Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Funny Thing

The other day, as my nine-year-old son Daniel sat on the couch leafing through a book called Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections, I began ripping Marianne Faithfull's 2000 CD Vagabond Ways onto my iBook.

For readers unfamiliar with Faithfull, she was a beautiful but vapid teenage folkie with a string of minor (and quite ghastly) hits in the mid-sixties who became famous as Mick Jagger's girlfriend, got heavily into drugs and alcohol, wound up a homeless junkie, then somehow re-emerged in the Eighties with the most extraordinarily poetic whore and whiskey voice ever heard in rock and roll (she also sings Kurt Weil, brilliantly).

I had gotten Vagabond Ways out of the library and I hadn't actually listened to it yet. As the eponymous first song was ripping it began playing -- a haunting, plaintive lament delivered with fifty-four-year-old Faithfull's world-weary grace.

Oh, doctor please, oh, doctor please.

At this point Daniel looked up from his book and said, "Dad, can we listen to something else?"

Well, there's no accounting for taste, I thought. I said, "This is great stuff..."

I drink and I take drugs, I love sex and I move around a lot.

At this point, I was looking right at Daniel, and he at me. I think I managed a slight comic roll of the eyes as I made my way calmly to the laptop to pause it and find "something else."

I had my first baby at fourteen.

Picture the scene. The music has stopped. Daniel and I are looking at each other. He has obviously heard this lyric, but I see no particular reaction -- though no particular disinterest, either. So I start laughing. And he starts laughing. And next thing we know we're both in hysterics, I because I have no idea what he's making of what we just heard, and he for some unknown reason -- perhaps because he's smart enough to know transgressive when he hears it.

Beautiful moment.


We spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Beethoven's Wig.


Anonymous said...

Not only are you incredibly judgemental, you steal music too.


Teaching your son the same values?

PeaceLove said...

Huh? Stealing? Libraries exist to give all citizens access to the world's information. Ripping a CD from the library for personal use isn't stealing, any more than cassette taping a friend's record was years ago.

Hiding behind your anonymity to hurl baseless personal attacks?


fk said...

judgemental? I've never considered you judgmental. Where the hell did that come from?

but just because libraries exist to give people access doesnt make it not stealing. The reason it wasnt stealing is that the library had asked you to make a backup copy of the cd in case something happened to the original, isnt that the case? I have that arrangement with them as well, and with many of my friends.

i havent heard recent marianne faithful cd's. i loved "broken english" a million years ago. if you've never heard "broken english", you should try to find it. I would definitely not have my kids in the room while the last cut, "why d'ya do it" was playing. Maybe it wouldnt hurt them to hear "the ballad of lucy jordan" (which shel silverstein wrote)

i'd also like to hear "before the poison" which has quite a few songs written by nick cave.
(what movie did we see together which featured a nick cave song - the name of the song sums up my feelings for you,of course)

PeaceLove said...

Thanks, fk. I first fell in love with Faithfull when I heard Broken English back in 1982 as a freshman. I think "Why'd Ya Do It" would be a fine life lesson for very young children.

Faithfull's CD Kissin' Time is pretty amazing, having been co-written by a slew of great collaborators. Lots of beautiful work on that (and on Vagabond Ways as well).

Funny you should mention "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," a song I've been madly in love with since I first heard it twenty-three years ago. I knew it both from Broken English and also as the theme song from Yugoslav filmmaker Dusan Makavejev's 1981 film Montenegro, about an bored American housewife in Sweden (Susan Anspach) who has some wild adventures with a bunch of Yugoslavians.

Only yesterday, while researching this post, did I discover that Shel Silverstein had written it and Dr. Hook had recorded it. Through the wonders of the Internet (and my aforementioned thievery), I downloaded and listened to Dr. Hook's version, which is much better than I ever would have expected (though still no match for Marianne's, I think).

Enlighten me: which film had the Nick Cave song? I can only think of Wings of Desire, which I don't think I ever saw with you.

Anonymous said...

Cassette taping a friend's record years ago was also stealing.

You can try to justify it any way you want. You took it, it wasn't yours to take. Check the laws. I have. You broke them.

A. It wasn't "baseless," it was based on the fact that you stole. Therefore it had a base. By definition, not baseless. And not a personal attack, a statement of fact, if you'll check the law, or for that matter check with the library.

B. If you don't want anonymous posters, turn off that option.

PeaceLove said...

Cough cough Get a cough cough life. cough cough

I WAS going to get into a discussion about the abuse of current copyright laws by greedy corporations who gouge their customers and crush the healthy marketplace of culture and ideas, but I decided not to waste the bandwidth. Anonymous has apparently been brainwashed by years of recording industry propaganda; I'm sure it's inconceivable to him (or--unlikely--her) that smart people could disagree with him.

I don't care one way or another about anonymous commenters (I'd rather people comment anonymously than not at all), although I prefer if people are willing to identify themselves. I DO think hiding behind anonymity to accuse someone of "stealing" is pretty cowardly and lame.

Anonymous said...

So... you're unwilling to check that it actually is stealing? Calling me names and justifying it by saying there is worse going on is easier?

As I said earlier, just ask the library. Fairly simple. They'll know. Trust me.

Signed, Dave (feel better?)

PeaceLove said...

Yes, Dave, I do feel better.

I never tried to "justify" anything by saying there is worse going on; frankly, I don't feel I need to justify home taping.

I simply and fundamentally disagree that what I did was stealing, regardless of what the law does or doesn't say. There is (contrary to industry claims) no good evidence that home taping or ripping deprives anyone of revenue (which pretty much defines stealing). On the contrary, every time the distribution industry has bitched about and tried to suppress a new technology -- cassettes, VCR -- said technology has prevailed and ended up earning them a fortune. I wonder if Gutenberg had to deal with a consortium of monasteries trying to protect their bottom line?

Industry greed and litigation DOES have a chilling effect on the free development of culture. I recently saw "Easy Rider," and I was struck by the sheer number of great contemporary rock tunes that lined the soundtrack, much the way music courses through the lives of young people. The songs were relevant and appropriate, but a low-budget art work like that could never get made that way today. The Beastie Boys, too, have said that it would be prohibitively expensive (read, impossible) for them now to produce their sample-heavy first album. And DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, a merging of The Beatles' White Album and Jay Z's Black Album, ONLY exists in bootleg and extralegal form -- even though many critics put it on their top ten lists last year.

Bad laws also have a chilling effect on new technology; the recent Grokkster decision is a particularly scary ruling, since it maintains that the creators of a new technology may be liable for any future use of the technology to violate the law. If someone uses a color printer to print up some counterfeit money, will HP be held liable?

There are lots of bad laws on the books, and you can tell a law is bad if a majority of otherwise law-abiding people ignore it. The fact that an industry with deep pockets has managed to criminalize behavior engaged in by hundreds of millions of music-loving people worldwide doesn't make it "stealing" in any meaningful sense of the word.

Perhaps we should agree to disagree on this one.

Anonymous said...

"...and you can tell a law is bad if a majority of otherwise law-abiding people ignore it."

If that were the criteria, slavery would still be in place.

Also, it means that speed limits are meaningless.

Agreeing to disagree doesn't mean both arguments are equally valid, but c'est la vie.

fk said...

no, it wasn't "wings of desire" but you're close.
it was "until the end of the world"
i'm pretty sure we saw this on 57 st when it came out.

dave - have you really never copied a friend's album or cd?
even if you feel strongly yourself that this is something that is
wrong to do, perhaps you can also allow that people that don't feel
that way still might not deserve to get attacked about it.
There are so many real villains in the world much more worthy
to battle against like, for instance, people with power or money who
feel they are entitled to take advantage of people w/o power or money
or even people who profit from piracy.

To say someone is incredibly judgmental and essentially a bad father
is extremely harsh and in this case, unmerited.

Anonymous said...

Never copied a friend's album or cd. If I want it I buy it. Pretty easy, and violates nobody's copyright. I get the music, the artist gets the royalties, nobody gets arrested - everybody wins!

Hmmm... I don't recall using the words "bad" and "father" consecutively, or even in near proximity, anywhere in any of my responses. Perhaps you can refresh my memory.

And again, not an attack, unless pointing out it's against the law (it is) is an attack. And still again, if you don't believe me, check with the library. People with library science degrees are pretty caught up on intellectual property law.

Music copying is only done by millions now because it's easy. If someone came up with a technology that would allow virtually anyone to effortlessly open locks and bypass alarms, the same arguments would be used for burglary of items instead of "just" intellectual theft.

You also make the assumption, given no facts at all, that I don't do battle against the "real villains." Where do you get that?

And I get that he's "incredibly judgemental" from reading his posts where, well, he incredibly judges.

PeaceLove said...

Jeez, Dave must be the most ethical guy on the planet! Never copied a friend's CD? Wow!

The notion that "the artist gets the royalties" is pretty naive. Most artists make ridiculously little from CD sales; this is one of the reasons the big record companies are petrified of the Internet (and trying to suppress alternative distribution channels that bypass the middleman.

Dave's first comment accused me of stealing and passing on bad values to my son; that's pretty much the same as calling me a bad father.

Dave seems to think that the millions of people who download music -- a victimless pseudo-crime which benefits both artists and the culture at large, Dave and the industry's claims notwithstanding -- would somehow become actual thieves of actual peoples' actual property if only they had some magic technology. This notion seems pretty silly to me. Everyone has tons of opportunity to steal all sorts of things all through the day; people don't do it because they are basically honest. Laws give the society a remedy when people do horrible things, but it isn't laws that keep people from killing or stealing. It's basic morality and decency.

Where a great many people don't feel that the laws have anything to do with morality, as with music downloading, paying for sex, pot smoking, and driving over 55 in a decent car on a wide open road, many highly ethical people routinely ignore the law without the slightest twinge of guilt. This suggests that there are plenty of bad laws out there which don't reflect the moral or ethical beliefs of the majority of people.

There was no assumption in fk's reply that you don't do battle against "real" villains as well. Many cops who fight real crimes also go after pot smokers with relish, a silly misuse of their time and energy. Fk was asking you to open your mind to the idea that there could be a legitimate disagreement about principles here, that it's actually possible this isn't the evil you think it is.

Just a thought, Brother Dave, just a thought.

As for that "incredibly judgemental" bit, I'd be seriously curious to know some specific examples of where you thought I was judgemental in the least, against people, that is. I AM incredibly judgemental about many things in the world - films and music and technology and stuff, but practically never about people. Please let me know where you see judgemental.

Anonymous said...

Early judgemental post:
If you dismiss hip-hop you're racist, based on no other evidence. Doesn't matter if you have black friends, doesn't matter if you're married to a black person, doesn't matter if you are black, doesn't matter if you are black, married to a black person, with only black friends and are a member of the Black Panthers, according to you it only takes the one thing to make you racist, end of discussion, forever and ever, amen. If you don't call that incredibly judgemental then I'm not sure what to say.

Recent judgemental post:
You somehow know liberals are anti-gay but they hide it by stating they don't want their children to be gay because it would make their lives "difficult." Not only judgemental but now you are a mindreader, professing to know what all liberals believe (and, for that matter, making the assumption, like some Rush Limbaugh lite, that "all liberals" can be lumped into a single category regarding a single issue anyway).

Face it, judgements. Rationalize them, I'm curious, but I'm done. It's been fun and all, but I'll let you get back to your library CDs.

PeaceLove said...


Thanks for getting back with examples. I think if you reread those posts you cite you'll find my position much more nuanced than you give me credit for, but whatever. My point about judgement is that I will judge beliefs and actions but not people. Thus when I suggest that there's something unclean in the reaction against Hip Hop that I've seen among progressive liberal friends I'm not suggesting that they're bad or evil people, only that they are allowing a pernicious set of assumptions to cloud their judgement about this particular art form. I might think they're silly but I won't think they're evil.

I'm not alone in this belief. Just yesterday I was listening to Hard Knock Radio, a progressive Hip Hop show on KPFA, the Berkeley lefty radio station. The dj addressed this very point, how surprised they were at the station by the anger and dismay among their listeners that greeted their decision to carry a Hip Hop music show. Obviously, this reaction wasn't universal among their listeners, but a startling number of them were hostile to the whole genre. And this among probably the most progressive, least overtly racist audience in the country! I would never suggest that those who were outraged are bad people (they're MY kind of people, for the most part), only that on this particular issue they have allowed themselves to accept a questionable mainstream view that emerged from a highly questionable, if common, underestimation of any new art form that emerges from non-mainstream sources, especially if said sources are black.

I think people in all their glory contain many contradictions and we all fall prey to misunderstandings and bad judgements. But I believe we're all children of God, and I think I generally view all people throught the lens of love. If I got a bit personal with you at the beginning I apologize -- although I offer by explanation that I was defending myself against your very personal attack.

"Rush Limbaugh lite?" I never thought I'd see the day that I'd get tarred with THAT brush!

Anyway, PeaceLove, Brother

Anonymous said...

"Racist" was your word, not mine.

Oh, wait, I forgot that good definition of the word...You know, the nuanced one...

PeaceLove said...

"Racist" merely means "discriminating on the basis of race," and it encompasses a very wide range, from the progressive liberal whose guilt makes him deferential around black people to the white-robed KKKer. So yes, it's possible to use the term in a nuanced way. You just have to understand nuance.

PeaceLove, Brother

Paul "Modell" Reiser said...

You know what word I'm not comfortable with?
It's not a real word.
Like "gesture."
Gesture's a real word.
With gesture you know where you stand.
But nuance? I don't know.
Maybe I'm wrong.

PeaceLove said...

That's funny!

PeaceLove said...

I meant to comment back to fk regarding Until the End of the World, the strange Wim Wenders film he and I saw together years ago in New York. The Nick Cave song is "(I'll Love You) Till the End of the World," which fk says reflects his true feelings toward me. To which I reply, Thanks, but don't be so gay.

The soundtrack, by the way, is brilliant -- my all-time favorite soundtrack album and one of the best ever. I note in the Amazon reviews that I'm not alone in this assessment; Wenders has to be one of the hippest filmmakers on the planet, and back in 1991 he had his pulse totally on what was cool. His Wings of Desire is a far superior film, but this soundtracks trumps all others.