Thursday, January 31, 2013

I love Balck Dragon



Behold the Balck Dragon. I have this at least once a week for lunch - there's a sushi place in the building where I work. It's supposed to be "black" dragon to differentiate it from the Green Dragon, which has avocado instead of eel. But they never change the label - week after week it's the Balck Dragon.

If you had told me when I was a teenager that one day I would love to eat eel I would have thought you were nuts. Of course I hadn't even heard of sushi until I was in my 20s and never tried it until I was in my mid-30s. Although to be honest I don't actually like classic sushi with raw fish - I prefer my fish cooked. 

But eel really is exquisite - although not in large amounts. For lunch once I had the "eel bowl" and that was just too much eel. But the amount on the Balck Eel is just right.

Behold its eely goodness up close:



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sybillll!!!!

I am just worn out from watching Downton Abbey tonight. What a heart-wringer!

There are three characters on Downton Abbey that I just adore.
Isobel Crawley, Matthew "in-the-money" Crawley's mother, is a wonderful person. Although she's semi-gentry she is forward-thinking and egalitarian and she is doing her best to help prostitutes, up to and including taking a former Downton Abbey maid, who became a prostitute, into her home, even though her uptight snobby maid refused to stay and work with a former prostitute. The snobby Dowager doesn't like Isobel which proves how cool and progressive she is. 

Oh boy do I love Doctor Clarkson. He's absolutely adorable, with his Scottish accent and his scientific method - also an egalitarian. No wonder he and Isobel made such a great team together working at the hospital during the Great War. And David Robb is extremely attractive for a man of 65. And I have fond memories of him as Laertes to Derek Jacobi's Hamlet. Maybe I should go back to Edinburgh and see if I can get me a Scotsman. 
And the third of my 3 favorite characters...

NOOOO! SYBILLL! WHY???

She was just so perfect - kind yet progressive, just like these other two. She also worked at the hospital. All the characters I loved worked in the hospital - and Thomas, one of the baddies almost turned good under the influence of these angels when he worked at the hospital.

Look at Sybil in this picture wearing her wonderful pre-historic pantsuit, like the awesome radical proto-feminist she was.

Oh noooo! Sybilllll!










Some people may think that Downton Abbey is all girly-girl and white bread, so I got a kick out of watching this guy's take on Season 3 Episode 4 of Downtown Abbey (spoiler alert!)



Sunday, January 27, 2013

You think you have problems...

One of the problems with doing theater is that a considerable percentage of actors are horrible people - when they aren't raging alcoholics. I've certainly had my own problems with  them.

Probably the worst was an incredibly arrogant and manipulative female actor: when she wasn't trying to undermine my relationships with everybody else in the production (I was directing my own play) or insulting the stage crew, she was trying to direct my play for me. This in spite of the fact that she herself had no directing experience. And she was so unashamed of her behavior that when I blogged about my disgust with her (but not by name), after the show closed, she emailed a whole bunch of people to tell them to go and read my blog. She actually wanted people to know that I thought she was an asshole.

Once I realized what she had been up to, I said to a friend of mine: "I bet she's going around telling people that the real reason I don't like her is because I'm jealous of her beauty." I know this sounds absurd, but that's how fucked in the head I thought she was. And what's more, I was right. Years later a friend of hers emailed me and said:
"...your jealousy when you have maligned female actress friends of mine, thinking they were treated better than you because of their looks..."
I knew exactly who was meant because the email writer and I only had one female actress acquaintance in common.

The email was good for a laugh, since I was not nearly as impressed with the female actress friend's appearance as she was herself.

So she was an asshole - but at least she wasn't an alcoholic. Otherwise I could have had a situation like Paul Rudnick's in the premiere of his I HATE HAMLET in his dealings with Nicol Williamson. According to Rudnick, Williamson:
...began murmuring directions, while onstage, to other cast members: “Is that what you’re doing?,” “God, that’s awful,” and worse. During scenes in which the script called for him to hover, as a ghost, and eavesdrop on the action, he would leave the stage.
I have kicked myself since my production with the female actor friend because I didn't fire her immediately after she tried to direct my play, but Williamson wasn't fired either:
In the Post’s weekend edition, a photograph of the duel filled the entire front page, under the headline “‘Hamlet’ actor storms off stage after co-star whacks him in butt.” There was coverage all over the world, and TV news crews stood outside the theatre every night. I learned to say “No comment” in many languages. 
Evan Handler wanted to bring Nicol and the production up on charges. A meeting was called, and the producers and I tried to determine a course of action. Should we fire Nicol? We realized that he had been brilliantly, maliciously sly: because of all the publicity, he now was the show, and no other star in his right mind would step into his role.
So your alcoholic asshole actors are worse than your non-alcoholic asshole actors. Although in either case, the assholes don't take any responsibility for their bad behavior - and don't even feel bad about it:
After the final performance, I had no intention of talking to Nicol. I was still too angry. As I was heading upstairs, to bid farewell to the more lucid actors, the door to Nicol’s dressing room swung open. He stood there, a soused, lunatic, fifty-two-year-old Hamlet. We stared at each other. Nicol finally spoke, and his tone was both kind and accusing. He said, “You knew this was going to happen.” And then he smiled and shut the door. 
So with all this mishegas, why bother to do theater? Aren't people in the financial services industry crazy enough for one lifetime?

I can't speak for Rudnick, but for me one of the reasons that I want to do my own work, in particular JULIA & BUDDY, is because it's the kind of play I want to see - and there are so few plays written that are the kind I want to see. Maybe it's Shakespeare's fault - I got turned onto theater through the BBC's production of AS YOU LIKE IT, with Helen Mirren in the lead, and not only are so few playwrights close to Shakespeare's level, they don't even try to do the kind of plays he did. How many plays about a pair of female cousins who go off to have funny/romantic adventures are even produced in contemporary theater? Pretty much none.

And pulling off a successful theater production - even if it is an off-off Broadway Showcase Code production - in spite of the expense and the hassle is in itself a great accomplishment.

Fun fact - Helen Mirren hated Nicol Williamson too:
When Williamson appeared in the 1981 film Excalibur, director John Boorman cast him as Merlin opposite Helen Mirren as Morgana over the protests of both actors; the two had previously appeared together in Macbeth, with disastrous results, and disliked each other intensely.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Haiku: The Office Worker's Observation from the Company Cafeteria on a Winter's Morning


He found a lit butt,
Danced around for joy and then
Walked away smoking.


I wrote this Friday morning, and yes, the title is longer than the haiku. And yes, I did witness this. I sat facing the area where people stand outside the building and smoke and put their cigarette butts in the receptacle. I don't know if this guy was poor and/or homeless, or just got a kick out of getting a free half-cigarette, but he rooted around in the receptacle, found the butt and literally danced around to celebrate. I don't think I've ever seen a cigarette make anybody so happy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yo, Kanter, I think the word you mean is "aura"

As seen on the Q train.

Miss Kanter "will not give you any false hopes only what (she feels) by the energy and power or your orah..."




Thursday, January 24, 2013

100 submissions & sundry subjects

The NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month call for plays has now received 100 submissions.

And by some miracle I was actually able to find, through all the submissions that ignored the stipulation that it should a "two-hander" and all the submissions that ignored the stipulation that should be about love, seven plays that I could actually do readings of without puking.

Completely changing the subject, Krugman has a few choice words about Paul Ryan.

And although I think that Obama's second inauguration speech is beautiful and important, I did enjoy Jon Stewart's bits about it.
"...the first time a president has name-checked a gay bar at his inauguration since Rutherford B. Hayes reminisced about working at The Loaded Musket"
and
"by the way, Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall aren't just civil rights milestones, they're also what your most annoying liberal friend from college named her cats."
Both of these had me ROTFLMAO. Well OK, not really, but I did LOL.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

...through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall


 Wow do I love this speech! And I got chills when he said (beginning at minute 13:25 in this video):

 We, the People, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women sung and unsung who left footprints along this great Mall to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone. 

 Amazing and unprecedented. I love my president today.

 And Rachel Maddow provides an excellent perspective on the bullshit Obama has had to deal with from the Republicans his entire first term - and how he finally got fed up with them:

 
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, January 21, 2013

The odd predilections of Mr. Fuzz

Here we see one of the many odd predilections of Mr. Fuzz - sometimes he likes to lounge around on his back like a person. You would never see Miss Willow, my more normal cat, chilling like this.

Another of his odd predilections is that he can't really enjoy eating unless he has a mousie toy to roll around in his cat food. It has to be a real fur mousie, not a fake fur mousie and he can totally tell the difference. The best thing of all is to skin the mousie toy and chew up the fur, leaving a plastic chassis that I will later find on the floor somewhere. I guess I should feel lucky he doesn't try to eat the plastic.

He hates water. This is normal for most cats and I'm not saying Miss Willow loves water, but Mr. Fuzz doesn't even like to get a drop on himself. If he does he runs away in terror. To my knowledge he's never had a bad experience with water, and he likes to drink it. But it just cannot touch his fur. Which turns out to be convenient because all I have to do to get him to stop doing something naughty - like trying to eat Miss Willow's food - is to pretend I'm flicking water at him. I must have done it once with actual water, although I don't remember, but he sure does and that memory still causes him to panic at the sight of flicky-water hand.

His newest odd predilection is he likes me to carry him around the house on my shoulder. He just hangs over my shoulder, checking everything out as I walk around the apartment - and since there's only four rooms including a bathroom and a kitchen, it doesn't take that long. And it can't be especially thrilling for him, he's already gotten to the highest point in every room in the apartment, although sometimes I boost him up to the top shelf of the hall closet, which he can't reach by himself. He enjoys that, although he almost immediately starts looking around on the walls and the ceiling of the closet - I assume for a secret passage.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

K-man raises interesting issues

Two Krugman blog posts of interest - first he celebrates the Republicans blinking in a showdown with Obama...
But it appears that the strategy has worked, and it’s the Republicans giving up. I’m happy to concede that the president and team called this one right.
And it’s a big deal. Yes, the GOP could come back on the debt ceiling, but that seems unlikely. It could try to make a big deal of the sequester, but that’s a lot more like the fiscal cliff than it is like the debt ceiling: not good, but not potentially catastrophic, and therefore poor terrain for the “we’re crazier than you are” strategy. And while Republicans could shut down the government, my guess is that Democrats would actually be gleeful at that prospect: the PR would be overwhelmingly favorable for Obama, and again, not much risk of blowing up the world.
 
The key point to remember here is that Obama achieves his main goals simply by surviving. Above all, health reform gets implemented, and probably becomes irreversible. 
A good day for sanity, all around.
And he adds this for good measure.


And then he includes a video clip of the well-known moment in "Annie Hall" when Woody Allen pulls Marshall McLuhan out to smack down a Columbia professor. Now as much as I loathe Woody Allen, even I find this scene amusing. Allen does snark very well (I'm sure it helps that he wrote the script) and it was an innovative comedic idea.

And in fact, not only do I give credit to Allen for being innovative, I'll also give him credit for being prescient:

ALVY (Allen's character)

(Reacting again to the man in line) 
Probably on their first date, right?  
MAN IN LINE 

(Still going on) 
 It's a narrow view.  
ALVY 
Probably met by answering an ad in the New York Review of Books. "Thirtyish academic wishes to meet woman who's interested in Mozart, James Joyce and sodomy." 
(He sighs; then to Annie)   
Whatta you mean, our sexual problem?  

ANNIE 
Oh!  
ALVY 
I-I-I mean, I'm comparatively normal for a guy raised in Brooklyn.  
ANNIE 
 Okay, I'm very sorry. My sexual problem! Okay, my sexual problem! Huh?

Allens' description of the 1970s version of an online dating site profile is pretty close to what men actually do post. (In addition to "clever" phrases like "cunning linguist" *shudder*)

But it's interesting to note that in addition to Allen snarking about the guy behind them, they are talking about Annie's "sexual problem." The movie is supposedly based on the actual relationship between Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, and so I'm going to guess that Diane/Annie "sexual problem" is that she just realized she has a sexual relationship with Woody Allen.

Diane Keaton was someone who could have - and did have - a sexual relationship with both Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, so you can well understand why she would get restless after some time period with Woody Allen.

But the dialog does ring true in that many a woman, rather than admit to her boyfriend or husband that she's bored with having sex with him will instead say that the problem is her - that she has a sexual problem.

This truth about women getting bored of sex with the same person faster than men has been suppressed for millennia because monogamy and especially marriage has never been for the benefit of women, so women's sexual desires didn't have anything to do with that social institution. It was for the benefit of the man or the benefit of the woman's parents. And it would be bizarre if it was for the benefit of women - for millennia every culture in the world has been some form of patriarchy - if everything else was arranged to favor men, as of course it is in a patriarchy, why would something as important as sexual relationships be arranged for the benefit of women?

It's only "benefitted" women because until recently women had two options: marriage or a life of impoverished, celibate old-maid-hood.   

And men, even when married, have always had the option of mistresses and/or prostitutes. It's only women who have been forced into compulsory monogamy - or even polygyny.

But it is the genius of the Patriarchy to persistently claim - up to this very day - that marriage is somehow more beneficial for women than for men.

Keaton was well rid of Allen - if she had stayed with him*, it could have been her in Mia Farrow's position. Keaton eventually adopted two children, one a girl. She could have ended up unwittingly serving up fresh meat to gross old pedophile Woody Allen, instead of Farrow.

*and there's no doubt it was Keaton who broke up with Allen. In her autobiography Farrow reveals that Allen still kept Keaton's toothbrush in his bathroom, even while he was in a relationship with Farrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Monkees: the music theory episodes

Thank god I did not imagine this after all.

I distinctly remembered seeing an episode of The Monkees in which one of the Pre-fab Four gets a lesson in music theory from a black musician.

The reason I'm thinking of this is because I got into a discussion about the term "downbeat" with my music theory teacher and told him about this episode. Here is a link to the episode, but only the relevant bit. The black musician is Charlie Smalls. He wrote the musical THE WIZ.

At the end of the episode ("Some Like It Lukewarm") Davy Jones and Charlie Smalls are sitting at the piano:

DAVY:
Tell me, why don't I have soul?
CHARLIE:
You do have soul, but I have to explain it to you rhythmically… Your soul would emanate on the accented beats one and three, where my soul emanates on the accented beats two and four. And to give you a good example of that, the Beatles play hard and funky on the one and three, really, Ringo plays the hardest one and three I've ever heard in my life. Now if you clap four I'll show you. 
(Davy and Charlie then clap and count to four multiple times while Charlie makes a sound like the opening measures of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That album was less than a year old when this episode was shot, in March 1968.) 


DAVY
...Yeah right... 
CHARLIE
That's the whole thing. It swings. As long as it swings, it's soul... 
DAVY
...One and three is white soul...  
CHARLIE
Right, exactly...Motown soul, which would be - clap again...  
They clap again and this time the accent is on the two and the four... Then Charlie demonstrates "Brazilian soul" with a shaker and then the piano and then they sing a song together. Then they decide everybody has soul but it's just a different kind of soul.

Very little of the Monkees TV show sticks in my memory (not that I've made an especially careful study of it, but anyway...) but this discussion explaining that white music has a 1-3 beat accent and black music has a 2-4 beat accent certainly did. I'm just glad I found it on Youtube to prove I didn't imagine it.

