Friday, July 30, 2010

2 reasons I keep up with Lawrence Lessig

UPDATE (8/6/10) on Lessig's video:
On the morning of August 6, I (and a zillion others) got a tweet from Lawrence Lessig saying he has pulled his "Of/By/4" video due to a probable misquote of Lincoln in the video. Read more about it here:

When there's more I will post it separately. Meanwhile, let's all aspire to half as much integrity as Lessig showed. No whining, no excuses, just the correction. Now go enjoy some other Lessig videos.

-----update ends-----

I first stumbled upon Lawrence Lessig while investigating better ways for my students to do presentations besides "standard" PowerPoint slide drone-o-rama. Turns out that beyond the technology, his ideas on intellectual freedom mesh rather well with mine, and can inform my thinking & writing whether I believe it happens or not. He's on hiatus from the blogosphere but remains quite active on Twitter and elsewhere.

(1) I like the Lessig method of presentation and wish I had enough TA support to do more of it myself. He hasn't broken anyone's PowerPoint addiction, a pet peeve I tackle with my students in my academic life, but he's managed to work with and build around the core software, and he keeps his talks moving visually so you don't care that they're based in PowerPoint. You learn not to blink much.

(2) He makes sense. We need more "angry white men" who channel it this way. In the below TEDx talk titled "of/by/4" he quotes many people-- yes, his share of "dead white males" and a few live ones (including David Byrne, one of my creative faves who also knows how to liven up PowerPoint) but I admire his selective skills and the lack of women&minorities does not offend. He frames this talk with a pertinent quote from Thoreau:

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

Therefore, I dedicate this post to all the progressives who are running around in circles, independently making sense, yet rarely converging to actually bring "progress" writ large. So carve out 18 minutes, not necessarily all at once but it helps. Watch and learn. When done, check out his other presentations at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No justice, no peace for Janet Jackson: Timberlake as Boo-Boo?


Oh, this cannot end well... Take me back, please, to "Hey, There, It's Yogi Bear!"

by Matt McDaniel July 28, 2010

He's certainly smarter than the average bear, but he's always been flatter than one, too.

That's changing this December when Yogi Bear makes the leap from 2D TV cartoon to 3D live-action movie. Like "Scooby-Doo" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" before it, "Yogi Bear" will have human actors sharing the screen with computer-animated versions of the animal characters. But what is different in this flick is the big names lending their voices to the CGI stars: Dan Aykroyd as Yogi, and Justin Timberlake as his buddy, Boo Boo.

Guest Quote of the Week (July 25-31, 2010)

Occasionally I will visit Edge of the American West as I have some family roots in that region and I can usually translate what their bloggers "must really mean." That blog has a current thread on Inception -- which film I have not yet seen -- and a commenter ("Anderson") posted something that I believe can be generalized to the world at large:

People who think Inception was “a royal piece of smoldering crap” haven’t seen enough genuinely bad movies, and really should never leave the safety of The Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two books out, painlessly again

This book reduction activity is anything but a habit yet, so pardon me for choosing another couple of easy candidates. One fits into a clear category from the original PostBourgie list (as reproduced at Racialicious). The other isn't per se a book directed at African Americans but I'ma count it anyway because it still gets a book out of the house.

I. Native Stranger: A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa, Eddy L. Harris (Category 11: AFRICA)

Why I bought the book: Already familiar with Harris through Mississippi Solo, interested in anything he writes in English. He has since gone the expatriate route and lives in France. I am interested in checking out this 2005 documentary about him, Eddy L. Harris: A Writer in France.

Why the book is going to someone else: This is the paperback edition, and I already had it in hardback. Duh on me for not catching it. (But then, that's one reason I started this project.) The good news is that I bought the paperback secondhand, at "popular prices."

BTW if you ever, I mean ever, confuse Eddy L. Harris with E. Lynn Harris, go sit in the corner for an hour.

II. Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde (Category: none)

Why I bought the book: Having listened to two Fforde audiobooks and read other Fforde, I find he creates a fantasy/alternate universe of a literary Earth that is-- sacrilege alert for some readers-- more entertaining to me than, uh, certain more established universes in the genre.

Why the book is going to someone else: Swapping it out for the 1st edition hardback, a copy of which I stumbled upon a few days ago. To be fair, I should count the hardback as my "in" for the above two "outs."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Van Jones doesn't seem thrown under the bus

Here's an interview with the recently emancipated "green guy" Van Jones at Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas (h/t JJP). He seems to be doing OK in his post-White House life. Runs about an hour. First several minutes is an intro by Howard Dean.

