Archive for September, 2004

Who would have thought, having read Tracy Kidder‘s book Mountains Beyond Mountains, that Paul Farmer was a dry sarcastic wit? To read the book, which tells the rough childhood of Farmer — living with a large family in a school bus then in a leaky boat and his unpredictably going to Duke (now that is the sad part) then to Harvard to medical school then becoming a dedicated doctor in Haiti and founding Partners in Health–, you would have realized that Farmer is charismatic, but funny? Really funny? And a quick wit too.
Not that Kidder isn’t a wonderful writer. Not that he didn’t fall under Farmer’s spell — perhaps too much for some readers. But that Farmer is, when standing beside Kidder, funnier livelier quicker and even more articulate and complex than the character in Kidder’s book and not incidentally than Kidder himself.
Thanks to Susan Gladden who brought both Farmer and Kidder to Chapel Hill (along with a stop at Duke) and along the way managed to raise well over $20K for Partners in Health.
There was a full house at the Binkley Baptist Church and quite a line at the booksigning after. Both Kidder and Farmer were gracious and charming throughout. Interestingly enough we did not get graphic tear jerking stories (not that having read Mountians Beyond Mountains we would have expected that), but we did have the disconnects between the situations in Haiti and our place in the world brought to us strongly in Farmer’s talk. One quick example: During the last hurricane to pass through Florida 6 people died, but in Haiti over 2400 people died. The difference is that Haiti has no infrastructure and no wealth and not much government. Since the US, according to Farmer, has spent almost as much time ruling Haiti (directly or indirectly) in the past century, we own a lot of the problems there.
Farmer wasn’t shy about telling us about his book, Pathologies of Power. He made the joke that people had come up to him and said “I read your book. It was so uplifting.” He knew they meant they had read Kidder’s book, because no one would find Pathologies of Power uplifting.

Update: Sally Greene also blogged this experience on her Greenespace.blogspot.com site.

Update: Anton Zuiker also blogged his experience at the talk and in Haiti at his Zuiker.com site.

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One of the many and various joys of being the father of a young reader is that you are introduced to some killer books that you would never had read otherwise. Tucker had me read Louis Sacher’s Holes long before it was a movie; that was great. But then I did have to suffer through the Animorphs. Even that series has it’s upsides, particularly Number 16 The Warning in which our heroes discover a Yerk-devised web site and are lead to the home of an AOL-like founder who may or may not be a powerful alien.
But one series of books, he has told me to avoid while he devours them. Of course, I too ignored the warnings and dug into the Series of Unfortunate Events. The latest book, which dear reader unless you wish to fall head first into a pool of your own tears made deep by this tragic story of the Baudelaire orphans you should definitely not read, called “The Grim Grotto” contains puzzles that cannot be solved unless you are well-read. The poetry of Eliot and of Lewis Carroll must be known to know the answers to one of the codes for example. And I do not mean “Cats” but the “Waste land”.
Each of the books, there will be 13 in all, has 13 chapters in which terrible things happen to orphans and others which I cannot write about without feeling faint. And I am feeling beyond faint now as I steel myself to warn you dear reader to prepare yourself for the coming in December of a movie with no happy ending, no happy beginning and not much happiness inbetween. Stay home and go to no movies for a while lest you are forced to see the trailer or worse that you wander into the wrong side of the cineplex and see the sad film itself.
The author, Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler, also did the interview/liner notes for one of my favorite CD collections, 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields put out by Chapel Hill’s Merge Records.

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The discussion that started between Bruce Lawrence and John Hood over the application of the word “insurgents” to describe people who are fighting against American forces in Iraqi has taken on more steam. Probably unbeknownst to Bruce, the folks in the Locker Room have been parsing out the meanings of the encounter and the alternative words. John Hood’s version of the crossing of minds was followed by a posting from Jeff Taylor in which Jeff asks “does dissident accurately describe Tim McVeigh?”
The answer is technically yes but precisely no. I mean and Jeff means I assume that it’s not strong enough to be accurate. I will say that what Jeff says is the military’s prefered term “anti-Iraqi’ forces both accurate and bogus at the same time.
I suggested to John that if he or Bruce had used the cognate for “insurgents,” “freedom fighters” instead we would have had an even more amusing encounter. John’s answer accurate, but I think not quite right, is that a “freedom fighter” could be fighting for freedom (how Reagan saw his Contras) or as fighting against freedom (unlikely reading by most contemporary English speakers I’d say.)
When I was a participant at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder in 2002, Norman Solomon enraged the thoughtful Stuart Schoffman by saying that if there were “suicide bombers” on one side then the Israeli’s who shot rockets from tanks or from planes should be called “homicide bombers.” Norman pressed on such reversals until Stuart, who had worked for reconciliation, was spitting nails.
Oddly enough, I, not long after, heard the term “homicide bombers” being used. But not refering to Israelis as Norman had suggested, but by Israelis seeking to put the focus on the crimes of the self-exploding killers. As the Disinfopedia notes:

