Yearly Archives: 2019

Tolkien’s Art: Full of Color & Magic

21 April 2019

From The National Review:

Casual observers probably think of elves, rings, and large glowing eyes when they hear his name. Literary enthusiasts know him through his most famous books, collectively known as The Lord of the Rings. Diehard fans know both these and his lesser-known but equally beautiful tales, including The Silmarillion and The Father Christmas Letters. If you take your undying love for J. R .R. Tolkien just one step further, you’ll walk right into a compact room on the second floor of New York City’s Morgan Library. And it is here that you will discover a new and enchanting side of this master storyteller and begin to understand his dedication to the world he spent his life creating.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth is a carefully curated collection of the author’s artwork, maps, manuscripts, and memorabilia — the first exhibit of his work to take this particular angle. From a visitor’s perspective, the detail and care taken in the presentation of this exhibit show the intense planning and forethought given by the museum’s curators. Every aspect is intended to help immerse the viewer in Tolkien’s imagination.

. . . .

Each stage of Tolkien’s life is well marked, by placards with dates but also by the wall color. Nothing distracting, but decidedly distinct. Furthermore, a few of Tolkien’s more detailed images from his Lord of the Rings trilogy — such as Bilbo encountering Smaug and a bird’s-eye view of Hobbiton — were enlarged to cover walls. This gives viewers a chance to see detail on a different scale, and then enjoy it in miniature when they see the original a few moments later.

. . . .

Each display is unique and delightful in its own way, from Tolkien’s doodles and designs on newspaper clippings to drafts of his dust-jacket design for the first edition of The Hobbit. (He originally drew the sun on the front in bright red, but his publisher covered it in white and wrote “no red” because of the added expense.)

. . . .

Dust jacket design for The Hobbit, April 1937, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Pencil, black ink, watercolor, gouache. (Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 32. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.)

Link to the rest at The National Review


World Book Day

20 April 2019

Amazon Crossing, Amazon’s imprint for translations of books around the world, is celebrating World Book Day by giving away ebook versions of several of its best works.

The list includes mysteries, historical fiction, biography, true crime and “Book Club Fiction” (a new term for PG).

The nine books Amazon Crossing is featuring will be free until April 24.

Here’s a link to the page.

The books being featured are:

I Was Brought up with Paranoia

20 April 2019

From The Guardian:

A Stranger City, Linda Grant’s eighth novel, which begins with the burial of an unknown woman discovered in the Thames, is a portrait of the disparate but interconnected lives that make up contemporary London. Grant was born in Liverpool, but has lived in London for 34 years. She won the Orange prize for fiction in 2000 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2008.

A Stranger City is all about how living in London has changed post-referendum, but the B-word only appears once at the very end. Would you describe it as a Brexit novel?

Yes. I started writing in September 2016 and certainly what was on my mind was what was going to happen, where were we heading? But I didn’t want to write about the politics of Brexit. I was thinking not so much about leaving the EU, but about the idea of home. Because London is a metropolis, because it is cosmopolitan and feels like a city state, I was thinking of what happens when that begins to crack and you start to wonder, is this really my home after all? What does home mean?

The book is extremely of the moment, with references to the London terror attacks in 2017 and so on. How did it feel to be writing almost in real time?

Very odd and very nerve-racking. I didn’t know where the novel would end up, because I never do, and obviously I had no idea where any of this was going. I tried to keep a very light hand on the tiller in terms of the politics, but I was mostly undermined by worrying that maybe it wouldn’t be all that bad, or maybe we wouldn’t leave after all and then I would look really stupid. But by the time I’d actually finished it, I thought it had all got a lot worse: the violence and xenophobia and the physical attacks. And of course, I couldn’t have anticipated the inability to pass a deal in parliament, and this sense of stress, the anxiety of uncertainty, that so many people are feeling.

. . . .

Several of your novels share that sense of anxiety similar to that felt by Francesca’s immigrant Persian-Jewish family. Is it something you’ve experienced?

I was brought up with paranoia. My parents saw antisemitism everywhere. They said that if you marry a non-Jew, sooner or later he will call you a “dirty Jew”, that you have to stick in your own community, it’s a raging wilderness out there. But I didn’t buy it. I rejected that idea.

. . . .

Which novelists and nonfiction writers working today do you admire the most?

She’s written her last novel, but I’ve been reading Margaret Drabble since I was a teenager, from A Summer Bird-Cage to The Dark Flood Rises. I get such satisfaction from her mind working on the page.

Do you prefer to read on paper or a screen?

I was a Kindle early adopter because of the luxury of being able to change the size of the typeface and its introduction coincided with our local independent bookshop closing down, but now we have a Waterstones I’m back to print Paper, except when I’m travelling.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Zuckerberg’s Regulation Proposal Distracts from the Solvable Problems on His Platform – like Piracy

20 April 2019

From Creative Future:

On March 30, in an op-ed published in The Washington Post, the man who once coined the phrase “Move fast and break things” made a very public about-face. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called for the internet to be regulated.

“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

Seemingly, this was a watershed moment. A concession by an online giant, after years of arguing precisely the opposite, that maybe it isn’t well-equipped to solve the problems it itself had created. That the time had come, Zuckerberg continued, for “a more active role for governments and regulators.”

. . . .

Perhaps because we have heard it all before, we are skeptical of Zuckerberg’s big proclamation. Or perhaps we are just not that impressed by the sight of a CEO worth billions pleading for the government to step in and clean up his mess. Or perhaps, as some have suggested, there are even more sinister forces at play here.

. . . .

“By draping his essay in the guise of cooperation, Zuckerberg hopes to distract policymakers from the real threat,” wrote Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor who has morphed into one of its fiercest critics. “Internet platforms like Facebook and Google dominate the public square in every country in which they operate… No one elected these companies and they refuse to be held accountable. That must change.”

Zuckerberg’s pining for a uniform set of rules to govern his public square seems like a grand gesture toward a kind of formal accountability – but the truth is, it is yet another opportunity for him to shirk responsibility. In the piece, he calls for a “globally harmonized framework,” which sounds nice but is an absurdly unrealistic goal. Can you think of a single thing that is “harmonized” across the world’s nearly 200 existing national governments, subject to a consistent set of regulatory guidelines that every country honors and upholds? Why would something as massively complicated as the entire internet be any different?

. . . .

Exacerbating this delusion, Zuckerberg recommends his proposed regulation formulate around not one, not two, but four primary concerns: “harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.” Any one of these concerns on their own would pose a logistical nightmare around which to legislate. If Zuckerberg’s plan is to wait for the nearly 200 existing national governments to come together around all of them, he’s going to be waiting a long time – which is precisely his plan. The buck officially passed, he can now sit back and continue doing what he has been doing – evading any “meaningful” regulation until the world finally agrees on his impossibly lofty set of regulatory ideals.

In essence, Zuckerberg has presented us with a fantasy, offering little in the way of specifics and leaving out other, equally crucial regulatory categories entirely – such as unfair competition and market monopolization within the internet industry. It is not surprising, of course, that Zuckerberg does not want to talk about antitrust, but shouldn’t his list at least include the regulation of artificial intelligence – the force behind the algorithms that steer and essentially control our online lives? Or what about CreativeFuture’s core issue of piracy, an internet plague that affects the livelihoods of millions of people?

Link to the rest at Creative Future

PG thinks part of Zuckerberg’s reason for making this suggestion is that Facebook and similar companies are rich with financial and human resources and have the ability to adjust to government regulation and take legal steps to fight or blunt regulations that might be harmful to Facebook.

PG suggests that Zuckerberg’s biggest fear is that another Mark Zuckerberg is laboring in obscurity, working on an idea that will make Facebook obsolete almost overnight.

Like all startups, The hypothetical Bane of Facebook faces many hurdles and obstructions. Even a much better idea is not enough to guarantee success. Financing becomes necessary, hiring the right people early on is very important.

If you add a requirement to comply with complex government regulations in each country where the startup wants to be available online, that might be a bridge too far for a potential Facebook killer. Violating a law no one inside the startup has never heard of can bring a deluge of bad publicity and an avalanche of legal costs.

Copyright and Plagiarism in the Age of Memes

20 April 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

Back in March, comedian Miel Bredouw found herself in a very public battle with the site Barstool Sports. According to her, the site has reposted a video she had created two years prior and did so without attribution or permission.

According to Bredouw, she filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice and got the video removed but Barstool Sports responded by first offering her increasing amounts of money to rescind the notice and with a campaign of harassment.

