Sunday, November 17, 2019

"More for Less": Andrew McAfee's book explains how modernity can survive adjusting to climate change

Today, on CNN’s Global Public Square, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Andrew McAfee, author of “More for Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources – and What Happens Next”, 352 pages, from Scribner, publisher link

The author points out that we are producing much more wealth with fewer resources, and that our need for energy consumption has plateaued.
Zakaria had started the interview by noting that today’s young adult generation wonders if it will be called upon to demonstrate the “personal virtue of restraint”, and give up flying, driving alone, air conditioning, and hot showers, and especially meat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Atlantic: "A Nation Coming Apart", collection of essays for the December 2019 issue; a second civil war?

The December 2019 issue of the Atlantic will be called “A Nation Coming Apart”.  I got a link for it   and apparently my paywall status let me see all of it.  It would be advisable to pick up the print – but typically that means getting to a Barnes and Noble or similar bookstore.  The email had a subtitle, “How to stop a (second) civil war”, or, as Tim Pool says, at least an insurgency.

There are three parts, each divided into several essays.

Yoni Applebaum writes about “How America Ends” and focuses somewhat on how non-whites will become a majority.  She also discusses the collapse of the GOP, and notes that authoritarianism or fascism or communism will come when center-right parties collapse and lose sight of their principles and behave like identarian tribes.  The right often comprises groups who have lost power and privilege to change, whereas the left comprises intersectional groups who are vengeful about the sins committed against them in the past.
Johnathan Haidt talks about the “Dark Psychology of Social Networks”.  Visitors are gripped by the latest clickbait scandals and lose sight of longer-term goals and principles, because of the speed of news. Many people are not mature enough to recognize “junk”, and better educated people are often unaware of the way “the masses” process things when overwhelmed or manipulated – through their tribes. Even David Pakman made a video in early 2019 admitting that many voters don’t understand anything and are swindled easily.

Here the writers suggest (1) stop evaluating the performance of individual content pieces with Likenomics (Instagram is already experimenting with this (2) reduce use of unverified accounts (or bots -- this means everything source should be idenitifed, at least like private registration of domain names; it's not quite the same as the Twitter verification check) (3) eliminate low-quality posts and comments.  
Tom Junod has a piece about Mister Rogers and personal localism. People are often disinterested in “neighbors” and more interested in the faraway worlds they have snatched for themselves.
Gay libertarian writer Johnathan Rauch discusses “too much democracy” and says that “direct primaries” and various other changes have led to primary seasons that attract extremists and ideologues and not people who can win and actually govern.
Danielle Allen describes “The Road to Serfdom” and James Mattis has a similar piece “The Enemy Within”.  An important idea is localism and the way people participate socially in solving problems.  
A lot of us (myself included) have become global and projected our rationality on media platforms on our own and ignore calls from local advocacy groups for help because they seem partisan and beneath us. It’s like the non-profits need more people marching and demonstrating and fewer bloggers filming them without joining in.
Adam Serwer cloases this out with “Against Reconciliation”, talk of another Reconstruction, to stop the idea that remaining in a historically privileged class is a birthright.

Monday, November 11, 2019

"The Science of Living Longer", supermarket book from Time

Take a look at a special edition of “Time”, “The Science of Living Longer”, in supermarkets until around the end of November.

The editors are Siobhan O’Connor and Jeffrey Kluger.

There are 16 photoessays or chapters, divided among three sections, “Mind”, “Body”, “Life”. There are 96 pages (a common length for this brand). 
In Chapter 1 (Alice Park), there is a chart on pp 16-18 showing how different parts of the human body age.

One surprising finding, collagen in the skin that gives smoothness and elasticity declines 1% a year. That means by age 30 it would have declined more than 12%.  Obviously from general observation, this seems to be quite variable.  Beto O’Rourke, at 47, looks young (being thin helps).  Too much sun probably accelerates it.  The replacement of muscle with fat accelerates after age 40 (which is about when most major league baseball careers end).  Brain concentration, for chess players for example, hits its summer solstice from ages 25-28.  But real decline may tend to start at around age 70 (without an actual disease like Alzheimer’s).  There are other oddities not often discussed openly, like the fact that many (especially white) men typically notice loss of hair from their legs by age 40. In the past, cigarette smoking may have made this problem much worse. This may be a little more common for men who go bald (on the pate) genetically, or when men are overweight.

On brain maturity, because the brain is still “pruning” and focusing on what it is good at, mental illness has become a risk in the age 18-25 group.

On p, 68-70, Dave Beal says that the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St Paul MN, is one of the best cities for longevity (after a few blue zones in Italy and in California’s central valley). I lived there 1997-2003 and just revisited.

People live longer if they age in the area where they grew up.  People tend to return to earlier memories or contacts, even after a long adult life.
Long-term married (and never divorced) men tend to live longer than single or divorced men, and that is less true for women.  It may be true for gay male couples.  While never married men tend to fare worse, there are remarkable exceptions, such as individualists or artists or scientists very focused on their own work.

Monday, November 04, 2019

NYTimes booklet by a mom on recruiting teenagers by "racists" (October), rather firm in warning parents

 Joanna Schroeder has a rather strident booklet-article in the New York Times Oct. 12, 2019,  “Racists AreRecruiting.  Watch Your Sons.”  There is a tagline, “Parents need to understand how white supremacists prey on teen boys, so they can intervene.”

Caleb Cain would later relate on his recruitment and then deradicalization on the David Pakman show.  I think I've used his video ("Faraday Speaks") on YouTube before.  It did not seem that the views he had been exposed to were all necessarily extreme, at least in the beginning. But he added that teens generally aren't mature enough to see the flaws in how they are being manipulated (but neither do alo of adults). 

Schroeder pointed out one specific technique, calling boys “too sensitive” to specific remarks about people who are less competitive.
On the other hand, you can point out that other teens (more likely some PoC) can be recruited by similar techniques into conventional gangs, or sometimes the far Left.  It all depends on the circumstances in the home and surrounding community.

Teens who do accomplish things in school or family-connected or sometimes faith-based activity (scouting, sports, music, drama, science fairs, etc.) can build a sense of personal identity and resist “tribal” pressures to please their peers.  These things have to happen at least partly in the real world apart from the Internet.

The other thing is the ability to do abstract thinking (like that starts with math).  That happens much sooner for some teens than others.
That’s what you notice about the Parlkand teens, for example, how they could abstract from what happened and build a movement on their own.

Picture:  Tennessee Civil War park SW of Nashville, my trip, May 2014/  

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Foreign Policy issue makes strong arguments for open borders

Bryan Caplan has a booklet-like article in Nov. 2019 Foreign Affairs, “Open Borders Are a Trillion-Dollar Idea”. Cato has already been tweeting it around.
Yup, most of the objections are political and cultural.  Immigrants commit less crime (as a totality), and add skills and willingness to work. They know how to run small businesses.  Their kids pick up English immediately.
Yet, Open Borders have come to be viewed as a placard of the radical Left.  You have to have countries, sovereignty.  Well, maybe you don’t forever, but you can’t make changes that quickly.  You can perhaps settle intentional communities within and make them autonomous.
Last night, at a post-Halloween party I happened to spot someone who had been at one of these abolish-ICE protests.  Yet he was perfectly intact, steady, seated in his own life.  Not everyone on the “Left” is as crazy as the neo-liberal YouTube channels (Tim Pool) claim. The truth is half way between Pool and Pakman.
Of course, there’s another side to it.  Maybe the poorest countries need to keep some of their talent so they can recover.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The meme "Smart Authors Don't Spend Their Own Money to Publish"

Author Incubator looks at the meme “Smart Authors Don’t Spend their Own Money to Publish”.
Economically the trick is to understand that, at least with new authors, traditional publishers succeed in with home runs with about one in ten books.  It’s like swinging for home runs against Garrett Cole?
When a traditional book fails, the author has often gotten an advance “of his own money” and the publisher eats the loss.  (Author’s Guild makes a lot about being able to get advances to make a living.)
I had always thought that most books published with advances are from established authors, or from people who have become celebrities in some specific niche. That might well include politicians.
If a book succeeds, a self-published book will usually make much more money for an author than a trade-published book.  (It’s less clear with POD, where royalty is intermediate.  Typically you might invest about $3000 for a book, and get about 20%.  Still, you could make a profit if you could sell 1000 books this way.  But it’s unlikely to happen until a new author is already “known” from a previous book or some other business, charitable, or political niche.
Her video has two “training slides” doing the math, and they are quite instructive.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Self-publishers need to be wary of scams that can steal their "rights"

Here is a quick video:  “Publishing Scams to Avoid”.  This video is intended for people who have self-published, either with their own print runs or with POD companies. 

Beware of the phone call that claims you have been “discovered” and of offers for services literary agents don’t do – and asking for money.

I get a lot of these calls. 

There are problems with people losing their “rights” too.  It’s a little hard to see how this can work if the author didn’t get any “consideration”.
On Youtube, the Author Incubator channel seems to have some anti-self-publishing videos, and I’ll look into what these say soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Harper's presents forum "Constitution in Crisis"

I can remember in junior English, 1959-1960 in high school with “Miss Nelson” (who reverse commuted to Arlington VA from Washington DC, where at the time she had few voting rights – and she did not have a television set) – when she introduced the idea of periodical literature as being worthy of citation in term papers – especially high quality ones like Harper’s and Atlantic.

So that’s mainstream media today, oh, so privileged for monetization.

But the October 2019 issue has an important discussion, “Do we need the Constitution?”  Think about it, the British “constitution” is informal, and Canada’s has a grossly complicated history as to what is really in it.  The United States, with its articles and amendments, seems straightforward in a way.

The Forum in the Atlanta includes Donna Edwards (former US House member), Mary Ann Franks (University of Miami School of Law), David Law (University of Hong Kong), Lawrence Lessig (Harvard Law school and well known for many articles on Internet law), and Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.
The basic link is here.

There is a summary article (Jan 2019) by Kevin Baker. 
The most startling point in the discussion is the most startling, and maybe Seidman said it most bluntly, that the Constitution may be illegal, and arbitrary, in the way that it overrode the Articles of Confederation. And it was set up by privileged white males, as we know from history.  It’s pretty easy to imagine the rationalizations to stop secessions.

I still remember a clandestine meeting in Newark NJ of the People’s Party where they talked about getting everybody to riot so we would have call for a “constitutional convention”.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pros and cons of self-publishing, in 2019

Meg LaTorre, of the iWriterly channel, discusses the pros and cons of self-publishing your own book.

Off the bat, one common strategy for some fantasy and sci-fi authors is to give away your first book if you plan a long series.
There is a lot of emphasis on freedom of control of creative content and schedule.
On the con side, the lack of “external validation”.  And you have to “fit the bill”.
She said the average self-published book sells less than one hundred copies in its lifetime. Self-published authors (usually) don’t have much scale.
She also says that publishing houses offer much larger royalty percentages on e-books than print.
Legitimate marketing events (bookstore appearances) are your responsibility.  When writers are introverts.
In a later installment she will describe her own self-publishing process for a major sci-fi novel. 

She did not discuss self-publishing facilitators (starting with Author Solutions) and they work in very different ways.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

"If I Don't Make It, I Love You": collection of essays by survivors of gun violence (preview) with a surprising observation

Today the Washington Post published (p. S3, style) a book review of a collection of pieces by people who lived through mass shootings, titled “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You”, from Skyhosre, link, edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman, 492 pages. 

The book is in reverse time order, with a piece by Fred Guttenberg from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and goes all the way back to the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. 

The reviewer (Katherine Coldiron) points out that mass shootings were uncommon until after 1997, when in December the high school shooting at Heath High School in Paducah Kentucky happened. Columbine would follow in April 1999.  It’s true that Waco and OKC had happened in April in previous years.  But with the new culture of the Internet, it seemed that some people found provocation they wouldn’t have experienced earlier. 
We don’t have much of an answer for the victims of this, like we do for men lost in combat in war.  It sounds like it has become a matter of sacrifice.  There is a tremendous asymmetry in the risks people have to take.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Judge Jeanine's "Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge": where are the book reviews?

After paying a visit to an Apple store to look into my next Macbook purchase, I went into a Barnes and Noble to buy something and get a parking garage ticket validated – that gives you an idea of how to sell books, doesn’t it.
On the display stand in the entranceway, there was a vertical of Judge Jeanine Pirro’s “Radicals, Resistance and Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America”, from Center Streets in Nashville.

OK, this is a “conservative book”.  The strange thing is that I can’t find legitimate reviews of it online. Here is a stab at it on PJMedia.  Some of the comments suggest that the author has no shame in supporting Donald Trump and resisting impeachment calls.

The title is certainly suggestive.  The “cancel culture” of the past couple of years from the radical Left suggests group “revenge” for past group oppression. That includes calling even moderate people as implicit “white supremacists”.  And it includes the mainstream media’s almost refusing to cover Antifa groups’ thuggist violence and threats to venues of events with even moderate speakers.
The “resistance” might well refer to a call for people to join organized movements rather think and speak for themselves.  But sometimes oppression requires joining up and solidarity.  The trouble is that the Left's moralizing requires them to set up their own authoritarian structure to control the people they think they have liberated. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New Zealand publisher withdraws publishing James Flynn's book on free speech out of fear that it extra-contextually would violate hate speech laws

Sky News Australia interviews James Flynn, New Zealand author of a manuscript “In Defense of Free Speech”.  The publisher in New Zealand balked at publishing it at the last moment out of fear of offending hate speech laws in New Zealand and Australia and Europe.  

Flynn had discussed Charles Murray’s “Bell Curve” and even disagreed with the possible interpretation that there are genetic factors in race v. IQ differences.  Flynn argues that it is in the final analysis environmental (and about colonialism in the past). But the mere fact that he had restated Murray’s argument meant that it could be taken out of context and incite violence (???)
Flynn says that societies have reached the point where political or social power to enforce norms trumps the ability to look for deeper truths.  But that is how it was in the Middle Ages.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"Making Your Home Among Strangers": Latina author's novel burned at a Georgia college because she isn't "minority" enough

Students at Georgia Southern University (Statesboro) actually burned (Fahrenheit-451 style) copies of lecturer Jennine Capo Criucet’s novel “Making Your Home Among Strangers”, 2015, St. Martins Press. The book had been assigned reading in some classes.  (Have my books ever been assigned reading?  Maybe once or twice in Minnesota, where I gave two college lectures in 1998-1999). 

Amir Vera and Natalie Johnson have the incident story on CNN. 
Activists seemed to believe the author did not have the authority to write or speak about minority experiences. But she has spoken at thirty other colleges and nothing like this has happened.
Patch has a story about “banned books week”. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Dr. Seuss children's book gets parodied, and the fair use doctrine gets a real test

There is a case before the Ninth Circuit, where “Dr. Seuss Enterprises” sued the authors of a parody book, “Oh the Places You’ll Boldly Go”, created by ComicMix, a parody which maps some Dr. Seuss characters to Star Trek characters with an interplanetary setting, with a title that seems to mock the original “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

I couldn’t find the derivative book on Amazon.

The idea sounds tempting enough in the world of children’s books, but I had always thought there wasn’t much question that derivative or parody books are fair use.  People who “have to make a living” with writing might well consider something like this.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an amicus brief and explanation here

There is a Burning Man parody of the book being read, on YouTube. 

Picture: Burning Man exhibit at Renwick Exhibit in Washington DC, 2018 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Preview of Rothwell's manifesto "A Republic of Equals"

I received a complimentary copy of “Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society” by Jonathan Rockwell, Princeton University Press, 2019, 384 pages, with index and endnotes, very long appendix, the ten chapters run 294 pages.  Rockwell is a principle economist at Gallup and a visiting scholar at the George Washington University in Washington DC.

I suppose using the word “manifesto” in a book title has become a bad thing by now!

The author explains pervasive inequality (as in the Piketty book, July 20, 2014) in terms of unequal access to markets, which has built up over time particularly with respect to race in the United States because of the long tail of slavery and segregation, with practices, for example, like real estate redlining or unequal access to credit, which tends to reinforce itself with circularity. Obviously unequal public schools figures in.  I can recall when I was living in Dallas in the 1980s how many families would move to the areas north of I-635 to have access to “Richardson schools” (or Plano). 

Here is a summary on Kirkus Reviews.
Here’s a typical recent piece by the author in the New York Times, “the social effects of television”, which obviously would extend to social media.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

What do literary agents look for in new fiction today? Also, beware of self-publishing "clones"

“iWriterly”, Meg La Torre explains “why literary agents and editors reject a book after the first page”.

She goes over seven red flags.

First, there is no conflict on the first page (she says readers today are not as patient as to layered plots as were readers in the 80s and 90s). You need to give the reader a reason to want the protagonist to succeed.

Second, you need to show rather than tell (although there is an issue with backstories – perhaps the character has a reason to relive his own backstory).  Use strong verbs and nouns with fewer adverbs and adjectives.

Third, too much backstory early (“information dumps”)

Four, not a clear sense of place and time.

Five – the adverb and adjective problem.

Six – purposeless scenes in the beginning.

Seven – misuse of observer point of view.  Consider whether the author is an omniscient observer, or a “limited omniscient observer” with a close connection to one of the characters.

I have to admit that in my manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I have “information dumps” in chapters 2 and 3.  I think my opening (with a visit to Auschwitz) is OK.  One solution:  Have the character doing something as the second (“Randy”) or third (“Sal”) chapter starts.  For example, in Chap 2, make it more apparent (in a phone call) that Randy’s relationship with his wife is stressed (maybe by his homosexuality). In Chap 3 have Sal (maybe a future boyfriend) hacking Randy with some sort of Edward Snowden technique, then go into Sal’s own backstory for clues as to how the hacking works.  I’ll cover more of this soon on my Wordpress blogs.

She has another video on proper behavior by writers, and at the end she gives a warning about publishing scams, without naming names, and says there is a difference between self-publishing arrangements (where you pay to publish but keep the rights and should have higher royalties) and vanity publishers (where you surrender the rights).  I am not sure today who would fit her definition of vanity publisher.  She also talks a little about book series trademarks and the #cockygate problem, which I'll cover in more detail at another time. 

I wanted to provide a link to a blog post by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware on “copycat clones” of Author Solutions, because I get calls from these companies (voicemails which I don’t answer) all the time. 

Cameron Kasky (March for our Lives) has authored a lot of interesting tweets about writing in the past few days.  Just as John Fish makes videos about reading. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

"Nurturing our Humanity" from Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry; fending off authoritarianism with cooperation

I received a free review copy of a new text from Oxford University Press, “Nurturing our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future”, by Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry. The copy came from the Center for Partnership Studies, where JD Riane Eisler is president; Fry is a professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at UNC in Greensboro.

The book runs 370 pages, comprises twelve chapters and offers endnotes at the end of each chapter.

The book challenges the position that human beings are hardwired for selfishness or narrow forms of tribalism, and that partnership and cooperation, instead of populism and strong-man rule, should develop naturally.  The book also looks at where various societies fall on the “partnership – domination” scale.  This idea sounds conceptually related to the Nolan chart, particularly the line between authoritarian and libertarian.

There are not a lot of review previews out there, but here is one from the Netherlands.
It sounds as if some of this has to do with the problem of whether people will do (for others) what they ought to do because they are “free to do so” or because there is a formal expectation that everyone else has to.

Friday, October 04, 2019

"The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery" maps a novel plot to a composer's lifetime output

While I was at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock MI on Monday morning, I visited the bookstore next door, and (besides Sept 30 posting) a very intriguing book I picked up is “The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery”, by Simon Boswell, by Booklocker publishing, 2005, 450 pages, paper.

The story considers the serial murder of musicians in modern day Helsinki.  The chapters of the book are named after the seven symphonies of Jean Sibelius, and the subchapters are named after the movement tempi.  The most triumphant of the set is #2 (which I got to know as a senior in high school, as I did the First, and then the Fifth).  The sixth is like Vaughn Williams, and the Seventh is famous for its one movement.

There is an eighth chapter based on a hypothetical eighth symphony, and the coda for the novel is the quiet “Tapiola”, Op. 112.

