Tag Archives: Writing

Activism and Organizing

People ask me if I’m working on another book. I suppose that this is natural enough, after I have written three within barely five years.

It’s nice also, certainly, that these seem to be inquiries of real interest, which presumably means that people enjoyed one or more of my books.

At the moment, though, I’m afraid that Book Four isn’t even on my long-version to-do list.

Our society being, in my estimate, in the midst of an ongoing emergency, I’m focusing a lot of my time and energy on activism and organizing. After last fall’s election, many people said “organize!” After the Women’s March, people said “take the next step and organize.” Well, I’m working on that.

I’m co-chairing communications for Lakewood’s Democrats, performing  various advisory and communications roles for a city council campaign, and playing smaller roles in a handful of other groups and campaigns. Plus trying to do my bit to support local citizen journalism. Ongoing phone calls, letter-writing, demonstrations and other activities fill in most of whatever gaps might be left.

I feel like I can manage this, but it’s definitely a life rather than some kind of sideline at this point. I don’t have any specific ideas for a next book pulling at me anyway, so far, but I have no idea when I might pursue one should it occur to me.

So, thanks everyone who asks. For the time being, it’s kind of like this:

Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to save the world

I would say that this suggestion has now expanded well beyond TTIP or CETA to a general-purpose context.

2015 Year in Review

One year ago, I expected that “keep doing my thing and try to make ends meet” would predominate in 2015, and that forecast wasn’t wrong. In day-to-day existence, that definitely characterized most of this year. But there were exceptions, and in looking back on the whole year… those exceptions loom remarkably large.

Unlike 2014, it feels like the “events” of 2015 are such as to support a “top stories” list. Probably something like this:

Save Lakewood Hospital. After 36 years without any real involvement in local politics, anywhere I’ve lived, I dove straight into the deep end and have spent almost 12 months, now, involved in an impossible soap opera controversy that is still a long way from ending. For much of the year, a logo that I designed over a weekend was on signs on just about every street in Lakewood. Last month I got up and spoke to city council; strangers have stopped me in public to thank me and ask my opinion. Just about every day of “Christmas vacation” I replied to at least some correspondence about this campaign. Etc., etc., etc. The experience as a whole has been fascinating, energizing, demoralizing, rewarding, and maddening.

Japan! I spent a week in Tokyo. It was actually a bit like my experience with Save Lakewood Hospital—fascinating, energizing, demoralizing, rewarding, and maddening—but more compressed, more expensive, less worrying and way more fun. (Aside from flying across the Pacific. Blecch.)

Authorship continued, and actually turned a profit! In 2015, I attended another author fair, spoke at Lakewood Library, mostly finished my research on a third book and got an early draft nearly complete, and craziest of all I showed a modest profit for the year. I’m still a long way from an all-time profit, thanks to spending a bunch on publishing Brilliant Deduction, but if that’s viewed as a sunk cost I made a real profit for the first time, this year.

I went to Baltimore, for three hours. Related to the aforementioned research, I made a round-trip visit to Johns Hopkins University in right around 16.5 hours. (From Lakewood, Ohio.) This wasn’t actually… awesome, aside from verging on awesomely stupid, but 1) it makes for a story, 2) I did find material to justify the trip, thankfully, and 3) it’s nice to know that I can still pull off a stunt like that.

Politically, despair was mixed with multiple instances of hope, and even near euphoria. There was bad in 2015, oh my yes. From the dismal election outcome here in Lakewood all the way up to not-so-grand geopolitics. Yet… who can forget those incredible days in June, when the Supreme Court gave marriage equality the green light and basically pulled the plug on “undo Obamacare” hopes. Who can forget “PURE APPLESAUCE!,” ever? Then there have been the ongoing follies of the Republican party, from March’s fiasco in Indiana to what one pundit seriously predicted would be “the best field in a generation” of presidential candidates… bwa ha hah. Just weeks ago, even as Lakewood city council was disgracing itself, real leaders met in Paris to negotiate the future of the entire biosphere and actually didn’t produce a complete disgrace, for once.

Read More →

Fan mail!

It’s a gray day in Lakewood. It matched my mood this morning. Realistically, it matches my mood of much of the past months.

I try to avoid just whining all the time in my semi-public comments, though. I end up doing a lot of bitching and whining on Twitter, I admit… but I try to limit that, here, and to find subjects about which I can write something positive. For my own benefit as much as anything else.

Some times it’s a struggle. But today, the most wonderful surprise arrived in the mail. An actual fan letter.

Disclosure, this is from a friend of mine. But we aren’t in contact often. The content of the letter is, almost entirely, praise of my book Cotton’s Library plus various musings that it inspired. Finally, IMO clinching “actual fan letter” status, this was an actual fucking letter delivered by USPS and typed on a typewriter.

Wow. Honestly, I find this possibly even more novel than a handwritten letter; I still encounter handwritten text relatively often, but when do I ever receive a message created with a typewriter?

I suppose I’ll just get it out of the way and address the hipster factor: 1) I’ve already gone on record as regarding these kinds of complaints as mostly snobbish and stupid, 2) my correspondent is a 40-something suburban dad and corporate cube-dweller, so if he’s a hipster then the term has officially lost even the pretense of meaning, and finally 3) I’ll just borrow from the letter, and respond to typewriter-inspired hipsterphobia with “a Bill Murrayish shrug and a fuck-em ‘hmmph.'”

Read More →

Cotton’s Library release day!

The official release date for Cotton’s Library is here! You can buy my new book!

To review quickly, this is the story of an incredible 400-year-old collection that has gone through more lives than a cat, and needed them all. Today’s national treasure was repeatedly ignored, pilfered, suppressed, and threatened by fire throughout its long history. Cotton’s Library is the first book-length examination of the whole, mad epic.

The first! Ever!

Retailers should be listing Cotton’s Library soon, if they aren’t already, but you can buy hardcover, paperback or ebook editions here right this minute. Paper books are 20% off the list price, no special codes or gimmicks.

Please have a look at least! You can read a substantial free excerpt here.

n.b. Not entirely by coincidence, this is also the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth I’s Accession Day; though Sir Robert Cotton spent most of his career working for the Stuarts, it would be fair to suggest that both he and his library were products of the Elizabethan world.

Don’t cut back on “salt intake,” eliminate it

A few years ago, I wrote a pair of responses following a wave of online alarms about “salt intake.” In the first, my criticism was strictly linguistic. “Salt intake” is an awful, abominable phrase, and I had simply had enough of seeing it. Happily, the interweb’s obsession with this allegedly dire peril seems to have dropped away, but recently Sarah Kliff over at Vox provided it a bump. Ms. Kliff’s coverage of health care reform has been absolutely brilliant, these past years, and her look at the terrible menace of salt also achieves some admirable progress. I applaud her story’s headline, “we’re eating too much salt,” at least linguistically. You have to go four paragraphs in before any reference to “salt intake.”

That said, Kliff still resorts to this syntactical disgrace several times; once, in the alt-form of “sodium intake,” even in a subheading. Thus I shall continue my long-term archiving project by re-publishing the following, originally written in February 2010:

Read More →