Saturday, October 4, 2014

America The Cultural

I criticize America a lot. Actually, I criticize Capitalism, and the way it manifests itself through our political system, but if you want to say I criticize America, that's fine.  People who say, "America, love it or leave it," are actually the ones who hate America's freedoms, not who George W Bush said hate America's freedoms. These people would love a country where it's against the law to criticize your country, and America doesn't have that, so they must hate America.

But today I won't criticize America, very much.

American Culture

It's usually when I'm thinking about music that I realize what an astounding contribution America has made  to the cultural enrichment of the world. We invented Blues, Jazz and Rock and Roll. (When I say "we" I mean African Americans, mainly. Sometimes I quip that when it comes to American music, if you took away our Black people and Jews, you'd have banjo music.) But we have Tejano, Zydeco, Cajun, the list goes on, and some of these forms are as popular in other countries as they are here. We also created Bluegrass and Country and our brand of Folk music has changed the world, you can argue.

But a web site I came across -- Open Culture -- that presents a mega helping of American films, as well as audio books and e-books from America and beyond, and courses from American universities,  reminds me we haven't only excelled and contributed in the field of music. This super-sized helping is nicely presented, too, and available for free to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

There's an amazing number of things here. They actually draw on some other such sites, some of which I 've mentioned before like Librivox.org and Archive.org, but here they are arranged more handily than any other place I know of. This is a beautiful web site. (They don't have the music, and a good place to find that is still Archive.org.)

By the way, when I was still on Facebook I was advertising Archive.org to my Facebook friends and someone sniffed that they don't download free music. They give the artist their due. They don't cheat them out of their money.

As I quickly sniffed back, this is America, folks, the center of the Capitalist exploitation universe, and anything that's on the internet for free is there because people have run out of ways of making money off of it. Anything you put on the internet that's copyrighted, and that the copyright holders think they can still make money off of,  is quickly discovered by them. They have programs that constantly troll the internet looking for things like that.

Sites like Librivox.org and Archive.org and Open Culture only have books and music that are in the "public domain," i.e., the copyright has expired. Take the works of Dostoyevsky at Librivox, for example, or early Rock and Roll music at Archive.org, which are all free to download. People still sell copies of those, but the artist or writer or performer isn't getting any money from it. Their copyright has expired (and in the case of Dostoyevsky they are dead, too.) If you buy something like that in a bookstore or music bin you're paying your money to some Capitalist who has somehow got hold of the original master tapes or who has simply set a Dostoyevsky book into type and started selling it. People like that sometimes even copyright their copy -- but they can only copyright the way they present the material -- but you yourself can take Dostoyevsky's words or Little Richard's original recording of Good Golly Miss Molly, which aren't copyrighted any more, and do the same thing yourself.


Note: At Open Culture I came across this list of Stanley Kubrick's favorite movies from 1963. 






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