Happy copyright

I saw Christina’s copyright overview the other day, and was inspired. She was responding to this assignment, part of the Creative Commons Certificate course:

Create a video, slide presentation, or infographic (or choose another medium) in which you describe the basics of copyright law as covered in Module 2. Make an effort to create something that would be useful and interesting to someone else.

At a minimum, include descriptions of:
the purpose of copyright,
what is copyrightable and what is not,
the relationship between copyright and other methods of protecting intellectual property,
how a person receives copyright protection for their work,
the public domain, and
exemptions to copyright like fair use.

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to do this as an audio recording. Would it be possible to be brief and compelling enough to hold a listener’s interest, while still meeting the requirements? How much information can be conveyed through sound rather than words?

My first thought was to use the Happy Birthday song. It should be instantly recognizable, so it could be used as a hook to draw people in. I found a guitar tutorial (YT) by Andy Crowley through CC Search and borrowed some of the audio for an intro and outro. I probably should have done more audio production and better recording. So it goes.

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New York 2140

A castle in the sky, one mile high
Built to shelter the rich and greedy
Rows of eyes, disguised as windows
Looking down on the poor and the needy
Miles of people, marching up the avenue
Doin’ what they gotta do, just to get by
I’m living in the land of plenty and many
But I’m damn sure poor and I don’t know why

New York New York, big city of dreams
And everything in New York ain’t always what it seems
You might get fooled if you come from out of town
But I’m down by law and I know my way around

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – New York New York

Even though I’ve lived in New York State most of my life, I’ve only been to NYC once, so it’s a place I know through media rather than experience. Like the Grandmaster Flash song above. The latest book for the Bryan Alexander Book Club adds some new dimensions to the big city of dreams.

New York 2140 envisions a New York that has become a kind of new Venice since the ocean level has risen a hundred feet. NYC being NYC, people are still hanging on, and still coming, even though the tides are now coming up to the middle of Manhattan. It’s still a finance center though, and the wealth and power inequalities are even more extreme, such that the rich and powerful can simply turn away police and defy warrants. Or commit acts of vandalism and abduction. There are still big dreams too – of sunken treasure and overturning the social order. Optimism in the face of disaster.

The characters seem rather stock, but I don’t think that’s a problem. They’re more important for what they represent rather than who they are. It contributes to the lightness and humor of the novel as well.

The storyline has multiple threads. Chapters are named for characters, and show the story from their perspective. The threads come together as the characters intersect and intertwine. NYC is a character as well, represented by The Citizen, also called A Citizen or That Citizen or The City Smartass Again. The chapter names repeat as the story rotates through the various characters’ perspectives.

The audiobook is especially well done. There are nine voices, one for the epigraphs that introduce each chapter, and eight for the different chapter designations. Mutt and Jeff have some fun banter

as they expose the situation of the novel and some of its philosophy. The reader’s vocal characterizations give a great sense of a conversation between two people. Speaking of vocal characterization, here’s The Citizen:

The accent, cadence and delivery are, to me, an aural image of NYC. It reminds me of actor John Spencer crossed with Ray Liotta from Goodfellas, and may be my favorite part of the audiobook. I think this title serves as a good example of how a good vocal performance can add something to a book. There’s a level of humor brought out by the readers that I don’t really get when I read the text. So far, so good.

Banksy https://www.instagram.com/p/e9zpaOq-_l/

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“I got nasty habits”

The first part of Four Moves and a Habit is the habit: Check yourself. That’s something worth remembering.

I saw a version of this in my Twitter feed yesterday:

I was impressed. The error is subtle until you see it, then it’s glaring. But there are problems with the key and the coloring coding too. The more I thought about the image, the more I wanted it to be a hoax. Because how is a mistake like that even possible?

So I did some detective work. You can find chapters of Glencoe Science: Biology online in PDF format. I didn’t find the image, and they don’t look like the image would come from there, but it’s possible that it’s from a different edition. I did find it on Reddit, which is a good place to get a hoax to spread. I did an image search in Chrome (which I could have done initially, but I wanted to see what else I could find first), and found the image on a lot of Pinterest pages and Reddit threads. You can filter Google search results by time, so I thought I’d play with that function. If I limit the search to the first week of July, there are no matching results. Same with the second week. On July 15, the image shows up in some Reddit threads and the Terrible Maps Facebook page. Signs point to “hoax.”

