As we have in the past, our family participated in Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas we’ve been developing and to learn from many, many people whose perspectives are truly global. This year I was invited to share some remarks as part of the closing plenary, titled “If these were my final remarks”. It is both a privilege to be giving the opportunity to have the last word, but it is also a challenge: of all the things that I could say, what should I say (and therefore what must I not say)? To help me with my choice, I wrote down my two favorite themes, read them out, and decided, based on votes from a few trusted friends and my own instincts, which to deliver to the audience and which to share after-the-fact. Here are the two texts. Please feel free to comment on which text you prefer, or any other thoughts they elicit from you.
January 2, 2012
January 22, 2011
For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age. That does not mean that people aren’t religious. It means there is no shared set of values we all absorb as preconscious assumptions. In our world, individuals have to find or create their own meaning.
This, Dreyfus and Kelly argue, has led to a pervasive sadness. Individuals are usually not capable of creating their own lives from the ground up. So modern life is marked by frequent feelings of indecision and anxiety. People often lack the foundations upon which to make the most important choices.
Brooks puts his finger on a very important subject—the relationships between truth, meaning, and reality—but when he wields his rhetorical hammer, it is his logical fingers, rather than the target, he manages to strike. As a parent, as a church-goer, and as a board member of a Montessori school, I have been on my own little journey of self-discovery, and I have had a chance to re-evaluate many of the truths I thought I had settled the first time I made my way to self and adulthood. (more…)
June 27, 2010
Last month after the buzz reached a fever pitch, I finally sat down to watch an episode of Glee. I have not watched it since, but I have been thinking about why not. I came across this blog posting, which begins:
The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned. But it does, and week after week, those zany Glee kids rack up the potential to pay higher and higher fines.
I’ve watched enough television to know that sometimes a deliberate distortion of reality is part of a show’s appeal. The Office clearly (and hilariously) offends virtually every HR law on the books, but we’re in on the joke no matter how straight the actors play it. In its day, Ally McBeal did the same thing with courtroom antics. On the opposite side of humor, the TV drama 24 created a “hero” who could always be relied upon to use torture as an excuse to continue to protect a regime that condoned such illegal and reprehensible actions. I never watched 24, but from all the advertising and imagery that surrounded that show, it was pretty clear they knew and the audience knew that the show was stepping over all sorts of legal, ethical, and moral lines, and that was quintessential to the drama. Glee appears to be entirely tone-deaf when it comes to the subject of copyright:
In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces. Each mash-up is a “preparation of a derivative work” of the original two songs’ compositions – an action for which there is no compulsory license available, meaning (in plain English) that if the Glee kids were a real group of teenagers, they could not feasibly ask for — or hope to get — the copyright permissions they would need to make their songs, and their actions, legal under copyright law. Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.
It’s hard to imagine glee club coach Will Schuester giving his students a tough speech on how they can’t do mash-ups anymore because of copyright law (but if he did, it might make people rethink the law). Instead, copyright violations are rewarded in Glee — after Sue’s Physical video goes viral, Olivia Newton-John contacts Sue so they can film a new, improved video together.
If Glee decides to bring copyright into its storyline, and treat it as intelligently and as sensitively as it attempts to treat other social issues, then perhaps I’ll watch. Until then, no Glee for me.
March 20, 2010
February 12, 2010
A new article in the New York Times poses a question by way of a quotation: can there be authenticity without originality?
February 3, 2010
The artcile Is There an Ecological Unconscious? in the January 31 2010 Sunday New York Times Magazine probes a deep psychological question, examining solastalgia and soliphilia along the way. Both are rooted in the Latin solacium (comfort), but one riffs on nostalgia (which connects to the Greek root –algia (pain or suffering)) and the other is more cogently connected to love and friendship (based on the Greek root philia). The article makes the case that global climate change is not measured merely by tenths of a °C or meters of sea-level rise or even parts-per-million concentrations of atmospheric CO2, but can also by the psychic disturbance of mountain-top removal and the disorders that arise from an increasingly inaccessible natural environment.
December 31, 2009
Wendell Berry has become one of my heroes. His writings and ideas are among the most penetrating I have encountered in any living author, and he has a wonderful and luminous presence. He was featured on the Diane Rehm show earlier this year, and that conversation was selected for re-broadcast on New Year’s Eve, a fitting editorial choice about what we Americans should be thinking about as we compost the years 2000-2009 and decide what seeds we will plant in the coming decade (with what little fertile soil is left).
As I was driving around town and thinking about the extraordinary costs going into both the construction of Manifold Recording (not to mention the equipment budget), I was struck by these comments (at 17:16 into the one hour program):
Useful criticism always begins with an appropriate standard. And consumerism—the flourishing of consumerism—is not an adequate standard, just as economic feasibility is not an adequate standard for human behavior.
What might this mean?
December 12, 2009
Jazz, of course, is open source all the way — it’s the ultimate freedom machine. Once you’ve grasped the melody line and basic chord structure of any song, you’re on your own, encouraged to take the author’s initial inspiration anywhere you wish. A jazz musician isn’t judged by the faithfulness of his rendition but by what he codes at the musical keys.
Even the legal underpinnings of jazz are different, at least in the trenches. No one who is really serious about jazz goes out and buys, say, an Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis or Mahavishnu John McLaughlin song book, setting down note for note what the great musician played. How could you? They played it different every time.
December 11, 2009
Weathervane Music is a non-profit, community supported production company, making music and video to support and advance the careers of amazing independent musicians. Unlike traditional for-profit production or record companies, the vast majority of proceeds from the recordings of this music go straight to the artists, which Weathervane Music selects. I first heard about them when Brian McTear made this announcement in June, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since:
Long time no speak! I’ve been really busy putting together a new non-profit organization called Weathervane Music. In a nutshell we’re experimenting with a new model for how to fund and promote the work of great independent musicians.
Our main focus to start is something we’re calling the Weathervane Music Project Series. It’s a curated music and music-related video series produced for the web in which selected artists come into the studio (at no cost to them, of course) and record a song. The whole thing is artfully captured in hi-definition video, providing great exposure for the artist, some interesting material for gear enthusiasts, and a general primer for Weathervane’s mission.
Now NPR‘s All Things Considered has beat me to it, six months later as part of The Decade in Music: ’00s. NPR’s extraordinary instinct of going beyond the death and destruction of virtually all the major recording studios in New York City (Recording Studios Face an Uncertain Future) paid off by looking at the dynamics of low-rent Philadelphia (where commercial studios are also struggling), and discovering the diamond-in-the-rough story of an environment providing free recording services to a handful of deserving artists. But the reporting could have gone much further…
December 4, 2009
On December 3rd I attended the Jazz Loft Project book and website launch event at the West End Wine Bar in Durham, NC. WUNC’s Frank Stasio, always on top of local goings on, clued me in. It was packed, despite the venue being situated by LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY signs from all approaches. Where else would Jazz fans congregate, if not in some well-hidden bar that’s so small you’d need three of them just to hold all the people who came to hear the music?
Needless to say I bought the book, got it signed, and have since met people who are on their third reading of the text. I’m trying to save it for Christmas!
I look forward to the time when, perhaps 40 years from now, The Miraverse has become the definitive archive for a new collection of music representing a meaningful continuum of talent and community.