Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

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Location: South London, United Kingdom

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Here is this Thing that happens

I do a Thing on a messageboard. A messageboard like ILX. A Thing which lots of other posters seem able to do, without comment or complaint. And yet, because it's *me* doing it, this Thing suddenly attracts all kinds of complaints and concern trolls and people who generally just object to my ~very existence~ or something and there ends up being a clusterfuck - which is not about the Thing, but ends up, for whatever reason, becoming all about the Cluster's PINIONS about ~me~.

And it doesn't seem to actually matter, if I participate in the clusterfuck, or close the browser and walk away in disgust, sometimes all it requires is someone to just ~mention my name~ and there will be a clusterfuck, whether I participate or ignore it or what.

And here's what happens: I stop doing Things.

This makes me pretty unhappy, because generally I enjoy doing Things, but I really really do not enjoy being the centre or subject of clusterfucks. Because clusterfucks are really pretty unfun for everyone except The Pig. And when the cluster is well and truly fucked, who takes the blame, and the negativity, and the accusations of "OMG, you are always so all about the ~drama~!!!" Is it the people who cluster and complain and concern troll? No, it is not. It is me.

And the thing that makes it worse, and even more annoying is those other people, who somehow manage to do exactly the same Thing, without incident, then turn around and go "what is your problem? Why can't you just do a little Thing without all this fucking Drama?" Because guess what, *their* experience of doing Things is completely fucking drama-free.

And if I try to explain, they turn around and say "OMG, why is it you always think that everything is all about YOU?" I don't know, why don't you go and ask the people back in paragraph one who make that Thing not about the Thing, but all about me?

That is just the irritating icing on the goddamn clusterfuckcake. I am pretty much the only person on ILX who gets slagged off if they are involved with a clusterfuck, and then gets slagged off for refusing to *start* a thing that I fear might become a clusterfuck. I'm fucked if I do, I'm fucked if I don't.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Streatham Is Beautiful

Guide to Karen D. Tregaskin's Work
(and short architectural walking tour)

Streatham Town Hall - (Frederick Wheeler, 1888) Directly opposite this gallery is a modern building at the end of a row of Victorian shops known as "The Triangle." This was once the site of Streatham Town Hall - not actually a civic building, but a venue for concerts, lectures and public meetings. It was demolished in 1988. Many of the other buildings in this exhibition are currently under threat, or have already been scheduled for demolition, while others have been re-used and redeveloped to become vital parts of the local community. Please take some time to walk up the high road and look at them carefully, as much of Streatham's rich architectural history may soon be gone forever.

Bank Parade - (Tooley and Sons, 1890) Turn left out of the gallery and walk down the High Road towards the Common. Opposite the children's play area, observe this row of shops with their elegant scrolled pediments. One of the buildings near Greyhound Lane has recently been cleaned, revealing patterns in the brightly coloured brick. Prior to the arrival of the railway in the 1860s, this was the site of two vast country houses, but in the last decades of the 19th Century, Streatham was redeveloped in the decorative late Victorian style of which these buildings are quite typical.

Streatham Ice Arena - (Robert Cromie, 1931) Turn around and walk back from the Common. On the left is this lovely Art Deco rink with Egyptian detailing, designed to hold 1000 skaters. This world class rink is internationally famous. (My friends in the States, whose knowledge of London consists of "that big clock on the river" had still heard of Streatham because of our ice rink.) It is currently slated for demolition, in order to build a Tesco's. Which I am quite certain will be neither world class nor world famous.

Streatham Baths - (Ernest Elford, 1927) This single block shows the wide range of architecture, from Art Deco to Neo-Classical within a few hundred feet. The roof of this building features stunning stained glass, but it has been subject to such neglect and allowed to deteriorate to the point where the building became unsafe and had to be boarded up. It, too, has been scheduled for demolition to make way for the new Tesco. On a stretch of road where there are already four major supermarkets within half a mile.

The White Lion - (F. Gough & Co, 1895) Walk back along the high road, past the gallery and up "The Dip" and find this magnificent pub two blocks past the church spires, on the left. There has been a coaching inn on this site since at least 1730, when it was the terminus of a horse-drawin bus from London. As well as a pub, inn and live music venue, the White Lion's Stables have been redeveloped for use as a community centre for workshops and children's classes.

The Tate Library - (Sidney R.J. Smith, 1890) A block north along the high road, on the right side, is the Tate Library, with its green dome and distinctive clock (recently repaired after water damage.) It was donated to the inhabitants of Streatham by the sugar magnate, Henry Tate, who lived nearby. In the 19th Century, rich men like Tate and Andrew Carnegie became philanthropists, using their money to improve the lot of ordinary people. These days, some very rich men are trying to cut funding for public libraries and have been trying to shut down several of Lambeth's fine libraries.

Sharman's - (Architect unknown - 1929) Walk north another block and you will reach the main intersection that is the heart of Streatham, with the Odeon on your right and this group of buildings opposite. Sharman's, build as a draper's shop, now W.H. Smith and the Post Office is a beautiful example of Art Deco design, with its geometric metal window frames. A recent cleaning, during the refurbishment of Sainsbury's next door, has revealed the lovely mellow red and cream brick work underneath 100 years of dirt and grime.

Caesar's - (Trehearne and Norman Preston & Co, 1929) Continue walking north past Streatham Hill station. On the same side of the road is one of the most notorious buildings in Streatham. Caesar's started life as the Locarno Ballroom, the glamourous centrepiece of the nighclubs and movie palaces that lined Streatham Hill in its incarnation as the "West End of South London." It became a nightclub during the 60s, hosting performances by the Rolling Stones and the Who, and was known as the Cats Whiskers, the Studio, the Ritzy and finally as Caesar's. The iconic chariot and horses were removed last year - the building is slated for demolition as the block is to be redeveloped, but work has stalled and the area rots.

Megabowl - (Charles Nicholas and J.E. Dixon-Spain, 1932) On the same block, and also facing demolition, is the former Gaumont Palace Cinema. At the time of its opening, it was the largest movie palace in Streatham, with 2431 seats - a similar size to the Streatham Hill Theatre on the next block, which was itself the largest theatre in suburban London, bigger even than the Covent Garden Opera House. During the Gaumont's heyday, there was an open-air cafe in the recessed terrace behind the pillars. It was converted to (at the time) Europe's largest bowling alley in 1962 and reopened as MegaBowl (featuring the alliterative Zapp Zone) in 1989. The building's frontage is listed and may be preserved in the new development, as has been done with the former ABC Cinema across the street, but the future of the rest of the building, which survived a hit by a V1 rocket during WWII, is uncertain.

Selected Bibliography

A Chronology of the Parish of Streatham - John W Brown, Roger A Brewer and Cecil T Davis
The High Road Streatham, An Architectural Appreciation - Graham Gower
Streatham Pictures from the Past - the Streatham Society
Additional research courtesy of StreathamPulse.com and the Tate Library

Colour versions of most drawings can be located on the artists "Streatham Is Beautiful" set on http://tinyurl.com/StreathamIsBeautiful

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Friday, July 08, 2011

The (Copyright) Elephant In The Room

It's every illustrator or designer's nightmare. There has recently been a rash of high profile retailers copying or stealing artists' work. It's become so common that it seems almost like a rite of passage for up and coming designers, but I never dreamed it could happen to me, too. Fortunately, my story has a happy ending.

A few years ago, I was in a struggling indie band. Since we didn't have the money for the usual video promotion for our single, Elephants, I decided to draw a comic book to drum up interest. Now obviously the pop star thing didn't work out, but I worked out a nice little sideline designing T-shirts, posters, album art and other graphics for bands.

A few months ago, I noticed I was getting really odd spikes of google activity in my Flickr Statistics. But it wasn't until last Thursday that I got a tip-off from an anonymous commenter: brandy melville sells this on a shirt... you probs know that though... anyways i love it!

watch out there's elephants in here

Actually, I'd had no idea, but a quick google confirmed my fears. The shirt was being sold by Brandy Melville, an Italian fashion label now based in LA.


(Source: Brandy Melville US Facebook)

I immediately launched a panicked tweet, with a link to my image and a link to an online retailer, asking for advice and help. I'd never before experienced the power and the *speed* of crowd-sourcing like that. Illustrators and designers retweeted my plea hundreds of times, offering help, advice and words of support. Within an hour, people in my network had located contacts at both the retailer and the designer. Within a day, thanks to the power of social networking, I'd spoken to several lawyers, a copyright expert, staff writers at both online and print style journals interested in the story, and a fashion PR and a high end brand consultant! Another friend looked up the company information, and located their owners, lawyers, and publicists. (I think it was at the point that they sent me a link where I could view their factory and warehouse on streetview, that I realised exactly how powerful a tool crowdsourcing was.)

The internet was also immensely helpful at digging out information about the scale of the issue. Not only was the shirt on sale everywhere from Japan to California (as confirmed by online friend who'd seen someone walking around wearing the shirt in Orange County, and thought "Hey, that looks like one of Masonic Boom's drawings!") but also had been written about by several fashion bloggers.

My initial disbelief and anger turned to fear. I heard so many horror stories from the blogosphere of everything from DeviantArtists finding their work being sold by Etsy users in Bulgaria to small artists getting royally ripped off by large corporations, safe in the knowledge that their victims did not have the money to pursue the matter. The singer of a world renowned rock band told me how his band's name and t-shirts had been pirated by a trendy high street shop whose name rhymes with "turban shout shitters" - without permission, without payment - but they could not afford the lawyers to pursue it.

At this point, I realised I had better seek legal advice, and quickly. I'd like to tell you I crowdsourced a lawyer, but that turned out not to be necessary. Firstly, one of my closest friends is a patent attorney in LA. Although this is completely out of her area of expertise, so she was not able to offer me any official advice, she was able to guide me through the options open to me, and the legal steps I would have to take. In the end, I spoke to my brother, an economist and author, who keeps a lawyer on retainer. Yes, I do realise exactly how privileged this situation makes me, but there are many other resources out there.

But, like I said, this story has a happy ending. Although I was prepared for the worst, a representative from Brandy Melville contacted me late that evening (my time - first thing in the morning LA time.) He admitted immediately that yes, it was clearly my image that they had copied without knowing the source. He apologised and asked how we could "collaborate" to make this legal. Although I was initially sceptical and mistrustful, within 24 hours, they made good on their word and emailed me a contract for a licensing agreement, detailing payment of fees and royalties for my drawing.

Well, colour me surprised. "International corporation acts responsibly, complies with the law" should not be news, but in the climate described above, it was actually refreshing.

As my lawyers read over the contract, I debated what to do. Some advisors were pushing me to demand punitive damages - to which I was legally entitled - as some kind of "punish money".

In the end, I decided to sign the contract, and not pursue damages. I just thought it would be vindictive and avaricious to do so. I do not know if the theft was deliberate, just an oversight or genuine mistake, or if some third party passed off my work as their own. In the absence of that knowledge, I follow the Categorical Imperative. How would I act if I knew my actions and outcomes would be made universal? I consider that a result of the company 1) admitting it, 2) apologising for it and 3) legally licensing the design to be a good universal outcome, not just for my case, but for the copying cases described above. I want to encourage other companies caught in this situation to settle, amicably, not dissuade them from following the example by punishing one that did the right thing.

I asked that in lieu of damages, they make a donation to The Elephant Family, an elephant-based charity, which would be a topical & poetic justice way of showing good faith & restoring karma or whatever.

I personally believe that punishing people for doing wrong is not as effective as rewarding them for doing the ethical and responsible thing. In a consumer society, one often feels powerless with regards to large corporations - but we have the ability to punish and reward corporations with our clicks, our pageviews, our "likes" and our purchases. In this case, Brandy-Melville behaved responsibly and ethically. They did the *right* thing, in admitting and making reparations for their mistake, and they deserve credit for it. Their actions, through being responsive and quick, turned me from an angry litigator to an ally and even a fan.

Are you listening, Urban Outfitters? This is how you respond to a copyright claim.

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