Shuffling Sports

Re: “Rick Morrissey Moves Across the Street and Down the River,” posted by Michael Miner, December 5

I personally like Morrissey as a columnist, but I wonder how many people will start reading the Sun-Times because of him? Because if that doesn’t happen then I’d rather see the company invest in people who will write every day and produce the basic content that many papers in the group are stuggling to still churn out. I don’t know how much Morrissey makes, but I’m betting you could hire more than a few entry-level reporters with that money.


Re: “What about Mariotti?,” posted by Michael Miner, December 7

Mariotti has to be hugely depressed that his chances of joining the Tribune are somewhere between slim and none, and slim just left town. Talk about poetic justice; the guy trashes the Tribune for years and then clearly now is dying for the chance to join it.

Eric McCarthy

Jim Ryan’s Responsibility

Re: “John Kass on Jim Ryan: Wrong in So Many Ways,” by Michael Miner, December 3

The criticism of Ryan did not begin after it was all over. This was not mere hindsight criticism. The criticism began as soon as he took office in Du Page County for continuing the prosecution of Cruz, Hernandez, and Buckley that his predecessor had begun. Many people saw the flaws in the case from the get-go, and as the flaws just grew and grew and the case became more and more a scandal, what did Ryan do? He continued to soldier on, ignoring all the accumulated evidence that they had the wrong guy. He and his cohorts even ignored what Bryan Dugan was saying—they refused to hear what he was saying. Why? Some might say that their reason was that they feared Dugan might exonerate the guys they were prosecuting.

What is it about conservative fans of Ryan who just refuse to see Ryan’s disgraceful performance for what it is? They intentionally have put blinders on.

Robert Pruter

If you take Jim Ryan at his word, and I see no reason to do so, then he believed people he was supposed to supervise even when others—all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court—found fault with what they had done. He backed them without investigating the objections. Is this the sort of supervision he would bring to the governor’s office?


Art in a Garden

Re: “Chapman Kelley’s Mutilated Garden: The Seventh Circuit is set to decide if the Park District had the right to destroy an artwork,” by Deanna Isaacs

Of the many issues related to this case, none are more important than whether or not Kelley’s garden is art. VARA defines the term in part only by naming examples such as “painting” and “sculpture.” But that still leaves open the question regarding just what it is that makes something art. What is needed is a formal definition that names the essential attributes common to all works of art from pre-history to the present.

District Court Judge David H. Coar’s ruling that Wildflower Works qualifies as either a “painting” or a “sculpture” defies both logic and common sense. He would be hard pressed to explain in fundamental terms what the garden had in common with, say, Michelangelo’s David.

What is valid about Judge Coar’s opinion is that Wildflower Works is not sufficiently different from other gardens to be covered by VARA. In the landmark Supreme Court copyright case of 1903, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s argument for the majority emphasized the uniqueness of individual works of art. Such a quality emerges as “the personal reaction of an individual,” he argued, since “personality always contains something unique.” It is this distinctive quality that copyright law recognizes and protects. Try finding Kelley’s “personality” in his original garden. It isn’t there. . . . Kelley’s garden was not art and therefore was not protected by VARA.

For further information, see Chapter 6 (“The Definition of Art”), and the section “Art and the Law” in Chapter 15, of What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand (Open Court, 2000), which I coauthored.

Louis Torres


Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

Mr. Torres: As I recall, Judge Coar’s ruling that the Wildflower Works was not copyrightable was based on the assertion that Kelley was not the first to create art out of garden elements, flowers, dirt, etc. This stringent criteria for originality bears no relationship to what the Copyright Law requires.

A. Karan

Mr. Torres: To support your theory, you’ll need to present examples from nature of wild flowers growing in specifically-shaped patterns and carefully orchestrated color sequences, all bordered and thus delineated by a material (like gravel) that facilitates viewing of said plantings. Good luck with that.


Thank You for Smoking

Re: “Who Wants to Be Hollywood East? An expert in government subsidies for film production says it’s a ‘race to the bottom,'” by Deanna Isaacs, November 26

Forty-one states have these subsidies. Together, they offer at least $1.4 billion to subsidize about 25 percent of Hollywood’s domestic production costs—a “hidden bailout.” As this article suggests, there’s plenty of controversy about whether states actually derive a net benefit.

Another problem? According to a new University of California report, these states spend $830 million subsidizing movies with smoking, proven to recruit hundreds of thousands of new adolescent smokers. That means billions in health costs down the line. If state taxpayers don’t agree that subsidizing tobacco promotion to kids is a good idea, these “incentive” programs may be in even greater jeopardy. (See report at