Wednesday Reads: Mistletoe this!


Mistletoe this!

Christmastime sucks….if you don’t agree? Then you can just, “Mistletoe my ass!”



Well, it is the Eve of Christmas Eve…and I cannot bear to write about the shit that is going on lately (other horrible stuff too)…so I am going to focus on more lighter sources of entertainment today.

They won’t be necessarily “light” reading, believe me…some require more thought waves than my brain can produce at this point in time, but I am sure you all will do just fine.

First I want to start with a link shared by Suzie Madrak: 80 books no woman should read

Suzie says….


I really like this article. As a female writer, I am still thoroughly flabbergasted at the notion that there is “manly” writing (i.e. “worthy” writing) and the lesser “womens” writing. I think there is good writing, and bad writing, and I’m not always reluctant to read the bad stuff if it has zing.


And it has always been a personal rule of mine to never, ever date a man who speaks highly of Charles Bukowski. (Because, you know, he’s so manly, goddamn it.)

Rebecca Stolnit:

There are good and great books on the Esquire list, though even Moby-Dick, which I love, reminds me that a book without women is often said to be about humanity but a book with women in the foreground is a woman’s book.

And that list would have you learn about women from James M. Cain and Philip Roth, who just aren’t the experts you should go to, not when the great oeuvres of Doris Lessing and Louise Erdrich and Elena Ferrante exist. I look over at my hero shelf and see Philip Levine, Rainer Maria Rilke, Virginia Woolf, Shunryu Suzuki, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, Subcomandante Marcos, Eduardo Galeano, Li Young Lee, Gary Snyder, James Baldwin, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez.

These books are, if they are instructions at all, instructions in extending our identities out into the world, human and nonhuman, in imagination as a great act of empathy that lifts you out of yourself, not locks you down into your gender.

I love Doris Lessing. The Golden Notebook is one of my favorites. But…I also must say, Hemingway (which is on the list by the way) is very dear to me, both my kids are named after The Sun Also Rises…Jake and Brett. And there is something very important about that work in many ways, as a feeling…yes like that paragraph states…it lifted me out of myself.

Anyway. Susie is talking about this article here, 80 Books No Woman Should Read | Literary Hub. In this post author Rebecca Solnit references an article from Esquire that I mentioned years back called, 80 Best Books of All Time – The Greatest Books Ever Written. Back then I was more likely excited about A Confederacy of Dunces being on the list! (Y’all know that is my all time favorite book.) Here is what Solnit says about the list:


A few years ago, Esquire put together a list that keeps rising from the dead like a zombie to haunt the Internet. It embodies the whole mission of that magazine so far as I can tell. The magazine’s monthly instructions are not aimed at me, so I know the magazine mostly by the taglines and tarted-up ladies on on its cover. But I did just read Esquire’s list of “The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read” when it popped up on my Facebook feed. The list is a reminder that the magazine is for men, and that if many young people now disavow the “binaries” of gender, they are revolting against much more established people building up gender like an Iron Curtain across humanity. Of course, “women’s magazines” like Cosmopolitan have provided decades of equally troubling instructions on how to be a woman. Maybe it says a lot about the fragility of gender that instructions on being the two main ones have been issued monthly for so long.

Should men read different books than women? In this list they shouldn’t even read booksby women, except for one by Flannery O’Connor among 79 books by men. The author annotates A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories with a quote: “She would of been a good woman… if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Shoot her. Which goes nicely with the comment for John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: “Because it’s all about the titty.” In other words, books are instructions, you read them to be a man, and that’s why men need their own list. And what is a man? The comment on Jack London’s Call of the Wild tells us “A book about dogs is equally a book about men.” Bitches be crazy men, I guess.



I will say that the one thing that stays with me about Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, is that Rose of Sharon delivers a dead baby, more than likely due to the poverty and poor conditions she has suffered through…only to keep a starving old man from dying, by helping him to suckle at her breast at the end of the book…call it what you want, it is a vivid image for me. She has given birth to what was throughout the book…seen as both hope and dread, the baby…she lost one life, but is able to give some hope of what remains to someone in need…ah whatever.

Solnit goes on to say:

Scanning the list, which is full of all the manliest books ever, lots of war books, only one book by an out gay man, I was reminded that though it’s hard to be a woman it’s harder in many ways to be a man, that gender that’s supposed to be incessantly defended and demonstrated through acts of manliness. I looked at that list and all unbidden the thought arose, no wonder there are so many mass murders. Which are the extreme expression of being a man when the job is framed this way, though happily many men have more graceful, empathic ways of being in the world.

The list made me think there should be another, with some of the same books, called 80 Books No Woman Should Read, though of course I believe everyone should read anything they want. I just think some books are instructions on why women are dirt or hardly exist at all except as accessories or are inherently evil and empty. Or they’re instructions in the version of masculinity that means being unkind and unaware, that set of values that expands out into violence at home, in war, and by economic means. Let me prove that I’m not a misandrist by starting with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, because any book Paul Ryan loves that much bears some responsibility for the misery he’s dying to create.

She goes on…

Speaking of instructions on women as nonpersons, when I first read On the Road (which isn’t on this list, though The Dharma Bums is), I realized that the book assumed you identified with the protagonist who is so convinced he’s sensitive and deep even as he leaves the young Latina farmworker he got involved with to whatever trouble he’s created. It assumes that you do not identify with the woman herself, who is not on the road and not treated very much like anything other than a discardable depository. Of course I identified with her, as I did with Lolita (and Lolita, that masterpiece of Humbert Humbert’s failure of empathy, is on the Esquire list with a coy description). I forgave Kerouac eventually, just as I forgave Jim Harrison his lecherousness on the page, because they have redeeming qualities. And there’s a wholesome midwesterness about his lechery, unlike Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller’s.

Of course all three are on the Esquire list. As Dayna Tortorici said, “I will never forget reading Bukowski’s Post Office and feeling so horrible, the way that the narrator describes the thickness of ugly women’s legs. I think it was the first time I felt like a book that I was trying to identify with rejected me. Though I did absorb it, and of course it made me hate my body or whatever.” Writer Emily Gould described Bellow, Roth, Updike, Mailer as the “midcentury misogynists” a few years back, and it’s a handy term for those four guys on the Esquire list.

Ernest Hemingway is also in my no-read zone, because if you get the model for your art from Gertrude Stein you shouldn’t be a homophobic antisemitic misognynist, and because shooting large animals should never be equated with masculinity. The gun-penis-death thing is so sad as well as ugly. And because the terse, repressed prose style is, in his hands, mannered and pretentious and sentimental. Manly sentimental is the worst kind of sentimental, because it’s deluded about itself in a way that, say, honestly emotional Dickens never was.

More on Hemingway and others at the link, please go and read the rest of the post there.


As I said above, Hemingway is special to me for The Sun Also Rises. I can agree with her on some of the points above…but there is something so simple and beautiful in the words…

“Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Okay, moving on.

While on the subject of books and Dunces…Cooking for ‘Dunces’ –

In his rave for John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” in the Book Review in 1980, Alan Friedman said the comic romp “generates the city of New Orleans in hot, sharp, solid, ethnic detail.” Much of that detail had to do with food. In the recently published “ ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ Cookbook,” Cynthia LeJeune Nobles writes that its scenes “unfold through clouds of doughnut sugar, rivers of Dixie 45 beer, tangles of spaghetti and mounds of empty erster (oyster) shells.”

The endless appetite of the Falstaffian protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly inspires dozens of recipes here, from Miss Trixie’s Orange-and-Bourbon-Glazed Ham to the Bourbon Street Messy Dog, which involves French bread and chicken gravy. The book’s index is a culinary exploration in itself. A sampling of its entries: “alligator hunting,” “bacon grease,” “hog jowls,” “Wonder Bread.”

Nobles’s book is also a tour of the novel’s locales and a history of its food references. Paradise Vendors, for instance, which operates a fleet of hot-dog carts in the book, is based on Lucky Dogs, a French Quarter fixture that has moved more than 20 million hot dogs since 1947, according to Nobles. The cookbook is careful to point out discrepancies between the reputable Lucky Dogs and Toole’s inventive flights. In the novel, Ignatius asks the man who hires him to name the elements of the hot dogs. “Rubber, cereal, tripe. Who knows?” comes the answer. Ignatius replies, while chewing on his first of four: “They’re curiously appealing.”

I haven’t read that book this year, strange since Iggy is something I turn to often…I must remedy that.

Oh and speaking of New Orleans: Racists And History Nerds Join Forces To Save New Orleans Confederate Treasures | Wonkette



Many more Bookish links for you:

What Do Jane Austen’s Novels Have to Tell Us About Love and Life Today? –

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes discuss what Austen’s work says now, 200 years after “Emma” was published.

By Adam Kirsch

“Emma” is a comedy — a story in which the world finally gives everyone what he or she deserves.

By Anna Holmes

I’m not convinced that modern methods of human interaction are any better than the epistolary intrigues of the early 19th century.

Give that link a click…hopefully you will be able to read the two thoughts on the matter.

Let us take a look at another work written years back, this poem from Rudyard Kipling: Iffy by Austin Allen

Behind the mask of Rudyard Kipling’s confidence.

It’s easy to imagine “If—” as a great modernist title. Terse, mysterious, hesitant, it could have introduced a Williams fragment full of precarious gaps and leaps, or anAuden riff on the As You Like It line about evasive speech: “Much virtue in If.” Instead the title belongs to Rudyard Kipling, to the year 1910, and to a didactic poem that remains a classic of righteous certitude.

