Jerome, Jerome K. Three Men in a Boat (1889).

June 19, 2007

Three Men in a Boat
“It must have been worth while having a mere ordinary plague now and then in London to get rid of both lawyers and the Parliment.”

Somewhere between a travel guide and a satirical victorian novel, Three Men in a Boat is a crafty piece of writing that takes the reader up the Thames river from London to Oxford with three men weary of the city but not quite adept at coping outside it’s bounds and a dog who at times seems more like a kidnap victim than a pet. Jerome, leads us up the river with a self deprecating narrator and his two pals, all of whom know exactly what they are doing but have no idea how to do it. The trip itself is laden with comedic tales, historical lessons, and sublime meditations on the beauties of nature. I found it a great read and highly reccomend it.

As for the law. It comes in a few different divisions. Probably the largest chunk could be looked at as Legal History. As the trip goes up the river the narrator points out numerous sights where Kings and Queens have inhabited. The first with real legal connotation is when he is at Runnymede where in 1215 Magna Carta was signed on Magna Carta Island in the middle of the Thames. He recounts the story as if he were there amongst the barons who were forcing the hand of the slippery King John. The narrator also notes that Magna Carta was “translated to the common people some four hundred and odd years later by on Oliver Cromwell, who had deeply studied it.” The trip then passes Old Windsor where, according to Jerome, Earl Godwin was “proved guilty by the justice of that age of having encompassed the death of the King’s Brother.” Godwin apparently said that if he was guilty the bread that he put in his mouth would choke him, and it did. Finally they pass through Reading where Parliment would move to if there were a plague in London and the “Law followed suit” in 1625.

Property law is addressed in a scene where the trio are on the bank of the river and man comes up and asks whether they are trespassing. After a comical exchange they send him away and note that he was only after a bribe and the best way to handle these situations is to “offer your name and address, and leave the owner, if he really has anything to do with the matter, to summon you, and prove what damage you have done to his land by sitting down on a bit of it.” This interaction though leads to a short diatribe at the riparian land owner on the Thames who placards up no trespassing signs, and that this selfishness creates an urge in the narrator to hammer the placards down on their heads. It reminds me of that Tesla song. Of note here though, is that under common law there was no need for the owner to show damage only that the defendant had actually trespasses, so the party could have been held liable.

There is a smidgen of criminal law as George recounts a morning in which he got up too early and wandered about London. It raised the suspiscion of the police who escorted him back home. This scared him a great deal and he “pictured the trial, and his trying to explain the circumstances to the jury, and nobody believing him, and his being sentenced to twenty year’s penal servitude, and his mother dying of a broken heart.” Illustrating the coercive power of the police force to even disuade a person from legal activities. Poor George is later charged with playing the banjo badly in public. The evidence is clear and he is given a six month restraining order. Another run in with the police is suggested when lodging is hard to find. George thinks they could get a free nights lodging by assaulting a police officer, but there is the danger that they would only get hit back, so the thought is abandoned.

Mention of a will is made in which a Sarah Hill, left £1 to be divided amongst two boys and two girls who “had never been undutiful to their parents; who had never been known to swear or tell untruths, to steal or to break windows.” The narrator says that these types of children had been hard to come by and observes that this is alot to give up for 5 shillings a year. I agree.

Finally, there is a funny little moment where the Narrator recalls an attempt by Harris to sing the Judge’s song from Trial by Jury. The lines of which are “When I was young I served a term/ As office-boy to an Attorney’s firm.”

Jerome K. Jerome

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MacDonald, Bruno (ed.) Pink Floyd: Through the eyes of . . . the Band, Its Fans, Friends, and Foes  (1996).

June 13, 2007

Pink Floyd“I have instituted proceedings in the High Court against myself for blatant plagarism, as I feel that this sort of thing must be stamped out.” -David Gilmour

Ah, the Floyd, a long time musical obsession of mine. Bruno Macdonald, in this book, has put together a compilation of short articles on Pink Floyd which covers pretty much everything up through the Division Bell album. Its a good selection, too. It includes stuff from die hard fans to the scathing critiques of the band. It also has a crafty little A to Z of all the songs. The highlight of the book for me is the article by Tom Hibbert in which he accuses Roger Waters of being the “gloomiest man in rock,” and having recently seen Roger in concert (at Earl’s Court), I think that I might wholeheartedly agree.

And there are some snippets of law in this baby. Brilliant.

The prevailing legal bit is of course about the Waters v. Floyd in which Roger Waters sued David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason from using the name Pink Floyd after Waters left the band. It is described at one point as a “legal football” of “which one’s Pink?” Waters believed that when he left the band it should have terminated because he was the driving creative force, and fair enough, at the time he was. But that didn’t stop the band from continuing when the original driving creative force left group in the form of a mentally fried Syd Barrett. However, Syd didn’t sue, so who knows. But maybe Water’s had a point as alot of the songs are credited primarily to him (i.e. most of The Wall). Of course I wonder how many of them notice that Mason is the only person to have been in the band from start to finish?

But of course its not all that easy as one finds in a David Fricke article from Rolling Stone article in the book. The real problem began when Waters fired a manager because he assumed Floyd was finished and that contractual obligations could not be completed when there was no band. The manager, Steve O’Rourke, wanted to get the royalty penalties that he felt he was entitled to due to an illegal termination under the contract. Waters apparently offered compromise deals to the others (at this time just Mason and Gilmour), which would have allowed them to retain the name by ratifying his dismissal of O’Rourke. They didn’t bite. So O’Rourke is about to sue Waters and Water’s tells Pink Floyd, “Listen, guys, if those papers come through my door, we all go to court. I am not going to be hung out in court for years and years while you guys are calling yourselves Pink Floyd.” As we all know he sued. Water’s characterizes the suit as a legal issue of who owns a piece of property called Pink Floyd, but recognizes that a court can’t determine “what is or isn’t a rock group.” He even recognizes that “no court in the world is interested in this airy fairy nonsense of what is and isn’t Pink Floyd.” As we all know Gilmour and Mason (and Wright, now) still use the name Pink Floyd so Waters lost out. Unfortunately, I haven’t really researched it enough to give you any more details than that.

There are also a few fleeting references to other law topics. There is an reference to the rise of the psychadellic movement in 1960s London, and its use of pirate radio stations. These were on their way out due to the Marine Offences Act “which was being rushed through the Commons.” This is followed by the police attempts at suppression of drugs, by using raids on the clubs where this music was being played (and taking in a few celebrities too). It does talk about one raid wherein the police searched 750 people and made 11 arrests.

Finally lets not forget that there is mention of one of the great rock songs about the law, “The Trial” off The Wall.

Bruno MacDonald