Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hey Pete Duel - how's that afterlife going?


One of my most popular blog posts is from ten years ago The Eventful Afterlife of Pete Duel, about the TV actor who committed suicide in 1971 - forty-four years ago today. He would be seventy-five years old if he had lived. Even though the blog post is over a decade old I still regularly get hits on it - this past month had ten visits, primarily from the British Isles. I'm not sure why Duel-mania is so big there, but it is.

Since that blog post Duel's afterlife career has expanded to Facebook. There is the Pete Duel Memorial Club and the Tribute to Pete Duel and the Pete Duel-Amazing Heyes Tribute Page and plain old Pete Duel. You can get a pretty good idea from the photo the latter used for the page background image exactly why Pete Duel continues to be remembered so long after his death - he was an exceptionally beautiful and charismatic man.

Youtube was around in 2005 but not nearly what it is now, and of course there are lots of videos dedicated to Pete Duel there, including clips from home movies, fan tribute videos, and episodes of the various TV series he was cast in. Plus a channel devoted to him by "Hannibal Heyes."

This E! show from 1999 has lots of interesting bits, including lots of comments from his sister and Smith & Jones costar Ben Murphy.





The writing on Alias Smith and Jones is often quite good and very funny. In the episode "Something to Get Hung About"  (I strongly suspect this is a reference to Strawberry Fields Forever) Hannibal Heyes is reading a copy of "Life on the Mississippi" and Kid Curry says:
Mark Twain? (laughs) Mark Twain. Now there's an alias if I ever heard one. I wonder what he's wanted for.
Later in the episode there is an unbelievably poignant moment. Pete Duel struggled with alcoholism and he was very drunk when he shot himself. In this episode a woman tells Hannibal Heyes about her husband:


WOMAN 
My husband is a very loving man except when he drinks. Which unfortunately he does a great deal. Then he becomes hateful. Do you think a man like that can change? 

HEYES 
Any man can want to change. I know that from a personal fact.


The character was referring to being a reformed bank robber. But Duel was attending Alcoholics Anonymous during the show.

Life on the Mississippi is referenced again - Heyes learns about fingerprints from the book and they use it to find the murderer.

It's really quite a snappy TV show, with good story lines, snappy video editing, and of course two seriously handsome leading men. It is very much inspired by the 1969 movie starring two seriously handsome men, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

You can watch the first episode on Youtube here - the original was in color but this is in black and white - which is how I would have seen it when it first aired - I don't think my family had a color TV until the 1980s. All the other episodes are available on Hulu.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Definitive

Possibly THE definitive Monroe photo
There can't possibly be an infinite number of photos of Marilyn Monroe... but if you do a Google search you may start to believe there are.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Just STFU while you're ahead

This 24-year-old man is absolutely gorgeous. I'm talking early Elvis, when he was still a blond. And he had to go and ruin everything by over-sharing.

When will these men learn that they'd do so much better showing the tiniest bit of savoir faire? Although I'm sure this guy is not wanting for female companionship... but if he didn't want me, why text with me back and forth for several hours?

It's not too late to become a nun. Although I suppose it would help if I wasn't an atheist.

Young blond Elvis

Monday, December 28, 2015

More brilliance from Sady Doyle

From her piece More Than Likable Enough
Here is one of those pressures: Hillary Clinton absolutely cannot express negative emotion in public. If she speaks loudly or gets angry or cries, she risks being seen as bitchy, crazy, dangerous. (When she raised her voice during the 2013 Benghazi Senate committee hearings, the cover of the New York Post blared “NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID.”) But if Hillary avoids emotions—if she speaks strictly in calm, logical, detached terms—then she is cold, robotic, calculating.

You’d think the solution might be to put on a happy face, to admit to emotions only when they are positive. But it turns out that people hate it when Hillary Clinton smiles or laughs in public. Hillary Clinton’s laugh gets played in attack ads; it has routinely been called “a cackle” (like a witch, right? Because she’s old, and female, like a witch); frozen stills of Hillary laughing are routinely used to make her look “crazy” in conservative media.

She can’t be sad or angry, she can’t be happy or amused, and she can’t refrain from expressing any of those emotions. There is no way out of this one. There is no right way for her to act.

That’s just one set of examples. There are plenty more. She’s not the right age(Republicans from Mitch McConnell to Rand Paul to Rick Santorum have poked fun at her perceived dotage). There are no right politics for her to have (she’s been accused of everything from “radical feminism” to having economic policy positions indistinguishable from those of right-wing Republicans). There is no right way for her to want to be president (because she is suspected of being both “pathologically ambitious”—unlike, say, anyone else who ever thought they should be leader of the free world—and the beneficiary of marital nepotism).

How long would you make it, if people treated you the way you treat Hillary Clinton?

You’d think, given the impressive amount of unfair and often cruelly personal scrutiny this woman faces, it would make sense for her to be pretty cautious about how she presents herself in public. Bizarre, then, that Hillary Clinton has developed a reputation in the press for seeming distant—even secretive or paranoid! It’s almost as if, after a quarter-century of being attacked for her appearance, personality, and every waking move, breath, and word, Hillary Clinton is highly conscious of how she is perceived and portrayed, and is trying really hard to monitor her own behavior and behave in ways people will accept. Which is “disgusting,” of course. We want “authentic” candidates.

Remind me: How well did the public and media react the last time she appeared in public without makeup? Or raised her voice? Or laughed? Or went to the goddamn bathroom? Or did any “authentic” thing that a real-life person does every day?


Naturally left-wing misogynist and unethical lying hack journalist Doug Henwood keeps on with his deranged hatred for HRC - Doyle has a good response.



And speaking of Doug Henwood and his socialist handmaidens, I discovered that Amber A'Lee Frost was promoting the awful bully and conscience-free smear-monger Mikki Kendall here.

