Monday, June 30, 2014

Rich people succeed on the backs of the poor and desperate - as per usual

So little time for blogging thanks to the J&B production. But I had to post something about the ongoing exploitation of non-Equity actors by the Flea Theater. The article, entitled Eking Out a Living to Chase a Dream: The ‘Mysteries’ Cast Discuss Life as Struggling Actors.
A five-and-a-half-hour marathon of 52 contemporary plays, “The Mysteries” tells the story of the Old and New Testaments and features 48 members of the Bats, the Flea’s resident company. Following a successful eight-week run in the spring, most of the cast returned for a monthlong extension. By the time the show closes, on July 14, they will have invested eight months of their lives, arranging paying jobs — and searches for paying jobs — around it.
Alice Allemano, who plays Gabriel, laughingly likened the company to a kibbutz: The lack of pay creates an unusual atmosphere of equality among the actors.
 
“Everybody is a really important cog of the machine,” she explained. “Backstage, we all do everything. We do the washing up; we do each other’s hair and makeup.” 
In an age when unpaid internships and other work for free have become litigious, the Flea’s way of doing things has drawn heat, particularly after it announced plans in December to build an $18.5 million home not far from its rented space on White Street, where a full-time staff of eight toils in a glamour-free subbasement. (The theater’s annual budget is $1.3 million.)
Stunningly, the word "exploitation" is not used once in this article.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The explosion at the hat factory


Just as American Hustle was about wigs, my play JULIA & BUDDY is about hats.

This here is the hat that the space cowboy will wear in the "video clip" scene in the middle of the play.

My daughter-out-law says I look like "that kid in the Walking Dead."

Hmpf.

There will be no less than three other hats in this play - a captain's yacht cap, a top hat and a Yankees baseball cap. Yes, if you have a habedashery fetish, you will love this show. Which you know you do - so come and see it, July 17, 18, 19, 27 and August 2.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A wine review - Oko Pinot Grigio

I have to admit that I am far too influenced by the artwork on bottles of wine when making a selection. I was looking for a white wine and this "tree of life" graphic on the 2013 Oko Pinot Grigio caught my eye. Luckily it turned out to be pretty decent, although I don't like it quite as much as this Mom Who Needs Wine.

By the same token I doubt I will ever buy Barefoot Wine, or as Mr. Monk would call it, "foot wine."

Yes, when it comes to wine, I'm pretty damn shallow.

More of my wine reviews:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Can I talk to you about my part?

This question represents a signal to the director, and he must be sensitive to the message. Many actors ask the question during the rehearsal process. At the moment an actor says, "Could I talk to you about my part?" the director must become super-sensitive. He must stop doing whatever he is doing and give the actor his full attention. That sentence carries the actor's message of ultimate urgency. He must hear good news from the director at that moment, and he must have the director's full attention. If possible talk to him right away, at least to find out what the key to his discomfort is. The actor must get an answer that tells him that he is going to have an opportunity for an intimate and complete discussion with the director alone. It's better not to postpone it. The director sets a time and place where there will be no distractions. There should be no other actor within hearing and sometimes even no stage managers. The question is really not a request to talk about the part. The question is usually an indication that the actor needs to be told that he's on the right track. He cannot go a step further without the assurance that what he's doing is okay. Sometimes it is possible to say simply, "You're doing a beautiful job and I'm thrilled with the way it's going. Keep working the way you're going. It's coming nicely." The actor may be quite satisfied with this. But perhaps there is someone or something that is really troubling the actor. He must have the opportunity to receive your exclusive attention. 

His difficulty may come in all sorts of disguises. It may be that one of the other actors is giving him some trouble. Perhaps he feels awkward about a certain scene or a certain kiss, or about his appearance, or about a certain emotional response. The minute you hear that question, it is very important that you give it your full and immediate attention. Don't let it slip by, because the actor could be very upset at that moment; if you don't catch him, pull him up, and resolve his difficulty then and there, he may slide into dejection or resentment. It's much more difficult to pull him out of that. If he grows morose and inefficient, it's because he didn't receive an answer when he asked, "Can I talk to you about my part."

From William Ball's A Sense of Direction.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh Calcutta

Of course I knew JULIA & BUDDY was a pretty sexy play... but these recent rehearsals have been through the roof sexy. Almost... and this is hard to believe... too sexy. There's no nudity, although Matt ("Buddy") has his shirt unbuttoned in the boat scene - that was his idea not mine, contrary to what some might assume. Certainly nothing like OH CALCUTTA - I was just talking about this show over drinks with a friend and then today the NYTimes mentioned it. AND provided a link to a naked video:



Monday, June 23, 2014

There is, apparently, no crying in baseball

video
Matt DeCapua (Buddy in the JULIA & BUDDY production) does his Tom Hanks impression.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More theater fun

I'm so immersed in this JULIA & BUDDY project I barely have time to blog.

I decided to go with J&B selfies as a graphic approach for now - I might use this image in an animated online advertisement.

Claire and Matt are both attractive people standing still, but when they are on stage they are so charismatic  - they are even more attractive in motion.

And I discovered a fun thing about Matt - when he raises his voice he sounds very much like Tom Hanks. Which is perfect since one of Hanks' big roles is the very popular romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. Confirms my choice of Matt for this role, if I needed any confirmation. He has promised us he'll do a full-on impersonation for us:



Saturday, June 21, 2014

High on theater

Wow I was grinning all the way home tonight, I had such a good time with this pair of actors at our first rehearsal of JULIA & BUDDY - Matt and Claire are such talented, thoroughly professional artists, it was a joy to watch them work. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's rehearsal.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Faking out the Nazis

An ex-boyfriend of mine was obsessed with WWII. He knew virtually everything there was to know about it. Considering it was over a decade-long relationship, I feel like I should know more about WWII myself. I certainly didn't resist discussing it with him - I used to get a kick out of it, actually, amusing myself by asking him random things about the conflict. He never refused to talk about it.

I also watched The World at War series. But I have no recollection hearing about the various subterfuges used to fake out the Nazis grouped under Operation Bodyguard, including the network of double agents.  I began reading up about it and was fascinated to learn of Joan Pujol Garcia.
Joan Pujol Garcia (Catalan; Spanish: Juan Pujol GarcĂ­a), MBE (14 February 1912 – 10 October 1988) deliberately became a double agent during World War II, known by the British codename Garbo and the German codename Arabel.[2] Pujol had the distinction of being one of the few people – if not the only one – to receive decorations from both sides during World War II, gaining both an Iron Cross from the Germans and an MBE from the British.
Pujol had a network of spies, all entirely fictional.



The Nazis were completely taken in by Pujol and his network. So much so that:

On occasion, he had to fabricate reasons why his agents had failed to report easily available information that the Germans would eventually know about. For example, he reported that his (fabricated) Liverpool agent had fallen ill just before a major fleet movement from that port on the north-west coast of England. The illness meant that the agent was unable to warn the Germans of the event.[34] To support the illness story, the "agent" eventually "died" and an obituary was placed in the local newspaper as further evidence to convince the Germans,[35] who were also persuaded to pay a pension to the agent's "widow".[36]

Hah hah. Stupid Nazis. 

Pujol wasn't the only double agent. In fact it appears that the entire German spy network in Britain were double agents.

A decent documentary from the BBC in the topic can be seen on Youtube.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Happy Juneteenth!

In my opinion, Juneteenth should be a national holiday.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19ththat the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed atGalveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and thearrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murderedon his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news wasdeliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
General Order Number 3
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediatejubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.




It appears that the Dallas county commission has decided to celebrate Juneteenth early:
A county commission in Dallas on Tuesday unanimously, and apparently unwittingly, passed a resolution that called for slavery reparations for African Americans. 
The Dallas Morning News reported that the resolution was proposed by John Wiley Price, the only black member of the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Entitled the “Juneteenth Resolution,” it passed unanimously.

After the meeting, several commissioners admitted they hadn’t read the document, nor had they received a copy of it, before voting on it, the newspaper reported.
 
The only Republican commissioner, Mike Cantrell, later changed his vote to an abstention because he “had not received a copy of the resolution,” he told Dallas Morning News. 
The resolution was nonbinding and made no arrangements for payments of reparations, but it represents the county's official position. No other commissioners had changed their votes and so the resolution remained. 
Price told Dallas News he was inspired to write the resolution after he read an article making the case for reparations in The Atlantic.
“We are the only people who haven’t been compensated,” he said, noting other ethnic groups, such as American Indians and Japanese-Americans, have been repaid for past wrongdoings.

Speaking of Texas Republicans, let us remember:  Being Gay Is Not A Choice, But Being A Texas Republican Is

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's US!



Oh lordy I am finally done with the NYCPlaywrights January Play of the Month. That's right, I said January. That's how long it took me to get two short monologue videos done. I wanted to get this done now so I don't have to deal with it during JULIA & BUDDY rehearsals.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Holy mother of reality

Queen Mother of Reality by Pawel Althamer

So much for that resolution - I have so much to do to get ready for my JULIA & BUDDY production, as the author/director/producer/costume designer/music director (yes it's because I'm an egomaniac control freak, but mostly because I work cheap) I swore I was going to stop writing about Social Justice Warriors for the duration.

No sooner had I resolved that then I started to get massive hits on my post about Pollitt vs. Kendzior, and then I was sucked back in. I do realize it shows a horrible lack of self-control on my part, but when I saw the sleazy rhetorical tactics used by David Graeber and Sarah Kendzior against Katha Pollitt it just made me so damn mad. And I'm not the only one, as you can see by this fellow's blog. But I know damn well that battling SJWs is ultimately futile - they are a many-headed hydra of irrationality and incessant smearing.

But at least I got nice feedback from someone on Twitter who said:

"Your 6/12 post on SJW & the linked piece to your fight with Kendall are the clearest things I've read on toxic twitter. KUTGW"

And I got a nice note from Pollitt herself. So it wasn't a total waste of time.

Last I checked I've gotten 842 views on the 6/12 post. Which is waaay more than most of my blog posts get - the average is like 20 views. Although to my surprise (I finally checked individual blog post view rates) that's only the fifth most popular blog post.

Here are the top 5.

3396

Aug 28, 2010
1986

1769

Oct 18, 2011
1150

842

The second and fourth aren't a big surprise - #2 is about a blog that focuses on uncircumcised penii, illustrated by a pretty explicit male nude drawing by Paul Cadmus, and #4 is about the Beatles and is illustrated by a nude photo of John and Yoko.

But #1 is just me ranting about being contacted on a dating site by some Nazi, and #3 -  I had no idea Schopenhauer was that popular - that bodes well for my play.

Anyway, I will try to do better going forward. To get the bad taste of SJWs out, let us contemplate art. I blogged about the sculpture Queen Mother of Reality currently installed at the Socrates Sculpture Park down the street a few weeks ago. I mentioned there that you could go in the sculpture but I hadn't. Well I went in today. It's quite a little hang out in there. It has seats and everything:

So capacious others were in there the same time as me -
I don't know those people though. I wonder if I'm supposed to blur
that woman's face like Google maps

Peeking out from the entrance - I don't think there's room enough for
you AND the baby carriage and me and these other two in here, lady.
Those red things aren't sales tags - they're wishes that children (I assume) wrote.
I didn't get a good clear photo of one, unfortunately.

Bonus - you can spy on the free yoga class from inside - they were packed today. The weather was pretty great.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

David Graeber makes me Google his TinyURL

A hallmark of your typical Social Justice Warrior is that they are cowardly little weasels, which is why they don't contact you directly with their complaints - or say, when they wish to hint to their Twitter followers that you have defamed them. They just whine about you on Twitter.

Starting this morning my blog post from a couple of days ago entitled Social Justice Warrior smear campaign: Sarah Kendzior, David Graeber and friends edition was blowing up in my blog analytics. I didn't have time to investigate until now, I was running the Brooklyn Pride LGBTQ + Family 5K this morning and then had brunch, and then I had to do my weekly NYCPlaywrights emailing duties, and then had to nag an actor about a production issue relating to my play JULIA & BUDDY.

So I only finally had time to find out what's going on this evening.

Most of the traffic coming to the blog post is from this TinyURL   http://t.co/BSPNKny2rX, so I did a search on Twitter and found David Graeber talking about me. (Although oddly the link seems to be different, perhaps created from another URL shortening service?)



He didn't contact me. He just talked about me on Twitter. As I said, that's what SJWs do. Because they're cowardly little smear-mongering weasels.

My response:



I included @KathaPollitt - if you aren't familiar with Twitter, it's basically like I cc'd Pollitt in my response. I felt it was appropriate since the reason I got into this kerfuffle is because SJW Sarah Kendzior was smearing Katha Pollitt. Again.

I assume that what Graeber is referring to is Item 3 on the blog post:

So to recap:

  1. Joshua Foust falsely claimed that writers at Salon and Jacobin were sending rape threats to Sarah Kendzior.
  2. Sarah Kendzior apparently did not correct Foust although she was often on Twitter during that time.
  3. David Graeber accepted Foust's false claim.
  4. Katha Pollitt questioned David Graeber about it.


Now the reason I said he accepted Foust's claim is because Katha Pollitt seemed to think he did. And I certainly have no problem making that explicit. So I changed it to:

3. David Graeber seemed to have accepted Foust's false claim, according to Katha Pollitt.
But that is such a typical SJW move - deliberate obtuseness used to attack someone. Although admittedly you do have to wonder sometimes if it is truly deliberate.

David Graeber and Sarah Kendzior are both anthropologists, so I assume that's how they know each other. An anonymous commenter informed me that Sarah Kendzior's number one Twitter sycophant "Perfectly Cromulent" (mentioned on the "smear campaign" post) turns out to be Kendzior's husband Peter J. Blackwell. Now I didn't even think to question the possible personal connection between Perfectly Cromulent and Kendzior, but then, I'm not a professional journalist. Certainly Blackwell and Kendzior don't bother to make the connection plain.

And that's the point I've been making about SJW Twitter wars - it is so easy to create false accounts, or sock puppets, or in Kendzior's case, a pseudonymous cheering section, and journalists seem to be very unconcerned about investigating the identities of SJW celebrities and their allies. Very disturbing.

Now Katha Pollitt seemed to think that David Graeber had accepted Foust's claim, but didn't have evidence because, allegedly, he deleted the Tweet. Unfortunately it is not possible to recover deleted Tweets anymore, (but if anybody out there knows different please let me know) but certainly Twitter still has them somewhere, so if David Graeber wants to get all litigious I'm sure somebody's lawyer can subpoena Twitter. I tend to trust Katha Pollitt, a well-known writer who works for media that actually bothers with fact-checking, over the SJW Twitterati.

I'm no more a professional anthropologist than I am a professional journalist, but I know several anthropologists thanks to my interest in Marvin Harris. I was going to write a bio of Harris but that project has sadly been back-burnered with nothing but an almost-never-updated web site to show for it. If only I had the time. Maybe after I retire from my day job, or hit the lottery. Sigh.

Anyway, I'd never heard of David Graeber before. I'll have to ask some of my anthropologist friends about him. He appears to be of the postmodernist branch of anthropology, though, something I thought had pretty much died since Harris documented their doings in his Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times in 1998.

But the SJWs seem to get their theories of human cultures via postmodernists, and we see Flavia Dzodan name-dropping Jacques Derrida here.

Will Shetterly makes some amusing observations about "Jacobinghazi."

Another 5K under my belt

It was my second year in a row for the Brooklyn Pride LGBTQ and sometimes S 5K race.

I definitely did better than last year, when I limped during the entire second half the race. In fact I was surprised at how quickly the time went by this year compared to last year - progress! I ran with my daughter and her partner - it was a family affair.

After the race we went out for brunch. My celebratory margarita was the best part.


Friday, June 13, 2014

The fountain across the street

The fountain
There is a little park across the street from my office building and it's very nice. It has a big fountain in the middle and now is the time of year when they turn the water on. The park draws a fair number of people, but I've never seen anybody from my office there. Which is surprising but not unwelcome - I see enough of my coworkers all day long. And occasionally something fun happens like this guy let his retriever play in the water - the doggie was so happy, it was a joy to see. Sometimes it's virtually deserted though especially if the weather isn't nice. Then it's just you and the birds and the occasional bum. You can click the photos to see an enlarged view.

Happy doggie time

Composition with bird and bum.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Social Justice Warrior smear campaign: Sarah Kendzior, David Graeber and friends edition

I think that Social Justice Warrior Sarah Kendzior has serious ethical problems - she appears to work as a journalist, but she has no qualms about misrepresenting others as I talk about here.

She is supported, without question, by a cadre of SJWs including anthropologist David Graeber, and some Twitterer named Perfectly Cromulent, along with a random sampling of other zanies who together attempted to smear feminist writer Katha Pollitt.

The mind-boggling shamelessness of SJWs can best be understood in these tweets by Perfectly Cromulent:


What does this anonymous Tweeter think that Katha Pollitt should apologize for? Well therein lies a classic tale of SJW bad faith, hysteria, lies, stupidity and witch hunts.

Sarah Kendzior claimed that she received rape threats online. This would surprise nobody who has been paying attention - women get abuse and rape threats all the time on the Internet. But Kendzior's spin on it was this:
For the past few weeks, I have been receiving rape threats and constant harassment from people who describe themselves as leftists or communists, and apparently want to rape their way to revolution. I have attempted to handle these threats privately. I mentioned them on Twitter twice: once to violentfanon, whose podcast I nearly had to cancel on because of the intensity of the threats, and one to Kenzo Shibata, in a Twitter conversation.
And then later...
The left has a rape problem. Someone should write about it. But it is not going to be me. I have had enough threats this year.
However, it appears that neither Kendzior, violentfanon nor Kenzo Shibata want to come forward with the names of the self-described "leftists" and "communists." But without providing any kind of evidence that the rape threats are by leftists and communists, should we be expected to believe Sarah Kendzior without question?

