Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wankel rotary engine Heavens to Mergatroyd

The Wankel rotary engine is quite an ingenious device, and one which I wouldn't have ever considered, probably, except for tangling with a gigantic douchebag. As readers of this blog might recall, at the beginning of the year I mentioned that a local independent film director's casting call had been posted on Nudity Required, No Pay for which he had a hissyfit, apparently in part because I didn't mention him by name. But I guess if you have no sense of shame, you have nothing to hide. Anyway, eventually he and some buddies realized I could read their search strings to get to my blog and so proceeded to come to my blog via a wide variety of search strings, including at least one that was a threat of sexual assault. He also libeled me on his blog until I made him remove it.

One of the less offensive things he typed at me were variations on "wankel rotary engine" combined with "heavens to mergatroyd" although often mispelling both wankel and mergatroyd. Here's a screen cap of my Google Analytics report:



Not knowing what a Wankel rotary engine was, I hastened to Wikipedia and read up. So creeps can certainly have their uses. I learned about this excellent device thanks to one.

And as I've also mentioned on this blog, they can inspire art as well. My newest play "The Cassandra Directive" about a lesbian couple who end up performing in a Star Wars/Bladerunner/Romero- ripoff film by an independent film director is directly inspired by my dealings with this particular creep. I did a reading of the first two scenes at NYCPlaywrights last night, and the women who participated in the reading especially enjoyed it - because what woman hasn't had at least one unpleasant run-in with a middle-aged man with fratboy sensibilities?

I haven't yet figured out how to include a reference in the play to a wankel rotary engine as a "tribute" but I will, eventually. I'm thinking about renting space at Manhattan Theater Source to do a public reading of this play - apparently they are desperate for renters. Maybe I'll even get a discount. Should be lots of fun.


And speaking of giant douchebags - James O'Keefe's biggest humiliation yet:

Lindsay Beyerstein reports:
Talk about hubris... Dirty trickster James O'Keefe's foray into gonzo porn has ended disastrously for him. O'Keefe schemed to seduce CNN investigative reporter Abbie Boudreau in front of hidden cameras. The right wing media activist, who recently pleaded guilty to charges of attempted phone tampering, tried to lure CNN's ace investigative reporter to a small boat, excuse me, a "floating pleasure palace," stocked with sex toys, strawberries, champagne, hidden cameras, and Mr. James O'Keefe.

Over at Jezebel:
Boudreau, an investigative reporter, was tipped off by a rogue member of O'Keefe's organization that he planned to turn a professional meeting into a seduction on a boat. Although this plan required some confidence in O'Keefe's irresistibility, he had reinforcements ready:



Apparently all douchebags think that a sure-fire way to score with chicks is to have pictures of naked women all over the place.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists know more about religion than believers...

Of course - knowledge is what makes us atheists.

Today's NYTimes:
Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

I've been saying as much for years - most religious people have no idea what their religions are all about.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bill Maher on a roll

I've had my issues with Bill Maher - he can be a real sexist douchebag - but on some issues he is right - and absolutely brilliant.

In this clip below he says something that's pretty radical and very true:
The rich, we're always told, are job creators. Except they're not. They're much more likely to save money through mergers, and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you.

Watch:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Julia & Buddy music part 2

This summer's JULIA & BUDDY production for the MITF went pretty well but it was just a one-act. I am finishing the second act now. I did music for the opening of this summer's show and I quite like it, especially considering that I recorded it the morning of the show's opening. Here it is. I really like the romantic yet agitated sound of the piano coming in and out as counterpoint to the guitar lead melody line. Since it was so last-minute I didn't really finish it, knowing that only about the first 30 seconds would be heard before the show began anyway. I'm not sure what I'll do about that.

And what to do about the music for the second act? I decided to write a variation on Clara Schumann's Romance in E-flat minor opus 11. Why Clara Schumann? Why not? She's good and one of the very few women composers of the common practice period, with a longer and more successful career than Fanny Mendelssohn. And I like this piece in particular, the rumbling of the lower octaves at the beginning and the dah dah dah DAH repetition, and the interesting ending which sounds like a question.



Everybody in Clara Schumann's musicians circle wrote variations on each other's music. Clara wrote variations on Robert Schumann's work, Robert wrote variations on Clara's work, and Johannes Brahms wrote variations or Robert Schumann's work and dedicated it to Clara.

This German movie, Geliebte Clara suggests that Clara Schumann had a physical relationship with Brahms. They were certainly good friends, and at one point Brahms babysat for Clara while she was on tour - this was after Robert Schumann died in an insane asylum.

I sure hope so, at least after Robert died. Not only because Brahms was a cute younger guy, but also, Clara damn well deserved it, after having seven kids, working constantly and of course putting her husband's career ahead of hers - not to mention promoting Brahms's work too. I sure hope she was getting some of that hotty Johannes action.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The place of the nude in my blog



Wonders never cease - I dropped into the Spring Street sketch workshop again and was amazed that they had a male nude under 50 again. What are the odds?

