Hoop Dreams: Struggles and Redemption in Basketball Films

BasketballDreamsCollege basketball is heating up; have you made your bracket yet?  There aren't quite as many movies out there about basketball as there are about football, but the Libraries does have a few to keep you company for those times without basketball.

Hoosiers is a must-see for any basketball fan - it has the whole shebang: an underdog sports team, a coach seeking redemption, and a small town with little else to do besides pay too much attention to the high school basketball team. It's loosely based on the 1954 Milan High School Indiana state championship team, so you get a small dose of history with this one as well.

If you want a little more of real-life stories set around the same time period, and just down the road from Milan High School, there's Something to Cheer About: Oscar Robertson and the Crispus Attucks TigersThis documentary explores the Crispus Attucks High School Basketball team and their 1955 State Championship win - marking the first time in the U.S. that an all-black team won a state title.

Other documentaries feature the stories of the Harlem Globetrotters in The Team that Changed the World, LeBron James in More than a Game, the Roosevelt Roughriders in The Heart of the Game, and aspiring young players in Hoop Dreams.

Seeking Ireland in St. Patrick’s Day

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

These lines, excerpted from the William Butler Yeats poem The Second Coming, aptly describe my impressions of St. Patrick’s Day in these United States. The holiday - which originally celebrated the ministry of Saint Patrick in Ireland and the end of polytheism and pagan practices of the country’s Pre-Roman dark ages - has been nearly divested of its original meaning. Today’s American fest is bedecked in green and soaked in alcohol, but its origins are fading from view.

A self-effacing man of limited learning (his Latin was said to be cumbersome), Patrick was called to the service of Christianity as a young man and was said to have baptized thousands of Irish pagans in the 5th century A.D. Only two of his writings exist, his Confessio and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus: the former is his account of his history and mission and the latter an entreaty to British bishops to excommunicate the Briton king Coroticus, whose soldiers slaughtered newly-baptized converts.

But where did that business about the snakes come from? Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove them all off of the Emerald Isle. But really there’s no evidence that snakes ever existed in Ireland after the retreat of the ice sheets. This peculiar dearth of snakes became, over time, evidence of Patrick’s divinely-inspired mission - he is known for driving these creatures from Ireland. The iconography of the land’s patron saint borrows from the Old Testament (Exodus 7:8-13 and Genesis) and possibly the Church’s demonization of the Druids to provide a metaphor in the walking staff of Patrick. At what is now Aspatria (ash of Patrick) it is said that the meaning of Christianity took so long to get through to the people there that his staff (driven into the ground where he spoke) had taken root by the time he was ready to move on. Continue reading

Have You Visited the George Peabody Library?

Check out the March 16th article in Time Magazine on why Google is celebrating George Peabody, the 'father of modern philanthropy.'"

Interested in exploring our wonderful and unique special collections? Looking for a quiet and beautiful space to study? Would you like to step back into the nineteenth century? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time to visit the Peabody Library!

This library is part of the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections. It is a beautiful historic building that dates back to 1860 and is located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore. The building was designed by the Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, along with Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison, the first provost. View a slideshow to see historic architectural iron work inside the Peabody Library and also a few of the rare books from the collection!

Begun with a donation from George Peabody, a Massachusetts-born philanthropist, it was the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore until 1967. Then, it was handed over to Baltimore City and managed by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. In 1982, it was transferred to Johns Hopkins University. More information on its history is available on our website on "The Peabody Library" page. The major collection in the library comprises more than 300,000 volumes focusing mainly on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The strengths of the collection are exploration and travel, history of science, American and British history, Greek and Latin classics, archaeology, biography, romance languages and literature, and American and English literature. To learn about the different collections, please visit our online guide.

Customized rare books sessions can also be arranged at the Peabody Library for your classes. Several of our faculty members from different departments bring their classes every semester to the Peabody. If you would like to arrange for a tour of the building or get an introduction to the historical collections in the fall semester, please contact our Curators.



Music Sampling

Can you imagine writing a lyrical review or critical essay about Beyoncé’s music without quoting her words or lyrics? Probably not. You would also probably not think you had to pay her for using those quotes, either.

However, if you’re a pop music diva, or anyone else, who wants to quote Madonna or Beyoncé in your musical work then licensing that quote is currently considered “a must” (we’ll explore why this is the case below). While licensing samples may seem like common sense, musicians seeking licenses face many obstacles from figuring out how to get a sample cleared, simply knowing how much it might cost, and, lastly, if they can actually afford it.


Beyoncé Fan Art (Jon Phillips, CC BY 2.0)

When you start to think of quoting music in songs the same way we think of quoting words in writing, it then begs the question, “What makes music different?”

Today, if you want to sample a song, here’s what you need to do to succeed:

  • make a connection to one of three major sample clearinghouses, where you’ll be asked to pay an up-front fee, and
  • agree to a royalty percentage on sales or give a “writing credit” to the songwriters you want to sample.

While there is no set standard for fees, in their book Creative License, McLeod and DiCola published a chart of what sampling costs can be for artists. While costs up to $500 to use a smalls sample by a “low-profile artist,” costs can go up to $100,000 for a license of a “superstar” musician’s work, and potentially require as much as 100% assignment of the copyright. And don’t forget – this is music - so musicians must clear both the sound recording rights for recordings made after 1972 and the musical composition rights for any work protected by copyright.

Listing sampled artists as songwriters has led to curious practices. For example, the late Alan Lomax, a pioneering ethnomusicologist, received writing credits alongside Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and, most recently, Beyoncé (on “Freedom” from Lemonade) for use of his recordings of Reverend R.C. Crenshaw at the Greater Harvest M.B. Church congregation of Memphis Tennessee and Stewball sung by Benny Will Richardson and unidentified prisoners at the Parchman Farm Penitentiary in Mississippi.

In fact, Lemonade features so many songwriting and producing credits that it ignited a controversy over Beyoncé’s contributions to the work.

It’s puzzling to see such an acclaimed work criticized for its number of collaborations without exploring what those collaborations mean. Continuing our examination of Beyonce’s “Freedom,” three of the listed songwriters are deceased (though their estates will still receive royalties). An additional credit is for an approximately 26 second sample from the Latino rock band Kaleidoscope. From this one basic example, you can see the complicated system for ensuring accurate royalties are distributed to any fraction of a work that is sampled.


Sample [CC0 Public Domain]  

Figuring out royalty distribution is one part of this mess, but with song writing attributions inconsistently being given out to ameliorate difficulties in royalty distributions, as a librarian, I try not to think too hard about the mess this system will make for future music historians!

We take fair use for granted when we’re quoting people’s words in essays and papers, but in music, fair use doesn’t even seem to be on the table anymore. Fair use was defined in the Copyright Act of 1976, and outlined an explanatory preamble followed by the famous 4 factor balancing test. The Codes of Best Practices for Fair Use have endeavored to help many communities understand the statue and use fair use where it aligns with existing community norms, and raise awareness about what fair use is, and how it benefits creators. These codes now exist for poetry, documentary filmmaking, visual arts, libraries, archives, teaching, and online video. Each of these codes helps creators understand when and how they might use copyrighted works in their own creative process. The visual arts code even promotes explicit how-to’s! So, how did music get #fairuseleftbehind?

One big obstacle to developing norms around fair use for music is that, as a community, music is deeply divided. While Blondie was sampling Rapper’s Delight, experimental musicians like John Oswald, Christian Marclay, and Negativland saw the potential for harnessing technology to make and use sound recordings in their own creative works the same way a collage artist approaches a piece of visual art.

In 1985, experimental musician and father of Plunderphonics, John Oswald, posited that technology finally made it possible for composers to realize a long history of borrowing and reuse by “blurring the lines between sound producers and sound reproducers.” Early on, musicians creating rap and hip hop seemed to agree, but lawsuits over samples began changing both the legal landscape around sampling and music culture surrounding the decisions whether licenses should be required.

As sample-based hip-hop and rap music started climbing the charts in the 80s and 90s, a host of lawsuits about sampling soon followed. The barrage of lawsuits and resulting competing legal decisions, exemplified with the words “thou shall not steal” in the decision for Grand Upright Music v. Warner Brothers Records, speedily arrested the use of unlicensed samples. A more recent ruling in 2006 added a nail in the coffin for sampling fair use by ruling that even a two-second sample of a guitar chord could be considered copyright infringement. That ruling would likely still stand if Salsoul Orchestra hadn’t sued Madonna for a .23-second horn hit  in Vogue and lost in 2016. While these decisions might help bring some clarity around how little music you can use without an infringement, it’s a long way from having decisions that consider, analyze, and employ fair use.


An AKAI MPC2000 Digital Sampler [Public Domain]

These competing district court rulings don’t even touch on fair use, even though they discuss in detail how many seconds of a music work might be “too little” to constitute infringement. Using that language, it certainly sounds like they should be addressing fair use. Nonetheless, for a young musician trying to break out, this means there are no consistent fair use rulings on which to rely to make new, creative musical works.

Even though the fair use doctrine has been referred to as a “guarantee” that there is “breathing space within the confines of copyright,” in the music field, sampling artists are at the mercy of music publishers and record labels when requesting licenses for samples. For example, Mocean, an electronica artist, outlined his struggles with licensing in an interview in 1999, when he claimed:

“I tried for nine months to clear [a sample]….When I finally got a call back, they’re like, ‘We want six cents a record and $10,000 in advance.’ I said, ‘You know, I’m going to sell, like, 2,500 records. You’re crazy! My album budget was $40!’”

The license system that has developed mirrors the old economies of the music industry, rather than the creative goals of both copyright and fair use. Because the current system has developed in response to economic pressure from large music business companies, and because sampling will become an increasingly important aspect of new music, the sample licensing system could benefit from evaluation and possible change from the either the judiciary or a legislature.

Worst still, is when a music rightsholder simply refuses to allow use of a sample, even if money and licensing fees are offered. Outside the world of music, if a licensing deal is non-negotiable, there is still the right to harness fair use. However, in the music industry, there is generally no fair use option because of the court decisions and potential liability.

What if the sample was small enough to be de minimis? What if the sampling constitutes a fair use of the original, for reasons outside the 4 factors? The fair use statute has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to have legitimate reasons other than the 4 factors that are stated, and this would include allowing uses that are necessary to promote the creative arts. In Stewart v. Abend, the Supreme Court wrote, “The fair use doctrine thus permits courts to avoid rigid application of the copyright statute when, on occasion, it would stifle the very creativity which that law is designed to foster.”

A few artists like GirlTalk (who cite Oswald as inspiration) and Danger Mouse rely heavily on transformative fair use arguments. While their work hasn’t escaped controversy, they have managed to avoid lawsuits. Some posit that the threat of losing a lawsuit and setting precedent to make it easier to assert fair uses in music keep labels from pursuing such perceived “threats” through to a legal decision.

Without any legal certainty, musicians may have to wait until new economic models to support their work beyond album sales and licensing fees become more prevalent. As more musicians begin to explore Creative Commons licenses for releasing their own work, and pursuing project-based funding through services like Kickstarter and Patreon, artists are developing new models for funding their work. These new models could provide revenue up-front, which could lead to less reliance on post-release royalty revenues. Musicians who are economically secure can then feel more secure about their colleague’s fair use of their own music.


Mark Hosler of Negativland [Stefan Müller CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

While the bold uses of artists who make sampling a core component of their work - like GirlTalk, Danger Mouse, and Negativland - continue to keep conversations about fair use and music current, licensing approaches to music sampling remain the domain of those that can afford them, and that could be suppressing a host of young and experimental artists from creating new, and cutting edge music. Maybe it’s time for a change?

[For the most comprehensive overview of the state of sampling in music today, I highly recommend “Creative License” by Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola on Duke University Press]

Kathleen DeLaurenti is the Head Librarian at the Arthur Friedheim Library of the Peabody Institute. This post was originally published for Fair Use Week 2017

Happy Pi Day! 3.14

As you start your Spring Break festivities, please include a moment of acknowledgment for pi. Irrational? Maybe, but I'll take any excuse to have a piece of pie. To see how others celebrate and calculate pi, follow these links:

This year (2018) is the 30th anniversary of Pi Day! Read this Time Magazine article"Here's What You Should Know About This Irrational Number."

Did you know that physicist Larry Shaw has been recognized as the founder of Pi Day? You can Read more about the origin of Pi Day, observed every March 14th (3.14), on Wikipedia.






Adventures in Publishing: Homewood Researchers Share Experiences with New Publishing Models

The panel will take place on:

Monday, March 26th
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Macksey Room, M-Level, Brody Learning Commons
Refreshments will be served. This event this is FREE; please register.

Hear stories from three seasoned scholars who’ve explored the opportunities afforded by new publishing models. Benefit from their trailblazing and learn about new publishing methods from people with experience. Topics include

  • Publishing in Open Access STEM journals
  • Starting an Open Access journal to address issues with traditional publishing
  • Using open sites to connect with the public intellectual

Our Presenters

Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Institute for Computational Medicine

Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Institute for Computational Medicine

Sarvenaz Sarabipour is a postdoc at the Institute for Computational Medicine, Whiting School of Engineering. She will discuss her experiences with Open Access journals as an author and an ambassador for eLife.







Stephen Morgan, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor

Stephen Morgan, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor

Stephen Morgan is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, in the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Education. He will discuss starting Sociological Science, an Open Access journal, to address issues with  peer review and efficiency at the traditional journals in that field.




Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Assistant Professor, African Literature

Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Assistant Professor, African Literature

Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Assistant Professor of African Literature with the English faculty at the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, will discuss how she has used open venues to engage with the public intellectual. The Conversation is a recent example of this kind of writing.







Robin Sinn, Coordinator, Office of Scholarly Communication, will moderate the discussion.

Event Details: Refreshments will be served. This event this is FREE; please register. Sponsored by the Office of Scholarly Communication and the Sheridan Libraries & Museums.




Consider an Open Textbook for your Next Teaching Gig

The high cost of college textbooks has been in the news as well as research journals. There's a movement to counter those escalating costs called Open Educational Resources. In fact March 5 - 9 is Open Education Week! Administrators and faculty at many colleges, community colleges, and even K-12 schools, are putting high quality textbooks and learning modules online with few restrictions on reuse.

While being free to the students is important, faculty and instructors are most interested in:

  • high quality, peer reviewed, edited content
  • the ability to use only the content you want
  • the freedom to update or mix content to create a resource that supports your teaching goals

Dr. Marian Feldman, History of Art & Near Eastern Studies, with help from the Center for Educational Resources Tech Fellows Program, has created open educational resources for courses dealing with Mesopotamian art history. The Bloomberg School of Public Health actively shares their OER. Other examples include Maryland, VCU, NCSU, and Tidewater Community College.

Don't worry, you don't have to create a textbook from scratch. Below are just a few of the sites offering OERs. Please contact the Center for Educational Resources if you are an instructor - faculty or graduate student - who is interested in teaching with or creating OERs.

If you're a student and want to use an OER textbook as a supplement to your own, please contact your librarian for assistance.




Ephemera at the World’s Fair

The Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center is pleased to host "Downfall of the Exhibition: Ephemera and Opposition at the Crystal Palace," a presentation by Jo Briggs, Associate Curator of 18th- and 19th- Century Art at the Walters Art Museum. Please join us on Wednesday, March 7, 5:15 pm, in the Macksey Room, Brody Learning Commons M-Level, for a lively talk and a display of World's Fair items from the Sheridan Libraries' own collections.

The world's very first World’s Fair was held in Hyde Park, London, in 1851, in a gigantic greenhouse that was, for its time, a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge structure. With its transparent walls, lengthy halls, and symmetrical lay-out, the Crystal Palace was the ideal venue for its stated purpose: a display of “the Works of Industry of All Nations.”

While it was mostly conceived as a huge advertisement for British manufacturing at the height of imperialism and industrialization, there were also participants from the British “Colonies and Dependencies” plus 44 other nations in Europe and the Americas. In all, there were over 100,000 exhibits of commodities, new machines, artworks, and raw materials from colonized countries (paving the way for future Fairs to feature stunningly racist "living exhibits" of colonized peoples themselves).

To accommodate the six million visitors who attended the Fair during the six months that it was open, the exhibition organizers awarded a catering contract to Schweppes, who supplied the crowds with 1.1 million bottles of carbonated water, 1000 gallons of pickles, and, according to newspaper letter writers, “the worst and smallest sandwiches… ever tasted.” You may also be relieved to learn that the exhibition's organizers, headed by Prince Albert, husband and consort of Queen Victoria, made sure that the Crystal Palace's "Retiring Rooms" contained the first ever public pay toilets, giving rise to the idiom, “spending a penny.”

As you can imagine, the official hype for the exhibition emphasized its decorum and orderliness. In newspaper articles, official catalogs and souvenirs, and government reports, the Crystal Palace was presented as a modern, perfectly organized, and highly respectable spectacle.

But of course that was not the whole story! Focusing on a trove of unofficial ephemera—ballad broadsides, for example—Jo Briggs reveals a very different picture of the World’s Fair: ruder, lewder, and more insurrectionary.

To accompany her talk, we’ll have a small selection of our own World’s Fair materials on hand. All are welcome, and the event is free!

Black Femme Digital Practice

JOIN US! Wednesday, March 7th from 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm in BLC 4040 for the Digital Scholarship Lab and the Sex and Slavery Lab as we discuss black femme digital practice with Bianca Laureano (founder of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network and the LatiNegrxs Project) and Amber J. Phillips (Reproductive Justice Advocate, writer, and co-host of the Black Joy Mixtape). Laureano and Phillips, both organizers and creatives, will discuss how they use digital tools to celebrate joy, discuss mourning, and create space for black femme identity to thrive online and in real life. This is an intimate, casual conversation and a safe space for LGBTQ people of color and straight people of color--come as you are and let's chat.

Bianca Laureano is an award-wining educator, curriculum writer, and sexologist. She is a foundress of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN)The LatiNegrxs Project, and hosts LatinoSexuality.com. She has written several curricula that focus on communities of color: What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity?(2015) and Communication MixTape: Speak On It Vol 1. (2017) and wrote the sexual and reproductive justice discussion guide for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene published in 2018. Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS, the LGBTQ Center at CUNY, and The Black Girl Project. She recently started ANTE UP! as she noticed the needs of many communities doing justice work and finding limited support in their own growth and development.

Amber J. Phillips is a freedom fighter for petty Black Feminists everywhere. Known as the High Priestesses of Black Joy, Amber J. Phillips is a social justice organizer & digital strategist who works to advance the rights of women, young people, people of color, & low-income communities. In addition to being a Founder & Co-Director of the startup digital organizing firm BLACK, Amber is the Senior Manager of Youth Leadership & Mobilization at Advocates for Youth. She proudly serves on the Board of Directors of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective & is a writer with Echoing Ida.

My Freshman Fellows Experience: Translating Renaissance Latin

My name is Briana Joseph and I am a first year undergraduate double majoring in Neuroscience and Africana Studies. For my Freshman Fellows project I am translating Latin texts from the Renaissance era. The first piece I worked on translating with my mentor, Paul Espinosa, is a series of copperplate engravings by Jacob Hoefnagel (1573-1635), entitled, Archetypa Studiaqe Patris Georgii Hoefnagelii (The Archetypes and Studies of his father, Joris Hoefnagel), published in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1592. These are artistic studies and verses depicting insect and plant life, meant to show off the father and son’s artistic skill and learning. It would later serve as an influential model book for fellow artists.
This work is in the tradition of the Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities. These collections held exotic objects set out to display the rarest specimens. As we can see by the amazingly detailed engravings it is almost as if one is staring down into a glass display of life-like wonders.

The verses that I translated contain both Biblical passages and learned personal or creative mottoes.  For example, the first engraving above has the Latin “Dicite Deo quam terribilia sunt opera tua Domine in multitudine virtutis tuae mentientur tibi inimici tui, an excerpt from Psalm 65: “Say to God: how awe-inspiring are your deeds.  Lord, according to the sheer number of your virtue, in like degree will your enemies speak falsely against you.” Located at the center of the plate is a horned or Hercules beetle, a subfamily of the Scarab beetle. According to German tradition, these species of beetle are meant to be a symbolic representation of Christ, as it was thought that it did not reproduce sexually.  The inclusion of religious symbols were important to Joris and his son Jacob as they were Calvinists, and thus believed greatly in the sovereignty of God and the word of the Bible.  The text at the bottom of the plate makes a great start for a budding artist: “Danti mihi Artem dabo gloriam,” “Since You give me Art, I shall give you glory.”

Religion is not the sole reference in these plates.  Emblematic dicta are also included, for example, plate 4 reads, “sola perpetuo manent subiecta nulli mentis atque animi bona. Florem decoris singuli carpunt dies,” meaning “only the good things of the mind and of the spirit, subject to none, remain forever. The days seize a flower of its singular beauty.” What intrigued me most about this message was the grammatical construction of that last line. The phrase carpunt dies (The days seize) reminded me of the ancient adage carpe diem (Seize the day!).  However, in Joris and Jacob’s reimagining, the day is now the subject of the sentence that performs the action of the verb, and thus expresses the fleeting nature of existence through a slightly more sinister sentiment.  The days seize or rob the flower of its beauty: one notices that the lily on the viewer’s left is in bloom, and those on the right closed and beginning to wilt.  Interestingly, that small snail in the upper left is the subject of an interesting blog Hunting for Snails – snails in art, which carefully goes through all of Hoefnagel’s 48 engravings and looks to individually identify each of the different snail species.  It would be great to match up my future Latin translations with that blogger’s work to see if the texts shed light on the symbolism of the snails.

Finally, a nice example of Latin word play can be seen in plate 12 which reads, “Quod in fructibus umor, hoc in hominibus est amor,” meaning “What is the lifeblood in fruits, love serves as the same in humans.” What is most intriguing about this line is the sophisticated word play in the construction of the verse. The words “umor” and “amor,” lifeblood and love, are near homonyms and nicely emphasizes the connection between the two, all while young Jacob learns the tricks of the trade of an artist and the tricks of Latin — quite astonishing really, considering Jacob was all of 17 when he produced this work, himself a worthy Freshman Fellow!