zero social skills and always wanting no-strings-attached sex. 

It's really sick, this need to dehumanize sex partners the way so many men do. And it's even worse for women my age, since there's awful misogynist propaganda like this out there - "The Cougar Method":
My name is Ken Paxlon and I have cracked the code to having a steady stream of women coming to your bed, any time you want it.
It doesn't require you to be good-looking.
It doesn't require you to be in good shape or have lots of money.
All it requires is that you be young, or at least under age 32.
I had to laugh at that. Really? It doesn't matter what you look like? Uh, no. Try telling that to the balding 29-year-old that I just could not warm up to, although he made it clear he wanted me. I just have an aversion to baldness - I really can't help it. I'd love if I didn't have that hang-up, and if the guy had a better personality maybe I could have gotten past it. But I certainly am not going to hook up with a guy only because he's young.

But the real reason for wanting an older woman according to Ken Paxlon, is spelled out clearly in his method:
Cougars are also the easiest women to close the deal and sleep with on the first date. Ok, maybe humongously overweight chicks could be a little easier…but fat chicks will expect a relationship while cougars will not! This is a very important distinction!
It's like somebody wanting a relationship with you is a fate worse than death. Oh no - a relationship! Why ruin all that sex with treating someone like a person? And it's propaganda like this that helps make seemingly all younger men expect instant, impersonal sex with every older woman he meets online. It just really wears you down, to be exposed to the constant assumption that you're a disposable collection of holes.

But strangely enough, in the past couple of months I've found myself being checked out by young guys off-line - maybe now because I've lost weight thanks to all the running. The server at the restaurant across from work, and some very cute guy on the subway who was seriously staring me down, are two recent incidents. And then there is the super-hot 30-something actor (although older than 32 so he doesn't count as cougar bait according to Paxlon) who told me he wanted to take me home with him after I squeezed his bicep (alcohol was involved.) The only problem is, I don't know what to do with that. I have so many self-doubts, I have to question whether I'm just imagining there's actual interest, as opposed to innocent flirtation. And when it comes to strangers, I've never approached a stranger to ask for a date - I've barely asked people I've known for a date - not because I think women shouldn't do that, far from it - just a combination of insecurity and lack of necessity - I've been in relationships more than I've been out of relationships most of my adult life. 

But in any case I seem to be visible, for a woman my age. 

Perhaps it helps that I've never been beautiful, so I've never been the object of constant attention the way really beautiful women are, which must make it much harder for them to suddenly lose their power as they get into middle age. Once they show a few signs of age, not getting lots of attention must make them feel invisible by comparison.

And then of course it must be said that the more extreme effects of the patriarchy have moderated, even since 2006, now that Hillary Clinton is considered a serious possible contender for the presidency. So now older women can be "distinguished" almost as much as older men.