nice quote from film restorer Eric Stedman, of Newtown, PA, capturing the problem of orphan works:
[Copyright has been extended longer than the life of the nitrate film itself…”
from Ann Hulbert, 2005/6/1, Slate, “Mozart and Us: What the ur-prodigy has to teach his successors”:
However scholars end up resolving the question of authorship, it highlights a side of Wolfgang his father preferred to gloss over and popular legend tends to ignore: The boy genius, for all his originality, was also an impressionable imitator. Either he availed himself of a score by an elder and rearranged it somewhat (as he did with some early concertos), or, if the work is shown to be his, he was composing derivative music that experts could mistake for that of a mediocre adult contemporary. In other words, young Mozart was not simply a little boy who was visited by inspirational bolts from the blue. He was an industrious student inundated by contemporaneous influences.
The full article discusses the myth/legend/history of Mozart’s youthful creativity, placing it, and him, in his context: an environment rich with other works from which to draw, embellish, alter, and derive. Mozart was known for these variations, as alluded to in “Amadeus” by his easy & pointed re-working of Salieri’s piece.
(Hulbert draws a different conclusion from Mozart’s access to & use of other current popular works: that Mozart’s forced rapid exposure by his father-promoter to a huge number of popular works ultimately fostered his ability to assert his own creative independence and genius.
If Mozart is actually proof of anything, it may be that resilience cultivated in the face of overbearing influence and enforced dependence is one important secret to fulfilling rare genius.
Hulbert has her own axe to grind with this point, about how to raise children & so-called child prodigies, and that’s interesting too, and I probably agree with the critique of adult pressure on children to be geniuses. I don’t find that the Mozart material particularly well supports the “resilience to influence leads to genius” idea, but that seems to be a toss-away line to try to tie the stories together.)
The New Yorker has an article evaluating the <cough cough> science of intelligent design.
Most amusing (and insightful) quote (from discussion of Behe’s “irreducible complexity” argument):
It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.
The plaintiff and the defendant were in a long-term committed relationship. Early in the morning of September 24, 1994, they were engaged in consensual sexual intercourse. The plaintiff was lying on his back while the defendant was on top of him. The defendant’s body was secured in this position by the interlocking of her legs and the plaintiff’s legs. At some point, the defendant unilaterally decided to unlock her legs and place her feet on either side of the plaintiff’s abdomen for the purpose of increasing her stimulation. When the defendant changed her position, she did not think about the possibility of injury to the plaintiff.
(italics added by me)
The Boston Phoenix ran this article (“Singled out: Mercury Rev’s big Internet gamble” by Mac Randall) [5/19]. Mercury Rev is experimenting with “building fan anticipation” by releasing the album in EP-size dribs and drabs, via iTunes, and then pulling the EPs:
The CD won’t reach stores till May 17. But on January 25, an EP with selections from the disc went on sale on the Web through iTunes. Six weeks later, another EP with a different set of Secret Migration songs went on sale as the first EP was pulled from iTunes. The process repeated again six weeks later, with a third EP replacing the second. Once the album goes on sale in stores, all of the songs will again be for sale on-line, but the EP configurations will be a thing of the past. (Unless, of course, you want to program them into your iPod that way.) More to the point, every song on the CD will have been made available to the public well in advance of the “release date.”
What about the possibility that downloading will destroy the album sales? The company’s marketing director had this to say:
So far, according to Dan Cohen, the iTunes EPs’ sales figures are “good but not astounding. My head of sales hates when I say this, but the greatest thing that could happen is that there are so many MP3s circulating on-line that we’re like, ‘Oh God, this might hurt sales.’ It hasn’t happened yet.”
Selling music is like selling drugs. If you want your clientele to keep coming back, you need to consistently supply a quality product. People know what they want. People talk about how the music industry is struggling, but there’s no strain on Eminem records. There’s no strain on the Game. There’s no strain on 50 Cent records. My first album was downloaded 300,000 times before it went on sale, but we still sold 872,000 copies the first week and 822,000 copies the second week. I don’t believe in the oversaturation of a quality product.
Relatedly, Halsey Burgund, here in MA, just started a new project: he’s making a compilation of musicians saying, “I am a musician, and I support file sharing” (and whatever they want to add about why). [i followed the link from respectp2p.org 5/10]
update 2005/8/24: another 50 Cent story, this time on 50 cent’s position re: a trademark / right of publicity issue.
Thomas Bartlett’s “Audiofile” [2005/5/5] in Salon.com mentions the “Bootleg Browser” & says this:
Bootleg Browser is a new resource that lists links to MP3 downloads of concerts — currently featuring shows from nearly 350 artists. I’m interested to know how readers feel about the ethics of concert bootlegs. Personally, unless an artist has specifically stated that they don’t want their concerts to be recorded and traded, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would object. There’s no real way that bootleg trading can hurt an artist, and plenty of ways that it can help. Doubtless some of you disagree, and I’d like to hear from you. Write to me.
Good to hear someone making the obvious point that lawmakers & record companies have seemed confused about for years.
“Absolutely. We’ve got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That’s just outrageous,” DeLay told Fox News Radio. “And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.”
And the Republican abandonment of ‘federalism’ continues:
Senator Tom Coburn, a newly elected conservative Republican from Oklahoma, said: “This isn’t a states’ rights issue. What we’re saying is they are going to review it. The states are not given the right to take away somebody’s constitutional rights.”
[House majority leader Tom Delay]: “The conservative doctrine here is the Constitution of the United States.”
These and many other astonishing quotes are courtesy of the Terri Schiavo case — the latest mad rush by Republicans to abandon their much-vaunted dedication to federalism and states’ rights. [Chronicled here by the Adam Nagourney of the NYT [2005/3/25].] As predicted, Republicans like pretty much everyone else happily use the power they’ve got — full-on federal government power.
While protesting the airing of “The Tsunami Song”, Asian-American rapper Cobra took shots at the anti-bootlegging “whiners”:
Though promoted as an antiracist event, the rally lamented the degraded state of the corporate music industry generally. One of the first performances at the demonstration came from Asian-American rapper Cobra. In front of an audience holding signs reading “Hot 97 Divides Our Community,” “Stop Hate 97” and “I Am Hip-Hop,” Cobra recited lyrics that earnestly expressed his grievances with the state of hip-hop: “With a hot producer/Hitler would still be popular, blinged-out with Medusa [a popular jewelry brand].” In another song, he castigated greedy artists who fail to recognize the boost in visibility they get from bootlegs and online music traders: “Now you mad ’cause your bootleg’s on the Ave.?/That’s the best promotion team that you’ve ever had!…/You whiners unnerve me/You’re just an old, white exec in a throwback jersey.”
“I would call upon everyone who has access to ‘Eyes on the Prize’ to openly violate any and all laws regarding its showing,” says civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot, who led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and today is a program manager for the D.C. Department of Human Services.
… Sometimes, fighting for freedom of access to information seems shallow in comparison to the struggle against poverty and inequality, or against government-sponsored murder and torture, or even the struggle to survive in the face of hurricanes and tsunamis and floods. But ultimately I believe it’s all the same struggle.
… Philip Pullman recently wrote an essay, published in The War on Words The Guardian [2004-11-09] and previously apparently in Index on Censorship, about reading, dogma, and theocracy in Bush’s US. So timely, as the world faces so many incidents of censorship and outright ideological attempts to control education and access to information. A few notes:
My third and final charge against the theocracies, atheist or religious, and their failure to read properly is this: that the act of true reading is in its very essence democratic.
Consider the nature of what happens when we read a book – and I mean, of course, a work of literature, not an instruction manual or a textbook – in private, unsupervised, un-spied-on, alone. It isn’t like a lecture: it’s like a conversation. There’s a back-and-forthness about it. The book proposes, the reader questions, the book responds, the reader considers. We bring our own preconceptions and expectations, our own intellectual qualities, and our limitations, too, our own previous experiences of reading, our own temperament, our own hopes and fears, our own personality to the encounter.
I like this analyis of reading. The observation isn’t unique, but tying this form of reader empowerment into broader exercises of democracy and empowerment is sharp.
One of the most extraordinary scenes I’ve ever watched, and one which brings everything I’ve said in this piece into sharp focus, occurs in the famous videotape of George W Bush receiving the news of the second strike on the World Trade Centre on 9/11. As the enemies of democracy hurl their aviation-fuel-laden thunderbolt at the second tower, their minds intoxicated by a fundamentalist reading of a religious text, the leader of the free world sits in a classroom reading a story with children. If only he’d been reading Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, or Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, or a genuine fairy tale! That would have been a scene to cheer. It would have illustrated values truly worth fighting to preserve. It would have embodied all the difference between democratic reading and totalitarian reading, between reading that nourishes the heart and the imagination and reading that starves them.
I have a minor quibble with the substitution of the term “theocratic” for what might be more properly termed “dogmatic.” Theocratic would be a special instance of dogmatic. I understand, I think, what Pullman is getting at; he wants us to see the common strands between theocratic dogmas and other forms of ideological dogmas, such as the Soviet Union. The US’ current dogma might fit somewhere in the broader slate even if it doesn’t quite line up with Iranian-style theocracy. But as a US citizen who is quite concerned about actual theocracy, I want use of terms to be precise. Just a nitpicker, I guess. I suppose I wouldn’t care if I didn’t have particular beefs with the use of religion to create and buttress political structures. But among dogmas, theologies are particularly prone to abuse.
Pullman also quotes Karen Armstrong’s recent The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam:
There is a good description of two different modes of reading in Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2001). Armstrong is eloquent on the difference between mythos and logos, fundamentally different ways of apprehending the reality of the world. Mythos deals with meaning, with the timeless and constant, with the intuitive, with what can only be fully expressed in art or music or ritual. Logos, by contrast, is the rational, the scientific, the practical; that which can be taken apart and put together again; that which is susceptible to logical explanation.
Both are necessary, both are to be cherished. However, they engage with different aspects of the world, and these days, says Armstrong, they are not equally valued. Her argument is that in modern times, because of the astonishing progress of science and technology, people in the western world “began to think that logos was the only means to truth, and began to discount mythos as false and superstitious”. This resulted in the phenomenon of fundamentalism, which, despite its own claims to be a return to the old true ways of understanding the holy book, is not a return of any kind, but something entirely new: “Protestant fundamentalists read the Bible in a literal, rational way that is quite different from the more mystical, allegorical approach of pre-modern spirituality.”
These notes lead to the heart of Pullman’s observations, which are that the current US government is increasingly dogmatic in dangerous ways. It’s true that those who see fit to govern us seem to have less of a sense of humor than ever. I’m reminded of John Ashcroft installing covers for the naked lady statues at DOJ (for $8000, apparently!). (U1) More recently, just a day or two ago I saw this story about Mississippi county library officials banning Jon Stewart’s America (The Book). The district library director was offended by the photoshopped photo of the naked US Supreme Court, which asks readers to “restore [the justices’] dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe.” Surely, the inability to appreciate absurdity and satire is another feature of the dogmatic … It’s always depressing when a librarian falls short of the standards that so many of us uphold so well. Robert Willits, library director for Jackson & George counties, said “I’ve been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I’ve objected to so strongly that I wouldn’t allow it to circulate.” Jesus. Mississippi really is backwards if this was the most offensive thing he’s seen in 40 years. Or is it that he was particularly offended by the use of nudity in the satiric context? … Certainly it wasn’t the prurient aspect of this nudity that appalled, since the sight of 9 naked people, not one of whom is less than 55 years old, isn’t really calculated to arouse prurient interest in most folks today. [update 1/12: after complaints the library board un-banned the book]
I remembered recently the story an acquaintance of mine told me about her youth. Her parents were embedded in an evangelical church, hung up on issues of satanism. At one point her parents became concerned about her choice of reading materials — science fiction, fantasy, comic books, historical romance novels — convinced that some of it at least was satanic — and literally began burning her books. After she pulled some books out of the flames and pointed out to them that they were classics, or not satanic, or were in some other way significantly misapprehended, her parents changed tactics. They demanded that she herself sort the books out according to a standard they adapted from the Supreme Court case Miller v. California: that the books she kept had to have redeeming literary or other social value. Her parents weren’t concerned with just the prurient interest, either, apparently; her books had to attain some higher value other than mere non-prurience in order to be redeemed.
She was required to sort her books according to this metric, and turn over a good portion of her collection of “escapist” fiction with no “redeeming values” to be destroyed. … Forcing someone to apply another’s standard to their own punishment is a tactic of humiliation, of course, used by authoritarians to make the victim complicit in their own victimization. …
Redeeming. Suggesting that the books were damned to begin with, and had to be redeemed by some especial value. Damned, I suppose, because they were for entertainment, or purposes other than religious education. Redeemed by being for some other acceptable purpose. The Supreme Court in Miller damned books (and films, etc.) for their prurient value. A hang-over of our Puritan religious past, a distaste for the sexual. The Court let materials escape if they had other redeeming values — even prurient materials may be redeemed by some other benefit to society. But change the test just a little, as my friend’s parents did, simply drop the prurience requirement, and you’ve shifted the burden from some literature or art to all literature or art. All literature or art is now guilty unless proved innocent, damned unless redeemed.
Carry that notion a little further, and measure science and education and medical information on the same yardstick. Now you’re no longer balancing science education in the schools or medical information against the truth of the science — now you weigh it against some other scale, in which there is a subjective redemptive value. We don’t teach the truth because of its truth. We teach because we want to control the ideological outcome. Now, advocates of so-called intelligent design can feel outraged, hurt, treated unfairly, because all they want is equal time, a fair share of the educational pie. Critics of dispensing information about birth control and the efficacy of condom use for disease prevention can weigh the information not against its accuracy but against their values.
