Do you know what a patent troll is? A disgusting class of morally-bankrupt lawyer vermin who sniff around buying random patents just so they can bully people they claim are infringing on said patents. The burden of proof in such cases is always on the defendant, and patent trolls, through sheer mafioso intimidation, often win their settlement (since the cost of going to court for defendants is so prohibitively high, patent law being one of the most expensive kinds of litigation out there). One of many sad symptoms of our government’s inability and/or unwillingness to enact meaningful legal reform.
Here’s the crux: podcasts are in trouble because of these shit-hearted crooks. Adam Carolla, comedian & creator of one of the most popular podcasts on the net, is being sued for millions by patent trolls. Why? Because his comedy podcast presents itself in episodic form. Apparently there’s a patent on presenting podcast media in discrete episodic units (which in itself is a jawdropping absurdity on the order of a word like “box” being copyrighted by FedEx). To provide the actual patent legalese: he’s being sued for using a “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence”.
The mere existence of such a patent is scary enough — suggesting a whole intellectual trove of similar hyper-granular patents that could be seized upon and exploited in similar fashion — but what it means for the modern medium of podcasts is scarier yet: everyone would have to pay. A lot. This could cripple podcast ownership and expression as we know it, since most podcasters are small-time artists or entertainers who wouldn’t be able to operate as they do now if the Carolla case goes the way of the patent trolls, and if the patent trolls thereby gain precedent leverage.
Quite some time ago, when I had more time on my hands, I wrote a piece about irony in response to an NYTimes article I’d read about “hipsters”. The Times article was about what supposedly makes these millenial bohemians tick, and how irony-addled they all are. The piece’s arguments: hipsters are something new, the things they obsess over are largely nonsense, and most fatuous in my opinion: we must exterminate the pestilential irony with which their every act and utterance crawls (wildly paraphrasing mind you).
I disagreed. The article’s arguments felt facile, and the assumptions they were based on over-general. It all felt like another knee-jerk, a-historical over-reaction to the non-problem of irony. My take was that some measure of irony is normal; people on the cultural cutting edge and the people who think they are) are normal, and always around, generation after generation, whether they’re “bohos” “beats” or “hipsters”; and some of what they do & make is bullshit, and a lot of what they do & say and create is A-OK.
At the time, I wanted to write further on the subject, in particular cite two modern art-works, the 2012 film “The Comedy” and the 2013 Heidecker & Wood album “Starting From Nowhere”, both involving one of my favorite comedy artists, Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric fame. I wanted to explore how those works depict or employ irony in ways I find refreshing, inspiring & at times confounding. But my rebuttal to the Times piece was long enough already, so I let it go for a while.
For quite a goddamned while actually.
So. Irony in the early two thousand teens, part two. Let’s just jump right into it:
Heidecker & Wood are comedian, musician, composer & actor Tim Heidecker, & his long-time creative partner, multi-instrumentalist, co-composer and producer Davin Wood. And they made a damned fine record with “Starting From Nowhere” — but a peculiar one, a record so subtly parodic & sneakily piss-taking that you’d be forgiven if you heard it several times and just dismissed it as a hazy, pillowy, finely-wrought, ultra-catchy lost gem of the early to mid 70s that could comfortably sit next to LPs by Seals & Crofts, Steely Dan, Bread, Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, Jackson Browne, & the like. (Read More . . .)
Bigg shit’s changing on the S.Crow, and here’s how: no more Art of the Day. Just don’t have time sadly — too many skillets on the stove, had onions burning over here, corn oil frying up the joint over there, a whole zucchini exploding in the back — just wasn’t working. In fact, no more mandates to myself to try and post daily period. I’m just not a commit-to-anything daily kinda guy. Y’all will just have to accept my catch-as-catch-canness. Fuck it my friendz n frondz, I did my level evil best. No regrets as Tom Paxton wrote.
So what’s left? Occasional posts on art (broadly defined), as always. Ekphrastic posts, posts on art (or non-art) stuff I’m hating on at the moment (called “Slags”), posts on art (or non-art) stuff I’m adoring at the moment (called “Lauds”), and big weird shambling bizzaro conglommied hodgepodges on multiple subjects called “Abandoned Storage Units”, the first of which type of post is happening now motherfuuuuuu’ers:
Auguste Rodin (b.1840 in Paris, d.1917) Two Masks of Hanako, bet. 1907-8, Bronze (topmost), Bottom-most: material unknown — plaster?
Rodin couldn’t make enough busts of Japanese dancer Ohta Hisa [1868-1945], otherwise known as Hanako. Purportedly he made more sculptures of her than any other sitter. His perseverance is our gain, since, if these two masks are any indication, his complex subject inspired Rodin to a rare degree of striving to — & I don’t say this lightly, being a huge Rodin fan and well acquainted with his diligence and commitment to his work — beautifully carve essence and emotion into existence. Isn’t that topmost piece a stunner? The Pride, the trouble around the brow, the full sensuous mouth, the fold under the left eye, the serenity, the fleeting pathos passing across her countenance. The youth in her, the wisdom of age in her. So much passes through and across these features. And the second-most piece, well, christ, what to say about that. The seized up visage of an immolated martyr, revenge-murderer, possessed sorceress, orgasm-peaking lover.
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Next up is, well, just fucking watch it, at least to the :50 second mark if you could, more if possible:
Daisuke Nakamura Vs Bogdan Cristea M-1 Challenge 5 – Japan, courtesy of HDNET fights, July 17, 2008
So what’s this? Yus yus, first time I’m posting about the combat arts. I’ve become a big mixed martial arts (aka MMA) fan in the past year or so, and these two practitioners of the art, Daisuke Nakamura and Bogdan Cristea, exemplify here one part of what makes this sport capable of beautiful displays of breathtaking skill — the submission art of Brasilian jiu jitsu. MMA bouts can thrill with all kinds of explosive striking, spinning back kicks and bulldozer uppercuts — many matches offer little else besides that — but what really hooked me about this sport wasn’t haymakers and flying knees (as fun as those are) but rather the jiu jitsu, the part-improvised body-strategy involved in trying to apply submissions/holds and, with equal improvisation-ready strategy, evade them. Watch both fighters deftly, rapidly transition from submission attempt to submission attempt, attempting to execute hold after hold against his foe only to have his opponent escape. All this fluid tangle, blink-and-miss-it give and take, it’s like listening to two skilled debaters or conversationalists interweave ideas and theses and & tropes & innuendoes & argument-sealing rejoinders, just leaves you breathless. The 1:40 mark and on is particularly lovely, with Nakamura rolling his opponent in an attempt to execute an armbar. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you owe it to yourself to watch the whole damned fight — I guarantee you’ve rarely if ever seen a ground scrap this heated.
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Joey fucking Diaz. I’m a huge fan of this comedian, love his filthy, honest lunatic stories delivered with loud sputtering gusto, while he, wide-eyed in wonderment as if surprised and overtaken by the sheer brute force of his delivery and presence, always seems on the verge of some kind of blaze-of-glory combustion (example here, from his many appearances on Joe Rogan’s podcast). He gets you laughing not so much because of clever cracks or jokes but by dint of his convulsive fucking bazooka personality — it’s just his force of will that gets you guffawing in shock & mild trepidation at where the hell the guy is going to go next. He’s fearless and completely in touch with his core when he’s entertaining in a way that’s rare — he’s performing but not really, more just tapping into the current of himself for better or for worse and turning the amps up to 12. But what makes all this even more impressive for me is how, by contrast, Diaz will mix things up (unconsciously or not) with these moments where he’s vulnerable, where he’s disarmingly hushed in some moment of unaffected appreciation for the world, for women, for psychoactive drug experience, for friendship, whatever; or where he’s candid about what most would consider very private details of his life; or where he’s nakedly direct about his flaws and serious moral miss-steps. This is the Diaz that has deepened my appreciation of him as an explosively talented artist & narrator & performer, and this is the Diaz that you’ll find in one of his most recent posts, a post that moved the hell out of me with its simple plainspoken immediacy and confessorial power. Find it here, and I’ll quote part of it below:
We all have interesting lives because from time to time we struggle with life or our personal demons, how we overcome them and continue to live gives us that second chance. What many people don’t know about me is that I was married and had a child after I got out of prison and before I got into comedy. After a while my true colors started to show and like everything else in my life at the time, the marriage fell apart. It was fine, we had both made a mistake but their was a child involved. I made a simple deal with her because I wanted to stay in the childs life. After a few months, she got a boyfriend, I started fucking around and before you knew it we had a situation.
