Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Isaac Asimov's Lost Essay on Creativity

A lost essay by the author and visionary Isaac Asimov was recently discovered by Arthur Obermayer, a scientist- friend of the author and was published in MIT's Technology Review. The article, which considers "How do people get ideas" shows Dr. Asimov's remarkable versatility both as a writer of non-fiction on every imaginable topic as well as of course his now classic science fiction novels and stories. Having grown up in the same neighborhood, Windsor Terrace, as Dr. Asimov, a generation or two later, I was fascinated by his prolific work and his breadth of interests and knowledge, and of course at his creative ability to imagine the future. As a kid in elementary school, I wrote him a letter, a fan letter, and received a neatly typed post card in return from the Great Man, no doubt typed on the same typewriter that he used to publish one of his books, stories, or essays.. "Once, many years ago, I lived in your neighborhood..there is no secret to writing and getting published, just keep writing." Amen.

For a look at Dr. Asimov's recent article, visit MIT Technology Review here

Isaac Asimov (illustration - MIT Technology Review)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Imitation Game": a graphic biography

The Imitation Game, the upcoming film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, with early Academy Award chatter, promises to make its subject, mathematician and computing visionary Alan Turing, if not a household name, then a deservedly more well known and major figure in the origins and development of modern computing. His role in the creation of electronic code breaking devices that neutralized the German Enigma machines which played a critical role in the Allies victory will help shed an heroic and even more complex light on this fascinating and still somewhat obscure figure. Andrew Hodges' scientific biography Alan Turing: The Enigma remains the gold standard, a deep and comprehensive read.

Recently, however, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis have published online at Tor.com a fascinating graphic biography , also called The Imitation Game, that provides a wonderful overview of Turing's life, visually engaging and technically expansive in exposing some of the math, science and ideas that makes the scientist's story so engrossing. Not available in print just yet but you can read it online here http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/06/the-imitation-game-jim-ottaviani-leland-purvis

Another generous and worthy telling of a major figure and contributor to the contemporary world whose personal life and orientation - and whose self awareness, well ahead of his time -- unfortunately led to his destruction.
 -Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boardwalk Empire and Louis Malle's Atlantic City

As Boardwalk Empire rolls towards its conclusion, and wanting to add further depth and dimension before it's gone, you may want to revisit - or catch for the first time- Louis Malle's Atlantic City. A French -Canadian production with a largely Canadian cast, except for Burt Lancaster as an aged gangster who remembers the heyday of AC, and Susan Sarandon as a young woman trying to carve out a living in the new gambling and casino structure that began to rise in the 1980s. Of course the heyday that Lancaster's character Lou recalls reflect the days of Boardwalk Empire- Bugsy Siegal, Lucky Luciano, even Nucky Johnson, (who was the real Tammany-like figure that Nucky Thompson is based on who wielded power in the resort's earlier days) make cameo appearances inasmuch as they are referenced in John Guare's excellent script. 

Gangsters old style and new tangle with hippie drug dealers and the growing casino culture with a backdrop of a romantic collision between Lancaster's character  in one of his final films and Sarandon in one of her early breakout roles.The background to this tale shows the destruction of the old hotels when the vacation Mecca was out of fashion and crime ridden and the first corporate hotel casinos  - like Howard Hughes' Resorts International - first began to transform the town into the Vegas of the East. Of course now Atlantic City is undergoing another transition as the casinos close and its future is at best uncertain, a chapter that remains to be written. But if you want to enjoy a great coda to Boardwalk Empire, catch up with Louis Malle's Atlantic City. I caught it on Encore on Demand.
--Anthony Napoli
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gilbert Sorrentino's Bay Ridge

Now that the wheels have all turned, the ratchets clicked and the jewels spun on and on into my next decade, I see that despite the fleeting sands through the hour glass there is always time for reflection and looking backward.

In this case, I came across a short story, "The Spindizzy Papers" that I had written in a continuing Ed class at the New School for Social Research ( now just the more branded and Californic sounding  "The New School"). Of course what made the class so memorable was that it had the very good fortune to be taught by novelist Gilbert Sorrentino who also in his long career as a writer and teacher of writing also worked at Stanford University among other ivory towers.

Sorrentino was very encouraging and generous in his praise of my manuscript but I am writing here not of my own personal forays down literary cul de sacs, but instead to share an article I found about the author's Brooklyn roots generally and the grist and source material that Brooklyn and Bay Ridge specifically provided in his writing. Other than a blissful summer journalism class as a high school student at Xaverian (although Bishop Ford remains my alma mater) I cede Bay Ridge to my sister and her family for whom many of these locations will reflect pride of place and familiar stomping grounds. I do remember the Bay Ridge of bars more than churches where many of my friends from Windsor Terrace and Park Slope played in bands in the 70s.
     Gilbert Sorrentino 1929-2006

For now, a short survey on the repossession of Gilbert Sorrentino as The Bard of Bay Ridge in recent publications:

A Guided Tour of Sorrentino's Brooklyn / 

An Electric Literature review of his Brooklyn oeuvre along with his childhood friend Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn, a book, to put it mildly, that portrays a very pregentrified vision of the borough http://electricliterature.com/gilbert-sorrentino-the-lost-laureate-of-brooklyn/

Mr Sorrentino passed in 2006. His son Christopher, author of Trance and Sound on Sound, among other works, lives in NYC.

As always, for all writers everywhere, Speak, Memory!

--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