Category: "culture/news"

Bright Eyes

I've been meaning to post about this band for a while. I use the term band loosely; it is the brainchild of singer and songwriter Conor Oberst, and is made up of whatever musician friends he can bring together at the time. Bright Eyes reminds me a bit of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo because of the twang, the depression and the preoccupation with alcohol. He's also got some protest songs and some un-sappy love songs. One of my favorites is "Road to Joy" which uses the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" (which you trombonists and tubas might remember from jr. high band) as a background for protest. He is wise way beyond his years (he's younger than I) and has powerful lyrics and a haunting voice. Here's a good example from "At the Bottom of Everything": "While my mother waters plants, my father loads his gun/He says, "Death will give us back to God, just like the setting sun/is returned to the lonesome ocean". Some songs on I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning feature Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Emmylou Harris. The coolest part is that Bright Eyes' label, Saddle Creek records, is independent, and Conor refuses to sign with a major label. In fact, Conor's collaborators are also opposed to big labels and ridiculous copyright laws: My Morning Jacket was featured on Wired Magazine's Creative Commons CD. (For more on creative commons licensing, search for "Free Culture" on our blog.) If you value my musical tastes at all (which I understand fully that you probably don't), you should take a listen. Oh yeah, and there are two free songs here.

School board candidate question three

Discuss your opinions on how the Adrian School district can improve,
both financially as well as improving the quality of the district (question submitted by Cole Young).

Steve Cooper: That's a tough one. To give an answer you really need to be involved with board. The financial side is based so much on the state's reimbursement program, therefore it's hard to judge without working with the board. As for the quality of the school district, it's simple. It's based on the class and caliber of educators you hire. A school is only as good as its educators.

Steve Lewis: We can improve the quality of the district by electing quality board members, with the best interest of the children in mind. We can improve financially by making good decisions.

Monte Johnson: Ensure that every Adrian R-III School District employee has the resources and budget needed to assist/challenge our student body to excel in all phases of performance, no matter what the challenge. I short, increase every student's academic achievements. In my opinion, the most important issue facing any school board today is dealing with funding/budget issues. Today more than ever, we need to use every resource we can receive and I think we need to possibly increase our bonds/bonding capacity to ensure we are taking a proactive approach to all issues. The issue with improving is that, a person that is running for school board will not know all the issues that come with change until they have been a school board member for a while and become informed/educated about all the issues.

Vanessa Tallman: no reply

Kellie Case: no reply

Jim Hester: no reply

School board candidate question two

What qualities and experience will you bring to the board?

Steve Cooper: I have run my own business and been a heath care administrator, nursing home and long-term care consultant. That has taught me management in a large organization. Several of those have been larger than our school district.

Steve Lewis: I am a certified board member, with three years experience.

Monte Johnson: I'm 42 years of age, happily married with three wonderful children. My career field has been in construction with an area of proficiency in technical, administration and budgeting processes. I would be one more individual with different life and career experiences and an open mind to assist the team/board.

Vanessa Tallman: no reply

Kellie Case: no reply

Jim Hester: no reply

School board candidate question one

I sent three questions to the six school board candidates. The answers are given in the order I received them. The election is on Tuesday, April 5.

Why do you want to be on the school board?

Steve Cooper: I'd like to pay back to the community what I've attained over the years. I have a thorough knowledge of education and understand what's needed to increase the abilities of our students.

Steve Lewis: I want to be on the school board because I want to help Make our school The best it can be.

Monte Johnson: I wish to assist in any way possible, with the continuing positive leadership teams that the school district boards, past and present have achieved. Board members are charged with determining the educational programs of our school district for our students. We should continue to be proactive in developing comprehensive strategies and programs for existing and future issues.

Vanessa Tallman: no reply

Kellie Case: no reply

Jim Hester: no reply

MGM v. Grokster

Yesterday hearings began for the Supreme Court case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, Ltd. This is a very important case. The movie studio is suing the creator of a peer to peer file sharing network, because the software makes it easy for users to exchange copyrighted material.

This case is not about whether it's legal or illegal to trade copyrighted material. That is already well established. What MGM is trying to do is hold the technology responsible. They want to make it illegal to create products that have the potential for copyright infringement. If they win this case, then it may overturn the Court's earlier decision of Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, in which the Court ruled that Sony's Betamax recorder was legal even though it could be used for copyright infringement. This is the case that has made it possible for us to have the VCR, TiVo, iPod and really the personal computer. If technology that can infringe copyright is outlawed, then none of those things would be legal.

Let's take a quick roll call of supporters for each side. In the MGM corner we have the MPAA, RIAA, ASCAP, Bush administration, Major League baseball, Napster LLC, the Christian Coalition and a few major recording artists. In the Grokster corner: EFF, Creative Commons, Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Mark Cuban, and several independent recording artists (this LA Times story explains why independent artists support file-sharing). You can look over a more complete list and read the briefs that the supporters have filed here and here.

Here is a brief summary of the first day's hearings.

Berry on work

What are People For?The great question that hovers over this issue, one that we have dealt with mainly by indifference, is the question of what people are for. Is their greatest dignity in unemployment? Is the obsolescence of human beings now our social goal? One would conclude so from our attitude toward work, especially the manual work necessary to the long-term preservation of the land, and from our rush toward mechanization, automation, and computerization. In a country that puts an absolute premium on labor-saving measures, short workdays, and retirement, should there be any surprise at permanence of unemployment and welfare dependency? Those are only different names for our national ambitions (Berry 125).

Again, I have a hard time agreeing with this. For one, I like computers. I like work-saving devices. But I have a hard time denying that there's some truth in what he says here, too.

Berry on competition

What are People For?I'm not posting this quote from What Are People For? by Wendell Berry because I agree with it. I don't know if I do. But it is thought-provoking and I'd like to hear what everyone thinks.

The ideal of competition always implies, and in fact requires that any community must be divided into a class of winners and a class of losers. The division is radically different from the other social divisions: that of the more able and the less able, or that of the richer and the poorer, or even that of the rulers and the ruled. These latter divisions have existed throughout history and at time, at least, have been ameliorated by social and religious ideals that instructed the strong to help the weak. As a purely economic ideal, competition does not contain or imply any such instructions. In fact, the defenders of the ideal of competition have never known what to do with or for the losers. The losers simply accumulate in human dumps, like stores of industrial waste, until they gain enough misery and strength to overpower the winners. The idea that the displaced and dispossessed "should seek retraining and get into another line of work" is, of course, utterly cynical; it is only the hand-washing practiced by officials and experts. A loser, by definition, is somebody whom nobody knows what to do with. There is no limit tot he damage and the suffering implicit in this willingness that losers, should exist as a normal economic cost (Berry 131).

Flippin' sweet!


What are People For?I've exchanged a few emails with a friend about protest and when it's appropriate. I thought I should share this passage from Wendell Berry's What Are People For?.

Much protest is naive; it expects quick, visible improvement and despairs and gives up when such improvement does not come. Protesters who hold out longer have perhaps understood that success is not the proper goal. If protest depended on success, there would be little protest of any durability or significance. History simply affords too little evidence that anyone's individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence (Berry 62).

I'm more optimistic about the potential of protest to bring real change than Berry seems to be here. But, I thought his conclusion about the real value of protest was especially germane to our discussion about war protest.

President's uncle cashes in on Iraq war

William HT BushWilliam H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.
(Read the whole story - LA Times)

William Bush still owns over two million dollars worth of stock in Engineered Support Systems Inc. The company claims that having Bush on the board hasn't helped them get any of its lucrative no-bid contracts. Even if that's true, it's worth noting that that a close relative of the president is making a huge profit off of the war that Bush conducted.

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