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, July 29, 2015

Cat Circus

"Cat Circus" 
My favorite drawing my daughter did when she was a kid, besides this pictchure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yep, Bill Cosby is pretty much a psychopath

Last week the NYTimes ran the story of Cosby's 2005 testimony which said in part:
He said he obtained seven prescriptions for them over two to three years from a doctor in Los Angeles, ostensibly for a sore back but in reality to give to women. 
He admitted to giving young women quaaludes at that time “the same as a person would say have a drink,” he said, but not without their knowledge. 
Though he portrayed the drug-taking and sex as consensual, Mr. Cosby — when asked whether Ms. Serignese was in a position to consent to sexual intercourse after he gave her quaaludes in 1976 — said: “I don’t know.” 
Joseph Cammarata, a lawyer for Ms. Serignese and two other women who are suing Mr. Cosby for defamation, said of the deposition: “This information is important because it sheds light on the private practices of a man who holds himself out as a public moralist.”
This week New York Magazine provides a round-up of 35 women accusing Cosby of sexually harassing, molesting, drugging and raping them.

Of course there are still people defending Cosby, from Phylicia Rashad to random commenters on the NYMag story.

Amy Schumer rightly mocks them - the ending is hysterical and pointed.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Marilyn takes the subway

Marilyn Monroe made her primary home in New York City for about six years and got around the city quite a bit, even taking the subway as we can see in these photos.

That is an authentic subway rider pose.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Oliver Sacks, still hanging in there

started a new sort of treatment — immunotherapy — last week. It is not without its hazards, but I hope it will give me a few more good months. But before beginning this, I wanted to have a little fun: a trip to North Carolina to see the wonderful lemur research center at Duke University. Lemurs are close to the ancestral stock from which all primates arose, and I am happy to think that one of my own ancestors, 50 million years ago, was a little tree-dwelling creature not so dissimilar to the lemurs of today. I love their leaping vitality, their inquisitive nature.
Next to the circle of lead on my table is the land of bismuth: naturally occurring bismuth from Australia; little limousine-shaped ingots of bismuth from a mine in Bolivia; bismuth slowly cooled from a melt to form beautiful iridescent crystals terraced like a Hopi village; and, in a nod to Euclid and the beauty of geometry, a cylinder and a sphere made of bismuth. 
Bismuth is element 83. I do not think I will see my 83rd birthday, but I feel there is something hopeful, something encouraging, about having “83” around. Moreover, I have a soft spot for bismuth, a modest gray metal, often unregarded, ignored, even by metal lovers. My feeling as a doctor for the mistreated or marginalized extends into the inorganic world and finds a parallel in my feeling for bismuth.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stronger than dirt

This video makes it clear that Jim Morrison was a beautiful man. And you gotta love that silver belt slung low on his hips. Oh baby.

And damn, look at that orchestra!

I was disappointed that Morrison doesn't sing "stronger than dirt" at the end of this performance, as he did in this recording.

And the origin of the phrase:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More from the art vault

Another portrait of my daughter from her teenage years. This was in our apartment in Merchantville NJ - I recognize that radiator and windowsill in the background like it was yesterday. She's watching TV, so it was convenient to draw her then.

Another drawing of my daughter watching TV, from the same period. This drawing is in marker and a bit more expressionistic.

She's watching a video of the Dead Kennedys doing their immortal "MTV Get Off the Air." Don't ask me where I came up with that nickname. I have no idea.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The other Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton and her code
You probably think of the actor who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie "Wizard of Oz" but there is another Margaret Hamilton.
Not only is she credited with coining the term "software engineer" but:
Hamilton's work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 Moon landing:[3] Three minutes before the Lunar lander reached the Moon's surface, several computer alarms were triggered. The computer was overloaded with incoming data, because the rendezvousradar system (not necessary for landing) updated an involuntary counter in the computer, which stole cycles from the computer. Due to its robust architecture, the computer was able to keep running; the Apollo onboard flight software was developed using an asynchronous executive so that higher priority jobs (important for landing) could interrupt lower priority jobs. The fault was attributed to a faulty checklist and the radar being erroneously activated by the crew.
Of course at the time Hamilton was working, software engineering was not a prestigious job. As this article in the Smithsonian points out:
Now, it’s not that managers of yore respected women more than they do now. They simply saw computer programming as an easy job. It was like typing or filing to them and the development of software was less important than the development of hardware. So women wrote software, programmed and even told their male colleagues how to make the hardware better. (It turns out programming is hard, and women are actually just as good at it as men.) 
What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”
This is no surprise. Anything that is considered women's work is automatically disparaged. Or as this excellent blog post persuasively argues: Patriarchy’s Magic Trick: How Anything Perceived As Women’s Work Immediately Sheds Its Value:
One of my lecturers at university once presented us with this thought exercise: why are doctors so highly paid, and so well-respected? Our answers were predictable. Because they save lives, their skills are extremely important, and it takes years and years of education to become one. All sound, logical reasons. But these traits that doctors possess are universal. So why is it, she asked, that doctors in Russia are so lowly paid? Making less than £7,500 a year, it is one of the lowest paid professions in Russia, and poorly respected at that. Why is this? 
The answer is crushingly, breathtakingly simple. In Russia, the majority of doctors are women. Here’s a quote from Carol Schmidt, a geriatric nurse practitioner who toured medical facilities in Moscow: “Their status and pay are more like our blue-collar workers, even though they require about the same amount of training as the American doctor… medical practice is stereotyped as a caring vocation ‘naturally suited‘ to women, [which puts it at] a second-class level in the Soviet psyche.” 
What this illustrates perfectly is this — women are not devalued in the job market because women’s work is seen to have little value. It is the other way round. Women’s work is devalued in the job market because women are seen to have little value. This means that anything a woman does, be it childcare, teaching, or doctoring, or rocket science, will be seen to be of less value simply because it is done mainly by women. It isn’t that women choose jobs that are in lower-paid industries, it is that any industry that women dominate automatically becomes less respected and less well-paid.
And of course evolutionary psychology was invented (or reinvented from sociobiology) in order to bolster the idea that women are just no good at math and science because of evolutionarily-endowed tendencies, which is why, Larry Summers argued, they have lesser careers in those fields.

