Jólabókaflóð: An Icelandic Christmas Tradition

Iceland is not a huge country, but it has a millennia long rich literary history, beginning with the Old Norse Sagas. Everybody in Iceland reads, and everyone buys books, and just about half of the people of Iceland have written (and often self-published) books. Every year, there’s a traditions of Jólabókaflóð, or “Yule Book Flood,” a reference to the national Icelandic practice of giving books to friends and family, who then spend Christmas Eve staying up and reading their new books.

Jólabókaflóð started because of World War II; import tariffs and currency problems, among other difficulties, made gift-giving difficult. But paper wasn’t so dear, and books were available. Book-giving became a cultural institution, and in a nation of readers (Icelanders read more books per capita than most), a Yule-tide phenomena, culminating in a national book catalog, the bókatíðindi, sent to all Iceland households. The tradition has shaped Iceland’s publishing tradition, with most books, and almost all hardcover books released between October and November, in time for gift-giving.

Gifts are usually opened on Christmas Eve, and it’s not Christmas if you don’t receive at least one book. Memes about Jólabókaflóð have reached Facebook, Twitter and mainstream media, popularizing the idea of curling up with a books, some chocolate and a beverage as you read through Christmas Eve.

SOPA and PIPA: It Isn’t Over

First, we want to link to a video from Cory Doctorow, a writer, and someone whose career and income are tied to intellectual property rights, and the ‘net:

This isn’t a fight against government, is the thing. It’s a fight against organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA, who wrote the legislation in the first place:

Reeling from a broad Internet backlash, the Motion Picture Associaton of America has conceded that DNS filtering will not be included in the anti-piracy bills now making their way through Congress.

“DNS filtering is really off the table,” said Paul Brigner, the MPAA’s tech policy chief, on Tuesday. His remarks came during a debate on SOPA at the State of the Net conference in Washington DC. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee.

It’s a fight against the same people who wanted to make owning a VCR a criminal offense—that’s not the government. They just use money to wield the government as a tool to impose their will on smaller concerns/companies/individuals.

We dunno about you, but we know we damned well have never seen the MPAA on a ballot—so why the hell are they writing legislation? They aren’t the government, and the government is not the enemy here—let’s be VERY clear about that.

As tempting as it may be to believe this is really all about the US government wanting to prevent Twitter conversations in the event of an American version of the Arab Spring, it’s really much more prosaically about who gets to make money from the Internet, and how, and who is going to provide content, and who gets to say what, where, and how, and then make money off of that content. Sites like this? They’ll all be behind paywalls, owned by “people” like Time-Warner, Disney, Comcast, or Verizon, where you pay a subscription fee for the privilege of participating, waive all rights to anything you might write and post, agree not to ever post any links to anywhere else on the web—and your credit card, age and location demographics, and what kind of insurance you carry for the car you drive is all information someone else can sell or trade like so many baseball cards.

It’s about dinosaur private concerns trying to make money off of everyone else by controlling our content, our knowledge, our writing, our information—all of which they want total rights to, for free, to exploit at will.

That’s not the government that’s the problem—and it’s a dangerous mistake to think it is. Government regulations largely made the development of the internet possible in the first place, by protecting these waters from the private-interest sharks who want to swim here gobbling the efforts of all the developers and bloggers and artisans who created this in the first place. Government regulation isn’t the enemy here, it’s making sure that the “money=speech and corporations=people” contingent doesn’t get to just out-spend everyone else in the digital world and as a result, bully their way into owning the deed on all of our virtual houses.

Read this story from site owner Matt Howey of Metafilter regarding how very very stupid the underlying premise about the nature of digital files and intellectual property and the Internet. Howie’s site hosted an MP3 file that was created by a member, but has a similar name to a different song. He almost lost his entire site.

Please note, those who think SOPA and PIPA will do anything, at all, to halt the distribution of works without remuneration to the creators, that neither MPAA nor the RIAA have ever distributed monies collected via the judicial process to any creator of the works for which the organizations pressed infringement claims.

Neither of these proposed statutes as well as other changes to Title 17, the copyright section of U.S. Federal law, are in accord, at all with the United States Constitution.

Article II section 8 of the Constitution stipulates that Congress is:

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

PIPA and SOPA and similar proposed statutes not only make it trivial to take down, permanently, and remove a site for an assertion of copyright violation, there’s no check for a blanket assertion of prior right—that is, no mashups, no parody, no satire, because there is no safe harbor.

Notice the language of the MPAA memo wherein Chris Dodd, the Chair of the MPAA, asserts that it’s an “abuse of power” to engage in blackouts/taking our own sites offline in protest—because in the Corporate view, they own all the content, whether or not they’ve paid for it.

It’s not about stopping piracy. The major pirate sites don’t even use domain names. They’re not even a little worried by SOPA or PIPA. In fact, the MPAA’s assertions of the loss from illegal copying appear bogus.

It’s really about controlling content. Your content. Your contntent on your own sites and blogs, or on sites like this, or on on Facebook, or Twitter.

It’s about stopping you and everyone else with access to the ‘net from saying anything corporate entities don’t like—or can’t make money from.

It’s a corporate conglomerate Big Brother for the digital age.

Chuck Wendig, another writer, cogently observes notes:

See, the Internet is this unruly pubic tangle of possibility. It is raw potential given form and it puts a great deal of power in the hands of the individual (are you listening, creative-types?). Power in the hands of individuals can, in some cases, wrest power from the hands of corporations. And corporations don’t like that, so they go to the government and they pour giant buckets of money into the government’s slavering maw and lobby for legislation and the result is, in this case, SOPA, PIPA, and any other naughty anti-pirate hydra-heads that pop up.

Between us, we have several dogs in this fight. We own and admin several large sites. We produce scholarship that we are not paid for, and make available to other scholars, we write and paid for commercially published works that are pirated within hours of being published, and we run and write for several Websites besides this one.

But SOPA and PIPA won’t do a thing to impair illegal versions of our works propagating like bunnies on crack. Because the people and sites distributing works without permission won’t be affected by SOPA and PIPA. SOPA and PIPA and similar laws still on the table will allow a disgruntled user, or a greedy corporate hack, to claim our work.

Note by the way that the U. S. Superior Court has decided that it is possible to assert copyright over a public domain work even if you didn’t create it.

Copyright law in the United States was originally meant to allow us to increase and share information, after allowing human creators to be rewarded for their labors. The MPAA and RIAA and large media conglomerates aren’t interested in sharing anything, not even with the people who create the works they sell.

Will Wheaton, someone else who writes and creates for a living, observes that “Reinforcing the fact that Chris Dodd really does not get what’s happening, and showing just how disgustingly corrupt the MPAA relationship is with politicians, Chris Dodd went on Fox News to explicitly threaten politicians who accept MPAA campaign donations that they’d better pass Hollywood’s favorite legislation… or else:

“Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake

Days after SOPA was put on hold, Federal agents arrested employees and seized assets including domain names of alleged infringing pirate site Megaupload.

Federal agents proved astonishingly successful and quite capable of executing a takedown without the use of either SOPA or PIPA.

SOPA and PIPA and their descendants and close relatives aren’t going to do squat about pirates, or illegal files, or malware, or, god help us, spam. Spam actually costs us a lot more money and man-hours than piracy. Strangely, no one is proposing to nuke the Net just to stop spammers.

SOPA on hold, PROTECT IP still pending

I’m a registered Democrat. I vote, I canvass, I caucus. As a Website owner and as an American, I’m dismayed by Congressional attempts to censor the internet. I’m appalled and chilled that we have a former Senator who publicly asserts that the U.S. should take a lesson from China to establish internet censorship and stifle the free exchange of information.

censorship graphicThe House just acknowledged “legitimate concerns” about SOPA — its version of the PROTECT IP Act (pdf link) — and backed away from a vote that looked certain to occur. The Senate needs to do the same: PROTECT IP will kill jobs and innovation, undermine cyber security, censor the Internet, and provide ready justification to foreign regimes that want to crack down on dissent and political reform.

PROTECT IP won’t catch or punish internet pirates. They’ll simply move shop, work on darknets, or code workarounds. Online piracy won’t even slow as a result of this legislation. Legitimate sites, however, DO have a great deal of reason to worry.

It should be instructive that Universal Music incorrectly and abusively used the DMCA take-down process to stifle and censor content they did not own, just recently.

As flawed as the DMCA is, there IS recourse built into the process for site-owners who are improperly censored and/or interrupted by competitors who abuse the legal process.

