English Motherfucker, do you speak it?

I think that anyone with even a minimal interest in language should be easily fascinated by profanity. Seriously, the things that we can and should not say in different languages is fascinating.

Changing cultures makes this even more interesting. Swedes have an excellent grasp of English but their most common exposure to it is through popular culture. This means that we think of Americans as a group that uses a high level of profanity. It’s all very confusing for swedes when they get to the states and use the language they have assimilated only to find that they are considered to be using it rudely.

So far I have not been told my language is not fit for class, but I do tend to start all my new courses with a warning that I tend towards “salty” speech. Nothing they haven’t heard before, but maybe not used in this context.

Here is a supercut of every Motherfucker that Samuel L. Jackson has used in the movies… well he is still going strong so I guess this list is out of date.

James Paul Gee’s Advice to Academics

Academia is full of horror stories and advice. But this is awesome. This is James Paul Gee’s “Ramblings of an old academic: Unconfident advice for end-times academics”. It’s very much worth reading the whole thing but if you don’t then at least check out his advice:

So I have no real advice that you should take without a massive grain of salt. But here it is any way:

1. Your job as an academic is to have ideas and to put them together with other people’s ideas to make better ones with potential for real impact. This mission precedes thoughts of gain, publication, or fame.

2. Keep one foot in your college or university activities and one foot outside in a related but different activities that create fruitful and sometimes unexpected synergies.

3. Do not worry over much about protecting your ideas. Let them out in the world early and often so they can get tested and promiscuously mate with other people’s ideas. If someone steals one of your ideas and you were only going to have one good one anyway, then you would not have had a good career anyway—you have to have good ideas over the long haul.

4. Try to develop “taste”, that is, good judgment about which ideas, yours or other people’s, are tasty, deep, and have “legs” for impact into the future, even if at first they seem like weak fledglings. Champion tasty ideas even if others are skeptical and even if they are not your ideas.

5. Pick your political battles carefully. Academic politics and committees damage our minds, bodies, and souls. Pick only the battles really worth fighting for and fight them and them alone. How do you know which these are? They are the ones that when you really think about it are worth taking real risks of damage to yourself and your career for. They are the ones where winning means making the world a better place.

6. Good ideas often come from unexpected experiences, ones we are tempted not to follow up on because they might lead us away from our “field”. Every book I have written was caused by following up a lead that at first seemed marginal and strange from the perspective of how I or others construed my “field”. One example: I wrote a book on video games because my then six-year-old turned me onto them. While I was writing the book in 2001-2002 the whole idea seemed silly if I thought about it too much. I had Walter Mitty dreams of getting invited to the prestigious Game Developers Conference and creating a whole new field. None of this was likely to happen given that I was totally and utterly unknown in the world of games and given, too, at that time, no one much saw video games as relevant to literacy studies and vice-versa. But both things did happen.

7. The “game” of life is nine innings, to use another sports metaphor. Never give up if you are behind. Play out all the innings and quit only when the fat lady sings. (Sorry again for, continuing the sports metaphor that might now be seen as insensitive to over-weight people.)

8. In my life I have never worried that I was paid less or was less well known than other people. I have only asked myself if I am happy with what I have and acted to get more if and only if I wasn’t, not because other people had more. This has worked well, at least for me. I now know, having worked in education, that it is called a “mastery orientation” (competing with yourself and judging yourself by your own efforts and progress) and not an “achievement orientation” (competing to beat others and judging yourself by how you stand in relationship to others).

9. In my life, I have never cared whether I got the expected rewards others did at the same time as them or before them. I have always been a slow developer and arrived to each party, or stage of development a bit later than others. It seems only to have meant I got to savor some of the benefits later when others were already leaving the party.

10. The world is a mess. We need to at least put a finger in the collapsing dike until someone else can come up with a big idea to replace the whole thing. People will ask you how being an academic allowed you to do any real good in the world. Be sure that at the least your finger is in the dike and then tell them that’s the good you did. That is all I was and am able to do. I have just tried to put my finger in the dike. As I get older I have the fantasy that what will replace the breaking dike and stem the flood is just a wall of people side by side with their fingers in the wall. Standing there, all together, getting wet, but holding the flood at bay, they will come to realize that it is not true that individuals cannot do anything in the face of big challenges. They can put a finger in the dike and yell for others to join them. They may well come to realize then that that wall of fingers in the dike is the big idea we were all waiting for. An idea no one had but everyone contributed to. An odd picture, but the one I end with.

Ramblings of an old academic: Unconfident advice for end-times academics (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297675768_Ramblings_of_an_old_academic_Unconfident_advice_for_end-times_academics.


Teaching UC Davis about the Streisand Effect

Remember this?

Thats right. Its 2011, a campus police officer at UC Davis casually pepper spraying peaceful non-threatening protesters. This is an act of pure sadism. There is no threat to the helmeted, armed police. So why the exaggerated use of force? But don’t take my word for it.

Here is what’s on Wikipedia

Sometime around 4:00 pm, two officers, one of whom is named John Pike, began spraying Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band military-grade pepper spray at “point-blank range” in the faces of the unarmed seated students. The pepper spray used, according to various websites, has a recommended minimum distance of six feet.[48] Bystanders recorded the incident with cell phone cameras, while members of the crowd chanted “Shame on you” and “Let them go” at the police officers.[49] Eleven protesters received medical treatment; two were hospitalized.[50][51][52]

And here is an analysis of the situation and the report of the event.

Its totally embarrassing for UC Davis. Police brutality, harming the students you claim to educate, arming campus police as paramilitaries, overreacting to peaceful protest etc etc.

Thankfully the internet reacts. There were huge amounts of articles but also memes. Don’t forget the memes.

and graffiti

Turns out that the university was not too pleased. They paid of the bad cop instead of punishing him. Be that as it may. But now we find out that:

“The University of California at Davis shelled out some $175,000 to consultants to clean up the school’s online reputation following a 2011 incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters,according to documents cited by the Sacramento Bee.” (Washington Post)

Charming use of money. Lets make sure that UC Davis learns all about the Streisand Effect

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.
Lets make sure that the images that prove the callous nature of that police officer, that police department, and that university are not easily forgotten.

Pools, Money & Race

Pool ownership isn’t just about money; it’s also about race. Across the country, desegregation played an important role in the rise of private swimming pools after 1950, as the historian Jeff Wiltse argues in his 2007 book, Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America:

Although many whites abandoned desegregated public pools, most did not stop swimming. Instead, they built private pools, both club and residential, and swam in them … . Suburbanites organized private club pools rather than fund public pools because club pools enabled them to control the class and racial composition of swimmers, whereas public pools did not.

Difference between a community and a network

The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with.

Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap”

Letter In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

Came across this letter online and wanted to save it here for future reference.

In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub

In Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s tale the Little Prince meets a businessman who accumulates stars with the sole purpose of being able to buy more stars. The Little Prince is perplexed. He owns only a flower, which he waters every day. Three volcanoes, which he cleans every week. “It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them,” he says, “but you are of no use to the stars that you own”.

There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier, the largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin1 stands in sharp contrast to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and poverty-level wages for adjunct faculty. Elsevier owns some of the largest databases of academic material, which are licensed at prices so scandalously high that even Harvard, the richest university of the global north, has complained that it cannot afford them any longer. Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says “We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices.”2 For all the work supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are priced such that they prohibit access to science to many academics – and all non-academics – across the world, and render it a token of privilege.3

Elsevier has recently filed a copyright infringement suit in New York against Science Hub and Library Genesis claiming millions of dollars in damages.4 This has come as a big blow, not just to the administrators of the websites but also to thousands of researchers around the world for whom these sites are the only viable source of academic materials. The social media, mailing lists and IRC channels have been filled with their distress messages, desperately seeking articles and publications.

Even as the New York District Court was delivering its injunction, news came of the entire editorial board of highly-esteemed journal Lingua handing in their collective resignation, citing as their reason the refusal by Elsevier to go open access and give up on the high fees it charges to authors and their academic institutions. As we write these lines, a petition is doing the rounds demanding that Taylor & Francis doesn’t shut down Ashgate5, a formerly independent humanities publisher that it acquired earlier in 2015. It is threatened to go the way of other small publishers that are being rolled over by the growing monopoly and concentration in the publishing market. These are just some of the signs that the system is broken. It devalues us, authors, editors and readers alike. It parasites on our labor, it thwarts our service to the public, it denies us access6.

We have the means and methods to make knowledge accessible to everyone, with no economic barrier to access and at a much lower cost to society. But closed access’s monopoly over academic publishing, its spectacular profits and its central role in the allocation of academic prestige trump the public interest. Commercial publishers effectively impede open access, criminalize us, prosecute our heroes and heroines, and destroy our libraries, again and again. Before Science Hub and Library Genesis there was Library.nu or Gigapedia; before Gigapedia there was textz.com; before textz.com there was little; and before there was little there was nothing. That’s what they want: to reduce most of us back to nothing. And they have the full support of the courts and law to do exactly that.7

In Elsevier’s case against Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, the judge said: “simply making copyrighted content available for free via a foreign website, disserves the public interest”8. Alexandra Elbakyan’s original plea put the stakes much higher: “If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge.”

We demonstrate daily, and on a massive scale, that the system is broken. We share our writing secretly behind the backs of our publishers, circumvent paywalls to access articles and publications, digitize and upload books to libraries. This is the other side of 37% profit margins: our knowledge commons grows in the fault lines of a broken system. We are all custodians of knowledge, custodians of the same infrastructures that we depend on for producing knowledge, custodians of our fertile but fragile commons. To be a custodian is, de facto, to download, to share, to read, to write, to review, to edit, to digitize, to archive, to maintain libraries, to make them accessible. It is to be of use to, not to make property of, our knowledge commons.

More than seven years ago Aaron Swartz, who spared no risk in standing up for what we here urge you to stand up for too, wrote: “We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?”9

We find ourselves at a decisive moment. This is the time to recognize that the very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of collective civil disobedience. It is the time to emerge from hiding and put our names behind this act of resistance. You may feel isolated, but there are many of us. The anger, desperation and fear of losing our library infrastructures, voiced across the internet, tell us that. This is the time for us custodians, being dogs, humans or cyborgs, with our names, nicknames and pseudonyms, to raise our voices.

30 November 2015

Dušan Barok, Josephine Berry, Bodó Balázs, Sean Dockray, Kenneth Goldsmith, Anthony Iles, Lawrence Liang, Sebastian Lütgert, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Marcell Mars, spideralex, Tomislav Medak, Dubravka Sekulić, Femke Snelting…

  1. Larivière, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon. “The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 6 (June 10, 2015): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502.,
    The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly Publishers.” svpow.com. Accessed November 30, 2015.  
  2. Sample, Ian. “Harvard University Says It Can’t Afford Journal Publishers’ Prices.” The Guardian, April 24, 2012, sec. Science. theguardian.com.  
  3. Academic Paywalls Mean Publish and Perish – Al Jazeera English.” Accessed November 30, 2015. aljazeera.com.  
  4. Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia’s ‘Illegal’ Copyright Paywalls.” TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015. torrentfreak.com.  
  5. Save Ashgate Publishing.” Change.org. Accessed November 30, 2015. change.org.  
  6. The Cost of Knowledge.” Accessed November 30, 2015. thecostofknowledge.com.  
  7. In fact, with the TPP and TTIP being rushed through the legislative process, no domain registrar, ISP provider, host or human rights organization will be able to prevent copyright industries and courts from criminalizing and shutting down websites “expeditiously”.  
  8. Court Orders Shutdown of Libgen, Bookfi and Sci-Hub.” TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015. torrentfreak.com.  
  9. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.” Internet Archive. Accessed November 30, 2015. archive.org.  

How to beat a Trump

Power is given, not taken.

If this is true then the most important thing for those with power is to make sure that it continues to be given to them. Early politicians were like royalty. Their right to rule was based on their belonging to – and being seen to belong to – a ruling caste. But two world wars have changed this. The right to rule shifts to the meritocracy and the best qualified shall rule. However, the meritocracy has cracked and the object is not to persuade the voters that they too can become kings or billionaires.

Adapting to change, politicians attempt to come across as folksier. They argue that they know what the common man needs, and they can provide it. We are currently at the point where this is failing. And Trump is the result.

Royalty does not need the populace to identify with them. They are there by the grace of god or some other power. In order to increase the distance from common folk they wear tiaras and crowns, gowns and sashes to distract people that underneath it all they are flawed individuals. The golden carriage is necessary if they are to remain in power.

The same is true of the pre-war(s) political elite. Yes, they needed votes but the system was corrupt enough and the populace confused enough to vote them into office on the basis of their arrogant belief in the right to rule.

The meritocracy has its own internal flaw. It’s built on the fallacy that everyone can achieve greatness through work. The meritocracy therefore attempts to argue that it’s not an elite. It is simply a club to which you currently don’t belong. But you may do in the future.

The meritocracy did not need to pander in person to the voters. They were quite obviously the right to rule since they had the right name, right manners, right schools, etc. However, the meritocracy has begun to crack. The political class is recognized to a much greater extent as a class.

The poor don’t get into the right schools, and if they do, they don’t get the right backing. Rarely do we see true class journeys in the political elite. Which means the elite must appeal to the larger group. For the last three decades the politicians belong to the elite but strive to show themselves to be “of the people”. They take of their ties, they role up their sleeves, they share beer recipes and eat common food. And if they fail, they do so at their peril.

Analyzing American presidential campaign ads can be fun. They are all sons of immigrants, they all appear in semi casual wear and they all promote the idea of their “commonness”. This is despite the fact that they mostly have gone to very exclusive schools, where they made invaluable contacts for the rest of their lives.

With Trump its different. Yes he is part of the elite and he has gone to the right schools and made the right connections, but that’s not what he is trying to do. He doesn’t role up his sleeves or take of his tie.

He is not telling crowds that he is a man of the people and has their best interests at heart. He is telling the voters that he is better than them. He is better than everyone. By his own boastful admission, he is richer, went to the best schools, has the best vocabulary, is the best negotiator, best businessman, and now, in what should have been predictable, he’s told the world on national TV that he has a big cock.

His appeal is not that of royalty, he is not the dream of meritocracy (you will never be as good as him), appeal is not to be the trustworthy politician that acts in the voters best interest.

His appeal is that he is offering the opportunity to bring people into the corridors of power. Once he is there the voter can live vicariously through him as he shouts at world leaders: “You’re fired”

This is why he can be racist, misogynistic, stupid, evil, and just plain rude without losing popularity. He is the uncommon man that offers vicarious life. He cannot be stopped by facts – there is more than enough proof to show that he lies about many things. He cannot be stopped by scandal – the man invites scandal through his life and language and speeches. The tools to stop each type of politician vary depending on the type of image they are trying to project.

  • To win an election against royalty = prove that they are common
  • To win an election against meritocracy = prove that the club is closed
  • To win against the “common man” = reveal the hypocrisy that political elites don’t care for commoners.
  • To win against Trump = prove that he will not take the viewers with him, and that his powers are an illusion. And when the cameras are on him, the experiences of the onlooker will be shame and defeat as the leaders of the world laugh at him.

In his own words: Nobody likes a loser.