Friday, July 19, 2019

Buzzfeednews covers the Andy Ngo beating in Portland OR in detail, and shadows his career


Joseph Bernstein has a booklet length article on Buzzfeednews of his shadowing of the career of journalist Andy Ngo, who was attacked with serious head injuries while filming an Antifa demonstration in Portland OR.

  
David Rubin’s interview with Ngo is interesting, where at 22:00 Ngo explains how some Antifa people rationalize petty political violence because they see speech by the “privileged” as a kind of implicit violence, because the right (according to them) is a lot more responsible for terror and violence against marginalized groups than even the far Left, and there is some validity to that.
   
Bernstein gives he history of Ngo’s career, building it up and suggests that Ngo benefits from the notoriety of covering psychologically unhinged people.  Indeed, the expectation of coverage may encourage more violent protests.  He also covers Ngo’s family’s experience with communism in Vietnam after the US left in 1975.

Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Portland OR picture, CCSA 3.0. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

NYTimes: How the Notre-Dame was almost a total loss


The New York Times has an exclusive booklet article, which is well illustrated with animated gifs and interactive diagrams in the online version. It is “Notre-Dame came far closer to collapsing than people knew; this is how it was saved”.

There are multiple authors: Elian Peltier, James Glanz, Mika Grondahl, Weiyi Cai, Adam Nossiter, and Liz Alderman.


A new employee noticed the alarm, and another person went to the wrong place, losing precious time.

It sill isn’t clear what started the fire, but the Catherdral had obviously not been properly maintained, given the resources of the church.  And now the funds required are a political flashpoint given all the Yellow Vest protests.

Many firefighters, including women, took unknown risks climbing into the inferno to prevent total collapse.
  
By Joëlle Lévy - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Lempi of Finn Hollow": children's viewpoint of immigrant life for Finns in late 19th century


The children’s book “Lempi of Finn Hollow” is a large-format children’s paperback sold ($5) on the groups of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, north of Painesville (on Richnmond Highway and SR 385, just about three miles, on Lake Erie).



The book is authored by Elaine Lillback and is based on the life of Lempi Johanna Sironen Juuti Tokka (1889-1987) and is a sequel to “Finn Hollow of Fairport, Ohio”.  The publisher is Painesville, Publisning Co in Painesvlle (about 25 miles east of downtown Cleveland on US 20). There is no ISBN apparent or UPC code. 

The book describes a difficult ship crossing of immigrants from Finland, becoming less hospitable because of Czarist Russian influence.  Lempi is born two or so years after the crossing on High Street, a few blocks from the Lake.


The immigrants are opportunistic in terms of work all over the northeast, including the iron mines in Minnesota, to heavy steel and tool industries in the northeast.  But many of them settle in northeast Ohio and work for a shipping company.

The families go through the labor of manually moving their homes when the docking company demands their land, and the experience is seen through children’s eyes.  Families get together and raise money to start cooperative retail businesses.
   
Religious upbringing is very communal.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Vox: "The War to Free Science" and the high cost of paywalls for academic journals, and the role of the "Books in Print" company


Brian Resnick and Jullia Belluz have a Vox booklet (illustrations by Xavier Zarracina) “The War to Free Science”.  The subtitle is quite telling “How librarians, pirates and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls.”

The article notes that there are 27,500 scientists affiliated with the University of California.  (Young nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson is affiliated with the University of Nevada in Reno.)

In February 2019 the University of California System ended its $11 million subscription to Reed Elsevier, the largest owner of academic journals.

The company is also known for “Books in Print”, which I got to know pretty well when I got my ISBN log book for my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997.  It was mailed to me on a piece of computer paper for about $200 as I recall.  I should have it somewhere. The imprint at the time was called “High Productivity Publishing”.

I even considered doing a little contract work for them in the spring of 2002 after my “career ending” layoff at the end of 2001 (when I was still in Minneapolis).

Vox goes on to describe the push for some kind of open access, and other funding mechanisms for the necessary peer reviews for academic journals.

Jack Andraka had talked about the problem around 2015 or so after he won his Science Fair prize for his work on diagnosing future risk for pancreatic cancer inexpensively.


He says that access to research journals was a big deal when he started the work.  Fortunately, when he found a sponsor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, he had access.  But to get access to the articles to even write the original proposal was a problem.

Basic research continues in fields like theoretical physics, where the mathematics of some objects (like Lie groups) gets us closer to an understanding of why we even exist and whether we could become immortal. It all gets peer reviewed.  This is real publishing.
  
This is a problem Electronic Frontier Foundation could do more work on.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Old book on "Sissy Boy Syndrome" might have clues (however objectionable) for real developmental disorders



I found a book review in the New York Times of a 1986 book by Dr. Richard Green, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality”, published by the Yale University Press in February 1987, article by Jane E. Brody.

Why would I bring up such an old chestnut?  This was a sacrosanct idea as far back as the early 60s, pre-Stonewall, when the male-only military draft influenced things (leading to Vietnam); there was an idea that men had a Spartan obligation to prove themselves worthy physically, father children and protect women and children for the future of the tribe;  those who failed to do so were viewed as moochers or even cowards, willing to allow the male risk-taking to be shifted to others. Indeed, some of the demand to respect gender fluidity from the woke left today is motivated by a desire to break up this kind of oppressive thinking from the past. (In the 1980s, when this book was published, the dangers of behavior in a community amplifying HIV within itself would have been relevant.)

Before going further, we’ll note a CNN short documentary that discredits the study.


Actually, I’m trying to figure out my own past.

Apparently as a youth I did have some sort of Developmental Coordination Disorder, or dyspraxia, which seems to have genetic causes distantly related to autism and Asperger’s, but is often very mild and sometimes is outgrown in puberty.  Sometimes boys with this presentation will have unique talents (like music) that seem to come at the cost of other capacities, almost as if there were a premature brain pruning process.

On the other hand, at NIH in 1962, I was officially diagnosed as having “schizoid personality disorder”, probably with some schizotypal thoughts or feelings or fantasies.  This is in Group A of the DSM personality disorders, distantly related to schizophrenia in some families, so it may have a genetic basis, but not the same as autism. 

A schizoid understands the emotions of others, but does not personally want to join in and share tribal or brotherly warmth with others, and remains aloof to making emotional commitments required for a life-long marriage that can raise children and endure unpredictable risks and challenges to intimacy. As Asperger person supposedly doesn’t understand them. But with dyspraxia, the behavior pattern may tend to fit closer to schizoid, so it is very hard to figure out what genetic or epigenetic or familial neurological processes are actually happening.

On my mother’s side of the family, several males seem to fit the schizoid pattern.  Most have done fairly well in life because they can adapt by doing well at their own jobs, which are often solitary (like writing software) rather than working with others (like salesmanship or leading others in a political movement).

In fact, both schizoids and people with mild Asperger’s often do very well in a modern technological individualistic society (they can literally outflank others) but would not survive in a more primitive, communal one.

I never encountered a lot of dyspraxia until I was in Basic Combat Training in the Army, in 1968 at Fort Jackson, where it seems in retrospect that most of the other men in Special Training Company displayed the same syndrome. They had been drafted to prove they were not moochers. Imagine how that would play out with the politics today. I got better at housekeeping, cleaning and reassembling a rifle, etc. but after leaving the Army I went back to my old habits gradually and lost the improved coordination I had learned.  That alone is an interesting finding.

It seems intuitive that some of this would lead back to homosexuality in men. But no one really talks about this. The 1980s article seems a bit flawed. It says that only about one third of gay men were typically “masculine” as boys.  I find, in my own interactions, that if you exclude those who want to be viewed as gender fluid (and they are still a distinct minority within LGBTQ), probably 75% of the men were normally “masculine” growing up, but maybe a quarter were not.  Among gay men, a substantial fraction are physically fit enough to be able to play professional sports or compete in Olympics.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

"Teenagers Pray": a Sunday school guide from 1955, hardcover, still on my nightstand after downsizing out of a house



Haven’t done a book review here in a while, and I found this 1955 prayer book that survived my downsizing (in 1977) the other day under my nightstand.

