Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: Apple News+ | For Voracious Magazine Readers


We're avid readers of The New YorkerNew York MagazineVanity Fair and the Arts section of The New York Times, but unless we can find an Instagram deal, the subscriptions can be cost prohibitive for most New York City based writers. 

That's why we signed up for Apple's News+ where we get subscriptions to the The New YorkerNew York Magazine, and Vanity Fair for less than $10 per month. And since subscribing, we've started reading The Hollywood Reporter for intriguing news about the film, television and streaming industries and Adweek for inside news about the advertising industry. 

Admittedly, it took us some time to get used to reading avidly on an iPhone, and we still have to get The New York Times via a relative's (free) student account, but if you're a voracious magazine reader, News+ may be a good investment. 


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Was Shakespeare a Woman?



In her June 2019 Atlantic essay, Elizabeth Winkler asked "Was Shakespeare a Woman?" I won't get into the reasons that Winkler gave for Emilia Bassano possibly being the real Shakespeare, but I'm going to share her reasons for why Shakespeare possibly wasn't Shakespeare.

Their doubt is rooted in an empirical conundrum. Shakespeare’s life is remarkably well documented, by the standards of the period—yet no records from his lifetime identify him unequivocally as a writer. The more than 70 documents that exist show him as an actor, a shareholder in a theater company, a moneylender, and a property investor. They show that he dodged taxes, was fined for hoarding grain during a shortage, pursued petty lawsuits, and was subject to a restraining order. The profile is remarkably coherent, adding up to a mercenary impresario of the Renaissance entertainment industry. What’s missing is any sign that he wrote.

No such void exists for other major writers of the period, as a meticulous scholar named Diana Price has demonstrated. Many left fewer documents than Shakespeare did, but among them are manuscripts, letters, and payment records proving that writing was their profession.

A wealthy man when he retired to Stratford, he was meticulous about bequeathing his properties and possessions (his silver, his second-best bed). Yet he left behind not a single book, though the plays draw on hundreds of texts, including some—in Italian and French—that hadn’t yet been translated into English. Nor did he leave any musical instruments, though the plays use at least 300 musical terms and refer to 26 instruments. He remembered three actor-owners in his company, but no one in the literary profession. Strangest of all, he made no mention of manuscripts or writing. 










Sunday, April 28, 2019

[Asian] Students for Fair Admissions Misdirected Beef


Per The Harvard GazetteAfrican-Americans constitute 15.5 percent of the Harvard class of 2022, Asian-Americans 22.7 percent, Latinos 12.2 percent, Native Americans 2 percent, and Native Hawaiians 0.4 percent with whites constituting almost a whopping 50 percent. 
However, NBC news posted (Feb. 14, 2019) from the Associated Press article "Affirmative action lawsuit against Harvard in judge's hands":
A federal judge will now decide whether Harvard University intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants, an allegation made in a 2014 lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions [i.e., Asian students who were rejected by Harvard] who built their case around a Duke University professor's analysis of Harvard admissions records that concluded that the Harvard's personal rating, which scores applicants on traits including "courage" and "likability", works against Asian-Americans while favoring [B]lack and Hispanic students. 
How could those Asians and that Duke professor blame African-American and Latino students for their rejection letters when Whites are the most accepted demographic? Whites should have been the number one suspects. 
Maybe their views have changed since the news of the college cheating scandal broke where David K. Li reported for NBC News (March 13, 2019) that:
[Mark] Riddell, a 2004 Harvard graduate and a four-year tennis letter winner, is a key figure in the massive college-admissions probe dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. The federal probe announced Tuesday ensnared dozens of parents who allegedly paid millions of dollars to falsify college applications and get their children into elite universities.
Riddell took SAT and ACT exams for students between 2012 and this past February, according to a criminal complaint. He was paid $10,000 per test, prosecutors said.
Olivia Jade & Lori Loughlin 
The most famous famous suspects in the college cheating scandal are actress Lori Loughlin and her influencer daughter Olivia Jade. According to the Vanity Fair article "'Operation Varsity Blues' Is the One Scam to Rule Them All" (MARCH 12, 2019), Loughlin and her husband paid $500,000 for Olivia to get into the University of Southern California. Shamelessly, Olivia shared with her influencees, "I don't really care about school."
Olivia Jade "I don't really care about school."
Thus, this is further evidence that the Students for Fair Admissions (i.e., Asian students who were rejected by elite schools.) have misdirected their beef that should be directed at privileged whites and not with underprivileged African-Americans and Latinos students. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Plight of Nelson Algren: Is Someone Secretly Stopping Your Book Sales?



Jonathan Dee related in his New Yorker piece, "Nelson Algren’s Street Cred: [...] Algren became one of the most celebrated novelists of his era. Why did he disappear into obscurity?", that Ernest Hemingway referred to Algren as the “beat Dostoyevsky”.

Algren, a "proletarian naturalist poet" and novelist, had "fanboys" who included Terry Southern, Russell Banks, Cormac McCarthy, and Thomas Pynchon who, of Algren, said, “is behind a great deal of what I do”.


Dee shared that Colin Asher wrote in Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren that Algren's:

[...] first novel, “Somebody in Boots” (originally titled “Native Son”: his good friend Richard Wright’s book of that name hadn’t been written yet), sold a meagre seven hundred and sixty copies, failing to earn back its two-hundred-dollar advance. Many first novels tank in this way, and many first novelists are despondent as a result, but twenty-six-year-old Algren—in what would be a harbinger of how he handled perceived failures later in life—took the blow particularly hard, and tried at least once to commit suicide. 

His friends feared for his sanity. Invited to New York to address the first-ever American Writers’ Congress, Algren stood shaking at the lectern, mumbling the same sentences over and over, which gradually became audible: “My book was a failure. Please buy my book.” [...]

[...] Algren’s late-career slide into irrelevance, Asher says, was no impartial operation of fashion or taste but the result of an orchestrated plot by Hoover’s F.B.I. to silence him, at the peak of the McCarthy era. What’s more, the plot itself, in Asher’s telling, was the direct result of a gratuitous insult Algren inserted into “The Man with the Golden Arm”—mockingly employing the surnames of two known turncoats who had identified, sometimes for money, many former friends and colleagues as members of the Communist Party. 

Incensed, the two men sought revenge by naming Algren to the F.B.I. and to the House Un-American Activities Committee, prompting an investigation that turned Algren into a pariah and sabotaged his career. 

But “they operated in secret,” Asher writes, “so Algren blamed himself when his life began falling apart. He presumed the paranoia and depression that began to cripple him in the nineteen-fifties were the result of personal weakness, and decided his books were not being published because no one wanted to read them.”

Saturday, March 30, 2019

ELODEA CANADENSIS (American or Canadian Pondweed) Under a Microscope!

I remember viewing a leaf of Elodea canadensis (i.e., American or Canadian waterweed or pondweed) umpteen years ago under a microscope in an undergraduate science class, and it still blows me away.
Elodea canadensis
Cytoplasmic streaming, via active transport, in cells of Elodea. 
Source: Aleš Kladnik | YouTube

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Julio Le Parc 1959 at The Met Breuer


I saw the Julio Le Parc 1959 exhibit at The Met Breuer two days before it closed, and it was (arguably) the best (abstract minimalist) exhibit that I've viewed. 

What initially appeared to be patternless pieces, upon closer inspection, were discovered to be creatively and painstakingly patterned in clean colors or in black or white.

Quantitative Sequences [Séquences Quantitatives]

For example, in Quantitative Sequences [Séquences Quantitatives], Le Parc started with an empty square and filled it and emptied it, one block at a time, until the end of the piece. 


And in Mutation of Forms [Mutación de Formas], Le Parc opened and closed a red and blue "umbrella" from the beginning to the end of the gouache on cardboard piece. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Un-Importance of Book Cover Designs

John Williams' New York Times cover story How a Book Gets to the Perfect Cover: Here’s how designers get a concept from good to must-pick-up explains how the cover for Glen David Gold’s I Will Be Complete evolved. The memoir: 

"[...] is nearly 500 pages, and recounts his 20s, his college years and his event-filled youth after his mother moved to New York and left him, at 12, temporarily alone in her San Francisco apartment. The length of the book, and the amount of ground it covers, made the prospect of designing a cover for it “a little intimidating,” said Tyler Comrie, a senior designer at Knopf who was given the task.

“There’s a part in the book where Glen stumbles on a puberty chart, when he was 14 or so,” Comrie said. “This presented a perfect opportunity: Three different stages of his life, all tied together with this thing he finds in the book and causes a lot of self-reflection [...]


Figure 1: Three of Tyler Comrie's Drafts for I Will Be Complete

Tyler Comrie developed over three drafts (Figure: 1) for I Will Be Complete, but in the end, a work of abstract by Andrew Nilsen, a friend of the author, was chosen for the cover (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Andrew Nilsen Abstract and the Final Cover

Ultimately, the book's title and summary are going to help the reader make the ultimate decision to buy (and possibly read) the book. An author, like Tim Ferris, can have a book cover design contest, but no matter how attractive the cover, (most) readers aren't going to read a book solely based on the book cover design.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Gladwell's UNWATCHED POT: The Link Between Marijuana & Mental Illness in Middle-Class Professionals


Malcolm Gladwell related in a New Yorker (January 12, 2019) piece, Unwatched Pot: Do We Know Enough About Marijuana?: 

"Because of recent developments in plant breeding and growing techniques, the typical concentration of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, has gone from the low single digits to more than twenty per cent --- from a swig of near beer to a tequila shot."

And as THC levels have increased, there has been increase in the rate of mental illness -specifically among "stable middle-class professionals" that "[...] hardly responded to antipsychotics."





Tuesday, December 25, 2018

COLOR BLIND: Ironic Racism in Roman Art


The subtitle of Margeret Talbot's The New Yorker article "Color Blind" is: "Scholars have known for centuries that Greek and Roman marble figures were routinely covered in bright [white] paint. Why does the myth of their whiteness persist?"

In the text of the article, Talbot shared: "For centuries, archeologists and museum curators had been scrubbing away these traces of color before presenting statues and architectural reliefs to the public."

This was and is done because there's: "[...] a tendency to equate whiteness with beauty, taste, and classical ideals, and to see color as alien, sensual, and garish."

This behavior is ironic since, in general, the Romans practiced classism as opposed to racism. Talbot referenced Sarah Bond, a University of Iowa classics professor, who wrote in a Forbes essay: "[...] the Romans generally differentiated people of color on their cultural and ethnic background rather than the color of their skin [...]"


And Talbot wrote: "[...] though ancient Greeks and Romans certainly noticed skin color, they did not practice systemic racism. They owned slaves, but this population was drawn from a wide range of conquered peoples, including Gauls and Germans."

"Pale skin on a woman was considered a sign of beauty and refinement, because it showed that she was privileged enough not to have to work outdoors. But a man with pale skin was considered unmasculine: bronzed skin was associated with the heroes who fought on battlefields and competed as athletes, naked, in amphitheaters."