Posts In "Fine Arts"

Fine Arts

Trying to Stay Off a Reality TV Show? Maybe Try Dancing Whenever the Cameras Are Around!

Curt Sachs once said that “dance is the mother of the arts.” Sounds very eloquent, doesn’t it? You can’t help but think of a beautiful ballerina gracefully cascading along the stage, performing in front of an adorning audience. Now, take this quote and those serene images, place them on train tracks, wait for speeding train to hit, and…boom! You now have Dance Moms, Lifetime’s latest so-called reality show and voyeuristic indulgence featuring infamous dance studio owner Abby Lee Miller, several of her young dancers, and their overbearing moms. The show appears to be loosely scripted, at best, to contrive needless drama and controversy. Does anyone seriously believe that these moms were genuinely outraged by the “wildly inappropriate” costumes their daughters were wearing? Pah-lease!

Not surprising that the best they could do was Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. (Although we can all be grateful to the show for helping to bring the phrase “prosti-tots” into the vernacular. So, you know, thanks for that.)

Before I write any further, I should probably confess that I am both a former dance competition kid and, by definition, a dance mom. Like the Abby Lee dancers, my 11-year old daughter dances nearly 20 hours a week, performs in nine group routines and two solos, and attends many of the dance competitions and conventions featured by Lifetime. So, are the rest of us dance moms angry that the show entirely ignores the positives of youth dance in favor of gross sensationalization? That it fails to point out that, instead of coming home from school and sitting on the couch playing video games, these dance kids are getting incredible exercise, learning an art form, gaining performance skills, building self-confidence and creating life-long friendships? That it ignores how the drive and ambition these kids build as young dancers will launch them into a variety of successful, non-dance careers? Absolutely. Am I writing this blog to express my distain for Lifetime’s unfair and irresponsible depiction of the dance world? Maybe. But behind all the pirouettes, the show raises some interesting and novel legal issues. Really. Continue reading the full story . . . »


Copyright: More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys

This Christmas, my mother-in-law gave my dog-obsessed daughter a gadget that (ostensibly) allowed her to view life through the eyes of our dog, Olive. It was a digital camera that attached to Olive’s collar, and it randomly snapped a picture every minute or so as Olive roamed around our yard and went about her daily, um, business (no, thankfully, it didn’t photograph what was going on at that end of the dog…). Well, we got a lot of pictures of grass and her food bowl, and a couple of catawampus views of our agapanthus and geraniums, which were cool in a canine fun-house sort of way. But I definitely wouldn’t have put any of them in a frame. I mean, I love my dog, but Ansel Adams she ain’t.

Well maybe I should reconsider. You see, a fantastic self-portrait taken by a monkey has been sweeping the internet, and causing quite a ruckus in certain copyright circles. (How is this macaque already better at self-portraits than 95% of people posting their pictures on Facebook?) Apparently, when award-winning nature photographer David Slater momentarily walked away from his tripod while filming black macaques in Indonesia, one of the monkeys took over, snapping hundreds of pictures. It isn’t quite Shakespeare, but the now-famous grinning self-portrait of the chimp is pretty remarkable.

Remarkable enough, it seems, that Slater is trying to steal credit for it. And while this has set off an interesting debate online as to whether, and under what law, Slater might have copyright rights in the macaque’s work, I’m more curious as to what rights the macaque himself ought to have. Continue reading the full story . . . »

To Be or Not to Be…Crazy? Law Law Land Live-Tweets the Trial of Hamlet

This evening, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles will be staging “The Trial of Hamlet,” a unique opportunity for law geeks and Elizabethan England geeks to find common ground in mutual geekdom. [Important linguistic clarification: for our purposes, the term “nerd” refers to general intellectualism and personality, while “geek” refers to a more narrow area of interest/expertise/obsession, e.g., “Star Trek geek.”] Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will preside over a trial determining the competency of Hamlet to stand trial for the murder of Polonius, with a jury including actors Helen Hunt and Tom Irwin making the final call.

While the event is (depending on your perspective, fortunately or unfortunately) sold out, if you’re interested and/or desperately looking for distractions while working late, Law Law Land’s esteemed editor will be live-tweeting the event from about 7:30 pm PST forward. Follow along at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ Twitter page.

[Correction!: As of 12:20 p.m. PST, tickets are still available here!]

