Copyrighted works from 1923 enter the public domain today

Public Domain

Firstly, happy new year to you all. We hope 2019 is even more prosperous than 2018. If you’re a creative or a lover of the arts, today’s events might help with that.

1st January is Public Domain Day. What does that mean? Well, works of art from 1923 become the copyright-free to the public, meaning you can quote as much as you want wherever you want without attribution. The same will be said for works from 1924 next year, 1925 the year after and so on. Naturally, works before 1923 are also public domain unless otherwise set.

This was meant to take place a lot sooner if it wasn’t for an intervention by the US government. In 1998, congress signed a bill, sponsored by Sonny Bono (yes, that Sonny Bono) allowing a 20-year extension of the copyright term. According to Open Culture, “the legislation, aimed at protecting Mickey Mouse, created a ‘bizarre 20-year hiatus between the release of works from 1922 and 1923.'” Now that’s over, certain Mickey Mouse cartoons and appearances are free to remix without fear of Disney. Well, fear of Disney is never totally extinguished.

But what was released in 1923? A lot of stuff. Mostly silent movies, artwork from the Art Deco period, works from the Harlem Renaissance, early jazz compositions. If you love modernism as I do, this will be like uncovering a treasure trove.

Below you will find a list of works from 1923 and general content free from copyrights. Always remember to check works from any years prior to 1923 to make absolutely sure you follow any licence requirements (if there are any). And happy hunting!

Lists of public domain works from 1923 and more

Awesome Queer Halloween Parties in Castro

Queer Halloween Parties in Castro

Atlas Obscura wrote an article about Two Decades of San Francisco’s Wildest Queer Halloween Parties. Check out this excerpt from 1995:

“This annual Halloween party is a victim of success […] It simply got too big for its britches—although not all partygoers have bothered to wear them. Part of the event’s appeal has been its disdain for good taste and conventional modesty: The only dress code has been that imposed by the chilly night air.”

– San José Mercury News in 1995

The parties died out completely by 2007. Bars closed early, and the police were out in force to “keep the peace”. In an ironic twist, death had become them.

Below is a video of a 2014 party in Castro. Shout out to the zombie Michael Jackson and his friend.

Halloween in San Francisco Castro street 2014

The History of Japan By Bill Wurtz

If you’re gonna showcase your unique delivery, why not do it with a video about the history of Japan? Content creator and musician Bill Wurtz achieved “Internet notoriety”, according to Wikipedia, with his “history of japan” video back in 2016. It featured his quirky style, non-sequitur imagery, and shot his subscriber count out of the stratosphere.

It went viral and currently has over 45 million views. It helped to spawn a wider “sequel” entitled “history of the entire world, i guess” which garnered even larger popularity.

The UN want to combat cultural appropriation. But is that enough?

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation exists no matter what side you’re on. It is harmful to those marginalised and used to make profit under this guise without the slightest notion of understanding or desire to do so. That’s where the ruse fails.

Voices against cultural appropriation are being heard as lawsuits continue to go to court. From the Washington Redskins trademark dispute to Urban Outfitters’ illegal use of the Navajo tribe name, this isn’t going away and the UN appear to agree.

According to Konbini, UN delegates have gathered in Geneva to discuss the newly created committee within the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which was established in 1967. Their aim is to challenge international law and open regulations to “include and protect property ranging from designs to language”.

This sounds reasonable in theory but the louder voices are often the richest. Once a product or aesthetic is out there, it gains traction and exists in that form regardless of the law.

Nothing will stop Coachella girls of non-Native American heritage wearing those headdresses, nor will the Tumblr posts cease to exist. That’s not to say this is all in vain but there needs to be some kind of education about what cultural appropriation as well.

Katy Perry in Ancient Egyptian regalia

It’s common to see an appropriator decry the lack of education from the affected party. Information is available on the internet and in libraries of books but they require lessons taught directly to them or they won’t bother to pay attention.

That needs to end.

Cultural appropriation doesn’t just happen – it builds internally and works its way through the design process right to the board. A lack of racial, cultural and, gender diversity also plays a part. If a room full of white men in their 50s think it’s okay, who’s to tell them it isn’t until the brand already exists?

Musicians who decide to wear geisha outfits or African garments – many with predominately white management and crews behind them and no feeling of worry that this isn’t okay. When people of the affected cultures speak out, they need to be heard and the appropriators need to stop, think, and learn.

A lack of racial, cultural and, gender diversity also plays a part. If a room full of white men in their 50s think it’s okay, who’s to tell them it isn’t until the brand already exists?

Many would claim education isn’t necessary as the racism is known but ignored. But this isn’t easy to prove conclusively, at least not in the eyes of the proposed laws. Katy Perry has made a career out of it and recently opened up to Deray, but this discussion fell short for many people of colour in the same way Trevor Noah’s cupcake pandering to Tami “with the blonde hair” Blahren on The Daily Show.

“I listened and I heard and I didn’t know,” she told Deray. “I won’t ever understand some of those things because of who I am. I will never understand, but I can educate myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way.”

Miley Cyrus appeared to have passed the racist symbiote onto Katy as she reverted to the sweet innocent meadow-rolling pop singer but her non-apology left a lot to be desired. Cultural appropriation is a helluva drug.

swift_beyonce_bieber

But the lines can blur and faves become problematic. Would you bring George Michael and Michael Bolton into the same discussion? Ebony published an article on the “cultural smudging” in 2015 and it’s worth considering what appropriation actually involves. And is it just a white vs. non-white battle?

Beyoncé was accused of cultural appropriation when she did an African-themed baby shower photo shoot. She was also pulled up for her Desi-themed video for Hymn For The Weekend. Can it work between non-white races and even inter-race?

Ultimately, The UN’s proposed legal restrictions and protections are a step in the right direction. But they shouldn’t be the ultimate deterrent when those talking aren’t allowed to be heard. Once a culture of listening is promoted, maybe we can get somewhere.

The Cultural Legacy of the Russian Revolution (BBC Audio Doc)

If you’re foolish enough to succumb to the whims of the media, you’d think Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to paint Downing Street a bright shade of Soviet red. He may want a revolution but not in the way Russia experienced in 1917. In this BBC World Service radio documentary, special guests depict the cultural influences of the Russian Revolution.

From Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago to the politics of Lenin and Trotsky, it all comes as part of the Hope, Tragedy, Myths exhibition at the British Library in London. What did it mean to be part of the early days of the Revolution?

And what about the subsequent decades of communism and the hostility that came with it? A range of voices from Uzbekistan, Syria, and Iceland tell their respective stories about the cultural legacy left behind.

You can listen to the documentary on the BBC Sounds website (sign-in required).

Sucklord, The NYC Artist Who Makes Bootleg Action Figures

Bootleg culture is a major subculture of our times.

It repurposes the discarded and creates new life. The Sucklord lives by his name under a super-villainous guise and makes bootleg action figures. The New York City pop artist is known for his “subversive Action Figure mashups and Reality TV Persona”, according to his website.

Operating under the Brand SUCKADELIC, The Sucklord’s Line of self-manufactured Bootleg Toys steal shamelessly from STAR WARS, Vintage Advertising and All manner of Pop Culture Trash. Packaged in layers of ironic self-Mockery, His shoddy looking wares have inspired an entire secondary Art movement, with dozens of entrepreneurial Toy Bootleggers creating their own versions of highly referential, low-Rent interpretations of their favorite figures.

Stream the video on Vimeo.

17 Proverbs and Phrases from Jamaican Culture

Jamaican man

Coming from Jamaican heritage, I have been exposed to a plethora of proverbs and phrases from my mother.

And while they may seem like broken English to many outside the Caribbean sphere, they have resonated with me since childhood. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Jamaican people isn’t the “cool” stereotype the West love to perpetuate but their no-nonsense approach to life lessons. This should come as no surprise given the nation’s slave history and the horrific ordeals suffered by not only the original natives but its “newer” generation from Western Africa.

Below are seventeen proverbs and phrases from Jamaican culture, some of which I live by and have heard in my household from the moment I was lucid enough to understand.

If yu cyaan ‘ear, yu mus’ feel

(If you cannot hear, you must feel)

Put simply, if you don’t heed the warnings of others, you must deal with the consequences. These can be emotional or sometimes physical so be careful!

Let fart be free wherever you be, ‘cos that was the death of poor Mary Lee

This is a silly rhyme my mother often said to me whenever someone broke wind. On a deeper level, it could be interpreted as not holding onto worries or fears or it will cause you harm.

What is joke to yu is deat’ to I!

(What is a joke to you, is death to me!)

Be mindful of who you play jokes on as the recipient could misinterpret your jovial intentions.

Finger never seh “look ‘ere,” ‘im seh “look yonder.”

(The finger never says “look here”, it says “look yonder”)

We never like taking the blame for things or acknowledging we’ve done wrong, but it’s important to do so otherwise we’ll continue to make the same mistakes and never grow.

Peacock hide ‘im foot wen ‘im ‘ear ’bout ‘im tail.

(A peacock hides his feet when he hears about his tail)

Much like above, if our weaknesses are exposed, we look to hide them and feign an aura of strength. It’s okay to be vulnerable at times; it shows you’re human.

Nuh wait till drum beat before yu grine yu axe

(Don’t wait for the drum to beat before you grind your axe)

Always be prepared. Not as punchy as the Scouts’ motto but a useful proverb nonetheless.

Dawg nuh hol ef im ha bone

(The dog does not howl if he has a bone)

You might think bad times in life are more prominent around you when you seek help but the truth is people who are happy and content rarely exclaim their joy. As a society, we moan and complain a lot and make our voices heard rather than being grateful for what we have and saying as such.

Yu cyaan siddung pon cow back n cuss cow ‘kin

(You can’t sit on a cow and insult it’s skin)

Following on from the last proverb, don’t take help from someone and insult them. You’ll soon find people help you less if you’re ungrateful afterwards.

Me come yahd fi drink milk, mi nuh come yahd fi count cow

(I came to drink milk, not count cows)

Similar in ways to “curiosity killed the cat”, don’t worry about details which do not concern you.

Chubble deh a bush, Anancy cyah l’kum a yaad

(There is trouble in the business, and Anancy takes it home.)

Anansi is a spider from West African folk legend and features heavily in Jamaican culture. He is never satisfied with leaving things in their proper place and much the displeasure of his family, he often likes to pillage the places he explores. The moral to learn here is to not concern yourself with things you should leave alone.

Wanti wanti cyaan getti, an’ getti getti noh wanti

(Those who want it can’t get it and those who get it don’t want it)

You tend to find people who want things so desperately can’t get them (at least immediately) and those who get it all the time don’t fully appreciate it when they have it. Two lessons to learn here. Nothing comes before its time and appreciate what you have when you have it.

Poun’ ah fret cyaan pay ownse ah dett

(A pound of fretting can’t pay an ounce of debt)

Worrying will only make your troubles worse and won’t solve anything. Use this time to find a solution. In the words of Bobby McFerrin, “don’t worry, be happy”.

Yuh spread yuh bed haad, yu haffi liddung pan it haad

(If you spread your bed hard, you half to lay down on it hard)

A variation of “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it”. Be accountable for your actions.

Ev’ry dawg hav’ ‘im day, n ev’ry puss ‘im 4 o’clock

(Every dog has his day and every cat his 4 o’clock)

Things might be riding high now, but they won’t always last so don’t laud it over people as the roles could soon be reversed.

