Monday, February 21, 2005


[House cleaning first: Kenny B wrote a nice tribute in honor of Article 19's one-year anniversary on Friday. In the comments I put down some thoughts and questions about the future of the blog and would appreciate your input.

What have you read, heard, or watched over the last week?

"Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity"
Professor Lessig links to a new book by Kembrew McLeod, available online here through a creative commons license. Kembrew has trademarked the phrase "freedom of expression®" know, to make a point. You can see the hilarious trademark certificate on page 2. Among the great info in the first chapter is the true story calling into question the copyright of "Happy Birthday to You," a song originally titled "Good Morning to All," now owned by Time-Warner, and not scheduled to enter the public domain until 2030.
The Hill sisters based “Good Morning to All” on an existing melody, and the lyrics were spontaneously generated by a bunch of five- and six-year-olds. Because the melody, first published in 1893, is now in the public domain and the lyrics weren’t even written by the Hill sisters, there is little reason why the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You” should still be enforced. But that hasn’t stopped the song’s stewards from taking every measure to prevent others from singing it without paying royalties.

In the mid-1990s ASCAP sent letters to Girl Scouts and other summer camps, informing them that they had to purchase a performance license in order to sing certain songs. The fact that such a notice hadn’t been issued before illustrates the rising level of entitlement among copyright owners by the end of the twentieth century. Under the guidelines set forth by this ASCAP letter, songs such as “This Land Is Your Land,” “God Bless America,” and, of course, “Happy Birthday to You” could not be sung at the summer camps without buying a license. US Copyright law defines a “public performance” as something that occurs “at a place open to the public, or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” For instance, around a campfire.
They Might Be Appealing to Children [UPDATED]
Will kids really enjoy They Might Be Giants' new recording "Here Come the ABCs"? Or will their parents just enjoy hoping that they do? Either way, it's pretty fun. I heard them perform "Alphabet of Nations" on Conan last week. The lyrics:
"Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, France, The Gambia; Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya and Mongolia; Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Suriname; Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam, West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe" [Repeat]
No, West Xylophone is not really a place.
[UPDATE] In searching around I found a wikipedia devoted to They Might Be Giants. It is an online encyclopedia that anyone can add to or edit. Amazing compendium of TMBG resources.

NYT on new Tori Amos
I went through a Tori Amos phase once, well ok it was maybe a week (or just one really long afternoon, I don't remember). But I haven't really kept up since. I wouldn't mind hearing her new recording, reviewed in today's Times:
"The Beekeeper" is a generous, even overstuffed album, 19 songs and 79 minutes long, with an elaborate scheme involving six "gardens" of songs inspired by the six-sided cells of a honeycomb. (Ms. Amos has no fear of preciousness.) The lyrics are still collages of impressions, though usually with enough clues to piece them together. But "The Beekeeper" is also her most down-to-earth album in years, because Ms. Amos has decided she doesn't have to pack every impulse into every song. Sometimes, now, a simple melody and a steady groove are enough.
It concludes, "Ms. Amos is finding ways to make her songs more approachable." I don't remember "unapproachable" being the way I would describe her songs; was this really a problem? I think of Sonic Youth as sometimes unapproachable. Tori Amos I think of more as just creepy. But whatever.

On the other hand...
Cinecultist (to her surprise) disagrees with the reports I've seen that say "Hitch" is terrible. And apparently the SF Chronicle agrees that it works. Until I hear more I'm not believing it.

Bedtime for Gonzo
Author Hunter S. Thompson is dead. I like the fact that he created an adjective (gonzo) for his type of journalism but so far as I can tell nobody else was ever described using that word. Still, news reports refer to him as practicing "gonzo journalism" as if it were a school or method that existed outside him. Maybe it does, but I've never heard the word used anywhere except for him.

I read his funny column regularly. Here is the last one, in which he proposes a new sport, pitched to Bill Murray over the phone at 3 am. "Shotgun golf" would be a combination of golf and skeet shooting.
The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant "green" and making a "hole in one." Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. That earns you two points.
Relink--Harry Partch
I linked to this in my piece on tuning, but in case you didn't want to wade through all that it's still appropriate for Media Monday. Harry Partch is one of my heroes as a composer. He lived for years as a hobo, jumping trains and riding across the country, and wound up teaching composition in California where he made his own instruments to accomodate the tuning systems he developed. There is a fabulous site - here - that lets you see many of the instruments and play (scroll down and click on "play instrument" so you can hear not only his interesting tuning but sounds as well. The "boo" is a personal favorite.

Weekend Box Office

1. Hitch
2. Constantine
3. Because of Winn-Dixie
4. Son of the Mask
5. Million Dollar Baby

Could the major box office choices be any worse? I have seen 1-star reviews of Hitch, Constantine and Son of the Mask. And, as for #3, are we just doing product placement right in the title now? Did Kroger have a rejected bid on the dog's name?

Also, has there been a "comic book" movie to come out sine Spiderman 2? I only ask because I saw--in the newspaper ad for Constantine--one of those one-line superlatives you always see. This one said "the best comic book movie since spiderman 2!!" Hmmm. How stupid do they think we are?

No comments: