Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Secretaries: Celebratory and Subversive

After spending most of the week installing Velvet in his first apartment, I took a break from scrubbing and went to see The Secretaries in the New York Fringe Festival.

All the characters are played by women.
Elizabeth Whitney is the one lifting the chain saw. From Left to Right, Elizabeth Bell, Jamie Heinlein, Virginia Baeta and Karen Stanion. In real life, some of these hotties are total lesbians; some are not:
The Secretaries has drawn a healthy audience and has been recognized by The Fringe for Excellence in Ensemble - not just because it features hot women, who may or may not be lesbians, in slinky lingerie, with Chain Saws.

The concept starts with typical gender stereotypes, like basic male/female sexual harassment, and twists them. Susan the office manager fondles the girls at will and
demands xeroxes of their naked upper and lower bodies as regular performance reviews. Pushing Fashion Magazine wisdom to extremes, all the secretaries works hard to maintain trim figures by living on Slim-Fast shakes. Peaches, who will be fired if she wears above a size 12, is sent to the bathroom to vomit when Susan sees her eating solid food at lunch.

Although the women are policing each other, they recognize the patriarchal nature of their environment. To achieve a sense of balance the they take
generic fears that men have about women and create an absurd nightmare. Every month when The Secretaries are collectively PMS-ing, they drag a boyfriend out to the woods. Wearing outfits from Victoria's Secret, they torture him by forcing him to watch helplessly while they use his cellphone to charge pizza and liquor to his credit card. They each take a turn cutting him up with a chainsaw and covered in his blood, they dance wildly together around the campfire. They aren't killing men because they are man-haters, however, or because of a Feminist Agenda. These girls just want to have fun. As Queen Bee Susan explains to New Girl Patty, "We don't kill them because they're bad. We kill them because we're bad."

I love this show. It's fast paced, sexy, funny and smart - just like all my favorite people. And since the run has been extended, I have an opportunity to work on the production for the September shows.

I'm not sure where this activity will lead since I went to Cowgirl Hall of Fame with the gang after the performance on Sunday, got drunk and told a story about my college boyfriend's wife that qualified as Lesbian Erotica. Most likely, that's the influence of my dear friend Kathleen, who is the one who got me involved with Off-Off Broadway in the first place. She started a Drunken! Careening! Writers! Chrismas tradition of featuring the annual edition of Best Lesbian Erotica every December at KGB Bar. Her partner - who used to be a nun and is now a member of a lesbian motorcycle club called The Sirens - got me to be a marshal for the Gay Pride parade one year. As it happens, The Sirens lead the Parade, and somehow I wound up carrying their banner at the very front of the Gay Pride Parade as it turned onto Christopher Street - home of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 - one gloriously sunny day in June.

The Secretaries captures the same celebratory and subversive spirit.

All for under $20 for four Encore performances in The New York Fringe Festival (TICKETS)
on Twitter @TheSecretaries
on Facebook
The Five Lesbian Brothers' "The Secretaries" TOSOS/NYFringe

Monday, August 23, 2010

Zombieland USA

The hysteria surrounding the Park 51 Community Center reminded me of a video Bruce M. Hood posted a couple of year ago.

I've been wondering if the prevalence of Zombies in popular culture today is a reflection of Americans feeling surrounded by brainless servants of an evil Voodoo Priest. There are countless video games about Zombies, several Zombie movies come out every year, and The Zombie Survival Guide, written by Mel Brook's son, has sold over a million copies and has spun off merchandise. Velvet read it on the plane.

In my mind, only someone totally brain dead would believe that Park 51 is more likely to be a potential hotbed of terrorist activity than the actual mosque where the congregation has been meeting since about the time the World Trade Center was built. Or my house for that matter. Or yours. Extending this phenomenon to Zombies, Newt Gingrich or Bill O'Reilly, for example, would be the Evil Voodoo Priest, and the people who believe him would be his army of Zombie followers who, in one of life's little ironies, believe Muslims are as great of threat as the zombies in the George W video.

Certainly, the people who lost loved ones back on September 11 carry grief today that is as strong as ever. While I respect that grief and hope that I never experience anything remotely similar, I don't see how that respect translates into Real Estate, especially in a free market where people's feelings are totally fucking irrelevant. According to Teabagger and AquaBuddah Rand Paul, the government has no business interfering with anybody. Ergo: Anything that's okay for BP is okay for Park 51.

The people who are opposed to Park 51 should boycott the community center just like folks have been boycotting BP ever since their rig cracked open the ocean floor. If they feel compelled to protest, they can get a permit just like Code Pink got a permit when they demonstrated, half naked, outside BP's Houston Headquarters to Expose the Greed (Houston Chronicle, 5.14.2010).
If BP is seriously considering drilling again in the Gulf, with the blessing of Fox News and Sarah Palin, despite the passionate feelings of thousands who grieve for the Gulf - then some Trade Center Widow's feelings have no bearing on the Park 51 project. And let's not forget that BP facilitated the release of a Lockerbie Bomber (The Sunday Times, August 30, 2009). Grief from 911 does not trump grief from Lockerbie. Further, if we as a nation really respected the individuals who suffered as a result of 9-11, then the House would have approved the Zadroga Bill and provided additional health care for WTC First Responders.

The World Wide Bullshit swirling around this Community Center - and it's a community center just like a YMCA or JCC - can only be explained as political mileage for people like Newt Gingrich. Looking at Newt's marital relations, we see that he has the Sensitivity and Need To Feed as a Zombie. Newt is one of the primary leaders of a Zombie Army. Fox personalities do not count as leaders since they are handed scripts from their bosses - one of whom has ties to the Bin Ladens, according to Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The voice of reason in this clip is provided by NRA spokesman Charleton Heston. Jon Stewart reminds us that back in 1999, many people were passionately opposed to the NRA's decision to hold a convention in Denver shortly after the Columbine killings because it was insensitive to local grief. Blaming all Muslims for 911 is like blaming all gun owners for the Columbine killings.

The only logical explanation for this swirling shitstorm is that America has been taken over by Zombies. The prevalence of Contemporary American Nonthinkers suggests that Zombies are not simply a horror show fiction. They have taken over the suburbs, for sure.

Some merry pranksters in Austin, Texas hacked into a traffic sign in January, 2009. At the time, I thought it was a charming joke. Now, I'm not so sure. Thirty years earlier, also in Austin, Texas, a band called Terminal Mind sang a song called Zombieland. Killed by Death records has the mp3.


It was before Youtube was invented. Practically before MTV was invented - and the lyrics are startlingly appropriate today:

Are you walking talking without knowing what you're saying?
Are you making music but you don't know what you're playing?
You were going nowhere cause there's nowhere left to go
You didn't have a choice, you wouldn't even KNOW

Zombieland USA
Zombieland America
Such a wonderful place
Living in negative space

Wandering in circles you're on automatic pilot
You have got a program but you don't know where to file it
If you're into business then you've got to lock a head (?)
If you earn a living, you could wind up dead

It's more fun when you listen, all the way through the instrumental (and I use the term loosely since this was 1978 and Punk Rock Texas style) when the cops start saying:

This is the last warning you will receive
There is no escape . . .

Zombieland USA

Thursday, August 19, 2010


For years, the minute the skyline appears in the window of the airplane, I've started hearing the song New York, New York in my head.

I didn't take this picture, I found it on the internet - but you can see Buzz Kill's building on the edge of the park. Menopausal Stoners World Headquarters is just outside of the photo.

The same thing happened on the plane this time, except in my head, nobody was singing, "I'll make a brand new start of it, in Old New York." I want to get the hell back to Austin. I've been feeling this way for a while, but when Velvet and I were in Austin last weekend, I knew for sure it was finally time to come home.

On Friday night, my friend Miss Jeannie and her husband Jim Bob (his name is really, truly Jim Bob and he plays guitar around Austin) took Buster and me out to Threadgill's to see a local musician named Bob Schneider who was playing in the beer garden.

Austin Chronicle photo. Threadgill's is an Austin landmark. Janis Joplin played at the original location. We were there at night and saw shooting stars from the meteor shower.

Bob Schneider is lovely and talented, but if you ask me, he's kind of an asshole. I base my opinion on the way he hung out in the yard after the show and was clearly delighted by some skinny cougar-mom who was pimping out her nubile daughter. Maybe they were a team - what do I know? It's just that when Velvet was getting Bob to autograph the CD recorded live that very night at Threadgill's, Bob was a dismissive dick. Whatever. He clearly has a solid local fan base and put on a good show. In fact, as a result of a little vignette at this very show, I knew that no matter whatever happened in this life, Velvet was going to be just fine.

They say, "Dance as if no one is watching."

I hadn't seen Velvet dance since he was a little kid, like before we called him Mandark even. At the time, we observed that the child took his party with him wherever he went. Last Friday night at Threadgill's, it was easy to see why his brothers at Hookah House call him Tiny Dancer. He was fully aware of the people around him, so that even though he moved with abandon, he didn't kick anybody - although he did stir up the dust in the yard a few times. Plenty of people were dancing, but only Velvet and this girl down front in a black mini skirt were dancing up a storm. They were each into their own groove too much to notice each other - and besides, she may very well have been a lesbian. Somebody once told me that there were more lesbians per capita in Austin than in San Francisco - and looking at the crowd, I could easily believe it. Plenty of women were openly couples, which made me feel much more comfortable about moving home. I've been afraid that Austin might have been overrun with those damn Bible Thumpers. Now, my fears on that score have been put to rest.

So lots of these apparent lesbians were dancing together in the crowd. Me and my buddy Miss Jeannie were sitting comfortably on the side, drinking cold Shiners and enjoying the show. Part of that show included Velvet's dancing. Occasionally, even Buster had to take a break. He's picked up a resting technique from studying rave culture. I didn't know there were raves in Syracuse last year, but Velvet seems to have studied them thoroughly. Apparently, when you stand with both hands in the air, connected at the thumbs and fore fingers so that it looks kind of like a triangle, you're saying "You Fucking Rock" to the band. To me, it looked more like Velvet was trying to signal Space Aliens, but I'm not familiar with the gesture. From where I sat, it looked like nobody at Threadgill's was familiar with it either since Velvet was the only one doing it. Not that Velvet noticed.

Velvet also didn't notice the young douchebag who snuck up behind him and started mimicking his wild dancing. This douchebag wasn't much older than Velvet. He stood a few feet behind Velvet, acting like a clown and trying to get the girls who were all around Velvet to join him in laughing at Velvet.

As it happened, the women started dancing with Velvet. And when Velvet raised his arms to signal the aliens, the women all did that too. Velvet was surrounded by a cluster of protecting females of all varieties. Old ones, young ones, hot ones in cut-offs and cowboy boots - and the douchebag slunk off in disgrace.

I was proud. Nobody even knew his mom was watching from the sidelines, although later on me and Velvet danced together a few times. I realized that I still jump up and down exactly like when I did the pogo years ago as a New Wavy kid in Austin. It's just that now, I'm only good for about ten minutes especially when it's over 90 degrees. Watching Velvet dance was like seeing the Austin, Texas of Myth and Legend alive today, jamming under neon signs and star light. That was enough, in and of itself, to make my heart sing - but seeing him protected by a circle of appreciative women, I knew in my heart that my work with that child was done. He would be safe no matter where he went in this life, and I could come home.

It's hard to say exactly when Buzz Kill and I will put this apartment on the market. May be the spring, but could be Thanksgiving for all I know. Things have been very smooth with Buzz Kill lately, which makes me suspect he's fixing to pull the financial rug out from under my feet. I may be legally guaranteed alimony until next August, but that doesn't mean he'll cheerfully pay it - and without that money, I can't afford this place for more than a month or two. I suspect he likes having that power because any time I've asked that work be done to get the apartment ready to sell, Buzz Kill has said that his chiropractor has forbidden that sort of activity. Notably, Buzz Kill recently completed a mini-triathlon in under four hours. We'll see what happens this weekend when he's over here sorting through stuff in Velvet's room. It's one thing for Buzz Kill to recycle a bunch of paperbacks Velvet read in middle school, it's quite another for Buzz Kill to get his own boxes of memorabilia out of the closet where I've been storing them for him for four years. I'm pretty sure we're both ready to let go of the marital connection, however, and let this apartment be somebody else's home.

Velvet's ready too. He wasn't ready to let go of his childhood home last year when he went off the college, but ever since we went to see the judge at the beginning of August, Velvet's been calling Syracuse home. And I've realized that I don't need to make a home for him anymore. He'll be making his own home from now on. I'll be creating a sanctuary: a place where he can come to relax, knowing he'll be understood, protected and well-fed, for as long as he wants. As long as he keeps the living room clean. It'll be my damn house, after all. Maybe I'll get a little plaque for the wall:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two Workers for the Price of One

The other night while everybody else was at the Astros game, my mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table, drinking wine and talking about teabaggers. As a resident of a border state, Mother is more informed about immigration issues than me. She thinks we ought to be financing a revolution in Mexico instead of patrolling the border particularly since The Catholic Church and The Twenty Three Families have been running Mexico for generations. I had never heard of the Twenty Three Families, but I am familiar with The Catholics. I brought up Anchor Babies, and she made me watch this video.

It's about Legal immigration as a result of Congress changing the laws back in 1965. Although this fellow mostly talks about infrastructure, to me the chart shows precisely how Corporate Interests have fucked with the work force so they can get two or three workers for the price of one.

His point: Don't get mad at Immigrants; get mad at Congress. Although the video itself is long-ish, he proves his point in a couple of minutes.

I still say that the Teabaggers represent the last dying angry breath of the American Middle Class, and that Propaganda in the Main Stream Media stirs up racial shit about Mexicans and Muslims so Whitey doesn't notice the class war. Nevertheless, this guy's chart presents compelling statistical evidence that Congress sold us out to Business yet again. Since the law went into effect back in the sixties, it's as irrelevant to the general American public as anything else that happened before Star Wars - and I mean the movie, not Ronald Reagan's great defense scheme.

Like everything else, looking at this information leads to other issues - such as what we could finance easily if we weren't spending mountains of money on War, and what we might do as a society if we weren't dedicated to being ignorant consumers of crap, or how it could be possible that so many Americans are so completely fucking stupid that Sarah Palin could actually become the president of this country.

They say we get the elected officials we deserve. I'm not sure Sarah Palin wants to be president because it would be a pay cut for her, but she likes publicity, and her husband could always get a job. He could run an organization like Liberty Central, the teabagging policy group started by Clarence Thomas' wife.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maude's Umbrella

This video is making the rounds on Facebook

By the time Life is Worth Losing aired in 2005, the ideas George expressed on the American Dream were old news to many folks. We got the picture by looking at Watergate and Ronald Reagan, and by watching a nation dismiss everything Jimmy Carter had to say about fossil fuels and conservation. Of course we already knew this stuff -- we had been paying attention to George Carlin since he was the Hippy Dippy Weatherman.

In fact, as a likely result of George Carlin's influence on my world view, I recognized the ringing truth in Jonathan Kozol's book, The Night is Dark and I am far from Home, when it was required reading in my Educational Theory class at Webster University. That's where I got my first Masters in Education. I may sound like a ditzy stoner, but I can string some letters behind my name when I feel like it. Kozol can provide all the statistics to support any point about education George Carlin ever made. The Owners certainly don't want workers who think - they want workers who can close out the register, not people who can put two and two together. If people could put two and two together, The Owners would have big problems. That's what Chris Hedges was saying in Why the Feds Fear Thinkers like Howard Zinn (Truthdig, Aug 1, 2010).

I don't dispute or disagree with a word of any of it. There's no arguing with Reality. The trouble comes with accepting a completely unacceptable Reality. We can fight, of course, but in the end, fighting never gets anyone anywhere. Look at Iraq, Pakistan, Vietnam, Israel, Afghanistan, Nagasaki and Dresden. Besides - I'd have to talk to Teabaggers if I were really going to get involved in a fight. I don't even like to run across that conservative bullshit on Twitter when somebody spreads #tcot news. That shit harshes my mellow, and the only thing I can control in this life is the Mellow in my Living Room.

Once you've accepted an Unacceptable Reality, despair seems inescapable. I had a friend who used George's term The Owners all the time. Smart man, but he went to sleep at night with a pitbull in his bed and a loaded gun in the nightstand. We were only telephone friends, but when he was sober, he contributed a lot to a conversation. He accepted this Reality, and as a result, experienced almost nothing from life except Crushing Despair. At least, that's how it looked to me. Sometimes I was afraid I'd be the last person he talked to one night before he blew out his brains.

The other day, Mr. Charleston brought up Net Neutrality over at Termites of Sin. He suggested calling our congressional representatives. Some folks in the comments disparaged that idea because - rightly - they said calling those bastards was a waste of fucking time. I said my bit about Silence = Death, but those comments got me thinking about despair again and how The Owners count on us all being so tired and beaten down that we roll over without giving them any trouble.

As it happened, I had just watched Harold and Maude with Buster, and Cat Steven's song, "If You Want to Sing Out," was stuck in my head. So was Maude's umbrella.

When Harold visits Maude's home, he notices an old umbrella up on a bookcase, and he asks her about it. She tells him she carried it to political demonstrations in case she needed to defend herself. This passage is generally best remembered:
Harold: What were you fighting for?
Maude: Oh, big issues. Liberty. Rights. Justice. Kings died, kingdoms fell. I don't regret the kingdoms - what sense in borders and nations and patriotism? But I miss the kings.

The real message of the umbrella scene comes at the end, however, when Harold asks Maude, "So you don't use the umbrella any more? No more revolts?" Maude says:
Oh, yes! Every day.
But I don't need a defense anymore. I embrace!
Still fighting for the Big Issues but now in my small, individual way. Shall we have a song?

In the end, all any of us can do about that inescapable, unacceptable reality is fight for the big issues in our small, individual ways. Like Ghandi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. Some of us sign petitions, or take the time to check a box on our electric bills to providers who use renewable sources like wind and water. Or pick up the phone and call an elected official - even though s/he's a fucking worthless douchebag lobbyist's whore. Some people even run for Congress - like this woman I met at the farmer's market on Friday named Joyce. She's running in the Democratic primary for Charlie Rangel's seat. I think we can all agree it's time for Charlie to retire given he has become so lackadaisical that he became a Post Headline.

I love Charlie, but when somebody who has been in DC long enough to know better shows up under that headline with that photo -- he's been in DC too dang long. I liked Joyce. Maybe she won't win, but she's out there confronting the big issues in her own individual way. Sometimes, that means staying in your pajamas all day and taking the time to reflect and breathe. Or maybe it means making fun of Mitch McConnell when he's yammering on the Senate floor.

It's like the song Maude teaches Harold:

if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
'Cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are (Cat Stevens 1971).

When Sarah Palin and her Christian friends are raising hell about a Mosque downtown at Ground Zero, they would do well to remember that more Muslims are like Cat Stevens than Osama bin Laden. They'd do well to remember that George W and Osama's fathers were pretty friendly. If you believe George Carlin, and I do, that's ain't never gonna happen - but it won't stop me from singing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Smoking and Thinking

Random High Thoughts:

1. Ever since the week of Shirley and the Teabaggers, The NAACP and Fox News, I've been thinking about Crackers in terms of American Demographics. Teabaggers may be giving Crackers everywhere a bad name. I wonder if there is regional variation among crackers and if Crackers are more eastern south than western south. More agrarian, perhaps, than an oil field focused on drilling the resources from the earth. Or if a linguistic marker can identify Crackers. For example, what did the family call Brazil Nuts? If the Tea Party were Black, what nouns would identify White People? Dave Chappelle would know. So would the Wayans. I consider them authorities on Race in America. Chris Hedges, too. Alternate Brain linked to Hedge's article Why the Feds Fear Thinkers like Howard Zinn. Probably just "Whitey" though.

