Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An excellent primer on a complex topic

One of my favorite issues in current debate is copyright law. I often, however, have a hard time conveying my own sense of urgency to people new to the debate.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, however, has an article in Columbia Journalism Review (courtesy of ALDaily) that serves as an excellent introduction. I'll quote the following paragraph in the hope that it will get you to read the whole article, if not make copyright law reform your own cause celebre.

Recent changes to copyright in North America, Europe, and Australia threaten to chill creativity at the ground level — among noncorporate, individual, and communal artists. As a result, the risk and price of reusing elements of copyrighted culture are higher than ever before. If you wanted to make a scholarly documentary film about the history of country music, for example, you might end up with one that slights the contribution of Hank Williams and Elvis Presley because their estates would deny you permission to use the archival material. Other archives and estates would charge you prohibitive fees. We are losing much of the history of the twentieth century because the copyright industries are more litigious than ever.

And it all goes back to Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Le Bureau

I have a confession to make. I don't watch The Office. I mean, not regularly, either in its American or British incarnations. This has begun to change, as I caught at least part of the second season of the American version in reruns over the summer, and my old roommate, Kevin, is devoted to the original British version. I have been trying to convince him of the charms of American version, particularly the dynamic between wistful non-couple Pam and Jim, which is think is every bit as good as Dawn and Tim in the original, and that, in his own American way, Steve Carell's Michael Scott does indeed contain some of the soft-hearted vulnerability that made Ricky Gervais's David Brent such a great character, in spite of his self-involved cluelessness.

I discovered yesterday, courtesy of Slate, that there are also French and German remakes of The Office: Le Bureau and Stromberg. Liesl Schillinger offers some pretty good insights into why three different cultures have felt the need to reinterpret Mr. Gervais's masterpiece, and maybe if I can talk Kevin into giving it a read, maybe we can sit down with the new season of the American version, and see if it deserves a chance.

(By the way, in entirely unrelated news, this is my 125th Wordwright post! Help me celebrate by visiting my new project Revelator and downloading our first chapbook, Line Jester and Other Stories by Michael Duncan. Hey, it's my 125th post, and I'll plug if I want to.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This is exactly the sort of thing you love to see right after buying a house

Word on the street is that the boom in the housing market may be over.

Now, one should keep in mind that, moreso than many other markets, the housing market is essentially local. If housing prices explode in Las Vegas, it doesn't mean that I'll turn a neat profit on my house in Detroit. Likewise, if there's a glut of houses on the market in Florida, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'll take a bath on my house in D.C.

Of course, I'm also a young consumer. I think I'd like to be in a position to think about buying a larger house in five years or so, and, with luck, I may be able to do that even if I have to take a small loss on the sale of my house. I'm certainly not in a position where I'm planning to use my house as an asset for retirement, or where I've refinanced past my ability to repay or resell.

Still, the prospect of a drop in housing prices isn't as exciting as it was six months ago, when I was still a renter. My house is a nice little house, but I don't think that my girls would relish sharing a 9' x 10' bedroom during their teens. (It would be a nice primer on the realities of dorm living, however.)