Something petty this way comes

Ray Bradbury apparently wants Michael Moore to apologize for alluding to a work of literature.

… Bradbury is demanding an apology from filmmaker Michael Moore for lifting the title from his classic science-fiction novel "Fahrenheit 451" without permission and wants the new documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" to be renamed.

"He didn't ask my permission," Bradbury, 83, told the Associated Press on Friday. "That's not his novel. That's not his title, so he shouldn't have done it." …

"Fahrenheit 451" takes its title from the temperature at which books burn. Moore has called "Fahrenheit 9/11" the "temperature at which freedom burns."

Sheesh. Bradbury didn't ask Shakespeare's permission to use "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Or Yeats' for "The Golden Apples of the Sun." Or Whitman's for "I Sing the Body Electric."

And he didn't need to.

When someone alludes to your work, it's a compliment. It's one thing not to take a compliment gracefully — it's another thing to start demanding apologies.

* * *

She came, she saw, she conquered

"The key in terms of mental ability is chess. There's never been a woman Grand Master chess player. Once you get one, then I'll buy some of the feminism …"
— Pat Robertson

I so wish Robertson had been at the library in Bear, Del., yesterday. Susan Polgar kicks ass.

* * *

I had no idea when I bought the "family pack" of six rolls that "quilted" was actually a synonym for "adhesive."

* * *

Six, maybe eight months ago I bought Tom Waits' Blue Valentine via Amazon. Now every time I go there, they want me to buy Small Change. Never Heart Attack and Vine. Never Swordfishtrombones. Just Small Change. Every time.

Thing is I already own Small Change. So there you go.

Anyway, I'm not sure exactly how Amazon's customer-recommendation algorithms work, but it seems to me that whatever formulas they've programmed in there don't seem to be giving a fair chance to the less-accessible, but often more rewarding pleasures of Tom's later work. The programmers should make that algorithm listen to Rain Dogs at least twice, maybe with headphones, before it decides that Small Change is the only thing worth recommending.

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  • Isabeau

    If you say you’re ordering a gift, it doesn’t go on your preferences list and you don’t get nagged as much.

  • John S Costello

    Judit Polgar beat Bobby Fischer’s record when she became the youngest grandmaster in FIDE in 1991. She has played and beaten (and been beaten by) most of the famous upper-crust grandmasters — Karpov, Kasparov, etc, etc. Also, she doesn’t play in the “women-only” league and never has.
    All three of the Polgar sisters are amazing chess players and amazing people too.

  • none

    Act now, act now
    And receive as our gift
    Our gift to you

  • lightning

    Re: Bradbury and Fahrenheit 9/11:
    Keep in mind that titles can’t be copyrighted. How many autobiographies are named My Story? How many songs are named I Love You?

  • jfk

    You can tell Amazon that you already own “Small Change”, and how much you like it – I’ve done that frequently and often with books by Lois McMaster Bujold, for example. That will probably get the site to recommend other, less common Tom Waits.

  • EricinTX

    The thing is, if you click Small Change, on the left is an option to say “I already own this”
    That Lets Amazon Know What You Own, so they can Own you, or something.
    And you won’t get the rec anymore.

  • es

    Some titles *can* be copyrighted. Harlen Ellison successfully sued someone for using his title ‘I have no mouth and I must scream’. If Moore had used the title ‘Fahrenheit 451’, Bradbury might have a case, but he has nothing to complain about with ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’.

  • Beth

    In Bradbury’s defense, he’s not threatening to sue for copyright violation. He’s just demanding an apology. I agree that even that is silly, but some artists’ attitude towards their work is that of an overprotective mother. I hope that Moore does apologize, not because he did anything wrong, but because it would be a gracious act, and Bradbury’s age and body of work merit such extraordinary consideration.
    If Amazon had any taste they’d recommend Mule Variations. I thought about Waits during the discussion of Christian art. His work isn’t specifically Christian, but a line like, “Pin your ear to the wisdom post, Pin your eye to the line, Never let the weeds get higher than the garden, Always keep a sapphire in your mind,” is good spiritual advice for anyone.

