Monthly Archives: April 2018

Moral rights and architectural works in a recent Italian decision

20 April 2018

From The 1709 Blog:

To what extent can an architectural project be modified without the express consent of the architect without such modifications being an infringement of their moral right of integrity?

. . . .

In late 2000s well-known architect Stefano Boeri was commissioned to realize an architectural project – then become ‘Casa Bosco’ – for ‘residential standardized units – Low Cost housing units’ in Milan by virtue of a contract that foresaw that the architect and the commissioning party would have the co-ownership of any resulting rights, and also that any separate use of the project – including for marketing purposes – by either party should be authorized in writing by the other party.

Following the finalization of the project and the decision of Boeri to leave it due to his political commitment with the Municipality of Milan, a new contract was concluded to prepare the final version of the project and obtain the necessary administrative/building permits.

Also this contract envisaged that Boeri would co-own any rights to the project as finalized, save for the right to modify the project if any such modifications would be necessary to obtain the necessary authorization.

In 2014 Boeri brought proceedings for infringement of – among other things – Article 20(1) of the Italian Copyright Act. This provision states that, irrespective of economic rights and even after their transfer, the author of a work has the right to object to any deformation, mutilation or any other modifications, as well as any other act to the detriment of the work, that may be prejudicial to their honour or reputation. The architect claimed in fact that both modifications made to his social housing project ‘Casa Bosco’ and the transformation of the project into a for-profit enterprise indeed infringed his moral right of integrity.

. . . .

The Court began its analysis by noting that Article 20(2) of the Act also states that . . . “in works of architecture the author cannot object to any modifications that were necessary in the course of their realization. Similarly, they shall not object to any further modifications that were necessary to be made on a work that has been already realized.”

The judges noted that in Italian case law there have been two main interpretations of this provision. On the one hand, there is a restrictive view according to which the only possible modifications are those which in any case do not infringe the author’s moral right of integrity (hence, the provision would only apply with regard to economic rights). On the other hand, the prevalent view is that the derogation within Article 20(2) also applies to the right of integrity [this view appears preferable, also if one considers the fact that it is included within the provision devoted to moral rights]: the authorization of the author is not needed for any modifications that are detrimental to their honour or reputation should such modifications be indispensable to the realization of the work.

. . . .

The modifications lamented by the architect concerned: (1) the removal of contractual clauses relating to the future sale of the units; (2) the modification of the ratio between free construction- and social construction-reserved areas.

Link to the rest at The 1709 Blog

Disclaimer: The OP represents the only knowledge PG can remember ever obtaining about Italian real property law.

Based upon his knowledge of Italian real property law, PG would be disinclined to acquire any house or apartment designed by an architect. While he believes the rights of creators are important and should be recognized, if a typical home buyer spends a great deal of money acquiring a house and lives within its walls, the buyer should be able to make such modifications as he/she/they believe necessary or desirable.

With no disrespect toward the architect, the homeowner has a more intimate, personal and private relationship with the structure than the architect does. If an architectural feature interferes with the homeowner’s personal enjoyment of the home, the homeowner should be able to modify it as necessary to increase the homeowner’s personal enjoyment.

Again PG’s knowledge of Italian real property laws intrudes, but if, as a condition of acquiring the building, the homeowner had a full understanding of the limits on future modifications of the dwelling and willingly agreed to those limits as a condition of owning and/or using the home, PG has less sympathy if the homeowner  later becomes disillusioned with strucure’s design.

We think we have solved

20 April 2018

We think we have solved the mystery of creation. Maybe we should patent the universe and charge everyone royalties for their existence.

Stephen Hawking

How to read poetry like a professor

20 April 2018

From The Guardian:

Since retiring from his professorship at the University of Michigan-Flint, where he taught literature and writing for nearly 30 years, Thomas Foster has made a fruitful career writing instructive books about how we ought to read. With How to Read Literature Like a Professor, which he revised in 2014, Foster scored his first New York Times bestseller. It was followed by How to Read Novels Like a Professor, Twenty-five Books that Shaped America, and Reading the Silver Screen.

Now Foster, who studied English at Dartmouth College, turns his eye toward poetry, a form he says he “didn’t know how to handle” in grade school. His new book, How to Read Poetry Like a Professor, provides something of a blueprint for tackling verse while also disproving the notion that poetry is intimidating, esoteric, or, as Foster told the Guardian, “obscure on purpose”.

. . . .

Ezra Pound says the poem ought to work on the level of a person for whom a hawk is simply a hawk. That is excellent advice. Read that way, too, on a literal level first. Read what’s actually in front of you. And the next tip, which seems a little redundant but I don’t think it is, is read all the words. Not only do you need to read them, but you need to read them in the way that they are assembled. I don’t encounter this with beginning readers as much as I do readers with a little bit of experience, but there’s suddenly an urge to jump forward from the language on the page to hidden meanings or symbols that might be present. In doing so, I’ve had any number of students actually skip a key word. It really makes a difference if you skip over that word “not”. I don’t want anyone worrying about secondary meanings or symbolic suggestions until they’ve actually got a handle on what it is that it is saying on a literal level.

. . . .

There’s a great tendency in an art form that is written in lines to want to read lines. But lines, in a great many instances, don’t make sense and don’t contain complete meanings. If we stop at the end of every line as if we just read a full statement, and we all do at a certain early stage of reading, we’ll never get anything out of the poem because we will not have understood what it is that’s being said. Poems have this in conjunction with everything else that is written in English: their basic unit of meaning is the sentence, and we shouldn’t ignore that fact.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Back when the earth was still cooling, PG spent a lot of time in college classes that required deep written analysis of poetry. He didn’t realize it at the time, but this was excellent preparation for conducting deep analysis of contracts and other legal documents. Ezra Pound was easy compared to a technology license drafted by inside and outside counsel working for Goldman Sachs.

PG will gently dissent from one of the professor’s points in the OP.

A good poet carefully constructs the sentences in a poem, but a good poet also constructs and breaks a line in a particular place with equally careful consideration.

The obvious example is poems in which the last word or words of each line rhyme. The poet could have placed rhyming words within the line (and some do), but the combination of the rhyme and the end of the line creates a different kind of break than the end of a sentence does. Quite often the rhyming words at the end of each line create a series of interlinked images, thoughts or sounds that are key to understanding the meaning of the poem.

In other cases, some of ends of a line rhyme and others do not, the second and fourth lines in a four-line stanza, for example.

Sometimes the rhyming words are linked or contrasted in meaning. Here’s a Wilfred Owen poem comprised of four three-line stanzas with no sentence marking in which the last word of every line rhymes and the connections of meaning between them vary greatly:

Silent Silent Night
Quench the holy light
Of thy torches bright
For possessd of Day
Thousand spirits stray
That sweet joys betray
Why should joys be sweet
Used with deceit
Nor with sorrows meet
But an honest joy
Does itself destroy
For a harlot coy

Note the last word of each line:


There are a great many contrasting meanings and emotions in the pairing of some of these words.


The variant spelling of “possessd” in the second stanza was used by Owen in the original. PG is not completely certain why (and perhaps a visitor to TPV will have a better understanding), but he did note an ambiguous middle line of the third stanza – “Used with deceit”.

Traditional English language poetry often includes a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that create an accentual rhythm. Variations in the regular pattern may be used by the poet to signal an important point or shift in the poem.

Every other line in the Owen poem contains five syllables with a stressed followed by an unstressed syllable ending with a stressed syllable. (a variation on  trochaic dimiter – two manifestations of a trochee plus an additional syllable on each line).


SI.lent SI.lent NIGHT

And later in the poem:

WHY should JOYS be SWEET

But is there a break in the regular meter in the second line of the third stanza?

USED with de.CEIT

Or is the intended pronunciation of the line (important if the poem will be performed aloud) as follows?


with Used pronounced with two syllables.
Let’s go back to possesd. For the traditional spelling and pronunciation, the regular five-beat stressed/unstressed meter of the remainder of the poem applied to this line would be as follows:


If the customary spelling of possessed had been used, might the performer think possessed should be pronounced with three syllables in the same manner as the word, Used, is pronounced with two syllables to maintain the meter later in the poem. If the three-syllable pronunciation were appropriate, the line would be stressed as follows:

FOR pos.SESS.ed OF day or  FOR pos.SESS.ed of DAY

That seems to be a variation in the standard meter for no good reason.

Additionally, there is a lot of hissing sibilance in the conventional pronunciation of possessed (poSSeSSed). If the last ED syllable had its own beat instead of being a less important d or t sound terminating the sibilance, the overall aural impact of the hissiness of the word is reduced somewhat.

The thousand straying spirits in the following line seem more entrapped by a hissy daylight posssesssed, at least in PG’s mind.

There’s lots more to talk about in this poem (the path from Christmas purity to the company of harlots, for example), but PG will stop now.

Readers who have not had the benefit/curse of an education that included rigorous analysis of the prosody of a great many different poems will understand a bit more about why PG has the mildest objection to the idea expressed in the OP that a poem’s line endings are not all that important.

Amazon carves out more apparel market share

20 April 2018

From Seeking Alpha:

Amazon keeps steadily taking apparel sales away from department and clothing stores.

. . . .

Nowak estimates that Amazon’s market share in apparel rose to 1.5% last year from 1.4% in 2016 to place it second behind only Walmart.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Per PG’s observations, Amazon’s own branded apparel lines started with Amazon Essentials, which seemed to be made up of clothing that twenty-something Amazon employees (at least of the male persuasion; PG is no expert on female fashion) might wear to work.

Then, Amazon expanded its own offerings with Amazon Fashions, which identified four men’s styles – 1. Cool, 2. Classic, 3. Athleisure and 4. Casual. (PG didn’t see any style called Old) Amazon Fashions included both Amazon-branded clothing called Goodthreads plus selections from third-party clothing manufacturers.

Here’s an example from the Cool collection:

Here’s an offering from Athleisure:


Suffice to say, it appears Amazon Fashion has left PG in the dust. And in the process has overlooked the ModernMatures, NotDeadYet and GeezerandProud market segments.

Why You Should Write a Memoir—Even if Nobody Will Read It

20 April 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Is it worth writing a memoir if no one will ever read it?

Millions dream about spinning their life story into a best-seller. Most never get past the dreaming part, much less the first chapter.

But there are potential rewards other than riches and fame for those who try. According to psychologists and researchers, writing a memoir—even just for personal consumption—can help the author review and make sense of his or her life, come to terms with traumatic events and foster personal growth.

In fact, some of the therapeutic benefits may be lost if the writer thinks about too large an audience—or even a readership greater than one. The story can become less authentic. And there are other potential pitfalls to writing your life story. Writers can be thrown into despair if they have trouble reconciling past failures or placing traumatic events into a larger context.

“It really depends on the type of stories people tell to make sense of their lives,” says Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. People who can construct cohesive life narratives—where there are common threads and one event leads to the next—are likely to benefit from writing a memoir, he says, while those who view their lives as a series of random, unrelated events are not. His research has found that life narratives are especially beneficial if they focus on redemption and overcoming adversity.

. . . .

The act of writing about traumatic or difficult events can reduce stress, lessen depression and improve cognitive functioning, according to researchers. Several studies have even shown such writing to improve the function of the immune system.

Psychologists believe that by converting emotions and images into words, the author starts to organize and structure memories, particularly memories that may be difficult to comprehend and accept.

“You can’t simply dump an entire experience on a piece of paper,” says Joshua Smyth, distinguished professor of biobehavioral health and medicine at Pennsylvania State University. Through writing, he says, the memory of the experience can be broken down into small parts, allowing the event to be more easily processed and then laid to rest.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

New York Times denies bias against conservative authors

20 April 2018

From Fox News:

The New York Times leadership denied allegations of bias against conservative authors among the paper’s prestigious Best Sellers list when publicly confronted at the paper’s 2018 Annual Meeting of Stockholders at The New York Times Building on Thursday morning.

Attorney Justin Danhof, a conservative shareholder advocate, told Fox News that he confronted Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and his son, publisher A.G. Sulzberger, directly over what he called a lack of transparency regarding the paper’s Best Sellers list – which is often the industry standard for whether or not a book is regarded as a success.

“The motto of one of your primary competitors, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, is ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness.’ When it comes to this company’s best-seller list, it’s truth and process that are dying in the darkness,” Danhof said he read from a pre-written question after identifying himself as general counsel at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Danhof says he accused the Times of refusing to explain its policies for selecting best-sellers and issuing simple, blanket statements when called out for bias against conservative authors. He says he offered several examples of conservative authors and publishing companies who have been left off or dropped down the prestigious best-seller list.

. . . .

“Without revealing anything proprietary, will you commit to an independent audit of your policies for selecting best-sellers to evaluate whether the political biases of the selectors have influenced the process? And will you make those findings public?” Danhof told Fox News he asked.

. . . .

“NYT’s best-seller lists are based on a detailed analysis of book sales from a wide range of retailers in locations across the U.S. Each week we provide our readers the best assessment of what books are the most broadly popular at that time.”

Link to the rest at Fox News and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Independents: Who’s Disrupting Whom?

19 April 2018

From Forbes blogs:

No doubt big-box stores in any industry are disrupters. Walmart, Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco and many others have disrupted the retail industry as we knew it. At one point, when Walmart stores would come into small towns, retail experts would conduct workshops for local competitors on how to stay in business alongside stores that focused on low prices and large selections.

The same thing happened in the book industry. Arthur Hinds & Company was founded in 1886 in New York City, and recent Harvard grad Gilbert Clifford Noble got a job there as a clerk. By 1894, Noble became a partner and the new store was called Hinds & Noble. In 1917, Noble bought out Hinds and formed a partnership with William Barnes, and the name of the business was changed to Barnes & Noble. At its peak in 2008, Barnes & Noble had 726 stores, as well as a chain of 674 college bookstores. In April 2017, a corporate report said the number of stores was at 632.

. . . .

But even with Amazon and Barnes & Noble gobbling up most of the market share, some independent bookstores have been able to survive, or even thrive, in the competitively-priced landscape of the industry by offering not only the latest books, but also hard-to-find older books, many of them used. Local authors play an important role in the success of independent bookstores. Now, some indie bookstores, such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, are as big, if not bigger, than some Barnes & Nobles, while others like Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, have a smaller footprint.

. . . .

[A] recent RetailWire article reported that Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is struggling to compete against some of the independent, Mom-and-Pop stores. I’m not sure that’s accurate.

. . . .

Was the recent shift to online retail in the book industry a surprise to Barnes & Noble? No, it figured out years ago that the retail landscape was changing. It recognized that its own Goliath was Amazon.

. . . .

While the headline in RetailWire said that Barnes & Noble was losing out to Mom-and-Pop retailers, I’m not sure I’m in agreement. Yes, the independents are doing well, but the entire retail book industry is evolving. The smaller stores that have survived and thrived are seeing the retail landscape favor them a bit.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Contra to the OP, PG suggests that Barnes & Noble did not understand that Amazon was a serious, even deadly, competitor until way, way too late to do anything about it.

BN’s online efforts were ridiculously bad, but it was a serious error in judgment not to move online far earlier when it would have been easier to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon.

Barnes & Noble also made a classic error in declining to be price-competitive with Amazon. Online, books are fungible commodities – the same no matter where you buy them – and Barnes & Noble never did anything effective to persuade readers it was a better place to shop than Amazon was.

PG also believes that Amazon’s early and continuing embrace of self-published books was and is a huge competitive advantage over Barnes & Noble and everybody else. With Amazon’s incentives to sell indie ebooks on an exclusive basis, it had an inventory advantage that no one else could match.

PG hasn’t seen any serious acknowledgment from traditional news and publishing sources that indie ebooks are one of Amazon’s most important competitive advantages over other online retailers. PG suggests it’s similar to a blind spot on the part of the same people with respect to the importance and value of romance titles.

The blindness to the advantage Amazon’s own publishing imprints gives the company is also inadequately acknowledged by the traditional industry and its hangers-on.

PG just checked and five of Amazon’s top ten fiction bestsellers (print plus ebook) were from Amazon’s house publishers.



I’ve always believed

19 April 2018

I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.

Agatha Christie

The Medium Model

19 April 2018

From Medium:

In “The rationalization of publishing,” I argued that subscriptions for publishing on a wide scale are inevitable — and that’s a good thing. Now I will describe Medium’s unique approach to this opportunity.

First, in case you’re not aware, Medium has a subscription offering called Medium Membership. We launched it just over a year ago. Here’s what growth has looked like since then:

. . . .

The factors driving this took us a while to figure out and then get into motion, but they’re gratifyingly simple. In fact, there are just two major 🔑s:

  1. Put great stories behind the metered paywall.
  2. Help people find the great stories they care about.

In these ways, Medium is not unlike other digital media subscription businesses like the Washington Post or The New Yorker — or even Spotify and Netflix. We sell content on a subscription basis. Like most paywalled sites, we give some stories away for free (currently, it’s three per month). But unlike most paywalled publications, we rely solely on subscriptions (no advertising), and we have a mix of original and non-original content.

. . . .

I believe bundles are a large part of the future of content monetization. That doesn’t mean there won’t be lots of individuals subscriptions and patronage and other models that work — all of which help serve the cause. (It also doesn’t mean writers and publishers won’t be paid well.)

Medium is one of the largest bundles of original content of its type, so it’s a great value for readers. And it’s definitely the easiest way to get paid directly for writing, so we’re seeing rapid growth in people who may not have written on Medium before.

. . . .

More than 50,000 writers publish on Medium every week: politicians, professors, storytellers, experts in your field, and people you’ve never heard of. The best of these stories contain knowledge and insight that can’t be found anywhere else. We take pride that we offer a level playing field for diverse voices from everywhere to be heard. By curating and organizing these stories, we have the equivalent of a publication with more talent than any other — and it’s growing all the time.

As it relates to the business model, a subset of the stories on Medium are behind our paywall and contribute to our Membership. Our Partner Program is designed for writers and publishers who wish to get paid for their work.

. . . .

We have no writers on staff and don’t plan to add any (except for marketing). However, we have a growing editorial team that is commissioning world-class writing by professional journalists and authors. The team is also partnering with some of the world’s most compelling writers on ambitious projects (like this one we just did with Roxane Gay).

We’ve also found that many great writers — especially, people who are experts in their field — are writing on Medium already. Since a little editorial guidance — a better headline, some nice art, a copy edit — can help stories reach even more people, we’re now working with folks to take their work from good to great and help it get the audience it deserves. This is a very efficient way to get more professional quality stories.

Link to the rest at Medium

As far as payments to authors are concerned, here’s what Medium says:

Our system is designed to reward quality content, not clickbait, so we focus on the depth of engagement on your stories. We distribute a share of each member’s monthly contribution in proportion to his or her individual activity on stories written for members that month (with reading time and claps as the primary signals we use).

In February 2018, 56% of authors who published at least one story for members earned money — making $58.45 on average for the month. $9,491.12 was the most earned by a single author, and $1,136.78 was the most earned for a single story.

In Medium’s FAQ about its Partner Program, the following appears:

How much will I make?

You’ll be paid based on a variety of signals including the number of claps your stories for members receive, who is clapping, and the time spent reading your story. We calculate the share of each member’s monthly contribution in proportion to his or her individual activity on stories written for members that month.

PG would be interested in additional information about payments to authors from Medium (not for any specific purpose, but for increasing his general understanding of how authors receive compensation for their contributions).

Medium is a new model publisher of short-form non-fiction and fiction. While PG has enjoyed many of the Medium articles he has read, he is always interested in how much publishers of all types pay the authors who make the magic happen.

Do the Doing: An Actor Writes

19 April 2018

From Brevity:

“I’m noticing a pattern in your work, and it’s a problem,” my mentor said.

I was near the end of my third term of my fiction MFA when she put her finger on something happening in my writing whenever emotions grew strong. To show an intense scene’s rage, anger, or grief, I’d throw in more adjectives and adverbs, believing more description would create more emotion and show I really meant it. Only it had the opposite effect. Instead of getting across intensity, my frantic, overly dramatic writing pushed readers away by taking them out of the scene.

“But it feels that intense,” I argued.

“It’s not your job to feel it, it’s your job to make your readers feel it,” she replied.

. . . .

Actors practice sense memories, using their imaginations—tasting an imagined cup of steaming hot chocolate, folding a pretend pair of threadbare jeans—in order to sharpen their ability to call up emotions those senses may trigger. Just as you might bake your grandmother’s lemon cake and find the smell carries you back to the summers you sat on her back doorstep watching fireflies until bedtime. You might feel sad and miss her, or maybe grateful you had her love when you were small. Those long-held emotions come alive again, triggered by a smell.

In rehearsal, I’d imagined my own life’s experiences into an emotional well from which my character could draw. And I succeeded. I produced a torrent of tears and full-throated keening when I was reminded of my little boy’s drowning, as though the loss took place only yesterday.

The scene ended. I wiped my face dry, thrilled with myself, very impressed. Boy, had I shown everyone how I could act! The director calmly rose from his chair and I waited for my praise. In a gentle voice, so quiet only I and my scene partner could hear he said, “Sometimes it’s important to remember that what we want in theatre is for the audience to experience the tears. You, my dear, are so good at stirring yourself up, I’m afraid they’ll just sit back and watch you do it, and that’s not what we want.”

Link to the rest at Brevity

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