Dead malls would make great tech incubators.

deadmallsThere have been a spate of articles lately about dead shopping malls.  Here’s one from Green Acres.

I’m a little too old to have been a teenage mall rat.  For me, the Nanuet Mall will always be the monster that ate the cute little town of Spring Valley, New York, where teenage me admired the clothes at charming idiosyncratic stores like Feders, and bought the best “appetizing” ever at Sirota’s.  I still have the Hadley stoneware that my mother reluctantly bought me instead of wedding china, in a shop that specialized in crafts-y kind of tableware.

Now retail shopping is on the ropes, particularly marginal shopping malls.

Shopping malls would make perfect tech incubator spaces.  Think of all that infrastructure — power, water, bathrooms, workspaces large and small, kitchens, security systems — and imagine putting dozens of start-ups there.  Even the parking is ready and in a few cases, links to public transportation.

Hey developers!  Here’s a way to salvage existing investments and build up the regional economy!

PS If you know places where this has already happened, please send examples my way.

Who was your Fletcher? I’m listening to Charlie Parker and thinking about #Whiplash. You must see it.

I bet we have all had a Fletcher, someone who wanted the best from us.

Or is it someone who wanted the best and got it in the worst way?

Or is it someone who had absolutely no idea what our best was….and was just a sadistic bastard?

I have had a few Fletchers in my life.  Today I woke up thinking about brilliant, bossy, impossible Lola Szladits, head of the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.  She wanted to be my mentor — and I loved and admired her.  In between my PhD graduate student years in English literature, I worked at the Berg, mostly fetching precious handwritten materials and occasionally turning the pages of The Wasteland manuscript and the Virginia Woolf diaries wearing white gloves (“Hello, I’m Ann, I’ll be your Ezra Pound server today……).  Lola wanted me to go to library school and then work side by side with her, whispering that maybe someday becoming her successor.

But every day, when I went inside that gorgeous, windowless room and archive, I felt two parts exhilarated, one part claustrophobic.  The sound of the heavy door shutting slowly behind me felt like the lid of a tomb fitting into place.  Never mind that I was locked inside with Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Auden, Whitman, Hawthorne, the Brontes.  I could not imagine becoming Lola.

During my second summer, the Berg received the gift of a wonderful new collection, and it was my job to do the initial cataloguing.  I performed the work diligently, and had my first taste of that back door of history that opens when you have access to letters, journals, even receipts from book purchases.  It was the sleuthing that would later inspire me to be a biographer.  I was already pretty sure that I was headed for a career outside of traditional literary scholarship.

So I asked Lola if I could meet our illustrious donor, learn more about the real life behind this exhilarating collection?

She went berserk, accused me of putting myself ahead of the institution, I was all ego, I had no integrity, certainly no future with her.  Gone was my mentor, and in her place, a loud, raging, Hungarian demon.

And that was the end of my career as the future curator of the Berg.  I already knew it was not for me, but I could not have predicted the explosion that would destroy what had been a beautiful relationship.  I was devastated.  Somewhere, my mother still has the letter that Lola wrote about me, after my first summer at the Berg, when I was still her darling.

I went to Lola’s memorial service at the Library, years later.  I was struck by a life lived in service to an institution, inspiring, uncompromising.  Of course, I stopped by the Berg and heard that door hissing closed with the same finality.  Was Lola truly aghast at what was at its worst, a youthful indiscretion; at best, an early instinct for networking?  Or was it that she knew my best — and when our versions no longer aligned, I was finished.  Perhaps she could have explained that to me.

Fletchers don’t explain.

Twitter makes me lazy. #TEDXCUNY


It's so easy to post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  I mean, they don't make me lazy, really, I do that to myself, but they do enable the soundbite that defeats any attempt at nuance or a complex message. So I'm inspired by today's FIRST … [Continue reading]

Top 10 things to listen while beach walking and you don’t have a great audiobook* This is the summer of Swell.

Saltaire 7.3

I usually listen to audiobooks while walking in solitary happiness on the beaches of Fire Island.  Look -- i took this picture this morning, isn't it beautiful?   So far this summer, I’ve finished Emma, Decode, and The Fault in Our Stars.  (Go … [Continue reading]

On Quality, Quantity, and Cost in #Higher Education

diploma sky

  You expect to pay less today for a computer than you did ten years ago.  But universities are more like media companies than computer manufacturers, so imagine if universities were subject to the same disruptive market forces as, let's say, … [Continue reading]

Speaking of giants: Congrats, Macaulay Class of 2014 graduation!

AK commencement 2014

To the Macaulay Honors College, Class of 2014 -- Do you remember the first time we met, back in 2010? Under a certain giant whale? Right from the start, I knew you were something special. But I’d almost forgotten about that welcome reception at … [Continue reading]

Attention college students: if you want to know what to do RIGHT NOW to unlock the secrets of a successful future, click here. #highered

Today's release of the Gallup/Purdue Index is mind-blowing in its findings -- and yet they are all intuitively obvious.  All college applicants should be thinking about this, as they go about the process of selecting a college.  All college students … [Continue reading]

The Confidence Gap: check this out.

A review of personnel records at Hewlett-Packard found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of … [Continue reading]

Two ends of my holiday table. #Passover

Dylan meets Bubbe

Two ends of my holiday table:  one spans nine decades, the other is approaching just nine weeks. These are the new guests at my Passover celebration tonight:  my new grandbaby and my parents, now 90 and 92.     We took note of the unexpected … [Continue reading]

Ding, dong, the #SAT is…not quite dead. My 2 cents on where College Board and Coleman got it right, plus a roll-up of some press.

He'll be blamed for doing too much, for doing too little, and for thinking that he can swap the Darth Vader cloak of the College Board for the Technicolor Dreamcoat of Sal Khan. But really, let's give a major t/h to David Coleman for acknowledging … [Continue reading]