Sunday, April 30, 2023

Interesting Problem that had a Vonnegut answer

I think it odd sometimes that author KurtVonnegut came up with an answer to a problem most people had not thought about yet. Look at this essay from the Surgeon General today in the NY Times:

The author is not the only person who thought of this. In 2001, the book below came out. Discuss the collapse of shared experiences in American communities. Ties that range from bowling to VFW halls to churches all were breaking down, leaving Americans lonely.


Well in 1976 Kurt Vonnegut predicted this problem in his book Slapstick. It was a poorly received book, like many of his novels were on initial release. But in case, I don't think the book was ever much of a hit. I like it because it brought the idea of human loneliness in a full world. 

Yea, totally creepy bookcover

In Slapstick, the protagonists solution - albeit only partially successful - was to give everyone in the United States an extra middle name. To quote from Wikipedia : 

The siblings created, among other things, a plan to end loneliness in America through vast extended families. Under the plan, all citizens would be provided with new middle names, made of the name of a random natural object paired with a random number between 1 and 20. Everyone with the same name would be cousins, and everyone with the same name and number would be siblings.

I thought it was an elegant and stupid solution to a newish problem growing in America. In retrospect, Vonnegut was, as he often was, ahead of his time.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

First Penguin MRI (really)

 


Let us look at the Supreme Court

 So, The Supreme Court (SCOUS) is the highest court in the United States. Like Judge Judy, "it's rulings are final".

But the reputation of SCOUS has hit the shitter. And rightfully so. Let us look at these dipshits from left to right and their votes to a) End Abortion (EA) and b) End Concealed Carry restrictions (CC). 

Preview: 

  • All 6 votes for outlawing Abortion and allowing conceal carry everywhere were appointed by Republicans
  • 4 of those 6 have serious ethics issues
  • Chief Justice refused to testify before Congress on the ethics issues : just because
  • All are appointed for life


Sonia Sotomayer

  • Appointed by Obama
  • EA - No
  • CC - No
  • Ethics Issues - None

Amy Conney Barret

  • Appointed by Trump
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - None

Clarence Thomas

  • Appointed by George Bush (2nd)
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - Oh My!
    • Wife supported Trump stealing election: Thomas was the only Justice to vote to put election on hold
    • Took millions in gifts from Harlan Crow included 1 private vacation on yacht and private plane worth $500,000 dollars : Voted on Harlan's interest
    • Harlan Crow purchased Thomas' mother's house, remodeled it and she lives in it rent free 
Neil Gorsuch
  • Appointed by Trump
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - Sold his Colorado Vacation home to Brian Duffy, chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, one of the nation’s biggest law firms with a robust practice before the high court.

Chief Justice John Roberts

  • Appointed by George Bush (2nd)
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - Wife made $ Millions recruiting for a law firm that has lawyers in front of the Supreme Court

Brett Kavanaugh

  • Appointed by Trump
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - Senate (Republicans) did not investigate questions of multiple sexual assault claims before voting him in.

Samual Alito

  • Appointed by George Bush (2nd)
  • EA: Yes
  • CC: Yes
  • Ethics Issues - None

Ketanji Brown Jackson

  • Appointed by Joe Biden
  • EA: No
  • CC: NO
  • Ethics Issues - None

Elena Kagan

  • Appointed by Barak ObamaGeorge Bush (2nd)
  • EA: No
  • CC: No
  • Ethics Issues - None

Friday, April 28, 2023

My review of the "God Of Carnage"

A long-awaited return of God of Carnage

God of Carnage is a play about the perils of modern relationships in an age of unique issues coupled with old problems. Although it is ostensibly about 2 sets of parents who are meeting due to their children’s fight, it dissolves into something more nuanced and a lot louder. Arguments and disagreements pop up between the married couples, between men and women, and between expectations of acceptable behavior.

The four leads are excellent: David Burtka, Carey Cox, Gabe Fazio and Christina Noll. Carey Cox in particular sneaks up on you with a performance that is seemingly nervous and mousey until she explodes later in the play. The women have the meatier roles here and they relish them, Christiana Noll in particular.

Gabe Fazio, Cary Cox, David Burtka and Christiana Noll
with subtitles projected on the back wall.

The story follows Alan and Annette (Burtka and Cox) as they visit with Michael and Veronica (Fazio and Noll). Alan and Annette’s son Benjamin struck Michael and Veronica’s son Henry with a stick. Benjamin broke two of Henry’s teeth and the parents are trying to resolve the situation in an inclusive manner. All 4 are yuppie parents with prestigious jobs, except Michael, who is a self-made wholesaler of kitchen goods. Veronica takes the lead in trying to resolve the issue of the boy’s fight, dominating the early going.

A solution appears easy, until Veronica insists that Benjamin apologize for hitting Henry. This goes well, until Veronica demands not just an apology, but a sincere apology from Benjamin. When Alan and Annette explain that Benjamin thinks he was justified by the actions of Henry. Alan agrees that there may be blame on both sides, much to Veronica’s annoyance.  Worse, her husband Michael seems to agree with Alan. 

As the situation continues, a shifting set of relationships dominate different moments. At times the men agree with each other as the women do the same. At times the couples agree within their marriages. And then it all changes again. The adults in God of Carnage act like children fighting between each other, complete with shifting allegiances and inexplicable outbursts.

There are problems with God Of Carnage that this production cannot fix. The play starts slowly, builds over time, and then just ends. Perhaps this is an analogy for the unfinished business of being human, but it still is unsatisfying.

The play is produced as part of The Breaking Trough Barriers theater group. TBTB is an off-Broadway theater company that is dedicated to advancing the work of professional artists with disabilities. One extremely affecting part of their presentation is the use of subtitles for the hearing impaired. These are projected on the back wall which is made up of uneven bright red rectangles. It is a great job, but it takes a little getting used to for people who are not hearing impaired. 

Written by Yasmina Reza and translated by Christopher Hampton, God Of Carnage is still fresh even though it premiered on Broadway 14 years ago. Director Nicholas Viselli has brought an excellent production team and actors back to for this play off-Broadway. It is a story that is universal, updated to be more accessible.


God of Carnage
PlaywrightYasmina Reza (translation Christopher Hampton) | DirectorNicholas Viselli | CastDavid Burtka, Cary Cox, Gabe Fazio, Christiane Noll
Website

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Hello Texas!

 Texas has brought us a lot of shitty ideas lately. And this week they have added one more. The new reason for reprimanding a teacher, she taught the students about their legal and constitutional rights. Really.  Her is the teacher and the reprimand.


It adds to the list of things Texas does not allow teachers to do:

  • Discuss sexuality until 8th grade
  • Fire anyone who does not dress "according to their biological gender"
  • Be transgender. If so to prosecute parents for child abuse.
  • Plan (so far passed by 1 of the legislative branches) that allows Chaplins with no education training to function as guidance counselors in schools. 

Hazzah

Interesting Info on Dog Breeds

 There are traditional ways to organize dog breeds. For example, in the United States they are organized into the following "groups": terrier, sporting, non-sporting, toy, working, hound and herding groups. Well a group of DNA specialist have examined the genetics of dogs. This leads to common versus specific genetic traits. They have found 10 groups of dogs that were genetically similar. And put them in the format below.

The farther from the center, the more genetically specialized they are. It is interesting. (Select to enlarge). Retrievers and Scent-hounds are the most specialize.



Tuesday, April 25, 2023

My review of Prima Facie: Jodie Comer will blow you away!

From Reviews off Broadway..

You can’t look away from Jodie Comer in Prima Facie

Prima Facie may be used as an adjective meaning "sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted." In the play Prima Facie that describes the way Lawyer Tessa wins or losses in law - and she nearly always wins. Jody Comer is Tessa in this one hander, and she is astounding in her Broadway debut.

Prima Facie works so well because Jodie Comer is a dynamo. She jumps enthusiastically. She moves tables and pull volumes off the shelves manically as she explains her profession and how much she loves it. She can disassemble the testimony of victims of sexual assault to get her clients off. And to Tessa this is not complicated. Her job is to defend clients and she is good at it. Great at it. She believes in the law and believes every defendant deserves an active defense. Tessa does sound a bit defensive about this, although she actively ignores the consequences.

Jodie Comer in Prima Facie

Tessa hails from Liverpool and has no desire to return. She has a disassociated relationship with her family and her hometown. She doesn’t want to belong to either. Tessa justifies her singleminded focus to become a lawyer and how she had to fight to be accepted. As a woman from a lower-class background, Tessa must struggle against stereotypes and richer classmates in order to succeed. And now that Tessa has succeeded, she savors it.

