Emily Atkin spots the b.s. in an Exxon CCS on the NYT podcast about misinformation. “There’s so many misleading aspects to this ad,” said Ben Franta, who studies the history of climate disinformation at Stanford University. Because of its strategically vague language and presentation of micro-facts without context, he said, “You read it and it gives you the impression that carbon capture is new and effective and we’re gonna scale it up, when in reality none of that is the case.”
Wow, Atkin mentions paltering, a term referring to misleading people with truthful statements and letting readers read more into these statements than was supported. Here’s a longer explanation of paltering:
OSCAR PREDICTION TIME: I predict that Adam McKay’s picture DON’T LOOK UP will win BEST PICTURE in 2022. (Opens on Netflix December 24). Sit tight and assess!
IF YOU TRAVELED BACK TO 1986 AND TOLD PEOPLE THESE THINGS, THEY WOULD THINK YOU WERE CRAZY: 1. There’s only 8 planets now, 2. we can make money by filming ourselves play games, 3. You can legally walk into the bank with a mask on to get money to legally buy weed next door on your way to your friend’s legal gay wedding. 4. People are able to instantly, reliably, fact check any statement via a powerful, heldheld, internet connected, computer yet are more prone to misinformation and being wrong than ever, 5. Computers eventually reach the point where we have to prove that we’re not robots in order to use them. 6. A billionaire flies a giant penis into space while wearing a cowboy hat. 7. The Treasury department was going to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, but then there was a massively popular rap musical about him and they decided not to. 8. MTV will no longer play music videos and instead play reality shows that no one asked for. 9. Meathead, Laverne, and Opie are some of the most respected directors in Hollywood. Also, that guy from Bosom Buddies won Best Actor twice.(From REDDIT)
If I had to add one thing, I’d mention that communism fell pretty quickly in Eastern Europe
We could destroy the machines that destroy this planet. If someone has planted a time bomb in your home, you are entitled to dismantle it. More to the point, if someone has placed an incendiary device inside the high-rise building where you live, and if the foundations are already on fire and people are dying in the cellars, then many would believe that you have an obligation to put the device out of action.
This is the moral case which, I would argue, justifies destroying fossil fuel property. Thatis completely separate from harming human bodies, for which there is no moral case.
And this particular moral case for direct action is, I believe, overwhelmingly strong, if the realities of the climate catastrophe are recognised. On that premise, how could the physical integrity of fossil fuel property possibly be given precedence?
There are far easier solutions than destruction: nullifying leases on public land for petroleum exploitation, cashback carbon pricing, boycotts.
I’m mystified by the 2nd trick David Blaine performs before Jimmy Fallon. I asked in a comment: I’m trying to figure out the middle trick ( 3:20 )about the 9 of diamonds. How many cards did Blaine have to pre-position to make sure it contained Fallon’s card choice? Do you think the 5 cards in the first trick (Ace, 4, 4, 7, 10) forced Fallon to avoid those numbers? If Fallon had chosen a strange card (like the Queen of Spades or Ace of Clubs), do you think Blaine would have simply chosen to do another trick? (I’d love for a commenter to give an intelligent reply).
Andrew Neil asks a simple question and then shuts up and waits for Ben Shapiro to give a full answer. It’s a real trick not asking overlong or leading questions.
When Ben Shapiro tries to turn the tables on the interviewer with a liberal bias accusation, Neil doesn’t take the bait and just continues forward.
Neil (and his staff) expertly pick previous statements that appear to contradict what Shapiro is arguing for in his book. Points off for mentioning that Shapiro’s videos are called “Ben Shapiro destroys X” without following up to say that these videos appear on Shapiro’s own channel, so it is probably Shapiro himself who wrote that label. But the quotes that Obama is a fascist seems well-chosen.
The hard part about real time interviews is that you have to listen very carefully to what they are saying and not be thinking so much about what you need to ask next. For example, I would have leapt at Shapiro’s asinine statement that GOP ideas are new while liberal ideas are old. But Neil had to pick his battles. On the other hand, it isn’t that interesting whether liberal ideas are old or new, so maybe that was not a good point to pounce on.
Wow, late getting this up. Yippee, my Personville Press published another story collection by Jack Matthews — Second Death of E.A. Poe and other stories. Normal price is $3, but for the next 2 days, the price is 99 cents at Amazon. My description, “In contrast to previous story collections (which lean more to the cerebral or poetic), the Matthews stories collected here are down-to-earth yarns: gently satirical and reminiscent of John Cheever’s fiction. Most are like pleasant strolls through Midwestern neighborhoods, glimpsing random people at backyard parties, cafes and parking lots.”
I am preparing a new Climate Change Cheatsheet (2021 Edition). (For now it mainly has graphs and charts). I prepared a version in 2014 as a handy reference which probably needs updates. Thankfully, there’s a lot more coverage of the topic, more research, more scientists, more think-tanks, more tools.
New data tend to be redundant of data already collected. In interviews, when the researcher begins to hear the same comments again and again, data saturation is being reached… It is then time to stop collecting information and to start analysing what has been collected. (source)
I feel like I suffer from the opposite. When I’m researching a new subject, I’m prone to feel I’ve never reached saturation. If I decide I’ve done enough research to begin writing, the moment I’m at my keyboard I get a stab of panic: Wait, do I really know what I’m talking about? Maybe I should interview one more expert! Or read another book! Because the truth is — as all genuine experts know — the complexities of any given field are enormous. There’s always more to learn! But the type of “saturation” I’m describing isn’t about becoming a deep expert in a subject. Even if you spend a few months doing serious research into a new subject, you’re only going to — at best — amass the strong grasp of a layperson. You’re not going to reach the insight a serious professional has for their field, or a devoted long-term hobbyist has for theirs. But when you’re writing for a general audience? You rarely need that level of extreme expertise (though if you have it, that’s awesome). You’re looking for enough understanding to write something that’s usefully informed. That’s when the feeling of saturation is a useful guide.
A week ago SNL had a crazy but somewhat familiar sketch called What Up with That? Kenan Thompson played a musically-inclined talk show host for BET network who has three guests, but ends up never interviewing them because he’s too busy singing the show’s theme song (and variations). This sketch is utterly stupid and mindless — it was probably easy to write and rehearse, but I can’t help it. I like watching these sketches — a lot! (and reading Youtube reactions as well). I created a playlist of all of them — with my favorite 3 at the top . Watch out for the way that track suit guy (Jason Sudeikis) leaps onto stage — there is substantial debate about whether these are actual jumps or whether he is using a trampoline. (Several commenters who were former audience members say unequivocally that they are natural jumps). It’s worth remembering that the brilliant Not Ready for Prime Time players (who never actually appear in the sketch) are responsible for making the sketch so groovy.
Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds show up at each other’s talk show appearance. (Here and here) Hilarity ensues.
I discovered a foolproof way to determine if you are actually dreaming: Say “Hey google, what is the capital of Tanzania? What about Tunisia? Madagascar? What’s the population of Ghana?” In last night’s dream I kept asking Google Home the same question and was exasperated that it didn’t seem to be working.
Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint. NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers).
Happy to report that my Personville Press has published a new story collection by Jack Matthews called Second Death of E.A. Poe and other Stories. In my book description, I say, “In contrast to previous story collections (which lean more to the cerebral or poetic), the Matthews stories collected here are down-to-earth yarns: gently satirical and reminiscent of John Cheever’s fiction. Most are like pleasant strolls through Midwestern neighborhoods, glimpsing random people at backyard parties, cafes and parking lots.”
