Tag: New York

Writing on the wall: Newsweek, Forbes, New York

Monday, 2 December, 2013 0 Comments

The Gladwellian tipping point for the US magazine industry arrived in 2010, when Newsweek was sold for $1. A doomed merger with The Daily Beast followed, and then came the finale last year when Newsweek ceased print publication. More grim news arrived last month when the publisher of Forbes magazine hired Deutsche Bank AG to examine a sale. “While the company prospered during the dot-com boom, the subsequent bust in 2000 and migration of advertising from print to online sites slammed its finances,” reported Bloomberg.

NY Mag And now New York magazine is following suit. Starting in March, it will abandon its weekly publication schedule and appear 26 times a year instead. Why? Because print advertising revenue is sinking like a stone. “So far this year, the magazine is down 9.2 percent in ad pages compared with the same period last year, which was miserable as well,” writes David Carr in today’s New York Times. And this is happening at a time when its digital revenues have been growing at 15 percent year-over-year. Indeed, in 2014, its digital ad take will outdo print ad revenues.

Carr says that by going bi-monthly as a print magazine, New York will save some $3.5 million, which will then be invested on the digital side and 15 people will be hired to strengthen online content and sales. As regards the non-digital side of things, the publishers hope it will become “a more visual, more deliberative version of the print magazine will make it more hospitable to luxury and fashion.” In other words, a Stateside clone of Intelligent Life.

It may be possible for New York, Forbes and other magazines to reinvent themselves in this time of publishing tumult, but it would be unwise to bet on their success. Their lingering, notes David Carr, grimly, “underscores the dreary economics of print and its diminishing role in a future that’s already here.” That future has a name. And it’s called Buzzfeed.


Shopping for John and Yoko

Monday, 21 October, 2013 0 Comments

Starting in November 1976, Monday through Friday, Andy Warhol phoned his secretary Pat Hackett each morning and told her about the happenings of the previous day and night. After transcribing the monologue onto paper, Hackett would then type up the pages. Apart from wishing to document his life and times, Warhol had an ulterior motive for keeping a diary: satisfying the tax man. The Internal Revenue Service audited him annually and he liked to present his minute side of the story to the accountants. In all, Warhol dictated more than 20,000 pages, which Ms Hackett dutifully put down on paper.

Published in 1989, Pat Hackett’s Andy Warhol Diaries (mercifully condensed to 807 pages) begins on 24 November 1976 and ends 11 years later on 17 February 1987, just a few days before the artist’s death. Here’s today’s entry:

21 October 1980: “I ran into a boy whose job is to go shopping for John [Lennon] and Yoko [Ono], to buy them clothes and things. I asked him if they’d ever made him bring anything back and he said just once. I asked him if they ever wore any of the clothes they bought since they don’t go out, and he said, ‘They’re going to make a comeback. They’ve been wearing them to the studio.’ Oh, and the best thing he said was that when he started to work for them he had to sign a paper that said, ‘I will not write a book about John Leonnon and/or Yoko Ono.’ Isn’t that great? He said he loves his job. I should find somebody to help me shop — show me where all the good new things are.” Andy Warhol

Six weeks later, on the night of 8 December 1980, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon four times in the back at the entrance to his New York apartment in the Dakota Building. Lennon was declared dead on arrival at nearby Roosevelt Hospital.

Andy Warhol


City life and letters

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013 0 Comments

When it came to the future of his native city, James Joyce claimed that if Dublin was destroyed you could rebuild it from the detail in Ulysses. The New York author Paul Auster makes no such lofty claims regarding his hometown, but many of his books are maps of the Big Apple, particularly his adopted Brooklyn. Auster is more than urban fiction, though. His books also contain humanity in all its fragility. Oracle Nights Anyone who has fought back from major illness will feel at home in the introduction to Oracle Night:

“I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three for four months you’ll be back in the swing of things. I didn’t believe him, but I followed his advice anyway. They had given me up for dead, and now that I had confounded their predictions and mysteriously failed to die, what choice did I have but l live as though a future life were waiting for me?

I began with small outings, no more than a block or two from my apartment and then home again. I was only thirty-four but for all intents and purposes, the illness had turned me into an old man — one of those palsied, shuffling geezers who can’t put one foot in front of the other without first looking down to see which foot is which.”

As our narrator gets stronger, his wanderings take him as far as a stationary shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and he buys a blue notebook, which then puts him under its spell. The rest is a story about haunted lives.

Those who do get a second bite of the cherry of life and survive serious sickness will relate to this passage towards the close of Auster’s novel: “I had my face in my hands and was sobbing my guts out. I don’t know how long I carried on like that, but even as the tears poured out of me, I was happy, happier to be alive than I had ever been before. It was a happiness beyond consolation, beyond misery, beyond all the ugliness and beauty of the world.”

The ugliness and beauty of the world as captured by writers will feature in two cities this week: Frankfurt, where the annual Book Fair begins today, and Stockholm, where tomorrow the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced. Prior to that, in our continuing urban week, we’ll look at the city as the battleground for future conflicts.


From and about Ohio: The National

Saturday, 28 September, 2013 1 Comment

It’s not every day that one encounters a band comprising two pairs of brothers, whose surnames begin with “D”, but twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf are the core of The National. Completing the lineup is Matt Berninger, the genius who writes and sings the songs. Formed in Cincinnati and now resident in Brooklyn, The National have become a global success story. Trouble Will Find Me, their latest album, released in May, immediately topped charts across the world, but the platform for that success was built in 2010 with High Violet. Bloodbuzz Ohio was the first single from the album and it continues to astonish.


Stop Sepsis. Save Lives.

Monday, 9 September, 2013 0 Comments

The first-ever Berlin Sepsis Summit (PDF) opens today in Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus. Your blogger has a personal interest in the disease as he contracted sepsis, with near fatal consequences, while in hospital during summer and nothing concentrates the mind more wonderfully than the prospect of closure and its causes, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. For those unfamiliar with the syndrome, sepsis occurs when the body is unable to fight bacterial infection. Perversely, many of the advances in modern healthcare weaken our immune system, opening the door for sepsis. These include cancer treatments, medicines for gastro-intestinal illnesses and drugs that affect the immune system, like cortisone.

Every three seconds someone around the world dies of sepsis and, terrifyingly, it is now the second-leading cause of death in non-coronary intensive care unit patients. Even in first-world countries such as Germany, with a much-praised healthcare system, some 160,000 people die from the disease annually. Imagine, then, the havoc it wreaks in less developed societies?

The keynote address in Berlin today will be given by Ciaran Staunton, whose young son, Rory, died of sepsis in April last year in NYU Langone Medical Center. A preventable death in one of the world’s best medical facilities produced a storm of outrage and led in January to the enactment in New York State of “Rory’s Regulations“, a series of protocols to diagnose and treat sepsis before it turns fatal.

World Sepsis Day will be marked globally on Friday and the declared goal is reducing the incidence of the disease by 20 percent by 2020. Stop Sepsis. Save Lives.

World Sepsis Day


Claude Monet and the Syrian connection

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in London, Sotheby’s will auction 72 lots of Impressionist and modern art in one of the most anticipated sales of the year. When all the bidding’s done, Sotheby’s expects to have raked in more than £75 million. Undoubtedly, the star of show is Claude Monet’s gorgeous depiction of The Palazzo Contarini in Venice, which he painted during a three-month stay in the city in 1908. But it’s complicated.

Monet

What the Sotheby’s auction catalogue does not mention is that this particular Monet is from the collection of Helly Nahmad, a character for whom the adjective “colourful” was coined. The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo in Syria and its members operate art galleries in New York and London. Their collection of 3,000 works, including 200 oil paintings by Picasso, is valued at $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Review.

Much to the surprise of its posh patrons, however, the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan was forced to shut its doors earlier this year after it was raided by US agents on the grounds that its owner was running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. On 16 April, Helly Nahmad was charged with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, Nahmad ran an operation that used illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. The gambling ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, states the indictment. After such unpleasantness, it is a relief to lovers of modern art, no doubt, that the Helly Nahmad Gallery is open for business once more. The proceeds from this evening’s sale of The Palazzo Contarini painting, which should be spectacular, surely will comfort the proprietor during his difficulties.


Exit Tumblr followed by $1.1 billion

Monday, 20 May, 2013 0 Comments

“The exit, one of the biggest New York has seen shows that with content becoming important, New York is finding its footing on the startup stage.” That’s Om Malik writing about “What Tumblr’s sale means for New York startup ecosystem.” Later, he adds: “It would be one of the biggest exits for a New York-based startup. Sure there have been other exits — Google paid $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, but that was a company that belonged to a different Internet era.” Those not used to seeing “exit” used in this context need to brush up on their venture capitalist (VC) vocabulary because the “exit strategy” is how a VC intends to get out of an investment, profitably. The exit is a way of “cashing out” an investment via an initial public offering (IPO) or being bought out by a bigger player, such as Yahoo. It’s also referred to as a “harvest strategy” or a “liquidity event”.

One of the early investors in Tumblr was Union Square Ventures of which Fred Wilson is a managing partner. Along with being a famous VC, Fred is a famous Bob Dylan fan and those in the know knew that a deal was almost done when he posted “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” by Dylan on his Tumblr blog yesterday. And it didn’t.

So why is Fred Wilson cashing out and David Karp cashing in so handsomely? “The world is atwitter about Tumblr’s big exit to Yahoo!” says John Battelle, who claims it’s all about advertising, especially “native” advertising and the “activity stream”.


The only Gatsby review you need to read

Friday, 17 May, 2013 0 Comments

In the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford, Daisy Buchanan, played by Mia Farrow, tells Gatsby: “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” The line appears nowhere in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and with good reason because by the time Daisy makes this remark in the Redford film, Jay Gatsby is very rich, which makes it an extremely silly thing for her to say. In his adaptation of the book, Baz Luhrmann avoids all such infelicities. His interpretation hews close to the original written word, and when he departs from the text it’s always to enhance the story with tweaks that support the astonishing visuals, made all the more fantastic in 3-D. These images are mainly of the vulgar culture of new money, which is what causes Daisy ultimately to leave Gatsby at the end of the story and stick with her brutal, boorish but old money husband.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

The moral of the story is that the elite win, always. Despite all the talk of meritocracy, it is a class-based society that Fitzgerald is writing about, and those who work hard, like poor Mr Wilson, are treated like dirt, and those who try to clamber to the top, like poor Jimmy Gatz, are treated with contempt.

Jordan Baker With Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, two uniquely talented actors lead Baz Luhrmann’s latest charge into the classics and they’re ably supported by a cast in which Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, is outstanding. Carey Mulligan is a rather pallid Daisy Buchanan, while Joel Edgerton as her husband Tom is the only weak link in the chain. Otherwise, this is as good as it gets. Thanks to Luhrmann, Gatsby continues to be “great” because the film, like the book, contrasts idealism with corruption and bravely accepts the reality of death and loss.

The brash new world of the New World, with its sexual freedom, motorcars, youth, money, gin, rum and whiskey is in your face throughout the film and Baz Luhrmann makes the real star of the novel, pagan and glamorous New York City, look like the magic kingdom. Do see it.


Rewriting the Mona Lisa

Tuesday, 14 May, 2013 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby “How I rewrote ‘The Great Gatsby'” was the Telegraph headline yesterday. That did not bode well as everyone knows rewriting The Great Gatsby is as just as impossible as repainting the Mona Lisa. Of course, online versions of newspapers have to lure readers and so-called “link bait”, while blatantly dishonest, is part of the journalism trade today. The hooked reader then discovers that the headline changes to “Craig Pearce, co-writer of Baz Lurhmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, reveals all.” That’s slightly less bombastic, but Gatsby fans will be alarmed to read that, “At the end of our first months working in Australia, our screenplay was four hours long.” If the author of Gatsby could create a masterpiece with just 180 pages of prose, what is the need for four hours of screenplay?

Pearce gives the game away when he writes, “One of the things that makes Gatsby so potent is Fitzgerald’s gorgeous, poetic prose, and it’s very hard to recreate that cinematically.” The “very hard” there is one of the great understatements of our time because the more fitting term would be “impossible”. No one can film this:

“The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.”

Now, just because the ethereal beauty of these words cannot be filmed it does not mean that Baz Luhrmann was wrong to attempt to capture what they say for the screen. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” wrote Robert Browning and it is very brave of Luhrmann to risk the opprobrium that will appear here on Friday if it turns out that he mistook the rewriting of Craig Pearce for the impressionistic painting of F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Sentence symmetry

Monday, 13 May, 2013 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby Opening sentence: “It is on The Great Gatsby by Australian director Baz Luhrmann, that the curtain will rise at the inauguration of the 66th Festival de Cannes, on Wednesday 15th May, in the Grand Théâtre Lumière of the Palais des Festivals, out of Competition in the Official Selection.” Festival de Cannes press release

Opening sentence: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby

Unlike the writers of many press releases, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to balance the contents of a sentence. He could do short: “His wife was shrill, languid, handsome, and horrible.” And he could do long: “At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.” Overall, though, he strove for symmetry and one of many delights of re-reading Gatsby lies in savouring the different ways in which he achieved proportion.

In late 1938, Radcliffe College student Frances Turnbull sent her latest short story to family friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. His response, found in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, stresses the importance of emotional investment in writing and offers some very honest advice on the essence of great writing:

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.


The eyes have it

Sunday, 12 May, 2013 0 Comments

“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you percieve, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous […]

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