"I'll Make Me a World": One book in for the last two out

Earlier in these pages, I reported on two books that I gently set free in my "2 out for every in" project. At the time, I did not say what I actually did with the books, and whether I immediately brought a new one in. In this round, I donated them to a library in my area. Because I went back a day later, I can verify that Push was already snapped up, while The Haunting of Hip Hop was still available.

Also because of that return visit, I can claim one of those small, early successes touted by business books as being important when dealing with change. There was a slim, dark-spined volume that I almost overlooked, and I am exceedingly glad I pulled it off the shelf to examine it. It's one of those books that simply can't be reproduced with justice as an e-book, at least not until they can duplicate the tactile (and maybe the smell). 3D visual will help, but it still won't be good enough.

"The Creation" is a well-known poem by James Weldon Johnson. In 1972, an attractive Hallmark Crown Edition was published under the title "I'll Make Me a World": James Weldon Johnson's Story of the Creation. Here's the descriptive copy from the final page:

"Photographic composition and styling by Jim Cozad. Special photographic techniques were created by back-lighting transparent dies (sic), oils and crystals. To achieve the images, the photographer combined macro-photography and special darkroom techniques. The type is set in American Uncial, a calligraphic typeface by Victor Hammer and in Optima, a sans serif typeface created by Hermann Zapf. The paper is Hallclear, White Imitation Parchment and Ivory Fiesta Parchment. The cover is bound with natural weave book cloth and Torino paper. Book design by Jay Johnson."

Holding this little gem is a sensory treat due to the cloth and paper. The page edges are sort of scalloped but there's probably a technical term for it I don't know. Anyway, it adds to the experience and such a fetish may partially explain why I don't part with more books faster. I'll post a photo or scanned sample of a page, but meanwhile here's an Amazon link with cover image and one additional page:

And the full text of Johnson's poem can be found at Project Gutenberg (search the page for "The Creation") or at (on its own page but with annoying ads).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two Out for Every In: Easy victories

I am reminded by the reviewer's blurb at Cats and a Book to "be gentle"-- so in my book reduction project (as described in my previous post) I'll remain respectful of writers as I may be kicking some of their favorite children into the street to suffer a Dickensian winter. This is all a two-edged sword anyway, as readers could jump into the comments here with "You had what on your shelf?! For how long?!"

That said, let's get started with our first set of newly-orphaned books.

I. The Haunting of Hip Hop, Bertice Berry

"A ghost story with a beat... a mesmerizing cautionary tale about urban hip hop culture..."

Why I bought this book: (1) Caught my eye because it was a signed copy at a good price. Never mind to whom it was inscribed-- may have been just another book signing, may have been a best friend or relative! (2) The bio in back described the author as an "inspirational speaker, doctor of sociology, and former stand-up comedian." I often pick up books that meet either of these criteria, signed with interesting inscription, OR an intriguing bio. Both criteria and I'll give it a try for sure.

Why this book is going to someone else: I've read it, not likely to reread or refer back to it anytime soon.

One thing I'm keeping from this book: John Oliver Killens. This book had epigraphs at the beginning of some chapters. One that stuck was: "Time is swiftly running out, and a new dialogue is indispensable. It is so long overdue, it is already half past midnight." This is from "The Black Psyche" by Killens.

I started looking for his original. This led me to stumble upon a different Killen article, "The Development of a Black Psyche: An Interview" ( which I would never have heard of otherwise. I therefore thank Dr. Berry for writing the book.

Best as I can tell from the Googles, Dr. Berry is doing some commendable work out there. For example:

II. Push, Sapphire

"A stunningly frank effort that marks the emergence of an immensely promising writer."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Eventually Push became just a bit more well-known, due to being filmed as Precious. I have commented previously here and here on book and film phenomena.

Why I bought this book: Caught my eye due to excellent cover design (paperback, Vintage Contemporaries Edition, May 1997). Rave reviews.

Why this book is going to someone else: I've only picked at it over the past few years, reading a few pages here or there. I always feel better when I put it down, including today as I am writing these words.

Why I'm tempted to keep this book anyway: Resale value. Although prices vary wildly, this particular pre-film edition seems to do well enough on Amazon. I'm doing the karma thing in any case, and giving Push to an area library for their book sale.

In an upcoming "2 out": Which motivational speaker motivates me to get rid of his books?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I can quit anytime I want...well, just one more for the road

The other day over at Prometheus 6 I put my foot in it. We were on another topic altogether, the distracting, never-ending "whaddaya mean by 'acting white,' sucka" topic, and I veered slightly down another road, saying this:

While I'm advocating for skimming books that we believe in advance are going to suck (or which offer nothing new), I look around and realize that I have bunches of books written by and about African Americans/other minorities, and there are quite a few I only skimmed and will not read, and several I retain just because they look pretty good next to a book I really did read. I must "give back to the community" soon.

In a follow-up comment, I added:

Seriously, though, going electronic (as suggested in another thread by P6) is a good route when the physical book doesn't have any particular value for you. I also made significant headway a few years ago with a hard rule: Two books out for every book that comes in. Period. Then I fell off the wagon. Time to put that rule back into effect.

It could have ended there, but I kept seeing book omens (everything is an omen if you let it be such). Over at Racialicious, which is going through some kind of mutation/evolution but is still quite fascinating, they cross-posted the following from PostBourgie (snipped, go read the whole thing):


by Guest Contributor Belleisa, originally published at PostBourgie

There’s a game I like to play when I walk into a bookstore. Based on the the title, cover and store placement I can always interpret the marketing intention for a book meant for a black American audience. The best part of this game is that the books will, typically, fit into the following categories (they are, in no particular order):

1. Black Pathology or “What’s wrong with Black people?”
2. The literature of “sistah gurl”
3. Christian-oriented fiction/inspirational
4. Street-Lit or Hip-Hop fiction
5. The Slave Novel
6. The Civil Rights Book (This also includes Black Nationalism)
7. The extraordinary rise from street life/poverty/welfare into the middle class.
8. Poorly styled celebrity memoir, or well researched and documented hagiography
9. Black Queens and Kings
10. Hip-Hop analysis
12. The “Black” version of some mainstream topic (For example: “Black Girl’s Guide to Fashion; “Black Families’ Guide to Wealth;”) Guides will include slang, bright colors, and inevitably the phrase “the legacy of slavery.”
13. The Classics: Harlem Renaissance 101 and/or The Black Arts Movement. Toni Morrison.
14. Contemporary Classics or Literary Fiction (Mostly woman, mostly diaspora authors)
15. Non-black author writes really compelling story about black person(s); story gets awards accolades, lots of press and movie deal.

These topics produce wonderful books and poorly written books. They often represent a compendium of the black American experience, and just as often, they are simply a reflection of what publishing thinks black people read...

Well, I have a veritable sh--, er, a plethora of items in many of the above categories and they're possible candidates for being given away. I've just googled the phrase "getting rid of books" (with quotes) and almost drowned in the sanctimonious uncluttering of Midwestern spring-cleaning mavens. No extreme methods for me, thank you, just the original, comfortable slow de-booking.

So this marks the official, public start of "Two Out for Every In."

I'll report out on the candidates here, and whether they actually go or stay. Those of you with other, more unseemly addictions will immediately recognize the method. If you go public, you think you'll have a better chance of success, right?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quote of the Week (July 4-10, 2010)

There's a lot of stuff we don't know, that is one thing for sure.
     --Alex Witt, MSNBC anchor, 7/1/10

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Frederick Douglass, 4th of July speech all over the place

A tip o' th' doiby to rrp for the reminder about Douglass, as I've been sidetracked.

As most of us know, on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass spoke on “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro.” (“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”) This year I'm going to attend one traditional “patriotic” event and one patriotism-neutral event over the 4th of July weekend. Neither is likely to be heavily populated with POC. As with any large crowd on a holiday, some attendees will be irony-impaired, even if they are of liberal mindset, while others will be quite aware and a joy to talk to. So the Douglass speech, originally given to a white audience, may be appropriate to have freshly in mind and in context.

There are many readings of the Douglas speech online. I like Morgan Freeman's at YouTube has others, including James Earl Jones and Danny Glover (if you're not mad at him this week for ever having associated with Mel Gibson). For the readers amongst you, the original text is readily available as well.



Event-wise, Massachusetts has quite an interesting and supportive way of acknowledging the speech this year (mileage in your home state--yeah, lookin' at you, Arizona--may vary):
Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 12:45 PM

SPRINGFIELD - A communal reading of Frederick Douglass' fiery 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro” will take place Wednesday at noon in Court Square....

The event is part of a state-wide series of readings that is partially funded by a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Local collaborating organizations are the Springfield Museums, the City of Springfield, Mass Humanities, the Springfield Cultural Council and Art for the Soul Gallery.

Additional sponsors are The Brethren, Olive Tree Books and Voices, PAHMUSA, Springfield NAACP, and the Teaching American History Program of the Springfield Public Schools.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A word for the Senate Judiciary Committee

Thurgood Marshall was born on this day, July 2, in 1908.

And July 2010, once again, marks "America Has a Black President" month. (continuing h/t to Brown Man Thinking Hard for bringing this up in the first place)

More to follow on this most patriotic of weekends.