Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Production photos!

We had a pretty good night for our first public performance of NORMA JEANE. I had a couple of blocking disagreements with the actors though, and that will be worked out by the next performance.

In the meantime here are some of my favorite production photos. Both of my actors are beautiful AF.

Jenna Sander as Marilyn. That's me in the front row clapping. Photo by Renee Nicole Gray

Jenna Sander as Norma Jeane. Photo by Renee Nicole Gray

Matthew DeCapua as Dr. Lewis. Photo by Renee Nicole Gray



Jenna Sander as Norma Jeane and Matthew DeCapua as Dr. Lewis. Photo by Renee Nicole Gray





Sunday, February 19, 2017

Feminism is good for your health

So here's Gloria Steinem last month. She will be 83 in another month. Still part of the political conversation, still a great speaker. Steinem is of course a leader of "second-wave" feminism and an inspiration for all subsequent-wave feminists.

Meanwhile my mother, who is two and a half years younger than Steinem, lives in a senior citizen complex in South Jersey and her neighbors, mostly women, are conservatives - not all of them are political but they believe in "traditional values" and most of them oppose not only abortion but other equal rights for women. They seem really old and out of it, years older than Steinem.

I do think that Gloria has had work done on her face - her face is much too smooth for someone that age - but that's OK, I am certainly not going to judge her. It's freaking horrible getting old, especially for women in our culture, so I don't hold it against anybody who wants to hold off on looking like 80 for as long as possible - this is what Google comes up with when you type in "80 year old woman. But plenty of women who have had work done are still content to do their old person activities and withdraw from fighting for good causes, but Gloria is marching on, fighting for feminism. I hope I'm like that when I am her age. If I don't decide to go with the Dame Marjorie Chardin plan.

Meanwhile, Nora McCorvey, the Roe in Roe v. Wade, who switched sides and became a Christian anti-abortion activist is dead at 69.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

NORMA JEANE REHEARSAL




...got a little wacky Friday night - I had two projects going on in one rehearsal studio - Norma Jeane and a video-recording of one of the finalists for "Women in the Age of Trump."

Because I enjoy being exhausted.

Friday, February 17, 2017

I prefer a man who lives...

A very brief reference to the song "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" is in my NORMA JEANE play and so I've been thinking about the song lately. It's frightfully clever, and not just the immortal line: "it's then that those louses go back to their spouses" although that is still my favorite.

The actual message of the song is horribly whore-ish, but it's excusable for the time period since trading sex for a man's money was exactly the basis of heterosexual marriage in an age when women were expected to quit a job when they got married - and this assumption, to my amazement held sway into the mid 1970s as a rerun of an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show made clear to me.

But anyway, because I was always focused on "gives expensive jewels" in the opening lines of the song...
The French are pledged to die for love
They delight in fighting duels.
But I prefer a man who lives
And gives expensive jewels.
...I missed the humor in "I prefer a man who lives" - in other words did not die fighting a duel.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I belong to the blank generation

Richard Hell. He is now 67 years old.
It's just too hard to believe.
I followed a random train of internet links to this video of Johnny Thunders, whom you've probably not ever heard of. I only know who he is because an ex-boyfriend of mine was fascinated by the man, whose actual name was John Anthony Genzale Jr. and who died in 1991, which is pretty amazing, him living to be 39 when he was a notorious junkie. Although strangely enough he appears to have died of leukemia, rather than a drug overdose.

He was at one time in a band with Richard Hell but they clashed and Mr. Hell went onto record the immortal Blank Generation with The Voidoids.

Anyway, Thunders uses the term "douchebag" in the video which was recorded in 1984 and that prompted me to wonder when the term came into use as an insult. If I had to guess I would have said some time in the 1970s, but apparently it's been around for awhile, according to this article:


In the 1960s. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces the epithet douche to a 1968 collection of college slang compiled at Brown University, which defined the word as “a person who always does the wrong thing.” The insult douchebag is somewhat older. The 1939 novel Ninety Times Guilty includes a pimp named Jimmy Douchebag, and the Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces the epithetical usage to a 1946 journal article about military slang, which offered the definition “a military misfit.”

I think Jon Stewart probably did most to popularize it though. The term has always been hugely popular in New Jersey.






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

One year on the UWS

I got the keys to my new apartment one year ago today, as I documented on this blog.

I like living on the UWS. And luckily my landlord only jacked the rent by $50 this year, so that's OK. But even more so, my present landlord isn't a nosy creep like my previous landlord was - as long as I pay my rent on time my current landlord doesn't want to know anything about me. Unlike the creep in Astoria - actually he lived in Fort Lee. Anyway, I do not miss my old landlord in the least.

The Upper West Side is pretty much better than Astoria in every way, as far as amenities, location, etc. Astoria is famous for Greek food, but I really don't like Greek food - it's all silence of the lambs and retsina wine and olives and their desserts are all filo pastry drowned in honey.

And even though it's half the size of my old apartment, it doesn't feel that much smaller. And my cats like it just fine. And that's the most important thing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More on Oliver Sacks' celibacy


Well I was right. After yesterday's blog post I started to wonder what exactly was the deal with Oliver Sacks' celibacy and the answer it turns out, has a connection to my play NORMA JEANE AT THE PAYNE WHITNEY PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC.

I found this fascinating article about Sacks in Vanity Fair:
...Because I’d become increasingly convinced that the single most important moment in his professional life had come not on the day he began giving L-dopa to those living statues at Beth Abraham, summoning them back to life, but rather in the months before that, when Sacks had had the audacity to perceive that some of the patients were in fact not like the others—that, harrowingly, outward appearances notwithstanding, these particular patients were alive on the inside, completely conscious and lucid but trapped within their inert bodies. No other doctors had dared to imagine such a thing—and, really, how could they have been expected to? The answer, I thought, in Oliver’s case, had everything to do with insights Oliver gained from his epic drug bingeing, and there was no way to tell that story without exploring the sexual self-censure that had led him to seek escape in drugs in the first place.
The reason for Sacks' self-censure was due to the homophobia of the time:
“When I was 21 and home from college, I accompanied my father one evening on his rounds. We were driving in the car, and he asked me how things were going. Fine. Did I have any girlfriends? No. Why didn’t I have any girlfriends? I guessed I didn’t like girls … Silence for a few moments … Does that mean you like boys? Yes, I replied, I am a homosexual. 
“I asked my father not to mention this to my mother under any circumstances: it would break her heart—she’d never understand. The next morning, my mother came tearing down the stairs, shrieking at me, hurling Deuteronomical curses, horrible judgmental accusations. This went on for an hour. Then she fell silent. She remained completely silent for three days, after which normalcy returned. The subject was never mentioned again during her lifetime.

The reason this connects to my play is because in it, Norma Jeane's opponent is a doctor who is homosexual but who refuses to acknowledge it. In part because at the time, homosexuality was considered a mental disease.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rehearsal photo #1

The actors performing in my play NORMA JEANE AT THE PAYNE WHITNEY PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC - the beautiful and talented Jenna Sander and Matt DeCapua.

Jenna is wearing the coat I mentioned in the previous blog post from today. The collar on our coat is quite a bit larger, but you can definitely see the resemblance.

More photos to come.

We open in a week!

Marilyn Incognito

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that most of the items from the Lee Strasberg archives of the possessions Marilyn Monroe (Monroe left almost everything to Strasberg in her will) were auctioned off last November. And I had no excuse - I was aware of Julien's Auctions for awhile now and blogged about it too. I was familiar with many of the items since I used many of the letters up for auction as part of my research into my play NORMA JEANE AT THE PAYNE WHITNEY PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC (opening a week from Monday!)  and I had used items from previous Monroe auctions - things like her brief, undated & unsigned letter to Arthur Miller, which I paraphrase in my play. That letter, according to the auction results listed on the Julien's site went for $43,750.

There were a few items that were under a thousand dollars, including even some of Monroe's letters. It's probably just as well I didn't know about the auction, I would have been sorely tempted to buy some things at a time when I really cannot afford it - especially because I'm producing a play.


But the November auction contained two items posted here that were new to me, including this snapshot of Monroe dressed in a brunette wig. The Julien's catalog claims she liked to go about as a brunette (and of course she had naturally light-brown hair) in order to see how men responded to her. I had never actually read anything in reputable biographies about that - although she was able to and did go out - while blonde - without being recognized. But this photo is great.

 But the most exciting thing up for auction was this coat -  my actor Jenna, our costume designer Renee and I found a coat that looks very much like this in the thrift store down the street from me - and we had no idea Monroe owned one that looked like it.

I will have rehearsal photos soon and will post them here, for side-by-side comparison.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oliver Sacks 1989

I have read much written by Oliver Sacks but I haven't seen him speaking much and found this profile of him from 1989, which would make him 55 - 56. And he is utterly charming and endearing. If he didn't get laid for 35 years it must surely have been his own choice, and not for lack of willing partners.



Here is Robin Williams portraying Sacks in "Awakenings."



Saturday, February 11, 2017

More fun facts about Oliver Sacks

Interesting review of a book by the late Oliver Sacks' partner Bill Hayes. Now of course I knew Sacks was a devoted psychonaut (as well as a pain in the ass invited guest speaker at least according to my daughter) but the last bit in this excerpt was new:

“I just had an astounding alteration of perception!” he once blurted to his partner, Bill Hayes, shortly after they’d gotten stoned. “I opened my eyes, and in place of my body all I could see was my feet — my comically large, flat human feet.”
Compared with Sacks’s experiences as a young neurology resident, when he indulged in far more potent substances (he once got into a lively discussion with a spider about Bertrand Russell and Frege’s Theorem), this little episode may seem tame. But it’s exciting to think that the doctor’s brainstem, even in his 80s, was still throwing off sparks.
Sacks made it his life’s work to convey what it was like to inhabit exceptional, radically different kinds of minds, whether it was that of a surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome (one of the case studies in “An Anthropologist on Mars”) or that of the music teacher who was the title case study in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” Yet it wasn’t until the publication of his 2015 autobiography, “On the Move,” that Sacks wrote freely about himself. Only then did he reveal that he’d fallen in love with Hayes, a writer 30 years his junior, after three and a half decades of celibacy.

I knew Sacks was gay, although I don't think Sacks himself ever said so until his autobiography. But this is the first time I heard he had ever had a partner. THIRTY FIVE YEARS of celibacy. Wow and I thought I had it rough! I guess there's a lesson in there for us all.

Here is Sacks talking about his drug use history.

Friday, February 10, 2017

JC/DREAM




Well it looks like the Public Theater is going back to Shakespeare's hits for 2017, after 2016's decidedly hitless duo of TAMING OF THE SHREW and TROILUS & CRESSIDA. Although to be fair, at one time SHREW was a big hit, but it has deservedly fallen from favor, along with, equally deservedly, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Both plays are unredeemably offensive, but directors still try to work with them. In the case of the Public's 2016 production of SHREW, they used an all-female cast in an effort to conceptualize their way out of the misogyny.

So I am really looking forward to these two shows, especially the DREAM - I've seen so many versions of this in the park, and in fact don't think I've ever seen it done indoors, or even on a stage outdoors. So I'm curious to see what Lear deBessonet does with it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A mystery solved. I think.

THAT'S WHY

I absolutely cannot remember the random train of thought chugging along in the back of my mind which pulled into Consciousness Station with an odd delivery today, but I suddenly realized what was behind this odd phenomenon that I had blogged about way back in August 2015 - the French consider Long Island City, Queens to be a desirable tourist destination:





Mr. MacKay told of a recent conversation he had with a French journalist who was keen to tour Queens.
“She said, ‘I’m so excited to see Long Island City. Everybody in Paris is talking about Long Island City.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ ” Mr. MacKay recalled. “She said, ‘Can you take me to Sweetleaf?,’ ” referring to a popular cafe in Long Island City. “I said, ‘Sweetleaf?’ She said, ‘Yes! Everybody in Paris is talking about Sweetleaf!’ ”

I found this completely bizarre at the time, having worked in LIC and been to both Sweetleaf establishments in LIC. One Sweetleaf is a crowded funky coffee shop, the other is a restaurant, which is nice but I don't remember being especially excited by it.

And then I remembered the movie "Julia and Julie", which was about Julia Child an American who hosted a TV how called "The French Chef." Lots of scenes were shot in Paris. And it's also about a woman living in Long Island City who reproduced all of Child's recipes from one of her cookbooks.

And I bet anything that's why the French are so intrigued by LIC.

Speaking of American movies and the French, I found this web site Pardon My Titres  amusing.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The inevitability of Daphne Merkin

If you read New York institutional media - the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review section, etc. you will inevitably come upon an article or book by Daphne Merkin, or as I have referred to her for at least 10 years on this blog, the dread Daphne Merkin.

I first mentioned her on this blog eleven years ago beginning with...
I've been noticing the mediocrity that is Daphne Merkin ever since I was first irked by her a few years ago in the New Yorker. She also writes for the New York Times magazine. Her trademark is a buzzing, incessant, helpless whine. 
You could get a more original, thoughtful, 21st century-style piece of writing on the sex lives of 50-year-old women in a thousand places on the Internet. From people who are getting paid nothing to write. 
Merkin actually responded via email to that blog post, to my great surprise:
This is the whiney and unfairly remunerated Daphne Merkin reporting in, having stumbled on your blog late this night instead of sleeping or finishing reading D.H. Lawrence's THE RAINBOW. Aside from insulting me, you sound like a generally unreflective and overly self-regarding person. >From glancing quickly at your bio, I gather your own "feminist" credentials are less than wonderful, since you seem to have abandoned one early putative interest (illustrating) for another ( playacting) on the basis of meeting a "beautiful young man." Your blog makes me fshudder on behalf of bloggerdom, seething as it is with envy and bravado and received wisdom. I hope your plays are better than this.
Even her brief email encapsulates everything I dislike about her writing - wrong-headedness about feminism, tiresome literary name-dropping and absolute banality. And why shouldn't I judge her email response to my blog post? She passed judgment on mine, finishing with "I hope your plays are better than this." I mean, well, yeah, considering a typical blog post takes no more than 30 minutes and a play takes years to complete.

I am interested in moving from French self-study to actual French classes, and who should I encounter on the French Institute web site but Merkin talking about sex. What does that have to do with learning French? Je ne fucking sais pas.

I really wish she wouldn't talk about sex, she has nothing original to say about it. I did some Googling to see what she was up to, and found this piece from a few months ago in Elle, What, Exactly, Is the Future of Sex? 

The Elle piece is hackwork - Merkin threw together a personal anecdote about watching a TV show about sex; combined with random literary references: St. Augustine for Chrissake, Foulcalt of course and rounded off with Carol Gilligan; seasoned with snippets of interviews with sex workers, and concluding:
Ah, sex. To each her own, and good luck to us all.
I've gone through a lot since I first blogged about Daphne Merkin: heart-break (twice), unrequited love (twice), depression, anxiety disorder, Tinder, cancer, unemployment (twice), financial catastrophes and the election of Donald Trump, but one thing remains unchanged: I still can't believe Daphne Merkin gets paid to write.

I don't find Merkin worth complaining about solely for her mediocrity - after all the hallmark of mediocrity is its prevalence. See Sturgeon's Law for details. It's because she has regressive, sociobiology-based beliefs. And the last time I wrote about her, it was to note that she was hanging around with professional feminist-hater Katie Roiphe. Which makes her feminist credentials less than wonderful in my unremunerated book.

Here's an example of writing about sex that's original and exciting and the author almost certainly did not get paid to write it: The Dickonomics of Tinder. The topic is the immortal phrase "Dick is abundant and low value" and here is Alana Massey blowing Merkin and her leaky old boatload of Gilligan, Foucault and St. Augustine right out of the water:
In my memory, those last six words emerged from the screen with their outer edges glowing like the inscription in the Dark Tongue of Mordor on the One Ring. I was transformed, nay, transfigured, by the message. 
Conversations were governed by the same rules as matches. Lead with a pussy joke about my cat? Dick is abundant and low value. Choose a meeting place that doesn’t account for my commute there? Dick is abundant and low value. Ask for nudes too soon? Dick is abundant and low value. Cancel twice? Dick is abundant and low value. Send an unsolicited photo of your lower body in your laundry-day underwear with your hand suggestively but not sexily placed over your semi and not even bothering to crop out your poor cat? Dick is abundant and low value.
But other things have also happened since I wrote about Merkin in 2006. One of the reasons I found that NYTimes piece annoying in particular was her obvious reliance on evolutionary psychology to explain social phenomena: 
"Men move away from older women, I would argue, almost instinctively, because they sense the impending shadow of nongenerativity like a negative pheromone."
Since Merkin wrote that piece "cougars" have become a thing. The online porno industry has made it clear that men enjoy watching older women get naked and have sex. And I can testify from personal experience that contrary to what Merkin wrote in 2006, plenty of men are fine pursuing older women. Now granted, this hasn't helped me much in finding a worthwhile mate, but the problem is certainly not men considering older women instinctively repellant.

It seems that each passing year brings more evidence that a pillar of evolutionary psychology - that men want younger and women want older mates is bullshit. This week I saw this NYTimes article about a French politician Emmanuel Macron married to his former high school teacher. It may still be unusual enough for a prominent man to be married to a woman twenty-four years his senior that articles are written about it (they've been married for 10 years now), but the fact that it's happening at all indicates that the old social rules are changing and at such a non-evolutionary pace that it proves this was never about "instinct" at all - it was about men's much greater socio-economic power.

