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Archive for April, 2007

I was trying to tell some friends last night about this cartoon, and my explanation began with, “you know those i’m-in-your-whatever-cat-picutres.” which, it turned out, they did not, and the more I tried to explain it, the more I sounded like a loon, so I eventually resorted to trying to find some examples for them.

I started by googling “i’m in yr, cat pictures.” And — wow! — did you know that there are a whole slew of posts and articles dedicated to explaining this “joke?” Anyway, the explanations were so earnest and serious that I found them pretty much hilarious, especially this one:

I’M IN UR X Ying your Z. This construct, based on i’m in ur base, killin ur d00ds has morphed into a catch-all structure for annotating cat pictures.

Just thought I’d share.

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I can’t believe this is still going on in the Ohio legislature: legislation to require strip clubs to shut down at midnight and customers to remain at least 6 feet from performers at all times.

It’s so ridiculous, because there’s no way it can even be plausibly explained as anything but an attempt to force strip clubs and strippers out of business. I mean, even if you’re arguing that strip clubs are bad for neighborhoods or whatever (which I wholeheartedly disagree with, but that is an argument that is made), this is not a logical extension of that argument. There’s no logical excuse for either of those requirements, other than to try and backhandedly shut them down by nitpicking them to death. It’s so frustrating, especially because while it may will hurt the club owners to a degree (closing early), the people it’s really going to hurt the most are the dancers, who could no longer give lap dances or accept tips on stage. It’s much like arresting prostitutes for prostitution — criminalizing the people who have the most stake in the matter but the least culpability, if you look at it in those terms, and a gross and blatant example of the kind of illogical but sadly popular lawmaking that says if you don’t like something, or find it offensive, that’s good enough reason in and of itself to restrict it or shut it down.

And what’s especially reprehensible is this:

In fact, in a floor debate more puzzling than pointed, most senators who spoke condemned the measure. “I would suggest to you if it were a silent vote, I’m not sure it would pass,” Sen. Larry Mumper, a Marion Republican, said as the debate on Senate Bill 16 wrapped up.

So it’s another case of lawmakers being scared into voting for measures they don’t really support for fear of facing the wrath of conservative christian groups.

But kudos to this guy:

The measure … is being pushed by Citizens for Community Values, a group of social conservatives from the Cincinnati area. And it just so happens that the CCV posse ended up in the lunch line at Einstein’s Bagels, just across High Street from the Statehouse, behind a Dayton-area strip club owner, Luke Liakos.

Fed up with the CCV, which spent the morning making its case to a House committee about why strip clubs are harmful to communities, Liakos decided to have some fun.

“They went to put their order in and the lady at the counter said, ‘We kind of have a problem. That guy just bought all of the bagels in the place,'” said Liakos. “They all kind of looked down the line staring at me. I thought it was pretty comical.”

The dozens of bagels bought by Liakos (about 85 or 90 bucks worth, he said) didn’t go wasted as the Baby Dolls manager called en route to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank to donate his bread.

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Ilyka’s got this great post at Pandagon about the preponderance of “experts” on the Internet who pop up in the wake of things like the Virginia Tech shootings or the Supreme Court abortion decision recently to tell you that THEY KNOW exactly why things happened or why things are good or bad or etc. etc. etc. Mostly an enjoyable post all around …. except — and I’m going to nitpick here — for this sentence:

It’s been made especially plain throughout April that the most insulting thing you can tell a fundie, a men’s rights activist, a libertarian, a pro-life absolutist, or a bigot, is simply “You don’t know.”

Awwwww, man. Really? You’re gonna lump us with the fundies and the bigots and the men’s rights activists?

I see this crop up from time to time on blogs like Pandagon (which is, like, one of my favorite blogs in the whole wide blogosphere, so I mean no disdain), or in a recent City Paper article about the madman shooter from the fall at Virginia Tech, or in reviews of action movies that use the word “libertarian” to describe crazies who blow up a lot of stuff ….

I know a lot of smart and well-reasoned and not-crazy libertarians, including: me, Raee, my ex-boyfriend/roommate, my ex-boyfriend/roomate’s ex-roomate’s boyfriend, a Christian hippie we use to do theater with, Raee’s brother, and my dad, not to mention all the friends and other people I’ve met at specifically libertarian-oriented events and all the “professional libertarians” I know.

And most of these people — like, 98% — are very intelligent, thoughtful, rational, open-minded human beings who have never honestly advocated anarchy or completely abolishing income taxes or whatever it is that people think libertarians do. They do not live in mountain-side huts hoarding guns and plotting the overthrow of the government. They are not just apologetic Republicans who want to be able to smoke pot. And they don’t go around talking about Ayn Rand all the time (another thing you hear about libertarians ALL THE FUCKING TIME from non-libertarians). (Now would not be the time to bring up that I went to an Ayn Rand Super-Double-Objectivist Monster Truck birthday party a few months ago).

In fact, I have only once met any of Those Sort of libertarians in person, ever, at a Reason Magazine happy hour, although they are the sorts you frequently find commenting on Reason’s blog (which is why I generally don’t bother with the comments section there — smart writers, stupid smarmy commenters) or at Protein Wisdom and such.

So I’m not saying that Those Sorts of libertarians don’t exist. But liberals have hippies, okay? And feminists have Maureen Dowd, remember? So sometimes libertarians have crazy apologetic-Republican-smarmy-douchebags, sure. But mostly not. I swear.

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Thanks to my friend Gynine for this nice piece of news.

Let’s weigh in on this, is it right or wrong not to tell someone you are filming them? I’m sure we’ll add go privacy this and privacy that. How many of you are going to click and see it though? I won’t tell.

In a bet that we could get famous on the internet by the end of the semester, we decided to broadcast our friend’s life on the internet to millions of viewers (Without actually telling him.)

How creepy. It’s like Justin TV but even more voyeuristic. Watch at your own will but remember….

Ryan doesn’t know…so don’t tell Ryan.

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Because of school projects, my printed word diet lately has consisted solely of a strange combination of articles about copyright and 1990s issues of Us and People magazines (and, as a break, Elements of Style by the late great Wendy Wasserstein), but today I finally got around to catching up on some news/blog reading. Things that I have found particularly interesting:

1. Via Kerry Howley at Reason, Camille Paglia, professional misguided orator of cultural wonkery, blames the Virginia Tech shootings on “the crisis of masculinity in America” and “the snobbery of the upper-middle-class professional.” Apparently, according to Ms. Paglia, Cho wouldn’t have shot all those people if only he could have worked in a factory or hopped on a freight train, and if those uppity girls he was stalking would have just been flattered by his attentions and had pity sex with him, and maybe it’s somehow tied to Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.

Julian Sanchez points out that “hidden amid all this swill is actually a moderately interesting question, to wit: How does greater sexual openness in a culture affect those who, for whatever reasons, aren’t getting any?

The problem is that the least productive imaginable way to approach that sort of question, guaranteed to yield precisely zero generalizable insights, is to use a deranged mass murderer as your starting point.

2. Rainbow Girl provides a useful misogynist/trolls guide to talking to feminists.

Step one: Cite Essential Difference.
The conversation may have started on unequal pay, sexual violence, or discrimination, but it is your duty to immediately direct the conversation to the fact that women are inherently different from men. This first step is crucial, because everyone knows that essential difference legitimizes and therefore neutralizes oppression.

Step Four: Incite Fear.
Ok, she may be have reasonable requests, like not to get raped, or not to get called a slut for getting raped, or whatever, but don’t forget about those other feminists. You know, the real man-hating ones that are really militant and violent. They are true representatives of the movement and The Feminist, by sheer taxonomy, must be part of this group if she defines herself using that word. Be careful not to actually cite specific examples of man-hating feminists, firstly because it will expose the fact you don’t know of any, and secondly because it could create an uncomfortably detailed tangential argument for you in which you are exposed to even more feminist theory.

3. Snarkery at its finest: This American Life Completes Documentation Of Liberal, Upper-Middle-Class Existence

In what cultural anthropologists are calling a “colossal achievement” in the study of white-collar professionals, the popular radio show has successfully isolated all 7,442 known characteristics of college graduates who earn between $62,500 and $125,000 per year and feel strongly that something should be done about global warming.

“We’ve done it,” said senior producer Julie Snyder, who was personally interviewed for a 2003 This American Life episode, “Going Eclectic,” in which she described what it’s like to be a bilingual member of the ACLU trained in kite-making by a Japanese stepfather. “There is not a single existential crisis or self-congratulatory epiphany that has been or could be experienced by a left-leaning agnostic that we have not exhaustively documented and grouped by theme.”

4. Addison from Grey’s Anatomy is getting her own spin-off. This guy says its a good thing, because all the other characters have begun to suck:

The backdoor pilot for the spin-off, which will also feature Tim Daly, Taye Diggs and Amy Brenneman in its cast, airs next week. While I’m naturally skeptical of spin-offs, I hope this one is good, and that Addison can bring the chief, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Karev (Justin Chambers) with her, so I no longer have any reason to watch “Grey’s” proper. What began a few years ago as a fluffy, entertaining mash-up of “ER,” “Friends” and “Sex and the City” has become a show so deeply in love with itself that it no longer notices or cares how the rest of the world views it. It’s still the hottest thing on television that doesn’t involve Ryan Seacrest, but the emperor has no scrubs.

He points out that Meredith’s character is too self-absorbed and “was never that interesting or appealing to begin with,” and that Izzy is currently “shattering all TV records for irrational, judgmental, horrid behavior.” I like Meredith, but that’s because I always fall for the spoiled, narcissistic waifs.

And, yes, I know, I’m ending on a Grey’s Anatomy note here. I said things I find interesting, not earth-shattering, okay?

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illegal biking

Now this is just silly: DC requires people to register their bicycles or face bike impoundment.

Via DCist:

The problem, of course, is that actually managing to register your bicycle to comply with the law is close to impossible. Local police and fire department offices are not regularly equipped to deal with cyclists’ requests to file the correct paperwork, and the vast majority of D.C. bicycle owners are technically riding on unregistered vehicles. The City Paper article chronicles a few instances of MPD using this law as a pretense to detain “suspicious” people, which stinks of harassment.

Plus, in order to register, you have tho show proof of ownership of your bike.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, however, has a campaign against mandatory bike registration (and a surprisingly fancy Web site).

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No more juice, Jose.

It’s baseball season (exclamation!). All right boys and girls, are we ready for stories on ‘roids and corked bats? I’m hoping for good-old Yankees better loose baseball season, personally that’s my opinion. But if by chance, you are a Yankees fan or even a steroid fan, put down the needle and go see the eye doctor. The LA Times had an interesting article on the new trend in baseball, improving eye sight through surgery.

Now, they’re among a growing number of professional athletes focusing on new and improved technologies to recover lost vision skills.
Not all the attention is coming from players with damaged or diminished eyesight. Even players with normal vision are turning to everything from laser surgery and tinted contact lenses to eye-strengthening exercises and high-priced “ocular” machines in search of a competitive edge.

Impressive isn’t it. It’s like RoboCop, but instead it’s a baseball player.

Or getting the team to spend the money, which is what Carlos Beltran did when he signed with the New York Mets before the 2005 season. Included in his $119-million contract was a clause that required the Mets to purchase an $85,000 “enhanced ocular device.”

Just thinking how amazingly awesome this might be, seeing your favorite baseball pitcher squint his eyes and out shoots a laser beam. How wicked would that be? Okay, okay, I digress is successful? I mean going under the knife for baseball? As long as there is no crying in baseball.

The device is a high-speed pitching machine that fires specially marked tennis balls at speeds up to 155 mph. Players try to read the markings as the ball flies by, an exercise intended to improve both focus and concentration. The Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and the Olympic champion U.S. women’s softball team have experimented with the ocular machine.

And if all else fails, and you favorite team happens to be the Cubs,

Then there’s the Rigoberto Betancourt method. The former coach of Cuba’s national team taught pitchers to focus more sharply by having them throw while blindfolded.

Interesting stuff, this eye sight surgery in baseball. I’ll have to catch a game with my favorite team–Go Indians, and see what they’ve got. Made some day, I’ll see the lasers.

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A while ago, when I was looking for participants for a survey on user-generated content, I had a hell of a time finding people who actually upload videos. Well, turns out I’m not just a bad survey promoter: a new study has found that “upload rates at participatory cyberstops like YouTube and Flickr were well under 1 percent — 0.16 percent for video-sharing site YouTube and 0.2 percent for photo-sharing site Flickr.”

By and large, most visitors to participatory Web sites are watchers, maintained Randall C. Bennett, former lead blogger for DV Guru and founder of Tech Check Daily, a daily video podcast about technology.

As a rule of thumb, he estimated that about 1 percent of a site’s visitors are “creatives” — enthusiastic and frequent uploaders of site content; some 20 percent are “contributors” who might do some uploading and add comments and tags to a site’s content; and the rest of the visitors are just watchers.

Other findings:

• Biggest users of Wikipedia are 18- to 24-year-olds (25.89 percent) and 35- to 44-year-olds (25.53 percent), while most of the editing is done by those over 35

• Most YouTube visitors are 18- to 24-year-olds (30.55 percent), while most video is uploaded to the site by 35- to 44-year-olds (35.65 percent).

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Reformation is here,

After reading about the 2.6 million patent deal for mobile social networking technology, it got me thinking about why and how you could patent technology. Well, I seem to be semi on par with Congress. This past Wednesday, Congress introduced the Patent Reform Act of 2007.

The Patent Reform Act was introduced Wednesday in the Senate and the House. It would award patents to people who first file for the patents, instead of those first to invent, it limits damages patent holders can collect in infringement lawsuits, and it creates a new procedure for those questioning the validity of a patent to challenge it after it’s been granted. The U.S. has the only first-to-invent patent system worldwide.

To make this all easier, here’s the current case of Vonage, which was sued by Verizon. What exactly was going on? The American Chronicle has a good look at the case.

The patent in question is the popular VOIP (Voice of Over Internet Protocol) that goes under other names such as IP Telephony, Internet Telephony, Broadband Telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice Over Broadband (www.wikipedia.com). This is advanced technology that routes the voice conversations over the Internet or through any other IP-based network. It allows you to make calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line (www.fcc.gov/voip).

Phone calls on the Internet? Sweet. So what’s the problem? What patent did Vonage abuse?

This technology may be viewed as commercial realizations of the experimental Network Voice Protocol (1973) invented for the ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network) that is responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military (www.wikipedia.com). It was established in 1958 in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957, with a mission of keeping the US’s military technology ahead of its enemies.

Opportunity for consumers to chose their provider that best fits their needs and budget? Awful. How can you patent innovation? Why would you want to? Wouldn’t as a business, make you try harder to keep your customers and force you, as a company, to provide more?

Maybe, not. So what do patents do?

The basic concept of a patent is to allow the CREATOR of inventions that contain new ideas to keep others from making commercial use of the ideas without the creator’s permission (Elias & Stim, 2004, 226).

So right now, this is all in limbo. Internet patents are wonky and aren’t getting a lot of PR. They should. This is important for technology companies, really for any company with a patent on something that is not tangible. How can we continue to impede the future? What could be done if we change the law? In my opinion, much more.

“We think the bills will help maintain our country’s innovation leadership, reduce excessive litigation and damages awards, and improve patent quality,” John Kelly III, IBM’s senior vice president for technology and intellectual property, said in a statement. source

Click here for Patently-O, a great analysis of the Patent Reform Act’s legal jargon side.

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I told myself I wasn’t going to comment on the events at VT. I didn’t want to add to the growing noise “they should have done this” or ” I would have done that.” I wanted to give this situation space and give some silence to the noise. I guess, I’m just adding it to however. Today I was reading “The New Republic’s” article “The True Roots of the Virgina Tech Massacre: Generation Columbine” and while this will mostly like be regurgitated wonky news, I felt after pelting my brother and friends with questions, it was time to put out there.

This grabbed my attention. Mostly because I had been talking to my brother about it the other day.

But the Virginia Tech massacre is not about gun control, suburbia, or even human heroics; it’s about delirium. Just as in 1999, we are asking all the wrong questions.

Gun control is an emotional weapon. Each side is wants to be the first to pick and point and tear apart their opponents.

Suddenly, the utilitarian approach to gun control supersedes reality. Yet it is too easy to blame external elements–elements we could perhaps change. Not that gun control isn’t a worthy issue, but 32 innocents didn’t die only because there are too many guns in the world; they died because Cho decided to kill them. And if the cause wasn’t too many guns, then there were plenty of other influences–and plenty of other sources for reporters to harangue: the violence-in-media people, the psychoanalysts, the criminal profilers, and the pharmaceutical companies (Cho was taking an antidepressant). But these are just aspects of this melancholy crisis; they’re quite different than the cruel ambition to kill. It is that wicked impulse we should be trying to figure out.

And then media, whatever role they choose to fit (or don’t fit) come in as a soundtrack. They tell us what is going, the put the pieces together.

The stunned commentators talk about how “this sort of thing” doesn’t happen in this kind of small community–as though crazed mass shooters are the sole provenance of an urban environment. But to conflate a maniacal, armed college student with the perils of the inner city is to misunderstand. This isn’t gang warfare; this isn’t a drive-by or a drug deal gone bad.

There aren’t words left, the news has taken care of that. There really isn’t much left to say. I don’t know how long I’ll leave this up. But I suggest reading the entire article. As for this writer, who was in late high school after Columbine, I leave this.

What does the world look like to a generation who has grown up with the frightful knowledge that killers can lurk in classrooms? I doubt their first concern is gun control.

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A big thanks to Twitter for introducing me to Mashable and this latest development.
Mobile Social Networking is the current buzz trend of marketers, business folk, and techies alike. The patent (number 6618593) just sold for 2.6 million.

The patent covers mobile social networking – set to be one of the hottest tech markets this year. It covers location aware devices that connect to a remote server and allow users to make connections with other users based on distance and other factors. This is the system that a lot of the existing mobile social networks use: you say you’re interested in dating hot girls who dig World of Warcraft (ok, it’s a longshot), and the system alerts you when a matching person is in your vicinity. Loopt is a current example. We’re not sure who bought the patent, or whether they plan to go after those making use of the tech. The guys who filed it, however, were geniuses: they came up with this stuff 7 years ago.

So what does this all mean, or I should say, what’s the big deal?

The field of application of this patent is essentially mobile social networking and mobile dating. Both markets are soon to explode, especially in the US with million of users on the verge to shift from PC to cell phone to manage their digital social life. These mobile applications are the obvious next steps for websites such as MySpace, Facebook or Match.com. Several start up companies are already launching their services.

Money and technology and the future are the deal. And looks like the patent author is invisible, or at least for now.

While the buyer’s name is not disclosed according to the rules of these IP auctions, one can imagine it might be a large online social networking portal wishing to lock the market with a strong patent, or a company specialized in the monetization of intellectual properties willing to license this promising asset to the various players on the market. But for now the only people making profit out of it is the group of inventors who filed this innovative patent seven years ago.

Here are some of the Mobile Social Networking sites to make you salivate:–Twitter, Dodgeball, Socialight, Frengo, GotZapp (No longer in beta, it’s live! Thanks Josh for the update), ImThere, Groovr, and JuiceCaster.

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I love me some Omar and McNulty. It’s no lie that I love “The Wire.” It’s one of the best shows on television, let alone one of the best shows I have ever seen. I’ll save any kind of synopsis for links. So click here if you’re unfamiliar.

This whole post began out of my netvibes obsession and reading To The People. If my Internet wasn’t slow this evening I wanted to read the full post on his “Wire” update. So here’s the piece that got me super excited.EDIT. I was finally able to finishing reading the post. He makes some great points on Baltimore and the overall opinion (or lack there of) of the rest of the United States. While my Internet was slow and I wasn’t able to read it all, it was well worth a read this morning.

The Wire sure does seem to like my neighborhood. I have a few guesses as to why, but in all truthfulness, most are probably wrong. **What I do know is that Season three’s plot focused a great deal on the tearing down of crime ridden, high-rise housing projects and the subsequent building (on the same land) of low-cost individual housing units, which happenes to be literally right next door to me.

I had a point with all this though. Kinda falls in the Things are Always Getting Better category. The Wire is a television drama, I understand that. But from talking to friends not familiar with Baltimore (and some who are) I have come to understand that the reputation of Baltimore is somewhere between Haiti and Detroit. As one friend in DC calls the city, the “chic Detroit”. I’m always stuck saying, “It’s really not that bad. Some really bad areas like all cities, but it’s got character and cheap property

If that’s not enough to make anyone excited. Here’s one major reason why I love “The Wire,” thanks to a great Slate article.

The Wire concerned those parts of the book [Simon’s original nonfiction account] about why the drug war doesn’t work. But we realized that explaining that why the drug war doesn’t work would get us only through the first season. So, we started looking at the rest of what was going on in the city of Baltimore. Ed [Burns] and I knew we wanted to touch on education. I had grown up as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and I had seen many aspects of local and city administration. Once we began to come up with these different ways of addressing the city as a whole, we had a blueprint for the show.

The article is from this past December. Read it here. It offers great insight not only into the show but about Baltimore and politics and education. If you don’t watch the show, read the article at least.

So listen up, you have this summer to catch up, get your Netflix ready because season five is coming soon!

Yes, the last season. The last theme is basically asking the question, why aren’t we paying attention? If we got everything right in the last four seasons in depicting this city-state, how is it that these problems—which have been attendant problems regardless of who is in power—how is it that they endure? That brings into mind one last institution, which is the media. What are we paying attention to? What are we telling ourselves about ourselves? A lot of people think that we’re going to impale journalists. No. It’s not quite that. What stories do we want to hear? How closely do they relate to truth; how distant are they from the truth? We have a story idea about media and consumers of media. What stories get told and what don’t and why it is that things stay the same.

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links for 2007-04-20

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I thought MTV pushed the virtual world to the limits with their vapid “The Virtual Laguna Beach” and “The Virtual The Hills.” While I have watched an episode (or the entire season) of The Hills, playing these characters in virtual form is not so high on my list, so imagine my suprise when I read that Barbie is entering the virtual world

At BarbieGirls.com, users can customize their character’s look and style. They can go to the virtual mall and shop for clothes, accessories and furniture for their online room. They can even adopt a pet.

Hm…This sounds oddly familiar. Maybe the virtual MTV? And look, they have dogs too!

Been dreaming of a new look? In this world, you can create the hair, clothes, and attitude you want! Step into one of our style pods to get started.

So what is the real difference between the Barbie World and the virtual MTV worlds? I mean, don’t the avatars look the same? Both have the essentials–cute puppies, rad hair, and a slamin outfit–all check.

The virtual worlds are here, which one are you checking in to?

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Via Faux Real, Brownfemipower writes:

And once the private violence becomes public, we hear it on the news, we find out from a friend, we hear it in the car on the way to work, we all distance ourselves again. He was a loner, he was strange, he never talked, he was weird/scary/abnormal/depressed/mad/upset/hurt hurt hurt–he wasn’t one of us. His violence is not our violence because he wasn’t one of us. We’re not crazy, we’re not insane, we’re not odd, and we’re most certainly not on anti-depressants. At least not the crazy people kind of anti-depressants.

This has what’s been bothering me about the Virginia Tech shooting coverage. And I don’t really know why it should bother me, or how it would be covered in any other way, but … well, for some context, I’ve been content-analyzing some People magazines from 1996-now as part of my thesis. People is big on covering the senseless-tragedy types of stories. There was one I read about children who were randomly shot in a school house in Scotland, one about the murder of Bill Cosby’s son, and a few others I can’t remember at the moment. This was about 2 weeks ago, and what jumped out at me was what I’ve sort of termed the “bad egg” theory of violence coverage. In each case, the stories were heavy on emphasis about how the person who committed the violent act was a loner, an outsider, had a bad family life, was “born out of wedlock,” was raised by a single mom, didn’t have many close friends, was possibly on drugs or suffering from some sort of mental illness, etc. etc. The coverage I’ve seen so far about the VA Tech shooter is very similar: he was a loner, an outsider — I even heard one newscaster call him a “campus nobody.”

There’s a strange sort process going on here that works on two fronts, I think. First, it attempts to make sense of random and senseless violence by using a very individualizing frame. Now, not that the individual isn’t first and foremost to blame, obviously. I’m not making excuses for people who commit such atrocious acts by pulling a blame-society or they-were-misunderstood-and-nobody-was-nice-to-them card. But by focusing so much on the individualizing aspects of it, it totally pushes the bigger picture out of the picture, and leaves no room for any sort of societal examination at all. The system works … go on about your business … nothing to worry about here, it was just this one bad egg ….

On another level, I think there’s a total socialization factor here, too. There’s an ‘othering’ process. This is what is deviant. This is what is abnormal. Don’t be a loner. Don’t spend too much time alone. Get involved — don’t be a “campus nobody!” Have close friends. This is what normal people do. If you do this, you’ll be normal and won’t shoot a bunch of people. See, look at how normal people behave. See? This bad guy’s behavior was not normal. He is not us. He is something different. Something evil, something disturbed. But we — we are okay.

Not that people like the VA tech shooter weren’t disturbed, obviously. And I think it helps, it helps to sort of pinpoint a reason. We don’t like senseless violence. We don’t like sometimes-people-just-do-bad-things. We need reasons. We need patterns. We need bad childhoods and violent TV shows and Marilyn Manson. This is why this happened. This has nothing to do with society as a whole, and it certainly has nothing to do with us.

I don’t know; maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe its the sort of narrative people need. I’m not putting a value judgment on it — well, okay, yes, I am. In my head, my first reaction is that this sort of coverage is bad. But the more I think about it … maybe its not. Not all bad, at least. Just not good, either.

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In order to pass the “fair use” test, a work using copyrighted material must pass muster on several different elements, one of which being whether the work is “transformative” or not. Not that I’m any sort of expert on the meaning of “transformative” — and, as I learned speaking with copyright lawyers extensively the past few days, neither are they — but a basic example would be something like this: MoveOn’s “Stop the Falsiness” video using Colbert clips = transformative; posting entire segments of the Colbert Report on YouTube = non-transformative.

Some discussion this week revolved around what to make of The Sopranos in 7 Minutes video, which is, by any stretch, not transformative. And yet Sopranos creator David Chase loved the video, and encourage HBO to let it be. But before too much talk could go into touting Chase for being some sort of artistic-merit-championing-copyright-restrction-reducing hero, someone quickly pointed out that, well, of course Chase loves it. The clip — which summarizes 7 seasons of the Sopranos in seven minutes, which snippets of all the major plot lines – is, essentially, promotion. Chase and HBO have nothing to lose from people viewing the video. As one of the more cynical in the room noted, “if there was somehow money involved in this, you can bet Chase would have a different opinion.”

The New York Observer points out that Saturday Night Live clips posted on YouTube — especially the now infamous “Dick in a Box” segment — were helping to user back in a new age of SNL appreciation. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know; but creatore Lorne Michaels seems to agree.

“I think that YouTube is great, because if you do something like ‘Dick in a Box,’ someone in Pakistan can see it,” said Mr. Michaels in a phone interview.

NBC has apparently taken action this week, however, to get all SNL clips off of YouTube.

One could make both of the Sopranos-7-minute arguments on this one. Of course Lorne Michaels doesn’t mind various SNL clips being posted on YouTube, because they’re essentially promotion. Of course NBC isn’t so happy, because if there’s money to be made, they want to make it. And here’s something that … well, is probably pretty obvious, but something I never had thought about before. Whenever I heard this sort of discussion, I always just thought it meant a big TV station didn’t want people watching clips on YouTube because then they weren’t watching them on the big TV station. What I failed to take into account was Web advertising, and how that’s also a form of making money. So a lot of times when networks complain about viewers watching shows on YouTube, they’re not upset that people are watching online instead of on the box, but that people aren’t coming to their own network sites to watch the clips, where they can see the ads put up by the network advertisers.