But the strangeness does not end there. Because on the very next episode, Frank Zappa shows up as a guest and appears to be mocking Charlie Smalls' music theory.

I was amazed my music teacher hadn't heard about this episode because he adores Frank Zappa and his band has covered the work of Zappa.

(Fun fact - one of the people I hung out with in high school, Blake Lewin, used to do transcription work for Frank Zappa.)

In the beginning of the episode ("The Monkees Blow Their Minds") Zappa and Mike Nesmith engage in zany yet ironic high-jinks, and towards the end of the clip...
NESMITH 

(as "Frank Zappa")
...I wanted to know where the soul of your music was. Is it on the one and the seven, or is it on the one and the five. 
ZAPPA 

(as "Mike Nesmith")
The soul of your music is on the one and the seven, sometimes on the three and the five. The soul of our music, the Monkees' music lies somewhere in between the one and a half, the two and a half, the three and three-quarters and the giant C Major chord on the piano...
Then in a "match cut" as Zappa says, they are seated together at a piano, and Zappa makes a wry remark about the Monkees being "really tricky." And in a little bit Mike and Frank beat a car while a clip of Zappa's "We Are The Other People" plays.

It's cute, but mocking the Monkees is shooting fish in a barrel. But then it's always been my understanding that Frank Zappa was a self-impressed douchebag.

Here he is whining about his mistreatment at the hands of the Plastic Ono Band. Zappa, of course, is the ultra-cool hero of this narrative.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ugly Australian man passes judgment on women

What is the deal with the Daily Show and its horrible advertisers?

First there is a movie called "Movie 43" and its advertisement asks: "what are all these huge stars doing in this movie?" The only stars I remember seeing in the ad are Richard Gere and Hallie Berry, and since I've never heard of either of them being a shining beacon of integrity or discernment, I'm going to guess that it has something to do with some asshole producers seeking to cash in on the all-powerful moron market offering them big wads of cash. Because really, what other reason could persuade someone to lend their name to such brain-dead swill? I've heard wisecracks from junior high kids that demonstrated a more sophisticated take on race and gender and social mores.

Disgusting slob fantasizing what it would be like
if women wanted to have sex with him.
But even more obnoxious than Movie 43 is an ad for what I assume is a television show that I will never watch. The show advertises itself by depicting an ugly overweight Australian man sitting on a park bench passing harsh judgment on women walking by.

WHO ARE THE ASSHOLES who these advertisers think might watch these shitty movies and TV shows? Maybe I was being idealistic but I assumed that the Daily Show viewers were cooler than this. Apparently advertisers, at least, believe there is a considerable segment of Daily Show viewers who are idiots, misogynists and oafish assholes. Gross.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I love my POTUS!

Color me impressed. A month after the Sandy Hook horror, Obama has accomplished, as the New York Times rightly observes, "Gun Reform for a Generation."

I agree with that editorial for the most part:
It is past time that elected leaders did something about it without worrying, as Mr. Obama said on Wednesday, about getting “an A grade from the gun lobby.” It has been a bipartisan betrayal of the public’s safety, the fault of Democrats and Republicans, and of a string of presidents who have said mournful things after the mass murders at Columbine and Virginia Tech and Aurora and Newtown but did not act. 
Wednesday was the exception. One month after the Newtown, Conn., murders, Mr. Obama presented a comprehensive set of initiatives that was, for a change, structured around what needs to be done and not what political tacticians think the president could get a dysfunctional Congress to pass. Mr. Obama can be frustrating at moments like this, and his delivery today was as professorial as ever. But he stepped up to the broader issue before the nation in remembering the tragedy at Newtown.
I disagree with the NYTimes complaint about Obama being professorial - that's one of my most favorite things about Obama. I adore his professorialiness.

How can you not love this press conference? Although in spite of his professorial attitude, many people, including Krugman had this response to Obama's message to the House Republicans:
Just about everyone has been characterizing Obama’s press conference with “My offer to you is this: nothing.” with an embedded excerpt from The Godfather, Part 2.
That press conference was mainly about the debt ceiling though. Here is the video for the historic gun control moment:


And there couldn't be a more loathsome opponent in this fight if you got them from central casting - crazy gun nuts who see ANY regulation as an assault on their rights. And as the New Yorker's Amy Davidson notes:
It takes the National Rifle Association to build a campaign for guns around resentment toward children—specifically, resentment toward two girls named Sasha and Malia. On Tuesday, a month after twenty first graders were shot dead in Newtown, Connecticut, and a day before President Obama was set to announce a set of proposals for curbing gun violence, the N.RA. released a video that opened with a cartoon image of an arm holding a lunchbox with the Presidential seal on it. “Are the President’s kids more important than yours?” it asks. Obama’s children, the narrator says, have armed guards at their school; why don’t yours?
And later on...
These measures, too, sound relatively modest. And yet Steve Stockman, a Republican Congressman from Texas, has already called them grounds for impeachment, saying “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary.” Edwin Meese, who was Reagan’s attorney general, asked by Newsmax about the potential use of executive orders, also said that if Obama “tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.” The President is presented not as a political opponent, but as a criminal. 
Only nutty extremists like the NRA and its zombies could have no shame in counting Ed Meese as part of their movement - Meese was quite possibly the worst Attorney General of all time.

But make no mistake - there will be a cadre of extremist gun-mongers who will try something extreme, violent and illegal. I only hope that the end result will be every single one of the extremist gun-monger cadre will end up in jail.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

OMG: Krugman vs. Jon Stewart

My two favorite opinionators are fighting. It's like being a child of divorce!

First Krugman suggested the idea - and to my surprise the first time he mentioned it was all the way back in July 2011:
Well, there do appear to be legal loopholes. Jack Balkin gives us the platinum coin option:
Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there’s a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time.
Ironically, there’s no similar limit on the amount of coinage. A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.
... These things sound ridiculous — but so is the behavior of Congressional Republicans. So why not fight back using legal tricks?

Wow. But he also brought it up more recently, and the meme spread. So last Thursday, Jon Stewart addressed the idea:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Trillion-Dollar Coin
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook


...Above all, however, what went wrong here is a lack of professionalism on the part of Stewart and his staff. Yes, it’s a comedy show — but the jokes are supposed to be (and usually are) knowing jokes, which are funny and powerful precisely because the Daily Show people have done their homework and understand the real issues better than the alleged leaders spouting nonsense. In this case, however, it’s obvious that nobody at TDS spent even a few minutes researching the topic. It was just yuk-yuk-yuk they’re talking about a trillion-dollar con hahaha.
Hey, if we want this kind of intellectual laziness, we can just tune in to Fox. 
Update: Some people are asking why I don’t go on TDS to explain. Um, first I have to be invited — which hasn’t happened since, I think, 2005.
But it wasn't only Krugman. New York Magazine weighed in:
He’s totally missing the point here. The platinum coin is obviously a ridiculous-sounding idea that is natural fodder for The Daily Show. There are lots of ways to do it. You could try to educate the audience about why people are advocating this ridiculous-sounding idea. Or you could do bits about how the coin is a terrible idea.
But the issue is the premise. Pretending that the plan is to mint a coin and pay off the national debt is just flat out false. The premise is the true part of the story, before the punch line. And when the premise is wrong, you’re just cheating.
Now the Daily Show segment was shown last Thursday, and over the weekend the Treasury Department nixed the idea anyway. So I thought Jon Stewart would drop it - but the first segment of the Monday Daily Show was this:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Paul Krugman & the Trillion Dollar Coin
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

So on Tuesday afternoon, Krugman struck back again:
Still lazy. Also, can dish it out, but can’t take it. Sad.
Although I love TDS and Jon Stewart, I have to side with Krugman on this.

The ironic thing is that Krugman already said he thinks it's a silly idea. But Krugman's point is that in spite of the ridiculousness it's a valid action to take because Congressional Republicans are behaving in a ridiculous manner. And what disappoints Krugman (and me) is that we have a high opinion of the Daily Show because it so often DOES go beyond the shallow yucks to find the important point through intelligent analysis. And the bit could have actually been much funnier - not to mention more educational - if TDS had gone that step further to examine why the most important economist of this generation is advocating the idea. Krugman is not just screwing around and he's certainly not being stupid. TDS missed an opportunity here.

The Daily Show needs to invite Krugman on. According to Krugman he hasn't been on the show since 2005. Do we really need some actor pushing some crappy movie on TDS when we could have KRUGMAN?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maybe the best New Yorker cartoon of all time


This cartoon by Mick Stevens is over ten years old, at least. But unfortunately it's even more relevant now than ever.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Warm Mid-January

Since the weather was rather temperate this weekend (thank you global warming) I did some hiking in and around Central Park.


I had to take a photo of this new establishment in my friend Val's neighborhood - the Fifty Shades of Pain personal trainer outlet. And as someone who has used personal trainers I can testify that fifty isn't even close to the ultimate number of shades of pain a personal trainer will give you. More like five hundred. But they wanted to be clever and reference the best-selling book.

Here is the fascinating facade of the Joan of Arc High School. This is the first school I've ever seen named of the Maid of Orleans, which seems bizarre - she's one of the most famous Catholic saints by far, depicted in art many times - albeit as a bad guy by Shakespeare - so you'd think she'd get more love from schools. I went to Saint Cecilia's grammar school and there are plenty of other schools named after Saint Cecilia - and she did not kick ass - she's just the patroness of musicians.


If you click on the photo you can see a closeup of the fancy stone work.

And finally here is the Swedish Cottage in Central Park, taken from  Shakespeare's garden. The Park sure looks different in the winter.