After a great success in the courtroom, followed by drinking at a local bar, she goes back to the chambers with another lawyer. He is a man from the same firm, and they proceed to flirt and then have great sex. They go out again a few nights later. After more than a few drinks, she invites him to the her house where they screw again - making love is not the right word for the relationship they have. The night of drinking and sex ends up where it often does for us mortals, head over the toilet, puking her guts out. Her date helps her through this and then carries her to bed. Where he proceeds to try to make love again, which Tessa objects to. But he forces himself on her. 

It is date rape clearly and she struggles with how to react. After weighing the effect of her next actions, she must choose between ignoring this or pressing charges against a man she willingly slept with, twice. Ultimately, she presses charges and the case goes to trial. Tessa naively believes in the integrity of the system and knows she will win the case, because the rape obviously happened.


But she doesn’t win. In fact, the very tactics she has used against accusers is used against her. And, although Tessa knows what is happening, she cannot help but to fall into the same traps she expounded on earlier. Tessa responds the turnabout with outrage. Anger at the system she has used for so long. And anger directed at the defense by using law and doubt to thwart justice.

Jodie Comer truly brings out Tessa’s disappointment and heartbreak in the role. Tessa the lawyer shrinks as she becomes Tessa the victim. To visually underline this change, the creative team uses lighting and the noise of a nervous heartbeat to effectively bring more than just her voice to the fore. Not just does Tessa’s demeanor change, her visage changes as time progresses. Her blond hair, free and full early moves to a wet brown pulled into a tight bun mimicking her journey into self-doubt and insecurity. It is fantastic.

Having sung her praises, I must say last few minutes of the Prima Facie drag. Tessa goes on a rant that essentially covers in words what happened to her on stage. It is an unnecessary coda to a near perfect show.

Prima Facie
PlaywrightSuzie Miller | DirectorJustin Martin | Set and Costume DesignMiriam Buether | CastJodie Comer

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Was out for a while... Catching up today

 My Review of Good Night, Oscar is up. Reprinted below.

Sean Hayes Amazes in Good Night, Oscar

Even those who have witnessed Sean Hayes on Broadway being hilarious (Act of God) and singing with Kristen Chenoweth (Promises, Promises) will be blown away by his performance in Good Night, Oscar. His performance as Oscar Levant is incredible, but it is a last scene performance as Oscar Levant at the piano that surprises and stuns in the best possible way.

Good Night, Oscar tells the story of one of Oscar’s performances on TV’s “Tonight starring Jack Paar.” Oscar Levant was a composer, pianist, actor and a regular guest on Jack Paar. He was admired by both New Yorkers and Jack Paar for his quick wit and cutting comments on this live program. Good Night, Oscar reprises one of the those TV shows.

Ben Rappaport & Sean Hayes ( PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN)


The story opens with Bob Sarnoff (Peter Grosz), head of NBC, discussing with Jack Paar (Ben Rappaport) this evening's performance. Jack Paar is in Los Angeles for sweeps week, and he made a deal with the network to feature anyone he wants. He wants Oscar Levant, who has been on before and is both a pianist and a wit. Ben Rappaport is great as the quietly subversive Paar.

As showtimes nears, with no Oscar in sight, the network President becomes more and moreangry. Jack Paar finally learns the truth from Oscar's wife June (Emily Bergl). She has had Oscar committed to a mental institution. But, June continues, Parr isn’t to worry as she has signed him out for 4 hours and he will arrive momentarily. Which he does not. Sarnoff gets even more anxious and Paar keeps the show holding for Oscar. There is a funny bit where Sarnoff wants to cancel Oscar and bring on Xavier Cugat, a severe disappoint that Jack Paar is desperate to avoid.

When Oscar does show up he is jumpy, nervous, and hesitant about appearing on TV. As he gets more angsty, he tries to get to the pills he craves from his medical watchdog. Oscar is a mess waiting for the show and Mr. Hayes brings out the biting side of Oscar's personality. Oscar is touchy, cranky, and unpleasant to be around. He is watched over by medical supervisor Alvin Finney (Marchánt Davis) who brings both compassion and annoyance in the role.
Emily Bergl & Sean Hayes ( PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN)



And then the Tonight show begins. Jack Paar brings out Oscar and on television he is witty and self-deprecating. This version of Oscar is extroverted and edgy. After the Paar – Levant interview is done, Paar and his wife beg Oscar to play the piano. This is what people expect, but a high Levant wants no part of it.

And yet, Oscar Levant does play. And he plays stunningly. Sean Hayes was trained as a classical pianist, and it shows. The rendition he plays is mastereful. Hayes brings down the house with his playing. It makes the audience want to hear more.

Sean Hayes is astonishing in this role. Oscar Levant was irascible, horrible, and self-centered as well as pithy, charming, and talented. Hayes brings all this together in a single evening, swerving between moods with ease.

Good Night, Oscar is brilliant. In addition to Sean Hayes, both Ben Rappaport and Emily Bergl transport us to that period with their emotions. Playwright Doug Wright and Director Lisa Peterson bring a seemingly innocuous moment into relevance and pathos. They are helped by a design, production, and costume team that works seamlessly. I loved it.

Good Night, Oscar
PlaywrightDoug Wright | DirectorLisa Peterson | CastSean Hayes, Emily Bergl, Marchant Davis, Ben Rappaport, Peter Grosz, Marchánt Davis

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Chimney

 We took a trip to The Chimneys last week-end with Jane. It was an old estate built during prohibition, by a family of liquor makers. It was cool, and the basement fixtures were still there and great. The rest of the interior has been taken over by a Jewish children's school and Synagog. Which sucks for the interior,  but did save the building.

The pool and bar areas.








The painted works still in the renovated bathroom / closet.




Painted on the opposite side of glass in the tub area.

A Wedgwood, yes Wedgwood China border that went all the way around her bathroom
(which was huge)

Close up of carved dragon

The outside of the house.

The original house to the left, "Children'sWing" on the right.

Some of the 28 different chimneys and styles.


And we're off.....

 


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Beautiful Roof Installation at The Met

 Every year New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) commissions an artist to create a unique and physical installation on the Roof. It normally stays from Spring to Fall.

This year the artist is Lauren Halsey, a Los Angeles artist from the Crenshaw District - once called South-Central or Watts and now called South LA. It is home to a vibrant Black community and in years past, the most crime ridden area of the city.

She has created a contemporary Afro / Egyptian temple. The heads are all Black and most are relations of Ms. Halsey. Along the walls are documented experiences or icons of the district she grew up in (you can see the Watts Towers, cars, logos from the neighborhood and more. It is stunning. I kind of can't wait to go see it.





I understand the need, I agree with the need.. but a kid's competition?

 New Zealand has some of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Areas shut off from competitors for so long that birds and other animals have adapted to unique environments. Like the Kiwi, a small bird that cannot fly but runs along the forest floor.

Well, escaped cats that are living in the wild find they are great predators and have no predators themselves. So they breed and live happily, destroying ecosystems and killing endangered animals. So New Zealand has a wild cat hunt with prizes. Sounds terrible, but other options are equally terrible. The other option would be to capture, sterilize and release cats. But a) catching feral cats is really hard and b) releasing them back into the wild does nothing to help save species now.

So, New Zealand sponsors a wild cat kill competition yearly. This year they added a children's category to raise money for a local school. Locals (and pet owners) were not amused.


I also love that the cat in the picture looks like a giant mutant puss-puss that will mess-you-up if you cross it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Need to remind myself: Stoic

 Not posting about being a stoic lets me sometimes forget my practice.

This week-end two acquaintances visited New York to see a few plays - including one they have a friend performing in. They posted pictures all around New York, and I was hurt they didn't even let us know they were coming. I though we were at least marginal friends. And I let it bug me for a while. For me, they have both hung with us, and one stayed with us when he was auditioning more than a few years ago and so I expected a call.

But looking at it after a bit in the terms of being a stoic, I realized my problems here were with me. I need to accept that they didn't feel the need to say hi. I let one stay with us with no expectations, so why does it bug me. Did I grow expectations in the years since. That is silly.

Not only is there is nothing I can do anything about, there is no need to I let it bug me really. Only my incorrect assumptions are annoyed by this. It really is not a big deal. How they do or don't feel about me should not effect how I feel about myself or try to further my goals. This only effects me if I let it. It is only a snub because I let MY assumptions get in my way. It doesn't matter and there is certainly no deeper meaning than they had a lot to do. In the same situation, I might have done the same thing.

So yeah, I can let it freak me out (and ask Ed, it did most of the last few days) or I can accept this as it is. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

"Deep Fakes" and AI generated images - They are going to screw us all

 I am normally all for new technology. Even the advance AI (artificial intelligence) doesn't freak me out. On the other hand, Deep Fake technology does. It allows images not just to be manipulated but created out of thin are. 

This ability can be is with AI being tasked to write news articles - as many newspaper do now. The Guardian has found that the AI can write articles which rely on information based on older sources can be checked and verified. What The Guardian has discovered when check those references is that they were (at least once) based on an article which the AI and inserted backwards on the timeline at a later date.

This is pretty damn bad. That means that verification of claims, cannot always be believed. Even if one wants to make sure the story is the truth, you cannot check those references even if they are there!

And AI pictures just make it worse. Here are some images from a NY Times article this week-end.


 answer

 And this only feeds conspiracies


Quite the Spring

 Jane is out for about 10 days, 2 week-ends with us, the week visiting Lynn. We took a walk-about in Central Park and it is lovely right now.





Friday, April 14, 2023

I probably would not have liked this car when it came out but now....

Cadillac is building a new showroom on the route i walk to take care of Juni. Well they have a classic in the window, and it is pretty. If I had seen an old broken down one 20 years ago, I would not have liked it.

Twenty years is a long time, and I love it now.


I particularly like the "Madonna Bullet Bra" front bumpers.

This is a worrisome image

 Eddie and I used to live up in Morningside Heights between condos. Wee both liked it, but we were renting and it was VERY EXPENSIVE. We were glad when our condo was ready.

But the style of the building was cool. Those same architects had another very similar building in our new neighborhood. We were walking by the other day and I saw this.


It still looks very cool, but does not seem to be holding up well. Here is a close up of the odd things.


Those concrete column joints have been re-concreted. That cannot be good. I assumed they wee not load bearing. It looks now like they are, and not all that sturdy.

hum......

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Finally! Implementation of a great idea!

 This idea has been around awhile. I think the payback is quick - although not quick enough for immediate action.

Covering the aqueducts will save a lot of water. Those canals go through some of the hottest and driest sections of the country. You can save water from evaporation as it will be shaded and cooler. AND it creates energy in an area that is not used at all!

Next, Interstate verges should be covered.



Sean Hayes was amazing

 I saw this show in previews last night. Too early to review, but I wanted to say WOW was Sean amazing. his acting and all, but he played (as Oscar Levant) Rhapsody in Blue. The entire audience clapped forever. I knew he played the piano, but I did not know he trained as a classical pianist. His acting was great, but this playing left everyone dumbstruck.



Wednesday, April 12, 2023

My new post on The Intersection of Geography and Economics

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A Statue of Verdi in New York

 There is a beautiful statue of the Italian composer Verdi in a small park outside one of the original underground subway stops. The picture below shows the statue in early spring, before the trees leaf.

I have wondered why it was there and the explanation is below the image...

Behind the Verdi Statue you can see a gorgeous old condo building.

The Verdi monument was unveiled on October 12, 1906, the 414th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. The day began with a march of Italian societies from Washington Square to the site at Broadway and West 72nd Street. Over 10,000 people attended the unveiling, attesting to the significance of the occasion in uniting Italian-Americans in celebration of their cultural and artistic heritage. The sculptures were unveiled by Barsotti’s grandchild who pulled a string that released a helium balloon, lifting the monument’s red, white and green shroud (the colors of the Italian flag). As it peeled away, a dozen doves - concealed in its folds - were released into the air, and flowers cascaded from the veil upon the participants.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Good God this is correct...

 .. and taking a toll on me.

And of course it isn't only Trump, but it is only fucked up Republican shit that is killing our morale and morals.


Like me, Tom Tomorrow is ex-hausted....

 

It used to be funny...

Then it was ironic...

Now it is just "the news".

Cherry Blossom Peeping (like leaf peeping, but cherry blossoms)

New York loves it's cherry blossoms. I get it, they are beautiful and make local think Spring is here and Summer is around the corner. They say it like that because Spring is only a few weeks before it gives way to heat and humidity. so they enjoy it.

New York produces cherry blossom maps for Central Park, the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which is the one we went to. They produce these maps because different types of cherry trees bloom at different times. and the blossoming ones were so cool.  

Images...









About sums it up