I am awesome

I was neither prepared nor in a particularly good mood when I did this “webinar” for Agora I/O. It was eerie having a “conversation” in which I could neither see nor hear the other participants. It was just me and my own voice, with questions and comments occasionally popping up in text on another webpage. Because of that, I couldn’t read anyone’s body language and try to pre-emptively smooth things over and “people please”; I could only speak my mind. Which I did. Which, upon reviewing, was a pretty great thing. You may not like me, but I sure do!

The fun starts about 8 minutes in, and gets better as it goes along. If you know about my story and Sita Sings the Blues, you can skip what comes before that, which is a basic recap.

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Analytic Chemist Needed

A few weeks ago I ran this comic at Mimi & Eunice:

I’ve long suspected that soy sauce could contain only small traces of wheat, so I did a little online research. Surprisingly, I found only one item that addressed the gluten content of soy sauce directly, and found it contains none at all:

Gluten analysis of two popular soy sauces
We sent a sample of soy sauce of the brands Kikkoman and Lima to an external laboratory to determine gluten levels. In both samples the gluten content was below detection limit of 5ppm (see report). According to a new European legislation, which will only be fully implemented in 2012, gluten-free foodstuffs should contain less than 20 ppm gluten. The FDA also proposes a limit of 20 ppm. This means that our two tested products may be considered as gluten-free soy sauce. link

The article contains a link to a lab report which appears to be Belgian. It’s strong evidence, but celiac organizations are still claiming soy sauce contains gluten, which leads trolls to leave furious comments at mimiandeunice.com and my Facebook page for daring to suggest otherwise.

I’d like to clear up the soy sauce confusion once and for all. A Belgian lab report makes one data point, but more data points are needed, especially because these substances may differ between the US and Europe. What I’d like is an analysis of several brands of American soy sauce, both conventional shoyu (derived from wheat ingredients) and “gluten-free” tamari. Also both fancy health food store brands, and cheap run of the mill supermarket kinds. What would really be helpful is a brand-by-brand chart the wheat-sensitive could refer to.

So, is there an analytic chemist in the house? A chemistry grad student? A biochem hacker space with time and resources on their hands? I’m certainly not a chemist, but if you produce such a report you’ll have my undying gratitude and whatever publicity I and Mimi & Eunice can muster. Also, you’d be doing good for the world.

Continue reading Analytic Chemist Needed

Off The Hook

Last night I was a guest on 2600’s Off the Hook hacker radio show. I start ranting about copyright about 1/4 of the way in, and keep going until the end. Listen here.

My New Hobby

is sewing/quilting/embroidery/textile arts.

Here’s my first quilt ( a small one, 29″ x 17.5″) which I finished last night. It’s for my Momz, who requested “a nude with all the bells and whistles.”

Everything I learned from teh interwebs, which is full of quilting information and many good videos. I especially like the web site & videos of Leah Day, who makes free motion quilting look much easier than it is. Leah shares her videos and knowledge freely, which works – I’m a fan now, and spent over $250 at her online quilting store. It’s a business model I’m familiar with.

Speaking of business models, there’s an argument made by copyright advocates that no one would do anything creative without monetary (or monopoly) incentives:
Incentive to Create

My past few weeks exploring quilting confirms this is absolutely not true. In less than a month of getting myself set up with a sewing machine, fabric, threads, and other supplies, I’ve probably shelled out $1,000. It started with an inexpensive sewing machine ($250), but then I needed special feet for it, and cutters, and an iron, and pins, and threads, and batting, and fabric, and a sewing table, and IKEA drawers to hold all this stuff, and on and on. And that was being budget-conscious; I could easily spend a lot more. In fact I really, really want a longer machine with more space under the arm; unfortunately those cost about $3,000.

I’m not alone: tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans pay for the privilege to create, not the other way around. Most quilters are not paid; most actually give their work away, to family, friends and charities. That’s folk art, people: it’s not done for money. And yes, it is art.

It’s very much like filmmaking, which is now a folk art.

“The film business has never been a business. It’s always been a hobby.” –someone whose name I don’t remember at a film conference I attended last year

Even setting aside independent film productions, which are hobbies in business clothing, most people spend more on video cameras and computers than they’ll ever get back selling their work. With the spread of cheap animation software, animation is now a folk art too. With the rise of print-on-demand self-publishing, novel-writing is also becoming folk art (Pirates of Savannah by Tarrin Lupo is what I’d call a folk art novel). All the super-elite arts of the 20th Century are becoming folk art.

Would I still like to make money with this? Yes, I would. But I’ve already spent plenty of money with no promise of monetary return. It’s been worth it so far, because learning has been exhilarating. Hopefully traditional folk arts, like quilting, will continue to gain respect as “real” art, even as “real” arts are adopted by the masses. I confess I would like to sell original pieces, if I keep making them. It’s really up to my Muse.

