On January 15, 2015, eighty-six years after the birth of Martin Luther King, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced that Selma, a film about MLK, was nominated for the Best Picture of 2014.
I have not yet seen this film, but I’ve been preoccupied with the coverage of how the film features speeches that sound like ones King delivered when, in fact, those were not King’s actual words. The film’s director Ava DuVernay had to rewrite all of the speeches King’s character delivers because she could not secure the rights to King’s actual speeches for her film. She discusses this with PBS’s Gwen Iffil.
One of the reasons that the speeches are not available for film is because Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg own those rights. Exclusively. While a public person, such an elected official, cannot copyright their speeches, a private individual can. According to DuVernay in an interview with KCRW’s The Business, Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered the latter and can exercise copyright over those speeches.
Today, we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday. Schools, government offices, and banks are closed in observance. I vaguely remember when we started to observe this day when I was in fifth grade. It was a good age to learn about King, in particular, and about the Civil Rights movement, in general. It would forever shape my outlook on civil rights and equality. To that young school kid, King became a public hero for all of us through that having a holiday.
I know copyright laws are often ridiculous, but I still can’t understand how someone whose life we honor through a public holiday can be considered a private individual. King belongs to all of us.1
With the spring semester having already started this week, it was an opportune time to consider what to tell students on the first day of class. Many teachers use the first meeting to pitch the course to students and explain to them what to expect throughout the semester. Each instructor will enforce a different set of policies, require a different set of books, and assign their own assignments. As Fordham students take about four to five courses each semester, it can be an overwhelming amount of information to process this early in the term.
In the past year, I’ve simplified what I tell my students on the first day of class. Instead of reviewing the syllabus, which can be quite long, I try to answer the three most pressing questions students might have about the course. Based on my observations as a teacher and my own experience as a student, I have found that students are most interested in three things on day one:
They want to know what books they need to buy. They are interested in where to get them, and how much it is going to cost them. I tell them to use their Internet skills to find the books. I don’t care if they get ebook versions, although I warn them against the Coursesmart titles because those are functionally terrible and are far too expensive. I also don’t care if they get the books from somewhere other than the campus bookstore because those are usually run by awful companies.
They want to know what topics we will be covering. I usually start with a one-sentence version of the course description and then list a few major themes we will be covering. For example, this semester’s electronic media course covers three media: radio, television, and digital. I then summarize the course schedule and show how we will cover each media and, ultimately, how they converge.
They want to know about the assignments and the exams. How intense is the workload for this course? Will there be weekly assignments or just a few big ones? How many papers will there be and how long are those papers? To address their concerns about the exams, I usually give students sample questions from the final exam.
In addition to review these three topics on the first day of class, I also format the main navigation area of each course website, such as this one to include the books, the weekly topics, and the assignments and exams. It hopefully keeps things simple and also helps students decide whether my course is for them.
Although Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not until next week and it’s 20° F outside, we’ve already started classes for the “spring” semester at Fordham. (Yes, it seems much too early to me, too.) Since my two classes there already met, I am lifting my self-imposed embargo on promoting them.1
I have taught this course five times since 2007. Despite its odd and possibly antiquated title—after all, what media isn’t electronic these days?—it is one of my favorite classes because we get to explore radio, television, and digital media with a reasonable amount of depth. It’s nice to spend several weeks to explain some nuanced concepts from these media with some detail. For someone who does a lot of survey classes, it is a rare luxury not to feel so rushed when I want to explain radio frequency allocations, dayparts, and why computers use hexadecimal numbers to undergraduate students… or anyone who will listen.
The class meets on Wednesday mornings, 8:30–11:15 AM.
This course will someday be the foundation of a digital/participatory media concentration in Fordham’s Communication and Media Studies undergraduate major, but for now, the curriculum is still developing. As a result, the department has given me free reign over this introduction to studying digital media. However, one of my issues with a lot of digital media scholarship is that, at least to me, it resembles science fiction. I’d rather confront social and cultural issues in digital media from either a historical or contemporary perspective. Instead of poring over heavily theoretical works in an introductory class, I am relying more on texts that explain a cultural issue, such as how young people use social media, to give students an understanding of digital media with some concrete data and examples.
As I tell students on the first day of class, it’s a graduate-style class for undergraduate students.
The class meets on Tuesday afternoons, 2:30–5:15 PM.
This “self-imposed embargo” was because I had not finished my syllabi until early this week. ↩
If you tried to reach this website or my other site since yesterday at 2:00 PM EST, you probably noticed that it was down.
It appears there was some issue with the IP address, 126.96.36.199, my web hosting provider had assigned me. They had to provide me a different one: 188.8.131.52. Things should have been A-OK after that, but since I use Hover (my domain name registrar) as my name server instead of Downtown Host, my web hosting provider, I had to manual change the DNS records to reflect the new IP address.
I know, I know…this might be the geekiest, most jargon-filled post I’ve ever written. But despite all this, I’m glad I am able to at least have an idea of how to fix my websites, even if I don’t understand what was wrong with the original IP address in the first place.
And now with the site back online, it’s time I start posting again. Welcome back!
My California adventure on two wheels continued unabated in the New Year because I have done something a bit foolish.
I got a used road bike off Craigslist.
Like the Green Monster I rode with the LA Wheelmen after Christmas, this bike is also from the late 1990s. Curiously, the late 1990s was about the time I started riding a bike more than a few miles at a time because gas prices spiked to the then elevated $2.00 per gallon, and I was unhappy paying more than $20 per week to fill up my tank.1
There’s a bit of lunacy in getting a bike that will sit in California while I live in New York, but I suspect that I will be coming out west a bit more frequently in the coming months. If that’s true, it might make sense to keep a bike to ride out there rather than renting one from time to time, as I’ve been doing. Also, my dad said he was thinking of riding it.
As soon as I got the bike, I made some minor though necessary repairs such as replacing a worn-out front tire, truing a rear wheel, and buying new bar tape. The chain could have used a thorough cleaning, but I was itching to get on the road the next morning and figured that the drivetrain might need more work than I was willing to do after getting it to my parent’s place. Instead, I said, “fuck it!” and rode to Oxnard on New Year’s Eve.
I rode the bike again on January 2. I had initially planned to ride a century from Orange County, where I was visiting my cousin for the day, to San Diego. But after talking with my family, I skipped that idea and decided to ride north towards Los Angeles.
My planned route seemed easy enough. I would start in Anaheim and head towards the San Gabriel River Bikeway, where I would proceed south towards Long Beach.
From there, I would ride along the beach and connect to the Los Angeles River Bikeway and head north towards Maywood and then onto surface streets to downtown LA.
If you’ve tried to ride this route, between the San Gabriel River and LA River Bikeways along Long Beach, you’ll find that it’s not very easy to connect from one bikeway to another. The bicycling layer on Google Maps suggests that it’s just a matter of keeping the beach on your left, but it’s not quite that easy.
When I finally found the bikeway on the beach, I found that the bikeway was closed due to construction, and there was no marked detour to continue. As I backtracked, I noticed another cyclist also riding to the closed section. As I looked back to see his course of action, figuring he might know something I didn’t, I ran into a curb and went over the handlebars. Ouch!
Fortunately, I was not seriously injured besides a sore shoulder and a bruised ego. After gathering myself for a few minutes, I got back on the bike and proceeded to Ocean Avenue in search of this elusive Los Angeles River Bikeway.
The other blow to my cycling adventure came the day after riding from Orange County to downtown Los Angeles: I caught a pretty bad cold. That and the residual soreness from the crash basically kept me off the bike for the rest of the trip. I skipped two rides that I had wanted to do before heading back east. Instead of coming with a hundred-plus miles ridden for the new year, I returned to New York, where there is snow on the ground and temperatures that will not reach above freezing this weekend. I will also be nursing a tender left shoulder and a crushing sinus headache.
As I’ve said before, riding a bike sometimes requires a bit of insanity. I’ll be needing some of that to ride again in the coming days.
It’s funny how gas prices, not adjusting for inflation, are about that price again at the beginning of 2015. ↩
Until I was in high school, all I knew of Santa Barbara was that Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan both lived near there and that it was the setting for a long-running soap opera. But one day, in my junior year of high school, a friend and I drove from the Antelope Valley to Santa Barbara for a day trip out of the high desert. Once we arrived, I was struck by remarkable differences in topography—desert versus beach, 2000-foot elevation versus sea level—but also by the drive. It was a much longer drive than I had done to that point: my parents didn’t really drive very far so most of our car trips were about an hour long and almost all contained within Los Angeles county. Driving over 100 miles, through two different counties, seemed to me then as extraordinary as biking 100 miles across state lines seems to me today.
A good portion of the drive from the desert to the sea is on CA-126, between Santa Clarita and Ventura. That road has undergone a lot changes since the mid-1990s. The thirty-two mile stretch between Santa Clarita and Santa Paula was more or less a one-lane country road, but today, it is a nice two-lane byway with a wide shoulder. Over the years, I noticed cyclists riding on this road, and at the time, it seemed crazy that someone would ride a bike that far, but as you know, I’m that crazy now.
On New Year’s Day, I hitched a ride with my mom to Santa Clarita and then biked fifty-odd miles to Oxnard for a friend’s New Year’s Eve dinner.
It’s been atypically cold here in Southern California and on New Year’s Eve, it was downright chilly and windy. Fortunately, that wind was at my back for almost the entire ride and, to make matters even better, the ride is almost entirely downhill.
My first stop was in Fillmore: a town that I kind of hated driving through because it forced me to slow to a pokey 40 MPH and even stop when I would inevitably come across a red traffic light. But on a bike, Fillmore was an oasis.
There are a bunch of places to stop and eat there, although I am convinced I picked the one that was the most expensive serving the most forgettable food. After eating a BLT, I headed back out on the country roads of eastern Ventura country, surrounded by citrus groves in full bloom. For whatever reason, as I rode through those roads, I kept thinking of two quintessential movies about the roots of modern Southern California: Chinatown and There Will Be Blood.
The next town on the route was Santa Paula, where the CA-126 turns into a freeway. At that point, I did something I had never done before: I rode through the town of Santa Paula, where I found another decommissioned gas station. This one however was not abandoned by adapted into an auto repair shop.
The rest of the ride was along Telegraph Road all the way to Ventura. The road runs parallel to the old railroad that ran through the Santa Clara River Valley, suggesting the strong historical connection between railroads and telegraph lines.
I arrived in Oxnard for a dinner with a few friends, and then to cap off the night, took a train to Santa Barbara for a New Year’s Eve party with some very old friends to, as they say, ring in the new year.
Santa Barbara obviously means a lot more to me today—both good and bad—than it did twenty years ago, when I associated it with two 1980s American icons and a soap opera.
Today is the last day of the year, and, as such, it is the last opportunity to reduce your tax bill by donating to some worthwhile causes. Donate tomorrow and you likely won’t see any tax benefits until 2016.
Here are some great charitable organizations I have supported this year, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Transportation Alternatives has been instrumental in making the streets of New York more favorable for bicyclists and pedestrians. Please donate to make the bike lobby—not this one—all the more powerful.
Light Industry is my favorite microcinema in New York City. Not only do they keep experimental film alive in New York City, they are conveniently located to me in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. While it is a bit frustrating that they don’t schedule film screenings on a regular basis, I imagine this ensures that they schedule something if it is worthwhile and logistically feasible.
Now that I moved to the other side of the Newtown Creek, I subsist mostly of take-out and the buffet at the Faculty lounge. But in my previous life, I used to get really excited about the greenmarket season to eat like an artisanal hipster. Grow NYC runs a bunch of programs that support community farmers to promote the city’s Greenmarkets. Donate $100 and get a cookbook.
In addition to feeling good about donating to these causes, some wealthy people are offering matching donations. This serves two purposes: it rallies would-be donors, and I would imagine, it reduces their own substantial tax bill. These matching donations are also great for these charitable organizations. For example, your one-dollar donation to Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation mean they receive two dollars in support. And, in the case of Transportation Alternatives and the Internet Archive, they are due to receive $2 for every dollar they raise from individual donors. That means that your one-dollar donation yields three dollars in support.
But you should really give more than one dollar. Much more.
Aside from some basic commuting-by-bicycle, I have been off my road bike for three weeks since I rode to Philadelphia with the New York Cycle Club, and as I’m still visiting family in Southern California for another week, I felt the urgent need to get on a bike. On Sunday, I rode with the LA Wheelmen from Alhambra Park east to the city of Upland for a seventy-mile loop to burn off some of my “holiday excess.”
The name of the LA Wheelmen club was a bit of a misnomer: we didn’t ride at all within the LA city limits, and there was more than one woman who rode with us. (Please note that I’m being sarcastic here.) The ride, called Santa Anita Canyon, was also misnamed as I don’t remember us stopping to admire a canyon. We did however stop at a Carl’s Jr for lunch, halfway through the ride, although it did seem like a long way to ride for an All-Natural Burger.
Normally, I hate eating a heavy lunch on a ride because we usually have hills to climb shortly afterward. But this club did things right. After lunch, we rode more or less downhill for the entire second half of the ride.
In order to ride out here, I rented a green, 1990s-era Cannondale touring bike with finger tip shifters from Spinlister that I’ve dubbed the “Green Monster.” This bike is considerably heavier than my road bike, but it rides well, as you would expect from a touring bike. As I’m accustomed to riding a road bike, I had a some trouble adjusting to the 48t chainring. While it happens to be the same sized chainring as my single-speed bike, I didn’t really appreciate the difference a 53t chainring makes when I want to go fast.
But this is December, and who cares if I can’t pedal a bike faster than 17 MPH. It was a treat to ride seventy miles on a balmy (for me) and chilly (for them) Sunday along the San Gabriel Mountains with temperatures in the lower 50s. There were some nice climbs and decent views but, sadly, no beer stops.
Another funny difference with this group was how obsessed this group was with riding centuries. Like one a week…even in December. (They save the double and triple centuries for the warmer months.) They were a nice pleasant group and invited me to ride their Kick Off Century on New Years Day, which I was tempted to ride but ultimately decided to skip.