Speaking of socio-economics, it turns out that Merkin struggles with depression. I know because somebody paid her to write a book about it. The reviewer in the New York Times loves the book but even he can't help notice the same things about Merkin that I have:
Merkin was born into circumstances of plenty, the poor little rich girl; she is not interested in universalizing, though she often does so almost inadvertently. In the earlier part of her memoir, her tight focus on her own story at the expense of anyone else’s can come off as self-indulgent, even self-aggrandizing...
I have no plans to read Merkin's book but perhaps she writes better about depression than she does about sex. Having been through a serious depression I can empathize and of course I'm inclined to feel bad for anybody going through hard times. It's tempered though, by the knowledge that in spite of being an uninspired writer on the topic of sex, Daphne Merkin continues to be paid to write about it, while many less-well-connected but superior writers are not being paid at all, and their work is less well-known than hers.

Now that's depressing.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The pleasures of comprehension

N'ai-je pas quelque chose de plus profond à penser?
So I've been studying French, informally for almost three months now, judging by my previous blog posts. Since the week of Donald Trump's election. And Trump has been even worse than I expected these first two weeks after his inauguration. He is ripe for impeachment already in my opinion. And I'm ripe pour aller vivre a Montreal.

Anyway, back to French. I'm in the middle of going through the online version of French in Action for the third time, and I am finally picking up on some of the jokes.

The two lead characters are Robert and Mirielle, embarking on a romance, and Robert is quickly obsessed with Mirielle. So in this episode he is portrayed as constantly thinking about whether or not he will see Mirielle at dinner at Madame Cortois' apartment. Madame Cortois is a mutual acquaintance. The phrase: "Est-ce'elle sera chez à les Cortois " ("Will she be at (the house of) the Cortois?")  is mentioned often throughout the episode. At one point the Mona Lisa whispers "je ne sais pas" ("I don't know') to Robert.

So finally at the end, an image of Rodin's "The Thinker" is shown and Pierre Capretz (founder of the language system that is the basis of French in Action and host of the show) says: "Regardez Le Penseur du Rodin. Il a l'air inquiete, tendu, nerveuse. Vous savez pourquoi? Il se demand si Mirielle sera chez les Cortois." which means "Look at Rodin's 'The Thinker.' He is anxious, tense, nervous You know why? He's asking himself if Mirielle will be at the Cortois'." MDR!

(According to my iPhone translator, "laugh out loud" is "mort de rire" which is literally "death of laughter" or less literally "to die from laughter." And according to this site, they DO say MRD instead of LOL. Wow. LOL.)

And then there is the episode where Aunt Georgette is having a bad time at a restaurant. I picked up during the first two viewings that she was upset because she wanted to order what the guy sitting nearby was having and they were fresh out... but I didn't pick up until the third time around that what she was ordering was "le tête du veau" - calf's head. Ugh!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Manhattan statuary

There are a ton of statues in Central Park and almost all of them depict famous men. So it was nice to learn about this statue today, Expansion by Paige Bradely. Although I'm not sure if it's in a permanent location or not.

There's an entire Wiki page devoted to Central Park sculptures.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Right-wing nuts of Canada

Speaking of dangerous right-wing lunatics like Alex Jones, the recent mass-murder in a Canadian mosque by a right-wing Trump lover has focused attention on the nuts of Canada:
That conversation among largely anonymous anti-immigration extremists exists in the broader context of a right-leaning talk radio culture in Quebec that has been critical of Muslim immigration and what it sees as a failure by Muslims to assimilate into Canadian culture. Talk radio of this stripe is rare elsewhere in Canada and is reminiscent, albeit far more mild, of the raucous right-wing shows in the United States.
The radio stations Radio X and FM93 are among those cited as giving voice to anti-Muslim activists. While their own commentary may be muted, they give a platform to less-tolerant voices from sites like Point de Bascule, which means Tipping Point, and Poste de Veille, which translates roughly as “Watchtower” and whose website shows a pirate ship with a jihadist flag as its sail approaching Quebec City.
One popular conspiracy theory links Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab group that supports the application of Islamic law in Muslim communities.
Of course stupid people, the kind of people most taken in by insane conspiracy theories and irrational hatred of the Other exist in every society and even Canada has not been spared. Stupid people will always be a problem in any human society. 

It should be noted that the far-right, in its endless quest to demonize all Muslims immediately in the wake of the shooting tried to claim the shooter was Muslim himself. The Trudeau government had to force Fox News to take down one of its lies.