So, me stating the obvious that previously hadn’t occurred to me notwithstanding, NBC’s SNL-YouTube-purge would make sense if NBC planned to put the SNL clips on its own Web site in an attempt to draw viewers and their expensive eyes to the advertising dollars there. But what is NBC doing?

NBC Universal announced that they were teaming up with the News Corporation to create a new Web venture that would allow executives at the two media behemoths to distribute their own copyrighted shows across some of the Web’s most heavily trafficked sites, including AOL, Yahoo, MSN and MySpace—that is, more or less everywhere except on the Google-owned YouTube. The venture is expected to launch later this summer.

This doesn’t make much sense to me. Am I somehow missing the obvious again?

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I’ve been working with AU’s Center for Social Media on a research project about user-generated content and copyright law, which is neat because I’ve gotten to attend a conference today (and also tomorrow) with IP lawyers and general counsel and the business and communication departments of places like Microsoft and Facebook and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard Law School and Creative Commons etc. etc. etc.

What we found in our (very limited) study is that … well, nobody really knows what the hell they’re talking about when it comes to copyright and UGC, and while this might partly be due to just a lack of general education, its also because there are a lot of gray areas, and even copyright lawyers and business execs and all the rest are somewhat confused about how to best deal with all the new realms of potential copyright liability without discouraging/prohibiting creativity.

The report — “The Good, the Bad and the Confusing — User-Generated Video Creators on Copyright” — is available on CSM’s Web site. It’s short, and a quick read; you should check it out! (shameless self-promotion and whatnot).

Anyway, in conducting interviews, it came up that a lot of people I know don’t really know about Creative Commons, or about fair use (although everyone says they know about fair use, but then goes on to explain a concept that is definitely not).

This is my favorite Creative Commons video. It features lots of cute bobbled-headed cartoons telling you about what CC is and how it started.

CSM also has a lot of resources and best practices guides about fair use, as they apply to documentary filmmakers and other subgroups of creators.

More tomorrow about some of the actual issues. Too tired right now….

P.S. Fun CSM video on “Remix Culture,” featuring some old-school-in-Internet-terms throwbacks, like the fat kid singing that techno song (I know that’s a poor description, but I don’t know what the song is and don’t know how to better describe it but still think people will know what I’m talking about)

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Violins v. iPods

I just read this article.The opening graphs:

“HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.”

The violinist is Joshua Bell.

That probably doesn’t mean much to most, and only resonates with me because I listened to his recording of the Bruch concerto about fifty-five thousand times when I was dating my girlfriend from high-school. She was learning the first movement of the Bruch concerto and would routinely pop his recording in and sit, eyes closed, vicariously fingering the chords on her violin while I would watch transfixed, mouth open. It was without question the single sexiest thing I’d ever witnessed at that point in my life.

One of the first times she ever did this, after the movement was over, she looked up at me, crying, and said:

“I’ll never be this good.”

I nodded.

“But you get it, right? You get that this is incredible?”

I nodded.

It was. The Bruch is one of those pieces that has the ability to make you feel something. Its elegiac and melancholy and, in the hands of a master, the goddamn violin actually sounds like it’s crying. It’s not incredibly well-known, but whenever I hear it, I always catch myself listening and thinking back to those moments in her room, Joshua Bell blaring from cheap boom-box speakers.

And now I read that, for an hour, Joshua played in a Washington DC subway station masquerading as a busker. His take? Around $32.00. The article is one of the best I’ve read in a newspaper in quite some time. It’s a meditation on our capacity to recognize beauty without frames, without choosing when and where we will experience transcendence.

And at first, reading this, I fumed at the idiots who scurried on their way, oblivious to the man who had left me such an indelible memory. But then I looked to my left and saw my iPod, playing the same goddamn album I’ve listened to for the last 6 months. And I thought about my car, with its familiar catalogue of burned CD’s, and printed stories scattered across my back seat that I’ve been fine-tuning for the past three years…

I’m no better.

If I was in that station that day, I wouldn’t have even noticed him. I would have been listening to my iPod.

I’ve been obsessed lately with figuring out what this decade should be called. And I think that this story gets at something that I’ve been trying to put into words for a while:

We don’t allow things to touch us unless we choose to be touched. We plan ahead for transcendence. The amount of time we just listen and look and don’t seek is approaching nil.

And it gets to the point where the only thing I can remember are fake moments, like watching someone sympathetically fingering along to a virtuoso and then looking at me and saying that they could never be that good.

We live in “The Vicarious Oughts”. We’ve confused talent with effort and instead live through other people’s exploits to achieve our own epiphanies.