If you can keep your head when all about you
     Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
     And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Meanwhile, Kipling himself remains an icon of obnoxious wrongness. George Orwell’s 1942 disclaimer has been widely quoted: “It is no use pretending that Kipling’s view of life, as a whole, can be accepted or even forgiven by any civilized person.” Imperialist racist, aggressive militarist: Kipling was this and more, and very publicly. Even in his least controversial work, the outlook Orwell called “morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting” bleeds in at the margins. Read “If—” beside Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden,” and the line “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it” starts to smell like colonialist arrogance—or “jingoistic nonsense,” as one British paper put it in 1995, after Britain had voted “If—” its all-time favorite poem.

And therein lies the reason for issuing disclaimers at all: Kipling has lasted. For decades, Orwell wrote, “every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there.” In his 1939 elegy for W.B. Yeats, Auden judged that time had “Pardoned Kipling” by separating his writing talent from his bigotry. Auden dropped that stanza from later versions of the poem, but global culture has never dropped Kipling.

Check that article out…interesting.

I know that Sylvia Plath is one of Mona’s favorites…This article is focused on the Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes…a poet that has a prolific life’s work behind him…Getting Over Sylvia Plath – The Atlantic



And the last bookish link today: She Played Hard with Happiness by Colm Tóibín | The New York Review of Books

This seem like one hell of a collection of short stories.

The Complete Stories

by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson, edited and with an introduction by Benjamin Moser
New Directions, 645 pp., $28.95
Clarice Lispector

Clarice Lispector; drawing by Pancho

In Chapter Six of his novel Murphy, Samuel Beckett considered what he called “Murphy’s mind”:

Murphy’s mind pictured itself as a large hollow sphere, hermetically closed to the universe without. This was not an impoverishment, for it excluded nothing that it did not itself contain. Nothing ever had been, was or would be in the universe outside it but was already present as virtual, or actual, or virtual rising into actual, or actual falling into virtual, in the universe inside it.

In Beckett’s fiction, there is a sense that the spirit of his characters is elsewhere, hidden from their bodies. They may know how to think, but the notion that this leads them therefore to exist is a sour joke. The word “therefore” in the Cartesian equation has been somehow mislaid. Their bodies, in all their frailty and levels of discomfort, tell his characters that they are alive. This knowledge is made more comic and tragic and indeed banal by the darting quality of the minds of many of Beckett’s characters, by the amount of nonsense going on in their heads. They are like hens pecking at memory and experience.

Hens are dear to the strange, bitter heart of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Their general helplessness combined with their persistence, their constant pecking and mindless squawking, seemed to animate something in her spirit. During her childhood in the north of Brazil, according to her biographer Benjamin Moser, “she spent hours with the chickens and hens in the yard.” “I understand a hen, perfectly,” she told an interviewer. “I mean, the intimate life of a hen. I know how it is.” One of her finest stories is “A Chicken,” three pages long, which tells of a bird trapped in a kitchen waiting to be sacrificed for Sunday lunch who decides to make a brief, defiant flight, only to be chased by the man of the house. “From rooftop to rooftop they covered more than a block. Ill-adapted to a wilder struggle for life, the chicken had to decide for herself which way to go, without any help from her race.”

The day is saved, or at least the chicken is, when she lays an egg and it is decided not to cook her, but instead to include her in the household. Thus

whenever everyone in the house was quiet and seemed to have forgotten her, she would fill up with a little courage, vestiges of the great escape—and roam around the tiled patio, her body following her head, pausing as if in a field, though her little head gave her away: vibratory and bobbing rapidly, the ancient fright of her species long since turned mechanical.

Lispector, however, has no interest in allowing this triumph to be more than brief. In a brisk and sudden final sentence, she does away with her brave bird: “Until one day they killed her, ate her and years went by.”

Read the rest of the review at the link.

More links, but now on film.

Fro Kimberly Truhler via:   GlamAmor-ous Holidays–Orry-Kelly Style in 1942’s THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER | GlamAmor

1942’s The Man Who Came to Dinner has slowly become one of the classics I watch every year around the holidays.  Though it’s not necessarily a Christmas movie per se, it definitely has many of the elements that make for holiday fun, such as ice-skating on a frozen pond and placing presents around a beautifully decorated tree.  Like other Hollywood productions such as The Philadelphia Story (1940), the film’s origins can be traced back to Broadway–a 1939 play written by the brilliant Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman–and in real people who were central to the worlds of both theater and film.
The lead character of Sheridan Whiteside was based on none other than Alexander Woollcott–famed drama critic, essayist, playwright, and member of the Algonquin Round Table.  Though notoriously difficult, he was great friends with Moss Hart.  Woollcott would occasionally drop by quite unexpectedly and once, in the span of just one day, he completely turned Hart’s house upside down–taking over his master bedroom, ordering his staff around, and making a general nuisance of himself. When he finally left, Hart found himself relieved that he had not chosen to stay even longer.  He mentioned the theatricality of this possibility to his writing partner Kaufman and boom…a play was born.
The play was a great success from the very beginning and had nearly 800 performances before its run was done.  One of its audience was the great Bette Davis, who so loved it that she urged Jack Warner to buy the screen rights for herself and John Barrymore.  Screen tests were ordered and Bette was perfect as Maggie Cutler, Whiteside’s efficient and ever-patient assistant.  The subtle part was actually a welcome departure for the actress and her usual dramatic roles.  But Barrymore struggled in his tests as Sheridan Whiteside; even with cue cards, the rapid-fire dialogue was too much for the actor whose health was in decline as the result of years of drinking.  Once he was dismissed, other actors were considered–everyone from Orson Welles to Cary Grant.  Producers finally chose Monty Woolley, the actor who had originated the part on Broadway (cast while he was still a professor at Yale).  He was so brilliant in the role that he seemed to be forever typecast as that same sharp-tongued sophisticate.  Though Bette was unhappy because she “never got over [her] disappointment in not working with the great John Barrymore,” both the film and Woolley as Whiteside were an immense success.
In addition to Sheridan Whiteside, the play and film are filled with even more characters who were inspired by real people.  Alexander Woollcott was lifelong friends with Harpo Marx, so that is who inspired the character of Banjo (played in the movie by Jimmy Durante).  Noel Coward, another in their inner circle of artists and friends, was the basis for the character of Beverly Carlton (played by Reginald Gardiner).  It seems only appropriate then that Lorraine Sheldon (deliciously and devilishly played in the film by Ann Sheridan) should be inspired by stage great Gertrude Lawrence, a dramatic actress who had a long and very close, though tempestuous, personal and professional relationship with Noel Coward.
With these intellects as inspiration, it should come as no surprise that the dialogue throughout the film is fast and furious, and there are many cultural references that make this fiction seem more like fact, especially for audiences at the time.  Phone calls come for Sheridan from Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Presents around the tree come from his friends and colleagues that include Deanna Durbin, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Somerset Maugham.  Beverly tells Sheridan a story of one of Banjo’s parties where he saw Hollywood queens Norma Shearer and Claudette Colbert.  Banjo, a professed lover of blondes, brings up Lana Turner.  Lorraine drops the names of Cary Grant and (then wife) heiress Barbara Hutton, who were allegedly at one of the parties she attended in Palm Beach.  Other names that are bandied about include Ginger Rogers, Sonja Henie, Zasu Pitts, fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (who had only recently abdicated the throne of England). Even Ann Sheridan’s own popular nickname “the Oomph Girl” is woven into the dialogue in reference to her character Lorraine.
One of the things that most fascinates me about The Man Who Came to Dinner, though, is that the film was put out by Warner Brothers at the top of the same year that the studio released one of the greatest of all time–Casablanca.  In fact, many of the team who were responsible for Casablanca were also involved in this production, including Oscar-winning screenwriters Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein as well as producer Jerry Wald (who also produced other iconic film noir such as Mildred Pierce (1945)).  And yet another member of the Casablanca team who worked on The Man Who Came to Dinner was costume designer Orry-Kelly.


Go read and see the rest at the link…

The 10 Best Female Performances of 2015 | Women and Hollywood

11 Stately Facts About ‘Barry Lyndon’ | Mental Floss

From the TCM blog: – Ghost Stories For Christmas

There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas — something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails.” – Jerome K. Jerome, Told After Supper (1891)

25 Holiday Film Facts | Mental Floss


Only 3 Women Composers Among 112 Original Scores in 2016 | Women and Hollywood

Final curtain coming down on giant Hollywood junkyard | Tampa Bay Times

It’s not just a junkyard — or even a really big junkyard — but a living, breathing monument to Los Angeles pop culture. And now it’s headed for the dustbin of history itself.

For 54 years, Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, in a moonscaped, godforsaken-looking section of the San Fernando Valley, has collected far more than thousands of burned-out, smashed-up, rusted automobiles on its sprawling dirt and asphalt lot.

It’s also taken in just about every type of movie and TV prop imaginable while serving as the site of more than 200 Hollywood film shoots.

The last surviving “Bruce” the shark, made from the mold for the 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws, resides there, swimming ominously near an entrance. With its huge mouth agape, it appears ready to devour anyone foolish enough to try to sneak off the lot with, say, a pilfered power train from a ’32 Ford.

Nearby is the giant boom box Usher danced on for the 1997 video My Way. It’s actually a 53-foot-long big-rig trailer painted to look like the ’80s-era music machine. But viewed from a nearby freeway, it appears eerily authentic.

