Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nicholas Buamah, at age 8, has book published that helps grade school students learn vocabulary

Selena Hill of Black Enterprise reports that a seven-year-old’s book, “Kayla and Kyle: The Walking Dictionaries; Election Day” bas been accepted by the Library of Congress, story. The author is Georgia’s Nicholas Nuamah.

The children’s book depicts a class election, and teaches vocabulary along the way.
Nicholas appeared on Steve Harvey today. He gave the example of a big word, "exacerbate" means "to make worse". 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"First Books" provides children's books to low-income schools

I received a charity mailing from a non-profit named “First Books”, which apparently distributes children’s books to schools in low-income areas. Some of these were from the “Magic Tree House” series.

The group also has a distribution agreement with a group called OMG based on a court settlement.

I don’t generally respond to over-personalized charity requests, but I try to look for things that match the work I do. 
But I may start talking to independent bookstores more soon. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Time Magazine writer, after long piece very critical of India's leadership, finds Wikipedia page vandalized

Time Magazine recently offered a booklet-length article by Aatish Taseer on Narenda Modi’s :reign” in India, as an example of populism and leading to anti-intellecualism.

In an attempt to defuse socialism (and India’s bureaucracy, which has been criticized). Modi is said to have created a climate of “religious nationalism”, comparable to alt-right movements in many countries.

His attitudes are supposed to have undermined the intellectual capital that allowed Indian companies to get Y2K work from American companies, for example.

The writer’s Wikipedia page (now OK) is said to have been vandalized.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Why is author Dan Harris so controversial (with Carlos Maza, anyway)?

Eric Johnson of Vox publishes an interview by Kara Swisher of Recode Decode of Sam Harris, whose best known book now is “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” (Simon and Schuster, 256 pages, 2015).

Harris gets into why even mainstream Islam, in his view, has a problem, that tends to invite radicalization. By comparison, white supremacy among Christians, he thinks, is at the very fringes, even given Charlottesville.

He made some comparisons of Sri Lanka with New Zealand that many will not welcome.

Yet, Carlos Maza yesterday tweeted that Vox should not have published this, and that “bad faith actors and bigots should be quarantined” from speech. They can be explained around without being given a platform. 

As for Harris’s ideas, I’ve worked for persons of Muslim faith and with them for years, and never imagined a problem before 9/11 happened.  The point of terrorists is to force others to become polarized.
And it’s hard to say what scripture has the most clobber passages.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Fiction authors of color irritated by expectations of political correctness at book signings

Thrity Umrigar is a prolific author from India with an interesting column in the Washington Post Style section on Monday, May 6.

Her novels are complex family sagas, like “The Space Between Us”, “The World We Found”, and “Everyone’s Son”.

She talks about the quizzed about political correctness at book events, as indicated by the title of her article, “For writers of color, the questions that sting”.

Technically, people from India are usually considered Caucasian by science, but still call themselves POC.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Indie bookstores become much more conscious of indulging consumers with other items

Here are a couple more stories about how indie bookstores make comebacks.

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Susan Kitchens on Apr. 28, discusses A Capella Books in Atlanta – how a retailer borrowed from a closed-knot social structure but in time turned to special author events.

The article discusses “book curation”, the idea that a local store could indulge consumers with very specific and narrow genres.

Alexander Alter, in a New York Times article on May 2, talks about a Canadian chain, Indigo, that packages books with consumer items like “reading socks”.  The idea seems to be catching on with Barnes and Noble, but I had noticed this – certain games and toys (and previously music cd’s) were often sold.
This reminds me of a bizarre phone call I got, out of the blue, in 2012 quizzing me if I would want to go on a tour in Canada.  Why would this make sense when my main 1997 book had been about an American policy regarding gays in the military? 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

New York Times explores the importance of public libraries, in the "Web 3.0 age".

The New York Review of Books from Sunday April 28 has a long article by Sue Halpern, “In Praise of Public Libraries”, link
She mentions a long (197-minute) documentary “Ex Libris: TheNew York Public Library” by Frederick Wiseman (there is a shorter version for China) which I should watch some day.  Does the title of this film have anything to do with the name of the POD publishing company (under Author Solutions) "Xlibris"? The movie is also the name of a cloud-based education content company.
She starts out with an anecdote about a small town apparently in the Catskills and a bookmobile (remember those?) that went out of service.  The town proposed a small tax increase to fund a library, and wrought a resistance from the right wing. Eventually, however, the library was built and it boomed and became very popular, even in the Internet era.
She then goes into discussion of the New York City and Los Angeles central libraries.
That is all in conjunction with two new books: (1) Eric Klineburg, “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”.  So can reforming social media (another post to go up today), and (2) “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, from Simon and Schuster.

A good question for new authors is how seriously they should go after the public library market to sell their books, even in this Internet age.  

