Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Supreme Court art: love, music and copyright

'Can a cached copy be used to make a hard copy?' a judge asks a QC.

There is a pause. I nod vigorously, and pointlessly, from the public seats.

Public Relations Consultants Association Limited v the Newspaper Licensing Agency and others (aka Meltwater) is being watched like a hawk by press cuttings agencies who feel that copyright laws are limping after new technology. So, are copies created when accessing a web page exempt from copyright protection by virtue of the temporary copies exception under s28A of the Copyright and Data Protection Act ?

I wonder what the average teen hacker would make of all this.

In the legal seats today there are massed ranks of alert brains. I'm finger-painting with charcoal.

From the public seats, you are conscious of two tectonic plates pushing against each other. The legal teams are turned away from you; as they shift in their seats they conceal and expose the more distant judges and court staff facing you.

Talking of digital technology, I have a skill which Lord Neuberger doesn't: the dying art of touch-typing which allows your speed to emulate Concorde (which has gone the way of touch-typing). There's nothing perverse about a blank keyboard as far as I'm concerned. But Lord Neuberger's left index finger is elegantly raised, kept out of use, rather than lightly resting on its home key of F from which R, T, G, B and V are within easy reach.

Henry Carr QC
Henry Carr QC is extraordinarily animated on his feet. A shape-shifter. I can't pin him down on paper. Afterwards, in the canteen, I draw Edward VII, whose flattering marble bust turns its back on the refrigerated cabinets.

It's a slushy time of year. The flowers on the Court 2 curtains offer themselves to view. I buy and then liberate the Supreme Court teddy bear, who in gratitude performs some putto moves around the back view of Robert Howe QC, defending. The bear is heavily influenced by the putti action in Watteau's Le pèlerinage à l'île de Cythère (see further down).

Oh, but are the lovers arriving at or retreating from the island of romantic escape? And here I really want to quote W. H. Auden's poem Law Like Love in its entirety. But it's protected by copyright. The first copy of it you find on the internet may well be pirated. What to do?

Drifting to another fraught copyright area, my weekly YouTube recommendations come in via email. Top of the list this week is Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Judgment 7 February 2013.

Then I'm offered:

The Drifters - Stand By Me
Eric Whiteacre's Virtual Choir - Lux Aurumque
Petula Clark - I Couldn't Live Without Your Love
The Girl Effect - The Clock is Ticking 
Edita Gruberova - The Art of Bel Canto

Le Pèlerinage à l'île de Cythère by Watteau
Putti in close-up

Edward VII in the canteen

Detail from the Court 2 curtains,
loosely interpreted

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Catullus textual criticism class, Wadham College, Oxford


I’ve been out in the world too long with people who associate that word with Pentonville.

I want to go back to circles where people talk about nonce-words and connect with dead scholars who wrote ‘for the nonce’.

I find a class on textual criticism of Catullus. Top poet, could do The Lot. Anguish, filth, everything in between.

I email Stephen Harrison, Professor of Latin Literature. May I come to the class, as a long-ago graduate of this establishment?

Professor Harrison, Dr Heyworth
‘It’s rather austere,’ he warns.

But it’s not austere to try to find out what Catullus actually wrote. A continuous stream of scholars from the middle ages to today (ooh look, there’s A. E. Housman) have been wrestling with careless transcribers and opinionated editors, on the quest for a true text.


The works of Catullus survived through one incomplete manuscript, shot with mistakes (not his), now lost.
Professor Harrison

This class is wonderful. Two top geezers conduct it in stereo: Professor Harrison - I haven’t captured his exquisite gestures here but he subtly hand-jives fragments of the poems - and Dr Stephen Heyworth.

Hate and love. Catullus uses a gleaming probe. Poem 85 is two lines:

Me (glib):

     HATE LOVE knuckles. You ask me why the needle’s stuck.
     I don’t know. But it’s hissing and it hurts like ****.

James Methven from Precious Asses (Seren, £5):

     Hard copy

     Hate. Love. And you have to ask me why.
         I don’t know. I feel it burning up my spine.
     I can’t.  
         I can’t.

     There’s your answer.
Dr Heyworth, Tristan

These are versions. I don’t believe in translation. I don’t even believe in synonym. That’s tough.

Today, Tristan Franklinos contributes a scholarly canter through the variants in 69.

Something cataclysmic has happened since I was last in these parts: Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Would Catullus have written this phrase? Word search. Click. It’s there. Hang on a second - Plautus wrote it too.

It feels like cheating.

And silently, throughout the class, my BlackBerry hoards a trickle of messages from Fetlife.com, a discussion website via which I contact my sitters for a different blog:

‘Hitchin Bitches’ was started in London UK Scene

'Besoin d’aide pour un jeu érotique et fétichiste’ was started in BDSM France

'Kamasu knot: is it Somerville bowline?' was started in Riggers and Rope Sluts

Please, Gaius Valerius Catullus, send me a message via Fetlife.com.

Say you love me.

When I arrived at university as a neurotic, ineducable teenager my motto was from Richard II: ‘I wasted time and now doth time waste me.’ In my adult years it’s ‘Otium Catulle’ from a section of 51 which he may or may not have written. And what is otium? ‘Time on your hands/freedom/leisure/idling/slacking/messing around/not having to fight a war (and is that a good or maybe a bad thing?), Catullus… It’s bad for you… Destructive…

I got Argos to make the necklace. They won't use so many
letters any more
There were some Japanese manga scholars in town recently so I went to their seminar. It killed a living art form stone dead with desiccated non-scholarship. ‘Japanese colours were changed to Korean colours.’ What are these colours? Oh just show us some flaming pictures!

Catullus shows us all the colours. This class exposes living tissue.