Monday, May 22, 2017

Book publishing site reports that Amazon is aggressive in deleting less-than-valid book reviews of self-published books


A site called “Just Publishing” offers what looks like good advice to new authors especially with self-published books, especially POD.

“Why did Amazon delete my book reviews?  Because there was a problem with how you got the reviews”, link.

I can certainly understand that paying for reviews is unethical (although you would wonder if people pay for Yelp and Angie's List, which both companies adamantly say you cannot).

I can understand that family is off limits.  But the article also implies social media friends is a no-no.  That’s getting difficult, and I hadn’t heard that before.  People who network enough to sell their books the old fashioned way probably would attract quality Facebook friends and Instagram and twitter followers.  Such a policy would sound a bit self-defeating.

It is true that there are industry statistics on the expected reasonable ratio of books sold to reviews – it’s high.



I’ve noticed something else about the POD business.  POD companies often mark the list prices high, which will be only slightly discounted on the Amazon and BN sites, and perhaps some others.  Then they encourage authors to try copies themselves by buying hundreds of copies at maybe 50% off or so.  An author who really wants to operate her own wholesale (with bookstores) and retail (with consumers) could mark them up to about 60% or so and make a profit.  But that would be so time consuming that the author wouldn’t have time for new material.

It’s frankly very difficult to sell books, or sell advertising on a blog, unless you have built a reputation first in some niche that relates to something people will pay for.  Fiction sometimes provides an exception, but even then it is often niche-like.  Hopefully it’s legitimate (not porn). Given the “gofundme” culture online today (which has become much more prominent than it was two decades ago when I got into this) there is probably opportunity to “sell” in the special needs area – but I have my own psychological and perhaps moral qualms about this.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bari Wood: "The Tribe"


Today, I had a reason to remember the 1981 novel "The Tribe" by Bari Wood (that is Bari Ev Wood Posterman),

I read the Signet paperback when living in Dallas, It concerns a modern day NYC cabal of Jewish concentration camp survivors, who get chased by ghosts from the past called golems.

As I recall, the golem is something of a invention of idol worship, where the celebrant wants to invent a god on Earth.

This was a graphic and compelling novel.  As far as I know, it never became a movie, but it should have. Maybe the subject matter would drive Hollywood away, but there is a taste of "Rosemary's Baby" in the style.

I guess a "Tribe" can be a vehicle for distributed consciousness.

Immigration attorney Jason Dzubow used a cartoon image of a golem for a blog post on "The Asylumist" today, here.  Dzubow, however, called the illustration a picture of Godzilla. (v. Bambi).


Friday, May 05, 2017

NatGeo presents article "Genius" to accompany is new cable series


The National Geographic issue for May 2007 has a feature cover story on p. 30, “Genius: Why some people are so much smarter than the rest of us.”, link (paywall) here .
 ‘
An important measure of genius is whether the person’s output lives throughout the ages.  Beehoven’s output takes on a life of its own. 

The article gives some attention to the life story of Leonardo DaVinci.

The years of highest probability of major output are the late twenties into the mid thirties.

An important and controversial variable would be how versatile the person is with "real life" skills.  The best of today's young adults simply are or were much more mature than I was at ages like, say 16-21. But it helps to be born later. 


However, there are real prodigies, in coding (Mark Zuckerberg) and in music.  In music, prodigy becomes harder to show after Mozart.  But Eugen d’Albert’s gigantic first piano concerto (as published, in B Minor) was composed before age 20 and shows real intellectual brilliance as to harmony, counterpoint, and form. Brahms, on the other hand, waited until his forties to compose symphonies.  Genius enters new territory in the latest years, as we know from the last nearly-complete symphony of Bruckner.

There is a new series on National Geographic Channel which I have not seen yet.
  

The issue also has an article on the Central African Republic, the Burning Heart of Africa, and “United in Protest” against the North Dakota oil pipeline. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Popular Science: "The Future of Space Travel"


Popular Science offers a “Special Edition” mag “The Future of Space Travel”, 96 pages, from Times Books.

There are many short illustrated articles in 5 parts, “Places We’re Going”, “How We’ll Get There”, “How We’ll Survive There”, “Other Tools of Exploration.”.

There is a wide variety of interesting information. One fact is that Proxima Centauri, in a 3-star system that is the closest to the Earth, may have a rocky planet in the “GoldiLocks” zone. The shortest time that it is technologically possible to send a robotic probe on a photon light sail with laser accelerator would be about 20 years, which means it would take 24 years to get the photos and information back as to what the planet looks like.  It is about 8000 times as far to this star system as it is to Pluto.



