Professor Mary Beard’s book, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, is one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years. It’s a tour de force of historical synthesis, covering 1,000 years of Roman history in a deeply engaging and informative fashion. I was very sorry to reach the end of the book, and after finishing it, I became fascinated with all things Beard. She is a highly distinguished classics professor at Cambridge University and has been a prominent public intellectual in Britain for years. In January the Guardian did a great profile of her titled, “The cult of Mary Beard: How a late-blossoming classics don became Britain’s most beloved intellectual.” As the Guardian article makes clear, Prof. Beard’s life story is quite interesting in its own right, especially for anyone who has spent their own career in academia.
For an introduction to Beard’s work, you can’t do better than her BBC series Meet the Romans, which is now available on YouTube. The first episode is available here. What makes the series so great is that Prof. Beard focuses on ordinary Romans, from slaves to breadmakers to soldiers. She tells the story of what it was like to live in the most powerful, diverse, and interesting empire of the ancient world. In the process, she truly brings Rome to life. If you watch the first episode, I predict you won’t be able to stop. And in that case, I've got good news: episode 2 is available here, and episode 3 is available here.
If you are interested in watching something this weekend with a criminal law theme, there is a superb Scottish detective show currently available on Netflix. It’s called Shetland. A joint production of the BBC and ITV, Shetland is based on the novels of the distinguished mystery writer Ann Cleeves. The series is set in Scotland’s remote Shetland Islands and it follows the criminal investigations of Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, played by the superb Douglas Henshall. The show’s acting and writing are consistently outstanding and the scenery is breathtaking. The series has also attracted notable actors in guest roles, including Ciarán Hinds, Saskia Reeves, and Brian Cox.
If you are a fan of Kenneth Branagh’s great Wallander series (which aired on PBS a few years ago and is now also available on Netflix), you will love Shetland. Netflix has the first three seasons of Shetland but the fourth season is currently only available in the UK. Like Wallander, Shetland has also previously aired on PBS and may do so again, so if you don’t have Netflix, keep an eye on your local public television station. Shetland is definitely worth waiting for.
At a time when the issue of immigration deeply divides Americans, I recently came across a BBC documentary that could hardly be more timely. It’s called “The First Georgians: The German Kings Who Made Britain,” and it originally aired in Britain in 2014. It is now available in America on YouTube. The host is Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces and one of the most perceptive and interesting historians on television. She has made many superb historical documentaries for the BBC but the German Kings series is particularly apt for this moment in American history.
The Super Bowl is the National Football League’s championship game, an advertising extravaganza in which 100 million television viewers are expected to watch the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles compete for the Lombardi trophy.
However, the Super Bowl was not always the NFL’s championship game. In its earliest days, the Super Bowl pitted the NFL champion against the champions of a completely different league: the American Football League. The rivalry between the NFL and AFL is not only an interesting chapter in sports history, but also a turning point in the racial dynamics of professional football, one with ramifications that are still felt today.
I usually try to keep my geekery off the blog, but I've been watching the recent litigation involving the AXANAR (Star Trek fanfiction) film with interest in recent weeks. After the District Court for the Central District of California found on January 3 that the fanfiction film could not avail itself of the fair use defense to copyright infringement, the case went on to settle last week. The settlement reportedly includes the stipulation that the defendant adhere to a new set of fanfilm guidelines put forth by Paramount (which owns the relevant copyrights). These guidelines will likely affect future fanfilms. Presumably, if you adhere to the guidelines, you're working under a license from Paramount and won't have infringed copyright. The guidelines state that fanfilms have to be less than 15 minutes long and cannot use "Star Trek" in the title, among other things.
In some ways, it's actually helpful to fans when copyright holders set out guidelines like this, to make it clear precisely what fan activities are allowed with the copyright works. The Kindle Worlds program set up by Amazon a couple of years ago takes a similar approach to promulgating guidelines set out by the copyright holders of works included in the program to allow fans to make their own fanworks without infringing copyrights i.e., effectively under license from the copyright holders.
The downside is that it's possible, and indeed likely, that many of the guidelines now being put forth by copyright holders about fanfiction are actually more restrictive than, say, the fair use defense to copyright infringement might allow, but with the guidelines in place, many fans may take the path of least resistance (resistance is futile?) and comply with the guidelines for avoidance of doubt.
Creators of fanworks have not had much clear guidance from the law about when, and whether, their works are fair use - it's very difficult to make such determinations in the abstract and copyright law really requires these issues to be decided on a case by case basis. Several law professors (notably Rebecca Tushnet) have done a lot of extremely useful scholarly work over many years on fanfiction and copyright infringement, but we still have a long way to go in educating fan creators about their rights and obligations.
What kind of impact might the Star Trek infringement settlement have on the scope of fanfiction and fair use, if any? Or are we just seeing more of the same in the battle between content owners and fans?
Deana Pollard Sacks, the Roberson King professor of law at Texas Southern University, has developed a talk show, Meet the Professors. The show combines talk of recent social issues with legal doctrine and social science research. The first episode, "Sexy Media, Sexy Kids, Sad Kids," is available now. I think you'll enjoy it.
For readers desperate to confirm that Katie Holmes, actress and ex-wife of Scientologist Tom Cruise, is headed to law school, I have very good news: there has never been a better year for the daughter of Toledo attorney, 67 year old Martin J. Holmes Sr. to attend law school. I trust that, if she is going to learn to think like a lawyer, she'll head to the family law school: the University of Toledo College of Law. Her dad and her brother (the Junior, of course) are both graduates of UT and both practice in Toledo.
I assume that having survived all the law-talk over the dinner table, as a kid, she'll get boffo LSAT scores and win a generous scholarship. (Shoot: she got a 1310 on her SAT's and could have attended Columbia University. She didn't, of course, and now she's going to have to complete 3/4 of her college degree first in order to go to an ABA accredited law school. Alternatively, she could attend the California accredited Southern California Institute of Law, which seems to admit people with no virtually no undergrad coursework, so long as 90% of the coursework that does exist is nonvocational. But she should be forewarned that the school is boasting a 0% pass rate on the California bar recently.)
In any case, she may not want to spend a ton on her legal education so she can stash away most of the $400K in annual child support she receives so that Suri's 529 plan will be nicely stuffed when it's time for her to head to college. At the current pace, Suri's tuition at Columbia - should she be accepted and choose to attend - will be $84,702 per year in 2024, when she turns 18. Of course, she could save a ton of money by attending a state school - say, the University of Toledo - for her BA. At $43, 335 per year, it's sure to be a bargain!
Like most parents, after learning about the latest mass school
shooting this morning, my thoughts immediately went to my own
kindergartener. And of course, like most reading this blog, I thought
about how poorly we handle guns and mental illness. Before too long,
though, I couldn’t help but make a less direct connection between
today’s events and my scholarly interests. I’m thinking of the way
journalists cover school shootings as compared to how we regulate human
on sexual abuse and assault, grief, war, terrorism, natural disasters
and various other traumatic experiences are critical to better
understanding and addressing these phenomena. But exposure to trauma —
whether as a survivor or as a first rescuer or other third party — often
causes substantial psychological morbidity. . . . Given their
potentially fragile state, IRBs understandably worry that “questioning
[or otherwise studying] individuals who have experienced distressing
events or who have been victimized in any number of ways . . . . might
rekindle disturbing memories, producing a form of re-victimization.”
— local licensing committees who operate according to federal statute
and regulation and must approve most studies involving humans before
researchers can even approach anyone about possibly participating —
sometimes impose burdensome requirements on the way trauma research is
conducted in order to protect adult subjects from the risk of
revictimization. And they do so in addition to applying regulations that
require that researchers disclose that risk (and others) to subjects.
Contrast this with the way journalists cover trauma.
Like Al, I also watched several hours of “Gone With
The Wind” on Thanksgiving Eve (don't judge - there was a marathon!). GWTW
has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, but this time, I was most
struck by Scarlett's pitch perfect demonstration of the personality theory of
property. This is evident throughout the film, and most notably in the
last scene, where Scarlett hears the voices of her dearly departed father and
Ashley Wilkes in her head. After Rhett abandons her, she asks aloud, "What
is there to do? What is there that matters?" and the following exchange
Mr. O'HARA: You mean to tell
me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara doesn't mean anything to you? That land is
the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that lasts.
ASHLEY: Something you love
better than me, though you may not know it.
Mr. O'HARA: Tara - this is
where you get your strength.
ASHLEY: Tara - the red earth
Mr. O'HARA: That land's the
only thing that matters, it's the only thing that lasts.
ASHLEY: Something you love
better than me, though you may not know it, Tara.
Mr. O'HARA: ...From which you
get your strength...
ASHLEY: ... the red earth of
Mr. O'HARA: Land's the only
thing that matters...
ASHLEY: something you love
better than me...
SCARLETT: Tara! Home. I'll go
Tara is the place where
Scarlett achieves self-realization. It is the place where her memories
and ambitions are rooted. It is also the place over which Scarlett
asserts an entitlement that is superior to that of either of her sisters (and fellow heirs) Suellen and Carreen (recall the great scene where Scarlett bosses the sisters
around, forces them to pick cotton, and then slaps Suellen for yelling "I
hate Tara" in the fields). I know there are some GWTW fans out there
- what other theories of property are on full display in the film?
Ron Palillo, the actor who played Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back, Kotter, died today. He was 63. He is not the only member of the Sweathogs who passed recently. Robert Hegyes, who played the part of Juan Epstein, died this past January.
My guest blogging began with a post in memory of The Band’s Levon Helm. I would be remiss if I did not circle back by sharing a hidden gem and seeking other Shmengeheads.
The Shmenge’s Last Polka is a mockumentary about brothers, Yosh (John Candy) and Stan (Eugene Levy) Shmenge, retiring from a long and illustrious career as the greatest Polka duo ever. The format follows Martin Scorsese’s classic, The Band The Last Waltz. The Shmenges were born on Second City TV and also known as the Happy Wanderers.
Unfortunately, this classic has not made its way across the digital divide and is not (yet?) available on DVD, or whatever we’re using now. Fortunately, a fellow Shmengehead posted the film in several parts in cyberspace. Here’s a part of the film with a Linsk Minyk (Rick Moranis) sit-in and banter.
Thank you to the Lounge regulars for sharing their forum and to all the readers for sharing their time. I hope to see/meet you at SEALS later this summer or somewhere down the So Many Roads we all know.
p.s. The last link above is to a late era Robert Hunter / Jerry Garcia song. Jerry flubs a few lyrics, but this inspired performance from the Boston Garden in 1994 is worth seven and a half minutes of any music lover’s time, at least once. For some reason, Jerry vocally wails on “to heal my soul” at the end, instead of the usual “to ease my soul.”
p.p.s. RIP Doc Watson. Sitting on Top of the World
As the Supreme Court’s second decision in three years in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. nears, a brief history of indecency regulation may be of interest and begins with a tie to music.
In 1970, the FCC levied its first indecency fine. The FCC fined a Philadelphia non-profit educational radio station, WUHY-FM, $ 100 for broadcasting a pre-recorded interview with Jerry Garcia. Garcia interspersed his musings on a vareity of topics with indecent language, such as "political change is so fucking slow." No one complained about the broadcast. The FCC was monitoring the radio station. In dissent, Commissioner Nicholas Johnson conveyed bewilderment and disdain about the FCC’s decision to fine this particular station:
[W]hen we do go after broadcasters, I find it pathetic that we always seem to pick upon the small, community service stations . . . It is ironic to me that of the public complaints about broadcasters' ‘taste’ received in my office, there are probably a hundred or more about network television for every one about stations of this kind. Surely if anyone were genuinely concerned about the impact of broadcasting upon the moral values of this nation — and that impact has been considerable — he ought to consider the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks before picking on little educational FM radio stations that can scarcely afford the postage to answer our letters, let alone hire lawyers. We have plenty of complaints around this Commission involving the networks. Why are they being ignored? I shan't engage in speculation. Download In Re WUHY FCC 1970
In 1975, the FCC received one complaint because a New York radio station broadcasted George Carlin’s Filthy Words monologue in the afternoon. In 1978, the Court held in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation that regulating indecent speech on broadcast radio and television did not per se violate the First Amendment. The Court based its decision on the dual rationales that broadcast radio and television are uniquely pervasive in society and that they are uniquely accessible to children. Justice Powell’s concurrence made clear that the Court did not decide whether the isolated use of a potentially offensive word could be regulated and that the holding was limited to the specific context of Carlin’s “verbal shock treatment.”
For a quarter-century, the FCC maintained that fleeting expletives did not rise to the level of indecent speech. But, after Bono used a fleeting expletive when receiving a Golden Globe award, and Cher and Nicole Richie made similar transgressions on the Billboard Music Awards, the FCC reversed course and issued its 2004 Golden Globe Order finding that any use of the words fuck or shit is inherently indecent, except for a couple of exceptions.
In 2009, the Court held 5-4 that the FCC rule change did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act’s arbitrary and capricious standard. Justice Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion in Pacifica, dissented in Fox I. Now, the Court considers whether the FCC’s indecency regulation violates the First or Fifth Amendments.
One would be hard pressed to argue that broadcast radio and television are still uniquely pervasive in society and uniquely accessible to children in light of the numerous media technologies that exist, especially considering the ubiquity of mobile devices with internet access. Not only do the rationales of Pacifica fail to reflect the realities of 2012, advertisements like the Go Daddy commercials that air during the Super Bowl and for products like KY Intense, an “arousal gel” make futzing around with fleeting expletives a rather futile exercise. Justice Stevens made a similar point in a footnote to his Fox I dissent: "It is ironic, to say the least, that while the FCC patrols the airwaves for words that have a tenuous relationship with sex or excrement, commercials broadcast during prime-time hours frequently ask viewers whether they too are battling erectile dysfunction or are having trouble going to the bathroom."
Here’s Frank Zappa performing, I’m the Slime on Saturday Night Live in 1976, complete with guest vocals by Don Pardo. Zappa’s take on the slime oozing out of the tv set is more aligned with Commissioner Johnson’s WUHY-FM dissent, than a concern about “bad words.”
After watching the “Hunger Games,” I was reminded how society can get things backwards when worrying about harms to children. Despite the graphic scenes of teenagers slaughtering each other, the movie has a PG-13 rating. In contrast, movies are supposed to receive an R rating if they include sexually-oriented nudity or if they include some of the “harsher sexually-derived” expletives, especially when used in a sexual context.
This more severe treatment of nudity and profanity than of bloodshed tracks first amendment doctrine. Supreme Court justices seem more worried about the F-word and bare buttocks than about vicious violence. Just last year, the Court invoked the First Amendment to override California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. Two years ago, the Court rejected a federal statute that outlawed "crush" videos depicting the torture and killing of animals. But in the discussion at oral argument earlier this year about foul language and indecent images on television, the justices indicated a willingness to maintain some censorship of expletives and nudity by the Federal Communications Commission.
Is it really the case that children suffer greater trauma from hearing curse words and viewing sexual images than from seeing brutal murders? Is it really true that the profanity and pornography on The Sopranos were more troubling than the cold-blooded executions that were vividly depicted in the series?
Maybe there's no harm to kids from watching people being maimed, decapitated or dismembered on the big or little screen. But surely there's no greater harm from seeing a bare breast or hearing a dirty word.
Dorothy Brown (Emory Law School) is featured in this segment of "Need to Know," a PBS show. Here's the program description:
Our tax code has been described as a morass of different rates, deductions, loopholes, and subsides that is different depending on each individual taxpayer’s situation. Homeowners are treated differently than renters; high earners are paying lower rates, in some cases, than middle-class Americans. And, on top of that, the nation faced a $1.3 trillion deficit last year.
So, how do we make our tax code simpler and fairer? And how do we produce more revenue without stifling job creation? Need to Know’s Ray Suarez hosts a panel of tax experts who debate how to fix the tax mess.
The show's guests, along with Dorothy Brown, are former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer; Bruce Bartlett, advisor to presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush; and Dan Mitchell of the Cat0 Institute.
Hmm . . . whether to blog about the Greek debt rollover or alcohol and television? . . . Alcohol and television win for the moment. Who knew that a Google search for “red cocktails” would turn up dozens of hits, including an entire Food & Wine slide show, that includes the Sherry Cocktail (above right?)?
Why, you might ask, would someone need such information? HEL-LO! The True Blood season premiere was Sunday night, which required red, and festive, food and drink. I made the above-mentioned sherry cocktail and a very tasty Raspberry Smash from Bon Appétit. Photos of both are below.
A few thoughts on the show, sufficiently lacking in spoilers that I am not putting it below the fold. First, Jason’s biceps are even larger this season than last. And he’s not any smarter. Jason fans appear pleased.
Second, shape shifters are just boring. Even fairies are more interesting than shape shifters.