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Thursday, 27 January 2005

Civil Rights versus Copyright

If people had stuck to the law, black people wouldn't have the right to use restaurants and hotels. If people had stuck to the law, women wouldn't have the right to vote. If people had stuck to the law, women wouldn't have the right to own property . . . Our country has a history of laws that we are very proud we have moved away from.

--Lawrence Guyot former leader of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

taken from  an article at WIRED News 

 Downhillbattle.org , with whom I am unaffiliated, is organizing  a campaign to digitally and illegally distribute  what is acknowledged by many to be one of the most important film documentaries of the American Civil Rights Movement, Henry Hampton’s  Eyes on the Prize . Expired copyright licenses have for over a decade prevented the distribution of this 14-part documentary, and while many of us are fortunate enough to have a copy of this work in our own libraries (I am one of those fortunates), many public and private libraries cannot make this work available to its patrons.

The ultimate goal of Downhillbattle.org’s distribution campaign of Eyes on the Prize is, of course, not about this documentary per se. The importance of this distribution campaign is to raise awareness of the fact that copyright law, largely in the hands of corporate media interest, conflicts in many areas with public interest and, for now, public interest ends up walking away with a big black eye.

On the week’s eve of  Black   History   month , I hope you find Downhillbattle.org’s distribution campaign interesting and important enough to spread the word to those of your acquaintances who are interested in the crisis of Civil Rights in the United States in the post-911 era, the increasing conflict between corporate media and public interest, and the continued distribution of a landmark documentary on the American Civil Rights Movement.

Monday, 17 January 2005

In the Name of Love

Still from Spike Lee’s 1989 _Do the Right Thing_
Dream sweetly, brother

Wednesday, 12 January 2005

OU all over

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the profession I’ve found myself in, this whole literary critical/cultural studies schtick I’ve signed up for. It’s hard to believe that I knew I wanted to be a professor when I was at undergraduate at USC in 1989. Back then, I thought I’d be writing fiction as opposed to teaching it.

Recently, spurred by an article I read in Profession 2004, I’ve been doing a bit of reading and  writing regarding institutional affiliation . My present institution is  Ohio University .  Ohio University’s English department , like many English departments across the country, is staffed by faculty whose degrees come from prestigious and notable institutions,  Northwestern ,  Duke ,  Indiana U ,  U Michigan ,  Stony Brook ,  UVa ,  Berkeley . However, the reputation of our university to some extent underperforms the rankings of the institutions from which we have earned our degrees. More to the point, when our graduate students go on the job market they are not as advantaged in terms of affiliation as we were when we entered the job market.

Some of what affects OU graduate students is what Paul McEwan (presently a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern) identifies as a failure to encourage students from middling institutions to apply to elite universities. Without conducting the unquestionably necessary critique of academic affiliation, I am coming to believe that some of the faculty at OU are guilty of not encouraging our best students to apply to schools whose rankings are higher than OU’s. If this is true, we are some of us failing to fulfill our roles as educators, especially since we are not doing all that we can to ensure that those nearest to us maximize their potential to get academic jobs.

Among some of my faculty friends, I argued that if we as a faculty could not improve our graduate program by increasing obligation-free funding, lightening teaching assignments, and multiplying the number of year-on-year job placements (and especially this last), then we should get out of the business of graduate education altogether. One of my colleagues chided me for my naiveté, which I suppose is deserved. We’ll see how that faculty feels once I’ve achieved tenure. If I can’t improve our graduate program then I’m going after it with a hatchet. But my sense is that there is much that can be done to improve the chances of our students on the wide open market, even if in the short term that means encouraging our best students to seek to train elsewhere.

My rationale regarding this short-term solution is that by injecting OU alum into prestigious and elite universities, some of them will make their way into prestigious institutions as faculty and be in positions to assist OU students who themselves are looking either for educations or jobs. In this sense, then, the quick solution of sending OU students to better institutions is actually a long-term solution. Simple-minded, yes, and dependent upon long institutional memory, but given that we are not yet able to attract applicants from elite universities it is something in our present power to do.

Since having started to teach my first graduate course, I’m also aware of how very gifted my students are and what a privilege and honor it is to teach them. I am nearly overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness, their intelligence, and their engagement. It makes me worried when I think about the professor who chided me because I can’t help but think that foremost in that faculty’s mind (and among some portion of the faculty as a whole) that the question McEwan poses at the end of his penultimate paragraph is one we OU faculty need to consider:

What better way for midlevel schools to improve their status than by adding [or maintaining] graduate programs and students, even if those students will have little chance of finding jobs or, at best, will make matters more difficult for the students already out there?

Our department does have its few success stories. I believe those stories can be multiplied.

McEwen, Paul. “The Badge of Power.” Affiliations: Identity in Academic Culture. Lincoln, NE: U Nebraska P, 2003: 44-53.

Monday, 10 January 2005

iPowerweb webhosting SUCKS

On Wednesday, 12 January, the webhosting for this domain, misterquid.com, is scheduled to go dark. The current host is  iPowerweb.com  and I can tell you that their service is both overpriced and restrictive.

I arranged to have  crisishost , with whom I host another of my domains (wilcox.cx), take over hosting mistersquid. After setting up the new host using IP address, the next step was to change the DNS pointers with my registrar. The registrar for iPowerweb is  OnlineNIC , and they do not provide a way for registrants to access their domain management directly, and iPowerweb does not provide means on its website to submit an update to the DNS. The only way to get DNS changes made is to phone iPowerweb (1-888-511-4678) and leave a voicemail message under option 4 with what sounds like an incredibly overworked tech. (UPDATE: It turns out that if you send an email to transfers@iPowerweb.com, which is not listed anywhere on the site that I could find, tech support had to tell me to do this, you can get an email response to DNS changes. Onlinenic.com does have a web interface that allows one to make DNS changes, but iPowerweb's obfuscation of this has already led me to change my registrar. Alas.)

I’ve left my information and am now waiting for the other shoe to drop. That is, I’m waiting for 24 hours to pass and for it to be 1 day before hosting for mistersquid.com dies and then I’ll really have reason to be dissatisfied with iPowerweb. One would think that for over $100 (US) per year that one would at least be able to change the DNS settings for one’s domain. Even  fatcow  provides that functionality in its control panel.

To top it all off, iPowerweb does not have a straightforward way for one to change one’s contact email. As a result, their automated response system has bounced nearly 80 messages to me in the last 5 days because it keeps sending email to a forwarding address that notifies senders to request a permanent email address, and iPowerweb’s automated responds to the notice which triggers a notification to which iPowerweb responds . . . absolutely brain dead. I’ve tried to change my contact email but iPowerweb’s system seems not to be monitored by a human.

I can’t wait to leave iPowerweb and OnlineNIC behind.

On a sidenote, crisishost has been rocking my world for more than a year. Their prices start at $25 (US) per year. I administer my courses through wilcox.cx and have had virtually no downtime. Also, the tech, Josh, is available by email and IM. I’ve never had a problem with crisishost that took more than a few hours to get set straight. Give  his service  a looksee.

Sunday, 09 January 2005

Promises in the Expo

Why, sometimes, is it so impossible to interact with someone when that’s exactly what we’d most like to do? It’s like being in a slow-motion comedy sequence. Surely, some expert of social dynamics and human psychology knows the processes and phenomena which drive our agonized rituals of avoidance. Would that person mind sending me an email?

On a completely different note, I’m thinking about the G5 powerbooks Steve Jobs is going to announce on Tuesday. Surfing over to  WIRED’s Bottom 10 Vaporware Products for 2004 , I howled over Justin Evers’s submission of a “Reading from the Book of Apple, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20” (number 8 on the list):

Then did St. Steve raise on high the Holy G5 of Cupertino, saying, “Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine Dell enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.” And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the renderings of lambs and toads and tree sloths and fruit bats and orangutans and lickable icons.... Now did the Lord say, “Thou in 12 months, thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the GHz and the number of the GHz shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two-point-five, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the number of the GHz, be reached, then thine will be great and powerful in my sight, however if thou shall have more than one button on thou mouse, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff thine's life.”

Ha hA HA ha ahh!

Saturday, 01 January 2005


Does the icon for Apple’s Preview application give you the willies like it does me?

icon for Apple's Preview

Even at the icon’s largest, the kid looks like he’s done that trick where his eyelids are folded up on themselves and now he’s wandering around the beach, his hands together in prayer, urging the demons who live in the sea behind him to come forth.

Like so many of the regrettable things spawned by the 80s,  goths  are best remembered for their influence on aesthetic tastes outside their own subcultural boundaries (I’m ignoring for the sake of argument their best contribution, which is in the domain of music).

Today, I put together a set of icons to counter the gratuitous use of “aqua” in the default OS X icon set. One of these icons interprets Preview’s truly frightening inside-out eyelid boy icon in a manner influenced by mid-80s techno-gothic.

squidGothic Preview icon

It also memorializes the passing of postmodernity by offering users a sprig of irony. A jot of irony. Something. I’ve named the resulting collection  squidGothic .

Happy New Year!

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