Tuesday, September 19, 2006

my unpublished dissertation gets rave reviews

The other evening my wife Googled my name just to see what would come up, and boy did we get surprised! My doctoral dissertation which I wrote for my Ph.D. in Comparative Arts at Ohio University in 1975 but never published, it seems, is for sale on Amazon! Its bogus "Reviews" even claim to reveal its ISBN number!

Even more amazing to us was that it has been reviewed on Amazon by at least two bogus "Customer Reviews" by "readers" who claim to have received it as a gift and praise it highly as being "very attractive" and "cool." They go on to say, in broken English and computer-generated generalizations, how happy it made them to receive it as a gift and read it, and they each highly recommend it to their friends.

I'd surely like to know how they got it, since the only copy I know of is buried unbound in a cardboard box in my closet here at home. When I wrote my study, The Aesthetic of the Veil: Conceptual Correspondences in the Nocturnes of Whistler and Debussy in 1975, I had to submit a copy to the department of my Comparative Arts major and another to the Ohio University Library. I was also required to submit a brief abstract of it to Dissertation Abstracts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the national repository of doctoral abstracts. Outside of those places, to my knowledge no other copies have ever existed. I guess I'd better put a better lock on my closet!

As Barb and I pursued the two Google pages of seventeen references to this work, apparently now offered for sale without any knowledge or consent on my part, we learned on the Amazon listing that it was "not currently available", but could be ordered as an e-book. No price was given. It even included a selectable question asking if I was the owner or author of this work, and inviting me to relinquish digital permissions to publish it online as an e-book. Further, it had been cross-listed on Classical Music and Classical Art sites and offered for sale at Lowcost Books.com and Classical Music Books in the UK. One of their pages invites readers from the UK, US, Canada, Germany, or France to order it by clicking their country's flag. An attractive Editorial Review of the work by title and subtitle is set up also but not written--not yet, at least. I guess the theatre critic left the play before the murder in the third act. I didn't realize I was such an internationally known author! All this, it appears, was set up for marketing my thesis without anyone bothering to contact me or seek permissions or make any offer of publication.

This is marketing without product of the most flagrant piracy, I feel. My dissertation is featured by title on attractively-illustrated advertising pages on a number of sites along with many books and recordings, and it's never even been published or reviewed. The fake reviews Amazon included, I strongly suspect, were computer-generated and totally bogus. If I were among the affluent, which I am not, I'd sue their socks off, even though I suspect they've got themselves covered legally somehow.

I don't think I'm alone in this theft of intellectual property. I suspect all the dissertations which we doctoral candidates labored over for years to get our Ph.D.'s are probably already pillaged and pilfered by the e-pirates who are hyping them in their sites all over the place without our knowledge or benefit, and if someone actually orders one, they may or may not be able to cob a pirated copy to sell them. Since I wrote it in 1975, any copy rights I may have had have probably expired, which may be why that dissertation of mine is now getting the royal Times Square treatment in lights.

I don't know how my work ended up on Amazon, but I'm pretty certain of one thing: if it ever gets sold, I won't see a dime of it. And to the bogus "reviewers" who concocted those lame comments, I have only this to offer: at least I didn't plagiarize my dissertation; I wrote it myself.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Let Katie Be Katie

I keep watching Katie Couric in her new role as CBS Evening News anchor, but it's painful. I've seen people uncomfortable in the wrong job before, and she surely is in this one. Maybe she has chosen to take on the personna of gravitas that I see, but I get the feeling it's not her natural choice; someone seems to be coaching her--maybe lots of someones, and they're coaching her all wrong. It's just not Katie. It's some woman trying extremely hard to deliver the world news in all its seriousness and not make light of anything. Not even lighten up about anything. Not even in the moments between stories or at the end of the program after the goodnights are said. The dour, rather furrowed brows remain till the fade to black. And that's not the Katie Couric I know, not the Katie of the Today Show, which isn't surprising, nor the Katie of the silver screen or tv guest appearances. Katie Couric has a smile and an impish, giggling laugh that is irrepressible and iconoclastic. Whenever Matt Lauer would try to get too serious, Katie could break the chill in an instant with her gentle barbs and puncture the pomposity of nearly everyone. Now, however, she has been thoroughly made over into THE FIRST FEMALE NETWORK ANCHOR, as if the title carried with it some kind of royal responsibility to maintain our composure and dignity at all costs--for the good of--who? the nation? the network? the ratings--ah, that's surely it. It always is, isn't it. But whoever is behind the new Katie should be fired. This very lovely, smart, talented and warmly human lady can do this new job in a wonderful way if she is allowed to bring the Katie we all came to love to the task. Let Katie be Katie. She won't giggle at the wrong times. And if she did, it couldn't be worse than the sad-faced, over-serious, furrowed mask she's affecting now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Acting's hard!

On Labor Day my New York sound designer son had me read some scripts for voiceovers in an upcoming video game. He turned to me because he doesn't know any "old men in New York," as he explained, and needed someone whose voice had "matured" with the rasp and crackling punctuations of middle age. Fine by me, I said, and while his brother recorded me in his school media center studio in Kissimmee, I read the lines in the the best characters I could muster as an amateur.

I don't know if they'll actually use what we sent up electronically, but I got a congratulatory cellphone call on our way home from the Disney parks saying I did a really good job. If they can't use it, it will be because of the limitations of our recording equipment and ambient studio noise rather than my lack of good stuff. It made me feel just great.

What was revealing to me was how many ways there are to say the shortest dialogue lines in a recording. One of my characters spoke only three words, but I had to record it dozens of times and learn background motivation and the situation for the utterance to get it anywhere near "right." It gave me a new appreciation for what actors and actresses have to do, involving not only all of what I did but with action and expression as well, and without the script in front of them, by memory, scene after scene. No wonder they're so exhausted with their long hours and so flamboyant in their escapes and relationships. Acting's a whole lot harder than I ever realized, and so is production in general.