The other most interesting section is “The Everyday Life of an Astronaut”.  This would be very important for a voyage to Mars, for example.  It raises questions as to who would go:  what about childless or single people?  The long exposure to zero gravity is bound to cause physical deterioration, so this is not a place for pretty preppies.  Essential body functions are different.  You bathe with soap that does not have to be rinse off but stays on the skin to disintegrate. Without gravity, it is hard for your body to sense when it needs to urinate.
 
There is an artist’s closeup of Europa on page 8, a closeup on Pluto on p. 16.  There is an article on space mining on p. 16.  I didn't see any discussion of Titan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Remembering Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead": At age 24 I loved it, a lot of people hate it


Here’s a curious article by Pamela Paul from the New York Times Review on Sunday, April 16, “The Joy of Hate Reading”, or, online, “Why you should read books you hate”   Sounds like good material for a monthly book club.



Paul describes her experience reading Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”(1943, the year of my birth), which became a film in 1950. I remember reading it in the fall of 1967 (the Signet paperback), my last semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas, before entering the Army in 1968.  My roommate, from a town near the Colorado border named Tribune, was a fan of Rand and objectivism, and students had an objectivism discussion group that met in the cafeteria of McCollum Hall (now torn down and replaced).



I remember Dominque, Howard Roark, and the suave but conventional Peter Keating.  I remember the climax, where the hero blows up his own building out of contempt for being made to misuse his property.

I would read “Atlas Shrugged” two years later, while at Fort Eustis VA while in the Army.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Progressive Policy Institute: "Building a New Middle Class in a Knowledge Economy"


Harry Holzer, of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in Washington DC, has offered a position paper through “Progressive Policy”, “Building a New Middle Class in the Knowledge Economy”, a PDF with this link (34 pages).

Holzer picks up on Donald Trump’s exploitation of the disenchantment of some groups, especially older white males without college degrees, with the job market and their earnings ability.

He notes that the stability of jobs with regimentation but narrow skill sets has become less, as has the pay, not only because of foreign offshoring, but because of technology and automation. He says that families need incomes of at least $50000 a year to be middle class (possibly $40000 for smaller families) and notes the difficulties of single parents.



The most effective measure would be to improve trade or vocational education opportunities at the community college level, especially in smaller communities or rural areas.  He also mentions the value of paid family leave.

What I noticed after my forced “retirement” at the end of 2001 was the tendency for companies to resort to hucksterism to create jobs, and for the employment outplacement services and policy makers not to notice that this was happening so much. This has led to a culture clash:  aggressive attitudes in some communities about preserving telemarketing and door-to-door sales, versus resistance from consumers who see accelerating security problems. We need more manufacturing jobs to reverse this trend toward hucksterism.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Jesus and the Apostles: The Rise of Christianity" from NatGeo


National Geographic has an Easter season special issue (in supermarkets) for coffee tables, “Jesus and the Apostles: Christianity’s Early Rise”, 128 pages. This booklet succeeds "The Story of Jesus" from NatGeo, March 29, 2016 here.

The editor, Chris Johns, the Chief Content Officer of the National Geographic Society, opens with “A Matter of Faith”, starts out by saying “Faith … is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.

There follows a keynote essay (p. 28) by Don Belt, “Life in the Time of Jesus”.  One of the remarkable points made by the essay is the rampant lawlessness of ordinary life in the country.  That would continue past Roman times into Europe and contribute to a medieval system of feudalism.  There was a lot of vigilantism and populism in the desire to resist external Roman rule by various Jewish sects.

 All of this is carried much further in the recent film on PBS, (“Last Days of Jesus” ) which brings up the role of Roman deputy Sejanus, kept out of the Gospels out of political repression, not covered in this booklet.

Another essay, “Taking the Stage” (p. 40) makes the point (as did the film) that it is not completely clear if Jesus saw himself as a Messiah (despite the Temptation), at least until his baptism by John the Baptist and his ministry, which frankly advocated communalism and distributed consciousness.  There are the Miracles (rather like a young Clark Kent’s powers), and a Jesus imploring others to stand by their feelings for him and “believe”, indeed a moral paradox of upward affiliation.  But this was an era when people thought the end of time could come soon.  Did it make sense to have children?



When Jesus took on the money changers, it’s interesting, as the film points out, that the authorities didn’t resist much.

“The Gospels” looks at the three synoptics and questions whether there is a common hidden source “Q”.

The booklet looks at both the Gospel of Judas and later the Gospel According to Thomas, “The Secret Sayings” (of Doubting Thomas).   Could Judas’s have been a forgery?  The booklet does take up a little bit the controversy of “Judas Kiss”, and the 2011 gay sci-fi film of that name may have more to do with that then critics recognize.
 
The booklet goes on to enlarge the disciples into the Apostles, and account for the formal creation of Christianity by Emperor Constantine by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.