Also I bit the bullet and bought the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite. I found the previous generation of Paperwhites to be practically unusable — mainly because of the bad interface, ad clutter, puny display and difficulty finding the right spot to turn the page or do basic commands. This version has .8 inch more height,
Indie Author Spotlight
How to win with your data visualizations by Elizabeth Clarke. This was a 99 cent special and contained great info about using visual information.
Under the Radar
I think I’ve blogged about Scott Bradfield before, but I was delighted to learn that most of his fiction titles are priced at 99 cents today on Amazon. Also, Why I Hate Toni Morrison’s BELOVED: several decades of reading unwisely looks fun to read. (Bradfield talks about classic books and postmodernism on his youtube channel). Update: Why I hate Toni Morrison is a fun collection of curmudgeonly essays, most about bookish topics. highly recommended. Also Millennial’s Guide to Death: Stories, Animal Planet, What’s Wrong with America and History of Luminous Motion.
Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare. I’ve read several Kadare novels; this appears to be the most accessible and have the best translation. 1.99 and discounted often.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Based on a True Story by Norm MacDonald. I admit, I’m fascinated by this transgressive comedian, and the first chapter was actually insightful.
Library Purchases/Printed books
Song of the World Becoming : New and Collected Poems, 1981-2001 by Pattiann Rogers
Dawn Powell, 1944-1962 : My Home Is Far Away – The Locusts Have No King – The Wicked Pavilion – The Golden Spur
Literary Articles and Essays
Capsule Book Reviews
Book Roar Review
Great Early interview with John Barth in the 1970s (He’s a former teacher of mine). Gosh, what a windbag! (But very fun to listen to. I will say, in the 1980s, he was really sharp and witty). He reports asking Robert Creeley how long it takes him to write a poem. Creeley replied, “Half an hour. How long does it take to write a novel?” “Seven years,” Barth replied.
I’m a big fan of Bill and Taffy Danoff (the singer-songwriters who formed the core of Starland Vocal Band and sang backup for John Denver, including a song they wrote, Country Roads Take Me Home). Here’s Taffy singing a great song with kazoo:
MR DINOSAUR SPEAKS: “Let me tell you — and you kind of think this would be obvious, going extinct is a bad thing. And driving yourselves extinct? In 70 million years, that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! At least we had an asteroid, what’s your excuse? You’re headed for a climate disaster, and yet every year governments spend hundred of billions of public funds on fossil fuel subsidies. Imagine if we had spent hundreds of billions per year subsidizing giant meteors. That’s what you’re doing right now!”
Note: I’m leaving the Social Media Dumps at top of my blog for their corresponding month, but in fact most of my work is not done on these linkdumps but the Robert’s Roundup of Ebook Deals and the music discovery posts. These things take forever to complete (I’m still working on the September column for both posts).
I’ve been a Wikipedia editor since 2006. I’ve even created several new articles. I submitted an article for review, and it’s been in the waiting queue for approval for more than 7 weeks. General observations:
It is also possible to submit documentation supporting that the artwork was work-for-hire and that the copyright owner doesn’t have to be the creator, but oh, that’s complicated.
It’s NSFW, but here’s Great long AVN profile/obituary of Gloria Leonard, porn star who later became a magazine editor and advocacy for the porn industry. Fun fact: She used to hit the college circuit to have debates with conservatives about porn, and she in fact visited my college campus at Trinity. I even remember asking her a question at the event — though for the life of me I don’t remember what about.
Leonard is also remembered as the mistress of the bon mot—what are called nowadays a “sound bite”—most notably her oft-quoted line, “The difference between pornography and erotica is the lighting.” It was also said of her, in a phrase she often repeated, “She’s as famous for what comes out of her mouth as what went into it.”
By analyzing the fish fossils inside, researchers determined that global temperatures were stable for a long time before the asteroid impact, but then, afterwards, temperatures quickly rose and stayed about 5 degrees Celsius warmer for about 100,000 years.
MacLeod says it’s notable that the impact pumped up carbon dioxide over a short time span that, geologically speaking, is comparable to what humans have been doing in burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
“The atmosphere was loaded for a very brief interval of time, and the consequences of that change in atmospheric composition lasted for 100,000 years,” MacLeod says. “So it illustrates, I think, really strongly, even if we went back to 1850 levels of carbon dioxide emission, it’s going to take a 100,000 years for the carbon dioxide that we’ve already put in the atmosphere to cycle through the Earth’s systems.”
Lots of information about climate change and Biden’s infrastructure plan. Outlook is extremely gloomy. Actually a lot of the sources are on NYT, Washington Post, so let me find sources elsewhere.
Manchin’s home state of West Virginia is extremely vulnerable to climate change.
As a climate change activist interested in climate policy, it’s hard to describe my feelings these past few weeks. DISMAYED at the failure of the Senate to settle on a sensible climate policy, OVERWHELMED by the amount of media coverage (even I can no longer keep up) and PESSIMISTIC about the upcoming Glasgow climate conference (which China, India, Russia and Brazil won’t be sending leaders to). DAILY PODCAST had Coral Davenport yesterday — where she basically described the ugly process of letting Manchin write the climate bill — and then backing away from the bill he himself wrote. Like I said, the amount of news is overwhelming even for environmentalists. The best source of info has been the twitter and substack newsletter of David Roberts , Climate Crocks blog and the FB/Twitter of scientist Michael Mann.
Overall, we have topnotch environmental reporting around the country, but nobody really cares or notices. The main obsession is with gas prices (ugh!)
I mentioned before that I go on Twitter a lot mainly as a lurker. I still think Twitter like any variation of social media limits your expression. It can get maddening. I for one refuse to embed any tweet on my blog! (Just like I won’t embed tiktok, etc). Today I learned quite accidentally that the QUOTE TWEET function is a HIDDEN dropdown option on the retweet icon. What a stupid interface for a social media platform! (This tutorial explains how to do it right). I have relished not going on twitter — it’s a surefire recipe to have your thoughts drowned out by other random and frequent bullshit. About 6 months ago I relented and decided to post my monthly columns there. Now that I know how to quote other tweets the right way, I’ll be posting somewhat more frequently. (No more than once a day aside from a special occasion). So you might want to start following my twitter now which is @NAGLETX. Ouch I see that the default option of WordPress is to embed tweets and youtube.
Lithium-ion batteries, which first became commercially available in the early 1990s, are now ubiquitous in computers, cell phones, cameras, and other electronic devices. Worldwide, only about half those batteries are currently being recycled. The rest get thrown away or lie dormant within products no longer in use (like the old computers and cell phones gathering dust in people’s homes).
Most of the battery recycling taking place today is in China and Europe, which have far more stringent regulations than the U.S. The Energy Department estimates only 5 percent of America’s discarded lithium-ion batteries get recycled. Call2Recycle, a nonprofit consortium promoting battery recycling, counted collections of just over 1,000 metric tons in 2020, which is just 12 to 15 percent of rechargeable batteries available for recycling, a spokesperson for the organization said.
Already in many places, solar plus batteries is cheaper than coal or nuclear and is replacing both. In fact, battery costs have declined 90 percent in the past 10 years. No miracle is needed in this area, just more rapid deployment. Thus, we have no need for modern bioelectricity, nuclear, or carbon capture attached to fossil or bioelectricity…Electric vehicles are commercial and replacing fossil-fuel vehicles of all types and weights, aside from long-distance aircraft and ships, the longest-distance trucks and trains, and heavy military vehicles. Such long-distance, heavy vehicles are part of the last 5 percent of energy technologies that may take until 2035 to 2040 to commercialize. However, such vehicles can and likely will run on hydrogen fuel cells. To produce hydrogen, we will use existing and improved electrolyzers powered by renewable electricity. Thus, no biofuel, such as ethanol, biodiesel, or bio-jet fuel, is needed.
This Australian progressive group produced a fun & cynical & (yes!) informative look at the risible claims about the “promise” of carbon capture and storage (Authorized by the Department for Prolonging the Fossil Fuel Era — and Making YOU pay for it)
Babylon 5 Reboot. Best news I’ve heard. J. Michael Straczynski is incredibly talented (even though I couldn’t get into the glitzy futurism of Sense 8). Hopefully there will be cameos from some of the (still living) actors. Babylon 5 did so many things differently than the Star Trek universe that I really learned a lot about storytelling in general.
“The rules in place to protect Chevron are simply much stronger than those in place to protect the planet, in no small part thanks to the amount of fossil fuel cash sloshing around Washington. How is it, after all, that a judge in New York can invalidate a ruling made in and about Ecuador? For all of the party’s sunny rhetoric about helping the environment, directly challenging the fossil fuel industry head on remains a third rail for all but a few Democrats in Congress; starting to unravel the thicket of rules that allows them to operate with virtual impunity around the world is almost unthinkable. In that context, a multinational oil company being held accountable threatened to set an uncomfortable precedent.
The persecution of Donziger fits a pattern familiar to millions of poor Americans who are coerced into accepting plea deals, many for crimes they did not commit, and sent to prison for decades. It fits the pattern of the judicial lynching and prolonged psychological torture of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. It fits the pattern of those denied habeas corpus and due process at Guantánamo Bay or in CIA black sites. It fits the pattern of those charged under terrorism laws, many held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, who cannot see the evidence used to indict them. It fits the pattern of the widespread use of Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, imposed to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. It fits the pattern of the extreme sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation used on those in our black sites and prisons, a form of psychological torture, the refinement of torture as science. By the time a “terrorist” is dragged into our secretive courts the bewildered suspect no longer has the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves. If they can do this legally to the demonized they can, and one day will, do it to the rest of us. The Donziger case is an ominous warning that the American legal system is broken.
Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.”
Victor Klemperer, who was dismissed from his post as a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, astutely noted how at first the Nazis “changed the values, the frequency of words, [and] made them into common property, words that had previously been used by individuals or tiny troupes. They confiscated words for the party, saturated words and phrases and sentence forms with their poison. They made language serve their terrible system. They conquered words and made them into their strongest advertising tools [Werebemittle], at once the most public and most secret.” And, Klemperer noted, as the redefinition of old concepts took place the public was oblivious.
Kaiser Family Foundation polled people to find out the reasons gave by people for the high COVID spread:
Unlike disciplines with some academic or professional standards of rigor, political punditry and advocacy are a veritable festival of gut instincts, guesses, bad logic, bad faith, and confirmation bias. Pundits rarely offer empirical evidence; they rarely assess the accuracy of their prior predictions; they rarely change their minds.
It drives scientists, economists, and, uh, ex-philosophy students out of their heads. It is tempting to try to claim some authority, to claim that a background in economics (or some other technical field) confers the status of referee, making the final calls on the merits of various policies.
But it doesn’t. There are no real “experts” in politics, despite many claims to the contrary. The best we can hope for is to develop a few empirically informed heuristics (including those from economics), to remain open and alive to new evidence, to find trustworthy guides to the current political economy, and to strive toward, for lack of a better word, wisdom.
Two albums by Sexy Bicycle: Ellipsis and Saint. 30-45 minutes each. 4.99 each. Experimental jazz-pop pieces by Georgian singer Nika Elia who is currently living in Spain (not the USA one even though the songs are in English). BC Page. It has the eclectic pop feel of David Byrne
Crescendo by Novanta. Italian synthetic pop. Some of the synth sound is almost glitchy, but still these are interesting, minimalist, meditative songs with some vocals.
Exotic Instrumentals by Junk Shop Guru. Surreal 60s elevator muzak from Hawaii. Junk Shop Guru digitizes/collects a lot of incredibly strange 60s lounge music with themes (Bachelor, Empty Bed Music, etc).
訪問した (Visited) by Rasterphonics. Really strange/cool/soothing vaporwave music by a Denver artist. I also immediately snatched up the equally lovely MegaUpload. Wow, I really need to snatch the other two NYP album as well.
Not Old, Not New by Carsie Blanton. Mostly jazz standards with piano accompaniment. Still lovely. (She has some great original albums on BC — check out Buck Up).
Bloody Winter by Les Becasses. Recent French punk girl pop with great energy and fun.
Sweeter Sounds by the Rurals. (UK 2001) Triphop, EDM with dance grooves and occasional “soul-drenched vocals” (that’s how the band describes it).
Grow by Dendrites. Bombastic Greek heavy metal which is closer to Sammy Hagar or Van Halen than what passes as heavy metal these days.
Kuuhaku by Morimoto Naoki. Slow meditative Zen pieces by Japanese electronic composer.
Coercion of Deities (compilation by Neotantra) . Basically a big compilation of ambient, minimal music.
Broke by Baychimo. Danish drum and bass explorations
Seeing Inside by Serena Gabriel and Steve Roach. New age musician Steve Roach teams up with Gabriel who has a heavely, ethereal voice. Home run.
Larry Groce sings his novelty song 40 years later. This was one of the first records I ever bought! I loved it!.
FUNNY JAPANESE SONG-LESSON!? This great song by Malaysian hiphopper Namewee pokes fun at “tourist English” and “tourist Japanese.” I didn’t realize until rewatching that the Japanese lady was speaking “Japenglish” at the start of the song. (Namewee does somewhat less successful and more earnest songs about Cantonese, China Reggaeton,
This funny & slightly irritating multilingual song by this Malaysian and Taiwanese singer pokes gentle fun at “little pinkies” (slang for Chinese nationalists), Chinese firewall censorship, Pooh (i.e. Chinese president) and NMSL (slang for “Your Mom is Dead”) . Don’t miss the awesome panda dance during the end credits. More Chinese Internet slang here.
Holy cow! Turns out Namewee did a rapping duet with Hong Kong superstar G.E.M. Folks, It doesn’t get better than this!
Michael Muchmore has a review of Vegas Pro. I’m debating upgrading to version 19. Apparently, based on googling, it appears that Davinci Resolve’s has a lot of mindshare; they have a free and premium version, but they also sell a lot of specific DaVinci specific equipment.
About 6 months ago I learned that my knowledge of CSS is really outdated. I took pride in being able to do media queries and responsive design with CSS 3, but I had really fallen behind on grids and flexboxes and even units of measurement. It doesn’t matter so much in the limited formatting world of ebooks, but a major deal if you’re doing static HTML or even some templates for content management systems. Una Kravets has some interesting and helpful overviews of new developments.
Wow, recently Google notified me that its Backup and Restore Windows program in its Google One service has been updated (i.e., it’s going to be retired). Fine, fine, fine. I’ll do it; I just need to configure it properly. And it’s a big deal because most of my personal content is saved onto Google Drive after Dropbox became prohibitively expensive. I pay $30 annually for 200 gigs of cloud storage. (Dropbox only has as 2 TB plan and manages versions for only 30 days — which is practically the same as Google One).
Basically you were confronted with two tasks: Do you want to mirror the G drive on your local machine or do you want to stream it? I actually create a lot of content on Google Docs, but I’ve also been using it for file backup. The answer turned out to be that I really wanted to stream my drive (which meant that most content resides on the cloud, except directories you specify). You do that by right-clicking on the local directory and selecting Offline Access –> Available Offline.
After thinking about it, I can appreciate the better features in this arrangement. Being able to keep mirrored directories on your local directory was unwieldy — particularly true if you’re using one of those Chromebook with limited local storage. Synchronization proceeds as it did before, but there are some scenarios I haven’t really contemplated: what happens if you need extra space on your laptop and want to delete content from a directory which you’ve arranged to be available for offline use. I’m assuming that changing it from Available offline to Online only will safely delete the local copy, but I’d have to test that out first.
During the migration, my local content appeared the same as before. Everything fine, right? Not so fast. It turns out I had two different local paths:
G:\My Drive\1local (new path)
C:\Users\idiot\Google Drive\1local (old path)
1local was a root level directory which I created to contain all stuff I wanted locally. G is a virtual drive which really doesn’t exist on the physical drive — but contains a listing of all directories and files (which are available even if you check the properties tab — the number of files and directory size is as before).
To my horror, I realize that I still had multiple files open in text editors which were stored on the C drive rather than the G drive. Also, I had pinned several Google directories from the C drive to my Quick Links.. Don’t want to do that!
Even though I didn’t quite remember when I did the software migration, but I searched all my files in my C drive Google Drive path for this week and last. Luckily, I hadn’t edited a lot of things and could manually verify which files were in my new virtual G drive. I caught a few recent saves which were not in my G drive, so I simply copied them over to G.
Now the big question. Google is asking: Do you want to remove your old Google Drive folder? Delete all my files?? I’m not confident to do it just yet. I need to test some things, and then I’ll let you know.
Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers).
Here’s an interesting bit of news to indie writers. When you submit your ebook to Amazon, previously you were given a choice about whether to make an ebook lendable or no. For some reason, Amazon has changed that policy and now requires that all submitted indie ebooks be lendable. I think this is a good thing, because the lending feature is very good and time-limited and more people should allow it. Instead, it seems that a lot of books have opted out of that. Very few people used the feature anyway, which is sad — if only because it reveals how few readers are out there. Here is the kicker. Almost none of the Big 5 publishers enable lending for their Kindle ebooks. It’s outrageous! The Big 5 do it to protect their product; instead, you merely deprive a way for avid readers to share a title with their friends. Mostly when I want to borrow an ebook, I end up buying a copy anyway. Incidentally, I’ve been using archive.org book digital borrowing to temporarily access out of print books. Often I do this to check copyright information, introductions, etc., but most often I check it out in order to decide whether I ought to buy the actual book! This month I bought two books (a poetry book and a literary reference guide) only after borrowing a digital facsimile through archive.org .
Oh, yes, forgot why I brought that up. Up until now I had been using LE by the book title to indicate whether a book is lendable or not. However, generally now I think we can assume that all new self-published ebooks and most ebooks in general are lendable, and ALMOST ZERO BOOKS BY BIG 5 PUBLISHERS ARE LENDABLE. So maybe this will be the last month that I put that acronym by ebook titles.
A Personville title, Minor Sketches and Reveriesby Alberto Balengo has been priced at free for almost 2 weeks. Get it while it’s still free.
I keep meaning to say this. I’ve joined a book reviewing service called Book Roar (which I recommend for authors). I agree to review random ebooks, and in exchange someone somewhere agrees to review mine. These are books I wouldn’t normally read (much less review), but actually it is a bit fun to discover new books outside of your comfort zone. I’ll be posting my reviews at the bottom of these roundups.
I wanted to call attention to Diane Donovan, ( a freelance book critic who has reviewed/worked with over 50,000 books) and usually writes capsule reviews for a fee with Midwest Book Review. The reason why I mention her name (besides the fact that I have used her service for 2 Personville titles) is that now that you know her name, you will certainly see her name on blurbs for lots of indie books on Amazon Her personal website contains most (all?) of her reviews over the years (either here or here). Here’s a nice 15 minute podcast interview with Donovan on Youtube.
Under the Radar
Undergrowth: A face-paced ecological adventure set in the dark woods where glowing mushrooms live by Ellen King Rice (website).
Taxi: Harold Chapin Story by Peter Morton Coan KU, LE (Author’s Amazon page and Twitter). (Free). Chapin sang the song Cat’s in the Cradle.
Meiselman: Lean Years by Avner Landes. 99 cents. Here’s an interview and a book review calling the protagonist “an aggravating, ridiculous being. He’s no one you’d want to know, but he’s a lot of fun to laugh at. There are even moments when the odd reader might find some of Meiselman’s shenanigans familiar, but those moments are best not admitted to. Best to keep them to oneself, or learn to do the opposite.” Here’s another interview,
Zoolinguist: A Humorous Crime Fantasy by S.A. Adams. Original and quirky story where Mario finds himself in prison, but also possesses the ability to communicate with animals, which talent he intends to use to escape.
Chipless by Kfir Luzzatto. (Author website and blog). Here’s his smashwords page. Diane Donovan praised this, saying it is “ultimately designed to make readers think about the roots of tyrannical impulses and freedom. Chipless is very highly recommended both for its strong characterization and a deeper action that revolves as much around ethical questions as it does upon individual choice.”
Peace of Music by Denise Kahn (Vol 1 of 3 volumes). (Author website). Historical fiction by world traveler/linguist)
Undergrowth: A face-paced ecological adventure set in the dark woods where glowing mushrooms live by Ellen King Rice.(author website) Environmental novel by a wildlife biologist. I’d read it for that reason alone.
Girl Named Dara by Tom Flynn (Author’s website) College student falls in love with a Belarussian girl who has more problems than he realizes.
Comedian walks into a funeral home by Dennis Kelley. (author website).
Dead Moon: Page Turning Space Horror Tale of Survival by Jonathan Maas. San Antonio born author who studied on East and West coasts, Peace Corps volunteer, comedian, plus a whole lot more. These sound like YA novels.
Departures by E.J. Wenstrom. (author home page and book page). YA dystopian novel about a 17 year girl who finds she is scheduled to die.
Before Our House Fell into the Ocean: Stories of Love and Death by William John Cook. (author website)
Auctioneers by Florian Schneider. California-based photo-journalist (not to be confused by the Kraftwerk band member with the same name). Political novel about an El Salvadorean social worker living in Los Angeles while gunmen open fire at a LA shopping mall.
Snow White and the Wicked Queen by Regina Grimm (author website). (Great pen name!)
Sylvie: Novel by Sharon Kreider. (author’s website) A teenage girl is bullied, and how her family responds. Author is a therapist and suicide prevention trainer (giving her credibility); unfortunately book description sounds vague and wishy-washy. (The reader reviews are better though).
Sailing to Byzantium by Robert Silverberg. 1.99 (6 selected novellas) I am really liking this sci fi author’s novel Dying Inside. I consider Silverberg to be a Tier 1 sci fi author (up with Dick, Butler, Bradbury, etc).
Torn Veil by George R. Marshall. KU(Here’s a video interview). Also Fables of Failure. KU, so I’ve gotten them for free.
Book of Old Ladies: Celebrating Women of a Certain Age in Fiction by Ruth O. Saxton. (Author website) A great and timely exploration of how old women are depicted in fiction. Saxton cofounded a woman’s studies program at Mills College. I liked this study so much that I’d even want to read her 1998 work Girl: Constructions of the Girl in Contemporary Fiction by Women.
Journalist: Life and Loss in America’s Secret War by Jerry Rose. (website). Memoir about Vietnam war journalist.
Poetic License: Memoir by Gretchen Cherington. (author website) Daughter of Pulitzer prize winning poet Richard Eberhart reveals that he molested her as a child. Jay Parini gives this blurb, “Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Richard Eberhart was a close friend of many years, a beloved colleague. I loved his genial personality and admired his unique poetic gift. He was a generous man but, as his daughter shows, a difficult and complex person as well. This is a vivid memoir, flaws and all, and Gretchen Eberhart Cherington has crafted a narrative worth reading closely.”
Theory of Everything Else: Essays. by Laura Pederson. Personal essayist by former columnist for NYT. (author’s website) Fairly prolific writer though her books are never discounted.
Blink and It’s Gone
Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich: The Extraordinary Story of Fritz Kolbe by Lucas Delattre. Story of German bureaucrat who secretly helped the Allies during WW2. I love these kinds of stories.
Under a White Sky: Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert. (author website) I assume it is nothing more than a collection of Kolbert’s essays about climate. She’s a great writer and great at writing long form science articles.
Stories of John Cheever. 1.99 I used to own this book; am buying again!
Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing. (author website). 2.99 Critically acclaimed essay about a subject dear to my heart.
Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser (profile and Twitter) . 2.99 This year he published another book (not on sale) called “Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America.”
Platformed: A Modern Dystopian Novel by Kelsey Josund
Library purchases/Printed Books
Goethe – The Poet and the Age: Revolution and Renunciation, 1790-1803 by Nicholas Boyle. This is volume 2 when Goethe was in his 40s and early 50s. George Steiner reviewed it favorably, noting that Boyle is a “literary expositor and critic of vivacious perspicacity.”
Tune In : The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn. I’ve been afflicted by Beatlemania in anticipation of Peter Jackson‘s upcoming documentary Get back. Tune It In is supposed to be the best and most definitive history of the Beatles. Here’s several long interviews on youtube: with Conan O’Brien (recommended) , and a 2 pt 2 hour interview from 2021 (Part 1, Part 2)
Two books by feminist literary critic Elaine Showalter (author’s Wiki page). Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle (1990) and A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (2009). She’s a prolific critic; certainly I have read essays or reviews here or there. JC Oates recommended Sexual Anarchy; with a title like that, how can I deny myself?
102 Minutes : The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Pulitzer-winning Jim Dwyer (with Kevin Flynn). who died last year (Wikipedia page). I loved this compelling narrative about the fall of the World Trade Center, which conveyed the sequence of events, the haphazard nature of who survived and the obstacles which prevented people from being rescued. Lifted probably from numerous NYT articles and obituaries, it summarized the tragedy eloquently. Dwyer has written several other journalistic type books like Subway Lives, More Awesome Than Money etc. The great thing about people who win Pulitzers is that pretty much anything they write in any context are bound to be interesting.
Personal Accounts: New and Selected Poems by Robert Phillips (1966-1986). I bought this simply because it is longer than other Phillips titles (most of which were chapbooks) and because it was cheap. For a long time university presses have published most poetry titles and pricing them so high nobody can read them except from a library. Fun fact: I met this poet randomly in Houston (we talked for maybe 2 minutes). Then last week I stumbled upon his wikipedia page which looked like total crap. I spent a few minutes editing and adding stuff to it to make it look barely presentable but at least it no longer looks like crap.
Particles and Luck by Louis B. Jones.
Love Songs: The Hidden History by Ted Gioia. I love Gioia’s criticism about anything, but his books are always expensive. This one I bought at a great discount. can’t wait to read.
100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read by Karl Bridges. (Recommended by NeglectedBooks). Update: I really love this reference guide. Have discovered a lot of overlooked books, and the reference guide is well-written, succinct and provides a good hint about what each book is all about.
The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen. Modernized fairy tales. Contemplating giving it to teens as a Christmas present. Undecided.
The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments. Compilation of NY essays by famous philosophers. Really big heavy book with heavy essays, but always expensive. Luckily bought it for next to nothing.
Thomas Mann’s War: Literature, Politics, and the World Republic of Letters by Tobias Boes. (Cornell U., free).
Someone pointed outto me about bookstagrammers, so that gave me an opportunity to rant about it on reddit:
Wow, I didn’t even know that was a thing. After googling around, it seems that it consists of a lot of pretty people posing with printed books (and other props). I’m guessing that this phenomenon must have began when print publishers mailed pretty printed ARCs to pretty people so they can pose with them.
All this ignores that 1)ebooks are where most indies are and that 2)bookworms/authors like myself are really ugly people.
I’m sure there’s at least one bookstagrammer doing a decent job talking about the freebies they receive, but “posing with pretty freebies” doesn’t seem to be a major influence about which ebooks are being sold.
Intellectually I’m open to the idea of (free) social media, but I haven’t seen a great return on my time investment. Even reddit (which holds a lot of potential) has a lot of rules governing self-promotion. That’s a shame, because there are ways to allow self-promotion without things becoming spammy.
(After several author/literary types protested, saying that 1)well, bookstagrammers could pose with tablets with your ebook cover and 2)it’s more about the books themselves, not about the personality talking about it and 3)bookstagrammers are a great way to attract readers, I did a followup).
Indie publishers face a lot of hurdles when competing against the Big 5 publishers. One such hurdle is the availability and distribution of printed books. The Big 5 still distribute a lot of printed copies — both as ARCs and as titles which are later remaindered and discounted. To no surprise, the two titles you mentioned are from Big 5 publishers, and indeed, Penguin and Random House books seem to be all over the feeds of many bookstagrammers.
A lot of critics still refuse to review ebook-only titles (indeed some literary awards require physical copies). More importantly, printed titles end up earning the author less money per sale than ebooks.
I can imagine graphic novels would be ideal candidates for being suitable selfie objects. Maybe Harry Potter books or what not. In my generation several high quality books had good packaging (I’m thinking Kundera books, Pavic’s Dictionary of the Khazars, etc.) And on occasion I have done annotated selfies with long out of print titles (mostly from Africa and Europe) and annotated photos of bookshelves , so I get the appeal. (Actually here’s one I did in 2004 ).
Come to think of it, GLAS (Derrida’s masterpiece of intertextuality) might have found an audience if some instagrammers were around to talk about it).
I certainly enjoy using older books as prop for photos or home decor. But that is not what we’re talking about. Aside from Big 5 titles and graphic titles, I am not optimistic about a literary market driven by the need to include a printed book in a photo. Perhaps it is possible for bookstagrammers to include pictures of ebooks in their bookstagram photos (either by doctoring the photograph or including the cover on a tablet). But I expect to be waiting a very long time (perhaps an eternity) for an instagrammer to decide to turn my ebooks into a photo that can attract lots of likes.
As I said, I don’t have any problem with people using photos of books to talk about books. And I recognize that annotating photographers is a fun way to talk about anything. But limiting your discourse to photo-friendly books is not helping many writers.
Capsule Book Reviews
Book Roar Review
Two reviews today for Bookroar, the book review swap service.
Snow White and the Wicked Queen: Chapter 1: An Erotic Retelling of the Classic Snow White Fairytale (The Snow White Series) by Regina Grimm.
Regina Grimm has taken a well-known fairy tale and teased out its sinister erotic dimensions for a 3 part adult novel. “CHAPTER ONE” is kind of misleading, because this part actually consists of 7 chapters. These chapters are kind of intense to read all at once, and I actually think it’s more than simple publishing convenience that the author broke this up into 3 longish parts. (I think Anne Rice did something similar with her Sleeping Beauty stories). It’s certainly good to revisit a well-known tale and reveal the psychosexual drama bubbling underneath it, and Grimm does a decent job injecting new plot details (and not merely embellishing the original tale with sexual details). This part describes the birth of Snow White, how Queen Calista seduces the King and the strange and perverse relationship between the queen and the enchanted mirror. The inward subjective style sometimes can get slow, focusing a little too heavily on the emotional resonances and queen’s dark decadent desires. (I felt Anne Rice’s Beauty stories suffered from the same issues). To no one’s surprise, this PART is brimming with all kinds of sex (although the specific situations and people involved were unexpected). Sometimes the queen’s sexuality is paired too often with her evil power; I would have thought that the queen would be more adept at faking civility or human emotions rather than just ordering everybody around. For future parts I remain curious about whether the story will delve into Snow White’s sexual activities as a way to reveal her individual personality (going beyond the original fairy tale) or whether it will stick with using sexual desires as a way to illustrate the archetypal decadence of the queen.
SUMMARY: Although the prose can sometimes seem slow and introspective, this story/series is a must read for fans of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series.
PS. I only reviewed part 1 for bookroar, but in fact the author is breaking the story down into several parts. I generally did not like this — I would have liked to have it all inside one book. I have enough interest in this series to buy PART 2 — but not enough to buy the whole thing.
Barb the Bird of Hope by by Zowie Norris (illustrated children’s book).
This is a nice tale for children about an unusual bird dealing with change and turmoil in her life.
It is a challenge to portray an animal in a tale (even a tale intended for children). You don’t want the bird to seem too smart or chatty. A bird can physically interact with other humans and animals (and I think this book does that well), but it can’t really communicate; it can merely observe surroundings and occasionally have private thoughts. Also, a bird cannot really understand human structures (i.e., it can’t read words on signs). On the other hand, birds (like children) can instinctively grasp realities that adults might miss.
Several things stand out about Barb the Bird of Hope. First, the illustrations are incredible, full of eye-catching details, light rainbow colors and nice & crazy perspectives. The pictures of the birds were particularly lovely. The drawings seem to be done in pencil or crayon — a style that young readers could relate to easily. I uploaded two screenshots which demonstrate the nice colors and textures and perspectives. Actually most of the illustrations are much simpler than what I uploaded with this review — a lone bird flying down a road, a bird sitting on the same park bench as a doctor.
Second, the book portrays society during time of COVID — showing hospitals, deserted parks, humans cooped in their homes. The society portrayed in this book seems familiar even to the youngest of us; it maintains an appropriate balance between mentioning COVID and dwelling too much on it. In a way, the book will serve as a time capsule for that year or two where everybody (even children) had their lives upended by COVID. Because of this timeless quality, I could easily imagine this book being read long after COVID fades away.
Third, while the book does mention COVID without getting too melodramatic, one of the “scarier” parts of the book is having the park (and the laburnum tree) damaged by torrential rain and how the birds try to cope. This resonates with people of all ages — especially in places that experience flooding or other natural disasters. In fact, the book weaves the two “scary things” into the bird’s story, offering a way to see the pandemic in a bigger context of environmental threats. Environmentally-minded readers might view the loss of species habitat as another problem alluded to here; bird species are constantly having to adapt to changing circumstances. No wonder that the story has to end on a hopeful note.
The writing is conversational, although the vocabulary is certainly not dumbed down for children. (Ex. perching, exquisite, destruction, torrential, engaged, transform, symbolise). It’s a great story book to read with children. If I were to guess, it’s ideal for readers 5-8 years of age, but there’s enough complex story and vocabulary to interest kids up to the age of 11. It’s a pretty book to look at — to the point that all readers (even pre-readers) would love flipping through the pages.
My main “complaint” is that as an adult is that I had no idea what a laburnum tree looks like! I was genuinely surprised to find a photograph of one on the Internet — it’s beautiful! Although several illustrations show the tree, they were “miniaturized” to allow for more elements to be included together. Now that I know what a laburnum tree looks like, I wish it had been introduced earlier in the story — if only so readers could get a sense of what it looked like BEFORE THE STORM and AFTER THE STORM.
SUMMARY: With amazing colorful illustrations, this story dramatizes how two events (the COVID pandemic and the destruction of a laburnum tree in park) seem to a unique bird with violet tail feathers.
I have been a huge fan of Romanian-American dadistic poet Andrei Codrescu (website) — and a while back, I went on a massive buying spree of his books although I’ve read only a few. A safe place to start was Ay Cuba, delightful travel book about going to Cuba. The ebooks are too expensive.
A wonderful quote from a 1995 radio feature he did about virtual reality games and where he interviewed Jeff Bezos (of Amazon) and Rob Glaser (of Real Media networks). QUOTE: “In 15 or 20 years (they say) I won’t be able to tell the difference between reality and synthetic reality. Well, that’s what they said when they came out with fake fur, plastic flowers, inflatable love dolls, zircons and the Monkees. We’ve learned to enjoy these things, but did we ever mistake them for the real thing?”
I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. You can buy DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords. These two places generally have the cheapest prices because they offer a higher percentage of royalties to the publisher. Alternatively, you can buy cloud-based ebooks from Google, Amazon, BN, Apple and Kobo. Check them out! Fall 2021 Personville Press will have a mailing list to help people to stay informed about upcoming sales and promotions.
Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. ($2.99). Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it which you can buy for $2 on payhip (mp3/m4a) but the script reads well too.
A Worker’s Writebookby Jack Matthews . $1.75 Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.
NEW TERM: CONTEXT COLLAPSE: “the flattening of multiple audiences into a single context; i.e., ” “trying to comfortably chat with your mother, bar buddy, work colleague, and ex-boyfriend at the same time.”
I’m not sure we say Selena’s father defrauded Chris Perez, but certainly he didn’t disclose to Chris Perez his legal rights at the time. Then he maintained strict control over the Selena name (which was trademarked). Also, the father sued Chris Perez a few times, mainly over a memoir he wrote about Selena and his plans to develop some sort of TV show about their marriage.
It’s interesting because this disagreement mirrors the cultural disagreement between the two of them as presented in the 1990s biopic of Selena starring Jennifer Lopez. I had the good fortune to see Chris Perez perform in Houston in the early 2000s– what a class act — great musician who really wrote a very personal memoir many years later, when he felt the time was right.
The fact that the United States itself went on to attack, and wreak even greater violence against innocent civilians around the world, was largely omitted from official narratives, as it was in the museum. This erasure is not accidental. After the initial phase of fighting, the Pentagon did not release regular and precise reports of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We got out of the body count business years ago,” Mark Kimmitt, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former State Department official, said in 2018. “The numbers, while relevant, are not something that we quote, nor do we keep in our back pocket.” The work of counting the civilian dead fell instead to human rights groups, research centers and special sections of newspapers.
Likewise, the speeches of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were more likely to offer assurances that the nation was “staying the course” or “fulfilling our commitment” than to give an honest accounting of the wars. Every time I heard them speak, I wondered what goals they wanted to achieve. Was it the surrender of the Taliban? The capture of Osama bin Laden? The fall of Saddam Hussein? The staging of elections in Iraq and Afghanistan? Each milestone was reached, and yet the wars continued, largely out of sight. Within the first few months of combat operations, news of the wars disappeared from front pages. Nightly news broadcasts spent so little time on the wars that yearly coverage was measured in seconds per newscast.
Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers).
Indie Author Spotlight
Under the Radar
Bell Hammers: True Folk Tales of Little Egypt by Lancelot Schaubert.
Luz at Midnight by Marisol Cortez. (Home Page). Here’s a podcast interview with Cortez about the book. South Texas/San Antonio based author & environmental activist. Looking forward to reading this one!
Trailer behind the Garage by Todd Davis. (Author website). Fun and amazing fact. This book takes place a few miles north of where I live!
Reincarnations (Stories) by Nathan Elias. (Home page).
Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden. (author home page). New Zealand fiction. “story about love, sea turtles and an unthinkable choice. Of course it draws a little on some of my own experiences, as a turtle tagger—in my youth—on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef, and also on the medical (and neurological) issues that become increasingly common as mid-life creeps up on us. “
Three Zen Sutras: Heart, Diamond, and the Platform Sutras by Red Pine.
Untethered: Overcome Distraction, Build Healthy Digital Habits and use Tech to create a life you love by Sini Ninkovic. (home page)
Several titles by Dean Scott — an animal doctor/storyteller/cartoonist. Incomplete Dog Book: Nothing You Ever Wanted To Know About Dogs and Something for Everyone. The first is a totally whimsical book about dogs
Dust and the Dark Places Part 1 and Part 2) by Andrew D. Gracey.
nostalgia & other forms of boredom: collected poems 2005-8 by J. Andrew Schrecker.
Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright (2nd edition) by Patricia Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi.
March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman 2.99 (Wiki page). I’ve always heard great things about Tuchman’s history writing.
5 books by Hilma Wolitzer.
Cold Warriors: Writers who Waged the Literary Cold War by Duncan White.
Library Books/printed books
Sugar among the Freaks: Selected Stories by Nordan Lewis.
Literary Articles and Essays
PROLIFIC PLAYWRIGHT/NOVELIST REDISCOVERS LOST CLASSICS: David Blixt is one of the best kept secrets in the US literary world. He’s been cranking out all kinds of stuff (especially historical novels taking place in Elizabethan theatre). Now he has republished some novels by famed 19th century muckraking journalist — Nelly Bly. Most of Blixt’s novels (as well as the Nelly Bly novels) are less than $2 each on Amazon — sometimes 99 cents or even free.
What is the ideal size for a printed book? A bookseller discusses the pros and cons of different dimensions. I don’t really read a lot of printed books anymore, but my philosophy is the bigger the better. (My middle-aged eyes will complain less).
Capsule Book Review
Dust and the Dark Places Part 1 and Part 2) by Andrew D. Gracey (author home page).
This lively and action-packed Western takes place in 1880s, as a series of stories-within-stories. Mostly they center around a gang of outlaws called the Black Outlaw Riders and their cruel leader, Howling Jack Holliday. The biggest chunk of the story involves a young man named Benjamin who witnesses how the gang has terrorized his family and Benjamin’s improbable journey to find and kill the people who did it. Throughout the novel, the reader watches how Benjamin changes from an immature bystander to a man confident and determined enough to actually avenge the deaths he witnessed in his hometown. After meeting a woman (Molly) who is also hellbent on killing Howling Jack and his gang, the two concoct a plan to rid these gang leaders on their own turf. Finally at the beginning of the novel, there is Jade, a mysterious stranger Jade who helps Benjamin for unknown reasons.
I need to be vague about plot details for fear of giving too much away. Safe to say that there are twists and surprises and plans that go awry (as boxer Mike Tyson would say, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”) I’m impressed by how lean the story is (and how adeptly the pared-down, dialogue-driven style keeps the story galloping forward). There’s a lot of talking and telling (most often about the morality and psychological costs of exacting a personal kind of justice). One complaint (and maybe this is better handled in a later volume) is that throughout the book I barely had time to catch my breath; I really wanted a chance to stop and enjoy the scenery and maybe get to know the characters a little better. Some of the early scenes with Benjamin’s friends Chick and Audrey start to do that, but I swear, sometimes I feel I got to know Marilyn (Benjamin’s horse) better than Molly (Benjamin’s potential love interest).
By the end of the novel, it’s clear that personality and inner motivation are revealed in a roundabout way — making me all the more eager to see what loose ends are pursued in Book 2.
IN SUMMARY: this is a chatty, action-packed Western adventure about two people seeking a well known outlaw and and how it disrupts their lives in unexpected ways. It’s a fast, galloping story — but we hardly know the characters
Multimedia, Podcasts, etc
Podcast interview with Hilma Wolitzer. Her most recent collection includes a covid story (Wolitzer and her husband contracted covid in March 2020. Two other great podcast episodes on Texas Book Talk.
Personville Press Deals
I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. You can buy DRM-free copies of ebooks from Smashwords (and often at a substantial discount over the ebook’s price on Amazon). Alternatively, you can buy ebooks from Google, Amazon, BN, Apple and Kobo. Check them out! Starting at the end of September I’ll be starting a mailing list for people to stay informed about upcoming sales and promotions.
Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. ($2.99). Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it (3.99 on cdbabyand itunes), but the script reads well too.
A Worker’s Writebookby Jack Matthews . $1.75 Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.
Wow, a week has gone by without my posting anything about music. I actually put off music for a few weeks until I faced several important tasks: figuring out the best way to rip CDs on my new computer (done with dbpoweramp), figuring out podcast subject (done) and dealing with the mess which is bandcamp (more below). Actually I went ahead and bought a final $200 credit (really only $75) for emusic. Practically speaking though, I’m more focused now on Bandcamp.
Articles and Interviews
WORK SONGS PLAYLIST: Here’s a nice YouTube playlist created by music critic Ted Gioia. He has written 12+ books about music — including one called “Work Songs” which presumably provided the songs for this playlist. Here’s an article he wrote about why pop songs are 3 minutes long … and why they shouldn’t be.
I put my account on hold last month, but at the end of the month I bought a big shack of credits.
Flames to Ashes by Elissa Pernu. 4.99, 41 minutes. Australian country singer.
Here is what I have learned about bandcamp from the last occasion.
First, if you contribute something (any amount) to a NAME YOUR PRICE (NYP) album, that gives you the right to stream it through the bandcamp app.
Second, you have the ability to follow FANS, not just musicians. Following fans can be a great way to discover low-cost albums from a variety of places and styles. Also, you can follow fans of other fans.
Third, significantly, whenever you pay for some bandcamp thing, you have the right to write a short review/praise. This praise will appear on the album page. That’s interesting, but more importantly, it will appear on your collection, so if other people are browsing through your collection, they can see these annotations as well. For example my Bandcamp fan profile is here, but there’s another fan I follow, Oddiooverplay, who annotates her favorite purchases — which immediately makes me want to hear them.
Fourth, when scrolling through people’s collections, you can see how many other fans have the same album in their collection. I hesitate to make a general rule here, but the more fans who have an album in a collection, the more likely the price is to be less.
Fifth you can browse through albums by following tags — which refer to styles, locations or even price. When you land on a tag page, you can choose to view HIGHLIGHTS or ALL RELEASES. Obviously All Releases is a way to turn on the firehose, which usually what you don’t want. The Highlights view is obviously more limiting to maybe 12 titles, but sometimes that’s the way to get started.
Ultimately though, surfing music through collections of other fans can be more satisfying and allows for more serendipity.
I haven’t really found a way to find a way to filter out picks to include under $3 or $5 and for the album/EP to be substantial (like over 30 minutes). Bandcamp has feature articles about albums, except that they are some of the pricier titles. Everything is about the $10 range, something I buy very rarely.
Bandcamp lets you sign up for mailing lists, but that is pretty arduous. Suppose you signed up for 500 mailing lists. I suspect most of these announcements are about single tracks or overpriced albums, so I don’t need to hear about it. On the other hand, I really want to hear about name your price deals.
Here’s the letter I wrote to the Houston Chronicle about climate change. Like the previous ones, it will probably not be published. Oh well.
Uncertainty Cuts Both Ways
I thought Sunday’s front page story about climate change skepticism presented the issues in a muddled way. Indeed, why, did the article keep citing Steven Koonin and his book which is already under fire from climate scientists? Climate scientist Ben Santer wrote, “It is simply untrue that Prof. Koonin is confronting climate scientists with unpleasant facts they ignored or failed to understand. The climate science community treats uncertainties in an open and transparent way. It has done so for decades.” Merely stating that uncertainty exists about climate predictions ignores the fact that predicted harms could turn out to be even worse than predicted. Says Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt (two leading climate scientists), “there is a great asymmetry in risk between the high and low end estimates. Uncertainty cuts both ways and is not our friend.”
Practically speaking, policymakers and citizens can and should still make decisions based on available scientific information and assessment of risk. That is why the IPCC Summary for Policymakers uses clearly defined phrases like “virtually certain,” “high confidence” and “medium confidence” to help nonscientists weigh the cost and benefits of various actions. Unfortunately, delaying action on climate change imposes additional risks and costs on both our natural system and global economy.
