11 February 2008

I Don't Like Mondays

A truly bizarre collection of material today. It's even bizarre for a Monday Miscellany.

  • The NYT has a rather disturbingly shallow article on the JKR lexicon lawsuit (which, interestingly, notes that the defense made its first filing and then does nothing with the substance of that filing — not even a link). There's a much shorter, pithier, and more complete piece at Madisonian (and I'm not saying that just because it links back here).

    The major problem with the NYT piece is that it fails to consider that this is a live dispute between people who have both financial and emotional interests in the outcome. This is a failing common to law school instruction, too: Although the opinions are written in the abstract, to the participants the issues are anything but abstract. It's even worse when the real parties in interest, and the nature of their interests, get masked by procedural things. For example, this lawsuit is always going to be characterized as "Rowling v. fans," but just examining the counsel list on PACER (with some knowledge of who tends to do what) should disabuse one of that notion fairly quickly.

  • The publishing industry continues to live in "digital denial" over e-books. Neil Gaiman's announcement that his US publisher will be giving away free copies of an e-book to be named later does not convince me otherwise; HarperCollins' e-book system is actually impossible to use and relies on users not patching known security holes and bugs for its DRM system. Tor's announcement might be better, if its signup system actually works (no sign in the last 72 hours that it does). And so on.

    Meanwhile, academia soldiers on by putting The Domesday Book online formatted for usability, including indices and database entries along with the text. Except, of course, when academics reach retirement age, at which point all hell tends to break loose.

  • Critical advice for authors: Remember that you're in a business environment. Although I don't agree with everything he says (and certainly not with all the details), any author seriously thinking about that business environment needs to at least think about the issues John Scalzi raises about the freelance life.
  • And if that isn't bizarre enough, consider that the WGA strike appears to be ending. Not, unfortunately, in time to kill off reality TV. Or baseball season.
  • The entertainment industry is far from the only source of bizarre news at the moment. And I don't even have to descend into the depths of American electoral politics to note that... although that's not going to stop me from doing so. As Professor Patry notes from his virtual desk over at Google (no doubt while trying to ignore the initial rejection of Microsoft's bid for Yahoo!), nutjob Senator Spector has introduced an obviously unconstitutional bill to exempt churches from copyright so they can have Super Bowl parties. Pardon me, Senator, but what part of "Establishment Clause" do you not understand? Oh, that's right — you've long made it clear that you understand none of it. This is nothing more than pandering to xtian evangelicals, for a very simple reason: I seriously doubt that any Jewish or Muslim place of worship will be affected... and I seriously doubt that too many Greek Orthodox or Episcopalian congregations have big Super Bowl parties.
  • Across the pond, the Archbishop of Canterbury has not just stuck his foot in his mouth — with his statement that UK law must necessarily import aspects of shari'a, he demonstrated the true value of the Establishment Clause in a democracy, republic, or for that matter any government. It will be quite interesting to see how the legal system manages a pending decision on arranged marriages involving parties unable to consent.
  • So Hillary fired her campaign manager. What this really reflect is that the Democratic party might have to confront the difference between "the desires of the party leadership" and, well, the democratic will of its membership and supporters. I find it rather ironic that Hillary's best chance now lies with influencing the constipated old white men who form the core of the party's power structure.