Although I was amused to see anti-feminist asshole Will Shetterly agreeing with Frost for attacking Rebecca Solnit and meanwhile Shetterly despises Mikki Kendall.

You can see why socialist bros love to publish the work of Amber A'Lee Frost - she can be relied upon to attack feminists for their refusal to focus exclusively on poor women's problems, which is the only proper form of feminism as far as these socialist assholes are concerned.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Do men on social media all get the same memo?

Men are so terribly afraid of having any kind of human relationship with women it's absolutely sickening. But what must that be like, to be someone who doesn't fall in love? By the time I was this pediatric surgeon's age (24) I had been in love more times than I can remember (often unrequited but it still counts!) I mean, it must make your life so much more predictable, which I guess comes in handy when you're in med school.

But I'm so sick of them always asking "what are you here for" because the answer they're looking for is always "casual sex." It's like they're so afraid you'll fall in love with them or something.  Dudes get over yourselves.




Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas in Merchantville

Scenes from the Merchantville Bike Path.

According to the UP2 (a fitness activity tracker like Fitbit) my daughter gave me for Christmas, my mother and I walked two and a half miles on this path.




Friday, December 25, 2015

Funniest bit ever for Christmas

Tina Fey is originally from the Philadelphia area which probably accounts for her spot-on Philly accent ("like Down-town Abbey" LOL!) Yes, water is pronounced "wudder" in and around the City of Brotherly Love. Although her best feat was pronouncing "war zee-own" like a native.

You can get a Keeohwk anna heeyohgie adda Wawa.






Although my favorite in this piece is probably "a dog-man that flies a plane."




Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sometimes I just can't help myself

Sometimes I just can't help being a wise-ass on social media. Although if you want to get technical it appears that everybody except the Huns sacked Rome.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Signs of the next economic meltdown

At the end of the excellent movie "The Big Short" it is mentioned that the big banks are still recklessly gambling with unregulated derivatives. It points to this Bloomberg article that points out that Goldman Sachs is selling collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) under the name "bespoke tranche opportunity."

Goldman Sachs was also the subject of a fascinating episode of This American Life from a year ago that I missed, The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra. It demonstrates the immense regulatory capture of the Federal Reserve years after the 2008 meltdown. From the transcript:
In 2009, David Beim wrote in his report on how the New York Fed must change to prevent the next financial crisis. Quote, "Because so many seem to fear contradicting their bosses, senior managers must now repeatedly tell subordinates that they have a duty to speak up, even if that contradicts the boss." Evaluation of employees at yearend might include specific categories like "willingness to speak up," "willingness to contradict me." 
Mike Silva was actually part of a team that worked with Beim to come up with these recommendations. The following week he had Carmen in for a meeting. 
Mike Silva
Carmen, let me tell you that you've been released-- 
Jake Bernstein
And he fired her.


Bernie Sanders also mentions Goldman Sachs in his editorial in today's NYTimes:
What went wrong at the Fed? The chief executives of some of the largest banks in America are allowed to serve on its boards. During the Wall Street crisis of 2007, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, served on the New York Fed’s board of directors while his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Next year, four of the 12 presidents at the regional Federal Reserve Banks will be former executives from one firm: Goldman Sachs. 
These are clear conflicts of interest, the kind that would not be allowed at other agencies. We would not tolerate the head of Exxon Mobil running the Environmental Protection Agency. We don’t allow the Federal Communications Commission to be dominated by Verizon executives. And we should not allow big bank executives to serve on the boards of the main agency in charge of regulating financial institutions.

Clearly Goldman Sachs is a huge problem, and Wall Street reforms are still needed or we will certainly have another huge meltdown.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

The book of numbers

Not to be confused with the other Book of Numbers, this Book of Numbers provides everything you want to know about any number, binary, octal, hexadecimal, even, odd, perfect square, prime or fibonacci. It does not include social references of numbers though.

For instance, the number 42, identified by the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as the answer to life, the universe and everything:

Feature

The number 42 is a Positive and Even number. it's Inverse number is 0.023809523809524 and it's Counter number is -42. The number 42 can be divided by 1 ,2 ,3 ,6 ,7 ,14 ,21 ,42without remainder of course. In addition, it's not a Perfect square and it's not a Prime number.Now Let's use some trigonometric functions just for fun... Using the Sine Fuction: Sin(42°) gives -0.917, using the Cosine Function Cos(42°) gives -0.400 and using the Tangent Function tan(42°) gives 2.291.

Structure

42 contains 2 digits that summed up to 6. .In English this number should sounds like: forty-two. In addition, the digits that represents the number 42 are: four ,two.
The number 42 is a decimal number and it means that it represented in base 10. 42 can also be represented In different bases such as base two, that also known as Binary and looks like: 101010, base 8, that also known as Octal and looks like 52 and base 16, that also known as Hexadecimal and looks like: 2a. These are the the most common bases but of course, there are much more bases.

Possible Meanings for the number:

This number can represent an IP address such as: 0.0.4.2 This number can also represents a webcolor like : #000042

Do with this information what you will.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Go see "The Big Short"

I had heard about the new movie "The Big Short" and it sounded interesting, but after I read a Krugman editorial about it, I ran out immediately to see it, which is very rare for me. I usually wait for movies to show up online.

And it is really great movie! Much more entertaining than you dare hope for in a movie about finance. Any movie about the 2008 meltdown must find a way to explain the complex factors that caused the disaster. The Big Short does a very good job making the explanation both entertaining and informative.




And bonus - the phrase "dark market" is used towards the end of the movie.

Also of interest - as I was watching the character who goes to Brad Pitt's character for help, I kept trying to figure out where I'd seen him before. He's the guy on the left, talking, in the opening seen of this preview:




And I finally figured it out. He plays a rapist in an episode of Law and Order - SVU ("Wonderland Story") who raped the girlfriend of a guy named Matt, played by my actor buddy Matt DeCapua. Here is a screen cap of Matt getting into the rapist's face - the character is played by Finn Wittrock.



There is a stellar cast, including Christian Bale - aka Gloria Steinem's step-son - and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts as one of the finance suit guys. And Ryan Gosling is hysterical as you can see in this featurette about his bitchy character. I just die laughing when he shrieks "I'm jacked to the tits!"




I also had to buy the non-fiction book "The Big Short" on which the movie is based to see how they're different. It's funny though, in the first scene with Wittrock's character, his character talks directly to the camera (characters or random famous people, like Anthony Bourdain. talk to the camera throughout the movie) points out that the dramatization of how they discovered important information didn't really happen like that, lampshading the fact that the movie takes liberties with the true story to make a tighter narrative. I thought that was pretty neat.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A friend of a Facebook friend is no friend of mine

Except for some relatives I really have no right-wing friends on Facebook. I have a few fairly far-left-wing friends with whom I've had arguments but we've managed to stay friends - in spite of, most recently, the extreme Hillary-hating tendencies of some on the left, a phenomenon I mentioned the other day.

But I have a fairly open-door policy on my Facebook posts, and so friends of friends can see and comment on them. So a day after I posted this  piece about girls in Chicago participating in a "walk a mile in her hijab" event, a friend of a Facebook commented "Yeah let's all wear a symbol of female suppression..." and of course I had to tell him off.

As an atheist I find all religions to be generally absurd. But as an American liberal I am dedicated to the proposition that people have a right to any religion they want - with the flip-side being of course that people don't have to have any religion at all. We're all protected this way.

Muslims have been targeted more than usual lately thanks to the Islamaphobia of the Republican party candidates for president (it's not only Trump), resulting in increasing attacks on Muslims in the US. And the hijab is a way to identify Muslim women, so following their religion makes them a target for hate, and the attacks have intensified lately.

And as far as headscarves being symbols of female "suppression" (the guy is Dutch so maybe that's why he chose that word instead of "oppression") well you could make the same claim about plenty of other articles of female apparel, starting with high heels. But nobody is forcing women in the United States to wear high heels (except possibly if you work for Hooters) and nobody is forcing women in the United States to wear hijab. But women are being targeted for hate simply for choosing to wear the hijab.

And that is why it's both brave and admirable for these girls to stand up to bigotry and hate out of solidarity with their classmates.

But mostly it's time for people to stop telling women what they can and cannot wear - and it does not matter whatever reason the woman has - she has a right to choose her own clothing. Period.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The prophetic Talking Heads

They could see into the future, with people making web series, back in 1978 in their album More Songs About Buildings and Food.




"Damn that television what a bad picture"!
"Don't get upset, it's not a major disaster".
"There's nothing on tonight", he said, "I don't know what's the matter"!
"Nothing's ever on", she said, "so I don't know why you bother."
We've heard this little scene, we've heard it many times.
People fighting over little things and wasting precious time.
They might be better off I think the way it seems to me.
Making up their own shows, which might be better than T.V.
Judy's in the bedroom, inventing situations.
Bob is on the street today, scouting up locations.
They've enlisted all their family.
They've enlisted all their friends.
It helped saved their relationship,
And made it work again
Their show gets real high ratings, they think they have a hit.
There might even be a spin off, but they're not sure 'bout that.
If they ever watch T.V. again, it'd be too soon for them.
Bob never yells about the picture now, he's having too much fun.
Judy's in the bedroom, inventing situations.
Bob is on the street today, scouting up locations.
They've enlisted all their family.
They've enlisted all their friends.
It helped saved their relationship,
And made it work again
So think about this little scene; apply it to your life.
If your work isn't what you love, then something isn't right.
Just look at Bob and Judy; they're happy as can be,
Inventing situations, putting them on T.V.
Judy's in the bedroom, inventing situations.
Bob is on the street today, he's having a vacation.
They've enlisted all their family.
They've enlisted all their friends.
It helped saved their relationship,
And made it work again

Monday, December 14, 2015

Misogyny and the Hillary-hating Left

I was onto Doug Henwood's misogyny over a year ago when I tangled with him via a friend of a Facebook friend, but it's very gratifying to see others making public statements about his utter derangement on the subject of Hillary Clinton.

Henwood is the leading leftist Hillary hater - he hates Clinton so much he's willing to dig up the debunked Whitewater charges to do it, while insulting any of his critics who call him out for being an unethical crank as Gene Lyons found out:
Because he finds her too close to Wall Street and too hawkish on foreign policy, Henwood evidently feels it his moral duty to blacken Hillary Clinton's character. It's not enough to say she voted for the Iraq War and favored bombing Syria. Henwood had to dig up "Whitewater" to prove her a liar and a cheat. 
Then, after I wrote a column pointing out that almost everything he'd written about that phony scandal was nonsense, Henwood began calling me bad names on social media. "Clinton towel boy" was one. 
So I posted the following on his Facebook page:
"I find it interesting that when confronted with several quite basic factual errors in his description of the great Whitewater scandal of legend and song, Doug Henwood's response is name-calling. That tells me pretty much all I need to know about him.
 
"However, it's false to say that the late Jim McDougal's savings and loan financed the Clintons' Whitewater investment. He didn't buy it until five years later. Another bank made the loan, for which both Clintons were jointly and severally responsible — meaning they'd have to pay it off regardless of what happened to McDougal or his other investments. Which they did. Whitewater cost the S&L nothing.
Henwood, like many men on the far Left - and their enablers like Henwood's wife Liza Featherstone and their good buddy Amber A'Lee Frost - just don't like feminists generally, unless they are, I guess, members of the proletariat and/or Marxists.

I first heard of Doug Henwood when he attacked the Fawcett Society as "bourgeois feminists"  on Facebook.
Doug HenwoodYesterday at 8:47am ·
Man, isn't this bourgeois feminism for you? T-shirts cost a nickel apiece (presumably that's printing cost, not the entire t-shirt), sell for $70.
http://gawker.com/women-making-70-feminist-shirts-in-factory-paid-under-1653799400

The Society has been around since 1866 fighting for women's rights. And apparently the story was wrong anyway:
UPDATE: Much to our relief, The Fawcett Society has confirmed that the “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” tee was not produced in a factory with unethical work conditions, as reported by Dazed Digital. “We have been particularly pleased to receive evidence that 100% of workers are paid above the government-mandated minimum wage and all workers are paid according to their skills and years of service,” said Fawcett’s Eva Neitzert to Dazed of the factory in which the garments were made. “The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated (at a higher rate of pay) for any overtime worked."
If Henwood has apologized for smearing this venerable organization I have yet to discover any evidence. 

Henwood's attitude is described pretty well by this passage in Michelle Goldberg's piece in Slate, Men Explain Hillary to Me:
Of course, people of good faith are going to disagree about individual examples of sexism. What’s immensely frustrating, however, is to realize how many ostensibly enlightened men think that gender can ever be totally disaggregated from Clinton’s efforts to become the first female president. They seem to believe that their class politics exempt them from taking sexism seriously. They certainly don’t care about female leadership.

I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise; as long as feminism has existed, left-wing men have dismissed it as a bourgeois triviality. Now we know how little things have changed. For that, at least, we can thank these men for educating us.
Goldberg  doesn't mention Henwood by name, but Sady Doyle (whom I've admired for a long time) does in her piece in  Global Comment Hating Hillary: The One Thing Left and Right Men Can Agree On:

You know Hillary-hate. You’ve seen it before: It’s Tucker Carlson proclaiming that “when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.” It’s Chris Matthews scolding Clinton, when she criticized Bush’s homeland security spending in 2005, by saying that “you look more witchy when you’re doing it like this.” It is sainted progressive icon Jon Stewart getting huge laughs, off a shot of Clinton smiling politely, with the line “that look is where boners go to die.”
And it goes on, and gets worse, until Hillary is not just portrayed as an ugly, mean old lady these dudes don’t want to fuck, but as an actual monster. Hillary-hate is the fact that, while Clinton was grieving the suicide of her friend Vince Foster, Republicans spread rumors that she had seduced and murdered him. Hillary-hate is Maureen Dowd calling Clinton “Godzilla” and “Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.” Hillary-hate is the not-remotely-subtle implication that Clinton abuses her husband, spread by the New York Post; next to a photo of Clinton with her mouth wide open at a Benghazi hearing, they ran the headline “NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID.” Hillary-hate is the persistent, bizarre need for major media outlets to go along with Dowd’s calling Clinton the “50-Foot Woman” and to make Clinton look scary by portraying her as superhumanly huge: On the cover of TIME as a rampaging, pantsuited giantess the size of a skyscraper (photographed in the act of stepping on a powerless man, of course) or on the cover of the New York Times Magazine as some sort of Lovecraftian elder God the size of a planet.
Hillary-hate is Nation contributing editor Doug Henwood, greeting Clinton’s candidacy, this time around, with a book cover in which she is portrayed as a murderer aiming a gunat either (a) you, the reader, (b) the Democratic party, or quite possibly (c) Democracy itself.
Henwood turned out to be my breaking point, for this particular hate-wave. He provided the moment when I found out what happens on the other side of dread; when the anxiety of my internal monologue (they’re going to do it to her again; they’re going to do it to her again; they’re doing it to her again) broke, and clarified.
I don’t care if I have to end my career, end my friendships, or end my life with a Twitter-fight-induced heart attack, is what I thought, on the other side of fear. If there is anything I can do about this, they will not get away with doing it again.

Doug Henwood, as thin-skinned as they come, of course  has to jump on to attack Doyle:



She has no idea what Henwood thinks of Clinton if she's incapable of Googling "Henwood" and "Hillary" and finding the article in Harpers, mentioned by Lyons, entitled: Stop Hillary!

Amber A'Lee Frost also attacked Doyle in the Baffler in a piece meant primarily to hype the forthcoming hate-Hillary books of her good friends Henwood and Featherstone:
That so many established feminists appear to favor one exceptionally rich and powerful woman over the millions of women in dire need—many struggling as a direct result of horrifying policies of Bill’s that Hillary still supports to this day—is alarming to me. Sady Doyle, a self­-identified socialist who supports Clinton nonetheless, says that “the gendered nastiness coming unilaterally from Sanders’s camp doesn’t make me feel I can vote for him in any scenario.”
Established feminists are favoring Clinton as a presidential candidate. And I'm sure you could easily dig up objectionable actions on any other candidate, even Saint Bernie Sanders. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hooray for the man-bun

As an unabashed androphile, I'm very opinionated  about male fashions, including hair fashions. I recently disparaged the hideous "fade" hairstyle (aka "Hitler youth" - what does that name tell you?) but on the flip side there is the man bun, or really, just bun, but our culture is obsessed about making sure there is gender differentiation to everything owing to the fragility of masculinity, so fragile there even has to be special man coloring books.

The reason it's such an attractive hairstyle is because a man must have long hair in order to have enough hair to make a bun. And long hair on men is great. Case closed.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

His cheatin' heart

I don't know if it's stupidity or shamelessness or what. It's certainly perfidiousness, that we can be sure of.

This guy contacts me via a dating site, and he has the address to his rock band's Facebook page in his profile. So of course I'm going to have to check that out. I go to his band's page and immediately find this guy's real name, so of course I go to his profile. Now he doesn't have anything listed in his "relationship status" but there are a whole bunch of photos of him and a young woman, including ones where they're dressed up for Halloween like characters from Star Trek. Either she's a fellow Trekkie, or she likes this guy enough to dress up for him like that. In any case, she is apparently under the impression that they are in a relationship, since that's what it says in her Facebook profile.

She's also in musical theater - she has a headshot and everything. She looks to be in her early 20s.  What would she think if she knew her 26 year old boyfriend was on a dating site looking for women, including women old enough to be his mother?

Well it's none of my business of course. However I couldn't resist letting this dumbass know that I found his FB profile and I think that finally gave him a clue, because he immediately blocked me. I'm sure this girlfriend will figure out what he really is, sooner or later.

I have to wonder if the hacking of Ashley Madison (although still around even after the hacker raid on its member database) has driven the cockroaches over to all the other dating sites. This August I met a 20-something doctor via social media (on Meetup of all things) who was very smart and nice - and, it turned out, engaged. It was so easy to learn this information once he gave me his real phone number via text message. It took two seconds to discover his real name and then from there another two seconds to find his Facebook profile - which didn't have much information, but his mother's Facebook profile had everything, including all the congratulations on his engagement, and the name of his fiancee, who is also a doctor and who clearly thought she was in a relationship with Dr. X.


I am planning to do a web series, My Life as a Cougar, once I get this move over with, and tell stories of meeting all the crazies and losers and cheaters out there. I guess it will fall into the "black comedy" category.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sam Harris: the Donald Trump of atheism

While I was focused on the senescence of Richard Dawkins I did promise I would get around to Sam Harris.

Cenk Uygur demonstrates how ridiculous Sam Harris is:





And Uygur doesn't even touch on Harris' idiotic notion that Islamic regimes are run by people with a death wish. Newsflash: the guys who are running countries aren't the suicide bombers - fanatical nobodies are the suicide bombers. But Harris' bigotry is so mind-bogglingly intense that he believes that Muslims don't behave as human beings do.


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Brooklyn Promenade sans Jason


The first and only time I've been to the Brooklyn Promenade prior to this past weekend was on a date with Jason the dental technician. He was in his early 20s to my mid-30s - yes I was a cougar pioneer.

I was really impressed by the Promenade - long after we broke it off - and our relationship wasn't very long to begin with - I was still pining for the way I felt walking there with him.

Everybody makes a big deal about the sights you can seen from the Brooklyn Promenade, and it is undoubtedly impressive, between the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline, especially at sunset. But what they don't mention is the other impressive sight: the interior of the homes along the Promenade.

The homeowners are so pleased with their homes they just throw open the curtains and let any passers-by - and there are a lot of them on the Promenade most of the time - peek right inside. I don't care how rich I was or how proud of my home - I wouldn't just let people gawk at my stuff.

The photos don't show a clear view of the interiors and that's fine - I don't want to compound the issue by sharing their homes with the entire world - but you could see inside with perfect clarity from the Promenade.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Sensitive Skin

I was looking on Google Play for season 2 of Slings and Arrows but instead the search feature presented me with a TV series "Sensitive Skin" which stars Kim Catrall as Davina a woman going through a mid-life crisis.

I've become a fan of Catrall over the past year so that had me interested. Davina is a very different character from Samantha Jones, quite conservative and low-key.

Sensitive Skin is created by several people associated with Slings & Arrows and features a few of the actors from S&A. foremost is Don McKellar who was so wonderful as the bitchy, eccentric postmodernist director Darren Nichols. McKellar directs Sensitive Skin as well as acts in it, and Bob Martin, who played a minor character, an accountant in the first season of S&A and was a co-creator of that series, is also the writer for Sensitive Skin. And he plays a supporting character in Sensitive Skin. Also crossing over from one series to the other is Colm Feore who was amazing as scam artist Sanjay in Slings & Arrows, playing Davina's brother-in-law Roger.

In spite of the connection between the two series, they are very different. S&A was fast-paced and often laugh out loud funny, while Sensitive Skin, billed as a black comedy, is more black than comedy. It's sort of grim and depressing, really, but it tells a story well and it's quite stylized with its muted colors and frequent use of slo-mo. But things move very slowly and there's really only one plot-line, while Slings and Arrows always had multiple plot lines going on.

You could fit all the activity of the entire 6-episode, 30-minutes-per-episode first season of Sensitive Skin into a single one-hour episode of Slings and Arrows. Of course I binged watched the first season and I'm looking forward to the next season which will be released soon I hope.

The show has a Twitter account.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Glengarry Glenn Beck

I am not surprised that David Mamet's latest play CHINA DOLL is being trashed by critics. David Mamet has lost it and this is the kind of thing you would expect from someone who has lost it:
What are we to make of these bizarre later Broadway endeavors by the man from Chicago who wrote some of the greatest dramas of the 20th century? Are they soupcons? Digressions or meditations yet to be understood? Anarchistic jabs of defiance at the hyper-liberal, perpetually self-examining theatrical establishment with its committees, action groups and abiding impotence? Neocon jokes by about the only right-of-center scribe in the universe? A desire for more checks made out to David Mamet?
What? What?

David Mamet's endeavor is bizarre because he has lost it. That's what what, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune. 

I've been building a case for this for several years now.

Come back, come back, wherever you are, David Mamet. All is forgiven (even “Race”) if you will just quit jerking us around on non-plays like “China Doll” and get a grip. There’s material for maybe a one-act in this overblown character study of a power broker whose sins are about to catch up with him. But even with Al Pacino putting him through his emotional paces, this tarnished titan is going through hell in a vacuum, with no one to play off but unheard voices on the other end of the telephone.
Mamet's gone, Marilyn Stasio. He's lost it. He's not only become conservative, he's so far out there he's a guy who pals around with famous paranoid nutcase Glenn Beck and has been that way for years.

Some of the critics did get off some funny lines. David Cote in Timeout:
Like most people these days, I go to the theater so I don’t have to see or think about Donald Trump. Yet here’s Al Pacino, with goofy hair and a monstrous ego, spewing two hours of bullshit as pugnacious, self-righteous moneybags Mickey Ross. His is not just any B.S., however: David Mamet has scripted this dramatically desiccated pencil sketch, in which Ross sweet-talks, wheedles and vituperates his fiancée, lawyer and political enemies via Bluetooth. Have you ever had the desire to watch Pacino at home, arguing all morning with AppleCare Plus? You are in luck.
I have yet to find any evidence that Mamet is a fan of Donald Trump, but I would not be surprised. Joe Dziemianowicz in the Daily News was even funnier:
David Mamet said his new play, written for frequent muse, Al Pacino, would be “better than oral sex.”
Oral sex? “China Doll” is not even better than oral surgery.
At least for that sort of medical procedure you get painkillers. And it’s not a complete waste of time and money. “China Doll” — henceforth “China Dud” — is both.
Pacino is Mickey Ross, who’s on his cellphone for three-quarters of the show. Not the stuff of great drama. And if we wanted to be entertained by one-sided conversations, we’d watch Lily Tomlin in “Laugh-In” reruns.

But only Jesse Green in New York Magazine really discusses the right-wing lesson Mamet is trying to teach us:
Mickey, whatever his flaws, is after all the hero, and Pacino plays him as such, with great good spirits and glamour. (In Jess Goldstein’s black duds and his own parted-curtains hairstyle, he looks like a chic undertaker.) The villains here are regulation, big government, and the foolish populace that tolerates one and elects the other. This libertarian underpinning is slightly obfuscated so as not to offend the audience outright, and anyway Mamet’s vituperation remains funny, even if it has switched sides. Wondering how the governor, a Democrat to judge from his rhetoric, would even know the “people” he rhapsodizes, Mickey says that “the only time he ever saw them they were waxing his car.” 
But eventually you can’t help facing the fact that Mamet has built what plot there is around the hypocrisy and venality of liberal politicians; the story is rigged to make Mickey, of all people, a victim.
"You weak and unacceptable woman, homosexual, African American, go away, I do not want you."
"But, does no one see that we are people, too . . . ?"
So apparently Mamet feels it's OK to present a plutocrat as a victim so that we can sympathize  - plutocrats are people too.

Of course Mamet doesn't have the self-awareness necessary to recognize his own hypocrisy. Because David Mamet has completely lost it.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Suck it, Ichabod


I was supposed to look at a place on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights today but the realtor bailed out on me at the last minute, saying the place was locked and he didn't have the key.

But I took a little walking tour of Brooklyn Heights and on an old church I found this plaque dedicated to Ichabod Spencer who died in 1854. You know right away he was from the antique past with a name like Ichabod - I don't think a single child has been given that name since  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was published in 1820.

Well I thought this was rather quaint and charming. His parish sure seemed to like him - his plaque is faded at the bottom, but what I can read says:
Ichabod S. Spencer. D. D. The First Pastor of this Church was installed March 23rd 1832 and died November 23rd 1854 in the 57th year of his age. A man of God honored and beloved during his whole ministry of more than twenty ... years... 

and I can't read the rest.

So I decided to look this guy up, and sure enough he has an entry in Wikipedia:
(February 23, 1798 – November 23, 1854) was a popular 19th-century American Presbyterian preacher and author.[1]...
in the spring of 1832 he was solicited to move to the Second Presbyterian Congregation of Brooklyn,[1]:35 where he was installed on March 23, 1832.[1]:35 Spencer remained in Brooklyn for the rest of his life, where he wrote extensively, and "published verbatim reports of pastoral conversations that other ministers could use as a guide".[2]
You can see his published work here. However, his main claim to fame appears to be his sermon on the Fugitive Slave Law in which he says:
The matter before us is a very serious matter. The wicked principles of which I have spoken, disguise it as you will, tend directly to anarchy, confusion, and civil war! The question is not, whether slavery is right, or the Fugitive Slave Law right. It draws deeper. The question is, shall Law be put in force, and the government of the country stand; or shall Law be resisted, and the government of the country disobeyed, and the nation plunged into all the horrors of civil war? If Law cannot be executed, it is time to write the epitaph of your country!
Spencer was referring to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850:
The Fugitive Slave Law or Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress on September 18, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.
This was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a "slave power conspiracy". It required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate in this law. Abolitionistsnicknamed it the "Bloodhound Law" for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.[1]
And of course many ministers did defy the law:
The Fugitive Slave Law brought the issue home to anti-slavery citizens in the North, as it made them and their institutions responsible for enforcing slavery. Moderate abolitionists were faced with the immediate choice of defying what they believed to be an unjust law, or breaking with their own consciences and beliefs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) to highlight the evils of slavery.[11][12]
Many abolitionists defied the law openly. Reverend Luther Lee, pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Syracuse, New York, wrote in 1855:

I never would obey it. I had assisted thirty slaves to escape to Canada during the last month. If the authorities wanted anything of me, my residence was at 39 Onondaga Street. I would admit that and they could take me and lock me up in the Penitentiary on the hill; but if they did such a foolish thing as that I had friends enough on Onondaga County to level it to the ground before the next morning.[13]

Spencer did not go so far as to justify slavery, but he certainly didn't need to write a sermon in defense of obeying that evil law.

According to the web site of the New York City chapter of American Guild of Organists - yes, it's a real thing - the church was renamed Spencer Memorial Presbyterian Church (obviously after Ichabod) but it was disbanded in 1994.

Suck it, Ichabod Spencer.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

My latest musical obsession

I've been focused too much on moving issues to blog much lately. But I must talk about my recent obsession with Camile Saint-Saëns Danse Bacchanale.

I don't know how it is that I've gone so long without getting to know this piece. It's from the opera Samson et Delilah and I'm not a huge opera fan or a fan of that particular Bible story, so perhaps that's how I missed it. But I was listening to a collection of random classical music pieces on Google Play Music at work (after I listened to Sister Ray several times of course) and pricked up my ears at this one. It was actually familiar to me, so I must have heard it before, but I never really paid attention to it.

The really great thing about Google Play Music is that you can up-vote a piece and then it's put into a little list of your favorites. So I went around finding different orchestras' version of this piece until I had like seven in a row and then I listened to them one after another. It certainly made the day better.

Like Ravel's Bolero, the song is all about building up to a huge climax. And wow is it. What I love so much about the ending is the big drums - they come in and at least to me sound slightly out of time with the rest of the piece, but then when the other instruments come in they sound perfectly in sync. It's the transition from incoherence to perfect coordination that is such a thrill.

The Symphonic Youth Orchestra of Caracas totally rips it up here.



Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tampa Florida?

Now that I'm apartment hunting my company is telling us we have the option to move to Tampa Florida - they are trying to reduce their office space requirements in the much-more-expensive New York City metropolitan area. I don't really like Florida much - with the exception of Key West - but I am very tempted to live in Tampa on my NYC salary. At least for a couple of years. We shall see...

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Moving on...

Miss Willow finds photography deeply suspicious too
Well my landlord is giving me the boot. I don't know if it's because I asked him to paint, after 5 years (they're supposed to paint every 3 years) or he wants to jack the rent up by $300 or what. But he gave me 30 days yesterday and then said I could stay another two months.

I've been here for five years and I was justing thinking that this was a record - I haven't lived more than 5 years anywhere since my daughter's childhood, when we lived in a tiny apartment in Pennsauken NJ for six years. Since then, 1989, I've lived:

  1. Another place in Pennsauken - 3 years
  2. Merchantville NJ - 4 years 
  3. Pennsauken NJ - 3 years
  4. Staten Island NY - 1 month
  5. Weehawken - 1.5 years
  6. Hoboken - 3 years
  7. Hoboken - other location - 3 years
  8. Weehawken - 2 years
  9. Manhattan - 1 year
  10. Astoria - 5 years

That is a lot of moving around. My poor cats have had to move three times so far and I'm afraid a fourth time will kill Miss Willow, who hates for anything unusual to happen. Just my making the bed is enough to send her scurrying out of the room.

I'm thinking of moving to Crown Heights which abuts the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on its northern edge. I love the idea of being able to pop into the Garden all the time. On the other hand if I lived on the Upper West Side I will be able to go to Central Park. Decisions decisions.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just like Sister Ray says



If you are working for The Man there will be days, even many days, even most days, when you will find yourself floating in a haze of impotent rage at the wasteland ditch that Fate has dumped you into, forced to spend the majority of your waking life dying of excruciating loneliness surrounded by people from whom you are alienated, doing work that enables obscenely wealthy people to become even more obscene - at best.  But most likely it only allows petty little suck-ups like your manager to ingratiate himself with his bosses so that he can ascend to a higher level in the corporate hierarchy and then repeat the process until he becomes king of the company or the country or the world until death puts an end to the utter inconsequentiality of it all.

On such days you may enjoying listening to the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray, the cacophonous, endless musical equivalent of William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch and which achieves the kind of nihilistic sensationalism that American playwrights strive for constantly but so rarely achieve. The music fits your mood to a T, from the moment the distorted guitars and drums begin the first of endless repetitions of dum-dah-dah-dum-dah-dah-dum-dah-dah-DIH-DIH-DAHH, eventually joined by an equally distorted organ.

This puts you in the right frame of mind for the lyrics:
Duck and Sally inside
They're cooking for the down five
Who're staring at Miss Rayon
Who's busy licking up her big man
I'm searching for my mainline
I said I couldn't hit it sideways
I said I couldn't hit it sideways
Ah, it's just like Sister Ray says
It isn't entirely clear what is going on here but if you guessed that Miss Rayon is a heroine-dealing tranny-hooker you would be correct. And the hopeless debauchery of it all is a tonic to your own  quotidian hopelessness and you start to groove to it while also working on some piece of corporate inanity. Maybe you stop paying attention for a moment to the song's narrative thread and absentmindedly sing along with it:
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
You notice the uncomprehending bemusement on your coworkers face and you tune back into the lyrics:
He aims it at the Sailor
Shoots him down dead on the floor
Oh, you shouldn't do that
Don't you know you'll stain the carpet
Don't you know you'll stain the carpet
And by the way man, have you got a dollar
Oh no man, I haven't got the time time
Too busy sucking on a ding dong
She's too busy sucking on my ding dong
Yes, this is it. This is the casual horror that is a refreshing change from your stupor of misery. You realize that this is how much some people mean to you in all your alienation - at worst they'll stain the carpet. And you smile and sing along for the benefit of passers-by on the gray wall-to-wall of your circumstantial prison:
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
Too busy sucking on my ding-dong
But as in every human transgression there are consequences:
Now, who's that knocking
Who's that knocking on my chamber door
Now could it be the poh-leez
They've come to take me for a ride ride
Oh, but I haven't got the time time
Too busy sucking on my ding dong
She's too busy sucking on my ding dong
Oh, now, just like Sister Ray said
And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's good that you can't shoot a sailor down dead on the floor without paying for it, but in any case you have now alienated yourself from your coworkers a little bit more when you didn't even think that was possible, thanks to a wretched filthy late-1960s blood-stained shooting gallery in the Lower East Side or the Bronx.

It gives you an inexplicable feeling of relief.

And you remember it isn't always so bad. Yes mostly. But not always. And you even remember that once in a while there is a flip side:
Jonathan Richman plays a portion of "Sister Ray" on his song "Velvet Underground." Indeed, it has been argued that Richman's "Roadrunner" is, considering its distorted organ solo (provided by producer John Cale) and chordal similarities, largely a reworking of "Sister Ray" in musical terms, although Richman's positive and life-affirming lyrics about the joys of driving around suburban Boston are in marked contrast to Reed's detached saga of "debauchery and decay".[7][8]

Whip it on me Jim.





Saturday, November 28, 2015

Emily Nussbaum: scourge of abrasive women everywhere

I was really pleased to see Michelle Goldberg's piece in Slate, arguing against anti-appropriation insanity. I've been a fan of Goldberg's since she wrote a piece for The Nation in which she exposed identitarian extremist Mikki Kendall as a bully. As identitarians, Kendall and her gang are of course  anti-appropriation, and they hate Michelle Goldberg for the Nation piece.

A mention of the article popped up in my newsfeed so I hastened to like it. Then I saw Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar, who is my Facebook friend, responding to the article by saying:
That a few Indians wanted fame and/or money from "exporting" Yoga does not absolve the American yogis of being deeply insulting and misguided.
This really annoyed me and I expressed my annoyance with sarcasm, asking if Indians had contributed to the Internet and Facebook, and suggested that if they hadn't maybe he'd need to stop "appropriating" it. I didn't literally mean that of course - I was making a point that the concept of anti-appropriation is idiotic no matter which ethnic group is telling which other ethnic group to stop using their stuff. 

Interestingly, I found Vaidhyanathan advocating in favor of loosening copyright laws because:
"Copyright is a fluid, open, democratic set of protocols."
Maybe if yoga had been copyrighted he'd feel less threatened by American yogis getting their misguided hands all over it.

Vaidhyanathan and I went back and forth a couple of times and that might have been the end of it, but then Emily Nussbaum, television critic for the New Yorker, had to jump in and trash me - even though she said she basically agrees with my position.
Emily Nussbaum I'm ordinarily sympathetic to Michelle's side of this, but Nancy is being so snide and creepy in this thread, I'm considering switching sides and agreeing with Siva.
LikeReply1November 23 at 9:07pm

Naturally I defended myself, and then tried to turn the discussion back onto the anti-appropriation issue. I wanted to focus on the fact Vaidhyanathan  felt he could disparage American yogis as insulting and misguided without bothering to present evidence. But Nussbaum was having none of that. She had to double down on attacking me using what must be deliberate obtuseness.
Emily Nussbaum Nancy, as I said, I agree with Michelle's piece, which is nuanced, well-argued and beautifully researched. But whether or not I agree with Siva, I'd rather talk with him than anyone who spends a Facebook thread making rude personal comments like, "Oh yeah?? Well Indians didn't create the Internet, so you can't use it." It would be a waste of time, and not because of writing quality. I posted here to offer Siva some support, because it's pretty unpleasant to have someone come at you with this abrasive an approach. And that's it for me. Have a good Thanksgiving and namaste.
LikeReply2November 25 at 7:28pm

Since she makes her living as a writer, I can't believe that she didn't understand that when I said the thing about Indians and Facebook I was being sarcastic.

And clearly Emily Nussbaum doesn't care about the issue of cultural appropriation, what she really cares about is scolding women who argue too abrasively for her liking. It's a curious approach to discourse from someone who fancies herself a feminist, considering the history of women being excoriated for being too abrasive:

The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews.

I've mentioned Nussbaum in this blog before, usually favorably. I won't be doing that again. And Michelle Goldberg is kind of an asshole too. The fallen heroes are piling up.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Google Adsense vs. free speech

I wasn't making a lot of money from this blog anyway through Google ads so it was no big deal for me to take down the ad in response to Google's ridiculous anti-free speech policies. And I'm not the first Google ad user to find Google ridiculous. As techdirt said:
Nearly a year ago, we wrote about an absolutely ridiculous situation in which Google AdSense threatened to cut off all of our ads (which they had just spent months begging us to use) because the ads showed up on this page, which has a story about a publicity rights dispute concerning a music video that includes someone dancing suggestively around a pole. The morality police at AdSense argued that this news story -- which was about a legal dispute concerning the video -- somehow violated AdSense's terms against putting the ads on content including "strategically covered nudity" and "lewd or provocative poses." Apparently, the AdSense team has no "newsworthy" exception to these idiotic policies.

After that story was posted, we heard from people inside Google who insisted that they were pushing the AdSense team to deal with similar situations in a much smarter way: such as simply turning off the ads on those individual pages rather than killing entire accounts. But, frankly, even that is pretty pointless. Why not fix AdSense's terms so that having ads appear on a news story about such content doesn't trigger the threat to shut down AdSense altogether?

It appears that the AdSense morality police still haven't figured this out. Last week a similar kerfuffle arose when the AdSense team threatened antiwar.com because it had an article (from a while back) that posted the infamous photos of US soldiers mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Those photos are famous for their newsworthiness, and yet Google AdSense said they were a terms of service violation for being "violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images."

And as ZDNet says:
It's also now clear that few Internet users know just how much their news websites and local blogs are censored by Google, as well.
When this crucial element of free speech and expression is minimized (and in some cases, removed or prohibited altogether) because the utility controlling the content -- in this case, Google -- simply doesn't like the topic, we find ourselves mired in a new, deeply insidious flavor of censorship.
Well I found out how Google censors. I received a notification today from Google:


Hello,
This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.
Affected website: mcclernan.blogspot.in
Example page where violation occurred: http://mcclernan.blogspot.in/
Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.
Current account status: Active

Violation explanation


Why was this action taken against my account:
As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with violent content. This includes sites with content related to:

  • Breaking bones
  • Getting hit by trains or cars
  • People receiving serious injuries
  • News about freak or tragic accidents

Now please note the page where the violation occurred lists my entire blog URL as the location of the offensive content. Also note that the URL has .in on the end, which means Google has outsourced its censorship team to India. 

Since I received this warning now, I assume that it refers to something currently on my blog's current content rather than an archive. There are two possible blog post candidates - maybe both tripped the censor-wire:
Both of these blog posts refer to legitimate news stories about violent events, but I'm certainly not promoting or glorifying violence. These things happen in the world, and Google is absurd to refuse to allow references to actual events occurring in the world. 

Time to find an advertiser who does not censor stories about current events. I found a list here.