Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Promise of a Post-Copyright World

Head on over to Question Copyright to read Karl Fogel's The Promise of a Post-Copyright World, a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatise on copyright, its history and its place in the future.

A short excerpt:

The Internet did something the Company of Stationers never anticipated: it made their argument a testable hypothesis. Would creators still create, without centralized publishers to distribute their works? Even minimal exposure to the Internet is enough to provide the answer: of course they will.

Art

One of the things that I like best about Irregular Webcomic is that its creator, David Morgan-Mar, is not afraid to be experimental. Take, for instance, today's comic. It's best if you go look at it yourself, and if you read his annotation for the strip, and, of course, it's better if you have read the comic up to this point, so you can understand parts of the annotation, but take a look anyway.

For those of you that don't, it is four panels of black. There's no speech, nothing except the black.

Morgan-Mar justifies this in his annotation by comparing the strip to 4'33", by John Cage, which is a piece, in three movements, of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Morgan-Mar explains the piece quite well in the annotation, so go read that for a detailed explaination.

I like the strip, not for the strip itself, but because of the annotation that comes with the strip, which is as much a part of the strip as the pictures themselves. I always read the annotations, because they're often funny or interesting, but this one is thought-provoking. In explaining his motivations for presenting four black panels with no text, he presents us with a dilemma: what is art, and is this it?

My answer: the strip itself is not art. Four black panels could be done by anyone. The strip is art only in the context of the annotation, and the body of work that Morgan-Mar has previously presented to us (he lead up to this strip quite well... there is a preceeding comic wherein there are four black panels, but with dialogue). I think this is part of the point he wanted to get across in his annotation, that art--any art--is only art within its own context, whatever that may be.

Just some thoughts that have spewed forth from my mind and fingertips.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Hey, all.

Today, November 20, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Please take a moment to reflect on the needless violence inflicted on our fellow human beings simply because they wear the wrong clothes or some other equally inane reason for violence.

Thank you.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Mandate Pictures
Director: Marc Foster

Kate Eiffel has writer's block. She doesn't know how to kill her main character, Harold Crick, but she knows he has to die, and soon. Unfortunately for Harold, he's real.

One normal Wednesday, Harold starts hearing Kate's voice in his head, narrating his life. This, of course, sets him down a path that will lead, eventually, to his death. In the meantime, he tries to figure out who the voice in his head is, and how to save himself.

The plot and dialogue in Stranger Than Fiction are good, and captivate throughout the movie. You want to know the same thing that Harold does: how is he going to die, and can he stop it? Harold begins the movie as a one-dimensional character, a compulsive bean counter working as an IRS agent. He is, perhaps, the dullest person you'd ever meet. But throughout the movie, he grows on you, and although you begin the movie from the clinical perspective of the narrator, you gradually come to care about Harold and the other characters in the film, even the two characters who play a pivotal role in Harold's death, although they never speak. Most of which is yanked away near the end when Kate must complete her novel, and you are left contemplating: will he die, or not? and how?

Will Ferrell plays an excellent Harold Crick, growing throughout the movie and yet not going over-the-top, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman turn in good performances as well.

I recommend seeing Stranger Than Fiction. It has its moments of comedy and suspense, but it is a drama, and a compelling one at that, asking us to examine ourselves and our roles in life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Score by Clark Genser
Based on "Peanuts" characters by Charles M. Schultz
As performed by the Platte Valley Players

Well, musical time has come and gone again 'round these parts. Actually, this year was the first year that the PVP has put on two shows in a year, instead of just one, so the musical was quite a bit later than usual, in November. I played viola in the pit orchestra, and ended up conducting one show due to a schedule conflict with the director.

YaGMCB is, essentially, a musical 'sketch' comedy. It contains a number of scenes, some musical, some not, that are linked thematically by the Peanuts cast, rather than as a simple narrative structure. It feels very much like a compilation of Peanuts strips. The revised score is somewhat lacking in places (among other things, the instrumentation is quite sparse), but there are some nice numbers in the show nevertheless.

The Platte Valley Players have once again impressed me with their talent, dedication and skill: the choreography was good, and well-executed; although there were some rough spots, there wasn't a huge problem with keeping the actors with the orchestra (and vice-versa); the set design was good and fit well with the style of the show. It is remarkable to me how well the troupe can do with the limitations that they have as a community group (low budget, time constraints, etc), which they have shown before in their production of The Mikado.

In particular, though I doubt they will ever read this, kudos to Charlie Brown, who, so far as I noticed, only messed up a line once during the performances; to Lucy, who did a remarkable job singing in the annoying voice of her character (and not the actress's normal singing voice... it's always hard to sing poorly when you've been trained to sing well); and to Sally Brown, who worked so very hard to get the rhythms right, and eventually did.

I never know beforehand whether I'll play for a musical or not, but I think I'm inclined to play again for PVP if they ask.