Monthly Archives: March 2018

Is Today’s Copyright Moral?

In 1790, a creator had to still be living in order to extend their copyright a second term, nowadays, copyrighted material can avoid the public domain for hundreds of years, well after the death of the original creator. When a technology is patented, a book is written, or a character developed, the grandchildren and their children afterwards can earn copyright fees for something they in no way, shape, or form, had anything to do with. This, I believe is not right. Copyright seems to be the product of greed and selfishness. And while I acknowledge that a creator should be rewarded for his or her work, this does not carry over to their descendants. The idea that you couldn’t (until recently) even use the happy birthday song without paying a thousand dollars is ridiculous. Every one knows this song, we sing it on multiple occasions every year and pay nothing. It’s even worse, however, for intellectual property (as apposed to physical property). For this type, it doesn’t matter who made it, only who owns it. Unlike physical property, intellectual property is intangible — you can’t touch something that is just an idea in someone’s mind. And the resulting concept that one can actually copyright that idea is even more confusing. If intellectual property is the result of some idea you had, what is the difference in the actual product? Does physical property refer to just things of the earth? It seems to me that the idea of intellectual versus physical property just wanted to find a way to make some extra bucks even after they were old (and dead). If something is so well known and already in the public consciousness, then there should not be a copyright on it.


JK Rowling has already earned hundreds of millions of dollars off the Harry Potter series and its accompanying movie adaptations. Isn’t a billion dollars enough (yes I know she gives to charity and technically isn’t even a billionaire anymore, but a multimillionaire is pretty damn close right? And it’s a heck of lot more money than the majority of the world) Why not end the copyright (or at least end it after she dies)?  —- Because money.  Creators will never say okay okay enough is enough. I personally love JK and what her imagination has created, and I think she should definitely earn money for her hard work. However, at some point it does become excessive. Take Disney, an even more extreme exmaple — the animation giant whose copyright continues to be extended  throughout the decades to the point that it most likely will be under copyright literally forever. This is the mighty dollar at work, and this is why money truly does make the world go round.


Scavenger Hunt

The word jazz began to be used in earnest in the early 20th century, around 1920s. The origin of the word, however, began in 1860, with the word ‘jasm’, which at the time was slang for energy, vitality, and spirit. It was mostly used among the black population, birthed from the unique local culture of New Orleans. Interestingly enough, the first ‘jazz’ recording, in1917, was done by an all-white group of musicians. The Dixieland Jass Band recorded the song Livery Stable Blues, but the recording was never officially attributed to anyone. There was a lawsuit claiming the Jass Band had plagiarized what they heard African Americans singing in New Orleans. It’s troubling that white musicians were trying to record ‘jazz’ first. It originated in a very specific subculture, so shouldn’t New Orleanians be the first to record? Considering this was an incredibly prejudiced era, perhaps they didn’t think it would be very popular. Additionally, upon listening to this first recording, it doesn’t much sound like what we call jazz today. It has a more Charlie Chaplin, cartooney vibe.

Even before this recording, the term ‘jazz’ was being printed in newspapers as a way to describe a more upbeat, fox-trotty version of the blues, as seen in a Chicago Tribune article published in 1915, called “Blues is jazz and Jazz is blues.” In it, there is a caricature of a black saxophonist, and that of a white man who becomes young again as he hears the jazz music. The article gives a pretty good explanation for blues — a harmonic discord, it’s never written, but interpolated by the piano player and other players. Perhaps the most unique and important part of jazz is the improvisation during a performance, making each song like all the others, but at the same time, different from them.


The Jazz Player, 1915


Seagrove, Gordon Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922); Jul 11, 1915; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune pg. E

Are Museums Lying To Us?

I have never considered that museums may not be displaying “authentic” history. Preserving an artifact in its ideal form rather than its reality is an interesting issue. I don’t think the public would be very receptive to going into a respectable, national museum only to be met with dirty smelly things. If a museum chooses to put Michael Jordan’s uniform on display, they are going to wash it first. But isn’t the sweat and stadium smells of a winning game part of history too? The public, I believe, has a very specific image of what we call ‘history’. It is supposed to be neat and orderly — no matter how messed up a massacre was, or how devastating a hurricane became, or even how revolutionary a torn down wall is, things need to be labelled with smart little placards. A visitor should be able to walk into an exhibit and experience from start to finish the progression of events.

But I don’t think history is actually anything like museums say it is. Just like in Bush’s memex, people should be free to jump around history as they please, making their own connections and analyses. While museums for the most part appear to allow this, a visitor can easily go on a ‘guided tour’ or download the best route to see everything. Or consider the Luvre in France. You walk inside one end, and go in one line, exiting out the other end. I understand that not everyone is a trained historian, but traditional museums are almost patronizing in their treatment of experiencing history, holding your hand like a child and explaining in simplest terms the significance of something. I think instead of this, a picture or a replication should be the jumping off point for the experience of history, not the end.


How best to preserve this exact moment?

Miller’s view on Southern Music

Performers like Muddy Waters were especially successful in catering to a wide audience, mostly due, as Miller points out, to their large repertoire. If a musician could play black and white music, knew various cultural and local dances, memorized different kinds of tunes, etc., he had a greater chance of employment than a musician who only knew plantation songs, or only knew pop songs from the north. It’s interesting that there were several artists that overcame “differences of race, class, or region” despite his skin color, and were extremely popular to both white and black audiences. In such a racially segregated era, for music to transcend this barrier I think is amazing. We’ve talked about before how pop culture often progressed at a faster pace than the legal system, and I think this is a prime example. A fiddle player who grew up in the deep south could then produce music to be played on the radio and enjoyed by both white people curious about ‘authentic southern’ music and also black people longing for home, just by being able to play various racial genres. Which why is that even a thing in the first place? It’s strange to me that ‘race’ can be a genre, like a white person wouldn’t listen to ‘black’ music or buy ‘black’ products. My goodness people, a homegoods brand is a homegoods brand, the dishwashing soap isn’t going to change properties based on the color of your skin. That tshirt doesn’t know if you have more or less melanin. Racism as a concept baffles me, I understand that it started when white people “discovered” (heavy emphasis on the quotes) darker skinned people in Africa, but why on earth did they immediately jump to ‘Hey Joe, I got a great idea. Let’s take this other human and torture, rape, and enslave his people for hundreds of years, and then later, let’s be actively and legally cruel, violent, and unreasonable hateful to his successors, just because they’re more tanned than us.’ I thought we prided ourselves on our logical, rational ability, yet this seems incredibly illogical, and irrational, to me.


How can love be illegal?

Commercially Southern

Hank Williams, the father of modern country music, often wore a cowboy hat and “western” style clothing despite growing up and singing in Alabama (where there are most definitely no cowboys). It’s the same story with Jimmie Rodgers, who wore a costume of railroad overalls and hat. But why is this stereotypical southern imagery necessary? And why was it so popular? In part, I think the people managing Rodgers and Williams remind me of the minstrels. The minstrel singers performed what they believed was black culture and music. Likewise, these country singers performed and wore the clothes that the public believed was authentic southern. It may not have been accurate, at least for the majority, however stereotypes and imagination go a long way to shape the views of the masses. It’s even more befuddling, however, that those who migrated from the south to urban cities, loved this kind of music and film, yet they, more than anyone else, should realize this is not quite how life really is in the south. They themselves buy into this commercial country image the north sells, despite having lived and experienced the “real south” (whatever that is). Additionally, when considering songs like Honky Tonkin’, about adultery and cheating on one’s husband, these crass popular songs which depict almost a lesser, more basal culture, were listened to and liked by the masses, including those who moved from the south. Maybe it’s just my liberal, millennial point of view, but I imagine I would be somewhat offended if all these ‘fake southerners’ were singing all about my family’s home in such a crude, comical way. Or maybe I’m taking it too seriously, afterall, pop songs today are just as crude and secular and sexist and biased as they were then.


The best possible representation of my people (that was sarcasm)

Music Between Genres

America’s segregation history is one of violence and cruelty, yet in the midst of this, phenomenon like the minstrel show exists. Or even more interesting, people like Muddy Waters existed in this era and context of intense radical racism while also transcending the borders between genres and race. Muddy Waters would listen to everything on the radio — country, jazz, pop, minstrel songs, etc — and sung them in his own way. He had very wide musical talent, despite being nearly illiterate. Later on, he would further fuzz the boundaries separating the races by singing in integrated bands and working on movies for Disney. In a time when it was illegal for a black and white person to play music together, the radio allowed this to happen. After all, you can’t see skin color when listening to a guy play the guitar. I think it’s pretty rad that in the face of such unfair and unjust laws, people still found a way to stick it to the man while doing something they actually love. Music is something that has always passed borders between race and ethnicities long before the legal and political systems, and it makes me wonder if America, or even the world, would look a lot different if these integrated bands didn’t have to play in secret.


President Waters

New World Beats

The swing beat can be seen in most modern beats — from DC’s go-go and pop artists like Major Lazer, I think it’s pretty cool that I can turn on my radio in 2018 and hear a beat created in  1875. Very few cultural relics survive the turning centuries, and the displaced accent popularized by the opera song, Habanera, is one of those idyllic few. This displaced accent is seen in many genres of music as well, like Cuban and Argentinian, as well as opera, jazz, and pop. An interesting band that plays with the musical timeline, Post modern Jukebox covers modern pop songs in a more vintage/jazz version. I actually like the Jukebox version better. The female vocalist sings with a raspy, sultry voice that echoes the underground cafe singers of the 40s and 50s. The accompanying band plays behind-the-beat, a perfect string of piano and bass beats that captivate the listener. One reason I may be so enamored with this style and genre of music is it is reminiscent of a time with more wonder and fun. It may be a stylized, stereotyped vintage utopia, but in my mind, swing jazz played on a jumping record symbolizes America’s golden years of music. Just after WWII, America emerged as one of two global superpowers, and although it was tinged in something darker, we had the only nuclear weapons in the world, making us more powerful — and dangerous — than any other nation. It was an age of invention and revolution, and I want to be as much a part of the past as I am the present. The lovechild of minstrel shows, the swing beat has captured a cultural in America from decades ago and transported it into the future. The swing beat is like a musical time machine, relevant in the past, present, and certainly will in the future.


Real life time traveller

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