Tag Archives: culture

the unimaginative world of whorecraft(TM)

A few days ago, the Village Voice wrote an article about a series of World of Warcraft-inspired porn; their article was duly picked up by BoingBoing.

Strangely, BoingBoing missed the IP angle — that “Whorelore”‘s original name was “Whorecraft” but they ran into an “IP” issue, presumably trademark. You can still see “Whorecraft” on some of the pictures at the Village Voice article. (see caption and photo)

In theory, the article makes it sound promising: Attempts to act, an ongoing storyline, warrior women, etc. But sadly, the photo gallery demonstrates that the porn is about as “inspired” and “imaginative” as Star Trek’s aliens: Heterotastic, male-centered, dominant-paradigm-of-female-beauty, and very white. Ho hum.

breadcrumb trail: Village Voice 3/2BoingBoing 3/3 [cross-posted at feminist SF the blog]

craft and copyright

Friend and colleague Wendy Seltzer has a new column in Craft Magazine about copyright. Copyright has been increasingly applied by crafters and craft-pattern companies to craft patterns, in “shrinkwrap” style licenses. I’m greatly pleased to see some attention to this issue! Thanks, Wendy!

Related reading:
* idahobeauty writing about the impact of copyright on quilting culture
* RePost – art & originality

framing & being out

PZ Myers has been fulminating about framing a lot lately, mostly in reaction to Chris Mooney & a few others’ ideas that we have to “frame” science and atheism better in order to win people to our cause. I don’t exactly disagree, because I’ve been tired of framing ever since the 2004 post-election dissections cited and interviewed poor George Lakoff ad nauseum.

Right now some people’s favorite targets are the “new atheists” (and I have to point out that atheist anger and bitterness is not new. Atheism has always been angry at theistic stupidity, unreason, and violence.), particularly Richard Dawkins. Before Dawkins it was Michael Moore. Feminists have frequently been in the hot seat, particularly with regard to abortion rights. Apparently, when some wonderfully strident person stakes out a position on any controversial issue, it is their lot to be attacked by their fellow travelers. (Heck, even the non-strident who have been PR-ing for decades get told how to “frame”: Matthew Nisbet just castigated Al freakin’ Gore mis-framing global climate change. Chris Clarke thinks Nisbet is nuts and I gotta agree.) I find these public lectures to people who are working their asses off to speak their minds to be tedious at best. If Nisbet thinks Gore has gotten the science wrong in some particular, I’d prefer him to write and publicize his own message; not waste ink on freakin’ advice about framing, because, frankly, I think Gore can pay for any such advice that he wants.

However, the latest rounds of commentary got me thinking about framing and being out. Of course, “framing” critiques can be seen as just more movement in-fighting. “Welcome to The Movement! Watch out for friendly fire.” Framing advocates don’t mean it in that way, of course. They’re honestly talking about framing as a way to get people to strategize and coordinate.

But even this kind intention is really an attempt to corral and control the message. There’s no question that this kind of strategic thinking is useful in tight, targeted, PR campaigns from a single organization with a relatively discrete, unified message to convey. Like the Republican Party for the last few years for instance.

But in a movement it doesn’t work, and First Amendment and information theories help tell us why. A social movement is a big, unwieldy, mass of many thoughts and voices, largely tending in the same direction as a crowd but with many ebbs and flows and individual eddies and various tendencies in this or that way. The sum total of the movement ends up being determined by a “wisdom of the crowd” kind of way.

“Framing” is an attempt to distill those mass voices into a single voice. It’s top-down, PR professional driven. It’s the opposite of bottom-up, grassroots, wisdom of the crowds. It’s the opposite of the information marketplace — that First Amendment theory that proposes that the best solution to bad information is not censorship, but more information. In a marketplace filled with good and bad information, all accessible, over time the good information floats to the top. Through the wisdom of crowds, so long as there is no censorship (a market failure in the information marketplace).

So when I hear folks advocating framing, I think: They’re spending a lot of time on tactics and advising the movement, which is their choice. But it would be better to just encourage more folks to speak their piece, no matter what they have to say. The more people who are out about being an atheist — whether they’re angry like Greta Christina, or accommodationist like Chris Mooney — the better. Don’t strategize. Just speak. Tell your story. As the Christians say, Witness.

Because the more atheists talk, the more conversations there are about vital issues, the more people engage in thinking and sifting and responding. And if any angry atheist provokes a moderate Christian-loving atheist to say their piece, great. And if that Christian-loving atheist provokes an angry agnostic to speak out, even better. And if that angry agnostic provokes a confused and questioning theist to start talking, we’ve won. Because this battle is only going to be won when everybody, everywhere, is talking and thinking about these issues, and hearing a multitude of voices, and making up their own minds. With lots of evidence and information in front of them.

the eternal verities of fashion preferences

christ what a crock: The London Times reports that:

We all know that women like pink and men prefer blue, but we have never really known why. Now it emerges that parents who dress their boys in blue and girls in pink may not just be following tradition but some deep-seated evolutionary instinct.

I guess “evolution” waxes and wanes with the fashion trends of the centuries, because in the US in the 19th & early 20th centuries pink was the boys’ color (because it was a type of red, a strong masculine color!) and blue was the girls’ color.

So many possible responses to this utter blithering idiocy. I don’t know whether I’m madder at the Times (and other press) for reporting this crap uncritically, or whether I’m madder at the evolutionary psychologists who, in all seriousness, confirm their own social prejudices as eagerly as did the phrenologists and racist European skull-measurers of the 19th century.
update: of course, the bloggers & commenters of the world have already hit this one: the comments on the London Times article are largely insightful; bad science.net is snarky & gives historical context also; broadsheet @ salon.com had a little detail & a lot of commentary, but surprisingly, didn’t jump on the stupidity quite as much as they really could have.

fannish media studies

A friend just sent me a link to this fan video about the TV series “Supernatural”. What an awesome demonstration of the power of technology to enable media criticism. A thousand feminists could comment about exploitative or graphic visual depictions of violence against women in a series or on TV generally, and it would never have the effect of this video. … And to conclude: this is why DRM and the DMCA suck. Because they prevent (or try to prevent) people from being able to do this.

requiem for the Weekly World News

The Weekly World News is shutting down. The WWN was the source of many a headline or graphic I pasted at various workplaces over the years.

This NYT article profiles the story, mostly from the perspective of right-wing (faux) commentator, Ed Anger. In the South, in the 80s, it wasn’t apparent to me that Ed Anger was a parody. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who took it seriously. The article describes the falling audience for the WWN, which has moved to rightwing talk radio ….

librarians on film

The Hollywood Librarian: coming to a theater (or netflix) near you. If I know librarians (and I do) this film will do really well on DVD — we’re a self-lovin’ bunch. The trailer’s pretty cool — check it out.

x-posted @ sivacracy … hat-tip to DTWOF by way of librarian vorse

atheist outreach and hypocrite hilarity

check out this awesome overpass/sidewalk art at yonkis.com — you have to scroll all the way to the right, and it’s not a flip photo so do it slowly enough to notice the homo sapiens-like creatures … at the shortest point of the wall, at about the 75% mark (L-to-R).

The pointer came from pharyngula, where they’ve also been discussing atheist outreach. Elsewhere in the blogosphere people have been wondering if posting flyers on cars in church parking lots is a good way to reach out to the faithful (the “parking lot challenge”) and what kinds of flyers would be good. I posted some of my thoughts in a comment, but to sum up: (a) flyers can come in all kinds of different information, and if you’re willing for 90% or more to be thrown away you could save the life or sanity of some unhappy teenager who *wants* rationality but doesn’t know how to find it; (b) lots of other places are good to pass out tidbits of reason: bus and train ads, newspaper inserts, inserts in bookstore books, hotel bibles; (c) anybody ever do “you’re welcome for the good deed” card?; and (d) what do you say when someone says “god bless you” and you want to be polite and friendly and brief, but corrective?

… And speaking of religious people: The “abstinence-only” promoter in the Bush Administration’s foreign aid department (aka the “AIDS czar”) resigned in embarrassment after getting caught on DC madam Jeane Palfrey’s list of prominent johns. (See WPost 4/28 and ABC 4/27.) Ha ha. Oh, my anger at BS thinly-veiled with sanctimony is rarely so well matched by my pleasure at hypocrisy revealed. My cup runneth over, but I tell you — the Bush administration has produced so many of these kinds of things that it’s kinda hard to keep up.

I anticipate many more such juicy stories once her client list (which is in the hands of prosecutors and ABC?) is published, and we know more names of people who sought “massage and sexual fantasy from college-educated women”. The irony of the abstinence-only AIDS czar being one of the first to go is rich though. It is Good to start the day with hypocrites brought low. I am in a happy, happy mood.

McDonald’s “coke spoon” C&D

One might think it would sometimes be in the best interests of a corporation to take the high road, but McDonald’s has chosen to go for the glory. McD’s slapped a cease and desist letter on an art gallery selling “Cokespoon #2” — a gold-plated versions of a 1980s vintage McD’s coffee stirrer that was frequently used for white powder outside the context of coffee.

The C&D and response are posted by citizen-citizen.com in a really obnoxious flash format.

You can see the original and Cokespoon #2 on papermag 2/19.

artists and IP

The NYT has two interesting stories right now featuring, shall we say, different approaches to artists and IP.

The first in a genre near and dear to my heart is a profile of Dark Horse Comics, which “built [their] publishing platform around creators’ rights … [Their] pitch was, ‘We’ll match the rights that you get from other companies and we’ll let you own the work.’”

The second is an article about Daniel Moore, a photo-realist artist (he calls it “photofuturism”) of Alabama sports moments. The University (as we in Alabama called it) is suing Moore for trademark infringement of its crimson-and-white color scheme. Yea, Alabama, Crimson Tide, yadda yadda yadda fight song lyrics sung ironically. (I went looking for the actual fight song lyrics, which did not comport with my memory, and found myself in a hell of blinking and color-challenged websites dedicated to Crimson Tide football obsession. Dave’s College Football Fight Songs is restfully simple, for those of you who want to know the actual lyrics, and not the one line that is engraved falsely in my memory.)

X-posted at sivacracy

tacky but lawful derivative liberty

Statue of Liberation Through Christ; photo by Rollin Riggs

A fundamentalist mega-church in Memphis has repurposed the Statute of Liberty. [7/5 nyt] Lucky for them the Statue is in the public domain. Shake your head at its awfulness at thestatueofliberationthroughchrist.org. Christian nationalism, indeed.

Maybe someone should remind them that the Statue’s French.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

comedies & tragedies of fair use

5/3 update: variant version of this post (an older version of the post but marked-up with hyperlinks) + other blog commentary from Joy Garnett @ newsgrist … liveblogging the meeting and this session
@ iptablog —

The Comedies of Fair Use meeting wrapped up a few hours ago. Among the best presentations were the art panel Saturday morning, in which Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas each discussed their side of the incident that became known as JoyWar. (There were other panelists in this session too; for instance, Art Spiegelman, who was hilarious.)

“JoyWar” began when Joy Garnett appropriated a photograph she found on the Internet, and repainted it. Shortly after exhibiting it, she got a cease-and-desist letter from the photographer, Susan Meiselas. Joy’s art rapidly became a cause celebre among Internet artists and activists, who reposted Joy’s art and remixed it with many new works.

Susan and Joy had never met before the conference, but they both agreed to come and tell their story in a joint session.

Joy explained that she sought images on the Internet of people exhibiting strong emotions; she found the images, and then set them aside for a time, specifically seeking to decontextualize the images so she could later focus solely on their aesthetics. She then repainted the photo, and exhibited it as part of an exhibition called “Riot”. Mieselas’ photograph was perfect for Joy’s intended project: it showed a young man about to throw a molotov cocktail, an expression of intensity on his face.

Susan introduced herself by explaining that her goals as a photographer were precisely the opposite of Joy’s: That it was critical to her to contextualize the photograph, to embed the image in the subject, the historical and political moment in time. The photo, she explained, was of a young man on July 16, 1979, the night that Somoza was finally driven out of Nicaragua, and the Sandinistan revolution triumphed. The photograph of this young man in fact became emblematic of the entire movement, of the revolution itself, and was stenciled and appropriated by all kinds of people, with no objections (or permission) by Susan. Susan felt a strong social contract with the subjects of her photographs, and went back years later to contact them. This young man, it turned out, was still deeply committed to the movement.

The striking thing was the obvious pain that both women felt at the conflict. Though their artistic goals and methods clashed, both Susan and Joy were thoughtful and sincere. Susan, for instance, really seemed to feel that she was possibly “old-fashioned”; that she just didn’t get the new methods of appropriation. Joy, for her part, seemed to really appreciate Susan’s goals and interests; but stood firmly on her own principles. It really seemed in some respects a tragic conflict of interests, because, yes, Susan had real interests at stake. You couldn’t but respect Susan’s interests and the respect that she herself had for the subject of her work. I’m certain it took tremendous courage for Joy and Susan to come together in a public forum, after such a well-publicized conflict. And it’s a testament in particular to Susan’s courage and honesty that she presented her beliefs and reasons so articulately and passionately in the face of a potentially hostile audience.

The problem is that the interests Susan was seeking to uphold, through the tool of copyright, are not traditional copyright interests. Susan wasn’t particularly interested solely (or possibly at all) in trying to protect her licensing revenue. She was interested, rather, in protecting her right to be custodian of the image: an interest that isn’t even captured in moral rights as defined in Europe.

At the end of the day, Hank Shocklee, of Public Enemy, gave a “times they are a’changing” / “to the barricades, comrades” speech: He basically said that the old models of control are dead. It was a great moment, and I hope it’s true. There’s no question that we are paying too high a cost right now from excessive control over information. We are losing works, we are losing consumer rights, we are losing new forms of artistic expression.

But with every change, there are costs. Those who control information sometimes do it for a good reason. The hypertrophic growth of copyright law (as Jamie Boyle put it) has harmed the essential purpose of copyright law, the encouragement of creativity. But that same hypertrophic, harmful growth, nevertheless allowed Susan to pursue other interests not well protected in any other way: privacy, dignity, trust, political context and memory. I hope we find other ways — human, person-to-person ways — to protect those interests; they were never well served by copyright anyway. But it’s important to count the costs as well as the benefits for every change. I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to see Susan and Joy speaking together so that I could see and hear the messy human values and reasons behind the legal conflict.

monday schizophrenic cat painting

Fascinating. A pictorial history of an artist’s descent into schizophrenia. Louis Wain, 1860-1939, effects of late onset schizophrenia on cat drawings. Part of a larger piece on schizophrenia. [link from miscellaneous heathen] More info at wikipedia.

The early paintings during the onset of Mr. Wain’s schizophrenia reminded me of some of the migraine paintings we had at the Exploratorium — jaggedy and painful.

 

 

 

david leheny on dan brown

I don’t know how to sum up Dan Brown’s contributions to American literature any better than to say that the first “word” of praise on his website is “Unputdownable.”

Plus Harry Reid, David Brooks, and William Safire. Read the whole thing.

Carlos Cortez

Viva La Huelga - print by Carlos Cortez

¡Viva La Huelga! Carlos Cortez
1993 Linocut, 89×58.5 cm

“When you do a painting that’s it, it’s one of a kind. But when you do a graphic the amount of prints you can make from it is infinite. I made a provision in my estate, for whoever will take care of my blocks, that if any of my graphic works are selling for high prices immediate copies should be made to keep the price down.”

— Carlos Cortez, 1923-2005

Doing research, I found that Carlos Cortez passed away in January. I first saw Carlos Cortez exhibited in Chicago in the mid-1990s, and had the honor of meeting him and his partner, Mariana. A real loss but he is well-remembered.

More info:
Wikipedia
biography at March Abrazo Press
Carlos Koyokuikatl Cortez: A Printed Legacy (1923-2005) by Jesus Macarena-Avila [subaltern.org]
An Interview with Carlos Cortez by Christine Flores-Cozza, at Drawing Resistance.org
Political Graphics.org
– IWW Obituary
– Many of his works illustrate Charles H. Kerr press books

divine licensing: god and the gang of four

Two great tastes that taste great together.

Many “Daily Show” fans (well, okay, me) have been concerned about the future of “This Week in God” now that Stephen Colbert is leaving “The Daily Show” for his own spinoff. Today’s NYT (10/12) explains that the segment is going to stay, but with a new correspondent — apparently, because of divine licensing:

“God has an exclusive licensing agreement with ‘The Daily Show,’ ” Mr. Colbert said. “We’re trying to get the Devil for our show.”

In completely unrelated entertainment news, Slate informs us (10/5) that the Gang of Four is covering their own songs on what is effectively a tribute album by the Gang of Four, in tribute to the Gang of Four. (Hey, I think they’re worth it.) Go4 was a little less happy with their licensing arrangement than God, apparently:

A sraightforward repackaging of the old recordings, such as a compilation or box set, would only serve to enrich EMI, their original record company in the United Kingdom. And that’s something Gang of Four didn’t want to happen. “We have never made any money at all from record sales with EMI and still have unrecouped advances,” King wrote in an e-mail. “So we didn’t want them to benefit as they did nothing to support us.” As for their original American record company, Warner Bros., King claims that they deleted Entertainment!—easily one of the 50 most powerful and influential rock albums of all time—in 1993 and only rereleased it in 2005 in response to Gang of Four’s having become a fashionable reference point. Rerecording the songs—something that contracts typically allow artists to do after 20 years—puts Gang of Four in a strong bargaining position for negotiating a new deal with superior royalty rates. “It is our way of reasserting ownership of our own material,” says King.