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Last Nights on Londons Stages, Before the Lights Went Out – The New York Times

LONDON Nol Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in a mere six days, and the perennially popular play opened on the West End in 1941, running for nearly 2,000 performances setting a record in London for a nonmusical.

Its longevity back then is in stark contrast with the most recent outing of the play here, with Jennifer Saunders, of Absolutely Fabulous fame, playing the bicycle-riding medium Madame Arcati, who communicates with the dead. A victim of circumstances beyond the control of even the most supernaturally minded, the director Richard Eyres comparatively somber revival played its last performance at the Duke of Yorks Theater on March 14; the run had been due to finish on April 11.

The production closed early after Londons West End theaters took coordinated action on Monday to close themselves down and help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Londons West End, like Broadway, has gone dark, and no one knows when the lights will come back on.

As premature closings go, the timing here was somewhat ironic, when you consider how audiences throughout World War II flocked to Blithe Spirit, Cowards inquiry into the frustrations, erotic and otherwise, of Charles (Geoffrey Streatfeild), a novelist whose first wife returns from the grave. (She died, were told, while recovering from pneumonia, which may well have had an eerie resonance for nervous playgoers today.)

When she rises up, the mischievous Elvira (Emma Naomi) scatters calculated chaos in her wake. Its giving nothing away to tell you that she ends up taking Charless second wife, the whiplash-tongued Ruth (Lisa Dillon, giving the performance of the night), over to the other side with her, though neither woman will go quietly from the land of the living.

This was easily the least buoyant Blithe Spirit Ive seen, which was presumably intentional on the part of Eyre, the distinguished director who once ran the National Theater. The trend of late has been to find in Cowards outwardly breezy plays something more psychologically acute, as was the case when Andrew Scott, of Fleabag fame, stormed the Old Vic last summer in Present Laughter. Against expectation, a character long presented as a devil-may-care narcissist was revealed to be an anxious man-child, as well. Both revivals remind us that Coward possessed a keen understanding of human behavior, in addition to a quick wit.

In this Blithe Spirit, Charles and Ruths marriage seems far from blissful well before Elvira arrives on the scene, and Eyre takes the verbal brickbats they lob at each other for real. This, like Present Laughter, is a Coward play centered around a man who draws women to him when he would rather be left alone: Both plays end with their flustered heroes fleeing female companionship, but for what precisely? Coward leaves the sequels up for grabs.

The fate of this show, however, is sealed though no one could have guessed how quickly it would flit from view. Think of the cast as the casualties of an invisible terror. It was one that Saunders, top-billed albeit in a supporting role that Judi Dench is playing in a forthcoming film, acknowledged when Madame Arcati a germaphobe before her time reacted in spontaneous disgust at shaking another characters hand. I doubt those who laughed at that gesture last week would do so now.

Across London last week, a city in gathering distress was met with theater that chimed with the prevailing mood. Before the shutdown, I caught what turned out to be the final matinee of Shoe Lady, an arrestingly quirky play from E.V. Crowe at the Royal Court Theater, best described as a surrealist nightmare in the style of Caryl Churchill.

Its like were all on the edge, says Viv, a realtor whose life goes into free-fall when she loses a shoe on the London Underground. Buck up, she says, all the while succumbing to a growing sense of anxiety, brilliantly captured by Katherine Parkinson, accentuating her characters panic the more determinedly she keeps smiling. Running just over an hour, Vicky Featherstones production cant have anticipated how much the play, which might otherwise have seemed a theatrical caprice, felt instead like a parable of precariousness in a society that, much like Viv, seems to be losing its grip.

The connection between life and art was even more keenly felt on Monday at the Southwark Playhouse, in southeast London, one of the few theaters to offer a show on the evening when the bigger houses around town were calling it quits.

There, I was among a surprisingly full house to catch the last performance of the director Jonathan OBoyles hyper-intense revival of The Last Five Years, the Jason Robert Brown musical about a couple falling apart. (Think of it as the Marriage Story of the early 2000s.) The conceit of a show that alternates perspectives across 90 minutes is that one character, Jamie (the excellent Oli Higginson), tells his version of events from the beginning, whereas his ex, Cathy (Molly Lynch), begins her version of events at the end.

But there was no doubt for those in the room that we were all witnessing a finish of a different sort, given that it is entirely unclear when any of us will find ourselves in a London playhouse again. The audience that night had seemed especially focused, as if everyone present was savoring for keeps the experience of live performance.

Taking an empty Underground train home, I couldnt help but feel that Jamie and Cathys unraveling had acquired a resonance well beyond what the composer-lyricist Brown could have imagined. I wont soon forget the surge of feeling throughout the auditorium when the show got to its closing sequence, and ended on a single word: Goodbye.

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Last Nights on Londons Stages, Before the Lights Went Out - The New York Times

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Clean living closer than you think at Cletas Nutrition – Alton Telegraph

Cletas Nutritions full-time sales consultant, Jennifer Rulo, left, store manager Wendi Wittman, center, and Wittmans mother and Cletas founder, Beverly Roberts, all of Godfrey, stand inside Cletas Nutrition, at 3004 Godfrey Road, in Godfrey. Roberts founded the health food store in 1991.

Cletas Nutritions full-time sales consultant, Jennifer Rulo, left, store manager Wendi Wittman, center, and Wittmans mother and Cletas founder, Beverly Roberts, all of Godfrey, stand inside

Cletas Nutritions full-time sales consultant, Jennifer Rulo, left, store manager Wendi Wittman, center, and Wittmans mother and Cletas founder, Beverly Roberts, all of Godfrey, stand inside Cletas Nutrition, at 3004 Godfrey Road, in Godfrey. Roberts founded the health food store in 1991.

Cletas Nutritions full-time sales consultant, Jennifer Rulo, left, store manager Wendi Wittman, center, and Wittmans mother and Cletas founder, Beverly Roberts, all of Godfrey, stand inside

Clean living closer than you think at Cletas Nutrition

GODFREY One of the regions most comprehensive health food destinations is right here in our own backyard.

Were the place you come to if you have a food intolerance, said Cletas Nutrition store manager Wendi Wittman. We have that edge. We carry and focus on what you would normally have to go to St. Louis to find.

Wittmans mother, Beverly Roberts, 75, founded Cletas Nutrition, in Godfrey, nearly three decades ago, at 3004 Godfrey Road, and still works at the health food store.

Wittman, 49, and knowledgeable full-time sales consultant, Jennifer Rulo, 46, research every single brand and product that is sold at Cletas Nutrition.

Rulo, a former customer, came to Cletas 12 years ago seeking pain relief. Not only did she find that relief often through trial and error but she also discovered a desire to help others find relief from persistent daily human conditions.

She is a blessing, said Roberts, who opened Cletas Nutrition in 1991.

Shes on it, shes into it, her hearts into health.

Rulo originally came to Cletas Nutrition to address her own fibromyalgia and inflammation. Now shes worked at Cletas for more than four years, helping others who walk through Cletas door to manage their own physical pain and fatigue.

I do a lot of one-on-one, Rulo said. People approach me about different things theres so many options. Theres a lot of different avenues as far as what people respond to we never diagnose or recommend, but talk about what has worked for other people and different research on pain management.

You have to know your companies and do your research to talk to others about clean products, she said, and you should always consult a physician before changing your diet or adding any supplements, especially with prescription medication.

Current diet trends include a ketogenic diet, high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates, or plant-based, not necessarily vegetarian, consisting mostly, or entirely, of plant-derived foods, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, and with few, or no, animal products. Diets that address food intolerance issues also are common, Rulo said.

Roberts began working in the health food and nutrition industry in the 1970s, for River City Nutrition, founded by Carl Muckler, who had an Alton location and three Missouri locations: Florissant, Chesterfield and Kirkwood, where Roberts worked. But her experience there wasnt the only thing that inspired her to have her own health food and nutrition business.

Different family members were getting sick and I was trying to think outside the box, about what could fuel the body so it could heal, Roberts recalled.

Now twice widowed, Roberts said health improved for her first and for her second husband when, during the course of their respective medical treatment, they began consuming clean foods and giving more attention to nutrition.

Clean means no chemicals, no dyes, no preservatives, no artificial or synthetic anything, explained Wittman.

In general, clean eating follows the belief that consuming whole foods in their most natural state and avoiding processed foods, such as refined sugar, offers certain health benefits.

For instance, organic ketchup has 45 percent more lycopene than commercial brands, Wittman noted.

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, can be found as a supplement, but it may be most effective when consumed from lycopene-rich foods, like, tomatoes. Lycopenes many health benefits purportedly include improved heart health and lower risk of certain types of cancer, as well as sun protection.

Roberts was diagnosed with lupus approximately three years ago, she said, and credits clean eating for reversing the systemic autoimmune disease, for which she no longer tests positive.

Within a year and a half, I tested negative, she said. God made the body to heal. In my recovery, I worked with diet changes, cleaning it up even more.

Cletas also offers healthy alternatives, such as homeopathic medicinal products, for mind and body, including beauty and hygiene products, such as fluoride-free toothpaste and hair and skin care.

Its nutrition for your outer organs, Wittman said.

Roberts gives all the credit for Cletas longevity to God.

Hes the reason, He has blessed our business, she said.

People come in here for so many things medically that may be irreversible, but you can clean up.

Visit Cletas Nutritions Facebook page for more information.

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Clean living closer than you think at Cletas Nutrition - Alton Telegraph

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UK and Yemen: The Catch-22 contortions of an unethical foreign policy – Middle East Eye

When you look at the footage of so-called Yemeni special security forces attacking Aden airport five years ago today - gaunt young men in sandals and shorts gingerly approaching their target - the only thing that appears to match their billing is their military hardware.

Creeping behind powerful armoured cars, with machine guns and rocket launchers slung over their shoulders, they wait to break cover and storm the gates.

That morning, they lost the battle, but the war they started continues to rage, albeit under new management.

Originally, those special forces were fighting alongside Houthi rebels to oust President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and reinstall his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

That seems a world away now. Salehs double-dealing eventually got him killed in 2017. Hadi is exiled and largely irrelevant in Riyadh.

If the last five years in Yemen have taught me anything ... it's the need to take other people's power struggles out of our equations, and take politics entirely out of our arms trade

Now what matters is the power struggle between the megalomaniacal Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, keen to add military genius to his list of precocious talents, and the fanatical Houthis, whod rather see Yemen destroyed than surrendered.

That explains both the longevity of the Yemen war, and also the sheer level of devastation it has caused. Put simply, neither side cares.

For Mohammed bin Salman, his indiscriminate air strikes and crippling blockades are yet to force a surrender, but not for the want of effort.As for the thousands of civilians blown to bits in the bombing, and the millions of children suffering malnutrition and disease, his Western allies dont seem bothered, so why should he?

The Houthis have their own long record of war crimes - child soldiers, torture, human shields, and random missile strikes on Riyadh.But the PR war has never bothered them; only the real one. And if you said it would last another five years, theyd probably count that a success.

So do we think either Mohammed bin Salman or the Houthis care about the imminent spread of coronavirus among a severely weakened population with an already shattered healthcare system?

If I sound in despair, forgive me.But what really gets me about Yemen is the sheer amount our Tory government actively chooses not to do when it comes to bringing the war to an end.

As the official UN penholder on Yemen, we could demand a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire to allow proper peace talks and the mass distribution of humanitarian aid.We could demand a full, independent UN investigation into all alleged war crimes, and impose - with no exemptions - a total ban on all UK arms sales for use in Yemen until that investigation is complete.

Ive made those three demands of all four Tory foreign secretaries Ive faced, and everyone has refused - not for reasons of high principle or substantive policy, but just because of the naked politics that Mohammed bin Salman is in a power struggle, and they must be seen to back him up.

Watching all that across the dispatch box has changed me.It has taught me to hate the Catch-22 contortions of an unethical foreign policy - one where we accept that British arms have enforced blockades used to starve Houthi-held areas into submission, and deny children essential medical treatment.

Theyve been used to bomb weddings, funerals, school buses, food markets, homes, schools and hospitals. An impartial observer might therefore conclude there is a clear risk UK arms are being used to commit war crimes, and block their export accordingly.

But not the UK government.Instead, they applaud Saudi authorities for taking these concerns seriously and investigating all allegations, both - they argue - clear examples of good intent, and signs of positive UK influence.

Furthermore, because these investigations have supposedly only revealed a series of unfortunate accidents, not deliberate war crimes, the Tories say Riyadh deserves praise for admitting the former, not an unjustified arms ban to prevent the latter.

We must stop outsourcing UK foreign policy to Donald Trump

That, the Tories conclude, is consistent with the licensing rules put in place by former foreign secretary Robin Cook, even though Cook would have been appalled to see them applied in this way.

It was after hearing this crazed Conservative logic that I told Labour colleagues it would not be enough for us to simply operate the current arms export regime more stringently. I said we should scrap it entirely and introduce a Bank of England-style model, removing politicians from the decision-making process entirely.

Instead of ministers, an independent panel would make objective assessments of each export application, based solely on the risk to international law, free from any external interference, lobbying or personal prejudice.

Anything short of that, I argued, would allow a future Tory government simply to return to the old system, in a way they could never do on bank independence.

But my proposal met with resistance from some quarters.After all, some people like a bit of political subjectivity, so long as theyre the ones making the decisions - and especially if there are jobs at stake represented by our arms manufacturing unions.

I accepted a temporary compromise at the time, but vowed not to let it rest, and I wont do so under the new Labour leader.

Because if the last five years in Yemen have taught me anything - especially watching Tory ministers over that time - its the need to take other peoples power struggles out of our equations, and take politics entirely out of our arms trade. Only then can Britain conduct itself as an unequivocal force for peace.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

UK and Yemen: The Catch-22 contortions of an unethical foreign policy - Middle East Eye

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The Biggest Wellness Trends of 2020 – Anti Aging News

Last year, the rise of cannabidiol (CBD), intermittent fasting, meditation, and many other health and wellness trends dominated the $4 trillion global wellness industry. As this segment of the market continues to grow rapidly, technologic advances, emerging clinical findings, and shifting priorities are likely to influence burgeoning wellness trends for the coming year. Recently, experts from across the world gathered to forecast the biggest health trends that will take over the global wellness industry in 2020 as part of the Global Wellness Summit (GWS).

Alongside a focus on fixing disrupted circadian rhythms and mental health-promoting devices, the most significant projected trends for the forthcoming year are outlined below:

Circadian Health Optimization

According to one of the worlds leading experts on circadian health and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University Dr. Steven Lockley: The absolute key to healthy sleep and circadian rhythms is stable, regularly-timed daily light and dark exposureour natural daily time cues.

Today, humans have incredibly disrupted circadian rhythms as a result of increased screen time and travel, rising stress levels, and a 24/7 culture. Current research suggests that circadian rhythms influence a variety of bodily functions ranging from hormonal fluctuations to body temperature regulation. Most importantly, they can significantly influence sleep patterns, impacting productivity and health.

As part of the solution, the concept of circadian rhythm optimization centers around adjusting the daily schedule, dietary patterns, and environmental cues to sync up with the bodys internal clock. Experts at the Global Wellness Summit predict an increased amount of people shifting their work schedules in accordance with their chronotypes, which The Sleep Foundation describes as the natural pattern by which people sleep and wake best, in an effort to optimize performance and productivity.

Given that most of our body systems express circadian rhythms, ensuring proper alignment of our internal circadian clocks, Dr. Lockley further explains, starting with the management of lighting, will have major impacts on human health.

