Saturday, January 30, 2021

Literary agent fired merely for having Gab and Parler accounts; are publishers and agents going to look at an author's "social credit"?


New York, 2015

 Tucker Carlson (of course!) interviewed Colleen Oefelein, who was fired from a literary agency merely for having Parler and Gab accounts. 

National Review has a news story about the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency and its firing her, by Zachary Evans.  EugeneVolokh examines this question in Reason, as to whether New York State law might have prohibited the firing and as to what “recreational activity” means and whether it includes political speech (in promoting books or even in authoring them).  I went through this issue with my own employer in the 1990s and actually took a corporate transfer to avoid an issue. 

In fact I have a Parler account but have never posted on it.  She says she posted the same contents on Parler and Gab as on Twitter and she has never had a problem with Twitter.

In other words, her employer (as a book literary agent) doesn’t want one of its associates even “associating with” people on the right by using platforms that tend to attract them (that might include video channels like Bitchute). 

Indeed, Gab lost its hosting in 2018 after one of its members launched the Pittsburgh attack.  Most of these platforms have had to go to hosts like Epik.

It’s disturbing that a mainstream literary agency would behave this way.  But there is a great sense of nod to anti-racism and critical theory coming into mainstream corporate thought, as we have seen with the social media platforms, largely as a result of the stresses on the country and extreme political polarization, exacerbated by Trump and the events Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

The book business is also stressed by the pandemic lockdowns and closures, which certainly interfere with events at both chain and larger (or even neighborhood) bookstores.  Agents want to see authors sympathetic and interested in solving these problems.  Now that I think about it, I haven’t noticed many (or even any) Zoom book events, because people want to meet authors in person and get signed copies.

There is also a concern in the literary business that authors are willing to “write what other people want to read” rather than just what they want to say.  This has political overtones.  “Identarianism” (and addressing people where they are, as in handbook-style writing) is sometimes seen as more appropriate than a detached, academic, distant style (that sound elitist and in the last few years has become offensive to some people).  That was particularly an issue with my issue of the past, “gays in the military”. 

We may see a world where writers are expected to see some “social credit” if they are to be heard at all, and critical theory indeed mixes in with that.  It’s a big concern right now, and an existential threat to writers who want to remain “independent”  of outside “collective” pressures from others. .

Friday, January 29, 2021

"Ready Player Two": quoting it to criticize it leads to DMCA copyright takedowns

Reno, 2018

Apparently an author, Ernest Cline, is using the DMCA takedown to stop criticism of his book “Ready Player Two” (Ballantine, 2020) by making lengthy quotes in social media (especially Twitter).

Katie Smith explains for the Boston Globe, with some of the amputated tweets, here.

Electronic Frontier Foundation also weighs in with this op-ed.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Wired" Magazine dedicates issue to excerpts from "2034: A Novel of the Next World War" by Ackerman and Stavridis

Aerial view of Woody Island


The February 2021 issue of Wired (Conde Nast: I have both print and digital subscription) offers, as its entire issue, excerpts (Chapter 1, 2, and 4) from a new novel “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” by Elliot Ackerman and James Admiral Stavridis (USN), with illustrations by Owen Freeman, from Penguin Press, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1984881250.  The magazine issue titles itself “A History of the Next World War”.  Ackerman has an earlier contribution in Wired, Oct 30, 2020, "A Navy SEAL, a Quadcopter, and a Quest to Save Lives in Combat". 

The novel appears to start with the capture of a Chinese boat called the WenRui, based on the name of someone associated the Maoist 1960s Cultural Revolution. It seems to have a lot to do with Chinese intentions regarding Taiwan, territory around Hong Kong, Iran, and parts of the Middle East.  (Chapter 1 is titled “The Wenrui Incident”.)

The narrative seems to start on March 12, 2034 (a Sunday) and one of the domestic characters in Washington is Dr. Sandeep Chowdhury, who apparently lives with his mother in middle age (bachelorhood?)  That evening (in Chapter 2, titled “Blackout”), a complete blackout of much of the US occurs, as he flies to Beijing.  Apparently service (including cell and Internet) gets restored in a few days. 

Chapter 3 is called “Blinding the Elephant” and Chapter 4 is “Red Lines”.

I believe there is an issue of cutting transoceanic cables.  But it isn’t real obvious what causes the total blackout, other than compounding of effects of hacking such was what happened recently with “Solar Winds” and “Fire Eye”.  One major possibility would be the widespread use of non-nuclear magnetic flux weapons that can produce an EMP effect (and they may wipe out unprotected [Faraday cage} electronics.  The US had considered this kind of attack on North Korea in February 2018 before the Winter Olympics and saner voices calmed Trump down.  Another possibility could be attacks on utilities that break “air gaps”.  None of these things have actually happened to civilian facilities in western countries so far.  But the US military has used such weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan in some circumstances.

At least we have a new president who will take normal responsibility for the military (and intelligence services) now. 

 I don't think this novel is quite the equivalent of an another "One Second After".  I wonder if my own novel ("Angel's Brother") would make for an interesting issue of Wired ("LOL"). 

