Tuesday, December 31, 2019

letters to the editor roundup

I've been quiet here, but I can't let the decade end without noting my presence on the letters to the editors pages in the last weeks of the 2010s:

"Whose school rules?" in the Queens Chronicle

"Hitchcock's genius" in the Queens Chronicle

"Vendor cap vs. progress" in the Queens Chronicle

"Who Knew Debs Supported Gun Rights for Individuals?" in the Wall Street Journal

"Chanukah Songs Beyond Sandler" in The Jewish Week (week of December 7, not online yet)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Memeo Trasho

Wouldn't you know it, today is National Grouch Day on a week in which ToughPigs.com is running a contest to make memes based around Sesame Street pals Ernie and Bert. So I'll make up for not yet linking to their past contests which yielded a trash bin of Oscar the Grouch memes and, a bit farther down the street, a cookie jar of Cookie Monster memes. Both compilations of humorous image-caption combinations include submissions by this very blogger, who may not have found his way to Sesame Street (or won the contests) but was able to indulge in dated references to everything from Atari 2600 games to Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners to the Lazy Sunday SNL skit.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

2 QR R 0 2 QR

The current issue of the Queens Chronicle newspaper has a letter to the editor by yours truly about the latest of the MTA's bad decisions endured by NYC transit riders.  I kept it as concise as possible for print, but on my own blog I can try to expand a bit on why the removal of QR codes was so particularly annoying:

  • It takes a bit of technical know-how to explain what exactly QR codes actually are — they're sort of like an Internet-connected update of bar codes for the wireless age — but their removal eliminated the benefit they had for riders who knew how to use them, without any countervailing gain for those who don't.
  • The QR codes linked to significantly more useful and accurate schedule information than could be conveyed in the static schedules that were phased out for supposedly being too costly to maintain, and can keep access to up-to-date info without needing the physical printout to be replaced: each code is tied to a webpage link which not only can theoretically updated periodically, but is in real time.
  • Actually using a QR code requires a working, charged smartphone that may be fiscally out of reach for some passengers -- but so do the newer printed guidelines on the bus stops, which only provide directions on how to call up bus schedule information rather than the info itself.
  • The webpages the QR codes used to provide links to are still up and running on the MTA Bus Time website, so it's still possible for savvy users to personally access the links via bookmarks or search -- but it takes more time do so so (and more than enough time that a bus can be missed while looking to see if the bus is going to arrive!), and runs the risk of pulling up the info for the wrong bus stop (often, bus stops in opposite directions on the same line have identical names), whereas the codes would always be for their own specific stop.
It's just a baffling case of fixing what ain't broke, reminiscent of the early Internet copypasta about how "Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet" ... except that features are only being removed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Noisy Words for Silent Movies

When I read a quote by the founder of a Queens film festival asserting that its movies weren't "low-quality – like avant-garde, silent film, black and white – something that mass audience wouldn’t care to see" I just had to write in to explain just how many audiences such "low-quality" films were attracting in NYC,  and my reply made it to the pages of the July 25 issue of the Queens Courier:

Monday, April 01, 2019

Joel Schlosberg Announces a Return to Regular Blogging

Well, I didn't intend for three full months to pass since I last blogged here for New Year's Day.  My intended returns to regular blogging, on the other hand, have never really worked out in the past.. but I may as well drop in on the one day nobody believes anything they read online anyway.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

When Copyright Atrophies

slogans from Eric Eldred's campaign to overturn the Copyright Term Extension Act
 Never thought I'd live to see today... the day on which new works enter the United States public domain.

In the mid-1990s, it still seemed to be a routine matter for copyrights to expire on older work, with the occasional news story about which works of 1920, 1921, and 1922 were becoming free for all to access, publish and adapt.

Then in 1998, 20 years were added to all existing copyrights, after copyright holders realized they could simply lobby for increasing the lengths of existing copyrights that were about to lapse (as opposed to the gradual lengthening of how long copyrights will last on new works). Eric Eldred's taking to court the unconstitutionality of such potentially-perpetual retroactive delays (which pretty clearly contravene the Constitution's statement that such terms shall last "for limited times") resulted in the Supreme Court upholding them in 2003.

By the time I joined Distributed Proofreaders the following year, I thought that we'd be confined to merely digging up more and more obscure material from before the 1923 cutoff date. Yet while those 20 years took, well, 20 years to pass, the feared "oh wait, we need 20 more years to, um, go back in time to give century-old creators more incentive" renewal has not. (Ironically, works created in 2004 would have become public domain today under the original copyright length of 14 years.) Americans can finally create like it's 1923!