on SOPA/PIPA

Why hello there, Internet. You like this? You like this random spewing of crap from all sides, overloads of pictures and music, youtube, reddit, digg, wikis, lolcats, loldogs, lolbunnies, more cats, movies, cats, constant ADD-causing sensory overload that is the Internet?

So do I.

SOPA/PIPA is not the wonderdrug that legislators and their lobbyists make it out to be. And as someone who has taken two media law/first amendment classes and written a term paper on Napstera (way back in ’01, ya’ll!), I think I can shed a little light on this, not that anyone who’s spent more than two minutes on the Internet in the past three weeks doesn’t know what I’m going to say.

What congress is proposing is a violation of free speech and an impediment to progress. Blocking web sites because they might link to pirated content WITHOUT due process of the law is an egregious affront to our first and foremost basic rights in this country. While you might think that this is good and will prevent people from file-sharing movies and music, what you have to remember is that copyright law protects a lot more than movies and music (the MPAA and RIAA have the most pull as they have the most money, however). It also includes the WRITTEN word (in fact, what I’m typing right now, and why plagiarism is such an offense), PHOTOS, and anything that can be considered original content.

All those lolcats? Someone took the original pictures, and they are technically protected under copyright law. If the government is going to shut down every site that has a lolcat photo on it, the Internet will be a darn lonely place.

If the government is going to arbitrarily block sites that have any copyright infringement content on it, that’s a restraint of the OTHER content on the site – the stuff that’s not under others’ copyright protection that the author wants to be available to the world. And that is where the issue with free speech comes in. To do this without due process of the law? It’s like getting a double-whammy punch of TWO constitutional rights taken away from you.

But the problem here is that media have changed a LOT in the past 15 years. Ultimately, there is a problem with copyright law itself, not something that can be fixed by pushing through a bill that will give god-like power to one government to infringe on the most important thing for which said government is known. For a long time, copyright law covered text, music and movies in traditional media that were relatively innocuous to the copyright holders. With the huge burst of Internet communications/social media and the ability to deliver digital information at record speeds, there needs to be an examination of the medium and how copyright law should be changed to accommodate the medium.

What it comes down to is money. Lobbyists are a powerful thing, and congress likes lobbyists. The lobbyists – MPAA and RIAA (well, RIAA at least for sure) are sure getting a lot of money from the music they’re selling. Artists and performers don’t get much money from CD/legit music downloads sales – record labels get that privilege. So of course they’re going to be annoyed with pirating. Some artists have come out and said that pirating has actually made more people aware of their work, and that that’s a good thing.

And in the words of myself, since that won’t be breaking any copyright laws: “No matter what, people will still share files between themselves, and for every stagnant music label using copyright law as a shield, there is an equally intelligent college student ready to crack a problem that inhibits her ability to swap files.”

why i'm still looking for alaska

Nate started watching the Vlogbrothers’ videos a little bit before John Green’s book “Paper Towns” came out. He introduced me to the videos, and when the book came out, he insisted we buy it to support john. Ok. We did. Since I am more of a reader than Nate, I picked it up first and read it quickly. It was entertaining, sort of a mystery, with a lot of teenage truth. I liked it well enough – not to the level of Harry Potter like, but well enough. Eventually I started sorting through the Vlogbros’ videos, and noted his other two books, which I ordered at Nate’s requests.

I stumbled through “An Abundance of Katherines,” another teenage adventure with quirks, and a lot of truth.

Then I read “Looking for Alaska.” It was gorgeous: funny, beautifully written and honest. I quickly put it in my top fifteen books.

“The Fault in our Stars” just came out, and I just finished reading it today. I was really really hoping for another Alaska, but it fell just short. I couldn’t figure out what it was about his other books that fell so short, so I hunkered down to figure out why it is that “Alaska” is john green’s masterpiece – his magnum opus.

You begin to expect certain things of an author: when I pick up a J.K. Rowling book, I know I’m picking up a book that has magic in it – a fantastical, heroic story. When I pick up a Suzanne Collins book, I’m looking for something about post-modern society, dystopian, futuristic. When I pick up a Jennifer Weiner book, I know it’s going to be part chick lit, part literary. When I pick up a Jodi Picoult book, I want a trial in it. When I pick up a Bill Bryson book, I expect to laugh.

So it goes that when I pick up a John Green book, I’m expecting truth. His books are full of current day teenage truths – the hardships, the conversations, the self-consciousness, the awkwardness, the weirdness of first romances. It’s spelled out with complete, honest truth in his books. There is no holding back.

So when I read his books and these hard truths are contrasted with a somewhat unordinary plotline, it’s hard for me to swallow. What I read is that someone understands the truths of my teenage life (long past), someone understands what i’m going through, someone gets it…but I can’t quite relate because the plot is not entirely believable in an everyday teenager’s kind of way. So, do I take hold of this extraordinary story, or do I take hold of the truths that hitting me in the gut? Truth…or not? Why are they so hard to meld?

It’s a good question. The truths and the extraordinary are hard to combine in my mind. 17 year olds going on a road trip and getting employed over the summer on a whim? My parents would’ve put the kibosh on that asap. Skipping high school graduation to find your true love (who may or may not return the feeling) who ran away and left clues she didn’t want you to find in the first place? Again, parents, and police would’ve been contacted. Even his new one, while harsh truths are pulled and prodded and written about cancer, I feel that traveling to Amsterdam and finding the author of her favorite book were just a little too extraordinary in contrast to the truths (even if it was part of the make-a-wish foundation – although this wasn’t as hard to grapple with as the other two books. it was close to Alaska, but not quite there for me).

But Alaska?

Complete truths. Going to boarding school and participating in usual high school pranks, then the girl you fell in love with forgets her mother’s death’s anniversary and on the way to the graveyard dies in a car crash – and you have to sort through everything that comes with losing her? Believable, ordinary events melded with harsh, teenage truths.

There is nothing in the plot that takes away from life as it is; nothing about it transports you to an otherness of everyday life, a way of life that is just a little bit too unbelievable – “Looking for Alaska” is just 100% honest, humble truths.

work woes II

today we had a meeting at work, and they are doing all they can to prevent future layoffs. this means whittling down everyone’s vacation to 20 hours by jan 31 (and i mean EVERYONE company-wide – thousands of people) and quitting the 401K match until at least june. the vacation thing doesn’t bug me because i don’t have 200 hours like some people. i have 12, and we are required to take off xmas eve and day after xmas as well as the day before and after new year’s. i feel bad for my one coworker who’s been saving her vacation for maternity leave. baby’s due in february and she’ll have to use her vacation time before that. that would SUCK.

ugh! i’m glad to have a job and all, but this is just depressing. the thing is, is that we’re busy in my dept. we’ve been busy for a while. add to that no raises this year, no 401k match, rising health insurance costs, what a pain in the behind.