Mental Health Technology

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over 42% of 46.6 million adults with mental illness in the United States received mental health treatment in 2017. In addition, the growing patient base of Millennials is more likely to address mental health concerns than previous generations, with about 70% saying they feel comfortable seeking help. Wellness technology companies have begun to capitalize on this increased acceptance and technological advancements by developing digital therapeutic products and services.

Tech-savvy individuals are increasingly using virtual therapy apps such as TalkSpace and BetterHelp and digital support groups to combat modern-day issues including burnout, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. The behavioral health software market is now projected to reach $2.31 billion by 2022 and as we shift toward a more holistic approach to wellbeing, will likely continue growing.

As part of this rising trend, mental wellness wearables are growing in popularity with the introduction of meditation headsets that measure heart and breathing rates and wearable biosensors that monitor physiological signals throughout the day. These devices aim to improve stress levels, sleep patterns, and daily habits based on biologic metrics directly obtained throughout the day. For example, Sentio Solutions recently announced a new product, Feel, which is an emotion-sensing wristband with integrated biosensors which measure users physiological signals. Paired with an accompanying cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) app, it aims to help those suffering from anxiety and depression by offering on-demand support.

However, many of these technologies are still in the early stages of clinical trials and require further investigation before they can be released.

Japanese Wellness

In 2017, Japan had the largest per capita ratio of centenarians in the world with 67,824 people aged 100 and above. The country is known for the longevity of its population, with up to 50% of Japanese citizens born in 2007 expected to reach the age of 107. Japanese culture promotes ways to ensure long, fulfilled lives with a growing emphasis on a sense of community and work-life balance. As a result, the world is turning to Japan for longevity tips leading to the popularization of J-wellness, or Japanese-inspired wellness.

The practice prioritizes connecting to nature, including forest bathing which can have a beneficial effect on both mental and physical health by reducing blood pressure, stress hormones, anxiety, and depression levels. In addition, Japanese government officials emphasize social community wellness through policy measures and innovations tailored to aging societies. This includes neighborhood facilities designed for generational mingling and stress assessment programs conducted to improve work-life balance and emotional wellbeing.

Fertility Healthcare

The growing de-stigmatization of infertility and reproductive health has opened the dialogue and increased awareness of these prevalent issues, encouraging more companies to offer fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing- as benefits to their employees. Fertility healthcare is projected to rise to the top of wellness trends to support the 12 out of 100 couples in the United State struggling to become pregnant, per data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Current fertility benefits do not cover all procedures and reproductive assistance technologies tend to be expensive with a single round of IVF averaging above $20,000. According to the GWS report, fertility clinics are forecasted to democratize and simplify access to care, alongside innovative fertility-focused wearable technology and smartphone apps that help educate individuals and monitor important fertility metrics. Furthermore, a growing number of fertility start-ups such as KindBody, which received $10 million in investor funding last year, are beginning to infiltrate the space. Current data indicate that the femtech sector could reach a market size of $50 billion within the next five years.

Continuous research initiatives and emerging technological advancements are spurring the global wellness industry at a 12.8% compound annual growth rate. In 2020, the wellness economy will be more accessible to the average consumer than ever before, making the above trends increasingly relevant in the practice setting. Physicians should be equipped with the latest clinical knowledge to better educate patients on the potential risks and benefits of these emerging solutions and ensure their health and safety.

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The Beckwith Blog: In the Eye of the Storm! – National Mortgage Professional Magazine

Here I am, sitting at a rented lake house in central New Hampshire, in my hometown from my childhood. Its a Friday morning and I am in the rare place to have my folks and siblings be able to drop by for a visit. I am home for a birthday party weekend for yours truly, my a-hem (insert cough) 50th, I mean 39th Birthday. I am feeling nostalgic now so writing my Blog for this month feels a little melancholy, but with that said, I want to provide value at a time I know you will be reading this over the holidays. This time of year breeds a long-awaited pause or slowing for everyone in our field, a welcomed one for a year that gifted us with lower rates and lots of volume for those who dialed in and worked hard.

Over the prior six months, I have traveled across the nation, truly, to incredible conventions, to speaking gigs and events, too many to mention, and along the way, I found myself amid others doing the same. Professionals who, by and large, were trying to grab market share, sling their product and of course, connect with new opportunities. That said, in the midst of this storm, I began to watch and absorb the true magnitude of the chaos and rapid-fire environment that would represent the greatest year and closest thing to a return to our prior great market years that had been experienced in over a decade.

So, what did I learn? Living in the Eye of the Storm is quite incredible. I learned that at the core of our human spirit lives a desire for people to join forces, to come together, to laugh, to help one another and to truly support each others businesses. I learned that you can consistently travel for a dozen straight weeks at a time, run a business, pack and unpack, show up in stellar mode, perform and check the box until the next stop. A rock star life ensued for me this year, while trying to maintain some form of normalcy at the home front, stopping home for four days in-between to do kids activities, home activities, personal accounting, family time, sports and God willing, a little rest. As the weeks would wear on this year though the faade and glamour of the mortgage industry convention circuit, I would have some of the most incredible and tender moments that you can only recognize as powerful in hindsight.

1. Networking is still in our new age of technology, is the greatest way to form relationships that lead to long-term business: There was no greater ROI on any other marketing avenue than this for me this year. It is and has been the tried and true way to cultivate, vet and grab market share.

Personal lesson: There are the most beautiful souls out there in our business who are filled with the entrepreneurial spirit people who I know will change the landscape of our tomorrows in this industry. I also fell in love with those OG mortgage professionals who are still evolving and re-defining themselves in a new era and there are many!2. Technology is at the top of everyone lists: The mortgage industry wants to evolve into a more mobile and automated world. I heard, in many conventions, the quotes of ancient systems and dinosaur ages when describing our technical world here and how its truly time for evolution. People seemed to be listening. I certainly was and I am excited for once to see where this goes.Personal lesson: Instead of cringing about the need for technology I did not welcome, I could see even my own sentiment on this topic had changed. Listening to so many rooms on this topic, I can see people are embracing this era and time. We will see evolution in this area in the years ahead finally.3. PC is so yesterdays news: No matter what surrounds the mortgage industry and all of its many minute details, at the core of our existence remains the human experience and what seemed to jump off the pages of social media this year was the more personal stories of homeownership successes, businesses successes and authentic story-telling from human-minded messages from the B2B entrepreneurs are now filling our space. Those companies that continue an aesthetic-minded approach to their social media might as well throw their money out the window of their moving car.Personal lesson: I say Thank God! I dont know how else to be but real, raw and authentic, I am grateful it is in style this year.4. No more fake news: Its now time for everyone to listen to the entrepreneurs. Our salesfolks, the loan originators, brokers and front-line men and women are where the real news lies. These folks are taking to their social media outlets, videos in hand, and are letting us know what is real or not real. Its beautiful and it trumps (pun intended) the contrived news stories paid for by commercialized news-telling. I write for this magazine and many others that I know do diligence to their news-telling and this is not intended to be a slam to that format, I think those news companies who are employing a story-telling philosophy and bringing the voices of those people to their pages, podcasts and stories, its the smartest thing they could have done.Personal lesson: Me and my organization are the real deal, and I run with a real deal crew. Get real its the best advice I can give you.5. Life is short, in business and for real: To live a long life in the mortgage profession, which I have somehow accomplished, staying put is not an easy task. I wrote an article in early 2018 about staying in a Safe Seat of musical chairs and gave advice. That advice was never more poignant than this year when the grass is greener philosophy and the waving of company flags were being shaken harder than ever before. Volume would be the glue that kept loan officers in their seats and many business development managers found themselves in the hot seats trying to explain slow recruiting because nobody who wasnt suffering truly where they were was moving. For many mortgage professionals, their homes seem short-lived. The life of the mortgage originators job or longevity with a firm, has been truly shortened this past year and movement has been an acceptable thing that hiring firms have learned to accept on resumes that show lots of past employers. That is changing. Everyone is getting into their Happily Ever After Seats for the next decade and living their lives in their best way.Personal lesson: After watching three of my family members weather terminal illnesses, I truly have accepted the shortness of our lives and careers. In the past two years, I have left a firm I worked at for 12 years and started my own company. I turned 50 as I said at the start of this article and I am realizing time is a precious commodity. So, my advice here is simply that we must live our best life and our absolute most genuine life.Time is of the essence and I think everyone should be operating with the ideology of that every single day. There is no greater piece of advice I can offer to people. I hope you heed this advice.In ending this short Blog, I offer that living in the Eye of the Storm this year was beautiful, meaningful, rich in relationship and experience, rewarding and quite frankly far more compelling than sitting on the sidelines. I would highly recommend that you all get out there, out of your seats and out of your comfort zones and get into the mix. There is beauty in the buzz. Be part of the buzz. I feel like this year, I became part of the buzz. I like it. Long live the storm!

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

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The Beckwith Blog: In the Eye of the Storm! - National Mortgage Professional Magazine

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From Film to Fiction: Creating the Alien Franchises Literary Canon – Book Riot

I love the Alien franchise. Some people are Star Wars people, some are Star Trek people, me Im an Alien girl. Something about that perfect mix of science fiction and screaming bloody terrorit just works for me. But with only so many hours of film to watch, like any good fan Im always hungry for new content. And thankfully the Alien franchise has developed a significant literary canon to expand upon the film universe, so this Alien-hungry bookworm can keep on reading.

It make sense, really, that a franchise with such deep literary roots would make inroads into book publishing. Lovecraft, Conrad, Frankenstein, and of course the Prometheus mythos from which Frankenstein derives its own inspiration, have all informed the development of the series, from the original 1979 film to the most recent of Ridley Scotts prequels. Lovecraft is in the foundations of the original film, in its scope and its vast, apathetic universe that does not care if we live, or die screaming in the depths of space. And it wasnt until I had the chance to watch a recent documentary Memory, about the making of Alien, that I was introduced to the Conrad connection, and the influences of imperialism and colonization on the development of the films plot.

One of the reasons that the series has such longevity, one of the reasons it sticks with you, is that is has the same resonance as the works that have informed its creation. Alien has a mythic quality to it, built upon a framework of eternal themes and base human fears. Of course then, when it came time to expand the universe past the boundaries of the films, the franchise would make its way onto the printed page.

It started with novelization of the original film, Alien, at the hands of Alan Dean Foster, who has written every Alien film novelization since except for Alien: Resurrection (A.C. Crispin). He also wrote the prequel novel to Alien: Covenant,Alien: Covenant Origins, which came out late 2017 following the films May release. Novelizations are always worth reading because they are known for expanding upon the film being adapted, introducing new details and nuances that the demands of modern film runtimes have left on the cutting room floor. Foster in particular is known for his ability to take a film and spin it into a book that makes you feel like youre experiencing the story for the first time.

Since Fosters early contributions, the Alien canon has jumped the rails of film novelization and gone original. New stories, new characters and a few old favorites, new worlds, same old xenomorphs. In late 1992, after the release of Alien 3, Bantam books teamed up with author Steve Perry and started releasing new Alien novels, set in the same universe as the films but only tangentially related to them and referred to by the name of the second film, Aliens. This would eventual evolve into the first of three novel series, and involve several other talented authors, but it began with Perrys Aliens: Hive Earth. The first in a trilogy of novels, Aliens: Hive Earth introduced readers to Wilks and Billie, a battered, disenchanted ex-Colonial Marine and a young girl, the last survivor of a colony devastated by xenomorphs. Perry wrote the first two novels, Aliens: Hive Earth and Aliens: Nightmare Asylum solo, and co-authored the third book, Aliens: The Female War with daughter S.D. Perry.

These three books kicked off what ended up being a nine book run of novels from 1992 to 1998, five of which, excitingly enough, were written or co-authored by women, for whom a franchise with such a legendary female lead must have held a particular appeal. The second series of novels from 2005 to 2008 contained six books, and both novel series, most now out of print in their original format, have been combined into seven omnibusesThe Complete Alien Omnibuses 17by Titan Books in the last few years, giving new readers a chance to revisit these older Aliens adventures and nightmares.

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My introduction to the Alien franchises literary canon started with the third and most recent series of Alien novels. Specifically, Tim Lebbons excellent Alien: Out of the Shadows. I listened to the dramatized audiobook version before picking up a hard copy to read, and trust me the first time you hear a xeno hiss in your ear you will walk faster. Alien: Out of the Shadows is heart pounding. It also reunited me with my first love, Ripley, as Out of the Shadows and the two subsequent books, Alien: Sea of Sorrows (James A. Moore) and Alien: River of Pain (Christopher Golden), are interquels. All three books take place in the 53 year window between Ripleys sign off at the end of Alien, and her awakening and return to LV-426 in Aliens. Ripley makes appearances in books one and three, and book two features a slew of vengeful xenomorphs and one of Ripleys own descendants.

And thats just the beginning! Because the ongoing third series of novels is already eight books long. With more planned for the futurecourtesy of Titan Bookss loving cultivation of the Alien franchisethis series is set to overtake the first, ushering in a new wave of talented authors and new innovations on the canon. The later novels in the third series take place after Aliens, offering a secondary world view to that of the film canon and reintroducing readers to, among other things, the evil machinations of the omnipresent Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

Alex Whites Alien: The Cold Forgeand Tim Waggoners Alien: Prototype both deal with corporate espionage as Weyland-Yutani and its rivals vie for control of their most dangerous asset. Waggoners novel also introduces readers to former Colonial Marine (and general badass) Zula Hendricks, tying the novel canon into Brian Wood and Robert Careys gorgeous Aliens comic run with Dark Horse (Aliens: Defiance). As does Keith R.A. DeCandidos Alien: Isolation, which novelizes popular video game and the harrowing ordeal of Ripleys daughter Amanda on the crumbling Sevastopol Station. Amanda Ripley meets up with Zula Hendricks in Wood/Careys Aliens: Resistance, following the events of Alien: Isolation.

Titan Bookss most recent release (which they were kind enough to send me before it came out on February 25, thus not leaving me to languish in a desert of fandom deprivationand no theyre not paying me, I just really like their work and that they feed my obsession), Scott Siglers Aliens: Phalanx, is something entirely new: a spears and shields novel set in the Alien universe. A planet with a lost past and a people on the verge of extinction, besieged by vicious demons from the belly of a dormant volcano. In a lot of ways Aliens: Phalanx gave the impression a crossover novel between the usual hard sci-fi of Alien and something from a fantasy novel, and the epic battles between the spear wielding natives and the demons gives a the familiar conflict between humans and xenomorphs the feeling of something eternal. Something mythic.

Recently I had the opportunity to do something really cool: I was able to create questions about what it was like to write for the Alien franchise and send them to three of the authors who have recently contributed to Titan Bookss newest series of Alien novels. Tim Lebbon (Alien: Out of the Shadows), Scott Sigler (Aliens: Phalanx), and Keith R.A. Decandido (Alien: Isolation) were kind enough to send me some answers!

I was particularly interested in what the experience of creating within an extant canon was like, given that the Alien Universe is literally as vast as space itself. What is more, within this vast universe have already seen a number of innovative approaches to this overarching story of man vs. xenomorph, from the monster in the house narrative of the original to the military based adventures of the colonial marines or the invasion stories of distant colonies over run by the alien menace. So how do you create in a space that is simultaneously so limitless and limited?

Tim Lebbon had two different experiences as an Alien author. His first alien novel, Out of the Shadows,involved getting to work within the main story line of the franchise, and even to write a story Ripley herself, and involved timeline problems to overcome, and people and characters [he] could or couldnt kill. But he also describes there being quite a bit of freedom with the details of the story and the opportunity to create new, original characters as well. In his second alien novel (trilogy of novels, actually, the Rage War trilogy), however, Lebbon describes a much greater degree of freedom and the opportunity to imagine a whole area of the galaxy that had been explored and populated by humanity. [Its] scope was huge, and whilst featuring these two iconic creatures, it was also a space where [he] was allowed to develop their mythologies, and try to create an expanded world and story of [his] own. In probably one of my favorite anecdotes from this series of interviews, he wrote about how the cast of the Rage Wars trilogy was so huge that he had to ask his Facebook followers if they wanted to be horribly killed by xenos or predators in vast space battles. Naturally, they did.

