Arthur Miller on Method Acting (The Lee Strasberg School of Mumblecore)

Arthur Miller on Lee Strasberg.

While filming “The River of No Return”, director Otto Preminger apparently grew quite exasperated with Marilyn Monroe because every time he gave her direction she would go to her private “coach”, Natasha Lytess, and take direction from her.  Lytess bizarrely coached Monroe to enunciate every syllable cleanly and counteracted Preminger’s desire for a more fluid, compelling performance.  Preminger should have fired Monroe on the spot but it was the nature of Hollywood then– and now– that big stars command deference, because audiences are stupid and choose their entertainment based on how much they care about the celebrity actors than the writer or director.  That’s why so many small-scale independent films are so much better than major Hollywood productions, especially the ones that feature older celebrities playing characters who should be ten, twenty, or even thirty years younger.

Lytess could never have written a screenplay if her life depended on it– she was a parasite, sucking the blood out of the real artists, and Monroe was a repugnant diva more obsessed with her own image and fame than with artistic achievement though she would frame her narcissism as “artistry”.

Anyway, this is an excellent dissection of the Strasberg school of acting:

The following was posted on Facebook 2024-07-09.

I think [Lee] Strasberg is a symptom, really. He’s a great force, and (in my unique opinion, evidently) a force which is not for the good in the theater. He makes actors secret people and he makes acting secret, and it’s the most communicative art known to man; I mean that’s what the actor’s supposed to be doing. …But the Method is in the air: the actor is defending himself from the Philistine, vulgar public. I had a girl in my play I couldn’t hear, and the acoustics in that little theater we were using were simply magnificent. I said to her, ‘I can’t hear you,’ and I kept on saying, ‘I can’t hear you.’ She finally got furious and said to me, in effect, that she was acting the truth, and that she was not going to prostitute herself to the audience. That was the living end! It reminded me of Walter Hampden’s comment–because we had a similar problem in ‘The Crucible’ with some actors–he said they play a cello with the most perfect bowing and the fingering is magnificent but there are no strings on the instrument. The problem is that the actor is now working out his private fate through his role, and the idea of communicating the meaning of the play is the last thing that occurs to him. In the Actors Studio, despite denials, the actor is told that the text is really the framework for his emotions; I’ve heard actors change the order of lines in my work and tell me that the lines are only, so to speak, the libretto for the music–that the actor is the main force that the audience is watching and that the playwright is his servant. They are told that the analysis of the text, and the rhythm of the text, the verbal texture, is of no importance whatever. This is Method, as they are teaching it, which is, of course, a perversion of it, if you go back to the beginning. But there was always a tendency in that direction. Chekhov, himself, said that Stanislavsky had perverted ‘The Seagull.'”

Arthur Miller Interview with Olga Carlisle and Rose Styron
The Paris Review, 1966

Will Biden Drop Out

I suspect, at this moment, that Joe Biden will drop out.  And it will be astonishing.

Why will he drop out?  Because his blundering performance at the debate was not an anomaly, and, even when confronted with a very, very serious crisis in his candidacy, he is still unable to present a coherent, assertive presence to the media and public.

It wasn’t Biden being caught in an unexpected situation for which he  was unprepared and then responded with a poor choice of words or lack of command of the facts of the circumstance.  He had all the time in the world and all the staff in the world and all the resources in the world to prepare for the debate and he still managed to muff it on a ridiculous scale.  Then, after creating a dire crisis for his candidacy, he could not even muster a credible display of recovered command and assertiveness to even begin to counter-act the devasting effect of his debate performance.

He has offered excuses: he had a cold.  He had jet lag.  He works too hard and doesn’t get enough sleep.  The fact that he even feels the need to offer excuses in very telling.  He knows he has a serious problem.

Both Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn have indicated some reservations, when one would have expected fulsome support and a strong assertion of confidence.

There will be, in the coming days, a monumental clash between the insular coterie of family and friends surrounding Biden and the wider world of Democratic donors, strategists, Congressional delegates, party apparatchiks, and others, who will quietly begin to insinuate the obvious.  Will it penetrate?  I suspect it will, eventually.

And then… chaos.  Representative James Clyburn will surely expect Kamala Harris to replace Biden, but others in the party will be hesitant to back the loser of the 2020 primaries, someone the party has had persistent doubts about, and the challenge of a black woman winning a presidential race in America, particularly after the Hilary Clinton fiasco in 2016.

