Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Met's "Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara and Lattice Detour"

Like Harry Lesser, we're museumgoers; so, when The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) re-opened recently, we (mistakenly) took the downtown D to the eastbound M86 to see Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara and Lattice Detour.

Pectoral (The Rao Pectoral) and Five Gold Beads (12th-13th century)
Megalith (8th-9th century)


Per The Met's website: 

Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara is the first exhibition of its kind to trace the legacy of those mighty states [i.e., Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger] and what they produced in the visual arts.

Reclining Figure (12th-14th century)





Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Can Flowers Help You Become a Better Writer?


It turns out that having having houseplants or flowers may increase your concentration (i.e., make you a better writer). 

Per Scientific American: In a study to be published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers show that the mere presence of plants in an office setting boosts one’s ability to maintain attention.

And Bio Advanced posted: A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70% greater attentiveness when they're taught in rooms containing plants.



However, unlike Nabokov, we suck at identifying flowers; so, we did a post on Reddit's r/whatsthisplant and discovered that, from left to right, we have a vase from Trader Joe's of dianthus', statices and baby's breaths. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Public Art: Sam Falls' UNTITLED (FOUR ARCHES) | High Line

Sam Falls' Untitled (Four Arches) | High Line
[Photo: @afemeinnyc)]


Due to you know what, the High Line is reservations only. Thus, I got an Eventbrite ticket for today at noon to see Sam Falls' Untitled (Four Arches), which is part of the High Lines' En Plein Air group exhibition that "examines and expands the tradition of outdoor painting."

Sam Falls' Untitled (Four Arches) | Embedded (High Line) Plants in Ceramic
[Photo: @matteetglossy]

Here's a description of the pieces from the High Line:

"For the High Line, Falls creates four ceramic archways supported by the steel rail tracks from the High Line’s original railway; each archway is dedicated to a different season in the park. For one year, Falls collected plants from the High Line, embedded them in ceramic, and fossilized them with colorful pigments." Nice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

THE APE (2005): Writer's Block


The Ape (2005): Writer's Block

Initially, Harry Walker (James Franco) didn't follow Sylvia Plath's advice, which is: "Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and [use] the imagination to improvise."


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Putting "Low" Amazon Books Sales into Perspective

Photo credit: Markinblog

Like Roxie and Velma, I have three best friends and one of them has written seven books, he has published four, but he has sold approximately a thousand, which compared to, say, Nabokov that may not seem like a lot; however, when put into certain perspectives, a thousand books sold can be impressive. 

For example, imagine that Amazon is a brick and mortar bookstore. Now imagine getting an email from Amazon and a bookseller informing you, "[insert author's name]. Good news. We've sold one-thousand copies of your book(s)!"

I would imagine that most authors would be pleased with that email. 

That email is no different from my friend getting his historical sales report from his (very small) publisher informing him that he has sold (close to) a thousand books. 

Even an email to inform an author that he or she has sold ten books is good news. 
"[insert author's name]. Good news. We've sold ten copies of your book(s)!"

I've posted before that another way to put book sales into perspective is to consider each book a work of art. Most artists (i.e., writers) would be overjoyed to sell one thousand pieces of art - or even ten for that matter. 

Thoughts?


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"Chronicle of a Summer" (1961) [French: "Chronique d'un été"] French Bohemians


Chronicle of a Summer (1961) [French: Chronique d'un été], a cinéma vérité film, features some French bohemians who shared some highlights from their lifestyles:

"Hard work is really a waste of time. Especially, just to earn money."
"Painting's the way I learn. I love it."
"We stayed in bed most mornings reading. In the afternoons we painted."
"We rented a studio in an old house in the Camargue [...] I painted names on boats. Anything. We lived well on two hours of work a day."
"We lay about in the sun [and] did some painting."
"We haven't much money [...] [but] books [...] we do."
"When we sell a painting, we buy something to make life richer (e.g., more books)"

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 it's 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 with warm - not cold milk, because it appears that the warm milk prevents the cacao from lumping. 

Here's my mocha recipe: 

Ingredients:

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

Guittard Dutch\ Processed Cacao Powder

Directions: 

1. Place the milk and (Turkish) coffee in a pan and heat slowly
2. Place the cacao powder, honey, and sugar in a mug 
3. Add three teaspoons of the heated milk and coffee to the mug and stir until smooth like chocolate icing
4. Add the remaining heated milk and coffee to the mug and stir until mixed
5. Optional: Strain the beverage into a different mug
6. Enjoy

Update | Wednesday August 26, 2020: You could use a bamboo whisk in step 3 for even smoother results.



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 Millennial 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.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Reality TV Star + Influencer Rarely Equals Major Book Sales

Next Level Basic
by Stassi Schroeder of Bravo's Vanderpump Rules

As a writer, it's annoying to see huge advertisements in the Union Square Barnes & Noble window for books "written" by reality TV stars and social media influencers, because I strongly suspect that those "stars" and influencers wouldn't be published if they didn't (appear) to have large amounts of fans. 

But Julie McCarron's shared in her article "What’s an Influencer Worth to Books?" on Publishers Weekly that being a realty star or influencer doesn't always equal a large number of book sales - especially when some of the "influencers" have fake followers. 


A mini-scandal lit up Twitter last month when the Cut featured a tell-all essay by 27-year-old writer Natalie Beach. In the piece, Beach exposes her seven-year relationship with her friend Caroline Calloway, who scored an agent and a reputed $375,000 book deal for her memoir. Beach, who ghostwrote the book, says her former bestie bought Instagram followers after being told by literary professionals that “no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base.”

Platform has always been key when putting together a nonfiction book proposal. But back in the not-so-very-distant past—a mere dozen years ago!—publishers were throwing six figures and two-book deals at anyone who had a half-decent story and a clip in the local newspaper. These days, a huge following on social media, particularly Instagram, is a must for a book deal.

The moment agents or editors hear an author has a small following or no following, it’s over. Yes, there are exceptions. Still, worthy authors are overlooked every day—in favor of a young woman with a photo of macarons that went viral? Now her friend the ghostwriter has CAA shopping rights to her story? Which era is crazier?

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters have 500 million followers. So how come fewer than 500,000 viewers (18–49) tuned in to the latest episode of their show? Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies sold fewer than 40,000 copies, according to BookScan—yet she remains a powerful influencer. When are publishers going to concede that number of followers (fake or not) is only one key to book sales?

Naturally, some influencers produce books that are megabestsellers (usually with a lot of help). That is because they deserve a wide audience for whatever message they are sending. Ariana Grande, who has one of the biggest social media followings in the world, should get a huge deal... because she’s an incredible singer with a fantastic story to tell—not because of her follower count!

Recently, at a trendy store in Los Angeles, I attended a well-publicized book signing by the latest Bachelorette contestant (1.2 million followers). She breezed in late and sold 10 books. So how about it, agents and editors? I know a lot of fascinating people with stories to share—well-written ones, too. They just don’t have a lot of Instagram followers. Want to see?