Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New details on my plans for my "Do Ask Do Tell III" book and supplements

I am working on the production of my first book since 2003.  Actually, I had put a preliminary version ofo it online in just PDF files in the fall of 2011 (see this blog, Oct. 1, 2011).  It is to be called “Do Ask Do Tell III:  Speech is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened To Is a Privilege”

I had thought then that I could simply leave the world of non-fiction book publishing, put everything online, and move on to other things: a novel (to be called “Angel’s Brother”), a non-fiction video, and some screenplays.

By the early spring of 2012, just before I went to NYC for a LGBT book fair, I started got get more calls from my on-demand publisher (iUniverse) about trying to buy marketing packages and pump up sales of my old books (particularly the second 2002 book, “Do Ask Do Tell II: When Liberty Is Stressed”, written after 9/11, but less ambitious than the “epic” first book that I first self-published with my own print run in 1997; that book went to print-on-demand with iUniverse in late 2000 after the first printing was sold out or depleted). 

The basic problem with these appeals is that usually, old “public policy” books don’t sell, because history quickly tends to outrun what the author wrote.  Some old fiction can have that problem, particularly spy or thriller fiction, if it is grounded in circumstances that no longer exist and wants the reader to take the protagonist’s position seriously.  That is in contrast to true historical fiction, like “Gone with the Wind”; the best of this always sells forever.  That’s the stuff in literature classes centuries later.

For each of my first three books (which include the pamphlet “Our Fundamental Rights” (1998), the only work not with a DADT title), I maintained the content with “footnote files”, which added notes keyed to specific chapters and pages in the printed books. 

In time, I would add “sidebar” files and separate essays, and eventually migrate to blogging in 2006.  There were some other experiments (like with Java starter, and eventually my web presence became diffuse and hard to pin down.  That’s a topic for a different post.  What matters here, right now, is the value of publishing a new book in “finite form”, and being willing to play ball with the commercial world on how well it does.

The idea of a book, or sequence of books (like a franchise), with web supplements that are closely keyed to the books, makes it easier for third parties to work with an author like me, because it is easier for them to wrap their arms around (conceptually speaking) what I have done.  It’s hard to do that with a sprawl of “autonomous” blogs.  To work with others and gain more opportunities from media third parties (including “the movies”), I do need more cohesion in my presence, again.  I did have that cohesion for a couple years from 1997 onto 2000 or so, after my first book came out.  That’s partly because social media as we know it today didn’t exist yet, and it was easier to focus on a smaller set of ways of delivering content. The Web 2.0+ world has made it much harder for an author (like me, at least) to keep a presence coherent.

The new book is going to comprise five chapters, topical rather than chronological.  There will be a prologue and epilogue.   In some topical areas, there is some overlap with the material in the other books, particularly in some specific areas like the controversy over self-publishing, and in the direction of the “fair and prosperous workplace”.   The “story” narratives will mostly emphasize history since 2002, but there is some more detailed coverage of a few events that happened as far back as 1960. 

The book, as described, is often rather abstract.  I keep finding different entry points into discussions of various ethical (and therefore social and political) problems, so sometimes I find myself traveling in circles, rather like a train following a very complicated model railroad track layout, covering almost the same material from different vantage points and viewing angles.
Inevitably, after publication, more issues emerge. That’s partly because history changes quickly (with legislation, litigation, court opinions, and all kinds of incidents) and partly because in my own mind I tend to develop new entry points into the same material and draw a certain focus to these new points.  So it will be appropriate to have some core supplementary essays online (as there were for the 1997 book), and a (new) blog with footnotes keyed to the content of any of the books (including supplementary core essays), with an “inverted list” (in relational database terms) to the blog entries so that the reader can trace all the content from the books. 

I do think that for authors and artists today, a mixture of various media (books, web blogs, social media, music, video) can be effective.  CNN just presented the work of Marisha Pressl, “Night Film”, as an example of a multi-media project.  I have just heard about it, and so I can’t “review” it.  But the feedback I seem to get from the business world, especially book publishers, that it is morally and practically important to be able to sell what you write in fixed, printed form. That is still true even “as the world turns”.

In addition to the “non-fiction” book I’ve described, I’m actually planning to include three fictional excerpts.  They will comprise:
(1)    A Chapter of a 1969 unpublished novel “The Proles”, which I wrote by hand in Army barracks at Fort Eustis, VA.  This chapter gives an account, with fictitious names (including for me) of my fourteen weeks in Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson SC early in 1968.  The history of that year is a backdrop.  And, yes, I did get recycled.
(2)    A fiction story, “Expedition” (1981), where I investigate strip mining in Appalachia with a former graduate school roommate, and make a surprising find
(3)    A new story, “The Ocelot the Way He Is” (2013).  At the time that his mother is about to pass away in a hospice, a college-age “acquaintance” invites “Bill” to a rural ashram, where Bill is shown an even more apocalyptic secret. 

It’s possible that these three items might have to be packaged as a second book, a kind of “DADT III-B”. 

I’ll continue the discussion of the “web portion” of this “final exam” on my main blog soon.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Deitz: "Congratulations: You Just Got Hired": Former government "spook" has brief but scalding advice for new hires in the workplace

Author: Robert L. Deitz
Title: “Congratulations: You Just Got Hired

Subtitle: “Don’t Screw It Up”

Publication: 2013, appears self-published (no publisher named;  there is mention of “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform); ISBN 978-1481944298, 33 pages, paper, 5 chapters
Amazon link is this
I can recall, early in my mainframe information technology career, that a few companies were quite picky about dress code.  First it was just IBM, with stories that young men were sent home if they didn’t have long socks and garters under their suits.  That sounds so prudish!  Then H. Ross Perot’s EDS was the sartorial bully, demanding dark suits, perfectly fitted, and ironed white shirts.  Customers will not understand data processing, one 1972 memo that fell before my eyes said;  so dress is what sells their confidence. 

A few decades ago, John T. Molloy put out his infamous “Dress for Success”, which somehow reminds me of another book by Scott Meredith, “Writing to Sell”.   Molloy continued the prudishness, even regionalizing it (the customs in the Deep South were somehow different), and telling young men moving into management that they should add gray to heir temples to look old enough for the job.  Don’t tell Mark Zuckerberg that.

Dietz has worked in the NSA, DOD and CIA arenas, and his advice certainly shows a “pay your dues” mentality.  The five chapters are naturally divided enough: work habits, dress, etiquette, “E-stuff”, and resumes.  And most of the advice seems like common sense.

On the “e-stuff”, he does spend some space (in this very short booklet) on what should be obvious now: your employer has every right to control what you do on work computers, and your employer probably will.  But he precedes that discussion with a brief warning about what you do on the Internet, “even at home on your own time”.  Since about 2006, the media has reported incessantly about employers checking personal use of social media, more often for job applicant than established associates, and has plenty of stories of people being fired for what they say on Facebook, even with privacy settings turned on.  Dr. Phil even had a program called “Internet Mistakes” a few years ago (TV blog, Jan. 15, 2008).  Frankly, I wonder how relevant all the attention to checking credit reports and scores (often tainted by inaccuracies) and formal background investigations is, given the ease with which employers can check social media.  The biggest problem is that it’s easy to find the wrong person (with the same name), and easy even to misidentify people in photographs online.  No one has much a handle on this, still.

Michelle Singletary discussed this book recently in her Washington Post column, and mentioned the stuff about online reputation (link).

I find it interesting that Deitz advises workers to stay abreast of current events and the news.  

I do think there is something lacking in a “one size fits all shoes” approach as in this little tract.
Deitz would probably snicker at some recent episodes in the NBC soap "Days of our Lives", when the character Jennfier has to put up with a do-nothing young female employee.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Ken Cuccinelli: :"The Last Line of Defense": libertarian at times, but inconsistent (obsessed with "Obamacare")

Author: Ken Cuccinelli, with Brian J. Gottstein

Title: “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty

Publication: 2013, Crown, ISBN 978-0-770-43709-1, 260 pages, hardcover, also available I Kindle.

Amazon link is here

The author was elected attorney general of Virginia in November 2009 and is trying to position himself for the GOP nomination for governor of Virginia.

The Virginia Democratic party has run television commercials complaining that the book describes seniors and the disabled as dependent on government, especially the federal government; but actually the author talks very little about such personal “dependency.”

On one level, the book seems like a libertarian manifesto, with certain inconsistencies.  Outside of the scope of the book, the author would need to explain why he seems to be fighting against abortion in almost all circumstances, and thinks that Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law should remain on the books even if he would use it only in crimes against minors (when other laws are obviously available).
Most of the book is indeed about economic policy, and a good portion of it rails against Obamacare, an describes his effort for Virginia to have the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) overturned, or at least the individual mandate, that individuals can be required to purchase insurance if they can’t get it from employers. 

Of course, I understand that for the government to mandate that an individual engage in unwanted commerce (that is, purchasing health care) sets a dangerous precedent, that could encourage similar action in other areas.  Imagine, for example, that the government requires bloggers to have libel liability insurance, which might be almost impossible to get.

But Cucccinelli takes himself for a ride, saying that universal health care would be constitutional, if politically infeasible in the US, if supported only by taxes (more like what happens in Europe).  He also says that it is constitutional for a state (like Massachusetts under Romney) to mandate the purchase of health insurance, under federalism.

The attorney general doesn’t say much about how people with pre-existing conditions should get insurance in a free market, or what to do about the fact that everyone today pays for the uninsured anyway.  He does vouch for private charity, but can “family and friends” really take care of catastrophic illnesses in people with pre-existing conditions like juvenile diabetes?  This would lead to a discussion about filial responsibility, or notions of pre-existing personal responsibility for others that could change our whole concept of marriage (even just traditional heterosexual marriage). 
That discussion should happen in a book by a conservative.

I do agree that some of the “libertarian” proposals for health care – like allowing purchase across state lines – make sense and could be simpler that our system of exchanges. People who have to purchase their own health insurance should certainly get the same pre-tax exclusion that employers get. 
Cuccinelli is a bit of a denier on climate change, saying that there is no proven link between carbon dioxide concentration and a warmer climate.  That’s just ridiculous.  Of course, a climate can temporarily cool for other reasons, like volcanic eruptions.

He also is blind to the environmental damage done by coal strip mining, especially mountaintop removal.

On Network Neutrality, though, I tend to agree with his concept that more competition is what will effectively promote fair user access.