Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Patricia Nell Warren, author of "The Front Runner", passes awat at 82

Numerous sources provided an obituary for author Patricia Nell Warren, who passed away Feb. 16 at age 82.  For example, Daniel Reynolds writes for the Advocate, here.

She is best known for her pioneering gay novel “The Front Runner” (1974), published by William Morrow and Company.  I read the paperback around 1977 when I was living in New York City. The novel never quite became a film; it should have.

The novel concerns an ex-Marine who has led a straight life and impregnated a woman, but is driven, by rumors, out of his athletic coaching career to a job in a small school, where he meets and falls in live with Billy, who also has led a straight life. (Somewhere I remember a transvestite character.)  Billy finally qualifies for the 1976 Olympics race in Montreal.  Much of both major characters’ lives had been led pre-Stonewall.

Warren wrote several sequels and other novels.

She should not be confused with actress  Patrician Neal ; and the book should not be confused with an unrelated political film of the same name.

Wikipedia attribution for second picture, 1976 Olympics in Montreal: Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R0716-0111 / Gahlbeck, Friedrich / CC-BY-SA 3.0 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff's "Surveillance Capitalism", previewed

A 691-page dissertation by a Harvard Business School professor needs a book preview here. That is specifically, “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power”, by Shoshana Zuboff, hardcover, Public Affairs, New York, 2019, ISBN 978-1-61039-569-4.  . The book has four large parts and eighteen chapters. Here's a detailed sample review on the Intercept by Sam Biddle.

The real book ends at p. 525, with a lot of endnotes and index.

And her writing style is like mine, especially in my “Do Ask Do Tell” books and she gets into some of “m”" old themes and takes them much further. I’ll do a full review on Wordpress when I’m done.

But I wanted to note some highlights.

There is a Definition page for Surveillance Capitalism, that serves the same purpose as the Hamlet battlefield quote (“fust in us unused”) in my own DADT-1 book. But the alternative dictionary definitions are all rather Marxist.  Does the Axiom of Choice follow?

Harvard undergraduate John Fish (computer science major) recently said in one of his Friday afternoon videos that managerial capitalism isn’t just replaced by surveillance capitalism – it’s that transactional capitalism is replaced by attention capitalism – like attention compares to dark matter in the Universe. Well, transactional life is the heart of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “skin in the game”; attention capture is just virtue signaling.  “Economic Invincibility” is bound to do a video on these ideas soon.  It’s hard to apply Thomas Piketty’s “Capital” (2014/7/22) to its dark version.

Zuboff’s idea of a “human future” comes right out of Paul Rosenfels in the 1970s (April 12, 2006 on this blog).

Here exposition is Taleb-like.  The paradigm for surveillance capitalism is unprecedented.  But so were many other stages of social development.  Zuboff describes how the basic essence of individual self-concept must have evolved among her ancestors, when a century ago you were born into roles that you didn’t question and had no individual right to be heard; you were part of a tribe.  But modernity went through three phases, she writes, the first one recognized by Ayn Rand as making way for individualism. But individualization is not the same thing as individualism. The irony of surveillance capitalism is that it drive everyone back to life in a hive (like on the spaceship in the 1996 movie “Independence Day”, where Bill Pullman is much less convincing as president than a future David Hogg.

She points to the date of Wednesday, August 9, 2011 as important for several reasons, one of which was the establishment of “the right to be forgotten” in Europe.  That has mattered a lot in my own “second career”.

But I wanted to jump to the conclusion, “A Coup from Above” (that is, "a manifesto"), where she deploys the epigram “No More!”, which is lifted right out of David Hogg’s amazing speech to the March of our Lives crowd in Washington March 24, 2018.

Hogg starts as a freshman at Harvard in the fall of 2019 after his gap year and surely will have courses from her. But he has already started running for president himself, at 17. And it’s surveillance capitalism that gives “the young people” every advantage for winning.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Life: "The Day Kennedy Died"

Life Magazine has another historical coffee table book, “The Day Kennedy Died”, Nov. 22, 1963, edited by Robert Sullivan, 112 pages.

The  coverage of the day of the assassination doesn’t start until page 38, “That Day in Dallas”. The preceding pages cover the Camelot “royal” family and then the events like Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall (ironic now for the US), and Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy was making the trip to shore up his shaky political base, and Dallas was said to be a “city of hate”.  The Kennedys had stayed in a hotel in Fort Worth and made the very short flight to Love Field.

The book starts its frame-by-frame analysis of the Zapruder film on p 88 with the most critical probablt being 262 and 313. The book does not come to a definitive conclusion as to whether Oswald was the only shooter.

This all happened in a troubling period of my own life.  The Kennedy assassination occurred slightly less than two full years after my own William and Mary expulsion. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred while I was a “patient” at NIH, about 13 months before the assassination.

I had started my first wage-earning job at the National Bureau of Standards on the old Federal City college on Van Ness St, in the oil viscosity (rheology) lab.  My boss came into the lab at about 1:50 PM EST (one hour ahead of Dallas) and announced the shootings and turned on the radio. Within about 45 minutes we heard that the president was dead, and we were dismissed for the day. The announcement didn’t come until 1:38 CST even though he was pronounced at 1:00 PM CST.

The CBS video above was from the soap “As the World Turns” and the soap as allowed to run for a while after the first announcement. News was slow then.

I can recall the classical station WGMS playing the Adagietto of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, on the old Zenith radio in the basement where I had heard the Washington Senators lose a lot of baseball games (1963 was a particularly bad year, although the MLK March had happened in August).

On Sunday, we were at the First Baptist Church at 16th and O, and leaving and I was riding down 17th St with my father driving, with radio coverage of the transfer of Oswald.  I literally heard the shooting over the car radio.  “He’s been shot”.

The wound to Kennedy’s head from the second shot was particularly gruesome.  There is no way it could or should have been survivable.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Atlantic offers big article on animal consciousness

Ross Anderson, in the March issue of the Atlantic, explores what consciousness is. “Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition”.   He talks about the intelligence of crows in solving problems in getting at food (dropping nuts at stoplights). Crow brain structures are complex but very different from mammalian; there is no cerebral cortex. Crows also seem to recognize people in their environments and will revisit them (so do mockingbirds) to “check up on them”. I had a crow scream at me to get inside the day of Hurricane Sandy.

Later he gets into the consciousness of fish and even social insects, and possibly one-celled organisms. But he doesn’t get into integrated information theory as have some other articles.

One thing of interest to me is when wild animals do make friends with people (bobcats, foxes).

Back in 1993, Time Magazine had an article, “Do Animals Think?”

In January 2017. Geoffrey Smith had written about research in the consciousness of the octopus, which is considerable, even if the brain is distributed through the body.  It may resemble wavering among dream-like states.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Life Magazine redux: "The 1960s: The Decade Where Everything Changed"

Life (as part of Time) is offering a supermarket coffee-table paperback, 112 pages, “The 1960s: The Decade Where Everything Changed”, edited by Robert Sullivan.

In January 1960 I was a junior in high school, and in history class we were just about to cover the War Between the States.  At the time, “negro” was an acceptable word, even in class.

During the summer we would hear the Nixon-Kennedy debates, and Kennedy would start out with the “Ask Not” inauguration speech on a day after a sudden thunderstormy blizzard in Washington.

As I’ve documented elsewhere, the early 60s were still quite homophobic, as would continue into the middle 60s with Dean Rusk’s firing people from the State Department and CBS’s 1967 documentary “The Homosexuals” with Mike Wallace.  But it would start to change fairly suddenly with Stonewall.

But the pivotal years were 1962 (Cuban Missile Crisis), 1963 (Kennedy Assassination) and 1968, when I was drafted.  I was in BCT when I heard Johnson’s non-acceptance speech on March 31.
There would be a Poor People's March on Washington in May 1968, just as a major even in 1963 with MLK.  When MLK was assassinated we were on "red alert" at Fort Jackson.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

"Asylumist" blog recommends some children's books on immigration

The Asylumist” is a blog run by Washington DC attorney Jason Dzubow, and today he has an unusual and inviting post, “Some Great Immigration and Refugee Books for Kids”, link

A couple of the books are actually in the format of graphic novels.

I’ll mention maybe three of them.

Two White Rabbits” (2015), by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yochteng, translated by Elisa Amado. 32 pages, Groundwood books, tells the story of a migrant journey through Central America from the viewpoint of the kids, sometimes riding on top of trains, facing the border, wall or not.

Illegal” (2018) , by Eoin Coffer and Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano, 144 pages. Sourcebook Jannerwocky tells about a journey to Europe from Niger across the Sahara.

An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yosuf Omar” (2015), by Reinhardt Kleist, by Self-Made Hero, 152 pages, represented Somalia in the 2008 Olympics on Beijing, and lost her life on her journey home.  This graphic novel is based on a true story.

Monday, February 04, 2019

"Kids These Days" by Malcolm Harris, explains why millennials act the way they do -- because "capitalism" has exploited them and disposed of many of them

Sean Illing gives a preview, in an interview, of a new book from Little Brown by Malcolm Harris, “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials”, 272 pages.

The Vox article that does the review is called “Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism”.  This sounds so much like Umair Haque. 

Harris seems to feel that there is something morally corrupt about turning labor into capital. The article leads back to an earlier article about Steven Pearlstein, who wants to save capitalism from its excessive shareholder-driven form. Managerial capitalism isn’t so bad – but it comes down to keeping individuals socialized and getting too deep into their own fantasies about meritocracy. That’s supposed to happen in the families, but you have to get individualized out from under that into intermittent periods of national or community service, he thinks.

Harris admits the influence of Marxism, and seems to think you can’t save neo-liberalism because it is too lost in its own idea of self-concept.  Like people need to join up.