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   Darkytown Races
Tuesday, April 22 2003
Gretchen wanted to go out on a movie date tonight, and unfortunately meant that we'd have to go to Rhinebeck. She wanted to see Bend It Like Beckham, the sort of movie one can only see at Rhinebeck's Upstate Films.
An interesting thing about Gretchen regarding time-critical events is that she tends to drive faster than I do to get to them. This is in compensation for the fact that she tends to leave for them later than I do. This means that when we're leaving the house on Gretchen's schedule, she's the one who has to drive.
Gretchen got us to Rhinebeck about ten minutes before the movie, so we ducked into the Foster's Coach House, the bar with the horse and tack theme. After we'd received our drinks, I looked up on the wall and happened to notice the framed artwork. There were a couple vintage posters from the early 20th Century featuring, on one poster, a caricature of an African American chariotman driving a mangy old pony. One of the wheels of his chariot had just snapped off and his huge lips were being blown back by the wind. Below it was the caption "Darkytown Races" with a quote from the gentleman being depicted, written in an unflattering pseudo-dialect. It was an example of racist memorabilia from a less enlightened time. The question was, what was it doing on a restaurant's wall? Had no black people ever dined here? Aside from the odd black hitching post boy, I'd never seen this stuff in public, not even in rural Virginia. Gretchen was prepared to make a stink about it, but we were pressed for time.
The story arc of Bend It Like Beckham was typical Hollywood, right down to the sappy conclusion. But the actual characters in the movie were anything but typical Hollywood. The chief protagonist is a girl of Indian descent living in England and trying to reconcile her love of soccer with the more conservative interests of her family. There's a wonderful scene near the end where an Indian wedding is jump-cut-interspersed with a soccer game, all set to the tune of Indian-influenced techno. It makes you want to throw your hands in the air, but you wave them out of empathic concern, not because you just don't care.
Later we caught a modest live bluegrass show at the Uptown in Kingston. When we showed up, the only people there were the male members of the band, their female companions, and the two old ladies who run the place. We ordered vegetarian chili and drinks. The chili contained olives and was surprisingly acidic, the sort of thing that makes you grimace while you eat.

Typical of the poor reporting of RIAA enforcement stories is this one at the New York Times. The story makes as though there's been a major a crackdown against Napster-style file sharing at places of higher learning, but then it turns out it's just a crackdown against college students who've run websites for distributing free MP3s. There's a huge difference between making pirated MP3s available on a website and sharing them using KaZaA. Unless you run a pirate web server (something I used to do at the University of Virginia), it's always going to be easy to hold you to account for stuff that you put on your website. With KaZaA, the story is totally different, particularly if you're a student behind a university firewall. Sleuths for the RIAA might find a vast KaZaA MP3 source at an IP address belonging to a university, but that address could well be shared by thousands of students. In such cases, there's no way the RIAA can do anything about it except report that the "problem" exists at the university "somewhere."
By publishing stories like this without making clear that this crackdown doesn't affect the far-more-rampant KaZaA-style file sharing, the New York Times becomes a propaganda mouthpiece for the Recording Industry, spreading unjustified fear among users of KaZaA-type networks. Mind you, there is reason to fear a crackdown on KaZaA-style networks, particularly if you share lots of files on an IP address that can be traced back to you. The federal government is supporting recording industry efforts to subpoena dynamic IP allocation logs from ISPs so that they can establish which users were using which IP addresses at which times. It's plenty scary, particularly given the joyous acceptance of fascism in this, the Land of the Free. But remember, so far no individuals have been arrested for KaZaA-style file sharing.

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