Sunday, November 30, 2014

Open Commensal Publishing : because on climate change , pace President Obama or the NAS , 7 billion heads are better than one or even 2000

Open Commensal Publishing simply means that anyone should have a right to publish --- without either commercial , professional or academic gatekeepers pre-censoring that right.

Laws of Libel still apply.

And peer (and non-peer) reviews still happen under this approach --- as they do now, after publication --- whether that publication was pre-vetted or not.

Self published works , to many of us alert to typos and woefully inaccurate fact-reporting , seem to be no better and no worse than the work published after vetting by commercial editors, press gallery journalists with journalism degrees, and by academic editors and pre-publication academic reviewers.

The best have never needed a commercial publisher , a journalism degree , tenure or a PhD to be able to contribute to a culture's intellectual life.

The second-best, however, do.

They need that validation, to reside behind the wagons of some sort of aristocracy - to feel proud to be inside its closed commensal publishing, to be able to offer up whatever it is that they are capable of.

Too too often professionalism is merely the last refuge of the second best.

I have never sought that refuge but I also number myself as one of those second best, as perhaps you are too.

We second best and second rate never can tell where the true flashes of untutored and unfettered genius will briefly emerge and then vanish ---- and we can't afford to stifle any of them , not with the state this planet is in right now.

Open Commensal Publishing is simply the Cabinet of All the Talents needed to address our current global crisis ....

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reality : 'parsimony' or 'plentitude' ? ---- Modernity and Commensality's choices

Both parsimony and plentitude are well worn terms (with relatively precise meanings) within the world of science ---- but buttressing each scientific term are two long standing but wildly varying philosophies of life that we all must chose between.

The two philosophies agree just once : in both accepting that current - readily observable - reality does appear to be very dynamic and complex.

But only one philosophy accepts that this vision of ever-dynamic complexity is probably as about as accurate a version of reality that we humans are ever likely to get.

The other philosophy derides that view as a 'false consciousness' and craves to find a much simpler , more predictable, stable and controllable reality buried somewhere deep in that heaving surface morass.

I think it is fair to say that the Era of Modernity (1875-1965) chose the philosophy of parsimony and the Era of Commensality (1965- ?) has chosen the philosophy of plentitude.

For parsimony sees reality as akin to thermoset polymers and says that there are always winners and always single best solutions.

And that moreover we can readily determine them and congeal them for all time.

While plentitude sees reality as rather like thermoplastic polymers and says there are no winners or losers - just ever-plastic life in all its complexities.

It says that history has shown we haven't had much happiness when we set out to exalt the winners and to holocaust the losers....

Friday, November 28, 2014

Modernity's error : claiming to see a foundational parsimony beneath a surface plentitude

The remains of a war-shattered building , after the armies have moved on, only appears to be complex --- despite the sight of all those building blocks of the edifice tossed about hither and yonder.

For true complexity, one needs to move below the placid surface of those unchangeable-seeming and solid-appearing building blocks.

Down to the level of the atoms and below - deep down down down into a land of dozens of ever more fundamental forces and masses careening about a maybe not so empty vast vacuous space.

Seemingly every other year, a paradox is renewed as the biggest machine ever made by humanity discovers an ever smaller and ever more fundamental sub-sub-atomic building block of the universe.

The scientific consensus that atoms are not in fact atomic (fundamental/indivisible) is far more than one hundred years old.

And yet that consensus still hasn't really penetrated our Junior and Senior High science classes yet : proof indeed that Modernity didn't die in 1945 or in 1965 --- not at least among science teachers.

In fact the scientific consensus that atoms weren't atomic is exactly as old as Modernity itself .

For Modernity pace Einstein and Darwin, in a very real sense, can be said to have arisen in scientists seeking to refute the sub-atomic evidence sparking in the cathode tubes before their eyes.

Evidence that God indeed does 'play dice' - at least down at the sub-sub-sub-sub-atomic level .....

During the Error of Modernity (1875-1965) : only life that was modern was life worthy of life

What 'passed' (successfully) for intellectual activity during the Era of Modernity was mostly about sharply separating, dividing and classifying : in/out , normal/deviant , worthy/unworthy , fit/unfit.

It presumed everything in the universe should be able to be put in distinct boxes ---- and that it could remain there.

One box was good stuff - the other stuff was junk , to be tossed and binned.

(Ultimately found in the rubbish bin of Modernity were such as the entire Jewish,Roma and Slavic 'races'.  Along with rest of us who might be in anyway physically, mentally, emotionally or morally 'handicapped' and lacking in powerful friends).

Sometimes Modernity's supporters acted as if reality had once been sharply and separated - back in some earlier golden age.

Mostly they acted as if the current complexity of existence was but a temporary affair, only apparent on the mere surface level and not really indicative of a much simpler , more potentially order-able , reality at the basic levels of atomic structure (sic) .

(Ultimately this led to WWII :  High School Science and a machine gun -  always a terrifying combo.)

Commensal Plentitude

Our current era ,the post 1945 or post 1965 era , the Era of Commensality , accepts that there will always be a confusing and complex plentitude of objects and activities.

Further, it accepts that they all are capable of connecting and interacting : adding many more levels of complexity to what is already potentially hugely confusing by weight of sheer numbers alone.

If my portrait of life today rings unconvincing (climate deniers anyone ?) that is because , in fact, Modernity and Commensality currently co-exist.

And often in the same person....

A wonder Oscar Wilde ever permitted to enter America

Because unfettered and untutored 'genius' , of course, is what immigration guards (& academic review committees) are specifically hired to keep out ...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

John Dominic Crossan and yellow MAGIC penicillin

The idea that Jesus scholar Crossan has anything substantive to say about wartime penicillin would come as a surprise to most people , John Dominic Crossan most prominent among them.

But if one regards the sheer amount of resistance medical orthodoxy put up (for twenty wasted years) against the idea of injecting native penicillin into dying patients , one can see the application of Crossan's concept of 'magician healing' : which he regards as all healing that lies outside outside the orthodoxies of the day, medical or otherwise.

Jesus's healing being his prime but by no means only example.

We never did get commercial white man-made penicillin : all the penicillin during WWII and ever since has been grown naturally , natively, by tiny yeast like beings.

Virtually all of our antibiotics are still mere modified versions of WWII's original native penicillin.

Medical orthodoxy today swears by native penicillin and all its life saving derivatives.

Mea culpa is more a word Jesus would use than one many MDs are comfortable using --- but would it really hurt - just this once - to admit that the elders of their profession got it 180 degrees wrong back then in the darkest days for humanity, infected or otherwise .....

Freemium vs Open Access Tracts vs Open Commensal Publishing


Self Published e-books currently has strong connotations that the self-publishing author intends to make money off their work at some point in time.

Partly this connotation is driven by the fact that the best avenues to put self published e-books before the worldwide public (such as Amazon) are all themselves profit-seeking and distributing permanently free e-books will only lose them money rather than make them money.

So they simply won't distribute* self-published work that remains permanently free-to-read.

Because what really keeps afloat this connotation that self-publishing authors seek profit is that it is overwhelmingly true.

The majority of the self-published only appear to embrace a free-to-read ethos because they tend to release the initial books or chapters in a larger work for free - permanently or just for a limited time -  hoping enough readers prove willing to pay good money for the rest of the work.

This is really an ancient version ("loss-leader") of a seemingly 21st century model from the world of apps , freemium : give away the basic app and hope to sell premium features to a sizeable minority of the resulting users.

There is still a form of implicit censorship within all such profit-seeking self publishing, of course.

It is the self-censorship of those who, in seeking profit , tends to write what their potential audience wants to read.

Open Access to closed Group-Think : academia's closed commensality

Still at least part of most self-published world is free-to-read , while the author and publisher retain copyright control ---- so how then is this really different from the academic world's copyright-retaining Open Access free-to-read approach ?

Well for a start, and tellingly, self-publishing is detested by the academic priesthood .

This is because it is truly open to all : all would-be-authors and most frighteningly , all would-be-ideas.

Open Access : to the closed world of academic group-think

Amazon's self publishing division only rarely refuses to carry a book because of its content and no group of fellow authors (self-published or otherwise) ever sits in judgement deciding whether a self-published work should be allowed to be published.

Ultimately there is peer review --  but of an ancient , cumulative and permanent sort.

This peer review can ensure an author never sells a book , other than to their mother , or it turns a book into an enduring classic that is taught in schools, worldwide, for centuries to come.

Because , unlike in the cosseted and closeted world of the scholar the reviews of their fellow authors (peers) , along with those of ordinary readers, do indeed come - in spades, but in public , no holds barred - and only after that initial independent publication.

Musical producers - to this very day - do not bring their new work before their fellow peers on Broadway or the West End and beg them to allow them to bring their new musical out in competition with the musicals currently running.

And until the 1950s, nor did scholars.

They could independently publish via a commercial for-profit publishers - in mainstream magazines or in books - and yet have that work evaluated formally by their peers before they got tenure or a grant.

They are still free to write books , or blog or  even post articles on non-peer reviewed open access depositories --- but this time-consuming work will not count towards receiving peer-reviewed promotions or getting peer-reviewed grants --- no matter how popular or useful this work may be.

Advising a President counts - inside this academic Beltway - far less than publishing me-too articles in a specialized journal that even the few specialists in that sub-field rarely read extensively.

Today , Socrates and Plato would need to have a PhD, an academic position (in practise tenure, and at a well known research university) and have their work pre-approved by peers in their sub-field before it could be published in an scholarly journal or university press.

Only then would it be taken seriously by academics.

The days of untutored longshoremen offering up their thoughts on moral philosophy and being taken seriously are long gone.

In earlier times, before peer-review hardened into dogma (for largely atheist academics !), longshoreman Eric Hoffer's THE TRUE BELIEVER sold more copies than 99.99% of all professors in history have ever sold of their work.

Academics - precisely because of this case-hardened procedure of peer-review - can proclaim their peer pre-approved 'bold' thoughts with the reassurance no public mob or mob of university deans will try to lynch them.

Their peer-reviewed published thoughts might seem bold , but only bold within a paradigm that is consensually held by most of their fellow practitioners around the world.

A US Senator outraged by any such article can't get any traction - any academic expert he consults , from far right to far left , is puzzled : the article seems bold but well within the mainstream of that discipline -- what's the Senator's problem ?

Academic work then , with rare bold paradigm-breaking exceptions , is really less pamphleteering and more Tract writing.

It can appear bold and even bitingly brutal but it works within a consensus and for all its criticisms of that consensus, seeks merely to strengthen it not destroy it.

So let it be understood ,when I call them Tracts with a capital "T" , I refer explicitly to the TRACTS FOR THE TIMES , produced by what is now known as the Oxford Movement -- highly critical but always within the orthodoxy of their own sub grouping of the Anglican church.

Open Commensal Publishing or Pamphleteering

If the commercial author is restrained to write only what their profit-seeking publisher thinks will sell well , their competitor the self-publishing profit-seeking author is also restrained by what they think the audience wants to buy.

Similarly, the Open Access academic author is restrained to reserve their 'best orthodox' thoughts for peer review publication and direct their wildest but perhaps most honest thoughts to something dashed off in their personal academic blog.

(Where it might be wider read than any of their articles in top peer-reviewed journals that each were the product of three years of very hard slogging !)

But Open Commensal Publishing is today's digital pamphleteer, at least as George Orwell understood that term.

At its very best, it can be unrestrained by 'what the commercial publisher, general public or academic peers wants to hear' and instead it can deliver some new - badly needed - insights that would never have made it past those three filtering gatekeepers.

I hope to be a small part of that process...


(This could change if Amazon convinced enough such authors (who wish their work to be permanently free-to-read and yet to remain within these commercial distribution channels) to allow Amazon to sell subject-related ads intended to be displayed at the beginning, back and middle of their e-book, each ad subject to the author's prior approval. But I digress.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Until Modernity took charge, amateurs wrote ideas and professionals taught ideas

Until quite recently (post the 1970s in most universities) , professors were permitted to write ---- but not pushed to write.

But starting in the 1870s and increasingly by the 1920s, amateurs were pushed out of all the learned societies and the assumption gradually became that only PhDs in a few rich big universities in a few world class big cities could do serious scholarly work.

Others - amateur authors and people with advanced degrees working in business, government or teaching in minor universities or high schools - could provide useful primary material (write a novel , pass an Act or invent a machine) but weren't ever to be cited for secondary insights.

Research university professors should only cite other research university professors for intellectual substance: a nice tight profitable closed loop of about a dozen research universities in each of the biggest academic nations, maybe only two or three in smaller developed nations.

One natural response was that all universities  and colleges, particularly those out in the boonies , increasingly pushed all their professors to also publish or perish, once they had a bit of money to throw around to help make it happen.

This was a half good move ----  in that indeed good ideas can come from anywhere - but why then seek them only from people with PhDs and tenure ?

It happened because traditionally  it is the author's job to have ideas and the pure teacher's job to try to control and assess them , less young minds be misled in ways that threaten the powerful.

We speak of the profession of teacher and presume it requires a long education and the passing of rigorous exams - while even today , anyone is permitted to write books* and have ideas - no education certificates required.

*Actually commercial realities became the new gatekeeper - an author could self-publish anything but if it wasn't published by a cost and profit conscious commercial or university press, all the (university trained)  newspaper reviewers agreed to dismiss it as worthless.

But by the 1840s , ideas no longer only went public via university teachers filtering them before teaching some of them to future school masters and parsons.

Now authorship (amateur , untutored genius) could reach its potential audience directly - unmediated by the university gatekeepers - due to the growth in cheap fast steam printing presses together with  the new railways, steamships, telegraphs and the public mail to distribute them widely.

That won't do --- ideas are dangerous - too dangerous to be left uncontrolled in the hands of the unwashed democracy of amateur authors.

Ideas - important ideas at least - now only come from PhDs with tenure at well regarded universities, have been peer-reviewed, perhaps at the journal article level, and are published by well regarded university or commercial publishers in a hardcover edition.

That's a lot of gatekeepers - enough to safely dilute any dangerous idea , wouldn't you say ?

Never ever a shortage of wartime Penicillin : only a shortage of customers

Never ever were the basic details or making or using penicillin a secret during WWII - anywhere in the world - they had been published repeatedly in globally widely available medical journals and presented before international medical conferences.

Nor was there ever a shortage of therapeutic grade penicillin - again world wide.

The only thing that was in desperately short supply for penicillin in the fifteen years from September 1928 to September 1943 was customers.

No, not a shortage of patients dying for lack of the infection fighting antibiotic - they were always there in their millions - annually - worldwide.

But between them and a normal lifespan was a po-faced gatekeeper resisting penicillin with all their professional inertia : their GP.

Seemingly, it is easy for historians to demonstrate that there wasn't much therapeutical penicillin in most 1928-1943 drug company warehouses or hospital pharmacies : ipso facto , a shortage of penicillin was holding back its use.

But drug company executives and hospital chief pharmacists aren't running charities ; they will not produce or bring in a drug for which there is almost no call for.

Maybe eighty doctors , worldwide between 1940 and 1942, pushing hard to use therapeutic penicillin is hardly a market demand worth gearing up for .

Not when the pool for a drug like penicillin's rival sulfa was two billion potential patients and eighty thousand GPs eager to use it and able to pay good profitable prices for it.

Yet in the end all those doctors ended up using penicillin and most abandoned sulfa : so what changed ?

Well , in a world where effectively even in dictatorships one can choose one doctor over another , after 1943 patients  all over the world wanted penicillin and made it clear they'd abandon one doctor for another to get it.

The sins of Bill Cosby

Once the miracles of penicillin , like the sins of Bill Cosby , were common knowledge and not just controlled knowledge, not just an 'open secret' among doctors and scientists, patients demanded it - even if it was not white man-made but 'merely' dark and native.

For GPs were not hostile to all forms of penicillin - if it had been synthesized in 1928 it would have been quickly used everywhere.

But injecting in the pristine human body what was essentially the excrement of a foul-smelling slimy basement mold , like some backwoods old biddy practising her folk medicine ?

Simply not on.

Saving patients was all very worthy no doubt , but not at the cost of a loss of professional dignity and status.

Once the carefully planned pictures of refinery-like "deep tank" penicillin factories and of grave middle class men in white coats carefully tending to wall of dials were out there in the general and scientific media , GP acceptance of even native (natural) penicillin soared.

No longer , it seemed , were uneducated rural teenage girls producing native penicillin by hand in flasks in some hastily converted milk dairy.

The product itself was no longer dark and strong smelling like some sort of Polish rye bread , but through an elaborate and expensive purifying process it was now almost as white as Wonder Bread.

It didn't save lives any better - but it sure looked better.

And that was what was really important , wasn't it ...

Monday, November 24, 2014

In terms of world events, Nova Scotia midway between Spanish Main/Gulf Coast Oil and Europe , has always been important but never crucial - will that change with the internet ?

If you happen to be a grad student residing in a present or past world class metropolitan city (say NYC, London, Tokyo  or Athens, Rome , and Madrid) your academic advisor is wise to ironically suggest to you that you pursue a local subject , if you wish to secure tenure at a world class university.

This is because local archives are close enough to allow you visit them frequently, allowing you to take the time to dig deeply and thoroughly on your chosen local subject - of which they are almost mostly likely the best single source about that local subject.

But a local subject in New York and in other world-shaking cities can frequently also be a world class subject, of interest to readers and scholars worldwide.

So, for these lucky scholars or authors , the advice gives them the best of both worlds.

But a writer in Lethbridge Alberta (population 75,000) or a grad student at Lethbridge University has a much harder go of it.

Dinosaur fossils and American  Mormons, dry land farmers and oil explorers moving north pre WWI , the WWII Chemical and germ warfare  range at Selkirk Alberta --- that pretty well does it , in my untutored mind, of local subjects of interest outside of a southern Alberta readership.

Halifax falls between Lethbridge and London, in terms of world shaking events at its door

Halifax Nova Scotia (population 350,000) is a near ideal harbour (for massive navies and as shelter from storms for even the largest commercial ships), conveniently midway between North Western Europe and yesterday's wealth of the Spanish Main and of today's wealth found in the hulls of Gulf of Mexico oil tankers.

(Halifax is about 2500 nautical miles or so from the offshore oil wells of Venezuela and another 2500 nautical miles or so to Plymouth England or Brest France.)

It is also in the province that is the first landfall of the twin continents of the Americas , in relationship to North Western Europe ---- so the original starting point of the historically important regular Cunard sea mail service and a key historic landing spot for early telegraph, telephone, radio signals, airplanes and now internet cables.

Controlling Nova Scotia has been damn useful for various sea empires at various times - but never really critical.

Always Halifax has just been one a dozen or so key transit points on an absolutely strategic great circle route.

So a scholar located in Halifax can tell many important stories .

Always though from the point of view of a bystander at the divisional train station like Truro NS, watching the troop trains pass through the town, en route to important action in an another continent.

But has the rise of the worldwide Internet and thus for the increasing need for all archives and data depositories to be fully accessible on the web, changed things for authors and scholars in Lethbridge and Halifax ?

Can some very important foreign historical subjects be researched while the author remains at home in their unimportant small city but still resulting in an important work because of that author's unique take on the public domain material ?

For journalism, this will never do - a visit to the site of important current event is crucial as ever , as that site (and that site only) is the place filled with eye witnesses and the physical evidence of the event.

But many authors or scholars deliberately seek to distill out what hindsight (and newly opened archives) reveals anew about long past events that were heavily censored when of contemporary interest to journalists.

Today we are all much less naive and no longer believe that powerful people and powerful organizations are not routine serial liars about events with a potential to explode all over their career, reputations , profits and re-election prospects.

The real truth is so often sordid and deeply buried in archives - not found in the sugar coated PR images of powerful people sustained while they still alive and thus able and willing to sue for libel.

This is why history-based narrative non fiction is eating into the acclaim and attention that W5 daily journalism and fictional novels once held for readers.

In the days before the Internet, there was no loss of academic quality to have a university in Dublin hold the vast bulk of the private papers of an American Nobel winning author who lived and wrote in Los Angeles.

A Montreal based scholar simply had to pony up and pay a lot to fly to visit those crucial archives - and Dublin was as about as expensive to fly to as to LA.

Yellowing seventy five year old paper was yellowing paper - in Montreal, Dublin or LA.

And the LA of 2015 does not look much like the LA of 1915 .

So yellowing photos from 1915 LA , found only in Dublin, were far more valuable for the purposes of studying this author's childhood , than seeing the actual LA (of 2015) in sound and in color and in person.

And of course today, yellowing paper is yellowing paper on the screen of a computer in Lethbridge as well as on screens in Montreal , Dublin or LA.

Reading "DIGITAL PAPER" by the always cranky Andrew Abbott reminds me that scholars in Chicago have access to the same internet as I do at home here in Halifax .

But those scholars also have enhanced access to the access-for-money portions of the internet by way of being senior professors at U of Chicago  ---plus they has enhanced (because they are professors and local) access to all the material at that university's huge library and in the many libraries and archives around greater Chicago.

Their academic stature ensures access for their results in world class journals and being published in world class university presses but it also limits them in terms of what literary style they can adopt in writing their work.

They are unlikely to be able to produce scholarly work that is read both by millions of other non academics and academics outside their narrow field and by their colleagues.

The scholarly oriented non academic author still can best them in that area - and do so from Lethbridge Alberta or Halifax Nova Scotia...

NATIVE penicillin was dark and swarthy , greasy-looking, smelt of garlic , carried a stiletto and was unreliable and unpredictable

Well it often was a dark dirty reddish brown and so often did look like dry mustard that had absorbed water from the atmosphere and had darkened and moistened at the bottom of the jar.

And indeed it did reek - but less of garlic and more of a musty basement or newly turned humus-rich soil.

By contrast, white (man-made) penicillin (as yet unseen and in fact never yet seen) was widely/wildly predicted by mainstream scientists to be as pure as a Boy Scout and as predictable, reliable, dependable as clockwork.

Who ever said that scientists don't have a rich fantasy life ... or a privileged access to bad acid ?

dark, dirty, wet , NATIVE penicillin not welcome ... to help win WWII

Because WWII was to be a war for white (man-made) penicillin : pure, dry and crystal clear.

Native penicillin (which incidentally turned out to be the only penicillin produced during WWII and ever since when synthetic penicillin failed to emerge) was about as popular as the black and east Indian native was in the armies of the British Commonwealth , France and America : which is to say not at all.

Instead the war was to be won by bombers (commanded exclusively by white officers) killing enemy grandmothers and babies until the German, Italian and Japanese males in uniform surrendered without ever seeing armed combat against the western allies....

Friday, November 21, 2014

Two Tier Internet the Johnson-Reed Bill of its day : plenticiding "digital plentitude"

Modernity (1875-1965), the mean-spirited ideology that was a panicky response to all the plentitudes that global modernization and advances in science had thrown up , has a lot of faults to its credit.

One of the most infamous was the 1924 Johnson-Reed Bill, an Act that shut New York City's Golden Door for over 40 years.

Republican Albert Johnson ,along with fellow Republican David Reed, had foundationed that Bill's restrictions upon their racist cum social Darwinist cum eugenic cum anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-catholic philosophy.

Why did they fear the new plentitude so much ?

Perhaps because an expanded plentitude of choices and voices and decisions seems to overwhelm as many people (something about their brain chemicals ?) as it inspires many others.

As a result, they seek artificial ways to restrict Natural Plentitude.

Immigration restrictions and eugenic measures in general was one of them.

Rejecting ballot box and work place democracy because it gave everyone a voice to argue and debate the actions that past elites were used to have simply obeyed, was another.

Today, digital has many many things once so expensive and difficult , easy and cheap - even free.

Today the democracy of digital plentitude has made writing an e-book, blog ,web petition , even a science or academic article, much easier than ever.

More importantly, waving the results in front of people all over the entire world - thanks to the digital internet - is instant , easy, free  and effective.

Because already 40% plus of the entire world has some access to the internet.

That figure will soon rise to become near universal.

It will even be higher in the poorest most rural parts of the world than it is in the richest precincts of Manhattan .

If we can judge by the history of radio and TV , poorer rural people will crave mobile phone internet , even over cars or better homes, as the substitute for all the big city music concerts and first run movies they will never see.

The same sort of moral panic that led to 1924's Johnson-Reed Bill is already underway, fermented by the same sort of people : once-comfortably powerful white middle class professional males.

Who are they ?

Editors - like Johnson - this time fearful that anyone can write a better piece of journalism than their journal-degreed selves can , amateurs writing news reports from on the spot locations and with local on the spot insight.

Only by demanding that the only accurate news is that coming from the limited page output of our traditional print media can we Old Guard create a gatekeeper to hold the voice of journalistic democracy at bay.

Top line tenured professors ,used to having their names and university's status get their articles into the higher cited journals , now fearful that OPEN ACCESS will destroy all that.

They eagerly resist the OPEN ACCESS threat offered up by more junior, more productive, colleagues by demanding tenure still requires publishing hardcover books in the humanities and pre-publication peer view in prestige print journals for the physical sciences.

Why 300 very expensive copies (the usual print run today) of a scholarly book is better value to scholarship than an OPEN ACCESS e-book available in endless numbers world wide is left unsaid.

After all 300 copies does not go very far when the world has 300,000 libraries of higher learning !

But enough about the restrictive practises from cartels of old university professors and even older newspaper editors.

Business CEOs , old pros at cartels restricting trade to raises prices and profits, also fear new digital rivals destroying their comfortable lives.

They eagerly support the big telecoms who seek a two tiered internet - where money talks once again and the poor and foreign voices will once again be free to sleep under the digital highways's bridge ---- that is once again shut out.

Once again ,locking the digital Golden Door ....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

un-superheroes nurturing life-saving GREEN from wartime Gotham's concrete

Oxford University is justly famous for its lovely green campus .

How ironic then, that its Nobel winning slash failed efforts to produce wartime penicillin was actually an attempt to produce a form of AstroTurf - organic (chemistry) penicillin , as synthetic as plastic greenery.

By contrast , wartime New York's Gotham - at least as revealed in Super Hero comic books - was  supposedly nothing but a concrete jungle.

Life-saving GREEN from Gotham concrete

But in fact, from New York's concrete, a handful of un-superheroes spurred the successful nurturing of trillions of units of natural penicillin's life-saving green .

The concrete jungle's vats and vats of fermenting greenery , before war's end, were producing more than enough natural penicillin to save all those in the world dying from infections only the life-giving mold could stop.

In the end, Oxford University's efforts only produced scientific papers , a Nobel prize and a big thick book from OUP : but no actual penicillin.

In a further irony, New York's successful efforts to produce tons of badly needed wartime penicillin did not receive any Nobel prize - or any significant historical attention at all.

But then received history is rarely as it seems , Captain - the historian's skim milk often successfully masquerades as Devon cream ....

Monday, November 17, 2014

The search for Antibiotics' PATIENT ZERO .... in lead-up to celebration of 75 years of life-saving antibiotics

ABSTRACT : Patient Zero of the Age of Antibiotics (seventy five years young as of October 16th 2015) was Charles Aronson , a Jewish youth from 1202 Vyse Street in East Tremont, Bronx, New York.

Born about 1913, he was a newspaper teletype operator in 1940.

His parents Alex (born in 1889) and Olga (born 1890) were from the old Polish part of the old (pre-Soviet) Russian Empire while he and his sister Lillian (born about 1915) and younger brother Samuel (born about 1920) were born in New York.

Olga was a homemaker and Alex was a ladies coat maker (probably cutting ladies' fur coats at the famous Levine and Smith firm in lower Manhattan) and their two other children were belt-makers.

Charles had a lifelong affinity/weakness for deadly diseases caused by strep throats, combined with an amazing ability to cheat death from them --- over and over.

As a small child , he had a near fatal case of Rheumatic Fever, that affected not only his joints temporarily and his heart valves permanently , but also led to severe neurological effects.

Then he was quickly swept up in the frequently fatal mysterious "sleepy sickness" that ran its course worldwide from 1917 to 1927. Oliver Sacks made it famous in the book and movie called Awakenings.

Those it didn't quickly kill outright, it would often leave in a coma or catatonic state.

Again he survived this disease as he did its frequent Parkinson-like aftereffects.

Despite all these brain-related attacks, he not only managed to finish High School during the hard times of the Great Depression but also to find a good skilled job as a teletype operator at a newspaper.

He then survived two attacks of fatal SBE thanks to receiving history's first penicillin , only to get a severe stroke in 1944 that left him paralyzed and speechless.

Again he survived at least until the beginning of 1949, when he passes out of the public record.

I currently believe he died in October 1951 and is buried at the NEW MONTEFIORE cemetery in West Babylon (Long Island) , along with his parents and two siblings.


Penicillin-the-Antiseptic was already twelve years old in October 1940 and a relative laggard in the human discovery and use  of antibiotics (maybe antibiotic number twelve ?) --- at least by the dictionary definition of antibiotics.

The dictionaries describe antibiotics as lethal substances produced by one microbe to keep other microbes at bay.

But you and I - mere laypeople and not dictionary editors - know exactly what Antibiotics are and are not (that's a capital "A" there , by the way !)

They are not some minor external antiseptic your mom dabs on your scraped knee when you fall off your tricycle, as penicillin had only been used  for from the Fall of 1928 to the Fall of 1940.

Rather they are highly potent lifesavers that you take internally as a ten day course of pills - or in a real emergency, get many times a day via injections.

In one sense we already know a good deal about injected penicillin's INDEX PATIENT , the individual who started the whole thing by inspiring Dr Dawson to birth the Age of Antibiotics.

His name was Aaron (Leroy) Alston and he had had his 'invariably fatal' condition of SBE (subacute bacterial endocarditis, a Rheumatic Heart Disease usually caused by Rheumatic Fever) for about a year.

The latest conventional treatment was to give the patient as much of the latest (least toxic, most powerful) sulfa drug as their body could endure.

(All sulfa drugs are toxic in high doses  and the size of the doses of sulfa that 99% of SBE cases need for a cure would result in patient death long before they cured.)

Alston had all the latest sulfa drugs and many of the other proposed SBE cures besides and none were working.

But I believe that the first patient to actually get that historic  first needle of penicillin , our historic PATIENT ZERO , even if only moments before Alston, was a last minute patient called Charles Aronson.

If Aaron Leroy Alston had been cured by his historic course of injected penicillin , the ever-present and very jealous Alpha Males among medical scientists would have quickly trashed this claim - crediting sulfa drugs for the success instead.

But if Charles Aronson, a patient so new he hadn't yet had time to be put on the conventional sulfa treatment , was cured of SBE after a course of penicillin , the critics would all be left speechless.

Better then to 'do' him first, to make a stronger lead in the subsequent medical article.

Penicillin did not cure Alston and he died three months later.

Nor did penicillin - alone - cure Aronson.

But a little penicillin (more morale booster than medicine) a lot of sulfa and a miracle from heaven above let Aronson be that very rare person, maybe one in a hundred or one in a thousand who survived more than three years after first contracting SBE.

About four years later , he got an onset of a new SBE attack and this time got a decent amount of penicillin from the same doctor and was cured.

So who was he ?

The doctor who gave those first needles , Dr Martin Henry Dawson, had never been a lead doctor on treating an SBE case before - he was newly appointed to  a middle rank position in the hospital pecking order - only having substantive control over one public (semi-free /teaching) ward.

Such wards tended to attract poor patients and their poor relatives, who liked getting free or cheap treatment in a world class hospital that was only a short bus trip away.

Dawson had no reputation for his SBE work having never dealt with any - so his public ward patients were almost certain attracted to the closest cheapest quality hospital rather than to him personally.

The other historic penicillin patient, Aaron Alston , proved that so - he lived about two miles south of the hospital.

In any case, there were only two men named Charles Aronson in the 1940 national US census that were born around 1913.

I contacted the children of the one who lived a thousand kilometres away from NYC at the time - they said he was never sick - let alone sick with all the severe diseases as described by Dr Dawson's medical report on his Charles Aronson.

The only other Charles Aronson the right age in America in 1940 was lived in the Bronx, a mere four miles directly east of the hospital.

He had to be PATIENT ZERO.

I have already described what we know of him in the abstract above --- basically not much.

For unlike Alston (and the third penicillin-the-Antibiotic patient, George Conant) Charles Aronson and his family seemed to have left almost no mark in the public record.

Even so, it is hard to believe that an entire Jewish family of five that lived in the same part of the Bronx for over fifty years are remembered by no one.

In the 1930s, the Bronx was the world's biggest Jewish community and while those days are long gone , literally millions of North American Jews still have some sort of family link to the pre-war Bronx.

There is something else I should mention.

Dr Dawson, a gentile , literally gave up his life during WWII to save the lives of  Rheumatic Heart Disease patients sentenced to a Code Slow death by an uncaring Allied Anglo-American medical establishment.

We know the names of only six of those patients - and yet four of the six have Jewish sounding names .

Because Rheumatic Fever and SBE hit the poor , minorities and immigrants the hardest and many metro New York area Jews in those days were very poor I suspect this ratio would hold if we knew the names of all those saved from death by his efforts.

(Because Dawson also inspired a then small soda pop supplier in Brooklyn (Pfizer) to develop the natural fermentation process we still use to make 95% of all our antibiotics , we all owe him a big debt of gratitude.)

A direct counterpart to Charles Aronson, a German man named Martin Bader, a man with the same chronic conditions as Aronson and who like Charles was a productive employed citizen , wasn't so lucky.

His condition rendered him in the Nazi mind as a life unworthy of life and he was one of the first killed by the Aktion T4 program as part of the run up to the Holocaust.

Yet America and New York were the ones who actually birthed eugenics , not Germany , and if America was unwilling to directly murder 'unfit' Jews such as Aronson, they came damn close by officially denying them access to wartime penicillin.

Dawson gave up his life to combat these values and in the end he was successful  - the powerful War Production Board  (WPB) reversed course and made penicillin-for-all a vital wartime priority.

So Charles Aronson's story is that distinct rarity , a wartime story of Jews and eugenics that ends up a good news story with world wide benefits for all of us.

Yet another reason to find out more about this elusive PATIENT ZERO of the Age of Antibiotics ....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When middle class eugenicists saw Democracy itself as 'unfit' , so did the pulp and comic books

From about the 1890s onwards, a whole generation of people who proudly thought of themselves as progressive - indeed Progressives - saw Democracy itself as evolutionary 'unfit'.

At least officially , they were opposed to despots --- as being far too redolent of the bad old (Catholic) medieval times and Eastern cultures.

But modern progressive bureaucratic expert dictators were much more their cuppa.

In their moments of despair , they longed for a reign of 'experts', who would objectively look at all the 'facts' and dispassionately render the best decision for all concerned, to replace corrupt politicians bribing the uneducated unwashed with middle class tax dollars.

More often, the middle class reformers around the world simply wanted these all-powerful unelected experts to forcefully restrain the corrupt politicians and their working class electorate.

A national or international version of the 'strong City manager and weak Mayor and Council' system gaining converts all over North America.

Who bought into this idea ?

Who didn't ? At least until the late 1960s .

The fascists , communists and Nazis all took this idea up.

Academics in the Humanities who really should have known better, aped the rhetorical claims of the physical scientists around them , espoused this ideal of self-evident facts,  experts, dispassion and objectivity.

The once grubby, argumentative, partisan journalists,  now seeking respectability's higher wages, stopped thinking for themselves and became stenographers, seeking only scientific objectivity based on observing the W5.

The university (half) educated , increasing dominating all aspects of life, also backed the professors, scientists, journalists (and intellectuals generally) in supporting the reign of experts.

Technocracy Inc , a once very popular North American political movement of the between the wars period, tried to resemble the newly fashionable business corporation in name but then proposed that politicians and corporate businessmen both be replaced by teams of experts : thinking scientists and doing engineers.

The best studied example of such bureaucratic expert dictators in action is that of the corrupt Robert Moses regime in power over New York for half a century.

He was put into his position of almost unlimited powers and no democratic checks upon his behavior by the politicians and the voters themselves !

All the thousands of objective journalists in that 'media capital of the world' never once cottoned onto Moses' corrupt system because he was always issuing press releases proclaiming his purity - and a press release is a fact,  is it not ? - and so should be reported as is/ where is, dispassionately.

And so it was - for fifty dark dirty years.

So this belief in expert dictators pushing weak democratic practises out of the way was so strongly 'in the air' in New York City in the first half of the 20th Century.

Little wonder then that it strongly , if unconsciously , influenced the writers of pulp fiction and comic books who never wrote directly about bureaucrats.

Instead they wrote about Zorro, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and Batman --- instead.

And about nominally democratic community after community that was besot by some complex-seeming evil that the community members were unable to democratically and collectively resolve.

In comes a masked lone ranger , an expert --- with the gun or the fist.

Shazam ! A quick  stern-but-fair bit of extreme violence and the evil doers are dead and the problem solved - forever.

The solution and the problem were both actually quite simple, weren't they ?

The lone ranger super hero moves on , to clean up the mess in other democracies.

So let us revise Dr Henry Dawson's tiny team seeking penicillin-for-all , as seen by his Republican Party-leaning scientific opponents : unfit doctors, unfit black and Jewish patients, unfit natural penicillin in an unfit democracy....

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11/11/11 : they were never hired to die (all Jesus meek-like) to set humanity free - and 95% didn't

Today being Remembrance Day, we tend to focus on the service personnel who didn't come home - lest we forget .

Anyone in a war could have been killed - and then forever after remembered as 'dying to set us free'.

Thankfully most of the time most of them don't get that honour.

After all, they were never hired to meekly die to set humanity free , as Jesus meekly accepted death.

They weren't even hired to merely suggest the hint of force, if laws are broken, as policemen generally are hired : to daily carry a gun but generally never actually use that weapon during an entire career.

The wartime soldier were hired instead explicitly to use their guns, to kill other people (and hopefully come back alive) and thus win a war.

In WWII, in Canada, for example - 95% of these 'trained killers' came back alive.

Most of the people at home, during any war, get paid wages in a real sense to grow food for k-rations for tank crews, to built their tanks and tank shells and to pump up the oil that fuel those tanks .

Comparatively few earn their living building medical kits that one day might patch up ally and enemy tank crews alike.

So the Home Front too is called upon to kill others - albeit via indirect means.

Killing - not dying - is the whole point of war.

War is War and Jesus is Jesus : so let us not try too hard to intertwine the two ....

One can't be postmodernist (or religious) and still believe in Golden Age Superheroes

The era of Modernity (1875-1965) was the Golden Age of Superheroes almost by definition : the fictional kids' comics simply mirrored the grownups' view of how the world really worked.

But eventually most of even the grownups really grew up and saw that the world's problems couldn't be solved by simplistic violent solutions - and Silver Age comic book heroes evolved in lock step at the same time.

But climate deniers and other elderly wealthy deniers of limits to humanity's powers to bend reality to our every whim are really not much different than the hundreds of millions who claim they simply enjoy new style superhero books and movies as fiction,  but really accept old style superhero thinking at some level of their brain.

Claims that this or that war (including the 'war' on excessive atmospheric CO2) will be won in days, weeks or months is a clear example of thinking that superhero simplistic solutions can actually work in the real world.

Both groups' superman thinking are actually helping to kill this planet's climate - deny it as they may.

Faith communities should not accept super hero media as harmless fodder for immature minds - not if they have agape love for the rest of fellow humanity , no matter how hair brained so much of that humanity seems much of the time ....

Reporting vs investigating supposedly authoritative definitions of a "book"

What 'objective' reporter considered their career complete if they didn't - at least once - stenographically report the latest numbers on book production .

That is faithfully report the utterings of this or that seemingly important organization proclaiming (based on their own statistics , based on FACTS !) their take on current book production ----- and who then using these numbers to confidently predict general cultural joy or gloom ?

So, according to this or that authoritative spokesperson , last year's production of books in Canada or the UK is way up (or way down) and China is now producing two times more (less) books per capita than America , which means that Chinese guided communism is superior/inferior to American capitalist democracy.

Etc, etc.

But historians look way beyond mere 'facts' to consider whether their substance is true.

Because most of the 'facts' of objective reporters, on closer examination, are merely the undoubted fact that this person did indeed make this claim on this day, at this place.

Almost always, these claims are published  as is - where is , rather than being ignored, because they are claims made by important people.

The sort of important people who could go golfing with the publisher or the head of advertising sales - the sort of people who are likely to cause the reporter much trouble , if the reporter dares to question or examine those claims.

To be serious for a moment , most claims published by reporters about changes in book production, or which nation produces more books that others per capita are not in fact the ones offered up by suspect self-serving bodies like the *associations of the big commercial publishers.

*Aka , the sort who might golf with the publisher.

They come from relatively neutral data collecting bodies like PW (Publishers' Weekly) or Bowkers --- but that doesn't mean they aren't unintentionally deceiving -- as this amusing brief account of  some of the history of American book accounting changes makes clear.

A book isn't at all easy to define - if philosophically one simply feels that everything must have one and one definition only .

Many honest people of good will have stumbled about trying for an ever more definitive description, so that their annual statistics have varied wildly , on a year by year comparison, over time.

And "time" is the historians' stock in trade, as exclusive "facts" are to objective journalists.

An objective reporter beams " I have uncovered, in this exclusive interview granted only to me, a new fact" --- but the historian quickly notes that it isn't really new , but merely new paint on an old idea tried and failed back in the 1920s.

Time - the history of attempts to define the book - encourages one to cast a jaundiced eye on any new all-encompassing definition of the book versus the non-book.

But those definitions have severe consequences.

In 1977, for example , the Canada Council decided to alter its definition of what it meant by a book , in terms of eligibility for prizes and grants.

It used a definition dreamed up by UNESCO in the mid 1950s and still the most common definition worldwide sixty years later.

A book was a bound publication, not a periodical , of more than 49 printed pages, not counting the cover*.

(Heaven help the brief book that dared to be a self-cover !)

At a stroke, most Canadian poetry and children books became non-books to UNESCO and its global syncopants - 'pamphlets' was now their correct term.

Poetry (and fine books/micro presses in general) remain in that limbo because there was no money in poetry or micro presses or in books as beautiful art objects .

But parents and publishers of books for children have money and votes and most nations now accept a bound publication of eight pages intended for children as being fully a 'book'.

But at various times and places, self published books, or books without ISBNs, or books given away free, or self-covers, or government books , 0r cookbooks, directories or manuals were all excluded from the definition of books.

And were multi-volume books to be counted by volume or as a set ?

On and on.

Often the subject of binding is evoked , to allow staple bound books to be cast out of the hallowed circle that we assign anything called a "book" , eliminating an annoying competitor to big book publishers.

Story Papers

Story papers, which are books in the shape of newsprint newspapers , are even further beyond the pale - not even being bound by staples let alone traditional sewing.

Book historians know they were once very common and still exist to day in places like France, but most anglo newspaper reporters do not know of them.

(Note that since most books today are glued not sewed, the glued (perfect bound) book's traditional exclusion from the hallowed circle has been reversed : money, as always, talks.)

