aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Google & the MirÃƒÂ³ take-down
Searching with Google yesterday, I smiled at its logo, playfully reworked to look like a Joan MirÃƒÂ³ painting in honor of the Spanish artist’s birthday. His family and Artist’s Rights Society weren’t smiling, the Mercury News reported, asking Google to remove the tribute mid-day. Google honored the request while saying that the logo did not infringe. [...]
[F]air use, as U.S. courts recognize it, eliminates the need to ask permission. Fair use saves us from the sanitized world where only authorized tributes or commentary are permitted. Moral rights, applied in many European countries but not the U.S., protect the “integrity” of artists’ works—but even that was hardly under threat.
Time and time again dead artists’ family get all proprietary about their dear deceased loved one’s work and send off BS letters like this cease and desist to Google. This in no way harms them. In fact you might say that building awareness of the life and work of Miro only makes their assets more valuable. But at the whim of some whiny family member they hit Google, who was trying to do a nice thing in honoring Miro, with a cease and desist.
So at two bucks a gallon that means the average household spends 6% of its disposable income on gasoline. At three bucks a gallon it’s more like 10%. And that’s only the average.
If your income is higher than average or your driving habits are lower than average, you’ll spend less… At the other end, though, are the people who make less than average and drive more than average. They probably spend 15-20% of their incomes on gasoline. That’s a lot.
So there you have it. There’s a substantial segment of the population that spends a very big chunk of their income on gasoline, and in the past 12 months they’ve seen gasoline prices increase by 50% Ã‚- and that’s at a time when household income has been decreasing for five years running and household debt is already sky high. They’re probably pretty pissed that that whole Iraq business didn’t work out quite the way it was supposed to.
The secret life of corn
I’m a fan of Michael Pollan. I will read his “thoughtful, engrossing new book.” Here’s a snippet from the NYTimes review:
[T]he first quarter of the book is devoted to a shocking, page-turning exposÃƒÂ© of the secret life of that most seemingly innocent and benign of American crops, corn.
The species Zea mays, for all its connotations of heartland goodness and Rodgers and Hammerstein romance ("as high as an elephant’s eye"), has been turned into nothing less than an agent of evil, Pollan argues. Expanding on his articles for The New York Times Magazine, he lays out the many ways in which government policy since the Nixon era - to grow as much corn as possible, subsidized with federal money - is totally out of whack with the needs of nature and the American public.
Big agribusiness has Washington in its pocket. The reason its titans want to keep corn cheap and plentiful, Pollan explains, is that they value it, above all, as a remarkably inexpensive industrial raw material. Not only does it fatten up a beef steer more quickly than pasture does (though at a cost to ourselves and cattle, which haven’t evolved to digest corn, and are therefore pre-emptively fed antibiotics to offset the stresses caused by their unnatural diet); once milled, refined and recompounded, corn can become any number of things, from ethanol for the gas tank to dozens of edible, if not nutritious, products, like the thickener in a milkshake, the hydrogenated oil in margarine, the modified cornstarch that binds the pulverized meat in a McNugget and, most disastrously, the ubiquitous sweetener known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Though it didn’t reach the American market until 1980, HFCS has insinuated itself into every nook and cranny of the larder - in Pollan’s McDonald’s meal, there’s HFCS not only in his 32-ounce soda, but in the ketchup and the bun of his cheeseburger - and Pollan fingers it as the prime culprit in the nation’s obesity epidemic.
On the Court banning “Gay-Bashing” t-shirts
Of course, the court ruled against the kid, so how can that be? Well, the mistake the kid made, in my view, was going to court in the first place. It’s a tried and true Lefty model that the Right has wholly adopted. I expect they’ll get the same result: Even when rulings go in their favor, those rulings ultimately serve more to disengage the base than to sway public opinion.
I say this even as I say elsewhere that I want the same-sex marriage battle to go to the courts. But that’s like wanting Roe to be overturned because at this point it’s the most pyrrhic victory I can imagine. Get those two cases ruled on by today’s court and we’ll see an energized Left to pull us back to the middle. Please remember that I believe the country is today closely divided not deeply divided (even on religion), and the more we swing in either direction the more out of step we get.
But to discuss for a moment the t-shirt ban, after reading David Shraub’s very thorough and thoughtful analysis (made complete with a roundup of other views), I don’t personally find the t-shirt offensive enough: “BE ASHAMED, OUR SCHOOL EMBRACED WHAT GOD HAS CONDEMNED” on the front, and “HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL” on the back. If the t-shirt were more analogous to the example from the dissent: “HITLER HAD THE RIGHT IDEA” on the front and “LET’S FINISH THE JOB!” on the back, it would more likely meet the incitement to violence standard that everyone agrees is too far.
In this particular case the context in which the shirt was worn - the “National Day of Silence” in which gay and gay-friendly students refuse to talk in protest of discrimination and prejudice - makes it all the more acceptable. In the best student tradition he was voicing a personal opinion (and without talking!); rebelling and taking a stand against a position he didn’t agree with. He shouldn’t have gone to court but I’m guessing he could have won had he skipped school and worn the t-shirt out front, on the street and off of school property. Given that he did go to court, as it stands and as written, I reluctantly agree with the decision. But for me the t-shirt was a missed opportunity for engagement.
What I’m always on the lookout for with students is the teachable moment. Next week I will be having coffee with one of the most outspoken conservative students on campus. He has a reputation for taking very public rabidly anti-gay positions and I’m meeting with him to discuss same-sex marriage. I’m not interested in shutting him up; I’m interested in understanding where he’s coming from and changing his mind. And if I can’t change his mind then I want for the two of us to figure out how we can agree to disagree so that we can peacefully and even respectfully live together in the same university community.
There is reason for optimism. Just yesterday I read of the Utah theater owner who refused to show Brokeback Mountain sitting down in a meeting with about 30 University of Utah students, faculty and administrators who shared their stories of what it’s like to be gay. This is the way I want to win; this is the world I want to live in. Watch the video. This is good important stuff.
In my meeting with the conservative student if I model a, dare I say, tolerant and respectful behavior I have every right to ask for and expect it in return. And that has been my experience so far. I guess a court victory is reason to whoop it up and celebrate and party (and get blog traffic and raise funds), but I’m not sure it’s always the way to a better world.
Note: I’m not linking to the blogger source for the Utah story because he chooses to call the theater owner a bigot. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: I refuse to use the easy seductive name-calling “bigots,” “moonbats” and “wingnuts” language. I try not to link to it either. (Except this once!)