Scott Sigler had some experience with the challenges of writing for the franchise before he startedPhalanx,because his story Dangerous Prey had been part of Jonathan Maberrys anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt. He describes the biggest challenges of writing Phalanx (which is an absolute brick of a book by the way, but you wont even notice the length once you get going!) as being the ones he created for himself, for instance by keeping the xenomorphs but removing the other great villain for the Alien franchise: the omnipresent Weyland-Yutani: Without the persistent Big Bad of WY (who is the true villain in almost all Alien stories) to drive the lying/manipulating/betraying plot angles, I forced myself to develop a structure that felt realistic yet still delivered some of the key elements that are inherent in a xenomorph tale. He also mentioned the difficulty of injecting new terror into a monster that people have seen many times now on the big screen and that has become something of a cultural icon. As he points out, even fans of mine that have never seen an Alien franchise movie know what a xenomorph looks like.

So if you get the chance to navigate the joys and sorrows of writing for a canon, how do you decide what story to tell? Who will your cast and lead characters be? Marines or Biologists? Colonists or Corporate Spies? Where will they be? Is it a clunking old ship on its last legs, a mining colony, or some lush distant planet full of exotic flora and fauna?

For Sigler, finding his story was a process. He worked with Titan Books editor Steve Saffel on a number of different potential plots and story ideas, ranging from cool heist stories to mercenary capers to tales of xenomorph evolution that strictly obey known biological practices. They finally settled on what would become Phalanx because the formula of spears and shields in space, and the innovative design of his setting, the far off Ataegina with its ancient-esque society, really stood out as something unique in the Alien universe.

For DeCandido, on the other hand, there was no selection processhis story was chosen for him. Fox wanted a novelization of the Alien: Isolation video game and he was approached by Titan Books for the project. Its an interesting counterpoint to Siglers selection process because it highlights how, when creating for an existing canon, there are stories that can be told, and stories that need to be told, and a balance that has to be struck between creators and parent companies. But while plot design was out of DeCandidos hands, he points out that the appeal of taking on the Alien: Isolation novelization was in part due to getting to write Amanda Ripley, who he describes as a fascinating and complex character who is as much her own person as she is the daughter of the legendary Ellen Ripley: Ive always been interested in consequences to actions, and what the ripple effects are of the big events that we tend to see, and what happens to those left behind or abandoned or whatever. We know what the consequences were to Ripley for not being found for decades between the first two movies, but in Isolation I got to focus on what the consequences were for those people she left behind, which was very appealing to me as a writer.

Aside from the joys and challenges of writing within an existing canon, and how to find the story you want to tell, I also wanted to know, with so many stories already being told, were there prior works in the franchise that particularly inspired you? And because your work cannot exist in a vacuum, separate from the rest of the canon, how do your works then come to be in conversations with all the novels that have come before you? Obviously Lebbon, Sigler, and DeCandido are all Alien fans from way back, influenced by the films that made such strong first impressions. All three agreed thatAlien, Aliens, or both were their favorite films of the franchise (not surprising given how many fans feel about the later films, she says sliding her beloved copies of Alien 3,Alien: Resurrection, and the prequels under the couch), acknowledging the influence of Alienss action-adventure storyline, and what Keith DeCandido referred to as Aliens portrayal of Space Longshoremen on a battered, broken-down old ship, which provided the template for this rather dank future, which set the stage for everything that followed.

For Lebbon, his novel Out of the Shadows is influenced most by Alien, with its claustrophobic atmosphere, establishment of a strong set of characters (some of whom we know from the off wont survive that next shadowy corner or stairwell) but he describes the Rage War trilogy as being as much a trilogy about the Colonial Marines as it is about the xenomorphs and predators and more of a tribute to Aliens militaristic action-adventure future. And Sigler considers his new novel Phalanx to be a logical extension of Alien and Aliens with a particular admiration for the the well-defined and highly plausible biological life cycle of the film Xenomorphs: While Phalanx doesnt run counter to the information presented in Alien III, Resurrection, Prometheus and Covenant, if fans of the first two films disagreed with the biology and storylines of the last four then those fans will likely groove on [Siglers] novel.

The last thing I wanted to know, with all the serious questions out of the way, was what hadnt I covered? What was the fun, or strange, or fascinating aspect of writing for the Alien Canon that we hadnt covered?

For Lebbon it was the research. He mentioned specifically all the research he put into space travel when writing the Rage War trilogy, and his quest for realism in futuristic transportation: I wanted to come up with something that was at least vaguely realistic. So theres no skipping to the other side of the galaxy in just a few minutes. Space travel takes time, and I came up with a neat network of transport hubs that enable the characters to jump between different points within the expanding sphere of the explored portion of the galaxy. Of course, any story like this set in deep spaceStar Wars, Trek, etcis going to play games with science, and thats pretty essential to serve the story. But it was a fun bit of research to do.

Siglers favorite part of his research was working with his many consultants to bring in real-world concepts that help ground the story and make it believable. For him, author Myke Coles nonfiction Legion vs. Phalanx was an integral text in bringing an original yet believable culture that emulates Summerian, Greek, Swiss and Scottish military strategies. He worked with Dr. Joseph Albietz III, MD, on human/xenomorph biological interaction, with fellow Alien Franchise author Alex White on a logical scientific build-out of the xenomorph form, and with Alien franchise experts Scott Middlebrook and Clara Fei-Fei arija to ensure that Phalanx was integrated into the existing Alien canon.

DeCandido was grateful for the chance to explore the character of Ellen Ripley through her daughter, Through flashbacks to Amandas childhood, as well as Amandas own reading of some old reports from one of Ellens pre-Nostromo gigs which enabled him to dig deeper into the back story of one of science fictions most compelling characters [] getting to write her and flesh her out was a great honor and tremendous fun.

I could not be more excited about where the Alien franchise is going (and, of course, about the possibility of new content). In fact, my only disappointment thus far with this new series of Alien novels is that weve gone from five in nine books authored or at least co-authored by women, to zero in eight.

We have had one Alien book written by a women in 2019, and I adored Mira Grants Alien: Echo. Im not downplaying its contribution at all! But as a YA novel produced by a Macmillan imprint rather than by Titan Books, the Echo exists outside of the exciting, ongoing canon that Titan Books is building with each new novel. So heres hoping well see not only a sequel to Grants novel (please, Macmillan, I need it), but also a number of new, talented women writers joining the Titan Books Alien ranks in the years to come!

Yes, the future of Alien franchise novels looks as bright as a set of silver teeth in a dark corridor. If you need me Ill be making space on my bookshelves.

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From Film to Fiction: Creating the Alien Franchises Literary Canon - Book Riot

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

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Token Economics: In The Long Run, Decentralization Will Survive – Traders Magazine

Money exists to serve a fundamental purpose as a medium of exchange for goods and services. A central authority designates a certain currency as legal tender and people can proceed to trade with it, trusting in its function as a unit of account and a store of value. Simply put, the traditional system of money thus far has revolved around four main participants: governments, central banks, intermediary banks, and users of money. Its a system that has been built over centuriesone not easily dismantled or replaced, as significant cost and physical infrastructure has been put into supporting its integrity and performance.

Changing the game

Relatively speaking, traditional money and the financial system it runs on have weathered much of the digital revolution unscathed. Rather than changing to fit the times, digital technology has been integrated around the usual way banks and financial institutions function, leaving the underlying fundamentals of the system untouched, along with its inherent inefficiencies and costliness. To say that legacy finance is now under threat, however, might be to jump the gun; nevertheless, we can see some challengers to the status quo emerging, as technology advances and becomes a more pervasive part of human life.

