23 October 2010

Prime Time Saturday Reruns

Don't ask about the ingredients for rerun link sausages. Just. Don't.

  • So, selling books over the internet will be a perfect, seamless replacement for brick-and-mortar stores, eh? Texas certainly thinks so, asserting that Amazon owes the state $269 million in back sales/use taxes. Naturally enough, the American Booksellers' Association applauds the move; Amazon decries it, claiming that "associates" are not a sufficient nexus to allow Texas to force Amazon to charge the taxes in the first place; and Texas is looking at a big pot of money. Meanwhile, nobody is paying a whole lot of attention to the most unfair, most regressive, least justifiable tax system... or to Texas's refusal to tax many of its home-grown industries on the same basis. But meanwhile, nobody is going to be paying taxes on books not bought on the internet because the booksellers' websites are so overloaded with crap that users die of boredome waiting.
  • Maybe I'll put on my monkey suit and sing Happy Birthday to the world... if, that is, I choose to believe an ignorant, bigoted priest with no knowledge of either (1) how legends develop or (2) how translation works, particularly through multiple languages for long-after-the-story retellings of originally oral tradition. What's really sad is that Ussher didn't even do his math correctly.
  • Now, a complicated trademark and unfair competition decision from Europe — in particular, England, but relying upon EU law — that also implicates several common publishing practices. As my feline colleague the IPKat explains:

    [After a masterly and pleasurably intelligible explanation of the doctrine, illustrated by cases decided under European trade mark, paying particular attention to Court of Justice rulings, the judge continued] It again seems clear from this that there can be a likelihood of confusion within the meaning of Article 9(1)(b) [of the Community Trade Mark Regulation] at the point when a consumer views an advertisement, whether or not the advertisement leads to a sale and whether or not the consumer remains confused at the time of any such sale.

    "Sudden outbreak of common sense? 'Initial interest confusion' part of EU trade mark law, says judge" (22 Oct 2010) (quoting Och-Ziff Management Europe Ltd., et al. v. Och Capital LLP, et al., [2010] EWHC 2599 (Ch), case name corrected to international norms).

    But what does this have to do with publishing practices? Well you might ask... until you walk into a bookstore and look at the monolithic cover designs in many sections, particularly including the whitewashing of covers in YA fiction. Given that this is, in fact and in stated intent, an attempt to develop a uniform meme for a type of product — and not an identification of origin — that cuts across publishers (it's not just Bloomsbury US; they just got called out), one might wonder whether this is a source of potential initial interest confusion on the part of two particularly unsophisticated classes of consumers: Pre-teens/teenagers... and their parents.

  • As a follow-up to Thursday's item from the Department of Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right... but Three Do, Wiscon has disinvited its Guest of Honor, Elizabeth Moon, because she disagrees — misunderstanding some facts — with putting a "mosque" near the World Trade Center (and then screwed up a little bit in her response to the disingenuous personal attacks on her, but that's another issue entirely). Both "sides" in the "debate" are missing the point.

    I do not defend Ms Moon's rhetoric — it was ill-chosen for any purpose, legitimate or otherwise. Her position should have focused not on whether it's appropriate to put an Islamic center (not "mosque" any more than a cathedral that includes a food pantry, daycare center, and school is merely a "church") in a heavily Muslim subcommunity currently underserved by facilities that happens to be near a site where some of Islam's equivalent of the KKK committed an atrocity... but upon the propriety of anybody objecting on any ground to any religious facility. Personally, I object to all of them, regardless of sect/creed/whatever; in that sense, I guess you could call me an equal-opportunity antitheist. That said, I also recognize that American tradition is in favor of subsidized sectarian construction and facilities, often in wholly inappropriate places (like the fundagelical church that took over a building near my middle school and pointed its signs so that the best reading angle was from the school's bus line... back in the dark days before the fall of Saigon), so I'm not all that vehement about particular projects except when I remember to point out that no comparable project is appropriate, regardless of affilitation. Of course, on occasion I get overexcited and forget to link everything together adequately. Ms. Moon then compounded the problem with poorly chosen reactions to personal attacks, many of which appeared on her own blog... like none of us have ever done that, or had our thoughts taken out of context (or taken others' thoughts out of context), eh? In short, her position and reaction were substantially less than optimal.

    WisCon's response (technically and formally, the response of its governing committee, not the convention organizers) was, if anything, worse. Basically, WisCon's governing committee succumbed to mob rule — just like the British left did in the 1930s in succumbing to the loudest and most bullying voices (those of the Stalinists). It would have been one thing if they were still looking for a candidate for GoH, and decided to strike Ms Moon's name off the list of candidates. It would have been a very similar thing if they had quietly, privately, expressed concerns directly to Ms Moon, and reached an amicable agreement for her to withdraw as GoH on her own motion, and followed up with an appropriately regretful public acceptance of that withdrawal. Neither resembles what happened, though. The irony that WisCon is committed to deconstructing some existing orthodoxies, but has imposed another orthodoxy upon itself that is at least equally damaging, seems to have escaped too many people.

    There are a helluva lot of science fiction writers and other figures who should be excluded from ever being guests of honor based upon statements and attacks far more virulent than anything that appeared on Ms Moon's blog... but I don't hear any calls for the exclusions of falangistas and the like (you know exactly who you are) from consideration for WorldCon guest lists. Similarly, the fact that I have a Y chromosome and light-colored skin doesn't have a damned thing to do with my views, although there are extremists who claim that — despite my personal experiences — I can't possibly understand discrimination, and therefore have no right to speak on discrimination issues, or indeed social justice issues in general, at all under any circumstances (and you know who you are, too). I'm sick to death of this whole "my self-identified ethnographic/phenotypic/genotypic group has had it worse than has yours, at least at some time, so my statements on what anything hypothetically relating to any discrimination means/is are privileged regardless of the validity of my logic or soundness of my factual statements" bullshit; that is nothing more than the dominance patterns of gorillas (PDF), not a means of advancing social conditions or intellectual endeavor.

    And none of this would have arisen in the first place if everyone involved — Ms Moon, the WisCon governing committee, the media as a whole, the rabid crowd of attackers and defenders, etc., etc., etc. — was judging that proposed Islamic center on the content of its character and not the color of its hijab. Or, perhaps, we should boycott Alabama until it gets rid of a state flag that is an homage to slavery and treason as much as it is a purported homage to Scotland; that is, focus not on this particular bit of "inappropriate symbolic construction," but on all of them, particularly since that's purportedly part of WisCon's own charter.