Friday, August 31, 2007

The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Although I've always been a booster of the Dramatists Guild, considering it good sense for playwrights to band together, I never thought I would end up working so closely with the Guild in its fight to protect authors' rights. But when a director registered an unauthorized derivative copyright based on my play, and then sued me when I produced the play, claiming I was infringing his "blocking and choreography script," I immediately turned to the Guild for help.

What happened was this: in October 2004 my partner Jonathan Flagg and I, through our company Mergatroyd Productions, produced my play TAM LIN off-off Broadway for the second year in a row. We hired Edward Einhorn to direct. Then we had differences with him and fired him. We planned to pay him for his services, but disagreed with him on the amount. He thought he deserved one thousand dollars, which he would have been due had he completed the project. We felt he deserved less.

I was actually in favor of paying him a thousand dollars just so he would go away and I would never have to have any dealings with him ever again, but Jonathan disagreed, because Einhorn hadn't finished the work. We had fired him in part because he had stopped working and, in the words of the judge, "basically sulked." After we fired him he emailed the cast and crew in an effort to sabotage our show. In the email he implied that we didn't intend to pay the actors and told them to demand their payment immediately. Fortunately the actors ignored him. And we did pay them exactly what we said we would, when we said we would. In fact, we've never had an issue with paying anybody, ever, except this one director.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blues Brothers

The first 20 seconds of this video make me so happy. That Dan Akroyd was a maniac.

It reminds me of what I was thinking, as I watched the Ladyboys of Bangkok do their show in Edinburgh. The program relied heavily on American music - except for a few Scottish folk tunes and The Proclaimers "I Will Walk 5,000 Miles." What I thought was, where would the world's pop culture be without African-American influences?

It isn't until you get out of the USA that you realize just how much we rely on Black culture here for our sense of style and cool.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stuart Pivar - classic crackpot

Amanda at Pandagon reports that P.Z. Meyers is being sued by classic crackpot Stuart Pivar, because Meyers harshly criticized Pivar. Based on the complaint, available from Majikthese what seems to bug Pivar the most is that Meyers called him a "classic crackpot." Crackpots really hate to be called crackpots.

The crackpot's complaint was filed in New York’s Southern District Court. I certainly hope that Judge Lewis Kaplan gets that case - he's not one to mince words, as I found out in the strange case of Edward Einhorn v Mergatroyd Productions

No doubt Edward Einhorn HOPES that this case will get some kind of traction, since he has accused me online of defaming him, by merely writing about Einhorn v. Mergatroyd, as well as claiming that I was trying to "villify him". Villians always hate it when you call them villians. And pretty much every member of the Dramatists Guild, not to mention plenty of non-theatre folk, considers what Einhorn did to be villanous, and an abuse of the US legal system. But people can make up their own minds by reading my account of the case, which politely includes the URL of Einhorn's own laughable argument in favor of a director's copyright. Last time I looked, he had not extended me the same courtesy.

Einhorn's case against us should have been thrown out of court, since the basis of his lawsuit was an unauthorized derivative copyright registration of his absurd "blocking and choreography" script on my play TAM LIN. I expect the US Copyright Office to issue an official cancellation of Einhorn's travesty any day now.

But as both Einhorn and Pivar demonstrate, far too many people believe that free speech, in the form of expressing an opinion about another person, is an actionable offense, if the object of the opinion doesn't like the expressed opinion. Clearly more needs to be done to teach people about the meaning of the First Amendment.

Surely this Pivar case will be laughed out of court, along with Bill O'Reilly's case against Al Franken also tried in the Southern District Court of NY.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tell it like it is, Krugman

Just the other day I was talking with my coworkers over lunch and we were discussing the 2008 presidential election. I said I thought John Edwards had the best shot, and someone else said "is it because he's a white, male, Christian and therefore electable?" Another coworker, new to the company, whom I'll call "B" said "and from the South." I said "exactly - the only way a Democratic candidate can be elected in this country is if he's from the South - ever since Kennedy. That's because so many people from the South are really gung-ho about being Southern, in a way that I've never seen any Northerners be about the North. I never thought of myself as a "Northerner" in opposition to the South. If anything, you'd think people from the South would rather think about themselves as Americans, since to say you're a gung-ho Southerner evokes the Civil War and the fact that the South seceded from the North in order to avoid the abolition of slavery they thought was coming, and then they proceeded to attack the North!

It turns out B is from North Carolina although she doesn't have an accent because she's spent so much time up here. She disagreed that a certain sub-section of people in the South are gung-ho about being Southern. I said I was sorry for saying that about the South, the way you do when you don't want to get into a fight with someone at work. But she herself disproved her own point a little later on - the subject came up again, and she said "the South will rise again" and I thought she was kidding, or being ironic, or whatever. So I said "yeah, and then we'll kick their ass again!" - several of my great-great grandfathers fought for the Union. And instead of kidding back, she said, pretty seriously "no, I don't think so." Clearly she has plenty of "Southern Pride." And it's easy to find plenty of gung-ho Southerners online: Unreconstructed Confederate Pride lists John Wilkes Booth as a "hero" - Southern Loyalists has a problem with the Fourteenth Amendment - Confederate American Pride plays a sickening, tenderly-sung rendition of "Dixie" - that charming ditty expressing nostalgia for the plantation system to name just the first nauseating three I found.

So anyway, what about Paul Krugman? In his latest editorial, Seeking Willie Horton he writes:
Ronald Reagan didn’t become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state’s fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots. Reagan didn’t begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it — at the urging of a young Trent Lott — with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.

And if you look at the political successes of the G.O.P. since it was taken over by movement conservatives, they had very little to do with public opposition to taxes, moral values, perceived strength on national security, or any of the other explanations usually offered. To an almost embarrassing extent, they all come down to just five words: southern whites starting voting Republican.

In fact, I suspect that the underlying importance of race to the Republican base is the reason Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination, despite his serial adultery and his past record as a social liberal. Never mind moral values: what really matters to the base is that Mr. Giuliani comes across as an authoritarian, willing in particular to crack down on you-know-who.

The Republican Party has disgracefully gone from being the party of Lincoln to the party of racist-panderers. I don't know how anybody can admit to being a Republican these days.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ladyboys of Bangkok

We saw the Ladyboys of Bangkok do their show at the Edinburgh Fringe. You haven't lived until you've seen Thai Ladyboys dressed in kilts singing Auld Lang Syne - all the Scots around us were misty-eyed.

You can watch their promotional video here but it doesn't include the kilts section, alas.

We were suprised to see the big circus tent venue filled mostly with middle-aged women. We had expected more gay men to be into the Ladyboys. The Ladyboys are apparently popular for "hen parties" - I'm so happy that that phrase has not caught on big in the US!

Tip for unsuspecting American travelers - don't ask where the bathroom is - they'll look at you funny. It's always called "the toilet."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The New Globe

The highlight of my trip to MOEAS so far is taking the tour of Shakespeare's Globe. It's an awesome thing. I videotaped the whole thing and will have excerpts here ASAP.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Katha Pollitt delivers a righteous smackdown

To Michael Ignatieff and all the other Iraq war proponents
Once, just once, I'd like to see a repentant war proponent acknowledge in a straightforward, non-weaselly way that Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Scott Ritter, Code Pink and, yes, The Nation--to say nothing of the millions around the world who demonstrated so ardently against the war--got it right. But no: "Many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology," Ignatieff writes. "They opposed the invasion because they believed the President was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong."

Excuse me while I set myself on fire. I remember the run-up to the invasion very well, and "It's all about oil" and "America is always wrong" were hardly the major arguments on the table. Since Ignatieff must know this--surely he listened to Mark Danner and Robert Scheer when he teamed with Hitchens to debate them at UCLA--his calumny is not only self-serving, it's disingenuous.

Let's review. You wouldn't know it from Ignatieff's piece, but Bush's stated reason for war was not the liberation of the Iraqi people; it was that Saddam Hussein promoted terrorism, colluded with Al Qaeda, possessed WMDs and presented an immediate threat to the United States. Long before the war there was quite a bit of evidence that none of this was true. Were Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei ideologues who hated America? Remember the yellowcake, the aluminum tubes, the Niger documents the International Atomic Energy Agency determined were forgeries? It was possible to say, and many did, that Saddam was a murderous tyrant but that unilateral pre-emptive war against a country that presented no threat was a dangerous upending of settled international law.

Thank you Katha.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Off to MOE

So I'm off to Merrie Olde England in a few days and blog posts might be scarce - or not, depending on my Internet connection situation.

If anybody from England reads this and wants to recommend places to see - please do!

I'm also going to Edinburgh, so technically I'm off to MOEAS. I will have a report from the Edinburgh Fringe presently.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Damn, McCartney!

McCartney rocks the mullet in '73.

I was recently listening to Paul McCartney's "My Love" which he released on his "Red Rose Speedway" in 1973. I've heard this song dozens of times, and I never got the naughty reference until now.
And when the cupboards bare
Ill still find something there with my love
Its understood , its everywhere with my love
And my love does it good.

So when there's nothing to eat in the cupboard...

DAMN McCartney!

Not that I'm all that suprised by the naughty reference, the Beatles often put semi-veiled sexual references into their work. Like the "tit-tit-tit" backing vocals of "Girl" or "the man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnail boots" from "Happiness is a Warm Gun" or "four-afish and finger pie" probably the oddest one of all, considering it's in the nostalgic "Penny Lane." And that last one is pure McCartney.

Yeah, everybody thought the Stones were such bad boys. The Beatles were just more subtle about it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

On second thought...

To hell with those other guys. I'm gonna marry me that Paul Krugman! I don't care if he's already married:

The bill is so good that it has Republicans spluttering. “The bill uses children as pawns,” declared Representative Pete Sessions of Texas. Yes, the Democrats are exploiting children — by providing them with health care.

The horror, the horror!

From A Test for Democrats

Oh that righteous scorn!