I can see why it spreads though. It’s so easy to be appalled and amused by it. It’s so easy to want to share the feeling. That’s why we need to check our emotions, as Caulfield’s book advises. Bad habits let falsehoods spread.

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Albert Brooks on America

This was my introduction to Albert Brooks. (Fun fact: His real surname is Einstein.) My parents had his LP, Comedy Minus One, and the part I remember best is the skit about the national anthem.

America seems to be a theme running throughout his work from the beginning, America from a showbiz perspective.  Some of his movies, like Real Life and Modern Romance, reflect this to varying degrees. They also show him to be rather whiny and self-obsessed.

I had pretty much forgotten about Brooks over the years. I didn’t even recognize him in Out of Sight. So when I saw his name on the list of potential titles for Bryan Alexander’s book club, my interest was piqued. His novel, 2030, was originally intended to be a screenplay, but they thought it would be too expensive to film. This seems a little silly to me. It’s a people story, not a special effects story. It’s unfortunate too, because it would have been interesting to see him take a Peter Sellers approach and play multiple roles – the president, the guy who loses his home in the earthquake, the guy who cured cancer, and perhaps even the Kevorkian character.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The story is set in the US in 2030. Medical science has cured cancer and arrested aging, so people are living into their 90s, essentially as 40 year olds. The younger generation is going broke footing the bill, and leading some to consider violent revolt and terrorism. A major earthquake flattens Los Angeles. Given the country’s financial state, rebuilding means borrowing, and China is the only country in a position to help. They refuse to make the loan, and instead offer to rebuild the city in exchange for a half ownership in it. Chinese entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to make even more inroads into the US. The book ends with one of them getting elected president.

There’s very little implausibility here. I can accept the medical advances as a sci-fi premise. I think the lives of the olds would be just as precarious as those of the younger generation, because I can’t imagine a political will to rebuild and maintain the social safety net. The idea that the Constitution could be changed that quickly, and that the public would accept an immigrant as a presidential candidate, is the part that strains the suspension of disbelief. Still, much of it sounds contemporary. I read it several months ago, and I’ve seen many of the issues reflected in headlines.

For example,  this USA Today article, Is Cruise ship living a cheaper option for seniors than assisted living? talks about a situation right out of the book, where people and families find it more economical to warehouse the elderly on massive boats than to keep them in homes. I might have put it alongside the implausible ideas before I saw the article, Betteridge’s Law aside.

I don’t see any movement against the older generation as a whole, but there are those who feel we could use fewer of them in public office:

The rise of China has been covered heavily, but this article names 2030 as as inflection point: “A new book by the famed historian Alfred McCoy predicts that China is set to surpass the influence of the U.S. globally, both militarily and economically, by the year 2030.”

I saw a whole thread on special economic zones. SEZs are analogous to what happens with LA in the novel, as it is shared with China and special privileges are granted to their people. As the thread points out, an SEZ is coming to Wisconsin. Both the thread and the book suggest Detroit as a good candidate for one. Once upon a time, the vision was that an American company could fix it. Now that isn’t even considered plausible enough for sci-fi. I wonder how Brooks might rewrite the anthem today?

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Nine albums that built me

This was a Twitter challenge from Questlove: List the nine albums that “built” you.
It’s a challenging challenge, first because it’s hard to limit it to nine, and secondly because I have to decide how to interpret “built.” It’s not nine best or nine favorites really, more like nine albums that were formative in some way. I could come up with several more than nine. Let me think through my choices here.

Quadrophenia – We didn’t have classic rock radio in those days. There was Top 40 and there was Album-Oriented Rock, and neither played The Who until Who Are You came out. I got Quadrophenia from the public library, and borrowed it over and over again. The library played a major role in my musical education over the decades, because it was a risk-free way to explore.
Volunteers – Another library find, this got me into the whole sixties hippie thing. It was my favorite record at one or more points in time. I grew up with Beatles albums because my parents had them, but I found there was a lot more going on back then.
There’s A Riot Goin’ On – This record took funk in a whole new direction. I came across it probably a decade after the fact, and was captivated by the sound. And fascinated by its significance in music history, so I became a student.
Horses – This was a punk rock record, although people probably don’t recognize it as such anymore. Another eddy in the flow of history. Powerful, adventurous and ambitious. I put Horses and Easter on a cassette back in the 90s and let it play over and over again in my car for about a month.
Point of Entry – This is the record that made me a metalhead in the early 80s. For better or worse. Not the best or most significant, but the one that got me in. It lives up to its name.
Fun House – I found this in the 99 cent bin at Record Archive. I didn’t know anything about it, except that I recognized the name from somewhere. I realized weeks later that it was from the Rolling Stone Record Guide, which said not to bother with any of Iggy’s albums, just look for copies of the out-of-print Stooges records, “But only if you thought the Sex Pistols were mellow.”
Uncle Sam – They were a local band in Rochester NY. They made me realize that the bands playing in the local clubs were just as good as the ones on the radio and in the arenas, which opened up a new vista for me.
Fear of a Black Planet – I had rap records before this, going back the The Message, but this grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go. Almost none of my people could stand it, but I played it to death anyway. And realized how strong it’s predecessor was along the way.
Ragged Soul – After a while, I had all the records and I had seen all the bands. There were no more surprises. Rock was dead. Then a band called The Lazy Cowgirls came to town on a Wednesday night. The little writeup in the local music weekly described the singer as Ralph Kramden on acid, so I figured it was up my alley. I liked the show. They were good. The more I thought about it, they were really good, and I made it my mission to find everything the recorded. This wasn’t easy in those days. It took me a few years. But once again, new vistas opened up for me.

I could come up with many more, but that’s my nine.

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Across 106 Street

It started with a simple Rogers-esque tweet from Kin

And as I looked through the photos, I noticed some were at the intersection of Amsterdam and a street named in honor of our very own ds106

So I felt compelled to respond

And the Jim put his little twist on it

referencing the 1972 NYC crime drama. I immediately thought of the Bobby Womack theme song, and wondered if there was a way to make something of it. I don’t have Cogdog-level lyric-writing skills though. But I thought if I could find an instrumental version (YT), I could also do an image search of 106 St. and make a slide show video. Then I remembered that there are tools to turn Google Street View trips into GIFs, like this one. In addition to going down a street, it has an option to do a 360 view from a spot, which sort fits the “across” idea. I found a suitably urban font on Da Font and slapped it all together into a video

Just another day on 106 Street.

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Can it happen?

Online bookclub master Bryan Alexander blogged about It Can’t Happen Here and how it does and doesn’t relate to the present, so I’ll add some personal connections.

On one hand, the novel certainly doesn’t map directly onto the current situation. But on the other hand, trends towards fascism and authoritarianism have been with us for a long time. We may not have a Corpo party, but you could make the case that the Corpos have co-opted both of the parties we have. The above song comes from early 90s alt-rock activists Consolidated, and takes its title from from a 1980 screed by Bertram Gross. The implication is that what can’t happen here has been happening for quite a while. And while we may not have a Corpo militia, we do have militarized law enforcement that has taken aggressive action in response to protests.

And then the day after I finish the book, this came through my Twitter feed:

Which is right out of Buzz Windrip’s campaign platform. The data comes from a survey asking what people would sacrifice for a 10% raise. It indicates to me a sense of desperation, that people feel they really need more money. But while it suggests people don’t value their own vote too highly, the fact that they’re far less willing to give up their children’s right could imply that they think voting is important. They say they won’t stoop to eating Tide Pods, so that’s something.

One thing in the novel that resonates with me is the name of the main character, Doremus. When I was growing up in Rochester, NY, the dean of the local newscasters was Warren Doremus, so it feels like a very appropriate name for a newsman. Another is the title:

I think I was in the ninth grade when I found The Mothers of Invention’s debut album, Freak Out, at the public library. I remember having a WTF fascination with the track, “It Can’t Happen Here.” It’s not something that normal people would sit through willingly, like the Beatles’ Revolution 9, but unlike that one it stuck in my head, so it’s my reference point for the expression. Zappa is saying that the general public didn’t expect that young people across the country would turn into nonconformist hippie freaks. Who could imagine that they would freak out in Minnesota? Who could imagine that they would freak out in the 30s? Given the socio-economic situation of those times, we might expect a freak out.

The decade was marked globally by the Great Depression. In the US, we also had the Dust Bowl. Communists were in power in Russia and had started a revolution in China, and communist parties were active in the US and Europe. Fascism was a reaction to these conditions, most notably in Germany, Italy and Spain. And apparently in the US as well, at least according to USMC Major General Smedley Butler. You also had Huey Long’s populism and William Pelley’s Silver Shirts, so maybe it really could have happened here.

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The book behind the book

Sinclair Lewis’ novel, It Can’t Happen Here, contains numerous references to a fictional book entitled Zero Hour – Over the Top. I thought I’d pull out all the excerpts and put them together here, along with a few thoughts.

“Zero hour” and “over the top” are both phrases from WWI. OED lists the first use of “zero hour” in an NYT article on an ill-fated military operation. “Over the top” comes from WWI trench warfare, referring to soldier coming out of the trenches and up into the battlefield – up into machine gun fire. The title is meant to evoke a sense of patriotism, as the US played a large part in winning the Great War a little less than two decades earlier. But there is also a destructive fatalism about it – it suggests that it is time to jump into the meat grinder. The screenshots below are linked to Hypothes.is highlights, so you can click through to see them in context.

Note the contradictions – Washington and Jefferson are old-fashioned, yet the goal is to get back to the Founding Fathers’ principles. But maybe change the whole Constitution. The sense of nativism coupled with a sense of cultural inferiority. The claimed desire to do things legally while also claiming a need to be above the law.

Interesting how family, public interest, and humble delights describe Doremus Jessup. Also how he equates vulnerability with divinity. In describing the Press he’s actually describing himself.

He promotes intolerance and increases poverty through his words and actions, rather than slashing them. He aspires to be an emperor, yet claim kinship to the Common Man.

“Protestingly” implies that he doesn’t want the spotlight that he seeks. He’s also making another claim to divinity.

William Dudley Pelley and his Silver Shirts may have been models for this novel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Legion_of_America. Who are the real threats to “Liberty, High Wages, and Universal Security?”

He’s describing the identity politics of white supremacy, and calling for sacrifice on the part of the people for the benefit of those in charge.



a misrepresentation – the quote comes from the words of the king of Assyria https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A31-32&version=NIV

He’s saying ordinary folks “can’t handle the truth.”

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One way or another

Some rambling thought from recent readings:

When I used to explore MOOCs, I thought that if your MOOC requires people to watch video, you’re not doing it right. Siemens et al. set them up so participants could choose which content to interact with, so videos were optional. That sense of learner autonomy is what drew me to MOOCs. I think it’s a key component of openness as well. That’s reflected in the vision of personal learning that Downes brought to MOOCs in the first place.

Belshaw reviewed Downes’ talk on Why Personal Learning. I was drawn to his assessment of the Groups vs Networks slide: “…it’s a wider thing than just an approach to learning. It’s an approach to society.” Groups and Networks are subtitled as Collectives and Communities, which is a great bit of wordplay. “Collectives” implies communism, something that’s generally frowned upon here in the US, while community is something that is valued, in word if not in deed. On the other hand the Group model as presented looks a lot like what our society aspires to be. As Belshaw says, “some people want paternalism as it provides a comfort blanket of security.”

Does it have to be one or the other? I like the Network model. Maybe I’m something of a “roaming autodidact.” I do fit the description. But I think people should be empowered to take control of their own learning and education. They may choose the comfort blanket, but they should have the option of casting it off.

Moe discusses the importance of video in MOOCs – “the rich history of educational film needs to be a staple of contemporary course design” – but I don’t think that video should be the sole or primary focus. It doesn’t need to be one way. I don’t think the focus should be on content consumption either, but rather interaction and creation. Kinda like what happens in ds106. Give people the opportunity to find their own ways to document their understanding and express their questions.

Of course some MOOCs aren’t about that. They’d rather “see it all, find out who you call” and see what they can do with that data – the price you pay for paternalism.

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The times they are a-GIFfing

The Internet brought this to my attention the other day. It’s from a Canadian variety series called Quest, back from the days when TV could be experimental. Basically the video has Bob playing in some backwoods cabin for a bunch of mostly disinterested smokers. See the first comment under the video:

“Hey kid, make sure you buss those tables and clean out the grease trap when you’re done ‘changing’ the world'”.

I like the chiaroscuro lighting and the random shots of the observers, so I thought I’d try GIFfing it. I played with masking and coloring a bit – the coloring came out okay, but the masking not so much because the camera isn’t as still as it seems. I guess I got a little carried away.


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