[Correction, Part 2: Correction’s Revenge!: OK, as of 12:30 p.m. PST, they’re out again. Sorry.] Continue reading the full story . . . »

In the Next Edition, Huckleberry Finn Will Say That 2 + 2 = 5

As a fellow member of the Law Law Land blogging team, it may be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on Dan Nabel’s recent post “Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Bowdlerizers! (And What Can Be Done About Them).” [Ed. Note: Nope, not inappropriate at all, Steve.] But when I read about publishing house NewSouth Books’ expurgatation of the word “nigger” from Huckleberry Finn, I could not but help think about Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. (Law Law Land: come for the legal analysis, stay for the literary exegesis!)

For those who have not read 1984 or who have forgotten it, allow me to explain. In 1984, Winston Smith is employed by the “Ministry of Truth,” which is a branch of the oligarchical, dictatorial, totalitarian, badsoundingadjective-ial, scaryword-ian government of Oceania. He works at the Ministry as an editor in the “historical revisionism” office, where his job consists of editing previously published works to replace true accounts of history with new, false histories intended to support the existing status quo (nerds might call this “retconning”). When he is done with the original document, he is required to drop it down the “Memory Hole,” an incinerator that is connected by a tube to his desk. The only past that may (and can) exist is a past that corresponds with the Party line. [Ever wondered about the distinction between “may” and “can”? Orwell dramatically demonstrates the difference in 1984. It is not that one alternative is permitted and one is not (i.e., may). Rather, it is that there is no alternative. “True” history is not even possible. History “can” be only as the Ministry says.] Those who respectfully disagree are executed, at which point it becomes Winston’s job to delete all references to them from the written record, so that no one can point to any evidence of the offenders ever having existed at all.

Which brings me to NewSouth Books’ version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain’s masterpiece is so in large part because of its history. This novel could not be written today. And, lucky for us, it was not written today. It was written in 1884. (Coincidentally, 100 years before the year — not the book — 1984.) Although the book is set in the Antebellum Era South, Twain was writing it years after the Civil War and just as Reconstruction was coming to an end. The book brutally satirizes the Old South and the sensibilities of its citizens. Twain portrays the stereotypical, slave owning southerners as buffoons. And he does that in large part through his unmatched use of Southern dialect. At the time, this dialect commonly used the word “nigger.” Twain used the word (in conjunction with the hundreds of other “Southern” words and phrases interspersed throughout the book) both to lend his characters a sense of authenticity and to make a sharp point — that the Old South’s view of slaves and slavery was immoral and ignorant. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Bowdlerizers! (And What Can Be Done About Them)

Last week, the New York Times ran a story about a forthcoming new edition of Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. According to the Times: “Throughout the book — 219 times in all — the word ‘nigger’ is replaced by ‘slave,’ a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February.” As a parenthetical, the Times also reported that the book substitutes “Indian” for “injun.” (Mercifully, the publisher did stop short of changing the book’s title.)

Needless to say, NewSouth Books’ decision to bowdlerize one of America’s greatest novels has received considerable criticism — not least because responsible readers of Huck Finn recognize that the story actually satirizes and demonizes the kind of racism that the n-word represents. English Professor Thomas Glave writes that the substitution “will neither erase nor vanquish the ugly history out of which the novel and the offensive word emerged.” Glave further observes that:

“An insistence on obfuscating the past and obscuring the truth of real events is itself violent; such obfuscation does violence not only to the memories of those who suffered, but to our own potential as human beings to remember, and who must be charged, toward our own greater humanity, never to forget.”

Glave’s observation raises some interesting questions. We all know that a public domain work is just that — it belongs to the public and anyone can reproduce it or change it as they see fit. But what if, as Glave suggests, changing a public domain work in a certain way results in harm? While there is clearly nothing wrong with NewSouth Books’ decision to publish its version of Huck Finn, is there any limit to what a person can do with a public domain work? Continue reading the full story . . . »

Q&A: I Shot a Spec Pilot Using Current Music…It’s Not for Profit, Do I Need to Get Clearance?

Q: I shot a spec pilot in order to showcase my writing/directing talents. In it I use popular and current hip-hop, rock, and pop music. I am not showing this pilot for money — I’m distributing DVDs to production companies and studios, and screening it to generate buzz about my TV series and get a deal (so this project is not to generate revenue directly). Can I use this music without getting clearance or paying ASCAP fees?

A: No. These songs are protected by copyright. Copying them without a license is copyright infringement. Just about any original work is protected by copyright, and in most cases you can’t use it without a license. Continue reading the full story . . . »