I’m not the right person to comment on Aaron Swartz’s death. Plenty of others who are better informed than I have done so already. A few of the more insightful articles I’ve read are:

Lawrence Lessig: “Prosecutor as Bully”

Glenn Greenwald: “The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz”

Alex Stamos: “Aaron Swartz Died Innocent”

What I do want to do is reprint Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” in its entirety and invite some discussion about how academic publishing works and how those who participate in this type of publishing view the prosecution against Swartz (especially in light of pushes for increasingly open access).

My general take is pretty in line with Aaron’s: traditional academic publishing is a dinosaur living on borrowed time that young scholars are pretty much forced to feed. If you don’t publish in respected, old-timey, usually paywall-protected journals, you are reducing your already slim hope of a tenure-track job. The publishers’ commoditization of your work does nothing to compensate you; it merely stands on tradition that you work for pennies while they make a good sum of money off of you and others like you (which you actually indirectly fund, at least as a grad student, through journal subscriptions at the campus libraries paid for by your tuition). Meanwhile, you get backpatted for being such a successful author as to publish in one of these prestigious journals and add that line to your CV. It is a shit system, but, at least for young scholars, there’s very little one can do about it. You aren’t in a position of power at all. And the pushback for flouting the system (what MIT and the prosecutor did to Swartz) reinforces the reality that we aren’t all going to they aren’t about to let us publicly rebel and just toss everything out there for the public to find (though a lot of people have over the years have been doing just this).

Anyway, the text of the manifesto is below the cut. And thank you for everything, Aaron.

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I compiled this for my own personal record-keeping, but thought I’d share.

I try to read at least one novel or story collection a week, and I aim to write at least a brief review for each (I rarely hit that goal, though, especially with my other reading/writing requirements). I’m probably omitting some books I’ve forgotten from this list because I started compiling it at the end of July,  and I’m not including kids’ books I read with my daughter or scholarly non-fiction/philosophy/etc. only people like me read (each of which would have a separate list if I had time to put it together).  This list is organized in a roughly chronological order of when read.  Books marked with an asterisk were re-reads.

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Of course everything didn’t end all at once. Does no one understand the meaning of Apocalypse at all?

As a slightly-related starting point, here’s the voiceover opening montage to The Road Warrior (1981), which is one of the great film intros of all time:

While most people think about apocalypse as a singular event (it’s sexier that way), the reality is that we are living in apocalyptic times where a group of related crises (climate change, resource depletion, etc.) all point toward a wide-scale, gradual collapse of civilization as we know it. One of the most overlooked aspects in this dire scenario, at least beyond existing drought areas, is the increasing threat of water scarcity pretty much everywhere.

This article gets at one particular manifestation of gross negligence with regard to stewardship and so-called “development,” AND the crazy kind of solutions people come up with:

“Want some Missouri water? Colorado, get in line” AGua, 12/19/2012

The slices of the Colorado River pie are getting cut thinner and thinner.  With growing populations in southwestern cities and increased needs for irrigation, doling out the dwindling supplies of the Colorado River has reached such a dried up state that government agents are suggesting piping water from the Missouri River 600 miles across Kansas to Denver.  The federal Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Department of the Interior) will be releasing a report this week proposing a constellation of options for mediating growing concern over water supplies for the ~25 million people who rely on the Colorado River, reports the NYTimes.

Words cannot….


Also on the water front:

“Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply” – Abraham Lustgarten (ProPublica, 12/11/2012)

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

Scary stuff.  Thanks EPA!

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Like a number of people I know, I’ve been reluctant to write online in light of what happened last Friday. Anything I could write, including a bunch of things I’ve got backlogged, seemed so trivial, and the last thing the internet needed was another opinion on the tragedy, so I wasn’t about to write that even if it would have been healthy to purge all the things running around in my head in something beyond a sad or angry twitter post.

Additionally, most of what I did read (and I was indeed reading and retweeting a bit of what others were all-too-willing to post) was shit . . . ideological, reactionary, narrow, disrespectful, etc., and all that despite of intent. More often than not, people need to shut up and think first instead of blurting things out online.

I’m ready to–not sure it is the right phrasing because the effect of events like this doesn’t just go away–move on; and that last sentence in the above paragraph brings me around to a more broad topic that a friend recently published an article on and I’d like to briefly chime in on.

Over at The Awl, my friend Whitney Phillips co-authored (with Kate Miltner) a piece called “The Internet’s Vigilante Shame Army.” The article deals with a lot of what has happened this past year with relation to individual online misdeeds/mistakes/creepiness and the subsequent retribution via doxxing/public shaming/IRL fallout carried out by groups of angry users. It is a long read, and covers a large number of subsets of behavior, but is quite excellent in analyzing one important aspect of where our online discourse is right now.  I strongly recommend anyone who finds this post reading it in its entirety before he or she bothers with the rest of my post.