It’s “Teenagers Pray”, from Concordia House, written and edited by William Kramer.

This book was published during the first Eisenhower administration. The current building of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC opened on Christmas Day 1955 under Dr. Pruden, and this book predates that.


Running 79 pages, it comprises pre-written prayers, for days of the week, and for interesting personal situations, such as before a date, and after a date.  Those were the days, when the expectation was marriage and procreation.

There is a prayer for Ascension.  That today makes me think of Jesus as an “alien” who remains young forever by time dilation while speeding to other planets near light speed.
Relativity matters to faith.  Most of our ancestors lived on what they perceived as an infinite flat earth with no boundaries, because a sphere has none.  In four dimensional space, the Universe may likewise have no boundaries as we normally understand it.  Maybe Clive Barker really had the Universe figured out with his 1991 book “Imajica”, which still needs to be filmed.


I can remember one time being told in Sunday school, maybe around 1956, that public prayer matters. And other faiths, ranging from Catholicism to Islam, make public prayer a real expectation.
  
The Amazon insert is for a different but similar (more recent) book.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Amazon counterfeits can indeed get in the way


Since Amazon dominates the online bookstore market, counterfeit books (and other goods) seem to have become a problem, as reported on the front page of the New York Times today by David Streitfeld, link.
  
He starts the article with a discussion of “The Sanford Guide for Antimicrobial Therapy” from a small publisher in Sperryville VA, along US 29-211, on the way to the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and many hikes in my young adulthood. Apparently the book has become the target of counterfeits.  So do many others, especially textbooks.


I had never thought about counterfeit books.  I don’t think it would be a problem with POD. But my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book had a print run in 1997, as did “Our Fundamental Rights”.  I have sometimes seen “collector’s” copies of these show up from third party retailers and I feel flattered. And sometimes the books (or my online notes) have been plagiarized.

There could be a problem of books with gross misinformation (like anti-vax, maybe).  Amazon has pulled books advocating pedophilia after an AC360 report. The book “Hit Man” from Paladin Press led to a lawsuit against the press as an “assassination manual” and the copies were allowed to sell out;  the book does not seem to appear on Amazon now. Paladin Press went out of business in 2017 (Denver Post). 
  
This would not be as big a problem in traditional book distribution, as to major and independent stores.
Update:

I visited the Sperryville property today.  It appears to be a business that gives therapy treatments and the book is incidental.  There was no bookstore open when I visited it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Major periodical booklet explores whether "school choice" amounts to continuing segregation


An online magazine called “Southern Spaces” has a booklet length article “Segregationists, Libertarians, and the Modern ‘School Choice’ Movement”, by Steve Suitts in Atlanta, link

The general concept is that many parents still want to get to choose whom their kids don’t have to go to school with.


I can remember being taught about Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in “General Education” class in seventh grade middle school, in 1956. But I saw very few black students in middle school or high school through to my 1961 graduation from Washington-Lee (name recently changed to Washington-Liberty).

I suppose that “school choice” will result in private schools with fewer black students that statistics would justify.

That may be less true of Catholic schools.  Many parents will pay for Catholic school simply because they know that, through all the conservatism, they will get a great grasp of fundamental academic skills. Those Covington kids turned out to be very strong indeed.  
  
I have to admit that I have sometimes heard shocking statements in family gatherings (from my parents’ side) as recently as maybe 2007 still wanting some kind of segregation. It’s infrequent, but it has happened. I think of Kyle Kashuv’s unfortunately foolish behavior at sixteen, as reflection of private conversations of the adults in his life then, probably.

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit": controversial book from African professor relates language to ethical and discrimination (anti-gay) problems




I wanted to mention a book originally published back in 1990, “Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit” by Gedaliah Braun.  The book was republished in 2010 (Amazon says not available now in print) and offered on Kindle in 2013.  The publisher seems to be Amazon Digital Services.

On the strike page on Goodreads, she says she left the US in 1976 to teach philosophy in Nigeria. I noticed a comment about a "Muslim president" that seems way off-base. 

