Friday, April 03, 2020

Tyler Mowery's "Practical Screenwriting"


Author: Tyler Mowery

Title: “Practical Screenwriting: Cutting Through the Noise and Focusing on What Matters
Publication:  2020, Practical Screenwriting LLC, ISBN 978-1-64826-150-3, 96 pages, 4 sections, 7 chapters.  Purchase link. 

Tyler has an interesting YouTube channel on screenwriting and offers a course, named above.  It’s very easy to see his talking points from the names of his videos.

Tyler’s philosophy is somewhat in three parts.  There is plot with the usual opportunity for ironies and surprises.  There are characters with the normally desired (often selfish) goals who face danger. 

But, finally, and most important, there are questions as to whether the characters’ goals are morally appropriate:  the events of the story will typically force the character to chance who they are in some existential way.  It isn’t hard to imagine that the current public health crisis is capable of doing that.

On p. 19 he self-references a statement he makes about the importance of understanding psychology and philosophy before taking on the mechanics of writing screenplays.

  
He warns writers about “shiny ideas” (lest they become an aging character’s shiny shins?) and, toward the end, he distinguishes between mystery and ambiguity.  I must say, however, that I enjoy a bit of ambiguity (I think both “Inception” and “Cloud Atlas” had ambiguity too).

I think his ideas about philosophy and morality, as challenged by an external global challenge, will map to parallel issues in a character's life and create irony, sometimes a sequence of ironic situations. 
      
Mowery's ideas remind me of (Canadian Harvard undergrad) John Fish, especially in the first chapter where he talks about learning to read stories.  In some ways he reminds me of Martin Goldberg (Economic Invincibility) too. 
    
There's one other thing here. Mowery sells this book himself. I didn't see it on Amazon.  His payment page, from a third party, worked normally and connected to Paypal.  I could place more emphasis on doing my books this way.  You get a PDF (one file) to download (rather than a Kindle file, although maybe you can get that).  In my own case, I have separate PDF's for the separate chapters of my three DADT books, so I would have to combined them to work this way.  Right now I am configured to sell hardcopy myself from my own inventory (rather clumsy now with the "lockdown").  Maybe I need to look at following his example.

Picture: Imaginary sci-fi world, my own trainset in my condo during "stay at home". 

Monday, March 30, 2020

"The Erosion of Deep Literacy", big essay by Adam Garfinkle


In the (I think conservative) periodical “National Affairs”, Adam Garfinkle offers an extensive essay “The Erosion of Deep Literacy”, which David Pakman called to everyone’s attention on Twitter this morning. 
   
He discusses the books “Reader Come Home” (2018, Harper) by Maryanne Wolf, and “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr.

He sees the awakening of “deep reading” as an accumulated skill, built by the culture, not necessarily hardwired into humans the way oral language is (as it may also be in dolphins). The literacy tradition taught in academics (your years of English in high school and college) led us through “awakenings” that would include, for example, the Civil Rights Movement. But the capacity for consistent abstract and critical thinking gets diluted by the “multi-tasking” required by today’s digital world and social media.  With “deep reading” goes “deep writing”.  This essay does remind me of John Fish. 
     
I see that with all the culture wars raging around the Internet. Even in my own blogs, I put material online that to some people that seems random, yet some people, because of the acculturation, may think they are supposed to do something about an item in an isolated post, as they are not aware of larger context in blogging, but are wired to react socially. That is something that has contributed to radicalization.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

"This is the Bleak Heart of the World's Largest Coronavirus Outbreak", NYTimes


The New York Times has a major panel insert booklet “This is the Bleak Heart of the World’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreak”.
  

That refers to Bergamo, Italy, north of Milan, as well as a few surrounding towns, with 68% of the coronavirus deaths.
   
The panel and narrative speak for themselves.  The images are harrowing.
 
Wikipedia attribution: 
By Anton00 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, March 22, 2020

New York Times Special Section does illustratives on hand-washing, housecleaning for COV2




The New York Times has a Special Section, “The Basics”, in the print edition about practical advice for dealing with COVID-19.  It can’t find the exact document in the online edition.


Here are two important parts of it.  An illustration and video on hand washing, and a brief article on home cleaning.

Back in 2016 the Times had compared CDC and WHO handwashing techniques, and WHO’s is a little more elaborate. 

Mike Hansen’s video above emphasizes you don’t have to do a surgical scrub, which might create abrasions.  Also, these methods work for SARS-Cov2 but not for norovirus or “clostridium difficile”.
Fingernail trimming is desirable (but then so it is to play piano).  I hope that’s all.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How do independent bookstores survive coronavirus? Could Booktube help?


Bookbub has an important article on how independent bookstores deal with the Covid19 crisis. 

A bookstore in Brooklyn NY offers free delivery online, and a cookbook author delivers her own craft on a bike in Greenwich Village.

Of course the spoiler question would be, why not just order from Amazon or BN (and most books are there) or download to a Kindle (the fastest).

  
One idea that comes to mind is to wonder whether  Booktube conferences could be done online with participants meeting from home.  Booktube is a collection of “You Tune Original” channels (somewhat curated by YouTube as credible) of people who make videos about important new books, and it can be a way to have an online booksigning party.  On Feb 7 I included a video where John Fish (Canada) and others interview Bryan Stevenson.  Maybe we could set up more events like these strictly online, even internationally.

Picture: Roscicrucian books 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Tomas Pueyo: "Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now", mathematical paper on Medium



Tomas Pueyo, a 33-year old Silicon Valley executive (I think he is connected to Linked In) gives the public a very stern warning in a detailed and mathematical (implicitly using a lot of calculus) article,  “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now”, dated Tuesday March 10 (one day before WHO declared a global pandemic, and I wonder if this article was the trigger), updated today, and subtitled, “Politicians, Community Leaders and Business Leaders: What Should You Do and When?” 
  
  
I must say that the tone of this is a bit like my article on Medium on EMP from Aug, 2018 (link here ).
  
Pueyo provides a lot of bar graphs in terms of “real cases” v. “reported cases” upon which authorities acted.  He discusses some extrapolations (which would involve some infinite series and calculus) on how to predict the overall death rates, taking into account that it takes a long time for some deaths to show up, and also that many mild or asymptomatic cases have not been counted.  The overall conclusion seems to be that in a well-managed outbreak the death per infection is likely to be a little under 1% .  But once the health care system is overwhelmed, it goes up quickly.

He also notes that when Wuhan was locked down, the rate of real new infections leveled off, even though the reported cases continued to rise sharply for some time.
   
The value of this very long paper is that you can read it  (26 minutes according to Medium), rather than watch a long video (like Chris Martenson and Peak Prosperity).
  
 Art work: A park near Frederick MD (2020/3). 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Atlantic: "The Do's and Don'ts of Social Distancing"



Kaitlyn Tiffany follows up on the “cancel everything” meme in The Atlantic: “The Do’s and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’”, where “experts weigh in on whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties and gym sessions.”
  
This article is part of the Atlantic’s free coronavirus coverage, outside the paywall.
  
Really, the experts come down on regular socials, although there is some toleration if people stay six feet apart.  They think it’s all right for little tribal segments to may pacts with one another to exclude everyone else.  This does not work well for the personalities of a lot of people. 
  

This is not the time to start dating someone new.

The interpretation of quarantine is really quite strict.

They don’t ask people over 60 to ground themselves just because they are more likely to steepen the curve if they do get sick.
  
Picture: near Frederick MD on I270.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Capitalism and self-publishing


I haven’t done a long periodical piece here for a while, but Maya MacGuineas leads off the March issue of The Atlantic with “Capitalism’s Addiction Problem”.  The writer is the president of the Committee for a Responsible federal budget.

I’m struck by the way the writer analyzes the way tech’s algorithms addict users to seeing more stuff they can’t refuse.  Right now, I get served the next doomsday article on coronavirus and quarantine threats.  The writer points out that governments have typically restrained addictive products in the past, over eras, like tobacco.


That all depends in large part on persistent identifiers, which (considering COPPA etc) are becoming an increasingly less sustainable way to sustain the digital economy, because of the impossibility of privacy being respected (which may matter even more right now, to trying to avoid the dragnet of quarantines).

A more healthful market depends on consumers paying a “fair market value” for what they consume.  We’re seeing that clumsily attempted with paywalls – and publications could do better at this – by encouraging companies to be formed to bundle the subscriptions, or by selling single articles or single “issues” (monthly magazines) as people can’t afford all possible subscriptions – more or less like buying a periodical monthly magazine at a bookstore.
  
We also see this problem with the book business, especially for self-published, POD authors.  Is an author supposed to sell book copies (“instances” in OOP language) as consumer items, subject to price points and volume discounts, or is the writer really selling intellectual content that can be consumed interchangeably on multiple media platforms – that is a big problem for POS publishers right now, who see cookbooks as competing with political treatises only as appealing to the “needs” of consumers. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Time issue for Black History Month covers "Equality Now"


Time Magazine dedicates its March 2, 2020 to Black History March and “His Legacy” (Dr. Martin Luther King), “Equality Now”.