Ironically, story papers, I argue, have the strongest binding of all methods , short of the most elaborately sewn (old fashioned Smyth style) books.

Firstly, the physics of friction suggests that large pieces of rough paper tightly folded into one another have very strong holding power that can pulled apart (with some difficulty) but that the the holding power is also permanent and easily reformed.

In addition, each page and section is clearly marked, so may reader can easily reassemble this 'newspaper book' back together again.

Try that with a perfect bound book when a page falls out !

(I suppose to be conventional , I should insert here the whole question e-books and their problems fitting into questions of number of pages and method of binding.)

In my view , the word 'book' should ideally be an almost a blank term , meaningless until it is complete by a brief description .

So , a missionary's free 8 page book of 20 words and 6 color pictures versus a hard bound book of 800 pages and 300,000 words with no pictures at all , priced at $89 and sold by a big New York publisher.

Free books - today, if they are digital rather than paper, we tend to call them OPEN ACCESS books - have long been excluded from the conventional book lists in capitalist countries, despite the long tradition of free missionary books and tracts in those same countries, while communist countries do count them.

(America may 'Trust in God' , but it worships money more.)

I wonder then where my free pre-imposed downloadable PDF books (a modern day take on story papers), designed to allow the reader to print out and assemble a small book themselves using their computer printer, fits on these lists ....

Monday, November 10, 2014

The brief blip of Modernity (1875-1965) lost WWII - thank God !

Germany , Italy and Japan didn't lose WWII , not to judge by their present day prosperity and happiness that is far far higher now than even at the height of their world conquering triumphs.

Above all, they're still here - but Modernity (the philosophical glue that held Allied , Neutral and Axis together in 1939-1945) sure isn't.

Isn't really around , except in the minds of angry-old-Protestant-men-with-money, who still have plenty of power and money to deny any limits to Man's ability to control Nature.

(A big shout out to once socialist fellow traveller Rupert Murdoch, who is still denying we can't control the climate  - perhaps by tapping its phone.)

But rabid global holocaust deniers aside, the bulk of today's humanity rejects the idea that Modernity gives us an accurate picture of how the real world works.

Many may do so reluctantly or grudgingly , others eagerly .

Still,  seventy five years on, what is really changed from 1940 and today is just how differently almost all of us think about humanity's relationship to the world and about our ability to predict, control and successfully change that world.

Its almost as if the insights of Quantum Physics were discovered in 1915 at the height of Modernity, but not really believed , even by scientists, until 100 years later.

Physically, the military forces of one part of Modernity did indeed successfully defeat the military forces of another part of Modernity over the six year long duration of WWII.

But mentally and emotionally, over the course of doing so during those six years, the slow rot of uncertainty and doubt had entered the collective mind.

Modernity sputtered on, going through the motions, running on sheer inertia , but conviction was gone in the minds of many - particularly the minds of the youngest.

And no ideology, no matter how strong it appears at the time, can survive if it fails to indoctrinate the new young.

Because no human-created ideology is proof against the slow certainty of the physical deaths of human beings.

And so it is time we stop trying to soften the blow to the elderly who still embrace the Modernity of their youth.

For post-modernity, so-called, accepts the reality of relentless modernization (good and bad) while Modernity only into existence to praise it in rhetoric  --- and oppose it in practise.

It is thus tempting to call today's post-modernity 'anti-modernity' but it goes far beyond that.

For today's world is a form of un-modernity, that in many startling ways is rather like life before the brief (reactive) interregnum of 1875-1965 Modernity ....

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Religious to take up Liberative Technology to match Liberation Theology ?

Don't hold your breath !

Religious bodies have always tried hard to spread their faith by producing free tracts and cheap longer works.

But now taking up the moral obligation of adopting OPEN ACCESS serials and free digital downloads of e-books allow the message to go forth to the entire world --- without consuming scarce religious dollars that might be better spent helping the weakest in society meet their physical needs.

It always takes a very few religious visionaries in every generation to first see and seize the religious advantages of the latest advances in communication and transportation technology --- with the great mass of the religious workers laggardly following along much later.

So now - in the 21st century - which religious group will be the first to truly and embrace welcome the advent of digital religious material and which will be merely content to remain behind a John Wayne circle of wagons to retain their dwindling flock ?

If selfless AGAPE has any real meaning , why aren't all religious publications also available via OPEN ACCESS ?

Money never grow on trees , even in Jesus's day, so printed on paper religious periodical and books will always cost much to manufacture and to ship about and it is only fair that their readers bear some of those costs.

But why not routinely make available the digital versions of the religious serials free as OPEN ACCESS journals and why not make the online versions of print books available as free downloadable e-books ?

Instead many successful religious authors can gain a good deal of personal wealth from their writing and speaking - as do their publishers and speakers' bureaus.

The books might talk much of selfless AGAPE and of charity but their authors fail to walk their own talk.

Religion , far from being too remote and too above the world is , in fact , too much in the world.

Religion is too much in the private sector, too much in the part of the world consumed only with making money - more and more and more money being seen as better and ever better still.

If you've checked out your nation's public sector lately, you will find that public servants also fully expect to have bosses' salaries and benefits.

The values of the private money-making-in-the-temple world has also invaded the public sector and charity/non-profit sectors.

No longer are hospitals run by charitable religious orders - even those 'non-profits' called charities have executive directors pulling down big coin and as likely as not to move on in a few years for a better paying job as a bank VP.

No more is your local library led by a head librarian - they are now called the CEO of the Library and the traditional patrons have all been re-booted as consumers.

Religion publishing needs to look to the world of academic and scientific publishing - with a few caveats

Academics and scientists may not make bank CEO money but they are hardly poor.

Even in the non-tenured world, they do much better than minimum wage workers and  even there the work gives a much higher social status and is far less physically and emotionally demanding than cleaning offices and hotel rooms.

The bulk of academics receive generously adequate salaries, benefits, pensions and their research is almost entirely paid (at least in terms of money and material) by government grants and university aid-in-kind.

Why seek direct author's money for a project where the direct costs were paid for by the public taxpayer ?

 And where the indirect monetary benefits for the author will come away , like bread cast upon waters , in the form of things like an increased number of citations .

Eventually leading to increased academic credibility and thus gaining things like tenure and full professorships,  as well as quicker access to bigger research grants ?

So when the academic come to publish, many seek out OPEN ACCESS journals where the knowledge they have gained is truly added to the global pool of knowledge and not just limited to rich institutions in rich nations.

Religious serials should follow suit.

But scholarly publishing and university presses haven't become so altruistic yet.

One can see why.

The learned societies and university presses are too busy struggling with ever more limited funds to try and produce ever more hardcover books that then sell ever less copies (maybe 300 copies worldwide if they are lucky) .

Just so their harried authors can finally pass muster before tenure committees.

Tenure committees are hardly in the business of increasing academic cum intellectual competition and so (in 2014 !) still demand costly hardcover books for tenure consideration.

They disdain the scholarly book world's equivalent of scholarly OPEN ACCESS journals.

That would see university presses routinely offering the worldwide digital distribution of free ebook versions of those hardcover monographs, so that poor scholars in poor nations can gain equal access to the independent knowledge expensively added by PhD candidates.

Perhaps if a few more - and bigger - university presses took this idea up , it might just embarrass religious bodies and authors to do the same.

I can dream , can't I ...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

CBS , ABC , NBC , CTV , the web version of the Guardian newspaper and the Metro print newspaper : OPEN ACCESS ?

If 'OPEN ACCESS' means that one needn't pay to read, see or hear the contents of a serial or periodical , then it is an approach to journalism that is in much much wider general application than usually appreciated.

Almost all blogs of course fit this model --- either totally free or free-to-read but 'supported' by ads that the reader is free to ignore.

Just the same way as much of public and commercial 'over the air' Radio and TV has always worked.

Rename OPEN ACCESS as 'controlled circulation' newspapers and magazines and we see it deployed for the world-wide free commuter newspaper The Metro and in many locally oriented consumer or business magazines.

Many newspaper and magazines run their website editions the same way : 'supported' by ads the online reader can freely ignore.

But all these media present information - or entertainment - in relatively small chunks ,with the ads mostly coming before or after each chunk - rather than within it.

Think of the TV model of drama - with ads coming along at every seven minute mark.

But films, plays or concerts and books don't typically work this way.

Yes , in the 1890s , one found lots of ads for cocoa and soap etc in the beginning and end inside cover pages of otherwise conventional books, and Europe had a long tradition of ads at the beginnings of each movie 'program'.

But generally a 'free' model for books (or film) has never become conventional in the way it has for over-the-air radio and TV or for many print or web periodicals.

Free books are usually seen as worthless long ads for the author's money-making game and never get reviewed.

Genuinely non-profitseeking books are usually only produced by authors connected to a religious or political movement and so also dismissed as mere 'Tracts'.

Left Wing or Right Wing, it doesn't matter : all book reviewers seem to think that authors who don't charge for their books are mere blockheads.

Even in the age of costless (to author or reader) e-books, this tired bromide still holds a grip on their minds.

So on page 24 of your favourite daily rag, the TV critic can be found waxing about a (free) ITV documentary ( say on the many Swedish wartime generals seen as sympathetic to Hitler) that she greatly enjoyed.

But on page 26 , the book reviewer would not be caught dead reviewing the free ebook that the TV documentary was based upon.

Stupidity and rigidity : its a funny thing....

Thursday, November 6, 2014

1945 was a triumph for modernity AND postmodernity

And that can't possibly be !

It would be as if Matter and Anti-Matter went through a revolving door together and yet both emerged equally triumphant.

At the time ( just after September 1945) most militarily-oriented accounts of the end of WWII certainly played the Allied victory as a win-win result for the forces of Modernity against a threatened return to a barbaric dark age --- and many military-oriented accounts of WWII still spin it that way.

'Modern Big Science (here insert radar, jets, atomic bomb and penicillin perhaps) beats back masses of fiercely barbaric atavists'.

But some prescient scholars , even in 1945 , people more attuned to changes in fashions in philosophy and to changes in deep broad cultural life certainly saw that that Dresden, Hiroshima, Auschwitz , the Katyn Forest and the Fall of Singapore had opened up breaches in the old certitudes that time and sunshine couldn't heal.

So seventy years later we can still have dozens and dozens of new books every year focussed on the meaning of the events of 1945 emerging (as it were) from two separate but parallel universes.

1945 is laid out in these parallel but widely separated streams of books as either the birth of modern Big Science and a triumph for modern progressive rational planning ---- or as the beginning of the end of the 400 year old Enlightenment Project.

First, let me make it clear that all those who saw 1945 as a triumph for Enlightenment and Modernity were sincere - and those who still hold these views are equally sincere.

But being sincere and being correct are not the same.

I see this being the result of an inevitable mental time lag between when truly philosophy-shredding events occur and when humanity correctly assesses their meaning.

During that time lag, modernity-besotted scholars can celebrate Vannevar Bush for both developing a differential analyser (basically an aiming device designed to accurately drop a shell or bomb down a pickle barrel inside a distant military plant) and for leading the development of the atomic bomb - which could miss the infamous pickle barrel by miles and still destroy the plant (and the entire city surrounding it as well).

Ouch ! What ever else these academics think they might be doing - being rationally consistent certainly isn't one of them.

Bush and the American Air Force strategic bomber proponents  had claimed - for years before, during and after WWII - that the war could be quickly and humanely won by highly accurate precision bombing.

Slow but steady infantry fighting, like slow but steady democracy, they felt was simply not up for defeating absolute evils like Hitler and Tojo.

Superheroes with superweapons were needed to impose extralegal violence , all to quickly restore justice and peace.

Indeed, the American Air Force's single bomb on Nagasaki did 'quickly' end the war --- albeit six years after it began .

 But Nagasaki's target aiming results could hardly be called accurate --- despite conditions being virtually ideal to demonstrate precise bombing --- if it actually existed anywhere outside its supporters' minds.

Similarly , throughout WWII Vannevar Bush thought natural penicillin was totally unfit for use as a medicine.

He pushed instead for penicillin to first become a man-made chemical synthetic before seeking wide public use, thereby delaying its mass introduction for precious years during an all-out Total War.

What he actually accepted credit for however, at war's end , was the unlikely triumph of natural penicillin.

Modernity's 1945 big triumphs, in other words, when more closely examined were actually modernity's biggest failures -- triumphs instead for postmodernity.

Hence my journal's focus on wartime Gotham and its doubly twin Manhattan Projects.

On one side of wartime Gotham's Janus face , modernity's failures to precisely craft the Carl Norden bombsight and Merck synthetic penicillin .

On the other side, postmodernity : Columbia University's 'close is good enough' Atomic bomb (and the Grumman close-in fighter-bomber) together with Pfizer/Dawson's slime-produced natural penicillin.

I think the subject matter for my journal is both a dramatic page-turner story for people who enjoy exciting narrative nonfiction - and a good time and place to look to discover when, how and why modernity failed and postmodernity climbed out of the wreckage.

Because modernity failed but didn't die - it lives on inside the minds of our climate deniers inhabiting almost all the places of power and wealth.

And unless we can make them see that their gods have failed , the future global debacle they have planned for all of us will make WWII look pretty petty ante ...

2015 NYC doesn't look like 1940 NYC --- but 1940 movies still do !

From the time that I was ten until my mid fifties, I was consumed by visions of the Middle Canada 'new towns' , a vision that also once fired the general Canadian imagination, at least during that nation's short-lived 1950s Resource Boom.

I even attempted to write a book around that vision.

I abandoned that book not long after I took a long, long bus trip through much of the current - real - Middle Canada , circa 2004.

It was a wonderful trip, but by then the dramatic ethnic, religious and ideological cum cultural conflicts that had animated those mill towns from the 1910s till the 1980s had basically disappeared.

I simply couldn't hold onto my history fueled imaginary vision, not faced by today's more benign reality.

So I knew better than to spend too much time in 2006 NYC hoping to experience what it felt like to be back in 1926 ,1936, 1946 or 1956 NYC.

A fleeting but packed physical trip through as much of metro NYC as I could cram in in eight hours had to do it -  it confirmed my suspicion that today's real NYC does indeed look exactly like today's LAW AND ORDER external shots.

But to re-capture the period 1926-1946 and then again 1956, for my journal "Un-Super Heroes" , I would need to first consult the primary documents -- contemporary journalism and books, music, still images and movies.

But always to do so with the help of the endless amounts of secondary accounts, produced by historians, fictional/non-fictional authors and present day filmmakers.

Luckily New York is probably better covered by such combined media than any other place on Earth - besting even London, Paris or Rome.

Even in tiny and remote Halifax, gaining access to the 100 or so films generally considered to be the best movies to show off all sides of historic metro NYC are hardly hard to come by.

I , as a result , can find my way around NYC (ditto London) better than I can Vancouver,Victoria , Calgary, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, Montreal or Quebec City.

Yet those are all cities sharing my own national culture and ones that I either lived in for years or spent considerable periods traveling throughout, to attempt to capture their 'feel'.

In my sixty or so years of memories, I have been bombarded daily with images, words, sounds from and about New York (and to a lesser extent, London).

I feel I know as much about the metro New York City of 90 years ago as any living soul, be they in Astoria NYC or Perth Australia -- which is to say that we all must be content to know of it second hand today.

Compare this city to the Northern Ontario small town of Kapuskasing , the would-be model for virtually all my mill towns in my earlier planned book.

As an adult I had to search out still images of it, could find no movies or documentary films about it, and found only one (fascinating) sociological "Middletown" type study of it and one truly great sociological book covering all Canadian one industry towns of the 1950s.

But as an precociously alert child of the Canadian 1950s I was emotional engaged in all facets of our one industry towns, so this helped make up for the relative lack of primary or secondary evidence.

Bu contrast, I never grew up emotionally engaged by metro NYC in any shape or form - not in the way that I once was comfortably at home anywhere in metro London.

But the perennial Janus-like nature of NYC does definitely grab the dramatist side of me by the emotional short and curlies --- I see the story of the century in Dr Henry Dawson's NY City life and times.

I mean that literally : the story of (about) (defining) the 20th century,played out in his conflicts and successes.

I think I have an unique take on the period of change from Modernity to Postmodernity (to put it in big academic words) and I believe it happened first and best in Gotham , back in the early 1940s.

So I will gladly steal and borrow the insights of thousands of others who were much closer to the NYC of 1940 , but only as far as their insights helps support or critique my unique vision.

And I will watch and re-watch a lot of NYC movies....

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Worldwide digital deliver of basics : mix, mash and re-assemble at home ?

A friend asked how my idea of digital delivery of pre-imposed PDF 'offprints' meshed with the recent resurgence of cassette music.

Fits like a key to a lock !

Call it the Edward Snowden Effect.

Now that we have it confirmed that the powerful in this world have their claws firmly in the digital world , it makes sense to look again at older lower tech (but still widely available) versions of high technology.

Computer printer/scanners , cell phones with still and motion cameras, cassette and DVD/CD recorders put together with common and cheap production software allow us little people the best of both worlds.

Digitally the raw data can be sent digitally by the internet or by finger USB sticks around the world cheaply and quickly.

Then the various end users can assemble it together --- or mix and mash it up and put it in a low tech physical form and give it an unique homemade cover, individualizing it.

So the mix tape of favourite songs by many different artists.

The fan genre fiction anthology of best short stories and novelletes of many authors.

Looking again at the raw data from a scientific article with this end user coming to very different conclusions from the original authors.

On and on and on ....

Is "digital-only" the future of OPEN ACCESS journals - or are pre-imposed PDFs of feature articles the printed 'offprints' of tomorrow ?

A serial that is OPEN ACCESS (the ponderous academic term for what you and I, the little people , would be content to simply call "free-to-read" magazines) can hardly afford to provide endless amounts of mailed out printed "offprints" of its longer "feature" articles when it has *little or no income -- so what is the best solution ?

(*Charging - rather than paying - an author to publish their article can only be justified in academia , where there is an expensive (because labour-intensive) process of peer-reviewing articles before they are published.)

Both authors and readers sometimes rather like having a printed out version of feature articles to carry about.

The quick and dirty PDF offprint is free to email worldwide and the end reader pays only for the computer paper and ink to print it out.

But as conventionally printed out on A4 or letter sized pages, a long feature article is a pain to read.

The endless pages of overly-wide lines of text confounding centuries of typography best practises and it still isn't really "printed" in the sense we think journals or books are printed.

I much prefer the fiction-bound *A5 variant (based upon four print pages roughly 8.5 inch tall by 5.5 inch wide on each single letter sized sheet) of the 19th century story paper or feuilleton.

 Simply by folding the sheets of paper and re-arranging the page order ("imposing") allowed narrower columns of text reading correctly from the front cover to the back cover.

And : the friction of folded page on page holds it all together, much as conventional newspapers hang together without staple binding.

Pre-imposing the conventional PDF is easily done with cheap or free software (I like Cheap Impostor myself) and the end user needs simply to access the increasingly common office duplex computer printer to make up a little chapbook for the article in one go.

Or , do it at home in two stages on old fashioned simplex computer printers.

Presto --- Bob is your auntie's live-in lover ...

(*Truth be told , I really prefer A6 sized books myself - fits (hides) in any pocket, attractive to read , but until A5 computer paper is readily available I doubt many readers have access to the high quality blade paper cutters needed to make the idea do-able !)

Real life 1940s comic book 'superhero' : Jewish nebbish Robert Oppenheimer and his plan to 'do good' with secret atomic powers

Move over Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and let a real 1940s Jewish nebbish take the Superman wheel !

Gotham City-born Robert Oppenheimer secretly cloaked a bloodthirsty propensity to inflict supreme violence 'to do good' behind a rather mousy public exterior.

But his words at the top level meetings that determined when and where the first A-bombs were to be dropped reveal a man fully in grip of the traditional American monomyth of redemptive violence 'to do good' (pace John Sheldon Lawrence & Robert Jewett) via a war-ending superweapon (pace H Bruce Franklin).

Lawrence, Jewett and Franklin repeatedly document that these myths gripped both factual and fictional America , both Americas feeding off each other.

It is easy to caricature right wing Republican-leaning  Leslie Groves and Vannevar Bush as war-mongers , intent only on 'doing bad'.

Much less easy than trying to account for left-leaning Oppenheimer's propensity to kill hundreds of thousands of women and children to 'do good'.

The case of Oppenheimer forces us to confront the power of these enduring American shibboleths (the monomyth of justified extra-legal violence to 'do good' and America's right to the unique possession of a secret war-ending superweapon) in the mainstream of ordinary American thought ....

Monday, November 3, 2014

Is Super-Hero violence the only way to "do good" ?

If you are a parent , grandparent or loving care-giver, you can't help but worry about the moral values the entertainment media is trying to foster upon our very young : the claim that one has to be big and powerful and violent , a comic book styled Super Hero , to do good.

"Un-Super heroes" is an attempt to offer an alternative vision : to tell a true story from 1940s Gotham when agape love , not super hero violence, brought about as much good as this world has ever seen.

The original Penicillin - Penicillin G - remains naturally grown and hence un-patentable.

Because of that , it is that rarest of drugs - cheap, abundant , safe and highly effective and so it enabled the world to reduce those pools of long endemic deadly bacterial infections among the world's poorest and most powerless.

It greatly - and directly - benefitted the poor and weak of course.

But then , in a form of Herd Immunity , it also greatly benefitted all the rest of the world - indirectly - by cutting off the flow of deadly strains of common bacteria.

Diseases like Rheumatic Fever, long the leading cause of school age deaths (Polio killed comparatively few , by contrast) quickly became a word in a dusty history book , rather than the cause of your grandchild's death.

Ten billion of us - so far - have better healthier lives as a result of  a series of miraculous events begun in Gotham City on October 16th 1940.

Dr Martin 'Henry' Dawson - himself dying from a terminal illness - gathered around him a tiny team of unfits and misfits.

That little team was dedicated to combatting the Allied consensus that natural penicillin was unfit to be used as a mainstream medicine - and that some unfit patients were to be Code Slowed to death , to better aid the war effort against Hitler.

Dr Dawson argued we can never really hope to beat Hitler by racing him to the moral bottom - killing off the unfit to aid the war effort was already well underway in Germany under the name of Aktion T4.

Our best rebuttal was to publicly demonstrating that we still care for our most weak and powerless --- even under the demands of Total War.

Dawson held off his own failing body and his own government  just long enough to see his vision of abundant natural penicillin-for-all grip the global imagination .

So WWII, despite its terrible scenes of hunger and homelessness, did not see global epidemics like WWI's war-ending Spanish Flu that killed tens of millions.

Now is that epic enough a tale for a child raised to think that only mighty Batman is fit enough to save a world in woe ?

Mary Douglas : modernity VERSUS darwinism

One of the hallmarks of the Era of Modernity (1870s-1960s) was a sudden worldwide urge among the 'progressive' nations to begin to closely regulate and restrict immigration , a move I argue was directly contrary to the co-current move to embrace Darwin's theory of Natural Evolution as the best engine of Progress.

Now there is no solid proof that having an university education, or having lots of money or coming from prominent families actually makes one more logical or rational when fiercely defending a privileged existence , so we needn't be too surprised at this contradiction in actions among society's powerful.

In Evolutionary theory , a successful sub species (success being defined in evolutionary terms by the number of offspring who live to reproduce) will tend to flow outward , to completely fill all examples of its biological niche.

To a consistent Darwinist (do they even exist ?) reproductive success is the only form of success.

Mankind, according to progressive Darwinists , can't really stop this biological success and really shouldn't - not if Mankind , as an overall species, is to survive and flourish.

So - in evolutionary terms - what could be more natural than the more fecund Chinese and Indians flowing forth to occupy new biological niches in places like downtown New York and London that were once fully occupied by the now reproductively-failing Anglo Saxon race ?

A worldwide trend to increased emigration had began in the 1880s as ocean travel became safer, faster and cheaper ---- soon outbound Indians and Chinese were heading for the mother-cities of the Anglo-American empire.

But Modern Progressives, Mary Douglas fans before the poor lady was even born , said no to this unexpected consequence of Anglo-American modernization.

Just as Douglas said we humans regard dirt as useful matter that is simply 'out of place' or 'doesn't know its place' , so too with these would-be migrant Indians and Chinese.

Chinese and Indian migrants as useful human matter 'out of place'

Two very nice useful races - manufacturing things for us at dead-cheap wages in their native India and China - but once 'out of place', they were simply dirty Pakis and Chinks.

Now the older theory that Darwin's dynamic Evolution was supposed to replace was that of God's Great Chain of Being.

This theory held that there was a permanently static and unique place for every species and sub species in the great scheme of things -- and that all would remain well for everyone , as long as everyone 'knew their place' and kept to it.

That is to say, that the poor and powerless must accept their lowly position in life as God-given and not try any levelling-up social revolutions.

God and Nature had ordained that the poor were poor and the rich rich -----suck it up.

Just as , according The Great Chain of Being, God had also ordained that the Chinese should remain in China and the Indians in India.

(Returning momentarily to Darwin, his theory was simultaneously used to explain why the English were allowed to leave England to rule in places like India and China.)

If the harsh new immigration restrictions from the 1890s to the 1920s were simply the Great Chain of Being re-born, I contend that they were thus far less Social Darwinian than they have seemed to historians.

That is, that they weren't simply designed to keep out those judged 'unfit' because of mental , moral and physical disabilities.

They were really intent on keeping out the biologically successful fecund Indian and Chinese races along with the fecund poor from Eastern and Southern Europe, and thus they were more designed to keep out the biologically super-fit than the biologically unfit.

Claiming that these 'races' were morally unfit as reason to reject them was simply a Social Darwinist ploy to ignore their obvious Darwinian reproductive super-fitness.

All this as part of a series of defensive mechanisms put in place by Protestant middle class elites of Northern European origins desperate to maintain their high social and economic status.

Elites deeply uncomfortable that they were even then were failing to reproduce themselves in their own lands , let alone 'go forth and multiply' in others ...