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In doing some research for my thesis, I came across this preview of South Park from a 1997 issue of Time:

The amalgam of clever references never really comes together, and it’s hard to figure out what Parker and Stone are using their show to say beyond the fact that eight-year-old boys are silly and the world is filled with many useless celebrities. Unlike The Simpsons and Beavis and Butt-head, South Park is devoid of subtext–it isn’t really about the emptiness of suburban life or the ugliness of youthful nihilism or the perniciousness of popular culture. Nevertheless, it can deliver many funny moments, and Parker and Stone may very well grow up someday to be a Judge or a Groening.

Fabulous. South Park “devoid of subtext,” but not Beavis and Butthead.

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Last Tuesday, I posted about an article in the Washington Post on college students and the HPV vaccine. The article was written by everyone’s favorite kids-these-days (or, really, girls these days) hand-wringer, Laura Sessions Stepp. I started off the post intending to make the point that sometimes I think reporters on teens and young adults deliberately set out to make our generation as ridiculous as possible, but by the end of my post, I’d pretty much just joined in the snarking on those quoted for making statements like these:

There will always be something else out there, some other disease discovered, or a drug that doesn’t work anymore,” (Mallory) Kirsh says. “We’re always hearing about STDs becoming more prevalent. This is the time of our lives when we’re supposed to be carefree. Now there’s always some danger hovering above.”

Male partners are one reason protection is not more common, says GWU senior Adrian Tworecke from her perch in a wing chair at the Sigma Kappa sorority. “They’ll ask if you’re on birth control, and if you are, they’ll say they’re not going to use a condom.” And if a woman brings up the fact that a man can be infected with HPV and pass the virus to her?

“You’re going to offend him,” (Sierra) Strattner says. Or, senior Mallory Kirsh says, “He’ll say, ‘Do I look like someone who would have an STI?’ It’s so hard. It makes it look like you don’t trust him.”

Wow. Are college women out there really so vapid and desperate for male attention at any cost? Maybe not …

“Just so you know the quotes used in the article were taken out of context,” Adrian Tworecke commented here. “Ms Stepp took things that were said and twisted them for the sake of writing an article people would want to read. Your post makes it seem as though our generation is ignorant to the whole HPV siuation and we are not.”

“I was also interviewed for this article,” wrote Mallory Kirsh, “and my quotes were vastly taken out of context. What Stepp also failed to mention was that this past summer I interned at a major pharmaceutical company researching HPV and working on a soon to be launched vaccine. I was lead to believe she wanted to interview me because of my knowledge on HPV, but instead I was portrayed as an ignorant and promiscuous college students, both of which I am not.”

And, via e-mail, Strattner weighs in: “After talking to my friends and reading the washington post comments page (a HUGE mistake) I became really upset. I felt that even though my comments were correct they were taken out of context. Also, they were comments I made in the context of talking with my girlfriends that were actually generalizations about college students that i am around. I said things that were in relation to something else which unfortunately was not conveyed in the article. Also, a lot of what we discussed was missing, especially our more thought out and articulated concerns regarding the vaccine. The article came across as a bunch of vapid shallow sorority girls who dont want HPV to interfere with their sex life. This could not be further from the truth. While I don’t really fault Laura Sessions Stepp, I am disappointed that she portrayed our weaknesses instead of our strengths.”

I just thought this was interesting. Obviously, reporters have angles on stories all the time, and you can’t include all context and all angles in all stories. Strattner points out that the women interviewed were trying to relay how some people they knew felt about sex and STDs, so its not as if the observations were completely unrepresentative.

“I think the article accurately represented how college students feel, and if that worries people then its obviously a bigger issue,” she said.

But what’s a shame is that the article made it seem as if these particular girls were the ones that felt and acted in this way, and that’s not really fair to them.

Tworecke noted that it’s been difficult for them dealing with “the backlash from our friends and family about the mis-quotes in the article.”

And maybe I’m just being biased, but I think that articles about young people generally tend to take this angle as opposed to the “hey, young people do know and care about some stuff!” angle. Which makes sense, I suppose, since ignorance is more inherently newsworthy than knowledge. I mean, considering the nature of news and news production and all that, it’s not hard to see why this angle is appealing. But while it would seem irresponsible not to include this narrative, it’s irresponsible not to include the other side as well. And knowing Stepp’s previous work, it sort of makes it seem just all the more egregious that she only went with the young-women-are-getting-hurt-because-they’re-too-pressured-by-nasty-college-boys angle, and didn’t present the other side of the story.

This wasn’t an editorial piece she was writing; this was a health feature. And it feels like Stepp was using a health feature to advance her girls-are-fragile-flowers-who-are-hurt-by-feminism,-sex,-and-today’s-“hookup”-culture agenda.

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