Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2009

sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

Read Full Post »

duffy“Few positions in public life, apart, perhaps, from Pope or manager of the England football team, have proved quite so unattainable to women over the years as that of Britain’s Poet Laureate. For centuries, from Ben Jonson onwards, the prestigious honour with its peppercorn salary and liquid remuneration of a ‘butt of sack’ has been a masculine stronghold, handed down from man to man.

“But that dominance could well be set to come to an end this week after it was let slip that the name of Carol Ann Duffy has been put forward for the Queen’s approval to assume the role from the outgoing Laureate Andrew Motion. If all goes as planned, the Glasgow-born poet will become not only the first woman to hold the post but the first openly gay one.” (more @ The Independent)

Update: (5/1/09) After 341 Years, a Woman Is British Poet Laureate

Read Full Post »

fatty-foodsA hormone released during the digestion of certain fats triggers long-term memory formation in rats, a new study says.

“Researchers found that administering a compound produced in the small intestine called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) to rats improved memory retention during two different tasks.

“When cell receptors activated by OEA were blocked, the animals’ performance decreased.

“Though the study involved rats, OEA’s effects should be similar in other animals, including humans, said study team member Daniele Piomelli, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine.” (more @ National Geographic)

Read Full Post »

wordsworth-grave“The 23rd of April is a bad, bad day to be a poet. It’s the cruellest day in the cruellest month, as TS Eliot almost said.

“Lots of people know that today is the day William Shakespeare, the greatest poet in the language, was born in 1564 and that it’s the day he died in 1616. I don’t want to sound like a local radio DJ doing a less than cheery ‘on this day’ feature for dark times, but for poets in particular, and for creative literary people in general, this day really is hard to ignore: William Wordsworth wandered his last lonely walk on this day, as did the great Spanish author CervantesHenry Vaughan, the Welsh metaphysical poet, breathed his last lungful of gorgeous Welsh air on this day. Rupert Brooke died today in 1915, and Harold Arlen – whose songs such as Stormy Weather and Let’s Fall in Love (mind you, he didn’t write the lyrics) approach the status of poetry – passed to the far side of the rainbow on 23 April 1986.” (more @ Guardian UK)

Read Full Post »

“Good writers show us new places. Great writers give us new ways of looking at the old one. Just as Ruskin enabled a generation of Europeans to see the landscape that was actually in front of them rather than the conventionalized approximations they carried around in their heads, so is Gaitskill one of those rare artists who can endow us with braver, more vigilant senses. You step out of her books and into a whole new world.”

So says William Deresiewicz in his fine review of Mary Gaitskill‘s novels and early short fiction.

But not so, concludes Deresiewicz, with her new short story collection, Don’t Cry:

“A young writer pours her agonies of soul into work of uncompromising honesty. She stares into an abyss of pain so that we may see the truth. But few have the energy to sustain such effort indefinitely. Eventually, the spirit seeks rest–seeks comfort, seeks consolation, seeks peace. It happened to Wordsworth and Conrad, and now it seems to be happening to Mary Gaitskill. The hunger has gone out of her work. Gaitskill was a great poet of youthful suffering. Whether she can reinvent herself as a chronicler of maturity remains to be seen.”

I am among the many fans of Gaitskill’s fiction disappointed by the largely unfavorable reviews for Don’t Cry. Readers new to Gaitskill’s work — and she deserves a wide audience — are best to begin at the beginning, with her first short story collection, Bad Behavior.

Read Full Post »

shakespeare-on-bookBaptized on April 26, 1564, William Shakespeare‘s actual birthday is unknown but is traditionally observed on April 23rd, St. George’s Day. But how likely is it that today is the Bard of Avon’s real birthday?

“There is no evidence, alas, to support the popular belief that William Shakespeare was born — as fifty-two years later he was to die — on 23 April, the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George. As the poet’s posthumous fame grew, securing a unique niche for his country in the cultural history of the world, it was a natural enough temptation for posterity to unite the birthday of England’s national poet with that of its patron saint. But the tradition is based on a false assumption, that Elizabethan baptisms invariably took place three days after the birth.” (more @ English History)

Related

Read Full Post »

mein-kampf“While it is regarded in most countries as a ‘Nazi Bible’, in India it is considered a management guide . . .

