Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oh their prophetic soul...

Back in January 2001, The Onion predicted the future under the guise of "humor."

WASHINGTON, DC – Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street. "

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How did I miss this weeks ago?

It turns out that the Nobel-winning geneticist who was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” is inherently 16 percent African, or an amount of “someone who had a great-grandparent who was African,” according to a scientist who made the discovery.

more at the NYTimes

I wonder what those racist freaks at GNXP have to say about that? I'll go over there eventually... when I haven't just eaten...

Well I went over there - big surprise - they somehow failed to mention it throughout the entire month of December. Although you do get to see how much they love Lawrence Summers and hate Jared Diamond. Another big surprise.

GNXP - your source for "scientific" racism on the web.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Watch The Trailer for Michael Moore's 'SiCKO'

If you haven't seen SiCKO yet, SEE IT!!!! You'll develop the deep and abiding hatred for the American health care system that is step 1 in changing it.

If you don't tear up in the last half hour of this film, when they are in Cuba, you are made of stone.

step 2: don't vote for a Republican under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

their beloved Invisible Hand

Roy at Alicublog is often brilliant, but never more so than recently, when he said:
That, comrades, is capitalism. Ad agencies don't get their strategies from Satan or the Democratic Party -- they get them from market data, laboriously collected and analyzed. And they employ them because they bring in money.

Conservatives often seem to miss, when raging about the stuff on their teevees, that it's really their beloved Invisible Hand that's slapping them in the face. They would rather believe it was Betty Friedan. If they stopped to consider how much of the damage they perceive to their "culture" is actually done by the free market, it would drive them mad.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ben Brantley reminds us the theatre world is still completely male-dominated

Especially when it comes to "serious" plays. Not one of his top ten favorite plays this year is written by a woman. But Brantley loves him those manly man playwrights. The more brutal and manly the better.

Almost every aspect of human endeavor is less male-dominated than theatre. How fucked up is that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mary Poppins

Votes for Women - step in time!

This is why Mary Poppins is a very good movie.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Krugman & I

We are on the same wavelength!
“Fed shrugged as subprime crisis spread,” was the headline on a New York Times report on the failure of regulators to regulate. This may have been a discreet dig at Mr. Greenspan’s history as a disciple of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unfettered capitalism known for her novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

In a 1963 essay for Ms. Rand’s newsletter, Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”
When I read that headline I thought exactly the same thing - a reference to Ayn Rand!

Is there a Pulitzer for Best Headline?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HELP HELP I'M BEING REPRESSED

"I mean if I went round saying I was an emperor, just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dar Williams -

"The Christians and the Pagans"
This should be a holiday standard.



I confess this song has choked me up a few times.


The lyrics

Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay"
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been awhile"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from, I think magic's in the learning
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother"
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here"
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve saying
"Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mr. McFuzz is a star



Watch his Quicktime reel


Mr. McFuzz is his stage name. His actual name is Spike.

He has also appeared in kittenwars.com

My other cat, Willow, refuses to perform or pose for the camera.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nudity Required, No Pay

Nudity Required, No Pay is an excellent blog for actors, especially female actors, all about the exploitation of actors in the theatre world.

You can get a sense of the attitude towards actors by some theatre producers here - this email was written by the director who took a copy of my script, slapped his stage directions on it, then sued me for violating HIS copyright when I went to produce my play. He doesn't have any respect for playwrights either.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ON THE SUFFERINGS OF THE WORLD

Pardon's the word to all_!
[Footnote 1: "Cymbeline," Act v. Sc. 5.]

Whatever folly men commit, be their shortcomings or their vices what they may, let us exercise forbearance; remembering that when these faults appear in others, it is our follies and vices that we behold. They are the shortcomings of humanity, to which we belong; whose faults, one and all, we share; yes, even those very faults at which we now wax so indignant, merely because they have not yet appeared in ourselves. They are faults that do not lie on the surface. But they exist down there in the depths of our nature; and should anything call them forth, they will come and show themselves, just as we now see them in others. One man, it is true, may have faults that are absent in his fellow; and it is undeniable that the sum total of bad qualities is in some cases very large; for the difference of individuality between man and man passes all measure.

In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another. Nay, from this point of view, we might well consider the proper form of address to be, not Monsieur, Sir, mein Herr, but _my fellow-sufferer, Socî malorum, compagnon de miseres_! This may perhaps sound strange, but it is in keeping with the facts; it puts others in a right light; and it reminds us of that which is after all the most necessary thing in life--the tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbor, of which everyone stands in need, and which, therefore, every man owes to his fellow.


Schopenhauer, in an exceedingly compassionate mood.

Monday, November 26, 2007

As Jane Eyre said...

"There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort."




Even if the creatures is mainly cats.

More from Jane Eyre here

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On the Problem of Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer is my favorite philosopher. For pure readability, as well as clarity of thought and originality, there's none better. Except on the issue of women. Schopenhauer was convinced of women's inferiority. I like to think that, just as with the evolutionary psychologists, Schopenhauer mistakes the social construction of female inferiority with innate inferiority. Although Schopenhauer went even further than EPs, suggesting that males are more physically attractive than females. As an avowed female heterosexual I might be convinced of it, but no EP will be.

In any case, much of his work is now available for free online (what DID we do before the Internet?) and I'll be posting various nuggets here from time to time.
Here's from RELIGION: A DIALOGUE, ETC.

PHILALETHES

That is certainly the strong point of religion. If it is a fraud, it is a pious fraud; that is undeniable. But this makes priests something between deceivers and teachers of morality; they daren't teach the real truth, as you have quite rightly explained, even if they knew it, which is not the case. A true philosophy, then, can always exist, but not a true religion; true, I mean, in the proper understanding of the word, not merely in that flowery or allegorical sense which you have described; a sense in which all religions would be true, only in various degrees. It is quite in keeping with the inextricable mixture of weal and woe, honesty and deceit, good and evil, nobility and baseness, which is the average characteristic of the world everywhere, that the most important, the most lofty, the most sacred truths can make their appearance only in combination with a lie, can even borrow strength from a lie as from something that works more powerfully on mankind; and, as revelation, must be ushered in by a lie. This might, indeed, be regarded as the cachet of the moral world. However, we won't give up the hope that mankind will eventually reach a point of maturity and education at which it can on the one side produce, and on the other receive, the true philosophy. Simplex sigillum veri: the naked truth must be so simple and intelligible that it can be imparted to all in its true form, without any admixture of myth and fable, without disguising it in the form of religion.

DEMOPHELES

You've no notion how stupid most people are.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The most useful show on television

Sex Talk with Sue Johanson - watch and learn.

The only complaint about this "A Spot" tutorial I have is that she doesn't say whether the man is supine or prone when you insert.*

I found this diagram to be helpful.

Thank you Sue and the Ohio State University Medical Center. You have provided a valuable public service.

*based on the angle of Sue's hand, the answer is prone (on his belly)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NYTimes Racist Reagan Speech Battle, Round 4

First the mighty Paul Krugman got the ball rolling with Seeking Willie Horton:
Ronald Reagan didn't become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state's fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots. Reagan didn't begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it - at the urging of a young Trent Lott - with a speech supporting states' rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.

Well the right wingers weren't going to stand for that, so Bobo Brooks stepped up to defend Reagan, on behalf of conservatives everywhere, with this retort:
Today, I'm going to write about a slur. It's a distortion that's been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale.

The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states' rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.

The truth is more complicated.


Bob Herbert was not about to take that Reagan pity party lying down:
Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record.

To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like "states' rights" in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.'s Southern strategy. That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency.

Ronald Reagan was an absolute master at the use of symbolism. It was one of the primary keys to his political success.

The suggestion that the Gipper didn't know exactly what message he was telegraphing in Neshoba County in 1980 is woefully wrong-headed. Wishful thinking would be the kindest way to characterize it.


Today Krugman jumps in to support Herbert: Republicans and Race:
More than 40 years have passed since the Voting Rights Act, which Reagan described in 1980 as "humiliating to the South." Yet Southern white voting behavior remains distinctive. Democrats decisively won the popular vote in last year's House elections, but Southern whites voted Republican by almost two to one.

The G.O.P.'s own leaders admit that the great Southern white shift was the result of a deliberate political strategy. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization." So declared Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaking in 2005.

And Ronald Reagan was among the "some" who tried to benefit from racial polarization.

True, he never used explicit racial rhetoric. Neither did Richard Nixon. As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, "Chain Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics," "Reagan paralleled Nixon's success in constructing a politics and a strategy of governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along racial lines."

Thus, Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen - a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman's race, but he didn’t have to.

There are many other examples of Reagan's tacit race-baiting in the historical record. My colleague Bob Herbert described some of these examples in a recent column. Here’s one he didn't mention: During the 1976 campaign Reagan often talked about how upset workers must be to see an able-bodied man using food stamps at the grocery store. In the South — but not in the North - the food-stamp user became a "strapping young buck" buying T-bone steaks.

Now, about the Philadelphia story: in December 1979 the Republican national committeeman from Mississippi wrote a letter urging that the party's nominee speak at the Neshoba Country Fair, just outside the town where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. It would, he wrote, help win over "George Wallace inclined voters."

Sure enough, Reagan appeared, and declared his support for states' rights - which everyone took to be a coded declaration of support for segregationist sentiments.

Reagan's defenders protest furiously that he wasn’t personally bigoted. So what? We're talking about his political strategy. His personal beliefs are irrelevant.

Why does this history matter now? Because it tells why the vision of a permanent conservative majority, so widely accepted a few years ago, is wrong.

The point is that we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time. The "macaca" incident, in which Senator George Allen's use of a racial insult led to his election defeat, epitomized the way in which America has changed for the better.

And because conservative ascendancy has depended so crucially on the racial backlash - a close look at voting data shows that religion and "values" issues have been far less important - I believe that the declining power of that backlash changes everything.

Can anti-immigrant rhetoric replace old-fashioned racial politics? No, because it mobilizes the same shrinking pool of whites - and alienates the growing number of Latino voters.

Now, maybe I’m wrong about all of this. But we should be able to discuss the role of race in American politics honestly. We shouldn't avert our gaze because we’re unwilling to tarnish Ronald Reagan’s image.


Ouch! Looks like David Brooks is gettin' his ass kicked! Well, only an arrogant fool like Bobo would challenge the mighty Krugman.

How Reagan-lovers must love our current president - only he can make Reagan look smart, competent and honorable in comparison.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's wrong with Christopher Buckley

The fact that he's a Buckley automatically makes you assume he's incredibly pleased with himself, and incredibly smug.

I just caught his movie "Thank You for Smoking" after being told how great it was. I had avoided it because, well, Buckley.

So I watched it, and most of it wasn't as bad as I expected... although what I expected was cynicism and an "even-handed" approach to the issue of smoking. Lobbyists are bad but so are reporters, cancer victims, politicians, anti-smoking activists, etc. etc. Well of course, many lobbyists are Christopher Buckley's friends, or friends of his father.

Buckley's approach to right-wing evil is best described in his own words:

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again. Neither could I bring myself to vote for John Kerry, who, for all his strengths, credentials, and talent, seems very much less than the sum of his parts. So, I wrote in a vote for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I worked as a speechwriter from 1981 to ’83. I wish he’d won.
Washington Monthly
He knows Bush is wrong for the country, but Kerry is not cool enough so he does something completely pointless instead.

Or as a reviewer in Salon says:
Besotted with its dazzling protagonist and committed to equal-opportunity attack, the film has no point of view beyond the position that everyone concerned is either amoral or an idiot or an amoral idiot. Aiming at all targets and hitting none of them, the movie is as harmless and inconsequential as a candy cigarette.


But Buckley reveals his true nature by what happens to the lobbyist and the reporter who gets the inside scoop on his activities. Although the lobbyist is completely amoral he winds up on top at the end. The reporter, who had sex with him while getting the scoop, is demoted to doing the weather, and the movie gleefully shows her reporting from the middle of the storm.

That's Buckley's true, unvarnished, unmediated emotion right there on the screen - punish the bitch. Sexual women are the true evil in this world. He is a true son of the Catholic Church. And always will be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Origin of the Alison Bechdel Rule



Also known as the Alison Bechdel Test.

I just recently learned of this at Pandagon.

Clearly most animated movies for children (see below) will fail this test - even if you substitute "female" for "woman."

Yes, Natalie, we live in a patriarchy

But I'm glad the NYTimes finally addressed the issue - people who make animated movies, generally assumed to be aimed at children, not only skew the male to female character ratio heavily in favor of males, they actually go out of their way to misrepresent the natural world in order to do it. As Natalie Angier notes:
By bowdlerizing the basic complexion of a great insect society, Mr. Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” follows in the well-pheromoned path of Woody Allen as a whiny worker ant in “Antz” and Dave Foley playing a klutzy forager ant in “A Bug’s Life.” Maybe it’s silly to fault cartoons for biological inaccuracies when the insects are already talking like Chris Rock and wearing Phyllis Diller hats. But isn’t it bad enough that in Hollywood’s animated family fare about rats, clownfish, penguins, lions, hyenas and other relatively large animals, the overwhelming majority of characters are male, despite nature’s preferred sex ratio of roughly 50-50? Must even obligately female creatures like worker bees and soldier ants be given sex change surgery, too?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Class, anger and blogging

Cathleen Shine reviews Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories in The New York Review of Books and it is a massive improvement over the Ana Marie Cox review of Pollitt's previous Virginity or Death! in the NYTimes. Although that's not especially high praise since Ana Marie Cox is trying to be the sucessor to the shallow catty Maureen Dowd.

Barbara Ehrenreich has a great response to it.

I haven't read Pollitt's latest book in its entirety, but have read many of the individual essays.

I'm a long-time fan of Pollitt but one thing that tends to annoy me about Pollitt is that her views are shaped by her upper middle class upbringing. She's lived a bit of a sheltered life which is a primary reason why she didn't learn to drive until she was 52. She learned to drive because she bought a house on the Connecticut shore. I learned to drive because public transportation in South Jersey is a joke and I needed to drive myself to a series of crappy low-paying jobs in third-hand junkers - one of those jobs was driving instructor.

Not to pick on Pollitt - inevitably the people who make a living as writers come from comfortable backgrounds. Because the decision-makers come from that class, and as with any career, it's who you know.

But at least, as a liberal, Pollitt doesn't let her own good fortune blind her to the harsh realities of the poor - one of the major differences between well-off liberals and well-off conservatives.

I have to wonder if her idealism causes her to get the arrows of causality wrong in her interview with Terri Gross. She and Gross discuss rambling guys and how women are supposedly attracted to rambling guys. Pollitt suggests that women are attracted to rambling guys because women want to be rambling guys themselves. This is pure idealism, and has nothing to do with the realities of sexual economics.

Rambling guys aren't sexy because they ramble, rambling guys can ramble because they are sexy. If the rambling guy wasn't sexy to begin with, few or no women would get involved with him. There are sexy guys who don't ramble - but sexy monogamous guys can easily find a partner. Which often leaves women who can't find sexy men with the option of settling down with non-sexy guys, or taking up with sexy non-monogamous guys. And since sexy rambling guys will ramble into many women during the course of their years of sexual attractiveness, it makes sense that many women will end up having some kind of contact with those guys.

This is not an idealistic empowering view of women. Although it isn't non-empowering either. It's rather neutral - it reflects the reality of the scarcity of sexy yet trustworthy men.

But it does piss me off - a leading thinker of feminism doesn't get that reality. In fact, I don't know of any professional thinker who does. They all have some idealistic explanation for the ways of the world, that are only marginally better than just-so stories of the evolutionary psychologists.

If it wasn't for this blog, I'd be even more frustrated and angry about this state of things. Not that I think my readership compares to Pollitt's. But it beats writing letters to the editor.

Monday, November 05, 2007

go atheists!

Stanley Fish's occasional columns on God and Religion tend to become freethinker free-for-alls.

Fish's recurring theme is that atheists are meanies:
In short, these books neither trivialize their subject nor demonize those who have a different view of it, which is more than can be said for the efforts of those fashionable atheist writers whose major form of argument would seem to be ridicule.
The long tradition of deists consigning non-believers to eternal torment, if only in their fevered imaginations, seems to bother him much less.
My co-non-believers are a bright bunch, and it's hard to top them. So this time around, I won't try, I'll just quote them:

The summary statement praises the two books for not demonizing opposing views. Wouldn't it have made a better summary statement then, when rejecting atheistic ridicule, to also reject religious hatred of atheism?
- Posted by Suzanne

The question of belief in a Personal God is addressed by Ehrman. The question of belief in God as Starter-Pistol is addressed by Flew. These are different lines of inquiry and cannot be easily compared and contrasted. Is a man who accepts God as Creator but rejects a Personal God an Atheist? The term "Atheist" needs to be defined carefully to have a meaningful discussion on this subject.
- Posted by Mike Marks

Antony Flew is an old dude who’s been hoodwinked by the godnuts into questioning reality. In their fear of losing their grip on the masses, the godnuts have succeeded in ensnaring this poor old man in their delusion: That there IS a heaven and hell,god and the devil. There is, there is, there is! If only you could make something be true by repeating it. It’s time to move on and embrace reality. Perhaps we can still save ourselves from ourselves before it's too late.
- Posted by Anna Galvin

"How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends [and] self-replication capabilities? […]
The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such 'end-directed, self-replicating' life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind."
A pity to have such an interesting question answered by simply postulating God’s existence. I also wondered why God lets bad things happen when my dog was put down, but I was 10 and have since grown up and learned to think for myself. If we are indeed plagued by an 'inherited [sic] virus', I’d say it is the faith-in-God one.
- Posted by Theodora (meaning, of course, God's gift!) Terzidou

I’ve been contemplating a statement made–I cannot recall where–in rebuttal against those who "gleefully" conclude there is no God: the science-religion debate is immeasurably enriched when materialists do not dismiss religion but engage with "sincere and learned persons" to reflect on the vitality of religious perspectives in conversation with materialist ones. That sounds nice. It seemingly comforts, let’s say, those who consider themselves to be open-minded Christians in debate with modern materialists. Now what about Astrology? Will astronomers be enriched by engaging sincere and learned astrologers in conversation about the influence of the positions of stars and planets on individual human destinies? I’m curious: how many astronomers regularly read their daily horoscope? How many astrologers faithfully follow the latest discoveries in astronomy? Are these two areas of study mutually exclusive?
- Posted by Ken Frank

Here in 2007, the right answer to questions like Why is there something rather than nothing, or how does consciousness work, is "I don’t know" or “We don’t know” (yet), not, "There must be a god."
Primitive peoples all over the world posited creatures like Echo, who yells back at you when you stand and call out. Today we know the physical explanation of echoes, and no one believes in Echo anymore.
From ignorance, nothing follows.
- Posted by tjallen

Most arguments for and against a god-presence in the cosmos assume a supernatural, father--igure. Perhaps one of our problems is that we are unable to fathom something entirely different. If we did I think we might have a much more interesting conversation. The one we are presently having has gotten old and boring.
Gordy
- Posted by Gordon Alderink

Friday, November 02, 2007

You learn something new every day

It turns out I'm a member of the Sawn family tree
They even have my dad's obituary.

And WOW - thanks to this web site, I just realized that my great great grand parents were Yorkshire neighbors of Charlotte Bronte - I'm currently working on an adaptation of Bronte's Jane Eyre. My great-grandmother's grandparents, Robert Parkinson and Sara Fairburn were married in Dewsbury, Yorkshire in 1851. Charlotte died in Yorkshire at age 39, in 1855.

Before he was given a parish in Haworth, Charlotte's father Patrick was a curate in the Parish of Dewsbury.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TAM LIN 2007

For the fifth year in a row, TAM LIN will be presented in Manhattan. This time it will be in the form of a reading at NYCPlaywrights.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bob Herbert's strawpimps

Those who wish for prostitution to remain illegal don't have logic on their side, and so must constantly imply that those who think it should be legal are somehow in denial about the exploitation of women and the international slave trade. Bob Herbert:
Those who think that most of the women in prostitution want to be there are deluded. Surveys consistently show that a majority wants very much to leave. Apologists love to spread the fantasy of the happy hooker. But the world of the prostitute is typically filled with pimps, sadists, psychopaths, drug addicts, violent criminals and disease.

Jody Williams is a former prostitute who runs a support group called Sex Workers Anonymous. Few women want to become prostitutes, she told me, and nearly all would like to get out.

“They want to quit for the obvious reasons,” she said. “The danger. The physical and emotional distress. The toll that it takes. The shame.”
More at the NYTimes
Just who are these people "who think that most of the women in prostitution want to be there"? Bob Herbert doesn't say - probably because very few people would make such a claim.

The real problem for those who want prostitution to remain illegal is, as Jody Williams says "the shame."

Workers are exploited all over the world. Herbert & co. don't use that as the reason for suggesting that work itself should be made illegal. When it comes to non-sexual work, they are able to think clearly. They are against the workers being exploited, not the work itself.

And that's what it comes down to. The anti-legalization people have a problem with prostitution because it is about non-marital sex, far more than they have a problem with the exploitation of women and children. It's about "the shame" because the workers being exploited are doing sex work. There is no shame in being expoited as a fruit-picker, although conditions might be every bit as horrendous.

Women and children aren't only exploited through prostitution - young girls are sold or coerced into marriage in places all over the world. And traditional marriage is based entirely on the idea of women selling men sexual services in exchange for food and shelter. It still happens all over the world. I think that's a horrible exploitive situation - and so I think the exploitation should end. I am not calling for the criminalization of marriage.

Bob Herbert demonstrates that when you throw non-marital sex into the picture, some people's brains just go haywire.

And why doesn't Bob Herbert write a column about all the men who create the demand for prostitution - and don't care whether the prostitute they're screwing is a sex slave or not? Surely a few of them read the NYTimes. I'll wager some of them write for the NYTimes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Racists say the darndest things

As soon as I saw the article about the racist remarks of James Watson (of Crick & Watson DNA fame) I rushed over to Gene Expression, the premiere web site for science-minded racists and sure enough it was topic number one.

Top racists Steve Sailer and Razib (aka Newamul Khan) are entirely predictable in their reactions in this comment thread which can be summed up by the headline of a Wired article: Angry IQ Tester: Watson's Critics Are Socialists!

That was exactly Steven Pinker's reason for dismissing the scientific opinions of Stephen Jay Gould when he criticized evolutionary psychology. As I've blogged before, Pinker has no qualms about being interviewed by Gene Expression. Well why not, they are huge fans of his.

But what did the Sage of DNA say that has so confused those poor misguided media commies?
First he said:
"All our social policies are based on the fact that their (African's) intelligence is the same as ours (European's) - whereas all the testing says not really,"

THEN he said
In a statement given to The Associated Press yesterday, Dr. Watson said, "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. There is no scientific basis for such a belief."

So, scream the GNXPers he was misquoted!
But his publicist, Kate Farquhar-Thomson, would not say whether Dr. Watson believed he had been misquoted. "You have the statement," she said. "That's it, I am afraid."
More at the NYTimes.
The GNXPers are so in love with Watson's racism that they completely overlook that fact that he's a batty old coot!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yes, we've been expecting it for years

October 19, 2007, 11:48 am
Say What?
By The Editorial Board
More from President Bush's Wednesday press conference. File this under "Jokes that really aren't that funny."

Q: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said, recently, that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there.

BUSH: I've been planning that myself.

Check it out - and note the howls from the right-winger commentors: But if Bill Clinton had made the same joke eight years ago, you would have remarked on his delightful sense of humor despite all the abuse he had taken the rightwing conspiracy.

Might it be because the Bush people have demonstrated that there is nothing so mean, lowdown and illegal that they won't try to get away with it?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Iraq war contractor corruption scandal...

..will no doubt go down in history as the worst corruption scandal in the history of this country. Frank Rich:
The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

Colonel Westhusing's death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book "Blood Money." Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America’s engagement in Iraq as a suicide note.

"I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars," Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. "I am sullied."

More at the NYTimes

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We've all been hip to this for years, but it's good to have a social scientist confirm it


In an idealized view of the fashion and art world, the gatekeepers of taste coolly evaluate the work they see according to Platonic criteria. Currid's conclusion, based on dozens of interviews, is less sublime. "There is very little that gets done in New York that is merit-based," a musician told her. "It boils down to the same maxim: 'It's all who you know.' " And in order to know the right people artists and designers inevitably gravitate to New York, because it's where previous generations of artists and designers, now powerful, gravitated to. The result is a classic case of what economists call network effects: success in the past creates success in the future.

From an aesthetic standpoint, "It's all who you know" may be a grim conclusion, but from the perspective of New York's economy it seems an entirely happy one.

More at the New Yorker

This explains why there's so much bad theatre done by people who get paid well for it - all the decision-makers are their pals, and you can't give your pals the red light.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Krugman to Mergatroyd...

But when you're great, you're great
What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it's a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.

And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job - to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda's recruiters could have hoped for - the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the "ozone man," but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, 'the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam." And so it has proved.

But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn't just inconvenient. For conservatives, it's deeply threatening.

more at the NYTimes

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Good Deputy

Now that the JANE EYRE production is underway, it's time to start writing a new play. While JANE is all girly-girly - although I personally think that the concerns of women are universal concerns, NY theatre critics don't see it that way - this new play is manly. It's THE GOOD DEPUTY and it's set in the Old West with a primarily male cast. Any connection between the plot and Bush Co's adventures in Iraq are purely intentional, although hopefully not too obvious or preachy - I want it to be an entertaining story too.

The inspiration is based on my wondering what would have happened if Colin Powell did not do the bidding of the Bushies. We have some idea what might have happened, based on the experience of Joseph Wilson and the outing of his wife, spy Valerie Plame by douchebag of liberty Robert Novak at the behest of the Bush administration.

David Hare already covered the territory of the actual Iraq war buildup in his play Stuff Happens. He was very literal, though, with people playing Bush, Cheney, Rice, etc.

My play was also inspired by my friend Greg Oliver Bodine, the brilliant actor/playwright, who played a cowboy recently, as you can see in this picture. I plan to have him portray the Deputy. We'll be doing a reading at NYCPlaywrights next week.



Plus, I always like having an excuse to post a cute guy picture on my blog.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Frank Rich challenges the Krugman for best editorialist

Frank Rich:

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press - the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration's case - failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.


Not meaning to brag, but I don't count myself among "the American public" who were fooled into the war in Iraq. I was one of the anti-war protestors. I still have video from the huge anti-war rally that I will eventually put online.

Meanwhile, Steven Colbert appears in Maureen Dowd's column, improving it 150%
I'd like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she's watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn't have to think about. It's all George Bush's fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I've written Frank Rich's column too.

So why I am writing Miss Dowd's column today? Simple. Because I believe the 2008 election, unlike all previous elections, is important. And a lot of Americans feel confused about the current crop of presidential candidates.

For instance, Hillary Clinton. I can't remember if I'm supposed to be scared of her so Democrats will think they should nominate her when she's actually easy to beat, or if I'm supposed to be scared of her because she's legitimately scary.

Or Rudy Giuliani. I can't remember if I'm supposed to support him because he's the one who can beat Hillary if she gets nominated, or if I'm supposed to support him because he's legitimately scary.

And Fred Thompson. In my opinion "Law & Order" never sufficiently explained why the Manhattan D.A. had an accent like an Appalachian catfish wrestler.

Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don't mean Al Gore (though he's a world-class loomer). First of all, I don't think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don't need to care about science, literature or peace.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The right-wing bully machine

Krugman:
All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they're "phony soldiers"; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he's faking his Parkinson's symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he's a fraud.

Krugman in the NYTimes

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Al Gore



Hooray for Al Gore!


Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and a United Nations panel on the environment won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness about the threat of climate change.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Jane Eyre



My production of JANE EYRE is coming up in February 2008.

jane-eyre.org

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Law's Delay

In his be/not be soliloquy, Hamlet lists the following as possible reasons for suicide:
the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong,
the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love,
the law's delay,
The insolence of office,
and the spurns That patient merit of th' unworthy takes

Waiting for the US Copyright Office to cancel Edward Einhorn's unauthorized copyright registration on his derivative, and laughable "blocking and choreography" script on my play TAM LIN makes me understand why.

The fact that the Copyright Office granted Einhorn the registration is a clear sign there is something wrong with the U.S. Copyright Office itself. Because Einhorn NEVER had my authorization, and was not required by the Copyright Office to provide any proof of authorization whatsoever. Just the say-so of himself and his brother, the lawyer.

It makes the requirement of "authorization" meaningless. And it means that anybody with money can victimize anybody without money through this method - because once the registration is granted, it is up to the author of the original work to prove that it was not authorized.

My ex-partner Jonathan and I were involved in a lawsuit with Einhorn over this, with the expectation that Einhorn's ill-obtained registration would be cancelled during the course of events. It seemed reasonable to believe so. Apparently the US Copyright Office is far far more Kafka-esque than could possibly be believed.

And so The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions continues.

Edward Einhorn would like to believe that the case is over, clearly evident in this public exchange at Playgoer

Anonymous said...
Edward Einhorn? Watch out! He's gonna sue!

Saturday, August 04, 2007 11:55:00 AM
Edward Einhorn said...
I find that an oddly hostile (anonymous?) comment to appear after my posting regarding the Public. It's true that I was involved in a lawsuit a while ago regarding a play I was never paid for that also included some copyright issues. That suit was resolved and I was paid. But that lawsuit was a relatively small incident in my larger writing/directing career and certainly has no relevance to this issue.


I did not post the anonymous comment - apparently Einhorn's reputation precedes him.

With a wave of his hand like a latter-day Marie Antoinette offering dietary advice to peasants, Einhorn proclaims the suit "was resolved." Guess again Einhorn. It will never be resolved until YOU GIVE UP YOUR UNAUTHORIZED DERIVATIVE COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION ON MY PLAY TAM LIN!!!!!

Maybe you think that you have managed to sneak a "directors copyright" in the back door by the persistence of this ill-gotten registration. You think wrong. We will do whatever it takes, through whatever branch of government it takes - to get it cancelled. Because if you get away with this, what's to stop any creep with an agenda from trying the same thing?

Now why don't you go online somewhere and claim that I am defaming you, Einhorn? Oh, that's right, you've already done so, believing you can cow people into silence through their ignorance of the First Amendment.

I have never defamed you, Einhorn, because what I've said is either my opinion of you - which is protected speech - or THE TRUTH - and usually backed with court transcripts - which is also protected.

***

But perhaps I am simply being impatient. It's possible that we won't have to take further legal action, and that the Copyright Office, like any bureaucracy, is simply taking its sweet time. It's the law's delay - and I just have to ride it out.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I don't care what they say about me in the papers as long as they spell my name right...

Alas...
The play, adapted by N.G. McClearnan, follows the familiar story of Huck and Jim on a raft, even as it peers into Huck's internal struggle between right and wrong. Playwright McClearnan said she eliminated all but a few references to Tom Sawyer in the book because he "certainly was not a good boy."

"In fact," she said, "he was a big jerk."

While not evil, Sawyer causes problems for the freed slave, Jim, and jeopardizes more than a few people in his field of influence. So, for McClearnan, Tom's out and Huck's in.




The article is referring to my essay What about Lil Lizabeth?

Apparently the "as long as they spell my name right" quote is of unknown provenance...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Good News Delivered by Thunder



"Good News Delivered by Thunder" is the name of this song It's such a cool evocative name - I have to write a play with this title some day.

More on the album "Splendid Jubilant New Year - the Collection of Chinese Festival Music" - other great song titles: "Frantic Dances of Golden Serpent" and "Splendor Night Vision"

It's the Righteous Scorn Channel

Oh Paul Krugman, I just can't resist you!

Before the last election, the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's and has become an advocate for stem cell research that might lead to a cure, made an ad in support of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for Senator in Missouri. It was an effective ad, in part because Mr. Fox's affliction was obvious.

And Rush Limbaugh - displaying the same style he exhibited in his recent claim that members of the military who oppose the Iraq war are "phony soldiers" and his later comparison of a wounded vet who criticized him for that remark to a suicide bomber - immediately accused Mr. Fox of faking it. "In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it's purely an act." Heh-heh-heh.

Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of "The Bush Dyslexicon," once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms - "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family," and so on - have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that's when he's speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared "zero tolerance of people breaking the law," even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren't getting from his administration.

What's happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples' woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn "socialism," which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you're sick or you don't have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.


More of the column Conservatives Are Such Jokers at the NYTimes

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Anita Hill defends herself against Clarence Thomas's smears

ON Oct. 11, 1991, I testified about my experience as an employee of Clarence Thomas’s at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I stand by my testimony.

Justice Thomas has every right to present himself as he wishes in his new memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He may even be entitled to feel abused by the confirmation process that led to his appointment to the Supreme Court.

But I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.

In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.” A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.


More at the New York TimesI mentioned the book on the Hill-Thomas incident, Strange Justice, back in July 2006, and about David Brock's reaction to the book, back when he was a right-wing hitman:
The biggest problem raised by the Strange Justice authors for the Thomas camp was the testimony of yet another woman, Kaye Savage, who had not been heard from during the first round of hearings. Savage made the claim... that she had seen Playboy pinups papered along the walls of Thomas's apartment in the early 1980s, when she and Thomas had been friends and Anita Hill was working for Thomas...

...Mark (Paoletta) phoned me back. He said he had posed my question about how to discredit Savage to (Clarence) Thomas, who knew I was at work on a review of the Mayer and Abramson book. Mark told me that Thomas had, in fact, some derogatory information on his former friend Savage; he passed it along to Mark so that Mark could give it to me. Quoting Thomas directly, Mark told me of unverified, embarrassing personal information about Savage that Thomas claimed had been raised against her in a sealed court record of a divorce and child custody battle more than a decade ago. Thomas also told Mark where Savage worked after Mark related that I was eager to hunt her down as soon as possible. Surely skirting the bounds of judicial propriety to intimidate and smear yet another witness against him, Thomas was playing dirty, and so was I.

Clarence Thomas - the perfect Supreme Court Justice to represent extreme conservativism.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the latest cover of the New Yorker

is awesome



The image is a little small but it manages to reference the Senator Larry Craig bathroom scandal, and Iranian president Ahmadinejad's claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran. The newspaper Ahmadinejad is reading is in Farsi - he's supposed to be in Iran.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I've run out of superlatives for Paul Krugman

And yes, Southern white exceptionalism is about race, much more than it is about moral values, religion, support for the military or other explanations sometimes offered. There’s a large statistical literature on the subject, whose conclusion is summed up by the political scientist Thomas F. Schaller in his book “Whistling Past Dixie”: “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters to depict American conservatism as a nonracial phenomenon, the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

Republican politicians, who understand quite well that the G.O.P.’s national success since the 1970s owes everything to the partisan switch of Southern whites, have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.

Thus Ronald Reagan, who began his political career by campaigning against California’s Fair Housing Act, started his 1980 campaign with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered. In 2000, Mr. Bush made a pilgrimage to Bob Jones University, famed at the time for its ban on interracial dating.

Politics in Black and White

Friday, September 21, 2007

All Krugman, all the time

Yes I know this is getting ridiculous, but Paul Krugman is just that good - and now he's no longer behind the pay wall!
One of my pet peeves about political reporting is the fact that some of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another business – namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates are actually saying – and whether it’s true or false, sensible or silly – they tell us how it went over, and how they think it affects the horse race. During the 2004 campaign I went through two months’ worth of TV news from the major broadcast and cable networks to see what voters had been told about the Bush and Kerry health care plans; what I found, and wrote about, were several stories on how the plans were playing, but not one story about what was actually in the plans
And while the pundits are doing theatre criticism, the theatre critics are doing punditry, as when Charles Isherwood said:
Affection for the enterprise is hard to resist, especially since the majority of the writers are women, who are chronically underrepresented on local stages. I’m not sure Ms. Healy’s relentlessly quirky exercise in neo-absurdism will win many converts to the cause, but the play can be granted a little leeway as part of a healthy, even inspirational exercise in authorial self-determination.
It's no secret that what both Isherwood and Ben Brantley want is brutal manly masculine plays, and they always look at plays by women as BY WOMEN. Women are very much still The Other in NYC theatre. You can see it in the way that Brantley contemptuously dismisses another play by a woman:
But the story approaches these topical matters with a calm, open mind and a tidy, symmetrical structure that balances and parallels different points of view. It’s like the Platonic ideal of a Lifetime television movie.
Lifetime, you may not know, is a TV channel aimed at women. To compare a play to a TV show on a women's network is about the most dismissive thing Brantley could think of to say about it. The men who still run theatre in NYC - and the women who mindlessly accept the rules, abide by the the idea that men's experiences = human condition while women's experiences = silly and stupid and unkewl.
Mostly what this is about though, is what I will call the Goldin-Rouse effect. When the producer of art is known to be a woman, the art produced is automatically rated lower than art produced by men. Here is the Goldin-Rouse study:
Blind auditions for symphony orchestras have contributed to a substantial increase in the number of women who have secured these positions, according to Cecilia Rouse, assistant professor of economics and public affairs.

In a blind audition, a screen is placed so that the evaluator can hear but not see the performer. While screens in final rounds of auditions are still uncommon, the use of screens in preliminary rounds is now a wide-spread practice, Rouse said.

She used personnel records and rosters from several symphony orches-tras to track the hiring of women musicians as orchestras adopted the practice of blind auditions during the 1970s and 1980s. Her findings are presented in "Orchestrating Impar-tiality: The Impact of 'Blind' Auditions on Female Musicians" (Working Paper #376 of the Industrial Relations Section, coauthored with Claudia Goldin of Harvard).

"The switch to blind auditions can explain between 30 percent and 55 percent of the increase in the propor-tion female among new hires and between 25 percent and 46 percent of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras from 1970 to 1996," according to the study, which was based on a final analysis sample of 14,133 individuals and 592 audition segments.

The study found that the practice of blind auditions increased by 50 percent the probability that women would advance out of certain preliminary rounds. "The screen also enhances, by severalfold, the likelihood that a female contestant will be the winner in the final round," the authors noted.

And as Elizabeth Spelke, in her mighty smiting of evolutionary psychology asshole Steven Pinker (you don't think he's an asshole? At a future date I will count the ways) noted that in general, females are less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt:
What about the average successful vita, though: that is to say, the kind of vita that professors most often must evaluate? In that case, there were differences. The male was rated as having higher research productivity. These psychologists, Steve's and my colleagues, looked at the same number of publications and thought, "good productivity" when the name was male, and "less good productivity" when the name was female. Same thing for teaching experience. The very same list of courses was seen as good teaching experience when the name was male, and less good teaching experience when the name was female. In answer to the question would they hire the candidate, 70% said yes for the male, 45% for the female. If the decision were made by majority rule, the male would get hired and the female would not.

A couple other interesting things came out of this study. The effects were every bit as strong among the female respondents as among the male respondents. Men are not the culprits here. There were effects at the tenure level as well. At the tenure level, professors evaluated a very strong candidate, and almost everyone said this looked like a good case for tenure. But people were invited to express their reservations, and they came up with some very reasonable doubts. For example, "This person looks very strong, but before I agree to give her tenure I would need to know, was this her own work or the work of her adviser?" Now that's a perfectly reasonable question to ask. But what ought to give us pause is that those kinds of reservations were expressed four times more often when the name was female than when the name was male.

So there's a pervasive difference in perceptions, and I think the difference matters. Scientists' perception of the quality of a candidate will influence the likelihood that the candidate will get a fellowship, a job, resources, or a promotion. A pattern of biased evaluation therefore will occur even in people who are absolutely committed to gender equity.
Theatre critics see mediocre plays all the time, by male and female authors. What I am suggesting is that they, like the professors in the above study, are more likely to give male authors of mediocre work the benefit of the doubt. I will provide one example, which I originally dicussed in my essay "The Last Manly Man Playwright":
the opening paragraph of Michael Feingold's review in the Village Voice:
Despite my admiration for Adam Rapp's writing, I've stayed away from his plays the last few years—no easy task, given his prolific output—because they were starting to give me the locked-in feeling of a gifted artist endlessly circling round and round the same material, looking for someplace else to go but uncertain what direction to take next. In Rapp's case, this sense of imprisonment was particularly grueling because of the relentless sordidness in his work: characters always at the bottom of life, actions always the harshest and ugliest.

Rapp is such a gifted artist that Feingold's been avoiding his plays!


And that sums up the theatre world in NYC in 2007. Which is why, over a hundred and fifty years after Charlotte Bronte adopted the gender-hazy pen name Currer Bell, it might still be a good idea for female playwrights to avoid revealing their gender as long as possible.

Speaking of Bronte, my adaptation of Jane Eyre will be produced this February.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another awesome column from Krugman

The hits just keep coming: Sad Alan's Lament

I received an irate phone call from Mr. Greenspan after that article, in which he demanded to know what he had said that was wrong. In his book, he claims that Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, was stumped by that question. That’s hard to believe, because I certainly wasn’t: Mr. Greenspan’s argument for tax cuts was contorted and in places self-contradictory, not to mention based on budget projections that everyone knew, even then, were wildly overoptimistic.

If anyone had doubts about Mr. Greenspan’s determination not to inconvenience the Bush administration, those doubts were resolved two years later, when the administration proposed another round of tax cuts, even though the budget was now deep in deficit. And guess what? The former high priest of fiscal responsibility did not object.

And in 2004 he expressed support for making the Bush tax cuts permanent — remember, these are the tax cuts he now says he didn’t endorse — and argued that the budget should be balanced with cuts in entitlement spending, including Social Security benefits, instead. Of course, back in 2001 he specifically assured Congress that cutting taxes would not threaten Social Security.

In retrospect, Mr. Greenspan’s moral collapse in 2001 was a portent. It foreshadowed the way many people in the foreign policy community would put their critical faculties on hold and support the invasion of Iraq, despite ample evidence that it was a really bad idea.
And strangely Greenspan showed up on The Daily Show tonight and Jon Stewart was ALSO brilliant! I will have a video clip ASAP.

I just love these liberal guys.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Anais v. Ayn - who gets the asshole license?

In my essay The Asshole License, I mentioned that the AL is almost never granted to women, but that Ayn Rand had one. An article in today's NYTimes confirms this:
Rand had a reputation for living for her own interest. She is said to have seduced her most serious reader, Nathaniel Branden, when he was 24 or 25 and she was at least 50. Each was married to someone else. In fact, Mr. Britting confirmed, they called their spouses to a meeting at which the pair announced their intention to make the mentor-protégé relationship a sexual one.

“She wasn’t a nice person, ” said Darla Moore, vice president of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc. “But what a gift she’s given us.”
The sexual dalliances of Great Men of the Arts are commonplace. Pretty much ALL of them end up having sex with their young admirers. If the Great Man is heterosexual, this fact will inevitably be mentioned, with thinly veiled admiration, in a Great Man of the Arts profile in the New Yorker.

The few acknowledged great women of the arts are not allowed such license, generally speaking, even in the liberal New Yorker. I once read a profile of Anais Nin in the New Yorker where the profile's author admitted to feeling pity for Nin for having dalliances with much younger men. I can't find that profile, but you can get a sense of the tut-tut-tutting over Nin that you NEVER get over misbehaving males in this review of a biography of Nin in the NYTimes.

Ayn Rand is granted an asshole license, I think, for several reasons. Foremost, because her area of accomplishment involved that most traditionally manly of enterprises, economics. Her beliefs were also distinctly right-wing. Libertarian, to be exact, but really, libertarians are conservatives who like sex. And she certainly never dreamed of challenging the Patriarchy in her work, and the hero of her most popular book, The Fountainhead, rapes the heroine.

Anais Nin is best known for her diaries and her erotica and her affairs. You can't get much more feminine realm than that.

So that is why the male establishment, which still runs everything including the New Yorker and the New York Times - and the females who mindlessly accept the values of the male establishment, refuse to grant Nin an asshole license, but do grant one to Ayn Rand - virtually the only asshole license issued to a woman.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Oh Paul Krugman, I want you to have my babies

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.
More (behind the paywall though)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

go Kathy Griffin


I support Kathy Griffin's right to speak her mind.
She REALLY pissed off sanctimonious creep Catholic League's Bill Donohue. Kudos Kathy!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good night sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

Today marks ten years since the death of Earl Rich in a motorcycle crash. And I still haven't finished the online tribute I began for him nine years ago.

Earl Rich was a magical person. He was beautiful and charming and athletic and popular - but he was also well-read and sympathetic and open-minded. The emails that I included in my "Long Essay on a Brief Life" give a small taste of his many-layered personality.

I will take this moment to mention the strange phenomena I experienced the day he died, which will surely prevent me from ever getting a membership in CSICOP.

But I've been working on an adaptation of Jane Eyre, which also has its own paranormal occurance. I'll let Jane describe it - she begins by quoting her beloved, Edward Rochester:
"I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged--that I could scarcely endure more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart's wishes broke involuntarily from my lips in the words--'Jane! Jane!Jane!'"

"Did you speak these words aloud?"

"I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy."

"And it was last Monday night, somewhere near midnight?"

"Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the strange point. You will think me superstitious,--some superstition I have in my blood, and always had: nevertheless, this is true--true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.

"As I exclaimed 'Jane! Jane! Jane!' a voice--I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was--replied, 'I am coming: wait for me;' and a moment after, went whispering on the wind the words--'Where are you?'

"I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet it is difficult to express what I want to express. Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies unreverberating. 'Where are you?' seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the words. Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting. In spirit, I believe we must have met. You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your accents--as certain as I live--they were yours!"

Reader, it was on Monday night--near midnight--that I too had received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester's narrative, but made no disclosure in return. The coincidence struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.


In spite of the fact that Jane is making a Biblical allusion with the last sentence, she actually does NOT claim that the incident of extra-sensory perception was from God, but rather earlier in the novel, attributes it to Nature:
"Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate. "This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did--no miracle--but her best."
And strangely, I may even have Carl Sagan in my corner, for as he said in his book "The Demon Haunted World: Science is a Candle in the Dark", published in March 1997:
Perhaps one percent of the time, someone who has an idea that smells, feels, and looks indistinguishable from the usual run of pseudoscience will turn out to be right. Maybe some undiscovered reptile left over from the Cretaceous period will indeed be found in Loch Ness or the Congo Republic; or we will find artifacts of an advanced, non-human species elsewhere in the Solar System. At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study:
(1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect random number generators in computers;
(2) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation;
(3) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images "projected" at them.
I pick these claims not because I think they're likely to be valid (I don't), but as examples of contentions that might be true. The last three have at least some, although still dubious, experimental support. Of course, I could be wrong.
Kurt Vonnegut, in "Breakfast of Champions" suggests something along the same lines - even closer to what I experienced:
Like all Earthlings at the point of death, Mary Young sent faint reminders of herself to those who had known her. She released a small cloud of telepathic butterflies, and one of these brushed the cheek of Dwayne Hoover, nine miles away.

Dwayne heard a tired voice from somewhere behind his head, even though no one was back there. It said this to Dwayne: "Oh my oh my."
I was about 43 miles from Earl Rich on Sunday morning, September 7, 1997. I was reading, or just daydreaming, sitting on the sofa in my living room. Behind me was a window looking out on the neighbors yard across the street. The neighbors had kids and often they could be noisy. I suddenly became aware of someone calling "Nancy.... Nancy... good-bye." I thought it was odd that one of the kids across the street would be calling my name, but I actually turned to look out and see if any kids were looking in the direction of my house. They were playing, not paying the least attention to me. I sort of shrugged, and thought of "Breakfast of Champions" and idly speculated about messages from people on the edge of death.

I was fairly absorbed the rest of the day. I was going to first rehearsals of the first play of mine to be given a full production. My play NEW RULES was to be part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. But driving into Philadelphia from Pennsauken, I had this really odd sense of melancholy, and I couldn't figure out why. That night I had a dream that someone was trying to tell me something.

The next day, Monday, I was going to lunch with some co-workers. Just as we were about to enter the restaurant I remembered my dream. I almost mentioned the dream to my friend Rebecca, but then thought - "how silly - who wants to hear about a dream about someone trying to tell you something?" So I didn't say anything. An hour or so later, I received a phone call from my friend Lorraine, who still worked at the company Earl worked at, and where I used to work.

She said that Earl had died in a motorcycle crash on Sunday morning.

I went into the bathroom and dry heaved, then went home. Only days later did I remember the odd sensations I had had the day he died.

