Archive | August, 2013

Friday Links: Tennis

30 Aug

tennisSir John Lavery’s Played!

We writers aren’t known for being the sportiest bunch. Oh, sure, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you read my blog regularly you know that I write about one such writer: Jack Kerouac, who went to Columbia on a football scholarship. I don’t know how it is that of all the writers I’ve read—and mind you I was a voracious reader from childhood on, reading both male and female authors—I grew most attached to one that was a jock. I guess that’s just irony.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was the cliché example of the girl in the glasses picked last in gym class. Most of my friends lived for the days we had gym, which was only maybe twice a week when I was in elementary school. I hated it. I would’ve rather sat in science class or written an essay than be forced to participate in a rousing game of What Time Is it Mr. Fox? or kickball.

In high school, I started taking tennis lessons. This was very much encouraged by my father, who thought it was great for my future—that it would help me succeed in life and business. I’m sure even in today’s economy there are corporate types who discuss mergers over a competitive game of tennis or golf. I mean, I did see it on an episode of Friends so it must be true. I’d bet there are even publishing types who do so. The reputation of writers and editors, though, is more akin to writing a book contract on a cocktail napkin during our three martini lunches. And so it surprised me that I actually liked tennis. I didn’t like it enough to actually exert too much energy running for the ball, but I liked it enough to make a bit of an effort to endure physical activity. I only took lessons for about a year—there were other things to do with my time, things like study for the SATs and hang out at diners—but I held onto my racket for quite some time. It made the move with me from New Jersey to my first apartment in New York. But it didn’t make it to my second apartment. I hadn’t made friends with the type of people who belonged to tennis clubs. I’d made friends with the type of people who were also picked last for gym class.

In celebration of the US Open, today’s Friday links are tennis related:::

Jason Diamond writes about David Foster Wallace and tennis literature (Flavorwire)

Harvest Books even put out an anthology called Tennis and the Meaning of Life

I myself am a bit partial to the use of tennis in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus

The Great Gatsby came out around the time tennis was becoming popular in the US; Greg Victor offers a few thoughts on this (Parcbench)

I once sat behind this tennis star and author at Z100’s Jingle Ball

One of the earliest paintings to depict tennis was recently sold at auction (BBC)

Love this fashion spread depicting The Royal Tenenbaums, which of course featured a tennis prodigy (This Is Glamorous)

Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in 1950 when she entered the U.S. Championships

Have a sporty Labor Day weekend! Let me know if you’re doing anything fun.

Writing Wednesday: 10 Reasons Memoirists Should Make Time to Keep a Diary

28 Aug

I wrote recently about how Jack Kerouac kept a dream journal and have been blogging a lot about social media. In a recent Salon article, Michele Filgate wonders “Will social media kill writers’ diaries?: Now Facebook and Twitter are business necessities, they may be losing writers’ journals. Is something lost?”

Filgate writes that authors’ personal diaries offer a key into their literary development and intentions. She says authors’ social media posts can do the same thing, but that it’s not as authentic:

Even if there is a level of acting involved in authors who use social media, it isn’t anything new. Brian Morton (author of “Starting Out in the Evening” points out: “I’ve read that Tolstoy used to keep two diaries, one that he left lying around for other people to read, the other a more intimate record for himself alone. I think self-exposure on social media is probably like the diary we leave out for others. There’s probably always an element of performance in it, even when it seems most naked.”

The pressure to build a platform and use social media is real for authors. Finding time to write isn’t always easy to begin with, but not it’s a constant juggle between writing (and researching, editing, and pitching) and social media (blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, and pinterest-ing). In addition to big writing projects, many writers are also taking on small projects, like writing articles for various lit mags.

Diary keeping is last on my literary to-do list, and I miss it! Not only do I miss it for personal reasons, but I miss having a record of what I was going through and what I was feeling at various points in my life. Especially as a memoirist, I think it’s essential to keep a diary.

Here are

  1. It is a log for when and where we were on exact days
  2. It reminds us of precise events in our life
  3. It reminds us of little details that we forget over time
  4. It is a more accurate record of our emotions than our social media entries
  5. It is a raw space to create
  6. It’s a reminder of our growth in life
  7. It’s a reminder of our literary accomplishments
  8. It’s a place to dream and make goals
  9. It’s a good way to warm up our writing muscles
  10. Technology changes over time, so having a tangible diary preserves our day-to-day thoughts

How do you juggle journal-keeping with your other writing and social media? How has keeping a diary helped your writing?

 

Clip: 10 Amazing Topiaries: Pruning Toward Whimsy

27 Aug

The first time I went to Disney World in Florida, I remember being spectacularly impressed by the topiaries. I was in fifth grade. Oh, sure, the rides were fun, and it was exciting to have costumed Mickey and Minnie sign my autograph book, but I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting were the small details Disney took to create an enchanted kingdom. Sometimes the most amazing moments in life come in the tiny, unexpected details.

Yet ironically, to become whimsical works of landscape art, these topiaries couldn’t just grow free and wild. They had to be pruned and grow within strict guidelines.

Read the rest of my article and see 10 amazing topiaries here.

Spoiler: Johnny Depp is included.

Nikolopoulos Revives Homer’s Poetic Language

26 Aug

logo

The National Herald featured me! In the article, I talk about “dead” languages, that great Greek roadtripper Homer, and Scripps College.

New Trailer for “Kill Your Darlings” Released

23 Aug

KillYourDarlingsPoster photo via imdb

The new Kill Your Darlings trailer released! You can check it out here.

Kill Your Darlings is the film about the 1944 murder in which Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were named as accessories.

Just like in the film adaptation of On the Road where the Marylou/LuAnne character got a lot of publicity because she was played by Kristen Stewart even though LuAnne wasn’t the focus of the book, the buzz around Kill Your Darlings is Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe playing Allen Ginsberg even though Ginsberg was not the murderer, not the person murdered, and not named as an accessory.

The film is directed by Greek American John Krokidas and stars Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William Burroughs, Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, David Cross as Louis Ginsberg, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, and Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer.

It premiered at Sundance this year, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, and is set for limited release here in the US on October 18, 2013.

I set up a Kill Your Darlings Pinterest page if you’re interested in seeing photos of the real-life people involved in the murder and of the actors and people involved in the film.

Will you watch Kill Your Darlings when it comes out?

 

Coming Soon: Greek American Fashion Week

22 Aug

GAF

Last year’s Greek American Fashion Show was so inspired that this year, they’re putting on an entire WEEK for Fashion Week:

The Greek America Foundation is hosting “Greek American Fashion Week” September 4-8, 2013 with events taking place throughout New York City.  The week culminates in a Greek American Runway Show at Studio450 and after party at Meli Restaurant on September 6, 2013.

Greek American Fashion Week events include “Greek Fashion’s Night Out” and multiple cocktail hours at venues such as Anassa Taverna. At the main runway event, guests will be dazzled by cutting-edge fashion designs with Greek and American entertainment, a high-end silent auction and gift bags to cap off the evening. All events showcase emerging and established North American fashion designers of Greek descent in an effort to help them forge relationships with those in the fashion industry, assisting them with advancement of their careers.

In addition, renowned menswear designer John Varvatos will be honored with an award for his exceptional contribution to the fashion industry.

A host of supporters and friends will be on hand for the weekend events, including several prominent members from the fashion and retail industry as well as celebrity fashion bloggers.

Proceeds from this program will benefit the programs of the Greek America Foundation, with a particular focus on the creation of a scholarship for a student pursuing fashion design. The Greek America Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving and perpetuating the Greek culture, history and heritage in North America.

Tickets will go on sale August 12, available for purchase from the Greek America Foundation’s website (www.greekamerica.org).

More details to be released soon! For additional information, please visit http://www.greekamerica.org/projects/greek-american-fashion-week/.

Who’s coming with me?!

If “Everything Is Possible,” Our Milestones Need to Change

21 Aug

singles-620x412Image from Singles via Salon

In the second paragraph of Sara Scribner’s recent Salon article about Generation X, the journalist says:

Few have even noticed that this small, notoriously rebellious clan – those born roughly between 1965 and 1980, which means about 46 million Xers versus 80 million boomers — has entered middle age.

The article itself is entitled “Generation X gets really old: How do slackers have a midlife crisis?”

Let’s stop right there for a moment. The date range provided here for Generation X refers to people who are currently between 48 and 33 years old. Is 33 middle age? Is 33 “really old”? Hyperbole aside, is 48 even “really old”?

The rest of the article refers to people in their 40s. I get it. The writer is using the median age. Treatises on generations are always rift with broad-swept generalities, however the attention to age in this particular article is telling for the article goes on to bring up issues of delayed adulthood, parents, and leadership.

Scribner quotes historian and generational expert (side note: how does one get to be a generational expert? That sounds like an awesome job) Neil Howe saying:

“Xers experience agoraphobia — everything is possible.”

The article goes on to say:

That’s where this generation gets its reputation as reluctant to grow up. “It’s very hard to mature,” [Howe] says. “In order to mature and become an adult, you have to shut off options. The way Xers were raised, there were always options — their parents told them to keep options open.”

Further on in the article, Scribner explains the result of this:

[Sheryl] Connelly, the Ford futurist, says that some of the postponing of the traditional midlife period may come down to a pushing back of all the major life milestones: “Some of that [midlife questioning] would be fueled by empty nesters – the kids are grown,” she says, explaining a feeling of “now what?” “Demographics have shifted such that with each passing generation, people are postponing marriage.” With dependent kids at home, everything has been pushed back. “There’s nothing midlife about my situation right now.  I think that’s why you don’t hear this conversation.”

Maybe, but that’s assuming that we’re talking about a Gen Xer born closer to the 1965 date. Let’s take someone smack dab in the middle of Gen X. If we’re using the range 1965 to 1980, let’s pick someone born in 1972. That person today (well, depending on when their birthday falls) would be 41 years old. Let’s now assume this person married right out of college and then had a kid the following year, when they were about 24 years old. (Keep in mind, that’s younger than the median age for getting married which is closer to 27.) That child would be about 17 years old. It’s therefore not at all shocking that many—even half of—Gen Xers would have “dependent kids at home.” It would actually be rather traditional and, dare I say, old-fashioned.

More interesting is not that life’s “major life milestones” are happening later but that they’re happening at different times for Gen X.

And, just as interesting is that, even with these societal changes, Scribner still upheld conservative viewpoints of adulthood when she paired the phrase “major life milestones” with Connelly’s quote about “empty nesters,” “postponing marriage,” and “dependent kids at home.”

This is where the article gets fascinating but isn’t fully explored. Yes, perhaps on the whole, people are postponing marriage and children and many who did have children now can’t get rid of their boomerang kids, creating a period of limbo. However, just like the age range of Gen X varies, so does the age that they’re getting married and having kids. That’s apparent even in looking at the celebrities the article mentions. Kurt Cobain (born in 1967) had a baby, and that baby is now 20 years old. Winona Ryder is 41 and has never been married or had children. Liz Phair, who is now 46, married a film editor in 1995 and had a child with him the following year; in 2001 the couple divorced.

I have friends I graduated college with who afterwards got married and now have two or three children. I have other friends I graduated high school with who are still very single—and by “very,” I simply mean that they are not only unmarried but also not in a steady relationship. I have a cousin who is about two years older than me who has a seventeen-year-old son. And I have other cousins who are about a decade older than me and have children the same age and younger than the cousin closer to my age.

At a writing conference, I had an interesting conversation with one of my colleagues. On so many levels we connected. We’d had very similar upbringings. We had comparable goals with our writing. We  shared parallel interests. Only about two years older than me, she is a mother of adolescent children and confessed to fearing empty-nest syndrome. At that moment in the conversation, my unmarried, childless self felt like a complete child next to her.

Going back to the statements about Gen X’s reluctance to grow up and the difficulty of maturing in this day and age, I think Howe’s concept of “agoraphobia” is worth more attention. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with Howe’s assessment that we have a phobia, an irrational fear, of “shut[ting] off options,” but the fact that we have those options is significant. We have the option to get married right out of college or to wait until we’ve experienced more of life, know ourselves better, and have amassed a nest egg to support a family. There’s no longer the same social stigma there once was to have a child out of wedlock and so we have the option to have a child with a significant other who we may already be living with. With the advancement of medicine, we also have the option of waiting until we’re in our 40s to have children.

As Howe says, “everything is possible.” But what does that mean for our identities and for the concept of maturity and adulthood?

Does a Gen Xer who is single and childless at 48 years old have more in common with a single and childless 33 year old Gen Xer than with a 48-year-old Gen Xer with a toddler? Does a Gen Xer who is an empty nester have more in common with the Gen Xer who never had children? Does a divorced Gen Xer in their early 30s have a more similar lifestyle to a Gen Xer in their late 40s who never got married? Is the 48 year old who never got married and never had children less mature, less of an adult, because they haven’t reached certain “milestones”?

Maybe it’s time our concept of maturity shifted to match the time period in which we’re living. Maybe it’s time to recognize that today’s milestones have changed.

The Salon article says “Many Xers seem nostalgic for the serene ‘50s,” but the “serene ’50s childhood” is a myth. One, in fact, that we explore in Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” when talking about how illness killed off children, how war fractured families, how gender roles were back then, and how supposed countercultural icon Jack Kerouac longed for a wife and a ranch. Marilyn Monroe died at 36, never having a child. Ella Fitzgerald never had a child of her own but adopted one. Allen Ginsberg had a lifelong partner but his relationship was not considered traditional at the time. Clearly, there were people in the 1940s and ’50s who reached adulthood, reach midlife, without achieving traditional milestones. So why do we continue to use the same markers for maturity today that weren’t even accurate in the 1940s?

You may also like:

Blame Parents for Millennials Acting Entitled: Helicopter Parents Have Trophy Kids Who End Up Boomerang Kids

Shunning Cars … and Life

Parallel Generations

Hipsters Hate Driving

 

Bea Franco (October 13, 1920 – August 15, 2013)

20 Aug

I learned yesterday via Tim Z. Hernandez that Bea Franco, the woman who inspired Jack Kerouac to write one of his most beautiful passages in On the Road, passed away at the age of 92.

Bea Franco was the real-life woman behind Terry, “the Mexican girl,” in On the Road. Hernandez tracked her down in California when he was doing research for a book on her life and had the great opportunity to interview her and get to know her and her family over time. He wrote a beautiful book entitled Manana Means Heaven (University of Arizona Press) celebrating her relationship with Kerouac and her life afterwards which is due out later this month. I got to read an advance, and I’ll write more on that soon, but what I will say for now is that it’s an inspired work of literature that stands on its own as well as an important book bringing light to one of the women who impacted the Beat Generation. Although the book is not out yet, Hernandez got an advance copy to Franco, which she was able to see a week before she passed away. You can read about that on Hernandez’s blog.

Related links from around the Web:

Beatrice Kozera, known as ‘Terry’ in Kerouac’s ‘On the Road,’ dies at 92 by the Associated Press

On the Road — The Original Scroll — Bea on Retracing Kerouac

On the Road: Columbia Studios, Hollywood, California on Littourati

Evan Karp’s article “Tim Hernandez: Book inspired by Jack Kerouac” for the SFGate

Actress Alice Braga as Terry in the film adaptation

The Daily Beat’s review of Hernandez’s book about Franco, Manana Means Heaven

Clip: A Time to Search

20 Aug

Burnside published my latest art post in the “A Time to…” series. It’s

A Time to Search

 

In case you missed the previous posts in the series. They are:

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

The Light and Life of Greek American Neon Artist Stephen Antonakos (1926–2013)

19 Aug

I learned via Gregory Pappas, founder of the Greek America Foundation, that artist Stephen Antonakos passed away this weekend. I had the great privilege of attending an exhibition of Antonakos’ neon sculptures at the Lori Bookstein Fine Art gallery here in New York City when the abstract artist was honored for the Gabby Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. You can read about that here. Antonakos attended the event, and I remember him being a quiet, humble artist. Yet his work speaks volumes.

Captivated by the neon lights of New York City, the Greek immigrant—Antonakos moved to the US when he was four years old—the artist began incorporating neon into his art in 1960. In an interview with Zoe Kosmidou, he explained the symbolism—or lack thereof—in his neon work:

My forms do not represent, symbolize, or refer to anything outside of themselves. Such specific correspondences would limit the work’s meaning, whereas pure abstraction, liberated from any external references, is capable of saying so much more. My neons relate formally to architecture and space, but they do not represent anything outside themselves.

Even so, raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, the artist’s work did have spiritual subtext. He created crosses and “chapels.”

Earlier, in the mid 1950s, Antonakos was creating collages. In a 2007 interview with Phong Bui for The Brooklyn Rail, Antonakos said:

And since oil painting was too slow for me to keep up with all of the ideas that were racing through my mind, I felt the physical and spontaneous process of putting various objects together was more suitable to what I needed to get done in those years.

His desire to work fast, engage in a spontaneous process, and collage disparate found objects together resonates with the postmodern aesthetic. We hear the same vision in the works of the abstract expressionist painters and the Beat Generation writers. Antonakos revealed that although he admired the work of the abstract expressionists, he felt he could “get more out of” the Italian artists Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana.

Antonakos went on to have more than 100 solo shows around the work.

For artists of any discipline, one of the great takeaways from Antonakos’ life is that one can have a day job and still be an artist as long as one perseveres. Antonakos worked as a pharmaceutical illustrator during the day and then would work in his studio until 2 in the morning.

Here are a couple of links to celebrate the life and work of this inspired artist: