26 October 2009

Caffeine Deficiency

Is it just me, or are zombies more in need of caffeine than brains?

  • Orwell was right about pervasive surveillance on Airstrip One — just about fifteen years off in his estimate of when it would happen.
  • Sometimes even the Daily Telegraph has something perceptive to say about publishing... or, at least, to report by drawing on a "news event" to unintentionally imply something more relevant. In this instance, it's an excuse for a beefcake/cheesecake photo to "illustrate" a story on "celebrity-written" novels. Of course, being the Telegraph, it utterly fails to go beneath the surface, remarking only that "publishers need to make a profit" and then expounding on how publishers are "highly educated with a passion for literature, and they became publishers in the hope of finding the next Vladimir Nabokov, not the next Martine McCutcheon." Leaving aside that the person with the title Publisher ordinarily does not make these decisions — instead, they are constrained from above by numeric measures of success, and from below by what their subordinates believe will meet those measures — most publishing executives these days (in both the US and the UK) are not "highly educated with a passion for literature."

    Those major objections aside, Mr Farndale's piece does implicate toward a critical issue in publishing and literature that is founded at least as much on the logical errors of the "great books/great art" movement as on anything else: What is the brand or mark that should be applied to a new work as an identifier? Example: Should it be Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish, Esquire, or McGraw-Hill? In turn, this has profoundly disturbing implications for preservation of cultural artifacts and permission to reproduce them — not just for the Google Book Search litigation (you knew I was going to work that in somehow, didn't you?), but for issues like museum displays and the Kafkaesque trial over ownership of Kafka's papers.

  • In a somewhat technical — but admirably clear, once one gets past the needless polysyllablary in the underlying opinion — explication of how telephone ringtones fit into copyright, the IPKat's "American correspondent" discusses a UK opinion on the mess. This is exactly what one should expect for not defining a term in a statute; consider that the US Copyright Act never defines "publication" for anything except (ironically enough) recorded audio... even though the longest section in the statute is the section of definitions at the beginning (17 U.S.C. § 101).
  • The passive voice is not evil, except if you're an Anglocentric SOB who has no knowledge of other languages that require it. Passive voice has specific purposes and uses, and does tend to be overused... but that's not the same thing as "evil." For that matter, speech-tagging ("He said") is oft-overused, too.
  • This blawg will be getting even more unpredictable than usual, as I head for the World Fantasy Convention later this week. Note to potential burglars: The house will remain occupied, and the remora is feeling bloodthirsty.

    Speaking of bloodthirsty, though, I'll be one of the panelists for a session on the Google Book Search litigation. I had to promise the programming director that I would refrain from bloodshed at that panel; getting blood out of the carpet in a hotel ballroom is both annoying and quite expensive... I didn't say anything, though, about refraining from inflicting blunt-language trauma.