Archive | Art

Woman Parading Dressed as Pope from Waist Up, Naked from Waist Down, Charged with Public Nudity

TribLive (Pittsurgh) reports:

Carnegie Mellon University police on Friday filed charges of indecent exposure against two art students accused of public nudity during a campus parade sponsored by the College of Fine Arts.

Police identified the female student accused of parodying the pope as she paraded nude from the waist down as Katherine B. O’Connor, 19 …, a sophomore art major ….

University President Jared Cohon, who has publicly apologized for the April 18 papal parody, announced the charges in an email on Friday. He said the university will not discipline the students.

Police charged Robb S. Godshaw, 22, of Wilmette, Ill., accusing him of dressing as an astronaut and disrobing atop a float during the parade. Photographs on Godshaw’s Facebook page show him disrobing and riding the float naked, police said in court documents….

The criminal charges capped a university review triggered by an inquiry from Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. Zubik asked the university to take a stand on the papal parody, which he found offensive….

“As I have said over these last few weeks, this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality,” Zubik said.

“The students took part in a campus art event and, in the case of the student who portrayed herself as the Pope, made an artistic statement which proved to be controversial,” Cohon said.

“While I recognize that many found the students’ activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas. But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.”

Some [...]

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Trevor Paglen Drone Photographs

If you’re interested in drones, you might also enjoy Trevor Paglen’s photographs of them. Paglen is a fascinating artist who has a particular interest in photographing secret things — drones, military installations, spy satellites. Here is Paglen’s webpage, and here is a recent New Yorker profile of him. If the Conspiracy had an official artist, I would nominate Paglen. [...]

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Censorship as Marketing

At this time of year, my email inbox is full of “last chance for Christmas delivery” sales pitches, and so I’ve been thinking about what interests potential buyers in a product.  And having that in the back of my mind when turning to this blog took me straight to one of my favorite entries in Lawtalk:  The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions: “Comstockery.”  The term–which signifies prudish, self-righteous censorship based on a desire for sexual purity–is named for nineteenth-century crusader Anthony Comstock, who successfully lobbied for enactment of the anti-obscenity law commonly known as the Comstock Act in 1873, got himself appointed two days later as a special postal agent to enforce the law, and by 1874 was already responsible for the seizure of 194,000 pictures and photographs; 14,200 stereopticon plates; 134,000 pounds of books; 60,300 “rubber articles” (condoms); and 5,500 sets of playing cards.  Two years before his death in 1915, he boasted that he had convicted thousands of people and driven fifteen to suicide.

Comstock is nevertheless a paradigmatic example of the marketing value of efforts at suppressing anything remotely sexual.  At least twice in his career his efforts at censorship famously promoted sales.  First up:  George Bernard Shaw.  After some of Shaw’s plays, including Man and Superman, were removed from the open shelves and put on a “restricted list” at New York’s public library, Shaw responded eagerly to a request for comment from a correspondent for the New York Times.  He concluded:  “I can promise the Comstockers that, startling as ‘Man and Superman’ may appear to them, it is the merest Sunday school tract compared with my later play . . . with which they will presently be confronted.”

Comstock rose to the bait and had the next Shaw play that was produced [...]

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My career comes full circle:

Techdirt asks: Can A Monkey License Its Copyrights To A News Agency? Apparently, David Slater, a well-known nature photographer, left his camera on the ground in an Indonesian national park, and a macaque monkey walked over and snapped a bunch of photos, including this (remarkable!) self-portrait:


Two of the photos in the set of monkey self-portraits bear a copyright notice: “Copyright Caters News Service. Raising the odd but interesting question: who assigned the copyright to the News Service? Slater? Perhaps, but that can’t be a valid assignment, for the simple reason that he doesn’t own the copyright just because his camera was used to snap the photo.

That leaves the monkey.

The question is not an entirely ridiculous one — well, OK, it is a ridiculous one, but it is at least closely related to some very difficult and interesting copyright questions concerning the requirement (if there is one) that human creativity is a requirement for copyright to exist in a work of authorship — questions that come up in contexts ranging from the ridiculous (creations by psychics ostensibly “channeling” voices from beyond the grave, animal creations — monkey photos, elephant drawings, chimpanzee-created music) to the sublime (the copyright status of works “authored” by computer programs or Artifical Intelligence engines). (My friend and colleague Annemarie Bridy recently sent me a very interesting draft of an article exploring these issues, soon to be published, entitled “Coding Creativity: Copyright and the Artificially Intelligent Author”).

But what I love about this little story is that it plumbing its metaphysical depths clearly calls for analysis by someone with deep expertise in (a) primate behavior and (b) copyright law — and guess who that might be?! Yes, it’s true – having spent two years in the Kenyan bush back in the 1970s studying the [...]

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My School’s Great Logo Debate

I am not very good with graphic design, illustration, and anything that requires good visual instincts.  So I don’t really regard myself as fit to have an opinion about this.  However, a current debate at my school is between Old Logo:

american university washington college of law

And New Logo:


Opinions at the school seem to be divided; naturally, a Facebook protest page got formed, WCL: What A Crappy Logo.  I don’t know – my Beloved Wife tells me I’m not the guy to pick out a snapshot and get the good one.  So I thought I would ask you, although I know of course that this is a nearly irresistible invitation to put your game face on.  (It also got picked up at Above the Law, but ATL does specialize in being snotty, so even if New Logo were the greatest in the world, it would come in for a bit of sneer.) [...]

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McDonald v. Chicago and Gilbert & Sullivan: The hidden connection!

In March 1994, I was in the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society‘s production of Gilbert & Sullivan‘s operetta Patience.

You can find a list of the Society’s past shows here; I was also in the same show the next time they produced it, in April 2007. Also, you can find the libretto of the show here.

In the March 1994 production, I played the character of the Major, which is perhaps the smallest part among the male principals. But hey, at least it was a principal.

Who was in the show with me? In the male chorus, playing one of the Heavy Dragoons, was Alan Gura, who represented Heller in D.C. v. Heller, and who’s counsel of record in McDonald v. Chicago, as you can see from the front page of the brief.

Who else was in the show with me? Why, playing the character of the Duke was none other than David Sigale, also McDonald’s lawyer listed on the front page of the brief.

Who else was in the show with me? This isn’t strictly speaking related to the McDonald case, but the character I married in the show, one “Angela,” was played by Alan Gura’s law partner, Laura Possessky.

Have Gilbert & Sullivan otherwise influenced the McDonald case? Well, p. 7 of the brief (p. 25 of the PDF) says that “The Privileges or Immunities Clause was all but erased from the Constitution in The SlaughterHouse Cases.” And, on the next page, it says that “SlaughterHouse‘s illegitimacy has long been all-but-universally understood.”

All but!

Surely, this is an echo of the sextet in Patience (see p. 19 of the libretto, i.e. p. 22 of the PDF, here), which I sang together with one of [...]

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InAlienable: The Movie is now on DVD:

Some readers may remember my chronicling my on-the-set experiences portraying a prosecutor in the independent film, InAlienable. (For those who missed the original posts you can read them all in order at this link.) I am very pleased to announce that the film now has a distributor is being officially released on DVD. It is available for pre-order on
As for my performance, although I have just 2 lines, I am on the screen a lot sitting next to Marina Sirtis who is a major character. Shooting the film, I discovered that even saying nothing involves acting choices, some of which I would have made differently had I ever seen myself on the screen. I did walk away from this experience with enormous respect for those who have mastered the craft of screen acting, which includes the entire InAlienable cast of experienced TV and movie sci-fi actors. Is this a perfect film? Hardly. It treads a very difficult line between drama and comedy. But it is a fun movie to watch, though not nearly as fun as appearing in.

UPDATE: For some reason the Amazon link to InAlienable was not displaying. I am trying again, as well adding a link to the word InAlienable in the text (and here). [...]

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Roman Polanski, George Orwell, and Salvador Dali

When I was running university film societies in the 1970s and early 1980s, I considered Roman Polanski’s Chinatown the best film made in the 1970s. I don’t know what I would think today because I haven’t seen it for three decades. And I still consider Rosemary’s Baby one of the best horror movies ever made.

I mention this because good artists are not necessarily good people and bad people are not necessarily bad artists.

The first writer I encountered who explored this issue was George Orwell in his essay on Dali. The essay is also memorable because its second sentence contains one of Orwell’s most resonant ideas: “any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.”

Notes on Dali

George Orwell

Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats. However, even the most flagrantly dishonest book (Frank Harris’s autobiographical writings are an example) can without intending it give a true picture of its author. Dali’s recently published Life [The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (The Dial Press, 1942)] comes under this heading. Some of the incidents in it are flatly incredible, others have been rearranged and romanticised, and not merely the humiliation but the persistent ordinariness of everyday life has been cut out. Dali is even by his own diagnosis narcissistic, and his autobiography is simply a strip-tease act conducted in pink limelight. But as a record of fantasy, of the perversion of instinct that has been made possible by the machine age, it has great value.

Here, then, are some of the episodes in Dali’s life, from his earliest years onward. Which of them

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