21 March 2008

Friday Freakout

Just more miscellany today. I'll return to unpacking the WFH definition over the weekend, but there's so little to do and so much time to do it in.

  • One of the great fictions in the public understanding of defamation law — and, unfortunately, in the community of authors — is that labelling something fiction insulates one from liability for libel. As even Big Overbearing Hollyweed Producers know, that's not true. Actually finding liability may be rare... but it's almost as damaging to have to defend one's fiction in front of a jury.

    I'm very pro-free-speech myself. However, there's a real distinction between actually suppressing speech and allowing consequences for speech. There are no bright-line rules for when the "consequences" act to "chill" free speech, unfortunately; I don't claim I have the answers for that, either. However, presuming that the facts outlines in the judge's detailed ruling on the defendants' motion for summary judgment bear much resemblance to reality, this is precisely the kind of "fiction" that should be scrutinized. It would have taken very, very little more to go from minimal alteration of a real-world event to actual fiction, and L&O is notorious for discouraging its writers from doing so.

  • How much does "free music" cost? The same as the air we breath. The problem is that those costs are extremely indirect — how does one amortize the costs of the Clean Air Act against each breath in an average person's lifetime? Should athletes have a lower, or higher, amortized cost? etc. — and subjective: It is impossible to foresee the impact of a hypothetical piece of art that is not produced because the prospective creator chose a more-remunerative activity instead.
  • Congratulations to all of the Hugo nominees for 2008, to be awarded late summer in Denver. As usual, it's a disturbingly parochial list, with one glaring exception: Michael Chabon's nomination for The Yiddish Policeman's Union in the "best novel" category. But that's a rant for another time... probably made during halftime of the March Madness TV sports-a-thon coming over the weekend.
  • Gee. What a surprise. There's yet another possible sale of Borders being mooted. By my count, this is the sixth substantial rumor in the last decade characterizing potential changes in the Borders ownership structure as a "sale." Some day, the morons who spread these rumors are going to have to sit down with The Perfesser's eminently readable book on corporations and learn to distinguish between the "sale" of a corporation and everything else that can happen to a corporation. I don't expect it in my lifetime.
  • Last, and far from least: The Inscrutable Design folks scored perhaps the ultimate "own goal" in their pre-release screenings of Expelled, the intellectually dishonest pro-ID screed hosted by Ben Stein. One of the scientists interviewed for (and whose views are most probably distorted and ridiculed in) the film was expelled from a screening last night. It was quite personal, based on the producer — who appears to have been present — recognizing that that PZ Myers guy is a pretty ardent atheist with a pretty popular blog. That's bad enough, but subtly so, and just represents giving away a stoppage-time free kick just outside the penalty area when David Beckham is on the other team. It gets better, though: The producer allowed Professor Myers' wife, child, and guest to see the screening nonetheless. His guest was Richard Dawkins, who is also interviewed for the film... and is as close to the antichrist as is possible for this particular brand of nutcase so-called "christians." If I hadn't been so full of muscle relaxants when I saw this item last night, I would have been ROFLMAO.