I don’t know of this is in the book or not, but I’ve embedded a Wikipedia picture of Woody Island, which China and two other countries claim now, in the South China Sea (click for attribution).

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Lewis Leary's "The Book-Peddling Parson" and George Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems


Weems Bott Museum Dumfries VA

Author: Lewis Leary

Title:The Book-Peddling Parson

Subtitle:An account of the life and works of Mason Locke Weems- patriot, pitchman. Author, and purveyor of morality to the citizenry of early United States of America

Publication: Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin Press, 158 pages, hardcover, Introduction, 9 chapters, Appendix, Index.

Saturday, January 2, 2021 was a mild day in northern Virginia, and given the circumstances of social distancing, I went on a short day trip,.alone, to Dumfries, just off I-95, and visited the outdoor area of the Weems Bott Museum.

discuss G W biography

There is a sign that talks about the first biography of George Washington, authored by a pastor Mason Locke Weems (which is an expensive collectible on Amazon) who in turn gets a biography by Lewis Leary, which is bookbound in colonial style.  It’s pretty easy to imagine it being assigned in an English class in high school in eleventh grade (American literature). Maybe this year for online school.

The parson made bringing, selling and distributing books to rural areas away from the coastal cities, which had few bookstores, a life priority.  That’s rather ironic for me.

The book has a silly middle chapter “To all the singles … the pleasures of the married state”, which in rather verbose flowery manner preaches and lists family values, in an era when people needed to have many children.

Blacks, who were usually slaves, are spoken about with some deference in Weems’s own writings, as were native Americans, who were (incorrectly) viewed as not well socialized.

This is a very curious little book.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Atlantic: Many of the rioters were privileged and "respectable", and thought they could get away with this

July 4, 2014

Two important pieces in the latest “The Atlantic”.

Adam Sewer writes that “The Capital Rioters Weren’t Low-Class”.  He refers to them as small-business owners, real-estate brokers, and former military service members who thought they had the “inviolable right to rule”.  He gives many examples for comparison from the Reconstruction and early 20th Century, almost out of “Gone with the Wind”, the second half of which depicts many clandestine meetings early in the Reconstruction while Scarlett rebuilt Tara.

Worse still, David A. Graham writes “Why the rioters thought they could get away with it.”     Indeed, they didn’t wear masks, rather Halloween costumes (the one guy with the medieval tattoo had the left side of his chest shaved for the body art), and rather behaved like spoiled white boys supporting Antifa in Portland.

When members of the House hid, the Republicans didn’t wear masks, and at least one Democratic member now tests positive, and has gotten a monoclonal antibody shot, and seems to have few symptoms now. Yet, “those Republicans” acted as if, you’re old or infirm and vulnerable, it’s your problem. 

To me, in this Sun video, they seem like zombies. 

Here is the official Electoral College vote, as finally certified by 4 AM January 7. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

"The Lab-Leak Hypothesis": New York Magazine article by Rob Nicholson will revive the Wuhan lab controversy

Yangzi River - by Peter Morgan

An early January 2021 issue of New York Magazine has a book-length article (paywall, but they seem to allow this one) by Rob Nicholson, “The Lab-Leak Hypothesis”.  The tagline, “For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses  in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one.  But what if?....” (ir came from a lab?)

The article is in seven parts, looks at the “death by natural causes” idea, and sets up a scenario how a sample was stored from the Mojiang Caves accident in 2012.  The theory is similar to Chris Martenson on Peak Prosperity on May 4, 2020 (then the codon was called PRRA),  The article describes gain-of-function experiments with many pathogens with the US involved in many of them.  And with the safety concerns about the BS4-level Wuhan lab,’

The article pays a lot of attention to furin cleavage, but this can occur naturally when there are other infections in a person (it even happens with influenza). 

Still, it sounds like a pretty convincing “screenplay treatment” for what really could have happened. 

There is a recent update in Nature on the Mojiang bat cave incident in 2012.

None of this relieves Americans (and people in other western countries like especially the UK right now) of their new “moral” responsibility not to let the strong infect the weak.

Remember that New York and The New Yorker (often pubs Ronan Farrow) are different periodicals, but sometimes their styles overlap.  I wonder what Farrow would come up with on this topic.

Yunnan mountain scene, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Atlantic offers "The Pandemic Endgame"

RNA vaccine-en


The January-February 2021 issue of The Atlantic offers a cover story “The Pandemic Endgame”, with two essays.

On p. 38, Jordan Kisner describes “The Committee in Life and Death”.  He draws a parallel between triage when patients pile up in hospitals (now in California) and decisions as to who should get the vaccine first.

Seriously, I understand that vaccinating long-term care residents first will cut the hospitalizations and deaths more rapidly and help flatten the curve again.  But there may be more social justice in vaccinating essential workers who must interact with consumers, especially those who must enter homes and apartments to do emergency repairs.  They should be near the top of the list, as well as first responders.

On p. 48m Ed Yong describes “The COVID-19 Manhattan Project” with the record speed development of vaccines.  The mRNA paradigm helps for rapid development, but all but two of the vaccines are conventional. 

 Embed of chart showing how mRNA vaccines work, from Wikipedia, click for attribution