The drama escalated and I ended smacking the guy, she took me to court but in the end the only one who suffered was my little girl in the car that day that witnessed the whole thing at the age of 4. I noticed her crying and it hit me, I had seen this type of behavior as a child and between you and I it didn’t do a fucking thing for me. Between that situations and many others I decided that for everyones sake I would move to Seattle for a while to give the situation air before it got worst.
I would visit every few months but after a while I started to lose her, between me being away and whatever the Mother was telling her, it was starting to show, now I have nothing because we haven’t spoken in years.
Now thats a great story and all, and I had a great time smacking the guy and acting like a fucking fool but the truth was…..I failed as a Father, period. For years it was my own little secret, but once I came to terms with that, it made my life a lot easier.
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Who dat? John C. Bogle, founder of investment management company Vanguard. What’s he got to say? This spot-on shit:
“Too much money is aimed at short-term speculation — the seeking of quick profit with little concern for the future. The financial system has been wounded by a flood of so-called innovations that merely promote hyper-rapid trading, market timing and shortsighted corporate maneuvering. Individual investors are being shortchanged, he writes.
Corporate money is flooding into political campaigns. The American retirement system faces a train wreck. America’s fundamental values are threatened. Mr. Bogle remains a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist but says the system has “gotten out of balance,” threatening our entire society. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else,” he says, quoting Winston Churchill. Now, he says, it’s time to try something else.
He advocates taxes to discourage short-term speculation. He wants limits on leverage, transparency for financial derivatives, stricter punishments for financial crimes and, perhaps most urgently, a unified fiduciary standard for all money managers: “A fiduciary standard means, basically, put the interests of the client first. No excuses. Period.”
I guess you could look at this as a Vanguard plug. But whether it is or isn’t — and it’s probably at least some of one — it’s such a great concise summary of the lobster tank we’re all clacking around in folks, while the amuse bouches & celery foam & ostrich-beack canapés get passed around on crystal dishes and $20-a-glass prosecco’s sipped by wan brain-flecked vampire mouths. And I like the Bogle quote not just because of how it sums up the predacious and short-term way our financial overlords have seen fit to shark around and devour the middle and lower classes with subprime mortgages (and, now, the ugly scourge of for-profit colleges) — but how it applies to what’s happening to all of us, financially or otherwise: Collective anxiety and helplessness in the face of so many rapidly changing technologies, so many changing ways of life, so many threats (imagined or otherwise; fear-mongered & fed to us or otherwise) looming from within and from without, so many sources of hopelessness and dread have eroded at our collective intrinsic moral fiber. It’s like this: when you’re locked up in a train car with thirty other confused scared people and you think you’re headed to the killing fields, most people are going to break down and go into survival mode. Community begins to break down as higher-functioning aspirational society-building impulses are replaced by desperate amphibian hoarding, tribalism, pecking order, rule of might and me-first scrambles. As it happens in the micro, so it can happen with nations. It doesn’t have to be this way — people can band together and collectivize to ward off a common enemy and thereby escape, or cripple, or hijack that killing-field-bound train. But first I believe there’s an inevitable phase of short-term-minded thinking and acting, panicked mad scurry; of pre-Y2K bunker building, generator buying, canned food stockpiling, and, yes, rapacious operations visited upon us from on high by those cloud-wreathed oligarchs already far removed from the consequences of their dehumanized 21st floor boardroom actions and requiring little force to nudge them toward full-scale Après-moi-le-déluge cruelty. I hope desperately that we emerge from this phase and realize that we cannot allow ourselves to descend to myopic amorality even if our corporate oligarchy has (& shows no signs of stopping doing so); that we’ll just hasten our own slavery by doing so. Our only chance is to think long term, believe and act as if the world will be around for centuries and is worth fighting for and saving & upholding culturally environmentally and in all respects that we hold dear (even if data seems to support the opposite conclusion), and never forget that our fellow human beings are worth sacrificing our desires and comforts for at every possible opportunity. An isolated, suspicious populace attacking itself while in the grip of end-of-the-world dread is the best friend of those who seek absolute control.
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