Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nome completes her 5K run on Roosevelt Island



You can see a better version of this video here.

My daughter is into running these days and now she wants me to become a runner too. I'm thinking about it. Vain creature that I am, my favorite part of this video is when the guy in the hat asks if that was my sister.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Seen around Long Island City

During a recent work-day break.

The first croci of spring - yay.


Looks like the International Sales office of Jolly Time
popcorn is right around the corner from where I work.
And you didn't even know they had an International
Sales office.


Bet you didn't know the Black Car Industry had a home.

Now this was odd from a Catholic
iconography perspective - this
appears to be a shrine
to Our Ladyof Guadalupe
(she visited a peasant named
Juan Diego) but this is
in front of the St. Patrick's church.


I saw this Rastafarian banana hanging from
the cast iron ceiling of the local Key Foods


These odd pyramids are on my company's premises.
I assume they are sculptures. Since my company
is involved in financial services
I thought maybe they are meant to evoke
the pyramid on the dollar bill.


The dollar bill pyramid, AKA "The Eye of Providence"

Read all about the development of this symbol here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Hissing of Summer Lawns

The Hissing of Summer Lawns marks the beginning of the end for Joni Mitchell as a pop-rock icon. But this is the album that got me hooked on Joni Mitchell, and it is the only album in the batch given to me by Reverend Bookburn for my birthday that I already owned in its entirety - and I don't think I've ever been without the entire album, in one form or another, since I first got it on vinyl in 1978.

Bookburn himself, as I recall, was not a big fan of this album - he liked to mock it, especially Edith and the Kingpin which he thought was ridiculously soap opera-esque. Which it was, but that doesn't mean it's bad. The Rev was in his hard-core early punk rocker phase then.

 It's certainly one of Joni's least autobiographical songs, it's about an undercover cop beginning to fall in love with a crime lord.

The CSNY connection is still hanging in there on this album, with Crosby and Nash, along with James Taylor, doing backing vocals. But most of the musicians are LA Express types.

The most important song for me, on this album, is The Jungle Line. It would be hard to over-estimate the impact this song had on me when I heard it on the local Philly FM radio station as I was getting ready for school. Starting with the drums, which were rhythmic but with a weird, asymmetrical beat. Turns out the drums are a field recording of the Royal Drummers of Burundi. I had never heard anything like it and I thought it was insanely great. Only two other rhythm tracks rival this, for my money - Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and Dave Brubeck's Take Five. And Joni was years ahead of the rest of the rock world - New Wave groups started to incorporate Burundi drum sounds in the early-mid 1980s.

And on top of the drums were the weird synthesizer sounds that are very reptilian, which makes a lot of sense, considering the recurring theme of snakes on this album, starting with the double-entendre of the title and the cover art. Joni got the cover image, of the people carrying a giant snake, from a National Geographic article. I was once paging through some old National Geographics and came across the original photo and immediately recognized it as the source for the Hissing cover.

And Joni's odd vocals. The melody is pretty flat and she sounds like she's talking instead of singing in several places but even so it has an hypnotic effect. And the lyrics are trippy, which I recognized on the first listening, because I was familiar with the work of Henri Rousseau. The lyrics move between two realities - on the one hand we see Rousseau painting the picture, the next instant we're in the picture.
In a low-cut blouse she brings the beer.
Rousseau paints a jungle flower behind her ear.
Those cannibals of shuck and jive, 
They'll eat a working girl like her alive.
And then later the references to drugs:
There's a poppy wreath on a soldier's tomb
There's a poppy snake in the dressing room.
Poppy poison, poppy tourniquet,
It slithers away on glass like mouth piece spit.
And metal skin and ivory birds
Go steaming up to Rouseau's vines
They go steaming up to Brooklyn Bridge
Steaming steaming steaming up the Jungle Line.
When the song was over and I heard the D.J. announce the name of the composer/performer I was flabbergasted - wasn't Joni Mitchell that hippie Big Yellow Taxi lady? Clearly this women contained multitudes, and was an indisputable fucking genius. I was hooked on Joni Mitchell like poppy poison at that moment, ever after. Music truly is the best drug.

 My next favorite song on this album is Don't Interrupt the Sorrow which has a great tempo and melody and weird Jungian imagery. And the lyrics are about as blatantly feminist as Mitchell has ever gotten:
Anima rising, queen of queens.
Wash my guilt of Eden
Wash and balance me.
Anima rising 
Uprising in me tonight
She's a vengeful little goddess
With an ancient crown to fight.
And I defy you to find any song like this ever, much less in the mid-1970s pop-rock milieu. Mitchell is ever sui generis.

Shades of Scarlett Conquering has more literary than musical value in my opinion, along with Edith,  In France They Kiss on Main Street, The Boho Dance and the title track. But very good literature. And even Shadows and Light, with Mitchell's impressive a capella singing doesn't do much for me. But they can all come along for the ride, that's fine - The Jungle Line has mighty coat tails.

Harry's House/Centerpiece had special significance for me though - there was the not especially original  Man in the Gray Flannel Suit lament - it's all very Mad Men - but then the jazz-blues Centerpiece comes in, for maximum ironic effect while Harry is having a nostalgic reverie:
The more I'm with you pretty baby
The more I feel my love increase
I'm building all my dreams around you
Our happiness will never cease.
Cause nothing's any good without you
Baby you're my center piece.

 (piano solo)

We'll buy a house and garden somewhere
Along a country road a piece,
A little cottage on the outskirts
Where we can really find release
Cause nothing's any good without you
Baby you're my center piece.
Then as Harry is coming out of his reverie Joni does her impression of Harry's wife, which sounded to me - especially when I was a teenager - exactly like my mother:
When you be home Harry?
Get down off of there.
I sure am sick of that sofa.
When you be home Harry?
I said get down off of there!
Nothing's any good.
When you be home Harry?
Nothing's any good!
And the effect was only intensified by the fact that my father's name actually was Harry. My mother and I have always had a rocky relationship, but no surprise it was at its absolute worst when I was a teenager. We were constantly at each other's throats - and not always just figuratively - there were several bouts of fisticuffs. We've calmed down these days, although that might be due in part to the fact that she's an old lady now and I could totally kick her ass.

Sweet Bird is beautiful, the way the piano and guitar fade in, and the theme of the fleeting nature of existence. The first lines are especially powerful:
Out on some borderline
Some mark of in-between
I lay down golden in time
And woke up vanishing.
I remember nodding sagely and thinking, yes, Joni, so true. All these vain promises on beauty jars to keep us looking young. It made me very nostalgic for my lost youth. I was seventeen at the time.

Well but Mitchell herself was 32 when she wrote it. A mere baby from my antique perspective now. 

Well that's depressing. Time to reach for the more hallucinatory drugs:
With his hard-edged eyes
And his steady hand
He paints the cellar full of ferns and orchid vines
And he hangs a moon above a five piece band
He hangs it up above the Jungle Line.

The Jungle Line, the Jungle Line
Screaming in a ritual of sound and time.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Court and Spark

Court and Spark introduced Joni's new jazzy sound. It was her most successful album, commercially and critically. It was all downhill after this.

This album was so popular that I first heard it at my school friend Lynn's house - her parents owned the album. Admittedly her parents were hipper than my parents - but who wasn't?

The CSNY presence is still there. Nash and Still were both credited on "For the Roses" and Crosby and Nash both get background vocal credits on C&S. But members of the jazz fusion L.A. Express are here too. Mitchell would tour with them and they'd be a big part of her live album Miles of Aisles.

Not every song does it for me on this album. And much of it is sort of slow and contemplative and she has only one really upbeat pop-rock type song in here, Raised on Robbery and it's a departure musically with its Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy vibe.

She's still surrounded by fame and famous people and famous boyfriends of course  - a crazy guy shows up on her doorstep in the title track Court and Spark. Free Man in Paris is reportedly about David Geffen, wishing he wasn't so big and important and famous. People's Parties is full of glamorous jet-setters, although I do like the groove at the end of that song, with "laughing it all way." Same Situation features another famous guy with groupies.

Help Me was her monster top 40 hit - I heard it so often on the radio back when I feel like I can't really hear it any more.

At the time I first heard this album my favorite track was Mitchell's cover of Twisted which featured Cheech and Chong doing a brief cameo in the background. Like all kids then I was familiar with Cheech and Chong through their immortal Sister Mary Elephant routine. (Also immortal, Earache My Eye.) I liked Twisted so much I memorized it, and can still do the whole thing, including the Cheech and Chong bits, by heart to this day.

And Twisted makes a nice match with the song that comes before it, Troubled Child which is basically Mitchell's take on the same topic as Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."

I find I appreciate Just Like This Train more now. I like the metaphors and the descriptions of people on the train. You have to wonder why Joni is on a train since planes are more her usual mode of transportation. There's a great bitchy line in this song: "dreaming all the pleasure I'm gonna have watching your hairline recede my vain darling." As a teenager I didn't realize the importance of this particular type of schadenfreude as I do now.

"Raised on Robbery" was a huge revelation for me. The song appears to be about a not especially successful prostitute, since the last line is "hey where you going? don't go yet, your glass ain't empty and we just met." But innocent-school-girl me didn't get the prostitute angle, at first. I understood the beginning of the song - a guy is in a bar watching TV and gambling on The Maple Leafs - I even knew this was a Canadian hockey team. And a "lady in lacy sleeves" approaches him. But this section confused the hell out of me.
I'm a pretty good cook, I'm sitting on my groceries
Come up to my kitchen I'll show you my best recipes
I try and I try but I can't save a cent
I'm up after midnight cooking, trying to raise my rent,
I'm rough but I'm pleasing I was raised on robbery."
Now if you think, as I initially did on hearing this, that she's an actual chef the lines don't make any sense. So here's me thinking it over:
Why would she be cooking after midnight? How weird. Do they do that in Canada? And why would she be sitting on her groceries? Wouldn't they get squashed? Maybe that's why she can't save a cent, she squashed all her groceries? Wouldn't she be uncomfortable sitting on her.... oh! Ohhhhhh! Her groceries are... her... the thing that she uses to cook... oh my God this is about sex!!!
I was so proud of myself for working this out. I thought I was quite the sophisticated lady.

Here's a live version with poor beautiful talented Jaco Pastorius (wearing the red headband) who ended his life mentally ill and homeless. He died from wounds received from a bouncer in 1987.




I only just realized how odd it was that I blamed Jackson Browne for not enjoying some of "For the Roses." I don't know how I didn't know this until today, but between Roses and Court and Spark, Joni and Jackson Browne were an item - Browne was an opener for Joni's tour and then they got involved.

Here I thought that Joni's song which was a barely disguised attack against Browne, "Not to Blame" was purely based on the rumor that Browne had beat Daryl Hannah. That may have been the impetus but apparently Browne had hit Mitchell, according to the book Girls Like Us. So if anybody might believe that Brown beat Hannah it would be Joni.

Also according to the book, several of the songs on Court and Spark are about her relationship with Browne, especially Car on a Hill. And Mitchell took the break-up with Browne very badly, attempting suicide and ending up in therapy, apparently the inspiration for Troubled Child. Oh my prophetic soul - Jackson Browne is to blame for so many reasons.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hot Dwarves

I finally got around to seeing Peter Jackson's Hobbit. And so many liberties were taken with the original text, although it should be noted that the scene that worked best of all in the movie was the one taken most directly from the book - where Bilbo finds the One Ring and confronts Gollum. Granted I don't remember Bilbo having such a jaunty personality, but I'm not complaining. It works very well.

I'm also not complaining about the decision to make Kili and Fili hot.

For anybody who's wondering, here is the ranking of the dwarves by hotness.


Monday, March 25, 2013

More support for my theory that Mamet has lost it

In a strange coincidence I had recently read a recounting by Ronnie Spector of the day she left (escaped) Phil Spector, when I happened to see a poster for the new HBO Phil Spector show on a subway station wall. And I was appalled but not surprised to discover that David Mamet was behind the whole thing and he was presenting Spector as the good guy.

The NYMag's Vulture makes some interesting points:
Mamet has always had a thing for righteous macho martyrs — see Oleanna, about a professor whose pending tenure is scuttled when he is accused of sexual harassment by an ambitious young female student, and Hoffa, which compared the mobbed-up labor leader to Jesus and wasn’t remotely joking — but now that he’s entered a right-wing troll phase of his career, he’s cranked up the persecuted truth-teller affectation to the point where you can picture Mel Gibson talking him off a ledge. I’m pop-psychoanalyzing Mamet here not because I particularly enjoy it, but because Phil Spector’s tone and thesis are so out-of-nowhere weird that it doesn’t really make sense as anything but an example of an artist projecting himself onto another artist and saying, “I feel you, bro.” There are points in which Spector’s rococo monologues evoke Mamet’s editorial page rants and his books about creativity, cranky rambles in which he often comes across as one of those old rich guys who thinks that being an old rich guy makes him an expert in everything.
The "out-of-nowhere weird" characterization is another example of how critics of Mamet's recent work and political rants not only object to Mamet's conclusions - Phil Spector is innocent, Obama hates Israel - but their bafflement in how Mamet arrives at his conclusions. And the general consensus is that whatever Mamet is saying makes no sense.

This will only baffle you if you don't realize that Mamet has lost it, but nobody has yet been able to stop him from embarrassing himself by displaying evidence of his out-of-nowhere thought processes.

It's just a matter of time before it's revealed that Mamet has Alzheimers. Mark my words.

Vulture also pointed to a very interesting piece by a reporter who covered the Spector trials. Here's one of the points she makes about the out-of-nowhere bullshit promoted by David Mamet:
For those of you who didn't spend the better part of a year in a windowless courtroom with Spector, a quick refresher: On Feb. 3, 2003, Spector met a struggling actress named Lana Clarkson at the Sunset Strip club where she worked as a hostess. They repaired to his Alhambra mansion, where two hours later, she was shot in the mouth as she sat in a chair by the front door. 
After he was arrested on suspicion of murder, Spector claimed Clarkson killed herself. The first jury to hear the case deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of guilt. A second jury convicted him in 2009. 
In the film, we are told repeatedly and emphatically that there is no evidence Spector pulled the trigger. 
"They have no facts!" insists defense lawyer Linda Kenney Baden. It's as plain as Spector's white dinner jacket, the movie says. If he had shot her, we are informed again and again and again, the snowy fabric would be drenched in blood. 
In fact, there was blood on Spector's jacket: Tiny mist-like spots near the lapel that, according to expert testimony, put Spector no more than three feet from Clarkson's face when the gun went off. The same type of blood mist was found on the outside of Clarkson's wrist, an indication, experts said, that at the time of the gunshot, her hands were up in a defensive posture and not on the trigger. 
Then there's the chauffeur. Spector's driver testified that shortly after the gunshot, his boss walked out of the mansion holding a gun in his bloodied hand. "I think I killed somebody," he quoted Spector as saying. The film suggests that unethical police detectives forced the chauffeur to make this damning statement by threatening to charge him as an accessory.

There's no evidence of this, and Spector's lawyers never alleged it at trial. Likely because the driver told the first patrolman on the scene about Spector's comment and never varied in a subsequent recorded interview with detectives.
 
Five women testified, often through tears, that Spector had pulled guns on them when they tried to leave his house against his wishes. They were unshakable in their accounts of how alcohol and dashed romantic hopes turned an old-school gentleman into a monster. The movie rolls its eyes at them. Just common people looking for their 15 minutes, instead of treasuring their time with the genius.
Spector's defense claimed that Clarkson, 40, committed suicide because she was despondent over her prospects in Hollywood. The film ultimately embraces a second theory — that she accidentally shot herself while toying suggestively with the gun. 
What it doesn't mention is that Clarkson died with her purse strap on her shoulder. If that seems inconsequential to you, perhaps you are a man. Ladies, I ask you: Is shouldering a purse the gesture of a woman who intends to a) commit suicide; b) play a sex game; or c) leave? 
Well if you know Mamet's play OLEANNA, you'll understand Mamet's deep suspicion of women - bitches are out to destroy innocent men, by any means necessary, for no reason than they can.

Here's what Wikipedia says about Ronnie Spector (Bennett):
By her account, Phil kept Ronnie a near-prisoner and limited her opportunities to pursue her musical ambitions. In her autobiography, she said that he would force her to watch the film Citizen Kane to remind her she would be nothing without him. Spector's domineering attitude led to the dissolution of their marriage. Bennett was forbidden to speak to the Rolling Stones or tour with the Beatles, because Phil Spector feared that she would be unfaithful. 
Bennett claims Spector showed her a gold coffin with a glass top in his basement, promising to kill and display her if she left him. During Spector's reclusive period in the late 1960s, he reportedly kept his wife locked inside their mansion. She claimed he also hid her shoes to dissuade her from walking outside, and kept the house dark because he did not want anyone to see his balding head. Ronnie stated in her autobiography that she walked out of the house through the closed and locked rear sliding glass door, shoeless, shattering the glass as she left, and feet all cut up by the time she got to the gate. She never returned. Ronnie Spector filed for divorce in 1972. She wrote a book about her experiences, and said years later: "I can only say that when I left in the early 1970s, I knew that if I didn't leave at that time, I was going to die there."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

For the Roses

Well I have to confess I find much of For the Roses irritating, although I blame Jackson Browne for that, in part. Because when I paid attention to him he used to go on and on about the awful great burdens of being a famous rock star and life on the road and blah blah blah poor you, rich beautiful man.

One of the things that is clear about Joni Mitchell's life at this time is that not only is she experiencing the hassle of being famous, but the hassle of having boyfriends who are also famous and have groupies throwing themselves at them.

And you can understand how that would be pretty annoying. But it's not exactly relatable. Although I do like that fact that she throws the F bomb in the middle of "Woman of Heart and Mind" - the first time she uses the word in a recording, as far as I can tell.

And two of the songs are absolute masterpieces.

The first is Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire. I had listened to the song several times without paying too much attention to the lyrics and then got a shock when I realized that she's talking about a junkie who is considering suicide:
Looking for Sweet Fire, shadow of Lady Release.
Come with me, I know the way she says,
It's down, down, down the dark ladder.
Do you want to contact somebody first?
Leave someone a letter?
You can come now or
You can come later.
This isn't just some lah dee dah roses and clouds and ladies of the canyon. This gets into Steely Dan territory for its lyrical melody versus grim subject matter contrast.

I tried to get a discussion of this song into my play JULIA & BUDDY but after hearing it in a reading I was forced to conclude it wasn't working. Alas.


 

And as if that isn't enough, there's You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio. One of her most perfect up-beat pop-rock tunes, right up there with Chelsea Morning and Conversation and Big Yellow Taxi. And you just cannot beat the extended radio metaphor, it's pure poetry.

Here's the Miles of Aisles version - no video though, just a pan out of the cover.


And last but not least, for those who enjoy rock star nudity - and who doesn't? - you can see Joni's bare ass on the inside of the album:


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bizarro World critic says: "Compulsive Love am great"


Well it's my own fault - I took a peek at the first 30 seconds of the 4th episode of The Amazing Adventures of Ratface the Sex God (aka "Compulsive Love") today. I thought maybe I would see something that was actually romantic.

Here's what I saw instead (dialog is paraphrased):
(Ratface is in a lesbian bar. He sees an attractive lesbian. He approaches her.) 
     RATFACE 
Hi, I'm Ratface, the ugly little man who can have any woman he wants. 
     LESBIAN 
I'm a lesbian. 
     RATFACE 
You should give me a try anyway. 
(Next scene Ratface is gnawing on Lesbian's coochie.)
I didn't see anything after that since my lunch was hurled all over the laptop screen.

But I saw what I saw, and now I can't unsee it.

So apparently not only does Ratface have the power to get any woman he wants, including lesbians, but he now has super cunnilingus powers (thanks to all the practice he got when he prostituted himself in order to weasel out of paying a gambling debt)  that make all women his slave.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is being sold as "romance."

I know I've said that this is a male fantasy web series but now they're just getting offensive, suggesting that some ugly little man can waltz into a lesbian bar and get a lesbian by buying her a drink.

But also hysterically funny is the notion promoted here that women don't care where the cunnilingus is coming from as long as the tongue of the random individual has special cunnilingus skills.  Apparently the Compulsive Love DudeBros have never heard of something called "vibrators" which can deliver the needed mechanisms to produce an orgasm much more efficiently than any human tongue. The men who make this web series are so clueless about female sexual response that they believe that it's all about simple mechanics, and actual human emotions don't matter.

Although maybe it's not so much cluelessness as not giving a shit about what women want - the women in this series could be animated sex dolls, for all their personalities or chemistry with Ratface matters. And they're all cra-cra-crazy just like Ratface who is so crazy he gets to have sex with any woman he desires including lesbians.

But if you think of "Compulsive Love" as the Bizarro World version of romance, it all makes sense. As the Bizarro Code says:

Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!

Gary Oldman in various places and centuries losing his shit


I found this pretty amusing. It's too bad they don't have any clips from JFK, but then again when he played Oswald he never lost his shit. And fun fact - Oswald is Oldman's favorite role. It's the role where I was first impressed by his work.


They do include a clip from Sid and Nancy in the shit-losing compliation. Here is another clip from that movie - Nancy doesn't know the difference between Sid and Johnny.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring


Painted by Ma Yuan of the Song Dynasty, some time around 1200. Read more here.

Happy Spring.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Compulsive Love: more on the people who are killing romance

One of the reasons I keep harping on the web series Compulsive Love in spite of its minimal cultural significance is its good timing - I was just making a case for why the romantic comedy was dying, as lamented by Vulture when I came across the series via a friend's Facebook page.

My theory is that the people who make "romantic" movies nowadays don't actually like women, or romance, which is why, no matter how attractive the women are, the men in these romances are grotesque self-centered man-babies. Is it any wonder women aren't rushing out to see such "romance"?

And Compulsive Love is clear evidence that the approach to "romance" pioneered by Judd Apatow and the dude-bros of his ilk has trickled down to the people at the lower end of the entertainment industry.

I'm not saying I would enjoy Compulsive Love under any marketing banner but what's truly appalling is that the perps keep promoting it as romanticHere's one of the producers:
... “The show doesn’t trade on irony, cynicism or satire at all. It is unabashedly romantic; in love with the idea of being in love. And the comedy comes from the situations that arise out of that. What I thought the script really got right was that it wasn’t just about a guy trying to have sex with everyone (though there is a lot of sex). It’s about a guy who is completely prepared and excited to invest in every relationship he comes across. He believes each one will change him and fix all his problems. And though each girl he falls for turns out to be a little crazier than he expected, it’s quite clear that he’s the craziest one of all.”
Truly astounding: "unabashedly romantic."

In the first three episodes of Compulsive Love we've seen these scenarios:
  1. The physically unappealing hero Ratface (not his actual name in the series) chases down a random woman on a bike, fucks her and then she becomes a nun.
  2. Ratface is fucking an Asian woman but her mother is always there glaring at him. Asian woman dumps Ratface because Tiger Mom doesn't like him.
  3. Ratface demonstrates that not only is he unattractive and wimpy and has absolutely no interest in anything in the entire cosmos except for chasing random stranger pussy, he's also a mind-bogglingly fucked-up little shithead who gambles against a woman in pool and then refuses to pay up when he loses. And so his punishment is he has to prostitute himself to her by performing $500 worth of cunnilingus. And then something else happens in the episode - I don't know what because I couldn't bear to watch any more-  but somehow I suspect it isn't an adaptation of three minutes of Wuthering Heights.
When Ratface has a "relationship" with a woman we don't get to know anything about him or the woman. Apparently "romance" means chasing pussy, fucking pussy, losing pussy, infinity. Plus the occasional weaseling out of your debts to women. By what Bizzarro World stretch of the imagination would a single millisecond of this web series be honestly characterized as "romantic" by someone not suffering tertiary-syphilis level delirium? And who speaks the English language?

This show "doesn't trade in cynicism"? This show corners the fucking market in cynicism.

Compulsive Love Dude-bros, it's time to face facts - romance is not your forte. You don't get romance. Probably because, like so many quasi-hipster men, you think you're too fucking smart and hip and masculine to commit to an actual romantic scenario, which has the face-losing, status-lowering value of something that women enjoy. Your dude-bro friends would snicker at you if you made something that was sincerely romantic, so you create this crass, oafish, hideous old-style-straight-porno with everything except the money shots.

You need to stick to what you understand - I recommend you market this web series to the audience of Girls Gone Wild, or Ted, or Family Guy. Or, I don't know, do some kind of noir send-up melodrama about a bunch of clowns in a bar. That's where your sensibilities lie. Let your incomprehension of romance remain just a problem between you and your significant other(s), not the general public's.

And FYI - according to the NYTimes the days of lionizing self-absorbed man-babies are numbered. I certainly hope so - and not a moment too soon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blue

So Joni Mitchell found the sweet spot of artistic value and popular acclaim with Ladies of the Canyon and would remain there until she got too far ahead of the critics at Rolling Stone with "The Hissing of Summer Lawns."

She had reached the apotheosis of critical acclaim with Blue, which the NYTimes chose as one of the musical mileposts of the 20th century:
A restless woman travels, falls in love and longs for what she left behind as she moves on; in the background 1960's ideals crumble. Joni Mitchell turned unsparing autobiography into sparse songs that quietly rejected symmetry and happy endings while they poured out her yearning. As she ushered in a confessional mode for pop songwriting, few of her emulators noticed that her seemingly unguarded revelations were so finely constructed.
And at the time it was released, Rolling Stone said:
"...on Blue she has matched her popular music skills with the purity and honesty of what was once called folk music and through the blend she has given us some of the most beautiful moments in recent popular music."
The review also said of one of the songs on Blue, "Little Green" - 
The pretty, "poetic" lyric is dressed up in such cryptic references that it passeth all understanding.
The reason the lyrics were so cryptic, it turns out is because the song was about the daughter that Joni gave birth to at age 21, and gave up for adoption. 

I generally agree with the Rolling Stone review about the quality of the songs; and that the album has a thematic tie in the paramour that Joni is writing about. Although a sub-theme that Rolling Stone seems to have missed is California, which is mentioned in three songs on the album - one of them being Little Green. Knowing the meaning behind Little Green helps to tie things together: Joni is abandoned by the baby's father - he goes off to California because he's heard that everything is warmer there. When she writes to him to let him know he has a daughter he "sends her a poem" - that is, he sends her no money, not to mention doesn't return,  and so "she is lost to you" - Joni has to give her up for adoption.