I guess Jan Sibelius's lifelong compositional output became a "process piece" that in his own mind became progressively "less bad" (famous 2015 twitter gem).

The book also appears to represent a genre of "Nordic murder mysteries", like the Danish "Smila's Sense of Snow" which became a 1997 film which ends in Greenland (climate change?) with alien overtones.
The book might have relevance because a mysterious assassination of journalists in a small town of Imatra, Finland, on the Russian border in Dec. 2016, about 140 miles north of St. Petersburg.
I had named chapters of my handwritten apocalyptic novel “The Proles” after music tempi in 1969.
I did visit the museum (morning of Monday Sept. 30) as an unattended walkthrough.  Inside the main work room, people were doing crafts and a teenager was sewing the seams of his own shorts, an odd sight.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Finland's "The Kalevala"

Today I visited the Finnish Cultural Heritage Center in Hancock MI on the Upper Peninsula (across a river from Houghton), next to “Finlandia University”.
There is a bookstore on the property, and I did pick up the Oxford World Classics paperback of The Kalevala, which is the Finnish epic poem comparable to the Iliad and the Odyssey (Greece).
The book has a 56-page Introduction and analysis (roman page numbering) which even discusses the original language verse and its possible affinity for 5/4 time in music (page xxii).
The actual epic comprises 50 poems and runs 666 pages translated. The last chapter is “The Newborn King” (like Tolkien).  The first is “In the Beginning”.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

So, how many copies does the average book sell in a lifetime?

I’m getting a lot of calls and proposals regarding various kinds of campaigns for my three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books (2000/1997, 2002, 2014) and one problem is that they are aged now, non-fiction (except for the last half of #3).

I do have my own idea of what to do about this, but I thought I would share a perspective from an author, Kameron Hurley, who apparently writes religious apocalyptic fiction: “Books sold + marketability + love”.

She describes two of her series, “God’s War” and “Mirror Empire”.  It’s apparent that she, as she says, runs this as a focused business, a somewhat genre item.

My own work, on the other hand, is spread across the Universe (no pun on the name of a prominent POD company  -- I’m talking about quantum entanglement).

She notes that the “average book” sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (does that include audio, e-book)?  And it sells 250-300 in its first year (I was able to do that in 1997-1998 with DADT 1).

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fact-checking for non-fiction books, an emerging controversy

No, book publishers don’t have a Section 230 because they are, by tautology, publishers.
But now Alexandra Alter writes for the New York Times, notes factual errors in non-fiction books by high profile authors.  There’s now a debate on who should pay for fact-checking – the author, or the publisher. 
I haven’t heard of this being discussed in the POD industry, but I would wonder. (Create Space has stopped doing editorial services, but third party companies have stepped in (Aug 29 post).
My own DADT series is non-fiction, but it is largely (not completely) built on my own autobiographical narratives.  But in various areas, like gays in the military, COPA, bill of rights, workplace discrimination, I’ve presented a lot of other materials, usually with heavy endnotes for references (but somebody would have to look them up).
I did make that one gaffe on the cover of the first printing of my DADT-1 book (1997) that wasn’t caught until the end of 1998, about the age of the Bill of Rights.
Wikipedia seems to do its own fact-checking.
Also, as a post on my main “BillBoushka” blog today indicates, book publishers have to be concerned with “illegal” content, and not just c.p.  There can be issues with publishing detailed info about certain weapons, even if not formally classified, apparently.  Then, there is “The Turner Diaries” and “Hit Man” as issues of books that might have had real world consequences.  We don’t want the world of “Fahrenheit 451”.
You wonder if publishers will worry about new ideas of wokeness, too.

Check also a CNBC article (5 days old) on why physical printed books still outsell e-books (esp. in the UK).  Sometimes fiction that sells well in Kindle does get picked up by trade publishers.  And Amazon now has its own physical bookstores, starting in Seattle. 
Picture: the book tower in the Petersen House across the street from Ford’s Theater.  See my "plays" blog for explanation of the significance. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Time Magazine special issue: "2050: How Earth Survived" climate change

The September 23, 2019 issue of Time is a Special Climate Issue. The feature story is “2050: How Earth Survived”, by Bill McKibben. The lead story is “2050: Fight for Earth” and describes a plausible scenario from mid-century (when David Hogg or Cameron Kasky will be old enough to have become president).

He predicts a huge Gulf hurricane in late October 2020 before the election, giving the Democrats a huge electoral win for the presidency. 

A wretched century is better than a catastrophic one.  Some of the results are obvious.  Beach properties had to move inland, and many real estate bankruptcies occurred. Private cars started being banned more in many city centers.  New York City got a taste of that with World Pride.

McKibben also takes the position that strong action was taken to reduce the wild inequalities, perhaps cracking down on inheritances, as the Gini Curve started to flatten.
The issue has essays by Al Gore (he has hope for the climate-change battles), Aryn Baker (who describes Jacobabab, Pakistan, the hottest city on Earth, and then (with Mbar Toubab. “The Great Green Wall of Africa”, Jane Goodall (reasons to be hopeful), Clara Nugent (rewilding the UK), Justin Worland (The Climate Caucuses), Peter Thomson (Preserve Ocean Life), and most of all, Matt Sandy and Uniao Bandeorantes, “The Tipping Point” about the deforestation of the Amazon.

Stephen Hawking had warned that Mankind needs to colonize another planet within 100 years, maybe Proxima B (radiation problems for openers).  But we would have to select who gets to go. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

John Fish talks about Frank Herbert's "Dune" series and how it plays on audiobooks

From his new apartment in downtown Montreal, John Fish (on gap year from Harvard) talks about “How I Fell Back in Love with Reading”.

It seems odd for someone who makes instructive posts on speedreading and improving rapid comprehension and time management for college students, would also advocate buying audiobooks. Doesn’t listening to them take a long time?
Fish says he listens to them while doing housekeeping chores, which are more in a large apartment than in a dorm room.  He talks especially about Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series, which I seem to have mentioned here Nov. 22, 2009.

I remember reading the first “Dune” book when I was in the Army at Ft. Eustis (I also read “Atlas Shrugged”, and Irving Wallace’s “The Plot” which never became a movie – some of those 60s spy “treasure hunt” novels got away without demanding a lot from their characters and became obsolete.)  The book is long, and described a civilization in a solar system with four habitable planets, including one largely desert that had a lot of addictive “space” and plenty of sandworms that young men rode on as fraternal initiations. Now “Dune” is very long. The series would have to be condensed to be feasible to consume.  (The movie came out in 1984 and the production company named after it still exists and makes other science fiction.) Fish says that the characters are read by different people with inflections that make the characters stick as real people.  I seem to remember a Lady Jessica, a gom jabber weapon, and a holographic globe showing all the planets in their system. Medicine was quite advanced.  I also remember the “guild” where brains could be disembodied and carefully stored and direct space ships as like with living computers.

I’m getting calls from my POD publisher about the slow sales (for so many years?) but I wonder if Audiobooks will be brought up.  
I see I covered an earlier video on this of his from Dec. 2018. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Permanent Record": preview of Edward Snowden's memoir

Greg Miller reviews Edward Snowden’s new book “Permanent Record” in the Washington Post Outlook section today, September 15, 2019, from Metropolitan Books, 352 pages.
I had reviewed Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide” here Nov. 22, 2014, which got folded into Laura Poitras’s movie “Citizen Four” on Oct. 27, 2014.

I can recall reading Greenwald’s account of getting an email from Snowden, where Snowden presumed detailed technical skills of his readers. 

In the Poitras film, Snowden, holed up in a Hong Kong hotel (long before today’s protests) with the filmmakers, comes across as a rather likeable, charismatic young man.

We know now that he has spent about six years in asylum in Moscow, doing gigs for a living, and seems to have sometimes girlfriend.  But he had no trouble getting his book manuscript exported and published.

The book review today describes how Snowden hid little cards inside Rubik Cubes, which only he knew how to solve.
There are a couple of YouTubers with minds like Snowden’s, like Economic Invincibility (Martin Goldberg) and Canadian Harvard student (on gap to work in Montreal), John Fish.  John, particularly, seems nicer and more open, for all his plans not fully explained.  You can have this kind of brain and not need to become a spy.  But people will want you to.


The US Government has filed a lawsuit trying to seize proceeds from the book. 

Monday, September 09, 2019

Shenkman's "Political Animals" (2016) causes a stir today as it leads to explaining populism in terms of the lack of abstract intellect in many people

Tim Pool (implicitly) reviews the 2016 textbook by GWU professor Rick Shenkman, “Political Animals: How our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics” (Basic Books, 336 pages), available as an "e-textbook".

Rick Shenkman also explains “Why this was the generation cursed with Donald Trump”.  Basically, most people need to be told what to do and how to vote.  It’s pretty grim. 
He also has an article in Politico today, “The Shocking Paper Predicting the End of Democracy” as he introduced UC Irvine professor Shawn Rosenberg who says that humans aren’t wired for intellectual process and debate.  In fact, he thinks most humans are incapable of the intellect required.  That may seem shocking to people who keep similar company in the west’s scientific establishments.  But it reminds me of David Pakman’s video last February, saying that most average Americans are gullible and book-stupid (it’s the book smarts v. street smarts thing).

Rosenberg's paper can be downloaded from this page; you can get access to for $99 a year and have followers and share.  The title is "Democracy Devouring Itself: The Rise of the Incompetent Citizen and the Appeal of Populism".  I don't think I'm incompetent as a citizen. But I lack street smarts and people emotional connectivity. The essay will appear in a forthcoming book "Psychology of Political and Everyday Extremisms", edited by Domenico Yhng Hur and Jose Manuel Sabucdeo, publisher not announced (likely to be international). 

Then Zack Beauchamp on Vox, titled “The Anti-Liberal Moment” with subtitle “Critics on the left and right are waging a war on liberalism; and liberals don’t seem to have a good defense.”
Beachamp sees both right and left as attacking individualism.  Traditional (not libertarian) conservatives wanted individuals to find meaning for their own journeys and self-expressions through faith and family and local institutions (and sometimes then nation, as nationalism circles around localism). The collective left maintains that the value of labor has been stolen from people and wants reparation.  But the Left also wants to defend other less obvious people exploited by democratic capitalism (in the past, cis-gender gays and lesbians but today, fluid and trans people, as well as all kinds of other people who just don’t compete well as individuals and come from less well-off families – call it those left behind by “meritocracy”) and, in an effort to get restorative social justice, cuts off free speech as simply a hereditary benefit of illegitimate inherited “power”.   This seems like a battle between “elitism” and “populism”, or “individualism” v. “tribalism”.  Tribalism on the right is different in that it wants to restore illegitimate inherited advantage that was taken away from it, whereas on the left it is motivated by the belief it has always been exploited (largely true).

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Markovits: "The Meritocracy Trap", previewed on CNN, will be available Sept. 10

Today, Sermconish, on CNN, interviewed Yale professor Daniel Markovits, author on “The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite” (Penguin Press, 448 pages, 2019, released Sept. 10).

The New Republic, in an article by Sarah Leonard, reviews the book and discusses his ideas in the article “The Fall of Meritocracy: Ultra-educated, overworked, highly paid elites are not partners in the struggle to reform an unequal system” (paywall). 

Markovits appears to continue a line of argument from part of Daniel Callahan’s “The Cheating Culture” (2004), where he notes that wealthier parents are in a position to give their progeny advantages over other kids with private schools and lessons and coaching.
It’s also true that wealthier parents live in better public school districts (like how Richardson and Plano schools are so touted in the north Dallas area), so redlining matters.
Children of parents in academia or engineering, tech, or even science teachers seem more likely to excel.  This sounds like John Fish’s story in Ontario (his father is a physics teacher, and he was able to explain quantum entanglement in a technically well-done video by age 15).
Forbes has a perspective on the Andraka brothers from 2013.  

Taylor Wilson, now a nuclear scientist at the University of Nevada, however, had working class parents in Arkansas. 
Yet I had written a reductive argument about meritocracy on my legacy site back in 2005, and it offended some people.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

New York Times insert shows how American capitalism was built on slavery with handwritten accounting

Matthew Desmond has a booklet-length article last week in the New York Times Magazine, “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation”. 

The article describes handwritten accounting systems quantifying the value of each individual slave’s labor.
Appropriate for Labor Day.

Update: Saturday, Sept. 14

Andrew Sullivan writes about the slavery model behind capitalism. "The New York Times has abandoned liberalism for activism, in the Intelligencier, here

Thursday, August 29, 2019

An update on self-publishing and POD, especially KDP

I see that I had discussed Create Space and the end of Amazon’s editorial services on Aug. 9, 2018.  

The link given there for KDP 1106 author service is still valid.  But check the discussion of the new Kindle Direct Publishing here. A complete package for an average sized book costs around $3000, which is typical for the print on demand industry.  I’ve also noted that some bookstores have POD systems in their stores.
KDP has other consultants who give advice, like “Self-Publishing with Dale  (March 2019). Look at the “sweet spot” concept. Look at the “hollow best seller” idea.    Also look at some followup videos, especially about the terms of service and rules.  There is the concept of "link farming" within KDP itself because it can improperly inflate results, and there is appropriate concern about poor editing quality, among other problems which are mainly about gaming the system. 

I often get calls from companies that want to redistribute my books.  There are a lot of these calls and messages so I don’t know how reputable they are.

I also get calls as to why I don’t try harder to sell the older of the books (the 2000/1997 and 2002 “Do Ask Do Tell” books).  I’ve gotten feedback that the history in the first of these two books is valuable now because the debate over transgender in the military is different from the older “don’t ask don’t tell” policy debate and that “activists” don’t understand this.  That’s probably true.

It is also the case that I have two short stories in the DADT III book and at least have a treatment written as to how to film them.  There are some scenarios I can imagine (having to do with the fossil fuel and climate change issue) where the first of these stories could be worked into something that compares the situation today to what is was in the early 1970s (the setting of the story), especially with respect to mountaintop removal and reclamation.

I am also working on the “Angel’s Brother” novel and some concepts (as to who “gets chosen” for the spaceship at the end) could be politically dicey in today’s contentious climate.  I am developing the Access Database to analyze the character backstories and close loopholes.  I would expect a draft to be ready for editing by the end of the first quarter 2020.
There is a more sensitive issue now – people who publish to attract attention and don’t sell well are seen as disruptive or arrogant towards the needs of consumers.  I’ll have to come back to this again.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cornell University: "Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube"; does this paper confuse coincidence with cause?

Cornell University has published a study “Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube” by Manoel Horta Ribeiro, Raphael Ottoni, Robert West, VirgĂ­lio A. F. Almeida, Wagner Meira.  

The link for the abstract is here

The article suggests that people who look for conservative material generally considered “alt-lite” (that is, no ethnic separations, but in fact a disdain for recognizing intersectionality and more protected classes) tend in time to be drawn to more radical alt-right material, sometimes involving ethnostates. But some commentators talk about alt-lite as more concerned about “western civilization” or sometimes radical right (which does support democracy).

It’s probable that a fear of expropriation or of forced personal contact or group advocacy and tribalism drives the progression.
Emma Grey Ellis had described “The alt-right’s latest ploy:trolling with false symbols” 
Most of the people getting banned on social media and chased by SJW’s are more on the “alt-lite”.

Carlos Maza shared the Cornell link on Twitter today.  He has since updated it with a similar paper by Rebecca Lewis "Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube", on Data Society, which Carlos says is the source of the aforementioned paper.

Update:  Aug. 28

Timcast did a video examining this paper and found false equivalencies.  People who are centrist center-right mainstream conservatives in the Reagan sense or libertarian, for example, may comment on videos authored by the smaller number of true alt-right or extremist persons merely because they are talking about the same topic.  This false equivalency leads some people to associate Pewdiepie, for example, with the far right because of a few symbols or games (Minecraft) that actual political figures on the right comment on.   The paper mentions Ford Fischer's "News2Share" as "alt-lite" when it is factual and usually takes no positions on what it films (Fischer is a Libertarian Party member.)  Timcast mentioned News2share at least twice in the video (link). The title of Tim Pool's video suggests a malicious intent by the writers of the paper, under the guise of academia.  Pool also says that the definitions of political categories (alt-lite v alt-right) are subjective, and that simply commenting on a topic or subject matter does not mean that the speaker agrees with a video author's political motives.

Kevin Shau discusses this piece on Medium and calls it the product of "another Leftist conspiracy theory", link.

The Rebecca Lewis paper appears (to me, at least), to vulnerable to the same criticism.
Correlation doesn't cause things. We may be giving the university above too much part credit.
This series of Buzzfeednews articles under Rosie Gray's in May 2019 try to imply that Steve Bannon, Milo, Flynn, etc are true white nationalists.  The reasoning seems to be the same as in the studies Pool debunked.  The idea is to convince the reader that Trump is such.  You know, if you make a disparaging comment at a family Thanksgiving dinner (I used to hear these) that implicates those speakers, too. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Fukuyama previews his book "Identity" in Foreign Affairs as he confronts identity politics

Francis Fukuyama has a long article on Foreign Affairs for September/October 2018, “Against Identity Politics: The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy”.   Fukuyama has a book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment”, 240 pages, Oct. 2018.

The article reviews all the points I have repeatedly made myself in many blog posts.  Inequality, perhaps exacerbated by shareholder capitalism, tends to drive people back into depending on their identities of their groups of origin or that they are placed in.  American history, with slavery and white privilege of the past, makes this much more challenging for displaced white people, so we get a particular kind of violent supremacist extremism on the “identarian” right, whereas the Left the authoritarian is more female, more diffuse. 

There is also a tendency to attack meritocracy at a personal level, as leaving people behind in hopeless circumstances.  Hence the Left has become more combative in claiming a lot of previously accepted talk as "hate speech", especially pronoun issues for gender issues.   The return to identity is an attempt to restore personal dignity.
Fukuyama compares identity politics in the US with that in Europe.  Particularly for the US, he believes that national service programs could break up the identarianism and get people used to bonding from people from different groups.  It’s possible to imagine this even in retirement, which would make it impossible for me to follow the publication career that I “chose”.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Neuborne's "Madison's Music: on Reading the First Amendment", previewed on the David Pakman show; possibly important legal observation noted that could affect bloggers

A composite video by The David Pakman Show while he is on vacation this week, “The Truth About Free Speech and Censorship”. Introduces a book by NYU Civil Liberties Professor Burt Neuborne, “Madison’s Music: On Reading the First Amendment” from 2015, from the New Press.

Neuborne starts speaking in the third segment, at about 26:00 in the video.

He describes the First Amendment as 45 words that needs to be read as a whole.  It starts with two conscience clauses (regarding religion), then the basic individual speech clause, then freedom of the press, assembly, and petition.  The idea is that individual speech should be made in good faith (with respect to conscience and logical consistency with actions) and should ultimate support future collective action to change policy.

Neuborne says reading the amendment is like reading a poem.  You wouldn't read only two words of a poem (although a complete line makes sense), and you wouldn't take out the notes of a piece of music (not even with Photoscore). 
A speaker does not have the fundamental right to freedom from the consequences of his speech.

There could be a theoretical trap for individual speakers implied in what Neyborne said.  I'll need to get his book or Kindle and read up in detail (I am backed up already!)  It would seem that if an individual speaker or blogger or author says he/she/they will not participate in a follow-up assembly or petition activity when repeated asked to do so, "they" could lose their speech rights.  This could conceivably become a terms of service or AUP issue with some providers (because think of the implications of what it could invite from "enemies", but I don't think this has ever happened).  I'll have to look into this indeed. David Pakman (normally a moderate Leftist liberal but "capitalist") catches a lot of tricky points other journalists (even Tim Pool) have missed. Well he should, as a political science professor at Boston College.

(Update:)  I just bought the book on Kindle and see right off (you can also see this from a "peak inside the book" on Amazon) that he says that when the First Amendment was written, individual speech was limited to a small audience by technology, so the presence of social media and especially search engines makes his point double-edged now.)
There is conceivably a similar situation possible with many trusts involving non-profit beneficiaries, which I'll look into later.