Housekeeping Matter #4: Blog Clinic

I've been getting a lot more visitors the last week or so . . . including some new regulars, if I'm reading the data correctly . . . and, though I know a few of you outside the blog, I was wondering if some of the rest, especially visitors old and new who've never left a comment, could leave a brief one here telling me why you visit regularly, what you like (or dislike) about this blog, and how you think I can make it better.

In other words, Tom Sutpen's Blog Clinic is now open for business.

And I eagerly await your input.


Brent McKee said...

Hey Tom. Love the Blog, particularly the pictures although I think you use more than I probably would. Any concerns about copyright on the pictures?

Tom Sutpen said...

Hey, Brent. Glad to see you're a visitor to these shores.

I'll admit, this has become a photo blog almost by default. I'm not entirely sure anyone visiting wants to read a lot of text rendered by 'moi'(a brief swelling of text last month, and the response thereto, pretty much put the K.O. on whatever hopes I might have had to make this a mixture of words and images). No one's really interested in my prose, to put it bluntly.

As for the photos, I've adopted the following policy: If anyone objects to my using a particular image, and can prove they have legal standing to make such an objection, then I'll gladly remove it. So far I've received no complaints.

Thanks for visiting, Brent, and feel free to comment at will.


Bill said...

Love the photos. Mickey Spillane and Lefty Frizzell? Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

and if photographers had a license to kill there'd be a whole lot of dead blogger thieves. I love the part about how you'll remove an image if the person complaining can prove to you they own the image, as if you had some right to them to exercise. You don't own any of the images do you? This is an exercise in thievery then, isn't it? You're not a photographer, you're not a professional writer either, so perhaps this point has no impact on you. But it is an unfair practice to all legitimately creative people who make a living from their work. Writers and photographers like to give permission, get credited, and perhaps even get paid for their copyrighted materials used in someone else's "creative" endeavor. If there were an editorial or critical context it might be slightly more acceptable but you are doing no more than a scrapbook, a tribute to your "sensibility" like people used to do cutting out pictures from movie mags and pasting them down but that was done in private.

Tom Sutpen said...

"and if photographers had a license to kill there'd be a whole lot of dead blogger thieves. I love the part about how you'll remove an image if the person complaining can prove to you they own the image, as if you had some right to them to exercise."

Is that you, Fred (probably not, since you're posting from Amsterdam)? No matter. I'll plead 'nolo contendre' to the above, but I think my policy of removing an image only at the behest of its owner is eminently fair. What, you think I should leave it up if somebody complains? Besides, last I checked I wasn't receiving even imaginary compensation for this endevor, so my use of these images could easily fall under the "fair use" doctrine.

As a matter of principle, I'm not sure it wouldn't be a form of leeching even if I *had* permission; like, say, if I wanted to build a career around sucking on the marrow of a dead filmmaker's bones. I mean, just 'cause I got the widow's permission, that wouldn't make it an honorable enterprise, would it?

"You don't own any of the images do you? This is an exercise in thievery then, isn't it?"

In principle it is, yes. As I said, I'll not contest the charge. But it's unsurpassingly benign thievery, remember that.

You're not a photographer, you're not a professional writer either, so perhaps this point has no impact on you.

How do you know I'm not a professional writer?

But it is an unfair practice to all legitimately creative people who make a living from their work. Writers and photographers like to give permission, get credited, and perhaps even get paid for their copyrighted materials used in someone else's "creative" endeavor.

Creativity is in the eye of . . . you know the rest. Personally, I think there's a small measure of creativity to what I'm doing here, but it's useless to argue the point strenuously. As to the matter of credit, in nearly every instance I swiped these images off the internet from sites which had gone through the same process in obtaining them. In other words, I don't have so much as a clue as to who owns these images most of the time, so I couldn't weigh down the presentation with credits even if I wanted to.

That might be a rationalization, but you'll have to admit it's a clever one.

"If there were an editorial or critical context it might be slightly more acceptable but you are doing no more than a scrapbook, a tribute to your "sensibility" like people used to do cutting out pictures from movie mags and pasting them down but that was done in private."

Here, I'll take issue with you. There *is* both a critical and editorial context to these entries. You're assuming, by employing the word "scrapbook", that I have some measure of admiration for every subject herein. That is not the case, I can assure you. On many occasions I do, but on just as many I don't. Often these images are used in ironic counterpoint to a quotation, sometimes to make the viewer reevaluate the stature of certain individuals, sometimes in, yes, flat-out tribute or damnation. In short, I do put *some* thought . . . a great deal of thought, actually . . . into how I present these materials.

This is one point I am not prepared to concede.

Still, I want to thank you for leaving this comment, because at the very least it gives me an opportunity to address these issues head-on. I hope you continue visiting.

Anonymous said...

I've run out of time to respond to your response right now but I'll try to return some day. But reading your answer and a quick checkup on Google has given me the sad news that you are one of those folks who craves attention even if it's a pie in the face. Nonetheless I have to thank you (and I'm serious) for giving me the most amusing time I've had in days. Google led me to some movie fan group discussing the merits of Kevin Smith (and I agree with you there are none) and you enter the fray in all of your oblivious monocle and top hat wearing elitist splendor name-dropping old British silly-ass comedy teams etc and you get set upon by the slacker Smith fans Lord of the Flies style, who answer your loopy snootiness with lines like "Why do I get the impression you know what cock tastes like?" And then you try hard to prove street cred, talk to these fellows in their own lingo so to speak and convince them you can "get down" you're not an old fuddy-duddy. I loved it. It was Internet Theatre of the finest sort. It was like an episode of Frasier except it was screamingly funny. Thank you for being you.

Tom Sutpen said...

(geez. you've gotta be someone connected with 'afb'. I mean, the level of hostility is too unwarranted to have emerged from any other quarter)

I would only take issue with your contentions that I'm looking for either attention or "street cred". There's so many ways I could get attention on the internet if I wanted it that the mind boggles in counting them. I mean, if you wanted to see attention-seekers, I could show you some genuine lulus (run a Google search on the name Tony Gaza someday and then come back and tell me I crave attention). I wouldn't, as a matter of course, just assume that when someone publishes a blog, or participates in discussions online, that their only purpose is one of garnering people's notice. For instance, I don't automatically assume that that's what youre doing here, so why would you assume that about me?

As for the matter of "street cred", I'd completely forgotten about that contretemps on "Ain't It Cool News" over Kevin Smith (that had to be at least 4 years ago) but, after re-reading it, I think I gave as good as I got, and I knew going into it that the fanboys would try to savage me as best they could. It goes with the territory over there, so I was well-prepared for it. My 19th century affectations in that set-to were deliberate; intended to needle and annoy them if nothing else. I didn't (and don't) care what anyone, other than those I like and respect, thinks of me; and the very last thing I've ever needed is props from geekazoid Talkback-ers on "Ain't It Cool News" (I think I have more ambition in life than that).

Besides (returning to the 'attention' issue for the moment), if I truly am the wanton attention-seeker you portray me as, then wouldn't I subject myself to that nonsense on a daily basis? And wouldn't I have used this blog as a forum for my personal indulgence; writing incessantly about wonderful me?

You really haven't thought this through, have you?

Though once again I thank you for visiting as well as commenting.

Tom Sutpen said...

At the risk of being labelled an attention junkie, I thought I should provide some context for the last couple of comments. Here's the discussion my self-appointed conscience and I were referring to:

Bill Chinaski said...

i enjoy the whole collage effect of your site, the unique contrast of outstanding images and great quotes. it's a quiet oasis on the internet away from the cultural wasteland of our current post-orwellian nightmare.

the key is to not give a fuck what anyone thinks and forge ahead . . .

"everbody's a mad scientist, and life is their lab. we're all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos."
—david cronenberg

Tom Sutpen said...

Thank you, Bill. As someone who co-produces one of my favorite blogs, your words are doubly appreciated. Also, that's a great Cronenberg quote and it pretty much nails what I'm doing. Personally, I *don't* give a flying fuck, but I will admit I'm interested in what my visitors think (especially the ones who come by repeatedly). I'm mystified, however, how anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the english language could label a blog primarily concerned with non-personal matters self-indulgent. But it's of no moment.

I will keep on trucking.

Thanks again for your kind words.

Brent McKee said...

Dammit Tom, I never knew that I was going to ignite this sort of firestorm when I mentioned the pictures! I've been intending to put some pictures in my blog for a while - it would have been nice to have had a photo of Charles Lane in the posting where I noted the old curmudgeon's 100th birthday. My worry has always been a knock at the door from the "friends of The Mouse" or someone else threatening me with a beating - or worse a law suit. I know I can post my own stuff (and I've got a couple of things that I will post if my brother ever gets around to scanning them, but the rest is tricky.

I've done some research for articles that my brother has written. Sometimes the editor wants photos (usually of World War II armoured vehicles) to go with the article but they have to be "copyright free". It's hard enough finding the photos of some of this equipment; finding (and being sure that it is) copyright free is a pain in the ass. Mainly I end up finding sites where they've got pictures and don't openly state that the material on the site is copyrighted, but where di _it_ come from.

Tom Sutpen said...

That was my point, Brent. I may be engaged in a form of theft with these images . . . and once again, whoever owns them can send me a 'cease & desist' order and I'll comply if the complaining party has standing . . . but I think I'm safe in saying that in a large number of these I'm stealing the image from someone who has themselves stolen it. Some of these could be second-or-third generation thefts for all I know.

Because I *don't* know. I'm not just going to assume that whomever I got the image from has title to it (and there've been instances where I did not grab an image because its ownership was clearly stated).

At any rate, the only alternative to images that I can see is writing material for the thing. But I'm not stupid, either. I know what little audience this blog has will disappear in a heartbeat the minute I start doing that. So I'm choosing the lesser of two evils here. I can live with some people not liking it, believe me.

Anonymous said...

Self-delusion and self-justification are clearly mother's milk to you. You present yourself in a pompous, ridiculous light on these usenet groups--you've been very busy in a battle of wits with 16-year-old internet foes thru the years I see--but of course you "meant to" appear pompous and ridiculous. You "get the joke". I've now glanced at some of your other posts and you appear to be quite the put-on artist indeed!

Anonymous said...

Since you were kind enough to respond in detail to my accusations about the use of the images let me give you a reply.

Tom Sutpen said...

Oh, well . . .

I don't agree with your opinion, but I won't argue the point.

Anonymous said...

re the use of images not your own
I do hope I'm not misstating your case as I don't want to and don't see any need. If I've gotten it right, you accept that you are a "thief" doing this, you accept that you are taking something that doesn't belong to you, although you do not seem to feel "theft" in itself is very stigmatizing you de factor concede that this is problematic from a legal standpoint and perhaps actionable by virtue of the fact you avoid taking pictures where the copyright is stated. And regarding justifications, you feel entitled to take possibly stolen material because you took it from someone you think stole it, and because you have not been paid or profited from the stolen material. Further, you also feel justified in taking other people's images because!!! no one would look at your blog if it contained your prose instead of the lifted images made by people who are not you and you do not want to lose your audience!!! (how do I know you are not a professional writer you asked? Do you want to make a claim here? I assume you're using a pen name or perhaps your parents were big Faulkner fans) Does anyone out there not see this as possibly just remotely self-serving, morally equivocating and a hint sociopathic? I and many other people who write and make images professionally have had material taken out of books and magazines and even private resources and uploaded into cyberspace for someone else's fun, profit or creative endeavor. Perhaps I am overstating the case in this context and elements of fair use are relevant (tho I assure you Disney and others will not concede this)and the inernet is after all the wild west and anything goes. Even if this was conceded, I think your elaborated sense of self-justification indicates that you simply don't respect the copyright and control an artist or writer has over their work. Faced with the idea of removing an image you are using--again, YOU concede that you would be obliged to do this under the circumstances of a copyright holder denouncing you--you say: okay, if they catch me, and hey this guy over here robbed somethin' too, and anyway....oh this was didn't want to weigh down "the presentation with credits". Perhaps the people whose credits they are would disagree about that excess baggage.

Anonymous said...

A final word and I will go away.
I've put my two or three cent in here because I found your justifications miserable and because I felt irritated enough to goad you. This discussion is indicative of the problem that has to be faced on the internet before it gets worse--much worse than what you are doing. If people feel no guilt or shame or nothing but a sense of entitlement to what they can technically get up on the net than creative people are going to suffer. There has to be a change in attitude I believe. End of sermon.

Yes your blog is interesting and evocative and your taste in cinema is admirable. ciao

Tom Sutpen said...

Well, I thank you for your words about the blog itself.

My only response is that basically everything you've written is in some sense true, with two exceptions.

One: I don't accept your characterization of my using these images as "sociopathic", simply because I'm fully aware . . . and have been from the moment I started this blog . . . of all the issues you've raised pertaining to using images not my own. I did debate with myself considerably over this approach, believe me. In the end I decided to forge ahead with it. Now, you can say that the wrong side won out in that debate. I won't argue with you. But I honestly wrestled . . . and still do to some extent (which is why I find your objections, and the airing of them, valuable to this blog). . . with the moral dimension of this matter. It's every bit as much a matter of principle to me as it is to you and, despite the fact that I have no intention of altering my course (not at this time, anyway), we do not differ on the base-line morality of what I'm doing.

Two: I can't speak for others on the internet who engage in this practice, but I can assure you that, with the exception of the High School photo of myself I posted some weeks ago, I have never experienced any sense of entitlement to these images. It is always in the back of my mind that *somebody* holds legitimate title to what I'm posting; which is why I decided from the start to institute a policy whereby I would remove an image should its owner object to its use. That's not mere legal cover; it's the least I can do absent any definitive information as to an image's primary source. The matter of ownersip of images online is so ambiguous that in virtually every instance I wouldn't know *who* to ask for permission. I collect these photos using the Google Image search engine (though I do get images from friends on occasion) and, once again, in those cases where I've happened upon something that I thought might be of use but its ownership was clear, or there was a stated proscription against their use, I moved on.

Also, though I admire William Faulkner no end, my parents are not fans as far as I've been able to tell. They did indeed endow me with the name Thomas, however, thereby sticking me with a literary forbear (and a demented one at that) to the end of my days. I've only had to confront the "pen name" issue about 10-12 times so far. As I said to someone in a recent email, I don't know what conclusions we might draw from this as to the state of literacy in this country or the reputation of Faulkner through the decades, but for good or ill Thomas Sutpen *is* my name . . . long may it wave.

One last thing (just to satisfy my curiosity), have I ever had dealings with you prior to this? I only ask because you seem to have some familiarity with my past history on Usenet (though you can count the number of actual flamewars I've gotten into over the past 4 years on one hand), so I was wondering if you were a stray 'ramp-f' regular or something of the sort. You can email me with your answer to that if you'd like.

In closing, I apoplogize if anything I've engaged in here (or anything I've said in the course of this exchange) has offended you . . . there was no need for either of us to be rancorous about any of this, so I for one am sorry if I was . . . and I genuinely thank you once again for the opportunity to air these issues publicly.