Showing posts from September, 2013

How Can A World Famous Architect Cause So Many Disasters?

Calatrava is world-famous and probably Spain's most important architect, with a fantastic entry on Wikipedia, that also defines him as a "sculptor and structural engineer". Yet, he's made so many blunders that the New York Times recently published an article called  "A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming", recapping an incredibly long list of disasters,  you can read it here.

Clients are fuming and that's not too surprising: not only are his cost overruns in the tens of millions of dollars, but the structures he builds are often not functional.

One example among many perfectly illustrates the problem: the footbridge with a pavement of glass bricks lit from underneath. A fantastic idea, you don't even need lamp posts to light it up at night. Brilliant, a work of art! Alas, it is so slippery when it rains, because of its nice curved shape, that people break their neck if they attempt to use it!

Here it is, a bridge crossing over Venice's grand…

The Verdict is In: Serializing Your Novel Does Not Work!

Ever since Hugh Howey's WOOL became a success, serial novels have become the talk of the (publishing) town. Could serializing your novel work to sell it? 

Serialization is nothing new, it was common back in Dickens' time. Serial novels were a standard feature of  magazines which they helped to sell. In short, serial novels used to be very popular and not just in the English-speaking world. Dostoyevsky's masterpiece, the Brothers Karamazov, was published serially in a magazine, the famous French political and naturalist writer and Nobel winner Emile Zola  likewise.

Has the digital revolution brought back their popularity?There is little doubt that Hugh Howey has made a success of the formula, he's sold the film rights to Twentieth Century Fox and made a print-only deal worth $500,000 with Simon and Schuster, one of the Big Five publishers. A lot of people in the publishing industry thought that perhaps he had hit on something. 

A new marketing ploy that works. 

Consider th…

How To Write A Smashing Book Description for Your Book:Tips from a Pro

It may come as a surprise to most readers, but writers are generally unable to write an enticing description of their books, the kind that sends you to click the "buy" button. Even fiction writers, with all their imagination, suck at this.

Except for a few writers who are also good copywriters and  know how to write the kind of ad that drives buyers to buy.

Like Mathew Kadish. He sells lots of books AND he's got valuable copywriting experience.

Here's his advice in 10 tips (and in my own words). By the way, the tips are applicable to anything you're selling, provided it's as complex as a book.

1. Don't think of it as a summary of your book, it's not a synopsis; think of it as an advertisement (summaries are boring, ads are enticing)

2. Assume your reader hasn't got a clue of what your book is about;

3. Use simple, striking language, don't get lost in big words and complex sentences;

4. Don't make it too long or too short, 3 to 5 paragraphs is a…

The Best Acceptance Speech Ever: Ten Words!

Everyone should follow actress Merritt Wever's example when she received her Emmy award.  

...The only way to ensure that acceptance speeches stop being the torture they are!

See here:

"Thanks so much, thank you so much; gotta go, bye!"

Love it, yeah, exactly to the point...

The Top 20 Most Beautiful Rooms in the World and What is Odd About Them

I recently stumbled upon - or rather, I was alerted by StumbleUpon - to the "Top 20 World Most Beautiful Living Spaces" in the Ultra Home Magazine and I was wowed! 

Click here to see them.

What is most astonishing about such rooms that no doubt characterize the tastes of the One Percent is the fixation on linking the indoors with the outdoors

The design of everyone one of them is entirely focused on the concept of bringing Nature inside of the room, even when the furniture and fixtures, fireplaces etc are highly sophisticated, like in this lovely chalet in Zermatt, Switzerland (the Firefly Ski Chalet):

The view is what matters. Yes, here you zero in on the Matterhorn, you can't avoid it! 

This is just the sort of place where in my novel Forever Young beautiful Emma stops after skiing with Sergio, on the last day of her life, knowing she has only five hours left to live (in case you don't know, that's my science fiction novel, set 200 years from now, soon to be publi…

How Rebellious is a Baby Boomer? Answer: Very!

Baby Boomers hold 75% of American wealth and that percentage is no doubt similar in other developed countries. Hence, when the American government recently reported boomers were abusing drugs in record number (see here), the assumption is that, given their wealth, the scope for drug abuse is exceptionally large.

Rising drug abuse? Not nice. Perhaps not so surprising when you consider that boomers are the "sandwich generation": they have to look after their parents and because of the 2008 recession, they also often have to look after their grown-up children out of a job. Not to mention the sad fact that many have lost their job or their home. The pressure is often unbearable, drugs are an understandable reaction, even if they solve nothing and in fact make matters worse.

The boomer generation is also famous for its rebellious stance. But drugs need not be part of it.  Author Marsha Robert's answer to the question how rebellious is a Baby Boomer, is quite simply... very rebe…

The Challenge of Being a Woman in the 21st Century

Yesterday in my email box, I got the announcement that Debora Spar, the President of Barnard College (Columbia U., my Alma Mater) has written a new book about the challenge of being a woman in our times, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. Released on September 17, it is available on Amazon and all major bookstores.   

This is a deeply personal story and Debora Spar examines how women’s lives have, and have not, changed over the past forty years. Her message: women should stop trying to "have it all" - wise advice! I know I certainly did several times in my life. I put family priorities ahead of my career and you know what? I never regretted it! My life remained full thanks to my husband and children.

As Kira Goldenberg puts it in her review of the book, "the way out of this perfection trap is that women lucky enough to have options need to admit that something's gotta give, and that doing so is a positive choice rather than a betrayal of feminism&…

Turning People Into Paintings: Alexa Meade's Canvas is the Human Body!

Alexa Meade today is a recognized artist, yet not long ago she was a political science student dreaming of working for the government in Washington, sitting at a desk...Whatever you may think of her work, she is an unusual artist and nowadays that's becoming exceedingly rare.

With her, we are far away from the people who turn themselves into statues at street corners. And far away from body art performances. The way Alexa Meade treats her subjects reminds me of the way Lucien Freud handles brush strokes:

Or see this one:

For comparison, here's a typical Lucien Freud, of the more recent period:

Of course, Lucien Freud is...Lucien Freud, one of the greatest painter of the 20th century, no question about that. And he works in a conventional mean, oil painting, obtaining a 3-D effect on a 2-D medium (the canvas). Whereas Alexa Meade does the reverse: 3-D back down to 2-D when she snaps a photo of her work. Presumably, she sells her photos...

And here's the delightful TED talk she g…

When Will Your Car Do the Driving For You? Now!

It sounds like science-fiction but it isn't. Mercedes Benz has just come out with a model that really drives by itself, the S500 Intelligent Drive. It was unveiled this week at the Frankfurt Fair.

Here it is:

And here's a fascinating video of the first road demonstration, 100 km through town and country under all sorts of road conditions:

Neat!  Serial production for most self-driving models is expected soon, for 2020. Yet Mercedes' latest version of the S-Class is practically a self-driving car. It is able to accelerate and brake by itself, even in stop-and-go traffic, and can steer itself on a lightly curved road. It will go on sale in the US next month, for a little more than $92,000. Very costly of course. But if you think about it, it's way under the price of super cars like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini and it is (almost) a normal price for a luxury, top-of-the-line car.

Why am I excited? Because this is a real breakthrough. We all know about Google's driverless c…

Outer Space is Ours!

Everyone calls it The Little Old Spacecraft That Could. Voyager 1 launched in 1977 has left the solar system! It's in outer space, between stars, traveling where there's interstellar gas, plasma, dark matter, all sorts of unknown stuff. It's flying where the solar wind can no longer reach it.  It won't come across another star for some 40,000 years...
I love this!

The New York Times is lyrical about it, see here and especially Brooks Barnes' article here.

It's over 11 billion miles from earth or nearly 19 billion kilometers! It left our stellar system a year ago but it's only official now. Cool: this is as important news as the first walk on the Moon. The distance is astonishing,  like traveling to the Moon and back 25,000 times! 

Our understanding of the universe is about to take a quantum leap, and we can expect to get useful information from Voyager 1 at least until 2025...and you know why? Thanks to a retired NASA engineer, Dr. Stone, who was able to expand…