Greatness

Last night’s performance of Twelfth Night went swimmingly. more than a dozen partisans of Si’s Malvolio showed up (including Jane, Bruce, Carolyn, Kyle, Heather, Sky, Susie, Laurel, Beth, Nick, Myra, David, Monica, Emily, and of course Pippa and me), and the Thin Ice Theater rewarded us with a delightful evening’s entertainment.

The Courtship

(Further photographic evidence at my flickr site.)

Si is relieved to have made it through this show — but he’s already looking forward to playing Felix Unger in The Odd Couple in March.

Those Were The Days

This post from Doc reminded me of my old days in the Taylor Allderdice Bowling League (at Forward Lanes, whose “late ’50s, early ’60s decor” probably just means they never redecorated), when I was captain of the Centipedes. I had a classic old bowling ball, a kind that it looks as though they don’t even make any more — solid black, but with a clear window for the logo to show through. Larry Odle used to call me “Kid Ebonite. . . .”

Unfortunately, my thumb condition may make bowling a non-possible avocation these days. . . .

I’m Only Sleeping

Or “seeping,” as college roommate Matt Pappathan used to insist John was singing.

This morning at 4:05 (I remember the announced time vividly), Philippa knocked on the bedroom door to advise me that Beatrice was yapping downstairs, making it hard for her (Pippa) to sleep. (It probably was hard for Bea to sleep, too, but that wasn’t the point.)

I went downstairs to investigate, let Bea out of her kennel to wander around the kitchen; she’d been vomiting last night, Si had told me when he arrived in from opening night of his role as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. I figured she might be uncomfortably hungry or thirsty, so I put out a small portion of chow and some fresh water. She paced around the kitchen for a few minutes, ate and drank, and started pacing again, when she toddled over to a corner and dispensed a small lake’s worth of urine. (That’s odd, since she’s usually reliable enough to ask to be let outside.) So I shooed her outside, cleaned up with Nature’s Miracle, tried to induce her to come inside, put on my parka and shoes to try to catch her in the dark, at night, in the sub-freezing weather, with Bea feeling perky as can be after restoring her digestive equilibrium, finally chased her to the steps, let her in, and closed her up for the rest of the night — at which point I was pretty wide awake, finally falling asleep again about an hour and a half later. So if I seem a little groggy now (or at tonight’s performance of Twelfth Night), please excuse-z-z-z-z-z. . . . .

Lyrics and Pop-Ups

Is there an online source for lyrics devoid of obnoxious, obtrusive pop-up ads? So that, if I wanted to link to a song lyric, I could rely on pointing people to a site that wouldn’t try to take over their browser?

I use browsers that [try to] filter out pop-ups, and others should, too — but I don’t want to cooperate, even unwittingly, with pop-up villains.

Goes With The Job

One of the responsibilities of the Greek professor at Seabury involves the perpetual translation of an inscription on one of the seminary common-room fireplaces. Yesterday in our Greek study group, Beth and Jane asked me about it again: Ηθος Ανθρωπος Δαιμων, (Ethos Anthropos Daimon).

I hadn’t done the background work on the quotation before — just gave a translation from reasoning about what I was told, that is, “Character is a person’s tutelary spirit” (I’ve also said “guardian angel,” with explanation). That never satisfied me, quite; I disliked the sequence of nouns in the nominative, though that could be a proverbial style. Exactly what to do with daimon wasn’t clear to me, either; I figured it was a personal guiding spirit such as Socrates invokes.

So yesterday I did the research legwork to find out (a) that my sources had misquoted the fireplace,
Ethos Anthrwpwi daimon
which actually reads Ηθος Ανθρωπῳ Δαιμων, and then (b) that the saying comes from Heraclitus, Fragment 119 (some of the translations here look odd, but it has the Greek side-by-side), and the generally accepted sense of daimon here is that of “fate” or “destiny.” That works better — “A person’s character is their destiny” — and now instead of three nominatives, we have a dative of interest (“dative of the possessor,” Smyth 1474), which makes perfect sense.

The Suspense

I’m heading out for jury duty thus morning, with mixed feelings. On one hand, I understand the importance of all citizens serving in this capacity; on the other, I sure hope they don’t call me for a long trial, just now when I’ve got sole responsibility for Pippa and Si, it’s the end of the term at Seabury, and I have complicated relation to civil authority in the first place. I’ll let you know what happens.

Marqui Morality

Here’s more of what I’m thinking about the blogging-for-dollars brouhaha:

If we don’t start from the presupposition that bloggers represent some idyllic zone of innocence — and I recognize that some of us do think of Blogaria as that kind of nexus, but I don’t have the brainpower to argue that case just now, so I’m bracketing that consideration — the pivotal question relative to Marqui seems to me to be, Are the paid-bloggers ethically compromised simply via having accepted money for a Marqui ad on their page, and a weekly mention of the fact that Marqui is sponsoring them? And it’s hard for me to see how Marqui constitutes a different kind of moral challenge than BlogAds, Blogspot ads (where’d they go?), GoogleAds, or even (now that we mention it) Amazon Associates.

Moreover, when Chris Locke landed a gig actively promoting an online service — and God bless them and him — were we worried that HighBeam would corrupt his blogging integrity?

The argument that intrigues me most is the suggestion that the subsidy creates a questionable “temptation to transgress” — that’s a beautiful point, and I’m attracted to it for heavy theological reasons. Still, what kind of commercial relationship doesn’t entail such a temptation? What relationship of trust doesn’t involve a potential temptation? And what online relationship doesn’t entail potentially corruptive elements? Am I working on this topic, perhaps, thinking that I can win some hot links out of the discussion, or out of the hope that Marc Canter will recommend my twenty readers as a sound investment for Marqui’s next round of subsidies?

And that gets back to what looks like the paramount consideration, the Aristotelian “ultimate particular,” to me. If that which the payment endangers is trust, then isn’t there a sense in which “trust” is precisely the variable in play regardless of the payments? If David Weinberger accepted a Marqui ad, would I trust him less? By no means (as the Apostle says)! My trust in David means that I wouldn’t expect him to be swayed by financial interests. Indeed, among the bloggers whom I trust most confidently number both prominent refusers (David, Shelley), Doc (who doesn’t seem to have taken an aye-or-nay stand), three subsidized bloggers (Mitch, Allen, and Jon), and one chief blogging officer (Chris). Of these, I can give fairly thorough and (I hope) persuasive accounts of why I trust some, and more intuitive, thinner accounts of why I trust others. And as for Chris, well, there’s no reasonable explanation, but I trust him anyway. Mostly. On the other hand, I can think of bloggers whose word I wouldn’t trust even if they could show absolutely no connection to Marqui or other source of subsidies; they haven’t shown the kind of reliability that would warrant my trusting them, subsidy or none.

Trust is vital and fragile, and one is foolish to treat it roughly; but I don’t think accepting a financial subsidy constitutes an ipso facto rough treatment. Trust proves itself through reasoned risk, and everything I’ve seen suggests that Mitch and Allen and Jon aren’t just snapping up quick and easy money, but have careful reasons for their willingness to participate in this experiment. They may be wrong, or self-deceived — but this is how we find out.

Just Can’t Stop It

At BloggerCon I last fall, Scott Rosenberg lamented the price he pays for daily delivery of the Wall Street Journal. Si and I responded that at some point that fall, we had started receiving the WSJ unrequested, and we didn’t know what to do with it.

That was more than a year go, and since then, every weekday, we’ve received a copy of the WSJ. I called the Journal’s subscriptions department a while ago and asked them please to save themselves some paper by canceling our undesired subscription, but they responded that we were receiving the paper as part of a promotion connected with Margaret’s having taken a GRE preparation course last year, and that the Journal itself couldn’t do anything about it; they don’t have us on their records.

So listen, if you’re driving through Evanston and want a free copy of the Wall Street Journal, just stop by our lawn. It’ll be sitting there undisturbed — unless someone else got it first.

Why I Don’t Blog

Frank wanted to know why we blog, and I still owe him an answer. This, however, is why I don’t blog: three classes today, two chapel services, two errands, meal preparations, and a vigorous email controversy about blogging for dollars (does Sting sing in the background, “I want my Scripting News”?).

I did just download the U2 album, and am pleased — though not yet captivated.

DRM, Again

Here’s a short thought, provoked by this post at Jenny’s blog.

When the publication/distribution profiteers paint themselves as the defenders of artists’ rights, they always frame the issue on the royalties of the individual artist, which that artist presumably loses when audiences share books, recordings, and so on. As Doc always reminds us (based on his appreciation of George Lakoff), the framing makes the big difference here.

That frame excludes from our field of deliberation a number of ways that restrictive copyright mechanisms harm not only the interests of acquisitive audiences, but also those of all artists. Most obviously, it’s a good thing for people to be able freely to enjoy the work of artists; though almost all artists, authors, et al., relish income and would like more of it, virtually all whom I know yearn for attention and appreciation also — and we can show that many are willing to trade off potential income for attention.

But that’s only the beginning. Artists (and from now on, I’ll just say “artists” as a shorthand for all who have a producer’s interest in reproducible works) have an interest in the freedom to compose works without anxiety over whether they’ll be inhibited or even prosecuted for transgressing on another’s alleged copyright. Artists have an interest in audiences having the freedom casually to become interested in their work — a freedom that DRM restrictions stifle. Artists have an interest in public goodwill, the sort of positive feelings that highly-restrictive copyright regimens erode (how interested will I be in paintings if I have to pay fifty cents for a two-minute glimpse of “Nude Descending a Staircase”?

Especially since the circumstances of production and reproduction have changed in fundamental ways, we need to reconfigure the ways that the public rewards artists — and the ways that the public experiences and shares artists’ works. That’s not only for the sake of audiences, but even and especially for artists, too.