  • Avedon

    No, Moore should not apologize – he should ask Bradbury why he didn’t appreciate what was, after all, respectful homage – and good publicity for the original work.
    The proper thing for Bradbury to have said to Moore was, “Thank you.”

  • skaterina

    my taste is so eclectic and my purchases through amazon so diverse that i am always amused at the recommendations they come up with / smile / sometimes i think they have a sense of humor / as for ray bradbury he is being a bit of a stick

  • Cain

    The Onion a.v. club did an interview with Bradbury a few years back. I thought he sounded like a grumpy old pissant back then.

  • eristick

    Ray Bradbury being a grumpy ol’ pissant doesn’t particularly bother me — I’ll cut him some slack on his general attitude and impatience with reporters, given his status. What bugs me is that he has decided to publicly grumble during “anticipation week” for a highly partisan and controversial film. It’s far too easy to twist his comments into “Ray Bradbury Doesn’t Like Michael Moore Or His Goddamn Politics.” Now, if Bradbury doesn’t want to be associated with a film that heavily criticises the current administration, he’s welcome to make that clear, but I don’t think that this is his actual intent. If his intent is purly overprotective stickler grumbling, then his timing is just annoying (and kinda needy.)

  • Chris

    I don’t know, I heard about the Bradbury thing a bit ago and while he is a grumpy old man, the part that stood out for me is, why didn’t Michael Moore just ask him about it ahead of time? I didn’t even see “Fahrenheit 9/11” as an homage; I saw it as a clever play on getting some borrowed cutesiness (not that Moore needs it). If I were making a political documentary, it just seems like common sense to check that everyone (within reason) is on board before I invoke their work in order to sell my own work.

  • GeoX

    I fancy that the algorithms are more interested in making sales than they are in ‘challenging’ anyone. And I know there are people who refuse to listen to anything after One from the Heart.
    (can I note that, to my taste, Mule Variations is the weakest album of the latter half of his career? Certainly it has its moments, but overall it feels to me like a kind of weak, unfocused pastiche of his previous post-OftH work)

  • Chris Vosburg

    es writes: Some titles *can* be copyrighted. Harlen Ellison successfully sued someone for using his title ‘I have no mouth and I must scream’.
    Not to wander too far afield here, but I don’t recall Harlan “I’ll sue every last one of you bastards” Ellison suing anyone over this. I could be wrong, of course.
    Any other details?
    I do recall that this story is often mentioned in connection with his “Terminator” suit, as a possible origin of the “skynet” concept utilized by Cameron in “Terminator,” though neither side in that particular suit ever actually cited the story. Is that the genesis of your recollection?

  • J Mann

    I agree, but would have thought you’d be a “moral rights” booster.
    Bradbury’s alive, which makes it possible for him to be personally p-o-ed about the use of his title, whereas I’m not that impressed with Whitman, Shakespeare, et al’s right to be p-o-ed.

  • none

    Is this Polgar woman:
    in chess ? (there are hundreds of grandmasters
    all men except for this women). There has
    never been a top ranked woman player in
    all of recorded history.
    Oh yeah. I get it. It’s because the women
    are being kept down, subjugated even. They
    are told that “math” and “chess” is not
    feminine. Yup. That’s the ticket…

  • pj

    Re Bradbury
    My understanding is he’s trying to sell a remake of Fahrenheit 451 — so I can easily see why he doesn’t like his title co-opted for another film that creates bad vibes in half the country.

  • pharoute

    PJ: interesting take on it (re: bad vibes…) I saw that there was a new edition coming out and there’s another move in the works too. My first thought was “Bradbury may be old but he knows how to get the buzz going around his product” I predict healthy sales.

  • pharoute

    anon at 9:04. The Robertson quote had nothing to do with her ranking, just that there has never been a woman GM, which is of course false. Having played amateur chess for a few years, I know the effort needed to cultivate natural talent into just a Master ranking is beyond the great majority of the population (including myself). To turn it into a Grandmaster ranking it truly amazing. FYI Judit Polgar is 9th in the April FIDE Rankings.

  • Mike Russo

    I will second Mule Variations being Waits’ weakest late-period album, although I still enjoy it quite a lot.
    Bone Machine, on the other hand, is a bloody masterpiece.

  • 2fair

    I’m with Bradbury. And doncha just hate those ripoffs from other people’s work without attribution; like For Whom The Bell Tolls, or The Sound And The Fury, or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, or Ulysses (I mean where does that Joyce guy get off anyway, he’s such a copycat and pornographer), or how boutThe Sotweed Factor, or Orlando (like anybody’s afraid of Virginia Wolff–Albee excepted, of course), or The Second Coming, Lancelot, The Horse’s Mouth… I mean it goes on and on, dunnit? And all of those types are sooo derivative. I just think it demeans the quality of the work, donchu?

  • Patrick Mullins

    I’m glad you brought this up; I would have never noticed it. I’ve thought I supported all Moore’s positions although not yet knowing them in detail, since I haven’t seen the movie. I definitely still do support them if it is a matter of the idiocy of the Iraq War. I really don’t care too much about either Moore’s and Bradbury’s egoes on the title business, except that now you are all discussing the title out of the rest of the context, I see that this title emphasizes 9/11 instead of Iraq (but in a movie which opposes the Iraq War) and is just tacky, because it’s joined with that line “the temperature at which freedom burns” which is just corny and awful–it is insulting to 9/11 if it means anything at all (it doesn’t.) You can almost see it on old black-and-white previews, maybe like “the scorching bestseller at last comes to the screen.” What the White House did in mishandling 9/11 before and after it, including capitalizing on 9/11 to do the Iraq War, is not 9/11’s “fault.” If one only knew about the title and that tiresome line, it might seem as though Moore wanted to link 9/11 with Iraq himself–because of that “temperature” line. Of course he doesn’t do that, and the work is important itself, but probably only as counter-propaganda propaganda.
    The 9/11 Commission is so much better than “Fahrenheit 9/11.” “Fahrenheit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” would have meant something with that “temperature” line added, although it wouldn’t have been “making pictures” as Monroe Stahr said. Maybe it’s kind of like “I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life” and “the nickel was for the movies.”
    Cannes may be very much the way Ballard describes it in “SuperCannes.”

  • Amanda

    Not only is Bradbury trying to get a remake of Fahrenheit 451 remade, he has the same financial backers sniffing around that backed Fahrenheit 9/11–including Mel Gibson. So there’s some screwy stuff going on. It’s about more than a title.

  • Itea

    To the person above…
    Judit Polgar is ninth in the latest ratings.
    – Itea

  • Frederick

    Of course Robertson knows nothing about chess. (I am a National Master, and a Senior Master at correspondence chess, so I know a bit more than Robertson.) There are at least nine women who hold the “male” Grandmaster title (as opposed to the lesser title of “Woman Grandmaster”). Here’s the list, at least as of mid-2002: Nona Gaprindashvili (1978), Maia Chiburdanidze (1984), Susan Polgar (1991), Judit Polgar (1991), Pia Cramling (1992), Xie Jun (1994), Zhu Chen (2001), Antoaneta Stefanova (2001), Humpy Koneru (2002 — youngest ever woman to achieve GM title, at 15 years, 1 month, and 27 days). Koneru is the sixth youngest player of either gender to achieve the title. She was over four months younger than Bobby Fischer when she did so, and three months younger than Judit Polgar.
    The Polgar sisters’ father, Laszlo, decided to try to make them chess greats to test his theory that chess ability is a matter of learning, not gender. So he immersed all three of his daughters in chess basically from birth on. (It sounds like a dubious experiment, but apparently they have turned out OK.) He seems to have proved his thesis, since Judit and Susan became GM’s (and Judit one of the world’s top 10 players), and youngest sister Sofia became a “male” International Master (one step below Grandmaster).
    I am virtually certainly that this makes the Polgar sisters the strongest set of three siblings in chess history. There have been a few instances of two siblings excelling at chess (e.g. New York Times chess columnist GM Robert Byrne and his late brother, IM Donald Byrne), but three siblings of such strength (2 GM’s, 1 IM) is unprecedented.

  • cjenkins

    Someone should tell Ray Bradbury his work is losing its relevance and he should appreciate any recognition he still gets.

  • cjenkins

    Hearing the recent news about Rad Bradbury reminds me of one of his Martian Chronicles about the people who wanted to censor movies and literature before they actually saw it or read it. I’m pretty disappointed to hear that Bradbury would behave the same way.

  • bellatrys

    I’m afraid I have to disagree, cjenkins. As I posted on my blog, Moore behaved in a juvenile and boorish way. Why, who knows, but he displayed an incredibly selfish, using and arrogant behaviour to someone who was writing fiery liberal counterprop before he was even conceived, whose work he chose to rip off without the courtesy of asking permission.
    For a parallel, imagine if Dr. King hadn’t died of the bullet back in 1968.
    Now imagine that Spike Lee is doing a film on the vote-stealing in Florida, a fierce documentary on the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters and to fight the reform efforts. He titles it “We have a dream” – and he doesn’t ask the 75 year old Dr. King for permission, doesn’t even bother to address him.
    Do you think the latter be flattered, or insulted? And if the latter, would you expect everyone to dismiss him as an embittered old crank who once had a great voice but is now frail and hoarse with age, and after all has been rendered obsolete by young turks like Spike Lee?

  • eristick

    But Moore didn’t “rip off” anything…he made a literary reference to the title of Bradbury’s book. Heck, plenty of people aren’t familiar with Bradbury’s work and had no idea that there was a meaning to the title beyond the fact that 911 degrees Fahrenheit would be very very hot. Inflamatory. Like the movie. (This was overheard. I am not making this up.)

  • Patrick Mullins

    For those who are still interested:
    “…thousands of gallons of aviation fuel spilled into the building and ignited, creating fires that burned at temperatures estimated at between 800 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. . . “(by Scott Robertson, from “American Metal Market,” August 29, 2003)
    That’s the REAL Fahrenheit 9/11 and it’s the temperature not at which bodies do vaporize, but at which bodies DID vaporize. That’s why the title of this movie is so cheap and exploitative, even though the film itself is part of the necessary thrust to yell an important message across about the idiocy of the administration and the utter wrongheadedness of the Iraq War and how 9/11 was not linked to Al-Qaida.
    But that’s no excuse for this petty bickering about something so unimportant: why anybody gives a shit about Greene’s and Moore’s title squabble is beyond me. It’s like when people worried about how Susan Sontag got her “feelings hurt,” deservedly trashed for acting like an asshole in print 6 days after–even though some of her points were accurate, if purposely one-sided.
    The 9/11 families have been offered every form of negligence imaginable. As of today, some of them had, of course, not been invited to the groundbreaking of the new memorial.

  • Patrick Mullins

    (I meant “Bradbury,” not “Greene,” of course, although I wish I had somehow used a wrong one for “Moore” too. No reason to get names right either in a cruddy-title ego parade.)

  • Patrick Mullins

    (I also obviously didn’t mean “how 9/11 was not linked to Al-Qaida,” but rather “how 9/11 and Al-Quaida were not linked to Iraq.”)
    But who says one is supposed to be calm and composed all the time.

  • Women in office

    Pat Robertson makes me angry. Again.