Larger version of this drawing here.

This guy had a very distinctive, chiseled face, but his body was not chiseled at all. Oh well, can't have everything. And he did have awesome hair.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

rational self interest, my preciousssssss

from Kung Fu Monkey via Krugman:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

How to succeed as an Ayn Rand character

It's a libertarian paradise in Somalia!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hotty Tchaikovsky

You always see photos and painting of Tchaikovsky as an old man - and by "old" I mean early 50s (!) since he died at age 53. He looks like he's closer to 70 in his later pictures. Dayam.
So it's hard to imagine that just twenty-fiveish years earlier he looked like this.

Hello Drosselmeyer!

Well now that I've defiled the memory of poor dead gay Tchaikovsky let's have some of his music. Martha Argerich performs the Piano Concerto #1. Playing the opening to this is fun, like playing the opening of the Who's Baba O'Reilly.



Speaking of classic rock...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New blog plan

Looks like Blogger isn't going to tell me what's going on - but my guess is that they disabled the ability to embed their blog into another web page via the PHP include tag, so I'll have to play by their rules. Until I get my domain reset to this blogger URL I have redirect at mcclernan.com - which is probably how you came here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

unique actor gig

Wow, this actor has created quite a niche for himself: TEMPUS FUGIT An Account of the Activities and Adventures of a Gentleman Physician. Initially his focus was on being a Regency doctor, which is how I discovered him, trolling for images of regency guys (which I've slacked off doing quite a bit lately since I posted so many hot regency guy pix that when I did searches the top results were mostly from my own web site) - but he also does Colonial doctor - not nearly as fetching, sartorially.

He looks quite fine, in spite of being a bit chubby, as Regency Doc.



It's easy to overlook the fact that Regency is such a hot look for guys not only for the clothing but for the hair - longish with sideburns, but no beards or moustaches.

But I do confess, for my money, it's Undressing Mr. Darcy.

Returning from a stroll about town, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy prepares to undress... Is he a Rake, a Beau or a 'Pink of the Ton'? (Nearly) all will be revealed as our historical costume expert takes off the layers before your very eyes in this hugely popular presentation about the clothes of a Regency gentleman.

Monday, September 20, 2010

EVEN ODDS video clip

A video clip from Sunday's performance of EVEN ODDS. This is about two minutes, and the entire play is only six, probably the shortest play I've written. Kudos to Krista and Mike.

The coin toss wasn't in the original script - I came up with that during rehearsal. The fun thing about the coin toss was that we really left it up to chance - the coin did come up heads on the flip in this video clip. We decided that the kid had to win at least once - if he called it right the first time, one flip was enough - if he didn't the next one would be a winner, even if Dad had to cheat a little and sneak a little flip to make it come up the right way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing sexual ignorance

A play about a dominatrix was read at NYCPlaywrights a year or so ago, and during the post-reading feedback session I was amazed to learn that one of the playwrights in the room, a man in his early 50s, was completely unfamiliar with the term "golden showers."

Firstly, the sexual revolution happened before his time and books like "The Joy of Sex" had had multiple editions by the time he came of age. And in the past ten years there has been the Internet, where you could learn anything about any kink and then watch a video demonstration. You don't have to be into a kink to be aware of its existence, especially if you are a playwright and therefore at least literate and culturally aware.

So I was astounded to discover recently that another playwright of my acquaintance, also in his early 50s, was unfamiliar with the term "69" - I mean, that's not even a kink, that's pretty much plain vanilla sex, or maybe arguably French vanilla but still - how could you NOT KNOW what that term means after over fifty years on this planet? And not on this planet among the Amish - both playwrights are college-educated lifelong liberals and residents of blue states.

But also - aren't men supposed to be obsessed with sex? Aren't they supposed to think about it, like, every 7 seconds? Are they just thinking about the missionary position every time?

Actually the every 7 seconds thing was debunked. But even if you don't think about sex that often, wouldn't any healthy adolescent or adult want to know everything they could about sex, whether or not they wanted to do everything? I mean, sure there are some paraphilias that don't even seem sexual, or are repulsive, but I'm still fascinated by the idea that some people do find them erotic. Wikipedia has a list of paraphilias here. I mean "Emetophilia"? How could anybody get off on vomit? The thought makes me want to - oh nevermind.

And really, I don't recall making an effort to learn about golden showers or sixty-nine - the information was just out there and I picked up on it, by the time I was sixteen.

But this puts so much into perspective - for example the fact that the Delaware Republicans just nominated a woman who is against masturbation. I mean, if well-educated men from liberal backgrounds can be unaware of non-obscure sexual practices, what can we expect from people over 60 (and most Teabaggers are over 60 - and of course the Teabaggers ALL had to be explained the sexual meaning of "teabagger") in backwards red states?

That's probably why Bill Clinton's blowjob was such a big deal in the USA - probably an amazing number of people here have never even heard of fellatio.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Even Odds today




at the old Roy Arias

ERIC SR.
So how about getting some sleep?

ERIC JR.
Could you watch me while I’m asleep? And then if I start to die, you
could wake me up?

ERIC SR.
Well if you start to die, I’d do more than wake you up, I’d get you to
the hospital. Maybe they could save your life.

ERIC JR.
You think they could?

ERIC SR.
The odds are in your favor.

ERIC JR.
OK, I’m going to sleep now.

ERIC SR.
OK.

(Eric Jr. tries to fall asleep.)

ERIC JR.
Dad – you still there?

ERIC SR.
Yep.

ERIC JR.
Do you think you and Mom might ever get back together?

ERIC SR.
The odds are against it.

ERIC JR.
By how much?

ERIC SR.
About a ninety-nine percent chance we will never get back together.

ERIC JR.
But that means there’s a one percent chance you could.

ERIC SR.
It means don’t bet on it. Those are bad odds.

ERIC JR.
Oh.

ERIC SR.
Sorry. That’s how it is. You’re eight now – I think that’s old enough to
handle the truth.

ERIC JR.
Yeah, I guess so. I’m going to go to sleep now. This time for real.

ERIC SR.
OK.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ridiculous Norwegian should

I have a generally positive view of Katherine Lanpher - she used to be Al Franken's sidekick when he had his radio show "The Al Franken Show" and she was bright and pleasant. But her professional career is basically being a suck-up to Important People and since we are still recovering from millenia of extreme patriarchy, that means that at least 75% of the time she's sucking up to Important Men.

But I love all things Al Franken-related, so I friended her on Facebook.

She's currently host of "Upstairs at the Square", an interview and performance program taped at Barnes and Noble Union Square, so I wasn't especially surprised when she posted this on FB:
Katherine Lanpher is reminded by a colleague of one of the many great quotes by Per Petterson at Tuesday's Upstairs show: "Fiction should open wounds, not heal them."

If you think about this quote for longer than the time it takes to nod knowingly and moo piously over your Starbucks cappuccino, you will realize it's idiotic.

But that tough vs. soft dichotomy, with tough always winning out over soft, is absolutely unquestioned in the art-lover world.

You really could make it into a kind of mad-libs. For example:

"Fiction should kick you in the butt, not pat you on the head."

"Fiction should yank out your entrails, not resection your colon."

"Fiction should rape your mother, not invent a cure for cancer."

It's so stupid, this idea that true art has to be all macho and tough. And it's so transparently a response to the encroachment of females on the former male bastion of the arts. How is a male author supposed to impress the chicks - and subsequently get laid by them - if there are all these women who are competing against the men for artistic stature? First of all, a woman is less likely to be impressed by an artist if she herself is an artist, and secondly, allowing the once rejected 50% of humanity into the club means there's alot more competition for status - especially groupie-level status.

The solution? Make art MORE MANLY. That'll keep those chicks out of the highest levels of artdom, at least for awhile.

But enough of my socio-political soap box. Let's just look at the statement itself.

First of all - "should" - since when? All art forms these days have virtually no rules at all. Fiction is all over the place - who is this guy to start suddenly dictating the terms?

And really, fiction has always been all over the place. "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" - is that opening wounds or healing? Twain addresses slavery, so I guess you could say opening wounds, and yet Twain writes the story with lots of humor and affection for his boyhood home, and Huck and Jim are friends, and Huck refuses to rat Jim out, declaring instead that he'd rather go to hell. Is that opening wounds? Healing?

What exactly does Per Petterson think is good fiction? Presumably his own. I haven't had a chance to read anything by him, but here's the last paragraph from the review of his "Out Stealing Horses":
This short yet spacious and powerful book — in such contrast to the well-larded garrulity of the bulbous American novel of today — reminds us of the careful and apropos writing of J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and Uwe Timm. Petterson’s kinship with Knut Hamsun, which he has himself acknowledged, is palpable in Hamsun’s “Pan,” “Victoria” and even the lighthearted “Dreamers.” But nothing should suggest that his superb novel is so embedded in its sources as to be less than a gripping account of such originality as to expand the reader’s own experience of life.

EXPAND the reader's own experience of life??? That sure sounds alot more healing than wounding to me. Sounds like he doesn't follow his own imperious declaration.

But since the healing/wounding dichotomy is a stupid unworkable metaphor in the first place, I won't hold it against him.

Instead I have a should for him - he should stick to writing fiction and stop with the lame-ass aphorisms about what fiction should be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NYCPlaywrights - big turn out

We had a big turn-out at last nights NYCPlaywrights meeting, the first one after our summer hiatus. The turn-out was mainly due to my posting an ad on Playbill.com. I don't know how I managed to find seats for all 50+ people but I did. And for the first time I didn't run the post-reading feedback sessions, I let Bruce Barton do it and he did great. Also Renee Cole, our very own Lady Gaga impersonator, baked a batch of brownies herself for the group.

