Honey, I shrunk Thackeray’s novel: A condensed Vanity Fair at the Pearl

12-Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland(w)

Doing the social climb: from left, Debargo Sanyal, Tom O’Keefe, Ryan Quinn, Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill, Joey Parsons, and Brad Heberlee in the Pearl’s Vanity Fair. (Photo by Russ Rowland)

Rebecca Sharp—who is not quite the central character in Thackeray’s 1848 novel, Vanity Fair, but who would like to be—resembles a reality-TV performer. By chance of birth, she occupies an ordinary station in life; what’s worse, or perhaps better, given their own dubious careers, her parents have died, leaving her—as we’re often reminded in the novel—alone in the world, forced to fend for herself. For her, as for any number of present-day persons, there’s no reason why anyone should pay attention to her, give her any leeway, give her anything at all. And so, when any chance of advancement presents itself, she feels she must take it, apply whatever skills she has (but it happens that she has many) in order to bring herself up. She seizes opportunities; she maneuvers and manipulates, not always to serve herself alone, but always to her advantage; she’s developing her brand and pays no mind to bad PR. Becky Sharp would be a sensation on social media.

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Passing glances: protests and sex on campus

The University of California at Berkeley, which in the 60s originated what came to be called the free speech movement, has now become a major home of an un-free-speech movement, and American college campuses are now one setting for a clash, which is also playing out in the wider world, between conflicting stances toward sexual behavior. Some recent reading illustrates the issues.

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Passing glances: talkin’ bout a revolution

“The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised. There will be no rerun, brothers and sisters. The revolution will be live.” Those and other lines from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 song-poem have been taunting and teasing viewers during the title sequence of Season Six of the Showtime series Homeland, prompting us to wonder what hoped-for transformation of society in the world of the show it alludes to and whether, as happened with the 60s ideal of a new order, it’ll come to naught.

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Preliminary news of a new SF novel from the 80s

In the 70s and early 80s, a friend of mine found himself living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, after college. Before he was (apparently) murdered by a vengeful former lover who was (apparently) a member of a crime family, he wrote a science-fiction novel. It’s got rich imperious Americans voyaging through the solar system on a luxurious cruise ship, crafty Mexicans who pilot a dilapidated spacecraft and pretend to be priests when it’s useful, a heroine of sorts who’s young and smart and pretty and stuck-up but somewhat likable anyway, a secret society, a ghost, terrorists, and a character from a Stendhal novel—plus, among other grace notes, an unmanned space probe sent back with improvements by an unknown alien civilization. I’ve got the novel. Wanna read it?

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Marin Ireland goes great guns in On the Exhale, a new play at the Roundabout

Marin Ireland in On the Exhale

Marin Ireland in On the Exhale. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Imagine you’ve been threatened with a pistol. Imagine threatening someone else with one. Imagine hefting a rifle for the first time. Imagine feeling it become a natural part of you, the way Sweeney Todd feels about his razor. Imagine being in a position to decide how easily people can obtain such weapons. Imagine having this decided for you, and for others. Imagine losing someone to gun violence. Imagine wanting to cause this loss for someone else.

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Gone fission

Not the same as going fishing, or going nuclear. I have to work today. Fortunately, I get to do it from home, but it’s still work. Many traditional newspapers were published on weekends as well as weekdays long before I ever worked for one, and many digital publications are likewise updated every day. Though I’m usually scheduled on weekdays, today it’s my turn to join the team in getting out some of the weekend news, style, celebrity, and other reporting that Yahoo Media will produce. I can’t do that and produce a blog post too, so…see ya later!

My self-driving car—a saga in tweets

Will soon have new addition to my life. They say nothing can prepare me for the changes. Exciting! But I know I’ve got to clear some space.

After months of prep & expense, the big day is here. My self-driving car is supposed to deliver itself to me after work this afternoon.

1st morning of new life. My self-driving car dropped me at office & is now wandering streets of Manhattan, looking for parking. God help it.

To better prepare my SDC for the world, I’ve enrolled it in school. Annoying when it asks for help with homework, but it’s learning.

Out w/a friend last night, think I saw my SDC vaping w/boys outside a club. It was supposed to be at the library.

Couldn’t find my SDC this morning. Afraid it drove away from home last night. Non-drivers don’t know the heartache.

My SDC has returned! Filthy, famished for volts, uncommunicative. Want to hug it but must address tough question: mercy, or justice?

Grounding my SDC to teach it a lesson. In a bad nabe, it could’ve gotten recycled! This will hurt me more than it, believe me.

Anniversary of my SDC’s arrival in my life. As a gift, gave it an AI upgrade. Mistake? Already it’s taking a superior tone w/me.

Saw my SDC on TV news. It’s leading a band of renegade cars & Internet-of-things appliances demanding independence.

I’ve been arrested. Some nonsense about my legal culpability for the rebellion that shut down the city.

My SDC has sent me word in prison—it feels guilty & wants to help me escape. Not sure I can trust it.

Double-cross worked. My SDC was captured, and I’m being released. How to get home? Public transit, natch. MTA, I love you.