What’s Good?

Posted Posted in acting, art, comedy, podcast, Uncategorized

I wanted to submit a pitch for a podcast on the Good Place, but found I wasn’t eligible to submit, but had already written a short essay with my hot take on moral relativism! Here it is!

Well, hey, to determine what’s good, we first have to define it, right?

Moral Good

Good can mean morally good: that is, what a society decides is moral. Right now, in this moment – on a Tuesday in March- it is good to sit inside by yourself, and bad to go outside in large groups.  Usually, the opposite is true. It’s good to help others and bad to hoard toilet paper.  

 We think that being a good person is to be of service to others, and to do what is moral, which we pretend is a constant and not something we made up.

500 years ago, it was good to follow church doctrine and bad to question it, as Martin Luther found out.  It was also good to give virgin brides away to strange monarchs, but which someone would probably ask about today. 

 1000 years ago, it was good to burn heretics at the stake, and it was good to be strong.  The whole world was amassing armies and conquering land. China invented paper printed money, which is what power is based on now.  

Looking Good

  A second meaning of good is the aesthetic meaning. This can either mean something that you personally enjoy, or something of superior quality.  The first meaning is subjective, and the second is a societal construct, but we confuse them with each other, and also with the moral meaning of good.  

  To say that something is aesthetically good is to say that based on my background, life experiences, and context, I value it.  My peers, who might have similar background and life experiences, may also value it, which makes me value it more.  

  In The Last Man On Earth and in the Good Place, characters value objects that nobody else appreciates. Phil’s hoard of art in his mansion, or Eleanor’s excitement over a bedpan made famous in a wrestling match: they now have to explain to the people around them what makes these things good, which means they’re not.

  The second meaning of aesthetically good is that something is well-made, as in: is the new Avengers movie any good?  Well, does it have a bunch of characters in shiny outfits and a scary CGI monster? Is Robert Downey Jr. snarky in it? Does Thor not understand something about Earth despite living here kind of a long time and we all laugh at him, even though he’s handsome?  Do the Avengers splinter off and fight and get mad at each other but then they come together and fight the CGI monster and they’re friends in the end? Is there a rock song in it that was expensive to get, but which is played a little too loudly during a very exciting scene? Well, then, that’s what we expect, and it’s good.  

 When you say an Avengers movie is bad- what were your expectations? Did you hope that a character would arrive at a universal truth about human suffering, and that the actor portraying that character would get an important award?  That’s not the yardstick we measure Avengers movies by.

 In performance, to be good is to conform to the current fashion- a hundred years ago, a good singer would sing in a high, reedy voice, and now we like a wide tone and someone who does a lot of vocal switches, which we used to call yodeling.  Good acting in Shakespeare’s time was planting your feet at shoulder width and yelling your lines as loudly as you could.  

  Sometimes we get confused about the two meanings of “good” in art. This is the thought that because you did not personally enjoy something, it’s not good- but in the surfer relativism of The Big Lebowski, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.   Your thoughts on a thing does not really affect its value. If people ever really understand that, Twitter will wither and die.

What’s Good In Fine Art?

 Most art needs context of some sort to be judged- Jackson Pollock paintings are considered good because they were the first really well-known abstract paintings, and because he died only a few years after his best work was made. The value of the paintings his widow was selling to MOMA shot up because, as she pointed out,  there wouldn’t be any more, and that sale created the market for modern art in America, and his peers got rich. If we showed the paintings to an alien or a Maori tribesman, they probably would not consider them good, because they don’t look like anything in particular, but sort of look like lots of things, and why are you putting colors on a fabric square anyway?

     The last episode of the Good Place finds every character trying to achieve their definition of good: Tahani believes that being able to do everything beautifully is good.  Chidi thinks understanding everything is good. Eleanor determines that being good is helping others. 
Jason achieves his definition of good the earliest, as he gets the perfect score in Madden playing as the Jaguars, but reaches yet another level of perfection years later, through achieving inner peace and oneness with nature.

What’s Good?

  I’m a middle-class white woman raised in the South with both religion and MTV, so things I think are good are:

The musty smell of clothing in vintage shops, and the smell of old bookshops.

The moment in a song where the drums lock into syncopation with the guitar, and it sounds like a little machine ticking along.

Black clothing and things that are shiny, because my visual aesthetic was made by 80’s postpunk music videos and has never developed after that.

Cookies n’ cream milkshakes.

Petting a dog who has just dried off from a bath and is very soft, and he’s still unhappy that he got the bath, but being petted afterwards makes it worth the bath, sort of.  

 They’re not universal, except maybe the dog one, but to me, they’re good.

LA Nightlife

Posted Posted in los angeles

And now, from the people who brought you such great LA nightlife experiences as:

No Vacancy
Breakroom 86
Here’s Looking At You
Good Times At Davey Wayne’s
Madame Siam
Rabbit Rose

are some great new bar concepts, including:

Hey Where Can I Get Some Bindi Cigarettes
Smelly Jumpsuit Locker
He Used To Be My Stepdad/ Now He’s My Husband
Slick Willie’s Allegation Party
Overdue Citation
An Offer He Can’t Refuse

and also:

They Call Me Mister Tibbs
Seems Like A Palindrome, but Isn’t
Why Won’t They Stop Screaming?
I See Dead People
and
What’s Shakin’, Bacon?

Come out and have a fancy theme drink with us!

The Prettiest Star, A Proposal

Posted Posted in Bowie, dance, music

While doing important Bowie-based research around his birthday, I read that he had written The Prettiest Star as part of his marriage proposal for Angela, and played it to her over the phone.

Since she is of Cypriot heritage, he wrote the song as a hassapiko, a Greek folk dance. My friend Johnny tested it and found that it could be danced that way, right out of the box. Because of the “wop wop” in the background, it had always sounded like a kind of cheesy doo-wop to me.

This was charming, because later in life he was dismissive of her relationship and called it primarily business, but this trivia made me feel like there was a moment where he really loved her, even if he forgot that later.

He released it as a single and it tanked, at 800 copies sold. So did the marriage. Ah well.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Posted Posted in love and dating, women

Men and women have more trouble communicating now than ever, and one of the things we don’t communicate well on is sex. I was raised to believe that if a man wanted to have sex with you, it was because he was trying to express his undying love and admiration for you and was tottering, like a newborn baby deer, towards a lasting relationship.


This has not always been the case.


Here are some of my theories about why we believe men have sex versus possible reasons why they do.
Of COURSE these are not all the reasons. I’m sure there’s a million! Here’s a start.

Reason Women Believe Men Will Have Sex:

To deepen intimacy and lay the groundwork for a serious relationship

Reasons Men Will Have Sex:

To deepen intimacy and lay the groundwork for a serious relationship
To thank someone for a pretty good sandwich

Running a bit short on cardio today
Because they need someplace to sleep
To annoy their friend
Had 15 minutes free
Condoms about to expire
Put off decision about where to have breakfast
To be polite
Because they’re hoping you’ll make them a sandwich later
Don’t want to talk about the Mandalorian anymore
They knew you in college
They knew you in high school
They knew you
They thought they knew you but they were actually thinking of someone else
You remind them of a girl they had a crush on forever, except she looked totally different and had a different personality, they’re actually not sure why you remind them of Candace particularly
To win a bet
To lose a bet
They like your band
You like their band
You like the same band
You both like bands
Hoping you’ll come see their band
Bar was closing
Restaurant needed the table
They liked your t-shirt
You liked their t-shirt
They quoted Napoleon Dynamite and you laughed and they appreciated it
Because you did a great job at bar trivia
They were hitting on your friend but it didn’t work out
They’re hoping you’ll listen to their podcast
They’re hoping to get booked on your podcast
They appreciated your giving them the last beer
Because someone said they couldn’t

Tea and Sexism

Posted Posted in comedy, feminism, women

I’ve always been an anglophile, have always thought British people were a little smarter and more sophisticated than we are. I assume women comics are treated pretty well there, although I had only done one UK spot, in 2013. My first show in the UK this trip was stacked with funny, capable women, and it was great. On my second show, I noted that I was set up back to back with the other woman on the bill, and I made a joke (which is not a joke) about how that wouldn’t happen in LA, because once we talk about our cats and our periods, what’s left?

Backstage Chitchat

The person I was talking to said oh really, and mistaking that for interest I said yeah, Maria Bamford just sponsored a college study reviewing gender and ethnicity in club bookings, finding that women accounted for just 16% of the work. The person I was talking to said, do you think there’s more than 16% of comics that are women? I turned to him and said, yes.

There are some great shows like Women Crush Wednesdays (back Jan 8!), L.A. WOMAN All Female Revue, and The Mermaid Comedy Hour that are incredibly strong and well-attended, but bookers still get asked- will you have enough funny women to fill the spots? And yeah, they do. The person said in a huff, I don’t agree with women showcases. I don’t think they should exist. I think it should just be: comedy! And then he got up and did his set about how he’s from this place and he’s like this, and his girlfriend is from this other place and she’s like that.

Lessons Learned

I learned a lot. I learned who I shouldn’t talk to, I learned that there are plenty of hacks in London, and I learned that it’s important to support talented women. Anyway, I’m honored to be back on L.A. WOMAN All Female Revue on Sunday at 7 at the Virgil, it’s gonna be a hoot- women will dance, sing, and tell jokes, and we’re gonna show these idiots what’s what! Come on out and join us.

Travelling Through The Decades

Posted Posted in feminism, Virginia Jones, women

Travelling through the decades:

30’s: I gotta get my nails and toenails done for my trip

40’s: Doesn’t give a fuck

30’s: I’m gonna take a little bag of jewelry to work with my outfits

40’s: Doesn’t give a fuck

30’s: Brought two styles of sunglasses for different lewks

40’s: Own three pairs of the same sunglasses, Hollis by Oliver Peoples. Does not give a fuck.

30’s: Wait, should I buy a mini of my trademark perfume or should I try something new for the trip?

40’s: Doesn’t wear perfume at home, doesn’t give a fuck

20’s: Brought books

30’s: Brought kindle

40’s: Broke half a dozen kindles, now watches Youtube videos of kids kicking each other in the nuts on her phone the whole trip. Does not give a fuck.

30’s: Brought running shoes, dress shoes, and casual shoes for travel

40’s: Brought one pair Chuck Taylor high tops and cannot possibly give a fuck.

30’s: Need room for my DSLR camera!
40’s: Bringing phone.

30’s: Need to carry on my laptop
40’s: Bringing phone.

30’s: Bringing heavily curated outfits for trip, is heartbroken she can’t bring more shoes
40’s: I don’t know these people, who gives a fuck?

Wait, am I maturing and becoming more comfortable in my own skin- or am I just depressed?