Pluralistic: 06 Feb 2022

Today's links

The title-card from 'Dealing With Fair Dealing,' a pastiche of the clouds-and-blue-sky Simpsons title-card.

Explaining UK Fair Dealing with Simpsons clips (permalink)

It's been 15 years since Bucknell U film prof Eric Faden made "A Fair(y) Tale," a short film that explains fair use by stringing together short, fair-use-qualifying clips from Disney movies. It remains an amazing accomplishment!

Fair(y) Tale took 9 months to piece together as Faden painstakingly searched the corpus of Disney animation to find the literal mots justes for his video explainer.

15 years later, Bournemouth's Claudy Op Den Kamp and her students decided to create their own version of Fair(y) Tale – this one explaining UK Fair Dealing exceptions to copyright, using 380+ clips from The Simpsons.

It's a stellar seven minutes! What's more, thanks to tools like Playphrase, her students were able to make this short in just eight weeks!

The cover for 'Woody Guthrie, Songs and Art * Words and Wisdom.'

Woody Guthrie, Songs and Art * Words and Wisdom (permalink)

Being a red diaper baby, I was raised on folks songs – from lullabies to long car trips, we sang them all the time. When I got a little older, I learned that a remarkable number of these songs were all written by one man: Woody Guthrie. I thought I appreciated Guthrie's legacy, but I was only scratching the surface.

Woody Guthrie, Songs and Art + Words and Wisdom is a new title from Chronicle Books, collecting 332 pages' worth of reproductions of Guthrie's art, songs and journals, as well as essays by notables who were influenced by Guthrie, as well as two of his kids: Arlo and Nora Guthrie.

Nora Guthrie worked with Robert Santelli, who cofounded the Woody Guthrie Center with her, to uncover and organize a representative – and thrilling – sample of Guthrie's enormous archives. I do mean enormous. I knew Guthrie as a songwriter and musician, but I had no idea just how many songs he wrote.

A handwritten list of song titles.

Guthrie, it turns out, was a restless and driven songwriter, who wrote lyrics constantly, typing up the final draft and then hand-annotating them with notes about how he came to write them, being an archivist of his own life. As much as Guthrie wrote, he always had more to say; one of the spreads in the book reproduces a long list of titles for hypothetical Guthrie songs he planned to write one day.

The typed, signed lyrics to the children's song 'Why Oh Why.'

Even if you weren't raised by Communists, you probably grew up with Guthrie, too. Guthrie was obsessed with his kids, and produced an extensive catalog of kids' music. I used to sing "Why, Oh Why" to my own kid at bedtime all the time – when I found a scan of the original lyric-sheet, I got actual chills.

Guthrie's most celebrated song, of course, was "This Land Is Your Land," a radical vision of a nation based on solidarity and equality. "This Land" is part of the fabric of America. Back when Jibjab used it to lampoon the 2004 election race between John Kerry and GW Bush, the corporate grifters of Ludlow Music claimed to own the song (no, really!) and tried to get the video removed through bogus copyright claims.

I was part of the group at EFF who worked with Guthrie's family and musicologists to show that "This Land" is (of course) in the public domain.

How could it not be. As Guthrie famously wrote on his lyrics, "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do."

That's the spirit of "This Land," distilled to a single line of poetry. As Chuck D writes in his essay for the book, "This Land" introduced him to Guthrie's work, which came to be a huge influence on his own songwriting for Public Enemy and his own solo work.

The typed lyrics, annotated by hand, for 'You Fascists Bound to Lose,' dated Dec 27 1942.

It's not surprising that today's radicals are part of Guthrie's legacy. Guthrie lived and worked through a period of intense American inequality, economic crises, rising fascism, racial uprisings, austerity and environmental calamity (sound familiar?).

A Guthrie editorial cartoon featuring a person being kicked out of a house, captioned 'And don't come back till you REGISTER to vote.'

Browsing the book, there's so much resonance with today's struggles. For example, Guthrie was a lively illustrator (much of the book is given over to his art) and his editorial cartoons excoriating people who fail to register to vote could be wheatpasted to telephone poles today without any updating.

A 1944 typewritten essay that begins 'I hate a song.'

Anyone who works diligently at a single project for a long time is bound to have some insights into it, and Guthrie's journals and essays chart the development of a full-fledged philosophy of art and aesthetics.

Guthrie died young and hard of Huntington's, though as his kids document, even after he went into assisted living and his wife remarried, he remained part of the family. As they say, Guthrie's wife Marjorie insisted that the men she married after Guthrie were marrying him, too. She and her husbands would bring Guthrie home every weekend, to socialize with the greats of folk music and radical politics.

Woody Guthrie's numbered list of 33 New Year's Resolutions for 1944.

Every New Year's, Guthrie's wonderful, uplifting list of 33 resolutions for 1944 makes the rounds. It constitutes a 33-line poem describing a life driven by art and love, passion and commitment, joy and self-reflection. This glorious book turns that poem into a vivid portrait of a man whose legacy is all around us, in so much that is good and hopeful about today.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Rush Limbaugh denounces the Tivo

#15yrsago Canada’s copyright czar Bev Oda and her publicly funded limos

#10yrsago Romania’s prime minister doesn’t know why he signed ACTA, Czech Republic’s out

#5yrsago Kellyanne Conway’s talked about the “Bowling Green massacre” before

#5yrsago Skynet: Trump campaigned like a crappy AI, and now he’s governing like one, too

#5yrsago In Trump’s shambolic White House, staffers who can’t find the light-switches literally hold meetings in the dark

#1yrago Klobuchar wants to bust her some fuckin' trusts

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Eric Faden (

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