Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report, 2014

    It's January 1 again, the day when works enter the public domain because their copyright expired at last year's end. And yet again, because of repeated extensions to the length of copyright, nothing at all entered the public domain in the United States. Almost nothing has since January 1, 1979.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Inflation and the Dragon

    One of the hardest things for many people to grasp during the Great Recession has been the idea that inflation is too low. We generally talk about inflation as pure economic evil, something that could never possibly be too low. But it is.

    If you say inflation is too low, some people will bring up the high inflation of the 1970s or, more hysterically, the hyper-inflation in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazis as proof that Inflation Is Bad. But that doesn't really make sense. Inflation is bad when it gets too high, but that doesn't make a modest amount of inflation bad. The sun is bad in Death Valley when it's 130 degrees, but that doesn't make sunshine a universal menace. 15% inflation would be a very bad thing, but that doesn't mean 1.5% inflation is a good thing. 130 degrees Fahrenheit is murderous, but so 13 degrees is also a killer. A lot of our public debate about inflation is like trying to treat a case of frostbite while people keep shouting that heat is a terrible thing and then angrily tell you a long story about forest fires.

    Ramona's picture

    I Called Elmore Leonard “Dutch” Once

    I woke up to the sad news that Elmore Leonard, our most famous Detroit-based writer, has died.  He was 87 years old but I thought that guy would go on forever.  There was never anything old about him and I doubt I’m the only one who felt that way, but I admit I haven’t seen him in person for almost 20 years.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Tribal Knowledge

    Fox News's hostile interview with Reza Aslan has lit up the internet. (See Michael Maiello and Historiann for two of the smarter takes.) Obviously, interviewer Lauren Green's insistence that something must be very wrong for a Muslim to write a book about Jesus, and that such a book must be wrong, is a problem.

    Ramona's picture

    Hey, Detroit. It's Only Art

    Safe to say that ever since the news broke that the entire city of Detroit was filing for bankruptcy hundreds of thousands of us Detroiters and ex-Detroiters and Michiganders everywhere have been biting our nails, gnashing our teeth, pounding the walls, spending partially-sleepless nights worrying about the fate of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Science Factions

    Hey, wow.  This fall, a movie version of Ender's Game is coming out.  It's based on a science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, originally drafted in 1977, when I was 2 years old.  I read it in high school and I really liked it.  It's the story of Ender Wiggin, tormented at battle school as part of his training to become the ultimate weapon that saves humanity of a nasty enemy from space called "The Buggers," who remain mysterious in the first book and are explored later in the series.  

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    In Praise of the Writing Binge

    When I got my first job, I also got a book of advice for new professors. It gave me some sensible-sounding advice about writing. Avoid binge writing, it said. Write at regularly scheduled hours and keep each session brief. Too many graduate students are used to writing in crazy binges, the authors said, rather than developing steady writing habits. Faculty had to learn to write all the time, and also had to learn to STOP writing even if things were going well. And I tried to take that advice seriously.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby is a Triumph (whether you like it or not)

    Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is a fable.  It is not a fable now, years after it was written.  Fitzgerald structured it as a fable and intended it to be read as such.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    A Short Guide to Bad Oscar Hosts

    Seth MacFarlane hosted a slow-motion catastrophe of an Oscars broadcast Sunday night. His terrible performance immediately sparked two internet conversations: one about what a terrible Oscars host Seth MacFarlane was, and a second about who had, if anyone, been an even more terrible Oscars host.

    Ramona's picture

    Me at the Oscars: Fabulous or Fizzle, 60 years and Counting

    When the first televised Academy Awards ceremony took place on March 19, 1953, I, a bedazzled 15-year-old movie fan, sat in front of our black and white TV set, riveted and no doubt pledging to never forget that moment as long as I lived.   Since then I have never (and I mean NEVER) missed a telecast.

    Ramona's picture

    Oh, no. Sybil

    I've started a new non-political blog at WordPress and this is one of my posts there.  Come on over and check it out!

    Oh, no.  Sybil

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report: 2013

    It's January 1, which means it's the day that works whose copyright has expired enter the public domain. Here's the list of works that entered the public domain in the United States today:

    Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    Vertigo is not the greatest film of all time (but La Regle du jeu just might be)

    Every ten years the British magazine Sight and Sound polls various cineastes to learn what they consider to be the greatest movie of all time. In 2012, Alfred Hithcock's Vertigo unseated Orson Welles' Citizen Kane which had been selected first in each poll conducted since 1962.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Philip Roth Has Retired

    At 78, Roth says he hasn't written anything of substance in 3 years and that 2010's Nemesis will have been his last novel.  Oddly enough, I picked up

    Ramona's picture

    On Writing Free and Brave


    I had a bout with bronchial pneumonia this week, which left me breathless enough to now be able to cross "ambulance ride" off of my bucket list.  I spent two days in the hospital and, while I feel almost human again, a strange thing has happened.  When I sit down to write, I'm finding that the last thing I want to write about is the current political situation.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Big Keep (Or, Intellectual Property Blues: Hard-Boiled Edition)

       Raymond Chandler’s legendary private eye, Philip Marlowe, will be back in bookstores next year. Chandler’s estate has authorized a new Marlowe novel from John Banville, alias Benjamin Black. But the real news is not that Banville gets to write the book. It’s that no one else is allowed to write one.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Weekend Reading, Labor Day Edition

    What better novel for Labor Day weekend than Joshua Ferris's brilliant debut, And Then We Came to the End? It's truly the Labor-Day read for our time. It's formally masterful its first-person-plural narration, with a collective officeplace "we" who does the narrating, like this:


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