A carbon fee and dividend is a fast and effective way to reduce the production and consumption of fossil fuels. It also brings substantial benefits: cash dividends to consumers, reduced deaths from air pollution (estimated at 100,000 annually in the US alone) and more jobs created (renewable energy historically has created many more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels do).
You have written some famously bad blogposts (here and here) predicting who will win the race for president. In 2016 and 2020 I was ridiculously wrong, but had a lot of fun predicting things. I’m thinking of writing up a 2024 election version — and to be wrong again. The real question is whether anyone will run on the Democratic Party ticket; I’m tempted to say it will be Inslee, Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. On the Republican side it will be Nikki Haley (duh!), Ron DeSantis and Paul Ryan. Possibly Ben Sasse too. (and because of DeSantis, I predict far right-wingers like Tom Scott and Rick Scott won’t run). Incidentally, I’m currently 55 and even though it’s not bad or anything, it’s hard to imagine someone younger than me winning the presidency.
To give you an idea of how strange my life is: 1)my floor lamp beside my bed fell on me in the middle of the night (breaking the main light bulb) and 2)my TV has been powering up at random intervals. (I have to unplug it to prevent that from happening). UPdate: I think I’ve found the cause. My PC seems to be sending bluetooth signals to my TV.
Pet peeve: I inevitably keep dozens (if not hundreds) of browser tabs windows open. I’m always in the middle of something — these WordPress edit windows are especially easy to misplace. I just want to kill everything and start again.
“Comirnaty!!??” Seriously, the marketing department couldn’t come up with a better name for the Pfizer vaccine than that? I can barely pronounce or spell it. Why not give it a memorable name and just move on. (MY suggestions: Bongo-Pongo, Perkosan, Gradifex).. Or reuse names of comic book heroes or rap stars or other celebrities designed to appeal to a demographic –i.e, Spiderman, Cool Juice, BigPicasso, LambofGod. Think outside the box.
Article about a Shapeshifting cam girl rewriting the rules of digital porn. Apparently the digital artist (in her 30s) used various graphical tools to make herself look younger (and prettier?!). Here’s her instagram account pics, which are sort of PG-13 rated, sort of NSFW. She’s managed to monetize everything, so good for her, although I’m not sure she’s getting that adulation only for the money.. Good case study though.
I’ve been really amazed at the Jane Ferguson on-the-ground reporting in Kabul, Afganistan. She is one of those amazing PBS reporters who manages to get accepted in Muslim countries under fire. Actually CNN has a good reporter in Kabul as well — not to mention the English-speaking Afghanis. The big question is that if 70% of Afghanis have access to smart phones with Internet, how will the Taliban be able to crack down?
“It’s completely lovely—and also bonkers,” said her mother, Laura. “Betty climbs in Lacey’s long hair like it’s some kind of jungle.”(About a teen girl who has adopted a bumble bee). There’s a killer line at the end.
““Up to 50 kilos of fish caught in Brazil are thrown away for every kilo that arrives on land; more than 400,000 tons of marine life were discarded between 2000 and 2018 in just four states.”(Source)
While the Shadows movie is indeed fantastic, the very premise it set up was always more conducive to TV. The point of the film wasn’t to send these vampires on some grand quest to carry out an evil plan, it was a look into the average day-to-day lives of vampires who, other than eating humans, live relatively mundane lives. If TV is a diary, then a film is a book report. With the show, Shadows is able to perpetually expand their world and fill in gaps from the movie, namely adding more female characters like Nadja to the main cast as well as guest appearances from Kristen Schaal, Vanessa Bayer, Greta Lee, Sondra James’ little Joanie, and former Great British Bake Off contestant Helena Garcia (honestly, case closed right there). And then there’s Colin Robinson, the energy vampire who feeds off people’s energy, nearly boring them to death in cubicle-filled office spaces and town hall meetings. Such an off kilter character might seem out of place in a movie about blood-sucking vampires, but here these subplots can run parallel to the main story without feeling distracting. On that same note, more writers on staff means more jokes from more perspectives, while too many contributors on a film script often leads to a disjointed story.
See also her wondering why late night talk shows still exist (post-Conan and post-Covid)? (I’m a big fan of late night talk shows. They are celebrity-obsessed (not to mention obsessed with anything new). But it’s nice to follow the host and cast.
Here’s my take on talk shows and Covid. Stephen Colbert was mostly terrible during COVID, Jimmy Fallon was fun and silly and still could play games and run music vids. Seth Meyers was even more brilliant and entertaining; he was perfectly comfortable transitioning to No Audience. Trevor Noah and his gang has really been killing it with every episode. Great sketches, great interviews and fast-paced. Very intellectual too. Now that things are returning to normal with talk show audiences, Colbert is much more entertaining and can really milk a joke when he wants to.
About the political thing, our country has experienced a national tragedy with Trump; if talk show hosts weren’t sounding the alarm, I don’t know who else could be. It’s good though that talk shows have stepped back and focused more on traditional entertainment. Talk shows used to be even-handed towards both parties, but the lack of a credible conservative leadership has made it impossible to treat them as anything more than a bunch of crazies — especially when it comes to climate change and vaccine mandates.
How much is ton of carbon dioxide? The U.S. EPA has found that a typical 22 MPG gas-based car emits about 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year. On average, you emit one ton of CO2 for about every 2,500 miles you drive—about the distance from Boston, Massachusetts to Salt Lake City, Utah. (The US annual carbon footprint is about 16 tons annually). Concludes the report:
Most of the CO2 humans emit doesn’t come from everyday activities like driving. In fact, when we say that the average American emits 16 tons of CO2 a year, most of this isn’t from our direct emissions. Instead, it’s from large-scale processes, like making electricity or manufacturing products and building materials, which are averaged across the whole population. For example, the World Steel Association estimates that, for every ton of steel we produce, almost two tons of CO2 are added to the atmosphere.
I am saddened to learn about the deaths of US servicemen and Afghani citizens in Kabul (presumably at the hands of terrorists). It’s important to remember that US soldiers are often asked to provide protection for international humanitarian efforts in risky places and can become a target for bad actors. (To a lesser extent, this happens also with UN peacekeeping troops). Without having these spaces secured, it can be hard to run humanitarian operations. It is only on tragic days like today that we can appreciate the risks and sacrifices that enlisted people take during such missions. We should honor them for that.
After Ed Asner has died, I was recalling favorite Mary Tyler Moore show moments with him. Here’s him with Ted Knight. Hilarious scene. The most interesting (for me at least) is that the scene is so unimportant; all Ed and Ted are doing is hamming it up to absurd levels. I saw an interview with Asner where he said the serious drama Lou Grant (which I never watched!) was his best performances. I look forward to watching it somewhere.
Lyrical, narrative, and dramatical works, with subjects imagined, invented, and derived from Native American culture. "... ambitious, epic in its style, containing many great lines and ideas, but also strangely baffling." $1
Government worker and his friends discover a way save his agency millions ... but instead of receiving praise, finds themselves in hot water. "Modern-day tale with working-class folks: part fable, part satire, and part comedy." $0.99
A "marvelous, thought-provoking, daring novel" about a father's deluded love for his daughter $0.99
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"Lisa Mason might just be the female Phillip K. Dick. Like Dick, Mason's stories are far more than just sci-fi tales, they are brimming with insight into human consciousness and the social condition." $3.99
Anthology for readers’ “craving for emotionally and intellectually satisfying erotica.” $7.99
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"This achingly personal, contemporary version of the Inferno is both truer to its prototype and more daring." $4.99