But after Barstool filed a counter-notice to get the video restored, Bredouw went public with her story and highlighted much of the communication that that had been exchanged.

As the story began to get attention, Barstool Sports deleted over 60,000 of its social media posts, purging over 70% of its Twitter history. The move was likely in a bid to head off future DMCA notices, which could have resulted in the account being suspended.

The site also tweeted saying that it was the “old Barstool” and that they were committed to change.

. . . .

However, it doesn’t seem that Barstool Sports fully learned from the incident. Today news is coming out that Barstool Sports has been accused yet again of content theft. This time it was a gif of a blue monster that’s owned by artist Ben Rubin that was used in Barstool Sports’ Snapchat story.

Though Rubin did not face the same harassment that Bredouw did, Rubin was forced to file a DMCA notice to get the clip removed. Barstool admitted to taking the image out of Giphy, where it can still be found.

However, Barstool Sports is far from alone in facing these issues. In fact, they aren’t even the biggest name in meme content theft.

. . . .

All of this begs an interesting question: If Jerry Media and Barstool Sports have been lifting memes and gifs for years, why is it suddenly a big issue now?

Some of it, most likely, is as simple as awareness breeding more awareness. Jerry Media brought much of the scrutiny on itself with its Fyre documentary and that attention gave people the chance to raise old grievances to a new audience and raise the broader issue in the public’s mind.

However, it’s likely more than that.

One reason is that memes have become big business. Back in 2016 FuckJerry was estimated to get around $30,000 per sponsored post. It’s a hefty haul for simply reuploading other people’s creations.

Re-sharing memes, with or without attribution, has traditionally been seen as a strictly non-commercial act. Sure, people might be uploading content without permission, but no dollars were thought to be changing hands. As a result, people largely tolerated it.

An exception to that came in 2015 involving Josh Ostrovsky, better known as the Fat Jew, was caught stealing jokes for his Instagram. Ostrovsky, at the time, was lined up for a show on Comedy Central but those plans were cancelled after the scandal.

But that’s been one of the big changes. In 2015 Ostrovsky was seen as an oddity for being able to parlay his meme-finding skills into a lucrative career, today it’s well-understood that many meme accounts are getting extremely wealthy. This has led to a pushback from the artists who create the original works while toiling in relative obscurity.

In short, the awareness isn’t just of the worst actors. It’s of the industry at large. Creators are aware of how they’re being exploited and are fighting back against it. To that end, the best weapon they have is the DMCA takedown, not only because it’s free, fast and easy to file, but the law obligates hosts to terminate the accounts of users that accumulate too many.

That, ultimately, is why companies like Barstool Sports and Jerry Media fear content creators.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today


Open Access

19 April 2019

The Passive Voice is a blog about books, authors, writing, publishing, etc., but PG is pleased to learn of open access policies by a couple of large art museums whereby the museum offers high-quality digital files of art for which copyrights have expired.

This first item is from The Cleveland Museum of Art, titled “Twilight in the Wilderness” and painted by Frank Church. Click on the image for a larger version

From the description of the painting by the Museum:

In his New York studio, Church painted this spectacular view of a blazing sunset over wilderness near Mount Katahdin in Maine, which he had sketched during a visit nearly two years earlier. Although Church often extolled the grandeur of pristine American landscape in his work, this painting appears to have additional overtones. Created on the eve of the Civil War, the painting’s subject can be interpreted as symbolically evoking the coming conflagration.

Link to the rest at The Cleveland Museum of Art


19 April 2019

PG was impressed by the attitude manifested by Rijksmuseum, a world-famous art museum in Amsterdam, towards public use of copies of its artwork.

Per prior posts on TPV, some museums go to great length to prevent individuals from taking photographs or otherwise using copies of their art (even though copyright protection has long expired)  without written consent, which can be very difficult/impossible for an average person to obtain.

In a section of its website called Rijks Studio, the museum provides downloadable high-resolution images of artwork in its collection. You can create your own collection of famous paintings online. The museum also encourages you to download their artworks and use them to make your own creations. You can even sell your creations to the public.



The museum holds contests to recognize some of the best uses of the works in the Rijks Studio. Here’s a video highlighting the ten finalists in 2017.

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19 April 2019

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