On free documents, free knowledge, free software, copyrights, and my personal experience (I)

The reasons why Latin American governments should encourage the use and development of free software and document conform a multitude. Their nature go from  moral and education to economic savings. I speak from the situation of the Dominican Republic because (1) it is the one I know the best, and (2) though independent, it shares common traits with the rest of Latin countries.

The most basic of the aspects we need to fix is of a moral nature. One does not grow in the Dominican Republic with notions of copyrights, their terms and laws related to them. Since primary school, we copy-paste. Your teacher won’t tell you it is wrong to copy somebody else’s work and submit it as yours. Actually, that’s what they expect you to do. They won’t be categorical and tell you that you are stealing, and we need to fix this. We need to start teaching that we have to cite sources and use quotation marks or italics. We have to be informed about what is  copyright and when it applies, what it means when we click on “I accept the terms…”. But equally importantly, we also should know that there are different licenses, that there are documents of the public domain that you can copy and print for personal use. Probably even mass distribute it. That many times all you have to do is attribute the work to the person who created it and then you are free to use it, modify it, and distribute your modified version. If you haven’t done it yet, read the terms of use of Wikipedia or check my license section. You can also check around the terms GPL and Creative Commons.

But really related to this, is education in the more academic sense of the word, so I will go back to that copy-paste case that starts in primary school and never really ends. A teacher is meant to stimulate the creation of knowledge, not to simply stand in front of a class distributing data and information. What does the term critical thinking mean to the majority of Dominican teachers and professors? I am not sure of that. But the fact that they don’t really work so students develop it tells me a lot. It would be great to have a teacher who helped you understand the answers of these questions when writing: What do you want to communicate? Why? Did you just invent it or found the information somewhere else? That somewhere, what somewhere is it and why should I trust it? Do you think it is possible to write about X without looking it up? How about you try it? And what I am trying to say, in case it is blurry, is that you can’t simply enhance the development of a thinker if (s)he doesn’t ever go through the process of pondering ideas, their nature, their origin, how they are presented and expressed, and what they cost to the one who does the latter.

All these things are important when the money factor walks into the room. And there is something I hope we all understand, judging from a case I will describe. Imagine an 18-year-old girl from a family with very limited resources, probably from a countryside, who starts college in Santo Domingo. Her mother works as a housekeeper and gets paid 110USD monthly. Luckily her father lives with them and makes a little bit of money here and there, and can make 300-400USD a month. She can’t work because classes are totally scattered along the days, plus she has no especial skills. Just basic meals for the three of them plus rent is about 450 dollars. Then there are all sorts of expenses. Can this college student spend 100USD on books? We know the answer is “no”. You might be thinking “yeah, but that is not necessarily the general case”. But if you really want to understand why I say it, you might want to Google the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic, the employment rate, the formal to informal employment ratio, the average income in metropolitan areas and in rural areas… and any other useful indicator. You will see how bad it is. 

For educational purposes, many professors accept copied books and will even distribute them. The “lesser of the evils”, that is. “At least these kids are learning and will get a degree, they’ll have a better life and will produce money for themselves and the country”. Some others, teach the more traditional way where a student doesn’t have the opportunity to read abundant literature on the topic nor explore beyond the curriculum.

We must create free documents for education. Obviously we can’t write about highly-specialized topics if we don’t have the proper research and resources, but this can work really well for the more elemental and traversal areas: Spanish, math, history and others. And I believe it isn’t even a big investment if you compare it to the results.We are not going to start educating on copyright topics by simply saying “making copies of that book is illegal” and applying laws. We must provide an option. We need to start by providing materials in terms and prices that do not lead the average student to even consider the illegal possibilities.

I leave you with this, and I will keep writing more on this topic, on how hard it is and how long it can take to break certain illegal habits. And how free “whatever” manifest in other many other areas (not just education). See you soon!


What’s up with all these posts in English and on US literature?

Some of you might be wondering that. Last night I realized I needed to provide some background on this.

I fell in love with American Studies during my exchange year in Bozeman, partially because of the excitement and chillingness of my professor Dr. Sara Waller and the enthusiasm of my favorite corrector so far, Trudi Fisher, when it was time to work on my papers.

It was one of those Friday nights by myself early in January this year and I went to take a walk down El Conde. I stopped by a used books stand to “see if anything motivated me”. There were all sorts of books piled on the ground: universal literature classics, engineering textbooks, photography, plastic arts… all of them. And in one of those piles, with at least  fifteen other imposing books on it, I read golden on ocean blue: “Adventures in American Literature”. It felt warm inside, the memories of books on counterculture and flashes of history from that class. I had to get it.

But since I don’t make that sort of decisions quickly, I sat to read under the faint lamp. I glanced through it out for hours, while random men kept stopping by to check other books or sit next to me and talk about life and studies and books and languages and travel. One of them used to study tourism and had hair people would admire back in “his days”. But then he went to Bávaro, met a German girl who drove him crazy and took him to Europe, and forgot about everything. And there he is, back in DR, no hair, no German. Another of them always wanted to learn English, but it was never possible. He would ask why I chose that book, why I studied why I studied, why I would read on a Friday night. The rest would just comment on different books. The rest, of course, is fiction.

I felt more certain about getting that book: “Adventures in American Literature” sounded fresh, fun, seductive. It was published by HBJ (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers) and written by a bunch of guys from everywhere: Francis Hodgins from Illinois, Kenneth Silverman from NY, Milton R. Stern from Connecticut, and Rolando, Hinojosa-Smith from Texas. The edition was very good and the index showed me exactly what I wanted: names, excerpts of texts and references on dozens of American writers, from the colonial time to what available to their date of publication in 1989.

So that’s the reason why I might seem to have suddenly changed: I have a super guide on American Literature I read really slowly. But I also stop for further reading whenever something entices me. It was the case of Sarah Kemble Knight (my favorite up to 1760). I know I will keep writing on my strongest impressions. I can’t restrain myself once that fever starts dragging me towards the blank page. So here is the announcement and warning: There will be English and American Literature… probably mainly.

Next stop: The revolutionary period!

12/11 > 12/12 : Highlights Literarios

“Si tú supieras que cada vez que la veo, veo un artista y no pienso en química”, dijo Ivette a Joshabel en mi última visita al Centro Franklin. Ambas han trabajado de cerca durante todas las etapas de mi participación en el programa de intercambio Global U-GRAD. Es por ellas, su acogimiento caluroso, y su solicitud de mantenerlas al tanto de mis actividades extra-curriculares que escribo esta entrada. Sin intención de darme bombos, aquí un recuento de lo más relevante de mi último año de recreo literario.

“You know, each time I see her, I see an artist, I don’t think of chemistry”, said Ivette to Joshabel last time I visited Centro Franklin. They both have worked close up to me during all the stages of my participation in the exchange Global U-GRAD. It is because of them, their warm welcome and their request to keep them posted on my extra-curricular activities that I write this post. With no intention of blowing my own trumpet, here is a count of the most relevant that has happened this last year of literary leisure.

Dic/Dec 2011:
Dos de mis cuentos (“Crónica de dos cuadras” e “Historia sin zapatos”) son publicados en el primer libro del Taller de Narradores de Santo Domingo. Titulado “Santo Domingo No Problem”, todos los textos están basados en dicha ciudad.

Tow of my short stories (“Crónica de dos cuadras” e “Historia sin zapatos”) are published in the first book of Taller de Narradores de Santo Domingo (Narrators Workshop of Santo Domingo). Titled Santo Domingo No Problem, all the texts in the book are based in the aforementioned city.

El primer libro del TNSD.

Invitación a la presentación del primer libro del TNSD.

Abr/Apr 2012:
La única actividad de poesía en la que participé en Bozeman, Montana: Poetry Night en la biblioteca pública de la ciudad, Bozeman Public Library. El diario The ASMSU Exponent, de Montana State University, dedica un párrafo a mi intervención (más abajo).

The only poetry activity I was part of in Bozeman, Montana: Poetry Night at the Bozeman Public Library. The ASMSU Exponent, Montana State University’s Student Newspaper, dedicates a paragraph to my intervention:

MSU’s own Lusmerlin Lantigua, originally from the Dominican Republic, read one of her poems. Titled “Safari” and written originally in Spanish, her poem filled the audience’s minds with wonderful and seemingly random imagery like a “wake of butterflies”.

An article on the Poetry Night

An Article on the Poetry Night by The ASMSU Exponent (MSU).

El Colectivo Literario El Arañazo publica su primer libro Esto no es una antología: palabras que sangran durante la XV Feria Internacional del Libro Santo Domingo. En él, varios de mis poemas.

The literary collective I am part of, El Arañazo, publishes its first book Esto no es una antología: palabras que sangran during the XV International Book Fair of Santo Domingo. In it are some of my poems.

La No-antología de El Arañazo

Blog de El Arañazo : http://elaranazo.wordpress.com

Ago/Aug 2012:
Para la segunda edición de Cien Mil Poetas por el Cambio, un evento simultáneo distribuido realizado en 110 países, El Arañazo coordinó las actividades en Santo Domingo. Lusmerlin organizó el recital poético. Otros miembros se encargaron de los músicos y artistas plásticos.

For the second edition of A Hundred Thousand Poets for Change, a distributed simultaneous event in 110 countries, El Arañazo coordinated the activities in Santo Domingo. Lusmerlin organized the poetry recital. Other members were in charge of musicians and visual artists. 

100 Thousand Poets for Change 2012’s blog: http://www.100tpcmedia.org/100TPC2012/

Sep/Sep 2012:
Participación a distancia en Encuentro de Escritores en Ciudad Juárez, evento también distribuido en aproximadamente 130 ciudades del mundo con el objetivo de provocar la convivencia en lugares de alta violencia. Santo Domingo contó con 13 poetas seleccionados por los organizadores. Un fragmento de Poema Expreso se utilizó para un e-poster.

Remote participation in Encuentro de Escritores en Ciudad Juárez, an event distributed in approximately 130 cities of the world, with the goal of stimulating peace in violent communities. Santo Domingo counted with 13 poets selected by the organizers. An excerpt from Poema Expreso was used for an e-poster.

Dic/Dec 2012 (Upcoming):
1) El recital de cierre de año de El Arañazo.
1) The end of the year recital of El Arañazo.

2) La publicación del segundo libro del Taller de Narradores de Santo Domingo con otro de mis textos(ver invitación abajo).
2) The publication of the second book of the Narrators Workshop of Santo Domingo featuring another of my short stories (see invitation below).

El Fondo del Iceberg

The LSD Nation

A counterculture movement is characterized by the opposition of its members to the current behavioral norms and usually emerges during moments of political tension. The Merry Pranksters, as read in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, was a group led by Ken Kesey in the 60’s. It represented the beginning of a new counterculture in America, as the Pranksters started a trip on a bus named Furthur, experimenting LSD as a way of transcendence. The objective of their leader is to spread his idea to the whole nation. However, basic features of the Pranksters’ ideas and organizations make their goals unfeasible. Their negligence towards racial and gender issues and the obsession with power of Kesey are two factors that would lead to chaos and tyranny should the movement expand. The following paragraphs are dedicated to support this idea by analyzing an LSD Nation based on the Pranksters’ principles.

One of the main premises of this group is doing your thing, whatever you feel you are meant to in life, which leaves little room for sustainability and stability of the LSD Nation. “If somebody is an ass-kicker, then that’s what he’s going to do on this trip, kick asses . . . He can just say, ‘I’m sorry I kicked you in the ass, but I’m not sorry I’m an ass-kicker. That’s what I do, I kick people in the ass’” (pg. 73). This leads us to a big question: Would our concept of justice (our moral rightness based on ethics and our system of keeping this correctness by reward and punishment) be substituted by another concept of justice or would it simply disappear? The establishment of a fair and reasoning society is not possible if everything is accepted under the excuse of nature, and this is the first of their contradictions. Another aspect of doing your thing is the sacrifice of the production power of a nation. This would force a big scale parasitic communal system where an unstable and maybe minimal fraction of the people would actually provide money and services. Such society would eventually break down due to individualistic desires inherent to human beings, and individuals would be forced back to finding sources of survival outside their thing.

Counterculture currents reacted to World War II and the Cold War and social issues, such as discrimination for race, gender and sexual orientation. However, The Pranksters pose intersubjectivity (merging with other people, objects and beings by the use of LSD) as an answer, while completely ignoring the situation and needs of the victims of these problems. This is exemplified by the episode where the Pranksters go into a Negroes beach and therefore cause the irritation of the people there. Even though everything ends up in an integrated party, this result is not replicable in other situations or at other levels. Deep cut beliefs, such as racism, cannot be changed in short terms and they would arise at any moment, specially during bad trips, or disturbing experiences, from both sides. Another case is their alignment with the Hell’s Angels gang simply because of the outlaw condition. Put all these pieces together, we find but potentially increased violence at a psychedelic level.

Something probably more important than the features of the group is the methods of leadership by Ken Kesey, which is packed with such manipulation and control appetite that changes the original course of the voyage. Evidently, Kesey is the master mind and provider of the resources and therefore exercises coercion methods on the group. As consciousness of power arises, he tries to expand his mass psychology abilities. At this level, what the purpose of this movement is becomes arguable. No member of the Pranksters really is in power. They follow a charismatic, prophet-like man who has promised the road of self-divinity but who would become a tyrant in case of a successful expansion of the movement. It is certain that founding a complete new regime involves a hard fist and tight constraints, but the intentions behind the beautiful people alter the complete panorama. Kesey’s behavior goes along with the nurse character in his book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, for he would command the LSD nation. This mere exchange of the predominant system does not eliminate the fact that any society shapes and controls its branches. This system too would yield societal wastes: people who would be manipulated like Billy, fight like McMurphy or disguise themselves like the Chief. Furthermore, this would occur at a higher rate, as a consequence of abuse and addiction to drugs.

It is attributed to LSD the ability to regain sensorial and creative faculties that were lost throught time under the imposition of rules of society. “We are shut off from our own world. Aand these drugs seem to be the key to open these locked doors” (pg. 44). This power of thinking beyond common sense and accessing the absoluteness of the mind could possibly trigger major changes in current reasoning and technology. An example of this is the work of Steve Jobs, a very creative and smart man who left school because of the ideas of Timothy Leary of achieving a higher spiritual level by using LSD. Jobs stated that “definitely taking LSD is one of the most important things in my life”. 1 The use of psychedelic drugs does not necessarily lead to destructive trends and it could be the beginning of a big wave of invention and revolution.

The case of Jobs, however, is exceptional. The use of LSD just coincided with an ambitious and accurate person. If psychedelic methods had as general consequences certain types of novelties, the latter would be substantial (and the amount of authors would also be exponentially higher). Moreover, it would be questionable to sacrifice the welfare and security of a big mass of people for attaining any type of ideas or objects. We are hence redirected to challenging the objective of converting the whole United States of America to an LSD Nation. It is not worth to forgo moral values to achieve an apparently less demanding society. Our actual regulated society is preferable, in spite of its flaws and inequalities. An LSD Nation would not really be able to survive with its chaos and maintain a goal of freedom.

 1CBS News. 60 Minutes: Steve Jobs. 2011. Minutes 5:03-5:30. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51J5K7VMsg4

Instrucciones para Subir al Metro

La efectividad de las instrucciones explicadas en este documento aumenta exponencialmente según el conocimiento del usuario de la estructura de la estación, los hábitos y habilidades de los operadores de metro y la distancia entre las puertas del tren. Su prioridad crece indefinidamente si se trata de la estación Mamá Tingó a hora pico.

Colóquese detrás de la línea amarilla. Como es de conocimiento general, al dividir sucesivamente una longitud encontrará que siempre puede ser más pequeña. La distancia entre la línea y usted debe ser de su número favorito entre menos impar infinito, de manera que el oficial no le llame la atención (cualquier descuido puede derivar en pérdida parcial o definitiva de un asiento) y se encuentre presto al abordaje. Necesitará hacer uso de todos sus sentidos y facultades en lo adelante. Con disimulo, observe las personas a su inmediatez. Embarazadas, ancianos, personas con discapacidad y mujeres en tacones no representan ningún tipo de obstáculo; al contrario, procure estar rodeado por personas con estas características, lo cual le dará ventajas al acelerar y esquivar. Mantenga la cabeza sacada y los pies atentos. Una vibración constante y un obvio desplazamiento del cuerpo blanco, azul y rojo indicarán el inicio de la siguiente etapa, que no debe causarle sobresalto si ha visto por tv o presenciado el encierro en la calle mercedes. El tren se aproximará a velocidad decreciente, por lo que debe calcular con premura cuál de las puertas le quedará cerca, y aprovechar el pequeño rango de segundos donde es posible violar la raya amarilla persiguiendo la puerta objetivo. Considere que otros intentarán hacer lo que usted. Si los puestos preferenciales han sido ocupados, tome la libertad de gentilmente empujar o halar al de alante o al de al lado o presionar la parte media de su espalda hasta que sea posible agacharse, deslizarse y/o correr hacia un asiento. No olvide gritar o utilizar una de las frases contenidas en el anexo A-20 para apresurar al vecino. Una vez sentado, tome una posición recta y elegante, lea el periódico o comente lo caluroso del tiempo. Si lograr un asiento no ha sido posible, no se desmoralice, todavía tiene las opciones de elogiar burlonamente la velocidad de los sentados o esperar el próximo tren.

La Magnificiencia de la Ortografía, Construcción y Traducción en Metro de Santo Domingo

He pasado por distintos procesos cada vez que noto una falta ortográfica grave: sorpresa, risa e indignación… pero mi horror no cesa. Cuando en séptimo grado te das cuenta de que tu léxico le da hasta patadas voladoras al de tu profesora de letras, la alarma suena (muy alto, si le interesa saberlo).  Entonces me harté de reírme de los letreros mal escritos en la calle y lo empecé a tomar seriamente. Uno da por sentado que las autoridades son más decentes y se preocupan por hacer las cosas bien o recibirlas de segundos o terceros (o cualquier otro número ordinal) de acuerdo a la altura de un Estado. Pues no, mi amigo, aquí no se sabe qué esperar.

Si bien es cierto que los letreros dentro de los trenes y en las instalaciones de Metro de Santo Domingo no fueron hechos aquí, en República Dominicana, es nuestra responsabilidad comprobar que los productos adquiridos sean de calidad. Me di un paseíto por todas las estaciones y algunos trenes con la cámara de mi madre, para traer por los moños las barbaridades que he leído desde febrero del año pasado. Relájese y disfrute.

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