Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Mission to Mars: Our Journey Continues": nice illustrated supermarket book from Time

Time special editions sells a coffee table closs book “Mission to Mars: Our Journey Continues”, 96 pages, with a Foreword by Buzz Aldrin.

The three parts are “The Journey”, “The Plan”, “The Allure”.

Many of the articles are by Jeffrey Kluger. But one of the most interesting appears on p. 66, “How to sneeze in space”, about the medical challenges people would face during the six month journeys and living for years (maybe for a lifetime) at 38% gravity.

Artificial gravity on a spacecraft doesn't really work when the traveler is not in touch with the "ground".  This is a problem in my own screenplay "Epiphany".

The health problems are considerable, with mineral loss and bone changes, and loss of muscle tone.  The journey might not be approved for people with families;  you wonder if only single and childless people would go.

The section on the other interesting places in the Solar System leaves out Titan, the most interesting moon of Saturn;  instead it focuses on Enceladus and Europa (Jupiter).  The closeup of Pluto is interesting.

It’s interesting that sunsets on Mars would look blue.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Is meritocracy sustainable? This, and a true story about a gay murder mystery go onto my reading list; also, more on demographic winter

Here are a couple more for my reading list:

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” (2013), by NYC professor Chris Hayes (Broadway Books) views individualized moral values based on meritocracy, as valued by the libertarian right, as unsustainable.  Vox has a post-dated review today by Henry Farrell, link here.    Sounds like Twilight of the Gods?  One trouble with meritocracy is that parents tend to pass it on by class (also an argument of Posner in “Our Kids”).  But is the moral sustainability of a free society the “sum” of the moral compasses of all its free individuals, or of their karmas – and of their willingness to walk in one another’s shoes, sometimes?

The Vox review notes the irony of Trump's appeal to those left behind -- the racism and tribalism, the "take care of your own" -ism that riles David Brooks, despite the idea that Trump himself benefits loudly from inherited wealth and privilege.

The second book is a non-fiction mystery that sounds worthy of Dateline, “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice”, by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway, which appears to be self-published on the hard copy (paper) which arrived today. ReelAffirmations is showing a film “Cobra Killer” which a schedule problem will keep me from seeing, but I hope there will be a DVD or Netflix or Amazon video soon. (I also hope to find a video for “Retake” as I had a conflict tonight.)  The story concerns the murder of Bryan Charles Kocsis aka Bryan Phillips aka Brent Corrigan, as explained on imdb here. I’ll try to get to this book soon (which can work about as well to convey the newsworthiness of the story as a film).

Update: Oct. 20

I picked up Jonathan Last's "What to Expect when No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster". 2013, from Encounter Books, paper.  The book will get into why immigration is not a good substitute for having your own children (in the U.S.).  Will this be the "more White babies" argument?  About demographic winter, as Carlson and Mero call it? The last chapter is titled "How to Make Babies" and an earlier chapter is "SEX! (and Maybe Marriage"). 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Quick intros to three more books: A novel by a retail owner; a parents' handbook; a warning about low birth rates

I continue my “two-tiered” practice for book reviews by presenting some books when I buy them, if it will take some time to get them read before doing full reviews on Wordpress.

I’ll introduce three books right now.

One is a novel, “Diana’s Magic,” by David A. Hicks, owner of the Westover Market in Arlington VA. Published by Oitskirts Press, 2016, 459 pages, 23 chapters, paper.  You can buy this at the checkout line of the neighborhood market, and it has been covered in the Beer Garden Book Club in Arlington.

The first chapter actually starts on p. 1, and it is indeed intriguing.  Sarah is preparing to become an elementary school teacher, and helps coach basketball with her fiancĂ© Eric. They both have to deal with another coach, Stan, bigger and taller and a big of a bully.  Stan seems to have a “Donald Trump” personality and believes that winning is everything.  As the first chapter ends, Eric is in a serious auto accident that appears to be going to test their intimate love.  Sarah has also envisioned an innovated class art project for the kids.  The whole setup seems intriguing to me because I worked as a substitute teacher in the Arlington and Fairfax County school systems 2004-2007.

Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens”,2016,  by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney, was sent to me free for review by Cleis Press.  The book is paper, 338 pages, indexed, with a 20 pages roman introduction.
The book looks like a handbook inasmuch as there are gray panels to highlight teaching points and sidebars. It does not offer blank lines for note-taking, which other handbooks do, as if they thought their readers were grade school pupils.  The book begins by reviewing what is now taken as science, but has only been so recently.  There are mathematically many combinations of gender, sexual orientation, perceived gender identity, and (by Rosenfels) polarity.  They all happen in nature for humans and parents have very little to do with it.  (The authors say there are 51 identities, but it should be a power of 2).

Even as shown by, finally, a willingness by the US military to accommodate transgender soldiers (when until 2010, gay soldiers were such a big deal under “don’t ask don’t tell”), advanced democratic societies are much more willing to accommodate inborn inclination than they were a few decades ago (or are most authoritarian, religious or tribal societies), where those who are “different” were scene as forcing others to take more risks for them.

 I’ll also mention Jonathan V. Last, “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster”, from Encounter Books, 240 pages, paper (or Kindle).  I mentioned this on the News Wordpress blog Sept. 30 in conjunction with a piece on adoption and foster care.  The books seems to have a similar thesis to Philip Longman’s “The Empty Cradle” from 2004.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Newsweek publishes glossy "Killing ISIS" coffee-table book

Newsweek Magazine offers a special heavily illustrated supermarket booklet, “Killing ISIS: America’s All-out Assault on a Global Threat” , no individual author or editor listed.

The book comprises three parts “ISIS Rising”, “State of Terror”, and “Striking Back”.

The overall tone of the book is that US policy – agreeing with the Iraqi government to leave on a timetable (Bush made that promise) and leaving a power vaccum, combined with civil war in Syria, allowed the cancer to arise.

The book reinforces the brutality of the group (although we can make comparisons to the Nazis and even the Khmer Rouge) but it also notes that the group is trying to drive the last Christians from the Holy Lands.

Maybe the most important report appears on p. 64, “Storming social media: ISIS’s intuitive understanding of how we communicate today marks it as a threat born-and-bred in the digital age”. 

 ISIS amazingly has command of first-rate media production values, and its recruiting videos appeal to teens and young adults who don’t fare well in an individualistic western world.  The US government does not have the smarts to produce counter-propaganda videos to counter a “revolutionary” or mass-movement mindset, but the book points out that the Kurdish media network Rudaw has had success in getting youth to watch its more subtle product.  ISIS recruiting on social media has led for calls for more censorship by social media companies (especially Twitter)  It could lead to calls to sharply reduce ungated normal user expression on social media as we know it today.  Does the First Amendment protect the mode of distribution as well as the speech content itself?  

Wikipedia attribution for picture from Raqqa by Lazhar Nefiren under CCSA 2.0 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Quick takes on new books by Putnam ("Our Kids") and Toobin ("American Heiress"); my new book review strategy ; also Gladwell

As a number of mainstream-published socially and politically relevant non-fiction books accumulate, it is difficult for me to keep up with them all.

On my new Wordpress media commentary blog  I’ve given certain emphasis to lesser known or self-published books, and to books (and movies) with more direct relevance to the content in my own books.  So from time to time, I’ll list a few new mainstream books here, order them, and review them in full there later, while bringing up the issues in a more timely manner.
I’ll mention three new books today in summary fashion.

One is “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert Putnam (Simon & Schuster).  The New York Times has a review by Jason De Parle here .  The book makes the point that education, rather than being a class equalizer, seems to be a class “fortifier” as the legacy of accumulated income (and wealth) inequality accumulates within families.  I saw this sentiment among other soldiers and the cadre back when I entered the Army in 1968 (the “too much education” attitude).  The book also seems to bear some relation to Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” when it comes to views on social capital, even if the policy prescriptions are different (March 14, 2012).

A second book is “American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst” by CNN legal columnist Jeffrey Toobin (Doubleday). Here is a review, “Comrades”, by Laura Miller in Slate.     Toobin has said on CNN that today Americans have forgotten how violence and domestic terrorism had become weapons of the radical left in the 1970s.  The Symhionese Liberation Army intended to martial indignation and cause expropriation and revolution, communist style, but the workability of its plan was total fantasy, even given the way it was able to manipulate Patty Hearst, who wound up helping pay for their crimes by prison herself. I can remember the indignation of the “People’s Party of New Jersey” myself in 1972 when spying on them in Newark, especially concerning unearned, inherited wealth. 

I saw, at church, a flier advertising some books from the Baptist-related Judson Press, particularly “The Spiritual Act of Raising Children with Disabilities” by Kathleen Deyer Boulduc and a foreword by Ginny Thornburgh.  This is an approach which “sells” today, but probably would not have in the more distant past.  I get prodded (at least indirectly) on why I wouldn’t write something like this.  I guess if I actually “did it”, it would not be for the purpose of writing a profitable book. 

The publisher was well known in faith circles when I was growing up.  Everett Goodwin, a progressive Baptist pastor (left First Baptist in Washington DC in 1993 and pastored for some years at Myers Park in Charlotte) authored “Down By the Riverside: A Brief History of Baptist Faith” in 1997, with a second edition and Study Book in 2006.  He also authored “Baptists in the Balance: The Tension Between Freedom and Responsibility “(1997), a book that supports libertarian political ideas of individual freedom and individual accountability. Goodwin helped pre-read 1996 drafts of my own first “Do Ask Do Tell” book.   

Update: Sept, 27

I've ordered Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath: Underdog, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" 2015), and want to note the article in the Guardian by Oliver Burkeman, "If my books seem oversimplified, maybe you shouldn't read them:  There's an interesting philosophical question: why do we allow inborn genetic advantages (like more red blood cells than usual) in sports, but not doping. Gladwell looks for a principled answer.  It will be interesting of Gladwell talks about ideas like "giving back", inherited wealth, or particularly "right-sizing". 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Mascot Books in Herndon VA illustrates how cooperative book publishing works for authors

Between traditional trade publishing (based on advances) and total self-publishing there exists an intermediate model that some people call “cooperative publishing.”

Apparently, Mascot Books, in Herndon VA, owned by Naren Aryal, is such a company.  Here is Aryal’s own account of his business model -- and apparently he wants to appeal to previously trade-published authors who need more energy on the distribution side.  He seems to prefer some genres (like children’s) more than others.

Thomas Heath has a story in he Washington Post on p. A12 on Monday, September 5, 2016, This Herndon publisher’s business plan doesn’t go by the book”. Aryal was stiffed by a book distributor and had to take out a home equity loan to keep his business going. His own narrative shows that for him books were business and a living, in a way that “books” have not been for me, where content evolution is the goal.

The video above happens at Herndon Elementary.  I have substitute-taught (usually history) at the high school, across the street as I remember.

Mascot might work for my first full novel, "Angel's Brother", sci-fi, which I hope to have finished editing myself in early 2017.

Monday, September 05, 2016

NatGeo's "Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer"

National Geographic has published a coffee-table-sized paperback, “Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer”, by Dab Buettner, 112 pages, gloss, heavily illustrated (professional photographs).

The book comprises three parts: Discovering the Blue Zones, Build Your Own Blue Zone, and Cooking in Blue Zones.

The Blue Zones include Nicoya, Costa Rica, Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California, where the Seventh Day Adventist denomination is active.

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta has covered the zones before.

A lot of attention has been given to Blue Zone diets, with are not completely vegan (salmon and some fish is eaten and considered healthful), and which stresses lots of natural oils and nuts, and even wine.
But it is the social lifestyle that catches attention.  Blue zone people are heavily socialized in layers, putting families first.  They are not very interested in public or global recognition as “accomplished” or “esteemed”.  They live for the moment.

Of course, there are notable individualistic outliers, of people (scientists and inventors, and sometimes musicians) who accomplish a lot on their own, while remaining strong and healthy despite less than the usual amount of social interaction.