Sunday, January 13, 2013

Steven Pinker flaunts his shameless hypocrisy yet again

To my amazement, the New York Times published an article that was quite critical of the assumptions and (extremely flawed) studies of evolutionary psychology. I had to laugh at the part where Steven Pinker is asked for his response to the criticisms - I was just saying the other day that Pinker always claims political prejudice is the cause of the criticisms. And here it is again:
Citing the speed-dating study, Mr. Pinker added, “The only reason this flawed paper was published was that it challenged an evolutionary hypothesis ... in particular a sex difference — as the Larry Summers incident shows, claims about sex differences are still politically inflammatory in the academy.” Here, he was referring to the much criticized 2005 comments Mr. Summers made when he was Harvard’s president suggesting that women’s underrepresentation in science and engineering was attributable not to socialization but to “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”
I had to write a comment on the article - I don't know if it will be published on the NYTimes web site or not, but that's OK, it's published here:


Why does anybody bother to ask Steven Pinker his opinion of criticism of evolutionary psychology? He always says the same thing, as this article demonstrates: critics of evolutionary psychology are motivated by politics. 
And this is sheer hypocrisy - when the New Yorker published a critical review of his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" Pinker linked to Razib Khan for his defense:
"But aren’t you just being defensive? Authors always think that negative reviews of their book are wrong. Has anyone else replied to Kolbert?
Razib Khan has a response in the Gene Expression blog on the Discover magazine Web site: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/10/relative-angels-and-absolute-demons/"
http://stevenpinker.com/pages/frequently-asked-questions-about-better-angels-our-nature-why-violence-has-declined
**************
Who is Razib Khan? A conservative who contributes to a blog called "Secular Right", as noted in this NYTimes profile from 2011:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/us/19beliefs.html 
Khan is also a "junior fellow" at the Unz Foundation - Ron Unz is the publisher of The American Conservative. 
But although this information is available for anybody to find, to my knowledge no media outlet has ever called Pinker out on his shameless hypocrisy. 
UPDATE: they did publish it.

In my experience, only the New Yorker has viewed the claims of the Darwinian fundamentalists with the skepticism it deserves. My guess is that other media outlets employ writers who know little about science and have no inclination to learn more and feel that this prevents them from having anything meaningful to say on the subject of evolutionary psychology. But as the New Yorker has demonstrated on several occasions, you don't need to be a scientist to critique the claims of evolutionary psychologists - especially Pinker. All you need is the rudiments of logic, as Louis Menand demonstrated in his classic Pinker evisceration What Comes Naturally:

Having it both ways is an irritating feature of "The Blank Slate." Pinker can write, in refutation of the scarecrow theory of violent behavior, "The sad fact is that despite the repeated assurances that 'we know the conditions that breed violence,' we barely have a clue," and then, a few pages later, "It is not surprising, then, that when African American teenagers are taken out of underclass neighborhoods they are no more violent or delinquent than white teenagers." Well, that should give us one clue. 
Steven Pinker is not a profound thinker - he isn't even a coherent thinker. And he's a Darwinian fundamentalist who is literally incapable of imagining that criticisms of the claims and methods of evolutionary psychology could be motivated by anything other than political considerations.

And the reason for that is likely because he himself is motivated by political considerations and so assumes the other side operates in the same way.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stephen Colbert's perfect description of Wayne LaPierre

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The end of this clip contains the most perfect description of NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre that has ever been uttered.

And bonus - it really pissed off the Breitbart ghouls.


False alarm

Looks like I'm staying on Facebook. The objectionable "recommended" page disappeared. Maybe because I threw a fit on Facebook - or maybe it's a coincidence. It was nice to have various FB friends tell me they didn't want me to go, anyway.

But I will not put up with any shit from you Zuckerberg! Don't test me again!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Facebook finally drove me to Google Plus

I saw this incredibly offensive "suggested page" on my Facebook timeline tonight, and of course immediately began searching for the delete or spam button.

THERE WAS NONE.

Facebook now feels that it can post offensive "suggested pages" on your timeline with impunity.

Well no.

It's not really a surprise though. First there was Friendster, but their network was too slow. Then MySpace had a faster network, but their interface was bad. Then Facebook, but they became too greedy and controlling. I'm sure Google Plus will screw up in a few years too. By then we'll all probably be communicating directly through chips in our brains.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Razib Khan and his continuing successful quest for respectability

UPDATE: my response to the Jamelle Bouie twitter link: The Triumph of Racist Razib Khan 

All my thoughts on Razib Khan here.

Every now and then I get a visitor to this blog via a search for Razib Khan. For those out of the loop, Khan used to run a web site called "Gene Expression" that is now sponsored by - and given a level of respectability by - Discover Magazine. I've been writing about Khan since the earliest days of this blog.

Of course Razib Khan is also granted respectability by Steven Pinker.

But there is no evidence that Khan has dropped the obsession that drove him ten years ago - the search to prove that blacks and women - but especially blacks - are intellectually inferior.

