All posts filed under: Current Events

Country singer Alan Jackson, from the cover of the 2001 album "Drive" (Arista Nashville)

World’s Worst Songs: Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”

While the scope and audacity of the September 11 attacks was shocking, that the United States had finally been hit was not. Informed citizens understood that there were people in the world who did not see us as a force for universal good, who in fact wished us great harm, and who had the means to hurt us badly. To many Americans, however, the attacks came like a bolt of lightning on a clear day. Why would anyone do such a thing to a country as benevolent as ours? How could they hate us so much? What was wrong with the people who hijacked those planes? Surely they had an inconceivable sickness, deep in their souls. There were answers to these questions, but the answers weren’t easy or comforting. They were rooted in history and geopolitics over nearly a century, and they would upset cherished notions about America’s image, her intentions, and her actions. They may have caused some people to adopt a more nuanced view of what led to the attacks, but many others …

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Numberscruncher: Who Built What, When?

The 2012 Republican Convention’s theme for Tuesday, August 28 is “We Built It,” a riff on an unfortunate comment by Barack Obama. Obama was trying to make the point that government provides education, infrastructure, police protection, property protection, and other things that have to be in place before a business can be successful. So what was it built on? Entrepreneurs are touchy about other people trying to latch onto their success, because starting a business is hard work. Even harder is getting up every day and trying to get people excited about what you are doing so that they will part with enough of their money so that you can make payroll. Most entrepreneurs would far rather do what they do than have a regular job, but that doesn’t make their jobs easy. Even a liberal like me was soured by my experience applying for a City of Chicago business license; it’s pretty annoying to have a career bureaucrat talk down to you how to start a business – to say the least. And yet, …

expat

Keep It To Yourself: Mischief Managed?

In which Harry Potter encounters his most dangerous nemesis yet: Copyright Infringers! Foolish muggles.  You know what happens when you get into a lawsuit with JK Rowling, author of the immensely popular Harry Potter book series?  You suffer an abject, ignominious defeat.  And, if you press the case too hard, you are so thoroughly obliterated that you may only be identified by dental records or traces of your DNA.  Why?  Because Rowling’s richer than the Queen of England, that’s why.  Free legal advice: David only defeats Goliath in court if everyone hates Goliath (like Exxon, BP, and Enron).  Or maybe if Erin Brockovich digs up some compromising dirt.  Yet, Vernon, Dudley, and countless other Dursleys keep trying it on or, worse, subjecting themselves to the wrath of Britain’s Wealthiest Woman.  Since we first met Harry & co. in 1997, Rowling and her publishers have defended against countless plagiarism, copyright and trademark lawsuits, libel actions, and at least one blackmail attempt.  Jo (as she likes me to call her) has also gone after a hoard of hapless squibs …

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Keep It to Yourself: Rosetta Stoned

Q: How does Google make money from your searches?  You know you don’t pay anything when you stalk your ex, scan Kobe’s lifetime stats, or check to see if your witness protection cover’s been blown.  So how does Google profit from your internet curiosity? A:  Google’s AdWords advertisement program. AdWords works like this: You have a word or phrase in mind, you type that word or phrase into Google’s search engine and then you see what comes up.  Instead of charging you, Google auctions ‘keywords’ to third party advertisers.  When you start a search by typing in that keyword you’re directed to websites – or “Sponsored Links” – that include the keyword in their sites.  Google profits when you visit those sponsored links. Is this process legal?  We’re going to find out because Google is being sued for the AdWords program by Rosetta Stone, Inc., the prominent language-learning software company.  Rosetta’s claim is that Google sold its trademarked name (as well as its trademark “language library”) to competitors that make and sell copycat language software.  …

uk duff

KEEP IT TO YOURSELF: CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THAT WONDERFUL DUFF!

Everyone knows that Homer Simpson loves beer.  During the long-running animated series The Simpsons Homer has philosophized: “Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.”  He’s also threatened “I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer” and fondly concluded, “Ah, good ol’ trustworthy beer.  My love for you will never die.”  Everyone also knows that Homer’s brew of choice is Duff Beer. Duff Beer doesn’t actually exist, of course: it’s a fictional brand.  Simpsons creator Matt Groening has stated that he doesn’t want to license the Duff trademark for a real beer because it might encourage kids to drink.  This doesn’t mean folks haven’t tried to brew and sell Duff Beer before, though, and the attempts to cash in on the popular cartoon quaff just keep on comin’. In the mid-90s, Australian brewery Lion Nathan sold a beer called Duff.   Although the product’s labeling made no reference to the Simpsons and did not include any of its characters (like popular brand spokesman Duffman), 20th Century Fox successfully forced Lion Nathan to discontinue …

well

Current Events: Rising in the Dark

I can’t write this article. Not the one I am supposed to write. See, I was meant to write about the film The Dark Knight Rises and how it reflected and refracted the book I read this week, the excellent and elegant poetry chapbook Bat & Man; something about the durability of the Batman character, the way he is mutable enough to invite and support a variety of allegorical readings, the way his myth can be expressed in comics, films, and even a sonnet cycle. But there are as many as fourteen people dead now in Aurora, Colorado, shot dead in the dark by a gunman whose true motive we will not, cannot ever understand, because we are sane and rational and fully human — maybe not fully functional, all of us, but able to get along in society — and he is hideously broken inside, broken enough to think it is a fine idea to set off tear gas in a packed theater and start firing randomly into the suddenly panicked crowd. That’s an …

JD+MICKEY

Keep It to Yourself: The Unhappiest Shirt on Earth

The story of how Joy Division met Mickey Mouse in the greatest trademark case that never was.   Last week’s KI2Y post about the unlawful appropriation of popular songs by politicians produced a flood of email from my thousands of readers around the globe.  Folks shared my bemusement at how clueless, entitled, and arrogant the infringing candidates were, and not a few remarked on how crappy their taste in music was.  Everyone seemed to enjoy Charlie Crist’s video apology to David Byrne – the schadenfraude levels were off the charts. So, staying on the dimwit musical trademark violation tip, I’d be remiss not to mention the remarkable transgression perpetrated by the Disney Empire against Joy Division.  If you hadn’t heard, last January Disney began selling a Mickey Mouse t-shirt “inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album” on its website.  (The image, taken from an astronomy text, shows the successive pulses of the first discovered pulsar.)  You just read that correctly: Disney was selling a Mickey Mouse t-shirt inspired by Joy Division.  How could …