Maiello: Where Your Tax Dollars Go
Doc Cleveland: Copyright vs. Truth
The family of the poet Ted Hughes has just "withdrawn permission" for Hughes's biographer to quote from his papers and letters, including papers and letters that the family has already sold to the British Library. The biographer, who's been working on this book for years, has already read those papers. He knows what's in them. But he is no longer allowed to tell us what he knows. How can this be? Copyright law.
Every writer is jealous of other writers. Whether it’s fame or fortune or talent, we can’t help but snivel a little when they become Them and we’re still just us.
Most of us do it in silence or in the midst of a narrow group of co-commiserators. Not many (Okay, a few, but they’re gone now) do it as publicly as a writer named Lynn Shepherd did recently when she wrote a blog post on HuffPo UK telling J.K. Rowling she’s had her turn and if she had any decency at all she’d hang it up and give someone else a chance. [Read more]
Last summer, in a comment thread that was originally about something else, some of the dagbloggers got me into a side conversation about Shakespeare and linguistics. In that conversation, Orlando wished that I would blog about Shakespeare more often since, you know, I actually work on him for a living. [Read more]
I'd love it if we could keep discussions of, um, current events to the other thread. This one is about the movies...
You can condition your tastes. I believe that. But what I love most about art, high and low, is that it gives us an opportunity to be honest about our reactions to things without the stakes getting too high. What I love most about comedy is that as an audience member, you can't fake it. Watching comedy is like having sex. You can try to be polite but if the other person is paying attention they know whether or not they got a laugh. [Read more]
So, J. K. Rowling has told an interviewer (the actress Emma Watson), that she paired off the wrong characters at the end of her Harry Potter series. Instead of marrying Harry's right-hand girl Hermione off to his left-hand boy Ron, Rowling has decided that she should have married Hermione to Harry himself. So, Rowling concludes, she was wrong when she wrote the books. In fact, she's wrong now.
When the political news of the day is about whether or not the governor of New Jersey caused a traffic jam to punish a political rival, I can finally tune out and think about the important stuff like art. [Read more]
It's January 1 again, the day when works enter the public domain because their copyright expired at last year's end. And yet again, because of repeated extensions to the length of copyright, nothing at all entered the public domain in the United States. Almost nothing has since January 1, 1979.
One of the hardest things for many people to grasp during the Great Recession has been the idea that inflation is too low. We generally talk about inflation as pure economic evil, something that could never possibly be too low. But it is.
If you say inflation is too low, some people will bring up the high inflation of the 1970s or, more hysterically, the hyper-inflation in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazis as proof that Inflation Is Bad. But that doesn't really make sense. Inflation is bad when it gets too high, but that doesn't make a modest amount of inflation bad. The sun is bad in Death Valley when it's 130 degrees, but that doesn't make sunshine a universal menace. 15% inflation would be a very bad thing, but that doesn't mean 1.5% inflation is a good thing. 130 degrees Fahrenheit is murderous, but so 13 degrees is also a killer. A lot of our public debate about inflation is like trying to treat a case of frostbite while people keep shouting that heat is a terrible thing and then angrily tell you a long story about forest fires. [Read more]
I woke up to the sad news that Elmore Leonard, our most famous Detroit-based writer, has died. He was 87 years old but I thought that guy would go on forever. There was never anything old about him and I doubt I’m the only one who felt that way, but I admit I haven’t seen him in person for almost 20 years. [Read more]
Fox News's hostile interview with Reza Aslan has lit up the internet. (See Michael Maiello and Historiann for two of the smarter takes.) Obviously, interviewer Lauren Green's insistence that something must be very wrong for a Muslim to write a book about Jesus, and that such a book must be wrong, is a problem. But Green (and her producers) are simply peddling a toxic version of an idea that lots of us entertain in various forms. [Read more]
Safe to say that ever since the news broke that the entire city of Detroit was filing for bankruptcy hundreds of thousands of us Detroiters and ex-Detroiters and Michiganders everywhere have been biting our nails, gnashing our teeth, pounding the walls, spending partially-sleepless nights worrying about the fate of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).
Hey, wow. This fall, a movie version of Ender's Game is coming out. It's based on a science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, originally drafted in 1977, when I was 2 years old. I read it in high school and I really liked it. It's the story of Ender Wiggin, tormented at battle school as part of his training to become the ultimate weapon that saves humanity of a nasty enemy from space called "The Buggers," who remain mysterious in the first book and are explored later in the series.  [Read more]
When I got my first job, I also got a book of advice for new professors. It gave me some sensible-sounding advice about writing. Avoid binge writing, it said. Write at regularly scheduled hours and keep each session brief. Too many graduate students are used to writing in crazy binges, the authors said, rather than developing steady writing habits. Faculty had to learn to write all the time, and also had to learn to STOP writing even if things were going well. And I tried to take that advice seriously. I have always believed in good writing habits and deplored the way graduate school undermines those habits. I drank the no-binge Kool-Aid with a smile, in an appropriately moderate serving. But that advice is fundamentally wrong. [Read more]
Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is a fable. It is not a fable now, years after it was written. Fitzgerald structured it as a fable and intended it to be read as such. Its original title was Trimalchio in West Egg. Gatsby is based on a party-thrower created by the Greek satirist Petronius. So, when I hear people talking about Gatsby almost as if it’s reportage on Jazz Age America, I think that they are reading the wrong book. Fitzgerald is not Tom Wolfe or Theodore Dreiser. In creating Gatsby, he worked in the manner of Shakespeare, taking his inspiration from ancient and timeless source material. [Read more]
Seth MacFarlane hosted a slow-motion catastrophe of an Oscars broadcast Sunday night. His terrible performance immediately sparked two internet conversations: one about what a terrible Oscars host Seth MacFarlane was, and a second about who had, if anyone, been an even more terrible Oscars host. Many people were insulted by MacFarlane's sexist hostility. And I was, too. [Read more]
When the first televised Academy Awards ceremony took place on March 19, 1953, I, a bedazzled 15-year-old movie fan, sat in front of our black and white TV set, riveted and no doubt pledging to never forget that moment as long as I lived. Since then I have never (and I mean NEVER) missed a telecast. [Read more]