Monday, September 27, 2004

The Phantom Bullfight

Generally speaking, proponents of rigid copyright law argue that such laws are necessary to foster a climate where artistic production will thrive. Only with lengthy copyrights will artists have the incentive to create, it is contended. The tradeoff is that society then has the benefit of these projects. In the case of a recent Hemingway story, though, it seems copyright has shifted things in the opposite direction: away from public distribution.

This week a collector announced he would be selling the original manuscript of a 1924 parody Ernest Hemingway wrote about bullfighting. Even if the piece is not exactly A Farewell to Arms material, it is certainly interest to historians and Hemingway aficianados. But though the manuscript itself can be sold, the piece cannot be published–Hemingway's estate refuses to grant permission.

The Associated Press reports on the unpublished tale: "People who have seen the story say it's no masterpiece. But it could give important clues about Hemingway's first attempts at trying on different literary styles — especially because most of his early work disappeared when his suitcase was stolen in the early 1920s.

The short story also foreshadows Hemingway's fascination with blood, spectacle and bullfights. Two years later, he published the classic The Sun Also Rises, about aimless expatriates hanging out in Paris and the bull-running city of Pamplona."

Why should an estate retain control of a piece that is 80 years old? When copyright was first passed in the United States, it only lasted for 14 years. But with the 20th century and the advent of Mickey Mouse, copyright extensions grew longer and longer... they now reach as long as 95 years, far beyond the lifetime of the creator. This does not facilitate a benefit to anyone.

For more on the benefits of allowing old art to enter the public domain, go to a library and read the collected works of Lawrence Lessig.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

In your own backyard, in your own hometown

"Last night I had a dream
That the world had turned around
And all our hopes had come to be
And the people gathered 'round
They all brought what they could bring
And nobody went without
And I learned a song to sing
The revolution starts now."
-Steve Earle

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Matters of the Heart

Love Grows Here
Originally uploaded by edwest.

In a simpler world...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

When not observing ants...

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight."-Henry David Thoreau

For more political musings, go to November 2: Election Day 2004.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Worst Cover

And today's award goes to...
Sheryl Crow, for her cover of Cat Stevens' tender love song "The First Cut is the Deepest." Crow takes a beautiful song of longing, inquiry, and youth, and turns it into a cheeseball rock ballad. Crow had competition, though. Counting Crows' "Big Yellow Taxi" came on my radio today as well. Personally, if I want to hear "Big Yellow Taxi" covered by anyone, I turn to Bob Dylan's studio warmup version released in '73.

Consumer Tip of the Day

As I was confronted with another $2.15/gallon gas station today, I thought about the reasons for the spiralling gas prices. One reason, of course, is the increasing demand, both here in the U.S. (where demand is ever-increasing) and places like China (which is undergoing rapid development). Another reason for gas prices, in my belief, has to do with the rapid consolidation of the oil industry in the 1990's.

But another factor is the separation of gas prices from fluctuations in demand. In most industries, if prices shot up by 100% over a couple of years, demand would decrease. But gas companies (and OPEC) can confidently raise prices knowing that--in the short term at least--people will still need a relatively similar amount of gas.

On the most minute level, there's the question of what to do when you are in the middle of nowhere and your car is out of gas and the only station around is Shell, a company that seems to take the whole "black gold" thing a little too seriously. What I do whenever confronted with these situations is I buy gas, of course--but in relatively small denominations, two or three gallons. Later, once I find a station with a rate that's more reasonable, I will fill completely fill up my tank. I know I'm beating you over the head with what is already obvious to practically the entire world, but let me say it a bit more clearly. Don't fill up your tank all the way at gas stations charging prices higher than local competitors! Thank you. This has been a consumer advice moment brought to you by the National Association of Affiliated Gas Consumers.

On another note, look into them hybrids. I'll do the same, the next time I purchase a car, though I'm thinking about shifting to public transportation for a few years.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

No Exit O

"I'd love to do a whole record of chick songs, but the world's going to have to settle down a little first."
-Steve Earle

Who Are You?

"At once there was a knock at the door and a man entered whom he had never seen before in the house. He was slim and yet well knit, he wore a closely fitting black suit, which was furnished with all sorts of pleats, pockets, buckles, and buttons, as well as a belt, like a tourist's outfit, and in consequence looking eminently practical, though one could not quite tell what actual purpose it served."

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Air We Breathe

"Sharks are said to die of suffocation if they stop swimming, and the same is nearly true of information. Information that isn't moving ceases to exist as anything but potential... at least until it is allowed to move again. For this reason, the practice of information hoarding, common in bureacracies, is an especially wrong-headed artifact of physically based value systems."
-John Perry Barlow, Wired (March, 1994)

Friday, August 13, 2004

Rock, Paper, Scissors

In today's over-copyright-driven world, everyone claims credit for re-inventing the wheel. Thus, I found this quote refreshing.

Lou Reed, speaking on lineage in music: "I'm not gonna claim credit for, like, a chord change. Chord changes were around for years before me. Rock came out of gospel, which came from the churches. The church came before me."

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Originally uploaded by edwest.

A lunch for some, perhaps, but I wasn't hungry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Thought of the Day

I awoke at 1:30 a.m. and went downstairs to get a glass of water. This thought crossed my mind: the future belongs to those who claim it.