March 07, 2013

The Creeping Crud of Self-Admiration, Copyright Criminals, the Google Art Project

The Bluebird by Frank Cadogan Cowper 

I've spent hours browsing websites. I've spent hours selecting paintings for posts. A painting inspires an article, a memory, a new way to look at things. Sometimes a painting moves me to tears, melting numbed emotions between the shock of Devaluation and the joy of Valuing yourself anyway. It's that terrible phase when you're so sick of feeling miserable that you stop feeling much of anything at all. That's when the ARTS move us out of a robotic existence into being fully human again. 

I've posted images from prior centuries and paintings from contemporary artists so exquisite, you can't believe a human being accomplished such a thing---that someone picked up brush and with globs of paint on a canvas, created an image speaking to people's hearts hundreds of years later. And here we are in the 21st century with technology at our fingertips and isn't it amazing that we can, with the mere click of a mouse, "Save as", upload the image and embed it on a post. The process from browsing to spiritual transformation, makes me feel as though I'm participating in the arts,albeit click-and-paste. 

Well, the other day something happened that made me laugh at human arrogance and yea, narcissistic grandiosity, too. I've generally adhered to copyright laws, only using images old enough to be in the public domain. (Even then, we may not be within our rights to 'use' that image but since we aren't selling prints, we're fairly safe using a masterpiece worth gazillions of dollars having been viewed by bazillions of people in a museum too far away for most of us to visit.)

Copyright Criminals

So one morning I read my email and there's a  DMCA take down notice. Blogger warns me to remove the offending image for copyright infringement, or lose my blog which of course makes me feel like a shameful hypocrite.  Then I was like "Huh? Which picture?" Did Rembrandt come back from the dead? Have Christian artists been resurrected and now they're threatening to sue me because I write about patriarchy and why-oh-why did I post that image of Satan when a Biblical woman should know better? I  was skating on thin ice clicking my mouse, "saving as", and pushing my luck (which considering the facts of my life, there isn't much of). So I go to the offending blog post with the copyrighted masterpiece that needed protection from misuse and abuse by criminals the likes of me and guess which picture it was? 

Was it Pieter Breugel the elder?  Mary Cassatt? No. It was a new photograph of a bowl of southern beans sitting on a lousy kitchen counter that someone had posted on their cooking blog. Now granted, I had copied and pasted in haste. I shouldn't have done that. I had given credit to the photographer, even highlighted her name with a link to her blog but evidently that wasn't enough to satisfy her territorial instincts. No. She turned me in to the police. Evidently, she valued that photograph more than her reader because she alienated a potential customer for life. I wouldn't read her lousy cooking blog, or shop off her hideous website, if all I had were fifty pounds of beans and no recipe. Was it worth threatening someone with a law suit over a bowl of beans? Well maybe. Esau sold his birthright for lentils, after all. Anyway, it was rather ironic since I write about  self-admiration and the grandiose inflation from "average" to "extraordinary", in the eyes of the artist narcissist only.

So much of modern life is stripped of meaning in our rush to acquire desires that we need the Arts to be accessible to as many people as possible. Thank you Google Art!

When visiting the Art Institute of Chicago to see a painting of Dorian Grey by Ivan Albright, it was shocking to find out that paintings we see in books are much smaller than the original paintings hanging on walls. You're thinking, "Duh CZ", aren't you? Well, what I mean is that the original paintings are MUCH larger and MUCH grander than we realized, sometimes taking up an entire wall! (click the Dorian Grey link and you'll see what I mean). Dorian Grey in a picture book is hideous; but Dorian Grey towering over your head reminds you of childhood. Albright's painting initiates a connection between little-you-then and big-you-now and you heal a little bit.

IN ALL HONESTY my friends, I know very little about art or art history. But nobody says you need a degree in art before you can appreciate it. You may need a degree in bullshit to appreciate a bowl of beans, though.

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  1. Jeeeezzzzuuussss Bible woman, are you kidding me? : "No. It was a new photograph of a bowl of southern beans sitting on a lousy kitchen counter that someone had posted on their cooking blog... I had copied and pasted in haste... I had given credit to the photographer, even highlighted her name with a link to her blog but evidently that wasn't enough to satisfy her territorial instincts. No. She turned me in to the police." Isn't providing an obvious link to her blog, and giving credit to the photographer, enough? Holy crap. I didn't know that Esau sold his birthright for lentils. What people won't do for legumes. Your use of art in your blog is always a source of pleasure and learning for me. But I bet I wouldn't have learned a damn thing from that dumb bowl of beans. So good riddance to bad roughage.

    1. I kid you not. Let my experience be a warning to anyone copying a biblical woman's bean pictures on her blog.

      "Good riddance to bad roughage." LOL!!

      Your comment made me laugh because this post was tongue-in-cheek, hoping people could hear me chuckling AND learn something about "saving as". Google was super-nice about my criminal offense, letting me off the hook for good behavior as long as I didn't keep the loot.

      (I have noticed an unsettling tendency for Bible folks to use the law to assert their righteous dominion. ;-P You can read more about "Who Would Jesus Sue?" on this fantastic blog:

      About Esau's bowl of beans. Well, some people say he had red beans, others a type of gruel. My cookbook, "Diet for a Small Planet", suggested Esau sold his birthright for mjeddrah which is a mixture of lentils and brown rice. And it's YUMMY (not sure it's better than an inheritance though).


    2. In case people have the munchies now, here's the recipe:

      Mjeddrah (mi-jed-rah)

      1-1/2 cups green lentils
      4 cups water or stock
      3 Tb. olive oil
      2 large onions, chopped
      1/2 tsp. salt
      3/4 cup brown rice

      Wash lentils. Bring lentils and water to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Heat olive oil in another pan and saute onions and salt until onions are translucent. Add brown rice and stir for 2 minutes.

      Combine onions, rice and lentils. Cover and simmer until lentils & rice are soft---about one hour. Stir occasionally. Additional water may be needed, one cup or more.

      I always cook this in a black cast iron pot for a long time, letting the liquid evaporate in the cooking without burning the food on the bottom of the pot.

      Although mjeddrah is usually eaten with salad, we like to cram it in a whole-wheat Pita Pocket with lettuce and onions, tomatoes and cucumbers, spinach and sprouts. Then top it off with a little olive oil and lemon juice. WOW.

    3. Dang! I left out the chocolate chips and Snickers bars. Here's the recipe:

      Freeze 16-oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
      Freeze six Snickers candy bars

      (double recipe if serving more than two)

      After frozen solid, chop Snickers bars into bite-size chunks. Grab a pita pocket and open wide. Layer inside of pita pocket with chocolate chips, Snicker chunks, whipped cream and Smucker's caramel ice cream topping.

      p.s. Can add 1/2 cup peanut butter if on a high-protein diet.

    4. OK, you win. Mjeddrah it is. I had a Dairy Queen blizzard today, to celebrate the start of spring break. I hadn't had one for many years. It was delicious, and I felt completely sick from the sugar afterward. So Mjeddrah it is. And a frozen Snickers on Sunday.

    5. LOL! If you take a picture of your frozen snickers delight sitting on your kitchen counter, I promise not to copy-and-paste. ;-P

      I haven't had a Dairy Queen blizzard for so long, I put whip cream in my pita. ha...Edit that recipe and skip the whipped cream. Fill it with Ben and Jerry's chocolate chunk. (Actually, I can't eat those sugary things. My downfall is homemade bread, mountains of rice, and calorie-dense foods like Mjeddrah.)

    6. Hahaha I thought CS meant an actual blizzard until I read again and saw the word "Dairy" :P (I'm tuned in for bad weather, since it's been such a cold winter.)
      Thanks for the recipe CZ, sounds delicious! I learned a few years ago that eating lentils with rice helps you to absorb the iron from the lentils better. Will most definitely try :)
      I do think people can be really over the top, ultimately it just makes them look pathetic with this "mine mine mine" mentality. I do hope you will keep sharing beautiful works of art with us, I really love how you find a painting or illustration to fit the post theme.

    7. Hi Kara! Nice to hear from you...hope all is well in your part of the world. (other than being cold, that is!)

      If you love hearty vegetarian dishes, you'll love Mjeddrah. Let me know if you have any problems with the recipe. some people like it 'soupy' but we prefer it quite dry, giving it more of a 'meat' texture.

      I will be more cautious about posting other people's photographs. I knew better so I can't get too upset about her complaint. However, she could have emailed me and settled things and who knows? She may have gotten me to send her a secret recipe or two as compensation for her pain and suffering.


    8. I think I'll like the dry version too. I'm thinking it would make a nice dish with roast red peppers and feta cheese.
      Things are ok over here thanks, we've just come back from visiting friends in Finland. I've put some photos on the blog.
      How is your course going?


  2. lolololol. Loved the post and loved your banter with CS. Heeelarious. Gave me a good laugh on this dreary Saturday. You've inspired me. I think I'm going to spend the rest of the day in the kitchen. Too bad I'm out of both lentils and Snickers bars.

    I read a lot of cooking sites. Would love the URL so I can make sure I boycott that site! Sheeesh! Settle down!

    1. Hi Kitty,

      I would tell you the name of the cooking blog but then I'd face a defamation suit. Besides, I was clearly in the wrong. So look for a royal blue bowl overflowing with beans and a sprig of perky parsley on the side, seated on a granite countertop. ;-P

      I really do not understand the "mine mine mine" mentality. But then again, I live with three other people and share everything I own from furniture to beanpots and I'm just so grateful to have something worth sharing.

      I say, "Be a care bear and share." Whatever you give away comes back three fold.

      The topic of intellectual property has come up from time-to-time on message boards. I dismissed it as silly a decade ago since no one was writing literary masterpieces (at least not in my view). Then I was accused of stealing a forum member's Intellectual Property so I sent her a tinfoil hat. Jest kiddin...I wanted to, though. After I stopped crying, that is.

      Then a few people (back in the nineties) started trademarking screen names. No kidding. I saw trademarks on phrases used on recovery sites and couldn't wrap my head around it! Language belongs to all of us. Didn't people realize that every artist from watercolor to bean photographers, stands on the shoulders of those who've gone before?

      I don't know if things are getting better of if people are tied up in court today, but I don't see the same degree of pathological self-importance and territorial paranoia that we saw ten years ago on the net.

      P.S. Writing a book and having it plagiarized is an entirely different thing from writing a message on an Internet forum and accusing people of plagiarism (aggrandizement anyone??). I used the same standard with that bowl of beans but maybe I'm not appreciative of bean portraiture. Think there's a Coursera class for that???

    2. As if it's even possible to not have work copied and re-used on the Internet. Have you ever looked something up (such as a recipe or instructions on how to cut a mango) and found the exact same identical information on, oh, ten different sites? And nobody cites anybody or gives credit anywhere, just copies the work and puts it up as their own. Sometimes they're clever enough to change a few words, but often it's verbatim. I've seen it so often that I've wondered what's going to happen to us if the Internet becomes a closed loop of information. It's a scary thought.

      I almost signed up for an introductory course in bean portraiture once, years ago, when I was on an art history kick. Well, it wasn't beans per se, it was vegetables, but it promised a full discussion on beans--green, black, pinto, cannellini, refried, and more--and all the social and philosophical impacts of such portraiture throughout art history. its emphasis was on Western European art, but promised brief explorations of other cultural vegetable portraiture as well. The Internet was still pretty young back then, but the course book claimed that bean portraiture--as well as that of many other fruits, grains, and legumes--was going to be the up and coming thing of the future, and that such a course was essential to anyone interested in the "frontiers of electronic communication." I scoffed at all that and signed up for a class on the Impressionists instead, but boy, was I wrong! It appears the such portraiture is taking its place amongst the world's great art, at least in the minds of those who create it.

      Who knew.


    3. The social and philosophical impact of bean portraiture throughout art history! hahaha!

      Elevating the humble bean to portraiture status would have social consequences forcing the installation of automatic room fresheners in corporate offices around the world.

      AND, imagine if you dare, the social implications of thousands of bean lovers in bean portraiture museums!

      It's probably best if Bean Portraiture remains underground. Instead of graffitti, we could call it gratutti. (some folks classify Grattuti as a Performance Art though.)

      O dear. Did I really write that? Well, I guess that's what happens when you tickle my funny bone, OR pull my finger!

      Somebody stop me, please!

  3. lololololol! Gratutti! You are a clever one, CZ!

  4. "You may need a degree in bullshit to appreciate a bowl of beans, though."


    Good grief, srsly? Well, now that you've "bean" there and done that, I hope you've learned your lesson, CZ!

    No wonder bean counters get a bad name.



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