Monday, March 28, 2011

How to resolve copyright questions for digitizing out-of-print books

The Washington Post has an important editorial Monday March 28, “Online books and copyright law”, link here.

The Post argues that a non-profit body related to authors and literature, not a for profit-company (as with the Google Books Project), should represent the rights of authors (or their estates) for out-of-print books in determining the opt-in or opt-out issues.  There are examples around one can look at: the story of J.D. Salinger, or the many examples of “unfinished” works of composers in classical music literature which are later discovered.

There’s another practical issue.  Sometimes an out-of-print book has content that some parties associated with the author may take issue with being available online to search engines, whereas the author may have replaced the out-of-print version with a newer one to remove material previously objected to or perhaps just incorrect.  (My own “Do Ask Do Tell” has some issues – including one major historical inaccuracy – in its 1997 printing that were corrected for the 2000 iUniverse version.) 

The New York Times has a similar editorial March 30 here

Picture: remember the days of "slide rule accuracy"?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lisa Dodson's "The Moral Underground"

Author: Lisa Dodson
Title: “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy
Publication: New York: The New Press, ISBN 978-1-59558-642-1, 227 pages, paper (also available hardcover), Four Parts and an Addendum; Eight Chapters. Amazon link

My previous readings in this area have centered a lot on the books by Barbara Ehrenreich: “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch” (see this blog, March 28, 2006).  Particularly in the former, that earlier author had described the experience of “paying her dues” and undergoing the demeaning experience of minimum wage work.

Dodson focuses mainly on how employers (supervisors and managers), teachers, social workers and various others have to “break the rules” to help minimum or low wage workers.  She does spend some space, intermittently, on the absolute view of “personal responsibility,”  which would maintain that parent should not have had children (or engaged in behavior that could procreate them) until established economically in life.
She describes a concept called “cultural logic”, which more or less distinguishes between how high and low income families view child rearing.  It is a little bit like the blue-and-red family dichotomy, but not exactly. Low income families, she maintains, expect their kids to remain tied to extended family but also expect them to learn to fend for themselves. This sounds like a bit of a contradiction.  One could say the low income family expects to provide for everyone as a member of a family at a minimal level, but doesn’t feel responsible for letting children get a heads-up on education or career, or on being able to compete on a global board game “individually.”

Toward the end, she makes several points (five of them) of what must change.  They seem clear enough.  We must pay the people who do the work we don’t want to do (like caregiving) enough. And we must give parents (especially working mothers) equal access to advancement.  There are others, as about poverty and education.

In the end, however, an unfair economy is “fixed” only by rethinking the “social contract”, or of what is to be expected of every individual, outside of what a market economy can mediate.  That gets into a lot of moral areas, like sharing risk, service, and the cultural battle between families and the childless, and will tend to lead us into recommendations that sound like contradictions, at least with a moral standard based just on narrow ideas of “personal responsibility” inherent in libertarianism.  It could get us into discussions about the “natural family” of Carlson and Mero (this blog, Sept. 18, 2009).  For example, suppose you argued that if you employ a nanny or caregiver at below a certain level, you could become responsible for her children.  Imagine the flow of argument.

Hour-plus interview of Dodson here from YouTube:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dan Abrams and "Man Down": Women are better than men at almost everything

Author: Dan Abrams

Title: "Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt that Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else"

Publication: Abrams Image, 2011. ISBN 978-0-8109-9829-2, 144 pages, hardcover, 5 parts and 36 very short chapters, with a “Closing Argument”

Dan Abrams has been chief legal analyst for NBC News (not to be confused with Pete Williams, who covers justice issues).  He’s been touting this little tome, which seems to be self-published, on the Today Show.  And to show that men wince at pain more (whatever the history of Sparta), he followed the example of Donald Trump’s Apprentice contestant Troy McClain and allowed his legs to be waxed on camera (good thing it would still make a difference).  And he mentions the Universal movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin” with it’s man-o-lantern.

But it’s true, girls mature earlier than boys, and in recent years it’s become apparent that they will outperform boys when allowed to in school.