He's not so blatant about it now as he was in 2003 though. To understand the true Razib Khan, check out this comment he made on Gene Expression ten years ago:
And a book published recently claims to show that American blacks who come from families that have a certain amount of wealth do have the same IQs as whites who come from families with that same amount of wealth
this is chicken or egg now....
what you mean is *asset* levels. income on the other hand is less important, "middle class" blacks do far less well academically than "middle class" (or even working class) whites. this can be chalked up to culture of course. and that is where adoption studies come in, and i tend to think they tilt toward a genetic explanation-though we haven't eliminated all possible variables that could give a cultural explanation.
but as i've noted, the ~ 1 STD deviation difference between blacks & whites persists for a century-despite the fact that blacks are wealthier & healthier (though not AS healthy or wealthy) in relation to whites than they were one century ago.
certainly environmental effects are important, but me thinks we attempt to eliminate the VERY POSSIBILITY of inherent differences of IQ between individuals, and average mean differences between populations, for political, not scientific, reasons.
one reason that black adoptees might do more poorly on IQ tests than white adoptees is that society is racist-and yet, scarr et al. found that genetic markers for "blackness" did not correlate well to intelligence, and Dienekes has posted data which indicates a weak correlation between light-skin & IQ in blacks. what would this imply? scarr tries to argue that this implies race != have a relationship to average IQ, though jensen counters that generations of recombination surely have lead to a decoupling within the black population of more eurpoid phenotype from the alleles that contribute to higher IQ. if, as some, including flynn, have argued, that racism even among adoptees from the parents is what causes the lower average IQ of black children, then the "whiter" looking ones should be subject to less racism and therefore have higher IQs. scarr i believe found that biracial children had IQs intermediate between white and black children, which dovetails well with both the thesis that IQ is genetic, or that social discrimination determintes a child's self-perception and therefore eventual IQ. from jensen's perspective, he would argue that progressive recombination over many generations have not resulted in the linkage equilibrium between multiple genes (assuming random mating, etc.), and so that is why biracial children still exhibit higher IQs than black children....
economic deprivation does not lead to cocomittant low academic performance (to the same degree) among some non-black groups (asians of course i mean here), so the cultural explanation is the catch-all. so you look at kids that are adopted and therefore of "white culture," but if that data doesn't fit, you assert their phenotype sets them off from the population. from the various interpretations you then weight toward the one that argues for environment more than genetics.
from what i see, most people have a conclusion they want to reach, and they will keep positing "plausible" hypothesis after plausible hypothesis until they find something they can hold onto.
Posted by: razib at July 25, 2003 09:14 PM
I bolded the last bit. In a display of his standard lack of self-awareness, Khan suggests that it's others who have a conclusion they want to reach (in this case that there is no evidence for black intellectual inferiority), while he, Razib Khan is pure and unaffected by politics.

Maybe the most telling evidence for where, exactly, Razib Khan is coming from is further down the page:
the numbers cited in AMREN i have seen elsewhere in print (from lynn and a few others). the "asian" population in england has a lot of components. the gujaratis from east africa tend to be well-off and well educated. the sikhs less so, but still OK. the bottom of the heap are bangladeshis and to a lesser extent pakistanis. these last two groups tend to come to work in blue-collar sectors. there is probably some lag in that the lower SES groups are less assimilated/newer to british culture (east africa gujaratis might have showed up in the 1970s, but they tend to come from world-wide cosmopolitan families with a strong command of english and western folk-ways)-but the type of person who comes to work in a mill is going to be a bit different that the Ph.D. sort, at the least, the dumber brothers will go work in the mill, the bright one come to the US.
btw...according to CITY JOURNAL 25% of students in med school in england are south asian-about the same population:med student ratio as the US....
Posted by: razib at July 27, 2003 12:46 AM
The AMREN source Khan is using to bolster his argument is American Renaissance, a proudly racist site. And although Razib Khan doesn't show his love for American Renaissance any more, going so far in 2006 as to refer to them as "the most highbrow of racialist publications" American Renaissance still loves Razib Khan and links to his Discover-branded Gene Expression all the time. He's their hero, of course, because Khan has achieved the kind of respectability in this century that other racists can only dream of.

Khan and Steven Pinker both believe there is a liberal conspiracy to suppress the truth of evolutionary psychology and its message of black/female intellectual inferiority. In a correspondence with me some years ago Pinker claimed that Stephen Jay Gould's opinions on socio-biology (different name but exactly the same as evolutionary psychology) should be discounted because Gould had left-wing political views.

We see Khan doing the same thing recently in reference to Richard Lewontin:
Richard Lewontin’s fame rests in part on his pioneering role in the development of the field of molecular evolution, and secondarily due to his trenchant Left-wing politics.
Actually, as you can see in the Wikipedia entry on Lewontin, his fame does not rest, even secondarily, on his left-wing politics. But for Razib Khan as much as Steven Pinker, the very fact that you have objections to the conclusions of biological determinism proves that you are driven by left-wing politics. Because it is literally unthinkable for them that there might be solid scientific objections to biological determinism. 


Or perhaps they really do see themselves are political players, and understand that the best defense is a good offense - to claim the other side is tainted by political considerations is a good tactic to obscure your own blatant political views.

Razib Khan sees no hypocrisy in complaining about the alleged political leanings of socio-biology critics while contributing to a web site called "Secular Right" - one of its other contributors is John "too racist for National Review" Derbyshire.

And I find it extremely offensive that Khan writes for the site under the name "David Hume." I strongly suspect David Hume would have found Razib Khan contemptible.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Thus spake Krugman

Rage Against the Coin

Krugman proposes his solution:
...clause allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination it chooses. Of course this was intended as a way to issue commemorative coins and stuff, not as a fiscal measure; but at least as I understand it, the letter of the law would allow Treasury to stamp out a platinum coin, say it’s worth a trillion dollars, and deposit it at the Fed — thereby avoiding the need to issue debt.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Your odd predilections


I find this Miracle Whip commercial vastly amusing, especially when the village woman says "nor your odd predilections" - I always have to LOL whenever I hear it.