Harvard undergraduate John Fish has made several videos on his channel about reading, such as the value of fiction, the value of volume reading (for humanities in college), and increasing reading speed without losing comprehension (I can imagine how that can matter in the culture wars).  He also sells audio books (link ) as a dorm room business. This facility would make me wonder how far new authors should go in offering audiobooks;  I haven't heard the topic come up in self-publishing contexts.  It sounds expensive.  You would wonder how students would have time to listen to them, but that's like having the time to watch videos or listen to podcasts. He hasn't posted in the last three weeks, don't know why.  
Back in 2012, actor Reid Ewing had made a short film “It’s Free” set in a Los Angeles public library, where he made the case for free access to information but almost inadvertently set up today’s debate on whether “free” social media is really free.  I wish the film were available because it could help with today’s debate on Internet policy. 
There is a correlated post on the Movies blog today about the Alexandria Egypt library fire in 47 BC. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

White nationalist demonstration disrupts reading of Metzl's book "Dying of Whiteness" in DC

A book reading at the Connecticut Ave. bookstore for “Politics and Prose” was interrupted Saturday April 27, 2019 by a brief demonstration by what appeared to be a small group of white nationalists, WTOP reports.

The event was the “National Antiracist Book Festival”. 

The book was Jonathan M. Metzl’s “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland”, from Basic Books, 320 pages.

The book rails at the tribalism on the new right, with the science denial and poor individual choices, that oddly parallels similar tribalism on the extreme left.  From reports, the book would seem to encourage more personal intellectual responsibility of the Jordan Peterson kind.

Marissa J. Lang has an account of the protest, with the bookstore near Comet Ping Pong, here.  The "trade homeland for handouts" meme is rather striking. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Time's "The Science of Good and Evil"; physicians discuss personal "Compassionomics"

I’m getting ready to review Joshua Greene’s “Moral Tribes” on my main Wordpress blog (recommended by Harvard undergrad vlogger John Fish), but I’ll preview it with the Time special edition coffee table book “The Science of Good and Evil”, edited by Edward Feiesenthal and D. W. Pine, with a lot of leadership from Jeffrey Kluger, 96 pages.

There is an interesting chapter by Richard Jerome on whether animals have morality. Well, capcuchin monkeys and bonobo chimps do, as do dogs,  Sand tiger sharks, however, cannibalize their weaker siblings in the “womb” before they are born.

The first chapter, by Kluger et al, takes up some of the well-known moral puzzles (The Sinking Lifeboat, the Crying Baby, the Runaway Trolley and the switch problem).  Subsequent chapters look at the physiology of evil, in terms of the structure of the brain (Bundy, Holmes, etc).  There are also biographies of Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler (who was quite spoiled and incompetent in practical things as a boy, rather telling).  Yet there is evidence that even the worst can eventually develop a moral compass.

There is an important chapter (p. 34) on voluntarism by Kate Rope, “Good Deeds, Good Health, and Good Life”.  There is discussion of caregiving and compassion fatigue, but there is a general impression that relatively open (and not overly selective) volunteering is a good thing for most people.

This morning (April 27), Smerconish (CNN) interviewed author Anthony Mazarrelli who (along with Stephen Trzeciak and Cory Booker) authored “Compassionomics”, published Studer Group.  A lot of this is about whether medical practitioners care, but a lot of people will survive challenging illnesses and cancers if they know others care personally.  This is a bit of a change from how things were when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, when less could be done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Martine Kalaw: "Illegal Among Us: A Stateless Woman's Quest for Citizenship", book preview, long immigration narrative starting in Zambia

TASSC International (the Torture Abolition Survivors and Support Coalition) in Washington DC had an event today, which I did not attend, with author Martine Mwanj Kalaw, of the Huffington Post, along with her legal team. 

She is author of  Illegal Among Us: A Stateless Woman’s Quest for Citizenship”, from Sunbury Press, 263 pages.  It is also called  “Woman Without an Identity”.

Her life story, originating with her father’s desertion and mother’s death from AIDS in Zambia, and her lengthy period in the US as undocumented and the assistance she received in getting citizenship, is quit intricate, as summarized here.

The story would touch on the DACA issue today.

It would also bear on the question of what can American citizens do on their own (legally) to help persons in her situation.
I purchased a Kindle copy and should do a detailed review later.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo of Victoria Falls. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"White Fragility", by Robin DiAngelo, would seem to demand white people today personally own up to their implied collusion with inherited racism

The Guardian, in an article by Nosheen Iqbal, gives a preview of the book “White Fragility: Why It's so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo, from the University of Washington. The book has a foreword by Michael Eric Dyson, from Beacon Press, 192 pages.

The book is concerned with the idea of institutional power, born of past colonialism.

She seems to believe that neutrality and the absence of mention of race by white people is not enough. She considers racism a “white problem”, and doesn’t consider “reverse racism” (by the radical Left today) to be racism.

Therefore it seems morally acceptable, perhaps, to hold up speech by people with past privilege until they step forward and will do something specifically about their implicit collusion with this problem.
This could become quite threatening.  White speech could be silenced until it will acknowledge this problem explicitly.  It could come down even on my head, as I almost never take up race or minority group status as such, and treat everything as an individual matter in my DADT books.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Brittany Pettibone ("What Makes Us Girls") asks "Why Are Books Becoming so Terrible?" -- answer: SJW's

Brittany Pettibone , author of “What Makes Us Girls”  (Reason Books, 2018, 152 pages – she has a few signed copies left)  does a video“Why Are Books Becoming so Terrible?

She starts out by explaining how New York literary agents work – and I had some experience with one (Mike Sullivan) in the 1990s with my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book.  Predictably, the bias of most agents is toward the Left.

Then she migrates the specific genre of young adult fiction, and, you guessed it, the social justice warries have invaded it like termites.

Really, there are so many sins that contradict each other. For a white author to dare to create a black character.  But, aw, to have only white heroes, to have black or Muslim villains.  You can imagine where this heads.

Kat Rosenfeld  explains all in a Vulture article The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter”. 

Similar concerns have invaded Hollywood, and even television series.  I have to admit, “The Good Doctor” transcends this problem because the autistic hero surgeon of the series becomes a better person than everyone else and has his own kind of charisma – so the series gets beyond SJW political correctness that views disability as a group. But think of the popular series like TheWB’s  “Smallville”, about a teenage Clark Kent, which started in 2001. Today it would be seen as too white-centered.

I didn’t pay much attention to this in the two short stories at the end of my DADT III book (2014), but it could undermine my novel (“Angel’s Brothers”) where the two leading characters (there are dual omniscient observers) are gay men, one middle aged and white, the other of Latino background but described as white (which is very common in Texas).  I make the high ranking CIA official a PoC woman, but that won’t satisfy the SJW’s.  I’ll get into this again on my Wordpress blog about the progress of my own work.

Monday, April 15, 2019

"Cats: Companions in Life" from the legacy publisher of the same name

Life Magazine offers a new coffee table book about one of our favorite companions, edited by J. I. Baker, “Cats: Companions in Life”, 96 pages, glossy, paper, heavily illustrated.

The main sections are “Feline Behavior”, “Rulers of the House”, “The Truth about Kittens”, and “Cats v. Dogs”.

The second chapter covers ancient history 8000 years ago when man started inventing agriculture and then having housing. Cans moved in and helped eliminate the mice, and stayed around and domesticated themselves, and got smaller.

The book has a comparison of the intelligence of dogs and cats.  Dogs may have more brain neurons, but the cat cerebral cortex may have more folds and actual surface, like humans.  When cats “downsized” they kept their intelligence.

Dogs are born tribal, and cats are born as individualists – except for lions, which are genetically similar to tigers (can cross mate) but look different because of their social groupings (a good example or race in wild animals). Foxes, while biologically closer to dogs, behave more like cats.

Dogs may know more words and commands, but cats may be better at solving problems on their own, because they have to do so to hunt alone.  That’s why among mammals, carnivores and omnivores (primates) have to be smart.

When I was in a second floor apartment in Dallas with outdoor balcony access, a cat adopted me. He would recognize the sound of my car as I drove up.  He could disappear for a few days, and return to the right apartment to check up on me. He would offer me mice he had caught. He definitely knew who he was as an individual, and he knew who I was.  Sometimes he slept at the foot of the bed.  If he wanted to go outside, he would claw the pillow and mew.  I had the feeling that Timmy knew a lot about a wild world I had no  concept of, and he thought that I was supposed to go out and learn to hunt.
In the IQ test in the video, Cosmos (the Cat) beats Milo (the dog) 5-3, but the test seemed skewed to wild solitary hunting skills that Milo didn’t need.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Foreign Affairs takes on ethnic nationalism in Europe

The March/April issue of Foreign Affairs offers, on p. 61, a long essay by Lars-Erik Cederman, “Blood for Soil: The Fatal Temptation of Ethnic Politics”, link

The writer is a professor of International Conflict Research at ETH Zurich.

The combination of growing inequality and the hardships imposed by helping the migrants in Europe have given rise to ethnic nationalism in some countries, especially in eastern Europe.

Often, as with Trump in the US, it is rural whites who feel they are being sacrificed for abstract (to them) goals like climate change.  And some will look to authoritarian figures like Orban or Erdogan to make an ethnic group for them and expropriate by force from their enemies and make things right. Trump is not as bad as some of these dictators in Europe.
In Poland, some politicians no go after gays as enemies of “Christian western culture”.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

David Pakman interviews author Denise Hearn, "The Myth of Capitalism"

The David Pakman show interviews author Denise Hearn who, along with Jonathan Tepper, authored “The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition”, 382 pages, published by Wiley.

The title explains the book.  And corporate lobbying (as opposed to grassroots speech) helps protect the consolidation of big companies.

The irony is that in Silicon Valley, big monopolies have championed leftist values when it comes to censorship of speech, and this has even spread to payment processors.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Baltimore Mayor's children's book scandal draws negative attention to self-publishing even in print, not just online

Just when individualized Internet self-expression is coming under scrutiny from various threats (FOSTA, EU Article 11/13/17, fake news and even the left-wing idea of “stochastic terrorism”) now the book self-publishing industry gets a smear, from a scandal involving Baltimore’s mayor Catherine Pugh and her sale of her own self-published children’s books in her “Healthy Holly” series.

Remember, book publishers don't have a Section 230 problem;  they are responsible, but the volume of what they have to look at is manageable (unlike the case with YouTube videos) because of the "granularity" of the product. 
Mary Carole McCauley writes this up in the Baltimore Sun, "How the Rise of the Self-Publishing Industry Contributed to the Problems forBaltimore’s Mayor". 

