10 April 2009

Past the Sell-by Date

These sausage links aren't rotten; they're carefully aged.

  • PEN notes that UK libel laws are "distorting publishing" (I'd argue that they distort reality, too). Meanwhile, though, a court has mistakenly held — here in the US — that true statements can nonetheless constitute libel, which is clearly wrong if the article accurately portrays the opinion (which I've not had a chance to read yet).
  • An agent responds to Agentfail without noting the real cause of the problem — "agented submissions only." That's called a negative externality, and leads to more consolidation in publishing. Meanwhile, a shaky grasp of math continues to plague the industry; 16%, even rounded, is closer to 1/6 than to 1/7, and USA Today's listings are nowhere near comprehensive enough to make such a sweeping claim for even trade publishing — and since the last quarter also included college winter term textbook purchases, which include a fair number of trade titles, I simply don't trust the reported numbers in the first place.
  • It's taking too long to scan books for Google's plans. Schade.
  • You legal scholars (and even those marginally interested in how scholarship does — and doesn't — work/eventually affect The Law itself) should carefully consider this piece on so-called "empirical legal scholarship" at PrawfsBlawg. I'll start out with the snarky observation that these are not empirical studies at all, but epidemiological... and not knowing that there is a difference, let alone what that difference is, is a serious failing at a scientific level.
  • Modern "Islamic fundamentalism" isn't conservative. Whether modern Christian (or, for that matter, Jewish) fundamentalism is conservative — that is, an attempt to return to previously held, time-tested values — is left as an exercise for the student... of history, of textual interpretation, and of government.
  • Here's a selection of cookbooks of a different kind: Not for gastronomes, but for thaumaturges. And there's a reason that I put this item immediately after the preceding one, but it requires actually reading and not just taking the word of someone else for what a written work says.
  • Professor Madison quite properly notes that "we shouldn’t forget what we’re really arguing about" when we're arguing about copyright "values," particularly those related to "originality" (which, despite the common root, is actually antithetical to "originalism"... but that's for another time). I would add that two insights from modern physics, and one from modern philosophy of language, demonstrate that the debate is really over the meaning of "glory." Consider Einstein's reference-frame metaphor, the actual (mathematically rigorous) Heisenberg dilemma, and the weak form of the Whorf hypothesis in trying to define "originality"; one will probably end up where Justice Stewart did in trying to define "obscene".