  
On that page, and on other pages, she says that many African languages don’t have the ability to express complex abstract concepts such as conditionality or supposition, so people in this part of the world haven’t learned to process moral concepts the way western individualists can.  They understand tribal authority. She even maintains that complex languages common in the west develop when people live in colder climates and deal with more natural challenges.

This might explain the anti-gay attitudes (and anti-gay laws in past years) that seem purely tribal (fewer children) and irrational.
  
Here is a Blogger page about her writing.

Wikipedia attribution for photo: 
By Jeff Attaway - https://www.flickr.com/photos/attawayjl/3329179458/Uploaded by MrPanyGoff, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19859196

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Alt-America" author suspended from Twitter because his book cover (in his profile) has a hateful avatar for documentation purposes



Author David Neiwert was suspended from Twitter when his book cover “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump” graced his profile, with its multiple Klan-head images.  The book is published by Verso (2017).

Twitter policy doesn’t allow depiction of symbols from known hate groups, period, even in commentary.


Pool’s video above shows part of the response sent to Neiwert, as recognizing it is newsworthy but that it will confuse many uneducated viewers and drive them away form the platform, especially in mobile view, where they cannot see the context.  This seems to be a “business driven” policy by Twitter.

Nick R Martin has an article explaining this incident in “The Daily Beast”.  I did not link to the article on Twitter because the images would embed, although I think there are ways to manipulate Twitter settings to warn users about troubling content (My tweets). 

Because of the controversy, I will not embed the Amazon image on this post.

But YouTube's embed of Tim Pool's story does include a picture of the cover with the avatars.  This seems permissible on YouTube right now (for now). So I let this embed stand. It would be possible for Tim to edit the video strike page so that something not containing the avatars appears instead, but that is up to him.

There is a flaw in Twitter's policy in that hate groups will simply change their dog whistles.
  
This does not bode well for the resolution of the current issue of monetizing livestream news on YouTube (as with Ford Fischer) and Facebook, either.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Jeopardy winner James Holzhauer boned up on children's books


Jeopardy contestant James Holzhauer attracted notice for his use of children’s books in preparing for the quiz contests and the memorization of trivia. 


Karen Springen writes about his use of children’s literature as a preparation strategy. Why?  Writers of these book shave a unique challenge: to make things “interesting to uninterested readers.” This is about creating literacy – and the lack of it in adults later in life is part of our problem with misuse of Internet content today. 

He says he had to be coy about spending too much time in a children’s section to avoid appearing to behave inappropriately.  I’m reminded of Reid Ewing’s 2012 (short film) satire “It’s Free” set in a public library which grazes on a similar point.

Hozhauer’s remarks reflect that writers of these books have to actually think about what their readers want and need, not just on what the writers think they have to say.
  
Holzhauer is a professional game player with a background in mathematics.  I guess that includes poker, but chess hasn’t been mentioned.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

"The Making of a YouTube Radical": NYTimes booklet exaggerates claims that some people are far-right but is correct about how the site's algorithms augment extreme views



Here’s a particularly shocking “booklet” offered on the front-page of the New York Times on Pride Sunday, “The Making of a YouTube Radical” with the subtitle, “How the Site’s Algorithms Payed into the Hands of the Far Right”, by Kevin Roose.

Roose is author of “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University” (2010, Grand Central. refers to Liberty University in Lynchburg VA) and “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits” (2014, also G.C.)

The narrative presents the history of Caleb Cain who found himself drawn into a “decentralized cult” of the far right.


It’s true that YouTube’s (and Facebook’s) algorithms gave more extreme views a chance to bring in money because of the lack of gatekeepers.   Some previously little discussed ideas (“replacement”) get attention from the right.  And the far Left becomes combative in an attempt to completely silence topics that it perceives could lead to violence against members of protected classes.  We saw that last week with #Voxadpocalypse”.

But the Roose article, as placed online, shows very hyperbolic sub-headlines calling various persons “far right”  when they are more like normal conservatives, and various ideological slurs against, for example, anti-feminism.

Tim Pool noted in a tweet today that this article would be OK as an op-ed, but not as front page news. He then notes an irony in the narrative of Caleb's re-conversion.  
  
Cade Metz et al has a parallel article on how A.I. could be weaponized to spread “disinformation”.

Monday, June 03, 2019

"The Revolution that Wasn't" argues that Internet technology really has benefited conservatives



Sean Illing of Vox interviews Jen Schradie discussing her book “The Revolution that Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives”, from Harvard University Press, 416 pages.  This title contradicts the recent complaints about big Tech deplatforming conservatives, but in previous years algorithms tended to favor them. 

While tracing the effect of the Internet, through the Arab Spring in 2011 through the recent abuse of Facebook echo chambers by dictators overseas and election meddling, she notes that conservatives tend to have simpler, more principled ideas that they want to promote, and social media – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc – does that better than advancing group cohesion and solidarity needed by the Left.


As an individual speaker, I tend to agree.  I resist being asked to give my time to groups with identarian priorities (and I am often quizzed about this).   Group goals seem to derive from tribalism, loyalty and combativeness and resist abstract intellectual principles for conduct.  Yet you could say that the Equality Act sounds principled – except that the people being protected are so diverse psychologically that you can’t really group them as a protected class easily anymore.  You could say that both sides of the abortion debate have a principled core concept.

She says that conservatives are more likely to have hierarchal structures in place.  No so true of libertarian conservatives.  And social conservatives may sound principles (like in the Reagan area) or identarian (the split-off of the ethno-alt-right and populism).

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Chernobyl Forum issues revised "book" on the health effects of the 1986 catastrophe in Ukraine


Here’s a curiosity from behind the former Iron Curtain.
  
The Chernobyl Forum 2003-2005 published a second edition of “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental, and Socio-Economic Effects” with the subtitle “Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine”, on the IAEE site here.  The Moorfield Storey Institute contributed to the report.

  
James Peron wrote an article for Medium in a column called “The Radical Center” with title “Chernobyl: What Facts Found”, excerpt here. Despite total desertion of the living areas, later studies showed that the health effects and cancer were not worse than from normal air pollution.  Thyroid cancer increased, but thyroid cancer is usually treatable (it was not for Roger Ebert, remember).
By MHM55 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Range". by David Esptein, argues that generalists can do very well in public life



If you’re going to be professional at something and get public recognition for it, do you have to be a prodigy and start early and focus on it from childhood?

According to a New York Times book review by Jim Holt, David Epstein says, not necessarily, in his new book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, published by Riverhead Books.

The idea is that learning environments can be kind, or brutal.  Classical music performance tends to be a kind environment that rewards starting early and sticking with it. Composing may be more nuanced, and some modern composers are quite versatile with their skills:  Jaron Lanier (“You Are Not a Gadget”, and “10 Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now”), well known for large, eclectic compositions (Plays blog, June 19, 2013), is quite versatile with tech for its own sake (as are many other musicians).


The review compares the careers of Tiger Woods (golf) with Roger Federer (tennis), the latter of which is more compatible with generalism.  Medicine is said to be so, despite the fact that interns and residents have to live such unifocal existence.
  
My own case with piano was a narrow miss. It was not easy for boys to consider this in the Cold War obsessed 1950s and early 1960s. I had an audition in a ritzy NW Washington apartment building with a Dr. Hughes, who was 72 at the time, when I was about 15, for a piano career.  It was indeed close. 

I wound up with a double life, where mainframe information technology rather dead-ended itself after 2000 as a real career field that creates a professional identity. 
 
Chess requires real focus from early in life to get really good (at least International Master or higher). 

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.

Update:  See also the previews of DiAngelo's book, similar ideas, April 21, 2019 and Sept. 16, 2018. 

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.

Update: May 28, 2019

There is a 2019 piece in Tolerance by Anya Malley et al "What's my complicity?" that also discusses DiAngelo's book. 

I see there was an earlier preview of this book Sept. 16, 2018 here. 

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)