Quote of the Day

Presently before the court is the motion of the defendant, Sony Pictures Classics, Inc. (“Sony”), seeking dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The plaintiff, Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC (“Faulkner”) has responded in opposition. The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, read the book, Requiem for a Nun, and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare The Sound and the Fury with Sharknado. Further, the court has thoroughly considered the filings and relevant law. The motion is due to be granted.

At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement. In this case, it cannot.

--Judge Michael P. Mills, Chief Judge, United States District Court, Northern District of Mississippi. Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC v. Sony Pictures Classics Inc.

Paging Claude Rains*

I read stories like this one, discussing European Union outrage that the National Security Agency might have been spying on EU offices, and naturally, I think of this:

 

Honestly, the notion that EU members didn't think that friendly governments might be spying on them, or that spying never goes on between friends, is more than a little laughable. If EU members are actually just learning about this phenomenon . . . well . . . I guess I now understand why the EU might be in a lot of trouble; naïveté is just killing it.

Of course, I am sure that this is just faux-shock and outrage on the part of EU members, many of whom have to know that (a) even friendly governments spy on one another; and (b) the espionage services of individual EU members likely spy on the United States as well.

*Yes, Rains's iconic performance was as Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca.  But I have a soft spot in my heart for his portrayal of Mr. Dryden.

Nothing Is Written

I enjoyed reading this book review of the great and good Paul Johnson's Darwin: Portrait of a Genius. The following passage was particularly arresting:

. . . Darwin was born into a highly literate and distinguished family, some members of which are the focus of biographical studies in their own right. He was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin on his father’s side, and of Josiah Wedgwood on his mother’s. It was a splendid inheritance. A successful medical doctor, Erasmus corresponded with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin, and hobnobbed with Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Joseph Priestly, and other members of the Lunar Society. His Zoonomia was placed on the Catholic Index of forbidden books. Josiah was such a successful entrepreneur that Samuel Smiles wrote a book on him. Robert, Erasmus’s son and Charles Darwin’s father, married Susannah, Josiah’s oldest daughter. As was the case with many of the Darwin men, Robert was a closet freethinker and atheist. The Wedgwoods on the other hand were religious (Josiah was a staunch Unitarian).

Robert was another successful medical doctor and astute financier (money was invested rather than spent: sober thrift was a characteristic his son was to share). Thus Darwin was born into wealth, and adhered to the conservative values of the landed gentry. By all accounts a quiet, placid, even-tempered child, he was taught at home by his older sister Caroline before being sent, in 1817, to a local day school; in 1818, when he was nine, he was moved to the Shrewsbury Grammar School. The classics were wasted on the young schoolboy – he was brought up in a household which spent much time outside, fishing, hunting, gardening; his own preferences are seen in his father’s sharp words, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

In 1825, now sixteen, he was packed off to Edinburgh – a “purgative” in the words of Desmond and Moore – in order to follow the family tradition and study medicine. He spent two years there before throwing in the towel (a wonderful anecdote is of the lectures on anatomy in which the professor repeated, word for word, the lectures his own grandfather had delivered over a century before – including asides such as “When I was a student in Leiden in 1719”).

Since a medical career was out of the question, his father decided a career in the church might be suitable. Himmelfarb says that Robert “respected neither the clergy nor his son enough to credit them with any profound religious convictions”. Darwin entered Cambridge, and embarked on the three-year education that would qualify him for a clerical career in the Anglican church. While preparing for ordination, he read and enjoyed William Paley’s 
Natural Theology. He also came across Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. And he developed interests in beetles, botany, and geology. On the surface at least unambitious, and certainly genial and unassuming, he seems to have drifted through Cambridge, although he was befriended by some of the young professors, most notably John Stevens Henslow and Adam Sedgwick.

He appeared to be set on a life as a botanising country clergyman. However, on graduation in 1831, after returning home to prepare for the first day of the shooting season, he found awaiting him a letter from Henslow, who had recommended him as naturalist for a scientific expedition, to be commanded by a Captain Robert FitzRoy RN, which was to survey the coasts of South America and Tierra del Fuego. Then a young captain, FitzRoy wanted a gentleman companion as much if not more than a naturalist, and Darwin, while not yet a qualified naturalist, was certainly a gentleman. If he accepted, he would circumnavigate the globe, be away from home for what was initially thought to be two years, and be provided with countless opportunities to engage in fieldwork in botany, zoology and geology. Suspecting, in Himmelfarb’s words, that beetle-collecting was not much of an improvement on rat-catching, his father opposed the idea – his feckless son seemed to be determined to turn his back on yet another career – and so Darwin, with regrets, initially declined the offer. However a Wedgwood uncle was not only in favour, but willing to plead his case. Permission was given, and he hastily wrote to accept the offer.

He was to embark on the 
HMS Beagle, today surely one of the most famous of all British naval vessels. Originally a three-masted, 235-ton Cherokee-class ship – a class known as “coffin brigs” because they had a tendency to sink in bad weather – she had just returned from a five-year voyage, and had to be rebuilt, adding seven tons and a higher upper deck. After some false starts, she successfully set sail from Plymouth Sound in December 1831. Darwin had previously promised FitzRoy to view the planned departure date as the starting date of his “second life” and to celebrate it “as a birthday for the rest of my life”. It certainly made him who he was.

In what might be related news, the following is possibly worth noting:

 

Tumbling 'Round the Intertubes--May 27, 2013

1. The Urban Dictionary makes it to the courtroom.

2. A Franco-American Memorial Day commemoration.

3. Yes. Let's.

4. Since this links to a spoiler FAQ, you obviously should not read it if you want to avoid spoilers. But you should read it if (a) you don’t care about avoiding spoilers; and (b) you want to laugh so hard that you pull a gut muscle or several.