cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by jerebu

Plagiarism in the act of conducting what is offered as original work (school essays, magazine columns,) is obviously, a Wrong Thing. I’m not aiming to talk about lifting in that sense, but there are places, perhaps, where perhaps one might feel okay to condone it? Maybe even do it yourself? Do you doubt me? Will you send Copyright Cops to my door?

It works brilliantly in movies, where one movie, I am guessing the intent, plays homage to a classic by passing a reference to a previous work, perhaps even lifting it entirely. It is a tribute, not something meant to pass off as original. And it would be destroyed with the film equivalent of a footnote, eh?

Lacking a big mental file database of movie bits in my head, I’m surprised when I make the connection. It becomes like an inside joke between the film maker and yourself. You are “in”. I find these a lot on animated features, which are set to be aimed at a kids audience, but there can be another “adult” layer that contains such a nod. It does not harm to the plot if you don’t make the connection, but if you do, it must fire off some of the pleasing neuron juices.

it’s an extremely effective communications device.

Enough prelude, what the heck am I referring to? On my batch of travel recently, one of the movies I watched on the plane was Toy Story 3.

I’m not writing a review of the movie (but I am a TS junkie), but even the “Great Escape” theme has throwbacks.

The bit that triggered this thought was the point where the toys that have gone off to Sunnyside find themselves not in the place they imagined, but being put into cages, and being read the speech by their captor (a brainwashed Buzz Lightyear):

Prisoners sleep in their cells. Any prisoner caught outside their cells spends the night in the box. Roll call at dusk and dawn. Any prisoner misses roll call spends the night in the box. Prisoners do NOT speak unless spoken to. Any prisoner talks back spends the night…

That might have rung familiar, but having just re-watched Cool Hand Luke a few weeks back, it is a direct homage to Cool Hand Luke word for word from the longer, memorable rant to the prisoners by Carr:

So take a previous work, use it verbatim, and don’t give it credit?

cc licensed flickr photo shared by loadstone

Don’t we call that stealing? Of course not, it is a literary device. And a lovely one, IMHO.

That’s an easy call. Try a harder one.

Previously on CogDogBlog…

(get it?) (no?)

I noted earlier I am enjoying reading Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker. The pace is rapid fire. But this one got caught in my filter:

“We can’t eradicate evil, we can only evict it, force it to move across town. And when evil moves, some good always goes with it. But we can never alter the ratio of good to evil. All we can do is keep things stirred up so neither good nor evil solidifies. That’s when things get scary. Life is like a stew, you have to stir it frequently, or all the scum rises to the top.”
Still Life with Woodpecker, page 98

Again, I am not analyzing the passage (though it makes for an interesting discussion, especially about what happens when you force evil out). It’s that last sentence– “Life is like a stew, you have to stir it frequently, or all the scum rises to the top.”

This is almost word for word a quote I have treasured from Edward Abbey (it is modified on the front of my blog, but attributed):

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

Maybe not exactly the same, but more similar than not. Did Robbins lift it from Abbey? Is it a literary nod? Who really knows?

I prefer to think of it as a nod. It makes it more interesting. It’s an extra layer to a narrative.

I’m curious if this is a taught method or just borrowed? What are the atributes of a good nod? When it it over the top? When is it just a gimmick?

If I said that I felt like I was not being clear, that what we have here is a failure to communicate, for some, it would mean exactly what it is written, for others, they can hear the drawl of Strother Martin (ok another nod to Cool Hand Luke).

Without tools like IMDb and the numerous quotation indexes, I’d be lost on looking up or finding the nod material.

Unlike a printed book or a movie, on the web no one can hear you scream you can still nod and provide linktribution.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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