Valhalla Press-The E-publishing Paradise

07/18/2014 03:10 AM

The Flameless Burning of Books

My friend Trog Davis recently posted a blog entitled, The New American Oligarchy in which he worries that Amazon winning the right to operate the U.S. Intelligence Community’s cloud computing system may have unintended consequences. Davis raises questions about firewalls between data Amazon the retailer possesses and data Amazon, the spy-world cloud-computing operator, will have.


Amazon’s technological prowess is great. Its system for selling everything from e-books to shoes is a digital age marvel. The Amazon distribution system is superior to virtually all other retailers including Walmart and they have patented various e-commerce processes such as the one-click purchase. Although it sells many items, Amazon is at heart a technology company and that technical expertise clearly attracted the intelligence community.


So what does Amazon know and what will it learn? Currently, e-books make up approximately 30% of all book sales according to Forbes Magazine. Amazon’s Kindle e-books account for about 65% of those sales. Amazon’s effect on brick and mortar bookstores has been dramatic. Only half as many bookstores exist today than did 20 years ago. Amazon is by far the largest seller of used books in the country and because it tracks all those book purchases, it has more data on reading habits than anyone.


Knowing what books we read is only part of the story. Already some e-books can communicate with their creator, i.e. Amazon and other e-book publishers. They will know where you stopped reading, what portions you re-read, underlined, or highlighted. Kindle e-books even tell Amazon when you read. Some e-book publishers have announced plans to share this data with writers who can then write to the data. You like particular items in a fight scene, re-read it a couple times and you will see a similar scene in other books in the genre. Highlight a kinky sex act in your erotica and it will start the next porno craze.


Authors “writing to the data” is not the end of the world. Democracy will survive bad fiction, but not the limiting of ideas. Ray Bradbury’s classicFahrenheit 451 pondered a world where firemen burned books to keep the population quiescent while the rest of the populations watched vacuous program after program on “the wall”. The wall allowed the powers that be to watch citizens as they watched the wall.


Bradbury’s vision is chillingly close to fulfillment. Ubiquitous cell phones track our movements, while we blithely exchange grumpy cat pictures on Facebook. Our tweets detail our interests 140 characters at a time--all fodder for the “intellicloud” Davis speaks of.


So how easy would it be to burn books in such a world? Well, Amazon already has loner programs that delete your Kindle e-book after 30 days. Bothersome books could disappear with a keystroke.

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Albert Davenport is the author of In the Shadow of Midnight: Daedalus, A Tale of Savannah and the upcoming novel Revelation 11

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07/08/2014 07:49 PM

The Ecstasy of Michaela at Two

I try to keep the self-promotion to a minimum, but I am in my lapsed-Catholic way an observer of forms, a celebrant of feasts and anniversaries. Two years ago today, my novella The Ecstasy of Michaela was released by Valhalla Press and continues to be available for purchase at $2.99 as an e-book in Kindle, […]

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John Pistelli was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he teaches literature and writing. His reviews and essays have appeared in Rain Taxi, Powells.com, Dissident Voice, and New Walk. His fiction has appeared in The Three Rivers Review, The Legendary, and Whole Beast Rag.

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02/08/2014 12:45 AM

ONLY "MB"


"White people are taking over the city," Marion Barry said tonight during a radio interview with yours truly and Lyndia Grant on her WYCB-AM 1340 program, which she billed as a Black History tribute to "MB's" civil rights work. So, under those ground rules, we all just had a blast shootin' the breeze with him about his health and his legacy. Contrary to rumor, the "Mayor-for-Life" sounded much stronger than we'd expected. However, he acknowledged that he is receiving therapy ...in an undisclosed physical rehabilitation center and says he's walking better and his muscles are better and his spirits are high, and he's looking forward to celebrating his 78th birthday on March 6. He does, after all, he said "have a 77-year-old body" and "it's a miracle that he is alive." No kidding. He alluded to diabetes as the main culprit and said the city is not doing anything about the disease that affects so many blacks. Asked, of course, about his legacy, he said, "I've helped a lot of people." Asked what the "Mayor-for-Life's" public policy priorities would be if he was actually the mayor now, he answered, "helping people stay in the city," because "the white people are taking over the city." And, he'd try to get more "jobs, jobs, jobs" which was actually the priority of his first term.
On a lighter note, MB "loves" the show "Scandal." He pointed out that Judy Smith was working in the US Attorneys Office when he was on trial, and "she's the one trying to clean up that bullshit they were puttin' out there." Only MB; we let him slide on a few of the legal details -- this time. Graciously, he thanked me for being nice! As Mary Layton said, it was a "lovefest."

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Adrienne Terrell Washington is an award-winning journalist, commentator and professor. She has covered local and national news in the nation's capital for over three decades. Her "A Washington Note" blog provides throught provoking insight into current events. When not blogging, Ms. Washington writes memoir and historical pieces.

06/26/2013 01:00 AM

Barbecue Runs Through It

I love Southern food. Barbecue especially. Smoky, salty tender bits of pork slathered in spicy sweet tomatoey goodness with a side of slaw washed down with a Coca-Cola (sugarcane edition,) It’s the sandwich the family in A Good Man is Hard to Find eat at the Tower, brought to them by the pale faced wife of the owner, all five plates balanced in her hands and on her forearm. Their last meal.
In O’Connor’s time, the Tower no doubt was a segregated establishment much like Ollie’s Barbecue, the restaurant in one of the original Civil Rights Act challenge cases the Supreme Court heard in1964. Ollie’s Barbecue was a small, family owned restaurant that seated 220 white customers and provided black customers with a take-out counter. Ollie argued that he wasn’t required to integrate his dining room because he had the contractual right to serve whom he pleased and was not engaged in so-called interstate commerce. The Civil Rights Act was premised on the Commerce Clause, which gave the federal government the power to regulate interstate - as opposed to intrastate - commerce.
The Supreme Court shot down Ollie’s argument. It reasoned that because African-Americans travelled the highways just like everybody else, they needed to stop to eat just like O’Connor’s traveling family. To deprive any travelers of any race of the joys of barbecue was unconstitutional and impeded their movement across state lines.
One of the ironies of Ollie’s Barbecue is that the cuisine has its origins not in the Northern European lands of Southern whites, but in the cooking of the Caribbean and from there to the United States with the slave trade. Soon, Southerners were enjoying their pig roasted and smoked at barbecues. In fact, in the opening scene in Gone with the Wind has Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of an Irish plantation and slave owner, attends a barbecue at neighboring plantation Twelve Oaks - all of it prepared by slaves.
Food and race are inextricably linked in the South. One need only look to recent revelations that Paula Deen harbored a nostalgia for times long gone with the wind when she told lawyers during a deposition that she had wanted a proper plantation wedding for her brother complete with servers dressed like those who had served Scarlett her barbecue. Those servers, by implication, would have pretended to be slaves. That this fantasy might have been misinterpreted was Paula’s stated reason for rejecting the idea.
So here we are, on the day the same Supreme Court that declared Ollie’s Barbecue open to all gutted a major piece of civil right legislation we are supposed to believe that the post-racial age has arrived. I beg to differ.

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Anniken Davenport is the author of the upcoming nonfiction book Sins of the Fathers: How a Miscarriage of Justice Brought Down a Capital City detailing the very human story behind Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's massive fiscal crisis.

She holds an MA in both fiction and non-fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Davenport, an attorney with vast experience in criminal, labor and employment law, has authored college textbooks, and numerous professional articles.