That was apparent to me when I was growing up in the 50s.  Warren Farrell covered the problem well with his 1993 book “The Myth of Male Power” (Legato).  Men were expected to engage in risky group pursuits to protect the women and children – progeny – in a community. Hence, as conservative writer George Gilder has often argued (“Men and Marriage”, 1986, reviewed here April 12, 2006), women are biologically superior and political power for men is a necessary contrivance set up to make them needed; they find meaning only when they settle for monogamous marriage with children.

I wonder if that has something to do with sexual orientation; some boys will perceive that it is in their “self interest” to skip all the self-sacrificial ritual rites of passage and move toward upward affiliation instead.
At least women don't play in the NFL.  But it's just conceivable they could show up in MLB some day. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker examine why young adults delay marriage; "second demographic shift" as consequences?

On February 3, on my issues blog, I covered a Washington Times column by Cheryl Wetzstein about a recent book from Oxford University Press by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.  Regnerus (his name reminds me of conservative “Regnery Publishing”) is a University of Texas sociology professor, and Uecker is a postdoctoral scholar at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina.

The book is titled “Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying”  (Amazon link).  Despite the conservative-sounding authorial background, it is not a platform for right-wing talk, and in general it echoes the “Red State, Blue State comparisons of a book by Cahn and Carbone that I reviewed Aug. 2, 2010, and devotes a chapter to that concept (and mentions a common source, New Yorker article by Margaret Talbot).  The book is filled with tables (no doubt printed by “SAS”) and discussions of a statistical or almost census nature.

But, no doubt, the central theme has to do with the idea that marriage and family seem reduced in America as a cultural driver, and the book, with considerable preparation, focuses on why young adults put off marriage. There are different variations of thinking according to “Red and Blue” patterns.  But statistics show that marriages entered in ages 23-27 may be the most stable, and consort with the biologically optimal reproductive years. Self-definition, hyperindividualism, the cost of education, and the desire for extended freedom and self expression all contribute to the delay of marriage, but not always the delay in having babies.
In fact, as the authors point out, women may control the “price of sex” and it has become cheaper (like electronics), and heterosexual men are less principled about family than many would like. In fact, men generally want “experience” (I remember that from my own dormitory and Army days) and that fact seems a bit immutable.

In the Red-Blue chapter, the authors discuss the concept of “Second Demographic Shift” (SDL, not SNL (!)) and cast this in terms of the “moral hazard” presented by socialized programs that make families more dependent on “society” and less inclined to view their own children as resources to solve the problems associated with aging.

Early on, the book says it will focus on the heterosexual world, not out of any moral conviction but because it is difficult, in terms of logic, to map the political and social arguments on gay rights back onto arguments about marriage, or more difficult than people think. The issues overlap but are not synonyms.  (I agree.)  But they do return briefly in the Red-Blue chapter, and on p. 210 they write that that Red-state mentality sees gay marriage as “symbolic lunge for their throat, a contest over their identity and the historic centrality of marriage in America and western civilization.”

We should be mindful (as the authors trace), that at one time marriage and parenting were seamlessly integrated into the rest of life, as families (as on the frontier) had to cohere to survive. In earlier times, most people could not "afford" to conceptualize getting married and having kids as an expressive "choice." That has certainly changed, as for many swaths of most middle class life, children become consumers of wealth, not always perceived as the future beyond us.  But concerns over “sustainability” could send the wild pendulum stalking back.

I suspect that so much of the “moral” debate, however related to religion, has a lot to do with maintaining emotional stakes a “family bed” with marital partners as both age “in sickness and in health”.  Men, especially, can be drawn back to fantasy, and to the idea of a younger, nubile partner (a point that George Gilder made so much of in “Men and Marriage” (1986).  Men naturally tend to perceive potential partners at fixed points in the “time arrow” as if looks conveyed permanent moral essence, which we know intellectually to be false (maybe “angels” are excepted, or perhaps the extraterrestrials of “The Event”).  The authors talk about this in terms of “real life” which marriage either creates or ends (my mother used to use that term).

Publication data: ISBN 978-0-19-974328-5, 295 pages, indexed, eight chapters, appendices.