Friday, January 24, 2014

Chang Rae Lee -- How I Write, from the Daily Beast

Photo by David Levenson/Getty



Chang-rae Lee: How I Write

The Korean-American writer, whose new dystopian novel is On Such a Full Sea, speaks about his first failed book, his favorite assignment for his students, and golf.
I understand you went to Exeter Academy. Tell me about your time there.
Vis-a-vis writing, Exeter was the place I got interested in writing. Not sure that would’ve happened at my local public high school. Exeter alum writers were really promoted and we always had a troop of them coming through: Gore Vidal, George Plimpton, John Irving. We had a James Agee year, where we all read Agee’s work. It’s a place where writing and writers were revered. I’d always been an avid reader, but it was there that I started to focus on writing.
Was there a breakout moment for you, when you first felt that you’d written something that you’d like to put out there?
After college I was living in New York and wrote furiously, a huge novel that I knew was a failure. I hoped that the book would work, but to be honest I think I knew it would never work, even as I was finishing it. I knew it was deeply flawed. Just not good enough. When I went to graduate school shortly thereafter I remember writing the first chapter of my first published novel, Native Speaker, for a workshop. After I wrote it, even before anyone said anything, I did feel that I’d tapped into something essential, something I’d been mulling over for a long time without knowing I’d been mulling over. I didn’t know if it was really good or not, but I did know it was real. Does that make sense?
I could just sort of viscerally feel that there was something real going on there. Not “real” in the realistic sense, but something emotionally real.

Nice Digs, John Barker -- Well done

Madison Avenue Is Moving To Wall Street

financial district sunset 1
Barker DZP
The view from a window in Barker DZP's new offices.
CEO John Barker of Barker DZP gets excited when he talks about his agency's new offices in downtown New York. His advertising agency moved into a penthouse on Broad Street last September, and recently put on the finishing touches. 
"I had somebody in my office who's been in the advertising industry for literally 50 years. And he said this is the best view he's seen from any agency in his lifetime," Barker said.
He thinks that the Financial District is going to be associated with the ad culture of Madison Avenue very soon. 
While New York's Financial District is still home to giants like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and American Express, it has been making plenty of room for the creative services industry.
The neighborhood offers ad agencies cost-effective space to create the large, interesting offices advertising creatives desire.
Since 2005, 18 ad agencies have moved downtown. Consolidating financial companies have left millions of square feet of office space in recent years, and the public and private sector have worked in unison to attract creative and media companies to take their place.
"I really believe that advertising is a terrific barometer of the next hot neighborhood," Barker said. Ad agencies want hip offices in hip places because, as Barker said, their clients rely on them to be monitoring the pulse of what is trending in culture.
And in addition to impressing corporate marketers, he said that spacious and interesting offices are necessary for creating a creative culture that drives the industry. 
Because his agency's 10-year lease on its SoHo offices was running out at the end of last year, Barker looked for new office space last year in Chelsea, the Flatiron district, and even Brooklyn. But he said that after checking out the benefits of the Financial District, he immediately knew it was the best choice.
Barker said his feeling that the Financial District was the new place to be was confirmed when he competed with the hot agency Droga5 for space.

Big Block of Cheese Day: Virtual Edition

Yale '87 Classmate Jay Carney teams up with Yale '88 alum for a Big Block of Cheese Day video.  Really.  Pretty funny and worth a look.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Interview with Ira Sachs from Twitch

Ira Sachs has been bringing queer cinema to the screens since 1996, making him one of the few pioneers who have challenged the status quo of Hollywood's (and the indie world, for that matter) white, hetero-dominant stories. For this year's Sundance, he has brought Love Is Strange, starring Anthony Molina and John Lithgow. It's a sadly sweet story about a gay couple on the verge of their marriage after 39 years of being together (because, well, now they can) who are forced to live apart for a little while.

Twitch: At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer/director?
Ira Sachs: I started to come to Sundance when I was 14 because my father lived in Park City. When I was a junior in college I spent three months in Paris, but I didn't speak any French. I didn't have any friends and was very lonely. I ended up going to 197 films that summer, and discovered cinema - Cassavetes, Vincente Minnelli, Truffaut. I knew then that's what I connected to. I was already a theater director and that transition came from a more organic connection to storytelling through cinema.

If you weren't writing and directing what would you be doing?
IS: I'd be a psychoanalyst. I think my profession know is very similar. They're both about attention to the details and how people think and behave and to try to understand that while at the same time remaining outside.

Who's the person that has had the most influence on you/your work?
IS: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He died at a young age, but he made 38 films. He was a fearless, breathless filmmaker from Germany. He would make three features a year and when he would be finishing up a film he'd say, "I'll fix it in the next one." I think that's a great attitude to have in film - be imperfect, but alive.

In three words or less, what is it like to see your film up on the big screen?
IS: Comforting and scary. 

Sundance: Our Own Ira Sachs Has Hit: Love is Strange

“The Love Is Strange” cast stops by TheWrap’s video lounge at Tao in Park City
Is America ready for a mainstream story about a middle-aged gay couple who face troubles once they finally marry? In “Love is Strange,” Ira Sachs’ new drama, Alfred Molina loses his job as a choir director in a school after he finally marries his longtime partner, played by John Lithgow.
The cast of the movie, including Lithgow, Molina, Sachs, Marisa Tomei and Darren E. Burrows came to TheWrap’s video lounge at Sundance to talk about the movie, which has been greeted high emotion along with several other films dealing with marriage equality.

Check out this video and a few others that highlight the work of our classmate, Ira Sachs, and his latest movie, Love is Strange.  Love is Strange has been really well received at the Sundance Film Festival.  Congratulations Ira!

Scroll down for more reviews:

Yale Admissions

Going through the college application process with our son this year has been interesting, and makes the following discussion from the Yale Alumni Magazine much less abstract.  Read the article and let me know what you think:


Wanted: smart students from poor families

The families of Yale College students, on average, are substantially richer than the American norm. How much can the university change this? How much should it?
David Zax ’06 has written for Time and Fast Company. This article was underwritten by the Seth E. Frank ’58LLB Literary Fund.
Alex Nabaum

Alex Nabaum

View full image

I had never met a swine showman before, let alone a prize-winning one. But Tynan Granberg ’06, the kind-faced, green-eyed, soft-spoken teen whose hand I first shook in September of 2002 as we moved into our Silliman dorm, had been the Lake County Fair’s grand champion swine showman five years running. Tynan’s family in Oregon raised cattle; each morning, Tynan had risen early to feed them, a chore he’d written about in his Yale application. That application was almost a fluke, he told me later: a worldly uncle had mentioned to Tynan that some elite schools out east were trying to increase their “socioeconomic diversity.” Yale might just let him in and throw in a big scholarship, his uncle said. “He’s like, you’re this pig farmer from southeastern Oregon,” Tynan recalled. “That’s going to stand out from the prep school kids that are applying.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Feb Club Emeritus

Feb Club Emeritus -- a Yale Class of 1987 creation -- is about to kick off its seventh blockbuster year.  We have parties from New York to Hong Kong and everywhere in between.  We have Amman throwing a party, London, Miami, Milan, Hobart and many, many more.  Check out the calendar at

A few facts about Feb Club Emeritus:

  • Since it's inception, Feb Club events have had more than 30,000 guests.  Wow.  What started as a joke between two classmates has become a phenomenon.
  • We have had over 500 parties around the world.
  • We have had parties on every continent.
  • We've had only one party where a guest brought a rocket launcher.
  • We've had a number of parties on beaches.  
  • We've had a party in a Monogolian mine.
What is  your favorite Feb Club story?  Hope to see you this year!

Yale is Brave...?

An interesting class project.  This sort of thing is cute, but aren't you glad that we went to college before digital photography?

Hmmm . . . our reading week wasn't quite like this . ..

An interesting post by website IvyGate.  What do you think?

Yale Administration Blocks Student Course Selection Apps

Though having been available for the last three semesters, Yale Bluebook+, an application-based website similar to Yale’s current course selection site, was blocked from Yale University servers on the first day of shopping period (the two week, somewhat stressful process when students pick their classes). Designed by seniors Peter Xu and Harry Yu, Yale Bluebook+ emphasizes course rankings, assigning a numerical evaluation to each class based on an arithmetic mean, derived from the current scale of “Poor” to “Excellent.”
The co-developers were contacted by the Registrar’s office via email last Tuesday, citing concerns that course information (including evaluations) could be seen by unauthorized members of the Yale community; though only accessible via a network ID, the authentication device Xu and Yu employed can be used by any Yale employee. A violation of Yale’s trademark and other Yale-copyright materials were also mentioned as possible reasons for disciplinary action. The official response from Information Technology Services (ITS) to those students who filed complaints about being unable to access the site:
The site was using the Yale name, course selection information, and course evaluation information without permission. Also, the design of the site focused on a few ratings never intended to be used for this purpose. Yale takes advising and course selection seriously and has given students digital resources to help them design their schedules, such as syllabi, course descriptions, and thoughtful narrative responses written by students.
The official course selection website for Yale students is clunky and ugly, and its inefficiency was the inspiration for the original Yale Bluebook (no plus) application. Bought by Yale—and now the go-to course-shopping site for most students—the developers of that first Bluebook faced similar problems. Like them, Xu and Yu were also hoping to reach a resolution.

Claire Messud's Latest Book -- A Review the The Guardian

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud – review

Anger is the subject of this very grown-up novel
Claire Messud
Brave but smart … Claire Messud. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
"How angry am I?" asks the narrator at the beginning of this novel. "You don't want to know. Nobody wants to know about that." It's a bravura opening that dares the reader to say: "Fine, then," and put the book to one side; but it's too compelling for that. Our angry narrator, moreover, goes on to say that although the plan had been to have the words "Great Artist" on her tombstone, what she would really like now would be: "FUCK YOU ALL".

Check Out John Pogue's Latest File: The Quiet Ones - Official Trailer

Lionsgate Films and Hammer Film Productions have released the first trailer for John Pogue's The Quiet Ones (2014), starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, and Erin Richards. Currently, the film is set to open in cinemas across the United Kingdom on April 11th. The U.S. theatrical release date is April April 25th. 

Official synopsis: A university student (Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and some classmates are recruited to carry out a private experiment -- to create a poltergeist. Their subject: an alluring, but dangerously disturbed young woman (Olivia Cooke of Bates Motel). Their quest: to explore the dark energy that her damaged psyche might manifest. As the experiment unravels along with their sanity, the rogue PHD students are soon confronted with a terrifying reality: they have triggered an unspeakable force with a power beyond all explanation.

Inspired by true events, The Quiet Ones is directed by John Pogue from a screenplay by Craig Rosenberg and Oren Moverman and John Pogue, and based on a screenplay by Tom de Ville.

Chang Rae Lee Discusses His Latest Book in The Guardian

Chang-rae Lee: 'When people asked, I'd say, "I'm writing a very strange book." I thought no one was going to get it'

The author talks to Emma Brockes about why he decided to write a dystopian novel set in America
Chang-rae Lee
'There's this great like in Beckett: keep talking, you're winning. And somehow I wanted to subvert that. You don't always have to talk' … Chang-rae Lee. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian
Chang-rae Lee was on a research trip to China, looking around a factory he imagined he might write about. He intended a piece of social realism – a novel about Chinese manual workers, along the lines of Zola'sGerminal. "The  place itself was like a run-down prep school," he says. "It had everything that they needed, but nothing more. And so they're accepting that monotony – hours, rules, regulations – for something greater." The set-up engendered, he thought, not just a code of conduct in the workers, but "almost a code of psyche, and that's really what got me".

Chang Rae Lee's New Book is Out . . . And It's in 3D

There is a great deal of excitement about Chang Rae Lee's latest book.  The reviews have been terrific.  Part of the buzz has also been about the fact that it is available with a 3D cover.  Read on:

"First 3D-printed book cover"
created with a MakerBot

3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot
News: US publisher Riverhead has collaborated with 3D-printing firmMakerBot to create the first printed book sleeve.
A desktop MakerBot Replicator 2 was used to print the slipcase for Korean-American writer Chang-rae Lee's futuristic novel On Such a Full Sea, released on 7 January.
"We think the 3D-printed slipcase for On Such a Full Sea is a work of art, and one we are very proud to have helped create," said MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.
3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot
The case was designed by Riverhead art director Helen Yentus and members of MakerBot's in-house design team.
The title lettering is extruded and stretched across the white printed sleeve, as a continuation of the flat writing on the yellow hardback tucked underneath.
"What I like about this project is that it re-introduces the idea of the book as an art object," said Lee. "Content is what's most important, but this [3D edition] is a book with a physical presence too."
3D-printed book cover of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee created with a MakerBot
The technology was used as an experimental proposal for the future of books covers, which the designer says are becoming less significant as digital books are more widely read.
"We've talked a lot about what's going to happen to books and cover designers if covers aren't necessarily going to be the focus anymore," said Yentis in a film about the book. "We're looking for new ways to present our books."
Only 200 copies have been produced with the printed covers, each signed by the author. These limited editions are on sale for $150 (£91) and the book is also available with an alternative hardback cover, as well as an electronic version.