Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Roundup

My more typical New Years Eve
Well 2014 was much better than 2013 if only because I didn't have a  major operation during the entire year. Actually it was better than 2012, too, when I was unemployed for six months. And 2008 - 2011 because I had a horrible job (and others agree) which, combined with major depression caused me to develop an anxiety disorder, which I'm still dealing with - but which is improved thanks to therapy.

In 2014 I managed to finally produce the full-length version of JULIA & BUDDY which I had been trying to do since 2011. I also completed a first draft of DARK MARKET about Ayn Rand and the 2008 meltdown, started my play about Marilyn Monroe, wrote a 10-minute play about the Bronte sisters. I also made almost serious money from ads on the NYCPlaywrights web site - I made twice as much money from the blog in December 2014 as I did in December 2013.

Also in 2014:

 >  The liberal media finally woke up to the perniciousness of Social Justice Warriors, thanks in part to the Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars article in The Nation and to the ridiculous kerfuffle fomented by a friend of right-winger Michelle Malkin who goes by the Twitter handle of Suey Park and her moronic attack on Stephen Colbert. Followed up by the less well-known but just as significant "Jacobinghazi" in which the absolute awfulness of Sarah Kendzior became crystal clear.

And of course I have a personal interest in the SJW phenomenon, since I was smeared by SJWs way back in 2011 for daring to think that a song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono was not racist, and thanks to the collusion of Google and Tumblr, smears against me by SJW Mikki Kendall and SJW K. Tempest Bradford still show up at the top of Google search results on my name.

It should be noted that in spite of the name Social Justice Warriors, these people do nothing to promote social justice. They simply use good causes to promote their own careers, through endless Twitter wars and attacking liberals and feminists. I still have to wonder how much of the SJW phenomenon is sock puppetry by the Right, the SJW attacks are so ridiculously focused on the Left, virtually ignoring the actual perpetrators of social injustice on the Right.
But although the SJWs were called out in 2014 instead of universally lionized as heroes of the Left as they were in 2013, I also discovered that those who might be allies against Social Justice Warriors turned out to be just as fond of anti-feminist rhetoric, as when I found Doug Henwood attacking "bourgeois feminists" (whatever that is - I saw via Facebook that Henwood seems to live as bourgeois a lifestyle as anybody I've ever known) and discovered Will Shetterly supporting faux feminist right-winger Christina Hoff Sommers who has a long, long history of anti-feminist statements and is currently a "resident scholar" at the far-right, Koch brothers-supported American Enterprise Institute.

Leading me to conclude once again, as with the SJW vs. New Atheist war, that both sides are idiots. And feminism is as usual under attack from all sides. But on the plus side, I received a very nice email from Katha Pollitt for defending her against Kendzior's scurrilous attacks.

 >  The Rise of Ayn Rand Awareness - in the past I have been amazed by how many people - educated and, I thought, well-informed people had no idea who Ayn Rand was. But I think more and more people are aware of her, partly because some prominent Republicans are followers of hers, including Rand and Ron Paul and Paul Ryan. And just this past month she's been getting lots of publicity lately thanks to this story: Ayn Rand helped the FBI investigate whether ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was commie propaganda. And one of the New Yorker's most viewed blog posts of 2014 was a parody Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies. So this is definitely the year to produce DARK MARKET - if I can manage it financially or find a producer or co-producer.

 >  My dating life - I actually had one in 2014, although it was a string of indisputable failures. The one guy I might have liked well enough to be intimate with turned out to live in a pit of filth in Brooklyn, and was shameless enough to invite me into it. I had a date last night with a guy who claimed to be 58 but who finally admitted to being older, although he never said how much older. At least 60. He really liked me though, enough to inquire, as I was about to go through the subway turnstile at the end of the date, "when was the last time you had your pussy eaten really well?" I guess since I have mostly been dating guys under 30, I assumed that making such explicit statements on a first date was an issue for younger guys. Coming from a guy who is at least 60, it's just gross. I mean, if it was a really hot guy saying that on a first date, maybe it would be tolerable. But I really doubt there is any 60 year old guy in the world attractive enough to qualify as really hot. Certainly not this guy. You would think he'd have enough restraint and gravitas at that age not to bust out with something like that in a freaking subway station. Some people never grow up I guess. My therapist says the best way to meet people is through activities that you like, but I haven't had any luck through the world of theater. So many men in theater are gay, and the ones who are not gay, and at all attractive, are in too much demand from the straight female actors. Oh you goddam teasing actors. And it's just as bad if not worse with directors. And almost all straight male playwrights I know are creeps.

 >  Jury duty - my first as a citizen of New York. It was a hell of an experience and I hope to get a play out of it, TWELVE ANGRY JURORS FROM QUEENS, but so far I've only gotten a few pages written. 

 >  Running - this was my real success story. I have run more in 2014 than in my entire life. Two official 5K runs, and almost weekly runs of 3 - 4 or even 5 - 6 miles. And I plan to start off 2015 right by running in the NYRR Midnight Run tonight. My daughter has me in training for a 10K for 2015 and she's even talking half marathon. Wow. Running, like all endurance physical activities, can be very unpleasant, but I keep doing it because first of all, I get to spend time with my busy daughter, but also it seems like every time I look in the NYTimes there is another article about how running and other exercise keeps you young:

How Exercise Changes Our DNA
Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness.

Got a Minute? Let’s Work Out
According to a lovely new study, a single minute of intense exercise, embedded within an otherwise easy 10-minute workout, can improve fitness and health.

Run to Stay Young
Running may reverse aging in certain ways while walking does not, a noteworthy new study of active older people finds. The findings raise interesting questions about whether most of us need to pick up the pace of our workouts in order to gain the greatest benefit.

Does Exercise Really Make Us Smarter?
Still, the findings are strong enough to suggest that exercise really does change the brain and may, in the process, improve thinking, Mr. Stothart said. That conclusion should encourage scientists to look even more closely into how, at a molecular level, exercise remodels the human brain, he said. It also should spur the rest of us to move, since the benefits are, it seems, not imaginary, even if they are in our head.

What’s Your Fitness Age?
Dr. Wisloff and his colleagues offer free exercise suggestions on their website. But he said almost any type and amount of exercise should help to increase your VO2max and lower your fitness age, potentially increasing your lifespan.

Exercise may help to safeguard the mind against depression through previously unknown effects on working muscles, according to a new study involving mice. The findings may have broad implications for anyone whose stress levels threaten to become emotionally overwhelming.

Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.

For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object, and the ideas were both “novel and appropriate,” Dr. Oppezzo writes in her study, which was published this month in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Well that's enough for now - I find it pretty compelling.

Now I'm off to run in Central Park to mark the beginning of 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the virtues of availability

Rom-Com project update

We are up to 92 "romantic comedy" submissions for the NYCPlaywrights Take Back the Rom-Com project and of those, 57 have failed utterly at being both romantic and comedic - and most failed on both counts.

I do have to wonder if at least some of the blame should be attributed to all the crass, stupid, and sometimes even misogynist movies of the last 20 years that have been labeled "romantic comedy."

Case in point, the hideous, horrible "Love Actually" - here is a great takedown in The Atlantic: Love Actually Is the Least Romantic Film of All Time.

Although I do have a beef with this article - the things he considers "quibbles" I consider pretty damn significant, and why this movie isn't merely a failed "romantic comedy" but a scourge upon the earth:
There are plenty of other aspects of Love Actually with which one might reasonably take issue: the frequent references to how much women weigh, the recurring motif of men wooing their much-younger subordinates, the movie’s peculiar conviction that weddings and funerals ought to be livened up by (respectively) the Beatles and the Bay City Rollers, and so on.
It's the misogyny, stupid.

The fact that this movie is considered a romantic comedy Christmas classic leads me to believe that the world is brimming full of insensitive, oafish, misogynist, stupid people.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Not sure if that helps...

Christmas lights in the New Jersey suburbs
  ME
I feel awful about this, I hate to admit it - it's so arrogant - but I secretly think most people I meet are idiots.

  MY THERAPIST
Most people ARE idiots.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Peak Car

Like all Americans my age, my life has been greatly influenced by private car ownership - mine even a tad more than usual since I was once a driving instructor.

I've been re-watching Ric Burns' series New York: A Documentary Film, and one of the big themes is the (temporary) decline of New York City thanks to the rise of car ownership, and Robert Moses' attempts to criss-cross highways all over Manhattan. One of my favorite segments of the series is the story of the forces of Robert Moses versus Jane Jacobs and the anti-highway forces headquartered in Greenwich Village.

The car has been such a huge force in my life, it hardly seems possible, and yet empirical evidence seems to indicate that we've passed "peak car." The Atlantic ran an article last year called The Decline of US Driving in 6 Charts.

Here is one of the charts:
The Average Driver Travels 1,200 Fewer Miles Each YearAmericans are also spending far less time in the cars they do own. The average U.S. driver traveled 12,492 miles in 2011, down about 1,200 miles, or 9 percent, from our mid-aughts peak.  

Even with population growth, the country as a whole is barely driving more than during the recession.



So why did this happen? Few articles that I've Googled offer any reasons, but I remember about 12 years ago I was arguing with an ex-boyfriend that the age of the suburbs was over - I maintained that people would start moving back to the city again. And a big reason, I thought, and think, is female economic independence - that factor that is reshaping the world, but which, I believe, gets almost no attention from pundits and sociologists because female economic independence is considered a woman's issue and therefore not of much interest to important people (i.e. men).

Suburban homes are conceived as little kingdoms with each man the king of his domain and the women and children subjects. Female economic independence is a huge contributor to the end of this kingdom concept. Also as suburban houses become larger, they require more and more money and effort to maintain - something only the rich, in McMansions, can afford. Working women no longer have the time to devote to better huge homes and gardens in the suburbs. Also working women have fewer children, so you no longer need a big house and a big yard.

And then there is the cultural wasteland of the typical suburb. When my family moved to Bensalem, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, there was not even a public library nearby. The first library I ever stepped inside was in northeast Philadelphia, taken by my best friend Laura's mother, the only adult I knew who read for pleasure. My parents were/are both basically hostile to intellectual pursuits - flat out Philistines. The culture-free suburbs are/were their idea of paradise. My mother in particular was very upset when we moved to Pennsauken, a New Jersey town (for economic reasons). But I was thrilled that we moved to a house within walking distance of a library.

My hunch about the decline of suburbs is supported by this article in the Economist:
...the OECD, a rich-country think-tank, expects that by 2050, 86% of the rich world’s population will live in urban areas, up from 77% in 2010.
Another factor in the decline of driving must surely be the rise of the Internet - people can now work from home easily, and although it does threaten the power of middle-managers and so used less than it might otherwise be, there's too much temptation to use it when, for whatever reason, one can't make the commute - and even middle managers take advantage of that option.

When I was growing up, cities were doing so badly that my assumption as a kid was that cities were the places that poor people lived. Rich people lived in the country. But as soon as I was a teenager, my friends and I were always heading off to the nearest big city, Philadelphia, to see free open-air concerts and to go to the art museums and the midnight movies.

The Burns documentary lays the blame squarely on the federal Title One "slum clearing" legislation and the Title Two low-cost, single-family mortgage aid legislation, and the federal highway system. The documentary focuses on New York City, but it's always been said that Camden New Jersey was a vibrant city until the highway system made it possible for Philadelphians to motor right past it and into the farm land of New Jersey where they set up suburban communities - my sister lives in one of these and I was just there for Christmas. A mile from her home there was a highway that contained, one after another of chain stores and fast food places. An absolute suburban wasteland - I don't know why she wants to live there, but then she has about as much use for the arts or culture as my parents, so it makes sense. Of course we had to drive to get there.

Friday, December 26, 2014

I will not buy CFLs if I can help it because they are hazardous

The noble, non-toxic incandescent bulb
I never paid much attention to the new compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) which are being used more and more in place of the incandescents until I broke a CFL. Then I discovered that CFLs are classified as hazardous waste. So when you break an incandescent bulb, your biggest hazard is glass shards. So you sweep up the shards, throw them in the trash and go on with your life. Not so with CFLs - these are the steps that the EPA itself recommends if you break one:

Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. 
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
    • stiff paper or cardboard;
    • sticky tape;
    • damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
    • a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.


During Cleanup

  • DO NOT VACUUM.  Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.  Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.  Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.  Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.  See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.


After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors. 
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
If you have further questions, please call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
And please note, there is no public service announcement system that I am aware of that lets people even know that the disposal of a CFL bulb is very different from the disposal of an incandescent bulb. Who knows how many people have breathed in and/or disbursed mercury vapors because they had no idea.

And then there's disposal of a burnt-out CFL bulb - again, you are not supposed to just throw it in a trash can, you are supposed to take them somewhere, because they are toxic.
New research from scientists in California and South Korea, published yesterday in Environmental Science and Technology, shows that while compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and LEDs have better energy efficiency than incandescent bulbs, they compare unfavorably when you look at their potential toxicity (at the end-of-life phase) and resource depletion...

I find it appalling that not only are CFLs much more toxic that incandescent bulbs, but that this information is so poorly communicated at a time when incandescent bulbs are being phased out.
Governments around the world have passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs for general lighting in favor of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives. Phase-out regulations effectively ban the manufacture, importation or sale of incandescent light bulbs for general lighting. The regulations would allow sale of future versions of incandescent bulbs if they are sufficiently energy efficient.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Keep Your Skirts Down Mary Ann

Monroe was definitely not a natural blonde. I've never seen such an explicit
image as this one from the subway photo shoot - it's from this German web site.
Another piece of music that I plan to use in my play about Marilyn Monroe is Keep Your Skirts Down Mary Ann, which, although published in 1925, appears to be in the public domain, at least according to archive.org. The song is much less famous than "All By Myself" by Irvin Berlin, and was not recorded by Fitzgerald - it's a slightly risque novelty song, not a classic by an American master - but I think it's pretty appropriate considering that the famous photo shoot of Marilyn's skirt being blown up over the subway grate was considered by many to be a critical component of the demise of Monroe's marriage to Joe DiMaggio - allegedly DiMaggio was very upset by the whole thing - although it appears that it was Monroe who actually filed for the divorce.

I have been unable to find a transcript of the lyrics so I guess I'll have to do it myself. The song is set up as two women with Irish brogues, Mrs. Clancy and Mrs. McCann talk about the daughter of one of them, Mary Ann (so I guess her name is Mary Ann McCann har har) who then shows up herself to argue over her sartorial preferences with her mother:

Mrs. McCann
How do you do, Mrs. Clancy?
 
Mrs. Clancy
I'm well thank you, Mrs. McCann and how is yourself?
 
Mrs. McCann
Sure I'm all in after the week's wash. Me daughter Mary Ann alone gives me enough to break the back of me.
 
Mrs. Clancy
Well after the looks of her today, your wash will be much lighter next week. I'm just half seeing her coming down the street and all I can say is I'm just glad all my girls are boys. Here she comes now.
 
Mrs. McCann
Well well will you look at her. (Unintelligible. "Hand gunner"?)
 
(sings) 
Mary Ann Mary Ann 
Mary Ann
Yeah?
 
Mrs. McCann
I'm ashamed your name's McCann
 
Mary Ann
What's the matter, Mamma dear?
 
Mrs. McCann
Mary Ann come over here. Faith is that the dress your bought?
 
Mary Ann
Don't you know they wear 'em short?
 
Mrs. McCann
You'll get pinched if you get caught.
 
Mary Ann
Well whaddya want from me?
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down
 
Mary Ann
Aw
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down
 
Mary Ann
Gee
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down, Mary Ann
 
Mary Ann
Aw, applesauce
Gee I have a lovely dimple on my knee.
 
Mrs. McCann
Don't I know it.
Faith it wasn't put there for the world to see.
Keep your skirts down. 
 
Mary Ann
Whaddya mean, down?
 
Mrs. McCann
You know what I mean. When you sit down, if you can.
You'd make any man in town a nervous wreck
 
Mary Ann
Why?
 
Mrs. McCann
Remember you can wear your beads around your neck.
 
Mary Ann
Aw Pete's sake
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down
Keep your skirts down
 
Mary Ann
They're goin' up
 
Mrs. McCann
Well keep 'em down Mary Ann.
Mary Ann, Mary Ann, sure you'll never get a man.
 
Mary Ann
Oh I'll grab one never fear
 
Mrs. McCann
Mary Ann just listen here
Men like the old fashioned kind
 
Mary Ann
Mamma dear, you're way behind.
 
Mrs. McCann
Sure you'll make em lose their mind.
 
Mary Ann
Well what am I gonna do?
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down
Mary Ann
Aw
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep them way down
 
Mary Ann
Gee whiz
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep your skirts down, Mary Ann
 
Mary Ann
You make me tired
I might catch a fellow with my stockings rolled
 
Mrs. McCann
All that you will ever catch will be a cold
Keep your skirts down
 
Mary Ann
Aw whaddya mean down?
 
Mrs. McCann
Keep 'em down, when you sit down, if you can
 
Mary Ann
Nowadays you must dress like this to win a lad
 
Mrs. McCann
Hmm, faith I didn't do it and I won your dad.
 
Mary Ann
Well he was no bargain.
 
Mrs. McCann
Don't get fresh.
Keep your skirts down.
 
Mary Ann
They're goin' up!
 
Mrs. McCann
Well keep em down, Mary Ann
I never really thought about it before, but I was surprised that the phrase "gee whiz" has been around since at least 1925. The song is pretty silly but the graphic that accompanied the sheet music is quite beautiful. It seems that graphic design for sheet music was at a generally high level if this page is to be believed.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All By Myself

One of the themes of my play about Marilyn Monroe is solitude. And one of the high points of her life, in my opinion, was her support of the career of Ella Fitzgerald. Put those two things together and throw in the fact that the song "All by Myself" by Irving Berlin was both covered by Fitzgerald and is in the public domain, and I have myself a signature song for this play, which I will have Monroe sing.

My version will be done with a single piano though and not be swinging like Fitzgerald's version.

It has been claimed that Fitzgerald was unable to work at the nightclub The Mocambo due to the color bar, but according to the Wiki on Fitzgerald:

It has been widely reported that Fitzgerald was the first Black performer to play the Mocambo, following Monroe's intervention, but this is not true. African-American singers Herb Jefferies, Eartha Kitt, and Joyce Bryan all played the Mocambo in 1952 and 1953, according to stories published at the time in Jet magazine and Billboard"
The play MARILYN AND ELLA which I discovered via this Wiki article promotes the notion that Monroe helped integrate the nightclub. What Monroe's intervention - she promised the nightclub owner to show up for Fitzgerald's performances - did for sure was help the career of Ella Fitzgerald.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More gripes about the Rom-Com project: we must honor the patriarchy

I reviewed another batch of submissions for the NYCPlaywrights Rom-Com project and at this point only 28 plays have made the cut - I had to reject 48 for not being romantic comedies. So almost two-thirds of the submissions are being rejected.

One way I can tell it isn't going to be a romantic comedy is when the playwright attaches the play to an email that says something like "this isn't your usual romantic comedy." That always means it isn't really a romantic comedy but the playwright figured if they call it a romantic comedy they'll fool the reader into believing it is one.

And about a quarter of all the plays have annoyingly specific ages listed for the characters - which happens plenty but much more often if it's a play with a sexual theme - and the man always has to be older than the woman. Not significantly older, more like two or three years older. For instance one play specified the man was 53 and the woman was 50. Now maybe on a cellular level there is a noticeable difference between someone who is 50 and 53, but in terms of anything else there is virtually no difference. Certainly not in casting. Which means the only reason the playwright specified those ages is so it is clear that the man is older. Because in the idiotic, regressive, antiquated mind of the playwright, it can't be a real romance unless the man is older. Even if only by a few years. The rules of the patriarchy must be honored!

God forbid that somebody think that the man was 50 and the woman was 53!

Of course in the world of online dating it does make a huge difference to men, but there the 53 year old men consider themselves slumming if they contact a 43 years old women. Hell, most of them think they're too good for a 33 year old woman. So making the woman a mere 3 years younger is completely pointless.

I was going to say that the big problem as that most of these playwrights don't know what "romance" means - they don't distinguish between love and lust for instance. But actually, they don't know what "comedy" means either. At least not in the Shakespearean sense, in which, even if there aren't a lot of jokes at least there's a happy ending. Half these plays don't even have a happy ending, much less actual comedy. So most of the plays are failing for both reasons - they are neither romantic nor comedic.

At least we have 28 that make the cut. We're only going to pick 10 at the most. And the deadline is almost a month away.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Downtown Train

Too Big To Fail

I finally got around to watching the movie version of Andrew Ross Sorkin's "Too Big To Fail" about the 2008 financial meltdown. Part of my ongoing reference search for my play DARK MARKET.

The movie pretty much aligns with what I understood about the meltdown, but it had some details that I hadn't known about - and I actually thought they might have been placed into the movie for dramatic effect. I'm a little wary of Sorkin after he done Krugman wrong. But after Googling, discovered they were not:

Hank Paulson pukes from the stress as recounted in Vanity Fair:
And with that Paulson ducked into the private bathroom adjoining his office, closed the big paneled door, and audibly, violently, and repeatedly threw up. He emerged a moment later as if nothing had happened, but in a few minutes he did the same thing all over again. I asked if he wouldn’t rather stop, and resume our conversation another time. “That’s O.K.,” he said. “I’m just going to go through this all. I won’t remember it. You know, I barely remember the details now.”
And Hank Paulson literally knelt before Nancy Pelosi:
“I didn’t know I was going to be the referee for an internal G.O.P. ideological civil war,” Mr. Frank said, according to The A.P.Thursday, in the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal. 
“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.” 
Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.” 
It was the very outcome the White House had said it intended to avoid, with partisan presidential politics appearing to trample what had been exceedingly delicate Congressional negotiations.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, denounced the session as “a rescue plan for John McCain,” and proclaimed it a waste of precious hours that could have been spent negotiating.
 
But a top aide to Mr. Boehner said it was Democrats who had done the political posturing. The aide, Kevin Smith, said Republicans revolted, in part, because they were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement.
I remembered what a dumbass move it was for McCain to show up and try to get into the middle of the tense Senate negotiations in order to try to score points for his failing presidential campaign, but this movie makes him out to be an even bigger asshole than I remembered. That was pretty enjoyable.

And the filmmakers clearly love Warren Buffet - they not only cast Edward Asner, everybody's favorite lefty uncle, to play him, but they portrayed him at one point in an ice cream parlor with his grand-daughters, taking a call begging for his help.

I enjoyed other aspects of the casting too - I'm a big fan of Tony Shaloub, who played John Mack of Morgan Stanley, and Dan Hedeya was unrecognizable as Barney Frank - last time I remember seeing him was as the creepy ex-husband of Carla Tortelli on "Cheers." I also did not recognize William Hurt, who played Paulson. He looks more like Paulson than my memory of what William Hurt looked like. And Paul Giamatti looks much more like Ben Bernanke than I would have expected.

I also enjoyed the part of the movie when Paulson was on the phone with Christine Lagarde, then the French Ministry of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment, and just as Lagarde did in real life in the documentary "Inside Job" the actor portraying Lagarde pronounced is name "honk." It's the little things.

A good deal of the movie takes place in September 2008, and I checked this blog's archives to see if I was talking about it - and I was:
I worked in the investment bank's Compliance department - the department that was charged with making sure that the bank's securities holdings met regulations all over the world. And as I watched the computer programmers wrestle with ways to track the securities holdings, to see if they were in compliance with the regulations I realized that when it came to exotics - they really could not. Because basically an exotic could be virtually anything the investment bank wanted it to be.
It still blows my mind - I had come to this realization about the massive amount of unregulated trading going on a few months before the shit started to hit the fan in March 2008. I was shocked by the idea that a stock market which I thought was well-regulated was in fact the wild west.

Luckily I was reading Krugman's blog religiously even back then, to get some insight into what was going on. And I did email one of his columns to Jamie Dimon in March 2008. I never got a response though.

I also recently saw "Margin Call" which was pretty good, although not as entertaining as "Too Big." It also has a cast of big deal actors like Kevin Spacey and Demi Moore. And in both of these movies - and probably every other movie on the subject, there comes a time when a character is asked to explain what all this trading stuff is all about, "in English." I thought the bit in Too Big was pretty good:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Men crossing their legs

The movement to get men to stop hogging so much space in the subway by spreading their legs wide has made it to prime time - the New York Times has an article about it - and apparently the MTA is going to do a campaign about it:
Taking on manspreading for the first time, the authority is set to unveil public service ads that encourage men to share a little less of themselves in the city’s ever-crowded subways cars.
The targets of the campaign, those men who spread their legs wide, into a sort of V-shaped slouch, effectively occupying two, sometimes even three, seats are not hard to find. Whether they will heed the new ads is another question.

I was calling it "mansitting" myself but whatever you call it, it is an obnoxious practice. And predictably, some men justify the practice on the grounds that their junk is so huge and delicate. Which inevitably lead to this tumblr:
Men defending their balls - a superpoem.
The following is a crowdsourced poem, its lines excerpted from the messages of men writing in to defend their balls. Please read it as a continuous composition. The poem will be updated periodically. Thank you for your time.
Related to this justification is the notion that men don't/shouldn't/can't cross their legs. I was reading a bunch of comments on an article that the New Yorker posted to Facebook, about some right-wing French creep - here is the article on the New Yorker's site.

One of the Facebook comments critical of the right-wing creep was: Said the Frenchman who crosses his legs like a girl.

Fortunately there is a tumblr presenting evidence that plenty of manly men (and Truman Capote) are capable of sitting with legs crossed without losing their man card.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

The rich vein of Ayn Rand-based comedy

It's always good fun to parody the "philosophy" of Ayn Rand, although it is really easy, to be perfectly honest. I did it myself in my play DARK MARKET. In fact, it's the first thing she says in the play:

   GREENSPAN
Miss Rand? Are you here to haunt me like Jacob Marley?



   AYN RAND
How dare you! You know I hate “Christmas Carol”! That tale of an heroic businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, forced by supernatural beings to give his wealth to that moocher Bob Crachett and his family of worthless parasites. 

Good times. And of course Objectivists really do hate "A Christmas Carol" as I documented a couple of years ago.

So of course I enjoyed this recent New Yorker parody. The conceit is that Ayn Rand is reviewing children's movies. My favorite:
“The Muppets Take Manhattan”
This movie was a disappointment. The Muppets do not take Manhattan at all. They merely visit it. —No stars.

What is this song leading to?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Rom-Com - in worse shape than I thought

I can't say I'm disappointed in the submissions received (over 50 so far) to the NYCPlaywrights "Take Back the Rom-Com" project - having done calls for submissions before, I am well acquainted with the high percentage of crappy ten-minute plays usually received for these things. It was exactly what I expected.

But what's really annoying is what a high percentage of the plays received are neither comedic nor romantic. I was so exasperated by one submission received yesterday that I broke my own rule about never contacting submitters except to acknowledge receipt of the play. People are mostly not interested in feedback - they want you to tell them how great their play is, and I responded to this guy by asking what he thought was romantic about the play. His response:
I'm sorry? Is The War of the Roses with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner not a romantic comedy? Did you want a funny version of a Danielle Steele novel?
As it happens, "The War of the Roses" is classified as a black comedy by Wikipedia. The fact that this person believes that it is a romantic comedy is proof that people don't understand romantic comedy.

We had a nasty little back-and-forth exchange with his refusing to believe that his 10-minute play which consisted entirely of a couple of domestic partners bickering hatefully with each other wasn't the last word in romance and comedy.

And I just rejected another play which was about a bitter ex-boyfriend showing up in a restaurant to tell his ex-girlfriend the guy she was meeting for dinner was a killer. I haven't heard back from the guy, but this time instead of asking what the author thought made it a romanic comedy I simply stated:

"This does not meet the criterion of “romantic comedy.” Humor of course is a matter of personal taste, but this is in no way “romantic.”

If he has anything to say in response I will post it here.

