Sunday, July 15, 2018

When children's books become like small alien cities

When you reach something in Dutch (like a tweet from actor/singer Timo Descamps) looks like slightly scrambled English; then even spoken Dutch is almost understandable to English speakers. So Michael Erard offers an opinion, “What Dutch Children’s Books Can Teach Adults”.  

These “zoekboeks” are picture books of whole imaginary kingdoms, circulated through seasons, almost like board game templates. That’s the zoekbook, which invites the reader to go on a low tech Pokemon search. The German counterpart is the Wimmelbuch.

Speaking of board games, there really aren’t that many based on a geographical layout of a place.  I remember vaguely there was a game called Mr. Ree, which was more complicated than Clue. But there was also a game called Star Reporter, which had an imaginary country with a capital called Urbana, and a network of roads, rail, and airplanes.  In this age where Trump calls journalists enemies of the people, we ought to bring it back.

Reid Ewing has been tweeting about working on a graphic novel, and recently posted a work-in-progress  video for “The Winchester Half-Tragedy”, which happens in a high school and environs. The outspoken kids (exploring dysmorphia, fluidity, rebellion) eventually brush up with real tragedy. There is irony (a high school principal becomes a “principle” but that happened to me in 2005 when I worked as a sub.) The video has the text and still hand-drawn images, and some plain text.  An animated film would be interesting (would run about 15 minutes instead of 27). I hope Reid gets somewhere with this commercially.
All this reminds me of comics, which I don’t read, but I had at least two coworkers who were fans of Doonsbury (like today’s about delayed brain development in guys).

Monday, July 09, 2018

Malcolm Nance's "The Plot to Destroy America" previewed

Salon, in a long interview article by Chauncey Devega, offers a long and troubling interview with Malcolm Nance, an African-American former Naval intelligence officer and author of “The Plot to Destroy America: How Putin and his Spies are Undermining America and Dismantling the West” (Hachette Books, 2018). 
I looked at a preview of the book, and it calls Vladimir Putin the first Russian president of the United States, with Donald Trump as essentially his avatar.
The Russians got mad, indeed, of American sanctions and about the tanking of their economy in their early days of capitalism.

But Nance describes a global conspiracy, right out of the James Bond movie world, to control the world for the benefit of the oligarchs and put most ordinary people into obedient submission.
The interview describes the Russian malware hack in detail (with Cozy Bear, as does the opening of the book).

But the Russians infiltrated by looking for the most intellectually weak but gullible segment of the USD population, the less educated white “nationalists”, to organize. They also knew that “elite” American mainstream liberals didn’t care personally about these people or about their own underclass. So they wouldn’t notice if the underclass was persuaded by fake news driven by bots. This was Nietzsche turned upside down. 

Nance thinks we are "on the verge of losing the American constitutional republic forever."

It’s odd, but a lot of intellectual pundits (myself included) took no responsibility for the relative contextual illiteracy of a lot of their readers.

It seems as though maybe the Russians even set up “The Apprentice”, complete with Troy McClain’s leg waxing scene. Why did Trump fall for it?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

"The Perfect Weapon": another book, this times from a NYTimes writer, warns on destruction of the power grid by enemies

Nicholas Kristof has a book preview and warning on p. A19 of the Thursday, July 5, 2018 New York Tines, the opinion article titled “To Hackers, We’reBambi in the Woods.

The book at issue is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age”, by Kristof’s “Times colleague” David Sanger, from Crown publishers, about 380 pages, somewhat expensive.  I have just ordered it from Amazon.

The book’s premise seems to be that the cyber attacks already launched, such as against Ukraine’s power grid and then Russia’s hack in 2015 of the Democrats, may presage a massive cyber attack against the US power grid, such as Ted Koppel had described in “Lights Out” (Nov. 10, 2015).  North Korea’s attack on Sony in 2014 counts, also.

Of course, I’ve been much more concerned about the possibility of an EMP attack, probably from a high altitude nuclear blast, than a massive cyber attack on facilities that are not supposed to be connected to the public Internet. An E1 (which knocks out electronics) is easier to carry out than an E3 (which knocks out the actual power transformers), and E1 weapons could be non-nuclear. 
But the article insists the Russians planted malware in our grid in 2015. Sinclair Broadcasting has also issued such stories.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Curious pitches from these companies: Top Link, Page

