Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spaulding Gray/Our Town

God I love Spaulding Gray. I first knew of him when I was home sick from work one day and caught Lincoln Center's production of OUR TOWN on PBS. Then I saw Swimming to Cambodia and I was hooked. I even dragged my (ex) boyfriend, my daughter and her (ex) boyfriend to Manhattan (when I lived in South Jersey and had very little disposable income) to see him do his monologue "It's a Slippery Slope" back in the mid-90s.

You can see Spaulding at the end of this clip, which is the end of the LC OUR TOWN production, and which has to be violating all kinds of copyright laws by being on youtube. So until they take it down, watch it.

OUR TOWN is a masterpiece and not JUST because the set and props expenses for the play are minimal - although, having just gone through an expensive costume production of JANE EYRE myself I REALLY appreciate that aspect of the play. I wrote an essay Why OUR TOWN is Great, defending the play against too-kewl hipsters.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nietzsche ain't that peachy

What the hell IS IT with Nietzsche??? When guys on dating sites say they are interested in philosophy, I think, cool, maybe we can philosophize together. So I ask them, who is your favorite philosopher. They ALWAYS - and I mean every single goddam time - say 'NIETZSCHE'!!!

Not only is it tiresome but everything of value that Nietzsche ever said practically, he got from Schopenhauer. There are some people who claim to be interested in philosophy who don't even know who Schopenhauer is.

I find Schopenhauer a great comfort when I'm lonely, in part because few people were as lonely as Schopenhauer, who in the end was alienated from his mother, his sister, and almost everybody else, except his dog Atma.

Some interesting comments from Schopenhauer

A man of intellect is like an artist who gives a concert without any
help from anyone else, playing on a single instrument--a piano, say,
which is a little orchestra in itself. Such a man is a little world in
himself; and the effect produced by various instruments together, he
produces single-handed, in the unity of his own consciousness. Like
the piano, he has no place in a symphony: he is a soloist and performs
by himself,--in solitude, it may be; or, if in company with other
instruments, only as principal; or for setting the tone, as in
singing. However, those who are fond of society from time to time
may profit by this simile, and lay it down as a general rule that
deficiency of quality in those we meet may be to some extent
compensated by an increase in quantity. One man's company may be quite
enough, if he is clever; but where you have only ordinary people to
deal with, it is advisable to have a great many of them, so that
some advantage may accrue by letting them all work together,--on the
analogy of the horns; and may Heaven grant you patience for your task!

That mental vacuity and barrenness of soul to which I have alluded, is
responsible for another misfortune. When men of the better class form
a society for promoting some noble or ideal aim, the result almost
always is that the innumerable mob of humanity comes crowding in too,
as it always does everywhere, like vermin--their object being to try
and get rid of boredom, or some other defect of their nature; and
anything that will effect that, they seize upon at once, without the
slightest discrimination. Some of them will slip into that society,
or push themselves in, and then either soon destroy it altogether, or
alter it so much that in the end it comes to have a purpose the exact
opposite of that which it had at first.


Schopenhauer on writing
It would generally serve writers in good stead if they would see that,
whilst a man should, if possible, think like a great genius, he should
talk the same language as everyone else. Authors should use common
words to say uncommon things. But they do just the opposite. We find
them trying to wrap up trivial ideas in grand words, and to clothe
their very ordinary thoughts in the most extraordinary phrases, the
most far-fetched, unnatural, and out-of-the-way expressions. Their
sentences perpetually stalk about on stilts. They take so much
pleasure in bombast, and write in such a high-flown, bloated,
affected, hyperbolical and acrobatic style that their prototype is
Ancient Pistol, whom his friend Falstaff once impatiently told to say
what he had to say _like a man of this world._[1]

[Footnote 1: _King Henry IV_., Part II. Act v. Sc. 3.]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Women & Hollywood

Good blog I just learned about by way of Echidne.

Bully Christians are at it again

When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

More at the NYTimes

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Top most stupid headlines on men's online dating profiles

These are actual headlines for men's profiles:

"I didn't lose my mind, I sold it on ebay"

"Cuttle at home time!"

"wabbit seeks ms. wabbit"

"You really don't want to know!"

"Casting Now for starring role in my life"

"Puppies, flowers, and uranium"

"Confident, Secure, Slightly Conceited"

"WARNING: Not approved by the FDA"

“Just another clown”

“I am a person”

“Well trained...needs good home”

"Me love U long time"
(aren't those the words of a Bankok prostitute???)

"WARNING PROCEED WITH CAUTION"

"Guy with puppy envy"



And the number one most popular headline: "Nice guy looking for nice girl"

I've said it before but really, I can't say it enough - I LOVE YOU PAUL KRUGMAN!!!

From the NYTimes

During the closing days of the Pennsylvania primary fight, the Obama campaign ran a TV ad repeating the dishonest charge that the Clinton plan would force people to buy health insurance they can’t afford. It was as negative as any ad that Mrs. Clinton has run — but perhaps more important, it was fear-mongering aimed at people who don’t think they need insurance, rather than reassurance for families who are trying to get coverage or are afraid of losing it.

No wonder, then, that older Democrats continue to favor Mrs. Clinton.

The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?

That should be an easy question to answer. Democrats can justly portray themselves as the party of economic security, the party that created Social Security and Medicare and defended those programs against Republican attacks — and the party that can bring assured health coverage to all Americans.

They can also portray themselves as the party of prosperity: the contrast between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy is the best free advertisement that Democrats have had since Herbert Hoover.

But the message that Democrats are ready to continue and build on a grand tradition doesn’t mesh well with claims to be bringing a “new politics” and rhetoric that places blame for our current state equally on both parties.

And unless Democrats can get past this self-inflicted state of confusion, there’s a very good chance that they’ll snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this fall.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beebo Brinker and production values

The Dramatists Guild was giving away tickets to see Beebo Brinker the off-Broadway production of the off-off Broadway cult hit, so I took my daughter to see it, since she read the original Beebo Brinker lesbian pulp fiction that the play was based on.

At the end of my recent JANE EYRE run, one of the actors emailed me and said I should feel proud of my accomplishment. At the time I was feeling very down since several of the actors in the JANE production had turned out to be huge creeps in my book, and it made me very depressed. But in retrospect, and after seeing BEEBO, he's right.

I can't claim to be impartial, but I really think that JANE was a better play. And not just because of the script, but because of everything.

I'm sure BEEBO has a much bigger budget than JANE had, and it is off-Broadway whereas JANE was off-off Broadway.

The BEEBO set was more minimalistic than Jane - although they did have a nifty bed that pulled out from below a set of stairs. But in general the set looked very cold and empty. While the BEEBO play, when it was on the right track, was hot and busy.

I think that the JANE set was just minimal enough to be versatile, but not so minimal that it took away from the script.



Our location was much better too, which was worth it even though I practically paid for the theatre in my own blood it was so damn expensive. But it was right down the street from the Al Hirshfeld, a bona fide Broadway theatre.

And the acting in JANE, for the most part, was every bit as good as the BEEBO acting. Although the BEEBO cast included Bill Dawes, my MySpace friend. Who looks very hot without a shirt, I might add. He had to play the straight man in BEEBO (in both senses of the word) but he's really funny, althought a little defensive about teh gay..

Daily Howler to the rescue

I just cannot read a column by Maureen Dowd without knowing that Bob at Daily Howler will have something to say about it:

DOWD: Is he skittish around her because he knows that she detests him and he's used to charming everyone? Or does he feel guilty that he cut in line ahead of her? As the husband of Michelle, does he know better than to defy the will of a strong woman? Or is he simply scared of Hillary because she's scary?

Yeah, of course—that’s probably it! Readers, it all becomes so clear when somebody finally says it!

This year’s campaign has shown what can happen when a party has two closely-matched candidates. There are potential downsides for the party, as anyone can see. But journos like Dowd think it’s their role to demand that the person they hate should just quit. Those million-plus Democrats don’t exist in Dowd’s world. In Dowd’s world, Dowd wants Clinton to quit. And so, by the laws of childish dreams, “the Democrats” must want that too.

*****

And he has that right - Dowd HATES Hillary Clinton. Which is yet one more reason why you know Clinton will make a good president.

I've been reading up about sociopaths lately

Scary and fascinating...

Sociopaths don't have normal affection with other people. They don't feel attached to others. They don't feel love. And that is why they don't have a conscience. If you harmed someone, even someone you didn't know, you would feel guilt and remorse. Why? Because you have a natural affinity for other human beings. You know how it feels to suffer, to fear, to feel anguish. You care about others. And if you hurt someone you love, the guilt and remorse would be very bad because of your affection for him or her. Take that attachment and affection away and you take away remorse, guilt, and any kind of normal feelings of fairness. That's a sociopath.


and

WHAT DO THEY WANT?

This is an interesting question. Of course most people have purposes that are strongly influenced by our connections and affections with others. Our relationships with others, and our love for them, give us most of the meaning in life. So if a sociopath doesn't have these things, what is left? What kind of purposes do they have? The answer is chilling: They want to win. Take away love and relationships and all you have left is winning the game, whatever the game is decided to be. If they are in business, it is becoming rich. If it is sibling rivalry, it is defeating the sibling. If it is a contest, the goal is to dominate. If a sociopath is the envious sort, winning would be making the other lose, or fail, or be frustrated, or embarrassed.

A sociopath's goal is to win. And he is willing to do anything at all to win. And sociopaths have nothing else to think about, so they can be very clever and conniving. Sociopaths are not busy being concerned with relationships or moral dilemmas or conflicting feelings, so they have much more time to think about clever ways to gain your trust and stab you in the back, and how to do it without anyone knowing what's happening.


more about sociopaths here

And more here:

The Superficiality of Image

On the surface, sociopaths may, at first and even for a long time, appear to function smoothly. Their manners are impeccable; they are well groomed; they fulfill the codes of romance and courtship to a tee. They are likely to be eloquent talkers who lace their speech with impressive sounding facts and figures. They may be fun, laugh a lot, sweep you off your feet with their sweetness. They may also seem ambitious, driven, and fond of grand, impetuous schemes for their success. Unfortunately, this behavior is an act for the sociopath. It is simply a means to getting what they want without thought to future consequences or your feelings.


even more about sociopaths

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Claudius part 2



Thinking of I, Claudius, I remembered just how damn freaky that show could get. This is one of the best scenes - Claudius and two other noble Romans are waiting fearfully for an audience with Caligula, hoping they won't be executed - suddenly Caligula appears as...

You have to watch John Hurt doing the best Caligula evah.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Love is Like a Ball and Chain



Janis at Woodstock

More angst about love

Sitting down by my window,
Whoa, whoa, looking at the rain.
Whoa, down by my window, baby,
And all around me,
I said suddenly I felt the rain.
Somethin' grabbed a hold of me, darling,
Honey, it felt to me, honey like, yeah, a ball and chain.
Oh honey, you know what I mean,
It just hurts me.

Say, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, honey, it can't be
Whoa, it can't be, babe,
Said no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, hey.
Whoa, baby, it just can't be
Every time I want to reach out my hand.
No, no, no, no, no, babe, baby, never, no, no,
Never, never, no, no, no.
Here you gone today, but I wanted to love you, darling,
Oh, till the end of time,
Yeah! All right!

Love's got a hold on me baby
Feels like a ball and chain.
Oh, love just draggin' me down, yeah yeah yeah,
Feels like, honey sometimes it feels honey like a ball, yeah like a ball and a chain
Wonder why when I did the very best I could to love you
You wanted to leave me here, honey in so much pain
Come on, honey, I want you to tell me, please, yeah.

Say oh, oh, oh, oh,
Honey this can't be
No, no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no yeah.
Whoa, whoa, whoa
Honey, this can't be just because I want to want you
Does this mean I have to hide to cry, cry all the time ?
I just wanted to love you, darling,
Every day, oh, whoa, till the, to the very end, to the end of time,
Yeah, no no no no no, hit it!

Love's got a hold on me, baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
Oh, love's holdin' on to me,
Feels to me, oh like a ball and a chain
Honey somethin' will grab around the knees, grab me in my heart,
Feels to me like a ball and a chain now,
Yeah, alright, yeah!

Say oh, oh oh oh,
Honey this can't be
Tell me please what am I askin' now,
It can't be babe
I know it just can't be, darling, no no.
Whoa whoa whoa, whoa darling don't you feel me reachin' out
Tell me, tell me, darling please
Tell, tell, tell me darling please, I'm gonna need it,
I want you to hear me baby
Tell me why, sometimes darling
I said sometimes I feel I got to know why
Sometimes I feel, honey, honey that I need to know why
I said baby when I ask you
I could use a little help sometime
When I say, I say tell me, come on man,
Tell me, tell me, babe,
Honey I never understood, why when I want to work my hands out,
I want to wear my hands out, I try the very best I can, babe
Why you always want to go, honey and let me down baby.
I said why I always wanna go, honey drag me around.
Seems like anything, it could be the telephone company man,
it could be the man I love, I always got something else going, you know what I mean ?
Over on the other side, say, not quite got it right this very minute.
I'm so sorry babe, I said I'm so very sorry babe,
But I never did promise you nothing, right ? I see what you mean.
Come on, man, now come on, that ain't the name of it,
And that ain't the end of it, you know what I mean.
Sometimes, it feels just about breaking things, you know what I mean.
Just like, just like a grave, just like a grave to call
Just like a cry to call.
Honey I never understood and I said please
Lord, I swear I never understood and I say please
I want you to help me, fill it up baby,
I want you to help me, I said allow me to hear
Please, please, please, please, please, please, please,
Honey make me understand why love just feels so heavy on me, darling,
Feels so bad on my back, babe,
Feels just like a ball,
Feels like a ball, ball, oh daddy feels like a ball,
And a chain.

Running up that Hill

Watch the Kate Bush video


It doesn't hurt me.
You want to feel, how it feels?
You want to know, know that it doesn't hurt me?
You want to hear about the deal I'm making.
You,
You and me

And if I only could,
Make a deal with God,
Get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
If I only could

You don't want to hurt me,
But see how deep the bullet lies.
Unaware that I'm tearing you asunder.
There is thunder in our hearts, baby

So much hate for the ones we love?
Tell me, we both matter, don't we?
You,
It's you and me
It's You and me, won't be unhappy

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
If I only could

Come on, baby, come on, come on, darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
Come on angel, come on, come on, darling,
Let's exchange the experience

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.

And if I only could,
Make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.

If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill
If I only could, be running up that hill


Wiki about Running up that hill

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

HUCK FINN in Central Park

My next production will be HUCK FINN in Central Park. The audience at the Metropolitan Playhouse's Twainathon seemed to really like my HUCK. Even the guy running the festival told a mutual acquaintance he thought it was a great adaptation - even though he apparently loathed me personally, because he thinks I'm a "control freak." In addition to the fact that you really can't exert too much control when you're the playwright/director/producer - as I found out with my JANE EYRE production - he based his assessment of my control freakyness on the fact that I asked him a bunch of questions at the outset of the production - since asking questions is how you learn things, especially when the person in charge isn't giving you the information you need. Argh.

Avoiding unpleasant people and not getting sued, are big reasons why I do the whole producing/directing/writing thing myself.

The big advantage of doing a show in Central Park is you don't have to fork over thousands of dollars for the space, like you do if you rent a theatre in Manhattan. Theatre rental is usually half the budget or more.

So in late summer, look for HUCK FINN in Central Park.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Top 3 worst play formats

These three types of plays show up all the time, everywhere from readings to Broadway and they drive me crazy.

Zoo Story Clone

Usually done in short-play format.

I am one of the few people in the theatre world who is completely unimpressed by Edward Albee's ZOO STORY. The formula is simple - put two men together, have them talk and talk and then suddenly one of the men violently attacks the other. The end.

There is rarely an evening of short plays that does not include an example of this genre. I just saw another one last night at the Turnip 15 minute play festival.

Bickerfest

Similiar to Zoo Story clone but without the exciting violence at the end. And the people arguing - or rather bickering which is basically arguing about trifles - are not necessarily both men. People bickering is not drama. Few people in the theatre world get that.

Wallowing in Squalor

Writing this type of play will win you a Pulitzer, as AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY demonstrates. Wallowing in squalor is a genre that allows wealthy upper-class theatre-goers to enjoy the misery of dysfunctional and/or poor people, who suffer and do bad things and then die, go insane or just sink down into their own filth and hopelessness. Class war as guilt-free art.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

RIP Stanley Kamel



I am distraught - Stanley Kamel has died - he died a week ago and I just found out about it. I rarely care about celebrities but he was so wonderful as Monk's psychiatrist Joseph Kroger. I actually had a huge crush on him and I very rarely get crushes on older guys.

You can watch a clip of him on Monk here.

Tony Shaloub on the torture of being in a bad play. What I want to know is why do actors so often AGREE TO BE IN BAD PLAYS?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Love Poems

Enthralled

By Alfred Bryan

Teach me to sin--
In love's forbidden ways,
For you can make all passion pure;
The magic lure of your sweet eyes
Each shape of sin makes virtue praise.

Teach me to sin--
Enslave me to your wanton charms,
Crush me in your velvet arms
And make me, make me love you.
Make me fire your blood with new desire,
And make me kiss you--lip and limb,
Till sense reel and pulses swim.
Aye! even if you hate me,
Teach me to sin.


I Loved You

Alexander Pushkin


I loved you; even now I may confess,
Some embers of my love their fire retain;
But do not let it cause you more distress,
I do not want to sadden you again.
Hopeless and tonguetied, yet I loved you dearly
With pangs the jealous and the timid know;
So tenderly I loved you, so sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.


I Would Live in Your Love

Sarah Teasdale


I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave
that recedes;

I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me,
I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul
as it leads.


More love poems

My Hero Roy Edroso

The Official Village Voice Election-Season Guide to the Right-Wing Blogosphere

Favorite feature - each conservative blogger gets an evil/stupid ratio rating.

And then Roy provides feedback from the conservatives about his article.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Those naughty poets

Delving into sonnets has introduced me to facets of poetry and poets that I did not know about. Especially the fact that Shakespeare has lots of company in writing about sex, as he did pretty explicitely in Sonnet 151. Even lil old Emily Dickinson wrote naughty verse.

A recently published book The Best American Erotic Poetry includes Dickinson and Walt Whitman, even Francis Scott Key. By the dawn's early light indeed.

Of course, being only American poetry, the book leaves out the likes of Shakespeare and Catullus (whose work is the basis of Carl Orff's bawdy Catullus Carmina, the lesser-known work of his scenic cantata triptych which includes two other erotic-tinged works Carmina Burana and the obviously carnal Trionfo di Afrodite.)

I'll have to find a more international book on the subject.

But now Emily Dickinson gets freaky.

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

*****

Clearly the sea is an excellent source of erotic metaphor.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I am afraid of my own play

My latest play will have a reading at NYCPlaywrights this week. It's called EARLY ONE MORNING but I'm having a hard time working on it thanks to the fact that it involves Numbers Stations. There's something about them that I find unbearably creepy. I can't work on my play at night because I'm so creeped out. Here's what Wikipedia says:
Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a radio alphabet), tunes or morse code.

The voices that can be heard on these stations are often mechanically generated. They are in a wide variety of languages, and the voices are usually women's, though sometimes men's or children's voices are used.

And NOW you can listen to many of the numbers stations (with video) on youtube.

You can watch a TV segment about them on youtube as well.

I was inspired by The Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station for my play. That station gets its name from the folk tune it uses. My play's fictional numbers station plays the folk tune Early One Morning.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

JANE EYRE costumes

Viviane Galloway did the costumes for JANE EYRE - here is some of her work from sketch to completion below. Not only is Viviane very talented, she is a joy to work with. And she always helps me see that when dealing with bitchy actors, the problem is not ME:

"Photo calls are always tough--I feel actors are a bit selfish in that respect. They don't seem to understand that all this work has gone on around them, and that there are people who need to document that work. But in the end they always want to see the photos, so I don't get it!"

I just love Viviane.


See a larger version of this image.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Heavenly

The British "twee" band Heavenly was great and way too unknown for their talent. My daughter turned me onto them in the 90s and I enjoy them more all the time. And my friend Phoebe Summersquash toured with them!

Here's the wiki for her band Small Factory.

Some favorite Heavenly lyrics below... and you can listen to a clip from Cool Guitar Boy.


He looks so cool in his jeans that are real tight bleached ripped split
And he's sort of cute in his coat: plastic mac with gold glitter on
He's really gear in his shirt, coloured purple-pink splash design
He looks just great in his boots: pointy ankle-highs

I love him lots and I wish he'd see me: the Cool Guitar Boy
He looks so brilliant when he plays his twelve-string and smiles
Oh pure joy!

And I wish he'd see me
And I want him to love me
Cos I know there's heaven, heaven in his arms

He looks so neat with his hair which is tousled up long mess and
He acts all coy, smiles and hides. Could he like me? I have to guess
He looks so cool in his shades, hide his eyes, might be looking my way
Never speaks, which I like, doesn't have much to say

I love him lots and I wish he'd see me: the Cool Guitar Boy
He looks so brilliant when he plays his twelve-string and smiles
Oh pure joy!