After the jump are some pictures of the making of “Eve,” which took 3 days (4 if you include the day I designed it):

Continue reading My New Hobby

correction again, again

I’m reposting this (originally posted July 2009) for a third time, because misinformation continues to spread all over the interwebs. I should post it more often.

correction

Dear Journalists Dear Journalists, bloggers, commenters, etc.,

Some of you are writing that I was forced to choose the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license because the film is violating copyright. That is completely untrue, but has become the dominant motif of stories I read about the project. The confusion is understandable, so I attempt to sort it out below.

Sita Sings the Blues is 100% legal. I am free to release it commercially, which is why the film is gaining a number of commercial distributors in addition to its free sharing/audience distribution, which is also legal, and wonderful.

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

Note that in some ways the film is not, and never will be free. For each disc sold, distributors must pay $1.65 to these faceless money sinks.  Transaction costs raise that amount to about $2.00 per disc. That is why my own Artist’s Edition is limited to 4,999 copies. I’ve already bled $50,000 into their vampiric maws; I have no intention of paying more.

Thank you for your attention.

Love,

–Nina

Linear Growth

Above are the Feedburner stats for Mimi & Eunice. The green line represents subscribers; the blue represents “reach” (“the total number of people who have taken action — viewed or clicked — on the content in your feed”). The lines represent an overall trend of linear growth. Not exponential growth. Which is fine, but makes me wonder: is “viral” (exponential) sharing becoming a thing of the past, as quality content on the internet becomes more ubiquitous?

A few years ago, if you put anything halfway decent online it would spread like a virus. The online memosphere was less colonized than it is today. Of course there will still be “viral” content, but it has a lot more to compete with today: all the other viral content. Imagine if you released something of today’s quality online 10 years ago. It would have spread further and faster back then, because attention wasn’t already consumed by vast amounts of other quality content. On the other hand, the internet itself was much smaller 10 years ago – fewer people had access to it – so overall reach of a viral success could have been lower in absolute terms.

I’ve noticed the linear trend in most of my works now (sitasingstheblues.com, having enjoyed exponential growth followed by a plateau, is now on a linear decline). Maybe this means my work sucks, but I don’t think so. I’m happy with linear growth. But I am revising my ideas about “viral content,” and I wonder if others are, too. Twitter’s “Trending: Worldwide” lists indicate some things spread virally – suddenly they’re everywhere – but then they’re gone the next day, and forgotten in a week.

What does this all mean? Does it mean anything? As an artist, should I care?

Face-O-Matic

On a lighter note, enjoy this online toy coded by my friend Margo Burns. It is based on “Face-O-Matic” cards I originally designed to teach very inhibited grad students to draw cartoon facial expressions for a visual storytelling class at Parsons. Turns out all ages enjoy it. The drawings are extremely simple, so even people who claim they have no drawing skills can copy them without fear.

Authoritarian update

crossposted from Mimi & Eunice

Authoritarian

I’m re-posting this cartoon today because the US Department of Homeland Security seized more than 70 web sites over the weekend (while sites like arstechnica.com and techdirt were on vacation, and the mainstream media were devoted to stories about holiday shopping). Democrats: unless you stand up to stop this NOW, I am never voting for you again.

Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Sita Soft SculptureThese aren’t dolls, or toys, or cushions – they’re SOFT SCULPTURES. Why? because regulatory capture means the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally call it a doll are beyond anything we could possibly afford.

ONLY 30 IN EXISTENCE! SIGNED AND NUMBERED. BUY ONE HERE FOR $50.

These limited edition soft sculptures were hand-appliqued, beaded, and embroidered in India by the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work; each unique piece is signed in embroidery by the woman who fashioned it. Because of the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally import them already stuffed, they were sent unstuffed to New York, where I and my colleagues lovingly stuffed each one with polyester fiber-fill and sewed them up by hand.

Bliss Blood, Bill Benzon and Karl Fogel help stuff and sew

That way, if calling them soft sculptures not dolls/toys/cushions, and including this “WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!” is not sufficient to avoid a lawsuit, it is I, Nina Paley, who will accept the liability, rather than Ubuntu at Work.

Stuffin' 'n' sewin'

While stuffing and sewing are exactly the sort of labor the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work desire, and do efficiently and well and affordably, regulatory capture of stuffed goods in the U.S. ensures they won’t get this work, and established legacy toy corporations with legal teams will hire slave labor to make corporate crap instead. Therefore this is a LIMITED EDITION of only 30 soft sculptures. Each one is also signed and numbered by me, Nina Paley.

Made of cotton fabric; cotton and polyester thread; small glass beads; polyester fiber fill. About 15″” tall.

WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!

Shahjahan, Mubeena, and Saiqa, who sewed, beaded and embroidered the shells, see me finish them. They're in Bangalore and I'm in New York. This evidence of our collaboration kind of blows my mind.

Continue reading Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

…and flattered I am!

k96m.jpg

♡ Copying is an act of love. Love is not subject to law.

We don’t like ignorant jerks either

It seems the same people who can’t tell the difference between fraud and copying, also can’t tell the difference between anti-social disregard for authors and copyright reform. Folks invoking my name in the Cooks Source scandal are as clueless as Judith Griggs.

As usual, Techdirt has the best article on the topic:

…Cooks Source Magazine copied one woman’s blog post and published it as an article, without asking her permission or letting her even know about it. They did put her name on it, but she only found out after a friend spotted it and told her about it. Where the story takes a bizarre twist is after emailing with the editor of the magazine, Judith Griggs, asked the original author, Monica, what she wanted. Monica suggested a public apology (on Facebook) and a modest $130 donation to Columbia’s journalism school. That’s when Griggs responded like this:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

That response not only shows a rather confused understanding of copyright law, but also suggests someone who’s kinda sorta heard arguments about why copying can be beneficial, and jumbled them all together in her head. Now, we’ve spent plenty of time over the years showing how content creators can be better off allowing their works to be copied, but even so, Grigg’s response appears totally tone deaf to what Monica’s actual concerns were. But here’s where social mores and reputational value take over. Monica’s story made it onto Reddit and it got picked up by tons of others, leading the Facebook page of Cooks Source to be filled with angry comments from people supporting Monica.

Read the rest here.

Copy Bunny Progress Bar

Our first Minute Meme, Copying Is Not Theft, continues its steady spread online. The two versions currently most shared are QuestionCopyright.org’s “official” version, which we unfortunately named “best” instead of “official” (“best” implying a value judgement) and the arrangement by Willbe which uses my original wavery vocals (hence my unfortunate value judgement – the official/”best” version has vocals by professional Connie Champagne, which save me the embarrassment of hearing my own voice).

On the Willbe version youtube page, I found a pretty good suggestion in the comments: a Copy Bunny Progress bar. That was easy enough to make; here’s a truncated version in GIF format:

I also uploaded all the original .fla files to archive.org, so you can remix and modify to your heart’s content.

"Copying Is Not Theft" PinAlso, did you know there’s a Copying Is Not Theft cloisonne pin? Well there is! And you can buy it.

Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom

I’m thrilled to be on the Advisory Board of the new Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom with such luminaries as Mike Masnick, Michele Boldrin, Julio Cole, Karl Fogel, David Koepsell, David Levine, Wendy McElroy, Jeff Tucker, and Roderick T. Long. The project is directed by Stephan Kinsella, author of the seminal Against Intellectual Property.

Because there’s only so much room in my bio blurb, I’ve rounded up a bunch of my
Related Writings:
Redefining Property: Lessons From American History
The Cult of Originality
Paley vs. Doctorow (a debate about non-commercial licenses)
Four Freedoms of Free Culture
Understanding Free Content
“Intellectual Property” is Slavery
Free as in Phreedom

Comics
Mimi & Eunice
IP Comics

Related Works: Animation
Sita Sings the Blues
All Creative Work Is Derivative
Copying Is Not Theft
Copying And Surveillance (a cartoon for the EFF)

Also:
“The Revolution Will Be Animated”, a documentary about Sita & Free Culture & me by Marine Lormant Sebag

non-commercial

Bill Benzon’s Busy Bee Brain

Read the whole thing, it’s one of those ideas that’ll stay with you. Excerpt:
There is now a pretty strong consensus that the cerebral cortex (which is, by no means, the entire brain, but it is likely that this is where culture is carried) is organized into small columns of neurons. In a 1978 essay Vernon Mountcastle called these minicolumns and suggested that they have about 100-300 neurons each. He estimated that the neocortex consists of 600,000,000 of these minicolumns. He also suggested that these minicolumns are organized into macrocolumns, about 600,000 of them — implying that there are hundreds of minicolumns per macrocolumn. (Mountcastle was clear that these numbers were just order of magnitude estimates & that is all I need for my purposes.) That makes these macrocolumns roughly the size of a typical invertebrate nervous system of 10K to 100K neurons. So, here’s my metaphor: Your neocortex consists of 600,000 buzzing bees going about their business.

The point of the metaphor is that, just as individual bees are autonomous agents (which must, nonetheless, feed and reproduce in a group), so the macrocolumns are autonomous agents (which are physically coupled to many other such agents). Bees go about their business by sensing optical and chemical gradients and features and by moving their bodies and excreting chemicals. The macrocolumns are not directly connected to the external world, but they have extensive inputs and outputs to other macrocolumns and to other regions of the brain and nervous system. From a purely information processing point of view, they are as capable of action as are bees. They “sense” neurochemical gradients in the intersynaptic space and act on their sensations by excreting chemicals into that space.

Obfuscate You!

Sometimes I really need to use the word “ “. But if I type it out, it will trigger  web filters that will block my site from some users. So for those times, I’ve created this handy image file to use instead. You’re welcome to use it too! Go  crazy.


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