I swear, it's as if any play that involves people who have had sex automatically qualifies as romantic comedy no matter what else happens in the play.

Some other gems:

A play which involves 8 characters (this is a ten-minute play, remember) that isn't romantic so much as a commentary on romantic tropes. Fail.

A prostitute picks up a guy at a bar, and though it's clear she isn't going to charge him for the sex, it's also clear that the only thing that's going to happen is sex. A one-night stand is not "romantic." Fail.

The guy in a hetero couple falls off a ledge and dies at the end. Fail.

A play based on absolute gender essentialism, in which a woman explains to her husband why women just don't like to have sex. Fail.

This is not to say that I love all the plays that do qualify as romantic comedies. I hate several of them. But I will have a bunch of actors to help me determine the best romantic comedies of those that qualify. My job now is to weed out those that do not qualify. Which so far is more than half of all the submissions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marilyn research

In addition to the second draft of DARK MARKET I am working on the first draft of my play about Marilyn Monroe, Incident at the Payne Whitney
and towards that end I've been doing a bit of research.

I remembered that Gloria Steinem had written a collection of essays about Marilyn - I recall hearing her talking about the book on the NPR show "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, when it was first published. It's a very interesting book from a feminist perspective.

 I've already read Miller's play After the Fall with a character based on Marilyn, and then I rented the movie "The Misfits", supposedly the character that Monroe played in that movie was based on her. If so, it's a pretty sad commentary on Miller's attitude toward's Monroe - her character is mostly passive and helpless, and cries a lot. Also just a boring movie with lots of roping and chasing horses, I didn't make it all the way through.

While reading up on "The Misfits" I discovered that Miller wrote a play called "Finishing the Picture" which was about the hassle of making Misfits. It was produced in 2004 to fair to middling reviews, but I wanted to read it anyway. Only to discover that it is apparently impossible to get a copy of the script. It appears to never have been published. I wrote to Miller's literary agent to see if it was possible to buy a copy, but so far I haven't heard back.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Private gains, public losses, universally disgusting

From American Banker:
But in finally getting what they wanted, big banks also thrust themselves back into the limelight in the worst possible way, simultaneously reminding the public of their role in causing the financial crisis and in their continuing influence over the various levers of the U.S government. In one fell swoop, they undid whatever recovery to their battered reputation they'd made in the past four years and once again cast themselves as the prototypical supervillain in a comic book movie. 
Observers said the fight was a public relations nightmare for Citigroup and the big banks. 
"They've taken a lot of reputational hits now, a lot of people saying, 'You're trying to blackmail us and not fund our government until you get your way,'" said Sheila Bair, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in an interview on CNBC before the House vote. 
"It's terrible publicity and I just hate to see that because I think the industry needs to be rebuilding trust with the American people right now. You do stuff like this, it just adds to the cynicism about banks, especially big banks."
Many analysts agreed that repealing the swaps provision, which was Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, is likely to only help banks on the margins, since they are allowed to continue engaging in the activity through affiliates. But by fighting so hard, some saw signs of darker motivations. 
"Wall Street's determined lobbying on Section 716 provides compelling evidence that Wall Street's business model depends on the ability of large financial conglomerates to keep exploiting the cheap funding provided by their 'too big to fail' subsidies," said Arthur Wilmarth, a professor of law at George Washington University. "Shame on Congress if it allows megabanks to continue to pursue the same business strategy that brought us the financial crisis."

Citigroup is holding government funding hostage to ram through its government bailout provision. Join me in opposing the

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Worst Christmas party ever

I just escaped got home from the worst Christmas party ever. It took me 90 minutes to get from the depths of Brooklyn back to Astoria, and while the A/C subway line must be the shittiest of all, like waiting in the subway station for thirty minutes and then getting on a smelly crappy train with loud obnoxious people sitting in front of the subway maps, it was worth every minute of not being at that party.

I've been to bad parties before and normally wouldn't bother to mention it, but this was so amazingly, epically bad, I just have to memorialize it on this here blog.

The best part is, it appears to still be going on based on the Facebook photos.

I showed up there with two bottles of a very palatable pinot noir - which was completely unappreciated by the other party guests. The "party" consisted of a tiny living room with a sofa and a coffee table, and the eight of us party attendees sitting around the coffee table playing a hideously crass, stupid card game that advertises itself as being a party game for horrible people which completely lived up to that motto. And of course really bad non-Christmas rock music.

I was there for an hour and a half and that card game is ALL that happened at this party. I would have liked to chat with people a little, but there was no time for that because they had to play this boring, moronic card game. I've never felt so alienated by seven other people in my entire life. I sat there trying to act like I wasn't appalled and when I couldn't take the torture any longer I left there, wanting to kill myself.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Albert Einstein advises Marie Curie




"At the time, Curie was putting up with a lot of ridiculous criticism. Despite winning a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work on radioactivity, in January 1911, her bid for a seat in the French Academy of Sciences had been rejected, likely in part because she was a woman and atheist, and perhaps also due to rumors that she was Jewish — a problem in an anti-Semitic, Dreyfuss affair-era France."

More at VOX

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Like a bicycle-loving fish needs a bicycle

White Palace variations

I went to see White Palace when it was first released, and at the time I was around the same age as the James Spader character, but now I'm older than the Susan Sarandon character. Tempus fugit. I still mostly like the movie, with some reservations, as I discussed a couple of years ago here.

One of the things I had reservations about was that the Nora character basically rapes the Max character. I recently bought a copy of the original novel the movie was based on, also called White Palace and to my surprise it actually uses the word "rape" to describe the encounter. So I'm glad the author, Glen Savan, had that much awareness.

Savan had a cameo in the movie, as can be seen in the first scene in the movie's trailer ("Yo, buddy, I'd like to get my hamburgers.) Poor old Savan died at the age of 49 of a heart attack.

There are several other difference between the novel and the movie, but I haven't found them all yet because I've been too busy to finish the novel.

One fascinating thing I've discovered is that this scene from the movie is hugely popular for "scene study" exercises.



You really appreciate the actorly abilities of Spader/Sarandon when you see these people do the scene:



And even in Norwegian!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Krugman said: American Evil

I will quote the entire thing:
As the Bush administration fades away in the rearview mirror, my sense is that many people — even liberals — are forgetting what it was really like. It becomes, in memory, just another administration whose policies you disapprove of, like the reign of Bush the elder. 
But it wasn’t. It was an administration that deliberately misled us into war, exploiting an atrocity to pursue an agenda that had nothing to do with that atrocity — and causing vast amounts of death and destruction in the process, not to mention undermining American strength. 
And it was an administration under which America became a torturer, with the enthusiastic approval of top officials.
This wasn’t normal. And if it’s going be normal from now on, all the more reason to remember the Bush years with horror.
I first became aware of Krugman soon after 9-11 - he was one of the very few pundits who weren't bowing down to the hysterical xenophobia of the Bush administration. My respect for his straight-shooting made me a big fan. And he is clearly still an eloquent, yet succinct straight-shooter.

Christ, you know it ain't easy...


Yoko Ono was different, so it seemed. Yoko Ono had something that all the others did not: perseverance that bordered on obsession. It was a mixture of guts and gall that went beyond chutzpah into the range of something spooky. By now everyone in the household was a little wary of her. After meeting John at an art exhibit she had been unshakeable…
...in the beginning she showed up at the Apple business offices and demanded to see him… and she once threatened to chain herself to the gates (of the Abbey Road EMI recording studios) in an attempt to get in to see John. Then came a long-distance assault on Kenwood (Lennon’s home.) It began with a barrage of phone calls, and then, when John’s telephone number was changed three of four times, Yoko sent dozens of letters. The letters first insisted, then demanded, John’s support for her arts projects. Cynthia (Lennon’s first wife) intercepted many of the letters and began to save them when they turned dark and despairing, in case Yoko ever followed through on the threats to kill herself. She had already tried to do herself in once in Japan, and the letters sounded sincere. According to Cynthia, Yoko wrote: “I can’t carry on. You’re my last hope. If you don’t support me, that’s it, I’ll kill myself.” 
Very much alive, Yoko began to appear at Kenwood in person, waiting in the driveway of the house for John to come and go. She stood there from early in the morning until late at night, no matter what the weather, wearing the same scruffy black sweater and beat-up shoes, so intense and scowling that the housekeeper was afraid to go nearer. One day Cynthia’s mother took pity on the forlorn figure and let her into the house to make a phone call and have a glass of water. But Yoko only used the occasion to leave her ring behind, which gave her a pretense to return the next day and demand to be let inside. One morning a package arrived from Yoko which Cynthia and her mother opened; it contained a Kotex box in which Yoko had buried a broken china cup painted blood red. John had a laugh about it, but Cynthia and Lillian Powell didn’t find it one bit funny.  
Eventually, Yoko’s dogged pursuit of John became so blatant that it developed into something of a private joke between the married couple. Yoko’s grande atrocity occurred one night when she turned up at the Transcendental Meditation lecture John and Cynthia were attending in London. When it was over she followed them out of the lecture hall and into the backseat of John’s psychedelically hand-painted Rolls-Royce limousine and sat herself down between them. Cynthia and John exchanged embarrassed smiles over her head until the chauffeur dropped her off at Park Row, where she was living with her husband.
From "The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles" by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines.

That's the same Peter Brown who got a shout-out in "The Ballad of John and Yoko" - 
Peter Brown called to say
You can make it OK
You can get married in Gilbraltar near Spain.