Wittrig vs Unger: Imitation is NOT Always Flattery

Various works by sculptor John T. Unger.

John T. Unger is a fabulously inventive artist, environmentalist, writer, small business owner and the creator of copyrighted sculptural Artisanal Firebowls. He crafts his wares with primarily recycled or re-used materials, designing for permanency and functionality. His work has been featured on Etsy, BoingBoing, Neatorama, and by Craft Magazine, Variety and VenusZine, to name only a few.

Right now Unger’s mired in what he has dryly referred to as “an unwanted education in copyright law” and boy, does it sound like FUN!  Unger, who obtained legal copyright a while back to protect his original sculptures from piracy, says a man by the name of Rick Wittrig, owner of FirePitArt.com, has not only begun manufacturing and selling products which are extremely similar to Unger’s, but has even gone so far as to bring a federal lawsuit against Unger to have the copyrights for Unger’s own original artwork overturned.

Repeating for emphasis: Unger is being copyright-sued by a guy who makes knockoffs of his own work. Wooo!

Fire bowl, mask, and “fire imp” figurines by John T. Unger.

Attempts at settlement have failed. Unger, who has already spent $50,000 fighting against Wittrig, says that “seeking a judicial ruling in federal court will cost more than any artist or small business can afford on its own”, yet the lawsuit continues to move forward. Apparently, Wittrig has money to burn, so to speak. Unger isn’t taking it lying down:

A life in the arts is all I have ever really wanted. After more than 20 years of working towards that goal I have achieved success… It isn’t easy to make it as an artist and I didn’t have a lot of initial support. When I started my art business as a full time occupation I was homeless, $20,000 in debt, and had few tools but a laptop. I joke that “I did it with nothing, because nothing is free,” but there’s truth in this… I built what I have now from the ground up because I was passionate enough to keep doing the work no matter what else happened.

I don’t understand why a person would fight as hard as Mr. Wittrig has to profit from the work of another. It baffles me because I have devoted my life to making things which are unique and to marketing them as unique items crafted from a detailed personal philosophy. I don’t view original artwork as a commodity. I have no interest in imitation. If he had spent the time, energy and money that has gone into this lawsuit on designing original work, with its own story and its own unique appeal there would be plenty of room for both of us to succeed on our own merits.

Guys, I realize it’s important to pick one’s battles carefully in life. This might seem like an oddly piddling skirmish for me to throw in on, but honestly, supporting an artist like Unger is at the heart of why I got involved in an online community like Coilhouse in the first place.

If Wittrig wins by outspending, Unger could lose everything. Not just the rights to his own designs, but his house and his studio as well… basically everything he’s been working toward for roughly a decade. But at the heart of it, this is not about financial loss or gain. This is about not letting a bully with a big wallet ruin a truly creative person’s reputation and credibility. When basic protections like these are overturned, it weakens the law for all artists.

We can help: spread the word and if you can afford to, donate a buck or two to Unger’s defense fund. If you have a bit more spending money on hand, check out his incredible, lovingly made fire pits or other pieces– the integrity and beauty of Unger’s work speaks for him better than any press release ever could.

The First Rule Of Scientology Club Is…

Unlike many, I have no particular quibbles with Scientology. In terms of belief their particular brand of lunacy is no more abhorrent than omnipotent bearded men, elephant-headed deities, or reincarnation. There is something intrinsically modern about Scientology’s aliens and space-faring DC-3s. It is a a belief system with a mythology that could only have been invented by an author of science fiction. No other person would have that complete a vision or be willing to go so far beyond the pale. In that regard it is no surprise that the likes of Anonymous have pursued the organization as it has. They are, after all, infringing on prime geek territory.

In keeping with that same tone, Scientology has started a new advertising campaign comprised of a trio of commercials aimed at enticing the public. The one above is most interesting. If one didn’t know better one might speculate that it was aimed squarely at the aforementioned 4chaners, as it appears to be a none to subtle nod at a similar speech from Fight Club which, among other things, inspired the boards’s rules. Perhaps it is merely a byproduct of the organization’s many ties with elite Hollywood actors. Either way, the ads are undeniably slick and handily fit in with Scientology’s sci-fi roots. These are ads you would expect to find on the television in a Philip K. Dick novel; plastered on the billboards of some dystopian, near-future Los Angeles.

Mostly, though, they bring me back to my childhood, staying home sick from school and watching daytime television. Family Feud cuts to commercial break and a series of insightful questions flash on screen, appended by page numbers. How can a person suddenly lose confidence? Can your mind limit your success? Paper or plastic? Then, CRASH, a volcano explodes on the screen, churning up a hellish cauldron of white-hot magma, an ominous voice intoning the words “Read Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s the owner’s manual, for the human mind.” It had a profound effect on me as a child. At least, until The Feud came back on.

Human Rights? Not For You, Filthy Sodomite.

If one were to attend law school one could do a lot worse than New York University. The prestigious institution has a long and storied history. It also has an excellent program which invites well educated law professors from around the world to teach at NYU for a semester. This fall, Thio Li-ann will be teaching a class on human rights. Dr. Li-ann has an impressive résumé with degrees from Cambridge, Harvard, and Oxford. She has served on various law and advisory boards and taught at universities in New Zealand, Australia, and Taiwan. She has written papers on international law and human rights. She has also served in parliament in her home of Singapore where she worked tirelessly to protect the public from sodomy by supporting the continuation of legislation that criminalizes homosexual acts.

That last point seems to have angered some gay and lesbian students, many of whom are members of NYU OUTLaw. The group sent out an email to fellow students drawing attention to statements made by Dr. Li-ann in a speech she gave to Singapore’s Parliament on October 22, 2007 (transcript here; video above) concerning the fate of 377A of Singapore’s penal code which states the following:

Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.

Over the course of her argument Li-ann provides a laundry list of reasons for why this statute must stand and just how its repeal would cause society to collapse into a sweaty pile of diseased, unmarried, sex-crazed perverts who would, presumably, roam the streets raping children and feasting on the flesh of heterosexuals. The scope of her speech is, at times, breathtaking. She argues that homosexuality is a choice and homosexuals can change. She supposes that terms like “sexual orientation” can not only apply to homosexuality but to incest, bestiality, and pedophilia. She is also concerned about health, arguing that sodomy breeds disease with this, astonishing simile: “Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink.”

She then goes on to provide a handy list of five key steps that supporters of the gay agenda subscribe to in order to push their views and undermine society, one of which looks to lower the age of consent and another which looks to prohibit discrimination based and sexual orientation. These quickly bring her back to, you guessed it, pedophilia; going as far as to quote the “motto” of NAMBLA. She wraps up this particular section with a warning for the ladies:

To slouch back to Sodom is to return to the Bad Old Days in ancient Greece or even China where sex was utterly wild and unrestrained, and homosexuality was considered superior to man-women relations. Women’s groups should note that where homosexuality was celebrated, women were relegated to low social roles; when homosexuality was idealized in Greece, women were objects not partners, who ran homes and bore babies. Back then, whether a man had sex with another man, woman or child was a matter of indifference, like one’s eating preferences. The only relevant category was penetrator and penetrated; sex was not seen as interactive intimacy, but a doing of something to someone. How degrading.

She then goes on to blame the invention of marriage on the Torah, which I find not only ridiculous but highly offensive. One would like to think we’ve progressed far enough to where such antisemitism from an elected official would not be tolerated. It seems that people are still more than willing to blame the world’s ills on the Jews.

NYU has, thus far, not elected to rescind Dr. Li-ann’s invitation to teach, but there are questions that must be asked; the first and foremost of those being whether or not she is qualified to teach a class on human rights, something Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors — which has advised NYU on this matter — has doubts: “Academic freedom protects you from retaliation for your extramural remarks, but it does not protect you from being prohibited from teaching in an area where you are not professionally competent […]”

via Inside Higher Ed

Are You Somebody’s Daughter?

Somebody’s Daughter is the title anthem for a Christian-funded DVD/CD set, detailing the trials of five individuals attempting to escape the sweaty clutches of pornography. It’s a sweeping ode to innocence, childhood, and the endurance of the human spirit. It is also unaware that the thought of the young, nude, nubile nymphet fellating a dozen men simultaneously being somebody’s daughter is a turn on for some.

Watching this video one is immediately struck by the simplicity of the views expressed here. Certainly this is no surprise, after all one of the main draws of religion is the distinct separation of right and wrong. There is no room for a gray area where porn may not be manufactured using women enslaved by drugs or, perhaps, actual chains.

What’s more prevalent, however, is the 50s-era sensibilities on display. Maybe it’s the way the vocalist enunciates the word “flesh”, drawing out the first three letters before biting down on the last two, but one gets the sense that these people’s daughters don’t enjoy their sexuality and, if they do, then the least you and your filthy, filthy penis could do is refrain from encouraging them. And it certainly leaves no room for the existence of women who enjoy pornography, perhaps even pornography featuring somebody’s daughter.

More than that, though, I must return to the central premise; the idea that the object of one’s lustful desires is “somebody’s daughter” being a functional deterrent for men wishing to sit down with some porn and massage their genitals. The thinking here is presumably, “You have a daughter of your own, how does the thought of some other man massaging his genitals while viewing video of little Sally fisting a man in a rubber suit strike you?” Really, what is this video talking about here? Is it a serenade to the sanctity of our children’s innocence; the preciousness of their safety or merely the thinking that, if someone masturbates to images of my daughter, she has embarrassed me. If this was your daughter, what shame would it bring down upon you, her father? Wouldn’t it be terrible for you and your family if it was discovered that your daughter was a pornstar or a stripper?

Wouldn’t that just be awful for you?

Surprisingly, They Kept the Brain

My parents tried so hard to protect me from the Internet. In my early years online, my dad installed CyberPatrol, a program that changed all my curse words to “****”.  Fortunately, the program wasn’t too ASCII-savvy, and my exclamations of “shít!” and “fück!” echoed loud and clear across IRC. Then there was the time limit: after 2 hours online, a little dialog box would pop up and say to me, “Your Time is Up! Click OK to Sign Off” or something to that effect. Upon clicking OK, the net connection would shut down until the next day. But I found my way around that, too: I just never clicked OK, so the internet stayed on. And thank God, because otherwise I might’ve actually developed an interest in sunlight and fresh air in my teens. Fück that!

Sometime later, Bell picked up on the fears that compelled my dad to install that poorly-programmed piece of shít, and ran the ad above to promote its own version of a web-based parental control tool. You’ll note that the page that looks like the game board from Operation is actually an anatomical textbook, with the breasts, the ovaries, and – inexplicably – the stomach removed. What exactly is this ad saying – about women’s bodies, sex education, the intelligence of the parents they’re marketing to, and/or quality of the software?

Via the venerable SocImages, where commenter pcwhite notes: “I remember the controversy over this ad from several years ago. Bell trotted out the predictable non-apology stating that what they were really doing was *satirizing* the over-protective parents who would censor their kids’ anatomy illustrations. I think that’s a weasely batch of bullshit, but there you are. I also love how this ad is unintentionally truthful: filters routinely deny access to websites about sex education as well as porn.”

Just an Excuse to Post My Favorite Pulp Novel Cover

Lesbian Starlet
“I paid for a lap dance, not a desk dance.” Caption/image via Pop Sensation.

Faux lesbianism – yet another value that this great country has lost. Just look at Katie Perry’s disgrace of a music video, “I Kissed a Girl.” As heyguysitsthebible points out, “Katy Perry is no fake lesbian. She’s fake questioning. She’s fake experimenting. And that’s not good enough.” Indeed. The author proceeds to dolefully recount the good old days, back when this country still had some backbone, in which bands like t.A.T.u had to actually make out with each other to prove that they were indeed true fake lesbians. The depths to which this nation has sunk! Not only does Katy Perry fail to lock lips with a single female in her music video, but to add insult to injury, in the end she actually wakes up next to her boyfriend, realizing that her super-safe, bowdlerized lesbian fantasy (or was it a fantasy about being in an ad for Claire’s Accessories?) was just a dream. Damn it, we are better than these last eight years.

Jill Sobule, whose catchier, wittier “I Kissed a Girl” video became a controversial hit in the pre-Ellen mid-90s (to be fair, her video doesn’t have a kiss in it either, though it does have Fabio in uniform, which somehow makes it extra-gay), isn’t bothered: “I don’t feel precious about the title, but I’ve gotten tons of e-mails from annoyed fans,” she recently told EW.com. “Maybe I’ll write a third ‘I Kissed a Girl’ for fun… it will be about how I kissed her, left the dull boyfriend, got gay-married in California, and really no one gave a shit.”

Meanwhile, real lesbians continue to make music! Uh Huh Her just released a new music video. The luscious Leisha Hailey looks oddly like Cylon Six in it, but the real star is still the hipster unicorn.

Memo to Agency: Power of Internet Works Both Ways

A few days ago, there was a heated discussion over at copyranter about some new ads which recycle funny student exam answers of the “They Didn’t Study” variety. Meme-tastic scans of such exam answers (“Find X.” “Here it is.”), immortalized by benevolent teachers in public service to the entire Internet long ago, have floated around the web since the Usenet days. In the copyranter thread, some came down on the ad school for “recycling 8-year-old internet jpegs,” while others maintained that all ads repackage old ideas, and that the ads in question did so well.

Stealing old internet memes, that I can forgive. It’s not worth the effort to get all indignant – not when it can be much worse. How bad can it get? Behold! Compare BBDO Athens’ ad for Dexim at the top of this post to an early photo by Jamie Nelson below.

…really? Really?

First of all: BBDO Athens, this is Photoshop Disasters calling. If you’re going to photoshop a model onto a background, at least make sure you get the shadows right. At least Jamie actually put the model on the that background. If you’re going to copy something, at least improve it. The agency lists the photographer, creative director, art director, art buyer, stylist, hair and makeup artist, and photo producer for this shoot. Clayton Cubitt asks, “it takes that many people to rip-off a young photographer’s little editorial shoot?” Why didn’t they just hire Jamie? This is from the same guys who produced that sexist BMW ad, by the way.

It all comes to a full circle so easily on the web. There’s a whole blog devoted to it. How can people think that they won’t get caught, in this day and age?

[via Siege]

The Motherland Needs a Word With You

Earlier this week, while taking a leisurely stroll along the information superhighway, I came across a peculiar image. Shot by Steven Meisel, it shows some of our best models dressed like something between a tea cozy and a Commie jackass. Paused by this discovery, I realized that it had gone too far. The Motherland was speaking though me, as if to say “Back up the Russia-philia train for just one moment, son”. I am but a messenger.

It is certainly not “wrong” to be inspired by an aesthetic, but when does inspiration breach on clownificated abuse? Example: I love Japan and its many offerings but draw the line at food & fashion inspiration. The second you see me throwing peace signs in photos, wearing a bejeweled eye patch or mixing half-baked Japanese slang into my speech, feel free to shoot on sight. So where do we draw the line when it comes to Russia-worship?

Borat advertising did it, countless graphic designers and industrial bands are guilty of If. The most common offense is replacing characters with similar-looking Cyrillic ones. One perfect example is this Repo! poster. If you were to actually read what film title spells out it would sound like “Yah-eh-roh Mdi”. What could have been a fine piece of art is now a buffoon. Take heed, designer.

More friendly observations below the jump.

Russia to Ban Goth, Emo from Public Life

Figure A: Russia’s bad kids [via]

Oh, modern Russia! My former homeland, with your gold-plated toilets, your polonium, your hotpants, your outdated military technology, your simple modesty… how you continue to enchant me with your many wonders! Especially when it comes to feats of social engineering. Witness, for example, the Kremlin’s ingenious new plan to ban emo and goth, as reported by The Moscow Times:

State Duma deputies, Public Chamber members and social conservatives have hammered out legislation aimed at heading off the spread of emo culture, which they describe as a “dangerous teen trend.” The Duma last month held a parliamentary hearing on a raft of proposed amendments contained in a document called “Government Strategy in the Sphere of Spiritual and Ethical Education,” a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times. Among other measures, the proposed legislation calls for heavy regulation of emo web sites and for banning young people dressed like emos from entering schools and government buildings. The bill also outlines what it calls a “spiritual and ethical crisis” facing Russian youth, including the high rate of alcohol abuse, teen abortions and “negative youth movements.” Emo ideology encourages and justifies drug use and sexual relations among minors, according to the bill, which also lumps emos and goths together with skinheads.

Negative youth movements? Sexual relations among minors? Of course you’d never encourage such a thing, Russia. Certainly not with government funds! And especially not if they dress like Anonymous! Oh, wait…

Update: Zo adds, “just wanted to supplement the post with this link submitted to me this morning by Apaniyam on Flickr. There is talk of curfews, a ban on body mods and more.

Under the new measures, schools would be prohibited from celebrating Western holidays like Halloween and St. Valentine’s Day, which are deemed inappropriate to “Russian culture.” Toys in the shape of monsters or skeletons would be banned as “provoking aggression.”

Bonus extended remix: compare and contrast to the Mexican government’s treatment of its young emo citizens. After violence against the subculture increased, government officials actually launched a campaign to promote understanding under the slogan “for the freedom of being young, live and let live.” Russia vs. Mexico: it’s on!

Figure B: Russia’s good kids [via]. The one with the asymmetrical bangs is about to be seized and removed from the scene.

[thanks, Milly.]

Russian Women – The Real Truth!

Are you sick of being victimized by the overly confident and spoiled women of America?

Are you intrigued by the exotic yet vulnerable women of Eastern Europe?

Do you want to feel like a Big Powerful Savior Daddy-Man?

If you answered “yes” to one of more of the above you are part of a growing demographic. A demographic that’s ever-expanding, cheerfully bubbling to the surface of the internet like a pot of boiling baby feces. Yes, legions of xenophiles are uniting in one common goal – to meet and wed a Russian Woman – the perfect blend of dignity and modesty wrapped up nicely in a blanket of historical misfortune. And they’re doing it on Russian Women: The Real Truth.

Here you are led by the brave American-born blog admin through the finer points of kindling Russian romance on the Web. He unveils the complex secrets of the Russian woman’s psyche, the way brute Russian men treat the ladies as a commodity and insightful tips on avoiding the scams of “mail order bride services”. How does he know so much about Russia, you might be wondering to yourselves. Well, that’s because he lives there now! Yes, living in Russia has granted him unique access to Russian intricacies the rest of you non-Russians aren’t privy to. Just look at the way he describes his inspiration behind the blog:

“Russian women are like heroic characters because they are always dealing with dirty situations and environments but somehow they still manage to stay beautiful and out of trouble. I am like most Americans in that I love a good underdog story where the hero faces incredible odds but still comes out as the champion. This is a labor of love because it is an opportunity to bring the true story of these women into the light.This is especially important since their own modesty would never allow them to do it themselves…Russian women are looking for manly leaders who have a clear direction and purpose in life and from a historical and survival perspective this makes a great deal of sense”.