So you must be the first that gives this sentence,
And he, that suffer's. O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
Aside to Isabella
That's well said.
Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
—William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene II.
(Swans - November 29, 2010) A READER wondered recently what happened to my Blips & Tidbits, which have been absent from these pages for six months -- the 100th Blips in which "I wonder[ed] whether the highly interconnected systems are slowly succumbing under their own weight due to the apparent inability to invent a new system that is not based on infinite growth." I suppose I got distracted or sidetracked by events and tasks, though the train of thoughts I followed or explored was much on my mind when I wrote Part III of "The Economy Is Not Coming Back: The reasons it Shouldn't." In short our socioeconomic system based on infinite growth is causing mayhem to the ecosystems. But, in any event, one can easily get sidetracked, as the past couple of weeks show.
FIRST, I've been afflicted by intermittent pain in the groin for a couple of months and finally had to visit our local clinic, where our good doctor Mark Apfel quickly diagnosed two small inguinal hernias. He assured me that it was quite a common condition for people in my age group and that many patients get used to the discomfort and the occasional pain. He mentioned that he too had had a couple of hernias for some time, calmed my anxiety, and told me to not worry about them. However, he concluded, if it became too much to bear the only remedy would be a minor surgical procedure. Another pleasant perspective!
BACK TO THE OFFICE, I worked on the November 15 issue, which was posted the previous day as usual. On the 15th, I did the archives and began working on the next one. The following morning I contacted the office of Edward Burtynsky, the Canadian photographer whose work I referred to in my November 15 article. Having seen his splendid pictures on both his Web site and that of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, I asked if they could kindly consider sending me a courtesy copy of the catalogue OIL, which was published by Steidl/Corcoran in 2009 on the occasion of the exposition staged at the museum. I also asked permission to use a couple of his pictures. I had no luck with the first request as they give no free books except to a very few and selected friends and professionals. But they were very gracious with my second request though it took 9 days and multiple e-mails to reach a positive outcome -- a lengthy process, which turned out to be quite a learning experience.
MY CORRESPONDENT, Marcus Schubert -- a long-time friend of Ed Burtynsky and his director of Media, Publications & Exhibits -- promptly offered the use of two images free of charge with non exclusive rights, so long as I agreed with a set of eight polices and six other conditions. Some of the policies and conditions were related to print media and clearly not applicable to Swans. However, I was particularly chagrined by two requests: 1) The content of my piece would have to be fact-checked and approved by their office. 2) I would have to apparently delete the image once the project had been completed. But, after a couple of further explanations it turned out that the first one was justifiable and the second one did not apply to my situation. Edward Burtynsky has spent years creating and maintaining relationships with governments and corporations around the world and it is only fair that the content of a work illustrated by one or more of his images does not risk to damage these relationships by association -- and this would be particularly galling knowing that he had waived his fee and let me use his work. So I volunteered to send my piece in advance and give them the choice to withdraw the permission if it did not comply with their criteria. The second request came out of the concern that the picture could be stolen but it related to very high-definition pictures that could be reproduced on high quality color printers and the counterfeited result sold as an "original" for a fraction of the price fetched by the actual original. While the picture(s) on Swans will be small and have a very low definition, the notion of stolen work resonates potently with me.
DURING THE TIMES I was corresponding with Marcus Schubert, I found out that a Web site, peakoil.com, had just stolen my last piece and reposted it in the most unethical fashion possible. That was on November 17. But before getting to this, let me relate a couple of anecdotes about stolen material. French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who has been awarded the 2010 Prix Goncourt for La carte et le territoire (Flammarion, 2010), was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Vincent Glad, a journalist at Slate.fr, found out that Houellebecq had "borrowed" text from three Wikipedia.fr entries, as well as texts originated at the ministry of the interior and at a famous hotel in Arles (de Provence). Florent Gallaire, a French jurist, has analyzed the judicial context in which the novelist used text licensed under Creative Commons BY SA, and suggests tongue in cheek that it's the first time the Prix Goncourt has been awarded to an open, free work.
MORE STEALING: Closer to home, Alexander Cockburn relates in his latest CounterPunch Diary, "Run, Russ, Run," how the Web site AlterNet stole a Counterpunch original (but not particularly novel) November 23 piece by Pam Martens, "Ten Ideas to Starve the Wall Street Beast." So even an initially Soros-funded Web publication steals to its heart's content. Then again, to open a short parenthesis, I wonder what Cockburn means by the term original. To wit, he writes in the same column:
Now, as we stressed in our own recent fundraiser, many websites on the progressive side of the spectrum are cut-and-paste affairs, a mix of columns culled from mainstream newspapers, weeklies, blogs, tweets and so forth. Every day our CounterPunch site offers you up to a dozen original articles, and often twenty across our three-day weekend site.
EITHER COCKBURN is losing his marbles or has little time for checking his dictionary; his statement is plainly incorrect (false, wrong, a lie -- take your pick). Much material posted on the CounterPunch Web site is not "original articles" but reposts of articles published or posted elsewhere. Take for example the piece by Rajesh Makwana and Adam Parsons, "Rethinking the Global Economy," that was posted on CounterPunch on November 25. That piece was first posted on the Web site of Share The World's Resources at this location. When the CounterPunch people append, This work is published under a Creative Commons License, they ignore the unambiguous request from the authors: "When reproducing this item, please attribute Share The World's Resources as the source and include a link to its unique URL." [my emphasis] The link to the unique URL was not included...and the piece was not an "original" piece. How did I find this out? Quite easily, indeed! Adam Parsons sent me the article by e-mail for consideration. I politely answered: "Interesting piece. I do concur with its content. However you must have missed our submission policies...." Parsons replied: "...[a]pologies for not being clear on your submissions guidelines. We value the work at Swans Commentary and if we have suitable content not published elsewhere in the future I'll pass it on for your consideration." I could quibble with Parsons's ifs, but that's not the point I am making, which is that Alexander Cockburn misrepresents the actuality. CounterPunch is indeed a multi-posting operation. Check the pieces by Dean Barker, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Rogers, Russell Mokhiber, Harvey Wasserman, Tom Engelhardt, et al. to get a sense of the real deal. Cockburn's "awareness" ought to be translated into the old adage, "Buyer beware," as the saying goes.
PICKY, PICKY, PICKY, you'll say. Perhaps. But I am tired of folks who intentionally or ignorantly debase intellectual and ethical integrity. Where does one draw the line on conspicuous lies? Does one fathom the difference between real ethical endeavors, actual meaning of the word "original," and cheap snake oil rhetoric? (An assessment that includes many other would-be muckraking members of what Cockburn calls the "Blathersphere.") End of parenthesis.
BACK TO THE STEALING of peakoil.com and my latest sidetracking stretch. On November 17, when I found out these depraved people had stolen my piece (without even mentioning my name) I endeavored to contact them. The conundrum I've faced ever since is that they have no phone number, no e-mail address, no name -- everything on that site is anonymous. The Web site was started by some "Dan C" in 2005 and is currently managed by some "Aaron D" (information gathered from their about page). The only way to communicate with these scums is through their Web site's boards. I tried and tried and tried posting:
REMOVE THIS ARTICLE FROM YOUR WEB SITE!
To whom it may concern:
An article of mine has been posted on your site.
This article, which I wrote, was originally published on Swans.com, at:
The article includes the following legal notice:
Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re- publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2010. All rights reserved.
You have reproduced this article without my permission and have done it illegally.
To add insult to injury:
You did not even credit my name.
You did not cite the title in full.
You did not include the first paragraph.
You left out all the notes.
Your behavior is utterly unethical and illegal.
Please, immediately remove my article from your site and let me know by e-mail once it's done.
(BTW, what kind of anonymous site do you run that does not even have a contact e-mail address?)
NO MATTER how many times I posted this message (at least five times) the result was always the same: "Your comment is awaiting moderation" -- and it was never posted or acted upon. I did a Whois search and found that a so-called Daniel Colonnese was the administrative and technical contact for the site. So, I tried to reach him by e-mail.
I am writing to you as the administrative and technical contact of the Web site peakoil.com.
Cambridge, MA 02141 US
Domain Name: PEAKOIL.COM
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Whois Server: whois.enom.com
Referral URL: http://www.enom.com Name Server: DANA.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
Name Server: NORM.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
Updated Date: 24-oct-2010
Creation Date: 07-oct-2003
Expiration Date: 07-oct-2011
Sir, you are legally responsible for this Web site.
This Web site has stolen and republished a piece of mine. I have attempted to reach those anonymous people repeatedly, asking them to remove the stolen piece from the site. They have deliberately ignored my request.
Here is the request that I have sent to them three times, and counting:
I E-MAILED HIM twice to no avail. My next step is to reach their Web-hosting company's legal department (Registrar: ENOM, INC. IP Address: 18.104.22.168) and request that the page be erased or the Web site put down. It's going to take me months of fighting for something I should not have had to tackle in the first place, had this repugnant stealing culture not become as ubiquitous as Wal*Mart. [ED. NOTE added on Sunday afternoon 3:15 pm PST just before posting the November 29 issue: Apparently, the piece has finally been removed and the URL provides the message, "[U]nfortunately the page you are looking for cannot be found, it has either moved to a new location or has been deleted." At long last, at long last!]
IT BRINGS TO MIND another quaint word, honesty. Marcus Schubert is an honest person. Our correspondence was straightforward; his intent was to help and explain, not to take advantage of my request and my ignorance. Another honest person is Bart Anderson, the co-editor of Energy Bulletin. He too used my article, but unlike peakoil.com he did it ethically, posting a short excerpt and linking to the full text on Swans. He even sent me a short e-mail to let me know the location of the URL (scroll down). It makes a difference, does it not? A difference worth noting...
IF THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH in the sidetracking and distracting episode, the next day, after I had learned about the debased behavior of peakoil.com, my two dogs, Mestor and Aida, ran out of the house for one of their promenades in the hills. Aida, the little Golden Retriever/Australian Shepherd mutt we adopted three months ago, used to always come back in short order. This time, Mestor did... After an hour or so, I began to walk and drive all around the area with no luck. The following morning I kept searching, to no avail. Aida was gone... Jan (companion, wife, and Swans master of many trades, especially editing) flew in from Seoul (10 hours) and drove in from San Francisco. It was starting to rain heavily. So she put on rain boots, took an umbrella with her, and walked the hills up and down. The following day, shoed in again with her rain boots, she walked and walked for hours without end. But Aida was gone, and Jan was walking, walking, and walking in her rubber rain boots...
THAT SATURDAY, we also reached out to the local radio station (KZYX) during their regular call-in program to let the community know about our lost companion and we decided to print a poster in both English and Spanish with a picture of Aida, offering a financial reward. Of course, Murphy's Law kicked in ("if anything can go wrong, it will"). The color printer that had not been used in at least five years did not work. The ink cartridges must have dried up. I did not have replacements. So I had to print it in black & white on our 14-year-old laser printer whose ink cartridge was very low. The end result was rather poor to say the least, but we did with what we had and Jan drove to the local post offices to place the notice and nail copies on various wooden posts. For my part, I had the presentiment that little Aida was trapped somewhere in the hills, like Mestor early in 2008, caught in a fox snare. The rain kept pouring all night long, the third night without much sleep.
THE NEXT MORNING, as we were reading the Sunday paper, the phone rang at about 9:00. Jan answered. Within seconds she shouted, "what, what, you've got Aida, you found Aida!!!" She indeed had been snared, spending some 65 hours trapped along a fence on the other side of the ridge about 3/4 of a mile away. Roberto Mendoza, Aida's rescuer and savior, an electrician who lives in Ukiah (about 25 miles from our place), was riding his four-wheeler ATV looking for firewood and the opportunity to shoot a turkey for Thanksgiving. He had stopped and turned the engine off when he heard a weak moan. A few steps and he saw Aida on the other side of the fence, her left hind leg caught in this barbaric wire. He approached her carefully -- dogs can be aggressive when trapped -- slowly moving his hand close to her, which she licked. Feeling reassured he slid his arm under the wire fence and managed to loosen the snare and free her leg. He then somehow got her over the fence, saw her tag, and picked up his cell phone to call us. I could not figure out where he was. So he told us to drive down to the highway and wait. Ten minutes later we saw him on his dark green ATV with the dog standing in the back. She jumped off a couple of times and he had to fetch her, but after a time that looked like an eternity he finally made it down the hill to a dirt road. There he stopped again and let her go as I was calling her repetitively. She ran like a manic toward us but the area was entirely fenced and gated. So, Roberto drove to the gate, picked up Aida and passed her to me over the gate. She was drenched, happy, and alive.
Mestor and Aida
Poor little Aida
ROBERTO refused any money, saying that he too had two dogs and could understand how distressed we must have been, adding, "it's just a good deed and I am very glad to have been in the right place at the right time." Since he was looking for firewood and that we have more than we can ever use I offered him to come home with us and take a couple of truckloads. So he followed us and I showed him the wood he was welcome to at his convenience. We exchanged mailing addresses and phone numbers. Once on his way we took care of Aida. Then Jan went on the Web and ordered a big gourmet gift basket for him and his family.
WE WERE EXHAUSTED, both physically and emotionally. Jan chose to drive back to San Francisco in the afternoon. As said she had been walking, and walking, and walking, which brings me to yet another distraction, which happens to be a painful one for her. By Tuesday morning her right foot had almost doubled in size. She walked with difficulty. The next morning she hardly could. She went to UCSF and was diagnosed with a severe inflammation (plantar fasciitis). They gave her a pair of crutches and told her to take Advil, ice her foot every couple of hours...and be patient. Don't ask how she managed to run errands, load the car, and drive back to Boonville. This woman is built like a rock! Furthermore, during her frantic search for Aida she walked amidst poison oak and her body is covered with itching red spots.
MEANWHILE, the snare left a deep scratch around little Aida's leg, which has begun to bleed, needs attention and possibly a trip to the vet.
FOR MORE DISTRACTIONS, I could relate the e-mail exchanges with various contributors -- one pissed off because I dared agreeing with a letter writer critical of his doomsday stand; another gleefully sending me short stories as I keep telling him they are not read; the Brit who sends me a year-end review that has nothing to do with the year, but does attempt to shoot down my analysis, using as a reference no less than peakoil.com; and the kid on Swans block who has a hard time understanding the notion of professionalism. But, I'll follow the sage advice from my African brother, Femi Akomolafe, who always appends this African proverb to his e-mails: "The wise man is like a nail; his head keeps him from going too far."
FINALLY, a positive and nondistracting news: I bought OIL by Edward Burtynsky directly from their office. They charged me as much (or as little) as Amazon.com (except for the shipping fee). Still, I would rather spend your money -- that is, those of you who support our work financially -- with worthy human beings that earned my trust and do not profit from that book trade. Why is your money paying for such a book? Because of its future use on Swans, that's why.
FROM ALL THESE DISTRACTIONS, I've most welcomed the time spent with Marcus Schubert, who not only took upon himself to get a sense of what I was about, but was very generous and reminded me of what Marshall McLuhan once said: "For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role."
MY APOLOGIES for the distractions. I got sidetracked.
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.
Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2010. All rights reserved.
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