Monday, December 25, 2017

Polyglot Kató Lomb Condones Reading for SLA

Kató Lomb is well-known in the world of polyglots for learning fifteen languages as an adult. In Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, Lomb recommended some unconventional but reportedly effective strategies. For example, she wrote: 

"[...] dare to include reading in your learning program from the very beginning, and second, that you should read actively." (66)

"[...] books [that you find personally engaging], which can be consulted at any time, questioned again and again, and read into scraps, cannot be rivaled as a language-learning tool" (66)

"[...] more efficient means of learning exist [than reading engaging books in a foreign language], [but] more accessible and obliging ones do not." (69)

Lomb recommended buying instead of borrowing. That way the books: "[...] can be spiced with underlines, question marks, and exclamation points [...] and annotated so that they become a mirror of yourself." (69)

"[...] books not only teach grammar but also provide the most painless means of obtaining vocabulary." (74)

Here's Lomb's methodology for using reading as a second-language acquisition (SLA) strategy (69):

So, grab an engaging book in your target language and a (monolingual) dictionary (to be consulted conservatively) to supplement your SLA.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I recently stopped by the Mid-Manhattan library, which is temporarily housed inside of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. While perusing the art books, a relative showed me a copy of The Bronx Artist Documentary Project. She didn't realize that I was one of the writers of the tome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Secret[s] of Sleep

The October 23, 2017 issue of The New Yorker is packed with interesting articles. For example, Jerome Groopman's review, "The Secret of Sleep", of Meir Kryger's The Mystery of Sleep is particularly intriguing. 

Kryger's question “Why do all forms of life, from plants, insects, sea creatures, amphibians and birds to mammals, need rest or sleep?” is particularly interesting when viewed through the lens of orthodox Muslims who believe that God doesn't get tired, rest or sleep.  

Groopman writes: "[...] after we have been awake for about fourteen hours, and increases in intensity until the eighteen-hour mark, after which we find it hard not to fall asleep." That explains why, no matter how badly one wants to write, it becomes very difficult to write after being awake for 18 hours - especially if one sleeps five hours per night.

In addition, Groopman writes: "Reiss looks to the historian A. Roger Ekirch, who, in 2001, documented that in early-modern Europe and North America the standard pattern for nighttime sleep was “segmented.” There were two periods, sometimes termed “dead sleep” and “morning sleep,” with intervals of an hour or more when the person was awake, sometimes called “the watching,” during which people might pray or read or have sex. In some indigenous societies in Nigeria, Central America, and Brazil, segmented sleep persisted into the twentieth century. Ekirch hypothesized that segmented sleep was our natural, evolutionary heritage, and that it had been disrupted in the West by the demands of industrialization, and by electricity, which made artificial lighting ubiquitous."

Once again, this is particularly interesting to orthodox Muslims who perform Tahajjud [Arabic: تهجد‎‎].

Lastly, Reiss reminds: "Honoré de Balzac [...] was fuelling his writing with twenty to fifty cups of coffee a day, often on an empty stomach. Balzac believed that, with caffeine, “sparks shoot all the way to the brain,” and “forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink.” Balzac typically wrote between fourteen and sixteen hours a day for two decades, producing sixteen volumes of “La Comédie Humaine” within six years." 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#NoFaceArt Instagram Account

I have an Instragram account. I don't post any personal photos, but I curate. I was inspired by a billboard that I saw on the High Line to collect #nofaceart photos. Interestingly, Picasso said in Life with Picasso, "As long as you paint just a head, it's all right, but when you paint the whole figure, it's often the head that spoils everything." These are some of my finds:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writers Are Anitfragile

According to Nassim Taleb's Antifragile, artists and writers are antifragile i.e., they benefit from disorder and controversy. For example, Nabokov's Lolita, his most controversial book, made him rich and famous. (Interestingly, most of Nabokov's books contains nympholepsy.)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

500 Blog Visitors = 1 Book Sold?

I was having dinner at Má Pêche with a New York Times bestselling author when I frustratingly shared that I sell one book per (approximately) 500 unique visitors to my blog. 

Surprisingly, the author shared quite nonchalantly that he got the same results. 

Is this an unspoken rule slash phenomenon or just a coincidence?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Duolingo's French & French in Action: A Clarification

Last fall, we finished Duolingo's French skill tree. Consequently, we received an e-certificate, and we were informed that we're 52% fluent. 

