Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

November 28, 2012

Patriotic Patriarchs Toss Aside the Wimpy Enemy

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 7:00 pm
Lincoln beats a secession petitioner and steps back into a movie poster.

Lincoln beats a petitioner.

Ubermensch threatening a Jew

The powerful and the weak.

Strong arms versus wimps holding up papers.

Strong arms versus wimps holding up papers.

Knocking the little guy down

Knocking the little guy down

Is cartoonist Rob Tornoe looking to the wrong role models?

I’m not arguing that Lincoln is just like Hitler or that secessionists are persecuted like Jews or anything in that ballpark. I’m just pointing to the recycling of symbols and stories that should have been retired long ago.

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November 26, 2012

Little Upgrades

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paragardener @ 7:15 am

Hi people.

I have been fixing some glitches in recent posts, such as grammar and style. There were some more interesting changes:

I embedded Russell Means’ hour-and-a-half speech “Welcome to the Reservation” into the post “Honor Russell Mean by Seceding.” The speech fired me up about freedom in America and informed me about the situation for Sioux/Lakotah.

I replaced “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and “4th Amendment Drug War Blues” with new and improved recordings in “The Dirt Worshiper Sings.” You could go and “like” the new recordings on Youtube out of a sense of loyalty — I might well do the equivalent for you!

Lastly, I included the original sheet music for “Happy Greetings to You” in “‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Protects Legacy of Plagiarism.”

Much love to all readers.

November 24, 2012

“Happy Birthday” Copyright Protects Legacy of Plagiarism

I’ve been investigating some old folk tunes to see which ones are in the public domain. “Goodnight Irene” and “The Pines” still sound good after all these years, but is it lawful for me to self-publish my own covers of these tunes, or is a recording house going to sue me into a lifetime of poverty for such bold theft?

The Public Domain Information Project publishes a little list of public domain songs, which could helpfully confirm that a work is out of copyright. “Goodnight Irene,” unfortunately, is not on there. I was intrigued to discover “Good Morning Children,” a song that goes:

Good morning to you,
good morning to you,
good morning dear children,
good morning to all.

Well, I can only imagine that being sung to one particular tune. Wikipedia and Google were able to flesh out the picture for me, no problem.

The origins of “Happy Birthday” can be traced back all the way to 1859. Horace Waters, remembered mainly as a piano maker, published a little tune called “Happy Greeting to All.” Follow the link and press the “play” button to hear the tune.

Happy Greeting To You sheet music

The chorus is recognizable as being much like “Happy Birthday,” and its lyrics follow the same repeating, repetitious, redundant pattern. Waters went on to publish “Goodnight to You All,” and, in 1875, “Happy New Year to All.” What a creative dynamo!

An aside:

Waters ripping off himself probably didn’t look too odd at the time, when lots of music was written through the folk process. To write a song, you “stole” someone else’s song (or your own!), rewrote the lyrics, and adjusted the music to suit your own playing style and band setup. As copyright enforcement became stricter and the public domain receded into the past, folk songwriting has been effectively outlawed. Our moral sense of a song being “ripped off” has even adjusted to harmonize with the law.

Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on my Trail” and “Travellin’ Riverside Blues” strike me as a couple of folk process tunes that no one would dare to call unoriginal, although “Hellhound” resembles Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” and “Riverside” is a version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” a song that “came out of the cotton fields.” You can easily find all of these songs on Youtube, if you’re inclined.

The modern songwriting process must treat each piece as original and unrelated to any other song, forged from the collision of beats, chords and melodic riffs in massive high-energy studio cyclotrons, and yet the result is only about as good as Britney Spears.

“Happy Greeting to All”or a variant was picked up by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, who rewrote it as “Good Morning to All” for Mildred’s kindergarten class. The sisters published their song without the birthday lyrics in 1893. According to legend, the kids at school were so enthralled by the song that they in turn reworked it into “Happy Birthday” for singing at parties.  It saw print numerous times, and by 1924 the birthday lyrics were printed with it as an alternate verse. However, no one can name the person who wrote the birthday lyrics any more than we can know which cowboy first sang “Bury Me not on the Lone Prairie.”

In the early 1930’s, “Happy Birthday” was everywhere, being delivered by singing telegram and even sung on the Broadway stage. A third Hill sister, Jessica, decided that she’d had enough of people using her sisters’ song, and she was going to act to protect it. In 1935, the publisher of “Good Morning to All” copyrighted “Happy Birthday to You,” and even formed a new company specifically to enforce that copyright. The supposed composer of “Happy Birthday to You” was Preston Ware Orem, a piano-playing songwriter best known for weaving American Indian themes into orchestral music. Somehow the deal to protect the Hill sisters’ work included giving up their claim on authorship. Although everybody was stealing “Happy Birthday,” Orem looks to have crossed a line into plagiarism by actually taking credit for someone else’s song.

When a work is published, it is automatically copyrighted unless the author specifies a different license (such as the Creative Commons license, or simply releasing the work into the public domain.) Thus, the lyrics of “Happy Birthday” were copyrighted in 1924, not 1935, and the melody copyrighted 1893 at the latest. The publisher’s copyright and its extensions were not valid… not only because the company tried to copyright a song already copyrighted with a different composer’s name attached, but also because authorship of the lyrics is just plain unclear (neither of the songwriting Hills ever specifically claimed to have written the birthday verse.)

The phony 1935 copyright is now held by Warner Music Group, which collects about $2 million per year taxing the most-recognized song in the English language. Legal scholars view the copyright as invalid, yet artists are not exactly encouraged to challenge the music group and its Goliath parent.

And so “Happy Birthday to You” becomes a glaring example of how intellectual property law can be twisted to work against the interests of artists and instead promote the interests of those who already have some money. Copyright laws have also limited the techniques available to artists, from the folk writing process to sampling, and in their current form they constitute a real cultural attack. Joe Hill wouldn’t be framed for murder and executed today, they’d lock him up forever for copyright infringement. Eyes on the Prize, a documentary about the Civil Rights movement, was actually held back from going to video for several years, partly because of a scene which featured Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a birthday cake.

“Happy Birthday to You” is not under any legitimate copyright. It is rightfully part of the common heritage of all people.

November 23, 2012

The Dirt Worshiper Sings

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:01 am

I don’t just talk about the blues. I have them almost all the damned time. Some people call that a condition of mental illness, ’cause 1) they want to imagine that living in so much pain is crazy and 2) if it’s mental illness, it is okay to drug the problem away.

Sometimes the difficulty is personal. This is a song about one lover telling the other, “things are going to get better, we won’t always be so broke” but the narrator doesn’t totally believe it.

When my neighbors dressed in black skin cross the boundary into the suburbs, they constantly get pulled over, searched, and caught with infractions from expired insurance to unlicensed guns. We all need to train up to resist police searches, or expect latexed hands up our anuses in the future.

The blues afflict people of all walks of life and social stations. Abraham Lincoln was known as the President with the blues, or “melancholia” as it was often called back then. Yet, Lincoln had some depth of character… what strange and bleak fantasy-scapes flash by when a Bush has a moment of clarity and perceives the emptiness of their meaningless life?

I know of people who have never questioned or had to doubt or peeked into the abyss of despair. They go on to obtain corporate jobs, raise children by the book, mow the lawn regularly and support mainstream politicians. I think I’m better off with the blues.

November 17, 2012

Honor Russell Means by Seceding

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 9:24 am

Russell MeansRussell Means was an Oglala Lakotah from the Black Hills of the land formerly known as South Dakota. He fought for his people, organizing the occupations of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee, running for the Libertarian presidential nomination in 1987 (he lost to Ron Paul by one vote), acting in Last of the Mohicans. His most exciting project was taken up in the last five years of his life: he led his people in seceding from the United States, with his group unilaterally withdrawing from all treaties.

The Republic of Lakotah of 60 million acres includes pieces of both Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska. It is completely sovereign from the United States, recognizing no claims. Means invited all people to come, who are ready to experience freedom and responsibility. The Republic is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy and a social experiment in stepping away from patriarchy towards the more organic matrilineal way of life. (It also includes very poor areas that require humanitarian relief.)

On October 22, Means died of cancer and is said to have returned to his ancestors like an arrow flying into the sun.

Means warned white people that we “don’t take freedom very seriously yet,” noting in 2009 that Posse Comitatus would be revoked under Obama (accomplished with 2012 NDAA.) “Welcome to the reservation,” said Means, referring to the entire United States becoming a sort of rambling concentration camp where people have no rights, wealth or opportunities. He just might have been pleased to see a movement in this country of people attempting to secede from the American Empire the on the State level.

Supposedly the petitions for secession are being circulated by bitter, anti-patriotic Obama-hating sore losers. The petition I signed quoted the Declaration of Independence, sort of the founding document of patriotism, and never mentioned Obama. It noted the right to overthrow a tyranny and informed the Federal government of Michigan’s peaceful withdrawal from said tyranny. I don’t see anything to object to there, unless perhaps you have some sort of faith-against-all-evidence that Uncle Sam is secretly not a tyrant.

The roads, fire and police departments, schools, 911 service, and most of the parks in Michigan are operated at the State or local level. At the Federal level, we support wars of aggression, a police state which spies on us constantly, a pretty good weather service, and some of our money is redistributed to pay for welfare projects in “Red” states. To withdraw support from the Federal government, with its insane doctrine that even what you put in your own mouth can be regulated as interstate commerce, with its stated right to rub people off the face of the Earth, is eminently sane and pacific.

If you don’t want any part in the murder of Pashtuns, Persians and Arabs, or if you just want to decide what you can put in your own mouth, welcome to the revolution, comrade. The White House accepts petitions here.

The white peoples’ traditions of kitchen gardening, pickling, booze-making, bad folk music, backyard burial, herbal medicine and lifelong monogamy are in danger quite as much as the Lakotah language. It would be nice if we would take our freedom seriously.

November 7, 2012

Violent Centrist Faction Takes Power

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:17 am

Numbers are still coming in, but no one doubts that a violent centrist faction has seized control of the United States on this, its latest election night.
Either Republicans or Democrats won, guaranteeing an imperialistic foreign policy and the suppression of domestic civil liberties in the coming years. Drone wars, federal prison populations, beehive collapse and government debt are expected to increase. Republicans and Democrats were ecstatic or despondent.
One thing is for certain: the new President and Congress will do anything to pay off the creditors who enable the American government to fight several wars at a time while providing bread and circuses for the American people. The ritual casting of voter-tally-sticks, while a quaint and interesting local custom, had no reasonable chance of dissuading America’s political class from its essential loyalty to its own financiers and loyal military establishment.
Truly, the peaceful hand-off of power from one violent centrist faction to another is a blessing of this modern world, for those to whom the empire’s spoils are distributed (primarily the “1%”). And so we enter a new age in American politics, marked by a liberal or conservative sea change, sure to result in greater wealth disparities, a chilling of freedom of speech, a worldwide spate of assassination, and also, most likely, a war with Iran.
Thank you for voting. God bless America. Goodnight.

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