Of course, as is my custom, after finishing my ride, I was in search of a burger and a beer. As I browsed Twitter, I saw that Grill Em All, a celebrated food truck serving heavy metal–themed burgers, was doing a chicken wing special.
But I learned that they no longer get around on four wheels. They have a permanent store in…of all places…Alhambra. That was a mile and a half from where the Wheelmen finished their ride. My brother and nephew, who picked me up in Alhambra, met me at Grill Em All for a post-ride meal.
Getting back to my parents’ house the next day was via a familiar way: commuter train.
Metrolink offers a pretty nice bike storage setup, allowing you to not only roll your bikes on board without a reservation but also to secure your bike with Velcro straps.
Riding out here with the group was a great way to test out bike riding in Southern California, and I look forward to doing more and more rides throughout my stay here.
One of my former students at Queens College was Tom Stathes.
In class after class filled with “special snowflakes,” students who demand constant attention only to fail the class anyway, Tom stood out as an exceptional luminary. Not only was he an excellent student, he also amassed an impressive collection of animated films from the silent and early sound era.
With help from many people, including celebrated silent-film accompanists, Ben Model and Robert Israel, Stathes has released a Blu-ray and DVD set of fifteen animated films.
The collection, titled Cartoon Roots, is, according to Stathes, a “sampling of many of the important characters, series and studios’ cartoons that populated the silent era of films,” which is Stathes’s favorite period, and “some very exciting rarities from the early sound era.”
Get it as a late Christmas gift for yourself or that film nerd in your life. Or, if you’re teaching a silent film class in the future, round out your curriculum with animated films that were never part of the silent film canon.
I’ve been in California a whole week now, and in addition to spreading holiday cheer with my family, I’ve continued my tour of local breweries where I order a flight.
Earlier this week, my mom and I headed to Little Tokyo near downtown Los Angeles. Over the years, I really got to know that neighborhood over the years, and Little Tokyo became my favorite neighborhood in LA. It’s centrally located with a good deal of public transit, including nearby Union Station. There’s some really good food in the area, and there’s a burgeoning nightlife scene, albeit an increasingly trendy one. And, of course, there’s also a brewery tap room at Angel City.
I tried to visit Angel City Brewing some years ago with a New York transplant friend, but it was closed at the time. Sarah and I went last year, and I finally managed to get a couple of pints last New Year’s Day, including an unusually light-colored stout.
After running a few errands with my mom near Little Tokyo, we headed to the brewery where I bought a flight to sample their offerings and to fill a half-gallon growler I bought at the brewery.
She also kicked my butt at Jenga. Twice.
After Christmas, it was time to venture on the town, lest I go completely stir crazy. Fortunately, the Antelope Valley actually has more than one local brewery. In addition to Bravery Brewing off Avenue L in Lancaster, there’s also Kinetic Brewing, full-fledged brew-pub on Lancaster Boulevard. As is my style, I ordered a flight of seven of their beers. At $10, it was an absolute steal.
When it came to time to leave, I took out my Angel City half-gallon growler and asked that they fill it. They refused because the growler came from another brewery. The only way they would let me buy beer to-go was if I bought a new glass growler from them. Perhaps emboldened by a few of their beers, I took to Twitter.
Nothing significant came of it, but I wondered why they refused to fill a growler from another brewery.
Was it a business decision? If so, it’s really short-sighted. Sure, they’re giving up a dollar or two on selling a new growler, but I’m offering them money to spill some beer into a glass receptacle. What difference does it make who put their trademark on it? Or…
Was it a regulatory issue? Is it not legal in California to fill a growler from another brewery?
It turns out, that it is the latter.
In California, a glass growler is subject to the same labelling requirements governing other containers, such as cans, bottles and kegs. The list of requirements is quite long, but the most relevant requirements for each label are…
the name and location of the manufacturer (city and state) and bottler (if different).
the name of the beer in the container.
the alcohol content, if 5.7% abv or greater. It is optional if below.
the net contents of the container.
As a workaround, any brewery is free to place their own sticker on a bottle, but the letter of the law is quite strict about doing so:
Any and all information pertaining to another beer manufacturer other than the licensee filling/selling the container must be obscured. All text and logos from a previous brewery must be obscured.
The California Craft Brewers Association, which published a Growler Clarification document for its members, also offers them a list of best practices in marketing growlers to their thirsty customers. As far as meeting the labelling requirements, they recommend brewers use a label that hangs from the neck of the bottle, instead of printing onto the glass bottles.
As a loyal craft beer drinker, I hope that, in time, brewers throughout the state adopt this particular labelling technique. It is presumably cheaper than printing your own bottle, and it will make it easier for everyone to enjoy their products without resorting to acting like scofflaws.