April 12, 2004

The Follies of Spring

Category: Personal — Biella @ 8:27 pm

It is that time of year where I feel the greatest ambivalence. I walk the streets drawn by the budding white flowers, sitting so frail at the ends of branches while spring winds and rains threaten its beautifully liminal existence. I am excited for it is the end of winter, yet peeved at the indecisiveness of the weather. A prefectly agreeable day of sun and mild winds is followed by piercing winds threatning to bring an end to those wonderfully rich nuggests of colors starting to emerge, seemingly from nowhere.

But this period has always been matched with a lot of personal anxiety. Part of it, as silly as it may sound is taxes, the enigmatic and arcane bureaucratic form causing me great distress especially after messing up on taxes years ago which led to a hefty re-payment plan (with interest of course) years later. Also, it is the time of year in which I start to ponder, as a grad student, about my financial future and this I feel very very very ambivalently. On the one hand I am nothing but grateful for the supoprt I have received, and the same time I have the leisure to think about what are really at some level, frivolous affaris. I feel no reason to complain. On the other hand for example, I am not really allowed to legally work for more than 6 hrs a week on my current fellowship so when I run out of funds, I am basically left bone dry. This is an arcane way of managing financial affairs, one of course that I find perturbing– since I don’t know of many jobs that pay around 800 a week for my skill set (you know to cover all the expenses I need to cover), I will either have to take out a loan, find a big wad of cash in the dumpster, or come up with an all together new and really creative solution to this financial problem.

In the end, things usually work themselves out and often for the best but when you are in the thick of it all, it never quite seems that way.

The question of finances reminds me that I recently read a very well written article by
Karl Fogel on the reform of copyright (but do get your free copies while you can).

I like how he offers suggestions about how we might pay producers of content even if and when the content is made very accessible to wider publics. His analysis is passionate yet balanced, incisive yet lacking righetousness, and just written plain well (no wonder he is comissioned to write books). He offers passages like the following which sum up in plain force the nature of the industry, the stakes of the current system, and the contradictions of it all:

The combination of a still-sympathetic public and deep pockets has unfortunately allowed the copyright industry to exercise dangerous influence at the legislative level. The result is a disturbing trend: mutually reinforcing physical and legal barriers that, while ostensibly designed to combat illegal copying, have the inevitable effect of interfering with all copying. Digital copy-protection schemes are increasingly enforced by your computer’s hardware itself, rather than by malleable and replaceable programs. And the same companies that own content often also manufacture the hardware that makes distribution possible. Have you bought a computer from Sony? What about a CD from Sony’s music division? That’s the same company, and its left hand knows what its right hand is doing. With government cooperation, this combination becomes even more powerful. In the United States we now have a law

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