Steven Pinker, good friend of scientific racialist Razib Khan, is one of the foremost promoters of evo-psycho, had his ass kicked by Elizabeth Spelke 10 years ago, but you'll never hear about that because Pinker has a great PR machine and most of the media outside of the New Yorker is too reverential towards Pinker to ever critically examine his work. But here is the link to the immortal debate between Spelke and Pinker ten years ago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


My friend Anastasia is Greek and was telling me about the Hellenists (she called them Olympianists), which she compared to Wiccans in the US. Hellenists are, according to Wikipedia:

(Greek: Ἑλληνισμός), the Hellenic ethnic religion (Ἑλληνικὴ εθνική θρησκεία), also known as Dodekatheism (Δωδεκαθεϊσμός), Olympianism, refers to various religious movements that revive ancient Greek religious practices, publicly, emerging since the 1990s.

Hellenic polytheists worship the ancient Greek Gods, including the Olympians, nature divinities, underworld deities (chthonic gods) and heroes. Both physical and spiritual ancestors are honored. It is primarily a devotional or votive religion, based on the exchange of gifts (offerings) for the gods' blessings.[36] The ethical convictions of modern Hellenic polytheists are often inspired by ancient Greek virtues such as reciprocityhospitalityself-control and moderation. The Delphic maximsTenets of Solon, the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, or even Aristotle's Ethics each function as complete moral codes that a Hellenic Polytheist may observe. Key to most ethical systems is the idea of kharis (or "charis", grace), to establish reciprocity between humanity and the gods, between individuals, and among community members.[37][38] Another key value in Hellenic Polytheism is eusebeia, often translated as piety. This implies a commitment to the worship of the Hellenic gods and action to back this up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Welcome Gay Overlords

Favorite responses to Jade Helm 15 hysteria
More at Salon.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You go Mrs. Naugatuck!

Laurence Harvey
So I mentioned a humor piece on the New Yorker on the Spinster Agenda a few days ago and one of the items on the agenda was said to be Glynis Johns in her “Mary Poppins” costume on the hundred-dollar bill.

Now I love that character and wrote about her in this blog a few years ago. I was looking at the image in the spinster blog post and noticed the woman in maid attire standing next to Glynis Johns and I wondered "whatever happened to Mrs. Naugatuck"?

Mrs. Naugatuck portrayed the second maid of Maude (Bea Arthur) on the TV show "Maude" and that was my introduction to Hermione Baddeley. So it turns out Baddeley had quite a film career before American TV. And an interesting personal life and an interesting intersection of the two. When she was in her mid-40s she was in a relationship with Laurence Harvey, an actor 22 years her junior. He proposed marriage to her but she turned him down because of the age difference. His then married Margaret Leighton who was only six years older than Harvey, and after they divorced Harvey married Joan Perry, who was seventeen years older than him. But his last marriage was to a woman 13 years younger. So he wasn't only attracted to older women, but he certainly had no problem with older women. He also appears to have been bisexual.

Someone recommended that I watch a movie that Harvey starred in, "Room at the Top" which just so happens to be on Youtube in its entirety for free. In the movie his character Joe is involved with an unhappily married woman 10-years older played by Simone Signoret (who was 7 years older than Harvey) but it ends badly.  During the affair they use an apartment of the women's friend who is played by Hermione Baddely. This was made in 1959, so eight years after they broke up.

I must have seen Harvey in one of his movies but I don't remember him. He was certainly well-known in his time, although he died at only 45 in 1973, so maybe that's why I wasn't aware of him. Apparently Kim Novak disliked him but Elizabeth Taylor loved him.

Baddeley and Laurence in "Room at the Top"
She's just delivered the line: "you're the sort of man I like."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Woody Allen's other fantasy

I'm glad to see that at least one movie reviewer picked up on the obvious self-serving fantasy in Woody Allen's latest movie, and I'm not talking about the standard older-man, younger woman scenario. Says Matt Zoller Seitz at
There's an unnerving arrogance to the script's lack of polish and shape. The movie seems to think we'll care deeply about its characters simply because they're on screen saying and doing things. This attitude is merely irritating until the film's near-midpoint, when "Irrational Man" evolves from Allen's umpteenth older man-younger woman romance (troublesome enough, given that Abe resists Jill over and over until he can't anymore) into a murder conspiracy. Abe and Jill are out at lunch when they overhear a woman in the next booth tearfully telling her friends about a corrupt family court judge. Allen has of course been plagued by accusations that he molested Dylan Farrow, the young daughter of his ex, Mia Farrow, and at points along the way he has asserted that the judge in his own custody evaluations was incompetent and ethically compromised. Abe becomes obsessed with murdering the family court judge because doing so would rid the world of an evil, worthless man, and strike a blow for justice far beyond anything Abe could accomplish as a writer, and nobody would be able to trace the crime back to him because he and Jill have no personal connection to the case.

The result plays like Allen's daydream of murdering the judge who kept him apart from the girl he had been accused of molesting. This is nestled inside what feels like a more familiar, self-justifying fantasy about Allen's affair with his wife Soon-Yi, Farrow's daughter with conductor Andre Previn. One needn't have a opinion, informed or otherwise, on Allen's private life and alleged crimes to find this scenario repugnant—not just because it all seems on first glance blatantly autobiographical, but because Allen keeps it at arm's length, and wrapped up in lush imagery and jaunty music and plausible deniability, as he tends to do.
Although I did enjoy this line from the NYPost review:
Newly arrived at a Rhode Island college campus, Abe is a potbellied and impotent alcoholic. This being an Allen movie, women find him simply irresistible.
Although let's face it, many movies these days pair older male actors with younger female actors as this immortal article in Vulture: Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don't.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Julia & Buddy one year later

The 2014 production of my play Julia & Buddy which opened a year ago on July 17 was important for me, but not really for anybody else involved, although they each did a good job, I'm not complaining. But it was small potatoes for the actors and stage manager who are all accustomed to doing much more remunerative and theater-establishment based work. But it was a big deal for me, and not only financially.

The J&B production was, all things considered, a success. Foremost was winning the Outstanding Production of a Full-length Play award in the Midtown International Theater Festival, which means I get to say I'm an award-winning playwright.

My work was reviewed by three different critics - true, in not very prestigious media outlets, but it was still nice especially since one review was glowing, and one was pretty positive. And even Sander Gusinow's hatchet job was interesting both because I never would have guessed that a 90-minute romantic comedy could make somebody so bitter and angry (Gusinow doesn't get the romantic comedy genre, which I wrote about here) and because of the unexpected post-production drama, which I wrote about here. I didn't mention Gusinow by name before, but it's a year later, so why be coy.

Turns out Gusinow prides himself on trashing plays. So I'm sure he will understand when I say how much I thought his play Ruth and Naomi sucked, and in exactly the same way that most off-off Broadway plays suck - the author is too busy trying to be cool and cutting edge to bother with a coherent storyline. And of course the de rigueur wallowing in squalor.

But back to J&B2014 - I was very satisfied that one of my director goals was met - during rehearsals I said to the actors that my ambition was for the audience to believe that there were two male actors in the cast, one playing Buddy and one playing Schopenhauer. Matt DeCapua, who played both roles, scoffed at this. But then lo and behold, when I took the cast and coworkers of mine out for drinks after the last show, one of the coworkers asked, within earshot of Matt, "who played Schopenhauer?" I will never tire of gloating about that. Matt told me recently that his mother still talks about the Schopenhauer scene.

And of course I'm proud that (as far as I know) my play is the first ever embodiment of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on stage.

Plus I bought a pretty expensive skirt for Julia's boating outfit, which I added to my own wardrobe. So the play wasn't a complete financial loss.

So what are Claire Warden and Matt DeCapua up to, one year later?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pushing for parity

The latest news about female playwright representation is in this week's NYTimes:
Roughly one-fifth of the productions staged at hundreds of theaters nationwide over the past three seasons were written by women, according to a study to be released Friday.
Overseen by the playwrights Julia Jordan and Marsha Norman, the study, called “The Count,” is to be updated each year. Until now, besides a handful of older analyses, it had been unclear just how many female playwrights were seeing their work staged, according to Ms. Jordan.
“We wanted to create a baseline,” she said, “and to document the change.”
Judging from the numbers, the picture for women is rosier than a decade ago. A 2002 report from the New York State Council on the Arts found that 17 percent of productions across the country had female playwrights. According to the new report, that figure now sits at 22 percent.
“That’s a significant increase,” Ms. Norman said. “If that could continue, we could get to where we need to be, which is parity.”
I found this especially interesting because I just received another email from another theater group that was making a big deal out of the fact that it was featuring plays with female characters, but by a male playwright. A couple of months ago I received a notice from Project Y about a play by Adam Szymkowicz , author of the dread Compulsive Love, as part of their 'Parity Project.'

And then lately my actor friend Amanda is going to appear in a play, one of nine by Rich Orloff at the Workshop Theater Company. The big deal is that it's all female characters and female directors.

Theater groups love to do plays by men so much that even though they want to be known for promoting parity they just can't quite get comfortable with the idea of producing women's plays instead of men's. So the actor parity option is what they go with. And then there's the added bonus for those playwrights, both heterosexual men - plays with lots of girl-on-girl sex. Well at least in Orloff's case. Szymkowicz is more about lesbians having sex with unattractive men. Take that, patriarchy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The first rule of Spinster Club...

Sign me up!

In the New Yorker:
Votes for women - step in time!
Q: What are some of the goals of the Spinster Agenda?
A: Increasing the prominence of women in the government, a greater reliance on bike-share programs, the elimination of lonely cats, better television adaptations of the Brontë sisters’ work, further research into cloning Benedict Cumberbatch, the immediate green-lighting of an Emma Thompson and Colin Firth movie with lots of clothed sex that’s set in the eighteen hundreds, Glynis Johns in her “Mary Poppins” costume on the hundred-dollar bill, world peace. 
Q: What if I want to join the Spinster Agenda? What should I do?
A: The easiest way to enlist is to hang around your local yarn shop until someone recruits you. However, if you prefer to be less conspicuous, know that simply watching all of the episodes of “Orphan Black” on your streaming device will alert the Spinster Agenda that you wish to join, and someone will be in touch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Naomi, Adam, Nancy, John and Spalding

This double portrait in Crayola marker is of my daughter and her boyfriend Adam back when my daughter was into guys. They are on a train from Trenton NJ to NYC, as was my ex-boyfriend John and I, all on our way to see Spalding Gray perform his monologue It's a Slippery Slope.

I had discovered Gray one day when I was home sick from work and watching the Philadelphia area public television station (WHYY) and happened to catch some of the OUR TOWN production with Gray as the Stage Manager. I didn't care for theater all that much then, outside of the plays of Shakespeare, but Gray impressed me enough that I began seeking out his other work, which was available on videotape. Somehow I compelled both my daughter and my boyfriend to come along with me to New York City - this was unique in our semi-family unit because John almost never traveled anywhere. In fact, for as long as I knew him, the only times, save one, in which he did venture outside of the Philadelphia metro area was at my behest - once to Baltimore to see the aquarium, three times to the Jersey Shore and twice to New York City. The one time he did venture out of the Philly area without me was to his friend Seth's wedding, in Washington DC, I think, but we were just about broken up by then. In fact, although this trip to see Spalding Gray happened in 1994, John and I were on our own slippery slope to parting ways, which we didn't actually do until 1997. But it was all downhill after I met this guy.

There is an interesting documentary available for free on Youtube (in multiple parts) called Spalding Gray A Life in Progress. Here is part 1.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Marilyn and Ella

I really like the image above, not only because it shows two iconic American pop stars but also because it's a testimonial to the fact that they did meet. Said Fitzgerald:
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt… she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”
I've made this incident part of my play about Marilyn, although it isn't the main focus. It turns out somebody else has already made a play about this incident:
Marilyn and Ella is a 2008 play by Bonnie Greer. It is a musical drama about Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald.
Unfortunately the play appears not to have been published, and it doesn't seem to be playing anywhere around. I would love to read it. I contacted Greer via Twitter and asked about it - she said it hasn't been published but might be playing somewhere soon.

Greer is kind of a big deal -  she's all over Youtube making speeches, and although she was born American she's now a British national and a dame.

Apparently she just resigned as president of the Bronte Society (!) last month.

Greer has interesting things to say about theater in the Telegraph and mentions her play.
Every week, I get word of yet another black British theatre practitioner packing it in and planning to head Stateside. Our industry simply cannot afford this.

But there are many who stay, determined to try here in the country in which they were born. My own play about the real-life friendship of Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn and Ella, largely exists because of the energy of Colin McFarlane, its Black British director/producer.
Here is Greer speaking about the play. She makes some statements about Monroe that I hadn't heard about and she also gets the facts wrong about the Mocambo - it was not segregated prior to Fitzgerald. The idea that Monroe desegregated a nightclub of course makes a better story, but it's not true.

A search through the Jet Magazine archives (how cool is that - it appears the entire magazine's archives are available online free) provides evidence that in fact the Mocambo was not segregated prior to Fitzgerald because there's a story about Eartha Kitt playing the Mocambo in 1953.

I was hoping that Jet had information about the Marilyn/Ella incident, but while an article in the April 7, 1955 issue is about Fitzgerald's debut at the Mocambo and mentions plenty of celebrities (see below) it does not mention Monroe at all.

All the pictures I could find of Monroe & Fitzgerald. You'd think there would be more.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Watercolor apotheosis

Another portrait of my ex-boyfriend John. I finally discovered actual watercolor paper by this time - you can see the grain if you click the image to zoom in.

I really like the pencil drawing and watercolor combination. And I especially like this piece because I managed to control the watercolor enough to leave blanks spaces along the front edge of the profile to indicate light. If I had become an illustrator I would have probably specialized in this.

Although thanks to computers there's very little need for manual-skill based art now anyway.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


This portrait is of my dear departed Earl Nelson Rich. I've already posted this online in my tribute page to Earl. He died 18 years ago this September. He was a beautiful man, but he was also smart and unusually sweet. Everybody loved him, and his memorial service was packed.

I thought I would repost the drawing because I severely cropped the other one, and I also fiddled with it in Photoshop.

The original drawing, on the left here, shows Earl in front of one of those antique giant computer monitors that we had back in the 1990s, which is fun. But more importantly you can see that for this marker drawing, instead of doing the under-drawing in pencil, I did it in orange marker, and then I redrew the lines better in grey marker. I blew away the orange marker for the other version of this picture, but it's nice to see them in the original - they make it look like Earl has a kind of holy glow around him - which he did.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Joss Whedon: why do you always write strong women characters?

The fourth installment of the Hey Sweet Man series of pro-women men is about Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among others.

This speech, introduced by Meryl Streep, and already 9 years old(!), went viral even before everybody was on Facebook.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Tattoo portrait

I finally found the pencil portrait I drew of Jason, the guy I dated briefly. I gave him the portrait and then never saw him again, but after I begged him for a copy he sent me a photocopy. It's not a bad photocopy but it's still a photocopy and so the pencil gradations are blown away.

I believe his tattoo is a Celtic design - he also had one on his shoulder, which can barely be seen in this drawing. That was Celtic too. His ethnicity was Irish and Italian, but I guess he liked the Irish better? Or maybe he just liked Celtic art better. I don't remember him saying either way.

And yes, I can draw hands.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

My watercolor stylings

While looking through my old artwork I found this watercolor I did of a model when I was 19 - this is one of the pieces that helped me get a scholarship to the Philadelphia College of Art.

I didn't take care of the painting very well, unfortunately, you can see the tear in the back of the hair. It is done on lousy quality paper - I had no idea at the time that there were a variety of high-quality paper types out there.

Nine years later I did this water color of my ex-boyfriend John. My style doesn't seem to have changed much in that time. But it is on better quality paper.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The art show continues

Here's another guy I briefly dated back when and then found via Facebook. Paul was a student at Drexel University when we dated. I see by his FB profile he's still into brass ensemble music and aviation. His profile isn't as open to the public as Jason's so I can't tell much more about him.

He doesn't have the porn stache any more though.

Monday, July 06, 2015

More on the paradox of femininity

A few years ago on this blog I wrote about the paradox of high heeled shoes, although really that is part of the whole paradox of femininity. My daughter once helpfully informed me I was "butch" but I maintain I'm just not macho enough to do the whole hard-core femininity drag. I'm too much a creature of comfort to put my body through a lot of torture for the sake of fashion. I rarely wear high heels because they're so uncomfortable - and bad for your health too. And as I complained the first time around, while high heels shoes are meant to make a woman look all dainty, walking around on her tippy-toes, they make her sound, in the hardened halls of corporate America, like a bunch of Clydesdales clomping on cobblestone.

Well I've been traveling quite a bit lately which means I've had to use public toilets, and so I'm reminded of another paradox of femininity - there are many woman who are just too freaking dainty to sit on the toilet seat of a public toilet, so instead they squat over the seat and end up peeing all over it. And do they wipe it down afterwards, as a refined lady would? No, of course not, they just leave it boobytrapped for the next woman. I'm going to have to look into these devices.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Award-winning photographer

Not me, but the subject of the pastel drawing above. I went to art school with Geri Harkin-Tuckett and we were friends until we had a falling out. This drawing was done not too long after we were out of school. She's not a household name but she's definitely won at least one award, from the Chester County Art Association. I'm glad I took this picture, the drawing is on some pretty crappy newsprint and is about to go.

And here's a marker drawing of my daughter sitting in Geri's backyard when Geri was living in Philadelphia. My daughter was still young enough to go places with me, socially, but just barely, as you can tell by her body language.

I was really into magic marker for several years - and nothing fancy either, my preferred implement has always been Crayola magic markers, which are perfect - non-toxic, odor-free, inexpensive but good bright colors, and if you splurged a little you could get some more exotic, non-primary colors.

Markers are a real challenge to get right, even if you do a pencil under-drawing. Not even watercolor is as unforgiving as markers - you can salvage a wrong turn in a watercolor, but make a wrong stroke with a marker and most of the time you've ruined the entire drawing. So a good magic marker drawing is a real accomplishment. And I think this one is pretty good. The choice of gray for the lines of her face worked out very well - anything darker would have been too much.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

More better living through exercise

As I mentioned on the last day of 2014 (is 2015 really half-way over already???) "it seems like every time I look in the NYTimes there is another article about how running and other exercise keeps you young."

I found another example today:
But the researchers decided that their insight was not useful unless people could easily determine their fitness age. So using a mobile exercise laboratory, they went out and tested the fitness and health of more than 5,000 Norwegian adults and used the resulting data to create a sophisticated algorithm that could rapidly calculate someone’s aerobic capacity and relative fitness age based on his or her sex, resting heart rate, waist size and exercise routine.
They then set up a beguilingly simple online calculator that people could use to determine their fitness age.
When I wrote about the calculator last year, Dr. Pamela Peeke took note. An assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the National Senior Games — which are informally known as the Senior Olympics — she is also a competitive triathlete.
And biologically, it seems, she is a spring chicken. When she plugged her personal data into the online fitness calculator, it told her that her fitness age is 36.
Chronologically, she is 61.
And then later...
Even in advance of that information, though, the takeaway message of the data should be inspiring, said Dr. Peeke, who will be competing in the triathlon event at the Senior Olympics. 
“A majority of the athletes at the Senior Games didn’t begin serious training until quite late in life, including me,” she said. “We may have been athletes in high school or college. But then, for most of us, jobs and families and other commitments got in the way, at least for a while.” 
Few Senior Olympians returned to or began exercising and training regularly until they were middle-aged or older, she said. 
“So you can start any time,” she said. “It’s never too late.”

Friday, July 03, 2015

Blue Oyster Cult - bad fact checkers

Don't Fear the Reaper is not about a murder-suicide pact, according to its author Donald Brian "Buck Dharma" Roeser, even though it mentions Romeo and Juliet prominently in the lyrics:
Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity... Romeo and Juliet
40, 000 men and women everyday... Like Romeo and Juliet
40, 000 men and women everyday... Redefine happiness
Another 40, 000 coming everyday... We can be like they are
Come on baby... don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand... don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly... don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man...

According to Wiki:
Dharma says the song is about eternal love, rather than suicide. He used Romeo and Juliet as motifs to describe a couple believing they would meet again in the afterlife.
My guess is that Dharma wasn't actually familiar with the Shakespeare play and just knew the characters as lovers - he didn't realize they both die by suicide. But then I don't think he's big on checking facts anyway, because...
He guessed that "40,000 men and women" died each day, and the figure was used several times in the lyrics.
I happened to be listening to Don't Fear the Reaper today and I started to wonder about that number. So I did a little research, and I was pleased to find I am not alone:
Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I heard this on the radio and thought, "Huh. I wonder if Blue Oyster Cult actually looked up the daily global death rate when they were writing this?" 
I can now pretty confidently report that, no, they did not. I suppose this is what comes from writing songs before the birth of the Internet. And, also, from not being anal retentive. 
How many people die every day? Obviously, this differs widely from day to day and year to year. Most of the time, when people talk about "how many people die every day" they're talking about taking rough estimate of how many people die every year and dividing that by 365. I'd be perfectly happy to let Blue Oyster Cult do this, because it would be a little ridiculous to sing, "x number of men and women on July 15th, 1976", or whatever. Averaging it out would have been fine, so let's assume that's what we're doing.
According to the World Health Organization, around 54.5 million people die annually. Which makes the "daily death rate" roughly 149,000. Of course, those are the current numbers. To be fair to Blue Oyster Cult, I found the death rate from 1976 (with the help of my friend Stephen McNeil). At the time "Don't Fear the Reaper" was released, the world population 4.1 billion, with a death rate 12.5/1000, which comes out to 140,000 per day. So the bad news is that Blue Oyster Cult is way off in their estimation of the death rate. But the good news is that you could quite easily change the lyrics to say "140,000 coming every day" and not screw with the meter too much.

Wow, he underestimated by 100K. Damn.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Award-winning artist

I guess I am an award-winning artist, in that I've entered work of mine into art shows and won awards. And I guess I'm an award-winning playwright too, thanks to winning in last year's Midtown festival. I never think to call myself "award-winning" though, possibly because I feel like unless you've won something really big, like the Pulitzer Prize or something, it doesn't really count. But still, I've seen other playwrights who've won awards no bigger than mine refer to themselves as "award-winning." I guess if it helps your career...

One of these pictures won an award - I think it's the middle one but I really don't remember and this was before everything was online so I can't even look it up. But I see that the Perkins Center for the Arts is still doing juried exhibitions and giving out awards, so that's nice. It's all online now of course.

The top picture is a sketch I did from life of my ex-boyfriend John, and then I transferred that onto newsprint and colored it with pastels. I called that one "Prone Boyfriend" and the one below of course "Suppine Boyfriend." I must have a pencil study of the bottom one but I couldn't find it.

I remember what a hassle it used to be to take photos of your artwork - you had to hire someone if you wanted it done right. And now it's just so freaking easy - you take the picture, upload it, and publish it for the world. Voila. And not just easy, but such high-quality images. And I didn't do anything fancy with lights, which is what professionals did back in the day - I put the pictures on the floor and took them with my iPhone with the flash on. 

There is something about a hand-drawn or painted image though that still has a charm all its own in spite of the greater accuracy of photography. I do enjoy the tension between the realism of the drawings and the abstract qualities of the pastel quite a bit.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

More Facebook weirdness

Every now and then I will think of somebody from my past and wonder whatever happened to them. Thanks to Facebook, I can often find out.

I have this portrait of a guy I dated briefly back when, Jason. It's a pretty good likeness and you can see how cute he was in his 20s. And he had a freakishly long penis. Ah memories. He also has a big tattoo on his back, I drew a portrait where you can see it, but he kept it. He did mail me a photocopy after I begged him for it. I have that around here too, and will have to post that online when I find it.

At the time I knew him he was living in Brooklyn, where he grew up, and he took me to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights which I found charming. It was actually the first time I ever was in Brooklyn not counting whizzing by on the BQE.

Now he has a wife and kid and runs a dental lab in upstate New York, judging from Facebook. He's still attractive, but nothing like he was back then. He also still likes the Beatles and the Muppets, still a big fan of Jim Henson. Some things never change.

I have a whole stash of portraits I've drawn over the years up until about 10 years ago - I haven't done much drawing since then and especially in the last five years, since if you want to get a picture of someone you just pull your phone out of your pocket. Still, pencil portraits have a definite charm - and I am very good at capturing likenesses, if I do say so myself - a talent that becomes less useful by the year. I have a pile of pencil, charcoal and pastel drawings as well as some watercolor paintings - almost all portraits. I find it hard to throw away a well-done portrait. But looking through my stash tonight some of the pictures on lower-quality paper are in danger of disintegrating. I should probably start taking pictures of them to save them. Maybe I'll have an art show on this here blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembrance of factories past

I was arguing with an Ayn Rand fan about the plausibility of the Twentieth Century Motor Company scenario in Atlas Shrugged. I suggested that the set-up had nothing to do with socialism, since Rand suggests that the real reason for socialism is basically sadism.

The Rand fan insisted that the whole thing was true because it demonstrated how socialism saps a person's spirit yadda yadda yadda. Your typical Libertarian idealizes capitalism so much, they seem to believe the only time workers are ever mistreated is under socialism. As if a sadist manager couldn't make life miserable for workers with no trouble at all under a free market system.

Ayn Rand did work a couple of shit jobs, but mostly she worked as a screenwriter, and once she had a hit with the novel The Fountainhead she not only supported herself through her literary endeavors the rest of her life, she supported her husband Frank O'Connor financially until his death. Although she used to pretend he was a serious painter, or would sometimes say he was "on strike."

Part of the problem is that most Rand fans are from the upper classes and have never themselves worked in a factory, and so have no idea. This got me thinking about the two factories I worked in, back in my youth. I decided to Google them and see what they were up to.

The Atco Knitting Mills Inc., in Atco New Jersey appears to be a toxic Superfund site now. I guess it's no longer operational but I couldn't find anything online confirming that. But I assume that kind of work is now done in China or elsewhere outside the US. 

The most depressing thing is that when you search for Atco Knitting Mills you find all these obituaries for women who worked decades in that hellhole. Like, for instance Carmella "Chubby" Civa:
Chubby was a lifelong resident of Atco and worked at the Atco Knitting Mill for over 40 years.
Which means she was working there at the same time I was there. I didn't get to know anybody though, so I wouldn't remember her, and it was a pretty big factory. But dear god, how could anybody work there for 40 years? I barely survived 4 days with my sanity intact. The endless, mindless repetition was maddening. And this was a union shop (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) although I didn't stay long enough to make membership. But even under the best of conditions, factory work is hard, boring crap work.

A few years after that I worked for a company in Camden New Jersey, Decalcomania, Inc. It appears to have gone bankrupt. Not a union shop, it was run by the Burton family - I knew the son and his wife, and they were singularly unpleasant people who treated the employees with contempt. I worked in almost every capacity at Decalcomania, from doing art paste-up to dark room image development to working on the factory floor doing sorting and packing to working at the front desk. I worked there longer than I worked at the Atco Knitting Mills, although that's not a very high bar. I eked out maybe a year and a half there before I headed for the greener pastures of Linda's Driving School and never worked in a factory again. Although I've had office jobs that were even more demeaning, where I was treated unfairly by managers, and sabotaged a couple of times by coworkers.

So I have to laugh when I see people claiming that only under socialism are workers ever mistreated. Horrible people exist under any economic system. Or as an ex-boyfriend of mine used to say, "the tiniest speck of power corrupts absolutely."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hey sweet man: Alan Alda Syndrome

The third man in my Hey Sweet Man series is Alan Alda. The header is a reference to the resentment that Alda has provoked in anti-feminists because since the 1970s Alda has identified as a feminist.

The first time Alda came out as a feminist was his participation in Marlo Thomas's Free to Be You and Me. Here he is singing along with Thomas in William Wants A Doll.

But what really pissed off misogynists is that Alda "ruined" the TV show MASH by pushing for a more liberal attitude, especially towards women, resulting in the term "Alan Alda Syndrome." And the disgruntled included one of the authors of the original novel, as TV Tropes reports:
Considering that the original novel consisted mostly of young doctors boasting about how much sex they have and shows a truly awful degree of sexism, note to produce such a long, successful and at times thoughtful series is a fine example of Pragmatic Adaptation, a very nice change in a world full of Adaptation Decay. Of course, Dr. Richard Hornberger, one-half of the writing team behind the pseudonymous author of the original book and allegedly the model for Hawkeye, didn't see it that way, and was known to rant about it at length (in a sequel, MASH Mania, he has his version of Hawkeye remark how he enjoys going down to the State University to "kick the shit out of a few liberals").
You could see why they were so soreheaded about it - Alda was a very attractive man at the time of MASH - combine that with a good sense of humor and a feminist outlook and you have yourself some hardcore catnip - women loved him. Nothing provokes seething hatred in misogynists more than a hot pro-feminist guy.

And as if having a liberal like Alda on board wasn't enough, Mike Farrell, who played BJ Hunicutt, is also a big liberal.

One of the results of this change in tone in MASH was that Hawkeye was shown up as a sexist jerk, who learns a lesson as in the Inga episode, posted below in unfortunately bad-quality Youtube videos below. As The Hathore Legacy notes:
The episode is a great story to relate when you’re trying to explain the distinction between loving, respecting, admiring, even worshiping women, and seeing women as equals. Seeing us not as this “other” to be evaluated differently and separately, but as fellow humans who happen to have a different bodily function or two. As Margaret explains when she takes Hawkeye outside, women have thoughts and dreams just like men, and they also screw up from time and time and have to pull themselves back together. Margaret would know; what she wants more than anything in life is to advance all the way up to the rank of general, and nothing she can do will ever make it happen because the army, like Hawkeye, can’t handle the idea of women as men’s equals. Or superiors.
Alda both wrote and directed the episode. 
It should be noted that Alda has been married to his wife Arlene (3 years older than him) for almost 60 years now.

Alda talks about the episode below.

Alda still identifies as a feminist at least as of a year ago:
Alan Alda Discusses Isla Vista Killer: Misogyny A 'Disease That Needs To Be Cured'

I have my own special affection for Alda due to his JULIA & BUDDY connection. I was inspired to write J&B because of the Barbra Streisand movie version of The Owl and the Pussycat, but George Segal played the Owl to her Pussycat. It was only after beginning to write J&B that I did research into the movie and discovered it was a play starring Alan Alda.

I see that Wikipedia has an entry for the movie version of The Owl and the Pussycat, but not the play version. I will have to fix that soon.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gamergate was started by a psycho-stalker ex-boyfriend

I recently had an argument with a friend of my brother who wrote, when I asked him who he meant when he was complaining about "radical feminists" -
Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, anyone else directly involved with the whole gamergate nonsense, and any girl with a liberal arts degree and a twitter account.
Gawker explains Gamergate:
Quinn has been the victim of death threats and harassment since she began trying to publish Depression Quest, a text-based game partially based on her own experience with depression, in 2013. Last month, the New Yorker attempted to explain why Quinn and her game inspire such outrage among gamers —Depression Quest is not a "real game," it's "just words," its portrayal of depression is too personal to be relatable—but it's hard not to look at the last several weeks of chatter in the gaming community and not come to the conclusion that it's about the fact that she's a woman. 
Why do you say that? 
The harassment against her reached a fever pitch in August after an ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, wrote a series of blog posts alleging that Quinn had cheated on him with five other men, some of whom worked in games or games journalism. 
In gamer social media circles, a conspiracy immediately took root: Quinn had definitely fucked those five guys, gamers decided (they even turned it into a joke about the burger chain) and she'd done it to get publicity for her games.
I decided to see what Eron Gjoni was up to and I found this article in Boston Magazine from May of this year. It's a very damning account of Gjoni.
There’s a haunting resonance to Gjoni’s choice of location for our meeting. This is where he and Quinn first hung out in person: It’s where his obsession with her began. He’s come back to the beginning, and he wants me to know that Quinn is a “hypocrite,” a “compulsive liar,” and an “asshole.” 
Gjoni is a highly cerebral, 25-year-old software developer who was recently fired from Massachusetts General Hospital’s robotics lab. He chooses his words deliberately, spending much of our time together describing the month after his breakup with Quinn: how he extracted details from her Facebook, text, and email accounts; how he tracked her movements and shadowed her conversations. The process he described to me sounded as if he were gathering the pieces of a horrible machine, with each component designed to be as damaging to Quinn as possible. Eventually, the machine would have a name: “The Zoe Post,” a 9,425-word screed he published in August.

