Monday, December 30, 2019

Quillette article maintains the Left wants to institutionalize mediocrity

Here is an important essay in Quillette by Adam Ellwanger, “Accessibility, Ableism, and the Decline of Excellence”. 
Adam discusses a software product called Accessibility Ally which professors are supposed to use to make their lesson plans more understandable to persons with physical or sometimes learning disabilities.   This may include obvious issues like color blindness (especially in men) to ADHD or dyslexia (which teenagers often outgrow during puberty however).

He then goes on to discuss the aims of the far Left concerning equity of outcomes instead of just equality of opportunity and concludes that the far Left wants.
The Left, he argues, wants to “institutionalize mediocrity” so people don’t “scope” one another any more for “desirability” and everyone is a comrade.  Then why care about your interactions with anyone?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

"The Revolt of the Public" against too much information online (when self-broadcast?)

In 2014, Stripe Press published a 400+ page book by Martin Gurri, “The Revolt of the Public”. 

 Today, Seam Illing of Vox interviews him, in an article called “A Decade of Revolt: Meet the author who predicted the upheaval of the 2010’s”.
Gurri believes that the self-broadcast aspect of the Internet disrupted the use of political and social structures and hierarchies to mediate the spread of information to the masses. The Internet destroyed the idea that social and political authority can determine what information a person should get.
At first the new freedom led to demands for more democracy (the Arab spring) but soon authoritarian leaders could turn the Internet on the masses and use it to sow more divisions among individuals who had fallen further behind in an individually competitive globalized world.

Update:  David Pakman interviewed the author on Jan. 10, 2020, interesting perspective here (12 min), as he calls for more localism and fewer levels of bureaucracy. A "revolution" has lost all chance of happening since the end of 1991 (the collapse of the Soviet Union).  

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Authors are getting pestered for typos in Kindles they sell

Reclaim the Net advises Kindle authors that some readers have been Amazon Kindle’s reader correction utility and been removing books whose authors don’t respond in time.

This would sound like it applies to Create Space, but not to work from other POD companies.

The facility has long been present, but there are reports that trolls have recently been causing authors to be harassed.

Amazon Create Space no longer offers its own copyediting, so it is essential for authors to hire 3rd party proofreaders.
An author said her informal spelling (of words like “moreso”) was being incorrectly flagged.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Joan C. Williams, preview of "White Working Class" and critique of personal attitudes toward non-PoC who do badly in this economy

Here’s a quick book preview of a 2017 paperback by University of California law professor Joan C. Williams, “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America” from Harvard Business Review Press.

Dr. Williams appeared on Fareed Zakaria on CNN Saturday morning Dec. 21 to discuss how the American public and especially the former Democratic party elite is clueless as to the problems faced by white rural working class Americans, which are more similar to the problems of urban PoC than they realize.  This triggers the explanation of “why Trump won” according to PragerU.

The book has a preface by entrepreneur Mark Cuban (Shark Tank) which explains his own humble upbringing in a family that lay carpets for a living.  When he moved away to Dallas and started earning money as a bartender and in sales, he broke away from it, but he seems to attribute some of that to fortune.

Williams provides her own preface where she takes an ambivalent stance on current criticisms of “identity politics” as by Mark Lilla.  She also slams the personal attitude of many people toward other white working class people who do badly and wind up on opioids or run around with weapons.
There will be a full review on Wordpress soon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Why do literary agents reject your book?

Spalmorun (Karen Akhavein) explains the seven reasons literary agents reject your book. I had my experience with agents in the 1990s. 

First, “you don’t send books to publishers”.  That sounds like an oxymoron.  But you send books to literary agents.

It has to be the “right” agent, and you have to follow the agent’s website instruction on how to do the pitch or query.

It shouldn’t be a “hard sell” for the market at the time.

But point (5) is the most interesting:  your social media presence should present you as having authority to write the book (and it isn’t so much a numbers game – although YouTube’s and Facebook’s problems right now make all that iffy anyway.)  What she calls “authority” I call “personal branding”

Point (6) has to do with the need to grab the reader’s attention on the first page.  In the past, this hasn’t always been true.  Irwing Wallace wrote some spy novels about the Cold War and he used to take his time building back stories for each major character in the early chapters (particularly with “The Plot” that never became a movie). 