There are many articles, such as “Survival Mode” by Tressie McMillan Cottom, focusing on black workerd.

Annette Gordon-Reed discusses “Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Words”.

Lawyer Bryan Stevenson, whom John Fish interviewed in another post on this blog, does a QA.
Anne Case and Angus Deaton discuss health care, “The Sickness of our System,”.

Anny Vesoulis in Charlotte discusses landlords who refuse to accept federal housing vouchers.


But most remarkably, the issue has “8 Radical Ideas for Equality Now”.  They include baby bonds (based on family income), no cash bail (which may be dangerous), universal basic income, bring back the draft (and include women – but ending Selective Service is likely to be debated soon), no electoral college, universal paid leave

Monday, February 24, 2020

Tracy Walder's "The Unexpected Spy": how an "average girl" became a covert CIA operative, out of college



Tracy Walder’s new autobiography, “The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists”, from St. Martin’s Press, will be offered Feb. 25, on Kindle and in hardcover, a bit pricey on Amazon.
  
The Spy Museum in Washington DC is holding an event Wednesday evening where the hardcover can be bought ($30).  
    
If I have the facts right, she teaches at the Hockaday preparatory school for girls in Dallas now.
   
   
DMagazine (Dallas) gives the details of her life (sometimes hiding in trunks) catching pretty much “conventional” terrorists overseas here but it sounds like she had to go along with the fib that Saddam Hussein was connected to WMD’s when he wasn’t (for the most part).  She started work one day before 9/11.  



Update: Feb. 26.  I was at the booksigning tonight.  More on Wordpress tomorrow. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

James Trefil's "Atlas of Space"


Recently I picked up a National Geographic “Atlas of Space” illustrated coffee table gloss book, 112 pages, authored by James Trefil.

The booklet purports to have twelve maps, but I didn’t find anything detailed or elaborate.


The Introduction presents “the Three Universes: (1) The Solar System (2) The Milky Way Galaxy, ours; (3) All galaxies, organized into clusters and arranged along threads of force. That does not include the idea of a multiverse.

We are here as a result of a 14-billion year cosmic billiards game.

There is a good pair of maps of Mars, East and West, and a presentation of a biosphere experiment in Arizona to simulate living in a Martian colony. He calls the orbit of Mars “The Frost Line”.

The discussion of Uranus and Neptune indicates that the atmosphere gradually changes to a slush of unusual ice forms at high temperature, so they are called “Ice Giants”. 

There is a good diagram of the structure of the Sun on p. 78.



There is some discussion of tidal heating of moons with subsurface oceans (mainly Jupiter).
    
The author has another video explaining why (in his opinion) creationism and intelligent design should not be taught.

Picture: from Baltimore Aerospace museum. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Fiction author stranded on Diamond Princess sees some of her novel come to real life



Author Gay Courter, 75, an American novelist, is quarantined on the Diamond Princess (she and her husband might be among those evacuated), has the experience of seeing her novels come to real life.
Her novel in question is “The Girl in the Box”.  This incident will probably catch Hollywood's attention (or at least Netflix).  
  
   
Authors who dream up bizarre epidemics and Russian or Chinese plots may see their predictions play out in front of them, in horror, or perhaps they say “I told you so.”  There have to be some novel manuscripts around about manufacturing a SARS virus, it’s just too obvious.
   
There are cases where publishers actually worry that a fiction book could spur copycats or unstable heads of state.  Putin-ordered assassinations (or North Korean) in other countries – well, remember “The Interview”.
   
The novel seems to be self-published and is Volume 1 of theSeven Seas Series (Sept 2019). 
  
There was also a kidnapping of Colleen Stan in the 1950s that became an episode of a series called “Girl in the Box” 
   
My own novel “Angel’s Brother” imagines a mystery virus that affects mainly people with poor circulation or at high altitudes, but (with an unusual radioactive core) that can copy a person’s consciousness and deliver it back to a “superspreader” who remains healthy.  After infection, the older victim has hallucinations and sudden death (which may happen with reinfection by Covid-19). 
  
Wikipedia attribution:
By Alpsdake - This file has been extracted from another file: Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) and Port of Toba.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Noted elderly French author Gabriel Matzeneff now to be prosecuted for promoting underage sex in some of his books


Norimitsu Onishi reports on the criminal prosecution and upcoming trial of a noted French author, Gabriel Matzeneff (now 83, hiding out in Italy), apparently for “promoting pedophilia” in his books.  This New York Times story follows another one January 8 (linked).
  
The author had been “renowned” although his books had stopped selling. The trouble is that some of them, as far back as 1974, had described sexual activity with girls (15 is the legal floor in France) and some books circulated in the Philippines had included boys.
  
  
Nevertheless, the issue did not come to light until recently when one of his victims, Vanessa Springora, had a book called “Consent” (“Le Consentement”) about her experience with him, published in 2019.  The whole narrative fits into the “Me Too” movement, the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein and Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” (2019, Little Brown, 448 pages), which I am reading now (as well as the film “Scandalous”).
  
The New York Times article notes that the French “aristocracy” had gotten away with behavior not normally considered acceptable.  But it’s rather puzzling that establishment trade publishers (as opposed to porn publishers) would have accepted these books and bookstores would have sold them for so long.
  
The books, if they contained only words and not photos (drawings would be on the legal edge) would not have been illegal in the United States.
    
Again, this bizarre story related to printed books, not to websites and social media, where usually terms of service violations would get this content taken down or drive it to the dark web.
    
On the other hand, the French prosecutors are blaming the author for his influence on impressionable young men who then, perhaps lacking impulse control, go out and commit crimes.  This is a similar moral dilemma that we have on the Internet with radicalization (especially on the Right). People are to be held responsible for the acts of others if they are in able to function as a public influencer, perhaps. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

David Brooks: "The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake", and an aberration; but eveyone needs to have a place to belong


“The Atlantic” has a booklet-length essay by David Brooks, link (paywall, maybe), "The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake".  The tagline is “The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal  for the past half-century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.”

Part 1  is called “The era of extended clans.”  Brooks talks about the evolution of the extended family, in an era when people couldn’t afford privacy.  You were forced to accept intimacy with people who were less than ideal, “the best you could do.”


Then came hyper-individualism, led by women and competitive gay men. 
   
Part II is called “redefining kinship”.  It needs to happen, to bring back some localism, as the “anywhere’s” leave the “somewhere’s” behind and risk being stranded in outer space themselves, alone.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Booktube presents Bryan Stevenson, author of "Just Mercy"


Booktube is a professional YouTube original channel that presents comprehensive panel interviews of authors of important recent books.

Danielle Bainbridge, Jesse Chalwick Small, and John Fish interview author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”, from Spiegel and Grau, 368 pages (2015).  The 18-minute video is presented in the style of a short film, directed by Martin Akins.
  
This is also an important film from Warner Brothers, directed by Destin Daniel Creton (my detailed review).  The film is said to have been made with an inclusion rider for diversity in casting and production staff. For cast, that is not possible for all films.

  
Stevenson runs a non-profit called the Equal Justice Initiative and employs persons previously released after wrongful convictions.  The movie and book focus particularly on the narrative of Walter McMillan, who was held 15 months on death row before his trial and was convicted despite having been at a party and fundraiser miles away at the time as an alibi.
  
  
The panel also talks about Harper Lee’s “The Killing of a Mockingbird”, which became a film in 1962 and is often shown in high school.  In that film, the suspect is convicted wrongfully despite many people’s knowing he had a good alibi and could not have committed the crime.
    
There is the discussion of hidden white privilege as disguising the need from most (white) people to recognize the problem of wrongful conviction. The concept of “proximity”—more social purposeful social interaction with others not like you, is presented as essential to overcoming this.
 
Stevenson and other panelists do describe what it is like to grow up "black" in all but the most well-off black families.
 
Picture: Selma, with Pettus Bridge in a distance, my trip, May 2014 

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

"Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work" by Robert Frank (book preview)


I received an unsolicited complimentary hardcopy of a book “Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work”, by Robert H. Frank, professor at Cornell’s Business School.  It is published in 2020 by Princeton University Press.
  
The book has a prologue and four parts, thirteen chapters.  The last chapter title relates to me, “Ask, Don’t Tell”.   Be polite ask questions, and don’t order people around to achieve your social goals.

  
The book appears to present the issue of getting individual people (in a democracy) to behave personally in some sort of deliberate coherence with a public goal, such as countering climate change. 
  Other issues would include health related behaviors, like smoking cessation (or dealing with alcohol and drug abuse).

I think this question applies now to the “social justice wars” where people particularly on the “woke” Left are starting to go after visible Internet (especially YouTube) personalities essentially for not showing appropriate sympathetic attention to oppressed minorities as such.  That can involve pressuring platforms and the advertisers the platforms depend on for profitability.
  
But is also applies at a more personal level, in trying to coax politically moderate or seemingly indifferent people to join in and take action on issues, rather than mere talk about them in social media.
   
I’ll review this on a Wordpress blog soon.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The "woke" controversy over the novel "American Dirt"


So we now have controversy, that an author was not entitled to write about a young mother (and her kids) trying to escape a drug cartel in Mexico, because she is white?  That refers to “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins (400 pages, Flatiron Books, January 21, 2020).  It started out in “Oprah’s Book Club” and she had to postpone it (below).  Oh, and by the way, Ophah didn’t run for president.  Somehow the title reminds me of the movie “American Honey”.


Slate reviews the book itself, with contributor Leon Krauze, as not really depicting what a typical mother facing this situation in Mexico would be life.  The review itself is interesting, and the reader can judge for “theirself”.
  
It is bad that there would be safety concerns over “who has the right to represent a book” or wokeness in the way certain images or “motif” is thought to be “harmful” to minorities. This reminds me of the casting diversity controversy in Hollywood, because in some movies it really is important that a particular character (even in multiplicity) have a certain look.
 
Here's a NYTimes LTE, "Who gets to write fiction?"

The comments on this video of mine show that a least one visitor thinks I don't have the write to write about Mexico. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Ezra Klein's "Why We're Polarized", preview


I did order Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized”, Avid Reader (Simon and Schuster), 2020, hardcover, 312 pages, indexed, Introduction (roman) and ten chapters.

Ezra Klein is one of the founding partners of Vox Media.

  
The New York Times offers a book excerpt of how Democrats became Liberals and Republicans became conservatives, here. This leads to a review by Norman J. Ornstein.
   
Klein notes that the big change occurred in the 1990s with the switch between limitation of information to local newspapers and broadcast or cable channels, to choice of information on the Internet from search engines.
  
For a long time, individualists tended to be craftier that old-school people in looking for information (my mother, who passed in 2010, never learned to use a computer or the Internet).  There was a bigger schism between individualists and tribalists.  Once modern social media appeared, people could be driven into echo chambers.

Fareed Zakaria also discusses Klein's book (Washington Post)  here

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"Boys and Sex", book preview and interview, author Peggy Orenstein, on Vox


Hope Reese has an important book preview on Vox (a series called “The Highlight”), of “Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity”. By Peggy Orenstein. It’s an audio book with listening time 7 hours and 20 minutes, from Harper, according to Amazon.
  
   
Let me stop there. John Fish has advertised (as a sponsor) audio books on his channel, and they do take longer to consume and some are condensed.  I think he has said this works out well at the gym, to play them with an earjack Bluetooth if your workout takes three hours or so.  Otherwise, it would contradict his idea (earlier posts) of reading large volumes of books in short time periods.  To go to a movie in a theater takes 4 hours (more if by Metro).  I can generally digest a non-fiction policy book for my blogs in about that time.

Orenstein has earlier books like “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” and “Schoolgirls.”

The article is titled “What is wrong with American boys?” and proceeds with an interview.

When I was growing up, boys and men were supposed to be fungible, willing to take their turn at sacrifice (war) collectively in order to protect their tribe’s women and children.  As a reward, they were offered a chance to compete for power.

Now, for some men, feminism is a real threat, as old-fashioned manhood is no longer needed.
  
Reproduction and mating is instinctual for many males.  For many others (often not first born sons) it is less so (epigenetics may factor in) and many such biologically normal men use their cerebral control to mediate the instinct to father children.  Some will find a reason for upward affiliation and sometimes homosexuality (of the usual kind, not fluidity or trans, which are totally different). She doesn’t quite get there.


Monday, January 27, 2020

John Bolton seems to get the idea of "Do Ask, Do Tell" with his unnamed manuscript under national security review, and GOP Senators suddenly have noticed


John Bolton’s upcoming book has been submitted to the National Security Council’s Records Management Division for review, where apparently Bolton suggests a Quid Pro Quo in Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine. Still, this interpretation is challenged by Tim Pool and other commentators this morning.
  
  
GOP Senators are viewed this morning as more likely to want to hear the testimony. 
Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt have details in the New York Times Monday here
   
The book does not seem to have a title yet and is not yet available on Amazon for pre-order.  It would be interesting if Bolton wanted to use my wordmark in the title, “Do Ask, Do Tell”.  I’d say, go ahead.

Trump says he hasn’t seen the manuscript and has heard that “he is writing a book”.  Anyone with previous access to classified information has to submit a book to review.  Theoretically, that could ahave applied to me back in 1997, maybe? 

I think John Fish (2 posts ago) picked a good time to get people interested in reading more books.  Maybe that includes Republican Senators.  Canada can influence us. 

Update:

The proposed title is "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir" and the Trump administration is trying to squash all publication (at least gutting the classified info), even if Bolton uses my wordmark and black and white cover design look. I think Bolton could manufacture another long "blah" book.  
        
Update:  Jan 31
 
Jameel Jaffer and Ramya Krishnan write on p. A27 of the New York Times today, "We may never see Bolton's book".  The intelligence agency review (there are 17 of them) is too open-ended and doesn't have guidelines. If course, we have the NYTimes article already. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Laurie Garrett ("The Coming Plague", 1994) discusses control of the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic


Laurie Garrett has a disturbing article on CNN, “What it will take to stop the Wutan virus” , link
   
Her assessment of this development is more guarded than most, even as China has locked down about 35 million people in the middle of the company right in the middle of the Chinese New Year.
  

She also had a lot of experience covering SARS 2002-2003.

So far, as of this writing, it seems to me that fatality rate is low and that most people would recover on the own. With very few exceptions, most fatalities are in older men with other diseases, including diabetes.   You could almost see an epidemic like this as a biological purge, an exercise of survival of the fittest.  It sounds horrible, but that’s how nature works.  As a civilization, we have a responsibility for vulnerable members, but where does it end?


It sounds as though the male patient near Seattle has recovered and should be released.  Probably true in Texas.  Not sure in Chicago.  The US will evacuate about 1000 Americans from Wuhan. 

At some point, it would be mathematically impossible to stop a virus like this without shutting down all the urban centers on the planet.  What if you live in a high-rise condo or apartment building in the US and one person is diagnosed, but recovers normally without incident.  Do you have to watch everyone else?  That is what I would wonder about her article.

Laurie Garrett is author of “Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance” (1994, Penguin, formerly from Farrar, Giroux and Strauss, 768 pages), previously with a quick review here.

I recall graphic discussions of cases of Marburg and Ebola virus.  One man recovered naturally but lost all of his hair (permanently?)  Ebola is in the Congo now.  I think it was cleared from Sierra Leone by 2015.  Stanford engineering and pre-med student Jack Andraka spent two summer sessions working in Sierra Leone on a Truman scholarship and says (to me) he was not offered the new vaccine.  Garrett will say, he should have gotten it.  I agree. 

There was a quick review of Robert Preston’s “The Hot Zone” here Dec. 11, 2009.

When I was traveling in California in February 2002, I had a corona-like illness.  I had two evenings (several days apart) of high fever and extremely dry cough, and felt better in between. (Not much nasal symptoms.)  I took aspirin (which would get rid of the fever) and Mucinex, non-prescription (rather expensive), from a pharmacy. Was this SARS?  I had the flu shots as usual that fall preceding.  The cough had started very suddenly and was unusually dry.  Once it became productive, I felt much better and energy came back.  But a deep, rattly productive cough lasted about six weeks to two months.  This was unusual for me.  

Friday, January 24, 2020

"The Longest Book in the World" is no longer "The Blah Story"; John Fish's experiment on artificial self-expression


John Fish’s recent videos (from his gap year from Harvard working in tech in Montreal) seem to indicate an interest in combinations of things, combinatorial algebras, and the like.  Isn’t that what quantum theory is about?

So this leads him into a self-publishing print-on-demand exercise, with Amazon CreateSpace, to prove that any individual can “make” the “longest book in the world”. Making a book is not the same as writing it, which Fish admits and we’ll come back to that.  The video, at this point, does point out the ease of using Create Space as you want to (although it has ended providing its own editorial support – that’s another matter). 


Fish starts out by discussing Steven Pinker and Noam Chomsky – linguistic theories (not Chomsky’s super Leftist politics) as to how word combinations give humans the ability to express ideas with mathematical combinations. Compare this to animals – dogs and cats can make a limited repertoire of words or syllables.  (Cetaceans – whales and dolphins, especially orcas, would stimulate a good discussion – why haven’t we deciphered their languages?)

He moves on to "The Blah Story" by Nigel Tomm as the longest on record, until he (John) created one with 12 million words, by writing a program (in Python) to generate grammatically correct sentences from "parts of speech" from finite lists of vocabulary words (for each speech part). OK, if the paragraphs so generated were blog posts, AI would probably consider them "spam".   In foreign languages, this would be harder to do because of verb conjugation, adjective agreement, etc.  (I won't get into possible "pronoun controversies" here.)   He ordered one copy of each volume from Amazon Create Space.  200,000 words would be a long novel, so that would mean about 24 volumes.  He titles it “Duree  (French for “duration” or “time taken”). He stacked them in his apartment as a decoration.  No, he isn’t selling them; he will have a real one soon. As I remember it is to be called “Intentional Attention” (see his April 6 video about Casey Neistat). It sounds like the "real book" will deal with the idea of attention as a currency (comparable to crypto, a kind of virtual blockchain) that could fund a business model (maybe without persistent identifiers, causing so much legal controversy now with CCPA and COPPA?)  I wonder if Fish has a minds.com channel (I did not see him at the conference in Philadelphia Aug 31, nor did I see “Economic Invincibility” but they both would have been good choices as speakers – but so would have been Jordan Peterson).  
  
In fact, my own experience shows it is possible for an Internet self-publisher to have considerable political influence on certain issues without necessarily large analytics or sales volumes or supportive income as by normal accounting records.  This was my case previously, especially with the past issue of gays in the military (in the US – the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy – not to be confused with the transgender policy now) which generated my (controversial) use of the “do ask do tell” wordmark today. But it’s not hard to see why such an individualized “business model” as mine (depending on accumulated personal assets, some of them inherited maybe, and very low cost of operation compared to “real” media companies) would incur questions, as maybe lowballing “real” career journalism and hollowing out normal political activism (leaving it to the polarized extremes).  There is a real big debate today, particularly in the YouTube world, as to the value of independent journalists and political columnists in keeping big media honest.  It was, for example, independent channels that busted big media on the Covington Kids “scandal” and then blew up with “Adpocalypse” last summer.
  
One other question: could “The Blah Story” or John’s experiment (“I did this and this is what happened” kind of thing, like some of Luke Korns’s videos) make for a subject for a good independent bookstore party?  (See previous post.)
   
By the way, the first of my three “Do Ask Do Tell” books runs 187,000 words as I remember (about 580 pages in iUniverse, including the roman numerals).  The novel manuscript for “Angel’s Brother” is now about 106,000.  It will probably top out at 115,000 with supplementary materials.
 
John says he paid back karma points for printing so much (like I used to do at work decades ago, as CYA) by writing an app that raised money to plant trees (late Nov. video).
 
Adam Driver's character (a school bus driver) writes poems that sound like similar plays on words in the 2016 film "Paterson" (my review).
   
I can remember that in sixth grade, in December 1954, all of my Christmas presents were books (except one).  A couple of them were about trains.
   
Picture: Cambridge;  I visited Boston and the Harvard campus (and P-town) in Aug. 2015.  

Monday, January 20, 2020

Visit to an independent bookstore in exurban Maryland, Novel Books


Recently WJLA7 (Kevin Lewis) in Washington DC reported on an independent bookstore in the Piedmont, of upper Montgomery County, MD, Novel Books, in Clarkbsurg, in an older section of town.  

I recently visited it (Thursday, Jan. 16), and met the owner, whom the article mentions as having Parksinson’s Disease.

The store divided each bookstack between new (above) and used (below).


I bought two paperback fiction books, “Gone” (by Michael Grant,  2008, Harper Teen, 558 pages, a novel where all the grownups have disappeared leaving “the young people” who indeed must “win” (as David Hogg says).

The other book is “Pool Boys” by Erin Haft, set in a California country club with a newcomer (2006, Schoolastic, 201 pages. The members of the club have rules.
  
I have the first impression that survival of a bookstore like this (as explained in the article) would need someone from the surrounding community, which is changing rapidly, as do many exurbs, with new townhomes and a big outlet mall less than a mile away, on I-270 (unlike Reboboth, they do have to charge sales tax).

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Does Michael Lind's "New Class War" portend of social credit systems, if brought down to the ground on individual elites?


Michael Lind previews his own book from Portfolio, “The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite”, in the Wall Street Journal, review, Sat. Jan. 11, 2020, here.
  
  
This seems to be a cultural battle between individualistic elitism, and tribal populism with social creditworthiness, a kind of “book smarts” v. “street smarts” (sometimes called “common sense” in the Army).
   
It also has a lot to do with expectations of socialization.
 
 Anand Giridharadas has a review in the New York Times, Jan. 17, 2020, "Why do Trump supporters support Trump?"
   
 The reviewer believes Lind underplays the practical effect of socially constructed classes or groups like by race. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

"Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness": what makes "me"?


Scientific American (Gareth Cook) interviews author Philip Goff, of “Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness” (Penguin).  A Facebook friend posted this yesterday. 
   
The book argues for panpsychism, and that even the smallest entities in the universe have “experience”.


I think an example would be when you have a muscle twitch.  You want to look at it.  The muscle has a will of its own, which produces an urge.  The instinct for sexual intercourse may be like this, but in man the cerebral cortex is supposed to control and contain these impulses.  The instinct is much weaker in some men than in others even in men totally biologically typical in all other ways, and that may explain how homosexuality can happen in humans.

Another example would be when one’s concept of self changes because one is part of a group (like in military training, or a cult) or in some situation that challenges the previous idea of self. 
  
Do individual bees in a hive have there own POV consciousness, or does the hive itself own awareness, or does this move back and forth. How does this idea work for a slime mold?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Financial Times gives bleak analysis of how a declining world population will affect the economy



The Financial Times offers a rather gloomy analysis “free” on Facebook (if you answer one ad question), “The Cost of a Declining Population”, by Robin Harding, link.

The article argues that lower interest rates leads to higher housing prices even with fewer people, and companies prepare for fewer consumers.  It gives Japan and South Korea as examples of how the spiral works, with eldercare costs becoming crushing.


You could say that hyperindividualism contributes to this process, and anti-tribalism, where “elites” feel less connected to others and more focused on their own identities and self-chosen purposes, the self becoming its own best friend.
  
But a more straightforward explanation seems to be that affluent people wait longer to have children, past education and dual career employment, when biology starts to work against fertility, even for male sperm. (That may be a surprising point.) 
   
The piece seems to ignore factors like climate change, which can suppress population further. 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

"The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space" (1976) and "An Easier Way" (2018)


Partly for background material for my “Epiphany” screenplay, I purchased from Amazon both Gerald K. O’Neill’s “The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space” (1976, reprinted by Space Studies Institutes Press from Northwood, CA, illustrations (BW) by Donald Davis. There are new prefaces from 1988 by the author and by astronaut Kathy Sullivan.  There are 326 pages, and 12 chapters plus appendices.

Then there is an update by Tom Marotta and Al Globus, “The High Frontier: An Easier Way”, published by the authors, 167 pages.


The authors of the newer book characterize living in space in manmade structures at lagrange points nearer Earth as much more practical than living on planets or moons, because artificial gravity can be stronger than natural gravity on the other practical bodies (Mars;  you could live in the atmosphere 30 miles above Venus in a floating space station).

The O’Neill cylinder would be about 20 miles long and a mile or so in diameter and rotate around a cylindrical axis for artificial gravity and house over a million people, who would have to be disciplined.
  
But the Kalpana settlement would be only about the length of a baseball field in width and length.
I will review these on Wordpress later after reading.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Is this "cooperative" book publishing? (Calumet Editions, "Letters from Elvis")


I got an email or tweet about this publishing company, Calumet Editions, which appears to be a cooperative publisher, which does not take all comers, but seems to welcome new authors more than traditional trade publishers.

My impression is that their service might be interesting for a fiction submission.


I suppose this arrangement could work for handbooks or how-to books that are narrow and where the author has very focused commercial experience with the subject matter.

The company offers some videos about a book called “Letters from Elvis” by Gary Lindberg,  about some sensational material about Elvis Presley.
  
You can find material critical of this company on YouTube, so be forewarned.  Do some more of your own checking.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

"Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People", controversial paper


I ran into a rather challenging long article in the Arrow-Journal, by Kelsey Blackwell, “Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People”,  Aug. 9, 2018, link
  
I looked this up after seeing on Google a search result from an obscure site called “NPCDaily” calling Tim Pool a “dangerous hate agent” because he had “spoken out against whites-free safe spaces for people of color.”  The idea sounded so preposterous as a reason to label someone essentially a supremacist or to call such speech by a journalist “hate speech” that I had to look further.  This seemed to be a clue to all the leftwing smears and de-platformings in the last two years.

The long article does answer the “regression to segregation” argument with a syllogism that sort of parallels quantum mechanics.

I think there is something missing from our perceptions of this issue.  Generally, we associate it with extreme measures like excluding whites from a campus for a day (like Evergreen tried to do with a “Day of Absence”).  Public accommodations and universities and colleges should not provide regular spaces where people are excluded by anything.


However, colleges do have their own subgroups which use meeting spaces and which may tend to be limited in membership in practice.  For example, campus LGBTQ groups, although you could call them “gay-straight alliances” if you want.  You can have an NAACP chapter meet but it does not need to exclude whites or anyone by definition from the meetings.  Likewise a Jewish group does not need to exclude gentiles.
  
I’m quite struck by the group identarianism in the article.  I am a gay white cis male (older) but I don’t perceive any such group identity that way that requires exclusive experiences, even though gay bars, for example, generally attract people who want to find others with similar interest (and some say so). In fact, there are little subgroups within a typical dance floor gathering.  Generally, interracial dancing is very common, as is “heterosexual” dancing, in the larger clubs.  What is much less common is dancing between cis people and non-binary people. 
 
It's possible to talk about oppression in terms of cluelessness about economic class and cultural elitism (as Joan Williams does, Dec. 24, 2019 post) at an individual level rather than racial identarianism.  That's how I like to talk about it.