Monday, September 30, 2019

Finland's "The Kalevala"

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2019

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, September 09, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 07, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 01, 2019

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

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

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

Update: Saturday, Sept. 14

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