Tuesday, November 30, 2010

i know what you did last summer...

The most horrible thing happened to me today! 

But, naturally, it would be unlike me to tell a story without a long (and mostly irrelevant) introduction.

I remember the first and the last thing I ever stole. I was 6 years old and I loved Barbies. My parents took me to a play date with one of their friend's daughters. This was done with two main objectives: to expand my social circle and for them to catch up with their friends over a bottle of vodka (as Russians do during long cold winters). My new friend went off somewhere and I was left playing with her dolls. I saw a little red jacket fit for a Barbie doll (or one of the members of Barbie's extended family.. I forget). It was hand made, must've been a product of a combined effort of my new friend and her older sister, and had a metal green leaf accessory attached to the front. I thought it looked pretty cool but I knew that my sewing ability was nowhere near as advanced as would be required to replicate the tiny jacket. So I was sitting there feeling quite sad about the fact that my Barbie would never own anything like that and I wouldn't even be able to nag my mum into buying me one of those. And the light bulb came on: what was stopping me from just taking it? This girl would not be coming to my house to play any time soon and in any case she had plenty more Barbie apparel which might have event meant that she would not notice the disappearance of one tiny jacket. So I picked it up and put in my pocket.

Now that I think about, I realise that I mostly did it to see if I could get away with the act. I clearly remember thinking how easy it was to just take something that you like and probably not have to pay for it or give anything in return. It was genius! Why weren't all the grown ups doing this?! Or may be they were, I thought, but just weren't telling me (as with so many other things that I had to find out for myself). So I took the jacket. Just as I had thought - the girl didnt notice and when I got home that night I took it out of my pocket finding it hard to believe how easy the whole process was.

It wasn't until later that night (and the next morning and for many days after) that I started thinking that may be that little jacket actually meant a lot to the girl, like so many of my tiny treasures that I was very much attached to. I imagined someone coming to my house to play and 'accidentally' taking my favourite    seashell or my favourite old tea-tin-can that I loved. The overwhelming feeling of guilt was growing by the hour. I tried to think of ways to rectify the situation but the only way to do this would have been to tell my parents and pass the jacket back to the girl through them. This would have meant that not only both her and my parents would find out but that my parents would be (shock! horror!) ashamed of me!! This self-inflicted guilt trip went on for a while until I decided that I could not go on like this and I needed to make a decision. So I decided that if I had done something wrong it was up to me to carry the blame (and the guilt) and  not up to my parents. So I decided to put a full stop on the whole story by embracing the well-deserved feeling of guilt and by promising myself that this would NEVER happen again. I put a full stop alright but the guilt never went away. Needless to say I never ever again felt the urge to take something that did not belong to me in the first place. I thought of throwing the jacket out in order to free myself and get rid of the evidence but decided that I would be making it too easy for myself and that I needed to be reminded of what a horrible thing I had done. Major life lesson learned!

Anyhow.. the point of the story is that I HATE stealing. I would never again do it myself and I feel violated when someone steals something from me.

Since I started photography I also became increasingly possessive of my pictures. Whilst I dont watermark my images as it takes copious amounts of time (if you do not have photoshop), I still really dislike it when people use my images on their blogs (or whatever) without my permission or at least letting me know! It's not about money and most of the time not even recognition or credits (unless I am particularly proud of the image). It is essentially about common curtesy. Artistic curtesy AND common curtesy. I am not claiming to be an artist or even to be good at photography but I do feel that whatever I write on this blog or the pictures I post have a little bit of me in them. The first time I saw my pictures and my blurb about an event that I had attended earlier that week appear on my friend's Sydney's social and nightlife blog (with all appropriate credit) my stomach turned just a little as I was not expecting it. It came up on my newsfeed (as it does on Blogger) and as I read the first two sentences of my friend's latest post, I immediately recognised my writing. For a second I felt so hurt that I couldnt quite grasp the fact that my friend would so blatantly steal from me! When I opened the post I saw my name appear in the credits and it felt a bit better but I still felt that he should've asked or at let me know he was going to use it.

I feel just as strongly about other people's work. I take it personally and find it rather offensive! Unfortunately, for obvious reasons this is a very touchy topic in the blogging world since 80% of blogs do not use original content. Luckily most give appropriate credit which makes it if not ok at least more decent.

So now to the horrible thing that happened to me today...

As I finally crawled into a central line tube to thaw (it is bloody cold out there today) after a long day at work, I pulled out a book that I have been trying to get through for the last couple of weeks. I am about half way through and I still cannot make up my mind about whether I like the author's writing style or not. Regardless of whether I like it or not, his style is very distinctive and grabbed my attention on more than one occasion (or should I say chapter) for its use of interesting and sometimes slightly strange metaphors. As I was reading it, I couldnt help but think that the writing style is quite similar to something I had read before. I did find it quite amusing but I could not quite put my finger on it. Until I got to this particular paragraph... At first, I though this was one of those weird 'deja vu' things that happen to me every now and again. You know the feeling.. when you feel like you have experienced that particular moment in time previously?! A little confused, I re-read the last paragraph. Then re-read it again. Then again (just to be sure). After reading the same paragraph for the third time I was sure I had that read the same words before. I now distinctly remembered giggling at those bloody metaphors when I originally read the words.. Could it be??? No.. surely not... I was hanging on a seed of doubt when I got home and turned on my laptop. Found the web page. Found the article. Found the paragraph. At first I felt a little sense triumph at catching someone out. But about about three seconds later the sense of triumph was replaced by disappointment. It's like when you really really like a song and then you find out that it is in fact a remake of a really old song that was just as popular about 20 years before you were born.

There are only three possible explanations to this:
- the author of the book stole from the person in question
- the person in question stole from the author
- the person in question IS the author and they use a pen name and they recycle their 'genius'

The first option is unlikely as the book was published a number of years before I read the dreaded article.  The second option is quite likely but I do not want to believe it as I find it sad (not in a bitter sarcastic way.. it actually saddens me because I used to think that the person in question was a decent writer and I had quite enjoyed their articles). The third option would make the first two irrelevant and would be an exciting (but an unlikely) twist to this sad little story.

So it begs the question: how far would we go in pursuit of virtual popularity in cyberspace?

Last two final thoughts for the night:
- I am sorry I found out
- Shame on the person in question*

*but as was my point with the little red jacket.. they made the choice so they should wear it. I am not here to judge.

Good night!


the nyanzi report said...

great narrative.

it's a shame about the person in question.
that said, people, especially those in the creative space always steal each other's work when they're going through a 'creative drought' but that's not an excuse.

davidikus said...

There is a literary practice called cut-ups. It is very popular among American authors & possibly French authors. I see nothing wrong with it. To be fair, some of the great books of the past centuries are almost entirely cut-ups. It might be a nod to the reader "see, I know the same songs as you do". A novel is not an academic book, after all, so it plays on many different levels.