At the end of the video, she does discuss self-publishing. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"The Christian Withdrawal Experiment" in rural Kansas (Atlantic), recalls "The Ultimate Frontier", perhaps

Emma Green has an interesting article in “The Atlantic”, called "The Christian Withdrawal Experiment".
The story concerns an intentional community, this time conservative Catholic, at St. Mary’s Kansas, a bit east of Manhattan, Kansas (and Kansas State University).    Lawrence and KU are farther away. 

Somehow I’m reminded that in my draft of the unpublished 1969 novel “The Proles”, I had imagined a town called Atkins.
The community reminds me a bit of Amish values.  The people are heavily socialized in communal sharing, and women are expected to grow up to be either nuns or wives and mothers.
This is localism in the extreme.  The people say they are retreating from the culture wars rather than preparing to be “warriors”.
In Stelle, Illinois (back in 1970;  I visited it in 1982), associated with Richard Kinienger aja Ekial Kueshana (“The Ultimate Frontier”;  I read the paperback 40 years ago), women were not allowed to work.  The author had monthly meetings at a unitarian church in Dallas in the 1980s. 

Monday, December 09, 2019

"Why Liberalism Failed", by Patrick Deneen, argues for localism

Joseph Hogan of The Nation interviews author Patrick Deneen, author of “Why Liberalism Failed”, Yale University Press, 2019, 264 pages.  The Nation article is “The Problems with Liberalism, a QA with Patrick Deneen”, a professor of political science at Notre Dame.

The gist of the Nation piece seems to be that Deneen believes liberalism allows over-individualistic but sometimes not really competitive young people to throw off the idea of any loyalty to the communities that they came from, with no real sense of purpose to replace it. 

He seems to be advocating a return to localism, where everyone is socialized in an immediate community physically and doesn’t expect to move out into the world without being effective within a natural family first.

This could easily slip into a ehtno-alt-right “blood and soil” if you aren’t careful.
Economic Invincibility has a video review of the book here (which is where I first heard about the book) and covers similar points.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Peter Bergen has a new book: "Trump and his Generals: The Cost of Chaos", just as North Korea starts sabre-rattling again

Time Magazine has published a chapter of Peter Bergen’s news book “Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos”, from Penguin Press (400 pages), available Dec. 10.
At best, it becomes erratic, unpredictable, volatile, without any quantum entanglement regulating it.
Vox has an interview by Alex Ward, “Trump once suggested that all of Seoul’s 10 million residents move to avoid North Korean threat”. It’s interesting that Steve Bannon even admits that there is no way the US can get away with attacking North Korea pre-emptively, and Trump’s statements in 2017 (“little rocket man” v. "dotard") were indeed asking for it. 
Mysteriously, things calmed down after the Winter Olympics in February 2018.
We saw the summits, and Trump buttering up Kim, and admitting at least once that he had to.
And now Kim threatens a “Christmas present” at the end of the year just as impeachment is probably brought against Trump (as Pelosi announced today and discussed on CNN this evening.)  More missile or nuclear tests, to say the least.  Activity at one of the North Korean missile sites reported on CNN this evening.
It’s truly shocking how dismissive he was at the beginning about Korea.  Oh, yes, he never served in the military.

Update: Dec. 10, 18

Trump called for evacuation of Seoul in early 2018, but Mattis simply ignored it (Guardian). Bergen discusses the Olympics on pp 214-215 as very important in changing Trump's mind (the book arrived today, Dec. 18). 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Time: "How America's Elites Lost their Grip"

Here’s a guilty conscience, Time essay, “How America’s Elites Lost their Grip”, by Anand Giridharadas.
Tim Pool blew up at actor Mark Ruffalo on Twitter when Ruffalo railed against capitalism and linked to this story. “Prove you mean it” Pool ordered, as if Ruffalo were the rich young ruler in Matthew.
The article quotes the normally moderate Pete Buttigieg as decrying “neo-liberalism”.
Late in the article, Abnand admonishes me:  Remember, I don’t join “other people’s causes” very often or march in their demonstrations or protests.
“If there is one thing that could hasten the end of the age of capital and accelerate the coming of an age of reform, it is a vigorous new culture of joining in American life. Not clicking, not liking, not retweeting, not TikTokking, not screaming at MSNBC/Fox, but actually joining: political movements and civic organizations with memberships so vast that politicians cannot ignore them. The age of capital has been facilitated by a remarkable solidarity among the ultra-fortunate. Putting that period in the museum will take other, broader solidarities.

Friday, November 29, 2019

AAUP: "A Tale of Two Arguments About Free Speech on Campus"

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) offers a long article by Michael C. Bahrent, “A Tale of Two Arguments About Free Speech on Campus”, link
The article talks about the alarm risen by a group called FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The article develops the idea that the current generation of professors and students don’t value free speech they way people did around the time of Y2K. 

They see personalized speech is more useful to the already well-off, who generally don’t like to “take action” and have no shame in demonstrating. Furthermore, the distraction of individualistic speech makes it very difficult for campuses to become inclusive of groups of previously less desired people.

There is also a way the political climate on a typical campus compounds this.

The Left is demanding relief from a hypercritical attitude that classifies individuals as simply winners and losers and tries to justify a superficially meritocratic hierarchy. Yet, within the intersectional groups the Left tries to form, they would find they have to set up their own hierarchies.
But they insist it makes some sense, that if you can shut down all speech that simply seems critical of someone for not being as competitive sexually as someone else, you could stop bullying and sequences that have horrific results.  In their view, my own William and Mary expulsion was the result of this talk, rather than from morally legitimate claims I could myself become a mooch on the larger group.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A word of "Warning" and the effectiveness of anonymous speech (well, whistleblowing)

“Anonymous” says that he or she (“they”) remains anonymous as the author of “A Warning” (published by Twelve) so that readers may focus on the content and not the personhood .  Alexander Hamilton and James Madison remained anonymous for part of the time leading to ratification of the Constitution, they said, CBS News  story. The author may reveal their identity in January. 

“A threat to America,” according to a senior Trump administration official.

The book says, “everyone is chief of staff except the chief of staff” and speculates that Pence might get dumped.

The president is reported to have considered naming illegal migrants as “unlawful combatants” for Guantanomo Bay.

My own book would have had no political impact (on gays in the military back in the 90s) had I remained anonymous “to protect the family.”

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Richard Stengel's "Information Wars": He would weaken platform immunity and Section 230

Today, Fareed Zakaria, on Global Public Square on CNN, interviewed Richard Stengel, author of “Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It”, 2019, Atlantic Monthly Press, 368 pages, Amazon.

Zakaria described hate speech laws in Germany to the United States today. You can be prosecuted for displaying Naza items in Germany.  Private platforms may censor you but the First Amendment makes it impossible to make it illegal.

Stengel says that if you travel around the world, people find it remarkable that in the US hate speech is tolerated.  Why are people allowed to burn the Koran in public in the U.S.?

The answer is partly that the U.S. embraces individualism more than other countries. The U.S. officially is less interested in protecting people as members of groups as for the limitations they may feel.
Stengel also suggested that social media platforms should be held responsible for hosting hate speech and that Section 230 should be much reduced. He also suggested that we need to teach media literacy in schools, and noted the Pizzagate scandal in 2016 as an example of American gullibility. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Article in conservative magazine resembles Damore's, causes ruckus at Indiana University when a professor tweets a link to it

I’m going to treat this as a “booklet” because of its topicality.

An Indiana University business professor drew demands for his firing after he tweeted this UNZ article about campus environments by Lance Welton, “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably

It says that the article is 1500 words long, but it doesn’t look it.

The article suggests that males are more likely to be geniuses because of male instability and inpredictability and dependence on logical processing with less attention to feelings or agreeableness. 

 But Welton is right in that students need to learn to deal with other people’s ideas even if they could be threatening.  I’ve seem this my whole life.

Maybe, that sounds like James Damore’s ideas, but in this case the particular professor who wrote the tweet has more issues with homophobia, reportedly. Furthermore, Damore suggested inclusiveness of everyone on an individual basis, simply not quota-consciouesness. 

When I was in grad school at KU in the mid 1960s a female student finished and went on to a PhD program at the University of Illinois.
It’s true that some of the spectacular science fair type achievements have been from young males (Jack and Luke Andraka, Taylor Wilson, John Fish) but I’m not sure if I have a real sample and have looked at the female accomplishments.  I may be biased in simply hanging around or paying attention more to people who appeal to me personally.  

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.