And the answer is  YES, we are expected to believe Sarah Kendzior without question. That is the SJW way. And if you dare NOT believe Sarah Kendzior - or her friends - without question, you will be accused of being out to get Sarah Kendzior. 


We will get to "that vile Nation article" in a moment - but just so you know, Pollitt didn't write it.

Really you have to almost admire Sarah Kendzior for her absolute and perfect lack of shame, calling Katha Pollitt "Soulless and cruel" for simply asking a question related to Kendzior's claims.

Now it's true that Kendzior herself did not claim that people at Salon and Jacobin were sending rape threats to her. She mentioned Salon and Jacobin in various places in her blog post on the subject and then said this:
So in one day, two leftist publications used rape threats to me to belittle me, humiliate me and defame me. And then others accuse me of wanting attention.
And then her friend and fellow Atlantic contributor Joshua Foust took that and ran with it, tweeting this:


Over 48 hours later he finally tweeted this:



The responses to his tweet are pretty amusing, including this:

. Translation: "I was totally wrong and slanderous, but FUCK YOU ANYWAY!!!!"

What I find fascinating is that during those 48 hours between Foust's claim and retraction, Sarah Kendzior was actively tweeting and knew of Foust's claim and appears to have neglected to inform Foust of the error. 

Meanwhile, David Graeber, someone that Katha Pollitt followed on Twitter, posted something in reference to Foust's claim. He has since deleted the tweet that Pollitt had responded to:


So to recap:
  1. Joshua Foust falsely claimed that writers at Salon and Jacobin were sending rape threats to Sarah Kendzior.
  2. Sarah Kendzior apparently did not correct Foust although she was often on Twitter during that time.
  3. David Graeber accepted Foust's false claim. David Graeber seemed to have accepted Foust's false claim, according to Katha Pollitt (see this for an explanation of the change.)
  4. Katha Pollitt questioned David Graeber about it.


"Shameless" does not begin to describe the black hole where SJW ethics should be.

Now back to "that vile Nation article." Kendzior is referring to "Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars" by Michelle Goldberg. As I've documented here many times, the Social Justice Warrior Mikki Kendall division are absolutely besides themselves with rabid hatred for Goldberg and the Nation for simply telling the truth: Mikki Kendall is a bully who has no qualms about smearing people.

And I can confirm this myself from first-hand experience. I first became aware of who Mikki Kendall was when I found her smearing me by name as a "racist" in my Google search results. Kendall knew nothing about me except that people she knew on the Internet were calling me that. And she didn't bother to find out anything about me. She just mindlessly reblogged the smear with her karnythia Tumblr. And when I asked her to remove it she refused, and instead invented reasons for why the smear showing up in Google results was my own fault. 

But Social Justice Warriors don't always come right out and call you a racist, sometimes they just imply you are, as Kendzior does by claiming that Pollitt was "mad" that she defended black feminists.

Anybody who knows anything about Katha Pollitt realizes what utter bullshit this is. 

But fortunately for Kendzior, the world of Twitter is full of stupid and ignorant people out hunting for witches. Kendzior has power through them - for what stupid people lack in brainpower, they make up through sheer force of numbers. And if you are a shameless demagogue like Sarah Kendzior, that's exactly what you want.

A second fascinating aspect of this controversy is how quickly Kendzior turned the issue of rape threats into an excuse to attack Pollitt for the Goldberg article in the Nation. It's almost like she was waiting for the opportunity.

I do find it odd that Kendzior refuses to provide evidence of the claimed leftists and communists who are sending her rape threats. When Rebecca Watson was the target of rape threats and death threats from fellow atheists thanks to Richard Dawkins-instigated outrage she was not at all shy about naming and shaming the perps. In fact she even put up a Page o' Hate.

If Rebecca Watson can name and shame the perps I see no reason why Sarah Kendzior can't do it. If there are communists and leftists making rape threats, the world should know who they are. 

And until Kendzior does name them, people have every right to question her claims as to the identity of the perps. Being the target of rape threats does NOT mean that every single thing you say from that day forward must be accepted on faith.

But of course in the SJW utopia, belief without critical thinking is the ideal.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our new Buddy

The awesomely talented Matthew DeCapua has agreed to play Buddy for the upcoming MITF production of JULIA & BUDDY  - whoohoo!

You must check out his web site, especially his reel section - I love to watch his crusading reporter give Tom Selleck a bad time in the top video.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2 cats

Some say the Internet is for porn - I say it's for cats.

By why do cats rule over the Internet? The New Republic has a piece on that very subject: Why Do Cats Run the Internet? A Scientific Explanation.

It's rare to see my two cats this close together without fighting - usually if Mr. Fuzz (the Siamese) sees Miss Willow looking content and comfortable in the spot where she's resting, he'll suddenly decide that he wants to be in that spot and will chase her out of it. He's such a jerk... but so cute. They both love to sit on the top of my sofa which is leather, and squishy. I've had this sofa for ten years now and it's looking pretty bad, especially with the cat claw marks all over it. But I hate to part with it for the sake of the cats.

You can see the open closet door on the far-left side of the photo above - it's open because that's one of Mr. Fuzz's hobbies - he can't abide closed cabinets and if I close them up he will methodically go around the apartment opening them - he just sticks his claw in the narrow gap of the cabinet door and pops it right open.

Well everybody needs a hobby I guess.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Take back the Rom-Com

This article in Policy Mic addresses the issue of abortion in movies. I haven't seen "The Obvious Child" yet, and haven't heard anything about it that makes me want to run out and see it. Mostly what I've heard is that an abortion happens in it, and while I am certainly in favor of abortion rights, that alone isn't enough to make me want to see this "romantic comedy."

I do question what role an abortion has in a romantic comedy. Abortion in itself is not exactly conducive to either romance or comedy.

I definitely agree with the article in its disparagement of the way abortion is presented in Hollywood movies, but to a certain extent it's understandable. If you have to have an abortion, the one thing you don't want is dramatic complications resulting from it. So a typical abortion has nothing to recommend it to a storyline unless it does result in something awful happening, hence the reason that abortions in movies are so often related to come calamitous circumstance. Otherwise, if the abortion does not result in dramatic complications, why include it in the story line at all?

That said, I do like the concept of taking back the rom-com. As I've blogged about here many times, the problem with romantic comedies isn't that romance is being combine with comedy, the problem is that romance and comedy are being combined with misogyny. Rom-coms have been so abused by misogynists that people like the Bitter Gertrude blogger say things like:
I’ve long had the desire to fire every romantic comedy into the sun. I despise romcoms, and I never spent time figuring out why. Now that the answer is in my face, it’s undeniable: they’re one way we disseminate all of the worst ideas about relationships we have as a culture, including (especially) the male master narrative. What was once just an annoyance to me now looks like the worst kind of reprehensible irresponsibility. And that’s just one tiny corner of the art we produce. 
It’s easy to say, Oh, it’s just a play; it’s just a movie, etc. But there is no “just.” The narrative art form is POWERFUL. The human brain can experience narrative as if it’s happening in real life. The brain of a person telling a story and a person listening to that story experience neural coupling. Art is where we discuss who we are as a culture; our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our past, our imagined future. It’s the most important aspect of how our culture is created and how it is changed. Stories are the building blocks of culture, and we’re the ones who create and tell those stories.
There is nothing about the romantic comedy that is inherently misogynist. And in fact the classic movies like "His Girl Friday" and "The African Queen" are clearly compatible with feminism - a man and a woman work together well as equals - even if the message of the movies was not consciously intended to be feminist.

And what Bitter Gertrude cites as an example of "all of the worst ideas about relationships" is the hideous "Love Actually." But it's not like nobody was aware of how hideous that movie is - I was aware of it when I saw it in 2006, and A.O. Scott, the NYTimes critic, was when he called it out for for its misogyny back in 2003, although he doesn't explicitly call it misogyny:
It is disturbing to see Ms. (Emma) Thompson's range and subtlety so shamelessly trashed, and to see Laura Linney's intelligence similarly abused as a lonely, frustrated do-gooder. The fate of their characters suggests that women who are not young, pert secretaries or household workers have no real hope of sexual fulfillment and can find only a compromised, damaged form of love. Perhaps Mr. Curtis wishes to offer this as an insight into contemporary social arrangements; if so, his indifference to the cruelty of those arrangements is truly breathtaking. 
But it is unlikely that any particular insight was intended. Instead, ''Love Actually'' is a patchwork of contrived naughtiness and forced pathos, ending as it began, with hugging and kissing at the airport (where returning passengers are perhaps expressing their relief at being delivered from an in-flight movie like this one). The loose ends are neatly tied up, as they are when you seal a bag of garbage -- or if you prefer, rubbish.
I think Scott has hit on something when he says: "it is unlikely that any particular insight was intended."

I've seen the writer for the ugly anti-romantic web series "Compulsive Love" frequently write pro-women things in various social media - we are both members of a Facebook playwrights group and he and I share many mutual Facebook friends. And I'm sure he was shocked and appalled on reading the things I've said about his "romantic comedy" because he never considered what he had wrought - he never questioned for a moment whether what he was writing was actually "romantic" rather than the faux romantic comedy of the Apatow ouvre and its dude-bro copycats.

What's most disturbing to me about the new "romantic comedies" is that they seem to be a defensive maneuver on the part of the admirers of patriarchy. What these movies and the web series have in common is that the men are complete assholes - and yet they win the woman in the end. The Apatow movies are famous for portraying women as responsible uptight spoilsports (although of course, inevitably, incredibly hot and way out of the male protagonist's league) and the men as unattractive slobby man-babies. 

The protagonist in "Compulsive Love" is so repulsive that when he is beaten at a game of pool by a woman he refuses to honor his bet and instead prostitutes himself to pay off his debt.

I think that Compulsive Love took the dude-bro rom-com concept, unquestioningly, as what a romantic comedy should be and ran with it. The protagonist is very unattractive and yet in each week of the series ends up in bed with a new, out-of-his-league woman. And their relationship is entirely sexual (the real title should be "Compulsive Sex") and is broken up when the woman proves to have a personality quirk - or really a personality at all.

In the classic screwball romantic comedies the woman's quirky personality - such as Katherine Hepburn's character in "Bringing Up Baby" is part of the fun - and part of her charm. 

In the dude-bro "romantic comedies" the ideal woman has no personality and waits around for the unattractive man-baby to appreciate her. The woman in these misogynist romantic comedies are called "the because-um girl" by Sady Doyle and can be seen all the worst dude-bro rom-coms - including the execrable Talley's Folly.

The Policy Mic article mentions the movie "Knocked Up" - arguably the quintessential dude-bro rom-com and gets at something important about its sexual politics - the Kathryn Heigl character never considers abortion. And that's how the unattractive schlubby man-baby gets her in the long-term. That is the essence of the regressiveness of the dude-bro rom-com - pretending that women don't have all the hard-fought options we do have now. Woman can support themselves now - we don't need to trap a meal ticket into marriage - and women have control over their own bodies - if a woman is pregnant thanks to a sexual encounter, regrettable or non-consensual, she isn't doomed to spend the rest of her life being associated in some capacity with the horrible baby-daddy.

What these dude-bro rom-coms seem to be saying is this: "so lady, you want to see a story about a woman who ends up in a monogamous relationship with a MAN? Well stop believing those girly romantic comedies, where the man and woman come to a mutual and satisfying agreement on the issue of monogamy and desirability. In the real world if you want a man you will have to put up with his being a total asshole. And BTW, you better be hot - only the most attractive women have the honor of a monogamous relationship with a man, no matter how big an ugly loser he is."

I'd like to think my play JULIA & BUDDY is part of the movement to take back the rom-com from the dude-bros.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

KING JOHN in the park

Rocking the surplice like a boss
 I saw my friend Bruce rocking the surplice in the Hudson Warehouse production of KING JOHN as you can see in the photo on the left. This is an ongoing production at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Riverside Park.

KJ is definitely not one of Shakespeare's finest plays, so the director had to do some things to punch it up. I like what he did with Bruce's character Cardinal Pandolf - he had him walk in this unusual gait, that made him sort of float, like he was wearing roller skates. It really livened up the proceedings.

One of the fun things about this kind of theater is that the players sometimes come through the audience as you can see in middle the photo.

Although a drawback is that your "dressing room" is al fresco, as can be seen in the bottom photo.

Some royal ladies and apparently Che Guevara
One audience member preferred the backstage show.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Strange Facebook fellows

I shared this Onion article (‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens) that a friend of mine posted on Facebook, and was amused to see that both my mother and Susie Bright "liked" it.

Opposition to our current crazy gun laws in this country has the power to unite very different people.

Susie Bright is my Facebook friend but also "an American writer, speaker, teacher, audio-show host, and performer, all on the subject of sexuality. She is one of the first writers/activists referred to as a sex-positive feminist."

My mother is a sex-negative anti-feminist. The subject of sex in general is one that she avoids discussing and I believe that to this day she has never willingly seen an R-rated movie. Prude, prig, puritan and Victorian don't begin to cover my mother's sex negativity - she's about as sex negative as you can get for somebody who gave birth to six. 