In this view, education isn’t about truth. Education is about ideology, and the intelligent design folks deserve just as much opportunity to control the instillation of ideology (“education”) as the scientists and teachers. Learning, truth, education, truth, aren’t valued for themselves. In fact they’re damned because they cause us to question the values that redeem.
Pullman observed in the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, etc.) that all of history is a struggle between those who want to disseminate knowledge, and those who want to control and limit that dissemination. Between those who trust only themselves with information — and consequently with freedom — and those who think that information and freedom and power belong to all.
Another acquaintance of mine was recently wrestling with the question of whether or not to have an abortion. Her circumstances were difficult, but she had always identified as “pro-life,” and most of her close friends and family members felt similarly and encouraged her not to have the abortion. Ultimately they joined, though, in supporting her; they believed that she would do the right thing, whatever it was; they trusted her to make the right decision. I was angry about this, although I didn’t discuss it with her. It’s easy to trust people you know. But who are they to make those decisions for all the people they don’t know? Why, in fact, should the people that pro-lifers don’t know have to trust the pro-lifers to make the right decision for them?
The Bush administration is just one manifestation of this greater historical tendency. We ought to weigh this manifestation properly — hard to do, sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it. The Bush administration didn’t start the fear; but it is capitalizing on it, and building on it, and strengthening that tendency in the US and around the world. The push is away from multilateralism, away from respect of others, and towards unilateralism, towards limiting trust to oneself and one’s clan. The control of people’s access to information is a symptom and a sign, but it is also a means towards the end of controlling people. You don’t trust people to do the right thing with information, and by keeping it away from them, you prevent them from doing what the wrong thing.
And since all our struggles — whether against economic injustice or the effects of natural disasters or the repression of governments — are carried forward by individuals, then trusting individuals with information, empowering them through information, and letting people build their own tools is still the best way to further social change. … which of course is why, as Pullman observes, governments and hierarchies such as the Bush administration are always so interested in stifling knowledge and education transfer. Keep the knowledge, keep the power, don’t trust anybody else to do the right thing.
U1: 2005/July/9. Replacement Atty. General Gonzalez quietly undraped the statues, returning a little bit of sanity to the otherwise indecent DOJ.
salon.com’s wednesday morning download rags on the Band Aid project, but i liked this comment:
And where can you find this delightful song? Well, if you live in the United States, where it’s not available for sale, you can do as I did and go to your favorite file-sharing network and download a copy — no doubt condemning my soul to eternal damnation for stealing a charity song.
right hook on salon.com covers the right-wing press so you don’t have to.
Writing in the Christian news outlet Agape Press this week, Pugh takes note of Christian activist Joe Glover’s directive that Evangelicals, flush with Republican wins from the White House to Capitol Hill, now have every right to demand that gays be booted the hell out of the Beltway.
“A pro-family activist from Virginia says voters who put Republicans in office should demand that politicians not employ key personnel who don’t hold the conservative views that the party promotes. That activist says the Capitol Hill office of Virginia Senator George Allen is a good example. Senator Allen is head of the Republican Senatorial Committee and was a key figure in the GOP’s big victories in November. But Joe Glover, president of the Virginia-based Family Policy Network, says something is very wrong. Glover says homosexual publications have outed at least six members of the senator’s office as homosexuals. He says one homosexual activist even went so far as to say Allen had the ‘gayest office on Capitol Hill.’ Pro-family conservatives, he says, need to make sure Senator Allen hears their voices.
“‘If someone is going to run the day-to-day operations for the Republican apparatus to elect U.S. senators across the country, then dog-gone-it, it better not be somebody who practices a lifestyle that is diametrically opposed to the Evangelical Christian base that delivered George W. Bush and the Republicans in the Senate the victory they saw in November,’ he says. Glover says Allen’s executive director recently resigned because he was outed as a homosexual.”
— Salon.com Right Hook, 2004-12-08
I always like to see non-usual-suspect rants about IP, so here’s one from critical montages [11/27] (you’ll have to go there to see the insightful links)
Ever notice the Waffle House menu’s insistence that Double Waffle is for “dine-in only, no sharing”? A common prohibition at low-end restaurants, it’s also a small-print reminder of what capitalism is all about.
From enclosure to enforcement of intellectual property rights, capital’s message is always No Sharing.
Products of intellectual labor, unlike land and waffles, can be shared by all without diminishing their use value for anyone, however. “Copies” are as perfect as “originals” for the most profitable products — such as drugs and software — in the age of mechanical production, withering the aura of private property and making the revolutionary act of sharing and sharing alike irresistible. Capital, of course, tries to stop it, but, in doing so, it makes visible the “invisible hand” of the market, demonstrating that it is not scarcity but state power at capital’s disposal that prevents us from having what we want — even what we need to save our lives.
John Ashcroft is retiring. Yes, I’m sure that Bush will show us how it could be worse, but for right now, I’m taking my pleasures where I can. [nyt 11/9]
The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
Not yet, John, but your resignation is a good first step.
As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, “My Romanian grandfather used to say to me, ‘Remember, Morton, this is such a wonderful country – it doesn’t even need a president!'”
— Michael Moore, Election 2004: 17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists, 2004-11-08, AlterNet
Walter Dellinger, “Why Americans Hate Democrats — A Dialogue: Maybe It’s Not As Bad As We Think”, Slate, 2004-11-05:
[T]here seems to be a flaw in how our governing system is working that is turning narrow victories into unearned dominance. By (at best) narrowly prevailing in two elections in which the nation was split down the middle, one party, with the support of barely half the electorate, is in position to control everything—House, Senate, presidency, Supreme Court and lower-court appointments, everything.
The purpose of separation of powers is not being fulfilled. The branches were designed as a check on each other. But the institutional divisions between legislative bodies and the executive, or between the House and Senate, are no longer salient. The ideological purification of our parties—a relatively new and unfortunate development—may have created an identity of partisan interest so strong that separate branches, when controlled by the same party, provide no check at all. Due in part to greatly enhanced partisanship, loyalty to the Senate or House as an institution is being replaced for legislators of the president’s party with loyalty to the president. The Framers thought they had produced a system that would ensure that a faction supported by a bare 51 percent of the people could not make the other party its dog. It’s not working.
Interesting. What do our elected “representatives” with their “constitutional duties” have to say? Let’s hear from Sen. Rick Santorum [freep, 11/04]:
Senate Republicans are committed to approving all of the President’s judicial nominations…
By JOHN HANNA Associated Press Writer
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday he would prefer not to face another election-related lawsuit, but defended the high court’s decision to get involved in the contentious dispute over the 2000 presidential vote in Florida.
“What are you supposed to do when somebody brings a lawsuit?” Thomas asked University of Kansas law students. “You hear people say the Supreme Court jumped into the last election. I find it very ironic that the very people saying judges are interfering are bringing lawsuits.”
“What do you think? Donald Duck is going to decide it?”
When asked about the prospect of more litigation over the 2004 vote, Thomas said, “I would prefer not to have to decide it, but that joins a long list of things,” adding: “It’s my job.”
People who say judges are interfering are really trying to say that judges are making illegitimate decisions and stepping beyond their authority. This is a critique that Thomas & his ilk make quite often when talking about decisions they don’t like. But apparently “it’s their job” when it comes to making a decision, like Bush v. Gore, that they like to make.
Too bad folks like Thomas and the Bush administration have politicized this critique to such an extent. It is now basically useless to say that a judge overstepped his (usually) or her authority — that just means you don’t like the decision. Used to be you could use it to say that the judge’s decision was not supported by the law.
[T]those of us who argued that there was really no difference between Bush and Gore look pretty stupid now. None of that reflects especially well on Al Gore, by the way; it simply wasn’t evident at that early date that the then-Texas governor was the real-world version of Greg Stillson, the born-again, world-destroying future president in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone.”
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes: Kerry is a lot better than Bush on the environment, abortion, civil liberties and judicial appointments. Again, it’s a comparison between that good-looking real estate guy who only gouged you a little and Chucky, the devil doll from the “Child’s Play” movies.
— Andrew O’Hehir, “Civic Avowal”, salon.com, 2004-10-28
regarding the stolen cache of explosives, wonkette reports that rove is upset that it’s even being discussed:
Rove: “Kerry, by so rapidly embracing the story, is going to end up being tarnished by it. What would he do as president? Get up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to govern based on what I find in the newspapers?'”
— wonkette, 10/27
Or maybe — and it’s just a thought — maybe Kerry would respond to issues before they reached the papers! You know, in sort of a, a proactive way. Maybe, if something goes wrong, a president should acknowledge the problem and tell the American people what was being done to fix it. Maybe we wouldn’t have to rely on The New Yorker [Abu Ghraib] and The New York Times [missing weapons] to tell us what happened a year ago.
Gack. These guys make me crazy.