I keep hoping the expression "your odd predilections" will catch on, so towards that end, I have someone in my BEN FRANKLIN play use the phrase. I'm hopeful putting it in a play will help, but maybe I'm overly-optimistic - the word "senamensing" hasn't caught on yet, in spite of my efforts to popularize it by putting it into my sonnets. Although hopefully more people will see the play than saw my sonnets.

Senamensing isn't my own invention - it's a Lenni-Lenape word that means "sweet water" and it was mangled into "Cinnaminson" which is the name of a township just north of where I grew up in South Jersey.

I repurposed the word into a metaphor for romantic love (which I contrasted with the saltiness of sexual desire in this sonnet), whereas I think the Lenni-Lenape were talking about actual potable water.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The continuing doll housie saga

In spite of my dissatisfaction with aspects of the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series, I find myself on the fifth installment. A few times I almost gave up completely on the series.

One thing that's so annoying is that the author holds back from descriptions of sexual acts - it's almost Victorian. Isabel Dalhousie does go on and on about how beautiful her 20-something boyfriend Jamie is, which is great, but the first time they got together, in book 3, she just asks him: "do you want to sleep with me." And then they are shown in the afterglow phase. I don't expect clinical details and even the best writers have written bad sex scenes, but come on, Smith, give us something.

And then there's the fact that Jamie has aged from 23 in book 1 to 29 in book 5, but Dalhousie has remained in her early 40s. Does Smith think nobody would notice, or did he not pay enough attention himself? The guy is hella prolific, I wouldn't be surprised if he misses a bunch of details.

And Dalhousie herself seems like such an old prissy lady - and it's not only because the woman doing the voice work for the audio books sounds like she's pushing 70. Granted the experience being in your early 40s in Edinburgh might be different from being in your early 40s in Manhattan, but still...

But every now and then there will be a moment of awesome in the series that keeps me coming back. That happened in the fourth book - Dalhousie has been throughout the series the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, but in the middle of book 4 she finds out that she's been sacked - a coup by a couple of academics named Lettuce and Dove, with Dove taking over her editorship. After some soul-searching she decides against philosophical resignation and instead takes action - she's filthy rich, so she simply buys the Review of Applied Ethics and sacks Lettuce and Dove. You go, Dalhousie.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

This is sincere romantic sonnetry?

Well no.

But not even Shakespeare's sonnets were all about how much his beloved is like a summer's day. The "dark lady" got some pretty hard bashings - you can't get much harsher than calling your former beloved "as black as hell, as dark as night."

And I will never believe that the "fair youth" and the "dark lady" of the sonnets did not exist, as some critics believe. Only people who don't write poetry could imagine you can just crank out sonnets purely for the sake of pretty phraseology or even money. To write a sonnet you have to feel it. Sure you have to work on it, but the origin of a sonnet is a feeling, a very personal feeling that you must bring to full expression. And sometimes even men from online dating sites can inspire one.

Friday, January 04, 2013

This is sincere romantic love?

Once again I am asking myself: "what was I thinking?" I went ahead and posted another call for an NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month. I've already received 32 submissions and as usual a good chunk of the submissions don't meet the stated criterion, which reads: 
The theme is "Two Hander in Love." It can be a comedy or a drama, but should not have a bitter, cynical, take-my-wife-please approach. This is about sincere romantic love. The romantic love can be hetero-normative or LGBT, but the script should call for no more than two characters on stage - it should be a two-hander.
I think it's pretty clear that "sincere romantic love" is what is wanted. By what twisted definition do any of these count?
  • A young couple who have been together two weeks gets into a fight about pigeons nesting outside their window. They insult each other. The guy climbs onto the ledge and falls off. I think this is supposed to be humorous. Since the script does not specify how high up they are, you don't know if he's dead or just comically maimed. 
  • A play that sounds more like a Penthouse Forum (does that still exist?) letter than anything else. A beautiful young woman meets a "nice-guy Wall Street trader" - clearly this playwright doesn't actually know any Wall Street traders - and asks him to impregnate her while her husband is away on duty in Afghanistan. Also because "she's horny." Oh and in spite of this guy being "nice" he's also married but has no problem agreeing within ten minutes to go off and impregnate a random stranger. 
  • A 50 year old couple, married for 27 years, and the wife hasn't made breakfast for the husband that week, although every single other day of their marriage she has. And she also does all the laundry and fetches his newspaper. And this play is set in "the present." What the hell is a "newspaper"? So at the end we find out that he forgot her birthday. This cliched cardboard scenario is what this playwright sent to a call for "sincere romantic plays."
And as if these all weren't enough, once again the author of the play about a woman sitting on a toilet during the entire play sent me that play again. I blogged about it the first time I saw this script, almost two years ago.

It's plays like these that really make me hate people. I'm extremely tempted to write back and tell them exactly what I think of their plays - or even just send them one line: "this is what you consider a sincere romantic play?" but then that would give them a chance to send something else - the deadline isn't until January 27. And they don't deserve another chance.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Miss Willow



No time for blogging lately - so here's a picture of one of my cats. Miss Willow has such nice shiny black fur. I finally found a veteranarian who got that Willow and Spike (aka Mr. Fuzz) are named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yay.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013