I direct your attention to a December 8th, 2011 article in Techdirt:

The US government has effectively admitted that it totally screwed up and falsely seized & censored a non-infringing domain of a popular blog, having falsely claimed that it was taking part in criminal copyright infringement. Then, after trying to hide behind a totally secretive court process with absolutely no due process whatsoever (in fact, not even serving papers on the lawyer for the site or providing timely notifications — or providing any documents at all), for over a year, the government has finally realized it couldn’t hide any more and has given up, and returned the domain name to its original owner. If you ever wanted to understand why ICE’s domain seizures violate the law — and why SOPA and PROTECT IP are almost certainly unconstitutional — look no further than what happened in this case.

PROTECT IP and SOPA would both make these sorts of abuses devastatingly likely, remove the fragile existing protections for independent Websites and small Internet businesses, while doing nothing to effectively prevent piracy.

Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy: Don’t bring this bill up for a floor vote.

To my Senators: Please vote NO if the bill reaches the floor.

(Cross-posted on AbsoluteWrite.comSome text remixed from original letter here.)

Please feel free to remix and reuse this post to contact your own Senators. No attribution necessary.


Turtle Cookies

Now that I have reached my “Golden Years”, I look back on the years of raising my three children and one of the things I remember as being very special is being in the kitchen with my girls. They were always in the kitchen with me when I made meals or did dishes or churned butter of made special things, like cookies and breads and desserts. They were my helpers from the time they were tall enough to stand on a chair and reach the cupboards. They learned their fractions and to read from recipes. One of my favorite things was cooking with the girls. It was just fun, but they were learning life skills.

I’d like to share this recipe with Moms with young children. More . . .

Grilled Fresh Pacific Northwest Salmon

I admit that I’m really loving easy access to fresh, locally caught, salmon. At this time of year in particular, when it’s simple to buy a fillet or a couple of salmon steaks, and take them and a bottle of wine to a local park for grilling, it’s pretty hard not to love salmon. For those of you interesting in grilling your own fresh salmon in a simple, but delicious fashion, go read MacAllister Stone on do-it-yourself salmon grilling:

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I could not eat enough salmon to suit me, and at the time, salmon was extraordinarily reasonably-priced, in-season.

Salmon cooked outside, in the fresh Northwest air, on a charcoal grill has to be one of the finest culinary experiences available, anytime, anywhere. If you’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for any amount of time, you’ll already be familiar with the popularity of good local fresh “salmon bbq”—it took me a little while to realize that doesn’t actually mean salmon smothered in a tangy catsup-based sauce; rather, barbecued salmon is simply salmon cooked on a barbecue grill. The best part of that, of course, is that there’s no need to wait for a special occasion. Salmon is healthy, delicious, and remarkably easy to prepare.

Read more here.

Whedon, Rimbaud, and Cicero: Introduction to the Angel Rewatch

The central question informing the character of Angel is asked during season 3, first in the episode “Amends.” Angel’s been having really bad dreams. Except they’re also teh sexy and over-the-top with all the blood and pain and dying and the—wait for it—decadence of Angel’s sordid past. So a suicidal and tormented Angel asks Buffy (BtVS, season three, “Amends”), “Am I a thing worth saving, huh? Am I a righteous man?

You can read MacAllister’s response in this introduction to a series of re-watching Joss Whedon’s Angel.

Julie and Julia: A Meditation on Film, Julia Child, and Cooking Blogs

Even though the film Julie and Julia came out in 2009, I’ve only just now seen it. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, and based in part on the blog Julie Powell started in 2002 at Salon. I liked Julie and Julia very much. Meryl Streep is fabulous, (as usual), so much so that now I have to double-check to make sure I’m looking at images and video of the real Julia. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Child’s spouse Paul Child. I wish there had been less of Julie the cooking-blogger (though she is well-played by Amy Adams) and more of Meryl Streep as Julia Child. As much as I admire Nora Ephron’s work, I think a film about Julia Child would have been even better. Ephron’s decision to intertwine Julia Child’s life with the story in Julie Powell’s book Julie/Julia, based on Julie Powell’s blog The Julie/Julia Project was perhaps unfortunate. The Project was a blog about Powell’s efforts to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.

As a blog, The Julie/Julia Project is less than inspired.

You can find the rest of the piece, complete with lots of food links, here.