Category Archives: Literature

The Woman Who Says No: Françoise Gilot on her life with and without Picasso by Malte Herwig

Image result for the woman who says no

While reflecting on the past year, I received The Woman Who Says No: Françoise Gilot on her life with and without Picasso by Malte Herwig from a dear friend of mine. I immediately read the book and found much of what the artist said to ring true. I found many shared philosophies between Gilot and my artist friends, which reaffirmed what I learned and accomplished in New York City and gave me renewed motivation for the new year.

The Woman Who Says No reads like an extended interview where there is a process of discovery made by the author through first-hand accounts of his meetings, analysis of the artist’s remarkable life, and insight into her positive yet pragmatic outlook on life. The book reveals the wisdom Gilot has earned throughout her lifetime.

Image result for the woman who says no

First off, she recommends being open and pushing oneself. Gilot states, “If you want to really live, you must risk living on the edge; otherwise, life isn’t worth it. When you open yourself to risk, you will also experience bad things, but mostly you will learn a lot and live and understand more and more. Most importantly, you will not be bored. The very worst thing is to be bored.”

Gilot believes that nothing can be accomplished without discipline. “Discipline is essential. Without it, even intuition won’t help you. And you must practice. Always practice.” She also stresses that, “We must work with our skills as we work with our mistakes.”

With that discipline, Gilot notes that there comes an understanding that one must not be too hard on oneself. “You shouldn’t expect too much of yourself. Don’t begin with an enormous canvas when you are just starting to paint.”

Finally, Gilot expresses the need for a sense of self and the search for the truth. “I am only interested in people who are searching for the truth. Most things in life are like a stage set, an illusion behind which hides another and another and so on. The vast majority of people gave up on the search for truth long ago. There are very few who really want to glimpse behind the façade and it all comes down to those people. Truth is always what is most important to me, even if it is unpleasant.”

I found inspiration in what Gilot had to say but, I was most struck by the way in which Gilot spoke about her life. She was very centered, never bitter, and passionate about her art, her past, and her future. I enjoyed learning about her experiences and the advice she had to offer. I also love how she hasn’t conformed to what people would expect of her and how she continues to push herself in her 90s.

All in all, The Woman Who Says No is a refreshing yet grounded reprieve from the chaos and negativity in the world today. I recommend it to those looking for insight and encouragement.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Literature, Painting and Sculpture, Pop Culture

Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

Captivology
Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention caught my attention at my friend’s apartment (when I was helping her move from Boston to Little Rock). I was curious to learn what the author Ben Parr had to say about rising “above the noisy crowd,” especially given my experience in public relations and marketing, and seeing firsthand how Buzzfeed and Broad City have become pop culture mainstays. Among the reasons why Beyoncé is popular and why we tend to agree with the crowd, I learned the following from reading this book:

 

  1. Attention is the conduit through which we experience our world.
  2. Wear the color red – Our brains are hard-wired to “ignore everything that isn’t necessary to goals,” so we rely on a variety of stimuli to direct our attention through what Parr calls “automaticity triggers.” Red not only stands out, but it also signifies competence.
  3. Offer someone a warm drink – Touch is another important sensory cue, and it turns out that people who hold warm objects are more likely to give positive attention and are more cooperative.
  4. It’s difficult to change someone’s frame of reference – Parr calls this the “inertia of ideas” because over time, we don’t have the mental capacity to continuously reassess our beliefs.
  5. We may believe something is true because we’ve heard it a thousand times – This is known as the “illusion-of-truth effect” and it demonstrates how the familiarity of a statement may impact our assessment of its validity.
  6. There is a certain number of times an audience can be exposed to something – This is known as “effective frequency.” The repetition may cause an audience to engage or it may just become worthless.
  7. Disrupt – It’s easy to capture attention by disrupting expectations through a) surprise, b) simplicity, and c) significance. Significance is the most important because a great ad or campaign won’t be successful unless it’s meaningful.
  8. FOMO – We really do have the “fear of missing out” also known as the “commodity theory,” where the more scarce something is, the more we value it.
  9. We want to be rewarded – Parr discusses intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and how we place more value–and thus pay more attention to–intrinsic rewards such as positive feedback from a boss.
  10. Imagery is a powerful motivator – Because we aren’t so great at grasping esoteric concepts, we go after rewards that we can visualize.
  11. Reputation matters – Turns out that talent is not the best predictor of popularity, reputation is. We rely on three types of reputable sources for directing our attention such as a) experts through knowledge and wisdom, b) authority figures through ability to command obedience, and c) the crowd through its collection of knowledge. Reputation is built by consistency, personality, and time.
  12. Credibility is a shortcut to building reputation – While still building a reputation, one can use a reputable person or company also known as a “validator” to back a pitch.
  13. Confront the crisis – It’s best to respond quickly and thoughtfully when faced with a difficult situation. The longer a misconception is allowed to linger, the more likely it is to stick.
  14. We agonize over mystery – Suspense is a powerful tool to capture and hold our attention because of our “compulsion for completion.”
  15. Being acknowledged is important to us – We have an extreme desire to be recognized, validated, and understood by others, and so we direct our attention towards anything that affirms our identity. Social media is very important because we can instantly and immediately be validated.

All in all, I found Captivology to be an insightful and informative book about the variety of ways to capture attention. I also enjoyed reading historic examples of marketing campaigns such as Edna Murphy and James Webb Young’s campaign to make antiperspirants the cultural norm and Russell Birdwell’s campaign to drive interest and thus ticket sales for Gone with the Wind. Through these and many other examples, I gained valuable knowledge that I can use in my personal life and professional career. I definitely recommend this book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Pop Culture

In the Heart of the Sea: Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

in-the-heart-of-the-seaI think Nathaniel Philbrick puts it best in his epilogue when he says, “The Essex disaster is not a tale of adventure. It is a tragedy that happens to be one of the greatest true stories ever told.”

The story of the Essex and its 20 member crew is the subject of Philbrick’s book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Setting the scene of culture of Nantucket, the whaling industry, and the psychology and physiology of starvation, dehydration and more, this book graphically details the harrowing plight of the seamen who were cast out in the middle of the Pacific ocean for more than 90 days. It is the story that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is based on. And although it is based on fact, it is discomforting at times.

Whaleship Essex Route MapIt is hard for me to imagine what it’s like to be lost, let alone disconnected to our modern world. It is hard for me to even imagine being put in those circumstances. I have read The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (which had too much technical jargon and not enough about the culture of Gloucester, Massachusetts) and Endurace: Shackleton’s Incredible Adventure about Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica describing what it is like to be stranded at the end of the world. I am interested in exploration and sailing but it is the fact that the members of the Essex were so pushed to the brink, sucking the marrow from their former colleagues bones, that caused me to have nightmares.

I cringed when they cut open the tortoises and drank their blood. I took a moment when the first crew member (aside from Matthew Joy died) and they decided to eat him. I cried out when Owen Coffin drew his lot. The worst part for me was not that they were forced into these circumstances, but that they could have suffered less. They could have sailed west to the islands of Asia with the invisible threat of encountering cannibal tribes. Instead, they sailed southeast to Chile and were forced into cannibalism. A terrible irony.

All in all, what I enjoyed about this book were the historical and scientific facts that Philbrick seamlessly incorporated into the amazing story. I loved learning about the culture of Nantucket, the Quakerism, the dependence upon whaling, and the camaraderie.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Pop Culture

The Value of Art by Michael Findlay

Michael Findlay, The Value of ArtAlways on the path towards further enlightenment in my career, I recently read Michael Findlay’s The Value of Art published by Prestel.

Findlay, an art market veteran who has worked as a private dealer, auction house specialist, and appraiser, discusses the value of art through three lenses – the commercial, social, and essential. The book teaches how the art market functions through its various channels and gives entertaining and telling anecdotes along the way. For some people art is a financial investment, for others it is for showing off in front of friends, and for a few, an artwork strikes an emotional chord within them.

Jasper Johns, White Flag, 1955.

Jasper Johns, White Flag, 1955. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A work that Johns refused to sell – for him, it wasn’t worth it.

I enjoyed how Findlay was able to contextualize a theoretical overview of the art market, explaining that the price tag on an artwork carries a lot of meaning. Rarity, provenance, and the artist’s market are just a few of the ways to measure the market value of a work.

The most intriguing part of the book for me was to hear Findlay’s opinion about how the art market has changed over the years and where he sees it going. I found it quite interesting how he called the next “ism” after the Pop and Post-Modern movements, “Commercialism” – meaning that artworks fit into the context of being sold.

All in all, I found The Value of Art to be quite comprehensive and a pleasurable read.

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Literature

Tina Fey: Bossypants

Tina Fey BossypantsWith my train running 25 minutes late with little cushion to transfer to the only ferry that would get me to my destination in time for dinner, I walked calmly to the bookstore to see what might keep me entertained and relaxed. I picked up Tina Fey’s memoir entitled, Bossypants.

I didn’t know what to expect from the book but it was perfect for the ride that got me to the ferry 10 minutes before it departed. I had heard good things and obviously I think that Tina Fey a genius and I assume that our love for donuts is at least one thing we have common. (That one episode of 30 Rock where Salma Hayek worked at Dunkin’ Donuts and said the customers at DD were really sad – cue to Liz Lemon in a DD asking, “What time do you hand out free donuts?” – that is me. No shame.)

I may have expected more of a narrative arc – Fey doesn’t talk about why she wanted to be an actor or comedy writer and how she accomplished these goals but Bossypants seems to be an honest telling of important moments in her life. She reflects on moments with injustices done to her, injustices she imposed on other people, and the way things are and how she’s trying to change that. In this book, she seems to be letting people know that she’s strong enough to not take shit from people but also vulnerable enough that she will cry and doesn’t always know the right answer. Then she puts everything in perspective with a joke.

I think the best lessons came from the last few chapters when Fey talks about SNL, 30 Rock, SNL as Sarah Palin, and her daughter. She talks about the crazy schedules and what it was like to be in demand. She (surprisingly) apologizes for her “Bitch is the New Black” story on Weekend Update, saying it came out “punchy” – that it was not her intention to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton* but to point out that “America seemed more comfortable with a male minority candidate than a white female candidate.” Fey finally got her point across in a skit written by Seth Meyers with Fey as Palin and Amy Poehler as HRC in a press conference. Basically, as Fey points out, they were trying to show how sexist people were being in different ways to these two women – one as a barbie and the other as a bitch – and how they should have been treated like any male candidate, asking what their credentials were. It took some time to get this right, but Fey and her colleagues got their point across.

So, all in all, as I read this book during my travels (I made every train and ferry and even got to ride a moped at my destination!) I couldn’t help but feel empowered. I now realize that I can eat donuts AND conquer the world!

Hillary Rodham Clinton*For the record, I have read HRC’s autobiography Living History AND I have it doggy-eared with notes in the margin. Again, no shame.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Literature, Pop Culture