Tradition

09/26/2016 § Leave a comment

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Me and my grandmother. Not really, only the old lady is anywhere near to being accurate.

Today is my paternal grandmother’s birthday

I’m really sorry I didn’t get to know her better. As well as giving me better insight into my horrible father (even she had some bad words to say about him) she was a complete enigma.

She was born here, in the United States, in Alabama, where she raised my father, amid a miasma of 1930’s racism, jim crow, a fantastic repertoire of Irish and Bluegrass standards, and depression-era common sense.

Let me first describe this bizarre, lovely, and yes, unpleasant, woman.

She claimed to drink a quart of moonshine (plus more, on occasion) a week, moonshine that she made herself, and had made since she was “a weedling”. She smoked a pipe or more a day of Virgina Burley, never that “Turkish Shit”, and chewed the stuff as well. No, I never kissed her, if I could help it. And the south would never die, if she could help it; although she was extremely upset when Dr, King was executed in Memphis in 1968, saying to her deathbed “those no good Tennesseans…” which of course caused no little amount of conversation at family gatherings south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This story was of great confusion to me all my life and to this day as I absolutely recall my father shaking in fury during news casts of the Kent State shootings, yet lecturing me to “watch out” for Negroes.

They’ll take your wallet.” he’d tell me out of the corner of his mouth.

As he lectured me on the darkness that wafted about black people he was kicking my mother’s ass. Physically. Just because that’s what he wanted to do. I guess.

Although of completely average means, appearance, and manner, my grandmother was a fantastic bluegrass musician. She was a virtuoso pianist, violinist, guitarist, banjo virtuoso, and Jew harpist. I mean. fantastic. She was incredible, and could hurl out bluegrass standards with the best of them. Why she never was invited to the Grand Ol Oprey, or any of those other outlets of the time is beyond me. She could recite or play by tune any of the old bluegrass standards, as well as a few Irish ones. Danny Boy was of course a favorite of hers. I was once treated to a live version of Dueling Banjos between her and my high school friend Andrew who was learning guitar at the time. In deliverence style they battled together, doing great justice to that standard, and just like Jon Voight my friend got completely bulldozed by my grandmother and her banjo. She was incredible.

She lived to be 99. How do people do that? Live like lunatics, against all known common sense, and live life to the fullest until they die?

I am led to understand that she was fully able to care for herself until she died of an embolism at 99. I certainly don’t agree with her politics, but I’m not exactly sure I disagree with her means of exiting this world. Not in the slightest.

She wasn’t an evil person, I would disagree with that. But on the other hand, not exactly the most righteous. Where was God in this? Taking a break?

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DRM Must Die

09/17/2016 § Leave a comment

shock

What the hell is up with DRM and Copyright? This is a screen cap of a book available in e format from Amazon. That’s great. My problem: the book is 800 YEARS OLD. How is it POSSIBLE to claim any kind of rights on a work that’s been in the public domain for 720 years?

My understanding of copyright and digital rights, a derivative law, in America (no, I’m not going to become an expert in world copyright law), is that a work is considered to be in the public domain after 80 years. If no one comes forward to contest the conversion (which is the loophole that the Disney Company uses to keep tight, butt-clenched tighter than a 500 ton press, control over Mickey Mouse et. al.) then the work reverts.

The reasons we allow fallow works to go into the public domain is because we know that humans are mortal, and sometimes they create things that have a greater value to society that the sum total of the human that created them.

I might contest the value to humanity of the idea of Mickey Mouse (Mr. Natural had a much bigger impact and comment on society in my opinion), but it doesn’t matter what value artistic works have or don’t on a society that recognizes others my pick up the torch and carry on the values of the work in question in a mortal world.

The rules on public domain are pretty clear: THE PUBLIC OWNS THE WORK IN QUESTION. That doesn’t mean that simply because I found your radio flyer sitting out on your front yard having been unused for a few weeks or centuries I now get to keep it and sell it as though I own it. THIS is effectively what is going on with people (“people” like Amazon) claiming ownership rights on works over 800 years old.

I recently saw what I know to be a BLATANT example of this on youtube, of which I’m sure there are copious examples.

I’ve been in to the classic blues recordings of Robert Johnson since I discovered him in the mid 80’s; and his music has certainly been famous since hippies were writing “Clapton is God” on bathroom stalls since the 60’s and those in the know knew “God” was actually Robert Johnson.

The definitive publication of Johnson’s recording were the two LP volumes released by Columbia records in the 60’s and re-released over the years. These are the records people “in the know” went to for the complete collection of Johnson’s works to that date. In them one could hear for themselves the inspiration for Elvis, Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, certainly Eric Clapton, and countless others.

These albums SPECIFICALLY noted in the liner notes that all selections were in the public domain. That not a slippery, shades of gray, depiction of the legal status of those works.

Its a specific assertion of a legal entity that has precedent, from over 200 years of examples.

THE INFRINGING EXAMPLES CANNOT STAND.

The problem here is simple: when copyright laws were drafted, the drafters either didn’t take into account or couldn’t have foreseen, that legal constructions such as corporations, could be seen and dealt with under the law as living people. The very entities the law seeks to bestow benefits to, are assumed to have a finite life span. But corporations can live forever, or at least much longer than any actual human being. Thus the Disney corporation can re-assert the ownership rights on Mickey Mouse for ever. A blatant flaw in the legal construct of copyright.

The entire book on copyright, invention ownership, and trademark needs to fixed. Its a broken old 19th century horse trying to keep up with everyone else on a 21st century highway. Its time to fix it.

We Could Be Heros

09/05/2016 § Leave a comment

AFP_FU9HP-3464Pleasant portrait. The photos of Theresa I’ve seen rarely show her smiling.

There’s really nothing quite like having your heroes unmasked in front of your eyes. Several years ago while watching hours of Kurosawa films with my film-o-phile best friend Alvin we watched an ad for the classic Richard Attenborough-directed Ben Kingsley portrayal of “Gandhi” (which should illustrate just how long ago I’m talking about.) My friend spat out the name “Gandhi” as if it were poison. I was of course shocked. Hardly a week went by that Alvin didn’t spout off about something that I didn’t know anything about, that was interesting, and it was only after I did the research that I would figure out how wrong he was (and he was often wrong, to varying degrees, but still it made for an interesting friendship.)

Alvin, a self-described director-of-sorts himself (apparently he dabbled in film in college), also believed that skillful editing had nothing to do with the fact that a one hour episode of Iron Chef took exactly one hour even with commercials. To this day I sincerely hope he was screwing with my mind.

Alvin went on to describe how at Gandhi’s direction the division of the Hindus and the Muslims into greater India and the Pakistani nation resulted in incredible bloodshed on both sides. There was certainly truth to his view, but it was much more nuanced than one might guess from that simple blanket, and obviously biased, statement. (I never did understand how Alvin’s bias lay exactly, but the way he relayed the story to me had some obvious negative slant.)

As I would later discover the bloodshed was going on before Gandhi helped push the division through, so laying the horror specifically at the feet of Gandhi is pushing it a bit. He also shook his head vigorously at my mock observation that his opinion of conservatives made him appear as though he could swear they were blood-thirsty aliens from the far side of the galaxy.

“They very well may be…” he replied with no mockery in his voice.

Ok…

Canonization is the Nobel Prize of the Catholic world; it shouldn’t be given out lightly. Even though it requires the silly¬† proof that two miracles can be shown to have been preformed by the nominee (I really take that as more of idealized attributes than a pair of prerequisites) it is indeed an example and symbol of what heights human kindness can rise to a world of base inaction.

It was with great surprise that I read several years after my conversation with Alvin a magazine article that Mother Theresa has a rather callous hand with her charges; the poor and indigent of Calcutta. As I researched her life- over the last several years and for this column, I would find the truth more nuanced and less black and white than I thought.

Much like a Kurosawa film her life had deeper meaning and covered cracks than the usual story as seen from the slip cover.

Christopher Hitchens, the atheist’s atheist, produced a BBC documentary of her work based on a treatise of her finances by Aroup Chatterjee. Not surprisingly it was a less than glowing review of her life and work. She also accepted awards from dictators and appears to have possibly promoted her causes even to the cost of the people under her care, to a small extent. Vijay Prashad had some particularly scathing words to describe her work.

I don’t particularly wish anyone ill, least of all after they are dead. And I certainly don’t believe Theresa was a jaded publicity whore making HER mark in the world at the cost of the thousands who suffered in Calcutta (today’s Kolkata) during her tenure, and still do to this day. Is the world a better place for her having been in it? I think so. But maybe there’s something to be said for our heroes becoming larger than life after they’re gone.

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