Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Reading Paradise Lost

Gustav Dore's Depiction of the Main Character
of John Milton's epic Paradise Lost

In the early early morning, every work day, after a cup of coffee at home and a scan of the NY Times, before I walk to the subway and another day at the office, I have been reading -- or attempting to read, or reading very slowly, or perusing -- a couple of pages of John Milton's Paradise Lost. It's one of those texts that I have skimmed over the years with a goal of actually reading in full.

And,although I am reading it slowly, it is marvelous, fantastic, provocative, so much so that after reading a few lines, it is such a dense text, filled with historical and biblical references and allusions and images, that my mind soars, with a blissed out distraction, both a desire to read more and to stop everything and hop into my own writing, that I see it may take a Miltonian aeon to make itthrough this work. Not at all a slog, it is a delight to read, but so stimulating that my little patches of time each morning simply are not enough time and space to achieve this goal. But still I will remain in pursuit. Every day, every morning, a couple of pages, and then another reference or allusion and I see it is once again time to say goodbye - to my family, to Milton and the dreams of the unfettered creative life --and make my way to work. Once again, Paradise Lost...
--Anthony Napoli

See for yourself here

Monday, January 30, 2012

CODA: Doing the Italian-Jewish Thang: From Louis Prima to the Flatbush Waltz

Flatbush Waltz: Andy Statman (mandolin) Jim Whitney (bass) and Larry Eagle (drums and percussion) celebrating David Grisman's birthday with a performance of Andy's "Flatbush Waltz" at Yoshi's in San Francisco, 23 March 2009.

As a follow up to last week's Louis Prima post-- It was our younger daughters' 17th birthday(s) this weekend and we celebrated,. as always, with a family dinner at home, including my mom (87) and our older daughter's fiance and our son who will be 21 in a few short weeks. At the request of the celebrees, and in view of various bouts with colds, etc., we decided to Go Easy by picking up some luscious take out pizza and pastas from L & B Spumoni Gardens, followed by a humungous cake shaped like a Cheeseburger from Rimini Pastry on Bay Parkway.

Photo by Tony Napoli
Dinner, and a glass or two of a very nice Nero d'Avola, was accompanied by our ritual listening of MOB HITs (lol), among other Italian-American classics, followed, as a definitive statement of who we are as an Italian-Jewish family, by In the Fiddler's House by Itzhak Perlman and various Klezmer artists. All in all, a lovely birthday celebration and another warm get together.  I loved hearing Flatbush Waltz again and now can't quite get it all out of my head. Ahh, Brooklyn. Ahh, Flatbush, right here in the Brave Old/Brave New World.
-Anthony Napoli

Youtube uploading info here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CODA: Wednesday Morning: Waitin' on the Robert E. Lee by Louis Prima

A clip from the 1999 documentary, Louis Prima: The Wildest. Director Don McGlynn was the creator of the 2011 documentary on African-American and Gospel Music, "Rejoice and Shout"

Interestingly, the song was written by L. Wolfe Gilbert, born in Odessa Russia, and who moved to the United States as a young man and eventually established himself as one of the leading songwriters on Tin Pan Alley.

Gilbert began his career touring with John L. Sullivan and singing in a quartet at small Coney Island cafĂ©, originally known as "Whiting's Cabaret" on Surf Avenue, later changed to "College Inn", where he was discovered by English producer Albert Decourville. Decourville brought him to London as part of The Ragtime Octet. Gilbert's first songwriting success came in 1912 when F. A. Mills Music Publishers published his song Waiting For the Robert E. Lee (melody by composer Lewis F. Muir). More here

Friday, January 20, 2012

Singer Etta James Dies, Age 73

Etta James, whose assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as "The Wallflower," "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and the wedding favorite "At Last," has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73.

She died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side, De Leon said.

She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. James died at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 Wednesday

Obit at CNN here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are We Approaching Web 3.0 ? A Day Without Wikipedia Is A Day...

Well, it's not a pretty thing seeing Google with a black armband, much less our beloved Wikipedia (or, as generations of science fiction writers and readers probably anticipated it as-- the Global Library) gone cold for 24 hoursto protest the legilsation, but there is a buzz in the land regarding SOPA (Stop Anti-Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP--Internet Privacy- Act)..On first glance, it's a bit of a convoluted issue, and the question of good guys and bad guys may not be as clear as either side wishes to view it, but it potentially can be one of the big issues of the near future if the traditional entertainment industry, in an effort to combat piracy, is able to  effectively lobby Washington lawmakers into introducing restrictions on the internet, or more specifically, the operation of internet companies such as Wikipedia, Google, etc.

As a reader of Jaron Lanier's book on the potential negative impact of anonymity, anti-individualism, and the fallacy of the "Information Wants to Be Free" on the world wide web, I didnt come down with an immediate clear view on the issue and I was concerned that my initial wariness of the efforts of Google, et al, against SOPA and PIPA may have been counter-intuitive, since I love the Gedanken Sind Frei spirit of the net, always have...but I am in agreement with NY TImes Media columnist David Carr's recent article that suggests that while new legislative protections may be warranted given the expansion of the web and the success of search engines such as Google that make less money through traditional advertising then in bundling and reselling internet users' information to other advertisers and corporate clients.  However, as Carr suggests, since the traditional media have been proven wrong in their original, somewhat heavy-handed original approach to stifling music and video on the web, they may not be the best group to shape this legislation. Perhaps these issues require further study let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may debate over this legislation, instead of Wikipedia and other sites pulling the plug (which inadvertently are intended as protest but may give argument toward their potential for monopolistic control over the internet):

NY Times David Carr column here

NY Times OP ed on security and journalists here

CBS news spin on this here

And, in "La Unemployment,"Silicon Valley Visionary Jaron Lanier in a recent video post on why the internet is already broken here

Webs 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 explained here

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday-Go-Round: Let's Twist Again

Chubby Checker, you the man here

A Glitzier Version

The above was prompted by a colleague's announcement that Chubby Checker will be performing at a community she will be visiting in Florida next month and she was hoping to get tickets and has been practicing a mean Twist...btw, yes, in Florida, in The Villages,  a retirement community...

The $35 Computer: UK's Raspberry Pi Goes Into Production

As reported in the Wall Street Journal via Big Think:  A British electronics company has begun manufacturing a fully functional computer expected to retail for $35. Called Raspberry Pi, the computer will come with an easily-hacked operating system meant to encourage programming experimentation. [Reportedly, all the buzz created by the computer has started a bidding war on eBay, where offers have reached as high as $3,000, however, after a quick search, I was unable to locate any offers. ] DITHOB reported on its promised development earlier this year.

"The Raspberry Pi is a Linux-based, 700Mhz ARM-powered computer with up to 256MB of flash memory and an HDMI output. Users have to provide their own keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

Development on the Raspberry Pi started three years ago. There is currently a waiting list of more than 10,000 people for the two models, one that will cost $25 and a higher-spec model for $35 (which has more memory and an Ethernet connection).

The less expensive ($25) educational version will go on sale later in the year. They are currently working on a case to protect the board while still allowing schools to modify the device as they wish."

More on the Raspberry Pi Foundation, an organization in the UK dedicated to encouraging the study of computer science, especially at the school level, here and here (official site)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Day The World Changed: December 25, 1991

Over the holidays, I caught, on After Word on Book TV on C-Span-2, an interview with the author, Conor O’Clery, an Irish journalist who was posted in Moscow during the fall of the USSR. I got his recent book, Moscow: December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union and it is a wonderfully literate and entertaining read – basically a day in the life of Moscow and the main players on the day the USSR fell..the portraits of Yeltsin and Gorbachev are fascinating…– to me, one of those books I don’t want to end, so well written and fact filled, from history to biography to the telling anecdote...

For example -- “Yeltsin was a provincial from the hardscrabble region of the Urals and his preferred method of driving his comrades to distraction was playing “Kalinka” with the wooden spoons, sometimes bouncing them playfully off the heads of aides, who learned to move away prudently when the spoons came out.”

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (right) looks at Russian
President Boris Yeltsin during the press conference following
the signing ceremony on Oct. 18, 1991 in recognition of the
Union Treaty with eight Soviet republics in Moscow.
(Alain-Pierre Hovasse/AFP/Getty Images

There are some excerpts from the book posted on the GlobalPost website, for which the author writes, here 
Also, excerpt from the Book TV interview here

--Anthony Napoli - Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Times reporter Jason DeParle looks at the stats and talks with experts who come to the conclusion that it is much harder for Americans to rise from lower rungs of the economic ladder than citizens of other western nations.

Noting that "American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. “Movin’ on up,” George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion" the article goes on to observe that  "many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned this fall that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” Liberal commentators have long emphasized class, but the attention on the right is largely new.

"The causes of America’s mobility problem are a topic of dispute — starting with the debates over poverty. The United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

"Poor Americans are also more likely than foreign peers to grow up with single mothers. That places them at an elevated risk of experiencing poverty and related problems, a point frequently made by Mr. Santorum, who surged into contention in the Iowa caucuses. The United States also has uniquely high incarceration rates, and a longer history of racial stratification than its peers. "

“The bottom fifth in the U.S. looks very different from the bottom fifth in other countries,” said Scott Winship, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, who wrote the article for National Review. “Poor Americans have to work their way up from a lower floor.”

The full article, which discusses the impact of family affluence on education and mobility, among other issues, appears in today's NY TIMES here

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"ALL" by Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim: You Ain't Kidding

Photos by Tony Napoli 2012

At first glance, it seemed that this over-the-top retrospective exhibit of the work of Maurizio Cattelan included everything but the kitchen sink, but then, come to think of it, the diorama featuring the squirrel committing suicide at his kitchen table had one. Although the artist isn't the first to feature dramatic work hanging from the Guggenheim's famed aerie,  (I am thinking of Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune:Stage Two with multiple cars deconstructing as a result of a simulated car bombing hanging from the famed Frank Lloyd Wright designed rotunda in 2008) I would assume, given Mr. Cattelan's wit and originality, that no one has designed to hang all of the principal works of his or her oeuvre, from the ceiling, as so much laundry, a comparison that I believe the artist himself observed. 

Half expecting novelty, and having read some critiques that suggested that the exhibit does not present all of his work to its best advantage, I was looking forward, but didn't run right out to see it. We finally made it to the Museum at the very end of the year. In truth,  I loved it. The show's energy, dynamism, and, well, just plain craziness, combined to create something completely different. While I am not sure that the work of, say, Picasso, or a sculptor such as George Segal, would benefit from the Rotunda treatment, for Mr. Cattelan's work it suited just fine. There is a humor and absurdity to it all, not just the post-post-modern critique of art as art, or art as consumer good -- this is clearly art as Mr. Cattelan sees it. In the context of the Guggenheim, in the context of the art world, and the world at large, but also in the context of the Cattelan Multiverse: Forget the CERN reactor, there is presently enough energy in the Museum's Rotunda, along with thoughtful frowns and scratched chins, smirks, guffaws and explosive giggles, to generate the Higgs Boson. I am sure, now that he is retiring from the art world (or so he says), Mr. Cattelan could have a lot of fun with that.
The show runs through January 22, 2012

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum site for "All" here

Once again, the show runs through January 22, 2012. Speaking of which, the Museum will present the Last Word on 
Sat, Jan 22, 6 pm–1 am: Maurizio Cattelan is retiring (or so he has stated) from art-making with his current retrospective. To mark the end of the exhibition (and the beginning of retirement), twenty or so prominent artists, philosophers, writers, comedians, filmmakers, actors, musicians, and more will come together to contemplate the end. More than just some winter morbidity, this event tackles that most difficult moment: to decide when to stop one thing and begin another or to end it altogether. Less strenuous than a long distance event and much more than a quick sprint, this event will be a meditative seven hour jog around life's central park of pleasures, desires, and regrets. Co-organized by Simon Critchley (Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, The New School of Social Research), and Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and curator of Maurizio Cattelan: All. Admission: pay what you wish.

-Anthony Napoli - Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo