Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mean, miserly bean-counting and quality of life.

As Stanley Fish wrote (New York Times, August 9, 2010, “Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal” – and also disclaimed as arguments he was reporting, not endorsing), “In recent years there have been a number of assaults on the notion of originality, issuing from fields as diverse as literary theory, history, cultural studies, philosophy, anthropology, Internet studies. Single authorship, we have been told, is a recent invention of a bourgeois culture obsessed with individualism, individual rights and the myth of progress. All texts are palimpsests of earlier texts; there’s been nothing new under the sun since Plato and Aristotle and they weren’t new either; everything belongs to everybody. In earlier periods works of art were produced in workshops by teams; the master artisan may have signed them, but they were communal products. In some cultures, even contemporary ones, the imitation of standard models is valued more than work that sets out to be path-breaking.” Commentator Vanessa W of Chicago posted, in response to that article, “Dean Fish mentions and then doesn't explore another form of intellectual theft: professors who make graduate students and other research assistant do all the research and writing for their manuscripts and then take credit for all the work.” Touché!
“Interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot”, as Jonathan Lethem referred to it (in “The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism”, Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 2007), creative amalgamations “consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production.” Then, “consider the remarkable series of ‘plagiarisms’ that links Ovid's “Pyramus and Thisbe” with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, or Shakespeare's description of Cleopatra, copied nearly verbatim from Plutarch's life of Mark Antony and also later nicked by T. S. Eliot for The Waste Land. If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.”
Current copyright, trademark, and patent laws are not only corrupt, and don’t just deny the essential gift-aspect of the creative act - they sit on the face of shared enjoyment, smothering life, culture, fun, participation and spontaneity.
On the other hand, the conceit that some things should not be bought or sold, including votes and sexual interactivity, is absurd: people do things to get things, be they physical things or not. But who cares about reality anymore? All that is important is relative standing…

The brother of a close friend of mine uploaded tunes from 50+ year-old 45 rpm “singles” he’d found at garage sales and in bargain bins, legal to give away and no longer available for regular commercial sale on any kind of disk, tunes most who had ever heard had forgotten, and made them available for downloading from his blog, by anyone who went there. The music business mafia soon put a stop to that. Why? No-one was losing money, or anything else. Similarly (to me, at least), Microsoft sent goons to police e-mail shops internationally; here in ChiangRai they confiscated machines, as if they had some kind of legal authority in this country.
But it’s easy to point to sources for many tunes, and Microsoft’s luck with sales – success is often not the result of hard work, diligence, brilliance, talent or even perseverance. Often it’s merely from willingness to take advantage, opportunism. And, somehow, we’re willing to sacrifice some of our potential quality of life for that. Meaning, we’ve been gullible fools.
And maybe because of that, some want to vent at unfortunate victims of our pathetic educational system, and berate them for making reports for classes by cutting and pasting from the Net. I remember how in 6th grade, I wondered how I could be expected to write anything “original” about the Roman Empire, and in 10th grade, how a teacher could have the gall to assign each of us in my class the task of writing an “original” story. Amazing, simply amazing.



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