Now everything must go, says Nathan Adlen, owner of this hybrid junkyard-Hollywood back lot that’s been in his family since 1961, when this part of the valley was mainly a warren of sand-and-gravel quarries and garbage dumps.

By New Year’s Eve, he promises, it will be 26 acres of bare land surrounded largely by warehouses and car-repair places as he contemplates what to do next with the property.

More on the story and video at the link.

Next up, it is not film but TV: 5 Ways Abortions on TV Don’t Reflect Reality — The Cut

Television is, of course, fake, but it can provide an opportunity to consider controversial topics like abortion in a comfortable, fictional setting. Yet, as researchers with the University of California, San Francisco, group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health found, abortion on TV is often unlike abortion in real life — and the mismatch could affect how people perceive women who terminate pregnancies.

For a study published in the journal Contraception, researchers looked at depictions of abortion on all U.S. television shows (including networks, premium channels, and streaming services) from 2005 to 2014 and identified 78 plotlines where characters considered abortion, including 40 where a woman had one. They found that women on TV who had abortions were younger, whiter, wealthier, and less likely to already have children than the average American woman who ends a pregnancy.

“All these factors work together to build an interesting social myth, which is that women who get abortions aren’t mothers and they don’t want to be mothers,” study co-author Gretchen Sisson told NPR. More often, these women are already parents who can’t afford or care for another child.

Go to the link to see the five ways discussed…starting with age.



Now another show on TV that made news this past week, Miss Universe. I’m not going into the bullshit, but rather the costumes, from the viewpoint of two queens who blog about fashion:

Miss Universe 2015, Part 1: Angels, Birds, and Flowers! | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

Miss Universe 2015, Part 2: Good Girls and Supervillains! | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

Miss Universe 2015, Part 3: Showgirls and Bigass Skirts! | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

Miss Universe 2015, Part 4: Freak-Flag Flying Fun Gals! | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

Now, you must click through all four to truly enjoy the fun, but I had to share this one with ya:

Miss Hungary


“Because Hungary believes women are a puzzle with a crotch!”


In connection with this beauty pageant:

‘People think we don’t love life’: Iraq holds first beauty pageant since 1972 | World news | The Guardian

First national beauty contest in four decades hailed by participants and organisers as a victory for hope in the war-torn country

Have y’all heard this song from Lady Gaga?

Lady Gaga Fights Back Tears During Emotional Speech

Lady Gaga was honored as Woman of the Year during Billboard’s Women in Music event on Dec. 11, and on Friday we finally got to see the emotional moment go down during the broadcast on Lifetime.

The singer first sat at a piano to perform her new single, “Til It Happens To You,” before accepting the award from her mother, Cynthia Germanotta.

“I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of anything more than being a performer. I don’t really know why …” said Gaga before getting choked up.

“I’m a very emotional person,” she said with a laugh. “I never thought anything like this would’ve ever happened to me or my family.”

Gaga went on to deliver a powerful speech on her personal journey and called out sexism in the music industry, saying it’s like a “f***ing boys club” before laughing, “Sorry, Grandma.”

Gaga also thanked her supporters and even her haters for giving her the motivation to prove them wrong.


vintage everyday: 7 Interesting Facts about Santa Claus

Yeah, the link for Christmas…

3. Satire first sent Santa down a chimney

In his satiric 1809 book A History of New York, Washington Irving did away with the characterization of Santa Claus as a “lanky bishop,” says Whipps. Instead, Irving described Santa as a portly, bearded man who smokes a pipe. Irving’s story also marked the first time Santa slid down the chimney.

Funny huh?

Other links for you today…

Did People Ice Skate in the Middle Ages? –

Sea Snakes Thought Extinct Found Swimming In Australian Waters : SCIENCE : Tech Times

4,500-Year-Old “Rattles” Found in Infant’s Burial – Archaeology Magazine

New York’s pregnant inmates will no longer be shackled – NY Daily News

TV faith healer: Women have miscarriages because they don’t obey God’s law about being too emotional

Tennessee woman pleads not guilty to murder charge for abortion attempt

News from AP via Jezebel

A new poll has found that support for abortion rights has increased among both Democrats and Republicans in the last year. Fully 58 percent of Americans now think abortion should be legal “in most or all cases,” an Associated Press-GfK survey found, up from 51 percent at the beginning of the year.

Saturday Morning Fun Open Thread: Florida Man Goes Gay for Festivus

From Mark Joseph Stern, at Slate:

This holiday season, as many as eight state capitols will be graced with a rainbow-festooned Festivus pole—a 6.5-foot-tall display crowned by a glittering disco ball. The pole was designed by Chaz Stevens, head of The Humanity Fund, a scrappy advocacy group that champions separation of church and state, free speech, and constitutional equality. Stevens hopes to place his display in Republican-dominated states—Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Michigan—as a protest against what he views as their support for laws respecting an establishment of religion

I spoke with Stevens on Thursday about his campaign to put gay pride Festivus poles in state capitols across the country.

Where did the Festivus pole idea originate?

In 2013, I got a tip saying, did you know there’s a manger up in Tallahassee in the capitol? So I write to Tallahassee, saying I want to put up a Festivus pole, thinking there’s no way in hell they’ll say yes. Three days later, they say yes. Up goes the pole. [Note: Stevens’ precedent paved the way for the Satanic Temple to put up its own capitol display, an angel falling into hellfire, in 2014.] Because of the timing—it’s Festivus, it’s a novelty, it’s Florida, there’s nobody getting killed, we’re not in a war—it goes viral.

Why did you choose a gay pride theme this year?

I am a privileged white heterosexual male in America, a lifelong ally of the gay community—some of my best friends are very homosexual, very out and proud, I love them to death—and we all cheered when the Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the rights of same-sex couples to marry came through. We thought,Finally! It’s about goddamn time!

Right around the corner, Kim Davis and her crazy people in Kentucky say, we’re not gonna give marriage licenses. That just drove me nuts. The very day that happened, I said to myself, those little fuckers! I am going to troll the living shit out of them. I’m going to wrap my pole in gay pride and put a disco ball on the top and stick it in the bowels of the Florida rotunda.

But you’re targeting more than just Florida, right?

Myself and my civil rights lawyer decided: Why not go on the road? I thought, we can take our trolling to an elite level. Let’s go to Arkansas. That’s where Huckabee is. Let’s wag this thing in front of Huckabee’s face and see if we can get him to react. Let’s go to Texas and wave this in front of Ted Cruz. New Jersey, Christie. Florida—well, I had those knuckleheads covered. I said, let’s go troll the living shit out of them.

More at the link.
Apart from applauding cheerful snark (look, a multi-colored pole with a disco ball is tame, compared to some other displays this year)

We will end the post with pictures….

vintage everyday: 20 Color Photos Show Girls of Chicago in Swimsuits in the 1940s

vintage everyday: Beautiful Vintage Photos of Black Ladies in Bathsuits

…and a ballet:

Ballet Dancers Shred Their Way Through Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Queen’s slow burn of an anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody.” To honor the epic number, English National Ballet’s lead principal Erina Takahashi and first soloist James Forbat performed an epic duet that truly captures what it feels like to be just a poor boy from a poor family.

With poise and drama, Takahashi and Forbat leap, twirl and bend their way through the six-minute rock opera, yielding a performance that would put even Wayne and Garth to shame. It’s so legit, Queen’s official channel even uploaded the video to YouTube. Check it out above. Try not to head bang so much you miss the good parts.



That’s all folks, have fun getting ready for tomorrow!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Valentine’s Day Blizzard Edition

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015.

Computer simulation of the wind field associated with the New England storm on Feb. 15, 2015 (image from Earth Simulator at

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

To anyone who aren’t jaded by past relationship experiences, I wish you a wonderful, romantic day. For the rest of us, it’s Saturday, and that’s nice too. For millions of people in the upper Midwest and New England, it’s just one more blizzard. Ho-Hum {yawn}.

Michigan was in the eye of the storm last night, and later today it will hit the Boston area. Once again, the storm is going to be at its worst along the coast, including in the Greater Boston area. From NBC News: Northeast Braced for Blizzard as Another Winter Storm Looms.

Fifty million Americans were braced for another punishing winter blast Saturday – even as the Northeast was digging out from three major storms in as many weeks.

Twenty-six states were under weekend winter weather warnings, with no sign of an end in sight to the freezing conditions.

Some of the coldest air in the past 20 years will be accompanied by winds approaching hurricane force — and, for the snow-battered coast of New England, what could be a paralyzing blizzard.

A blizzard watch was in effect from the Maine-Canada border south to Long Island and a winter storm watch was in place for New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

We’ve been under a blizzard warning her since yesterday afternoon, but we’re not supposed to get the really high winds until tomorrow. From Mashable: The upcoming Boston blizzard may be equivalent to Category 2 hurricane.

UPDATED 4 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service upgraded the blizzard watch to a blizzard warning for Boston, which is in effect from Saturday at 7 p.m. ET to Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. The blizzard warnings and watches stretch from Cape Cod all the way to the border between Maine and Canada. The NWS is forecasting between 10 to 14 inches of snow in Boston on top of the three to four feet already on the ground, and is also warning of a life-threatening combination of powerful winds and cold temperatures during and in the wake of the storm through Sunday.

The powerful Valentine’s Day storm set to blast eastern New England this weekend with roaring, frigid winds, heavy snow and pounding surf will be so strong that it can be compared in some ways to a Category 2 hurricane.

Fortunately, though, it will not bring the same impacts as a hurricane of that intensity, but its effects on multiple locations — from Providence and Boston to Portland and Bangor, Maine — will be similar to a winter hurricane, with power outages, tree and structural damage, and coastal flooding. Depending on the storm’s exact track, it could dump a foot or more of additional snow in the Boston area, with even more snow in coastal New Hampshire and Maine.

Yup. The good news is that we’re only expecting about a foot of snow this time. After I managed to dig myself out of the last storm all by myself (a little bit at a time), I’m feeling pretty confident I can handle one more foot of snow. Of course there are predictions of more snow for Tuesday and next weekend, but those are puny little 3-5 inch storms. I went to the grocery store yesterday, and I’m all stocked up. I know I won’t get out again for several days, but I’ll deal with it.

Meanwhile how much snow will the Boston area have gotten if the predictions for this storm hold true? Check out this image from the National Weather Service, via Mashable:


So what should I do while I’m trapped in the house today, tomorrow, and who knows how many days after that? I could watch some of these “kickass sci-fi/fantasy” movies at The Mary Sue blog (I found it by following one of JJ’s links from last night’s post).

10 Kick-Ass Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies on Netflix to Celebrate Valentine’s Day With

For some, Valentine’s Day is a day for love, sex, ’n’ romance. For others, it’s… not. Options include: Be Bitter About Your Love Life Day! Be Defensive About Your Lack of Love Life Day! Day Before Discount Candy Day! Or… drumroll…SATURDAY! Regardless of how you choose to live your life, not all of us will be sopping up the rom-com vibes come the fourteenth. For you lovely bastards, I present this list of ten kick-ass action movies to stream on Netflix while all your be-coupled friends are off being all lovey-dovey.

Or, hey, how about some of you watch one of these with your equally-badass significant others? Screw The Notebook. Definitely screw 50 Shades of Grey. (Or don’t screw 50 Shades of Grey. That shit’s gross.) BE BOLD!

Check out the list at the link and see what you think.


Or I could catch up on the latest political and foreign affairs news. Here are just a few of today’s top stories.

BBC News, Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko says peace deal in danger.

The Ukrainian president has warned a deal to end the war in the east is in “great danger” after heavy fighting ahead of Saturday night’s ceasefire.

Petro Poroshenko also accused Russia of “significantly increasing” its offensive in spite of the peace agreement reached in Minsk on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the US said it was very concerned by reports of heavy weapons coming across the border from Russia.

Big surprise, right? CNN has more details, Shelling in Ukraine cities ahead of midnight ceasefire.

Mariupol, Ukraine (CNN)Shelling could be heard in two eastern Ukrainian cities Saturday morning ahead of a midnight ceasefire deadline, raising fears that the deal to end a bitter 10-month-long conflict may be in jeopardy.

Both incoming and outgoing artillery could be seen in the vicinity of the coastal city of Mariupol, and there was significant shelling in rebel-held Donetsk through the morning, CNN teams reported….

Poroshenko said that after the agreement reached Thursday by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, the offensive against Ukrainian troops by the separatists had intensified.

The separatists may be trying to take control of strategic locations, such as the railroad hub of Debaltseve to the north, before the ceasefire lines are drawn. Pro-Kiev militia have also been pushing forward around government-controlled Mariupol.

Much more at the link.


Canada says they have prevented a serious attack that didn’t involve Islamic terrorists. CBS News reports:

TORONTO — Canadian authorities said Saturday that a foiled Valentine’s Day mass murder plot in Halifax was not related to Islamic terrorism.

“This appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here, or were living here, and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community,” Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay said. “It would have been devastating. Mass casualties were a real possibility.”

MacKay said all the suspects have been arrested or are dead. He said police would release more information publicly later Saturday. He credited police for their quick action.

A senior police official told The Associated Press that the two suspects were planning to go to a mall and kill as many people as they could before committing suicide.

According to the Globe and Mail,

Mr. MacKay [said that the] group’s motivation…seemed to be “quite random”. “It didn’t appear to be any specific philosophy that motivated this,” he said. “So there is no clear line … there is a very grey area in terms of anyone who would do this for any reason,” he said.

Police have yet to say what was motivating the four young people – three men from Nova Scotia and a woman from Illinois.

Referring to today being Valentine’s Day, Mr. MacKay said: “A day known to represent love and affection would have taken on a much different meaning today.”

“Based on what we know so far it would have been devastating,” he said. “Mass casualties were a real possibility.”


Just a short time ago today, there was an attack on a “free speech event” in Copenhagen. NBC News reports:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. The TV2 channel said Saturday there were some 30 bullet holes in the window of the Krudttoenden cafe and said at least two people were taken away on stretchers, including a uniformed police officer. NBC News has not immediately confirmed the details.

Helle Merete Brix, one of the organizers of the event, told The Associated Press that Vilks was present at the event but not injured. When the artist is in Denmark, he receives police protection. The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” when the shots were fired. Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told the TV2 channel that he saw two wounded people.

I guess we’ll be hearing more about that later today.

Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon resigned yesterday in the wake of a scandal involving his fiancee, who has been acting as the state’s first lady.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned effective Wednesday, Feb. 18, in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown.

“I am announcing today that I will resign as Governor of the State of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon Friday.

Brown, also a Democrat, will be sworn in as Oregon’s 37th governor, but the timing of that ceremony is uncertain.

In just four months, a public corruption scandal involving Kitzhaber and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, has hobbled one of Oregon’s most durable politicians. Kitzhaber, a public official for 37 years, was sworn in for a historic fourth term as governor just a month ago. Facing not only a state criminal investigation and an ethics review, Kitzhaber watched his support from fellow veteran lawmakers crumble this week.

The governor’s resignation does not end either the criminal investigation or ethics review.


The Oregonian has more details on the scandal, Massive FBI investigation targets Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Cylvia Hayes, and the Washington Post has a profile of Kitzhaber’s successor, This woman will soon become the first openly bisexual governor in American history.

In Alabama, the fight against allowing same sex couples to marry appears to be failing, according to The Washington Post, A majority of Alabama counties are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Two-thirds of Alabama counties have agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to gay rights groups, a dramatic turnaround from earlier this week when all but a handful were holding the licenses back.

The change in policy came after a federal judge on Thursday ordered officials in Mobile County to comply with her ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The decision led a number of probate judges to conclude that the ruling also applies to them, even though they got conflicting orders from the state’s chief justice, Roy Moore.

“Once that was done yesterday, [the probate judge] was satisfied we wouldn’t end up in a lawsuit or in trouble, so we’re doing it,” said a woman who identified herself as a manager in the Cherokee County probate office, one of at least 42 counties where same-sex marriage licenses are now available in Alabama, according to Equality Alabama, a local gay rights group. The manager declined to give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak for the office.

“It wasn’t ever a thing of us not wanting to, morally or religiously, we were just kind of waiting for clarification,” she said.

Several counties indicated they would begin issuing the licenses next week. Still, that left about 20 of the state’s 67 counties as apparent holdouts.

And The New York times has a nice profile of an Alabama gay couple who have “tr[ied] to wed, early and often.”


Finally, an Appeal for Help from Sky Dancers

Before I sign off, I need to ask our readers for some help for my dear friend Dakinikat. Although she rarely complains, Kat has struggled for the past 4-5 years with chronic pain and an inability to walk or stand for any length of time because of untreatable dermatitis on her feet. At times her feet bleed and she has to go through multiple changes of socks in the course of a day. She has tried every possible treatment for the condition, but nothing seems to work for any length of time.

For the past 3 years Kat has essentially been disabled. Frankly,  just getting out of the house to buy groceries is a painful process for her. It is even difficult for her to do daily tasks around the house like laundry and loading the dishwasher.

Kat has been doing her best to support herself with an on-line teaching job that she can do at home, but the work pays so poorly that IMHO, it amounts to slave labor. It hasn’t been enough to cover her mortgage and other basic expenses. As a result, Kat was forced to dip into her savings and at this point the money she had saved for retirement is nearly gone.

The three of us writers work very hard to produce interesting posts 7 days a week. All three of us are struggling financially and in other ways, but we take pride in this blog and the work we have done to sustain it for quite a few years now. But this blog would be nothing without Dakinikat. I well remember what a relief it was to come here after the difficulties many of us experienced at another place. I’m sure a number of you also recall those days. Kat is the one who opened her personal blog to us and who has taken responsibility for maintaining and improving the blog design over the years.

Right now, Kat is truly in desperate straits. I suggested that we should ask for contributions to help tide her over until she can either find more work or figure out what else she can do to make ends meet–perhaps by moving to a state that isn’t being bankrupted by its own governor.

If you have appreciated this blog over the years and you can afford to give something, I would be eternally grateful. We seldom ask for donations at Sky Dancing; we do this because we love to write and we’re fascinated by politics and current events. But this is a special case. Kat has been a wonderful friend to me–and to others here as well–and I hate to see her struggling like this. Please help if you can afford it–if you can’t, I totally understand. But I had to ask. Thanks so much for reading this and for whatever you can do to help.

What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!

Lazy Saturday: Creature Features


Happy Saturday!!

I’m feeling more lazy than usual today. I’ve been idly staring at my computer screen for about two hours–searching for interesting news and trying to figure out what to write about. Frankly, I don’t want to write about Jill Abramson’s firing, Glenn Greenwald’s book, the failed American Spring rally, or “mainstream Republicans” running against Tea Party Republicans. I feel as if I need a mental health day. I would like nothing better than to sit around today–or maybe all weekend–watching cheesy horror movies.

Fortunately, there’s a big-budget but still cheesy horror movie playing in theaters right now, Godzilla!! I’m actually considering going to see it. I’m not sure why, because I don’t recall ever watching the old-time Godzilla movies as a kid. I did used to like to watch creature features, and I still do. So maybe I’ll give the 2014 version of Godzilla a chance. It looks corny but entertaining in this early trailer.   The movie opened in theaters yesterday and did extremely well at the box office, according to Deadline Hollywood: ‘Godzilla’ Crushes It: $98M+

UPDATED, SATURDAY, 6:47 AM: The Lizard is leaping. After the morning dust has cleared, Godzilla showed a stronger than expected Friday late night take of $38M+ and is now estimated to haul in $98M+ after the three-day weekend. And with incredible international numbers continuing to roll in, Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures has a monstrous hit on their hands. Late night numbers pushed it past $36M and surprised everyone this AM.

PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY 10:47 PM: Godzilla is beating all expectations tonight with a $36M Friday to push its expected 3-day cume to a monstrous $90M+. The Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures pic is just demolishing the box office right now, thanks to a killer marketing campaign that teased audiences exactly to the right degree. Amazing that the monster is still popular a full 60 years after its introduction, and it’s come a long way from a man walking around in a rubber suit. The CGI eye candy, which cost $195M…is playing well on IMAX screens. It also is opening around the world at the same time to huge numbers…

Some reviews: Dana Stevens at Slate: Want to See a Giant Radioactive Lizard Whale on Stuff? Then Godzilla Delivers. This review begins with some helpful background on the Godzilla archetype:

The original Godzilla—a hugely influential Japanese monster movie made in 1954 as a direct response to a recent ripped-from-the-headlines tragedy—is a staggeringly powerful film, but in some ways it’s hard to account for the long cinematic life its title character has enjoyed. Ishirō Honda’s somber Godzilla (the Japanese title,Gojira, was created by combining the words for “gorilla” and “whale”) was a raw scream of collective anxiety from a nation that, nine years before, had survived two atomic bombings, and that was now finding itself caught, quite literally, in the fallout zone of the U.S./Soviet race to build and test an even more destructive hydrogen bomb. That original Godzilla seems so tied to the time and place of its creation that it’s hard to mentally transpose the central monster—a lumbering mega-dinosaur coaxed from the ocean depths by human experiments with radiation—into any other context. Yet that transposition has now occurred 32 times in 60 years (give or take a mecha-lizard), most recently in the form of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, in which the lumbering lizard is reinvented—not for the first time—as humanity’s potential helpmate.

I guess it’s not hard to see the enduring appeal of the Godzilla myth, even divorced from the context of traumatized post-World War II Japan. The arrogance of human attempts to best the gods with technology is an eternally relevant theme (Icarus, Prometheus, Faust, Frankenstein, Flubber), and there’s no gainsaying the basic fun to be had in watching a bumpy-skinned reptile as big as a skyscraper reduce an entire city to rubble beneath his gargantuan stomping feet. Plus, by now Godzilla, with his radioactive fire-breath, stumpy waving forelegs, and aversion to intact skylines, is an archetypal, almost lovable figure—a quality highly valued by film studios in search of market-ready tentpole entertainments. Edwards’ Godzilla is likely to do a decent job holding up its end of Warner Bros.’ 2014 tent: It’s a smooth, sleek, technologically awe-inspiring 3-D blockbuster with a top-shelf cast (speaking middle-to-lower-shelf dialogue most of the time, to be sure, but they do it with style).

Hmmm . . . Like Jaws I, in which we barely glimpsed the animitronic great white shark? Still that was a great movie, one of my favorite creature features of all time.

On Twitter, Ian Bremmer commented on the “slow unveiling of the monster” issue:


Although I wasn’t a Godzilla fan as a kid, I used to love lots of the old “creature features” that were shown on late night TV back in those days. One of my favorites was the 1954 film “Them,” which was about giant mutant ants created by radioactivity from atomic bomb tests in New Mexico.



Also from 1954, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.


I’ll post some more recent creature feature favorites in the comment thread, because I’m having a horrendous time with the WordPress editor today. What are your favorite creature features? Are you a Godzilla fan?

Of course, feel free to use the thread to discuss and post links on politics or any other topic that interests you.


Thursday Reads: A Little Hollywood Glamour before the Daily Horrors

This dress presages Madonna's lingerie outfits.

This dress presages Madonna’s lingerie outfits.

Good Morning!!

Last night I watched a little bit of The Girl Who Had Everything, starring Elizabeth Tayor–on TCM of course. I had never seen it before.

The movie was released in 1953 when Liz was only 21. She sure was gorgeous. You have to see some of the outfits she wore in that film, one of which is on the right.

From Wikipedia:

The Girl Who Had Everything (1953) is a feature film directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Armande Deutsch for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film features William Powell in his last MGM feature and one of his last film roles before retirement.

The screenplay was written by Art Cohn, based upon a play by Willard Mack, which in turn was based on the novel A Free Soul by Adela Rogers St. Johns. The play and novel were also inspiration for an earlier film adaptation called A Free Soul (1931).

The plot:

Steve Latimer (William Powell) is a successful defense attorney who has tried to give his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Taylor) everything he can in life. She decides to leave her boyfriend, the amiable Vance Court (Gig Young), for Victor Ramondi (Fernando Lamas), a rakish and dangerous man with underworld connections whom Steve is representing. Steve tries to warn Jean away from Victor, but she accepts his proposal of marriage.


Now for some outfits.

girl who had everything

Liz girl

Liz girl2

I can see why JJ loves to watch TCM. Movie stars just aren’t as glamorous these days as in the 1950s.

In real life, Liz was the woman who had everything. After she died, her huge fashion and jewelry collections were auctioned off by Christie’s. From The Telegraph Nov. 19, 2011:

In my job as a fashion curator for Christie’s I have been lucky enough to see close at hand the private clothes of some of the 20th century’s most famous women….

Now here was my latest rabbit-hole: a tiny black door framed in black granite, puncturing the windowless facade of an art-handling warehouse in Long Island, New York. I was Alice again, diving down to explore the possessions of another 20th-century icon: the soon-to-be-dispersed jewels, fashion and memorabilia of the last of the great Hollywood Golden Age superstars, Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

What met my eyes was rack upon rack of Taylor’s clothes, stretching into the far distance. These racks were packed so tightly that hems, frills, collars and belts stuck out; her collection of clothes in bright orange, sequins, prints, sunflower-yellow, lace and feathers were hung in the order they had been unpacked from her house in Bel Air and her chalet in Gstaad. Handbags – more than 200 – emerged one by one from many crates….

As I went through the racks of clothes it became apparent that here was a vast haute couture and prêt-à-porter wardrobe spanning more than 50 years; Elizabeth must have been one of the greatest couture clients of all time. Once she had bought from the collections, she carefully kept these exquisitely made pieces in superb condition on the top floor of her house in Bel Air.

Here a series of rooms, formerly, I suppose, a guest suite, had become one vast dressing-room carpeted in her favourite lilac. All it lacked was the star on the door. In this eyrie, Taylor kept the clothes she had chosen, worn out in public and laid aside for another day. Her handbags were swathed in tissue paper or in specially made bags and stacked neatly by colour. So were her shoes and the more than 30 pairs of cowboy boots…

More gorgeous photos at the link.

Now back to real life and today’s news {sigh….}

Terrible news out of Austin, TX (  Two dead after car crashes into SXSW crowd.

A driver attempting to evade a drunk driving stop hurtled past a barricade on Red River Street and plowed through dozens of SXSW revelers, killing two and injuring 23 in a horrific scene early Thursday morning, police said. The street, home to many popular clubs hosting South by Southwest music showcases, had been closed to motorists and was crowded with music fans waiting to get into the Mohawk nightclub.

According to police, the man, driving a small Toyota car, went the wrong way down Ninth Street after evading a stop at a gas station around 12:30 a.m., turned onto Red River and drove for more than two blocks, striking numerous pedestrians before hitting a scooter traveling on 11th Street, killing the man and woman on board. The driver then struck a taxi, injuring two, and crashed into a parked van, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

The man then attempted to flee on foot before he was stunned with a Taser gun and detained by the police officer who originally tried to pull the man over at a gas station on the frontage road of Interstate 35.

Speaking to reporters on Red River Street, which was still littered with shoes, clothing and other debris from the incident, Acevedo vowed the man would face capital murder charges in the deaths of the two scooter riders and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

And in New York’s East Harlem, at least seven people are now confirmed dead after a gas explosion leveled two apartment buildings yesterday. WSJ:

At least seven people were killed and more than 60 were injured in an apparent natural-gas explosion that leveled two residential buildings and severely damaged a third Wednesday morning in Manhattan, officials said.

Police said early Thursday that a seventh person was found dead. This follows an adult male pulled from the rubble just after midnight, a woman found about 2:45 a.m. Thursday, and a man discovered about a half-hour later.

The 9:31 a.m. Wednesday blast rocked the East Harlem neighborhood, shattering windows, throwing neighbors from their beds and sending people fleeing down the block in a cloud of smoke and debris.

The century-old, five-story brick structures housed 15 apartments, a church and a piano store in a neighborhood favored by immigrants. The blast also caused significant damage to a neighboring four-story building. More than 100 residents were staying in a nearby American Red Cross shelter.

Emergency workers were searching for victims in parts of the rubble, but sections remained inaccessible because of a sinkhole created by a water-main break, likely caused by the explosion, city officials said.

The missing Malaysian Airlines jet mystery continues as “conflicting reports” sow confusion. From the LA Times:

BEIJING —  The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 deepened amid allegations that the airplane flew four hours more than originally thought and might have traveled more than one thousand miles away from where search and rescue teams are looking.

Citing U.S. national security sources, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that government personnel were pursuing the possibility that the plane was commandeered “with the intention of using it later for another purpose.’’ The newspaper also said that data transmitted by an onboard monitoring system toRolls-Royce Plc., the engine manufacturer, suggested that the plane flew for up to five hours in total after its takeoff from Kuala Lumpur at 12:21 a.m. Saturday morning.

Malaysian officials at a press conference Thursday denied the story and said the last engine data was transmitted at 1:07 a.m., about 20 minutes before the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar screens.

Nevertheless, the Malaysians said they had expanded the search and rescue operation into India and the surrounding waters, the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea. If in fact the Boeing 777 flew for five hours from Kuala Lumpur, it could have traveled 2,200 nautical miles, as far as the India-Pakistan border.

According to Reuters, there is “no evidence” that the plane continue flying for hours after it disappeared from radar. There had been reports of debris being sighted by Chinese radar, but that turned out to be false. According to BBC News, the photos of the reported debris had been “released by mistake.” Authorities are now investigating the pilots of the plane as well as all passengers and crew. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they are “paying ‘special attention’ to [a] Chinese Uighur passenger.

Police investigating the backgrounds of all 239 people aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight are paying “special attention” to a 35 year-old Chinese Uighur man who undertook flight simulation training, according to a report in a leading Malay language newspaper in Kuala Lumpur.

The Uighurs Muslim ethnic minority group from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang have been battling for independence since they were brought under Chinese control in 1949, claiming they are oppressed by China’s authoritarian government and face religious restrictions and widespread discrimination.

Earlier this month the Uighurs, who make up 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, were blamed for a violent attack at a Chinese train station.

At least 100 people have been killed in the past year in violent clashes between Uighurs and Chinese security forces.

A bizarre and humorous read . . .

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake inexplicably turned himself into a laughingstock yesterday when he left a bizarre threatening voicemail for James Kirchick of The Daily Beast. Kirchick had written an article last week about the on-air resignation of former RT (Russia Today) anchor Liz Wahl, and apparently Gosztola was outraged that anyone would criticized the official Kremlin propaganda network–perhaps because Glenn Greenwald has praised it and Julian Assange has frequently appeared on it. Here’s the latest from Kirchick: Defending Putin’s Propagandists.

Coming soon to a theater near you: A Filipina Drama Queen pairs up with a Subversive Gay Jew to embarrass the Russian government!

No, this isn’t the tagline for the summer’s laugh-a-minute buddy comedy. It’s how some online media outlets are describing last week’s on-air resignation of Liz Wahl, anchor for RT-America, the English-language propaganda channel funded entirely by the Russian government. Wahl cited the network’s blatantly propagandistic coverage of the crisis in Crimea, its “whitewashing Putin,” and her own family history as the descendant of Hungarian refugees fleeing Soviet oppression as reasons for her departing the network.

And now, the network’s defenders are coming out in droves—and not just from the dark, traditionally conspiratorial corners of the Internet.

Read more about it at the link. As for the Gosztola episode:

This afternoon, a gentleman identifying himself as Kevin Gosztola, who writes for the left-wing website FireDogLake, left a message on my cell phone. He claimed to be working on a project for First Look Media — the high-profile investigative journalism start-up that employs, among others, Glenn Greenwald.

The Daily Beast posted the audio of the voicemail, along with a transcript that I can resist posting:

“So you don’t deny that you encouraged Liz Wahl to resign. We are going to be publishing a story at First Look Media and I know that you’re going to be losing control of the narrative that you’ve managed to create around Liz Wahl’s resignation. We have multiple sources.

“It’s fairly obvious that you have orchestrated this as part of some Foreign Policy Initiative [the think tank where I work] agenda. And this is what we’re going to be putting out there. So your fun little charade, public stunt that you’ve been putting on which the media has completely eaten up here in the United States, is hopefully over

“If you have any comment and if you’d like to respond to me and prove that this is not how it is, you let me know. But otherwise we are ready to go. And, you know, you like to ‘fuck with the Russians’ and we’re going to respond to that and let people know where you’re coming from as you have worked with Liz Wahl to expose what you call a propaganda network.”

WTF?! It’s now bad form at FDL to “fuck with the Russians?” First Look’s editor denied that Gosztola works for them:

“Kevin [Gosztola] doesn’t work for First Look Media. He apparently spoke to Glenn [Greenwald] about the possibility of doing a story for [First Look], but Glenn hasn’t given him an assignment or a contract,” Eric Bates, executive editor of First Look Media, told The Daily Beast in an email. “Glenn let Kevin know that he shouldn’t be representing himself as acting on behalf of First Look.”

How embarrassing. This story was the talk of Twitter yesterday, and not just among the Snowden critics.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories have piqued your interest today?

Wednesday Reads: Beg, Borrow, Steal…Maybe Blackmail Will Do?

wake the hell upGood Morning

My fingers are tingling like they are being poked with hundreds of little pins, and since we have some rain coming towards Banjoville…my arthritis is acting up as well. So, this morning’s post will be more along the lines of a link dump.

In this morning’s Orlando Sentinel, there is an op/ed that is outright propaganda, check it out: Editorial calls on Congress to approve chained CPI

But the president’s proposal deserves bipartisan support, no matter what the polls say. It’s an incremental yet meaningful step that acknowledges the need to include Social Security — the biggest federal program at more than $800 billion a year, and growing — in any balanced deficit-reduction plan.

Obama and Congress have cut deficits, but not enough to keep the national debt from growing as a share of the U.S. economy. They’ve largely left entitlement programs, including Social Security, off the table.

More debt means higher interest payments, less money for investments that would grow the economy, and more vulnerability to foreign creditors.

The president’s proposal would tie increases in Social Security and other benefit programs to an inflation index known as the “chained CPI” — a name only a bureaucrat could love. Many economists say the chained CPI is more accurate than the government’s current index, which overstates inflation.

Tying Social Security to the slower-growing inflation rate would reduce total annual benefits for the average 65-year-old retiree by only $50, though the reduction would compound over time to $1,147 a year by the time the retiree hit 85.

But the president’s proposal would prop up benefits for the poorest and oldest retirees. Targeting help to seniors in most need beats sticking with a system for everyone that overstates inflation and adds billions to the government’s bottom line.

Switching to the chained CPI would save at least $130 billion in Social Security payments over 10 years. It also would improve the fiscal fitness of the program, which is now paying out more in benefits than it is collecting in payroll taxes. The money to close the gap gets borrowed, which means that — contrary to claims from some advocates — Social Security adds to the deficit.

The chained CPI could save another $200 billion or more over the next decade outside of Social Security. How? By slowing spending growth in other benefit programs. And by adding to revenues by gradually moving more Americans with increasing incomes into higher tax brackets.

Obama is taking flak within his party for his proposal. For liberal Democrats, Social Security cuts are as bad as tax hikes for conservative Republicans.

But the president says he won’t go through with the switch unless Republicans go along with more tax increases. The GOP should be willing to close loopholes for corporations and the wealthy — especially if it’s in return for the kind of entitlement reform that Republicans have demanded from Obama.

There are a few comments already pointing out how stupid the author of the editorial is, you know…since Social Security is not a “debt” and all that shit.

sorgfelt at 5:47 AM April 10, 2013Social Security is an independent fund supplied solely by our contributions, and does not add to our national debt in any way, shape or form.  The author of this piece is either grossly uninformed and/or a pawn of the corporate entities who want to cut the business owners’ part of the contributions to Social Security.  It is utterly despicable that this article could be written and anyone could be led to take it seriously.There is one connection to the national debt: Congress has seen fit to borrow money without interest from Social Security to pay for our stupid, illegal wars.  That in itself is a travesty.  And to use that as an excuse to raid Social Security is despicable.
Florence Perry at 5:42 AM April 10, 2013It infuriates me when people call Social Security “an entitlement”.  It is not.  We put our hard earned monies into it, and it is our monies.  The government decided to borrow that money and now has to pay it back and called it “an entitlement” so they can cheat us out of our money.  You should get your facts straight Sentitnal (sic).

Madamab has a post up this morning that ties into this so be sure to stop over at Widdershins: Activist/Feminist Wednesday: Obama Goes After Social Security (And Women) | The Widdershins

Perhaps you don’t need math to be a politician these days? But there is some discussion as to whether you need it to be a scientist: Do you need to know math for doing great science? | The Curious Wavefunction, Scientific American Blog Network

There was a bit of a scare this morning, when an official tweet was sent accidentally by a town in Japan: Yokohama mistakenly tweets North Korean missile launch

Officials in the Japanese city of Yokohama were left red-faced on Wednesday after mistakenly announcing the launch of a North Korean missile to 40,000 followers on Twitter.

The city, south of Tokyo, prematurely fired its Tweet just before noon (0300 GMT), announcing “North Korea has launched a missile” with blank spaces to indicate the exact time.