The irony is that eventually Joni will make her way to California too, and consider it her home - she longs for it when she's in Europe in "California" and she describes her feelings on returning to California in "This Flight Tonight" and in "River" contrasts the weather in California to places (like Canada) where it snows at Christmas time: "It don't snow here, it stays pretty green..."

Blue marks the return of Stephen Stills, who played on Mitchell's first two studio albums. Crosby produced her first album. The CSN&Y connection had been maintained for "Ladies of the Canyon" thanks to the two songs she wrote for Graham Nash and Neil Young.

The songs on Blue are more catchy than not, the opposite of Song to a Seagull. I adore these:

All I Want - so upbeat and fun and it's amazing how much rocking out can be accomplished by one woman and an acoustic guitar.

Carry - I love the tune and the lyrics. And autobiographical as ever, the lyrics reveal the economic benefits of being a popular composer: "maybe I'll go to Amsterdam, or maybe I'll go to Rome, and rent me a grand piano and put some flowers round my room." Mitchell is a member of what was known at the time as the "jet set."

California - once again a perfect blend of tunefullness and jet set lyrics: "Sitting in a park in Paris France...", "met a redneck on a Grecian Isle" "bought me a ticket, I caught a plane to Spain..."

This Flight Tonight - she has second thoughts about returning to California:
"Oh star bright, star bright, you've got the lovin' that I like all right, turn this crazy bird around, shouldn't have got on this flight tonight." And once again a great high-tempo rocker with mostly Joni and her open tunings. And her voice is in top form on those high notes.

River - a down-mood piece, notable for her ironic use of "Jingle Bells" throughout contrasted with the refrain : Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
It's a beautiful piece but it will make you blue if you've ever had a romantic relationship.

A Case of You is another downer with one of the best similes in pop-rock history: "You are in my blood like holy wine, you taste so bitter and so sweet oh I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet." And this time she rocks out on an Appalachian dulcimer.





Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Julia and Buddy and the Owl and the Pussycat

They had elaborate sets back in the day. Here is the set for the 1965 Off-Broadway hit "The Owl and the Pussycat."



Truly amazing how complex this is. My off-off Broadway show JULIA AND BUDDY will have the simplest of sets. There will be two basic sets with the two video sequences and the fever dream done in mostly darkness with a spot or two.


While I was looking for an online version of the set I found this nice photo-spread from Ebony of the original production of THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT which starred a very young Alan Alda. He looks odd on the cover though - like he's in a silent movie. The other pix are better...



The original caption reads: "Accused by girl of being "a dirty, filthy Peeping Tom Fink,"
annoyed boy sits at typewriter and types a sentence: "A rule worth making is worth keeping."
Asked what it means, he explains it is to remind him never to open his door after midnight.
Below she adjusts TV she has brought along, asks: "What kind of reception do you get?"






In addition to this virtual pictorial of the entire play, Ebony also did a whole fashion article about Diane Sands. If this play was a flop, well it sure wouldn't be Ebony's fault.

I recently re-read THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT out of curiosity, now that I've finally completed JULIA AND BUDDY. There are many differences between the two plays - especially since in my play the woman is more the owl and the man is the pussycat - but there are still a few similarities - primarily two seemingly different people who turn out to have quite a bit in common.

I finally did up the J&B postcard art in Pantone colors. As soon as I figure out where this thing is going up I'll get the postcards printed.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Ladies of the Canyon

Joni Mitchell's third studio album Ladies of the Canyon is not only  the quintessential Joni album, but it could be argued the culmination of the 1960s hippie idealism. And it is inarguably one of the peaks of the folk-rock genre, starting with its cover. Admittedly I am a fan of line drawings of musicians - I consider the cover of the Beatles' Revolver to be the most aesthetically pleasing album cover of all time, and Ladies of the Canyon is the second-most pleasing.


 Mitchell's cover has the added bonus of being a self-portrait - Revolver was drawn by the Beatles' old German buddy Klaus Voorman.

And with all that white space, and open lines a harbinger of the Apple corporate style. Compare the Ladies cover to this early Macintosh logo art.


Morning Morgantown  kicks off the album and is another song about morning, a companion to Clouds' Chelsea Morning, except that while Chelsea was about staying in with your lover, Morgantown is about going out adventuring with your lover. This song also features a prominent piano in the refrain and as a big fan of piano music, I find it a welcome addition to this song and the rest of most of the album. However, for all its pianistic charm I do prefer Chelsea Morning.

For Free - Mitchell's rumination on art vs. commerce and the fickleness of public acclaim. A clarinetist on a city street prompts her observations and anybody who rides the NYC subway system or walks in Manhattan is confronted by this scene every day - street musicians who may be playing as well as any concert musicians but are unrecognized because they aren't showcased in an important venue. Mitchell would revisit this theme again.

Conversation - quite possibly my favorite Joni Mitchell song - I wrote a post about it a few of months ago.

Ladies of the Canyon - is there anything like this song in any genre ever? A proto-feminist song presenting thumbnail portraits of artsy/earthmother/hippie chicks, but without the usual mockery - just straight up appreciation and affection. Maybe Dar William's My Friends comes close to the feel of this song but I can't think of anything else. And certainly Dar's song doesn't have the intense time and place feel that this one has of Laurel Canyon on the late 1960s.

Willy - reportedly about Mitchell's relationship with Graham Nash. Nash wrote his take on their relationship Our House. Mitchell's song is much less sunny.

The Arrangement is very much an anti-establishment song, all about how credit cards and corporate jobs are stifling. It's strange hearing it from the perspective of a time when so many people no longer have the option of a good-paying corporate job and unlike the 1960s the middle-class is losing ground and social mobility is less mobile than ever.

Rainy Night House/The Priest/Blue Boy all three songs appear to be intensely auto-biographical reminiscences of eccentric former lovers. Rainy Night House has a beautiful piano and Blue Boy has some great vocals, not to mention the blatantly erotic lyric: Sometimes in the evening he would read to her. Roll her in his arm and give his seed to her. 

Big Yellow Taxi - Mitchell's all-time monster pop hit, covered by many, animated for the Sonny and Cher show (scroll down to watch), and a perfect encapsulation of the hippie view of car culture and industrialization in general. One of the signature songs of the environmental movement. And it must be noted, just an all-around excellent pop song made utterly perfect when Mitchell does a funny voice for the ending "put up a parking lot" and then she cracks herself up.

Woodstock - Mitchell herself failed to show up for Woodstock, preferring to make an  appearance on the Dick Cavett Show. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who did show up at Woodstock, recorded a version that is much more famous. Mitchell's version is more intense.

The Circle Game - Mitchell's career was inextricably bound up with CSN&Y, and this is one more example. Mitchell wrote this song for fellow Canadian Neil Young in response to his Sugar Mountain. One of her two classic straight-up folk songs along with Clouds. Other people had hits with both those songs before Mitchell recorded them herself. And here's Chuck Mitchell, her ex-husband, doing a version, posted himself to his own Youtube channel.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Astoria oddities

One of the nice things about walking is that you notice stuff that you never would in a car. I took this photo while I was walking home from work the other day. It's an apartment building with a very odd facade - inserted into various places in among the bricks are random pieces of rock. You wouldn't notice this whizzing by in a car but you really do while walking.

Also the entrance has a strange asymmetrical thing going on with the rocks creating a kind of three-quarters arch, and then a colored-glass window on the right. Somebody got very creative with this building. I shall have to look it up one of these days and find out what the deal was here.

Here is a detail of the entrance.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Are you happy now, Mary?

Mary of Nazareth, the perpetual virgin blessed mother of Jesus the Christ was the biggest anti-Communist of all time. I know this because I attended Our Lady of Fatima school in Bensalem, PA (which apparently closed in 2011) and it was clear to all us children then one of Mary's top priorities was "the consecration of Russia."

Back story: the Fatima that Our Lady was of was in Portugal. Mary made one of her occasional earthly visitations there in 1917, the same year as the Russian Revolution.

That was back in the day when she was into the whole earthly apparition trend. Nowadays she's more likely to make her presence known through crying statuary.

Anyway, she showed three shepherd children visions and told them secrets - I wasn't aware of the whole three secrets of Fatima controversy until I read about it in Wikipedia just now.

But it occurred to me when I heard about the Pussy Riot arrests - this is what Mary wanted - the end of atheistic Communism in Russia. Pussy Riot was arrested for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." No more disrespecting Christianity in Russia - just like the good old days of the medieval Catholic Church which Mary is so nostalgic for.

So Pussy Riot is in jail - are you happy now, Mary?




Friday, March 15, 2013

OMFG - Compulsive Love is even more insane than I could have imagined

I know I said I was done with the execrable web series Compulsive Love but I couldn't resist taking a peek to see more of the train wreckage. And wow, talk about male fantasies - these people are off in cloud cuckoo-land! In this week's episode an attractive woman plays pool for money against Ratface, and she wins, and Ratface won't pay up because he's a complete fucking asshole, so - and even though I knew this was coming I still couldn't believe it - she makes him pay off the $500 gamble by making him perform oral sex on her. Heehee! You gotta love the Male Fantasy Planet where men are "punished" for being complete assholes by being "forced" to perform oral sex. This web series is truly one for the ages!

Sorry I can't say what happened in the rest of the episode, I just couldn't go on. I'm going to guess that Ratface has sex on-camera with another attractive woman who just can't get enough of ratty little men and then she breaks up with him because she's just so caraaaaaazy!

Jesus H. Christ I'd rather watch Romanian porn.

Porn search terms - fascinating and creepy

Via New York  Magazine I found the fascinating Global Internet Porn Habits Infographic. The NYM article points out some of the interesting tidbits that can be gleaned from the infographic, like the fact that in Finland the most popular porn search term is "mature" and the second most popular search term is "granny." I guess I know where I'm going for my retirement.

But one thing that struck me was how often one of the top ten search terms referred to the geographic/ethnicity local to the searcher. For instance, in Russia the top search term is "Russian" (#9 is "Russian mature") and in Poland the top search term is "Polish." The top search term for both Austria and Germany is "German."

And then there is the truly disturbing fact that in Hungary the #2 search term is "mom and son" and even more disturbing - "mom and son" is number one in Romania.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Clouds

Joni Mitchell's Clouds is what I think of as "real" Joni Mitchell. Although the album kicks off with "Tin Angel" which sounds like a continuation of the austerity of Song to a Seagull. The memorable refrain "found someone to love today" is played and sung with all the joy of someone anticipating that eventually the loved one will leave her or die.

But by the second song "Chelsea Morning" Joni hits her stride. This song has all the joy of love that was missing from Tin Angel. All those little things that seem so full of beauty when you are newly in love: woke up it was a Chelsea morning and she heard traffic, which sounds like music, she saw the sun through yellow curtains and a rainbow on the wall, and milk and toast and honey and oranges - and she invites her lover to spend the day: "oh won't you stay, we'll put on the day, and we'll talk in present tenses."  Although then she switches to future tense: "I will bring you incense owls by night by candle light by jewel light if only you will stay."

But next it's I Don't Know Where I Stand, which is a bummer in comparison, with the ambivalence expressed by the title. But it's way catchy with the "feeling too foolish and strange to say the words I had planned - I guess it's too early cause I don't know where I stand."

The Song About the Midway is more like "Wearing Wings" since it's such an arresting metaphor. Roses Blue lays the groundwork for the next album in its description of the cosmic predilections of a friend. This song is distinctive mainly for the funky keyboard accompaniment - everything else so far has been pretty strictly guitar-only. The rest of the songs are just slow and boring to my ears, however poetic they might be. Only her big hit "Clouds" which is the last song on the album has any real musical interest to me.

Next up is the quintessential Joni album "Ladies of the Canyon."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Song to a Seagull

My friend Bob (AKA The Reverend Bookburn) sent me a collection of Joni Mitchell's Studio Albums 1968 - 1979 as a birthday gift, and as a result I've listened to her Song to a Seagull in its entirety for the first time ever.

This is a strange gap in my Mitchellania since I've been buying her albums since I walked through three-foot high snow drifts for a mile to get to the record store Peaches to buy Hejira in 1977.

I've never felt the need to listen to Seagull because it has none of Mitchell's hits. It's really a strange debut album - it's the most austere, even bleak-sounding of her work, and while I had the impression she progressed from folk to rock to jazz, there are quite a few musical sections in Seagull that sound very jazzy to me, especially the vocals on The Pirate of Penance.

There's very little that's catchy on this album save the refrain from I Had a King:
I can't go back there any more
You know my keys won't fit the door
You know my thoughts don't fit the man
They never can.
Although I think she missed an opportunity to develop the musical theme further - she wouldn't miss those opportunities in her subsequent albums.

Someone told me I Had a King was about David Crosby, who produced many of Mitchell's albums, but according to Wikipedia it was about Chuck - Mr. Mitchell himself.


Monday, March 11, 2013

A victory for the no-fee forces

I was recently having a discussion on the Linked-In playwrights group about the phenomenon of theater organizations asking for scripts and requiring that playwrights include a submission fee. I've seen submission fees anywhere from a dollar to $30.

NYCPlaywrights has had a policy against submission fees since it began posting calls, and as far as I am aware, is unique for that policy. Not even the Dramatists Guild, which occasionally includes calls for scripts in its membership email updates has that policy, although they do appear to feel guilty about it.

I have always hoped that by standing firm on this issue, NYCPlaywrights will persuade theater people that it is not a good idea to fund theater on script submission fees. If actors don't have to pay to audition, and directors don't have to pay to submit their CVs then I don't see why playwrights should have to pay to submit their work. Not that actors will ever have to pay to audition in any serious theater organization - I am certain that Actors Equity would not stand for it. And the reason I'm so sure they would not is because theaters would already be making them pay, but realize that AEA wouldn't let them get away with it.

And finally I have proof that NYCPlaywrights policy does have influence on this issue - at least for one organization. I received a request to post a call for submissions that required a $15 submission fee on the NYCPlaywrights web site and of course I turned it down. So on Saturday I received an email that said in part...
I took your policy to our committee and all agreed that it would be best to eliminate the fee in order to preserve the good quality of submissions that we have gotten in the past and to foster high-quality writing without undue burdens on playwrights...
As a playwright myself I am most happy that you maintain this policy.

Naturally I asked for their permission (and received it) to blast this on the NYCPlaywrights web site, weekly membership email and last but not least the Linked-In Playwrights forum. Oh yes I like to gloat.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

See yah IKEA wouldn't wanna be yah

Normally I would never dream of buying "bakelse prinsess" but I was completely  flummoxed by IKEA in Red Hook Brooklyn at 8:30 PM on Saturday night, not to mention severely dehydrated and I blame those factors.

My IKEA bed which I've had since I quit co-habitating with my last boyfriend was falling apart and since I have a weekend guest I didn't have the option of sleeping on the sleeper sofa in the living room, so I schlepped to IKEA, thinking I could get a new bed or at least a new batch of the funky wooden slatts that IKEA uses for virtually all of its beds. But between the long lines and my uncertainty as to how to lug the heavy slatting home - I had taken the complimentary IKEA shuttle bus from the R train at Court Street - not to mention the dehydration - I gave up and ran for the Swedish Market and purchased a bottle of water and then these pink cakes caught my eye and I just bought them. But I figured I could give them to my guest but then while I was waiting on the shuttle bus for like ever, I actually ate one of them. And they were partially frozen.

I've gone up and down in weight all my life - I've gone through periods of being quite thin and the opposite. But it doesn't take eating princess cakes for me to gain weight - all I have to do - especially now - to gain weight is to eat healthy foods without working out all the time. So that's all I need, extreme desserts.

Luckily I can afford a personal trainer again. Because I sure need one.

And it turned out the the problem with my bed wasn't so much the slatting as the screws of the bed frame were loose, allowing the slatting to fall through. So I tightened the screws and voila. I sure could have saved myself a hassle. If I ever go to IKEA again it won't be on a Saturday night in Brooklyn, that's for sure.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Telling the truth about theater creeps

Anybody who has read this blog for any length of time knows I've had my share of problems with creeps in the theater, from the Edward Einhorn lawsuit that cost my former partner over a quarter of a million dollars (Einhorn got $300, and the infamy of setting the cause of the director's copyright back at least 20 years) to an actor who made it her business to sabotage me personally for no other reason that I can discern than it amused her to do so, to the actor who started his own playwrights group by absconding with the NYCPlaywrights mailing list.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook I discovered that the two actors are now friends, which is perfect. They should be friends: each is full of self-regard, deficient of empathy and utterly lacking in personal integrity. They understand each other perfectly.

I have no problem naming Edward Einhorn and my grievances against him because it's all part of the public record. Instead of trying to negotiate with my former partner about the dispute over his director's fee, Einhorn instead went to his intellectual properties lawyer brother and together they claimed a stake in my play TAM LIN because Edward Einhorn directed it once. You can read all about it in the article I wrote for the Dramatists Guild - The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions.

I have no qualms about naming the two despised actors, but my personal feelings about a couple of actors isn't of much interest to anybody else. I name Edward Einhorn because my conflict with him is of interest to a much larger circle of people.

I'm thinking of this issue now because a theater friend just sent me her essay about a creep she encountered in the theater world a few years back when she was trying to be an actor. He offered his services as an acting coach, for which he charged her $50 an hour. And for that money he often started late; expected the money well in advance - and sometimes badgered her for money even further in advance, tried to get her involved in a get-rich-quick scheme; had her close her eyes to visualize during their acting coach sessions while he ran errands, and inserted kissing into scene work that didn't call for kissing as part of her "training", while his cancer-ridden (and since deceased) wife was in the next room. And for the grand finale he offered to take some of her stories and use them in a theater show and give himself directing and collaboration credit. That's what finally convinced her she needed to get out.

The essay she sent me has the guy's real name on it, but she plans to change his name in the story. Even so she's worried that he'll "come after" her if he finds out about it. I can understand her concern, I know all too well what can happen - this asshole could be just like Edward Einhorn, willing to drag everybody through the court system at  great expense to punish those who have crossed him, even though he has no legal leg to stand on and knows it. Einhorn admitted during our trial that his real motivation in his "director's copyright" case was to get paid - and as the judge said, Einhorn turned a small-claims court molehill into a federal court mountain. But Einhorn's ego was at stake so money was no object.

 Both my friend and I have every right to write about what happens to us in our lives - we have no obligation to protect the guilty, and as I've quoted from Anne Lamott before: "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better."

But the guilty will never accept their culpability and will instead turn around and attack further. That's the kind of people they are.

The best part - it turns out this acting coach creep is in the very same theater company as the two actors I despise so much. I'm sure they all understand each other perfectly.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Compulsive Love - two actual episodes

So apparently you can watch the straight male fantasy series Compulsive Love for free, although only one episode per week.

I felt maybe it was unfair that I based my assessment of the series on the trailer so I watched two episodes. And no, I was not unfair. Not only is the protagonist ("Ratface") physically unappealing yet irresistible to women, he's also a gigantic man-baby.

It did occur to me that perhaps the series is based on the same premise as Mr. Bean - which, if you are unfamiliar with that show:
...follows the exploits of Mr. Bean, described by Atkinson as "a child in a grown man's body", in solving various problems presented by everyday tasks and often causing disruption in the process. Bean rarely speaks, and the largely physical humour of the series is derived from his interactions with other people and his unusual solutions to situations. 
So it could be a Mr. Bean scenario, but in spite of the evidence I think not. I think we're actually supposed to feel sympathy for Ratface, especially since there was the series tag line that seemed crafted to garner sympathy for him: "PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY LOVE AND THE WOMEN WEARING THE BRASS KNUCKLES" although that tag line seems to have disappeared from the web site.