And most important to me, the first 20 pages of my first draft of the second act of JULIA & BUDDY went very well - of course much of the credit goes to Daniel Genalo and Claire Warden who were brilliant. Daniel's "impersonation" of Schopenhauer for this bit was especially hysterical: "I haff been a bad bad boy, Mistress Ilsa, I haff za desire uff pain." His version was much funnier than what I heard in my head while writing. Ah, the magic of acting.

I was very pleased that the audience thought my "video clip" scene from "The Cassandra Directive" was funny, and I got a much bigger laugh than I expected from Julia's wisecrack:
BUDDY
What did you think of my cowboy outfit? You want to do some role play? I’ll be the cowboy and you can be the Indian...

JULIA
And then what – you give me smallpox and steal my land?

Laughs are important to a romantic comedy of course. I will have to do even more, but at least I have a few already. I'm relieved that the hard part of this play is over - getting the whole thing down on paper. Now the editing begins. I think for once I may have underwritten the first draft - usually I overwrite and then edit the hell out of most of it. That's actually better - it's easier to take stuff out than to put stuff in. That's my motto as a technical writer too.

The "Cassandra Directive" has taken on a life of its own. What started out as a brief parody of a lame-ass low-budget sci-fi rip-off movie not only appears as a video clip in JULIA AND BUDDY, I've started writing another play, about two women, roommates who are acting in a lame-ass low-budget sci-fi rip-off movie called... "The Cassandra Directive." The great thing about this is that the play is practically writing itself - I have the entire basic plot worked out in my head and it's like taking dictation. They should all be this easy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel

The Bruces' Philosopher Song



One of the highlights of my trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival lo these three years ago was seeing the statue of David Hume:



But clearly there was some serious flattery going on here. Hume was a tank. I don't doubt he could out-consume Schopehauer and Hegel together.

There's even a page on Facebook called Friends of the Corpulent David Hume.

I didn't see anybody doing it, but apparently it's considered good luck to touch the toe of this Hume statue.

I've been thinking about philosophy alot lately because I finally completed the second act of JULIA AND BUDDY and although I managed to extract Schopenhauer out of act one of the play, for the most part, he's all over act two. I'm doing a reading of the play at tonight's NYCPlaywrights meeting (first one of the season) and I will mainly be listening for whether or not I need to get rid of more Schopenhauer references. I tried to keep the references light and irreverent:


JULIA

I find Schopenhauer a great comfort when I’m depressed. He's one of the very few philosophers who really gets it – how miserable life is.


BUDDY

Come on, he was a weird guy.


JULIA

It isn't just Schopenhauer. The early Hindu philosophers said basically the same thing. The whole pain of desire thing.


BUDDY

Pain of desire. That sounds kinky.


JULIA

Get your mind out of the gutter.


BUDDY

But that is my mind's natural habitat.


JULIA

Schopenhauer used to keep a copy of the Latin translation of the Upanishads next to his bed and read from it every day.


BUDDY

I bet he never got laid.


JULIA

He probably went to prostitutes. That seems to be what all upper-class European men did back then. That’s why they all had syphilis.


BUDDY

He probably went to a dominatrix.


(Schopenhauer impersonation.)

"I haff been a bad bad boy, Mistress Ilsa, I haff za desire uff pain."

It's a work in progress.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pretenders & Violent Femmes

James Honeyman Scott of the Pretenders discovered Violent Femmes when they were playing outside the venue that Pretenders were going to play that night - Chrissie Hynde invited them to do a short opening set that night. Then Scott died in 1982 at age 25 of a drug overdose.



I got to see Pretenders live in Philadelphia in 1982 with their original line-up, which also included Martin Chambers and Pete Farndon - Farndon died in 1983 at 30, also of a drug overdose. Unfortunately I can find very little video footage of their live concerts from that time, and none of them performing Mystery Achievement - this TV show performance of their cover of Hynde's one-time boyfriend Ray Davies' "Stop Your Sobbing" will have to do.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Candlelight Vigil - 09-10-2010

Monks, media and crazy screaming man!



It turns out I had something white after all - I had a white sweater. Not everybody wore white, but I've never seen so many New Yorkers wearing white.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wine recommendation du jour



I picked up a 2008 Gnarly Head pinot noir because I liked the label and it was cheap - and to my surprise it's really good! I highly recommend this, and not just for the cool label

Friday, September 10, 2010

testimonials - solicited or not

Well I've started to collect nice things that people have said about NYCPlaywrights, to post on the web site and help promote the group - I have emails scattered about in various places and don't have enough time to find them all, so I could have more than what I have... but what I have is pretty good.

Certainly not everybody has liked the way I've run NYCPlaywrights - for its entire history the emphasis has been on honest feedback, not the usual "constructive" happy-happy talk that many groups promote. I wrote an article about that for the NYCPlaywrights web site.

Actually, the approach of NYCPlaywrights is even more extreme than that - the philosophy of NYCPlaywrights is that the most important feedback is body language, rather than verbal. An article by Jeff Sweet on that subject is also on the NYCPlaywrights web site.

A former member of NYCPlaywrights sent me this recently:

I'd been in writers workshops of various stripes for a few years, but was still getting the hang of the many slippery elements that combine to create good theatrical entertainment. I wanted to hear my work in front of a New York audience to get a feel for where I was in the process, but had no idea where to begin. Someone pointed me at NYC Playwrights and I joined after my first meeting.

When the actors picked up my script, I was trembling with fear that I'd hear nothing but the lines and dead silence. But even on a cold reading, these actors were so skilled that the audience fell about with laughter (which was fine, because it was a comedy, and the floor was carpeted). I left feeling a huge jolt of confidence (or maybe it was the ten cups of coffee I had beforehand).

I continued to sign up for time and had my work read at a number of meetings, very grateful for the audience reactions and feedback (some of it brutally direct -- I'd much rather hear a real reaction than a sugar-coated compliment that's meant to make me feel good -- and some if it slightly off-track but genuine anyway). I used this "live theatre lab" to reshape pieces and make them stronger. Additionally, I met a bevy of talented writers, actors and directors at NYCP, some of whom I've worked with on productions since.

For the first time, I started submitting work to festivals -- and getting acceptance letters. In the last two years I've had nearly two dozen short plays produced around the country. It really all started for me by having a live audience and a place to be heard at NYC Playwrights. Thank you, Nancy!

Stuff like that makes all the work and hassles worth it.

A few years ago, another (former) member of NYCPlaywrights gave me a copy of his published script with this inscription:
Nancy, this play got published mostly because of NYCPlaywrights and your personal input! Many thanks, (his signature)
Unlike the previous testimonial I don't have explicit permission to cite this one because shortly after I was given the script the writer decided to repay my good will towards him with absolute contempt and unprofessional behavior (such as being abusive towards the stage crew - I have that in writing from the stage manager) - and when I called him on it, responded by refusing to communicate with me in any way, for any reason, ever after - which led to more unprofessional behavior since he refused to respond to all business-related communications too. So I have no qualms about using this - he owes me at least this much - and I have it in his own handwriting, and signed too. So suck it.

This testimonial is not only used by explicit permission, I have permission to quote him by name - Trey Tatum, playwriting curator of the Tank said he was a huge fan of the NYCPlaywrights web site and said
you guys run it really well - exhaustively researched resource

Three testimonials are nice, but I know I can dig up some more.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Internet fun - non-dating site division

Roy Edroso gets a shout-out from Tom Tomorrow:


Cute boys with cats - yay!
Featuring that cutie Ben Whishaw from "Bright Star"



And oh boy, thanks to the Wayback Machine I found my first web site in the archives - all the way from 1997:

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Whooah there fella!

Fun with Internet dating.

First... "Steve" emails me:

we could get laid and see if we get along. I really like your face. and well I always run around for freelance photogr assignments would be nice to relax...

Me, thinking I'm dripping with obvious sarcasm:
that's a hell of a smooth line you have there

Not obvious enough however...
well i am free tonight and i could drive to you. I biked all day - had a long day photo assignments. I think it comes down to chemistry as a building block of something or a way to just cross paths and exchange stories. where are you?

I need a shower but I am intrigued.

However, within a minute of that email I get another much better email from, let's call him Alex:
Before I even read your profile I knew you were a writer. Maybe it's the quirky intelligent look, or maybe just the glasses, I could tell.

Someone should post your picture on Wikipedia under the keyword "writer."

Tell me, writer, are you as attracted to younger men as I am to older women?

I guess I'm going to end up bagging some 20-something guy one of these days, just to be done with it, if nothing else. Eat your heart out, all you middle-aged men desperate for a much younger woman.

Apparently I really do look like a writer - a woman at work whom I hadn't met came up to me one day and said: "I bet you are a writer - you just look like a writer. I could see you winning the Pulitzer prize."

From your mouth to the Pulitzer judges' ears honey.

Although another woman at work came up to me and said I was the spitting image of her friend Jennifer.

When blogging and Facebook isn't enough...

Well I've blogged about the "ground zero mosque" controversy and I've argued with teabagger friends of friends on Facebook, but now it's time to do more - I'm going to be part of the New York Civil Liberties candlelight vigil this Friday.
The NYCLU and our partners in the New York Neighbors for American Values coalition are hosting a candlight vigil in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 10 to support religious freedom and the rights of Muslim Americans to build a community center at 51 Park Place.

It's conveniently on my homeward commute so I'll just pop in right after work. I'm also taking a video camera in case there's some teabagging hostility aimed our way.

The only problem is the dress code - the NYCL site says "Please wear white and invite your friends and neighbors." I've certainly invited friends and neighbors (well, Facebook friends) but I literally do not own a single piece of white clothing except socks and underwear. Who knew vigils had dress codes?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Goodnight sweet prince

Today marks 13 years since the death of dear Earl Rich. He was such a special person - I've never known anybody like him. Motorcycles are the devil.

Jobs!

Well FINALLY! I've been saying we need a jobs program for two years now and Obama has come through.
President Obama, looking for ways to jump-start the sagging economy and create new jobs, called on Congress on Monday to approve a far - reaching plan to rebuild and modernize the nation's transportation networks - roads, rail and airport runways — over the next six years.

With Democrats facing increasingly bleak re-election prospects, Mr. Obama used a Labor Day visit to a union festival here to lay out the plan, which the White House says could begin creating jobs as early as 2011 if Congress moves quickly. But prospects for a hasty passage seem unlikely, given that lawmakers have only a few weeks before they go home to campaign and Republicans have little interest in giving Democrats any pre-election legislative victories.

"Over the next six years," Mr. Obama promised "we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads — that's enough to circle the world six times; that's a lot of road. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways - enough to stretch coast-to-coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers - I think everybody can agree on that."
Republicans are expected to block this every step of the way, because, well, Republicans are evil. And stupid as David Cross explains:

Monday, September 06, 2010

EVEN ODDS

web site now online



First rehearsal today. This is a very short play so I had the luxury of telling the actors to take their time and think before they spoke their lines.

This is the first I've done that in over two years. I've been trying to avoid what happened in a full-length play I directed over two years ago.

For that production I told the actors to take their time, and one of the actors went completely overboard. He took forever to say his lines, so much so that a friend who came to see the show always referred to him after not by character name or real name, but as "the one who took so long to say his lines."

After the first performance I begged the actor to speed it up but he refused. And to this day I'm sure he thinks he did the right thing - no matter what the audience thought.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

in the Paul Cadmus tradition



And speaking of men being aesthetically pleasing, I finally made it back to the Spring Street sketch club and to my amazement and delight, the model was not only male, he was young and not bald. And he had a very nice little body... well, not all of it was little.

I sketched about ten versions of the model, Adrian. The one in this post is my favorite - you can see a larger version here.

One of the many reasons I found the play SIGHT UNSEEN annoying was because of the idiotic monologue given to the Patricia character, where she proclaims how much she loved modeling for the hero of the play. Clearly Donald Margulies has never done any artist modeling - particularly life (i.e. nude) modeling. I have and nobody would say how much they loved it, I don't care how much they worshiped the artist, as Patricia is supposed to do. Sitting for long poses is hell. Any time you see a drawing or painting of a nude, you are looking at an image of somebody who was uncomfortable, if not in actual pain. The model in the picture above is no exception - and I think I captured his discomfort here.

And then there's the fact that you have to sit there naked in front of a bunch of people, while they scrutinize every inch of your body over the course of several hours. Few people are comfortable under those circumstances. I was getting paid, of course - the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is not run by douchebags - and also I feel that all artists should do life modeling at least once if they are going to draw naked people themselves. Otherwise it's hypocrisy. So I had no problem with doing it, but that doesn't mean it's fun - it's damned uncomfortable. Here's a quick sketch somebody did of me in those days although obviously it could be anybody, red hair notwithstanding - and really, my hair was actually never that red.

Ah memories - I also dug up a portrait I did of my boyfriend John, age 22 (I was 21 at the time) in semi-punk regalia. I have to say, it's pretty much a perfect likeness of him from the time.



A larger version here

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Another pillar of male privilege starts to crumble

Some men are starting to get the message that they can no longer be as ugly as they wanna be.
At 4Voo, a seven-year-old Canadian company, sales have tripled over the last four years, according to Marek Hewryk, the founder. Its products — all targeted to men — include a lipstick-shaped concealer called Confidence Corrector ($34); a Lash and Brow Styling Glaze, applied with a mascara wand ($23); and even an eyeliner ($19).

This has everything to do with women, as a group, having more money now than ever before in the history of money.

It used to be - and still is in too many parts of the world - that men bought and sold women - their daughters usually. Usually women were sold into marriage, legally, although kidnapping women into sex slavery or selling your daughter into prostitution is becoming increasingly popular.

Men were the sexual consumers, women were the sexual commodities. Now that many women have money and aren't forced to marry the highest bidder, women are becoming sexual consumers, which means that men now have to work on their appearance, as women have always done.

There's still plenty of resistance of course. I am convinced that the current trend of young men growing big ugly beards is essentially a declaration by men that no, they won't be valued according to their appearance - that's degrading to men, to be judged according to their aesthetic appeal, the way women have.

