Botticelli, Matisse, Big Papi

We went to the Museum of Fine Arts to see its exhibitions on Matisse and Botticelli. (Sorry you missed them.) Here is my favorite Matisse: (“Red Interior: Still Life on a Blue Table”, from 1947):

My wife’s favorite was “The Burning Bush” from 1951:

And here is my favorite Botticelli: “Saint Augustine in His Study”, a fresco from 1480:

It’s also the summer of David Ortiz at the MFA. Here’s a display of Big Papi’s three World Series rings and his World Series MVP ring from 2013:

Did Botticelli or Matisse ever accomplish anything comparable to what Big Papi accomplished in 2013? Of course not. Will Big Papi still be remembered half a millennium after his death, like Botticelli? Of course he will. Why are you even asking these questions?

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100,000

I just noticed that the odometer in Microsoft Word ticked past 100,000 words on my new novel. I think I have about 15,000 words to go. Is this good or bad? Portal weighed in at about 103,000 words, Barbarica at about 84,000. But I’ve got a bunch of characters and a lot of loose ends to deal with. I could imagine splitting up this thing into two books, but that doesn’t feel quite right.

I have plenty of time to change my mind, I suppose.

In which Alexa reads my novel to me

My wonderful kids got me an Amazon Echo Dot for Father’s Day. This is an awesome little toy. Alexa (the thing’s voice) can play music and set a timer and tell me jokes and do math problems and lots more. It didn’t take me long to discover that Alexa could read books in my Kindle library. So of course I told her to read one of my own books–in this case, Terra.

The first problem was that she insisted on narrating all the front matter–copyright statement, ISBN, etc. There should be a way to turn that off or skip through it, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Then she started reading my deathless prose. She will not be replacing professional audiobook narrators anytime soon. The meaning is reasonably clear in her narration; she pronounces the words correctly (except for the oddball name “Polkinghorne”) and she pauses between sentences. But her emphasis was consistently a bit off: she said “post OFFice” instead of “POST office”; “cell PHONE” instead of “CELL phone”. And she didn’t do dialog right: you need to drop your voice a bit when you come out of a line of dialog to identify the speaker: “Larry said” or “Vinnie said”. She didn’t do that. And of course she made no effort to characterize the speaker; they all sounded just like Alexa (she sounds great, but she doesn’t sound like Larry Barnes). I couldn’t imagine listening to her for a whole novel. I gave up after about a page.

By the way, one of the most popular posts I’ve written is the one where I contemplate whether Jeff Bezos is the Antichrist. Apparently people Google that question a lot, and my opinion comes up second, just after Jonathan Franzen’s.

Maybe I’ll ask Alexa what she thinks.

PORTAL on sale for 99 cents!

For some reason my novel PORTAL is now on sale for a mere 99 cents at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I really think you oughta buy it. Here’s its great new cover:

And here’s a random quote from a satisfied reader:

A Terrific Read! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. Would the promising story idea deflate once it got past the initial set-up, as so many other books do? It definitely did not, and stayed entertaining all the way through – I could not put it down. I have kids around the same age and I really felt for these boys – they’re lost and are doing whatever they can to stay alive, stay together and hopefully get home. Glad the book was complete in itself, but it would be great to see them have more adventures like this. Overall, two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

 

Let’s raise a glass to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture

Even though (maybe especially because) he apparently plagiarized parts of it from SparkNotes, of all places. Thus saith Slate:

In Dylan’s recounting, a “Quaker pacifist priest” tells Flask, the third mate, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness” (my emphasis). No such line appears anywhere in Herman Melville’s novel. However, SparkNotes’ character list describes the preacher using similar phrasing, as “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness” (again, emphasis mine).

And so on. For Dylan, plagiarism is beside the point. He isn’t just another songwriter; he is a force of nature. Here he is singing “North Country Blues” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, when he was all of 22 years old. He tells us all we need to know about offshoring and alternative energy sources and the working stiff:

Battle lines being drawn

Here’s an article about Jamie Gorelick, the high-powered progressive attorney who has become the lawyer for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Just another day in Trump’s America.

I find this interesting because the lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, was in my class at Harvard, and this has become the subject of some interest on the class mailing list. As with the head of Homeland Security, I don’t know this person, but it feels like there’s a connection. And I find myself wondering: how does this person make such a choice? The article says that she didn’t realize that some of her friend would call her a turncoat. How could she not realize this? Gorelick has done far more than I have for liberal causes, but if I were attending a reunion, I’d be hard-pressed to shake her hand, knowing that she has in any way aided Trump’s family. At the end of the article Gorelick gets emotional as she worries about the quest for “political purity”:

She teared up, reached for a tissue, and, with her voice cracking, she added, “It would be a travesty for this country to go down that road. I believe in the facts. I believe in the law. I believe if you follow that system, you will get to a fair result. I don’t see that changing. Even now.”

But what if, in following the system, she enables a bunch of people who are intent on destroying that system? How will she explain that to her grandchildren?

Here’s the song running through my head, which is much more nuanced than I’m feeling nowadays:

Double rainbow over Fenway Park

We were at the Fenway Fantasy Day yesterday, and saw this:

Here’s something we couldn’t have imagined back in the 20th century–three World Series trophies, just sitting on a table waiting to be photographed:

Here’s the view from just above the Green Monster seats, just next to the foul pole made famous by Carlton Fisk’s game-winning home run in the 1975 World Series:

OK fine, here is that home run, long before there were seats up there:

Finally, here’s the classic form of our nephew Neil, who didn’t hit the foul pole but did loft one close to the warning track. I was impressed: