Archive for April, 2019

NEWS – George Jetson, Working Class Hero

04/10/2019

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George Jetson was able to support a wife, two children, a dog with a speech impediment and robot maid, all from working two hours a week pushing a button.

That’s what we thought the future was going to look like in 1962. Over at Hanna Barbera, they understood that automation was going to lead to efficiency and the benefit of efficiency was to liberate us from the obligations of labor. If it wasn’t going to allow us to have more fun, well then, what was the point?

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In 1970, the book Future Shock imagined the profession of Leisure Counselor to advise those perplexed on how to spend all that recreational time they were going to have in the modern world.

That was the dream of modernity, wasn’t it? A superior technology that would result in ease and prosperity through all levels of society? The elimination of certain types of work was anticipated. Industrial advancements had been causing changes in work for two hundred years but it had always resulted in new-fangled, less physical, more productive, more lucrative work that filled the gap. We’d seen that before.

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So how come it didn’t turn out that way? Why hasn’t greater efficiency and it’s resulting greater productivity translated into fewer work hours? What used to take two hours now takes one hour – why isn’t the laborer the beneficiary of that hour? If what once required two people now requires one person, then either there needs to be a new form of work to employ the spare dude or the two dudes can split the workload and work half as much, right? {And it was always dudes. The labor market was far less congested since working women were far more rare both because of cultural limitations we seem to have evolved beyond but also because George’s wage was sufficient to allow Jane to spend the day shopping. Today most households require two working adults to maintain.]

We work as many hours as we ever did and for many workers displaced by technology, there are no new jobs to fill that space. Increased productivity goes to increased operating profitability but profits aren’t allocated to labor. Profits go to shareholders.

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One cause that occurs to me – in 1962, the top marginal rate for federal income taxes was 91%. Maybe you worked a little less hard turning ten million dollars into twenty million dollars if you’re only going to keep 9% of it. Maybe you’re a little more willing to share revenues with your labor force under that condition.

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I’m really not an economics maven and I’m a little outside my comfort zone here. The decline of unionism plays a part. Investors demand (and receive) a higher return on investment than was the case 50 years ago. Trust laws go unenforced. Labor has been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed to the lowest value it can exist on. The low dollar value attributed to sweat is something I will never understand (Ditto the overvalue attributed to white collar labor, particularly finance).

There’s a cultural dimension too. We work. We work as though we were meant to, as though our purpose is only realized in the products of our labor, the sprockets we make, the deals we close, the wages we take home. Who questions the appropriateness of two working parents being necessary to keep the household going? Who believes that their moving up the ladder will mean working fewer hours? How many bargain for more leisure time instead of more money?

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I did. That is, I retired young. Sometimes I’m kind of bashful about it. It feels a little dishonorable. “I choose to be unproductive. I choose to avoid labor. I choose to dedicate my time to the my pleasure and the pleasure of those I love.” What a lazy dog, eh? What a misguided soul whose days offer no material enrichment.

Don’t worry about me, i’m comfortable, tanx god, but I’d be comfortabler if I had kept the office going (Though my hospital time may have motivated client-flight and killed the practice. I dunno).

download-5Back in ’62, though, I was promised this, along with videophones and moving sidewalks and ever longer cigarettes and ever bigger cars, along with cities on the moon  and hover-bikes and equality for negroes, along with universal analysis, the Playboy Club and miracle cures for everything. We were promised the time to enjoy it.

 

NEWS – Apres Isabelle…

04/08/2019

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Isabelle Huppert is sitting on stage as the audience enters on an impossibly wide white leather sofa, filling the span of the stage like a Tex Avery limo pulling up to the nightclub. Her face is powdered white, not quite mime, not quite noh but ashen, dusty. Her lips are deep red. She’d be vampiric if she didn’t seem so juicy with flesh and blood.

