Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon

On Friday, much of the world will have the opportunity to observe a Blue Moon: A somewhat rare occurrence that doesn't have anything to do with the moon's color.
During most years, the Earth experiences 12 full moons, one in each month. But some years, such as 2015, have 13 full moons, and one of those "extra" lunar displays gets the label of Blue Moon.
The lunar or synodic month (full moon to full moon) averages 29.530589 days, which is shorter than every calendar month in the year except for February. Those extra one-half or one-and-one-half days accumulate over the year, causing some years to have 13 full moons rather than 12. [Video: What's a Blue Moon, Is It REALLY Blue?]


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cat Circus

"Cat Circus" 
My favorite drawing my daughter did when she was a kid, besides this pictchure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yep, Bill Cosby is pretty much a psychopath

Last week the NYTimes ran the story of Cosby's 2005 testimony which said in part:
He said he obtained seven prescriptions for them over two to three years from a doctor in Los Angeles, ostensibly for a sore back but in reality to give to women. 
He admitted to giving young women quaaludes at that time “the same as a person would say have a drink,” he said, but not without their knowledge. 
Though he portrayed the drug-taking and sex as consensual, Mr. Cosby — when asked whether Ms. Serignese was in a position to consent to sexual intercourse after he gave her quaaludes in 1976 — said: “I don’t know.” 
Joseph Cammarata, a lawyer for Ms. Serignese and two other women who are suing Mr. Cosby for defamation, said of the deposition: “This information is important because it sheds light on the private practices of a man who holds himself out as a public moralist.”
This week New York Magazine provides a round-up of 35 women accusing Cosby of sexually harassing, molesting, drugging and raping them.

Of course there are still people defending Cosby, from Phylicia Rashad to random commenters on the NYMag story.

Amy Schumer rightly mocks them - the ending is hysterical and pointed.





Monday, July 27, 2015

Marilyn takes the subway


Marilyn Monroe made her primary home in New York City for about six years and got around the city quite a bit, even taking the subway as we can see in these photos.




That is an authentic subway rider pose.



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

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Oliver Sacks, still hanging in there

started a new sort of treatment — immunotherapy — last week. It is not without its hazards, but I hope it will give me a few more good months. But before beginning this, I wanted to have a little fun: a trip to North Carolina to see the wonderful lemur research center at Duke University. Lemurs are close to the ancestral stock from which all primates arose, and I am happy to think that one of my own ancestors, 50 million years ago, was a little tree-dwelling creature not so dissimilar to the lemurs of today. I love their leaping vitality, their inquisitive nature.
Next to the circle of lead on my table is the land of bismuth: naturally occurring bismuth from Australia; little limousine-shaped ingots of bismuth from a mine in Bolivia; bismuth slowly cooled from a melt to form beautiful iridescent crystals terraced like a Hopi village; and, in a nod to Euclid and the beauty of geometry, a cylinder and a sphere made of bismuth. 
Bismuth is element 83. I do not think I will see my 83rd birthday, but I feel there is something hopeful, something encouraging, about having “83” around. Moreover, I have a soft spot for bismuth, a modest gray metal, often unregarded, ignored, even by metal lovers. My feeling as a doctor for the mistreated or marginalized extends into the inorganic world and finds a parallel in my feeling for bismuth.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stronger than dirt

This video makes it clear that Jim Morrison was a beautiful man. And you gotta love that silver belt slung low on his hips. Oh baby.

And damn, look at that orchestra!



I was disappointed that Morrison doesn't sing "stronger than dirt" at the end of this performance, as he did in this recording.

And the origin of the phrase:




Thursday, July 23, 2015

More from the art vault


Another portrait of my daughter from her teenage years. This was in our apartment in Merchantville NJ - I recognize that radiator and windowsill in the background like it was yesterday. She's watching TV, so it was convenient to draw her then.

Another drawing of my daughter watching TV, from the same period. This drawing is in marker and a bit more expressionistic.