Duolingo's claim that we're 52% fluent should be clarified. We're more like 52% fluent in reading French but not in speaking or writing. For example, about 50% of the time we can read the French that's peppered throughout Nabokov's oeuvre. For example, in Transparent Things, when Armande, who had a grain de beauté, setup a rendez-vous with Hugh prior to their subsequent marriage, she told him, "Now listen, tomorrow I'm occupied, but what about Friday-if you can be ready à sept heures précises?" (43)

Erard related from Krashen in Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners that: "[Language] [a]cquisition happens [...] when we understand what we read or hear-not when we speak or write it, memorize vocabulary, or study grammar." (102)

Very recently, we watched all fifty-two episodes of Yale University's French in Action. Interestingly, we didn't understand 50% of the dialogue, but we understood over 50% of the transcripts. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Abstract Exhibits @ The Met Breuer & the MoMA

Like Harry Lesser, we frequently visit museum exhibits. In particular, abstract exhibits and the more minimalist the better. If you're in New York, we highly recommend the Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms exhibit at the The Met Breuer and the Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction at the MoMA.

Lygia Pape (Brazilian, 1927–2004) Tecelar 1959
Woodcut on Japanese paper @ the Met Breuer

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Counter-Intuitive Contradictions

I have observed some scenarios that appear to be what I call counter-intuitive contradictions. Some examples may serve as the best way to describe what I mean:

Most secular nymphets see no problem with wearing two-piece [cheeky thong] bikinis to the beach but most would never wear their bras and panties in public. Yet, what's the difference.

Especially among the underprivileged and outside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a man wearing a pair of high-water pants would be ridiculed but a man wearing a pair of sweatpants would be ignored. Yet, what's the difference. (Strangely, this phenomenon does not apply to women.)

In White Girl (2016), which I saw advertised on the Uptown 4, a college girl and her boyfriend do cocaine, smoke marijuana, have sex on a roof with the Manhattan skyline in the background, and have sex during daylight in a moving cab, but when her boyfriend suggested that they get married, the girl opined that they were too young. 😑

Monday, April 3, 2017

Speed Reading Made Easy

I've been reading eight books - five in English, two (slowly) in Arabic and one (very slowly) in French. The English titles are:

Abbott's The End of Everything
Nabokov's Mary
Wilson's The Twenties
Dawidoff's The Fly Swatter
Mathews' Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life

To save time, I've reverted back to speed reading. I'm not sure why I stopped. I believe that I decided to read slowly as a passive-aggressive protest against the hustle and bustle of New York City. 

I learned to speed read from Ferriss' blog post "Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes". It's a long read and there is more than one way to do it, but the short version is that to read quickly while retaining comprehension, one should read with a pen\pen or his finger and stop about two words in from the left and right margins. 

Reading with a pen forces one to read quicker and your peripheral vision will read the words that are "skipped" near the margins. 

Trust me. It works. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stolen and Found Manuscripts

I was looking for the outline of my unpublished and (allegedly) stolen children's book when I stumbled upon the over 600 page and over 91,000 word MS of The Role Model, my first (unpublished) novel. 

I was informed by a representative of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts that they couldn't pursue my case, because I had exceeded that statute of limitations, but I did get "Yes Dear!" out of the ordeal, which I published in The Poet.


The Poet took a stab at writing a novel
that didn’t sell well. Though, it was quite artful.

Then he decided to write a children’s book
that he had outlined in a cahier notebook.

How hard could it be? He thought one night.
But it turned out to be very difficult to write.

Who knew there was a method to the silliness.
The Poet’s struggles made him a bit anxious.

He read How to Write Children's Picture Books.
And read a lot of children’s picture books.

After six months the manuscript was done
and [e]mailed to every agent in Manhattan.

Soon the rejection letters came in electronically;
And he lost hope of getting published quickly.

Seven years later a former student said,
What was the name of your MS I read?

Wasn’t it titled Yes Dear!?
Yes, dear.

She was getting a PhD in child lit at MSU
when she spotted the contraband askew

upon an oak bookcase
in a Serif typeface.

Well, I just read Yes Day!
and Yes Dear! sounds like Yes Day!

She Camscanned Yes Day! into her iPhone
and sent the PDF which was almost a clone

of The Poet's unpublished book.
To which he said, "That crook stole my book!"

He emailed Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
which is an organization that imparts

counseling and pro bono legal representation
for artists who are in the statute of limitations

Dejected he said, “Well, back to poetry I go.
No, let's do a book on the history of espresso?”

Over six years ago, I let a supporter read The Role Model's MS. Days later, she handed it back to me and shook her head as if I had offered her a warm slice of slimy okra pie. For some reason, I didn't edit the MS. I didn't even ask her what was specifically wrong with my book, but I immediately sat down at a Mac and began writing Katie, my complemented but out-of-print second novel. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Beautiful Description of Food in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS

The 28th night in Haddawy's translation of The Arabian Nights contains the most beautiful description of food shopping that I've ever read. Enjoy...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Beard: The Orthodox, Hipsters, The Most Interesting Man in the World & Famous Writers

Famous Bearded Writers
Clockwise: Chekhov, Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence and Tolstoy

On a related side note, psychologists at Northumbria University found that women prefer men with beards as oppose to clean shaven men, because women find men with beards to be tough, mature, aggressive, dominant and masculine, which are all attraction switches for women. Faces with full beards were judged to be the most masculine, aggressive and socially mature, while men with light beards were considered the most dominant. Those with light stubble were rated the most attractive. Clean-shaven men finished last for masculinity, dominance, aggression, and social maturity, and they were the least favored choice as a long-term partner.

Reginal Reynolds wrote in Beards: "[...]the clean shave was a common practice in the West, which appears to have been adopted by the Christians in the time of the Roman Empire…Then, as Christianity slowly spread northward once more, it appears to have brought with it the habits of the Lain peoples and - in an insidious, indefinable way – shaving became characteristically Christian and the beard or moustache something like the Mark of the Beast. They were found on the Moslem and the Jew…The beard was sacred to the Jew and the Moslem, and to shave it off a proof that a religion which sanctified the beard had been renounced.”

Of course, not every Jew or Muslim wore or wears a beard but Reynolds explains this by relating that: “[…] it is manifest that those Jews who removed their beards in the Middle Ages must have done so for reasons very similar to those which today prompt a Negro to de-kink his hair – for one was liable to insult and injury if one wore this offending ornament. But while a Negro may seek immunity by attempting to pass for a White, the medieval Jew not merely found it safer to resemble a Gentile in appearance, as far as he could – he was in positive danger of being forced to abandon his beard and his faith if he did not dissimulate the latter by scrapping the former.”

Thamos S. Gowing related in The Philosophy of Beards that: “Under Charles the 2nd, the Beard dwindled into the mere moustache, and then vanished. And when we consider the French apery of that un-English court, it is no wonder the Beard appeared too bold and manly an ensign to be tolerated. It went out first among the upper classes in London, and by slow degrees the sturdy country squires and yeomon also yielded their free honors to the slavish effeminate fashion, which, by the force of example, descended even to the working classes…

Although beards are still popular today among orthodox Jews and Muslims, hipsters in Williamsburg, The [current and former] Most Interesting Man in the World, and some famous writers like Hemingway and Tolstoy, despite the beard's attractiveness and rich history, bearded men remain in the minority. However, the Mirror reported "Beard it like Beckham - [there's] a new trend where British men fork out thousands to have facial hair transplants to look like star"

And TMZ conducted an online poll to see if Jeopardy's Alex Trebek should maintain a beard, a 'stache or go back to a squeaky clean look. 60% of the over 13,000 voters choose the beard.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Conscious, Unconscious and Writer's Block

Leonard Mlodinow wrote in Subliminal that in 2005, Caltech's Christof Koch came up with a way to study unconscious vision by manipulating a subject's binocular rivalry to create an artificial blind spot. 

Koch discovered that if a changing image is presented to one eye and a static image to the other eye, a subject will see the dynamic image but not the static image. 

Using Koch's discovery, a group of scientists exposed each subjects right eye "to a colorful and rapidly changing mosaic-like image and the subject's left eye to a static photograph that pictured an object." (i.e., the image on the right changed, and the image on the left didn't change.)

The object was placed near the right or left edge of the photograph. Because they couldn't consciously see the (static) image, the subjects had to guess where the object was located. 

When an unprovocative static image was used, the subject's answers were expectedly correct about 50% of the time, but when a provocative static image of a nude woman was used, the men did "significantly" better at guessing which side the (nude) image was on - despite the fact that the men were "clueless" and couldn't consciously see the pornography. 

Mlodinow wrote "We don't consciously perceive everything that registers in our brain, so our unconscious mind may notice things that our conscious mind doesn't"

And that "[d]eep concentration causes the energy consumption in your brain to go up about 1 percent. No matter what you are doing with your conscious mind, it is your unconscious that dominates your mental activity - and therefore uses up most of the energy consumed by the brain"

And I would assert, using this as evidence, that writer's block is a (Hollywood) myth. If one thinks long enough, material will move from the unconscious to the conscious.