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)
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.
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.
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:
Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker: "It’s hard to watch the video of Steven Sotloff’s last moments and not conclude something similar: the ostensible objective of securing an Islamic state is nowhere near as important as killing people. For the guys who signed up for ISIS—including, especially, the masked man with the English accent who wielded the knife—killing is the real point of being there. Last month, when ISIS forces overran a Syrian Army base in the city of Raqqa, they beheaded dozens of soldiers and displayed their trophies on bloody spikes. “Here are heads that have ripened, that were ready for the plucking,” an ISIS fighter said in narration. Two soldiers were crucified. This sounds less like a battle than like some kind of macabre party.
In a lesser-known aphorism from Clausewitz, he says, “Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.” The executioner in the Sotloff video, as in the video that captured the beheading of the journalist James Foley, is wearing a mask. Is it the mark of a warrior? Or is it the mark of a murderer who knows, deep in his soul, that he should be ashamed?"
Nick Hannauer writing in Politico: "No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when."
Writing in Time magazine, columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes: "This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor... And that’s how the status quo wants it..."
As Mr. Abdul-Jabbar indicates, Racism isn't dead, despite the milestone of the election of America's first African-American President. But the issue of racial discrimination and conflict is only heightened by the economics of racism. As Mr. Abdul-Jabbar points out, black on white racism does not substantially impact the economic well being of white Americans, but white on black racism certainly does.
The shooting of Michael Brown and other recent shootings of the other unarmed young black men by police should not be a viewed as an ugly news item to be shrugged off and forgotten til the next time. The chaos in Ferguson, Missouri is ugly, but represents the anger of one particular community forgotten, and generally represents the reminder that the USA in the 21st century has profound issues regarding racial and economic inequality that have yet to be addressed.
What our tired nation still owes the world: Robert Kagan's recent provocative - and important- recent article in the New Republic on "Why Superpowers Don't Fet to Retire" and how the fight to protect Freedom and democracy in other parts of the world at the same time are important to ensure and protect the continuation of democracy at home in the US. A must read at a time when even former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright acknowledges 'the world is a mess."
James Fallows in The Atlantic, in attempting to assess the real effectiveness of the Iron Dome missile system, perhaps unwittingly reveals why Israel continues to target Hamas missile sites in Gaza: Iron Dome is nowhere near 100% effective. Or at least not more effective than Hamas' strategy of apparently using civilians and civilian locations as shields. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), as an al-Jazeera commentator reported, at least attempts to warn civilians and avoid targeting civilians, although there is no denial that many innocents have been killed, as have many Israeli innocents been killed by suicide bombings in the past. Still, if the combatants or their supporters are brutally honest with themselves, (is there any other kind of honesty?), in a conflict of this nature, moral high ground is a relative thing, and, a difficult hill to climb. But for the moment, there is no end in sight, despite Israel's initial acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered cease fire. Hamas, it seems would rather sacrifice the last civilian victim to achieve its political ends, and, since clearly Israel can't rely solely on the Iron Dome to protect its citizens, it now appears ready to continue to attack targets in Gaza until the rocket barrage into Israel ceases. Nevertheless, the non-combatant, and innocent civilians, will continue to be victims.
"When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers."
From Chris Kornelis in the Village Voice: 'Robinson believed he could sell a million copies of the album, but to do it he would have to repackage not just a collection of songs but Marley himself. "My vision of Bob from a marketing point of view," Robinson says, "was to sell him to the white world." '
Full article on the late Bob Marley and the impact of the LEGEND album here
"We are not embracing a politics of envy if we are reversing a politics of greed":Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz on how politics - and not the magical
Hand of the Market- shape current economic imbalances. And how politics and democracy will be required to change them. For the wealthy to compare tax increases to the rise of the Nazis suggests things have gone way off track in the USA. Social Responsibility and not just Noblesse Oblige are required. Read The Great Divide in the NYT http://nyti.ms/1qRBiks