Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Obama crushes it at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

Obama has got to be the funniest president we have ever had. Here he is at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner. He is so good - he's much funnier than Conan. And this is not a fluke - if you watch all his WHCD appearances to date you can see he is great every time - I can't help but have a big grin on my face the whole time I'm watching these.

He might have been the best at the 2011 WHCD - but my perception might be colored by the fact that while he was displaying his impeccable comic delivery, he was at the same time preparing to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Unless he screws up big time in the next few years, Obama is going down in history as one of our greatest presidents - the great comic delivery is just gravy. But I love it so much.

And who wouldn't laugh at this line: "why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?"

Not to mention the utterly perfect smack-down of Maureen Dowd.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The latest NYCPlaywrights video

Wow, I recorded five videos last week in one afternoon - that was exhausting. Now it's going to take me five weeks to get them all edited and online. And these weren't mini-movies like some of the videos I've done for the NYCPlaywrights Play of the Month project - these were "just" script-in-hand readings. Although I did get fancy with close-up shots and such.

Here is the first one - my actor buddy Clem here is awesome here - his hysterical laugh is truly creepy - and he did just as creepy for each of the three takes. I was impressed. And he recently scored himself a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire. Yay!

The Mikki Kendall lied abortion story controversy

Read all the posts about Mikki Kendall's career of lies and hatred here.

In May 2011, a few months before Mikki Kendall and her sycophants began a Tumblr smear campaign of lies against me, calling me a "racist" because I disagreed with the claim that John Lennon and Yoko Ono are racists (the result is that when you Google my name these extremists' Tumblr posts calling me a racist come up on the first page), Kendall had a piece published in Salon entitled Abortion Saved My Life.

Shortly after, anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek made an issue out of it.

Now I'm a liberal and an atheist and a feminist and I'm not about to start siding with a bunch of right-wing anti-abortion activists.

On the other hand, no anti-abortion activist has ever undertaken a deliberate smear campaign against me. It took a liberal feminist pro-choice advocate like Mikki Kendall to do that.

As much as I would like to automatically dismiss whatever any anti-abortion activist says, Stanek does get at something that cannot be dismissed. Stanek wrote:
I asked why hadn’t Kendall sued? Why didn’t she name both the hospital and doctor? I concluded my comments at Salon by writing the publication was negligent for posting Kendall’s story without fact-checking and should retract it. 
Pro-aborts went on to slam me with their standard fare of slurs, nor did Kendall handle the criticisms very well. She blogged on May 27 that pro-lifers were “motherf***ers” and threatened, “I’m not a nice girl, and you’re about to see that.” 
Then, on May 29, still aggravated by “the comments and emails that are flooding my inbox,” Kendall blogged: 
Some say I should name and shame the doctor that refused to do the procedure. If I knew why he refused I might have done just that, but since I know that there are many possible reasons that he did not do it? I’ve left him to deal with the internal procedures in place. 
Excuse me? Kendall’s entire Salon story was built upon her accusation that a heartless, negligent, anti-abortion doctor was willing to let her hemorrhage to death rather than provide a life-saving abortion.
Stanek does have a point. The sub-heading of the article is "I almost died in an emergency room because the doctor on call refused to perform a necessary procedure." And Kendall writes:
The doctor who didn’t do abortions was supposed to have contacted her (or someone else who would perform the procedure) immediately. He didn’t. Neither did his students. Supposedly there was a communication breakdown and they thought she had been notified, but I doubt it. I don’t know if his objections were religious or not; all I know is that when a bleeding woman was brought to him for treatment he refused to do the only thing that could stop the bleeding. Because he didn’t do abortions. Ever. 
My two kids at home almost lost their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway. My husband had told them exactly what my regular doctor said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would have to happen. Yet none of this mattered when confronted by the idea that no one needs an abortion... 
The article presents no evidence at all for the doctor's views on abortion. All we know is that he didn't do abortions. Kendall even admits that she doesn't know. Perhaps because he had no experience doing abortions? That could have been it, but Kendall doesn't care.

And then she suggests that the doctor deliberately left her to die (my emphasis):
Supposedly there was a communication breakdown and they thought she had been notified, but I doubt it. 
Kendall "doubts" that it was a legitimate communication breakdown. How convenient, since nobody would be interested in publishing her article if it was a story about a tragedy that almost occurred in a hospital due to a communication breakdown, because anybody who knows anything about hospitals understands that those kinds of situations happen all the time. It's a perfectly plausible explanation.

So on the basis of nothing more than "I doubt it" Kendall proceeds to accuse the doctor of attempted second-degree murder, stating that:
...(he) decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway
The difference between her smear of me and her smear of the doctor is that she doesn't name the doctor. But of course she wouldn't because Mikki Kendall and Salon would have been sued for defamation if she had made such an ill-founded and outrageous claim against any individual.

She did name me though, because apparently it's legal to spread a malicious lie about someone on the Internet, if you "only" falsely claim they are a racist.

The article clearly does give the anti-abortion side a legitimate gripe - Salon published what appears to be a deliberate attempt to smear those with anti-abortion views as heartless murderers.

So thanks for giving the anti-abortion brigade the moral high ground, Mikki Kendall and Salon.

And thanks for making me agree with an anti-abortion activist, because I must echo something that Jill Stanek wondered about Salon - do they do fact-checking? Do they have any editors? How did Mikki Kendall's scurrilous sensationalist piece of yellow journalism come to be published by Salon?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mikki Kendall hates white feminists

As I've recently blogged, it appears that what Mikki Kendall hates more than anything is white feminists.

A wise man once said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Now I thought MLK's point was that we all deserve to be judged by the content of our character. But apparently Mikki Kendall doesn't agree with that - at least not when it comes to white feminists. We are all one big evil undifferentiated mass to her.

I found out who Mikki Kendall was because I found her smearing my name as a "racist" in Google results, because I disagreed with her claim that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were/are racists. At first I thought that Kendall (along with her white sycophant Rebecca Scott aka The Mad Gastronomer) was sincerely upset that I said John Lennon and Yoko Ono were not racists. But as I've studied her work over the past year and a half - since her smears against me keep coming up in my name's Google results it's hard to forget about her -  I've come to the realization that the real issue isn't the alleged social views of one octogenarian Japanese-American celebrity and one long-dead British celebrity (who of course were married to each other while being different races) it's the fact that I expressed an opinion that Mikki Kendall disagreed with - and I persisted in being a white feminist while doing so.

What finally brought Mikki Kendall's deranged hatred of white feminists home for me was the Salon abortion article controversy. I won't get into the controversy itself just now, although some interesting points were raised. For now I want to talk about Kendall's appalling response to Amanda Marcotte.

Marcotte is pretty famous in the blogger world - famous enough that when Marcotte was hired by then-presidential candidate John Edwards for his campaign, right-wing Catholic nutter Bill Donohue saw to it that she was fired.

When anti-abortion activists accused Kendall of lying in her Salon article, Marcotte came to Kendall's defense. That was May 2011.

Kendall expressed her gratitude nine months later by attacking Marcotte by name, implying that she was getting credit for something she stole from non-white bloggers.

Clearly it doesn't matter to Kendall that Marcotte has been blogging for quite a while and is most likely more famous than these other bloggers. To consider that possibility would be to give Marcotte the benefit of the doubt.

No, Marcotte is clearly guilty as sin, because she's a white feminist and Kendall wants to make sure you know that it's Marcotte's whiteness that makes her a WOC-blog content-thief.

Now I have certainly had my disagreements with Amanda Marcotte - most recently about a year ago we got into a debate about whether or not most Internet porn was misogynist - I wanted to know what Marcotte's empirical evidence was, and she didn't feel she needed to provide any. I objected to this.

But for Mikki Kendall to turn around and attack Marcotte for simply being better known than non-white bloggers - or probably more to the point, better known than Mikki Kendall - is a truly shitty thing to do. 

However, Mikki Kendall is certainly within her First Amendment rights to disagree with me, and Amanda Marcotte and to hate us and all other white feminists, loudly and publicly for her own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of her white-feminist-hater sycophants.

My problem with Mikki Kendall is that she didn't bother to engage in a debate with me about Lennon/Ono's alleged racism - probably because she didn't have a good argument. 

What she did was to try to shut the argument down. By smearing me as a racist thanks to Tumblr and her Tumblr zombie friends. Kendall wants to intimidate me right out of my First Amendment rights through the threat of smearing.

And while she's trying to intimidate me out of my First Amendment rights, she fully expects to have a legitimate career as a writer for Jane and Salon and Publishers Weekly.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More on Mikki Kendall's misogynist pal

You can read all my posts about the full-time career of hate-mongering by unethical journalist Mikki Kendall here.

The thing about Mikki Kendall's attempt to smear me via Tumblr-Google-bombing is that she doesn't vet the people who "like" her blog post smears. As I mentioned yesterday, Andrew Bellware liked one of her bullshit blog posts and he's as misogynist as they come.

But really, the Grand Wizard of the KKK could like and repost Kendall's smear about me and she wouldn't care - because what she really cares about isn't actual racism, or fighting actual racists, it's trying to shut white feminists up because she hates white feminists more than anything else. And the more people who repost or like her garbage, the more she can attack white feminists. And no that is not hyperbole. She is obsessed with her hatred for white feminists:

Here Mikki Kendall pushes the idea that white feminists hate Michelle Obama.
Once again, Mikki Kendall finds that white feminists fail.
And of course Mikki Kendall believes that white feminists are racists.

The best part though is that she actually appears to be attempting to make a career as a writer and/or academic while at the same time operating as a Tumblr-mob bully. More about that soon.

Andrew Bellware, Mikki Kendall supporter enjoys pictures of trussed up women.

Well it is a white woman in the photo. Maybe Mikki Kendall is OK with it, since it's only a white woman and they are the root of all evil. Especially Lena Dunham, who accepted an offer to have her own TV show and didn't refuse the opportunity on the basis that there is still injustice all over the world.

Because if TV executives don't do shows about women of color we all know who is to blame - white feminists.

Friday, April 26, 2013

When extremists attack

I've mentioned here before that I was the target of some extremists who, because I disagreed with them about John Lennon and Yoko Ono  (I said Lennon/Ono were not racists) decided to use their Tumblr accounts to tag me as a racist in Google results.

At first I thought the source of the smear was someone named The Mad Gastronomer - her real name is Rebecca Scott - but eventually I realized that Scott was just repeating something from Mikki Kendall's Tumblr account, called Esoterica. Kendall blogs under the name karnythia.

Who is Mikki Kendall? Well that's an interesting question, and one which I will probably be addressing in detail soon. It turns out that a friend of mine has a mutual friend of hers on Facebook, and I thought I'd see if contacting Kendall through a social network (she doesn't include her email address on her Tumblr account) would convince her to stop lying about me online. We'll see what happens.

But here's an interesting thing about extremists like Mikki Kendall - they are so extreme that they end up hurting their own ideological allies and aiding the very people they claim to oppose.

Here is an example - the thing about Tumblr is that as people repost somebody else's story, it goes higher on Google results. Now it turns out that a loathsome misogynist by the name of Andrew Bellware has a Tumblr account, and as you can see here, he decided to help push Kendall & friends' lie about me higher by liking her post - his Tumblr account is called pandoramachine.

Notice the bottom comment about "white feminists" - it's an increasingly unavoidable conclusion that for Kendall and her mob white feminists are the root of all evil.

For over a year I've just ignored Kendall and friends' slurs against me. But now that they are in league with a woman-hating* freak like Bellware, shit's about to get real.

I initially tangled with Andrew Bellware when I blogged about the fact that he was mentioned on the web site Nudity Required, No Pay, which chronicles the various attempts throughout the entertainment industry to exploit actors, especially female actors. This developed into a year long barrage of personal attacks from Bellware - not only publishing a parody I wrote in its entirety on his site without my permission, attacking me while publishing my name and personal email address (although he does that to his "friends" too), along with defamatory statements and "poetry" written specifically to attack me via my personal life, (yes, he has the emotional sophistication of an adolescent -but that's pretty obvious when you look at the dorm room aesthetic of his web site - including at least one photo of a trussed up woman, which Bellware declares is "awesome" - I wonder how Mikki Kendall likes that)  but even more grotesquely, through a series of search string texts with extreme sexual and misogynistic messages.  I blogged about that here. Here's a sample of the kinds of things he chose to enter into Google search, knowing that I would read them:
[my name] heavens mergatroyd needs it hard in the ass 
[my name] heavens mergatroyd slurps it down  
[my name] heavens mergatroyd can't keep cock out of her ass
There are plenty more where that came from - he did it regularly from March - December 2010.

So I find it very strange that Mikki Kendall is basically in league with this asshole. She seems to hate other feminists much more than misogynists. Which I guess is how extremists roll.

*Bellware does have female friends who aid him in making his "movies" and who have no problem with his intense misogyny - but of course there are also female Republicans and women who oppose abortion. There are all kinds of women out there who will work with misogynists, for reasons best known to themselves.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Frontline web site: a treasure trove of content

Damn I'm busy lately - I barely have time to spend hours on the Internet.

Recently I've discovered the treasure trove of stuff that is the Frontline web site, most especially the shows and online content devoted to examining the economic system and what went wrong with it. Just the interviews alone are incredible - they have Krugman and Goolsbee.

How could you not love Goolsbee, the way he expresses himself? He suggests that AIG deserves the "Nobel Prize for Evil."

A great anecdote from Goolsbee at the end of the clip above:
"So the financial crisis is absolutely full-blown, and at the beginning of December, the president has named all of the [people] who are going to be taking the economic jobs in the Cabinet. And they have the first big briefing in Chicago at the beginning of December. Everyone comes in, and we get a blizzard in Chicago. So most of the leading economic officials of the last two decades, they can't get a cab. They are all taking the El in and traipsing through the snow to get to the transition office...

They go through, and they brief the president, and absolutely one thing after another. It couldn't be worse -- epically horrible. The GDP we thought at that time is going to be shrinking 3, 4 percent a year at annual rates, which is extremely bad. Job market -- horrible. Financial markets -- Tim Geithner says that we can't argue that there won't be another collapse; we don't know that they will vote the second half of the TARP; the stock market may collapse further. [It's] not clear there won't be contagion.

I talk about the housing market. Prices are down. People can't finance their mortgages. Home wealth, household wealth has fallen the most on record, bigger than the beginning of the Great Depression. We go through one after another. The briefing ends.

I go up to the president, who I've known for sometime, and I say, "Mr. President, that has got to be the worst background briefing that a president-elect has had since 1932, Franklin Roosevelt, if not Abraham Lincoln, 1861."

And he says: "Goolsbee, I hate to break it to you. That's not even my worst briefing this week."

You can see why Jon Stewart loves Goolsbee so much - he had him on the show six times. Which is alot for an economist, especially when you consider he had Elizabeth Warren on four times and Krugman on only once.

Here is part 1 of the extended Daily Show Goolsbee interview, the most recent one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More Randiness

As I said, I couldn't resist reading the New Yorker's review of Atlas Shrugged before diving into the novel. I already knew the basic outline of the plot, but even so the review contains a few surprises, so


I had to LOL at this bit:
...with the country tumbling into ruins around their ears and armed marauders laying waste to whole states (the liberals) offer (John Galt) the post of Economic Dictator. He curtly declines. The desperate liberals, including Dagny's brother, are completely at a loss before a man like Galt. So they torture him.
"We want you to take over!... We want you to rule!... We order you to give orders!... We demand that you dictate!... We order you to save us!... We order you to think!..."
This sort of thing doesn't accomplish much. The electronic torture machine breaks down before Galt does (no fooling, these liberals can't do anything right), James Taggart goes out of his mind, and the Utopia branch of the N.A.M., revolvers drawn, dashes to the rescue, scattering terror and confusion through the ranks of the liberals.
"God damn you!" yelled the (liberal) chief, seized a gun with his left hand, and fired at the deserter. In time with the fall of the man's body, the window burst into a shower of glass - and from the limb of a tree, as from a catapult, the tall, slender figure of a man flew into the room, landed on its feet and fired at the first guard in reach. "Who are you? screamed some terror-blinded voice. "Ragnar Danneskjold."
I forgot to mention Danneskjold, because he is only a pirate. Anyway, John Galt and Dagny escape from the doomed world of liberalism and return to the valley of unfettered enterprise...
The bit "because he is only a pirate" killed me.

As I said, this is the last time The New Yorker mentioned Rand until 1995. No doubt after this review the New Yorker figured it was all up for Rand - who could take such literarily-challenged nutjob seriously?

Funny thing about that...  when they do finally mention her again in it's in "Twilight of the Goddess" marveling at how popular her work is after all these years:
Thirteen years after Rand's death, her books still sell more than three hundred thousand copies a year; "The Fountainhead," her slow-building blockbuster of 1943, was made an honorary Book-of-the-Month Club selection to mark half a century of unabating demand. But the size of her ever-renewing audience is only a part of the story. At a "Fountainhead" anniversary banquet held by the Ayn Rand Institute, nearly two hundred people paid a hundred and twenty-five dollars each to listen to excerpts from Rand's private letters, and to watch one another bid more than five thousand dollars for her blue-green metal ashtray with matching lighter and twenty-five thousand dollars for the manuscript of her last speech, for which Rand herself had been paid in gold. Throughout the festivities, responsibly conservative business executives, teachers, secretaries, lawyers, and a scattering of college students who'd been barely old enough to read at the time of Rand's death discussed the principles of heroic individualism by which she had taught them all to live..."
Speaking of delusional suckers, on one of the pages of the 1957 New Yorker review is this ad:

You just can't keep bad ideas down. 

And now it's time for that great quotation about novels that inspire cults (Krugman also likes to quote it):
-- There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to succeed as an Ayn Rand Character

Too busy to do much blogging - enjoy this humor at Ayn Rand's expense until I can write a longer blog post.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Whip Smart

In addition to my Ayn Rand related play, I'm also working on the full-length MISTRESS ILSA, and so decided to do research by taking Melissa Febos' memoir "Whip Smart" out of the library. Not surprisingly, this book is a much quicker read than "Atlas Shrugged." Although I have to admit that this is due in part to the fact that I skimmed quickly over the bits about Febos' struggles with drug addictions and her personal relationships outside of the dungeon. I was looking for useful details about life as a dominatrix, and also sorry to say I don't like Febos' literary style, which is inelegant and has a whiff of women's magazine perky self-helpiness. So that doesn't really put her ahead of Rand, aesthetically. But clearly she's well ahead of Rand subject-wise. So with the skimming I got through Whip Smart in one night.

As entertaining as it is, I really didn't learn much new about the lives of dominatrices. MISTRESS ILSA actually does cover quite a bit of the basics. One thing I did find interesting and a contrast to my play, is that whips aren't used all the time in real dungeons. There's quite a bit more of mind games and gross medical equipment-based scenarios and verbal abuse than actual whipping. Febos says that whipping was one of her favorite aspects of being a dominatrix because of the skill factor.

But except for some of the more outre and gross predilections of Febos' clients, it wasn't especially informative. I had the general framework of the dungeon world right already. I've never been in a dungeon but I know two women who worked as dominatrices so I did have some prior knowledge from them and from other readings.

And now that I'm done this book, it's back to "Atlas Shrugged." *sigh*

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don’t

Vulture has an article that possibly explains why so many middle-aged men on dating sites expect to get much younger women. The best part is the handy charts.
For each of our leading men, we tried to pick a representative sample of films — usually ten — where that A-lister had a notable love interest or wife, then we plotted the age gaps on our charts over the course of that star's career. (Because production dates for older movies can be hard to come by, we measured the stars' ages on the day the film in question was released.) The results confirmed our suspicions: As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties). If our actor was sharing the screen with an A-lister of commensurate star power like Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, the age difference would drop somewhat, but in movies that relied solely on our guy's big name, the lesser-known love interests would nearly always be decades younger.

Harrison Ford has one of the most ridiculous age-gap charts:

While Tom Hanks has one of the least ridiculous:

Naturally the comments after the article include your standard responses from grumpy old men who point to bullshit evolutionary psychology theories (most of them developed by old men) in an attempt to justify this situation. But since Hollywood movies are primarily created by men for men, of course they're going to be chock-full of male fantasy scenarios. This is no doubt a major reason why I don't go to see more than one or two Hollywood movies at most each year. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Reading Atlas Shrugged

Yep, that's what I'm going to do. I mean, like anybody else with an interest in the literary arts, I've laughed at the lameness of Ayn Rand's novels, but in truth I've only read The Fountainhead, and that when I was in high school. But I'm not going to go through that again just to have it fresh in mind. Instead I'm going to read her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas seems to be more popular with Libertarians anyway, if my former colleague counts for anything. He was a gay, devout Christian Libertarian (yes I can't figure out how that works either) and he would occasionally use the company email system to share information about libertarian predilections. Most memorably, when Farah Fawcett died he had to let us in on the fascinating tidbit that she was once in the running to portray Dagney Taggart in a movie version of the novel.

I can guarantee that he and I were the only people in that mass of blue-shirts who had any idea who "Dagney Taggart" was. And even a friend of mine at that company, a woman in her 60s who had been married to a French man and spent 20 years living in France - and so whom I thought was well-informed, had no idea who Ayn Rand was until I told her.

Although perhaps she can be forgiven for that since Ayn Rand's renaissance only began happening while my friend was living in France. Rand was a fairly obscure cult figure until the late 1990s. To get a sense of how her fame has waned and waxed consider that when you do a search on the name "Ayn Rand" in the New Yorker archives, she is mentioned in the review of Atlas Shrugged in October 1957, and then doesn't appear again until June 1995. Then another five years pass and she's mentioned in an April 2000 article about Alan Greenspan, called "The Fountainhead" - and after that she's mentioned about once a year through the 2000s and then after 2008 she's mentioned monthly, and even more frequently in the run-up to the 2012 election. That's no surprise since the cult she inspired turns out to include presidential candidates Ron Paul, son Rand Paul and Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan. And of course Alan Greenspan, who was not only a member of the Rand cult but as The Fountainhead article explains, was a member of her inner circle.

I've bashed Ayn Rand in a previous play of mine, Christmas Blessings, but I want to really go after her in a new play I'm working on - I portray an Objectivist reading group - and so I feel like I really should read Atlas to get all the details right, even if there is no way I can read anything by Rand impartially.

I expect I will read Atlas one chapter at a time and report back here as I go.

But I couldn't resist reading the New Yorker's review of the book first...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It's Shakespeare's birthday time again

The people at the Shakespeare Birthday Trust gave me another heads-up about their annual birthday project for the Bard. I posted it on the NYCPlaywrights web site which should guarantee their getting a decent number of responses.

For 2011 I sent them a link to my post about getting turned onto Shakespeare via the BBC Shakespeare plays version of AS YOU LIKE IT with Helen Mirren.

Then last year I sent them a link to this piece about the solace of sonnets.