1A. I don't think I'm a Cracker. I think I'm Dip or Salsa. It may be the female equivalent. Is a Rich Cracker a Biscuit? Or is a Biscuit a Fat Cracker?
1B. I wonder if I'm Cracker on my mother's side. She's a mix of Abolitionist and Bootlegger from North Carolina.
1C. Willy Jeff Clinton may very well be a Cracker.

2. I'm wondering about gender identification now that gay marriage has penetrated traditional ideas of sexuality and marriage in the mainstream. What about gender and sexual self identification. What happens in American Society if you self identify as Bisexual on Match dot com? Funny - Willy Jeff Clinton makes me think of sex. I wonder why that "is."

3. The mainstream is weird. Educationally, this is our first public education experience now that Buster is in college. Recreationally, too, I think. Buster's summers have been spent in an Organic, Granola-fied setting with the Quakers in Vermont. I suspect that highschool kids going co-ed skinny dipping in the lake on an Organic farm in the Green Mountains isn't Mainstream. It's fun, though, and that's what Buster's been doing except for the summer on a 30 day hike in the Wind River Wilderness. Notably, I haven't been on vacation unless you count visiting my family. But when we were a family, we went to Kathmandu and skimmed over the Himalayas to a place in Nepal called Royal Chitwan Preserve. We looked for tigers on elephant back in the grassland.

4. Hurricane Katrina exposed some dramatic socioeconomic inequities. When I think of race in America, I think of how people with money evacuated a few days before the storm. Others were left to drown. My brother took a picture of a dog eating a dead body. He was in a helicopter over New Orleans right after the storm hit, and he stayed up there with another photographer for days and days and days. He was the first photographer that moved a picture of a dead body over the wire. He got a standing ovation from his peers for that. To me, that was more meaningful than the Pulitzer, although it's nice he got one.

Now, he's been on the Deepwater story for weeks and weeks. I wonder what he has to say about dispersants.

Net Neutrality and The Sex Pistols

Net Neutrality reminds me that the Bell System used to have a monopoly on telephone service. Maybe I'm suspicious since my father used to work for Southwestern Bell ("We May Be the Only Phone Company in Town but we Try Not to Act Like It"), but I have a feeling these bastards are trying to make up some lost ground now that half the world relies on cell phones. The Bell System was slow to recognize that trend even after divestiture. My father told the fat cats at SWB about cell phones back around 1980 after he went to a Futurist's convention in Montreaux. The fat cats wouldn't believe people might give up their land lines.

Many companies besides Verizon are looking to make some dough by stacking the deck. The issue doesn't seem so complicated when Jon Stewart explains it:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Net Neutrality Act
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

My mother thinks that the Berlin wall came down not because of anything economic, exactly - it was the invention of the fax machine which enabled people on both sides of the wall to see that their governments were full of shit. That wall was a real, solid, concrete wall - but if Ronald Reagan can take credit for bringing it down, then Reaganomics and Republicans can take credit for erecting a gigantic invisible wall dividing the wealthy from the Rest of Us in this country. It may not come down in our lifetimes, but free access to information - especially the alternate media - prevents us from remaining isolated and ignorant. Without freedom of access to information, we could all turn into the kind of Teabaggers who think a few days on some cheesy resort like Atlantis in the Bahamas gives them expanded insight into foreign policy.

That reminds me of a song . . .

A Cheap holiday in other peoples misery!
I don't wanna holiday in the sun
I wanna go to new Belsen
I wanna see some history
'Cause now I got a reasonable economy

Now I got a reason, now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting
Now I got a reason
Now I got reason to be waiting
The Berlin Wall