Jonah Lehrer and Imagine

Right now I’m reading a book by Jonah Lehrer, called Imagine.  It’s pop-science about how creativity works.  Author Jonah is this prodigy reporter who at the age of 31 had become become a staff writer at the New Yorker and found himself in line behind Malcolm Gladwell as the modern “Idea Man.”  Then his world fell apart.

You can read all about it here, but basically he fabricated some Bob Dylan quotes in his newest book and he has been forced to resign from … his life.

What really interests me is that his publisher Houghton Mifflin has recalled his book, Imagine, the book I’m reading.  The BF asked me if they were also recalling digital copies, which reminded me that Amazon, B&N, and Apple can actually REMOVE books from your digital readers.  Am I alone in thinking that this is crazy and a bit authoritarian?  It’s like you don’t really own it, you just own access to it.  For a while i wasn’t turning my Kindle’s wifi on because I was afraid that the book would evaporate the moment I did! (and I haven’t finished it yet!)

It’s a shame that this guy’s life fell apart.   He was developing into a hero of mine: Smart and driven, all about thinking and science, and not bad looking in certain pics (see below).  If he had been gay too I would have been in love!

Jonah Lehrer


Copy Left

Today I heard an interesting quote (over pizza) from my good friend Cale.  In regard to copyright he says, I believe works should be free as in speech, but not as in beer.  What does that mean? I ask with prosciutto hanging out of my mouth.  It turns out that it means he holds the belief that people shouldn’t have the right to distribute others’ content for free, but that once someone has bought a work they can have free reign with it. Apparently this is a belief touted by “the copy left,” a group of people who believe copyright law stifles creativity and stalls advances in art.  A big topic, sure, but It was exactly what I wanted to hear today.

This all came up because I just made a new mashup last night (Katy Perry vs. Coldplay) and when I tried to post it to youtube it got BLOCKED because they detected that there was copyrighted material in the video.  Give me a break.  DJs work to promote the music that they love, not to decrease sales for the original artists (or gatekeepers).  And in this scenario I have made a new product, it’s taken from found materials, yes, but it is arguably more, and different than the original.  But youtube blocked it, so instead my boyfriend posted the video on his vimeo account and we blew it up all over facebook from there. Problem solved.

There’s a mashup party based out of San Francisco that absolutely adore, called Bootie.  It’s an awesome site, with a pirate as their mascot, and I have gone to every New York party they have thrown except for one.  I’ve been following their blog for about 3-4 years, so long that I have no memory of who introduced me to it, or how I found them.  Nevertheless, despite the long time we’ve spent together it was only recently that Bootie + Pirate came together in my mind to form the realization: oh! pirated, like music!  because mashing up is potentially a violation of copyright.

I argue: Violation, but not defamation.

A few weeks ago I attended an Off Broadway show called 3C, by a playwright named David Adjimi.  The stage show lifts characters and environments directly from the show 3’s company, apparently with the intention of mocking past eras for their homophobia and racism. Now the TV series is suing the production for defaming the show and it’s characters.  Defamation is a weird thing, because couldn’t I right editorial after editorial describing how I thought a show was terrible? I’m defaming it then, but for some reason it’s different if you use names and text from the original work. 3C was definitely painting the 3’s company characters in an unappealing light (although I had never seen the TV series before), but there’s no conclusive proof that this could actually be damaging to the franchise.  I read later that the TV series people were also planning a stage show and that their complaint was mostly focused on perceived damage to this specific project.

Now, I ask you: is remix culture defaming original pop? no way. I wonder why Youtube and Soundcloud can’t look studios in the face and say “get real”. Studios: I can’t understand why you’re not excited that people are blowing your stuff up all over the internet.

I’m not really in the mood to rant, but I’ve been increasingly interested in copyright conversation recently.  For about the past year it’s been one of my favorites, ever since a NPR (or something) sparked it as an interest of mine.

Below is the video my boyfriend made to accompany the mashup. Comments on the work, or the morality are welcomed.



Famous Pop Singers Who Record on a Bus

If you have talked to me in the past 4 weeks chances are I brought up a New Yorker article I’ve been reading. Every time I talk about this article I laugh because it sounds like i’m name dropping the New Yorker to sound smart, so I quickly correct and explain: no no no it’s about Rihanna. Well, I suppose it’s about the team behind Rihanna- her producers and top-liner Ester Dean.

As a “manufactured” artist Rihanna really has a village behind her (which doesn’t bother me so long as she’s dong her part well).  But even if I knew that other people wrote the songs, and R only sings them, I was still surprised to hear the process from beginning to end, including the strung out recording schedule. Apparently Rihanna is the most prolific pop singer, with an album every year and a tour that never stops.  This leaves little time for actual recording. Article writer John Seabrook reports:

“The production notes for Rihanna’s single “Talk That Talk” say that her vocal was recorded on “the Bus” in Birmingham, Alabama, in Room 538 of the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg, and in Room 526 of the Savoy, in London. When I remarked on this peripatetic recording method to Hermansen, he replied, ‘It’s music as aspirational travel.'”

This is the tid-bit I quoted to friends again and again.  How funny that a song, which is almost always experienced in full over 3.5 minutes, would take multiple weeks and three countries to complete.  It’s kind of a let-down to think of the internal swells of the verse and chorus that never actually poured into one another- It was all just assembled after the fact.  

I wonder if this is sad for Rihanna. I’m sure at one point in her life she told someone that she loved music, otherwise, why would she be where she is today?  Do you think Rihanna likes recording two lines here, and 5 lines here.  Maybe she would rather go into the studio and blare the whole this out at once… if she would ever stop touring.

But then again, usually an article is enjoyed in one sitting- and i somehow made this one last 4 weeks. Imagine me finding the time to read Game of Thrones.Image

NYC So Far: Xanadu-Moustache

New York City is so big and so anonymous that usually everything around me seems to feel a little timeless. It’s like everything you’re seeing and every practice was always here and is going to always be here. For these reason I really like when something comes along that gives New York City a timeline and actually offers me a chance to chart how long I’ve been here.

Sometimes you can do this with new buildings or billboards. Sometimes you can do this with neighborhood safety (in just two years in NYC I’ve watched Harlem be gentrified). One easy example of these things is theatre shows. It is always very satisfying to me as a discussion piece for how long you’ve lived in the city. I, for example, moved in the fall of 2008-  just in time for Title of Show (on Broadway) and Xanadu.

I also have been able to build a timeline of New York with public art installations.  These pieces come in for a few months, invade a section of the city, hopefully are appreciated, and hopefully are remembered. When I first moved here the big art project was the waterfalls that had been installed into the east river down around lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  A recent project near my office placed Mannequinesque bronze statues on the rooftops of all the buildings facing Madison Sq. park.  Apparently the NYPD got repeated calls from people freaked out by “jumpers” on the skyscrappers. Showing here.

Sometimes the boy talks about the Central Park Gates.  I did not exist then.  it’s lost on  me.

All of these are very fancy very invited art pieces.  It’s also fun to watch the graffiti fads come and go. Currently, I love is the moustaches on the subway posters.

There are many of them. They are everywhere.

I think they are so funny.

And my personal favorite:

I think these are hysterical.  I always like anything with a bit of meta-humor (like Title of Show actually). And I feel like when this all dies out in a few months I’ll be able to tell people I was here during the “summer of  the Mystery Moustaches.”