Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembrance of factories past

I was arguing with an Ayn Rand fan about the plausibility of the Twentieth Century Motor Company scenario in Atlas Shrugged. I suggested that the set-up had nothing to do with socialism, since Rand suggests that the real reason for socialism is basically sadism.

The Rand fan insisted that the whole thing was true because it demonstrated how socialism saps a person's spirit yadda yadda yadda. Your typical Libertarian idealizes capitalism so much, they seem to believe the only time workers are ever mistreated is under socialism. As if a sadist manager couldn't make life miserable for workers with no trouble at all under a free market system.

Ayn Rand did work a couple of shit jobs, but mostly she worked as a screenwriter, and once she had a hit with the novel The Fountainhead she not only supported herself through her literary endeavors the rest of her life, she supported her husband Frank O'Connor financially until his death. Although she used to pretend he was a serious painter, or would sometimes say he was "on strike."

Part of the problem is that most Rand fans are from the upper classes and have never themselves worked in a factory, and so have no idea. This got me thinking about the two factories I worked in, back in my youth. I decided to Google them and see what they were up to.

The Atco Knitting Mills Inc., in Atco New Jersey appears to be a toxic Superfund site now. I guess it's no longer operational but I couldn't find anything online confirming that. But I assume that kind of work is now done in China or elsewhere outside the US. 

The most depressing thing is that when you search for Atco Knitting Mills you find all these obituaries for women who worked decades in that hellhole. Like, for instance Carmella "Chubby" Civa:
Chubby was a lifelong resident of Atco and worked at the Atco Knitting Mill for over 40 years.
Which means she was working there at the same time I was there. I didn't get to know anybody though, so I wouldn't remember her, and it was a pretty big factory. But dear god, how could anybody work there for 40 years? I barely survived 4 days with my sanity intact. The endless, mindless repetition was maddening. And this was a union shop (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) although I didn't stay long enough to make membership. But even under the best of conditions, factory work is hard, boring crap work.

A few years after that I worked for a company in Camden New Jersey, Decalcomania, Inc. It appears to have gone bankrupt. Not a union shop, it was run by the Burton family - I knew the son and his wife, and they were singularly unpleasant people who treated the employees with contempt. I worked in almost every capacity at Decalcomania, from doing art paste-up to dark room image development to working on the factory floor doing sorting and packing to working at the front desk. I worked there longer than I worked at the Atco Knitting Mills, although that's not a very high bar. I eked out maybe a year and a half there before I headed for the greener pastures of Linda's Driving School and never worked in a factory again. Although I've had office jobs that were even more demeaning, where I was treated unfairly by managers, and sabotaged a couple of times by coworkers.

So I have to laugh when I see people claiming that only under socialism are workers ever mistreated. Horrible people exist under any economic system. Or as an ex-boyfriend of mine used to say, "the tiniest speck of power corrupts absolutely."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hey sweet man: Alan Alda Syndrome

The third man in my Hey Sweet Man series is Alan Alda. The header is a reference to the resentment that Alda has provoked in anti-feminists because since the 1970s Alda has identified as a feminist.

The first time Alda came out as a feminist was his participation in Marlo Thomas's Free to Be You and Me. Here he is singing along with Thomas in William Wants A Doll.

But what really pissed off misogynists is that Alda "ruined" the TV show MASH by pushing for a more liberal attitude, especially towards women, resulting in the term "Alan Alda Syndrome." And the disgruntled included one of the authors of the original novel, as TV Tropes reports:
Considering that the original novel consisted mostly of young doctors boasting about how much sex they have and shows a truly awful degree of sexism, note to produce such a long, successful and at times thoughtful series is a fine example of Pragmatic Adaptation, a very nice change in a world full of Adaptation Decay. Of course, Dr. Richard Hornberger, one-half of the writing team behind the pseudonymous author of the original book and allegedly the model for Hawkeye, didn't see it that way, and was known to rant about it at length (in a sequel, MASH Mania, he has his version of Hawkeye remark how he enjoys going down to the State University to "kick the shit out of a few liberals").
You could see why they were so soreheaded about it - Alda was a very attractive man at the time of MASH - combine that with a good sense of humor and a feminist outlook and you have yourself some hardcore catnip - women loved him. Nothing provokes seething hatred in misogynists more than a hot pro-feminist guy.

And as if having a liberal like Alda on board wasn't enough, Mike Farrell, who played BJ Hunicutt, is also a big liberal.

One of the results of this change in tone in MASH was that Hawkeye was shown up as a sexist jerk, who learns a lesson as in the Inga episode, posted below in unfortunately bad-quality Youtube videos below. As The Hathore Legacy notes:
The episode is a great story to relate when you’re trying to explain the distinction between loving, respecting, admiring, even worshiping women, and seeing women as equals. Seeing us not as this “other” to be evaluated differently and separately, but as fellow humans who happen to have a different bodily function or two. As Margaret explains when she takes Hawkeye outside, women have thoughts and dreams just like men, and they also screw up from time and time and have to pull themselves back together. Margaret would know; what she wants more than anything in life is to advance all the way up to the rank of general, and nothing she can do will ever make it happen because the army, like Hawkeye, can’t handle the idea of women as men’s equals. Or superiors.
Alda both wrote and directed the episode. 
It should be noted that Alda has been married to his wife Arlene (3 years older than him) for almost 60 years now.





Alda talks about the episode below.



Alda still identifies as a feminist at least as of a year ago:
Alan Alda Discusses Isla Vista Killer: Misogyny A 'Disease That Needs To Be Cured'

I have my own special affection for Alda due to his JULIA & BUDDY connection. I was inspired to write J&B because of the Barbra Streisand movie version of The Owl and the Pussycat, but George Segal played the Owl to her Pussycat. It was only after beginning to write J&B that I did research into the movie and discovered it was a play starring Alan Alda.

I see that Wikipedia has an entry for the movie version of The Owl and the Pussycat, but not the play version. I will have to fix that soon.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gamergate was started by a psycho-stalker ex-boyfriend

I recently had an argument with a friend of my brother who wrote, when I asked him who he meant when he was complaining about "radical feminists" -
Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, anyone else directly involved with the whole gamergate nonsense, and any girl with a liberal arts degree and a twitter account.
Gawker explains Gamergate:
Quinn has been the victim of death threats and harassment since she began trying to publish Depression Quest, a text-based game partially based on her own experience with depression, in 2013. Last month, the New Yorker attempted to explain why Quinn and her game inspire such outrage among gamers —Depression Quest is not a "real game," it's "just words," its portrayal of depression is too personal to be relatable—but it's hard not to look at the last several weeks of chatter in the gaming community and not come to the conclusion that it's about the fact that she's a woman. 
Why do you say that? 
The harassment against her reached a fever pitch in August after an ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, wrote a series of blog posts alleging that Quinn had cheated on him with five other men, some of whom worked in games or games journalism. 
In gamer social media circles, a conspiracy immediately took root: Quinn had definitely fucked those five guys, gamers decided (they even turned it into a joke about the burger chain) and she'd done it to get publicity for her games.
I decided to see what Eron Gjoni was up to and I found this article in Boston Magazine from May of this year. It's a very damning account of Gjoni.
There’s a haunting resonance to Gjoni’s choice of location for our meeting. This is where he and Quinn first hung out in person: It’s where his obsession with her began. He’s come back to the beginning, and he wants me to know that Quinn is a “hypocrite,” a “compulsive liar,” and an “asshole.” 
Gjoni is a highly cerebral, 25-year-old software developer who was recently fired from Massachusetts General Hospital’s robotics lab. He chooses his words deliberately, spending much of our time together describing the month after his breakup with Quinn: how he extracted details from her Facebook, text, and email accounts; how he tracked her movements and shadowed her conversations. The process he described to me sounded as if he were gathering the pieces of a horrible machine, with each component designed to be as damaging to Quinn as possible. Eventually, the machine would have a name: “The Zoe Post,” a 9,425-word screed he published in August.

***
As Gjoni began to craft “The Zoe Post,” his early drafts read like a “really boring, really depressing legal document,” he says. He didn’t want to merely prove his case; it had to read like a potboiler. So he deliberately punched up the narrative in the voice of a bitter ex-boyfriend, organizing it into seven acts with dramatic titles like “Damage Control” and “The Cum Collage May Not Be Accurate.” He ended sections on cliffhangers, and wove in video-game analogies to grab the attention of Quinn’s industry colleagues. He was keenly aware of attracting an impressionable readership. “If I can target people who are in the mood to read stories about exes and horrible breakups,” he says now, “I will have an audience.”

One of the keys to how Gjoni justified the cruelty of “The Zoe Post” to its intended audience was his claim that Quinn slept with five men during and after their brief romance. In retrospect, he thinks one of his most amusing ideas was to paste the Five Guys restaurant logo into his screed: “Now I can’t stop mentally referring to her as Burgers and Fries,” he wrote. By the time he released the post
 
As he wrote, Gjoni kept pressing Quinn for information. About a week after their final breakup in San Francisco, Quinn finally stopped responding to Gjoni’s barrage of texts, Facebook messages, emails, and calls. He interpreted this not as a surrender or a retreat from his unwanted advances but instead, paradoxically, as a kind of attack. As he wrote at the time and later posted online, “GOD FUCKING DAMN IT. SHE’S AVOIDED ME EVER SINCE THIS CONVERSATION BECAUSE SHE IS PARANOID I MIGHT GO PUBLIC.” From this circular reasoning emerged a twisted justification: By withholding information, Quinn was somehow forcing Gjoni to “go public.” Eventually, Gjoni would come to see himself as the victim. “I was panicking at the thought of not publ 
After crafting the post for weeks, Gjoni shared his polished draft with about a dozen friends—mostly female game developers—as well as his mother, and asked them to weigh in on whether he should unleash it. He says about 10 of them gave him the green light. His mother, he claims, reluctantly approved, but was “very worried that I was going into it overly emotional.” One Gjoni friend I spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said, “I felt it was healthy to get it out there…. What harm would it do to get his feelings out?” 
Others who later read the post saw something much more deliberate and malicious. Jesse Singal, an editor at NYMag.com, said it clearly “followed a script” of “these sad, specific ideas that a segment of the gaming community has about women being duplicitous and breaking men’s hearts.” Slate’s Arthur Chu told me, “He’s an articulate, well-spoken guy who knows how to put together something on the Internet. That’s the kind of weapon guys like that have…the ‘crazy bitch’ story. It’s a very potent trope to use…. It’s a very nasty, very calculating train of thought, and it worked.”
By August 16, Gjoni had assembled his semantic pipe bomb. He first planted it on two video-game sites, Penny Arcade and SomethingAwful, and it quickly found its way to a third, 4chan, whose online communities had a history of harassing women gamers. But moderators at the first two sites deleted it almost immediately. Gjoni had anticipated that might happen, so he moved to Plan B: He posted it himself, on a WordPress blog. Gjoni visited his friend Rachel Martin, a freelance designer, and sat at the edge of her bed as she proofread it one last time to make sure that “The Zoe Post”—which was packed with Quinn’s personal information - didn’t violate the website's terms of service. At 12:42 a.m., on August 16, Gjoni clicked “publish.”
For the next several hours, he sat enrapt by the glowing screen before him, watching the bedlam he’d created explode and explode and explode.
***
On August 18, after the release of “The Zoe Post,” Gjoni worked overtime to make sure readers would keep coming back for more. Stoking the mob, he joined 4chan discussion boards and released additional information online, including Quinn’s supposed location and baseless theories on her sex life. Despite tacking a disclaimer onto his post—“I DO NOT STAND BY THE CURRENT ABUSE AND HARASSMENT OF ZOE QUINN OR FRIENDS. STOP DOING THAT. IT IS NOT IN ANYONE’S BEST INTEREST”—Gjoni taunted Quinn directly over Twitter and claimed online to be acting as a puppet master. When someone tweeted, “eron youre the pope of gamergate why don’t u help us,” he replied, “I am actually doing a lot more than you know in the background.”
In September, after a month of this, Quinn called Gjoni and asked him to stop egging on her harassers. “[He was] completely unrepentant,” she says, and claims he told her, “I did this for your benefit.” Then he tweeted, “Just had a private conversation with Zoe. It was trite, exhausting, and totally in bad faith. Ah the good old days.” That’s when Quinn filed a police report and secured a restraining order.

The attacks on Quinn started a wave that kept on rolling. Within a week of “The Zoe Post,” strangers threatened to kill other women in the industry. Jenn Frank, who wrote for the Guardian, ultimately felt forced to quit writing games criticism. In short order, Gjoni’s post had become the basis for a savage online movement that came to be known as GamerGate. GamerGaters cited “The Zoe Post” as evidence that women were ruining the video-game industry’s boys’ club. Attacks fanned out against any woman the mob labeled an “SJW”—short for “social justice warrior”—and GGs began a witch hunt against anyone involved in breaches of so-called ethics in video-game journalism. In October, Anita Sarkeesian canceled an appearance at Utah State University after an anonymous email promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if she spoke. The attackers continued to release troves of women’s, and some men’s, private information and coordinated threats for months. A few even “swatted” their victims, tricking police dispatchers into sending SWAT teams to raid women’s homes.
Unfortunately the term SJW has been so co-opted by right-wingers and I might have to stop using it. 

John Oliver recently did an excellent episode of his show about online harassment. And although he didn't actually mention Gamergate, as Jezebel notes Gamergate Shits Pants Over John Oliver Segment on Online Harassment.

This episode is not only excellent for the subject itself, it also features the return of the Carlos Danger song.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The pernicious impact of Dr. Robin DiAngelo

UPDATE: My latest post about Robin DiAngelo: No Jamelle Bouie, Robin DiAngelo is not helping


Robin DiAngelo, as I have demonstrated on this blog has no qualms about smearing random white people - or all white people - as racist. Here she is bragging about scapegoating an individual woman in the workplace.

DiAngelo gets away with doing this kind of thing because of course racism is a horrible thing. And since she is against racism, surely she must be a good and wise and fair person. Right?

No, she is not good or wise or fair. She is a snake-oil saleswoman selling tactics that do not make the problem of race in America better. She is telling us that we should judge people on the basis of the color of their skin, and not on the content of their character. She is the anti-Martin Luther King, Jr.

What DiAngelo is selling is revenge. And of course seeking revenge is a very human thing, that's why it's so popular, and that's how DiAngelo can make a living doing it. But it's not ethical. It's immoral to make a living promoting revenge.

Scapegoating, dehumanizing and denying individual human beings their own will, their own conscious ethics, their intentionality is evil. And those are the things Robin DiAngelo does. That's how she earns her living.

More on the pernicious impact of Dr. Robin DiAngelo.

And because the reflex response of all Social Justice Warriors/Identitarians like Robin DiAngelo is to smear their critics as racist, here is a statement:

My Anti-Racist Bona Fides

Although I was smeared on Tumblr by infamous bully Mikki Kendall and identitarian extremist K. Tempest Bradford (and thanks to the cozy relationship between Tumblr and Google, the smears show up in my search results), in fact I have a long history of opposing racism, and the evidence for the past 10 years is on this blog. Unhinged extremists like Kendall and Bradford don't care to know anything about the strangers they randomly smear. That's why they and the people who promote them like Verso books are horrible and don't help solve the problem of racism in the United States.

Fake SJWs

I have speculated in the past that many Social Justice Warriors social media accounts represent views that are so absurd they must be right-wingers posing as SJWs.

Turns out I was not paranoid. Although I somehow missed this story on Buzzfeed from a whole year ago: Activists Are Outing Hundreds Of Twitter Users Believed To Be 4chan Trolls Posing As Feminists.
On Monday, 4chan users came up with a new plan to pose as feminists of different races and begin arguing that certain races were “white enough to benefit from white privilege.” They called the plan “divide and conquer.”
Although SJWs like Mikki Kendall and K Tempest Bradford, who seem to be real, are perfectly capable of dividing feminists by race without any help from 4chan. But it's nice to know my Spidey senses were correct.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ugh, summer

Have I mentioned that summer is my least favorite season? Oh yes, several time on this blog.

I wrote a poem about how much I was glad when it turned into Autumn.

Summer has never lived up to the hype, not since the summer between 1st and 2nd grade when it seemed to go on forever.

Neo-pagans do the Stonehenge thang.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Richard Dawkins slightly behind schedule

I was wondering when Richard Dawkins was going to get around to embarrassing himself by supporting sexist idiot Tim Hunt. It took a week longer than I expected but it appeared in the Guardian on June 19:
In his letter to the Times, Dawkins said: “Along with many others, I didn’t like Sir Tim Hunt’s joke, but ‘disproportionate’ would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.”
And if you want to claim that a man was the victim of “feminist bullies,” as the Daily Mail has, hang on a sec while I laugh and laugh and laugh. You see, ultimately, the main takeaway from Hunt’s remark was a good-spirited outpouring of humorous tweets from women in science actually doing the work. It was Hunt who chose to open his mouth and say something dumb. It was Hunt who chose to double down on it. It was Dawkins who chose to leap into the fray with the phrase “witch hunt.” So sorry, guys, there are no witches here. Just a few sad old dinosaurs.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

You're a good man, John Stuart Mill

The press mocked Mill for his crazy
radical ideas about women.
Today's installment of my blog series Hey Sweet Man, dedicated to men who have gone above and beyond to help women, is about the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who lived from 1806 - 1873, and who was about two centuries ahead of his time, as demonstrated by The Subjection of Women - he was not in favor of it, unlike most men of his time:
At the time of writing, Mill recognised that he was going against the common views of society and was aware that he would be forced to back up his claims persistently. Mill argued that the inequality of women was a relic from the past, when "might was right,"[5] but it had no place in the modern world.[6] Mill saw that having effectively half the human race unable to contribute to society outside of the home as a hindrance to human development.
"... [T]he legal subordination of one sex to another – is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."[7]
Mill also worked with, and then married a brilliant woman:
In 1851, Mill married Harriet Taylor after 21 years of an intimate friendship. Taylor was married when they met, and their relationship was close but generally believed to be chaste during the years before her first husband died. Brilliant in her own right, Taylor was a significant influence on Mill's work and ideas during both friendship and marriage. His relationship with Harriet Taylor reinforced Mill's advocacy of women's rights. He cites her influence in his final revision of On Liberty, which was published shortly after her death...

In one draft of my play JULIA & BUDDY I included a reference to John Stuart Mill. One of Julia's lines in the play is: "if you ruled out all Great Men in History on the basis of misogyny you wouldn't have any left" but I felt bad about it. Not only because it didn't usually get a laugh, but also it was unfair to John Stuart Mill, who was definitely a Great Man of History but was not a misogynist. But in the end I took out the reference to JSM - it just broke up the flow of the dialog. Sorry JSM.



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now

What Ta-Nehisi Coates said:
That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth...
This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice.
Also what Jon Stewart said:
“The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals,” Mr. Stewart continued, “and the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him.”

Meanwhile Clarence Thomas finally gets a clue and joins with the liberal majority:
But it was in a third case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.,that Thomas made his voice heard most clearly—by his silence. In Walker, Thomas defected from the very First Amendment orthodoxy he defended in Reed. Remarkably enough, he joined the Court’s four moderate-liberals—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—to provide a decisive vote to allow the state of Texas to refuse to print a specialty license plate bearing the much-loved and hated Confederate battle flag. In an opinion by Breyer, the 5-4 majority held that a government can, with few limits, decide to convey any license-plate message it wants, and bar any that it disapproves. This isn’t “content-based” regulation of speech; The plate is speech by the government itself, and the First Amendment does not apply.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My daughter-out-law the award-winning chef


From The New Standard:

Northern Westchester Hospital chefs dazzled judges with a Moroccan-inspired entrĂ©e at North Shore-LIJ’s fourth annual Ultimate Chef Challenge.  
Their “Pork Tenderloin Casablanca” won first prize in the heated competition, hosted by Glen Cove Hospital. Culinary masters from 14 hospitals across the health system competed in the contest served delicious meals, but without high fat, calories or sodium.

“At any hospital, cooking is a true team effort and a gift that has real creative license,” said Patricia Sobol, executive chef at Northern Westchester Hospital...

If you think this contest is like Iron Chef, it isn't - it's harder. All Iron Chef contestants have to worry about is taste. These hospital chef competitions require the dish to be no more than 500 calories, low in fat and low in salt. And delicious. That just shows you how talented my daughter-out-law is. I'm kvelling. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rare personality disorder

The new big boss at work made us all take the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator personality test and it turns out I am INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) which turns out to be the most rare of all the personality types - about 1% or so of all people tested have it.

Well maybe that explains why I always feel out of place.

According to the Wiki on INFJ:
INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding of themselves and others. Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear and confident vision, which they then set out to execute, aiming to better the lives of others. Like their INTJ counterparts, INFJs regard problems as opportunities to design and implement creative solutions.
OK. I guess that describes me. On the other hand there are many reasons to doubt the value of these tests, and the Myer-Briggs personality descriptions I've read sound like those provided for astrological signs:
Pisces are the most impressionable of the twelve zodiac signs. Deeply empathetic, they often exhibit a gentle, patient nature, but one that is in want of inspiration. Pisces can be deeply affected by and completely absorbed into their environment. Pisces adapt well to their circumstances, both good and bad. They are generous, amiable, positive natured people with a deep sense of kindness and compassion. Pisces are highly tuned in to everything around them including the feelings of others.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brilliant heirs of Jon Stewart

The depression associated with the end of Jon Stewart's tenure at The Daily Show is somewhat ameliorated by the continuing excellence of both Larry Wilmore and John Oliver, who both got their TV shows via the Daily Show.

Oliver especially is consistently brilliant - so much so that it's difficult to pick a favorite episode. This one about the report on US torture has to be in the top ten though. And if you didn't already despise Antonin Scalia or Dick Cheney, I guarantee you will after watching their feeble, insane justifications for torture.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Am I a philosopher?

I got into an ongoing debate on the Partially Examined Life (PEL) Facebook Page, like you do. Someone had posted about climate change and why many people are still in denial about it.

Invariably the person chiming in to refute the notion of anthropic climate change and possible steps to address the issue was a Libertarian. Climate change attracts Libertarians like moths to a flame that they claim is not really hot. Although they never mentioned up front they were Libertarians, but a quick look at their Facebook page or Google search results invariably confirmed their political affiliations. But they were often very squirrelly about it, things like claiming they didn't really like Ayn Rand when they had a blog on an Objectivist web site or were a member of an Ayn Rand fan group.

One Libertarian I got into it with, the President of the Murray Rothbard Institute of Belgium, claimed to have no interest in American politics, but a Google search revealed he was a member of a group advocating the impeachment of Obama.

I have never had much use for Libertarians. So I went at their arguments about climate change like the John Galt train zooming down the Rearden Steel-covered Taggart line heading for Colorado after Dagny and her friends had bribed or threatened local officials to ignore zoning laws. The result was always them insulting me, insinuating, or in the case of the Belgian Libertarian, suggesting outright that I was "retarded," and then blocking me. Which, if you don't know how Facebook works, means they no longer exist for you on Facebook - you can't see their profile or anything they've written. Which suited me just fine. And at least the debate prompted me to find this excellent and apparently non-governmental web site about climate change deniers.

Right before he blocked me, the Belgian Libertarian asked me if I was a philosopher. I wasn't sure if he was being sardonic and attempting to argue from authority because he's a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Antwerp or (remotely possible) sincere. But it's a good question. There had been a discussion last week on the PEL Facebook page that led to the question of who, exactly, qualifies as a philosopher. And the answers were all over the map, from "someone who appears in text books about philosophy" to the much lower bar of "anybody who asks questions."

As a result of this lack of consensus Ayn Rand is classified as a philosopher, at least on Wiki, and so is the Marquis de Sade. It seems to me that anybody can claim to be a philosopher if they've written about questions concerning the human condition and the writings were published.

This blog will mark its 10-year anniversary this November. So I guess that makes me a philosopher too.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hey sweet man - a series

George Henry Lewes
Men are so often horrible to women that it's important to remember that not all men are horrible to women, and sometimes a man will go above and beyond to be good to a woman (besides his own mother.) I will occasionally give those men a shout-out in this new series.

The first up is George Henry Lewes who had a common-law marriage with George Eliot (aka. Mary Ann Evans). Evans was not pretty at a time when prettiness was everything for a woman. The various portraits drawn and painted of her do not at all do justice to the prodigious dimensions of her nose which can be seen in this photo from 1865.

  As Wiki notes:
The young Evans was obviously intelligent and a voracious reader. Because she was not considered physically beautiful, and thus not thought to have much chance of marriage, and because of her intelligence, her father invested in an education not often afforded women.
If they were Catholic they would have stuck her in a convent. However, she must have had one hell of a personality for Henry James observed of her:
She had a low forehead, a dull grey eye, a vast pendulous nose, a huge mouth full of uneven teeth and a chin and jawbone 'qui n'en finissent pas' (translation: that never ends).. Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes, behold me in love with this great horse-faced bluestocking.
There can be no doubt that thanks to the stability of her over 20 year relationship with Lewes, Eliot was free to concentrate on her art. She didn't begin writing novels until after they began living together. English literature owes him.

And Lewes was no intellectual slouch himself, also a novelist as well as biographer of Goethe and a philosopher. I wonder what he thought of Schopenhauer, who knew Goethe via his mother's salon.

Unfortunately I have yet to read any of Eliot's novels, but I know that Lewes is a man of good taste because he gave "Jane Eyre" a rave review. He also corresponded with Bronte - before he met Eliot.
The  correspondence with Bronte is especially interesting because he urged her to use Jane Austen as a model which resulted in Bronte pretty thoroughly trashing Austen.

He liked his lady writers, and you have to wonder what would have happened if they'd met, although I'm certain that Charlotte Bronte would never have been compelled to live in sin with Lewes (a major plot point in Jane Eyre is when the unfortunately already-married Rochester tries to talk Jane into living with him in France as his mistress and she responds by running away.) Bronte was always harping on her own unpretty appearance, although it must be said she was much more attractive than Eliot. But no matter how much she despaired of ever getting laid, you know she would have insisted on marriage - which the already-married, although it was an open marriage, Lewes could not do.

Just as well for Eliot, although as a result Lewes is best known as her boyfriend - or soulmate, as Wiki has it.

Here is Lewes' Principles of Success in Literature - I doubt he thought to include "provide emotional support to the author" though.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Dame Marjorie Chardin Plan

Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon
Dame Marjorie Chardin, (Maude in Harold and Maude) decided to do herself in at 80, and as I get older that seems more and more like a good idea.

Except that I don't know how I will make it to 80.

I keep thinking of Martin Manley a sportswriter who killed himself at 60. Of course I plan to stay in good shape but there's only so much you can do. Life is so hard even when you're young - but at least all throughout my 20s and 30s - even 40s - I kept thinking if I keep going, and keep making self-improvements, keep trying, things will get better. But then you realize that in spite of all that effort, things haven't gotten better and in fact they're only going to get worse - much worse - and what's the point of sticking around to be an increasingly more feeble gargoyle?

Ruth Gordon, who played Maude, died in 1985 at the age of 88.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

St. James Infirmary Blues

I decided to include a bit from St. James' Infirmary Blues in my Marilyn Monroe play, because it's about a hospital and the opening lyrics are ominous and I always liked the tune. I was very pleased to discover it's in the public domain, and surprised to discover that it always has been - it's apparently a folksong written by Anonymous.

My first introduction to the song was a bit from an early season of Saturday Night Live, performed by Lily Tomlin singing along with "Howard Shore's All-Nurse Orchestra."


The nice thing about this song is that you can change the lyrics any which way you want, pretty much, as long as you get the phrase "St. James Infirmary" in there. Which is a good thing because some lyrics make no sense.

Originally I had the Marilyn Monroe character in my play singing "All By Myself" but then decided to have her sing "St. James" and have an actor playing Ella Fitzgerald perform "All By Myself." This cast has now doubled in size - originally it was supposed to be just two actors playing two versions of Marilyn Monroe, then I added a doctor and now Ella Fitzgerald. At least the Ella actor can also double as a nurse.

Speaking of Ella, she made an album with Louis Armstrong which includes a cover of SJIB but only Louis sings on it.

I've recently come to appreciate Armstrong's trumpet playing but you can hear in this recording that it's also his personality that makes him a great entertainer. When he gets to the lines:
She can look the whole world over
But she'll never find a sweet man like me

He chuckles and says "bragging."

He smoked a lot of marijuana.

So back to the lyrics which make no sense:
I went down to St. James Infirmary,
Saw my baby there,
Stretched out on a long white table,
So cold, so sweet, so fair.
 
Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be,
She can look this wide world over,
But she'll never find a sweet man like me.



Surely his baby is supposed to be dead. So why would she "look the wide world over"? To haunt?

I'll probably just use the first four lines.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Faye Miller dammit

While reading the TV Tropes entry on Mad Men recently, I realized that the character who was a psychologist and then girlfriend of Don Draper is named Faye Miller.

This was the name that Marilyn Monroe gave when she signed into the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. So of course I'm using it in my play.

Hopefully by the time my play is on its feet, nobody will remember this character from Mad Men. Hopefully. Not that it should make much difference but it might take them out of the play for a minute. Oh well, you can only control so much.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

New Atheists everywhere

The freaking New Atheists are so revered and influential, there's always someone quoting one of them.

So when someone at The Partially Examined life made a big to-do about what Steven Pinker said about aesthetics I plotzed - and then I shared what I think about Steven Pinker. Multiple times.

Although if you've read this blog much you pretty much know what I think about him.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Partially Examined Life Players: ANTIGONE

An unrehearsed, dramatic read-through of the text we'll be discussing on ep. 117, a Greek tragedy written around 441 BCE, telling the myth of the cursed line of Oedipus, mother-f*#king king of Thebes. 

Featuring Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan, plus special guest starts Lucy Lawless as Antigone, Paul Provenza as Creon, Alice Sinclair as Ismene, and John Castro as Haimon.



Sunday, June 07, 2015

More sexist bullshit from Evan Marc Katz

"Men and women are different" is one of the favorite statements of people who want to bolster the patriarchy. Because the difference is always used as an excuse for why men get privileges denied to women.

Men, since the beginning of time, were designed to spread their seed.
Because monogamy lowers the chances that our genes will survive, men are not, by nature, monogamous creatures. We choose monogamy because we deem that it’s more beneficial to have love, stability, and a nuclear family than to have lots of children running around with our eyes. But make no mistake, monogamy is a choice, not a natural state.
Evolutionary psychology is used to promote lies about the essential natures of men and women, or as Katz demonstrates:
This is just a long, roundabout way of saying that, in general, men want variety.
I recall a study that said the exact same thing.
Men would be perfectly content having missionary sex with a new woman every night.
Women would be perfectly content with the same man forever, as long as he mixed it up in the bedroom a bit.
Katz is so personally invested in this narrative that when a more recent study comes along indicating that in fact WOMEN are bored more quickly than men by monogamy Katz attacks Amanda Marcotte for mentioning it.
Marcotte harps on studies that show that women respond to novelty in porn (duh) and fantasize about sex with strangers (double duh). All that proves is that, yes, women can get bored with routine sex as well. I don’t think there’s any right-minded person who ever thought otherwise. What this doesn’t prove, however, is that women are MORE driven by sex than men. While it’s useful to recognize that women and men are similar in many ways, I think it’s shortsighted to suggest that we are the SAME, as if gender was simply a societal construct and not somewhat tied to biology. 
Are there some women who want to sleep with hundreds of men? Sure. But there are more men who want to sleep around. 
Are there some women who can separate love and sex and have no emotional attachment after physical contact? You bet. But there are more men who do.
Are there more women who give up on sex within a marriage? Apparently. But that might just mean that she’s married to a jerk for 20 years and can’t summon any more amorous feelings for him. It doesn’t mean that she’s more likely to cheat or that she values sexual variety as much as he does.
 
So, to me (and my confirmation bias), this study is much ado about nothing, in that it’s verifying something we already know. The reason that Marcotte is jumping on it is because it confirms what she wants to believe (women and men have the same take on sex), not because it represents a true shift.
Katz can't be bothered to analyze the competing studies and explain why his favorite study is true and this more recent study is wrong - mainly because he lacks the intellectual ability, he's titanically lazy, and he prefers to pull things directly out of his ass. So his response is basically: oh yeah, well this other study says MEN like variety more than women so nyah nyah nyah!

Now I've had my issues with Marcotte in the past, but I have to laugh at Katz, who claims to be a liberal, attacking Marcotte. As Roy Adroso in his Alicublog noted recently:
Anyway, a lot of prominent liberals (including Amanda Marcotte, conservatives' favorite feminist voodoo doll)...
Marcotte is actually referencing an article in the NYTimes but Katz would rather attack her than Daniel Bergner, the author of the Times article.

Katz promotes the idea that marriage and monogamy were invented by women, and forced on men by women. This in spite of the fact that all societies up to the present time are completely dominated by men. The outright illogic - and self-serving - of such a belief system is absolutely breath-taking. Women are so not naturally monogamous that monogamy is enforced on women often on pain of death. And in a way that is not forced on men.

If women were so congenitally monogamous we'd hardly need to be threatened into it.

In his recent blog post Katz says:
Yes, this is a blog about dating and relationships, but I always find it interesting to share pieces about gender dynamics as well.
Good - then people will know exactly how sexist his attitudes are about gender dynamics.

I think my next entry in this Katz series might be "Evan Marc Katz thinks men are insensitive, shallow, entitled, cheating jerks - and he wants to help you find one for your very own."

More of my thoughts on Evan Marc Katz.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The World at War

Hitler dances for Hermann Goering at Berchtesgaden
I first saw the BBC TV series "The World at War" many years ago, when you could only see it on TV and if you missed an episode you were out of luck.

Now all 26 episodes are available on Youtube.

I did catch the episode called Genocide back then and it is horrible as you might expect. I knew about the concentration camps of course, but not all the awful details.

You know what you're in for with the series though because episode 1 begins with an atrocity - in 1944 the Germans wiped out an entire village in France, Oradour-sur-Glane, which was left empty as a memorial. In January of last year they hauled one of the last surviving German soldiers from the massacre into court.

The rest of the first episode follows Germany from the periods of social unrest and unemployment following WWI up to Hitler's assumption and consolidation of power, to the invasion of Poland. Also included, a little bit about Hitler's personal life at Berchtesgaden, with Eva Braun's home videos - a snippet of which I edited to create the animated gif above. I didn't colorize it, btw, it was filmed in color.

Watching the series now, I hadn't remembered that a big reason why it was so easy to defeat France was all the Communist-hating Nazi sympathizers in the French government. They couldn't wait to join up with Germany.

Since this series was made in 1973, there were lots of survivors of WWII still alive, and not only common people but German, British, American and Japanese officers are interviewed. It was good that the BBC did the series then and didn't wait.

I'm about half-way through the series. I might skip over the genocide episode though.


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Gone Daddy Gone

The Violent Femmes self-titled first album holds up pretty well after 33 years.

Wow. 33 years.

My ex-boyfriend John, who was very in-tune with all the newest coolest rock music, well before it turned up on the radio, even the college radio stations, turned me onto these guys - via cassette tape of course.

At the time, nobody else knew about them. Then a few summers later I was at the beach (without John - in our 10+ years together he only accompanied me to the Jersey shore on three occasions and he never went into the water - he couldn't swim) and I heard somebody playing the album on their boom box - they looked like a bunch of preppie boys and girls. And I knew something had changed about music and maybe even The Zeitgeist.

Now everybody knows this album and it is probably responsible for the whole emo music movement although Wikipedia doesn't give them any credit.

I talk about how the VFs were discovered here.

This live version of Gone Daddy Gone is fun, but you can't hear the xylophone, which really makes the song in my opinion.




Studio version

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe - primary sources

UPDATE: my play about Marilyn Monroe will be performed in Manhattan February 20 - 26, 2017.
GET TICKETS HERE!


I was concerned the just-released Lifetime Channel's The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe would beat me to the punch by using Monroe's own letters as source material for the scenes associated with her stay at the Payne Whitney, but to my relief they did not. Which shouldn't have surprised me, the various portrayals of Monroe seem to be typically poorly-sourced, just as the majority of her biographies are.

At least Secret Life doesn't suggest Monroe was murdered or deliberately committed suicide. She's portrayed as accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills on top of alcohol.

The most conscientious of Monroe's biographers, Donald Spoto, suggests her death was due to malpractice - thanks to miscommunication she was given a double dose of barbiturates delivered orally and via enema.

But the entire miniseries is built on a falsehood - it portrays Monroe as having an ongoing relationship with her institutionalized mother, when in fact she appears to never have seen her mother after 1952. According to Spoto:
 (Monroe) refused to visit her... nor it seems (as of 1952) would she ever contact her mother in any way... She helped her but from a distance - by writing checks, making arrangements for her care and, eventually, by providing for her a trust fund... "I knew there was really nothing between us," she said of her mother defensively a few years later. "And I knew there was so little I could do for her. We were strangers. Our time in Los Angeles was very difficult, and even she realized that we didn't know each other." And she concluded  - one of her rare discussions of her mother - with the telling words: "I just want to forget about all the unhappiness, all the misery she had in her life and I had in mine. I can't forget but I'd like to try. When I am Marilyn Monroe and don't think about Norma Jeane, then sometimes it works."
But worse than the misrepresentation of the relationship between Monroe and her mother was the way Monroe was portrayed during the Payne Whitney incident. To my knowledge there are two documents written by Monroe herself that discuss the incident:


(Other letters by and to and about Monroe, some more significant than others can be read here. )

This is how the incident is portrayed in The Secret Life:

We see Monroe telling a psychiatrist she's just met that Dr. Kris put her in the Clinic.

Then we see a shot of Monroe struggling with two hospital orderlies dragging her down a hallway, screaming "I don't belong here."

Next shot we see Monroe looking through the porthole-like window of her cell while a radio voice-over:
Film star Marilyn Monroe was taken by ambulance from her New York City hotel and was admitted to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. The actress who has a history of drug and alcohol use, is being confined to the maximum security wing of the clinic for her own protection. Neither Fox Studios nor Miss Monroe's representatives could be reached for comment.
Then there's a scene of Monroe's mother cutting her wrists with a razor blade.

Then we see the inside of Monroes' empty padded cell and Monroe is barefoot, wearing black pants and in a straightjacket. We hear distant yelling voices.

