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 possible 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."

Monday, November 26, 2018

Jerry Saltz's "How to be an Artist [i.e., Writer]"

Of the 33 rules that Jerry Saltz listed in his New York article How to be an Artist, lessons 5, 20, and 21 were most resonating. In summary, work relentlessly, accept the premise that you may always be poor, and that "The best definition of success is time - the time to do your work."

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The White Woman: A Root of Segregation

If not the root, a root of segregation is the vehement objection to interracial relationships.

In Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, a New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award winner, Ibrahim X. Xendi related: 

Klan violence was needed to “keep the niggers in their place,” explained Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Klan’s first honorary “Grand Wizard.” To the Klan, the only thing worse than a Negro was “a white Radical.” But the worst offender was a suspected Black rapist of a White woman. Klansmen glorified White womanhood as the epitome of honor and purity [...] 

And Robert Beck wrote in his memoir, Pimp: The Story of My Life:

Greenie, the white man [...] locks all Niggers inside tight stockades [i.e., in prisons and segregated neighborhoods]. He’d love it if the Nigger broads wasn’t locked in there. The white man is scared shitless. He don’t want them humping bucks [i.e., oversexed Black men] coming out there in the white world rubbing their bellies against those soft white bellies [...] That’s the real reason for keeping all the Niggers locked up. 

Arguably, the most famous example of the fear of interracial relationships is the Emmett Till case. August 28, 1955, 14-year-old Till, an African-American, was kidnapped, pistol whipped, beaten, shot in the head, and tossed in a Mississippi river by two white men - Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. What did Till do to Bryant and Milam?  He didn’t anything to them, but they believed that Till did something to Carolyn Bryant, Roy Bryant’s 21-year-old white wife.

According to Alan Blinder’s New York Times piece, “U.S. Reopens Emmett Till Investigation, Almost 63 Years After His Murder”:

[...] the events leading to the attack has repeatedly shifted. One account had the boy only insulting her verbally. In court, but without jurors present, she claimed that Emmett had made physical contact with her and spoken in crude, sexual language. She later told the F.B.I. that Emmett had touched her hand.

But when she spoke to the researcher Timothy B. Tyson in 2008, she acknowledged that it was “not true” that Emmett had grabbed her or made vulgar remarks. She told Dr. Tyson, who published a book about the case last year [The Blood of Emmett Till, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Longlist], that “nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

However, Christopher Benson’s Chicago magazine piece, "Eyewitness Account: Emmett Till's cousin Simeon Wright seeks to set the record straight", Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin, said that Till whistled at Bryant, “[...] to get a laugh out of us or something.”

Thus, Bryant and Milam were so threatened by a 14-year-old African-American male that they brutally tortured and killed him for allegedly whistling at a white woman. And to send a message to other African-Americans, even though Bryant and Milam confessed to murdering Till, they were acquitted by an all-white jury.

Even housing African-Americans in nearby low-income projects was unacceptable to some whites. In The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein wrote:

[...] the Reverend Constantine Dzink, pastor of the King Catholic Church, wrote in opposition to the United States Housing Authority building the Sojourner Truth public housing project for African American families in Detroit [in 1941]: The “construction of a low-cost housing project [...] would jeopardize the safety of many of our white girls.”

And most recently, what did John Kovach Jr., a white Lorain, Ohio police officer, do after he discovered this past summer that his 18-year-old daughter had brought to life one of his greatest nightmares, per Katie Nix’s article in the The Chronicle-Telegram and a video, he “[...] he abused his authority by conducting a traffic stop on his daughter’s [African-American] boyfriend without cause and temporarily detained his daughter and her boyfriend in the back of his squad car.” And Kovach threatened to frame the African-American teen. “Have a seat in my car. We’ll make (expletive) up as we go.” Obviously, the segregated neighborhoods in Lorain weren’t working; thus, Kovach tried the second method of keeping white women away from African-African men - prison. 

In addition,  Xendi wrote: 

Klansmen religiously believed that Blacks possessed supernatural sexual powers, and this belief fueled their sexual attraction to Black women and their fear of White women being attracted to Black men. It became almost standard operating procedure to justify Klan terrorism by maintaining that southern White supremacy was necessary to defend the purity of White women. 

Interestingly, (some) white men feared that white women would be attracted to Black men due to their "supernatural sexual powers"; thus, Klansmen condoned segregation as a way to prevent white women from seducing Black men.

The Greatest Fear of (Some) White Men

The Guardian, David Olusoga wrote in his review of Stamped from the Beginning:

The causal thread of American racism, Kendi suggests, runs in the opposite direction to the way we normally presume. Racist ideas [e.g., oversexed African-American males] are manufactured to justify racial policy [e.g., segregation of white women].

Sunday, August 19, 2018

View Your Books as Works of Art to Overcome Disappointing Sales

 Jan Hendrik Eversen A still life with books, a clay pipe and a pewter jar, 1965

If you're a writer who is disappointed in your book sales, opine that your books are works of art. Because what (sane) artist would be disappointed to have sold over 500, 100 or even 50 paintings, sculptures or screen prints? 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Racism in the United States: Bad and Better

The July 23, 2018 issue of The New Yorker contains the article "The Big Question: Is the World Getting Better or Worse?". 

This excerpt from the piece describes the mantra "Bad and Better", which may be the best way to view racism in the US:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

BALZAC'S OMELETTE: French Food & Writing

We put Balzac's Omelette in our Amazon Wishlist years ago, but we didn't purchase the petit livre until we found it for $2.00 while recently browsing Strand's used book stalls. 

We find descriptions of food in novels to be highly entertaining. For example, Nabokov's outdoor cafe scene in Transparent Things is especially engaging. 

In the introduction, Muhlstein shared that Balzac opined that "[a]n appetising young peasant girl is a ham [...]. And that a "[...] girl's innocence "is like milk [...]"

Balzac was a financially poor boarding school student. His parent didn't send him "[...] parcels of jam, chocolate, or biscuits [...]" Consequently, "[...] he devoured books of every kind [...]"

As an adult, Balzac "[...] remained convinced that sobriety was necessary to an artist [...]" And he "[...] ate only one piece of fruit as his evening meal at five o'clock and went to bed as early as possible [to rise after midnight to write]." He would "[...] set himself to work for eighteen-hour days"

"He barely ate anything for weeks on end during periods of intensive writing [...]" However, "[o]ccasionally he took a boiled egg at about nine o'clock in the morning or sardines mashed with butter if he was hungry; then a chicken wing or a slice of roast leg of lamb in the evening, and he ended his meal with a cup or two of black coffee without sugar.

But "[o]nce the proofs were passed for press, he sped to a restaurant, downed a hundred oysters as a starter [...] then ordered the rest of the meal: twelve salt meadow lamb cutlets with no sauce, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridge, a Normandy sole [...] [and for dessert] special fruit such as Comice pears, which he ate by the dozen. Once sated, he usually sent the bill to his publishers."

How do you celebrate finishing a book? We recommend a prayer of gratitude.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Consistent Positive Journaling

Shana Lebowitz's Business Insider post "18 habits of highly successful people" lists "They keep a journal" in the number 2 position. 

William Arruda advised in the Forbes post "The One Thing Successful People Do Every Day", "Document your wins. What’s the easiest way to do that? Keep a job journal."

And in The Atlantic article "The Wisdom of Running a 2,189-Mile Marathon", Paul Bisceglio shared:

Thus, it's advised to consistently keep a positive journal.