Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

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.

Advertisements

July 30, 2012

Counterfeit Reality

No one has a perfectly clear, objective view of the world. People believe goofy things because their leaders tell them to, because their language has its limitations, or because the best explanation they can come up with is still kind of goofy and wrong. Our very senses are kind of dim, compared to the full range of possible colors and sounds and smells in the universe (ultraviolet, subsonics, smelling the oxygen. There are shrimp that can see more colors than us). Yet, as a whole, most societies keep their sense of reality in tune to such a degree that life can go on, people can plant and harvest, be born, make love and be buried.

Lately I feel like we are off the rails, like a sit-com in its sixth season. The world as presented on the news, or as many of my dear friends understand it, looks like a sham, a bunch of props. People aren’t just buying into false myths here; they’re buying into a whole worldview built of deception. The world they think they live in is a counterfeit, an intentionally-built virtual reality. <sigh> Yes, it’s like the Matrix or Plato’s Cave.

Or maybe I’m psychotic. The little fake me inside me lives in this fake world, which is firmly centered on the United States of America. This guy believes in some impossible things, because he watches the television, goes to classes, reads media published by the six big companies, and is otherwise exposed to more information about the fake world than he absorbs from his own experience. He thinks that:

The Earth will never run out of resources. (Economies can grow without limit.)
Civilizations don’t decline or collapse anymore.
The serious threats to America are China and Islam. Or liberals, or conservatives, or atheists, or religious people.
There is a political spectrum from left to right, which encompasses all significant political thought.
Science is on the verge of finding keys to all the locks.
Democracy is working. The financial and political elites are working for us.

The Earth will never run out of resources.

Of course, people hem and haw about oil running out, or the rainforest being leveled. Yet, they behave as if these things are trivial concerns, as they keep on driving cars and buying tropical fruit from ex-rainforest plantations. (Well, me too. This is an area where my habits haven’t caught up with my thinking mind.) Most everyone still wishes for the economy to grow, fantasizing that it will someday run on sunlight harvested from deep space, simply free energy which exerts no effect on Earth’s systems. In the meantime, it’s mainly all about burning fossil fuels.

“We have to stop cutting down each others’ trees or no one will be able to build a canoe ever again,” said the least popular man on Easter Island.

Civilizations don’t decline or collapse anymore. The USSR was the last one to fall and now history is over.

Um, we don’t seem to respond to crisis any better than any of the fine examples of past collapse (Mayans, Greenland Vikings, British Empire, Rome…). Obama responded to a partial economic collapse with a stimulus package that his own advisors said was too small to work, which Congress then proceeded to whittle down. Republicans only continued to insist that the government should stand out of the way of corporations and super-rich people. Also, we have no response to Colony Collapse Disorder, the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, oceanic garbage patches, rising asthma and allergies, or climate change.

We’re like that teenager, the target of public service announcements, who thinks that “HIV can’t happen to me.” We think that plague and famine are things of the past, and that war will never, ever touch our American borders again. It’s pretty overconfident, given that our history doesn’t go back so very far.

The serious threats to America are China and Islam. Or liberals, or conservatives, or atheists, or religious people.

So you must fight that enemy like you’re Captain America.

Please do not notice the financial rip-off artists and multinational corporations who drive the race to suck Earth dry. Are Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert the only people alive who realize that the rules of the global economy are slanted to channel money, control and physical wealth to a tiny elite, fucking over all the nations, recklessly endangering our common resources?

People understand that money rules politics, but they see it as “the other party is controlling things through money!” No, the people with money are controlling things through the two parties. If someone is a threat to us, it’s not this side or that side, but it could possibly be the people at the center who wield indirect yet inviolable control over all the rest of us (rigging LIBOR, high frequency or algorithmic trading, lobbying Congress and officials with retirement packages).

An expert panel on CNBC recently admitted that “we all work for the bankers now,” although the clip is unavailable on copyright pretext.

I don’t want to bash a banker. I just want them to stop strangling the world with debt. Maybe I’m wrong, and the center of power which projects the fake world onto our eyes is the miltary-industrial complex or something. I know it’s not Black people, or Republicans, or anyone who would live next door to little old me. This thing comes “from on high.”

There is a political spectrum from left to right, which encompasses all significant political thought.

Well, I identify as an anti-statist, someone who is against rulers, domination and exploitation. I can’t even exist according to the rules of counterfeit reality. Anarchists are neutralized in the newspaper with the label “self-proclaimed,” as if to be an anarchist is philosophically impossible. Anarchists are a notoriously unreliable voting bloc, too.

Both political parties mainly support pot prohibition, blowing off the Constitution, bailing out Wall Street, ignoring Wall Street’s crimes, growing the economy of global suicide, smashing alternative food and medicine, and engaging in endless war. Does that sound anything like your agenda?

Many people don’t line up behind the Democrats or Republicans, exactly. Some people, like Joe Lieberman, are are torn between towing the two party lines. Others support candidates from outside the two parties, such as Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr or Vermin Supreme. Unfortunately, many who support third-party positions feel bullied into voting for Teams Red or Blue come election day. Most of those who see through the two parties would rather not engage with sham democracy, and do not exercise their power to vote.

The big story, for half of the years, is Democrat vs. Republican for President. As if the President is a Biblical patriarch who will lead us all to glory (or ruin,) depending on who wins the selection.

Science is on the verge of solving our problems.

We’ll use hemp and solar power. We’ll engineer an economy that can’t fail, and tweak the prison and education systems until they’re optimal. An NSA database will locate all the terrorists. Pheremone perfume will help me get laid.

Unfortunately, science is largely controlled by the monied powers that control other human institutions at this time. Establishment science gave us the Green Revolution, based on petrochemicals; a pack of Canadian Amish demonstrated that organic methods are superior over the decades (citation somewhere within Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver). A bunch of hippies contributed to the methods of urban homesteading and learned to apply permaculture principles in different climates; DDT and Agent Orange were products of well-funded corporate science. Science does not hands-down show us the right way to go about living.

My Dad used science to protect GM workers from chemical and biological hazards in the factory, so I have respect for the field. But how many false hopes do we put in to it, and how much has money twisted it up? Science can be used for progress, or its opposite. Science can hold up Mordor or build the Death Star, or help us get along and recycle more efficiently. It’s up to scientists and their patrons, including the public.

I suspect that Internet Q & A and DIY forums will eclipse science as a source of significant information about getting along in the world. I suspect that direct action will supplant representative democracy. But I may be a psychotic.

The financial and governmental elites are basically honest and concerned about us.

In Yemen, my eerily-similar Arab equivalent was recently blown away by a Hellfire missile. He had received no trial. He was visiting some new friends at a cottage when President Obama ordered a strike on the place, obliterating Yemeni Ethan in the blink of an eye. He was engulfed in flames before he knew what was coming.

The Obama Administration reports Yemeni Ethan as a combatant, based on the facts that 1) he is between the ages of 15 and 35, and 2) he was in an area targeted by a Hellfire missile. Score one for the team.

Yemeni Ethan debated the meaning of charity and Islam, whilst American Ethan debates the meaning of welfare and government. Yemeni Ethan chewed khat, American Ethan smokes pot. Am I supposed to believe that my government is going to treat me  with any more humanity than the guy in Yemen?

To speak to the financial side… corporations operating in America are basically sworn to serve their shareholders and only their shareholders, and they serve to limit liabilities and push costs on to others: their customers, workers and neighbors. They view killing me as a possible liability, if their team of lawyers should suck in court.

Screw the elite. Rant against them! If they can’t see reason, fuck ’em over! Don’t live a spectator to the news, but see: They don’t give a fuck about us!

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

//

//

May 21, 2012

The Inner Slave-driver

Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 3:11 pm

I decided some time ago to swear off employment and support myself. I floundered around for awhile tying macrame hemp jewelery, but I didn’t really like selling it. Now I grow medical herbs for a steady group of clients.

My problem is that I can still feel pretty oppressed. Nowadays it isn’t my conditions of employment or my boss oppressing me; it’s just me.

The slave-driver within is a rude bastard to me. He gets me up in the morning, yelling about how I have to get ready to work. “Other people have to get up at six in the morning and drive to a factory,” he tells me, to guilt out any pleasure I might feel at getting up naturally, when I want.

Be your own boss.  While I’m working, the inner slave-driver watches everything I do and second-guesses me. A real slave-driver would have to pick on the other slaves sometimes, but this overseer is ever-present. What starts out as a concern for the plants and clients morphs into an obsession with correctly carrying out some program I’ve invented. I might as well work for a corporation!

Set your own hours.  By three in the afternoon, I’m exhausted of being picked on and picking on myself. I may yet force myself to work until five or six, if there’s anything to do, or I may shout at the slave-driver “I quit!”. In any case, once I’m “off,” I’m not going to touch anything dealing with the herb garden until the next day.

Well, a couple of days ago, I alleviated my boredom at 10:30 at night by going back to work with some little seedlings I’ve got under lights. It was strangely liberating to work at an odd hour. Why should I worry about clock time? The sun rises and sets. That’s reality — punching in and out, keeping track of time to the second, those are inventions of management. I am known to be unmanageable. And all of my friends run late, anyways.

Make money!  “If you were a more effective gardener,” says the slave-driver, “you would be making as much money as someone with a corporate job.” Um… so what? Life is not a money-making contest in the first place. In the second place: I don’t commute; I don’t waste money buying my lunches at Burger King or drinking with my coworkers when our shift ends. I have time to do things like brewing my own beer, which save money. Working for The Man doesn’t just make you money — it makes you spend money, too.

The money issue is inextricably tied up with the time issue. During “work time,” I must work at making money. The oppression of it all wears me out too much to attend to the brewing, baking and food gardening. Making money has taken priority over quality of life, and the quality of life stuff saves money anyways!

Mr. Slave-driver, you are fired. All of the school teachers and bosses I’ve had seem to have created you by colonizing my mind — you’re not even a real part of me, and you’re not helpful in any way. I get more done when I’m not listening to you. Self-employment apparently means using myself, so I’ll stay creatively non-employed but working. From now on, the slave-driver will be answered by the voice of Eric Cartman: “Screw you, I’ll do what I want!”

September 26, 2011

It’s a Circle of Cheap Plastic Crap

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paragardener @ 4:58 pm

I came across some film documenting “planned obsolescence,” a scheme to keep us buying products by having them break quickly and be impossible to fix. Buying a new microwave every five years means employing the people who make microwaves, not to mention profits for the investors… and so the cheaper the plastic crap is, the more it grows the economy! Waste is wealth, as George Orwell might say.

For some reason, this documentary wasn’t easy to navigate on Youtube, so here are links to the four parts in order:
(It’s about an hour long, altogether)

1

2

3

4

September 8, 2011

Flower-child Obama Overturns Civilization

I usually think of Obama as a middle-of-the-road, posable figurine of a President. Although he won a Nobel Peace Prize for being polite at least, he continues W Bush’s paranoid policies of kidnapping, torture, war and assassination. Lately he wants to talk about cutting social spending, Republican style. Washington Times columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner opened my eyes, though, to Obama’s secret plan to sweep away Judeo-Christian civilization and replace it with some kind of hypersexual utopia. Seriously! It all starts with birth control:

The administration is now contemplating forcing health insurance companies to provide free birth control – including the “morning-after” pill – as part of Obamacare. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seriously considering adding contraception to the list of services that must be fully covered by insurers without charging co-payments. HHS is expected to make its final decision before Aug. 1. In other words, Mr. Obama’s government-run health care system may easily include another monstrosity: mandating that taxpayers subsidize the “morning-after” pill.

Birth control for all? Morning-after pills available even when cash isn’t? Okay, so far, so good. (Btw, HHS indeed decided for free contraception. And as you can plainly see, my news-reading is way out of date.) Next, Kuhner explains how free birth control inevitably leads to hippie paradise:

Free birth control has nothing to do with “protecting women’s health.” Rather, it is about consolidating the sexual revolution. The post-1960s left has been at war with Christianity. Its aim is to erect a utopian socialist state – one built upon the rubble of Judeo-Christian civilization. In short, liberals want to create a world without God and sexual permissiveness is their battering ram. Promoting widespread contraception is essential to forging a pagan society based on consequence-free sex.

Far out, man! Who knew that Obama was trying to forge a Pagan-Socialist utopia? Ending Judeo-Christian civilization is quite the project, and who knew that it would be so easy? Free birth control –> lots of sex = utopia! In this brave new Pagan-Socialist world, not beholden to the patriarchal God, women would never be reduced to the role of baby-incubator-on-legs, so there might actually be some fringe benefits to women’s health. Free birth control is really the tipping point, though, that will wipe out 4,000 years of cultural baggage and allow a pure New Age to dawn:

The modern left understands one fundamental reality: Destroying Christianity destroys the culture and civilization it spawned. They are inextricably linked. This is why socialists, such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Saul Alinsky and George Soros, have championed militant anti-Christianity, free love, contraception and abortion. Smash the family and traditional morality and the economic system they gave birth to – capitalism – will come crashing down. This is the Marxist project: Sweep the Christian West into the dustbin of history.

So there you have it: from free family planning to ending the repressive moral codes of the Christian Right, to curbing to the swelling of humankind’s population, to ending the capitalist system of exploitation, and finally realizing Karl Marx’s dream of Pagan love-ins! Or something like that. Go Obama!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.