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May 2008

May 2008 -- Trains



  • Behind the Art:
    Making your own Paint Reference Cards
  • Myths and Symbols:
    If only Charles Babbage...
  • EMG News:
    News for May
  • Artist Spotlight:
    The Fantasy Artwork of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Internet (Do Not) Panic
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Art Show Season Again!


  • Advanced Licensing for Visual Artists
  • To LARP or not to LARP -- that is the latex-covered question
  • Orphan Works


  • Poem: The Vineyard Train
  • Fiction: The Ticket


  • Falheria: Trains
  • Tomb of the King: Valley of the Moon, Pt 1

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  • Internet (Do Not) Panic
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    Listen my children, and I shall tell
    Of the Orphaned Art thingy that made my life hell.
    'Twas the twenty-eighth of April, in two-thousand-eight...
    Hardly a man is now alive
    Who has any damn reason to remember that date...*

    Ah, lord, look at the time. Another Wombat Droppings due, hmm?

    I have an excuse for being late this month. (Well, in fairness, I have an excuse EVERY month, but the quality of my excuses varies significantly.) But this month, in addition to taxes** I had a lot of extra crap in my mailbox, because everybody and their kid brother heard about the Orphaned Art thingummy and, galvanized like so many virtual Paul Reveres, they pounded 'long the highways and byways of the internet, screaming that Congress was coming.

    If you want to know exactly what the Orphaned Art majigger is, go read Ellen's article on it. It's been researched and so forth, and Ellen is as sane and dispassionate an observer as one can imagine, as well as having a majorly vested interest in artist copyrights being respected, since she's an artist herself, and that's kinda the foundation of her business. We will not cover the details of this particular sky-is-falling thingy here.

    But here's the thing.

    S'not a big deal. It means a lot of things, some of which are quite interesting if you're into that sort of thing, but it does not mean that Congress is going to come marching down the road like the redcoats and stomp on our copyrights and take our art and pee on our cats. Nobody is going to pass a law like that. No bill to that effect is in the offing. Everything'

    I promise. I give you my guarantee, in fact. Should such a bill pass that takes all our copyrights away, I will personally come out and give you a backrub, and you may castigate me verbally while I do it. Scout's honor.

    But somebody wrote a hysterical article on the internet claiming that this WAS going to happen, peppered with a few jabs at Bill Gates (??) and some other oddities, and it got loose on the internet where NOTHING EVER DIES, and the next thing I know, my inboxes are stuffed to the brim with frantic citizens trying to warn me that Congress is about to steal my art, tax my tea, and rape my donkey. And I don't even own a donkey.

    These people mean well. There is no malice anywhere in this. These are people who read a scary post and freaked out and wanted to do a good thing.


    Frankly, it'd be easier if there WAS malice, because then I could legitimately get pissed off about it, because believe me, after the nth e-mail, I start to get awfully surly, and it would be nice to take it out on somebody, but I feel vaguely guilty about yelling at somebody who's only crime is failure to adequately research something on their own.

    See, this sort of thing happens every few months. It's the internet. Internet panics are as common as dirt, and like dirt, they tend to contain a healthy percentage of manure. And I have NEVER YET - and I remember the BBS days, kids - seen an internet panic that came to anything that would justify the amount of angst and flailing that it generated 'mongst the populace.

    So. Here's the thing. If you see something scary on the internet about how the government is gonna take your art, BEFORE you panic and pass it on to everybody else, I want you to stop and ask a couple of questions.

    1. What is the source? Could they have an ulterior motive? Do they have any credentials that would make them a reasonable source of information on this topic?
    2. Is the source calm and rational sounding, or are they engaging in hysterical language? Are they speaking in clear, lucid, neutral prose? (Hint: Are they saying things like 'Should this pass, it is possible that X may happen, or that Y could be abused in this fashion,' or are they saying 'If this passes, X WILL happen, and Y WILL be abused, and furthermore Z will rape your donkey!') Is this source making an appeal to my reason, or to my fear?
    3. Can you find independent confirmation of this information in links NOT provided by the source? (i.e., if they say that there's a bill before Congress right this minute, can you go to the congressional record -- yes, there is such a beast -- and find this bill on it?)
    4. If they ask you to sign a petition or buy a button or take part in a boycott, stop for a moment and think -- does this make any sense? Is this a situation where this action could possibly have an effect? (Think about this particularly with boycotts, which tend to bring out the regrettably sanctimonious in people.) Is there any reason that the people being boycotted or getting the position should give a rat's ass?
    5. Is this CURRENT? (Check your dates, people. This is IMPORTANT. Nothing dies on the internet.)
    6. Do I actually own a donkey?
    7. Is there any other possible way that this could be interpreted that doesn't involve the end of the world?

    And, for my purposes, I beg of you --

    1. Before you forward this crap to every bloody artist you've ever heard of, stop and ask 'Has this artist ever once given any indication to me personally that they want to get e-mail from total strangers about this sort of thing?' 'If this is the big deal it's supposed to be, is it possible that this artist may possibly have heard about this from another source already?' 'Am I really helping by doing this, or am I generating more hysterical spam?'

    Ask yourself these questions.

    And then, whatever the damn answers are, leave me off the mailing list, because you would not BELIEVE how sick I am of these bloody e-mails, and a whole lot of people who aren't thinking as rationally as you are about it have probably already sent me the damn thing.

    (Feel free to continue sending pictures of birds, links to wombat information, cool articles about parasitic trench fish -- I love that stuff. But I can do without the hysteria.)

    It'll be okay. I swear. It generally is. Just educate yourself before you add to the clutter. That's all I ask.

    Thank you.

    *Okay, okay, I won't quit my day job. Sheesh. Everybody's a critic.

    **I thought about doing a column on taxes, but in actual fact, all wisdom on doing artist taxes can be summed up in two sentences: Save more than you think you'll need. Get a CPA. There. See, that was easy. Can't pull a thousand words out of that, and the nine-hundred or so of listening to me whine about taxes would have been offputting to all but the most libertarian of readers.

    Ursula Vernon

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