My mother and I clashed on many things when I was growing up, and in general I found her view of the world to be utterly alien. She once had a plaque on the wall that said "Happiness means not being smart enough to know what to worry about." Few are so open in their hostility towards intelligence. 

We don't engage in fisticuffs any more (possibly because she's old now and I could totally kick her ass) and we rarely even argue much, unless, say, we are stuck in the same car for a ride from the Jersey shore back to Merchantville NJ with only my daughter present to act as umpire. But I had to stop following her newsfeed lest it result in an attack of apoplexy on my part. The item on the left is the kind of thing she posts. You can click on it to read it. Not only is the story horrible at face-value - a little girl is so traumatized by witnessing her parents' murder-suicide that she hallucinates Jesus afterwards, but it is horrible in its revelation of the monstrously irrational belief-system of my mother and over one million people who shared this thing on their Facebook timeline. 

So often when belief is debated with atheists, the believers present their faith as a rational appreciation of some cosmic philosophical groovy non-judgmental abstract-non-entity god. But the rank and file of people who attend church services are like my mother - their concept of god is Jesus, an omnipotent immortal, refraining from preventing a man from murdering his wife in favor of showing up after the fact so that he can sit on a sofa and lie to a little girl that everything will be alright. 

How much more NOT alright does it have to get than your parents murder-suicide right in front of you?

And maybe the best part is the author's free and easy use of the threat of God's wrath to get you to repost: 
"66% of you won't post this, But remember what the bible say's "Deny me in front of your friends and I shall Deny you in front of my father." So re-post this, remember God saw you read this."
Truly mind-boggling.

That is not to say that I always agree with Susie Bright - I stopped following her feed as well because of some annoying things she posted (although I forget what now other than a recommendation of a Sam Harris book) although she does occasionally post fascinating things like that Maya Angelou was once a sex worker

But what a concept - prior to Facebook it's unlikely that my mother and Susie Bright would have appeared together in agreement of an issue in public. 

And in case you're wondering if my mother will be offended by this blog post, be comforted she will never see it. I don't even think she knows I have a blog - and even if she did, she does not have enough interest to read it. Which is just as well because she might have an attack of apoplexy over my views on birth control, religion, Obama, sex, etc. etc.

But at least we agree about gun control.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Strange bedfellows

The play script for THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT does not specify the ethnicity of Doris (the "pussycat"). The first production of the play cast Diana Sands, an African American woman in the role. I blogged about that production last year - Alan Alda played Felix (the "owl" of course).

Apparently this choice led subsequent casting directors to assume that the pussycat's ethnicity had to be different from the owl's - and so we see productions that opened not long after the November 1964 world premiere in New York (almost 50 years ago!) also had multi-racial casting.

Eartha Kitt played the Doris role  with somebody named Russell Nype in 1966. Nype is still alive although he's 90 years old according to WikiKitt died six years ago at the age of 81.

TOATP was really quite popular even before it was a movie with Barbra Streisand - obviously the movie version dropped the inter-racial aspect - and of all people, Robert Reed played the owl in the 1966 production in Philadelphia, along with somebody named Pat Suzuki - who is also alive and 83 years old.

Of course you know who Robert Reed is - he played the father on The Brady Bunch. He died in 1992 at the age of 59 - he was HIV positive at the time. Reed was gay but deeply closeted.

It's easy to see why it's a popular play - it has a solid storyline, comedy and a prostitute. And most important, only two characters, so it's pretty inexpensive to produce.

The movie version has other differences from those early productions of the play besides its pussycat being Caucasian - the play is set in San Francisco, the movie in NYC, the movie has several other characters including a friend of Doris, a friend of Felix and Felix's fiancee and future in-laws. And in the movie Doris turns out to be a porno actress in "Cycle Sluts" which Felix watches, in an hysterical scene where we don't see the movie but hear the dialog, which you can watch here - the entire movie is available free on Youtube.

The play of course has very little to do with the original poem by Edward Lear, except for using the animals to suggest character traits. In fact a selling point for the movie was the big difference - the advertising campaign proclaimed: "The Owl and the Pussycat is no longer a story (sic) for children."

The poem begins: The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea - In a beautiful pea-green boat.

Fun fact: although neither the play nor the movie has the two protagonists on a boat, my play JULIA & BUDDY, which freely admits that TOATP is its inspiration, is set on a boat in the second act.

Other fun fact - I just realized this similarity to the original poem last night.