Beaumarchais and the first writers’ strike

You may have heard of Beaumarchais. He was a watchmaker, publisher of Voltaire’s works, gun runner for the rebels in the American Revolution, but most notably a playwright of works such as The Barber of Seville (which Mozart adapted into an opera.)

In Beaumarchais’s time, writers were not well paid. The theatres of Paris held a kind of monopoly, or cartel.  They colluded together to keep writers fees down.

The Barber of Seville was one of the hits of 1775, and continued bringing in audiences after that.  But, despite the money that the theatres got from Beaumarchais’s popular play, his remuneration wasn’t very high.

So, in 1777, Beaumarchais led the other French writers in a strike. If they didn’t get paid more for their successful plays, they wouldn’t write at all.

This led to a scarcity of plays, and forced theatre owners into negotiations.

Theatre owners now paid royalties, instead of just a flat fee for plays.

Hey Stupid!!

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“Hi, I’m stupid.”

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I’m with stupid.

We’ve seen it again and again. Workplace “scandals” that involve public spats, arguments over bad management that end in someone getting fired.

Some “gurus” claim this shows a lack of “emotional intelligence.”  I think it’s more to do with economic intelligence.  But, if you need a primer in emotional intelligence, here you go.

Emotional Intelligence primer

Continue reading Hey Stupid!!

Happy Birthday to you, James William Tate

You may have heard by now that the Happy Birthday song is in copyright.  Or is it?

One of the longest copyright disputes revolves around “Happy Birthday” and whether you can use that song in your films and videos, or in live concerts and plays.   “Happy Birthday to you” has been around so long that almost no one knows who composed it.

I bet some of you might even be thinking that James William Tate had something to do with it.  Sorry, he didn’t. Continue reading Happy Birthday to you, James William Tate

Lesson from history: only a madman would write for a living

It started as a story on the Hokusai Manga, for the 1812 timeline, and it turned to the study of an inconvenient truth.

A horned demon holding a severed head and pointing to it with long nails, laughing
Want to be a writer? Hokusai’s demon is laughing at you!

Okay, some writers are billionaires. I’m ready for your list of best selling authors and other freaks. A lot of Hollywood’s top producers started as writers, or at least a few of the top CEOs have degrees in subjects like literature and English.

But history tells us that these successes are freak. And that’s where 1812 comes into all this.

You know Manga? No, not the fruit from India, the art from Japan. Yeah, out East somewhere. Well, apparently the “Mangas”, or Hokusai Manga, a series of historic cartoons, were started in 1812. They weren’t published until two years later, but hey.

The artist needed money, and so he taught. This involved travel, and seeing a lot of interesting things (which had more inspiration). He also published some books of his work. And this is where we get to writers. Continue reading Lesson from history: only a madman would write for a living

Baltimore Democrats attack Republican Newspaper, kill 2

Tombston of James mcCubbin Lingan an officer of the Maryland line in the war of the American Revolution, a captive on the prison ship "Jersey", "An original member of the society of the Cincinnati", Born May 15, 1751, Died July 28 1812, and his beloved wife Janet HENDERSON born September 2 1765, died July 5 1832
Lingan’s tombstone. Photo courtesy of Monumental Thoughts

Baltimore: July 27 1812.  The war of 1812 is a done deal.  Most of the surrounding “Democrats” support war with Britain, over stained honor from an attack of the USS Chesapeake.  They want to fight because Britain is supporting guerrilla warfare.  But, one old Revolutionary war veteran, doesn’t agree with the mob.  General James MacCubban Lingan wishes for peace.  And he defends the home of the publisher of a pro-peace newspaper, the home of the editor of the Federalist Republican.

To the Federalist Republican, war with Britain is merely helping Napoleon.  The United States has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

The mob of “Democrats” didn’t see things that way.  Continue reading Baltimore Democrats attack Republican Newspaper, kill 2

The sentence for the pamphlet

Daniel Isaac Eaton waited in Newgate prison to find out what his fate would be.

Before Eaton could be convicted, a Mr. Prince Smith filed an affidavit in Eaton’s defense.

In addition to other words of common sense, Mr. Prince Smith told the court that “It was quite impossible to maintain the fear of God by force; and religion ceased to be the fear of God when it became the fear of man.” Continue reading The sentence for the pamphlet

Social Networking, Book Burning, and the rooster who lost his head

Daniel Isaac Eaton had been in trouble with the law before.   (That is, before the blasphemy case.)

Cockerel and hen from woodcut
A 19th century cockerel or Chanticleer based on an image from John George Wood’s “The illustrated natural history”

Once upon a time, in a little kingdom in far away Europe, there lived a cockerel by the name of Chanticleer, King Chanticleer. This rooster was a descendent of the Chanticleer in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale, and a distant uncle of the King Chanticleer which featured in 1911 song by Nat D. Ayer.

Only this Chanticleer was a gamecock which sprung from the imagination of John Thelwall in 1793. Continue reading Social Networking, Book Burning, and the rooster who lost his head

Daniel Isaac Eaton, Thomas Paine’s publisher, accused of blasphemy

The prosecution mounted a brilliant case against Thomas Paine’s publisher. The first witness the attorney General called was Henry Ben Raven, who, as stated earlier, had purchased a copy of Thomas Paine’s book from Daniel Isaac Eaton’s shop. Continue reading Daniel Isaac Eaton, Thomas Paine’s publisher, accused of blasphemy

The Ghost of Thomas Paine haunts the Church of England

Portrait of Thomas Paine in front of booksWhen Richard Dawkins recently claimed that Christians were “not really Christian at all”, he wasn’t breaking new ground.

Over 200 years ago, Thomas Paine, that oft-quoted American patriot, wrote a pamphlet that said basically the same thing.

Continue reading The Ghost of Thomas Paine haunts the Church of England