On the societal cost of a single act of non-piracy

Astute observers will have observed that every reading on this page is in the public domain (at least in some country.) In part this is to assure that if one of these short readings inspires a reader to delve further into the original text, it is readily available. It is also so that I don’t get into trouble for distributing copyrighted materials. But that is not much of a worry considering the fact that this is not a profitable website and there is not nearly enough traffic to attract any attention.

Additionally, most of the greatest works of all time are in the public domain, so why bother with anything else? In the 2 years since I’ve owned a Kindle, I have not once paid for a downloaded book. Amazon has so many free classics that it seems silly to buy anything else. So when I looked for Steinbeck books on Kindle, I was put out. It seems that the works of Mr. Steinbeck will not enter the public domain for another decade or so. So what am I to do?

One option is to buy a digital copy. But I don’t even have a credit card attached to my Amazon account because I NEVER BUY CONTENT. Another option is to illegally download a pirated digital copy. But that’d be illegal. The third option is to go to the library and check out the book I want (if it happens to be available.) Finally, I could buy a paper copy.

We’ll eliminate buying either the digital or paper copy because I am not made of money. Now which is better, to pirate a digital copy or to check out the book from the library? Pirating is illegal. That is, I think, the only negative aspect. It is malum prohibitum: wrong only because there is a rule against it. The argument that pirating robs from the artist is invalid since the artist doesn’t profit from me going to the library either (also the artist has been dead for nearly a half century now.) Going to the library and checking out the book has many more visible negative aspects than piracy does: the pollution and waste associated with driving to the library, the additional human labor required by library staff to re-shelf the book, etc., the inconvenience to others should they also happen to want the same book at the same time. These negatives are quite small, even to the point of being totally negligible, however, piracy has none of these downsides. Piracy, in this case, is probably better for society as a whole.

But it’s against the law, so I got a library card. Oh, and the library card is made of plastic, so add the associated pollution to the list of cons.

Beer of the Week: Efes Pilsner – This Turkish beer does not inspire a lot of hope. The malt is supplemented with rice and the beer is very light and nearly odorless. But for what it is, it really isn’t bad. Like so many other adjunct lagers, it’s rather sweet but one could certainly drink a lot of the stuff. (And no doubt, some Turks do drink a lot of it.)

Reading of the week: Well, I wanted to use Chapter 13, Section 1 of East of Eden by John Steinbeck for this week’s reading. It is an amazingly powerful indictment of collectivism and a bold claim that any religion, government or philosophy that undermines the concept of the free individual is an enemy to humanity itself. But East of Eden is still under copyright, so if you want to read it (and you should,) you’ll have to go to the library. Or you could do a google search for “East of Eden, Chapter 13 Josh Crain” and click on the first result. But don’t have any delusions about it, there is no reason to think that Mr. Crain has obtained the proper rights to reproduce this insanely beautiful (and I really cannot stress how amazing it is) piece of writing.

Question of the week: Steinbeck claims that every great creation is the work of a single mind. Collaboration is a phantom; in reality, one creates and the group then builds upon the creation of the individual. What does that mean for great artistic partnerships such as Lennon and McCarthy, Rogers and Hammerstein, or The Coen Brothers?

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A Wet Whistle

The relationship between beer and philosophy has been expounded in this blog before. Specifically in the Wherefore page and in the post Slow and Steady. However, there is a softer and more alluring relationship that has only been touched on briefly: the relationship between beer and music.

In the poem Music by Percy Shelley, several allusions are made to a “thirst” for music. Music is water to the withering flower that is his heart and wine poured from an enchanted cup.  And when one slakes his thirst for music, how does he feel? “The dissolving strain, through every vein, Passes into my heart and brain.” In short, he is intoxicated by it. Like beer, music stimulates the heart to emotion (or perhaps only removes our self-constructed barriers to emotion) and has an effect also on the brain. Just a little is enough to activate the brain and assist in clarifying one’s outlook on the world, larger quantities make everything softer and blurrier.

Music and beer are also simple pleasures that do not require serious reflection or consideration. To be sure, each is a very worthy subject for in-depth study, but there are times when the popular, mass-produced versions are exactly the thing to wet one’s whistle.

Beer of the Week: Tuborg Green – This Danish beer (brewed in Turkey) might be pop culture in a can. The picture may not be clear enough to see this, but there are dancing silhouettes along the bottom of the can (a la an iPod ad) and the words “Liquid Soundtrack.” Tuborg is deep into pop music. Attentive viewers might have noticed strategic product placement for Tuborg in music videos by B.O.B., Eminem, Panic! at the Disco and the Black Eye Peas. If Shelley sees music is “audible wine”, perhaps he could get behind the idea of beer as “liquid soundtrack.” As a beer it is a fairly good European pilsner. It has decent body and mouth-feel for a beer so light. It is also malty, although it is a bit too sweet. It doesn’t offer much in the hops department, but it is definitely a beer that could be had in large quantities. For example, at a concert (if concert beer were not so expensive.)

Reading of the week: Music by Percy Shelley – There is a reason that it is called “lyric poetry.” It would be amazing to hear this poem set to music.

Question of the week: Is it a surprise that at parties or gatherings that include alcohol, the initial conversation often gives way to music and dancing? Is that an effect of the prolonged consumption of alcohol? Or of the cumulative influence of  music?