In the first episode we meet our hero, a grown-ass (albeit tiny) adult male, out on the street beating a trash can with a baseball bat because his girlfriend broke up with him and he's too manly to quietly cry in the privacy of his bedroom. Then we see a woman who is apparently not only his co-worker but his constant companion (when he isn't banging a chick) who has a Janeane Garafalo/Zoe Deschanel/Daria vibe. Her arm is in a sling. Daria asks Ratface if he wants to know what happened to her arm. This is a set-up to demonstrate what a priapic man-baby Ratface is, because a random woman rides by on a bike and Ratface turns mid-conversation with Daria to go chase her down.

Now here's where I almost believed there might be hope for this series. Because at some point in the montagey courtship of Ratface and Maria The Bike Woman, Maria stops to stare at a church wedding, and strangely she focuses on a freakishly enthusiastic nun who is part of the throng of well wishers. Thanks to the weirdness of the nun and the lighting effects and the slo-mo, for a second I thought this was going into some Un Chien d'Andalou surrealism territory. But alas, instead it turns into Maria having sex with Ratface, which I skipped over because ew.

The next scene Ratface is telling Daria about how great the sex was and their supervisor Melissa comes by to chide them for drinking the company coffee. This was the second time I thought maybe something interesting was going to happen - some wackiness with social-commentary-edge office humor. But no, we are whisked to a scene between Maria and Ratface in which Maria tells Ratface she's going to become a nun. Once again I perked up (but with less false hope than previously) because I thought maybe she was going to say something like having sex with Ratface convinced her that she would rather live a life of celibacy - very derivative Woody Allen style but at least it would have been something. But no, not even that. We next see Daria comforting Ratface and then watch him beat a trash can some more. And actually Daria tells him to hit the can.

The second episode was even worse - the girl of the week was an Asian woman who spends all her time with her mother, talking in their strange foreign tongue that Ratface doesn't understand, and finally la femme de la semaine breaks up with Ratface because she'd rather spend more time with her mother.

And it turns out that Daria has an obsessive stalker - a balding barista. Apparently no attractive men exist on Straight Male Fantasy Planet.

Well it looks like this is shaping up to be a series with the classic female triumvirate of straight-male-dominated storytelling - the bitch, the crazy slut, and the Because...Um? girl.

I'll let Sady Doyle break it down...
In Apatow-Brand comedies... girls are either bitches (wives; sexually unavailable women; professional women; ex-girlfriends) or sluts, typically of the crazy drunk variety. (Woody Allen, another prominent "Because, Um...?" writer, uses Manhattan to compress all of the above-listed "bitch" characteristics into a successful lesbian ex-wife, whom he hilariously confesses to having tried to run over with his car. HA! A man trying to murder a woman because she ended their relationship and/or is not heterosexual! It's funny, 'cause that's how a lot of women actually die!) Eastbound & Down takes this tack by having literally only two other female characters, a wife whom we're encouraged to think of as an uptight bitch and a "fuckbuddy" whose only defining characteristic is that she is such a crazy drunk slut all the time. The "Because, Um...?" girl can only exist in the negative space created by this double bind. If women have standards, they're bitches; if they don't have standards, they're sluts: try to write yourself out of this, and you find that the only feasible way to create a non-threatening female character is to give her no motivations or personality whatsoever, to turn her into a cipher who provides love or sex simply because the plot demands it.
So in Compulsive Love we have the crazy sluts: obviously all the women who have sex with Ratface; the bitch: the office manager, the Asian woman's mom; and Daria, the Because, Um... Girl. Now she's not having sex with Ratface yet, but I expect eventually Ratface will realize that she is the one for him. But she's still a Because, Um... Girl because she actually spends her free time with him. Because, Um... who the hell would do that??? Although if you are forced to live in the land of no attractive men, it does become more understandable.

Well maybe it's just silly for me to look for any rhyme or reason here because the series' author basically says that everybody is crazy:
Compulsive Love follows Aaron who is completely obsessed with women. Is his character a broader statement on the dangers of conflating happiness with having a relationship? Or is it poking fun at the tragic failures of dating?
I think a little of both. Aaron rushes into relationships. He thinks being in love will save him and solve all problems. He thinks every girl he meets is the girl that will change his life. 
In the series Aaron tries to cut through the “batshit craziness” of dating. But he’s nutty himself. Who’s crazier him or the women he dates?
He is equally crazy as they are if not more so. I think that’s part of the fun. 
The series is full of big laughs. It’s also very sexy.
Sex is always a good idea.  My plays tend to be pretty sexy.  It’s part of my aesthetic and one I think Kevan (our genius director) shares.
Straight men think it's off-the-charts sexy to see an unattractive man have sex with lots of attractive women. Although normally we call this "straight porn."

And the interviewer and the author apparently haven't seen the series. Aaron thinks being in love will solve all his problems? What problems? The only problem we see him having is getting laid and maintaining his fuck-buddy status. There is zero context here. And the tragic failures of dating? Ratface finds an attractive woman, has sex with her, and then some bizarre unlikely plot point intervenes - the woman wants to become a nun, the woman is with her mother at all times. Yes this is truly an incisive commentary on Our Times.

The fact that Straight Male Fantasy Planet is populated exclusively by the batshit crazy is the biggest problem of this series. Because batshit crazy people are in fact not actually interesting. If Ratface was normally sane and then we see him beating on a trashcan in the middle of the street, well that would be amusing. Because it's extreme and out-of-character and thus would effectively convey his extreme disappointment in love. But if he's batshit crazy then so what? That's the kind of thing that batshit crazy people do!

And Ratface isn't so crazy that he is unable to express his cool subversiveness by coming back at the crazy bitch office manager's insults with a bon mot about monkeys shitting on the wall. So his craziness doesn't render him completely incoherent - just crazy enough to find a new crazy but attractive woman to have sex with every week.

Then again if everybody is batshit crazy, you have an automatic out:

If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended: 
we're all batshit crazy here!

Well that's it for me and this series. It's just too damn depressing.

If you want to see a web series done right - including a romantic angle with an attractive male object of desire, check out The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The penis artist

I've discovered that it only takes thirty minutes to walk from home to work, so I've been getting extra exercise walking to and from most days. And also I've discovered the oevre of someone I like to call "the penis artist" for obvious reasons (see below.) I've only found three extant works so far, but there is a distinctive look to all three that makes it clear this is the work of a single individual of the geo-primitive school.

Then again, the artist might be part of the penisart.org school.


 

Of course portraying erect penii is an old human tradition, found in both ancient Greek vases...


And even carved into hills, as with the "rude man" known as the Cerne Abbas Giant.



...which you can see using Google Maps.