Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Creative accounting: Creation as theft

It goes something like this:

"Good artists borrow. Great artists steal."


"Bad artists copy. Good artsists steal."

Variations on this quote have been attributed to Picasso, TS Eliot and Salvador Dali and that its exact mesage and authorship are a mystery, seems fitting. At the very the heart of this provacative statement is the idea that originality is a bit of a scam.

I thought I would start collecting variations on this theme of theft in creation as I come across them. I think its corollary is the struggle that creative people have with ideas about secrecy vrs. openness. (When you recognize theft as a part of your arsenal, perhaps it's natural to fear someone can turn your secret weapon against you.) It's a theme that seems precient in an era of great intellectual property grabs, and one I think Copy Culture will visit regularly.

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you -- entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market (anyone remember the Segway?). To quote Howard Aiken: "Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."
  • A SitePoint web designer on how he uses this idea of copying, stealing and borrowing to make something new.
  • SOMETHING BORROWED Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?
    by MALCOLM GLADWELL in the New Yorker, 2004-11-22. A writer's personal story with copyright, creation and appropriation.
  • Blender Kitty, an illustrator and comic artist's take on the subject and art history

Oh Really, O'Reilly

Hilarious: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twentymajor/153600721/

Whose Web 2.0?

Today the New York Times reports on the use of the term "Web 2.0".

Squabble Over Name Ruffles a Web Utopia
by Sarah Ivry

O'Reilly, an American publishing group who also run tech-related biz conferences, claimed that the use of the term Web 2.0 by a non-profit IT conference in Cork, Ireland, was an infringement of their trademark.

See the blog by one of IT@Cork's organizers, Tom Raftery, for the letters from O'Reilly and their perspective.

And the O'Reilly Radar Blog has their account of what happened.

Friday, May 26, 2006

second life for virtual game

Clive Thompson (Collision Detection) has a nice piece on wired about Tringo, a game within a game in Second Life, that is getting a real-world launch.

Read it here: http://www.wired.com/news/columns/0,70945-0.html?tw=rss.index

Fired for Blogging

Jessaisms was fired from her job at an aquarium in Philadelphia for her blog. The museum also threatened legal action if it wasn't dismantled. She did so. But, a cached copy of the blog before the action still exists so the copy outlives the original.
Blogebrity story

Interns? No Bloggers Need Apply from the New York Times (rather heavy-handed in terms of how young people "handle the transition to corporate life" but it's a trend story so this sort of overwrought analysis comes with the territory.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

recorded music and the abyss

From my friend Evan's Blog

Sunday, May 21, 2006

do you speak javanese??????
Current mood: anxious
Category: Music

if so, you might be able to help me recover one of the greatest recorded pieces of music I've ever heard.

I'm an obsessive collector of musical recordings. a consummate nerd, especially in terms of vinyl. And I am ever grateful that we possess the technology to record music. Imagine if it were otherwise: not only would music be less sophisticated since artists would no longer be capable of responding to a rich historical precedent of other musicians, but also (more disturbingly) any music could only exist in the single instance of its originary performance, never to be repeated again. As soon as the unrecorded music is heard it is simultaneously exiled into oblivion, destroyed and never capable of being experienced again, unless of course through imitation, which always makes it not quite the same. When performed music remains unrecorded it slips into the void before our ears can even take the time to fully imbibe the richness of what is offered, and that is an abomination.

Years ago I saw a friends' rock band perform at the BQE lounge. The music was an artsy electronic experiment that evoked aspects of both Robert Hood's minimalist abstraction and Brian Eno's ambient works. It was arresting and beautifully melancholy. I was enraptured, so was everyone attending. The haunting and doleful synth patches transformed the otherwise raucous patrons of the bar into quiet, introverted bodies, no longer intent on loud social interaction. I was impressed. After the performance I marched over to the band to congratulate them on their success, but also to determine when a recording might be available. Sadly, no. The recording equipment failed. Could the band at least reattempt an approximation of what was earlier achieved? No, it was a one time only experiment. What? You mean to say that I'll never hear this music again? Precisely so.

Music mimics the ontological character of our lives. It is temporal in both senses of the word, that is to say, 1 ) music happens through time, and 2) it is essentially ephemeral. Much like our lives, performed music exists never in a perfected instant (except in the form of sheet music), but as a flow that moves through time, and it exists as we do with a deadline; it's terminus is always audibly anticipated.

Recordings, however, change the rules. Recordings (as with any system of writing as Derrida would note) defer the oblivion attached to the transient sound. A record allows me to listen to the same piece of music again, and again, ad infinitum. The recording staves off the death. ...ah, now the depth of my neurosis is more clear. There is a distinct link between my archival obsessions and mortal anxiety, I will admit that. But you cannot deny the beauty of how recordings (audio, or visual; what is said of music is equally valid in terms of film) reassuringly suggest a quality of permanence in a world where absolutely everything else is doomed to disappear into an abyss that is unyielding.

This leads me to consider some of my greatest musical experiences of my life and whether or not I can attain recordings of these performances. Two experiences spring to mind. The first takes me back to Somerville, Massachusetts, Summer 1991. I was a long-haired hippie doing school courses in philosophy in Cambridge, but I was spending the the majority of my time taking mushrooms with other hippie friends who lived in the neighboring county of Somerville. (surprised?) We would regularly convene at one friend's house who was roommates with an old delta blues man named "Watermelon Slim." (no kidding, honest.) Slim stood over 6' 3", was white, sported an impressively well-groomed moustache, spoke with an impenetrably dense southern drawl...and he was arguably one of the greatest living pundits on the blues. Many of the fellow hippies at the party were Berkley Music School kids. They knew their shit, and they revered Watermelon Slim as God. I found out why one night after Slim decided to bust out the steel guitar and slide after putting back 2 mugs of mushroom tea. He played a rolling medley of classics (muddy waters, howlin' wolf, robert johnson, etc.) for something like four straight hours while the whole house of hippie kids (about 15 of us) sat transfixed, wordless, barely remembering to breathe. Afterwards I thought that I witnessed the best music I've heard. ever. Years later I realized how tragic it was that it was not recorded. Perhaps there are recordings of Slim now? doubtful. In 1991 he was an alcoholic in his 60's who had no success at all in the music industry. In all likliehood Slim and his music have left us forever.

The second greatest experience takes me back only four years to an Indonesian restaurant on East 4th Street in New York City. One night I had dinner with 2 old friends at this establishment. During the meal the owners of the restaurant played tapes of music from Southeast Asia. One tape stood out. It was a recording of 150 Javanese boys playing the gamelon. Holy Shit! It was stunning. Loopy, percussive, cyclical rhythms, densley layered and reminiscent of Steve Reich. Trance inducing and hypnotic. I was smitten. After the meal I requested to buy the tape. No such luck. Sadly, not for sale. bummer. Months later I went back with $80 in my pocket. Ready to shell out for a recording that I figured was worth preserving. Unfortunately the tape was missing....fuckkk!!!!!!!!

It would seem that I'm doomed to never acquire the tape; there is however a faint glimmer of hope. I have the name of the tape. Here it is: JARANAN GENDHING GENDHING DOLANAN OLEH PAK KATNO DENGAM PUTRA 2. I tried googling this info. no success. also my handwriting is a bit sloppy when I copied the "dengam" part, it might actually say, "densaw"...not quite sure.

This is a most inauspicious predicament. It would seem that the gamelon recordings have eluded my grasp and have (like so many other musical experiences) vanished into oblivion. If, however, you know Javanese, you might be able to help. Does the title of my tape mean anything to you? Please let me know. Seriously.

I have remote and unlikely fantasies of becoming an English school teacher in Jakarta, who, once fluent in the regional dialects, could become better acquainted with the Indonesian music recording industry. Then perhaps I could parlay my skills into those elite circles that would know the tape that I heard only once, but have been haunted by for years. Wouldn't that be a journey! All to save some music from the abyss, so that one day my ungrateful grandkids can hear it with all of my dusty, old house records from the early 90s. Ha!

Currently listening:
By Psychic Ills
Release date: By 07 February, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kevin Kelly on Google Books in New York Times

Scan This Book

by kevin kelly in the New York Times Magazine (registration required)

on google books project

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It only takes one person to tell the truth

the copies do the rest...

"It only takes one person to tell the truth" is what Marx said as he was being led away by police at a public press conference between the Australian Prime Minster and (mostly) Australian Press during his official visit to the US

SBS - The World News

Construction worker Jay Marx repeatedly shouted "John Howard, get out of Iraq. The Bush administration is a sinking ship".

Mr Howard was speaking to journalists outside Blair House, the official residence where he and his wife Janette are staying as guests of President Bush.

Although Marx was at least 20 metres away from Mr Howard , he was clearly distracted the prime minister.

Eventually, secret service agents moved a black van to block his view of Howard.

Marx told journalists he had recognised Mr Howard after seeing Australian flags outside the White House.

"I know that the majority of Australian people oppose the war, I know that John Howard has supported the Bush administration from the get-go, and it's pathetic," he said.

Marx said he happened across the Australian PM by chance.

He was at nearby Lafayette Park for a mothers' rally organised by CODEPINK, a
women's peace group.