The use of these two terms [actually three terms in the article: suicide bomber, homicide bomber and martyr -- PJ] by opposing parties to a violent conflict demonstrates the way that propaganda contributes to social polarization. Rather than sharing a common language, the people who use these terms have invented language which enables them to deepen their estrangement and even to erase awareness of their mutual humanity.

Language can be a weapon, but it is not your friend entirely. As Eliot says in Prufrock: It is impossible to say just what I mean! Wittgenstein agreed or at least that’s how I read him.

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Fred Stutzman will be one of the expert panelists on the Future of Music in the Triangle discussion upcoming on Saturday.
What: Future of Music in the Triangle
When: Saturday October 2; 2 to 4 pm
Where: Carrboro Century Center; 100 N. Greensboro St., right across from the Weaver Street Market lawn.
Parking: public parking lot right across the street from the entrance of the Century Center
Moderator: Fiona Morgan, Independent Weekly staff writer
Panelists:

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I was at Duke yesterday for a discussion about topics for a year (at least) project with the Interdisciplinary Studies and John Hope Franklin Center. Among the topics arising were many of the issues discussed and mulled over in our class (and by Rheingold et al). That is: trust, identity, community, and human-computer interactions (not necessarily of the mechanical type but of the psychological and even spiritual type).
I ended up wondering what it would be like to import (or channel) Barry Wellman into the discussion (Note: I did bring up social capital and Nan Lin which were entirely on the point, but on to this point). That is to say that all the theory and approaches seemed to be looking a cyberspace as a new place rather than as a newish place imbedded and framed by its relationship to every day life.
Rheingold came to this earlier than he admits in Wellman’s “Internet in Everyday Life” collection. He talks, when he talks about the Well, about the importance of the potlucks and of the death of a Well poster (even a problematic one) as some of the things that made the Well a community by creating communion.
After writing this, I think the person from Art and/or English, who suggested that one topic be the “historical concept of the face in European culture” as a way to understand new ways of building face to face communication environments or of simulating such environments, might have been the wisest person in the room.

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Our project with Tom Davenport and friends, called Folkstreams.net, which will put some 50 documentary films on the net for viewing, was just funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Tom and Lara Bailey really worked hard to make this grant happen. The write up of the awards this year from IMLS features Folkstreams.net as one of the exemplars — out of 44 grantees only 3 are mentioned in the write up. Only two North Carolina institutions were awarded Leadership grants this year and we are one of those two.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science – Chapel Hill, NC – $95,113

2004 National Leadership Grants for Libraries – Preservation or Digitization

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science, in partnership with Folkstreams, Inc., and ibiblio.org, will digitize documentary films on American folk culture and provide global access to them on the Folkstreams.net Web site. The films will be transferred from 16 mm film to Digital Betacam and, along with the videotapes and digital copies, will be preserved in the Southern Folklife Collection. A multimedia Web site demonstration highlighting the skills required for transfers from 16 mm film to digital formats will be created.

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A wistful almost sad close up look at political bloggers is in today’s NYTimes mag. Among the revelations: Wonkette used to write for suck.com when it didn’t suck and she was hired to be the character wonkette. Bloggers like other writers are often not-so-social creatures with axes of various kinds to grind.

But the other thing worth noticing is that the article focuses entirely on Democratic bloggers. The article is pre-Republican convention and definitely pre-Memogate. It shows a blogger-triumphalism of a different kind. Already blogs are being touted as a Conservative tool instead of Liberal one. Did things change so quickly or is our polar political drift going to show more wild swings between left and right as each organizing tool or media outlet gets a moment in the ink or electrons?

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As it happened on university campii, people with very different passions and backgrounds cross paths and a spirited discussion ensues. Thus it was, dear readers, on Thursday as I walked with John Hood who was coming to talk to my class about The John Locke Foundation and virtual community.

Our paths crossed with that of scholars of Islam, Carl Ernst of UNC and Bruce Lawrence of Duke. Bruce was visiting with Carl.

After introductions, talk quickly turned to Iraq. I wish I could capture the phrasings here, but as the rhetoric esculated I was as Sufis and others might say “in the moment.” What we ended on. Or rather what Bruce and John ended on was a debate, however brief and informal, over the use of the word, “insurgent.” Each told the other to “look it up!” I don’t know that either did, but I have and both are right. Isn’t English wonderful?

John Hood used insurgent to mean:

a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority

But he left out the part that Bruce was trying to be sure were also included:

1. insurgent, insurrectionist, freedom fighter, rebel — (a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions))
2. guerrilla, guerilla, irregular, insurgent — (a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment)

Definition source WordNet 2.0

In saying this, I don’t mean to say that Lawrence triumphed over Hood, but to point out how not just words but how restrictive the definitions can be or how expansive. This harkens back to Cori Dauber’s readings/writings about the way the Iraq War is reported and the use of “terrorists.”

For the record, my mental picture of “insurgents” had the fighters surging in from somewhere else; that is, insurgents as invaders. Wrong by definition but powerful by the imaginative power of words and sound.

Addition: John Hood’s take on the discussion from his blog.

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The group political blog started by Ruby Sinreich, orangepolitics.org, celebrated its one year anniversary tonight with buy your own beers at the Orange County Social Club. The event was well attended by local politicos — some of whom are regular contributors — and other amusing people. I have no pictures, but the Daily Tar Heel camera guy was very busy taking photos and the reporter was taking names etc. Look for a story on Monday there.

Ruby has won awards from all over — Independent, WCHL, and others in the past year for her work creating and managing the blog.

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Courtney Pulitzer ran a report on the Commons benefit in her newsletter, Courtney Pultizer’s Cyber Scene, which reports on Silicon Alley and other NYC cyberscenes. Nice write up with a better collection of names and people than my little write up from the 22nd. Secret crushes are revealed etc. (but mine has pictures ;->).

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Woo woo! Max has digitized and edited the video we shot of Doc Searls’ talk here a couple of weeks back. Enjoy.

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I’ve been very confused by the Red State/Blue State thing. Reds were lefties in the olden days. Now suddenly Red means the state went for Bush. The Online Journalism Review says in an article called “Balancing Act: How News Portals Serve Up Political Stories”

Google News uses computer algorithms to identify top stories while Yahoo
News favors old-fashioned human editors. But do Google’s automated search
results display a conservative bias?

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John Hood visited our class in JOMC191.8 seminar. Along the way, we had a conversation about the difference between risk and uncertainty as described in 1921 by Frank Knight. John recommends this essay from New School and points additionally to Knight’s book, Risk, Uncertainty and Profit.

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The pictures are up! (I also found pictures I took at the Commons Launch in 2002). And there are many good folks whose picture I didn’t take: Glenn Otis Brown (CC Director) and his mom, Neeru Paharia (also of Commons), Diane Cabell, Laurie Racine (Center for the Public Domain), John “maddog” Hall (Linux International), John Perry Barlow, more of the bands, Warren-Wilson alumna Lauren Yaffe and her husband, many more. Great conversations and wonderful music. Fear not! There were wired photographers all over the place so I’m sure we’ll see some shots of the night in the upcoming Wired (November 04), but mine will have to do for now.
Gil is a voracious recreater of music. His versions of Imagine, No Woman No Cry, Chuck Berry Fields Forever, etc were completely new and inventive works. His instrumentation was also eclectic: accordian, banjo, various percussions (two players), mandolin, various guitars plus his own electric solid body.
Byrne had the Tosca String (of Austin Texas) along with his band. He not only played from his new CD but also the Hits (Psycho Killer, Life During War Time, etc).
The bands played together at transition and at the finale. The last song being “Don’t Fence Me In” for the Creative Commons.
The whole place was bopping just a short ways into Byrne’s set (I wondered sillily if he could top Gil; both are great and quite different).
Wired photographers were everywhere — so keep an eye out for the November Wired due out late October I believe. That issue will include a CD of music licensed under the Creative Commons license. Listening to mine now (see earlier post for listings).
Lessig announced that the Byrne/Eno collaboration, “My Life in the Bush with Ghosts,” will be rereleased soon. The collection will be covered by standard copyright, so you cannot I assume pirate and sell bootleg copies, but the individual tracks will be covered by the Creative Commons licenses (I’m guessing the same Sampling freedoms as the Wired CD).
I noticed that the Wired CD was already registered and described in the CDDB when I popped it into iTunes early this morning.

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Altho my greys conflict with their grey and the cleaned up construction worker looking guys that protect the lobby (on the 7th floor) have shinier shoes, they let me in. Have to poke my
head out soon. This place is so cool the water freezes. Luckily sleep is not in my plans.
.
I was immediately welcomed to NYC at the airport by “Limo” driver who would give me a great price to mid-town — twice what the cab which was 50 ft away charges.

No picture could do justice to the W enterance. Its a cross the ceiling waterfall with lights breaking thru the water on glass above your head so that you feel completely surrounded by water.

By some quirk of fate I am in room 2004! Right across from the Roger’s Theatre where Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel’s Movin Out is playing (or better dancin’).

You can dream about NYC but you cannot really afford to be here. I feel like Tantalus with so much near but so far away.

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International Activities and Social Movements in Rheingold

TWICS in Japanese
TWICS in English
COARA in Japanese
CalvaCom in French
CIX in the UK
Frank Odasz of Big Sky Telegraph
RTPnet – local FreeNet
Association for Community Networking
EarthTrust
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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The new news is that Wired will be releasing an unrestricted CD at the concert (amusingly enough, the article in the WSJ will be restricted soon so I’ll find another link). Gilberto Gil, David Byrne, Town Hall and Creative Commons all have sites for your information and your pleasure.

Remember:
The event will be Webcast LIVE 8-11 p.m. EDT September 21 via a custom- skinned QuickTime player featuring live audio streamed in high-quality MPEG4/AAC audio, along with a slideshow of photos that will be shot and published via the player as the event occurs. QuickTime player will be available on www.creativecommons.org starting Wednesday, September 15.

Wired magazine’s "Rip. Sample. Mash. Share." compilation CD invites
listeners to copy, remix and sample these songs and others at will:

ARTIST SONG
Beastie Boys ‘Now Get Busy’
David Byrne ‘My Fair Lady’
Zap Mama ‘Wadidyusay?’
My Morning Jacket ‘One Big Holiday’
Spoon ‘Revenge!’
Gilberto Gil ‘Oslodum’
Dan the Automator ‘Relaxation Spa Treatment’
Le Tigre ‘Fake French’
Paul Westerberg ‘Looking Up in Heaven’
Cornelius ‘Wataridori 2′
Matmos ‘Action at a Distance’
Source: Wired

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I’ve been having a great time going back to the email from 10 years back when we plotted to put WXYC on the net 7/24. Mike Shoffner and David McConville did all the work with help from Jonathan Magid and Chris Columb, but I got to be involved too. The biggest problem wasn’t the technologies available — we knew what we had sucked but were willing to try anyway (CUSeeMe the new product is probably better but we’re talking low low bandwidth in those days) — but that we were stiffled for a few months by legal concerns. No one had ever done a constant simultaneous net.cast of a radio station so no one knew what libilities we might enounter. In fact, the guy who was most experienced, Internet Talk Radio’s Carl Malamud, told us that it wasn’t possible to do what we wanted to do legally. Luckily David was not convinced and found that college stations could put a signal on a wire — this was the famous carrier current radio that college stations without antennae used in the 60s.
Then we hit the IETF streaming folks, like Brad Templeton who didn’t find it rec.funny at all, (more on this later and I hope to get some snips from old emails up too.)

My favorite artifact is this recording of a Swiss radio station trying to listen to WXYC in early 1995.

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My beloved wife, Sally Greene, is in Denver blogging about the National Newspaper Association meeting there. She has discovered ethernet connections in the hotel and discovered that community papers don’t care for bloggers anymore than they like buggers. News flash: they can’t see a profit in blogging or even putting information on the web.
The most important part of the entire Convention is this: my mother-in-law and Gilmer Mirror publisher Sarah L. Greene will receive the Emma C. McKinney Award.

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Two of ibiblio’s most popular contributors got some great press in the past couple of days.

librarian.net
‘s Jessamyn West was written up in Wired in an article called “Don’t Mess With Librarians “. Since at least 1993 when Jessamyn began putting the rarin’ back in librarian, we knew not to mess with them.

Roger McGuinn, whose FolkDen project is approaching its tenth year, was the subject of a very nice interview in Christianity Today called “No Ordinary Folk”.
Roger is also the subject of an interview by the Creative Commons folks now posted on their site along with another interview with DJ Spooky

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