Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Examining the Case of the Magpie...

Let's file this under 'Whimsy,' shall we? :)

In A Discovery of Witches, we learn that William Shakespeare often "borrowed" words from others. The specific incident we are speaking of here is the quote:

"Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?"

Good Ol' Will!
Most lovers of medieval prose will recognize it from "As You Like It," a comedy by William Shakespeare.  But originally it was featured in the poem "Hero and Leander," by Christopher Marlowe1.  Shakespeare has been famously criticized by scholars and literary publications for not only using Marlowe's lines, but also borrowing from other writers such as Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon.  How can this be?!  'Plagiarism', you say!  'People would never get away with this today', you exclaim!

Actually friends, it does happen today!  Probably not in the ways you're thinking of.  Yes, there's the much-covered and controversial fan-fiction argument.  Ms. Harkness' take on the subject at one of the tour events this year (heavily paraphrased): "Any author who writes a story about a strong woman and a love-interest who happens to be broody, troubled man could easily be accused of writing Jane Austin fan-fiction."  Good point!  But no, we are actually talking about different types of "borrowed" art, not just writing. You'll notice it in the ads you see, the websites you visit, the fashions people wear, the songs you hear on the radio.  Clothing and hair styles, words, camera angles, sounds, and even colors presented in a certain way.  When the initial work is positively received, similar works will emerge and the cycle is repeated.  Sometimes a work (whatever it may be) is actually improved upon after other artists come up with different techniques and put unique spins on their interpretation of the original work.  They make it their own.

An example this Daemon can come up with is Bruno Mars.  I love his music!  Why?  Because I love Sting/The Police.  I also love late 70's-early 80's Funk (OK, I'm aging myself here.  Meh.) Two of Bruno's biggest hits are so reminiscent of the aforementioned music, that of course Bruno Mars has a new fan in me.  Even his dance moves!  You cannot be a child of the 80's and not recognize a distinct Michael Jackson influence.  I suppose I can take the other route; I can gripe and loudly point out to anyone listening that he's merely benefiting from the hard work of struggling artists before him.  Honestly, I'd rather just tap my foot to Bruno Mars!  I think it's safe to say that most people would, no matter what music they are into.  Seriously, just listen to Uptown Funk one time...

My particular wheelhouse in our Daemon group is working with the websites, images, and graphics.  That's the area where I notice the trends.  Right now, 'flat design' is all the rage!  Just look at your phone as an example (especially if you have an iPhone).  If you've had an earlier model, you may have noticed that the apps used to be beveled and designed to look like actual buttons.  Today's iPhones have app icons with a simplified 'flat' look.  The trend doesn't stop at your phone, it carries over to your computer and the web!   New or newly re-designed websites/blogs usually display the flat-styled social media icons that originated from the design departments of different social media/tech companies.  If you have a Mac/PC at home you will notice the new operating systems are the same way!  Windows 8.(?) and Apple's Yosemite boast the same type of flat design.  Are we going to blame Twitter for copying the look from Facebook?  Or Microsoft for copying Apple's interface (or vice-versa, depending on which computer enthusiast you talk to)?  Nah.  It's just the current style.  Someone made something, someone else liked it and recreated it for their own use.   Lather, rinse, repeat!

Did Apple, Facebook and Twitter
all copy each other's style?
We Daemons were discussing this the other day while wondering about Shakespeare's "magpie" tendencies.  It was after listening to a podcast covering Marlowe, and we loved how they handled the Shakespeare issue. This analogy came up: 'Is it any different than when we see graphic styles copied in one form or another?'  Well, not really. . . (?)  I hesitate to compare graphic/web design to writing plays, but it's only real comparison to the creative process I've got.  I'm rolling with it!

I can truthfully say that there are times when I sit down to make a graphic or web design, that I can't pinpoint how I got an idea, or know where exactly the source of my inspiration came from.  But I can guarantee I picked up cues from something else I enjoyed looking at.  It doesn't necessarily come from looking at other designs, either.  Sometimes it's just a color, a mood, an element placement, or a font I saw (I am freakishly fond of fonts! —> alliteration alert!)  Something will trigger another thing, and next thing I know Photoshop is open, and ta-da! A new thing exists that I can claim as my creation!   Can the same can be said for William Shakespeare?  Is it like the other cues I mentioned above?  Certain things have a way of weaving their ways into people's minds.  If you are a creative, some of that will reflect in your work.  Maybe Shakespeare really enjoyed Master Marlowe's poem and subconsciously acquired the words for later use.  Could that be the reason for the duplicate verse?  Perhaps.  Alas, unless we morph into witches with powers to talk to the dead, we don't have the option of asking him.  The shame of it all!

Poor Ol' Kit.
When I spot graphics similar in style to mine in our different circles around the web, I'll admit that it is frustrating. I spend a lot of time on some of these projects.  There are things I work on that don't cooperate with me at all!  The web design for this site is a prime example. Had it cooperated, it probably would've been online in April!  I call these my 'jerk-projects' (I'm using the word 'jerk' as a replacement for another word.  To the 'seven dirty word'-averse: you're welcome!)  With these troublesome non-starters, I have to save/close the project and come back to it later — much later.  Ironically, most of these jerks seem to come out the best!  To later see a modified version of them elsewhere after all of the proverbial  blood, sweat, and tears?  Yes, I do get a temporary case of Kit's daemon-rage.  Not just because I think someone copied my work, but that I'm no longer the sole creator of something unique. Or worse - this thought occurs to me: "was my idea even unique to begin with?!"  Do you know who gets even more upset?  The people closest to me.  People who know what I go through in my attempts to nail down a fickle muse. It's not unlike Kit when we (and The School of Night) watch him constantly trying to mold, sculpt and perfect Dr. Faustus.  We can empathize with Walter when when Matthew mentioned his disapproval of Will's command of meter, or Kit's own assertion of Will being a 'hack and a thief' in Shadow of Night.  One of Kit's deliciously bitter, but hilarious quotes: "...If you want to be immortalized on the boards, talk to Will.  He's always hard up for ideas."  No, The School of Night in Deborah Harkness' tale was not a big fan of Shakespeare.  Considering everything I learned about him in my impressionable years, researching Shakespeare's controversial legacy after reading Shadow of Night was a real eye-opener.  It forced me to not just to see the legend, but the flawed person that he was . . . that we all are.

In the end, when the dust settles, I know that imitation is mostly complimentary.  While I wouldn't recommend the practice of blatantly copying others work — whatever it is — without permission, I can certainly accept and appreciate the idea of an artist possibly being inspired by another's work, because I am inspired by others.  This quote from Pablo Picasso,"Good artists copy, great artists steal," was as true back then as it is today!

You are forgiven, Will.

Until next time,
feed your daemons!

(Specifically, one of us, today.  I'm not sure that the others willingly claim the same Bruno Mars love!)

1. The poem Hero and Leander was written by Christopher Marlowe, however the work was unfinished at the time of his death in 1593.  George Chapman completed the poem for publication in 1598.

P.S. The .Gif and this post were not only inspired by AST, but also by a podcast!  This was the episode: Addendum ii: Christopher Marlowe, featuring Matt Gourley.  It was the catalyst that drove me to open up Photoshop and force me to empathize with Kit (it is difficult to do in SON!).  Thank you Dead Author's Podcast, for being a source of my inspiration today.

P.P.S. About Bruno Mars? Don't judge! #DaemonOut