I Admit, I Laughed

So, you remember when an assortment of university libraries conspired with Google to make digital copies of books they didn’t hold the copyrights to or have explicit permission from the copyright holders to make those copies? And you remember how nothing came of it because apparently you can sometimes get away with shit when powered by sheer audacity and the difficulty copyright holders have figuring out if you violated their copyright?

And remember how it was especially appalling that libraries would be involved in this since they damn well knew better?

Perhaps you knew that those illicitly made digital copies now reside in a “trust”–HathiTrust to be exact–at the University of Michigan. Which is, of course, a joke of a name, considering the massive breach of trust those libraries inflicted when they conspired with Google in the first place. But I supposed HathiTrustStartingRight…Now, though truer, would inspire less confidence in rightsholders. Though how rightsholders could have less confidence in institutions that have no regard for copyright law is unclear.

Perhaps you even saw that Duke University Press has decided to go ahead and “let” HathiTrust digitize much of their backlist, which is a little like saying to the cattle rustlers you caught coming out of the slaughter house with a wad of money and new boots that, fine, if they want to steal your cattle, could they at least give you boots too, since there is no “letting” since the digitization, for the most part, is already done.

And maybe you felt as I do, that you can’t really blame Duke, though, because it’s not like university presses can just afford to digitize their backlists. And it is valuable and should be available. And so, if you can shine a turd, why don’t you?

But you still would like for someone to knock the shit-eating grin off of the faces of the wrong-doers.

And then, along comes the Author’s Guild.

Edited to add: Here’s more, though I’m surprised they don’t mention the fact that they scanned a ton of books that aren’t orphaned, that they didn’t have the right to scan in the first place, which is how we got in this mess to begin with. I find Paul Courant’s statement somewhat shocking, though. Are libraries really unaware of how much ill-will they generated through this stunt? People were cooperating not because they were excited but because libraries had Google’s money and lawyers on their side. If someone can rise to the level of dean and not understand that… well, I find that hard to believe. He simply has to know how much ill-will there still is out there. It’s derailed the Google settlement, after all.

All this goes to show that you can have a good idea, but ramming it down people’s throats instead of getting their buy-in makes you enemies, not partners.


Opinions in this post are mine alone. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I will.

This Seems Ill-Advised

Someone should probably tell Tim Burchett that 19 year old guys whose 15 year old girlfriend’s parents don’t like probably aren’t a danger to people in the library and that the sex offender registry doesn’t differentiate between “My girlfriend’s parents don’t like me” and “I rape babies uncontrollably.”

But it’s nice to see Burchett passing sweeping resolutions that make life worse for those 19 year olds. Seems fair and reasonable. You know, if you don’t like things like “freedom.”

How Long?

This is Mordecai Johnson, who was born in Paris, Tennessee in 1890. He’s a famous educator, though, if you don’t run in education circles and you didn’t read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog today, you probably don’t know him.

I’ve been thinking about Reverend Johnson here all day. As you know, I am, in my own way, a venerator of ancestors, my own and other people’s who I just like. And I think that it’s incredibly disrespectful, in the case of the Civil War, for instance, for us to claim that it wasn’t about slavery or at least wasn’t primarily about slavery, when so many of the primary documents that white Confederates left us included the reasons they said they were leaving the United States. Is Mississippi mistaken about its own mind when it says, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”?

Is it better to frame Confederates as idiot liars who don’t even know their own reasons for seceding or to try to understand them as whole human beings, whom we love, who were capable of great evil? I think the second is the right relationship to the past, even if makes unconditional love more complicated.

But seeing Reverend Johnson at Coates’s blog today reminded me of the other reason we cling so desperately to our mythology of slavery–why we tell ourselves it wasn’t that important to the Confederacy, or it wasn’t that bad, or slaves were “better off.” Because it’s one thing to reconcile yourself to the evil your ancestors did against others. Yes, it’s terrible that your ancestor owned black slaves. But they were them. Those other people. Your ancestor was a racist, but those were the times.

But look at Reverend Johnson, the son of two slaves. Let’s be blunt. Johnson is not the descendant of one man who sneaked out back. One great-grandfather who acted less than honorably. Or even one grandfather. Johnson is descended from generations of men who kept their own children or the children of their friends and neighbors as slaves, who felt free to force themselves on those children and who felt that some of their own children could then be sold.

I think that’s got to be the ick we can’t acknowledge, let alone begin to shake off. We’re somewhat okay, finally, about acknowledging slavery’s cost to the slaves. But we’re not ready, at all, to look at the ways a slave society like the U.S. tried to make–and often succeeded in making–such monsters of non-slaves that some of us would sell our own children and most of us would turn a blind eye to it.

I keep thinking of the great grandma in my family that we blame for all the physical abuse among the branches of our family tree. Born back in 1880 and her actions still echo on down the generations. And surely she did what she was taught. Chances are she did what she was taught. By someone born in the 1850s, who, themselves were taught by someone born in the 1830s, and on back. Is it so hard to imagine that a man who would cut the two children of his who sided with the colonists over the British out of his will but who still kept such control over them that they moved as adults when and where he did might also have beat them until they couldn’t walk? Might have called them to the top of the stairs and pushed them down for fun?

I don’t know, myself. I’m just saying, in my family, there’s a streak of “I can do what I want to you and you dare not try to stop me” that runs for generations and that we still struggle to be better than–some of us, anyway.

If that’s just one family, how can it not have profound effects on the psyche of a whole nation to have been organized since our founding until the Civil War to let men sell their own children? Even if you were not among the children sold, you knew those were your playmates. You might have guessed they were your siblings. There aren’t that many secrets in a small town. And yet, of course, you still loved your parents.

I don’t know.

It just seems to me that fucks you up for generations after as well.

A Thought Experiment: The No Party System

Steve over at Vibinc posted a response to a post of mine the other day which was a response to another post I read. Woo, it’s just like in the olden days, when we had sweeping, multiplatform political discussions! I advise you go read Steve’s response, because this post is just going to be filled with my thoughts upon reading it.

Here are some things I thought reading it:

–I believe Roy Herron has proven himself, through his email, to have such unsound judgment that he shouldn’t be an elected official in Tennessee. Maybe that makes me an enormous, myopic bitch, but damn, that’s what I think. I will not be sad for a second if he loses, even if he loses to a Republican, just as I wouldn’t be sad if I realized the person driving a car I was in was too drunk to drive shortly before we were carjacked. Yep, the carjacker is still scum. I’m still stranded on the side of the road, but I’m not stuck in a car with a drunk driver.

–Same with G.A. Hardaway. If and when he gets voted out of office, I will say “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.” If he’s replaced by the kind of Republican that could get elected in Memphis, I ask you, what will be the difference to me?

–The more I know about politics in Tennessee, the more I write about it for Pith, and the more gossip I hear, the more apparent it is that we are fools electing fools. If our state could convert hubris to electricity, we’d never need to dig another coal mine or open another nuclear plant in the whole TVA region. We, who don’t understand how government works, elect politicians who don’t understand how government works, people who are demonstrably unfamiliar with the Constitution and who think that our country should be run however the biggest bullies say. We have the government we deserve and that is damn scary.

This lack of basic civics knowledge on the part of voters and politicians alike is… really, really not good for the political health of our state and country.

–I would vote for Emily Evans if I had the opportunity. I like that she’s brilliant and happy to piss people off for the sake of what she believes is the truth and that she’s loyal to people, even people I believe are morons, if they prove worthy of it. I trust her judgment. If she runs for something when she’s done with city council, should I not vote for her because she’s a Republican?

So, I say these things to kind of give you an idea where my headspace is before I ask this question. In a state where there is often no discernible difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, why should I not educate myself as much as I can on the candidates in every race and vote for who I think is the best candidate? Or maybe just the least worst?

What does the state Democratic party have to offer me as a liberal in terms of candidates or support for my candidates or what have you that should cause me to remain loyal to the idea of trying to work within the system on the off chance that it will eventually lead to more liberal candidates I’m more comfortable voting for?

Why shouldn’t I, as a voter, chuck the notion of a two-party system in which I’m as often voting against the specter of Republican hegemony as I am voting for Democrats? Why not just treat every race in the state as if it’s like voting for city council?

Yes, I know, by and large, the “independent voter” is a myth. And if I were an independent voter, it would largely be a myth as well, because most of the time, I’d vote Democratic.

But I can’t work within a system in which people are advocating that we don’t do anything for Obama, but that some of us should do something for Herron or Hardaway.

Here’s what I think is the truth: Everyone’s tired of the infighting, but we’re not done with it, because nothing’s settled. Or, if we stop infighting, then the same old folks who have always been in charge are still in charge, protecting their little fiefdoms, still. And we stay here in the wilderness for a generation.

Hell, we may be relegated to the wilderness for a generation no matter what. Let’s use that time to hash out some shit, you know?

And let’s start with hashing out why I should pick a team to be aligned with when neither team is very good about representing my interests. Why shouldn’t I, or anyone else who feels poorly represented, just vote for the individuals they think are best? Why shouldn’t I vote for Emily Evans, if I get the chance?

I’ve been asking a variation of this question for a long time–what does being a Democrat mean? Why would someone want to call herself that? And I can’t help but think, even reading Steve’s great post, that the answer is still “It means whatever it means to the people who work the hardest to make it mean something by donating time and/or money say it means.” And, sure, on the one hand, that’s great. That’s how it should be.

On the other hand, it means the Democratic Party in Tennessee remains controlled by old, rich, white guys who promise to be a tad less harsh to women and minorities.

Which still means there’s no real place for me.

And that makes me sad.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Not that my mom reads Tiny Cat Pants, but I will put some good vibes out here for her anyway. She’s 65 today. I tried to call her before the boys got to her, but it rolled to voicemail.

I was thinking this morning on our walk about an incident that happened when they were down here this spring, before her eye surgeries. So, imagine, if you will, my mom, with a master’s degree in… ugh, I forget whatever the hell she has it in… something. A woman who’s been a voracious and engaged reader her whole life. A woman who is friendly and engaging, even with complete strangers. And, for the last ten years or so, she’s been losing her sight. In fact, one of the reasons her iPhone has been a real lifesaver to her is that she can get it close enough to her face to see what’s on it. But imagine her, with contacts AND glasses, and still she had to hold it maybe four inches from her face.

I would be a grouchy and complaining mess. Depressed even. But not my mom. She still learned Facebook and played solitaire and just went on with her life.

And then she had a couple of eye surgeries and, while her vision is not great, it is better than it has been in my adult life and she’s allowed to drive during daylight hours again.

That’s not what I’m thinking about, though. I’m thinking about a time before the surgeries, when she was on Facebook on her iPhone in the car and she’s written something to one of her friends and it was filled with typos and such, as you’d imagine something would be if you were trying to read with it up close to your face and then trying to type on the iPhone keyboard also with it that close to your face, in a moving car.

And one of her other friends, a woman that she knows, who she worked with at the elementary school until she retired this spring, actually also wrote on this friend’s wall something like ha, ha, ha, my mom is so stupid and illiterate and she can’t believe my mom is in charge of teaching students to read when she obviously doesn’t even know English.

Now, obviously, because this was a thread my mom commented in and the woman who wrote it was also a friend of my mom’s and mentioned my mom by name, my mom saw that comment.

I will never forget seeing the look on her face change from excitement that her phone had notified her that someone had replied to her to the confusion and hurt at seeing the shit her friend was talking about her. Someone who knew about her eye problems.

And my mom just got briefly upset and then asked my dad if there was a way to block the asshole friend. Which, of course, there was not, since this was happening on a second person’s page. And then she got on with her day.

I would still like to hunt that woman down and make her as hurt as she made my mom.

I think that’s a bad impulse. But one I have frequently.

But, if we’re just making pie-in-the-sky wishes, I would wish for my mom a world in which she is met with the same level of kindness and curiosity and understanding and forgiveness that she has granted to many, many people who don’t deserve it in the course of her long life.

She at least deserves that.

More True Blood Complaints

I’ve decided that the fucked up pronunciation of “Samhain” is a metaphor for everything that’s wrong with True Blood this season. Would it have taken someone thirty seconds to google how to say it? Not even. And yet, why bother?

Could the writers on True Blood go down to Louisiana and be greeted as conquering heroes? Could they, while on their trip, notice that their version of Louisiana looks more like a swampy Utah? Or hell, could they have asked any of the black actors on their show “Where are your people from?” and gotten the answer “The South” after enough “and before that?”s?

Or could they have looked at a map and noticed that there’s such a state as Texas and having Jesus and Lafayette be just a few hours’ drive away from Jesus’s Mexican–nationality, not just ethnicity–grandpa is physically impossible?

Could they have watched old episodes of their own show and seen that the very character of Eric that they created on the show, not getting into differences between book-Eric and tv-Eric, just going by their own canon, would have been disgusted that Sookie liked him better weak? Would have been alarmed to find that he was that weak in public?

In retrospect, except for the satisfying end of the Mickenses, there was a lot about this season that just seemed like no one on the writing end was really that into it. And I think the show, which was already bad, but loveable, is now, for me anyway, kind of bad and unloveable.

I don’t know.

I’ll give it a try next season, but I can’t promise I’ll stick with it. This season, it was already too easy to just watch it onDemand whenever the Butcher got around to it.

Still good music, though. Was glad to hear Those Darlins again.