She looks up from the book she’s reading from time to time, bored, shutting her eyes but she also looks at us, locks eyes with audience members in the fully lit room, with an expression of distaste, contempt. She is absolutely beautiful.

Here is the set-up for Mother – An empty nest couple grown apart and antagonistic. He is probably having an affair. They have a son and daughter but it’s the boy who consumes Mother’s thoughts. His absence obsesses her, his neglect, his interest in another woman – it echoes in her,  so deep, so resonant, so reactive.

There are precisely three scenes – Father comes home, the Son comes to stay overnight and they are all up in the morning when the Girlfriend comes to reconcile with the Son – but each are played over and over again, each one a variant on the version before it. It’s like rotating a crystal to view it’s facets.

Any one iteration may be a dream. Maybe they all are. Maybe it’s all Mother’s hallucination.

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Mother is lively. Huppert is lively. Very lively. It’s a very big performance and it, over and over, punched open a spot in my head, moved right in and maintains it’s occupancy still. Tough, vulnerable, frightening and often very sexy. She wears a slip and black stockings better than any 65 year old has a right too. She’s edible and oedipal.

The rest of the cast, which includes Mr. Big, Chris Noth, react as if to say, “Well, what the hell am i supposed to do with that?” which must be performance by now but i’m betting was their intial take as craftsmen. “How do I answer that?” Odessa Young was particularly well cast as the Girl.

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Try to catch it before the run ends this week. Far more iconic than Glenda in Lear, you’re never gonig to see another performance like it. Strong recommendation. The show lasts 90 minutes and the CL never twitched.

 

 

NOT NEWS – To All My Fans In China

04/08/2019

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Did you have a chance to look at the Zeeeko cartoons that Alex did? The Gordon Ramsay one? On Youtube, that got more than 3,000,000 hits in one week.  My posting of it got 25.

That’s the way it is, starting up the blog again. A couple of years ago, after I had been doing it dependably for a while, I could count on 50 or 60 reads and, on occasion, a post would get a couple of hundred hits. Last week, well, let’s say the Zeeeko post was my most popular.

On the other hand, four views last week came from France, two from Finland, one from Germany and one from China. Amazing, right? How does that happen? What are they googling that brings them here?

An expatriate in Hong Kong checking Glenda Jackson’s reviews or maybe a Manchurian teen with a love for animation who hacked past the Chinese firewall to become part of an international community of toon lovers? Do the Finns all take antidepressant medications resulting in trembling legs? Perhaps that explains Finland toppipng the list of the worlds happiest countries? They’re all doped up!

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/happiest-countries-in-the-world-2019-united-nations

Notwithstanding their rep, I’ve always found the French open and friendly.  I think somewhere I heard that they’re very fond of American Jews there. Maybe that’s what brings them here (I may be misremembering that). [This is my wisdom on the French and Jews: In France, they don’t like Jews but they are completely accepting of any individual Jew;  In the USA, everyone claims to be unprejudiced towards the Jews but they’d just as soon not have to encounter or deal with or vote for one.]

Whoever you all are (and I recognize that most readers are my friends and family), I thank you.  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters – I wouldn’t do it if you weren’t there. I’m very grateful.

The Jonathan Demme film Handle with Care, begins and ends with the voice of Candy Clark (whose persona, Electra, trolls the CB radio waves every spare moment, it being 1977) whispering in the dark, anonymously, to a trucker known only by his handle,  “There are a lot of voices out there, but yours is different.”

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NEWS – Glenda Declaims

04/03/2019

31glenda-vid-promo-videoSixteenByNine1050-v3The kingdom of Lear he decreeded

To his daughters the land should be deeded

Except for the youngest

The only among us

Who withheld the stroking he needed.

 

Glenda Jackson gave a classic performance last night, a vivid oration worthy of the Booths or the Barrymores. She cared not about being natural or pedestrian. No “R” went unrolled, no arm went unlifted, no “howl” went unhowled. It was stagey, it was retro, it was a chance for Ms. Jackson to play the part the way she undoubtedly saw it done by the giants of the prosceniums of her youth. Compared to her frighteningly realistic performance in “Three Tall Women” last year, she went a different way.

So how can you complain? She worked like a beast and deserved her standing O but was it one of the great Lears? It was not. Her first act worked well enough. The rejection of Cordelia was controlled and deadly. Her storm scene was properly blazing though the production gave it short shrift by playing it in front of the curtain which robbed it of the wild caged-animal movement it’s often performed with so effectively. The second act suffered from her slightness, her inability to show the strength that made her every bit a king and forget about carrying poor dead Cordelia around.

The rest of the cast was in a different play, one that was broad and conversational and, sadly, played for laughs at unfortunate moments. It was lazy. It had no point of view.  The set was a faux marble box. The sword fights were single gunshots. Gloucester, played by a woman, was pretty good. Edmund, who, I’m told, died a harrowing death on Game of Thrones, was the most ham-handed player. The woman (I’m sorry – I don’t have my Playbill here) who played Cordelia and the Fool dared a little more, thought a little more and had her moments.

As a whole, though, the production was a mess and yet, and yet…. A three and a half hour run time, a two hour first act – how did the Cognescenting Leg do? Pretty good, I’d say.  Not a twitch until Poor Tom’s appearance in  Act 3, Scene 4, more than an hour and a half in, and nothing after the intermission which means – it’s Lear. It’s always gripping. And it’s Glenda! She’s a miracle, a marvel, doing it, obviously, exactly as she chose to do it. Whatever age she is, she still has a huge appetite for the scenery.

NEWS – Zeeeko Rools!

04/02/2019

My stepson Alex animates and he’s crazy good, if, perhaps, a tad on the grotesque side so I’m just going to put some links here. Enjoy.

 

 

NEWS – She’s Got a Tic to Ride or The Trouble With Trembles

04/01/2019

20190401_083503_2Life was good for the happy natives of the tropical island of New Greenpert who ordered their lives around the predictions, written on paper, found within the eggs of the Oogle Boid until, one day, the boid disappeared. In need of a new prognosticator, the islanders dispatched a raiding party to Frostbite Falls, Minnesota and there kidnapped the oracle of the weather-forecasting-bunion which resided on the hoof of one Bullwinkle J. Moose.

20190401_083537_2Bullwinkle was a mighty moose, bestowed with a hallux valgus of extraordinary talent and yet it is my strong belief that is a mere footnote in the annals of sentient protoplasm when compared to my Cognoscenting Leg.

Dramaturge, maestro, connoisseur of the temporal arts – when a performance starts to flag, when it’s narrative goes astray, when the orchestra’s sensitivity wanders or the drummer becomes somnolent, when the entertainment ceases to entertain, when the depth of the moment is less than dermal, the Cognoscenting Leg responds.

d1b5n41-79ca1f13-11e7-423f-8ea1-4d57b87ce28fAs every modern filmgoer knows, with great power comes an origin story and so it is with the CL.

Many a time I will be walking, chatting with some acquaintance and she, the acquaintance, will ask, “Do you hear a maraca?” and I will be compelled to explain that the rhythmic rattle noted is the sonic expression of my morning psychomedications in motion.

As the pharmacology of mood elevation and mental constriction has advanced, the purpose of each drug has become increasingly specific and obscure. For instance, a take a black and yellow capsule daily to buoy my self-esteem on those occasions when my dining partner has ordered something more delicious looking than the plate in front of me. I take a little blue pill that restrains me from buying music files that I can listen to as easily on a streaming service. I take a large white tablet to avoid obsessing over the antiquity of the leading Democratic presidential aspirants.

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One med I take is Duloxetine, marketed as, among other names, Cymbalta. Here’s what Webmd.com has to say about it:

“Uses

Duloxetine is used to treat depression and anxiety. In addition, duloxetine is used to help relieve nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy) in people with diabetes or ongoing pain due to medical conditions such as arthritis, chronic back pain, or fibromyalgia (a condition that causes widespread pain).

Duloxetine may improve your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy level, and decrease nervousness. It can also decrease pain due to certain medical conditions. Duloxetine is known as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This medication works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances (serotonin and norepinephrine) in the brain.”

 

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Wow! I didn’t know half of that. I’m diabetic! Can you believe it? What a drug! What a boon to mankind. Because of some confusion, I went without for six weeks or so but, Duloxetine, you know I can’t quit you. Life just lacked a certain pizzazz without you. The world was less bright, my step less springy.

Duloxetine, though, is a cruel, cruel mistress. She demands her price. What of value comes without a price?

“This medication may increase serotonin and rarely cause a very serious condition called serotonin syndrome/toxicity. The risk increases if you are also taking other drugs that increase serotonin, so tell your doctor or pharmacist of all the drugs you take (see Drug Interactionssection). Get medical help right away if you develop some of the following symptoms: fast heartbeat, hallucinations, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, severe nausea/vomiting/diarrheatwitching muscles, unexplained fever, unusual agitation/restlessness.”

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Gevalt! That’s one very attractive medicant. Imagine the blind date. “He seemed like a nice guy but he tripped walking to the table, he twitched and the red wine he was holding splashed all over me, he gave our order to an invisible waiter and then he puked on my cacio e pepi and yet he maintained a very positive mood throughout.”

Apparently I dodged a bullet. I got away with the sole affliction of a spastic leg and that manifests only on particular occasions.

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Join me for an imaginary performance New York Philharmonic. We’re in seats N23 and N25, close to the doors for quick access to the liquor, the ladies and the exit. The program this evening will be Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”. The first movement is a tricky Adagio, with two different themes played serially and then in counterpoint as a sonata with three key changes, all to engaging effect. The second movement begins, an Andante in G minor.

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You’re out, you know? A night out, the tickets paid for, you’re in the middle of the goddam audience and you’re thinking to yourself, “It’s fine, a little slow but pretty enough. I love live music.” Well, the Cognescenting Leg is having none of that.

It begins as a kind of tickle under your thigh, a hypersensitivity localized at a mere spot initially, a delicate spot that begins to grow inside your leg along the length of your leg (The symphony is reduced to a minor annoyance in the back of your head. All your focus is on your knee and there aint no medication nowhere that will reduce the anxiety you are experiencing, anticipating and unable to prevent what is about to begin).

The elastic, electric rod in your thigh jumps. Your shin rises. Your ankle twists involuntarily. It lasts a very durable second and the electricity surging through your neurons is discharged for a moment but you can feel that sensitivity still, that little ball of energy which is not quite so little now, that little ball that will grow to a band shocked as if exposed to live wires, larger this time so your ankle doesn’t just jerk to the right but it jerks back to the left also.

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Do you know what happens when I have to endure an endless kasekai that keeps you at the counter for hours? Nothing. Do you know what happens when I attend a three hour show at City Winery? Nothing. You know what happens in the second act of a costume drama concerning a king who falls in love with a castrato? Twitch, twitch, twitch, twitch, twitch.

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Mexican nanny? Twitch. Einstein on the beach? Twitch. A former serial killer tells the story of a bee sting, a boy with a dog that died, and his experience with a woman? Twitch. A group of alcoholics waiting for a visit by a man named Hickey? No twitch. A couple of guys waiting for Godot? No twitch.

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The Cognescenting Leg is discerning. It’s judgments are subtle. It will brook no meek acceptance of the mediocre. It will not let you justify an inferior piece of work. It will not let you go along in hopes the piece will improve. It cares not for the wattage of the star, the eminence of the creator, the huzzahs of the crowd. The Cognescenting Leg is never full of shit. There are no rationalizations.

I am cursed with no alternative to the truth.

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