“We received a call from one of our followers who had noticed the mistake. We had the Tweet ready and waiting, but for an unknown reason it was dispatched erroneously,” said a city official.

The city retracted the Tweet about 20 minutes later and apologised to followers of @yokohama_saigai, the official said.

Japan is on full alert ahead of an expected mid-range missile launch by North Korea, with Patriot missiles stationed in its capital to protect the 30 million people who live there.

Twitter is a big deal over in Japan, so this tweet was taken very seriously.

Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, History is getting an overhaul in their school systems, and it is not a good one, per the BBC:  Draft history curriculum ‘list-like and too narrow’

A draft history curriculum for England is “list-like”, “prescriptive” and omits “the histories of Britons who are not white Anglo-Saxons”, says a report.

The group, Curriculum for Cohesion, of teachers, academics and employers calls the draft “unteachable, unlearnable and un-British”.

They warn that if adopted the curriculum may alienate pupils from ethnic and religious minority groups.

I guess these people realize that History…will teach us nothing…/snark.

Makes me think of our very own GOP:

Clay Bennett: Intellecticide – Clay Bennett – Truthdig

Remember that event during the Occupy Wall Street protest, when the NYPD destroyed the Occupy Library? Well, they now have to pay damages. City To Pay $365,000 For Occupy Library – Business Insider

A New York City court has ruled that the city shall pay $366,700 for a destructive raid on Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park encampment.

Around 1 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to evict protestors — some of whom had camped there for almost two months — from Zuccotti Park in New York City’s Financial District.

The police threw away 5,554 books from the Occupy library and destroyed media equipment in addition to removing tents, tarps, and belongings.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that the NYPD’s actions violated the protestors’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

The city will pay:

  • $47,000 in damages and $186,350 in legal fees for The People’s Library.
  • $75,000 and $49,850 in legal fees to Global Revolutions TV for damaging their “computers, wifi hotspots and similarly related live-streaming equipment.”
  • $8,500 for trashing the bicycle-powered generators that protestors built to light up the park after police held their other generators.

Wonderful to see that justice prevailed in this case.

I have some movie links for you now. This coming week the movie Camille will air on TCM: Wednesday, April 17 @ 09:00 AM (ET)

Set photograph, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

Behind-the-scenes photograph taken while shooting the film Camille, George Cukor directing Robert Taylor and Greta Garbor. 1936

I love this film, it is beautiful.

Mike Luckovich had a very sweet tribute to Roger Ebert:

Mike Luckovich: RIP Roger Ebert – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

This next link is just about some interesting movie trivia:

8 Pseudonyms Famous Writers and Directors Used in Movie Credits | Mental Floss

However, one pseudonym that is missing is a favorite of mine, from the movie The Bank Dick:

The Bank Dick (released as The Bank Detective in the United Kingdom) is a 1940 comedy film. W. C. Fields plays a character named Egbert Sousé who trips a bank robber and ends up a security guard as a result. The character is a drunk who must repeatedly remind people in exasperation that his name is pronounced “Sousé – accent grave [sic] over the ‘e’!”, because people keep calling him “Souse” (slang for drunkard). In addition to bank and family scenes, it features Fields pretending to be a film director and ends in a chaotic car chase. The Bank Dick is considered a classic of his work, incorporating his usual persona as a drunken henpecked husband with a shrewish wife, disapproving mother-in-law, and savage children.

The film was written by Fields, using the alias Mahatma Kane Jeeves (derived from the Broadway drawing-room comedy cliche, “My hat, my cane, Jeeves!”), and directed by Edward F. Cline. Shemp Howard, one of the Three Stooges, plays a bartender.

In 1992, The Bank Dick was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Mahatma Kane Jeeves….what a riot!

Boston Boomer sent me this link last week:

Meet the Tarantula as Big as Your Face : Discovery News

It’s big, it’s hairy, and it’s venomous.

The newest spider to give arachnophobes the willies, a tarantula named Poecilotheria rajaei has been discovered on the island nation of Sri Lanka.

With a leg span of 8 inches (20 centimeters) and enough venom to kill mice, lizards, small birds and snakes, according to Sky News, the crawler is covered in subtle markings of gray, pink and daffodil yellow.

Here is a picture of this monster:

Oh boy!

In another link BB sent me, related to spiders….this one is so damn cool: A Golden Spider-Silk Textile | The Art Institute of Chicago

Strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders (Nephila madagascariensis) were woven together to make this dazzling textile, the only one of its kind in the world. Completed in 2008, the panel’s story underscores the globalism that is characteristic of many textile genres in Africa. Created by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, the loan of this rare textile celebrates the opening of the Art Institute’s redesigned galleries of African art and Indian art of the Americas.

The idea of harnessing spider silk for weaving is an age-old dream that was first attempted in a methodical way in France in the early 18th century. In the 1880s, Father Paul Camboué, a French Jesuit priest, brought the dream to Madagascar. Intrigued by the strength and beauty of the silk produced by the island’s golden orb spider, he began to collect and experiment with it. In 1900 a set of bed hangings was woven from spider silk at Madagascar’s Ecole Professionelle and exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (today the whereabouts of those hangings are unknown). But the idea of creating an industry that could compete with Chinese silk (produced from silkworms) proved unrealistic.

Please go read the rest of this fascinating story at the link…and look at some of the photographs below:


Colour of the Moment – Spider Silk Yellow Gold | Significant Colour

Spider silk cape goes on show at V&A | Art and design |

Golden spider silk cape

A model wearing the golden spider silk cape. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

It has taken eight years and more than a million Madagascar Golden Orb spiders to create a work of art “with the quality of a fairy story”. And it goes on display at London’s V&A museum this week.

Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, a textile artist and a designer-entrepreneur respectively, have created a shimmering golden cape from spider silk, a fabric not woven in more than a century.

Golden spider silk cape at the V and A | Yes I Like That

Isn’t that spectacular?

I will end this post with a funny nature story…Scheming chicks blackmail doting parents for more food

Fledglings of a southern African bird species threaten suicide to blackmail their parents into bringing them more food, scientists said Wednesday. When hungry, pied babbler fledglings flutter from the nest to the ground, where predators roam, and start screeching to highlight their plight, said a study published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “This stimulates adults to increase their provisioning rates,” the science team wrote. “Once satiated, fledglings return to the safety of cover.” The strategy is dangerous, as the birds are not good flyers at this tender age and at particular risk of predators on the ground. But the short-term risk of being caught is probably lower than the long-term costs of being small and weak, said the paper. Pied babblers have high reproductive rates and competition for mates is high. Weaker birds are often kicked out of the nest by siblings, putting them at a huge disadvantage in the race for survival and procreation.

More information: The influence of fledgling location on adult provisioning: a test of the blackmail hypothesis,

Now that is one ballsy move if you ask me!

So what are you reading about this morning?

Steven Spielberg’s Dark and Gloomy “Lincoln”

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

I went to see Spielberg’s latest film “Lincoln” today. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. I admit that I’m not a fan of Steven Spielberg or of historical dramas, so maybe my judgment isn’t worth that much; but I’m going to write about it anyway. I am a fan of Daniel Day Lewis, and I suppose he was the best thing about the movie. The second best thing was that Tom Hanks wasn’t in it.

Spielberg’s film covers the last four months of Lincoln’s life and is centered on the fight for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Certainly, the subject had the potential for a gripping drama, but instead Spielberg managed to turn a thrilling story into a movie that I found boring, pretentious, and depressing.

What bothered me most as I watched the film was how dark and grim it was–scene after scene after scene of men wearing dark clothing and talking incessantly. But as the endless scenes wore on,  I couldn’t keep my own present-day irritations from affecting my reactions.  I was incredibly annoyed to watching important national decisions being made solely by white men–most of whom were old and not very pleasant to look at–without any input from women or African Americans.

The make-up seemed designed to emphasize wrinkles, bags under the eyes, and unattractive facial hair in microscopic detail. Tommy Lee Jones was never handsome, but in his role as Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens he was made to look almost monstrous, with deep wrinkles, sagging jowls and giant pouch-like bags under his eyes.

But back to my growing irritation. After the misogyny and racism we have seen in this country over the past four years, I found the domination of “Lincoln” by white males to be incredibly annoying. And my irritation only grew as time went on. Surely there must have been black people who fought to pass the amendment–where were they?

The talk of “equality” of the races and the evils of treating “men” as property really rubbed me the wrong way, considering that women and children were to continue being treated as property for at least another hundred years after the passage of the Thirteen Amendment and that black men even in 2012 are still very far from being treated equally. Even our black President isn’t immune from the patronizing and bigoted attitudes of many Americans.

Admittedly, it’s unfair of me to judge the movie based on my present-day anger. Still, I think part of that feeling did arise from the fact that the movie–I think wrongly–ignored the thoughts and feelings of women and black people.

Only two women are shown having any kind of role in events: Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Mary Todd Lincoln is shown interpreting her husband’s dreams, trying to prevent her eldest son from enlisting in the Union Army, and supporting her husband’s policies. Her closest companion was Keckley, a black women who had purchased freedom for herself and her son, and become a seamstress. She was eventually introduced to Mary Todd Lincoln and went with her to the White House. Keckley wrote an autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. But none of this was spelled out in the movie.

As for black characters, there is a sort of butler who says he was born a free man, a couple of black Union soldiers and anonymous black audience members who file in to the House gallery to watch the final vote on emancipation. I later learned that the “butler” was William Slade, who along with Elizabeth Keckley, was active in the abolition movement. Toward the end of the film, Thaddeus Stevens is shown getting into bed with a black woman whom I later learned was Stevens’ housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith. The two were lovers for 23 years, so why didn’t Spielberg emphasize her influence on Stevens’ attitudes about racial equality? Why was she included in the film almost as an afterthought?

At least one reviewer, historian Kate Masur, expressed a similar reaction to mine–except that hers was based on actual historical knowledge. Masur writes:

[I]t’s disappointing that in a movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States, African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men to liberate them. For some 30 years, historians have been demonstrating that slaves were crucial agents in their emancipation; however imperfectly, Ken Burns’s 1990 documentary “The Civil War” brought aspects of that interpretation to the American public. Yet Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gives us only faithful servants, patiently waiting for the day of Jubilee.

This is not mere nit-picking. Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” helps perpetuate the notion that African Americans have offered little of substance to their own liberation. While the film largely avoids the noxious stereotypes of subservient African-Americans for which movies like “Gone With the Wind” have become notorious, it reinforces, even if inadvertently, the outdated assumption that white men are the primary movers of history and the main sources of social progress.

I’m no historian–or movie reviewer–so I was relieved to learn that I’m not the only person who was deeply disappointed in “Lincoln,” despite fine performances by many of the white cast members. According to Masur,

In fact, the capital was also home to an organized and highly politicized community of free African-Americans, in which the White House servants Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade were leaders. Keckley, who published a memoir in 1868, organized other black women to raise money and donations of clothing and food for the fugitives who’d sought refuge in Washington. Slade was a leader in the Social, Civil and Statistical Association, a black organization that tried to advance arguments for freedom and civil rights by collecting data on black economic and social successes. The film conveys none of this, opting instead for generic, archetypal characters.

Masur was offended by the

brief cameo of Lydia Smith…housekeeper and supposed lover of the Pennsylvania congressman and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens… Stevens’s relationship with his “mulatto” housekeeper is the subject of notoriously racist scenes in D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.” Though Mr. Spielberg’s film looks upon the pair with far more sympathy, the sudden revelation of their relationship — Stevens literally hands the official copy of the 13th Amendment to Smith, before the two head into bed together — reveals, once again, the film’s determination to see emancipation as a gift from white people to black people, not as a social transformation in which African-Americans themselves played a role.

And why was Frederick Douglass left out of the film entirely? Masur notes that he was invited to the White House after Lincoln was inaugurated for the second time. According to Lincoln biographer Ronald C. White,

what the audience doesn’t fully understand, in the final scene – almost the final scene – where suddenly African-Americans arrive in the balcony as the final vote is to be taken, that one of those is Charles Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass. Charles had fought in the famous Massachusetts 54th; he will write to his father after that climactic vote: ‘Oh, Father, how wonderful it is. People were cheering, they were crying tears of joy.’ So that had the potential for more black agency, but it doesn’t come to full fruition in the film.”

To add insult to injury, Lincoln is far too long at 2-1/2 hours (plus ads and previews). It could easily have been edited to 2 hours or less, especially since Spielberg chose to ignore the historical roles of African Americans and women in the events the film depicts.

Tuesday Reads: Marilyn Monroe, Fifty Years Gone

Lawrence Schiller, “Marilyn Monroe,” 1962. (Credit: Courtesy of Judith and Lawrence Schiller; Lawrence Schiller © Polaris Communications, Inc.)

Good Morning!!

I’m writing this late on Monday night. I’m a little burned out on the news, and I haven’t been feeling so great today, so I thought I’d skip politics and devote my Tuesday morning post to noting the 50th anniversary of the day we lost Marilyn Monroe, August 5, 1962. We can talk about the news in the comments though!

LA Weekly has a report of the memorial. The main speaker was Professor Lois Banner, the author of a new biography of Monroe.

Lois Banner certainly must be considered one of the Marilyn religion’s rising gospel writers. Banner, a professor of women’s history at USC, is the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, her well-received, scrupulously researched and ten-years-in-the-writing biography, whose release was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.

Banner’s book, which attempts to demolish any lingering image of Marilyn as a dumb blonde and merely the sexual object of male fantasy, asserts that the star was shaped by a complicated and deeply conflicted personality. Marilyn was marked by an intense intellectual curiosity but also by emotional and sexual abuse as child that would develop into full-blown sexual addiction and her ultimately tragic substance abuse.

Outside the memorial, the 73-year-old writer briefly spoke about Marilyn’s status as an “icon of the American character” and the key to her enduring fascination. The answer, according to Banner, is complex but begins with her tragically early death. Dying at the height of her beauty instantly made the star what Banner calls “the Aphrodite of the national imagination — the woman who represents our sexual desires and dreams.”

To that she adds the aura of mystery contributed by Marilyn’s involvement with the Kennedys and the conspiracy theories surrounding her death. Then there are the photographs. Marilyn was probably the most photographed woman of the 20th century, Banner says, “and the famous images of her literally run into the thousands. She realized herself in front of the camera, and many have said the camera was her real lover.”

Here are two Huffpo links to some lovely photos of Marilyn:

Marilyn Monroe Photos: Candid Shots Of The Woman Behind The Starlet

Marilyn Monroe ‘Intimate Exposures’: Exhibit Unveils Never-Before-Seen Bruno Bernard Photos

Between inventing pin-up photography, earning the nickname “Bernard of Hollywood” and discovering Marilyn Monroe, Bruno Bernard may just be the world’s most famous photographer.

In her new book “Marilyn: Intimate Exposures,” Bernard’s daughter, former Playboy Playmate Susan Bernard, has released a collection of her father’s most famous photographs of the one and only Marilyn Monroe–including 40 never-before-seen shots.

In the collection are the first professional photographs ever taken of Monroe (then named Norma Jean Dougherty), intimate backstage shots throughout her career, original negatives, Bernard’s work notes and letters from Monroe to Bernard, including one reading, “Remember Bernie, you started it all.”

Bernard is presenting the collection at the San Francisco Art Exchange for its United States premiere during the 50th anniversary commemoration of Monroe’s death.

The photos at both links are wonderful. I really enjoyed looking at them.

The LA Times reports on another exhibit of Marilyn photos.

One of the many disappointments to befall the actress’ tragic life was her struggle to have a child, having suffered multiple miscarriages. Very few images of a pregnant Monroe exist but famed celebrity photograper Phil Stern found himself at the right place at the right time during her last pregnancy with third husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

In 1958, Look magazine assigned Stern to capture what studio mogul Sam Goldwyn saw through his office window. Perched high and out of sight from the people below, he spotted Monroe walking across the lot during a break from filming “Some Like it Hot,” and snapped the photo just as the wind blew open her kimono, revealing her pregnant belly.

This photo is just one of many that Stern took of Monroe during an illustrious career that spanned six decades. Twenty-three images from his collection will be on view at The Phil Stern Gallery opening Sunday on the 50th anniversary of her untimely death. The exhibition continues through Nov 1.

You can view some of the photos at the link.

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a 1987 interview with Playwright Arthur Miller by Mike Wallace.

During their relationship, Miller wrote the screenplay for “The Misfits,” with the lead role played by Monroe. She played a wounded young woman, who falls in love with a much older man. It would be her last film.

Despite the success of 1961’s “The Misfits,” Miller’s marriage to Monroe had been struggling for months, and the couple ultimately separated. In addition to drug and alcohol dependency, Monroe had endured several miscarriages and was battling depression.

“I guess to be frank about it, I was taking care of her. I was trying to keep her afloat,” Miller told Wallace. “She was a super-sensitive instrument, and that’s exciting to be around until it starts to self-destruct.”

When Wallace asked Miller if he knew Monroe’s life was destined for disaster, he said, “I didn’t know it was doomed, but I certainly felt it had a good chance to be.” Less than two years later, Monroe was found dead at the age of 36 in her California home.

There are some more lovely photos in this NY Daily News article: Marilyn Monroe, famed blond bombshell, yearned to retire to Brooklyn in her twilight years

The blond bombshell, who lived in New York City on and off for several years before dying in Los Angeles in 1962, called Brooklyn her “favorite place in the world” in a radio interview with NBC’s Dave Garroway.

“When I retire I’m going to retire to Brooklyn,” Monroe told the late “Today” show host. “That’s my favorite place in the world, so far, that I’ve seen.”

Monroe, then 31-years-old and inbetween her marriages to New York Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, admitted she hadn’t “travelled much, but I don’t think I’ll find anything to replace Brooklyn.”


When asked what it was about Brooklyn she loved, Monroe’s answer was simple: “Almost everything.”

“I just like walking around,” she said in her soft, whispy tone.

Monroe said one highlight was the view of Manhattan which can only be seen from Brooklyn, but stressed her affection for the borough was more than that.

“It isn’t only the view, it’s the people,” Monroe said. “The people and the streets and the atmosphere, I just like it.”

On Weekend Edition, NPR ran a piece on Marilyn Monroe As An ‘All-Around’ Comedian.

I love just about all of Marilyn’s movies, but I guess my favorite is The Seven Year Itch.

The Rachmaninoff fantasy scene:

And the famous subway scene:

It’s hard to believe it was all so long ago. Sorry this post is so short, I should be back to my regular self in the morning. Now it’s your turn to fill me in on the real news of the day. I’ll pitch in some links too, of course.