26 February 2007

Grouching Over Oscars

Leaving aside the narcissism, arrogance, and irrelevance of the Academy Awards last night — for example, the "Motown Sound" was bad enough the first time around, thankyouverymuch — I found it amusing that Pan's Labyrinth (which still has not played in much of the country) could not win Best Foreign Language Film, and was defeated by a film that has played virtually nowhere outside of two of the top four American intersections with alternate realities.1 Whenever that film makes it here to flyover country, at least it won't be a foreign-language film to me!

And with that, the Monday Miscellany now slouches its way onto your screen...

  • One of the more-interesting artifacts of US copyright law is that federal government works are not subject to copyright (in fact, that's the only way to make a work created under the 1976 Act public domain!), but state, county, and local government works are. This leads to some rather interesting questions, considering that (at least in theory) most governing is supposed to take place locally... but the local governments can control their basic papers in a way that the federal government cannot.

    But it also illuminates problems with C-SPAN, the official TV coverage of Congress. I like C-SPAN because it carries your best value for your entertainment dollar — Prime Minister's Question Time — in addition to everything else. (It also used to carry BookNotes, but see the next item...) Sometimes, though, people like its content a little bit too much.

  • Some time in the next couple of months, I expect to see some wide-eyed proponent of the electronic marketplace extolling the virtues of authors who self-publish and build their audiences from the ground up, like some bands are beginning to do. Of course, this won't be news; people have been claiming for years that unauthorized e-books are just good marketing and publicity for authors,2 and that media appearances are the foundation of all publicity. Of course, I can think of a lot of worse places to talk about a serious book than on The Daily Show — that host actually reads for fun.
  • The battle over online privacy — particularly for "anonymous" postings — continues to be ruled by the old principle that hard facts make bad law. For example, a New Jersey court recently ruled that releasing e-mail addresses of "anonymous" posters invaded their privacy. Sort of. The context makes one wonder exactly what "privacy" really means in the context of a political battle alleging retaliation.
  • Last, and not least, there's another remarkably ignorant attack on so-called "classical crossovers" — performers primarily associated with classical music who slum among popular standards. On the one hand, he has a point; those awful "show tunes" records released by so many opera singers over the years deserve to be disavowed after emerging from the alcoholic stupor that characterizes most of them, and the less said about "Symphonic Hits of Billy and the Boingers" the better. It's rather curious, though, that the article says not a word about classically trained musicians who first come to prominence outside of the classical ghetto, and continue to implicitly acknowledge those classical influences in their work. Obvious examples include bands and musicians that extensively quote from (and develop themes based upon) classical pieces on a regular basis. But that might require admitting that success in the classical music world is often more about politics and personal influence than about talent... just like in popular music.

  1. New York and Los Angeles. The other two are Washington, DC, and Clearwater, FL. That's not to say that there are no other intersections with alternate realities in the US... just none that manage to overflow an SMSA.
  2. I think I've litigated this before.