But what if, instead, they turn to Gavin Newsom, or Josh Shapiro?  Will this alienate the black voters the Democrats depend on to win elections?

More dangerously, a segment of the voting public has clearly shifted their support to the repulsive Donald Trump.  Having overcome their rational hesitation to adopt him as their candidate, will they, once they have overcome those reservations, hesitate to return to the Democratic candidate?  Will an embittered Kamala Harris withdraw from the campaign?  Or will she accept a VP nomination with the new candidate?

I doubt we will get a really great replacement like Sherrod Brown or Sheldon Whitehouse.  Getchen Witmer would be a terrific replacement.  Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar would be viable.  Newsom?  Probably.  Shapiro?  Maybe.

Trump is very vulnerable to attack by a vigorous, smart opponent.  The Democrats owe it to the world to find one.

If they don’t, history should be as unkind to Biden as it is now to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at least among the more sophisticated observers.  He will be the man whose bungling missteps and selfish narcissism gave us the worst president in the history of the United States, again.




Blue Jays 2024-06

Blue Jays are paying a very big pile of money to Springer, Kiermaier, and Turner, batting .196, .190, .233, with little or no power. Springer, to my astonishment, is under contract for 2025 and 2026 at over $20 million. Springer and Kiermaier are 34; Turner is 39. None of these players are going to improve, but, rather than admit they spent unwisely, they keep trotting them out there, game on the line or not, runners on or not, disappointed fans or not.

On the plus side, Varsho and Jansen are relative bargains at about $5.5 million.

It’s not fun, as a Jays fan, to watch them trot Springer out there to pinch hit with a runner on, trailing by a run in the 8th, badly needing a win to get close to .500, with a chance to compete for a wild card, maybe. Not fun to see them waste decent pitching performances by not scoring more than one or two runs.

They should cut their losses and put the rookies in. They can’t possibly do worse, and the rookies will at least mostly improve. As for trades, Guerrero and Bichette are fast losing their value. The others have no trade value.

Blue Jays Salaries

An Alarming Digital Theft

We live in an age of digital theft, though not the kind you think of.  The real digital theft is committed mostly by companies like Google and Meta that steal your data and then resell it back to you in the form of advertising.

But some digital theft feels more like highway robbery, as in this story in the Times about some humble folk artists who were robbed of the ownership of their own original songs.

No one should be surprised that there is theft, even of intellectual property.  What is disconcerting is how difficult it is to reclaim ownership of the stolen property.  Our “system” of publication and distribution of intellectual property is clumsy and defective.

But I believe the genie is out of the bottle on this issue.


Confusing the Men

A New York Times article by Vanessa Friedman said this:

The clothes were like a dare to the watching world, a refusal to cater to pretty-girls-in-pretty-dresses gender expectations and a good-natured riposte to the idea that provocation is an invitation. An “I see your judgment and raise you one” piece of fashion politics.

The writer is referring to sequence of very revealing outfits worn by actress Kristen Stewart as she toured various events to promote her film “Love Lies Bleeding”.  I find it kind of incoherent.  Do you?  How is a provocative outfit a “riposte” to the idea that “provocation is an invitation”?  What is the “riposte” part?  Is what she is referring actually better known as a tease?

We are told– endlessly, it seems– that the “male gaze” objectifies and dehumanizes women.  Male directors demand that actresses reveal their bodies to gratify fantasies of male sexual desire.  Wolf whistles and leering stares are acts of oppression.  Choosing a new employee based on sexual appeal instead of skill or qualification is very, very wrong.

So what is the meaning of Ms. Friedman celebrating Stewart brazen exhibitionism?  She states:

Ms. Stewart and her stylist, Tara Swennen, have taken the film’s carnality and covert politics and translated them for the promotional panopticon, forcing anybody watching to confront their own preconceptions about women’s bodies, their sexuality and exactly what empowerment means, while at the same time undermining the whole circus of branded celebrity dressing.

Does that actually mean anything, other than, having it both ways?  We can decry the male gaze while manipulating it?  Instead of admitting that some women– at least– cultivate the male gaze and revel in it, and profit from it, and feel exhilarated by the attention, we can twist the logic into a cultural pretzel in which up is down and down is sideways.  Kristen Stewart is getting a kick out of the looks she wants: she is making a political statement.  Don’t you dare believe she enjoys the attention.

If you believe Ms. Friedman.

Or you can believe Stewart gets her kicks.




Divas about Divas

Join us for SIX: The Musical, a 90-minute extravaganza inspired by the queens of pop – Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a less promising enticement.  I’m impressed though at the remarkable collection of seven of the most inconsequential talents in the pop universe, seven of the singers I would least likely want to hear, all of them making extensive use of Autotune, all of them products, all of them narcissists of the highest order.

On the same day, someone else on Facebook posted a photo of Taylor Swift at some football game with the comment that she did not “ask” to be on TV at the football game.

On the contrary, all she does is “ask” to be on TV.


The Traditional

My response to this column in the NY Times by Ross Douthat.


“a mechanism to constrain sexual misbehavior that’s more effective than the traditional emphasis on monogamy and chastity.” I like how you sneaked in there the phrase “the traditional”, as if this was some kind of monumental edifice of unquestioned provenance. As if it was not a social mechanism for the control of women’s bodies by patriarchal “authority”. A social mechanism inevitably dispensed with for themselves by privileged men in power. Whether you personally or not love Donald Trump, your side owns him and you could not invent a more ragingly hypocritical avatar of “traditional” values.

Tears in the Rain

Rutger Hauer, the great Dutch actor, actually had a hand in writing these lines for the ending of “Blade Runner” (the exquisite original; not the boring remake). He was not satisfied with the script and received permission from Ridley Scott to rewrite his lines for the eponymous dying scene:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion
I watched c- beams glitter in the dark near Tanhauser Gate
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain

It doesn’t matter much what C-beams are or where the Tanhauser Gate is: the idea is that we should relish and value every spectacular moment of life, of the wonderful, amazing things we see and experience– not because they are forever but precisely because they are ours, and temporary, and will melt away with our memories “like tears in the rain”.

Rutger Hauer died today (2019-07-24) at 75 .

Music Industry Reform

The music industry is structured to rip off artists and fans. It’s time the government legislated minimum standards for all recording contracts specifically to prevent companies from charging artists for ancillary services they are actually providing to themselves, and to guarantee minimum royalties per unit sold regardless of advances. Producers should also be prohibited from seizing co-writing credits for songs they record even if they suggest specific arrangements and instrumentation. And yes, break up the ticket agent monopolies so that venues and artists are free to choose the lowest cost agencies. Every recording on which the singer is auto-tuned (which is almost all of them now) should be labelled as such so we can tell who really is a good singer and who is just processed noise.

And it should be illegal to claim that ABBA was ever really anything more than a banal pop band.

Free Speech at the ACLU

Really, really disappointed to read this account of the ACLU’s firing of an employee for using language that in some subtle way– too subtle for most of us to grasp– implied a racist attitude.

In one instance, according to court documents, she told a Black superior that she was “afraid” to talk with him. In another, she told a manager that their conversation was “chastising.” And in a meeting, she repeated a satirical phrase likening her bosses’ behavior to suffering “beatings.”

There are multitudes of progressive organizations out there ready to attack anyone who dares oppose their advocacy of nothing but rainbows and flowers for those of minority sexual preferences or racial identity.  The ACLU, until now, has been generally willing to fight for everyone’s right to speak truthfully even when expressing unpopular opinions.  But the entire story about the firing of Kate Oh over statements that only in the mysterious realm of paranoid ultra-sensitivity constitute any kind of racial animus is truly discouraging.  It’s not about a weird deviation from their core values.  It’s about the corporate culture at the ACLU becoming mind-numbingly parochial.

One of the things I had always liked about the ACLU– and which I agree with wholeheartedly– is that unpopular speech has a right to be heard.  And then mocked and ridiculed, if necessary, but heard.  And the mockery and ridicule itself must be protected.  When a university bans a speaker because they are not politically congenial with the culture of the administration and faculty, we all lose, even if we hate the speech.  Let them speak.  If they are idiots, we can let them know after we know what they are actually saying.

But– this is important– please take care to note when these speakers are not actually banned (as Anne Coulter claimed to have been from a Canadian University)  but merely playing the martyr for their home-town crowd.  Conservatives seem to adore this trope and play it for all it’s worth in their own media echo-chambers.

I am even opposed to “hate-speech” and “hate-crime” designations.  Either it is a crime or it isn’t.  “Hate” is an entirely subjective pejorative.  Inciting violence is a crime.  Libel is a crime.  Fraud is a crime.  Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre can be a crime.  But making something a “hate” crime is being a nanny.