Saturday, August 9, 2014

Monkey Selfies Are All the Rage

Monkey selfies are in the news these days for a few reasons.

One, they're inherently funny.

Two, we have become idiotically selfie-obsessed in general.

Three, monkey selfies raise intriguing questions about copyright ownership. This case has just been discussed in The New Yorker online: David J. Slater, a British wildlife photographer, set up his camera on a tripod in the hope of capturing wildlife in situ when he was visiting a nature preserve in Indonesia in 2011. The camera was taken over by a crested black macaque . The monkey liked the noise the shutter made and proceeded to take hundreds of pictures of herself. Slater has published lots of these monkey selfies and has claimed ownership/authorship.  He asked that the images be removed from the Wiki commons where anyone can use them. Not so fast, says Wikimedia, the image site for Wikipedia.

The New Yorker piece reports: "If Slater, as the photographer, had said that he wanted the photos taken down, Wikimedia most likely would have complied. The question that arose was whether Slater, who had not held the camera, set up the shot, or pressed the shutter, could be considered the photographer at all. Wikimedias position on this was clear: in the licensing conditions found at the bottom of the grinning monkey selfie, they write, “This file is in the public domain because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.” (It should be noted that Wikimedia is not saying that the monkey owns the copyright, as others have reported, but simply that Slater does not.)"

Why yes, monkeys are my current fascination. I note that crested black macaques aren't very smart, especially compared to capuchins, and they wouldn't be trainable if you wanted them to learn how to take photographs on command. They are just curious.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Digging Deep

When you're writing, you have to dig deep. Also true if you drop a piece of popcorn between the seats.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Still Writing!

After long silence here at Staircase Writing, I am just checking in at the end of my second wonderful spring term of teaching creative writing at Kenyon College to say that I am hoping to finish my sixth novel (which has been far too long in progress) by the end of the summer.

Now that the students have left for the summer, I will be spending the next three weeks here on the Kenyon campus, working on The Monkey Helper, with a plan to get back up to full steam.  My English Department office is in historic Sunset Cottage, home to the Kenyon Review for many years. (Sunset is only marginally more modern-looking today.)

Which reminds me! I am delighted to say that I have been moved up the masthead at the Kenyon Review, where I have been a Contributing Editor. I am now an Editor at Large.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Apologies for silence and lack of updates. Writing, writing. Writing. Must make the best use of the summer to work on The Monkey Helper after a marvelous first spring term teaching at Kenyon College during which I simply didn't get very much work done on the novel.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

HERE TODAY is almost here!

I am delighted to announce that playwright David Caudle [] has written a new musical play HERE TODAY, inspired by my memoir, The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities. The show, which is based on the love triangle of Kay Swift, her husband and collaborator Jimmy Warburg (in other words, my grandparents), and George Gershwin, will feature the score to Fine and Dandy, along with other Kay Swift songs. The first showcase will take place at the Ziegfeld Society meeting in New York City on Saturday, April 27th at 3:30 in the Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College.
 I will participate in an after-show discussion along with David Caudle and Music Director Aaron Gandy. Tickets are on sale now! More information is here (scroll down to April 27th):


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to My Monkey Business

Working on The Monkey Helper. Want something? Take a number!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nazi Chocolate Plot

Much as I have moved on from all things chocolate since the publication of my last novel True Confections two years ago, today's news reveals a story I would surely have included in my novel about chocolate, racism, and the Third Reich's Madagascar Plan for the Jews of Europe.  Wire stories report:

London, July 18 (ANI): Secret wartime papers exchanged between MI5 officials have revealed that the Nazis' plans to conquer Britain included a deadly assault on Sir Winston Churchill with exploding chocolate. Adolf Hitler's bomb-makers coated explosive devices with a thin layer of rich dark chocolate and then packaged it in expensive-looking black and gold paper.

The Germans planned to use secret agents working in Britain to discreetly place the bars of chocolate - branded as Peter's Chocolate - among other luxury items taken on trays into the dining room used by the War Cabinet during the Second World War. The lethal slabs of confection were packed with enough explosives to kill anyone within several metres.

But Hitler's plot was foiled by British spies who discovered that they were being made and tipped off one of MI5's most senior intelligence chiefs, Lord Victor Rothschild. Lord Rothschild, a scientist in peace time as well as a key member of the Rothschild banking family, immediately typed a letter to a talented illustrator seconded to his unit asking him to draw poster-size images of the chocolate to warn the public to be on the look-out for the bars. His letter to the artist, Laurence Fish, is dated May 4, 1943 and was written from his secret bunker in Parliament Street, central London.

The letter, marked 'Secret', reads "Dear Fish, I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate...We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate," the Daily Mail quoted the letter as reading. "Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism... When you break off a piece of chocolate at one end in the normal way, instead of it falling away, a piece of canvas is revealed stuck into the middle of the piece which has been broken off and a ticking into the middle of the remainder of the slab. When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism. I enclose a very poor sketch done by somebody who has seen one of these. It is wrapped in the usual sort of black paper with gold lettering, the variety being PETERS. Would it be possible for you to do a drawing of this, one possibly with the paper half taken off revealing one end and another with the piece broken off showing the canvas. The text should indicate that this piece together with the attached canvas is pulled out sharply and that after a delay of seven seconds the bomb goes off."

The letter was found by Fish's wife, journalist Jean Bray, as she sorted through his possessions following the artist's death, aged 89, in 2009.  Incredible!  Not only would Alice Ziplinsky have had a lot to say about this, but I would dearly love to have been able to weave it into the Ziplinsky family history and the story of Zip's Candies.  This is exactly the sort of headsmacking item that compelled me to name this blog Staircase Writing.