She's watching a video of the Dead Kennedys doing their immortal "MTV Get Off the Air." Don't ask me where I came up with that nickname. I have no idea.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The other Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton and her code
You probably think of the actor who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie "Wizard of Oz" but there is another Margaret Hamilton.
Not only is she credited with coining the term "software engineer" but:
Hamilton's work prevented an abort of the Apollo 11 Moon landing:[3] Three minutes before the Lunar lander reached the Moon's surface, several computer alarms were triggered. The computer was overloaded with incoming data, because the rendezvousradar system (not necessary for landing) updated an involuntary counter in the computer, which stole cycles from the computer. Due to its robust architecture, the computer was able to keep running; the Apollo onboard flight software was developed using an asynchronous executive so that higher priority jobs (important for landing) could interrupt lower priority jobs. The fault was attributed to a faulty checklist and the radar being erroneously activated by the crew.
Of course at the time Hamilton was working, software engineering was not a prestigious job. As this article in the Smithsonian points out:
Now, it’s not that managers of yore respected women more than they do now. They simply saw computer programming as an easy job. It was like typing or filing to them and the development of software was less important than the development of hardware. So women wrote software, programmed and even told their male colleagues how to make the hardware better. (It turns out programming is hard, and women are actually just as good at it as men.) 
What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”
This is no surprise. Anything that is considered women's work is automatically disparaged. Or as this excellent blog post persuasively argues: Patriarchy’s Magic Trick: How Anything Perceived As Women’s Work Immediately Sheds Its Value:
One of my lecturers at university once presented us with this thought exercise: why are doctors so highly paid, and so well-respected? Our answers were predictable. Because they save lives, their skills are extremely important, and it takes years and years of education to become one. All sound, logical reasons. But these traits that doctors possess are universal. So why is it, she asked, that doctors in Russia are so lowly paid? Making less than £7,500 a year, it is one of the lowest paid professions in Russia, and poorly respected at that. Why is this? 
The answer is crushingly, breathtakingly simple. In Russia, the majority of doctors are women. Here’s a quote from Carol Schmidt, a geriatric nurse practitioner who toured medical facilities in Moscow: “Their status and pay are more like our blue-collar workers, even though they require about the same amount of training as the American doctor… medical practice is stereotyped as a caring vocation ‘naturally suited‘ to women, [which puts it at] a second-class level in the Soviet psyche.” 
What this illustrates perfectly is this — women are not devalued in the job market because women’s work is seen to have little value. It is the other way round. Women’s work is devalued in the job market because women are seen to have little value. This means that anything a woman does, be it childcare, teaching, or doctoring, or rocket science, will be seen to be of less value simply because it is done mainly by women. It isn’t that women choose jobs that are in lower-paid industries, it is that any industry that women dominate automatically becomes less respected and less well-paid.
And of course evolutionary psychology was invented (or reinvented from sociobiology) in order to bolster the idea that women are just no good at math and science because of evolutionarily-endowed tendencies, which is why, Larry Summers argued, they have lesser careers in those fields.

Steven Pinker, good friend of scientific racialist Razib Khan, is one of the foremost promoters of evo-psycho, had his ass kicked by Elizabeth Spelke 10 years ago, but you'll never hear about that because Pinker has a great PR machine and most of the media outside of the New Yorker is too reverential towards Pinker to ever critically examine his work. But here is the link to the immortal debate between Spelke and Pinker ten years ago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hellenists

My friend Anastasia is Greek and was telling me about the Hellenists (she called them Olympianists), which she compared to Wiccans in the US. Hellenists are, according to Wikipedia:

(Greek: Ἑλληνισμός), the Hellenic ethnic religion (Ἑλληνικὴ εθνική θρησκεία), also known as Dodekatheism (Δωδεκαθεϊσμός), Olympianism, refers to various religious movements that revive ancient Greek religious practices, publicly, emerging since the 1990s.

Hellenic polytheists worship the ancient Greek Gods, including the Olympians, nature divinities, underworld deities (chthonic gods) and heroes. Both physical and spiritual ancestors are honored. It is primarily a devotional or votive religion, based on the exchange of gifts (offerings) for the gods' blessings.[36] The ethical convictions of modern Hellenic polytheists are often inspired by ancient Greek virtues such as reciprocityhospitalityself-control and moderation. The Delphic maximsTenets of Solon, the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, or even Aristotle's Ethics each function as complete moral codes that a Hellenic Polytheist may observe. Key to most ethical systems is the idea of kharis (or "charis", grace), to establish reciprocity between humanity and the gods, between individuals, and among community members.[37][38] Another key value in Hellenic Polytheism is eusebeia, often translated as piety. This implies a commitment to the worship of the Hellenic gods and action to back this up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Welcome Gay Overlords

Favorite responses to Jade Helm 15 hysteria
More at Salon.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

You go Mrs. Naugatuck!

Laurence Harvey
So I mentioned a humor piece on the New Yorker on the Spinster Agenda a few days ago and one of the items on the agenda was said to be Glynis Johns in her “Mary Poppins” costume on the hundred-dollar bill.

Now I love that character and wrote about her in this blog a few years ago. I was looking at the image in the spinster blog post and noticed the woman in maid attire standing next to Glynis Johns and I wondered "whatever happened to Mrs. Naugatuck"?

Mrs. Naugatuck portrayed the second maid of Maude (Bea Arthur) on the TV show "Maude" and that was my introduction to Hermione Baddeley. So it turns out Baddeley had quite a film career before American TV. And an interesting personal life and an interesting intersection of the two. When she was in her mid-40s she was in a relationship with Laurence Harvey, an actor 22 years her junior. He proposed marriage to her but she turned him down because of the age difference. His then married Margaret Leighton who was only six years older than Harvey, and after they divorced Harvey married Joan Perry, who was seventeen years older than him. But his last marriage was to a woman 13 years younger. So he wasn't only attracted to older women, but he certainly had no problem with older women. He also appears to have been bisexual.

Someone recommended that I watch a movie that Harvey starred in, "Room at the Top" which just so happens to be on Youtube in its entirety for free. In the movie his character Joe is involved with an unhappily married woman 10-years older played by Simone Signoret (who was 7 years older than Harvey) but it ends badly.  During the affair they use an apartment of the women's friend who is played by Hermione Baddely. This was made in 1959, so eight years after they broke up.

I must have seen Harvey in one of his movies but I don't remember him. He was certainly well-known in his time, although he died at only 45 in 1973, so maybe that's why I wasn't aware of him. Apparently Kim Novak disliked him but Elizabeth Taylor loved him.


Baddeley and Laurence in "Room at the Top"
She's just delivered the line: "you're the sort of man I like."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Woody Allen's other fantasy

I'm glad to see that at least one movie reviewer picked up on the obvious self-serving fantasy in Woody Allen's latest movie, and I'm not talking about the standard older-man, younger woman scenario. Says Matt Zoller Seitz at rogerebert.com:
There's an unnerving arrogance to the script's lack of polish and shape. The movie seems to think we'll care deeply about its characters simply because they're on screen saying and doing things. This attitude is merely irritating until the film's near-midpoint, when "Irrational Man" evolves from Allen's umpteenth older man-younger woman romance (troublesome enough, given that Abe resists Jill over and over until he can't anymore) into a murder conspiracy. Abe and Jill are out at lunch when they overhear a woman in the next booth tearfully telling her friends about a corrupt family court judge. Allen has of course been plagued by accusations that he molested Dylan Farrow, the young daughter of his ex, Mia Farrow, and at points along the way he has asserted that the judge in his own custody evaluations was incompetent and ethically compromised. Abe becomes obsessed with murdering the family court judge because doing so would rid the world of an evil, worthless man, and strike a blow for justice far beyond anything Abe could accomplish as a writer, and nobody would be able to trace the crime back to him because he and Jill have no personal connection to the case.

The result plays like Allen's daydream of murdering the judge who kept him apart from the girl he had been accused of molesting. This is nestled inside what feels like a more familiar, self-justifying fantasy about Allen's affair with his wife Soon-Yi, Farrow's daughter with conductor Andre Previn. One needn't have a opinion, informed or otherwise, on Allen's private life and alleged crimes to find this scenario repugnant—not just because it all seems on first glance blatantly autobiographical, but because Allen keeps it at arm's length, and wrapped up in lush imagery and jaunty music and plausible deniability, as he tends to do.
Although I did enjoy this line from the NYPost review:
Newly arrived at a Rhode Island college campus, Abe is a potbellied and impotent alcoholic. This being an Allen movie, women find him simply irresistible.
Although let's face it, many movies these days pair older male actors with younger female actors as this immortal article in Vulture: Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don't.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Julia & Buddy one year later

The 2014 production of my play Julia & Buddy which opened a year ago on July 17 was important for me, but not really for anybody else involved, although they each did a good job, I'm not complaining. But it was small potatoes for the actors and stage manager who are all accustomed to doing much more remunerative and theater-establishment based work. But it was a big deal for me, and not only financially.

The J&B production was, all things considered, a success. Foremost was winning the Outstanding Production of a Full-length Play award in the Midtown International Theater Festival, which means I get to say I'm an award-winning playwright.

My work was reviewed by three different critics - true, in not very prestigious media outlets, but it was still nice especially since one review was glowing, and one was pretty positive. And even Sander Gusinow's hatchet job was interesting both because I never would have guessed that a 90-minute romantic comedy could make somebody so bitter and angry (Gusinow doesn't get the romantic comedy genre, which I wrote about here) and because of the unexpected post-production drama, which I wrote about here. I didn't mention Gusinow by name before, but it's a year later, so why be coy.

Turns out Gusinow prides himself on trashing plays. So I'm sure he will understand when I say how much I thought his play Ruth and Naomi sucked, and in exactly the same way that most off-off Broadway plays suck - the author is too busy trying to be cool and cutting edge to bother with a coherent storyline. And of course the de rigueur wallowing in squalor.

But back to J&B2014 - I was very satisfied that one of my director goals was met - during rehearsals I said to the actors that my ambition was for the audience to believe that there were two male actors in the cast, one playing Buddy and one playing Schopenhauer. Matt DeCapua, who played both roles, scoffed at this. But then lo and behold, when I took the cast and coworkers of mine out for drinks after the last show, one of the coworkers asked, within earshot of Matt, "who played Schopenhauer?" I will never tire of gloating about that. Matt told me recently that his mother still talks about the Schopenhauer scene.