I turned that piece into a monologue which I made a video of last summer. I guess I'll use that as my entry this year.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring can really hang you up the most - 2013

This version of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is the first I had heard, so maybe that's why I can't stand the versions that have an annoying preamble that goes:
Once I was a sentimental thing;
threw my heart away each spring.
Now a spring romance
hasn't got a chance.
Promised my first dance to winter.
All I've got to show's a splinter
for my little fling.
Ick. And every other version I've heard includes that preamble - Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, and on and on. And sorry to say the original version by Fran Landesman did include those lines, but Jones rightly left it out.

And really the actual lyrics aren't that important, it's the title/refrain, which is just sooo 1950s beatnick: Spring can really hang you up the most. Man. And it's just as true today as when it was written in 1955.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


When I first heard of the Mingus album I had no desire to run out and get it, since the description made it sound like it was more of a Charles Mingus album - someone I had never heard of - than a Joni Mitchell album.

And now that I have a copy in the Mitchell box set given to me by Rev. Bookburn, and can finally listen to Mingus, I can see my impression was correct - it is more of a Charles Mingus than a Joni Mitchell album. There are exactly two songs on this album that have words and music by Mitchell - all the rest are words by Mitchell and music by Mingus.

I'm not an especially big fan of Mingus. His music is from the free jazz period of endless improvisation, which just wears me down. His Pithecanthropus Erectus is a case in point. In addition to the amusing, punning title (erectus meaning upright - Mingus played the upright bass) it starts out sounding great - and then at minute 1:32 they fuck it all up with show-offy improvisation-sounding squawks and random tempos. And it just hurts my ears. Now I'm not necessarily against un-harmonious sounds - the guitar solo in the Pixies Gigantic is pretty dissonant, but the rhythm track never wavers, which keeps everything flowing. If everything becomes dissonant at the same time then you have noise. And that's a big reason why hardly anybody except hard-core free jazz aficionados listen to Charles Mingus any more.

So this is not my favorite Joni album.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter

So here we are at Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. I'm a huge fan of the song Dreamland.

The rest, not so much. It's experimental, and experimental invariably means self-indulgent and incomplete and tiresome. It works OK as background music for a hipster coffee shop.

The songs/experiments are extremely forgettable. Mitchell was only 34 when this was released, but had been a pop star for ten years and probably figured she deserved to be a little self-indulgent. This is the first album Mitchell released that had no input from Crosby, Stills, Nash nor Young. Although Glenn Fry of the Eagles does backing vocals on "Off Night Backstreet" for one last sliver of California rock presence.

Apparently Dreamland was originally going to be on Hissing of Summer Lawns, which would have been amazing. I discovered this early version with kazoo solo(!) from the Summer Lawns sessions on Youtube.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunny Saturday out of the city

We rented a car (Prius - ah memories) and headed for deep South Jersey on Saturday to take the Reverend Bookburn out for dinner for his birthday.

Here we are arriving in the cul-de-sac.

The Rev, surprisingly, lives in suburban splendor. Back in our younger days the Rev was always heading for Philadelphia or New York City, but now he's out in what is practically the country, down in Gloucester County.

Here is Nome, enjoying some of the suburban splendor.

But there were no restaurants in the suburban splendor so we headed over to Collingswood NJ, where the Rev used to live in his younger days - many an itinerant punk rock band crashed on the floor of his apartment in those days. This was especially funny because at the time Collingswood was a quaint old town full of old people and thrift shops. But now it's this happening place, full of fancy and funky restaurants and artsy-craftsy shops and boutiques. Dig This.

We took the Rev to the Tortilla Press and got him a birthday brownie for dessert.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rainy Friday in the city

Wow, the weather was crappy today, but I went out into the cold and the rain anyway. First I went with a co-worker to the New York University Torch Club for lunch - my co-worker is an alumni of NYU - to have delicious Senegal-fusion food created by chef Pierre Thiam. They even had a fire going.

I'm not sure who the guy in the portrait is - my co-worker told me but I forgot.

The view on the rainy street.
I liked the rug in front of the fire place - it needed some cleaning but I need a new rug soon - I wouldn't mind this one (if it was cleaner.)

And to cap off the day I met with my physical therapist which I love because she basically gives me a neck massage every time I see her and it feels awesome. On the way out I passed the abstract sculpture known as the Spillhous Sun Triangle. Of course there was no sun, but I couldn't resist taking this photo under one side of the triangle - the entire sculpture is reflective.

Here is another photo of the Triangle - I put a red box where I stood to get the photo above:

This is all in a sunken plaza, which by the way, is right next door to the Death Star - aka the American headquarters of News Corp, the parent company of the dread Fox News. *shiver* Now if only I could find that thermal exhaust port.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alyssa Rosenberg is a terrible writer, and Slate pays her to write

Slate paid an absurd person to trash ROMEO & JULIET.

Rosenberg makes a big deal about Juliet's age, and the fact that the play is not kitchen-sink enough for her tastes. And apparently the play isn't good enough for black actors either.

Romeo and Juliet's exact ages are not important to the plot. The important thing is that because of the blood feud between two groups, their children end up dead. This kind of thing does happen which is why it resonates enough to be in continual performance for over 400 years.


More importantly, Juliet was going to be married off to Paris - instead she marries a man of her own choosing. It's absurd to compare Juliet's situation to a young woman in the present time who has the luxury of waiting until she's 18 to marry whomever she wishes. And that's only in industrial societies - girls who are 13 years old and younger are sold into marriage by their families, often to much older men, right in the present time in some parts of the world.

But it's not like I expect Slate writers to be scholars with enough ambition to research such things - all she had to do was watch Shakespeare in Love, which not only presents bits of R&J but also makes it clear that Viola must marry a man chosen for her by her parents. As virtually all young women of the time, and most especially well-born ones, did.

Clearly Slate writers don't get paid for breadth of knowledge nor for depth of thought nor ambition of scholarship. I guess half-assed rants get more hits.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Exactly - Compulsive Love isn't actually about love

I haven't seen any more of the Compulsive Love web series since the last time I blogged about it, but I did find the only other review of the series besides my own: a web site called Comedy TV Is Dead has a review of the series. And while it is much more positive than my reviews (it would be hard to like this series less than I do) I was gratified to see that somebody shares my opinion about the way the series is being marketed (my emphasis):
I just can’t help but wonder who it’s (sic) audience will turn out to be. When it comes down to it, Compulsive Love isn’t actually about love. Those tuning in looking for something romantic will invariably be put off by the lack of it. Likewise, the comedy isn’t quite “College Humour” enough for the audience I feel it was intended for. In fact I think the name suggests this, and doesn’t seem likely to appeal to a young male audience.
Thank you!

Although I disagree with the last sentence - I think a young male audience is exactly who this series would appeal to.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

In which I lament the pitiful state of women's fashions

I knew my chances were poor when I stopped in at Bloomingdales to attempt to find something to wear to work tomorrow - this sudden summer weather caught me with a closet full of cold-weather apparel.

But it's so convenient, that store, right at the Lexington Avenue N/Q/R station.

But I discovered that this season, like so many other seasons, fashion designers have conspired to rob women of all dignity. Nothing but wild clashing stripes and polka-dots and flower patterns. And odd, ugly, asymmetrical cuts. And three-quarter sleeves. When will they STOP making women's clothing with three-quarter sleeves? You don't see men's clothing with three-quarter sleeves. Because three-quarter sleeves are IDIOTIC.

And what is with the fucking sequins? Half of all the women's dresses have sequins all over them.

It's clear that fashion designers have decreed that adult women will be dressing this season like goddam clowns.

I scoured that store for something to wear that didn't make me look like a bad acid trip, and found a dress similar to the one above, except the one I found was black and dark-gray stripes. But you know, something that gave me a shred of dignity. Well guess what that garment, made of $3 worth of fabric and $5 worth of off-shore sweat-shop labor sells for? Two hundred and thirty-eight dollars. And I almost bought it because I was willing to pay not to look like a clown. I would have paid a hundred dollars for this $8 garment. But I had to draw the line at $238.

I have a sewing machine. I might just start making all my own clothing.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Playing Bill Shakespeare

I recently re-watched Shakespeare in Love and got to wondering about how many other times the man himself has been portrayed on screen. And the answer is not nearly as often as you might think.

Joseph Fiennes' Shakespeare is by far the hottest of them all. Here are some other portrayals:

Shakespeare gets punched on behalf of schoolchildren by Blackadder. Please note that Colin Firth plays Shakespeare here - in Shakespeare in Love he plays the jerkass husband of Shakespeare's lady love, played by Gwyneth Paltrow - about whom Kathy Griffin says many uncomplimentary but amusing things.

Doctor Who apparently had a storyline in which they go back in time to meet Shakespeare.

This was interesting - an entire 1978 British series about Shakespeare - who is played by Tim Curry.

And of course the scurrilous and deservedly quickly-forgotten Anonymous. It wasn't enough that they stole the man's work and gave it to Edward de Vere (because you know, how could a non-aristocrat write the works of Shakespeare?) - they had to add the insult of portraying Shakespeare as crass and a bad actor.

Derek Jacobi deserves to be visited by the angry ghost of Bill Shakespeare for his part in all this anti-Stratfordian bullshit. Would he have a total spaz attack like this?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Who are these "housewives"?

One of the things that struck me about the batch of scripts for the April 2013 Play of the Month project was that several of the scripts - including one that was chosen - had a female character described as a "housewife" in scripts set in "the present."

Who are these housewives? I don't personally know any, and I don't know of anybody who describes herself as a "housewife" - except as a euphemism for "unemployed."

And then there are the Housewives of (geographic location) reality shows. I haven't actually seen an episode but my impression is that the housewives in question are basically crass, soulless trophy wives of rich men, and they are very unlikely to perform a task normally associated with being a housewife, since they are wealthy enough to afford domestic servants.

In any case we did the script readings and those scripts were a disappointing batch - even more so than usual. There were really only two half-way decent scripts out of thirty-five submitted. We selected five. Oh well, that's show biz.

Doug Rossi and Renee Cole

Saturday, April 06, 2013


I walked through a mile in the snow to buy Hejira, as I mentioned in a prior post. It was a snow day off from school, that's how much snow there was. But I had saved enough for this album and by george I was going to get it and bring it home and listen to it on my crappy lo-fi turntable.

This was in the days before you could just order yourself up anything ever recorded via the mighty internets.

Wikipedia describes the album as folk/rock/jazz and it definitely is an odd could-only-be-Joni synthesis of those traditions.

Apparently David Sedaris was a big fan of Hejira.

Unlike Hissing of Summer Lawns, this CD from the birthday set from the Rev. Bookburn has not been in my possession forever, and in fact this is the first time I've heard the entire album all the way through since... I'm not sure, but one sign that it's been a long time is that Blue Motel Room has a line: "you and I we're like Americans and Russians, we're always keeping score, we're always balancing the power and that can get to be a cold cold war" which was not yet obsolete the last time I listened.

The album reminds me of sadness, probably due to the fact that when I got it I was suffering the post-breakup blues after my relationship with my first real boyfriend.

But also happiness: the first time my daughter ever laughed, I was singing along to Blue Motel Room while changing her diaper in her crib. The part "tell those girls that you have German measles, tell them you got gerrrrrms" really cracked her up.

Neil Young keeps the last remaining CSNY connection going, playing the harmonica on Furry Sings the Blues, a song about blues player Furry Lewis. But the most prominent musician after Mitchel is Jaco Pastorius, before he lost his marbles.

And I didn't know this - Wikipedia claims that Coyote is about an affair that Mitchell had with Sam Shepard. Did that woman ever have relations with anybody who was not famous?

And also, really Sam Shepard? Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith?

After Blue Motel Room, my favorite on this album is Black Crow. The most rocking of all the tunes, although that's a low bar since the other tunes are pretty subdued.

Hejira only received a so-so reception, but the album cover was huge.

These are the people who designed it, apparently.

And obviously the title would be controversial if the album was released today - probably Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would accuse Joni Mitchell of being a jihadi-coddler.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Well it's about time...

Shakespeare scholars unite to see off claims of the 'Bard deniers'
A group of 22 of the world's leading Shakespeare scholars have come together to produce a book that details what they consider to be definitive evidence that the Bard really did write his own plays. 
Since the 1850s, 77 people have been suggested as the likely author, with Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford – and Christopher Marlowe the most popular candidates, and Queen Elizabeth I among the most outlandish. The academics feel the anti-Shakespeare campaign has intensified lately, and that the elevation of Shakespeare authorship studies to master's degree status has been the final straw. 
Three eminent experts on Bacon, Oxford and Marlowe are among the Shakespeareans who demonstrate in a series of essays precisely why only Shakespeare could have written his plays and poems, apart from his collaborations. Cambridge University Press will publish Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy on 18 April, days before the Shakespeare birthday celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon on 20-21 April. The publication – which they say will be scholarly, but accessible for general readers – is co-edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, noted scholars from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the academic charity.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sam Harris throws a hissyfit

Glen Greenwald responded to the recent articles about Sam Harris including the one in Salon I linked to the other day. And Harris threw a fit.

Greenwald posted the exchange. For one thing Harris claims that he can't be an Islamophobe because:

There is no such thing as "Islamophobia." This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia. And it is doing its job, because people like you have been taken in by it. 

Greenwald responded with an article in The Guardian:

...Harris' self-loving mentality amounts to this: those primitive Muslims are so tribal for reflexively siding with their own kind, while I constantly tout the superiority of my own side and justify what We do against Them. How anyone can read any of these passages and object to claims that Harris' worldview is grounded in deep anti-Muslim animus is staggering. He is at least as tribal, jingoistic, and provincial as those he condemns for those human failings, as he constantly hails the nobility of his side while demeaning those Others. 
Perhaps the most repellent claim Harris made to me was that Islamophobia is fictitious and non-existent, "a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia". How anyone can observe post-9/11 political discourse in the west and believe this is truly mystifying. The meaning of "Islamophobia" is every bit as clear as "anti-semitism" or "racism" or "sexism" and all sorts of familiar, related concepts. It signifies (1) irrational condemnations of all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group; (2) a disproportionate fixation on that group for sins committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially one's own; and/or (3) sweeping claims about the members of that group unjustified by their actual individual acts and beliefs. I believe all of those definitions fit Harris quite well, as evinced by this absurd and noxious overgeneralization from Harris: 
The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed." 
That is utter garbage: and dangerous garbage at that. It is no more justifiable than saying that the only future which religious Jews - as Jews - can envision is one in which non-Jews live in complete slavery and subjugation: a claim often made by anti-semites based on highly selective passages from the Talmud. It is the same tactic that says Christians - as Christians - can only envisage the extreme subjugation of women and violence against non-believers based not only on the conduct of some Christians but on selective passages from the Bible. Few would have difficultly understanding why such claims about Jews and Christians are intellectually bankrupt and menacing...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Safety tips for ladies

Last week there were a series of black humor #safetytipsforladies on Twitter. Here are some of my personal favorites:

What's so great about this meme is that it is a response to the idiotic advice for women, suggesting that if only women wore the right hair styles, for example, they'd decrease their chances of being raped:
As we've seen before, targeting rape prevention advice at women can start off as empowering, and slowly descend into crippling—or worse, preemptive victim blaming. I don't know—maybe it's because I hesitate to take the advice of convicted rapists. But something tells me that it might be more worthwhile focus our efforts on the rapists who rape people, instead of burdening every woman with paranoia, hairstyle advice, and unnecessary umbrellas. 
TIP #1: DON'T GROW OUT YOUR HAIR.The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle.. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman
with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
Yes: rapists are administering hairstyle advice now. As a woman with short hair—I told my stylist to give me the 'Ol Rape-Proof Cut w/ Blow Dry—I find this tidbit a bit counter-intuitive (and vaguely insulting). I'm sure some potential rapists must consider us short-hairs too masculine, sexless, or gay to bother to grab. On the other hand, there are those rapists who think that a good forced entry is all we need to become real women. So, I don't know—wear a hat? 
TIP #2: DON'T WEAR ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CUT BY A SCISSOR.The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who's clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around specifically to cut clothing.
Good thing I invested in a full wardrobe of rubber overalls this year. Sure, only wearing clothes that cannot be cut off—much less manually removed!—from your body may make you more resistant to heat stroke and/or drowning. Ask yourself: Do I really need to be leaving the house today?
And it turns out that this advice has been for the most part debunked by snopes:

If rapists choose their victims based on hairstyle and length of tresses, it's news to those in law enforcement; they've never noticed this trend. Rape victims have short hair, long hair, and no hair. They're also young and old, short and tall, fat and skinny, femininely dressed or looking like they just fell off the tractor, and all points in between.  
Likewise, the claim that rapists go after women wearing overalls because "the straps can be easily cut" is pure hogwash, as anyone who has ever tried to cut up an old pair can attest. Overalls are made of some of the most resilient fabrics known to mankind (denim and canvas, usually), and cutting these straps is made almost impossible because the fabric is doubled over and seamed at that point in the garment. If there's a pair of scissors that can snip through this, I've yet to wield them.

A couple of months ago one of my newer Facebook friends posted the debunked rape advice on her timeline, and as gently as I could, in a personal email, told her that they had been debunked.