I often noticed my smartphone going off at unwelcome times (when driving, when touching it is a no-no, or at the movies): I can feel it despite the silencer.  The only exception is at a chess club, where there is an absolute no cell phones policy (so it stays in the car).
So I got a couple of messages from TopLink Publishing.  The claim is that my self-published book retail prices are too high (I agree with that), and that they can take over (for an upfront fee, probably) and republish for lower retail prices.  They also make a comment about supposed appraisal of your books and your work.  
Here is the Better Business Bureau website list of reviews.  As you can see, the results are mixed.  I don’t have any further information, but I would investigate (a lot) further before doing anything.  Note that it is not BBB accredited.
I’ve also listened to a number of cable TV ads from Page Publishing, with BBB review link here.  I am surprised to hear a pitch on a television ad say, “If we accept your book…”.  Most self-publishing companies seem to accept everything that is lawful, and not obvious hate speech.  But some (as reported in an Oct. 16, 2013 posting) do select only submissions that can “sell” as printed books.  (I don’t know if Page is POD.) 
There is a narrow range where an author can self-publish and make money with this sort of publisher.  Normally, when someone already established and well known in a field (may be a politician, or might be a teen science fair winner) trade publishers step in and the books do sell.

There is another company pitching self-publishing for Christian books only.  Again, the limitation sounds odd. 
Here’s a quick picture story about a book store in China, “The Infinity Bookstore” with the books arranged in a tunnel.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Matthew Blackwell reviews Haidt, Sowell and Pinker in examining left-wing combativeness in Quilette article

Matthew Blackwell has a booklet-length article from March 2018 on Quillette, “The Psychology of Progressive Hostility”, link here

Blackwell covers the combativeness of the Left in academia, and the tendency of some “Progressives” to label people with conservative counter-speech as enemies who must be kept at bay.  He notes that economists and mathematicians tend to become conservative (at least in fiscal issues, though not on social issues) or somewhat libertarian, leaving teaching college, from softer social sciences, to the classical Leftists.

There is also a division in whether people should be viewed first as individuals, or as members of groups, possibly intersected. Conservatives tend to use reason more and respond to emotion less.  Conservatism, of the kind Andrew Sullivan espouses, for example, looks at the world as complex, needing pragmatic, well though out and analyzed solutions to issues like health care and immigration. Ultra-progressives demand utopia immediately, which does not exist.

Progressives may feel daunted by conservative obliviousness to some emotion.  For example, James Damore's Google article angered many people yet the article says nothing personally offensive when read closely; it does challenge some superficial beliefs on what equality should mean. Damore, who says "I see things differently" and says he is mildly autistic (Asperger) simply presents the research and the logical implications of what he finds, without regard to how people will react. The same could be said about Milo Yiannopoulos's book "Dangerous" when read carefully (and separated from the emotions). 
Progressives are also more dependent on the mechanics of conventional activism, which demands aggressive recruiting, loyalty and solidarity.  When a large number of libertarian-leaning conservatives become conspicuous writing and acting alone, it is much harder to organize a base.  But the aggregation of content by social media according to the consumer may make individualized writing less effective than it used to be, and therefore less of a distraction for activists.

Blackwell mentions and briefly reviews three books:

Jonathan Haidt: “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” (2013, Vintage).

Thomas Sowell: “A Conflict of Visions” (2017, Basic).
Steven Pinker: “The Blank Slate” (2003, Penguin).

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Edit Sheffer's "Asperger's Children": Nazi ideas about socialization

I wanted to note a shocking book review in the New York Times review, Sunday, June 24, 2018, p. 12, “A Deadly Spectrum” A history of autism rooted in Nazi Germany and its program of child euthanasia”, or more startling online, “Was autism a Nazi invention?” 

The book is “Asperger’s Children: The Origin of Autism in Nazi Vienna”, by Edith Sheffer, from W.W. Norton and Company.

The work as based in part on a German psychiatrist, Lorna Wing, after Asperger’s death.  Asperger probably was complicit with Nazi euthanasia of children who showed poor social bonding skills, of lack of “Gemut, the ability to form deep (social) bonds with other people”, for the sake of the Volk – populism indeed.

Today, Asperger’s is rolled into the autism spectrum disorder – and yet people with it sometimes are very brilliant and make great contributions to science.
Michael Burry, a former doctor, may be an example.  Not liking to follow the crowd, he founded a hedge fund that anticipated the flaws in the system that brought about the “Black Swan” of the 2008 financial crisis.  People with this sort of disposition often see dangers to the “crowd” before others do, part of the whole “skin in the game” issue.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Prison author Stephen Reid dies, after the "Oceans 11" jobs early in his life, before jail

Ian Austen has an obituary of author Stephen Reid in the New York Times.  

What’s noteworthy is that Reid became an established author while an inmate in prison. Two of his books on Amazon are “A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden: Writing from Prison” (from Thistledown, 2003) and “Jackrabbit Parole” (Quality Paperback, 1986).

The author was born in Ontario and his “smash and grab jobs” were usually or always without real weapons.

This is not a topic that I would have embraced before, personally speaking.