And I wish he'd see me
And I want him to love me
Cos I know there's heaven, heaven in his arms

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Love & Art & Dumbarton Oaks

Art created in the name of love, especially romantic love, is a concept I've always found highly appealing.

So many great works of art from the Taj Mahal to Shakespeare's Sonnets to Layla have their origins in romatic love.

I owe my theatre career almost entirely to romantic love. When I was 30 I was a graphic artist hoping to throw myself completely into illustration or even pure painting once my daughter was independent. But then I met Chris, the most beautiful man in the world, who happened to be involved in community theatre, and one thing led to another - playwriting-wise - and eventually I was in Manhattan, watching a performance of my play MONKEY'S PAW 2000, directed by my boyfriend Jonathan. A few years later Jonathan produced my play TAM LIN. After we broke up he had nothing further to do with theatre, and always claimed to hate actors, so I can only conclude he had done it all for love.

I recently heard Concerto in E flat - Dumbarton Oaks on the radio and became intrigued because it was written on commission by Igor Stravinsky for Robert Woods Bliss to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary. In spite of this, and being a diplomat and having his home become a research library, Robert Woods Bliss has no entry in Wikipedia. I want to know more about him because I want to learn if he and his wife were truly devoted to each other after 30 years of marriage. I hope so.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fred Rogers - giving Christianity a good name


These days when someone says they are a Christian, and feels that it is their duty to try to tell other people to become Christians, it invariably turns out that all their talk of Christian virtures is simply a way to smother their conscience and avoid examining their deepest impulses and desires. Certainly there have been enough famous Christian preachers who have been caught practicing what they preached against - so many that when I hear someone proclaim what a big Christian they are, I immediately become wary of them, which usually turns out to be the path of wisdom.

Ole Fred Rogers did NOT make a big show of his Christian beliefs. He simply made people, and not only children, feel better. There was an article in the TV Guide in 1985 about Lauren Tewes, who had been a cast member of the TV show The Love Boat:
When Lauren Tewes heard Mr. Rogers offer and question, “I’ll be your friend. Will you be mine?” she broke down in tears and answered aloud, “Yes! Yes, I will!” She later said, “I resolved at that point to get my life together. I was totally collapsed, and Mr. Rogers saved my life — with an offer of friendship.


Naturally this sort of display of honest emotion, vulnerabilty and sincerity is met with derision, and Mr Rogers was mocked and dismissed by those who, I guess, fancy themselves sophisticates. I found this account very interesting:

Yes, at seventy years old and 143 pounds, Mister Rogers still fights, and indeed, early this year, when television handed him its highest honor, he responded by telling television--gently; of course--to just shut up for once, and television listened. He had already won his third Daytime Emmy, and now he went onstage to accept Emmy's Lifetime Achievement Award, and there, in front of all the soap-opera stars and talk-show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are .... Ten seconds of silence." And then he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, "I'll watch the time," and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked... and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds... and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, "May God be with you" to all his vanquished children.

OK, in this case he got God in there but at least it wasn't on his TV show.

In my own struggle to get past recent grief it helps to think of Fred Rogers, and also of the people who were helped by him who had it much worse than I've ever had:
“This person said that when she was growing up, she lived in an exceedingly abusive household where she was raped and scared every day. And she said the only time that she felt that anybody really cared about her is when she was watching us,” Mr. Rogers said to Pinkston.


Predictably, Fred Rogers antithesis, Fred Phelps appeared at the memorial service for Rogers to proclaim that he was going to hell for not condeming homosexuality.

It's a bad break for Christianity that Rogers died in 2003 while Phelps is still here. Fred Rogers proved that not all Christians are bad.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

Morrissey is so popular because he puts his finger on the never-ending angst of life on earth.

Watch a performance of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"

The lyrics:



I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I'm miserable now

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I'm miserable now


In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die ?


Two lovers entwined pass me by
And heaven knows I'm miserable now


I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I'm miserable now


In my life
Oh, why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die ?


What she asked of me at the end of the day
Caligula would have blushed


"You've been in the house too long" she said
And I (naturally) fled


In my life
Why do I smile
At people who I'd much rather kick in the eye ?


I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I'm miserable now


"You've been in the house too long" she said
And I (naturally) fled


In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die ?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sideburns are hot



Sideburns are hot, while beards are not. And the reason is because sideburns say "I'm male, and I COULD grow a beard if I wanted to, but I have restraint. But still, I'm male."

Just a little bit of sideburns is necessary for this effect.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Beatles Internet Album


A very good web site devoted to the Beatles is The Beatles Internet Album. It has interviews, audio clips and fun facts, including this section about the creation of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover.

Friday, April 04, 2008

My daughter is the Queen of Libraries

She rehearsed her NYPL presentation with me last night and I learned so much and got a treasure-trove of researchy goodness on Marvin Harris

I have most of his books and quite a few magazine articles, but I want to have a complete collection, so I was thrilled to get the full text of an article Harris wrote on a critic of Margaret Mead called "Margaret and the Giant Killer."

The article starts out with a demonstration that very little has changed in the past 20 years in the relationship between the media and sociobiology - now generally called evolutionary psychology.
Edward O. Wilson's best-selling sociobiological thrillers have shown that there is no limit to the spasms scholarly books can stimulate in the press if they advance two propositions: one, social scientists are incompetent bleeding hearts who deny the existence of human nature; and two, hard-nosed, real scientists must assume control over the social sciences and reassert the importance of biological factors in human life. Harvard University Press, Wilson's publisher, has found that, by twitching certain nerves, nearly any book advocating neo-Darwinian forms of biological determinism can soar to bestsellerdom.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Once again, Paul Krugman is entirely right

The Bush administration, however, has spent the last seven years trying to do away with government oversight of the financial industry. In fact, the new plan was originally conceived of as “promoting a competitive financial services sector leading the world and supporting continued economic innovation.” That’s banker-speak for getting rid of regulations that annoy big financial operators.

To reverse course now, and seek expanded regulation, the administration would have to back down on its free-market ideology — and it would also have to face up to the fact that it was wrong. And this administration never, ever, admits that it made a mistake.

more of "The Dilbert Strategy" at NYTimes

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Echidne hits the big time

She's guest blogging in The Nation

Echidne on her home turf

Marsha Norman makes an excellent point

So how can critics serve their readers - and the theater - better? They need to accept their responsibility to report how the audience responded. And not in a dismissive way, but in a way that reflects the standards of ordinary journalism. I’d like to see sentences like “On the night I was there hating it, the other 1,600 people were cheering in the aisles. Go figure.” Or “On the night I loved it, half of the audience was asleep. Check it out.” If the critics are writing for the audience, then the reader needs to know what else was going on besides what was in the critic’s mind.

More in the NYTimes

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Random lessons learned from off-off Broadway

Clearly I am bitter about my recent off-off Broadway production experience. Will I ever do more theater again - hell yeah! Even though there's at best, little money to be made in it. And my finances were hammered this time around. It's going to take me months to recover. But what else yah gonna do in this existentially meaningless reality on the way to eternal oblivion?

And as Megan McArdle will tell you (see previous post), Thomas Edison had to go through lots of wrong versions of the light bulb before he got it right. He learned from his mistakes. So will I.

So let us review a few random mistakes. This is not a comprehensive list by any means.

1. Trying to be friends with actors. You have to remember they're your employees. Too many actors will lose respect for you if you get too chummy. And just because someone is a good actor does not make them a good person. You're just asking to have your heart broken if you forget that.

2. Casting friends of cast members. This pretty much never works out - they tend to form little cliques and either gang up on actors who they don't like for whatever reason, or gang up against the stage crew. Or the producer. They will probably form cliques anyway, but you don't want to expedite the process.

3. Neglecting to build a core of backstage people. Casting is the most important aspect of a show, but a solid core of backstage people is the second most important. You have to make sure you have a good solid team even before rehearsals. They have to be good communicators, they have to be able to think on their feet, and they can't get huffy or surly if the actors don't treat them with respect. They have to know how to push back.

4. Not learning to say "no." I let an actor talk me into buying a smoke machine for one scene. It was a pain in the ass, and it couldn't really be used properly under the conditions we had - almost nobody saw the smoke. And did the actor feel bad about making me spend the money and making me deal with the hassle of trying to get it to work right and making sure that Equity was OK with it? Not in the least - he was too busy making lists of mistakes made by me and the stage crew.

5. Paying for things with credit cards. Don't do it. But this is a good rule for life in general.