It's just a matter of time before even the beardos have to face reality.

Now if we can just cure male pattern baldness.

Friday, September 03, 2010

KRGTHULU 2!

Now everytime they mention Krgthulu at Eschaton, I get hits on my blog for my post on Krgthulu.

I was intrigued to learn, via Krgthulu's blog, that he rides the NYC subway system. Should I ever bump into him there in the subterranean world, I don't know if I should say "hey Paul Krugman, nice job" or just point and shriek (with happiness) "Krgthulu!"

The Immortal Beloved letters

So what exactly did Beethoven write to his "immortal beloved"?

This, by way of Google books reproduction of "Beethoven's letters (1790 - 1826) from the collection of Dr. Ludwig Nohl."

Morning, July 6, 1800.

My angel! my all! my second self!

Only a few words to-day, written with a pencil (your own). My residence cannot be settled till tomorrow. What a tiresome loss of time! Why this deep grief when necessity compels ?—can our love exist without sacrifices,and by refraining from desiring all things? Can you alter the fact that you are not wholly mine, nor I wholly yours? Ah! contemplate the beauties of nature, and reconcile your spirit to the inevitable. Love demands all, and has a right to do so, and thus it is I feel towards you, and you towards me; but you do not sufficiently remember that I must live both for you and for myself. Were we wholly united, you would feel this sorrow as little as I should. My journey was terrible. I did not arrive here till four o'clock yesterday morning, as no horses were to be had. The drivers chose another route; but what a dreadful one it was! At the last stage I was warned not to travel through the night, and to beware of a certain wood, but this only incited me to go forward, and I was wrong. The carriage broke down, owing to the execrable roads, mere deep rough country lanes, and had it not been for the postilions I must have been left by the wayside. Esterhazy, traveling the usual road, had the same fate with eight horses, whereas I had only four. Still I felt a certain degree of pleasure, which I invariably do when I have happily surmounted any difficulty. But I must now pass from the outer to the inner man. We shall, I trust, soon meet again; to-day I cannot impart to you all the reflections I have made, during the last few days, on my life; were our hearts closely united for ever, none of these would occur to me. My heart is overflowing with all I have to say to you. Ah ! there are moments when I find that speech is actually nothing. Take courage ! Continue to be ever my true and only love, my all! as I am yours. The gods must ordain what is further to be and shall be!


Your faithful

Ludwig.

Dude did not stint on the exclamation points.

Monday evening, July 6.

You grieve! dearest of all beings! I have just heard that the letters must be sent off very early. Mondays and Thursdays are the only days when the post goes to K. from here. You grieve! Ah! where I am, there you are ever with me: how earnestly shall I strive to pass my life with you, and what a life will it be!!! Whereas now!! without you!! and persecuted by the kindness of others, which I neither deserve nor try to deserve! The servility of man towards his fellow-man pains me, and when I regard myself as a component part of the universe, what am I, what is he who is called the greatest? — and yet herein are displayed the godlike feelings of humanity! — I weep in thinking that you will receive no intelligence from me till probably Saturday. However dearly you may love me, I love you more fondly still. Never conceal your feelings from me. Good night! As a patient at these baths, I must now go to rest [a few words are here effaced by Beethoven himself]. Oh, heavens ! so near, and yet so far ! Is not our love a truly celestial mansion, but firm as the vault of heaven itself?

He would have really loved email...

July 7. Good morning!

Even before I rise, my thoughts throng to you, my immortal beloved! — sometimes full of joy, and yet again sad, waiting to see whether Fate will hear us. I must live either wholly with you, or not at all. Indeed I have resolved to wander far from you till the moment arrives when I can fly into your arms, and feel that they are my home, and send forth my soul in unison with yours into the realm of spirits. Alas! it must be so! You will take courage, for you know my fidelity. Never can another possess my heart — never, never! Oh, heavens! Why must I fly from her I so fondly love? and yet my existence in W. was as miserable as here. Your love made me the most happy and yet the most unhappy of men. At my age, life requires a uniform equality; can this be found in our mutual relations? My angel! I have this moment heard that the post goes every day, so I must conclude, that you may get this letter the sooner. Be calm! for we can only attain our object of living together by the calm contemplation of our existence. Continue to love me. Yesterday, to-day, what longings for you, what tears for you! for you ! for you! my life! my all! Farewell! Oh! love me for ever, and never doubt the faithful heart of your lover,

L.

Ever thine.

Ever mine.

Ever each other's.

The editor of Dr. Nohl's book seems to think that the Immortal Beloved is Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, on the grounds that Beethoven dedicated the "Moonlight Sonata" (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C#minor) to her, but she's only one of several possible candidates.

Fun fact via Wikipedia: "The work ("Moonlight Sonata") was very popular in Beethoven's day, to the point of exasperating the composer himself, who remarked to Carl Czerny, "Surely I've written better things."

