Victoria’s Cover

PBS’s Masterpiece is airing Victoria in the US. I haven’t started watching it yet but Julie has recorded the first of the eight parts and we are going to watch it together.

I was on Amazon today and I couldn’t help but notice what is certainly one of the most beautiful cover photos I’ve seen in a very long time.

See what I mean?

I was delighted to read that season two is already in pre-production.

The cover image is likely ©ITV.

Liberation, at last!

You know how you sometimes read the comments made about an article, and once in a blue moon, someone will crystallize your thoughts and write them in a way you wish you’d thought of? That happened to me this morning.

With Kaye West in the news again, after asking Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1 billion in “his ideas,” and then turning to Google’s Larry Page for a billion when Zuckerberg didn’t answer right away. He gave Tidal the exclusive rights to his new album to drive traffic there and is now mulling a lawsuit against The Pirate Bay after more than a million people decided to download the album for free rather than pay a monthly fee to have access to it. He also mentioned in a tweet that he’s rich and can buy furs and houses for his family the day after claiming he’s $53 million in debt, and solicited prayers for him to overcome. And among the lyrics in his new album are those in which he wrote he might still have sex with Taylor Swift because he made her famous. Dude’s had a week in fairy-world, all right!

After reading of this circus on Ars Technica1, one of the comments on the article resonated with me. User dfavro wrote:

Kanye West is the personification of my being generation-gapped. He’s the point I finally transitioned from “gets youth culture” to “get off my lawn”. I got Taylor Swift and her contemporaries. I got Jay-Z, Lamar and such. I admit I really struggled with Drake, but I got there, sort of.

Kanye I don’t get at all. I’ve read the (glowing) music press about his work and I just don’t see the appeal. The lyrics aren’t great, the production is interesting, the actual sound is muddy and unpleasant. But dammit, if the press and the millennials don’t love the guy as an artist.

And I just don’t see it. It’s unpleasant at best and painfully bad at worst. With “No More Parties” I kept thinking that it must be a joke that I’m just not getting.

It’s either an “Emperor has no clothes” or I’m officially my parents.

Even ignoring Kanye’s acting like a child in an adult’s body, I don’t understand why he hasn’t already faded into obscurity. I suspect that the gossip mills have become popular enough to keep an artist in the spotlight despite their having long passed their ‘best before’ date. Just look at his wife. What did Kim Kardashian do? A sex tape. That’s it. It’s depressing. All I can do is my part to make sure I don’t personally support either of their continuing popularity with a single cent of my income. And this I certainly do!

Just when I found myself really down in the dumps, user Statistical found the silver lining:

The good new is once you finally accept you are no longer young and hip it is kinda liberating! You just do your own thing.

Isn’t that the truth? The older I get, the less I care what others think and it is more than a little liberating!

  1. Sebastian Anthony, “Kanye West reportedly considering legal action against Pirate Bay over Life of Pablo,” from Ars Technica, 2016-02-19.


My friend Claire and I were discussing women’s shoes. Hey, it happens. I like women. I like their shoes, too. I quickly found it difficult to describe my preferences with only words so I went searching for images to illustrate my point. Since I wasn’t buying, I went straight to the premium brands, and found this beauty.

I often find that shoes are difficult to judge if they’re presented without being worn. Indeed, sometimes they look ridiculous. The Louboutin Charleen is such a beautiful shoe that it looks like a piece of art as is. Imagine a lovely woman wearing them with a complimentary outfit! No wonder they’re asking $775.00 US for a pair.

Image copyright Christian Louboutin

Upsetting the balance

Copyright protection is an artificial construct. Without copyright, new artistic creations would enter the public domain and become part of our culture as soon as artists release their works. With copyright protection, the government allows artists to enjoy exclusive control of their creations for a set period to encourage their creativity. Then, when the copyright period on their work expires, it enters the public domain so anyone can build upon it to enrich our culture. You can look at it as a compromise. The public is not allowed to take full advantage of new creations to encourage artists to create more. It’s good for both the artists and the public, as long as it maintains a balance between the interested parties.

In the past, copyright has worked differently than it does now. Under the Copyright Act of 1842, copyright protection lasted for the life of the creator plus 7 years, or 42 years from publication (whichever was greater). The Copyright Act 1842 was a British law which affected Canada, since Canada was a British colony at the time. After Confederation, Canada enacted its own copyright regulation, the Copyright Act of 1875, which change the period of protection to an initial term of 28 years, with option to renew for another 14 years.

Today, things are quite different. The terms of copyright protection depend on the artistic work. For example, if you write a song, copyright will protect the song for the length of your life, plus 50 years. If you record the song and release it, the recording, until very recently, would enjoy copyright protection for 50 years from the recording date. Why the song itself and a recording of the song have different terms, I don’t know. In once sense, it doesn’t matter because while the recording is protected for only 50 years, the recording is merely one performance of the song, and the song is protected for the artist’s life, plus 50 years. Once the first 50 years expires, the recording falls into the public domain, but the song (the composition itself) is still protected.

Earlier I said that until recently, a recording enjoys copyright protection for 50 years. This is because in the latest federal budget, the Conservative government extended copyright protection on recorded works from 50 years to 70 years. Certainly copyright issues are not at all related to the budget, but this government is absolutely in love with omnibus bills, in which they include all sorts of unrelated items in the hopes that comparatively unimportant, but unpalatable items, are accepted because of the higher profile, more desirable items in the bill. This is why a copyright extension appears in a budget.

But honestly, does a 70-year term of copyright protection really serve the balance for which copyright was created? I’d suggest that it does not. To encourage the creation of artistic works, copyright protection must expire so the artist is encouraged to create new items. It’s not hard to imagine that the bulk of most artists’ creative output occurs after they are 20 years old. Most people don’t live until the age of 90, so a 70 year protection is effectively life-long. If the artist hits it big and has enough money to live on, they need not create anything ever again. This does not at all serve the public.

The first copyright protection in the United States had a term of only 14 years, with a 7 year renewal being an option. Now that would certainly encourage an artist to keep creating new works!

Of course the elephants in the room are the record companies. They’re the ones who want the longest term possible, because they hold the copyright on the artist’s work. Handing them ownership of the copyright is a term of the record contract. For all their belly aching about how the artist needs protection, it’s really their own interested they serve. This clear when you consider the terms of a record deal. The record companies to everything they can to make sure the artist makes as little as possible.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is always ready to help out a business pal.

So here we have a government who extended the copyright term on recorded works. No one saw this coming. There was no public consultation, no debate, and not even any notification that this was being considered. Yet as soon as the government released the budget, literally minutes later, Music Canada (representing Sony, Warner, and Universal Music) posted a press release stating how pleased they were at this announcement. Further, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote to Music Canada President Graham Henderson stating that he felt a 50 year copyright term wasn’t sufficient to protect artists, so it would be extended to 70 years. The letter was dated April 11, 2015, the same day the government tabled the budget. All the big U.S. labels had to do is write a letter and ask for the copyright term extension and the Prime Minister fell all over himself in compliance. I’ve written the Prime Minister several times and I can assure you that I’ve yet to even receive a reply, much less get what I want.

In the balance between the artists who create the music and the public who buys and enjoys it, who does the Harper government reward so richly? Neither of course. They shower favour upon the foreign companies who do their absolute best to screw both the artists and the public.

This is the Harper government, at its finest.

Poor pianist

Meet Valentina Lisitsa. She’s a pianist who was scheduled to perform two shows with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. She feels she’s being treated unfairly because she’s been replaced. Despite her still being paid, it’s clearly not fair!

What prompted the TSO’s hand was her performance on her twitter account. See, she’s very pro-Russian when it comes to the Ukraine. Differing opinions happen, but she’s taken it a step further. According to WQXR, Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson said,

Due to ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets, we have decided to replace Valentina Lisitsa.

I went to her twitter account, but it’s such a zoo that I never got back as far as these alleged offensive tweets. She’s draped herself in freedom of speech and accused the TSO of censorship. Frankly, when I saw all that, I thought perhaps she was very young. In fact, she’s in her 40s and should know better.

I’m bemused at her not realizing that the things we say can have consequences we don’t like. The TSO has not censored her in the least. She continues to enjoy the freedom to say what he wants. But those pesky consequences!

To my amusement, one of her supporters lamented that music should be free of politics. Putting aside overtly political music, I agree. I replied and voiced my agreement. But I added, “…so who brought politics into it? Not the TSO.”

The performance, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in this case, should indeed be about the music, but she turned it into a circus. She brought politics into it and I can’t fault the TSO for their actions. Melanson nailed it perfectly when he stated,

Valentina Lisitsa’s provocative comments have overshadowed past performances. As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.

It’s precisely because of this kind of thing that I do not understand entertainers who ‘let themselves out’ in social media. The moment they make their Facebook page, their Twitter feed, or their web page a platform for their views, especially political views, they’re going to drive people away. That’s simply not good business unless what you express is a common belief among your audience. I’m not suggesting that entertainers should agree with everyone, but why not just entertain, and express outrage to one’s friends and family, like most of us do?

I’m also not suggesting that anyone limit themselves if they simply can’t help it, but don’t portray yourself as being wronged when I exercise my freedom of choice and support another artist who cares more about sharing their craft than their politics.

Photo by Michael von Aichberger, used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0)