As Gjoni began to craft “The Zoe Post,” his early drafts read like a “really boring, really depressing legal document,” he says. He didn’t want to merely prove his case; it had to read like a potboiler. So he deliberately punched up the narrative in the voice of a bitter ex-boyfriend, organizing it into seven acts with dramatic titles like “Damage Control” and “The Cum Collage May Not Be Accurate.” He ended sections on cliffhangers, and wove in video-game analogies to grab the attention of Quinn’s industry colleagues. He was keenly aware of attracting an impressionable readership. “If I can target people who are in the mood to read stories about exes and horrible breakups,” he says now, “I will have an audience.”

One of the keys to how Gjoni justified the cruelty of “The Zoe Post” to its intended audience was his claim that Quinn slept with five men during and after their brief romance. In retrospect, he thinks one of his most amusing ideas was to paste the Five Guys restaurant logo into his screed: “Now I can’t stop mentally referring to her as Burgers and Fries,” he wrote. By the time he released the post
As he wrote, Gjoni kept pressing Quinn for information. About a week after their final breakup in San Francisco, Quinn finally stopped responding to Gjoni’s barrage of texts, Facebook messages, emails, and calls. He interpreted this not as a surrender or a retreat from his unwanted advances but instead, paradoxically, as a kind of attack. As he wrote at the time and later posted online, “GOD FUCKING DAMN IT. SHE’S AVOIDED ME EVER SINCE THIS CONVERSATION BECAUSE SHE IS PARANOID I MIGHT GO PUBLIC.” From this circular reasoning emerged a twisted justification: By withholding information, Quinn was somehow forcing Gjoni to “go public.” Eventually, Gjoni would come to see himself as the victim. “I was panicking at the thought of not publ 
After crafting the post for weeks, Gjoni shared his polished draft with about a dozen friends—mostly female game developers—as well as his mother, and asked them to weigh in on whether he should unleash it. He says about 10 of them gave him the green light. His mother, he claims, reluctantly approved, but was “very worried that I was going into it overly emotional.” One Gjoni friend I spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said, “I felt it was healthy to get it out there…. What harm would it do to get his feelings out?” 
Others who later read the post saw something much more deliberate and malicious. Jesse Singal, an editor at, said it clearly “followed a script” of “these sad, specific ideas that a segment of the gaming community has about women being duplicitous and breaking men’s hearts.” Slate’s Arthur Chu told me, “He’s an articulate, well-spoken guy who knows how to put together something on the Internet. That’s the kind of weapon guys like that have…the ‘crazy bitch’ story. It’s a very potent trope to use…. It’s a very nasty, very calculating train of thought, and it worked.”
By August 16, Gjoni had assembled his semantic pipe bomb. He first planted it on two video-game sites, Penny Arcade and SomethingAwful, and it quickly found its way to a third, 4chan, whose online communities had a history of harassing women gamers. But moderators at the first two sites deleted it almost immediately. Gjoni had anticipated that might happen, so he moved to Plan B: He posted it himself, on a WordPress blog. Gjoni visited his friend Rachel Martin, a freelance designer, and sat at the edge of her bed as she proofread it one last time to make sure that “The Zoe Post”—which was packed with Quinn’s personal information - didn’t violate the website's terms of service. At 12:42 a.m., on August 16, Gjoni clicked “publish.”
For the next several hours, he sat enrapt by the glowing screen before him, watching the bedlam he’d created explode and explode and explode.
On August 18, after the release of “The Zoe Post,” Gjoni worked overtime to make sure readers would keep coming back for more. Stoking the mob, he joined 4chan discussion boards and released additional information online, including Quinn’s supposed location and baseless theories on her sex life. Despite tacking a disclaimer onto his post—“I DO NOT STAND BY THE CURRENT ABUSE AND HARASSMENT OF ZOE QUINN OR FRIENDS. STOP DOING THAT. IT IS NOT IN ANYONE’S BEST INTEREST”—Gjoni taunted Quinn directly over Twitter and claimed online to be acting as a puppet master. When someone tweeted, “eron youre the pope of gamergate why don’t u help us,” he replied, “I am actually doing a lot more than you know in the background.”
In September, after a month of this, Quinn called Gjoni and asked him to stop egging on her harassers. “[He was] completely unrepentant,” she says, and claims he told her, “I did this for your benefit.” Then he tweeted, “Just had a private conversation with Zoe. It was trite, exhausting, and totally in bad faith. Ah the good old days.” That’s when Quinn filed a police report and secured a restraining order.

The attacks on Quinn started a wave that kept on rolling. Within a week of “The Zoe Post,” strangers threatened to kill other women in the industry. Jenn Frank, who wrote for the Guardian, ultimately felt forced to quit writing games criticism. In short order, Gjoni’s post had become the basis for a savage online movement that came to be known as GamerGate. GamerGaters cited “The Zoe Post” as evidence that women were ruining the video-game industry’s boys’ club. Attacks fanned out against any woman the mob labeled an “SJW”—short for “social justice warrior”—and GGs began a witch hunt against anyone involved in breaches of so-called ethics in video-game journalism. In October, Anita Sarkeesian canceled an appearance at Utah State University after an anonymous email promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if she spoke. The attackers continued to release troves of women’s, and some men’s, private information and coordinated threats for months. A few even “swatted” their victims, tricking police dispatchers into sending SWAT teams to raid women’s homes.
Unfortunately the term SJW has been so co-opted by right-wingers and I might have to stop using it. 

John Oliver recently did an excellent episode of his show about online harassment. And although he didn't actually mention Gamergate, as Jezebel notes Gamergate Shits Pants Over John Oliver Segment on Online Harassment.

This episode is not only excellent for the subject itself, it also features the return of the Carlos Danger song.