And of course I'm proud that (as far as I know) my play is the first ever embodiment of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on stage.

Plus I bought a pretty expensive skirt for Julia's boating outfit, which I added to my own wardrobe. So the play wasn't a complete financial loss.

So what are Claire Warden and Matt DeCapua up to, one year later?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pushing for parity

The latest news about female playwright representation is in this week's NYTimes:
Roughly one-fifth of the productions staged at hundreds of theaters nationwide over the past three seasons were written by women, according to a study to be released Friday.
Overseen by the playwrights Julia Jordan and Marsha Norman, the study, called “The Count,” is to be updated each year. Until now, besides a handful of older analyses, it had been unclear just how many female playwrights were seeing their work staged, according to Ms. Jordan.
 
“We wanted to create a baseline,” she said, “and to document the change.”
Judging from the numbers, the picture for women is rosier than a decade ago. A 2002 report from the New York State Council on the Arts found that 17 percent of productions across the country had female playwrights. According to the new report, that figure now sits at 22 percent.
 
“That’s a significant increase,” Ms. Norman said. “If that could continue, we could get to where we need to be, which is parity.”
I found this especially interesting because I just received another email from another theater group that was making a big deal out of the fact that it was featuring plays with female characters, but by a male playwright. A couple of months ago I received a notice from Project Y about a play by Adam Szymkowicz , author of the dread Compulsive Love, as part of their 'Parity Project.'

And then lately my actor friend Amanda is going to appear in a play, one of nine by Rich Orloff at the Workshop Theater Company. The big deal is that it's all female characters and female directors.

Theater groups love to do plays by men so much that even though they want to be known for promoting parity they just can't quite get comfortable with the idea of producing women's plays instead of men's. So the actor parity option is what they go with. And then there's the added bonus for those playwrights, both heterosexual men - plays with lots of girl-on-girl sex. Well at least in Orloff's case. Szymkowicz is more about lesbians having sex with unattractive men. Take that, patriarchy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The first rule of Spinster Club...

Sign me up!

In the New Yorker:
Votes for women - step in time!
Q: What are some of the goals of the Spinster Agenda?
A: Increasing the prominence of women in the government, a greater reliance on bike-share programs, the elimination of lonely cats, better television adaptations of the Brontë sisters’ work, further research into cloning Benedict Cumberbatch, the immediate green-lighting of an Emma Thompson and Colin Firth movie with lots of clothed sex that’s set in the eighteen hundreds, Glynis Johns in her “Mary Poppins” costume on the hundred-dollar bill, world peace. 
Q: What if I want to join the Spinster Agenda? What should I do?
A: The easiest way to enlist is to hang around your local yarn shop until someone recruits you. However, if you prefer to be less conspicuous, know that simply watching all of the episodes of “Orphan Black” on your streaming device will alert the Spinster Agenda that you wish to join, and someone will be in touch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Naomi, Adam, Nancy, John and Spalding


This double portrait in Crayola marker is of my daughter and her boyfriend Adam back when my daughter was into guys. They are on a train from Trenton NJ to NYC, as was my ex-boyfriend John and I, all on our way to see Spalding Gray perform his monologue It's a Slippery Slope.

I had discovered Gray one day when I was home sick from work and watching the Philadelphia area public television station (WHYY) and happened to catch some of the OUR TOWN production with Gray as the Stage Manager. I didn't care for theater all that much then, outside of the plays of Shakespeare, but Gray impressed me enough that I began seeking out his other work, which was available on videotape. Somehow I compelled both my daughter and my boyfriend to come along with me to New York City - this was unique in our semi-family unit because John almost never traveled anywhere. In fact, for as long as I knew him, the only times, save one, in which he did venture outside of the Philadelphia metro area was at my behest - once to Baltimore to see the aquarium, three times to the Jersey Shore and twice to New York City. The one time he did venture out of the Philly area without me was to his friend Seth's wedding, in Washington DC, I think, but we were just about broken up by then. In fact, although this trip to see Spalding Gray happened in 1994, John and I were on our own slippery slope to parting ways, which we didn't actually do until 1997. But it was all downhill after I met this guy.

There is an interesting documentary available for free on Youtube (in multiple parts) called Spalding Gray A Life in Progress. Here is part 1.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Marilyn and Ella


I really like the image above, not only because it shows two iconic American pop stars but also because it's a testimonial to the fact that they did meet. Said Fitzgerald:
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt… she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”
I've made this incident part of my play about Marilyn, although it isn't the main focus. It turns out somebody else has already made a play about this incident:
Marilyn and Ella is a 2008 play by Bonnie Greer. It is a musical drama about Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald.
Unfortunately the play appears not to have been published, and it doesn't seem to be playing anywhere around. I would love to read it. I contacted Greer via Twitter and asked about it - she said it hasn't been published but might be playing somewhere soon.

Greer is kind of a big deal -  she's all over Youtube making speeches, and although she was born American she's now a British national and a dame.

Apparently she just resigned as president of the Bronte Society (!) last month.

Greer has interesting things to say about theater in the Telegraph and mentions her play.
Every week, I get word of yet another black British theatre practitioner packing it in and planning to head Stateside. Our industry simply cannot afford this.

But there are many who stay, determined to try here in the country in which they were born. My own play about the real-life friendship of Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn and Ella, largely exists because of the energy of Colin McFarlane, its Black British director/producer.
Here is Greer speaking about the play. She makes some statements about Monroe that I hadn't heard about and she also gets the facts wrong about the Mocambo - it was not segregated prior to Fitzgerald. The idea that Monroe desegregated a nightclub of course makes a better story, but it's not true.




A search through the Jet Magazine archives (how cool is that - it appears the entire magazine's archives are available online free) provides evidence that in fact the Mocambo was not segregated prior to Fitzgerald because there's a story about Eartha Kitt playing the Mocambo in 1953.

I was hoping that Jet had information about the Marilyn/Ella incident, but while an article in the April 7, 1955 issue is about Fitzgerald's debut at the Mocambo and mentions plenty of celebrities (see below) it does not mention Monroe at all.





All the pictures I could find of Monroe & Fitzgerald. You'd think there would be more.






'

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



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Watercolor apotheosis

Another portrait of my ex-boyfriend John. I finally discovered actual watercolor paper by this time - you can see the grain if you click the image to zoom in.

I really like the pencil drawing and watercolor combination. And I especially like this piece because I managed to control the watercolor enough to leave blanks spaces along the front edge of the profile to indicate light. If I had become an illustrator I would have probably specialized in this.

Although thanks to computers there's very little need for manual-skill based art now anyway.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

RIP ENR

This portrait is of my dear departed Earl Nelson Rich. I've already posted this online in my tribute page to Earl. He died 18 years ago this September. He was a beautiful man, but he was also smart and unusually sweet. Everybody loved him, and his memorial service was packed.

I thought I would repost the drawing because I severely cropped the other one, and I also fiddled with it in Photoshop.

The original drawing, on the left here, shows Earl in front of one of those antique giant computer monitors that we had back in the 1990s, which is fun. But more importantly you can see that for this marker drawing, instead of doing the under-drawing in pencil, I did it in orange marker, and then I redrew the lines better in grey marker. I blew away the orange marker for the other version of this picture, but it's nice to see them in the original - they make it look like Earl has a kind of holy glow around him - which he did.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Joss Whedon: why do you always write strong women characters?

The fourth installment of the Hey Sweet Man series of pro-women men is about Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among others.

This speech, introduced by Meryl Streep, and already 9 years old(!), went viral even before everybody was on Facebook.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Tattoo portrait

I finally found the pencil portrait I drew of Jason, the guy I dated briefly. I gave him the portrait and then never saw him again, but after I begged him for a copy he sent me a photocopy. It's not a bad photocopy but it's still a photocopy and so the pencil gradations are blown away.

I believe his tattoo is a Celtic design - he also had one on his shoulder, which can barely be seen in this drawing. That was Celtic too. His ethnicity was Irish and Italian, but I guess he liked the Irish better? Or maybe he just liked Celtic art better. I don't remember him saying either way.

And yes, I can draw hands.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

My watercolor stylings

While looking through my old artwork I found this watercolor I did of a model when I was 19 - this is one of the pieces that helped me get a scholarship to the Philadelphia College of Art.

I didn't take care of the painting very well, unfortunately, you can see the tear in the back of the hair. It is done on lousy quality paper - I had no idea at the time that there were a variety of high-quality paper types out there.


Nine years later I did this water color of my ex-boyfriend John. My style doesn't seem to have changed much in that time. But it is on better quality paper.






Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The art show continues

Here's another guy I briefly dated back when and then found via Facebook. Paul was a student at Drexel University when we dated. I see by his FB profile he's still into brass ensemble music and aviation. His profile isn't as open to the public as Jason's so I can't tell much more about him.

He doesn't have the porn stache any more though.

Monday, July 06, 2015

More on the paradox of femininity


A few years ago on this blog I wrote about the paradox of high heeled shoes, although really that is part of the whole paradox of femininity. My daughter once helpfully informed me I was "butch" but I maintain I'm just not macho enough to do the whole hard-core femininity drag. I'm too much a creature of comfort to put my body through a lot of torture for the sake of fashion. I rarely wear high heels because they're so uncomfortable - and bad for your health too. And as I complained the first time around, while high heels shoes are meant to make a woman look all dainty, walking around on her tippy-toes, they make her sound, in the hardened halls of corporate America, like a bunch of Clydesdales clomping on cobblestone.

Well I've been traveling quite a bit lately which means I've had to use public toilets, and so I'm reminded of another paradox of femininity - there are many woman who are just too freaking dainty to sit on the toilet seat of a public toilet, so instead they squat over the seat and end up peeing all over it. And do they wipe it down afterwards, as a refined lady would? No, of course not, they just leave it boobytrapped for the next woman. I'm going to have to look into these devices.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

Award-winning photographer

Not me, but the subject of the pastel drawing above. I went to art school with Geri Harkin-Tuckett and we were friends until we had a falling out. This drawing was done not too long after we were out of school. She's not a household name but she's definitely won at least one award, from the Chester County Art Association. I'm glad I took this picture, the drawing is on some pretty crappy newsprint and is about to go.

And here's a marker drawing of my daughter sitting in Geri's backyard when Geri was living in Philadelphia. My daughter was still young enough to go places with me, socially, but just barely, as you can tell by her body language.

I was really into magic marker for several years - and nothing fancy either, my preferred implement has always been Crayola magic markers, which are perfect - non-toxic, odor-free, inexpensive but good bright colors, and if you splurged a little you could get some more exotic, non-primary colors.

Markers are a real challenge to get right, even if you do a pencil under-drawing. Not even watercolor is as unforgiving as markers - you can salvage a wrong turn in a watercolor, but make a wrong stroke with a marker and most of the time you've ruined the entire drawing. So a good magic marker drawing is a real accomplishment. And I think this one is pretty good. The choice of gray for the lines of her face worked out very well - anything darker would have been too much.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

More better living through exercise

As I mentioned on the last day of 2014 (is 2015 really half-way over already???) "it seems like every time I look in the NYTimes there is another article about how running and other exercise keeps you young."

I found another example today:
But the researchers decided that their insight was not useful unless people could easily determine their fitness age. So using a mobile exercise laboratory, they went out and tested the fitness and health of more than 5,000 Norwegian adults and used the resulting data to create a sophisticated algorithm that could rapidly calculate someone’s aerobic capacity and relative fitness age based on his or her sex, resting heart rate, waist size and exercise routine.
They then set up a beguilingly simple online calculator that people could use to determine their fitness age.
When I wrote about the calculator last year, Dr. Pamela Peeke took note. An assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the National Senior Games — which are informally known as the Senior Olympics — she is also a competitive triathlete.
And biologically, it seems, she is a spring chicken. When she plugged her personal data into the online fitness calculator, it told her that her fitness age is 36.
Chronologically, she is 61.
And then later...
Even in advance of that information, though, the takeaway message of the data should be inspiring, said Dr. Peeke, who will be competing in the triathlon event at the Senior Olympics. 
“A majority of the athletes at the Senior Games didn’t begin serious training until quite late in life, including me,” she said. “We may have been athletes in high school or college. But then, for most of us, jobs and families and other commitments got in the way, at least for a while.” 
Few Senior Olympians returned to or began exercising and training regularly until they were middle-aged or older, she said. 
“So you can start any time,” she said. “It’s never too late.”

Friday, July 03, 2015

Blue Oyster Cult - bad fact checkers

Don't Fear the Reaper is not about a murder-suicide pact, according to its author Donald Brian "Buck Dharma" Roeser, even though it mentions Romeo and Juliet prominently in the lyrics:
Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity... Romeo and Juliet
40, 000 men and women everyday... Like Romeo and Juliet
40, 000 men and women everyday... Redefine happiness
Another 40, 000 coming everyday... We can be like they are
Come on baby... don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand... don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly... don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man...


According to Wiki:
Dharma says the song is about eternal love, rather than suicide. He used Romeo and Juliet as motifs to describe a couple believing they would meet again in the afterlife.
My guess is that Dharma wasn't actually familiar with the Shakespeare play and just knew the characters as lovers - he didn't realize they both die by suicide. But then I don't think he's big on checking facts anyway, because...
He guessed that "40,000 men and women" died each day, and the figure was used several times in the lyrics.
I happened to be listening to Don't Fear the Reaper today and I started to wonder about that number. So I did a little research, and I was pleased to find I am not alone:
Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I heard this on the radio and thought, "Huh. I wonder if Blue Oyster Cult actually looked up the daily global death rate when they were writing this?" 
I can now pretty confidently report that, no, they did not. I suppose this is what comes from writing songs before the birth of the Internet. And, also, from not being anal retentive. 
How many people die every day? Obviously, this differs widely from day to day and year to year. Most of the time, when people talk about "how many people die every day" they're talking about taking rough estimate of how many people die every year and dividing that by 365. I'd be perfectly happy to let Blue Oyster Cult do this, because it would be a little ridiculous to sing, "x number of men and women on July 15th, 1976", or whatever. Averaging it out would have been fine, so let's assume that's what we're doing.
According to the World Health Organization, around 54.5 million people die annually. Which makes the "daily death rate" roughly 149,000. Of course, those are the current numbers. To be fair to Blue Oyster Cult, I found the death rate from 1976 (with the help of my friend Stephen McNeil). At the time "Don't Fear the Reaper" was released, the world population 4.1 billion, with a death rate 12.5/1000, which comes out to 140,000 per day. So the bad news is that Blue Oyster Cult is way off in their estimation of the death rate. But the good news is that you could quite easily change the lyrics to say "140,000 coming every day" and not screw with the meter too much.

Wow, he underestimated by 100K. Damn.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The pernicious impact of Dr. Robin DiAngelo part 2

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

The pernicious impact of Dr. Robin DiAngelo part 1

"Intentions are irrelevant" according to Dr. Robin DiAngelo, who is the first Social Justice Warrior I am aware of who makes a full-time living at being a SJW. According to her web site:
"I provide workplace training and consulting on socially just practice, with a special focus on race relations and racial justice. I can provide workshops alone or bring in other consultants with whom I partner in order to provide inter-racial teams. I combine theory with activities that engage participants. A partial list of my clients includes Washington State Department of Health & Human Resources, the YMCA, Commonwealth Corporation, Seattle Public Schools, and UC Davis School of Nursing."

Now you may think you are doing "race" right. You think the concept of race is scientifically meaningless, you consciously avoid making blanket generalizations about people based on ethnicity, (among other things.) You support taking down the Civil War flag from all US government grounds. You might even be in favor of slave reparations. But it's Dr. Robin DiAngelo's full-time job to tell you, if you are a white person, you are a racist.

I argued with friends on Facebook about this. They claimed that she wasn't really saying that in her essay 11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility for its Racism. I think that's probably because they didn't read it carefully and they don't want to believe that's what she's saying. But DiAngelo makes clear that your actions, as an individual human being, are meaningless:
A fundamental but very challenging part of my work is moving white people from an individual understanding of racism—i.e. only some people are racist and those people are bad—to a structural understanding. A structural understanding recognizes racism as a default system that institutionalizes an unequal distribution of resources and power between white people and people of color. This system is historic, taken for granted, deeply embedded, and it works to the benefit of whites.
The two most effective beliefs that prevent us (whites) from seeing racism as a system are:

  • that racists are bad people and
  • that racism is conscious dislike;
if we are well-intended and do not consciously dislike people of color, we cannot be racist. This is why it is so common for white people to cite their friends and family members as evidence of their lack of racism. However, when you understand racism as a system of structured relations into which we are all socialized, you understand that intentions are irrelevant.
Dr. Robin DiAngelo's livelihood depends on convincing people who run corporations that white people are racist, whether or not they have a conscious dislike for non-white people, and whether or not they intentionally do anything or say anything racist. And the only way they can be cleansed of this original sin of systematic racism is to hire Dr. Robin DiAngelo to de-racist them.

It's quite a racket she has going on.

Now there is no doubt that racism is a persistent problem in the United States, and that it is systemic. And many "white" people (and of course in our increasingly multi-racial society, these single-color terms to describe people are ever more problematic) are under the impression they could not be described as racist by any reasonable person because they've never said or done anything racist and are not conscious of disliking non-white people for not being white.

That's where the Social Justice Warrior denial of intentionality comes in. 

Intentionality is of course a critical legal issue. Intentionality is what separates a charge of involuntary manslaughter from murder. Just to review how important the concept of intentionality is in the United States:

  • First-degree murder is any intentional murder that is willful and premeditated with malice aforethought. Felony murder is typically first-degree.
  • Second-degree murder is an intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned in advance.
  • Voluntary manslaughter (also referred to as third-degree murder), sometimes called a crime of passion murder, is any intentional killing that involved no prior intent to kill, and which was committed under such circumstances that would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed". Both this and second-degree murder are committed on the spot, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second-degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter.
  • Involuntary manslaughter stems from a lack of intention to cause death but involving an intentional, or negligent, act leading to death. A drunk driving-related death is typically involuntary manslaughter (see also vehicular homicidecausing death by dangerous drivinggross negligence manslaughter and causing death by criminal negligence for international equivalents). Note that the "unintentional" element here refers to the lack of intent to bring about the death. All three crimes above feature an intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is "unintentional", because the killer did not intend for a death to result from their intentional actions. If there is a presence of intention it relates only to the intent to cause a violent act which brings about the death, but not an intention to bring about the death itself.[9]
It's the denial of the importance of intention that allows SJWs to make their bad faith arguments. When John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song "Woman is the Nigger of the World" they were using the word "nigger" as a metaphorical device. They were obviously in sympathy with women, based on the lyrics of the song, and so calling women "nigger of the world" is in no way meant to attack women. It's a statement that women are the most mistreated class of people, using the word "nigger" to represent the most mistreated class of people. Now whether you agree with that statement or not, it's clear in this context that it was not Lennon/Ono's intention to use "nigger" as an ethnic slur.

But because of the SJW principle that intention is irrelevant, SJWs claimed that Lennon/Ono were racists simply because they used the word "nigger." And by the SJW associative property of racism, anybody defending Lennon/Ono against the charge of racism is also racist. This is the reasoning behind Mikki KendallK. Tempest Bradford and a bunch of other SJWs with Tumblr accounts smearing me as a racist in my Google results.

DiAngelo lists "rules of engagement" that are meant to demonstrate "the pernicious impact of 'white fragility'" and which concludes with a statement that implies that if someone says your behavior is racist, you as a white person are not allowed to question it or feel misunderstood, lest you demonstrate pernicious white fragility. The person accusing you of racism is always right. To even question the accusation is to prove that you are racist. 
11. To suggest my behavior had a racist impact is to have misunderstood me. You will need to allow me to explain until you can acknowledge that it was your misunderstanding.
In other words, there is absolutely no way to win, once you have been accused of racism. This is exactly the same logic used to determine who was a witch. Once someone was identified as a witch, virtually everything they did was considered further evidence of their witchery.

Now does Robin DiAngelo intentionally want to promote a mode of human discourse in which the accused is denied any form of self-defense, and deliberate malice is always assumed? Does Robin DiAngelo really want to create a modern day witch-hunt? Does Robin DiAngelo really want to promote the notion that white people are always speaking about race in bad faith? Does Robin DiAngelo want to turn all forms of involuntary manslaughter into murder?

Well according to Robin DiAngelo, intentions are irrelevant. I think we should judge Dr. Robin DiAngelo by the same standards she uses to judge others.

See also: Countdown the Robin DiAngelo lawsuit

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.

Award-winning artist

I guess I am an award-winning artist, in that I've entered work of mine into art shows and won awards. And I guess I'm an award-winning playwright too, thanks to winning in last year's Midtown festival. I never think to call myself "award-winning" though, possibly because I feel like unless you've won something really big, like the Pulitzer Prize or something, it doesn't really count. But still, I've seen other playwrights who've won awards no bigger than mine refer to themselves as "award-winning." I guess if it helps your career...

One of these pictures won an award - I think it's the middle one but I really don't remember and this was before everything was online so I can't even look it up. But I see that the Perkins Center for the Arts is still doing juried exhibitions and giving out awards, so that's nice. It's all online now of course.

The top picture is a sketch I did from life of my ex-boyfriend John, and then I transferred that onto newsprint and colored it with pastels. I called that one "Prone Boyfriend" and the one below of course "Suppine Boyfriend." I must have a pencil study of the bottom one but I couldn't find it.

I remember what a hassle it used to be to take photos of your artwork - you had to hire someone if you wanted it done right. And now it's just so freaking easy - you take the picture, upload it, and publish it for the world. Voila. And not just easy, but such high-quality images. And I didn't do anything fancy with lights, which is what professionals did back in the day - I put the pictures on the floor and took them with my iPhone with the flash on. 

There is something about a hand-drawn or painted image though that still has a charm all its own in spite of the greater accuracy of photography. I do enjoy the tension between the realism of the drawings and the abstract qualities of the pastel quite a bit.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

More Facebook weirdness

Every now and then I will think of somebody from my past and wonder whatever happened to them. Thanks to Facebook, I can often find out.

I have this portrait of a guy I dated briefly back when, Jason. It's a pretty good likeness and you can see how cute he was in his 20s. And he had a freakishly long penis. Ah memories. He also has a big tattoo on his back, I drew a portrait where you can see it, but he kept it. He did mail me a photocopy after I begged him for it. I have that around here too, and will have to post that online when I find it.

At the time I knew him he was living in Brooklyn, where he grew up, and he took me to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights which I found charming. It was actually the first time I ever was in Brooklyn not counting whizzing by on the BQE.

Now he has a wife and kid and runs a dental lab in upstate New York, judging from Facebook. He's still attractive, but nothing like he was back then. He also still likes the Beatles and the Muppets, still a big fan of Jim Henson. Some things never change.

I have a whole stash of portraits I've drawn over the years up until about 10 years ago - I haven't done much drawing since then and especially in the last five years, since if you want to get a picture of someone you just pull your phone out of your pocket. Still, pencil portraits have a definite charm - and I am very good at capturing likenesses, if I do say so myself - a talent that becomes less useful by the year. I have a pile of pencil, charcoal and pastel drawings as well as some watercolor paintings - almost all portraits. I find it hard to throw away a well-done portrait. But looking through my stash tonight some of the pictures on lower-quality paper are in danger of disintegrating. I should probably start taking pictures of them to save them. Maybe I'll have an art show on this here blog.