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Archive for August 2006

copyright is crime

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or so it seems. Good and bad news tonight on this theme.

1) So I got a Region 2 copy of La Chinoise. But apparently my Mac’s dvd player isn’t going to cooperate with any of the means available for playback. So I might have to break down and buy myself a region free dvd player.

Seems to me that this whole region-ing thing must be an infringement of international trade law, but that’s just a guess on my part. How annoying.

2) Holy crap. Have you noticed that Google Books now offers .pdf files of a lot of their public domain materials?

Go take a look…

3) Relatedly: I feel terrible that I’ve ordered the ($60+) Norton Anthology for my students in one class. From here on out, when I teach a survey that has enough available in the public domain, I’m going to make up my own .pdf / multilith for the students to use, rather than forcing this monster upon them. Besides saving them money – and this is a real issue for many of my students – compiling a personal anthology wil save me the huge time expense of tranfering my notes from one edition to another. (And the new editions come ever faster, don’t they?)

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August 30, 2006 at 1:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

progress!

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NYT: Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

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August 27, 2006 at 10:58 pm

care bears in the dive bar

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(Another in a short series of hyperventilating, hypocritical posts, wearing my worst bits right there on the sleeve, about a serious subject: the decline and fall of the american cultural sphere. I visited the bookstore today, and almost passed out from the preciousness of the novels on offer…. Of this sort of post on my part, one might justly refer to Eliot’s description of Othello’s final speech:

What Othello seems to me to be doing in this speech is cheering himself up. He is endeavouring to escape reality, he has ceased to think about Desdemona, and is thinking about himself…Othello succeeds in turning himself into a pathetic figure, by adopting an aesthetic rather than a moral attitude, dramatising himself against his environment…

Ouch. Got me pegged:)

I miss NYC on an hourly basis. I’m sure there are times that I’m really missing my kidless life in NYC, and that many of the more attractive elements of the city and my life there would prove to be more frustrating than anything else now that I wouldn’t be, you know, doing the 4 AM plastered F-Train thing now and again. I can’t see any good films here; I wouldn’t, if I were still there, be seeing any good films, eating much good food. You know the deal.

But there are also times that I miss NYC even given the fact that I’m now a parent, even because I’m a parent. Miss, for instance, Cobble Hill Park, where my little one spent what outside time she spent during her first two months of life. (She was born just a block or two away…)

And the promenade. The Central Park Zoo, the carousel there, etc… Oh, and I’ll even cop to a healthy strain of snotty snobbery about the folks with kids that live on my street, their lack of acculturation, the fact that most of them grew up here and have never left and go to something called “the lake” during the summer rather than say, Shanghai or Buenos Aires, where I would go were she a bit older.

But then, every once in a while, I get an anti-nostalgic swift kick in the ass from something that I read.

Welcome to the age of the rocker mom. Kids who might otherwise have their parents ferry them to the soccer field are now being enthusiastically chaperoned to dive bars. Rock, once the realm of outcasts and dangerously attractive miscreants, is practically a curriculum choice. In Park Slope, after-school classes are offered at private and public schools, and Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls (an offshoot of Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon) is in its second year. On the syllabus are the classics: Ramones and Clash and Pixies songs that youngish parents revere, and that their offspring have been hearing since birth.

Rather than being cause for rebellion, grown-ups are rock mentors. Several, in the great tradition of Jack Black, have even become coaches, teaching teens and tweens the rudiments of rocking that normally take several alienated years to fumble through. Nowadays, punk isn’t just sanctioned by parents and school teachers; it’s good, clean fun.

The Care Bears—singer-guitarist Sophie Kasakove, 11, bassist-singer Lucio Westmoreland, 11, and drummer-singer Isadora “Izzy” Schappell-Spillman, 10, all classmates at Park Slope’s Berkeley Carroll School—couldn’t be better poster children for this burgeoning movement if they’d been carefully pre-auditioned for a reality show. They wear standard rocker gear—jeans, Converse All-Stars, Black Sabbath T-shirts—but they’re also polite overachieving kids, cramming in band practice between art class, homework, and Hebrew school.

Oh good Christ.

And look. I’ve been around the block a few times. I know that this article is just a hyperbolic distillation of a certain tiny subset of NYC – actually, very specifically, Brooklyn parents. I know that this sort of thing is written to provoke exactly the sort of reaction that I’m having right here for you to read.

But still. There is a heady dose of that sort of crap to be had back in the City. And I further know for a fact that my dad spent a good part of his life silently hating me for the “opportunities” I had – the fact that I, for instance, had my education paid for and didn’t have to “earn” it via a football scholarship like him. I lacked, and likely still lack, authenticity in his eyes. He is probably right – but, hey, that’s the dialectic. He’s not read his Thomas Mann and never will.

Flashforward to me. This probably belongs on Kotsko’s tuesday hate thing, but I hold a not so secret antipathy for those who have intellectual, culturally sophisticated parents – Young American Authors whose fathers are Old American Authors. Young colleagues who’s parents are featured in the Norton Anthology of Theory (once lived a couple doors down from one of those….) That sort of thing is so deeply woven into me – this really visceral dislike for those were reading the Brontes at 12, who grew up in either Cambridge, and who call mom for advice (and contacts) when it’s time to write a book proposal.

I am, you see, authentic, or is it organic, as far as this goes, or so I tell myself. Obviously, its all a projective show, I know. But, god, can you imagine? The Care Bears, the writhing on the floor irony of their group’s name dribbled from dad’s coffee cup, lapped up less than furtively by the daughter. She’ll end up an investment banker, you know. Or, well, more likely the way things work, prominently featured on iTunes.

The band then turns to Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” sung by Lucio. His dad—Rip Westmoreland, son of William C., the late Vietnam-era general—is a vintage-guitar collector, so Lucio’s playing a Fender Precision bass approximately three-fourths his height and four times his age. His voice, currently in the midst of dropping, cracks a little on the knotty lyrics and melody, but that’s not what halts the song.

…snip…

“[Care Bears’] taste in music is sooo much better than when I was their age,” says [Lucian] Buscemi, son of actor Steve. “We haven’t really helped out with the way they play, but I guess we’ll help them become more known by recording them.”

No, I know. They’re baiting me with this crap. Written just for me, and the rest of us who walk around feeling like “the rest of us.” Steve Buscemi’s kid records William Westmoreland’s grandson. Perhaps all four could come together to produce a hybrid of Ghost World and Apocalypse Now, in which a moody strange guy with a hesitant taste for younger women holes up with his record collection just on the wrong side of the Cambodian border. Soundtrack by the kids.

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August 26, 2006 at 12:10 am

Posted in america, meta

my american adolescence as congealed within a braniff airways tv ad from the decade of my birth

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When you’ve got it, flaunt it!

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August 22, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Posted in america, marketing, sport

i’ve not seen this one…

with 3 comments

More here…

This is not going to be easy to get my hands on, is it? I’m actually working on something, something that has to do with maoism and tel quel and so forth… And this would be helpful, I think. But where to find this. Sure, yes, I know. But I don’t live there anymore.

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August 18, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Posted in movies, socialism

voigt-kampff test on youtube

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No, seriously, how grating, how absolutely symptomatic, of the slip of paranoid resistance under the fold of herbal essence “cool” in this video, friggin urban outfitters truckstop simulation, as it flashes from Dick himself, grubby and incessantly ticing, to these, what are they? Do we even need the missing labels?

Seriously, seriously. It’s a brilliant video. The human correlatives of Dick’s maddening prophesies respond to prophet himself with all of the inanity that he might have expected, feared…

UPDATE: Sorry. Was I unclear? My wife didn’t get wtf I was talking about either. I think it was my fault. But finally, after expanding a bit on my QEDing this video, she pointed me toward this, which is everywhere. Yes, that’s sort of what I meant. Am I being mean, a bit bitchy? Oh yes. But, really, it’s not just that. Rather, come on now, like the Foer that she is already incessantly compared to, the issue is what they’re picking for the big bucks, the mega-sophisticated marketting campaigns, our corporate guardians of culture. Pretty face, young, sure. But what troubles is the lack of interventional import, timeliness, human response. (It’s not in them. Look what happens when they try.) Bleach washing the f’d up stuff of the past, post relevance, to ensure a completely winterfresh and saltine reading xperience. Dick. Nabokov. Alan Moore. You name it. I mean, these are the big vehicles. I don’t know why I expect anything better, but… God, the cleanliness of these people. We are sure, at least, that they won’t make trouble. Spawn of the meritocracy (uh oh – getting close to home now), they multitask, they moon, they Brittany-up before the Obvious Issue. No. I just don’t know why I expect any better,here in ‘merica.

(META-UPDATE: Sorry, been struggling thru Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory at whole pages / hour. I think it’s starting to rub off on me, a bit.)

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August 17, 2006 at 12:27 pm

possible today?

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Geoff Dyer in Ways of Telling: The Work of John Berger:

The series Ways of Seeing was first broadcast in the Spring of 1972 on BBC2 late in the evening. The audience was small but since the ‘switch-off rate’ was extraordinarily low (i.e. once people began watching they continued till the end), the makers of the series were able to persuade the BBC to broadcast it again at prime time. The influence of the series and the book that Berger wrote after this hesitant start was enormous. Throughout the 1970s it was the key text in art colleges in Britain and in the USA; for many students and teachers alike it represented a turning point in their thinking about art. It opened up for general attention areas of cultural study that are now commonplace – decoding advertisements, for example – but which in 1972 were either virtually unknown or existed only in embryonic stage within the academy. (Many of the ideas of the series had already appeared in articles and essays by Berger: it is the transition to television and best-selling paperback that is important.) Taken together as Peter Fuller has said, the series and the book have had ‘a greater influence than any other art critical project of the last decade’, and probably, I would add of the post-war period.

The world, of course, has changed. And (in terms of my own personal interest in the idea) literature is much less photogenic than art. What are you could to fill the screen with, a Powerpoint presentation of lines of poetry? But still, Berger and his Ways of Seeing represent an instance of popularization without selling out, writing for the market. Can’t help but wonder if a similar sort of endeavor might be possible today, what it would take, what it would cost etc…

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August 15, 2006 at 10:46 pm