Tuesday, May 19, 2020

CAPITAL (2019): The Negative Consequences of Privilege (i.e. Classism)



Paul Piff, a psychologist at the University of California at Irvine, did a study where Monopoly players were divided randomly by flipping a coin into rich and poor players. 

The rich players were given two-times as much money as the poor players, the rich players got to roll both dice instead of one; therefore, the rich players got to move around the board a lot quicker, and when they passed GO, they collected $200 while the poor and slower players only collected $100.


Consequently, the rich players became more dominant, significantly ruder (e.g., The rich players belittled the poor players.), the rich players were less compassionate, and despite their initial advantage in the game, the rich players acted as if they deserved to win (i.e., The rich players didn't acknowledge that they had a significant advantage in the game.)

Piff related Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2019): 

"When you watch patterns of human interactions, people who feel entitled and deserving of their own success, are more willing to privilege their own interests above the interests of other people and often engage in ways that undermines other people's welfare; so, that they can get ahead."

"We translate perceptions and experiences of being better off than others - materially, to being better than others."

Monday, April 27, 2020

Do You Have To Be Shy To Be A Good Writer?


Per @AdviceToWriters, Jhumpa Lahiri opined:

Shyness often blossoms into a creative calling. Actors are often shy people [...] And writers too, because they mostly are people who, in their childhood and adolescence, have read a lot, alone and in silence. Solitude is an essential element for a writer.

And Joe Moran wrote in The Daily Beast article "Do Shy People Make the Best Writers?":

Nicholson Baker, Alan Bennett, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, J.K. Rowling, and Garrison Keillor are just a few of the contemporary authors who have written or spoken about being shy.

Lahiri's use of the word "often" shows that she's not implying that all shy people blossom into a creative calling. 

And if you don't believe that "[a]ctors are often shy people". Here's the title of an article Dalya Alberge wrote for The Guardian: "‘It feels like I’m choking’ – actors reveal crippling effects of stage fright" The irony! 

Coincidentally, I'm a writer, and I was an avid reader - alone and in silence during my childhood and adolescence. But does that make me a good writer? Probably not. 


Monday, April 13, 2020

Non Dutch Processed Hot Chocolate Recipe


We use Navitas' cacao powder to make our morning mocha (i.e.,  a 1/2 cup of hot chocolate + a demitasse of Turkish coffee.) Suspiciously, the back of Navitas' packaging doesn't have a recipe for hot chocolate. I'm assuming that's because Navitas' cacao powder is processed naturally and is not processed using the Dutch method. 

"Dutch process chocolate or Dutched chocolate is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder taste compared to "natural cocoa" extracted with the Broma process." (Wikipedia)


Consequently, cacao that isn't processed using the Dutch method tends to lump when making hot chocolate, but we, thank God, have a solution, which is to mix the cacao and sweetener with cold - not hot milk and cold (Turkish) coffee. (Honestly, we don't know if it's the coldness or the coffee that removes the cacao lumps.) Here's my mocha recipe: 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of (grass fed organic whole) milk
3 teaspoons of cacao powder
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of (organic cane) sugar [This gives the honey a subtle taste - just a hint.]
1 demitasse cup of Turkish coffee

Directions: 

1. Place the milk and Turkish coffee in a pan (DO NOT HEAT)
2. Place the cacao powder, honey, and sugar in a mug 
3. Add three teaspoons of the cold milk to the mug and stir until smooth like chocolate icing
4. Heat the remaining milk, add it to the mug and stir until mixed
5. Enjoy

Note: Eliminate the Turkish coffee to make hot chocolate. And if you mistakenly heat the milk, simply strain the beverage into another cup before drinking. 

Guittard Dutch\ Processed Cacao Powder

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Number One (#1) Mistake of New Writers?


My view is that the number one mistake that new writers make is trying to write something out of thin air. I totally agree with Sylvia Plath who, per @AdviceToWriters, opined:

Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.

Every novel is some sort of roman à clef or is based on a previous work. For example, Lolita and Humbert appears to have been based on Sally Horner and Frank La Salle. And per Wikipedia, at a minimum, The Lord of the Rings is based on:

[...] philology, religion (particularly Catholicism), fairy tales, Norse and general Germanic mythology, and also Celtic, Slavic, Persian, Greek, and Finnish mythology. Tolkien acknowledged, and external critics have verified, the influences of George MacDonald and William Morris and the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

Only God can create out of thin air. Consequently, humans must improvise creatively.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Does Danielle Steel Really Write for 20 to 22 Hours Per Day?!


Lena Dunham is writing Verified Strangers, a serial romance novel, that's being posted week-daily on Vogue’s website. Consequently, Dunham posted on Twitter that, for inspiration, she revisited a Danielle Steel Glamour profile (MAY 9, 2019). (In case you're wondering, Verified Strangers is more Cecily von Ziegesar than Vladimir Nabokov.)


Here are some relevant excerpts from Steel's Glamour profile:

The author has written 179 books [...] To pull it off, she works 20 to 22 hours a day. (A couple times a month, when she feels the crunch, she spends a full 24 hours at her desk.)

Steel is a creature of habit. She gets to her office—by 8:30 A.M., where she can often be found in her cashmere nightgown. In the morning she'll have one piece of toast and an iced decaf coffee (she gave up full-throated caffeine 25 years ago). After lunch and as the day wears on, she'll nibble on miniature bittersweet chocolate bars. "Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work. Sometimes I'll finish a book in the morning, and by the end of the day, I've started another project," Steel says.

"I don't get to bed until I'm so tired I could sleep on the floor. If I have four hours, it's really a good night for me," Steel says.

For all her exhortations, Steels does sometimes fear that she's overemphasized work, wishing she'd "had a little more fun." Now every summer she takes a full week off in the South of France to be with her family. They’ll hang out on the beach; she catches up on her reading. (Steel can't read other books while working on her own, which means she can basically never read other books.) On the rare nights that she finishes work earlier than expected, she'll fit in about an hour or so of television, often Netflix [...]

I'm not saying that I don't believe that Steel writes for 20 to 22 hours per day, but I find that to be extremely hard to believe. 

The Paris Review related that Nabokov worked on his translation of Pushkin's Onegin for approximately 17 hours per day - for two months, but Nabokov shared that he was on the verge of a [nervous] breakdown: “I was … on the verge of a breakdown and not fit for company. For two months in Cambridge I did nothing (from 9 A.M. to 2 A.M.) but work on my commentaries to EO.” 

During the summer of 2010, after teaching a summer school course in Manhattan, I worked on my first novel for about ten hours per day. I did not almost have a nervous breakdown but, despite sleeping between 4 to 5 hours per night, I just couldn't squeeze any more writing time out of the day. 


I will say that Steel's eating habits (e.g., "one piece of toast and an iced decaf coffee") are consistent with her alleged work ethic but, per Stephen King and most writers, the fact that Steel doesn't read much is inconsistent with being a writer. 


I wouldn't be surprised if Steel works in a similar fashion to James Patterson who per a Vanity Fair profile (DECEMBER 10, 2014), which refers to Patterson as the "The Henry Ford of Books", Patterson has "an army of co-writers". 

Patterson writes outlines that he sends to co-authors. Upon receiving the manuscript, Patterson revises the MS before sending it to an editor. Consequently, Patterson is: "The planet’s best-selling author since 2001, James Patterson has more than 300 million copies of his books in print, [helped by] an army of co-writers [...]"



Antony Gormley's Abstract Sculpture: “[Brooklyn] New York Clearing”


I precariously took the downtown 4 to Brooklyn's Borough Hall and walked to Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 3 to see Antony Gormley's “New York Clearing”. 

Per Timein collaboration with K-pop's BTSGormley's abstract sculpture is "high-concept" modern public art that is: "[...] a single looping line of aluminum tubing — 18 kilometers worth, to be exact — spiraling in open-space, [with] larger-than-life scribbles that reach 50 feet high, like a gargantuan metal tumbleweed." 

Although, downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn were desolate, like downtown Bronx, despite Cuomo's "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, Brooklyn Bridge Park was teeming with art aficionados, joggers, and Brooklynites on constitutionals.  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Is Non-Fiction Fiction's Foundation?


When I started writing my first novel about 20 years ago, it was a revelation to me that I couldn't write the book out of thin air, because it's impossible. I had to use my life experiences as a foundation for my creativity.

I believe that this is what Thomas Harris, the author of Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, related when he shared:

"I don’t think I’ve ever made up anything. Everything has happened. Nothing’s made up. You don’t have to make anything up in this world."

Do you agree with Harris and me?

And here's a link to the full Independent article.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Using Gen Z and Millennials Texting Acronyms in Formal Writing


While perusing the March 2020 issue of Cosmopolitan, I was surprised to notice that the issue was peppered with acronyms that are often used by generation z and millennials. I was forced to Google a number of acronyms, because I couldn't even determine the meaning of the acronyms from the context of the pieces. For example:

Carina Hsieh, the sex and relationship editor, shared: "I'm deep in writing a news story about the trend...perineum sunning. TD;DR: Tanning your b-hole has not health bennies (sorry!)."

TD;DR = too long; didn't read

Taylor Andrews wrote in her piece about where young women keep their debit cards: "[If you keep your debit card in your phone case] [y]ou were the first to use a vibrator in high school, so ofc you gave sexing advice to anyone who listened ... and also explained calc like a pro."

OFC = of course 

And in Hsieh's article about how to determine if you've angered a BFF, option A is: "Just walk away RTFN" 

RTFN: = right the f*ck now

I was familiar with a few of the acronyms, but I was shocked by the number of times I had to refer to Google. And TBH, à la Nabokov, I pepper my writing with (intermediate) French, but to stay relevant, should I pepper my writing with gen z acronyms too?

On a side not, some, like former model Nicole Weider, allege that Cosmopolitan became the largest selling magazine in the world by marketing to teens via using popular acronyms used by gen z and millennials. And by profiling teens or celebrities who are popular with teens while using sexually explicit language. 

For example, the March 2020 issue of Cosmopolitan profiles Lucy Hale. Hale is most famous for playing Aria Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars where she had an extended affair with her high school English teacher. And the text on the cover next to Hale reads: SO THIS SIGN IS the best at sex (WHEN THEY'RE NOT CRYING, THAT IS)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Why We Left New [Jersey] York Red Bulls


Every Major League Soccer (MLS) season, we've wonder why so many New Yorkers appear to snub the New York Red Bulls (NYRB) for the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). 

Since NYCFC arrived in The Bronx in 2013, we've been loyal fans of both teams. But it appears that we've been an anomaly, because most New Yorkers seem to consider the New Jersey based NYBR, a New Jersey team.

However, as of today, we've decided to abandon NYRB for the following reasons:
  1. NYRB transferred Kemar Lawrence, who was, arguably, the best defender in MLS
  2. NYRB traded Bradley Wright Phillips - unarguable one the best strikers in MLS history 
  3. And YouTube TV doesn't carry MSG

Update | 02.29.20: I just found out that the NYRB traded Luis Robles, unarguably the best goalkeeper in the history of the NYRB, to David Beckham's Inter Miami! Apparently, this happened in December. And unsurprisingly, Beckham named Robles the football club's captain.