Category Archives: Controversy

Lying to children about the past

I reviewed A Birthday Cake for George Washington, the controversial children’s picture book about slavery, for the Seattle Review of Books— read it here: http://seattlereviewofbooks.com/reviews/the-idea-of-freedom-might-be-too-great-a-temptation-for-them-to-resist/

In my review I tell the real story of Hercules, George Washington’s slave-cook, a story far different from the happy fictional one in the book, which was promoted as “based on real events.” SPOILER ALERT: On Washington’s 65th birthday, Hercules didn’t bake a cake– he escaped.

The book was withdrawn by the publisher over the MLK holiday weekend, but the issues it raises are larger than this particular book. We should tell the complicated truths about America’s founders and founding and stop lying to our children about the past.

My Banned Books Week post for the Bauman Rare Books blog

We Read Banned Books is my latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog, featuring the stories of six important books: Joyce’s Ulysses, Galileo’s Dialogo, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Read it here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/read-banned-books/

Ulysses

 

 

 

 

 

Edward de Grazia, the lawyer who fought book censorship & wrote Girls Lean Back Everywhere

In a 2008 post about Banned Books Week, I recommended an excellent 1992 book about literary censorship and obscenity prosecutions in the United States, Edward de Grazia’s Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. He was a lawyer who fought the censorship of books in a number of prominent cases in the 1960s.

Girls Lean Back Everywhere

This morning I learned that Edward de Grazia has died at the age of 86. Here’s his obituary from the New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt from my original post about his book:

The title is taken from a quote by Jane Heap, who (with Margaret Anderson) was prosecuted in 1920 for publishing episodes from James Joyce’s Ulysses in their magazine, The Little Review:

Mr. Joyce was not teaching early Egyptian perversions nor inventing new ones. Girls lean back everywhere, showing lace and silk stockings; wear low-cut sleeveless blouses, breathless bathing suits; men think thoughts and have emotions about these things everywhere–seldom as delicately and imaginatively as Mr. Bloom–and no one is corrupted.

This work describes in detail the publishing histories and obscenity trials of the most controversial books of the 20th century, including Joyce’s Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, as well as later trials involving the monologues of Lenny Bruce, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.

What makes this work particularly entertaining are the extensive quotes from the authors and publishers involved. As de Grazia notes in his introduction:

I wanted to find out, and describe, how the persons who were most immediately affected by literary censorship–authors and publishers–responded to and felt about it, and to present their reactions as much as possible in words of their own. I also wanted to say what I could about the nature of the legal and constitutional process that has framed the struggle against censorship in our country….

No, Oxford hasn’t abandoned the Oxford comma

As long-time readers of this blog know, I love the Oxford comma (also known as the serial or series comma). I wrote in a post over two years ago:

If only we could convince the Times (and other newspapers) to use the serial comma (also known as the series comma or the Oxford comma). I’m a big fan of the serial comma, and the Chicago Manual of Style now “strongly recommends this widely practiced usage, blessed by Fowler and other authorities…, since it prevents ambiguity.”  Here’s an example from the Times that shows what can happen without the serial comma: “By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.” Perhaps the most famous example of why the serial comma should be used is this apocryphal book dedication: “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” (For the origins of these two examples, see this 2006 Language Log post and this 2003 Language Hat post.)

This morning a GalleyCat post reported that the use of the Oxford comma is now discouraged by the University of Oxford (in their online Writing and Style Guide). This has, of course, ignited the Twittersphere with strong reactions, pro and con.

However, it turns out that the story isn’t really true.  Galleycat has just added an update to their blog post:

Reader Michael Williams adds this clarification: “That’s the University of Oxford PR department style guide. Oxford University Press is a commercially and editorially autonomous organization.”

So, much ado about nothing. (Yet another reminder not to believe everything you read on the Internet.) But even if it were true, that would certainly not convince me to give up the Oxford comma.

Update, 6/30/11: 

Oxford Dictionaries tweeted this morning:

The Oxford comma is alive and well at Oxford University Press: http://oxford.ly/mnx8XK

This AP article explains:

But have no fear, comma-philes: the Oxford comma lives.

Oxford University Press, birthplace of the Oxford comma, said Thursday that there has been no change in its century-old style, and jumped into the Twittersphere to confirm that it still follows the standard set out in “New Hart’s Rules.”

The only explicit permission to dispense with the Oxford comma — apparently the cause of the alarm — was in a guide for university staff on writing press releases and internal communications. “It’s not new, it’s been online for several years already,” said Maria Coyle in the university press office.

Yet the report caused a Twitterstorm….

Breaking news: Judge Chin rejects the Google Books Settlement

James Grimmelmann has just reported that Judge Denny Chin has rejected the Google Books Settlement. (For background, see my previous posts on the Google Books case or The Public Index website.) The full opinion is here (PDF). I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but below are a couple of excerpts from the beginning and the end of the opinion:

The question presented is whether the ASA [Amended Settlement Agreement] is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far. It would permit this class action– which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of “snippets” for on-line searching– to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

Accordingly, and for the reasons more fully discussed below, the motion for final approval of the ASA is denied….

In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable. As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an “opt-out” settlement to an “opt-in” settlement…. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly.

I recommend checking Grimmelmann’s blog (The Laboratorium) for his analysis and information about the case.

Update: Here’s the link to Grimmelmann’s new post, “Inside Judge Chin’s Opinion.” More links at The Public Index Blog and TeleRead. Publishers Weekly has an interesting article about what could happen next and the obstacles in the way of revising the settlement.

A final post on Cooks Source (updated)

Over the weekend, the Daily Hampshire Gazette posted an article by Dan Crowley containing an interview with Judith Griggs about the Cook Source copyright infringement kerfuffle. (See my two previous posts for background.)

I found the article rather sad, as she still doesn’t seem to get it. She admits printing Monica’s article without permission was wrong but continues to make vague excuses about overwork (she and her daughter run the magazine alone) and her “shortcomings when it comes to understanding copyright law.” She clearly doesn’t understand that what sent everyone into a frenzy was the tone and content of her truly extraordinary e-mail to Monica. It was just so wrong, arrogant, and unintentionally funny that it became an instant meme.

And now she has replaced her previous unsigned statement on the Cooks Source website with a new one, full of anger and self-pity (and lots of spelling and punctuation errors):

Its sad really. The problem is that I have been so overworked and stretched that when this woman — Monica — contacted me, I was on deadline and traveling at the rate of 200 mile a day for that week (over 900 in total for that week), which I actually told her, along with a few other “nice” things, which she hasnt written about. I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesnt say that she was rude, she doesnt say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it….

I should add that this email exchange took place the day before she wrote her article for the world. After she (likely) received my email, she called the home office phone at 10PM, I didnt answer that late, was in bed as I was traveling again the next day (left at 7AM the next morning) to Connecticut, and didnt get back to her. This is not an uncommon practice with anyone, to not respond to a phone call for a day or two, it happens to me from other businesses, all the time. I came home that day from being in Connecticut to find hundreds of phone messages and emails telling me I sucked and was a dirtbag… and much MUCH worse.

I really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance….

This is how it happened:
When putting together a magazine, a publishing firm usually has a staff of many, a stable of writers and proofreaders. Cooks Source doesnt, it is just us two…and believe me we would if we could use more help. Consequently I do much, have a few stalwart writers who love to write (for free) and a number of publishers and book agents who send me A LOT of books, recipes, press releases, etc — I recieved one even today. In the past I have also assisted budding writers with their writing skills and given them a portfolio piece they can get jobs with, from magazines and newspapers that will pay them. In short, we do a lot of good, sell a lot of books for authors, and help a lot of people. But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article… Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and “found” something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright “stealing” it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion….

The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont help…and now, our black mark will become our shroud. Winters are bleak in Western New England, and as such they are bleak for Cooks Source as well. This will end us….

Thank you to all our readers, thanks to all our advertisers and writers… and to everyone who has been supportive and who has been a part of Cooks Source. To one writer in particular, Monica Gaudio, I wish you had given me a chance.

You can read the whole thing here.

What a shameful way for Judith Griggs to exit the stage.

Update 1: Here’s Monica’s response.

Update 2 (11/17/10, morning): In a new article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Dan Crowley reports that Judith Griggs is officially shutting down Cooks Source magazine:

“Cooks Source is gone,” Judith D. Griggs said Tuesday, just days after personally distributing her last issue of the free magazine in western New England. “It’s done.”… In a phone interview Tuesday, Griggs said she will leave her statement up a few more days before eliminating the Cooks Source website altogether.

Update 3 (11/17/10, afternoon): The Cooks Source website is gone. Here’s the Google cache of Judith Griggs’ final statement.

Monica Gaudio has posted copies (with dates) of all of her e-mails to Judith Griggs, but she can’t publish the full text of the e-mails she received without permission.

But honestly, Cooks Source, your apology needs work

The Cooks Source website has been replaced with an unsigned statement (in serious need of editing) which eventually gets around to apologizing for the unauthorized publication of Monica Gaudio’s article in a very passive “mistakes were made” way. Without explicitly acknowledging that their entire business model appeared to be based on reprinting articles from food blogs and websites without permission or payment (see Ed Champion’s post identifying other articles as well as this spreadsheet listing the original sources of dozens of articles reprinted in Cooks Source), they do promise to change their ways.

Much of the statement is actually about the attacks on the Cooks Source Facebook page, the fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and the harassment of advertisers. (The situation clearly escalated out of control and did lead to cyber-bullying and trolling. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Judith Griggs because of her copyright infringement and her shocking and arrogant e-mail to Monica, but the rampaging internet hordes went too far with the personal attacks and the harassment of the advertisers.)

Here’s what the statement says about the misuse of Monica’s article and future changes:

Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie — Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff. We have made a donation at her request, to her chosen institution, the Columbia School of Journalism. In addition, a donation to the Western New England Food Bank, is being made in her name. It should be noted that Monica was given a clear credit for using her article within the publication, and has been paid in the way that she has requested to be paid.

This issue has made certain changes here at Cooks Source. Starting with this month, we will now list all sources. Also we now request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, the book publishers and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners. All submission authors and chefs and cooks will have emailed, and/or signed a release form for this material to Cooks Source and as such will have approved its final inclusion. Email submissions are considered consent, with a verbal/written follow-up….

However: Cooks Source can not vouch for all the writers we have used in the past, and in the future can only check to a certain extent.

That’s nice– blame unnamed writers for the magazine’s repeated copyright infringement. I don’t think that will get you off the hook when the lawyers from Food Network and Martha Stewart come knocking.

You can read the whole statement here.

John Scalzi gave the apology a D+. What do you think?

If you somehow missed the original kerfuffle, see my previous blog post, “No, the web is not ‘public domain.'”

Update: I love this very funny “slightly corrected” version of the Cooks Source statement on the KitchenMage blog.