Eventually when she posted the link to snopes, one of her Facebook friends objected, in the comments thread. I then got into a debate with him - an older man - and eventually he stated that debunked or not, those were good anti-rape tips and it was about time that women took responsibility for what happened to them. Your typical classic victim-blaming attitude, which, it turns out, is still plenty common even among presumably liberal people.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Great article exposing the biggest embarrassments to atheism

I've been talking about the bigotry of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens for awhile on this blog, so it is very gratifying that there is a big article in Salon by Nathan Lean about it: Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists flirt with Islamophobia.

Although it should be noted that Dawkins and Hitchens are/were misogynists too.

One excellent aspect of this article is the author's focus on the shameless double-standards that the New Atheist Embarrassments have for religions, and their shameless ignorance on the topics about which they opine. Lean calls out Dawkins:
Dawkins, in a recent rant on Twitter, admitted that he had not ever read the Quran, but was sufficiently expert in the topic to denounce Islam as the main culprit of all the world’s evil: “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter and verse like I can for Bible. But [I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.” How’s that for a scientific dose of proof that God does not exist? 
A few days later, on March 25, there was this: “Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read the Qur’an. You don’t have to read “Mein Kampf” to have an opinion about Nazism.”
And then about the double standards:
Dawkins’ quest to “liberate” Muslim women and smack them with a big ol’ heaping dose of George W. Bush freedom caused him to go berzerk over news that a University College of London debate, hosted by an Islamic group, offered a separate seating option for conservative, practicing Muslims. Without researching the facts, Dawkins assumed that gendered seating was compulsory, not voluntary, and quickly fired off this about the “gender apartheid” of the supposedly suppressed Muslims: “At UC London debate between a Muslim and Lawrence Krauss, males and females had to sit separately. Krauss threatened to leave.” And then this: “Sexual apartheid. Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance?” 
Of course, the fact that the Barclays Center in New York recently offered gender-separate seating options for Orthodox Jews during a recent concert by Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman didn’t compute in Dawkins’ reasoning. Neither did the case of El Al Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel, when, in August of 2012, a stewardess forced a Florida woman to swap seats to accommodate the religious practice of a haredi Orthodox man. Even if Dawkins were aware of these episodes, he likely wouldn’t have made a fuss about them. They undermine the conclusion he has already reached, that is, that only Muslims are freedom-haters, gender-separating “thugs.”
It isn't only Judaism that gets a pass from the New Atheist jerks - both Harris and Dawkins have suggested that Christianity is preferable to Islam (according to Dawkins) and Mormonism (according to Harris). Dawkins reasoning is that there is something about Islam that makes people violent to a greater degree than Christianity, (Dawkins prefers to only consider 21st century Christianity) and Harris claimed, absurdly, that Mormonism was objectively less plausible than Christianity, because Harris could think of one more extra Mormon myth.

What's most stunning to me is the way these men are lionized by people in the atheist movement when their arguments are so easily refuted, and their quaking fear-based approach to Islam is so transparent. Their attitudes towards Muslims are indistinguishable from that of the most proudly ignorant tea-partiers - and Harris went so far as to join the tea-partiers in their objections to the Islamic center near Ground Zero.

It's about time they are called out on their bullshit.

Ooh, and a related article from months back that I missed - this one also calls out Sam Harris: Five atheists who ruin it for everyone else.

And yet another one! And this has one of the most perfect descriptions of Sam Harris ever - and the article's title is a question I've been asking myself for several years now: Why does anyone take Sam Harris seriously?

Now enjoy this gem:
Before delving further into this NRA wet-dream of an essay, let us reflect on an important facet of Harris’s personality. The common thread running through all of Harris’s logic-abortions, the key to understanding how a purported “intellectual” can be so consistently wrong and so morally repugnant, is his unbridled cowardice — both of the intellectual variety and an all-pervasive, crapping-his-pants fear that manifests itself in the form of  sophistry and a brazen disregard for following the available evidence to its logical conclusion.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Lincoln again

The movie Lincoln should have won the Academy Award - that it didn't was one more travesty in the crass Seth MacFarlane-headed presentation.

It's such a rich movie, it bears repeated viewing, and I did just that - it's finally available on iTunes. Only on the second viewing did I truly appreciate the way the entire plot was masterfully worked out - I was just trying to keep up with everything the first time around. And I think the Academy viewers penalized it for that. Argo was much easier to follow.

One of the reasons Lincoln works is because Steven Spielberg's visual craftsmanship reigned in Tony Kushner's natural wordiness. When there is nobody to stop him, you end up with the kind of logorrhea that completely torpedoed his latest full-length play, which I wrote about a couple of years ago: The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to STFU!!!

There was one moment when you could see Spielberg allow Kushner free reign - it happens at minute 27 of the movie, where Lincoln explains to his cabinet why it's so important to make the abolition of slavery an amendment to the Constitution. He goes on about the complexities of the legalities involving war powers, the freeing of slaves based on the concept of seizure of property of belligerent nations - although the North defined the South as rebels not a separate nation... and yadda yadda... he delivers a monologue on the subject for two and a half minutes - which is nothing for a stage production but it is a huge chunk of time for a movie. And unless you're a legal scholar or historian, this means almost nothing to you in terms of the plot of the movie.Since the 13th Amendment is a done deal, few people are interested in the nuts and bolts of the legal issues of the time period. And I didn't even remember this part from the first time around, although in my defense that was on Thanksgiving day and here it is Easter.

In any case, I had to watch the monologue twice, this time, to get all the legal conflicts presented by the monologue.

When I saw the movie in the theater the first time around I didn't realize that U.S. Grant was portrayed by Jared Harris - the guy who played Lane Pryce the very British character on Mad Men. Grant looks nothing like the Lane Pryce character but somehow I recognized it was the same actor.

Which means that not only was Lincoln played by a British guy, which some people complained about, it means that both of the American presidents portrayed in the movie are played by British guys.