Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT): librivox.org.
LibriVox is the go-to site for free, public-domain audio books (and shorter works). I’ve been listening to a selection of poetry on my daily commute: Blake, Dickinson, Shakespeare and others.
The readers are volunteers, and my gratitude to them is tremendous, but they vary in competence. Some read mechanically; some in sing-song; some melodramatically; and some with the right amount of expression, but with odd choices in emphasis and phrasing. (I have a theory about this last group: I believe they are good prose readers, who give too much semantic weight to line endings when it comes to verse.) Not a few, however, get it just right. What’s more, many of the offerings on LibriVox — especially the shorter ones — are provided in multiple versions with different readers, so you can choose the one you like best. (I suggest someone with a cockney accent, when possible, for Blake’s poems.)
LibriVox provides audio files in mp3 and ogg vorbis formats, and links to text versions of the works. The site can be hard to browse, just because of the sheer number of files in their catalog. Since all offerings are public domain (as are the performances), new works are scarce. With the wealth of classics at your earbuds, though, that’s hardly a problem worth whining about.
How a Poem Happens: Contemporary poets answer questions on the genesis of a particular poem. The questions don’t vary, but the answers do. Individually, the responses provide a glimpse into the development of a particular verbal artifact; collectively, they demonstrate the varied ways the creative process works. Recent poets/poems include Robert Pinsky’s “Shirt,” Erika Meitner’s “Miracle Blanket” and Todd Davis’s “Accident.”
Link of the Random Interval of Time: The Library of Congress 180 Project.
The Library of Congress Poetry 180 project displays a poem every weekday throughout the school year, selected by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins. Geared for high school students, but not student poetry. Sign up for an e-mail subscription at https://service.govdelivery.com/service/subscribe.html?code=USLOC_18&origin=http://www.loc.gov/rss/ or use the RSS feed at http://www.loc.gov/rss/poetry/180.xml.
This site describes itself as “A Clearinghouse For New Ideas About Copyright” (capitalization theirs, I can only assume it’s the site subtitle). This is a conversation we need to be having. The intellectual property world is torn. Within the bounds of legal behavior, we have on the one extreme those who see any sharing of “content” without an exchange of money as poaching — who view public libraries as legalized theft — who find it reasonable to charge a grocery store stocker a public performance fee if she sings while she works; and on the other extreme, we have… well, people like me, who in theory question the concept of intellectual property, and who in pragmatic terms think fewer fences and more sharing benefit creators and consumers alike (not that they are distinct sets of people). New, open business models don’t benefit the middlemen, though. That’s one sticking point. Another is the desire of some successful and aspiring authors and musicians to keep the horribly skewed profit distribution of the current system, either because they have struck it rich or expect to. But as Masnick of TechDirt and others have pointed out, it might be getting harder to make a fortune with content, but it’s getting easier to make a living. As a good neo-socialist, I’m all for that redistribution of opportunity.
(Climbs off soapbox)
Anyway, that’s me. Check out QuestionCopyright for yourself, and question copyright.
Threatened Voices: Tracking suppression of online free speech
This site describes itself as “A collaborative mapping project to build a database of bloggers who have been threatened, arrested or killed for speaking out online and to draw attention to the campaigns to free them.” The front page is an interactive world map of bloggers facing threats — or those for whom it’s already too late. The default view is by country (the USA has 2), but you can also filter by status, including “under arrest,” “released,” “threatened,” “deceased” and “unknown.” The map has its glitches. When I selected “Unknown,” Tanzanian blogger Malecela Peter Lusinde showed up in Texas.
The American bloggers are Elliott Madison, charged with hindering prosecution for using Twitter to help G20 protestors avoid police, and Elisha Strom, apparently arrested for publishing the address of a police officer.
When you view the page for a specific blogger, in addition to basic info and links to the blogger’s site and any help-the-blogger campaign site, you’ll see a related newsfeed from “trusted websites.” Like the map, this feed is a little flaky. Stories supposedly related to Elliott Madison show up because they mention Madison Square Garden, president James Madison, or musician Liam Madison.
The profiled bloggers aren’t always people I admire or agree with, but that’s the point of free speech: it’s for all sorts of speech, for all sorts of people. Agreeable speech doesn’t need protection.
In some cases, I might agree that the blogging/tweeting in question broke a just law; but those are the fringe cases the forces of censorship love to present as typical, and it’s easy enough to ignore them. Overall, I salute the work and goals of Threatened Voices.
I read the TechDirt blog (http://www.techdirt.com) for the Intellectual Property (IP) and media stories, and that’s a big part of the content. TechDirt is run by Michael Masnick, who writes most if not all of the posts.
Masnick and I don’t seem to be near one another on the political spectrum; he comes across as a libertarian (and maybe a Libertarian, but I don’t know), whereas I’m more of a commie-pinko-socialist type. Nevertheless, we often arrive at similar positions on IP issues by different routes. And I agree with a few of the basic points he makes, in different ways, over and over: “intellectual property” is a metaphor, and a confusing one; the PR from publishing groups (whether print, music, software or film) exaggerates the rights of content creators and the problem of piracy, and minimizes the rights of the public — including the rights of content creators, when it comes to making use of existing content; and if you’re a scribe, you try to figure out how to make money from this new-fangled “printing press” gadget (or switch jobs), rather than asking for government restrictions on its use to protect your profession.
Agree with the positions or not, TechDirt consistently offers a thoughtful perspective on intellectual property issues.
Mood: artifically sweetened
The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/index.php): “The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.” Most famously this is the home of the Wayback Machine, containing archives of (often vanished) web pages dating to 1996. They also host archives of moving images, audio files, text files, software, and education resources. I guess I can stop cruising around the web for a while. I’ll be spending my next few years here.