In this November 2008 story, the BBC revisits the question of whether magicians can use IP law to copyright a magic trick, this time interviewing lawyer/magician Guy Hollingsworth. His answer, from the other side of the pond, seems to be "no." One might be able to copyright the presentation, but not the trick itself.
An idea alone cannot be covered by law, and so simply inviting someone to choose a card, for example, and then making it appear in a wallet, is not something the law can or will protect, says Hollingworth.
A scripted presentation of a trick however, would amount to a "literary work" in which copyright exists and unscrupulous competitors could be sued for breach of it.
But this still does not protect the trick per se - merely the presentation of it.
Here's a link to the story, and to an interview with Mr. Hollingsworth. The article also discusses the notorious case of the "Masked Magician."
For the Chronicle of Higher Education, Philip Zuckerman excerpts from his new book Society Without God, in which he notes that an industrial society in which most people do not believe, or believe actively in a personal God, can still live moral and ethical lives, and prosper, and he reflects just how that can be done, using Denmark and Sweden as preeminent examples.
The connection between religion — or the lack thereof — and societal health is admittedly complex. It is difficult to definitively establish that secularism is always good for society and religion always bad. However, the often posited opposite claim is equally difficult to substantiate: that secularism is always bad for a society and religion always good. To be sure, in some instances, religion can be a strong and positive ingredient in establishing societal health, prosperity, and well-being. And when considering what factors contribute to the making of a good society, religion can be a positive force.
Here in the United States, for example, religious ideals often serve as a beneficial counterbalance against the cutthroat brand of individualism that can be so rampant and dominating. Religious congregations in America serve as community centers, counseling providers, and day-care sites. And a significant amount of research has shown that moderately religious Americans report greater subjective well-being and life satisfaction, greater marital satisfaction, better family cohesion, and fewer symptoms of depression than the nonreligious. Historically, a proliferation of religious devotion, faith in God, and reliance on the Bible has sometimes been a determining factor in establishing schools for children, creating universities, building hospitals for the sick and homes for the homeless, taking care of orphans and the elderly, resisting oppression, establishing law and order, and developing democracy.
In other instances, however, religion may not have such positive societal effects. It can often be one of the main sources of tension, violence, poverty, oppression, inequality, and disorder in a given society. A quick perusal of the state of the world will reveal that widespread faith in God or strong religious sentiment in a given country does not necessarily ensure societal health. After all, many of the most religious and faithful nations on earth are simultaneously among the most dangerous and destitute. Conversely, a widespread lack of faith in God or very low levels of religiosity in a given country does not necessarily spell societal ruin. The fact is, the majority of the most irreligious democracies are among the most prosperous and successful nations on earth.
Read the rest of the passage, The Virtues of Godlessness, here.
Ah, poker. Game of skill? Game of chance? All you card counters out there, watch an upcoming case in South Carolina, in which a local judge will have to decide that issue. Bob Chimento and his buds were busted for a friendly game of poker more than two years ago (okay there was some pot in the pot, too, so to speak). Most of the players paid their fines, but Mr. Chimento decided to fight the law, and he has the assistance and moral support of a lot of attorneys across the U.S., many of them poker players themselves.
Fox and Imagine Entertainment's Lie To Me debuted Thursday. It stars Tim Roth as a consultant who specializes in determining when people are lying. Now, mind you, I thought mothers could figure that out pretty effectively on their own. My mother had a little finger that spoke to her, and my sister acquired one when she became a mother; it works reasonably well. My nephews asked me once if I also have one, and I told them that yes, I do, and I also have cats who observe all, and repeat everything they see. They are feline Sherlock Holmeses. (The nephews were more impressed by the talking finger).
Though it doesn't have a mother with a talking finger, Lie To Me is pretty entertaining. It posits a psychologist who can tell by observing facial reactions and physical behavior as well as listening to verbal cues whether someone is lying or telling the truth. Of course, as he and his colleagues tell people, there's more to it than that. One compares what people say and what they do. One examines physical evidence, for example. There's physical science involved, as well as social science. The protagonist here, Cal Lightman, isn't engaging in woowoo, nor is he asking those who hire him to take what he and his employees say on faith. Indeed, in the first episode the D.A. hires him to compile evidence that a suspect is guilty, and when he turns up some proof that said suspect might be innocent, the prosecutor threatens to blackens his name "just like what happens at the Pentagon." Nice touch. Not only does this suggest continuing tension between him and the D.A.'s office (showing that Lightman is a good guy), but it allows development of a back story (what did happen at the Pentagon?) Setting up this tension between the prosecutor and the consultant is an excellent idea, by the way. If the consultant and the D.A. were always in agreement about the guilt of the suspect, we'd have no drama, and no story. It also suggests that Lightman can't be bought, a good thing, since if your consultant can tell who's lying and who's telling the truth and he's on the take, you have a real problem. You have a consultant with "superpowers" who's a bad guy, Lex Luthor on the payroll of the Police Commissioner.
At any rate, the first episode includes one case in which a teen, a Jehovah's Witness, is accused of killing his high school English teacher. His parents, particularly his father, are not helping much with the defense. The mayor (the mayor?) wants to be certain that the boy is guilty before pressing for a life sentence. (This isn't the only weirdness in the plot. The series is set in DC, and for some reason the US Attorney is involved in the prosecution of this teen. We don't exactly know why. DC has its own system of courts).
Lightman doesn't require his staff to have "book learning." In the pilot, he and his number two hire a TSA employee who's a "natural" lie detector. Why is she so good? She tells them she's dated a lot of men. Ouch. Well, maybe she'll stand in for America's moms.
There's a certain amount of gender tension on the show, suggesting that these people who work together and who know how to read each other nevertheless may not communicate particularly well. Communication may not always be magic. Lightman pokes a certain amount of fun at his colleague Gillian Foster (Kelli Williams, formerly of The Practice) for liking romance novels and drinking slushies. She tells him to take some time off and lighten up. Torres, the new hire from the TSA, is amazed that he doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him and that he doesn't tell Gillian that her husband is lying to her. Gillian, amazingly, can't see that the husband is lying, either. But then, how often do we see that our loved ones lie to us? How often do we want to? Lightman says he doesn't care what people think of him. Apparently he doesn't work off the clock. But Torres may already be having some effect on Lightman, the divorced loner. At the end of the episode, as he leaves the building where he works, he sees a (married man) lying to his girlfriend. As the man leaves her, Lightman taps the woman on the shoulder....
The show's protagonist invites comparisons with CBS's The Mentalist and USA's Psych. Like The Mentalist's Simon Jayne, Cal Lightman is a wounded soul, although not quite as wounded as Jayne; Lightman still has a family living (he's divorced). His unwillingness to communicate seems somewhat forced and a little fake, but perhaps we'll see more explanation of that in episodes to come. Maybe he just doesn't like people because he thinks (or knows) that many of them lie. Jayne's is more understandable; after all "Red John" killed his wife and child. As for Shaun Spencer of Psych, well, apart from the fact that his parents divorced when he was in high school, and that his father is a little distant, I don't quite see what argument he has with life. Other people have had much more to overcome. As for the show's premise, both The Mentalist and Lie To Me depart from the premise that the protagonist does not and will not deceive his employer. Psych, of course, lets the viewer in on the scam, but that show is usually much more lighthearted than the other two. Can you imagine Simon Jayne or Cal Lightman investigating the death of a sea lion?
What I find even more interesting about Lie To Me as a series (apart from all the hype that it's a hit after one episode--Fox, please don't tell me that so soon), is that, of course, all the people who are representing liars and truthtellers are liars--they are actors, professional deceivers. Great fun. The website also offers up some games for the viewer to play to see if she can ferret out liars as well as Dr. Lightman and his posse.
On its own, the plot of the pilot represents average whodunit fare. What lifts it above the norm is Cal Lightman and his band of merry "mindreaders": the people who claim that, for a fee, they can figure out with a high degree of accuracy whether people are lying or telling the truth. Now, that's something prosecutors and defense counsel would like to take to the bank. If it were really were a dead cert, the legal system would no longer need judges or juries. We'd just ask Dr. Lightman and his buddies--or those talking fingers.
There is joy in Mudville. The new Jonathan Creek Season 3 DVDs are out.
Some of these episodes are just great, and great fun to watch, as inventor of illusions Jonathan Creek, who works for the deceitful (and frankly, not all that bright, magician) Adam Klaus, solves mysteries with ambitious journalist Maddy Magellan. One or two are just so-so. Among my favorites: The Omega Man, which features a great story about the disappearance of an extraterrestrial, some truly wacko American military types, and in the very beginning, a scene featuring the appearance of
in a play.
No, it's not Steve Martin and Harrison Ford; it's two local actors named Steve Harrison and Martin Ford. (Though what a play featuring Steve Martin and Harrison Ford would be like, and what director would cast them, truly boggles the mind).
The military wants to get its paws on the ET, which has vanished, and calls in Jonathan. How he solves the mystery, and what he does with the reward the Americans pay him, is classic Creek.
Dr. Graumann, a scientist with somewhat weird as well as questionable credentials, offers to let Maddy come and see his rare discovery, an ET, and she of course is intrigued. Before she can finish taking photos, the military turns up and she manages to scurry away, but the Americans eventually track her down and take her into custody in a scene that would be scary if it weren't so funny. Meanwhile, the military call on Jonathan to investigate the ET. Once he discovers that Graumann is involved he know something is fishy. In a conversation between the two, they discuss deception and self-deception, which is of course the theme of the Jonathan Creek mysteries. Graumann gives Jonathan some broad hints to solve the mystery, which Jonathan eventually does. There's also a subplot involving felines and an animal shelter.
Among the episodes of which I'm not so fond: The Curious Case of Mr. Spearfish, which involves a mysterious agency that creates deceptive doings in order to cover up the fact that it's looking out for a young woman of unknown parentage. Her husband ends up thinking he's made a pact with the Devil. It's a weak story that suggests the writers were really at a loss for a plot; it belongs in some other series--maybe The Avengers.
Overall, though, I really like this series, and the acting is always good. Some of the touches are first rate, including the invention of a character who likes Jonathan so much that he tries to imitate him completely (Miracle in Crooked Lane). The insertion of "real life" touches such as a Jonathan Creek fan club, the creation of Jonathan Creek covers for Maddy's books (Time Waits For Norman;Season 2) and other intrusions into Jonathan's life make Jonathan seem "real." They make an imaginary creator of illusions seem to operate in the real world; he reaches across the world of deceptions into the world of reality, even though the entire thing is completely constructed. It's a nice little fiction.
From the Hollywood Reporter: ABC has ordered a series based on the 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick(itself based on John Updike's novel) and which starred Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon, with Jack Nicholson as Mr. Splitfoot.
I liked the film, not least because of the power struggles between the women and dastardly Jack as the Devil, but how much plot can one spin out of three witches in suburbia? Hasn't this been done? Think most recently about Charmed, and further back in time about Bewitched, and Sabrina. Even Malibu dweller Charlie Harper on Two & a Half Men discovered things he didn't know about his mother when he found himself dating a practicing witch ("Hi, Mr. Horned One"). Consider also that with the number of people out there practicing all sorts of religions, are real witches going to raise anyone's eyebrows at all? They'll have a lot of competition. (Half-serious plot suggestion: real witches defeat accusations of responsibility for cow deaths when defense lawyers show the difficulty of attributing causation; too many other "witches" were casting spells). More seriously, in these days in which we recognize human rights, do witches "come out" or stay quiet? Do they become activists for witches' rights? And what's the response from those who read the Bible, or other sacred texts literally? Is this series going to be a drama or a comedy? I suppose we'll have to wait and see, but note that this is the third attempt at creating a series out of the film. Third time's the charm? Or three strikes and you're out?
The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.