Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stupid, Stupid

Stupid, stupid, not so bright,
Leaving on the lights at night.
What masochistic fantasy
Absolves my sin 'gainst synergy?

Killing dolphins in the sound
With wasted oil clawed from the ground,
Power purposed to gladden lives
Instead spewed forth to darken skies.

With every heedless step I make
Scores of living beings break.
With each unthinking breath I steal
A furry mammal's share of weal.

How to assuage the spirits gone
Because I left the power on?
How to berate myself enough
For sqandering such precious stuff?

No debt so small that I can pay,
No sacrifice that I may make,
Which ever can erase this day
The thoughtless blight of my mistake.

What hammer sufficient to strike the blow?
What words so vile to excoriate enow?
O let me stanch my primal force
Sooner than blanch the wild water's course.

Crack my head upon a rock,
Encase my heart in concrete block,
Buried beneath lifeless sands
In half-payment of life's remands.

Stupid, stupid, not so bright,
Leaving on the lights at night.
What masochistic fantasy
Remits my sin 'gainst harmony?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


A Psalm
for the Master of Music, and Leonard, if he's still here

Who can make fun of God?
Is not His sense of humor apparent to all?
The platypus, mucus, the big toe,
Do they not proclaim the Lord's laughter?

Who can mock the vast oceans?
Or belittle the mighty forests?
If I laugh at the least of God's creatures,
Does the splendor of the Almighty dim before my derision?

The dog stirs and twitches
As it chases after dreams.
So too are my feeble japes
Mere dreams of Thy cosmic laughter.

How can any gag of mine
But pale before the smiling Holy Spirit
That blessed the world and its creatures
With hiccups, the sneeze, and flatulence?

If I tell of Thy jokes and wonders,
They are too many to be numbered.
I hear not the lying voices of the humorless.
I will bend mine ear to the heavens
And hear the laughter in the wind's whisper,
The wave's crash, and sudden thunder.

Enfold me in Thy infinite humor.
Protect me with lovingkindness.
For I am beset on all sides
By vile lies and passionless evils;
Detractors and unbelievers
Spew their bile at me.
The gall of the unfunny
I cannot swallow.

Though one thousand sullen ones
Stand stupidly in line before me,
I shall laugh with Thee, O Lord.
Though five hundred minutes
Are poured out upon a waste of rocks and sand,
I shall chuckle as I stub my big toe.

The sun rises in the East;
I shall awaken laughing.
The stars shine in the darkening skies;
I shall recline to sleep, laughing.

May I laugh all my days,
As you have laughed since the beginning of time.
Help me in times of torment,
And may I laugh at Thy jokes,
Even those I do not get.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Corpse of a Fawn

My heart would ache
If it started beating.
The thaw is hated
By the winter.
Against the uncaring outside
A vicious coldness
Forms its ineffective shield.
There will be no spring.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Suitable Balance

(for Jane, on her 50th)

Life's difficult path makes us travel
Between the weight of woes and insensate matter.
Upon reality's anvil spirits become gravel
While pressing cares many souls will shatter.

A maddening task, to navigate betwixt the two
And not merely survive, but truly live,
For too sane a view washes the colors flat,
Erasing the beauty that life would give.

The sparkling light in the cup of Bacchus
Reflects the wild awe of nature's secret.
To capture that ineffable mystery -- Impossible!
Yet dancers catch and release art and poetry.

So dance in the sea of troubles,
Splash folly in the face of care,
Laugh at the hammer of worry,
Soar joyfully into the air.

A love is needed not quite rational
To write, to draw, to love -- to create --
Poised between what might be and the actual,
Helping others move from gray to the infinite.

A natural madness is a delicate balance,
Neither overburden'd, nor oversane,
Seeking wonder at the borderlands,
Bringing home beauty back to us again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Glance of Sadness

When the abyss stared back at me, I saw an unutterable sadness, a black heart stone which had replaced Pandora's hope after the doubts and terrors had fled. The loathing and nightmares were protections, I realized, from the inexorable illness at the core of the universe, at the center of our each universe. And I picked it up, and turned it over. It was heavy. And on the other side was no redemption, no reconciliation to illuminate, explain, or allay the black blood that pulsed through the capillaries of time and space. And even the black despair was but a shield against the pervasive sadness.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Owns The Rights To "Pants On The Ground"?

[UPDATE (Jan 21, 2010): Apparently Larry Platt is asking some of the same questions raised below, and is looking for a lawyer to help him protect his rights to "Pants On The Ground"]

Well, anyone who has ever doubted Simon Cowell's music business acumen will certainly have to give him credit now. Perhaps at the very moment when Mr. Cowell was admitting his "horrible feeling" that "Pants On The Ground" might become a hit, armies of American Idol fans were transforming the TV show's broadcast of 62 year-old[1] 'General' Larry Platt's song into YouTube clips and mp3 files. The civil rights activist, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, has become a viral hit.

Who actually owns "Pants On The Ground", though? I have no legal insight or training, and – even more critically – I have no idea just what legal rights American Idol contestants are required to sign away for the chance to appear before Simon, Randy, the new one, and whatever guest judge happens to be in town that week. There is, however, this official document from the American Idol site, the "Season 9 Registration and Audition Rules". Therein the hopeful singers are notified that their very presence at the auditions means they give "consent and agreement" to recording and using pretty much anything they perform or do at the audition as the producers see fit, "(including advertising, marketing, promotion, merchandising and the exploitation of any and all ancillary and subsidiary rights), as the same may be edited, in all media now known or hereafter created, throughout the universe".[2] Perhaps those "ancillary and subsidiary rights" include the copyright to this catchy tune.

That is certainly the belief of a few YouTubers who are seeking to protect themselves from legal action by noting that the uploaded video of Larry Platt's performance is "Copyright FreemantleMedia, American Idol" or somesuch. Others plaintively state "no infringement intended" (including this one which avoids the actual copyright at issue by stating that "Copyright remains to its original owners"[3]), thus making a bold claim to inattentive infringement. Of course, if THEY want to come after you, THEY will get you, protestations aside. But this doesn't get me closer to the answer of just who They might be in this case, the actual owner(s) of the copyright to "Pants On The Ground".

On the other hand, FOX could have made some serious cash by putting this clip on iTunes, but did not do so. While the spot-on Neil Young pastiche by Jimmy Kimmel[4] would naturally be protected as a parody, there are already several new versions and remixes in the EtherWeb already, which of course do infringe on the rights of the unknown owner(s). And then there are the ringtones, which though usually available for free are found on advertising-supported sites -- i.e., someone is making money on "Pants On The Ground". Will the RIAA step in to protect the rights of the copyright holder, whoever he or she or they may be?[5]

Besides the actual legal documents Mr. Platt may have signed, the question of who owns "Pants On The Ground" may hinge on whether or not 'General' Platt was ever recorded singing his song before he auditioned for American Idol. This is because -- according to my admittedly non-professional reading of the US Copyright Office guidelines -- copyright does not attain to a piece of mucic until it is "created", and in the interesting vocabulary of copyright "creation" occurs only when a work is "fixed" in a material object for the first time. If Larry Platt never wrote down his lyrics or was recorded singing "Pants On The Ground", then the act of "creation" occurred at the moment the American Idol cameras captured his star turn for the show. In which case, if the "ancillary and subsidiary rights" include rights to original work, FOX or Rupert Murdoch (or FreemantleMedia (or both, etc., etc....)) owns the newest song sensation.

One might argue that none of this matters, that Larry Platt will make out fine with his newfound publicity, whether or not he cashes royalty checks for "Pants On The Ground". And this is true, perhaps. One could also turn the tale into a narrative of how once more the White powers-that-be are cashing in on the music of the Blacks, à la the Rolling Stones. It would be all too easy to make the events prove this or that point (though I'm guessing Pat Robertson and Rachel Maddow would end up with different points), but my question remains, just because I actually do wonder:

Who owns the copyright for "Pants On The Ground"?

P.S. The story of "General" Larry Platt is much more interesting, by the way, than the quick and crazy impression I know that I got on first viewing American Idol last Wednesday. An impression that continued as I read the newspaper and online articles about his viral success. Check out this video, and read the "more info" text, to learn about an involved citizen who was honored for his public service with the city of Atlanta officially declaring September 4, 2001[6] "Larry Platt Day"

1On the TV show, Mr. Platt stated he was 62 years old. However, in an Associated Press article, the Atlantan was said to be 63.
2Seriously, that's what it says. This seems to be just boilerplate legalese, though I suppose that a rediscovered ancient form of media wouldn't be covered. Surprising to see the lawyers leave a loophole like that....
3Um... not to quibble, but surely no one thinks that without that reassurance, that copyright might somehow be lost? Or that some person posting a video grabbed from TV has any power whatsoever to take away rights from anyone?
4I link to the official NBC site so as to leave any copyright issues between NBC and FOX between just their inestimable legal teams. Sorry for the prefaced commercial....
5The RIAA at least has no trouble calling a spade a spade: "Music is protected by copyright. The unauthorized downloading or uploading of music is actionable as copyright infringement, even if not done for profit."
6Odd, isn't it, that he was honored just a week before 9/11. And now he becomes a sensation just under a week before MLK Day. Coincidence? Yes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Desperate Tale

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71
by Alistair Horne

Alistair Horne's study of the Siege of Paris and the Paris Commune which followed is a remarkable history "from the inside", as it were: "inside" in this case being within Paris, first during the Prussian investment and then amidst the follies and fury of the Commune and the vengeful Versaillais who crushed this nascent Utopia in the bud. Horne makes good use of his primary source -- many British and American, giving an Anglo bent to his work. But it is hard to fautt him for this, as it was only the onlookers who had time or inclination to write during the terrible year of 1870-71.

The story is unfamiliar to most, and is a shattering tale of the desperation of Parisians trapped in the 'most beautiful city in the world' as Prussian guns surround. The incompetence and hubris of the French leaders -- whether military or political -- is a tragi-comic thread woven throughout the tale, but the farce truly turns to tragedy only after armistice is signed with Bismarck and the newly minted Kaiser Wilhelm. It is then that the feelings of betrayal engendered in the Parisian populace at the unspeakable concessions given to the Prussians leads to open revolt among the working class of Paris, led by the leftist preachers of defiance to the old ways of empire, militarism, and profiteering.

Similar to Tuchman's The Proud Tower, Horne's history shows a society at a vital cusp in time, when old ways and concerns are being swept forcefully into a new era. Unlike Tuchman's history of the period before World War I, however, the modes of life are not so much swept away as transformed into new obsessions which are crystalized into patterns resisting further sublimation. Among these are Glory, Socialism (via Marxism and Communism), and a class war that still influences today the life of France. Reading of the horrific price exacted upon the rebels by Thier's forces of "Order" when Paris is finally retaken from the Commune, it is hard not to feel sympathy for their argument that they felt themselves treated as less-than-human in other affairs. It is even harder not to fall prey to despair for the human condition, if even such bright lights as shine in Paris can sink into barbarisms more associated with Kosovo, the Hutus and Tutsis -- well, what hope for us all?

For those not familiar with the story (as your present writer), the revelations are many and disturbing. Besides the senseless carnage, the near-misses leave one breathless. The Louvre saved from conflagraion a fortunate rain after days of sunshine; Notre-Dame almost burned to the ground by hopeless Communards during the final days; Renoir -- not yet a famous artist -- saved from execution by a chance favor given years earlier to one who became one of rht Commune's most vicious leaders. But the true revelation is destruction and near-destruction wreaked upon my favorite city, not by the German guns and troops, but by the Parisians themselves on both sides of the barricades. Even Dietrich von Choltitz refused Hitler's order to destroy the City of Lights during the final days of the Nazi occupation. How upsetting to read of the self-inflicted wounds -- some nearly mortal -- in this history.