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December 3, 2006

'The ancient art of plagiarism'


Jan Dalley's November 28, 2006 Financial Times essay on the subject was a breath of fresh air in an increasingly vituperative and contentious arena, growing exponentially more so with the rise of the internet.

The piece follows.

    This article is all my own work. Or is it?

    Booker winner in plagiarism row. In which year did that headline appear? Was it 2002, when Yann Martel was accused of lifting the plot of "Life of Pi" from a Brazilian book? Or was it 1997, when Graham Swift's "Last Orders" was judged to have veered too close to William Faulkner's 1930 novel "As I Lay Dying"?

    Or was it last weekend, when a Booker-shortlisted novel by a past winner — "Atonement" by Ian McEwen — was the latest in line for this deadly charge?

    Plagiarism is such an old and venerable art that it is perhaps only in a culture obsessed by "originality" — a concept hardly known to earlier times — that it is a dirty word. Shakespeare would have been amazed by the fuss about Yann Martel: he took a large number of his plots straight from a contemporary source, "Holinshed's Chronicles".

    By modern standards, many grand figures are among the culpable: Picasso was so notorious that younger artists desperately kept their new work away from him, because he would re-work their ideas in days; George Harrison was successfully sued for plagiarism after he wrote "My Sweet Lord". No less upright a figure than T.S. Eliot grandly declared that "immature poets imitate; mature poets steal"; no less venerable a personage than Martin Luther King was caught out borrowing a sizeable chunk of his doctoral thesis.

    More successful writers tend to be accused by the less renowned when the rattle of lucre makes itself heard. When Alex Haley's mega-selling "Roots" broke all records, it emerged that whole passages were copied from Harold Courlander's "The African". And we've only just heard the end of the "Da Vinci Code" case, when Dan Brown was sued by the writers of an earlier book.

    The fact that many great artists have taken a light-fingered attitude to the work of others does not necessarily make it right, however. So what does constitute plagiarism? It's easy to confuse a work of art with a legal entity such as a patent, which can be clearly violated. Art just doesn't work like that. Lifting chunks of someone else's words, wholesale, is overstepping the line. But parallels, quoting,homage by imitation, mining a tradition, basing a character on a real person or another fictional character, borrowing old sources from the myth-kitty or new ones bobbing around on the zeitgeist: all these things are not only legitimate but also part of the richness we look for in art.

    All works live within a tradition, all are a mixture of originality and influence, of half-forgotten, half-digested impressions and ideas from elsewhere. And in some cases, yes, this legitimate give-and-take is mixed with a magpie mentality towards the glittery bits other people leave lying around. No one ever said writers were nice.

    The recent micro-fuss about Ian McEwan is ridiculous. His offence was to draw on a memoir by Lucilla Andrews, a writer of "hospital romances". It was factual material about the grim realities of nursing in the second world war, which he used when researching the grim realities of nursing in the second world war. There is no copyright in historical material - the Da Vinci Code case re-confirmed that - although there may be in the form of words in which it is expressed. Writers continually re-work each other's sentences: how else would history be written? Perhaps McEwan should have done that more thoroughly. I am therefore offering a bottle of champagne to the reader who can best re-phrase this: "she dabbed gentian violet on ringworm, acquaflavin emulsion on a cut, and painted lead lotion on a bruise".

    Here is the novelist Julian Barnes, commenting in 1997 on the Swift/Faulkner furore:

    "When Brahms wrote his first symphony, he was accused of having used a big theme from Beethoven's Ninth. His reply was that any fool could see that."

December 3, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NewspaperJewelry.com — 'Yesterday's newspaper is today's jewelry'


Catchy, what?

From the website:

    Newspaper Jewelry

    Newspaperjewelry.com features bracelets, brooches, earrings and cufflinks made of recyclable paper materials including newspaper, sweetener packets and loser lottery tickets.

    All of the paper is sealed and protected by a non-toxic, water-resistant coating.


Pictured above is the Stock Listings Bracelet.

December 3, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Up To You


The brother and sister team of Bill and Dimitra Doufekas founded this shop in downtown Toronto.

I first learned of it via the following email from Dimitra, which came in at 5:21:12 p.m. EST last Sunday evening, November 26, 2006:

    Subject: UP TO YOU Calling!!!

    I would like to begin by introducing myself. My name is Dimitra Doufekas and I am the co-owner of UP TO YOU, a concept shop in Toronto. The idea behind our shop was to create a voyeuristic experience for our customer, therefore changing their patterns of choice. As a buyer my goal is to carefully choose designers from around the world, talk to them about their ideas and purchase pieces that promote individuality amidst a world of cookie-cutter imagery and products. Consequently, the majority of what we sell can only be found in our shop in Canada.

    These days there is a need to offer people a genuine alternative to the normal same/same consumer environment. I suppose if we don't start to truly encourage & embrace individuality now, we'll all be driving around in identically matching cars within 20 years! A bit extreme maybe, but we might forget how good a classic Steve McQueen movie is.

    It appears that we both have a keen eye for that which is considered "popular taste." For more great ideas please visit our website at www.uptoyoutoronto.com.

    All though we may be small for the time being, our ideas are anything but.

    With Warmest Wishes,

    Dimitra Doufekas

    1483 Queen Street East
    Toronto, ON
    Tel: 416-778-6487


See how easy?

All you have to do is ask....

Pictured up to is their Kleenex Pillow, "A pillow that features an intergrated Kleenex dispenser. This Kleenex dispenser is handy in cases of teardrops caused by romances, hay fever, colds or sad movies. On the backside of this linen pillow there is a zipper to refill the tissues. 60cm x 40cm (24" x 16")."

$85 Canadian/$75 U.S. (Go here, then click on "Gift Ideas" in the upper left sidebar, then scroll down that page to the bottom).

It's a lot easier than it sounds.

Trust me....

December 3, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal Trainer Business Card


Res ipsa loquitur.

[via free-rein]

December 3, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BlogMailr — 'Update your blog from anywhere'


Now this seems really interesting.

It works with TypePad, too.

It says, "If you can send an email you've got everything you need to use BlogMailr."

That sounds Technodolt™-friendly enough.

I'm gonna investigate and see if I can do it.

[via Rob Weaver]

December 3, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Divina Roasted Red Peppers — Voted #1 by Cook's Illustrated


When Cook's Illustrated, which accepts no advertising (reminds me of this whacked-out website I saw once... but I digress) writes, "Our favorite brand of roasted red peppers, Divina (made from Florina peppers, a type of pimento grown in northern Greece)," I sit up and take notice.

Continues the review, which appears in the current (January/February 2007) issue, "The Divina roasted red peppers... had a smoky, sweet flavor and tender, toothsome texture."

Put a jar or two in my basket, would you?

$4.84 for a 13 ounce jar.

December 3, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Metallic Holiday Kazoo


Okay, time for a little music in the work or school space, don't you think?

Unveiling the Official bookofjoe Holiday 2006 Metallic Kazoo.

Even I can play it, so you know it's TechnoMusicDolt™-approved.

Twelve in assorted festive colors (top) for $2.95.

Get over yourself: for less than 15¢/person you can equip the entire tired group to march around the room playing your crazy song.


December 3, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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