Digital piracy, crisis of the negro intellectual, pindar’s odes, my face hurts!!!!!

Like most elder millennials, I’ve engaged in my fair share of digital piracy. When I was in college, we had an app called MyTunes (and another one that did the same thing, called OurTunes) that let you download any of the files in the iTunes folder of anybody in your dorm. I downloaded a lot of music. I still have a lot of that music. I’ve thought about deleting or re-buying it, but the effort to find every track and pay money for it seems monumental.

I stopped pirating musics, books, tv shows, movies etc when I was 25 or so. I realized, wow, at some point I am going to sell a novel, and it’s really not going to be a good look if people find out I am pirating my media. The only library I kept was my music one: I deleted all the other illicit libraries.

Since then I’ve accessed all media legally. The worst thing I’ve done is share Netflix passwords with an old roommate. I write off all the books I buy on my Schedule C, so I can attest that I spend literally thousands of dollars per year on books alone.

Oddly, the book industry has remained the least affected by digital piracy. The sales of physical books has remained very robust, for one thing, but I don’t think even ebook piracy is a huge deal. My theory is that on a per-hour basis, books are the cheapest form of media. Like, you can pay $12 for a one hour album, or $20 for a two-hour movie or $3 for an episode of television, or you can pay $10 (Kindle pricing) for a book that’ll take you seven hours to read. That’s comparatively cheap. It’s just not worth the trouble of pirating the book.

I remain relatively sanguine about people pirating my books. I know they do it, because both of my books are available on piracy websites (I’ve even downloaded them just to make sure), but so what? What I understand is that most pirated copies aren’t really a lost sale. People who pirate media are often something like digital hoarders: they accumulate thousands or tens of thousands of titles, and they only read a fraction of them. So piracy operates on totally different principles from people who buy books just to read them.

Also, both of my books are COMICALLY far from earning out their advances, so it’s not like another sale would put money in my pockets anyway. So if you really want to pirate my books, pirate away!

I bet that in a hundred years we’ll be glad for pirates: books can disappear quite easily. Amazon could stop existing tomorrow, and it would become impossible to get e-copies of most books, if they don’t exist in pirate libraries.

Lately I’ve embraced the principle that I want to own my copy of all my files. This has led to me buying copies of a lot of the songs I’ve enjoyed since I stopped pirating music. I realized that, after fifteen years, I still listen to the songs I downloaded in college, not because I love them, but because I have been able to transfer them from computer to computer, without having to leave them behind when I switched streaming services.

My Face Hurts

Normally I begin blog posts with some personal notes, and then I segue into something of more general interest. I’ve decided that from now on I’ll rearrange the posts a bit before uploading them. So this is the personal part:

I’ve done sixteen laser treatments on my face, and I still have a sprinkling of black hairs (and a whole lot of white ones). The white hairs aren’t visible if I shave, but the roots of the black ones still show, so I decided to get those cleared up at an electrolysis clinic. BLINDING PAIN. BLINDING. I was literally crying. The ones right under my nose were the worst, it felt like the scene in Marathon Man where the Nazi dentist tortures Dustin Hoffman (I’ve never scene the movie, by the way, I’ve just heard about the scene). And while the tears were running down my eyes, I was like, oh yes this is why you shouldn’t delay giving hormones to a kid if they know they’re trans.

I’ve been growing facial hair since I was at least sixteen. I’ve spent at least two thousand dollars on laser treatments–these were by themselves extremely painful by the way. But the electrolysis costs $110 for a half hour, and it’s very possible I’ll need another ten or twenty treatments there. A trans woman of my acquaintance told me she’d had a thousand hours of electrolysis in her life (over the past thirty years) and still goes for an hour a week! Seems nuts, but there you go. All preventable with the application of the right hormones at an early enough age. There’s a serious cost to delaying.

Anyway the electrolifier, Sofia, who may or may not be a Nazi (but probably isn’t) sold me a numbing cream, so hopefully next time will be easier. I was extremely pleased with the results though: she got a number of stubborn hairs, and my upper and lower lip looked cleaner than ever before. Also, compared to those hairs right under the nose, nothing else was particularly painful. Even when it felt as if she was stabbing deep into my lip, I was like, at least it’s not the nose.


Odes of Pindar

I’ve gotten back into lyric poetry, and these poems literally defined the genre. Pindar mostly wrote odes to Olympic athletes, which I’d thought would be boring, since who wants to read 2500 year old encomia? But somehow I’m finding it very authentic and empowering and noble. The odes usually begin with something about the athlete in question and then Pindar will develop a long mythological metaphor, before circling back around to the athlete’s virtues.

I can’t quite describe the value I see here. I think it’s merely the simplicity and the nobility–the idea that a human being might be worth remembering and immortalizing for the ages. I like how uncynical and undeconstructed it is. Here’s a passage from his Ode to Thieron, winner of the single-horse chariot race. It’s from the mythic part.

Thirteen suitors has Oenomaus killed,
and in this way delays the marriage of his daughter
Cowards do not seek out great risks;
men must die, so why should anyone crouch in darkness,
aimlessly nursing an undistinguished old age,
without a share in glorious deeds?
This contest is meant for me; now give me the success I desire

Crisis of the Negro Intellectual

Saw a discussion online today about how students feel like professors shouldn’t say “Negro.” They equate it with the other n-word. I wouldn’t go that far, but I definitely wouldn’t say negro in public!

This book is basically gossip about New York’s Black intellectual circles from roughly 1919 to 1967. It’s an endless account of internecine squabbles and conflicts. Too long by far, but still interesting.

I particularly like the analysis of the Communist Party’s role amongst the Harlem intelligentsia, and the ways that the Communist Party was deeply hostile to the idea of an independent Black literature, dealing exclusively with matters of Black culture and daily life, outside the realm of oppression.

The problem that the eponymous intellectual must deal with is the fact that all the support for intellectual activity–in terms of audience, readership, acclaim, material support–comes from white people, and yet a Black intellectual’s material comes from Black culture. So they face the issue: do I write for white people? Or to develop themes that are relevant to Black people? Essentially, it’s the choice between integration and Black nationalism.

In some ways I think contemporary wokeness is a solution to this problem. It’s a way of saying to white society–“Just give us the resources, but let us do what we want with them. Give us the professorships, the book deals, the awards, but let us do our own work without considering the reaction of a White readership.” This explains, for instance, the puzzling thread running through Craft In The Real World where you’ve got all these PoC writers taking writing workshops w white professors even though they don’t think white professors have anything to teach to PoC. The point is that the MFA itself is a source of power and prestige–so give us to the power and prestige, but don’t try to affect our writing at all.

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