Friday, September 9, 2011

Infinitely Faceted Lens

I've always been fascinated at
how every culture on Earth has
found meaning in the arrangement
of stars in the night sky.

Simple points of light that,
when viewed through the
infinitely faceted lens
of human experience, are seen
as connected and imbued with
meaning.

I think minimalist art draws
upon this basic human urge,
granting meaning to simplicity
and finding patterns in chaos.

As children, we play connect-
the-dots
. As a species, our lives
are defined by the images we
create from these dots, the connections
we draw day by day, minute to minute

and every second of our lives.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Unintentionally Serious

So, now that I'm an old man, married to a wife who likes to turn in early to get her much-deserved beauty sleep, I find myself on the couch on the eve of our nation's Independence Day. And, no, we didn't just get home. I've been stationed here since before 9pm.

That's right, no fireworks display for me this 4th o' July. But I'm sitting in the living room with the window open, hearing the thunder and crackle of professional and amateur fireworks displays reverberate up and down the Willamette River, and I can't help feeling a strong kinship with Francis Scott Key. That September night [during the poorly-named War of 1812] aboard the HMS Tonnant as a 'guest' of the British navy during their attack on Fort McHenry, Key probably experienced a similar sensation of detachment. While his view was undoubtedly better than mine, simply hearing what I could easily imagine are distant guns and 'bombs bursting in air' makes me dwell philosophically on the lines of our national anthem.

There are many things wrong with our country today. While we may not all agree what those things are or how they should be fixed, most of us agree the effort is still worth it. Because there's a strange kind of beauty in the story that is the United States of America. It's a feeling you get when standing at national monuments or reading the great documents and speeches from our history or listening to the stirring strains and lyrics of songs like 'The Star Spangled Banner'. There are those who would criticize such a maudlin generalization of America, claiming it glosses over terrible crimes committed in our past and, depending on who you talk to, more terrible atrocities being committed today.

I don't argue those points. They have their own validity. But it just gets so damn depressing. I'm all for the facts and determining the truth of historical and current events, but we as human beings need to feel that what we've done has, in some small way, been worth it all. No, we shouldn't justify horrific acts or claim exemption from responsibility. But if we can just retain that spirit of hope, that basic tenant upon which our country was founded, we can face up to our past, confront our present and continue to create a future that, while it may not be perfect, doesn't quietly fade away into oblivion. Again, what that basic tenant IS can be hotly debated. For my part, I say the very fact we are ALLOWED to debate is a big part of it. There are many loud voices throughout our nation, in addition to those who quietly listen and ruminate and occasionally add their reasoned voice to the maelstrom. It can be deafening, that loud clamor of conflicting viewpoints; but if you allow yourself to step back, to broaden your perspective, you can hear a clear, pure note of something special.

I didn't mean for this to turn so serious, and as I sit here now almost an hour after beginning, there are only occasional pops and rattles in the distance to keep me company. But in my mind I can still hear the inspiration of a country and can go to my bed with a sense of equilibrium for this night at least. Because this is still yet a place were I feel comfortable that those broad stripes and bright stars really do fly over 'the land of the free and the home of the brave'; where, from my perspective, I hear voices raised from all sides and hear not just argument, but a unified cry that all together echoes this good old phrase: "Let freedom ring."

Monday, June 20, 2011

DEFENSE RESTS: For Now

I just finished replying to the most recent comments on the original post dealing with the removal of @Peanutweeter from Tumblr due to a cease and desist letter from Iconix Brand Group, Inc. I'm extremely pleased that the majority of comments were well composed and respectful, regardless of their opinion for or against in this matter.

After catching up on @Peanutweeter's own blog, thankfully reinstated by Tumblr, minus the fabulous and controversial posts which inspired its popularity, I feel that I must repost my most recent reply in praise of Jason's reaction to this whole mess. Really, he's handled it extremely well and... well, my reply really says it all:

"Whether or not Jason of @Peanutweeter defends his rights in this matter, I'll respect his decision either way. You can read what he's currently written about this very issue at his [revitalized] blog, @Peanutweeter.

Jason's recent posts have only raised him in my estimation by taking the high road and not choosing to embroil himself in a battle that would most likely be difficult and, in his case, detrimental to his situation. In his words and actions, I see only a level-headed artist making the best of a bad situation.

That being said, our country is one in which everyone has a voice and the right to make their voice heard. But the voices that really make the difference are those that have sat for a time in silence, done their research and then spoken with logical conviction with respect for all those involved.

Jason, @Peanutweeter, I salute you for your exemplary words and behavior. If there is a way to bring @Peanutweeter back, I welcome it and gladly extend my assistance, but whether it returns or not, it lived and was enjoyed and thus has meaning in the world.

Thank you."

There may again be a day when Jason's brilliant idea for @Peanutweeter will resurface and flourish; but regardless of that future, I'm thankful for the present decorum he has shown and wonderful memories he has provided me and so many others who have enjoyed @Peanutweeter.

Really, though, Jason is far from beaten. He is continuing his creative endeavors in other forums, not the least of which is @Deathstarhelp [shh! don't tell George Lucas!]. So, thanks again to everyone who has voiced their opinion in this matter, and I encourage you to continue your research and independent thought! But for now, the defense rests.

Thanks, Jason. Rock on!

Friday, June 17, 2011

IN DEFENSE: Why @Peanutweeter Should Be Considered Fair Use

Hopefully, if you are reading this in the future [i.e., the future BEYOND the present crisis], you are able to visit the website @Peanutweeter to both enjoy the blog as well as get a point of reference for the very 'legalese-heavy' argument below.

If the corporate bully won and @Peanutweeter is now just a distant but fond memory in the ocean of internet memes, know this:

@Peanutweeter was [IS!] an awesome blog combining the work of Charles Schulz with some of the most ridiculous, insane or simply WEIRD Twitter posts out there. In essence, we got a chance to see Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and all the rest of the Peanuts® gang as a collection of crazed Twitterists spouting awesome statements like this:


"i have 300 channels but i still open and close the battery door on the remote to keep myself entertained." - @fiwoproblems


Then, on Friday, June 17th, 2011, Peanuts copyright-holder Iconix Brand Group, Inc. succeeded in convincing Tumblr to remove the blog, claiming it violated the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. WTF Iconix? You own more than a dozen huge brands and have an annual revenue of more than $100 million; your big and brand-tastic, sure, but in this instance, you're WRONG.

So, while commiserating with my fellow Twitterists and @Peanuts fans, I decided to read up on the subject and make myself heard. So, here you have the FIRST POST on a blog I created several years ago [for some obscure emo reason, I'm sure]:

IN DEFENSE: Why @Peanuts Should Be Considered Fair Use

I believe the blog @Peanutweeter, in its use of works by Charles Schulz as the originator of the 'Peanuts®' comic strip and Iconix Brand Group, Inc. as the copyright holder, falls within the accepted parameters of Fair Use given the following considerations based on the four-fold balancing test as outlined in 17 U.S.C. § 107:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    • @Peanutweeter is a blog composed of Twitter posts and panels from Peanuts comic strips; the website states "@Peanutweeter matches kinda random Twitter posts with somewhat less than random Peanuts® comic strips by Charles Schulz" and further claims "--Peanutweeter is a fair-use work of parody"

    • @Peanutweeter does not sell merchandise, host ads or otherwise engage in 'for profit' or similar commercial activities using the copyrighted work in question; i.e., the creator of @Peanutweeter does not make money from the blog

    • While it may be argued that @Peanutweeter does NOT constitute a 'parody' since it pokes fun at Twitter users more than at the works of Charles Schulz, it is unquestionably 'transformative'. While Peanuts comics are displayed in multi-panel strips, @Peanutweeter is a single panel; while Peanuts characters are distinct creations following a well-defined set of behaviors and a loose chronology of events, @Peanutweeter gives dialogue to these same characters irrespective of personality or timeline

    • More than being technically transformative, it speaks to the transformation of all those who have grown up reading Peanuts: in our youth, we understood and could sympathize with the characters and their travails as adolescents; @Peanutweeter revitalizes these familiar characters in a way that is relevant to readers as adults and as users of the internet as a whole and Twitter in particular

  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
    While Peanuts is a work of fiction created by Charles Schulz, it's widespread popularity and timelessness have made it an indelible icon for several generations. It is impossible to evoke the well-known characters of the Peanuts comic strip without at the very least emulating the drawing style of Shulz; by using actual panels drawn by Schulz, the creator of @Peanutweeter effectively captures his target audience through the works' familiarity and, in this author's opinion, honors Schulz by imbuing the Peanuts character's with new life relevant to the present.

  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    • Peanuts ran in syndicated form for more than fifty years and has continued to run in reruns to the present day. From October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000 [one day after Schulz's death], 17,897 strips were published. The majority of these strips were four-panels long [Sunday strips were longer!]. Doing the math, that's at least 71,588 panels of Peanuts

    • @Peanutweeter uses only one panel of a Peanuts strip per post and is usually posted only once a day. Even if @Peanutweeter began posting two panels per day, it would take more than 196 years [not counting leap years!] to produce the same body of work

    • Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University said that Peanuts is "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being"; and that's just the strip-panel comic! None of the above takes into account the television and film productions, theaterical productions, record albums and scores of other appearances of Charlie Brown and his friends. Chuck and Snoopy were even the 'semi-official' mascots of Apollo 10 and Snoopy is still the personal safety mascot of NASA astronauts [recognized by the Silver Snoopy Award]!

    • As clever and entertaining as @Peanutweeter is, it uses only a fraction of the Peanuts body of work and could never hope to achieve it's popularity or longevity [sorry, @Peanutweeter]


  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
    @Peanutweeter does not compete with or detract from the commercial or potential market value of the Peanuts® brand. It is a regular daily blog which pays homage to a universally recognized set of characters and the innocence of youth while providing a humorous form of nostalgia appealing to its targeted audience of adult internet users. If anything, @Peanutweeter is a small boon to the Peanuts gang! This author, for instance, immediately dug out his old books of the collected strips, found his CD of the musical 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' and is already planning the inclusion of Peanuts in the upbringing of his unborn child. It is more than probable that this author is not alone in experiencing a revitalization of interest for Charlie and Sally Brown, Snoopy and his relatives, Linus and Lucy van Pelt and even the Little Red-Haired Girl.


In closing, it is my belief that @Peanutweeter is a sterling example of Fair Use and that Iconix Brand Group, Inc. is unjustified in their claim of copyright infringement. I hope that all those who read this merely do so out of curiosity over this debacle and that in your bright future [present, whatever, stupid temporal references] @Peanutweeter is still going strong and continuing to reacquaint people with the wonderful characters of Charles Schulz.

Thanks for listening.