Cryptocurrencies have been lauded as one of the biggest game-changers within the centralized system of banking and finance. With the distributed ledger that underpins cryptocurrency, decentralization and disintermediation is made possible, and instead of a centralized entity validating transactions, the process is distributed across a network of validators. In a truly decentralized financial system, the middlemen and their fees are cut out, while the speed and efficiency of transactions are greatly improved. Clearly, such a system would be able to directly challenge the function and use of the traditional financial order.

Good governance and incentivization

While the technical aspects of cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology have moved beyond theoretical whitepapers and into real-world applications, relatively little attention has been paid to the economic relevance of cryptocurrencies and the forces that govern the price and value of digital assets. Called cryptonomics, tokenomics, or just token economics, this field of study focuses on how incentivization and validation is used to encourage token adoption and subsequent ecosystem building around that token. While the utility of fiat currencies is largely limited to exchange and trade, crypto tokens can be put into service in a myriad of ways, and token economics explores the use cases of digital assets beyond their utility as currency.

There is so much to unpack when trying to understand the forces that govern functioning crypto ecosystems. Crucial issues, such as the incentives for blockchain participants to cheat or the endogenous value of a token in exchange, are still poorly understood and yet are pivotal to understanding the optimal design for a mainstream blockchain-based form of payment. How should a system be built to reinforce desirable behaviors amongst users, while discouraging cheating and market manipulation? Any platform looking for longevity and sustainability in a fast-changing industry must ask this question first and foremost. Currently, most cryptocurrency platforms incentivize users to perform governance decisions by awarding them newly-mined cryptocurrencies. They manage the rate at which new units are created to keep the supply of available tokens in check; therefore, the total amount of currency in the system is limited by the protocols written by the creator of the blockchain. Having these limits in place creates an impression of scarcity amongst users that allows the system to maintain the value of the crypto token.

Breaking the rules

It is this quality of scarcity that breaks the rules of inflation that already govern legacy money standards. Under the forces of inflation, the power of money to buy the same basket of goods is expected to be less in the future compared to today. These same forces do not have to apply to cryptocurrencies; not when they offer an opportunity for monetary experimentation and the potential for new ways of managing monetary supplies. Major platforms like Ethereum place community governance of token supply at a higher priority to maintain the ethics of a decentralized system, while privatized foundations of cryptocurrencies like Binance and VeChain use coin burning techniques to limit supply and temporarily increase the value of tokens. Essentially, the supply and value of a given digital asset is dependent upon the participants of the network and the algorithm it is built on, which places cryptocurrencies largely outside of the influence of geopolitical flux that otherwise affects traditional markets. For this reason, people from Venezuela and Argentinaboth countries experiencing hyperinflationare putting their money into bitcoin and other digital assets to hedge against the risk of inflation in the traditional market.

As the industry moves on from the crypto hype and market correction of the past, it has become clear that decentralized finance holds incredible potential for the global financial and economic system. The technology is constantly evolving, but sound principles of business and a strong token-flow model are more necessary than ever to keep the industry sustainable in the long-run, particularly in the face of tightening global regulations on crypto tokens and exchanges. Governance, incentivization, revenue sharing, and accessibility are all crucial metrics to consider before building an economic model for digital tokens and cryptocurrencies.

In the coming years, we can anticipate a future where both tangible and intangible assets are tokenized and easily used in real-time transactions on decentralized platforms and exchanges. We are on the precipice of a new global economy, one that is undergoing massive transformation. The steady development of decentralized finance, regulatory clarity, crypto-specific taxation policies, and central bank digital currencies are all positive steps towards shaping the new financial ecosystema decentralized token economy characterized by greater accessibility to financial services, safer transactions, and lower transaction costs. With full decentralization on the horizon, its becoming apparent that the face of global finance will never be the same again.

Neeraj Khandelwal is Co-founder of CoinDCX, Indias largest cryptocurrency exchange

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Token Economics: In The Long Run, Decentralization Will Survive - Traders Magazine

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

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16 Style Essentials You Should Have at Home –

Style starts at the home before you go to bed when you moisturize your face, in the shower after you wake up and when you go to your closet to choose your outfit. It happens outside of work hours when your shoes need some TLC or a button needs sewing. Little upgrades here and there can set you up for the day and the right tools can keep your style going for much longer. For that, weve put together this list of style essentials for the home, from head to toe.

First things first: be gentle on your clothes. Use a detergent thats mild and easy on your clothes. While we like our fragrances and cant deny that the smell of laundry is objectively good, save the perfumes for your person and not your clothes.

This goes for the drying cycle, too. It may take more time to air dry your clothes, but that time you put in pays dividends on your clothes longevity (not to mention the Earth).

Once your garments are clean and dry, make sure to hang them up with a good hanger. Avoid the flimsy, thin plastic ones if you can. Clothes are made to hang on a human body (which is three-dimensional). When theyre not on you, they should be hung on a hanger with wider shoulders, lest you want your clothes to slowly deform and lose shape over time. Hangers made from cedar wood help to defend your clothes from moths, so opt for these if you can.

Nobody wants to see a wrinkled shirt. Invest in an iron, especially if the occasion is meeting with investors or your future in-laws.

For the love of Ralph Lauren, do not try to iron your clothes on your bed or coffee table. Invest in an ironing board, preferably one that has a rack to hold your iron.

Steaming your clothes in the shower does not work. Its good for wasting water and developing black mold in your bathroom. Instead, get an actual steamer that will quickly and effectively get those wrinkles out.

Your clothes will eventually need some tune-ups. Plus, learning to sew and mend clothes is a skill you should know since home ec isnt really a thing anymore.

After a good bath soak replete with bubbles, surrounded by candles and meditative tunes, maintaining your leather shoes is the next most-relaxing thing. For that, start with some leather soap like this one.

Once youve cleaned your shoes, make sure to condition them with some leather lotion or oil. Its just like the shower.

Oh, and before you go to town on your shoe care regimen, make sure youre using the proper tools.

Lint happens. Rather than using lint rollers that you constantly have to refill, try a reusable lint brush.

Now lets shift the focus to you. Unless youre going for a world record, keep your nails trimmed and neat.

Taming a mane, trimming the hedges or having a Britney Spears moment, an electric trimmer is there for you.

For those who are deft with scissors to do some mane maintenance, a solid pair of grooming scissors stretches your dollar more than trips to the barber.

Like treating and caring for your clothes, you want to be gentle on your skin, too. Try a soap for sensitive skin thats free of scents and harsh ingredients.

Even the most gentle soap can wash away some of your skins natural oils. Follow up the wash with a good lotion to prevent dry skin and keep your natural moisture barrier intact.

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16 Style Essentials You Should Have at Home -

Recommendation and review posted by Alexandra Lee Anderson

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The Constellation of Frank Stella – The New York Times

STARS THE KIND that appear in the cosmos have coordinates, not addresses, and the same is true for certain earthbound luminaries, too. One gloomy November morning, I follow my GPS to an anonymous set of buildings in the Hudson Valley. The rain buckets down forebodingly, but I know Im on the right track when I make out a set of immense cast-aluminum and stainless-steel sculptures by the side of the road, a few of them distinctly stellar in shape. For good measure, the name Stella is spray-painted on a piece of wood indicating the entrance.

This hangar-like structure, about a 90-minute drive north of Manhattan, has been Frank Stellas studio for the past two decades. The vast space, more easily traversed by golf cart than on foot, is divided into rooms for both fabrication and display. Here, I find more star variations: The grandest has 12 points and is made of glossy black carbon fiber. At over 20 by 20 feet, its puffily imposing and gently comic. Its neighbors are a pair of cleverly interlocking wooden stars, one in teak, another in birch, the humble quality of the carpentry a counterpoint to their complexity of form, reminiscent of da Vincis illustrations of the Platonic solids. More futuristic are two slightly smaller ones made from polished stainless steel; theyre what might have resulted if Buckminster Fuller had created cat toys for giants. When I look closer, I notice that some of them have built-in bases on their bottommost points that resemble little shoes: These stars have their feet planted on the ground.

