Friday, August 30, 2013


(The Undeclared War Against American Women)
-by Susan Faludi
A book about the anti-feminist backlash of the 1980s...but also larger in scope, as it places that backlash in the context of the historical struggle for female freedom. Faludi demonstrates that the march toward equality never runs in a straight line, and for each era of great strides (the mid-nineteenth century, the early 1900s, the 40s, or the 70s), there follows a darkly anti-feminist period. She shows how a backlash can infiltrate society, from media to government to medicine to commerce, in ways that seem coordinated, but aren't - more often than not, the people who serve a backlash's ends aren't even aware of their role. But those ends are always the same, to push women back into "accepted" roles. The stock 80s backlash chain of causation? Feminism leads to professionalism leads to neurosis and psychosis - that women who try to "have it all" end up in manless, childless despair (clinicians of the late 19th century similarly linked feminism to neurasthenia and hysteria). To serve a backlash's ends, actual statistics are either manipulated or (more often) ignored. Most fascinating is how issues that have no obvious connection to feminism, are often about little else. Abortion, for instance. The pro-life/pro-choice conflagration that arose in the 80s was about much more than the sentient status of a fetus. Just as with birth control, it went to the heart of any woman's independence - her sexual self-determination. Despite all the brouhaha, Roe v. Wade didn't change national abortion statistics, it just made the reality safer and easier (that is, until the torching or bombing of seventy-seven clinics between 1977 and 1989). Yet despite all the posturing and terrorism, in 2013 supporters of Roe v. Wade outnumber opponents by two to one - just as always. Still not convinced that moral "outrages" which feel so personal, are the result of society telling us what to think? In the historical context, Roe v. Wade wasn't revolutionary, it was just a return to status quo. Abortions have been practiced in one form or another since colonial times, and that right was never questioned until the end of the 19th century. It had always been legal in every state, and public opinion on it largely neutral. It wasn't until the women's rights movement that it acquired any kind of moral taint. This is just one fascinating example of how a backlash permeates a society - but Faludi ends the book by pointing out that women's power is already in their hands, as evidenced by the plurality of women in our population, and the fact that women exercise their right to vote more often than men. As soon as this power is embraced, women can put their issues at the core of any election, and not lose a single one (which is part of why backlashes occur - those in power often realize the possible ramifications of empowered women long before the women themselves). BACKLASH is an amazing book, overflowing with research and statistics. A must-read for any thinker.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I met Dollie on a moving job. She had just graduated from a southern college with a degree in dramaturgy, and was moving into a family-owned, rent-free apartment in the big city. Various family members helped with the move, too. She was outgoing, funny, and biddable. On a welcome-wagon impulse, i gave her my card. In retrospect, how might my life have been different had i given it to her sister-in-law instead? I had the opportunity. The family was jewish and close-knit, and some were disenchanted with this asian woman their son had married. And indeed, she may have been a bit supercilious…but i was attracted to her, as she seemed to be to me (something that would have gone over like a lead balloon with Dollie…and presumably, her brother). Dollie called that week, and we got together. In retrospect, i was interested in friendship more than romance, but she assumed the latter from the get-go. We spent a few evenings together, sharing our lives and finding some nice commonalities. I was attracted to her in an offhand way, and when she told me she’d never had sex that hadn’t hurt, i thought that my minimally-thrusting, taoist lovemaking might be just what she needed. She thought so too. The night before she left for a month-long vacation in Israel, she stayed at my place. We became sexual. I took it slow, giving her a nice digital orgasm. The day she returned, i was probably her first call. She wanted to see me immediately, having lived a celibate existence abroad. I convinced her that, given her jet lag, we should wait. Ever since, that’s the moment i wish i could have again, to go to her and give her the happiness she was asking for…slow, gentle penetration that would probably put her to sleep after an hour or less. But i was afraid of an imbalance in how much we were attracted to each other. We began spending more time together, and she said all the right things – like that it didn’t matter how long our affair lasted (she was a curious mix of conventional and free-spirited). Once or twice she really threw herself at me, and i held her off. If we did become any kind of couple, i could see a point of conflict that would arise - i favored spontaneity, but she liked to know exactly when we were going to spend time together. She had two reallllly close female friends. When i met one of them and was very attracted, i realized i needed to go away…despite Dollie’s free-spirited side, i knew she wouldn’t like the full truth of my libido. I tried to stay in touch as a friend after some months had passed. A part of me wanted to go back, and be exactly what she’d wanted. That was partly simple sexual loneliness, and partly the spiritual bonobo in me that told me to give anyone whatever comfort or caring they might want or need. But my conciliatory words were clumsy, and she stayed away.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


