Wednesday various

  • A lot has been written recently about the “film,” Innocence of Muslims, notably its offensiveness to Muslims (and film lovers), the violence that’s erupted in its wake, and the duplicitous nature with which it was made. Now, via Neil Gaiman one of the actresses speaks out:

    It’s painful to see how our faces were used to create something so atrocious without us knowing anything about it at all. It’s painful to see people being offended with the movie that used our faces to deliver lines (it’s obvious the movie was dubbed) that we were never informed of, it is painful to see people getting killed for this same movie, it is painful to hear people blame us when we did nothing but perform our art in the fictional adventure movie that was about a comet falling into a desert and tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it, it’s painful to be thought to be someone else when you are a completely different person.

  • I’m not quite sure I buy into the idea of Breaking Bad as a “White supremacist fable” entirely — it’s probably true the show doesn’t get the drug trade right, but, then, it’s not really about the drug trade, is it? — but there’s some interesting food for thought here:

    White-washing the illegal drug market involves depicting it like markets wealthy viewers are more comfortable and familiar with, namely those of the farmers market or the local pharmacy. Walter White combines the ostensible moral complexity television audiences demand in a post-Soprano protagonist with a cleanliness that allows him to market expensive cars. The U.S. is still very much a white supremacist country, but classic cowboys-kill-Indians narratives don’t play with wealthy viewers or the critics who help determine those tastes. And Jack Bauer can drive only so many cars. For the credulous viewer who likes to imagine he’s a couple of life crises from being the Larry Bird of meth — and for the people who sell him stuff — White is right.If nothing else, the article makes me want to re-watch The Wire.

  • John Green on self-publishing and Amazon:

    Here’s my concern: What will happen to the next generation’s Toni Morrison? How will she—a brilliant, Nobel-worthy writer who doesn’t have a huge built-in audience—get the financial and editorial support her talent deserves? (You’ll note that there’s no self-published literary fiction anywhere near the kindle bestseller lists.) Amazon will have absolutely no investment in that writer, and they won’t need to. Over time, I’m worried this lack of investment will hurt the quality and breadth of literature we actually read, even if literature remains broadly available.

  • This isn’t new, but: Jonathan Coulton on the future of music, 3D printing, and scarcity:

    This is my bias: the decline of scarcity seems inevitable to me. I have no doubt that this fight over mp3s is just the first of many fights we’re going to have about this stuff. Our laws and ethics already fail to match up with our behaviors, and for my money, those are the things we should be trying to fix. The change is already happening to us, and it’s a change that WE ARE CHOOSING. It’s too late to stop it, because we actually kind of like a lot of the things that we’re getting out of it.

  • And finally, PBS asks, “Can fandom change society?” [via]

Monday various

  • Here’s a question: Who inherits your iTunes library? Maybe a follow-up to that: would you want someone to inherit it?

    There’s a significant difference between shelves of books or stacks of records and folders of e-books or mp3s. There’s no re-sell value to the latter, for instance, either because of the difficulties of transferring the files or because of restrictions inherent in the licensing agreements we sign. So the only reason to bequeath your digital media is if you feel the person receiving it in your will actually will want it.

  • Ass-whooping on NPR.
  • In other news, they were still printing Nintendo Power Magazine?
  • Writing credits in documentaries: apparently a bigger issue than you might think.
  • And finally, Space Stallions!

    More information here.

Monday various


I went back to the office today, but it was colder and overcast, turning to rain by the evening, so it’s probably all for the best. I wouldn’t have spent much of today out in the backyard.

The official announcement about my new position at work, which has been tied up for a couple of reasons even though I’ve ostensibly had the new job for over a month, went out finally by e-mail today. It’s weird to be praised for my “calm and affable nature,” but it is nice to be officially welcomed into the new group. (That affable calm thing, though? It’s all an act.)

Today was a day of meetings, or at least two meetings, sandwiched around a brown bag lunch. Our speaker was Tere Stouffer, best know as the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the World of Harry Potter. She detailed her experience writing that book, which J.K. Rowling has cited as the good kind of scholarly guide to her wizarding world, and in publishing in general. And there were free sandwiches for lunch, so I’m not going to complain.

And that was my Wednesday.

Kicking it old school

More of the same today, which will almost certainly continue tomorrow, and which threatens to spill over into next week. How busy am I at the office? I have an away message up in my e-mail, even though I rarely leave my desk.

I left only briefly this afternoon for lunch and then a presentation — that’s meeting-like, so I think the Year of the Meeting will allow it — on the role of adjunct professors at colleges and universities. Apparently, it’s really on the rise, with some schools relying on adjuncts for two thirds or more of their faculty, and with tenure becoming increasingly a thing of the past. The focus, obviously, was on what that means for those of us trying to put textbooks in instructors’ hands and secure course adoptions, but it raises all kinds of other issues, like about who’s teaching (and with what credentials), how honest a university is about that (since “adjunct” can still carry a stigma), and the value of a higher education. Which isn’t to say that adjuncts — or whatever a school is calling them — are worse than tenured faculty; often enough the opposite can be true. But the presentation and discussion did reveal that higher education, at least in the US, is rapidly changing.

This week, though, seems like it hasn’t changed at all since Monday. At least tomorrow is Friday. I know I won’t be working over the weekend. (I don’t get paid for it if I do.)