August 7, 2017

Racist trademarks, dogs’ heads, and special counsels


“Flower Garden” by Emil Nolde, born on this day in 1867

We live, as the curse has it, in interesting times.


“If you suppress it, you give it power.”

Back in June, we reported on the Supreme Court’s decision in Matal v. Tam, finding that a law prohibiting offensive trademarks was unconstitutional. We wrote then that “it’s hard to ignore the moral hazard in allowing a private citizen to give their product a name with the potential to degrade, dehumanize, or delegitimize any ethnic group.”

Last week, Andrew Chung reported for Reuters that there are now at least nine pending requests for violently anti-black and Nazi trademarks. One consultant, named Steven Maynard, “has submitted applications to trademark a version of the N-word to appear on clothing, hard liquor and beer, and intends to turn the slur into a brand.” He is doing this, Chung writes, because he “believes that saturating the market with such epithets can rob them of their racist connotations.”

So, this is going well.

(Interestingly and for whatever it’s worth, “the Trump administration had urged the high court to keep the provision in place.”)


“Spanish Dancers” by Albert Kotin, born 110 years ago today.

Something crappy: the Buenos Aires Herald is closing up shop.

Writers at Reuters called the 140-year-old publication “storied” and said it had been “lauded for its coverage of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.” The newspaper, which is owned by the Indalo Group, switched to a weekly format last October, in an apparently doomed effort to remain viable.


Happy birthday to Vladimir Sorokin!

We’re wishing a very happy sixty-second birthday to Russia’s Vladimir Sorokin, author of The Queue (not our The Queue), Ice (not Anna Kavan’s Ice), and Day of the Oprichnik.

And hey, speaking of oprichniks—the agents of Russia’s first secret police force, who rode around sixteenth-century Moscow in black robes, with brooms and severed dogs’ heads on pikes—why not celebrate with this lilting and romantic aria from Tchaikovsky’s opera The Oprichnik:


And happy birthday to you, special counsel Robert Mueller!

Millions upon millions of people, all over the world, are holding their breath right now, awaiting the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation. He’s seventy-three today, and we’re wishing him well. It’s hard to imagine any better way to celebrate than with this video of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who would have been eighty-two today.

That’s right, people: Robert Mueller was born on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s ninth birthday. The more you know. Anyway: