Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hapworth 16, 1924

Wow, I am excited - The New Yorker has entered the digital age big-time. It now has digital archives of the entire magazine, online, accessible to its print subscribers. Which means I get to read the only thing by J. D. Salinger (that I know of) that I haven't read yet, the story "Hapworth 16, 1924" printed in the June 19, 1965 edition.

I was prompted by the way, by this article in today's NYTimes Still Paging Mr. Salinger.

Here's Hapworth, for subscribers

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shakespeare's sonnet #148

O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight!

more with analysis & interpretation here...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

John Simon & Me

John Simon is a crusty old coot, and a racist to boot - he once said on Theatre Talk that Suzan-Lori Parks was a social climber because she married a white guy.

So it feels weird to note that he and I are virtually the only people in theatre who are not impressed by the work of Harold Pinter, who has been canonized as one of the Great Men of the Arts, worthy of many hagiographies in The New Yorker. Although I, at least, like Pinter's politics. But I agree with Simon in his review of THE HOMECOMING:
It is widely considered the Nobel laureate's masterpiece; rather than as a drawback, its making no sense is perceived as a challenge.

Pinter's characters are either sorry nonentities or predatory jackals. Bad enough, but, worse yet, each turns with predictable schematism into his or her opposite. Then, often enough, back again. Even the dead revolve, not in their graves but in human memory. For the spectator, steadily foreseeable reversals become an unsurprising shell game.

Max, 70, a retired butcher, has three sons: the youngest, Joey, a demolition worker by day and aspiring boxer at night; the middle one, Lenny, a successful pimp in London's Soho with a high-class clientele; the eldest, Teddy, a professor of philosophy in America, home to visit with his wife, Ruth.

Max refers to his late wife, Jessie, as one at whose ``rotten, stinking face it made [him] sick to look,'' though not ``such a bad bitch.'' At another time as a paragon who taught her boys ``all the morality they know,'' which turns out to be low praise indeed. Sam, Max's chauffeur brother, first calls her a charming lady, and later mentions her having adulterous sex in the back of his car.

Logical Incoherence?

Surly Lenny tries to engage Teddy in a philosophical discussion.

``Do you detect a certain logical incoherence in the central affirmations of Christian theism?'' he asks amid recondite questioning. Teddy, like no philosopher one has ever met, finds existential questions beyond his purview.

Lenny reminisces about an old lady coming out of nowhere and asking him to move an iron mangle from her front room to a back one. When the mangle proves too heavy, Lenny settles, being in a good mood, for a mere jab to the crone's belly.

Ruth, who seems withdrawn and cold, nonetheless is an exemplary wife and good mother to her three boys. Max treats her alternately as a lady and as a whore. Soon she is playing erotic games with her brothers-in-law.

Typical of the writing is Ruth's description of America: ``It's all rock. And sand. It stretches . . . so far . . . everywhere you look. And there's lots of insects there.'' The latter sentence is duly repeated after one of those infamous, pseudo-pregnant Pinteresque pauses. Not even cigars can stay in character: pronounced excellent one moment, they are decried as wretched soon after.
More here.

I've been told on occasion that I "think too much" about plays. This is from people who generally think much too little - but only thinking too much is considered a fault in our world.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Baby

Eartha Kitt died Dec. 25 2008. One of her best-known recordings was Santa Baby. My mother likes to tell the story of how my grandmother yelled at her for singing that song while doing the dishes, when she (my mother) was a teenager. I'd like to think that my grandmother didn't like the song for its crass materialism and whorish sex-for-cash message, but it was probably just because it was a sexually suggestive song.

My grandmother also had a huge problem with Elvis Presley, calling him "disgusting." This was well before the fat Elvis era.

Favorite lyrics of "Santa Baby"

Santa cutie, there's one thing I really do need:
The deed to a platinum mine.

A platinum mine???? Sheesh, she is not messing around - she goes right to the means of production.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm having an English Christmas



Look at the charming teacup and saucer a couple of English playwright friends of mine gave me for a housewarming gift. It prompted me to say "all the best stuff comes from England."

There are some exceptions, but consider:

Shakespeare
The Beatles
Eddie Izzard
Monty Python
Regency period clothing for men
The Brontes
Afternoon tea
Chupa Chups
Sherlock Holmes

So I have decided to have an English Christmas, with goodies from the premiere English food purveyors in Manhattan Tea & Sympathy.

Although I admit I have yet to have a craving to see Christmas pantomime. Although I do rather like Monty Python's Pantomime Horse as Secret Agent sketch.

Mary Tyler Moore & me



I've been watching some early episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore show - when the show first began airing in the 70s I was too young to appreciate it. And while I was watching it struck me how much Phyllis Lyndstrom (Cloris Leachman), Mary's friend and landlady, reminds me of an actor I worked with in the past year - incredibly bossy and full of herself, acting like she's large and in charge when in fact she's destructive. This episode gives a great idea of what Phyllis was like. It's eerie - I'd swear the actor in question modeled herself on this character.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why this image?



Because any time is a good time to show a photo of Björk Guðmundsdóttir wearing her infamous swan dress.

You can't see it here, but her purse was shaped like an egg.

My favorite Bjork song: Human Behavior

If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready to get confused
There's definitely no logic
To human behaviour
But yet so irristible
There's no map
To human behaviour
They're terribly moody
Then all of a sudden turn happy
But, oh, to get involved in the exchange
Of human emotions is ever so satisfying
There's no map
And a compass
Wouldn't help at all
Human behaviour

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Connections online

The kids today can't possibly appreciate what a treasure trove the Internet is - especially YouTube. When the Connections series came out, I did not have a video recorder and the series was not available on videotape yet. So I had to arrange my schedule around public television's schedule. And if you missed an episode, forget it.

Now you can watch the entire TV series CONNECTIONS for free any time you want on YouTube. I was born 40 years too early.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is "Jane Eyre" the sexiest book ever written?

Asks The Daily Mail:
He pouts, broods and beats his way into our hearts, riding around the moors in leather boots and furry coats, looking ripe for rescue by our Jane.

He is clever, tortured and besotted, and Jane follows him around the house and calls him 'Sir' and 'Master' in scenes which, if I were not so well bred, I would consider rude.

A typical one goes like this: "You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he. "Do you find me handsome?" Jane has a ponder and comes back (no pushover she): "No, Sir".

It's a struggle, a battle, an epic; and when he finally declares his love to her (after naughtily pretending he was going to marry someone else), a tree gets struck by lightning in the garden. (This doesn't happen in my love-life, although I dearly wish it would). But ? and most people forget this ? Jane Eyre is a fantasy too rich for one hero. Charlotte wrote us two.

After she leaves Thornfield (to nearly die of exposure), she meets St John Rivers, who is later revealed to be her cousin. (In some ways, Jane Eyre is a lot like Dynasty.)

St John is a prim, sexy blond. (She probably cut a third hero, a red-head this time, from an early draft.) And, sometimes - particularly on winter Sunday afternoons - I find him more beguiling even than Rochester.

St John is a priest - a "cold hard man" he tells Jane - but he falls for Jane like an orange rolling off a fridge. She fancies him, too, watching him admire a picture of a beautiful girl and drooling: "He breathed low and fast; I stood silent."

That's two-love to lonely Miss Bronte. How spoilt she was in her head. But it's back to Rochester and his marvellous flaws, and the beautiful cry: "Reader," - say it with me - "I married him." Aaah.

That is when I collapse prostrate on the floor, like a piece of toast waiting for some Rochester-flavoured jam.

In Rochester, Charlotte wrote a hero no real man can ever touch. Jane Eyre should be subtitled Revenge Of The Parson's Daughter because she spoilt real love for us all.

He is the man in every film, book or TV series you ever wanted; the dark darling you can save from himself. Plus Thorn-field would be fab to redecorate.

And Jane is so ordinary, "poor, obscure, plain and little", that anyone could get him. He chucks the glamourous beauty Blanche for Jane. He falls, like a god, into our laps.

What about Jane Austen, you may squeak. What about Pride And Prejudice? Shaddap is my answer. Charlotte herself sneered that Jane Austen "ruffles her readers with nothing vehement" (ouch!) and tidy Miss Austen is a pastel to Bronte's lustrous crimson.

She's John Lewis to Charlotte's Selfridges. Who wants to hear about the city of Bath when you can have the wilds of Yorkshire? Who wants drippy Darcy ? a man so wet you could do backstroke in him ? when you can have Rochester and Rivers?

So Jane Eyre isn't the first book in the canon of love-starved fantasy. It is the canon. The only thing I can say against it is that it is indirectly responsible for Dame Barbara Cartland getting published.

I don't agree with quite a bit of this... but it is entertainingly written, especially the Rochester-flavored jam bit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis RIP


Dock Ellis, who infamously claimed he pitched a no-hitter for Pittsburgh under the influence of LSD and later fiercely spoke out against drug and alcohol addiction, died Friday. He was 63.

I keep trying to finish a play based on this guy and his tripping no-hitter.

Obit at the NYTimes

Partay tonight!



It's time for my holiday/housewarming partay for all my chardonnay-sipping brie-munching liberal friends tonight!

And yes, that's what the right-wingers call us, as they do in this stunningly UNprescient blog thread at the dread wingnut "Free Republic" (home of the "Freepers") entitled Obama Can't Win in November

money quote:
You can't win a general election with a coalition of America hating Bitter African- Americans and America hating Bitter white liberal elitist billionaires/millionaires, who buy brie, Chardonnay, and expensive rat politicians like the elitist Hussein Obama/Samma.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Krugman & Bush



Both Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert made a big deal out of Barbra Steisand making nice with Bush. But here's a weirder moment of Zen - Bush and one of his (other) harshest critics, Paul Krugman.

Hilarity ensues, says The Economist

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The buffest Rochester ever



Our Rochester for the upcoming JANE EYRE reading, Jason Alan Griffin, is definitely the buffest Rochester of all time.

How big a douchebag is Steven D. Levitt?

He asks: What Do Prostitutes and Rice Have in Common? in the NYTimes:
When we talk about the demand curve for a good, what we mean is how the quantity consumed for that exact same good changes with the price of that good while holding everything else constant (such as the consumer's income, the price of other goods, etc). A moment's reflection makes it obvious that the customer who purchases the high-price prostitute would demand just as much or more of her services if she were willing to do all the same things but at half the price. Similarly, the customer who chooses the low-price prostitute would also consume more of her services if her price were halved. If this is the case, the demand for prostitutes indeed slopes downward, just like the demand for virtually every other good known to mankind.

So how is it that rice in rural China might violate this rule? How could it be that when the price of rice rises, people actually consume more of it? Two factors are critical.

First, rice makes up a large share of the total expenditures of these Chinese peasants. Second, if they were richer, these peasants would prefer to eat less rice and more of other things, like meat; it is just that they are too poor right now to afford much meat and they have to eat something. When rice becomes more expensive, one effect of the higher price is to make the peasants want to consume less of it (just as johns do with prostitutes who raise their prices).


Now I'm someone who thinks prostitution should be decriminalized. But even so, I recognize the nastiness of that life for the majority of sex workers, and to compare the "consumption" of a prostitute's services to consuming rice is so incredibly offensive. But even more offensive is some of the commenters on the Freakonomics blog - none of whom, I'll wager, have ever had to worry about selling their bodies to survive - or being sold into sex slavery by their own parents, or kidnapped into it - the fate of thousands or even millions of girls around the world.

What do Steve D. Levitt and a douchebag have in common? What don't they?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ooh, Sonnet contest!

Looking for adult sonnets! My sonnets can certainly be "adult!"

Oh wait, you have to be in Kansas.

And damn, I missed the Prairie Home Companion sonnet contest. And I must say, the finalists and winning sonnets seem very very lame to me.

I know my next sonnet will be one of my most romantic but I can't finish it because because because...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The next big thing...



Performed by Bruce Barton, Lynsey Buckelew, Ann Farthing, Nick Fondulis, Lori Kee, Mike Selkirk & Phoebe Summersquash

6 shows @The Penny Templeton Studio theater

Saturday, January 24 2009 8PM
Sunday, January 25, 2009 3PM
Saturday, January 31 2009 8PM
Sunday, February 1, 2009 3PM
Saturday, February 7 2009 8PM
Sunday, February 8, 2009 3PM

Fox Force Five

Is Emily New York enough to get into Fox Force Five? Maybe crazy coked-up Jackie can help.

Personal Jesus

Mellow Jesus and Angry Jesus answer prayers - that are mutually exclusive. Only the power of a Zen koan can help them now..

Pooh Story

Two people. A bench in Central Park. A Bear of Very Little Brain. A parody of a classic American play.

Stage Diving

Stephanie's Mom has come along to a concert with her, which is bad enough, but then Mom wants to relive the Clash's 1981 London Calling tour by diving off the stage.

The B Word

Gerry and Sandy bicker about the dangers of city playgrounds and prejudice until some bad kids come by and steal their bikes.

Mr. Black

Mr. Black has vowed to protect all abused creatures on Earth. His girlfriend is concerned where this will lead.

Happily Married

Kelly has had a crush on Ted, a cartoonist, for a long time. Now she has a chance to tell him what Hannah, his wife has been up to when she was supposed to be rehearsing.

The Helicopter

Helen and Bob are so intent on learning who will be promoted that they don't pay attention to the unfolding tragedy downtown until Helen learns her daughter is involved.

============

Well, the next big thing after the JANE EYRE winter solstice reading next week...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

*sigh*



I wish I could write sonnets again.

Maybe there will be a Christmas miracle.

Speaking of The Nutcracker, you can now watch videos of various Nutcrackers at youtube, including the Baryshnikov version - Bary's looking hawt!

And it is de riguer for Clara to dance with the Nutcracker

The Royal Ballet does a nice version of the Chocolate, Coffee & Tea dances.

And here is its Trepak & Marzipan I loooove the Prince's outfit with the red jacket, white pants and boots. What does that remind me of?

And the Waltz of the Flowers

My first Nutcracker was 1979 at the Pennsylvania Ballet.

There is apparently a Manhattan S&M club called The Nutcracker Suite.

Friday, December 12, 2008

American Notes by Charles Dickens

Excerpt from Chapter 18
There is but one other head on which I wish to offer a remark; and that has reference to the public health. In so vast a country, where there are thousands of millions of acres of land yet unsettled and uncleared, and on every rood of which, vegetable decomposition is annually taking place; where there are so many great rivers, and such opposite varieties of climate; there cannot fail to be a great amount of sickness at certain seasons. But I may venture to say, after conversing with many members of the medical profession in America, that I am not singular in the opinion that much of the disease which does prevail, might be avoided, if a few common precautions were observed. Greater means of personal cleanliness, are indispensable to this end; the custom of hastily swallowing large quantities of animal food, three times a-day, and rushing back to sedentary pursuits after each meal, must be changed; the gentler sex must go more wisely clad, and take more healthful exercise; and in the latter clause, the males must be included also. Above all, in public institutions, and throughout the whole of every town and city, the system of ventilation, and drainage, and removal of impurities requires to be thoroughly revised. There is no local Legislature in America which may not study Mr. Chadwick’s excellent Report upon the Sanitary Condition of our Labouring Classes, with immense advantage.

more

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

They couldn't see this coming?

The New Yorker review of the movie "Doubt"
This film, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who adapted it from his own play, unfolds in 1964, at a Catholic school in the Bronx. A jovial priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is accused by the principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), of interfering with an altar boy. He denies it, she yearns to believe it, and we don’t care. Collectors of large narrative signposts will spend a happy couple of hours at Shanley’s movie, enjoying the window-rattling thunderstorms that he uses to indicate spiritual crisis, and the grimness with which Sister Aloysius, narrowing her red-rimmed eyes, delivers the line “So, it’s happened.” I didn’t know you could hiss, groan, and murmur at the same time, but Streep can do anything. She is, of course, wasted on this elephantine fable; if only “Doubt” had been made in 1964, shot by Roger Corman over a long weekend, and retitled “Spawn of the Devil Witch” or “Blood Wimple,” all would have been forgiven.

The play this movie is based on is good, but how could Shanley not get how uncinematic it is? I could see how static it was going to be when I saw previews last week before "Milk" but I wasn't a bit surprised. The play itself is quiet and thoughtful and leaves the audience wondering if the priest was guilty or not - which is all wrong for a movie. And actually, I had my own problems with the ending of the play, but nobody else seems to agree with me on that.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Alas...



I cannot write any more sonnets until I find out what happened to my studio monitors... a Muse is a funny thing...

what was I thinking?

I checked back into Match.com again recently - I was all psyched about being in NYC so perhaps I was the victim of irrational exuberance, much like the financial markets - and wow I forgot how many unattractive men there are out there in the 40 - 50 year old age range. I mean, not just ugly, but SCARY ugly. And so many of them want women in the 20-30 age range. It would be funny if it wasn't so stupid.

Men really start to look worse than women in middle age. It's because so many of them think that the cardinal virtue of being a man is being all-natural - none of this hair coloring for them - if they even have hair. The bald ones seem to believe that bald is beautiful. And what's up with the gray beards? Why would anybody have a gray beard? It makes me sick to think about getting near one. And so many men are slobs and couch potatoes. At least most of them have gotten the message that long nose hair is truly revolting and are trimming it.

And so many of the men online make a big deal about wanting a good kisser. It struck me as odd, this obsession with kissing - I mean, that's what they call "first base" isn't it? Then I remembered - of course! Prostitutes don't like to kiss their clients. These men can't get kissed by pros, so they are looking for a woman who will kiss them, for free, because they can't even pay a prostitute to do it.

Then some 48-year old douchebag contacts me, noticing that my preferred age-range is 25 - 48, and says "what would a cultured lady like you do with a 25-year-old?"

So many good come-backs for that one, I was overwhelmed, and just didn't bother answering, in disgust. And I could have a 25 year old, virtually any time I wanted. But I have this horrible curse - I actually have to LIKE a man before I can get involved with him. And I like so few of them. So when I do meet one I like, I usually go nuts for him.

It's hard not to despair and become a nun. Luckily I'm an atheist.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wow my relatives are boring

I can write this because none of them have any real interest in me or what I'm up to and will probably never read this blog. They friended* me on Facebook, but that's presumably for the sake of completeness - they no doubt friend every McClernan.

*yes, friend is also a verb now, much like "befriend" without the be. I can hear the curmudgeons wailing about it now. Well hey, English is a living language get used to it!

My family has never been close, especially on my father's side - my mother never liked my dad's siblings, and they did not like her, and it filtered down to the children, I guess. I don't recall ever having a conversation with any of my paternal cousins and I know nothing about them. And thanks to Facebook I still don't know about them except the most mundane aspects of their suburban existences.

Although I guess I should give my cousins credit for being on Facebook at all, plenty of people our age are total Luddites, but do they really think people want to know that they are baking cookies, watching the kids, watching TV, going through circulars (!!!) getting a new dishwasher etc. etc. etc. I mean, some of my New York friends (and I) will occasionally write something mundane too, but will follow it up with something amusing or weird or interesting or inscrutable. Here are recent status updates for my Facebook friends:

Carl has a donut hangover

Lori is remembering the infamy of this date.

Tom is in the hoopty with Ogelthorpe tearing ass around the galaxy

Jonathan is a monkey

Cheryl is about to enjoy the blending of many traditions that is "The Klezmer Nutcracker."

Jessica wonders what if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?

I notice that some of my cousins are members of a Facebook group called "We Love Alcohol" and I'm not surprised - they must have something to take the edge off the monotony!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bill Ayers speaks

I was wondering when this guy was going to speak up for himself...

In the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

more at the NYTimes

Friday, December 05, 2008

Winter Holiday Reading



Rehearsing another fundraiser this Saturday - the NYCPlaywrights Winter Holiday Reading. This one includes my play SOCIAL ENGINEERING, which is related to the blog post here a couple of days ago, the reference to Obama's 1994 critique of Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve." One guy in my play is very much a Murray-ite, like razib of Gene Expression - he's getting paid by a right-wing think tank to spread "scientific" justifications for racism and sexism.

For some reason we had a big influx of plays in which prostitutes are featured prominently - almost half the plays. Yes, we put the ho in ho-ho-ho for the holidays!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama vs Bell Curve

Well I've been so busy that I've neglected to check in at Gene Expression the go-to web site for the racist side of evolutionary psychology.

(The standard evolutionary psychology party line is that while test scores and less distinguished careers in math and science indicate genetically-endowed deficiencies in women those things do not indicate non-white genetic deficiencies - but Gene Expression is, shall we say, on the right wing of evolutionary psychology.)

I expected that Obama's election would drive them crazy (well, crazier) - and of course it has. But they did dig up an anti-Bell Curve editorial written by Obama in 1994 that is excellent. Excerpt:
Now, it shouldn't take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn't interested in prevention. He's interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it's artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It's easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray's calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, real or perceived, that minorities may enjoy.


The Bell Curve is The Bible to the racists at Gene Expression. And you can see how much Obama's editorial bugs them in the related comments section. Any time you can get them to say "political correctness" you know you've hit a nerve.

The. Best. President. Ever.

And I say this in spite of Obama's selection of that idiot Lawrence Summers, one of the "liberal" proponents of evolutionary psychology, who only believes that women, not non-whites, are genetically inferior in math and science.