Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Great Happiness Space

There is an amazing documentary, The Great Happiness Space, showing on the Sundance Channel - they have the best stuff - they also showed "Slings and Arrows" - about a club where women go to pay to hang out with attractive, attentive men. They may or may not have sex. Which is understandable, because most of the women who go to this club are prostitutes, who spend all day jerking off salary men. It's striking how often these prostitutes say that they come to the "host club" to get "healed." These men act as super-great boyfriends, always interested in talking to them and listening to their problems.

But men should take notice of these clubs - these are men whom the women who are paid for sex, will in turn pay to be with. They are in their 20s, all have lots of hair - most of it streaked blond, are slim, boyishly male, not rugged or super-butch, and wear nice clothes and boots. Makes me miss my Korean ex-boyfriend.

Although this phenomenon of male prostitution for women (they DO have sex with them sometimes although that fact is played down in both the documentary and in reviews) seems to be confined so far to Japan only, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it spread throughout the world - wherever women earn their own money.

More about host and hostess clubs in Japan here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

more from William Ball

QUESTIONS FROM ACTORS

We've said it before - but it's so important it bears repeating - a question from an actor is not a question. A question from an actor is an innocent bid to draw the director's attention to something unresolved. When the actor asks a question, a wise director doesn't answer the question. The answer to the question is not in the director, the answer to the question is in the actor. Answer the question by asking another question. Allow the actor to resolve the difficulty. He already has the best answer in mind before he asks the question. Here is an example:

ACTOR: Shall I wear this hat?
DIRECTOR: What would be best?
ACTOR: Well, it's too small. It gets in the way. I don't know where to put it, and if I do put it down, I have no way of getting it off the stage when I leave.
DIRECTOR: Let's leave the hat out.

Another example:

ACTOR: How should I do it, on the right or the left?
DIRECTOR: Which way is best?
ACTOR: If I do it on the right, I can arrive on time. If I do it on the left, I'll be late.
DIRECTOR: Well, then do it on the right.

The answer to the question is in the question. The actor's answer will be organic, and by using his solution, the director will avoid imposing anything. Another example:

ACTOR: Are we going to skip this scene today?
DIRECTOR: Is there something about that scene that we should give our attention to?
ACTOR: Well, I did alot of work on that scene last night and I have some new ideas I'd like to show you.
DIRECTOR: In that case, let's be sure to work that scene in.

The question "Are we going to skip this scene?" may be answered "Yes, it's not scheduled!" or "Yes, we're moving on to the last act." But, "Are we going to skip this scene?" is an invitation to draw attention to something. The director does not know what it is; he has to find out. A question from the actor is merely an invitation. The actor is drawing attention to something unresolved.

Impeachment "Hamlets"?

I got an email from my computer sensei Stan Pokras (he introduced me to my first Macintosh in 1986), discussing the possibility of impeaching G. W. Bush. The idea of impeaching Bush is nothing new - what caught my eye was the designation of those unsure of impeachment as "Impeachment Hamlets."

I'm sorry but that's bullshit. Hamlet was NOT indecisive - at least no more so than ANYBODY would be after he's seen a ghost tell him that his uncle killed his father and he should do something about it. And by doing something about it he means basically that Hamlet has to take on the entire Danish government. I think any sane person would be a LITTLE indecisive about what to do there.

And YES, Hamlet IS SANE. If nobody else saw the ghost of his father, you could make a case that he was bonkers. But Shakespeare very clearly sets up a situation where there are multiple witnesses who see ghostly old Hamlet Sr. - Horiatio, Francisco and Bernardo - in addition to Hamlet. So unless they are ALL crazy, Hamlet is not crazy.

Really, the junk that gets piled on Hamlet, you have to wonder how the play survives at all.

on Belief

more from William Ball's "A Sense of Direction"

A painter builds with color and line; a musician with tone and rhythm. A sculptor builds with shape. But the actor builds his profession on patterns of belief. An actor is working with the same tool that causes all events. That is belief. Belief is the power that causes things to happen, and actors are exercising their belief power all the time. If one says to an actor "Will you please believe this?" he will do so readily. It is difficult for him to resist the tendency to become whatever is suggested. The actor rises to the occasion automatically. He quickly enters into almost any situation and believes in almost any suggestion just as a child does. That belief power has tremendous force. We say that in the theatre we "make believe," just as children make believe. What belief do we "make"? The actor makes himself believe. Then he makes the audience believe. The actor believes in himself, in his character, and in his work. The audience believes in the characters, in the story, and in the players.

There is a great deal of belief going on around a theatre during a performance. Belief power is pervasive in a theatre, and belief power is tremendously compelling. This is one of the reasons that audiences will sit in the darkness giving their undivided attention to individuals who believe themselves to be other than who they are. The belief on the stage is so compelling that the audience starts to believe these individuals are who they say they are. When an audience believes and the actors believe, we have a tremendous concentration of energy. It is spellbinding. The more the audience believes what the actor is doing, the more the actor believes what he is doing, the more the audience will believe. It's a self-hypnosis of belief. It's a rapture of belief. It's an orgy of belief.

When the play is over, we return to our customary identities. The broker has been believing himself to be in real trouble; believing himself to be wrapped in love; believing himself to be in danger; believing himself to be in triumph, and on and on. When the final curtain falls, he returns to the belief that he is a husband, a golfer, Republican, a father. He has come to the theatre to "exercise" his systems of belief. The more exercise or stimulation his belief systems get, the more exhilaration and pleasure he receives. When he leaves the theatre, he may say, "That was a wonderful show! That was a great play! That was really absorbing!" The reason his spirit is so renewed and enthusiastic is that his belief systems have been awakened and exhilarated. During the course of the performance he contributed so much of his belief that new aspects of his identity have been awakened.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sonnets from the Portuguese

Sonnet 29

I think of thee! - my thoughts do twine and bud
About thee, as wild vines, about a tree,
Put out broad leaves, and soon there's nought to see
Except the straggling green which hides the wood.
Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understood
I will not have my thoughts instead of thee
Who art dearer, better! Rather, instantly
Renew thy presence; as a strong tree should,
Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare,
And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee,
Drop heavily down, - burst, shattered everywhere!
Because, in this deep joy to see and hear thee
And breathe within thy shadow a new air,
I do not think of thee - I am too near thee.


- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All the Sonnets from the Portuguese here.

I think it's time to find myself a good therapist. Sonnets are not fire extinguishers after all - rather they seem to be rich veins of coal for my own personal Centralia.

the current primitive state of stage lighting

One of the bigger expenses of my 2008 production of JANE EYRE was the lighting. It was expensive, time consuming, and a pain in the ass. The lights did look good - but not one single damn critic mentioned the lights.

And that's because really, who cares? As long as the stage is reasonably well-lit, nobody cares about the lights. And at the off-off Broadway level, nobody should expect a light show.

One of the reasons why lighting is so damn time-consuming is because the state of stage lighting is still extremely primitive. The lights are set up by people climbing up and down on ladders to change the positions of the lights and to secure colored films in front of the lights. This is absurd in an age when even city buses have LED displays. It adds a whole day to the technical aspect of producing theatre - which means another day of theatre rental, which is incredibly expensive in Manhattan.

And L.E.D. is the answer. There's an article in the NYTImes about L.E.D. technology.

The article ends this way:
“The way an incandescent bulb plays on the face on a Broadway makeup mirror,” he said, “you can never duplicate that.”
To which I say fine - incandescents in the dressing room. But the stage could be lit by L.E.D.s that don't need to be moved, and could be controlled entirely by computer - color, placement AND motion. No more of this ladder crap.

And of course it won't happen for most NYC theatres for a long time, since it would be expensive and they're all used to the old system. But it will change. And I am currently looking for a modern theatre with L.E.D.s in Manhattan for my next production of JANE EYRE.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The legacy of the G. W. Bush administration

And in another case cited by the inspector general, Ms. Goodling blocked the hiring of an experienced prosecutor for a senior counter-terrorism position because his wife was active in Democratic politics. The candidate was regarded as “head and shoulders above the other candidates” in the view of officials in the executive office of United States attorneys, but they were forced to take a candidate with much less experience because he was deemed acceptable to Ms. Goodling.


Back in June 2001, I remember sending an email to some media outlet, predicting that G. W. Bush would go down in history as one of worst presidents. And that his administration would be a complete disgrace.

I wish I had been wrong, for the sake of the people killed in the 9-11 attacks, for the sake of our economy, for the sake of global warming, etc. etc. etc.

But clearly I was not wrong.

More at the NYTimes

Sunday, July 27, 2008

once again, the model was not a young man



I felt bad for this model - she seemed really uncomfortable half the time, and the other half she was almost falling asleep.

Life modeling is hard on older people. I did life modeling when I was in my 20s and I remember that it was usually not a pleasant experience - it's tough sitting there naked in public, holding perfectly still for 20 minutes at a time even when you're young. With these older models, it feels like they're being crucified. Makes it hard to concentrate on pure art out of empathy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Full Monty - is that it?



I caught "The Fully Monty" again. It's a good movie, and not just because it's about full frontal male nudity. Although that's definitely a good thing.

I didn't notice the first time I saw the movie, but do they just do the one number? "You can leave your hat on"? That means the show they charged good money for was all of five minutes. I mean, maybe they did other numbers, but that doesn't seem likely since showing the full monty would surely be saved for the grand finale.

A quick google around the internets shows that there sure have been lots of productions of the Broadway musical of the movie:









The tattooed lady?

Some guy who saw my photo online said: "no tattoo pictures??? u seem like someone who would have many tattoos ..."

I do?????

I have no idea why he would say that, I am so not tattooed.

There's a pretty interesting web site devoted to bad tattoos here.

You rock those tattoos gal!

I spoke too soon - Nutrisystems really does hate women, except Tame Women

The first time I blogged about Nutrisystems and its hatred of women was over a year ago when they ran a commercial implying that while women had all the time in the world to do boring tedious chores connected to losing weight, men's time was more valuable: "what guy has time for that?" This question was asked by a man - some former sports hero, I think.

So just this past month, I changed my tune because they had a spokeswoman ask "WHO has time for that" - making the time thing no longer an issue of male privilege. I really should have held off on praising Nutrisystems, since the spokeswoman is some Malibu Barbie bimbo wearing a hot pink silk lingerie top along with jeans. This woman, apparently some kind of personality, seems to feel she is an honorary guy. This should have been a red (or hot pink) flag: someone off-camera gently tosses her a football. She catches it and asks "how many women could do that?"

Uh - women who aren't paralyzed in both arms?

So really I gave Nutrisystems too much credit for changing the gender in the "time" line.

And it was confirmed for me today. They have a commercial out now which features the schlubby old guy from the first commercial I mentioned AND the Malibu Barbie bimbo. And Malibu Barbie, like any tame woman, does the dirty work FOR the men this time. This time SHE asks "what guy has time for that?"

Malibu Barbie is the spokesmodel for male privilege because they pay her well, but also because she thinks she's an honorary male because she can catch a football and doesn't have time to do things slowly and laboriously the way those stupid women do.

Nutrisystems is not a pioneer in the Tame Woman movement though. This has been going on forever, among right-wing women. But it's no longer considered a backlash, right-wing tactic, now that women are seeping into bastions of liberal male privilege like the NYTimes. The Times used to have only one woman, Maureen Dowd, among its eight regular editorial columnists. Dowd is an outstandingly tame woman. She totally buys into the men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus dichotomy, and she despises Venusians. The worst possible insult she can dream up for a man is to call him a woman. This is absolute standard operating practice of the Patriarchy, both to keep women in line, and to keep men from being openly gay. She is a loathsome piece of work. Bob Somerby explains why at great length here.

So when the Times finally got another female columnist (not exactly parity, since females compose at least half of all human beings on THIS planet) that could only be good, right? Except it was Gail Collins, who had already displayed her Tame Woman cred by claiming that the reason females aren't given opinion columns as often as males is because women just don't have what it takes, and aren't interested anyway, in batting out opinions on a regular basis. It certainly is NOT because old men are making all the hiring decisions - what a distasteful, un-Tame way to think!

So she was the perfect choice for the Times - a Tame Woman who could be relied on to support the Patriarchy every step of the way - and to blame any problems women might have in getting ahead on women themselves. Gail Collins wishes to be considered an honorary male, just like Dowd and Malibu Barbie bimbo.

Nutrisystems is just borrowing a strategy from the "liberal" New York Times.

Sweet! I just discovered a blog by the supercool Pessimistic Redhead who has the same gripe! Awesome. And I found her post by googling "Nutrisystems Barbie."


"Why yes, I am another Tame Woman, shilling for the masters of the Patriarchy"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

good ole Kurt Vonnegut

I was just thinking about good ole Kurt Vonnegut. He was so great because he would say stuff like this:
I find uncritical respect for most works by great thinkers of long ago unpleasant, because they almost all accepted as natural and ordinary the belief that females and minority races and the poor were on earth to be uncomplaining, hardworking, respectful, and loyal servants of white males, who did the important thinking and exercised leadership.


Here's a web site devoted to Kurt Vonnegut

Here's a drawing by Kurt Vonnegut:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

my oh my

Man/Beauty - a photoblog

They are not kidding - there are some mind-bogglingly beautiful photos at this site. And even men with long hair, for a change. oh la la!



No beautiful guys in Elizabethan or Regency costumes though. Guess that's asking for too much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Matthew Arnold is just jealous

The UK publication The Guardian provides a thumbnail guide to Charlotte Bronte which includes this bit:
Matthew Arnold and Virginia Woolf caught on the violent aspects of Brontë's work when the former complained that her mind "contained nothing but hunger, rebellion, and rage"


And yet people still read Jane Eyre - lots of people - AND it's considered a classic of English literature. Who reads Matthew Arnold's poems? And he was born into the upper class - no need to worry about hunger there.

But Arnold surely did know how to rock the sideburns.

PERSONAL JESUS and The Reverend Bookburn

My friend Bob, AKA The Reverend Bookburn wants to broadcast a radio play format version of my short play PERSONAL JESUS on his Sunday evening show. Cool! I'm putting my cast and sound effects together now!

Monday, July 21, 2008

even more nudity



What's up with this drawing workshop? Every guy they've had model for us has been bald and over 40. I know they have young non-bald men do life modeling there, for other sessions, because I've seen the sketches on the wall. Come on people, where's our young attractive male models?

Although this guy was in pretty good shape, for an old guy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Real Lame Sex

I caught some of HBOZ's "Real Sex" - it should be called "'Real Sex' for Straight Men" based on the constant images of boobs, and the almost non-existence of attractive males. It's basically soft-core "straight" porn.

They featured "Femmes Fatales: MacBeth in the Nude." I don't know how much editing they did of the original text, but it sure looks like the only scenes they kept are the witches scenes. And boy, they were the worst actors I've ever seen - it was painful to hear them butcher Shakespeare's words. And here's the thing that gets me - these "actors" didn't even have especially good bodies - they seemed really average to me. Yet they were working in a strip club. Do strip clubs pretty much take anybody?

I just read that this show was canceled. Does anybody care?

The coming economic crisis

The US has been engaged in an experiment for the past 20 years, and the experiment is about to wreck the US economy. The experiment was to allow corporations to loan lots of money to as many people as possible, regardless of their ability to pay back the loans. This caused the housing bubble, which has been the talk of the town for the past two years.

It also caused the credit card bubble, which is the topic of a big article in today's NYTimes: Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper into Debt.

The article points out that part of the problem is that credit card companies can charge unjustly inflated amounts of interest for the payback, so that debtors are trapped.

Huge credit card debt, coupled by falling employment, falling housing prices and rising cost of living is heading this country straight for a massive wave of bankruptcies - in spite of the recent, harsher bankruptcy laws. And it's the fault of the credit card companies (and a compliant US government) who have made obscene profits in the past 10 years.

In the case of Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the US taxpayer will be expected to come up with the money for the bail-out. Once massive numbers of American taxpayers are bankrupt and unemployed, where will the tax money come from?

The US government will have to do two things to fix the coming world-wide economic crisis - create a jobs program, as it did during the Great Depression, and put a cap on the interest rates charged by credit card companies.

If they don't, a desperate US citizenry may just rise up and grab the massive profits of these corporations which were generated by this completely idiotic and heedless experiment of the past 20 years.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Theatre critics and the search for the angry young man

I've commented on this blog many times about the obsession that theatre critics have with discovering the perfect angry young man playwright. Tracy Letts, author of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is 43, not quite so young - but sometimes you have to make exceptions. And after all, Letts had the perfect pedigree, as detailed in the latest Great Man of the Arts profile, in the NYTimes:
His first play, “Killer Joe,” about a drug addict who plans the murder of his mother for insurance money, drew a mix of raves and cries of foul.

"I was offended by its misogyny and brutalization of women," said Martha Lavey, who is now the artistic director of Steppenwolf. "But I also stumbled out at intermission with Amy Morton and said, ‘Wow, this is wild, but, man, this guy has a voice.' "
Women in the arts can always be counted on to excuse misogyny. If they want to get anywhere in the arts, of course.

Just imagine, for a moment, if the paragraph said this instead:

"I was offended by its racism and brutalization of African-Americans," said Martha Lavey, who is now the artistic director of Steppenwolf. "But I also stumbled out at intermission with Amy Morton and said, ‘Wow, this is wild, but, man, this guy has a voice.' "


If Lavey and Morton were both Black, would they be expected to excuse racism for the sake of some "voice" the way women are expected to excuse misogyny? Of course not.

The fact that the first paragraph is tolerable for a Pulitzer Prize-winning, allegedly liberal, critics-darling playwright, and the second is not tells you all you need to know about the attitudes of the allegedly liberal theatre world towards women. Or really, the attitude of "liberals" in general. Once Barack Obama arrived on the scene, Hillary never had a chance.

But misogyny in a playwright must be paired with anger. The man cannot be a serious playwright unless he is angry. And this is how we know that Tracy Letts has truly arrived. The article in today's Times, by Patrick Healey, begins this way:
TRACY LETTS was angry.
There is no higher praise for a male playwright than that. Thanks to his anger and his misogyny, Letts may very well have claimed the theatre world's top prize of manliest playwright of all. He has usurped King Mamet's throne.

If you are a woman, don't bother trying this yourself. As the object of misogyny and anger, it is not your place to be angry. Consider Wendy Wasserstein, the biggest name brand female playwright of all time. When she died, one thing you heard over and over again was that she was so cheerful and nice and polite. Contrast the beginning of the Letts article with this article, written by Michael Feingold, about Wasserstein:
When I think of Wendy Wasserstein, I hear her giggling.
Wasserstein had the proper demeanor for a female playwright, just as Letts has the proper demeanor for a male playwright. And theatre critics, almost all of them male at the higher levels of the trade, will never let you forget this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saved by metrical variations

Occasionally I worry that my sonnets are not proper sonnets because I don't follow strict iambic pentameter. But I was pleased to find that, according to Wikipedia at least, a respectable poet like John Donne used "metrical variations" in his sonnets:


Here is the first quatrain of a sonnet by John Donne, which demonstrates how he uses a number of metrical variations strategically:

Bat- ter | my heart | three- per- | soned God, | for you |
as yet | but knock, | breathe, shine | and seek | to mend. |
That I | may rise | and stand | o'er throw | me and bend |
Your force | to break, | blow, burn | and make | me new. |

Donne uses an inversion (DUM da instead of da DUM) in the first foot of the first line to stress the key verb, "batter", and then sets up a clear iambic pattern with the rest of the line (da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM). In the second and fourth lines he uses spondees in the third foot to slow down the rhythm as he lists monosyllabic verbs. The parallel rhythm and grammar of these lines highlights the comparison Donne sets up between what God does to him "as yet" ("knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend"), and what he asks God to do ("break, blow, burn and make me new"). Donne also uses enjambment between lines three and four to speed up the flow as he builds to his desire to be made new. To further the quickening effect of the enjambment, Donne puts an extra syllable in the final foot of the line (this can be read as an anapest (dada DUM) or as an elision).



Rules for poetry are important but to a certain extent you have to follow the Duke Ellington rule: "if it sounds good, it IS good."

going to [title of show]

Occasionally NYCPlaywrights will get a discount offer from New York theatre productions. We just received one from the promoters of the musical [title of show] - that is the title of the show - which opened last night to a pretty good review in today's NYTimes by Charles Isherwood.

But even better - they're sending me two complimentary tickets for the show - whoohoo!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

James Burke and Apollo 13

Youtube is SUCH a treasure trove of James Burke stuff! Here is a clip which includes James Burke's commentary during the radio blackout moment, when Apollo 13 was re-entering the atmosphere, but due to the technical problems during the flight, nobody was sure if the heat shields would hold up. If they hadn't, the astronauts would have been fried alive. The re-entry section of the video clip starts around minute 1:30.

You can watch the same moment in the movie Apollo 13 here. I cry at the end of this movie every damn time.

James Burke rides the "Vomit Comet"



This is too cool.

Although it makes me a little sad... the only person I personally know who enjoys the work of James Burke, who was also a big fan of Connections and The Day the Universe Changed, is my ex-boyfriend John, whom I haven't spoken to in 10 years. I know he would get a big kick out of seeing James Burke floating around weightless.

Moon missions

I've been really enjoying Discovery Channel's When We Left Earth, currently being shown on the Science channel. I'm also a big fan of the movie Apollo 13, which details the trouble that mission experienced. I wasn't aware of how many problems and near misses that the other missions ran into, including Apollo 11, the mission that first landed on the moon. Apparently Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong bumped into the lunar module's control panel and broke off the control switch that turned on the lunar module's engines. Aldrin had to jam a pen into the control to make the engine start. Yikes. Is it me, or does it seem like NASA was always jury-rigging some life-and-death situation? Like this sequence from Apollo 13, which is one of my favorites in the film - the CO2 crisis which you can see on this clip on youtube. This clip, by the way, is what inspired Cathy Rogers, (formerly a member of the band Heavenly, my friend Phoebe Summersquash toured with them) to create the TV show Junkyard Wars.

I had forgotten that James Burke, author/host of Connections and The Day the Universe Changed was a commentator during the NASA missions. You can see James Burke in this clip at minute 1:05, talking about the oxygen supply crisis. Ooh! I just found a clip from Burke's BBC show about the space program. I love youtube. You can watch a clip from Connections here.

James Burke is my pen pal. I wrote to him in the early 1990s, before I had email, and thanked him for influencing my decision to buy a Macintosh. (I also had a huge crush on him, even though he was older and balding.) He wrote back, by snail mail. I'll have to find it in my box of memorabilia and scan it and put it online one of these days.

Ooh! James Burke Fan Companion! I love the Internets.

Here's James Burke's web site today - he has his own Institute now.

There is an entire library of moon mission video clips on one of NASA's web sites.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Car Talk

I adore the Car Talk guys. They are brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, a couple of ex-hippies, sort of, who are funny as hell, and knowledgeable as hell about cars.

If you've never heard their show on public radio, you can
listen to clips here.

They've been turned into cartoon characters, but the reviews, as in the NYTimes, have not been very good.

more thoughts on directing

In my ongoing project to learn from my directing/producing mistakes of the past, so as not to repeat them, I reviewed some emails from a recent production. I just blogged about an actor/dialect coach trying to direct other actors, and I came upon an email another actor sent me at the time, actually defending the dialect coach/actor:
...I remember her making a suggestion only when you said in front of everyone that you hadn't quite thought through the scene and out it might actually play on stage...
So in other words, because I admitted I hadn't thought through a scene, he felt that it meant that this other actor had a green light to go ahead and offer her unsolicited opinions. And mind you, she didn't offer her opinions to ME - she offered them directly to the other actors.

Ironically, the actor who emailed me had complained to me that I wasn't giving the actors enough input into the scenes. But here was an example of the inherent problem - if you DON'T appear to know exactly what you want, some actors will completely overstep their bounds, if they are arrogant and bossy enough.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I wanna piece of that fairy dust

By way of Paul Krugman's blog The Conscience of a Liberal, the Onion's Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In
The current economic woes, brought on by the collapse of the so-called "housing bubble," are considered the worst to hit investors since the equally untenable dot-com bubble burst in 2001. According to investment experts, now that the option of making millions of dollars in a short time with imaginary profits from bad real-estate deals has disappeared, the need for another spontaneous make-believe source of wealth has never been more urgent.

"Perhaps the new bubble could have something to do with watching movies on cell phones," said investment banker Greg Carlisle of the New York firm Carlisle, Shaloe & Graves. "Or, say, medicine, or shipping. Or clouds. The manner of bubble isn't important - just as long as it creates a hugely overvalued market based on nothing more than whimsical fantasy and saddled with the potential for a long-term accrual of debts that will never be paid back, thereby unleashing a ripple effect that will take nearly a decade to correct."

"The U.S. economy cannot survive on sound investments alone," Carlisle added.

Congress is currently considering an emergency economic-stimulus measure, tentatively called the Bubble Act, which would order the Federal Reserve to begin encouraging massive private investment in some fantastical financial scheme in order to get the nation's false economy back on track.

Current bubbles being considered include the handheld electronics bubble, the undersea-mining-rights bubble, and the decorative office-plant bubble. Additional options include speculative trading in fairy dust — which lobbyists point out has the advantage of being an entirely imaginary commodity to begin with — and a bubble based around a hypothetical, to-be-determined product called "widgets."

Throwing muses

There's an interview with Patti Smith in Sunday's NYTimes and I found this passage especially interesting:
You’re referring to the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, another of your muses who died young. Do you ever feel lonely?

Sometimes the pain still — the loss of my brother, the loss of Robert, the loss of my husband, even the loss of my children being children — we can access a lot of things that cause pain. This might seem really funny, but when I feel like that, make myself smile.
You hardly ever read of someone referring to a female artist having a muse, so this was a nice change of pace. Although Patti Smith has always had a reputation for being androgynous, but as far as I can tell the reason for that is because she doesn't wear culturally-prescribe girly attire and focus 50% of her waking energies on her appearance.

You could say that Patti was as much a muse for Mapplethorpe as vice-versa. When they were both young and unknown he took lots of photos of her.

All my muses have been male, and they have inspired countless drawings, as well as short stories, plays and even sonnets.

There are various discussions online of the idea of the male muse. Mary Gordon, whose work I've admired, wrote a novel, reviewed by the NYTimes:
Where are the male Muses?" asks Monica Szabo at the end of the slide show of her paintings that begins Mary Gordon's new novel, "Spending: A Utopian Divertimento."

"Right here," answers the man in the audience whom Monica chooses to call simply B in her account of the unusual love affair they are about to begin.

B is a feminist's fantasy come to life. A highly successful trader of commodities futures, he has bought four of Monica's paintings and fallen in love with her from afar. He believes her to be "a very, very good painter" who one day "might be great" if only she had the advantages of the great male artists of history.

"What do you think you need that would give you the optimum conditions for work?" he asks her.

"Space and time," she answers.

So they undertake the experiment that B proposes: that he become her patron and muse in every possible sense of those words.
An article in Psychology Today says:
That (the movie) "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is set in the 17th century is no coincidence; the muse reflects an outdated idea of womanhood, when women were valued more for being than for doing. Prose comes up with one example of a "male muse"—Denys Finch Hatton inspired his lover, Isak Dinesan, to write Out of Africa, by listening raptly to her stories when he visited her in Kenya. Switching gender roles may allow the muse-artist relationship to flourish as women become more prominent in the arts and sciences. Or a more symbiotic version might develop, a la Yoko Ono and John Lennon.
Talk about great muses - Robert Redford played Finch-Hatton in the movie version of "Out of Africa" and John Lennon is the very first "coolest straight guy in the world." Although I can no longer find a reference for that declaration - I read it somewhere, years ago, where a minor female celebrity said that about Lennon. Now if you google that phrase, in quotatons, you'll get three hits, the first one being my Sonnet #9.

Interesting post from the blog Raw Light:
Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 10th July, from 11.30am - 12.00 noon, you can catch My Male Muse on Radio 4. In this potentially controversial programme, "poet Clare Pollard dispels the popular female image of a muse. She argues that men can also be a source of beauty and inspiration, and contradicts poet Robert Graves, who famously claimed that the male muse doesn't exist."
I'm disappointed that Graves, the author of "I Claudius" would say such a thing.

Adriana Palanca writes in her blog:
How does one go about the business of finding a male muse? The great male writers of the world have always managed to reel in babes – no matter how crusty they got around the edges – willing to take care of their every need while they concentrated on their art. These women sacrificed everything of themselves so that their men could make some contribution to the world of art.
And then, inevitably, it seems, the Brontes - here is a preview of a book on Google Holy Ghosts: The Male Muses of Emily and Charlotte Bronte.

I'm very sorry I missed this exhibition back in 2006: Grand Unveiling: The Male Muse - Paintings by Kristen Copham
NY Studio Gallery is proud to announce its inaugural exhibition featuring paintings of male nudes by Kristen Copham. Copham’s colorful, large-scale oils are a figurative exploration into the personalities of her subjects. Her work challenges traditional ideas about both the nude figure in art and the artist-model relationship, the subjects themselves male visual artists working in either Minnesota or New York City.
Interesting commentary in The Guardian
we would like to think that the role of muse is genderless and that either sex may apply. But it is still harder for a male to be married to a famous and productive female than the other way around. Not that it isn't hard on a woman to be ignored at cocktails and trained to subjugate her needs to the work habits of a forceful, successful man. It is. But we look on the marriage of famous man and non-famous wife as normal. We don't necessarily expect it to last but we don't find anything odd in it.

We are haunted not simply by the outdated attitudes of those of us who learned about gender roles in another time, but by the problem - and not just for writers - of who dominates and who submits. Was George Lewes (husband of George Eliot) an odd man or just the best husband in the world?
Throwing Muses is a female-led indie band from Rhode Island. One of my former muses was a big fan of theirs.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My summer of Elizabethan playwrights

I went to see my actor friend Bruce Barton perform in SIX HUSBANDS OF ELIZABETH THE QUEEN. I was bored out of my mind for most of the show, until the last fifteen minutes when Bruce, who had previously been the chorus, turns into William Shakespeare.

This is quite the summer - that's the second actor from my JANE EYRE cast who has portrayed a famous Elizabethan playwright this summer - Nat Cassidy portrayed Christopher Marlowe in his The Reckoning of Kit and Little Boots. KIT also had Shakespeare in it, although he's a bit of a doofus as written by Nat.

But even so - if you are an actor, you can't do better than being cast as Big Bill no matter how he is portrayed. As long as Shakespeare is on stage, the audience is saying to itself "William Shakespeare!" Ain't nobody else matter nearly as much in the scene, including Christopher Marlowe, or Queen Elizabeth, as in SIX HUSBANDS. I'd venture to say that the ONLY literary personage who could share the stage with Shakespeare and not have the scene completely stolen away is Oscar Wilde.

Martin Denton also disliked SIX HUSBANDS which surprises me - usually I completely disagree with Denton, and feel that as a general rule he, like most theater critics, cannot discern shit from Shinola.

I have to wonder why the author thought it would be a good idea to write the entire play in Shakespearean sonnet form. I've written plays with rhyming verse, and I've written sonnets, but I would never attempt an entire play in sonnet form.

Rhyming wasn't the main problem with SIX HUSBANDS, but I'm sure it contributed to the main problem, which was the lack of emotional resonance. Nowhere close to an emotional orgasm. Which, considering there are six husbands is a pretty bad record. Well, technically there were only four husbands, but that's still a huge strike-out percentage.

But Bruce was great, as he always is. And he looks quite dashing in a beard.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Roy is great

Alicublog's Roy Edroso is always good, but sometimes he is mind-bogglingly eloquent. And I'm not just saying that because he once complemented me on my writing - see for yourself:
OFF LINE. Instaputz deftly sketches the progress of the Atlantic Monthly from Julia Ward Howe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Megan McArdle reporting on her iPhone campout ("I imagine this is what it feels like to be a refugee"). Worse is yet to come, though, when the Apple Store people ask McArdle for her papers:

While I was buying the iPhone, they pulled me aside for a credit review. Since I have good credit, this was shocking--and humiliating. For a middle class American, telling your two friends in the store that the AT&T folks are having second thoughts about giving you credit feels a little like confessing that you're a criminal.

McArdle shows some sympathy toward some people with bad credit -- she's known journalists and folks just out of grad school, apparently, who have had such problems -- but she ends with this:

Of course there are irresponsible profligates who borrow money they've no intention of repaying...

The worst part is that the profligates are immune to the shame (or seem to be). It's the decent people, the ones who were overtaken by events, who cringe when the store clerks motion them aside.

This puts me in mind of characters from Nelson Algren, Charles Bukowski, and The Life of Oharu; also, of real people who passed in despair from caring anymore whether they were playing by rules that, experience seemed to show, never gave them a chance to succeed on even the simplest terms, and who stood in line not for iPhones but for food and shelter.

It may seem in bad taste to mention such people in a blogosphere largely devoted to middle-class problems. Still, it's worth considering that they exist, and in greater numbers than a romp through these precincts would suggest. If your frame of reference consists entirely of the relatively fortunate, then you may naturally consider all credit problems to be the result of wickedness or, at best, poor choices to which you owe no sympathy. From a libertarian perspective, certainly, there's no reason to feel any differently. Which is one good reason why, even in a country that loves liberty, libertarianism hasn't caught on, and won't until citizens outside the citadels of privilege wholly lose their acquaintance with misfortune. And though most of our public discourse since the Age of Reagan suggests otherwise, that is not even close to happening.


I'm glad the Village Voice took note and gave him his own regular feature The Voice Explores the Right-Wing Blogosphere.

more from William Ball

One piece of advice from William Ball I really need to take is this:
Discussion Between Actors
In the rehearsal, I never permit an actor to tell another actor how to do something. Never. If I find an actor making a suggestion to another actor, I immediately say, "When you have an idea, please tell me. If you'd like another actor to do something that would be helpful to you, ask me. I will be glad to pass it on." I always pass it on, but I pass it on as my own suggestion. I don't say, "So and so would like you to stand..." I pass it on as my own idea. If the suggestion is not a helpful one, I ask whoever made it to "hold on to that idea for a few days and I will see what I can do about it." By postponing, the bad idea frequently falls out of orbit naturally.
But alas, things aren't as easily handled as Ball seems to imply. For one thing, the off-off Broadway actors that I work with sometimes have double functions, which leads to problems. In one case, I was using an actor who was also the dialect coach. And she apparently believed that knowing dialects made her an expert on historical behaviors. So while she corrected other actors' dialects she would slip in suggestions about how their characters should behave from an historical perspective. She was often wrong, it turns out, but when someone is as full of themselves as this particular actor was, people automatically assume they know what they're talking about.

In any case, I did not always WANT behaviors to be strictly historically accurate - sometimes clarity is more important.

But it wasn't enough to dispense her unsolicited, inaccurate historical advice - what she would do is go from coaching dialect, to historical advice to actually attempting to block scenes. It took a moment to realize what she was up to the first time, because she so subtly shaded from one thing into another - and I couldn't believe she could be so presumptuous. I really should have seen that coming though. Early on in the production she offered unsolicited advice on set design - and she had no actual experience in set design herself. I should have cut her loose from the project right then.

In any case, when she started trying to usurp my role as director, I should have read her the riot act.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Finally on Facebook!

It just seems like it never ends - first it was friendster, then MySpace, and now it's facebook. All the cool kids were on it so I finally gave in to social pressure. So here I am.

I like William Ball even more now

I'm a big fan of the book "A Sense of Direction: Some Observations on the Art of Directing" and have quoted from it several times on this blog. But I just discovered that author William Ball has a Wikipedia entry which says:
Ball was often provocative. His interpretation of Albee's Tiny Alice brought threat of a lawsuit from the playwright, who tried to withhold the performance rights only to discover that they had never been granted in the first place. Some observers thought that Ball's operatic production (with an added aside condemning the Vietnam war) may have solved some problems inherent in the text.
Actually, TINY ALICE is my favorite Albee play. It is just so damn peculiar that it works - at least far better than his other plays.

But I'm sorry to learn that Ball committed suicide in 1991.

More from his lasting legacy:
"Could I Talk to You About My Part?"

This question represents a signal to the director, and he must be sensitive to the message. Many actors ask the question during the rehearsal process. At the moment an actor says, "Could I talk to you about my part?" the director must become super-sensitive. He must stop doing whatever he is doing and give the actor his full attention. That sentence carries the actor's message of ultimate urgency. He must hear good news from the director at that moment, and he must have the director's full attention. If possible talk to him right away, at least to find out what the key to his discomfort is. The actor must get an answer that tells him that he is going to have an opportunity for an intimate and complete discussion with the director alone. It's better not to postpone it. The director sets a time and place where there will be no distractions. There should be no other actor within hearing and sometimes even no stage managers. The question is really not a request to talk about the part. The question is usually an indication that the actor needs to be told that he's on the right track. He cannot go a step further without the assurance that what he's doing is okay. Sometimes it is possible to say simply, "You're doing a beautiful job and I'm thrilled with the way it's going. Keep working the way you're going. It's coming nicely." The actor may be quite satisfied with this. But perhaps there is someone or something that is really troubling the actor. He must have the opportunity to receive your exclusive attention.

His difficulty may come in all sorts of disguises. It may be that one of the other actors is giving him some trouble. Perhaps he feels awkward about a certain scene or a certain kiss, or about his appearance, or about a certain emotional response. The minute you hear that question, it is very important that you give it your full and immediate attention. Don't let it slip by, because the actor could be very upset at that moment; if you don't catch him, pull him up, and resolve his difficulty then and there, he may slide into dejection or resentment. It's much more difficult to pull him out of that. If he grows morose and inefficient, it's because he didn't receive an answer when he asked, "Can I talk to you about my part."


Paul Krugman in an uncharacteristically optimistic mood

Here’s how it will play out, if all goes well: early next year, President Obama will send his health care plan to Congress. The plan will face vociferous opposition from the insurance industry — but the Medicare vote suggests that this time, unlike in 1993, Democrats will hold together.

Unless Democrats win even bigger than expected, however, they won’t have the 60 Senate votes needed to override a filibuster. What the Medicare fight shows is that the Democrats could nonetheless prevail by taking their case to the public, daring their opponents to stand in the way of health care security — so that in the end they get some Republicans to switch sides, and get the legislation through.

A lot can still go wrong with this vision. But the odds of achieving universal health care, soon, look a lot higher than they did just a couple of weeks ago.


It would be nice if the US was no longer the equivalent of a third world nation on the healthcare issue.

More at the NYTimes here

If you haven't seen it yet, watch Michael Moore's Sicko see the trailer here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

now THAT is a postmodern Rochester

One of the critics of the first production of my JANE EYRE complained that Rochester was played, at least initially, in a "postmodern" way. My best guess as to why she believes this is because unlike most other portrayals of Rochester, this one was not completely over the top, more like Heathcliff than the Rochester of the original novel, which is the unfortunate choice that too many actors/directors make.

But I just caught Franco Zeffirelli's version of "Jane Eyre" starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg and I have finally seen the true meaning of postmodern. In the big proposal scene, Rochester says to Jane: "don't struggle so, you're like a wild bird clawing at its cage."

But as Hurt is delivering these lines, both he and Gainsbourg are standing face to face, stock still. She made a movement, prior to that, to get away, but not while he is telling her not to struggle.

The only thing I can think of is that he is telling her to stop struggling with the situation IN HER MIND.

Now that is truly postmodern.

You can watch it here - about minute 4:12 on the youtube clip.

I have a ton of other complaints about this adaptation (as usual) - having the characters speaking almost entirely expositionally being the primary one.

Although I do note with approval that Zeffirelli has Bertha/Antoinette set fire to Thornfield Hall immediately after Jane leaves - well actually, that happens in my version, in his version she sets fire at the very moment Jane is leaving - and in broad daylight too (grumble grumble.)

Zefferelli also has Grace Poole die, although in my version I have Bertha/Antoinette kill her, Zeffirelli has her fall from the top of the stairs.

At least Zeffirelli doesn't leave out the all-important inheritance aspect of the narrative. Unlike the accursed Teale adaptation.

Finally, while Gainsbourg and Hurt are movie stars, and the actors in the 2008 production of my JANE are not, my actors were far sexier and more exciting as Jane and Rochester than the movie stars were in those roles. And I thought Zeffirelli was supposed to be such a hotshot director.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Just when I thought Fox couldn't be more evil...

The NYTimes has picked up on a story first covered by Media Matters for America:

Below is a screenshot of Fox & Friends featuring the photo it used of Steinberg, with the original photo on its left. Comparing the two photos, it appears that the following changes have been made: Steinberg's teeth have been yellowed, his nose and chin widened, and his ears made to protrude further.



More on the story "Fox News airs altered photos of NY Times reporters at Media Matters for America

Writes David Carr in the NYTimes:
...In a technique familiar to students of vintage German propaganda, his ears were pulled out, his teeth splayed apart, his forehead lowered and his nose was widened and enlarged in a way that made him look more like Fagin than the guy I work with. (Mr. Steinberg told me that as a working reporter who covers Fox News, he was not in a position to comment. A spokeswoman said the executive in charge of “Fox and Friends” is on vacation and not available for comment but added that altering photos for humorous effect is a common practice on cable news stations.)

and
When I started calling around about Fox News, Mr. Lewis, the public relations head, made himself available on very short notice on the Fourth of July. He patiently explained that while yes, the game had changed, it was hardly in the way I was describing. There are no dark ops, he said, and no blacklist — “a myth” — only good relationships and bad ones.

Mr. Lewis said that members of his staff were not in the business of altering photos, that they had no control over stories that appeared on “Fox and Friends” or other shows, and he pointed out that it makes their job harder when they go after reporters. He called my suggestion that there was something anti-Semitic about the depiction of Mr. Steinberg “vile and untrue.” Mr. Lewis denied that his staff had threatened one of my colleagues or planted private information about him on blogs.

That comes as a surprise to reporters I talked to who say they have received e-mail messages from Fox News public relations staff that contained doctored photos, anonymous quotes and nasty items about competitors. And two former Fox employees said that they had participated in precisely those kinds of activities but had signed confidentiality agreements and could not say so on the record.

Another poem from the T'ang Dynasty

LOOKING AT THE MOON
AND THINKING OF ONE FAR AWAY

The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night....
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.

- Zhang Jiuling

the latest sketch

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ingres is the man

The paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres are nice, but his drawings are incredible. And to add to the wonderfulness, he was active in the Empire fashion period, which roughly corresponds to the English Regency fashion period, which is one of the best times for hot men's clothing. There is nothing better than a cute guy in a Regency costume. It's like a wonderful present in the most beautiful gift-wrapping, and although you are dying to unwrap, you don't want to ruin the beauty of the presentation either. *siiigh*

It seems that many people on youtube have created montages of men in period costume. Although the editing is usually pretty poor, and the background music questionable ("It's raining men"?), still, it's fun to watch Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, etc. running around in the Regency hotness.

But back to Ingres - pronounced ENG-reh... close enough... that's his portrait of Franz Liszt above.

More manly Ingres sketch hotness... click the image to see the larger version.











Saturday, July 05, 2008

hey, nekkid people

I've gotten back into the visual arts and have a bunch of drawings to show for it. It's a bit difficult to draw people posing for a long time - I did life modeling when I was an art student and it's not comfortable and I end up feeling uncomfortable for the models.

I notice one thing that's remained disappointingly consistent from my art student days - there are always more female than male life models and the females are much more likely to be young and attractive than the males. *sigh* It's tough living in a patriarchy.

Click on the image to see a larger version.









Friday, July 04, 2008

Thomas Paine's "Common Sense"

You can read Common Sense at Google Books.

big change in attitude at NutriSystems!

I blogged about a NutriSystem commercial back in January 2007 because it pissed me off. The gist of the commercial was this:
...That's why NutriSystem is great for guys. It lets you eat your favorite foods, but in an incredibly smart and effective way. No counting, no measuring, no weighing in. What guy has the patience for that?
(my emphasis)

So today I saw a commercial for NutriSystems - a woman says almost the same thing: "who has time for that?"

So perhaps NutriSystems doesn't think that men's time is more valuable than women's time any more. Good for them.

Not that I'm going to use NutriSystems. I find the best way to stay in shape is to eat less and have my ass kicked three days a week by my trainer.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Poems of the T'ang Dynasty

I love those poems of the Tang Dynasty.
One of my favorites...

A bitter love

How beautiful she looks, opening the pearly casement,
And how quiet she leans, and how troubled her brow is!
You may see the tears now, bright on her cheek,
But not the man she so bitterly loves.

-- Li Bai
More T'ang Dynasty poems here

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Radical Little Mermaid

Thinking of the movie Impromptu made me think of Disney's The Little Mermaid. What they have in common are heroines driven by passionate desire for a man. Which is a very rare plot for a movie - most female leads are pretty passive.

You can see the Little Mermaid fall in love with Prince Eric in this clip here.

Another thing that's so cool about the Little Mermaid is her intellectual curiosity. Disney's movie presents her as a kind of mermaid anthropologist. The reason she gets close enough to Eric to fall in love with him is because she studies humans and collects human artifacts that end up at the bottom of the ocean.

So all in all, Ariel the Little Mermaid is really radical for a major studio cartoon. Well, having a female character is rare enough in cartoons. So much so that in the movies Antz and Bee Movie, the workers, which are female in nature, are almost all male in the movies.

Although Disney has featured leading females in quite a few movies - often based on fairy tales - they are usually, as in the case of say, Snow White, or Cinderella, passive and the objects of desire.

Not only does Ariel desire Eric, she saves his life. That's one of the reasons why I like the folk song Tam Lin so much - enough to adapt it into a play. And Janet, the heroine of TAM LIN, is also driven by desire throughout the story. And so is Jane Eyre.

Here we see the Little Mermaid working her moves on Eric during the charming song "Kiss the Girl"

Lusting after guys and rescuing them - you can't go wrong with that plot line, in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Impromptu

I recently re-watched Impromptu, a somewhat fictionalized version of the life of writer George Sand - the pen name of Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, Baronne Dudevant.

The movie focuses mainly on Sand's attempts to seduce composer Frederic Chopin, partly through her art, which I can relate to. She is thwarted, at least temporarily, by her "friend", played by Bernadette Peters, in ways that many of us are all too familiar with. Hugh Grant plays Chopin and Mandy Patinkin plays Sand's former lover Alfred de Musset. It's a very entertaining film. And the men's costumes are great.
Interesting article about Judy Davis and Impromptu here.