The article points out that some famous literary figures, like Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman have been self-published, and that the development of the Amazon Kindle (and the BN Nook) led to a book in it starting around 2007.

But actually print-on-demand had started before 2000, and I did my own print run (about 400) of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book in the early summer of 1997, relatively inexpensively, although the binding wasn’t that good; I converted to POD in August 2000.

Not all self-publishers accept everything.  Page, for example, keeps saying “if we accept your book …” in its ads.  Some smaller outfits are more like cooperative publishers, and won’t accept material they don’t think can sell actual copies.

I could talk about how I’ve been “hounded” about why I don’t sell well now, and the fact is, personal accounts from non-celebrities don’t sell forever.  That was true with many autobiographical books by those caught up in “don’t ask don’t tell” (or maybe “do ask do tell”) for gays in the military as Clinton’s proposal struggled in the 1990s. Sales would be good for the first year or so and stop, even though most were from traditional publishers.
The Sun article notes that children’s literature is especially challenging for self-publishers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules", well, the executive summary, and the Lobster Metaphor (and "Clean Your Room")

I recently bought a paperback copy of Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” (2018).  There has been a lot of controversy about this book being "banned" by some sellers in New Zealand and other places (video). 

Well, I thought I did.  The original book from Random House Canada runs over 400 pages.  What I actually bought was a booklet from the Executive Growth Summaries for Personal Growth series. It runs 80 pages with ISBN 978-172598071-6.

Nevertheless, the summary gives you enough to demonstrate the controversy. On page xi, it gives you a QR code to point your smartphone camera at to open a link with the 12 rules.

Furthermore, when I picked up my copy at a UPS store, the teenager working there pointed out to me that Amazon or the UPS driver had opened it “by mistake”.  Spying on someone for buying “right wing” literature?

 A few of the points help demonstrate the controversy.

The most disturbing to some people is the first one, “stand up straight”.  Peterson gets into a metaphor about the life of a male lobster to develop his idea that social hierarchy in nature is essential for anything to work. He sees it as almost a mathematical axiom. But roughly speaking, this sounds like a justification of authoritarianism and “ranking” or “rightsizing” people, a preoccupation of both fascism and communism (as in China today with the idea of a “social credit score”).  This observation might have motivated the 2015 satirical movie “The Lobster”, from director Yorgos Lanthimos, where single people are forced to find partners or be turned into beasts.

Point #6 is the “clean your room” idea, get your own life in order no matter how “unfair” the world has been to you. That call for unconditional self-discipline has drawn a lot of anger and indignation, to say the least.   This sounds like my essay “Assimilate (or join a resistance and assimilate)” or my father’s dictum “to obey is better than to sacrifice”.
Point #12 suggests we have a lot to learn from animals, more from cats (for their independence) than dogs.  It is certainly very good for teenagers to have experiences with wilder animals, and learn communication skills with beings that are a lot smarter (about their own worlds) than we realize. 
Martin Goldberg is very critical of Peterson’s hyperindividualism in his own “clean your room” video, and says people need to be open to joining others with collective activism, sometimes. 
It's not clear how Peterson replies to bullying.

It's interesting that Peterson grew up in a remote town even north of Edmonton, Alberta (the edge of civilization at the West Edmonton Mall).

Wikipedia attribution link for photo of lobsters in a supermarket tank in CT (CCSA 4.0)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Time gives detailed and sympathetic coverage of Octavio-Cortez

Here is Charlotte Alter’s lengthy Time portrayal of Alexandria Octavia-Cortez’s rising, “Change Is Closer than you Think”.

Yet on Friday morning, Tim Pool launched an angry tweet at the author of the article, not at Cortez. 

Ocasio-Cortez sounds aggressive, and willing to threaten Marxist style expropriation to put people who don’t deserve to be where they are in their right places.  That is sort of what Maoism was about. That could affect people like me, maybe like shutting down Social Security on means testing, or maybe tying Internet use to social credit someday. 

Yet there is an argument that a non-capital model for productivity can work within the context of localism, as some intention communities (like Twin Oaks in Central Virginia) are showing.
There is something else about Pool’s (and perhaps Martin Goldberg’s) uncompromising intellectualism (how many of his videos end “you know I’m right”) that gets put in a place in this article on Medium by Ryan Holiday, "It’s not enough to be right, you have to be kind" where he says “you can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.”  Haque recently compared democratic socialism to “your local record store” as opposed to YouTube. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Atlantic offers major articles on John Bolton (national security advisor) and on pragmatic immigration policy

April 2019 issue of The Atlantic offers to important articles.

On p, 44, Graeme Wood asks “Will John Bolton Bring on Armageddon or Stave It Off? Bolton brought some fear when McMaster was ousted in March 2018, and became national security adviser on April 9. Bolton was said to have a very hawkish reputation, and wanted to tear up past agreements, as with Iran.

Trump had left the impression that he might do a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea, but after the winter Olympics he rather suddenly softened his position, leading to the summits in Singapore and recently Hanoi.

Bolton, in a recent interview on CNN, said that the “failed” Hanoi talks may not that bad – he still thinks that Trump’s offering an eventually more prosperous economy, at least for the Communist elite in North Korea, would be in Kim Jong Un’s best interest and safest for the U.S.  Trump, a few times in mid 2018, actually said that his buttering up Kim was necessary to prevent possible (nuclear) war now.

Bolton (from Baltimore, a “blue” city) has been described as OK on social issues, like supporting gay marriage.

On p. 64, David Frum (photo work by Oliver Munday and Patrick White), asks “How Much Immigration Is Too Much?  (Online his subtitle is, “If liberals won’t enforce borders, fascists will”.)  Frum, normally conservative, is quite objective on the various ways immigration policy would affect various subgroups of Americans, and his arguments are quite double-edged.

Generally, increasing legal immigration would help wealthier Americans but could hurt some low-wage Americans.  It’s quite true that lower-wage (and sometimes undocumented) immigrants do the labor-intensive, manual jobs Americans don’t want to do, including housekeeping and particularly caregiving. Increase legal immigration will improve economic growth, even as native born Americans have lower birth rates (which is sometimes an ideological weapon of the alt-right).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Again, the Christchurch incident gives the idea of a "manifesto" a bad name

Indeed, I do have a tag “objectionable books” on this blog, and this includes “manifestos” of a few notorious criminals.

OK, the author is apparently Brenton Tarrant, one of three people charged in the Christchurch attack. I read the 74 page screed on Document Cloud;  it now gives a 403-forbidden. (Elliot Rodger’s is still there and accessible.)

The manifesto also refers to a 1500-page screed by Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik,

Given the notoriety, I won’t give the links and determined users can probably find them.  I personally think that users need to know how people like this think, so it should be available in archives. Students need to know what "great replacement" means, even if the idea is repulsive.  Kaczynski’s has long been online.

There are stories Sunday afternoon that the prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand had received an email with the manifesto about 10 minutes before the attack but had no idea where it would be.

The important point to note about this document is the way it manipulates the reader into feeling that some fake points and false leads need to be reacted to. The author wavers between ethnic nationalist fascism, and outright communism.

A detailed analysis by Aja Romano on Vox explains the manifesto as a “shitpost”.  Ford Fischer (owner of News2Share) had explained the concept in a Facebook post Friday morning.

But the term "shitposting" usually refers to placing spam-like posts in a forum to disrupt it. Back in 1998, the Libertarian Party of Minnesota used a listserver (a predecessor to today's social networks) that one person kept disrupting with rude comments derogatory of other people. There was also an Independent Gay Forum around 2000, managed from Washington DC by someone associated with GLIL (Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty) that experienced these kinds of problems. When applied to one booklet-length post or long essay, it would seem to imply to illogical flow of argument intended to distract the reader or intimidate the reader -- which would seem to fit with the idea of emailing it to authorities to taunt police before committing a crime. But it could also be just an "English 101" composition problem. "Qz" has an article on the practice and says "don't" and even maintains that everyone has to take moral responsibility for the effect of their speech on less savvy or educated users.
One of the most alarming aspects was his naming others (besides Breivik) as “inspiring” him (starting with PewDiePie) although soon it is apparent this becomes a “joke”.  This could be dangerous to an Internet personality without not enough popularity and clout.  It also contributes to the (socially Marxist) notion that speakers are partially responsible when unstable people connect them with their crimes.

The shitpost idea also brings back a persistent problem that was controversial on the internet ten years ago – spam blogs –  their detection (sometimes with false positives) got a lot of attention in the summer of 2008.

Update: March 23

According to USA Today, New Zealand has made possession of copies of the manifesto illegal, pretty much the way US law would treat child pornography. Personally, I don't approve of "banning" any political material at all, however objectionable, because others need to know how this person thought.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Atlantic discusses discoveries about multipartite viruses; why they could make fodder for doomsday science fiction (they may be really common on alien worlds)

The Atlantic has a new science essay by Ed Yong that looks, at least in science fiction, to have possibly sudden and explosive impact on public health someday in an asymmetric fashion.

The piece is “A New Discovery Upends What We Know AboutViruses” with the subtext “a plant virus distributes its genes into eight separate segments that can all reproduce, even if they infect different cells”.

Generally, plants have the potential to be larger than animals (like California redwood trees) and some fungi even larger still (like a fungus underground in Michigan that has the DNA for the same organism for 37 miles). It has been speculated that on other worlds, it may well happen that single-“paper sheet” organism population species exist (like on Titan), with cells hundreds of miles apart (a little like slime molds).
So it could be useful for a “multipartite” virus to split into parts so it can produce separate infections in separate kinds of cells feet apart.

Since many plants have cell walls, the idea that they can spread more easily than in animals is hard to grasp.

These viruses are rare in animals, although they have been found in some insects – moths and mosquitoes. Already you see where this can head – arthropod transmission to higher animals, maybe mammals and people.  Is it true that “there is always a first time?”  Quantum theory says, well, “yeth”.

A virus that could split into different viruses might be sexually transmitted sometimes, and airborne other times – imagine the apocalyptic nightmare from the 1980s had this been possible with a certain retrovirus.  It didn’t happen. Or it might produce varied kinds of diseases, where eliminating one kind with a drug or even environmental change (as in my novel) allows another to flourish, and we don’t know about it.  In fact, Truman Bradley's "Science Fiction Theater" back in the 1950s predicted that a virus could change a human into a plant.

Multipartite viruses have a very specific meaning in the world of computer malware.

Martin Goldberg (“Economic Invincibility”) recently said in a video that he was working on a sci-fi novel and the idea would be shocking.  Is this his idea?  It’s already in my “Angel’s Brother”.  Maybe he has something credible that is even more shocking.  Bird flu is already trite.

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Your Brain on Nationalism" in Foreign Affairs (Sapolsky)

The early Spring (March-April, 2019) issue of “Foreign Affairs” has a major piece on tribalism by Nicholas Sapolsky, “Your Brain on Nationalism: The Biology of Us and Them”.

The picture shows a chimpanzee at the Singapore Zoo.  Indeed, chimpanzees (not bonobos) are fiercely tribal and their social organizations are geared for conflict with rival groups.

His article stresses that humans, with even larger brains, are able to belong to more that one group at the same time. Besides setting the stage for intersectionality, it creates new opportunities and challenges for cooperation.

Tribalism is relative.  There’s a video of a cat encountering an octopus on a pier. My own inclination was to “bond” mentally with the cat, who is more like me than an invertebrate octopus (whose intelligence is actually comparable). Race, based on the most superficial of characteristics that first develop when populations are isolated from one another, still generate tribal feelings of us and them.  Many people, myself included, could not imagine sexual desire for someone of a different race.

But nationalism is more than just ordinary tribalism, it is aggregate tribalism, that set up the modern state system.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Time: "The Science of Memory": what makes a person

Highly recommended from the supermarket is the Time booklet “The Science of Memory: The Story of our Lives”.  The subtitle is “Build a Sharper Mind; Erase Bad Memories; What Animals Recall”. The editor is Edward Feisenthal, for 96 pages.  There are four chapters with many sections.

On p. 22, there is a short piece “An Elephant Never Forgets” (Courtney Mifsud), which explains why for a pachyderm, the elephant has intelligence and self-identity approaching man.  It’s comparable to cetaceans and apes.  There are other facts: chimpanzees remember some details better than humans.  

When I lived in Dallas in a garden apartment in 1979, I was adopted by a tomcat (“Timmy”), who recognized the sound of my car and ran to my apartment door when he heard it.  He would disappear for a few days and then return, to look after me, bringing trophy birds. He had a rich vocabulary of sounds and at night could come into the bedroom and communicate he needed to go outside for the bathroom.

On p. 67, Joshua Foer describes “The Battle of the Big Brains”, and memory contests. But consider how world chess champion Magnus Carlsen can play multiple simultaneous chess games while blindfolded, even winning complicated endgames. He tells journalists that he is always pondering some theoretical position in his mind all the time.

On p. 42 Su Meck and Daniel de Vise present “A Life Lost to Amnesia”.  In 1988 a ceiling fan fell on Meck, costing her all previous memories. She had both retrograde and anteretrograde amnesia. They recovered only very slowly.

Patrick Rogers, on p. 37, looks at why we forget most of our early childhood memories, even though as toddlers we have them.  My earliest memory may be of my father opening an electric train set when I was 3 on Christmas morning in 1946. I have some kindergarten memories at age 5 (the red chair), but in grade school there is more continuity as I become a person.  To a child or teen, school seems indefinite and time passes slowly, because that’s what he or she knows. School and home is the universe. An older person makes up for lack of quickness and immediacy of short term memory with a rich database of a lifetime of experience, as if one could watch a video of a typical day of any period in one’s life. In the space-time sense, they seem equidistant.

Even during a lucid dream (especially if of a desired intimacy, or of a problematic escape situation) one feels like the same person with the same identity. Then memories of many dreams disappear suddenly unless written down, erased from experience. But some remain for life.

The adult brain is fully formed by age 25.  But how do you explain prodigies?  Jack Andraka not only invented a major medical test at age 15 for science fair; he keeps up with school work even as an undergraduate at Stanford while globetrotting.  Taylor Wilson demonstrating knowledge of physics and engineering to build a fusion reactor (effectively a sun) in his garage at age 14. David Hogg was dyslexic until puberty, when he suddenly blossomed into a teen able (getting started at 17) to lead a revolution against the gun lobby and outwit lobbyists and conservative media personalities, putting some on the ropes.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

"Washington's Golden Age": a biography of Post editor Hope Ridings Miller (preview)

Today, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC was selling copies of Joseph Dalton’s non-fiction biography “Washington’s Golden Age: Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat, and the Rise of Women Journalists”.  Dalton is her first cousin twice removed.

Miller was a member of First Baptist Church for years, dying of congestive heart failure in 2005.

Hope became the Washington Post’s society editor in 1937, so she covered society life during the New Deal and then World War II.  Her career at the Post continued through the Lyndon Johnson administration, past the time of Kennedy.  She was the only woman on the Post City desk and edited the Diplomat Magazine.

Here’s a netgallery preview of the book.

The book is published by Rowman and Littlefield. The book comprises sixteen chapters, 238 pages, hardcover.

The former pastor of FBC, Edward H Pruden (pastor until 1969), wrote “Interpreters Needed” in 1951 (Judson) and “A Window on Washington” (Vantage, self-published, 1979).

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Washington Post explores the business unexpected success of independent bookstores in DC area and country

Fritz Hahn offers an article in a “from the cover” series on p. 15 of the Washington Post Weekend magazine from Friday, February 21, 2019, “That old stack magic: The indomitable – and the new – indie bookstores.”  

The article examines at least eight independent bookstores in or near Washington DC.  They are flourishing as community centers despite the low cost competition from Amazon.

What is striking is that some of them are niche bookstores, as for African American readers and authors in some cases.  Lambda Rising used to be a thriving chain for the LGBT community but it gradually disintegrated because of low cost competition from Amazon (after 2009).  But in the 1990s it was a good place for readings and debates on topics like gays in the military (Joe Steffan had a booksigning at the DC Connecticut Ave. store in Sept. 1992). Maybe they got out too early.

I’ve been approached about the idea of buying quantities of my own books and dealing with independent bookstores.  Because my most recent book is now five years old, I have been reluctant;  most stores will do readings only for books in their first year of publication. This idea will become important for my novel “Angel’s Brother” and I will work the local bookstore idea on that.

A possibility would be to encourage independent bookstores to advertise on my Facebook page (FB has suggested allowing them administrator access, which I don’t quite understand and which sounds risky, given the recent purges).

There has been an increase of 35% in independent bookstores in the United States since 2009.

Picture: One More Page Books, East Falls Church, VA.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Stephanie Land goes from maid to "established" trade-published author with "Maid"

When I have more than one substantial book to read, I sometimes put one of them in the queue and do a preview here before a full review on my Wordpress site. I’ve got a treatise on climate change to do right away, so I’ll do a preview today of Stephanie Land’s “Maid”, from Hachette Books (2019), 2t chapters, 268 pages, hardcover.  The book is easy to find on Amazon and should be at most bookstores now.

The full title is “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive”.  There is a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich (“Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America”, 2001; and “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream”, 2005.

The author, raised in the state of Washington near the coast, had desired to become a writer, the formal way through a college education and formal employment. But some indiscretion led to a pregnancy, and unsatisfactory marriage and divorce, and raising a daughter on her own, working for near minimum wage without benefits, and depending on various assistance programs, such as food stamps, WIC, and Section 8 housing.  I have to say that even so far, the description of Section 8 is quite disturbing.  You don’t want to lose your own housing independence.

The author would become a writer indeed, and get published by an industry trade company, and not do it herself like I did.  She would get others to pay for her work and not do this for vanity. She paid her dues.

 I visited Anacortes in 1996 driving back from Olympic National Park with a rent car to SeaTac.

CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sneak preview of Joel Simon's "We Want to Negotiate" about governments' ransom dilemmas

Jason Rezaian writes a combo op-ed and book review in the Washington Post Outlook Sunday, February 24, 2019, “What will the U.S, do to get hostages back?

That embeds a book review of Joel Simon’s “We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages and Ransom”, 189 pages, paperback, Columbia Global Reports, published Jan. 22, 1989.

The United States does not appear to have a completely predictable policy, and for national security that is probably good.  Trump hasn’t said anything – but of course it was the return of Otto Warmbier from North Korea, effectively kidnapped, that sets the tone (as Trump sits down with Kim Jong Un this week in Hanoi).

In fact, as an aside, Japan and maybe a couple other countries have had to deal with possible kidnappings in their own territory, and China seems to have indulged the practice.

More common, of course, is when a westerner or American, especially a journalist or high-profile business executive, is taken abroad, even in western countries.  There was a case where someone was taken in Italy in 1978 and deafened in captivity by loud music.

Of course, the US government believes that if it negotiates with kidnappers, it encourages more incidents. But otherwise, the victim is essentially sacrificed .

Since I did inherit a big part of an estate at the end of 2010, I have become more sensitive to the idea. I have a statement on a Wordpress blog that I cannot be bargained for, worth linking here.

Private ransom payments have been illegal, but Obama was willing to look the other way (2015 US News story).  A good question for a social media platform or hosting company would be whether it violates an AUP or TOS to do a fundraiser for a private ransom payment.
I’ve reviewed a few films on my sites and blogs on this problem (“Ransom”, with Mel Gibson”) before.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

"Total Invincibility", according to Martin

Author: Martin Goldberg, aka “Economic Invincibility” YouTube Channel

Title: “Total Invincibility: How to Crush Failure and Maximize your Human Potential

Publication: Digital, 2019/2/16, Amazon Digital Services LLC/Self, 115 pages, Kindle only (no ISBN listed), 9 chapters.

The author, who looks and says he is in his late twenties, as I recall, and I believe lives somewhere in Florida, runs the “Economic Invincibility” YouTube channel.

Today (Saturday morning) was the first time that I saw mention of the publication of the e-book on his channel.  I downloaded ($7.99) it and read it in about two hours.  Better use of my time and money than Netflix.

The matching video today was called “The Cure for Modernity” pretty well explains his moral philosophy.  You could say it is a kind of libertarianism with a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility,  but with awareness on the possibility of suddenly needing interdependence with others.  Charles Murray might be a fair comparison.  He says he is independent and denies any party and criticizes blind tribalism and political partisanship. You get the impression that if he were president he would get things done and put “Trump” to shame (even though he supported Trump, with no orange balloons).  OK, Peter Thiel is old enough to be president – oops, born in Germany. So maybe Thiel should fix the madness in the EU (like Article 13?) Nevertheless, I like the idea that “the young people will win”.  That could be Martin, David Hogg, and now Nick Sandmann, young people of various political persuasions who give you the feeling that they can make things happen. OK, any of a number of young people I can think of would have become “The Apprentice” (including Martin) and would make a real difference.

The book is aimed for young adults, with particular advice toward school (college, grad school, b-school, Ph D, trades) and work and staying out of debt.  He talks a lot about credit cards, savings, 401(k), rents, mortgages, and how credit scores work (without getting into China’s experiment by extending to “social credit scores”).  He also talks about job interviewing and dealing the politics in the workplace, especially the risks of accidental involvement in supposed sexual harassment.

He believes people should be strict with their own self-assessment.  Don’t go to college just because you do well on tests.  Can you do manual labor?  Can you change your own oil?  Can you camp out.  (OK, science fair winner Jack Andraka – “Breakthrough” [March 18, 2015], was an avid camper in high school and kayaker today – and finishing at Stanford – I think EI would approve.)  There is some recommendation of an almost Maoist humility.  My phrase for that was always "pay your bills and pay your dues."

He also advocates minimalism and even talks about living out of a van as a possibly effective lifestyle.  He likes rural communities.

What’s interesting is his views on free speech and social media, and how this relates back to self-assessment and how one regards others. In the past, he has been critical of people's naïve belief in their "rights" on platforms run by private entities, and has said that at some point if you want to he heard with sustainability, you need to play ball with the political system that is there and run for office or support candidates, even if you think some of it is corrupt; only "you" can make it better.

Toward the end, he does insist that critical thinking is important, and the capacity to speak for the self (without going through activist organizations) matters.  Yet he discourages most people from using social media very much, particularly if they get addicted to popularity or followers.  For many people, social media will be a valueless trap where one slip-up or wrong impression will mark one for life – and it is so easy for misleading content (from trolls) to go viral. He mentions his concerns about video channels as a source of income, given the recent scandals (Patreon, which he doesn’t name specifically, payment processor and advertiser queasiness).  Many people will be in positions where they have to be very careful about their personal privacy and the possibility of targeting (or even framing) by hostile others. But he thinks that books, or more permanent items (like real films or peer-reviewed articles) are a better way to engage media.

Martin never mentions the idea of suspect class or oppressed group. His views of personal resilience follow those of Haidt, for example (“The Coddling of the American Mind”), or Taleb (anti-fragility). Sometimes he seems to denigrate people whom he sees as weak, gullible, or incompetent, but other times he talks about the need to help others and cooperate.  He advocates localism and personal fitness, ranging from cooking one's own food from ingredients, to vigorous fitness physical fitness (large numbers of situps, pushups and even pullups, at least for men).  He warns that technological dependence makes us vulnerable and that the Internet or modernity could be taken away by a determined enemy or even natural event with no notice (no direct mention of EMP of extreme solar storms, but that may be what he refers to).

There's just one homonym error in the text, "right" as a verb when "write" is what was intended. But his vocabulary, finding rich metaphors in some little used old English nouns and verbs (like "dollop") is striking. That keeps the writing terse with fewer adjectives and those dreaded adverbs.

He makes a useful reference to Lin Yutang's "The Importance of Living" a real life, because you never know when artifices can be taken away by "Black Swans" (Taleb's concept).  Despite his rather Ayn Rand-like outlook, he does remind us that anything can happen to anyone (car accident, criminal violence, or cancer).

Martin has said he is working on two novels, a fantasy, and a sci-fi scenario (I wonder if it's about who gets to evacuate Earth and start over.)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Natgeo long article: "Life probably exists beyond Earth"

Jamie Shreeve has an article “Life Probably Exists BeyondEarth; So How Do We Find It?” on National Geographic.

The photos are by Spencer Lowell, with art by Deena Barry.

The article mentions a software designer who has spent ten years in rural northern California supporting an array of radio telescopes, and Russian venture capitalist, Yuri Milner, who is looking for alien civilizations.

Many of these might be around smaller M stars and be located in twilight zones of tidally locked planets. That would be politically dicey.

Relativity says you can’t even pass information faster than the speed of light (partly because with quantum entanglement the observer affects the particles – who don’t like to be stared at) –  so if you could pass a person’s consciousness through a wormhole shortcut – could the person rent a body on a visit to another planet, maybe the same body with every visit?  Like renting a car or Airbnb.

The article (from March 2019) darkens and asks you to log in.  I did, and it asked for the account number from the print version, which I don’t have (I have the digital account, but has the print expired?).  How clumsy.  But you can still read the darkened vision.  Maybe I can find a print for this issue at the supermarket tomorrow.

(Picture: Baltimore science museum)

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