I wrote this email to him on February 7, 1997, when I was about to take a new job and end my time as Earl's coworker:
No matter what else I feel about PTS, I'll always be glad I took the job, because I met so many wonderful pepole, and of course the ineffable, amazing, incomparable Earl Nelson Rich III. I've never met anyone like you, nor I guess ever will - a guy who gets along with raunchy, party-hearty dudes, yet who reads Nabakov and Pushkin. A guy who watches sports so he can talk to his dad. A guy who has the savoir-faire and charm of a social butterfly, yet blushes and looks faint when he's in a room with many women... a guy who's very democratic and unpretentious, and yet who has impeccable taste in clothing and accoutraments. You're so good at bolstering an ego, and so pleasant to be near, and give such good advice about both literary and personal issues (even though I didn't always take your advice!) I'll always think of you as the smart, beautiful, supportive older brother I never had (No need to dwell on the occasional bothersome incestuous urges!) I know I idealize you to an extent, but it's difficult not to sometimes. Maybe if we had continued to share an office we would've ended up getting on each other's nerves and I would've stopped idealizing you long ago,but who knows? You are capable of getting along with anyone. I hope I will always know you, somehow, even if only through occasional e-mails. The thought of you reminds me that the universe is capable of serendipitous sweetness. And truly, with all temerarious, unconsummatable, and rapturous folly, I do love you.

Your penpal

Nancy

Monday, September 03, 2007

Midsummer Night's Dream @the Royal Botanical Garden












We saw The Pantaloon's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

They did some interesting things with umbrellas, as you can see in this clip - using them as both props and as a sort of wings to hide the actors, and also to assist with scene changes.

They also took liberties with the text, which I usually don't like, but I thought it worked fairly well here. They seemed to be aiming at an audience of children, clearly, by the little interlude they have between the rude mechanicals scene (Act II Scene 1) and the first appearance of Puck (Act II scene 2) where they demonstrate how to be a scary tree - and a scary shrub - and invite the audience to participate.

Outdoor park performances of Shakespeare really can't be too literal about the text because of the vexations of the great outdoors. Too often the audience can't hear half of what the actors are saying, and since many in the audience are not familiar with Shakespeare to begin with, but rather happened upon the show while strolling through the park with their kids, understand only half of what they CAN hear. If that.

So I generally liked this production, what I heard of it. At the end of this clip, I became very chilled due to the combination of light drizzle and wind and the fact that it was already about 68 degrees F. The rest of the audience seemed to be better-acclimated and hung in there.

One quibble though - if you're aiming at children, you do have to be a bit literal about the casting and characters. I don't think children follow the changes that the characters undergo, from being a rude mechanical one minute, to a fairy the next, if you're going to use the same actors wearing the same clothes. There's only so much you can do with umbrellas.

Below is the section of the play they are doing in the clip.

QUINCE
... In the meantime I
will draw a bill of properties, such as our play
wants. I pray you, fail me not.

BOTTOM
We will meet; and there we may rehearse most
obscenely and courageously. Take pains; be perfect: adieu.

QUINCE
At the duke's oak we meet.

BOTTOM
Enough; hold or cut bow-strings.

Exeunt


ACT II
SCENE I. A wood near Athens.

Enter, from opposite sides, a Fairy, and PUCK
PUCK
How now, spirit! whither wander you?

Fairy
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone:
Our queen and all our elves come here anon.

PUCK
The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;

Entire Midsummer Night's Dream here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Text Message Breakup

I am so behind the curve. I just heard about Liam Kyle Sullivan. This video doesn't really get going until minute 3:30 - and BONUS - Margaret Cho appears!

But now I can't stop thinking in my head: "shoes shoes shoes GAY"

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Although I've always been a booster of the Dramatists Guild, considering it good sense for playwrights to band together, I never thought I would end up working so closely with the Guild in its fight to protect authors' rights. But when a director registered an unauthorized derivative copyright based on my play, and then sued me when I produced the play, claiming I was infringing his "blocking and choreography script," I immediately turned to the Guild for help.

What happened was this: in October 2004 my partner Jonathan Flagg and I, through our company Mergatroyd Productions, produced my play TAM LIN off-off Broadway for the second year in a row. We hired Edward Einhorn to direct. Then we had differences with him and fired him. We planned to pay him for his services, but disagreed with him on the amount. He thought he deserved one thousand dollars, which he would have been due had he completed the project. We felt he deserved less.

I was actually in favor of paying him a thousand dollars just so he would go away and I would never have to have any dealings with him ever again, but Jonathan disagreed, because Einhorn hadn't finished the work. We had fired him in part because he had stopped working and, in the words of the judge, "basically sulked." After we fired him he emailed the cast and crew in an effort to sabotage our show. In the email he implied that we didn't intend to pay the actors and told them to demand their payment immediately. Fortunately the actors ignored him. And we did pay them exactly what we said we would, when we said we would. In fact, we've never had an issue with paying anybody, ever, except this one director.

read more

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blues Brothers

The first 20 seconds of this video make me so happy. That Dan Akroyd was a maniac.



It reminds me of what I was thinking, as I watched the Ladyboys of Bangkok do their show in Edinburgh. The program relied heavily on American music - except for a few Scottish folk tunes and The Proclaimers "I Will Walk 5,000 Miles." What I thought was, where would the world's pop culture be without African-American influences?

It isn't until you get out of the USA that you realize just how much we rely on Black culture here for our sense of style and cool.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stuart Pivar - classic crackpot

Amanda at Pandagon reports that P.Z. Meyers is being sued by classic crackpot Stuart Pivar, because Meyers harshly criticized Pivar. Based on the complaint, available from Majikthese what seems to bug Pivar the most is that Meyers called him a "classic crackpot." Crackpots really hate to be called crackpots.

The crackpot's complaint was filed in New York’s Southern District Court. I certainly hope that Judge Lewis Kaplan gets that case - he's not one to mince words, as I found out in the strange case of Edward Einhorn v Mergatroyd Productions

No doubt Edward Einhorn HOPES that this case will get some kind of traction, since he has accused me online of defaming him, by merely writing about Einhorn v. Mergatroyd, as well as claiming that I was trying to "villify him". Villians always hate it when you call them villians. And pretty much every member of the Dramatists Guild, not to mention plenty of non-theatre folk, considers what Einhorn did to be villanous, and an abuse of the US legal system. But people can make up their own minds by reading my account of the case, which politely includes the URL of Einhorn's own laughable argument in favor of a director's copyright. Last time I looked, he had not extended me the same courtesy.

Einhorn's case against us should have been thrown out of court, since the basis of his lawsuit was an unauthorized derivative copyright registration of his absurd "blocking and choreography" script on my play TAM LIN. I expect the US Copyright Office to issue an official cancellation of Einhorn's travesty any day now.

But as both Einhorn and Pivar demonstrate, far too many people believe that free speech, in the form of expressing an opinion about another person, is an actionable offense, if the object of the opinion doesn't like the expressed opinion. Clearly more needs to be done to teach people about the meaning of the First Amendment.

Surely this Pivar case will be laughed out of court, along with Bill O'Reilly's case against Al Franken also tried in the Southern District Court of NY.