Song, Philip Larkin, Watching Films, America & Russia, Scotland, Leonardo Da Vinci

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Who Owns The Copywright To “Happy Birthday”?

Zachary Crockett | Priceonomics | 14th April 2015

Few people would believe that anyone owned the rights to the corny tune sung, most often out of tune, at birthday parties. But the song, composed two lady teachers in Kentucky in the late 19th century, has a tangled legal history and Warner Music charge anything up to $50,000 for permission to use it in a movie or a musical greeting card. The song may be the most popular of the 20th century. (1,924 words)

Philip Larkin On The Voices Of Poets

Philip Larkin | New Statesman | 16th April 2015

From 1962. "Had the history of technology meshed a little differently with the history of literature I might now be able to lay reverently on my turntable a thick black 78 rpm with a Globe label reading Will Shaxsper: Sundrie Sonnets (recording supervif’d by my Lord Veralum)". Very well, we missed Shakespeare. But what a shame nobody thought to record Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence reading when the technology was available (2,240 words)

Why Don’t Our Brains Explode At Movie Cuts?

Jeff Zacks | Aeon | 16th April 2015

Imagine that everything in your visual field changed instantaneously in front of your eyes. You would think you were hallucinating, or bewitched. But that is what happens in film whenever the director cuts from one scene to another — and we don't find cuts disturbing, unless the director makes them so. Did we learn to process cuts after the invention of film? Or do our brains come equipped to understand art and life differently? (3,000 words)

Russia: Could It Have Been Different?

Stephen Sestanovich | American Interest | 14th April 2015 | Metered paywall

In defence of American policy towards Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some argue that American-led enlargement of Nato needlessly provoked Russia's anti-Western turn. But America saw the need for a political order in the region resistant to new shocks, and Nato was the best available means. America did not humble Russia in the 1990s; on the contrary, it treated Russia with great indulgence (5,900 words)

Scotland Threatens England

Martin Wolf | Financial Times | 17th April 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

The Scottish Nationalist Party has no interest in England's flourishing; it values England only as a source of subsidies to fund the Scottish welfare state. If Scottish demands leave England weaker, so much the better for Scotland. To have the Scottish Nationalists pursuing such policies inside a British coalition government after the coming election could be disastrous for England. Better to end the Union than let such a thing happen (877 words)

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Resumé

Marc Cenedella | 13th April 2015

The young Leonardo da Vinci made his career as a designer of weapons. In 1482 at the age of 30 he wrote to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, seeking patronage. His letter is probably the most stupendous CV of all time. After listing his skills in blowing up forts and building catapults, Leonardo mentions, almost as an afterthought: "I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may" (1,030 words)

Video of the day: Kangaroos Cannot Jump Backwards

What to expect: Prose-poem by Rafael Mayrhofer

Thought for the day

Every detail added to a claim makes it less probable
Chris Hallquist (

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