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08.01.2003

Two Articles

Two articles you shouldn't miss. The first, via Slashdot, is a lawyer's take on the strange Talmudic intricacies of copyright law:

It is, for example, technically against the law for Girl Scouts to sing "This Land Is Your Land" and "Puff, the Magic Dragon" around a campfire without paying royalties. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers tried to collect such royalties. It backed off only after it faced public outrage—which was fanned by restaurateurs wanting to play the radio without having to pay fees. It now charges the Scouts $1 a year, foregoing real profits while making it clear that the girls sing only by ASCAP's belatedly good graces.

The author compares existing copyright statutes to the tax code - both fine in principle, but hopelessly arbitrary and arcane in their current implementation. I hope he gets around to writing an article about patent law.

The second article is a piece about the slow decline of the Laurel Park race track in Maryland, and the men who make their life there:

Jahn is in his sixties, and he has been going to the races since he was a child. He hit his first win at the now defunct track in Bowie, when he was 8 1/2 years old. "I put down $2 and the damn thing came in at 90-to-1. $180. They asked me how I picked the horse. I said, 'I thought you were supposed to play the high numbers.' A lot of people out here are guys who won on their first bet like that. A lot of people get hooked that way. Some of the kids, they got -- " Jahn gazes at a monitor and then at the ticket in his hand, which is beginning to tremble. "Five-eight!" he roars. "Five-eight! That's me! I got it! I got it! I hit again!" He sits back on the bench and sighs in satisfaction. "Winning's great. There's nothing like it. It won't take away 9/11 or all the bad stuff out there, but it's a great feeling. At that moment, everything just comes clean. You just sit back and say ain't life great."

It's such a beautifully told story, I don't even know how to praise it. There's so many ways the author could have spoiled the piece, but it's told with perfect pitch.

Three to one says you'll like it.

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