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.