Friday, July 31, 2015

"What's your least favorite Beatles song?"

"Not the one you don't like most, I mean, but the one you like the least."

A dear friend asked me this yesterday, and I couldn't come up with an answer. Can you? If so, wire $4000 to this PayPal account and include your response in the description field. Or just email me.

Stay tuned for the results...

(Addendum: The results of this appeal to the Internet appear here.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Five Books I'm Reading -- July Edition

Followers of this space know that I am perpetually gnawing on, and occasionally consuming, multiple books simultaneously. Below, the five most recently served up as entrees in my world.

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf. I have an audiobook of this on my Audible account, and have been listening to it intermittently, on walks and long journeys, as the mood strikes me, for over a year now. More than halfway through. It never fails to amaze.

A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman. Brilliant narrative history of 14th-century Europe. Yes, the author's name is pronounced with a hard "K" sound. 

The Holy Quran.  I'm always reading this.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. Ditto.

The Three Laws of Performance, Zaffron and Logan, Ditto. 

#oph5 = HENRY V in Original Pronunciation August 3-5, London

In London? Go see this show August 3, 4, and 5! I mean it! All three nights! Hear Shakespeare's words as they were intended to be spoken!

To learn more about the production, or about Passion In Practice, of whose ensemble I devoutly wish I were a member, click here.

To join the discussion about the production, follow the #OPH5 hashtag on Twitter.

And if you're curious about what Original Pronunciation is, and why it matters, click the video below:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Third Law of Performance

The first law of performance is here.

The second law of performance is here.

3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. When Martin Luther King Jr. said "I have a dream," he created that dream in others.

I didn't write the above. I just boiled it down. Zaffron and Logan's book The Three Laws of Performance transforms the world if you want it to.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Second Law of Performance

(You'll find the first law of performance here.)

2. How a situation occurs arises in language. Language is the means through which your future is already written, and it is the means though which it can be rewritten.

I didn't write the above. I just boiled it down. Zaffron and Logan's book The Three Laws of Performance transforms the world if you want it to.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Shakespeare's Literary Technique #1: Dramatic Irony #shakespearesunday

Usually understood as speech whose meaning and impact is clearer to the audience or reader than it is to the speaker.

A.W. Verity goes further, in  a direction I like: The essential idea of "irony" is double dealing, as when some speech has a double meaning -- the obvious one which all perceive -- and the cryptic which only certain of the hearers understand.  


AS YOU LIKE IT (iv. 3): Rosalind, disguised as a young man, faints at the sight of blood. Oliver chides her:

Oliver. Be of good cheer, youth: you a man! you lack a man's heart .
Rosalind. I do so. I confess it. Ah, sirrah, a body would think
this was well counterfeited! I pray you, tell your brother how well I counterfeited. Heigh-ho!

The First Law of Performance

(The second law of performance is here.)

1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Your perspective is itself part of the way in which the world occurs to you, and how a situation occurs includes your view of the past (why things are going the way they are going) and the future (where this is all going.)

I didn't write the above. I just boiled it down. Zaffron and Logan's book The Three Laws of Performance transforms the world if you want it to.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Roger Rees

His recent passing surprised and saddened me for two reasons.

First, it did not seem possible that he was old enough to die -- but then again, we all are, whether it seems possible to us or not.

Second, people kept referring to him as "Cheers star Roger Rees" or "West Wing star Roger Rees." While his performances in those two hit shows were memorable, for me Rees will always be Nicholas Nickleby, the lead in the epic early-Eighties production that played in London and on Broadway. He was ten years too old for it, at least, but so good that he made that difficulty evaporate.

He was a great talent and he will be missed.

Amazingly, all of the brilliantly filmed episodes of the eight-hours-plus Nicholas Nickleby Old Vic production appear to be on YouTube. I'm watching them now, and urge you to do the same before someone snatches them away, as Rees was snatched away. Life is a snatching-away, I guess.

Answers to yesterday's Monty Python quiz

Yesterday, I asked you to identify all these Terry Jones roles. .Here is what I was looking for.

1) Terry Jones as Terry Jones

2) Terry Jones as Sir Belvedere (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

3) Terry Jones as Mr. Creosote (Monty Python's the Meaning of Life)

4) Terry Jones as Prince Herbert (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

5) Terry Jones as Brian's Mother, Mandy (Monty Python's Life of Brian)

6) Terry Jones as Gentleman in a Pub ("Nudge, Nudge" sketch)

7) Terry Jones as Hamlet ("Hamlet in Therapy" sketch)

8) Terry Jones as Some Nameless Pepperpot (who knows what sketch -- it's a PR photo)

9) Terry Jones as Abrasive Restaurant Proprietress ("Spam" sketch)

Congratulations to Bardo von Pronto, who got the right answers. He gets a free cup of air.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Monty Python Quiz: The Nine Faces of Terry Jones

I could always spot John Cleese, no matter what role he was playing. Michael Palin put on lots of different outfits, but for some reason I always recognized his voice, no matter what he did with it. Graham Chapman was Graham Chapman. Eric Idle was Eric Idle. Then there was that weird guy they never gave any lines to -- I learned eventually that that was the American, Terry Gilliam, and honestly, I usually wasn't looking for him in the early years, because he was so rarely the center of attention.

But who was that other guy who kept showing up? Terry Jones was the last member of the Monty Python troupe whose name I learned. I think it was because he was such a chameleon. Perhaps he was the most versatile of the troupe. A case can be made for Palin on that front, though.

Which Terry Jones roles are which in the photos below? (The first one is no role, just Terry circa 1970.) Email me with your best guess. Answers tomorrow.







Thursday, July 23, 2015

This Just In

Cable companies perplexed about how to get deadbeat American customers to catch up on their overdue cable bills have come up with a solution: Make every channel play nonstop episodes of DEEP SPACE NINE until the viewer pays up.

The tactic has reportedly reduced bad debt by 88% in just two weeks.

With love, for +Richard Gibney

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Death Valley Motel 6

This venerable inn figures prominently in my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, as my patient, helpful, long-suffering beta readers +Bill Morrison+Safie Maken Finlay+Richard Gibney, +Adella Wright and +Katya Mills can attest. I cannot thank these people enough. A photo of a franchise motel will have to do for now.

If you'd like a look at the opening chapter, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl (video)

This concert was engineered into a live album I really enjoyed back in the day. For some reason the Apple folks have chosen not to re-release it. Some Christmas season or other, I suppose it will emerge.

In the meantime, thanks to the copyright-finessing magic of YouTube, we've got this video, which is sonically inferior to that now-rare LP, but still great, supercharged fun. They were a great live band, the Fabs.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ten Great Final Lines from Great Novels

10. Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. (J.D. Salinger, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE)

9. Zembla, a distant northern land. (Vladimir Nabokov, PALE FIRE)

8. "Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together." Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me. "Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?" (Ernest Hemingway, THE SUN ALSO RISES)

7. Through all the spring and summer-time, garlands of fresh flowers wreathed by infant hands rested upon the stone, and when the children came to change them lest they should wither and be pleasant to him no longer, their eyes filled with tears, and they spoke low and softly of their poor dead cousin. (Charles Dickens, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY)

6. However passionate, sinful, or rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep at us serenely with their innocent eyes; they tell us not only of eternal peace, of that great peace of "indifferent" nature; they tell us also of eternal reconciliation and of life without end. (Ivan Turgenev, FATHERS AND SONS)

5. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, "Poo-tee-weet?" (Kurt Vonnegut, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE)

4. ... in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases. (John Irving, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP)

3. So he kissed her, always matter-of-fact, so as not to frighten her, and went on his way. And on the way home, she met her brothers, and there was a rough-and-tumble, and the lovely crown was broken, and she forgot the message, which was never delivered. (A. S. Byatt, POSSESSION)

2. He loved Big Brother. (George Orwell, 1984)

1. Life, what is it but a dream? (Lewis Carroll, THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

US Attorney General Lynch is choosing not to prosecute Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell, and the APA for #torture

Physicians for Social Responsibility is now calling for prosecution of executives of the American Psychological Association, which greenlighted the CIA's torture program and stilled internal dissent from psychologists who objected to it in 2005.

The New York Times identifies Jessen and Mitchell, contract psychologists, as architects of the program. These two men designed and implemented it. "In the process," the Times writes, "they made tens of millions of dollars under contracts that their critics within the C.I.A. warned at the time gave them financial incentives to repeatedly use the most brutal techniques."

Can we imagine a foreign government targeting US citizens with such a program -- with approval from the highest executive levels? Wait. We now live in a world where we must imagine that.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch should prosecute these people. If you agree, please take action by clicking here.

A clip from the New York Times featuring Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Psychologists shielded US torture program

The whole sickening story here.

And also, in a sense, here, as I outlined JIHADI: A LOVE STORY in 2012.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ten Great Quotes about Metaphor and Simile

(Simile is a comparison using like, as, or a similar word: My brother Milt meandered through life like a butterfly in perpetual flight. Metaphor is an illustrative lie that fuses two distinct objects or experiences, claiming them to be identical: My brother Milt meandered through life, a butterfly in perpetual flight.)

10. "With reliable data, many a simile which is now marked Anon. would be credited to Adam." -- Frank J. Wilstach

9. "In argument, similes are like songs in love: they describe much, but prove nothing." -- Franz Kafka

8. "A simile, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject; must show it to the understanding in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with greater dignity; but either of these qualities may be sufficient to recommend it.... That it may be complete, it is required to exhibit, independently of its references, a pleasing image; for a simile is said to be a short episode."- Samuel Johnson

7. "A simile committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle." -- Oscar Wilde

6. "Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space." -- Orson Scott Card

5. “There seem to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know they are not facts are what we call "atheists," and those who think they are facts are "religious." Which group really gets the message?” ― Joseph Campbell

4. "Metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with." -- Milan Kundera

3. "Another example of how a metaphor can create new meaning for us came about by accident. An Iranian student, shortly after his arrival in Berkeley, took a seminar on metaphor from one of us. Among the wondrous things that he found in Berkeley was an expression that he heard over and over and understood as a beautifully sane metaphor. The expression was “the solution of my problems”—which he took to be a large volume of liquid, bubbling and smoking, containing all of your problems, either dissolved or in the form of precipitates, with catalysts constantly dissolving some problems (for the time being) and precipitating out others. He was terribly disillusioned to find that the residents of Berkeley had no such chemical metaphor in mind. And well he might be, for the chemical metaphor is both beautiful and insightful. It gives us a view of problems as things that never disappear utterly and that cannot be solved once and for all." -- George Lakoff 

2. (Note on this next one: Vladimir Nabokov was a synaesthete, meaning he perceived the sensory world in a way others would describe as overlapping --consistently perceiving, for instance, certain colors in certain letters.) "The structural similarities between metaphorical expression and synaesthetic experience are discussed later in this paper, but some instances of the transrational schema of sensations which Nabokov expresses will serve to partly illustrate this correspondence and to exemplify the manner in which the expression of this neurologically real phenomenon functions as a dynamic signifying element; one which transgresses semantic rules and works at a level of sensation and polysemous suggestibility.These example are taken from 'Lolita; or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male.' (Nabokov, 1956).

*'a sigh of delicious relief' (p.105) - A projection of alimentary sensations onto emotion.

* 'sweet wetness' (p.112) - A projection of alimentary onto tactile.

* 'the air was warm and green' (p.116) - A projection of visual-chromatic onto tactile.

* 'Lo was listening in profile' (p.118) - A projection of visual onto auditory.

* 'A young golden giggle' (p.120) - A projection of visual-chromatic onto auditory.

* 'Her young silent hands' (p.120) - Auditory onto visual-tactile.

What is brought to bear in these instances is a keen sensitivity to a non-modular perceptivity of sense-data, the visual, audible, and olfactory are recombined (in a way that is natural and unsuppressible in the synaesthete) to appeal to a sense that it is not operating under a strictly rational framework.
 Nabokov studied partly in the Russian Formalist tradition which had as one of its tenets 'tearing the object out of its habitual context (thus achieving )...a heightened awareness of things and their sensory texture.' " -- Patrick Martin

1. “Literature was not born the day when a boy crying 'wolf, wolf' came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying 'wolf, wolf' and there was no wolf behind him.” 
― Vladimir Nabokov

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Anne Tyler

The mentor I didn't realize I had. It took sitting down and writing a personal list of books that really matter to remind me how important Tyler was and is to my own development as a writer. Recently I completed THE BEGINNER'S GOODBYE, her nineteenth novel, and found myself wishing she would find some way to keep writing stories forever.

Here's a great (and rare) interview with her that contains some fascinating tricks of the trade, including that of reading one's manuscript out loud before publication.

And here's an excerpt from THE BEGINNER'S GOODBYE, which I read in May. It contrasts in intriguing ways with John Banville's thematically similar THE SEA, the book I'd just finished reading.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Laylatul Qadr (1)

A solar-powered plane just completed a flight from Japan to Hawaii as part of a round-the-world trip

How cool is that?

Solarimpulse will continue its round-the-world journey to raise awareness for solar enegy.

The future is renewable! And clean!

Novels and short story collections that made a big difference to me

(In no particular order.)













































Saturday, July 4, 2015

The best thing to do on July 4: Watch this video

I have all kinds of problems with the Obama Administration's habitual reliance upon killer robots and Orwellian euphemisms, and I am not eager to be mistaken for one of the president's unthinking cheerleaders, but I think everyone in America and beyond who hasn't yet done so ought to watch this eulogy in its entirety. Today would be a great day to do that.

Eloquence well deployed, for the lasting benefit of a people, is both a great and a rare thing. Heads of state get more chances than the rest of us to leave an enduring positive impact with a well-crafted speech. Some actually score. This speech, like Winston Churchill's "their finest hour" radio address and John F. Kennedy's "we are all mortal" speech at American University, qualifies as historic. It is, I think, worth watching this and every Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Forgotten Baseball Players

Half-Handed Luke (Led the league in appearances without an out recorded, 1909. Exploded unexpectedly in the final game of the 1912 season.)

Red-Chested Billy Bob (An 1890s-era All Star and amateur birdwatcher. After his career wound down, he was arrested multiple times by his uncle, a police officer, for "being an unsavory person in or near public transit facility.")

Fingerless Joe Smith ("The Wonder of West Covina," he had his fingers surgically removed as part of a publicity campaign meant to dissuade children from using power tools. The digits were all successfully reattached by means of duct tape in the early 1920s, leaving him with no sensation in his hands, but also with the capacity to throw a virtually unhittable knuckleball.)

Backhanded Limbless Fred (He may have projected the ball from his mouth. There are accounts from the early 1940s suggesting he was fitted with a set of prosthetic lips adapted specially to this purpose.)

I got quite a lot out of this documentary on Charles Bukowski, which is on both Netflix and YouTube

A toxic drunk, a loudmouth, and an epic troublemaker, Bukowski wasn't the kind of person I would want in my life on a personal level. And he certainly wasn't a role model for life choices.


What a voice! What commitment to his craft! What a knock-you-out-with-a-stick Zen master for writers!

Someone in this documentary (which is not for the kiddies) calls him a twentieth-century Whitman. Dead on.

The documentary BORN INTO THIS:

A single amazing Bukowski poem, if you don't have time for all that: