Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books: Are Novellas The Future Of Publishing?

(Drivebycuriosity) - "Novellas are the future of publishing", claims the website io9 (io9 ). Novellas are longer than short stories but shorter than novels. For instance the Nebula Awards for the best science fiction novellas of the year are given to stories of between 17,500 and 40,000 words (wikipedia).

The online publisher recently announced "the  formation of a new publishing program, dedicated to publishing the best novellas and short novels from emerging writers as well as established authors" (tor). The new program "will be made available in ebook, print on demand, and audio formats via online retailers".

I appreciate this idea. I like to read, but I often give up on a book before its end because I lose my interest.  Often a writer has an interesting idea which carries a story about maybe 100 pages or less, but when she stretches the plot the story gets thinner and thinner and the text has too many fillers. Just a minority of authors is capable to keep the tension over hundreds of pages. Long books are often like watered down wine.

Some of the finest pieces of literature are novellas like Franz Kafka´s "Metamorphosis", Stefan Zweig´s "The Royal Game" and  John W. Campbell, Jr`s., haunting science fiction & horror story "Who Goes There?" (John Carpenter adapted this to his masterpiece "The Thing"). But publishers and booksellers don`t`really appreciate novellas. The prices, they could get for them, don´t justify an expensive marketing strategy and don´t finance their administrations. And bookshops want to impress with huge piles of heavy books.  Often the publishers compromise and combine novellas  with other short stories. On my books shelf is Truman Capote´s novella "Breakfast at Tiffany´s" with the tag "a short novel and three stories".

But things are changing - thanks to the Internet. Since the arrival of e-books novellas can easily be sold -  and the length doesn´t matter any more. For instance Amazon offers short texts (fiction & non-fiction) as Kindle Singles. Their prices usually vary from 99 cents to $2.99.

I think novellas are a chance for newcomers and other unknown writers to introduce themselves. Authors can focus on an idea and publish faster. And readers can sneak into something unknown without wasting too much time and money. Novellas could rekindle the dwindling interest in books. It seems people are spending less time for books because of the growing flood of leisure time alternatives like social networks.

I believe people will still read well written novels and non-fiction with 500 pages or more, but I think they will buy more books shaped as novellas and maybe even read more than before. Welcome to the novellas.

PS: For illustration I choose Jonathan Viner´s painting "Cult Classic" .

Friday, February 27, 2015

Culture: Swans @ Bowery Ballroom, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - I like independent rock music, bands who go their own ways beyond the mainstream, those who are experimenting and distinguish themselves from today`s mediocrity.

Yesterday I enjoyed a gig by Swans @ Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan`s trendy Lower East Side (bowery). The band, led by Michael Gira, formed in 1982 and, after disbanding in 1997, returned in around 2010. According to Wikipedia Gira explained the band`s name: ""Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments" (wikipedia).

The 2 1/2 hour performance (!) was was quite something and will stay in my memory for years. There were six musicians on the stage: Three guitars, drums/percussion, keyboards and a sixth performer who acted as a kind of "Libero" (a term used in soccer). He was the "free man" and played alternatively different instruments. Sometimes he beat an additional drum, then he changed to violin, brass, xylophone and other instruments. Often the keyboard contributed a digital carillon which gave the songs an elated structure.

                                                       Industrial Symphonies

The band exploited the potentialities of noises - created with the use of guitars, percussions and a lot of other devices - and transformed them into long symphonic pieces. Melodic and ballad-like parts alternated with massive industrial segments, sounding like colossal machines. Frontman Michael Gira seemed to enjoy the audience in the sold out place ("beautiful people"). His melodic voice gave the songs an additional framework. Sometimes he used his voice as an additional instrument, setting dramatical accents like a performer on a theater stage.

I think the name of the band is apt, the concert was "majestic & beautiful" - with bursts of "really ugly temperaments". Thanks a lot, Swan!

PS 1: Yesterday´s performer were (facebook): Michael Gira / gtr / voice / mendicant friar act (original swans) Norman Westberg – Guitar (original swans) Christophj Hahn – Guitar (mid period swans and most angels) Phil Puleo – Drums, percussion, dulcimer etc etc (final swans tour and most angels) Chris Pravdica – Bass and gadgets (flux information sciences / services/ gunga din) Thor Harris, Drums, percussion, vibes, dulcimer, curios, etc etc... (angels, now also with shearwater).

PS 2: Their next New York show is announced for Sunday March 22, 2015 @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (williamsburg).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Contemporary Art: Call and Response @ Gallery Gavin Brown`Enterprise, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - I love contemporary art. I really enjoy the variety of ideas, colors and shapes. The art gallery Gavin Brown`s Enterprise on New York`s Greenwich Street has a nice survey of current trends called: "Call and Response" (through Saturday February 28, 2015 gavinbrown).

They used just a single room and crammed it with works from almost 60 artists (!). Some of the paintings would have impressed more if that had a whole wall for herself but ….

Anyway, "Call and Response" is a cutting-edge show and gives a impression of new trends in the world of visual arts.

                                                       Burning the Candles at Both Ends

Some of the displayed works are sticking out of the deluge. On the top of this post you can see "Untitled" by Merlin Carpenter (2015, acrylic and spray paint on cardboard). Does it show the earth plagued with global warming?

Above this paragraph follow Michael Williams`"Happy Anniversary Gandma Dave" (2013, Inkjet and airbrush on canvas) /Matt Connors`"LARGE REAL BOTTOM (pink and black) (2015, acrylic on wood); David Korty`s "Title TBC" (2015, Ink, goauche, paper and canvas); Michela Eichwald´s  "Title TBC" (2015, Oil, acrylic, spray paint, lacquer, graphite on grey leather); Joe Bradley`s "Colonel" (2014, oil on canvas) & Sophie von Hellermann`s "Burning the Candles at Both Ends" (2015,Oil on canvas).

It is interesting that some artists take the effort to find funny names for their work and others don´t seem to care.

Above this paragraph you can see Pietr Schoolwerth`s, "Take Out #5
" (2014, Oil, acrylic, and giclée print on canvas); Eric Palgon`s "Untitled, (Breisheet) 67 x  60 (170 2 x 153,7 cm); Klanja Storbert`s, "Untitled" (2015, Ink, watercolor and acrylic on paper); Rebecca Morris`, "Untitled (#02-14)" (2014, Oil and spray paint on canvas) & Uri Aran´s, "Untitled" (2014, Ink, acrylic, pencil and mixed media on high density overly panel).

The good old "oil on canvas" seems to be out of fashion, now acrylic, ink, spray paint and more are en vogue.

At first I didn´t recognize the funny head above, but the camera helped me to focus: "Title TBC" by Avery Singer (2015); I have no idea what the image below that is about, but I like it anyway: Untitled" by Scott Reedr (2014, Acrylic on canvas) and Torey Thornton called his fruity looking painting: "A Friend Of Goblets With Quench Like Dome" (2015, Acrylic paints, oil pastel, nail polish, graphite and collage on paper).

Regarding Jeff Fuller`s, "The Persistence of Memory" (2014, Acrylic, fabric dye and gesso on canvas) I like the composition of shapes & colors. Sean Landers called his work "Tartan Forest 2" (2015, Oil on  linen). In the case of Josh Smith`s work the spectators has the choice, the painting is "Untitled" (2012, 48 x 36 inches).

                                                 What are your limits for tonight?

As usual some of the images are funny and a bit provocative. Sanya Kantarovsky`s "Woman with Parakkeet" is something for the imagination (2014, Oil, watercolor, oil stick, pastel on linen)

Where did this flying witch hide her broom? Maybe she made it invisible. Dave Miko named his work "Fitful dreamer" (2015, Oil on aluminium)

Ella Kruglyanskaya`s "Untitled (Drawing on Taupe Background)" looks conservative. But the painting is cute anyway (2014, Oil and oil bar on linen).
It seems that Julia Wachtel had a lot of fun as she created her "Grasp" (2014, Oil and acrylic ink on canvas).
Antek Walczak`s, "Evolution of the Right to Sexuality: Transparent and Code, 2014 (bios dif. 2 (2015, Oil and acrylic on canvas) speaks for itself.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Economy: Did Wal-Mart Start A New Wave Of Inflation?

(Drivebycuriosity) - It seems there is a cult of negativity in the media. Magazines and Internet news sites have been complaining about stagnating wages and warned about the risk that the US economy could fall into a deflation.

Recently Wal-Mart lifted her minimum wages. This could be seen as a sign that salaries start to rise again and that the deflation scares are overblown. But no, the news site "Business Insider" cries alarm again. No they rant: "We could be on a cusp major inflation event" (businessinsider). Apparently the media -  or at least "Business Insider" - are falling from one extreme into another.

Business Insider writes "that more wages for worker would create more pricing pressure in the economy". Yes, that could be, but not in the economical situation we have now. BI`s argumentation is way to simple.

First: Wal-Mart cannot rise prices just because of the wage hike. The retailer is competing against Target and other retailers and especially against online sellers like Amazon who employ less workers. A price hike would drive customers to cheaper competitors.

Second: The productivity of workers, even @ Wal-Mart, is climbing thanks to the ongoing automatization. Workers produce more goods & services thanks to robots and other machines which are getting more and better over the time. If the productivity rises, say 2%, than wages can also climb 2% without any pressures on prices.

Now Wal-Marts - and soon other companies - are responding to the climbing productivity and are sharing parts of the benefits of automatization with their employees - without causing inflation. Something to celebrate. The "Business Insider" article is just another example for the usual scare mongering of the media.

PS I took the pic from the "Business Insider`s" homepage, where it appeared as top news @ around 5pm on February 24, 2015.

New York City: Street Art Never Hibernates - What`s Going On In Lower Manhattan - February 2015 Edition

(Drivebycuriosity) - It´s extremely cold in New York City. But street art never hibernates. In spite of the winter chill new murals, stencils, graffiti appeared on the streets of Manhattan. Since my latest street art report from January 2015 (driveby) I discovered at least some new works @ Lower East Side, East Village and Soho.

Some artists beautified the ubiquitous news paper boxes and fire alarm columns on the winterly streets (seen on Broome Street).

And the fashion shop "Rag & Bone" on East Hoston continued her tradition for frequently changing murals.

Neither fell the diligent Centre-Fuge Public Art Project fall to sleep (driveby). They commissioned more works along the construction stricken East Houston Street.

The distributors of sexy stickers & stencils were active as well.

To be continued.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Economy: Climate Change - Some Like It Hot

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is bitter cold and the whole US north-east suffers from snow and ice.  But some can not get enough from the chill. Matthew Yglesias, a popular writer for the media site Vox, claims that the economy deteriorates when the climate gets warmer (vox)!

Yglesias wants to scare about the expected climate change and refers to some obscure statistics which asserts that even in the US "productivity of individual days declines roughly 1.7% for each 1.8°F increase in temperature above 59°F". But with statistics you can make up everything you want: For instance statistics allegedly "proof" a relationship between "stork population and human birth rate in Europe", "beer drinking in the USA and children mortality in Japan" and more nonsense (pbil  relationship).

Yglesias thesis does not stand reason. I remember the winter 2013/14. In the first quarter of 2014 the US GDP dropped 2.9% because of snow and extremely low temperatures (forbes). Each winter season in the north of the US and Europe construction, agriculture, transport and other industries are slowing down - or come to a standstill - because of winterly conditions. This weekend for instance many flights in the US north-east are cancelled because of heavy snow (nbcnews). Snow & ice cause huge travel delays and a lot of canceled flights and are reducing security, comfort & productivity painfully. People die because of traffic accidents caused by icy streets or snowy streets slow the emergency cars. Some even freeze to death.

From around 1550 till 1850 Europe suffered the so-called "little ice age" with very chilly periods (wikipedia). Low temperatures, long winters & short - or no - summers destroyed the crops and caused famines & deathly flu epidemics. In the 19th century temperatures started climbing and Europe`s economical and political rise began - coincidence?

People can protect themselves against heat thanks to air condition. I stayed once in a hotel room in tropical Thailand which had no air conditioner but a huge fan on the ceiling cooled the place properly.  Ice and snow still create a lot of problems as we can see these days in the troubled US north east.

Warm temperatures don´t detain productivity and economic growth. Singapore - which is very close to the Equator and has a hot & humid climate - is a vibrant and economical very sucessful state. The southern Chinese metropolises Hong Kong and Shenzen - with a mostly tropical climate - are the most dynamic parts of the people`s republic. And Phoenix (Arizona) and Austin (Texas) belong to the most dynamic US cities.

If the earth gets significantly warmer then the permafrost regions of Siberia, Canada and Alaska will thaw and will boost global agriculture. We could expect more wheat, corn and other crop. And free  seaways along Sibiria`s and Canada´s north coast should boost global transport.

In January we escaped the New York winter and spend some days on the tropical American Virgin Islands (driveby). We enjoyed the warm climate very much and the natives were friendly and relaxed. Some like it hot.