As does the man himself. Stella, dressed in khakis and a blue fleece zip-up that has Team Stella stitched on it in white, is now 83, but hes retained the scrappy, unpretentious persona hes famous for, as well as the curly hair and glasses. This is the man who, nearly six decades ago, gave Minimalism its great tagline by proclaiming: What you see is what you see, his words a rallying cry for what art could be, and, equally, could do without. A fixed light in American arts galaxy since the 1960s, he has arguably influenced visual representation as powerfully as Andy Warhol.

Unlike many mid-20th-century artists who rose fast only to seemingly collapse under the pressure of their own reputations, Stella kept pushing himself by using new forms, materials and technologies. When he felt hed reached the limits of the flat canvas, he built out from it in reliefs inspired by Moby-Dick and Polish villages. In the 1980s and 90s, he made metal sculptures that looked like race cars or jet engines turned inside out, as well as unwieldy canvases covered in Pop-colored riots of form operatic assemblages of cones, pillars and graffiti-like brushwork, like something Charlie Sheens character might have had in his home in the 1987 film Wall Street. That the godfather of Minimalist painting turned into a progenitor of the contemporary baroque has always flummoxed critics.

Perhaps the secret to his longevity, his decade-upon-decade habit of creating, is again a matter of balanced forces, the measures hes taken to temper his bright-burning ambition. When we meet, the artist has just celebrated the arrival of his fifth grandchild, Sophie. (Stella, who has five children, has been married to Harriet McGurk, a pediatrician, since 1978, and they live in the same house in Greenwich Village hes owned since the 1960s; his first wife was the art critic Barbara Rose.) He seems to lack any real self-destructive impulse; he never succumbed to matters of lifestyle. When I ask him if he has any vices, he dodges. You have to ask my wife, he says dryly.

He has (at least) two, it turns out: cigars and fast cars, both of which have informed his work in various ways, from sculptures based on three-dimensional representations of his own smoke rings to his use of technological innovations derived from the auto industry, like carbon-fiber skin over steel or aluminum frames. In 1982, he was caught driving his silver Ferrari 105 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone on the Taconic State Parkway, and in lieu of jail time, he delivered public lectures on his painting. His racing days are now long over, and he can no longer do much of the physical labor involved in art-making. And so it might seem hes come full circle, returning to the deceptively simple geometries he was making six decades ago, only now expanded into three dimensions.

Tentatively scheduled to open in May, a new show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, in Ridgefield, Conn., Frank Stellas Stars, A Survey, will focus on Stellas use of the form at both ends of his career. Many artists have become fixated on the creation of a particular shape or motif throughout their lives: Jasper Johns and flags; Pablo Picasso and guitars; Louise Bourgeois and spiders. The ceaseless exploration of one form helps create an artists aesthetic universe, and Stella is part of this tradition. Stella means star in Italian, but the artists interest in the shape in geometry, the star polygon is recognized in both two and three dimensions with varying numbers of points is spatial, not narcissistic. He initially made star drawings in the 1960s (a set of lithographs from 1967 titled Star of Persia I; and II, first exhibited at the Aldrich in 1969, will be included in the show), though the majority of the exhibition will showcase the more recent sculptural work I observed in his studio, a study of the potential of the star in different materials, scales and formal variations, never repeated in the same way. Even with something as stable and as knowable as the star, Stella is able to reinvent it every time he approaches it and make you look at it in a different way, says Richard Klein, the Aldrichs director of exhibitions.

Star polygons have long been bound up with all sorts of human metaphysical projection, used as religious symbols and in ranking systems. As motifs associated with honor and glory and jobs well done, they decorate everything from national flags and sheriffs badges to toilet-training charts. But most of all, they symbolize the limits of human understanding, their geometric representation inseparable from their existence as celestial objects, luminous spheres of gas held together by their own gravity. Their lyricism aside, stars are our most archaic form of navigation as well as our best clues to the dimensions of the universe. Because light travels at a finite speed, the glow of a distant star is perceived by our earthbound eyes long after it has ceased to exist. Similarly finite, perhaps, is the rate of human understanding: In art history, were continually revising the past based on our relative position to it; the importance of an artist or an entire movement might become visible only in retrospect. So what, one wonders, is left to say about a man who has been famous now since the 1950s, and all the more so at a time in which figuration and portraiture have made comebacks, and when were all questioning arts relevance in a scary new decade?

STELLA NEVER WENT to art school, but from an early age, he had a no-nonsense relationship with a paintbrush: His father, a gynecologist, paid his way through medical school by painting houses, with Stella as his young assistant. My father would make me sand the floor; we had to do the sanding and scraping before you could hold the brush and then paint on the wall. So it was that kind of apprenticeship and familiarity, he says. While repainting the porch of their fishing cabin in New Hampshire Stella grew up in the Boston suburb of Malden his mother, a fashion illustrator and homemaker, decided to make a Jackson Pollock on the floor, dripping the paint in swirls. And my father had to explain to her that maybe it was good in art, but it wasnt going to work as a floor covering because we didnt have any sealer.

A story in one of his mothers Vogue magazines, featuring models posed in front of a painterly Franz Kline-esque Abstract Expressionist backdrop, provided him with an early clue that art wasnt only about figuration. At Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., in the early 50s, when European abstraction was a prevailing force in studio art, Stella was especially influenced by the work of Hans Hofmann, a kind of proto-Abstract Expressionist from the 40s, and the Bauhaus color theorist Josef Albers. I had no mimetic ability, Stella tells me, but I was never interested in finding one, or cultivating one. No, I worked directly with the materials, actually. The big deal in postwar American painting was its materiality, and so that was heaven for me.

He started painting more seriously at Princeton, where he played lacrosse and wrestled, majored in history and studied art with William Seitz, who would become a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and with the painter Stephen Greene. After graduating in 1958, Stella moved to New York. When I left school, he says, I wanted to see what it was like to paint all the time. And at that time, it was between the Korean War and Vietnam, and we still had selective service. My induction exam was in September, so I thought, Ill go to New York [in the meantime], get a place, and Ill just paint and work and do odd jobs, and see what its like to do nothing but paint for three or four months. And then, unfortunately or rather, fortunately I failed my induction exams. And when I called up my father, I said, Im sorry, I have to go back to New York, I failed the exam. He said, Too bad, it would have made a man of you. The most important thing for them was that I shouldnt be a burden on society. He pauses. And we know what they meant by society.

Stella was only 23 when his work was included in a group show, Sixteen Americans, at MoMA in 1959. His Black Paintings bands of matte enamel (he used house painters brushes and house paint) separated by pinstripes of exposed canvas startled critics for their extremity of reduction, their intentionally flat affect, their refusal to appease. Cool, clever, and somehow less angstily reverential in feel than the Abstract Expressionist era that it helped supplant, Stellas work is now widely seen as a crucial evolutionary link in modern art, and a catalyst for the Minimalist movement to come. His emphasis on two-dimensional surfaces was a clear rejection of the idea of painting as a window into a three-dimensional space.

His participation in the MoMA show, alongside Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly and Louise Nevelson, launched his career four of his paintings were included in the exhibition but his first gallery show, with New Yorks Leo Castelli a year later, resulted in few sales. Stella eked out a living painting houses, renting cold-water flats and sharing studio space with Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton, his friends from Phillips Academy, but listening to him, its impossible not to feel nostalgia for a time in which you could arrive in Manhattan, these days largely a gated community for the wealthy, and simply go about making your art.

THERES AN ELEMENT of luck and things like that to it, but the fact of the matter is that the system was pretty supportive, says Stella when I remark on how he seemed to be exactly the right artist at exactly the right time. In New York, he was granted a sense of license to do whatever he wanted with paint, inspired by the artists he revered, among them Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman and Pollock. Stella found his own canvases growing larger large enough to have to be placed on the floor. They were no longer easel paintings, he says. Basically, I was standing up in front of a painting that was a little bit bigger than I was, and that was the working on it, like the way you would paint a wall in a house. And that was the kind of thing that I felt comfortable with. He singles out the abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler, who studied under Hofmann, as the artist he believes was one of the most undervalued in her lifetime. They were always interesting, always good, and very, very difficult paintings she made, and she was lucky if she could sell any of them, he recalls. Early in his career, she proposed a trade with him, but he was too intimidated to take her up on it.

When I ask him if hes in touch with anyone from that time, he shakes his head. No. The problem now is everybodys dead or dying. Im in the category of Is he still alive? artists. Yeah, you laugh, but I can show you a letter a guy was asking if I was still alive because he liked my work so much.

By the end of the 1960s, Stella had lost interest in flat surfaces. He started making constructions of felt, paper and wood that protruded from the surface of a stretched canvas in a relief. He named these works, like 1971s Chodorow II, after synagogues destroyed by the Nazis. In a way, the work could be seen as a kind of inverse of the type of painting that had dominated Western art since the Renaissance, which drew viewers into the canvas. The idea behind it all was to build a painting rather than paint a painting, says Stella. If I built it first, it was all mine, and then I could paint on that and thats all. The simple story would be that the Minimalist turned Maximalist when the former wore out its usefulness.

On many occasions, material experimentation offered a pathway forward: Thats a kind of necessity, because you get bogged down, you get worried. Youre always looking for something, as they say, a way out of the darkness. And its inevitable that you look to things. You look to what other people are doing, and you look to whats available, and you cant help looking for things. Mostly you look within the art world, but that seems like a limited vision, so you have to look outside. You have to get with the real world eventually.

In at least one such moment, Stella found himself compelled to look back in order to move forward. He used his 1982-83 residency at the American Academy in Rome to delve into the legacy of Caravaggio and Rubens. That research led eventually to Working Space, his 1986 book derived from a series of lectures that he delivered at Harvard in the early 80s, in which he framed his new work as an answer to a crisis in abstract painting. Stellas Moby-Dick series, which he began that year and continued until 1997, considered abstractions ability to illustrate narratives, with silhouettes alluding to waves and ships. The 90s and early aughts were critically tough for Stellas hectic forms, and yet many works from this time his mural-size Moby-Dick-inspired 1992 print, The Fountain, for example, or his underrated work in rugged painted metal, especially 2004s Ngebat, a twisted construction of stainless steel and carbon fiber now seem freshly exhilarating. You could argue that every artist working in Europe and America today has, in some fashion, been unconsciously influenced by Stella, and there are those who more explicitly credit him as an influence, such as the assemblage artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins and the abstract painter Sarah Morris.

Before I leave, Stella takes me on a tour of recent work, leading me behind the curtain hanging in the back of the studio. So, now youre going into the space where no women are allowed, he jokes. And lo, there I behold Stellas industrial sander, his spray-painter, as well as a glimpse of new work being fabricated for a private collector.

If entropy is the natural direction of all things the laws of physics, anyway, as well as contemporary art some things in our universe do, in fact, remain constant: Stellas star, at least, built on the principles of space, light, speed and seemingly infinite expansion, is unlikely to dim from art history anytime soon. Basically, everything is about being an artist, he says as we part ways. He pulls out a cigar as I thank him and gather my coat and umbrella. Youre welcome, he smiles. And dont say anything about the smoking.

Its an open question just how well Stellas ethos has fared over time. Once so thrillingly radical, Minimalist painting has inevitably lost some of its charge over the years; at a time in which art is often wrapped up in social and political questions, shunning pictorial representation and symbolic meaning for the essentials of color, shape and composition can feel oddly safe, something everyone can get behind: colorful geometries that could be printed on an Ikea duvet. And yet the sheer scale and panache of Stellas early work are undeniable. At the Art Institute of Chicagos Modern Wing, I often observe tourists stopping dead in their tracks in front of Hatra I, one of the first Protractor paintings Stella made beginning in 1967, which consist of sweeping, intersecting arcs, the shape of the canvas echoing that of the paint. Glowing with bright acrylic and measuring 20 by 10 feet, it still imparts a contact high. Sitting in Stellas presence and revisiting his work with him, I think what a misunderstanding it is to consider Minimalism as soulless or academic, a mere visual palate cleanser. On the contrary, it seeks feelings less easily named, an almost somatic response, a full-body awareness. What you see is what you see, but what you feel has always been important, too.

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The Constellation of Frank Stella - The New York Times

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Sigilon Therapeutics Announces $80.3 Million Series B Financing to Advance Shielded Living Therapeutics to the Clinic – BioSpace

Proceeds will advance first-in-human clinical trial for hemophilia A in 2020 and progression and expansion of Sigilons pipeline

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Sigilon, Inc., a biotechnology company developing functional cures for patients with chronic diseases through its Shielded Living Therapeutics platform, today announced that it has completed a $80.3 million Series B financing. The funding will support the first-in-human clinical trial of Sigilons novel encapsulated cell therapy for hemophilia A, expected to begin in the first half of 2020, as well as continued advancement and expansion of Sigilons programs in rare blood disorders, lysosomal diseases and endocrine and immune disorders.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), Longevity Vision Fund and funds managed by BlackRock joined founding investor Flagship Pioneering and other existing investors, including Eli Lilly and Company, in the financing round, which brings Sigilons total funding to more than $195 million.

Sigilon is driven to liberate patients from the fear of living with serious chronic diseases, and from alternative therapeutic approaches, said Rogerio Vivaldi, M.D., President and CEO of Sigilon. Our Shielded Living Therapeutics platform is designed to give patients who have chronic diseases a convenient, safe, long-term therapeutic benefit. We believe encapsulating engineered human cells in our proprietary matrix will enable us to deliver controlled doses of therapeutic proteins without the need for immunosuppression and without the risks associated with modifying patients genomes. We are pleased to welcome an exceptional group of investors who share our vision of offering more hope and less fear to patients and their caregivers as we enter the clinic with our lead program and continue to advance our other programs toward the clinic.

Sigilons Shielded Living Therapeutics platform offers patients with chronic disease the prospect of relief without disrupting their lives, said Douglas Cole, M.D., Managing Partner at Flagship Pioneering and Chairman of the Board at Sigilon. The near-term transition to clinical development and the platforms breadth and progress reflect the power and productivity of Sigilons approach. Successful conclusion of this financing puts the company in a strong position to build further value.

Sigilon was founded to develop immune-protected, bio-engineered cells to restore normal physiology in a wide range of diseases without immune rejection, liberating patients from the challenges associated with existing treatments for serious chronic diseases. Treatments based on Sigilons Shielded Living Therapeutics platform combine advanced cell engineering with cutting-edge innovations in biocompatible materials to pioneer a new class of medicines that have been designed to provide durable, redosable, controllable and safe potential treatment for chronic diseases.

Sigilons lead investigational therapy for hemophilia A, SIG-001, has received an Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sigilon expects to initiate a clinical trial of SIG-001 in the first half of 2020.

About Sigilon Therapeutics

Sigilon Therapeutics is developing functional cures for chronic diseases through its Shielded Living Therapeutics platform. Sigilons therapeutics consist of novel human cells engineered to produce the crucial proteins, enzymes or factors needed by patients living with chronic diseases such as hemophilia, diabetes and lysosomal disorders. The engineered cells are protected by Sigilons Afibromer biomaterials matrix, which shields them from immune rejection and fibrosis. Sigilon was founded by Flagship Pioneering in conjunction with Daniel Anderson, Ph.D., and Robert Langer, Sc.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Sigilon Therapeutics Announces $80.3 Million Series B Financing to Advance Shielded Living Therapeutics to the Clinic - BioSpace

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