Saturday, July 30, 2011


Every author wonders what names of famous persons he can use and what quotes are allowed without infringing on copyright laws. The Fair Use doctrine below answers the question well, but here is a link to a good discussion of copyright laws that I came across,

Another question concerns the use of old photographs - when can they be used?

1. Virtually all photographs published in the US before January 1923 are now in the public domain.

2. Fair Use generally allows the use of quotes for specific purposes. But as for novels and such, the discussion above notes that copyright laws do apply.

Specifically, the government says:
How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?
Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fear and Loathing

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, is a semi-autobiographical description of Thompson's descent into Las Vegas to search for the American Dream. The search becomes a drug induced escape from reality and a scathing litany of complaints about the American Dream. Under the influence of a variety of recreational drugs, such as LSD, ether, cocaine, alcohol, mescaline, and cannabis, nothing is as it seems. Thompson, as Raoul Duke, and his side kick, Gonzo, wreck cars, destroy hotel rooms, shoot guns, and imagine anthropomorphic desert animals, all the while postulating on the decline of American culture in America's most iconic city of excess.

Nothing is as it seems. Reality is an illusion and this includes the American Dream. A home with a two car garage and a family with a wife and two children is the aspiration of American males in the Sixties. Thompson, writes his novel from this perspective, all the while realizing that the ideal excludes the hopes and dreams of women and minorities, not to mention men who may have a different outlook on the standard heterosexual relationship.

America of the Sixties is conspicuous for its wealth and consumption, yet it is unable to come to terms with the ideals of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." America in the sixties was a time where nuclear destruction was just the press of a button away, It was a time when the American Dream seem to die with the best and the brightest - John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. It was a lifetime away.

Thompson's novel got me to think. Was America of the sixties so different from 21st Century America?  The danger of  a nuclear holocaust does not seem so imminent, racial disparity, not so great, and personal political differences wordy and not so mortally fatal, at least here in America. Have we changed? Has the world? Perhaps only in degrees, but our methods of dealing with reality and disillusion have altered. For the most part, the excess of drugs and alcohol which characterized the Sixties has been replaced by an excess of food and gadgets. We, as Americans, spend more time indulging ourselves in food and electronics that we don't have time to think about the more serious matters of life.

If the Sixties represented in America a time of social revolution and counter-culture, then today represents a return to the hope that the American Dream can be found in values and traditions. Only the values and traditions of that time have evolved. American's are for the most part more accepting, and not so rigid. The American Dream of a home with a two car garage  and a wife and two children may be fine for some, but it is not necessary that all Americans share this same dream.

This, I think, was Hunter S. Thompson's paradox. He could not resolve his own conceptions of the good life with what was idealized. And so, Thompson sought to destroy everyone's dream and himself. He did this by condemning the excess of the American lifestyle with his own excess of drugs and alcohol, hoping, as he said to "make a mess of myself".

Is there a way out for the contemplative human? Or is the answer merely to get lost in the distractions of living life at a furious pace? Do we really need to make a "mess" of ourselves?

This thought does not need to have an answer. Thompson's predicament was that his answers did not jive with his conception of reality. But, each of us has our own perception of reality. Each of us must come to decide what we need to get ourselves through the day.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Trippin'

Summer Trippin' is pretty much a random trip down memory lane. The week started off with a vacation in Destin, Florida with my wife and son, along with a friend and her two children. It was the July 4th weekend, so there were party revelers from everywhere, making their way to the beach to celebrate America's birthday. More on that later.

From Destin, Florida, it is a two hour trip to Dadeville, Alabama. And Dadeville, if you go back to 1835, is the ancestoral home of the Pearsons on my mother's side of the family. Dadeville was first home to James Madison Pearson in or around 1835. My great great great grandfather's arrival in Tallapoosa County coincided with the removal of the Creek Indians by General Andrew Jackson during the period 1830 -1835. The Creeks were removed to Oklahoma near Ft. Arbuckle, which later figures in the life and times of Jesse Chisolm, a famous Wichita figure in the 1860's.

James Madison Pearson had come from Georgia to find new lands and opportunities in Alabama. He brought with him his wife Sarah Brown. They settled quickly into the life style in Tallapoosa County. James bought land at a prodigious rate. Often, he lent money to other land owners and secured payment with a mortgage on the property. By this means, he became one of the largest land owners in Tallapoosa County. The land records are recorded and can be viewed in the Registrar of Deeds in the basement of the County Courthouse in Dadeville.

James and his wife Sarah had a lot of children. One of them was Benjamin Rush Pearson, who was my great great grandfather. He tried his luck at many things before going to medical school and becoming a doctor. He married Sallie Ferrel Coleman and from that union, my grandfather James Madison Pearson was born. Dr. Pearson lived long enough in Dadeville for my grandfather to be born, but then he resettled in Montgomery, the capitol.

Most of this trip was spent in and around Dadeville. And most of my time was spent hunting for the General Charles Lafayette Pearson cemetery.The cemetery is there, nestled in the woods on one of the many properties that James Madison Pearson, the elder, acquired during his lifetime. Finding it is a story on its own, but more on that later too.

Technically, the cemetery is called the General Charles Lafayette Pearson cemetery. Charles was the youngest son of James the elder, and brother to Benjamin Rush Pearson and others. Charles stuck it out in Tallapoosa County, and by all accounts did exceedingly well. He studied law, but did not practice. He went to France and studied the ways of war, from which he got his title General. He came back to Tallapoosa and succeeded as a businessman and as the father of nine children.

What do you want to hear now?