Thursday, February 28, 2013

On actor professionalism

One thing that always amazes me is actors who can't be bothered to respond to emails enquiring if they are available for a role. It's truly mind-boggling that they lack the professionalism to even make up an excuse for why they can't do something. They just don't bother answering, period.

The funny thing is, this rudeness has nothing to do with the actor's own level of success - I've had nobodies with teeny tiny resumes blow off my emails. And Nick Fondulis, who is very successful (and has performed in two of my shows), never fails to answer emails. That's how a professional behaves.

Here's his reel.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Her life as Lady Gaga


My friend Renee has a full-time gig as a Lady Gaga impersonator. 
She writes about it on her new blog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This should be a gesture for Seth MacFarlane

I don't know much about Jennifer Lawrence but I love her attitude in this photo - she's aiming this gesture at paparazzi.

I never watch awards show - pretty much all arts awards are bullshit and the fact that "Lincoln" lost to "Argo" is once again evidence of this. I liked "Argo" but ain't no way it is better than  "Lincoln."

And as far as Seth MacFarlane - well I knew he was a huge asshole so his performance was no surprise - if it lives up to the complaints - I didn't watch it. I thought Amy Davidson in the New Yorker had some interesting things to say about the whole deal:
“We Saw Your Boobs” was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. What made it worse was that most of the movies mentioned, if not all (“Gia”), were pretty great—“Silkwood,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Monster,” “The Accused,” “Iris”—and not exactly teen-exploitation pictures. The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job. Or did they just think they were doing serious work? You girls think you’re making art, the Academy, through MacFarlane, seemed to say, but all we—and the “we” was resolutely male—really see is that we got you to undress. The joke’s on you. At a moment when Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer, talks about how women have to “lean in” in the workplace, Seth MacFarlane pops up from behind to say, “So we can see your boobs.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

NYCPlaywrights - Harlem Shake


Yes I made the actors in the NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month do the Harlem Shake.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

JULIA & BUDDY art

I've begun production work for JULIA & BUDDY 2013, although at this point the show is targeted for December - so if something goes wrong it will be pushed back to 2014. Which is OK, because this time around I am paying for my show up front instead of putting a bunch of stuff on credit cards, one of the reasons I came to financial grief during JANE EYRE.

Here is the poster/postcard art. I might tweak it further but it's pretty solid at this point. I especially like how hunky "Buddy" is - I only hope I can get somebody with such a great build who is also a good actor. We shall see.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I saw COUGAR THE MUSICAL

I would never have seen COUGAR THE MUSICAL on my own, but my friend Starra from LA was in town and that's what she wanted to see, so I thought why not. 

I was pleasantly surprised because I thought it would be totally cheezy, but it was only maybe 8% cheezy - which isn't bad at all because musical theater has a standard baseline cheeziness of 5%, just by the nature of the genre.

I knew I wasn't going to hate it right from the beginning because one of the characters quotes something that I've said many times: the term for a man who chases younger women is "a man."

However, just because I didn't think it was excessively cheezy doesn't mean I thought it was great - my rating is "pretty good." 

Most of the actors were great - but unfortunately they had someone filling in for Brenda Braxton in the role of Clarity, and watching the video on the Cougar web site of Braxton doing "I'm My Own Queen" makes it clear how much more right Braxton is for the role than the understudy. But in general the singing was quite good, and even the understudy hit some impressive high notes during the song "Julio." 

But the songs themselves were just OK. I thought the lyrics were often unnecessarily  complicated and the tunes were not catchy. "Julio" worked best, I thought, because the music had a Latin-lite rhythm going for it, but in general the songs had that washy generic Broadway tune feeling. I don't remember how any of them go. In contrast to a successful musical theater song like "Popular" from WICKED - after I saw that show I could immediately tell you how it went, and I wanted to hear it again and again. Same with "I Don Quixote" from MAN OF LA MANCHA. You can hear Brian Stokes Mitchell singing that here. Although that song also has the advantage of a Latin rhythm - probably the catchiest of all rhythms. You pretty much can't go wrong with a song with a Latin rhythm.

But the actor/singers really sold them, for the most part. And Julio must be really great when Braxton sings it.

The various scenes usually worked pretty well in themselves, but they didn't work as well as a collection of scenes in order to tell a story. Also I could pretty much guess aspects of the plot.


*******************
SPOILER ALERT

I figured out right from the start that the Mary-Marie character was going to end up with the guy who keeps calling her, who is the same age as her. And I also figured that Mary-Marie and Lily would end up feeling betrayed by Clarity's studying them for her Master's thesis on the cougar phenomenon. Although I might have gotten that idea from the musical I saw last summer, MOTHER EVE'S SECRET GARDEN OF SENSUAL SISTERHOOD, which had a similar plot point - although in neither case did I think that it was executed just right.

I actually enjoyed Mother Eve more than Cougar - the songs were more catchy (although I can't remember any of them now, months later) and less generic-Broadway musical-y. And Cougar is an Off-Broadway show, Mother Eve was a lowly Fringe Festival production. In both musicals I thought there were too many songs and the show would be improved by cutting the weaker ones. Or songs that really shouldn't be in there in the first place. The song about motherhood in Cougar was an OK song, but I didn't think that it had a place in the show. Especially coming right after the scene where Mary-Marie ends up meeting up with a younger man who, to her horror, turns out to be her son.

One aspect of the plot I did not guess was that Lily breaks up with her younger guy at the end so he can go off to get a law degree and, it is implied, so that he can find a more age-appropriate woman. I found this basically a betrayal of the message of the rest of the show which is that women should go for it, and not care about tradition etc. etc. And the scenario was handled badly - although it's hard to think of a way for it to be handled well considering it's a betrayal of the rest of the show. But what happens is, Lily blurts out to the other two women that she loves the guy, she runs off to tell him,  they meet up, he tells her he's going to law school and wants her to come with him. She tells him no. He makes facial expression that shows he's not happy about it - but it is never really addressed in the song they are singing about love being ageless. And of course his going off to end up with a younger woman (as revealed in the show's epilogue) does not sell the concept of love being ageless. It ended the whole show on a sour note, I thought.

I mean, would a 40-something man think twice about continuing a relationship with a 20-something woman, and instead insist that she find someone closer to her own age? OF COURSE NOT. So what this tells me is that the show's creator Donna Moore still has some hard-core traditionalist attitudes that she needs to examine.

But Moore isn't exactly an incisive sociological thinker. Here's her explanation for the "cougar" phenomenon:

When I first heard the term “Cougar’ eight years ago, I was doing stand up comedy and writing ‘The UnBalancing Act”, a show about my divorce- and I thought, “How come we have to place a derogatory name on an older woman? I mean, what do you call an older MAN who’s linked with a younger woman? I’ve researched it…It’s called MAN!” 
It got me thinking that maybe our society’s fixation on the ‘sexual older woman’ was a misplaced yearning to go back to a more matriarchal system after a millennia of patriarchal dictation. I mean, in older times, the MATRIARCH was revered by her family, her tribe, her community as a wise, healing servant of strength. Perhaps in the year 2000 plus, we need to embrace the sacred feminine in all of us so that we can heal ourselves, our loved ones and the planet.
No, a society doesn't just suddenly have a yearning to go back to a matriarchal system. And as anthropologist Marvin Harris has pointed out, in no matriarchal society did women actually rule over men. Women may be more revered in a matriarchy, and wealth may be passed down through the maternal line, but women in matriarchies still only offer advice, at best, to the people who are really ruling the society - which is always men.

No, the Cougar phenomenon has nothing to do with some new-agey yearning for matriarchy - it's all about economics.

And I thought that Moore understood this based on the plot of the show. She doesn't come out and say it's about the money, but two of the characters are wealthy self-made women and Lily was married to a high-earning business man and presumably was traditional enough to get an alimony deal. So these women can afford to pursue attractive men for the sheer pleasure of it, instead of attempting to marry for money, which is the standard role for women in a patriarchy. But apparently Moore doesn't consciously get the connection between women controlling/earning their own money and women having the luxury of pursuing younger men.

It should be clear that economics is the deciding factor - at no time in the history of human civilization have women been in a position to earn and keep their own money to the degree that we can, right now, in the West. Could it really be just a coincidence that right after this unprecedented economic change has taken place, an unprecedented change in female mate-selection has taken place?

At least Cougar doesn't celebrate a woman being stalked and bullied into submission (which she secretly really wants) like TALLEY'S FOLLY.

Maybe the best part of Cougar was Danny Bernardy, who plays all the male characters as well as the mani-pedi shop lady. He's cute as hell and has lots of charisma. And with all his quick changes and various accents I couldn't help thinking he'd be perfect in my JULIA & BUDDY. I don't know if I could afford him, or if he'd consider a step back into off-off Broadway, but it can't hurt to ask.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The best Amazon product reviews ever

And so many of them!

No more winning for you, Mr. Banana!
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. "Use a knife!" they say. Well...my parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. "Shoot it with a gun!" Background check...HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I'll call it South Side Story.

Banana slicer...thanks to you, I see greatness on the horizon.


Saved my marriage
What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.... this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day's banana slices. It's one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old "I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?" and of course, "You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!" These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That's when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we've even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!


A military endorsement
I have served in the US Army for over 12 years. I can say that there is technology being used by the military that is rarely seen in the civilian sector. Once in a while, however, an amazing product is released by the DoD for civilian use. The 571B is one of those products. Although once called the M571B Tactical Banana Slicer (TBS)V1, they have declassified it for public use. I am glad to see this product on the market today but I will warn you now, this is a CIVILIAN model and not designed for field use!

Just okay
I would rate this product as just okay. It's kind of cheaply made. But it works better than the hammer I've been using to slice my bananas.

Kirk Cameron's banana slicer
If God does not exist, then how is it that a banana fits so perfectly in this banana slicer? CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS!

No instructions. So disappointed!Was so excited to get my banana slicer in the mail, only to discover that the instructions were in Japanese. How was I supposed to cut my bananas without step by step directions?!?!? Are these people stupid? By the time I was sent the English version in the mail, all my bananas had turned brown and I was forced to throw them out. What a waste.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Roundabout produces the pro-stalker play TALLEY'S FOLLY



In this lovey-dovey promo, they naturally don't mention the extreme-stalker theme of this play.

But the absolute WORST aspect of this is at the end when they say "TALLEY'S FOLLY is about you."

What's that you say? A play in which a man stalks a woman FOR A YEAR, insults her family and her community and then physically restrains her so that she has to stay in a boathouse while he makes his elevator pitch is about me?

No.

More on why I hate TALLEY'S FOLLY.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Michael Moore, Crackers and me

Years before there was the Daily Show there was Michael Moore's TV Nation. I just realized that the show is available online so I get to post the episode I appeared in (briefly) during the segment with Crackers the Corporate Crime-fighting Chicken.

Crackers came to Philadelphia one Saturday morning in 1996 and my boyfriend John and I were there in the crowd. Here's John and I on the left at minute 1:58 - we're both wearing sunglasses and I have a wide-brimmed hat and I'm raising my fist.


I'm kind of nostalgic watching this. This is the only video where John and I appear together, except for a certain video we made which John kept and which I hope to god never shows up on the Internet.

Our friend Bob, aka The Reverend Bookburn, also wearing shades, was there that day too (minute 2:43) - he's the one in the middle:



Here is the entire segment:




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yellow Submarine on Sesame Street



 Hah! I thought I remembered seeing a version of "Yellow Submarine" on Sesame Street. Thank you Youtube.

This is absolutely perfect of course, because McCartney wrote it (with some lyrics assistance from Lennon and Donovan) as a children's song.

This was my introduction to the Beatles - until I was in seventh grade I was vaguely aware of the Beatles as the band that did Yellow Submarine. And then I heard "Live and Let Die" and found out that it was performed by Paul McCartney and Wings, and they had a new album coming out, Band on the Run. And then I finally made the connection between Wings and the Beatles and got myself a copy of Sgt. Peppers, and the rest is history.

The early 1970s was the nadir of the Beatles' reputation, it should be noted. They had only recently broken up and were considered old news, basically, although Elton John was kind enough to remember them with his (far inferior) version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And Anne Murray  did a version of "You Won't See Me" - the first rendition I heard of the song. Rosemary Watson, my classmate in seventh grade loooved Elton John and Rita Sutter, Lynn Kosek and I tried to tell her that Elton John was gay, but she wouldn't listen.

Of course they were rightfully restored to the Rock n Roll pantheon by the 1980s, but I do remember the period of time when the Beatles were considered has-beens.

Monday, February 18, 2013

America's Presidents Got Talent

Happy Presidents Day.


Obama it turns out, has a great voice:


George W. Bush dances and plays the drum.


Bill Clinton on the sax - the Big Dawg plays Heartbreak Hotel.


And who could forget the immortal Jimmy Carter rendition of "Salt Peanuts"? He doesn't get to it until minute 2:05 in this audio-only recording.


He's a wonderful man, but he has no ear for rhythm at all.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Skinny Santa Claus wants to dominate me

This has been a banner week on the old online dating site. Two right-wing religious men emailed me, and a guy in Texas with a mustache (guys with only mustaches always make me think of gay cops thanks to the Village People) wanted to message with me. His answer to one of the dating site's standard questions: "which is worse, starving children or abused animals" was "neither - both are good." Even if this is a joke, this person should not be trying to associate with any life forms, let alone trying to get a date.

And to top it all off, this "intense sensual" 65-year-old offered to dominate me.

Why do I even bother any more?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Compulsive Love and Schrodinger's Rapist

Watching male fantasies like "Compulsive Love" makes me feel like I'm watching science fiction - male fantasy land is a planet that does not abide by the same conventions of human behavior as those on planet Earth.

Case in point is the end of the trailer for Compulsive Love in which a woman on a bicycle is chased down by the protagonist whom I shall call Ratface. And her response, on discovering that Ratface is trying to chase her down is NOT to start pedaling faster to escape, rather her response is to STOP and wait for Ratface to catch up so he can give her his oafish elevator pitch:
            Ratface 
This is crazy, what I just did... you... hey I'm Aaron. 
Yeah, that always happens on this planet. It's stuff like this that makes you wonder if the assholes who harass women on the street actually do think they're going to get lucky. Current theories hold that when men accost women on the street, they couldn't possibly be so stupid as to believe that such behavior will result in their getting laid, so it must be a display of male dominance and aggression.

But maybe scenarios like this are evidence that a certain subset of men actually do think that behaving like an aggressive asshole is a surefire way to pick up chicks. In any case the set up in this trailer is ridiculous, but if you've already set up a planet where unattractive men get sex with lots of women, the sky's the limit.

It's possible that the straight white men responsible for this bullshit are completely unaware of the fact that all women live in the fear of Schrödinger’s Rapist.

In this superlative blog post, someone with the nom de Internet of Sweet Machine explains. This should be required reading for all men on this planet.
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.
So a man running after you like a dog in heat in order to try to pick you up - yeah that's sure to charm any woman.

But on Male Fantasy Planet sexual assault - and the fear of sexual assault - don't exist, and in fact this aggressive asshole is portrayed as a victim of women. The series tag line is "PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY LOVE AND THE WOMEN WEARING THE BRASS KNUCKLES."

On Male Fantasy planet men are the victims of women, no matter how stupid or idiotic the man behaves. And on this planet the word "love" means "sexual attraction based purely on physical attributes."

Well it must be tough to be a straight white man on Planet Earth - no wonder they have to resort to these fantasy scenarios - gets them away from the harsh realities of real life.

Straight white male fantasy web series "Compulsive Love"

Lots and lots and lots of women  feel compelled to have sex with this guy
- in male fantasy land. I feel compelled to offer him a piece of Cheddar.

I didn't have to be told that the people responsible for "Compulsive Love" were a bunch of straight white men. The casting of the series made that crystal clear.

 However, I was also empirically correct.

Only in straight white man fantasy land does a scrawny, wimpy rat-faced man with a high-pitched voice have lots of sexual adventures with lots of women, without having to pay them.

I ended up watching the trailer because I have 62 mutual Facebook friends with one of the people responsible for this. I couldn't actually watch  an episode because they're all locked (behind a pay wall, I assume) but I'm guessing I would be as appalled by an episode as I am by the trailer purely based on the casting alone. The trailer shows rat face in sexual situations with more than one woman, which is unbelievable - hell I can't imagine even one woman wanting him - which automatically lets me know that this web series is most emphatically not aimed at straight women. And presumably they are not prostitutes since he spouts something about love at the beginning of the trailer. If they were prostitutes and he just kept falling in love with prostitutes - that I could believe.

This is why gay male and straight female playwrights should be wary of working with any project dominated by straight men, especially as directors. They are completely resistant to casting the male object of desire using an actor who is actually hot.

I worked with two straight white male directors and can testify to this. Oliver Butler directed a play of mine ten years ago, and although I was impressed by much of his work as a director, I was very disappointed by his casting choice for the male lead in my play. The character was supposed to be a very hot guy and instead Butler cast a very average-looking guy. Because as far as straight men are concerned, any male actor, as long as he isn't actually physically deformed, is good enough to play a hot guy.

And then there was the dread Edward Einhorn who, in addition to being a litigious and ego-inflated asshole, also tried to cast a seriously effeminate man as the title character in my TAM LIN. And I don't just mean the actor was effeminate in real life - that would have been OK - I mean he was incapable of acting non-effeminate in the role. A role in which he was the object of desire for a mortal woman and the Queen of the Faeries in mediaeval Scotland.

Einhorn seemed actually surprised when I vetoed his casting choice. Although maybe that was due to Einhorn's utter contempt for the creative rights of playwrights as much as anything else.

More evidence: I read somewhere that the Mad Men series creator Matthew Weiner was reluctant to cast Jon Hamm in the lead because - get this - he was too attractive.

Being "too attractive" is of course never an issue when casting female actors. At least not for the straight white men who still completely dominate the media.

Obviously the straight white men responsible for "Compulsive Love" had the same initial impulse as Weiner when it came to casting their lead, but unlike Weiner, were unable to get over themselves. Because if they put a hot man in the lead, it would have ceased to be the fantasy world they prefer; women might have wanted to watch the series, and that would have given it girl cooties and made it less kewl; and it would remind the series creators of the uncomfortable fact that in real life women prefer to have sex with hot men.

Compulsive Love is being promoted as a "romantic comedy" and as I noted a couple of days ago, the genre was destroyed when it became dominated by people who don't actually like women.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's the misogyny, stupid

Writers at Vulture dot come just cannot for the life of them figure out what killed the romantic comedy. Amanda Dobbins is mystified. What happened, when "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" was so good?

Well I haven't seen that movie, so I don't know if it's so good - it looked cheesy to me, like so many Hollywood romantic comedies, so I couldn't be bothered.

Really the genre has gone downhill since His Girl Friday, from 1940. And the female lead in that movie was originally written for a man - that should give you a hint why it was a successful romantic comedy - the woman wasn't a complete loser. 

One of the commenters on the Dobbins story actually suggested that "Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" were "successful romantic comedies." That should be a big clue as to why there's a problem with the genre - because that kind of "romantic comedy" celebrates misogyny, and pairs ugly, slobby man-babies with hot but uptight women. If "How to Lose a Guy" seems good in comparison to the "romantic comedies" of Apatow and the like, maybe it's because at least Matthew McConaughey is an attractive man.

Why is the romantic comedy dying?  Because it's a genre run by people who hate its target audience. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NYCPlaywrights online

I've been getting a lot of inquiries lately about people wanting to "join" NYCPlaywrights and attend meetings. Probably thanks to the February Play of the Month and my posting photos from the reading review of the semi-finalists last week.

I'm tempted to start up the meetings again, it's nice to see such enthusiasm... but then I remember the bad old days, and I don't mean just when the founders of Playsmiths, who were members of NYCPlaywrights, decided to start their own playwrights group by attacking me on Facebook (for reasons that have never been clear to me other than that I didn't agree with them on the quality of some plays) and then absconding with the NYCPlaywrights mailing list.

No, it isn't really that because that kind of thing only happened once in the 11-year history of the NYCPlaywrights membership/meeting period, and it certainly didn't hurt NYCPlaywrights membership - if anything the membership started growing even faster after that.

The real problem as I've blogged about here previously is the old man issue. Retired men were on track to becoming the majority of NYCPlaywrights members, and it was awful. It wasn't only that they wrote plays I hated - all genders and age groups write plays I hate - it was that their plays were hate-able for the very specific reason that  their attitudes about race and gender had stopped evolving by about the early 1970s.

There was one old guy who wrote a play with the favorite old-guy theme of an old guy getting involved with a much-younger woman. That was annoying enough, but then there was a never-ending scene where the old guy lead character explains how he made a bundle in numismatics. To this day a former member of NYCPlaywrights has only to say the word "numismatics" to get us both laughing.

And every single time we did a reading of that numismatics scene, he always got feedback where people told him that they were bored senseless. And he would go home, change one or two sentences, make us sit through the scene yet again, and then wonder why he got the same feedback.

And then there was the old guy who wrote a play with a character who was basically a Stepin Fetchit. He was mystified by the negative response he received for that character.

But it isn't only old guys. What old guys had in common with almost everybody else who was a member of NYCPlaywrights was that they didn't do readings to improve their plays - they did readings so that everybody would tell them how great their plays were. And some of them were truly shocked when they got feedback that wasn't 100% positive - because all the play readings they'd ever done before had received 100% positive feedback - from audiences that consisted entirely of their friends and family.

I used to talk myself blue, suggesting that when member playwrights had readings, they sit in the back and observe the audience. This is the best form of honest feedback - Jeff Sweet wrote a very good article about it. But invariably they sat in the first row, slack-jawed, staring at the actors during the reading, and then asked for verbal feedback afterwards.

I finally realized what a huge waste of time and money it was for me to rent space on a weekly basis for people who couldn't write a decent grocery list. People would actually suggest to me that I "get better writers" to join the group. Well people always have advice for situations they don't know the first thing about - there are very few good writers anywhere, and then NYCPlaywrights was charging a fee, which was expensive for younger people struggling to pay rent in Manhattan, but very cheap for retired old men from the suburbs of Long Island and North Jersey, looking for a hobby and a chance to imagine that the young female actors who showed up to read might be impressed by their old-man plays and offer to become their mistresses.

No, I don't think I'll put up with that again. NYCPlaywrights can stay as an online phenomenon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Black History in a nutshell

The Library of Congress is calling it African American History Month instead of Black History Month which is probably more appropriate - I don't think that the focus is on the history of all peoples of African heritage - which really means all humanity if you want to get technical and subscribe to the "out of Africa" theory like most scientists do.

There are lots of other good resources for this history month, such as the Smithsonian's and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History - the founders of Black History Month (so if they call it "Black History Month"...) so I won't go into the timeline or the Civil Rights movement or all the Black leaders and artists and inventors etc. Instead, I will say this - the more I read about the history of Black people in America from many different sources, the more I realize:
Black people built America; and then gave it a beautiful and vibrant culture, including inventing jazz, blues, rock and roll and hip-hop - in other words the entire world's favorite music; and then gave us one of the best presidents of all time, and all of this while being treated like absolute shit - up to and including 300 years of being classified as property. There is no achievement to match this in the history of the world. America owes a debt to Black people that it will never be able to repay.
That's what we should be thinking about for Black History Month.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music theory notes

My music theory course is over, and before I begin the next level it's time to review some of the more interesting things that I learned in the first course:

Major vs. minor

The real deciding difference between any major and minor key (like C Major vs. C minor) is the third degree, also known as the mediant, also known as the third note of the standard chord triad. For instance, the C Major scale triad is C - E - G, but the C minor triad is C - Eb - G. Wikipedia has a helpful graphic to demonstrate the differences:
C MAJOR
c minor

Three minor flavors

While there is only one major scale there are three possible minor scales:
The natural minor scale looks like this:

i - iiº - III - iv - v - VI - VII

But apparently the natural minor produces a not entirely pleasing sound and so there are two variations:

Harmonic minor - the third is augmented and the seventh is minor and diminished.

i - iiº - III+ - iv - v - VI - viiº

Melodic minor - (compared to natural minor) the second is no longer diminished, the third is augmented, the fourth has gone from minor to major, the sixth has gone from major to minor diminished and the seventh is minor diminished.

i - ii - III+ - IV - v - viº - viiº

Equal temperament vs. just intonation

This was a real revelation, that thanks to the piano, just intonation could no longer be used to tune instruments, at least when the instruments were being played with piano accompaniment. However, apparently when string quartets are tuning without a piano, they are more likely to go with just intonation. Wikipedia has an entry.

Diatonic vs. Chromatic

The reason for all this business with diminished and augmented intervals is due to the fact that Western music references two completely different systems - the old school 7-note diatonic system (think of it as only the white keys of a piano octave) and the new school 12-note chromatic system (the white keys and the black keys of a piano octave.) It took quite a bit of time for me to get it, but eventually I did.

C Clef


Turns out there is another clef besides G and F - I've always been too piano-centric in my music to realize this.




Sunday, February 10, 2013

On Gigi

Gigi's great-aunt gives her ho lessons - this one is
on distinguishing good from crappy gem stones -
you get gems from rich guys in exchange for sex.
The big snow storm gave me a little extra free time, and I decided to check out the Academy Award-winning (1958) movie Gigi. Naturally I was reluctant to see it, since it features mega-creeper Maurice Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" which opens up the movie. And it isn't bad enough the geezer is checking out young women, he has to make sure to (a) sneer at older women (women his own age) and (b) brag about how some men don't want to get married while all women - he suggests - do. Which, considering it was set in 1900 and written in 1958, was true, but not because women are more suited to marriage than men, as the Patriarchy insists, but because women up until the mid-1960s had little choice but to marry - the other options were spinsterhood or some form of prostitution. Which still only applies to first world countries. In some third world country right now a little girl is being sold by her parents to an old man for legal sex slavery.

It's an all-around revolting spectacle.

However, I read the synopsis at Wikipedia and decided to give Gigi a try. Because it turns out that Chevalier's character represents corruption, cynicism and dissipation - he plays the uncle of the leading man, Gaston who is only ten years older than Gigi - and Gigi appears to be a high school-aged student.

Apparently Gigi's grandmother and great-aunt are grooming her to be a wealthy man's mistress, which was surprisingly daring for a movie made in 1950s Hollywood. And eventually, against Uncle Creeper's advice, Gaston proposes marriage to Gigi instead of a less respectable arrangement.

Interestingly, Chevalier was involved with an older woman, Mistinguett when he was 23 and she was 35. But at least he wasn't in high school.

Anyway, so the movie rejects cynicism and prostitution for romantic and respectable love, and I did like Gigi's honest and unjaded personality, and Leslie Caron is charming. But it's still kind of boring, and the songs aren't especially catchy or well-performed in spite of the "Thank Heavens" notoriety.

And speaking of creepy old men - the music for Gigi was arranged and conducted by Andre Previn, the one-time husband of Mia Farrow and the adoptive father of Soon-Yi Previn.

More evidence of Mr. Fuzz's odd predilections


Saturday, February 09, 2013

Look at this pretty black kitty cat in a box.

Why do black cats like to lie on dark fabrics? You'll reach out to pick up a coat or whatever on the sofa, only to find a black cat in the middle of it. But Miss Willow looks so cute, wherever she is.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Sitting by the window, watching the snow fall...

NYCPlaywrights hears from an Angry White Man

People rarely send messages to the NYCPlaywrights email address, much less misogynistic rants, but this landed in my "junk" email folder today:
How do you justify advertising things like artemsia which has a big sign saying women only? What if someone said no women? would you advertise for them? How about no blacks…white only writers…would you advertise for them? Don't answer…if you say yes, you're lying and if you say no, you've just proved my point…I just don't get it…never have..,.never will…and please spare me the swill about under-represented women in  theatre etc…everyone is underrepresented and promoting shit writing by women doesn't make it better.
I considered a variety of responses but after googling his email address and finding out that he asked a question of a psychic web site concerning the possible portents of a bird in his basement flying away when he opened a window, I decided maybe I didn't want to engage with him.

As I posted on the NYCPlaywrights web site...


NYCPlaywrights salutes the theater companies awarded the first "50/50 Applause Awards" by the ICWP. The winners were recognized for producing seasons in which half (or more) of the plays were written by women. 

If you are located near these theaters we urge you to give them your support.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Reading fun

Nice work from some great actors in the reading/evaluation of the NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month semi-finalist submissions. And we did the readings in my actor pal Kitty's awesome apartment which is a stone's throw away from the 45th Street Theater, where I produced my JANE EYRE ... and here it is only five years later and I'm almost completely recovered from the financial and emotional trauma of that production.

Kitty and her husband took advantage of low-rates to move into Manhattan, thanks to the financial melt-down rentpocalypse. Unlike me they bought their apartment instead of renting. The guy who lived there before them was there for 45 years.











Wednesday, February 06, 2013

They call me Dr. Worm


For some reason I can't stop listening to this song.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Your cocktail smelt of elderflowers

I just discovered elderflower liqueur, which oddly enough seems to be the new big thing in cocktails, but I discovered it via the Sunday Philosophy Club, the series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. In one installment, Isabel Dalhousie and some neighbors discuss making elderflower cordials, a non-alcoholic beverage. Apparently elderflower cordials are a big thing in Scotland, if Smith is to be believed.

So I became interested in elderflowers and discovered the St. Germain brand of elderflower liqueur - apparently it's quite recent in development and ridiculously artisinal:

Fine artisanal French liqueur made from 100% fresh, handpicked elderflowers. Subtle yet complex flavor that is low in sugar content, roughly half that of other liqueurs. 
The first of its kind, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur is the creation of Robert Cooper, third generation distiller and former owner of Chambord liqueur. 
Cooper began developing St-Germain in 2001 after watching the surge in popularity of nonalcoholic elderflower cordials in top cocktails accounts in London, Sydney and New York. He knew a liqueur made exclusively from the fresh elderflowers would taste better, be more stable, versatile and truer to the flower’s unique flavor profile than the sugar and water-based cordials. Shortly thereafter, Cooper set out, using his savoir faire of fine liqueurs, particularly ones produced in France, to create St-Germain, the world’s first elderflower liqueur. 
Refusing to settle for cultivated, freeze dried or frozen blossoms, which is what the non-alcoholic cordials use, Cooper discovered that using 100% wild elderflowers, created a superior liqueur. The process of gathering the delicate blossoms for St-Germain is a carefully orchestrated sequence of events, which must be completed during the short three to four day span when the blossoms peak. In the Alps, bohemian farmers handpick the elderflowers and transport them via bicycle to depots, or private homes equipped with scales and special crates where they are meticulously guarded before arriving at the distillery to be used for the production of St-Germain.
Considering that the creation of this liqueur involves hand-picking and bicycle transportation by bohemian Alpine farmers, it's quite a bargain - you can get this massive fancy bottle of the stuff for under $30.

And the liqueur is so new that it's still possible to invent your own cocktail recipes with it, which I did - I invented what I call the Elderflower Citrus Mimosa. The classic brunch mimosa is typically made with champagne, but I actually think that all wines are too grape-y for elderflower liqueur - it's best with citrus fruits.

The Elderflower Citrus Mimosa
  • 1 part elderflower liqueur
  • 2 parts fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 parts club soda
  • splash of orange juice
Serve over ice in a cocktail glass.
Delicious! And when people look at you quizzically when you mention "elderflowers" you can point out that they come from the same plant as elderberries, you know, as in "your father smelt of elderberries." If they don't get that reference they don't deserve any elderflower liqueur type drinks.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Hookah Row

Apparently the "hookah lounge" is all the rage now and yet somehow I had entirely missed out on this until this past weekend when I went to my Citibank on Steinway Avenue. Right next to the bank were five or six of these hookah lounges, all right next to each other. They each have their own theme - if you click on the photo you can see the one at the end of the hookah row appears to be a "Mexican Grill Hookah Lounge." It seems to be a fancy way to say "you can smoke in this restaurant."

Speaking of smoking, I'm old enough to remember when a good percentage of Americans smoked cigarettes - I smoked when I was a teenager and so did most of my friends. But now... I was walking home from the subway the other day and suddenly I was aware of this funny sensation around my nose - and I started to kind of panic about it, like "what's wrong with me? why do I feel this funny sensation around my nose?" for a few seconds and then I suddenly realized, oh, somebody a half-block ahead of me was smoking a cigarette.

Yes, things have definitely changed, vis-a-vis smoking habits in this country.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Dirt Candy

The menu display outside Dirt Candy.
I finally got to go to Dirt Candy recently -  it only took a month's wait for a reservation. For 9:30 PM.

Dirt Candy specializes in vegetables, and its owner/chef Amanda Cohen is something of a celebrity chef - she was even on Iron Chef against Morimoto - although he won. My daughter and her chef partner had been enthusing about this place for months so I thought it would be fun to check it out.

It was worth the wait, in spite of the fact that the entree I ordered (corn) was mediocre, because the fennel soup appetizer was amazing.

But even more amazing was the bottle of the Goldmuskateller we had with dinner. The restaurant blog provided a description that prompted me to order it:

Even by our standards, the Goldmuskateller is a weirdo, but a surprisingly friendly one. It’s got a strong musky smell that oozes out of the glass like a low-lying fog, making you think that a family of gigantic grapes just sat down next to you, but it’s cut with a sharp, crisp apple aroma that reminds you of biting into Autumn’s first apples. Then you take a sip of it and it’s something else entirely. This is a very hot wine, so when you taste it first you get a nice, mellow taste of honey and then you get slapped across the cheek with an astringent pine flavor, almost like you’re drinking nettles soaked in honey. It’s a pretty neat trick: you’re lured in by the smell of apples and musk, you get a taste of honey, and then your tongue gets lashed for being so cheeky. It sounds violent, but to be honest it’s really enjoyable. Rather than a mellow wine lulling you into an alcoholic stupor, the Goldmuskateller is a hot-blooded wine that kicks you awake.

Although we had the 2011 instead of the 2007, or 2010 listed on the site but based on this description they are very similar. I've never had a wine like it. I will definitely be tracking this down and buying it.

The restaurant blog has other good stuff. This spoof posting for "Man Candy" is pretty great - especially what looks to be the covers of actual manly magazines for men. I especially like the giant otter attack.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

My Casino Adventure

Margaret Cho!
We went to see Margaret Cho perform at the Foxwoods Casino on Friday night. The casino is in Mashantucket, Connecticut so it was quite a schlep. But I had never been to a casino before and so was curious.

Margaret Cho was great, as always. And she did impressions of both her mother and an English woman, and I love those impressions. She also did quite a bit of banter with the audience, which was impressive - it's one thing to have a comedy routine, it's another to be spontaneously funny. I really am a sucker for people who are naturally funny (and can do impressions) - I consider them geniuses, especially stand-up comedians. Their minds just work so fast, and in a way that's far more wondrous to me than an idiot savant who can do instantaneous prime number calculations, or tell you what day of the week any date was for ten thousand years. I stayed with a manic-depressive boyfriend for much longer than I should have because he was the funniest human being I ever personally knew, as well as an autodidact, and it was never boring to talk to him. This made up for the fact that 50% of the time he liked to talk about killing himself.

Casino or mall?
Cho also mentioned that she had had a relationship with Chris Issak, which very much impressed me. I can understand if Cho, a bisexual, would be off men now - once you've had Chris Isaak it's pretty much downhill from there - especially if what she says in this New York Magazine article from ten years ago is true.

So I was impressed by Margaret Cho - the casino, not so much. I was flabbergasted by how much like a shopping mall it is, with crappy over-priced restaurants and knick-knack shops. Except that instead of Duane Reades and Gaps, they had a bunch of casinos.

Another thing that was different from any mall I had seen is that in between the restaurants, shops and casinos, they had what appeared to be facades of buildings, like the Western town facades they created for Western movies. There was a City Hall and some olde tyme shoppes.

Theatre Noir
The most interesting of these was something called Theatre Noir. If there is not a Theatre Noir there should be - what a great name.

One thing that really disappointed me was that I had heard that casinos hand out free drinks all the time - at least that's what I'd always heard about Las Vegas. Although since I was the evening's designated driver I couldn't take advantage anyway. But apparently they don't hand out free drinks, neither in the theater where Margaret Cho performed (although they sold drinks there) nor in the mall part. Apparently you had to go into one of those little shop-like casinos to get free drinks. Which I did not do.

When we decided to go to see Cho at Foxwoods, I naturally assumed that I would do a tiny amount of gambling, just to have the experience, but two things killed my desire - the first was the appallingly mall-like atmosphere, and the second thing was the thugs. As we walked around the mall after the Cho show, I was taking pictures with my iPhone. So there I was a full thirty feet away from one of these little casino/shops and I pointed my iPhone at the entrance of the casino. And these two security thugs screamed at me "you can't take pictures of the casino!"

Here they are, on the right, dressed in what looks like police uniforms. The one thug looks like he's getting ready to pull out a gun to shoot me:

Casino security thugs - you can click on the photo to get a better view
I mean, I know that casinos are all paranoid about people devising tricks to beat the house, because the house always wins etc., but really? Me taking an iPhone picture from 30 feet outside the casino/shop entrance is part of some plot to rig the system against the casino? Well to hell with that - I'm never going into a casino if they're such a bunch of controlling fascists. I have no desire to play games with money anyway. Sheesh.

And last but not least, there were no clocks in the entire mall. It was very creepy. I already knew that I wasn't a casino kind of person, but now I really know it. It's a nasty, depressing place, with all the style and class of a suburban mall and all the charm of low-level mafiosi.

Next time I'll wait for Margaret Cho to come to New York City.



Friday, February 01, 2013

Have I mentioned lately that I believe David Mamet has completely lost it?

David Mamet has once again been paid to embarrass himself by spewing more kooky wingnuttery. This time, in Newsweek, he's expressing his crusty-old-man paranoia that Barack Obama is trying to take his guns on behalf of our Marxist (yes he uses the word Marxist) gubmint, and meanwhile Obama has the nerve to expect secret service protection! Just who does this guy Obama think he is?

It's hardly worth me addressing the lunacy since those duties have been handled by Media Matters for America, and Salon and The Guardian and Andrew Sullivan and Michael Tomansky and Scott Lemieux. Although I do want to give Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic special focus. He writes:
I was absolutely stunned by this paragraph: 
The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians. They were an assortment of businessmen, writers, teachers, planters; men, in short, who knew something of the world, which is to say, of Human Nature. Their struggle to draft a set of rules acceptable to each other was based on the assumption that we human beings, in the mass, are no damned good -- that we are biddable, easily confused, and that we may easily be motivated by a Politician, which is to say, a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions. 
Which is also to say the Founding Fathers were also slaves, and by slaves I mean white guys who wore wigs. All jest aside, I find the process that produces this sort of work to be utterly amoral. I've said this before, but this is the kind of writing that would get you bounced out of any decent essay writing class at a credible university. Words have meanings. You cannot change the fact that Thomas Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Burgesses because it's unfortunate for your argument. Unless you have a name like David Mamet.
But I would argue that the real issue of having a name like David Mamet is that nobody is able to fact-check his essays, let alone tell him no, his services as an essayist are not required because he is incapable of reasoning coherently. And so what we will see for who knows how long - it could be years - is that this fear-filled old man with a failing mind will be allowed to share the evidence of his decline again and again, writing screeds that are universally recognized as incoherent and factually wrong. And writers like Coates will assume that Mamet is deliberately spreading lies out of pure amorality.

Eventually, though, even the secular worship of a Great Man of the Arts will finally be insufficient to hide the truth: Mamet isn't saying these things because he is amoral and cynical, it's because he can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Although knowing that David Mamet looks to Glenn Beck for answers should be enough to clue anybody in - just this week Jon Stewart spoofed the incoherent freakshow that is Glenn Beck's Weltanschauung. It's kind of Stewart's speciality.

How much longer will the humiliating display of David Mamet's decline go on before they finally stop parading him around like a pinhead to be gawked at?


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