An orderly enters.
   ORDERLY  
It's alright. 
   MONROE 
Do you know who I am? 
   ORDERLY 
Take it easy. 
   MONROE 
I have to get out. 
   ORDERLY 
The doctor will be here in a minute.
   MONROE 
I need you to make a phone call. 
   ORDERLY 
I can't. 
   (Monroe approaches the orderly, he holds her off with one hand.) 
   MONROE  
I don't belong here. I'll do whatever you want.   
   ORDERLY 
It's against regulations.
   (Holds a Dixie cup out to her.) 
It's time to take your medication Miss Monroe. 
   (He holds it for her to drink, which she does.) 
Good. 
(She moves towards him walking on her knees. Whispers.) 
   MONROE 
Hey - come here come here come here. I still need you to make a phone call. Please.
(He looks at her and then backs away. He exits and locks the door behind him. Monroe spits out her medication onto the floor of the cell. Ominous music swells.)  
Joe DiMaggio shows up, tells the nurse at the desk he wants her released.
Marilyn and DiMaggio are shown leaving the clinic together to a throng of fans and photographers.
And that's it. I'm not sure if we're supposed to assume the guy made the phone call for her or what.

The reality was much more interesting then that - Monroe took the initiative. She didn't ask anyone to make a phone call for her - she wanted to make the phone call herself, and they refused to let her. Here's how it went down:

The first day I did "mingle" with a patient. She asked me why I looked so sad and suggested I could call a friend and perhaps not be so lonely. I told her that they had told me that there wasn't a phone on that floor. Speaking of floors, they are all locked -- no one could go in and no one could go out. She looked shocked and shaken and said "I'll take you to the phone" -- while I waited in line for my turn for the use of the phone I observed a guard (since he had on a grey knit uniform) as I approached the phone he straight-armed the phone and said very sternly: "You can't use the phone"... 
...After the girl spoke with me and told me about what she had done to herself I went back into my room knowing they had lied to me about the telephone and I sat on the bed trying to figure if I was given this situation in an acting improvisation what would I do. So I figured, it's a squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I admit it was a loud squeak but I got the idea from a movie I made once called "Don't Bother to Knock". I picked up a light-weight chair and slammed it, and it was hard to do because I had never broken anything in my life -- against the glass intentionally. It took a lot of banging to get even a small piece of glass - so I went over with the glass concealed in my hand and sat quietly on the bed waiting for them to come in. They did, and I said to them "If you are going to treat me like a nut I'll act like a nut". I admit the next thing is corny but I really did it in the movie except it was with a razor blade. I indicated if they didn't let me out I would harm myself -- the furthest thing from my mind at that moment since you know Dr. Greenson I'm an actress and would never intentionally mark or mar myself.
So Monroe found herself in a very bad situation and then came up with a plan to help herself. The Secret Life depicts her as completely helpless, except with the bit about the pill, but it isn't clear at all how spitting out the pill helped her in any way. And please note she wasn't planning to actually cut herself - she was bluffing. And it worked.

Also it's clear that the room Monroe was in wasn't quite so barren, she at least had a chair. And it's doubtful she was ever in a straightjacket. And she wasn't taken from her hotel to the clinic - she signed herself in to what she thought was a standard hospital. It came as a shock to her that she was committed to a mental hospital. And certainly the media didn't know about the incident until she was out of there - there were no radio announcements.

And the screenwriters have no excuse for making shit up - Monroe's letters are available online.

Oh well, better for me and my play. The letter to Greenson jumps all over the place and the timeline of events is not clear so I will definitely have to use my artistic judgement, but I try not to differ from real life if I can help it.

Here's Monroe after her appendectomy.



Monday, June 01, 2015

Don't Bother to Knock

At no point does Monroe's character
in this move wear this outfit.
Of all the movies that Marilyn Monroe made, "Don't Bother to Knock" is the most important for my play about Monroe because she actually uses something from that movie to help get herself released from the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic - she talks about it in a letter to one of her shrinks:
...I was waiting at the elevator door which looks like all other doors with a door-knob except it doesn't have any numbers (you see they left them out). After the girl spoke with me and told me about what she had done to herself I went back into my room knowing they had lied to me about the telephone and I sat on the bed trying to figure if I was given this situation in an acting improvisation what would I do. So I figured, it's a squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I admit it was a loud squeak but I got the idea from a movie I made once called "Don't Bother to Knock". I picked up a light-weight chair and slammed it, and it was hard to do because I had never broken anything in my life -- against the glass intentionally. It took a lot of banging to get even a small piece of glass - so I went over with the glass concealed in my hand and sat quietly on the bed waiting for them to come in. They did, and I said to them "If you are going to treat me like a nut I'll act like a nut". I admit the next thing is corny but I really did it in the movie except it was with a razor blade. I indicated if they didn't let me out I would harm myself...
Of course I am using this in the play. I'm not sure which glass she is talking about though - if there was a window in the room she was staying in, or if it was the observation window in the locked door to her room, or what. I guess I'll have to decide pretty soon.

Anyway, so I watched "Don't Bother to Knock" and it's not a bad movie. The plot revolves around Richard Widmark's character, a commercial pilot and his failing relationship with his girlfriend played by pre-Mrs. Robinson Anne Bancroft. She's dumping him because she feels he's too cold-hearted. So within an hour of being dumped, Widmark sees Monroe's character Nell in a window across the courtyard of the hotel they're at - Nell is babysitting for a couple at an awards ceremony at the hotel - and he goes for it - he invites himself over. It turns out that Nell is losing her marbles over her fiancee who died flying in the Pacific Theater of WWII. She thinks Widmark's pilot is her pilot. Anyway by the end Widmark prevents Nell from killing herself (with a razorblade rather than a piece of glass) and his girlfriend sees he's really a good guy and they get back together again.

Could be worse. Monroe is quite touching when she really starts to lose it. She really could act.

And today is Monroe's birthday, born in 1926.