“Sales of [Mein Kampf] over the last six months topped 10,000 in New Delhi alone, according to leading stores, who said it appeared to be becoming more popular with every year.

“‘Students are increasingly coming in asking for it and we’re happy to sell it to them,’ said Sohin Lakhani, owner of Mumbai-based Embassy books who reprints Mein Kampf every quarter and shrugs off any moral issues in publishing the book.

“‘They see it as a kind of success story where one man can have a vision, work out a plan on how to implement it and then successfully complete it.'” (more @ Daily Telegraph)

[Ach mein Gott!]

Related: ‘Turn Left at Gestapo Headquarters’

Read Full Post »

dock_street_two_trees“The City Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly to support a controversial tower next to the Brooklyn Bridge — though the building’s 18-story wing will be shaved by one story.

“In addition, Jed Walentas’s 325-unit Dock Street proposal — which features a ‘green’ design, plus 65 below-market-rate rentals and a public middle school — would lose two to three stories from the part [sic] its 10-story wing closest to the bridge.

“The vote to rezone Walentas’s lot from manufacturing to residential was 11-2, but despite the landslide, Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden described the proposal as ‘the most difficult to come before the commission in many years.’ . . .

“In ordering a height reduction and the cut-out section from the mid-rise portion of the building, the Commission seemed to at least be partially swayed by a late push by Brooklyn Bridge historian David McCullough, who visited the fabled span this month to call for the Walentas proposal to not only be halted, but for other buildings around the bridge to be demolished for a national park.” (more @ The Brooklyn Paper)

Even so, celebrity opposition to the project continues to grow. Dumbo NYC reports:

“We received word from [Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance (DNA)] that in addition to David McCullough, several celebrities will be starring in supporting roles in their grass roots campaign. Gabriel Byrne of The Usual Suspects and HBO’s In Treatment, Helen Hunt of As Good as It Gets and Mad About You, Gary Sinise of The Green Mile and Forrest Gump, Ana Gasteyer of  Saturday Night Live and Mean Girls, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns of Brooklyn Bridge and The Civil War fame and Skipp Sudduth of Third Watch and Law & Order have all added their support to the opposition of the proposed 18-story building.” (more @ Dumbo NYC)

Update

Read Full Post »

cheney-panicAndrew Sullivan wonders, “Is Cheney Panicking?”:

“The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don’t think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

“Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

“Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

“The ratcheting up of the rhetoric – ‘I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there — both our friends and our foes — will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests’ – is particularly Weimar. He’s lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

“That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.”

Related

Read Full Post »

1829-dust-jacket“A librarian digging through the archives at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford has found the earliest known example of a publisher’s dust jacket. The dust jacket, which had been separated from the book it was created for, was found bound with other booktrade ephemera. (Click image to enlarge)

“It belonged to: Friendship’s Offering for 1830. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1829.” (more @ Seattle Post-Intelligencer

More information on 19th century dust jackets (including the former earliest known jacket issued in 1832) can be found at 19th Century Dust Jackets.

Read Full Post »

hopper-new-york-restaurantJoseph Epstein on why New York food is so good:

“Manhattan must have 300, perhaps 400, splendid restaurants. I estimate that Chicago has, at the outside, 30, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., respectively probably not more than that. Why is this? How to account for this plentitude of good restaurant food in Manhattan?

“Demand has a lot to do with it. By this I don’t mean demand as in the old economists’ formula of supply and demand. What I mean is that New Yorkers are, and always have been, more demanding than any other Americans when it comes to what they eat. . . .

“New Yorkers tend to order food as if they are spoiled children dining in their mothers’ kitchens. They demand excellent service, which includes accommodation for their idiosyncrasies (that pickle on the separate plate). If they do not get what they want, they howl, return food, do not return to the restaurant, and verbally torch the place. If you open a restaurant in New York, you had better be good, or you will soon be gone.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

[Thanks, John.]

Read Full Post »

“During the late Thirties, some of Britain’s most distinguished architects, artists, musicians, film-makers and others, many of them Jewish, arrived on our shores with their meagre belongings having escaped from the Nazi threat in continental Europe. Many of them made their homes here and went on to leave a lasting mark on our intellectual and cultural life. Britain reaped a rich reward for its tolerance. . . .

“Among them were two refugees from Vienna, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang. . . .

“They met in London during the war, fell in love, and in 1949, 60 years ago, they pooled their passions, and set up a new art publishing imprint that would straddle the Atlantic.

“They named it Thames & Hudson, after the rivers of London and New York, and their aim was to publish reasonably priced books on art, sculpture and architecture, in which words and pictures were integrated and accessible to all. They wanted their books to educate, inform and entertain as a ‘museum without walls’. . . .

“Setting out to rebuild British culture Thames & Hudson has grown into a hugely successful company, and it remains one of Britain’s last family-held publishing dynasties.” (more @ Times Online)

Read Full Post »

“Nearly a decade ago, embarrassed about reports of widespread fraud in the $1-billion-per-year sports memorabilia industry — dominated by baseball and filled mostly with fakes and forgeries, according to an F.B.I. investigation — Major League Baseball did something about it.

“Now every game has at least one authenticator, watching from a dugout or near one. The authenticators are part of a team of 120 active and retired law-enforcement officials sharing the duties for the 30 franchises. Several worked the home openers for the Yankees and the Mets, helping track firsts at the new stadiums. They verified balls, bases, jerseys, the pitchers’ rosin bag, even the pitching rubber and the home plate that were removed after the first game at Yankee Stadium.

“Nothing is too mundane to be authenticated, if deemed potentially valuable. Cans of insect repellent used to combat the midges that swarmed the 2007 playoffs in Cleveland were authenticated. So were urinals pulled from the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis and office equipment from since-razed Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Phillies are cutting the clubhouse carpet from last season into authenticated 18-by-24-inch mats. . . .

“Authenticators carry rolls of high-tech hologram stickers. A bullet-shaped one is placed on the object. Removing it leaves polka dots of the decal attached and renders the removed sticker unusable. A second sticker, with a matching number and a bar code, is scanned by a hand-held unit, instantly recording the item into M.L.B. computers.” (more @ NY Times)

Read Full Post »

Whatever the future holds for printed books, this much is certain: there is no shortage of ink being spilled presently by writers offering their visions of the digital future –

In “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” author Steven Johnson points to two key developments, “the breakthrough success of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, and the maturation of the Google Book Search service,” and proposes that “2009 may well prove to be the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

Related: The Social Dilemma of e-Reading

Read Full Post »

“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

Read Full Post »

killingfieldHolocaust deniers aside, the world is not ignorant of the systematic Nazi slaughter of some six million Jews in World War II. People know of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; many have heard of the tens of thousands shot dead in the Ukrainian ravine of Babi Yar. But little has been known about the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of smaller killing fields across the former Soviet Union where some 1.5 million Jews met their deaths.

“That is now changing. Over the past few years, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and research center in Israel has been investigating those sites, comparing Soviet, German, local and Jewish accounts, cross-checking numbers and methods. The work, gathered under the title ‘The Untold Stories,’ is far from over. But to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, which starts Monday evening, the research is being made public on the institution’s Web site.” (more @ NY Times)

Read Full Post »

The presence of many lethal genetic diseases affecting the brain among Ashkenazi Jews may also increase their intelligence – so say Gregory Cochran (bottom), a physicist and genetics buff, and geneticist Henry Harpending (top), authors of the recently published, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“The biological basis for intelligence can be a thankless arena of inquiry. The authors of ‘The Bell Curve’ were vilified 15 years ago for suggesting genes played a role in IQ differences among racial groups.

“But Cochran, 55, and Harpending, 65, say there’s no question that as a whole, Ashkenazi Jews — those of European descent — have an abundance of brain power. (Neither man is Jewish.)

“Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their average IQ at 107.5 to 115. That’s only modestly higher than the overall European average of 100, but the gap is large enough to produce a huge difference in the proportion of geniuses. When a group’s average IQ is 100, the percentage of people above 140 is 0.4%; when the average is 110, the genius rate is 2.3%.

“Though Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950, account for 20% of this country’s chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students, the pair write.” (more @ LA Times)

RelatedAre Jews Smarter?

Read Full Post »

baseball-lingoWhere would pols, pundits and morose mucky-mucks be without the language of baseball?

“Here’s the pitch: Despite distractions, you have to keep your eye on the ball. You have to be aware of something unexpected coming out of left field, and only if your ad-libbed response is not off base will your home team go to bat for you. You can’t be born on third base and think you hit a triple. Last year, candidate Obama took the sting out of criticism by the scribes for playing ball with a Chicago fixer by admitting, right off the bat, that his property purchase was boneheaded. Palin showed she had something on the ball, considered 2008 a warm-up in the bullpen and took a rain check for 2012, when she hopes to knock the ball out of the park, unless she gets thrown a curve by the rise of Romney, now in the catbird’s seat.” (more @ NY Times)

Read Full Post »

rossetFrom NPR, a profile of publisher Barney Rosset, former owner of Grove Press and The Evergreen Review, in advance of the publication of his autobiography, The Subject Is Left Handed, which takes its name from his FBI file. The article includes a clip from Obscene,” a film biography (2007) of Rosset, in which Rosset discusses acquiring Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot.

“Independent publisher Barney Rosset was there for some of the most important — and controversial — developments in 20th century American literary history. The first to publish Samuel Beckett in the United States, Rosset has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Association of American Publishers and the French Ministry of Culture.

“Born to a wealthy Chicago banker, Rosset served as a photographer in World War II and afterward tried his hand at filmmaking and writing before buying a small, nearly defunct publishing company named Grove Press in 1951. . . .

“Rosset knew nothing about the business of publishing, but one of the first books Grove put out in 1954 became one of its most important: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. . . .

“Over the years Grove did have a couple of best-sellers, including A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole and Games People Play, by Eric Bern. And Grove championed the avant garde and politically inflammatory. It published the work of noted 20th century playwrights like Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, as well as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which had been dropped by Doubleday.

“In 1957 Grove Press got into magazine publishing; The Evergreen Review became one of the most important magazines of the counterculture . . . Two years after launching The Evergreen Review, Rosset stepped into the national headlines when he decided that Grove would publish Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which other American publishers had shunned because of its frank sexuality. After the postal service impounded more than a hundred copies of the book, Rosset went to court claiming it was protected under the First Amendment. He won, but that was only part of his strategy. His real goal, Rosset says, was to publish another banned book: Henry Miller’s 1934 autobiographical novel, Tropic of Cancer.” (more @ NPR)

Related

[INTERVIEWER: Didn’t you say somewhere, “I am for obscenity and against pornography”?

MILLER: Well, it’s very simple. The obscene would be the forthright, and pornography would be the roundabout. I believe in saying the truth, coming out with it cold, shocking if necessary, not disguising it. In other words, obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.]

Read Full Post »

nabokov“Penguin is to publish Vladimir Nabokov‘s unfinished final novel, The Original of Laura. Penguin Classics editor Alexis Kirschbaum bought the book, together with continuing rights to the Nabokov backlist, in a six-figure deal through Andrew Wylie. The Original of Laura will be published as a Penguin Classics hardback at £25 on 3rd November, and simultaneously by Knopf in the US.

“Nabokov left the novel unfinished when he died in 1977, asking for it to be destroyed. His son Dimitri Nabokov finally took the decision to publish, bearing in mind that his father once also intended to burn his best-known work, Lolita. . . .

“The novel is narrated by a man who, when young, fell obsessively in love with a young girl, but who is now unhappily married to a promiscuous wife with whom he is infatuated. Kirschbaum said the book was both dark and comic, and continued the theme of nostalgia for young love begun in Mary and continued in Lolita and Ada.” (more @ The Bookseller)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »