Tuesday, January 31, 2006

girls gone wild at Pandagon

So people yelled and screamed at Kos for running the infamous pie ad and Twisty complains that a "sexy" graphic is used for a heading on cancer at NewScientist.com.

But when Pandagon runs a titty ad promoting another liberal web site, nobody seems to notice.

Is it because blogger pals don't like to criticize each other? Or perhaps because headless titties say "liberal blog" more than a "sexy" naked body says "cancer?"

I emailed the people responsible for the ad. They said the ad designer is female, and besides, they need the attention, and the ad gets attention.

So it's all OK. They don't hate women, they're just trying to get attention through titty-flashing.

I would argue that this is even more offensive than "Girls Gone Wild" ads. Because GGW is all about females raising their shirts to show their titties - that's truth in advertising. But the site you go to by clicking on the titty ad has no girls going wild. None at all.

I'll never get to be part of the liberal blogger in-crowd by saying this, but that's life in the big city I guess: to constantly be on the march against signs of Patriarchy-coddling, but to ignore a clear example of pandering at Pandagon is flat-out hypocrisy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

My hatred for The Darwin Awards - and how Google punished me for talking about it

I really hate The Darwin Awards. As I said on one Amazon review: "The Darwin Awards are a pseudo-scientific excuse for the callous to profit from the tragedies of the unfortunate by marketing to the smug and self-satisfied."

If you aren't familiar with them, the Darwin Awards are given to people who have died in "funny" ways. Although it is claimed that recipients deserve their Award because they are morons who did us all a favor by removing themselves from the gene pool, in fact the Darwin Awards aren't very strict about who qualifies.

For one thing, the Awards are given to older people who either have already reproduced or are unlikely to reproduce in the future. So the Awards don't actually have anything to do with cleansing the gene pool.

But you say, it isn't supposed to be scientific - it's just good fun.

Although it claims to exclude children, children have been nominated for Darwin Awards because they did something dumb (as kids will do) and died as a result. Think of the chuckles parents get reading about their kid's death in the Darwin Awards. Hardee har har.

Finally, plenty of the deaths nominated for the Darwin Awards are simply someone's extreme bad luck. But if the death is unusual or colorful enough, the cretinous ghouls who participate in The Darwin Awards nominations will go for it.

Now it's one thing to chuckle guiltily over a wacky death. But The Darwin Awards is way beyond that - it is a money-making endeavor that profits from tragedy. But not just profits - exacerbates the tragedy by literally making a public proclamation that the world is better off without the person.

In my opinion, there is no nominee, be they ever so stupid who deserves death or digraces humanity more than the callous, sadistic vultures who participate in the Darwin Awards.

In summation - people involved in the Darwin Awards are the scum of the earth.

So I wrote several negative reviews of the Darwin Awards on Amazon.

So what happens? Google punishes me for it. When I Google my own name, an ad appears for The Darwin Awards III, edited by scum of the earth Wendy Northcutt.

I just emailed Google asking them to ensure that this doesn't happen again. They better get on it damn soon too. I don't want my name to be associated in any non-criticism way with those freaks.


UPDATE: I got a response from AdSense - they're going to see if this situation violates their policy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer

From today's New York Times...

FAIRYLAND was in turmoil. During a tech rehearsal for the October 2004 Off Off Broadway production of "Tam Lin" — a play about a clash between mortal and immortal worlds — a real-life clash threatened to derail the show. Exactly what happened has become, literally, a federal case, and the sides agree on very few details. Did the playwright, Nancy McClernan, insist that the director's staging was incompetent? Did the director, Edward Einhorn, refuse to alter it? Did the producer, Jonathan X. Flagg, smash some furniture on the set? One thing's clear: the morning after the tech rehearsal, after two months of unpaid work, Mr. Einhorn was fired.

In the time-honored way of the theater, Ms. McClernan and Mr. Flagg figured the show must go on. With the help of an assistant (who eventually received the program credit for direction), they supervised the remaining rehearsals, either largely restaging the play or retaining most of Mr. Einhorn's contributions, depending on whose side you believe. In any case, "Tam Lin" opened, ran for its scheduled 10 performances and closed. But the drama was not over. Soon playwright and producer were embroiled in a lawsuit that could ruin them personally and has huge implications for directors and playwrights everywhere.

The main interest of that suit, which Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan has scheduled for trial in April, is not whether an artist deserves to be paid for work his employers deem unsatisfactory. What's really at stake is something much larger, because Mr. Einhorn claims in his complaint that his staging contributions to "Tam Lin" — contributions that his former collaborators say they excised — constitute a copyrighted work of intellectual property, owned by him, and that the defendants must therefore pay for infringing the copyright. When the lawsuit was filed, in October 2005, a new run of the play was already in rehearsal, this time directed by Ms. McClernan herself, who had always intended to make "Tam Lin" an annual Halloween event. Because Mr. Einhorn says that even these new performances represented unauthorized use of his work, the potential tab, based on the maximum allowable statutory damage of $150,000 per infringement, is now up around $3 million, not including several other remedies he is requesting — along with his original $1,000 director's fee.
...No wonder playwrights are worried. Even the usually unflappable Paul Rudnick is rethinking his options. "From now on," he said, "I'm only going to have my plays directed by lawyers."


The entire story here.

Our press release on the matter is here.

The article fails to mention that the 2004 production of TAM LIN wasn't the first - the Deptford Players did a staged reading in 2002, directed by Lorree True, and my company, Mergatroyd Productions did the play as an Equity Showcase in 2003, directed by Synge Maher. If Einhorn claims that my work, even when I directed it myself, belongs to him, why can't the other two directors make that claim?

Another thing the article fails to mention is that there's usually very little money to be made off-off Broadway, especially when you have a cast of 10 and you pay the actors, as we have in the last two years. We've never made a dime.

I can't say any more because the trial is pending. But once it's over, I'll have plenty to say about Edward Einhorn.

You can read about his lawyer/brother David Einhorn here and here (PDF)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Cat Music Video Blogging


Starring "Spike"

Bird IS the word.
Watch the video here Quicktime MOV format (5.3 MB)

Learn more about The Trashmen here.

Get the best of The Trashmen (including Surfin' Bird) here.

The Times on my case

Now that I've called the NYTimes 'slow and stupid' my lawyer tells me that a story about my case vs. a disgruntled, and in my opinion (the case is still pending) way over-reaching director will be in this Sunday's NYTimes Arts & Leisure section.

More about it here on Sunday. I love the title of the article though, "Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer"

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Waiting for the slow stupid people to wake up

Tom Oliphant made an astute observation on The Al Franken Show today. He said that generations of scholars will be pondering the utter failure of the fifth year of the Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration is inching its way towards absolute power, but the slow-witted drones at the NYTimes and the Washington Post are in complete denial. As Media Matters for America points out:


Despite scandals, poor poll numbers, Wash. Post, NY Times see only good news for Bush

Summary: Articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times painted a surprisingly sunny picture of the political environment for President Bush and the Republicans; downplayed Bush's dismal poll numbers and growing scandals involving prominent members of the Republican Party.
Downplaying President Bush's dismal poll numbers and growing scandals involving prominent members of the Republican Party, articles in the January 26 editions of The Washington Post and The New York Times painted a surprisingly sunny picture of the political environment for Bush and the Republicans.

The New York Times article, a preview of Bush's State of the Union address and his 2006 agenda by Richard Stevenson, began:

Having stabilized his political standing after a difficult 2005, President Bush is heading into his State of the Union address on Tuesday intent primarily on retaining his party's slim majority in Congress this year and completing unfinished business from his existing agenda.


WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

The Bush Administration, in plain sight, without shame, has decided that it does not have to abide by the law. And furthermore, they have declared they have the right to spy on anybody in the world, because anybody they spy on will automatically be designated a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer.

And if you object to this FASCISM, you will be designated a terrorist, by Bush Administration official media henchmen Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity.

Only the slow stupid people DON'T expect Bush to abuse whatever power he has. And he's grasping for more power all the time!

And he has three more years to try to devolve this country into a right-wing hellhole.

He must be impeached for the good of this country. And Dick Cheney too.

WAKE UP slow stupid people!!!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Reverse Midas

Everything Bush touches turns to shit.

Krugman
So what does it mean that the Bush administration is apparently walking away from responsibility for Iraq's reconstruction? It means that the administration doesn't have a plan; it's entirely focused on short-term political gain. Mr. Bush is just getting by from sound bite to sound bite, while Iraq and America sink ever deeper into the quagmire.

Vanity Fair editor praises Norah Vincent

No surprise, David Kamp, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, praises conservative asshole-about-town Norah Vincent for dressing like a man and telling us about the world of men.

The worst aspect of the review was to hear how swell it is that Vincent explored the world of white trash men, or as Kamp has it "unglamorous male milieus that are well off the radar of most journalists and book authors."

White trash men are the salt of the earth, you see, exchanging manly handshakes, "worlds away from the 'fake and cold' air kisses and limp handshakes exchanged by women" and they revere their wives while visiting strip clubs. They make homophobic remarks, but no doubt Vincent finds it refreshing proof that they aren't pussywhipped by political correctness.

There are few things more irksome then Norah Vincent. One of them is some Vanity Fair fop praising her for her anthropological studies of white trash men. I spent the greater part of my life getting OUT of the white trash world and I don't need a privileged fuckhead like Vincent to tell me what it's like.

Judging by her web site Vincent's biggest fans are anti-abortion old fart Nat Hentoff, famous hypocrite Andrew Sullivan, and the world's biggest asshole, Camille Paglia.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Times of Harvey Milk



San Francisco board of supervisors member Harvey Milk on the left and mayor George Moscone on the right.



The Times of Harvey Milk is an incredible documentary. I watched it the other night for about the sixth time in two years, and it never gets old. It well deserves its Academy Award. The film is about the assassination of Harvey Milk by Dan White and the later miscarriage of justice in White's trial.

Milk was the first openly gay elected public official in the U.S. He was elected to the San Fransisco board of supervisors in 1977 after running three previous campaigns for the position. Dan White was also a newly-elected member of the board of supervisors. On the day of the assassination, November 27, 1978, White was disgruntled because he found out he wouldn't be re-appointed to his seat on the board of supervisors after voluntarily resigning. He clearly acted in a pre-meditated fashion, having the presence of mind to avoid metal detectors and bodyguards, brought plenty of ammunition, and reloaded in-between killing Moscone and Milk.

It seems that White didn't kill due to homophobia so much as paranoia that members of the board of supervisors and the mayor had conspired against him. In a term that came into popularity years later, White "went postal."

The jury's verdict, however, must have been due to homophobia. Rarely does someone convicted of going postal get a sentence of seven years for manslaughter. Add to that the fact that White killed two public officials and you get a sense of just how outrageous the White verdict was. Critic Roger Ebert complained that the film doesn't put enough emphasis on the prosecution's incompetence, and doesn't include interviews of the jurists, but unless the prosecution deliberately bungled, there's no other conceivable reason that an assassin of public officials would have gotten such a light sentence, except for homophobia. White's defense was that he didn't know what he was doing because he suffered from depression. (One of the alleged symptoms of this depression that the defense offered was White's switching from a health-conscious to a junkfood diet, which later caused the public to believe that White's lawyers had pleaded the Twinkie defense.)

As Janet Maslin said in her 1984 review of the film in the NYTimes:
If Mr. Epstein can't fully explain what happened, he can certainly tell the story with urgency, passion and, finally, indignation. Toward the end of the film, a young black man asks rhetorically what sort of sentence he might have received for such a crime. Another interviewee speculates that Mr. White's staunch support for middle-class values and opposition to the homosexual community's growing power contributed to his light sentence (he was released from prison last January). And a third man suggests how pivotal Harvey Milk and his cause may have been to the verdict: ''I think if it were just Moscone who'd been killed, he would have been in San Quentin for the rest of his life.''
A web site devoted to courtroom sketchs of the Dan White trial is here.

The key to the greatness of The Times of Harvey Milk lies not only in the importance of the subject matter, but the artfully conducted and edited interviews with a group of people who knew Harvey Milk. They all come off as really likeable people, and are shown both marvelling at Milk's antics and mourning his death.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out. For more information, go to the Telling Pictures web site.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Kittenwar Blogging

My cat fights the kitten wars under the nom de guerre "Mr. McFuzz" He prefers to keep his real name a secret, unlike the feminist bloggers mentioned in the post I link to in the post below this one.

Real women

Ann Bartow has an interesting post about feminist bloggers over at Sivacracy.

I know something about the perils of blogging under my own name. The abuse I received from some "readers" is part of the reason this blog doesn't have a "comments" function operational right now. Siva is considering bringing back comments, and I'm thinking about how I will handle the trolls, as I continue to field the occasional harassing phone calls and e-mails that didn't stop when the comments did. The feminist "real name" bloggers give me courage, and they give me hope, and I applaud and thank them for that with all my heart.

That makes me feel proud.

Echidne breaks it down

Great snake-goddess Echidne, clearly a patron of economic theory, breaks down the gender wage gap for all on her righteous blog Echidne-of-the-Snakes

Check it out, and feel free to post comments and help beat back the right-wing troll infestation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The noble Al Gore



At this point in his career Al Gore reminds me of one of the pro-Republic senators who tried to stand up to the emperors in I, Claudius.

He made a great speech on January 16:

The FBI privately labeled King the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance. It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as the executive desired. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of affording a level of protection for American citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue whenever it is necessary.

And yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on, and I quote the report, "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but in the next breath declared that he has no intention stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Read the entire speech at The Raw Story. The article includes links to video of the speech - Al Gore is hot when he gots his righteous anger on.

Irritating women of the NYTimes

The ever irritating MoDo, the Smurfette of journalism.

And Judith Warner, who illustrates why some women with loser husbands cling to evolutionary psychology rather than get a well-justified divorce:

My husband, on the other hand, on the rare occasions when he wields a suction hose, makes a quick and efficient job of it. This occurs about once a year, generally on vacation, and with a great deal of self-congratulatory huffing and puffing. It is usually followed by a nap.

My husband claims that our mutually grating differences in housekeeping style (or lack thereof) can’t be explained in the terms of sex differences; they’re just reflections, he says, of unique, nonspecific-to-gender differences in our own individual personalities. (I am a spaz; he is not. I am fussy; he is “lazy.” See the pediatrician Mel Levine, I say, on “The Myth of Laziness.”)

And yet, I have read (in the British press, I believe; the good stuff is always in the British press) that men and women actually do differ in their abilities to discern, say, chocolate-cake crumbs on an Oriental rug. Men don’t see them: they’re too busy seeing the Big Picture because, as the hunters in the hunter-gatherer equation, they needed the skills necessary to scan the distant horizon. Women do see them: they are better at seeing details, because — you guessed it — it is their evolutionary heritage to have the skills for doing things like spotting berries.

An evolutionary biologist I met last fall at the University of Connecticut told me that this is total bunk.

It pleases me — for mental health reasons, let’s say — to believe otherwise.


Judith Warner comes from the whaddayah-gonna do-men-are-big-lazy-self-centered-lugs-but-they-can't-help-it-and-we-love-'em-anyway school of "feminism."

She's kind of Erma Bombeck for the 21st century. Except Bombeck might have been more feminist.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

5 weird things about me

While many of the authors of blogs I read seem to think I'm interested in learning 5 weird things about them, I really am not. And I assume nobody wants to learn 5 weird things about me.

But now here's something we hope you'll really like.

Plus Rocky and Bullwinkle die and are reincarnated.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bush - incompetent or evil?

Conservatives generally hate for the government to help anybody out. They prefer to let God, in the case of religious conservatives, or Darwinian survival of the fittest in the case of the libertarians handle all problems.

So George W. Bush is their perfect president. By his utter incompetence he has ensured that government assistance is doomed to failure.

The real question about George W. Bush is, is he sincerely incompetent, or evil and just trying to look incompetent, or some combination of both?

As Paul Krugman notes today:

It's widely expected that President Bush will talk a lot about health care in his State of the Union address. He probably won't boast about his prescription drug plan, whose debut has been a Katrina-like saga of confusion and incompetence. But he probably will tout proposals for so-called "consumer driven" health care.

So it's important to realize that the administration's idea of health care reform is to take what's wrong with our system and make it worse.



And the question about Bush supporters is - are they stupid, evil, or both?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

In which I scoop the Village Voice

"Bush Declares War Against the Times" says the cover of the latest Village Voice, referring to an article by Sydney Schanberg entitled The Messenger Takes a Beating about criticism of the NYTimes' decision to wait over a year before revealing what it knew about Bush's illegal spying.

On this blog on Friday December 30, I put up a post entitled "Bush declares war on NYTimes" on the same subject.

I also blogged about Wikipedia on December 7 in a post entitled Beware Wikipedia - the Voice's cover article is about Wikipedia.

Go me.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Blogging the kids

For some reason, many of the women bloggers who read the same blogs I read, liberal, feminist blogs, feel the need to blog about their kids. Sometimes even including photos of the kids.

Maybe it's just me, but I have to wonder if anybody but relatives want to read about some blogger's kids. It's like having some stranger come up to me and ask me to look at their wallet photos of their kids or ask me to look at their kid's report card.

They usually post about other things besides their kids, but if I see a blog full of posts and pix of kids, I'm not going to stay and search for their smackdown of Bush. There are too many blogs out there that specialize in Bush smackdowns that spare me the latest stranger's kid's newsflash.

I'm not anti-kid. If somebody has kids, swell. Kids are important. I have a kid myself. I even blogged about her once - but that was only because her photo was in the NYTimes during the transit strike. And the post didn't include some cute thing she said. The cutest thing she said lately was that it's well-known that lesbians get off on watching two guys go at it. This was news to me, and completely counter-intuitive to my understanding of sexual orientation. Kids really do say the darndest things.

But rarely is it interesting enough to share with the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Katha Pollitt kicks ass again

Katha Pollitt kicks ass again with her latest column in The Nation, "Girls Against Boys?"

When the HELL is the New York Times going to wise up and HIRE KATHA POLLITT as an op-ed columnist??? Gail Collins, the Times's op-ed editor doesn't think women are as comfortable as men writing opinion stuff. And the Times's token women op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd says that " As a woman... I wanted to be liked - not attacked." Typical Dowd, mistaking her personal obsession - wanting to be liked - for some sort of innate female trait.

I say the Times should retire Dowd's faux feminist ass now and replace her with Pollitt. If the Times is only able to have one columnist to represent 51% of humankind, they could AT LEAST choose someone who isn't an embarrassment to women. Someone who isn't incredibly shallow and obsessed with the quest for popularity and getting invited to Kool Kidz' cocktail parties.

If the Times hired Pollitt, she would automatically be their BEST columnist with the possible exception of Paul Krugman.

In her latest column, Pollitt examines the fears of David Brooks clone John Tierney and his fellow wingnuts. It seems that because there are now more girls than boys in college, Western society is on the verge of collapse thanks to the wilting wangs of manly men too intimidated by educated females to reproduce.

Pollitt's actual comments are more nuanced than that, but then she has an editor and gets paid to opine.

I'm looking forward to her next column, in which she plans to address ongoing sex discrimination in employment.

The secret of Wal-Mart's success: indentured servants

A judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock, claims that mirror those in suits filed around the country.

A California jury last month awarded Wal-Mart workers $172 million for illegally denied lunch breaks, while Wal-Mart settled a similar Colorado case for $50 million.

In Pennsylvania, the lead plaintiff's suit alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time -- eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average -- to meet work demands.

''One of Wal-Mart's undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees, ...'' Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam's Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit.

More at the NYTimes

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Go geek girl



The poster girl for classmates.com is supposed to be a geek and you're supposed to be amazed that she married that popular boy.

Looks like geek girl gets herself plenty of that popular boy action.

Letterman to O'Reily: I have the feeling about 60% of what you say is crap


In case you missed it.

The Letterman - O'Reilly video.

The crap comment comes near the end of this clip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

HELLCAB

I saw HELLCAB, an off-off Broadway show Saturday and I really liked it. This is highly unusual. Normally about ten minutes into an off-off Broadway show I want to rip my own head off.

The lousiness of much off-off Broadway can be attributed to Sturgeon's law, which says that 90% of everything is crap.

But some of it - the head-ripping bits - are due to the desperate desire on the part of hipster theatre people to demonstrate that they are free of "political correctness." This leads to any number of stupidities, excessive vulgarities and wanton cruelties, because while the anti-PC crowd knows better than to come out and be explicitly racist or sexist, they have to be obnoxious to show that they aren't being pussywhipped by politeness or empathy or sensitivity.

Rising Sun Performance Company's HELLCAB was refreshing because the lead character, a taxi driver in Chicago, is a liberal who cringes when a black guy says that a recent immigrant is not a real American, and again when a businessman calls a passing woman a "nigger."

The author, Will Kern, doesn't feel the need to be funny as a method of declaring his freedom from political correctness, so his scenarios are genuinely amusing.

HELLCAB has some definite flaws though - primarily the ending, which seems overly-sentimental and tacked-on. But most of the time I was totally engaged.

The premise of the play is simple - a day in the life of a cab driver. Of course it isn't a typical boring workday. The cab driver picks up sex fiends, druggies, a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth, a wacked-out puppet man, New York sports fans and a rape victim.

I think there's a synergy at work in the show, between director, writer and actors. Why else would one of the play's funniest lines be "I have to have my pants"?

The play's primary focus is the reactions of the compassionate cab driver, played by Nic Mevoli, to being interrogated, insulted, grossed out, groped and dragged into passenger disputes.

Mevoli is a great find. The show's director, Akia, told me after the show that she had Mevoli in mind when deciding to redo the play - Rising Sun did another version a few years earlier. That was a good call. Not many off-off Broadway actors are as engaging as Mevoli. He begins with a downtrodden everyman vibe in his performance, and as the evening wears on, he morphs into a young Harrison Ford, extremely charismatic and able to communicate worlds of emotion through a raised eyebrow or a sidelong glance.

I went to the play at the request of Reagan Wilson, a HELLCAB cast member who is also an actor member of my group NYCPlaywrights. Reagan was great in three distinctly different roles - a lawyer, the pregnant woman, and a party girl on the way to meet her boyfriend. The other actors I saw were also great.

I hate so many off-off Broadway plays I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. This show made me realize there are good shows, it isn't just me, and there is hope for off-off Broadway after all.

For more information about HELLCAB, which will run until the end of January, see Rising Sun's web site at http://www.risingsunnyc.com/.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Oleanna Essay

For years it annoyed me that critics and audiences were missing what David Mamet was saying with his play Oleanna, so I wrote an essay about it. One of the few people who read it, Laurence Cantor an actor in my playwrights group, told his sister about it. She teaches a course at SUNY and had her students read it. I'm so proud.

Here's an excerpt from "History is Written by the Winners"

While I'm sure that even feminist groups are capable of doing bad things, I have never heard of a feminist group using blackmail to ban a book. I'm not saying it's impossible - but I am saying that there's no evidence this has ever happened in the history of feminism. If there was, Katie Roiphe would have shouted it from the mountaintops by now.

This is a problem for Mamet, because political correctness as it is actually practiced would not serve his message. Silly speech codes and public demonstrations are not sinister enough and would probably make a better comedy than a tragedy. So Mamet invents the feminist version of the International Jew, a skulking, ruthless, extremely powerful cabal, able to arrange John's personal destruction through nothing more than hearsay from a mentally challenged undergraduate.


The entire essay is here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bush-Hitchens script at Gothamimage

I love this script from Gothamimage - the Bush dialog is especially inspired, and Hitchens is creepily realistic.

Excerpt:

President Bush:
Ok... bimbo. You don't believe in God, but you do believe in ME right? In Moi? Go on, say it, say Moi-uncle or Moiuncle. Haha.

C. Hitchens:
Car c'est à toi qu'appartiennent le règne, la puissance et la gloire, pour les siècles des siècles.

President Bush:
Que pasa, Lumpy?

C. Hitchens:
Yes, I believe in you. Do I have a choice? Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, or at least I until patch things up with old lefty friends and maintain my green card status and ...

President Bush:
Why speak French? Don't be a Snobby Slimey Limey Hoochy - an SSLH?

C. Hitchens:
Habit, maybe. You used the French word "moi," so I decided to engage. In any event, you may find a measure of French to be quite useful in your Court, if for no other reason than to protect many simple ears from hearing your complicated thoughts, such as they are. Sometimes leadership compells one to protect the rabble in the marketplace from itself. Also, speaking French pisses off all the right people.

President Bush:
What marketplace? Barney Rubble? Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Mr. Flintstone? Ha, so "Moi" is French? Gotta stop using that one. No wonder Jackass Chiracass was confused when I kept calling him Mister Moi. Anyway, your excuse sounds cool, Dweebacle. You can go now. Game time. Glad to help.

C. Hitchens:
Dweebacle? That's ghastly.

President Bush:
Ghastly? Not me pal. He who smelt it, dealt it. Watch what you eat Hooch. Don't you know there's a war on???

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday New York Times Cat Blogging

DNA Offers New Insight Concerning Cat Evolution

About nine million years ago - two million years after the cat family first appeared in Asia - these successful predators invaded North America by crossing the Beringian land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska, a team of geneticists writes in the journal Science today.

Later, several American cat lineages returned to Asia. With each migration, evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection.

This new history of the family, known as Felidae, is based on DNA analyses of the 37 living species performed by Warren E. Johnson and Stephen J. O'Brien of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues elsewhere.

Of course the article includes the obligatory anti-cat slam with the "frugal displays of affection" line.

The Mystery of Vanity Fair

I have only a short blogroll, and James Wolcott's blog is on it. He writes well, he's witty, he's liberal and he loves to mock right-wingers. He did claim to be a friend of the loathsome Camille Paglia (I use loathsome for brevity's sake, in place of "misogynistic", "pretentious", "shallow", "anti-Semitic", "self-infatuated", "empty-headed", "crackpot" and "friend of Rush Limbaugh") but he only mentioned her the one time, so I forgave him, especially with all the Pajamas Media hilarity he's conveyed lately.

His most recent blog post promotes his bread and butter job at Vanity Fair magazine, but sorry, James, (Wools? Wolly? Cotty? one wonders what the wags of the Vanity Fair set have jocularly dubbed him) that's where I draw the line.

Once or more a year, I really don't keep track, The New Yorker has a "fashion" issue. Half the magazine is wasted on stupid glamor ads and even an article or two about fashion.

It seems to me that subscribing to Vanity Fair would be like getting the fashion issue of the New Yorker every month.

Vanity Fair, like the New Yorker, is part of the Condé Nast family of publications, but so is Glamour and Vogue and Bride's, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride (what, you can't be both an Elegant AND a Modern Bride? And what's with all the fucking Bride magazines anyway? Are there really enough Brides to read them all? Or is the bifurcation of brides into elegant and modern part of a clever plan to force modern, elegant brides to purchase two magazines to cover all their archetypal bases?)

You have the New Yorker for fiction, non-fiction (including some of the best political and medical reporting around) reviews, arts and culture listings and cartoons - on a weekly schedule. If you want fashion you go to your Glamour-Vogue-Bride option. Having Vanity Fair trying to cover both New Yorker territory and G-V-B3 territory is the opposite of the clever modern/elegant bride scheme. So who is Vanity Fair aimed at? Someone who is too cheap to subscribe to both the New Yorker and one or more of the fashion mags? Hardly what advertisers are looking for, is it?

I mean, how can anybody over 40 care about fashion anyway? Once you hit 40, unless you're Madonna and you work out 12 hours a day and spend whatever it takes to maintain an unnaturally youthful appearance, nobody's all that interested in looking at you, and that includes men in spite of all the "men age better" bullshit you hear. They don't age better appearance-wise, they age into wealth.

But even if you are under 40, do you really need to buy a magazine to figure out what to wear? On a monthly basis? Even if you're wealthy enough to afford to buy designer fashions?

Not only does Vanity Fair care about fashion, it indulges in - nay, sets the standard for the Best Dressed List. The Best Dressed List, like the word loathsome, encompasses so many things I hate: celebrity worship, plutocraphilia, fashion obsession, and gossip-column discourse.

THIS JUST IN: The New York Times reports today that many of the Best Dressed Lists don't even have integrity!

"Everyone has a best-dressed list now, to the point that it has become empty and meaningless," said Amy Fine Collins, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair and one of the guardians of what is generally considered the most authoritative of American best-dressed lists. It was created in the 1940's by Eleanor Lambert, the fashion publicist. The list had such prestige that those selected, women like Nan Kempner, Babe Paley, Carolina Herrera and Lynn Wyatt, referred to themselves as B.D.L.'s.

Before Ms. Lambert died in 2003, she passed it on to four editors of Vanity Fair, Ms. Collins; Aimee Bell, a senior articles editor; Reinaldo Herrera, a contributing editor; and Graydon Carter, the top editor, with the idea that the magazine would continue publishing an annual list. For two years it has done so.

But Vanity Fair's 2006 list has been put off, at least for a few months. The sending out of ballots to nearly 2,000 fashion editors and journalists, normally completed by now, has not yet begun. The reason?

"There were too many other lists," said Ms. Collins, a member of the B.D.L. Hall of Fame, a distinction given to those elected so often that their sartorial superiority goes without saying. "Six or seven years ago you wouldn't find any others, but when Ms. Lambert disappeared, it became wide-open season. It opened the door to the idea that best-dressed lists are a universally interesting journalistic undertaking."

Vanity Fair's list will return once it can regain an element of surprise, Ms. Collins said. She said she suspected the other magazines had attempted to "jump the gun on Vanity Fair." But she is having none of it. "What the others represent," she said, "are special favors to the darlings of whatever magazine is in question. Or it looks like they are doing favors or payback to P.R. people."

When our very Best Dressed Lists have become empty and meaningless we are truly slouching towards Gomorrah.

As if I needed another reason to hold Vanity Fair in low esteem (besides that they also publish war-monger turncoat Holocaust-denier-supporter - ah fuck it, loathsome Christopher Hitchens), I see that they feature that stalker Jennifer Aniston on their cover. Well, I'm sure Vanity Fair featured Aniston first, before imitation rendered it empty and meaningless (and obnoxiously ubiquitous.)

So why DOES Wolcott write for Vanity Fair? They're full up at The New Yorker? He can't really be interested in fashion can he? Cause based on the pix I've seen, he's well over 40 and ain't nobody looking at him for a hobby. Maybe fashion is some sort of genteel erotic fetish?

ANISTON! I said QUIT IT BITCH! No means no! I'm getting a court order to keep your face out of my life!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

BoBo's world

via Atrios

Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

more...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

India's sex police




In a society where dating is frowned upon, public parks remain among the only places where couples can avail themselves of intimacy, from talking to necking and petting with abandon under the arms of a shady tree. Even if it is in broad daylight in a public park, romance before marriage remains taboo in small-town India, which is why the spectacle in Gandhi Park turned out to be such a big deal: to be outed in this way, on national television, is to bring terrible shame and recrimination on yourself and your family.

So alarming, in fact, was it for Amit Sharma and his girlfriend of two years that the pair ran away from home hours after the incident, only to return more than a day later after their parents went to fetch them from a nearby town where they were hiding and agreed, in principle, to let them marry.

A couple of days later, Mr. Sharma, 22 years old and unemployed, described the jarring episode. The police swooped down on the couples in the park "as though we were terrorists," grabbed them by their collars, hurled abuses and separated the men and women. He could hear his girlfriend, Anshu, crying and could hear the police yelling at her: "Your parents send you to college to study! What are you doing here?"

"I pleaded with the police, 'Please let us go,' " he recalled. Eventually, they were all let go. No one was charged with a crime.

That afternoon in Gandhi Park, even a young woman sitting alone was not spared. The woman, who gave her name only as Priyanka, said she was waiting on a park bench when the shouting of the police and their targets interrupted her thoughts. Getting up from her bench, Priyanka said she walked in the direction of the commotion when a police officer, Ms. Gautam, as it turned out, pounced on her and accused her of being a prostitute.


More at the NYTimes

Hopefully this won't give our homegrown religious nutjobs any ideas...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

January is anti-women's month at the NYTimes

Tom Tomorrow asked, not long ago - Stupid or lying and featured David Brooks.

But anybody who reads his crap knows the answer - David Brooks, unaffectionately known as "Bobo" in the liberal blogosphere, is stupid as dirt.

He treats us to his typical stupidity in today's NYTimes:

(Linda Hirshman's) third mistake is to not even grapple with the fact that men and women are wired differently. The Larry Summers flap produced an outpouring of work on the neurological differences between men and women. I'd especially recommend "The Inequality Taboo" by Charles Murray in Commentary and a debate between Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke in the online magazine Edge.


I LOVE the fact that Brooks links to the debate between Pinker and Spelke because Spelke DEMOLISHES Pinker, who maintains that males are wired for the abstract more than females. Does Brooks even READ what he cites???

And of course he has to cite Charles Murray, whose deeply flawed but highly publicized The Bell Curve was debunked by many, including Nicholas Lemann in Slate.

But how much influence does Brooks have on his clone John Tierney? Is it a coincidence that right after Brooks wrote his idiotic column, Tierney wrote one about how it's not good for a woman to earn too much money or no man will want her?

The only surprise in Tierney's article is that he didn't cite any evolutionary psychology to support his opinion. Perhaps he feels that the absolute truth of evolutionary psychology is so entrenched in our minds that nobody would even question whether "Male Pride and Female Prejudice" is a symptom of a culture that until very recently didn't allow women the chance to earn a decent wage. No, surely this is an eternal reality in the big empty mind of John Tierney - because that's how things were when he was growing up, you see, and he lacks the knowledge or imagination to understand the fluidity of social attitudes.

Sorry Tierney, you STILL have to come up with some evolutionary psychology flimflam to bolster your opinion.


Oops, I skimmed through Tierney's article too quickly. He DOES cite David Buss, a major evolutionary psychologist. But the evpsychs all got the same memo:

Helena Cronin's policy paper to the British government, reprinted as an editorial Pity the Poor Men way back in 2000 goes a step further than BoBo - she proposed that the British government take steps to ensure that women are not able to earn more money than men! Cronin cites David Buss's infamous 37-country study to back her case for enshrining the beliefs of evolutionary psychologists in the British bureaucracy.

Brooks was harping women's essential inferiority last January. Tierney hadn't been given his own op-ed at that point, but Nicholas Kristof took up the slack by claiming that feminists just didn't care about sex slavery, while Christian evangelicals did and got faux feminist and David Horowitz's pal Donna M. Hughes to agree with him on behalf of feminists.

Echidne, Amanda at Pandagon Tom Tomorrow and Atrios all have something to say about the Brooks article. It's a virtual BoboFest2006!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Required reading: The Case for Contamination

The NYTimes's Sunday Magazine has a superb article on Cosmopolitanism - nothing to do with the drink or the magazine.

The title of the article is The Case for Contamination written by Princeton's Kwame Anthony Appiah.

The article is a long and multi-faceted call for the de-sanctification of cultural traditions that Twisty recently made, albeit a tad more succinctly in her immortal blog post Fuck Culture.

You should read the entire article, but I can't resist posting what I consider some of the article's highlights:


Our guide to what is going on here might as well be a former African slave named Publius Terentius Afer, whom we know as Terence. Terence, born in Carthage, was taken to Rome in the early second century B.C., and his plays - witty, elegant works that are, with Plautus's earlier, less-cultivated works, essentially all we have of Roman comedy - were widely admired among the city's literary elite. Terence's own mode of writing - which involved freely incorporating any number of earlier Greek plays into a single Latin one - was known to Roman littérateurs as "contamination."

It's an evocative term. When people speak for an ideal of cultural purity, sustaining the authentic culture of the Asante or the American family farm, I find myself drawn to contamination as the name for a counterideal. Terence had a notably firm grasp on the range of human variety: "So many men, so many opinions" was a line of his. And it's in his comedy "The Self-Tormentor" that you'll find what may be the golden rule of cosmopolitanism - Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto; "I am human: nothing human is alien to me." The context is illuminating. A busybody farmer named Chremes is told by his neighbor to mind his own affairs; the homo sum credo is Chremes's breezy rejoinder. It isn't meant to be an ordinance from on high; it's just the case for gossip. Then again, gossip - the fascination people have for the small doings of other people - has been a powerful force for conversation among cultures.

The ideal of contamination has few exponents more eloquent than Salman Rushdie, who has insisted that the novel that occasioned his fatwa "celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelisation and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Mélange, hotch-potch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world." No doubt there can be an easy and spurious utopianism of "mixture," as there is of "purity" or "authenticity." And yet the larger human truth is on the side of contamination - that endless process of imitation and revision.


That's almost the very end of the article and gives the big picture view, but the article is just as great in dealing with specifics:


The preservationists often make their case by invoking the evil of "cultural imperialism." Their underlying picture, in broad strokes, is this: There is a world system of capitalism. It has a center and a periphery. At the center - in Europe and the United States - is a set of multinational corporations. Some of these are in the media business. The products they sell around the world promote the creation of desires that can be fulfilled only by the purchase and use of their products. They do this explicitly through advertising, but more insidiously, they also do so through the messages implicit in movies and in television drama. Herbert Schiller, a leading critic of "media-cultural imperialism," claimed that "it is the imagery and cultural perspectives of the ruling sector in the center that shape and structure consciousness throughout the system at large."

That's the theory, anyway. But the evidence doesn't bear it out. Researchers have actually gone out into the world and explored the responses to the hit television series "Dallas" in Holland and among Israeli Arabs, Moroccan Jewish immigrants, kibbutzniks and new Russian immigrants to Israel. They have examined the actual content of the television media - whose penetration of everyday life far exceeds that of film - in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India and Mexico. They have looked at how American popular culture was taken up by the artists of Sophiatown, in South Africa. They have discussed "Days of Our Lives" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" with Zulu college students from traditional backgrounds.

And one thing they've found is that how people respond to these cultural imports depends on their existing cultural context. When the media scholar Larry Strelitz spoke to students from KwaZulu-Natal, he found that they were anything but passive vessels. One of them, Sipho - a self-described "very, very strong Zulu man" - reported that he had drawn lessons from watching the American soap opera "Days of Our Lives," "especially relationship-wise." It fortified his view that "if a guy can tell a woman that he loves her, she should be able to do the same." What's more, after watching the show, Sipho "realized that I should be allowed to speak to my father. He should be my friend rather than just my father." It seems doubtful that that was the intended message of multinational capitalism's ruling sector.

And most gratifying for a feminist:

So liberty and diversity may well be at odds, and the tensions between them aren't always easily resolved. But the rhetoric of cultural preservation isn't any help. Again, the contradictions are near to hand. Take another look at that Unesco Convention. It affirms the "principle of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures." (What, all cultures - including those of the K.K.K. and the Taliban?) It also affirms "the importance of culture for social cohesion in general, and in particular its potential for the enhancement of the status and role of women in society." (But doesn't "cohesion" argue for uniformity? And wouldn't enhancing the status and role of women involve changing, rather than preserving, cultures?) In Saudi Arabia, people can watch "Will and Grace" on satellite TV - officially proscribed, but available all the same - knowing that, under Saudi law, Will could be beheaded in a public square. In northern Nigeria, mullahs inveigh against polio vaccination while sentencing adulteresses to death by stoning. In India, thousands of wives are burned to death each year for failing to make their dowry payments. Vive la différence? Please.

I do have a minor cultural materialist quibble. Appiah actually sounds like a cultural materialist when he makes the argument that changes in social customs are generally not the result of arguments and reasoning:

Consider the practice of foot-binding in China, which persisted for a thousand years - and was largely eradicated within a generation. The anti-foot-binding campaign, in the 1910's and 1920's, did circulate facts about the disadvantages of bound feet, but those couldn't have come as news to most people. Perhaps more effective was the campaign's emphasis that no other country went in for the practice; in the world at large, then, China was "losing face" because of it. (To China's cultural preservationists, of course, the fact that the practice was peculiar to the region was entirely a mark in its favor.) Natural-foot societies were formed, with members forswearing the practice and further pledging that their sons would not marry women with bound feet. As the movement took hold, scorn was heaped on older women with bound feet, and they were forced to endure the agonies of unbinding. What had been beautiful became ugly; ornamentation became disfigurement. The appeal to reason can explain neither the custom nor its abolition.

The idea that arguments, reasoning and logic are not the engines of cultural change is solidily cultural materialist. But he sort of drops the ball when it comes to explaing what does cause cultural change, this time in reference to social acceptance of homosexuality:

One of the great savants of the postwar era, John von Neumann, liked to say, mischievously, that "in mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them." As in mathematical arguments, so in moral ones. Now, I don't deny that all the time, at every stage, people were talking, giving one another reasons to do things: accept their children, stop treating homosexuality as a medical disorder, disagree with their churches, come out. Still, the short version of the story is basically this: People got used to lesbians and gay men.

There was a reason that people "got used to lesbians and gay men" at the time they did. Marvin Harris naturally addresses this in his Why Nothing Works (AKA America Now). I also have a video of Marvin Harris discussing varieties of cultural acceptance of homosexuality worldwide on my cultural materialism web site.

But since Appiah is not an anthropologist but a philosopher, I can easily forgive him for not delving further.

According to the article, this essay is adapted from "Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers," to be published later this month by W.W. Norton.

I've already ordered my copy of Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Savinsucks.com

I love the web site SavinSucks.com which is devoted entirely to the issue of Peter Sachs's right to express an unflattering opinion.

Mr. Sachs registered the domain name 'savinsucks.com.' The Savin Corporation didn't like it and threatened to sue. You can read all about it on the web site.

The best part of this web site is when Sachs, who is also an attorney, makes Savin's attorney of record, David Einhorn of Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C. look like a fool:

However, if you are so certain that your client will prevail, I encourage you to bring an action against me. I am confident I will prevail on summary judgement. In fact, I am so confident that I have just registered the domain name "andersonkillsucks.com."

Read the entire letter in PDF format here.