I would suggest it was popular because like "Fur Elise" it is relatively easy to play effectively even for so-so pianists such as myself.

The Moonlight Sonata

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Even Odds



Eight-year-old Eric is worried about his own mortality - can gambling and beer help?

Mike Durell and Krista Hasinger will perform in my next short play. Web site coming soon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

emotional orgasm

I guess I'll have to do some explaining when I attempt to use the term "emotional orgasm" - if you Google it, the results are all about sexual orgasms with an emotional component.

That's not what I mean. I am talking about catharsis, basically, but I like the expression "emotional orgasm" because catharsis is a little too one-size-fits-all.

Not all sexual orgasms are equally intense - they are not all quite the level of the "cleansing" experience of the classical Greek term.

I've seen the epigram "This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel" quoted on many occasions and I'm sick of it. It's from a letter written by Horace Walpole (who?) I don't know if Walpole meant for this to be interpreted as an either/or proposition, but that is the way it is interpreted by those who quote it.

The implication is that you either think or feel. This is clearly how many people in the arts see it, and they have all firmly come down on the side of thinking. That's why so much art - particularly theatre, which I'm most involved in - consists of dry little exercises in erudition and irony. The playwright wants to show off his or her cleverness. And that's really all the play is about. How many knowing asides can the playwright squeeze into the plot? How many famous names can be dropped? This does not give the audience an emotional orgasm - instead it allows the audience to watch the playwright masturbate. And so many playwrights are such egomaniacs that they truly believe that that's what the world really wants - to watch them have a wank - and pay good money for it too.

The idea that you either think or feel is a bullshit dichotomy, that owes much, I believe to our culture's obsession with pushing everything into either a feminine or masculine box. The apotheosis of this way of thinking is in the theories of the evolutionary psychologists, particularly Simon Baron-Cohen (relative of Sacha Baron-Cohen):
Dr. Baron-Cohen builds on this theory, suggesting that low levels of testosterone result in a female, "E type" brain (for empathy); medium levels yield a balanced brain; and high levels a male, "S type" brain (for systemizing). Medium levels account for the fact that some girls are systemizers and some boys are empathizers.
In the evolutionary psychology universe you are either a male systemizer or a female empathizer - thought vs. feeling. (An excellent refutation is available in the just-published Delusions of Gender.)

Men of course, naturally want to escape the stigma of being feminine, and so obviously they are not going to choose to be "those who feel." They sit back and laugh at this comedy of life - and when it comes to playwrights the laughter is most often of the smug, self-satisfied variety.

Not only men are like this, plenty of women want to escape the shame of femininity. These women are most likely to join with men in deriding an emotional focus as weak and stupid.

This thought vs. feeling dichotomy is why, for example, a former member of NYCPlaywrights wrote a play that was a parody of OUR TOWN. I mentioned it in my essay Why OUR TOWN is Great. Even Martin Denton, who usually loves everything he sees, had a problem with that parody.

What I believe Venters was trying to do was kill all those soft, weak, feminine emotions on display in OUR TOWN and replace it was some kind of misbegotten critique of American life. Something hard and "edgy" and merciless. Something to demonstrate that this playwright is a thinker, not a feeler. Not like that gay Thornton Wilder.

I believe it's no coincidence that three of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century, Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and Tony Kushner are gay. Their gayness allows them to step back from the standard macho bullshit of American masculinity - the masculinity that has turned David Mamet into a right-wing asshole teabagger.

Their gayness allows them to be "weak" and empathetic, to dare to step away from shallow intellectualism and towards what really makes a play work - abundant empathy.

That's why Shakespeare's plays work so well - he was able to have empathy even for the villains of his plays. Shakespeare wanted to evoke an emotional orgasm from his audiences.

The first time you see HAMLET, if it is done right, you will tear up when Hamlet dies at the end. Because you have watched Hamlet wrestle for three hours with issues of mortality, and after all that you watch Hamlet himself die. But even more so - Laertes poisons Hamlet with the envenomed sword fairly early in the big death scene - and the audience knows, before Hamlet does, that he's a dead man. So the entire scene is watching Hamlet be poisoned, watching Hamlet watch his mother die, and then watch Hamlet realize that he himself is about to die.

Watch Derek Jacobi do it here:



To be a proper playwright you have to aim at giving the audience an emotional orgasm. The play isn't about you showing off - the play is about you connecting to the audience, and taking them beyond thought into their innermost, visceral core. And they will love you for it. Not that smug self-satisfied love that comes from an audience congratulating itself for getting the various shallow intellectualisms of a typical modern play, but the love of an audience who has truly felt something intense.

That's why the sexual analogy is appropriate - a skilled lover gives themselves to their partner - and that's what a skilled playwright does - the partner in this case being the audience.

A skilled lover doesn't just stand there wanking, and then expect to be loved for it.

It's all about the emotional orgasm.