Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

In recent years we’ve gone straight from winter into summer. Although we’ve been having record shattering temperatures in the last few months, we’ve had spring, winter and summer, and then back again. I captured this bee (in photographic form only, thanks ūüôā ) on April 19th whilst walking the dogs a few blocks from home. So it looks like it is really spring now.

The natural world is wonderful, and I sincerely hope we humans can stop our race to destruction. The first step in weaning ourselves from our profligate fossil fuel consumption is certainly to #keepitintheground. I hope our governments are clever enough to actually do this.


My NaNoWriMo

night writingEven on my best day I don’t think I could manage more than 10k in a single day, so I had a pretty good idea I wouldn’t be making it to 50k again this time.

Probably the deciding factor came out of my conversation with my son when he called on my birthday. He asked me if the words I had written were good words…and in fact, they are. I am quite pleased with how this year’s novel is going. And I knew that had I killed myself to scratch up 10k in a hurry, they probably wouldn’t have been very good words.

What NaNo has done is gotten me writing again, even with the political bumps. So here’s to a NaNo experience that worked well for me!

Canadian Political Housecleaning

The Canadian Bill of Rights after Bill C-51

When I still had hopes some MPs in our Federal Parliament might find it difficult or impossible to vote for Bill C-51, the Harper Government draft legislation that effectively shreds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights, I did everything possible to spread the word, including reblogging political articles here.  Clearly I was wrong; neither Liberal or Conservative Parliamentarians had the spine to stand up for Canadian civil rights, and our unfair electoral system gave them the power to do so.

The Harper Government dispensed with proper scrutiny or debate and so the fast-tracked Bill C-51 has passed third reading in the House of Commons. ¬†It’s still before the Senate, and will also need Royal Assent, but so far the Senate and the Governor general have proved themselves nothing more than Rubber Stamps, so my hopes are not high.

If you wish to keep an eye on it, Bill C-51 Legisinfo will let you know how far along Bill C-51 is in the process.

Now it’s time for me to return to my day job, and the first order of the day is to clean up the political debris cluttering up my Free Culture blog. ¬†Since it’s poor netiquette ¬†to delete material one has published, I can’t just delete my reposts without making them available, so here is the the list of political articles I reblogged (and now deleted).

But you don’t have to take our word for it… ask the experts:

Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach¬†(at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like‚ÄúBill C-51: the Good, the Bad‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ.‚ÄČand the Truly Ugly‚ÄĚ which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51. ¬†They‚Äôve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail¬†http://www.antiterrorlaw.ca/

Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:

…the whole thing is covert.

We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.

‚ÄĒ¬†Craig Forcese, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Bill C-51 ignores the rule of law and the protections Canadians enjoy under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is serious enough to worry Canadians across the political spectrum.

You know its a non-partisan problem when legal scholars and ex-judges the legal profession and Rex Murphy and Conrad Black andJean Chrétien and Paul Martin and Joe Clark and John Turner andElizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair and the Communist Party andFirst Nations and a growing number of ordinary citizens are in agreement about how bad Bill C-51 is.

If that hasn’t given you enough to chew on, check out these videos:

Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre

Fair Vote Guelph: The Robocall Scandal ~ Town Hall

Stop Bill C-51 #Privacy matters #HumanRights #Canada YouTube Playlist

My own Bill C-51 YouTube Playlist

Any additional blogs I make will appear on my Whoa!Canada blog.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Happy Easter from Albrecht D√ľrer and Me

Albrecht Durer's Rabbit

I grew up in a creative family, and although I never formally studied art, it was a staple of my public school education* and so I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Leonardo da Vinci was. But Albrecht D√ľrer? Well, I had seen some of his work, but I had no idea who he was until I stumbled on his work on the Internet.

Albrecht D√ľrer was a “Renaissance Man” from Nuremberg, Germany. A few decades younger than Leonardo da Vinci, D√ľrer’s interests and work was nearly as eclectic. Albrecht D√ľrer created some wonderful paintings, scientific studies of the natural world (like the “Young Hare” I’m sharing here), designed architecture and fortifications, dabbled in type face creation, and worked out a lot of the mathematics of art, writing books about measurement, human proportions and geometry. But I think he’s most known for his incredible black and white drawings, elaborate etchings printed from copper engravings or woodcuts, which spread his name and fame throughout the known world.

Although all of Albrecht D√ľrer’s work is well into the public domain, you’ll find it all over the Internet. While some of it has been marked with proprietary watermarks by people and organizations seeking to claim copyright on it (a shady practise known as “copyfraud”) you can just bypass these things, since there are plenty of excellent quality reproductions of D√ľrer’s ¬†work in reputable places like Wikimedia Commons, the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Metropolitan Museum of Art and WikiArt.

I’ve taken the liberty of digitally restoring Young Hare to what I think it would have looked like when it was new.

*public school education in Canada that means the universally available state funded public education stretching from Kindergarden through the 12th grade.

Rijksstudio Awards 2015

Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina circa 1898 by WG
My digitally framed Queen Wilhelmina (CC0 ~ Public Domain)

This is a portrait of Wilhelmina, the great grandmother of today’s King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. I found her among the Rijksmuseum‘s online collection of its holdings.

One of the best things is that the Rijksmuseum understands that the Public Domain is the Public Domain. No claiming copyright on scanned images of Public Domain art here, this museum makes its collection available to users in high definition.

Better yet, the Rijksmuseum actively encourages users to make use of its works. To facilitate this it provides a web platform called Rijks Studios where people can collect their favourite Rijksmuseum artwork, and/or remix existing Rijksmuseum works into something completely new which can be posted to the site.

Best of all, the Rijksmuseum is providing an incentive to encourage users to create their own transformative works by way of The Rijksstudio Award 2015 contest that anyone in the world can enter!

Every kind of art imaginable is allowed ‚Äď design, fine art, applied art, photography, video ‚Äď and everyone can enter the competition. Check out the eclectic mix of last years finalists ranging from Old Master Headware to eye shadow found here.

I’m very busy with my PubSlush video so I hope I will be able to find the time to complete my own entry before the 15 March 2015 deadline — a notorious day in the arts known as “The Ides of March”.

Finding a Digital Public Domain Book

elmira carnegie 2
DRM-Free LabelAn avid Public Library user asked me if there was some way to access the book “Daddy Long Legs” by Jean Webster without having to submit to the Library’s Overdrive system. ¬†My friend believes this book was published around 1912, which places it squarely in the Public Domain.

(This is not to single out any particular library… my understanding is that “Public Libraries” all seem to have fallen into the thrall of Overdrive… I’ll blog about why people might want to avoid the odious Overdrive and DRM later.)

Any number of “free websites” like Public Bookshelf allow you to read online so they can serve you ads:

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster cover (1912)For myself, I prefer to go the free-as-in-freedom route.  The first place to look for any Public Domain digital book is online at the awesome Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/157

PG has been digitizing books since the 1970’s, so they have a very good selection. ¬†Sure enough, PG¬†does have “Daddy Long-Legs” which you can:

(1) read online, or

(2) download

  • in the Kindle proprietary format or
  • in the free eBook standard ePub,¬†which¬†can be read with any ePub reader on any digital device, or
  • in Plain Text.

Plain Text can be read in your computer’s text reader (Notepad or Geddit etc.)

If you don’t know if you have an ePub Reader, the one everyone can use is FBReader, the Free and Gratis ePub reader I know will work on windows, mac, GNU/linux, tablets/phones etc ¬†Download it free/gratis at http://fbreader.org/. ¬†(I am pretty sure this is the reader that comes native with the Calibre eBook conversion software.]

Mary Pickford“Daddy Long Legs” is a famous classic, so you can also download it:

  1. as a digital audio book free/gratis from Librevox [https://librivox.org/daddy-long-legs-by-jean-webster/]
  2. where it is actually stored on Internet Archive  [https://archive.org/details/daddy-long-legs_librivox)]
  3. or you can listen to the whole Librivox ebook on YouTube
  4. If you prefer movies, you can watch Mary Pickford in the 1919 Public Domain movie on YouTube
  5. which you can also download from Internet Archive

[There are also what I presume to be copyright encumbered film versions, like the Fred Astaire musical version:
and the 1970s animated version:
Either of these would be illegal to copy if they are still in copyright… they may or may not be; but it would take research to find out for sure, so until you know either way,it is always safest to assume the worst.]

If you are looking for digital Public Domain books, the best place to get them is not from the Public Library.  The problem is that even Public Domain books that library patrons acquire through Overdrive come  encumbered with DRM and/or  TOS requirements.

against DRM (cc by Nina Paley)In these days of copyright insanity, we at least ought to be able to access unencumbered Public Domain work. ¬†Why should some faceless corporate entity have the right to tell us what we can or can’t do with works in the Public Domain… because the Public Domain belongs to the public– and that’s you and me.

For future reference,¬†when you’re looking for Public Domain material,¬†always check the free-as-in-freedom & gratis¬†Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Canada,¬†archive.org¬†and¬†Librivox, because they¬†very often have them.¬† (And, if you’ve a little extra time on your hands, these wonderful public service organizations are always in the market for volunteers.)

waterloo library

Happy Public Domain Day!

Happy New Year from the Public Domain

In the beginning, everything was in the Public Domain. But that all changed when the English Queen Anne put an end to public ownership of our shared culture by passing the first Copyright Law in 1710. The idea was that this would encourage creators to create. Initially this Intellectual Property monopoly applied exclusively to the printed word. The term was limited to a few years to ensure creative works would return to the Public Domain.

As time went by, however, the scope of copyright has expanded to include most of the creative realms, and what were once limited terms (ostensibly intended to encourage creators to create) now extends decades past the death of the author. (So far no one has explained how this can possibly encourage dead creators to create new art.)

Because copyright terms have been extended so long, and sometimes even retroactively, works going into the Public Domain have flowed to a trickle, and in some cases to a halt. Those works that are emancipated from copyright bondage are scheduled to enter the Public Domain on January 1st every year, so on this day we celebrate the expiry of the monopoly over the works that return to the Public Domain.

Happy Public Domain Day!

Happy Public Domain Day!