A declaration of topic from the opening section by Phillips:

If recent high-profile controversies surrounding Violentacrez, Comfortably Smug, racist teens on Twitter, Lindsey Stone and Hunter Moore are any indication, it would seem that many people, members of the media very much included, are increasingly willing to take online justice into their own hands. Because these behaviors attempt to route around the existing chain of command (within mainstream media circles, the legal system, even on-site moderation policies), I’ve taken to describing them as a broad kind of online vigilantism. It might not be vigilantism in the Dog the Bounty Hunter sense, but it does—at least, it is meant to—call attention to and push back against some real or perceived offense.

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Friday Links for 12/7/2012

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Friday Links

In holy-shit-are-we-fucked news . . .

“What Could Disappear”  (The New York Times Sunday Review, 11/24/2012)

Thinking of buying property in Miami Beach?  Good luck with that.

The NYT applied this fun new app to see what various coastal cities will look like with the sea level rise that we’ll see in the relatively near future.  Note that the estimates for how long to reach each level are pretty conservative.  Note also that no one at the NYT apparently gives a shit about places not in the USA.

New Orleans with 5 foot sea level rise (88% flooded)

New Orleans with 5 foot sea level rise (88% flooded)

“You Can Give a Boy a Doll, but You Can’t Make Him Play With It” – Christina Hoff Sommers (The Atlantic, 12/6/2012)

As a parent of a 5 y/o daughter, how certain types of play (and toys) are gendered, and how adults (and, by extension, playmates) reinforce so-called “proper” kinds of play for boys or girls is something I think about quite a bit.  This article looks at how Sweden is probably going a little too far in trying to push equality.  However, the author (note her background) certainly overstates the gender difference and errs too far on the nature side of the nature/nurture spectrum with the underexplained and overstated appeals to scientific studies.  An interesting jumping-off point for thinking about how toys, marketing, and the like structure gender identity.

And on a related note:

“Boys with babies and women with knives: Rethinking gender assumptionist power structures” – Kameron Hurley (Author’s Blog, 9/7/2012)

Hurley, the author of God’s War (which is sitting on my shelf to be read), takes on some dubious and sweeping gender claims made by one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin (her original article is here).  Hurley’s critique of Le Guin’s gender missteps are reminiscent of Samuel Delany’s commentary on The Dispossessed and mirror some (thus far unpublished) ideas of my own.  As much as I like Le Guin, she is certainly not above such critiques.  Key paragraphs from Hurley:

So if I generally agree with LeGuin that hierarchies are bad and men certainly benefit from them more than women, and that as women join them, they will also probably become assholes, just assholes with wombs who have more reason to push for for universal childcare and contraception, why am I taking issue with LeGuin’s wording that building these power structures is somehow intrinsic to one’s DNA instead of a social construct we support based on our gender?

Because it’s arguments like LeGuin’s that people use when building worlds full of passive women and aggressive men. “Women are just naturally nurturing people who value interdependence” and “men are just naturally aggressive people who prefer unequal power structures” are statements that let people get away with lazy writing and worldbuilding. They think, “Well, if women are naturally this way, I certainly couldn’t create a society of violent women without radically altering their DNA” or “Surely I can’t create an egalitarian society or society that actually has men in it who don’t abuse people without castrating all of them.”

That’s bullshit.

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Okay, so I have to admit this looks like a solid remake/revisioning of the first film, with some budget behind it.  Gore-pornish, sure, but I assume you know what you are getting into with this title and history. The annoying thing thus far is how many people are saying it is “wrong” based on comparing it to events in Evil Dead 2 like the two originals are exactly the same.


I’ve let this concept slide for a while, so it’s time to get back on track.  I’m going to try to shift my focus to include more bloggers, small websites, and positions I disagree with from now on.

“Batman and the Problem of Constituent Power” – David Graeber (guest post at De Dicto 10/28/2012)

I’m a fan of David Graeber as a critic of capitalism; as a critic of film and pop culture, however, I’m much more ambivalent.  This is his take on The Dark Knight Rises (and superheroes in general) vis-a-vis the Occupy movement.  The main problem with the essay is that it starts out with cliched and at times incorrect or overstated claims about the superhero genre. To put it bluntly, Graeber comes across as someone who is not well-read enough in the existing criticism of superheroes to be writing about them.  Because of this, I’m guessing this essay will lose (or enrage) most comic fans and critics early on as he seems to be appropriating something without studying it thoroughly, and doing so in order to make a point about one specific film that he could have made without such overgeneralizations.  That said, the concluding arguments about how The Dark Knight Rises ends are worth pushing through to the end and considering.

“The Myth of Meritocracy” – Christopher Powell (The Practical Theorist 11/14/2012)

Powell is one of those relatively rare, practicing academics whose public writing is written clearly, with a minimum of jargon, and without arrogance.  He often deals with difficult theory but doesn’t try to make concepts harder than they need to be.  I’m a big fan of that.  In this essay he lays out the structural inequalities that affect student academic success.  Upon reading it, the points he makes seem so obvious that you tend to just nod your head like you knew this all along, which you probably did even if you never articulated it clearly.

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