-spring 2004
New York! I was loving the city, somewhat to my surprise. My debut as a New York actor came through a Craigslist casting call. A recent NY Film Academy grad, Brian Havelka, was making a short film spoof of the Mel Gibson movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. People had been up in arms, calling the film anti-semitic. This seemed like people taking themselves too seriously, so Brian’s concept was of Jesus (me) being chased around the streets of New York by three hasidic jews. His image borrowed directly from the Beastie Boys video “Sabotage” – choppy and overblown. He set the film to that actual song, thus continuing my affiliation with guerrilla theater. The co-producer was Mahsa, another NYFA student, who was unflaggingly supportive and sweet and delightful. It was to be a two-day shoot. I already had the long hair, and i’d quickly have a passable goatee. I was also in the grip of the most virulent flu i’d ever known, one that kept me down for a month. The fever had broken, but i was weak. We filmed in digital, in late March, and it was still cold, particularly the first day (between shots, i closed my eyes in the back seat of one of the cars). A few days before, they told me i’d be double-cast as one of the three jews. I was a little thrown, but game. Much of the shooting was in Brooklyn. The first day, my character was Abraham, the “brains” of the three (although in the finished product, another character was referred to as “The Chief”). None of our dialogue would be heard, so we were free to ad-lib. The other two actors (our “muscle”) were fantastic. The first, Joe, brought all the authenticity of the most clichéd italian goon, but when you added the curls and hat, it was just so funny. The other was Theo, who was wide of girth and more pensive. We were collectively quite Keystone-copish. I was given a beard and big black wig under a hat. I played it wide-eyed and frenetic. We spent much of the day in our hasidmobile, doing search-and-chase scenes. Joe drove (like a proper maniac). We gave Theo nicknames after he fell asleep in the back once or twice (Joe picked Schnorrer, i liked Narcilepstein). There was a bit of friction between them; Theo felt Joe was a scene-stealer. He asked me to back him up on that, which i couldn’t quite do. It was minor though, and so many hilarious shots were collected. Brian treated us to chinese back at his place - for a low-budget affair, they did all the little things right. I was glad i didn’t have to be both characters that day, it made conserving energy easier. As it turned out, i never had to change characters the second day either. One of the funniest Jesus shots was Joe chasing me down a five-floor fire escape. We did some hysterical subway shots, with me diving into a car just as the doors close (with all the straphangers watching in unsimulated confusion). All this necessitated the film crew going one stop away, waiting for a train coming back to my station, then having the camera roll as they rolled in. As i waited alone at my station for half an hour dressed as the messiah, i realized the importance of not screwing up the first (and hopefully only) take. This was all illegal - since 9/11, filming wasn’t allowed on subways. We were eventually chased away, but got what we needed. We did a street scene of Jesus playing craps with some authentic old crapshooters. They were such fun. Brian wanted to me be argumentative, then jubilant about winning, which seemed out of character. I made my point, then gave him what he wanted. Our creative team wasn’t always on the same page - i thought what we were doing was respectful of both christians and jews, but others thought we were doing blatant mockery. We never had a chance to discuss all that together, though. There were other workers and friends (usually three or four) on set, and they were great. The overall energy was a delight, and i had just enough strength to have a ball. The last shot was at the Academy, a re-creation of the Last Supper, with Theo and Joe playing Apostles. It culminated with me flipping the table. For my first endeavor as a NY actor, i was paid $100 – Brian and i may have parted on a strained note, as he accidentally paid me twice, but i didn’t correct him. He figured it out himself, before i left. I wasn’t being sneaky…i thought maybe he’d gone under budget and wanted to give us something extra. I was barely thinking at all, i was so tired. Brian’s finished product was thoroughly hysterical. If i hadn’t known better, i wouldn’t have thought both characters on the screen were me. Wonderful.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

do your orals!

(a follow-up to

You've got bad breath.
Maybe a week ago your mouth mists evoked fragrant frangipani...or maybe you've had it for years.
Maybe you eat more garlic than you used to, because garlic breath is preferable to ass breath.
Maybe you once spent months filling the pockets of predatory corporate America by purchasing something called "breath pills".
Maybe you haven't left the house since 2002 without this thought gnawing away in some corner of your brain - do i have breath like that mangy, frightening, two-weeks-from-death dog i met when i was five?
As though it's not hard enough to find love in this uncaring world. Now you've gotta deal with this.
I've been there.
So have plumbers, presidents, and porn stars.
So have maharajahs, minions, and midwives.
So has the most attractive woman i've ever kissed.
Why do we suffer this pointless indignity?? How can evolution give us opposable thumbs and excessively-fatty mammary glands, but render us such a halitosis hash elsewhere? I won't state the more obvious reasons, all you smokers and analingists...but here's what i've learned (and what the Mayo Clinic tells us).
Bad breath bacteria are caused by the breakdown of all those particles that chewing leaves in our traps and yaps. Plus broken-down food in the bloodstream - even at that stage, apparently it don't smell so good. What can you do? Try mouthwash after every meal (salt water will do).
Saliva is a natural rinse for all those food particles, but we don't self-rinse much during sleep. Hence, morning breath (a condition exacerbated by sleeping with mouth open). Alcohol-based mouthwash may also contribute to dry mouth, ironically. Alcohol also contributes to occasionally sleeping with one's mouth open, i hear...
No, not the tribute band. Did you ever snort a certain way, and feel a calcium-like nugget emerge from somewhere in your noggin passages? They're loaded with bacteria, and the unknown presence of one of these can be "game over" for your love life. You can keep your tonsils clean with cotton swabs or bobby-pins (no, an internet search). Or an electric mouth irrigator. Or both. In case sticking a bobby-pin into your internal cavities (or any cavity, really) seems questionable, yes, the how-to guide mentions bleeding numerous times. So let's be careful out (er, in) there.
Some contribute to dry mouth. Others just release chemical funk into your innards. Chemical Funk, on tour with the Tonsil Stones!
Postnasal drip, stomach acid reflux, and disease. Many of us really are just dying from the inside out...
But take heart, and learn what it took me years of trial and error to discover...
1 - Brush your teeth. Then your gums. Then the insides of your cheeks. Obvious? Yes. So why didn't YOU think of it?
2 - Floss. Don't forget to go behind your back molars. Why did no dentist ever suggest this to me?
3 - Gargle and tongue-scrape. Go back to front with the hard side, the front to back with the bristles. You can find scrapers in any pharmacy. They suggest getting a new one every couple months, but the first one i bought has lasted years (some call that "ewwww", i call it valewwww). For mouthwash, try hydrogen peroxide, mixed with water. It doesn't give you dry mouth, and the price helps you "stick it to the man" (as retribution for all those #@*&ing breath pills). If your gag reflex makes it hard to scrape the back of your tongue, try taking a mouthful of water when you get to the back on your bristle run, then continuing.
All done?
Good. Now come over here and pucker.