Tek whey yuh get tell yu get whey yu want

(Take what you get until you get what you want)

When I was unemployed, this was a regular phrases uttered by my mother and it’ll always ring true. An ideal situation may come to you but not immediately (unless you’re lucky). In the meantime, take another opportunity until that perfect job or situation comes about.

If yu cyaan get turkey, yu haffi satisfy wid Jancro

(If you can’t get turkey, you have to be satisfied with John Crow)

There will be times when you can’t have what you want and you have to settle for what you’re given. More often than not, these times come when you least expect them so, again, be grateful and appreciate what you have while it’s here.

Good frien’ betta dan pocket money

(A good friend is better than money)

Money is a tool, not a saviour. People can provide better assistance than financial aids so if you have the choice of both, consider your options carefully.

Superheroes In Native American Culture Explored By Exhibit At Arizona Museum

Superheroes In Native American Culture Explored By Exhibit At Arizona Museum

“Super Heroes: Art! Action! Adventure!” gave children the opportunity to become superheroes of their very own, choosing their special powers and their costume. From there, they embarked on “exciting adventures, including an animal companion interactive experience, a Native video game and other adventures along their ‘super’ journey”.

There are many similarities between the Westernised stories of superheroes – from Batman to Wonder Woman – and tales of Native American legends such as Crazy Horse and Sacajawea, but in many cases the multi-cultural origins are lost amongst the rhetoric of fighting for American justice. Exhibits like these open up new worlds of Native American culture. Heroes and heroines aplenty.

The exhibit is now closed but you can find out more about it on The Heard Museum website.

It's Not Hip To Be Square: What Is A Hipster Really?

But has it always been that way? Well, the truth is they aren’t the first hipsters to walk the earth.

A quick search of the term “hipster” on Wikipedia brings up two examples: one from “contemporary subculture” and one from “1940s subculture”. By definition, the former relates to the hipsters we know today, described as coming from a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior”. From this perspective, the term first came into prominence during the 90s before gaining a new life in the past five years but looking at the term’s previous history in the 1940s, everything changes.

In 1948, American literary critic Anatole Broyard wrote an article called A Portrait of the Hipster where he described the hipster as a “the illegitimate son of the Lost Generation” longing “to be somewhere”. Brossard’s article continued, describing terminology of the hipster such as “jive” – described as “a philosophy of somewhereness”, “solid”, “out of this world, and “drag” amongst others.

Norman Mailer in his essay “The White Negro” described hipsters as “philosophical psychopaths living on the fringe of society” but the crux of the essay depicted them as white people appropriating black culture through their adoption of black styles, vernacular and jazz music as their own as well as their choice of living in abject poverty. He also discussed the idea of hipsters living a life surrounded by death and choosing to disconnect from society with their own brand of existentialism.

Looking at the two produces stark contrasts in definition and subculture but in some cases, there are similarities. There’s a sense that the current hipster (or as I like to call them “fauxhemians”) chooses to look dishevelled and absent from the mainstream culture as do the hipsters of the 40s.

But getting into the nitty-gritty of their motives is where the likenesses branch off. Fauxhemians are more aligned with indie music while hipsters were lovers of cool jazz and the former’s association with organic produce is a unique development. The reason I call them fauxhemians is because their lifestyles seem to be closer to those of the bohos of pre-20th Europe (although they are said to be descendants of the 40s hipster) rather than their appropriating American counterparts.

Their disconnect from mainstream society isn’t related to a life centred around death; rather it seems to be a choice purely in the name of paradoxical individualism, as perfectly depicted on 2000s TV series Nathan Barley. They even have their own brand of racism and sexism, involving “ironic” Kill Whitie Parties and appropriation of Native American headdresses supposedly to satirise political correctness and repeated uses of the terms “bitch” and “slut” amongst others.

Truth be told, it’s a complicated subject to form a complete picture of how the movements are all related and what they truly mean to those involved. But one thing’s for sure – the new hipster isn’t going away any time soon and they’re not quite as cool as their 1940s cousins.

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