12 October 2022

Cabot Cove Is Now Safe

…from America's most-prolific unapprehended serial killer. Really, now: Occam's Razor — buttressed by pop psychology — indicates that the one person around all of those murders, with their pseudoclever methods and plausible-only-to-desperate-writers motives, is probably the real killer. Sadly, the demise of Dame Angela will also lead to the failure of a highly entrepreneurial pie shop that was extremely creative in dealing with supply-chain and hazardous-waste-disposal challenges and, quite possibly (hopefully?), the demise of online solitaire vendors as the Queen of Diamonds is no longer a playable card. I suppose it beats the narrative incoherence (and, thus, contempt for the audience) of a Disney film unjustly praised at IMDB, though.

  • Then there's the shrieking from certain subsets of Tech Bros (VC Bros is more accurate) that regulating AI development will stifle innovation. Of course, if the the innovation in question focuses on monetization without regard to direct consequences or misuse, that might be a good thing. On second though, no "might be" about it; remember when the Internet was supposed to enhance research and not just enrich bored, bigoted white guys (most of whom can't program well enough to set up an accurate spam filter)?
  • Then there's the matryoshka-doll problem of book titles as trademark-law designations of origin, in which the commercial layer is almost entirely ignoring — and when it is not ignoring, is intentionally denegrating — the inherent conflicts among "artistic process," "artistic product," "critical evaluation," and "branding on behalf of transferees of the preceding three aspects." What Prof Wilkof's piece inadvertently points out is another lacuna: The absence of artist/artistic control over how their wares are marketed in the first place… because lurking underneath the particular problem with The Miniaturist that inspired his essay is the control distinction between the substance (which belongs to the author) and the marketing materials like the title and cover (which belong to the publisher). Even the publishing category belongs to a transferee… and sometimes, so does the author's name (or, at least, attribution).

    In short, trademark law is an ill fit for the arts, because its commercial-representation-is-all-that-matters perspective is inappropriate for the arts. Even their commercial aspects: The most-highly-commercial brand identifications in the arts, like "Republic serial," either depend upon unlawful monopolies or are misnomers like "xerox" (derived from the process name "xerography")… or inherently deceptive, in that most 1940s-1950s film serials were not actually created by Republic, any more than The Miniaturist was created by Ecco or Orion (or in the US).

  • When ideologues misrepresent books, things get much more interesting… like neoconservatives "adopting" Orwell as a prophet of neoconservatism. One wonders if this kind of willful misinterpretation — which is almost always motivated at least in part by financial considerations — might somehow edge into a tarnishment cause of action under the common law of trademark. That, of course, further exposes the "commercial speech" problem, and anyone who claims that there's a non-Jacobellis shorthand description for that is probably selling something (which is rather the point).

    But it's much, much too early today to try to resolve any intentional fallacy that is amplified by trying to simultaneously determine the intention of a writer and of a transferee.

  • Conversely, there's always cultural ignorance combined with the need to remain genteely appropriate for publishing. Even the Grauniad falls prey to this problem; I've listened to a few of the news broadcasts, and "get lost" is nowhere close to an accurate representation in our context of what's being chanted by a bunch of teenaged Iranian girls in theirs. Even if the literal meaning of what was being chanted was indisputably "get lost" (umm, no, based on repeated playing of the audio). The converse is that I can successfully use "bloody" and evade American profanity filters, but go back a century and across the pond and… not so much.

    Or maybe the girls just want the mullahs and ayotollahs to watch more bad, self-indulgent television originating with the Great Satan, in the hope that the fanboy arguments would distract them from repression. I think that's a futile hope; nothing can distract theocrats from repression. Even if "lost" translated backward the same way.