I was a late adopter to YouTube. I never liked that it used only Flash to display its videos in its early days, making my over-clocked PowerBook get hot from watching a video. I also disliked the low default resolution of its videos. For years, the typical YouTube video had 360 lines of horizontal resolution, which was fine for watching on the web, but if you wanted to use it for close study, you were almost better off watching a VHS and certainly better off finding a DVD.
Over time, I began using it here and there for quickly locating films I hadn’t seen in years. For example, in my experimental film class, YouTube was useful for compiling a screening list. I could locate films I considered screening, and verify that they matched my memory of them. In this case, YouTube was a wonderful resource for teaching and research.
But today, YouTube reminded me how it can be a terrible resource for teaching and research. As a way to search for a specific video, it’s great. But treating it like an archive will disappoint you. It’s simply too impermanent to use as reliable teaching tool. Some videos are so evanescent—here yesterday, gone today— that they may as well have never have existed on the site.
On a WordPress site for my American Film Industry class, I posted separate entries for two films we referenced in the class. Each entry included a embedded video clip from YouTube. As I went to look for review those entries today, the two clips are gone.
The poster image for a clip from Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? on YouTube.
The first entry included an embedded YouTube clip from a somewhat forgotten film, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). The clip was of an “intermission” towards the end of the film, where the lead actor, Tony Randall, breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience. As US audiences of the 1950s abandoned the movie theater for the comfort of watching television at home, this forced intermission reminded audiences of the sacrifices television viewing demanded they make: a smaller picture, radio interference, vertical scroll, and snow. And of course, let’s not forget about the interruptions from advertisers, which are an object of satire in this film about advertising.
Although a poster image for the clip still appears on the blog entry, the embedded clip will not play. The error notice indicates that the clip was taken down because the “video contains content from Fox, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.” Fox does indeed own the rights to the film, as the film was released by 20th Century-Fox and will hold the copyright until the middle of this century. But the clip hosted on YouTube allowed me to use it in accordance with fair use doctrine. My use of the clip was for comment and criticism and constituted only a part of my blog post, albeit an important part. The short clip on YouTube and my associated blog post could even serve as promotion for a forgotten film that could be resuscitated. Depictions of the American mid-century advertising industry might have been exploited some years ago. Instead, the clip was taken down, and the film will remain in obscurity.
I posted the second entry, on Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, to demonstrate the influence of the French New Wave on Bonnie and Clyde. The clip demonstrated the use of jump cuts in the film. As any student of cinema knows, Breathless popularized the use of the jump cut, and it gave young filmmakers of the 1960s a feeling of “breaking the rules.”Arthur Penn used it extensively, most noticeably in the opening sequence of the film when Bonnie Parker is filled with ennui in her room and becomes excited when a stranger comes to her home.
When I went to review the blog post, the clip was gone. YouTube indicates that the “video is not available in your country.” It’s seriously disappointing that the clip is gone because it robs my students the opportunity to see the nine jump cuts in a thirty-five-second sequence. To demonstrate this, I either have to search for another YouTube clip that will be undoubtedly be blocked in the future or resort to circumventing the copy protection on a DVD to extract that clip.
Amazon said Sunday delivery will begin on Nov. 17 in Los Angeles and New York and expand next year to Dallas, New Orleans, Houston and Phoenix, among others. Amazon will bring packages from its warehouses to Postal Service locations on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The agency will then deliver them to doorsteps.
Sunday delivery of Amazon purchases is great news for the postal service and Amazon customers. It is probably less good for the non-existent brick-and-mortar shops in our corner of Long Island City.
The USPS may not have the global network or the perceived speed of UPS or FedEx, but it has something that’s very important for most New Yorkers: access to your apartment building. UPS, for example, can’t access your apartment building. When they attempt a delivery and you’re not home because you work a regular job, you’re greeted with one of those dreaded InfoNotice slips on your door.
The dreaded InfoNotice that says you’ll have to wait yet another day for your goodies.
After UPS makes three attempts and they can’t deliver your package, you’re trekking to the calming shores of Maspeth, Queens to get your goods. As you can see in the Lois Stavsky’s photo below, Maspeth sits at the end of the Bushwick Inlet and is, for those not in the know, about as a close to the middle-of-nowhere as you can get in New York City.
After missing countless Amazon orders that were shipped via UPS, I resorted to using the Amazon Locker at the local 7-11 store in Long Island City. It’s a reliable way to get your packages because it’s 7-11 and there’s always someone home, but it’s a good 1.3 miles away from home along a heavily trafficked stretch of Long Island City, making it pretty terrible bike ride.
Since Amazon has been relying more on USPS for deliveries, Amazon packages are reliably waiting inside the apartment building. No more trips to 7-11. No more trips to Maspeth. The same is true for any other shipper that uses USPS for deliveries, such as my precious Tonx coffee.
Researchers have uncovered software available on the Internet designed to overload the struggling Healthcare.gov website with more traffic than it can handle.
“ObamaCare is an affront to the Constitutional rights of the people,” a screenshot from the tool, which was acquired by researchers at Arbor Networks, declares. “We HAVE the right to CIVIL disobedience!”
As much as I empathize with any diligent protest movement, there’s no law that has been constitutionally tested than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It has gone through all three check and balances outlined by the Constitution. It was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, and affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Interfering it is a denial of the people’s Constitutional rights.
As far as blighting our urban landscape in Long Island City, Election Day brings a bunch of trash to our neighborhood. No, it’s not the trash left behind by Sunday’s New York City Marathon. In fact, our streets are impeccably clean once the runners vacate our streets. Our curbs are covered in garbage on Election Day because everyone forgets that there is no trash pickup on Election Day.
Our garbage is collected on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. On Tuesdays, the Sanitation department also picks up large items, such as furniture and appliances, and all of our paper, glass, metal, and plastic recyclables. Most everyone sets out the garbage the evening before so in most everyone’s mind, garbage day is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When a there’s a garbage collection holiday on a Tuesday, such as Election Day or the occasional Veteran’s Day, the bags of garbage and recyclables pile up with other large items. The bags of trash and large items sit there for two whole days until Thursday morning, and the clear recycling bags remain on our street until the following week.
Part of it is likely due to habit, but it’s also due to the indifference Americans have towards Election Day. It always on falls on a Tuesday, which doesn’t strike anybody was a particular festive day of the week. Election day is also two days after reverting to standard time so most people might still be disoriented. Also, the races in this election were all but decided, making voting less urgent than in a close election. In other words, Election Day is boring. It is at best an inconvenience and a reminder of how much we hate our elected officials and that we’ll end up in jury duty soon, not a day for us to celebrate.
We could learn a lot from the sanitation workers and their negotiated holiday schedule. If we treated Election Day as a true holiday, something on par with even President’s Day, when we could score a good deal on a mattress, then we’d prioritize voting. And we’d even remember to keep our damn garbage off the curb.
The Fifth of November has been observed in England since the plot to bomb Parliament in 1605. Activists have reclaimed this day and Guy Fawkes to stand against unjust state and corporate power. Techies can commemorate this day and rebellious spirit with iFixit’s EFF Activist Bundle:
This 5th of November, iFixit is teaming up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to empower technology users (AKA everyone) to take their digital stuff back from government interlopers and corporate money mongers.
What are we reclaiming? Common sense and fair use. iFixit is fighting for your right to repair your stuff. And the EFF is fighting to protect your right to use that stuff without the NSA—or anyone else—peeking over your shoulder.
As much ado I make about riding a bicycle, I am in awe of runners. I can’t run the 240 feet of a softball home run, which is why I swing for a line drive, so I admire my friends who run the New York City Marathon.
Living on the route in Long Island City, I get to celebrate and watch as nearly fifty thousand runners come through our neighborhood. After the marathon was cancelled last year due to Sandy, it was great to have the marathon return to our streets this year and to watch friends run today. Congratulations!
Cara posted a photo of her running clothes on Facebook so I found her in the crowd rather easily. She also looked for me and found me quickly. Thanks for the wave!
Michele was running her first marathon today. She finished with a respectable time, and I’m really proud to have seen her.
Sarah’s former roommate Mario ran today. I saw him and recognized him, thinking he looked familiar. This was one of my favorite shots I took of today’s marathon.
Steve was the only one who requested that we have something for him as we passed us. But he looked right passed us and didn’t see us. We yelled his name, but he continued towards the 3:45 pace he was running. We didn’t get to give him his orange slices. He ultimately finished at 4:46. He probably could have used those orange slices.
FMIG was once Steve’s nickname. I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you what it means.
Today is the first day of our clocks reverting back to Standard Time. There’s a lot of opposition to Daylight Savings Time and ending it once and for all, but I actually enjoy it and wish we could observe it year round. Those of us living on the eastern edge of Eastern Time can get more out of the day if it sunset would be after 5:00 PM. In other words, make our Standard Time one hour later.
As Daylight Savings Time ends, so does the opportunity for eight-hour bike rides away from the city that require morning train rides. Even if the weather holds up, the days are getting shorter and our rides must also accomodate the dwindling daylight. In short, any ride must end by 3:30 or so because by 4:30, it’s already too dark to ride safely without lights.
The eighteen-mile stretch from Carmel to Cold Spring, along NY–301, is one many cyclists know well. It has a nice seven mile stretch of rolling hills along the beautiful West Branch Reservoir and then you climb for about five miles. Once you reach a peak after passing lovely Canopus Lake, you coast downhill for about six miles into Cold Spring. That last part is fun as you reach top speeds around 40 mph and make that satisfying six-mile descent in about 15 minutes.
I confirmed that it’s pronounced Po (as in “Po-Boy Sandwich”) -Can (as in “cannery”) -Ti (as in “tin”)- Co (as in “cord”). ↩
Unlike the Carmel in California, this is pronounced Car (as in “carpet”) and Mole (as in “molar”). ↩
If you’re wondering about the rest of the costume, you’re not missing it. There’s no more to my costume. I’m just wearing a dark t-shirt and black slacks. Because I’m still riding my bike to class, I’m also wearing a pair of Converse high tops, Showers Pass rain jacket (30% of chance of showers, they say), and helmet, all of which is black and keeping with the sullen artist image.
But at least I got the hair right, even if it’s wrong for my skin tone.
In class today, I covered three topics that could be summed up by a set of acronyms initialisms. You may know some of these:
The context of the discussion was student papers for an introductory class. The papers were due back in early October, but as I graded the first batch, I found that they were almost universally terrible. It was pretty demoralizing for me, as I’m sure it would be for them.
The papers were so bad that I held off on returning them until after they took the midterm last week. My thinking was to let them focus on the midterm exam and worry about their poor performance on the paper afterward. I also wanted to devote some time in class to discussing the paper, and it seemed too cruel to berate everyone on the same day they take an exam.
Today, we had a heart-to-heart about undergraduate writing, and I used a little alphabet soup to make the point.
Read the Directions
One of my paper-saving initiatives is to have students get the assignment guidelines from my 1998-style course website. They can access them on their tablets or computers. And if they can carry killing trees on their conscious, they can even print the guidelines.
Relying on students to get the guidelines on their own might have been a mistake. It seemed like some students simply wrote this assignment without reading the guidelines.
For example, the assignment had a very strict word count of 743 words. Students submit a hard copy so I can’t count each word to see if they hit the word count. But I can tell when a paper is much longer or much shorter due to the agony factor. And reading some were quite agonizing
But that wasn’t the biggest sin of not Reading the Foremost Directions. I gave a really concise example of how to cite courses in text. It wasn’t some crazy “proprietary” system, just a simplified version of MLA-style parenthetical citations. But very few followed that. Instead, an abundance of papers listed three or four websites as their research sources, rather than trying to craft a proper reference list.
Garbage-In, Garbage Out
As for the students who didn’t follow directions, it was a clear case of garbage in–garbage out. The assignment called to read at least one chapter from our textbook, Communication in History, to distill the historical impact of print. Students were assigned to read a more contemporary account of print, The Late Age of Print, and to determine whether the recent evolutions change the historical function of print.
It was pretty clear that many students simply didn’t read one or both of the readings. The most common type of paper was an opinion piece on how ebooks are convenient but not as great as print because, you know, “what if someone steals your iPad?” Many also alluded to the smell of the paper that is lacking with ebooks.
Without reading the directions and going through the steps of the assignment, they produced nothing of value because they ingested nothing. Garbage In. Garbage Out.
I spent a significant amount of time outlining the difference between opinion and analysis. A common question from undergraduate students is “oh, so do you want us to write our opinion?” The answer is a resounding NO! Opinions, as we all know are like …, and no one wants any part of it. I certainly don’t. But I am interested in a student’s analysis. That requires reviewing sources and coming to a conclusion that they will base on those sources.
For example, I think ebooks are for the most part pretty great. I can customize my reading experience (i.e., selecting my typeface), get a book delivered instantly, and carry around a lot of books without it burdening me as I ride my bike. But in at least one of the readings, we read that the development of print was responsible for challenging the authority of the Catholic Church and even leading to a scientific revolution. That’s a pretty big impact, and it’s one that I have yet to see ebooks, for example, match. Therefore, I am going to argue that ebooks lack the revolutionary impact of print, based on the much longer history of the latter. Although my opinion is that ebooks are awesome, my analysis reveals that they don’t yet seem to qualify as revolutionary.
Get This Done
Finally, I gave students a poor-man’s version of the GTD philosophy. GTD means, as we all know, “Getting things done.” It’s the subject of a cult favorite book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, and is the basis behind one of my favorite apps. My version the GTD speech was to have students collect, process, and focus on their tasks. As I assigned them a paper to write, it was up to them to write it. Perhaps it might be more useful to determine what steps they needed to take to start their assignment, including setting aside some time to actually do it.
It’s unlikely that my students understood the entire idea behind GTD, based on my brief description of it. Moreover, as I finished explaining GTD, I saw some students grazing on their phones, which they all have, or notebook computers, which only very few students use. That was a good time to remind them that the whole GTD process, much like doing well on assignments or exams, falls apart unless they have an unrelenting focus.